Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kindergarten Recess

"How was kindergarten today?"
"Uh, good."
"What did you do at recess?"
"Oh, not much. I just rethinked my life."
"Does your life need a lot of rethinking?"
"Well, not being with Yonatan and Simon makes me feel lonely."
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Friday, July 9, 2010

Road safety tips

"Driving a car is basically like riding a bicycle," Nathan asserted as we drove home after riding bikes in the park. Life is a little simpler from the seven-year-old perspective.

"Kind of, although it's a lot more complicated," I said.

"Yeah," piped in Michael. "Because you can get pulled over by driving too fast in a car, but you can't get pulled over by riding too fast on your bike, can you?"

I had to laugh. "No, I don't think so."

He continued. "Basically, if you don't want to get arrested, it's safest to walk."

There you have it: traffic safety tips from a five-year-old.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Puwoah

"Daddy, whewe's the puwoah?" Michael asked me.

"Puwoah?" I repeated, hoping to gain insight by saying the word myself. But to no avail.

"Yes, the puwoah," he repeated. Evidently he hoped I would gain insight if he repeated it, but still nothing came to me.

Our beloved housemate, Karen, happened to be in the room at the time, and since she also happens to have a gift for decoding the speech of young children, I looked at her, hoping for enlightenment. But she shrugged helplessly.

"You know, the puwoah!" Michael said, frustration building.

"Puwoah, puwoah," I said to myself. Sometimes I have better luck by eliciting more information. "What does it do?"

"It's a sip. You know, the bwack puwoah!" Clearly something everyone knows.

Suddenly, at the same time, Karen and I looked at each other. "The Black Pearl!" we said, simultaneously. Captain Jack's ship, always good for an adventure, though in this case, an adventure in early childhood linguistics.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Limerick by Susanna: Disappearing Ink

There once was a girl named Pink
Who used disappearing ink.
Got poked with her quill,
Which made a big spill,
And then she was gone in a blink.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Confess: A Limerick by Susanna

My daughter wrote this limerick, unaided, for a fourth-grade class assignment.

There once was a girl named Bess
Who didn't like to confess.
What happened to her
No one knew for sure.
Would you like to take a guess?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Mystery Container

"I got the Mystewy Containew!" Michael will shout on occasion, when I pick him up from preschool. Each child gets a turn in the rotation to take the container home and bring it back the next day with something in it. The child gives the class three clues and they see if anyone can guess what it is.

Earlier in the year, Michael had generated a typical set of clues. "It's brown and has a tail, it swings through trees, and it eats bananas."

But recently he's become more crafty. See if you can guess the object from one of my favorite set of clues:
1. You can't drive it.
2. It doesn't have wheels.
3. But you can read it!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gotta Hand It To Ya

"Michael, please take your things into the house," I said as we climbed out of the car, my arms already laden with water bottles, shoes, and a pile of school art, papers occasionally fluttering to the ground.

"I onwy have two hands," he said, as he grappled with three items. Last month he had pointed out, "You onwy have two hands, too. Because in ouw famiwy, we onwy have two hands."

Now he was waxing philosophical. "What if we had six hands?" He likes to speculate, and the more ridiculous, the better.

"What if we had six hands?" I asked.

Nate pitched in. "If we had six hands, we could do lots of things," he said.

"Like what?" I pressed.

"Like we wouldn't have to use our mouths to carry things."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Silver Linings

"I see bwack and white cwouds," Michael said, as we climbed into the car, the two boys and me.

I put it into gear and looked at the mottled sky. "You're right," I agreed.

"Wain comes fwom the bwack cwouds, but not the white cwouds," he said. I had pointed out a few weeks ago that I thought it would rain because the clouds looked pretty dark. Now he was refining the concept one point further. "God makes it wain fwom the bwack cwouds."

Nathan was thoughtful. "They're only shadows," he said. "The black clouds are the ones that make it rain, but they're only shadows. They have too much water in them, so then they rain."

It surprises me how much a three-year-old and five-year-old think things through. I'd never thought about why some clouds were bright and some dark. "I think you're right," I said. "The sun can't shine through those clouds because there's more water in them." I suppose water vapor can vary widely in density. "How did you know that?" I asked, always curious about their sources.

"I don't know. I just knew it," he said.

These boys. I learn so much from them. What will happen when they're teens?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quote of the Morning

“I’m king. Whoever eats not their food gets a bagel. That’s what my command.” --Michael, this morning, looking at his plate of chicken, rice, applesauce and carrots from last night's dinner.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I stirred, groggy. Mike had climbed onto Jen and me, still lying in bed, a full thirty minutes before we had to be up.

Now he was practically standing on us, and declared, "The greatest King of all is..."

I waited to hear the pronouncement from the 3-year-old's perspective.


Then he proceeded with his traditional activity of trying to squeeze in between the two of us. "King Mikey is going to squooze fwoo!" (Which is, of course, his way of saying "squeeze through.") King Mikey is going to squooze fwoo!"

It only too about ten iterations before he successfully wedged between us. Just another typical morning at the Ball household.

"The B-I-B-L-E,
Yes, that's the book for me,"
sang the loudest three-year-old in the house.
"I still don't know
The Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E!"

Jen and I looked at each other and had to laugh. "Sing it for Karen!" we requested.

So he launched in again. Sure enough, instead of singing the original, "I stand alone on the word of God," Michael substituted his own words. 

He still doesn't know 
the words to the song, 
the B-I-B-L-E.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Identity Issues

Thursday was Nathan's adoption day, commemorating the day we officially adopted him five years ago. We like to celebrate by having a few close friends over and eating a meal including foods celebrating the particular child's ethnic heritage. 

"What kind of food do you want to have, Nathan?" his mom asked. "You're part Mexican, part African American, part Puerto Rican..."

"I think I'd like Orange Chicken, please, because I'm half Chinese."

Does the fact that our housemate, Karen, is Chinese, make Nathan half Chinese? Or because we are what we eat?

The same day, Michael's preschool class was discussing nicknames. "And do you have a nickname, Michael?" asked his teacher.

"My nickname is Michael 'Goof' Ball," he replied. Case closed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Favorite Color

A couple months ago, our three-year-old was playing with our housemate, Karen. Michael unexepectedly jumped from a low wall he had been climbing, and she was unable to catch him. Instead, he landed on her foot and simultanously knocked her down. My guess is that falling on her foot is what fractured the bone, and knocking her over is what tore three ligaments. 

It swelled to enormous size the next day, and turned purple. She was babysitting Mike, so she just took him along to see the doctor.

While they waited, he inspected her foot. "Hey, Kawen, it's puwpwe!" 

"Yes, it is purple," she answered.

"Hey--puwpwe is youw favowite cowow!" (Yes, he really talks like Tweety Bird.)

"Yes, purple is my favorite color." (Karen's very good at translating.)

"Kawen, if youws favowite cowow was owange, would youws foot be owange?"

"No, my foot wouldn't be orange, even if that was my favorite color."

"If youws favowite cowow was bwue, would youws foot be bwue?"

After about five colors, she couldn't see the end of the rainbow in sight, so she had to explain that no, it doesn't work that way.

As a parent, I think back on the whole incident grateful that at least my boy knows his colors.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"I love those mountains!" I exclaimed, as we drove home from school the other day. The Santa Ana winds brought not only heat but also clarity, driving out the haze and leaving gorgeous blue skies and strong, hearty mountains visible for miles.

"You love lots of things," Nathan replied.

"Well," I said, feeling perhaps a tad defensive, "people who love lots of things have big hearts. So I am trying to love more and more things."

"I love lots of things," he said. "Things that don't kill people."

I couldn't help but smile. "That's good!"

"Like horses," he said. I looked out the window and saw that we were passing the stables around the corner from our house.

Susanna piped in. "Horses can kill people," she said. "Like with their hooves, if they stomp on someone, or fall on someone." The almost-nine-year-old perspective.

But I wanted to defend his five-year-old zeal. "Well, that's true, but horses don't usually try to kill people. It's great to love horses," I said.

Well, we're off to a 5-year-old soccer game followed by an 8- and 9-year-old soccer game. I love soccer! And on the way, I'll look for the horses and the mountains.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor

Just now, sitting and watching Dora the Explorer before breakfast, my son Mike (now 3) turned to me.

"Daddy, I want to a a pieceman (policeman) when I grow up, and have a whistle!"

"You do?" I answered.

"Yes, and stop caws (cars) and tickets."

"Oh, how come?" I asked.

"Because I want to," he said earnestly.

He's very cute. It's interesting the perspective kids have on what a certain job is about, and what it takes. Recently, he's wanted to be a garbage man and a ketchup man (your guess is as good as mine)! In fact, I muse, we all have interesting ideas about what other people's jobs take, and what they're about...president, pastor, recording artist...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dinosaurs and Hair Follicles

"Were you bald when you were a little boy, Daddy?" my little boy asked with earnest eyebrows.

I smiled. "Nope. Not until I was a man."

The two-year-old piped up. "You alweady bald, Daddy. Dat how Jesus made you."

I couldn't help but laugh. That was yesterday afternoon. This evening my five-year-old resumed the conversation.

"Daddy, were the dinosaurs extinct when you were a little boy? Or were they still alive?"

"Were the dinosaurs extinct? Well.... What do you think, Nathan?"

"Mmmm. I think... I think they were still alive when you were a little boy."

Maybe that explains how I could have become so prematurely bald. Just like Jesus made me.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bad guys

Jen's sitting on the couch with remote in hand as I write, fast-forwarding past certain scenes in The Empire Strikes Back. A running flow of commentary emanates from Nathan and Susanna, lying on their bellies in front of the tube.

From the set I hear Han Solo shout, "I'll see you in hell!"

"Oooh," says Susanna. "That's a mean thing! He should not say that. That's where Satan lives, so that's mean."

Nathan: "Why does he live there? Is he a bad guy?"

Susanna: "Uh-huh."

Nathan: "Does he do bad things to people?"

Susanna: "Yup."

Movie critic theologians. Where do they get that from?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Alter Egos

"I'm oozing mine 'magination!" declared Michael to his mom the other day. A month away from turning 3, he's begun taking on other identities, remaining in character for 5 minutes or even an hour at a time.

"I'm Dr. Seuss!" I kept hearing around the house this evening. Finally I saw Michael, playing with Kennedy and Carter, friends who were visiting. Evidently all three were Dr. Seuss.

Then I smiled as it dawned on me: they were each wearing a toy stethoscope, bright yellow tubing with bright red and blue pieces hanging around their necks.

The 4-year-old also heard, and quickly took corrective steps: "Dr. Seuss isn't a doctor!" We all love to correct misguided poor saps.

"I'm Doctow Seuss!" insisted the 2-year-old.

"But he's not a doctor!" argued his brother.

"He's not?" I asked, surprised Nathen had picked up this subtlety.

"No, he's not a real doctor. He's just a man who writes books."

"You're right!" I affirmed him.

But Michael had the final word. "I'm Doctow Seuss."

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Sometimes kids give us a different perspective. On the way to church this morning, the almost 5-year-old chimed up: "Dad, you don't look like Frankenstein."

I just got a haircut, so I wondered if that's what triggered this response. Nathan's commented a few mornings when he's seen all my hair sticking up, "Dad, you look wierd!" So I thought maybe, perhaps, he meant I didn't look like Einstein, with my short cropped hair. So I probed a little.

"Why don't I look like Frankenstein?" 

"Frankenstein has flat hair. It's black. And he's green, and you're not." Nope, I guess he really meant Frankenstein! 

Maybe I should have dropped it while I was ahead, but I responded. "You're right, I'm not like Frankenstein in any of those ways!"

"No, you look zery, zery, zery, zery, zery, zery, zery old!"

To me, old = wise and mature, so I took it as a compliment. I also took it as a compliment that I don't look like Frankenstein. I think.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"How old are you, Dad?" Nathan asked me this morning.

"11," I replied, to evoke a reaction.

"No, you're not 11!" he said.



"How old do you think I am?"

He mused. "16,000?"

I laughed. "Well, pretty close."

"Come on, how old are you really?"

"38," I replied, not trying to evoke a reaction.

"38! Wow, that's really, really, old!" he said. 

I remember when I used to think the same thing.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wait a minute!

Jen was putting Nate to sleep, as is our custom, by reading him a book and then doing short prayers. We've now incorporated Susanna's idea into the routine--asking Jesus, "What do you want to say to us tonight?" We didn't know if four-and-a-half years old was too young to "get it," but...well, I'll let you judge for yourself.

Jen and Nathan had each shared the best and worst parts of their day with each other, and prayed for various friends and family members. They listened to Jesus together for a brief moment.

"Well, what do you think Jesus said?" she asked.

He looked at her with a twinkle in his eye. "I fink I heard Jesus say...'The force be with you!'"

Jen did a double-take, then saw him smiling. "Jesus didn't say that!" she laughed.

"No," he agreed. "I'm just joking. I think he said, 'I am always with you.'"

"That does sound like Jesus," she affirmed. "He is always with us."

Riddle: How is a 2-year-old like a train?

"Choo-choo!" exclaimed Michael, as if were his first time seeing a real, live train. Actually, we see these same trains every week or two when we go to Grandma & Papa's house. I long for that ability to so live in the present that, like a small child, I can always enjoy my current experience as if it were my first time. But my story's gotten derailed.

"Choo-choo nigh-night," he observed. Indeed, the train was dark and sitting still on the tracks. He expanded on his point: "Dat choo-choo not going, choo-choo nigh-night. That choo-choo doe nigh-night dust wike me!"

I laughed. "Yes, the train does go to sleep, just like you." I hadn't seen if from that perspective...

How to Make Tonic

All week Susanna and Nate have been running outside to make tonics. The other day I found the recipe 8-year-old Susanna had written on a neatly folded piece of lined paper, in purple marker:

How to make tonic

First, skin it.

Sec. put on tree.

Third, rubb it.

Fourth, water it

Fith, lick it

Sixth, felle better

I don't know what it cures, and I don't even know what the main ingredient is...but sounds a little scary to me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

2 Bits... (Or, More Adventures in Toddlerese)

"Na-Nay's dun!" exclaimed Michael.

"Nathan has a gun?" I clarified.

"No, Na-Nay's dun!" he repeated.

"You want Nathan's gun?" I tried again. This familiar process often takes 5-10 attempts before we successfully establish the communication breakthrough.

"No! Na-Nay's . . . ummmm, Nathan's finished!" he said, trying a different tactic.

"Oh, he's DONE!" I finally got it.

"Yes!" he said, elated. That is what he had said!
"Dat duck-duck-wain fowest."

"Duck-Duck-Rain forest? Is that a game you play?"

"No, dat duck-duck-wain fowest."

"Uhh...I don't know what you're saying."

"Dat dup duck wain fowest."

"Hmmm,...Where is it?" Sometimes context helps me with the decoding.

"Over dere!" Mike pointed at a large (and I do mean large) oak tree--it had a spread of about 80-90 feet.

"Oh, that's not a rain forest, that's a tree... Oh!" The light bulb went on for me. "Do you mean 'That deep dark rain forest?'"

"Yes!" Ahh, the sweet taste of victory. These are great moments for us.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Toddler Question

Michael built what looked (to my naive eyes) like a tower out of megablocks.

"I need to take a pitcha!" he told me. 

"Oh, is that a camera?" I asked.

"Uh-huh. How do you boot up mine tama?" he asked.

I guess these days cameras do need to be booted up--as every two-year-old knows.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Don't Bug Me

Since Susanna's friend introduced us to the game, we spot VW Bugs, PT Cruisers and convertibles of every kind where ever we go. Saturday I decided to mix it up a little bit when I was driving with Susanna.

Susanna: Bug!

Me: Aaack! Where?! Is it on me? (Slapping at my back and shoulders) I hate bugs!!

Susanna (laughing): Dad! You're acting just like Mommy. (Moments later, spotting another one) Bug!

Me: AAack! Spbltssppptt!! Yuck! Where? Is it in my mouth? Spppllltt! Yuck! I hate bugs! (It worked--I did get another satisfying laugh.)

Susanna: Cruiser!

Me (predictably): Aaack! Where? (Slapping at my back and shoulders) I hate Cruisers!

(I'll omit some brief conversation in the interlude between bugs and Cruisers)

Susanna: Bug!
Me: I don't believe you. You're just trying to scare me!

We can be pretty silly now and then.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Two-Year-Old Joke

Michael: Knock-knock!

Me: Who's there?

Michael: Me are!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Control Issues

The very next night we did the same routine, but Susanna was not in the room with us. 

I asked Nathan, "What was your favorite part of the day?"

He replied, "Can I ask Michael something?"

I agreed, so he addressed his brother in stern tones: "Michael, do NOT talk about the Star Wars Legos game. You can't keep saying that!"

No response from Mike on my right side, but I remarked, "Well, Nathan, we can't control him, but now he knows you don't want him to talk about that. Now, do you want to tell us the best part of your day?"

"My best part was playing Lego Star Wars at our cousin's house today." (We had visited ANOTHER cousin, who has ANOTHER version of it.) I was thankful for the darkness hiding my smile at the irony here.

"Michael, what was your favorite part of the day?" 

"Hmmmmm . . . I be Wuke, I be doid, I be Empwew."

From my left erupted an enraged roar, then: "Michael! I told you not to talk about that!"

No one likes to be controlled, but if we're honest, most of us would like to control the people around us, wouldn't we? We just get more sophisticated as we grow older . . . 

Friday, January 18, 2008


Our family had a very nice winter break, staying with good friends who took great care of us. While mommy was away for several days at a conference, the 3 kids and dad slept in one room. I decided to adapt Susanna's bedtime prayer routine for use with the younger boys, which resulted in a unique and amusing experience. Though a little long for the blog, I think it's worth the telling.

Picture a darkened room with a child in one small bed, and myself and the other two children on mattresses on the floor. One by one I asked them, "What was your favorite part of the day?"

Susanna: "My favorite part of today was being at my cousin Kristie's house."
Dad: "My favorite part was talking with Uncle Pete, Aunt Susan, and Aunt Tina."
Nate: "My favorite part was playing Lego Star Wers on the computer with John. I got to be Luke Skywalker, and I got to be a droid, and I got to be the Empire, and I got to be a storm trooper, and I got to be the Emperor." Nate waxed eloquent about the computer game until I gently ended his soliloquy.
"What about you, Michael?"

Mike: "Hummmmmm, mine favite part was I be Wuke, I be doid, I be Empwew."
Nathan: "What did he say?"
Me: "He says he was Luke, he was a droid, he was the Emperor. Now let's each say the worst part of our day."

Susanna: "My worst part was when I got hurt."
Nathan: "My worst part was when someone spoke rudely to me and hurt my feewings."
Me: "Michael, what was your worst part of today?"
Mike: "Hummm, mine woost part, I be Wuke, I be doid, I be Empwew."

"Alright, thank you Michael. Now let's all be quiet and listen to Jesus for a minute. Jesus, is there anything you want to say to us?" After a brief moment, "I think I heard Jesus say, 'I love you, and I have all of you in my hands.' Susanna, what did you hear?"

Susanna: "I heard, 'I love you and I'm holding you in my hand."
Me: "Wow--that's almost the same," (which is unusual) "and it does sound like Jesus. What about you, Nate?"
Nathan: "I heard, 'Don't hit, don't push, don't bite, and there is no such thing as being rude."
Susanna: "I think you mean, 'Don't be rude.'"
Nathan: "Yeah, 'Don't be rude.'"

Me: "Those are good rules. How about you, Michael?"
Mike: "Hummmmmmmmmm. I be Wuke, I be Empwew, I be doid."

We sang our nightly prayer song, and I fell asleep amused and grateful for the joys of parenting an 8-year-old, 4-year-old, and 2-year-old. It's a great perspective on the world.