Archive for January, 2013

The Amazing Ricocheting Pedestals of Florida


Every once in a while, an iPad game will capture the complete and undivided attention of someone in the house for a few days. Gears had us all transfixed, as a household, for the better part of last summer, and Tiny Heroes arrested H and E for a good while earlier this year. The Room kept E occupied for most of a single, fixated evening. The most recent was a pretty simple, but elegantly-coded, app called Pool Break, which is – as you might imagine – a billiards sim. E watched me play over my shoulder for a few games before she asked if she could try. I told her a few basic rules, suggested a few things, and then told her to try the break.

“Amazing,” she said. “Those balls ricocheted everywhere.” Except it was clear that this was a word she’d read and understood without ever pronouncing it aloud, because it came out: those balls ri-COTCH-et-ed everywhere.

“Rick-o-shayed?” I said, and she looked up with an expression mixing intrigue and embarrassment. “Sorry,” I added. “That’s one you probably wouldn’t guess from the spelling.”

They come out less frequently these days, these quirky little reminders of how much they’ve read without the benefit of speaking some words aloud. As their conversations become more complex, their interactions with classmates and friends more intricate, more and more words get ‘socially corrected’ -and as a result, these bon mot/faux pas moments become few and far between. H and E have always read several years beyond their grade level, and with that has come a truly entertaining phenomenon: they know words, and can use them correctly in context – but can’t always pronounce them. (Pedestals, for a while, had its emphasis on the second syllable when E pronounced it, while Florida was executed much more phonetically.) I think it’s great that, rather than giving up on a five-dollar word, they’re inspired to go and find out what it means. (Although clearly I need to steer them toward online dictionaries, most of which will provide a spoken-word audio pronunciation.) There have been a few that really caught our ears, so to speak, and I try my best to toss them into a Google Docs file as I note them. As a result, in our house, the title of this post would be read – by E, anyway, – as the amazing riCOTCH-eting pe-DES-tals of Flow-RI-da.

When they’re not charmingly mangling words, sometimes they’re gluing them together. At the first hotel we ever stayed at with them, we arrived at our room at the precise moment that fresh towels were being delivered, a coincidental moment that spurred them to refer to hotels as ‘hotowels’ for years.

I’m torn at these moments. 50.000% of me desperately wants to correct all of these little mispronunciations. I can’t have my meteorologist daughter someday confusing viewers in the Miami area, for example, by telling them that Hurricane Jackson will soon be ri-COTCH-eting off of the coast of Flow-RIDA. And yet, the other 50.000% wants to allow them this unique space, this intellectually intense zone of exploration and discovery, in which they feel free to learn on their own, and their intellectual reach exceeds their grasp.

I’ll probably fall to the former, especially as they grow up, if only to prevent any long-term issues. But that doesn’t mean I can’t allow myself a smidge of entertainment in the meantime. I’m sure my mother was amused (slash-horrified) when I approached her with Woody Allen’s Without Feathers and asked her why the story about war did not, in fact, have any mention of warfare in it. The story? This one.

Hands On With Intensity

My day started out with an overabundance of pomegranate seeds. Specifically, too many of them to reasonably eat. We use a service in our area called “Door-to-Door Organics;” they deliver fruits and veggies to us once a week. Between last week and this week’s orders, we ended up with 4 pomegranates, producing about 4 cups of pomegranate seeds. And, though my kids love to eat the seeds, even they can’t eat that much before the next delivery.

I was sipping my coffee and decided to Google what I might be able to make with the seeds, and found a recipe online for oatmeal pomegranate muffins. The kids and I measured the ingredients, mixed up the batter and topping, and baked the muffins. We then sat down to a family breakfast to sample our work. The muffins were delicious, and a great way to use up a lot of the seeds. My kids talked excitedly about the flavor and texture of the muffins, and discussed whether or not they would like to make this recipe again (a resounding yes.)

Next we moved onto the cardboard box which arrived yesterday in the mail. Inside said box: one frog dissection kit. E and A had asked if they could do more science at home, and after a discussion about options, we ordered a dissection kit to try it out. The kit comes with most of the items you need to perform a dissection, including the preserved frog. Being a doctor who rounds at different facilities, I luckily always have a box of latex gloves in the back of my car; we all donned the gloves and got to work. Over the next hour, we observed, poked, prodded, and dissected the frog with the instructions provided (and some assistance from our iPad app.) H even joined in on the fun for a while, before deciding that the smell (not to mention the sight of a dead frog) was a bit overwhelming for her emotional and sensory intensity. E, meanwhile, meticulously separated and labeled the organs, while A kept commenting on how interesting it was to see the inside of a frog. The most unexpected find for them? Observing the delicacy of the webbing on the frog’s hands and feet. Once we were done, we said a quiet thank you to the frog for giving his life so we could learn.

Next up for the day: sewing machine lessons. My grandmother taught me how to sew, knit, and crochet when I was a kid, and my mom does quite a bit of sewing herself. I personally haven’t done much sewing since med school, but had bought a new sewing machine a few years back so I could hem the kids’ pants and sew on scout patches. Mostly, though, the machine sits unused.  H has developed an interest in fashion design, and I mentioned to her that she could start by designing clothing for her American Girl doll (the look-alike kind.) She ordered a book of patterns , and we all trekked to the fabric store. Two very intense hours later (seemingly infinite colors, textures, and ideas), we left with our fabrics, and a multitude of possible projects.  H decided on a pink animal print dress to start.

While Dave helped E clean up the frog dissection, I worked with H on cutting out the fabric according to the pattern, and we pinned the pieces to get ready to sew. E had expressed an interest in learning, too,  so I taught them both the basics of running the machine.  Together, we sewed the dress, (which frankly looked adorable on her doll – she did a fine job picking out the material,) and H was so excited that she decided to make a miniature pillow and rug on her own. E embarked on making a Kindle case – using her soft purple fabric – with a velcro closure.

I sat down and relaxed after an awesome morning. I reflected on moving through math, science, project sequencing, and life skills within the space of a few hours. The kids all stayed intensely interested and inquisitive, and I very much enjoyed myself, too. Not only did I get to spend time with them, I had the privilege of teaching them new skills, and watching their amazement at their new knowledge and ability to use it.  Learning, the way it was meant to be.