Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bad mommy. Bad, bad mommy.

When Bob got home from work, we took the girls to the soccer field to play. I managed to kick the ball — hard — directly into Dori’s little toddler tummy. It couldn’t have been more of a direct hit had I tried. The poor baby turned 18 months old today and this is how I honor her. We were all stunned. But she got me back.

I rushed to pick Dori up to comfort her. I heard a gurgle, then she repaid me by puking the entire contents of her stomach all down my neck and back.

After I was sure she was OK, I started peeling off my shirt. I mean it was stinky stuff. I took it off, saying out loud, “It will just look like I’m wearing a sports bra.” Then I suddenly realized that flabby, plus-sized women don’t wear sports bras in public — especially a polka dot one paired with a striped broomstick skirt. It hit me that the traffic on the highway could see me, so I ran to the car to hide. I found my Columbia windbreaker and put that on. My skirt had a splash of puke on it, too, so I took that off and wrapped a bedsheet around my waist. It was 80+ degrees at that point.

After about half an hour, Dori regained the color in her cheeks. She’ll probably flinch everytime she sees me go near a ball now.

The typewriter.

I freecycled an old typewriter today. I think it was originally my sister Beth’s, so in 1986 it was a high-quality, Smith-Corona model. It even had the fancy auto-correction tape. I remember buying it with Mom and Dad at the office supply store before Beth went to college.

Brother-in-law Mark just yesterday forwarded the annual list of things that date the incoming class of college freshmen. One was that the World Wide Web has been a tool their whole lives.

So I suppose they’ve never used typewriters either.

A real estate agent saw my listing on Freecycle and came by to pick it up. Addy wanted to know why that lady came over. Her next question: “What’s a typewriter?”

It was surprisingly difficult to explain.

Making sense of it all.

I've been keeping an e-journal of the kids' antics for awhile now, but am just now getting them posted to the blog. That's why you'll see a bunch of post-dated posts.

October 25, 2006

Addy just taught me how to change my log-on icon on the computer. Her instructions were right on.

She's 4.

October 28, 2006

It seems like the girls each reach milestones on the same day. Today Dori and I attended a state La Leche League workshop while Addy stayed home with Bob.

Dori was happiest pulling up to stand and holding onto me for support. She kept testing herself by letting go and maintaining balance for awhile until she fell on her padded bottom (11 seconds max.).

I brought home the Dick and Jane book We Play for Addy. She was able to read it pretty well with some help on new words such as “look,” “father” and “where.”

October 29, 2006

Dori still has four teeth. Two more are visible, but have just a bit of gum covering them so I guess they haven’t officially erupted yet. She has been eating table food off our plates — bits of potato, turkey, cheese and lots of Cheerios.

November 29, 2006

(E-mail to my sister Beth)

My classic story that could be in the book I like, How to Talk to Your Kids so They'll Listen and Listen so They'll Talk, happened at the farm after Addy climbed over you then jumped on the couch. I told her I was frustrated and wondered what we could do to help her remember not to climb on people or stand on furniture. Did you see the sign she made hanging on the closet at the farm? Her answer to my question was, "Make a sign?" So I said, "OK, go get some paper and I'll help you spell the words." She asked me to tell her how to spell, "Don't Climb on People / Also / Don't Climb on Furniture." It worked! I couldn't believe it.

Just a minute ago she was holding her little tin box of coins from Grandma B. It's a perennial problem because she ends up spilling coins all over the floor where Dori could choke on them, then there are so many coins it's overwhelming and Addy doesn't think she can pick them all up — so she doesn't want to pick up any. This time (mostly since Dori is asleep on my shoulder right now) I decided not to say anything or even acknowledge that I noticed. Addy said, "Oh no!" then proceeded to pick up the coins. She said, "Don't worry, I'll get them so my sister can't choke on them." Then a few minutes later I heard her say to herself, "This box keeps falling open. (pause) I'll go get a rubber band so it stays closed." Yay! She’s learning problem solving.

November 30, 2006

Bob is on the couch, holding a sleeping Dori and reading Pippi Longstocking to Addy.

It occurs to me why Addy is so attracted to stories about Pippi Longstocking and Laura Ingalls. It’s clear that they, like her, were … shall we say … spirited children.

December 11, 2006

Positive discipline really pays off. As I write this Addy and Dori are standing at the Lego table playing with a younger friend, Gabrielle, who is visiting for the morning.

Gabrielle yells, “No baby!” when Dori holds a toy she doesn’t want her to have.

Addy’s response: “You don’t have to yell at her. Just take care of the problem.”

Gabrielle indicates she isn’t sure what to do.

“Well, take her hand off it,” Addy suggests. “Give her another toy. Trade her. Trade her.”

February 2, 2007

As all our relatives know, Addy likes to be an entertainer. Bob and I often envision ourselves on some E! biography 20 years from now, saying, “She always did have to be the center of attention.”

Addy now has her first regular gig. A friend has been taking her granddaughter and Addy to the nursing home a few blocks from our place to sing to the residents on Wednesday mornings. They each get microphones and share tunes such as “Jesus Loves Me” and “Kum Ba Yah.” Addy loves her time at the “medical scare febrility” (medical care facility).

Dori’s signing has officially taken off. I even had a little conversation with her today. It’s great to be able to get into the mind of a baby! After I changed her diaper, she started waving her hands in her version of FATHER and making some noises like da-da-da. I told her. “No, Dori. Daddy’s not home. Daddy is at work.” She looked at me, smiled, then signed SISTER and started repeating Ah-jah, which means Addy. “Yes, Dori, Addy is here. Let’s go find your sister.”

You might remember that Dori started signing diaper CHANGE a long time ago, even telling us when she was wet. That tapered off, but now she will sometimes sign while we are in the middle of changing her. We might need to work on signing it with her more. She waves her hands to sign FATHER and does a little happy stomp-dance when Bob gets home from work. She can’t quite get her open hand up to her forehead to make the sign, but we know what the open-hand wave means. To sign SISTER, she gets the second part of the sign halfway. The sign for sister is GIRL + SAME. She skips the girl part. For same, the index fingers are supposed to be stacked together, but she takes one index finger and points it at her other open hand. Close enough! She also signs MILK, but for now MILK also means MOTHER. Go figure. She sometimes signs UP when I remind her as I pick her up.

February 16, 2007

I will never cease to be amazed at how quickly they learn and grow. Fourteen months ago, I let Addy try to sign her name to our 2005 Christmas cards, but she was not yet able to write it except for scrawling an “A.” By the first week of February, she picked up a pen and wrote her name on every one of the Valentine’s Day 2006 cards she made for her friends. Just two weeks later, Bob took her to the Dad and Me Breakfast and she asked him to tell her the letters for “Happy Valentine’s Day Mommy.” I was able to decipher the writing when she presented me with the Valentine. This Tuesday at our weekly homeschool co-op afternoon, she wrote her first mini-report (as in two or three sentences), “What do turtles do in winter?” She needed reminders to “sound it out,” but handled the spelling pretty much on her own.

I’m starting to learn some lessons that veteran homeschool moms have been trying to tell me all along: The learning will happen when she is ready. She will motivate herself. Focus less on teaching and more on giving her the tools to learn. And sorry to freak some of you out, but do “unschooling.” Addy asked me to read a favorite board book that Aunt Carol gave her based on a common preschool rhyme called Five Little Pumpkins. Then she said, “Now that you read it to me, can I read it to you?” She read the whole thing, with only a little help on two words. “I love to be a big reader!” she exclaimed. Then she asked if she could write a book report about it for the online book club she joined. She then read it twice to Dori. Yes! None of this was my idea.

February 28, 2007

Today I found myself saying things I never would have imagined five years ago (pre-kids).
  • “Hey, who stuck this to the baby’s head?!?”
  • “Crayons are not for eating.”
  • “[Addy’s friend], I know exactly why you are hiding under the table. Now please come on out and use this tissue instead.”

March 16, 2007

Sometimes when Addy first wakes up she waxes philosophical. Among the first statements out of her mouth this morning:

  • “Happy is something you should have in your heart.”
  • “If I found a lot of bird feathers, maybe I could fly.”

Meanwhile, Dori has learned to say, “Hi,” or, more accurately, “Hi, hi, hi.” The words are coming now.

Someone gave Addy a fingerpainting set featuring Ariel, the Disney mermaid. She made a comment about how cute Ariel is. I wondered aloud if the mermaid was smart, or brave, or kind. Addy said she didn’t think she was brave, but was sure she was smart — and also pretty. We talked about what makes a person good and, as usual, Addy was quick with an honest answer. I was attempting to help her see that pretty isn’t part of a person’s character. I asked, “Do you know anybody who is a really good person, but not very pretty?” She finally understood. “You!” she answered, pointing at my face. Ugh. Lesson over.

9 p.m.: More Addy philosophy. “Isn’t milk great? It makes you strong, and healthy, and I love it!”

April 10, 2007

Bob and I were cleaning up dinner when I heard a knock at the front door. Addy had gone out to play in the front yard, so I figured it was her.

It was, but standing next to her was some man I had never seen before. I asked (shouted), “What’s going on!?”

He told me, “She was stuck up in a tree.” After thanking him profusely and thanking God that he wasn’t a kidnapper, Addy said she had been calling, “Mommy! Daddy!” for a long time and we never came.

Bad parents. Bad, bad parents.

May 4, 2007

While folding laundry inside I noticed that Addy got into the rhubarb and shared some with her friend and Dori. It’s a beautiful thing when your children can help themselves to a snack from your own garden, dirt and all.

May 16, 2007

Bob and Addy took a walk this evening. They were talking about her birthday, and Bob told her she was born August *, 2002, at about 3 o’clock in the morning. “That’s really early,” he told her. “The doctor had to get up out of bed to attend your birth.” Addy asked, “Why did the doctor have to come. He explained that she was born in a hospital. Addy asked, “I was born in a hospital?” When Bob said yes, she wondered, “Didn’t scientists know then that you could be born at home?”

June 8, 2007

It’s a regular biology lab around here.

Last week Addy ran in from her swingset with an inchworm on her arm. Last night she chased the fattest toad I have ever seen under our deck. But there’s more.

Last week we took a trip to Sunrise Lake, a county park and our favorite swimming hole. Addy likes to jump from the big rock — about diving board height — into the shallow water. Dori likes to throw fists full of sand. Bob and I like that it’s quiet and we are usually the only ones there. We all enjoy watching the baby bluegills swim around our feet. Every time we try to catch them, and every time we fail. It seems like it should be so easy.

But on the ride home, we spotted a painted turtle in the road. I pointed it out so Bob could swerve and spare its life. We decided to stop and investigate (possibly inspired by reading my copy of Carschooling by Diane Flynn Keith) and ended up bringing the poor sucker home. Addy named him Joseph. It’s an appropriate name because as an Eastern painted, he wears a coat of many colors. She only chose it because I thought the name Dori would be redundant. Joseph now lives in the fish tank we freecycled. While we have managed to kill many a fish and even snails over the years, Joseph is still alive. He eats earthworms.

Joseph joined the two goldfish in our garden pond for a quick dip while we set up the tank. We started the season with six fish, but four floated in May. We buy the 15-centers at Meijer, so high mortality is expected.

We get plenty of birds at the garden pond. They like to perch on the edge of the big pot we turned into a fountain and take a drink. We usually see robins and blue jays.

Then there are the starlings. Starlings are a noisy, messy species introduced from Europe. After we had our new roof put on, a pair introduced themselves to a little spot where a section of roof overhangs another section. They built a nest last year and are back again this year. I can hear them the loudest when using the throne in our master bedroom. The babies’ chirping is kind of cute, so they have been allowed to stay.

Every night this time of year, we hear lots of chirping in the sky overhead. About 500 chimney swifts live in the chimney of the old hospital next door. At dusk they all come in over the course of about half an hour, devouring insects as they go. It’s fun to stand outside from about 8:30 p.m. til pitch dark and watch them dive bomb and shoot into the chimney. It’s a little itchy, though, because they don’t get all the mosquitoes.

We have also been observing woodpeckers lately. Right now there’s a flicker on the maple tree in front of our house. We camped one night at Rose Lake this weekend and watched a downy as I set up the tent and Bob and Addy worked on starting the fire. A couple weeks ago we woke every morning to the loud sound of a woodpecker east of our house. We dropped everything and took a walk one afternoon when we heard it again and found a hole 2 feet high and a foot deep into the side of a red maple a block away. We haven’t seen the bird, but surely it was a pileated. I had only seen one pileated before (they’re as big as a crow and have the Woody Woodpecker red crest) and that one was on a residential street near Ferris (Lukie’s college). Then this week, I spotted one on a stump near the side of US-10 just outside of town. We stopped and rolled the windows down to hear it peck away for awhile. Could it be the same one that drilled into our neighbor’s maple?

We accompanied Bob to Big Rapids for his church council executive meeting on Tuesday. We stopped for ice cream afterward where Addy and a little girl watched some sort of green caterpillar crawl up Addy’s arm. Once it reached her neck (sorry, a little gross to me) I offered that we could take it home. She put it in a jar with a twig and some leaves. I figured it would die. This morning when we came down for breakfast she couldn’t find it. Dead, I assumed. Nope. It had spun a cocoon under a leaf. Addy is looking forward to a moth emerging. We’ll see. Another cool site: What is this caterpillar?

So with our pool still empty (except for some dark water and aquatic insects in the deep end), yesterday I suggested a trip to Cadillac to run some errands and then swim in Lake Cadillac. I was hot from planting annuals out front and the girls are always game to get wet. By the time Bob got home from work, we loaded up the car, then ran all our errands, it was 7 p.m. and it got mighty windy and a little cloudy at the beach. Since it was also hot, it seemed like one of those tornado’s-a-brewin’ days. Some drops of warm rain fell and I was about to rush Addy out of the water, but Bob reminded me that as long as she didn’t mind the light rain and there was no lightning, we were fine. The rain stopped, but the waves were choppy from the wind. Bob, Dori and I waded in the water while Addy swam.

I turned toward the shore and noticed a big dark spot in the water. I asked Bob to check it out. I didn’t remember a huge rock at this beach, and if a big log were rolling around in the water I thought we should remove it for the kids’ safety. He waded over and stared at it awhile before declaring, “It’s a school of fish!” I didn’t think it was possible. It was almost a solid mass, about 5 feet long and 2 feet deep and wide. The edges were wavy, so it was surely a huge mess of seaweed. But nope. We saw a very big fish swimming around the mass in circles. It was at least two feet long, nice and broad. Finally convinced that this could possibly be fish, I called Addy over. Bob went to the van to get Addy’s butterfly net (left from the trip to Sunrise Lake the previous week) as Jaws swam around our feet and the school of little fish. We followed the mass and when he came back he scooped the net into the edge of it. He dipped out two dozen little fish. I estimate there were 10,000 in the school.

We slid them into a travel mug (which will never hold my drink again) and drove home. Half are living with Joseph the turtle and half are in the garden pond. If they live, they’ll probably eat the two remaining goldfish. Thanks to a very cool University of Wisconsin fish identification database,, we found out they are bowfin. Our estimate of thousands of babies was confirmed by what we read online. Up to three females lay their eggs in a mud nest. The male bowfin stays near, swimming around them as eggs and for a few weeks after they hatch. They’re an ancient species from prehistory and have an unusual bladder used for breathing.

We wonder if the odd weather and the big waves brought them to the shore of Lake Cadillac. It was among the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. And yes, we realize a DNR officer would not be thrilled to hear what we’re keeping in our tank and pond.