Sunday, December 07, 2008


We were in Iowa City's Sycamore Mall yesterday--that's the slower-paced, less crowded alternative to Coral Ridge. (Not that we're above the occasional hit of Coral Ridge.) Carolyn was doing some Christmas shopping, so I walked with Pete to get a snack. Suddenly, and surprisingly, we encountered the Mall Santa, with nobody in line behind the boy already on the lap. We had managed to avoid dealing with commercial Santa laps for almost four years, but there was no escaping this one. Santa was nice enough, and Pete adorably couldn't think of anything he wanted. (He crinkled his brow and turned to me: "What do I want, Papa?" I suppose I should have said "Peace in your heart!" or something, but when on the spot, I went for Lightning McQueen stuff. Pete approved vigorously.) When the conversation was over, Pete got a present from the present basket--four crayons--and we walked on to Panera. Only later did I realize that Mall Santa, the traditional purveyeor of candy canes, was one of the few adults who resisted shoving candy at Pete during December. Good work, Santa.

Friday, December 05, 2008

If he's going to be a doctor, I hope he has a better handle on biology by then.

Two nights ago, Pete was up in his bed hooting about an angel flying too low and crashing into the Baby Jesus. Basically, the Christmas story has gotten way out of control at our house.

Pete today: "Mama, when I grow up I am going to be a papa, a doctor, and a firefighter."
Me: "That's great. How may kids are you going to have?"
Pete: "Just one. We're not going to lay any more than that."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A doctoral dissertation in 6 seconds

Pete dons his cat costume--ears and tail

Erik: Pete, are you a cat?
Pete: No. I'm wearing a cat costume.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I hate to think what duckball would involve

Last week, Pete wanted to "play football"--that is, for us to pretend we have a football and tackle each other--when he was supposed to go up and take a bath. To accuse him of a certain lack of seriousness regarding the bath, I said, "I think you want to play gooseball."

To our great surprise, Pete said OK, gooseball then. What, I asked, is involved in gooseball? "Tackling, tickling, and tumbling," replied Pete.

Gooseball was played.

Later that evening, we asked again how you play gooseball. This time: "Tackling, tickling, tumbling--and TEASING!"

OK, I said. Tease me!

Pete thought about this for a minute, then said, "Building rhymes with car!"

Laughter was laughed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What this one goes to

Pete and I went to the homecoming parade last night. Returning home, Pete decided to set up dozens of his toy cars in a parade. He said, "They'll all move along very slowly. Each by one, each by one! And one and one and one and one! That's a lot of elevens!"

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tough questions

It's an eventful time for Pete: in the last ten days alone, we have attempted to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs, testicles, and death. As you might guess, the latter was the trickiest.

Pete has been thinking about death, and he seems to have some idea what it means. He can explain that he has killed a bug, for instance, and that said bug was alive and is now dead. (We do try to discourage the killing, incidentally. Another story.)

On Monday, Carolyn found the obituary of Karen Choate, a woman we knew who took a special interest in children and in Pete. In her sadness and surprise, Carolyn told me the news before either of us thought about the fact that this was the first time someone had died whom Pete really knew. So he started the barrage of "why" questions.

Why did Karen die? Well, we ventured, she was sick. Mistake: Pete knows that all three of us get sick, fairly frequently, so we scrambled to make the distinction.

After working through the specifics for a while, Pete pushed on the implications of this death, with many variations on the question of whether everyone dies. We did our best to combine honesty and reassurance: yup, everyone dies, but don't worry--when you get sick, we take care of you and give you medicine, etc.

Pete absorbed all of this, and he seemed OK. After a little thought, he brightened and concluded, "But we won't die!"

Oh, sweetie.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Pete, yesterday, as we dropped him off at daycare: "Mama and Papa, would you give me a favorite?* When I'm a grownup, would you take care of my big-boy bed?"

* [i.e., do me a favor]

The depressing middle section of a "Behind the Music" episode

Pete: [bangs sticks more or less rhythmically on a wooden cobbler's bench]

Carolyn [sings]: There was a farmer had a dog, and Bingo was his name-o!

Pete [stops drumming]: No, mama, that's not what I'm playing!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The life of the keyboard

Pete has started typing words on our desktop computer: he does "PETER" and "MAMA" and "PAPA" without prompting, and he's working up some others. He is learning to write those words as well, but typing is easier, of course, given that he knows how to spell them. This all has made me wonder whether for him, a child of 2005, it would be possible to skip writing altogether and just learn to type. (For the thought experiment, set aside the process of learning handwriting in schools.) Will most of his school assignments be on computer? In how many jobs would anyone even notice if he couldn't write by hand? I'm guessing that electronic note-taking will be utterly routine by the time he reaches working age.

This fantasy may stem from my own struggles with handwriting as a kid. Boo, penmanship.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Thinking big

We finally got around to swapping Pete's crib and changing table out of his room to give him his own twin bed, known as the big boy bed. He's been excited about the idea for a while. After we put the bed in his room on Wednesday, Carolyn told Pete that we had a big surprise waiting for him at home. "Is it a sucker?" asked Pete. "No," said Carolyn, "it's much bigger than that." Pete: "Is it a big sucker?"

Friday, August 08, 2008

A subtle pronoun shift pays off for Pete

Carolyn finished her dissertation, and thus her doctorate, yesterday. Congratulations to Dr. Mama! The previous evening, as Pete got into his bath, we had this conversation.

Pete: Is mama here?

Erik: No, she's in Philadelphia.

Pete: Why?

Erik: You know why. Why is mama in Philadelphia?

Pete: She's finishing her DISS-PERTATION! When she finishes, she can have
candy! When she finishes her diss-pertation, she can have candy! When
she finishes her diss-pertation, WE can have candy!

Monday, July 28, 2008

You know how this ends.

Pete is accustomed to getting a complimentary lollipop when we check out at the grocery store. Today the cashier kindly offered him a balloon, which Pete accepted. When he gradually realized he had gotten the balloon instead of the lollipop, he got a little sad, and I wasn't sure whether he was going to descend into tears or not. When we got into the car, he was still teetering on the verge. No sucker. But balloon! But no sucker. And yet, balloon! Then the balloon popped.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Many many photos

My goodness, it's been a long time since I linked to photos. Sorry.

Here are updated Pete pictures, with hundreds posted since the last update here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I have no idea how to title this post.

Pete, in the tub, just now, totally unprompted: "Plop goes your heart when you come to the end of your lollipop."

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hail no

Pete and I left dissertating Carolyn behind to go on Pete's first camping trip--and my first tent camping trip since college--last Friday, with a family of friends. Unfortunately, the weather killed off one of our two nights; we got caught in a nasty hailstorm on our bikes, and the forecast told us to head back to Iowa. The feeling of squishing the wet and icy bike helmet back onto my head to finish the ride (after we found shelter for the worst of it) is burned on my poor brain. In spite of the setbacks, though, it was a remarkably good time, and the kids held up beautifully. It made me think that there might be hope for us as a camping family yet, even though neither Carolyn and I grew up campy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Freedom isn't free

from Carolyn

I was getting dressed this morning while Erik was dressing Pete. I heard Pete suddenly scamper down the hall and down the stairs. My Motherhood Superpowers told me that this was the scampering of a not-fully-dressed child. Pete exuberantly hollered back, "I'm free, Papa! I'm free!"

(On the other hand, he's currently in bed, howling, "Mama, come back" over and over, so clearly his freedom has its limits.)

Pete becomes a character in a bad rodeo movie

Erik: Pete, let's get you in the tub so you can finish your bath and say goodbye to grumpy.

Pete: Hold on, Papa. I'm suckin' on my juice.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Boy writes name, receives feedback

A few months ago, my son (who turned three in January) wrote his name for the first time. As a teacher of writing, I thought it appropriate to give him some comments. Here follow the image and my response.

Assignment: Writing Your Name
Peter Simpson
Introduction to Reading and Writing
April 2008

Dear Pete,

Congratulations on writing your name for the first time! You have done an excellent job learning the three letters necessary for completing this assignment, and you wrote them in sequence with only minimal supervision and guidance from Mama. She and I are both proud of you, and we hope you look back on this as one of the highlights of your three-year-old year.

I also have some suggestions you might consider as you continue writing your name in the future—as I would encourage you to do, given this promising beginning. The first point involves spacing. As you know, you ran out of room on this sheet of paper after the first three letters, so you had to make the final “e” next to the initial “p.” It would be better to plan out the spacing of your words in advance to avoid confusing the reader. Also, most readers and editors will expect any capital “e” to have exactly three horizontal lines. Drawing many more horizontal lines on each “e” is fine if you are writing for Mama and me, but when composing for a wider audience, try to stick to three. Along the same lines, you seem at this point to be capitalizing the letters “p” and “e” but not “t”; I would suggest either capitalizing all your letters or only the initial “p,” to make either “PETE” or “Pete.” If you want to know which of those two forms is preferable for a given piece, consult your teacher or editor. Finally, though I certainly understand your desire to reduce your spending on school supplies, especially since you will not even get an allowance for some years yet, I do think you’ll find that readers prefer letterhead or plain white writing paper to hotel stationery. Mama or I can show you where to find such paper at home.

Do not let these details overwhelm my main point, Pete: you have done very well with this assignment, and I sincerely look forward to seeing what other words you will write soon. Nice work!


Professor Simpson (Papa)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

So that's what they do behind the cameras

from Carolyn

Pete asks for an adventure every night, and tonight we went over and had a picnic on campus, about half a block from the house. And then we went with Pete to hit balls with his new baseball bat on Mac Field. Pete was getting creative--stepping away to let "another batter" hit, etc. At one point he walked over to the left of the "plate" and said he was "going where the baseball players live" "behind the gate"--i.e., to the dugout. Erik and I played catch, waiting for him to decide it was his turn to hit again, and when I looked over a minute later, his pants and underwear were around his ankles and he was peeing on the grass.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I just hope it's not mildew.

from Carolyn

Pete in the dark at 4:30 this morning: "Mama, there is something huge on the ceiling. [whispers ominously] It eats boys."

Monday, May 05, 2008

You have to admit he's communicating clearly

Another one from Pete, who is on a roll:

Pete: Mama Mama Mama!

Erik: Pete, Mama's busy right now. Can I help you?

Pete: Yes.

Erik: OK! What can I do for you?

Pete: Get Mama.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The boy needs work on pronoun referents

This morning:

Pete: I'm going to tell you a story, Papa. It's called "The Cereal Goes into the Owie on My Finger."

Erik: How does the story go?

Pete: It goes into my finger. And then it feels better.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I think I was in the other room hoping you were asleep.

I just walked into Pete's room, about ten minutes after he went to bed, because he was yelling for me to do our ritual of cuddling for a second in a rocking chair before counting to ten and blasting off (lots of rocket sounds) into his bed. Upon my arrival, Pete gave me this monologue:

I was being silly in my crib (pron. "cri-buh").
I thought my pillow was a cabinet.
I thought my pillow was a cabinet with lots of toys in the drawers.
I was PRETENDING my pillow was a cabinet.
I think you were in the cabinet, Papa!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Four items, no unifying clever title

1. He's utterly obsessed with books. I mean, one wants kids to like books, right, but he's relentless, especially now that he's discovered the wonder of getting a whole new batch of library books every week. I can step back and think objectively how cool this is. But I admit that there are also times when I want to give him a Clifford video or a donut so he'll give the reading a break already.

2. Lest #1 seem a bit of insufferable puffery of little Pete's intellectual ambition, consider this point as well. He was counting something a few days ago--coffee scoops, I think--and made it up to fifteen. I took the opportunity to talk him through the late teens, and then he remembered twenty, and I told him about the twenties. Then I explained thirty and, getting increasingly excited, told him that if he figures out how the twentys and thirtys work, he'll be able to do hundreds of numbers in no time at all! Pete mulled that over for a minute and responded, "I want to play basketball."

3. This is less a Pete story than a humanity story. Pete got a new race car from a box of Cheerios a couple of days ago. He played with it for a little bit, then went upstairs and came back down. He said, referring to his established race car collection, "I put it with the other ones, and now there are ten." There's nothing unusual about that sentence in the conversation of Pete and his peers, but it blew me away that the human mind goes from no language to that kind of complexity in such a short time. The sentence involves space, numbers, time, categorization, agency, two kinds of pronouns. I've probably said this before, but the most of the things that amaze me about early development are the ordinary ones.

4. Pete has developed a completely diabolical strategic sense. For example, if he gets a little scrape on his knee, he will want a Band-Aid on it. When he was younger, he would want the Band-Aid right away. Now he waits. The rest of the day passes, then bedtime books, then getting in bed, then saying good night. 15 minutes later, he demands the Band-Aid. Knowing we won't refuse him that (or a couple of other key things like trips to the potty), he has saved it all day so that he has the right ammo for disrupting the bedtime routine and avoiding sleep. We have begun to evolve countermeasures, but he's winning the battle in a rout.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Yeah, well, so's Dick Cheney!

Pete, last night, upon pausing suddenly while getting his toy dinosaurs out of the bathtub: "Papa, do you KNOW? A spoon is a tool!"

Perhaps it goes without saying, but we have no idea where that came from.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter balls

Video update: a year ago, we brought you Pete watches airplanes. Behold the transition from phrases to stories! This year, Pete talks about Easter weekend.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I always wondered what that sounded like.

Just now, Pete was playing in the bathtub with some toys, and he started making an odd groaning sound. "Pete, what's up?" I asked. "Are you all right?" Referring to his little sponge dinosaurs, he replied, "They're just talking about their mamas."

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Pete continues to love rhyming. Today at breakfast, he announced, "I found a rhyme in my bed!" It was a triple rhyme, even: stair and scare came first, then chair. So proud was Pete of himself that, contrary to his usual joy in compiling as many rhymes as possible, he proceeded to deny that anything else rhymes with those words. Bear, we asked? Or hair? Not today, mama and papa. Not today.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No, it's not a euphemism for death

Pete is now a three-year-old. (Incidentally, because Pete was born on inauguration day, that means the current Presidency also turned three on Sunday.) He had a wonderful birthday: he loved seeing his little friends, he loved his presents, he loved his amazing 17-car train cake from his grandparents, he loved his new fire truck and bath drums. Good thing, too, because none of us had much energy in reserve: he stayed up howling until midnight the night before and got up at six, leaving us with about four hours of sleep. In the morning, to try to get him to settle, I whisked him through the ten-below cold into the car, and we drove parallel to the rising sun until he slept just a little more--a nap that probably got us all through the day. Now, when we get in the car each cold morning, he asks whether we're taking the sleepy ride.

Using your book-learning to vex your father

This morning, after Pete had been rustling in his bed for a little while, he yelled to me, "I WANT TO GET UP!" I walked across the hall and opened his door. When I entered the room, he whimpered, "but not yet!"

(If you get Pete's Augustinian allusion without clicking on the link, bully for you.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

To the minute

from Carolyn

Pete took his first breath almost exactly three years ago (10:00 p.m.). He's really really great. I've been feeling amazingly fortunate all day. He and I even took a nap together this afternoon--something that only happened a handful of times back when he was an infant. Oh, Sweety P, we love you so much.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Not if you know what's good for you, monster.

We've back from visiting my parents, and Pete has again prompted
Pete to great leaps with language. He's really into rhyming and
stories. At first, he loved having me and Carolyn tell whatever story
we could make up, usually with Pete himself at the center of the
action. Now he constantly injects his own plot events, the majority of
which involve the arrival of new, scary characters. "And then a
monster came!" he volunteers. "And then the witch came

You can bet that those monsters and witches end up regretting the
day they messed with little Pete Simpson.