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!