Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lola the Ornithologist or Lola the Dog

Lola was exiled from daycare some this week, so we spent the time reading lots of books.  Lola's attention span for actual story books has increased dramatically, so we are engrossed in the masterful work of Kevin Henkes.  (If you have a child and have never read Kevin Henkes to him/her, go to the library RIGHT NOW and get Owen and A Good Day.  Henkes is a genius at writing and illustrating stories geared toward young kids.)  Anyway, after reading Old Bear and A Good Day 12,000 times, we switched to one-word picture books. 

We have a collection of vocabulary board books with a single photograph picture per page.  (Again, wonderful books for kids.)  Lola and I concentrated on the animal books because Lola LOVES birds.  She stands at the windows and watches the birds fly by.  When she had pneumonia, I wrapped her up in blankets and we sat outside for hours so she could watch the birds.  Each house on our street has wonderful old, established trees, and we have hundreds of birds.  Unfortunately for us, they build nests in our gutters.  Fortunately for Lola, that makes them even easier to find.  They were the very first thing she pointed to, with the full intention of saying "Look, Mommy!  Another bird!"  Nowadays, her finger is always in the air as she tries to identify another moving bird for us.  (As you might well imagine, she loves the bird section of the zoo.) 

Her speaking vocabulary includes the words bird and duck, but has never moved into many animals past that.  This week, we expanded her vocabulary to include animal sounds.  She now will woof for a dog, cock-a-doo for a rooster, quack for a duck, baa for a sheep, and laugh hysterically for a bunny.  (What sound does a bunny make?  I don't know.  So we say "nibble, nibble" and wiggle noses.  She's not very good at it but she thinks my wiggling nose is quite funny.) 

We were walking outside earlier this week and encountered a woman walking two dogs.  Lola pointed and then went "woof, woof!"  It was awesome and incredibly cute.  I cannot wait for her to growl like a bear!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Metaphysical Pondering

A conversation with Raina bounces from topic to seemingly unrelated topic.  Last night's dinner began with a red salad (with beets, strawberries, and red leaf lettuce) so we talked about beets for a while and how darkly colored vegetables are healthier than paler ones.  Then her next conversation starter floored me.
Raina:  Mommy, where do we come from?
KSW:  (Clarifying the question)  Do you mean where do we live?

Raina:  No, who made me?
KSW:  Daddy and I made you.

Raina:  Who made you and Daddy?
KSW:  Our parents did:  Mama Jo and Papa Bill made Daddy and Grandma and Papaw made me.

Raina:  (Getting a little exasperated because I'm not answering the question she's trying to ask)  No, who made ALL the people? 
KSW:  I don't know.  People believe different things.  Some people believe that a god or gods made all living things; some people believe that the Earth and Sun and Moon made us; some people believe that living things keep changing and people occurred as a result.  I don't know which is right.

Raina:  Well, who made the first Mommy and Daddy?
KSW: I don't know, sweetie. I know who made me, and who made my parents, and who made my parents' parents, but there is a whole bunch of things I don't know, and I cannot go back in time to find out who made the very first Mommy and Daddy. 

Raina:  I think it's God.
KSW:  Hmm.

Raina:  Or that the Earth made us.
KSW:  Okay.

Raina:  Hmm.  Can I dip my celery in my water glass?
And thus began a conversation about turgidity and osmosis and absorbtion. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Selective Understanding

Lola has an ever expansive vocabulary and she understands a whole lot more.  For instance, we can say, "Lola, it's bedtime.  Let's go get some milk and go to bed!" and she'll jump down from the couch, scurry to the fridge, try to pull it open, and excitedly run to her bedroom.  She totally understands the words go, jacket, bed, milk, toothbrush, potty, book, bird, and diaper, and responds appropriately.

She, however, purposefully ignores other statements like "Lola, NO HITS!  Hands are not for hitting; hands are for hugging!"  She hears those statements, smiles devilishly, and then smacks the person (or book, window, toy, TV) again.  She also likes to throw things, and she has quite a strong arm. 

I expected we'd have a troublesome teenager, not a troublesome 14 month old. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Compton Genes

The Compton genes made Eric and Stephanie zoom up in height when they were very young, and made them the tallest / biggest kids in their classes for a long time.  Raina and Lola have the Compton growing genes.  Raina has been in the 90th percentile (or higher) in height and weight since she was 1 year or so.  When news reports talk about how too many of America's children are overweight and obese, they are talking about my child.  She's a very solid, large kid.

Raina's 5 year-old check-up put her at 45 inches and 45 pounds, which is 90th percentile in height and only 75th in weight.  The nurse wanted to know if Raina is the tallest girl in her class.  She is one of the tallest, but she's also one of the youngest.  Some of the kids are turning 6 this month.  Since she's hanging out with an older crowd, so to speak, she fits in just fine.

If the Compton track record holds true, she'll stop growing in 5th grade and be a master basketball player until all the other kids start their growth spurts.  Sports success in elementary school, woohoo!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why Cloth Diapers are Great

We used disposable diapers with Raina and I hated them.  I have exceedingly dry hands, especially in the winter, and the dryness and the super-absorbency of the diapers ripped any remaining moisture out of my skin.  Literally, pieces of my skin caught on the diapers and then shredded off.  Add in diaper rash (which is more common with disposables) and the consequent diaper cream (which required fervent hand-washing to remove it), the environmental impact, the large expense, the smell, the desperate last-minute trips to Target to get more diapers ... and disposables end up with a C- grade.  Passing. but just barely.

We use Bum Genius cloth diapers with Lola.  They're garguantan in size (her 12 month pants barely fit) and require more effort (i.e., the washing, drying, and re-stuffing) but have great rewards.  Lola rarely has diaper rash, the cloth diapers and wipes are kinder to her skin (and mine), the cost is finite (and based on Lola's diaper usage as a baby, are already paid for and then some), and we're generating less trash.  The environmentalist in me rejoices that our five person family generates one bag of trash per week. 

We had forgotten one of the other great benefits of cloth diapers, until today:  Cloth diapers catch and hold poop so much better than disposables.  Raina had blow-outs all the time when she was younger; her diapers just didn't stop the poop and it travelled up her back and down her legs and required new outfits and baths to clean her up.  Yuck.  We have never had a blow-out with Lola in cloth diapers.  That's a godsend.

Today, Eric decided to put her in a disposable diaper for the hour between waking up and going to daycare.  She frequently has a bowel movement then and, in his words, "I thought it would be so much easier to just throw the dirty diaper away, rather than running it through the wash.  MISTAKE!" 

Lola's diaper contained hardly any of the poop.  Feces slid down her pants legs and onto her feet, and she pressed it into the (not white anymore) carpet as she ran around the living room.  Thankfully, Samantha noticed the leakage and so Lola's carpet damage was limited to one room.  I just never expected to see piles of poo in my house, like a little animal left scat for us to track.  Ugh. 

Lola's butt is back in cloth diapers.  We're not trusting disposables again!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Little Miss Helpful, Round Two

Lola gestured with purpose yesterday, as she tried to get me to follow her from the kitchen into the master bathroom.  I looked around when we arrived, but I couldn't determine why she was upset.  Then she pointed to the trash can and said "uh oh!"  A whole tube of toothpaste was in there.

Clearly, she had taken my toothpaste off of the counter, tossed it in the trash (accidently or not), and then was trying to make the situation better.  I'm glad she told me.  Pretty soon she'll learn that making mistakes and NOT telling parents will be a smart strategy too. 

Problem Solver = Problem Maker

Lola impresses me with her problem solving skills.  Yesterday, she was putting thin objects through a small slit.  I turned the container so that the slit was facing a different direction, because I was curious how she would manipulate her hand to put the object in appropriately.  Lola's response:  Grab the container and turn it until the slit faced the way she wanted.  Impressive!

This morning, Lola was reaching and reaching for sunscreen on a table.  She couldn't reach it, so she did the next best thing.  She grabbed the magazines that the sunscreen was sitting on, pulled them toward her, and then grabbed the sunscreen.  Then she shoved the magazines back into their appropriate spot. 

"Lola's a good problem solver!" our Parents as Teachers person remarked after seeing her yesterday.  My response:  "Lola's a good problem maker too!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Raina's Birthday Wish

Raina had her first birthday cake with candles today and she knew she got to make a wish.  (I don't know who told her that; maybe it's one of the Jungian facts.)  Last night she wanted to get her wish approved by me, but I told her to keep it a secret.  Again this morning she wanted to share it, and again I told her to keep it secret.  At dinner tonight, Raina asked if she got to blow out the candles and make her wish.  The wish kept coming up, so it clearly was important to Raina.  I asked her what her wish was (so if it was for a present or something I would be prepared). 

Raina's wish:  "I wish that all animals have the right food to eat."  When asked why, she elaborated, "I want the animals to be healthy and live." 

I am so proud of her for thinking of others with her wish.  Raina is a sweet, sweet girl.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Raina's First and Fifth Birthday Party

Raina turns five years old on Tuesday, May 4th, and she has been counting down the months and days to her birthday since she turned four.  Birthdays are exceptionally special days: Raina chooses everything that happens on her special day, including activities and meals.  She has never had an official birthday party until now, though.  We celebrated age 1 with bananas and a later trip to the Botanical Gardens, age 2 somehow (I honestly don't remember), age 3 with a trip to Chicago "to go to a beach!", and age 4 with a movie and kite flying and a zoo trip and tasty food.

Birthday parties are wasted on younger kids.  While it's a lovely chance to get a group of adults together, it doesn't mean anything to a 1 year-old and we can think of far better ways to hang out with our adult friends.  Raina attended a birthday party for the first time (and actually understood what it meant) when she was in the 3 - 4 range.  Many of her classmates celebrated their 4th birthdays with parties and Eric and I were traumatized by them and frightened by their implications.  Neither of us could imagine inviting 20 4 year-olds over for a party, nor could we imagine our contracting with a place for $200-500 to occupy said 4 year-olds.  We were relieved and overjoyed when Raina decided that she'd rather have a birthday weekend celebration with her family, rather than a party with her classmates.  Hallelujah!

Such luck was a one-time occurrence, and Raina adamantly stuck to a "I want a birthday party" mantra in years 4 - 5.  And in that time, Raina has attended MANY birthday parties and all of them were contracted out (Monkey Joe's, Bounce U, SkyZone, Magic House, and a soccer facility).  We attended three Bounce U parties in 1 month and they were identical!  Same invite, same activities, same pizza, same drinks, same cake, same workers!  I understand the appeal of such places, but it just wasn't what I wanted for my child.  The cost, the waste, the environmental impact, the cookie-cutter mentality: all combined into an unappealing option.

So, we decided that Raina's first/ fifth birthday party should be different.  We went looking for parks with fun playgrounds and sheltered pavilions.  We found one just a mile away from our house:  the playground was amazing, had two different play spaces and a sprinkler set-up, a nice pavilion immediately adjacent to the playground, and lots of open space so kids could run around and play with balls and bubbles.  Even better, the place was deserted each time we visited it, which made us hope we would have it to ourselves on the party day.  We reserved the pavilion and got excited.

Next step was the guest list and invitation.  It's standard MICDS policy to invite the student's class (10 kids) or the whole JK class (20 kids).  Raina wanted to invite all of JK, plus some of her SK friends from extended day.  That crew, plus some other friends, meant for a large guest list.  It was time for an evite.  Raina and I searched through the birthday options and she selected the penguins.  (I think they were studying penguins at the time.)  We sent out the evite and waited for responses.


Of course, not everyone RSVPed, so we had some wiggle-room in terms of how much cake and how many party favors we needed.  We decided on a half-sheet of cake (about 50 servings) and 25 favors.  I wanted to give a party favor that 1) wasn't plastic and immediately disposable and 2) would involve parents and child.  In the end, we gave each child a packet of wildflower seeds and a set of children's garden gloves. 

Fast-forward to party weekend.  Friday night saw torrential downpours, lightning, and tornadoes.  We devised a "how to cancel the party in case of rain" strategy.  Saturday morning, weather.com assured us that the 2-4 p.m. range would be 80 degrees and sunny.  Raina's party was a go!

Samantha and I headed out to the park, armed with squeegees and towels.  We dried off the entire facility and waited for the sun to come out and take care of the rest.  We returned home and packed up all of our plates and forks and 20+ identical cups we just happened to have.  (Our environmental policy meant no disposable plates or utensils or cups.)  After we finished packing up everything we needed, weather.com's report had changed.  Now 2 p.m. would be sunny, and 3 p.m. would be rainy.  New plan:  play at the playground until it started raining, then eat cake in the pavilion and go home.  Twenty minutes later, the report changed again:  2 - 4 p.m. would be rainy.  At that point, 12:30 p.m., 1.5 hours away from the party's start, Eric, Samantha, and I hung our heads and crossed our fingers.  At 1 p.m., the weather forecast changed again:  sun until 4 p.m.

Of course, that's not what really happened.  Samantha and I loaded up the car and went to get the cake from Schnucks.  Even more panic set in when they couldn't find our cake.  Eventually they did and we claimed the personally-designed-by-Raina cake.  As we left the facility at 1:10 p.m., it started to rain.  The amount of cursing from us was inappropriate but felt justified based on the stress of the day.  (At noon, we also had the fire alarm go off at the house and had to deal with a smoky upstairs and the security company.  Ugh.) 

Samantha and I arrived at the playground, covered the pavilion's tables with tablecloths, set up the cake table, and took towels to the surfaces again.  Raina continuously was upbeat; she even said "it's okay if it rains, Mommy, because the trees and flowers need water too!"  I gave her a towel and sent her on slide patrol. 

Two p.m. saw cloudy skies (but no rain), the first guests happily playing on the playground, and lots of relief from all adults involved.  Shortly thereafter was total sun.  The kids were frenetic: running, climbing, swinging, dancing, spinning, chasing.  We had cake midway through.  The kids were somewhat confused by real plates and forks, but seemed pleased with the milk, chocolate milk, or water drink options.  (The Whomptons don't believe in soda.)  Raina and I also had made dried apricots dipped in chocolate, and the adults ate them with abandon.  We stacked all the dirty dishes and cups back together and sent the kids back to the playground. 

Eric took lots of pictures -- at least one picture of each guest -- and tried to get a picture of Raina and each guest together.  Our thank-you notes were emails to the kids (sent to the parents) and a whole collection of pictures of the child at the party.

In the end, Raina's 1st/5th birthday party had no rain, plenty of sunny skies and light breezes, lots of active kids and happy parents.  It was creative, unique, environmentally friendly, and fun. We are thrilled at how successful it was.