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    The Darndest Things {07/06}

    July 5, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    It is definitely time to get this month’s Darndest Things List off and running. There isn’t an extraordinarily long list yet, but I do have a cute story about A. to start the month off properly. And then I figure this is as good a place as any to store a record of our Independence Day memory for the year…


    25 July 2006: E. Meets the Little House
    Whenever I read a suggested books list for children, The Little House is on it. But we’d never read it…until today. I have never seen E. so moved by a book. I found it delightful, actually. When we got to the part where the house has been essentially forgotten, and no one lives in her, and her paint scratched, windows broken, shutters crooked, E. actually exclaimed, “Oh! How sad!” And he was very relieved that someone decided to love her again, even if they did paint her a distasteful shade of pink. Our future builder seems to have an emotional connection with what has been built!


    23 July 2006: Delightful New Words
    The little people are steadily increasing their vocabularies, and what fun it is. Little A. refers to me as “Ah-mee,” and Si as “Daddy” {but a bit slurred}, and she seems to have it all straightened out as to who is who. Besides attempting E.’s name, she also tried for “Granddad” this morning at church. E. is working on some new words, too. My personal favorites are “location” and “actually.” There is nothing like a 4-year-old starting his sentences with “actually…”


    14 July 2006: Up Close and Personal with our Garbage
    Besides becoming a “tractor-man,” E. has the career goal of driving a garbage truck. {Yes, there is a heavy machinery theme here.} Si is friends with a man whose family owns and runs our local garbage company, along with a repair shop and body shop. He arranged with this friend for my mother-in-law and I to take the kids on a field trip of sorts to see the action.

    Now, E. talks a lot at home {too much sometimes}, but out in public, he bottles up quickly. This was the most uncomfortable I have ever seen him, and yet I could tell he was very happy we had made the trip. But he did not want to talk to our gracious tour guide {and this man is quite good with children}. He was stiff, and he heart was pounding, poor thing!

    We took a tour, where we learned about three types of garbage trucks {one comes to residential homes, one picks up mid-sized metal boxes, and one picks up huge metal boxes at construction sites and huge stores}. Next, we headed to the body shop, where we saw repairs being done on big trucks, police cars, and fire trucks. Lastly, we watched a real, working garbage truck as it gassed up at their private filling station. We even got to talk to the driver a bit.

    E. never said more than three or four words. I felt badly for our guide, because I think he thought it was a negative experience for E. But it wasn’t. He still talks all about our trip to the “garbage place.” His favorite part was the badly crumpled garbage truck that had recently been in a major accident.


    12 July 2006: I Think She Likes Cake
    We celebrated Si’s birthday early so that his mom, who was visiting us from out of state, could attend the festivities. We, as is our tradition, had the cake table nicely set, with the cake in the middle on display until time to cut it. After cutting, we all found places to sit and enjoy dessert. Except A. She decided that there was no better way to enjoy cake than to eat the actual cake. She is so quiet that we didn’t notice at first, but, after tasting and seeing that it was good to eat, she grabbed a plastic fork and headed for the Real Deal. We caught her as she was gingerly digging in and taking bites. {We didn’t even know she could use a fork!} She did this not once, not twice, but three times! This girl loves chocolate cake.


    4 July 2006: Tactile Stimulation
    They say babies learn a lot by touching different textures and comparing them. I’ve read numerous books and articles that encourage parents to always be naming these textures {“soft,” “rough,” “bumpy,” etc.} to encourage the baby to make verbal connections to what they are feeling with their hands.

    E. never showed a lot of interest in touching things. A. is much more typical in this regard, I think. Her newest habit started when she discovered Si’s facial hair one evening when he was due for a shave. She was wide-eyed as she rubbed her hands all over his face and oohed and aahed about it.

    Tonight, she decided to add some comparison. Dad was a bit scruffy again, but Mom was not {of course}. Dad was holding her before she went to bed, and she carefully ran her hands over his face. Then turned to me and ran her hands over my face. She went back and forth numerous times, each time saying her little baby words to herself quietly, and obviously thinking about the difference in our faces.

    Children are just fascinating.


    4 July 2006: Beginning a Tradition
    I have often bemoaned the fact that we often travel to visit out of town family on holidays. Though I love to see family, I feel that we lose the chance to build our own family traditions. Growing up, all of my family was in one place, and all of our holidays had a certain consistency {not rigidity, though} that I liked. Certainly predictability is a foundation for tradition.

    So this year we made sure we were home for Independence Day. We really didn’t want to drive in traffic anyhow. But it also mattered to us {especially me} that we put into action what we had thought would be a good tradition for the 4th. No one else had had any ideas as to what to do, so Si and I were able to take charge of the plans a bit. We included all the necessary components: family, food, and simple, inexpensive fun that can easily be recreated from year to year.

    We started out the morning by bringing all the grandkids to my parents’ home for lessons in making homemade ice cream. A. didn’t pay much attention, but the three boys were very excited, and enjoyed a chance to take a bite or two before we put it in the freezer to save for dessert after dinner.

    The evening brought a gathering of family at my parents’ house. My grandparents were there, as was my sister’s family. There were twelve of us in all–eight adults and four children. It was fun. We ate the traditional hot dog-centered meal, followed not only by the yummy homemade ice cream, but also S’mores made from marshmallows that Si had cooked up on the gas stovetop.

    At dusk, we headed to a major local intersection. That’s right, a place where two major streets meet. Trust me, it was a good idea. On one corner of this intersect, there is a large, grassy hillside. This is where we all sat {except the great grandparents, who apparently turn into pumpkins at eight instead of midnight}. This hill just happens to face a very ritzy country club with a very expensive fireworks show {which is for members only, by the way}. The large intersection means that there is a large, treeless space, making it easier to gain an unobstructed view of the fireworks there than it would be inside a nearby neighborhood.

    This was A.’s first fireworks show {last year she was napping}, and she was both delighted and terrified. She did well once she was able to recline on her daddy. I could hear her talking softly to him as she pointed at the sky. E. wanted to sit on Granmama’s lap, one of our nephews sat with his dad, and our littlest nephew made sure he sat next to {or on!} everyone there at least once. The boys were so excited, and screamed a lot. It was great.

    Update: I left out a very important detail. I don’t know why, because I was so excited about it at the time. Midway through the meal, Si stood up and read Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech to the table. We are hoping this begins a new tradition of reading an article of American history at our Independence Day celebrations.


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