Thursday, April 29, 2010

Portrait of a Phase

If you're a parent you know (and if you're not yet, you'll find out) that your kids' lives move along in phases, undulating like really slow tide changes: they're sick, they're well; they're toothless, they're teething, their teeth fall out; they're chubby babies and then they're tall, lanky kids. But more generally, there's kind of an overarching ebb and flow that lasts anywhere from two to six months per cycle. For a couple months they fascinate you, amaze you and fill you with pride. Then that phase passes and for the next few months they defy understanding, amazing you in less positive ways, adding gray hairs to your head and causing you to question your abilities as a parent.

Lucky for me, I'm enjoying the former with my five-(almost six!)-year-old. She's in the best phase yet, really, because the good stuff keeps getting better as they get older.

I am just soaking her up right now because she's so much fun to hang out with. Brevity (you might have noticed) is not exactly my thing, suffice it to say that she's turning out even cooler than I hoped. I'll resist the urge to wax on and keep it to a short list.

Here's a Top Five list of Mazzy's recent obsessions, which all contribute to the increased level of coolness:
1. Jem

Jon opened up this can of worms, and Mazzy has found her kindred spirit. They watch a full episode on YouTube every Saturday morning. Now all she wants for her birthday is "Jem stuff:" glitzy fabric for Jem outfits, hair spray (which really means hair dye), and face paint. It's truly outrageous, indeed.

2. Horse Kisses

She made up a new kiss that puts Eskimo and Butterfly Kisses to shame. It's awesome.
Here's what you do:
Grab your child or anyone else you're in the mood to love on and tell them you want to give them a horse kiss (best to let them know what's coming). Rub your cheek against their cheek, then forehead to forehead, then the other cheek. Repeat until your heart is full.

3. Unsolicited chores

All kids "help" at times, but at five, she's old enough to actually help me around the house. Sure, she wants money in return, but emptying the dishwasher without being asked is well worth a quarter. She also likes to separate the laundry and set the table, but she draws the line at sweeping.
*click note for translation*

I'm not the first to dive into Laura's world, but we've finally arrived. I've tried a few different chapter books with Maz, but she usually only lasts four or five chapters before she's over it. I wised up and got Little House in the Big Woods on tape from the library. The effect was immediate: Mazzy was doing needlepoint before we got to the second tape.

5. Pictures

Now that she can read, Mazzy pronounces a few words differently. My favorite is "picture," which she pronounces with a T sound (pick-ter instead of pick-shur). "That's how you spell it, that's how I'm saying it," she insists.
She's also taken to a bit of photojournalism. With my camera, she documented two recent outings:

She took a picture of just about every flower on the property, and there are hundreds... the beauty of digital.

She had Eden pose for her.
She even shot from a tree she climbed.

Not bad for a Kindergartner.

Then there was our annual Spring trip to Forni Brown for garden goodies

Seeing things from a child's perspective is one of the great rewards of parenting, after all.

Particularly when that child is a total bad-ass.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


A Happy Saturday morning to us, for our Jewel Beetle's been featured in today's Etsy Finds, among some other scientific specimens.
Click here to check out the full story.
Thanks to Matt and Emily and Etsy!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Little Reflection

Yesterday marked three months that Tallulah has been with us. Since we are always looking for an excuse to make a cake, we decided to have a little celebration. We sat down with a big piece of cake and a game of Scrabble to reflect on all the things we've learned the past three months.
Tallulah has learned to smile, put her hand in her mouth, grab things, splash in the water, that night time is for sleeping and that with one little grunt she can summons one of three adoring big people to scoop her up and shower her with kisses.

Scarlett has learned to share her parents, to walk on the hardwood floors in cowgirl boots very quietly, to change diapers, that there is nothing better than smooching big fat baby cheeks and that babies do not like it when you pick their nose.
I have learned the balance of giving to two children and a husband, but still keeping some for myself, how to eat standing up and breastfeeding at the same time, to surrender to the chaos instead of resisting it, and that what gives me the most satisfaction and fills my soul and makes me want to burst with love is my family.
In the past three months our family has grown so much closer, we've all banded together to make the necessary adjustments that a new baby requires. We've become a strong unit. All because of this little girl. She has filled all of our hearts more than we thought possible.
Happy 3 month Birthday little one! Thank you for choosing us to be your family.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Learning to Read, American-style

My daughter brought home a list of "Instant Words" from her Kindergarten teacher yesterday. An unassuming four pages of the 500 most common words in English, ranked in frequency order. You know: "the, of, and, to, in, is, that" and so on. Innocent enough, right?

Not quite. (This may be the right time to mention that I'd just watched the new Michael Moore movie the night before.) I read throught the first 100 words, thinking proudly about how well my Kindergartener can read. Then the word "oil" popped out at me.

Oil: word number 88, among other benign words like "we, your, can, said, day, now, find, make" and such. It sticks out like a sore thumb. I've asked three other people to look at the list and pick out the word that doesn't belong and they all spotted it, too. These first hundred words make up about half of all printed material. But I can't think of one book I've read to my kids that has the word "oil" in it, so think about how frequently it must be printed in newspapers and adults' books. Is this crazy to anyone else?

Let's take a closer look at the rest of the list, shall we?

The word "boy" is number 141, "girl" is way down at 288.

"No" made the top 100, coming in at 77, but you don't find "yes" until the bottom of the fourth page at number 471, four words before "government."

Both "man" (124) and "men" (168) are there, but neither "woman" nor "women" made the top 500 at all.

"Take" (104) comes before "give" (114), but at least these two are close.

Thankfully, though, "tree" (215) comes before "building" (431). "Make" and "made" are both in the top 100, and "buy" isn't on the list. "Scientists" (438) is the only profession on the list, "Indian" (283) is the only nationality, and "English" (402) is the only language.

Public school is a system, it's true, but thankfully parenting isn't. I wish I didn't feel like I have to work against the system to keep my kids' minds outside the box, but I've seen The Wall, and I'm moved by bumper stickers, and sixties protest music is very near and dear to my heart.

Nothing excites me more than the potential of my girls. They were born into a crowded land, and will have to carry forward the legacy of our complicated history. But their reality is brand new, and that brings me the responsibility -- the opportunity -- to help them see what's most important in life. Words that aren't in the top 500, like compassion, respect, understanding, peace, and love.

And (ahem) women.