Nathan has the generalization skill down. And I’m not saying that just because he’s figured out that the “Esc” key is a good bet for getting out of any dialogue box. No, I’m saying it because of a really good mis-generalization that he made today.

During errands today, we gave in to the lure of some candy machines and decided to give each kid a quarter to invest in a handful of candies of their choice. Ryan chose Runts. Nathan bypassed the M&M’s (a previous favorite) and went for the Skittles (a recent and apparently enjoyable discovery). He retrieved his candies, carefully examined the “S” inscribed on one of them, and reached the obvious conclusion.

“I got S&M’s,” he told us.

Needless to say, our reaction failed to convince him to use the term “Skittles” instead. Nathan likes to make us laugh as much as we like to make him laugh.


I like jigsaw puzzles. When I was a kid (i.e., had free time, available horizontal surfaces, and no little baby hands to mess things up) I used to do a lot of jigsaws. Some of my favorite 500 piece puzzles became little 20-minute relaxation exercises for me. The summer before I went to college, I spent two and a half months doing an 8000 piece jigsaw puzzle, and I still remember that time with pleasure. Just recently I in fact had a wonderful dream, in which the only thing that I did was to work on a jigsaw puzzle. I woke up feeling relaxed and happy.

Having sufficiently driven that point home, please consider the following picture.

I know, I know… puzzle-making is a learned skill. Young children are just as incredibly inept at it as they are at everything else, and it’s the process that’s important. I really, truly am usually good with that. But for certain skills which are near and dear to my heart, I find myself clenching my teeth while my child fumbles his way through.

I think I did a good job at working through this puzzle with Nathan. I don’t think that my voice became at all uneven when I told him, for the sixty-second time, about the concept of edge pieces, or that the point is to match up the picture. I even stepped back far enough, at one point, to ask him if he knew what I meant when I referred to a “corner.” (He didn’t. I explained.)

So overall I think I did a good job with him. I helped only a little and was appropriately enthusiastic when he fit in the last piece. I maintained a demeanor of interest and calm. On the outside.

And if I struggled a little on the inside, and my fingers twitched a few times… well, it doesn’t count if he doesn’t know about it, right?

Creeper Cupcakes

It is possible that, if you don’t have a Minecraft-obsessed four-year-old, the insane awesomeness of creeper cupcakes will not be immediately apparent to you. In fact, you may be wondering what I’m talking about. What the heck is a creeper anyway?

However, in our household, that is not a problem. The idea of creeper cupcakes was floated quite a while ago, and has clung ever since. Every once in a while one or the other of the kids would say, out of the blue, “I want a creeper cupcake!” — just to remind me of an unfulfilled obligation. And finally I came through. A few chocolate cupcakes, a little mint-flavored frosting, and a quick plastic template used to apply black sprinkles… And we have a couple of very happy kids.

Can’t Wait

We are deep into the indecisiveness of spring here. One day it’s this:

And the next this:

It’s the warm sunny days that are dangerous. I do try to be rational, even in the face of 68-degree days, with sunshine bathing the new raspberry shoots, and daffodils and peach blossoms bursting forth. This year I managed to wait through two really major warm spells without planting a thing. And then my willpower crumbled.

Peppers, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and even some flowers… Was it really a good idea to plant all those seeds? I don’t know. I do know that every time I spy another pale green curl of life, it makes me very happy.

New Skills

It’s always enjoyable to watch a young child learn something new. This is especially true when the new thing they learn has the effect of making my life easier. And, it turns out, it’s true even when they’re essentially becoming more manipulative. Let me explain.

I’ve written before about the (ubiquitous, expected) “no, me!” phenomenon between Nathan and Ryan. There is an entire house full of toys — but the one Ryan wants just happens to be the exact one that Nathan currently has. There is an entire yard to play in, but the one spot Nathan wants to be is exactly where Ryan is. And so on. It’s so universal a phenomenon that there seems no point talking about it, unless you’re a parent currently living through it, in which case discussing it is an excellent way to bond with other parents of young children.

We have successfully applied a number of tools to the “no, me!” problem, including taking turns and sharing, with the result that conflict generally occurs only several dozen times a day instead of constantly. Yay! Nevertheless, we are always excited to see another possible reduction in conflict. Hence my excitement at the following exchange, which took place recently at the end of dinner:

Nathan: I’m going to play with the green tractor.

Ryan: Me play with green tractor!

Nathan (clearly trying to be generous): Well, you can have the green tractor. I’ll play with the front loader.

Ryan: Me play with front loader!

Nathan (turning to look toward the other end of the house): Ok. I’ll play with the yellow truck.

Ryan: Me play with yellow truck!

At this point I had finished wiping Ryan’s hands and lifted him down from his high chair. He ran off toward the yellow truck. I fully expected Nathan to follow, perhaps yelling his current war cry of “I want!” as he went. Instead, he climbed down from his chair, quietly collected the green tractor and front loader, and went in the opposite direction from Ryan. Soon they were both playing happily in separate rooms.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be happy about this. On the one hand, Nathan essentially played off Ryan’s weaknesses in order to gain his own ends. On the other hand, they were both happy afterwards, and without even going through a shouting match. So far convenience has won out, and I’m rooting Nathan on.