Friday, January 30, 2015

Year 5: Week 20 – Recorder-land

Beside the fact that I work with middle school students, the part of my job that people think is the unimaginable (and horrible) is teaching recorder.

One of my favorite principals observed one of my recorder lessons a couple years ago. She told me later that she had no idea how I managed to teach that class, and focus on the students with the sound of so many beginning recorder players. It was so bad that she confided in me later that the she turned off her hearing aid halfway through the class.

At my school the students start recorder about halfway through third grade and continue to use them in music class until the end of fifth grade. We weave the use of this instrument into activities and songs that we learn. It is one of the primary tools we use to teach note-reading, and this instrument helps students understand the family of wind instruments.

This week was a big week for recorders in my teaching world. The third graders started the recorder and I introduced my fifth graders to the alto recorder.

For about three weeks I’ve been lecturing my third graders to prepare them for their recorder quiz and showing them clips of professional level recorder players. I tell them that if they do not pass their recorder quiz, they will not get it. In reality, my third graders get so worked up about this idea of a “quiz” and being the one kid that doesn’t get the recorder that all of them pass every year.

It’s a simple quiz designed to help them start asking themselves about the recorder when they get it in their hands. I go over basics of which hand is on top, whether to start with slow or fast air, placement of recorder in the mouth and troubleshooting (e.g. make sure to cover all of the holes).

They deal with the lectures and this quiz because for some reason the third graders are insanely excited about the recorder. This unfortunately changes by fifth grade.

The recorder for many of my fifth graders has become a drag. For some of them, the note-reading has gotten in the way of making music and others simply have motivation and the patience to learn harder notes on the instrument.

To combat this feeling, I’ve done two things. The first thing is that I’ve created a packet of pop songs and written the recorder notes underneath the lyrics, “Some Nights,” “We Will Rock You,” “Let It Go,” “Shake It Off,” and “Rock and Roll Part 2.” These songs are a wide variety of skill level and purposely appeal to different genders. The idea is that kids will be learning songs that they like and want to learn and will be willing to work through the newer notes.

It’s been working really well. The kids enjoy having some freedom of song choice and breaking up in small groups to work through the songs. Along with a fingering chart, and how the song goes in their head, they have all the tools they need to make music.

I’m lucky to have seven alto recorders. During work time on the packets, I let each kid spend a couple minutes trying an alto recorder. I offered it as a different sound and an extra-challenge. In each class I had about four kids end up really liking the sound and the challenge of the instrument. Some of these students were the high-achievers in the class but a couple of the people who got most excited about the alto were some of my boys who aren’t as into the recorder and music class.

Between the excitement of my third graders and hearing my fifth graders explore the alto recorder and work really hard to make the jumps in “Let It Go” sound smooth, it’s been a good week for recorders in my life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Parenthood – Week 87: The Insensitivity Of Keeping Score

Many relationship experts warn couples to not “keep score.” The idea is that a relationship should not be based on who did what and when. While I agree with this advice in general, it’s not always a bad thing to keep score.

 It’s not unreasonable to ask your wife to cook dinner if you have been cooking dinner for the past two nights. When it comes to splitting up chores and house-hold duties a certain level of accountability is helpful in making sure that there is a level of equity within the relationship. At the same time one should not be so strict and dogmatic about chores to the point that it causes unreasonable amounts of tension in a relationship.

Sometimes get lazy and don’t do the dishes when it is our turn and our partners clean them for us. Yes, it is annoying when people slack off, but in general it’s usually not that big a deal and it’s not worth getting into a fight over if its not an everyday occurrence. Part of being caring and in a partnership is doing things when its not your turn, to be nice and to help out.  Dishes can wait, yes, they get gross, but they can wait, and no one really suffers. However, if someone is being lazy and doesn’t want to do the chore of letting the dog out to go potty, there is very real suffering occurring and the same thing goes for changing diapers.

Feeding Buffy, taking her out for walks, cleaning up after accidents when she was a puppy and cleaning up Buffy when she is sick are all chores that have to be done in a timely way. While it’s a good plan to split up these chores and responsibilities, when the time comes for one of these things to be done, they have to be done, regardless of whose turn it is to take care of the dog. It’s cruel and selfish to let your dog suffer for you and your partner’s lack of communication and ego.

When we first got Buffy, I was working from home. I took care of her during the day and Diana took care of her in the afternoons and evenings when she got home from work. We felt that house-training was very important, so even though it was sometimes Diana’s turn to take Buffy out, if it was clear that she needed to go out, I took her myself.  In return, Diana has always been willing to pitch in to clean up after Buffy regardless of whether it was her “turn.” It was really that whole house-training process that really solidified in my mind that we had to do things for Buffy in a timely way or else she would suffer. We couldn’t let keeping score get in the way of her care.

Now there are diaper changes, spills, feedings, comforting, tooth brushing, and many things that Ollie needs from Diana and me. Since the day Ollie was born we have discussed and continue to discuss how we split up attending to Ollie’s needs. This agreement changes on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis. At the core of this is the understanding that things need to get done. We do the best we can to do our share, but sometimes one of us does more than the other because of circumstances and we try to balance it things out later if we can.

It is vital that our relationship has a level equity and fairness, but more important that this we have two lives, Buffy and Ollie in our care. While we strive to make sure that we keep the score even, when it comes to taking care of our kids, we need to keep in mind that we aren’t playing against each other. We are on the same team and every time one of us scores, we all benefit.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Year 5: Week 19 – Making The “Asian F”

I grew up experiencing the “Asian F.” The deal was that if I got an “A” on a report card it wasn’t a big deal. If I got an “A-“ that was an “Asian F” and I might was well have gotten a real “F.” The message that I got was that getting an “A” in a class was the baseline, that was suppose to be a given and getting anything but that “A” was surprising and concerning.

It wasn’t that bad in reality. My mom wasn’t really that much of a “tiger mom,” but she did have a high standard for my performance at school. It was important that I learned things in school but it was also important that I got good grades. My parents were smart enough to know that just getting good grades didn’t necessarily mean that you were learning well, but it did mean that you understood how to play the game that was school. Whether we want to admit it or not, how to work a system is a skill that’s important in life. Sometimes that “system” is a teacher’s grade book.

Did my parents overemphasize grades? I don’t think so. The emphases they put on grades translated to putting value in education. School was my job growing up and the priority in my life. School was important and the attention they put on grades was just one of many ways they expressed this to me.

Now I’m on other side working through giving students grades and writing up mini-essays on each of my students. It’s a lot of work that mostly happens on the weekends. School keeps going when I have grades to write, it’s not like I can stop lesson planning. There is always teaching to be done.

It’s an interesting process. I reflect on a student’s overall performance, balance observations with objective assessments and figure out a grade. I write comments (the mini-essay), about 100-200 words about each kid supporting the grade.

Initially I try my best to not think about the student’s reaction or the parents’ reaction. I want to focus on the salient points and not worry about my audience. At some point though in the editing process I think about how these grade and comments will be received.

Here’s where things get tough.

We are creating a written record about a student. Our words and our grade have to be relevant, meaningful and also written in a way that does not invoke defensiveness and emotional reactions. At least we try to.

I work at a progressive school, and we philosophically believe in process over product but we are still a school in 21st century America and we need to have grades. It’s frustrating when parents put too much emphasis on the grade itself, but that’s the world we live in.

I get being worried about the grade. My parents focused on this and so did I, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s frustrating as a teacher because sometimes the grade masks other more relevant concerns.

This is a tough issue. My colleagues and I are doing the best we can. Maybe the “Asian F” isn’t such a good thing from some people’s perspectives but in family it was an expression of care and maybe that’s not such a bad thing at the end of the day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Parenthood – Week 86: What I Learned About Parenting From Raising My Dog-Part 1

Some of the most important things about parenting, I learned from raising my puppy, Buffy.

There are a lot of different reactions to the statement above and that’s the reason I’ve hesitated to write this blog post. I’ve had this post floating around in my head about how raising our puppy prepared me for raising my son Ollie. The reason I haven’t written this post yet is because I’ve been trying to figure out how to frame what I’m talking about here and not give people the wrong idea and ruffle people’s feathers.

For many people, comparing raising a dog to raising a child is inappropriate and annoying. It’s a dog. It’s not a human; it’s not your flesh and blood. Usually dogs live for a much shorter period of time than children and in many ways, dogs are easier to raise and live with than kids.

In some ways I agree that comparing raising a dog to raising a human doesn’t make sense. It’s not because I think that raising a dog is so much easier than raising a human baby, it’s that both dogs and kids are unique. The love I have for Buffy is like no other kind of love in my life. I would say the same thing for the love I have for my mother, my wife and my son. The way we feel, the love that we have for different souls in our lives is unique and that’s what makes this love and these people important and meaningful.

The other reasons that comparing raising a puppy to raising a human is problematic for people is the wide variety of approaches people take to puppy and child-rearing. Some people spend a lot of time with their dogs, take them to classes, play with them daily and regularly go on outings with their dog. Other people buy a dog, never train the pet, rarely take them out on walks and provide as much attention and care to their canine companions as most people do a houseplant.

The same thing goes for children. Great parents spend quality time with their children, support their school education at home, and spend time and resources to help them grow into independent and empathetic human beings. Unfortunately there are negligent parents in the world who have their children watch television for hours every day, treat school like a daycare, and make no effort to help develop their children intellectually and emotionally.

Between these extremes we all fall somewhere. If you were not as active in raising your dog, it may seem ridiculous to apply that experience to raising a child.  However, if you are like Diana and I who put a lot into raising our puppy Buffy, it’s not such a crazy idea to compare some of those experiences to our son.

The other factor to consider in this discussion is the fact that it is impossible to know what it’s like to raise a dog or a human without actually raising one. If you have a child but have never had a dog, you may think that its ridiculous how much time your friend spends with his dog.  There’s a lot of assumptions from dog owners without kids about their friends with kids and parents about their friends who only have dogs. When these two parties meet and empathize with each other struggles, there’s a sense that something is weird.  Rather than seriously talk about what is similar, it’s easier to brush off what can be learned from each other’s experience as invalid. We miss out when we do this.

To dog owners without kids: These points are important to consider and will help you better understand what it means to think of your dog as more than just a “pet.” I hope this series of posts also validates your feelings and emotions about some of the most beautiful canine souls in the world.

To parents who don’t have or never had a dog: This isn’t about raising a dog being more important. This is about how experiences in life outside of parenthood can help us think differently about what we do for our own kids. You may not understand or agree with the comparison, but these lessons are important regardless of their origin.

To parents who have a dog in their lives: Hopefully you will get what I’m talking about here, but you may not if you took a different approach to puppy and child-rearing. The connections I draw between raising Buffy and Ollie will help you draw your own connections and see how these experiences, as different as they are make us better dog owners and parents.

That's the introduction.

First up: “The Insensitivity Of Keeping Score”

Friday, January 16, 2015

Year 5: Week 18 – The Needs Of The Many

Spock: Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh...
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: Or the one.
Decisions we make as a teacher are complicated. There’s always a trade-off, a drawback to a decision that is made in a classroom. For example, when you schedule an extra-curricular group in the morning, some students may not be able to make it because they cannot get a ride to the school. If you have the group meet after school, then other students will not be able attend because of sports practices.

In these situations we weigh the needs of the many against the few. Right? Choose the time that most kids can show up and go with that option. Unfortunately, it’s really not that simple.

Our country is built on the idea that there is a voting majority, however this way of decision making must be tempered with the a responsibility to make choices that are not only best for the majority but for minorities as well. The majority unfortunately often overlooks the rights of the few. It was the majority that put American citizens who were of Japanese descent in internment camps and it was the majority who voted in many states to outlaw marriage equality.

We as teachers are in an important place.  Every day we make decisions for our children that need to respect the our students as a group but also consider the needs of minorities. When we give a lecture, some students may need to have notes printed out beforehand because they aren’t as good auditory learners. If a student in the class has hearing issues every time we watch a film, the subtitles need to be turned on. If a student in the class has allergy issues, birthday treats we give the entire class should accommodate for that students.

As Spock concluded, it is not logical that one or a few should have an impact on the way that many have to operate in a classroom. This logic is faulty because it assumes that by addressing the needs of a minority of students, the majority doesn’t benefit. The reality is that they do.

The majority of students benefit when the treat they get is absent from allergens that may harm one of their classmates. They see that everyone is getting the same treat.  Also, they see that this one students who has an allergy isn’t all that different and that the things that could divide us can be overcome.

When we make choices so that all of our students can feel included, safe and part of a community, we are placing value in each student's experience. This value calls into question not how the needs of the many out weight the few but rather how can we best address each students as a learner and a human being. Sometimes we go with what’s best for the most kids, but more often we think of the few, and the one. Through empathy and care we find by serving the needs of that one we are enriching the souls of all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Parenthood – Week 85: I Want My Mommy Too

It started with spilled milk.

I brought Ollie in the kitchen while I cooked up some fried rice for dinner. I noticed that Diana had left a Starbucks cup full on milk on the counter and Ollie wanted to drink out of it.  He reached up with a smile as I gave it to him.  Ollie sat down on the floor and enjoyed drinking milk out of the comically sized Venti cup.

Every so often we take Ollie to Starbucks and get him some warm milk with a little vanilla. This has created a strong positive association with the cup so we often refill a cup after Diana has drunk out of it and fill it with milk.

Everything seemed fine so I turned my attention to the rice in the pan. I turned my attention back to Ollie after stirring the rice and saw that he had poured out all of the milk all of the kitchen floor and was joyfully splashing the milk and spreading it out with widely flailing arms.

Just some spilled milk, not a big deal.

Ollie tried to help me wipe it up when I threw some kitchen towels on the ground but he only made it worse so I moved him into the living room and cleaned up the mess.

It had been a good day at work but a long and exhausting one. Diana was out for the evening so I was on my own with my special little guy. I really enjoy these times we have together and it’s a nice feeling knowing that I can handle taking care of Ollie by myself.

The fried rice was done, the kitchen floor was cleaned up and Ollie was in the high chair ready to eat dinner. The problem was that Ollie wasn’t hungry. Diana and I strongly believe that its important not to force-feed kids. However its difficult to tell sometimes why Ollie doesn’t want to eat. Sometimes it’s because he truly isn’t hungry or because he wants to use a different spoon.

I tried feeding him. Then I tried letting him feed himself, which often gets him motivated to eat but nothing worked. I knew it wasn’t a big deal if he didn’t eat that instance but I was a getting frustrated.
Then Ollie threw up.

The tray of the high chair caught most of it but there was a still a significant amount that hit the floor and luckily just barely missed Buffy. My first concern was to get the floor cleaned up and the high chair moved into the kitchen so that Buffy wouldn’t eat Ollie’s throw-up. Sorry to gross you out, but dogs like to eat puke for some reason.

Anyways, I carried the high chair will Ollie into the kitchen but couldn’t make it through the baby gate which caused the tray to spill on the ground and me.

That frustration I felt when Ollie wouldn’t eat was becoming anger.

I moved Buffy into the den, which adjoins the dining room and closed the door. This way I could clean up the floor and not worry about Buffy. Once Buffy realized what I was doing she started barking desperately, not wanting to be separated from Ollie.  It was at this moment that Ollie, who was a complete mess at this time, starting crying and pointing to Buffy.

I got the floor cleaned up, put Ollie down on a bath towel and asked him to please stay on the towel. After moving the dirty high chair in the kitchen and closing the gate the kitchen, I picked up Ollie wrapped in the towel and let Buffy out of the den.

Usually Ollie loves baths, but not that night. Most of the time when we clean Ollie he really isn’t that dirty. We can let him have a nice relaxed soak in the tub, wash him and rinse him off. This was different. I had to really clean him off from head to toe.  There was no soaking or playing with toys in the process. I had to get him clean.

Ollie cried as I cleaned him, rinsed him off, and got him dressed. I sat down in his room with him on my lap trying to rock him so that he would calm down. Ollie just wouldn’t stop crying and he kept screamed “mama.”

I love hearing Ollie talk and use his words but one of the hardest things about his use of language is when he calls for Diana when I am alone with him. The tough part is that he is smart enough to call for his mom but he isn’t cognitively able to understand that she is not home and will be back later.

At this point I was spent.  I didn’t have a lot of words or tricks left to calm Ollie down.  I had an upset toddler, a kitchen that was a disaster, a high chair that was a mess and a pile of clothes and towels that needed to be rinsed and put in the laundry machine.

I looked at Ollie sad eyes as he cried for his mother and I told him what I was honestly feeling, “I want my mommy too.”

At that moment I knew exactly how Ollie felt. We both wanted that one person in our world who could swoop in and magically fix everything. Diana was at class and my mom was across the country.

So we sat there and we both cried and eventually we calmed down. I put on some “Elmo’s World” for Ollie while I cleaned everything up. After a warm cup of milk, Ollie was ready for story time.

As I read to Ollie with him sitting on my lap he kept interrupting and turning his head to me and saying “hi” is a soft, joyful and angelic voice. I would say “hi” back and he would turn around satisfied, listen for another minute and then say “hi” again just to let me know he was thinking of me.

As I put him he bed, he softly cooed “da-du” and I told Ollie that I loved him.

Parenting can beat you down sometimes and make you cry for your mom.  Sometimes we need to be reminded that while we are parents, we never stop being a child.  We can feel lost, tired, depressed and lonely.  Just because we are parents doesn't mean that we don't tough times, and darker moments.

Nothing that happened that night was that bad, but it was still tough.  I'm not sure why these events beat me down the way they did but I'd do it all over again for that happy ending.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Year 5: Week 17 – Weird

This was a weird week.

The first week back from winter break is a unique challenge. My younger students as a group have forgotten how to act a students. This means that I have to slow down and spend time reinforcing concepts like “waiting to be called on,” and no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Some of my students, especially my older ones seem to enjoy being back in the swing of things. Middle school kids sometimes need the structure of school to provide them with much needed mental challenges that they often do not provide themselves outside of the context of the school.

I was very deliberate to be overly structured this week with my lesson, which my 3rd and 5th graders fought while my middle schools really embraced.

Part of the weirdness of this week had to do with the fact that for the second winter in a row we have temperatures that were so cold that schools cancelled classes. Most of the schools in the county including the Chicago Public School (whom we usually line up with when it comes to days off) cancelled school on Wednesday and Thursday. Administrators felt that the sub-zero wind-chill was a health hazard for students walking to school or waiting for school busses. Also, there is the issue of students being outside during emergency evacuations.

My school didn’t have any days off this week. This resulting in some minor complaints, but mostly jokes among the faculty and some whining amongst the students but for the most part our community embraced being at school even if other people were at home.

The biggest issue with the weather was indoor recess. If it’s too cold to have kids stand at bus stops then it’s too cold for students to go outside for recess. Young kids need to get outside for recess. They need to move around, socialize, and act silly. When they can’t go outside we try to let them play around inside in the classrooms but its not the same. I can always tell, my third graders had indoor recess. They seem unsettled like they are confused about something but they don’t know why.

We got through the cold and we got back into the swing of things. There are grades and comments that I need to jump into, my band kids have a concert coming up and my little kids are getting recorders soon. The excitement about this instrument is really cute and I really look forward to getting them going on what for many of them is their first instrument.

I kind of like weeks that feel “weird.” Yeah, it’s a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun. I guess this makes sense because I'm pretty weird, I mean, I’m actually excited about giving a classroom full of third graders plastic recorders.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Blank Space by Taylor Swift

After months of not writing about music, leave it to Taylor to bring me back into the conversation.

Taylor Swift’s newest album 1989 is a reminder that Taylor Swift still has got it. People have been critical of the fact that this album, produced by Max Martin (the genius behind Britney Spear’s greatest hits) is not a country album. That is true, but so what?  Many of the greatest country singers of all time, like Kenny Rogers, charted on the pop charts and many of them deliberately recorded pop music in an effort to be more than a country artist.

Taylor Swift broke big in 2008 with “Love Story” (which I wrote about in this previous post). While this continues to be my favorite song by Swift and easily in my top 10 pop songs of all time, I appreciate and respect Swift’s evolution as an artist in the past six years.

“Blank Space” one of her strongest songs on 1989, reflects her growth as not only an artist but a self-aware and thoughtful public figure.

Swift knew that she would be criticized for diving so deeply into pop music so she led with “Shake It Off,” which was a hilarious but also inspiring response to the criticisms that she knew she would receive. Just like “Blank Space,” “Shake It Off,” is a song that people claim to not like but can’t get enough of because of its musical invention and intriguing message.

We live in a world where gender stereotypes are still strong in interpersonal relationships and this is so often illustrated in pop music. “Blank Space” is an exception taking common ideas and stereotypes and forcing us to reexamine them.

Swift as the narrator tells about all of the possibilities of a relationship. It could go well and as she sings “could go down in flames.” This idea, the potential failure of a relationship is suppose to leave people petrified, but Swift is undaunted. She still is excited about the possibility of a relationship even though she’s been hurt in the past. We aren’t supposed to look at relationships this way. If a relationship doesn’t last forever and ends with both people dying at the exactly same time when they are elderly, it’s a failure, right?

That’s what many of us are told, and with that attitude, we fear the bad possibilities that could happen which petrify us into not being ourselves, and not truly being with and for the people we love. “Blank Space” is asking us to break this down, embrace the bad with the good and just enjoy the uncertainty, revel in the unknown, because that’s what living life and loving others is really all about.

Swift admits to having a “long list of lovers.” Shock and awe. She admits to loving “players.” She sings about being “reckless.” Is she communicating an irresponsible approach to love? No, she is being honest about what life is like for many women her age. In a world where many people have yet to see “slut-shaming” as a pervasive and insidious problem in our society, Swift has given voice to woman who will not be made to be ashamed for playing the “game,” which men rarely receive shamming for embracing.

The bridge “boys only want love if it’s torture,” invites us to ask some important questions. In its repetition, it’s placing the stereotype that woman embrace and create drama and placing it on the guys. It’s not clear if she thinks guys only want love so that they can feel drama or if they want to be instigators of “torture.” If she is saying the latter, than she is warning girls about the misogynist power structure many guys still inject into their relationships with woman. If she is simply saying that guys enjoy drama as much as girls do then, bravo, because while not all boys are like this, many really do bring on the drama.

Taylor Swift’s “blank space,” represents embracing the possibilities of love. Along with this, the song itself expresses a level of pride in what it means to not be ashamed of what we desire in our love life and the choices we make as we live our lives.

Like great pop music, Taylor Swift is more powerful than she appears. Her long list of “Starbucks lovers” I mean um . . . “list of ex-lovers” may be right. Swift may be insane, but she might also be the most one of the important voices of her generation.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Parenthood - Week 84: Toddlers In Crime

Amelia loves Elmo.

When my niece is over at my mom’s house she has a special Elmo doll that she carries around. My mom also bought an Elmo doll for Ollie, my son. He likes to watch Elmo but he is not as into the doll so he would carry the doll to somewhere in the house, put it down, forget about it and walk away. Inevitably, Amelia would pick up Ollie’s Elmo, run over to Ollie proudly and give Ollie his “Elbow.” Amelia calls Elmo by his name, while Ollie calls this character “Elbow."  Amelia is always careful to make sure that she refers to Ollie’s little red monster doll as “Elbow.”

I’m not quite sure why Amelia enjoys taking a bath with Ollie. Maybe its because it’s one of her favorite activities, I'm not sure.  So we were all surprised when she first brought up this idea last summer. On the first night we were visiting, last week, we had Ollie take a bath early. When Amelia heard about this she threw a toddler fit. She really wanted to take a bath with Ollie. Like most of the times toddler’s get upset, it really wasn’t that big a deal but there was something endearing that doing something with Ollie was the focus of one of these outbursts.

The next night, they did take a bath together. Amelia carefully poured water over Amelia’s head and Ollie returned the favor. There were giggles, splashes of water and they both had a blast.

Amelia is a year older than Ollie and that means, they are only now getting to the point where they can really play together. A year ago when Ollie was barely crawling and Amelia was walking and beginning to talk they interacted with each other but there wasn’t a strong connection between them. Now that Ollie is a year and a half and Amelia is approaching three, the developmental stages they are in put them in a great place to have fun together.

Amelia can walk, run, and jump while Ollie can get on his feet and walk quickly behind her. Amelia speaks in sentences, has an ever exploding vocabulary, while Ollie's language skills focus on nouns, verbs and phrases. Even though there are clear developmental gaps, something really clicked last week when they were playing together.

Amelia is a very empathetic young girl. She showed great concern every time Ollie got upset and even tried to calm him down herself. This combined with the fact that Ollie follows Amelia around and copies her every action makes for one of the cutest pairs of kids you will ever see playing together.

There were a couple times last week when Ollie would gesture or ask for something and none of us adults could interpret this toddler communication. To our surprise Amelia would chime in and explain to us what Ollie wanted. This was both baffling and beautiful.

Amelia and Ollie are cousins.  We hope that they become friends like I am with some of my closer cousins, but there's a chance that they will become disconnected like my own distant relatives.  There will be times when they have more and less in common as they grow up and this combined with their individual developmental stages will influence their relationship.  We'll deal with these this as they come while giving them space develop a cousin relationship that is organic for both of them.

Right now we are all enjoying their affection for each other and not worrying too much about the future.

When we were putting Ollie to bed, Amelia came into the bedroom and wanted to help put Ollie to sleep.  She crawled into Diana's lap with Ollie as they read a picture book.  Afterwards we put them both in the crib and for a minute they lay down and snuggled together under blankets.  It was then that I truly understood the meaning of cute-overload.

Friday, January 2, 2015