Friday, December 29, 2006


One day, banging mightily upon her xylophone, Isabelle began singing off-key at the top of lungs:

There was a baby Jesus
Oh my Lord, Oh my Lord,
Way down in Bethlehem

A few days later, at Grandma & Grandpa's, banging mightily upon the piano, she improvised a new song:

Baby Jesus went to a scary place
And it was very dangerous
And it was too scary for Baby Jesus
To stay there at night
But she stayed there
And there was a scary lion
Who tried to eat her

Different twist on the Christmas story. I thought it worth preserving.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A first Christmas pageant

Isabelle's Montessori school had a Christmas pageant! Not what I was expecting. They had a singing bit at the party today, including "Deck the Halls," a Channukah song, and something about a Frosty Winter. (This is second hand.) That was what I expected. The only "Christmas" songs conspicuously not Christian, and then a Jewish song for balance. But then came the Christmas pageant, and it was the story about Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus looking for room in the Inn. (Had a little problem with the chronology here, but hey, close enough.)

The kids playing Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus walked around to the other kids and asked them if there was room at the Inn. All the Innkeepers said, "No." Apparently, our own Isabelle couldn't bring herself to turn the family away, repeatedly saying "Sure, you can stay here" during rehearsals. So Isabelle got the starring role, as the animals in the stable!

I'm so proud of my stubborn little actress.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Letters to Santa

Isabelle wrote her first letter to Santa, with her first squiggle writing. Previously, she has written messages (most notably, "Help, Piglet, Me.") but they were little distinquished from her drawings. These have the distinctive formation of lines of text. She wanted to stamp it, and Carrie had the brilliant idea of using the "penny stamps," which have the satisfaction of being "real" and probably cost less than play stamps.

What you see above is the address line, of course. The text inside, I am told, reads as follows:
"Dear Santa, I love you so much, and I want you to bring me candy and presents."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Isabelle sez

The following appeared in the Montessori school newsletter, attributed to an unnamed three year-old I think I can name:

"I'm painting a beautiful shark. Sharks are mean. They have bad table manners."
Then there are the identities of her rubber duckies. For a long time I've referred to our household as "Brian's House of Girls," because I've been the only male mammal living in it (not counting the shrews in the basement) since Chris (Carrie's last male guinea pig) died in Boston. Isabelle's ducks keep up the tradition.

"This is the Baby duck, the Daddy duck, the Aunt Tammy duck, the Mommy duck, and the other Mommy duck."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Isabelle Poetry

The grapes are falling from the sky
Like raindrops
On a stick.

--Isabelle H. R. Wightman (composed while waving about a small bunch of green grapes)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Guiding drawing with Isabelle

So I drew a silly, scary face on a piece of paper, and Isabelle said it needed a chin. I added a chin. She said it needed a top, and drew it on. Guided drawing was born. The one in the upper right is the original. The circles around it are ears. The smiley face next to it I did the facial features, she completed. Over on the left, I drew the bodies and she drew the faces, with eyes, hair, and ears (top only). The upper one is Mommy. The lower is Daddy. "And heres a curl, and another curl, and another curl, and another curl."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Spelling, names, and school reform

Well, that Montessori School may be a liberal education, but Isabelle is learning some facts at an impressive rate. With only two months of schooling under her belt, she has learned the days of the week (at least Wednesday-Saturday), the months of the year (except November), several adorable songs, and now she is learning phonics! The other day she surprised me with "O. O is for Owen."

Knowing that Montessori was teaching phonics ahead of letter names, I asked after the sound "j," and she told me "j" was for "Jonathon." So we are having lots of fun now with letter sounds and people's names, although "b" is for "Brian" but "d" is for "Daddy" is still a challenge--an inconvenient overlap that I shouldn't have called attention to, did it by accident, momentarily forgetting my name. Hey, I have three of them. I'm "Brian" in the teacher's lounge, "Mr. Wightman" in the classroom, and "Daddy" at home.

Speaking of which, I've finally figured out where I stand on names. I've decided that it is the place, rather than the title. The school rules ask you to address teachers by their last name, that is school culture and it is respectful of people to address them as they wish to be addressed. Personally, I prefer my first name, but I don't wish to oppose the school culture. Outside of school I will happily answer to either name. Moreover, I will try to address you as you like to be addressed. I think it's a happy truce. There are arguments on both sides for the proper address of teachers, and it's not on my school reform list.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Lorax, the Oncler, and Isabelle

Isabelle got The Lorax for her birthday. Actually two copies of it. One of Mom and Dad's favorite books. We can't read it without getting all weapy eyed. Something about the last bit, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. No really, it's not." When I was a kid I took that line very personally. And now the "Unless" is being passed down to a new generation, because my generation failed.

Isabelle loves The Lorax. The problem is, I think she likes the Oncler better. He's got all those fancy construction vehicles, after all. Cranes, and cars, and machines. What fun! She's running around the house right now with a necklace of beads, exclaming in a loud voice, "I'm knitting a Thneed!"

Of course, this is the same girl who, at a party last summer, ran out into the woods in my professor's back yard and shouted. "I'm in the woods! Walking on leaves! Under the trees!" So there's got to be some Lorax in her too.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Preschool, Stair Gates, and Vocabulary

They say that children are wired to slowly shed their need of Mommy and Daddy. As they grow, they get more confident going further away, until one day they are grown and as independent as anyone ever is.

They say that parents, unfortunately, are not wired with a complimentary shedding of their need to be Mommy and Daddy. Kathleen Poole, the teacher at Isabelle's Montessori Preschool, say she has more trouble with parents letting their babies go than with babies wanting their mommies.

So, yes, Isabelle started preschool. Each little milestone is great excitement for me, but they are also a little bit sad. There is little of her babyhood left. The stair gates are down (except for the basement and steep back stairs). The locks are off the kitchen cupboards (though not the medicine chest). She only wears diapers when she sleeps, and hasn't had an accident in weeks.

And then there's her vocabulary. To date, her language is all recognizable to me. She has certain phrases I recognize from books or movies or quirks of ours. Words she's made up on certain occasions ("color storm" for "fireworks"). She's made them her own, but they came from me or Carrie or things we picked out.

The other day I was cooking, and she wanted to see what I was doing. Sshe said, "I want you to bring your work right here." It's a Montessori phrase. What a child is doing, be it a picture, a puzzle, or a stack of tinker toys is her "work," her labor and creation.

There's something intimate about language. Something that links deeply with thought and identity. Someone else's language is now going into her language. A little part of her is growing without us, already.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Isabelle Art

More Art from my littlest artist.

She seems to be using color more deliberately now. This one on left you can see she's segregated her colors, having defined areas of various mixes. You can also see she's drawn a line using three different colors.

In this one she's chosen a limited palette, mostly blues. I think it looks like a crashing ocean.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Big Girl

[Caution: graphic content]

Well, we've made the plunge.

As in, toilet plunger.

Isabelle is wearing big girl underpants.

We're not out of the woods by any stretch, but she's only having about a mistake a day. Contrary to my expectations, she's doing quite well at peeing in the potty, but having more trouble with poop.

So the other day I come upstairs, and I hear an excited girl, crowing, "These fit me! These fit me!"

I come around the corner, and there's my big girl, naked from the waist down, waving her underpants over her head like the victor in "Capture-the-Flag."

[that's it for graphic content, sorry if I disappointed anyone]

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Isabelle Can Spell (sort of)

And her first word is... not her name, but "rescue." As in "Rescue Aid Society." She's been running around the house singing at the top of her lungs the theme song from the old Disney movie, The Rescuers:

"R -- E -- S -- C -- U -- V"

Okay, so she won't pass any spelling bees with that, but I think it's a good first effort!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Worst Night Possible

There are nightmares and then there are nightmares. August 4, 2006. Stomach flu. Projectile vomitting. All three of us.

It goes like this. Carrie tucks Isabelle into bed, comes back and lies down. Isabelle cries for a drink of water. Brian gets up to give it to her and winds up in the bathroom puking instead. So Carrie gets up to give it to her and winds up in the kitchen puking. Isabelle gets her water, we get back to bed. Woops. Isabelle's turn. All over her bed, again. So weak we can hardly stand, but we had to get her up, wash her, get her changed, change the sheets on her bed, put them in the laundry. All the while Isabelle is howling because she's sick and exhausted and wants to go back to bed but has to wait until we get the clean sheats on it. Back to bed. Woops, our turn to puke again. We only had two pairs of sheets for Isabelle's bed, but we changed them three times. It would have been four, but once I succeeded in getting her to puke in the bucket.

All night long.

But wait, there's more! Not only were we all puking, but the cat was, too. Every time Carrie went downstairs to puke or do laundry, she stepped in it. In her bare feet, of course.

Did I mention that that evening, knowing that Isabelle was feeling queazy, we had bought of 12-pack of ginger ale? The cheap box broke open and the cans rolled out and exploded on the kitchen floor, six of them, spraying soda on all four walls and the ceiling and every surface in between.

The next day went like this:
11:00 get up. eat crackers and sip ginger ale
11:30 Watch the Rescuers
2:00 go back to bed
5:00 get up. eat crackers and sip ginger ale
6:00 Watch the Rescuers again
8:00 go back to bed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Isabelle's Art

I've been watching and admiring Isabelle's art skills maturing, and decided it was time to document them. Her first pictures were back and forth scribbles in one corner of the page. Then, she sought to cover more of the page in straight, back-and-forth scribbles. Later, she added circular scribbles, and then dots, to her artistic repertoire. This summer she has just begun giving names to her compositions, and they have begun to have resemblences to their subjects.

Isabelle, as I have mentioned, is into the movie Cars. This car, probably a fire truck, because of the blocky shape, has a clear pair of eyes and a mouth, as well as suggestions of wheels.

I'm not sure where the spider is, but I suspect its in the darker squiggle. This may be an interpretation of a scene in the movie The Rescuers, in which a spider weaves a web in a swamp to catch a dragonfly. I may possibly have the picture upside down, I'm not sure.

"A Grounding Wire." One of Isabelle's latest fascinations. We discovered them on telephone poles, now we look for them on houses. The yellow may represent our yellow house.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Isabelle has a genetic disease

Friends, it is sad but true. Isabelle has inherited a genetic disease. It's her Mother's fault. No one in my family carries this gene. She got it from her father, and Isabelle got it from her. All indications are that it is incurable, will cost a lot of money to treat, and will affect her the rest of her life.

She's a collector. It made be some time before the effect of the disease is clear. Carrie, you may know, exhibits this principally by an irrational desire to build new shelving systems to cover every available wall surface in display space for model horses. Although we do have our bedroom bureaus covered with Lord of the Rings merchendising. I hear tell the disease doesn't necessarily fix its symptoms in children this young. Right now it is model cars. Cars cars, as in cars from the Pixar movie Cars, which she has seen twice in the theater and loves.

It happened like this. Carrie found a "Lightning McQueen" car in a cereal box at work. She thought how Isabelle liked the movie, so she brought it home. Isabelle loved it, and said she needed another car. Unable to resist, we bought her Lightning's best friend, "Mater." Isabelle looked at the pictures on the box and said, "Want to get them all."

The diagnosis was confirmed when we noticed that, rather than play with the cars, at first she just wanted to line them up and look at them.

So now her idea of a good time is to go to the toy store and look to see if there are any new cars in. As of this writing, she has, in addition to Lightning and Mater, Sally, Doc Hudson, Ramone, Filmore, Red, Stanley, Luigi, and Wingo. Wingo, however, is in a different scale, which bothers her, and she wants to get one that is smaller. We, the indulgent parents that we are, have squirreled away Flo, a second Ramone in an alternate color, Guido, a tractor, and a second Luigi who came with Guido for birthday presents.

Oh well. At least she plays with them, now.

Monday, June 19, 2006

You know you're getting old when

So when Isabelle was born she received a copy of the Harper Collins Collection of Classic Picture Books for children. I was delighted to see old favorites, such as Harold and the Purple Crayon and Hats for Sale. Most of them I didn't recognize, however.

Put the book aside for when she was ready for such tales. Got it out the other day, now that she is ready for the concept of more than one story in a book. She loves pointing to the various pictures of the book covers around the edge of the volume -- "I read... THAT one."

Discovered that, apart from Harold and Hats and a couple others from the 40's, all of these "classic" stories are younger than I am. Several of them were not yet written when I graduated from high school. I think young parents are supposed to be younger than we are.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Wisdom of Isabelle

What does the duck say?


What does the horse say?


What does the cat say?

"Please please can I go outside."

(No, I do not make these up!)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Skill Developments

The life of a toddler is filled with challenges and opportunities to learn. We do more learning between 1 and 3 than anyone does earning their Ph. D., arguably more than anyone does in their entire school career. Well, Isabelle just demonstrated another new skill.

This morning she asked to bring her travel seat downstairs to sit in at breakfast, instead of her regular booster seat. I said "yes." No harm in it, let the toddler exercise her desires. We brought it down and had breakfast while Carrie slept in (because of an unusual dose of the usual problem: a toddler who got up 10 times between 12:00 and 2:00 looking for cuddles).

About 9:00 Carrie got up and went downstairs with Isabelle while I went upstairs to study. Isabelle puts her hand on her travel seat, and says, "Mommy said 'no.' Daddy said 'yes.' I asked Daddy. Nice Daddy."

Now that she has learning how to split, I'm thinking of getting a woodstove.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Of daikon and diapers

So the other day was "otaku night." For the uniformed 98% of the world, an "otaku" is a fan of Japanese animation (known as "anime"). For otaku night, our friend Michelle was making sushi and mochi, and we could not possibly be shown up. So we made teriyaki tuna, miso, and... oshinko. Oshinko are Japanese pickles. If you've been to a Japanese restaraunt, and ordered pickles, you've probably got a plate of brightly colored, unrecognizable vegetable shapes. The bright yellow half-moons are daikon, a kind of radish, and that is what we sought to pickle. Now making pickles involves several things: the right kind of brine, a few days for the item to sit and soak in it, and a tolerance for the smell. It doesn't matter if it's kosher dills, saurkraut, kimchee, or oshinko, pickles stink. Somewhere between low tide and untreated sewage.

"What's that smell, Mama?" our daughter asked, every time the refrigerator door opened and the cloud of aroma filled the kitchen.

"It's the pickles, honey."

The next day, Isabelle was noted with that far-away look in her eye. Carrie, as many a mother would do, bent down and sniffed her diaper.

"Do you have a poop in your pants?"

"No, Mama. It's the pickles."


PS: Unbelievably, the pickles were delicious.

Television and Vocabulary

TV is not all bad, believe it or not. At least, if you watch it on DVD without the commericals. For one, it makes a fine babysitter. (oo, naughty, naughty parents!) Each evening, after dinner, she sits down to Winnie the Pooh, and Mom and Dad are able to wash dishes, pay bills, and take out the compost with the efficiency of childless people.

It also has improved our daughter's vocabulary, in ways exactly opposite to its reputation. Although she knows all the colorful words her parents injudiciously use ("Why does Daddy say 'Oh, shit'?"), she's much more liklely to say "Oh bother!"

It's also developed her story play. Mom and Dad encourage her to read a variety of books, but the television has plenty of patience for the 207th iteration of "Piglet breaks the balloon." Since Pooh has become a staple, her little fingers have climbed several honey trees, her bonzos (big stuffed flowers) have become umbrellas ("tut tut, it looks like rain"), and her toy figures get "stuck" in all kinds of places.

Everything has a downside, though, and TV is no exeception. Little Roo has renamed Carrie. She's no longer "Mommy." Now she's "Ma Ma."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Parenting and Microbrewers

It had to happen. Isabelle saw Mommy and Daddy drinking a beer, and asked to taste it. Now, we knew how to deal with this. We remembered how our parents dealt with it. Kid asks to taste beer, you say, "sure." Kid tastes it, makes a face, never asks again (until she's a teenager, of course). So we let Isabelle dip her finger in, lick it off.


"You like it?" we asked.


On reflection, it occured to us, when we were children, our parents drank Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon. We probably let Isabelle taste a peach Magic Hat #9. Right.

So we're back to the old rule. "Just for Mommys and Daddys." Because I said so.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Big Girl Bed

Isabelle moved into her big girl bed. It is her daddy's bed, from when he was a little boy. It was assembled with much fanfare and a little fuss. Isabelle was furious at Mommy for wanting to put the vinyl mattress protector on her pretty mattress. We (the three of us) agreed that Daddy would sneak it on and put the pretty sheet over it so that she wouldn't have to see it. Daddy, thinking himself very clever, went one step further, and threw the pretty quilt over the top before she came up to see it. Isabelle loved it. So much so that she became mad when Daddy folded down the pretty quilt for her to get under it! "No! No!" Fortunately, Moppity Molly came to the rescue, diving under the covers and demonstrating their use, which delighted our little girl.

We helped her into the bed, and she sat in the middle and looked so cute. We admired her, and fussed over her, made sure she could climb out on her own, turned the lights off on request--until she said, "Mommy Daddy go now." It was only 6:30.

When bedtime finally arrived, she snuggled down without a fuss. Ten minutes later the study door opens to reveal a very sleepy girl who said, "Well, I had to get a tissue."

Back to bed. Voices over the monitor. "Teaser [cat] going to sleep with you? I think so. Teaser get on the step stool. Teaser going to sleep with you!"

A couple years ago we put a tiny little peanut in the middle of a great big crib. Yesterday, there was an enormous baby in that crib. Today, there is a tiny little girl in the middle of a great big bed. A she is so proud she's like to split the zipper on her jammies.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Free Book

The other day I was thinking about how to explain to my daughter what Martin Luther King Day was about. So I drew a picture book for her. Rather crude, but it will work. I'm going to try to post it on my website tonight in PDF format for anyone else with a toddler. Here's the link: (unfortunately this is a 2Mb file, not for dial-up modems)

In my research I stumbled on this link, which includes an audio file of King's famous 1963 speech. It's worth listening to, if you've never actually heard it. What a preacher!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Isabelle Antics

Isabelle's new love is the alphabet. She loves to sing the alphabet song and read alphabet books. She doesn't know her ABCs, she'll mix up similar-sounding (X vs. S) and similar-shaped (B vs. H) letters, but she now knows that the letter after K is not "elemeno."

She is also creative with her alphabet books. She knows that "T" is for "Teaser" (our cat) and P is for "Pizza. For to eat." She also decided, on her own insight, that O is not only for "orange," but also for "Oh fooey!"