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Lilah for President

January 14, 2015

Last night my bedtime routine with Lilah started a couple minutes late because I’d answered the phone and agreed to a short survey about my thoughts on the 2016 presidential election. Afterwards:

Me: Sorry. That was somebody calling to get my opinions about the 2016 presidential election.
Lilah: But it just turned 2015!
Me: Yeah, people like to plan early if they are thinking about running for president.
Lilah: I should run for president.
Me: But maybe not in 2016.
Lilah: I could run for president of the book club.
Me: Hey, that’s a good idea. Is there a book club?
Lilah: Yes – me and Annie.
Me: Oh, okay. So, what do you think is the most pressing issue facing book clubs today?
Lilah: Um, what does pressing mean?
Me: It’s like, what’s putting the most pressure on the book club – the most important or urgent thing that needs to be taken care of.
Lilah: Okay. It’s this: not enough people are joining book clubs.
Me: And to what do you attribute this lack of membership?
Lilah: I think it’s all the electronic devices we have today. Boys especially, they like the electronic devices a lot more than reading books.
Me: So what are your plans for addressing this issue?
Lilah: We should find books that look like games and have things that boys like. Like, books about robots or space or cars.
Me: I would vote for you.

(Does president of the book club need a serious face like the United Statesers?)

Speaking of electronic devices, in Lilah’s class last week they earned a class reward, and voted to give themselves a day where they could bring their devices to school and play with them during free time. This was mildly stressful in our household because we are pretty limited on portable electronic devices. I ended up letting Lilah take my Kindle Fire, on which I have a locked down kids portal that manages what apps they can access and makes sure they don’t buy anything. It’s occasionally a little glitchy, though, so I didn’t feel great about giving it to her; I worried if it glitched she would have a meltdown. Also I just didn’t like the pressure this Electronic Device Day was putting on me. Not everybody has electronic devices that can be sent to school with their seven year old! (To be fair to the teacher, the announcement email also said there’d be computer time for students who didn’t bring a device of their own. But Lilah felt very strongly she didn’t want to be the fabled Only One Who didn’t bring in an electronic device.)

At the end of the day when I picked her up from aftercare I asked her how it went, and she said she’d played with it for a while and then the home screen blanked. But it was okay because one of the other kids let her use their device. “I made this with it,” she said, and handed me a little booklet of stapled together pages with a bunch of typed text. “Chantal brought a typewriter.” (Lilah later complained to me that she and Chantal are the only people in the class, perhaps the only people in THE WORLD without their own device like an iPad mini or a Nintendo DS, or at least an old iPhone).

Typewriter! I love it. Bless you, Chantal’s Mom. I will fist bump you about this the next time I see you.

Books for budding engineer-girls

November 17, 2014

In our house, we have a little girl who loves to know how things work – she likes to take things apart, push buttons, twist knobs, and understand what does what. Right now, for instance, she is obsessed with internal combustion engines. We may have checked out every age-appropriate book on engines at our local library … which is a smallish number of books considering she is 3 years old.

I don’t know that she will be interested in engineering as a career, but she might, and of course I would be happy to encourage such a thing. So in addition to her technical reading material, we have also found over time, some good story books with little girl engineering-types at our local library:


Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty. Via

First, who can say no to a children’s book with engineering paper on the cover?  I would like to find this red/pink combination for my own stash.  This story is a nice lesson about sticking with it – not every invention is amazing, and not every amazing invention is a success on its first iteration.  I really appreciate the wise aunt who points out to young Rosie that whether or not you are successful depends strongly on the metrics you use – so think about how you want to define success before you decide if you’re a failure.  A good lesson in engineering and in life.



Violet the Pilot, by Steve Breen. Via

I love that Violet builds and flies her own planes, and that she sacrifices her dream of winning a flying competition when she stops to save a troop of scouts from drowning.  Also, the illustrations are charming.  BUT.  It irked me a great deal that the book begins by pointing out that Violet is weird for not liking dolls, and that she has no friends.  Pointless and discouraging stereotyping: unwelcome!  Parents, your girls (or boys!) can enjoy developing their engineering skills without risking complete social ostracism, and they can like or not like dolls and they are not weird either way.



The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires. Via

There’s something weird about this book, maybe that the protagonist seems kind of grouchy. I don’t know. I didn’t love it, personally. But I can recognize a good message of resilience: don’t give up when a project doesn’t turn out exactly as you expected.



Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen, by Cari Best. Via

This is a sweet story about a girl who loves her bicycle, but outgrows it. She scavenges parts to build her next bicycle, and then gives her old bike to a younger child. I love the spirit of DIY plus giving to others. Everybody wins!



Astronaut Handbook, by Meghan McCarthy. Via

Not a storybook really, and the astronauts in this cute book have a semi-realistic gender breakdown because there are more boys than girls, but still – a cute girl in a ponytail shows how you can be an astronaut and scientist at the same time. And who wouldn’t want to do that??

To the moon!

June 2, 2014

Lilah recently joined a local 4-H club (the little kids are members of an option called “Clover Kids”). The group she joined has more of a science and technology emphasis, and so our lack of animal husbandry activity is no issue. At the first meeting she went to, they melted down Styrofoam in acetone and put it into molds to make little 4-H coins. It was pretty cool to watch the different types of polystyrene dissolve. It was also a little inspirational to watch a few of the older kids giving presentations, which is how they kick off the meetings. One was a high school student presenting on his experimentation with various camera settings, one was another high school student who wrote a program for his mom that was basically a “today in your family history” calendar app, and the last one was a 9-year-old boy who presented on the history of the periodic table of the elements.

Yesterday’s meeting had a presentation on particle accelerators, and then the kids all made and tested soda bottle rockets. Well, the kids made them. The testing was overseen by the engineer-dad who runs the group with his wife. Some of the kids were keen to pull the pin themselves, to launch the rocket, but Lilah handed her bottle to the dad and ran away as fast as possible.

Lilah ducks while another rocket is being launched

Readying Lilah’s rocket

Launching Lilah’s rocket

For the record, it went over the house and bounced off a car parked on the street. I’m hopeful that the car belonged to one of the other 4-H families.

Good (and bad) books I read this year.

December 30, 2013

Thanks to my Goodreads account, I have a nice record of the 27 books I read in 2013 (not including the one I am reading right now, which may be a five-star on next year’s list). Below is a list of the ones I liked a lot. No amazing books this year (nothing close to last year’s two 5-star reads The Sisters Brothers and Island Beneath the Sea) but some very good ones!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – I was late to the party on this one, but the book indeed lived up to my expectations. Part cautionary tale about medical ethics, part social commentary on race and poverty, both stories are interesting.

The Art of Fielding – I listened to this on audiobook after having read a lot of downers. This story is lighter, but the characters are well developed and interesting.

Waterborne – Perhaps because I am into hydrology and engineering, I bought right in to the setting of this book, and the lure of being a dam-builder and the treachery of the water.

The Age of Miracles – I guess this is young adult fiction, but I would have been very depressed to read this as a young adult, because even though the tone of the book is hopeful, the story itself is totally not.

The Tiger’s Wife – I am sure this was a good book, because I am pretty stingy with my stars. However, clearly this is not the sort of book that sticks with me for a long time, because I only remember it slightly.

The Sandcastle Girls – This book, on the other hand, has really stuck with me. The title makes it sound sort of whimsical, but it absolutely is not. It’s a story witnessing to the Armenian genocide of 1915, which is a tragedy I knew next to nothing about before reading this book.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – The narrator’s voice in this book really grabbed me.

And then there are a bunch of books I felt like I was supposed to have liked, but didn’t:

Straight Man – Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors, and I grew up a stone’s throw from the town upon which the setting of this book is not-very-loosely based, and it’s about life as a faculty member. So, should have been right up my alley. But wasn’t.

Gone Girl – Okay, an inventive storyline. But, not a single likeable person in the book except maybe a female detective that the author kept pointing out was homely.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Didn’t like. But I thought maybe I was missing something, so I read the sequel and disliked it even more.

The Invisible Bridge – Just too long for the content, and characters too flat.

Independence Day 2013

July 5, 2013

Yesterday on our way into town to partake in some of the 4th of July festivities, we were talking about what the American Revolution was all about, and what’s great about representative government. Several days ago Lilah and Greg got into a conversation about the Boston Tea Party, prompted by something Lilah had read in one of the ten thousand novels she is currently reading, so she already had a little background knowledge and was happy to show off what she knew.

So we were retelling the story of the Boston Tea Party, and ended with, “So they dumped all the tea into the Boston Harbor.” Lilah said, “Where only the fish could drink it.” “Yeah,” I said, “and the fish probably didn’t pay any of the taxes on it.” Lilah responded, “Maybe they paid in sand dollars.” The girl loves a good pun.

We were on our way to the annual community pancake breakfast put on by City Hall, which I have to say is a very nice but simple event. It’s just pancakes and folding tables and chairs. But city councilmen were wandering around serving coffee and water, and the Fire Department was there letting kids climb into a fire truck. So it was a nice example of how we are represented in our local government AND what kinds of things our taxes pay for (fire trucks, I mean; although, I guess pancakes also).

The pancake line was quite long, but fast moving. But right at the end before the pancake tent, the well-known local man in a skirt was there with a sign and a petition. The sign said, “Let us be naked” and I assume the petition was related. Maybe this was another teachable moment to talk to Lilah about how we can have a say in the policies that affect our lives, but, instead I just pointed to something in the opposite direction and hoped that she would not notice. Though, he’s a local institution in many ways and I’m sure she’s seen him around before.

Then, we headed to the north side of town to explore one of the local parks. I have a goal of getting to all the city parks this summer and fall, which is actually pretty ambitious because there are a LOT of them. While I appreciate that there are so many parks, but the disappointing thing is that they are mostly all exactly the same – same structures, same layout, same exact personality (or lack thereof). The one we went to yesterday even that an identical climber layout to the park Lilah and Greg and his mom went to last week. Still, this one had a nice walking path too, and the day was lovely and perfect for enjoying the outdoors.

Later in the afternoon, there was a neighborhood ice cream social. It was a nice chance to meet some of the folks that live in other parts of the neighborhood, and one of Lilah’s friends from day care was there and they enjoyed seeing each other outside of school. There seem to be quite a few elementary-aged kids around, and maybe we will get to know some of them when Lilah starts school this fall.


May 13, 2013

Lilah is very into word jokes these days. She has read basically all of the age-appropriate joke books at the local library, and also enjoys making up her own jokes (some of which, I must say, are very clever and funny).

Yesterday at the grocery store she got on a roll with some octopus-themed pun jokes, and made up a zillion jokes on the spot as we traded ideas back and forth. Some examples:

Q. What kind of sea creature is really good at telling time?
A. A clocktopus.

Q. What kind of sea creature likes geology?
A. A rocktopus.

Q. What kind of sea creature likes to play hockey?
A. A pucktopus.

Celia is often inspired by the interests and antics of her older sister. The joke-making must be leaving an impression on her, because this morning she said, “I made up a joke.” I said, “You did? Let’s hear it.” She paused for a moment, no doubt trying to get the telling of it just right, and then shouted, “JOKE!”

It certainly made me laugh. I told her to tell the joke to Dad, and he laughed too. Celia found that delightful and said happily, “You laughed! You laughed at my joke.”

Day care sheets

May 4, 2013

2/25/13: I wrote with pencil in a notebook. Kala asked me to tell her about my writing. I told her “I writing about food. Vegetable food like we had at snack.”

2/27/13: I walked over to Raeah in the kitchen play area and said “You the dad. I be the mom.” I told Kala “I help Raeah dad cook!” A minute later I started shouting “Both us live together!”  Five minutes later I switched and said “I’m the dad! I drive!”  Later I tried to put a toy in my pocket but it was a false pocket. I ran and grabbed a toy phone and said, “Soko? Eli have pockets?”

3/25/13: I watched Raeah pick up 3 balls. Kala commented, “Wow Raeah you are holding 3 balls, that’s a lot!” I ran to the ball tub and said “I going to hold 4 balls! That’s more!”

3/26/13: I drove cars around on a pretend road map. As I pushed them I kept them on the roads and out of the grass. I yelled “Beep beep!” and “Watch out for the stop sign!”

3/28/13: I laid on the climber on my tummy facing the mirror. I flailed my arms and legs and said “Help! I’m trapped!” I watched myself for a while as I did this then pushed up onto my hands, looked around and said “Kenta! I’m trapped on a plane! Help!”  When I came in from outside I walked to Leo, rubbed his hair and said, “It’s nice to see you.”

4/5/13: I washed fruits and vegetables in the water table. I said “Getting the germs off. Yum, yum, fruit” and pretended to eat a piece of the watermelon. After going potty in the afternoon I told Kala “I have a happy colon!”

4/8/13: I went up to the top of the climber and said “Everybody c’mon! We’re flying to Aunt Susie’s wedding!” I also told Kala I wanted to fly to the bathroom and pretended to have a bumpy landing.

4/9/13: I got a surprise visit from daddy. I cried when he left but calmed quickly with cuddles from Kala. When I was calm Kala asked, “Celia, even though it made you sad when he left, were you glad Daddy stopped by for a hug?” I stuck out my lip and said, “Yeah.” As I lay in bed to go to sleep I whispered three times, “I love my Daddy so much.”

4/10/13: I was nervous again when Kala told me the librarian was coming. When she arrived we started talking about her new baby and when he was born – one month after my birthday! I talked about my upcoming trip with Kala today. I told her “I go on a plane then have Aunt Susie’s wedding then come back on a plane then go home then come back here!”

4/15/13: I started to run away from the sink when Kelli asked me to wash hands for snack. I began gathering measuring cups and told Kala when she asked what I was doing that I needed to “clean up first.”

4/18/13: After I pooped in the potty I looked at Kala and said, “Mommy and Daddy be so proud of me!”

4/19/13: I saw Kala give Kenta a teething ring so I asked to have one too. Kala said, “Celia, I haven’t seen any signs that you need a teething ring but if I do I’ll give you one.” I started waving my hands around and I said, “I’m signing!”

4/29/13: I ran through the room saying “Especially Kenta, Especially Raeah, Especially me!” Kala asked why I was saying especially. I told her “Because Kenta special and Raeah special because they are going to be brave!” I had a conversation with Kala. I had a box and I told her, “I’m sending it to Mommy.” Kala asked what I had packed and I told her “some blocks.” Kala asked why I was sending blocks. I said, “Mommy needs to play a little at work.”

5/2/13: I wouldn’t walk to the bathroom for toileting so Kala told me she would have to change me on the table. I told her “Only the babies change on the table. I sit on the potty. I trying really hard to be a big girl.”


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