Thursday, December 23, 2010

As he gets older, the tough questions come.

Pete: "If a wooly caterpillar has one orange spot, how long will winter be?"

Friday, December 10, 2010

A boy who discerns the best things in life

I recently heard a non-Christian talking about how much she enjoyed the great traditional carols of the Christmas season, to the point where she wanted her kids to know that music, too. She contrasted these carols with the winter songs that kids sing in school now--the genre most eminently represented by "Frosty the Snowman."

I reported that person's comments to Carolyn and said that I love the traditional Christmas music as well, and I'm glad Pete is getting to know it. Overhearing this conversation, Pete raised his hand--obedient kindergartener that he is--and waited for me to finish the thought. When I did, he said, "I was thinking we should get the recording of dogs and cats singing the Sleigh Ride song."

He paused, then continued in a knowing, confidential tone: "It's VERY funny."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I admit, it WOULD be nice.

Pete had two expectations for the department's external review: first, that we would win; and second, that winning would involve receiving medals.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Is this my punishment for studying Adam Smith?

Pete told us over the weekend that he doesn't want to be a paleontologist after all. Instead, he wants to build robots that will dig up dinosaur bones and discover new species. By having the robots do the digging, he explained, he will have more time to write comic books.

Monday, October 04, 2010


The Second Revelation of the Secret Books of Pete Simpson:

"Cheese sticks aren't so good nowadays."

(Scroll down a few posts for additional context.)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

As Carolyn put it, "We are so doomed."

Richard Scarry book: "You can be a doctor or nurse."

Pete: I can't be a nurse. You have to be a woman to be a nurse.

Erik: Well, some men are nurses. Men and women can be doctors, and men and women can be nurses.

Pete: (skeptical look)

Erik: It's true that most nurses are women, but some are men, too.

Pete: Actually, I have secret books. And I was reading them, and one of them said only women can be nurses.

Erik: . . .

Pete: These books are real! And they can tell you about anything!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Better than Dracula, I guess

This morning, Pete derived 85% of the text of Frankenstein in 30 seconds:

Pete: Pop, do you know how God created the first people?

Erik: How?

Pete: He took clay in His hands and blew his breath into it, and it came alive. And that was ADAM and EVE!

Erik: Wow!


You know, Pete, the thing about the first people coming to life is that nobody was there to see it.

Pete: GOD WAS!

Erik: Well. Um, OK, but we can't ask God directly what happened, so we tell that story about how people were created. Isn't it a good story?

Pete: Yeah. Sometime WE could make a ROBOT!

Erik: Uh.

Pete: And then we could have lots of robots that we could CONTROL!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I swear I am not making this up.

When asked why he had so much trouble sitting down nicely and trying his dinner this evening, Pete suggested that we visit

Sunday, August 22, 2010

By which he means Rob and Doug

from Carolyn

Pete, this morning: "Pop's off to run with his fellows!"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Next year, the googolplex

Tonight we tried to explain really big numbers to Pete: millions, billions, trillions, . . . googol.

Carolyn: "And you know what's even bigger than googol?"

Pete: "Googol and one!"

Carolyn: "And googol and two, and googol and three . . ."

Pete: "All the way up to GOOGOL AND FORTY-NINE!"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

(In the event, he was very brave.)

Pete's summary of his immunization-prep conversation with Carolyn:

"Pop! Even if I'm not brave, we can go to McDonald's!"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Is that the sound of our boy deeply sleeping?

Pete, from his bed at 10:30 p.m., perhaps an hour after we've left his room: "Hey, Pop! What if we ordered some fishing stuff online?"

We have not been talking about fishing.

Friday, June 04, 2010

It is about mercenaries

My book arrived at the house.

I showed it to Pete and had him read the dedication line: "For Carolyn and Pete." He was delighted, to a degree that surprised me.

"Did you make this for ME?"

Yes, I said. I suppose that's right.

He smiled broadly and almost hugged the book. He paused as his eyes widened.

"Does it have BLASTERS in it?"

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

In a while, Comrade . . . oh, nevermind.

from Carolyn

Pete's confusing send-off today: "See you later, McCrocodile!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Or dot dot dot dot, as the case may be

Now that Pete can kinda follow along when we read to him, he scans every page for ellipses in order to insist that we read them aloud as "dot dot dot."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I don't even need to say it was a Star Wars card at this point

I yelled to Pete, who is in the next room taking a bath, that my dad (Pepa, to Pete, while my mom is Mema) said he loved Pete's handmade birthday card.

Pete's reply: "And tell him not to show Mema! Because it's only for him!"


"Papa! Tell him it's only for him and the cats. It's a private card for him and the cats."

Monday, May 10, 2010

We may have to have The Talk

Pete, this evening, out of nowhere, with a tone of deep suspicion:

"Papa, you don't believe in The Force, do you?"

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sometimes his knowledge of nature surprises us. To say the least.

Pete, to Carolyn:

"Mama, caterpillars can sleep in the trees or on the ground!"

[caterpillar conversation ensues]

"And BEARS make a sleep pack and turn into moths!"

Is this empathy or a wish for his parents' near-term annihilation?

Pete [referring to a friend who moved away recently]: "I miss Hunter."

Erik: "Yeah, it's sad when people go away, isn't it?"

Pete "In Star Wars, Aunt Beru says to Uncle Owen, 'Owen, he can't stay here
forever. Most of his friends have gone."

Friday, April 02, 2010

Mostly to set the context for every post for the next ten years . . .

from Carolyn:

Pete [walking in from daycare]: "Can I watch Star Wars Grinnell?"

Me: "Did you think about Star Wars all day?"

Pete: "Yeah."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Strike that. And that.

We've just returned from a fantastic trip to Austin, during which I introduced Pete to the culture of my youth, which is to say, bowling and pool.

I worried that Pete wouldn't be able to get the ball to the pins consistently, but he did fine, even moving to a two-handed version of the proper side release. Pete used bumpers and hit them most of the time, but in his second game (lifetime), he rolled two unbumpered strikes in a row on his way to a bumper-aided 104. The next morning, he chose to go back to the alley for three more games. Dude is ready.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I hope she said yes

from Carolyn

Pete, looking at an awesome photo of Ozzie Smith: "Is that Papa?"

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The oddly bland fruits of his labor

A couple of days ago, Pete brought the materials from an Olympics-inspired day care project in which he was making his own flags. He held one of them up to me and said, "Papa, I worked hard on these flags, and that was like one of your students or one of Mama's students!"

I love that comment--love that he's valuing his own hard work, love that he admires college students for theirs.

After he said it, however, I did notice that the flag in question was a slightly rumpled piece of blank white paper. Does that transform the cute story into an inscrutable parable?

Friday, January 29, 2010

This is cheap, but we're not above it.

Pete, on learning to read The Cat in the Hat: "I'm really good at the F words!"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Our five-year-old potato

Today is Pete's fifth birthday. FIFTH. We still discover so much about him day by day. Sometimes the discoveries are purely cool: a couple of weeks ago, we realized that we hadn't done much lately by way of prompting Pete to try reading, so I started looking at the first few pages of The Cat in the Hat with him, and boom! Those words are sticking like anything. Watching the process is fascinating. Pete doesn't have one method for figuring out words. Sometimes he's using phonics; he gets the letter-sounds, but they do only so much for him. Sometimes he recognizes individual words. Sometimes he deduces words from context, or he remembers the phrasing of the book from previous readings. (You can tell what tools he's using by the mistakes he makes.) The big picture is the amazing part: you've got one little person with almost no reading vocabulary struggling against the whole of written English, with its arsenal of tricks and misdirections. It's not fair. But Pete--and any new reader--grabs every tool in the house and tries to get something to catch. Seeing the beginning of the process, I still wonder that Pete's going to read, really read, before long. And that any of us do.

We have also figured out recently--largely on the basis of an attempt to see The Lion King in Des Moines--that Pete is unusually sensitive to loud environments, which make him something between anxious and (occasionally) terrified. We've been slow to understand this characteristic, partly because Pete generally deals with new situations well (he sailed through our 2,700-mile holiday odyssey, for instance) and partly because we don't encounter loud environments very often. But after The Lion King freaked him out a bit, we started thinking through what has made him anxious: cheering at a minor league baseball game, the buzzers in Darby, a couple of concerts, fire alarms. We had been trying to reassure him about the content of the situations, telling him the environments were safe, but that reassurance never worked because, we think, we were missing the point: the sound is itself the problem. This too is fascinating, though discovering it has been hard on all of us.

So we learn how Pete will come to be like us, as he starts to read, and that we need to understand how he's not us but profoundly Pete. But the whole five-year-old him is wonderful to know.