Monday, August 15, 2011

Sidewalk chalk in a plastic tub is good enough for me. However...

Isabel and James have discovered the marvel that is sidewalk chalk. (I saw an article about how to make sidewalk chalk (can't find the original, but here's one) and am afraid I reacted the same way I did when I heard about how to make marshmallows, that is, "Um, ready-made is good enough for me.")

James wears his blue chalk down to the nub making patches of intense short strokes, and huge, whole arm circles. Isabel scribbles and makes different sized circles and asks me write the names of everyone in the family as well as their alternate names (she's been fascinated that Mama and Daddy are also called Rachel and Marco). Then she wants a story. So, I draw a story about two rabbits who have a nice cozy dome-shaped house with a vegetable garden who like to go on boat trips down the river to the ocean, where they put up their sail and visit an island where the bunnies unpack their picnic lunch and then come back. The next episode involved bunnies in space. I kind of like sidewalk chalk too. I am a little tempted to make sidewalk paint, because the chalk makes my fingers feel so dry and shriveled, and because the paint looks pretty wonderful. And I have all the ingredients. Okay. I'm sold.

Knock-knock joke payback

We've got a homemade puppet theatre set up in the living room. We're getting a lot of knock-knock jokes. (Mostly courtesy of the special feature on one of Signing Time's downloads, starring Lucy and Zack. The DVD is here.

Isabel's making up a lot of her own jokes, and laughing hysterically at them, and even James tells them. He does the rhythm and the tone just right, just--no words! I'll have to try to capture this on tape. :)

In case Mom and Dad are keeping track of the Curse of the Parent--"may your kids do to you what you did to me", I'm definitely getting payback for all my knock-knock jokes of yesteryear. (In case you didn't have the lucky experience of listening to these marvels of preschool humor, the punchline was always, inevitably, "a bottle-nose dolphin!")

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Yet more evidence that my mind begins to fail every night at about 9pm

I have a lesson from the trenches. Don't start sewing a child's dress at 8:30pm. Because, by 10:30 you're thinking, "I could finish the armholes tonight before I go to bed, just another half hour...", and then at 1:40 in the morning you're still looking up "finish armholes whipstitch" because WOW did that go badly. Maybe sewing better be an "Isabel woke me at five am yelling about a bunny before she drifted off again and now I can't get back to sleep thing" rather than a "kids and Marco are all in bed. I know, I'll start a late night project that involves lots of manual dexterity and a high frustration tolerance!" thing.

I'm not a night owl, can you tell? Or maybe I'm a night owl that tends to smack into trees.

Any advice is welcomed on whipstitching armholes without bias tape for a dress for a three year old . I can handle a couple of inches and then I get a creeping feeling that my head has completely compressed my neck and is fusing directly with my collarbone. Also that I need a chocolate croissant and a large glass of milk.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

James Matta, chicken behaviorist

I read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project a while ago, and she mentioned the idea that what we liked to do when we were nine or ten years old is probably a good indicator of what we truly like to do. This made me laugh, as all I could remember at first was how interested I was in primatology. This is me, as Jane Goodall, in our class wax museum. That's Sarah Henderson behind me, as Cleopatra. You don't mind, do you Sar? :) This may explain why I pause every time I see an opening at the nearby Gorilla Foundation.

So, James has always been extraordinarily interested in animals. His signing, for example, didn't take off until we started teaching him the signs for all the different animals. (Who cares about, "more", "eat", or "drink"?) It was fun to see him today at Hidden Villa. He just squatted next to the chicken coop, and watched. And watched. We watched those chickens for about twenty minutes, almost without moving. Thinking I had finally convinced him to move on to the pigs (the same piglets we saw, I believe, on an earlier visit), I led the way with Isabel only to see James immediately drop behind to squat, yet again, next to the chickens looking for bugs to eat over by the manure pile. So gently he observed them, signing and quietly approaching, fingers outstretched but never touching, cocking his head and looking. Next time we'll have to harvest a miner's lettuce leaf or two to give them--Isabel was so anxious to give them one like all the school groups were doing. I especially love that the kids look so ecstatic and enthralled throughout, but when you ask them whether they like the farm they say "no". Somehow they always interpret that question to mean whether they would like to get out of the car and revisit it immediately.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

James, Isabel, and the inevitable number six

James has learned to move the mouse where he wants it to go, and to keep it still while he clicks the left button. I'm looking forward to showing more of what he's learned later. We get kind of mesmerized watching him. For now, though, here's James on the number six page of the "x" section on For those of you who know anything about James' sister Isabel (author of such luminous phrases as "cute little baby six" and giver of birthday presents containing a small school bus, a large bus, and, you guessed it, a foam number six "Happy birthday, Mama!"), you'll have guessed that she's the impetus for repeating this particular page multiple times. If you listen closely you can hear James making some distinctions in the vowels here. Unfortunately, by the time I took the video, we had entered the Great Number Confusion, so you won't see him sign "six". Isabel, for a few days, was convinced that six, seven, eight, and nine went the opposite way from the way they really do in ASL, and James is now imitating her instead of us, as you can see in the middle of the video, where  you can see him practice 9, 8, 7, 6 instead of 6, 7, 8, 9 while he waits for the page to load.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Scrabble tray concert

Going into James' room to transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer, I heard James humming tunefully with a Scrabble tray in his mouth, moving his fingers as if the tray were a recorder. I got a turn and played "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and then gave it back to James, and requested "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". By this time Isabel had come in, and James hummed and vocalized to the song, and at the end you could hear the "E-I-E-I-O"! Isabel played "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" and we took turns after that. A couple of the cutest were "Gonna take a walk outside today", that Isabel played (from Milo and Otis), and James' "I Am a Pizza". He sang all the verses, you could tell, and at the end he very sadly and dramatically hummed the last part--"I was a pizza, now I'm a MESS!"

Isabel has identified with Otis. Now instead of quoting the lines word for word, she replaces "Otis" with "Isabel". I've also found out what the kids think I mean when I say "Take a bow!" Can you figure it out? Isabel ran from the room, shrieking "Yay!" and James stood still, emphatically nodding and saying "YES". Luckily for me, he signed what he thought I'd said, and then I knew where Isabel had run to.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Isabel minces garlic at eight in the morning

It was a bit too quiet this morning while I was checking my email. This is why:

I guess I must be mincing a lot of garlic lately. And no, before you ask, I don't do it with scissors. Though maybe I should consider it.