A New Cycle

As soon as I got home from work tonight, I headed back out the door with Julia, Genevieve, and our neighbor girl, M., all of whom were hankering to ride their bikes to the playground. I was, myself, hankering to be outside, so I was happy to go with them.

M., on her (too-small) bike and Vivi, on her Big Wheel trike, did great. Julia, on the other hand, not only did great – pedaling happily and steadily for 60 minutes or more – but grew up right in front of me. She actively refused the little pushes she usually requests, she remembered both how to start from a standstill and how to stop on an incline, she deftly steered around all kinds of obstacles (including, several times, Vivi), and even she even took a lap of the neighborhood park with M. while I stayed with Vivi. Thinking about it, I’m sure that, in all the thousands of hours I’ve spent with her, I have never been physically further away from Julia than I was when she was on one side of Heywood Park and I was on the other. I was amazed and impressed and delighted and – since nothing parental can be unmixed – a little bit sad.

Then again, with this success under our belts, we can now bike and walk all over creation – or at least our subdivision.


At long last, the girls could today wear their triptrap flipflop sandals. Julia had no problems getting them on (they’re flipflops, after all), but Vivi had a little bit of trouble, both with the footedness and the toedness.
Vivi's Flip Flops

She still looked cute, though.
Vivi's Flip Flops

Back to Reality

If you have to make a lickety-split trip to New York City, it’s good to come home for a nice low-key holiday like Mother’s Day. The girls are very into the whole idea of “being nice to Mama” (as Julia puts it), so things tend to go smoothly, from the joint project of making a wonderful (and crazy) M.D. card yesterday night and loudly urging each other to be quiet this morning (the better for Mama to sleep in) to happily going to pick up gifts for Shannon – flowers from a local nursery (from the girls to her) and sandals from the cozy little shoe-and-clothes shop downtown (from me). Julia was a little perplexed as to why Mother’s Day does not feature a cake, or at least some cookies, but she eventually accepted the fact that today no such “weets” (as Genevieve calls them) were in the offing.

Following all the morning activity, two good naps gave everybody a nice break and equipped the girls for a run to the library and to Central Park – the 3.8 acre park in Northfield, not the 843 acre park in Manhattan. Julia was a whirlwind at the park, conquering without assistance three or four different structures that she had never – to my knowledge – even tried to do before. Gymnastics is paying off for her! Delectable homemade pizza for dinner capped the day in just the right way. 


(Free semi-related Wikipedia fact: Central Park NYC has been estimated to a value as real estate of $528,783,552,000. That’s, like, most of an AIG bailout!)

Little Scientists

Today, Julia’s class at Northfield Nursery School had a wonderful little field trip to River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. The kids got to see some spring flowers, examine the bark on various kinds of trees, overturn logs to see what sorts of creatures were underneath, and even dip their hands in a pond that was ringing with spring peeper frogs and dotted with turtles. (We counted 16!) In short, they had a blast. Here are the little naturalists checking out the slimy, scaly things found under wet, rotting logs. (Julia is in the middle, in the sunglasses.)

Kids at River Bend

Childrens’ Author Richard Scarry Proposes an Anti-Piracy Campaign

With Somali piracy still in the news, I must post these images of Richard Scarry’s great story, “Uncle Willy and the Pirates,” which I scanned long ago when Julia was obsessed with Uncle Willy. You’ll note that Scarry proposes to combat piracy (pie-rat-cy) with relatively inexpensive and remarkably successful psychological operations. (Click through for bigger versions.)

pages 1-2
"Uncle Willy the Ferocious Monster," by Richard Scarry (pp. 1-2)

pages 3-4
"Uncle Willy the Ferocious Monster," by Richard Scarry (pp. 3-4)

pages 5-6
"Uncle Willy the Ferocious Monster," by Richard Scarry (pp. 5-6)

A Few Ways My Children Annoy Me

A partial list, which in no way connotes that they’re not great little girls. But still, sometimes…

The way they “need” to dry their chins and cheeks with the bath towel while they’re in the tub. Apparently, every other part of their bodies can be wet, but not their faces. After using the towel, they often drop it into the bath water.

Correcting me, over and over, as to their pretend identity, even when we’re no longer “inside” the scenario:
“Time to wash up for lunch, Julia.”
“No, Daddy, I’m Sleeping Beauty/Snow White/Mary/..”

“Genevieve, let me help you get your socks on.”
“You mean ‘Big Boy.'”
“Yes, Big Boy. She needs to let me help her get your socks on.”
“You mean ‘him.'”
“Right. Him. Let me help him get his socks on.”

Their amazing ability to anticipate exactly when I will say something, and then to start talking at precisely that nanosecond, with twice the volume and three times the intensity.

Their incredible need to specify, each afternoon or evening, what they would like for breakfast the next morning. With a very few exception over the last 18 months, neither one has had anything except toast with peanut butter & honey on it, part of a banana (or an apple, in a pinch), milk, and water. Yet they must specify that they’d like exactly this for breakfast every day.

A Day Well Spent

By my count, the girls and I spent at least five hours outside in today’s gorgeous weather. In the morning, we went to campus to explore the “Council Ring” near the Rec Center.
Council Ringleaders

The girls loved climbing the stones, and then we trooped around the Lyman Lakes and threw pebbles in the water. What is it about throwing rocks in water that can captivate kids for so long?

In the afternoon, we stayed closer to home, making a trip to the neighborhood playground. This entailed my transformation into a pack mule. Click through for the annotated version.
Man Pack

Die Down, Wind (Or, I Butcher the Bottle Rockets)

With apologies to the Bottle Rockets, I offer this Northfield-specific ditty. I “wrote” it tonight while fighting the wind during an abbreviated run; it’s based on the BRs’ great “River Get Down,” which I blogged last month.

I live in a prairie town, it’s pretty little
There’s a ridge on the side and it’s flat in the middle.
When the wind comes up, it whips us around,
And blows the trash cans all over town

Die down, wind; wind, die down, won’t you
Die down, wind; wind, die down
Once again you have almost knocked all my kids down
Die down, wind, die down

Over to the park’s where my kids want to go,
To ride on their bikes, but I don’t know
When it gusts like this, you can hardly go
It’s like a tornado, down by the Econo

You can fly around town when the winds gust high
Daily gales are just the prairie style
There ain’t nothing you can do to stop them
Just hope for the best and lash down the rest

Anybody know of a good Americana band that needs new material?

Horrible Preschooler News

Owing to a long meeting in St. Paul today, I only got to spend an hour with the girls this morning (the usual hectic before-work-and-school hour, which isn’t exactly quality time) and one more hour this evening (mostly hustling them off to sleep). As I was settling them into their beds, though, Julia did more than make up for this lack of good time with them by blurting out today’s preschooler news: “Daddy, today at school, Charlie hit Austin in the arm and said he was stupid! That was horrible! And it was horrible that before Sarah was even born, her big sister ate bird poop because she thought it was chewing gum! And when teacher Carrie was a little girl, she was running through an oat field with her dog and she accidentally ate a bug! Horrible!”* 

The stories were great, but even greater was her shy little smile, imparting all this information to me.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the coprophagic.

No High Chair

Today, Shannon and I gave away our well-used high chair, to a friend who just added a new baby girl to her family. I’m not too cracked up over giving away something as utilitarian as a high chair, and Shannon knows by now that I have little or no sentimentality over the end of this or that stage of life (infancy, toddlerhood, etc.), but I’ve been thinking all day long about how the chair was literally the seat of so much activity in our house for so long. For both Julia and Genevieve, it was the place where they enjoyed (or didn’t) their first solid foods, where we spoon-fed them gobs of Gerber baby food, where they sampled all the great non-pureed edibles, where they had the stereotypical messy meals, where the enjoyed bites of their first-birthday cakes,  where they had the occasional meltdown, where they first colored with crayons and markers, where they played with and attempted to eat Play-doh, and – finally – where they refused to sit any longer, preferring the booster seat on a regular chair.

In other words: I’m not sad to see the high chair go, but I will miss it a little bit.

Riverwalk with Loons

Sunday afternoon, I took the girls to the public library to check out some books (a half dozen, all of which we’d checked out before and most of which were aimed at kids quite a bit younger even that Vivi). When the library closed, we weren’t ready to go home, so we headed across the street to traipse along the Riverwalk. At about this point, the girls both went loony. In addition to inventing and perfecting a half-dozen crazy walks, they sang a song adapted from an episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog (which airs, as they are happy to say, “on PBS Kids”), a little ditty that involved repeating the line, “Moving down the street, Bayba!” over and over. Loudly. For about fifteen minutes. Thank goodness this didn’t happen when tourists were on the Riverwalk, or they’d have fled town like the James Gang.

Tantrumtastic (Pt. II)

Things looked good for breaking the streak of bedtime meltdowns tonight until about 6:45, at which time a few minutes of playing with blocks dissolved into sororal squabbling over the last of the coveted “big square” blocks, which are less valuable that the single rectangle block (good for a floor or a roof) but far more valuable than the more numerous “little square” blocks (which are less useful as walls than the big squares). With rude refusals, yelling and screaming, and finally some good old-fashioned waterworks, Julia rebuffed all paternal attempts to convince her to share any of her building materials (100% of the rectangles, 83% of the big squares, 50% of the little squares, and 100% of the big triangles that are excellent gables).

Vivi, to her credit, built her own little structure with the scraps before finally throwing in the silky by calling, “Mama, I weady to sing songs now. I weady foh bed!” Thus ended another evening.