Thursday, April 28, 2011


Ah. April. I really have disliked this month everywhere I've ever lived. The weather can't make up its mind and, consequently, I wind up with piles of winter clothes shoved into whatever boxes I can find lining the hallway ready to go up in the attic. Then it gets cold and I break back into the boxes for long pants and jackets again.

Easter at Duke Gardens
This is why I hate April, I told my husband on a rainy van ride home from Lowe's after a long, chilly day inside with the kids. The 30 degree temperature swings, the rain, the mud, the pollen. It sucks. 

If only it brought something in May, he mused. Smart ass.

All this is very unsettling for me. I like things to be orderly. Which, of course, is why we decided to have kids.

This week, however, my sweet baby Owie made the transition from mostly crawling to mostly walking. I remember this transition with the other two. He's strutting around here just drunk with glee. And he's into everything, especially whatever his brother and sister are doing.

I don't want my brother anymore, Danny declares after Owen breaks up the train tracks.

In other news, Fiona has returned to her whiny ways. In fact, she was whining so much one day that the dog actually barked at her. Our dog is a Husky. They rarely bark.

Welcome to the club, Bob, Jim said. We don't like it either.

I laughed myself silly. It hurt, of course, since I have a vicious sore throat, but it was totally worth it.

When your throat hurts, it gets all red and inflamed. Um, swollen, I explained to Danny one morning. He was curious about why mommy was talking funny.
It's like a volcano, he replied. Yeah, it all comes out of your mouth like this, POW! he motioned, spreading his hands wide away from his mouth. It's all about explosions with this kid. And monsters ...

You're gonna share with dad, right?
Whoa. It was an energy monster, Danny says after the power dipped one morning.

I want my cake now, Fiona informed us after dinner Saturday night. No one had said anything about cake.

Owie waggled me, Fiona said at dinner. He shakes his head from side to side on cue when we say "Waggle waggle."

It was a fun time at the park, Danny says after our Easter morning walk around Duke Gardens.
Well, we'd have never known it from all the whining you did, Jim replied.

God is good. God is great. Let us thank him for our food. And our daily bread on our plate. Thank you for Nana and PopPop. Help us to know something like this. Skin-a-ma-rink. Amen. The original line from the prayer at preschool is "Help us to know Your way."

HEY. What's the rule? I ask Fiona when I catch her in the act of climbing the baby gate.
No, she replies. Yep, that sums up the rules when you're two years old.

Doesn't that smell good, Danny? I ask as dinner is simmering in the crockpot.
It's like fresh country air. Um, no, actually, it's chicken burritos.

Stop asking me why. 
Why? I'm just going stick my head in the oven now, okay?

Where's the baby? I ask Jim. I ask this question way too often.
He's in the dining room finishing his dinner. Off the floor, of course.

Danny, take a deep breath and count to 10 before you react. 
1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 10. I'm trying to teach him the art of pausing when agitated. Maybe we should just count to five.

The next day ...
Danny, remember, count to five before you react. 
Five, he replies. I turned my head and silently cracked up laughing at that one.

Danny, come here. 
Danny silently stares into space.
DANNY, come here.
More staring.
Danny, do you hear me talking to you?
Yes, he says.
What were you thinking about while I was talking?
The biggest giant. Oh, well, then. So sorry to interrupt.

What is on that napkin? I ask Danny when I find him cleaning the windows with a drenched napkin.
Lemonade. Lovely.

Next question?
How did you spill all this lemonade from a lidded cup?
With a straw, he says, nonchalantly. Oh, thanks for clarifying.

Does anyone know what stupendous is a fancy word for? Danny's preschool teacher asked while they were reading "Fancy Nancy."
Stupid, Danny pipes up. Mommy was just so proud.

We'll celebrate Owen's first birthday this weekend. Where has the time gone?

Have a great weekend, everyone. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Diary of an omniturnal mom

Year of the Ear, part 2 or When Will This End? (Seriously. Mommy has had enough, 'kay?)

Thursday, a week ago

Mommy has officially added a new title to her list: Ear infection detector. After four days of the baby having a mild fever late in the afternoon, mommy finally calls the doctor. She suspects the ear infection has returned.

The kid just isn't himself. Usually, he's a happy little snuggle-up-agus. But the past few days, he'd been snotty, crying, sleepless (well, more than usual) and not eating very much.

Mommy calls at 3, the receptionist says, "Can you be here by 4?" and mommy agrees, even though it means she may be hauling three children into the office, two of whom are still sleeping. Luckily, her husband can get home in time. The two of them are like ships passing in the night these days and today is no different. No sooner is he home than she's out the door with her miserable little snuggle-up-agus.

How miserable is he?

He wouldn't even waggle his head on command for the receptionist. Usually he waggles away for just about anybody.

Upon seeing the doctor, mommy admits that she didn't give the baby all of his last round of antibiotics because, well, she just forgot. And it was too hard. Like giving a cat a bath and a pill at the same time, actually.

The doctor confirms mommy's suspicions. Ear infection. Double, in fact.

So the doctor prescribed the antibiotic for delinquent, inept parents. Half a teaspoon, once a day for 10 days with a little extra for the inevitable spillage.

Dosing is officially daddy's job now. Mommy took that title off her list when she got medicine in the screaming baby's freshly shampooed hair and then growled at him that he'd have an ear infection for life. Then she gave up. And her prediction came true.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The weather has been fantastic here this week. I've been kicking the kids out into the backyard right after breakfast. They stay out most of the day. By the end of the day, they come in barefoot and half  naked and turn the bathwater gray.

The kids have been rather clingy and literally quite snotty this week, though. My clothes are filthy by the end of the day. Spring colds are the worst.
Mommy wanted a nice photo; they wanted to throw leaves. 

The girl child isn't whining as much during the day and isn't crying as much when we put her to bed. She is actually talking quite a bit more. I feel like we've gotten over a hump. When I told her I was taking the baby to the doctor this afternoon, she said to him:

You're going to get an ear infection. Yep, that's where ear infections come from: the doctor's office. The baby has a double ear infection. The second ear infection this month, actually.

And the four year old just wants me to talk to him constantly. I'm running out of topics.

Mom, MOM, MOM. TALK, Danny yells at me from the back seat.
I don't know what to say anymore! was my exasperated reply.
Say something. 
Something. And he was quiet for 5 minutes. Finally.

Do you see my fingers, mom? Danny asks as he wiggles his fingers under the locked bathroom door. There's really no place left for me to hide.

Hey, they're all still clean, Jim says incredulously as he looks in the rear-view mirror Saturday while we were out running errands. Rainy Saturday + car seat confinement = clean kids for a change.

Stop chewing on the trash can, Owen. This kid will chew on anything these days.

When you're done launching that spaghetti squash from a straw, please bring your plate to the kitchen.

Look, guys, there's a goose in the court across the street.
I got to run him over with my bike.
He's not a good guy. He poops all over. Well, if that's the criteria for flattening then he'd have been a good candidate his entire third year.

Okay, children, I'm turning Sesame Street on, Danny tells his brother and sister.

Ew. Why are you picking your nose with your toe? I ask Danny.
Two seconds later he ate it off his toe. Really. Boys are so gross.

I JUST WHISPERING. Danny said as loudly as he could one morning when he woke up hoarse. 

FINE. No one plays with it. Every toy you fight over will go away today. Got it? And this was Monday morning at 9 a.m. It was looking to be a long week.

They need to light up, Fiona said while jumping up and down in her new sandals. Her sneakers light up, so naturally, all shoes must now light up.

The answer is no. Please accept it and move on with your life. 
I don't want to move on with my life, Danny said over and over while rocking back and forth on the kitchen floor.

And Fi Fi chimed in ...

Move on with your life, Danny, she chanted in that deep voice of hers that makes her sound like a 60 year old German woman who smokes a pack a day.

Why did you [dip your head in a toilet bowl full of pee]? I ask Danny while I give him an emergency bath and shampoo.
I like doing that. It's my favorite idea. Well, it's not mom's favorite idea, kid.

THAT CAR IS GOING TOO FAST, MOM. He really doesn't speak at a normal volume much.
Did he scare your bird away, honey? He had been watching a black bird hop down the street.
Yeah. We got to shoot that car, he says through gritted teeth. Oh, boy. With this broom. It was the closest thing to him. I explained to him that it's the job of the police to catch and give tickets to people who are speeding. So now I fully expect him to start screaming at passing cars about getting a ticket.

You're going to say goodbye, Fiona tells me while I'm on the phone with Nana. What a little snot.

What's Easter, mom? Danny asked.
Well, it's when we celebrate that Jesus died for our sins and then rose again.
He gave me a queer look.
You know how mommy's kitty is dead and buried in the backyard? Well,  Jesus was dead and buried, but he got up and was alive again.
His eyes got big.
He can fix your kitty, he said excitedly. Well, not exactly.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sibling law

Danny and Fiona fight like cats and dogs right now. Actually, I think cats and dogs would be more tolerant and predictable. Near as I can tell, the following are just a few of the rules in the most dominant sibling relationship in the house thus far ... 

If my sibling has a toy, I must immediately develop a desperate need to have a turn with that particular item.

If my sibling wants to go to one park or take one particular route on a van ride, I must select a different park or the opposite route. Always.

Even if there are two exact replicas of a cup, plate, toy or any item of clothing, we will fight over them. And we will know which one belongs to us. It's the one that he has in his hands.

Merely walking by me is a good enough reason to tackle her.

Being within five feet of any item that I want, have or once touched is reason to scream bloody murder.

If my sibling is saying something that clearly isn't true, such as the sky is green or that she has a penis, I must protest loudly then appeal the case to mom (who really could care less).

At bedtime, I must cry when I am separated from the sibling that I have spent the day fighting with. Just because.

After bedtime, I must steal into my sibling's room to quietly do puzzles and read books to her. Just to make mom wonder why we can't get along like this all day.

At 6 a.m., I must leave my bedroom, making mom search the house frantically and even peek out the side door, only to be found curled up with my brother in his bed. In about an hour, I need to start tormenting him. Best get a head start.

God help me when Owen starts figuring more prominently into the mix.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Free U: Physical Math

It's dinnertime on Sunday night. Lovely evening on the screen porch. Until ... Fiona shows Daddy her food. Daddy says stop. She does it again and smiles.

Time out.

One person down.

Danny takes inventory.

Hey. There's four now, he says.

That's right. Five minus one equals four, I say. He's been asking about the word equal a lot lately. I figured now would be a good time to start using the word in context.

Daddy gets up.

So, four minus one equals? I ask.

Three, he says.

Daddy and Fiona return. Three plus two equals?

Five, he says.

Then he runs giggling from the table on the screen porch into the backyard. Normally, this would be a major infraction. But it was Sunday night and we were eating outside and he was engaged in a physical math activity. I thought it was pretty cool, actually.

When he came back, he said, four plus one equals five.

And that concludes today's lesson on addition and subtraction. 

I really can't imagine anything more boring than looking at numbers on a piece of paper and puzzling out the answers to addition and subtraction problems. In fact, thinking about it makes my head hurt. To this day, I couldn't tell you what algebra was all about. I probably use the principles in my life every day without knowing it. (If someone has an illustration of this, I'd love to hear it, because, as I said, I wouldn't know what real-life algebra application looks like.)

My son is a very physical little boy who is in a very literal phase. Although he recognizes most numbers and can count, he also needs to see what numbers look like in real life. And it helps if he can physically add and subtract himself from the mix.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


This week, we started doing the kind of fun things that I thought only families with much calmer children could do. Like take walks without strollers. We now have one child who can ride a bike with training wheels and two others who happily sit in the wagon (as long as it's moving).  I never realized how confining strollers were until we started taking after dinner walks into the nearby courts.

We've also been doing puzzles with the older two children. I get these 25 piece picture puzzles at the thrift shop, usually for a buck a piece and in excellent condition. We all sit down, do one puzzle each then switch. It's nice to see them sitting still and focusing on something for more than a minute. It kind of gives me some hope. It's also nice to have some quiet time at the end of the day with the kids. Of course, our 4 year old has a tough time with just not talking lately. No one told me 4 year olds were so talkative.

Danny, shhhhh. We're doing puzzles quietly. (Jim and Fiona and I all finished our puzzles before he even got started. Talking is his new favorite pastime. He'd never make it in school.)
No, I talking to you. 
Please stop talking to me
You've been talking to me all day. I have a headache. 
What's a headache, mom? AAARRRGGGHHHH!

Stop talking back, Danny. Just take my hand.
I'm not. I'm just talking. Mom, I need to talk to you. I can tell that he's trying to figure out how to plead his case. And I'm open to that, but not when he's arguing about holding my hand crossing the street versus riding his bike across the street all while we're in the midst of crossing the street.  

You still eating dirt, boy? Jim asks Owen. He appeared to be chewing on something.
Bugs, he says. Oh, great.

Owen's other new word: cheese

Heart-melting phrases that have come from my daughter's mouth lately:

How are you today? Fiona asks about a dozen times a day now.
It's a nice day out, she tells me as we're working in the garden.
Thank you. 
Your welcome. 

Oddly, though, it's like pulling teeth to get her to say please.

What do you say, Fiona?
I want more jelly beans. 
I want more jelly beans, please.
I want more jelly beans, she replies with a wicked twinkle.

What are you doing? I ask Danny who's slurping water off the table. I should just stop asking this. I don't really want to know anymore.
I spilled my drink. 
How do you spill a drink from a lidded cup, child?

You've got to get rid of those logs, Danny yells. He cut himself on a log in the backyard. His solution to anything that gets in his way is to just get rid of it. He once told us that we needed to get rid of our whole house because he bumped into a wall.

And later that night ...

Where's the cut? Jim asks.
Right there. 
See, RIGHT THERE. Danny points to a tiny little cut on his wrist.
And for that you want a Wolverine Band-Aid?

Help me, Fiona asks while we're in the bathroom.
Honey, I can't help you poop. You have to do that yourself. 
Get that, she says, pointing to the toilet plunger.
That's not for poopy. That's for plunging the toilet.

Get out. I got privacy, Fiona tells me while she is in the bathroom.

I'm going to poop on your clothes, she tells me one morning. And then she cackles.

Lift, Fiona says when we are on our way down the stairs.
I can't, honey. I'm carrying Owen. 
Put that baby down. 

Mom, take your shirt off, says a shirtless Danny. Um, no.

Mom, you're fat. Your arms are fat, Danny says as he jiggles my upper arms.

How do we get dessert in this house, dear?
No. We eat our dinner.
No, we don't. We just get dessert. Um, saying it doesn't make it so, Danny.

I had an argument with my dad, Danny tells me. (Oh, boy. I just had a vision of the teenage years.) And he continues: He didn't say the right time. Jim told him it was dinner time. Danny, apparently, disagreed with that ruling.

And the best family discussion of the week:

Daddy, you have a penis and I have a penis, he says excitedly.
Yes, we do, Jim replies and pumps his fist in the air.
Yeah, see, I do this [Danny fist pumps] because I have a penis. You and Fiona have butts. You do this [Danny points his arms out straight on either side.]

And, that my friends, is how you know whether a person is a boy or a girl. It's all about the arms motions, you see.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Diary of an omniturnal mom

The year of the ear

Mommy hasn't slept more than two hours in a row in two weeks. She was about to get a break from Baby O over the weekend. He was all set to spend the night with Nana on Friday night.

Thursday afternoon, he had a fever. Mommy wasn't too worried about it. His sister had a fever earlier in the week with no other symptoms. It'll pass, she thought.

All day Friday, he had a high fever. Sleep over with Nana is cancelled. Really, what kind of mommy would pawn her sick baby off on someone else? (I considered it for about 30 seconds, actually.) The baby did take his first few steps on Friday evening, though. Despite the fever and, just as mommy suspected, an ear infection.  

(I swear that he did this on purpose. He knew that I was about to get a good night's sleep.)

Saturday morning, at the doctor's office, the fever registered 103.7.

Mommy's reaction?

OH MY GOD, she practically yelled at the nurse who quickly assured her that he'd be fine. After all, he was smiling and wiggling and wiping his snot on her neck, or, as mommy calls it, snuzzling.

After the doctor cleaned enormous balls of wax from his ears, she diagnosed an ear infection. Mommy is a little embarrassed by all this, but tells the doctor that she can barely get the kids pajamas on, let alone clean his ears.

He wallows in dirt.
And, as she later discovered, getting a dose of antibiotics in this child is even harder. Mommy would rather give a cat a pill, in fact. That would actually be easier. It's amoxicillin, for crying out loud. It's not as if the stuff tastes like dirt. Actually, maybe that's why he hates it. It doesn't taste enough like his favorite substance on earth right now.

After one particularly frustrating attempt, Mommy growled (yes, at the baby), "Fine, have an ear infection for the rest of your life."


A cranky baby who was up every two hours the night before goes down at 8:45 a.m. for a nap. While nursing him, she notices some red blotches on his cheek. She starts freaking out. Is he having an allergic reaction to the strawberries she's been giving him?

Oh, wait. That's just blood, she think as she starts breathing again.

HOLY CRAP. IT'S BLOOD. His nose was bleeding.

Mommy adds blood to the growing list of bodily fluids that she's come into contact with that morning alone.
He woke up two hours later somewhat happier and ready for the monthly trek to Sam's Club where mommy drops $200 on food and beverage that will just end up on the floor. This outing comes with the promise of pizza and/or a hot dog for good behavior. Of course, mommy gets her fountain Diet Coke for good behavior, too.

Back home, she sets Danny and Fi up in front of games on Danny quietly navigates the web site with his sister happily by his side for at least 20 minutes while mommy puts away groceries and keeps the baby happy by feeding him apple chips. It was too quiet.

Mommy peeks in, expecting to find Fiona standing on the desk jamming scissors into the stapler. (Hey, anything can happen with this one.)

Nope. Still quiet. Mommy is suspicious.

Upon closer inspection, it seems that they have found her secret stash of jelly beans. Which means someone stood on the desk to reach them.   

Oh well, she thinks. At least there were no sharp objects involved here. She takes the jelly beans with her and finishes them off while putting away the groceries.

It's finally nap time. Synchronization without medication seems like it may be possible that day. A mommy can dream, can't she?

It seemed possible for about 40 minutes until the baby coughed himself wide awake and miserable. Danny was discovered arranging his menagerie on his sister's bedroom floor in preparation for "sleep." Ten minutes later, he woke Fiona up.

The silver lining? It was a gorgeous day and Fiona actually woke up in a good mood.


The baby is up bright and early after the usual up-every-two-hours rodeo. The other two are fast asleep (and stay that way until 8 a.m.). Mommy thanks the ceiling (because that's where God lives) for this unfortunate turn of events. And, no, she doesn't want to see this as quality time to spend with the baby. He gets all his quality time overnight, 'kay?

She spends most of the day wiping blood and snot off the baby's face. Her heart just sinks when she realizes that he is wheezing. No wonder he's so tired and miserable. Mommy resigns herself to even more baby wrestling and restraining in her future. Out comes the nebulizer or, as mommy likes to call it, the misting torture device.

That evening's antibiotic dosing attempt was an utter disaster. Mommy put the baby in front of the mirror, thinking maybe that would be a distraction. He wanted nothing to do with the syringe and put a used Q-tip in his mouth instead. (Seriously, that can't have tasted better than Amoxicillin.) The baby wound up with sticky, pink goop in his freshly washed hair. And Mommy just started yelling about why they don't make a skin patch to administer antibiotics.

Her worried 4 year old followed her around asking, "What's happening? What's happening?"

Mommy's losing her mind, sweetie. That's what. She turned the baby over to his father for torture, um, nebulizing.

This day's silver lining came in the form of a neighbor whose son is Danny's best friend. He spent the afternoon playing with his bestie while mommy and baby and Fiona slept.  And, yes, there was a little, um, medication involved in ensuring a peaceful naptime.

When mommy is this exhausted, blood is better than allergic reactions and two kids with pilfered jelly beans glued to the computer is "enrichment." It seems the side effects of exhaustion--delayed reactions and lowered standards--are the only way mommy is making it through the day without collapsing. That, and wonderful neighbors. And Diet Coke.

Oh, and jelly beans. Don't forget the jelly beans.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


It's been a good week here. Really. Despite sleepless nights with an 11 month old who simply will not stay asleep. Today, we figured out why. Owen is coming down with a cold and had a high fever this afternoon.

He's very close to walking on his own. He walks holding one of my hands. Fiona tries to grab his other hand, but so far, he's not having it. I don't think he trusts her and I can't say that I blame him. Up until this week, she would clobber him every time I turned my back on her.

And he has a few new words: Sit, which sounds an awful lot like "shit," and Danny.

The kids have been happy and playing outside quite a bit. They found a mud puddle. And Jim spanned scrap lumber between two trees and they've been climbing that all week. Then Jim attached a ball on a string to the clothesline for batting practice.
It's a regular fun park back there.

Danny is just plain fun lately. He's learning to ride a bike (with training wheels) in the court across the street. He's starting to interact with his brother more. He's even taken to mopping the floor. I couldn't get our new mop away from him the other day. It's not that I want to discourage this activity, I just don't want puddles of cleaning solution all over the floor.

I'm slowly figuring out my sweet, schizophrenic little Fiona. When Owen is napping and Danny is at preschool, she helps me get dinner ready and then we do puzzles. This was what I envisioned us doing last fall when Danny started  preschool. It took us this long to get into a rhythm with school and naps and for her to be receptive to, well, anything at all. She's alternately sweet and devious, cuddly and vicious. I often just don't know what to do with her. She doesn't know what to do with herself.

Lemonade AND Cranberry juice
Help me. I WANNA DO IT, she says. In the same breath. Really.

Do you want lemonade or cranberry juice?
I give her the lemonade.
NO, she cries, I want cranberry.

One thing she is clear on?

Are you a girl? I ask as she's pointing out pictures of girls in her book.
No, I'm Nona. And I'm a sister. Got it.

Let's go change you're Pull Up. 
No. Long pause, icy stare. Don't touch me. 

You're gonna die, she tells me rather gleefully. Lovely. Good thing we put the knives up higher.

No, no, Fi, pull your pants up. You don't pee on the tree. My son has been dropping trou and peeing in the backyard lately. So, of course, monkey do wants to try it, too.

I have a penis, Fiona tells me.
No, honey, you have a vagina.
I need to wipe my penis, she says. My daughter has a serious case of penis envy.

I need to get a trumpet to blow and wake you up, mommy, Danny says. As if three little kids staring at me while I hide under the covers isn't enough of a wake up call.

Did you just wipe your nose on the carpet? I asked Danny. He was not wearing a shirt, which is where he usually wipes his nose. Then I noticed that we were out of toilet paper. So naturally, the hall carpet and the bathmat were the next best things.

What are you doing? 
I'm licking the dirt off my knee. Of course you are.

Watch, mom. I'm gonna do a backflip, Danny says. He was standing on the picnic table bench about to plop backward into a pile of leaves from last fall.

Don't wipe your nose on [the clean laundry].
I'm not. I'm trying to get a drink of water.  He was sucking the water from a comforter on the clothesline. Boys are so, um, interesting.

Ugh, I'm so tired of the kids wiping snot on me. Owen has been wiping his nose on me all day. 
I tried to teach him yesterday how to use his sleeve, Jim says. Um, you failed. I am still the preferred handkerchief around here.

Here's hoping the river of snot leaves us soon.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Free U: Numbers

A stack of blue sticky notes and a chart with the numbers from 1 to 100 provided a 20-minute, unscripted, Danny-led number lesson on a napless Friday afternoon.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the two of them that afternoon. I was certain, though, that I wanted two exhausted kids by 8 p.m. instead of two wired monkeys hounding us from the top of the stairs until 10 p.m. So they wound up at the kitchen table with crayons, sticky notes, paper and markers while I prepped dinner. And, of course, they were begging to eat the frozen peas I was tossing in the casserole. (My kids are weird like that. They love to eat frozen veggies.)

It all started with the number four. Because, you see, Danny is four years old and he is the center of the universe. He counted out four frozen peas. Then he asked me to write the number four on a sticky note. Then he ran to get the number chart I had printed out months ago.

My sister told me about this handy little chart. It's just 10 rows of numbers from 1 to 100. For a time, it was written on the chalkboard wall. She told me to just put the hundred number board where he could access and study it anytime he wanted. 

I had to resist the urge to lead the lesson. I didn't always succeed. When I tried to get him to start counting from number 1, Danny quickly lost interest and began fidgeting. When I backed off, he started pointing to numbers, asking what they were and telling me to write them on the sticky notes. He called it his number map. I began sticking them along the edge of our round kitchen table. In order, of course. (I had to do something, but I didn't mention that they were in numerical order.)  He asked how old certain family members were. "What number is PopPop?" he'd ask. I showed him the ages of everyone in the family and wrote those on sticky notes with the corresponding name.

I decided to do a little matching game with him. I asked him to match the numbers on the sticky note with their matches on the number board. He found them quickly and correctly every time.

Then I explained how to name all the numbers. For instance, we talked about the 70 row and how every time you see a 7 before another number, you say 70 and then the number after the 7. I pointed to 71. He said 71. We went down the row this way. He got every one of them correct without hesitation. We did the 40 and 90 row, by no means sequentially as the lesson may have been in school.

This went surprisingly well for an indoor afternoon with no naps. If I had to plan an introduction to numbers lesson, I'm pretty sure this English major would have broken out in hives. He may not want to talk about numbers again for a few days, weeks or months. And that's okay (partly because anything math related does make me sweat). One of my core beliefs about learning is this: The teacher appears when the student is ready. And the teacher isn't always a person with credentials or a plan; it can be any situation or experience such as a piece of  paper with numbers written on it and a parent willing to just sit and answer whatever questions come up.