Category Archives: Kid Talk

Dragons and Bombs; or, Parental Thinking on Your Feet

Driving down a country road yesterday to pick up Papa and Napoleona:

SillyBilly asked, “Mama, what if a big dragon were coming here? What if it was flying up here from the south . . . from Los Angeles?”

Mama: “Hmmm . . . I wonder where it would land — in the mountains?”

SillyBilly: “Mama, what if a fighter jet flew over us and wanted to drop a bomb on us?”

We then talked about how we have air traffic control and the military that would prevent that from happening (as well as the unlikelihood of Pocatello being a major bomb target). And then he asked me, why do people want to drop bombs?

I said I couldn’t really imagine wanting to do anything like that myself, but sometimes people just are angry, or fearful, or don’t like other people, and they don’t know what else to do.

Then I said that sometimes there are “good” reasons. Like when we decide to participate in a war because we think what another country or their leader is doing is wrong. Like when, long ago when is grandparents were young, a leader of one country thought that he should invade and take over other countries, and also kill lots of people in his own country because he didn’t like who they were. Our country thought that was very wrong, and one way we stopped it was by bombing that “mean” country. Now we’re friends with that country again, and they don’t do that kind of thing any more.

SillyBilly asked if there were any wars going on right now. I said yes, there are always some happening somewhere. He asked me why.

I said, I guess it’s because people forget, or haven’t yet learned, how to be nice to each other and work things out. People are still sometimes afraid, or angry, or hateful.

I think I’ll wait a few years before I tell him about his own ancestors who were killed in that long-ago country that we bombed, and why it happened.



Filed under Deep Thoughts, Kid Talk, Politics, SillyBilly

Homeschool Days

SillyBilly’s school was closed today, yesterday he was off of school for a dentist’s appointment, and he will have the entire next week off too (teacher conferences and inservices). So, I’ve been thinking of this as a temporary homeschooling opportunity.

We’ve been taking walks:

Today was very cold and cloudy. There is a dusting of snow on the mountains to the south. SillyBilly was prospecting for rocks; he’s holding a rock, his toilet-paper-tube binoculars, and a construction paper pouch he made to hold treasures. We brought home several large rocks, which he scrubbed clean in the sink and then investigated thoroughly. I think the boy needs a book about minerals for Christmas!

We’ve been playing with masks:

This one was a cutout from the latest issue of Ladybug magazine, to go with a seasonal story about a snowshoe hare. For some reason, our cats totally freaked out over the kids wearing this mask. Puffy tails, arched backs, even hissing. We think they thought the kids were turning into some sort of large animal, yet still smelled the same, and the cats’ tiny brains just couldn’t handle it.

We’ve been making a new nature table:

SillyBilly did this one all by himself. We found a cool arch of bark on a walk, and he made it into a gnome’s cave, complete with hanging doorbell, mushroom garden, and a mossy bed.

We’ve been cooking:

SillyBilly made lunch for us today. And he did it all: choosing and preparing the food, the beautiful presentation, and setting the table. I especially liked the celery leaf garnish atop the sandwiches. He also helped make apple cranberry crisp for dessert tonight.

We’ve been sewing:

He wanted to make the cats a treat, so we hand sewed  a little square and filled it with catnip. Above you see the cat playing with his new lovey, the catnip pouch. Here’s the cat in his normal state:

And here’s the cat in post-drug use torpor (note the glazed look in his eyes. Of course the cat’s 14 years old, so he often looks like this anyway). SillyBilly also made this little “house” for the cats from a box and some play cloths:

And we’ve been taking pictures (obviously):

I let SillyBilly use my camera as he’s shown that he can be careful with it, and remember how to use it, and because he pesters me often enough. He ran around the house taking shots of random things. I praised him for this one’s nice composition (my nightstand — pardon the mess!) He also took a picture of me knitting, but I can’t share it as I was making a super-secret Christmas present.

We’ve also been reading a lot. Both SillyBilly and Napoleona are on the cusp of reading — sounding out lots of words, figuring out how words are spelled all on their own, and recognizing short words on the page. They’ve also been enjoying spouting math facts: I heard Napoleona say quite loudly “Five and five and one are ELEVEN!” while using the toilet tonight. She’s four years old. I’m scared!

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Filed under Crafting, Family, Food, Kid Talk, Napoleona, Nature tables, Parenting, play, School, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly

It’s Sinking In

Antimaterialism 101, overheard at snack time today:

“I want to see a magazine factory. Not Ladybug and animal [Your Big Backyard] magazines. Grown-up magazines, like we have in the drawer in the bathroom…. [Editor’s note: Get your mind out of the gutter and keep reading.]

(Thinking about another word to describe what he’s thinking of) Catalogs … No, I want to see grown-up magazines because catalogs are just trying to sell us things.”


Filed under Kid Talk, Parenting, Silliness and Mayhem, SillyBilly

Thursday Evening Thoughts

I’ve been trying to decide if I wanted to say anything here about the downfall of New York’s governor. Whether I wanted to comment on the irony of a man voted into office for his tough-on-crime stance as state attorney general, which included some pretty strong words and actions against prostitution and pressure on banks to track and divulge exactly the kind of money laundering Spitzer may be charged with. Whether I wanted to comment on how much on some level I respected what he said in in his resignation–that he had failed to live up to his own standards as a public servant and that his entire focus was on rebuilding his relationship with his family–or whether that was just wise PR and certainly on the advice of his attorney. Whether I should step into the debate over the morality of prostitution, and whether legalizing it would allow women to have more power in this particular equation.

Then I read this article, and thought that it was enough. Spitzer’s downfall as hubris on a grand scale. I like to look at it as possibly his destiny coming to meet him via his own decisions, unconscious or semiconscious as they may have been. In a lecture I read recently, Steiner talked about the inner exercise of viewing all of the events of your life, good and bad, as having been set up by your higher self for your edification and advancement. Sobering stuff, really.

* * * * *

SillyBilly made up this song, which is more or less set to the tune of the old sailor’s song “The Mermaid“:

Five little raisins went to sea,
And asked for the Gobolin’s Fair,*
They sailed away to Iowa,
And had a good time there.

But then they missed their home again, so…

Five little raisins went to sea,
And asked for the Gobolin’s Fair.
They went home,
And had pear there.

*No idea. It’s the name of a ship, evidently. A ship from inside the enigma that is SillyBilly’s brain.

* * * * *

I’m editing a book about the concept of “well-being” in anthropology, and one on female doctors and nurses in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and WWI. They’re interesting, but I just wish I could work on some books that don’t make me disgusted with human nature.

Let’s see…how can we oppress the Australian Aborigines a little more–ah! I have it! We’ll completely disregard their social structures and compel them from all angles to succumb to an individualistic culture that leaves them bereft of the interactions with friends and family that define happiness for them.

And how about those 19th-century bureaucrats in Washington? Giving a woman doctor the Medal of Honor and then taking it away because she was never officially documented as a doctor during her time of service, because only men could be physicians? That cheered me right up. (Her descendants did have her name restored to the list of recipients in a more enlightened time in US history.)

I’m longing for a nice book of art history. That would suit me just fine.

* * * * *

Anthropapa has been in bed for a week with this nasty flu. He finally gave up and went to the doctor today. Started on some Cipro in case he has a secondary infection. The kids and I have lingering stuffy noses and coughs.

And it just occurred to me that pollen season is on the way. Oh yay!

* * * * *

All right, all right…time for a happier note. Mike is OK!

* * * * *

Spring is stealthily making its way here. We’ve got snowdrops, and the winter aconite has colonized the hill outside our front door. There appear to be some crocuses starting, and we saw a bunch of skunk cabbage flowers down by the brook. The birds have started their early morning racket, and they and the squirrels seem to be in manic mode. I’ve been putting out peanuts for the “big” birds–cardinals, blue jays, etc. (my neighbor feeds the littl’uns)–and the squirrels and chipmunks. I tell you, those nuts last a few hours, max, and then the yard is picked clean again. We have some awfully hungry critters around here.

* * * * *

In some of my internet wanderings looking at SCA-related stuff, I found this hilarious blog by a grad student in medieval studies. I may be condemning myself to eternal geekitude, but I love it. The “Historic Personals” sidebar had me rolling.




Filed under editing, Kid Talk, Nature, Rants, Silliness and Mayhem

Natterings of Napoleona

Nana recently mentioned that she thought Napoleona had faded into the background a bit on this blog. She’s right — we’ve been so caught up in SillyBilly’s issues these days (including another round of asthma over the weekend, which we seem to have somewhat alleviated with doses of lobelia and the evil pink stuff).

So, I took the time to write down some of our conversations today, just so I could share them with my loyal readers. Some of whom are fairly new to this blog and might not have an entirely clear understanding of why we named her after a short but powerful emperor…

(We are picking up Napoleona at daycare. SillyBilly stayed home to recuperate from his cold. She is sitting on a bench by the coats and boots, eating a banana. She’s already dressed to go, and clearly hasn’t been awake long.)

Mama: Hello, sweetie–I see you’re all ready to go. Was that your last bite? OK, come on, I’ll carry your snow bibs and you can hold my other hand.

Napoleona: (Starting to cry and yell) I don’t want you to take my snow bibs home! I don’t want you to take my snow bibs! No Mama NO! (etc. etc., all the way to the car. The drive home distracts her, then when we’re getting out of the car, the sight of the bibs in my hand sets her off again. Then all becomes more clear when we get home.)

Napoleona: I’m hungry, can we have more snack?

Mama: Yes, here’s some leftover biscuit with cream cheese, and some blood orange. I’ll get you a glass of water.

Napoleona: (After eating all of her snack) I’m still hungry, could I have more please?

Mama: No, you had a banana, a biscuit and an orange. That’s enough until dinner.

Napoleona: Mama, I’m hungry! Give me more food! I’m still hungry! Waaaahhh!

(She doesn’t get more food. I hold her for a while, then we read a story together. When it’s done, she asks for more food. She doesn’t get any. Finally she decides she needs to comb my hair while I’m trying to do some work on the laptop, and peace is restored.)

* * * * * * *

Mama: Please don’t stand in your basket of toys.

Napoleona: That’s not a basket! (pointing to the cardboard box of trains she’s standing in)

Mama: (Breathe … breathe) Or box. Container of any kind.

* * * * * * *

Napoleona: (Holding up her fingers in an odd position) Mama, is this how you say “I love you” in sign language? (For some reason, I’ve been teaching them how to say this in various languages. So far we’ve done Ti Amo, Je t’aime, Ich liebe Dich, and sign.)

Mama: (Showing her each letter individually and then all together) I … love … you. I love you!

(lovely sentimental moment, lasting approximately 7.2 seconds)

Napoleona: (Running through the house) I love poopy poop! I love poopy poop! I love poopy poop!…


* * * * * * *

(We are folding laundry together. Napoleona specializes in folding table napkins and washcloths.)

Napoleona: Mama, you can buy one of my cloths if you want.

Mama: Oh, you have a cloth store! I have a clothes store. But I don’t have any money … could we trade instead?

Napoleona: (Unclear on the concept) No, I’ll give you some money!

Mama: But, I like to trade!

Napoleona: These are special cloths my friends gave me. I can’t trade them.

Mama: So, you’ll sell them for money, but you won’t trade for them? (Mama’s cringing at the thought of all her role modeling of using cooperative forms of commerce such as BookMooch or Freecycle going completely to waste. It’s clearly all about the shiny coins.)

(Napoleona goes into a long, convoluted answer, during which Mama resumes her folding and, to be honest, tunes out a little. Then something catches my ear.)

Napoleona: In my store I have candies, jewels, pony bridles, little cheeses, forks, knives, and spoons in my cash register. And at the very front of the store I have purple napkins!! (This gives you a little idea of what appeals to her: sparkly things, food, and some plain lavender cotton napkins that she has decided are the “special” ones. For her, these would clearly be the impulse buys at the front of the store.)


Filed under Kid Talk, Parenting, Silliness and Mayhem

Explaining MLK Day to a Preschooler

Yesterday while we were running errands, Napoleona asked me, for the bazillionth time, “Is tomorrow the weekend?” (For some reason the kids both ask me about this all the time. SillyBilly recently bought a new saw and multi-tool with a Home Depot gift card he received for Christmas; he only gets to use these tools with Anthropapa on the weekends. Napoleona just likes to know what’s going on.)

I said that no, it was a holiday, so daycare was closed and Anthropapa might stay home. Then she asked me what holiday it would be.

Diving into deep waters, I explained that sometimes we have holidays to remember important people, like Christmas for Jesus, or Thanksgiving for the Puritans. This holiday was for a man who not too long ago was a preacher, a minister who made speeches about being nice to other people.

Taking a deep breath as I could sense that she still wasn’t clear on this, I explained that this man lived right before Mama and Papa were born, and back then sometimes white people weren’t nice to black people just because of the color of their skin. Some people thought that one skin color made the person better, and another worse. Since that’s not right, this man, who was black, made big speeches about how that was wrong, and that we should all be nice to each other no matter what.

Then I reminded her of our trip to Washington, DC, where we walked from the Washington Monument, all the long way down by the big pool, to the big steps of the Lincoln Monument. I told Napoleona that this man had stood on those big steps and made the biggest speech of all, and the whole space around that pool, all the way back, was filled with people listening to him.

Part of me hated to even bring to her consciousness the idea of judging someone by the color of their skin. But I thought I should try to very simply tell her what the day was all about. How did I do?


Filed under Deep Thoughts, Kid Talk, Parenting

A Way with Words

I’ve always been a very verbal person. My mom says once I learned to talk, I never shut up. I learned to read when I was four, and never stopped reading either.

I’ve always been proud of my 720 SAT verbal score* (back when there was just one verbal section). However, I sense that I have some familial competition.

Recently Napoleona has been showing off her extensive vocabulary. Please remember, she’s 3 1/2:

“Mama, I found a nut [at daycare] and I nibbled on it for a while, but it wasn’t edible.”

“Mama, look at this [her piece of satsuma]: I thought it would come apart some more because it has another crease here.”

We’re in deep trouble. And we’re already contemplating the need to learn Aramaic so that we can talk in front of the kids and not have them understand our “codes.” (We no longer get away with calling Home Depot “the big orange place” or the library “the reading material repository.” The kids got those a long time ago.)

* Part of me does still rankle at those 80 missed points.


Filed under Family, Kid Talk, Parenting, Silliness and Mayhem

Instant Relief from All That Pessimism

So, I’m in the bathroom this evening with Napoleona. She’s just had a bath and I’m trimming her bangs before I dry her hair. She’s admiring a new bracelet I received for Christmas (thank you–you know who you are!), so I start telling her about how when I was a little girl I had a little silver ring from Solvang. I quickly explain that I was much older than she is, just to forestall any incipient demands for sparkly stuff, and I also tell her how I lost the ring and was very sad.

She pipes up with the following:

“Mama, when I get jewelry I’m going to save it for when I’m a queen in my castle, and Oliver [a little boy she met last summer] is the king. Then I’m going to invite all the poor people to come live there to be princes and princesses.”

That’s my sweet little egalitarian princess.  It’s enough to warm the heart of those who decry the hegemony of the fairy aristocracy.

See, I told you the next post would be nice!


Filed under Kid Talk, Silliness and Mayhem

Rugrats, Reading, and Rapunzel

Three pieces of evidence that my kids are actually aliens from outer space:
1. The other day they were running around the house yelling “Miraculous Hemulen!!!!” and shaking little boxes of beads behind them. Upon questioning them, it was revealed that they were actually saying “Maraculous,” as in maracas.

2. SillyBilly is obsessed with space. He constantly wants to make rockets, and claims that every chunk of asphalt or oddly shaped rock he finds is a “moon rock.” The other day he made this lovely moon lander from odd things out of the recycle bin. Please note the handy ramp leading to the “moon surface” complete with craters and shiny moon rocks:

3. Napoleona obsessively sets up this little scene with the Nativity play set. We’ve had at least 3 locations and multiple iterations, including one where all the figures were laying down (I thought perhaps baby Jesus had exploded and they were in the blast radius, but she assured me everyone was just sleeping.) There’s some serious adoration going on in our house:

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Copy Editing Conundrum:

I have been reading nonstop since I was four years old. Yet, except for brief exceptions in college and the corporate world, I have always read for pleasure.

Now, I find myself being paid to read (woo hoo!), yet I cannot so much pick and choose my reading topics. Of course, I have some say in the matter, but as a freelancer it’s not necessarily wise to turn down work as you’re never sure when the next job will come. So I’ve done quite a bit of reading lately that I never would have chosen otherwise.

On the other hand, many books I’ve edited lately have started out very dry and boring, yet I’ve really warmed up to them after a few chapters. For example, right now I’m working on a second edition of a book about “contemporary moral problems from a personalistic perspective.” The first two chapters were dry as dust (to me) because they set up all the philosophical premises for the author’s arguments. But now I’m into the chapters on such juicy topics as euthanasia and the treatment of animals.

Perhaps this explains why all of my pleasure reading has slipped into a morass of light fantasy. No pithy tomes to review for my loyal readers. No, it’s just young adult sci fi and Regency romance around here!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Speaking of YA SF, I just discovered Garth Nix’s trilogy: Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. (Actually I couldn’t get Sabriel from the library, so I started with Lirael and am about to start Abhorsen. That’s one sign of a good trilogy: you can pick up even in the middle.)

In reading these books, I realized that one limitation on my SF/fantasy reading has always been the level of complexity of names required to follow the story. I’m not consistent on this: surely no books have more odd names of people and places and things than Lord of the Rings?

But I think I’ve figured it out: the books need to lead me gently into their world, with a minimum of odd terminology to decipher and remember before I’m truly hooked. I’ve found myself, with some inferior books, having to bookmark the handy glossary (often a bad sign in and of itself, though not always — cf. any book about Pern for an acceptable example) and struggling to remember which character was which.

Nix’s books definitely have their quirky words and names. This is an alternate world he’s building here, after all. But he doesn’t pile them on too quickly, and he’s able to weave powerful images without resorting to too much funky terminology.

But why do I especially like these books? Why, Lirael herself, of course. How could I not love a girl who finds her true path through her job as a librarian in a magical library! Librarians who have to carry weaponry and safety devices on their persons at all times due to the unknown fell creatures and ancient spells lurking in the lower depths of the Great Library? Yahoo! Sign me up. (I’m so not doing justice to these books. I’m making them sound like Harry Potter or something. They’re not. They’re much more serious in tone, like Le Guin’s Earthsea.)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A final thing, a nice photo in honor of the big snowstorm we’re supposed to get tomorrow. This one’s for Helen, who once questioned me about suburban US architecture and turrets:


Filed under Books, Kid Talk, Silliness and Mayhem

A Brief Paleontology Lesson

I just spent the last two hours doing a fact-checking test, so I’m not going to stun you with anything original tonight. Instead I’m going to stun you with a more or less verbatim transcription of what SillyBilly told me tonight about dinosaur bones, one of his favorite topics:

Land dinosaurs were thirsty so they went to a pool to drink, but they went in too far and drowned. Their bones were so heavy that they sank into the sand. Over the years the sand turned into dirt, and the dirt into rock, and so did the bones. That’s why dinosaur bones are very valuable if they’re on the surface of the ground, because it’s very rare to see them up there.

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Filed under Kid Talk