talk about it more

a virtual baby book

When she was two, Fiona regularly said "Talk about it more!" to express her desire to know more about whatever we were discussing.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

We can't do it anymore!

When Fiona was about 16 months old, we counted up the words we knew she could say (and understand). We had a list of about 75 words. There might have been 5 or 10 more that we missed, but 75 was a pretty good estimate. That was the last time we counted.

When Nora turned 16 months old, we counted up the words we knew she could say. We'd kept closer track this time, thanks to this blog. We had a list of about 75 or 80 words. And once again, that was the last time we counted, or even made any attempt to keep track.

They both hit about the same milestone at the same age, and then ... they both really hit their stride. They both started gaining new words at breakneck speed. The rate of their language acquisition experienced an explosion that we simply couldn't keep up with, even with the added tool of the blog - we try to post something every day, but (as I'm sure you've noticed), we don't always succeed. If we miss two days and then post at the end of the third day, we've heard so many new words that we can't keep them straight. Of course, if we weren't quite so sleep-deprived, we might have been able to come up with an even better system to keep track, but hey, it's too late now. It's just a guess, but Nora may have doubled her list by now - less than a month after we made the comparison with Fiona's list.

According to a popular baby web site, this vocabulary spurt comes, on average, around 18 months. So they're just a couple of months early. That's reassuring, actually - we're not trying for geniuses or anything. But we certainly have verbal kids.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Reading our cares away

Fiona worries. Not nearly as much as she used to when she went to daycare and Ian and I both worked full-time, but she still frets. It wakes her up at night from time to time, and makes slumber initially elusive sometimes as well.

So when I saw a new, well-reviewed picture book written especially for worriers, I checked it out. I adore Keven Henkes as much as anybody, but Wemberley Worried can only take one so far, you know. Fiona enjoyed Silly Billy tonight-- enough to want some Guatemalan worry dolls for herself. Immediately. I told her that I used to have some worry dolls, and that in fact I might still have one or two tucked away in the basement. I told her we could look for them together tomorrow.

Something in the squint of her eye and the set of her jaw told me that she might not be content to wait that long. A storm began to brew inside her, but as quickly as it began, it blew over and we moved on to the next step of our nighttime routine. I gently tucked her in, and she fell asleep almost immediately.

Now I just have to find those worry dolls, but fast. I wonder where they are? What if I don't actually know what happened to them? Can I dredge up any worry dolls locally?

I sure don't know where Fiona comes by this worrying thing...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

She wants to walk the earth

On our way around the park a couple of weeks ago, Fiona stopped pedaling to inform me that she wanted to travel around the world. Surprised, I asked her what she wanted to see.

"Oh, where people live, and what they do, what work and school is like, and what people do for fun." She spoke casually with a wrinkle in her nose and a carefree toss of her hand.

Then I asked her who she expected would go with her on her travels. "Nora would come, and you, and Dad... Everybody. We'd just go around the world and see how things work."

She has brought it up every couple of days ever since then. She wants to go places! She doesn't mind the car terribly, but has also asked recently about a hot air balloon, and once she heard about the concept of a glass bottomed boat a year ago she hasn't been able to shake the deliciousness of the concept.

Throughout my childhood, for the most part my family's idea of a blissful family vacation was to do one big project; say, paint the garage, and then pepper the week with other affordable excitement like driving a stretch to put each foot in a separate state simultaneously, or playing a round of Putt Putt after dinner, or having a scoop of ice cream at Friendly's in the afternoon. We might've played Boggle till we couldn't hear anymore from all the jiggling dice inside that amber plastic dome. It was work with a purpose pleasantly mingled with family fun.

Therefore little hints of a possible Anthropologist Fiona of the Future who wants to vacation by globetrotting are quite foreign, yet fascinating and exotically scintillating. My life is my own, and now Fiona and Nora have the chance to use the springboard of a solid family foundation to do whatever they choose for theirs. Wow! I wonder what will pique Fiona's interest next?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Nora's long sentence!

We were coming home from Grandma and Toot Toot's where we attended the family reunion (a jolly posting in itself, but not one to start at this hour!) and were stopped for gas before heading out of town. Grandma had given Fiona some goldfish crackers for the road, and she was dutifully sharing them with her younger sister.

At first Nora was demanding "hops" when she wanted more of them, because they taste just like the cheddar bunnies she usually eats. But when Fiona pointed out that the crackers were fish, not bunnies, Nora began to "swim" the fish up and down in front of her face. "Fishy," she said. "Fishy simming!"

I gasped from the front seat. "Nora, did you say, "Fishy swimming?" She beamed and nodded in agreement. She went on, saying, "Fishy simming up 'n downy."

Still astonished in the front seat, I checked what I was hearing again. "Nora, did you say, "Fishy swimming up and downy?" I got more pleased and emphatic nodding from the back seat, then goldfish eating.

Wow. She's probably been TRYING to get stuff across to us for months now. It just takes us awhile.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mother, Mother, I feel sick!

Ian and I were rushing around here getting ready to go to Grandma and Toot Toot's for the big family reunion. Fiona and Nora were fending for themselves, playing around and trying not to be underfoot as we tried to get out of here on time to be able to go there tonight as opposed to tomorrow morning.

We were running late as usual, but I knew I had to take a moment to laugh, and then to blog when Fiona showed me the poor little doll she had strapped into her sandal . "She was moving something, like, humongous, and she was littler than the thing she was carrying. And when she got tired of carrying it, she dropped it right on her back," Fiona mournfully explained.

Oh man! This took me right back to my days as a unit secretary in the Emergency Room back home. "Fiona!" I exclaimed. "It looks like that dolly is on a backboard!"

"She is," she nodded sagely. "She has a headache too."

I just want to reiterate that this child DOES NOT WATCH TELEVISION. Where does she get this stuff?!

What did she say?

Yesterday morning while I hurried to take a shower as two young children played peekaboo with me around the shower curtain, Nora stood on a bath towel she had pulled off the wall with the all the Hurculean strength a toddler could muster. While standing atop her perch she animatedly crowed, "Sonna! Sonna!"

Fiona and I puzzled over this for quite some time. Could she be having Christmas in June? What in the world is "sonna"? We asked as many questions as we could think of, but all Nora wanted to tell us was "SONNA!"

This morning it all became clearer, though. I don't know exactly when the musical beds began, but when I heard Nora crying around 5:00 this morning, my eyes opened to discover the sweetly sleeping face of Fiona wedged tightly between Ian and myself. My own bed already at full capacity, I got into Fiona's to lie back down with Nora to nurse.

But Nora was awake enough to see that this was NOT the normal pattern. She patted Fiona's bed. "Sonna," she said. "Sonna 'eeping."

Aha! "Ohna" has become "Sonna". Nora is experimenting with some initial consonants. This is exciting, even at 5:00 a.m.!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Nora had her first sustained experience with markers yesterday during dinner preparations. At first she was mesmerized with the way the cap came on and off the marker. Then she was amazed at the large, swooping blue arcs the marker made on the page. Off and on she breathed "Oddy," in awed wonder as she marveled at her own efforts on the paper. Then, somewhere between the spices and the simmering, she tattooed herself.

Today, even two baths later, we can still see blue marks like inky veins scampering across her Buddha belly. Whenever she happens to think of it, Nora shows her round middle and proudly announces, "Colors!"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Free play

Yesterday our friend Helena came over for a couple hours so her parents could sleep while her baby sister did, and also so we could soak up some Helena time for ourselves. I didn't have anything special planned; and as it turns out, I didn't need to. Those kids couldn't have been happier, for hours on end, to just play, play, play. They chased each other and rolled on the floor in a huge pile of girls. They tickled one another shrieking "Tickle tickle..." from room to room. They pretended to cook and they dressed up. Nora discovered a "cave" in their closet and this was the source of great interest and pleasure as well. A new reading nook-- check out this unstaged photo!

Nobody told me they were bored, not even once (not that they usually do, but I usually have more of an "experience" prepared when kids come over). Nor did they seem to need anything. I never even got as far as putting music on, which we typically do. There was simply too much need to catch up on some good old-fashioned play with a friend.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

The girls treated Ian to an elaborately prepared breakfast of Poptarts in bed this morning. Then we took a trip to the Botanical Conservatory to make a bug box, try a rootbeer float, and see the butterfly exhibit. We also happened to see our friends Paul, Heather, Helena, and Ada (who are, obviously, not on exhibit). Happy Father's Day Ian, Paul, and daddies everywhere!

Two Fionas in a pod

Yesterday we went to a friend's graduation party. Congratulations, Jess! In keeping with the solemnity of the occasion, there were hot dogs and veggie dogs, a cotton candy machine, an arts and crafts table, and a moonwalk. It's definitely filed in my mental cabinet for the possibility of more fun in the future.

So there we were, alternately chatting with parents and bouncing madly with our kids in the moonwalk, when we realized that our Fiona was bouncing with a fellow Fiona! When we visited Alyssa, our old friend from daycare a couple weeks ago, she had mentioned that there was a "new Fiona" at the daycare now. And I'll be doggoned if we didn't accidentally find her in a bouncy castle!

We don't know little Fiona's last name, but both Fionas share first names and middle initials. Small world! I wonder if the other Fiona knows that there is a hairless albino rat at Science Central who also shares her moniker?!

When my parents named me Jennifer, they truly did believe it to be a unique name. Apparently, at about that same time, so did thousands of other parents. I'm at the older end of an abundance of Jennifers. While the name Ian has never exactly been unpopular, it isn't really common either; although more people are choosing it every day. Besides leaning toward Celtic names, we attempted with both girls' names to strike the balance between refreshingly unusual and comfortably familiar. It has taken us almost five years to meet another Fiona, and now within a month we've met two. Fiona: the new Jennifer?!

It does a body good

Fiona has been requesting chocolate milk for a while now, so as we put the finishing touches on Ian's Father's Day breakfast in bed, we decided that it was as good a time as any to take a chocolate milk break. Fiona stirred her own chocolate syrup in and was obviously pleased with the result.

Nora, seeing all the hubbub, decided that she too must want whatever it was that Fiona was having. So I added a little chocolate syrup into Nora's whole milk and gave it back to her. She took a sip, shook all over as if I were serving her tequila-- and then sipped it again. She tried it once more to be certain, then she gave it the hand. Of COURSE her chocolate milk was suspect. Despite the fact that she had watched both cups of milk be prepared, it was completely obvious that the good stuff was in Fiona's cup. Fortunately, Fiona knows how to share.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It's not easy going green

While cleaning out closets, I ran across a number of Grandma's old linens. I decided that to honor her gifts of vintage aprons, handkerchiefs, napkins, and flour sack towels, we'd start using them regularly. Quitting Clorox wipes, paper towels, AND napkins together-- cold turkey-- seemed like more than I could handle, though. Instead, I decided to phase these consumable items out as we used up our already-purchased back stock.

Paper towels were the first to go, and they were actually remarkably easy to do without. I was ready with a number of cheap terry washcloths, and once I use them a time or so I simply pitch them down the basement stairs to be walked to the laundry room next time I'm headed downstairs for something else. No problem!

Today we ran out of paper napkins, though. Now, as much as I enjoy the substantive feeling of a cloth napkin in my lap, it still feels weird not to have any paper napkins to distribute before meals, and I find myself worrying that I could never have enough cloth napkins to hold me over until I get enough down-time to do laundry without the girls cavorting around in the basement with me. And as I've already mentioned in earlier posts, we try to avoid that due to the basement's basic ick factor.

Fiona looked quizzical the first time I handed her a folded green fabric square instead of a paper napkin, but after that she was fine. Nora, on the other hand, is somewhat convinced that the cloth napkins are head scarves or mealtime peekaboo accessories. That would be fine, except that as far as Nora is concerned, the next step for napkins (as for most things) is to lob them to the floor with a gleeful whoop. Looks like we have more work ahead of us than simply becoming more ecologically friendly...

No enforcement of chess genius here

Laszlo Polgar is a Hungarian chess theory expert and the father of three daughters: Zsuzsa, Zsofia, and Judit. Polgar and his wife Klara homeschooled their daughters with chess as a main subject, in order to test his thesis that "geniuses are made, not born." By any reasonable standard, it must be admitted that, in this case anyway, he was correct. All three have accomplished great things in the chess world.

It's not clear to me how this early training affected the Polgar sisters, but I just found out that Susan Polgar (er, Zsuzsa) has written a book explaining it all: Breaking Through. You can also read about it, and them, at Susan Polgar's web site.

Now, I am going to read the book. But never fear - we're NOT at all interested in churning out McKinney chess geniuses. If Fiona or Nora wants to learn chess and study it seriously and even devote their lives to the pursuit of chess ... or anything else ... we'll support them. But we won't be choosing the topic.

The value we place on individuality in the US does still make it possible to consider doing something like Lazslo Polgar's "experiment", but most of us dismiss the idea almost immediately. But in fact some parents come a lot closer to it than perhaps they'd like to admit. Most of us have heard stories about horrid parental behavior in some kind of competitive sport or game for kids. I wonder what that's like in Russia or other former Eastern Bloc countries. Probably very scary for a westerner, but perhaps it's a matter of course for them. Hmm ... I think there might be a doctoral thesis there somewhere.

Couldn't resist

If you haven't seen any "Lolcats" yet, you don't get this. But go here and read a few and then come back and it will be a bit funnier.

Nora's new phrases!

Wow! Nora has a couple phrases now:

"Doggies! Look!"
"'Ohna 'eeping (sleeping)."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Magical thinking

Yesterday during dinner I filled Fiona in on a little surprise: the following afternoon we were going to the library to go to a magic show! She beamed, then asked me, "Well, what will the magic DO? What will it be LIKE? HOW will it happen?" That's when I realized that she had never had the first lick of exposure to magic, and that she was in for a real treat. I told her I couldn't really explain it for her nearly as well as she'd be able to see and hear for herself at the program, so we could go watch it together. Then, if she felt interested in learning more about magic, we could check out some library books and try a little magic of our own. She was pleased. Meanwhile Nora, oblivious to the talk of magic around her, utilized the "magic" of gravity to hurl a partial plate of pasta to the floor.

Today Fiona was a bundle of electricity while waiting to leave home for the program. At long last we made it to the library, settled into the auditorium, and the magic commenced. I was watching Fiona's reaction closely to try to determine what she was thinking about the whole thing. She seemed riveted, certainly. But she never laughed, or even smiled at the magician's numerous jokes-- even the Three Stooges-type that usually work for everybody. I began to paraphrase some of the things that were happening onstage to make sure she had some context upon which to frame the experience.

Suddenly, the magician "accidentally" let go of one of her long twisty balloons, and it went zinging through the air. "IT'S ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEE!" she crowed.

Fiona looked at me with eyes as big as dishpans. "Is it, Mom?" she asked incredulously. Then I understood. Fiona has more than enough magical thinking all by herself. This "magic show" was largely lost on her. She still lives in a world where many magical things are possible every day, and she's still - at four and three quarters - a bit fuzzy on the difference between things that are actually possible and things that never could be. From time to time I asked her to describe what the experience was like for her, but she couldn't really tell me about it in any sort of logical, narrative way. She had fun though, and decided to check out some related books, so I guess that's magical enough.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Simple observation

4:45 p.m.: Fiona's helping me get ready for dinner. The salad already started, we've turned our attention to the ridiculously healthy mixture of extra-lean ground turkey, milled flax seed, yellow onion, and a packet of Spicy Thai Peanut Bake formed into patties to be grilled into turkey burgers.

Fiona knows all about the care needed around sharp knives and raw meat. The child has been wholly interested in cooking and baking with me for quite awhile now. But her next question isn't exactly about tonight's menu.

"Mom, we haven't had that Shakin' Bacon for a long time. Could we... just... have that?"

Curses! And I would've gotten away with it too, if that pesky Shake 'n' Bake hadn't been meddling!

Monday, June 11, 2007

We go ape for orangutans

In desperate need of some exercise, I decided to plop both kids into the wagon and take them on a stroll around our local zoo. When it was just Fiona and us, our first stop might've been the giraffes, or perhaps even the goats which we can feed or brush or be chewed or maimed by.

Now the hot topic for many children is Dumadi, the zoo's baby orangutan born to Tengku and Sayang last October. Sadly, Sayang died shortly after his birth, so the only way we can see little Dumadi is on a video screen. This just makes us love our little native son all the more, though. In time if Dumadi's sister Melati is accepting of him and teaches him the things little orangutans need to know, the zoo will be able to keep him. I certainly hope it works out, both for little Dumadi's sake and for Nora's, who has become quite infatuated with the little bugger. Fiona has always loved the orangutans too, as is evidenced by this photo I took three years ago this Wednesday of Fiona and Ian.

Today as we watched the furry brown beasts swing, lumber, and frolic, I noticed their expressions and their movements and was moved by our similarities. Indeed, looking into Dumadi's round, expressive eyes or feeling his fingers curl around theirs has to be good incentive for the 12 keepers who wear a brown fuzzy suit to mind him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a separate room.

Nora doesn't have too many toys that weren't previously loved by Fiona, but now she has a small brown orangutan to cuddle and hug. She fell asleep hugging him on the way home from the zoo today. She calls him "Oddy", of course.

Chess mate?

Ian is starting an all-ages chess club at work, and I mentioned to him that I thought I'd seen kids younger than Fiona signing up to play rated chess in our library's annual children's chess tournament. I asked him if he thought Fiona was ready to learn to play, and after a moment's thought, he agreed.

They've played with the pieces together a couple times now; they talk about they ways they move and, from looking at their play, also how they stack up. I don't think they've talked about strategy or played a game together yet, but perhaps Ian can keep us posted as to how this does or doesn't click with Fiona.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Old friends, new baby, and a kiddie pool

Yesterday we visited our old friend Alyssa, her brother Isaiah, their very new sister Ella, and their mother, Caroline. First of all, we met Ella, the new baby. Even though our "babies" are much older, it all comes flooding back while holding such a wee one!

The kids played in the water hose, Caroline made rainbows for us, and then we splashed in the water table and the kiddie pool. To take a break, we ate mini pretzels around the patio table, and later played dress-up. Lunch rounded out a lovely day, and then it was time to part for naps.

It was a barrel of fun visiting friends they hadn't seen in awhile, plus one we just met. Welcome to the world, Ella!

Nora's new words

New words include, in no particular order:

"side" (outside)
"zeebee" (zerbert; i.e.; pbbb on belly)
"ahssa" (pasta)
"oose" (Mother Goose)

All grown up at the tender age of four & a half

Mothers know better than to do this, but fellow baddies and I still do it anyway every once in awhile in a pinch; I let both Fiona and Nora continue to play in the basement while hauling a double armload of baby clothing up the basement stairs to the dining room staging area. I knew I was headed right back down, and figured that saying something about my absence would probably encourage more problems than simply hurrying away and back as fast as my legs would carry me. The girls prefer each other's company to virtually anything else anyhow, and don't yet get into hot water together. So off I went.

When I returned to the basement stairs, my heart skipped a beat. I was greeted at the top by Fiona, who was mumbling a made-up song to herself. Just to be clear, she was all by herself. I suffer no delusions that it is my four year old's job to be her sister's keeper, so I didn't even mention it to Fiona, but I DID need to get downstairs pronto to check on Nora. That basement in particular is no place for our inquisitive toddler, or probably any kid. It's currently chock full of yard sale "treasures" of various types.

Physically moving Fiona aside, I hustled down the stairs, saying, "Excuse me, I need to go get Nora right now." Fiona, sounding at once imperious and exasperated, looked at me over her shoulder and said, "Please DO!"

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Nora's new words

Nora's new words, in no particular order. And yes, we are actually feeding her food from actual food groups as well!

"etsel" (pretzel)
"hog" (hot dog-- LOL!)
"heem" (ice cream)

Busy, busy, busy

Like most adults, I have lots of irons in the fire. Besides reading and romping with the girls, I'm in a book group with the neighbor, I still work for the library somewhat regularly, and we enjoy the occasional guest. I also try to keep projects going, like the yard sale I seem to be perpetually prepping but never having, The Plastering and Painting Project, or the near constant changes in the girls' clothing due to season, size, or both. Part of our circa 1913 home is often giving out or giving up. I try to cook inexpensively, healthfully, and seasonally. There's lawn and garden work, even if we don't do anything more elaborate than keep things mowed weekly. This week Grandma and Toot Toot came in their truck so that after watching Fiona and Nora most of the day so I could do library work, we could drive out to the compost site to get a truck bed of free mulch for the front lawn.

All this is to say that I have not yet figured out the right rhythm to get enough sleep for Ian or myself; and while the wakeful habits of our children affect this to some degree, that's not the whole story. We stay awake too long in the evening trying to wind down from full, full days. It's also nice to try to connect with each other for a couple quiet moments before falling like sodden, sleepy heaps into bed. How EVER did we do it when we both were working full-time?! And even though I'm home now most of the time, things still don't look together enough that I would want to open the front door to an unexpected guest, pretty much ever.

Just over six months into this working from the home thing, and I'm still trying to get my groove. Do I have a groove? As we seriously contemplate homeschooling, I am beginning to search for mine in earnest.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Multiple times I've seen it almost happen, and three times last week it did: Nora escaped my grasp and took off like a bolt of curly-headed toddler lightning. You might think I must have my feet up in a chaise lounge sipping something with an umbrella in it and paging through some magazine, or at the very least chatting with an adult. Nope-- just making my way through the day with two daughters who are three and half years apart in age and light years apart in personality.

Luckily, all three times turned out to be relatively safe, low-stress occasions. I summarily scooped her out of the street when she plopped down in revolt from having her hand held as we crossed at the corner on the way to the park for a birthday party. I collected her when she bolted at both the General Reference Desk and yet again at the Circulation Desk as I paid my fines at the library. Of course, Fiona was integral in these instances. She is like having the eyes in the back of my head that mothers are purportedly born with. She helpfully bellows, "Moooooooooooommmmm! Nora's running again!" with each succeeding occurence. Insert blush (however grateful) here.

So today I did what I never in a million years suspected I would ever do. I went to the grocery store and picked up bread, milk, bananas, and a toddler harness. A soft, smiling, backpack-style harness with a pocket in back that's shaped like an adorable monkey, but a harness nonetheless. I've spent too many years as a dog owner not to feel, as well as see, the connections. I get it. Sigh.

So when our good friends laughingly said, "Oh, all the things we've said about people who've used those things, we'll have to amend that with-- 'except for Jen,' " I knew that I might not be ready to go public with this thing around my wrist. But we were slated to visit the library next, so with last week's indoor bellowing still bouncing around in my brain, I persevered.

Here's the bottom line: many, many people are not comfortable seeing children in harnesses. These people are fairly comfortable saying so, especially when it's not directly to the person using the harness. But Nora's harness is not used to drag her around, or for her to take me for walks à la Marmaduke. It's to keep her from using her new skills, walking and now running, from putting herself in harm's way. It assures that all three of us remain safely together in public spaces.

The tether detaches to become a backpack as soon as she's ready. Won't that be nice for everybody? In the meantime, she's walking around in her environment instead of being strapped into a stroller for all of our outings, and she's safe and secure. And while I'm still feeling a mite conflicted about the whole harness thing, I know I can at least feel good about that.

It may not be summer yet, but it's time for the SRP

The Summer Reading Program started today at our library. This year, not only did I not work on the committee that planned it for the year prior, I didn't even work at the library during the time when I'd find out much about how it was going to work, so I learned firsthand on the OTHER side of the desk with Fiona and Nora this afternoon at the Main Library. The program offerings look wonderful, the gifts are splendid, and my kids will go home with new books they get to choose for themselves! Yesssssssssssss!

This year, because Fiona is reading a little on her own, she is a trifle hung up on the idea that she has to do all the reading on her own (which she doesn't, but she could if she really wanted to I guess). No matter what, she is pumped about marking off each time we read for 20 minutes. And I haven't even BEGUN to explain to her yet that she can also read to feed homeless animals. We may do little else this summer.

I am working tomorrow for most of the day, so Grandma and Toot Toot came in this evening to help out. Already Grandma has read the first two chapters of The Secret Garden to Fiona from a Great Illustrated Classics book they brought for her. For her part, Nora is currently on a jag of enjoying multiple animated readings of Kate McMullan's I Stink!

If you are a kid or a teen or you have them under your roof, it's about time to check out what your local library has for you in terms of a summer reading program. Chances are, it's pretty cool!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Nora's new words

Look at her go! New words include, in no particular order:

"urse" (nurse)
"hoot" (poot)
"hiss" (kiss)
"optart" (Daddy's little brown sugar & cinnamon habit)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Volunteering: start 'em young

If play is a child's work, then Fiona and Nora worked really hard with me today at our library's Early Learning Center. We are a volunteer play team in the 2,000 square foot ELC, which is packed with hands-on activities devoted to early literacy and pre-numeracy skills.

Nora stacked large foam blocks and crawled on a baby maze. We put puzzles together; or, in Nora's case, banged puzzle pieces together. We talked about letters and colors while sticking our names up onto the magnetic alphabet wall. We bought plastic veggies from greengrocer Fiona in the dramatic play area, then put on bee wings and pretend to gather pollen and build honeycomb for the queen bee. We wrote secret messages with markers at the writing center, then put them into the big, official-looking mailbox. Then we built a track for a Brio train and tested it with animals and female figures onboard. "No boys on the train, Mom. They don't fit into the cars. Look how far apart their legs are when they stand!" And that's just the stuff we had time to play with so far.

The room doesn't have any electronic technology in it. No screens-- not even any library catalogs. No buttons, no video screens, nothing. Imaginations are the fuel for play in the Early Learning Center. So how, you may ask, did we land plum jobs volunteering in this unplugged kiddie wonderland? Parents and caregivers are so busy these days, it seems, that just getting kids to the good stuff seems to be all some of them can do. Getting out of the chair, setting aside the magazine, and playing with a child is not happening enough of the time. Now I'm not implying that every parent or caregiver doesn't need a tiny smidgen of time to be able to rest the mind and body from time to time, or that the ELC wouldn't be a safe, enclosed place to do so, but children who are not well attended... well... one way or another that becomes an issue for any public space.

Enter play volunteers! We model how adults can enjoy playing interactively at the library with one or more children in patient, developmentally appropriate ways. The library even has little rings of brain-boosting game suggestions for parents to try in the area. Rain or shine, most days of the year, this room is free and available for me and my favorite young learners! Yessssssss! We're happy to oblige by volunteering to play together.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Best friends

Today our friend Helena had a birthday party at the park across the street, and the girls and I simply walked over without the stroller. I knew, of course, that Nora would have nothing to do with her sun hat. What surprised me is that she wanted nothing to do with holding my hand, either. Ordinarily she is glued to me with all the clammy ardor of toddlerhood, but not this time. Today was all about Fiona.

"Ohna" offered Nora a hand, and off we toddled to the party. If I'd read something like this in a Hallmark card I know I would have gagged, but something about watching my own two daughters amble down the lane in the springtime sun filled me with the most intoxicating, visceral feeling of maternal love.

This past sixteen months hasn't been without its speed bumps for Big Sister Fiona. She has had, and continues to have, a number of things to adapt to in her daily life. Thankfully, she has a colorful cast of close friends and family-- big and small, near and far-- who support her wholeheartedly.

Ask Fiona who her best friend is sometime. For the past sixteen months, her answer has been exactly the same. We don't know how long this trend can last, but we support it in every way we know how.

Nora's new words

New words include, in no particular order:

"etti" (spaghetti)
"yash" (trash)
love you!