Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy 4th Birthday!

My babies are 4 years old today!! Hard to believe, but true. In honor of the day, please indulge me in a little "Then and Now":

Jack THEN and NOW:

Cate THEN:

Cate NOW:


Ava NOW:

You've come a long way babies!!
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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Know Yourself

Ava: What is Jack's name?
Me: You tell me. What is Jack's name?
Ava: Jack!
Me: And what is Jack's middle name?
********cricket cricket*********
Ava: Bernard?
Me: Yes!
Ava: What is Jack's last name?
Me: Well, Jack's last name is the same as *your* last name.....?
Cate: I know! Carlsonkids!!

Must Read

My friend Laura sent this to me in an e-mail; I don't know who the original author is, but I can tell you this: she is one smart lady.

What should a 4 year old know?
I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. "What should a 4 year old know?" she asked.
Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only 3. A few posted URL's to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.

It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn't. We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights.
Childhood shouldn't be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.

2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn't feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.

3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.

4. He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he'll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.

5. She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she's wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it's just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that-- way more worthy.

But more important, here's what parents need to know.

1. That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.

2. That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.

3. That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children "advantages" that we're giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.

4. That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children's toys and they wouldn't be missed, but some things are important-- building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too-- to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it's absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.

5. That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That's not okay! Our children don't need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US.
They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they're a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them. What does a 4 year old need? Much less than we realize, and much more.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Last Friday the kids had the day off school, so I took them with me while I ran errands in the morning. We had to stop at the mall to exchange some shoes for Ava, and on the way out we passed by the Christmas tree display at Macy's. Yes, I know it's not even flippin' Thanksgiving and they already have the halls decked......Whatever.

The kids were enchanted with the Christmas tree forest and we spent a happy 30 minutes looking at all the ornaments. The kids were so into the whole thing I told them that they could each pick out one ornament that we would hang on our Christmas tree.

Side bar: timing is everything with 3 year olds. "Can we put it on our Christmas tree when we get home?" "We don't have our Christmas tree yet. We will have to wait." "Until after our naps?" "No, we will have to wait for a while." "After dinner?"

Jack picked out a blown glass candy cane, Ava chose a blown glass Princess, and after much debate Cate settled on a giant star made out of crystal and blue beads. When we got home Jack and Ava immediately wanted to show their prizes to Daddy, but Cate had something else in mind:

It's kind of like the Lion King meets the Nativity, with a little *bling* thrown in for good measure.....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Another Masterpiece

Ava's work again, but this time her medium is pen and paper. This is a drawing she did a few days ago of her and baby Owen (not the real baby Owen, i.e. Lauren's son, but rather the doll that was named in honor of him, who is, as it happens, a girl.)

I love the detail in this; the way her arms are wrapped around baby Owen, how she used the same color as the jumper baby Owen was wearing that morning, the way that people on her planet only have three fingers on each hand......priceless.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stuck on You

Ava has discovered tape. Here is a sample of her work:

Notice the tape that attaches the green paper to the glass door. Notice the tape that attaches THAT tape to the door. Clearly the dictum that "less is more" does not apply to tape.

Part of me is tempted to fill her Christmas stocking full of rolls and rolls of tape.....maybe even a few rolls of colored tape, or double-sided tape. I imagine her face lighting up with pure joy as she dumps out roll upon roll upon roll of tape - oh the riches!!

The other part of me is getting tired of reaching for the toilet paper and finding it hermetically sealed in tape.