Blabbings about family, community, sustainability and life from Frederick, MD.

Welcome Noelle July 10, 2007

Filed under: Children,family — tobymurdock @ 11:03 am

I haven’t yet written about the biggest news in my life of late: the birth of our daugher Noelle on June 22.

Her arrival was a long road with some crazy twists at the end, especially for my anesthesia-foreswearing wife.

But she is here and well loved by her family, especially her big sisters, as shown above. In fact, we have huge surpluses of love in our family and it will never be in short supply for her. Especially as she remains a little doll that actually moves, squeaks, and is alive!


Bad News Tuesday June 19, 2007

Filed under: Children,co-housing,Community,devolution,Environment,Sprawl,transit — tobymurdock @ 4:54 pm

Some bummers today in the Washington Post.

First, all of the moron energy convened in Fairfax County yesterday as they decided definitively to have the Metro line in Tyson’s Corner to run above ground.  To the defense of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, I think they would have all preferred a tunnel, but complexities regarding federal-state-local government dynamics (oh, how we need devolution!) prevented it. The end result is that hideous, pedestrian-repellent, ugly, post-modern, unlivable abomination that is Tyson’s today will remain . . . a hideous, pedestrian-repellent, ugly, post-modern, unlivable abomination. It is obvious: the contrasting results of the Orange line in Arlington County (below ground) and Fairfax County (above) is a famous case study.

Anyhow, there is another article in the Post about how the current generation of kids spends so much time indoors that they have no connection with Nature.  Oh Jesus. What could be worse. There’s much one could say here about the need for conservation, open space. That’s the obvious part.

But the more subtle and interesting part is on the parenting side. First is the need to have kids’ lives not so scheduled so that they have the time to experience Nature in an unstructured, spontaneous way (how pathetic to even have to describe it that way). More challenging is the need to have the courage to allow kids to roam about–the neighborhood and in Nature–in an unsupervised way. This takes faith in your kids, instruction, and the development of neighborhoods where everyone is keeping an eye on everyone’s kids: something that is becoming a relic (oh, how we need co-housing!). But it is the only way that kids can get out of their programmed, indoor existence and have a relationship with Nature: remembering that “Nature” is not some other category of life, but rather that it IS life, it is everything we come from, live on, and return to.


Photo on Flickr from zuki12


Summertime Perfection June 18, 2007

Filed under: Children,Community,family,frederick — tobymurdock @ 12:35 pm

Many of our friends and their kids camped out at Greenbrier State Park this weekend. With Noelle coming, we didn’t spend any nights there, but we were there from 10am to 8pm on Saturday.

What a day! Sunny, pleasant in the upper 80s.  Canoeing. Guitar and singing. Hanging out on the beach.

My best memory of it was heading across the lake on the canoe towards the end of the day. Breeze had died down and the water was smooth and glassy. The image of the mountains that ring the like was reflected in the water.

Awesome! I’ll take that one with me all week. And just 20 minutes from home. Thanks Frederick County!


Kid Camping May 25, 2007

Filed under: Children,Environment,family,frederick,Friends — tobymurdock @ 6:04 pm

On Mother’s Day weekend a number of other dads and I took all of our kids camping in a shelter on the Appalachian Trail in Frederick County.

It was great to be able to get the kids in the outdoors. And great to be able to do so so close to home.

And great, of course, to hang out by the fire after the kids went to bed.

Though it was a long night and a bleary morning.


Annie in Baltimore March 29, 2007

Filed under: Children,family — tobymurdock @ 2:04 am

Our family and a bunch of Frederick other families went to the “big city” of Baltimore on Sunday night to see Annie.

It was awesome. Great musicals are magical experiences. And Evie and Lucie had memorized the soundtrack through the DVD and CD. And there eyes were huge throughout.

An experience like that at their age leaves a mark.


Driving Ourselves Crazy March 5, 2007

Filed under: Children,Community,modernity,Sprawl — tobymurdock @ 2:00 am

There was a good editorial in the Washington Post today about American life by Susan Coll. She talks about the stresses she and her family endures in the college admissions process specifically and in the competitiveness of upper middle class life in general. She says:

we glide right over the structural changes in society that have created a new culture of child-rearing, and some of the ways we respond are not entirely within our control. In other words, there may be something in the water supply that is turning us into nuts.

How much hovering does it take to qualify as a helicopter parent, and how many extracurriculars does it take to land you in the realm of the clinically extreme? It seems that at least part of the answer has to do with sprawl. Our suburban existence and our car-centric culture means that a disproportionate amount of time and energy is devoted to each activity: The joy of watching your kid kick a soccer ball is eclipsed by the dread of an I-270 commute to the Germantown SoccerPlex; the drum lesson becomes a logistical nightmare of rush-hour traffic and no place to park. And then, when lacrosse practice runs late, the already fragile scaffolding collapses as someone is stranded at a flute lesson, and dinner becomes an afterthought around the time that stomachs begin to growl.

Modern life whizzes by so fast. And our blind faith in technological and economic progress makes it hard for us to question or even perceive the changes that roll by.

But what do we really want out of life? And how do the patterns of modern life, the “structural changes” deny us from what we really want? So much is available to us in our incredibly prosperous society. The challenge is to decide to do less when prevailing culture always insists on doing more.

There is “something in the water” in my mind. The upper-middle class status quo  in modern America is nuts. The lives that that status quo expects one are exhausting and lame. The strain comes from the high financial achievement that is expected. And, worst of all, most participants in it all don’t even realize how nuts it all is.

Somehow we need to realize how well we can all live with less, and with focusing our resources on collective goods instead of private ones.  We’d be left with a lot more time and energy left for what really matters.


Getting on the bus . . . to cross the street September 19, 2006

Filed under: Children,frederick,pedestrian,Sprawl — tobymurdock @ 2:25 pm

I get really sad when I think of America and the way in which it is eroding its soul by retreating into cars and large, seperated houses. The connections between one another get thinner and thinner.

Urbana, Maryland is a town not far from mine, which, while not ideal, is admirable in at least trying to head in the right direction in terms of sustainability, smart growth, etc.

Sadly, however, because of the mighty, paramout importance of the car (nothing should speed it down, nothing should thin its roads), the kids in this somewhat pedestrian neighborhood need to now be bused across the street to get to school. Kids that live 400 yards from their school walk 200 hundered to the big intersection, board a bus, and get driven the rest of the way.

How obvious do the signals need to be? American culture holds rational utilitarianism so high, we cannot for a second recognize the of more intangiable issues like a child’s emotional / psychological / spiritual relationship of where they go to school and where they live.

We sacrifice so much for the sake of our car-centric living.

The Washington Post had an interesting piece on some renegade parents who let their young kids roam their neighborhoods. It discusses how what was the norm in terms of child freedom is now incredibily rare. We should all imagine about what sort of mental / psychological relationship one had with their surroundings when they were able to allow their young children to roam their neighborhoods. The peace, the connection. And what we have now.

Incredible what we’ve lost. We should get it back.