hallea barrelman

and the rocks said..., originally uploaded by kelanew.

On Monday, when I picked Eva up from kindergarten, she very excitedly began to tell me all about what she learned in Language Arts class. She said they discussed fiction vs non-fiction, and read one of each kind of book. The fiction was a Clifford book ("I wasn't so interested in that" she said, glossing over it entirely). The non-fiction book was about "a time when people were forced to work without being paid". It's so unfair, she said, that people would treat each other that way.

The book was about one such girl, Hallea Barrelman, she said, who had to start working when she was just six years old. Eva went on to tell me everything she knew about Hallea Barrelman, and from the extent of the details she provided, I could tell this made a real impression on her: "She would even get whipped if the thread broke when she was spinning yarn, can you believe that?" "She was so brave that even after she got her freedom, she went back to help other people get free too." She told me all about the Underground Railroad ("not a real railroad for trains, but a bunch of houses one after the other"), and had so many details she talked for longer than it must have taken to hear the book in the first place. She asked if we could learn more about Hallea Barrelman on the internet when we got home. ("... and she was a nurse! There was a big war -- did you know the North won? And when they were escaping, they had to walk across whole *states*! And....")

I'd never heard this name before, but then again, I don't know the story of every freed slave ever recorded. I asked if she was sure about the name. She was. Definitely.

After some creative googling, I turned to her as she ate her after school snack: "Eva, was her name possibly Harriet Tubman?"

"Oh, yeah. Right, Harriet Tubman," she said, not even looking up from her carrots and hummus.

Barrel, tub... they're pretty much the same. A fun peek into how her brain works -- she visualized it, I guess, and then substituted a synonym. And she has no frame of reference for the name Harriet I suppose, so just made her best guess. (Reminds me of the other day when she said she thought Tom was "a pretty unusual name." It's all in what you hear around you.)

I can't quite do it justice, but it was just so sweet how excited she was to tell me about this new amazing thing she'd learned. I heard more about Hallea Barrelman than I've heard about anything so far in kindergarten -- even more than about chocolate milk! And, after reading through a biography online together, I have to say, Eva did in fact have all the various details correct. All, except... the name.

I have a feeling that someday when she's 24 she'll be rolling her eyes at me saying "oh Mom, not the Hallea Barrelman story again!"


eva goes to school


monkey girl

christmas in july

snuggling up

with mama

I have so much to say, but life hasn't slowed down enough for me to write it. This whole month -- or in some sense, for the past three years -- I've been anticipating this day. With excitement, with sadness, with pride, with dread, all at different times, all mixed up in a muddle. I've been crying on and off for a week, and if I had more time, I could explain all the reasons behind the cliche (at least my version of it, which involves a lot of sadness that my era as a stay at home mom is drawing to a close, a heap of regret for a job half-done, and a fair sprinkling of identity crisis).

Presently, with 9 hours to go until the start of kindergarten, I have abandoned all internal conflict, and submitted to a firm state of denial. Though her backpack is hanging here next to me, and though her lunch is packed (in the new lunchbox I gave to her in joy then cried over later, thinking of my tiny baby in a giant chaotic cafeteria trying to open the various containers), I can't quite believe it. Off she goes. She's so ready, but I'm not sure I will ever be.

Ah, so much more to say, but 6 a.m. comes extra early in this late-riser household, and Hazel is awake waiting for me to take her back to bed.

Now, in tears, I leave you with Larry's ever-gentle rejoinder from earlier:
"She's not exploding. She's just going to school."
True. But somehow I can't help viewing it as a beginning and also an end.


hazel goes to school

conspiratorial cousins, originally uploaded by kelanew.

(photo: Hazel and Lilly join Eva at the girls' preschool, celebrating Eva's crossing over ceremony.)

Hazel just started preschool this month. I debated starting her this fall -- after all, she's only just turned two (Eva was nearly three). It would be for 6-7 hrs/day twice a week (Eva started with 3 hrs/day). She'd have to eat lunch and nap at school (Eva didn't do that until she was 4). But as I've often had cause to discover and rediscover, Hazel isn't Eva (in that shocking way that one person consistently is not another person). I suppose it's only natural to fall back on your previous experience, never mind that a sample size of n=1 never led anyone to valid conclusions. And indeed, Hazel is her own kid.

We had two visit days, during which I stayed with her, and they went fine. In fact, both times I had to pretty much drag her kicking and screaming out of the place. No wonder she feels at home there -- she's been there more or less two days a week since she was negative 2 wks old. She knows the place; the playground (where the best swing is located), the teachers, and many of the kids. In fact, the only time she cried during the visit days is when an overzealous friend of Eva's decided to "help" Hazel a bit more than Hazel strictly wanted to be helped. Well, and I guess the time she got her arm stuck on the submarine climby thing. I helped her loose her wedged elbow and calmly sat back at my do-not-feed-the-animals perch ten feet away, and she went right up to a teacher and they dealt with it together, and she was almost immediately fine.

No surprise, then, that on the first day (arriving late, after a detour to the pedi to determine that Eva's pink eye was from her newfound love of underwater swimming, not in fact from pinkeye) Hazel was off and playing happily before I could even set down her lunch box. "Hey you, come back here and give me a hug and a kiss!" I reminded her that today, Mama was going to go, but that I'd come back after lunch and nap. "Mama always comes back... right Hazel?" (I've been feeding her that line for a few weeks now.) She looked right at me and said "Okay, bye-bye, Mama. I see you later." A perfunctory second kiss, and she was off.

Huh. I mean, I know this is Hazel after all (same baby who used to squirm for me to put her down so she could crawl or toddle over and entice my friends or their husbands to hold her instead), but come on. I was in a bit of a daze, not quite able to comprehend my child-free state -- it was, I realized, the first time in my entirety of motherhood someone other than a close friend or family member was watching all the children I had (okay, except for the two days of preschool Eva had before Hazel was born, but I was so pregnant I mostly just napped the whole 3 hours). I went home, burst into tears in Larry's arms, then asked him out to lunch. We ate -- there was an actual waiter and everything! -- and

[Wait, Hazel -- who is recovering from a hellish week hosting the coxsackie virus and is now feeling better and wide awake at 10 p.m. -- just ambled over to announce playfully: "Mama, I find a very scary ("beh-wy skeh-wy") robot. I need-a nuggle you. That scary robot go'n step on my foot!" She laughed -- she was just pretending, after her adventure in the dark hallway. She's bouncing off the walls, happy to be feeling better. She was so very miserable all week... okay, now as I'm typing this, she's "riding my horsey" and asking for nummy bed at the same time; can't decide if she's wide awake or tired. "You finish your 'puter, okay Mama? Finish your 'puter."]

Anyway, quickly: I arrived at school to pick her up after our lunch, and no fewer than four people told me "oh, Hazel was crying!" "wow, Hazel sure wasn't happy"... hey! What?! As predicted, she was not a fan of nap. She's accustomed to nursing to sleep for nap and bedtime (and, you know, when felled by the mean ol' coxsackie, when she couldn't even tolerate sips of water but would nurse, thank goodness) -- so I knew adjusting to school nap would be a trick. Other than that, she had a grand old time, and again, I could barely entice her to leave. The next school day she slept, and next, she slept without crying first. She'll adjust -- and she loves every other moment of being there. If only she could actually *go*... she's been sick twice already in her first three weeks of school. Same happened to Eva, which I had blocked out of my memory -- scarred as I was by it, in part because a virus Eva caught from school during her first month is what hit newborn Hazel, and what caused the horrifying image of the face of my 18-day-old baby as she endured a spinal tap to be forever seared onto the back of my eyeballs. (Yes, I know; I said I both had blocked it out and had it permanently seared into my memory... but that's exactly what it is.)

Next week, she'll go back. Eva will then be in Kindergarten (another post, to be sure). Too bad the girls only got to overlap by 3 days (would have been 5 without illnesses), but already, Hazel is on her own path, and ready to venture forth. I don't know if I'm so ready for that, but time freezes for no mama. Or so I'm discovering.


art and love, rips and all

eva at sunset, originally uploaded by kelanew.

Eva's been having some amount of stress over her artwork lately. Apparently her preschool teachers (at least according to Eva) "always tell [a certain boy] that he's 'turning into a real little artist'." This, she says, makes her feel sad. Or jealous. Or left out. Or that her art isn't good enough. I empathize -- I really do -- as I remember feeling the same way lots of times as a kid. But, I also figure it's okay. It's a little nudge, a reminder, to think of our own work and our own creative expression as an end in itself. It's irrelevant what anyone else thinks about it (in many cases, anyway) and I know only too well what happens when you get caught in the trap of acting primarily for ever-more external validation, when feeling good about it for yourself is never quite enough.

We told her, maybe they thought this boy needed extra encouragement. Maybe he's been practicing a lot and working hard and just figured out some new cool stuff. Maybe your teachers already told you lots of good things that day and they were focusing on someone else. Maybe you're good at lots of stuff so they didn't think they had to tell you every part. Maybe we could do more fun drawing at home if you'd like to learn some new techniques. Maybe it's okay, so long as you enjoyed making your art, and you're pleased with it.

She hears us, sometimes, but she's spent more time moping and or crying about this than I would have anticipated. More than once, I considered asking her teachers to throw her a "good at art" bone to make her feel better. But, in the end, I think this lesson is worth learning. The process is more important than the end result. Your art should make you happy, who cares about everyone else.

The artist boy at school had apparently been noticed in part for his adept shading and blending of colors. I know this in part because Eva told me, but also because suddenly her art has become far more influenced by shading, blocks of swirly colors, layers, with different intensities, and so on; works of art that might, however, be mistaken by the uninitiated as, well... scribbles. Gone (for now) are her drawings of what I'd look like as a robot (purple bow on my trapezoidal head), or aerial views of swim lessons, complete with each child in the color of their actual swimsuit. No more scenes of a sunny garage sale, complete with price stickers, where at least half the merchandise consists of wigs and vases.

I know where she's going with this, so I'm letting her go along... though, admittedly, I had a bit of trouble when she made a card for a soon-to-be kindergarten classmate's birthday that was a depiction of "swirly fairy land", a blend of many soft colors, that would look (to this family we don't know all that well) possibly like the work of her younger sister. I let go, and got over that. We support the process.

Like last weekend, when hours and hours into sorting and packing (in preparation for the new carpet installation -- happening as I type this) Eva came upstairs to proudly show us some of her artwork from the day (we hadn't heard a peep from her for over an hour). We discussed each drawing, then she climbed up into Larry's lap, and he told her he was really loving this new art she'd been working so hard on lately.

She said, "Papa, I love you even more than art! Yeah, I just love you, even more than art." Aww. Knowing I was totally setting myself up, I asked, "Hey, Eva, what do you love me more than?"

Without missing a beat, in her perfected five-year-old deadpan, she said to me,

"Well, I love you more than a ripped paper bag."

Zing. We all laughed, and Eva eventually let a little smirk sneak out. Sometimes, even when you know where you're going, you can be surprised at the answer. And though I don't know exactly where she's headed with her artwork, but I trust in the process, in the evolution. Who knows if I can help her find her way toward an internal motivation, toward love of the intrinsic challenge (because isn't that by definition sort of something she has to do for herself?) but I can at least point her in the general direction. Maybe I'll make a signpost out of a ripped paper bag.


hazel dictionary

hazel and butterfly, originally uploaded by kelanew.

i started this list almost two months ago, and reviewing it just now, i see it's already changing a lot. so, here it is, before we lose any more time. (nevermind that i missed what is approaching a year in chronicling her life, but if i start to think about that i start to want to curl up in a ball, so let's just not dwell on that bit...)

my favorite current word: screwdriver -- skoo-why-weh (refers to both just the screws and actual screwdrivers.)
that tells you a lot about our current life. this baby sees as many screwdrivers and other bits of construction detritus than she does proper toys. hopefully this phase will calm down soon. :)

various requests and commands and other such ways of communicating her needs:
stop, please! -- dop, peas (she says please for *everything*)
thank you -- tank-oo
sister aka Eva -- dit-der (eh-Vuh)
hazel do it/ i did it! -- ha-zool do it / i dea iht (so triumphant! :)
help, please. -- hep, peas
i would like more of that -- mo dat.
i don't want this -- no wahn dit (aka, i see something i'd like better, so please this this now odious item from my grasp.)
i do not like it -- no lie dit
i am all done with this -- ah dun dis (so take it away right nooooow!!!)

some important sources of nourishment:
water (woy), orange (ohnsh), yogurt (yo-dit), snack (nak), cracker (cack-ee), juice (djoose), cheese (shez), taco, toast (toatst,) her early favorite from time in ND, apple (appo), pretzel (pet-zol), broccoli (bok-ee)

her favorite source of nourishment, however, is of course nummy. good ol' nummy. whereas eva always said "maok", hazel came up with nummy -- started with my making an "uhmmm" sound when trying to motion for her to eat, which she changed to ummmmy, then yummy, then nummy. (even now, she will say "mmm, nummy!" when she likes some food, so i think she thinks it's the same word, the word for milk and the word for delicious. and hey, why not?)
along with nummy, we get such phrases as "hep nummy" (hey, why's this annoying shirt in the way? can you please help me?) "peas nummy" (sometimes said sweetly and other times screamed over and over, which is less but somehow nearly more convincing, i have to admit) and the new favorite "nummy bet. peas? nummy bet." (i want to go up to bed and go to sleep)

some favorite fashion items:
glasses (ga-sess, generally papas which she steals before he wakes up in the morning) neck-us (not so crazed for them as eva was for her beloved "neckies"), boot & socks (sots), which come off and on repeatedly. since she potty trained herself last week (more on this later, hopefully), she's become quite fascinated with unnies (underwear), to the point of demanding -- absolutely insisting -- that i help her put on all 9 pair she owns. at once. i feared all that elastic would cut off her still-residually-chunky legs, but man, she was not happy when i took them off. (as i type this, she is still awake (10:30) and just announced "potty", then walked to the bathroom, and i can hear that she took off her nighttime diaper then opened the potty and sat down. i still don't know where all this came from. it's all her.)

conversations to be aware of:
--(me saying anything)--- "what?" --(me explaining)-- "oh."
she asks with genuine interest, and then no matter what jibberish i say in reply, she says "oh" as if my explanation was highly elucidating. it's one of my favorite things ever. other versions include:
"what doing?" "oh."
"happen?" "oh."
several weeks back, she was dreaming and awoke, looked at me, and said (clearly very concerned): "happen? happen? sary. sary." (as in, scary) then fell immediately back to sleep. oh, baby, you had a bad dream... sad, but glad you can tell me about it now.

a favorite word:
soh-we. soh-we. i soh-we.
i soh-we.
if she bumps into you, if you say something sounding irritated, if you're crying, if she perceives that she has slighted you in any way.... i'm sorry. i know she's modeling our saying it, but the frequency with which she says it makes me wonder...

responses to questions:
i no know. -- said in the cutest voice, with her hands thrown up in the universal gesture... hazel, where are your shoes? i no know! ("know" comes out as about three syllables, in a sing-song fashion. huh, wonder who talks like that?)
in addition to the usual "no" and "yes", we also have unh-uh (no) and mm-hmm (yes) though that has become "uh-huuuuh", in the same three-note sing-song.
oh-kay! she says that a lot. (that and "uh oh! key-mup!" (clean up)...at least someone around here is interested in cleaning.)

(as i'm typing, she came out of hte bathroom holding a wipe, giving a token effort to wiping herself, saing "'nuff wip." yes hazel, that is enough. you only need one wipe, not the usual one dozen. or one package.)

she knows tons of words -- already, sadly, far too many to chronicle -- but these are some i like. for a few months now, she's been firmly in the phase of filling in the words she doesn't know with what sounds to us like jibberish. but, the sentence structure is all there, as is vocal inflection, and given the intelligible words she mixes in there, she makes her meaning plenty clear. the times when i have no idea what she's said, i repeat it back to her as a question and she'll emphatically reply "yeah!" yeah. i thought so hazel. because you clearly feel strongly about this, whatever this is...

i've always said that that phase from about 15 months to 2 yrs is just the most delightful, when they go from just saying a few words through this explosion of language and come out *talking* to you. and while they're doing that, you're really getting to know more about how they think, you see who they are more clearly... and all the while, the full-on conflicts and tantrums aren't there yet (just the practice kind -- not that i knew that the first time around. first time, those early tantrums seemed so huge, and this time they're almost cute. :)

okay, off to take this little baby to bed. 22 months old now, so soon she'll be 2 already! my baby, already a kid. she is quite simply a joy. almost everything she does, it's just fun to be a witness to that spark in her eye as she figures it all out.

she just brought me a pressure gauge, announced "clock" (okay, so she said it w/o the L sound) -- and i'm wondering, how does she even know what a clock is? we don't have a working analog clock in the house. then she looks at me and says "haha. funny." what's funny is htat she has now fed me at least a dozen pretzels despite my protests, ferrying them from the bag at the other end of the coffee table. i resist, then get distracted while typing, and she sneaks another one to me. haha. funny.

and now we've come full circle back to a "nummy bet" request, so off i go to take this night owl baby to bed.

ps> i almost forgot what might be the best one! in addition to hug (uhk) and kiss, we have "nuggo" (or slowly it morphs to get that L on the end, nuggol). snuggle. there's little i love more than when my baby walks over and asks to nuggo. that's the good stuff right there.