rivka: (Alex at five)
My favorite moment of the Halloween party technically came afterward, when the remaining kids were all running around outside and the remaining parents were relaxing.

Alex and her friend Benji came in and strode over to the bookshelf.

"Let's look in the dictionary," I heard her say. "We'll check in the I's."

"Alex, what are you doing?"

She looked up from the page that she and Benji were studying. Both of their faces were serious and intent. "I say it's invulnerable, but Benji says it's invincible."

...So they looked it up. I love so much that Alex has found friends like herself.
rivka: (Alex the queen)
Alex, apropos of absolutely nothing, on the way to school: What happens to the rest of the sperm?
Me: ...
Me: ...Oh, you mean after one joins with the egg to start growing a baby? The rest of them just kind of die and come out of the mom's body. They're so super tiny that you couldn't see them, though.
Alex: Can you smell them?
Me: No. (Semen has a smell, but not sperm. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)
Alex: Maybe, when a baby boy is nursing, the mom gives him the leftover sperm.
Me: No. The mom's body doesn't have any sperm to pass on.
Alex: What about when the baby was just born?
Me: Not even then. Even by the time the baby just starts to grow inside the mom, the leftover sperm is already gone.

She went on to ask a lot of very detailed questions about what sperm look like. And whether the first people were born from sperm and an egg. Not to mention monkeys. Where did this all come from?
rivka: (Alex the queen)
Alex: Why do we always do the same old thing? I want you to make me a fancy lunch.
Me: What did you have in mind?
Alex: A little pig that looks like it's alive and has an apple in its mouth.
Me: You're planning to eat an entire roast suckling pig for lunch?
Alex: Half. (beat) The front half.
rivka: (Alex the queen)
Some of you will have already seen this on my Facebook, but I had to share it here as well.

One of Alex's nursery school teachers occasionally has the kids tell her stories for her blog. She posted (with our permission) Alex's account of the universe yesterday. I really like it.

"The universe is made of tiny round cells and the magic is how our cells join together. There is nothing in the space between the cells. Then they bump together and get stuck together and it continues until they are tiny animals like jellyfish and plants.

The first people on Earth were made from apes. I came from my mom. My mom came from my grandmother. My grandmother came from my great grandmother. My great grandmother came from my great great grandmother and so it is for all of them. But my great great great great great great grandmother was an ape. But actually it’s really disgusting. We come from sperm.

I was born from my mom’s tummy in 2005. It felt… strange. I used to be in the darkness there and then I came out and it was so bright I screamed. I wanted to come back into the dark because I thought it was the light. I don’t want to go back now because I don’t need to be in the dark anymore.

When you die you just stay dead, you return to the dark. My babysitter thinks that when you die you become the trees or something. I think when you’re dead, you’re dead.

In the darkness of death, there are lots of stuff. My opinion is, that in the darkness of death everything is possible. It means you can do every single thing. But in the light of being alive you can only do a few things.

We are made of the stuff of the universe because we’re made of cells and cells are part of the universe. All cells are the same. One last thing I’m telling of, is that there is lots and lots of stuff.

My foot is starting to hurt.”

(She walks away)


I quoted the whole thing, which is not good blog etiquette, but I wanted to have a record of it in case she ever takes her blog down. Click through anyway to read other fascinating stories, like "The Love of Hearts When the Dinosaurs Were Made."

I really wonder how she elicits material like this from the kids. I recognize some of the source material from Alex's story - we've been reading a fantastic picture book about human evolution called Our Family Tree - but the metaphysical cast she put on it really startles me.
rivka: (chalice)
Yesterday afternoon, as we were on the way to the park, we had this conversation with Alex about religion:

Alex: You know what? Some people never ever hurt an animal or even step on an ant. Because that could be your dead relative!
Us: Oh yeah?
Alex: Yeah! Like, Nia [our current nanny, who is a Buddhist and a vegetarian] believes that. But I believe... heaven!
Me: Okay, what you believe is up to you.
Alex: Who believes in hell?
Michael: Some people. Not us.
Alex: But who? What people believe in hell?
Me: Well... Miss Polly did.
Alex: No, she didn't.
Me: She didn't?
Alex: No, she just believed in God and the Devil and God being mad if I didn't say my prayers.
Michael and me: give each other oh-shit-now-what looks, because we haven't heard this particular variation before.
Me (attempting a mild tone of voice): Huh. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Because doesn't God have bigger things to worry about than getting mad about what a little girl does or doesn't say?
Alex: She was NOT a Unitarian.
Michael: No, she wasn't.
Alex: And she was NOT a Universalist, either.
Me: Definitely not a Universalist.
Alex: Miss Polly doesn't go to our church.
Me: Nope. If she did, [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb would tell her that she's wrong.[1]
Alex and Michael: That's right.

I'm feeling kind of bad now because recently Alex has sometimes asked to "say my prayers" at bedtime. I figured it came from a book and didn't probe too deeply into her motivation, and so I prompted her through the less-creepy version of "Now I lay me down to sleep." (Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep. May angels guard me through the night and wake me with the morning's light.) But now I'm thinking... I should've asked questions.

The part about "She was NOT a Unitarian" makes me laugh, and also feel proud. Alex asked us a few weeks ago what "Universalist" meant, and together Michael and I were able to give her a pretty good explanation of Universalist theology and why we are Universalists. I would have a harder time explaining Unitarianism as a theological doctrine, because UUs have moved so far from the original or literal meaning of the term. But I do like that Alex has a clear sense of her religious identity, and understands that Polly's teachings are incompatible with our religion.

The bit about Nia is such a great contrast, because it's clear that (a) Nia has deeply held religious beliefs which our family does not share, and (b) she has discussed those beliefs with Alex, but (c) as indicated by Alex's words and cheerful demeanor (and her total love for Nia), she did it without the slightest implication that Alex should share her beliefs or that Alex's behavior is morally wrong.


[1] [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb would do so in a totally loving and nonjudgmental way.
rivka: (Alex the queen)
Me: (noticing the decapitated head of Snow White lying on the dining room table): Oh no, what happened to Snow White?
Alex: I was taking off her cape and her head came off.
Me: Poor Snow White!
Alex: It's okay. I'm having lots of fun with her head, pretending that she's Anne Boleyn and stuff.
rivka: (Alex the queen)
Alex brought me a sheet of paper and said proudly, "I wrote a story."

I looked at it.

alexs_story

"Would you tell me what it says?" I asked. And she narrated:

Everything is possible because of God.
What if God is everything? If God is everything, than everybody is everything.
Everybody is so familiar, because they're everything.
Everybody is sailing on one big spaceship through the air, and that spaceship is called the world.
And we should be perfect in the lights of the truth.
And all the children should get to play, and the grownups should get to play with them.

("It's turning into a song now," she said then, and finished up by singing.)

Everybody needs the world
The world is so happy.

"Can I share your story with my computer friends?" I asked. She nodded.
rivka: (Alex the queen)
It's bedtime. I tuck Alex in and reach for last night's bed companions: a stuffed mermaid and a doll named Everest.

"I don't want to sleep with them," Alex says. "They don't think a girl can get married to a girl. They think a girl can only marry a boy and a boy can only marry a girl." She picks up a tiny stuffed loon. "But Ducky believes that civil marriage is a civil right, so I'm letting him sleep here to honor him."

"...Okay," I said. "But I hope that Mermaid and Everest change their minds."

"They change their minds every day."

"Good."

...Tell me again where we draw the line between raising children with a strong sense of justice, and pushing our political opinions on our kids.
rivka: (Alex the queen)
Okay, I have to share this story.

Alex has been prancing around wanting to pretend to be a medieval royal family. (You know, as one does.) Her first suggestion: "We live in Texas." I explain to her that there were no kings and queens of Texas in the Middle Ages. "Okay, we live in Alaska." No, I explain, no kings and queens in Alaska then either.

"Well, where can I choose?"

"If you want to live in a castle during the Middle Ages, your best bet would be Europe. You could be in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany..."

"Wales!" She is delighted. "We live in Wales!"

I wonder if this is because of the association with [livejournal.com profile] papersky, but then she goes on to enlighten me. "Wales is where the biggest castles were!"

"It is?"

"Uh huh!"

"...Is that because whales are big?"

"Yeah!" Alex is pleased with my insight and common sense. She prances away to the china cabinet to choose appropriate stemware for a Welsh royal family.
rivka: (Alex the queen)
Alex: (apropos of nothing, but very authoritatively) Most people believe that Santa Claus comes in the door, even if there's a chimney.
Me: They do?
Alex: *Some* people believe that.
Me: (to Michael) Alex is going to be a blogger someday.
Alex: Why do some people believe that Santa Claus comes in the door, even if there's a chimney?
Me: That's better, but you're still begging the question. *Do* people believe that?
Alex: (again with authority): Yes.
Me: Who believes that?
Alex: Some people. People we don't know.
Michael: Yep, she's definitely ready for a blog.
[Michael and I trade snide comments about appropriate outlets for this level of rhetoric.]
Alex: Some people believe that Santa Claus has a key to every door in the world, and he uses that key to get in, even when there's a chimney.
Me: Are you making this argument only to demolish it?
Alex: What's demolish?
Me: Tear it apart.
Alex: What's tear it apart?
Me: Are you only saying this because you don't believe it and you want to say that those people are wrong?
Alex: (happy to be understood): Uh huh.

I tell you, she's going to fit right in with certain segments of the political blogosphere.
rivka: (I hate myself)
Alex had an epic tantrum tonight. As has been the pattern lately, it happened because - gasp! - I dared to impose some discipline.

She likes to help me cook. Rule #1 for being in the kitchen when I'm cooking is that she has to do what I say. This is in part a safety rule (hot pans, knives, etc.) and in part a protect-the-menu-from-random-additions rule. It's been in place for a long time. Violation means banishment from the kitchen.

Well, tonight I found her holding the refrigerator door wide open. "What are you doing?" "I'm letting the cold air out." I told her to close it. Once. Twice. It wasn't until I walked towards her that she closed it and scampered away.

I reminded her of the rule and expelled her from the kitchen. She stood in the dining room door and started to cry. I reminded her of the rule again. And then, oh, the variety of tactics that she tried...

Bargaining: "I'm going to listen to what you say! I really am! I'm telling the truth!"

Self-justification: "I was cooling off the house! I was doing something good!"

Blame: "You're not being very nice to me!"

Guilt, Part I: "I was having a good day, until you made me have a tantrum!"

Excuse: "But I didn't HEAR you tell me to shut the fridge!"

Rage: She went into the living room, stood about two feet away from Michael, who was holding a sleeping Colin, and screamed.

Guilt, Part II: Back in the kitchen doorway, she informed me, "You even made COLIN cry!" "Colin didn't cry because you yelled and woke him up?" "No! Colin is crying because you made ME cry!"

Atonement: "I'm really sorry! I'm really really ashamed of what I did!"

Shame: "YOU should feel ashamed of what you did!"

Guilt, Part III: "Well, you're not ACTING like you love me!"

Piteousness: When I asked if she wanted to wipe down the table, "That's a really big job for just one little girl!"

Eventually she calmed down. I had her come out to the garden and help me pick herbs for dinner, and that seemed to help. I spent some time cuddling her and holding her on my lap... outside the kitchen.

She wasn't totally done, though. After dinner she picked a leaflet off the bookshelf and handed it to Michael. "Dad, let's read this." It was a children's brochure from church, and it included a children's version of the Seven Principles. After he read that part, she marched over to me.

"Mom, did you hear that? 'All people should be treated fairly and with kindness!'" she lectured.

"Did you have something you wanted to say to me about that?"

"You didn't treat me kindly!"

I told her that there are times that I don't treat her kindly - that I yell or lose my temper, that I shouldn't do that, and that I try not to. And then I explained, carefully, that the application of mild and reasonable discipline does not constitute unkind treatment. I'm not sure she bought it.

But... wow. She remembered what was in that leaflet and arranged to have it read aloud in my hearing as an object lesson. So that I would remember to apply the Seven Principles to my treatment of her. If you put aside the ridiculous drama, that's... actually a remarkably sophisticated way of addressing the situation.

We are so doomed, you guys.
rivka: (alex age 3.5)
I'm sorry to totally spam you guys with Alex today, but she's really in full flower. I can't resist reporting this conversation with my daughter:

Alex: (singing) Jordan River is big and wide, Alleluia. Milk and honey on the other side, Alleluia. (speaking) Who put the milk and honey on the other side?
Me: (sifts through a bunch of potential allegorical answers and then picks the chickening-out one) I don't know.
Alex: Well, who do you *think* it was?
Me: I think in the song, it's supposed to be God.
Alex: I think it was pirates.
Me: Pirates?
Alex: Yeah, pirates. I think they stole the milk and honey from someone.
rivka: (Rivka & kids)
Alexism of the day:

Alex: If you lived in ancient Egypt, you'd really want to have a back windshield wiper.
Me: Why?
Alex: (in tone suggesting that she is too polite to preface her comment with "you idiot") Because it hardly ever RAINS in Egypt!
Me: ...
Me: ...Oh yeah. We don't need a back windshield wiper, because the rain washes our back window clean.
Alex: Yeah.

I really love the way this kid draws connections between things.

In other family news, Colin has found his feet. And his legs, which are also fun to hold. He is very, very, very pleased with himself.
rivka: (alex age 3.5)
Last night at the dinner table, Alex looked lovingly into my eyes and said, "Mom, when you die, a bunch of grownups can help, and we'll make you into a mummy."

What can you say in response to an offer like that? I decided to go with "Thank you."

Later on I remembered what I should have said.

"Alex, did you mean it when you said you would make me into a mummy when I die?"

"Uh huh."

"I don't want you to take my brain out through my nose."

She gave me the gentle but firm look that I gave her when she told me she didn't want to get her vaccines. "But that's how they do it."

End of discussion.

Marriage.

Jun. 7th, 2009 09:20 pm
rivka: (alex age 3.5)
Alex knows our position on marriage equality. We have a sign in our window that says Civil Marriage is a Civil Right, and after she asked us to explain the sign a couple of times she started to be able to explain it on her own.

"Some people think that boys should only marry girls and girls should only marry boys. But we don't believe that, right, Mom?"

Sometimes she will add a bit of her own, suggesting that maybe people who think that boys should only marry girls will come past our house, see our sign, and change their minds. I like her optimism.

A month or two ago, she asked me, "How come Zoe's mother and father have the same last name?" I explained, thinking how cool it was that, to Alex, that isn't the default.

But it turns out that when you're four years old it's hard to really get a grasp on the concept of marriage. Today, in the car coming home from the grocery store, Alex's little voice piped up:

"Some people think that you can only get married if you have the same last name. But we don't believe that, right, Mom?"
rivka: (Rivka & kids)
Me: Can I have six of your shrimp?
Alex: If you eat six of my shrimp, then I'll have none.
Me: And that's not okay?
Alex: No. (eats two shrimp.)
Me: Can I have four of your shrimp?
Alex: (fixing me with a clear, earnest gaze.) Mom, you should treat others the way you want to be treated. Would you like it if someone asked if they could have four of your shrimp?
Me: That does it. No more Sunday School for you.
rivka: (alex age 3.5)
Tonight Alex cried her eyes out because Edouard Laboulaye is dead.

We've been reading Lady Liberty: A Biography, which tells the story of the Statue of Liberty's conception, construction, financing, and installation in a series of first-person narratives. Laboulaye was a 19th-century French university professor who first had the idea that the French should comemmorate America's hundredth birthday with a monument.

There's a line towards the end where Bartholdi, the statue's sculptor, says he's sorry that Laboulaye didn't live to see their dream realized. Alex asked me why Laboulaye didn't live to see it, and I told her that he died while they were building the statue.

She burst into noisy sobs. "Ohhhhh, I'm so sad!"

"What's wrong?"

"I'm so sad that Laboulaye is DEAD!"

I thought she was putting me on, but genuine tears were pouring down her face. I made the mistake of trying to reason with her.

"But honey, the people in this book lived a very long time ago. More than a hundred years ago."

"Are..." her voice quavered. "Are most of them still alive?"

"No. They lived such a long long time ago that they're all dead now."

More howling sobs.

"Alex, most of them lived long lives, and they were so proud to see the statue they made. And the Statue of Liberty is still here, and people will always remember them when they see her."

"But I wanted to HUG them." She collapsed on the bed, still crying. "I never got to know them! I don't even REMEMBER them!"

It took forever to calm her down. It really seemed like genuine grief.
rivka: (alex age 3.5)
I should be in bed, but first I have to post about something happy to lift my spirits.

Alex decided to write a book this evening. pictures and elaboration below )
rivka: (Rivka & kids)
Colin update: We had him weighed yesterday, because our pediatrician likes to check breastfed babies' weights at one month. (Colin is five weeks old, but I figured the neurosurgery appointment was all the medical care we could stand for last week.)

If he had continued to gain about an ounce a day, he would've tipped the scales at 9 pounds, 8 ounces yesterday. Instead? TEN POUNDS. Over the last month, the boy has increased his weight by 25%.

I declare an official and permanent end to me being neurotic about whether nursing is working.

Also? Social smiles have appeared, and man are they awesome. All three of us have gotten big happy smiles from him in the last couple of days.

Alex update: Her behavior is pretty typical for a displaced formerly only child, which is to say that she's acting up a lot. Last night's festivities included the wholesale removal of books from her bedroom after she decided to throw them all to make a point about not wanting to go to bed. (How did "you can have a few paperbacks in bed to look at by nightlight" lead to the pile of twenty-three books she had next to her pillow and ready to throw? Because she's our child, that's how. Oh well, twenty-two of them are gone now. Pandora is just lucky that there was one under the blanket that she didn't notice when she was throwing them.)

On the other hand, she really floored me yesterday with a surprising bit of thoughtfulness. She's been invited to a birthday party on Sunday, and when we opened the invitation she told me "You can just drop me off." This is starting to be the age of drop-off playdates, and the party invitation specified that drop-offs were okay, so I figured maybe the birthday girl had mentioned this special big-kid possibility to Alex.

Then, in the car on our way home from buying a present, she told me: "Clara has a cat, Mom. That's why I planned for you to drop me off."

Aww. "Thank you, sweetie, but I'd be okay at the party as long as I don't touch the cat. So if you want me to stay, I can."

"You're allergic to cats, Mom," she said with finality. "That's why I planned for you to drop me off."

I am just amazed that she put that together. I've known plenty of adults who aren't that capable of forseeing problems that might exist for other people.

Rivka update: I pretty much rest and feed the baby, and watch TV. I am not very interesting right now. But! I am excited that the SUUSI catalog is out. It lets me dream of having a more interesting life months down the road.

And I'm looking forward to our trip to Montreal next month, which is really going to happen now because we have plane tickets and a hotel reservation and all of us now have passports in the works. (Mine had expired. Michael's was going to expire while we were in Montreal. The kids didn't have them. Getting our passports was an exciting and colorful experience which I hope never to repeat, although now I know an awesome way of getting passport photos for a newborn.)
rivka: (alex age 3.5)
The thing about conversations with Alex at almost-four is how quickly they can change from normal little-kid topics and silliness to big issues that I have no idea how to handle.

Alex: When my ear hurt at school, I was wearing my shirt with red and green apples.
Me: Oh, that's right, because remember what Dr. Fragetta said?
Alex: He said my ear was as red as my shirt.
Me: Yep. And he also said you had the reddest eardrum he'd seen all week.
Alex: How did Dr. Fragetta see my eardrum?
Me: Well, your eardrum isn't very far in, so it's easy for him to see it if he shines a light in there. That's why you have to be so careful not to put anything in your ear, because it might hurt your eardrum.
Alex: [quoting her teacher] You should never put anything in your ear that's smaller than your elbow.
Me: Should you put a pencil in your ear?
Alex: No!
Me: Should you put a crayon in your ear?
Alex: No!
Me: Should you put an ice cream cone in your ear?
Alex: N- ...It's bigger than your elbow, so you can.
Me: It's probably not a good idea, though, because you'd get ice cream all over your eardrum.
Alex: What if your eardrum was much too hot?
Me: That would only happen if you had a really high fever.
Alex: What if I had a really high fever and my eardrum was much too hot?
Me: I would give you some medicine to bring your fever down.
Alex: What if there was no medicine?
Me: But there is.
Alex: Some places, there is no medicine.
Me: [recognizing the reference] Is that from the book you read at school?
Alex: For Every Child, a Better World.
Me: The places where there isn't any medicine, that doesn't usually happen in our country.
Alex: Why?
Me: Because we live in a rich country that has a lot of resources, a lot of things and money and medicine and people who went to college to learn how to be doctors. Some other countries are poor and don't have as much of those things.
Alex: Maybe before you were born, there was a race for all the countries and our country won.
Me: I don't think that happened.
Alex: Then why is our country rich and other countries are poor?

...Go ahead. Tell me how you would answer that question in a way that is honest and yet age-appropriate for a four-year-old. It's not like there's a pop-up book of Guns, Germs, and Steel.

I told her that it was a hard question with a lot of answers. When pressed, I mentioned that since people first started living here the US has had a lot of natural resources, like good soil for farming and metals to make things from, and that meant that we could make a lot of things and have a lot of things. She asked for another reason, and I said that a lot of people want things that come from our country, like listening to our music and watching our movies and wanting to use good ideas that people in our country have had. She asked for another reason, and I mentioned that some countries are not rich because of bad things that are happening there, like if there is a war there and a lot of fighting it is hard for people to have jobs and make things, so those countries might be very poor. She stopped there and so I did too. My next example was going to be that people in rich countries have sometimes taken things from poor countries, and that makes it harder for those countries to get rich themselves.

But seriously, what would you say? If you had time to prepare, which I didn't?

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