Monday, January 23, 2017

No. 3's Second Birthday!!!



Today is No. 3’s second birthday!  All of our kids were homebirths.  No. 3 though, was our only solo delivery.  We called the midwives at the same time we always had, as contraction began, but No. 3 was ready to go.  She arrived five minutes before the midwives.  As I scooped her up, she was fascinated with chewing on her foot.  What I really needed her to do though was breathe.  She couldn’t have been less interested.  Consequently, I took her foot away from her mouth.  She very calmly, put it back in, and got back to work.  We did this two more times before she became frustrated enough that she let out a yell at the offending foot and dad.  Hence, No. 3 took her first breaths in the world!

Since then, she’s been a little cuddle monkey.  Of our kids, No. 3 seems to emit the most endorphins/pheromones.  She nuzzled everyone she met when she was little.  They’d gasp, and then they’d start to cry; without fail.  No. 3 is our tears of joy inducer.  It still happens occasionally.  Someone will meet No. 3, and by the end of the day, they’ll be happily weeping for one reason or another.

She’s been fiercely independent since she learned to walk.  Boarding buses or trains, she insists on getting into her own seat just like her older sibs.  When she was shorter, grabbing on to either side of a seat, she’d use her upper body strength—the kind only toddlers and gymnasts seem to possess—to literally pull her entire weight up and into the chair.  Now, that she’s grown a little more, she attacks the problem a different way.  She’ll fold into the seat from the waste up, and then swing her feet up and under her torso till she’s sitting on the seat backwards on her knees.  She has to turn around, but she’s so proud that she’s got it.

Which reminds me.  In addition to endorphins, she’s in possession of copious amounts of pride, and I for one think she should be.  Each of her new achievement is celebrated with a giant grin, clapping hands, and a little dance.  For the last two weeks she’s been psyched that she’s finally in a soccer practice all he own instead of just tagging along to the sibs’ class.  She’s quickly picking up ball handling.  As we navigated Chinatown this weekend, she’d find an interesting piece of garbage, and kick it up the street, all the while absentmindedly dodging the elbow to elbow people making their way along the sidewalk.

And did I mention her bravery, and aplomb?  Plowing through the crowds on Saturday, she wanted to be carried some of the time, but as soon as something interested her, she was down and rooting.  With me serving as a six foot tall safety flag standing right behind her for the more than occasional person who was in a hurry, and didn’t think to look down, No. 3 made her way through the crowd;  stopping when she needed to; waiting for an opening; and then threading through with me close behind.  Her sibs, having learned this game long ago were ten to twenty feet in front of us, checking out the parts of the street, shops, and people that interested them.

All in all it’s been a grand two years since No. 3 came into the world gnawing on her foot, and we’re all looking forward to what comes next!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes outed as an Unschooler!


As No. 1, our five year old, and I headed into town for a writing class yesterday, I presented her with her textbook for the class: Teacherless Writing by Peter Elbow.  She grinned from ear to ear, “I learned to write without a teacher!”  No. 1 recently found out that she’s ‘unschooled’.

She continued to check out her new book, as we lurched along the BART line into town.  I thought she was just excited to receive a new book, she soon let me in on the real cause of her thrill though.

“So, there’s a book I read called Calvin and Hobbes”

“I know that book.” I said.

“Right, well in the book, there’s a boy named Calvin, and he goes to school.  When he does, he usually has a piece of paper.  I have one of those.  He also has a pencil.  I have one of those.  He also sometimes has a book.  And now, I have a book!  And I'm going to a class!  I'm just like Calvin!!!”

To No. 1, Calvin & Hobbes is a ringing endorsement of classwork!  Could it be?  Could the little boy who arguably hates school the most serve as the poster-child for positive public school experiences?  I thought about it a bit, and it all made sense.  The view we're given into Calvin's schoolwork looks exactly like unschooling.  The class has been assigned to write a paper on George Washington, meanwhile, Calvin is stalwartly doing his own thing, drawing stories about dinosaurs or Spaceman Spiff.  Calvin is an unschooler!  He just doesn't know it.  Alas—and she seems perpetually perplexed by this—neither does his teacher.



Saturday, January 7, 2017

On the Value of Speaking Respectfully

Mom-person bolted across the street for the train.  If she got her foot in the door, we'd all get in.  If not, we'd stand out in the cold for another 20 minutes or so. 

 No. 1, our five year old, bolted with her.  She's big enough to keep up now, and did so admirably.  Her more frequent strides matched her mom's; she stayed right beside her; she was safe.  I'd picked up No.3, our youngest.  She was OK with the development, more bemused than anything else, but also safe.  Then, there was No. 2.  At three years old, he couldn't quite keep up with Mom-person.  She was three quarters of the way across the street before he thought to move.  I cringed.  We'd done this before.  I knew from experience that a few seconds delay could radically change the traffic situation.

Whereas there were no cars when mom-person leaped, there very well might be now.  For slow-twitch participants, like No. 2 and myself, the whole transaction required another scan of oncoming cars.  The issue was No. 2 didn't know that.  He crouched to leap, exactly as I knew he would.  I inhaled a fresh lungful of air preparing to resort to the technique I'd used every time before.  His legs began to uncoil into a powerful jump, I yelled in a forceful, determined voice, "Stop!"

Then, No. 2 and I played out a familiar routine exactly as we had dozens of times before.  He stopped.  He was safe.  As I scanned for cars, No. 2 screamed, and started to cry.  It's what I'd known would happen the instant I saw Mom-person leap for the train.  I'd cringed, accepted my fate, and kept everyone safe.

Later that night, lying in No. 2's bed for our good night snuggles, I asked him if he'd had a good day.  His response was characteristically honest, "No."  I asked why not, and No. 2 replied, "Dad, you made me cry."

"When I yelled at you at the train stop?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"Do you know why I did it?" I asked.

"No," 2's plaintive voice came out of the darkness..

"I was worried you were going to get hit by a car I didn't know about.  I had to make sure you were safe.  I needed you to stop right away, so I yelled.  I'm sorry buddy."

I heard a small sniffle followed by "I don't like it when you yell.  It makes me sad."

"OK," I said, "let's work on a plan.  When Mom runs for buses or trains, you stay right with me.  I'll try to warn you before she's going to do it, but no matter what, you stay with me.  Then, next time, I won't have to yell.  Sound good?  Can you do that?"

"I can."

A few days later, standing across the street from our train, I could see what was likely to happen, and I calmly got No. 2's attention, "Mom's going to bolt.  You're going to hang with me right?  Then we'll catch her when I say it's safe, OK?"

"OK Dad."

Annnnnd, we haven't had a problem since, well, you know, not with that anyway.

I was inspired to share by the WSJ article by Jennifer Lehr, "The Wrong Way to Speak to Children".  Ms. Lehr suggests that parents speak respectfully to kids as if they were adults.  She has written an entire book on related subjects called Parentspeak.  It's due out in three days on January tenth.

The comments on Ms. Lehr's article are intense, and in both directions; a lot of parents love their children intensely.  I think that's good.  As for me, when I can remember to do it, and when the situation allows it, (obviously I don't always remember, and when I don't, the timing's not usually right either), talking with the kids in the way Ms. Lehr suggests opens up a new world, and makes life easier for all of us.  I get a window into what and how the kids think, and they get to see my perspective on why we do the things we do.  It's good; we're building a relationship... you know, just like grown-ups.






Thursday, January 5, 2017

Excitement Builds Around the Wyoming Total Eclipse And General Relativity


In August, there will be a total eclipse of the sun visible over the United States.  No. 1 and her mom, our resident physics professor, turned out this diagram of starlight bending around the sun because the sun's mass curves space.  Can a general relativity experiment be far behind?

In other news, metallic ink pens do interesting things under photo filters.

The following day, this all inspired No. 1's derivative artwork :)