Wednesday, April 20, 2011

... colors in the sun...

It's spring break for K, which means lots of time for getting into trouble.

To illustrate, a snippet of phone conversation between M and me on Monday:

M: You should see your daughters.
me ("your daughters" - oh oh...): Why? What's up?
M: They're in the bathroom with the door closed, putting on "makeup."
me (hearing happy? squealing in the background): Makeup?
M: Marker.
me: Marker?!? On their faces?
M: Yup.
me: Uh... how does it look?
M: Pretty orange.
me: Permanent marker?
M: I think it's the washable marker.
me ("think?"): Hmm....ok....

Later that same day....
(by the next morning they just looked "self-tanned")

What I admire (and envy) is how M handled the situation. No freakout, no yelling. She sounded (relatively) calm the entire conversation. I mean, they've already marked themselves up, so why get worked up, right? And they're the ones who'll have to deal with the repercussions....

Another great lesson from M!

Friday, April 15, 2011

... talking in the dark...

"Lengthening" exercises
(WA coast, January 2011)

A direct transcript from an actual "conversation" last week:

me (walking into the house): Hello the house!

M (from the kitchen): Hi...

L (also from the kitchen): Daaaaaddddddyyy!

me (putting down my things): How is everyone?

L (hurrying to the kitchen door where she stands in shirt and corduroy pants that have been too long for her): Daddy! Look at how much these pants weigh!!

me (after a moment's hesitation): Hey! They fit you now. You're getting taller and taller!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

... i read about it in a book...

a conversation from our dinner table:

K: What does 'companion" mean?
me: It's the people you have around you. The people and other animals you have with you.
K: With me?
me: Like your stuffed animals. They're your companions. They keep you company.
L: Like... my dolly?
me: Yes! Your dolly.
K: And my dolly?
me: Yup!
L: And my... nose-y?
me: No, not your nose
L (giggling): Or my pootypooty
me: No. (turning to K) We can look up words if we don't know them.
K: 'Look up words?'
me: Yeah, in a dictionary. (turning to the bookshelf above the table) I used to have... It's a book... a book... you look up words...
K: If they're not on the computer? Look them up?
me (laughing with M): Uh, yeah, you can look words up on the computer. But dictionaries were from before computers.
K: You have a dictionary?
me (possibly indignant): Yeah! I have a lot of dictionaries!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

definitions (special "jugular" edition): blood / bleed

Just when you thought you'd never see another in your lifetime, it's once again double-definition tuesday!

blood - verb, to lose bleed from a wound. Usually involves excited exclamations and an insistence on getting a Barbie bandaid

me (walking into the house after work): Hello the house!
K (sitting on the couch): Hi Daddy.
me: How was school.
K: Ok. Will you read me a book?
L (from the kitchen): Daddy!! Come thee!!!
me: Ok L. Let me take off my shoes. K, I'll read you a book. Let me check on your sister first.
K: She has a blister.
me: Oh yeah? (walking into the kitchen) Hi L.
L (sitting on the floor and trying to get a good look at her heel): Daddy! I'm blooding!! My thplinter is blooding!!! I need a bandaid!!! We have new bandaids and I need one!!!!
me: Ok, ok, let's have a look....

bleed - noun, the substance you lose when you have a wound that is blooding.

me (bending down to get a good look at L's heel): Oh yeah. Let me get you a bandaid.
L: Yeah, becauth I don't want to get bleed on my dreth!
me: No, you don't. No one wants that.
L: Yeah, no one wanth that!! Daddy, can you read to me?

Monday, April 4, 2011

.. pay you back with interest...

It's "interesting" being a parent. Always interesting.

We get the opportunity to watch our children learn and, even more "interesting," we get the opportunity to learn ourselves. Often the things we get a chance to learn are things we either thought we'd learned earlier, or should have learned earlier. I find myself regularly learning things that I've already learned. As I said, "interesting!"

One lesson I regularly relearning is the importance of flexibility.

This is a biggie for me, probably because I'm not inherently flexible. I wish I was. It's one of the personality(?) traits I find myself wishing for. Some people seem able to adjust to shifting circumstances without a hesitation or a hitch. They just sidestep slightly, twist a bit, roll with the punches, and somehow reorient for the new realities. Me, I tend to remain planted with my expectations, even though these are often now irrelevant given the revised situation.

All of which is pretty vague and general, so you may have no idea what the hell I'm talking about. Here's an example, from this morning:

The alarm goes off at 6a. M is going to go running. But instead, she hops out of bed, turns off the alarm and comes back under the covers. I'm drifting in and out of consciousness, but I know she's gathering herself to actually get up. L helps her by waking up a couple of minutes later and calling for her. M gets up, brings L back, and tucks her in beside me, saying "I'm going running. You snuggle with your dad."

L and I lie there for about 10 minutes before she says "Dada, I want to go downstairs." I say, "Ok" since my plan is to get up anyway and make oatmeal so I can get out of the house by 8a. She says "Thank you Daddy." (!) And we make our way downstairs with the beast.

We're dog-sitting at the moment, so there's an auxilary dog in the kitchen. L wants to take off her diaper. We go down to the basement to get some underwear. Then back up to the kitchen, where L decides she wants tights too. Back down to the basement, dig through clean clothes - no tights - dig through dirty clothes until we find the pair she wants. Back upstairs to the kitchen where I find that one of the dogs has thrown up and due to the slope of our 100yo floors, things have ...drifted... out of sight beneath the "frigerator."

The next 20 minutes are spent with old towels, papertowels and, after moving the refrigerator, the vacuum. I was going to need to vacuum behind there anyway. And we found some magnets that had ended up under the fridge. (L: "I did that, Dada. I pologize." me: "That's ok L. We shouldn't put them under there." L: "I know Dada.")

Dogs are milling, oatmeal isn't started yet, L still needs her tights put on. I start to put on her tights (an aside - I never understood the whole gathering up the leg to the foot, then sliding your leg inside until I had to learn to put tights on the girls. Now I get it. I think of... maybe Mrs. Robinson*... every time I do it, and I get the necessity now.) and I hear K now, waking up in her bed. We finish with the tights, head on upstairs, gather K too, and after various morning chores, we head back downstairs where dogs are still milling, the refrigerator is still pulled away from the wall, and the vacuum is still in the middle of the floor. I'm finishing up as M walks in from her run.

I look at her: "One of the dogs threw up, I think Lucy. So I haven't gotten anything done. No oatmeal made, no lunch for K, nothing."
L: "It went under the fridgerator and there were magnets and it was really dirty!"
K: "I just got up."
M: "Wow...."

So I'm flustered, and haven't made or eaten anything, and next, K decides she's going to be a horse. Which means that everything we do/say needs to be directed at her as though she's a horse. No, "What do you want to eat?" It has to be "What horse food do you want to eat in your stall?"

It's not a big deal, right? But it's just one more layer of complication on a Monday morning that already feels somewhat more complicated than I'd planned. The simple solution is to play along, to be her "owner" and nudge her to come upstairs and get her "horse blanket" on so she can go to "horse school." And often I'm able to do this. But there are moments at which I balk. I just want to be able to say "You're a kid. Go get dressed!"

Which is entirely counter-productive. It's absolutely the worst thing I can do/say.

Having M there helps. A lot. She sweetly asks K what horse food she wants in her new thermos, and K tells her. Things move smoothly, whether we're horses, horse owners, children or parents. And I'm reminded that being able to go with the flow is key to keeping the flow moving.

All of which is a long intro to what I'm thinking about this morning, which is that I know none of us is perfect, or perfectly balanced, but I think I got lucky with my mom.

Mom, Honolulu, 10/24/31

I think she's done a great job of being a mom over the years, and as I get deeper into this parenting stuff, I realize more and more what she and Dad had to do and managed to do, and my appreciation grows. And as it's her birthday, I'd like to wish her a happy day, apologize for those mornings when I insisted on being... whatever it was I insisted on being (a cowboy? a dog?), and say:

Thank you Mom, for everything.

A couple of photos, to finish off with.

One of Mom with her parents:

Kaimuki, 1942
(mom, apb, nlb - note my grandfather, apb -
he was a boxer, and you can see it in his hands.)

And one of my sisters and me with Mom:

Haleakala snow! 1965

Saturday, April 2, 2011

... i got my eye on you...

... or, learning isn't just for preschoolers any more.

Art project, at home

Yesterday morning I was scheduled to go to K's school to do an "observation." M set it up, and confirmed the time by asking a neighbor to check when she was at the school. 8.55a.

Generally speaking, this sort of thing is not what I get excited about in the morning. There's the feeling out of place, a bull in a china shop (there's nothing like being a 6'5" man, trying to blend into the background at a preschool, small chairs, small desks, small people.... it doesn't work!), and last year it was pretty chaotic and I left without having a chance to say goodbye to K.

Add to this the fact that the last few nights I've slept poorly and have struggled in the mornings: L is waking up and wanting attention, the beast has been up as well, and K&L haven't been going to sleep easily. It all combines to wear a parent down and add to the challenge of morning.

Needless to say, I was not in the ideal frame of mind for "observing."

But it was what I was doing, so I drove K and our neighbor's boy to school and let them out, then parked and walked in. I got to stand in the drizzle and watch the kids playing at recess before class, and it was hard not to look across the playground and imagine that she was alone, not playing with anyone, ignored. I suspect I was projecting.... And then it was time to start the school day and I followed the children into their room. K looked damp and bedraggled, but then so did everyone else.

Her teacher had set up a table when K could show me the projects she's been working on:

  • a map we've heard a lot about at home, but with no details.
    Us: What's it a map of?
    K: I... I don't know! It's a map of places!
    Us (trying to be helpful): Is it the United States?
    K: There are different ... states I'm pinning out. They're ... states.
    Us: Like your puzzle of the states with Alabama and Hawaii?
    K (sharp shake of her head): No!
    Us: Uh... ok....

    It turns out it's a map of South America, and she's been "pinning" out countries and pasting them to the map. She's got Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia (maybe) done, and is working on Columbia...

  • her "workbook"

    The workbook is a big deal. She was excited when she started it, but progress was slow because "it's boring" and "it's hard." I was curious to see it, and she showed it to me proudly, flipping quickly through the pages she'd done. Mostly it's small pictures under which are blanks for writing letters - a baby asleep, with "n" "a" "p" written under it, for example. And it gets progressively more difficult as you move along. The workbook has 80 pages, and K is now on page 26, which is good progress compared to how things were going earlier in the year when she was stalled on page 12 for weeks and weeks.
After this we talked briefly (about Romeo the goldfish whose gained quite a bit of weight in the year since I last saw him, and about the rearranged room) and then I had to leave to get to work, and K went back to the rest of the class. She waved goodbye and I waved to her, and I walked out of the building and through the rain to the car.

But here's the thing - once I was there, sitting in a chair (a big chair!), looking over these projects with K and sharing her pride and enthusiasm, it felt right to be there. I was glad I'd gone, and I didn't feel (quite as) crabby about the poor night's sleep and about the rank weather and about missing 3 hours of work. It was worth the effort.

K can be a challenge at home, teasing her sister, pushing limits, being almost 5yo. (Honestly, I can be a challenge at home, grousing and fussing and....) But spending one-on-one time with her in a setting where she has a chance to tell me what she's been doing and an opportunity to share her accomplishments helps me to remember just how truly sweet a little girl she is, and how she's trudling forward in life, doing all the things she needs to be doing to be a 5 year old (which is coming, this month!).

Oh yeah, as I was walking out of K's classroom, I happened to glance at a signup sheet. For observation times. And we were signed up for 9.45a. I'd been there an hour early, and K's teachers didn't even blink. They definitely get brownie points for that!

Friday, April 1, 2011

... give me down to there... hair!

Here's what happens when "Dada" is left to deal with hairdressing needs:

(The beautiful thing about hair on the back of a head,
is, she can't see how bad it looks!)

And here's what happens when L is left do do Mama's hair:

An aside:

Who the hell is Paul Frank and why does he have his name on my daughter's underwear?!?