Sunday, October 15, 2017

What Kids Remember, Glorious Tumbles, and Other Things

Two year-old No. 3 and I just got back from our walk around the block.  She’s learning new words daily, and occasionally throwing out wholly formed sentences just for the fun of it.  She doesn’t notice it’s the big deal everyone else thinks it is. 

As we started our walk, I thought she was saying no stars, no stars since the sun had just set, and there weren’t any stars out yet.  Instead, what she was doing was checking each driveway for moving cars, and saying “No cars, no cars.”  She and the rest of the gang have been practicing this game every time they go somewhere to make sure they don’t get hit by someone pulling their car out of their driveway and across the sidewalk. 

As we hit our first corner, No 3 began to tell me how she had fallen and,  “Toes hurt.”

“Your toes hurt?”

“Yeah.  It’s OK thogh.”

“Why do your toes hurt?”

“I fell.”  Here, 3 launhes into a pantomime waving her arms at head level, and then making a crashing noise.  “It’s OK though.  I landed on my backpack.’

“Oh!  You mean when you and I fell?”  No. 3 and I had a tumbe two weeks back to the day, when with her on my shoulders the gang and I made a dash for the bus.  Everything happened in slow motion after my foot got caught in the sidewalk.  I reached up, got 3 off my shoulders, and held her by the arm as I fell.  Realizing she was going to fall at the same speed I was, I let go of her arm, grabbed her thigh, and heaved her upward to slow her fall.  As we approached the ground, I was able to push her a little tiny bit horizontally so she came down in front of me with her head landing on her backpack.  We were both fine, albeit a bit rattled.  As falls go, it was a thing of beauty!  We got up, caught the bus, and made it to our dropoff point with Mom-person where I related the above story.

No. .3 started back in, “Yeah, we fell, but I was OK.  I landed on my backpack!”

“You did, didn’t you?  You did great!  You were OK!”


We’d reched the second corner, and rounded it during our discussion.  We came up on a house that had turquoise trim on all the windows.


“It is pretty, isn’t it?  It’s turquoise.  Can you say turquoise?”

“Turquoise!”  3 nailed it!

A little further on, we came to the house with the pink stuffed lion out front.  3 pointed it out.



“I saw it 1 day ago,” she said holding up on finger.

Between you and I, we went for our last walk aorund the block two days ago, but I just carried on.  “One day ago?”

“Yeah!”... she thought for a moment, “No!  Two days ago!”

“Yeah, it was two days ago!”

“We were making a loop!  A loop and back to the house!”

I might have told 3 we were making a loop.  I can’t remember, but what a great word!  Loop!

We returned to find six year-old No. 1 making her own Halloween decorations.  “This is the first year I’ve made my own decorations!”

Things are good!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Buying Flowers

Now that the kids can safely cross the street on their own, they’ve started to take over some of my jobs at the Farmers’ Market.  Specifically, they buy the flowers each week.  This particular week, since mom-person had come, 6 year-old No. 1 and 4 year-old No. 2 split up.  No. 2 wanted to show mom-person around.  No. 1 was more interested in carrying out her usual jobs.  I handed her a 20 and asked how much change she should get back for the $5 flowers.  “15 dollars,” she responded.

“Do you remember how to get across the street here?”


“OK, I’m going to head down this way, and then I’ll come back up and meet you here if I don’t see you sooner.”


“Be safe,” I admonished, as No. 1 headed out for the flower stand across the thoroughfare that divides the market so cars, (of all things), can drive through.

I carried on with my shopping, getting a few particularly sweet cherry tomatoes, and taking time to check out the many vegetables that I have yet to learn the names for, navigating through the crowds that had clumped every so often for an apparently excellent offering of… whatever those were.

When I made it back to where No. 1 and I were to meet, she hadn’t returned.  Mom-person, No. 2, and two-year-old No.3 were waiting there, but No. 1 was nowhere to be found.  I walked over to the flower stand at a leisurely pace to see what was going on.

As I arrived, I beamed with pride.  Lauren had invited No. 1 up and into into the stand to wrap her own flowers.  The stands are constructed so that their concrete floors are two feet above the sidewalks in front of them.  Each stand has two divots so the people tending them who don’t feel like standing above their customers all day can drop down to sidewalk level.

Lauren, standing in one of the divots was showing No. 1 how wrap her flowers in newspaper.   No. 1 had kneeled down on one knee to make eye contact with her while they worked on the flowers.   With the flowers wrapped, No.1 handed Lauren tthe money, and accepted her change.  Lauren asked her if she needed to or maybe was supposed to wait there for her parents.  No. 1 gave her the most confident grin, said, “No, I’m good.” and headed out.  Not noticing me in the crowd of the midday Farmers’ Market, she jumped down out of the stall just in front of me, walked down the sidewalk to the crosswalk, and slowly peeked out around the parked car to look for oncoming traffic.  She saw a car about 40 yards down the thoroughfare, decided she didn’t have time to make it, and hopped back, almost landing on top of me.   That’s when she finally saw me.  “Hey!  Have you been following me?”

“Nope, I’ve just been behind you for the last few feet.  You ready to go?”

“Yup,” she said, and the independent kid and I wandered off to find the rest of the family.

What adventures have your kids had lately?  I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

When the Digits Fill they must Spill

Another conversation No. 1, our 6 year-old, and I had about number bases.  I'm not sure where I'm headed with all this.  No. 1 and I tend to talk as we ride through San Francisco on its various buses, trains, and cable cars... a lot.  It would be more concise to explain what we're doing math-wise by writing down a short description of the concepts.  It's not what we're actually doing though, so I'm not sure how much help that would be.  I'll just say for now, that I've discovered more about the math No. 1 and talk about by talking than I did by 'learning' it in school, so for now, I'll carry on.

OK, so No. 1 and I had covered the basics of number bases.  You choose you base, you get that many numbers to place in a digit, and you have to include zero as a number.  Choose base 10, and you get our finger-counting system with ten different numbers represented by a single digit: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.  Choose base 3, and you get 0, 1, and 2.  Choose to work in base 2 like a computer, and you get 0 and 1.  The next thing to cover was what happens when you run out of room in a single digit.  So, you’re counting along, and you arrive at 9, (or 2), (or 1).  What do you do when you want to count one more thing?  No. 1 already knew how to count higher than 10, in base 10, so it was as good a place as any to start.

“OK, so I’m counting along in my single digit, and I hit 9.  What do I use for the next number?”


“Yup.  How do you write it down?”

No. 1 made a 1, and a 0 in the air.

“Awesome.  So, you had to use a second digit.”

“Now, what if we’re in base 2, when do we run out of numbers?


“When you’re counting in base 2, what’s the largest you can count with a single digit?”


“Yeah, one.  So, when you need to count more than one thing, what will you need to do?”


“If I’m counting things, and have two of them, and I want to write down how many I have, how do I do it?”

“Write down a  2?”

“What’s the biggest number a digit in base 2 can be?”


“So, can I write down a two then?”


“So, what do I do?  What if I write down another digit like you did for 10?”

“ OK.”

By now we’d made it home, so I reached for a piece of paper, and wrote down 10.  “What number is that in base 2?”


“Nope, what’s the biggest number you can put here before you run out of room?” I asked pointing at the digit on the right.


“So, is we had to add a new digit because we ran out of room at one, what’s the new digit for?”


“Yup!  OK, so now, we’ve got two, and we keep counting so now we have a third thing.  There’s room left in the ones place, so I’ going to put a one there,” I said, writing 11 on the sheet of paper.

“OK, so what number is that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, what’s in the digit where we can write up to one?”


“What’s in the digit for twos?”


“What’s a two plus a one?”

Thinking for just a second, No. 1 replied, “Three.”

"So, what’s our new number?"


“Do we have any more room?  Can we make either of the digits any bigger in base 2?”


“So, what if we want to count up to four?”
“We’d add another digit?”

“Yup!  We’d write one, zero, zero.”

And then came the exercises.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Dance Parties and Books

Lala Land dance Parties have become a thing of late at our house.  The kids put on the soundtrack, and vamp around the room dancing every which way  Four year-old No. 2 has settled into a decidedly beatnik shimmy of late.  He’ll plant his spread feet, shake his shoulders, and then, as he pulls his feet together, ooze to some other spot in the room before doing it all over again, perhaps throwing in a spin with his shimmy this time.  I’m convinced he’s channeling the dance he watched Audrey Hepburn at the French cafe in Funny Face.

Six year-old No. 1's, dances tend to be influenced by whatever she’s reading.  When she’s heavy into comic books, she might dance like a robot, making start again, stop again, syncopated movements around the den ala Cliff Steele, Robotman of Doom Patrol, or she might move from tree pose to tree pose spinning as she goes, ala Poison Ivy of Superhero High.  This week, No. 1 discovered a beginning ballet book from the ‘50s at the university library, so she’s moving in a slow and composed manner from one ballet pose to another.

Two year-old No. 3, has recently discovered the joy of spinning.  She’ll twirl through the room, pausing briefly to see if the room will in turn twirl on its own before launching into her next spin.  Today though, she’s latched onto what No. 1’s doing, and is earnestly imitating her every move.

I’m the unintended beneficiary of this particular dance party.  It just happened to erupt as I was sitting on the couch reading Ben Hewitt’s “Home Grown.”  Minding my own business, reading my book, I notice that No. 3 is doing something new this time.  After each ballet pose, she’s taking a full second to peer intently, directly at me with a focused gaze.  Perhaps she’s wondering what I think of her dance moves?  That’d be odd since none of the kids have ever so much as glanced at any of their unintentional audiences before.  They embody the phrase ‘dance like no one is watching.’  Just in case, the next time No. 3, peers my way, I grin and give her a thumbs up.  Her gaze is unflinching.  The grin, the thumb’s up, it’s like they never happened.  No. 3 is completely focused on... what?  I try a few more grins on the next couple of gazes between poses, but still nothing.

Finally, as the song ends, No. 3 strikes out directly across the living room, straight for me.  Well, not me actually.  Reaching out, No. 3 takes ahold of my hands and the book they hold, pulling it down and towards her.  Studying the image for a moment , her gaze changes from intent to resolved.  Sure enough, that is a book with kids in a forest on the cover, just like herself and her sibs.  Content, No. 3 returns to dancing on the next song, once again completely oblivious to the room’s other non-dancing denizens.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Lost Phone

We were incredibly lucky to have both been in university settings when our kids were born.  When No. 1 arrived, we were both still grad students.  Not long after No. 2 arrived, (about 10 days to be exact), mom-person defended her dissertation and gained the appellation prependage Dr. 

While there are lots of perks attendant to grad school, not the least of them phenomenal health insurance, that’s not the one that’s come to mind for me just now.  The one I’m most grateful for at the moment with respect to our kids was the opportunities for sheer independence.  Most days, we’d meet for lunch on the quad of whatever university we were hanging out at at the time, (physics research requires a bit of travel), to eat lunch.  During those lunches, the kids could crawl, toddle, or jog off into the distance.  There were no roads, and therefore no cars.  And, I realize now with a certain wistful bliss I had no knowledge of at the time, there were also very few people at hand that new what a baby was, and even fewer who had preconceived notions of what exactly a baby should be doing.  As No. 1, and later No. 2 wandered across the quad, alternately greeting students, and exploring the world, the students giggled, waved back, looked hazily confused through what was obviously days’ worth of sleep deprivation, and carried on with their own lives whether amused, confused, or oblivious.  Through it all, the kids got to see the world through their own eyes free of us, and free of expectations. 

As the kids have grown, so has their independence, and the amount of freedom mom-person and I can handle.  Not long after wandering across quads, the kids were headed diligently through coffee shops or pubs to get a glass of water from the container on the counter they could just reach over, or to retrieve a bottle of ketchup for their french fries.  A little while later, they started trekking back to the coffee shop down the block from our bench to grab a few more napkins, or a cup of water, (oh the water bottles that we don’t haul around!)  Our oldest, six year old No. 1 recently finagled a free round of ice cream for her and her sibs after she ventured past the cafe/bar partition in a tiny little town in Wyoming looking for a glass of water, and wound up exchanging a bit of witty banter with the other patrons.

Most recently though, No. 1 and 2 have demonstrated they they can cross the street by themselves, and this has opened up a whole new world of freedom and responsibility for them.  When we have the time in the mornings, 1 and 2 leash up their dog, who was present at both of their births, and take her up the hill to the hundreds of acres of park that sprawls above us.  The kids have explored every trail that runs through our portion of the park.  They’ve climbed the trees and careened down the hills.  Still, in case there are issues, they take mom-person’s phone so they can call home for help if they need to.  In truth, the phone is mostly in case they run into a ‘concerned adult’, because unlike college campuses, we’ve found that the rest of the world has very definite opinions about what a six and four year old should and should not be doing, and very few qualms about expressing them.

On a happier note, the kids have never had call to use the phone, pun not intended.   Sure, we’ve received a few calls.  I’ve jumped up concerned about what unforeseen thing has befallen my kids.  In the end though, the calls have been about their faithful dog slipping her leash, or the indignities of not being able to unilaterally choose the direction at every fork in the trail.

Consequently, this weekend, it was blissfully delightful that not too long after the pair had set out with their dog, and a poop sack, they were back.  With the dog, and without the poop sack in case you were wondering  No phone calls, no fretfully worrying when they’d arrive, they’d merely set out, had their adventure and returned! 

Then it happened.  “Give mom her phone back,” I said. 

“Oooh, um, we left it in the forest.”

“What do you mean you left it in the forest?”

“We must have left it in that spot we were playing.”

Fortunately mom-person loses her phone on a not infrequent basis, and so recently switched to the best burner-phone $10 can buy at our local Walgreens.  Not too much was at stake.  Still, my adult problem-solving brain kicked into gear exploring the many options for retrieving the phone.  I could ask exactly where that spot they were playing was.  I could ask when No. 2’s pocket felt lighter.  I could ask the last place they saw that phone.  I could wander up to the forest and help them look.  It all seemed so futile.  Fortunately it seemed so futile that my adult problem-solving brain did the exact best thing it could have, it gave up.

Without mentioning a word of my concerns, or the many, many options I’d just reviewed in my fevered mind, I simply said, “Go back and get Mom’s phone from where you left it.”

The kids headed back out, leaving the dog behind this time.  I got distracted with cleaning.  My adult-mind consequently didn’t worry about how long they would take, or if they’d find the phone, or if they were even looking.  And, loe and behold after a period of time that I can’t be sure of, but that seemed like 10 minutes, they returned triumphantly with the phone in hand!

They grew, I got to rest, they’re more capable in my mind, and every bit as good as they ever were in their own.  A lot of the time, the less I do, the better things turn out.