Journal Entry 7

Thursday, September 24, 1987

We haven't gotten dressed yet. We haven't eaten breakfast, even. But Camille is here, and the three girls are already playing.

This is what play looks like this morning: Leotards. Ballet shoes. The Nut-cracker Suite on the record player. Girls dancing with lovely curving arms, graceful-awkward leaps and turns, gently solemn faces.

They dance like this, with quiet, serious intensity, for a good long while, but eventually the girls submit to hair brushing and gobble up their breakfasts. Lindsey changes her clothes, because Delia and Kiki are coming to take her to Mommy and Me again.

Since Delia is running late, I read a book called The Get-Along Gang to the three girls. Then we get out some felt-tipped markers and paper and start to draw. When Delia arrives, Lindsey happily says good-bye and runs out the door, eager to see Kiki again.

Mindy and Camille say, “We're ready for school!” They inform me that the day's letter is “L,” and they busy themselves with their cubbies and pencils and paper. “Use the chalkboard,” Mindy directs me.

I write a large “L” on the board, and the girls copy it. So easy! They look as solemn as they play school as they did dancing ballet, so I decide to try for some smiles as I begin a guessing game. “Can you figure out what L-word I am drawing?” I begin to draw a lion – and before I even get to the mane (the most lion-y thing about a lion), Camille has guessed it. I write “lion” on the board as I congratulate her.

The girls are smiling now—but they put their serious scholastic faces on as they copy the word “lion” from the board. I'm thinking I'm going to do Round 2 of the guessing game, but they are now drawing on their papers. Mindy copies my lion face and then, she tells me, writes “lion” in “handwriting.” She means cursive writing, but she doesn't know how to do it, so she just makes some enormous loopy squiggles that she says means “lion.”

Camille draws a human figure and then does “cursive” in small, rounded script. She reads her message to me (which is lucky since it, too, is made up of squiggles). It's a pretty long sentence, and I don't catch it entirely—something about a woman from Mars doing strange things. (No connection to a lion, as far as I can tell.) I offer to print her sentence below her handwriting, but she says, “No. I'll read it to people.”

I'm figuring we are done with the letter “L,” but the kids ask for another guessing game L-word. I draw a lemon, and Mindy guesses. Again, both girls copy the word “lemon.” Actually, Mindy draws the lemon first, and then starts in on the word. She soon runs out of room and complains to me. I tell her about hyphens, and she ends up with:


Drawings and labels done, the girls ask me for “one more.” I draw lips, thinking maybe the kids will say “mouth,” but they chime in with “lips” right away. This time they don't bother to write and print and draw. I can see that they're done as they start fussing with their cubbies again, putting away their pencils and erasers.

I'm thinking the girls are going to run off and play, but Mindy remembers the wooden dinosaur skeleton model I'd said we could put together today. We open the package. All the “bones” are made of flat pieces of wood. The girls are excited and start sorting the bones. They make a pile of rib bones—I tell them the label “rib bones,” and they eagerly use the term—and then they figure out which bones belong in the neck and which in the tail.

Mindy sniffs one of the bones. “It doesn't smell like other dinosaur bones,” she tells me, “because they smell bloody.”

These are just wooden pretend bones,” I say. “And they're a lot smaller than the real bones.”

Mindy nods.

The model bones are hard to put together, and I can see that I am going to have to sand some of the “bones” for the thing to work. I go off to the garage for some sandpaper, and I am soon busy sanding rough connections.

Mindy and Camille troop off and come back with two rather large books from our bookshelves. They are regular adult books, but the girls tell me that they are their “school books,” and they pretend that they are getting them out of their cubbies (even though the cubbies are a lot smaller than the books). They settle down in their chairs again, and each starts to turn the pages of her book.

These school books are about dinosaurs,” Camille says. As she turns the pages, she starts to talk a little about dinosaurs, as if she were reading interesting bits to me. But soon she is distracted by the pictures of foxes, crows, and other modern animals, and she loses the dinosaur stuff in favor of narrating the mammals and birds in front of her.

When Camille is done “reading” to me, I ask Mindy about her book. “Is it about dinosaurs?” I ask.

Mindy has the book Cosmos, by Carl Sagan, so she answers, “This is my space book.” Then, as she turns the pages, she says, “Here is Jupiter...The moon...This is the sun...Wow! Space is beautiful!”

Camille agrees. We chat a bit about space, and Mindy says something she'd already mentioned—that she thinks our next subject, after dinosaurs, should be space. I ask Camille what she thinks of the idea, and she agrees again.

The kids are being awfully agreeable today!

The girls ask for time on the computer. They decide to play “Reader Rabbit” with the sorter game, choosing the letter “L.” (Yep, they are still holding onto their chosen letter-of-the-day!) Their game play is really improving, and after each girl has done three games, they seem ready to move on. Before I can suggest a change, Mindy says that she wants to play one more game and then switch to another computer game. She plays, does well, and turns the mouse over to Camille. Camille plays her last game—and has a perfect round! Reader Rabbit appears on the screen and dances in reward.

I want to make it dance, too,” Mindy decides. So she plays “one more” and ALSO gets a perfect score, and a dance. Big, happy smiles!

The next game they choose is a picture match-up. I assume they will play separately, as they had the sorter game, but although they take turns with the keyboard and mouse, they work together the entire game, and they robustly cheer for themselves, too.

Halfway through the last game, Mindy mentions that she is hungry for snack. I ask if they want to take a break from the game, but she says she will wait for “snack time.”

Snack time, she had previously informed me, is 10:30.

At 10:30, the girls abandon the computer and move back to the wooden-bone-strewn table for their snack. I help them get out bagels, cream cheese, “Quacker Crackers,” and apple juice. They need a little help with the bagels, but they do the spreading and the pouring, and the eating and then the cleaning.

I sand wooden dinosaur bones!

Next, the girls inform me, it's time for recess. They start in with some dance moves again, with a few gymnastics stunts thrown in for good measure. After practicing more leaps, they ask for music. I put Grieg's “Peer Gynt: Morning” on the turntable and begin to dance with them.

Let's line up,” Camille says, arranging us in the hallway. Then she leads us out of the hallway in a line. I continue to happily dance with them until Mindy says, “Mom, when can you leave? We need private time.”

Oh, well!

I go back to the mess of bones and sand paper and wood dust and begin to clean up. (Obviously, we aren't going to complete the model today!) I can see that the girls are now doing partner dances, each with a large stuffed animal as her partner. Eventually, I spot some wonderful action: as they dance, they throw their partners into the air and then catch them again!

The girls invite me back to recess to read a book to them. ( time during recess? It's pretty obvious these girls have never been to “real” school.) They choose a book called Messy, by Barbara Bottner, and the story includes a ballet class and dance recital. Camille assigns herself to be various characters in the book, as I read, and Mindy wants to be the main character, the star dancer who is (you guessed it!) messy.

Lindsey usually leaps and cavorts and capers and dances as I read aloud, but with her gone, I'm thinking we are going to have a more relaxing reading session, because Camille and Mindy are usually curl-up-with-the-adult cuddlers. But not today—during this special recess read-aloud, they are in constant motion.

When the book is finished, Mindy gets out the bell and rings it. “Recess is over,” she announces.

I offer to read a dinosaur book in Spanish to them. With the pictures as context, the kids do a great job of translating a lot of the Spanish. But they can't seem to hear what I can see: the similarities of scientific words such as “herbivore” and “herbivoro.”

While we are still enjoying studying the pictures and translating the Spanish words, Delia, Kiki, and Lindsey arrive back home. Camille and Mindy are ready to share some of their dancing with the younger kids. They beg me to put on the dance recital videotape, so I do. Delia and I watch as all the kids dance along. Soon the kids segue into another, related activity: they remove all the sofa cushions and pillows and arrange them on the floor. It's a lumpy, piecemeal gymnastics “mat,” and they do somersaults and gymnastics poses. “Remember to point your toes,” Camille reminds her cousin.

Delia eventually breaks up the dance/gymnastics party, saying that she and Kiki have to leave. And I say, “Let's make lunch.”

We'd already decided to make some special “pretty” food for lunch today, and Mindy had chosen a cucumber/carrot snack she'd seen in a magazine. Which is very surprising, since she hates cucumbers! But the veggies look like flowers, which Mindy loves, and she'd figured out a substitute.... I cut the carrots into “stems” and curling “leaves,” and each girl arranges one on her plate. Round slices of cucumber make Camille's and Lindsey's flower heads, and Camille removes the seeds from her flower center. Mindy gets a round of apple instead of cucumber—and of course I cut the core and seeds out. Although Camille likes her hole-flower-center, with the plate showing through, Mindy doesn't. I suggest a dollop of peanut butter as the center, and she enthusiastically endorses the idea.

To go with the food flowers, there's yogurt, cream cheese on bagels (again), tuna, apple juice, and a pear to share.

After lunch, energized by the addition of Lindsey to the group, the girls want to do more dancing, more gymnastics, more dance recital video, and (Mindy only) more Reader Rabbit on the computer. After seeing her big sister take a break from dancing to play on the computer, Lindsey decides she wants to play on the computer, too, so she does a quickie color-in activity. (I have to help her control the mouse.)

Soon all three girls are on the dance “stage” again. When I check in on their activity, I realize that this time, it's not just dancing. The girls are doing full-on pretend play, with characters and story lines.

I get a lot done in the afternoon!

Finally the girls are tired of playing. Camille asks me to read Messy, again, and the others choose two more books. After a very pleasant reading session, I ask the girls to help me clean up before Roz and Ginnie come for piano play. All the cushions and pillows, the stuffed animals and books, some other assorted toys and markers are restored to their rightful places. I glance at the clock. Hmm, we have some time to kill—but that means time to make another mess. “Let's do chalk on the driveway!” I suggest.

Today the girls draw pictures (rather than write words). Camille draws several vehicles and some stick figures. Mindy draws houses and people. Lindsey draws faces—lots and lots of smiling and grinning faces.

After that, it's Roz-and-Ginnie time, and piano time, and Maria-picking-up-Camille time. Over and out.

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