Journal Entry 11

Tuesday, October 6, 1987

I am not sitting around unschooling with Camille, Mindy, and Lindsey today. Oh, no!

Instead, I'm hanging out with the Princess of Blue, the Princess of Pink, and the Princess of Red.

Well, that's what they call themselves. Actually, come to think of it, they do look a lot like Camille, Mindy, and Lindsey!

The girls are looking really gaudy because, first thing this morning, they got out the play dough, and Mindy had an idea to create fake fingernails with her play dough. So the other two girls followed suit, and now they all have long, bright-colored nails!

Whoops—hold the presses—they are no longer princesses! Now, they inform me, they are witches.

Well, duh. Halloween decorations fill the house, so the girls naturally want to dress up in Halloween costumes. And now they are pretending to be witches...

We are interrupted: Delia and Kiki arrive and whisk Lindsey off to Mommy and Me class. We promise Lindsey that we will come and visit later.

I am solemnly given the witch hat Lindsey had been wearing, and I am informed that I am the witch teacher, and Mindy and Camille are witch students. And school has just begun!

First, they want me to read The Witch's Hat, by Tony Johnston.
Next, the girls decide that “W” would be a perfect Letter of the Day, being a wonderfully witchy letter. So we do the guessing game in which I draw “W” words, and they see how quickly they can call out the word I'm trying for.
witch ........ window ........ whole ......... web ......... whale .......... world .......... wand ........ word

As they often do, the girls want to copy the words onto their papers and work to “sound them out” as they write them.

Then the girls ask me to draw witch pictures for them to color.

I can do that.

Mindy colors hers in but then starts drawing stuff around the picture. Then she starts telling a story about her witch picture. I quickly scramble to write the story down as she spins it; Mindy sees what I'm doing and is excited to keep going.

At one point, Mindy asks Camille if she wants to add to the story. Camille refuses the invitation. Mindy continues on.

When Mindy is entirely done dictating her story, Camille informs me, “I don't want to write a story about a witch, because that's too scary.” (Mind you, Camille IS a witch, hat and all!) I keep my surprise to myself as Camille informs me that her story will be about ballerinas. And she dictates her story to me.

A few lines into the story, Camille interrupts herself to tell me, “I like short stories, so this one will be short.”

And, as promised, her ballerina story is nice and short.

The ballerina story seems to have ended the witch period of the morning. Now the kids ask for some dinosaur stickers, and they apply the stickers on blank papers and draw scenery around them. As the girls work with stickers and markers, they reminisce about our museum trip. At some point, still talking about our museum fun, they start working on the dinosaur skeleton model.

And then Camille gets out another blank piece of paper, and she draws a whale.

The girls inform me that it is snack time. They all of a sudden remember that this is witch school, so Mindy says that the orange juice is Halloween punch and asks for spider web sticky-goo. Hmmm...what could that be? I hazard a guess that it is peanut butter and am rewarded with an enthusiastic nod. I realize that we also have orange colored crackers, and both girls are excited that they fit into the color scheme.

Camille's dad surprises us with a phone call. He is home because of a power outage at his company, and he asks if Camille wants to come home. She says, “No!” I wonder if her dad realizes that she's a whale-drawing scared-of-witches witch today...

As promised, we bundle into the car and drive to Mommy and Me class to visit. This makes a nice, active break from the rest of the morning, since the class is outside when we arrive. Lindsey is playing in the sand, and both girls run toward her with glad cries. Mindy gives her a HUGE hug—how nice, huh?—and then both Mindy and Camille start playing on the monkey bars. After that, it's the rings, the swings, and just plain old running on the grass. Lindsey jumps up to join in their zig-zagging run.

Time to come inside. The dear Mommy and Me teacher, Mrs. Popkins, starts sharing time. Lindsey “shares” her big sister! Mindy asks if she could share, too, and Mrs. Popkins nods with a big smile. I wonder what Mindy has to share, but she proudly shows off Lindsey's craft project, which she had just been shown minutes before. Then it is Kiki's turn to share; he shares his cousin Camille.

Time for more outdoor play. I'm excited that the girls are enjoying the playground so much and tell myself firmly that I've got to get them to the park more often. Somehow the large size of the playground invites much bigger, faster movements than our patio and small yards.

When it's time to go home, Lindsey surprises me by wanting to go home with Kiki. But...okay, sure.

Home again, Camille and Mindy both draw whales—which is pretty funny; it's as if they are picking up where they were before the snack and “recess” had interrupted their play.

Then the kids ask for read-alouds. I read The Count of Halloween, and Mindy counts all the witchy objects “to make sure the numbers are right.” The kids even ask me to read entries in the Halloween Dictionary. As I read, they color in pictures from The Count of Halloween.

I finally feel done with witch school, and I sneak off to do some dishes and start a load of laundry. The kids abandon their coloring project somewhere along the line and get out the two large Rainbow Brite dolls and some of the accessories. Camille has Rainbow Brite, and Mindy has Shy Violet. The girls dress them in sleepwear and arrange pillows and blankets. Then Mindy asks if she can have a turn with Rainbow Brite, and Camille switches dolls amicably. Soon they are restoring the doll's usual clothes and troop into the kitchen, where they grab two lunch boxes and the small ice chest. I almost want to ask them if they want to pack some food, but then I see that they are already packing food—invisible food—with intricate movements as they pour invisible juice into the thermos, spread invisible peanut butter on invisible bread, and pack invisible sandwiches in invisible sandwich bags. It's so cute, I dare not interrupt.

When the girls leave, their invisible lunch nicely made and packed, I go to the doorway to see what they're up to. They have pushed the love seat up next to the sofa, apparently creating a van. They carefully pack the lunch boxes and ice chest into the back of the sofa-van, balance the dolls in sitting positions in the middle portion of the sofa-van, and they themselves sit with crossed legs in the front.

Soon the van is abandoned (invisible lunch still apparently uneaten, although it's hard to tell!), and the girls are reading Halloween books to the two dolls. I am getting a lot of stuff done while keeping an eye on how wonderful it is to see non-readers “read” – they have such good memories of the stories I've read to them!

But all of a sudden I hear, “Thwack!” And a sudden onset of loud crying.

What happened?” I ask the two girls, who have abandoned books and dolls to come find me.

Still sobbing, the girls tell me that they hit their heads together. I hug them and suggest lunch (I'm thinking of real food here, but I wonder if they're going to go get the invisible lunch in the perfectly visible lunch boxes and cooler, still perched at the back of the sofa-van.) “We're not hungry,” Mindy says—Camille seems fine with her friend speaking for her—and I offer to read to them again, but they spy their Count of Halloween coloring books and want to color more of those pages. The tears evaporate.

It's getting late for lunch (2:30), and I'm starving. As the girls turn away from the coloring books to the dinosaur flannelboard, I decide to make a really special Halloween feast so (hopefully) we can all eat. When I see that the kids have wound down on the flannelboard project, I tell them to clean up the area so we can eat:
  • Crabapples and Gooey Glop
          (actually regular apples and peanut butter)
  • Gophers' Eyes
          (frozen peas)
  • and Ghost Water

The kids fall upon the meal enthusiastically. After I'm done eating, while they are still having fun munching on a frozen pea here, thawing and squishing a pea in their fingers there, I tell them that we can play the Continental Travel game—a brand new countries-of-the-world Colorform set.

For each continent, you can choose one country, and we'll visit that country. In the van.” (I nod my head toward the living room, where the sofas are still pushed together.)

The girls fall in with the plan, and we study the Colorform world map. “What's this continent called?” I ask as I point to each of the six inhabited continents. The girls remember every name. Then I ask, “What country should we visit in North America?” I ask the same question for each continent. The girls either name a nation, and I point to it, or they point, and I identify their choice. We end up with a great itinerary:

Continent - Country
Australia - Australia 
Asia - Japan and Korea 
Europe - France 
Africa - Kenya 
South America - Colombia 
North America - Canada

Then I get in the “driver's seat” of the sofa-van, and they pile into the back, and we drive to Australia. (I know that we should be going by boat or air—but I don't trouble the kids with trivialities!) A friendly-yet-invisible Aussie sits next to me and greets the kids with a lamentably bad Australian accent: “G'day, Mates!”

We sing “Waltzing Matilda” as we go, then “Tie Me Kangaroo Down.” I encourage the kids to come up with an Australian animal and a color, and then I delight them with a new verse:
If my koala's red, Fred, 
If my koala's red... 
I'll bonk her on the head, Fred, 
And send her straight to ___

Bed!” the kids shout to fill in my expectant silence, and we sing the red-koala verse again.

Of course the kids want to do another verse. This time they suggest a kiwi turning “rainbow.” Yikes!

If my kiwis turn rainbow, Joe, 
If my kiwis turn rainbow... 
I would make them glow, Joe, 
I would make them glow. – Altogether now!

We share our invisible “beano” (feast) with our new invisible Australian friend. And we pass around a real “billy” (can) with invisible water and pretend to drink. Then we drive through the “never-never” and take tours of Sydney and Melbourne (looking at pictures in the encyclopedia). We look at all the pictures of Australian animals in the big animal books. I remember another Aussie song, and we sing “Kookaburra.”

Let's stop at a craft store,” Camille says. We are supposed to be in Melbourne, and I'm sure there are plenty of arts-and-crafts supply stores there, so I make a flourishing turn into an invisible parking lot and announce our destination as “Melbourne's finest crafts store.” The girls clamber off the sofa-van and get out their half-done dinosaur puppets. They work happily until both are complete. I wonder if we are still in Australia, and if I dare pull apart the sofa-van. When the kids decide to dress up as bunnies, I'm pretty sure the Continental Travel game is over for the day.

My newly bunny-eared, whiskered girls help me put the living room to rights, put away the Colorforms, and place Australia on the world map. Then the kids ask for an end-of-the-day snack. Camille points to the package of English muffins. She pretends to be an Australian girl ordering the bread, and I pretend to be an Australian waitress filling her order, and one for the other Aussie, as well (Mindy). The girls ask what kind of money Australians use, and we check the encyclopedia: the Australian dollar. “Then,” says Mindy, “the muffins cost one dollar.”

After a few more G'days, we seem to finally drop the Aussie theme. The girls play piano until Lindsey returns to us and Camille's mom arrives. Whew! Our color-princess-witch-whale-Australia day is over!

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