Friday, November 30, 2007

singin' in the rain

That little girl makes my heart sing. It has been raining since early morning, and I've had a ho-hum rainy day at home catching up on housework. I was just coming down the stairs after moving over the laundry when I heard her voice:

"I'm singin' in the wain, jus' singin' in the wain. I'm singin' and dancin' in the wain."

There she was out on the wet patio barefoot and dancing. I guess I've been singing that song around the house more than I realized (I saw the movie a few days ago for the hundredth time). Knowing the camera was in the car Chris took to work, I raced to get my camcorder only to see the memory stick was missing. So I just leaned against the doorpost with a grin on my face, and when she urged me to join her, who was I to argue?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

silly me

I just got a pair of socks made of bamboo that have separated toes. Eliza laughed so hard tears squeezed out. Once she could finally speak she said, "Mommy, that's silly! You have gloves on the feet!" then laughed more. I felt like the silly turkey from Blue Hat, Green Hat who kept putting clothes on the wrong body parts, but I don't care - the socks are cozy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

learning notes: November 12-25


week 1
Tu: library story time + nature walk + play date
W: dance class
Th: fire station field trip + park + IKEA
F: music class + library (again)

The photo on the right is from the short nature walk we do around the pond area each week after our library visit. I love that little wooden bridge.

Music class is on break until 2008 now. Her teacher sure deserves time off from her 20-odd weekly classes.

Dance class went unusually well. Eliza had so much fun and she was more cooperative than she's ever been. There was no class Thanksgiving week, but they'll do another 4 weeks before breaking for 2 then finishing up the final 4 weeks of the quarter in January. The new quarter starts February 1st, and I hope Eliza will be bumped up to the class for 3¼-5-year-olds (no parent participation). Frankly, I'd rather spend the 50 minutes reading than having to participate in pre-ballet, but if they think she'd benefit from another quarter of Mommy & Me, that's what we'll do.

The fire station tour was the monthly field trip for E's home-preschool group. We were about 20 minutes late because of my confusion over the parking and where to enter, so we missed the inside of the fire station because of my incompetence, unfortunately. Eliza was really looking forward to this, but after driving all that way, we only caught the last 8 minutes or so. At least she had a good time at a park afterward. I took a very short video of the fire engine with my new camera, which captures sound as well as video (unlike my stolen camera), but even though I could hear the nice man clearly, it seems my camera couldn't.

week 2
M: Birch Aquarium
Tu: Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit + Natural History Museum + Mingei International Museum
F: Bee Movie

For week 2, we had visitors to entertain. Besides the above, we also went out to eat several times (Chinese, Greek, etc.), which is one of Eliza's favorite things to do.

The big event on Tuesday morning was the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. (I forgot my camera that day, but I couldn't take photos inside the exhibit anyhow, but see Brit's October post for great Balboa Park photos.) It was a bit chaotic in there, so the six adults got separated, and my husband ended up with Eliza. Afterward, the three of us (the first out) found each other and spent a half hour in the rest of the Natural History Museum (we only had a short time, but we visit fairly often).

Our next stop was to the Mingei (folk art museum) where it was Free Tuesday. We hadn't been in almost a year, and Eliza really appreciated it this time. Her favorite room was the white computer room (with a chair sculpture that said no sitting - what torture for a little kid), but she was entranced by the fairy doll house made entirely from materials from nature. Other favorites were the rocks found twisted by nature into what coincidentally resembled various landscapes - they said "please touch" - it was such a pleasant surprise for her after so much "just look, don't touch."

On Friday, Eliza had her first-ever visit to the cinema (and my first in exactly 2 years) where we saw Bee Movie. She was such an angel and has talked about the experience frequently in the days since.

learning at home

I have no notes. When we weren't out of the house week one, I spent an absurd amount of hours cleaning the house (which apparently still wasn't good enough), so Eliza even more time than usual self-entertaining. From her point of view, the most interesting thing she did at home all week was to help me assemble DVD cases. I'm not handy in the slightest, but the one thing I can do well is assemble bookshelves and the like. Eliza picked up quite a few new words in the process. She was so proud of herself and excitedly told her father all about it when he got home.

For week two, she spent so many hours helping/observing in the real kitchen and also playing with her kitchen- and tea-themed toys. There was a lot of block and Lego play, too, and lots and lots of tickling. "Pwease tickow me!" she repeatedly begged whomever was nearby. She is one silly goose.

coming soon . . .

This week we're getting back to normal. We had to skip playgroup this morning because I'm ridiculously far behind on laundry, but we plan to do our usual trips to the library, dance class, etc. I'll close with a preview of Eliza's art exploration from this morning - "Tilting Prints" from Preschool Art - that she did with a baking pan and chiming Chinese meditation balls (I didn't have marbles):

Thursday, November 15, 2007

learning notes: November 5-11

This was a very laid-back week. I didn't take many notes or photos.

The big news is that I now have a digital camera! At the Halloween party, a friend gave Eliza a gorgeous handmade black and purple tutu as a belated birthday present and used the occasion as an excuse to buy a camera for me. My jaw was on the floor. I ordered a 2 GB memory card for the camera (in an instant, the maximum number of photos jumped from 5 to 1,500), which didn't arrive until a few days ago. So as of next week, there will be no more grainy camcorder photos.

little yogini

The following photos were from the week earlier, but I just realized I forgot to post them. Ever since her Yoga mat arrived she has been taking it out most days. She wasn't sure what it was at first, and although I'd been into Yoga for many years, I relied on Yoga Kids (a book) to identify what would be appropriate for her age.


downward dog

lion (she's growling)

She danced even more than usual - sometimes adding up to hours a day. I didn't note exactly what she listened to, although I seem to remember it was a lot of rock and pop on the radio and classical music from CDs. She also asked for and acted out Carnival of the Animals several times. I mentioned that I'm highly sensitive to sounds in general and music in particular. I have a low tolerance for children's music (though there is a lot of it in the house thanks to newborn gifts). That's why Eliza is more familiar with the Beatles than Raffi. Two children's CDs I don't mind are the humorous Philadelphia Chickens and Dog Train, although come to think of it, we haven't listened to those in a long time (foiled by clutter).


Although I gathered art supplies to be able to do any number of projects from Preschool Art, we didn't end up doing any of them. I was feeling lazy last week, so whenever Eliza asked to do art, I'd just hand her paper and crayons or markers and mini dry erase board. She usually doesn't find it quite as interesting as paint, but I was feeling rather unmotivated.


Eliza helped a substantial amount with popcorn and pita bread (on different days). She has a Learning Tower, which is a kitchen observation platform for kids (although it can double as a puppet show stage). I cook at least five dinners from scratch each week, and this way, Eliza can observe without getting in the way.

Popcorn is one of her favorite things to cook. I pull over the LT to the range, and we wait until the three test kernels have popped. Once that happens, Eliza's job is to dump the pre-measured kernels into the pan, I replace the glass lid, and we watch the magic happen. I ended up sprinkling nutritional yeast on her portion, and she thought it was delicious. "This kid can't be related to me," I thought. (I hate the taste of nutritional yeast and only use it in small quantities in recipes that call for it, like Isa's seitan. I think I'm going to lose my vegan card for admitting I greatly dislike "nooch.")

Early Monday morning we baked 100% whole wheat pita bread. Eliza is mesmerized watching dough go 'round and 'round on my mixer's dough hook. Once it had risen, Eliza helped with rolling the six portions into balls, then used the French pin to roll them out. I thought I'd have to finish the job, but she did so well and rolled them to just the right thickness that I kept them adorably lopsided as-is!

Mediterranean autumn lunch:

1. black bean and orange hummus (Eat, Drink & Be Vegan)
2. Eliza-made 100% whole wheat pita bread
3. pomegranate seeds
4. stuffed grape leaves

The grape leaves weren't homemade. I spied organic stuffed grape leaves in a tin and decided to give them a shot. Unfortunately, they use white rice, and they weren't nearly as tasty (of course) as those at Café Athena or even the time I made my own at home, so that's two strikes against them. I haven't ever been able to find plain organic grape leaves locally, so I may have to see if I can locate a jar online.

We loved the hummus though (I've now made it twice). My parsley plant finally grew big and hearty enough that it could spare a quarter cup for the hummus. Eliza gets so excited when I tell her it's time to gather herbs from the patio.


M: playgroup
R: playgroup
F: music class

We had to miss dance class on Wednesday, and I wasn't feeling well Friday, so Chris took Eliza to music class before work. We spent more time indoors than usual last week, which didn't do Eliza's mood any favors - she was happy while dancing or at playgroup, but she also threw way too many all-out screaming fits. I didn't have the best time coping with her tantrums and my falling even more behind on housework, and I didn't get to read as much as I'd like, which tends to make me grumpy.

This current week has been happier for Eliza, but now I'm under a lot of stress preparing for the holiday and more than a week of house guests. I'll do what I can and try not to worry about the rest.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

7 weird things

Sara tagged me for 7 weird things. Someone tagged me for 8 things I like about myself awhile ago, and I tried to write that post, but there literally aren't 8 things I like about myself. Weird I can do.

1- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
3- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

7 random or weird things:
1. I have this bulge that pops out of my wrist when I press on just the right place on my palm; it looks like a beating heart.
2. I've had chronically dislocating knees since my earliest memories. This used to be a very painful and not infrequent problem when I lived in the icy Midwest, but since moving to SoCal, it only happens about once every two years.
3. I'm petrified of horses (although I liked the idea of them as a kid - just not the real McCoy).
4. I'm hypersensitive to background music, architecture, etc. There are many places I avoid because of this.
5. I'm a stickler for grammar and spelling (I welcome typo correction - I consider it a favor akin to telling a friend discreetly that there's lettuce in her teeth or her fly is open).
6. I like a clean house but despise housework and avoid it whenever possible. My neat freak husband keeps me in line. That reminds me: it's already 5, and I still haven't started the single task I was assigned for the whole day.
7. I'd take Joshua Bell over George Clooney.

I'm not going to follow #3 and 4 (due in part to shyness and also a healthy disregard for rules), but please feel free to play along if you're so inclined.

Monday, November 05, 2007

learning notes: late October

Thanks to Nina for the idea of posting my weekly learning notes. I jotted down plenty of notes for the week of October 15-21, but the following two weeks were too chaotic between the wildfires one week and being a temporary single mom the next (Chris had a business trip to New Jersey). Unfortunately, although I still have my notes from the week of the 15th, it has now been long enough that many of the details escape me, so in the future, I'll be sure to post for the week by Sunday so it's still fresh in my head.


T: library visit & nature walk
W: dance class
R: field trip to an organic vegetable farm
F: music class & Quail Botanical Gardens
N: San Diego Natural History Museum

On the 18th, Eliza's homeschool-preschoolers field trip group went to La Milpa Organica up in North County. Check out Jen's post - she took far better photos than I. Eliza's favorite part by far was yanking carrots and radishes from the ground (and eating them). I wish we had more room in the narrow strip of earth that surrounds our patio for more than a few herbs.

Here's a photo of Eliza among the giant bamboo at Quail Botanical Gardens. We have a membership, but we don't go as often as I'd like because of the distance. It's a very peaceful place with a stunning waterfall and distinct geographical themes. There's a children's garden there, too, but as Eliza spends the entire time holed up in the wooden cottage (not that there's anything wrong with that...), I much prefer the main gardens.

book theme: dragons

  • Puff the Magic Dragon
  • Where's the Dragon?
  • Dragons and Other Beasts
  • George and the Dragon
  • Behold the Dragons


  • Carnival of the Animals

Eliza hadn't listened to (or seen the book for) Carnival of the Animals in so long that it was new to her. I thought she might enjoy sitting on the sofa, having me read aloud the text of the picture book as the music played. She did that at first, but soon enough she thought to jump to her feet and act out the different animals (her favorite? kangaroo jumping on the piano keys). Ever since, Eliza has been asking to listen to the CD almost daily. She no longer wants me to read the picture book, but now she has directed me to two new jobs. First, she insists I have to get down the book at the start and lay it open on the recliner; once each section/animal ends, she runs over and flips the page, says to herself the animal and/or instrument to get psyched up for her next dance interpretation. The other job she gave me is to hold her horizontally in the air for the bird and aquarium parts, which is not best for my back, but to fly through the air gives her such joy.

  • Tosca

Thank goodness Eliza doesn't know Italian, that's all I can say, because Mama needs her opera fix. I include this because even listening to an act or two takes up a large chunk of our time, and also because, although I consider this "me time," Eliza loves, loves, loves to dance to opera CDs. So while I'm curled up with eyes closed or reading the libretto or commentaries, Eliza twirls about. Often she'll go off and play with blocks or such, then come back to dance more. Sometimes she comments to me on how the singer is feeling, but as Tosca's isn't a kid-friendly plot, I'm not about to elaborate.


I already wrote about that in this post. Most of the activities were from First Art by Maryann F. Kohl, but Eliza did "pipe cleaner garland" (MathArts) and the inaugural Unplugged Project.

The garland activity simply involved making a chain of pipe cleaners alternating (2 or 3) colors in a pattern. Eliza had never seen pipe cleaners, so she was fascinated by them. After she was done, she thought it would make a great necklace but was frustrated that the links kept coming apart (that's because after just one example from me, she made all the other links herself).


  • "ball bounce" (Slow & Steady Get Me Ready)
The object of that activity is to drop a ball straight down and catch it on the up-bounce. Eliza had no success in that area, but the second day we tried it, she discovered that a damp soccer ball makes a cool print on the patio, so from then on, we both had fun making water prints all over the patio with bouncing balls and her wooden cars.

Monday, October 22, 2007

art explorations

art activities: 16-22 October

I'm not done with this post, but I need to post it today for the First Unplugged Project. I'll finish it up tomorrow.

First Unplugged Project

Thanks to Mom Unplugged for suggesting this group project and to Jenny for spreading the word!

On Friday, Eliza and I went to the Quail Botanical Gardens to enjoy a pleasant couple hours and also to be on the look-out for anything on the ground with an interesting texture. I only ended up bringing back three items: a fern frond, a Magnolia leaf, and a whatchamacallit from Araucaria columnaris, the New Caledonia Pine native to Australia.

Eliza spent a few minutes on it today, then lost interest. I'm keeping it out just in case she's more in the mood to try more later. She has been very unfocused today. I think being housebound due to the wildfires has made us all a little stir-crazy. So far, our neighborhood is not threatened (the high school is serving as an evacuation center), but the neighborhoods immediately north and east of ours are under mandatory evacuation orders.

Early Scissors Experience: Stage 3 - Paper Factory

This was just a simple activity to work on scissors coordination. Eliza has her own pair of blunt-tipped scissors that she can use at any time with supervision. Usually, I give her junk mail to cut up, but on Monday and Wednesday of last week, I gave her patterned tissue paper and semi-heavy card stock for a change of texture and color.

Snow Paint

The snow is simply a mixture of flour, salt, and water, which looks like slush on black paper.

This paper was the one she was most proud to show to her daddy when he got home from work. "Look, I made snow!" Funnily enough, Eliza has never touched snow in her life - she has only seen snowflakes and snowmen through picture books.

Here's a video of the process.

Zooming Wheels

I uploaded a video to YouTube, but I haven't figured out how to embed it here yet, and I didn't take a still photo. Eliza took her wooden cars, dipped them in washable tempera paint, and zoomed all over the paper.

First Rubbings

Usually I stay out of Eliza's art explorations, but this time I did about a quarter of the rubbings because she isn't familiar with them, looked confused, and asked for help. Once she saw that patterns emerge when you scribble with the chalk, she thought it was a great activity - she still didn't get it (she would say before scribbling on a random patch, "now I'm going to make a key!"), but she found it entertaining.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

diva's 3rd birthday

My baby girl is 3!

All she said she wanted for her birthday was cake and for kids to sing "Happy Birthday." Since we weren't having a party for her, we got permission from her Thursday playgroup to bring cupcakes.

On the left are "cookies 'n' cream" and on the right are "pumpkin chocolate chip with cinnamon icing" (both from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) - the latter I managed to make soy-free. I liked the chocolate ones better (of course), but Eliza really enjoyed both! And it looked like the others kids liked them, too.

Eliza had a great time Thursday. There was a tie-dye project, but she was too distracted by the swimming pool and other kids.

Thanks to Jen for the great photos from Thursday (posted with permission). My camcorder was missing its memory card, so I couldn't take my own photos, so that's why these are actually in focus.

On Friday, her actual birthday, her dad took the day off work. We started out the day at music class (as we do every Friday morning) where Miss Carol ended class with "Happy Birthday" on the resonator bars. Eliza looks still and quiet, but it really made an impression on her. She spent nearly a week talking about the playgroup kids and Miss Carol and the whole puppet theater audience singing "Happy Birthday" to her. Extended celebration indeed.

After music class, we had some down time at home before going to the puppet theater in Balboa Park to see a bilingual show of "The Little Red Hen" and "The Rabbit on the Moon." There was a sign at the box office to notify them of a child's birthday, so besides the song, Eliza got a coupon for a free visit and a giraffe finger puppet.

We had planned to visit the pumpkin patch in the post-nap afternoon, but poor Chris was out for hours until early evening for what I thought would be a very short errand. One of us had to pick up the monthly co-op goodies and the other had to bake a cake - we both thought he got the quicker job. I baked "apple cardamom cake with lemon-maple frosting" (Vive le Vegan!), and it wasn't terribly attractive with that beige frosting, but it was so good - moist and a little dense like carrot cake. It was more nutritious than the cupcakes with considerably less sugar, but then again, we didn't have a big group with which to share. We each had a slice a day until it was gone.

Finally, we made it to the pumpkin patch on Sunday. The above photo is from the hay ride, which Eliza thought was fantastic (see crinkled nose). Eliza was so excited to pick out her own pumpkins (to paint). Chris and I each got one to carve, and threw in a white one that we'll stuff with chili and bake.

I managed to make it through her birthday without crying (although I almost lost it when I said good-night to my 2-year-old knowing I'd wake up to a 3-year-old).

Monday, October 15, 2007

kidlit blogger recommendations

This post has been sitting in draft for two weeks now! I really have been slacking on blogging and book reviews - it's part laziness, part paralyzing perfectionism.

I get so many wonderful book recommendations from other blogs. I told myself I'd post about them more than a month ago but never got around to it. Besides noting where I heard of these books, I did write reviews, intending to paste them into a blog entry and add further comments on Eliza's reactions, but it has been so long now, that I'd better post the reviews as-is.

I know the high star marks make it look like I'm really easy to please, but of the couple thousand books I've rated on LibraryThing, my average is 3½ (and of the books Eliza hands to me at the library, my average rating would be under 2). 1 is unspeakably awful, 2 is a waste of time, 3 is decent, 4 is very good, 5 is bloody fantastic.

I checked out two books mentioned in Kate's post:

Little Beaver and the Echo, Amy MacDonald

A lonely beaver hears his own echo one day and believing it to be someone also in want of a friends, travels through the pond habitat in search of the echo. Of course, he never does find the echo, but what he does find is something real and meaningful.

The pond ecosystem is illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies in cozy watercolors. This gentle story of friendship is lovely and understated, sweet but saccharine-free. (ages 2-5) ( )

My Crayons Talk, Patricia Hubbard

This little girl's crayons sure have minds of their own. Each expresses its style:

"Gold brags, 'Fine,
Dress up time.'
Silver toots, 'Grand,
Marching band.'"

The girl's dresses change to match each scene. The mud-pie dress on the brown page made me laugh, although my little city girl hasn't yet heard of cow-pies - she liked the silver page best with its dog and cat playing flute (our last picture book theme was animals making music).

The art is mostly in crayon and suitably playful for the subject. We'll surely revisit this lively book. (ages 2-5) ( )
The following were recommended by Nina:

Once a Mouse: A Fable Cut in Wood, Marcia Brown

Once Upon a Mouse won the 1961 Caldecott medal (awarded for art in picture books), and with its innovative wood cuts, it's easy to see why. The wood-cut art is well-suited to the Indian fable it decorates.

The fable follows an old hermit in the forest who one day saves a mouse from being a crow's prey. Now the mouse's protector, the hermit magically transforms the mouse into larger and larger creatures to avoid threats from other animals. Once a tiger, the former mouse forgets his humble origins and grows arrogant and himself threatening. There's a moral to the fable, of course, but children need not be old enough to understand it to appreciate this story of transformation. (ages 2-6) ( )

Amazing Grace, Mary Hoffman

Amazing Grace's plucky African-American heroine loved stories and acting them out. "And she always gave herself the most exciting part," we are told. With homegrown theatrical magic, she transforms herself into Joan of Arc, Anansi the Spider, Hiawatha, and more. Her imagination did not limit her to roles of her own ethnicity, gender, or species.

When casting for the school play of Peter Pan begins, Grace knows she's right to play Peter, but her classmates try to discourage her, pointing out that Peter is a white boy. Grace's mother and grandmother encourage her, the latter taking her to a ballet performance of Romeo and Juliet starring a beautiful Trinidadian dancer, renewing Grace's determination to audition for Peter Pan.

What's not to love about this book? The story itself is fantastic, the illustrations are top-notch, and the female characters are strong and confident. (ages 3-7) ( )
I didn't review the "My First Little House" series from Jenny's post. We ended up checking out a half dozen. A couple were problematic for our family (e.g. deer hunting), so I had to return them straight away, but Eliza did enjoy the others. Her favorite of the bunch was Dance at Grandpa's. Although I loved the Little House books as a young girl, it was hard to pin down what I would think of these picture books if the originals had never existed - in other words, how much of it is the nostalgia factor?

From another of Jenny's posts, I checked out:

Anno's Counting Book, Mitsumasa Anno

Anno's Counting Book is unlike any other I've seen. It's not boring, or glib, or hit-you-over-the-head obvious. The book begins with zero's barren snow-covered landscape. Each page finds more people, trees, or buildings arriving on the land as settles build up the town. Spring arrives with "three" and the town continues to bloom. By "seven" (July), the little village is in the full swing of summer with its seven pines, seven buildings, seven chimneys, seven children, seven adults, seven cows, seven colors of the rainbow, seven sheets line-drying in the summer breeze, etc. The numbers go up through twelve (December), each page showing not just things to count but the progression of the seasons and village life. (ages 2-7) ( )

Some Things Go Together, Charlotte Zolotow (written), Ashley Wolff (illustrated)

Some Things Go Together is a simple picture book with just 6-7 words per scene, each with rhyming pairs that go together: "Hats with heads / Pillow with beds," "White with snow / Wind with blow," etc. "Me with you" (or "you with me") is mentioned three times. The 1999 Wolff illustrations are sweet and colorful, but I found the text awkward, and my daughter was so bored she didn't care to read it a second time (thank goodness it was a library book). (ages 1-2) ( )

Three Pebbles and a Song, Eileen Spinelli (written), S. D. Schindler (illustrated)

Moses the mouse has a song in his heart and rhythm in his feet. While his parents and sister gather food in preparation for winter, Moses twirls and skitters among the leaves, learns a shicka-whish song to whistle from the wind, and juggles pebbles with a catch-a-toss-catch . . . much to his family's disapproval.

By the time winter arrives, the family has plenty to eat, but boredom soon sets in. Moses' three pebbles and a song are just what the family needs. As the dust jacket reads, "Eileen Spinelli has an especially soft spot for the littlest mouse in this story, who, like herself, understands that play can be just as valuable as work."

S. D. Schindler's gouache and watercolor illustrations on marbelized paper are a charming delight with such exquisite attention to detail. This is a beautiful book and is not to be missed. (ages 2-6) ( )
Here Is the Tropical Rain Forest, Madeleine Dunphy (written), Michael Rothman (illustrated)

Here Is the Tropical Rain Forest is a wonderful introduction to rain forests for preschoolers (but too repetitive with too little information for older kids). Each page builds on the last in "The House That Jack Built" style. Parents may find the text a bit dull, but the gorgeous illustrations will draw in children and adults alike.

At the end of the book is a page with thumbnail illustrations of all the animals met in the previous pages and their official names. A note says they all live in the rain forests of Central and South America, but that's the extent of the information offered. Still, this lovely book is a good antidote to ecophobia-only nature education. (ages 1½-4) ( )

And, finally, this one wasn't a recommendation, but I found it in the library next to the other rain forest book:

Welcome to the Green House, Jane Yolen (written), Laura Regan (illustrated)

Besides having beautiful illustrations (thanks to Laura Regan), Welcome to the Green House has the most marvelous text of any ecology picture book I've read.

The book opens by describing a rain forest as a green house with ropey vines as view-framing windows and fallen leaves as a floor. Yolen's text has a sophisticated simplicity that rolls off the tongue. Onomatopoeia abounds:

"with the high chitter-chitter-rrrrr
of the golden lion tamarin
warning off intruders;
with the kre-ek, kre-ek, kre-ek
of keel-billed toucans
feeding on ripe, sweet figs"

Green House captures the richness of sounds, smells, and sights that is the rain forest. You won't find encyclopedia-like information here, but that belongs in another book - enjoy this one for its beauty. (ages 2-6) ( )

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

dance class: week 2

I have a book post almost ready to go. I had a cold from the weekend through yesterday (my first in almost 2 years), which was really annoying, but at least it was relatively mild and short. Even so, I was a hermit for four days to avoid giving it to others.

I wanted to be absolutely certain Eliza really wanted to go to dance class again. She said last week that she'd had fun, but it wasn't in a bouncing-off-the-walls-thrilled tone of voice. All week I waited until she brought up the subject, and it seemed with each day, she was asking to go back more often and with more urgency. So once I woke up feeling quite well this morning, I told her that dance class happens today. "Would you like to go?" "Oh yeah!!! I want to wear my yee-uh-tard!"

She did much better than last week. She still doesn't wish to participate vocally in the circle that starts and ends class, but she was in great spirits. There were no freak-outs, no requests to go home . . . just smiles. For chassé (last week's "I want to go home..." moment), most of the girls went across the floor with their moms, but once a pair of girls went across giggling. When it was Eliza's turn, I started getting up, but Eliza whispered to me that she didn't want to do it with me. I thought she meant she wanted to skip it, but she hopped to her feet and held her hands out to the little girl next to us and off they went with their chassé full of meandering, laughing, and squealing in delight.

Last week was a free trial, so we had to sign up officially this week and are paid through Halloween. It's still up to her whether to go each week, but if she decides she doesn't want to go half the time in the next four weeks, I probably won't sign her up for the next quarter (Nov. 1 - Jan. 31) as that's a much larger financial commitment.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy due date to Eliza!

Today is the 3rd anniversary of Eliza's due date. However, her birthday is still 2 weeks away. Yes, she has been causing her poor mother great worry even before she made her entrance.

In the last year, she has gotten really into birthdays and birthday parties, yet we have nothing at all planned for her. I feel like a louse, but I'm worthless with parties. All Eliza wants, as she has reminded us over and over again, is to have a cake and for kids to sing "happy boofday to Zaza!" A cake I can do, but she might have to be satisfied having only her parents sing. She went on for weeks talking about Chris's (peach upside-down) birthday cake in August. Sugar makes an impression.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

update and dance class

No, we didn't fall off the face of the planet. I've just been too overwhelmed lately with holidays and being a (temporary) single mom to deal with anything aside from e-mail. Chris was on the other coast for a week and a half - poor guy spent the week eating at nice restaurants and seeing Monty Python's Spamalot on Broadway (OK, so he had to work long hours in Joisey, too - it wasn't all fun).

Everything fell apart while C was gone. The dishwasher's motor broke, the car's battery died, Eliza took my cell phone for a bath, there were tantrums aplenty, and I broke down so many times. On Tuesday at Balboa Park, I must have been sporting a neon "kick me when I'm down" sign on my forehead because two strangers insulted my parenting. The first comment was a sneering "some people don't care about their children's health" when that mom caught me giving Eliza a few sips of root beer (the first pop I've had in many, many months). The second came an hour later when Eliza had a meltdown, her screams echoing. An old lady spat at us, "You are a brat! And you are a bad mother!" Thanks, lady, that was really helpful. I can be glib about it now, but that really hurt me last week.

Eliza tried out dance class yesterday for the first time. The vegan (polished canvas) ballet slippers were still back-ordered in pink and in size 10, so I ordered white in 10½ and dyed them myself. They turned out a rose pink, not a muted ballet pink, but I'm just happy I didn't ruin them.

The dance studio is 1½ miles from our house, very close to the library. The receptionist suggested we try the "Mommy & Me" class on Wednesday morning. Since Eliza was old enough for both "Mommy & Me" (22 mo. - 3 years) and "Creative Dance" (3 - 5 years), I was worried that after we tried "Mommy & Me," they'd tell us to do "Creative Dance" instead because the latter is without parents. When Eliza tries something new, she's far more open, but once she experiences something/somewhere once, she gets it in her head that this is the only way it should be from now on and can't deal with changes. This particular class skewed toward the older side, so Eliza didn't stick out like a sore thumb. Although E was the tallest there, I suspect two or three of the girls are older based on appearance. It's not a baby class, as I thought it might be.

The instructor is Miss Carolyn. She's very energetic and warm, and I liked her immediately. The class includes a lot of dance (some choreographed, some free dance), of course, and there are a lot of games and much silliness involved. I heartily approved. Eliza was all grins during the group dances and games, but she got mildly upset when the attention was on her. Whenever Miss Carolyn asked her a question, Eliza would bury her face against me. Once, she mumbled a response ("purple") into my shoulder, which is actually a big deal for her, because I think that was the first time she has every responded to a stranger's question. Later, when each mother and daughter pair were to chassé across the floor, Eliza became very anxious and curled up in a ball on the floor and moaned twice, "Mommy, I want to go home." I whispered to her that she didn't have to do anything she didn't want to do. I told her we could go home if she wanted, but asked if she'd like to sit in the corner with me and watch (she did).

Then when Miss Carolyn brought out a box of frilly white "Sleeping Beauty skirts," Eliza's eyes got wide. She raced across the floor without me to get one. The "Sleeping Beauty" game involved lying on the floor pretending to sleep when the music was off and free dancing around the room when the music was on (repeat, and so on). When I saw the others moms getting up and joining in, I reluctantly got up (big/clumsy and dance don't mix), but Eliza barked at me from 20 feet away, "No, Mommy. You have to sit down!" and continued to twirl about the room. Everyone laughed, and Miss Carolyn said something to Eliza about being "Miss Independent" all of a sudden when minutes earlier she asked to go home.

One of the moms came up to me after class and said not to worry, that her daughter asked to go home more than twice in her first class. Miss Carolyn said that a few kids just sit against a wall refusing to participate for a month but eventfully join in, so she thought Eliza handled it well. Miss Carolyn asked Eliza if she'd see us next week. Eliza buried her head against my leg, but I told her that I would be happy to sign up E if that's what she wants, so I'm going to wait to see if she asks to return in the next week.

green lynx spider

Last week we had another unusual spider visitor. We have a lot of spiders and webs in our tiny patio garden, but I've never seen one quite like this. I did a little investigating online and found out that it's Peucetia viridans, the green lynx spider (more photos here).

I found out that the green lynx is an especially good insect hunter but harmless to people. Most oddly, it spins no web. It waits on flowers or shrubs for an insect to fly by and shoots out its sticky harpoon. I didn't see this happen, but a little later I saw it chewing on a fly.

This spider ended up sitting on that rose for two days before it moved on to greener pastures. Eliza was very disappointed that her spider had gone. This from the child who comforted me for being scared of the black widow.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

black widow

Armed with a flashlight, Eliza's daddy took her out for a spin around the subdivision on her tricycle post-sundown, pre-dinner. When I came outside to greet them just as they were coming home, Chris was the first to see the spider. Before the flashlight hit it, all I saw was the size, and I thought to myself, "at least it's not as big as Jen's spider."

I shrieked when I saw the shiny red hourglass on the black body (the abdomen was surprisingly large) and knew immediately what it must be even though I'd never seen one in person. Chris was in charge of keeping Eliza away, and I rushed inside to get the camcorder (with the zoom, I could stay safely away). All I recorded was an empty web as the bugger disappeared when Chris shined the flashlight.

Although I'd heard black widows exist in this part of the country, I never actually imagined one would make a web on my house. I don't suppose it will just find somewhere else to live if I destroy its web with a broom handle? I didn't think so. I read on Wiki that bites are very rarely fatal to healthy adults, but since I have a 33-pound child, I'm quite concerned.

Update: Chris told me he had killed the black widow while I was upstairs. He said it worried him knowing that Eliza and I go within a foot of the web when we check the mail daily. He said when he went outside again, he found it back on the web; again it scurried into the crack, but Chris said he was able to get in there and crush it with a piece of wood from the garage.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

sandpaper letters

I finally got around to starting on those sandpaper letters a couple days ago. I now have the 16 consonant cards completed and have started work on the vowels. Cutting through mat board with dull scissors: not so easy.

I read Montessori Read & Write some time ago and noted that Eliza was around "level 3" (of phonemic awareness) then, which the book says is a good time to introduce sandpaper letters. It looks like she's at "level 4" now, but dear ol' mom is a bit slow. :) I'm not a very crafty person. (Digging out art supplies and letting Eliza loose on them is more my speed.)

From Livable Learning (a free website - I donated because I found it useful), I printed out the "MM Script" template and took the idea of making the cards 3" x 5" so they can fit in an index card holder. From Montessori Read & Write, I took the idea of placing the letters on the right-hand side (for right-handed children - Eliza is strongly so) to make it easier to steady the card with the left hand while tracing the sandpaper letter with the right.

Eliza continues to enjoy the "I Spy..." games at home, and I'm hoping she'll dig these sandpaper letters (I've been holding off on introducing them until the set is completed), especially since most of her beloved wooden letter magnets have disappeared from the fridge (who knows where) over the last year. One game she herself invented is to string together the magnets to make some nonsense word and ask me to pronounce it.

(Alas, I still don't have a new camera, but I've been trying to make do with the poor-resolution still photos that my camcorder can take.) which Eliza leads story time

You can lead a kid to bed, but you can't make her fall asleep. Eliza went down happily for her nap today, but when I still heard her bumping around a half hour later, I went to check on her. I gasped when I saw the tall chest of drawers toppled over on the floor with two drawers entirely removed. There was Eliza sitting straight up in bed, "reading" the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland pop-up book (by the incomparable Sabuda) to her stuffed animals and dolls, all thoughtfully propped up against the pillows so they could all witness the fabulous paper engineering.

Although I hope I was successful in impressing on her the danger in climbing furniture (oddly, I didn't hear any crash from downstairs, and it's the only thing over 4 feet tall that's not bolted to studs), I couldn't find it in me to be too cross about her playing story time with her animals.

I do need to relocate Alice and Wonderland so it doesn't meet the same fate as the shredded pop-up Hanukkah Bugs. It had been on top of the chest of drawers, which I naively thought was out of diva's reach. Eliza is usually very gentle with books, but she can't resist feeling up pop-ups.

Friday, August 31, 2007

she finds her voice

It's a bit of a paradox that while Eliza is such an adventurous child that she also tends to be shy, especially around adults. Ask her a question and she'll bury her head in my side to avoid your gaze.

Eliza has seen Miss Carol, the music class teacher, nearly ever week for more than 2 years, and although Eliza speaks very warmly of Miss Carol at home, as soon as we get to the studio she clams up. She thoroughly enjoys music class with all the rhythm instruments, marching, and dancing, and it's all she can talk about from the moment she wakes up on Fridays. But once there, she won't say a word except to whisper something in my ear, and she certainly wouldn't sing . . .

. . . until today. At first, I heard her singing the lyrics to the CD music very softly, almost whispering. But then when the stretchy band (think a giant 8-foot-diameter rainbow-colored scrunchy) came out for the song sequence of "Twinkle Little Star," "Baa Baa Black Sheep," and the ABC song, she sang quite clearly. With each song, her voice grew louder and more confident until it was one of the loudest in the room. I was astonished. Miss Carol looked quite surprised herself and afterward said proudly to the class, "this young lady knew every word to every song" and beamed at Eliza. Eliza promptly buried her head in my side.

It will be interesting to see if today was a fluke or if Eliza has changed her tune about singing outside home.

On a side note, the one time in music class that Eliza becomes quite outgoing is while dancing. In our home, music plays for hours a day. Sometimes I flip through the radio stations, and other times we listen to CDs from our small collection or the public library's enormous one. Eliza dances to anything and everything. Chris and I were discussing this recently since he was the one who has always said he thinks she'd love a dance class more than any other. I told him there was a little studio just 1½ miles down the road that has "creative movement" for 3- and 4-year-olds and wondered what he would think of that for later this year or early next year. I was a bit surprised when he suggested it for Eliza's 3rd birthday present (I thought he'd say "next year," especially in light of the camera incident).

Eliza now has an inexpensive black leotard and pink tights, which are going to be her Halloween costume (at least they'll be useful for fun dress-up clothes even if Eliza decides she doesn't like a dance class). I called a dance studio in Brooklyn about its vegan ballet slippers, knowing that they're often back-ordered, and sure enough they were. The studio near our house insists on pink slippers, but the Brooklyn studio only has white in stock, so I was told to call back in a few weeks to see if the pink polished canvas fabric has arrived - if it hasn't, I can order white slippers and dye them myself, but considering the last time I dyed anything, my hair looked like it had been nuked, I'm a bit hesitant. I may have to resort to begging a crafty friend to do it for me in exchange for baked goods.

Monday, August 27, 2007

missing the camera

I had so many photos I wanted to post, but I hadn't gotten around to uploading them from my camera for almost a month. A few weeks ago, we attended an outdoor family-friendly concert with Eliza and brought our camera. Once we returned to our car, however, I noticed our camera was not with us. Chris became very angry and spat that I didn't deserve to have anything of value. We got in the car and went back to the concert site ASAP. I was relieved to find the hemp shopping bag where I had put the camera (in its case), but then my heart sank when I saw the camera wasn't inside. It had taken us 20 minutes to walk to the car, and in that time, our (overlooked) bag was unattended.

Yes, I'm bitter. It was a half-broken camera, but I could still rig it to work, and some camera is better than none at all. But what really upsets me isn't just that our camera was stolen and that we can't afford a new one at the moment. What upsets me most are the dozens of photos I lost and the hundreds I won't be able to take until I can get another camera. I won't even have a photo of my daughter's 3rd birthday.

So it's going to be awhile before I can post original photos again. I had taken some of my best food photos in July - what a pity. I can't recall what they all were at the moment, but I do remember all our August desserts:

It looks like a lot for a month, but I was able to bring the kamut-hemp cookies and rice treats to potlucks, and that includes all desserts (I didn't even have a chocolate bar) since the only sweet thing I could eat at C's company picnic was watermelon.

The cake was for Chris's birthday. I had printed out Susan's recipe thinking we should have it while peaches are still in season, and even though his birthday was still weeks away, Chris brought the print-outs to me and asked what my plans were for it because he sure would like it for his birthday. I was surprised because Chris is a pie and cookie person who usually doesn't care for cake. But as it turns out, he and Eliza both ate the cake while moaning about how good it was.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

library theme: animals making music

We got to the library just 15 minutes before closing time a little over a week ago. I needed to return a book but didn't intend to check out any since I didn't have my list and Eliza hadn't given any topic suggestions - I thought perhaps we'd head to the armchairs to read until closing, then go see the ducks at the adjacent pond. Eliza had other ideas.

The catalog computers with their tall stools caught her attention yet again. Instead of standing around tapping my foot impatiently, I nosed through the picture book shelves just a few feet away. Olivia Forms a Band caught my eye - I'd been meaning to check it out sometime since Eliza is fond of Olivia (maybe it's a fellow diva thing). 10 minutes until closing. I did a quick scan of the shelves to find another book about music, so marked by the librarian with an eighth note spine sticker. Rock 'n' Roll Dogs and The Song of Six Birds jumped out at me. That's when I thought maybe I could make a quick theme of animals playing music. I knew I had a few books at home that would fit.

The next morning, Eliza noticed the library picture books on the coffee table. "I see Olivia!!" she squealed. I had a feeling she, being an animal and music lover, would enjoy the books, and was I ever right. We've read each of the six library books at least twice a day for the past ten days. And considering I didn't have time to preview them at the library, they were a decent bunch.

Olivia Forms a Band (2006), Ian Falconer

Olivia the porcine diva is dreaming big again. When her mother announces that the family is going to see fireworks that evening, Olivia insists that fireworks without a band is just not kosher. Recruiting her family is met with worried here-we-go-again looks, but Olivia is not deterred. My favorite line from Olivia comes after Olivia's mother tells her a band has to sound like more than one person: "This morning you told me I sounded like five people!" (Echoing similar refrains in our house.)

Eliza's favorite page was the one with the fireworks (['faɪəʃʊks] in Eliza's idiolect), which she still remembers from the 4th of July.

One thing that pleased me was to see Olivia being considerate of her siblings in piecing together her one-pig band (although she appears to snatch her father's suspenders without asking), giving them something they want in exchange for their toy musical instruments.

As with the other Olivia books, Falconer's palette is spare black-and-white, punctuated with splashes of red and blue. The expressions on his characters' faces are so masterful that they tell at least as much of the story as does the prose.

A couple quibbles I have are the ever-present baby bottle (with no adult nearby) and the non-sequitur final page with its depiction of what Olivia's dreaming (I suspect it was put there to give adults a chuckle as I can't imagine the vast majority of the book's target audience would recognize it - Eliza wanted to know who those people were), but overall I found it as charming as Eliza did.

Froggy Plays in the Band (2002), Jonathan London (written), Frank Remkiewicz (illustrated)

I saw on LibraryThing that there are quite a few "Froggy" books written by London. Last summer, we checked out a book about Froggy learning to swim. I tend to be leery of repeating characters in picture books (Olivia notwithstanding) because the stories tend to be uninspired more often than not, and this book did not buck the trend.

Froggy decides to enter a marching band contest that advertises a big prize, so he gathers together his friends into a ragtag marching band. The outcome is not terribly important, but the messages are conflicting. I'm a bit troubled by the emphasis on competition - that Froggy decides to learn the saxophone (['fæfəfoʊn] to Eliza) not for its own sake but to win a contest. On a positive note, Froggy shows determination in practicing day and night and in not allowing an accident during the parade to derail him. I just wish the ol' boy could be more internally motivated.

Who Bop? (2000), Jonathan London (written), Henry Cole (illustrated)

There's a sock hop tonight and the animals are coming two by two to dance to the jazzy rock 'n' roll band headed by Jazz-Bo, the saxophone-playing cat. There's not really a story here - it's a bubblegum 50's ditty as picture book - but the font and lyrics swing along with the animals making it a pleasant enough read although it doesn't stand up to repeat readings for adults. The dust jacket blurb pegs it for ages 3-6, but I had it pegged for 1½-4.

Rock 'n' Roll Dogs (2006), David Davis (written), Chuck Galey (illustrated)

Memphis has gone to the dogs. Although there are similarities to Jonathan London's Who Bop?, Rock 'n' Roll Dogs is more sophisticated and less glib. Dig this:

It's close to Graceland, down in Memphis town,
And the dogcatcher lady wants to shut 'em down.
But on Friday nights they dig a hot dog band
That rocks that boogie in the Delta land.
You're all welcome on their front doormat.
Kids can visit - but they don't let cats
Come hear Rock 'n' Roll
Memphis Blues Dogs.

If a tomcat tries to crash the show,
The dogs start barking, "Go, cat, Go!"
The rhymed couplets are catchy without being overdone. Eliza grooves whenever I read it.

I see from the dust jacket that the writer and illustrator also teamed up for Jazz Cats, which I intend to search out. We are cat people, after all. (Ages 3-6)

Punk Farm (2005), Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Punk Farm answers the age-old question of what farm animals do when the farmer's away. No, Snowball and Napoleon don't stage a revolution in this story - the pig in Punk Farm has better things to do: amping up his electric guitar and wailing out a punk rock rendition of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" along with sheep on vocals, chicken on keyboard, goat on bass, and cow on drums.

Eliza thought it was good fun. This isn't the sort of book you can read in a meek voice, and my throat was a little sore after each reading (I'm so not punk). The writing isn't particularly inspired - it's the reader's "performance" and illustrations that carry this one. (Ages 1½-4)

The Song of Six Birds (1999), Rene Deetlefs (written), Lyn Gilbert (illustrated)

This is my favorite from the animals making music theme, although unlike the other books, there are no anthropomorphic animals playing instruments. The South African authors have set the story in a tiny, close-knit village where young Lindiwe wakes up one morning to find by her side an African flute, a gift from her mother. Lindiwe is grateful for the gift, but the first notes she plays frighten her baby brother. She is disappointed but is determined to find beautiful sounds to fill her flute.

As Lindiwe moves through the day, she comes upon birds and sweetly asks them to share their musical calls with her flute, always expressing her thanks. My favorite part was when the medicine man helped to heal Lindiwe after a hornet stung her and she was afraid the flute might absorb her sobs:

The wise old man smiled, laying a
cool herb leaf on her throbbing arm.
"But a flute should sometimes sob,"
he said. "Ask that hoopoe."
The book closes with the village, young and old, bird and human, dancing late into the night to Lindiwe's flute. (Side note: Lindiwe's mother is shown wearing her baby boy on her back - it's a nice surprise to see babywearing in a picture book!)


Update: I just posted a mini review of Punk Farm. And I forgot to include the link to my "animals making music" tag on LibraryThing; we didn't read them this week, but a few books we own would fit the theme: Opera Cat, Berlioz the Bear, Animal Orchestra, and Mole Music.