Archive for the ‘Trips’ Category

Teach a Kid to Argue

June 18, 2011

Via figarospeech

… let’s face it: Our culture has lost the ability to usefully disagree. Most Americans seem to avoid argument.

But this has produced passive aggression and groupthink in the office, red and blue states, and families unable to discuss things as simple as what to watch on television.

Rhetoric doesn’t turn kids into back-sassers; it makes them think about other points of view …



Lincoln Logs, take a seat in the back

March 28, 2010

Photo credit, National Trust for Historic Preservation

This aint no ordinary building. In case the smooth lines, ordered space and airy perspective didn’t lead on, this masterpiece building is one of many by world-renowned architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright.

Built in 1939, the Pope-Leighy House is now a museum. It is literally a three minute drive from my front door and this weekend I took the family there to visit.

It wasn’t until we paid for admission (a small price, but at a separate location) that we realized it was a guided tour on schedule every hour.

Most of the fellow patrons were older. And none, smartly, had their kids with them. My wife and I knew that our two-year old wasn’t going to make it. He was already starting to walk around and fuss as the small crowd of well-dressed visitors gathered just outside the house before the tour started.

So my wife decided she and he would tour the nearby gardens and grounds instead, while our 5-year old and I stayed for the house tour.

Although it wasn’t posted anywhere, in hind sight, I’d say an architectural tour is probably an 8-year-old-and-up tour.


Still, even at five, Philo hung in there. He asked alot of interesting questions and took in a good part of what the tour guide said. And I think he got it, you know, actually being in a house built by a world-famous builder and artist.

If not, I’m sure he will someday.

What he did ask though, several times after we left, was about a very small and obscure Lincoln Log cabin that was set up on a table in the far corner of the living room. I wondered about it myself, though neither of us asked the guide.

Because they are from a much older generation, and he never saw Lincoln Logs before and wanted to know what they were. That was easy, and I told him.

But I wondered why they were there, intentionally, as decor amidst the masterpiece.

In any case, he now wants Lincoln Logs and I think it’s cool that when he gets some, he’ll associate them with a house that Frank Lloyd Wright made.

Of course, I was and still am, over the moon from the visit. I have always been a patron of the arts – and when it comes to architecture, there are few if any that surpass the creative genius of Wright. There are really no words to describe the sense of pure artistry and excellence found inside one of his spaces. Experience is the only way.

The full span of his work stretches across five countries and 37 U.S. States. Check this complete list of works to locate – and hopefully visit – a masterpiece near you.

I hope to see many, many more myself … when the boys are older, of course.

Meanwhile, we’ll be shopping for those Lincoln Logs.

The Devlin Family

February 28, 2010

I spent Saturday afternoon in the charming household of the Devlin family: Daren, Stace and their 15-month-old son, Tige.

Stace and I had worked it out in the weeks prior, for me to come to their house to photograph them. As handsome as all three are, I couldn’t resist.

I arrived at their home at 1:30 p.m. as they were just returning from spending the morning together over breakfast at a small restaurant, formerly a train dinning car. The Devlin’s are the kind of folks I really enjoy spending an afternoon with.

A very close family, good values, and great company.

Tige was a champ, to be sure – and an absolute joy to photograph.

So full of life and smiles.

Now, I’ve photographed a good deal of kids before.

But Tige is the kind of boy, with is good looks and patience, who just kind of handed me the photos.

“Here ya go, Mister, I’ll make it real easy for you.”

After watching Stace and Daren interact, it soon made sense to me why Tige was so pleasant and content.

His folks really love each other – and take care of other.

As I was setting up the gear, I looked over my shoulder to see Daren straightening up the living room, tidying the sofa, and making it look good for the photos.

Dressing the set, as we say in the industry.

I like Daren. In fact, after the shoot, once back in my own home, I took a page from his book and I tried to do a bit more tidying than I normally do.

Sometimes it’s good to see how other dads role, and borrow good habits from them.

And for those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, you know that I think the best thing a man can do for his kids is love their mother.

No doubt, Daren is in that camp.

There’s a lot of love in their house.

I’m enriched, having spent time with the Devlin’s and I’m inspired to see such such love flourish.

And I’m grateful to have had the chance to capture it in photographs.

Thank you, Daren, Stace and Tige, for a wonderful experience!

Feel free to visit Luke Pinneo Photography for more portraits of families, friends and children.

Japan Trip 2009: Part One

July 24, 2009

It’s hard being here.

That is, it’s hard trying to balance participating in every new experience my kids have in this strange and wonderful land, while at the same time trying to capture it in photos and notes.

I get that feeling every time we come here. Occupational hazard of a journalist I guess.

philo dinnerBut other than that, experiencing Japan from an insider’s view borders on bliss. This culture has spent centuries perfecting the art of making guests feel welcome – which I absolutely do.

Much of our time spent since I arrived has been in the home and company of my wife’s aunt who lives in Yamanishi.

It was about a half-day drive west from our home base in Chiba, where my wife’s immediate family lives. Kumi’s sister, Miwa, drove. In all, it was Miwa, her four-year-old son, Sora, Kumi, our two boys and I. Kumi’s dad drove separate.

map_japanFor reference, Chiba is on the east side of Japan’s largest island, Honshu. The city lies near Tokyo and I couldn’t tell you where one city ends and the other begins. It’s an urban sprawl unmatched by anything in the States – and is simply hard to imagine or describe. It’s like something out of a sci-fi flick, with buildings stacked upon buildings for as far as the eye can see – and a constant flux of people, cars, mopeds and bicycles.

But eventually, as we continued inland, the skyline of towering industrial development dispersed, faded and eventually gave way to a green and blue-grey backdrop of colossal mountains.

farmAlas, we had arrived in the countryside. Tokyo is something to see, for sure, but in my opinion, nothing compares to a drive through Japanese rural life. Mountains, hot springs, rivers, traditional Japanese homes and farming. It’s the only place I’ve ever known where the deeper I travel into, and the more lost I get, the more centered I feel.

Kumi’s aunt’s house sits inside the forest, along the bank of a gully. The house was once owned by an artist, who rented the house out to photographers as a studio. It was a deep and spacious place, with three levels, each like a stage with large curtains separating the levels. Around every corner, was something interesting and creative that the previous owner left behind. After we settled in, had dinner and were rested, the following day her dad and I took a hike into the woods and along the stream at the base of the gully.


It was exhilarating.

I hiked alot as a kid, and hadn’t been up to me knees in a cold creek in years. And I admit, at three years shy of 60, Kumi’s dad is pretty hard to keep up with. Dad

He made it a point to tell me the water in the stream was from the mountains and that is was clean and OK to drink.

I hadn’t heard that in a long time.

Seems like everywhere I go these days, someone’s making a point to tell me the opposite.

The four days in Yamanashi was one activity after another. The Japanese can pack more activity into a single day than anyone I know. The secret to keeping up, I discovered, is to figure out the rhythm. It took me four visits to understand that. They have a saying in Japan: Deru kui wa utareru, (the nail that sticks out gets pounded down.) I come to interpret this to mean that Japan is like a giant structure, or machine, and everyone is part of it. It operates ever efficiently and flows like water. Anyone out of rhythm is like a cog out of place, and it throws the whole system off. That’s why the nail sticking out gets pounding down – not by force, but by momentum. It’s hard to explain – and like I said, I’m just now starting to understand it myself. It might be a few more visits before I can fully define it. I hope so – I hope to define it again and again. Because we could glean so much from that single concept in America … or as ironically called, the United States.

futonMy kids get it. They adapt better here than I do. I suppose that’s true of kids in general – with the exception of sleep. They say it takes one kids day of adjustment for every hour of time difference. So, if it’s 12 hours difference between America and Japan, that’s about 12 days till they’re adjusted to a new sleep schedule … or something like that.

One thing is certain – I no longer get pounded down here. I used to get exhausted when we’d come. Now, I eat when everybody else does. I shower at night like everybody else, I take my cues from others – and I go with the flow. There’s no room for abstract behavior here.

And, having previously tried, I realize how much I miss by trying to do things my own way.

The true beauty of this land is to observe and learn the rhythm, and to simply get in step with it. It’s wonderful. I’ve learned to anticipate what’s coming next. There is a time for everything here. Everything is taken care of if you can learn the rhythm, and allow yourself to trust it. The momentum flows toward a state of doing, toward achievement, arriving at comfort, and repeats day after day.

The hardest part about going back to America is looking for a similar rhythm where one just does not exist.

auntAfter a great visit in Yamanishi, we said good bye to Kumi’s aunt and headed back to Chiba.

A great thing about being in a foreign country with kids is that even long car rides are entertaining. Here, the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car, and they drive on the opposite side of the road. That makes it interesting enough. But everywhere we look, we see things that are unusual to us.


Here’s Sora, Kumi’s nephew, and one of our traveling companions, enjoying a cucumber on a stick. The kids absolutely loved these. The sell these and other fresh foods at the service stations along the expressway. Sure beats a bag of chips or Burger King (no offense, Flame-Broiled Whopper, you’re still my number one.)

Have you ever driven through a mountain for like 5 miles?

I hadn’t before, but they do it all the time here. tunnel back

Philo thought that was pretty cool. (yeah, me too.)tunnel

red road

Red roads. They have alot of red roads in Japan. You know, your riding along and the road just turns red for a while. That happens, right? I don’t know – it just seems cool to me.

bug bandThen there’s the bug band. This thing is great. It’s an elastic band held with Velcro, and the device on top emits small but safe amounts of nuclear radiation to deter bugs. Kidding. It’s actually the same chemical that’s in bug spray, diluted, and dispersed into the air by a small internal fan and has a little on/off switch. Keep the bugs away and let’s the kids feel like bug-thwarting superheros. And as you can see … the bugs here are no joke!

mushiYes, that is real and yes, they are everywhere. It’s pure irony. Everything here is small. Cars, roads, meals, coffee, people – everything but the bugs. Well, that’s not entirely true. Where the roads may be narrow, the minds of the Japanese are wide, and their hearts are big. It’s a culture built on respecting yourself and caring for others. My wife has a philosophy borrowed from her late grandfather: “Be strict to yourself, and kind to others.” As far as any common thread I see woven throughout this entire culture, that sums it up perfectly.

I bet he was a great man, her grandfather. He was a farmer. Loved bonsai. He died when she was young.

prayerEach time we visit the countryside, we make a trip through the vineyards and peach orchards he once tended, until we come upon his final resting place there among the mountains and cherry blossoms. We bring flowers, burn incense, bow our heads and silently wish him continued wellness in the afterlife. We gather water in traditional buckets, and pour it on the stone, cleansing it.

It’s really something, seeing my kids here, in this place that is genetically so much a part of them – a part I can only know from observation.

They are Japanese and I am not. I strive to understand the culture, but that is the best I can do. They however, have it in their blood.

ji-jiWhen I see my father-in-law playing with or holding my kids, I am reminded of the depth they have inside them. That they can belong to such two differing cultures, such alternate worlds – one built on principles of new-found freedom and independence and another steeped in deep meaningful tradition and service to others – is a privilege I am so proud to afford them. It’s a healthy blend I think, for the world they will someday face. Whether they choose a world in the east or west, in between or both, I think we’re setting them up with open minds.

Someday when I am gone, when and if someone ever comes to visit my stone to wish me well in the afterlife, whoever they are, if they too were raised to have an open mind and an appreciation for all kinds of people, places and things of this world, then I will indeed be eternally grateful.

More to come …


“Dad, what’s global warming?”

March 16, 2009

ecoIt’s March in New England. Hard to believe the planet’s getting hotter. (I know – and I actually do believe it … I’m just saying …)

Usually by this time of year we’ve had enough of the snow, grey and seemingly lifeless landscape. It’s this time of year that as a family we seek out new and interesting places that offer escape from the doldrums of winter. 

Some families go to the Bahamas. Others go to Florida.

But we have a four-year old and a one-year old who just last week started sleeping through the night (most of the night that is.)

So we go local, and not over night – at least for the next few years.

Last year, we visited Tower Hill Botanical Gardens just outside of Boston. Which, although it boasts its best in summer, has a wonderful indoor garden as well. It’s a well-spent afternoon.

This week, my wife and I one night, huddled together in front of the glow of the computer, discovered the EcoTarium.

Their homepage says it best:

[ … The EcoTarium is a unique indoor-outdoor museum in Worcester, MA. Set in an urban oasis, the EcoTarium offers a chance to walk through the treetops, take a thrilling multimedia journey through the galaxy at a digital planetarium, meet wildlife, stroll nature trails, ride a narrow-gauge railroad, and get hands-on with family-friendly exhibits …]

We went.

It’s a nice family alternative to the Museum of Science ,which once you’ve been a few times, kind of loses its magic.

Still, science and nature has a special place in our family. Our oldest has proclaimed more times than we can count, “I’m going to be an animal rescuer when I grow up.” We feel, even though he’s four, it’s important to nurture our children’s individual dreams early on. Too often when we’re young, we’re talked out of (by others and by ourselves) what we feel in our hearts is most important. In today’s environmental climate, I feel really proud to have a little guy who is so devoted to helping the planet – and I’m devoted to helping him do it.

The hour -and-a-half drive to the EcoTarium, and being repeatedly asked, “When are we going be there?”, was well worth it.

eco3Plenty of parking and fair price; we’re big fans of both. A few highlights are the energetic staff of educators, of course the live polar bear, various animals and plant life and the overall “science enrichment” ambiance of the place.

A word of caution: If you do go in the winter, pack a lunch. They had a cafe, which looked nice, but was closed during the off season. We were left shopping from four vending machines that offered nothing resembling a balanced lunch.

But a postponed lunch light snack was plenty to finish the tour. The place is big, with many indoor displays and some outdoors, but is not huge, as in, “How are we ever going to see everything in one day?!”, huge. So it makes for a good day trip for young science-hungry minds.


And after all, isn’t that what’s really important today? Educating our young future leaders about the world we live in, how it works and how to best take care of it and all the little curious creatures (including us) that call it home – all while enjoying time together as a family.

For anyone who agrees, and for anyone like us who can’t wait until the concert of life that spring ushers in, the EcoTarium is a great place to spend the day.