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In general our kids language is fairly clean, but when Magda gets mad, she started to use the word stupid way too much (as in once is too much when referring to a parent).  So after Simone started joyfully and clearly repeating "stupid momma", we decided to clamp down on it.

We agreed on the s-word rule where we'd dock Magda $0.25 every time she uses it and, to make it fair, we would have to watch our language and if we said "stupid" we'd have to give her $0.25.

That's actually been working quite well and Magda doesn't complain too much when she looses the occasional quarter.  We did have to come up with some exceptions, such as "you can say it if you're reading a book where it's written" and we don't really enforce it when it's not said in a mean spirited way.  And she now has fun with the adjective "stupendous".

At this point, when Magda gets mad, she's usually quite careful about what she says.  Which leads to conversations like this:

Magda (mad): This ... is "the s-word"!
Me: You mean "sweet"?
Magda: No, the other s-word!
Me: You mean "super"?
Magda: No, the bad s-word!
Me: "Sad"?
Magda (spelling it out to avoid the penalty): No S-T-O-P-I-D!
Me (trying very hard not to laugh)

Today, Magda and Jennifer had been butting heads over all sorts of things.  Until at some point Magda stormed off to her room where her piggy bank is, and then promptly returned back, handed Jennifer a quarter and said "Momma, you're stupid!"  I guess sometimes it's worth the money to let it out on purpose.

"Home Stretch" Break

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Magda was off school this week and Jennifer kept the girls busy.  On Monday they took the Amtrack up to Ft. Worth where Rita picket them up.  They had a good time on their trip and arrived just a few minutes after their schedule.  Jennifer says she'd definitely do it again.

Rita brought them back on Wednesday in order to be Simone's babysitter while we took Magda to her first opera.  The ALO was performing Engelberg Humperdinck's Hänsel and Gretel and we scored an extra ticket on Groupon for Magda.

I liked the orchestral part and the staging, but wasn't that impressed with the voices.  Magda enjoyed it quite a bit (though really, she enjoys any opportunity to dress up) and afterward proclaimed: "I wasn't bored at all!"  So if another appropriate opera comes along, we'll definitely consider taking her again.  Just next time, I'll make sure to take her to the bathroom before the show

Magda's Valentines

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Simone - PictureDespite some ambitious plans I had, we didn't prepare much for Valentine's Day. Magda and I stocked up on some sweet stuff for Jennifer at World Market, but that was pretty much it.

Before heading out for breakfast today, Magda decided to work on some of her Valentines for the family. Unfortunately we're out of red or pink paper, but the results are still neat. I ended up with two, both made with her favorite tool: scotch tape.


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After RiverdanceOn Sunday we dressed up and I took Magda to see Riverdance at Bass. She picked it over going to see the Nutcracker because "it's GG's favorite show". Plus she's fond of an Angelina Ballerina episode that has Irish dancing in it.

Magda was enthralled throughout the show, though she was fading towards the end. She really liked the "pretty girls" but thought the men-only and non-dancing sets less interesting. I really liked the instrumentals (I had never seen Uillean pipes played before) but I agree with her on the vocal pieces.

Most of the dance numbers were pretty neat. I thought the inclusion of the non-Irish dance a mixed bag. The American tap dancing (Trading Taps) was fun and, to me, made sense in the story line. The flamenco was awesome (I've been a sucker for it ever since I'd seen Pilar Serrano on stage in Austin) but not really related to Ireland. And what was all the Russian dancing about? Could have gone without it.

Magda also enjoyed the variety of costumes - especially in the earlier sets - she digs anything that includes a crown or a tiara or has a flowy skirt. I thought that some of them looked inspired by Star Trek uniforms, but the long skirts were cool. And, once again, I noted how doing any kind of dancing in leather pants makes you look like a total douche (apparently you don't have to be named Flatley for that).

When the lights came up after the first half and we were headed out for some air, Magda (who's a veteran of several Broadway shows) said that she "had forgotten that these videos have an intermission in the middle". I think we'll keep taking her to these "videos" with real people in them.


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Mikuláš is cool!We had another fun Mikuláš weekend in Dallas. This year it was on Saturday (Dec. 5 - when it's actually celebrated) and it worked our really well for us since we could hit another Holiday party back in Austin on Sunday afternoon. We drove up on Friday and stayed at Hanka's. Magda and Marty were having such a good time playing together all the time were were there. I'm not sure Ron was too thrilled with Marty dressing up Barbies with Magda. :-)

As expected, Simone thought that Mikuláš and his devil and angel sidekicks were pretty cool and wasn't afraid at all. She had the blast with all the kids, people and stairs (yay!) and was constantly milling around trying to get into things. Despite being quite intimidated when Mikuláš talked to her, Magda sang him Prší, Prší which we had been practicing.

On the way to the party, she said she thought that maybe the devil and angel weren't real, but rather dressed up people. And maybe Mikuláš wasn't real either, but rather Santa dressed up as Mikuláš.

On Sunday we managed to get back to go to Brian's Ho Ho Ho Holiday party. As usual it was huge. He'd built his kids a 500' zip line last Christmas which was very popular. Magda got to go three times and wished she could have gone more - and wanted me to get one for our backyard. Fat chance.

Advent Wreath

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WreathSo far I've avoided putting up outside Christmas lights, but we did manage to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season by making an Advent Wreath. In the past, we'd buy one of those gigantic Christmas wreath and add four candles, but then it ended up taking up most of the table and not really looking right.

With Simone mobile and climbing, it's not feasible to keep a wreath permanently on the table. So I went back to my roots and decided to make one, just like I used to with my mom (well, without stealing branches from the forest).

It ended up being pretty easy and inexpensive. At Michael's I got an 8" wreath form, some green floral wire, a bag of assorted cones and four candles. At a Papa Noel stand we scored free pine branches from their pile of trimming.

Then it was a matter of cutting 12-18" twigs, placing them on the form and wrapping the wire around them. I was going to glue the pine cones on, but we don't have a hot-glue gun, so I ended up drilling a hole in them and Magda attached them with a wire. Ditto for the red sparkly berries that came with the cones. Then I trimmed the overly-long candles and used pieces from a wire coat-hanger to impale them onto the wreath. We put some of the leftover pine twigs around the house and now it actually feels kind of Christmassy - especially now that it's cold outside.

Dinner time now involves putting the wreath on the table and lighting the first candle. We also wrap up dinner by singing a couple of Christmas carols before blowing out the candle. By Christmas I expect Magda to be singing several of them from memory (and Simone humming along).


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The following was related by Jennifer:

  • Jennifer was dealing with a crying Simone while Magda was unsuccessfully trying to get her attention.
  • So Magda addresses her sister with an empathetic "Simone, damn your tears!"
  • Jennifer, horrified, tries to make Magda understand that using curse words is not appropriate for children.
  • Magda, confused, asks what a curse word is.
  • Jennifer elaborates.
  • Magda, still confused, exclaims "but dam means 'to stop water from flowing'!"
  • ...


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Magda has really taken to reading and it's amazing to watch her evolution and progress from week to week.  She's known her letters for years and has been wanting us to "follow the words with our finger" when reading to her for a long time.  But she really only started to seriously try to read since beginning kindergarten this fall.

And then something clicked and she's started enjoying the process of making her way slowly through early-reader primers. And then it became more fluent.  A couple of weeks ago she was "bored" at Kat & Steve's Christening party and Kat's dad lend her a big-ol' Dr. Seuss book and, to her surprise, Magda made it through Green Eggs and Ham all on her own.  Now she often grabs a book and reads for pleasure.  Usually it's stuff that she's heard many times already, though she doesn't just recite from memory.  But often it's new early-reader books she gets from school or we pick up at the library.

Today, we picked up a couple of Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa books from the library.  She started reading one in the car and then walked from the car to the kitchen with her nose in the book barely paying attention to anything Jennifer was trying to ask her.  I can totally see my young self in her.

DSC00036She also has started reading pretty much any environmental text that catches her eye - ads, posters, the panhandler signs at intersections, etc.  Sometimes she asks what some complex word means, but most often she just reads.  We were at Barnes & Nobles today, and while I was looking at some books and kind of ignoring her, I snapped at attention when I heard her haltingly read one of the many calendar titles on the shelf.  To my relief she didn't ask what a "Bitch" was - I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing that she didn't, but I'm going to pretend she thought it had something to do with dogs.  On the other hand, she didn't have any problems with the cursive typeface it was written in, so that's a good thing, right?


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Halloween FamilyWe had a blast on Halloween this year - once again taking the kids to Avenue F.  This was really the first time Magda got into it and would walk up to the houses by herself or, preferable, with Kayleigh by her side.

Over the last few weeks, Magda vacillated between different costumes.  For most of the time she wanted to be Ariel, then she wanted to be Zlatovláska (Princess Goldenhair) and wanted a wig made "like Dominik had in the summer" (for my brother's Michael Jackson impersonation, my aunt made him a wig from a skein of wool and it looked horrid), then she wanted some "colored hair spray" (after getting colored in a school carnival), and along the way she also wanted to be "something scary" (since Kayleigh was going as a witch).  Eventually she ended up going as a "princess goblin" which consisted of a black outfit, a punk girl wig, a cape, fairy wings and face paint.  She totally loved it and I was pleased that we avoided Disney, cheap commercial costumes or lots of work (I had to replace her waist band, but that was nothing).

For Simone we borrowed a wonderful Eeyore costume from Kathy H.  She looked disgustingly adorable dragging her treat bag behind her and wandering around through the crowds.  To our surprise, she actually kept the hood on for quite  a bit of time. Simone was having a blast too, fascinated with all the dressed up people around her and completely unaware that any of that was supposed to be scary.

Jennifer went as a (unintentionally) creepy clown.  She had gotten a wig and I tried to put her face paint on.  But we were running short on time, Magda wanted to help and Simone was getting into the way too.  So Jennifer ended up looking like something between Heath Ledger's Joker and Steven King's IT - with glasses.  I allso used some of the pain to turn myself into an office zombie.

Pumpkin Carving Party

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PumpkinsWe survived another pleasant pumpkin carving party.  The turnout this year was much lower, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but we did miss the regulars that didn't make it.  This was the first year Rita got to come (yay for retirement!) and she did a wonderful job keeping the kids out of our hair while we were getting ready, so it felt less rushed than usual.

Beside Rita's visiting, we had some other firsts.  The O'Reillys brought their home-grown jack-o-lantern pumpkins.  They weren't very big and a couple were still a bit greenish, but it was so cool for them to be able to do that.  I had seen them on the vine the day before and the pumpkin plants in their backyard are truly monstrous.  I am really tempted to turn the weedy flowerbed by our front porch into a pumpkin bed, but I'm afraid it's not getting enough sun.

I also took to opportunity to bring out the power jigsaw I bought this summer for working on my fence.  It really sped things up when it came to taking off the top of the pumpkin or carving the round eyes.  The only problem is that it spews mushy "sawdust" at interested bystanders.

Magda's DesignMagda didn't carve a pumpkin yet. She and Kayleigh decorated some baby pumpkins with paints (most of which ended up all over Simone when she took over).  At my request, Magda drew me a picture of what her pumpkin was supposed to look like.  It was important that it had a stem (which meant I was going to carve her design on my bigun instead of the small, stemless one she had picked out) and it had to have bangs.  Not sure what was up with the bangs, but during the party she and Kayleigh got into trouble for cutting each other's hair, so maybe it was part of some theme.

All the pumpkins turned out great.  More importantly, the kids had a blast.  They decorated our driveway with chalk drawings and spent most of the time chasing each other around the house and the front yard.

Note: Meredith posted a bunch of cool pictures from the party.

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