Twin Week


, , , , ,

Jem is Ready for School

Jem Is Ready for School

Oboe Brushing His Teeth

Oboe Brushing His Teeth

Oboe and Jem have become adept at essential communication, a stage that I eagerly anticipated and gratefully embraced during their recent five-day sojourn at Grandma’s house. They can declare thirst; demand a hug; ask for a story; announce hunger; and express the need for a comfort object. Just as importantly, they understand just about everything of importance that I want to tell them.

When the boys woke up Monday morning in a different house, they had but one word on their minds: mama. This one word became a litany that I translated as, “Where is our mother, and why are we here?” It accompanied us through the diaper change, dressing, brushing of teeth and the trip to daycare. When we returned at 2:30 p.m. to pick them up, Oboe was pleased to see us and went so far as to say “Grandma! Papa!” Jem was not displeased, but a bit wary and a note of desperate interrogative had entered his tone, “Mama?”

Oboe seems especially interested in improving his verbal skills and although his desire to speak still greatly outstrips his ability, once we returned home, he intensified his efforts to find out what had happened to his mother, father and sister. Pointing to the family photo on display in the living room, Oboe pointed to the missing individuals and looked me straight in the eye, “Mama? Dada? Gigi [Jet]?”

“They went on a trip. You and Jem are staying with Grandma and Papa while they are away, but they’ll come back. Don’t worry, they’ll come back.”

Oboe confirmed his understanding, “Mama back?”

“Yes, mama will come back. You just have to wait. Not today.” Before they went to sleep they were able to talk to their parents and sister on the phone. They both bestowed multiple hugs and wet sloppy kisses on my cellphone as they happily invoked the names of their unseen loved ones. Thereafter, they attended any ring, chime or buzz emanating from my phone with great excitement, “Mama? Dada?” and each day Oboe asked for and received reaffirmation, “Mama back?”



Overall, they handled the situation remarkably well, maintaining a cheerful, cooperative mood and quickly adjusting to the rules of the house. We had a couple of small glitches of course, including the day I put Oboe’s patch on the wrong eye and when we had to wash their hair two days in a row because I turned my back on them while they ate dinner. My relative inexperience with toddler boys was most fully demonstrated when I took Oboe out of the bathtub and began toweling him dry. As he proceeded to void on my shoes, I froze in astonishment. He seemed equally surprised to see me quickly strip off my footgear while hollering, “yuck!”

By Thursday, however, Oboe’s forbearance had reached its limit. When Papa offered to let me take a turn on the treadmill, I accepted and told the boys I’d be right back. Owen’s face crumpled and he burst into sobs. Jem brought him a blanket while I held him tightly and rubbed his back. “It’s okay, buddy! Grandma will stay right here. I’m not going anywhere! You are much, much more important than the treadmill!”

During their call that night, their father said he’d seem them tomorrow, causing Owen to utter the longest, clearest word he has spoken in my presence. “Tomorrow? Tomorrow? Tomorrow?”

“Yes, buddy, Mommy and Daddy will be back tomorrow. Not today, but after you come home from school tomorrow.”

To my amazement and delight, Owen remembered the next morning. “Tomorrow?” he said hopefully.

“Yes! It’s tomorrow. You will see Mommy and Daddy today before you go to bed.”

Twin Conversation

Twin Conversation

So far, the boys give every indication of growing up to be men of few words. They don’t waste time on extraneous parts of speech. Jem lets his brother do most of the talking for both of them. He seems to realize that Oboe is more easily understood and can get the point across faster, but Jem is always listening and understands every bit as much.

Watching the boys play together is fascinating. They don’t need the English language to understand each other, getting by quite well with a combination of body language, gestures and sounds that are intelligible only to one other.   Somehow they have reached a level of truce that allows for sharing single objects between them, such as the water pen that colors only on a special mat, passing it back and forth at an inaudible request.

Jem’s strength is observation. He is the first to recognize patterns and to figure out how things work. When the pen ran out of water, Jem showed me that it needed filling and tried to unscrew the cap. When the boys were finished coloring, he brought it back to me.

Later, Oboe stood at my knee and said, “golar.”



“I don’t know that word. Can you show me what you want?”

Oboe patiently repeated the same word, but Jem, who had been listening to the exchange, joined him and demanded “up!” Once on the couch, he crawled across my body and pointed to the pen, “golar!”

“You want to color?”

The boys smiled at my interpretive abilities and chorused, “yes!” The moment Jem had the pen in his hand, he handed it off to Oboe. If they keep this up, their combined talents will make them a force to be reckoned with one day. Let’s hope they use their powers for good!

Brotherly Hugs

Brotherly Hugs

On Friday, Oboe squealed with delight when we pulled into the driveway and his mother came out to greet us. “Mama, Mama, Mama!” He let me get him out of the car and took my hand to go meet her. Poor Jem was overcome by the intensity of his feelings and burst into tears the moment he saw her face. Oboe looked at his mother on the other side of the car, attending to Jem and altered course, pulling me toward the house. “Dada!” he said, leaving Jem to receive the comfort of mama first. They take care of each other, these two.





Olaf's Fun File

Olaf’s Fun File

Jet knows herself very well – better than I could have imagined. She was excited to fill in the blanks in a Disney book she received as a gift on Saturday: Olaf’s Fun File. She couldn’t wait to answer questions about her friends, likes and dislikes and hopes and dreams. Jet nearly finished the book in one sitting. None of her answers required the slightest hesitation or consideration. Jet quickly rattled off her name, age, birthdate, eye and hair color. When asked her shoe size she ran to get one of her shoes to check, “I only brought one shoe Grandma ‘cause they are both the same size!”

Next she listed 10 friends without stopping for breath. She identified “coloring” as her best talent and “trying to get the brothers to do things and not do things,” as her worst habit. Her happiest moment: sleepovers.

Her very best friends include two of her 5-year-old cousins. She likes one because he plays with her “best of all,” and reminisced about the time they played caterpillar and filled a cocoon.   Jet appreciates her cousins for different reasons. She enjoys another cousin for being willing to do whatever she wants to do and making her laugh. In a similar vein, her friend Quinn is admired because he is willing to play the less popular role of Anna (From Disney’s Frozen), while Jet and his sister took the part of Elsa.

What secret has Jet never told anyone? That she has necklaces. It’s a secret because she likes them and doesn’t want anyone to take them. What does Jet tell only her best friend? That she loves them!

Jet's Snowperson

Jet’s Snowperson

Jet’s biggest secret wish was a complete surprise to me: She wants to have a bird to live in her house. Something she secretly thinks is really fun: Rain! The beach! (Hardly surprising, but very true.) Her favorite person in the world: “I don’t have only one: Mama, Grandma, Marley, Daddy, Papa….”

Despite her love for the beach, Jet chose winter as her favorite season. She had no problem identifying the reasons: she likes shoveling snow, Christmas, no bugs or mosquitos and she gets to stay in the house more.

Something Jet has always dreamed of doing: riding on an elephant. A place she dreams of visiting: California. A person she dreams of meeting: Jasmine (one of the Disney characters she has yet to see.)

Jet doesn’t remember dreaming, but she imagines being able to write all the words she’d like to write without any help. When I transcribed her answers in the book I was very careful to use her exact wording but she wished she could have done it on her own.

Her best adventure was going to the beach with her dad’s family. The best thing about the trip was playing in the sand with Mom and making a sand castle without anyone knocking it down.

Telling Santa she wants lots of presents

Telling Santa she wants lots of presents

Some fun things Jet would like to do: go shopping, like when we got Papa’s new shoes; go to the grocery with Daddy; go to the mall with Mama; sing “Away in the Manger” with Grandma. She wishes she could get lots and lots of Christmas presents and live at the beach because almost all her family was there. “Maybe you and Papa could come next time?” She also wishes for a baby sister because she likes them and she doesn’t have one.

Jet created her own snowperson for the book. She named her Nora and pronounced that she loves M and M candies. Nora’s biggest dream is to be an elephant.

She chose green over blue and yellow; winter over spring and summer; relaxing on the beach to walking in a forest or making ice sculptures; making jokes over singing and ice skating; and for it to be sunny all the time over being free to be herself or being surrounded by friends and family. She characterized herself as funny and loving over happy and excitable or careful and graceful, but said that she’d be more likely to say, “let’s think about it first” over “I can’t wait” or “I love heat.”

Jet’s last wish melted my heart faster than Olaf the snowman on the beach: “I wish I could always come to Grandma’s house every day because I love her so much in the whole entire world… across the ocean love you!”

Love you too, Jet more than I can say.

Hide and Seek




Sometimes I think Jet and I must be almost the same age. She seems to enjoy just about anything I want to do. In the last month or so we’ve busied ourselves with grocery shopping, furniture shopping, mall-walking, leaf collecting and pumpkin carving. She’s helped entertain a houseguest, celebrated our wedding anniversary, wrote letters to her aunt, tried her hand at subtraction and started to learn cross-stitch. We endured a day of fever and vomiting and spent another day easing the discomfort of illness with a marathon of Disney movies. We groomed the dog and experimented with Jet’s hair. We went hiking, got caught in a sudden hail shower, read books and drew pictures. In short, we’ve been so busy together that the time to write about it evaporated more quickly than the leaves fell from the trees.

As a cold front moved down from the north, we realized Jet needed new boots, gloves and earmuffs. Her feet have grown three sizes since last fall! The “emergency” outfit kept at Grandma’s house was also too small. She’s suddenly “too old” and too busy to sit in the tub with bath toys and wants to take a quick shower instead. She has learned to make her own ponytail and is trying to tie her own shoes.

Our conversations have also grown in range and scope: As we drove past a repurposed building, I pointed out to my husband how happy I was to see it being re-used. “Why was it empty, Grandma?” came a little voice from the back of the car. Jet is always listening.

“Because the people who own the stores keep building new ones instead of fixing up the ones we already have. Grandma doesn’t think that’s a good idea. It’s wasteful.”

“I don’t think it’s a very idea good either! That’s just wrong! That is so wrong!When I grow up I’m going to tell them how to do things better!”

“Good for you, sweetie. I’m very glad to hear it.”

A Lump Under the Blanket

A Lump Under the Blanket

And yet, this week at naptime, Jet reminded me just how very little she really is. “Let’s play that game, Grandma, can we play that game?”

“What game?”

“You know, the one where I hide and Papa can’t find me! Quick, quick, quick, put me in the bed before he gets here! Cover me up! Hurry!”

I covered Jet with 2 blankets and some stuffed animals. She lay with her hind end up in the air, making a very large lump under the blanket. Papa came into the room.

“I don’t know where Jet could be,” I intoned.

“Golly, is she still out in the living room?” Nope. We looked under the bed, in the closet and in the bathroom while Jet lay giggling under the covers. “Wait! I think I might see kitty peeking out from under the covers.” Papa lifted a corner of the blanket as Jet shook with laughter. “Look at this lump! Could this be something?”



“You FOUND me!” she chortled and hurled herself into his arms. “I love this game, Papa!”


Jet Versus the Vacuum


, ,

Jet Gets a Screwdriver

Get Gets a Screwdriver

On Labor Day weekend the ceiling in our bedroom began dripping water in the wee hours of the morning, our three-year-old hot water heater spewed its contents on the hardwood flooring and into the bedroom closet and my right knee declared it wasn’t up to the task of pulling weeds and threw me to the ground in a fit of pique.   On Tuesday morning, Jet’s smiling face brightened our outlook until the vacuum decided to join the fray and gave up the ghost as well.

With screwdriver in hand, I attempted to open the housing to check the vacuum cleaner belt. It wouldn’t budge. Papa tried next with no better success. “Can I try?” Jet asked.

“Sure, go ahead.” She couldn’t do any worse. The look on her face as I placed a genuine, grown-up screwdriver in her hand was priceless. That tool was clearly better than anything I could have given her. Jet “worked” on the housing while her Papa and I discussed our options.

We had just about decided to give up on the idea of home repair when Jet called out, “Papa! I almost have it! I think if we work together we can do it.”

We turned to her in astonishment. Papa said he was willing to give it a try. Jet had observed that overly tight plastic latches were holding the housing together and that neither her Papa or I had the strength to open one of them far enough to remove the case. She had wedged her screwdriver between the latch and the housing. “You put your screwdriver in too Papa and we can do it together!”

Papa followed her directions and the housing opened. “Jet! How did you know what to do?”

“I looked at it and I thought about it and I thought what might work and it did!”

“It certainly did! I’m so proud of you! You did a wonderful job thinking about that!”

“What are you going to do now, Grandma?”

“Well, I’m looking to see if the belt is broken… but it’s not. So, I really don’t know what could be wrong with it. It’s very dirty though, and has hair wrapped around the roller, so maybe we should clean off some of the dirt and hair to see if that helps.”

“Wait! These screws shouldn’t be on the floor Grandma! I’m going to pick them up and put them on the table so they don’t get lost or hurt anyone.”

Examining the Disassembled Vacuum

Examining the Disassembled Vacuum

“Good idea! I think maybe we need some wipes. Can you get some?” Jet ran to get wipes and we both cleaned the dog hair and debris from the agitator area. “Now we need to put it back together. I let Jet insert the screws and turn them and I tightened them the rest of the way. I pressed the reset button. “Well, time to see if it worked.” We plugged in the vacuum and moved the switch. The machine roared to life and pulled at the carpet. Loudly.

Success! My granddaughter has not only mechanical abilities but awesome problem-solving skills! Happy dance!

The Argumentative Stage


, ,

Jet at Play

Jet at Play

Jet has reached the age at which children try to distract their elders with debate. Sometimes they engage in argument to win a point; sometimes they just want to exercise their skills. I am easily taken in by this tactic and just as easily frustrated. When such discussions begin, I often believe that Jet is simply confused. I must set her straight. She quickly disabuses me of this idea by digging in her heals and persisting in the error. The debate begins. While I feel increasingly frustrated that Jet seems incapable of admitting she is wrong, she, in turn is reveling in the process. Here follows a case in point:

As I drove Jet home, we passed the elementary school her mother attended. “That’s where Mommy and Aunt Mary went to school isn’t it?”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“Mommy didn’t live in your house until she was a grown up though, did she?”

“No, we moved to this house when Mommy was 5 years old.”

“She didn’t! She told me she didn’t live there until she was a grown up!”

Thus begins the first stage, adult confusion. “I think you must have misunderstood what Mommy said. She lived in two other houses before this one when she was very little, but this is the house she lived in when she was in kindergarten.”

Jet’s tone increased in intensity. “No! You are wrong! She told me! Mommy told me!”

I take the bait and begin the debate. “Honey, Grandma was there. I lived there too, so I know what happened. Were you there?”

“No, but I know she did not live there until she was a grown up!

“But Jet, you know that you sleep in Mommy’s room at our house… and you use the same bathroom Mommy used, right”

“Yes, but she didn’t live there!”

“Where did she live?”

“Some other place.”

“I see.” I begin to feel she is being unreasonable. “I think you know better than that! You just told me that you saw Mommy’s school, the one she went to as a little girl. She went to that school when she lived in our house. Now, it’s true that Mommy came home for a little while after she was a grown-up, and she and Garko (the dog) lived with Grandma and Papa again. Could you be thinking of that?”


Frustration sets in. I am trying to win a senseless debate. Why am I arguing with a four-year-old child? “I think maybe you just don’t like to feel like you are wrong. It’s okay to be wrong sometimes and it’s a good thing to be able to say so when it happens. Does it upset you to be wrong?”

“Yes! I don’t like it!”

“Well, okay then. We won’t talk about this anymore. We’re almost back to your house anyway.”

“Grandma? Can you tell me a story?”

“What kind of a story?”

“One about your animals.”

“I think I’ve already told you all the animal stories I know!”

“Then tell me one again.”

“All right. Once there was a squirrel who lived near my house…”

Partial Eclipse of the Sun


, ,

Cell Phone Photo of the Eclipse

Cell Phone Photo of the Eclipse

I was pretty excited about the opportunity to share the eclipse with Jet. Being a grandparent, however, caution is ever my watchword. I didn’t want to take the chance that a 4-year-old might remove her viewing glasses to look at the sun, so I prepared cereal boxes according to NASA’s directions the previous night.

After breakfast, Jet and I looked at a video of the solar system and talked about how the planets circle the sun and the moon circles the earth. Next, we watched a second video that explained what happens during an eclipse. At my suggestion, Jet seemed eager to make her own eclipse with a flashlight, tennis ball and kickball. We took turns shining the flashlight on the larger ball and watching the shadow made by the tennis ball.

“Do you think that you can tell mommy and daddy how an eclipse works?”

“Yes! I can do it!”

“Great! We are ready to see the eclipse so let’s take our walk now before it get too hot.”

Taking a Walk With Grandma and Papa

Taking a Walk With Grandma and Papa

Jet has learned that Grandma does not like to walk in the heat of the day. She rarely complains about walking before play. Today, however she had a bone to pick about Grandma’s abundance of caution: “Why do I have to wait for you at the driveways Grandma?”

“Because you are so little that the driver might not see you. I’m big enough that they will probably see me. I just don’t want you to be run over by a car!”

“Can’t they just look on their screen?”

“Not all cars have a screen to see behind them like your mommy does! I just want you to be safe!”

Back at home, Jet played until we ate a late lunch. We looked at the boxes to view the eclipse and I gave her a long serious explanation about why she couldn’t look directly at the sun.   At the conclusion, Jet looked at me solemnly, “But why?”

“Okay, let me be clear. You can’t look up at the sky while we are out side. Not at all.”

Jet walked into the living room with her head down. “What are you doing?”

“I’m not looking at the sky.”

Ah. “Jet, the sky is outside! You can look up inside! When we go outside, just keep your head down.”

Looking at the Eclipse

Looking at the Eclipse

For the next hour and a half, we went out with our boxes every 15 minutes. Jet was able to see the image in her box before I found mine. Each time we came inside, we watched the image live on TV. Jet began to tire after the first hour so we took a break to read some books.

We went outside for the last time during the peak of the eclipse. The decrease in light was obvious, but the view of the sun was not that impressive. I tried to take a photo with my phone over my shoulder, but without a filter, the view was even less impressive. Still, Jet remained interested almost until the end.

“Grandma? I want to go inside now. My neck hurts from looking down all the time!”

“Oh, yes, sweetie I think we’ve seen enough.” Jet was more than ready for her nap. She ran to take her customary bathroom break.” Suddenly, a wail broke the quiet of the afternoon and I ran to the bathroom. The house was relatively dark and the bathroom especially dim. Jet had not noticed that that potty seat was missing and had fallen in the bowl.

“It got my butt wet!” she cried.

I didn’t understand. “What got wet? Your pants?”

“My BUTT! My butt is wet!”

Papa comforted her that it was clean water and wouldn’t hurt her while I washed off her bottom to ease her mind. She got in bed and was asleep in minutes. I might be wrong, but I have a feeling that when she remembers the events of the day, the moment when she fell in the toilet will be the one that sticks in her mind.

Inside the Box

Inside the Box




Love You Aunt Mary

Love You Aunt Mary

“Grandma, when is Mary coming home?”

“Aunt Mary.” For some reason, Jet doesn’t seem to be able to place the word “aunt” before Mary. She doesn’t have that problem with her other Aunts and Uncles. “Aunt Mary will come for a visit in a few weeks. I think she is planning a sleepover with you.”

“Three grandma days and 2 school days and then she’ll come home?”

“No, it’s much longer than that. Nine grandma days or so, I think.”

“I don’t want it to be so long.”

“Aunt Mary lives far away now. She has to ride in the car a long time to come and see us, but she’ll see you as much as she can.”

“But I don’t want her to live so far away! Why does she have to live far away?”

“Because she had to go to Virginia for work.” Jet gave me a disgruntled look. “You can talk to her on the phone and if you like, you can send her a letter.”

“Yes! I can write ‘I love you’ to her!”

“Okay. Let me get what you need.” I got paper and a large pencil. “Do you want me to write it out so you can copy it?”

“No, just tell me the letters.” Jet wrote slowly and carefully and added her name.

Painting a Big Heart

Painting a Big Heart

“Do you want to color something to go with it?”

“Paint! Let’s get out the paints and I can make some beautiful pictures for her!” I spread a plastic cloth, paint shirt, brushes, paper and wipes. Jet started painting a big blue heart.

“You made a heart! I haven’t seen you paint a heart before!”

“I didn’t know if I could do it but I tried it and I could. How do you make green?”

Soon, Jet had mixed purple, green and orange and could tell me how it was done. We left four paintings drying on the porch that have now been sent on their way to Aunt Mary. Jet was content. I completely understand how she felt. It makes me happy to be able to reach out to Mary with a card or package too!

On our walk, we saw a jet airplane leaving a trail through the sky. “Oh my gosh, do you see that? What is that thing?”

Papa explained that it was a vapor trail left by the airplane. I reminded Jet that her daddy worked with airplane engines like that.

“No he doesn’t.”

“He does. He works for a company that makes airplane engines.”

“He doesn’t, he makes gas.”

“Gas? I don’t think so. Maybe you misunderstood.”

“He makes a utensil that makes gas. It’s a utensil. A utensil.” Jet waived her arms around dramatically. “It’s a thing you use.   A utensil!”

“Hmmm. I’m not sure you understood him. You’ll have to ask him when you get home.”

Jet had absolutely no patience for my uncertainty. “I don’t want to hear any more about this! I am not going to argue with you about this now!”

I shut my gaping mouth and stifled a laugh. “All right then.” Discussion ended.

Making Purple

Making Purple





Nap and Play



Jem and Oboe Playing Hide and Seek

Jem and Oboe Playing Hide and Seek

“Babies only do three things,” Jet informed us, “They eat, sleep and poop.”

“And one more, I think,” my husband said, “They cry!”

“They only do four things,” Jet agreed. Oboe and Jem aren’t exactly babies anymore. They can walk and are starting to talk, but Jet hasn’t found a great deal of use for them thus far.

My husband and I volunteered to watch all three kids on Saturday afternoon so their parents could get out without them for awhile. The boys were napping when we arrived but Jet lay in the bed singing to herself. I listened to her sing for a bit before going up to see if she might be persuaded to allow sleep to come. On the way up the stairs I began to think that a nap sounded pretty nice. “Jet, could Grandma take a nap with you?”

“I don’t know… there’s not much room in this bed…”

Papa and Oboe Counting

Papa and Oboe Counting

“Let’s try.” Jet agreed so I snuggled in next to her. She put her back up against my stomach and my arm encircled her chest. We both passed into sleep within minutes. The next thing I heard was the sound of Jem waking up in the next room.

When I opened the door, Jem chortled a greeting, waking Oboe in the next bed. “Well, let’s get some diapers for you two!” I looked around. “Where are your diapers?”

“We don’t keep them up here anymore Grandma! They are all downstairs!”

“Thanks, Jet, thank goodness I have you to help me!”

Oboe reached into his bed and pulled out his blanket and immediately handed it to Jem who accepted it happily. We proceeded to the stairs to find Papa who scooped up Jem and carried him down. Oboe wanted to walk. “Can he go down the stairs, Jet?”

“Yes, he can do it if he goes backward.”



I turned Oboe around and instructed him to come down backward. One step later, he turned around again. “Oboe! You have to do it this way! Turn around!” Oboe answered with a devilish grin that told me we were not getting down the stairs any time soon. Several minutes later Oboe finally reached the first floor with an impish grin still plastered on his face. I’m trying not to think about what this means for the future.

Jet wanted to play hide and seek. They boys have reached the age where they want to do whatever someone else is doing, so we all more or less began to play. I was able to snap a photo of grandson mimicking his Papa as he turned to the wall to count.

We pretended not to see Jet “hiding” in plain view as long as possible, but when her brothers saw her sitting under furniture, they immediately crawled in next to her. Each time it happened we’d exclaim, “he found you!” What else could we do? Then Papa would count again.

And, so it happened that we all had a marvelous time for different reasons: Jet believed her brothers were actually playing hide and seek; Jem and Oboe enjoyed a toddler version of Simon Says with big people; and my husband and I delighted in the laughing faces of our grandchildren!

Jet is Found

Jet is Found

Counting to Twenty


, ,

Counting Pennies

Counting Pennies

Jet has been able to count to twelve for quite some time. I thought she had a good grip on the teen numbers as well — until my daughter asked me to work with her on them this week.

Jet arrived in a good mood Monday morning with Panda in tow. “Panda came today because he hasn’t been here in a long time. You can hold him, but he might cry because he hasn’t seen you in awhile and he might not be used to you.”

I picked up Panda and patted his diapered bottom. “I think he’s okay. Maybe he remembers me after all.”

“No you’d better let me hold him for awhile, just to be sure.”

I surrendered Panda to Jet’s arms. “Say, Jet, could you count for me?”

Jet was happy to oblige, “One, two….” Everything was fine until she got to 14 and jumped immediately to 18.

We counted all morning but Jet’s mental glitch was consistent and impenetrable. She didn’t recognize the cadence in her head. Chanting and singing and repetition didn’t seem to help.   Trying a new tactic, I slowly wrote out the numbers for her as a visual aid. Jet took to the list like a duck to water, but 11, 12, 13 and 15 don’t sound like they look. Jet was familiar with written numbers through 10. If only we counted forward as ten-1, ten-2, ten-3 or 1-teen, 2-teen, 3-teen! On the other hand, seeing numbers she recognized as parts of 16 through 19 helped her say them in order, but only when her eyes were glued to the paper.

One Hundred Pennies in a Dollar

One Hundred Pennies in a Dollar

I remembered how Jet’s mother had trouble with arithmetic memorization until she began to understand the underlying concepts. No amount of singing and chanting had helped. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I pulled forth a memory of my dad using coins to help me understand number notations, so I pulled out our store of loose change.

“This is a penny. One penny. If you have 10 pennies it is the same as this dime.” Jet arranged ten pennies in a straight row under the dime. “We can count these pennies 1 though 10.” We counted the pennies. “Now if we add more pennies, we can count those too.” We added three more pennies and counted to thirteen. “It takes a longer time to count 13 pennies, doesn’t it? But what if we replace these 10 pennies with the dime. Now we can count faster. We know that that this dime means 10, so we can start with 10.” We counted to 13 again, starting with 10. “Look at the list. See how the number 10 is a 1 and a zero?” Jet nodded. “It’s the same as the dime! Do you see? And look! Look the number 13. It is the same as one dime and 3 pennies!”

“I have moneys in my piggy bank, Grandma!”

“I know you do! Should we look at some more kinds of money?” Jet was enthusiastic so we took a detour into nickels, quarters and dollar bills. “If you can learn to count to 25 this week, you can take this money home.”


“Well I thought you might like to put in in your piggy bank.”


“Um… do you know that people use money to buy things?

“My mommy uses a card.”

“Well, yes, mommy’s card is a different way to spend money… but just like the dime, it’s still the same thing.”

Counting Can Be Exhausting!

Counting Can Be Exhausting!

“I could use my money to buy new clothes for Kitty!”

“Yes, you could save your money to buy things you want or need! You would need a lot of pennies to buy clothes for Kitty.” I counted out 100 pennies and Jet arranged them in rows of 10. “This is the same as one dollar. Which would you rather have, one dollar or one nickel?” To my delight Jet immediately grasped the relative values and correctly selected the dollar over the nickel and the quarter over 10 pennies.

The next day we added beads and flashcards to the mix and by the end of the day, Papa was able to make a video of Jet correctly counting to 19 with the aid of the cards. Jet may not understand why her grandparents are so gosh darn excited about counting, but she is enjoyed making us happy. Maybe next week she can take home 25 cents!

Counting  Beads

Counting Beads

Jem’s Day


, ,



Jem may be a twin, but he is also most decidedly his own little person. He is the youngest of three (by less than a minute), but when he is at Grandma’s house, Jem enjoys the opportunity to be an only child and the center of my attention. Sometimes his visits come due to illness, but this time he is here thanks to an eye appointment, so he is happy, healthy and ready for the day.

His tears following his mother’s departure last less than a minute. As soon as I say the word “breakfast,” his mood is instantly improved and he happy to sit in the highchair. He eats banana and oatmeal with gusto until I make the mistake of scooping a fallen bit of oatmeal from his bib into the spoon. Jem’s eyes seem to sparkle as he tilts his head and holds out the spoon.

“Are you wondering if you can persuade me to shovel this oatmeal into your mouth for you?” Jet smiles enigmatically and stretches the arm with the spoon further in my direction. “Hmmm… it is pretty hard to get it into your mouth, isn’t it? Okay, I guess I can give you a couple of bites!” I know I’m a softie, and Jem knows it too.

After breakfast Jem gets to work at the very serious business of play. His attention span is doubled when he is away from his siblings. He remembers the big blue Rubbermaid box and heads for it first. “Ba!” He says as he pulls at the lid.

“Yes, BLOCKS! There are BLOCKS inside! Can you open it?”

Dumping Blocks

Dumping Blocks

He can. I have provided two bowls for filling and dumping, and Jem knows just what to do with them, too. He fills one bowl and dumps it into the other then he dumps that bowl back into the box. He builds a tower and knocks it over. “Uh-OH!” he chortles.

Suddenly, he notices the board books I have stacked nearby and remembers that Grandma never says no to reading. With a grin he selects one from the pile, a former favorite of his sister, and I give him my best dramatic reading of the plight of Dilly Duck and her lost feather. Then he goes back to play with the tow truck and school bus until it is time for his first walk with Grandma.

“We are going to take a walk outside. Let’s put on your shoes. Okay, now, when we go outside, we have rule: you must hold Grandma’s hand. If you don’t hold my hand we have to go home. It’s a rule. A VERY important rule.” Jem takes my hand and I open the door and help him down the step. He trots down the driveway eagerly, pulling a little as we stop to look for cars before we cross the road. This will be a short walk, because I don’t think I can carry him very far if should he become tired. Jem concentrates on the sidewalk and my hand. He doesn’t know where we are going, but he is prepared to enjoy the trip.

At the end of the block I turn him around and we head back. At the halfway point, Jem stops and raises his other hand in the air, “UH.” I understand this to mean “up.”

“I’m afraid not, buddy. You need to walk the rest of the way. Look, we are almost done!” Without a peep, Jem soldiers ahead.

The weather is hot and steamy so Jem and I enjoy a cool drink in the air-conditioned house. He places a cylindrical block in one of the bowls and watches it move as he shakes the bowl. I think his parents will be pleased with his interest in physics.

Jem puts one of the bowls on his head and offers the other to me so we can both wear white plastic “hats.” This is SO funny that Jem nearly forgets to breathe. We take them off and on again and again. Then we trade bowls so that mine is too little and Jem’s hangs down over his eyes, prompting a new round of laughter.

At his eye appointment, Jem sits quietly on Papa’s lap while the doctor shines a bright light in his eye and we get the good news that his deviation has improved 8% in one eye and 5% in the other. Maybe he can avoid surgery!

Jem With Bowls

Jem With Bowls

Back at Grandma’s house for a delayed lunch, Jem’s busy day is starting to wear on him and he is more than ready for his nap. He doesn’t make it through a reprise of Dilly Duck before he begins to squirm to get down. “It’s time for your nap, now!” My bright tone doesn’t fool Jem. The minute his toes touch the mattress he begins to wail. In the past, Jem has performed admirably at naptime, going down with almost no fuss. I give him 5 minutes and return to reassure him that he has not been abandoned. After another 5 minutes, I pick him up and rock him in my arms until his body relaxes then rub his back in the crib until his fresh cries abate.

He has a nice nap, but wakes up in a less chipper mood. He lets his snack fall out of his mouth to the floor where the dog scarfs it quickly and looks up hopefully for more. Jem has not been fond of dogs, but Marcy’s obvious interest has sparked an idea. He asks for another goldfish cracker that he immediately tosses to the floor. “Mo!” he demands and this time he allows Marcy to take it from his fingers. He grins. We’ll make a dog-lover of Jem yet!