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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Claire and the Giraffe

This is a story I wrote for Coryn when we were discussing why a particular tree at our park didn't have any leaves. I told her it was giraffes and she knew I was being silly, but it gave me this idea. I decided to name the kid in the story after our soon to be born baby since I had already used Coryn's name in other stories.

At the end of Summer Claire began to suspect that there was a giraffe on the loose. At first it was just a suspicion, then a theory, but by the first snowfall she was convinced that a giraffe was lurking somewhere in the alleyways of her city.

She wouldn't have suspected at all had not the tree in the playground lost its leaves. One day they were there and a windy night later they simply weren't.

Claire searched around the playground for the missing leaves. She'd really been looking forward to jumping into huge, crunchy piles of them, but all she ever found were three measly leaves. She knew there had been a lot more than three leaves on that tree.

"Mommy," she asked, "what sort of animals eat leaves?"
"Oh, lots of animals do, koalas for instance eat eucalyptus leaves," said Mommy. Claire thought a cuddly koala would be even more fun than crunchy piles of leaves, but it would take a whole herd of koalas to eat all the leaves that had gone missing.

"What else eats leaves?" she asked.
"Oh, deer and goats and cows. . ."
"Do any really big animals eat leaves?" Claire interrupted.
"Don't interrupt, Claire, but yes, I believe elephants do."
Claire had seen an elephant that summer at the circus. It was pretty big, but the tree was even bigger. To reach the leaves at the very top it would have had to stand on its back legs. It probably would break the tree right in half. Someone would notice.

"What about tall animals?" she asked.
"Yes, giraffes are the tallest animals on earth and they eat leaves," said Mommy. "Sometimes from the tip top of the trees."
"Perfect," said Claire.

From that time on, whenever Claire went out she kept and eye open for signs of giraffes. Unfortunately, sidewalks were lousy for animal prints. She asked her mommy for help.
"Claire, honey," her mommy said, "Giraffes live on the African plains and in zoos. They don't live in cities like ours. It's too cold."
"Maybe it is wearing a coat," Claire pointed out. She thought for a moment then added, "and about twenty scarves."

The next day Claire tried to bait a giraffe trap with her mommy's scarf, but Mommy made her bring it back.

The problem was, in the city, there were so many things a giraffe could hide behind. On the African plains they stood out and in the zoo they were hard to miss (there was even an arrow pointing straight to their cage), but in the city all the buildings were taller than the average giraffe. For all Claire knew there could be two. . .or three. . . . or a whole herd of them.

All Autumn she watched and waited, but the giraffe never showed up. They ate all the leaves, though, soon there was not a leaf on any tree in the city. Claire began to lose hope.
"I'll never see a giraffe," she said sadly.
"Would you like to go to the zoo today?" her mommy asked.

When they got to the zoo, Claire hurried her Mommy straight to the giraffes. There they were, tall enough to reach the very tip top of any tree in the playground. It was so obvious that they were behind the disappearing leaves.

"Do you want to go see the polar bears?" Mommy asked after a bit.
"No, I just want to watch the giraffes," said Claire.
Claire and the giraffes watched each other for a long time.
"You know," said Claire, "I'm glad there are giraffes in my park."
"It's time to go, Claire," said Mommy.

Claire followed Mommy out but when Mommy wasn't looking she left behind her scarf, just in case the giraffe got cold.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Conversation with Coryn

This morning Coryn stumbled into my room, tugged on my shoulder, and said in her unhappiest, soggiest voice, "I peed my pants. I want a bath!"

So into the bath she went. It had been a rough night for me. I'm at the tail end of a cold and had been too congested to really sleep well, plus I know I'd tossed and sneezed enough that Matt probably hadn't slept much either and he'd been complaining that he was coming down with the same cold (which for me started out with a monster all-day head ache. . .he said he had one too when he woke up). I didn't want to get up, but Matt wasn't getting up and he has to work tonight

After realizing that one of us had to get up and it most likely had to be me, I ended up sitting on her Dora the Explorer stool next to the tub trying to keep her quiet because the bathroom is right next to our bedroom. She was really talkative.

Coryn: I went to the park yesterday.
Me: Did you have a fun time?
Coryn: No, it wasn't fun. It was just so much happy. Ava was there and another little girl. . .and her brother. Then it got dark and we went to sleep. We can't sleep at the park because it might rain. Ava sleeps at the park.

Ava is a slightly younger girl she plays with sometimes at our park. . . and apparently Ava has achieved Coryn's goal of living in the park (I wonder if Ava's mommy knows?). Coryn has her own spot laid out in the park complete with an invisible pet cat named Bobby who eats fish she catches off a bridge connecting two of the play structures. She really wants to live there.

Me: I don't think Ava sleeps at the park. I think her mommy takes her inside.
Coryn: Oh. . . Mommy, you're talking to me? Why are you talking me?
Me: Because I like talking to you.
Coryn (smiling really big): Because you love me?
Me: Yes, I love you.

She then wanted her toys but it was nice to have a little chat with Coryn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Easy Chicken Dinner Disappointment

My husband is a lean protein devouring, 6'5'', work-out-daily giant. I seriously sometimes feel like I need to go to nutritionist school just to make his dinners. He goes through things like chicken breasts and brown rice at a rate that really makes me miss Costco.

I'd been taking advantage of this, once a week, though to manipulate him into making the majority of dinner. Once a week I'll thaw a bag of chicken breasts (and usually marinate them in something) and have them waiting for him when he gets home so he can barbecue them to take to work for the rest of the week. . .but since he's already got the grill going we might as well have bbq chicken for dinner tonight anyway. I'll make salad.

This week, however, he was always too tired and there were enough leftovers to take to work that he dismissed my awaiting chicken for two whole days (I had back up plans since you never know what mood Matt will be in and it really doesn't hurt chicken to sit in marinade for an extra night or two in the fridge), but this morning I woke up and found out he'd grilled the chicken before going to work. Who grills at 5am? Matt apparently.

So I can cross Matt-grilled-chicken off my weekly meal plan. For one thing, after eating it for lunch every day all week, he's not going to want it for dinner. Dang it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quick Post To Recommend. . .

Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby.

This was our most recent library find, a newer book about a little rabbit with big problems (like loneliness and getting stepped upon and losing balloons). It has very simple drawings accompanied by texture collages (sort of like a comic book Charlie and Lola) which drew me to it, but when I did a quick read through at the library, I found that Squish has a problem that Coryn often has and that I knew she could relate to: No one to play with because he is so little.

While Coryn is usually bigger than kids her age (and some a year or two older), that doesn't cushion her from feeling small and left out when the playground is full of busy, fast moving eight-year-olds with their complicated games . . . or when there is simply no one there at all. Squish's attempts to remedy his lack of friends is a short, charming tale that Coryn asks to read over and over again. She especially likes the part where Squish, feeling frustrated and thinking he is all alone, throws a tantrum, and when he yells, "STOP!" at a fleeing potential playmate.

It's not often I find new books that I like, so many seem to be produced rather than written, but this one is just right.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Creative Days With Coryn

Most people find loose change at the bottom of their washing machine. Me? This morning I found a crochet hook and my mailbox key.

I am writing this pen and paper style to copy down later when I can get out my laptop. My handwriting is ridiculously masculine and when I'm in a hurry it sort of morphs into my own version of shorthand. When I was writing Matt weekly letters during his last Iraq tour he told me that he can tell how I was feeling when I wrote something due to my handwriting changes. He also said that it changes depending on whether I'm writing about work or my day or Coryn (who I was pregnant with at the time, but we started calling her Coryn as soon as we found out that she was a girl). It's on my list of sweeter things he's said to me.

Coryn out grows clothing, especially shoes which are unforgiving on her wide feet, at a rate that has been both frustrating and impressive. When her last pair of dress shoes went to her younger cousin, Coryn was devastated. Coryn calls dress shoes "tappy shoes" because they make tapping noises when she walks in them, unlike most of her soft soled play shoes. We went shopping on base for some new ones and there weren't any that fit. . .I mentioned she has wide feet? Well, she does. Coryn's feet are size 11 in length (some 10's will even work if they have some give to them), but almost all her shoes are size 12 because I can't squeeze her feet into most narrow toddler shoes.

I ordered her some new shoes from Old Navy, two pairs of ballet flats, one hot pink, one black, and they came yesterday. From the moment she saw me take them out of the box, Coryn was in love. She wore first one pair, then the other, prancing around the house in ballerina poses. She wore them until the end of the day when she took them off and noticed a blister on the top of her foot (Which tends to happen when you dance around in brand new shoes without any socks on for hours). She got upset but calmed down when I put a Spongebob band-aid on it and promised her it would feel better in the morning. The next morning I woke to find her staring at me.

"Mommy, my bister (sic) isn't better," she said mournfully. Matt fixed it for her by putting on some socks on her feet, covering the blister (out of sight, out of mind), but later when I told her to get dressed she came out still wearing the bright red socks plus her hot pink ballet flats and a pair of loose pink checked shorts. Normally Coryn is better at color coordination than I am (though she can be a little monochromatic, especially when pink is involved.) and I like having her dress herself, so I don't really have a script for when she obviously needs a fashion intervention. I tried to talk her down.

"Coryn, I normally don't question your style choices, but you really need to change that outfit," I said.

"I already have style choices, Mommy," she informed me. I made her put on some blue jeans, but allowed her to keep the ballet flats and red socks (the socks were mostly covered up by the jeans anyway). I guess I like her being independent minded about clothes.

We did some creative stuff this afternoon. Coryn has a birthday party on Monday and if I have time before a birthday party (and if the present isn't an awkward shape that makes me run for my stash of gift bags) I like her to make her own wrapping paper. I'll get out a roll of easel paper, spread it out, and we'll attack it together, normally with water colors (see photo up-top). We made two sheets because we have two smaller presents rather than one larger one this time. It took us over and hour to cover both sheets to satisfaction with a mix of her splotches and random things she asked me to draw (like dinosaurs and the birthday boy's name). Our packages will certainly be unique.

Afterwards, I was feeling creative, so I went googling for printable greeting cards she could color. I found a large selection from Fisher-Price. I selected the one that said it was a "Dino-Mite" birthday card, but when I printed it up the inscription inside said, "Happy Birthday, Brother," and so I had to fish around for one that didn't specifically address a family member. We eventually found one with a puppy on the outside, but by that time Coryn seemed to be tired of art production and her coloring was less than stellar. I'll probably print up another on a day when she isn't so tired and we'll have another go at it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

DIY Chocolate Milk and Fiber Treats

Coryn's big into "Do It Yourself" lately and one of her favorite things to do all by herself is to make chocolate milk. She'll even whine sometimes if I bring her already finished chocolate milk ("I wanted to do it!"). She'll get her "helping" stool, the milk, and a spoon and wait for me to get down a cup and the chocolate which are kept out of reach. Then she'll spoon some chocolate into the milk (which I insist on pouring on this point), stir it up, and Voila! Chocolate milk, an old family recipe.

Today while I was supervising this ritual, she indicated my "Metamucil" mix which I've started using to combat pregnancy digestive issues awhile back and said, "Mommy, that's your favorite chocolate milk."

I guess she's noticed I've been mixing it into various beverages three times a day, and her automatic assumption is that is yummy.

I'd like to call this leading by example, but more likely it is just another manifestation of forbidden fruit. No matter how many times I've told her that grown up vitamins and medicine aren't "candy" she still eyes me jealously if she catches me taking one.

In other news, her letter writing has taken off. She just wrote down "orlr" on a scrap of paper and asked me to read it. She listened to my attempt to sound it out, laughed, and told me I was silly.

"No, it says, 'I love you, Grandma,'" she corrected me.

We'll work on reading later.

Easy Teaching Opportunities: Inches

A good book for those of us with preschoolers is Mommy Teach Me by Barbara Curtis that talks about bringing teaching opportunities into every day situations. I'm not personally a huge fan of structured learning, especially at preschool age, but I'm a huge fan of hands on learning and reading.

Today I found a simple lesson in units of measurement using Leo Lionni's book Inch by Inch and a measuring tape. A ruler would also work fine. In Inch by Inch a resourceful inchworm uses his unique talent (measuring things) to talk and trick his way out of being bird food.

I picked out the story just to be a story, but right away I realized that Coryn might not even know what an inch was, so I read the first few pages then stopped and took out my measuring tape. First I showed her an inch, then I measured my hand, then hers. We read the rest of the book . . . and she wanted to start again, and measure our hands again, and then point to the numbers on the tape and name them. . . almost all the way up to 50.

The naming numbers impressed me because counting is not Coryn's strong suit, but apparently pattern recognition is. She would pause and wait for me to name the multiples of ten (20, 30, 40) and then say the names (41, 42, 43) of he numbers following it.

There are plenty of ways to expand on this "lesson light." You could cut out your own little inchworm and use it to measure things. You could follow up by cutting out a "footworm" and a "yardworm." I suppose you could find a way to work in metric, but I think a good deal of the reason metric never caught on was because "centimeterworm" will never be easy for young children to pronounce.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Random stuff from the last few days

Coryn has my camera again. I'm interested to see how these pictures turn out. A moment ago she was taking pictures exclusively of her shoes. She's getting a toy camera (a vtech one that takes actual photos) for Christmas, but she doesn't know this yet. It's pink, so she should be into that.

It's a relief to be done shopping for Coryn. I'm holding up a stop sign for myself because last year I got done early and then found other stuff and ended up getting her much too much. This year, she's getting a little bit less, but I was very careful to pick out stuff I think she'll really like, like the camera. She'll be only a month away from having a brother or sister (we still don't know which) at this point. She's already interested in the baby paraphernalia I've started to collect. I bought a used play mat with a bunch of hanging toys over it and she's lying on it right now talking to the little jungle animals over her head.

Every time I bring home something new (or used) for the baby, Coryn has to inspect it to determine whether or not it has play value. Then the cat normally goes over to see if it has "nap value." I had to put a blanket over the car seat to prevent Kamikaze from shedding all over it. This poor baby is never going to have anything special just for itself.

Coryn can write her name now and knows what letters most words start with, or can figure it out. The other day she wrote her name almost perfectly on the bottom of her picture so I told her she'd done a good job and we'd show her Daddy when he got home. A little later I was messing with a pile of laundry that I had to fold but didn't want to and she laughed and said, "Mommy, that looks like a mountain. We should show Daddy when he gets home."

She's good at turning things I say to her back on me. For instance, I'm always complimenting how much she is growing and wrapping up clothes she is too big for to send back to her younger cousin back home, and the other day she saw me getting dressed and said, "Mommy, your underwear are tight. You've grown too big for them. You're getting so big!" Getting so big in my case is not such a great thing, though I suppose pregnancy is a good reason to be tubby.