Saturday, July 30, 2011

Talking to people - plus, urine-soaked Cheerios

Today we visited a group of friends and then a group of relatives. There were small children for AwesomeCloud to play with in both cases. I think he really, really needed the social time with other kids. It seems like he's been hanging out with his folks too much lately. We haven't even brought him to the big playground lately. Once earlier this week I took him to the playground across the street, which no kid ever, ever goes to. We just played with each other, as usual.

I think it's sad that the school playground is empty and silent all summer. It seems to me like it should be crawling with kids who wander in from neighborhoods on all four sides. In fact, it seems to me that those very neighborhoods are awfully devoid of kids. Maybe we should sign Cloud up for more activities so he'll have a chance to make friends. However, he already goes to some activities, and he never has time while he's there to make any friends - he's always too busy doing the activity.

Or not doing the activity, in the case of swimming lessons. He manages to avoid accomplishing anything at swimming lessons. However, when I'm in the water with him, he wants to kick his feet while I hold him. He wants to dip his chin in. He seems confident in the water. But as soon as I step away, it's all over.

On the bright side, today at the pool with friends, he was emulating the other kids and getting all sorts of wet. He was a kid playing in the pool, rather than a kid standing in water up to his knees and whining. It was pretty cool to see.

Know what else is amazing to see? He can talk and other people can understand him. Sometimes. I'm not saying his speech is as clear as a bell, and his syntax can be confusing. He speaks in keywords - noun, adjective, verb, and everything else gets skipped.

"Go Hyannis beach!"
"Socks on peeeze."
"Restaurant eat mac'n'cheese?"

But more and more, people react with understanding, and it always fills me with excitement and relief. My husband and I have a lot of practice understanding him, but it's nice to think that we won't be the only ones for much longer.

Sometimes he puzzles us, too, though. And he has a weird, annoying habit of saying "yeah" to all our wrong guesses. For instance:

"Pango." Points to fridge.
"What do you want? Yogurt?"
"Okay, here's the yogurt."
"No! No yogurt!"
"Oh, what do you want, then?"
"Um... um... orange juice?"
"Okay, I'll pour you a glass or orange juice."
"No! No orange juice!"
"Oh. Point to what you want."
"Point to it."
"Really? Really pineapple?"
"This here? You want this pineapple?"
"Oh, okay, here you go."

Sometimes I never guess what he's saying. Sometimes he says yes to all our wrong guesses and I never find out if any were right.

I would like him to utter the word 'the' someday. I tried coaching him, and I got him to say it twice, but it hasn't stuck.

I was going to write about the urine-soaked Cheerios earlier, but when my husband offered to take Cloud out somewhere, I was so relieved that I just scrubbed the kitchen really, really well and decided I didn't want to talk about it. It's not as weird as it sounds, anyway. Cheerios end up on the floor all the time. That morning, I thought I'd work a little bit on potty-training, but then some other stuff happened, and perhaps I wasn't as available for potty guidance as I should have been. Also, he'd refused to pee a few minutes earlier, so I figured that meant he just didn't have to. Anyway, it gave me something new to complain about, and resulted in a much cleaner kitchen. I guess ultimately that was a win. Except that, well, we'd originally planned to spend the day doing other things, so in that respect the whole day was a loss.

I think the moral of this blog post is that I like some things about Age 3. I like the improved talking. Other things, not so much.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What happened to my outdoors-loving kid?

He keeps wanting to turn around and go back inside and watch TV. Or eat. Or run in circles around the living room. Anything but stay outside.

He hates wearing shoes or going barefoot - he just wants to wear socks all the time. I would rather not let him wear socks outside and get them all muddy, but sometimes I do anyway. Otherwise I'd never get any of my vegetable waste to the compost pile, and my landscaping project (such as it is) would never progress beyond a stack of retaining wall bricks in the back yard. (I mean, not that I'm making much progress anyway. I need to spend hours at a time on that project, not minutes.)

And even then, the kid cannot wait to get back inside!

I'm very sad about this. I've tried just going out myself and coaxing him to join me, and not giving in when he tries to coax him back in. No use.

Maybe he'd do better if we were going to playgrounds again. But I can't work on my yard while I'm at a playground. Maybe it's just the yard that's boring.

And overgrown, and neglected, with bricks lying around... you know, if he'd let me spend some time on it, it would look better.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


For your viewing pleasure.

(I'm using my blog as an image hosting site again. Hehe.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mozart will not make my son smarter!

But I make him listen to the classical station anyway.

I want him, someday when he's older and hears some classical music, to think, "Hey, I kinda like that! I used to listen to it when I was little." Instead of, "What the heck is this? I can't relate to it."

I don't know very much about classical music myself; all I know is that the radio station goes on, the radio station goes off. Sometimes the DJ says something interesting. For instance, yesterday after one lovely but unmemorable piece, he mentioned that the composer was William Herschel, the astronomer who discovered Uranus, binary and multiple stars, and nebulae.

Maybe if my son starts earlier, he will do better. Maybe he'll not only be able to discern Bach from Beethoven, but Aubin from Orff.

With visual art, I can do a little better. Exposing a child to visual art is not as easy as switching on the classical station at random in the car, but my parents made sure I got some exposure, and I can do the same. Art museums can be fun. Anyone who takes a kid to an art museum without making it fun is missing out on something great. I also want to inure my child to the traditional staples of art - the nude, the abstract, and the high concept, for some examples. The first time I took a figure drawing course, some of the other students had a very hard time adjusting to the presence of the nude model - they may have been art students, but they'd never had a chance to accept that nudity can be artistic. It's part of our culture. Nudity as a taboo is also part of our culture. The two seem to contradict, but they don't have to create cognitive dissonance if you give a kid time to get used to it.

I want to expose the kid to theater. Theater is fun. It's like movies, but better because it's in person. Cinema is an industry, and that's fine, and he'll inevitably watch a lot of movies in his lifetime. But theater is people creating art right in front of you. I can't keep him away from that. He may even want to try it himself.

I don't expect the arts to make him smarter or better, or even to prepare him for the real world (although they might contribute to that). I don't want to steer him into an arts career - I went to art school and I wouldn't recommend it to people who are good at anything else.

I just want him to love the arts because art is great. Art is part of being human. Maybe there are studies showing that babies who listen to Mozart have better brain waves, and students who join band are better at math. Maybe there aren't. I don't care about that. (Well, I'd like him to be better at math, of course.) I just want him to know what arts are out there, and be familiar with them already, and not have to play catch-up when he's older. Or worse, find himself intimidated by the sheer volume of art and avoid or even scorn it. There are lots of things in life we cannot give him, and he'll be playing catch-up in some way or other. We're not great athletes. We're too poor to engage in many expensive hobbies. We travel a lot, but our travel habits are very specific and leave out a lot of options. It's a big, full, rich, diverse world out there, and if I can't give him all of it, I at least want to give him a well-rounded sampling of it.

I don't expect art to change him. I don't want to influence who he is. I just want to influence what he has.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My kid is covered in stickers

My kid is covered in stickers.

This is a side effect of potty training. Last week, we were at the stage where he would only do his business in the potty if we pulled his pants down ourselves and stuck him there. Now he's doing both the pulling and the sitting voluntarily. Every 5-10 minutes. And then begging for stickers. Insisting on peeling the stickers himself and managing to get 3 or 4 at a time because, hey, Mama's sweeping or folding laundry, so why the heck not?

I took him to the library covered in stickers. Now he's at the post office with Daddy, still covered in stickers. They plan to go to the beach afterwards, so at that point the stickers will have to come off. Except the ones on his shirt - if his shirt stays dry, the stickers might stay.

Next up: bladder control.

(One can hope.)

Oh! And as an addendum to my last post about things Cloud says... some of the things he says sound like me. I know that's to be expected. We spend so much time together, and at least half of his language comes from me. But sometimes he blurts out a phrase that has me written all over it, and after I do a double-take, I have to laugh.

For instance:

"Good enough." (I use this phrase so I can avoid yelling at him when he's doing something unhelpful but not exactly destructive. I guess that happens a lot, because Cloud says it a lot.)

"I don't think so." (I cracked up when he said this. He even got my inflections right.)

"Don't touch! Don't touch!" (Self-explanatory, I think. Usually he says "I do it!" when he wants me to stop interfering, but I guess he wanted to sound more like Mama this time.)

Also, lately he's been saying, "Yeah... true." Sometimes it's appropriate, as in: "Look, there's a robin." "Yeah... true." Sometimes not, as in, "Let's get a cookie." "Yeah... true." So I guess 'true' is just a synonym for 'yeah' right now.

(Do I say "yeah, true" often? I catch myself saying "Good enough" more often than ever now, but I can't recall saying "Yeah... true" to any significant degree. Weird.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weird things my kid has said

I'm dedicating today to a cleaning frenzy... at least, the part of today that I didn't spend dragging my kid around town so my husband could have some peace and quiet. But I can multitask, so while I flit from task to task, I'll also pause to list some of the odd/amusing/firsttime utterances my kid has been making lately.

At Audubon:

"Chalk." (For a butterfly I later learned I'd misidentified - it was a clouded sulphur, not a yellow chalk. Easy mistake to make.)
"Boardwalk growing." (Referring to grass growing between some boards on the path.)
"Turkey back!" (I don't know what he meant by this, but he was addressing a turkey at the farm.)

At the playground:
"You stay here. I go trash." (An unusual spark of independence! Usually he wants me to go with him if he's moving a distance greater than six feet. When he got to the trash can, another kid's mom was there and he announced to her what he was doing. She looked startled at first but then praised him.)
"Horses sleeping." (That was just weird because the horses were quite clearly not sleeping.)

"Di dian? Di dian?" (What time is it? in Chinese. Only weird because he had been ignoring the Chinese language CD for a long time previously.)

The really weird stuff is yet to come, when he can string together words to make random-sounding sentences. One thing he can do now is blurt out words in a way that makes it sound like he's taking inventory of his vocabulary: "Cat... truck... train... hi... eat... take look... apple... tree... yeah... train... big... running..."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Anime baby (Connecticon 2011)

I should post pictures, but I don't know where they are.

We just got back from Connecticon, an Anime/Manga/video game convention. The list of events was actually pretty small; there were only eight rooms and three halls, including the artists' area. But we hardly had time to do anything anyway; we had to mind our comic book table. Fortunately, with three adults (myself, my husband, and our new intern) it was easy to keep the table staffed. At all times, one person was with Cloud, one person was selling comic books, and one person was free to play games or go shopping. It was nice.

The number one thing to do, though, was watch costumes.

Wow. We estimated that as many as 80% of the attendees had costumes. And some were spectacular.

I brought my lab coat, which I wore until it got too hot in the crowded artists' room. So at least I was that much dressed up. We don't like to go all out with the costuming anyhow, because it detracts from our ability to put people's focus on the books. The characters in Zephyr & Reginald: Minions For Hire wear lab coats, so my lab coat was thematic. I'd love to dress like Picorna from Perils of Picorna, but I'm afraid that won't happen soon.

I did get a really cute black and gold dress for only $20. It has an elastic waist and a flaring skirt that complement my hourglass figure. I may not be skinny, but I'm shaped like a woman, so I may as well emphasize it. One great thing about cosplay conventions is that the skinny girls don't necessarily get all the attention.

We had a room at a motel that was supposedly easily accessed by shuttle bus, but that turned out not to be the case at first. We complained to the motel staff about the lack of shuttle bus, but they told us their shuttle driver was unavailable, and that was that. Sorry. Parking at the convention center was ex$pen$ive, so we had really wanted that shuttle.

Oddly, though, when we drove around Hartford center looking for a cheaper parking garage, everything was closed... except one garage... which was free. We parked there, of course! And then we walked five blocks to the con.

On Saturday afternoon, I returned to the motel to give Cloud a nap, and we learned that the shuttle bus was operational. Yay! When Cloud learned he'd get to ride on a bus, he became obsessively excited, almost intolerably so. We still had to wait 20 minutes for the driver to get ready, and those 20 minutes felt like 20 hours. Cloud refused to leave the side of the bus, not even to run inside for a quick drink of water. I had to think up 20 minutes' worth of different ways to assure him we'd really get to ride the bus.

The bus was just a white van, which I think was a little disappointing to him - he must have been picturing one of the big blue city buses - but he seemed pleased enough when we climbed inside. "There are different kinds of buses," I explained. "The shuttle bus is just one kind."

AwesomeCloud was largely pretty good. There were escalators for him to play on and a patio to run around on. He largely ignored the people in costumes, unless they had candy. For instance, Ev, our artist friend who had his own table, was dressed as a pirate and Cloud shied away from him until Ev offered Cloud some Japanese gummy hearts. Then, Cloud was in love. He stopped by Ev's table frequently to get more gummy hearts. It became a running joke - Pavlov's kid, pumped up on sugar, etc.

The MENSA booth was giving out chocolate. Cloud memorized their location, too. After a while, I felt so bad about intruding on their space that I made some vague promises about trying to take their admission test sometime.

(Don't get any ideas! I said VAGUE promises, SOMETIME! And I said trying. I didn't say how hard I'd try.)

In the middle of all this, Cloud somehow developed a phobia of people dressed as cardboard robots, and the puppets at the puppet show made him cry. (Ironically, as we were leaving the puppet show, we walked right by a 6-foot-something Tusken Raider and he didn't blink an eye.) He also began to cry more readily as the con dragged on and exhaustion set in. But all things considered, he was a real trouper throughout the weekend.

On Saturday night, there were fireworks after bedtime, which were visible through our motel window. Cloud was still awake at that time, so I opened the curtains and let him watch from his crib. He filled in the silence (the fireworks were fairly distant) by shouting, "KaBOOM!" every now and then.

Aside from the ill-fated puppet show, I only attended one event - a plushie workshop. I made a kung fu kitty for Cloud. He likes it well enough, but I think he wishes it had a face. I shall embroider a face onto it as soon as I find my embroidery floss, and after I mop up the basement (which flooded) and unpack and mow the lawn. And rest awhile.

My sister and her boys are coming on Wednesday. So I may forget about Kung Fu Kitty for a while until I have less stuff to do.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Heading To Hartford This Weekend For ConnectiCon!

This will be Cloud's sixth (or so) convention - his second with a hotel room.

We don't have any new books for this con, but we've never had a table at ConnectiCon before, so in some ways it's all new.

Hopefully having the hotel room will make things easier for Cloud. He can take naps.

Back on Monday! Have a nice weekend!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Raising a child Unitarian (and why I am)

I'm not a Unitarian Universalist, but I play one in church. :) The thing is, as a lapsed Catholic and an avid explorer of all things spiritual, I don't want any labels for myself. I don't want to make a commitment. People latch on to labels, and when I fail to match the label, instead of adjusting their labels, they just get annoyed at me for disappointing them.

I am also not calling my son a Unitarian Universalist. He can figure out the label thing himself later. For now, we attend the local church, we avail him of its religious ed program, and we contribute financially to the churchgoing endeavor. No 'tithe' for us; it's 'payment for services rendered.' I like that better. It's less pretentious.

What's nice about UU is how normal it is. Yesterday we went to July 4th festivities at Aunt and Uncle's house, and they invited two couples their own age. The first couple informed us that they attend the UU church in Brewster. The second couple attends a UU church in New Jersey. Not that they are... they attend. They were lovely people and I enjoyed meeting them. My mother, who has nothing but vitriol for the UU church, would have found them delightful as well. They were just so pleasant and normal. To hear my mother talk about UU's, you'd expect them to be some sort of freaks of nature. No, sorry, pleasant and normal it was.

There are a few things that i especially like about UU's:

1) The religious ed program is an overview of world religions. That was the type of religious education I was planning to give my son anyway. His spiritual heritage is ancient and complex, and very few white people respect that. Ultimately, he'll decide for himself how much he cares about Confucianism, daoism, and buddhism.

I was talking to a teenage girl who had attended UU RE all her life, and she said, "They try to give you enough information to decide your religious path for yourself, but most people I know just stay with the church." I guess the latter bit is universal. By and large, people hate change, unless something goes seriously wrong with the religious institution they grew up with. Not to say that exploration isn't common; I think it's both common and important. Hey, I did a ton of exploration, and at the end I was all set to return to the Catholic church... until something went wrong with it.

Whatever Cloud decides to do, I'm gonna let him do it. At least I will be assured that he's not going into his spiritual explorations blind - he'll have a well-rounded background in what religion is all about. I took that liberty for myself without being nearly as prepared, and I turned out all right.

2) UU is like a clearinghouse of social justice and environmentalism causes. What could possibly appeal to me more? Pure, unabashed altruism, no strings attached!

3) Half the members are fine artists. Seriously, this church is stacked with old ladies wielding a mean paintbrush. Admittedly, there's only a scattering of other types of artists - a few talented singers, some crafters, some cooks, and one woman who is really into theater. But fine arts is where my interests lie. I've been stalled out for years now - working on the comic books but lacking any sort of direction when it came to doing paintings and stuff. The best way to jolt oneself out of a rut is to surround oneself with the thing you aspire to create yourself, and I think it's starting to work. I'm interested in making it work.

4) No pressure. I hate social pressure. It makes me want to go away. Many religious communities are so rigid - I can't do that. And I want my son to have some spiritual elbow room too. He's not going to be like everyone else, no matter what happens. Why not accept that from the start and give him room to grow? Who knows what he'll grow into? It might be someone really amazing!

Sometimes he does something totally unique and unexpected, and I laugh and cheer him on. I'm from the Neil deGrasse Tyson school of parenting - if he's damaging something truly valuable and irreplaceable, like a cat*, stop him. If not, let him go. And appreciate the results, whatever they may be.

And only hold his hand when he's reaching for me. And when crossing the street. Any time other than that, I can have a little faith in the kid. And try not to let him see me gnawing my fingernails in anxiety for him.

*Cats in general may be easily replaceable, but individual cats are not.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Who wants a postcard?

I have two 'Boston' postcards sitting around. Who wants to get a postcard from me? First two commenters win. Just leave me your email address so I can ask for your address privately.