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Hypnotoad

Sleepy puppy

Posted on 2009.05.14 at 06:44
The two aspects of parenting that I find the most difficult (or I should say mothering, because S doesn't deal with either of these nearly as much as I do) are coping with anger and sleep deprivation. The first is something you deal with in yourself, with your partner and with your kids. Someone always seems pissed off about something, it seems, and there are days when you realize that virtually every word coming out of your mouth is at double the normal volume and you've hissed "That's enough!" with a scrunched-up visage of rage so many times that you want to hiss "That's enough!" at yourself and take some time out (if only there was time-out for mothers...good Lord I'd love a few minutes alone in my room).

The second is something else entirely, although it most certainly fuels the anger issue (frankly, I'm virtually never angry with the kiddo when we've both slept enough, it's just that truly getting enough sleep rarely happens). Last night is a perfect example of what happens with young children. Typhoid Sylvia has what is seriously about the 8th respiratory illness of the season (only it's now May, so "season" is asking a bit much), and is extremely congested and coughs constantly. She's still in the bed with me, so between her jamming her arms underneath my body, trying to jam her feet in my butt, coughing, sniffling, and waking up needing to blow her nose or get a drink of water or just complain, I'm not really sleeping at all. Her dad is coughing nonstop as well, so that wakes me up. This has all been standard procedure for the last 3 1/2 years, but now there are two children. In a brilliant coup de grace, Linnaea is in of those phases where she wakes up and fusses if there isn't a nipple in her mouth. You may be surprised to learn that one cannot easily supply said nipple without pulling one's shirt up and holding one's breast, which involves being "awake". The obvious solution to being this tired would, of course, be copious amounts of coffee and/or tea, but if I do that it gets in my milk and I have a sleepless baby during the daytime as well.

I keep chastising myself for not going to bed early enough, but I honestly don't think that makes any difference in these situations. I know that this extreme sleep deprivation is probably shaving years off of my life, driving up my blood pressure and hardening my arteries and hobbling my immune system. We WILL be buying a mattress for Sylvia this weekend, so hopefully I'll sleep better with her in her own bed (if, of course, she stays there).

What amazes me, though, is the fact that I actually function, day after day, on practically no sleep. Sure, I basically yelled at my 3 year old at 4 a.m. for asking for help blowing her nose, and every morning when S gets going around the house at 6 a.m. and Linny wakes up with him, dooming my final desperate efforts for just one more hour to attempt sleep, I curse the name of the woman who bore me into this vale of tears, but after half an hour or so I'm capable of going about my day. So it's okay, or as okay as it can be; it takes a tremendous amount of resilience to get through this, to find the strength to be loving and present when your body is going through something that's used to "soften" prisoners of war prior to interrogation.

Someday, I will be in a bed by myself for 9 hours (writing that sentence practically made me swoon). It will happen. For now I just definitely wouldn't want to be taking any I.Q. tests.

Hypnotoad

Zome sweet zome

Posted on 2009.05.13 at 19:05
Has anyone else seen Zome Tool sets? I hadn't, until I came across a box at Goodwill for $1.99 and thought it looked like something S would like. HOLY FLURKING SCHNIT they are amazingly cool...like Tinker Toys from another, much more delightful dimension. Sylvia's way into it, and so are we. You know why? You can use them to build a FREAKING SHADOW OF A 4-D CUBE. I really can't explain them properly, but suffice to say $1.99 was an absolute fleeping steal and I'm getting more.

Hypnotoad

Lust

Posted on 2009.05.05 at 14:25
I need a credenza, sideboard, buffet, whatever you want to call it. I really like this one.

I actually need to go clean the old house. Yes, I know...we've been moving since Saturday and it is now Tuesday. We're paid up until Friday, and after three nights of less than five hours of sleep, some type of swine flu-ish disease causing prodigious bursts of barf-inducing nighttime coughing in the infant, an all-hours snot faucet in the big kid, and aches, chills and a mild fever in me (followed, of course, by a sore throat and now some coughing) I totally deserve a quiet day in my new place, to unwind a bit, to unpack a bit, and to do a little on-line window shopping for stuff I don't need (boy, do I not need more stuff) and can't afford.

And on a side note, I have to laugh at myself: over the course of Three Day Moving "Weekend" I managed to nearly complete a book. I may be a critically disorganized lazy bastard, but I apparently can't consider the possibility of not reading.

Hypnotoad

Style

Posted on 2009.05.04 at 21:51
Greetings from the seventh level of Hell!

We've moved all of our objects over, and now "all" we have left to do is 5 years' worth of cleaning and yardwork at the old place, and unpacking a garage full of boxes here.

BUT...

This place is fabulous. I can't wait to have everyone over. Come over, everyone! Seriously, give us a call first (our number hasn't changed) but please stop by and ignore the mess. We have at least twice the space, it's laid out better, and it's just really lovely. I keep pinching myself (figuratively) because it's just an exponentially better place to live.

Really quick, since it's late and I have to try to sleep at some point, but moving into this duplex, which was built in the 1950s, somehow got me to put 2 and 2 together in regards to a very specific design style that I've always loved. I thought maybe it was Mission or Shaker or something, but it turns out that I'm all about mid-century modern (here's a nice page devoted to that style). Really, I just love that super-clean, sculptural look, and living in a space that has been relatively untouched from that era (pictures soon!) has made me appreciate the fact that I've always admired an actual design period. It's also made me realize why I've hated so much of my stuff, since I was more of a sarong-as-wall-hanging person in college, and haven't updated my stuff since then.

It really explains why I have such a ridiculous love affair with my flatware. I'm really stoked to have figured this out, because it will make putting together a cohesive look for the house a lot easier and more enjoyable.

Once we have money again, I'm going to have to start collecting.

Hypnotoad

Barf, homework

Posted on 2009.04.27 at 10:21
Sylvia's throwing up today. Fun times.

Anyway.

Last night I was over at my sister's, and she was trying to get her 12 year-old to complete a bunch of "missing assignments" from a list his teacher had sent home. The list was enormous (he hadn't completed or turned in nearly half of that month's assignments), and he was expected to complete all that work over the weekend. My sister set him down to do the work at 5 p.m. Sunday night. Understandably, the kid was totally flipping out about it.

I'm all about personal responsibility and all of that, but WHAT IS THE POINT, exactly, of that exercise? I was watching this whole thing thinking about the fact that grades, in 6th grade, mean fuck all. If it were me, I'd tell my kid to not worry about the packet and send a note telling the teacher to that effect. They're not going to hold him back, for God's sake, and I'd be much more concerned about why all that work was missing in the first place than forcing him to go back and do meaningless work as punishment for falling behind.

My question to the teacher would be, what does he need to know? What does he not understand that he should? Clearly kiddo has organizational problems, task-completion problems...he has FUCKING ADHD. Is the solution to this to frustrate him further by miring him in past mistakes? Why not just concentrate on what's happening right now and going forward and reward him for his victories? Why not focus on what actually matters to this kid and his future success, instead of trying to make some kind of authoritarian point about task completion?

I'm not trying to be all "Fuck the system, maaaaan!", because obviously the world of advanced education and professional work is all about deadlines and following through, and his options will be very limited if he can't function in that way. However, I just watched this ridiculous dance happen with my nephew that had NOTHING to do with his actual understanding or even his organizational skills. It was purely a punitive exercise, like your boss coming back and telling you to finish a memo that should have gone out last month, even though it's no longer relevant and you have a stack of fresh tasks sitting in front of you right now.

What my nephew needs are coping skills for his developmental disorder, and to be be comfortable with the basic academic skills and concepts of his grade level (since he is continuing in public school). He doesn't need to be in tears because he didn't finish #4 of part D of assignment 33.3 in Math Concepts for 6th Grade, Revised Ed..


Hypnotoad

Mother's milk

Posted on 2009.04.23 at 20:12
A little bit ago, a piece by Hanna Rosin was published in the Atlantic titled The Case Against Breastfeeding. As a woman who breastfeeds exclusively and provides full-time care-giving and enjoys both (with the infant, anyway...the 3 year old is a bit soul-sucking, even if she's done at the breast) I felt the piece was as unnecessarily inflammatory and divisive as its title (and for the record: I am sitting on my ass happily typing this, with my breastfed babe asleep in my lap, while my husband, fresh off of making dinner and seeing to the entire hour-long bedtime routine of our older child, is doing the dishes I produced during my day alone with the kids: I wish Rosin had called me before declaring the egalitarian dream dead at the breast).

The article unsurprisingly caused a total shit storm, with people wildly flailing their anecdote-formed opinions around all over the internets. So imagine my surprise to stumble across this really lovely piece in response to the Rosin polemic.

The research isn't quite as vague as Rosin suggests it is, nor is it as overwhelmingly on the side of the breast as some activists have painted it to be. Still, the benefits are there, and more continue to accrue. Breast is best; what we're supposed to do with that information is another matter.

The Babble piece, I think, hits the nail on the head. The public debate over whether women do or don't or can't breastfeed is a red herring, because this country does not support the childbearing woman regardless of the "choices" she makes. At all. Women, while biologically distinct from men, are expected to conform to a male-centered model of labor. Men, freed almost completely from the day-to-day care of children, have been accustomed to uninterrupted daytime devotion to the workplace. Whether by accident or intention, the influx of women into the workplace has done nothing to change the actual structure of work in this country. While clearly there are women who would prefer to use full-time, off-site day-care for their infants and young children and prefer not to be burdened with breastfeeding, many if not most would prefer a more permeable barrier between the two primary spheres of their lives, mothering and working, whether they breastfeed or not.

The breastfeeding "issue" is merely emblematic of a larger social issue. Women feel confused and angry because they are being given one message ("breast is best") and then experience so many institutional obstructions to optimal maternal-infant interaction that the "best" is often not a viable option. But breastfeeding, while not for everyone, is not inherently stifling; it's the fact that working breastfeeding mothers are trying to inhabit worlds that are structurally incompatible. In many ways, Rosin chooses to identify female physiology as the shackles that bind us, when in fact it is the male-centered constructs of work and family life that confuse and complicate what should be relatively simple, painless decisions. As Jennifer Block puts it in regards to the Atlantic piece, "...mothering is something that our culture does not value enough to support. It is this dissonance between physiology and culture that has women so frustrated, and feminists like Rosin grasping at the bottle as a proxy for equality."

In this country, women are asked to reject the demands one vital aspect of their lives in order to fulfill the mandates set forth by another: you are a professional, or you are a "mommy", but you are not both. If we had access to extended maternity and paternity leaves, a year or more per child, these false debates would not be happening. Where the biological reality of women and the maternal-infant bond is respected, where a father's child-rearing role is conceived as more vital than breadwinner and reluctant back-up parent and his importance as an egalitarian contributor to home life is respected, these false dichotomies become meangingless.

While I certainly appreciate the recent recognition of my right to feed my infant in any public place we're both allowed to be, that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what parents in this country should be fighting for. Sniping at one another about what amount to stylistic choices distracts from the main issue: what our basic human rights are as parents, what woman-friendly workplace and social policy really means, what we're doing to safeguard the health and well-being of child-rearing adults and the ankle-biters who bite their ankles.

Reading the exasperated, angry, nearly misogynist words of young women writing in feminist forums, hateful of their own bodies in light of the social demands placed on them should they reproduce, I often wonder the same thing that Block asks: "Why did American feminism evolve in such a way that we think of biology as destiny, and that destiny as a prison? Why are we so willing to surrender the parts and processes that makes us female rather than demanding that society support them? We've broken down doors and cracked glass ceilings, when what we need to do is redesign the building."

Hypnotoad

Linners is stoked

Posted on 2009.04.22 at 18:28
Washington finally passed a law safeguarding the right to breastfeed in public. I'm taking the girls out everywhere from now on! Oh, wait...I already do that.

Hypnotoad

Tuuuuuuuesday aaaaaaafter noooooon...

Posted on 2009.04.21 at 21:54
Dandy I

Dandy II

Dandy III

Quilty nap

Hypnotoad

Bloggety blog blog blog

Posted on 2009.04.18 at 20:50
I'm kind of thinking about moving my blog. Maybe to Typepad or something. Any thoughts or suggestions, oh my legions of readers? I know my book deal is just around the corner...

Hypnotoad

I ain't tryin to hear that, see?

Posted on 2009.04.16 at 13:26
Sylvia does what can only be described as "jibber jabber". She talks all day long, incessantly, from the moment she wakes until the moment she is firmly told to STFU (minus the actual "STFU", of course) at bedtime. I often don't hang out in the bathroom while she's in the tub, because her ceaseless chattering means she is at bare minimum expelling air, so there must be some inhaling happening at some point.

I've recently realized that this is a very major part of my stress as a full time caregiver. Despite appearances to the contrary, I am pretty much split between being introverted and extroverted, meaning I need alone time and quality social time with other adults to feel energized and happy. I get very little of either these days. Sylvia is pure extrovert, and feels energized by interacting with other people. "Alone" time stresses and exhausts her. Since it's just the 2 of us most of the time, she just never, ever stops talking, mostly in ways that require me to respond, while I become increasingly desperate for a quiet room.

This afternoon, I got fed up by what had devolved into a loud stream of absolute nonsense and angrily said I was going into the bedroom by myself to read for a moment. She, of course, melted down in tears, so I made it a short respite. When I came back out, I asked her if we could try not talking for a few minutes. She looked at me like I had two heads, then proceeded to chatter away again. I asked her if she understood what I meant when I said we would be "not talking", and again she looked at me in that way that says "Quoi?", then promptly began a running narrative describing her process of tying the ribbon on her Easter dress. At half volume.

I'll take my victories where I can get them.


Hypnotoad

Movin' on down

Posted on 2009.04.15 at 21:03
So, we're moving.

I got a call yesterday from our current landlady asking why we wanted to move because she'd just heard from the potential new landlady, who was calling our references. After I told her it was because this opportunity was too good to pass up, she said she was worried that we were moving because The Dude had been harassing us. After all these years of living in terror of The Dude somehow getting us evicted, it turns out they know he's a few bricks shy of a load. It also turns out that they're wanting to sell this place this summer anyway, so we've dodged what would have been a very nasty bullet indeed.

The new place is small but otherwise perfect: a handful of blocks to the library, another couple blocks to S's work or the downtown core, a few more to the farmer's market. We could *very* easily go car-free during the week, and then we can plan carpools for grocery shopping with the friends of ours who live a block and a half away. That's cup-of-sugar-borrowing territory (and OHMYGOD I'm soooo thrilled to be in their radius, something we've always said would be wonderful, but seemed impossible). Oh, and there's the woman who lives in the other half of the duplex, someone S has worked with for 7 years (!) who is very sweet and loves Sylvia and runs a bellydancing troupe out of her garage, which I'm SURE my girls will have NO interest in WHATSOEVER.

And then there's the very different, very good-vibey Lincoln School and its lottery wait list which we will not have to put her on because it will be her school anyway...which we could walk to if we wanted, but could definitely get to by bike...

And the reasonable walk to my job, and the transit center, and Kindergym, and the park by the waterfront...

And the fact that since water, sewer and garbage is paid and we're not paying for The Dude's water and power anymore, we're going to be paying a couple dozen less in housing-related fees every month (although we'll be paying my dad back for quite some time for the moving costs...ugh)...

And the closets...

And the garage...

And the actual human space...

The landlady seemed a bit flaky, but super nice and really excited about us moving in. She was on her way to the Procession studio after our meeting this afternoon.

I'm incredibly, weepily excited about this.

And staring The Move in the face, quivering in absolute terror.

Please...help. us.

Hypnotoad

Learnin'

Posted on 2009.04.13 at 23:40
I spend a lot of my evenings glued to the computer. While I often feel icky afterward, it's generally done for a good purpose: I'm searching out great books and music to share with the girls. A lot of gold can be dug up with a little chase down the Amazon rabbit hole that is "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought...". Most of what I'm interested in is available at the library, so I typically spend a few hours each week searching online and putting things on hold at the library.

A couple of my favorite recent finds:

You Are My Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell: This is a gorgeous family CD, just a handful of tiny, wispy, lovely folk songs and some interesting borrowed tunes. I keep putting this on for myself, which infuriates Sylvia, who only wants to listen to Peter and the Wolf, Danse Macabre or the overture to Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. From Elizabeth Mitchell we will be migrating on to Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Lead Belly, in a vain attempt to extend our understanding of what "music" means beyond a trio of ominous-sounding French horns...

Science is Simple: I couldn't have dreamed up a better science curriculum for my take-it-as-it-comes attempt to engage my child's curiosity. This has a year's worth of science lessons, laid out clearly and with the goal of teaching young children the basics of science while respecting their intelligence (the author encourages the use of real words from the scientific disciplines, like "hypothesis"). I got it from the library and am ordering a copy for myself stat.

Boy, Were We Wrong About the Solar System: This is my definition of a perfect science-themed picture book. It provides information without grinding away at facts. It can serve as a broad introduction to the scientific method, how hypotheses are generated and how they are refined over time, and how new information has often proven people dead wrong. There is another book that offers a similar treatment of paleontology. Reading this spurred my child to declare "I want to be a SCIENTIST!"* and to refer to herself in the third person as "the little scientist" for days, which I thought Piaget would approve of.

And now, after a long evening of putting things on hold and researching math curricula that might interest the kid (this one looks great), I need to head to bed. Tomorrow we'll go to the library and pick up the next obscene stack. I sincerely hope the library staff doesn't hate me.

*Sylvia later repeated this to one of S's coworkers, who smiled and said her own daughter had wanted to be a scientist as a child. I expected her to go on to say that the daughter had become a dental hygienist or something, but instead she told Sylvia that her daughter had kept up with the interest, got an advanced degree in aeronautics and now works in Texas on the ground as an engineer for the International Space Station. She then told Sylvia to learn a lot of math, which Sylvia agreed to do. I nearly melted into a puddle of pure glee.

Hypnotoad

Whoa, Dude

Posted on 2009.04.12 at 19:33
We got home from Easter brunch at my parents' house this afternoon, and I promptly began to smell something burning. I've had a fair amount of experience in my life with things burning: empty pots on lit ranges, full pots on lit ranges, things dripping or falling to the bottom of the oven, things that dripped or fell to the bottom of the oven last week that I didn't bother cleaning out, burning wood, burning weed, burning hair, lighting the filter end of a cigarette...you get the picture. This smell, this "Welcome home, family of four!" smell, had some very distinct plastic overtones, not unlike what I would expect if, say, the wiring in my house caught on fire.

In a mounting degree of distress, we inspected all of the outlets, the oven, the furnace, the heaters, and found nothing, so after trying to contact the landlord I called the fire department, from where I was directed to call 911. I've had the weirdly thrilling pleasure of calling 911 for non-scary reasons a few times, and this time they told me to evacuate the house and turn off the power at the breakers, then sent a fire truck and a command car right over, sirens a-wailing and lights a-flashing. Whee!

Naturally, my dogs went kind of apeshit when a big red truck blaring with lights and noise pulled up, and when men in bulky black suits, thick boots and huge hats started tromping into the house wielding beeping hand-held smoke detection equipment.

Sylvia watched the action excitedly, while S and I helped out however we could in identifying the area and nature of the smell (which the firemen could not smell themselves, of course). I was inside with Linn checking out the oven, when I noticed that The Dude had opened his door and was talking to S. Heatedly.

As I've described before, The Dude is the most un-Dude-like man in the history of the universe. He is a bipolar shut-in living on disability who resides in the tiny trailer of a "house" behind ours, who also happens to hate dogs. Especially ones that bark. Our dog Jake is, of course, a world-class barker. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a clear shot at some kind of international barking award, 6.0s across the board for duration, frequency and volume. So they're good friends.

As the firemen rooted through my basement and attic, I stood in the kitchen and heard my husband say, with mounting irritation, "We're working on it...", so I yanked open the door, looked The Dude in the face, and said, in my very best Totally Serious Mom voice, "I have firemen in my house right now. This conversation is not happening." S turned his back on the guy, and I shut the door.

When S came back in, he said The Dude had threatened him about the dogs' barking, saying "I'll take you to court if I have to", which is actually really funny and I wish he'd get all of us on Judge Judy just so I could watch her unload on his very, very sorry ass. S was kind of shaken by the whole thing, but I asked him this:

Who, in their right mind, sees a firetruck pull up to the house next door and witnesses the commotion of suited-up fire protection personnel inside, and takes that as a perfect opportunity to threaten litigation over dogs barking?

No one, that's who, because The Dude is a fucking crazy son of a bitch.

The firemen left, because there didn't appear to be a problem.

We got the application for the downtown duplex in the mail yesterday.

Hypnotoad

Chuffed

Posted on 2009.04.08 at 21:40
After expending some real effort to scale back on the "bad" stuff, like TV, licensed character stuff, and what I would call closed-ended toys, I have been struggling with my feelings around these choices. Like today, Sylvia woke up, went out to the living room and pulled down her basket of ethically and sustainably-produced unit blocks and proceeded to play with them, in combination with her Playmobil 1-2-3 toys, for hours. While listening to classical music. I'll be damned if I didn't sit there with a little lump rising in my throat while she helped me build a house with attached stables, then knocked it down and used triangle pieces as "knives" to cut "melon" (two square pieces pushed together, then "cut" apart), then made "boats" with rectangles and triangles, and on and on. I caught myself thinking that we had been missing so much together, even in that hour and a bit of TV she'd been watching, and that her imaginative play was just taking off once the "character" toys were out of the house, once she had access to better materials, once there was no more shit to get in the way of her crazy, bright little mind.

Let me make a comparison here. I don't eat meat and I avoid dairy. I feel really good about those choices, but...and this is a big BUT...it doesn't mean I eat a healthy diet. It doesn't mean my carbon footprint is much less than someone who does eat meat, but chooses local sources for nearly all of their food. It doesn't mean I care about animals more. I'm obese, I eat more packaged food than I'd like to admit, and I don't take very good care of my dogs. Clearly there's more at work here than the way I label myself. I get that, and I absolutely don't judge other people for making a different choice.

The same thing goes for parenting. I can feed my kids homemade organic food, buy them the most developmentally appropriate toys made of natural materials, turn off the TV, and otherwise make their physical environment as "optimal" as I can, but that doesn't mean I'm a good mom. Any mom in a McDonald's play area, handing the baby a trans fat-laden fry and popping open the latest in a large collection of movie tie-in toys is probably just as good a parent as I am. These choices have more to do with the impact of the things themselves than who we are as parents: the hydrogenated oil is bad, bad, bad, the mom feeding it to her kid is not.

Still, I think my choices are important for that very reason: these non-"me" things, like the TV, like the toys, like the animal flesh, are objectively fairly important. Speaking with reasonable objectivity, everyone should eat less meat. Everyone should eat more "ethically", including me. And we should all be a little more conscientious about the environment our kids grow up in. The whole nature-nurture dichotomy is totally false. As Stephen Jay Gould said about genes and environment, "It's a true union of influence...it's logically, mathematically, and philosophically impossible to pull them apart." While my kids are daily shaped by a concert of their DNA and protein minions, their microbiology is also behaving in response to what's going on around them. What I do with and for my kids does matter, just like what I consume matters to the animals who are typically consumed, to my waistline, and to the future of human life on Earth. Clearly I'm not molding my kids out of Play-Doh, but I am definitely influencing them, for better or for worse, and they will go on to interact with the world carrying pieces of me with them.

The research is behind me on this. The blocks are better than the plastic Disney Princesses. The Saint Saens is better than The Land Before Time. And the time spent being fed unit-block "melon" to heal every imaginary disease I could come up with is better than letting my kid park in front of a video game, and I'm not afraid to say so. It just doesn't reflect on me, what kind of person I am, any more than my vegetarianism does, or how clean my house is, or what kind of car I drive. The quality of my character is a totally separate thing, this completely different universe where the objective rights and wrongs are few and far between. That's a very hard thing to remember, especially in those times that you're feeling damn pleased with yourself.

And now, to make us all better people, I give you the Plan Toys Segway.

Hypnotoad

Wired

Posted on 2009.04.07 at 23:23
I know I'm always going off about this, but I just finished the fourth season of The Wire and it was absolutely devastating. Michael, Duquon, and Randy at the end...even Bodie, who you hate at the end of season one...I was weeping. I am in complete agreement with the critics on this one: hands down the best television drama I've ever seen.


Hypnotoad

Friends: Romans, guinea pigs

Posted on 2009.04.05 at 20:51
We bought the girls unit blocks today. It was part of my ongoing mission to replace the huge amounts of licensed plastic crap she had with fewer high-quality, open-ended toys.

While we were at the toy store, Sylv chose a Playmobil guinea pig pen to buy with her allowance, which of course meant:

Roman pigs

...and:

Guinea pig temple

I sat on the porch and drank a glass of the wine that S got for Christmas while Sylv and her dad blew bubbles in the side yard. It didn't matter that the baby had been fussing all day and wasn't staying asleep, because there is nothing in this world more beautiful in its perfect temperance than this little corner of the globe on a warm spring afternoon.

Wino

Sylvia played with the blocks for hours, at one point building a "[space] shuttle with a crew of 6":

Rocketship

(Note: there are, in fact, 6 pigs there, sorted by color and stance, so she can apparently do one-to-one counting...who knew?)

I'd never really understood the real meaning of "open-ended", until she built a "stone bathroom with a fire in the middle", using broken-up pieces of straw for the fire and the long cylinder blocks as "people".

It made me feel all warm inside, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't just the wine.

I paid attention to the sun going down, the serenity of the whole damn thing.

Nighty night

When I thought Sylvia was asleep, I whispered I will love you forever, and still awake, she replied Yeah?...that's good, 'cause I'll love you forever.

Hypnotoad

You've been schooled

Posted on 2009.04.04 at 22:51
I dropped off with attempting to "educate" Sylvia in any organized, intentional way about the same time I became pregnant with Linnaea, and was pretty convinced I'd lost all interest in structuring anything for her. But the fire that I've always felt for learnin' shit has been building back up in the last month or so, and I feel a renewed drive to dive back into it. Thankfully, her transformation from easygoing 2 year-old to highly opinionated crazy-ass 3 year-old has basically knocked some sense into me as far as any ambition I may have had to push her. I am absolutely freaking not going anywhere near anything she's not clearly interested in and engaged with. I don't give a crap if she doesn't read until she's 7; we're just going to find out about things together.

What I'm finding is that my child is an almost obsessive reader. She can't read to herself yet, but she loves books, craves them, will put aside virtually anything else to get close to them, touch them and hear them. So I'm using that. We read tons of nonfiction. We cover a topic...then cover it again. Then cover it again from another angle. Then step away, just a bit, to find new knowledge that overlaps with what we've already learned together. That's how we learn, isn't it? Keep covering the same tracks, myelinate those neurons. Use what you know to help you understand what you don't know. Connect, connect, connect.

Right now in the "science" category we're focused on the solar system, which she finds pretty interesting. She is extremely amused by our attempts to show her with lamps and rubber balls and our swirling fists how orbits work, how days and nights and years and eclipses happen. Because of dear Prokofiev we're talking about the symphony orchestra and cautiously testing the waters of classical music that does not include narratives starring small boys with ropes. I checked out both volumes of The Art Book for Children, and that's what we did tonight for bedtime stories: we looked at some of the pieces and talked about them. I've requested a number of geography titles, because I think social studies of any kind really requires a grounding in physical and cultural geography in order to be meaningful (my kid doesn't really get what a "week" is, so trying to talk about anything that happened in the past is kind of awkward). I point out written numerals, try to count a bit, when it feels good to do so.

Now that I've stopped caring about her "skills", finding out about the universe has become a bonding process for us, a source of immense pleasure for me and (I think) for her. One day, probably without much intervention on my part, she will read, be able to write and draw and manipulate numbers, but for now I will do my best to pass on a love of learning. That should serve her well for the rest of her life.

Hypnotoad

Kicking it

Posted on 2009.04.03 at 20:19
Today was great. Sylvia had her first soccer session, for which I will break the rules of grammar that I actually know to say went so, so smoothly. She kept picking the ball up with her hands, but it was the first day out and she was clearly doing it because she hadn't figured out yet how to kick it where she wanted it to go, not because it was PLAYING WITH YOUR HANDS CRAZY FUN TIME!!! She was out there with the instructors, without us, and went through the whole 30 minutes doing what she was asked like a champ. Perhaps this will change as she grows bored with the whole enterprise, but today was fabulous and heartening; lo and behold, she is actually maturing! S went out and bought her the required shin guards afterward, and also picked up a kid-sized soccer ball of her very own so we can take her out and kick it around when the weather's nice.

Today we also went to look at...(wait for it...) A DUPLEX! It's one that is currently being rented by S's coworker (and the other half is rented by his other long-time coworker) who just bought a home. They haven't even given notice yet, and are passing our name on the the landlord. It's 2 bedrooms, small but bigger than what we're in now, a few blocks from the Capitol building, and 2 blocks from some our very dearest friends. It has a small fenced yard, a full garage, a laundry room, an attic, hardwood floors, a wood fireplace...CLOSETS. The living room fit a full-size couch and a love seat quite comfortably, so we could actually have people over, or even (gasp!) invite Sylvia's friends to play. The current tenants have 2 dogs, so that's a good sign. It feeds into this incredibly cool alternative elementary school downtown that has a crazy lottery system for people who are trying to get their kids in. My dad's ready to loan us what we need for last month's rent and deposits. We're feeling optimistic, but trying not to actually feel excited, or to remember how deeply I loathe moving.

There are some very cool-looking science programs for preschoolers through Parks and Rec this summer, which I'm going to sign Sylv up for.

Both kids were asleep by 7:50 p.m. tonight.

There's more pizza and root beer waiting for me in the kitchen.

I've got all of The Wire: Season 4 on DVD from the library.

Life is very, very good.

Hypnotoad

I Am Not Sleepy

Posted on 2009.04.01 at 22:15
I am not sleepy

I love this picture.

Hypnotoad

My Successful Friends

Posted on 2009.04.01 at 21:09
I'm just going to have an ongoing series like that: My Successful Friends!, because I have the grave misfortune of befriending incredibly talented people who do amazing things. In this issue, we have...

...Cassie, who is, I believe, my oldest friend outside of my own sister (not age oldest, I mean "we were in before-school strings class together in 1990" oldest), WROTE A GODDAMN BOOK, called The New Handmade.

I still haven't bought the book, mostly because I'm hoping she'll send me a signed copy with some kind of dirty message and maybe a cute drawing, and right now I have $0 to my name, so I thought "What the shit, I'll just see if the library has it so I can at least see the thing".

Lo and behold, the Timberland Regional Library System has 4 copies of it, and they're all checked out! Not only are they all checked out, but I'm number 11 in the hold queue. And, if you will please note, she's had a couple of reviews on Amazon and they're all 5 star, glowing praises of her work.

Here's my favorite anecdote describing my friendship with Cassie: when we were sophomores in high school, I had a raging crush on a senior boy who was all kinds of dark and mysterious and striding-boldly-off-campus-to-smoke-in-the-gravel-lot hot. He was in drama, which I dabbled in. Cass, my dear friend, knew about this crush, and also happened to be in drama with this guy. One day I got this note from her, where she basically said "I'm really into this guy, and he's into me, I don't want to hurt you but we're going to date". And instead of being crushed, I instantly felt my own feelings for him disappear. I was truly, genuinely happy for her, because my friendship with her meant far more to me than my stupid crush. Consequently, I got to smile with her over the sweetness of that romance (and it was very, very sweet), and to this day I get to call her my friend.

The point of this story is this: as in all true friendships, all I want is her happiness, so her success makes me immensely proud. I feel totally gleeful about her book and brag about it whenever I get the chance.

If you get the chance, my crafty friends, check out her book. I'd sing its praises myself, but I have to wait my turn at the library.


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