Monday, March 31, 2008

Pest control advice

Baby D says, "Ladybugs eat aphids."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Yard work

Saturday I seeded the bare spots in the front yard with grass seed. I'm hoping the doves that have been cruising the neighborhood won't get it (the seed smells delicious). Today I gave the flower bed a good soaking, and am pleased to report what looks like some 1.5 or 2-inch dill sprouts coming up, looking like fine grass.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lucky Ducks

Baby D informs us that he is a big boy, and big boys play chess. It's not clear that he's even seen a chess board, but he knows he wants to play. I've tried to play Chutes and Ladders with him, but it's a bit too demanding for him. For his birthday he got a game called Lucky Ducks that features toy duckies going round a pond and quacking. That seems to be right about D's speed, but it still involves a lot of riot control making sure that turns are taken in correct order, and that only one duck is picked up per turn. The kids and I were playing this evening.

Backyard update

I'm pretty sure the doves got all of my dill seed, so I've reseeded that area. The cilantro is starting to get the classic saw-edged leaves, and I noticed one pecan tree is starting to get leaves.

Coin counting progress

C got up early this morning and did eight pages of her Kumon coin counting book by herself. That makes ten pages of independent work on that book between today and yesterday. Her number writing was occasionally sloppy, but all ten pages were mathematically flawless. So far, she's had practice counting pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and half dollars up to one dollar, but she hasn't yet done sets combining different coins.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


A six-inch-long baby snake turned up in the kitchen this morning. My husband swept it into a cereal box, taped the box, and took it for a ride to the country (meaning probably about five minutes away). C was very excited to hear the story when she came home from school. They are currently covering reptiles at school, and C has a long-standing interest in reptiles, amphibians, and bugs.


Baby D is playing with a simple illustrated US map puzzle and has been quizzing me about each piece, occasionally dispensing information. "Florida is hot!" he just said. How does he know that?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nickels and dimes

C was eager tonight to earn some money for her coin counting workbook. I've kept my price structure vague, but I gave her $3 tonight for doing 14 pages of work on nickels and dimes. There were some glitches with the nickels, but the dimes were easy. She's eager to start working with the quarters, which she thinks will be simple.

Greek for tots

As I was putting C to bed just now, I noticed a roll of paper with some writing on it. It turned out to be C's effort at tracing the letters on her Greek alphabet chart. She had traced the upper case letter, the lower case letter, and the name of the letters, not quite finishing theta. Holy cow!

Astronaut versus elephant

Baby D is very fond of our space toys (astronauts, rockets, space shuttle, etc.) right now, just as C was at his age. This morning we were watching an IMAX film on the International Space Station while D was wearing his elephant suit.

Me: Would you like to go to the International Space Station?

D: Not while I'm an elephant.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

No thanks, Amazon

Yesterday I was doing searches on for books on container gardening and indoor gardening generally. Unsurprisingly, that generated several suggestions for books on marijuana cultivation. Does ordering one of those count as probable cause?

Snakes on a plane

Yesterday the kids set up a plane: a row of plastic chairs with an upended Sit n Spin as a steering wheel. The passengers were a couple of stuffed snakes wrapped in blankets and a number of homemade paper snakes.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why we're like anacondas

C popped out of bed just now to announce that anacondas are just like us, since they have live babies rather than laying eggs.

Lemons and limes

After seeing a few references here and there online, I've got a new obsession: I'd like to grow a meyer lemon and a key lime in containers at home. We don't have space or light enough in our rental house, but a suitable space for indoor gardening is now on my wish list of features for our future home. I'd like a glassed-in area for a lemon and a lime tree and some herbs.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Counting coins

C and I did a lot of academic work at home when she was 4, but I've been slacking off ever since she learned to read and started at her new school. We have piles of barely touched workbooks, mainly Kumon. She's beyond some of them by now, but I recently got two Kumon workbooks on counting money. She's done 17 pages over the past two days: tracing and writing numbers up to 100, counting pennies, counting by fives, and some preliminary work with nickels. I have been paying her for her work. It's perhaps not a parenting best practice, but in my defense: 1) Giving her money while studying counting money seems logical and 2) I've stopped routinely buying her coloring books and disposable activities, so if she wants a $10 scratch off book, she needs to buy it herself. I've noticed that C's temper seems a lot sweeter now that we've been working on these projects together (she with her workbook, me on my laptop, occasionally checking her work).

Youthful heresy

C told me today that God is like an egg, consisting of three parts.


My husband tells me that C (who has been raised on videos rather than TV) was convinced that there had been a malfunction when her TV program was suddenly interrupted by an ad.

Dill and more basil

The cilantro is looking very well, but the basil is barely visible. I seeded in some more basil and also planted some dill north of the existing mint bush. I hope we'll be able to start eating the cilantro in just a few weeks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Being an elephant

Baby D decided to wear full elephant regalia for his nap today: ears, trunk, tail, feet, etc.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

D's PJs

I am pleased to report that after a long stretch of insisting on wearing cotton footed jammies 24/7, followed by a long period of insisting on footed jammies for sleeping, Baby D has finally agreed to wear two piece jammies. Yay! The space jammies, car jammies and firetruck jammies he got from us for his birthday seem to have made the switch-over more palatable. Two-piece PJs are essential for independent potty use, so this wasn't just a cosmetic issue.

Monkeys in space?

Baby D (while being put into his space jammies): Monkeys don't go into space.


Apropos of nothing, D went to my bedroom, got a pair of my black socks, and began putting them on my bare feet. He needed help, but my, what a funny kid.

Campus dining

My husband's university has probably the most ambitious cafeterias that I have ever encountered. One of the cafeterias makes tortillas right on site, and our favorite cafeterias has sweet potato french fries and had crayfish for its Mardi Gras dinner. It's dirt cheap for us to go as a family (usually about $8 total at the faculty rate) and we see lots of other non-undergraduates (families, faculty, and maintenance people) when we go to dinner there, which we do just about every night. This is what living under communism was supposed to be like.

Baby D says

Baby D says, "I wish I was a real elephant."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Basil and cilantro

The basil and cilantro in my flower bed is definitely sprouting, and some of my gladioli are about eight inches tall. I don't know if anything else that I planted is coming up, but the ant colony near the gladioli is HUGE. We're getting to the time of year in Texas when the whole outdoors belongs to the bugs--huge American cockroaches, crickets, cicadas, mosquitoes, etc.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Heaven vs. McDonald's

The following exchange took place this afternoon in the car.

C (age 5.5): I see a sign that says "Do you wanna go to heaven?"

D (just turned 3): I wanna go to McDonald's!

We were on the way to McDonald's after a combined trip to the park and to confession. Only after ordering did I notice that the outdoor playground had been blitzed by birds, so the kids didn't get to play there. Make of this what you will.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Baby D got an offbeat gift from his Canadian grandparents in the mail today. It's called the EyeClops. It magnifies 200x and projects the image onto the TV screen. I was originally skeptical, since we got a hand-me-down microscope and new slides for C just this past summer. However, the EyeClops is different, since the objects you are looking at don't need to be on slides, and the projected image is so huge and can be seen by multiple users at the same time. We looked at carpet fibers, hair, skin, the leather sofa, tights, and fabric. They also include an accessory that allows you to view live bugs.


D turned 3 a few days ago. Among other things, we got him a Ratatouille DVD. For some reason Remy the rat from Ratatouille hasn't been the same sort of merchandising goldmine that Lightning McQueen from Cars is. As a relative pointed out when I mentioned this, you don't really want to tuck your toddler into bed with a stuffed rat.

Chess lessons

My husband is teaching C chess with the set he just got (along with checkers and Chinese checkers). C had been playing checkers at school, so it seemed time to get some board games beyond Chutes and Ladders. It's funny to think that she's old enough for this.

Star Wars math

My dad has been helping my nephew (his oldest grandson) with his second grade math. My dad's method so far is to put in a Star Wars video, write up a sheet of addition problems, and turn off the video. Once my nephew finishes the problems (and he's apparently very fast), the video gets turned back on.

Garden update

I'm finally seeing some signs of life in the flower bed. It's now unmistakable that the row of red and green spikes coming up must be my gladioli. Yay! I am less pleased to see signs of a large ant colony in the same area. Hopefully it isn't fire ants.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back from Iowa

I'm back from a quick trip to Iowa (Thanks X!) visiting an expectant old friend and her husband. We saw Spiderwick Chronicles, Hot Fuzz, manhandled strollers at Target and went to a vigil mass at a beautiful gilded German country church. I slept many hours, got half-way through Trollope's Barchester Towers, went to my very first Episcopal service, admired X and M's renovations of their hundred-year old house, annoyed X's cat, and bought four blue and white Delft tiles (two floral, one fruit basket, one 19th century sailing ship) to serve as trivets. The Dutch tiles join a medium-sized collection of blue and white Russian Gzhel': tea cups, saucers, an angel, a tea pot, a fruit bowl, etc. I've also got a mostly blue and white Polish earthenware tea set from my parents, which has been hanging out with the Gzhel'. We are years away from having a house of our own, but I've been thinking that all these blue and white ceramics will probably have a thing or two to say about our eventual kitchen. I'm not sure which way to go with cabinets (I bounce back and forth between white and maple), but I'm pretty sure that I want a lot of sunny yellow paint in our future house, and that the right shade of yellow paint would be spectacular with blue and white china. I'm also thinking that I'll want some sort of sunny indoor space for herb cultivation during the winter.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Being a zebra

Baby D: I'm a zebra. Zebras don't say, "I'm a zebra."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Easter preparations

C (age 5) came home from her CCD (religious education) class tonight with an ingenious Passion-in-an-egg-carton set. The carton had 12 numbered plastic Easter eggs, each with an artifact of the Passion: spices, thorns, nails, white cloth, red cloth, a sponge, a rock, etc., plus a small booklet giving an explanation and a Douay-Rheims verse for each. We duly sat down with C, distributed the eggs, and then the three of us read through the booklet in turn. The material had obviously stuck to C from class. I don't know how to categorize the teaching method, and I'm not sure you can. On the one hand, it's very Catholicky and traditional in feel. On the other hand, it's multi-sensory and hands-on (which would put it in the progressive pedagogical tradition), but effectively so--it's not activity just for activity's sake.

We obviously owe Mrs. M (a mother of 9) a big token of appreciation at the end of the year.

The Wire

Some people seem to be under the impression that The Wire is a documentary.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Seen around town adult male with a shaved head and a cigar, running a gas-powered remote-controlled car down a residential street. As I always say, it's never too late to have a happy childhood.

Too much Dr. Seuss?

Baby D: I am a green stripy kitty. Kitties are green.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Seen at the cafeteria

...a male Asian student wearing a "How to fish like a redneck" t-shirt, featuring a pictorial guide to dynamite fishing.

Is it better to be a baby or a big kid?

I asked D if it was better to be a baby or a big kid. D thinks that it's better to be a baby. Asked why, he explained, "because I wear diapers."

Circle of life

D's biggest interest lately is what animals eat. Throughout the day, he quizzes us on what different animals eat: zebras, lions, dinosaurs, dragons, crocodiles, cats, snakes, etc. He seems particularly pleased that some of them eat people.

Pew talk

C (age 5.5): I'm hungry!

D (age 2.9999): After church.

This was moments after D and I had a similar conversation. Earlier, he asked quietly (but insistently) to be taken to the church cry room, which in his world is pretty much the equivalent of a night on the town, given the opportunity to swap little cars and beg treats from accomodating mommies. He begged a purseful of peanut butter cookies from one particular mommy (although in our defense, her little girl was having a very good time with our toys).

More gardening

Yesterday I planted some cilantro seeds, some basil seeds, two packs of lavender seeds, an "old-fashioned" flower mix and columbine. I still have some dill seed and the "giant Russian sunflowers" in reserve. The basil is supposed to be really idiot-proof, which I appreciate as a novice gardener. I haven't seen any signs of life from the stuff I planted earlier, although it's more than possible that I overzealously pulled up at least one gladiolus. I've made a map of my plantings and I've used up about 2/3 of the available sunny part of the bed. The shady side of the bed barely grows weeds, so I'm holding back on planting much there.