Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More, more, more

Luckily for him, Owen perfected his “more” speaking-and-signing combo in time for my parents' visit to Columbus.

The boy thrives on repetition of the simplest things. In the car today, he spent a good 10 minutes saying “all done” back and forth to Grammy for no good reason, laughing with each new speaking of the phrase. He doesn’t appear to notice the irony in ceaselessly saying “all done”

After dinner Grammy, Grandpa and Will spoiled Owen more with about 50 renditions of patty cake. Every time he asked for “more,” he got it.

Once Grammy and Grandpa are gone I’m afraid Owen’s going to have to settle for “less.” Anyone know sign language for that one?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bringing in the leaves

Fall is my favorite season for nature art. Will and Owen both love to hunt for leaves. Will likes to collect them; Owen likes to hold them and crush them. We’ve glued leaves on paper, made crayon rubbings of leaves and this weekend Will and I put together a simple fall wreath.

We bought a $3 twig wreath at Michaels, then went outside collecting leaves, pinecones and acorns. Will helped me position the leaves, burying their stems in the wreath, while Owen added to the challenge, occasionally capturing one of Will's leaves and tearing it up beyond recognition. I tied on the pinecones with yarn and then secured things in place with a glue gun – and then I got lazy and tossed the acorns back outside when I noticed they would be almost imperceptible on the wreath.

We’ve already lost a few of the not-so-well-glued leaves to the wind, but we’re still enjoying our autumn wreath. We’ll discard the leaves whenever it’s time to transition toward Christmas wreaths and store the twiggy wreath frame for next year’s leaf collection.

What do your kids do with leaves?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Little climber and his big accomplice

Rob tends to encourage Owen’s climbing endeavors even more than I do. The other day as Rob was strumming his guitar in the kitchen he watched while Owen pushed a chair beside the kitchen counter, climbed atop the chair and stood reaching for a ceramic mug filled with pens, pencils and a big pair of scissors. That was the moment I came in and gave both boys a friendly scolding as I swooped Owen off his perch and returned him to the floor.

“Look how much he’s learning, though,” Rob said.
A few minutes later, I watched Owen push a chair next to the stove and touch one of the burner dials before I came swooping in warning him about the dangers of stoves.
“See how much he’s learning,” I said to Rob.
But that just inspired Rob set up a more precarious climbing for challenge for Owen. So he held this kid’s chair on top of the kitchen chair and spotted Owen as he scaled to the top of his father’s crazy contraption, which was of course designed primarily to either make me protest or make me laugh.
I did both, took a moment out for the photo, and then rescued Owen again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Little climber

At 15 months, Owen has decided that his primary purpose in life is to climb stuff, and once having climbed it, to stand on the conquered object and grin with the fullest sense of his own glory. He climbs chairs of all sizes, rocking chairs included, coffee tables, concrete steps, slides designed for over-4-year-olds (although he usually only partially conquers these). And the minute you bring him down from any of these perches he climbs back up again. And again and again and again.

Yesterday, he climbed up on a chair that accompanies a desk, which is home to our fish tank. This time he didn’t waste time standing on the chair; he started to work climbing from the chair to the desk and he looked like he was preparing to ascend the fish tank after that.

He’s had a minor spill or two but nothing to scare the climber out of him.

As he stands, teetering on the edge of a chair in the kitchen, I'll say “Sit down on the chair, Owen.”

And he'll flash me a devilish grin and plop down so fast, it probably would be safer if he’d just stay standing.

Will at this age spent more time observing the world and less time climbing it. He’d enjoy watching other kids climb things at the park, while he stood wide-eyed, just taking it all in. Owen would rather run and climb himself. He’s also taken to hanging from low-lying bars like a little monkey and he loves to run from me laughing when I suggest we do something like put his shoes on. I’m just glad I got the avid runner-climber in round two, now that four years of parenting has sufficiently squelched most of my hover-mother instincts. If Will had climbed like this, I would have been pulling my hair out. As it is, I can’t help but enjoy watching Owen climb the world and look out upon it with unfettered joy -- as if no man before him had ever climbed a chair so tall.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Light reading for parents of strong-willed kids

A month and a half ago, Rob told me I needed to read this column on When I finally got around to it yesterday, it had me in tears I was laughing so hard. At one point I had to collect myself, take a deep breath and dab my eyes so that I could see to read to the end. The title, “Is my kid a jerk, or is he just 2?” is a hint at the contents. I’m not sure if it will seem funny to most parents, but for Rob and I, it hit home. Fortunately Will has mellowed out enormously since the peak of his tantruming days but occasionally when he’s short on sleep, we witness the return of the 2- and 3-year-old beast within.

If your children occasionally or frequently become irrational, irate, power-hungry little balls of fury, you deserve to take a quick empathetic journey into the home of a writer named Christopher Noxon, whose reflections were triggered when his two-year-old pooped on his foot and then looked up at him with satisfaction.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Scrappy decor

About a week ago, after some prodding from Will to get our Halloween decorating in gear, Rob retrieved a pathetic Halloween box from the attic. It contained nothing but a funky looking stuffed pumpkin, a twiggy fall wreath with fake orange berries, a clay jack-o-lantern candle holder and a plastic trick-or-treating pumpkin pail. So I decided to launch Will on a series of do-it-yourself-kid Halloween projects that have occupied Will’s time and creative abilities and produced some truly spooky decorations that have left Rob wondering why we don’t just go out and buy some polished looking décor.

My philosophy is if a kid’s playing artist/creator, he should do as much of the work as he possibly can himself. I’ll write bubble letters, for example, or cut out a shape that Will’s drawn. But the ideas and the execution are largely left to him. The result is some funky, scrappy, crude-looking décor that Will and I happen to like just fine.

There’s this Happy Halloween sign for example, colored by Will on the back of a strip of Cheerios box. (It’s hard to tell but there’s a few trick-or-treaters drawn between the letters. Will was glad when he realized this sign was facing toward one of our front windows. He imagined that folks driving by would enjoy viewing a sign that’s kind of hard to make out from just 12 inches away.)

And there’s this pumpkin, whose not so circular shape Will drew and then painted himself. Even the painted toilet paper tube stem didn’t stop Rob from asking me, “What is that?” -- out of earshot of Will.

There’s also this sock ghost, with a head stuffed with newspaper and sparse ghostly facial features drawn in marker.

When it came time to make a haunted house Will kind of lost track of its “hauntedness” as he began industriously working to cut out windows and doors (these he did cut himself) and then color them in cheery blues and purple. For a few days the cardboard-brown house sat on the dining room table awaiting its ultimate purpose. Rob called it clutter, but Will and I were just waiting to add some Halloween flair. Eventually Will gave the house a black paint job, and now we’re calling it scary. We’re planning to add some stretched-out-cottonball spider webs, which will no doubt only add to its beauty.

But my favorite piece of Halloween décor is this footprint ghost that Owen made with his teachers at school. I’ve decided to build on their idea by making a banner with a wide strip of black poster board and having the boys each add a footprint ghost to it each year. We’ll write the date below the ghosts and I’ll let Will write his name in white crayon. Then each year, we can pull out the banner and add two new ghosts to our footprint ghost parade.

Who has Halloween craft ideas to share?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Post-debate mom talk

I'm just back from a small debate-viewing party, and feeling pretty okay about not having to watch the presidential candidates do a round four of these head-to-head matches. Don't get me wrong. I'm a political junkie of sorts. But the candidates' talking points and the pundits' assessments of the candidates "offense" and "defense" gets wearisome for me pretty fast.

I'd rather read in-depth articles examining the candidates and the vice presidential candidates political records -- as well as their responses to journalists' questions in situations where the journalists have space to keep pressing for answers. I'd rather go to and than swallow political deceptions and distortions at face value. (McClatchy newspapers also offers a good fact-checking overview of last night’s debate here as does NPR here.) I'd rather assess Sarah Palin as she shares some unscripted straight talk with Katie Couric than hear another stump speech.

It's easy to get weary of politics in a presidential election year, but as a mother I feel like there’s too much on the line. I'm looking forward to getting together next week with a politically diverse group of mothers (in a book club that's discussing politics instead of a book for this month). One of those mothers directed me to this page of The Economist web site for some fairly in-depth and yet reasonably succinct (and skeptical) analysis of the candidates' competing platforms. You can click on items in the blue box on the left to read analysis of the candidates positions on everything from health care and the economy to Iraq and Afghanistan. I haven’t found time to get through all of it, but I plan to keep reading it in spurts. And I’ll keep listening to all the political news and analysis on National Public Radio, through my computer, as I clean up the kitchen late at night.

Somehow I’m still interested. And yet I can’t wait to get November 4 behind us. As a busy mom, I could stand to be a bit less politically preoccupied.

Where are you turning for election information? Or are you tuning out?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Confessions of a Halloween slacker mom

Today’s Ledger-Enquirer includes a little pre-Halloween column about my quick descent from creative costume-making mom to sell-out, buy-it-at-the-dollar-store-and-be-done-with-it Halloween slacker mom.

I’m aspiring to get creative again next year – and I applaud you if you’ve got more ambitious plans. Here are a few web sites for the inspired costume creator in you.
(The last site with cardboard-box costume ideas has me scheming about making a sufficiently “cool” if totally cumbersome race car costume with Will next year. It probably won't happen.)

Homemade Halloween costumes

Here's a photo of Will and Owen during a trial run of their Halloween costumes. I discovered that the hand-me-down frog is already too small for Owen, so we found hand-me-down dragon costume in the attic, which will make a better partner for a knight anyway.

Friday, October 10, 2008

We love ourselves

After a day in which Will had been alternately playful, whiney, boisterous and joyful (especially while frolicking with Rob in the front yard at dusk) he decided to cap things off with some unusually sweet bedtime talk.

As he sat down for his nighttime reading with Rob, he said, “Daddy, we’re best buddies. We love ourselves. But you know who loves us more? Mommy.”

Rob apparently agreed, and Will decided to march into the bedroom, where I was reading a bedtime story to Owen.

“Mommy, he said, I love you even more than you love us.”

“No you don’t,” I told him, “I love you to the moon and back,” quoting Big Nutbrown Hare in Sam McBratney's Guess How Much I Love You.

“I love you to the butterflies!” he said.

And we got into a little who-loves-who more contest that I think we both won.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hold the meds, endure the colds

My 15-month-old is muddling his way through the first of what I imagine will be many colds in this first year of three-day-a-week morning daycare. All he gets as help from me is a little sympathy, some occasional saline spray to the nostrils to help flush the gunk out, and as much fluid as he’ll put down. No Dimetapp, No Pediacare for Owen. I’m wary of medicine that’s not absolutely necessary anyway, especially for young kids. And now, when it comes to cold remedies anyway, pediatricians, the FDA and the drug industry itself are suggesting that avoiding over-the-counter drugs altogether is probably the best plan of attack as we help our under-4-year-olds battle colds.

In case you missed it, an Associated Press story in today’s Ledger-Enquirer reports about the decision by companies that make over-the-counter cold remedies to recommend against using those products in kids under 4. Pediatricians have supported a ban for children under 6, the story says. As one doctor explains, “There is no evidence that these products work in kids, and there is definitely evidence of serious side effects.” Read the full story here.

As a side note: We have occasionally used a children’s decongestant when Will has had a cold and we’re heading somewhere on an airplane – to keep his sinuses clear enough to avoid the excruciating pain of air pressure changes with congestion. I learned that lesson in college when I perforated an ear drum while flying with a cold.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Farm dining

Yesterday we enjoyed a “Dinner on the Farm” at Jenny-Jack Sun Farm in Harris County. As preamble to the meal, we took a farm tour and learned from Chris Jackson about the crops he and his wife Jenny grow along with some of their strategies for organic gardening. Chris had recently built this moveable “chicken tractor,” which, along with the wire fencing that stretches out from it, can be moved around the farm so that the chickens’ droppings will fertilize different sections of the soil.

Will and Owen loved running around the farm, observing the chickens and tasting appetizers.
And the home-grown meal -- prepared by Chefs Eric Arceneaux of the Big Eddy Club in Columbus, Shannon Klein of Food Blossoms Catering and the Rose Cottage, and Mike and Evie Akins of Evie’s Country Gardens and served to about 200 guests -- was perfect. The menu included slow-cooked heritage hog, split peas with honey-sweetened grilled eggplant, cornmeal dusted fried okra over arugula tossed in green goddess dressing; roasted butternut squash and turnips, creamy stone-ground grits, and for dessert an assortment of pies and the most delicious homemade honey-lavender ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

After dinner, storyteller Pam Avery entertained the crowd. During that portion of the festivities, I
took the ever-moving-always-talking Owen across the road, where we petted a friendly horse.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Magazines for little people

For their birthdays, both Will and Owen got a subscription to an age-appropriate magazine. Will has been thoroughly enjoying the stories, photos, facts and activities in ‘Your Big Backyard.” But I’m an even bigger fan of Owen's Babybug Magazine . Silly as it may seem to buy an under-2-year-old a “magazine” subscription, these magazines are really more like books – sturdier than books with tearable paper pages but more enticing than a board book because the pages are thin and much more akin to the books that big people read. Something about the short little two-four page “stories” of daily baby-and-toddler life -- mixed with the occasional nursery rhyme – have proved riveting for both Will and Owen from well before their first birthday through their second. (Our first subscription to Babybug for Will was a gift from a former preschool teacher who has a good sense of what will fascinate kids.)

And apparently Babybug stories resonate with me too. I’ll find myself walking down the street and reciting one of the little one-page rhymes in my head for no reason: “Zoey and Zack sat back to back, eating their crackers out of a sack. Mmm, mmmm, what a good snack.” Evidence that the boys have wanted me to read the books again and again. And that I often think like a 1-year-old. (That rhyme apparently stuck with Will too since he recently named two newly purchased guppies “Zoey” and “Zacky.”)

What magazines do your kids enjoy? Or do you stick with books for the little people in your house?