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.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Two-fisted piano player

Clearly we've spent a fair amount of time near the house this week as we struggled to feel better. This has given us ample time to burn through some interesting chapter books together, and also to log some extra time on the piano. Besides practice--which isn't very long at this point, maybe 10-15 minutes at a sitting-- Fiona also likes to sit down and try what gets stuck in her mind from time to time throughout the day. Sometimes it's the lesson we've been learning. Other times it's a sound experiment.

As was suggested on our self-study DVD, we've been progressing very slowly through the lessons. We spend days on each one, trying to feel it in our bones before moving on to the next one. Tonight, however, Fiona begged to try her new lesson after dinner so she could combine the parts she's already been learning and try playing two-handed. It made us a little late for bed, but such desire for music was just so exciting for both her and for us.

Perhaps I'll try to get some video tomorrow when it's lighter in the dining room; but for now here are the first-ever pictures of Fiona playing piano two-handed, plus post-song jubilation.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Vomitous blur

Our life is a hazy blur of sickness right now. The girls went to bed seemingly well on Monday night, but both got sick in bed during the night. By Tuesday they were better. Wednesday night Fiona threw up again, though only once. Back to the BRAT diet for Fiona. We rewashed all surfaces, all linens, and the mattress. Chatted with the kind and patient folks at the 24-hour Nurseline. (They were very reassuring. Apparently this just happens sometimes!)

We had a quiet day and hoped we were out of the woods until Nora threw up in the wee hours of Friday morning at 4:30 am. Three times. With a slight fever. Back to the drawing board.

She just awakened at around 3:30 on the sofa as Fiona and I were finishing up reading The Kite Fighters and asked brightly, "Did you make cupcakes?" I asked her if she had just had a pleasant dream revolving around the edible dainties, but wasn't able to get to the bottom of that before clearing up the fact that she was probably more ready for applesauce. She'd been successfully holding down water for hours by then. At that exact moment she blanched, and. . . you guessed it. No applesauce.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Spatial awareness

Fiona often shows signs of having very good spatial awareness. One time we were rearranging some furniture and I was explaining to Jen where I thought the TV armoire would go, and Fiona went over to the spot and stood with her arms out (being the furniture) and angled a certain way and said "like this?" I explained that I was really thinking of having it face more toward the chair and loveseat, and she adjusted her angle and raised her eyebrows at me - and she had it exactly.

This evening, she came to me in the kitchen, pointed up at the ceiling, and asked "Dad, is the head of your bed right up there?" She had it exactly again. It's often cited as the province of boys, but Fiona has it too.

Lazy, hazy garden days

We were scheduled to go visit a mill with our neighbors today, but I've been dragging, one of our little neighbors has allergies, and our two were recently ill. Instead we investigated the gardens at our local extension office. There were mysterious paths to investigate, veggies to compare, and almost too many bees to count. We had a great time, but within an hour we were all ready to come home. It was a better choice for us than an extended road trip, at least for today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The girls love to do things together

Apparently this also includes getting sick. We knew we had some exposure to the pukes recently, but didn't expect both sweeties to succumb to them simultaneously in the middle of the night. Fortunately, by morning both kids were feeling good enough for the BRAT diet.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Birthday bash

We had plans to attend a local farm social together with Grandma, Toot Toot, Uncle Eric, Aunt Carrie, James and Luke, but when we discovered the social was cancelled those plans abruptly changed. We still had a marvelous time working together and playing with the gang. We frolicked at the library and enjoyed a delightful and social-- if not farm social-- picnic at the park instead. Carrie and I also sneaked through the farmer's market (since we had just rolled out of bed) while the rest of our family powered through the shower.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Finger paint fun

Paul had some work to get done today, so Helena and Ada stayed at our house today. Paul got back just in time for some finger painting. Sadly, Nora was napping for the whole business, but the rest of us made some lovely pictures for her-- and she did get to do one later on. It was a sensory delight.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Naked clay and lots more play

We painted clay yesterday with Uncle Bob and Aunt Ruby. It was lots of fun! Nora almost missed it, because she fell asleep in the car on the way there, but after a nice power-nap she felt refreshed and awoke to select and paint a little flower dish. I can't wait to see Fiona's purple cat when it's fired and shiny. Good idea, Aunt Ruby!

We had an absolutely wonderful time with you, Uncle Bob and Aunt Ruby. Hope your travels home are safe and picturesque. We look forward to seeing you again soon!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hello Uncle Bob and Aunt Ruby!

Apparently we are quivering with excitement from meeting Uncle Bob and visiting with Aunt Ruby, because I can't take a clear photo today to save my soul!

But seriously, we have had a really wonderful day relaxing, playing, telling stories, unwrapping and making art together, creating and eating food, walking and playing in the park, and overall luxuriating in the pleasure of each other's company.

Uncle Bob read a story aloud to our shorties for the first time today, but he says he was simply reading it. He does not really believe that a caterpillar would eat all those things, very hungry or otherwise. Maybe some of that stuff, but not all of it. A pickle?! Now really.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ice cream hangover

This is what comes of attending the ice cream social in lieu of taking a nap.

Friday, August 15, 2008

To nurse or not to nurse... that is the question

Nora and I are having a conversation about weaning. We don't nurse much anymore-- just before nap and before bed-- but I've been thinking that those could probably get phased out anytime now, too. I mentioned this to Nora this evening over dinner.

"Why?" she asked succinctly. "Well," I said, "when kids get bigger, they usually decide to quit nursing at some point. Fiona used to nurse you know, but she doesn't do it anymore." Fiona emphatically agreed to this and went into a tirade about the general offensiveness of warm milk. I neglected to mention to Nora that Fiona weaned herself at seven months of age, much to my chagrin.

Nora was unmoved by the entire suggestion. She gestured toward herself assuredly and simply said, "I do." Undaunted in my quest, I suggested that Sunday might be a good day to stop nursing. We'll talk about it more tomorrow. The time does need to be right for both of us; but frankly, the time is probably right for me right about now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happiness is playing our piano

I am a real believer in the late John Holt. I have been especially affected by Learning All the Time, and until Fiona's therapist convinced me that my unschooling philosophies and her anxiety were probably like oil and water-- she would do better with more structure-- I had some really different plans for our schooling.

Over the past couple of months I've been having an internal struggle: the Philosopical Me knows how I think kids can learn well. But it DOES make sense that anxious kids thrive with a bit more structure. Hmmmm. It seems to me to be a little bit like having the birth one has as opposed to the birth one plans. (Tell Nora about that one.) We just happen to be on the Anxious Child Program. That is okay. It's fairly clear she comes by it honestly.

I am currently trying to rethink what I think makes the most sense to me, what would make a safe and comfortable environment for Fiona, and where the spot is where we'll actually land. In the meantime, I have been reading heaps of homeschooling books, and I ran across a big book of lists that recommended a nontraditional method for learning piano called Simply Music. As I read about the method, it looked a lot the way I actually learned how to make sound come out of the piano when I was young. I wasn't able to absorb the dots and squiggles on the page, connect them to letters of the alphabet, and connect that simultaneously with my fingers and the keys. I was, however, able to see my teacher play something once, follow the notes up and down, use the fingering numbers and her example, and wing it exceptionally well for years. After a time I was convinced that I COULDN'T read music, so I simply didn't. I think this program recognizes this ability and works with it, not against it. My interest was piqued.

I knew I couldn't afford the DVDs-- not at this point in our lives, anyway. I contacted our library with a purchase request a couple months ago, but I really didn't have any expectations. But there it was waiting for me in my email inbox today! Now we just need to tune up our freebie piano. Fiona and I watched our first lesson just for fun today, and she dashed over to the piano to look for middle C without me even mentioning the idea. She was gleeful when she found it. Next she tried some fingering. Fingering works no matter what your piano sounds like, right?

School is one big experiment this year, I guess, but this piano business could be the beginning of a beautiful thing. Thank goodness Fiona, our firstborn and therefore our 'experimental child', is game.

So sick, so sad.

Nora has the pukes again-- exactly one month to the day since her last illness. It's heartbreaking as well as slightly mystifying as to how she could wait two and a half years to vomit, then do it twice so closely together.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fiona's first photos

We spent most of the day outside in the garden today. I had the camera outside just in case I wanted it for anything, and Fiona asked if she could take some pictures. I only showed her how to press a button on 'auto' setting. She had fun, so one of these days I'll show her some more, though not a whole lot more, sadly, since lots of my shots are as blurry as the ones above.

Funny faces

Today during Nora's naptime, Fiona requested having her face painted. This face paint is remarkable mainly because it is not of a cat. Fiona asked that we take a photo of her next to the bean plants so it'd look like she was flying over them (not eating them).

But that face paint was smeary and never dried, making it impractical at best. She took it off very quickly, and opted for our more sensible face paint that was leftover from the family reunion last year. This time she painted her own face, and by this time Nora, who was awake, did the same. The pictures are blurry, but interesting all the same. I think they're both supposed to be cats this time, but there's a very clownlike quality to Nora's if you ask me.

I am so lucky. I am so doomed.

We were gardening this morning when Fiona became besieged by biting insects. Fiona stayed outside with sidewalk chalk. Nora wandered in with me, but didn't go upstairs. I went up to the bathroom to get bug bite cream for Fiona. I came down with the tube to find Nora on the library stool in the kitchen playing in the sink. No huge surprise, I guess. The child loves water. Here's the kicker: next to her was a (recently opened) bottle of Miralax, which had been up in the kitchen windowsill, with a childproof lid, dumped into a soaking dish which had held blueberry buckle an hour or so before.

I already know that children are SO DIFFERENT from each other. I really do. Really! I know this in theory, and I clearly know this in practice. But it is a day-to-day reality check that gets brought home every week or so in new, humbling, and sometimes terribly frightening ways. Today is that day all over again.

It is not yet clear how many things we may need to lock down around here. Probably a great many things. Nora is an experimenter. A dabbler. A wonderer. An artist. And while that is, in some ways, laudable; it will probably also give her parents many, many gray hairs.

New friends

I am sponsoring my friend Tera as she adopts the Catholic faith. Last night all the participants, teachers, sponsors, and their families had a potluck supper in the church basement, then the pastor took us on a behind-the-scenes tour. While the adults checked out stuff they might not see on a weekly visit, the kids were having a ball in the playroom downstairs playing with toys and getting to know one another.

Fiona and Nora enjoyed meeting Delaney, Isabelle, and Aislyn. I was happy to see Fiona come out of her sometimes reserved shell so quickly to climb under the table to play with new friends. She came home last night with a complex story about a sky-scrapingly tall block tower. They're looking forward to playing again.

Dough + park = fun

Yesterday Paul came over to help me over the hump with my not-so-mad bread baking skilz, and afterward we took the girls out to the park to play. We had a great time, and I look forward to baking off some lovely loaves this morning. Mmmmmmm!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Birthday season

Well, it's birthday season. I've been a little sick, but not too sick to take pix-- I just haven't felt great enough to stay up and blog. Here are some gems for from birthday dinner, science fun with a pass from Grandma and Toot Toot, an afternoon trip to the park with the whole fam-damily, and a birthday trip to the zoo with me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Birthday dinner is great any night of the week

Ian took us out for my birthday dinner early. We are still trying to figure out whether the fabulous Mexican dinner had anything to do with the killer reflux and esophageal spasms that mimicked a heart attack closely enough to send me in to the doctor in the wee hours of the morning. (Keep in mind that my father was only 25 with his first heart attack...) Even if so, we simply don't care. What we're sure of is that it remains our favorite family restaurant hands down. There was no live mariachi music that night, but that in no way dimmed our excitement in having a rare meal out on the town. Here's to somebody else doing the dishes!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The advent of Family Jobs

We're gearing up for the school year, and we're trying one thing on for size as soon as possible: family jobs. The way we're looking at it, the care and upkeep of our home is a full time job in and of itself. When adding childrearing (and it's not that we don't want to add that!) and homeschooling, the job starts looking pretty huge. . . for one person.

Enter Family Jobs. We really could have been more serious about these a long time ago-- I think a positive attitude about helping the family early on can be a huge influence-- but still, it's never too late. We have divided up some jobs for which each family member takes as a prime responsibility: for Fiona it's feeding the cats, and for Nora it's hunting down family shoes and getting them back to Shoe Mountain where they 'belong'. Ian and I each have our own lists and one we share. The girls also share some tasks, like making beds and sorting the recycling. The 'payment' for any of these tasks is the satisfaction of working together to help the family function together more smoothly.

I'm sure we'll find a million holes in our plan once we've implemented it fully, but it's an exciting start, anyhow. On her way out to the recycling bins this afternoon, Nora tossed my hat on her head and and said, "I'm Mommy. Next I'm going out to the garden!"

Over two years of growing and blogging all the way

Well, we weren't very regular bloggers there at the beginning, but I just realized that we've been doing "mommy blog" style blogging for just over two years now. Just look how they've grown! We'd like to give a big thank you to Heather and Paul for inspiring us to begin blogging.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Backyard rainforest

Nora and I played with Robert this morning while Fiona was having a Rainforest Adventure at vacation bible school. That particular party got moved indoors when actual rain came down on the rainforest, and Nora and Robert were impressed with the decorations in the basement there. Ironically, taped up rainforest decorations don't stay up too well with 100% humidity in August around here!

Anyway, we were having a blast so we decided to have lunch together once Teresa got back. Then Nora went down for a nap so easily that we spent the afternoon together too. Fiona and Robert continued playing rainforest outside while Teresa and I chatted while peeling fruit just inside the patio door as we watched our young people joyfully romp in the backyard.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Food stylist in training

We're getting ready for a party, and Fiona wanted in on the action. After watching me ice a number of gingerbread cookies, she was pretty sure she could do it. She was 100% correct! She said it tasted as good as it looked.