Emotional Regulation and Awareness
One more requested topic, delivered via non-comment means: "interesting things to teach a child that did not naturally occur to you (that you had to think about or get from other people or literature)"

This is a fantastic question and I apologize for taking so long to get around to answering it. The big thing, the major important thing I am trying to teach Morgan that does not come naturally to me, is emotional awareness and regulation. I knew that little kids have tantrums, and that bigger kids eventually grow out of that sort of thing, but it turns out that this is not entirely a matter of time. Emotional regulation is a learned process (with some developmental inputs) and there are lots of things I can do to help Morgan get through a tantrum, help reduce the frequency and intensity of tantrums, and teach her other ways to deal with the feelings that lead to tantrums. And every single one of them is bizarrely non-intuitive.

The primary thing I'm doing now is giving her vocabulary words about feelings. We've gotten books specifically about feelings from the library, with photos and illustrations of faces expressing different emotions, or illustrated situations in which she's supposed to guess what the character is feeling (I think my favorite is How Does Baby Feel? by Karen Katz -- it has several different positive emotions, which is a little unusual in this type of book). I try to point out bits in other books where characters are illustrated with clear emotions. And when she's experiencing a strong emotion, I try to label it for her, or to provide several possible emotional explanations if I'm not sure what it is she's actually feeling. This is, sometimes, magic:
T: No, you have three stickers already. You may not have any more stickers until after dinner.
M: ::wails::
T: Are you sad because you can't have any more stickers? You can say "I'm sad."
M: I'M SAAAAAAAD. ::abruptly stops crying, as though a switch has been thrown::
We also talk a bit about the emotions other people are feeling, like if a kid on the playground starts crying we will talk a bit about what he might be feeling and why, or we'll talk about how the dog is feeling when we're walking him.

The other backwards-seeming tantrum stopper is to agree with her about how cool it would be if she could do or have whatever it is that she is upset that she can't do or have. She's not developmentally to the point where this is as magic as I've read it can be, but she's verbal enough that it does work now, slowly. To some extent this reduces tantrums for the same reason that learning a bit of baby sign reduces crying (ATTN ALL NEW PARENTS: LEARN SOME BABY SIGN) -- much of what causes the upset is the feeling that she hasn't communicated her desire clearly, that I don't understand what it is she wants. So if I clearly indicate that I do understand the desire, and that I don't think wanting the thing is a problem, then she feels better about the situation even if she still can't have the thing. (Also I tend to talk about when she can have the thing -- after dinner, maybe next week, when you're a grown-up, whatever the appropriate time frame is.)

There is a fine balance between, one the one hand, ignoring Morgan's emotions, and on the other hand making them too big a deal. Neither of those is great. The ideal is kind of what we aim for when she falls down: notice, give her a moment to have her own reaction, then make a neutral informational sort of comment ("You fell down." "You look upset.") and stand ready to provide help or comfort if she needs it. Morgan specifically does not want as much physical comfort through emotional upsets as a lot of kids seem to, which is a little weird for me, so I am trying to practice being more verbally supportive rather than scooping her up for a hug, because if she's actually tantruming hugs really do not help.

Actually, speaking of informational comments, that's another cool new non-intuitive kid-herding technique I've been trying out lately. But that may be another post -- it is time to get ready for swim class!

Gesture and Non-verbal Communication in Text
I am going to moderate a panel at 4th Street about gesture and body language in written fiction (it's a fantasy convention, but I think this particular topic is fine with examples from other genres). What are some of your favorite / least favorite / most memorable written descriptions of gestures, expressions, postures, and other forms of non-verbal communication?

The Chicken or the Egg?
This week's question: "How did you get started having chickens?"

When I was a kid, my dad got an incubator and some eggs from a coworker of his who also raised chickens, and attempted to hatch about three dozen eggs (over the course of several batches). He wound up with seven slimy little chicks living in an old refrigerator box in his workshop. (I was expecting fluffy cute chicks, and they did turn into fluffy cute chicks pretty quickly, but as it turns out the inside of an egg is full of slime! Who knew.) They took ill, and four of them didn't make it. Of the remaining three, Spot and Feathers turned out to be roosters and had to be returned to the farm, but Blacky endeared herself to us by laying eggs and eating grubs, and lived a reasonably full chickeny life before some kind of nocturnal predator broke into her coop.

So I had fond memories of chickens.

Then, when we moved into our last apartment here, I started biking past the police station on my way to work. There were three or four chickens who lived across the street from the police station that I would frequently see milling about in their front yard, scratching in the police station's lawn, or crossing the street on the way from one side to the other. Huh, I thought. Keeping chickens in Mountain View must be legal.

So I looked up the city code and started haunting the forums at Backyard Chickens. After we bought the house brooksmoses designed a coop that followed all (well, most of) the relevant rules and suggestions, a friend who worked at a pet store hooked me up with three-day-old sexed chicks (thereby skipping all the really difficult parts), and that was that. They lived in a cage with a heat lamp until they were big enough to go outside and the coop was finished.

I'm going to BayCon this weekend. Not all of it, but if you will be there bits of Saturday, most of Sunday, or Monday morning, ping me and we can check out the art show or the DIY room or what have you.

mrissa asks: "If you had a museum-scale art budget instead of a person-scale art budget, what kinds of things would you spend your art budget on?"

This is a great question and I have been enjoying thinking about it.

My art purchases are actually limited not so much by budget as by display space. Between the small child and my preference for visually uncluttered views, I just don't have much room for art beyond what we already have. So the first thing I would spend the budget on would be appropriately climate-controlled storage, perhaps some additional display space, and a part-time assistant to come rotate things out every month or so.

If I have additional display space I am effectively running a very small museum already, so I may as well open it up to the public. Hi, public! I will set my imaginary assistant to cataloging the collection and getting high-quality photos online, as time is available. A museum needs a more focused goal than The Museum of Stuff I Like, so I think I will focus on local contemporary artists, meaning I will go around to the various Art and Foodstuff Festivals and browse amongst them, as I am wont to do, and then I will actually buy stuff and bring it home with me, which I am not so much wont to do at this time. So it is maybe a subset of The Museum of Stuff I Like, but I think the focus will improve the collective experience.

My particular tastes in Art tend towards natural materials, organic forms, and things that hover in the fuzzy area between Art and Craft. We the museum will have really nice local-artist chairs and benches, upon which you the public will be encouraged to sit. We will have a lot of art glass, beaten metal sculptures, and smooth carved wood and stone things. We will have a special display area with magnifying glasses for pendants and teeny-tiny little sculptures. Maybe we'll have a little pretend kitchen set up with the really pretty wooden cutting boards and spoons, and the nice ceramic dishes, and like that. There will probably not be a lot of traditional paintings or photographs; my tastes in terms of things that hang on the wall tend a lot more towards mixed-media work. However, I do see some very nice large-format paintings at the Art and Foodstuff Festivals now and then, so if I've got museum-scale walls to work with I would probably wind up spending some of the budget on gloriously intense abstracts, and maybe the occasional landscape or nature close-up if it really fits with the mission. Yeah, maybe some Bay Area landscape photography every now and then, that'd work nicely. And then I would entertain myself coming up with different coherent organizing themes to fill the museum space with, that let the things on display express some kind of unifying concept without being overwhelmingly the same in style or color or mood or material.

Yay imaginary museum. Planning to haul art off to my imaginary museum may be just as much fun as planning to haul furniture and architectural details off to my imaginary castle. Hey -- I can put the imaginary museum in the imaginary castle! This explains what to do with all those extra rooms I needed to make the external scale sufficiently imposing! Huzzah!

Ask Me Things!
I have been woefully unposty lately.

A lot of people did that assigned topics thing back around Christmas and New Year's, and that was fun to read. So! Ask me questions! What do you want to hear about?

I am not going to do a post a day, but I can manage one a week, so if you want to sign up for a particular future week this summer go right ahead, and if you don't pick a time I'll use some arbitrary and capricious but most likely not technically speaking random method to order the posts.

Eulogy for a Chicken
Everything bad always happens to Phoenix. I find blood in the coop and discover someone's hurt a foot, it's Phoenix. Someone gets harassed by all the other chickens -- Phoenix. I back up and accidentally step on a chicken, the dog decides it's fun to see squawking and flapping, the run door blows closed while a chicken is walking through it -- Phoenix.

But bad things will not be happening to Phoenix any more, because she died this morning. I found signs in the nest box a few weeks ago that something had gone seriously wrong in the egg-laying tract of one of the chickens (a series of shell-less eggs, along with some rather disturbing lumps), and presumably whatever tumor or system failure caused that is behind her demise. I don't think she was in pain at all; she was a chicken, and chickens put an awful lot of energy into not looking sick, but she seemed like a happy, active bird right up through last night.

I will miss my scaredy-cat Fifi-bird.

20-Month Update
The Morgan creature, she is a wonderful creature. She's active and curious and affectionate.

She's getting into art now -- she likes crayons and sidewalk chalk and paint. She still just scribbles, but sometimes she identifies the scribbles as dogs or Papa or what have you. Occasionally she'll start a drawing and then ask a grownup for help with that drawing (rather than asking the grownup to draw a new thing, which she's been doing for ages). That's kind of a fun exercise in figuring out how to incorporate the existing lines, so I hope she keeps doing it.

She likes wearing the grownups' clothes and decorating herself and others with stickers. She has definite opinions about which of her own shirts and pants and pajamas and hairclips and hats she should be wearing at any given time -- and she can remember what all she has and make these decisions without actually looking at the clothes, which personally I find impressive. She loves her rainsuit, and jumping in puddles. She likes purple a lot.

She is very interested in doing what other kids are doing, especially slightly older ones. She doesn't always try to play with them, but she carefully watches what they're doing and if they do something new and exciting will go over and repeat the action, like a very attenuated game of follow-the-leader. She also likes to order people around -- parents, other kids, the chickens, the dog. (These last don't listen.) At the library the other day, Morgan and another little girl were sitting next to each other working on puzzles, and Morgan decided that the most efficient thing to do was say "Baby help!", pass her pieces to the other girl, and point to where she ought to put them. So I guess she's practicing her leadership skills....

Her language is astounding. She's picked up a lot more Spanish in the last month or two, and her English vocabulary is... well, at this point if she needs a word she probably has it. She's started using more verbs. Her recent interesting concepts include "everybody" ("Brooks chin. Morgie chin. Mama chin. Ev'ybody chin!"), "somebody" ("Suzi car!" "No, that's a different blue car." "Somebody car."),
"probably" (::phone rings:: "Who dat? Prob'ly Mommy. Prob'ly Papa."), and "last night", which appears to indicate the past in general ("Walk the doggie mama last night," when I only walk the dog in the mornings). She's trying to figure out past tenses -- she only uses them for a few verbs but she tells a lot of little stories about things that happened (For instance, we brought a new toothbrush to FOGcon, so now it is the "hotel brush". "Hotel brush! Went to hotel!" "Papa toast burn! Doggie woof!"). She's also doing a lot of planning and breaking things down into steps ("One book. Then feed the bocks [chickens]. Then breakfast."). "Who dat?" is a constant question. We're trying to train to use "What's that?" for things that aren't people, and she'll happily parrot it but I guess "Who" is easier to pronounce, so that's always what she starts with.

She's really into testing limits right now. Not in the sense of trying to get away with breaking rules, but really clearly looking for edge cases. For instance, I told her it was not safe to stand up in a restaurant high chair and she needed to sit down, so she tried sitting on the back of the high chair with her feet in the seat, to see if that counted. Testing is a really interesting process -- it reveals a lot about both her thinking and my assumptions. If all goes well I will quickly learn to predict some of the edge cases she'll come up with so I can pre-classify them into okay or not okay and I won't have to think it through on the spot so much. She likes applying the rules or usual procedures (putting things away when she's done with them, insisting that she wants socks, shoes, a jacket, and a hat before going out even when it's not actually cold enough to need the jacket and/or hat, etc.). I frequently end an activity by saying we'll do it X more times and then move on to the next thing, or if she's asking for something like a hug while I'm making dinner I'll tell her I'll do it once but only once, and now "One book" is a proposal I will likely hear about seven times a day as we transition between various activities. (I usually go with it unless we have unusual time pressure, but I do keep it to one book. I can be bargained with, but no changing the bargain in the middle!)

She's still into counting. If she's counting on her own it usually goes "One, three, jump!" but she likes to tap each thing in a group while an adult provides the counting numbers. She's also starting to look through books on her own, pointing out things in the illustrations or repeating phrases she's memorized. She is startlingly good at keeping the titles of even very visually-similar sets of sequels straight. She likes Todd Parr, Mo Willems, and Sandra Boynton particularly.

When we pass a bunch of cars in a parking lot, she likes to pick out the one she wants to drive. Sometimes she assigns other cars to other people, too. She's surprisingly happy in her car seat, although prone to motion sickness. She loves going for rides in the bike trailer.

There is no more baby left. She is all small child now. It is a little disconcerting sometimes.

Packing for FOGcon
Whee! Soon we will be on our way to Walnut Creek for my very favorite local science fiction convention, FOGcon!

I am very much looking forward to it, although I haven't got much forward left to look in. :)

(It's not too late! We sell memberships at the door! And if you have other plans for part of the weekend, the day rates are super-reasonable.)

Morgan's Joke
Morgan tells a joke. It goes like this:

"Morgie joke! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!"

It is pretty funny.

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