Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My name is two and a half!

I've been a little slow to schlep this post from brain to blog, but here goes: Micah is two and a half! Whoohooo! In traditional A-Lowe style, we celebrated with a wicked yummy half cake, which, as per the half birthday boy's request, was chocolate with more chocolate and cherries. I wish I'd snapped a pic, but it was devoured (omnomnom) before I thought to. If you'd like to picture it, though, just imagine a perfectly circular chocolate cake. Now (using a little jedi mind kung-fu), cut it in half. Voila! Doesn't matter how you slice it (hah!) -- twas deeeelish! Micah still talks about it most days: "Hey Seeerah, how old am I? ... And what did you make for my birfday?"

Speaking of Micah... and talking -- wowee, does the kid ever have a lot to say. He's crazy non-stop talker boy and regularly stops strangers in their tracks with his mad language skillz. I've become accustomed to answering the age old: "Damn, he's a good talker... how old is he?" I've even had several people try to persuade me that he can't possibly be two and a half with such mad skillz. (Only, I don't think anyone actually used the phrase "mad skillz." Lame.) Anyhoo, yes, he's a fabulously verbal kid. Brilliant brilliant brilliant!

For all his precociousness, he is, in many ways, just your typical unstoppable and adorable toddler. He loves to run, jump, climb, to splash in the kiddie pool and defeat the bad guys who invade his turf, to play video games and surf youtube for hours on end... Okay, so maybe the last two aren't exactly your typical toddler variety antics, but they *are* awesome and hilarious. He's a self-sufficient computer user and plays kideo games like a pro. Just yesterday, he figured out how to use bookmarks to start up his favorite games (lucky for him since typing is one thing he can't do). His current game of choice is Widget's build a robot. It's a puzzley one, where you drag chunks of dismembered robots to their appropriate spots and it is, unsurprisingly (given its current popularity amongst A-Lowe chiddlers), also the inspiration for his and Eli's Hallowe'en costumes. Micah's gonna be "a driving robot" (he calls anything with wheels "driving"... the first time he saw a roller skate: "Look, a driving boot!"). And what's Eli going to be, you're surely wondering? Why everyone's favorite chicken bot robot: robo-cluck 3000! We're starting on the costumes any day now... wish us luck!

Other toddler odds and ends: he loves to paint, draw, "write" and spell, and, for now, these four things are actually one pastime, which he charmingly calls "art." Yesterday he drew a "robot with 100 legs." In truth, I drew the legless bot and he just added the appendages (and there weren't actually 100 of them, but who's counting?). He also loves to arrange letters to spell familiar things (he sight reads quite a few words). He whipped up this masterpiece all on his own:

I think it's a bit of a fluke that his name turned out so orderly and perfect; most of his spellings contain errors (though he is very careful not to arrange letters backwards -- I've even seen him correct Eli on this front). He just makes mistakes when he gets excited: the word will start out just fine and then veer off into craziness. When he spelled my name the other day, it turned out something like this: SAR1GNR16TY7!!!!! He also enjoys tracing letters and writes a few on his own (so far I, T, O and L... whoohoo! He's well on his way to writing ROTFL!).

It's hard to talk about Micah without talking about Eli. They're bestest buds and do most everything together. Triking, swinging, slaying robots, devising elaborate plans to defeat evildoers everywhere, saving each other form the SUPER-evil tape measure monster. It's *really* cool. Don't worry, though, I'm not deluding myself into thinking that they'll surely be best friends for life. Believe you me, I've seen the other side. But for now I'm gonna enjoy every wee second of it.

I'll leave you with a heartwarming story of the two of them: they often incorporate video games into their imaginary play -- it's hard to convey the sheer geekiness of it all, but basically they play out the precise and elaborate details of their favorite video games. It's not uncommon for me to hear, for example: "Okay, we've defeated the huge flying boss; on to the next level!" Last week, they were going at it, as per usual, when I overheard this:

Eli: "OH NO, you lost that level! Would you like to continue, click yes or no."
Micah: "I clicked on Y-E-S, yes!"

Cute, eh? Only not quite as cute as this (sorry, this really is my last point!). I recently took a stroll down memory lane through old pics and videos (something I seem to do often around their bdays) and found this, possibly my fave ever video of the chiddlers:

Taken almost a year ago! Micah is 19 months and Eli almost 4.5. And *this* is why I love taking videos of the chiddlers. They both look and sound so different-- it's so easy to forget how quickly they change, but there it is! Crazy!

Okay, that's it. For real.


(p.s. the title of this post was inspired by this.)

Friday, August 21, 2009


Eli makes toast. Yep, it's his latest greatest talent! He generally prepares it with cream cheese and jam, but has been know to put other toppings to the test (it's all over, I reckon, as soon as he discovers nutella). He's super psyched about his up and coming ability to make his own food, but since it's still is a little limited in scope, pretty much lives on toast. Well, that and ice water, which he also loves to get on his own and, for some reason, thinks is a gift straight from the heavens. (Could be the 95-and-up weather we've had for most of the last few months...)

Anyhoo, last night, we overheard him chattering away as he concocted his greatest yet culinary masterpiece (a toasted english muffin with cream cheese and jam): "This cream cheese is so hard to spread!" and then a minute or so later: "OOPS! That's was too much jam... oh well!" He then took the finished product to the table, where he proceeded to dig in. That's when we heard this: "Oh. My. God." and then this: "Yum! This is so good." and then: "Sarah, you have got to try it!" I happily accepted, of course, but was in the middle of solving an exceptionally difficult kenken, so after a good bit of negotiation, convinced him to deliver it straight to my lap. He walked on over, with the painstaking caution of someone carrying a box of fine china. It was then that I got my first proper view of the "toast," which elicited my very own: "Oh. My. God."

On his plate was one toasted intact english muffin (whole, not cut in half as is traditional) topped with 3 large blobs of cream cheese (arranged in a surprisingly perfect triangle!) and swimming in a soup of blackberry jam. After recovering from hysterical laughter, I did try a bite and you know what? Pretty darn tasty!

I'm always charmed by the imperfect creations that children come up with when they're given the opportunity to do so (without the critical eye of a grown-up advising them exactly how things ought to be done). I love it, for example, when kids dress themselves. I mean, really, is there anything more adorable than a 5-year-old in a too-tight batman shirt, long red cape, shorts on backwards and mismatched socks? I think not! Welllll... except maybe a 2-year-old riding his trike, naked except for a grossly oversized pair of shoes and his mom's hot pink raglan shirt wrapped like a turban around his head.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A *GIANT BIG* Update in Two Parts

Part 1: The Chiddlywinkles

As most of you know, my kids are a wee bit inclined towards the obsessive. When they get excited about something they get *really* excited about it, want to do it repeatedly, study it deeply, know everything there is to know about it, etc, etc. Well, last week Eli acquired a shiny new one (obsession that is): going to the movies! The whole thang was spurred, at least in part, by the heatwave. Yep, *that* heatwave, the crazyass one that made it pretty much unbearable to be outdoors for more than a few minutes at a time. I am not, BTW, a wuss when it comes to summer weather. 95 degrees and sunny as hell? Bring it on. But last week was ridiculous -- the temps topped 105 most days and got up to 109 (or some such craziness) on two separate occasions. Yeah. It was brutal. So in a desperate attempt to keep the kids unbored while stuck indoors, the air-conditioned theater offered sweet refuge, a home away from home. For both the chiddlers, but especially for Eli, this made quite an impression... to say the least. It's now the first thing he asks about upon waking ("Are we going to the theater today?!?") and as he dozes off late at night ("Any new movies coming out tomorrow?"). Unfortunately, it's been a bit trying for me to indulge this particular obsession. Turns out I'm not the type to see the same kids movie more than twice in one week, guinea pig spy thriller included, unfortunately for Eli. You see, Eli thinks G-Force is a gift straight from the heavens and would happily watch it 6 trillion times in a row. He's keen to sort out, understand and memorize the subtle plot nuances (something he does with pretty much all his fave movies and books) and apparently seeing it twice wasn't quite enough. Remember were talking guinea pig espionage. Pretty heady stuff. Anywho, I'm pretty sure that, by societal standards, he's not old enough to be dropped off at the theater by himself (though, admittedly, I'm tempted) and I'm *very* sure that I'm not seeing G-Force a third time. Sooooo. Anyone wanna take my kid to the movies? No seriously. Please help a mama out here.

The ol' guinea pig flick definitely wooed and wowed little Micah as well. Mostly, I reckon, cuz it was his first ever trip to the theater (though the microwave-turned-robot didn't hurt either). We got to the theater a few minutes into the previews and, as he caught his first glimpse of a full size movie screen, he shrieked: "Look Sarah, a *GIANT BIG* movie!!!" Fellow theater goers were, fortunately, amused and not annoyed :) And now, whenever he and Eli discuss the movie (often), he refers to it as the *GIANT BIG* movie... "Hey Eli, what was your favorite part of the *GIANT BIG* movie?" or "*My* favorite part of the *GIANT BIG* movie was the guinea pig in the microwave that turned into a robot!" And so on :)

He's a cutie that one. And to prove it: one more charming Micah story. But first a little backstory (to catch you up on how things roll here at the Rancheroo). I'm big into allowing my kids food independence, meaning that I let them eat whatever they want whenever they want it (Yeah. I know. It's crazy radical in a culture where it's generally assumed that parents control their child's every move). The way this plays out in our home is that they basically graze all day long. David's cool with this, except that family mealtime is super important to him, so we've come to the compromise that they can graze as much as they like, until about 4pm, at which point I put all the food away, in hopes that they'll be hungie for din-din and join us at least for a few minutes at the dinner table.

Okay, so this is really cute. A few nights back, Micah and I spent the better part of the pre-dinner hour hanging out in the garden and he was way *way* stoked that the tomatoes had finally turned red. He immediately went to stripping the vines and horking out like a crazyperson. Somehow, I just couldn't find it in me to stop him, to say: "No Micah, don't eat those mouthwateringly scrumptidilyumptious tomatoes; you're gonna spoil your appetite!" So I let him go for it and he went on to devour every ripe tomato (there were half a dozen or more biguns), all the while waxing poetic about his new favorite veggie. By dinnertime, he was covered head to toe in tomato juice, dancing around, singing about his new found love. Check him out:

See! What a cutie!

On that note, I'll leave you with a few adorable random chiddler quotes...

Eli, after watching me get my ass kicked at Age of War: "How come David always wins at videos games and you always lose?"

Micah, acting out his favorite scene from Toy Story 2, to David: "I AM YOUR FATHER!"

Eli, defending the plight of the misunderstood: "People think that zombies are bad cuz they eat people's brains. But they're not! Brains are just what they need to eat!"

And last but not least, one that's likely to melt your heart into a *GIANT BIG* puddle o' goo...

Eli: "Hey Sarah, I'm hungry. Could you run up to the garden and pick me some vegetables?"

Okay, that last one was a lead in to Part 2 of the update. Coming soon. Until then, a picture of my purdy house as viewed from the garden. Just cuz.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Video Games Are Awesome And So Are My Kids

My kids like to ride zebras and crocodiles. To race itty-bitty bright red sport cars and turbo prop airplanes. To build gigantic metal robots (complete with chainsaw arms and laser beam eyes!) and create nonsense words from random strings of letters. Believe it or not, though equally colorful and featuring many of the same themes, I'm not referring to their imaginary play. Instead, all this is made possible through the wonders of modern technology. Yep: video games!

It always surprises me how resistant many parents are to letting kids play video games. The prevailing cultural view seems to be that video games are an unhealthy, non-educational waste of time. Sure they're okay in moderation, but kids should generally be doing more important things: school, homework, team sports and other such sensible activities. So, yeah, it’s alright to let your kids play a few games here or there, but they should be watched closely, heavily managed, discouraged even. As a culture, we tend to lump our childrens' activities into educational or non-educational; sedentary or non-sedentary. And since video games are considered non-educational and sedentary, they should be strictly limited.

I so disagree with this attitude. I can (and will!) give you all kinds of super compelling arguments in favor of video games, but mostly I just don't see what the big deal is. Video games rot your brain? I don't buy it. I think kids learn from everything they do, and yes this includes "screen time," be it watching television, surfing the Internet, or playing a favorite video games... like, oh, say, Age of War.

Ahem. Yeah. So about that whole Age of War thing :) This game is awesome! For one thing: it’s hella fun. For another: it’s an amazing educational tool. (Seriously! It's even meta-educational-- as Eli played it and learned all kinds of good stuff, I was simutaneously educated in the value of video games!) He discovered it while messing around on the internet when he was four and a half. After playing for a few short minutes, he was smitten and after a few more, obsessed. And this obssesion, which lasted a little over a month, squelched any and all lingering doubt in my mind about the merits of video games. Sure he'd already played many a video game, but none had inspired such unequivocal devotion, such fodder for his imaginary play… such an explosion of his math skills!

I don’t mean to insinuate that Age of War is intended as an educational game. It’s not. It’s meant to be fun, plain and simple. The object of the game is to defeat the enemy base. You start out with lowly cavemen soldiers, who wield clubs and slingshots as weapons. Some of the cavemen are also riding enormous green fictional reptiles, which Eli endearingly refers to as "guys riding huge crocodiles." As the game progresses, you accumulate money (by killing your opponent’s troops), which you can use to buy more troops (reptilian and otherwise). You have to be careful, though -- you need to balance these offenses with defenses, which also cost a pretty penny. And once you've spent a certain amount of money, you can "evolve" (I use air quotes here, because as a biology geek, I’m compelled to point out this very loose definition of the word evolve). After the first stage, your cavemen evolve into knights and the green fictional beasts into horses (which Eli think are robots and zebras). Eventually, after a few more stages, you really do evolve into robots. But instead of horses, they have hover tanks. Oh yeah!

Sounds fun, eh? It actually is. And tricky too. Far more challenging than any video game Eli had previously tackled. At first he couldn't beat it. He continued, however, to play passionately and eventually invited me to join in on the fun (in hopes that I could show him how to win, I reckon). I played with him once and, much to his disappointment, was unable to do any better. Fortunately, David, swept in and, after watching us play for about 2 minutes, explained exactly what he thought we needed to do to win. We tried it. It worked.

Eli was quick to swipe David's strategy and, within 48 hours, was playing the game from start to finish on his own. Honestly, I was pretty much floored by the whole thing. It is by no means a kid’s game and I thought, for sure, way over his head. It never occurred to me that -- even with input from pop-genius -- he could learn to complete the game on his own.

This game did anything but rot Eli’s brain. On the contrary, he learned an immense amount from mastering it. His brain grew by leaps and bounds, neural connections were made, and so on and so forth. He learned strategy. And logic. Not to mention patience! (To give you an idea, it takes him at least 30 minutes to finish one game. And he completed it many many times.) And let's not forget the most important: he had fun! He loved playing and I loved how much he loved it. As is always the case with young children who pursue something deeply, his interest and joy were infectious (and hilarious!)

For me, this is evidence enough that video games have become an awesome part of Eli's development. But, just in case you're still not convinced, I'm gonna get you where it counts. I mean no one, not even the most skeptical curmudgeon, can deny the importance of a kid learning math, right? Well, as he navigated his way through this game, something unexpected happened on the periphery: his math skills exploded. You see, as mentioned, it costs money to build up the offences and defenses. So, if, for example, a soldier costs 5 bucks, Eli needs to understand that he needs at least that much money to buy one and at least 10 bucks to buy two, etc. This requires that he recognize numbers, understand the larger number principle, and have at least minimal command of addition and subtraction. Okay, so you're thinking no big deal, easy enough. And, in fact, Eli—a lifelong fan of any and everything math—has been doing all this for a while; by 3.5 years he loved to recognize and point out numbers 0-100 (which he saw everywhere) and could intuitively add and subtract simple numbers. But here's the thing: in Age of War, he needed to recognize and understand numbers much bigger than anything he'd previously encountered. Like in to the 100s, 10,000s, 100,000s and beyond. This is the first game that challenged him on this front and it’s been a hoot to watch him differentiate between numbers like 20,000 and 200,000 and 2,000,000. Also exciting: his renewed interest in math has snowballed into near math mania around here. He’s started picking up simple multiplication, talking about big numbers (the bigger the better, really), and a whole lot about the concept of infinity...!!!

Apparently all this video game madness is contagious. Little bro is also cashing in on the fun (and learning; let’s not forget learning!) After a frustrating few months of dutifully standing by (well, sitting next to) as Eli played, offering advice and encouragement, Micah is now surfing the Internet and playing simple games on his own. He taught himself to operate a mouse by simple trial and error and is currently enamored with, which I originally sought out for Eli, in an attempt to keep him challenged on the learning to read front. Eli dabbled in it and still does, but Micah has really taken off. He was already very into recognizing and pointing out all the upper- and lower-case letters of the alpahabet, but is now recognizing simple words. The first one he learned to read (other than his and Eli’s names) was "robot"...!!! What can I say? This makes me smile. And again, it looks like video games are becoming important to him.

When I speak to the importance, I'm not trying to insinuate that I think my kids could not live without video games. I don't and they could. The catastrophe would be short lived were video games to disappear from their lives, and they would be fine had they never discovered ‘em in the first place. And though Eli would do his darnedest to convince you otherwise: no, video games are not one of life's basic necessities. But my kids are fortunate to have access to them for exactly what they are: a fantastic tool.

As an unschooling parent, I am always on the prowl for tools like this -- seeking out new ways for my kids to interact with and see the world. As I see it, that’s my job: to expose them to all kinds of things and activities — be it a new book, a trip to the science center, playground or library, a pile of rocks to count and sort (or chuck at trees), an afternoon in the garden or mucking around the woods, a trip to the movie theatre, or a video game. I don't teach them anything, I just support their interests and answer their questions. And if I hadn't been paying close attention -- and wasn't of the mindset that learning happens all the time -- it’d have been easy for me to dismiss their interest in video games, and in particular Eli's obsession with Age of War, as a waste of time. To have been put off by the violence and grumbled that he was playing so much. But instead I chose to follow his lead and, as is almost always the case with interests he chooses to pursue deeply, I have been pleasantly surprised -- blown away even — by the indisputable value of it.

This unschooling model works super well for my kids. Despite the distinct lack of school in their lives, they’re both learning to read, to mess around with math, to generally make sense of the world around them. And they're having a blast to boot! It really pleases me to witness this endless thirst for knowledge and, in particular, their interest in things like math and reading, subjects that are traditonally thought to require formal instruction. I think because it gives me the nerve to say what I already knew: "See! Formal teaching really isn't necessary -- children really do learn all the time, even the academic stuff!" For my kids, this "academic" learning seems to happen in one of two ways: either they find something interesting in and of itself and study it (this is how Micah taught himself letter recognition and Eli early reading) or it becomes relevant, necessary even, in order to do something else (like, say, when Eli needed to majorly sharpen his math chops in order to kick ass at Age of War).

To be honest, this is one of the greatest joys of parenting for me. I love to watch them grow on their own terms, by their own drive. They never cease to amaze me by the always fascinating (though sometimes odd. Eli's current infatuation? Brain eating zombies) interests that they choose to pursue. I fully expect to be amazed for many years to come and look forward to watching as they pick up new interests. Irish dancing? Alchemy? Lacrosse? Woodworking? Sculpture? More video games? Who knows. I sure as hell don’t. But I look forward to being dazzled.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This is what passes for yoga around here

Ooops. Meant to post this video of the kideos eons ago. It's way outdated now... but still as charming as ever. Enjoy:

Pics from Eli's superfun superhero party coming soon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yeah, my life rocks

A strawberry and broccoli picking expedition turns photogenic:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Batman: Protector of Tomatoes and Snapdragons Everywhere

I've managed to let almost two months pass without even a hint of bloggy garden goodness. Sorry folks! I hope this'll make up for it...

At the risk of sounding all "my petunia is prettier than your petunia," our garden is looking really *really* good right now. Our tomato plants are knee high and flowering. (One particularly ambitious specimen, clearly headed for mutant proportions, has already sprouted a near full-sized green tomato. I know! Like, WTF? But also: cool!) The potato plants rival the tomatoes in height and have also started to flower. The sweet peas, which outgrew their trellis a few weeks back, are now threatening to take it down. Oh, and, as evidenced by the second last photo in this post (sorry peeps, you're gonna have to scroll), our roses are in full bloom and daisies about to pop. Last but not least, our blueberries started turning blue... just today! Whoohooooo!

So, yes, our plants are coming along nicely, doing just what you'd expect of the second coolest kingdom (sorry plants, as much as I love y'all, you're just not quite up there with the protozoans): lounging in the sun, soaking up the rays, and courtesy of the very important, but grossly underappreciated xylem and phloem, water and sugars are being dispatched to their appropriate places.

We're also harvesting up a storm! And as of yesterday, are picking several pints of strawberries (slightly under ripe, so as to outsmart the little critters) daily. Also currently on the straight-from-the-garden menu: green onions, broccoli, leafy greens, sugar snap peas and herbs aplenty. Plus my current preferred garden delicacy... artichokes:

These, btw, are an awesome multipurpose plant. We've settled into the habit of eating only half of the flowers each year, allowing the others to open and do their thang.

Ooh and looky here at this lovely homegrown bouquet picked and arranged by one multi-talented Larkinator (quite an accomplished artiste, she is-- seriously check out her mad beading skillZ):

It's funny, one of my favorite things about growing flowers is the continuous influx of bouquets (for our home and friends). Yet this year, I've totally neglected my flower picking duties. Yep, it took a 4.5 year old to remind me of this simple joy. Thanks Larkin!

I'll leave you with a few more photos. Because every garden needs it's very own super hero (to, you know, protect it from *EVIL*.. and stuff):

Fighting crime and picking strawberries go hand in hand:

Roses, daisies, snapdragons, etc:

Okay, that's all I've got for ya, except this, which is totally unrelated, but look how cute:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"That's a uppercase H; that's a lowercase h!"

As of last week (yep, like 6 days ago!), Micah is a fully competent internet user. His current online obsession? Letters! Check him out:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Evolution of a Superhero Obsession

1 month ago: Eli watches his first ever superhero movie (Batman) and thinks it's the *coolest shit ever*.

3 weeks ago: He watches the same movie another 1,000,000 times (thanks Hamsders!).

2 weeks ago: He discovers an online Batman video game -- costarring lesser known superheroes "blue beetle," "red tornado" and "green arrow" -- which he plays 10,000,000 times (not including offline re-enactments).

1 week ago: Courtesy of the infinitely wise Aunt Brynna, he learns the details of all the superheroes with whom she is familiar (including Spiderman, Superman, and Wonder Woman). The phrase "Fighting crime" enters his vocabulary. A lot.

Today: He talks and thinks near continuously about superheroes: creating intricate and highly inventive scenarios involving both Batman and Superman (with a little Spidey, Wonder Woman and Darth Vader action thrown in), engaging us in endless discussions about the relative powers and weaknesses of each, parading about in his Batman costume, surfing the Internet for any and everything to do with superheroes.

Tomorrow: ?!?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Book Review: "The Sissy Duckling"

Okay peeps, I promised to use this blog, in part, for book reviews, so here goes... It's Sarah's Super Silly (though Sometimes Serious) Story Synopsis! I'll be doing mostly adult fiction (not *that* kind of adult fiction; get your mind out of the gutter!), likely heavy on the sci-fi (since that's what I read), but my recent forays into literature (sci-fi and otherwise) have left me uninspired, so I'll be kicking it off with a newly favorite kid's book: Harvey Fierstein's "The Sissy Duckling."

(In case you're dying to hear more about my aforementioned forays, I just finished Peter Handke's "A Sorrow Beyond Dreams" which caught my eye because it was introduced by Jeffrey Eugenides, the brilliant author of "Middlesex." Plus with a name like "A Sorrow Beyond...," I was hopeful for something profound, possibly even something that'd make me weep, but instead just found it dull. And before that, I finally got around to reading "The Diamond Age," which I very much enjoyed right up until the weird and abrupt ending. Something about information transmitted via one big orgy? WTF?!?)

Anyhoo, so yeah, back the "The Sissy Duckling." This book is awesome. It's got everything you could hope for in a kid's book:

Engaging story, well written and well told. Check.
Cute illustrations. Check.
Challenges gender stereotypes. Oh, hell yes, CHECK!
Will likely make you bawl your eyes out the first few times you read it. Check.

It's the story of Elmer, a super cool young ducky boy, who sports a hot-pink floral backpack, and loves to decorate cookies and stage elaborate puppet shows. He's a super charming character: sassy and resourceful and smart... if only his father and the other ducks could see it. But no, instead they see a boy duck who's different from all the other boy ducks. In fact, there's not "a single other little boy duckling who liked to do ANY of the stuff that Elmer did. Not one." So they dub him a sissy.

It's super well written and heartbreaking to read (have I mentioned that I was reduced to a weeping puddle of goo the first dozen times I read it?), but, thankfully, it's got a happy ending-- Elmer rises to near stardom when he (*spoiler alert*) uses his kickass homemaking skills to become the first duck EVER to survive the winter without flying south!

Sounds awesome, eh? I'm actually not generally a fan of kids books that go out of their way to make a point. I prefer stories to morals. But color this an exception. Partially cuz it's got something super poignant and important to say. And because the "point" is impeccably woven into an engaging and funny story.

One of my favorite parts is when, at the end, Elmer goes out into the big wide world and realizes that there are, in fact, other ducks like him. Lots of em!

It's supposedly written for kids aged 5 - 8, but both my kids (2 and almost 5) love it. So I'm gonna say 2 - 8 :) Depends on the 2 year old. And the 8 year old for that matter. Funny that.

And, yes, the author is *the* Harvey Fierstein.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's Lego Mania!

Micah's Lego party was a smashing success and I've got the pictures to prove it! Check 'em out here.

I spent the better part of the week concocting all kinds of Lego-stuffs -- including a quaint and colorful house complete with rooftop garden, a robot-airplane (or was it an airplane-robot?), a rocket, two front-end loaders, and a dinosaur with light up eyes (Truth be told, I can only take credit for the head. David assembled the rest of it. But, OMG, the head! *Was* *really* *cool.* Think rows and rows of little pointy teeth. And did I mention the light up eyes?!?) -- only to have them all destroyed within minutes of reaching the playground. Aww well. Such is the transient nature of Lego, I suppose. Plus, Micah had the *time of his life* watching and helping me put it all together, so it's all good.

Thanks to everyone who came out to help us celebrate! Micah is absolutely crazy for all the gifts (I'll letcha know when the new-toy buzz wears off, but given the quantity and caliber of loot aquired, I'd venture at least a week...) and spent the afternoon playing his harp and harmonica, working on his puzzle, messing around with his finger paints. He also asked me to assemble his new clone walker (thanks Hamsders!), which I was more than happy to do. I'd actually been eyeing that particular kit for a while and we even gifted it to our nephew earlier this year. So I was super stoked to add it to our collection. Plus, it was relatively easy to assemble :) Micah was *thrilled* with the way it turned out and spent a good 30 minutes carrying it around, chattering away to himself: "Look at my new robot! And look what else! Two more robots are sitting in the robot! Awesome!"

Speaking of, he also received his very own *ROBOT BACKPACK* from the Hannas. When first unveiled, I was so awed by it's beauty that I failed to consider it origins. It was only later that I thought to wonder where they got it. It looks handmade, so I figured that Felicia scored it on etsy or some such. And then it hit me: OMG! She made it! Duh! Cuz she's Felicia and she's amazing like that. Check it out:

See what I mean? Amazing.

Happy bday little Micah! You are one unbelievably cool two year old and I am so very grateful to be your parent.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sibling rivalry. It doesn't *just* happen to other people's kids.

Micah is all about spy robots and butterflies, monster cats and purple ducks, flying bagels and teeeny tiny dinosaurs with razor sharp teeth. He's super imaginative and loves to narrate elaborate and highly inventive scenarios (which, incidentally, often involve a robot wielding an ax). I think it's awesome. I've been gaga about him from the start, but this brings the ol' parental awe to a whole new level. He's an amazingly verbal, smart, creative kid (And hilarious!! Did I mention hilarious?!?). Turns out Eli, however, is not so gung-ho about the whole thing. You might even say that this particular development drives him APE-SHIT-BAT-SHIT crazy. I think, because, as the older sib who's been guiding the imaginary play for years, he's accustomed to being the one in charge, the one who directs the flow of play, the one who bosses Micah around, the one who gets to use the baby as a prop. So these days, when he sees Micah getting his ax-wielding groove on, he's quick to step in, demanding command of the play. Case in point, a little story from last week:

Micah, playing outdoors, holding a vaguely ax-shaped piece of trash: "Watch out you robot. I'm gonna ax you."

Eli: "No, Micah!!!! That's not an ax; it's a gun. Let me show you."

Micah: "No, Eli. Leave me alone! I'm playing by myself."

Eli refused to back down and trailed uncomfortably close to Micah, purposely preventing him from carrying out his play.

Micah: "Eli!! Stop following me!"

Eli: "No!"

Walking on tiptoes, arms raised above his head, Eli then proceeded to very dramatically follow Micah around. And to top it off, he started chanting, "Follow, follow, follow, follow..." Just in case Micah hadn't noticed, I reckon.

They sorted it out pretty quickly and I have no real point here; just wanted to share this story and express something like: "*Sigh.* Having two kids is INSANE sometimes." I'm certainly not looking to offer any advice on how to deal with sibling rivalry. Other than, for the love of GAWD, those of you with just one bundle of joy, please *please* quit while you're ahead. And if you insist on having another (or more... gasp!), quick grab yourself a copy of "Siblings Without Rivalry" cuz for serious it's, like, amazing and *saves my shit* on a regular basis. Best 5 bucks I've ever spent (actually scored it free at the Book Exchange... but still!). Okay, I'm officially rambling and you all know that I'm mostly joking and actually love being the parent of two such brilliant and charming chiddlywinks and think you should go forth and make as many babies as you damn well please, right?

Micah the space lego man was designed by the amazing Teri Strelchun. Cool, eh?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring in the Garden and munchkins munching greens

Our afternoons, these spring days, generally proceed as follows: shortly after Micah wakes up from his nap, he and Eli race (racing being their current preferred way of getting around) up to the garden, armed with two kid-sized chairs and two bowls of dip. They then pick a handful each of sorrel, park themselves in their chairs and *hork the fuck out.* After devouring his handful, Eli often moves on to broccoli then kale then lettuce, all of which Micah eschews for more sorrel.

They both love picking and eating greens from the garden, but let's be honest: the real key here is The Magic Dip (they actually stick their faces in their bowls to sop up the last leeeeetle bit). For those who are interested, the ingredients are: yogurt (plain, unsweetened), agave, flax oil, ground-up walnuts, vanilla. Eli describes it as "pretty yogurty."

So on to the garden details:

What we're harvesting: Broccoli! Also: sorrel, lettuce, arugula, green onions, herbs. But mostly broccoli :) We snack on it regularly, and yesterday, had it (steamed, with cheese sauce) for dinner. Deelish.

What we've planted in the past week: More broccoli (what can I say? apparently we're fans), peas, chard, cabbage, onions, potatoes, spinach. Oooh ooh, flowers too! Glads, dahlias, lilies, petunias, verbena, snapdragons.

Well that's about it. The big summer garden (tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, way more flowers, etc.) goes in soon. Maybe in the next few weeks.

How about you? What are you planting (both literal and figurative responses are welcome)?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chiddler update

Yep yep. That time again! I think I'll make it a quicky (haha, yeah right...).

Micah, now two years old (!), is full-fledged unstoppable walloping force o' toddler! He's funny and charming and *loves* to make people laugh. Some of his favorite ways to do so include: saying things deliberately wrong ("No, I don't want mac 'n cheese -- I want back 'n cheese!"), randomly inserting "pee", "poop" or "fart" into the conversation ("A, B, C, D, E, F, poo, HAHAHAHHAHA"), which makes me very happy and proud, and cracking jokes about letters. Yup. You heard me. Letters:

Micah: "D makes a buh-skah sound!"
David: "So then D-T-T-I spells biscotti?"
Me: (pees myself)

He loves to sing, mostly nonsense songs (last night he busted out with this: "You have three nipples... three nipples. Yeah yeah yeah!") but also loves to sing the alphabet and other familiar tunes. He's been really into letters and numbers for some time and recently taught himself to recognize all (yes ALL!!!) the upper- and lower-case letters. And numbers zero through nine! He's also curious about spelling -- though he persistently reads the letters of each word backwards. When we walked by the "Sarah Lane" street sign on our hike the other day, he muttered to himself: "H-A-R-A-S spells Sarah" :)

He received one of these for his birthday (It's fridge magnets on crack! Seriously, imagine the fridge magnets of your childhood crossed with a GIANT ROBOT) and now knows the sound associated with each letter. (The sound quality is terrible though, so he's a little mixed up: "An x makes a *crackling noise* sound!")

On another hike, riding on his pop's shoulders, he had the following stream of consciousness: "You have eyes and a mouth and ears and your name is David. Sarah has eyes and a mouth and ears and his name is Sarah. Eli has eyes and a mouth and ears and his name is Eli. I have eyes and a mouth and ears and my name is Micah. Fury cat has eyes and a mouth and ears and his name is Mr. Fury Cat. The tree... the tree has no eyes, and the tree has no mouth, and the tree has no ears. What is his name?"

Other toddler odds and ends: he is completely disinterested in the potty. He loves to eat the food that he loves to eat -- these days: bananas, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, bread, chocolate, beans, cold medicine ("I'm thirsty for my medicine Sarah!") -- but anything new is highly suspect. He loves any and everything to do with art (finger painting, scribbling, playdough, working with scissors and glue, dumping a container of paint-tinted water all over the table and then sopping it up with construction paper...). He's totally fearless and not in the least bit obedient. Saying "Please don't touch that, it's poison oak" has no bearing on whether he'll grab the plant. Fortunately, no harm done (so far...).

He and Eli love each other to bits and are best friends. Micah's first three sentences when he wakes up are: 1. "Get me out of my crib," 2. "I have a big poop... change it," and 3. "Where's Eli?!?." And Eli's first thought when he's a little bored is inevitably: "Where's Micah?" This is not to say that they get along all the time -- on the contrary, they fight a lot. But they are (slowly) learning to cope more smoothly, and David and I are (slowly) feeling more confident that, left to their own devices, they will sort out their differences without any life-threatening consequences.

Speaking of Eli: holy beejeeeeesus, the kid is almost 5!!! He's still into much the same... and by this I mean he's very *very* into messing around with computer games :) Until recently, he was pretty much game (haha. get it. GAME) for anything, but has become pickier. Turns out he doesn't like the ones in which a protagonist can "die", or where there's a time limit. "David, let's play another game, this one is stressing me out," he squealed the other day, covering his eyes :) Currently topping his list of faves: desktop tower defense, indestructo tank and the "robot smashing game." He's also way into movies. His favorites being... honestly, whatever's available :P Not so picky on that front.

He continues to pick up reading by some combination of magic and memory. He has little interest in "sounding out" words, yet can quite handily navigate websites (or boss us around: "No, David, click on 'menu' not 'continue'") and read simple books (last week he read aloud a few pages of "A Fly Went By"!!). And he's been spending quite a bit of his computer time practicing his literacy skills at, which is fast becoming one of his favorite websites.

He's still a total math nerd, especially now that he's discovered that arithmetic goes hand in hand with M&Ms. Well, hippy M&Ms... but still: he's suddenly asking to play "math games" a whole lot :) He's particularly keen to improve his subtraction chops (so to speak).

Eli: "Hey Sarah, I wonder what ten minus ten is-- I think it's zero, but I'm not quite sure. I guess I'll just eat these ten M&Ms and then we'll see!" :)

He also loves to incorporate math into his imaginary play. Yesterday, in the sand box:

Eli: "David is this a troll bridge? Yes?"
David: "Yes."
Eli: "Well, how much is the troll?"
David: "Six dollars." (would *you* correct him?)
Eli: "Well, I only have more than that. I only have eight dollars."
David: (takes pretend money) "Okay, how much should I give you back?"
Eli: "Um, two dollars!"

He still loves to be outdoors, especially if he feels like he's participating in some grown-up activity -- either going for a jog with me or working in the garden or woods with David. He loves to cook and eat ("Hey David, I can eat pie even when I'm not hungry!") and he's super excited about the railroad park reopening next week (aren't we all?!?).

Well, that's about it. I could go on, but I won't :) Thanks for being updated.