Monday, April 30, 2007


Joseph has always liked it when I sing to him. Lately he is singing a lot himself, and the other morning I was able to take a candid video of him singing 'Johnny' along with the recording of Edith Piaf (unfortunately it is too large to put on the Internet, but I will see what we can do.)
Most of the time his favorite song to sing is 'The Wheels on the..." I didn't fill in the last word, because Joseph fills that in himself with bus, car, bicycle, backhoe, dump truck, etc. This evening I was surprised to hear though, that he was actually getting the right descending pitch when he sang 'round and round.' Usually he tries to get different pitches, but it is often quite random.
Now, he is even starting to make up songs for which he has no reference. This morning when I was getting dressed he told me he was singing a song. I hadn't been paying too much attention to what he was doing (which I thought was just talking to his bunny.) I said 'oh, will you sing it for me?) And so he sang 'bunny brown, bunny brown, bunny brown' trying for different pitches with each 'bunny brown.'

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sometimes Clouds Yell (a.k.a. Mythic Thinking)

This morning we were in the midst of a big thunderstorm, and this caused a bit of fear in our house. Both Joseph and Spot were scared by the thunder; Joseph looked at me as if he wanted to know what that horrible sound could be, and Spot just sat there shaking. I told Joseph "Oh, that is just the Clouds talking to each other, sometimes they yell." This seemed to mostly satisfy him, but then he noticed how scared Spot looked and said "Spot is scared." I just said "Yes, Spot is scared, but he doesn't understand that it is just the clouds talking." Then Joseph was O.K. with all the noise. After his nap in the afternoon, another bout of thundering began, and Joseph got a far away look in his eyes. I asked him "What was that?" to see what he would say. He said "The Clouds talking." For fun I took it further and asked him "What are they talking about?" He responded in all seriousness "Cars. Talking about cars." A little while later, of his own accord, he told me "The Clouds are riding around in Cars."

This was so neat for me, because it relates to the last book I read The Power of Play by David Elkind. According to David Elkind, children don't reach the Age of Reason until they are somewhere around 6 or 7. This is when they can reason things out like adults, and want more scientific type explanations for phenomena. Before the age of reason, children's mode of thinking is mythic, or syncretic, which means they understand the world in a more concrete way than do adults and older children. Elkind states that this is how young children want things explained when they start asking about the world, and recommends that this is how we should deal with the never ending 'whys'. I thought about this when I thought up my talking Clouds, and it worked like a charm. It was amazing to me that by the end of it all, Joseph had created his own Myth about clouds that involved cars. I suspect that I will use this method often in the future, because not only did it work really well, but it was a lot of fun too, for both me and Joseph. Now if only I can figure out what to tell Spot...

Boy, is he Smart!

On Sunday morning Spot was sitting next to me with those big, soulful eyes that he uses especially to let me know that he wants something. I said "I don't know what you want, Spot." So he went and got his half chewed piece of rawhide (too small for him to chew on anymore) and puts it by me feet. I said "Oh, do you want another Chewie?," to which Spot responded by jumping up and down all over the place and barking. He is so good at communicating!

I bet you thought this was going to be about Joseph. Ha-ha, gotcha!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Power of Play

I just finished reading The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children by David Elkind.

It is about the psychology of play, and Elkind discusses how important old-fashioned play is to children's development. By old-fashioned, I mean the kind of play that is not related to screens (Computer, T.V., etc.) He outlines the developmental stages of children, and discusses what type of activities are beneficial to their development considering these stages. Next he discusses how children's play has changed, and the possible effects that this could have on their development. Finally he gives ideas for parents to provide positive play experiences for their children.

Far from being a stuffy academic, Elkind offers understandable, as well as practical, information about the developmental stages of children, and how these stages effect what they get out of the activities in which they engage. He discusses that the advertisements for most computer games, as well as DVD's marketed to babies and young children, exaggerate their possible usefulness because they are not based on any real evidence. Basically they just appeal to parents fears of not giving their children an academic advantage (no matter how foggy the claims seem.) He also discusses how babies don't understand two-dimensional images on a screen the same way an adult does. This really makes a lot of sense to me. When I was learning to identify birds, I looked at some bird I.D. books with real photos, and some with just drawings. The ones with the drawing were always better and easier to learn from, because they took the average characteristics of the birds of the species. Sometimes the photos were extremely difficult to even see what the book was trying to illustrate, and I already knew what a real live bird is like! A baby does not, which is Elkind's point exactly. We need to provide real, not simulated, experiences for our children in order for them to enjoy, and learn from the world. Adults can often forget that for a child, the real world is full of magic, no matter how mundane it may be to us.

Well, in order to not give the wrong impression, I should say that Elkind is not completely against screen time. He says that in moderation it is okay, however we need to make sure that kids also have the time to play spontaneously. This leads to another thing that Elkind opposes that is hugely popular today: organized sports. Once again, he says that the evidence of the benefit for young children just isn't there, and also, that for older children a sports team in moderation is okay. However, he definitively states that the more emphasis on play, and not competition, the better. And the best of all, according to Elkind, is when kids are involved in spontaneous sports that the kids in the neighbourhood initiate themselves (with no parental involvement.) I couldn't agree more.

I have such great memories of spontaneous play in my own childhood. I am so glad that I didn't have to deal with being on a competitive sports team ( I did do fun dance classes) and I got lots of free time in the neighbourhood and my favourite place of all, the backyard. I have relatively few memories of T.V. but lots, and lots of memories of games, and play-acted scenarios that I played with my sister, the neighbour kids, and very often just by myself. I think my spontaneous play as a child, combined with the non-school related reading that I did, attributed heavily to the fact that I am an artist now. Childhood play is so important, and so often people blow it off like it is irrelevant. Let them play, let them play; they will become better people for it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Beautiful Day

Today was a beautiful, though windy, day. I got to use my clothes line again, which Jim secured with some rope, so I got lots of laundry done in the morning.

In the afternoon we went to the park to fly Jim's new dragon kite. It was a bit too windy, so we only flew it for a little while.

Afterward we played in the park, and I took a walk with Spot. That is when I saw these pinwheels.

Spot is NOT a Flower

The last few weeks Joseph has taken to putting dirt on Spot in the garden, which is something that both Spot and I were mostly ignoring. Then yesterday morning I was watering my seed starts, and afterward I put down my watering can on the porch. Joseph thought it would be fun to chase Spot around the garden with it, so I shouted "Joseph, Spot is NOT a flower! Does he look like a flower to you?" Joseph stopped, looked at me, looked at Spot, and then said "Ja, Spot is... a flower." Then of course we laughed, but he didn't do it again the rest of the day.

Treasure Map

This week I was making a treasure map. The house is paper mache, and then I used magazine photos to decorate it. It is something I read about at MotheringDotCommune.
The idea is that you take pictures and collage them to make an image of what you want in you life. Last year I did one for the first time, but I drew it because I didn't have access to magazines (we were traveling.) I was really happy with the result, and it was neat to see how much it really did seem to influence my year. I put it away after our trip, and then didn't look at it again until about a month before this treasure mapping time. So I guess these things really do have power, even if you don't actively concentrate on them.
Click here if you want to make a treasure map of your own; don't be discouraged if by the rules it is too late. I think most of the power is in focusing on what you want, visualizing it, and then finishing the collage, drawing, or whatever.

Monday, April 16, 2007

City and Nature

This morning I took Joseph to the Bennett-Martin Library which is in downtown Lincoln. It is so nice to go there; the art books are pretty much all at this branch, they have a pretty courtyard with a fountain with some nice figurative sculptures, and overall it just feels more cosmopolitan than the other branches. I had taken Joseph there about a month ago, and soon after we got there he remembered that they have a large (4 feet long) cardboard bus on display in the children's section.
After the library we went to a cafe near the University to meet Jim. I always love going to cafes, especially ones that are near Universities. We sat outside because the weather was quite warm today. Joseph loved sitting outside because so many interesting vehicles go past the cafe.
Afterward we went home and had a nap and then spent the afternoon planting seeds and relaxing in the yard. When Jim got home he took Joseph for a bike ride, and I relaxed on a blanket with Spot, and looked up at the branches of the Oak Tree. There are lots of birds around lately and there were a few singing in the branches. I think we are on the brink of the migration because lately I have seen lots more species around. I have seen Brewer's Blackbirds, Starlings, Robins, House Sparrows, Cardinals, and Blue Jays pretty frequently. The last few days I have been seeing lots of Grackles and today I saw something with big white eye patches. I am not sure what it was, though perhaps it was a white crowned sparrow.
It is so nice that here in Lincoln we are so close to Downtown, and then also have a nice backyard were we can see lots of wildlife.  We also have a resident rabbit, lots of squirrels, and bats.


One morning this weekend Joseph woke up really early and was trying to think of ways to convince us it was time to get up. So out of the blue he said "Daddy hear a dog." Jim and I looked at each other a bit puzzled and then Joseph said, with that very earnest look of his, "...Go check it out." We laughed so hard!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Antigone (comparison of translations)

I picked up Antigone at the library this last week. I ended up getting two versions; one copy translated by Robert Bagg, and the other translated by Richard Emil Braun. I chose to read them both because I thought it would be interesting to see how they differ in the translation. The Bagg version claims that the author tried to satisfy the desire to be accurate, as well as considering how the words would sound to the reader. The Braun version states that 'only translators who write poetry themselves can properly recreate these tragedies." Well, I finished reading Antigone this afternoon, and I found that reading both versions, side by side, was definitely a good decision. I think that I got a much fuller understanding of the play than if I had only read one. I enjoyed it so much that I really wish that I had studied Ancient Greek so I could read what Sophocles actually wrote himself.
Well, who knows what will happen in the future.

As far as the two versions go, I think I enjoyed the Bagg version a little bit more. In the beginning of the play I felt like the Braun version was more emotive, but somewhere around the middle, he started to lose me sometimes. I would go back to the Bagg version, and feel like I was understanding it better, and in reality I didn't think the poetry in the Braun version was better, except in the very beginning where Antigone is talking with her sister.

In the end, Antigone was so absorbing, I have decided to continue reading the Bagg version. The book that contains this translation of Antigone is The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles, and also includes Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Kolonos, as well as an interesting essay about Greek Theater.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I just finished reading Cymbeline by William Shakespeare. I am going to just give a brief review of it, but as the play is rather convoluted, I'm not sure how true that will be. I will note now that while reading this play I listened to the dramatized play on CD that was produced by Arkangel.

Cymbline takes place in Britain and Rome during the time of Caesar. It is about King Cymbeline and how his daughter, Princess Imogen, marries a commoner by the name of Posthumus Leonatus without the King's knowing. When the king finds out, he banishes Posthumus to Rome. The Queen feigns sympathy to Imogen, and promises to appeal to the King for her. The Queen, Imogen's evil stepmother, has personal motivations that involve getting rid of Imogen so her son Cloten can take the throne. Later in the story Posthumus comes to believe that Imogen has been untrue, and convinces his servant to murder her. After lots of confusion and misunderstanding, the whole thing is resolved and Posthumus and Imogen are reunited, and there is general harmony and good will toward all.

That is really only the overriding plot of the play; there are at least three subplots that at first examination seem incongruous. As I alluded to above, there are lots of evil things instigated by the Queen, but also there are Imogen's two older brothers who were kidnapped when they were very young by a Lord who was betrayed by the King, and not told that they were princes until the end of the story. They are later reunited with their family, and are fully reinstated as rightful heirs to the throne. And of course, there is a war between Rome and Britain.

Throughout the play there are many magical elements such as magic potions that make people seem as though they are dead, and an appearance by the god Jupiter (remember this takes place in Caesar's day.) My favorite scene is where the dead family of Posthumus appear as ghosts and sing of his fortune and fate. They beg the god Jupiter for his life, and afterward, when he wakes from this 'dream' he finds a 'book' that in prophetic language his tells him his fate (amazing poetry.) The appearance of the ghosts is entirely sung, and the poetry made me feel like I was seeing though the veils that separates us from the spirit realm.

It is very difficult to give a concise plot summery of the play (as one can probably discern from my writing) and I had a hard time finding any criticism about it. If you have never heard of this play before, that is really not surprising; this play has fallen hugely out of favor during the last century, but I would argue that this is in part because of it's complexities, and also that the tastes of modern audiences desire a more clear and concise plot. To the play's credit Alfred, Lord Tennyson said it was his favorite, and John Keats also admired it as one of his favorites. I encourage those who have read Shakespeare's more well known works, to try reading this play. It is much more complex than a simple overview writing about it such as this can really express. I also highly recommend listening to the play on CD while reading it. It is not possible to watch it on film, so much of the nuances that a dramatic cast can reveal are only possible through listening to it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dry Nights

I think we are really to a point where I can truly say that Joseph is potty trained. For those who don't know, we have been doing a method called Elimination Communication (E.C.) You can read more about it here. He has not been wearing diapers during the day for about two and a half months, and about a week and a half ago, I took the plunge and put him in underwear at night too. For a couple of weeks his diaper was dry every morning, and he even woke up several nights to tell me "Potty." So, I decided to just take a chance, and try putting him in underwear at night again. I had done it before, and we even had a solid week of dry nights (he was about 10 months then,) but then he started trying to walk and we had lots of wet nights again. So, I thought this time maybe we can do it, because he was actually waking up and wanting to sit on the potty. The first night was a dry one, and then the second night he peed twice. The next two days he also had lots of accidents, and so we almost put him back in diapers at night. I didn't really want too, but I also didn't want all that laundry! So that second night I asked him if he wanted a diaper or underwear, and he said "diaper." I put it on him, and then about 10 minutes later, when he was lying down to go to sleep, he started to cry 'underwear, underwear.' He was dry that night, and every night since. It is so interesting that he when he cried to wear underwear, he seemed to be making a conscious decision about it all; when it was his choice to wear underwear he took it, and happily uses the potty at night. We still have accidents during the day once in a while, but they are getting farther and farther apart. E.C. is so great! I don't think potty training would have gone so smoothly without it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Sometimes Joseph just amazes me with how well he communicates. I know I am his mother, but tell me if this wouldn't surprise you coming from a 23 month old.
Last Friday I took Joseph to my La Leche League meeting and told him we were going there beforehand. He frowned and said, "Baby take van." He was talking about the last time we had gone when he was playing with a toy van, and a 7 month old came up to him and took it away from him. He cried, and ended up getting it back, but I guess it really impressed him. Anyway, I have been talking a lot about sharing with him, because that is one of the sign language words on our sign language video that we watch with him, and he is just starting to have difficulty with playing with toys around other kids. So back to Friday morning- about an hour before leaving he said he wanted to take along his shape sorter toy that has keys to unlock the doors. I said, "well maybe the baby can play with it too". I forgot about it and then just as we were leaving, he went and got it. I said, "well actually it is pretty big, so we should probably leave it at home, and anyway, they have lots of other cool toys there". He insisted on taking it, and said "Baby take it!" I thought, wow, maybe he wants to share it, but could hardly believe that he could be thinking that. So, when we got to the meeting, he stood by my chair for a while, holding the shape sorter and watching the other kids. One of the older boys came over and wanted to play with it, and Joseph gave it to him willingly (which was unprecedented.) He watched him with it for a minute, and then ran over to get the van. The whole time we were there, the other kids played with the shape sorter off and on, and Joseph mostly played with the van. I think he really was thinking to share his toy, but I am still surprised that he could think about it all in such a complex way. I am eager to see what happens this next Friday.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Last Friday at my La Leche League meeting, the conversation turned toward staying home with ones' children when they are young, and the current attitudes of American society concerning this. Sequencing by Arlene Rossen Cardozo was mentioned by the leader as an interesting book concerning this topic. I took it home and read it over the last weekend.

Written almost twenty years ago, it is interesting to think that much of what is discussed in this book about the issues concerning womens' combining of career and parenting is relevant today. In the first part of the book, Cardozo begins the book with a review of the feminist movement. She also discusses the Superwoman Myth (the women who has a full-time career, family, social life, etc, all while getting enough sleep,) and proposes that women are finding a new way to have it all, and that is through Sequencing their lives. Sequencing, a term coined by Cardozo, is when a woman has a full life (career in her definition, though I would not define it so narrowly) before having children, then takes some years off to stay home with her children, and finally reintegrates career into her life when her children are a bit older. The first part continues with how a woman comes to the decision that she will stay home with her children.

The second part of the book discusses the reality of staying home, from how women cope with a change in identity, to what these women who stay home actually do to make there lives rich. It ends with a chapter that discusses how women make the transition from staying home to reintegrating career back into their lives.

The third part of the book discusses how and when these women go back to work. Cardozo discusses how things like the ages of ones children and field affect the time and type of reintegration of career.

Overall this was a good overview of the subject of mothering and career, and how one can integrate the two in realistic ways. The book is full of interviews with women that give it a feeling a practicality. I would recommend this book to anyone who wonders not only if it is possible to raise children and have a career, but also how; it really can be done, just not all at once.

Thursday, April 5, 2007


Snow Showers Early
Snow Showers Early
25° F
Cloudy with scattered snow showers mainly during the evening. Cold. Low near 25F. Winds NNW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 30%.

This is the prediction for tonight. And to think, two days ago Joseph and I were at the garden store buying seeds for flowers and vegetables.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Once Upon a Time 2007

I found this challenge though a comment on my blog, and it appears that I am doing it by default. What I mean is that a lot of the reading on my Spring Reading Thing 2007 reading list fits the Mythology and Folklore category of this Challenge, and that is what Once Upon a Time 2007 is about.

I guess I am doing Quest 4 because my books only fit two of the four categorise, Mythology and Folklore. It is funny though, I had originally thought to read A Midsummer Night's Dream, as it would be so poetically fitting, but felt like I didn't want to make my list too heavy with Shakespeare, and Cymbeline was really calling me.

Anyway, here is my Once a Upon a Time 2007 list:
Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
The Odyssey by Homer
Antigone by Sophocles
The Story of King Arthur and his Knights by Howard PyleSelected Poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

***I've been inspired to add a couple of books to my challenge list. (14, April)
The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Anne of Green Gables

I just finished reading Anne of Green Gables. My first experience with this story was with the movie, and recently I listened to it on CD. I felt like listening to it was the same as reading it, and certainly it was close, but reading it was much richer. I love the wholesome characters of this story; it transported me to another world. Montgomory's descriptive passages are vivid and poetic. It was a great joy to read this in the early spring afternoons, while Joseph slept. So many of the delightful times in the book are during springtime.

I do have some criticism, though. I felt like chapter 33, The Hotel Concert, didn't really fit in with the story. It seemed an unnecessary digression, and was really kind of flat compared with all the other chapters. Also, I didn't understand how when only Gilbert and Anne are doing Second Year work at Queens (enabling them to get a First Class teaching license) that Ruby Gillis and Jane Andrews will also be teaching the following year. Perhaps it is because I don't understand the Canadian Schooling System, but I do find this confusing. If anyone understands this, I would be grateful to know.

I absolutely recommend reading this book if you haven't yet. As far as editions go, I highly recommend the Junior Illustrated Library edition, illustrated by Jody Lee. It is so beautiful, and the illustrations draw one quickly into the beautiful, fresh world of Avonlea.