New Mama Musings

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Eleven Weeks Today -- Again

Things are about to change -- a lot -- around here. I'm eleven weeks pregnant; the baby is due on Thanksgiving Day.

I realized the other day that I started this blog the day I was eleven weeks pregnant with Henry. Since then, my life has changed more than I ever could have imagined, in ways I never could have dreamed.

I adore being Henry's mother. He is so smart, so funny, and so sweet. I love seeing him grow up and learn new things and develop into his own person. But I want him to have a sibling, one raised in the same household with the same parents, sharing the same memories. I want that for him now, growing up, but also for when he's an adult and his dad and I are elderly or deceased.

And I want another child for me, I'll admit. There's nothing wrong with having only one child, I know, yet I can't help looking forward to the day when I can refer to "my kids."

At the same time, I'm nervous about once again going through the exhaustion and stress and dirty diapers that accompany the first year or so of a new baby's life. I'm thirty-nine years old (the other day Henry greeted me with, "Hello, you old pregnant woman!"). Part of me wishes I had done all this child-rearing stuff about twenty or even ten years ago, but I know I'm a more aware and patient mother now than I would have been then.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


March 2010:

[New Mama]: This morning in bed Henry said (in his sleep), "No! Put it back!" Then 30 seconds later he mumbled, "Never mind. I was just dreamin'."

[New Mama] is both amused and annoyed by the new game Henry invented. He calls it "Sound Search." It's like a word search, but out loud -- he spews nonsense words with a few real words mixed in for about two minutes, and then we have to tell him what real words we heard.

[New Mama] likes it when Henry calls me "Mama-ka."

[New Mama] hates it when Henry tries to get my attention when I'm on the computer by silently pushing the lever to lower my chair.

[New Mama] was coloring robots with Henry when he stopped to watch me work. I said, "Honey, are you going to finish yours?" and he replied, "No, I'm just mostly making sure you stay in the lines."

[New Mama] likes to use reverse psychology on Henry. So I shouldn't have been surprised last night when I was laying with him waiting for him to fall asleep, and he kept begging me to hand him his water bottle for "one more drink", and he finally said quietly, "Mom? You better not get that water before *I* do."

[New Mama]'s son is now pretending that he's a dirigible called "The Hindenburger."

[New Mama] just explained to Henry about earning the cat's trust so she would stop running from him even when he's trying to be kind. He replied, "I'll earn Venus's trust and then surprise her by being mean to her."

April 2010:

[New Mama] is getting a little weary of answering questions like, "What happens if your bladder explodes?" and "Why do they call it a 'penis' if pee AND sperm come out of it?"

[New Mama]'s son just found out that he's been drawing Jewish stars. Henry said, "Mom, I think we should become Jewish since I've been drawing Jewish stars." And then he got mad when I told him I didn't think that would be happening.

[New Mama]'s son just said to the cat, "Venus, I love you. Let's kiss."

[New Mama] recently explained to Henry what a GPS is and he's started pretending to be one in the car. Let's just say that if this is what GPS is really like, there's no way in hell I'm ever buying one.

[New Mama]'s son woke up this morning and asked, "Who's getting up with me?" I told him that I was and he said, "That's good news. I love you more than Daddy." Poor Daddy.

[New Mama]'s son just said, "Venus [our cat] is mostly made of purrs and meows."

[New Mama]'s son is constantly asking me to look up projects on the computer ("Mom, I want a project of a blimp! Mom, look up a project of a volcano!"). Just now he said, "I want a project of a project."

[New Mama]'s son has been SO sweet to me when I've been feeling yucky. I told him, "Henry, I really appreciate what good care you take of me when I'm not feeling well." He replied, "That's because...I love you!" Awwww...

[New Mama] just heard Henry say sternly to the cat, "I want more purring and less meowing."

[New Mama]'s son was just asked to clean up the living room. As he pushed everything against the walls, I said, "Why don't you put things where they belong instead?" He replied, "This is my way. If you don't like my way, don't ask."

[New Mama] adores that Henry says "Mom? I love you" constantly throughout the day and night.

[New Mama]'s son just had an accident and when I asked him why he didn't just poop when he was peeing on the toilet two minutes earlier, he said, "It's too hard to explain."

[New Mama] was singing "Skip to My Lou" (it's on a children's CD we have) and Henry said, "Are those the words? I thought it was 'hit the loop of hot garlic'."

May 2010:

[New Mama]: This morning Henry said, "My pajamas don't make any sense. They have astronauts floating in space, but they're not tethered to anything."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Vast and Endless Sea

If you want to build a ship, don’t divide the work and give orders; teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all.
-- Paul Simon, "Kodachrome"

Several weeks ago my husband ran into a co-worker and his wife. They're the parents of a two-year old boy, and they asked how old Henry was now and if he were in kindergarten. My husband told them that no, in fact, we're homeschooling. And not only that, but we're unschooling. (I'm not sure I would have added that part, as I’m learning that it’s often better to say as little about our unusual parenting choices as possible. But anyway...)

The couple were very interested in this and started peppering my husband with questions. Fair enough. It's probably a new concept for them, as it was for me not that long ago.

But the following Monday the co-worker met my husband as he came into work and followed him to his cubicle, where he had written on my husband's white board subject headings like "History," "Science" and "Math."

He proceeded to hammer my husband with questions like, "What happens when Henry turns 18 and doesn't know who Benjamin Franklin is?" and "What happens when Henry gets out into the real world and realizes that he didn't learn all the stuff that other people learned?"

I know the concept of unschooling (which some people prefer to call "child-led education" or "life learning") is difficult to grasp. On the surface it sounds like you just let your kids sit around all day doing nothing. Henry is only four-and-a-half, but so far this has not been our experience. It seems to take just one little observation on my part, or a page in a book, or something Henry sees outside our window for him to! He is constantly asking me to look things up on the internet, we are doing crafts related to topics of interest almost daily, and we are at the library once a week at a minimum (where we are, according to Henry, "fishing for knowledge").

Henry's latest passion is zeppelins and blimps. I'm 39 years old and I did not know the difference between them -- or that there even was a difference between them. But thanks to Henry's interest (and internet research and library books), we both now know that zeppelins (invented by Count Zeppelin of Germany) have a rigid structure and are filled with gas bags. They used to be powered by hydrogen, which proved too flammable (think Hindenberg), so they switched to helium. Blimps are inflated entirely with helium.

We watched a video on YouTube of a Goodyear blimp and Henry became so enamored of Kristin Davis, the pilot, that we sent her a letter (along with a drawing Henry made of a blimp). She wrote back and included some Goodyear pins, stickers and erasers. How cool is that?

So back to my husband's co-worker's questions.

First of all, I have no doubt that when Henry reaches adulthood he will know as much or possibly more about Ben Franklin than the average 18-year old. And if he doesn't? He’ll come across the name and look him up, if he’s interested. One common criticism of unschooling is that if children aren't made to study something, they'll never learn it. I would respond that if certain information is important to that child's life, he'll learn it, and if it's not important, why learn it at all?

In any case, it's amazing to me that people think that school curriculum somehow contains everything one needs to know. Do they not realize that what kids study in school is determined by groups such as the U.S. Department of Education and the local school district, who furthermore rely on textbook companies? Really, who is to say which bits of knowledge are the most important for kids to learn? By the very definition of the process of choosing, things are left out. Going to school does not ensure that you know everything you need to know to live a productive, happy life.

In my opinion, the purpose of education should not be to make people learn a list of facts, but to teach them how to learn. When Henry expresses an interest in a subject, we go to the computer to look up more information, we take books out of the library to read about it in depth, we contact people who might have experience with it (i.e., the blimp pilot), he makes art about it and he incorporates it into his play. Right now my job is to show him what resources are available and help him utilize them, but eventually he'll be able to do so on his own.

Second of all, Henry is in the real world right now. He's probably more squarely in the real world than kids his age who spend all day in school, an artificial environment in which kids are thrown together with twenty or more children all exactly the same age. Now we get together with a loose group of unschoolers consisting of kids much younger and much older than Henry, and we hope to become even more involved with the larger citywide group of homeschoolers in the future.

In addition, Henry has no problem talking to adults out in the "real world" (unlike me when I was a child). He's friends with the butcher at our food co-op, the children's librarians, the elderly neighbor two doors down and the clerks at Starbucks.

The more time that passes the more I'm convinced that this style of learning works. Henry is all the proof I need.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I promised in a previous post that I would introduce our cat, Venus. We adopted her from the humane society last summer. I had been on the lookout for a tiger-striped tabby, since I had one as a child and they're my favorite kind of cat.

Venus is probably the perfect cat for our family, which consists of someone who doesn't care for animals (my husband), someone who loves cats (me) and a four-year old boy. She's sweet-natured and likes to be around us, but she does not sit in our laps. Seriously. You know how with some cats, as soon as you sit down, they're in your lap, putting their butts in your face, and when you push them off they're back a minute later? Not Venus. She has never sat in my lap.

On the other hand, she is very affectionate. She rubs up against our legs, hangs out near me and Henry, flops down next to us and lets us pet her, and even sleeps under the blankets pressed against me at night.

Venus is actually the second cat we adopted in 2009. Very early in the year we brought home another tabby named Jasper but ended up returning him to the humane society a week later. I still feel guilty about this and blame myself for the poor timing.

It was in January, when I was attempting to leave Henry in the childcare at the health club. If you'll remember, it didn't go so well, and Henry became particularly clingy and needy. Jasper was shy and very young, and while Henry was intrigued by him he also started to yell at Jasper and chase him. In addition, Jasper had a few accidents and started to chew on some of Henry's toys.

I think if I had given it some time Jasper might have worked out, but it just didn't feel right. So I returned Jasper with a very heavy heart, certain that I had scarred my child for life.

Yet I still really wanted a cat. For some reason I think a pet makes a home feel warmer and I was hoping that Henry would grow to like animals as much as I do -- which is to say, not become a crazy animal person, but to appreciate and enjoy them.

And I think for the most part Henry does enjoy Venus. It's true that he vascillates between, "Go away Venus!" and "Oh, sweetie girl, I love you!" but I think that's normal for his age. At any rate, it's pretty much the way he talks to the humans in his family.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Henry Highlights

More Facebook postings. Deal with it.

From October:

[New Mama's] son had a good question at bedtime: "Why do they call him 'Sam-I-Am' if his name is Sam?"

[New Mama's] son asked for a second helping of oatmeal, saying, "It's so delicious, I just can't help myself!"

[New Mama's] son was waiting for her to finish eating lunch so she would play with him. After watching her take a second bowl of noodles, he said, "GOD, you're eating a lot."

[New Mama] loves it when Henry talks straight out of the Charlie & Lola books: "I absolutely and completely do not like this."

From November:

[New Mama's] son was mad at her today when he noticed she hadn't put the "right" pants on him, so he yelled, "You don't even know ANYTHING. You don't even know how to cook!" Ouch.

[New Mama] swears her four-year old is trying to drive her insane. He just said, "Mom" and when she said, "What, sweetie?" he screamed, "I'm not talking to you!"

[New Mama] just apologized to Henry for yelling at him earlier. He said, "It made me sad and made me feel like you weren't my friend anymore." I'm so proud of him for being to express himself so well, but I feel about *thisbig*.

[New Mama's] son just said, "Here comes a bear!" I said, "Oh no, please don't eat me," and he responded, "I won't eat you; I'm a chiropractor."

[New Mama] was trying to explain "stranger danger" to her son by role playing (what would you do if a stranger offered you candy or toy trains to come with them?). He listened quietly and then said, "Mom, you're playing outside when an alligator walks down the sidewalk and says, 'I have some gardening stuff for you if you come with me...'"

From December:

[New Mama] overheard her son playing just now, and he referred to something as "a pain in the buttcrack."

[New Mama] says you know your kid has old parents when he's playing trains on the floor and you hear him say things like, "I can't lean over like this too long because it hurts my back."

[New Mama] just had the following exchange with her four-year old:

Henry: Mommy, clean up the Lincoln Logs I'm not using so Venus (our cat) won't get them.
Me (starting to clean up): Wait, why am *I* cleaning them up?
Henry: Because I don't want to.

[New Mama] overheard the following exchange this morning:

Henry: There are different kinds of buffers for trains, Daddy.
Daddy: How do you know so much about trains?
Henry: I was born that way.
Daddy: I was there when you were born, and you didn't say ANYTHING about trains.
Henry: I didn't feel like sharing.

[New Mama's] husband was telling her about a scene from Inglourious Basterds in which a Nazi was interrogating a homeowner hiding Jews. When he finished, Henry said, "Now why would someone hide juice?"

From January:

[New Mama] just had to tell her four-year old, "No tongue." I thought those days were behind me.

[New Mama's] son wants to know what number comes before infinity. My head hurts.

[New Mama] was changing into a gown at the doctor's office when Henry said, "You look more pretty with your clothes on."

[New Mama] made a new cookie recipe today (oatmeal, coconut & chocolate chips) and as she and Henry were munching them she said, "These are pretty good!" Henry's response? "They're even better than poop!" Ah, four.

[New Mama] was listening to a Ralph's World song about monkeys with Henry when he said, "I would hate to be a monkey." When asked why, he replied, "Because I don't like to eat bananas."

From February:

[New Mama] was in the upstairs bathroom when she heard shrieking from the family room. She called down, "Henry, I'm upstairs!" and he replied, "I wasn't calling for you. I was pretending to be a washing machine that was overflowing."

[New Mama] asked her son this morning if he wanted her to cuff his too-long pants, or maybe for her to put his slippers on, and he said no thanks to both. Then he said, "I don't need any of those things. All I need is you."

[New Mama] recently read that Neil Young is a huge model train fan and that he set up a layout that his disabled adult son could control by himself. I shared this with Henry and now he has us playing "the singer and the kid in the wheelchair."

[New Mama's] son just said (prompted by an earlier conversation), "VENUS [our cat] is a carnivore!" Pause. "So why doesn't she eat US?"

[New Mama] heard her husband yawn loudly from the bedroom this morning and said to Henry, "I think I heard a bear! Or a monster!" Henry said, "That's just Daddy. Stop your nonsense."

[New Mama] took a break from playing with Henry to check Facebook just now. He crawled into my lap and said, "What happened? You were playing so nicely, and then you just stopped."

[New Mama] reports that this morning Henry is pretending to be a tiger. He says he lives in the zoo, but he's at my house because he's visiting all the people who don't get to the zoo very often.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What say?

Recently it occurred to me that a verbal tic Henry had when he was three and for a while when he was four had disappeared. And then I realized that I had never blogged about it. I meant to, because Henry's dad and I found it both maddening and endearing and I don't want to forget it.

For some reason, instead of asking, "What did you say?" Henry merely said, "What say?" And not only that, he had a habit of either not hearing or not understanding what we were telling him, so he would repeat "What say?" every time we said something. (His dad and I called it "getting 'what say-ed'".) For example:

Me: Henry, we're going to Grandma's today.
Henry: What say?
Me: I said we're going to Grandma's house.
Henry: WHAT say?
Me: We're going to Grandma's today.
Henry: What SAY?"
Me: Are you listening to me?
Henry: No.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Buzz Cut

For months and months Henry resisted our attempts to give him a haircut, saying he wanted his hair "as long as Mommy's." Honestly, I don't mind long hair on boys in general, but his was always in his face and it was becoming a collector of both food and snot. Lovely. This past weekend he finally consented to a haircut, and I cannot stop looking at him.