Monthly Archives: January 2015

Day 108: Squeezy hugs

This morning we had to bring the dog to the breeder for grooming, and by the time we got back it was 10:30, which gave us only a couple of hours before our afternoon playdate.

Boy had started reading his Zita book this morning, and finished in the car. He tends to not remember the names of characters, so we played a game on the way home, where he told me about the different characters, and then went back in the book to find their names. So now he knows the names of Zita’s friends who will appear in her further adventures: Piper, Mouse, Strong-strong, One, Randy.

When we got home, Girl just wanted to play on her own in her area, and didn’t even want me seeing what she was doing.

Boy sat down with me on the couch and we read through his math textbook for a bit, then he did some exercises.

After that we ate lunch and got ready to go.

We drove to our friends’ home, friends we’ve known since Boy and their oldest son were in PreK-3 together. They have another son who is also friends with Boy, and a girl who is very good buddies with our Girl. And they are all friends together.  These kids go to an (excellent) public school around the corner from their house, but didn’t have school today, so we seized the opportunity for a playdate.

And I love these kids. I genuinely do. It’s funny how that can sneak up on you, when you’ve known kids since they were very small. We hadn’t seen them since October, and I just wanted to give the three of them great big squeezy hugs. They are enormously huggable children. They are funny and smart and good, and I hope my kids know them for their whole lives.

The girls did a craft together, coloring little wooden shapes with markers and gluing them to construction paper. The boys played upstairs for a while, then all five bundled up and went outside together with various Nerf weaponry, and ran around shooting the soft darts at each other. Having riotous fun.

And I sat curled on the couch with the mom while we chatted about this and that. Such a nice afternoon.

Day 107: Yellow-bellied sapsucker

This morning, when I belatedly published yesterday’s entry, I ended by listing what I thought we’d be doing today. Of that list, only going to Board Game Day and ballet lesson happened.

Instead: a truck arrived with our new washer and dryer, and the guys assembled it in the back room and removed the old one. (I still don’t know if they work because I needed to get an outlet adaptor and dryer vent hole insert. Please cross your fingers for me.) While that was happening, I shooed the kids into Boy’s room and they promptly started building with Legos. After the guys left, I went in and asked the kids if Boy wanted to do some math and violin, and if Girl wanted to work on her letters.

Girl and I chatted about why it was she asked to start learning the letters to begin with. She’d like to be able to read, because then she wouldn’t have to wait for other people to read things for her, and also reading is fun and interesting. (But she still decided on Legos.)

Boy opted to go out back with the dog for a bit, but still planned on doing some math and violin when he came back in. They’d been out there for a while when Boy came up to the “communications” window (the dining room window that the kids yell at when they want to talk to me) and told with a bright and happy face that he’d seen a woodpecker.  I knew exactly what he was talking about: the yellow bellied sapsucker that’s been hanging out on the pecan tree, drilling new holes or eating from the ones that are already there. (We have other woodpeckers, but they tend to hang out way higher in the canopy.) I see it all the time, and I thought about trying to show it to the kids, but I thought how much more exciting for them to spot it themselves. He described it to me, and I affirmed that it sounded like the one I’d been seeing. We even heard its call, and I said that later we could look up the yellow bellied sapsucker on the Cornell Ornithology website. Then I went back to washing dishes.

After a while I peeked at him out the window. He was just looking at the ice inside a metal pipe in the ground, using a stick to try to pry it out, Dog by his side, for a really long time. I thought: He has an absolute right to these moments. It would be a crime against something important for me to go out back and tell him that he needed to be doing something different.

When he did finally come back in, he and Girl went back to building Legos, and I could hear them working really well together, talking things through about their shared project. (More on that tomorrow; it’s lovely.) And that’s what they did until it was time to eat lunch and go play board games at the library.

Board Game Day was quieter than it has been, because of sickness and schedule conflicts this week. So Girl and her friend played Candy Land, did a puzzle, and played Life with Miss J the librarian. Boy and I played several rounds of Mastermind before he decided to go watch Life and help with counting the money.

Papa got stuck in traffic, so when we got home we had to quickly get ready and go right back out the door to ballet. We dropped off Boy, and then Girl and I went to the hardware store for what we needed for the washer and dryer, and then went to our local organic grocery to get boxes. The boxes are for next week’s Geography Club, so that the kids can build an Inuksuk with them.


One more thing. I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to convey the personalities of the kids in the blog. I feel like that’s missing somehow. (Since I’m writing the blog, I’m sure my own personality comes though in one way or another.)

So here’s something that might get across a little how goofy and sweet Boy can be. He noticed that I was g-chatting with Aunt S yesterday morning, and asked if he could have a turn. This constitutes his first real solo self-typed message exchange. (He asked me how to spell a good number of words.)

Boy:   it has snowed tonight and it’s all over the ground
Aunt S:   Are you going outside to play in the snow?
Boy:   yes i am to play with lucy
Aunt S:    I hope you have lots of fun!
Boy:   oh i will
          are you going out in the snow to?
Aunt S:   I will go out to clear the snow off my car and shovel the driveway later this morning so I can drive to work.
Boy:   are you gan’a have hot chocolate?
Aunt S:    I am drinking hot chocolate right now! Are you?
Boy:    no
           but what are you doing at work?
           later
Aunt S:    I am helping my boss learn to use a computer program that can translate words and sentences from English into other languages like Spanish or Chinese.
Boy:     is that exciting?
Aunt S:    Not usually. Sometimes it is interesting, like solving puzzles or math problems. It can be fun to try to figure out how things work or make them work better.
Boy:    i’m sure it’s exciting and cool and awesome and if i was you i would think it’s cool and the best job ever and obviously everybody should have that job and be like you and be awesome like you
Aunt S:   Thank you. I think you are pretty awesome too.
Boy:     and have the best job in the world
            thank you to
            see you later
Aunt S: I love you and I will see you very soon.

Day 106: Scooby Dooby Doo!

I forgot to write a post last night because I was looking up library books! Oops.

But I do want to say this one thing: Project Comic Book worked! When I woke up yesterday morning, there was a dusting of snow on the ground, and Boy was cozy in his bed, reading his Scooby Doo comic collection. Papa’s work was delayed for the snow, so he didn’t leave until 7:30.  But when he woke up at 6:30 or so he opened the shade on the window next to Boy’s bed so Boy could read and look out at the snow in the back yard. And that’s how I found him. By last night he’d read 2/3 of the book.

During the day yesterday Boy finished his math exercises from the day before, practiced violin, and then (voluntarily) finished a Magic Tree House book about heroes. Girl has expressed formal interest in learning her letters (and therefore reading) so yesterday we did copy worksheets for the letter A.

I’ve been reading to Boy about Inuksuit (Inuit stone piles, built for communication and remembrance) and we’ll start reading about Canada today, in preparation for out first day of Geography Club on Monday. I’m going to start collecting all the things I’ve said I would bring, for a ‘Geography Bag.’

Today: math, violin, letters, reading, the delivery of a new washer/dryer, board game day.

Day 105: Pancakes and Spacegirls

Girl wanted to make pancakes this morning for Nana and Uncle J, who had to fly home today.

Girl making pancakes.
Girl making pancakes.

After breakfast Uncle J took the dog out back to play for one last time, while Nana got things packed up. Then we drove them to the airport. It’s always hard to say goodbye, but we’ll see Nana in April.

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When we got back the kids played with colored blocks. Girl had built a ‘skate park’ before we left, but when we got home they worked together on a camp. Then Girl went on PBSkids.org while I covered a couple of units in Boy’s math textbook: Halves/Quarters and Telling Time. He did some of the exercises, and he’ll probably finish them tomorrow.

Both kids had ballet tonight. While they were in class I walked to the local comics store and bought the kids their first comics: My Little Pony for Girl, Scooby-Doo for Boy, and also a very nice kids’ graphic ‘novel’: Zita the Spacegirl. Boy’s interest in reading has waned in the last few months, so I’ve been thinking of ways to jumpstart it, to give him things that he just can’t help but read. He loves mystery and adventure, he loves pictures; comics seem like a great possibility. Two other ways they might help: the absence of narrator means that you have to ‘read between the lines’ a lot in comic books (and especially graphic works like Zita): you have to be able to get the inferences to understand the story. That’s good exercise for Boy. Also, if he really loves comics, is it possible they could inspire him to draw and write more? That would also be fabulous.

Day 104: Pilot and Copilot

Today was the last full day of Nana and Uncle J’s visit, and the last day of Papa’s leave.

This morning first thing we bustled around cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, tidying up. I did the food order, talked to my brother Uncle B on the phone. Papa and Uncle J took the dog to the big field to run, and then Papa made biscuits and sausage later in the morning for everyone.

After baths, Girl sat down to play games on PBSkids.org and Boy went into my room to show Minecraft to Uncle J. Papa lay down to take a nap, and even Nana closed her eyes on the couch. It was a bright, bright sunny day, and in the winter the sun comes in through the big front windows making big warm slanted squares of sunshine on the carpet. The dog fell asleep in one of them. By this time Boy had come out and was talking to Girl about what she was doing on my laptop.

They started collaborating, doing things on PBSkids.org that Girl can’t do on her own because she can’t read. So Boy read things for them, showed Girl where to click sometimes. I thought again Boy is such a good teacher. How can he be so hard on himself, yet so patient with everyone else?

I curled up in the big chair and closed my eyes, too, listening to the kids working and talking things through. My eyelids glowed a little red from the brightness of the sun in the room, and it was completely quiet other than the sounds of the kids’ voices.

They went through an interactive story activity on Arthur about bullying, which sounded really well done. The kids could decide what the characters should do, and they could get to hear their private thoughts at different junctures. At the end, they could decide what Arthur should do (stop teasing his friend, stop teasing and apologize, or keep teasing). Boy wanted to try every different ending, presumably because he wanted to know what happened in every case. I was pleased at that indication of his high level of emotional involvement with the story.

And I thought about a video Girl and I watched once as part of code.org, on collaborative coding. Two girls explained how when they work together there is a pilot, and a co-pilot, and they switch roles frequently. The pilot sits at the keyboard, and operates the mouse and types, making all specific decisions. The co-pilot thinks about goals and makes suggestions. The co-pilot never reaches over and touches the mouse or the keyboard. And I thought, that’s what they are: pilot and co-pilot.

After the bullying story, they were doing something where they filled in dialogue bubbles in a some kind of scene, and naming the characters. They asked me how to spell words they didn’t know, like yippee, hmm, yay. Boy had to do the typing, but when I explained that some words like that you can add extra letters at the end (e.g., yippeeeeee!), Girl asked if she could type some extra e’s, after they discussed and agreed how many they wanted (= three extra).

After that everyone got a walk. Nana took Boy (they were gone for an hour), I took the Dog, and then returned and took Girl. Girl and I walked down to the field, too, and I blew bubbles for her to chase. Some blew high, and fast, and towards the basketball court where some guys were playing. Girl would run after them right up to the edge of the court, and then stand for a minute, watching, before she ran back to me.

On our way back we bumped into Girl’s friend, with her Dad and sister, and the two girls were wearing their Girl Scout vests. They’d been selling cookies. A couple of weeks ago, Girl opted out of Daisy Scouts and selling cookies, telling me she didn’t want to talk to people that she didn’t know, and she was too tired by the time of the Daisy Scout meetings. She also said she wanted to make a cookie booth in the spring and sell her own cookies. But this was the first time she’d seen her friends actually selling Girl Scout cookies. She was quiet, and when they said goodbye and crossed the street, she said I wanted to tell them something. So we crossed, and she told her friend about the cookie stand, and asked if she’d help. Her friend said Sure! and her sister said she’d help too. Girl brightened, hugged her friend, and said goodbye.

Now I have two sisters, she told me, holding my hand as we crossed the street. She knows that all Girl scouts are her sisters–it’s in the Girl Scout Law. But maybe what she’s learning is that collaboration makes our sisters and brothers our friends, and makes our friends our brothers and sisters.

Day 103: Boy and Uncle J

Today was rainy and raw, and though Nana took Boy for a walk to go check out the colony of box elder bugs that live in and around a tree and rock wall in our neighborhood (we go look at them a lot), it was just too cold to do much outside today.  And sometimes the rain was torrential.

It was way too wet to take the dog out to play, and she was a little mournful about that.

Dog, wondering if she will ever be able to go out back and play with Squeaky again.
Dog, wondering if she will ever be able to go out back and play with Squeaky again.

Girl told me this: 6 divided by half is 3, and 3. Like if you made a line, you’d have 3 on this side, and 3 on this side. I used my fingers to figure it out. My fingers are good for math, because I can use them to count.

Uncle J had asked if Boy could show him how to do math like he had with Girl. So Boy did.

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Boy wrote out problems, and showed Uncle J how to count out the two parts, and then put the parts together into a whole, and count those to get the answer. Uncle J counted the whole, and then wrote down the answer, for each of the problems.

Papa said he heard them in the kitchen, Boy’s bright, sweet voice: So you have 7, and you take away 2, how many are left, [Uncle J]?

One of the things I like about Uncle J is that he is always trying to learn more, and he does learn! He’s never stopped learning. When Boy started reading, around age 5, it was hard for Uncle J that Boy was starting to do things that he couldn’t. Sometimes it even made him angry. But now they are able to fully enjoy each other’s company, and it’s clear that Uncle J admires Boy and the things he can do, much like he admires Papa–his little brother.

Tomorrow is the last full day that we’ll all be together until next year, so we’ll try to make it a good one.

Day 102: Biscuits with Nana

This morning when I got out of bed, Nana told me that Boy put his new robe on first thing, and ate a bowl of cereal, and it was clear he was ready to start building his first birthday Lego set. Girl worked on finishing her Lego Friends Ranch. I had to do a lot of running back and forth between them and various other things I was trying to do. They both finished their projects by late morning.

Boy's Lego set
Boy’s Lego set

After she finished the ranch, Girl set up all of the Lego Friends sets she’s been working on since Christmas in what she called “Heartlake Village.” She set things up with a whole story. For instance two of the girls (she knows the names, I don’t) are having ice cream, but you can see Otto the pet hedgehog next to them. Girl says Otto really wants ice cream, or at least some attention, but his owner is ignoring him.

"Heartlake Village"
“Heartlake Village”

Girl also spent a long time making a sticker book, a gift that one of Nana’s friends had sent for her.

A page from Girl's sticker book, commemorating our special visit with family yesterday, and just family, period.
A page from Girl’s sticker book, commemorating our special visit with family yesterday, and just family, period.

It was a raw day, and everyone is tired. Papa went to the gym, Uncle J played out back with the dog like he has been doing every day, and all three guys went to the Marine Exchange so Papa and Boy could get haircuts. We only get his hair cut two or three times a year, so he goes from pretty long to very short. It’s always very cute.

We did this and that for a bit, and then Nana and I took the van and went to get something to eat at a very small local place that serves everything on sweet potato biscuits. I got fried chicken, cheddar cheese, and bacon on mine. (In your face, stomach virus from three days ago!) Nana got pulled pork and slaw. She got a cream soda and I got a pomegranate and orange Pellegrino. We talked and talked.

Then we went by the library to pick up my holds. Books about Canada, Central and South America, Alexander Graham Bell, Harriet Tubman. Gearing up for the beginning of co-op and the new Geography Club we’ll be going to. Boy’s new math books arrived, as well.

And tonight Papa took Uncle J to a hockey game for his birthday next week. Nana and I got the kids in bed, and now we’ve got out feet up, watching tv. Watching British mysteries with Nana is one of my very favorite things to do.

Day 101: Boy’s (actual) birthday

So, today was Boy’s birthday, and it was a good one. He got a surprise visit from Grammy and Grampy, and from our Kansas cousins. The four kids (Boy, Girl, and two same-aged boy cousins) almost instantly disappeared into Boy’s room and built this:

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It’s called “Life City” and features a skyscraper called “Life Tower” where the residents live, and also a medical center, a space center, and a skate park. The four cousins were instant best buddies. Birds of a feather.

Then our visitors gave Boy (and Girl) some gifts. Grammy and Grampy gave both kids books, Girl a fabulous Indian stacking lunch tin (which she packed full of snacks and brought on our walk), and Boy a nautical collapsing spyglass in a wooden box and a 3-D puzzle of a cathedral. Our cousins gave him the most “collosal” and fantastic self-loading Nerf gun of all time. Which he loves. Ridiculously much.

Girl unpacking her new snack tin.
Girl unpacking her new snack tin.

Then we went to the Botanical Gardens for a couple of hours, walked and let the kids play. They all got to climb in a magnificent Southern Magnolia with low-growing branches.

Girl climbing up on a low-growing magnolia limb.
Girl climbing up on a low-growing magnolia limb.

And then it was time to say goodbye. Which was tough. Boy started acting a little weird when we were taking goodbye pictures, but of course it was because he was sad! He ran down the whole street after my cousins’ car, waving goodbye. When he finally returned to the house he said, I learned today that a man cannot outrun a car. He can’t even keep up with a car. 

(And what were Girl’s first words after our honored and beloved guests departed? Phew, finally now I can toot.)

But, we went to Moe’s with Nana and Uncle J (who are staying until Monday), and came home and opened more presents: two Lego sets, a new bathrobe, a new pair of boots.

The last part of Boy’s birthday is a tradition that he and I have had for a few years: we snuggle in his bed and I read him the Dr. Seuss book “Happy Birthday To You!”

And these parts Boy reads out himself after I do, as loudly as he can. As Dr. Seuss puts it, “Shout loud”:

I am I! Me! I am I! And I may not know why But I know that I like it. Three cheers! I am I!

I am lucky! I am I!

I am lucky to be what I am! Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam! I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be! If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Day 100: In which we regroup

Girl played this morning for the first time since Saturday morning. In fact, she played all day, and hearing her sass-mouth has never been so welcome. It was Papa’s birthday.

How did I spend the day? Putting away Christmas (yes, so late!) and cleaning up after sickness.

Boy was tearful and touchy this morning, and so asking them to make cards for Papa when he and Uncle J went to the YMCA seemed like it might be a disaster. Girl, of course, happily made her card and it was adorable. Sometimes when I watch her, it makes me sad for Boy. Things are so easy for her that can be so hard for him.

And indeed: Boy asked me what Papa likes and decided to draw a picture of guys running. His first two tries something was ‘wrong’ with the drawing and he asked for another piece of paper. I told him that the third one wasn’t going to be perfect, either, and so he was either going to have to be okay with a not-perfect drawing, or just not give Papa a card. And either one of those things was okay. So whether or not the third drawing was perfect, in his opinion, he didn’t say anything about it. And then, laughing a little,  he asked if I would write the words on the back, because he didn’t want to freak out and crumple up his drawing if he made a mistake. And I said sure, and that I thought that was good thinking, and a good sense of humor about it.

And after that he had a great day. A couple of times he came and got me when he was having a hard time with Girl (for example, when she was taking apart something he had made with Legos to make something else–not that she knew he cared about it anymore). And that was fabulous, instead of fighting with her. And when he started getting upset, I heard him taking deep breaths.

Tomorrow when he wakes up, he will be eight years old.

And I vow that this is the year we conquer these particular troubles (not that he won’t ever have any others). That he will be able to look back on the day before his 8th birthday and be incredulous that he was so afraid of writing a letter incorrectly that he couldn’t write these words himself: Happy Birthday, Papa! You are the best Papa and you work very hard. I love you so much. Love, [Boy]

Day 99: Mumma down!

I couldn’t write this yesterday, because (not very surprisingly) I got sick too, Monday night.

Nana said that in the morning, Girl walked out of my room, small and pale, and said, “My Mumma is sick. Who’s going to take care of me?” “I will, baby,” said Nana. Girl said, “Okay.” And got into her spot on the couch.

I slept most of the day.

I woke up to Boy having a whopper of a meltdown, and Papa and Nana trying to manage. But I got up and calmed him down quickly (sometimes when you’re upset only your mom will do). We figure that his sister being sick and then me being sick just pushed him over the edge, and he went bonkers over mud on his pants. The rest of the day he was fine.

Girl was feeling better, though, and by evening even ate a little rice.