May 11, First think in the morning

*I get up at either five thirty or six in the morning. I grab a shower, then head into the kitchen to start breakfast and make Is’s school lunch. Is usually gets up at twenty to seven and wanders into the kitchen soon after. Friday, I was standing at the sink, cooking Is’s lunch and drinking my tea. I hadn’t really used my brain yet; this is all automatic setting stuff I do in the morning. When I turn to ask Is what she wants to eat, I catch her standing in the middle of the room, in sun rays, wildly waving her arms. It’s that time of year when the sun streams through the northeast-facing kitchen windows before seven in the morning.*

“Um. Is, what are you doing?”
“There are so many of them!”
“Of what, baby?”

*At this point, I think, o shit, sugar ants… But no. She starts waving her arms again in the air, batting at invisible things like a cat does.*

“What is this stuff?”
“What stuff, baby… oh, oh, it’s dust! It’s just dust motes in the air. You can see them because of the way the sun is shining in here.”
“I want them out of our house!”
“Ha, dude, nobody has a dust-free house.”
“But what IS it?”
“Dust? It’s made mostly from our dead skin cells that slough off… and bacteria we bring in from outside, and stardust from comets and meteorites.”
“What? That’s crazy.”
“I know! But it’s true.”

*She runs away, I think to go to the bathroom, but she returns with the crappy little plastic microscope I bought her years ago for looking at leaves and whatnot. She holds the microscope in the air and looks through it.*

“Is, what are you doing?”
“I’m gonna see which is which!”
“Um…”
“I can’t tell!”
“Haha, of course you can’t, not like that. Okay, lets have breakfast and I’ll tell you all about how microscopes work.”
“Okay. Can you make me some oatmeal?
“Of course.”
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March 31, 2018 – the Navigator of the story

*Isobel is watching ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events,’ while I am attempting to finish my paper for Philosophy (Descartes and dreams, what fun!). Anyway, she stops the show on her iPad, looks over at me working on my computer, and says…*

“Mom. It’s nice they have a navigator telling the story, so you know what’s happening.”
“What?”
“A navigator. You know, he tells the story so you know what’s going on.”
“Oh, no. Not a navigator. A narrator. A navigator is a person who finds directions for a trip, usually using maps, and decides the way to go. A narrator is a person who tells a story, like they talk through a movie, so you can follow the plot.”
“But a navigator tells the story.”
“No, baby, the word you want to use is narrator. But in a way, I guess a narrator is like a navigator- they both help you find your way. In a story or a movie, the person talking over the acting is usually a narrator.”
“Okay. I almost got lost in this movie.”
“Very cool. Enjoy!”
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March 16, 2018, first thing in the morning.

*This morning, Isobel wakes up and doesn’t come right into the kitchen. I putter around, preparing her lunch for school for a bit. When she still hasn’t come in a few minutes later, I find her in her room, sitting on the rug, looking thoughtful.*

“Hey, babe, you okay? What can I make you for breakfast?”
“Mom, I’m thinking.”
“Oh?”
“Yes. I’m thinking about a giant eye test.”

*I get a picture in my head of a regular eye test poster, you know the kind, with the capital letter E facing different ways, but the poster is as big as a door, or the wall. Then I remember we’ve been reading a lot of fairy tales lately, so I wonder…*

“What do you mean? A giant eye test, like the test itself is giant? Or an eye test for a giant, like a test for Grawp, Hagrid’s brother?”
“An eye test for a giant. Like, ‘Can you see this house? Can you see this book? Can you see me? Or am I just a tiny speck?'”
“Isobel, that’s amazing. I wonder if anybody else has ever once thought about that.”
“Hmm.”
“Babe, we’ve got to get to school. Want some oatmeal?”

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This image is a photo of an opera stage, built for a festival in Bregenz, Austria. Read more about the fantastic stages here: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/08/outdoor-opera-on-the-lake-stages-of-bregenz/

February 17, 2018, WTF, Fairy Tales?

*Isobel and I have been working our way through a vintage copy of ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ at bedtime. I found it for fifteen cents at a thrift shop; it’s got a Kaye Nielsen illustration on the front cover, and a history of the Grimm brothers as the introduction. It’s easily the best fifteen cents I’ve ever spent.
A lot of the fairy tales in this book are pretty harsh- they’re the original stories, not cleaned up for kids, so there’s plenty of graphic eye-pecking, dancing ’til death, and corpses discussing secrets while dangling from the gallows. Many tales have odd terms that Isobel hasn’t heard before, which often lead to lots of questions. Last night was no different…*

“And then he lay down and she loused him.”
“Mom? What’s that word, ‘loused?'”
“Ah, it’s gross. You sure you want to know?”
“Mooooom….”
“Okay, okay. So, remember these stories are from hundreds of years ago. People didn’t have indoor plumbing for bathrooms; toilets, showers, sinks and such… and they didn’t bathe very often. So most of them had bugs in their hair- lice. ‘Lousing him’ means she picked bugs out of his hair.”
“OH MY GOD, MOMMY, THAT’S DISGUSTING! Bugs? IN THEIR HAIR?! GAH!”
“I told you it was gross. Wait ’til you hear where they went to the bathroom.”
“Nooooooo!!!!”
“Hahahaha, maybe next time. Should I get back to it?”
“Ew, yes.”

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February 13, 2018, Going Swimming

*Isobel’s taken swimming lessons since she was eighteen months old. There are few things she loves more than being in the water. And she’s fearless; she’ll just as happily jump off the starting block into the deep end (9 feet!) and swim in the lap pool as in the smaller, warmer, more shallow therapy pool. I originally started swimming with her to try and build up her core muscles after the spica casts treating her hip dysplasia left her abdominal, back, and leg muscles weak. But she loves it so much, we’ve kept up with it. She goes once a week. This week, she had some new questions…*

*Putting on her suit, right before her lesson*

“Hey, Mom.”
“Yeah? Let’s move it, we’re gonna be late.”
“How come girls have to cover our boobs in the pool? Boys can just wear bottoms, but girls have tops and bottoms. Why is that?”

*Since we have two minutes to get Is into the pool, and I really don’t want to explain the sexualization of women’s breasts to my six-year-old, I go blank for a second.*

“Mom?”
“Uh. Yes. Yes! Okay, well, you know how everybody has private parts, right? And you keep those covered up in public?”
“Yeah.”
“Okay, so girls have extra private parts.”
“Really?”
“Yes. We win for private parts. We have more than boys.”
“WOW!”
“I know! Let’s get going.”
“Mom, I have tiny boobs.”
“They’re perfect, baby. Let’s plow.”

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November 1, 2017- After her bath

*After Isobel’s bath today, she is drying off when she stops, looks up at me, and says…*

“Mom. If there were no girls, there would be no babies.”
“Right. But the girls still need boys.”

*Now, since the kid is only six, I’ve only explained the process of how a baby grows and is born- not how it actually got IN THERE. I’m sure that conversation is inescapable, but I’m not rushing into that part of the whole thing.*

“But why? Only girls can have babies.”
“That’s right. But girls need boys to start the baby- like remember, the egg comes from the girl, and the sperm comes from the boy, and they fit together, and then the baby grows in the girl.”

*She considers this a moment, her head tilted to the side, turquoise turban getting darker as it wicks water from her freshly washed hair.*

“Kind of like a puzzle.”
“What, a baby?”
“Yeah, the pieces fit together- to make a baby puzzle.”
“You got it.”

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Saturday, October 21, Big Ducks

*We go to a Japanese restaurant in New York City sometimes, now, more often since I’ve had my hips fixed and can get out and about. Tonight, we met some friends there for dinner. This place amazes Isobel- she not only loves the food, but the bathroom is covered in graffiti. We were there once and she wasn’t eating, so I told her she could write one thing on the bathroom wall if she ate her dinner- and now it’s a thing we do every time we go. Tonight, after dinner, she motions for me to take her to the bathroom, and asks if I have my Sharpie.*

“You got it, Mom?”
“Yes, I remembered…”
“Okay.”

*We go in the bathroom, and as Isobel is choosing a spot for her artwork, she starts to read the walls. I was afraid of this…*

“Mommy. It says, wait, it says, ‘I love big ducks.'”
“Um, yes.” **THAT IS NOT WHAT IT SAID.**
“But why would someone write that on a wall?”
“No idea, babe. Maybe they’re really into ducks, like you’re into flamingos.”

*She stands back and stares at the wall for a moment. I’ve got to distract her before she figures out it says DICKS and not DUCKS, and the next question comes at me.*

“Hey, Is, look at this weird sticker. What are you gonna write?”
“Oh, I got it all figured out! I’m gonna write WE WILL ROCK YOU.”
“That’s perfect. Let’s go.”

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October 18, 2017 – Problem Solved

*Isobel is in first grade. In class, the kids sit grouped together by fours and fives- there is one girl at Is’s table who, sometimes, just isn’t that nice. Today, Is reported that this girl grabbed a boy’s math work and threw it on the floor. Then she turned and said to Is, “Why are you always staring at people?”*

“Mommy, she always says I’m staring at her.”
“Are you?”
“No, I’m just looking around.”
“Okay, did it bother you that she said that?”
“Well, yes.”
“Huh. Well, you could really, really stare at her, like this…” And I stare at Isobel, really hard, and when she starts to smile, I turn my head a little, but don’t smile back, kinda creepy-like.
“But, Mom, that’s not how we do things now.”
“Oh?”
“No, when there’s a problem, we don’t just do something back to someone. Like when you were in school. Like in old times.”
“Huh. Like old times.”
“Yeah. It’s much gentler now.”
“It sounds like it. That’s nice. Okay, so what do you do now? How would you handle it?”
“I already told her I’m not staring at her.”
“Good! That should do it, right?”
“I’m not sure… she says it all the time.”
“Huh. Well, what else can you do?”
“Well, I don’t want to get clipped down, so I could just tell the teacher.”
“That seems like a good idea. Will you do that the next time she bothers you?”
“Yeah! Thanks for solving all my problems!”
“You really solved your problem, Is, if you think about it.”

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October 11, 2017, with ninjas

*We’re talking about family at dinner, and Isobel asks if there are people in the family she hasn’t yet met. Among others, I mention a cousin who lives in Japan. He’s an artist, does amazing cut paper work, and is also a new father. I jump up and pull a magnet off the fridge- it’s a picture of one of his pieces- a slinky black rabbit in motion, paper curling like smoky ribbons around his body. Is is impressed.*

“Mom, so, my cousin is an artist?”
“Well, he’s my first cousin, and so he’s your first cousin, once removed. And yes, he’s a professional artist.”

*Her eyes get big, and I can almost smell her thinking.*

“Mom. Wow.”
“I know! He’s amazing. He does all this work by hand. Pretty cool, eh?”
“It’s very cool! Hey, is he a ninja?”
“What?”
“A ninja. Because he lives in Japan.”

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October 3, 2017, after bedtime

*She’s supposed to be sleeping. It’s been a busy day- school, swimming lesson (in the big pool today!), and dinner with a friend. Plus, I am rockin’ my new ‘always patient mom, goddamn it’ self. I’m trying to, anyway. Then, on the monitor…*

“Mom. I made up a word.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. Wanna hear it?”
“Sure.”
“Twickerninge.”
“Okay. What does it mean?”
“I’ll tell you when I find out.”
“Haha, okay babe. Go to sleep, it’s getting late.”
“Okay. Good night.”

*Some time passes, just a little.*

“Mom.”
“Yeah, babe.”
“It means an animal eating. Like, look, twickerninge over there, standing up. See, I used it in a sentence.”
“That is amazing.”
“I know, right?”
“Good night, babe.”
“Good night, Mommy.”

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