Thursday, February 24, 2011

Discovering Splatter Painting

I gave Xander an activity that he liked more than I thought he would, although he has only spent about five or ten minutes on it.

(shallow) bucket of water
clean paintbrush

I set him to work "painting" the fence. He had a good time discovering the look and feel of newly "painted" wood. Then he started flicking the paintbrush at the fence and saying, "Look! Look! Look what I did!"

Aha. I discovered a nice add-on Stage Two. I had him dump the rest of the water on our sidewalk and put him to work "painting" the sidewalk. He tired of that quickly but now his younger brother is occupied with it. ;)

More of the Same

Nick and I were doing an activity today with red buttons. He kept holding them up to his clothing but, since they weren't attached, they kept falling off.

I watched a biographical DVD about C.S. Lewis today when Xander got home from school. He watched, too, and had some interesting comments and questions. He asked, "Are they talking to us?" about the people who were interviewed. He recognized the parts when the DVD referred to The Chronicles of Narnia, and one part where it mentioned the Lord of the Rings. It is so fun to talk with him now that he understands so much more. I was able to explain that the author of The Chronicles of Narnia and the author of the Lord of the Rings books were friends.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ideas, Continued, from Your Child At Play: Three to Five Years

Here are some more ideas I want to keep in mind for Xander and then Nick when Nick is old enough:

  • Show him a family album. Can he find pictures of his mom or dad when they were both babies?
  • Show him a dead ant. How does he know the ant is dead? What could have happened?
  • Read him a book about death, like Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia, or if someone in his life has died, Someone Special Died by Joan Singleton.
  • Play the Follow the Leader with him, taking turns at being leader.
  • On a breezy day, play bubbles with him and challenge him to catch a bubble as it flies through the air.
  • Make a skipping rope out of running water from a hose. Hold the hose low to begin with and gradually make it higher.
  • Turn a walk into a scavenger hunt. Give him a basket and see if he can collect five or six different objects: a big and small stone, a flower petal, an acorn or pine cone, a piece of paper, a maple leaf, and/or a pine needle. Keep a list of what you are looking for, and cross out each item as you find it.
  • Play "Simon Says," taking turns being Simon.
  • With other kids: Punchinello, a circle game where every kid gets a chance to be in the middle and perform an action the other kids imitate. "What can you do, Punchinello, funny fellow? What can you do, Punchinello, funny you? (Child does trick.) We can do it too, Punchinello, funny fellow. We can do it too, Punchinello, funny you! (Others imitate child)"
  • Go to a petting zoo.
  • Do activities to feel soft things, rough things, slippery things, and prickly things.
  • Expose him to a second language (for example, speak and use Spanish for half the day).
  • Tear a piece of paper in half. Give your child a roll of tape so that he can put the two halves back together.
  • Take him to the supermarket. See if he can help me find the different vegetables and fruits on my list.
  • Read up on several different types of animals from your zoo or even more specifically, from the petting zoo in your zoo or the aviary in the zoo. Go see those animals. Take pictures of them. When you look at the pictures together, talk about them.
  • Play Hangman.
  • Roll out Play-Doh and let him cut out letters and numbers from it.
  • Work with him to make a scrapbook of his golden birthday. Have him dictate captions for the photos.
  • Write a letter or postcard to our child and mail it. He will love getting real mail!
  • Encourage him to help me find the right phone number in my cell phone when we are making a call to a friend or relative.
  • Enlarge the type on a word processing program and let him type "words". He may like to use different colors of type, too. Print them out if he wants.
  • Introduce him to email. To send email to him, use my account and write "for Xander" as the subject and mail it to my account. Help him open and read it.
  • Model friendship skills for him. When we invite friends to the house, talk with him about the sorts of things we can do to make them feel welcome.
  • When a friend is invited over, give the children an opportunity to make their own snacks.
  • Before going on an outing, act out the trip with him. Then replay the trip when we get back.
  • Set up a fully-stocked play kitchen in one room for a week or two.
  • Let him finger-paint again.
Awesome book, right? Even though I come across lots of ideas that are simple, valuable, and common-sense, I can't seem to come up with them on my own. 


Xander became very upset when he spilled his water cup on the floor last night and today at lunch. Our conversation afterward was eye-opening for me. I told him it was okay, it was just an accident.

He said, "No, it wasn't an accident. When somebody else does it it is an accident, not when I do it."

I asked if he was very disappointed in himself for spilling the water. He said yes. We talked about ways he could avoid doing it next time. He went to put on dry clothes, crying and wailing, and I asked him to stop crying before he came back out to the dining room. He said he couldn't, and he needed my help. When I came in to help, I offered several different suggestions. None of them would help.

I asked, "How can I help you?"

Xander said, "There's nothing you can do to cheer up."

I asked him what was the happiest thing he knew. He thought about it for a while and said, "I can't remember."

I asked him what made him feel happy. Did school make him happy? He nodded yes. Did his toys make him happy? Head shake. "Toys can't make you happy."

Did loving Mom and Dad and Nick make him happy? A nod. Did Mom and Dad and Nick loving him make him happy? A nod.

But then we had to have a conversation about why Nick laughs at him even when something is not funny or silly. I reassured him that Nick thinks he's the greatest, not just the silliest.

I came out of that room thinking he had said some pretty profound things. Then, of course, he came out cheerfully saying, "Mom, I don't love you today."


Monday, February 21, 2011

"Wha' Happen?"

Xander and I did some Cereal Math today. I laid out Froot Loops in rows on our cutting board: one row of one, one row of two, one row of three, etc., to five. I asked him what zero meant: "Nothing!" Going row by row, I asked him what one plus zero was (pointing to the center of the board which had zero pieces of cereal on it), and then when he figured it out with some prompting, he moved the one piece all the way over to the right side of the board, which was the answer side. We did the same with all rows, and then we did it adding one piece of cereal (in the middle of the board) to each row. He gave the answer and then pushed all the pieces from the left side and center to the right side answer space. After we did all of them, he got to eat. :)

He was very obedient laying in his bed for roomtime today when I decided he needed a nap. (I was helping him put a shirt on over his head and it pushed against his eyes. He cried and said I had hurt him and it wasn't an accident and they really hurt and they were never going to get better. That was one clue he needed a rest.) He never fell asleep but stayed in bed the whole time.

Nick accidentally knocked over some diapers and an iPod dock that was on his diaper-changing caddy. He said, "Wha' happen? Wha' happen? Wha' happen?"

This is the first time we have heard him say this. It's amazingly cute. "What happened?" is what I usually say when the kids knock something over. ;)

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Visit

Aunt Leslie and Doug just left for the soccer tournament in Tampa. They were here for such a short time but Aunt Leslie and I did get good talks and a long walk in. Nick took to Doug immediately. Funny how he would do that when Doug is so high up there above him. Xander commandeered him to play battles and optics ("imagnex" whatever that means, and no, we don't have Imaginext toys).

Xander also got to go to school for the second time this week. I'm glad he improved so quickly. Nick has gotten worse, though, and barely slept last night. I'm at my wits' end but I guess I will put him in bed very early with Vicks Babyrub, the humidifier and the help of the steamy bath I am currently watching him take. He is so cheerful and active when he's awake, but miserable and unsleeping when it's naptime or bedtime.

On our walk today, Leslie and I took Nick in the jogging stroller and he snoozed a little bit. Hopefully that was good for him. It was an absolutely gorgeous day of probably 73 degrees and sunny. Doug, meanwhile, got in tons of sleep on our bonus room bed.

I am blessed by this visit. Nothing like walking and talking with Aunt Leslie.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Nick is now able to take the caps off markers (the washable kind, of course), draw, and put the cap right back on! Who raised this genius boy???!!

Like many things I post here, this seems like no big deal, but trust me, it is SUPER amazing. No marker marks where we don't want them, no dried-up-before-their-time markers, and a happy instead of frustrated little boy. Okay, so he has marks on his hands and his pants, but like I said before, they're washable markers. Hurray!

Xander is still miserable at least three times a day when his cough hits him, but cheerful the rest of the time. Mainly because I'm letting him have juice and juice-water and hard candies to suck on and he can watch Lord of the Rings movies practically all day. Not tomorrow, though. He has been warned. Unless he gets sicker overnight, he's going back to school (which he wants to do anyway) and back to our regular schedule.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

I got Erik two Tom Waits songs for a Valentine's treat and we are listening to our music. Nick has started to sing "bum bum bum bum bum" and bounce to songs. It's pretty great.

Xander remains excited and thankful for every gift, no matter how small. He was very excited this morning to find a bag of popcorn in his Valentine bag.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Time to Read The Hobbit

I've been trying to read a chapter from Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to Xander every day before roomtime. He is just not very interested in it. After getting to the last chapter, but not getting through it, I finally decided I need to start reading him The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings books are much too old for him, but I think he will listen to them, whereas it is like pulling teeth to read him the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book.

I read him the first few pages while he played around with these little balls his teacher gave him. He looked like he wasn't paying attention, so I started asking him questions about what I had just read. When I got to the part about hobbits not wearing any shoes, I asked him, "Do they wear shoes?"

He shook his head and said, "Except on days when they will be in puddles of mud, then they wear boots." I was going to correct him, then I realized he was talking about the Two Towers book about the making of the movie that we've read. The actors who played the hobbits talked about how much of a pain it was to get into their hobbit feet and how sometimes when it was a muddy day they had to wear special boots over them or else they'd get pulled off in the mud. I can hardly believe he remembers in accurate detail something we read weeks ago! His memory can be precise.

I learned from his classmate's mom that he makes sure everyone knows his full name. Her son had told her, "He's Alexander Richard Powers." They also know he wants to be a paleontologist. Nothing more, nothing less.

On a Nick note, he has been trying me for about a week now. He really broke me down, and I feel exhausted. I have been trying to take a positive approach (along with immediate discipline) by reading him stories he likes and letting him push the cart at Target. Things like that. I got this book from the library called Llama Llama Mad At Mama about a little llama on a shopping trip with his mom. He doesn't like it much and has a tantrum at the climax of the book, when he is "Llama, llama, mad at mama!" Then Mama has him clean up his tantrumy mess and tells him they will try to make it fun and they eventually leave happy. Nick giggled throughout the book. Yep, he is in tune with that message.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I was in tears yesterday, embarrassed by Nick's behavior at Toddler Storytime at the library. That shows my weakness of character...but I do have another point here. I want to focus on how adorable Nick continues to be because if I stay mad, embarrassed, exhausted, or feeling like a failure through this stage, I will miss out on some awesome things.

Like just now, I got out some of Xander's cars for Nick (ssshhhhh, don't tell) and said, "Wow! All these cars!" He followed me as I brought them to the living room, saying, "Waw, waw, waw, cars!" Adorable.

Last night as I took a much-needed nap, Erik got Nick on video sitting in his rocking chair reading a tractor book to himself. Adorable.

Nick is showing me each car as he takes it out of the bag. He's trying to say their colors, too. When he got to the dump truck, he told me, "Tyuck, tyuck, tyuck." Now he is looking at his lineup saying, "A-car, tyuck, car, tyuck, car." Adorable.

He has learned to say all-done or down when he wants to get out of his booster seat. It has turned into "All-down, all-down." Adorable.

This morning he picked up some little sea creatures (a sea turtle and a tiny walrus) and said, "Huggie-pooh," and put them up to his shoulder so he could love on them. Adorable.

This morning when I tried to take a video of him, he looked at the video camera for a moment and then said, "Hah?" (His word for hi.) Adorable.

If I don't focus on these things, I will focus on his car-screaming, his laid-out-flat-on-the-floor defiance, and his yelling early in the morning when he wants to get up.

Erik assured me last night that Xander was just like this at this age and no, he doesn't think Nick can be taught library storytime skills. He reminded me Xander did that, too, and it's just part of their personalities. Well, I look forward to library storytimes with Nick when he is three years old. :)

I'll leave you with the video Erik took.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Meeting a Friend

Today we met Xander's school friend Russell and his mom at the zoo. Nick was a handful now that he doesn't want to be in the stroller but doesn't understand (or won't do) staying by Mama. He did have fun running around when he wasn't having a stroller timeout. The outing made Xander's week. Even though he and Russell will see each other tomorrow at school, they were both very unhappy to end the time together.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bathtime Measuring

Nick is so engrossed in his bathtime play right now. I put the measuring cups and spoons in the water with bubbles and he is concentrating so seriously on pouring from one to the other and stirring with the spoons.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ideas from Your Child At Play: Three to Five Years, Part One

I got this great book from the library based on someone's recommendation: Your Child At Play: Three to Five Years, by Marilyn Segal, Ph.D. I want to list some of the ideas that would work well for Xander so I have a better chance of actually doing them.

Section 1: Playing With Ideas

1. Watch movies or shows about faraway places. A show like Sesame Street may have segments on other cultures, or a documentary or nature show. (Our kids have really enjoyed the animal, plant, and music segments of Wonder Pets, Little Einsteins, Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Go!, and Sesame Street.)

2. When you see a plane flying overhead, talk about the direction it's heading and where it might be going. Show an aerial photo of where we live.

3. Go to a museum exhibit about China or another culture (maybe for Chinese New Year).

4. Packing for a trip: Together choose clothes according to the climate where you're going and the activities you'll be doing. You can even pack for an imaginary trip, like for a mountain-climbing expedition.

5. While he watches, draw a map from our front door to the bedroom. Walk along the path with him and let him find the lines on the paper that relate to the walk he is taking.

6. Go through family photo albums together and talk about trips we went on, things we did, and holidays we celebrated.

7. After a holiday is over, talk about the next one coming up and how it will be different. Preschool children may think that the next holiday will be similar; e.g., will wonder what costume he will wear at Christmas.

8. At the end of the day, talk to him about what he did. Help him remember details. Ask him to guess what is going to happen tomorrow.

9. Create a weekly calendar out of train shapes for each day of the week and glue magnets to the backs. Let him add a new car to the refrigerator every day until he has completed the week. (I may make a train shape to stick to the Spanish calendar I made as we talk about what day it is in Spanish.)

10. This is not a preschool idea, but I found it fascinating. The book says that a child who has just learned to walk will step on a stone but walk around a turtle.

11. If someone close to him dies, do not talk about it as being like going to sleep. That can make children afraid to go to sleep. Instead, emphasize that a dead person does not hurt in any way.

12. Talk about the similarities and differences we have with animals. What would it be like to be hatched out of an egg, to live in a nest until one day you started to fly? You could fly over fences, streets, rivers, wherever you wanted. You'd have to sleep in a tree and eat worms. You would have to make sure a cat didn't catch you and eat you for dinner.

(This goes up to p. 52.)

Note to self: Also re-read the Mister Rogers book on play that Mom gave me. He has similar suggestions.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Xander's Memory

We are going to see my friend Shannon and her two daughters, Dakota and Kylie, on Monday afternoon. They came to Xander's fourth birthday party and we've only seen them once since then, in the summer. I asked Xander if he remembered them.

"Yes," he said, "They came to my party before my golden birthday!"

"Yes!" I said.

"They gave me a bubble blower bee..."

"Yes, they did!"

"And it is in the trash now because it didn't work."

Oh. This is one of the disadvantages of having a child with a good memory.


Nick is sitting at his chair eating lunch and saying, "Nyum, yum."

Earlier he pointed to the E and F keys on Xander's learning laptop and said, "E, F, F." He was also able to string my homemade "beads" (the pink foam part of hair curlers, cut into smaller sizes) onto a bendable plastic knitting needle. I am just amazed. Still.

When I got him up from his nap this morning he was hugging his Pooh bear. (Leslie, it's the Baby's First Pooh you gave to Xander when he was a baby. He didn't play with it a whole lot until he was older, but Nick adopted it five or six months ago and it is his favorite friend. Ever.)

He said, "Awwwwwwww. Hug. Pooh." Because that's what Erik and Xander and I say when he hugs his Pooh: Awwwwwwwwwwww!

Then he said, very clearly and deliberately, "Huggie-Pooh." Because I used to call Xander that when he was younger and Xander says that to Nick all the time.

He said it again. "Huggie, Pooh. Hug Pooh."

This all sounds stupid and ridiculous to other people, probably, but I am delighted.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Conversations

Xander: "My unicorn can speak, Mom."

Me: "Oh, wow!"

Xander: "Well, she's afraid of you."

Ooooooohhhhhhhh, that must be why I've never heard her speak.

Nick: "Beh."

Me: "Yes, bread!"

Nick: "Ick."

Me: "Milk!"

Nick: "Dow, dow, dow, dow, dow."

Me: "Do you want to get down or are you all done eating?"

He was all done because he heard Xander playing in his room. Too exciting to eat.

On our way home from school, Xander asked me how many dreams I had and what they were. I told him about one of mine from last night.

He told me, "I had four dreams.  The first one was a car coming to get me. The second was....Then I was on the place where the hurricane was. Then I dreamed there were goblins in our house. Then I dreamed there was a skeleton in my room tickling me."

I asked, "Was that scary or funny?"

He said, "Scary! Those were all my scary dreams."

I said, "Those sound like very scary dreams."

The funny thing is, he has not cried out in the middle of the night or said anything about the dreams. He told me about them matter-of-factly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dad and Son Date

Erik and Xander went on an unplanned date this past Saturday. They drove over to the comic book/board game store that we like (Borderlands on Atlantic Avenue) to look for a couple of treats. Erik did not find the Arkham Horror Expansion we wanted but Xander did find a Sonic the Hedgehog comic book. On top of that, they ate fast food for lunch! Good times.

Wrinkled Feelings

We had out the wooden shape sorter this afternoon. Nick pulled out the star shape and said, "Dahhhh."

It's official! He is learning his shapes, numbers, letters, and colors! I think I was unsure until now. But he has done the same things enough times that I really believe it.

From some things I've overheard, I think Xander's class is talking about their hearts and things that "put a wrinkle" in their hearts; i.e., hurt their feelings. Great (I say sarcastically). Xander doesn't need any other excuse to tell me, "You're breaking my heart!" Last time he said it, it was because I would not change what he was getting for breakfast, or something crucial like that. His love has lots of Terms and Conditions. (Not really, but when he talks about it he is sure to "wrinkle" some hearts himself: "Dad, I only love you sometimes." "Mom, I love you. But not when you tell me things to do.")