Archive for October, 2009

Jack-O-Lanterns

We carved pumpkins this week.  Zachary had been begging for weeks to carve pumpkins.  Both boys were excited to carve a pumpkin and put a candle in it.  Then Paul brought three pumpkins home a week ago.  The pumpkins have been sitting, waiting, asking to be carved ever since.

Finally the day came for the carving.  We covered the table with a vinyl cloth.  The boys excitedly watched and paced and jumped and spun around while we gathered the supplies.  Chloe came in the room, took one look at the pumpkins, and said, “No way,” and went back to playing.

P1010063Zachary accompanied Dad to the knife drawer and started grabbing the long, serrated, sword-like knives, claiming them as his own.  But Dad said, “NO!” and directed Zach to the smaller, red-handled, not-even-close-to-looking-like-swords knives.  While Zach tried over and over to claim himself a kitchen sword for the deed, Dad insisted that it was the small knife or no knife.  Period.  So Zach chose a boring little knife and went and sat at the table, disappointed already.

Paul cut the tops of the pumpkins off (too small, we realized later), and I literally watched the excitement drop lower and lower in the room.  It was odd.

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The next step:  digging out the goo.  This step was not an enjoyable one.  Both boys were grossed out and unexcited.  Again, carving pumpkins fell lower on the excitement scale.  We knew we’d better get the fun knife part started quickly or we would completely lose the boys.

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Zachary gave his pumpkin a couple of good stabs, bringing back some of his joy.  But when he heard the advice to draw the face he wanted to carve, his excitement fell again.  He asked Dad to draw some triangle eyes and a triangle nose.  “No mouth.”

Elliot regained some excitement while he drew two different faces on opposite sides of his pumpkin — one mad and one happy.

And now . . . for the knife part of the activity . . . finally!

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It was harder to carve the pumpkins than anyone had been expecting.  It was frustrating and difficult.  Zippy carved his pumpkin for 20 seconds before tossing his little weenie knife and telling Dad to finish it.  Elliot carved one eye and then asked me to finish his.

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So Paul and I carved pumpkins at the kitchen table while the boys played outside with friends.

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Not quite the family experience I had pictured . . . .  but the Jack-O-Lanterns turned out cute!  And Elliot talked again about putting a candle in them on Halloween night.

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The next day when I picked the boys up from school, the first word from Elliot was a report from the school nurse.  Seems that the nurse had joined in on the morning announcements and had a special caution about pumpkin carving:  NEVER use a kitchen knife to carve pumpkins and NEVER put a candle in a pumpkin.  “She said not to do exactly what we did and were going to do!  Isn’t that funny??” Elliot asked.

Ugh.  Not very funny.  But then, maybe a little bit funny.

Persistence and Patience

Chloe is a Never Give Up kind of kid in many ways!  Here’s an old journal entry showing one way she doesn’t give up.  She doesn’t give up on Mom!  This entry is dated September 11, 2005.

“My mom can’t ‘hear’ me.”  I think these are Chloe’s thoughts sometimes.  She must think it is truly a physical disability or limitation, for she never seems frustrated or impatient about it.  She is full of grace and patience for me.

Since 3 and a half-year-old Chloe is nonverbal, she depends on sign language as her primary form of communication.  She knows and uses more than 60 signs.  I usually have no trouble interpreting her gestures.  However, there were two times when I’m sure Chloe had decided that her mom had a disability or that her mom just wasn’t getting it.

For several weeks every time we visited my mom’s house, Chloe would energetically sign “turtle” (one hand cupped over her other hand like the shell over the turtle) for the first several minutes of our visit.  Now and then I wondered if she was trying to sign “clock” instead (tapping the pointer finger of one hand on the opposite wrist where her watch would be).  But neither of these signs made much sense to me in the context of arriving at my mom’s house.

She fairly quickly managed to let us know that she was talking about a video.  But after scouring my mom’s video cabinet, I found no videos about turtles or clocks.

Each time when we arrived at my mom’s house, both my mom and I would acknowledge Chloe’s signing.  “Turtle?  Okay, let’s watch a video, Chloe,”  we would say, shrugging our shoulders to each other.

Then Chloe started signing “turtle” at home in reference to our TV and at therapy in reference to their TV.  I acknowledged, “Turtle,” each time.

One day at home when Chloe signed “turtle” in our hallway it finally struck me —  “Watch!!”  She was signing “watch.”  Not “turtle”, not “clock,” but “watch.”  The verb!  She wanted to “watch” a video!

I’m sure she was relieved that Mom finally figured it out.  How much plainer could it have been?

Another similar story happened every time I put Chloe in her car seat.  She would look me in the eyes and put her little fists to her eyes.  That’s the hand motion she would do to “Wheels on the Bus” during the verse about the babies.  “The babies on the bus go wah, wah, wah . . . .”  I thought it was random and interesting that she wanted to sing that song every time she got in the car.  And it was strange for her to start on that verse.  At other times she always started at the beginning of the song.

As with the turtle/watch sign, every time she signed, “The babies on the bus go wah, wah, wah,” I repeated it, acknowledged it, or sang it, all the while a little confused by it.  I would buckle her up and then put Mr. Owl in her lap so she could play while we drove.  She loved Mr. Owl since he sings the ABC song when you press his arm.

This “babies on the bus” thing continued for two or three weeks.  At times as I buckled her in, she would sign “A” which she does when she wants to talk about letters or sing the ABCs.  But mostly she would sign, “The babies on the bus.”  What a mystery!

Well, bless her little persistent heart.  I finally realized one day that she never meant to sign, “Babies on the bus,” when we were getting in the car.  She was signing, “Owl” — “Mr. Owl!”  Mr. Owl, the toy I put in her lap every time I buckled her up.  There was nothing random or mysterious.  It was just a simple request for Mr. Owl.  And sometimes attempting to help me understand, she signed, “A” since Mr. Owl sings the ABC song.

Who had taught her to sign “Owl?”  Me.  In what context had I taught her the sign?  Mr. Owl.  Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

I hear just fine.  I’m not sure Chloe believes it.  But she sure is patient with me.  She didn’t give up on me after signing “watch” twenty times.  She didn’t lose heart after signing “owl” a hundred times.  In fact, she tried to reach me another way a hundred more times.

Is there a lesson there for me?  Ya think?

Although Chloe’s facial muscles don’t allow her face to turn up into much of a smile, I’m pretty sure she was beaming a great big smile at Mom for finally getting it.  Nothing against turtles, clocks, or babies on buses, but Chloe just wanted to watch a video and play with Mr. Owl!

Chloe and I have had similar situations several times since then!  She continues to be patient with me, and she continues to try other ways to explain to me what it is she’s saying.  I think her trying other ways to reach me is a smart thing for her to do, but I also think it’s a kind, loving thing to do.  She has hope and faith and confidence in me that I’ll eventually get it.

A lesson there for me?  For us?  I think so!

A Teacher?

The other day while waiting for Zach’s football practice to end (you know, the one in the “gym?”), I was sitting in the hallway with a fellow mom and her nearly 3-year-old little boy.  He was pretty nonverbal, but that, of course, did not stop me from having a conversation with him.  He was a cutie!

At some point, the mom asked me, “Are you a teacher?”

It seemed like the most random question in the world to me.  It surprised me, and I told her, “Why, yes!  I used to be a teacher!”

As I looked at her questioningly, Elliot asked the question, “How did you know?  Why did you want to know if she was a teacher?”

She replied, “I could tell by how she is talking to my son.  You can just tell.”

Interesting.  She knew I was a teacher because of the type of conversation I was having with her son.

Years ago, a friend pointed out the same sort of conversation to me.  She explained that there are 2 different ways parents talk to their children — one way educates the child with simple conversation; the other does not educate.  She described the difference to me:  a toddler runs and picks up a ball to play with.  Maybe he even calls it “ball.”  The un-educating response would be to say nothing or maybe quickly acknowledging that yes, it’s a ball.  However, according to my friend, a teaching response would go something like, “Yes, that’s a red ball.  It is a soft, red ball.  Balls are fun to bounce and kick.  Do you like to play with balls?”

Hmmmm.  That makes sense.

I read a related post in a blog today about an eggplant.  Here it is:

When Phyllis Hunter, former director of reading for Houston’s public schools, talks about the importance of parents to their children’s education, she begins with a tale of three mothers and an eggplant in a supermarket.

The first mother wheels her shopping cart down the produce aisle, where her Kindergartner spots an eggplant and asks what it is. The mother shushes
her child, ignoring the question.

A second mother, faced with the same question, responds curtly, “Oh, that’s an eggplant, but we don’t eat it.”

The third mother coos, “Oh, that’s an eggplant. It’s one of the few purple vegetables.” She picks it up, hands it to her son, and encourages him
to put it on the scale. “Oh, look, it’s about two pounds!” she says. “And it’s $1.99 a pound, so that would cost just about $4. That’s a bit pricey,
but you like veal parmesan, and eggplant parmesan is delicious too. You’ll love it. Let’s buy one, take it home, cut it open. We’ll make a dish together.”

Hunter’s parable makes clear why an attentive, engaged parent is one of life’s greatest academic advantages.

So, the question:  What kind of talker are you?  Do you educate your children with simple conversation?  Do you engage them and add to their thoughts?  Do you give them little nuggets of information during conversation?  If you do, then you are a teacher!

Go on, now.  TEACH!

Field Trip

I really wish Chloe could do this post!  I went on a field trip with her today, and she had a blast!  And I’m sure she’d go on and on about the fun she had!

The bads:  It was NOT sunny and 74 degrees like the weatherman said it would be.  It was COLD.  It was MUDDY.  There was SO MUCH traffic and TOO MANY people.  We were on the bus FOREVER!  And the bus was so rough and bouncy, I think we probably all got some teeth rattled loose!

The goods:  Well, let me show you the good . . .

Chloe got to pet some baby cows!  They were shorter than she was!

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She got to milk a not-so-baby cow.  Someone said that it felt like a finger!  The squirting milk was pretty entertaining.

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The goats and sheep were friendly and patient!

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Even when Chloe tried to poke his eyes.

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(It is probably not ideal for a child to alternately pet a farm animal and put her fingers in her mouth . . . )

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Chloe LOVED this tiny black goat.  But she got excited a couple of times and choked its tiny little neck.  (Perhaps she has overheard us talking about Romulus and Remus!)

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Wow!  Looks like Chloe even worked up a smile in the photo below!  She has such a love for animals.  She loves to love them!  It’s precious!

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Oh, and the chickens were her favorite!

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. . . except for this one who stuck his beak nearly on Chloe’s nose and made a menacing sound!

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But then this nice red hen came along.  “Hold!” Chloe said.

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So she reached out and grabbed her!

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And she caught it, and she held it!  And the little red hen let her do it!

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“Well, look-y here, Ma, I caught myself a chicken!”

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And she gave that chicken some good love!

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I think the little red hen was happy right there in Chloe’s arms!

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A little traffic, a little mud, a little cold, a little crowd . . .  can’t stop the joy of being with farm animals!  We moo‘d and baa‘d and hee-haw‘d like crazy!  We even saw a bison and a zebra!  And a pig in the mud.  And we each got to bring home a pumpkin.

What a great day! and what great memories!

Wordless Wednesday

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Sleeping Babies

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I guess Elliot never sleeps. . . .  And just for the record, I did sometimes put my babies in their beds for naps!!

The Project

Yesterday I posted about a class project that Zippy is doing. . .

Believe it or not, the clay was quite a nice experience!!  It was fun, funny, and successful.  I remember when Zippy was younger, it was very calming for him to play with play-doh — I guess this clay was that sort of experience for him.  He made a great Romulus and a great Remus!

The part of the project that erupted into a huge, all-out fit was coloring the background.  He used markers to color the sky blue and the rest of the paper brown “for dust.”  “There’s nothing around them but dust so it all needs to be brown,” he explained.  Apparently he was not pleased with his performance with the markers nor was he pleased with the quality of the markers because he proceeded to throw markers and lids and papers and pretzels (the innocent, nearby snack) all over the living room.  He kicked and screamed and cried.  He ran to his room and back.  He threw things again.  He kicked and screamed and cried some more.  He hit the paper that was causing the frustration.  It was pitiful.  But eventually he pressed on (actually I pressed him on) and finished coloring the background.  Then I quick, quick, quick got out the clay and changed gears. . . probably just in the nick of time.

I didn’t mention that the scene he chose for his diorama is the scene where Romulus chokes and kills Remus.  Yes, the guy kills his twin brother!  But what else can you expect of the sons of the God of War??  Anyway, Zippy talked about how terrible it is for someone to kill their own brother.  I had to agree with him on that one.  But no matter how terrible a thing it is, the brother-killing scene was the chosen one!

After Zach sculpted R & R, he wrapped Romulus’ arm around Remus’ neck in a death choke.  It was then that we noticed that Romulus couldn’t stand on the ground while choking his brother since his arms weren’t long enough.  Instead of redoing the arms or making his legs longer, Zippy just sculpted a rock for Romulus to stand on.  The rock was the perfect height for Romulus to stand on to choke his brother!

Hopefully I will get a photo when he’s done and get it posted so you can see the finished work!

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