Amy’s camera

I just uploaded all the pictures from Amy’s camera that she got for her second birthday. I haven’t uploaded any since June 2009, apparently! There were over two hundred, and that’s not including all the ones she’s taken and trashed. Her favorites included things like pictures of videos she was watching on youtube, all the pictures of her blanket, pictures of toys, of the new CD player, of Mark’s mentees, and such. Most of them are blurry.

These are my favorites:

Watermelon and tomatoes. I love the composition and the color contrasts.

Milk and stuff. This kid looooves her milk.

Mark eating watermelon. Intriguing framing.

The best beloved. I like how the feet are included.

Ceiling fan. Nicely composed with the fan hovering upper right.

Lamp. This might be my overall favorite, for composition and light and shadow.

Tomato sprouts. Lovely how the light shines through the translucent leaves. And she captured something I had forgotten to take a picture of.

Kitchen drawer. Lovely colors. And, again, interesting how it's framed -- what gets cut off, what parts are included.

Floor. Another nice one for lines and lights and shadows.

Daddy. Love that light and dark; and still crisp.

Hands. Grandma P's hands; lovely framing.

Hair. Grandma P again. The curls fill the frame.

Christmas tree. I guess she moved the camera after clicking -- such neat lines.

Family group. The only clear shot of many she took of these and other figures.

It’s interesting what she chooses to photograph — the ridiculously ordinary, the best beloved…

I realize that a lot of what I love about these particular pictures — the framing, composition, colors and lighting and lines, is completely out of Amy’s intention or consciousness, considering how many of her other pictures are dark, blurry, and so on, without bothering her in the least. I think it’s a rather difficult camera to use, with a small screen, hard to keep it still long enough, and no cues to help with lighting and focus. But I think as / if she gets interested in such things, she’ll be able to get better with it. No matter — I like these, and she likes just about every picture she takes. And if she doesn’t like one — or even if she does — she knows how to delete it.



Today, I was talking with a friend about kids and their perceptions of and attitudes toward violence and anger.

Tonight, Amy and I watched Cinderella — her first movie, and years after I’d seen it last.

She loved it, generally, but was upset by the way the mice kept attacking the cat and vice versa, and the way the king kept jumping around and flailing his sword and throwing things. (She also wanted Cinderella and the prince to stay in the palace and not go walking / dancing outside.)

My friend was talking about how her child has mentioned how other kids talk — talking about punching or wanting to punch people, or choking stuffed animals, slapping them in the mouth and eyes, and that sort of thing. How it makes her think twice about saying even something as innocent as “We’ll just bonk him on the nose” about the scary ghost imagined downstairs.

We agreed that we want our kids to know they’re worth standing up for — to know they are allowed to defend themselves. But that it’s not okay for them to start a fight, and that it’s best to try to resolve conflicts without physical violence. That it’s not okay to throw or break toys, or hit people, but that it’s fine to punch a pillow or bang a blanket.

In real life, of course, cats catch and eat mice. But they don’t talk or wear clothes or try to trick one another or use forks, dishes, or other “weapons.” It’s nice to see a hero outwit and defeat an enemy… but why is the cat an enemy, and not just a natural predator? This cat is named “Lucifer” and is clearly portrayed as a villain.

How would you talk to your child if they were upset about the mice and the cat in this movie?

(Fortunately, she didn’t notice the “leave the sewing to the women” line in the one song.)

And the king — well, I guess it reinforces, negatively, what I’ve tried to teach Amy about how to handle frustration and anger and impulsiveness in general.

I know, it’s just a kids’ movie, and they had to add stuff to make it movie-length and all… but these are the things my kid noticed and was upset about. Good thing we chose Cinderella and not one of the movies that has any “real” fighting in it.


I have it on pretty good faith that three-year-olds don’t really engage in torturing their parents with manipulative mind games.

But yeesh, sometimes the things they say and do get bewildering and exasperating.

Exhibit A:

It’s after dinner, time for Amy to clean up her things before getting ready for bed. I’m in the kitchen doing dishes. She says, “Mom, I was telling the ___ story!” (I don’t remember which story it was.) I say back, “You’re supposed to be cleaning, not telling stories.”

In the ideal world — well, in the ideal world we wouldn’t be having this conversation but bear with me — in the ideal world, that would be the end of it. She’d stop telling stories and get back to her work.

But no — “I was cleaning up AND telling the story.” My reply: “You need to clean up WITHOUT telling stories.” (I hate these perhaps-perhaps-not-manipulative loop-hole findings.)

But it gets worse, because then she says “I don’t know what you mean.”

In case she just didn’t hear me right, I repeat: “Clean up WITHOUT telling stories.”

And she repeats, “I don’t know what you mean,” this time in her “Don’t you dare” mama impression voice.

And I lost it.


I want to be the kind of parent who trusts her kid — who believes her. But I am aware that kids do, in fact, sometimes lie, for a variety of reasons. So, knowing when she’s telling the truth and when she’s lying seems to be an important goal (along with exploring the reason for the lie). But it’s not always obvious.

I really don’t understand how she could not know what I meant by cleaning up without telling a story. But maybe in her mind she did have some kind of confusion about it?

When you suspect someone is lying, asking them if they are lying is not always the most prudent course of action. For one thing, you couldn’t be sure if they would give a true reply.

Always believing is naive and clearly impractical. Always disbelieving is not nice, nor is it conducive to building trust and truthfulness.

Trying to navigate the narrow road of wisdom is, as I said, sometimes bewildering and exasperating.

Exhibit B:

I go into her room and climb into bed beside her to apologize for having lost it, and to gently probe into whether she really understood me about cleaning up or not. The investigation was inconclusive and I soon dropped it.

I moved on to talking about trust and believing what she says, and I asked if she remembered the story of the boy who cried “Wolf!” — she said yes, and then I asked more questions — like what was the boy’s job — and she kept answering “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember,” but in the same rather sing-song unthinking voice she uses to answer similar questions like “What did you do in Sunday School today” or “Tell me about one of the works you did at preschool today.”

May I remind you that my child has a prodigious memory and is rather articulate for her age? So you can see why I get a little suspicious with such answers, especially when Sunday School or preschool just finished minutes ago.

I forget how exactly the discussion continued, but basically we got to talking about how I thought maybe what she wanted was for me to tell her the story, and that’s why she was saying she didn’t know or remember. She agreed (again, you can never tell if she’s agreeing because she thinks that’s what I want to hear, or because I was right in my guess).

I suggested she say what she wants — she could say something like “I don’t want to say the answer; I want you to tell the story instead.”

So I asked the questions again and she correctly answered them, and then she asked me to tell the story and I did.

We prayed, and that was all. I still feel just a little bit crazy.

Amy bits

Facebook status updates featuring things Amy says or does.

Oct 10: has a little girl who just yesterday learned to catch her big purple ball, and pump her legs to swing higher and higher.

Oct 6: Amy, looking at a really cute rocking horse at Goodwill: “If your egg got fertilized and grew into a baby, and it was a boy, you could get that rocking horse for him.”

Oct 6: Today, Amy pretended that we were Mr. and Mrs. Bela Fleck. And, alternatively, Mr. and Mrs. Johann Strauss.

Oct 3: Amy on the phone, holding up the piece of play-doh: “This is what play-doh looks like.” After more prompting from grandma, “The round play-doh cookies look round, and the diamond play-doh cookies look like diamonds.” Asked about her birthday, “I want a nightgown with purple flowers and polka dots!”

Oct 2: Amy: “My milk is homebrew.” and, listening to Bela Fleck playing Debussy, “Silly classical music!”

Oct 2: “I have a belly full of popcorn. It feels like I have a baby that’s going to be born!”

Oct 1: Amy: “I’m a woman in a hat.” (Wearing Daddy’s hat.)


Sept 29: Amy’s new song: “I went to see four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten; for he-e waits — eleven, twelve.” (To the tune of the second half of “Jesus Shall Reign.”)

Sept 28: Amy, when I mentioned I was doing some math for a recipe: “Can I do some math?” and later after an improvised worksheet, “I love doing math!”

Sept 26: Amy: “I’m not trying to kill you, Daddy.” (She just wanted to pretend he was the target for her pretend archery practice, and he was explaining why you never point an arrow at a person.)

Sept 20: ‎10:15, Amy emerges to pee, and says, “Daddy, I’m tired of sleeping and lying on my bed.”

Sept 13: Amy: on the way to church “Playing is fun.” In the bath “I’m going to set myself on fire under the Eiffel Tower!” and, pouring water on herself from a bowl, “It made it like I was dressed in a water dress!”

Sept 9: loves to hear Amy singing along to instrumental music — traditional stuff by contra dance band Swallowtail this evening.

Sept 7: Amy, zonked and wobbly after waking up to pee: “Mama… …tomorrow… …there’s going to be my show.”


Aug 30: Amy’s toys are having an extremely heated discussion. One of them just slammed the door.

Aug 29: Mark: “What did you do in Sunday School today?” Amy: “I learned about everything.”

Aug 28: Amy: Once upon a time there was a little girl named Laura. She lived with her sister Mary, and her Ma. Pa was dead. He wasn’t paying attention, and he fell, and he died. After some confusion, it turns out Ma was dead, too, and the girls flew to Paris to live with Miss Clavel.

Aug 28: Amy: They named their baby Pooping Diaper Changing Snipe.

Aug 24: On the way, Amy said, “I’m going to have fun at preschool today.” And she did. Her teacher said she did “fabulous.”

Aug 23: Oh, and Amy wrote a new song today: “I hammer you under the sun, I hammer you under the moon, I hammer you under the stars, I hammer you under the snowflakes.” I think she’s talking dulcimer.

Aug 19: Amy: Napkin, please save me!

Aug 19: Amy wanted dessert last night. Since we didn’t have any available, she was very sad. Then she remembered we have pickles.

Aug 16: Amy (singing): Don’t kill my Amy, don’t kill my Amy… She wants to get to three years old… when she’s all grown up she’ll be a baby again… if George fell in the water he’d need a ring if he fell and he got wet and he didn’t have a ring… you shall get her mirror bring it back to (?)… I am glad you sing with me Dad… daddy daddy daddy dad, daddy daddy daddy dad… you are glad I sing… I, I, I aaaaaaammmmm… that’s all there is, there isn’t anymore (that’s from Madeline)… she could stand the covers… then they wake then the morning… my girls, my girls, miss my girls… when she tucks herself inside bed…

Aug 10: Amy, bottom half naked, lying on the bathroom rug with her blanket; Mark says, “What are you doing?” and she replies, “Taking a break from peeing.”

Aug 8: Amy songs tonight: 1. The Lord said “Don’t put your feet on the piano.” But babies don’t know that. (She was playing the toy piano with her feet, of course.) 2. If you break your head you need a head bandage.

Aug 4: Amy: Tonight I’m going to dream about cousin Margie! — When we go to Uncle Carl and Aunt Betsy’s house again, I want to get lost again in Tennessee!


July 25: Two things that puzzle me: why she is so interested in playing throw-up, and why she is so reluctant to ask for help.

July 22: Amy: Daddy, I was dreaming about Calvin in my nap. (The cartoon boy, not the theologian.)

July 22: Amy: I was laughing at bedtime! Bedtime is funny! … Am I allowed to laugh at bedtime?

July 22: Amy: If your blanket was a wall, you’d spackle your blanket.

July 15: Amy: Use a fork, Luke!

July 14: Me: I’m tired of playing Cinderella. Can we play with blocks?
(Minutes later, the dolls living in the block structures start playing Cinderella.)


June 30: Amy: If I had an upper tail, for my fur, it would stick out my shirt.

June 29: At dinner time, told Amy to go pee. She yelled No, and went anyway, then reported that she was doing the parable of the two sons — the first says “no” but then does what dad asks, second says “yes” but doesn’t do it.

June 19: She just walked past saying “I don’t want ants in the house. I’m going to put the ant in the garbage.”

June 18: Amy: I don’t like the way this cheese tastes. It tastes like chicken. It tastes like farm smell.

June 11: amy prochaska (Amy typed that with just a little guidance; she likes to type in Notepad.)

June 10: Me: “Guess what? I love you.” Amy: “No, you don’t. Let’s not say that anymore.” Seconds later, she did the “Guess what? I love you” part to me.

June 7: Amy: The checkers will be our communion cookies.

June 6: might be done with diapering: this is Amy’s third night in training undies. The first morning, I woke up to find her completely dressed for the day.

[I wish I took note of the date she switched to regular undies at night. We wake her around 10 or so for a last pee.]


May 25: Amy: Once upon a time there was a little girl. She was playing outside. Her grandparents came. She came inside. Her mom told her not to lie, but she did. No grandparents today.

May 23: Amy to Mark: You would be handsome if you had a popsicle. (Also, she very kindly had a handsome party today so that Daddy would be allowed to come.)

Almost four

Dear Amy,

Let me tell you a little about what you’re like these days.

Just yesterday you learned how to swing by yourself — pumping your legs the right way most of the time, and correcting yourself when your legs got confused.

And also just yesterday, you learned how to catch your big purple ball.

You have little to no interest in your tricycle or bike, you insist on holding onto something while you hop on one foot, you still put both feet on each stair, but you love to jump (especially loudly) and twirl and dance and do somersaults and flips over my knees and headstands leaning your back against the back of the couch.

You love to be in charge.

Every day you announce what your plans are, and what everyone else will do to fit in with your plans. You like to be the teacher, modeling your lessons after your Montessori experience. You would prefer your playmates to follow your lead in great detail, including what to say, where to sit, what to do, when, and how. You are continuing to learn about taking turns, about graciously allowing others to have choices, even about graciously accepting “no” sometimes.

You usually wake up before I do, especially on non-school days. You are content to play by yourself quietly while you wait for me.

Your favorite things to play this week include Bela Fleck and Mrs. Strauss, the ever-popular Fever’n’Ague, Class, Restaurant, Miss Clavel and Madeline, Miss Shaina and Amy Exercising, House, and Dance or Somersault Show. Oh, and you pretend to lay eggs, like to be “rolled like dough,” and we pretend to cook you as honey mustard or tandoori chicken. The oven is under the coffee table. (How old were Tracy and I when we did that game? In our version there was a conveyor belt…)

You were on a big Little House kick for a while; once we got to the third book, your interest waned. Maybe in part because we still haven’t gotten that one on CD to listen to as we go back and forth to school. You still like to talk about and play Little House, though. You love your High Five magazines, and all sorts of books. You sometimes pretend to read from a book, and show me the pictures, even if there aren’t any. You’re fond of Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, and we’ve enjoyed reading many versions of their stories, including spinoffs like Sleeping Bobby or Sleeping Ugly.

You like to pretend to write. You write letters, and lists of things to do. Sometimes you draw — the faces you drew today included a vertical nose line, and the hair went all around the face. Sometimes there’s arms and legs coming out of a face. You like to watch other people draw, even or especially to draw the same thing many times. Sometimes, you say you don’t draw very well, which makes me sad; how did you get such an idea, and how can I help? I would like you to be comfortable with your current skill level, and to develop further skills. You also do a LOT of scribbling. You like to paint — your painting is also mostly scribbling. You like to color in eyes and mouths in coloring books or other pictures.

Many days you still take a nap. Some of those days you tell me you’re not old enough to have a quiet time instead of a nap. Other days you tell me vehemently that you don’t want to nap, and that you wish you were grown up so you wouldn’t have to. Some days we go have a playdate or something instead of nap, and sometimes that goes well.

You like to eat. You love pancakes, waffles, bacon, tortilla chips, pretzels, crackers, cornbread, buttered toast, or any kind of bread, peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, all kinds of fruit, raw or frozen green beans, broccoli, carrots sometimes, sweet potatoes, hamburgers, tomatoes, corn on the cob, any kind of dessert (usually you ask for chocolate ice cream, but you want to try butter pecan next). You like to eat your chicken on the bone, and chew and suck on the bone long after everything edible has disappeared. Your interest in peas has rather declined, and you often don’t like noodles or couscous or spicy things.

You sleep with your rag doll, the handmade one Jeff and Carole passed down to you, whose curly hair you’ve pulled out from carrying her by it, whose pants you prefer to leave off, and whose name is Gladiator Girl.

So many interesting toys languish on your shelves. Then, occasionally, you get one out for a while.

You have so little concept of death, of course. You’ve heard the stories of Jesus and Lazarus, and your own stories often include someone dying and rising again. You saw a doll with outstretched arms the other day, and said she looked like she was dead on a cross. You wanted to watch when we drowned the groundhogs, and didn’t have any remorse for them at all. You often tell stories in which Daddy and I (and the kitty) are dead, so that you “have” to move to the old house in Paris and live with Miss Clavel.

Your chores include matching socks and piling your undies from the laundry, taking your dishes to the counter and wiping your place at the table, and putting away what you play with. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed by the enormity of a task, and have a hard time taking it one bit at a time.

You often interact very politely and charmingly. You love to sit with Miss Terri and Mr. George at church, and you often invite people to come over, especially adults. When we have a playdate, you love to tell the mama things. Sometimes you and the other child(ren) go right to playing very comfortably, and other times you keep to yourself, even stuffing a toy into your pants leg so no one else will play with it.

You also whine a lot; you don’t yet really understand the difference between your feelings and your behavior. You can’t stand it if anyone pretends to be sad or angry while playing with you. You seem to believe you ought to have just as much authority as anyone else, telling Daddy to come when dinner’s ready, telling me to sit in my chair beautifully and eat over my plate, telling me that something you want me to do is on your list, or is what your sign says, or is something I have to do. You sometimes use a very vehement tone when you’re angry or passionate, and you sometimes still want to slam doors, bang on walls, or throw or hit things and people. Sometimes you’re able to bang on something soft instead.

You love school. I got to observe your class the other day, and I enjoyed watching you get out various works (most from the language area) and do them either by yourself or with some guidance. I love that you go to this Montessori school, where you just get up and go to the bathroom when you need to, and wash your hands without being reminded, where you can choose to sweep the floor or wash a window or paint or clean up your own spill or have a snack or work with sequencing cards or have an individual lesson about letter sounds or sit at the peace table watching the sparkly thing or sit in the comfy chair with a book or do yoga poses from colorful cards.

You leave your blanket in the car when you’re at school, or at the park. Sometimes you forget about your blanket. You hold it to your nose while you suck your thumb on the way to or from school or church, or while having someone read you a book, or during mellow moments at home or on errands. Sometimes we spread it out for pretend picnics, or use it for a tent, and you usually want it included in pictures.

You like to be tickled sometimes, when it’s your idea, and you specify whether it’s to be one-finger tickle or all-fingers tickle, and where you want the tickle, and for how long. You also like to get little shoulder and back rubs, lots of hugs, sometimes kisses, and snuggles especially with books. You don’t mind your hair being brushed when it’s not full of knots, and you think you like haircuts but get tired of them before they’re done, and you don’t like your hair to fall in your face but don’t always want to wear hairbows or ponytails. You often like to have someone blow on your face or neck, but you don’t like raspberries anymore; you make your own raspberries, though, and pretend farts.

You like to sing, and to recite poems. You like to play hammered and mountain dulcimer, and sometimes the xylophone and your whistle and recorder. You’ve learned all five verses of “Jesus Shall Reign” and all four of “The Church’s One Foundation,” and now we’re working on “Come Thou Fount.” You also like to sing some songs I’ve made up, or other songs like “Yankee Doodle,” “Polly Wolly Doodle,” “This Old Man,” and the like. You generally say grace at dinner, and sometimes like to sing a grace like “Back of the Bread.” One night you sang “Yankee Doodle” for a grace, and it was hard not to immediately burst out laughing. You’re starting to understand about worship songs, prayer songs, and other songs.

You like to tell jokes, too. Mr. Counts taught you these two: “Knock-knock, who’s there, boo, boo who?, don’t cry it’s only a joke,” which confused you a bit, and “Who do you call when you hurt your toe? The tow truck!” The “Orange you glad I didn’t say ‘banana'” knock-knock joke confuses you a bit, too — your alternate version is to say “apple” repeatedly, and the punch line is “Grapes you glad I didn’t say ‘apple.'”

We do Bible study in the car on Tuesdays and Thursdays on the way home from school. We sing a little, listen to a chapter of Mark, tell back what you noticed, and we take turns praying.

You have a fantastic memory for certain kinds of things. You know your phone number, your birthday, how to spell your last name, and you’ve memorized quite a few songs, stories, poems, jokes, and so on. You remember a lot of fun events, too. But you often say you don’t remember what you did in school or in Sunday School; maybe you don’t quite know how to describe what you did, or maybe you just don’t want to talk about what you did. Sometimes you talk about something later, when no one asks. I’m like that, too; ask me what’s new or how I am and I go blank.

I wonder if you’ll be more detail-oriented, like me, or more big picturish, like Daddy. Just one example — in your latest High Five, you say “doll things” in answer to “what did Emma put in her building” instead of naming the individual bits.

You wish we could have dessert every night. You would love to go to the dining hall all of the time. You’d love to have waffles or pancakes every day. You wish we could go to Tennessee once a month. You don’t like it when I have work to do, but sometimes it turns out you also “have work to do.” At the yard sale the other day, after I’d told you in the car that we weren’t going to buy any toys, the man offered you the toy microwave that you were playing with and you said we weren’t buying any toys. When you’re at someone else’s house, you often ask for food (even though I’ve talked to you about that not being quite polite). When Scott and Brad came to work on our bathroom fans, you wanted to show them all of your things and do a concert for them.

I love who you are. I love seeing you becoming who you will be. I love being your mama.