Tuesday, February 17, 2009

She's SO Random...

So, I'm tucking the Impertinent Daughter into bed, and Calcifer is lying on her arm and side, purring to her as he tries to get comfortable. This makes the tucking-in part more difficult, and I'm tugging at quilts, comforters, sheets that are under at least fifteen or so pounds of cats, plus or minus a few pounds, and Miss Priss says, "Hey, my foot is cold!" and lifts her right foot to waggle at me.

"Great," I said, and started tugging at her covers again, which have become a sort of Gordian Knot of covers, thanks to how she tosses around at night, and then how she retangles them at night when she's reading or drawing before bed, no matter how I straighten them during the day. I fuss at the cat, sending him to the foot of the bed and tug again at the quilt.

My daughter suddenly turns over and says, "My shoe is off, my foot is cold, I have a bird I like to hold!"

I blink a few times as I stare at her and then I said, "Um... ooookaaaay..." and then the memory hits me and I start laughing.

She's almost hysterical as she rolls in the bed laughing, and I said, "That was totally random! What was that, One Fish, Two Fish..."

"Yeah, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish," she said, still laughing heartily. "I don't know why, but that just popped into my head!! My tooth is gold, my hat is old, I have a bird I like to hold, my shoe is off, my foot is cold."

I shook my head. "Dr. Seuss warped your tiny little brain," I said, and then wondered why it didn't warp mine. I mean, I read those books to her, and oh, geez, I had to do the voices, too! Green Eggs and Ham, The Foot Book, Mr. Brown Can Moo...

I must have had The Foot Book memorized, because we used to read that over, and over, and over again. I never complained, though, because I remembered the stupid books that were around when I was small. I never had to deal with them, because I learned to read at a very early age, but everyone in my first grade class had to suffer through, "See Jane run. Run, Jane, run!! See Dick walk. Walk, Dick, walk!" Dr. Seuss was a relief!! So, I didn't mind doing all the funny noises for Mr. Brown Can Moo, or for Horton Hears a Who, and It was fun to listen to Miss Priss chirp in to correct me when I would deliberately read parts wrong.

Mr. Manzie doesn't let me do funny voices so much, but that's because he's got my hearing glitch, and it dawned on me that the funny voices make it worse. That reminds me, I need to introduce him to Horton Hears a Who. The book, I mean, not the movie.

I'm glad my kids like to read. It's nice to know I've raised the next generation of bookworms!

*snickering to herself* "My tooth is gold, my hat is old, I have a bird I like to hold..."


*sniffles and dabs at laugh tears* Oh, GEEZ!! that's funny!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's the Little Things...

At the moment, I celebrate just because...

Mr. Manzie's math grade dropped from an 88 average to 34. This after bringing his language arts score up from an 87 to a 95. So... I've started focusing on his math a little more and he's brought it back up to a 78 so far. So... YAY, IMPOSSIBLE SON!! More work ahead, but so far, so good!

Thank heavens for home-made flash cards, Nintendo DS Math Trainer, pennies, Legos, and mental math games played in the car.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"No, Simba, no!!"

I love the conversations we have in the mornings on the way to school. Sometimes they start out funny, sometimes they don't. Sometimes we don't talk at all, all three of us sort of huddled in our seats, not quite awake, and not quite sociable yet. But every once in a while, we're all awake, and peppy, and you never know what's going to set us off.

So, this morning, we're walking out the door, and the Impossible Son was moving a little slow (any slower and he woulda been goin' backwards), and I was keeping an eye out for Calcifer. Calcifer does not like his kids leaving the house. He hates it. He most especially hates it because they're leaving... without him! He'd probably be fine if he could go to school with them, and does not understand why he can't go, too. He doesn't like it when they go outside to play, again without him, either. This has resulted in our having to keep an Instrument of Cat Discipline by the door (it's a squirt bottle with water and about a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in it, just enough to smell to a cat).

So, the Impertinent One had walked out and left the door wide open, and I had to rush up to it before Calcifer could, and because I'm funny that way, I shouted, "Back, Simba, back!" while grabbing the water bottle and aiming a few squirts at him.

Picture one orange cat with a wrinkled up moue of disgust, fleeing rapidly back into the kitchen.

Mr. Impossible started laughing. "Back, Simba, back?" he quoted back at me. "Why'd you say that?"

I laughed, too. "I dunno, guess I got Tarzan on the brain or something."

"Tarzan doesn't say that," he said, walking past me to go outside. "There's only that leopard, and I don't think he had a name."

It was then I realized how remiss I've been in my childrens' educations. They've never seen any of the old Tarzan movies, or the television series! I'm a terrible mother!!

"Well, Mr. Manzie, there was a live action TV series about Tarzan when I was a kid, and he seemed to say, 'Back, Simba, back!' an awful lot." I followed him out to the car. "In fact, I think every single lion he ran into was named Simba. No matter where he was, if he ran into a lion, it was always, 'No, Simba!' and 'Back, Simba!' and 'Stop chewing on that man's leg, Simba!' No matter how many lions he met!"

Mr. Manzie nearly fell out of the car, laughing, and the Impertinent Daughter said, "What the heck are you guys talking about??"

So, I filled her in, and also started talking about the movies, and Johnny Weismuller, and how it seemed just about every guy they got to play Tarzan after him seemed to be an Olympic swimmer, like it was a job requirement. And we talked about Tarzan's animal vocabulary, which seemed to primarily consist of the word, "Unk!"

"Unk?" said my son. "What does that mean?"

"Who knows?" I said, heading toward the junior high. "It was sort of utilitarian word, meaning whatever he wanted it to me, I guess. Unk, Tantor! could mean 'stop charging!' or 'please get off my foot, you're killing it!' Unk, unk! could mean, 'back off,' or 'I'm going to rip your guts out through your nose,' or 'don't even think about touching my sandwich!' Very flexible word, unk."

At this point, my kids are semi-hysterical. "And it worked??" said my daughter in disbelief.

"Oh, yeah, all the time. It was a movie, you know." I just grinned. "Of course, Tarzan has changed a lot."

"I know!!" said my son, still laughing. "I mean, the Tarzan we saw isn't like that at all!"

He is referring, of course, to Disney's Tarzan, not the Tarzan of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels, alas. So, we talked about how different that Tarzan is from the Tarzan I had grown up with (because my mother loved old movies), and my daughter frowned and said, "Yes, but why is he different?"

"Well,"I said, thinking a little harder than I'm accustomed to that early and without as much caffeine as I usually require, "I think that's because in the movies I grew up with, there still wasn't a lot known about gorillas. They're kind of shy, and hard to find, and when people did finally find them and see them, the gorillas were frightened and did their best to make the intruders go away. So, the Tarzan in the movies was sort of rough, and macho, and domineering, did a lot of chest beating and posturing, and his movements were sort of jerky. But in the sixties and seventies, Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey started observing and studying chimpanzees and gorillas and found out that they weren't like that at all. That they were actually rather gentle and quiet when they were just among themselves and didn't feel frightened or threatened. So, the Disney version of Tarzan sort of reflects that research. What's he like?"

"Well," said Mr. Manzie. "He's quiet. And he's slow and gentle. And curious."

"Very curious," I said.

"But very protective," said Miss Priss. "He protects his family."

"Yes, just like the gorillas do," I said, nodding.

I thought that part of the conversation was over when Miss Priss got out at her school, but Mr. Manzie had another question for me.

"How come people didn't know that about gorillas back when your movies were being made?"

I didn't bother to correct him, seeing as those movies were made in the thirties and forties. "Well, Little Man, that was because no one ever thought of just going into the rain forest to observe them quietly, right there in their own habitat."


Why was I being required to think so early in the morning?? "Well, because in those days, that wasn't considered a valid form of research. It was thought that no one could observe animals without projecting their own thoughts and feelings onto the creatures they were watching. And no one wanted to invest the time, because it required a great deal of time and patience to watch animals in the wild."

"I watch the squirrels in our backyard all the time!"

"They are fun to watch," I agreed, "but... would you want to sit and watch them and do nothing else all day? Not play on your Nintendo, not run around the yard pretending to be ninjas, or chasing Bigfoot, or kicking around the soccer ball, just... sitting on the grass being very, very quiet for hours and hours, watching and waiting for the squirrels to do something."

"That would be boring!"

"Yes, and that is why it requires a whole lot of patience to be an animal researcher! And we are here, and it's time for you to go to school!!" I said, pulling up to his school's drop-off area.

Should I feel a teensy bit guilty that he asked, when he hugged me goodbye, "Why can't learning stuff in school be this fun?"

"I think it sometimes is, kiddo," I said, handing him his backpack. "You just don't always remember that."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he said, and got out of the car. And as he ran to the doors of the cafeteria, I couldn't help but wonder if I should have home-schooled him after all.

Then my sanity returned, and I just started thinking of projects we could do on our own. Yes, that works out much better...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Because she's cool like that...

On the morning drive to school...

Impertinent Daughter, musingly: "I wonder what we're going to do in Athletics today?"

Jo, suddenly seized by mischievous impulse: "Maybe you'll learn how to defeat the invading Mongol hordes!"

ID, blinking: "That's... that... would be totally awesome!! Swords!! Spears!! Bashing people! I could do that!"

Impossible Son, piping up from the back seat after the daughter is dropped off at school: "I know how to defeat the Mongolly Horns!" (because he has his mother's hearing glitch)

Jo, trying not to laugh: "Oh yeah? How?"

Impossible Son, beaming: "Give them your chocolate chip cookies! You are going to bake some today... right? Right?"

I guess I know a hint when I hear one!

Because she's cool like that...

On the morning drive to school...

Impertinent Daughter, musingly: "I wonder what we're going to do in Athletics today?"

Auntie, suddenly seized by mischievous impulse: "Maybe you'll learn how to defeat the invading Mongol hordes!"

ID, blinking: "That's... that... would be totally awesome!! Swords!! Spears!! Bashing people! I could do that!"

Impossible Son, piping up from the back seat after the daughter is dropped off at school: "I know how to defeat the Mongolly Horns!" (because he has Auntie's hearing glitch)

Auntie, trying not to laugh: "Oh yeah? How?"

Impossible Son, beaming: "Give them your chocolate chip cookies! You are going to bake some today... right? Right?"

I guess I know a hint when I hear one!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Because Logic Can Sometimes Fail You...

There are times when I am forcefully confronted with the differences between my children.

I am very much aware that my kids are two different people. After all, look at the names I've given them; the Impertinent Daughter and the Impossible Son. She is inventive, a quick thinker, a little brash at times, stubborn, loving, and though a bit prickly at times, she has a good heart. He is generous, never met a stranger, quirky, stubborn, good natured, and easily hurt at times. And both of them are very bright, full of mischief, and transparent as water (fortunately for me).

But... they are two different people.

Today, I was trying to help Mr. Manzie with his math homework. Now, our district has a light to no homework policy for students. This is very frustrating for me as I see homework as (1) practice for the kids and (2) a way for parents to keep up with what they're learning in the classroom and, more importantly, how it is being taught. Since he always brings home spelling words, and a reading assignment, I only have a very vague idea what they're doing in math, though I do try to keep up by hitting the school's website, hitting his teacher's webpage, and then taking time to talk to his teacher as much as possible. Still, as I said, it gives me a very vague idea what he is doing in class.

So, when he came home with a D, tottering very close to an F, in math, well... I wasn't surprised, but I was frustrated. We've been going over flash-cards, and math problems on the computer, etc... but... we evidently missed something.

He brought math homework home today (after I asked the teacher between clenched teeth to please send something related to the math they were doing in class home so I can help him), and, well...

My kids are two different people.

Logic works on the Impertinent Daughter. If you said to her, "9 + 9 = 18, so if you take 9 away from 18, that would be?" and she'd frown, thinking, then say, "It's 9." You say that to the Impossible Son, and he looks up at you, smiles, and says, "Um... 17?"

So, you rephrase it and say, "If 9 + 9 = 18, then 18 - 9 =...?"

"Um... 19?"

I had to remind myself that in a lot of ways, he's a more visually oriented person than Miss Priss is. And that logic doesn't work on him.

Why do I say this?

Well, I breast-fed both my kids. When it came time to wean Miss Priss, we were able to talk about it, well, about as well as a near three year old and an adult can. We talked about what weaning was, and how she was getting to be a really big girl, and that we could take it slowly by reducing nursing by one feeding a week, etc, and picked out which one she felt she could give up. Took six weeks, but she was weaned. Had a little party for her, it was great!

When it came time to wean Mr. Manzie, he wasn't having anything to do with logic or reasonable discussions. He wanted to nurse and that was final! So... I had to tell him I was running out of milk. I cut him back one nursing each week by telling him, "Oops, I'm all out of milk today, sorry!" And then, when we were down to one nursing, I had to put Band-Aids on my breasts (no, not on the nipples... OUCH!!) and tell him the milk machines were broken, and there was no more milk to be had.

It was a sad day in Little Man Land when the Mama Milk Machine broke.

I had to keep that in mind while trying to help him with his math homework. And I'm not saying I've figured it out yet, but heck, if I have to, I will dig out the Legos to get him over his mental hump, especially since they are working with adding and subtracting double digits. Think visual aids, Auntie!

I just have to remind myself, what works with one child won't necessarily work with the other because... they are two different people.