Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blowing Up Orcs

This weekend Kai decided would be a Lord of the Rings event. I own the special extended edition of all 3 movies, so getting through the entire trilogy is over a 12 hour experience. The first time Kai watched the trilogy, or part of it, we were in San Francisco while I was out there on business. We had rented a room with 2 Queen sized bed, and Kai was in heaven staying up in his own big bed and watching the Two Towers one night with room service pizza and everything. Since that first viewing, all trees are suspect of being ents, and Kai has begun collecting orcs, ogres, and trolls, (we've got a great toy store) to secretly form an army bent on destruction. In order to control the growing masses of evil beings, Kai then decided (after viewing #2 a few months ago) that we needed a volcano to blow them all up. Being the good follower of his scheming plots that I am, I fell in line and got him a volcano making kit and we began the journey towards the battle of good and evil.

The volcano however had it's own agenda, like the dreaded ring. It took 2 weeks to dry. Patiently, so patiently Kai checked it each day to see if it was ready to be painted. In the mean time, we went to pearly paint for some architectural model trees. We got a set of 5 pines to place around the volcano. He also found my old high school ring burried in one of his toy boxes. I found him tying the string from his wooden beads through it to make a necklace and getting very frustrated at the limited dexterity his 3 year old fingers had at making knots. "Here Mama. I need a chain." Obligingly I found him an old necklace chain, strung up the offending ring, and placed it on his neck. Kai Frodo was then born. Periodically there were sword fights, me being an orc at every occasion, then finally! This past weekend the volcano was ready. Kai pulled out the Fellowship of the Ring and we began to paint!

By the time the Two Towers was half way through we had our trees in place. Thus the battle for Middle Earth ensued in our home! Kai took the volcano and placed it on the floor. The armies amassed between our sword fights for good and evil. Aragorn faced Sauron, Saruman was defeated at Orthank, and oliphants took the field! Out came the orcs and goblins! Out came all the plastic elephants to be slain by elves, out came the knights and black ships, out came the monsters! The Riders of Rohan defended the keep, and the eye at Khazad Dum watched on.

Finally it was time. Solemnly, Kai brought the volcano back to the counter and took the ring from his neck. It was time for an end to all evil. As Frodo hung to the cliff, bereft from the loss of ring and finger, Kai let loose the dreaded Sturyvesant High ring in to the mouth of our own Orodruin. Fires bubbled, the seas churned, and all the orcs were swallowed in to the earth from whence they were made. Peace was restored to our home and the world can breathe knowing that it has a 3 year old champion to protect them from all evil.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Oh my! Gremlin precautionary measures!

So everyone is going to yell at me for letting Kai watch the movie Gremlins (1 & 2), but let me preface it with the fact that his all time favorite movie scene that he makes me let him watch over and over again is the dragon scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so with that as a baseline for his fear factor, I personally thought that he'd find the Gremlins movies funny as hell. I mean it is his sort of wacky stupid humor. Well, he did. He thought they were funny as hell any time he peeked out from under my arm. For the first time in his 3 short years I saw my fearless son bury his face in my body, and with a horrified fascination, insist that I NOT turn the movie off. He instead wanted me to narrate what was going on during the scary scenes while he listened, but under NO CIRCUMSTANCE was I allowed to turn the movie off. After 1 he insisted on watching 2.

I know! I know! Beat me over the head! This is not age appropriate for a 3 year old, but he's not really a 3 year old in so many ways, and he watches some really intricate sci-fi already. His favorite TV cartoon is Avatar for goodness sake and he's followed the plot through 2 seasons. He loves Dragonheart and Aragon, he's watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy 3 times already (favorite characters are the Ent's of course and now he's quite obsessed with spotting "walking trees" in our neighborhood. He looks at Oak trees mostly to find their faces in the trunks), is half way through reading the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with me (I read), so basically, he's already way past the age appropriate limit. As far as he's concerned (until now that is), it all is exactly what it is, sci-fi and make believe. He's never had any issue separating it from reality,,,until tonight it would seem. I'm not quite sure why the gremlins freaked him out. I mean, they LOOK like Muppets. The orcs in LOTR are scary as hell but all they did to him was prompt him to want an orc and ogre army, build a volcano, and blow them all to kingdom come with it. These gremlins though, in particular the suspense of it all when they hatched from their cocoons, scared him. (OK, not terrified scared, but more of a fascinated but still hiding his face in my arm scared. He was having a hell of a lot of fun being frightened to be honest, then spent the rest of the day trying hard as hell to scare me...but still)

Anyway, tonight he went to the Nth degree in gremlin-proofing. It seems that his monster now eats cauliflower and raw eggs. I don't know why, and am not going to question it at the moment because his strategy was to feed his monster and leave a note in the monster's food box asking him to put any gremlins he found in to the lights. He actually dictated the letter to me to write, then signed it, "Love Kai". He then turned on every night light in his room, including his battery powered camping light that hangs over his pillow (for midnight emergencies). He had me leave the night light on in the bathroom, and then did a perimeter check of the living room, but shrugged his shoulders and said that the monster would get them out of there if they got in to the living room. Either that or it would seem that our cat, Monster, would scratch them.

I swear. He was absolutely methodical about how he was tactically protecting the house from gremlins, then once he was satisfied, sat down in his rocking chair and waited patiently for me to come read him his books. I kept looking at him and asking him if he was going to be ok, and by that time he looked at me like I was over dramatizing the situation that he now had under control and gave me that exasperated, "YEEESSSS MOOOMMM! Can we read books now?"

Well ok then. I'm waiting for 2:00 a.m.

Monday, January 07, 2008


I'm so excited I'm about to burst!

Tonight at bed time Kai and I did our usual, but when it came time to read books he immediately grabbed this one baby book that he's had since he first began learning colors. It's about 5 different colored caterpillars turning in to butterflies. It's rhymey, got sparkly pictures, and raised velvet 3D caterpillars in it. You know the kind. Just right for 1 year olds. Anyway, he's been walking around with this book all of a sudden for days. I couldn't figure out why until tonight. When he grabbed it at bed time to read I protested, whining to him that it was a baby book and why did he want to read it. He absolutely insisted upon this book so I resigned myself to it figuring that at least book reading time tonight would be short, making up for the fact that we were getting to bed a little late, UNTIL, he began to read the book to me! OMG! I'm serious. He sat in my lap opened up the book, and began to sound out the words for me. He read it! I was so stunned and excited! I don't know if I'm going to get to bed tonight. I simply can't believe what happened. He didn't read the entire thing. There were words he couldn't sound out and needed help with but I'd say he read 80% of it for me. He's been carting this book around all week figuring out how to read it! I'm just so stunned. It's just been so sudden all of this.

I know I expected it, but now that it's here and hitting me in the face I'm realizing I don't have a plan. He's going to remain in the school he's in until he's 5. I feel it's a very healthy place for him as they're amazing educators who are truly devoted to helping him develop, but then what? I need to get my act together and figure out where we're going to be in a year so he can be situated some place for the next level in his schooling and home environemt.

While I'm awfully excited right now by what just happened today, I'm actually a little frightened by all of this as well.

Learning to Read - 12/30/2007

We went to staples today and got supplies to make flash cards (along with 2 new gold fish, a beta fish, and of course 4 new plants to make a forest for the fish. Kai set up his old fish tank in his room and got a pirate treasure thingy to go in the tank. he now has a fish tank with 2 goldfish and 4 new plants surrounding it on his desk since we moved his computer in to my office ;^) Tomorrow we're staying in and making our flash cards. He's pretty excited about it. We're going to cut pictures out of magazines to start. I got pre-made blank flash cards with a hole punch and plastic laminate. It should work. I think just the process of making them has him all excited.

Learning to Read - 12/27/2007

So Kai is starting to read and I'm looking for day to day ways to integrate learning techniques in to life rather than have sit down sessions to teach him. Supposedly I learned how to read at his age (actually a bit younger), and my memory of it was playing with my sister and a Montessori reading kit that my mother bought. It had flash cards and all sorts of games in it that were geared towards learning to read. Luckily my sister liked playing with it with me so in essence, my older sister taught me to read at a very young age. By the time I was in kindergarten I was reading at a 3rd grade level. The beginning of may public school problems for me in my life...

Anyway, Kai is sounding words out on his own and really is initiating all of this so I want to figure out ways to help him in his own process, as opposed to pushing a process on him which is what makes school and learning so painful.

He's had a regular computer for about a year and a half. My friend upgradedand gave him her old PC, and another friend gave him her old 15" flat screenmonitor when she upgraded as well. What I did was wipe my friends PC, locked it down tight from a security and age appropriate perspective, then we tend to leave WordPad open so he can type letters. I keep caps lock on and make the font size really large for him.

Other applications he uses regularly are his e-mail and the internet browser. He e-mails family and likes to send pictures to his cousin. Last year for his birthday he got the Kid's Tough Digital Camera so he's always taking pictures of me and the cat to load on his PC which is a lot of fun for him. I have to help him with the uploads, but his screen saver is the folder where we keep all the photos.

When he was about 18 months old he was animal obsessed so I downloaded about 500 photos of wild animals and set the screen saver up to randomly display them. He loved it and would name each animal as they came on the screen. Then we did the same thing with the alphabet. I've set up a favorites folder for him on his internet browser where we keep all of the sites he likes to play on so they're easily accessible. He's pretty good with the mouse and using it. He's made quick work of the alphabet site at Starfall.

Another thing that we have set up is a webcam so he can do video chats with his cousin in New Orleans. They both use Skype so they can sit in front of the computer and talk.

Lastly, he sometimes watched DVD's on it, but that's not going to continuenow that the PC is in my room/office.

Anyway, we just moved his computer from his room in to mine. His biggest complaint about his computer is that he can't work WITH me. Since I work from home part of the week, he wanted to be able to work at his computer along side of me, which is actually pretty cool. It also makes it easier for me to help him when he is working at it since I only have to reach over to him as opposed to getting up every 10 minutes to go in to his room which was really discouraging both of us and became pretty frustrating. He's been in here with me for the last half hour or so sitting at the next desk typing words. It's already so much nicer! I'm working and he's got WordPad up, asking me how to spell one word at a time so he can type them out. I just realized that down the road this is going to make the homework process so much easier and more fun for him as well.

Still, I'm realizing that telling him how to spell words is still a bit of a disconnect, so I was thinking of giving him a stack of flash cards to keep by the computer so he can see the pictures and type the words, but I just feel like that's begging for a mess. Then I thought of maybe printing out labels and sticking them on everything in the house so when he looks at an object he's got the spelling of the word to go along with it. I made labels for everything in the house last night. OMG! He's been so excited. He's been walking around the house pointing at things, naming them, then spelling them. He's given me a new list of word labels to make for things he wants to spell but I haven't labeled yet. It was a serious Helen Keller moment.