Sunday, September 6, 2009

World in a song

This song sums up the world of my five year-old today:

I go to kindergarten
I go to kindergarten
I go to kindergarten
I just lost a tooth!
(repeat, ad nauseum)
One tooth down, 19 to go.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why I haven't written lately...

'nuff said?

Like a slap of aftershave after using a month old razor, summer came to an abrupt halt today. Both girls started school, one in 4 yr. old pre-K and the other in kindergarten. If the emotional pulls weren't enough, a parent also gets bombarded with forms, information, rules, numbers and whatever else. All nice enough and from good people, but I thought it was the kids that were supposed to be overwhelmed by the end of the day. I don't even know where to start. So I won't, for tonight.

Now that I'm back, I'm sure you'll hear more.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jokes and posts

Genevieve has "pretty good" memory for jokes; unfortunately, the wording for joke punchlines requires a precision that she is still working on. I am mentioning that in part as a reminder to myself to note some of the specific instances of this soon.

This note has no punchline. I have taken a break from most posting for July and August. I'm having too much fun (and too many projects around the house) to keep up with the dozen a month that I've been doing lately. You'll hear more often from me again in the fall.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

American fireworks

Our city has two holidays: Memorial Day and the 4th of July. Legally, we have other holidays, but on those two days the party sign is out and friends from around the area come in celebrate. On our block of ten or eleven houses there were four backyard parties in the late afternoon and evening, and at dusk most of the city gets up and starts walking to the city center with blankets and wagons for the fireworks display.

Throughout the fireworks display, Genevieve sang loudly and Reesa plugged her ears. Genevieve's singing had so much volume that people in front of us turned around above the din of the display to see what the source of the noise was. And what was she singing? Beats me -- it was mostly a stream-of-whatever-crosses-her-mind.

Reesa needed cuddling for much of the show, was very impressed by any rocket that was a "sparkler" (and, no, I couldn't figure out exactly what she meant about that), and in the middle of the show started her own song, fingers still firmly planted in her ears. Her words were very minimalist (she'll make a good pop song writer), and went like this:
a-MER-I-can fire-works
a-aa-MER-I-CAN fire-woo-orks
a-MER-i-can fire-WO-OO-OO-ORKS!
a-Mer-i-CAN fire woooOOORKS!

So, it is a good thing that fireworks are loud, because they were relentless.

The day did not start so well for Genevieve. Our neighbor's daughter was over playing with our children this morning, riding bikes in the driveway, and Genevieve slowly rode past the friend and with her sister a little distance away quietly said "Hey, wanna go on the swing with me?"

There are only two swings on our swingset, and it seemed clear to me that Genevieve's intent was to cut her sister out of the swing action (like, maybe I'd seen this maneuver a few times before, hmmmmmmm?). However, Reesa's ears are sharp and mind keen and she wasn't on her bike, and immediately and without fanfare she bolted for the backyard swings. So did the friend -- after all, she had been asked to go swinging. Genevieve took a little smidge of time to dismount her bike and didn't realize that both other girls had a big headstart on the run to the backyard until too late, and ooooooooo, what a tantrum there was! Oh, her sister was a tricker and a sneak! And it wasn't FAIR (oh, that F word again).

I failed to be won over, which eventually earned me a big fat "I HATE YOU!!!!" Don't fret about me -- I was in good company, because she placed her mother and sister in the same boat. So, only Reesa got to go to the bike parade. This meant that She-Who-Would-Like-To-Be-Having-Fun-With-Our-Children ended up at home with the whirlwind child, which did break our "rule" of not having a consequence for a child be a consequence for an adult. Sometimes, it is unavoidable, and this was one of them. Next time, it will probably be my turn.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The sincerest form

Reesa came running to present me with this drawing, two people parachuting under the sun and a rainbow. What she was most proud of was that one parachute was further away (the smaller parachute, bottom right).

A few moments later, Genevieve showed me her drawing (below), and seemed to complain that her sister had been copying her. I explained briefly that this was because her sister looked up to the work she did, and that her drawing was well done and that it was a compliment to be copied in that way.
I don't know that Genevieve sees it that way. Reflexively, she wants to feel cheated that her sister is imitating her. We try to suggest that she provides an older example for her sister. The trick then is to watch out for the hint of bragging or belittling that can come. It's familiar to me. As the eldest child, I remember dealing with similar feelings when my little sister tried to copy me.

Kite fairy

Genevieve did this pencil drawing recently of two parents and a child flying two kites in a partly sunny sky with a kite fairy. I don't know what kite fairies do, but it was a clearly important attribute to her.

In other news, Reesa denied four times with four separate people that were over at our house today the fact that she had experience a pee-pee accident. The wet-looking dark stained crotch was the suspicious factor.

"Hey Reesa," I shouted over from the lawn to the lower patio. "Did you have a pee-pee accident?"

"Nooo!" she replied without a break in her play. "It wasn't a pee-pee accident! I just had a little extra pee-pee that came out."

She certainly doesn't like the label "pee-pee accident."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is that a threat or a promise?

Sign at a local coffee shop.

I think it's part threat and part promise. I've never heard any yelping puppies in all my times there. I have seen an espresso or two, though...

If I had my children here, I wouldn't leave them unattended. The espresso alone would be adequate and proportionate. The puppy, however, would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Mostly, the coffee shop is the refuge of the solo dad. Especially this coffee shop.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sign of summer no. 1

Amazing how different people are, and how early and noticeable are the dissimilarities between siblings. Take eating ice cream from a cone for example. When Genevieve was learning it, she was a little messy, but wanted to eat neatly like adults, and listened and followed advice.

For Reesa, it's like I said, "She is three years old, and not about to miss out on a moment of doing three year-old things." She was fascinated by the cone. Wanted to wait for the ice cream to melt to the cone, and then lick it from there. She sort of listened to advice -- there was no ice cream in the hair or on the floor -- but she clearly wanted to explore her own fascination with the intersection of cone and frozen dairy item.

All in all, she is a child that doesn't mind wearing her food on her face, and usually has to be reminded or cajoled to clean up.

Speaking of ice cream, that was the second time last weekend that we had some. The previous night we had a family outing and canoed over to the bait shop for some of our favorite frozen treat. The canoeing portion took two hours, round trip, so I think that the adults worked off the calories and some extra.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Way better than a necktie

My children were prompted by She-Who-Loves-Me a week ago to think about what they wanted to give as a gift for Father's Day. Reesa quickly settled on getting me a rainbow toothbrush, and also two juggling balls and an adult book (meaning a book not for children). I only started hearing about it this morning at the breakfast table.

"Does someone need a new toothbrush?" she announced. "Is it momma? Noooo, not momma. Is it Genevieve? Nooooo, not Genevieve. I think it's a surpri-i-i-ise."

There were a couple of other mentions of the plans for obtaining the toothbrush, which I had to deny hearing, and then after our all-day strawberry picking outing (I am sooo tired tonight) Reesa and my wife went out and upon their return I was presented with my shiny new toothbrush. She then asked me where I kept the juggling balls, took those, got a book off the shelf and presented me with those, also.

Afterwards, my wife told me that Reesa had been talking about getting me a toothbrush all week long. (No, not because I didn't have one -- the one I had was just boring, okay?) I am going to think about her every time I brush my teeth with that toothbrush. I may have a hard time giving it up.

Friday, June 19, 2009

And in her spare time...

I haven't written about Reesa much lately for two reasons. First, I spend more time with Genevieve since I do the pick-up drop-off routine twice a week with her. Second, Reesa spends much of her time screaming. Leaves me with a lot less warm-fuzzy material to work with. She is three years old, and not about to miss out on a moment of doing three year-old things.

But I did get a conversation with her today.

Her: I want to be a ballerina when I grow up.

I: That's a good thing to want to be. The dancing is graceful and pretty, and it's fun to dance. You do have to practice a lot, but for some people practice is just like play time and it's fun, too.

Her: That's not all. When I grow up I want to be a fairy, and a mermaid, and a princess, and a ballerina, and a cheerleader.

I: Wow. That's a lot. And a cheerleader?

Her: Yeah. I want to stand on one leg, that's the kind of cheerleader I want to be.

I: Hmm, I think you wouldn't have to do that all of the time.

Where does one get the idea of being a stand-on-one-leg cheerleader? As opposed to the pom-pom waving one, or the cartwheeling one, or the megaphone shouting one? Ooo, she'd be good at that last one. Wouldn't even need the megaphone.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

U.S. Grant

Today at the convenience store, I caught a quick glimpse of a corner of a fifty dollar bill in my wallet as I was paying for some two-cycle engine oil. Since I typically don't have much more than $40 total in my possession at any one time, this was a happy and perplexing discovery.

When did I get that? Was it a mistake? Did I have it from some recent weekend away, not yet returned to the family money stash? Leaving the store, I pulled out the wallet to look at it again.

Oh yeah. Then I remembered. It's fake. Fairly good quality copy, but smaller than an actual bill. It might be just barely at the 75% legal limit for print reproductions, but it was printed on both sides (not permitted by law). When Genevieve found it on the ground, I explained to her that it was not real money. When asked more about that, I tried to explain about counterfeit money, but in order to do that you have to explain about how currency has any value at all anyway, and even a bright five year-old quickly loses interest. That is to say, she lost interest in the way I was trying to explain it.

"The government prints the money, and then we get it, but if anyone could print it, then why would we work, or uh... well, that would be like cheating and, um, anyway you're not supposed to do that." I said something like that, but probably not so elegantly.

How would you try to explain currency and counterfeiting to a kid?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Can we renegotiate this union rule?

Hmm, there were little sweet moments this weekend, but wow, summertime can sometimes be a lot of work when you don't have your parenting groove on. Late nights equal tired children, because it is simply not possible for a young child to sleep in on a Saturday or Sunday morning. It must be a union thing or something -- you know, the International Order of Toddlers, Kids, and Teens (teenagers graduate to a different union, I think). Tomorrow morning, odds are that we will need pry bar or really good bribe to leverage them out of bed.

Today after a late lunch I sent the kiddos off for a nap. Genevieve the elder melted down at this turn of events, exhausted herself within three minutes and conked out. Reesa went more willingly, also fell quickly asleep. Then I pulled out the secret weapon -- the fiddle tunes practice CD on perpetual loop. Popped that baby in, folded some laundry, and then hit the backyard. Genevieve slept for an hour and half and Reesa doubled that.

Since Genevieve was up earlier, she went and played with her neighbor friend. By the time Reesa awoke, the neighbor was home and getting ready to go out with her family. And oh, that wasn't FAIR! How come my sister got to go and play, I wanted to play, why didn't you wake me up (ha-haha!), bwaaaaaaaah!

Is this what I get for letting them stay up hugely late last night? Tonight it's 9:45 and despite getting them into bed over an hour ago, they are still awake. This is NOT glamorous.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wishing well

On the bus yesterday, my elder daughter and I had this conversation.

She: I want to go to Africa.

Me: That's a very interesting thing to want. There would be so many things to see and do, and it's so big, an entire continent. That's a good wish to have -- you can add it to your wish list.

She: Oh, no, I can't have more wishes.

Sure you can. Why do you think you can't have more wishes?

You can only have three.

Why is that?

That's how many wishes you can make at the wishing well at the library.

Me: Oh, I see... Can't you just have other wishes that aren't in the wishing well.


Hmmm. If you had another wishing well, could you make more wishes there?

Well, umm, no,...uh, well, I guess so. I think you can.

So if we had a different wishing well, you could add more wishes? Can you make wishes into a fish tank?


How about if we had another little fish jar at home, like we have Dorothy in? Could you make wishes there?

Then there'd be another fish in there. We don't want to do that.

Me: No, no. There doesn't have to be a fish in it -- they come separately, you know. The bowl Dorothy is in, we had that at home already, and I brought Dorothy home and added her into it.

She: But I'd need another penny. I can't wish without a penny.

Oh. [pause] What if you had another penny, could you add more wishes?


And if you had more pennies? make more wishes?


Maybe that's the way to go.

By then, I'd forgotten that this had begun with a wish to go to Africa.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's elementary, my dear Watson

Here's the answer to the puzzle posted in the June 3rd entry:

The photo was inverted left/right. The actual photo is above. I included the photo of the house to make it fair for readers that haven't seen our house. The top left of this photo shows the correct orientation of the front door and living room bump out.

Yes, Genevieve wrote her note to us with inverted letters, from right to left. She is entirely capable of writing the regular letters and from left to right. Don't know why she wrote this the way she did, but she really nailed it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The f word again

The same night that Reesa and I were telling a ghost story while at Quaker camp, Genevieve and She-Who-Loves-Songs were out at the sing-a-long, and up came this one from local favorites Lou and Peter Berryman:

There are pirates in their fetid galleons
Daggers in their skivvies

With infected tattooed fingers

On a blunderbuss or two

Signs of scurvy in their eyes

And only mermaids on their minds

It's from them I would expect to hear The F-word, not from you

We sit down to have a chat

It's F-word this and F-word that

I can't control how you young people

Talk to one another

But I don't wanna hear you use

That F-word with your mother...
Of course, Genevieve asked what they meant by "f-word." Shocking, really--haven't we been through this before? Her mother had to remind her: "That's just a song about a mother who is tired of hearing her child say 'this isn't fair' and 'that's not fair' so she sings a song about it."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Our really big blackboard

We have quite a bit of driveway, as shown in the above picture of our house. Our children make good use of this blackboard and a bucket of sidewalk chalk. Every rainfall, viola, fresh chalkboard.

Below is a love note scrawled on our driveway from Genevieve: I LOVE YOU MOM & DAD. I found it one day about a month ago.

But there something not copasetic, not kosher, not... quite right about this second photo. Any guesses? (Answer in future post)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Full of questions

"Daddy, what was the first thing in the world?"

"Well, there are many interesting and different stories about that, and..."

"Where did God come from?"

"That's a good question. Maybe God was always there."

"Where did the first egg come from? Daddy, I'm just so full of questions. How many questions should I have?"

"You should have as many questions as you need to get the answers you want."


"Is magic for real?"

Friday, May 29, 2009

Illustrated by

  • grass -- at bottom
  • one flower -- yellow
  • caterpillar -- series of circles above flower
  • the roof of the fairy princess ballet dance house -- hatch marks to right of caterpillar
  • dragonfly -- black, above caterpillar
  • butterfly -- circles above dragonfly
  • rainbow -- obvious
  • mosquitoes (only 2 are allowed in fairy princess land) -- blue spots above caterpillar
  • stars (orange) -- top of page
  • night sky -- top of page
  • writing that says "HI HO! Where is Genevieve? Illustrated by Reesa." -- squiggles on left margin

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Weekly quarter

Our children receive a weekly allowance of $0.25, not tied to work or cooperation or anything. We provide this amount in order to let them begin to experience the exchange of money for goods, to see that there are some things that you can get for yourself, and some things that you can get for yourself if you wait and save, and some things that you can get sooner if you want to cooperate and pool your money with your sister, and some things that it would just take to long to save that much money, and some things to which mom or dad just say "no."

Other money they get as gifts they are directed to place into their piggy banks. The plastic pigs that don't break, with the once-removable-but-now-glued-shut-by-daddy snouts

Here's some of what our children will do with their weekly riches:
  • breath mints
  • gum
  • toys from gumball machines
  • apple
  • grapes (to which Genevieve sat down, pulled out a grape and a straw, stuck the straw into the grape, and proceeded to attempt to drink the grape juice that should gush forth, just like from a juice box)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ghost story

“Daddy, let’s tell scaaary stooories!”

It was dusk at the regional annual Quaker gathering, and I volunteered to take Reesa, the three year-old, back to the cabin for bedtime. At the time I attributed it to the mosquitoes, but after arriving at the cabin I recognized that my field mouse headache had turned into a growling bulldog. I was happy to get a chance to get to sleep early, especially after failing to find the pain reliever.

That’s when Reesa made her proposition.

“Here, we’ll sit on this blanket for the story.” She had spread out one of her children’s fleecy blankets on the hard tile cabin floor.

“Ooo, I think we should lie on my bed. Under blankets and in the dark.” My headache was asking for those conditions. “That will be scaaaary.”

“Okay. That way we can cuddle, too.”

So that is how my headache, Reesa and I came to telling our ghost story.

“Once upon a time, there was a ghost that lived in a rutter cave, and…”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “Did you say rutter cave?”


“Is that like a bear cave?”

“Yes. So this ghost lived in the cave, but then one day the ghost left the cave to do scaaaary things.” Pause. “Okay, your turn daddy.”

“Hmmm. Well, this ghost came to a house, and there were people that lived there, and they were home. So he did scaaaary things, and the people in the house were afraid. Your turn.”

“Well,” Reesa said, thinking. “The people left the house, so the ghost went to another house and scared the people there. Your turn daddy.”

“The people were so scared, they ran away from their house, too. This time the ghost decided to have a ghost party for all of his ghost friends, so he called them up on the phone and they all came to this house and had a b-i-i-i-i-i-g party, and it was really loud. Your turn.”

“So the police came and kicked them out. And they caught all of the ghosts except one that they didn’t catch, and that one was hiding.” Pause. “Your turn daddy.”

“The ghost waited for the police to leave, then went out to another house, scared the people away, called up other friends for another ghost party, and they had lots of fun but not for too long because it started to get light with the sun coming up, so all of the ghosts disappeared for the daytime. Your turn.”

“The next night, the police came, and the ghost ran away from that house, and went to a different city. Your turn daddy.”

“Well, that ghost was getting tired of being chased, and this time instead of scary someone out of the house they lived in, he looked around for a house that no one lived in and was a little broken down, so that the police wouldn’t be called in to chase them out. And that is what happened, and that is why to this day ghosts live in abandoned old houses. The end.”

And I gave her a kiss, and she went to sleep.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Great Quillow

By James Thurber (c) 1944
Our library has the Harcourt Brace & Co. 1994 edition with illustrations by Steven Kellogg

Ooooo, this is really good.

Message: intimidation and brutality are overcome not by weaponry or physical traps, but rather by storytelling, planning and toys.

Story: Long for a three-year old, but our five-year old has the attention span for it. Gets a little detailed with the town council bits, but the repetition of the reactions of all the different tradesmen is fun. Other townsmen want to crush, poison, burn, etc. the giant, but the town toymaker sees the futility of this and convinces the town to participate in stories he weaves, eventually driving the giant to his own destruction.

Illustrations and layout: This edition is in a large layout format, with a mix of layouts for the watercolor-and-ink panels. The variety of presentation has been good for a half-dozen readings, and will be good for many more.

On the list of one of my potentially great children's books. Let's revisit it in a couple of years, yes?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Power of... stickers as an entertainment device!

Overheard from our back seat on a recent 10 hour car drive after a dance weekend. Notes courtesy of She-Who-Loves-Fatherhood-in-three-easy-lessons. The conversation took place while exchanging and pasting stickers of doe-eyed anime figures over everything in reach of their five-point harnessed position, especially all over themselves.

"We're going to win against the bad girls!"
"The bad girls?"
"Yeah! They're trying to win, but we have to beat them."

"We're mermaids!"
"We're princesses!"

"Do you need some slime? They eat slime."
"Yeah, give me some slime."

"Huh-Huh-Huh!" (cartoon sound of panting)

"Let's use corn power."
"I don't like corn power. I like rainbow power."
"No, I want to use star power!"
"Let's use star-rainbow power."

"Ooooo, she has a lot of slime."


"Oh no! They're winning."

"I'm Rosie and you're Jessica."
"I don't want to be Jessica. I want to be Emma."
"I'm not really a mermaid, I'm a princess."
"I'll be Emma-fairy."

...and on and on for a good hour.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Deal

"Daddy, can you do, you know..."

"Yes, Reesa, I know The Deal. I'll watch you go down the stairs, you turn on the basement light, and I'll be here in the kitchen while you get your clothes."

"Right. And then when I get back upstairs, you can leave the kitchen."

That's the deal, and Reesa wants to have that conversation every time she goes downstairs to get clothes from her relocated dresser. We set up a turned-over milk crate so that she can reach the light in order to chase away the monsters.

If she had been able to cease from tossing half of her clean wardrobe across the bedroom floor every day, she would still have a dresser in her bedroom rather than the basement, but she couldn't learn that lesson, so we have The Deal. (The placement of the dresser in the basement has resulted in many fewer clean clothes tossed around. I am particularly happy with it, since I had come up with that ploy. Desperation begets the occasional good solution.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Once, I researched a list of recommended books with which to raise independent-minded girls. I don't remember what I found, or where the list went. I do remember finding a few good books off of it, but at the the moment I don't recall which ones. For the most part, my approach to finding good children's picture books has been the filter-by-volume method. I typically have 25 items checked out of the children's section of the public library at a time, and we read everything we get, often a half dozen times.

I've just come across the illustrated children's version of Brundibar, complete with the eye-catching illustrator/author combination of Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner. This is hardly a new book (2003), just new-to-me. Reading it has started me thinking about the qualities that make for a very good children's book.

The "Do Not Pass Go" test: do the children like it? If they don't like it, then it doesn't matter what I think. If I really like something they could care less about, then maybe it's just a book for adults in the guise of a kids book.

For illustrated books, one quality is (DUH!) the illustrations. Not every book in my very good category has to have fabulous illustrations, and there are two sets of tastes that have to be considered -- do the illustrations satisfy a child, and do they satisfy an adult.

For adults, are the the illustrations engaging? complex? multi-layered in meaning? For kids... do they like them? on the tenth reading?

Layout. This includes story flow, quantity of text to complexity of illustrations, eye flow, and are the eyes a non-literate child likely to flow to pertinent illustrations while hearing the text.

There's more, but I'll get into Brundibar.

First, there are a couple of background items for this book:
Brundibar the book is adapted from Brundibar the Czech opera, and I suspect that fidelity to the theater script rated more highly than creating a children's (or adults) literary text. The essentials of the plot are there, but it's chunky. There is content that is engaging for both adult and child, but I couldn't help but feel like an outsider for not having seen the opera first.

I believe that Reesa maintained her interest mostly on the Maurice Sendak illustrations (she loves Sendak). Their flow and variation careen between the dark underside of Jews in Nazi Europe and irrepressible youthful hope in the face of desperation. And, hey, isn't that the baker from In The Night Kitchen making a cameo appearance?

Bottom line: not a great book, but despite that it is a book that will get you curious about the story behind the story and the opera. Worth it for adults to read it, and the kids won't mind.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

There's a biyana at the door

Knock knock
Who's there?

Banana who?

Knock knock
Who's there?
Banana who?

Knock knock
Who's there,
Orange, who?
Orange you glad I didn't say banana!

That's the way the joke's supposed to go. Reesa's version, which she cracks up to every time she says it is twisted up...

Reesa: Knock knock
Victim: Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange who?
Orange who?
Banana who?
Orange you glad I didn't say biyana! HA HA HA HA!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

These days

These days are burrowing into deep corners of our minds
Our young children still in love with us
But beginning to find other role models, becoming more interested in friends

These days more precious than rare earth elements
Of tricycles, and wrenches used to put on and take off training wheels
Small eating utensils and toy tea sets
Of the smell of crayon, pee-pee accidents, and sweet breath
Stubbed toes healed with a kiss, the simple glee of a balloon
Of sidewalk chalk, shortened naps, and first words read
Snuggling in the early morn, reading picture books, the thrill of a merry-go-round

If our lives are graced with long duration
These are days that will be cherished after the pitter-pat on hardwood is gone
Even when memory of the past hour is unrecoverable, unknown, immaterial
These days will be sharp and clear, poignant and biting

Written for my loving wife on the occasion of mother's day
My partner, and mother of our children without whom I could not be the father I am

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

See sewer robots

Why doesn't my calendar look like this? This was Genevieve's day.
  • Sleep in a little late.
  • Breakfast.
  • Shop at farmer's market. Buy flowers and cookies.
  • Play with balloon animals.
  • Play freeze tag with friends in a beautiful downtown place.
  • Eat cookies.
  • Listen to bagpipes.
  • See sewer robots. See yourself on the sewer robot TV monitor.
  • Eat lunch. Give flowers to teachers.
  • Nap.
  • Music time.
  • Play time.
  • Dinner.
  • Go to friends house and play.
  • Get picked up to go home to bed.
What did I do? G-a-a-c-k! Nothing nearly so fun.

The only slight improvement I would make would be to replace "bagpipe" with "banjo," but that might just depend on the day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Water fun

"What are we going to do that's fun?"

This is the question that Genevieve asks of me lately when I pick her up from preschool or daycare. I ask you, is it my duty to provide her with fun in the park every day? I'll be carting her off to daily dance or soccer or swimming or violin soon enough -- she can learn some self-entertaining skills that will come in handy. Climbing down from my fatherly soapbox now.

Tonight, I said that we would (with proper behavior) take the canoe down to the lakeside for the first time this season and go for a paddle. They behaved, we paddled (more or less -- this is a motor skill not yet mastered by these kids), we stayed dry, and had a successful first spin on the lake.

Last week, I took the family fishing for the first time. No one got hurt, the children left with a positive-enough memory, they want to do it again, so I'll call it a success. I'll also see if I can get the girls out one-at-a-time for the next try -- it's amazing how quickly great lengths of fishing line can get tangled in an unassailable ball when you're busy helping the other sibling.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not chopped liver yet, but...

I'm still pretty cool as far as my dad status goes, but I am no longer recipient of the rock star treatment. My arrival at home generates the same excitement as a new box of crayons -- wow, that's really nice, lots of immediate attention, and then move on to other things.

My daughters now give the rock star treatment to our neighbor across the street, peeking out windows to see if her car is there, or did she take her husband's car this time, and if there's a sighting... oh my gosh, the shrieking and running for the door and shouting across the street, the begging for when can they come visit. The letters, the fan club... sigh.

I knew my rock star moment wouldn't last long. It was nice while it lasted.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Icy 8

Icy 8 and Icy Monkey: sometimes, better than a parental kiss.

The mommy and daddy kiss works for the small boo-boos, or ouwies (spelling please!) that occur outside of the last hour before bed. But when Reesa gets hurt when she's tired, or when she really gets whacked good (by herself or by her sister -- yes, hard to believe, I know), then the daddy kiss won't cut it. Then you need the big guns.

Call in the Icy 8, and the superhero sidekick Icy Monkey. One for the mouth, one for the boo-boo, and it works better than a bandage. If one is lost or breaks, we'll have to go out and recruit for another Icy pain relieving superhero.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Glorious! I still have hair.

Whew. Made it through a weekend alone with the children, still have most of the hair that I began the weekend with. Not to say that's a lot of hair, but that makes it even more important to keep what I've got.

Genevieve has been driven lately not by the need for power, but for attention. Her eating habits are messier, she spills milk on purpose, and today she had a crying outburst in the middle of Sunday school that only ended after I hauled her out to the car. She-Who and I are talking about it, trying to figure out what is missing, what she needs, what we need to be aware of and look out for.

Reesa has two words of note:

DEEES-gusting! = disgusting, used frequently and with gusto.

Glorious! = beautiful, awesome, glorious. She saw one of Genevieve's new shirts for the first time today and said, "Wow, that's glorious, Genevieve!"

And yes, she informed me this weekend that I still smell like mashed potatoes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm just a bill

She-Who-Manages-The-Netflix-Queue would know for sure, but I think Schoolhouse Rock! has been steadily working it's way up our list, and is now playing at a DVD player under our TV. It is every bit as good as I remember it from thirty-plus years ago. I still recite the Preamble to the Constitution to the tune I learned in Schoolhouse Rock!

Memorable three minute lessons to tunes that will never leave your head, and viewing it as an adult I can now see influences previously invisible to me. For example, I now immediately hear the Rocky Horror Picture Show influence on Interplanet Janet. In the grammar rock arena, Verb: That's What's Happening has that Mo-town movie sound. Interjections! has the Hallelujah chorus (obvious, I know, but I wasn't exposed much to high culture as a kid).

And check out these lines:
I'm just a bill,
Yes, I'm only a bill,
And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill.
If you're a butt-end Baby Boomer or Gen X-er, it is probable that you read those above lines not just with a certain tune, but with that raspy voice of Jack Sheldon in your head.. c'mon, you can hear it, right?

Jack is also one of the voices to this ditty:
Backup singers -- Conjunction Junction,
what's your function?
Jack Sheldon -- Hooking up words and phrases
and clauses.
Backup singers -- Conjunction Junction,
how's that function?
Jack -- I got three favorite cars,
That get most of my job done.
Backup singers -- Conjunction Junction,
what's their function?
Jack -- I got "and", "but", and "or",
They'll get you pretty far.
Okay, some of it is a little dated, like Elbow Room and the recent demotion of Pluto from planethood. But this is still fabulous fun for all of us. The girls wanted to watch it again for our pizza and movie night (they liked "galaxy girl" the best -- that would be Interplanet Janet).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sky child

She-Who-Gave-Birth-To-Our-Children gave the following report earlier this week:

Genevieve came running into where I was sitting. She was chasing someone I could not see and yelling, "She's supposed to be on the ground, she's a ground child!"

Reesa was hot on her heels and retorted "No! She's not a ground child!"

As Reesa came to the spot Genevieve had left off, she put her arm around the unseen being and started to walk back from whence they had come.

Genevieve conceeded "Okay, she's a sky child."

And they both went back from where they had come and continued to play with one another and the sky child.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Our family attended a women's college basketball game a couple of months ago. It was one of those promotional days, so the crowd was larger than usual, and with a high ratio of children to adults. I fully enjoy taking my daughters to these events -- I want them to see active, competitive girls and women and know that being active and athletic is an option for each of them.

As an attendee (a.k.a. fan) at a sporting event, there is much to take in, to experience, to be entertained by, and for young children the biggest star doesn't wear a sport uniform. No, the center of attention for young children is someone wearing a garish furry costume with an oversized head and team colors.

"Aaiiiiieee! It's Local College Mascot*! Local College Mascot, come here, come here!"

After a first half of spending equal time watching the game as watching out for Local College Mascot (LCM), I took the two girls to the family restroom. Thank goodness for the public family restroom! (Though having two potty seats would've helped things move along more smoothly.) At the conclusion of our break, I looked into the arena. Halftime had less than five minutes to go, and the halftime show was wrapping up. Rats, the kids would've liked that. So, I figured to burn off some of their energy by walking around the concourse under the seats of the arena. We made it a quarter way around and our pace was slow, and I was about to turn around and backtrack to our section when I stopped. I couldn't believe my luck.

"What, daddy?"

There, behind a gaggle of eleven year-old girls and scattered adults was LCM.

"Girls, look! It's Local College Mascot."

Genevieve followed my eyes, locked in on her target, and took full advantage of her five year-oldness. Small enough to weave around the legs of adults and squeeze through and end-around the eleven year-olds, she pounced on Local College Mascot as he was signing the t-shirt of a pre-pubescent fan, hugging his furry leg with all her little happy joy.

Reesa shouted the name of LCM again and again, but didn't budge from my side. I finally had to rescue LCM from the clutches of my elder daughter. Later in the game, Reesa regretted not hugging LCM and got her mommy to carry her over for a personal greeting.

So here we are, watching our children scream for (a) a marketing ploy (b) an oversized stuffed animal that moves (c) a goodwill ambassodor for the university (d) a combination of some of the above.

*(yes, our local college mascot has a name, but does it really matter?)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Egg race

Though She-Who-Cringes-When-Her-Children-Eat-Chocolate and I are convinced Quakers, we still raise our children with some of the the traditional religious holiday baggage. Santa and the Easter Bunny visit our house.

This year, we attended our local egg hunt for the first time, and it was a little confused and chaotic for a first-time attender. I'm usually the type of person that counts (or estimates) heads at an event, but I really didn't think about it when I was there. Let's say there are 400 screaming, squirming children, held back from their prizes by caution tape. Plus adults with cameras, an unintelligible person on a bullhorn, and a man in a bunny suit that featured an open mouth and big teeth -- oh, yeah, THAT will attract the two year olds.

The "hunt" was divided by age group. Reesa was in the 1 to 3 year old field with She-Who. (See photo of both of them checking out the 1-3 year old field). I took Genevieve to the portion of the play structures allocated to the 4 to 6 year olds.

I ran into some neighborhood friends, chatted briefly and was interrupted by the unintelligible man on the bullhorn. I got my camera ready for the excitement. Finally, Mr. Unintelligible said something I could understand.

"On your mark...get set..."


...oh no


On our compact digital camera, the battery is low message is not a warning of things to come soon, but rather a courtesy informing you why it just shut down. In the thirty seconds it took to replace the battery, the mad dash for the plastic eggs was over. I found Genevieve after several minutes of searching. She was wandering around the maelstrom of adults and children, looking for two more eggs to fulfill the maximum of ten eggs.

"Honey, you found eight eggs! That's really good. Some children only found five or less." She didn't fully believe me, but she did seem to succumb to the reality of not finding any more eggs. When she discovered that her sister had collected "only" three eggs, she decided that she could be fine.

Reesa had three eggs because she eschewed all but pink and/or purple eggs. Walked past other colors. She seemed happy enough.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Elephant muffins

Conversation between Reesa and She-Who-Bakes-With-Children yesterday morning...

Reesa: Momma, can we make elephant muffins?

She-Who: You mean monkey muffins? (We have a recipe for monkey muffins)

Reesa: No, elephant muffins!

She-Who: I don't have a recipe for elephant muffins

Reesa: You take eggs, sugar, yogurt, sauce and almonds and mix it up. Then you just bake it!

She-Who: Ah! Thanks for the recipe!

I just want to know to which sauce was Reesa referring.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Please curb your rabbit

On Saturday, Reesa found a small, round, desiccated tan item in one of our perennial beds.

"What's that, daddy?"

"Hmm. It's old rabbit poop."

Reesa didn't think that rabbits should be pooping in our garden. So she took her chalk and wrote a message on the driveway closest to the garden bed. It had a simple drawing of rabbit scat, overlaid with a circle and a line through the circle. That would be the universal "NO!" sign. Then she added a line of scribbles with a few letters and pseudo-letters mixed in. I asked her what it all meant.

"Well, that's Frrrrench wrriting." She trills her some of her R's. "When da rabbits come here in the night wif their flashlights, they can see it. It says, 'No rabbits poop in the garden wif da yellow flowers.' "

"Oh. Where will they go poop then?" I asked.

"In the forest." Duh! Don't you know these things, daddy?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Color chart ABC's

Genevieve did this gem at pre-school last week. She started with seven columns, intending to do a calendar, but changed her mind and used the first four columns for color charts. Very rainbowy. The fifth column has the ABC song:

NIV = now
i NO = I know
M AB C N X TM = my ABC's, next time
WT YOU SIN G W TH M E = won't you sing with me

She cracks me up.

As you may recall, I quickly gloated when I reached sixth place in the Johnny Quest Memorial Candy Basketball Pool, correctly sensing that I had reached an apex. I am no longer anywhere near sixth place, and in the interest of complete and unbiased journalism, I report the following:
  1. Genevieve won the family pool, and has already been rewarded with her yogurt pretzels. Don't even have to await the outcome of tonight's game. She even smoked President Obama by 15 points.
  2. I will beat 1000 out of 1001 chimps (I will either lose to, or tie, one chimp).
  3. Most importantly, I again accomplished my most important goal and did not lose to She-Who-Is-A-Mostly-Good-Sport-About-My-Tournament-Watching.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

New bicyclist alert

A bicyclist has joined the family. Genevieve rode without training wheels for over a minute at a time, negotiating both left and right hand turns, slowing and braking at will. Well, almost at will -- the braking/stopping is not reliably smooth, but in a pinch she will bail out or fall over.

This is not a shocking development. She was on the verge successful sustained riding last fall before the cold weather halted children's biking. Her bicycling development mirrors her some of her personality: diligent, determined, and a little impatient to master something that she felt was almost in her grasp. She doesn't immediately look for sympathy or attention when she falls, but seems to run an internal diagnostic before announcing her status. Like many things in her life, it came somewhat easily to her, and now she's ready to use it to jump into other things.

For me, it was a lot of fun both in watching her accomplishment and in working well with her to provide a little bit of coaching. I treated practicing how to stop as a game while providing some insight as to why it was so important, and mostly cheered her on and fixed dropped chains (finally got the wheel backed out enough to keep the chain taut).

Just a dad getting to do something that dads are good at. Doesn't get much better than that.

duck... duck... mud...?

My wife owned a dog before she married a husband. Some days she wonders why she ended up keeping the husband and giving away the dog, but that's neither here nor there. (Specifically for the record, the dog was incompatible with young children and the husband was both compatible and extremely helpful with young children. The dog moved on to a child-free home.)

Gromit is a pointer. He loved going to the dog park, playing with other dogs and, most of all, chasing waterfowl and rabbits. Generally an obedient dog, he was nothing but raw canine instinct when prey was in his sight. Command? What? Did you say something?

On Wednesday evening, I took the girls to a playground. When it was time to head back to the car, instead of motioning them to the bike path that led directly to the car, I pointed toward the soggy field and foolishly said, "You can walk back that way and get a closer look at the birds."

The birds were a mixture of mallards and pintails. The attraction of this field for these twenty or so dabbling ducks was food. Standing water in a grass field fits the bill for a nice duck dinner.

In the mind of a five-year old, grounded ducks fit the bill for a game of chase the birds. Once locked in on her prey, the outside world (i.e. daddy) fell away. She expertly moved the flock just enough to find separation between three ducks and the remainder, and drove that wedge. Wearing a bulky winter coat, cotton pants and flip-flops, she had her selected trio on the run. With the bulky-coat gait of a three-year old, the speed of a five-year old and the frozen smile of glee of a demented duck chaser, she laughed and relentlessly pursued, oblivious to my calls or anything else including what might happen if she actually caught a duck.

If it weren't for the mud, she would've been there until dark or until she had dispersed the entire flock. She couldn't hear my pleading, but she came to a sudden stop when her flip-flops became mired in some deeper mud. She stared at her feet, looked over to me, and shouted with incredulity: "I'm... stuck! My feet are stuck!"

Daddy and the ducks quietly cheered.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Play poor

When Genevieve's time of Saturday afternoon rest concluded (I'd call it a nap if actual napping had occurred), I suggested playing with our pattern blocks. She accepted this idea, and while her sister slept we played with the pattern blocks (2nd photo in this post), and after a time that diversion had played itself out. So we put the blocks away and began to talk about what to do next.

"Let's play poor," she suggested.

"What?" I thought I had mis-heard.

"You know. Play poor."


By now, she must have been wondering just how much overexposure to 70's and 80's rock music had I burdened my ears with? "Yeah, people who don't have money for things."

I was starting to get it now. You can "play house", "play doctor", "play family,"and "play restaurant", so obviously you can "play poor." But I didn't like the idea. There was nothing about it that sounded very fun. I told her that I didn't want to play poor, and could she come up with another idea.

At Friends Meeting the next day, I heard something that gave me pause to revisit the matter. Latter that day, I asked Genevieve if she wanted to play. When she said yes, I asked if she wanted to play poor. Reesa asked what that meant, so Genevieve took her to their bookshelf and paged through The Quiltmaker's Gift, and pointed to a drawing of a homeless person.

But she didn't want to play poor that day. She wanted to hear more of my story that I am making up on the fly during our bus rides, which features a family that lived on a boat until it was stolen from them and now they are poor and trying to make ends meet in a strange city. She is learning from me about how "poor people" live, and wants to hear more before she tries to play poor.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rainbow love

From Dora the Explorer to other scattered stories to our own periodic viewings, rainbows are held in high esteem by both of my children. Genevieve drew this one below and presented it to me as a gift of how much she loves me. Awwwww........

Here is Reesa's try at flattering her sister's art:

Reesa's art is progressing nicely. We're beginning to see more solid representation. And it is good that they both enjoy it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I don't have these problems

In the category of "old news," and I can't believe that I haven't written about this one yet. In the latter half of the winter all three females in the house obtained significantly shorter hair -- one by accident, one by appointment, and one by self.

She-Who-Bought-A-New-Curling-Iron-Recently was the one with the accident. Let's call it a curling iron malfunction and leave it at that.

Genevieve wanted a hair cut because she needed help to cease chewing her hair. She did hers the adult way, which is to say she went to a scheduled appointment with a hair professional.

One night toward the conclusion of dinner with a friend, after the two children were dismissed from the table they disappeared to the far end of the house. Soon, Genevieve came back and whispered into her mother's ear.

"Aaiiiieeee!" screamed She-Who, and ran to the other end of the house. This was followed by lots of three-year old bawling. I arrived at our bathroom to find Reesa standing in the dry bathtub, and She-Who was preparing to even out the hair cut that Reesa had given herself.

Following up on this past Sunday's post, I just have to say:
HOLY MOLEY, I'M IN 6TH PLACE IN THE JOHNNY QUEST MEMORIAL CANDY BASKETBALL POOL. It's my fifteen minutes of fame. (Sad, isn't it?)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bobber, hook and worms

Our family has rented a spot on the neighborhood boat rack this year, so Genevieve and Reesa and I walked down to the beach to check out the rack (daddy) and the water (children). It was a warm weekend with high temperatures in the low 60's, so the girls waded into the lake water up to their knees. The bay was clear, but I could still see ice on the main body of the lake off in the distance, so I let the children have the icy water to themselves. (The way I look at it is that I just spent the entire winter trying to keep my feet warm -- I'm not about to blow it now.) They didn't complain, but they didn't stay in for too long at a time either, and played in the sand to round out their "summertime practice."

Another summer prep activity was to pull out the new fishing poles for assembly. I have not fished in many, many years. When I fished, my tackle was limited to hook, spinner, swivel, sinker, bobber, hook and worms with the occasional floating tri-hook lure for muskie fishing. The starter tackle kit that came with the new fishing pole had lots of colorful, weird stuff, so it was almost as new to me as to the children. They are looking forward to their first fishing experience.

Usually, when I mention fishing, I have to put in a disclaimer that no, we will not be keeping any of the fish we catch as pets. If we keep any fish, they will be to eat. It will be interesting to see if they want to see exactly how those fish get turned into food, and what their reaction will be.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Science terminology

"I know these words: expand, contract, and explode."

Genevieve then proceeded to describe each term accurately enough. She claims to get this information from her newest favorite TV show, Sid the Science Kid. I did not see that particular episode, but from the one episode I've seen and bites of other episodes I've caught in passing, Sid certainly seems curious and industrious enough to have explored the meaning of all three terms.

"You know what I don't know, is what does decompose and disintegrate mean?"

As a parent, you are called upon to deliver definitions without recourse to a dictionary. I do my best. I pointed out that both words referred to something that was falling apart and in the process of changing from one solid structural form to another crumbled form, and that "decompose" was the description used for things that were once alive. Upon later review, this was not supported by Merriam-Webster's, but was marginally supported by an online Webster's. In any case, I believe I conveyed the meaning well enough.

"Did you know that jam and jelly are made with jellyfish? So that's not good for the jellyfish."

I had to shoot that one down. But I couldn't explain pectin at that moment, and thankfully didn't try. Sometimes the best course is to say simply, "No, it's not made from jellyfish, it is made from fruits."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

They humor me

It is that most wonderful time of year again, that of college basketball tournaments with all of the basketball competition on the court and the bracket competition off of the court. This year, yours truly wised up and took five hours of vacation on Thursday and watched the entire first day of the tournament. This was fun for me on that day, and after 12 hours of basketball on Thursday, I watched some portions of some other games the remainder of the weeked but didn't feel like I urgently had to be in front of the TV.

This ties into the family because like last year, everyone joined in on picking their winner of all 63 games of the men's tournament. After the first 48 games, here's the family lowdown:

Genevieve discovered what the seeding numbers mean. A team with a lower number (higher seed) is considered to be better than a team with a higher number (lower seed). That's all she needed to know. With the exception of two first round games in which she pick the lower seed (Texas A&M and Wisconsin, and both won [how did she do that?]), she picked the higher seed for all the other regional games. She picked North Carolina out of the four number one seeds to win the tournament, and in a year with few upsets, Genevieve finds herself in 25th place out of all 658 entrants in our on-line candy bar pool. She leads the family pool.

The President is an honorary member of our family pool, though if he wins, we ain't sending him a candy bar. Like Genevieve, he is enamored of the former Jayhawk coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels to win it all, but unlike Genevieve he did not use a scientific method to make his selections and finds himself 5 points behind our five year-old.

She-Who-Fills-A-Bracket-Because-It-Will-Give-Her-Something-To-Talk-To-Her-Husband-About-For-The-Nineteen-Days-Of-The-Tournament has a soft spot for Duke, and apparent residual year-old warmth for Kansas. She has both teams playing in the finals, with Duke and Coach K on top. She has proven herself as good a prognisticator as the Prez and is tied in points, and she will be applying for a cabinet position as soon as one opens.

Reesa... well, Reesa does this by which names she likes better, or if it corresponds to something she recognizes. Arizona, Arizona State and Wisconsin were all picked to win a few games on name recognition. The word "Siena" slipped like silk on her tongue all the way to the final game, but there was one other team that caught her fancy like no other.

As a native New Yorker (as in the state, NOT the city), I grew up pronouncing Binghamton like this: BING-um-tun. Not Reesa. She says it like this: bing-HAM-ton. Or, to be more precise, "bing-HAM-ton, tee-hee-hee-hee" as if every time she uttered the word it tickled her neck. Reesa gets "daddy credit" for picking two New York teams in the finals, but by her using her methodology she is already mathematically eliminated from winning. No yogurt pretzel prize for her.

And me? So far, I'm four points ahead of She-Who, one down from Genevieve. I figure I can start getting used to being outcompeted by my children -- that's the way of the world. As long as I don't lose to She-Who-Gloats-Upon-Beating-Her-Hubby, I'm doing okay.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Nightmare on My Street

"I had nightmares last night, but I can't tell you what they were about because you'd freak your head out." -- Genevieve

5:40 a.m.
Hah! It's not Genevieve's nightmares that would freak me out. I just spent what seemed like hours in the midst of a bad dream that sends shivers down my spine. It was about Genevieve, and she refused to go to sleep for hours and hours, kept getting up, and didn't care about what I said or did, or what consequences or punishments I would use.

Currently, the parents of this house maintain a thin veneer of control over the children. Putting aside the nice desire to fully embody love and logic and the application of natural consequences, when metaphorical push comes to real-world shove, we rely on other strategies to exert control. My nightmare was of a child who fully and completely realized that she could not be controlled. It's good to have parental 'authority,' but worse than Freddy Krueger scary to be confronted with the fragility of it in the middle of the night.

Monday, March 16, 2009


She-Who-Organizes-Things-And-Creates-Lists came up with this one for the tykes of the house. For use any time that particular complaint of childhood comes up.

  • Read a book
  • Color
  • TV (sometimes)(just a little bit)
  • Write a note
  • Organize a shelf
  • Sweep the floor
  • Brush your hair
  • Fold blankets
  • Visit friends (sometimes)
  • Put away toys
  • Dance
  • Dress up
  • Cook with mommy (sometimes)
  • Play with toys
  • Music--piano, flutes, violin
  • Brush your teeth
  • Dust
  • Play outside (in nice weather)
  • Swing (in nice weather)
  • Yoga

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bilingual fruit

I've written before about pronunciation, and recently I was reading an alphabet book to Reesa. An alphabet book of food. We were on the B's, beans, beets, and...


Like her sister and am-blee-ance, Reesa is very consistent in her mispronunciation of the yellow Cavendish. Has done that since early in her language career.

"Bee, bee. bee, boo."

She was getting silly.

"Bah-nana! Ha-ha! That's Spanish."

I couldn't believe it. She got it right.

"How do you say banana in English?" I asked hopefully.

She looked at me, gave her impish smile and said, "Bi-yana."

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Genevieve walked into the living room. "What smells so good on you? You smell like graham crackers. Or peanut butter. Did you eat something like that?"

I had just snuck a couple of peanut butter graham crackers. It was late afternoon this past weekend and I hadn't had much lunch. Man, it stinks to be ratted out by a five-year old with keen olfactory ability. And now she will want to know why can't she have some for a snack.

"Maybe." I admit nothing.

There I am, stuck between one daughter who can distinguish between many odors, like a nosy detective, and a younger one who thinks I smell like mashed potatoes all the time (except following toothbrushings, and then I smell like mint).

They both are proud of brushing their teeth. "Daddy, smell my breath!" Hhhaa, Hhhaa come two exhales.

"Oh, smells like mint. Very good."

They used to go for the bubble gum or other children flavors of toothpaste, but lately, it's been all about the mint. They clamor for my adult minty toothpaste. She-Who-Can-At-Times-Be-More-Eco-Than-Me uses baking soda, which is neutral in the odor realm. She-Who's stockpile of toothpaste is at no risk from pilferage by our children.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Grown-up stone

"I want to have a sleep-over at Sheila's. She has a magic stone that has special-er magic than my black stone." We were driving to Quaker meeting, and Genevieve had a captive audience.

"What does it do?" I asked.

"It only works for children. If a grown-up comes in, they would get poisoned, and I don't want you to get poisoned."

"So if you were there using it, you wouldn't want a grown-up to come in because it could poison them"


"Well, that's very considerate of you." Good to know she's looking out for me. "So what kind of magic does it do?"

"Sheila didn't tell me yet, but I think I heard her say that it makes smoke to try to kill the grown-up, so that when the grown-up comes in, you forget where you're going and get lost, and it hates grown-ups."

"What does it do without grown-ups around?"

"Oh, well, the princess turns into an evil queen, and she has magic that makes you get lost, and ..."

...and on it goes with castles and rescues and danger, all rendered in spoken phrases not capable of being logically linked by a grown-up, but I'll bet that Reesa understood every word her sister said.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I have no funny pet fish stories to tell, which is another way of saying that two and a half months into Genevieve's first foray into pet ownership, things are going well. No fish under the bed, no toilet bowl tears. Just a little spilled fish food. Of course, I do the water change-outs and more often than not have to remind her to actually give poor flipper some food. But she sometimes remembers to feed it on her own, is still interested in the fish, and even asks for another pet.

I bought her a male beta, since they require no mechanical filter, are fresh water fish, and are a very good starter fish as far as pet fish go. The males have showy fins and color. My girls don't care what my story about the provenance of this pet -- it's a girl, and it's name is Dorothy, end of discussion.

Shown here is Reesa's earliest extant representational artwork -- Dorothy from the top. The squiggy blob in front of Dorothy's face is the food that she is about to suck in.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

So far, so good

As previously mentioned in three posts in January (this one, this one, and this one), Genevieve and I some serious issues with drop-off and pick-up time at her pre-school, and that we had a moderated dialog to attempt some resolution. Since then, our pre-school transitions have improved greatly. The first week following the dialog still had residual whining and reluctance, but with reminders Genevieve eventually cooperated. Since then, the pick-ups have gone smoothly with only minor exception, and few reminders. I arrive, set a timer with at least two minutes, and inform her of the time she has remaining to play, say goodbye, get water, etc. At the conclusion of the time, she is good (in that five-year old way) about getting dressed and catching the bus on time.

On Wednesday, she had a relapse, but even that meltdown showed the utility of our agreement. After the tantrum went on too long, I calmly informed her about the agreement, and that her meltdown meant that she needed some time to calm down and that would come as a time-out when we arrived at home. Her crying continued for a while, but her tantrum subsided and she got dressed in her winter gear and walked (frozen tears all the way) to the bus on time.

Picture book

Genevieve authored a 5 page picture book recently. Here it is…

Can't tell a book by its cover

Can't tell a book by its cover

Every book had a cover. This is hers. Genevieve hasn’t decided on the name of the main character.

At the ball

At the ball

Our protagonist is wearing her dress, complete with a picture of a girl flying a kite on the chest of the gown, to the ball. In the left background, you can see another princess dancing with a prince. (The circles on the neck are rows of jeweled necklaces bedecking the swan-like princess neck, straight from a UK book entitled Imagine you’re a Princess!)

The music house

The music house

After the ball, our princess returns to her music box house…

In two straight lines they broke their bread, and brushed their teeth, and went to bed

In two straight lines they broke their bread, and brushed their teeth, and went to bed

And goes to sleep in her bed (bottom) along with (in ascending order) mommy, baby, and daddy. (The Ludwig Bemelmans influence is obvious here.)

Good morning sunshine!

Good morning sunshine!

In the morning, the sun shines through the window and the girl wakes up!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Office visit

On occasion, one or both of my girls will be dropped off at the office. Maybe because her sister has a doctor or dentist visit. Maybe because She-Who-Is-Trying-To-Run-A-Business has a mid-day client meeting. The latter was the reason for the most recent lunchtime visit from both children.

To get to my first floor office, we must go through the lobby, and every trip through the lobby is accompanied by a plea to play restaurant. In the center of the lobby is a large table, with a decorative vase on top. The space underneath is the restaurant.

“I’ll do food, and Reesa does drinks,” Genevieve announces.

“Yeah,” Reesa chirps, taking her place at her own window. “What do you want?”

“A veggie burger, waldorf salad, and ice tea.”

“Oh, okay, umm…we don’t have that,” Genevieve informs me. “Our food menu is there, and the drinks are on that menu.” She points to the building directory, and a sign for the health clinic on an upper floor.

“I see. Do you still have macaroni and cheese?”

“I have your drink, daddy.” Reesa either has ice tea for me, or didn’t want to wait anymore.

“Yes, we do have macaroni and cheese. Here you go.” Genevieve does not want to miss her part.

“Thank you. Here’s the money.” I give them air money.

Once inside the department cube farm, they go from cube to cube looking for the stuffed animals and saying hello to my co-workers. We go to the break room to eat lunch.

“Can we pretend it’s a cafeteria, daddy?”


Twenty-five minutes, some food and a potty break later, it is clear that we need to leave the office. We bundle into our coats and head across the street for something better than a shopping mall on a cold winter day — the hospital skybridge.

I work close to a hospital with a heated, carpeted, windowed, enclosed pedestrian bridge that spans a busy city artery. It is a perfect to go with young kids to burn off some ya-ya’s. On another day, we might even go all the way over to the hospital to go eat in a real cafeteria. But fifteen minutes on the bridge and She-Who-Had-A-Successful-Meeting is on her way to pick up the kids, and I am soon on my way back to another meeting.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dots and squares and floor plans

You might remember playing dots and squares as a child. Well, there is another turn taking game with pencil and paper that Genevieve and I engaged in on the bus. I call it layout. Genevieve might call it floor plan.

Each take turns drawing a room or significant object as you would see it on a floor plan. I draw the driveway, she does the garage. I block out the kitchen, she draws the basement (yeah, I know, different level, but I just go with it). I draw the fire pit, she draws the swing set.

The wheels turn inside her head. My intention is for her to understand it like a very personal map, on a very scale more accessible than any commercial road map.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Reesa complained that her ear ached at 5:30 this morning. I was putting away dishes in the kitchen and trying to get ready to leave for work, and thought that it would be much better for my chances of making the 6:28 if she were mistaken. I gave her some pain reliever, changed out her wet overnight pull-up diaper, and sent her for some cuddling with mommy.

I had forgotten about it until my wife called me at work.

"Reesa is asking why her name brand pain reliever isn't working yet, and that her ear hurts. Know anything about this?"

So I fessed up and after a couple of hours I learned that Genevieve would not have to come and hang-out with daddy while Reesa visited the doctor, as other arrangements for Genevieve's care were made. I asked my wife to give me a call to let me know how the doctor's visit went.

She-Who-Usually-Takes-Sick-Children-To-The-Doctor didn't miss a beat. "I can tell you how it went right now. We'll show up at the clinic, check in at the desk, and wait for a long time. Then they'll call us in, and we'll wait a long time, and an intern will see her, and we'll wait some more, and then the doctor will come in and prescribe antibiotics."

And that's exactly what happened. Followed by more crying and whining from Reesa.

Some days, I am soooooo happy that I get to go to work.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

French Valentine

Reesa's Valentine's wishes (above):
"Dis is in French writing. It says
Dear Daddy
Happy Valentine's Day
Dear Daddy
That was in French writing"

Genevieve's Valentine wish was to the point.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dry run

Today, my wife and I took Genevieve to a kindergarten introduction at the local K-2 school. Parents bring their soon-to-be-entering-kindergarten child, and parents get a broad overview of most pertinent facts and children get to march of with their soon-to-be-classmates to go do art and sing with the kindergarten staff.

As parents who did not grow up in our current "city" of residence (in New York State, this would not qualify as a city, but hey, whatever), this was our first experience of our local school, so we were learning as much or more than Genevieve. But the biggest reason to have this thing wasn't for the kids, or for the school to get that paperwork in from the parents. It was a dry run... uh, wet run for first time moms to practice their crying skills as the kids gather up and file out of the room. I don't know that this will make September go more smoothly, but She-Who-Sees-Her-Daughter-Entering-College-Really-Soon noted that there were many wet eyes in the room.

As for Genevieve, she loved it. She could probably start tomorrow, as far as she is concerned.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Butterfly map

Last night, Genevieve picked up a pile of things I dumped on the floor when doing a minor repair on a coffee table, and she wanted a reward. I was up for some fun, so I had her choose a non-food thing, and she chose a "butterfly map." Not having a butterfly map lying around the house, I thought about drawing one but elected instead to start with the computer, hoping to find some map-like thing with great pictures or art. I can try to draw butterflies, but it's really cool to see the wide variety of wing patterns that exist "in the real world."

I found a site on which you could click on your state and county and see a list of photo links to butterflies sighted in that locale, and somehow we got around to the NOVA website and found The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies. It is the story of the North American monarch butterfly migration, and is available for viewing in six segments, so the two girls and I started watching it. It became our bedtime story -- Reesa fell asleep to it -- and Genevieve was completely still for the entire program, which I think means that she was emotionally satisfied with her day and enthralled with the program.

The most fascinating part was listening and responding to her questions about why some people would be chopping down the trees that the butterflies used in their Mexican sanctuaries. Yes, it wasn't nice. Those people did it because they were poor and needed some way to make money, so they cut down the trees and sold the wood. They needed money to get by, maybe to buy food. Yes, maybe they had children. The man said they were dangerous because maybe they had guns, because they didn't want to get caught doing something illegal.

That was only about three or four minutes of the almost hour-long program, and most of the remainder was spent watching the wonder of their life-cycle and migration. I love books and storytime, but I do like the option of finding these little gems on this thing we call the internet.