Monday, August 31, 2009

Instead of Praise

One aspect of Positive Discipline that I really enjoy is the idea of using descriptive praise.  Instead of saying, "Good job" for every little thing my daughter does, I try to recognize her effort, avoid too much of my own evaluations, and to be specific in my comments.  So, for instance, yesterday morning when she worked really hard at stacking up her dominos, persisting even after she kept knocking them over until she finally got them all up, I didn't tell her "Good work" or "Good for you" or "I'm proud of you."  I told her, "You stacked them all up. That takes coordination."  If I had thought of it at the time, I might have also said, "You kept trying until you got them all up.  That's called persistence."  (I wish I had thought of that at the time!)

I was very impressed with her effort, though.  She does not appear to be a naturally persistent child, so I always try to point out when persistence pays off for her.  Because I genuinely admired her work, I went one step further and asked her if she would like me to take a photo of her accomplishment.  She beamed and said YES. 


I've used the "take a photo" strategy before.  I don't do it often, but save it for times when I'm just dying to jump up and down screaming "Great job!  I'm so proud of you!"  This is a way to show her in action that I'm impressed, instead of just using words.  I took a picture of her first poop on the potty for the same reason.  Sometimes we come across that picture and I remind her how exciting it was.  Maybe when we look at this photo later, I can remind her how she kept trying until she got it right.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

These Children Aren't My Future

In this little story, Michelle at Scribbit has revealed the true character of many of those magazine-hawking teens who come to your door with their righteous pleas to support them. 
"I'm sorry but I'm not interested."

They tried more pleas and "Come on, we're on our way to a trip to Paris--I bet you've been to Paris already"

"Actually no, I haven't."

"Well we've got more points than anyone else and we're about to win that trip. You don't want to keep us from Paris do you?"

Heaven forbid...

That's a taste, but be sure to read the whole thing - the final exchange will knock your socks off.

I hate those kids.  They prey on your virtues, just like the bums with signs reading, "Will Work for Food."  The bums don't intend to work; they just want you to think they are willing to.  And all the talk from those kids about leadership skills or entrepreneurship training is just that: talk.  They're always selling magazines, and the spiel is designed to make you buy something, not because you want it, but because you respect their work ethic.  Talk about sanction of the victim!

I was fooled once, the first time I was approached with this scam, just like I was fooled once by the plea at the gas station for, "just a dollar for gas to get me home."  In both cases, I only realized my error when I was approached with the same script a second time. 

Michelle rightly identifies the fact that these kids could earn more money in less time with a legitimate job.  Why don't they do it?  Are they mentally lazy?  Are they unable to get a job?  I don't think so.  I think these kids are seeking the unearned.  It's a way for them to affirm a basic premise they hold - that they don't have to follow the rules--meaning reality.  It's the criminal mentality (see Inside the Criminal Mind, by Stanton Samenow for an excellent analysis).  It's interesting that even though on the surface it looks like they are doing real work, door-to-door sales, they know that it is not work.  To them, work is for suckers.  It's not about the money.  It's about getting away with it.

I almost titled this post, "One Step Above Begging," but then I realized - this is not superior to begging in any way.  Begging is at least honest.  This is one step above being a con-artist.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Wonder What She Dreams About

The seven stages of toddler sleep (also known as Why I Don't Let My Daughter Sleep In My Bed):

  • Rapid Limb Movement (RLM)

  • The drooling stage

  • The twitching stage (not to be confused with RLM)

  • The heavy breathing stage

  • The sweating stage

  • The grunting stage

  • The continuous flip flopping stage

The final two stages lead inevitably to the awakening of the toddler, which, if you've experienced all seven stages, is always about an hour too soon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

Here is your weekly link to the Objectivist Round Up, which is hosted this week by Reality Talk.

I've also added a new sidebar to my blog, called "OBloggers Most Recent."  It shows links to the most recent posts from the members our not-so-little group of Objectivist bloggers.  None of us could ever keep up with all of the Objectivist blogging going on, but I find it fun to occasionally click on the most intriguing title on the Most Recent list to read something I might not have found otherwise.

A Little Thing

Me:  Samantha, what is your work going to be today?


Me:  You're going to be happy and sad?


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Announcing the Virtual Objectivist Club

I just received word of a great new opportunity for students interested in the ideas of Ayn Rand:  the Virtual Objectivist Club.  From the announcement:
I helped start the Objectivist Club Network (OCN), an organization dedicated to helping all Objectivist Campus Clubs. OCN is not affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute, although we support them and regularly communicate with them to ensure our respective organizations are not duplicating efforts.

Recently we've expanded our efforts to solve a new problem: there are students interested in joining an Objectivist club where no club exists. Some of these students start their own club, but others don't have time to start a club or do not find enough participants on campus to form a club.

We've created the Virtual Objectivist Club (VOC) for these students -- a phone-based discussion group dedicated to the study of Objectivism. Meetings will be weekly, beginning this September, each moderated by an experienced Objectivist. The group is open to any current students who would like to learn more about Objectivism.

My request: Please help spread the word to any students you know who may be interested in learning more about Objectivism. The deadline for applying to the VOC is August 31st. Students can learn more and apply at:

Please let me know if you have any questions and we greatly appreciate you sharing this with others!

Keith & the OCN Team

If the Objectivist Club Network sounds familiar, you might have read about it at NoodleFood, in Diana's recent discussion of delegation.  The founders of OCN are entrepreneurs who really know how to run a successful organization and OCN is already off to a great start, so I think this project of theirs is going to become a long-term fixture in the Objectivist world.

Children Vows

Adam and I thought very carefully before we decided to have a child.  I've already written about how we originally didn't think we wanted a child at all, and how we ended up changing our minds.  But even then, we wanted to be very concrete and specific about our reasons and our goals in taking this biggest of all leaps into the unknown.

I can't remember how we came up with the idea, but we decided to write what we call our Children Vows.  We even wrote a little introduction into the vows, so I don't need to do anything more to set the context.  Here is what we wrote, unedited:

Children Vows

We have decided to have a child.  To us, this means that we need to decide how this major endeavor will fit into our existing lives and values.  To that end, we have decided to commit to our “children vows.”  These vows are a set of principles that we promise to adhere to, along with some more specific suggestions. 

Adam and Amy pledge to each other:

  1. Each of us agrees that our value hierarchy is career, marriage, then child.

    1. This means that we should set aside time to spend together.  We promise to make it a priority to spend time together, whether it be by a date night, a babysitter, or just romantic time that is set aside.

    2. Each of us promises not to sacrifice his/her career for the child.  It may be necessary to cut back on work to raise the child, but our overall career goals should always be kept in mind.  Raising the child “perfectly” is not more important than a satisfying career.

    3. Almost immediately following the value of the child comes travel.  We promise to always be on the lookout for travel opportunities, and we pledge that we will take our honeymoon to Italy within 10 years.

  2. Each of us agrees that our child will never become an excuse for the lack of pursuit of other values.  If we want to pursue a value (such as a trip) we will always make the effort to find out if we can do it in our circumstances, as opposed to automatically thinking that it is out of reach.

    1. This means that we need to work at incorporating our child into our plans.  Always think by default that we can do it, but how do we do it with the child?

  3. We are having this child for selfish reasons.  We want to enjoy the experience of parenthood.  This means that we will never go into self-sacrifice-mode.  The child has free-will.  We will not do things that make us miserable that we think will help the child.  Remember, with rational people, there is no conflict of interests, so what is good for us is generally good for the child.

    1. Do not spoil the child

    2. Do not insulate the child.

    3. Do not live the child’s live for him/her.

  4. We will not let particular bad experiences define the general nature of our family.  We will always remember the metaphysical value that our child represents.

  5. We will maintain a healthy life style, and our child will not be an excuse for becoming slugs.


I must say, reading over the vows for the first time in years, I'm struck by a couple of things.  First, we were so utterly clueless!  I find it funny how we focused so much on travel.  We've had no problem with travel.  The whole thing seems a bit random and not principled.  But given that everyone is clueless going into parenthood, I think we did hit some good points.  Staying focused on our marriage was a good one, as was noting that we were having the child for selfish reasons. 

We've probably fallen down on the job in the exercise department.  As I wrote recently, neither of us are big on exercise, but we do want to maintain our health.  The thing is, I think all the moving around we did over the last 2 years hurt us in that department even more than having a child.  The fact that we are starting to think about exercise again is a good sign that we haven't let go of that value.

I had to ask Adam what point 4 meant because I had no memory of that part.  He said it was our commitment to the benevolent universe premise.  I suppose we were thinking that if our child had problems or made some bad choices, that we wouldn't allow that to alter our world-view.  That sounds good, but it's not holding much power for me right now, maybe because we haven't been tested in that regard.

When we wrote this, I never imagined that I would want to change my career from, well, whatever it would have been (I was in the middle of a career change) to being a professional parent.  It's been really hard to make that transition, given that I pledged to myself and my husband that I would not let the child become my entire life.  Sometimes it feels like I've done exactly that, in choosing to stay home with my daughter.  When I was young I was taught, mostly implicitly, that parenting was not real work.  And even now, at least with only one child, I don't feel that it is enough for me.  But the interesting part is that since I've quit the regular workforce I've developed a much clearer idea of what I do love to do.  Writing this blog and homeschooling seem to be filling in the gaps as a creative outlet for now, and I have plans for future endeavors.  I think I've been able to focus on "career" more than ever since I had a child.

Overall, integrating a child into our lives has been fairly easy in all the ways we considered in the Children Vows, but very difficult in other ways.  I haven't been tempted to live my life through her, sacrifice, or give up on anything.  I have been challenged much more with issues like my fractured time and dealing with chaos.  Adam and I do have to focus on maintaining our own relationship, but since we already had the mindset that relationships require work, it wasn't a fundamental change, just something we have to work harder on.

The one thing we intended to do but never did was to frame these vows.  Having it written is a good step, but we need to get these words out of the electronic ether and onto a piece of paper.  I vow to do that within a week!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


It's amazing what a simple activity can teach a young one.  I mentioned recently that Samantha has taken to showering with us instead of taking baths.  She loves it!  Now that she's been doing it for a few weeks, she has learned:

  • How to open and close a twist-off bottle cap.  She was able to open these sporadically before, but since Adam filled up a tiny hotel shampoo bottle with her Johnson's Baby Shampoo, Sam's skills have improved to the point where she can do it every time.

  • How to pour just the right amount of shampoo into her hand.

  • How to set that tiny bottle carefully on the shelf so that it does not tip over.

  • How not to slip and fall in the shower (although we really need to put those adhesive sticky things down).

  • How to soap up and wash every part of her body.  She was pretty good at this before, but now she is really thorough.  I haven't washed any part of her in weeks.  Those tiny bars of hotel soap are great for kids!

  • How to keep soap out of her eyes. Well, she's still learning this one, but she's getting there.

  • How to shampoo her whole head of hair.

  • How to stick her whole head under the shower to rinse her face and hair.  This was a big accomplishment for her. 

None of these things are monumental, but she really didn't care about any of those skills until she needed them to shower.  We've found that Samantha is not motivated to do things just for the sake of doing them.  For her, it's all about values.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Amy:  Samantha, why aren't you wearing a diaper?


Friday, August 21, 2009

Kid Swap

Adam and I are childless for the weekend.  Samantha is staying with her "godparents," Jon and Chris, for what we hope will become a regular Kid Swap weekend.  Jackson stayed with us a couple of months ago and we had a blast.  This time, Sam went to their house. 

She's been there many times before, and once we even lived with them for 2 weeks while we were "homeless," so it's not unfamiliar territory.  Still, it's a big deal, for us and for her.  She stayed with her grandparents for a weekend while we were in Florida last month, but somehow, it felt different to leave her there while we went off for a couple of days than it did to drop her off with Chris at a McDonald's halfway between our house and theirs.  I almost chickened out and drove her all the way to Richmond, but luckily Chris talked me out of it.  About 10 minutes after the exchange, Chris called me to report that there were zero tears and that Jackson and Sam were busy talking in the back of the car.

As for us grownups, we're going sleep in, go out to fancy restaurants, and maybe catch a movie.  I suppose we could take a little trip somewhere, but we've had enough travel for the summer, and really, there aren't a lot of places that we can't go with Sam along.  Sleep seems to be the thing that we miss most from our childless days. 

Letting Sam go for this weekend is part of a commitment Adam and I made to each other when we decided to have a child.  We wrote Children Vows, a promise and a statement of our intentions in having a baby.  The predominant theme was that we would never allow the child to replace our marriage as a value.  I'll write more about our Children Vows in the next week or so, but right now, I need to go put on a nice dress.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Little Thing


Objectivist Round Up

Is it really Thursday again already?  I haven't written anything Round-Up-worthy in quite a while.  I'll have to work on that.  In the meantime, you'll have to settle for this week's edition, hosted by The Rule of Reason.


Both Adam and I are finally exercising a little bit again.  I'm skeptical that intense, formal exercise is all that important to good health - I mean, the ones who tell us so are the same kind of experts that told us that all fat is bad - but common sense tells me that I should be able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded.

Neither Adam nor I are physically active people.  We don't like any sports or activities enough to spend much time on them.  If I had a pool in my back yard, I'd probably swim, but if I have to drive somewhere to do it, it's not going to happen on a regular basis.  When we had a gym in the basement of our high-rise condo building in Chicago, we'd work out regularly.  It was convenient, and I liked being strong.  But joining a gym is expensive and when you have to drive there, a workout can take a couple of hours.  It's just not worth it.  I don't feel guilty about it - it's a choice that I'm comfortable with.

I do like cardio workout classes and yoga, though.  I joined the YMCA when we lived in San Diego and in Lexington because child-care was included and it was very inexpensive.  It was the only way for me to get any time away from Sam, too.  When we got to Northern Virginia, however, I replaced the classes with day care for Sam and physical therapy for my mystery pain.  I haven't started up any kind of regimen since then because I'm a little worried that the exercise itself might have contributed to my pain problems.

I was really starting to feel like a slug, though, so I finally started walking the dog again.  When I was pregnant with Sam, I walked him almost every single day.  It didn't matter that it was the hottest part of the summer when I was eight months along - I still enjoyed it.  Toby really needs to be walked or he becomes a nuisance, so I decided to once again make a point of walking him at every opportunity.  This means twice a week while Sam is at day care, plus maybe once on the weekends while Adam is here to watch Sam.  I can't walk the dog with Sam along.  First, she isn't fast enough.  But more importantly, if I don't have 100% focus on the dog, he is unruly.  The minute he senses that I am not focused on him, he runs and pulls on the leash and makes the walk very unpleasant.  It is a very dangerous situation if another dog comes along, not because Toby would attack the dog, but because he wants to play so badly that he'll pull me to the other dog.  Toby is only 63 pounds - small for a Lab - but he is extremely strong.  A couple of times, I got into really bad situations where Toby was pulling me over and I had Sam in the stroller and I just couldn't hang on to both of them.  It was just awful, and I decided never to do it again.

On the other hand, when I do focus on the dog, I barely need to correct him.  He can sense that if he gets out of line, he'll get a correction (a tug on his leash).  When we get in a rhythm of walking, with him heeling and obeying me, it's a beautiful thing.  When he sees another dog, he needs to be reminded to heel and "leave it," but he's usually just fine.  There's a unique communication between us that seems to be a special dog-human bond.  It's my very favorite part of having a dog.

So at least I'm doing that, and as soon as Sam starts going to school every day, I'm going to try to do it at least four times a week.  I might try to find a yoga class I could attend once a week, too.

For his part, Adam has started riding his bike to the Metro station and riding the train into work.  It's just a mile and a half ride each way but, just like for me, it's a lot more than nothing and it kills two birds with one stone.  And that's the best kind of exercise there is.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Little Down

My Internet connection was down for most of the day yesterday and by the time evening rolled around, I was just too tired to think about writing on the blog.  Samantha is having a tough time lately.  She's going through something, I'm not sure what, but it's loud and it's angry and it's exhausting.  I feel like I've been yelled at constantly for a week.

I think I'll take another day off from the blog and try to get us out of the house for most of the afternoon.  Unfortunately, it's that time of year where walking from my front door to the car gets me half a dozen mosquito bites.  Bug spray might reduce it to 2 bites per minute.  So I'm not in the mood for outdoor activities either.

Target, here we come!

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Read!

Sam isn't the only one who has been reading around here.  I've mostly been reading light fiction this summer because we've been traveling.  I can never read anything challenging while on vacation, and I do love my thrillers and mysteries.  Here's a quick summary of what I've read in the past few months:

Knockdown, by Dick Francis.  I'm really excited to have found a new author that I like, especially one who has written over 30 books!  (Thanks, S. and D.)  In this book (the first of his that I've read), I loved the protagonist and I found the story compelling, but I thought the ending was weak.  The plot-theme was, "Under pressure and threats from dishonest colleagues, an honest racehorse broker struggles to maintain his livelihood, and even his life, without compromising his integrity." 

Trunk Music, by Michael Connelly.  I've read a few of his books now, and I like Connelly, but this wasn't his best.  His Harry Bosch character is likeable and smart, and the mystery was not bad, but I didn't find anything about the book compelling.  There's not much point in writing out the plot-theme here, but it might be something like, "An independent, dedicated detective must solve an apparent mob-hit without the support of his department."  You get the idea.  If you want to try Michael Connelly, I'd recommend Blood Work or The Poet.  I'm sure I'll eventually read all of his books just on the strength of those two.

Gone Tomorrow, by Lee Child.  This is Lee Child's 13th Jack Reacher novel.  These are the only light fiction books that I buy new, in the bookstore, at hardcover prices ($28!).  Jack Reacher is a lot like the Dirty Harry character:  brutal, competent, stoic, a loner, and dedicated to justice.  But Dirty Harry has tremendous inner conflict; Jack Reacher has none.  Stepping into Jack Reacher's world is like climbing out of a swamp of muddy complexity into a clean, black and white, wide open world.  He has absolute confidence in himself.  He is not fearless, but, to play off of Ayn Rand's description of Howard Roark, his fear only goes down to a certain point.  Other things I love about these books are the descriptions of the settings, from deserted corn fields to big cities, and the subtle, thematic threads that are often woven into the plots.  The plots in the earlier books are very good, but even with the series weakening a bit, this was the best of my summer reading.  The plot-theme was, "While investigating a mysterious death, an ex-military cop finds that sometimes our friends become our enemies, and sometimes our enemies become our friends."  If you want to try Lee Child, I'd recommend starting with Die Trying, his second book.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler.  This was recommended to me by a couple of people when I mentioned that Adam and I are working on another baby.  Essentially, this book explains how to read your body's signals to understand what part of your menstrual cycle you are in, using a process they call the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).  I didn't read the parts on birth control, but the rest of the book was very good.  I'd recommend this book to all women as a basic health and wellness text.

Food of a Younger Land, by Mark Kurlansky.  I heard the author discussing this book on NPR and was intrigued.  It's a collection of writings from the Depression era about the eating habits of people in different regions of the country. I gave it a shot, but I just couldn't bring myself to read the whole thing.  It had interesting factoids and some funny recipes, but it was just too long for my level of interest.  Check out LB's review if you want to know more.

Right now I'm reading three more books, and then, in keeping with the back-to-school mentality of September, it'll be back to the Great Books series for me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Little Thing

Samantha read her first word today.  She sounded out, "rat."  Actually, I'm not sure she could reproduce it.  It might have been a bit of luck, but I'm going to count it anyway.  That way, I can say that our daughter could read before she was potty trained.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

Here's your link to the latest edition, found this week at Titanic Deck Chairs.

All Wound Up

We're still working on this getting pregnant thing.  I hate the uncertainty.  I suppose it's good practice for me - to have to continue living and enjoying life while this weight is on me.  It's ridiculous, really, to be so stressed about it.  But apparently, I am. 

This time around, during the 2 weeks when you're just waiting to find out if you succeeded or not, I developed a terrible pain in my back.  It felt like I imagine a pinched nerve would feel.  It was so painful that I could barely sleep, or even sit comfortably in a chair.  I couldn't take Ibuprofen since you're not supposed to do that during pregnancy, so I was constantly on acetaminophen.  I couldn't go to the doctor for an x-ray, of course, but it was bad enough that I still considered it.  I had 2 massages, which helped for about a day before the pain came back.  Then, the moment I knew I was not pregnant, the pain went away - not completely, but significantly and immediately.  It's been getting better ever since.

This is not the first time I've had stress-related pain.  I've had almost continuous problems since 2001.  October 2001, that is.  Can you think of anything directly prior to that time that might have caused stress?  Ever since then, I've had back and neck pain, along with the constant need to crack my neck.  The only relief I've had from this problem was when I was pregnant.  I had pregnancy aches and other problems, but the old back and neck problem was non-existent. 

About 13 months after Samantha was born, however, I developed a new problem: a pain in my right knee.  We had just moved from Michigan to San Diego - a 6 week journey that was the most stressful time of my life.  The combination of living out of our 2 cars with a dog and a cat and a baby, for 6 weeks straight, along with postpartum hormones, was unbearable.  Over the next year, the pain spread to my right elbow, my right shoulder, then the whole length of both my right arm and leg, and then to both hands and feet.  I couldn't open jars or walk down a flight of stairs (I went down backwards or on my bottom).  I was scared.  I was sure I'd be in a hospital within a year.

I had x-rays, an MRI, nerve-conduction tests, and blood tests for arthritis, lupus, Lyme disease, and all kinds of other problems, but I never got a diagnosis.  I tried yoga, painkillers, antidepressants (they're supposed to help with pain for some people), physical therapy, and a combination of fish-oil and probiotics.  I'm sure there is more that I've forgotten.  I was on my way to chiropractic and maybe even acupuncture, but ended up finding relief with something called platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP.  It's a cool technique:  the doctor takes your blood, separates the red blood cells from the platelets using a centrifuge, and then injects the platelets, which I guess are the part of the blood involved in healing, back into the affected area.  In my case, the doctor injected my right knee and elbow, where the pain seemed to have started.  I was sore for about 2 weeks, but then I started getting better.  I'm not cured;  I always have a little bit of pain somewhere.  These days it's usually in my feet.  But I'm functional and I don't take painkillers on a regular basis.  Most of the time I don't even notice the pain.  I've been feeling better for about 9 months now.

I know this problem with my back is related to all the rest of it, so I'm really hoping that it doesn't kick off the chain reaction again.  Luckily, after all I went through, I'm pretty sure that PRP would help again if I needed it.  In fact, I would have done another round of PRP a long time ago to see if I could totally knock out the pain, but there was one problem.  Getting  blood out of me is almost impossible.  When the phlebotomist drew my blood for the procedure, she spent over a half hour and was getting nothing.  My veins just move around or close up when the needle touches them.  Finally, my doctor had to come in and take over.  He needed to get a pint of blood - about the same amount that you give when you donate blood.  (Needless to say, I've never donated blood.)  By the time he got it, I was weeping with pain.  Remember, I'm the one who gave birth with no drugs and said that it wasn't even real pain, but just pain like when you work out your muscles.  I can take pain.  This was torture.  I'll do it again, but only if the other pain starts to interfere in my life again.

So I guess the moral of the story is:  I need to take a chill pill.  If only there was such a thing that was safe to use when potentially pregnant.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Leonard Peikoff Podcast 68

If you haven't been listening to Dr. Leonard Peikoff's podcasts, you might want to at least check out his broadcast of June 30, podcast #68.  The first half of the podcast is all about children and marriage.  Here are the questions he answers:

  • How do you explain the concept of religion and god to preschool age children?

  • People are highly uncomfortable with the idea of their teenage kids having sex.  Is this irrational?

  • What is your opinion of sex education in general, and of abstinence education in particular?

  • Am I behaving rationally by remaining married to a woman that I no longer love, in order to keep my physical home?  [Here, Dr. Peikoff touches on the issue of divorce when children are involved.]

I've finally caught up with all the podcasts.  Samantha now recognizes Dr. Peikoff's voice, and sometimes, when we get in the car she says, MOMMY? LISTEN TO PEIKOFF TODAY PLEASE?

A Little Thing

Samantha peed on the potty for the first time today!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Thanks to Rational Jenn, we've instituted a new daily ritual in our house.  Every day, Samantha and I talk about what our work will be for the day.  We talk about all the things we plan to do - things like going to the playground, doing laundry, coloring, making dinner, or working on letter sounds.

This serves at least 3 purposes.  First, it get us focused on what goals we have for the day.  This is as important for me as it is for Sam.  I'm a slave to my to-do list and it works for me, but verbalizing the few, most important tasks for the day further refines my goals, especially since there are always too many things on my list for me to possibly get done.  I also always include one important job:  I tell Sam that my work for the day includes helping her to learn to do things by herself.  It's not a very concrete goal, but it's a good reminder for me. 

Second, it can be used as a reminder later in the day:  "Remember that I told you that my work today would include writing on my computer?  I need to do that now."  Along with the Daily Schedule, I've found that this works wonders when seeking cooperation. 

Finally, this is the best way I've found to build for Sam a positive association with the word "work."  For a while there, Sam thought "work" meant "daddy goes away" and it was a sad thing.  We've taken Sam to Adam's office and he has explained to her as best he can what he does at work, but "reading, writing, and teaching" are things he does at home too, so why does he need to go away?  Work still meant something bad.  To help with this, I started consciously using the word more often for tasks like cooking, doing a puzzle, and writing on my blog.  This was helpful, but nothing has transformed Sam's understanding of the word better than using it in the same way every morning.  "What is your work going to be for the day?"

Up until now, Sam's response to the question usually consisted of a blank stare, or maybe something along the lines of, PLAYGWOUND.  Then we took a two week break from the morning ritual while we were on vacation and then getting back into the normal routine.  Finally, the other morning, I asked her the question again.  "Sam, what is your work going to be today?"  She answered: GO TO SCHOOL. PLAY. WEAR UNDERWEAR.  GO ON POTTY.

She gets it!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Reading Update

Yesterday, Samantha spelled the words "Sam," "cat," "Adam" and "Jinx."  Adam wrote them on the ground with sidewalk chalk as they sounded them out together.  She needed help isolating the sounds, but as soon as she heard the sound, she knew what letter it was.  The only one she didn't get was the "i" in Jinx because she's only learned the short "i" sound so far.

We've continued to use Starfall and we also practice while driving around town or at meals.  Sam knows all the standard letter sounds now, although she'll still forget "l" and "r" sometimes, mostly because she has a hard time pronouncing them.  I do think that this work of isolating sounds is going to help her pronunciation, and even her vocabulary because she'll be able to distinguish words more clearly now.  I didn't think she'd be able to reverse the process and name the letters based on the sound - we've never worked on that directly - but she did it with ease. She is also "reading" everything she sees - food packaging, signs on the road, stuff that comes in the mail.  Usually "reading" means that she'll name some of the letters and maybe make their sounds.  Sometimes it means opening a book she knows well and telling the story from memory as she turns the pages.  I thought it was cute when Sam insisted that there was an "x" on my computer screen and it took me a while to figure out she meant the red "x" icon to close the window.

Next, I'm going to try reading Montessori Read and Write, by Lynn Lawrence, and next month I'll talk to Sam's Montessori teacher about where to go from here.  It's amazing to see Sam learning so much so quickly, and taking such obvious pleasure in the process.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Early Harry Potter Fixation

That's gonna scarAfter Samantha cut her head so badly last week, I wanted to make her feel better about the "boo-boo," and thought of Harry Potter.  I picked one of the books off the shelf and showed her the cover, pointing out the scar on his forehead.

The next day, I was working at my computer when Sam brought over one of the Harry Potter books.  HERE HARRY POTTER, MOMMY.  I set it on my desk and said, "Yes, there is Harry Potter."  Then she brought another one and put it on top of the first.  HERE 'NOTHER HARRY POTTER, MOMMY.  "Oh, now we have two.  Can you bring me another?"  HERE YOU GO, MOMMY.  'NOTHER HARRY POTTER.  "How many do we have now?  One, two three.  There are seven in all, can you bring them all here and stack them up?"  And she did:

HP Stack


This is particularly impressive given the haystack within which she found those seven needles:


Friday, August 7, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

Here it is, your weekly dose of rational writings, brought to you by Erosophia.  I particularly liked Mariposario's post on What you get if you ask.  This is a principle that my husband taught me early in our relationship, but I call it "Put yourself out there."  I like the way Deb integrates the idea with the trader principle.  I've also been meaning to read this post for a while now, so excuse me while I go check that off my to do list.

Medical Exams Required for School Enrollment

Does your state require that students entering public school have a comprehensive medical exam within one year before starting school?  Mine does (Virginia).  I'd never heard of such a thing.  It doesn't apply to Samantha, but I saw it on the standard immunization forms her Montessori school gives out prior to the school year, so I looked it up.   This is above and beyond immunization requirements.  Before entering kindergarten or elementary school (public only, as far as I can tell), kids must have a comprehensive exam that screens for problems with:

  • HEENT (head, eyes, ears, nose, throat)

  • Lungs

  • Heart

  • Neurological

  • Abdomen

  • Extremities

  • Skin

  • Genital

  • Urinary

There are also hearing, vision, and dental screens required, and the child's BMI and TB risk assessment must be recorded.

Worst of all, there is a developmental screen where the child is assessed for:

  • Emotional/social

  • Problem solving

  • Language/Communication

  • Fine motor skills

  • Gross motor skills

All of the results must be recorded by the physician on a form and given to the school.  In other words, to the government.  I was shocked!  Do you think that access to those records is kept strictly limited?  Check out paragraph C:
C. Such physical examination report shall be placed in the child's health record at the school and shall be made available for review by any employee or official of the State Department of Health or any local health department at the request of such employee or official.

I'm not even sure what a "local health department" is.  Who are all these people who would have access to my daughter's personal information?  How could I possibly hold them accountable?  The records might as well be kept in Wikipedia.

A quick Google search tells me that this is not uncommon.  It looks like at least Nebraska, Kentucky, Connecticut, Florida, and maybe many other states have similar laws.  What I can't tell with the quick search is whether they require that the results be reported to the school, or if one just needs to submit proof that the child has had a medical exam.  Either way, the laws are another example of the nanny-state gone mad.  But the idea that, in Virginia at least, the government has this type of sensitive data for every person attending public school and that I've never heard a soul complain about it is mind-blowing.

Another good reason to homeschool.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Samantha always naps.  She used to cry herself to sleep every time, but she has never resisted going up to her room for a nap or for bedtime. 

I figured we might have a problem soon, though, because of that Teach Me Time Clock we got for her recently.  The clock is great;  it turns green at 7:30am and she knows she can come out of her room.  The only problem is, we can't set the color alarm for both overnight sleep and nap, so the clock has to be either green or not-green during her naps.  At first we left it not-green, but she seemed confused.  So we changed it so that it stays green most of the day and turns off only around 6pm, when she is sure to have finished any napping, but before she could possibly go to sleep for the night.  This means that she goes down for nap with a green clock, but it seemed to make more sense to her that way.  Still, I knew that at some point, even though I explained it to her, she'd just figure she could skip her nap.

Finally, on Saturday (this was right before her bloody injury) she was so excited about the party that afternoon, which she knew would happen "after nap," that she decided she would not nap.  I put her down as usual and then hopped in the shower.  She showed up a minute later saying, DONE WITH NAP.  I knew that she expected to leave for the party as soon as she said it.  I might have let the nap go that day, but she was overtired to begin with, so I was concerned that she would be cranky if she didn't nap, and that we might even miss the party. 

"I don't think we'll be able to go to the party if you don't take a nap," I said.  She gave me some angry response and ran back to her room, slamming the door.  But a minute later, she was back.  ALL DONE WITH NAP.  "If you don't take a nap, I'm afraid we won't be able to go to the party."  NO! GO TO PARTY. READY TO GO NOW. NO NAP!  

I was still in the shower, so I tried, "If you don't nap now, you'll have to nap in the car on the way to the party, and then we'll be really late."  But what I got in response was, YES, MOMMY. BE LATE TO PARTY. BE LATE. YES.  "But if we do that you'll have less time to play with Baby N."  YES, BE LATE. BE LATE MOMMY.  "But if we do that we'll have to drive around for an hour while you nap and it will waste a whole hour for your daddy and me, and we don't like  that."  YES, BE LATE MOMMY. BE LATE TO PARTY.  She meant it, and I was prepared to do just that, but I still wanted to try to get her to nap at home.  I told her that I didn't like that idea and that I really wanted her to nap at home.

So when I got out of the shower I took her back to her room and sat in the chair and said that I'd stay until she fell asleep.  (I never do this!)  She would close her eyes if I told her to, but she talked to herself and always ended up looking back at me, grinning.  One time I waited through 5 minutes of silence and thought she was out but the moment she heard me move in the chair to get up, she turned around.

I told her that I was going to dry my hair, get dressed, and get my book and that she should stay in her room until I got back.  She did, but she was still awake when I returned.  I told her that I'd stay and read my book while she fell asleep.  Still nothing.  It was edging up on an hour of working on this now and if she didn't get to sleep soon, we really would not make it to the party.  I finally told her to look at me and I said firmly, "Sam, I've made up my mind.  If you don't take a nap, we are NOT going to the party. Period."  And I meant it.  I knew the party would be a disaster otherwise.  She turned over and went to sleep immediately.  I stayed a few minutes, but she was really out this time.  And she had a nice, long nap.

That teaches me to be wishy-washy.  Of course, I already knew that maybes and hemming and hawing don't work, but, hey, everyone screws up sometimes.  Another thing this taught me, though, is that when I do tell Samantha something in a clear way, she knows I will follow through.  Good for me!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


  • Decided on the spur of the moment to go to the local water park with Sam

  • While waiting for it to open, went to the park where we observed a traditional water balloon toss

  • Swam for 2 hours

  • Ate lunch on the grass

  • Fed the Canadian Geese

  • Went on the carousel, twice

  • Took a little ride in a boat on the lake

  • Swam for another hour

  • Cooked and ate a delicious dinner

  • Watched So You Think You Can Dance finale

  • About to go read the latest Lee Child thriller

All Little Things, but they add up to one heck of a great day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Sam Update - Thirty Five Months Old

It's been another month of booming independence for Samantha!

[caption id="attachment_1736" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Does the recorder sound different when you blow it into a jar?"]Does the recorder sound different when you blow it into a jar?[/caption]

Sam is going through another growth/development spurt right now.  She is constantly hungry, she is sleeping a lot, she is bursting with energy, and she is doing new things every day.  Just in the past few days I noticed that her communication skills shot through the roof.  For example, yesterday when Adam got home, she asked him plainly, HOW WAS WORK, DADDY? and she expected an answer.  She is also saying things like ONE BLANKET FOR EACH BABY instead of BOTH BABY HAVE BLANKETS.  There are other things that have struck me, but they happen so fast and furious that I never seem to get them down on paper.

Her imagination is booming too.  She seems to have a good grasp of pretend versus real, at least for her age.  She tells me when things are pretend now, like when we play monsters or ghost.  Sometimes I'll say, "Oh, are you putting your doll to sleep?" and she'll respond, NO, JUST PRETENDING.  She has interesting thoughts like, when I noted that the dog was sniffing the air, she said, MAYBE TOBY GOING HUNTING FOR FOOD.  Where does she come up with this stuff?

[caption id="attachment_1738" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Pretending to be angry"]Pretending to be angry[/caption]

After months of counting ONE FOUR SIX TEN FIVE THREE EIGHT!  Sam is finally starting to count to ten properly.  As a matter of fact, she can count to twenty, as long as you go along with her conviction that fifteen is The Number Which Must Not Be Named.

As I've already written, Samantha got through her first weekend without mommy and daddy this month.  This is a bigger milestone for us than it is for her, but I'm proud to report that she handled it very well. 

Somehow, Sam decided that she didn't need bibs anymore this month.  She used to demand a bib - it was just part of eating - but overnight, it seems, she dropped it and we let it go.  And you know what?  She doesn't spill as much as she used to.  I wonder which was the cause and which the effect there?

[caption id="attachment_1734" align="aligncenter" width="375" caption="Lasagna"]Lasagna[/caption]

I'm not sure if she's grown any taller, but Sam's feet grew almost 2 sizes in the past few months.  I had to buy a second set of summer shoes for her, and that is a first.  Shoes (and clothes) had always lasted at least a season, and as a matter of fact, she is still wearing a lot of her clothes from last summer.  I sometimes worry about how small she is, but hey, somebody has to be in the 10th percentile.  At least her small stature is not interfering with her independence as much as it used to.  She can now reach most sinks with a stool, she can use the short drinking fountain at day care, and she can reach doorknobs.  I know she'll still have challenges growing up small, but both Adam and I have experience in that area so hopefully we can help her through it.

We're working on the potty training in earnest now.  As of now, all it means is that she wears underwear for a few hours each morning and she sits on the potty sometimes.  It seems like she now knows how to hold her urine as I haven't seen a puddle in a few days, but she still hasn't peed on the potty.  I might just break down after all and buy a book to tell me what to do.  Maybe.  If I'm really desperate.

In retrospect, I know that we did indeed experience the terrible twos.  The reason I'm only sure of this now is that Sam is going through another willful phase, complete with all the usual tantrums, but now with the added bonus of whining mixed in.  Once she started on this spree, I realized that the past several months had been very peaceful, and I saw the contrast with January and February, when things were tough.  I know that this won't last forever but it's sure not fun.  I'm back to having a wet right shoulder most of the time from all the crying that goes on there.

A fun development is that Sam now likes to shower with us.  It's not always convenient in our tiny tub/shower combo (I'll shave my legs again someday, I suppose) but it's great to see her wanting to get clean just like mommy and daddy.  Today, I finished my shower and Sam wanted to stay in for a while so I got dressed and puttered around the bathroom for at least 10 minutes while she showered all by herself.  Really, the only help she needs is a hand to step in and out of the tub and someone to turn the water on and off.  She soaps and rinses pretty well all on her own.  She even dries herself with a hand towel all by herself, propping her feet up on the toilet to dry her legs, just like I do on the vanity.  The first time I saw her do that I just about wept with the realization of how much of the things Adam and I do will become a part of her forever.

[caption id="attachment_1735" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Swimming"]Swimming[/caption]

New Objectivist Parenting Mailing List

I'm excited to report that Rational Jenn and Diana Hsiehhave teamed up to create a new Objectivist mailing list:  OGrownups.  Here is a description of the group, taken from Jenn's announcement:
OGrownups is an informal mailing list for Objectivists interested in raising and educating children well. Its basic purpose is to facilitate discussion amongst Objectivists about child development, discipline techniques, education methods, parenting resources, and more.

Any Objectivist interested in polite and practical discussion about raising and educating children rationally may join OGrownups -- parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, caregivers, and friends. Anyone considering parenthood is also welcome.

The group is inclusive in regard to parenting - even if you are just interested in the subject, you are welcome to join.  But it is exclusive in regard to Objectivism.  Please read the criteria for membership carefully before joining.

I've already joined and I'm looking forward to seeing how the group develops.  Both Diana and Jenn have already done much to help build the Objectivist intellectual network, and if you read my blog, you already know that I'm a big fan of Jenn's writing on parenting.   This should be good!

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Written Schedule

A couple of weeks ago I bought a whiteboard and wrote up Samantha's Daily Schedule on it.  It goes something like this:

  • 8-8:30  Wake up, try potty, wear underwear

  • 8:30-9:15  Breakfast

  • 9:15-10:30  Free play, mommy shower, get dressed, brush hair

  • 10:30-11  Structured play

  • 11-noon  Free play, errands, chores

  • noon-1pm  Lunch, clean up

  • 1-2:30  Nap

  • 2:30-3  Free play

  • 3-3:30  Snack

  • 3:30-5  Free play, errands, chores, bath

  • 5-5:30  Structured play, try potty

  • 5:30-6:30  Mommy time, make dinner

  • 6:30-7:30 Dinner

  • 7:30-8:30  Play, brush teeth, PJs, clean up

  • 8:30  Bedtime

We don't stick to the schedule too closely.  It's not about the schedule, really - it's about the schedule telling Samantha what to do instead of mommy telling Samantha what to do.  When I first wrote it up, and whenever I change it, I get Sam to agree to it.  Then, when something needs to be done and she's resisting me, I can always say, "Let's go check the schedule and, see if we have time/see what we need to do/make sure we're on track."

I added the "try potty" entries after she decided she liked to wear underwear, but didn't mind peeing on the floor enough to bother trying the potty.  The day after I wrote it down, she started trying again without a struggle.  Now I just need to slowly add more "tries" to the schedule.  The same thing happened with brushing her hair.  I can't believe such a simple trick works, but it does.  Hurray for the schedule!

Blood and Chocolate

Sam had her first real bloody injury on Saturday.  Neither Adam nor I actually saw it happen, but we surmise that she tripped and fell into the door frame, forehead first.  I knew it was bad from the horrifying thunk that I heard all the way at the other end of the house.  Adam was at the scene a few seconds before me and looked at her head but didn't see anything, so he was hugging her when I got there.  But by the time I looked there was blood running down her face, pooling in her eyes, getting sniffed up her nose, and running into her mouth.  There was so much  blood.  Even though I knew that cuts on the scalp can bleed a lot, it was so frightening.  It took a few minutes before we could even figure out where the wound was because the blood was just everywhere.  I'm not even going to try to get the stains out of the towel we used to stop the bleeding.  That thing is going in the trash.

She's fine.  It was a cut that bled like crazy, but really, nothing much worse than she's had before.  Her skull did its job and protected her brain.  Adam and I both did a pretty good job at not panicking, and doing all the right things.  Not perfect, but not too shabby.  I had an initial moment of fear and panic but I was glad that I quite easily stomped that out and started using my mind.

We had been just about to leave for a party when it happened, and it took a full hour to calm Sam down, assess the damage and clean her up.  We did end up going to the party even though we were very late.  By that time, Sam was fine and we all had a great time.  I had made brownies to bring along, and to help Sam get out of her funk right after the injury, we let her lick the bowl.  A spoonful of chocolate is better than medicine!  Why is this image of her covered in blood, happily eating brownie batter so precious?  I'm not sure, but I love it.

Blood and Chocolate

Sunday, August 2, 2009


How come women pay $60, $70, $80 for a hair cut?  I'm not talking color or highlights or any other treatment.  A salon hair cut in the DC area costs at least $60 and I've been told that it can run over $100.  Why does it cost so much?  It makes no sense to me.  Is this one of those services where raising the price actually increases sales because customers then perceive that they are getting better quality?  It's a hair cut, for god's sake!  For $100, Iexpect you to cut my hair into the shape of the Venus de Milo.

I've been paying the high prices for the past year because I couldn't find a better option, but it was making me so sick to spend that much money that I finally went to Hair Cuttery and got an excellent cut for $21.  It's definitely better than my last $65 cut, which I had to fix with my own scissors the next day.  Also, it took less time and I didn't need an appointment.  Granted, I probably got lucky and got someone with skills, but I was prepared to try every person in that shop until I found someone who could do a good job.  I'm sure there are a couple of good people at all of these low end chains.  And even if a salon cut was better, could it really be THAT much better?  I really think we women are suckers for anything beautifying.  It's the female equivalent of the mysterious success of the "male-enhancement" products.

So I'm free of the need to spend outrageous amounts on a hair cut.  Highlights, however, are another matter.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Little Thing

Samantha made her first rhyme.  A fly had gotten in the house and we were saying, "A fly went by" and quoting lines from that excellent book.  Sam said A FLY WENT BY. A FLY WENT IN MY EYE.