Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Eliana first: She identified a brand.

Eliana’s speech is slowly transforming from her own brand of diction to standard Midwestern English. As far as I can tell, no came first, then uh-oh, followed by yeah. Beth has also observed from her Julius (the cat) and our long-sought-after Mama and Dada, although it hasn’t been clear that she was using any of those as regular words—until this morning.

Eliana woke up early this morning and shortly thereafter used her newfound signing skills to tell me that she was hungry. I gave her a banana first. When she was about done with that, I got out a loaf of bread and started slicing a piece for her. Eliana pointed to the bread saying, “Daddy! Daddy!” In time it became clear that she wasn’t referring to me, but rather to the bread. I had made the bread the previous Sunday, as I often do when I’m making pizza to bring to church. Ethan has long called it Daddy bread to differentiate it from store-bought bread. And so now with Eliana. Even if she doesn’t have a word yet for the baker, she does for his brand of bread.

Friday, December 21, 2012

An Eliana first: She brushed her teeth.

Eliana loves to mimic people. Talking on the phone is one example. She will hold many types of devices up to her ear while carrying on a baby-talk conversation comprehensible only to her and whomever may be on the other end of the line. Her favorites gadgets (besides the iPhone and conventional phone) are a remote control, calculator, and iPod.

She likes to mimic Ethan, too, which works out particularly well when it’s a virtuous thing that he’s doing, like brushing his teeth.

Eliana brushing her teeth

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Eliana first: She asked for a bedtime snack.

Eliana usually goes to bed at night quite easily. After I sing her a song, arrange the animals in her crib, wind her music box, and kiss her good night, she clutches her bunny and lays down still for blankets and a “long winter’s nap”. Tonight, though, she was restless, standing discontentedly back up. I asked her if she was hungry, making the sign for “I’m hungry” with my hand near my mouth.

Eliana had seen this sign many times, but had never expressed it. This time she did, after which she enjoyed a bedtime snack and then went back to the nursery and peacefully to sleep.

Another Ethan first: He confounded his father.

I was experimenting with dock adapters for our radio after Beth bought a case for her iPhone. While it felt like the connection to between the phone and the radio was solid, and even though audio was playing through the radio properly, something wasn’t quite right. The volume would frequently start ramping up unexpectedly. I raced to bring the volume back down, sometimes having to turn the radio off to keep it from blasting. This was most odd, since I didn’t think the iPhone even controlled the volume. If I switched the audio source to FM radio, so that the iPhone should have no effect, the problem persisted.

Then I heard a chuckle and discovered the true source of my technical difficulties.

Ethan confounding this father with a remote control

Monday, December 3, 2012

Another Ethan first: He texted.

Just before bedtime story time for Ethan, I texted a friend about when he’d be over for game night. Ethan, hoping that he could bring some treats over, told me that he had a message for him, too. I typed the beginning of the message into my iPhone. Ethan typed in the last word, carefully sounding out each letter. Then he added the question mark and touched Send.

“Mr Joe, can you bring some tret?”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another Ethan first: He applied a science song.

This morning Ethan was listening to a collection of science songs. We talked about some of them, including the question raised in “What is Gravity?” about why we don’t get winged off the Earth as it spins.

In the afternoon, we were playing swing-set kickball in the backyard. When the ball rolled down a little hill, Ethan started singing, “Gravity, gravity…”.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another Ethan first: He built a model of the YMCA gymnasium.

Ethan has built cars, tractors, and such out of Legos for a while now, but Tinkertoys, being a bit more abstract, had been a playset where Ethan would ask me to make combines, garbage trucks, and such, for him to modify and play with.

So it came as a surprise to walk into his room and see a full-size, from-scratch creation. He built a model of the gym that he goes to at the YMCA for gymnastics lessons, with enhancements inspired by carnival merry-go-rounds. His model features a couple climbing ropes, a “round-around tower for swinging on” and a “spinning tower”.

Ethan built a model of the YMCA gymnasium.

Shortly after he completion, I played an evening game of glow-stick Ultimate Frisbee, afterwards promising the players that if they had no use for their glow sticks, my four-year-old would put them to good use. Indeed he did, both on his model and, after its destruction, all around his room.

Ethan added glow sticks to his model of the YMCA gymnasium.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

An Eliana first: She pushed herself down a slide.

I put Eliana on the top of the play set in the backyard, just in front of the slide. She scooted forward onto the slide, to the point where she instantly went from slowly creeping ahead to rapidly sailing down the slide. On this cool autumn day, the plastic slide was so slick that she spun around backward before sliding off the end head first on her back into my arms. She had mixed emotions about the adventure, but the feeling that won out was the one that said let’s do this again.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ethan’s quick wit

Ed (pointing to my head): "Sometimes you have to use your wits. Do you know what your wits are?"
Ethan: "Yes."
Ed: "Really!? What are your wits?"
Ethan: "Something in your ear."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ethan on extracting an illustration

Ethan: "See that nice oxipus I carved out?"

"See that nice oxipus I carved out?"

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Eliana first: She stocked a bookshelf.

Exploring the bookshelf has long been a source of entertainment for Eliana. Besides all the books to flip through, it’s a joy in itself to relieve them of their stifling tidiness lined up on the shelf. Today, however, she found that there can be pleasure in going the other direction. And it’s not just for her, but for Beth and me too, who now have only a slightly assorted stack of books to re-stifle.

Eliana stocking a bookshelf

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Another Ethan first: He estimated the weight of a wheel loader.

Ethan can count up to around fifty, but beyond that ends up cycling backwards at one of the decade boundaries. The largest number he knows is one hundred. The concept of numbers beyond makes some sense to him, but is quite abstract.

Here’s an example: Ethan asked me to watch him as he rode his tricycle over the garden hose. The act itself wasn’t what interested him; it was just an object lesson for what followed: “A wheel loader would break the hose. It's a hundred heavy.”

Another Ethan first: He made up stories.

Ethan and I were uprooting juniper bushes, river rock, and a failed weed barrier, from the backyard to make way for a garden next spring. Along the way, he decided to tell me a story. Then he gave a title for a story to tell him. Back and forth we went. No doubt influenced by the book The Penguin that Hated the Cold, his story titles were always about something not wanting to do what it normally would. He told me tales like, “The Grass that Didn’t Want to Get Stepped On” and “The Shovel that Didn’t Want to Dig”.

During my turns at storytelling, I took advantage of his attentive ear to develop themes on the different ways that the problems of discontentment can play out. In “The Lawn Mower that Didn’t Like Spinning Blades”, its wise owner help it see its potential. The “The Excavator that Didn’t Like Dirt”, however, had no mentor, and it ended up freezing in the winter because it never dug the foundation for its house. In a piece of historical fiction, “The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Like Eating Meat” was happy when he learned that he lived at a time when God meant for him to only eat plants.

Regardless of who was storytelling, all the characters could talk. For my stories, Ethan named the characters. Whereas for me coming up with names is difficult and time consuming, for Ethan it was effortless. It was the same way with the story titles; he could instantly come up a new title at any time.

To me, these are one-time stories, coming and going with the wind, leaving no opportunity to retell or talk about them, because I can barely remember them. It’s not so with Ethan. I had long forgotten my telling of the “The Rope That Didn’t Want to Pull Out Junipers”, who had a good heart, but who just wasn’t strong enough for the job the farmer asked of it, and finally helped the farmer see where he could be properly used. I only remembered the story because a week later, out of the blue, Ethan told me about how happy he was for the rope. It reminds me how much I look forward to Ethan finding his proper place as he develops his own life story.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Another Ethan first: He marched in the infantry.

The highlight for Ethan of visiting a Civil War reenactment wasn’t watching Stonewall Jackson take the Wisconsin second regiment by surprise (although the cannons did impress him, and he was convinced until the very end that the fallen soldiers would never get back up). His hour of excitement and delight was joining with boys much older than him to form an orderly military line, learning to ready, aim and fire his wooden rifle against the enemy positioned behind the fence. The young man serving as captain trained him well. He learned to stay in line with his unit and obey orders, including his favorite: “Charge!”

Miraculously, after all the fighting, Ethan reported shooting many enemy soldiers while testifying that he himself was never shot once.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Eliana first: She took a seat with a good book.

As I was reading, Eliana crawled into her nursery to play. So I walked in and sat down on the rocking chair with my book. Then Eliana found a book on upside-down elephants and climbed into her chair so that she could sit enjoying her book while I did likewise with mine.

Reading a book about upside-down elephants

Saturday, August 25, 2012

An Eliana first: She walked.

Eliana held the handle of a French door in one hand and a toy in the other. The toy was a seal on a wheel attached to a shaft, just the right height for Eliana to hold while standing. So she stood. The seal flaps its flippers as the wheel rolls, but you need to move forward to make that happens. So she let go of the door handle and walked.

We had tried to encourage Eliana to walk before, the result of which was a few seconds of her standing on her own. What motivated her turned out to be her brother. Not anything he did at that moment, but she had seen him playing with the Seal Swimmer toy—something worth taking steps toward mimicking.

Friday, August 24, 2012

An Eliana first: She played in the sandbox.

Ethan didn’t even have a sandbox until a couple years later in his life, which was a conveniently clean delay. But the sandbox is there, and Ethan makes it look so fun. Now, Eliana thinks so, too.

Playing in the sandbox

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An Eliana first: She took a seat in her rocking chair.

Eliana was playing in her bedroom when I peaked in to find her contently sitting in her rocking chair. I went downstairs not knowing whether to get the camera or a teapot with cups and saucers. When I returned (with the camera) she was still happily seated, even with her brother vying for her attention.

After some observation, I learned how she got there. Eliana climbs on anything she can, including her rocking chair. It turns out that after climbing up on the rocking chair, it is natural for her to transition from kneeling or standing to sitting. And since it’s a comfortable chair, sitting is not a bad way to stay for a bit.

Monday, August 6, 2012

An Eliana first: She climbed up and down the stairs.

The key was getting over the mindset that movement had to be forward. I’d been working with Eliana the last few days to get the idea across, but she really caught on today while she was unassisted on the back deck stairway, climbing up—and then back down.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Eliana first: She climbed a flight of stairs.

Eliana climbing the stairs

An Eliana first: She indulged a chocolate craving.

Learning not to raid the pantry to satiate the immediate desires is never easy, but it can be tasty. And there are blessings on the way. Besides watching her grow in awareness and dexterity, we take comfort in Eliana’s shared trait with her brother: a convenient satisfaction simply with pure cocoa, even without sugar or any other sweetener.

Eliana indulged a chocolate craving.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Eliana first: She climbed down from a bed.

Unlike her brother at that age, Eliana is quite aware of heights and navigates cautiously near edges. For example, she can tell that our bed is raised high, leading to a careful blend of curiosity and sense of peril (she seems unaware of the arms ready to reach out and catch her). Ethan’s bed is lower, however—low enough that with well-planned seating and a little scooching, she safely made the solo transition to the bounty of Ethan’s toys awaiting below.

Eliana climbed down from a bed.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ethan on use of royal authority

Why does a king hold a scepter?

“So he can scept a dragon. Boom! Boom!”

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Eliana first: She hid her face.

A benefit of expanding Eliana into new foods is they are often less messy. I shared with her some spoonfuls of the oats and yogurt in my breakfast concoction. She seems to really like the French vanilla. I like that the consistency is thick enough that it all stays in her mouth.

Eliana also enjoys one of my favorite types of buttered bread, a mixture of whole grains with nuts. Whether plain or toasted, she likes it either way, and either way it is a bib-optional experience.

With the bib not around her neck, Eliana quickly repurposed it as a toy. When she hid her face behind it, Ethan and I said, “Where’s Eliana?” She was already familiar with unhiding, so the “There she is!” part came easily. Again and again, Eliana led us in a game of peek-a-boo.

Eliana hiding her face

An Eliana first: She drank from a sippy cup.

Being so used to a bottle, Eliana had no interest in drinking her baby formula through a sippy cup. Still, she seemed to be ready to handle one. After some dodge and parry of her opposing hands and turning head, I got her started. After a few seconds, she realized it wasn’t so bad after all, held the cup, and enjoyed her early morning beverage.

Friday, May 18, 2012

An Eliana first: She climbed stairs.

Eliana didn’t start with the soft, carpeted stairs at home. Instead, she chose the hard, smooth (but fortunately, not too slippery) stairs of the children’s museum. Was it the bold, yellow stripes cuing her next steps? Or maybe boredom waiting for her brother to finish playing fireman?

Eliana climbed the stairs at the children's museum

Short-lived exuberance

The most exciting moment for Ethan during our visit to the Children’s Museum on Navy Pier was the instant he saw the wheel loader. He could see that he’d be able to climb right in. Thanks to a NATO convention in the city that kept most people home, there wasn’t any waiting. But that only kept his exuberance all the more brief, for as soon as Ethan discovered that none of the controls did anything and that neither the wheel loader nor its scoop were going anywhere, the exhibit immediately shifted from fascinating to entirely disappointing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

An Eliana first: She played the water whistle.

We expected that Eliana would put the whistle in her mouth, but we didn’t know that she would discover that if she blows, it makes a pretty sound.

Eliana playing the water whistle

Friday, May 11, 2012

“Want to see a Philistine?”

It wasn’t Goliath, or Ethan surely would have said so, but wherever it came from, to Ethan this pink little guy serves quite nicely as a run-of-the-mill Philistine.

Ethan holding a "Philistine"

Monday, May 7, 2012

An Eliana first: She tossed all her bunnies out of her crib.

One of the bunnies is a music box—a bit heavy, but not so much as to take away the fun of getting thrown overboard.

Eliana tossed all her bunnies out of her crib.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

An Eliana first: She signed “all done”.

We tried to teach Eliana the sign for “all done” during the same period that we worked with her on “more”. When she latched onto “more”, we drifted away from working with her on “all done”. Yet she remembered: five days later, out of the blue, she told me in no uncertain terms that she was all done with organic peach oatmeal banana puree.

Eliana signing "all done"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Clear roads on a rainy day

On a rainy day warm enough to have some windows open, Ethan heard the sound of a car going by the house on a wet road, but didn’t recognize it. When I told him he heard a car going over rain on the road, it prompted a logistical question from the boy who can’t experience enough of heavy machinery: “What truck plows the rain?”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An Eliana first: She signed for more.

Having experienced the benefits of teaching a bit of sign language to Ethan, we knew the same would be good with Eliana. In particular, signing for food is more palatable to the ear than crying. Since the sign for more is a bit too advanced for her and since we wanted her to learn clap hands anyway, we made that the sign for “more”, and now she is doing baby claps for baby food.

Eliana signed for more.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Another Ethan first: He buckled up.

Ethan has been familiar with bucking up as long as he can remember. He even told an airplane full of passengers to “Buckle up!” a year ago. Now in his car seat, he can follow his own advise all by himself.

Ethan buckled up.

Friday, April 27, 2012

An Eliana first: She played the glockenspiel.

Random as the melody may have been, she struck the bars well, producing clear notes with a pleasing rhythm.

Eliana played the glockenspiel.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ethan’s view of the attic

While storing away infant toys, I held Ethan up to let him look in the attic. Afterward, he commented on how it looked like a roof. I told him he saw the underside of the roof he sees when he is outside. This prompted him to think of his recent visit to a hay loft. “Hey Mom! We have a barn in us!”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Another Ethan first: He reverse engineered an electronic toy.

Ethan enjoys supplementing his toy collection with toys more geared toward Eliana, though he usually finds ways to make them more interesting to him. One toy is a gear, light, and music box, which, Ethan has discovered, plays interesting pitches when you wear down the battery and bog down the motor by pressing on the gears.

One thing stumped him for weeks, though. He noticed that sometimes the lights would sometimes light up while the gears are spinning, but not always. How do you light them up on demand? Today he figured it out: “When you press the button when the gears are spinning, the lights turn on.”

Ethan reverse engineered an electronic toy.

Another Ethan first: He bicycled up and down a hill.

After practicing in the driveway (pictured), it was time for Ethan to see if he was strong enough to climb and skilled enough to safely descend a little hill around the corner. Going up had been easy for him on his tricycle, although down as harder without breaks.

On a bicycle, I thought the gear reduction would cause him to get stuck, but he make the climb. At first, he didn’t want to try going down, for fear of losing control. After I reminded him about the breaks, he gave it a try and found a comfortable pace for the ride back home.

Ethan rode a bicycle.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Eliana first: She traversed the hearth.

Following along the ledge, one step at a time, Eliana walked from one end of the fireplace to the other.

Traversing the hearth

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Eliana first: She arose from a nap.

This afternoon, Eliana didn’t just wake up from her nap, she arose to her feet. We heard her cry after she realized that she didn’t know how to sit or lay back down. Fortunately, the camera was sufficient distraction to make for a smiley photo subject.

Eliana standing up in her crib

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Another Ethan first: He milked a cow.

On our visit to a friend’s farm, Ethan was initially so afraid of the cows that I had to carry him down the isle between the rows of cows. Gradually, he warmed up to them and began to pet their heads. Before long, he was walking around the barn with confidence.

After observing milking for a while, Ethan wanted to try, so a couple friendly farmers, Colleen and Wendy, crouched down with him next to Dotty, an exceptionally docile cow. She had already been milked, but still had enough in her for Ethan squeeze and pull in the right place and thus experience first hand where he gets his milk.

Another Ethan first: He climbed up into a hay loft.

The ladder leading from the barn to the loft on our friend’s farm was not meant for young children: the spacing between rungs was as long as Ethan’s arm. “How do I get up there?” The answer was one rung at a time, with instruction on where to move the next hand or foot. Ethan quickly figured it out, and with close spotting below and some assistance from above to get off the ladder, Ethan was soon in a world of hay.

Monday, April 9, 2012

An Eliana first: She whooed like an owl.

Typically, Eliana still likes to make up her own sounds, often combining portions of sounds that she hears. Today when I asked her, “Can you say whoo whoo?”, she whooed back at me.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

An E&E first: Ethan rejected Eliana’s sucka.

Eliana started sucking her fingers this morning in church: the first three fingers on her left hand. Ethan saw this, gave it a try, and quickly rejected it. For him, using the middle two fingers on the right hand is the only way to suck.

Friday, April 6, 2012

An E&E first: Ethan recorded Eliana eating a banana.

Despite having eating banana mixed with other foods before, Eliana had no interest in the pure banana mush that Beth tried to feed her yesterday. Today, I tried. Was it a superior mushing technique, or just being another day, who can say? But she ate her first pure banana—the whole thing.

Wanting to document the event for Beth, I handed Ethan the phone. The video is his first work of photojournalism.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Ethan first: He remodeled a Lego forklift.

Ethan asked me to make a forklift for him out of Legos. He wanted a roof, so I added one, leaving the sides of the cabin open. Ethan was concerned that the operator might get wet in a rainstorm with high winds. The next time I saw the forklift, it had doors to protect its interior.

Ethan remodeled a forklift

Sunday, March 18, 2012

An Eliana first: She picked up her toys while being held.

Eliana likes holding onto toys at church, and of course dropping them too. Today we were both be entertained while I lowered her down hands first, while she picked up her toy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An Eliana first: She pulled a ball off a stone ledge.

Eliana uses more a careful and steady style than her brother. This served her well when she reached up on the fireplace ledge to pull down a block puzzle ball.

Eliana pulled a ball off a stone ledge

An Eliana first: She put a ring on a spindle.

Eliana put a ring on a spindle

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Watching the trees shake

Ethan has learned that if he shakes his head, it looks like the objects he sees are shaking. He was watching the trees outside a window “shake” this way and wanted to share his excitement with me. “The trees are shaking! Do you see it?”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Literary bedtime request

Ethan’s bedtime stories tonight came from a different bookshelf than usual. One of the characters was the Abominable Snow Monster. When Ethan asked what abominable meant, I didn’t know well how to describe it. I told him that I should look the word up. Then I subsequently forgot all about it, but half an hour later when I was walking by Ethan’s room, he reminded me from his bed, asking if I could look up abominable and tell him about it when the sun wakes up.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Remembering Bear

I’ve heard the expression, “the uncluttered mind of a child”, but haven’t appreciated it so much as in the present, observing Ethan’s power of memory. Not only can he sometimes beat Beth and me in the game Memory, but he can remember details from long ago that I’ve forgotten. On Monday, we had friends over for a game night and were considering an outdoor running-around game. It’s often called Ghost in the Graveyard, or Bunnies in the Garden as we’re fond of. But there was another name for the game, too, which I’d learned when the kids were playing it for a bit back in December at a Christmas party. I couldn’t remember was it was called, though. When I asked Ethan, his answer was shy and uncertain (unusual for him), but he remembered that the name of the game was Bear.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

An Eliana first: She played peek-a-boo.

Before changing Eliana into her into her pajamas, I put them over her face while she was laying on her back. A few times, I pulled them from her eyes and said “peek-a-boo”, which brought about some extra large smiles. Then she started pulling away the pajamas herself—even more fun, with giggles and great big grins!

Another Ethan first: He listened through chapter three of Redwall.

A friend at church recommended the Redwall Adventures series by Brian Jacques as excellent for children. Knowing almost nothing about it, I decided to take a look a few days ago when biking past the library with Ethan. My first thoughts when I picked up the book: (1) novel, (2) no pictures. This would be new to Ethan, but I figured there was no harm in checking out the book to see what would happen.

When Ethan saw the book, he told me he didn’t want to hear the story. I offered to just read a bit while he put his pajamas on. Reluctantly, he agreed. By the time he had changed, he was hooked. He climbed into the rocking chair with me, and we finished chapter one. That was a couple days ago. He still likes his picture books, which keep variety at story times, but as of this evening, we’re through chapter three and he can’t wait to see if Cluny the Scourge is going to ruin all the feasting delights at the Redwall abbey. Daddy wants to know, too.

Another Ethan first: He admonished Mommy to be home on time.

Ethan likes to watch and wave goodbye when Beth or I leave to go somewhere. As Beth got into the car to go to orchestra rehearsal, he offered this advice: “Make sure you get home before it gets sleepy time for you.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Perspective on calamity

Wisdom speaks in Proverb 1:26: “I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you”. In helping Ethan understand this, I told him that calamity was when something really bad happens, or as he saw it, “like when I can’t put my Lego truck back together”.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Another Ethan first: He sounded out N-A-P.

Beth has been teaching Ethan phonics, and he had already sounded out written words. But now as Beth and I were planning out the day, long before Ethan should have expected anything, we found that our simple encoding of one of Ethan’s less favorite parts of the day is no longer so secret.

Another Ethan first: He made an eco-friendly night light.

Ethan’s Christmas stocking contained a glow worm, one of those squishy, stretchy, nearly unbreakable critters. This one had a ball inside that lit up in various colors when it sensed an impact. It had a hole on the top, I think for hanging on the rack in the store.

Ethan had a different idea. He removed the knob from the dining room dimmer switch (how he knew it was removable, I don’t know), hung up the glow worm, and replaced the knob. Now when you want just a bit of light, just knock the critter.