Lie Bumps

Maverick's illustration of his lie bumps.

Tonight, Maverick came up to me while I was working on a writing project and stuck his tongue out at me with more fervor than I’ve ever seen. Shocked, I laughed and said “Why are you sticking your tongue out?” With it still hanging out of his mouth he whined, “my tum hurr”. “It hurts, Maverick?” He nods his head. Upon closer inspection I see three tiny white pimple-esque dots on the tip of his tongue. LIE BUMPS! For those of you that don’t know, a “lie bump” is really just an inflamed taste bud with no confirmed reason for existence. There are multiple theories but those don’t matter. What matters is, you get to tell your child “Those happen every time you tell a lie!” and IMMEDIATELY find out what lies they’ve been telling. Maverick confessed to hitting Ethan, not finishing his dinner, and breaking the toy of a child at his babysitter’s house. He then said “I’m never gonna lie again, mom!” That’s right parents: instill the fear of lie bumps early. Those of you who have never had one do not know the burning, itching, irritation these things cause, for approximately a week if they aren’t left alone. A five year old is not going to leave it alone. I’m convinced the whole reason we lose our first set of teeth is because of our compulsion to “play” with anything that changes in our mouth, or feels different. If we just let them be loose they’d probably never fall out! In fact, I knew someone once who had their entire set of baby teeth still in tact, along with their adult teeth. CRAZY.

ANYWAY, Maverick has sworn to never lie again. He also brought me this drawing you see above. At first I had no idea what I was looking at… until he excitedly told me “THIS IS MY FACE AND THAT IS MY TONGUE AND THAT IS THE LIE BUMPS AND THIS IS A BUMP THAT FALLS OFF TOMORROW CAUSE I WON’T LIE.”

Have I mentioned how AWESOME Maverick is?


Kindergarten Readiness, Active Babies

The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” ~Robert Maynard Hutchins

Yesterday I printed a checklist from to test Maverick’s kindergarten readiness, and I feel like he is far ahead considering he doesn’t begin public school until eight months from now. There are very few things on the list he has not mastered.

With his understanding of expressive and receptive language, the only roadblock we are facing is his ability to recite rhyming poems or familiar stories. I’m not sure if this is an inability or a lack of interest, but for the month of February one of our benchmarks will be mastering “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. All of these he can start off accurately but after the first line I’m met with an inquisitive look and “what comes next?”.
Other things the list says that Maverick should be able to do (this list is about six printed pages long) are “Demonstrates the ability to correctly put in order or sequence up to three story pictures”, “demonstrates an understanding of adding to and taking away using objects up to five”, “understands concepts of more and less up to five objects”, and “knows parents first and last name”. I’m not confident in his ability with these things yet, so I am adding them to regular lessons for the month of February.

Maverick knows all of the names of his family members, but due to the mixed nature of his households (his father and I are divorced, Maverick has a stepfather) sometimes he gets last names confused. He knows with certainty that his brother’s name is “Ethan Curry” and that his father’s name is “Josh Nieman” but he isn’t sure about my last name, he often switches between “Prejean” and “Nieman” mostly because he never hears me called by first and last name. He’s not entirely incorrect, either, because my maiden name IS “Prejean” and I don’t use “Nieman” at all anymore, but many places in print that is what my last name appears. So, some clarification of that is necessary.
Today’s lessons include:

Boy, n.:  a noise with dirt on it.  ~Not Your Average Dictionary

From top to bottom this ick is chocolate pudding, chalk, calamine powder, and hand soap. Unfortunately he used them in the wrong order.

Both of the children are very noisy, messy, and curious. If Ethan is not trying to eat ash out of the fireplace, he’s screaming at his brother or daredevil riding his “Lightning Mcqueen” as a skateboard (A FOOT OFF THE GROUND!). Maverick is always sneaking a “snack” or drawing on himself or screaming at the baby. It’s a miracle I haven’t had a stroke yet.

Ethan’s education is mostly centered on play right now, because he’s only 14 months old. I recently picked up a copy of “Active Baby, Healthy Brain” and finished reading through all of the exercises for Ethan’s age group last night. This year for babies is considered a “movement year”, not a “language year”, so language is expected to take a back burner to coordination, balance, strength, and mobility. (Though lately Ethan INSISTS on being heard, we’re a loud family so most of Ethan’s verbiage consists of yelling his opinions which are either “YES”, “NO”, or “EAT!”) Late last week Ethan took his first REAL, unassisted steps. He still doesn’t walk with surety but he will step five or six steps without holding on to anything. Funnily enough, this morning he walked back and forth from one end of the bathtub to the other quite a few times without holding on, in water about ankle deep. This was the most certain I’ve ever seen him of his footing. This week I am going to provide him with obstacles. We have these really high pub chairs for our dining table (family of four in a townhome, we can’t really fit a “real” table) which are constructed of heavy cherry wood legs and leather full back seats. I am going to start flipping one on it’s side and letting Ethan crawl over and through the legs. This week I might also make a trip to the local educational supply store and pick up some of those foam obstacle course makings, to give Ethan a safer alternative to crawling onto the cold hearth for a snack.

Progress Report: Maverick

I set benchmarks for myself in teaching my children. This is something not every parent has the diligence to do but I’ve always been a bit obsessive compulsive so researching, keeping lists, being organized lends itself well to the approach I take in preparing Maverick for school.

In early January, whenever I quit my job, I set out to do the following things before the beginning of February for Maverick:

  • Teach him what a library is, how we use it, and responsibility for library books
  • Teach him how to create secondary colors
  • Introduce him to the scientific method
  • Expose him to public ways of education like museums
  • Help him to find a hobby outside of coloring

At each benchmark we’ve come pretty far. Not all are completed, but most are thoroughly explored.

Each Tuesday since I’ve become the panda mother both children and I go to the public library about two miles from our house. There, we select eight books for the week and three DVD’s. Maverick is allowed to pick one documentary, one entertainment movie (pixar movies and the like) and one season of an educational television program. When his DVDs are finished playing, he takes them out of the XBOX we use as a DVD player and puts them carefully into their case. He is sure to place them where his baby brother cannot reach and is extra careful to not scratch them. After the first week whenever we brought back the books and movies Maverick grasped the concept of “borrowing” and that the books and movies “belong” to the library, we don’t give any money for them so the people at the library expect them back in the same condition they lent them in. He keeps the books religiously stacked on a desk in his room, and every “Library Day” he puts all of his borrowed items in a bag to ensure their safe transport back to the library. He is absolutely delighted when he turns them in and cannot wait to pick out more books. Benchmark: ACCOMPLISHED!

Maverick working on a craft project he discovered in a library book about ants.

Secondary colors have proven to be a little harder than I thought. At the library, we borrowed “Babar’s Book of Colors” to help us with this lesson. As of now, Maverick can recall that “red + yellow = orange” (Thanks to Ketchup and Mustard, giving him a visual representation of things he commonly eats together like on hamburgers and such helps him to recall what primary colors are used to make orange). He can also recall that “red + blue = purple”. The mnemonic device we use is bruising, the veins are red and blue so the bruises look purple. He’s a five year old boy, constantly covered in bruises, so it makes this easy to remember. He can’t seem to remember that “blue + yellow = green” so I might resort to flash cards for this. I hate the repetition that flash cards create and how impractical they are as a learning device. He won’t have a practical example to use, and it might limit his ability to express himself. Hopefully soon we can find something that makes sense in his head so that he can recall it. Benchmark: Almost complete.

Maverick working on drawing a color wheel

The “ants” book which was one of the first we borrowed at the library assisted greatly in introducing Maverick to the scientific method. In addition to the ant craft project, the wealth of information provided created an opportunity for hypothesis, experiment, observation, and conclusion. I realize this is a very simplified version of the scientific method but I think it is appropriate for a five year old to know how to discover things on his own. It creates an environment in which he can imagine what will happen, create a scenario where he can test if his theory is right, and ultimately answer his own questions. His first “experiment” began as “Mom, if ants are from different colonies are they enemies?” I knew the answer to this, but he didn’t. So I asked him how we could find out… Maverick’s answer “Let’s get a jar and go find some different ant colonies. We can put them all in the jar and see what’s gonna happen. If they fight then yes they are enemies but if not then no they are friends.” How could I argue with that? So, we set out to the park and collected some ants. We put them in a jar and they all went to separate corners. Here, I should have explained Maverick’s “experimental bias” to him but I think he should hit about 7 before we introduce those sorts of things. Because the ants were not fighting, Maverick  threw in a piece of pear, knowing the ants would want to eat it. The pear brought them closer together and the ants fought. Maverick concluded that ants from separate colonies are enemies. (Which, scientifically, is true: Ever taken half of one ant pile on a shovel and switched it with the top half of another ant pile? It’s like ant lava volcanoes, a guaranteed way to exterminate ants. I didn’t want to involve the risk of tons of ant bites so I didn’t propose this to Maverick and just let his experiment unfold itself, but bias or not he  did get the correct scientific answer.) Since then everything Maverick does is approached with a “Wait, let me think about it” followed by a “How bout this?” and some form of experimenting. Constant questioning. In my opinion an inquisitive child is a knowledgeable child. If they sincerely want to learn something they will not forget it. Benchmark: ACCOMPLISHED!

Maverick watching his ants

This month Maverick and I have gone to two museums, both of which he loved. We went to the dinosaur exhibit at the local science museum and also to the local children’s museum. He loved both, kept the tickets from both visits, and continually talks about them. At the dinosaur exhibit he asked questions, watched all of the videos, and left knowing considerably more than he got there knowing about various prehistoric animals. He was especially impressed that “crawfishes lives with dinosaurs? really?” At the children’s museum we stayed for approximately an hour, and Maverick played with every station in existence. I know that previously he has been to zoos and aquariums but a museum is something different altogether, in my opinion. There is a greater respect necessary for the things observed and much more information to be discovered. The children’s museum was mostly an exercise in play and he didn’t learn anything he didn’t already know, but I think he’s ready for me to take him to larger museums. Perhaps later in the spring  we will take a trip to New Orleans or Baton Rouge, where there are more museums. Benchmark: ACCOMPLISHED!

Maverick watching an animated dinosaur skeleton

The hobby benchmark is possibly the most interesting. What SHOULD HAVE been a hobby playing drums or ukelele transformed into gardening, because I had Maverick help me plant a small herb garden. I figured it would be a good time to teach him about photosynthesis and how to care for plants, but had NO IDEA he would take such an interest in it. Our Chia herb garden has been expanded to include a miniature greenhouse where we are germinating seedlings of eggplant, lavender, three types of tomatoes, shasta daisies, african daisies, violas, beans, carrots, lettuce, chives, basil, cilantro, dill, bell peppers, onions, and parsley. Our parsley has taken off but we had to restart the basil seedlings due to a “misunderstanding” of how photosynthesis works… Maverick cut the first set of leaves off the basil plants because we read that “regular cutting of the leave will ensure plant growth”. Benchmark: ACCOMPLISHED!

Maverick's greenhouse of seedlings

Today Started Early, in Crisis

Typically, I wake up my children around 7:30 AM. Typically, I give Ethan a quick sponge bath because he’s always covered in drool and snot from sleeping with his mouth wide open pressed into his blanket. Typically, Maverick gets dressed while this is going on. This morning was not a typical morning in my household, however.

I woke this morning to Maverick’s pained scream of “MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM, ETHAN IS COVERED IN HIS POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP” and Ethan making loud ‘dinosaur’ sounds as Maverick has recently taught him to. I roll myself out of bed and half walk, half crawl to their bedroom. “What the hell time is it?” I think to myself. It’s 5:45AM, the yellow numbers on my bedroom cable transmitter tell me. 15 minutes before my usual wake up time but I’ve only been asleep since about 2AM, six hours past my normal bedtime. I open the door to the boys’ room and the smell hits me immediately. Maverick looks at me as if I’m the one covered in my own excrement. Ethan is standing in his crib, both hands smeared with light yellow remnants of last nights’ dinner, poop all over the crib and his diaper halfway across the room. “MOM, ETHAN TOOK HIS DIAPER OFF AND HE THREW IT ACROSS THE ROOM AND NOW HE IS PLAYING WITH HIS POOP THAT IS SO GROSS!!”

I pick the baby up at arm’s length and carry him into the bathroom. He is shrieking at me with contempt because he wants me to hold him and I can’t. The smell has taken root in my nostrils so hard that it’s still there, nearly five hours later. I place shrieking Ethan in the bathtub without any water and move all soaps, shampoos, etc out of the way. In an attempt to erradicate my house of the smell I grab a plastic grocery bag from my collection beneath the bathroom sink. I gather up the blanket, fitted sheet, teddy bear, diaper, and Ethan’s onesie, all covered in poop, and throw them in the bag. I tie the bag at the handles, and place it into another grocery bag. I hurl it down the stairs on my way to bathe Ethan.

I leave the bathtub drain unplugged and run warm water, essentially rinsing the poop off my child as if he’s an object because I am so disgusted. The entire time he is laughing hysterically and Maverick is standing behind me, holding his nose, stripped down to his underwear, asking in a pinched voice “MOM WHY I CAN’T TAKE A BATH WITH ETHAN?” I correct him “Maverick, you can’t take a bath with Ethan because he is covered in poop and I am trying to get it off of him. Please go put on some clothes, it’s not your bath time right now.” Apparently, this translates in Maverick speak directly to “The second I turn around to plug the bathtub, take off your underwear and jump in!” Because that’s exactly what he did. NOW, it’s bath time / play time at 6:15 in the morning and all I want to do is stick my head in the toilet next to me because drowning has got to be easier than settling these kids down for breakfast at this point.


"Hey mom's camera, all the poop is off me now!"

By 7:00AM both boys are out of the bathtub, Ethan’s butt is sufficiently covered in baby powder and the rest of him in cocoa butter lotion. Maverick’s teeth are brushed and the television is on Nick Jr. and they are both waiting for breakfast. Maverick assists me in making blueberry pancakes which he eats precisely one half of one pancake (from a batch of 10) and Ethan eats three whole. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. This morning I am thankful for my Keurig coffee maker, I have had six cups so far. I am thankful for the rain holding off, that was Ethan’s last pair of bedsheets (I just can’t stand the thought of touching the poop enough to wash them, not the greenest thing I could do and I’m aware of it but let’s face it… they’re five dollars at Wal-Mart and it’s POOP. GROSS.) and I need to make a trip to the store to get more. I am thankful for the giant ridiculous clump of trash bags beneath my bathroom sink which I complain about almost every time I have to grab a roll of toilet paper. I am thankful for my kids, because covered in poop or dirt or chalk or whatever mess they create, I always have something to laugh about.