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?