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, January 31, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nora!

Our Nora is two years old today. Even though Ian had to work the night shift and missed out on some of the fun, we did still manage to celebrate her birthday by attending a Theatreworks presentation of Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby with friends Dever, Tessa, Elena, and Janet. Then we enjoyed a festive lunch with Sydney, Dever, Nathaniel, and Kathleen. Many happy returns of the day, Nora!

Monday, January 28, 2008


Here are some things that I wanted to post even though they happened awhile back:

First of all, we had a wonderful visit from our friends Robert and Teresa, but RIGHT after they left we had a bunch of other visitors arrive and I didn't get their visit blogged until now. We had a really fun time running, playing, and Play-doh'ing with them (well, I was running a mite late and I actually played with cookie dough, not Play Doh, but still...) Here Robert is pictured with his teal and fuchsia Play-Doh rendering of our mutual friend Paul.

Also, the Sunday after Nora celebrated her Dinosaur Day, we took up the carpet on our first floor with Grandma and Toot Toot. Ian and I had anticipated doing this the following weekend while the girls spent the weekend with their grandparents for the very first time; but Grandma and Toot Toot were curious, and once we started pulling up a corner we couldn't stop ourselves. That ended up being a good thing on two counts, because Fiona was able to get in on the act this way (check out the dress-up clothes she wears while working), plus the following weekend Ian and I were free to work on other home renovation tasks instead.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I have arrived

Last night, struggling with rare cases of both nausea and reflux, I decided to sleep at least the first portion of the night sitting up in a chair. While not terribly cozy or comfortable, I do think it was just what the doctor ordered, because when I awoke shortly before 4:00 am, I was fine. One of our feline night nurses had curled up on a nearby sofa, but it was too dark for me to discern her identity. Our other kitten was upstairs, I discovered, as I went up to prepare for bed. Poised in a doorway like a blue shadowy sentry, Ivy was watching for the kind of tiny nighttime visitor old houses like ours sometimes have.

I hadn't been in bed for more than a moment, though, when the sound of purring filled our room. Ivy had deserted her post and was sitting at the foot of our bed, where she usually sleeps, just staring at me. After purring there for a good while, the usually more aloof Ivy even curled up next to my shoulder for some kneading and a purry snuggle.

I was immediately taken back to my childhood where our family dogs were always happiest with my mother. I distinctly remember asking her about it once, and Mom casually said, "Well, you and your sister are more than welcome to feed her, change her water, clean up after her, or talk and play with her more than you do. If you do that long enough, you'll be her favorite. But somebody needs to, and I do."

Back then, even a long time (by a child's standard) of loving care couldn't sway our dog's special affection for my mother. But last night as Zelda joined the party to curl at her usual spot near my feet, and as Ian awoke and scooped Ivy from her loud but snuggly spot at our shoulders, I smiled and thought, "I have arrived."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

First dance classes

Today even Grandma and Toot Toot were here to see our lovelies in leotards before they headed off to their first dance class. Grandma came with us and got to see all the action first-hand while Ian and Toot Toot pulled more carpet off of hardwood at home.

Nora's class was first, and while she did take a little time to warm up (the sobbing two-year-old next to her was a mite disconcerting) she did enjoy herself. While not wholly participatory, we could see the wheels turning inside her head. Big sister Fiona helped her feel more at home in the circle, and that helped a lot. She came back to my lap off and on for reassurance, but hopped, freeze-danced, and leapt with the rest.

Fiona became reacquainted with some old friends and met some new ones during her class. Besides being introduced to a couple ballet positions, she also marched, princess-walked, and freestyled a bit. At the end of class every child got to choose a prop from the dress-up bin for some improvisation. Fiona says it was every bit as fun as it looked.

Now both kids are off to Grandma and Toot Toot's for the weekend (first time they've ever done it together!) while Ian and I get some home renovation done. I bet they'll get a good nap on the way!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Media literacy @ our library

Our family just attended the "Buy Me That" media literacy workshop at a library branch this afternoon. Based on the PBS Kids Don't Buy It website, the program helped participants to challenge and question advertising, evaluate media, and even create their own. At the end of the program each child became a food-stylist-in-training and smeared peanut butter onto a saltine as artfully as possible to get it ready for a photo shoot.

It was eerily telling to watch a group which included at least a handful of pre-readers try to figure out what, exactly, various magazine ads were actually attempting to sell. Happiness? Fun? Mother-daughter playtime? Oh-- Levi jeans. . . at WalMart. One ad which completely stymied the magazine-holder was for a theological seminary. I wish I had seen the ad but that child was across the room. What did it look like?

I think some of the conversation was over Fiona's head, but not only is she quite young, she's also relatively sheltered at this point in her life. She doesn't watch regular TV, we skip the previews on her few preselected DVDs , and she largely uses magazines for cutting things out, not for shopping of any kind. I'm not sure it has ever occurred to her that people actually EAT all those kinds of cereal in the grocery aisle! I know she has never considered asking for any. Yet...

But marketing is everywhere, and it is not our object to protect her from all of it-- just to arm her with the information needed to be an informed consumer regarding the inundation of messages she's receiving when she sees and hears them in her daily life. For us, this means regular open dialogue and many, many questions. Some of them are actually quite thorny.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lounging in libraryland

Since Nora slept through our library adventure this weekend, we went there again this morning to play. Besides admiring the fish, climbing in the play structures, and reading and finding great books, we also ran into a good friend and thoroughly enjoyed his company. What a fun way to start the week!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dinosaur day

Well, it's not Nora's birthday yet. This is a good thing, because when you ask her how old she is, she confidently tells you, "Five." But we did have an absolutely marvelous day with Eric, Carrie, Luke, James, Grandma, and Toot Toot. We played, ate, had a great library tour, laughed at some wholly over-the-top kitten antics, and had a rip-roaring birthday party too. The day ended too soon; but all of us are terribly tuckered, so it must be the sign of a day well spent.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Heads did roll

We're celebrating Nora's birthday with Grandma, Toot Toot, Uncle Eric, Aunt Carrie, James and Luke today. This morning I cut up a chocolate cake to shape it into a dinosaur for the birthday fete. Growing up, the remainders from this activity were a special-occasion breakfast treat, so cake shards were the snack of the hour-- at least until more people got up and I made a real breakfast.

I got the girls settled into their cake bits and was just getting powdered sugar dumped into the Kitchen-Aid for frosting when I turned to speak to the girls. Nora's cake had, mysteriously, grown in size. Also, the head was missing from her dinosaur.

"Aargh," I yelped in surprise, "that's your head!" Covered in cake, Nora beamed and pointed to her own noggin.

Friday, January 18, 2008

They're on to our tricks

I was trying to get the girls hustled into clothes so I could perhaps get a load of laundry cleaned AND put away before guests arrive later today. But our playdate friends will come during Nora's nap, so I wasn't ready to mention them quite yet. Instead, I thought I'd focus on the arrival of Grandma and Toot Toot this evening.

Reminded of their imminent arrival, Fiona hurtled into high gear. She began dashing around the hallway in her pajamas, punctuating her excitement with leaps and squeals of exuberance. "Today is the day Grandma and Toot Toot are coming! Why did you tell us so SOON!"

It is true that Ian and I would usually reserve this type of crazy-making information until shortly before the giddy event. Not only does the day tend to go more normally and smoothly, it alleviates hurt feelings if the plan unexpectedly changes. Uh-oh. They're on to us.

Definite preferences

Today as I scurry around doing bare-bones tidying to prepare for an afternoon playdate and weekend family gathering, I dropped a Jim Gill CD in for the girls to dance around while I swept. As I pulled out their selected album, a Beatles CD fell out of the case and rolled onto the floor.

It barely had to cease motion for Nora to recognize it. She was stricken. "No, Mama! No 'Jude'!" I guess preferences can be galvanized rather early on. Sorry, Ian.

Monday, January 14, 2008

By request

Fiona has asked that we please post some pictures of Zelda and Ivy as evidence of how they've grown since we got them in October. She reminds me that "they are family, too."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sticking up for Fiona

Today Fiona went to her first real book discussion group. The library program, designed expressly for homeschoolers, contained activities revolving around Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad are Friends . I took my seat along the wall with a somewhat perplexing mix of pride and heartache as I watched Fiona and the other youngsters chat about what makes a good friend and what makes a good book.

Nora had no such bittersweet emotions, however. In order to plow through her nap altogether, she needed to stay in constant motion, so that was apparently her plan. As she capered around the room, she began to perform for the audience she was slowly garnering. Eyes widened, she exclaimed, "Wook at my eyes! De're BIIIIIIIIIG!" as her body quivered with the enormity of her big brown beauties. One mother, after receiving a hug and a kiss on both cheeks from Nora, eyed our daughter up and down, turned to me and said, "I have room for her in my bag here..."

It's like this everywhere we go. Nora is just... our inimitable Nora; and people tend to eat her with a spoon, just as they do most babies and toddlers. Fiona has come to expect it, though I can't say she's really used to it yet. She enjoyed three and a half years of undivided attention. Will this ever feel like the 'new normal'?

Once we were finished at the library today, we dropped by the fabric store. I wanted to get a couple balls of yarn so I could try to knit some leg warmers for my two little dancers, and Fiona also enjoys looking at yarn now that she is finger knitting. The woman who was helping us fell prey to Nora's dimples and said, "Oh, she's so cute!" Neither Fiona nor I asked who she was talking about. We knew. But Fiona, bless her, went one better. She helpfully added, "I'm cute too!" Taken aback, the associate abashedly agreed.

As I gulped the lump out of my throat, I wondered whether our hearts get harder or softer with parenthood. I am constantly amazed by the things I worry about now. As our kids grow, our rulebooks morph and change and become out-of-date. We start over every day. Parenthood is such a thrilling, painful, glowing, exuberant, humbling ride-- all I really feel sure of at the end of the day is how much I don't know, and how much I adore it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dancing feet

It's official! Thanks to the generosity of family, both girls will be attending dance lessons at the local university this winter. Fiona will take beginning ballet, and Nora will be in pre-dance. Oddly enough, dance is more affordable than gymnastics class! The girls will get a taste of dance, and if they like it we'll find some gymnastics for them somewhere later.

The classes continue for many weeks, which should fill our dreams with delightful visions of sugarplums. Both girls already have hand-me-down leotards that fit the dress code-- hooray! And if they have half as much fun dancing as they did trying on the special shoes, we're in for a jolly good time. Fiona had the chance to take ballet or ballet/tap, but having seen a sampler of The Nutcracker put on by our local ballet company in the library theater a couple weeks ago, she was all-systems-go for ballet. Let the fun begin!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Pancake party

Yesterday we gathered with friends to read stories about breakfasts around the world, then we made batches of pancakes plus our own fresh butter to spread on top! As much as we thought we might enjoy eating crepes, latkes, tortillas, or some of the other fun ideas suggested in Morning Meals Around the World, our Mark Bittman pancakes sure did taste good. Hopefully these kids can never wonder of math and reading, "But when will I use this in real life?"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Good friendly fun

We had friends Isabel, Tessa, and Caroline over for play and lunch yesterday-- something we've been trying to set up for months! While I only took one picture that wasn't blurry as could be, the actual playdate itself was quite jolly. We hope you can come again soon, ladies!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Post-Epiphany chat

Epiphany is over now, but the concepts linger, of course. Coming home from some errands in the car this afternoon Fiona said, "Let's talk more about the kings, Mama."

"Well, do you know their names? Caspar, Melchior--"

"Mama!" Fiona interjected. Her face was frowny. Her mouth was tightly pursed. She was not amused. "Are you making this up? Are you trying to be funny again?"

I hadn't realized that my seminal reading of Lawrence J. Cohen's Playful Parenting had made me such a wiseacre in the eyes of my child. Nor had I fully respected how serious Fiona can be sometimes. So I went on to assure her of my truthfulness, proving my sincerity by singing a snippet of Bobby Vinton's Three Wise Men, Wise Men Three. (That song goes out to my sister, who knows the whole album by heart!) Thoroughly assuaged, she didn't care to know another thing about "the kings" and instead wanted me to dredge the rest of that song out of the soggy gray matter in my head.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Say it again, Sam

Nora is putting together some pretty long sentences these days! Of a page in Robert Kalan's Jump Frog, Jump Nora noted, "That boy is getting out of the boat." At the neighbor's house recently, Nora didn't want her little friend to use a toy near her seat, so she said, "No, 'thaniel. Not my chair. You go find another chair." We think her manners will improve gradually along with the vocabulary.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Television poses risk to children's health

Not sure how we missed this - it's from February 2007.

Okay, now I've done a little research and found that the recommendations made by the author of the study, Dr. Aric Sigman, were met with skepticism in Britain. The study doesn't seem to have made any impact in the United States, even though one of Sigman's findings is that television may be a trigger for autism.

There isn't a standout selection for links to the information. This will have to do, though there are others:

His book is Remotely Controlled: How Television is Damaging Our Lives and What We Can Do About It. It has not yet been published in the US. (It is available through Amazon UK.)

For the record, Sigman recommends that kids under 3 watch no TV (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for kids under 2), and kids under 7 be limited to an hour a day. Fiona watches around a half hour of TV a week. On DVD, with no commercials. Nora watches less than that, though it isn't "no TV". Yet ...

(He also suggests that teens be limited to 1.5 hours a day, and adults to 2 hours a day. Jen and I also watch far less than that. Not that I am recommending that you stop watching so much TV - not before I read the book, anyway. ;-)

AUTISM, people!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Am I in the Twilight Zone?!

Good friends are coming over for dinner this evening. Nora, keenly aware of this, has needed an hour and twenty minutes of gentling into her after-lunch nap.

Feeling both fried and frazzled because my cleaning and dinner prep is now off-schedule by at least an hour, I came down to the kitchen. "Fiona," I said, "I have an offer for you. We won't want to get too zany up there, but would you like to have a nice warm soak and play with bath toys while I clean the bathroom upstairs?"

She thought about this prospect for a moment, then said, "Actually, no." (Here's where it gets weird...) "I think I'd prefer to take a little nap."

I thought once kids stopped taking naps they didn't come to appreciate their inherent goodness until they hit college. If she hadn't already gone to tuck herself into a bed, I'd still be wondering whether I dreamed the whole thing up.

Update: I had just finished jotting this post when Fiona came trotting down the stairs after her "nap". Since my room was open for use again, we went upstairs and sorted some laundry together. On my way in, I noticed the doorknob hanger that was part of a "Kitty Crazy" writing kit Nora had given Fiona for Christmas-- I had just read it to her this morning. The side that was faced out had a fluffy kitten on it along with the words, "Do not disturb-- taking a cat nap". Light bulb!