Friday, August 8, 2008

Mommiest Moments: August, 2008

"Mommy! You interrupted my puppy dog eyes!"

--Danny, on being cut off on his third attempt to wheedle something out of me.

"I passed off the articles of faith!"

--Danny. (Eric had also passed them off.) We celebrated by going to Goodberry's. :)

"Mommy, you forgot to call me 'Your Majesty'"

--Danny, gently chiding me, on several occasions.

Eric: I want you to teach me calculus

Mommy: You're not ready for calculus yet.

Eric: Why not?

Mommy: Just trust me. You are many years away from calculus.

--(I neglected to mention that I am also not qualified to teach him calculus.)

"I can make him pay attention. But I can't control what he pays attention to."

--The pediatric neurologist, explaining that giving Ritalin to an Aspie might make him even more rigid and obsessive.

[At a conference about Danny]

Staff member: So, this is a chart that shows where most kids are, and this is Danny up here. [Points to a bell curve graph.]

Gail: [looking at the numbers] So, is this on the same scale as an IQ test?

Staff member: Well, it's not actually an I.Q. test. It's more a measure of how he is currently doing on his preschool academic skills, like whether he can count and recognize shapes and colors and so on.

Gail: Yes, I understand that. But--

Staff member: [Condescendingly] And as you can see, here's where most kids are, and here's Danny up here, so he's more than ready for kindergarten in terms of his cognitive abilities...[babbles on briefly.]

Gail: [Frustrated] Is he at least two standard deviations above the mean?

Staff member: Oh! Uhhh...

--They were a bit more respectful after that.

Danny: [babble. babble babble babble babble...]

Mommy: Danny, it's time--
Danny: [holding up hand] Mommy, wait. Please let me say something. [Pause] [Chidingly] Mommy, you were interrupting.

"Ooops. I will change this multiplication sign to a dot so I won't get it confused with the variable. Daddy told me I could do it that way."

-- Eric.

Danny: Mommy, will you please write me a baby bear story?

Mommy: [begins writing a story, with stick figure illustrations]

Danny: [reading] Mommy, why does that say "Danny" and that say "Mommy" and that say [Sounds out the word!] "buh-A-buh-ya? buh-A-buy-ee? Baby?...and why does that say "Baby Bear"?

Mommy: Because it's a story about a baby bear. And it has Mommy and Danny in it.

--(I'm so proud of him for sounding out that word! Danny has many sight words, and he knows his alphabet, but he doesn't tend to sound things out very often. May this be the beginning of better things!)

Danny: Can Bear come with us?

Mommy: As long as he's a polite and well-behaved bear.

Danny: He will be polite and well-behaved because he is not a baby bear anymore, just a human bear!

[During Scriptures]

Mommy: What are the responsibilities of a daddy?

Eric and Danny: [look blank]

Mommy: Remember the three p's?

Eric: Pray, protect,

Danny: Bear has two mommies!

Mommy: [Winces]

Danny: ...You are his human Mama, and Ursa Major is his bear Mama!

Danny: Are you a friendly monster?

Friendly Monster: Yes! Did you come to visit me?

Danny: Yes--

Friendly Monster: [Channeling Loony Tunes' Abominable Snowman] And I will love you and hug you and cuddle you and squeeze you and you will be my very own, and I will call you George--

Danny: --But then I will have to go home.

Friendly Monster: [pouts]

Danny: Or, wait. Mommy Friendly Monster, do you have extra beds?

Friendly Monster: Of course!

Danny: [suspiciously] Are they soft?

Friendly Monster: Of course!

Danny: [brightening] Then I CAN stay! I will need to go home and gather my supplies, including my pajamas and my brother.

"It would be a more respectful lie if the under-age Chinese gymnasts wore strategic padding."


Jon: [Says something obnoxious during Family Home Evening]

Gail: [Reaches for stuffed animal, preparing to hurl it at him] [pause] Kids, would it confuse you about our "no throwing in the house" rule if I threw this animal at Daddy?

Danny: Yes.

Gail: Drat.

Jon: [Grins smugly]

'Despite your best attempts, mankind still survives. Try again.'

--The screen on my computer after I let Eric borrow it. (I banned the game on the grounds that deliberately annihilating humankind by spreading a pandemic, though not gory, was still too violent.)

Danny: Mommy, I was giving you puppy dog eyes because that would make it harder to say no.

Mommy: I'm sure they were very cute. Unfortunately, I couldn't see them because I am driving.

--This reminds me of how Danny used to sign “hi” to the phone, assuming that his Grandmas would understand it.

"Ursa Major needed some Mommy Time."

--Danny, explaining why Bear was going to stay in the car with Ursa Minor (the baby bear) while Ursa Major (the mommy bear) got to come inside with us. Obviously Danny was imitating his own Daddy, who is a marvelous example!

"We got her before anyone else could steal her and buy her!”

--Danny, on finding the perfect Wife of Pi in Barnes and Noble.

"So in the swimming contest, Midas won, but in the jumping contest, Nannerl did..."

--Mommy, narrating the Stuffed Animal Olympics. Nannerl, named after Mozart's sister, is the new wife and step-mom of Pi and Euclid, respectively. She is either a large tabby cat, or a small tiger, or, more likely, a half-kneazle, like Crookshanks.

So then Mommy flew the helicopter full of SCA'ers back to her magic castle, where they used bows and crossbows to defeat the evil orange orexes in exchange for four weekends of castle usage a year...”

--Gail, telling yet another bedtime story. At least I got my dream castle out of this one.

Scene I:
Danny: [holding a small brush] Can I paint you?

Mommy: [expecting to be tickled] Sure!

Danny: Okay. [Wanders off]

Scene II: [A few minutes later]

Danny: Mommy, I can't find the paint. Will you get it for me?

Mommy: Whoa. I thought you were just pretending. I did not authorize any real painting.

Scene III: [An hour later]

Mommy: Daniel. When I said you couldn't do any real painting, that included a ban on spreading hand sanitizer all over the tinker toy bin, the couch, the table, and the floor.”

Danny: [looking innocent] Oh. Oops. Sorry!

Scene IV: [The next day]

Danny: Will you play with me?

Mommy: Sure! [Steps into the playroom, then recoils] [Investigates further] Daniel Scott Berry! There is a patch of cold, soaking wet carpet, and an empty bottle of hand sanitizer. Do you have any explanation you wish to offer?

Danny: [Stalling for time] Uh...yes. Uh...[tries to look angelic] It was an accident?

Mommy: Uh huh. You, sir, are going to your room.

Danny: But why?

[Mommy ignores the question and marches him toward his door]

Danny: Can I bring Bear?

Mommy: Very well. If Bear voluntarily chooses to join you, he may.

Danny: But, Mommy! You said you were going to play with me!

Scene V: [Later that day]

Eric: But why does Danny need to spend time in his room?

Mommy: [Explains the situation]

Eric: I think it is against the rules and that's why he's in trouble. [Pause] Is it against the rules?

Mommy: Oh, yes. If you refer to the list of rules posted on the front door, it clearly states 'keep all liquids in appropriate containers.'

Eric: But this is a big consequence.

Mommy: Eric, when you were three years old, you filled your Tonka dump-truck with water in your bathroom, and then dumped the water everywhere. Repeatedly. Several gallons of water covered the bathroom floor, flooded the hall, and even soaked into your room.

[Eric and Danny try to restrain giggles]

Mommy: [severely] The hall carpet was ruined and quickly grew moldy. This forced your father and me to replace the carpet, which proved very expensive.

[Eric and Danny giggle harder]

Mommy: [now wondering about her choice of morality tale] Ever since then, we have had a Very Firm Rules about liquids in the house, and [dramatically] Very Strict Consequences about deliberately spilling liquids on the flooring! Granted, hand sanitizer isn't as bad as water, but your father and I have decided to Crack Down Hard!

[Eric and Danny succumb to laughter.]

Mommy: [Suppressing a grin] Now that's enough. Eric, come downstairs. You and I are not here to entertain Danny, who is Supposed to be Suffering.

Danny: But, Mommy, there aren't any toys in here! [Dolorously] Oh, well, I guess I can play with the castle. [Sigh]

Scene VI: [The next day]

Mommy: Danny, you need to wash your hands before you eat that food.

Danny: [Goes to wash his hands] [Returning] Mommy, I can't find any special soap. ["Special soap" refers to hand sanitizer.]

Mommy: Then use regular soap and water.

Danny: [Whining] But it's hard to reach the faucet!

Mommy: I am utterly devoid of sympathy. If you hadn't wasted two entire containers of hand sanitizer, you would not have a problem.

Danny: Can you buy more?

Mommy: No. This is called "natural consequences." I am filled with the spirit of prohecy: I foresee a great deal of traditional hand-scrubbing in your future.

Danny: [pouts]


Mommy: Wow, what a great tower!

Danny: Mommy, actually it is a chimney. See it has slots in it so gravity can get in. I am pretending this checker is Santa Claus and he is going down the chimney because it has gravity inside.

Mommy: Is this Santa Claus' very own chimney?

Danny: It is every chimney so he can get to all the houses!

Mommy: Oh, so it's a universal chimney.

Danny: Yes.

Mommy: And maybe it's connected to the flue network.

Danny: [Nodding seriously] Yes.

Danny's Universal Chimney.

Danny: Mommy, I also built a siege tower. See? It's made of wood and it's tall and it has wheels.

Mommy: Very nice.

Danny: And it has this shooter that shoots things. So if Santa runs out of presents, he can go there to get more.

Mommy: I've never heard of Santa Claus using a siege tower before. He must be modernizing.

Danny: Yes.

--I've always thought that assembly lines and interchangeable parts and rabid consumerism rather ruined Christmas, anyway.

Danny's siege tower.

Gail: Did he just multiply that in his head?

Jon: [Fractional nod]

Gail: Is that the right answer?

Jon: Yes.

[Note: if both Jon and Eric get the same answer, don't argue.]

Gail: Next time, I'll take Eric with me to CVS and let him handle any last-minute register math.

--I am a lowly apprentice in the art of CVSing, which involves doing lots of computations to use a combination of membership reward points, sales, and coupons to "buy" things for free while generating even more membership reward points. (I paid less than 50 cents for 5 oral-B toothbrushes, for instance, and I am just beginning.) The problem comes when a coupon doesn't work and I have to make emergency substitutions.

"My friend Mark points out that when gifted children rebel, they don't start with misdemeanors; no, they start with felonies."

--Why steal a DVD from a store when you can hack into the FBI's servers? (We'll omit the obvious comment about the FBI's mistakes, blunders, laughable security, and misplaced laptops.)

Gail: That was the eeriest parent-teacher conference I've ever attended.

Jon: What? I thought it went fine.

Gail: It was great! It's just the first time a teacher spent most of her time talking to you.

--I wasn't jealous, just surprised! And also very impressed that Eric's teacher thought to ask him, "What do you wish your elementary school teachers had done differently? What can I do that will be most beneficial to Eric?" and so forth.

Mommy: But how did you know that number wasn't divisible by 11?

Eric: Because I added the digits.

Mommy: Uh...that shortcut is for numbers divisible by 3, honey.

Eric: But in a three-digit number, if the first and last digits add up to equal the middle digit, it's divisible by 11.

[Pause while Mommy and Daddy both frantically do mental math, testing this claim. Neither of us were able to disprove it.]

Mommy: [Stunned] Eric, how did you know that?

Eric: Daddy told me.

Jon: [Wide-eyed, shakes his head] I never taught him that.

--I will just say that just when I think this kid can't possibly surprise me any more, he manages anyway. He probably read it somewhere in a book, right...?

"Mommy, you should write a social story, only it should be an educational social story so it will be very boring and then you will make me read it and that will be an extra consequence."

--Eric, after misbehaving.

"Danny, you are out of Mommies."

--Mommy, in response to Danny's persistent "Mommeees..." after bedtime.

"Bear is physically present in the spirit world? But...that shouldn't be possible! [Shrug] Well, we know he's a Really Talented Bear..."
--Gail, in a dream. It was odd to have weird anomalies pop up, think "That can't be right," and then just shrug them off and move on. In real life, I would argue more.

Danny: Can I watch a movie?

Mommy: Yes, as long as it's in a foreign language.

Danny: [mulls this over, unhappy at the prospect of two hours of dubbed lines] What about Signing Time?
Mommy: Okay, that counts.

"Would you please hand me the scissors? I need to tape some ice together."
--Danny, building an ice-skating rink, complete with safety fences to keep human (but not stuffed animal) toddlers from escaping.

Danny: Would you like to buy something invisible from my store?
Mommy: Yes! I would like an invisible book to read.

Mommy: Have you been growing again? Did you have permission to grow? Do you have a license? I didn't think so! I will have to fine you...three snuggles.
Danny: [Giggles as he is forcibly snuggled and tickled]

[In the school carpool line]
Mommy: Danny, would you please take off your sticker?
Danny: Why? I like it.
[Eric enters car]
Eric: Danny, why are you wearing that sticker? Did you go to Marbles Kids' Museum without me? [Wails] That's not faaaaaiiirrr!!!
Mommy: That's why.
Danny: Oh.

“The apex was, of course, constructing a medieval festung, complete with turrets, from gargantuan bricks...about which further details will be given later, due to the potential for fraternal strife.”
--Gail, telling Jon, in code, "The best part of my day was building a castle with Danny out of giant legos [at the museum]. But I'm not giving details now because it might set Eric off on another exhaustive round of jealous weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

[At Walmart]
Mommy: Which side should we go in?
Danny: [Looking at the signs over both entrances] F. Pharmacy?
Mommy: Logical guess! But look at the rest of the word.
Danny: F-O-O-D. Fod? Fode?! We should go in this way because that's where the groceries are!

Gail: Perhaps we should say a prayer for the poor school psychologist who is administering Eric's test.
Grandma Homer: That would be the Christian and charitable thing to do, yes.

"Danny is such a gentleman. In the middle of the night, disoriented, and mostly asleep, he still checked to make sure that Bear and Nannerl were covered—except for their heads--before he let me finish tucking him in."

"Can I have a piano lesson for my bedtime story?"
--Danny. Of course, he wanted a practice treat. But still.

Danny managed to play "Old MacDonald had a Farm," get the notes correct, keep a reasonably good rhythm and tempo, perform via cell phone for his Grandma and sing all the words at the same time! Now that's impressive coordination (and reading) for a four-year-old!

"This is my picture of two spaceships crunching to make kids aware that it's dangerous to go into outer space without an adult."

"Mommy, you need to disarm this trap."
--Danny, explaining his tunnel of cardboard boxes and my role as sacrificial lackey. I felt like Nodwick.

"Danny was so helpful! He cut out coupons for me, and then, if he tore them, he was very good about putting them back together with masking tape. Over the barcodes."

--Gail. (I had wisely avoided giving him really valuable coupons.)

"Mommy, look! I drew an optical illusion! It is a square that spirals forever!"

--Eric. The previous day, he had asked me about mirages, which had led to a discussion about optical illusions, which led to my finding pictures of "Relativity" and "The Neverending Staircase" online.

"Mommy, look! I made an optical illusion! It is a staircase that you can climb up and down forever!"

--Danny. I don't think it was motivated by fraternal competition. This time.

"Wow! Apparently Danny can read, he just rarely chooses to."
--Danny read almost every word of a story all by himself! True, he dictated most of the content, like "And I pretend to be the Bishop and my invisible monster friends are my counselors and we sit on the couch..." but he still figured out most of those words in context after I rearranged them slightly and wrote them down!

Eric: Is Danny a good reader?

Mommy: Yes.

Eric: Is he as good as I was at his age?

Mommy: I have two very smart boys. Further, my boys have smart parents. In fact, I am smart enough to say, as Grandma Homer used to say to me, “ 'All of my children are very smart,' ” and avoid further comparisons.

Eric: I would like more mayeeeulk [milk], please.
Mommy: We have obviously been living in the South too long.
--Not that I have a problem with long, rolling diphthongs. (Well, except in singing.) It just came out of nowhere.

Gail: Eric just said, 'I'm gonna destroy that!'
Jon: So?
Gail: It's so unusual! Normally he is so formal when he announces, 'I am going to destroy that'.

"I thought I had a sparse crop of cute kid quotes this month. And then I played with Danny for an hour."

[Singing] “I brush my hair, I floss my hair...”
--Danny and Eric, creating their own parody of a Signing Time song.

"Danny keeps turning off the hall light and it is hindering me!"
--Eric, complaining that his little brother was interfering with his ability to meet the bedtime deadline.

[During Scriptures]

Mommy: Danny, what can you tell me about the temple?

Danny: It is God's house and you need to be careful not to break any of the breakable things in it because it is just like the double-doors to my mountain that I built. And it is beautiful. And it is a happy place.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Do you homeschool...?"

The most flattering question I have been asked of late does not pertain to personal appearance. Instead it's, "Do you homeschool...?"

In fact, I have been asked that several times in the last few months.

Perhaps it's because of my book cataloging project.

Or the Stuffed Animal Classification project. (That was awesome.)

Or my kids' big vocabulary.

Or seeing the kids haul stuffed animals named "Euclid" and "Ozymandius" around.

Or the kids' binders of fiction, non-fiction, and science created just for them.

Bear reads a story about himself in Danny's binder.

Perhaps its because of the curriculum materials I keep on hand.

Or the way I let Danny "check out" at the grocery store. (He hits the "Debit," "No cash back," "enter," and "okay" buttons. I still won't let him input my pin. Who knows what nefarious things he would do with that knowledge.)

Perhaps its because, when I play with Danny in the lobby at Pediatric Therapy, I say things like, "Oh dear. Your tower fell over. That's because the center of gravity fell outside its base of support. Ah, well. Try again."

Mommy explains about the "center of gravity." 08/03/2008.

Maybe its the compulsively pedantic way I answer the kids' questions.

Whatever the reason, I confess it: I am a teacher at heart. They have such amazing minds, I think it would be a lot of fun to homeschool! (Of course, it would be a lot of work, too. I would have to stay organized. And scheduled. And structured. And--ick!--keep records.)

Still, if I lived in a polygamous household, I know what I would propose. I would let all the sister-wives do the cookin' and cleanin', and I would volunteer to run the schoolroom!

If it weren't for their social needs, I might even try homeschool. I am certainly prepared to pull them out of middle school if necessary. (Is there anyone--anyone at all--who did not have at least one miserable middle-school year? Anybody out there who really enjoyed sixth, seventh, and eighth grades?)

The nice thing about home enrichment is that you can do things impossible in the classroom. I can turn my living room into an obstacle course and "allow" each boy to run a phase of it after correctly answering a math question, for instance.

I can throw piano lessons in whenever they are convenient.

I can drop everything and run to the computer to run a google image search on what I'm talking about.

I know that cooking and cleaning have eternal significance, too. But somehow they just aren't as rewarding as seeing the "Aha!" moments first-hand, or hearing their amazing questions.

On the other hand...once Danny starts pre-school next month, I will have five mornings a week--all to myself!

And I like Eric's teacher.

The really nice thing about being a professional parent is that I can supplement easily. :)

Some of my best educational successes are showcased below:

"My Body is a Fortress" sharing time activity. (The fort is made, naturally, out of food storage. Lots of whole grains, in keeping with the Word of Wisdom theme.) "Good" items are allowed inside through the drawbridge; "bad" ones are left to drown in the moat. 05/26/2002.

"! Day match!" I had tried to prepare Eric for a new little brother by getting an educational doll. Eric made the connection very quickly! I was so proud! 01/30/2004.

Start the reading habit young. 06/30.2004

An Aspie, labelling the world. Those letter blocks have been the best educational investment....09/24/2004.

Mommy and Daddy pay Eric to read to Danny so they can work on Thanksgiving dinner. 11/23/2005

As soon as Danny turned 3, we could play with legos! Our first creation was a castle. Of course. 02/02/2007.

Family Home Evening lesson about first aid. Bear's friends splint his broken leg, lash a stretcher with a handkerchief, chopsticks, and yarn, and carry him back to civilization for long-term medical care. 07/29/2007.

"The Brother of Jared, the Eight Boats, and the Night-Lights." Who needs the "Living Scripture" videos? 10/01/2007.

Bear works on his spelling, communication, and diet all at once. (Normally he prefers to eat canned salmon; I was trying to get him to eat more fruit. I assume he was giving in and not threatening our family.) 02/04/2008.

Whenever I start thinking I accomplish these things through my own merit, though, I think on my more memorable failures. Like the entire year I spent teaching early-morning seminary. Let's just say it was very...humbling to realize that my seventeen-year-old students were not at all impressed.

Besides, as much as I'd love to take credit for my amazing children, I have to admit that it's not about me. "How did you teach Eric to read so young?" people ask me. I have to say, honestly, "He taught himself. I just facilitated a bit." God blessed me with wonderful kids! It's just my job to help nurture their divine potential.