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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

No Wonder I Take the Kids to Ikea So Often ... 

Your Inner European is Swedish!

Relaxed and peaceful.
You like to kick back and enjoy life.
Who's Your Inner European?


... although I'm sure Evelin would dispute the "relaxed" description. (via Transblawg)

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

All By Myself ... 

For the first time in a long time I'm all by myself, about a thousand miles away from Evelin and the girls — I'm in Orlando for my first tradeshow since Quinn was born. It's a very buttoned-down and conservative crowd here at the Orange County Convention Center ... except that the show I'm here isn't the only one this weekend. There's some tae kwan do (태권도/跆拳道) meet going on, a truckers' conference, and Megacon, which means there are a bunch of cosplay kids walking around intermixed with the suits.

My flight was at 6:35 a.m., so I ended up leaving the house around 3:15 a.m. to get to Dulles in time to park, catch the shuttle, and then queue. Of course, I had my usual no-fly "extra scrutiny," but I think I've figured out the best way to handle it: Make myself known as early as possible and carry my passport. I ended up getting my boarding pass in about the same amount of time as if I'd been a normal passenger in the normal line (based on when I saw the group of kids who'd been in line behind me getting up to the podium). The flight itself was pretty straightforward, and by 9:30 a.m., I was checking in to my motel and walking out to find something to eat.

This show, although mixed with some bursts of frenetic activity, is not as all-consuming as some, so hopefully I can use some of the downtime to dig some entries out of the backlog (backblog?) of things I haven't blogged of late ...

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Listen Closely [From the backblog] 

Last Saturday, as we were getting ready for B---'s third birthday party, Evelin had the idea that we should burn a CD of kids' tunes for him. Naturally, since B--- is German, most of the kids' music he has in German stuff; Evelin thought it might be fun to give him some English-language songs for him. Celeste was helping me pick songs, and she was insisting we put "the pig song" on the disc.

I had no idea what song she was talking about*, so I searched for "pig" on the hard disk that has all the music I've offloaded from CDs and/or acquired digitally.

Nothing promising popped up, but I was intrigued by the Gina Rocco and the Rockettes [ MySpace | label ] cut "Pigtails" from her album Sea Tulip, so I played it. Celeste was still on my lap, and at first I didn't notice how closely she was listening to the lyrics:
As she cut off her pigtails / Put them in a supermarket bag
Said, I don't care what you do with them / I just want to forget
Forget my hair / Forget that it was ever there
Forget, forget my hair

Then she walked past her shadow / Without even recognizing it
Said, There isn't anything to lose / And there's no where to hide
I cut my hair / Is there anyone under there?
Forget, forget my hair

As she cut off her pigtails / Put them in a supermarket bag
Said, I don't care what you do with them / I just want to forget
Forget my hair / Forget everything I was last year
Forget, forget my hair
Suddenly Celeste sort of quietly asked: "Why did she cut her hair?" Evelin's been talking to Celeste about getting a haircut on and off, so maybe that's why it stuck in her mind, but clearly she was listening to the lyrics quite closely.

This afternoon, I was playing her a cut from Gruff Rhys, "Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru" from the album Candylion. I told her to listen closely to the song, and she did, but it was obvious she was confused.

I explained to her that the song was in a language called Welsh, and reminded her how B--- and his family spoke German and how Ms. ხ--- spoke Georgian, and she nodded. I then tried to get her to focus on/isolate the word gyrru in the song (easy to do, since it's repeated quite often), and she nodded. I then told her that gyrru is the Welsh word for "driving" and that the song is all about buses and trains and transport. Upon hearing this, Celeste broke into a big smile and started liking the tune ...

*A week later, Evelin realized Celeste might have been thinking of "Pig Island" by Scott Bakula, from the Sandra Boyton CD Philadelphia Chickens.

Per an interview Gruff gave to BBC Wales: "There's a track called 'Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru,' which means 'Driving Driving Driving' — it's a road song. The lyrics are about transport, getting to A to B by rowing boat, or helicopter."

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Why We Won't Go to the Skating Party 

Each February, one of Evelin's uncles hosts a skating party, but we almost always cannot attend because of the Maryland–Massachusetts distance and February is a bad time of year work-wise for me. (I think the one and only one I've been to was when Evelin and I were dating and I was living in Northampton.) This year, however, Evelin had a new twist on our excuse for missing the party:
Wish we could come. However, it is much too far to drive, especially with children who won't wear hats, refuse to wear mittens, scoff at socks, just barely tolerate shoes, think that coats are for wussies, and cry because they are cold.
It's true: The girls hate coats.

Thinking of "hate" (the word, not the emotion), Celeste had been saying she hates things a lot lately and it really bugs me. It's usually in relation to food ("Celeste doesn't want [black beans/Veggie Burger/carrots/whatever]. Celeste hate it."), but sometimes she says it about people or toys or the park or whatever. When it first registered on me, I wondered where she picked up that word from — probably from a book, but Evelin and I both have caught ourselves saying we hate various things when, in truth, "hate" is a much stronger word than is warranted.

Initially, I tried to redirect her to a word like "loathe," in part because it's cute/funny to hear a toddler say she loathes something, but Evelin rightly noted that "loathe" is a pretty strong word when what Celeste really means is "dislike" (and often she doesn't even really mean that, she just doesn't want asparagus/jackfruit/apricots/whatever at the moment). So, we've been trying redirect her to "dislike."

It's been a week or two since the height of hating things, but I think we got the point to sink in. She still sometimes insists that she hates something, but more often she says she dislikes or doesn't want it. The really cute ones are when she catches herself about to say hate, pauses and then comes back with dislikes.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bribery 

This afternoon, we had a potty training breakthrough, or at least I hope we did. I was in the livingroom with Quinn, when Celeste came running in saying she needed to go potty. It was the first time she's directly asked to go to the bathroom without being prompted — and she wasn't joking she really did have to go.

Back when we started working on potty training, Celeste was content with stickers as a reward/inducement for going potty. Then it shifted to Hello Kitty stickers. And then, after a bad stretch of potty regression, she started getting chocolates — specifically, Hershey's Kissable. In a fit of disgust over the using food as a bribe, I tried to redirect her to stickers, including a bunch of dog stickers, with very little success. ("Celeste go peepee. Celeste want chocolate!)

And now the bathroom looks a bit like a booth at a carnival midway with high-value (to Celeste) Little People figurines, which are the reward for going number two entirely in the toilet. Celeste has a pretty strict hierarchy for her figures: the dogs, chickens and pigs ("Percy Piggy") are her favorites; they are granted access to her pink purse, to the "puppy house," can drive the bus, and Quinn isn't allowed to play with them. The rabbits ("Honey Bunny") are a close second tier — allowed everywhere, but don't have to always travel with everyone else. New additions are a cat and a bear; it remains to be seen where they end up, but right now they are both on at least the second tier.

At the very bottom are any and all human figurines. Just about the only person Celeste will bother with is Carlos the Bus Driver ... and that's usually just to give him to Quinn. The other animals vary between being loathed and being tolerated, but I have hopes that a few of the ones in the bathroom will prove intriguing, if nothing else.

I started building up our stock of Little People figures by scouring the local thrift stores. Even if only one of the guys in the bag is of value, it's worth the 60¢ to just toss the others in the toy chest. But that route is probably exhausted, at least in the short run.

Hopefully, Celeste will have the potty down within a few months (and that she buys my attempts to talk up the little dragon, kangaroo, stalk of corn, and other non-dog/pig/chicken figures), so I'm not having to spend too much time scouring eBay for lots like this one ...

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Bubbles in Baltimore 

After dropping my mother-in-law off at the airport this morning, I asked Celeste if she wanted to go home. She'd been a little down that we were just dropping M--- off curbside instead of going in to the airport and doing some planewatching, so it's not surprising she wasn't ready to head straight home — "Go somewhere," she said.

So I called Evelin to see how she and Quinn were doing and if she had any plans for the afternoon. Nothing was on tap, so Celeste and I headed north on the Baltimore–Washington Parkway. Pretty quickly, we were at the Inner Harbor and I was pointing out Camden Yards and urging her to yell out "Go Sox!"

Since we'd only planned to be dropping M--- off at BWI, neither Celeste nor I were really dressed for the weather (upper 30°Fs and windy). Luckily, I at least found a pair of socks for her in the T.R.U.C.K., so it was only a cold couple of blocks from the parking garage to the National Aquarium.

Celeste With the Bubbles Once inside the aquarium, Celeste — and a lot of other kids about her size — was immediately enamored with the big tubes of bubbles. She kept running back and forth from one tube to another, watching the bubbles. Once we made it into the main area, Celeste was fascinated with the cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus), southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana), and the big green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).

Since the aquarium was fairly crowded, we had to check Celeste's stroller, which meant I was carrying her much of the time. It worked out pretty well since the higher position gave her a better view into most of the enclosures/tanks, but I was worried whenever she'd get excited that she might end up going for a swim. It didn't help that about halfway through she started talking about going swimming. (Friday morning, Evelin took her to an indoor pool and they had a great time.)

We gradually made our way up to the top floor where we found Celeste's favorite exhibit (at least up to that point) — the puffins (Fratercula arctica). Back in September, I picked up a copy of Night of the Pufflings at the estate sale in Maine, and it's one of the books that Celeste has been reading a lot lately. She was quite excited to see puffins up close, and we got to talk about lundi (Icelandic for puffin) a lot and we went back to see them several times.

We continued through the rainforest and then down through the main tank. Celeste would run down the ramps and then sit along the rails to watch the fish for the first few levels, but as we got deeper and down to the sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) and other sharks, I was carrying her again.
Celeste in the Big TankCeleste in the Big TankCeleste in the Big Tank

We hadn't bought tickets to the dolphin show, but we did get to see part of it, at least the underwater side of it. Seeing a dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) jump is cool, but it's even cooler to see one zoom through the water, disappear above the surface and then plunge back into the water with a curtain of bubbles. Celeste also thought it was neat to see the dolphin's bellybutton when she swam close to the tank window.

After the dolphins, we had a snack and then headed into the Australian river gorge exhibit, something I've been wanting to see for three years now. It was pretty crowded, and Celeste was flagging, so we didn't get to go though it animal by animal like I might have wanted to, but it still was an impressive exhibit. A little smaller than I expected, but lots of interesting animals, including a couple of grey-headed flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) hanging from the ceiling.

We made a quick pass through the gift shop and the bubbles before heading back down I-95 to home. I was pretty sure Celeste would take a nap on the ride home, but she spent most of the ride reading Who Will Guide My Sleigh Tonight, which she found on the sale table. (Funnily enough, the author, Jerry Pallotta, is Celeste's second cousin.)

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