Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas 2008

Some photos of our Christmas day.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Nocturnal friends

One recent week, my girls deduced that Santa, the Aardvark, fairies, and the Easter Bunny are all homeys. They don't share the same pad, but the girls know that the foursome are down with each other because they are all nocturnal (which was the word of the day). Obviously, anyone that is routinely awake a night will be friends with everyone else awake at night.

Three of the amigos are in a related line of work. Santa brings toys to children, and the Aardvark takes away toys that have not been put away. The girls have decided that the Aardvark is one of Santa's suppliers, and I have to tip my hat to the cost-effectiveness of the relationship. The Easter Bunny is also in the gifting gig, except he deals chocolate and candy. I don't know what the fairies do, perhaps just live off of some inheritance--they seem to have lots of parties and teas. Maybe the parties double as kitchenware or beauty-product marketing? As a guy, I'm definitely not in the know about fairies.

Speaking of nocturnal, Genevieve has been trying to go to sleep for two-and-a-half hours. I rarely have insomnia now, but I remember many nights as a child when it was difficult to get to sleep. The unconsciousness of sleep was merely an opportunity to miss something that might happen. Now, I look upon getting to bed late as something I'll pay for over the course of the next day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I stand corrected, sort of

Okay, okay, I didn't know this, but I didn't receive any comments from my legions of readers, either (all 5 of you). It seems that there is an aardvark more famous than our own nocturnal toy-snatching aardvark. The eponymous subject of the animated television series Arthur and the series of books by Marc Brown is an anthropomorphic aardvark.

Unlike many other monsters they've heard about, they haven't had the benefit of seeing a picture of one in a story picture book. I believe this is because Aardvarks aren't in either the first or second ring of anthropomorphized animals approved for use in children's story books. From entry of February 9, 2008.
I predict that further viewing or reading of Arthur will not pollute their mythology of aardvarks, however. They've seen some of the Arthur episodes, and haven't made the leap, and why would they? Arthur looks more like some generic rodent than an aardvark. It's laughable, I tell you. Technically speaking, my above statement on aardvarks and children's literature is apparently not true, but I won't lose sleep over it. Our aardvark is way more interesting than Arthur, anyway. Not to be a name-dropper, but did you know that our aardvark hangs with Santa Claus? What's Arthur got on that, huh? That his mom knew Fred Rogers? Nice, but not in the same league.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Green is good

No, you can't have more broccoli until you eat your....

A sign of how much our children like vegetables (or is it just that we keep them hungry? nah!) is demonstrated by the fact that they can be bribed by vegetables. Reesa was recently bribed off of the television by mommy...

"Reesa, do you want a green bean?" asked She-Who-Has-Our-Children-Begging-For-Tofu.


"Well, you can have one if you quickly get in the car so we can get Daddy and Genevieve at the bus!"

"Okay!" And off trots the three-year-old to the car to claim her green prize.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My favorite gift

Christmas morning started at o'dark-thirty when Genevieve came in and announced, "It's Christmas!"

UGH. "But it's still the middle of the night," say She-Who-Thinks-Quickly. "Come cuddle with us for a few minutes."

Ha, ha! She fell for it. Staying up until 10 pm on Christmas eve and not "letting" them nap meant that I had two tired girls, and Genevieve fell back asleep until...

...8:03! Yikes! Has the babe made his appearance in our living room? Did we miss it? No, I'm just in time...

As I was snapping pictures of the happy couple and the blessed babe, the remainder of the family gathered in the living room and beheld the gifts. Genevieve was the first to open her stocking, but the rest of us had to take care of a variety of other things before opening our stockings. We told Genevieve that she could start eating the food from the stocking (orange, mixed nuts, granola bar and pink pudding), but to wait to open the gifts until the rest of the family could join her. From the other end of the house I heard the front door squeak, so I came down the hall in time to hear the main door close. Genevieve, with her hand on the doorknob said, "I just said thank you to Santa!"

Last night she had been 'talking' to Santa on her way home from Grandma Lois' by shouting messages up to the sky. Messages such as:

"Santa! Don't go to Genevieve's and Reesa's house yet! We're not there yet!"

"Santa! It's Genevieve! Wait awhile before you go to Genevieve and Reesa's house, okay?! We'll be sleeping soon, but wait until we get home to get to sleep, okay?!"

That was last night. This morning, I presume any neighbors outside within a block in the 4 degree weather heard her shout her thanks.

Genevieve reads a card on a gift. "Who. Who. Who."

"That's close. It says 'Ho! Ho! Ho!'"


I feel blessed today that my children are thrilled and thankful for all of the gifts they receive, be it clothing, games, or food. That is my favorite gift of Christmas this year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Paper clip fun

My girls believe me to be a magician and a clown. I am a clown for the outrageous claims and statements with which I will test them ("when I was three years old, my momma left me floating in a basket on the river, and I was found by wolves, and they raised me. A-OOOOOoooooooooo! That's why I have such poor table manners.")

I am a magician through the proper combination of angular momentum, gravitational acceleration and friction, employing string, 3 paper clips, string and a ring of keys. My 3 and 5-year old found this to be fascinating, and after watching me do it, wanted to try in on their own. With a steadying adult hand on the pencil and a chair for height, they could each experience success.

The illustration here is from a Danish website that explains the experiment (they also have other demonstration experiments). I used keys -- they use a coffee cup for the drama of it. Hold the pencil steadily high enough above the floor with one hand, and the paper clip end of the string in the other hand. Release the paper clips (not the pencil!), and watch the paper clips wrap around the pencil before the keys/coffee cup hits the ground. Fun for all, and simple too.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How to play buses for power

I am noticing the effect my attitude has on me when dealing with Genevieve. I started the pickup at pre-school in a good mood, due to the fact that we had plenty of time to make it to the bus. But then she lost her "gold coin" and we spent some time looking for it, a calculated plan and within the time we had. Now we were out of slack time, but I had honored her wish to find her toy (we found the coin).

At this juncture, she dawdles. Walks over to her friends and converse and say goodbye, even though she had been saying goodbye for fifteen minutes. Doesn't "hear" me asking her to come with me, that we needed to get going. Finally comes, but announces that she is hot in her coat and must have water now. Walks away from me again. Our walk time to the bus is now one minute longer than when the bus is scheduled to arrive.

At this point, I simply say "that's it," chase her down, pick her up, tuck her under my arm, and leave the preschool room with her flailing and crying. I drag her by the hand all the way to the bus, which we barely make. I am not a happy camper. It is 5 degree wind chill and I don't want to wait an extra hour. I am not having a successful daddy moment. She's got me right where she wants me -- she is winning the power struggle.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Exasperation or melty cuteness

Like death and taxes, another sure thing in life is that a consequence will occur if mommy or daddy start a countdown and get to zero before the child does what they were asked to do. That's what our children know.

Sometimes, it would be better if daddy had a countdown for himself. Last night, sick and tired of having to repeat myself, I left Genevieve alone in her room only moments after sitting to settle her down for the night. It was the right action for me to take, but I did it with exasperation, so it wasn't exactly the right attitude to do it in. 5-4-3-2-1-breathe in and out, that could've been more helpful.

On the other hand, my attitude is swayed by the cuteness of Reesa's greetings and play. She is giggly to see me at the end of the workday, and her imaginary play has innocence and bare-naked id wrapped up in a 3-year old voice with 5-year old sentences. I try to treat them equitably, and I have to admit that it is difficult to avoid giving Reesa just a little more leeway for her behavior. So, when I find three dozen Lite-Brite pieces in my bed, courtesy of that little pixie who was storing them there for her sister's upcoming birthday, I think "what a pain in the butt -- but how sweet she is to think of her sister!"

See? Older daughter, exasperation. Younger daughter, melty cuteness. Today, that's the state of fairness and equitability.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

This is not the result of a wax buildup

It's amazing which things my children can remember from months and months ago, especially when compared with difficulty they have with parental requests from thirty, or even ten seconds ago. I even scanned over a list of known medical causes of memory loss --
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Alzheimer's Disease
Brain Tumor
Cerebrovascular disease
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
Drug Abuse
Encephalitis and Meningitis
Epilepsy (Seizure Disorder)
Head trauma
Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Lewy body disease
Neurodegenerative diseases
Normal pressure hydrocephalus
Parkinson's Disease
Pick Disease
Prolonged toxin exposure
Psychological/emotional disturbances
Sleep disorders
Thyroid disease
Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
Vitamin deficiencies
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Wilson's disease

Hmmm. Nope. I don't see anything applicable to my children.

So, what about this curious dichotomy of memory that my children exhibit? I think the medical community currently accepts this well-known and wide spread childhood malady as some normal phase of development.

Let's think about this. Reesa remembers the name of the man that I bought our canoe from four months ago. She spent maybe ten minutes in the presence of this guy, and for all of it I was talking to him about price, about how well this canoe would work for us, and how to tie the thing up on the roof of the van.

Yet, she is completely incapable of recalling that ten seconds ago I asked her to pick up her shoes for the third time. Some might call this selective hearing, as if it is a sensory failure. I think people have categorized it in the same manner as an automotive problem, as if their child's auditory wiring has a periodic short circuit rendering them incapable of collecting the sound waves. And no, it's not a hearing problem, because I can test that by going to the other end of the house, closing the door and mumbling "juice box," and faster than you can say "what was that you said" the thunder of little feet would close in and a little voice would be squealing, "can I have a juice box?"

I suspect something entirely different. I think it is a evolutionary development: natural selection of those children in the species who exhibited tendencies to drive their parents to drink and an early demise, thereby creating more opportunity for the young to make their mark in the world, and to eat crackers and popsicles whenever they wish. Seems to me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Quiltmaker's Gift

Because I can't help but have opinions about books...

Super highly recommended for your child's book shelf:

The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau (Author) and Gail De Marcken (Illustrator). Here's a children's story about the power of generosity, commitment and beauty that is as remarkable for its writing as its artwork. We brought this to a summer camp weekend to read to the children there, and it was well received by a group ranging from 3 to 12 years old, largely on the basis of the story. You really need to hold the book in your hand see the nice detail and vibrant color of the art.

If you haven't seen it, click on the link above which will take you to the digital version of the book at the International Children's Digital Library. Worth taking a look at.

A prequel was also published, entitled "The Quiltmaker's Journey." This too is a visual treat with a nice story. Of the two books, though, it is "The Quiltmaker's Gift" that is the must-have.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monsters and fairies and ghosts

"Are you the baby monster?"
"You're the bad guy."
"NOOOOOO, I'm NOT the bad guy."

"Are there monsters and ghosts in the real world?"

Genevieve asked this question one recent morning when my mouth was pasted shut with oatmeal. My wife had not yet begun eating, so she jumped right in.

"Well, that's a complicated question. Sometimes there are things that happen, or things that we see, that are difficult to explain, and ghosts and monsters seem like a reasonable explanation."

I immediately thought, yeah, add in aardvarks or fairies!

"But there's always some other reason why these things happen," my wife continued.

Uh-oh. I don't like where this is going.

"The short answer about whether ghosts and monsters live in the real world is, not so much."

No no no no no no no! This is an area of equivocation and vagueness! Don't give away the store when we haven't even hit age five yet! Monsters and ghosts can be useful. And it's only a short step to disbelieving fairies and aardvarks, and then where would be be?

Since then, I told my wife my thoughts about what I saw as her strategic blunder. She was not impressed.

"They won't be confused. Monsters and ghosts aren't real. Aardvarks and fairies leave evidence of their existence, so they're of course real."

I didn't buy it. So later in the day, my wife equivocated when the children asked about monsters and ghosts.

Ever since then, they see either monsters or ghosts in every other room, and have used them as excuses to delay doing things or demand attention. There are ghosts in the bathroom, monsters in the basement. And don't even ask about the closet.

I am beginning to reconsider my position.

Monday, November 10, 2008

For my next trick

At the conclusion of lunch, Reesa dragged her shirt sleeve through the dal that she had dribbled onto the table, neatly cleaning the table and "earning" her pajamas for the upcoming nap time in one swoop. I don't know at which age kids cease to wear one-piece pajamas, but Reesa is still wearing hers and came looking for me to help her with the zipper. The zippering action between the knee and the waist is difficult for either of my girls, so I got it up to her belly button and she took it from there.

The observant reader will note that I used the words "nap time" in the above paragraph. Of course, they are used in a hopeful sense, much like a saloon owner will declare a "happy hour" in hopes that it will be profitable for his business. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way, and sometimes three year olds spend an hour in bed cooing and singing softly to their stuffed animals.

When Reesa got out of bed after an hour, I shot her the look (version P2.3), the one that says:
"DON'T you even start to tell me that you slept and can you get up now--I didn't get enough of a break yet, and you have had no sleep!" Being the perceptive child she is, she immediately spoke up before I verbalized anything, "I have to go potty!" Mmm, she knows that she'll get permission for that, and I send her along to the bathroom with a toss of my head and a grunt.

A few seconds later, she has tracked me down in the kitchen.

"I need help with my zipper."

I lean down to help her. She has no zipper. Same pajamas, no zipper. I stare for a couple more seconds, then turn her around.

The little Houdini has her fully zippered one-piece pajamas on backwards.

Maybe I should do this sort of thing at work. Show up with my shirt on backwards. Why not?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fairy, fairy, quite contrary

Some people build bird houses, some make bat houses, and some make bee houses. My wife and the children built a fairy house this summer. You know--to attract fairies.

It was very nice, a flowerpot roof, flowerpot walls and floor, sheltered by the front stairs on one side and a yew on the other. They furnished it with a bed, table, chair, ladder, interior decor (including seashells), and a little exterior landscaping. Very chic, nice neighborhood, good fairy school district, and what do you know? Some fairies moved in.

How do we know that fairies moved in? Well, stuff that was put out for the them would disappear. Duh. So that's proof. No, we never saw them of course, because they are shy, and they were busy during the day. They stayed at night, when we were in bed.

Oh, and they wrote letters to the girls. In little teeny-weeny 8pt font on teeny pieces of fairy paper. They were polite, thankful for the house and furnishings, but they'd ask for other things. Typical tenants, always making demands of the landlords.

Fairies are very popular around here. Genevieve's Halloween costume this year was initially "Fairy Pink Princess," though she did later claim to be Snow White (but was still sans white in the pink get-up, so does that make her Snow Pink?). Fairy books are always a popular find at the library, and my wife is reading a second book in the Fairy Chronicles series.

Lately, we've noticed that the fairy house is looking shabby, and that the fairies must not be living there anymore. The girls decided that the fairies must have migrated (or maybe I planted that thought there... I can't remember) for the winter. Which is good, because I have enough work shoveling out the driveway without worrying about digging out a fairy house this winter.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chicken or the...

My wife noticed recently that our children had not yet put together where that food item called "chicken" comes from, besides the grocery store. So she call a friend of ours who keeps hens, and made arrangements for a little field trip.

It was reported to be interesting and exciting. They saw the hens, the brooding boxes, the coop, their yard, and the chicken poop. Actually, Genevieve put her hand in chicken poop as she was crawling around, so she had a chance to practice good hygiene. They talked about the eggs the hens laid (that's where eggs in the grocery store come from), and were shown how small a chicken's wings were compared to its body. And, of course, we eat chickens, and this is what they look like before we eat them.

The chickens were such a big hit that Genevieve decided that she wanted some at home. So she asked the next reasonable question:

"Mommy, can we plant some chickens at home?"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election day

Every election day, I am reminded of when I was a child going to the polls with my parents. My mom and dad voted in primaries and final elections, and my sister and I were always excited to help them vote. We voted on one of New York State's nearly 20,000 mechanical voting machines (see picture), and we were allowed to click the levers at the direction of our parents. When the slate was completed, we'd look it over one more time, and when I was big enough I was allowed to pull the big red handle that simultaneously recorded the votes, cleared the levers and opened the curtain. These demonstrations about our civic duty to vote stuck with me, and my wife and I carry it on by bringing our children to the polls.

My mother is a naturalized citizen, having immigrated from Canada to marry my father. Today, my mom voted in a presidential election for the first time without dad. My thanks go out to my mom, and to my father in his final resting place, for teaching their children to be inquisitive participants in our nation's political choices.

My children will see their parents voting, will grow old enough to reliably mark the ballots per our instructions (not quite yet), and hopefully learn those same lessons I learned. Some things will change. This will be my mother's last election on a lever machine, as New York is in the process of replacing them with other technology. We have seen in this election the continuation of the trend toward early voting. We as a nation may stubbornly hold on to our Tuesday "election days," but it seems that my girls may one day regularly vote during an election season rather than a day, and may use technology different than the optical scanners we used today. In any case, may their generation improve upon the efforts of ours.

God bless America and President-elect Obama.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pumpkin patch

Genevieve drew her class when they went to a pumpkin patch a few weeks ago. I think that she is the one carrying the pumpkin at lower right.

The part that I find fascinating from a developmental standpoint is the child walking off the page at upper right. How did she know how to draw someone that was only half in the frame? Where did she get the idea to do that? I don't think that she drew the remainder of the figure on another paper underneath.

And is there a term art for figures only partially in the frame? Anyone know?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Recipe for pumpkin soup

Here is Genevieve's recipe for pumpkin soup. Take 2 cups of water, put it in a pot. Ask an adult to please boil the water for you, and add the pumpkin, some pepper and oil. Stir the pot with a big spoon. Serve with a ladle.

Translation below.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

They can be grown-ups, too

My children will sometimes switch roles with their mom. This morning it was climbing in bed to comb the hair of a mommy who had been working late last night.

Sometimes, they stroke our heads when we are trying to cuddle them to sleep with the adult more tired than the child. We get everything but the lullaby, and sometimes Genevieve will try to sing one of her own making.

At other times, they offer advice. Recently, mommy admitted she was cranky because she was tired, so Genevieve suggested that mommy should go workout at the gym. And if I apologize for something, Genevieve has lately taken to telling me in her most understanding voice, "That's okay dad, sometimes adults make mistakes."

They emulate other things, too. One of them is my loud voice when I lose my temper. It's a tough sell to have them drop that when it seems to be okay for daddy to do it. Those kids are sometimes a tougher mirror than the one in the bathroom (and that one's not too kind, ya know).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shy of that

Reesa says, "I'm shy of that," to mean that she's afraid of something. It's a slight shift in use from the definition of shy that means "wary of." It was my wife who clued me into where Reesa picked it up. She got it from the classic Robert McCloskey children's book, Blueberries for Sal, in which this particular usage of shy appears twice, the first time in reference to a mother bear who suddenly finds herself next to a young human child:
She took one good look and backed away. (She was old enough to be shy of people, even a very small person like Little Sal.)
Given that usage, it makes more sense that my daughter -- who would hear this construct twice each time we read this story -- would use "shy" interchangeably with "afraid."

My wife and a friend had a canning date yesterday. You know, get together and spend hours canning three different recipes. I had the prime role as the go-to parent. By the end of the day, they were more tired than I, and as we sat enjoying dinner I thought of Blueberries for Sal, probably because it is the only book that vaguely involves canning that I am familiar with. My wife read it to the children last night, but they didn't comprehend a very strong connection.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A series of verbal exchanges

One of the things I take for granted as an adult is the context in which phone conversations occur.

It seems to me that typical phone conversations generally involve a greeting, a "main body" of conversation with a series of verbal exchanges, and a closing. When I look at it that way, it doesn't seem so strange that the conversational behavior of a young child seems a little off track. They just need more practice.


I called a parent of one of Genevieve's friends about some details for her son's planned birthday party, and after I got the information I needed the parent said that her son would like to talk to Genevieve. I handed the phone to my daughter, and she didn't waste a moment.

"Um, hi. I have a jewelry box in my bedroom, and I have lots of special stuff in it..." Her voice trailed off as she crossed the house and disappeared into her bedroom.

Well, she did have a greeting--can't say that she allowed any space for it to be a two-way greeting, but that would be a learned behavior. My dad-ness also observed that she wanted to go off for a private conversation when a boy is on the other end of the line. And, she's talking about stuff in her bedroom. Don't think that I don't notice these things.

Main Body

The "series of verbal exchanges" thing is definitely a learned skill. If she hears the person on the other end (sometimes she doesn't), then you'll get some mixed results. She might give you a full response, and listen to the next comment, and give another appropriate response--in other words, successfully engage in mutually satisfying verbal exchanges. She might give you a brief response, followed by talking about what she had been talking about or an entirely new subject. Or, she might pause, and as if she couldn't figure out how to respond, just go on talking.


In Discourse structure of English telephone conversation : a description of the closing, the author posits:
Research on conversation has shown that people do not simply stop talking. Conversationalists have to indicate somehow at a certain point in the course of their interaction a desire to 'terminate the contact.'
Putting aside the fact that I know some adults who don't follow the above sequence description, my general observation of Genevieve has been that she does one of two general things: she stops talking and hands the phone to an adult, or she doesn't stop talking.

In the birthday boy conversation, I picked up a second phone after a couple of minutes to hear the last few words from my daughter before the mother of the boy got on the other line. Her son was done talking, she explained.

I'm not sure that the poor kid had the chance to do much talking.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Deep thoughts

A recent morning, Reesa was flat on her back on the bathroom, looking up contemplatively at the ceiling. With her finger up her nose. She had just figured out one of the great mysteries of her three year old life.

"I think... there's a bug in my tummy that makes the buggers in my nose."

There's all sorts of parental advice for dealing with nose-picking children. A sampling of what is on the internet:
Common themes are humidifiers, vaseline, and reminders that nosepicking is not socially acceptable. I think that I can try those three and see where we get.

Friday, October 10, 2008


On the bike commute home, Genevieve heard a train approaching.

"What happens if you get run over by a train?" she asked from her seat on the trail-a-bike.

"Oh that's not good," I replied.

"Not good? What happens?'

"You would die."

"Does it make you flat?"

"Yeah, something like that," I said, wondering what to say if she wanted more details. Probably something like, it's yucky and isn't something to think about too much, because if you're dead, then you are just dead.

But she didn't immediately follow up, so as we watched the Wisconsin Central locomotives go by, I decided to talk about how I remembered trains.

"When I was a child like you, there used to be a car at the end of a long train called the caboose. And it..."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah", she interrupted. "I know all about that. That was back in the old days."

Yup. The old days. I am already being relegated to ancient history.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bad shoes

"eeeeEEEEEE!!!! Noooooo!"

Genevieve was, as we say, having issues with her shoes. My wife asked what was going on.

"Bad shoes!"

"Bad shoes?"

"Bad shoes! They won't let me put them on, and they won't let me tie them."

Genevieve was ushered out into the car, and eventually got her shoes on. She spent the remainder of the car ride periodically scolding her shoes. Just to make sure they heard her.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Art and Letters

Genevieve is making good use of treating her life as school, as it were. The two drawings shown here were completed at her preschool, and the note was done at home in honor of mom's upcoming birthday in a month.

Above is Genevieve's depiction of her with her sister in a pumpkin patch. The drawing shows a time of good fortune -- rainbows and smiling suns are both positive omens in the mind of the artist.


Other than the obvious misspelling in the second word (should be BRTH, right), she's getting pretty good with those birthday greetings.

Five people going down a water slide. Wheee!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not the "e" word... try the next letter

Around our house, we have been dealing with the f-word. No, not that f-word, thank goodness. It is a four letter f-word, often preceded by the word "not." Around our house, fights are instigated regularly. Or, put another way:


Oh yes, the wail rises from the oppressed elder four-year old, "It's not f a i r !!"

My wife calls "fair" the f-word. Warns her daughter not to use the f-word. I am appalled -- my wife is messing with f-word, and I don't think that it will bring any good. She merely giggles in glee.

"What about the real f-word?" I ask.

"Oh, that's just that word-that-must-not-be-named," she replied, slipping in the Tom Riddle reference.

"Someday, her friends will be talking about the f-word, and she'll blurt out 'Oh, I know all how you can't say anything around parents about how not fair something is,' and her friends will stare at, think 'ooo, what a square' and will move slowly away."

"So? There's worse things."

I can't put my finger on it, but I think that you just shouldn't mess with the f-word.

The first child to use the real f-word in our house is likely to be Reesa. She loves to walk around, singing little rhyming songs. I always cringe when she is working on her "ucks". You know; cluck, duck, stuck, muck. It's only a matter of time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sixty ways to draw

v. To cause to flow forth.
At the conclusion of dinner last night, it was time for the children to bathe. I announced as I left the kitchen for the bathroom, "Okay girls, I'm going to draw a bath."

v. To make a likeness of on a surface, using mostly lines; depict with lines.
After adjusting the temperature, I returned to scurry the girls along, and found Genevieve doing something in the corner of the playroom.

"What are you doing, Genevieve?"

"I'm drawing a bath. See?"
[Dictionary.com lists 60 verb definitions for draw, plus more verb phrases and idioms.]

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The zamboni gene

There are some weird things that appear to be passed genetically from parent to child. The inability to close dresser drawers exhibited by Genevieve closely matches a talent exhibited by one of her parents. Earlier today, when I requested that she close a dresser drawer that I had previously asked her to close, she shrugged and tried to get out of it with: "Oh. I can't help it, you know. I get that from (unnamed parent)."

Another weird trait is that both of my daughters correctly (sort of) use the word "zamboni" in a sentence. I don't believe that either of them has seen one in operation. On the rare occasion that I can watch a broadcast hockey game, Zambonis are not shown, so they don't pick it up environmentally in that manner. Our local outdoor skating ponds are hosed and shoveled, but are not manicured by an "ice resurfacer." Therefore, it is clear that my childrens utilization of zamboni was passed down from 10 generations of French-Canadian ancestry, most directly from their paternal grandmaman, and yours truly. (Yes, I know zambonis were not used in New France in 1680--but you can't tell me that my great-to-the ninth grandfather wouldn't have known exactly what to do with it if he had found one).

One day, I arrived home after work and was greeted with this from Reesa, followed by Genevieve:

"We were going to zamboni the house, but we had lunch, and then napped so we didn't."

"Yes, we did, Reesa. Remember, "zamboni the house" means that we cleaned it really well."

Okay, so I have a little work to do, but it's a good start.

Photo credit: Vincent Baas

I Wanna Drive a Zamboni (Gear Daddies)

Well I went down to the local arena
Asked to see the manager man
He came from his office, said, "Son can I help you?"
I looked at him and said, "Yes you can..."

I want to Drive the Zamboni...hey
I want to Drive the Zamboni...Yes I do!

Now ever since I was young it's been my dream
That I might drive a Zamboni machine
I'd get the ice just as slick as could be
And all the kids would look up to me

I want to drive the Zamboni...hey
I want to drive the Zamboni...Yes I do!

Now the manager said, "Son, I know it looks keen
But that right there is one expensive machine
And I've got Smokey who's been driving for years."
About that time I broke down in tears.

Cause I want to drive the Zamboni...hey
I want to drive the Zamboni...Yes I do!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Freewheelin' thoughts

Today was the first day that Genevieve and I commuted to work and pre-school via bike. I arrived at work an hour late, trashed a freewheel, and was generally slow and unorganized; so all-in-all, it went well. The freewheel was old, had worn cogs and a stretched chain. Now I have a new Shimano freewheel and a new chain. At $52 with labor and on-the-spot repair, it beats the cost of a cheap automobile repair. Life is good.

I wondered if my children will share the same zeal that I have for bicycles. Could be that they will grow up with parents that like bikes, they'll experience being occasionally wet and cold with them, and as adults will happily adopt whatever SUV's will be called in twenty-five years. Maybe they will associate bicycles with frugality, and will look at their upbringing in frugality, home cooking, and limited commercial entertainment and will spend the remainder of their lives rejecting their parent's choices. These are the thoughts that went through my head while riding into the city this morning.

Genevieve, on the other hand, was merrily singing, "My daddy, my daddy, my daddy is the greatest." Wish I could've had her miked up.

Graphic source: Wikipedia Commons

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mashed potatoes

"Daddy, you smell."

"I smell?"

"You smell like mashed potatoes."

"Mashed potatoes?" I sniffed my shirt, but no mashed-potato-olfactory-bells were triggered. We were camping at a church campground on Labor Day weekend, but I knew that her observation was not caused by the great outdoors. You see, she had noted this about me previously, in the comfort of whatever it is that our family home smells like.

I remembered that when I was a child, I thought adults were... well, kind of gross. When they sweated, they didn't smell good, and adult bathroom smells -- yuck! And they had hair in weird places, and funny looking skin, and their breath was not always the best. Now, I am the adult, and my youngest buttercup is telling me that I smell like mashed potatoes.

I thought about mashed potatoes. You know, I like mashed potatoes, done right with a hint of milk and topped with butter and salt.

I also noticed that she hadn't moved away from me, nor made any funny faces. Being the opportunistic father that I am, I decided to take it as a compliment.

Reesa sidled up next to me at the campfire the following night and stated, "You're sitting here by yourself."

"Yeah," I replied, "no one else will sit next to me. I think it's because I smell like mashed potatoes."

She paused for a moment. "Well," she concluded, "maybe another boy that smells like mashed potatoes will sit next to you."

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons/ National Cancer Institute

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Breakfast Tues BAPB

Since our menu drawing experience a couple of months ago, Genevieve has drawn a few similar "menu" pages of her own for fun. A couple of weeks ago, on Monday, she asked Marilee how to spell breakfast and Tuesday, drew the above menu, and presented it to my wife saying that this is what she wanted for breakfast the next day. She figured out the first letters of each of the foods, and included that with the illustration.

That would be a menu of Bananas, Apple, Plum and Blueberries. Her initiative and clear request was honored on Tuesday morning.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Moms, dads, and birthdays

I think that children's birthdays always have more visceral meaning for mothers in the sense of the shared birthing experience with the child. Not that the child has any memory of it, but it is made special for a child by celebration. For mothers, it is the culmination of the pregnancy marathon.

Thank you, Marilee, for all that you've done for our Reesa. You're a great mother for her.

For me as a father, I am very focused on the now. In this case, on the three year old who just entered our house with her evolving developmental and social needs, and in noting who she is in our world. Generous, walking around and giving food to others. I saw her do this tonight, and at a class picnic last Friday, when she walked a grape to each of the bakers dozen other people at the picnic. Silly and a little mischievous. Decisive and clear in what she does and does not want. A great patron of the spoken word--she's almost always ready to sit down and be read to. A caring and gentle doll mother. A younger sister who sometimes looks up to her big sister, and often screams foul at her. Small in stature, large in voice. And a daughter who will still usually give me the rock star treatment when we meet again at the end of one of daddy's work days.

Happy birthday Reesa.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beauty queen

Boys and Girls, common folk

According to Reesa, "Girls say 'Yipee!' Boys say 'Yee haw!' "

Boys and Girls, royalty

Reesa had already pronounced herself a princess, and was hunting for more of the royal family. "Daddy, you're going to be my love-ely queen."


"No! Queeeen."

"Well," my wife interjected, "mostly, men are not queens."

Moments like that, with simple statements of multiple understandings, make me smile.

Girl thing

Reesa views Eucerin as not merely moisturizer, but as a beauty product. Following the most recent episode (past episode here) of ghosting herself from head to toe, we've had to hide the Eucerin jar.

"I... wanted... to make... myself... beautiful," she sobbed when confronted by my wife.

Oh no, my little honey. You're already beautiful.

Really, we try to keep a household in which our children see themselves positively. How does "I'm not beautiful," creep into the mind of someone not yet three?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Were you saying something?

I yelled at my daughter Genevieve this morning when she was dawdling on getting into her car seat, despite having a lot of time to do it. I had been trying to leave the house for the past fifteen minutes and we were now on the verge of being late for Quaker meeting. Yes, those Quakers of peace and evolving discernment--the irony is not lost on me.

"Daddy, I don't like it when you yell at me. It's not fair when I can't yell at you, but you yell at me."

Which makes sense. I was presuming that she had buckled her seat belts without her body being in the seat (who else did this? elves?) and she was unable to get it unbuckled, but I didn't actually see how the buckles got locked. However, when I'm yelling at her, it's usually not because of a mis-presumption. Lately, it is because my words directed to her are being completely ignored. So I try to bring this up.

"Okay, I can get it that you don't think it's fair that you can't yell at me, but then I turn around and yell at you. That makes some sense. You know, I often yell at you because it seems like you can't hear me. So by being louder, then maybe you'll hear me. Or maybe because you're ignoring me. Whatever it is, I get very frustrated by that, and sometimes I yell."

I stop. There are a few moment of silence, then she says:


I am quiet. I wait. It doesn't take long.

"What were you saying? I didn't hear you."

It's so good that I'm on my way to a Quaker meeting. I need it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sixteen thousand words

Genevieve, my four-year old wall of sound, can wear me down. She is intent on exceeding the average adult word-count-per-day of 16,000 every single day. Good practice, I suppose.

I kept my sanity and composure today, despite the fact that Mommy had a job all day and night. I had some good breaks.

First, I babysat the 2 year old son of one of our friends this morning, and we went to a playground, so they all played with each other or some of the random kids at the park. Also, some of the 16,000 words were spent there.

Then, my plot to wear them out in the morning bore fruit. Genevieve made lunch for herself and her sister (mixed nuts, fruit, and other healthy stuff). Post-lunch, both daughters got a good nap.

After nap, I rolled out the slip-n-slide and they ran to it like bees to honey. When it began to rain, Genevieve wanted to play with her umbrella. I told her no, she was wearing a bathing suit, and umbrellas weren't to play with anyhow. Unfazed, she went into the house, stripped off the suit, donned clothes and presented herself on the back patio dressed and ready to use her umbrella. Ooops, the passing shower was over.

Foiled, she walked over and chatted with one of our neighbors who was out in his incredible vegetable garden. Then, she gathered up her sister and went over to the second-house-down neighbor's house to play with the children there (and work off some of the 16,000).

Genevieve put in words 15,000 through 16,000 while watching some of the Olympics tonight. I'm thrilled to introduce them to a bunch of different athletic activities. They are fascinated by any sort of race, and Genevieve seemed to like volleyball. Most of the final thousand words were conversing about sports and how people do them, so those were an easy bunch of words for daddy to digest.

As a side note, it is wonderful to have children who eagerly eat broccoli (both) and asparagus (Reesa).

Friday, August 8, 2008

Opening party

We're watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. You know, that's like a party to open the games and races.

Just to date myself, I grew up calling the city Peking.

What are those squares? (A printing press. It's like a typewriter.)

Dad: That's what the stadium looks like from the air, from an airplane or a blimp.
Older daughter: What's a blimp?
Daddy: It's like a dirigible.
Older daughter: Oh, yeah. How do you drive a blimp?
Daddy: Very carefully.

The green star people. How do they do that with the lights? (We decided it was magic.)

Oh, I see how they do that, daddy. Those people that are walking upside and doing cartwheels, they're attached by string.

Why do those dancers have big feathers on their head? (Just for decoration.)

Why were there so many people holding up a floor? What are they doing now?

Why are there astronauts over the stadium? How can they fly like that?

Wow. Look at that.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Art at four

It's so interesting to hear the explanations behind children's art. Genevieve drew these items. This one (above) is a drawing of mommy on the left, and she is thinking of a smiling Genevieve. On the right is Genevieve, holding a baby doll and thinking of her sister. Genevieve is putting the concept of "thought bubble" to work. This piece, like many by the young artist, includes a dedication and endearment symbology.

This next drawing is a simple family portrait. From left to right, dad, older sister, younger sister, and mom. The women are wearing matching dresses. In the real world, the children have matching green with white polka dot dresses, but mom does not.

This final one is a gift given to mom shortly after she severely bruised a toe. While mom was icing it, Genevieve drew a wrapped present and gave the drawing to her as a gift. (Awww, isn't that nice?)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The aardvark on the bus

Today, our family went to a local music festival; bluegrass, old time, cajun swing. Family oriented sort of thing, so there was also some children's music at one of the venues. While at one of the children's music performances along with some other children from our children's preschool and their parent's, the performer launched into "The Wheels on the Bus."

There were about 25 children and double the amount of adults, and most of the kids were seated up front next to the stage. At various points in this version of the song, the singer attempted to sneak some strange and exotic things onto the bus: elephants, lions and what-have-you. Each attempt was met by a chorus of "NO!" from the collected juveniles. But then the man tried to sneak in an aardvark on the bus, and when he tried to say that some of the children might not even know what one looked like....

Up pops Genevieve to her feet, proclaiming in a loud voice:

"I know what aardvarks are! They're real! They really are! They wait until it's dark, and they sneak in your house, and if you left your toys out, they steal them! Yeah, they do."

Everyone laughed, in good fun. Genevieve wasn't bothered by that. She and I knew the real deal about those aardvarks. If you want to laugh now, go ahead. You'll find out soon enough--just go ahead and keep leaving your toys out, if you dare.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Those terrible toybreakers

Books, books, and more books! Why? Because they're one of the best developmental devices for a young mind, because reading together promotes family, because kids love stories, and because I was a bookseller in a former life and always have loved diving into a book. There are more reasons, but that's enough for now.

David McPhail

I guess this falls under the realm of recommendation. My wife and I really like David McPhail's books. I can think of the following three:
Drawing Lessons from a Bear
Those Terrible Toybreakers
A Bug, a Bear, and a Boy

There's also one involving a broken TV, but I can't remember the title. Some stories are short, others more involved. The topics are simple: monsters, life's small disappointments, what do I want to be in life... Oh, maybe not all simple, but they tend to have something about them that makes them enjoyable, even if they may not be time honored classics. For some reason, both my wife and I really crack up at the lion, tiger and elephant in Those Terrible Toybreakers.

O'Sullivan Stew, by Hudson Talbott

Upon telling my wife that I enjoyed this book, and thanking her for selecting it, she replied, "I got it for the illustrations. See, you can judge a book by it's cover!" A very good story (a bit long for a two-year old) with fabulous illustrations, but that's not why it gets special mention from me. No, this gets posted because it is an independent-minded girl book, a tome of the anti-princess. Three cheers for leaving the king to cool his heels!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Menu for a night without momma

Here's how the girls and I got excited about dinner one night earlier this month. I drew the various pieces of dinner and they had to guess what it was. Can you guess? Hint: no bananas were consumed in this dinner, and colors may or may not be an approximation of actual item.

I hope that the girl's draw more like mommy than daddy when they get older.

(I mostly drew this-- the red object at upper right was done by the elder child.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bunny trails

Lately, our children have been viewing the following entertainment/ educational programming: Berenstain Bears, Dora the Explorer, Word World, Super Why, Curious George, the Backyardigans, a Scholastics series based on popular children’s books, and Dragon Tales. I try to watch some of it so as to keep up with some of their conversations. For example, one of the Backyardigan episodes involves a race in which the winner earns a gold medal, and Austin won by never giving up and being well prepared. My children have referenced this many times in conversation, usually not directly, so it was helpful for me to have seen that episode.

For all that, I have no idea where Genevieve's terminology for "bunny trails" comes from. As in, we'll be driving down a street in our gas sucking mini van and she'll declare: "This road is a bunny trail."

She's been a little hard to pin down as to the specific attributes of said "bunny trail," and she denies knowledge of any specific source of the term. Who told her it was a bunny trail? How does she know?

"It just is."

Bunny trails tend to be side streets, more likely one without curbing. They aren't busy roads, and once she said, "You can see the bunny tracks along the road." That is not, however, a consistent attribute. The street we live on is generally not a bunny trail (we do have curb and gutter). And the importance of the designation? Beats me. It's simply important enough for her to talk about.

Price of raspberries

How much are raspberries worth?

No, I am not talking about dollars per pound. They are dentacious to the pocketbook at a grocery store, and by the time you get them at the store they have lost that special umph, that zippy tang of direct unadultered summer on the tongue.

The real cost of raspberries this summer in our backyard is "how many mosquito bites per berry" are you willing to put up with. Oh sure, I could've gone in and put on long pants, a long sleeve shirt and a mosquito net hood. But where's the sport in that.

Tonight, I lasted four minutes. Eighteen berries (twelve for me, six for Reesa), and three bites (mosquitoes on me). My hands spent as much time swatting at insects as searching and picking berries. Ultimately, it wasn't the actual bites that drove me away, but rather the lack of joy in the pursuit of the berries under the harrassing attack of the blood-sucking bombers.

Note: I made up "dentacious," as in "That which creates a significant dent in another object." As in, I was too lazy and hurried to lose momentum on publishing this post, and didn't look up a real word.

Photo is mine.

PS -- we welcome a new cousin to the family. Alexandra Paige (? do I have that right?), born in good health yesterday to my sister.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

County fair talk

Last night I was reflecting on the great job done by the people at the pre-school and childcare center that our children attend twice a week, and today my wife reported on another specific instance of why we think highly of them.

It was field trip day to the county fair for Genevieve's class, and my wife took both of my daughter's (neither had class today, but they were both invited). Following the instructions to arrive 15 minutes prior to bus departure, my wife listened to the pre-departure safety and expectations talk.

First, the instructor (Barb) talked about how they would proceed to and board the city bus, and noted exactly who were the safe adults (the teachers and parents). On the bus there might be some people who looked nice and were nice, and some who looked nice and weren't nice, and who didn't look nice but were actually nice, and some who didn't look nice and were not nice. And no one could be able to tell who was who--not the teachers, not the parents, and not the children. So it was very important to remember exactly who the safe adults were, and only leave the bus or walk with one of the safe adults.

My wife noted, and I agreed, that this explanation seemed to cover all of the important points with the right amount of emphasis without getting hung up on who might be "dangerous" or "scary" or whatever else it is that we adults might have apprehension about.

Then came the expectations about the fair, including an itinerary of what they might expect to do, and what might be possible depending on behavior and /or time. Again, a good setup to create a framework for appropriate behavior and what to look forward to doing next.

I try to provide my kids with that sort of framework on the days that I am home with them -- if only I could do it with such ease!

All photos from the fair had other children in them (and no permission), so I'll post a cell phone photo of Reesa from a few days ago.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blood sucker

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that DEET in concentrations up to 30% is okay to use on children over two months of age. I'm not a big fan of intentionally spreading synthetic chemicals in the environment or onto my body, but it seems that after 50 years of use, I can take a look at risks and lack of effective alternatives and say, "Spray it on!"

This is on the basis of the discomfort of the bite, which for our youngest child is quite serious. Yes, we'll reduce the chances of West Nile Virus and tick bites, but it is just the scratching and lost sleep over the bites that makes it worth while to me.

How bad are the mosquitoes? One recent night, I was weighing the pros and cons of bathing the children in the evening. My wife thought I just didn't want the hassle of bathing them. "Oh no," I assured her, "it's not that. You see, they might wash off too much of their bug spray before bed, and I want them to have it on overnight." The mosquitoes are bad inside the house on some nights.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I have turned into my father

I admit that the pop music that got airplay in my youth wasn't, in the whole, better/ smarter/ less banal than is currently served up in 2008. However, I now have a different role in life and find "pop" music annoying in a way I wouldn't have predicted prior to thinking about being a father. Sometimes, it's just plain wrong.

I should start keeping track. Or maybe not. Anyway, the infraction that got me typing now is "1 2 3 4" by Feist:

One, two, three, four, five, six, nine, or ten
Money can't buy you back the love that you had then

And just to make sure that we reinforce bad counting for the younger kids, that couplet is repeated. It's almost enough to drive me back to "This Old Man" and "B-I-N-G-O." Almost.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Recent reading

Can't read enough for those girls. They love books. We love the public library. Current and recent reading favorites for the kiddies, from our local library:

The Usborne Children's Bible
This was too old for Reesa, though she would look at the pictures. I thought it was very accessible for children in the 5-9 year old range. For Genevieve, it was an introduction to these stories.

The Gospel Cinderella
According to our elder critic: "Crooked Foster Mother, when she was a little girl, she was mean to her babysitters, so when she grew up that's why she was mean to Cinderella." I think she gave it four stars.

Thomas the Tank Engine: Story Collection
Okay, I requested it more than the girls -- 508 pages of trains and not one #@*% princess. YES!

Smile, Principessa!
There's this family, the Razzi's. There's mama Razzi, and there's papa... (get it?) who,not so incidentally, takes thousand of pictures of his children, SNAP SNAP SNAP! A very nice book for siblings, though by the fourteenth time of hearing/reading it on our brief little vacation, it had worn out this poppy's welcome.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Recently overheard from elder child

"But all of the other kids in my class get to go to Disney. You have to take me there!"

"Poppy, I want to change my name. I don't like it. It is too long and too old fashioned."

(Said in a wail) "But I did eat most of my dinner! I want dessert!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lutsen vacation part 2

What's a summer vacation without a fire and s'mores. Mmmmm!

And time at the beach, too. That rocky island that Genevieve and Maciek are playing on is separated from land by 30 yards of some very cold water. That's why daddy is on shore taking the picture. Genevieve has her mother's tolerance of water--good for her!

Here are the girls and daddy in the gondola. The girls had no fear of heights. While on the chairlift, Daddy kept wondering, "where's the fall protection?" 

Friday, June 20, 2008

Vacation to MN, part one

Wednesday June 18

First thing in the morning, the family loads up the minivan and... goes to the rental car joint. Mommy isn't going on this trip (she has a job this weekend and weddings to prepare for on the following two weekends), so the girls and I are going to the north shore of Lake Superior in a rental car.

After only six potty stops in twelve hours, we arrive at the resort. We are being hosted by good friends of ours, and we are happy for the invitation. Everyone is happy. It was a good trip.

Thursday June 19

Alpine slide, gondola ride, hiking at the top, swimming at the bottom, Reesa got a nap, Genevieve got a little rest, and at the end of the day everyone is perfectly tired and not exhausted. It is nice being here with another family, we enjoy each other's company. Miss my wife. Lot of fun.

Friday June 20

Hike up and down a (short distance) of a river, play at a cold beach, eat doughnuts, and no naps. All but that final item were fun. As for the nilla wafer/ vanilla pudding surprise dessert -- Reesa misses it entirely by skipping out early on dinner, and Genevieve doesn't like the pudding. Reesa is getting downright belligerent, and both of the girls are beyond tired. My left heel hurts a lot, and getting the girls to sleep hits a nadir with a simultaneous 96 decibel double meltdown. Okay, this is still vacation, but bedtime was not fun.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Worth every single penny

Here's an archive of a sidebar item that's been up for about a year, and coming down today

Books worth every single penny… ages 0-3

  • Snuggle Puppy! by Sandra Boynton
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illus. by Clement Hurd
  • If You Were My Bunny by Kate McMullan, illus. by David McPhail
  • “More More More,” Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams
  • Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton
  • Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton
  • Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illus. by Marla Frazee
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr., illus. by Eric Carle

Lately, we haven't had a three-year old in the house. Though that will change in a couple of months, I don't know that Reesa will have quite the concentration of favorite titles as her sister. Because she has an older sister, Reesa is exposed to a wider variety and more "advanced" books. Maybe she does have a top-ten list -- I'm not able to come up with anything so definitive tonight.