Amie’s airplanes drawing of 29 April 2007

I’ve added two more articles on the development of Amie’s drawings, the last one (no. 4 in the series) finally relating the “Breakthrough” I posted on earlier.

Here are all the installments so far:

  1. First Drawings of a Very Young Child: Amie at 16 months
  2. Circles, and Coloring Books (a Mistake?): Amie at 18 months
  3. NEW More Circles, Graphs, and post hoc naming: Amie at 18-19 months
  4. NEW Naming and Representation: Amie at 20 months

Also, don’t miss the growing list of Tips and Resources for Drawing with Very Young Children.

Compost Dreams Dashed

The vote is in and it’s a veto: the majority of the Trustees of our condominium have said no to our composting bin idea.

The first one was personally against it, the second one would dearly like to do it herself, but she knew many other residents would revolt. The third and last Trustee, well: that’s me.

It is true, we are already having trouble getting some to recycle their paper! Many others won’t even want to be educated on the topic. Also, we are composting neophytes, and there’s more than a chance that we will have stinky bin within a month of starting it.

So that got me dreaming about this place:

Photograph of small farm on river bend

I don’t remember where I got the photograph (looks like a newspaper), and I don’t know where it was taken, but it’s somewhere in Europe, possibly Belgium.

Wouldn’t you want to live there (I don’t mean in Europe, but on this farm)?

I’d be afraid Amie would fall into the river though… One more reason to teach her how to swim!

The Baby Tote

When I was pregnant with Amie, I often amused myself thinking up all kinds of ways to make the pregnancy easier on us.

For instance, later on in our pregnancies, when the weight begins to pull our spines out of allignment and our back muscles out of shape, when all those vital organs need to start moving over, and when any kind of comfortable sleep position becomes impossible… wouldn’t it be great if we could just whip out the uterus and stick it into a bag? 

I am thinking an ergonomical backpack, with handy sidepockets, but for the more fashion-conscious it could be an elegant totebag, and an Italian leather briefcase for the businesstype. Once our babies get really heavy, we could bring in little carts or carry-ons… We would take it with us wherever we go (of course), keep it in our laps while having lunch, stash it underneath our desks while working. And this is the clincher: at night, we could just park it underneath the bed!

Ok, I don’t know how it would work physically. I mean: what would giving birth be like? In any case, I think it’s one of my brighter ideas and I’ve suggested it to Nature, and hopefully she has passed it on to Evolution. Women (maybe even men) of the distant future, you’re welcome!

The Fetus Fone

Another innovation was the Fetus Fone. In all honesty, I think I have to credit Amie with that idea. I made a little comic about it at the time:

Comic of Fetus calling Mama

If I had to choose, I would opt for the phone. Not for the fresh insights on Kant and the nature of space and time, but because of the only scary moment in my pregnancy.

One blistering hot summer morning  in the eigth month I rushed into my midwife’s practice, barely on time (I abhor being late; it stresses me out). When the midwife put the Doppler against my swollen belly, even I realized Amie’s heart rate was way too high. The midwife asked me if I had drunk any water yet, andI admitted I hadn’t. Five minutes after I sipped some icewater, Amie had calmed down.

All she wanted was a sip of water!

A Fetus Fone would have saved all of us a great deal of worry. I think I might take a patent on the idea (hey, people are trying to patent turmeric!), and I’d better also reserve the Fetus Fone TM, and the domain.

Gotto go, got work to do…

Amie’s Drawing of 18 April 2007

Amie, 28 April 2007

Breakthrough! 

I think Amie has made (or is in the midst of making) a breakthrough in her drawing. I happened to catch it on video, and may try to find a way to share that clip with you (at present that is beyond my technical skills). 

It has prompted me to start writing a series of articles about the development of Amie’s drawings (so far). The first two installments can be found here:

  1. First Drawings of a Very Young Child: Amie at 16 months 
  2. Circles and Coloring Books: Amie at 18 months

Also don’t miss a (growing) collection of Tips and Resources for Drawing With Very Young Children.

The first series will document the development of Amie’s drawings from age 16 months to 20 months (December 2006 – April 2007). 

Amie’s drawings serve as examples of the typical development of drawing in very young children. I touch upon the theory of art development in children, but there isn’t much available about this very early stage at the end of the second  and beginning of the third year.

And I know, I know! If I keep calling every minute change in my daughter’s drawing skills a “breakthrough,” the word won’t have any meaning soon. But I really think she made making progress that is not continuous: a leap, in other words. True, a small one, but visible, significant perhaps… Someone, a specialist, help me out here!

Comic strip experiment

This is an experiment. On a Previous Blog I published a comic strip once in a while to illustrate the funnier side of our life. It was the (only?) part of the Previous Blog that most of my readers liked. I hope to make more of them and publish them here. The biggest problem will be to portray Amie – as you can see, I am not very good at drawing.

Recycling background

Before our Town of Brookline made it obligatory, our condominium didn’t have recycling. Everything went into the trash, a.ka., landfill (since also the private haulers were not obligated to recycle). It was a thorn in our eye, and the only way to extract it was to do something about it.

So we bought a couple of bins, set them up in the basement, and spread the word. I would guess about half of our residents contributed. Every two weeks my husband and I would stuff a bunch of large trashbags heavy with glossy magazines and leaking rotten food and juice into the back of our station wagon and haul it to the recycling center.

That’s where this particular comic strip comes from.

Comic Strip of Bol and Bol and the Environment

He can be quite cheeky, but obviously he doesn’t really consider his obligation to the environment fulfilled. But I still don’t know what he meant, and he has always maintained that he doesn’t remember ever having said that. It’s also very strange for me to post this comic, as it was drawn before Amie was in the picture…

First weeks at daycare

A dear friend, whose daughter was born a month after Amie and is Amie’s only playdate buddy (I’m not exactly the gregarious type), just survived their first week of daycare.

The first week (for some, the second and third, too) of daycare is awash with waves of despair, glimmers of hope, heartwrenching goodbyes (“I will be back”) and tearful reunions. Our own first weeks, now 4 months ago, are still clear in my mind, and I should write about them soon.

Surprise!

But I want to remark on my friends’ amazement and confusion when she went to pick up her daughter at the end of the third day. Her daughter was climbing (backwards) down the stairs, by herself!

I remember well a similar experience we had. In the third week, we were having dinner one evening after daycare (Amie only goes three days a week). Baba and I were chatting, and Amie was doing a good job feeding herself. Suddenly she looked up from her bowl and said:

“Happy birthday” (sounding something like /happy b-IR-d-day/)

That got our attention – as did and does everything she says and does, by the way. The last time that we knew of that she heard the word “birthday” was at her birthday party five months ago. She must have heard it more recently, but where? Seeing our puzzled faces, she repeated it:

“Happy birthday, Laura.” (/Lauwaah/)

Laura is her lovely daycare provider. Then I remembered, yes, it was Laura’s birthday. It had been mentioned a couple of times last week.

Amie,  clearly encouraged by our insistant requests for confirmation and explanation (like we’re absolute idiots needing everything to be repeated back to us at least five times), piped up:

Cake!” (/kick/) 

And for good measure:

“Laura – happy birthday – cake!”

Again I could corroborate: when dropping Amie off that morning, I had seen a big cakebox. But it was she, Amie, the 17-month-old, who put two and two together.

And so here was, telling us a story about something that had happened. Before, all her chatter had consisted of descriptions of present situations, wishes (commands) and feelings. Now she thought back to the past, and related it to us. What a leap!

Shock!

But when I analyzed the experience later, I realized there was something else that made it all the more intense, and complex:

  • She had told us about something that she had experienced without/no thanks to us.
  • This proved that she is, in fact, a person outside of her home.

Many of you, reading this, may laugh. Perhaps you were never that naive, perhaps you were but have forgotten, perhaps you are like Amie’s Baba, who is wholly immune to such subtleties of emotive analysis… But for me, it was a profoundly disconcerting realization.

I analyzed that big blob of mother-emotion into these elements (there might be more, I’m still working on it):

  1. happy amazement, because she was doing something we hadn’t thought she could do,
  2. pride, that she can do it,
  3. confusion/alienation, because now there is suddenly a side to our child that we are not familiar with,
  4. fear, because it is confirmed now, something we always knew: she is exposed to experiences that we can’t control.

Growing up 

Of course I will realize it again and again, and after a while the novelty and shock of it will wear off. I will start to relish those stories, as they get clearer and more elaborate, and I will no longer be taken aback.

Then a day will come when her experience, and her story (which I do hope she will tell me) , will be so shocking (being bullied at school?) or wonderful (falling in love?), that I will realize it again: my daughter is her own self. A small self, at the moment, but growing, swelling with experiences of which I am not a part. She’s not even two, but she is already growing up.

(That’s rather soppy, I know, and so trite! I assure you am more the cool-analysis-of-my-fuzzy-warm-feelings  type. But this ending is where the post took me. Go figure!)

An organic list

I’m still sniffing, coughing and my ears are still ringing, but while Amie naps, I can quickly announce the following (though I really should be cleaning up the kitchen…):

In a previous post I started the “WHAT WE DO” list: a list of small life-style changes that I feel really do make a difference to the size of your footprint on the earth, so that the future of our daughter and her contemporaries will be a little bit safer, healthier.

Since publishing that post, I have been going back several times to add items. Needless to say, that is not the way blog posts work. So I’ve decided to make a special article: let’s call it an “organic article”. An “organic article” is one that grows “naturally” along with life and life’s changing circumstances.

It’s your list too

If you have any suggestions for the list, comment or email me. Remember, the point is that each change is feasible within our circumstances (the circumstances of a family of 3 living in a basement apartment in the suburbs – no garden).

The more items on the list, the more it will become clear that many small changes can make a big one!

Why only “small changes”?

About keeping it “small”, I agree with this post by Liz on the Pocket Farm blog, about Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man. I have been following No Impact Man, off and on, and while I was amused and once in a while impressed by his achievements, I also had reservations aobut the project.

In her post, Liz puts her finger on the source of my misgivings. In the “finally” section of the post, she writes:

My point is that we approached our current lifestyle gradually, as a lifestyle change, not as a diet.

In the end, that’s why I just can’t get behind the No Impact Man experiment. By taking on so much at once, and radically changing his lifestyle so dramatically, it will become difficult to sustain. His is simply the lifestyle equivalent of the crash diet, and it’s well known that, in the long term, crash diets don’t work. When he fails (which I think at some point he will), the mainstream will be all too quick to chalk his failure up as to be expected: “See? Living sustainably in the modern world is too hard, it’s beyond the scope of the average American, and therefore you shouldn’t even try”. […]

This post is just a (very) long way of saying that I think it’s possible to be too extreme. What do you think? Does a radical experiment like Colin Beavan’s help to persuade anyone to live a more environmentally friendly life? Does it belittle the real, sustained efforts that many of you are already making? Does it scare other people away from making any real change in their lives because they feel their efforts may not “measure up”?

Please head over to Liz’s to comment and discuss! It touches upon the heart of the matter, the question of our times: “how much is enough?” To which I would reply: “Do your (very very) best, and it will be enough”.

And visit the Organic WHAT WE DO list to add some of your own suggestions!

Amie had a mild pneumonia a month-and-a-half back, and she has been suffering from a little cough even since she recovered. On Thursday night the cough grew worse, her nose started running, by Friday morning we were at the pediatrician’s listening to scary words like ASTHMA and STEROIDS, and by Friday evening we were in the Children’s Hospital ER.

It’s not too bad: Amie’s on the Albuterol again (third box), and the steroids of course (the mention of which still makes me shiver).  But so be it…

I’m coming down with something too. I guess this is the one – and only (in my eyes) – drawback of co-sleeping: you catch one another’s germs more easily. Though I doubt I would still be healthy even if she slept in a room at the other side of our huge mansion.

So this is all to say that I might not be posting over the next couple of days. And I was just on a roll!

Amie’s crayon drawing 20 months old - 27 april 2007

Amie drew this yesterday. Look at those eye-catching lines, whorls and scribbles! The explosion of colors! The harmony between the minuscule and the grand!

What I want to do here

Aren’t I a proud Mama! I can’t believe I am posting my daughter’s drawings. But I am hoping that it is in keeping with the aims of this website, which is

  • to tell riveting stories (and isn’t this drawing just that!)
  • that are personal, ingenuous and fresh,
  • but also interesting and relevant to others because they are recognizable

and

  • to connect the generalizable to findings in scientific research and to general opinion.

Or, to put it the other way around, to give an example

  • of how (some/many/all) parents raise their children and
  • of how (some/many/all) children act, play, throw tantrums, talk, feel, and draw…

And what better example is available to me than my own child, my own parenting?

A child among many other children

Amie drawings, for instance. I sometimes find myself scouring the internet, looking for drawings by other 18/19/20-month-olds. I am a regular at Maisy’s Funclub Gallery, where I spend hours studying the colorings of other children Amie’s age.

It’s not because I feel that my child is in competition with other children, and I don’t even do (a lot of) comparing. I have always tried to keep considersations of whether she is “advanced” or “behind” at bay – what can it mean, anyway, to be advanced at 20 months of age?

But I do want to see my child as a child among many others. She has a place in a community of children. And I want to get to know that community. To that effect I “check them out”.

Digests

I’m an academic and the kind of person who seeks out research on whatever it is that I am doing, and on what Amie is doing. The fascinating development of Amie’s language(s), for instance, has prompted me to investigate language development in children generally. I am sure there are parents out there who would like to know what is going on when their kid’s vocabulary suddenly explodes, or when they start saying things like “I am clean up-ing!”

So to my anecdotal blog posts I am hoping to attach articles digesting

  • the latest findings by scientists, psycholigists, etc.,
  • as well as general/political opinion on current issues.

The way I see it, I have the time and the resources to investigate these issues, and I do so anyway, so why not share them likewise curious, but time-strapped parents?

Upcoming blog entries and articles

So, soon to come (in order of likely appearance – I sort of lied (to myself) about having the time):

  • a story about Amie’s language(s) and an article on the language development at the end of the second year (the so-called transition from speech to language)
  • an article on the need for child’s play and recess (there’s a lot of to-do about this at present)
  • an article on the development of children’s drawings (from tactile to visual, etc.)