Monday, June 23, 2008

Mars probe

The kids are both currently fixated on Spirit, the NASA Mars probe.

Magnetic letters

This morning, C spelled out "EIEPHANT" in magnetic letters for D. "NET" followed. C and I alternated producing words for D to sound out: TEN, TAN, PAN, HEN, etc.. He was able to produce the correct sound for each letter individually, but when asked to combine the sounds into a word, he said "NET" every time.

It's OK. There was a time earlier this spring when it looked like he was going to read before learning to use the potty, and I definitely prefer that he master the potty first.

Blog pause

I'm going to be taking a blog hiatus for a bit, but I'll eventually be back.

No teeth

C's dangling tooth is gone and she now has a huge gap where two widely-spaced front teeth used to be. D is increasingly independent with his pottying. Interestingly, he actively resists incentives. He has rejected the idea of getting stickers or being taken to Starbucks for potty success, and keeps using the potty, apparently out of a disenterested sense of accomplishment and a desire to be a "big boy," just like those mythical children in potty training guides. This is very interesting (and delightfully economical), since C's potty training was protracted and involved a king's ransom in invisible ink activity books and scrach-and-sketch books.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Train engine

My husband had a marathon night of repairs last night with some excellent epoxy glue he picked up at WalMart. Among the repaired items is a large battery-operated train engine. The kids decided amongst themselves that it should go to C. D told her to take it to her room, but told her that she would need to clean up her bedroom before playing with the train. He also cautioned her about not exhausting the batteries. (D is 3.)

The kids are now closeted in C's room. C asked me for her old pink Pooh blanket and disappeared into her room, closing the door shyly but pointedly behind her. I briefly had a glimpse of a basket, the sparkly red dragon, and the pink doll sleeper as the door closed.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Have I gone too far?

Tidying up this evening, I came upon some pages I had ripped out of my favorite home magazines. Dwell is on a big sustainability push, and I'd ripped out a page devoted to explaining how geothermal systems work, as well as a page devoted to high-end composting toilets. Is this a bridge too far?

We also got our very first copy of the Room & Board catalogue in the mail this week. The furniture looks great and very solid and I would happily buy stuff from them. We've been IKEA people for years, and I'd like to move on up when we buy our first home, but the thought of paying top dollar for particle board, laminate, and microscopic veneers offends me. I'd also priced furniture at Homestead Heritage and found their stuff appealing, but out of our range. So it's nice to see that there is a middle road between IKEA and custom furniture made with 19th century tools. (By the way, I see that both architecture and modern furniture are items on the infamous "Stuff White People Like" list over at Fair enough.)

D on track

D is continuing to be very independent and proactive about his potty-going. This is very exciting.

C has a big gap between her teeth, and yet another tooth is dangling by a thread. She looks like a junior wicked witch.


Yesterday was my birthday. I baked brownies and we had them hot with java chip ice cream and chocolate syrup drizzled on top. It was very elegant. C's sixth birthday is coming up in about a month, and my current thinking is to keep it small and do a tea party theme.

Three dragons

Yesterday, C assembled her big new stuffed red dragon, her old green plastic dragon, and the identical red plastic dragon (the latter two came as a painting kit that she earned as a prize long ago). The big red dragon is Smaug (that's the dragon from The Hobbit), one of the smaller dragons is Smoky, and after some deliberation, she decided to name the third one Smog (pronounced "smoke"--that's Polish for dragon, as she explained). Her actual play with the dragons was fairly domestic. She dressed the big one in a pink doll sleeper, put them all under blankets in a basket, and then aged them to 5, at which point they no longer had to wear baby clothes. Eventually the dragons were mounted on the large, flat wheeled Lego vehicles that the kids call "tanks." There was a kerfuffle this morning when Baby D indignantly rejected C's partition of his room, half for the dragons, half for him.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sparkly red dragon

C earned the sparkly red and gold stuffed dragon today!

Juno--somewhat spoilerish

My husband and I finally saw Juno a few days ago. I liked it a lot, and understood exactly why Barbara Nicolosi talked about that Juno seeming to exist outside the movie, how by the end of the movie, it's like she's an old friend. I also understand the critics who complained about the excessive quirkiness of the heroine and the fuzziness about why exactly she decides to have the baby, but I'd point out that Juno's quirkiness and the self-conscious stiffness of the dialogue fade out noticeably by the middle of the film, around the time that Juno is getting to know her baby's prospective parents. While Juno is rising to the occasion and growing up fast to deal with her pregnancy, Mark (the prospective adoptive father) is moving in the opposite direction--he reacts to Juno and impending parenthood by trying to seize the day and relive his lost youth. Not knowing which way he's going to go ultimately, the ending is very suspenseful. Will he make a play for Juno, or will he take his affection for Juno and the sense of kinship he feels toward her and use it to be a better father to her baby? Or will something else entirely different happen? There's no sense of inevitability.

There are a couple of moments toward the end where exterior reality intrudes, at least for me. Within the movie, Juno does a closed adoption and Bleeker (the biological father) doesn't even look at the baby, and everybody lives happily ever after. There's something a little bit wrong about the way the filmmakers handle that--it's all a little bit too easy. My problem with it is that despite being very young, Bleeker and Juno are obviously a match made in heaven and they seem to have a beautiful future together. If their relationship continues happily into adulthood, won't there come a time when they'll regret the closed adoption and the fact that their first child is growing up in another home? On the whole, I would have preferred to see Juno's dad and stepmom bring up Juno's baby.

Holy cards

C was unsuccessful today in her bid to get D to hand over a holy card with D's patron saint that D got from his godmother. C told him that it would be so much nicer if the card were together with other holy cards, for instance in her holy card album. D was not persuaded. Later, I saw him trying to tape it up on his closet door, together with the sparkly yellow picture and a sunset postcard. He seems to reserve that area for items that he wants to dream about.

We visit Africa

Yesterday was the kick-off for the local children's museum round-the-world summer program. Yesterday's focus was Africa. C and D and I arrived just after opening, the kids were issued passports and got a visa stamp. We spent basically all day at the museum. C colored a postcard with the South African flag, D made a bead bracelet, we saw a documentary on the underwater excavation of the remains of the great lighthouse at Alexandria, we looked at spears, did a vast Melissa and Doug watering hole puzzle, read a children's story about the invention of kente cloth, listened to a story-teller tell African folktales, watched a troupe of dancers from Mali perform, and then saw a documentary on the treasures of King Tut's tomb. I've just discovered Morocco and would have liked to see something on that country, but you can't have everything. Despite deafening drumming, D (who had missed his nap) fell asleep during the dance performance and slept through King Tut's treasures. C noticed a school friend in the crowd and sat with her through most of the dancing, while not shuttling back and forth to share information with me (They're going to King Tut, too!). It was gratifying to see the two little girls enjoying the show and each other's company. The two family parties sat together during the Tut documentary. At the end of it, when the credits stated that the documentary was available on DVD, C's chum said very feelingly, "I'd like the DVD!" "Me too!" said C with equal feeling. (And that sort of peer group, my friends, is why we pay the big bucks for private school.) D woke up after King Tut and howled non-stop at the prospect of either riding in the stroller or walking. He wanted to be carried all the way home, which was unfortunately 35 minutes away. There are many more of these events scheduled for the summer, and I think that Baby D should probably just go to the morning events, and then go home for his nap in the afternoon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why we send the kids to preschool

Baby D has successfully used the potty three times today when I've been around, and I haven't seen much of him today, since this is a school day. He always seems especially inspired on his preschool days.

Lawn care

Me: I'm going to have to learn to edge the lawn.

Husband: It's all going back to the nebula, anyway.

Learner's permit

Last night I did the mommy equivalent of an all-nighter (two hours after bedtime) studying my Texas driving handbook. I queried my husband on the murkier passages and searched the book for answers to the 84 questions at the back. This morning, I went to the Driver's License office, took the test, scored 95%, and got my very first learner's permit. After we picked up Baby D from preschool, I went to the local driving school and signed up for their typical package, which is 4 90-minute driving sessions. The last session includes the road test. I asked the lady who was signing me up what their pass-rate is, and she said 95%. What about the other 5%, I asked. Anyone who wants to drive can pass, she said. This didn't help much. What if, deep down in my heart, I don't want to drive? More comfortingly, my husband had a similar conversation with his driving instructor when he was going through the process. His instructor's answer was that his only failure had been someone from a former British colony, who kept driving on the left side of the road. They recommend doing four days of instruction in a row, and it looks the teacher I want won't be available until the end of June.

Mah jong

C was playing kiddie electronic mah jong yesterday. It looks like this is the summer she discovers electronic games.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I had been more or less reconciled to moving in spring 2010, but it seems there is some probability that we will have to move in spring 2009. Our lease is up at the end of the month and the landlord is putting us on a month-to-month basis from here on out.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Today's high

The temperature has finally started to go down, and our high for today was 97 degrees Fahrenheit. That's the highest so far this year in our backyard.

D's art skills

Baby D is getting very handy with a pair of scissors and our Do-a-Dot paint dotters.


This morning, I opened up the dishwasher and was very surprised to see a small, energetic gecko running around inside. It eventually escaped under the dishwasher--there seems to be a large, well-developed eco-system under the dishwasher and under and behind the cabinetry.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


C is sick today, but she is enjoying solitaire.

D on the road to reading

This evening at bedtime, D asked to sound out words. We gave him a mixture of old friends (MOO, DAD, MOM, etc.) and new words (PIG, BIG, etc.) on the Magnadoodle.

D has lately wanted to control his dream-life. Of late, he has stated his desire to dream about his LEGO house at night, and tonight he taped up a piece of monochromatic, sparkly yellow artwork in his room because he wanted to dream about it.

Demolition Day

C remarked brightly that the nice thing about our house getting "smooshed" is that on the day before, we won't need to worry about housecleaning.

Negative numbers

C thinks that Sesame Street should make a move about negative numbers.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Felt jewelry

I promised C that we would use her felt jewelry kit if she cleaned up the living room this evening, and she did, so I pulled out the kit. She rolled the neon strips of felt into jelly rolls and dictated color and bead choices, and I did the sewing and nearly all the pinning for the bracelet we made. She got the kit as a present a long time ago, but I had been daunted by the fact that it involves a combination of children, needles and sharp pins. She had done several items with a babysitter back in DC, but this was my first try. Naturally, at the end of it, I lost my needle and started a wild goose chase for it. It turned up eventually. We still have lots of felt.

Potty progress

Baby D used the potty three times today outside school hours.

The Amazing Jane Austen Diet

This spring, I listened to Trollope's The Warden and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion on the treadmill (courtesy of the volunteer readers of Librivox). I'm now about halfway through Mansfield Park, and listened to 1.75 miles of it today. Thanks to the Jane Austen Diet, I've lost 15 pounds since the beginning of February. It's not a dramatic loss and I don't think I can see the difference in the mirror, but it's real, and I've still got 2.5 Jane Austen books to go.

Another tooth gone

C lost another tooth! I gave her the usual $2, and now she only needs $6 more to buy the beautiful red and gold stuffed dragon.

First day of preschool

Tuesday was D's first day of preschool, and today is his second. We all went to the school his first day and I walked him to his class. He wasn't super excited, but he didn't show anxiety or clinginess. It was so quiet at home and I didn't quite know what to do with myself beyond taking a nap. On the ride to pick him up, C suggested that we not put D in preschool next summer. When I picked D up, he was busy coloring. Tuesdays's activities apparently included painting and sand play. Most delightfully, after school on Tuesday he asked twice for the potty when we were away from home and both times was successful. Yay, Baby D!

This morning, my alarm was set for 7:30 and it was plenty of time. I picked out a t-shirt and shorts for D and he put them on. C slept in until after he was gone and after breakfast she informed me that she was sad and bored, although she perked up after I presented her with some aluminum foil, some tissue paper, and a couple of paper towel rolls.

And now, the dread paperwork!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Narrow Blue-Banded Swallowtail

C is working on her African Plains coloring book from Dover. She wants to make sure that she is using the right colors, so she has been having me google images of different plants and animals. The last one was the "narrow blue-banded swallowtail" butterfly.

Big Blue House

C and I love the house from Bear in the Big Blue House. I think I'd tone the palette down slightly before creating a real-life reproduction, though.


C: Brie is a really tasty cheese!

Sunday, June 8, 2008


After church and lunch, we all drove out through the country to the local wetlands. On the way, there were cows, horses, fields of tall corn, and a spectacular number of sunflowers in bloom. It wasn't entirely clear to me whether they were wild or cultivated. The local sunflower is bushy with several small heads.

At the wetland, we saw a striped lizard, many white egrets, some water critters C identified as whirlygig beetles, and a huge grape vine. We didn't see any live crawfish, but near the water, there were many scattered pieces of crawfish shell, evidently left by birds.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hook's ship

C has repurposed her Playmobil Noah's Ark to serve as Captain Hook's ship.

C at the cafeteria

After dinner at the cafeteria, C successfully carried a tray about fifty yards to the conveyor belt. Yay, C!


At D's bedtime, C read him a couple of space books and a chunk of a Bible storybook. I sent her off and read the now traditional David and Goliath boardbook.


C: I asked D if he wanted to sleep with his panda or let me have it, and he said that I could have it.

I sometimes think C has a very promising legal career ahead of her.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I've been a bit turned off by the whole idea of prizes for reading, since it seems like the sort of situation where reinforcing a behavior could accidentally wind up extinguishing it. (I believe there was a study where children actually stopped producing drawings after they were rewarded for drawing.) I'm open to the use of material incentives, but only for tasks that are repellent or difficult (potty-training, etc.) or that a child has a mental block about. C's mercenary attitude toward summer reading programs has not made me friendly to the use of prizes for pleasure reading for kids.

So I was very pleased to learn about my husband's successful bargain with C. They decided this evening that C would read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and her reward would be the book itself, which will move from the family book collection to her very own bookcase. C finished the first chapter and started the second chapter this evening. I think there's a good chance she'll zip through it, but I'm afraid that she may stall while slogging through Prince Caspain. If so, I will encourage her to skip it and move on to Voyage of the Dawn Treader.


Today D was playing with magnetic letters with real interest and wanting to spell out words. One of his efforts was frP. He wanted to spell out "parrot," and so he did, setting aside the fact that he wrote it right-to-left, omitted the vowels, and thought that "f" was a "t."

Timber! II

By the time I walked over to the gym last night, there were two vans of maintenance guys on the job. By 8:45 or so this morning, there was a guy out with a chainsaw on a pole (!) taking down the hanging tree trunk, and by 9:05 there was no sign of last night's incident on our side of the fence except for the gaping hole. Yay for large, well-equipped landlords! If we were Bob and Suzie Homeowner and had to deal with this with our own resources, I'm sure it would have dragged on for a week, not to mention obliterating our savings.

My husband and I agree that at our future home, we're going to want to limit the number of pecan trees we have. They seem really brittle. I don't think I've seen nearly so many large broken limbs under live oak trees, which have an appealing Middle Earth look.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I looked out my kitchen window after dinner tonight and discovered that a 15-20 section of tree trunk had snapped off one of the trees in our backyard and crashed through the back fence for no apparent reason. My thoughts on this are:
  • We're renters. We don't have to pay for this. Yay!
  • I realize that trees cut down cooling costs, but at times like this, trees seem overrated.
  • If we buy in a neighborhood with mature trees, we will need an arborist on speed dial.
  • If we buy in a neighborhood with mature trees, we're going to need at least a modest chain saw.

Flower Fairies II

Finding the flower fairy illustrations too difficult to copy, C switched to scratching off the black coating to reveal the shiny undersurface--on every page. Too bad.

Overheard in cafeteria

Male summer program participant: ...take your wounded to the ladies' room.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Flower Fairies

After much drama, C finally saved $10 and bought the Flower Fairy Scratch and Sketch from my store. I don't expect to see or hear her for at least an hour. C got her $10 through a combination of room tidying, trash container hauling, and math work. The breakthrough that I'd like C to make (and I hope she's at least part-way there) is that she can earn money, she can save, and she can buy large items herself.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Venomous snakes

This morning we had a sitter again and my husband and I were working on his office, which doubles as the family library. It's tidier and one door now displays his "Venomous Snakes of Texas" poster.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tamale fixin's

One cafeteria is open now, so we went there for dinner tonight. I overheard a bit of conversation between two guys. One was explaining that you don't eat the corn husk covering of the tamales.

Later, in the grocery store, I noticed a brand of corn husks for tamales called "Tamale Fixin's."


"Be a sockeye salmon!" C ordered D.

They had been watching a nature video about grizzly bears earlier today.


I just got back from spending $216 at the grocery store, my current record for an HEB. The checker said, "I don't want to see you back for another two weeks." I wish.

Garage clean!

We had a babysitter for three hours this morning, and my husband and I managed to clean and organize the garage and hose down a bunch of patio items. Yay!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

C learns about unknowns

After their little talk about the commutative property, my husband showed C "a + 7 = 10." C knew that a must be 3.

Commutative law

My husband just told me that C knows that 3 times 4 is the same as 4 times 3. Furthermore, she told him that she knows they are the same, since both equal six times two.

As I was stepping away, I heard him telling her, "Come, let's talk about the commutative law."