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May 20, 2012


I have been trying to teach my extroverted chatterboxes to keep their comments short and assume that if someone isn't answering, that person wants some quiet/alone time. You know, like Mommy does?
Plenty of adults don't seem to have mastered this, so I don't know how well kids (especially ones as young as Caroline) are going to do with this concept, but I figure it's worth a shot.

It's good of you to rejoin us. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we missed you. Let me add only that letting your children settle their disputes themselves is indeed excellent parenting. (Did Patrick end up kissing anyone's hand but yours?)

I can't wait to learn how to get my talkative extroverts to stop talking to everyone about anything that pops into their little heads, in detail and ad nauseum (mine). Lately much of what I do is explain that "those people are busy and don't want to be interrupted" (much like the bugs - "don't bother them while they're working!" means I don't have something crawly deposited on the back of my hand with a "Mommy! Look!!")

"Anchored down in Anchorage!". Love Michelle Shocked! Missed your entries.

My son is a freshman and just finished his bug project...I suppose some things never change. :)

Lovely to hear from you:) Also love hearing about Patrick's adventures, and hate to break it to you, but given Caroline's reading you probably have at least one other gifted kid on your hands:)

You are so lucky to have a school like that! We have nothing of the sort here in Nebraska. My 4th grade daughter is also (whisper) gifted and only fastidious with work she is interested in, like the wolf project she and her friend are doing for fun! She has hours in it, but could give a hoot about spelling. It's so frustrating to know the potential, and have to deal with the, '"she refuses to o her HAL math" business. Maddening! Thanks for sharing as it is good to know I'm not alone!

All you can do for the extroverted chatterbox is make sure she knows what questions need to be asked, what questions should not be asked, general politeness (saying please and thank you, letting other people have a turn at speaking, don't interrupt, etc.) and that she never, ever, ever, no matter how convivial the nice lady with the basket of kittens may be, go off with a stranger, even if it is just around the corner where there is less traffic so the kittens can run around.

A chatterbox

De-lurking to say I have missed you!

YOU'RE BACK!!! YAY YAY YAY!!! How I have missed you!

Oh, I completely feel your pain with Caroline's gregariousness. We always joke that all the social skills in our entire house devolved on my four year old daughter. The rest of us just look at her in a completely befuddled manner while she makes friends, charms strangers (if she had ever actually met a stranger because, really, they are all just BFFs she hasn't been introduced to), and becomes the leader of the pack wherever she goes. I have no idea how to model appropriate stranger behavior to her because um... that part about writhing over social gaffes for twenty years? Yup.

I can't tell you how much my life will be complete if you can tell us that Patrick actually *did* bend over some grandma's hand and kiss it. I so desperately hope he did! Bonus points if he uttered the "Mooooooooo" to her.

Totally loved this post. Thanks for catching us up on what's happening, hilarious and otherwise.

Oh good heavens I've missed you! Completely enjoyed reading your latest post as always....

Oh! And "Mooooooooooo."

Missed you! That second photo of Caroline kissing Edward - I would convert it to black and white and frame it. Wonderful.

That clustered school sounds amazing, I must say. I'm glad Patrick's enjoying it.

And thank you for your priceless timing. My darling husband got our dinner all together by himself after hearing me gasp and say, "There's a new JULIA post!" I very much enjoyed lying on the couch here reading it.

You, by the way, are owed some kind of reward--of the alcoholic variety--for hearing Edward cry every single day and your tenacity in the face of it and attempts to solve it. Kudos.

Hey, girl, it's 'bout time you wrote... :-)

Oh oh oh! I don't know if Stephanie about was both saying hi and referring to the Ryan Gosling Hey Girl meme, but I for one would love it if you posted some. Because you are hilarious, as is the whole Hey Girl thing, and I would love to laugh my butt off at whatever you wrote. (not familiar? just google Ryan Gosling Hey Girl - and then whatever floats your boat, feminism or science, and someone will have written something hilarious over a photo of him. Special Needs Ryan Gosling is my favorite, but that's 'cause of the especially needy kiddos I have floating around here).

Sorry - hopefully not too off topic and provides a few minutes of enjoyment. Very glad you are back!

Lastly - there is a program a friend uses for her son with autism that teaches about social circles, who we converse with, and at what level. There is a good explanation athttp://sites.google.com/site/autismhome/Home/special-situations/social-circles

I think its a great way to make clear how we interact with the gradations of people we know / don't really know without scaring kids or telling them they are obnoxious.

"So how do you talk to an extroverted chatterbox about the rules for engaging strangers in conversation?"
In my experience, repeatedly. It has been the work of years (and many kind and helpful strangers) to guide my chatterbox toward tact.

I'm starting to resemble that Michelle Shocked lyric myself...

Saw her live twice back in college. Seems like ages ago... Because it was.

Great to see you post! Love your writing.

I am sorry, but it's Kings Play Chess On Fine Green Silk, and if you'd just said that in the first place I wouldn't have had to re-read that sentence 3 times. :)

Also, your children are awesome. The end.

If you figure out how to convince him to erase and not just correct over the old mistake let me know.....I have an 8 year old (3rd grade) who does the SAME THING. We also have the same answers on reading questions or math word problems. He once answered a "How did you get that answer" question in math with "I just knew it".

I missed YOU! When I saw this post on my reader today, I saved it for special post-Dude-bedtime so I could savor it.
1) Caroline can READ READ? Wow.
2) Patrick's school sounds lovely, and he is a treasure as always.
3) I think I started the Artemis Fowl books b/c of your recommendation. I only got through 2, though. I need to get back to those. (Got a full set as a gift!)
4) Oh, Edward. He is such the mama's boy.

I died laughing over Patrick suggesting he kiss grandmothers' hands and compliment them extravagantly, and his French-accented mooing. DIED. I AM DEAD.

I second the commenter who said for a chatterbox, you teach them the rules of polite discourse (use manners, don't pester, etc.) and teach them they NEVER EVER GO ANYWHERE WITH ANYONE THEY DON'T KNOW, kittens, candy, and carnivals notwithstanding.

Also, I completely sympathize with the month-without-blogging problem. I have been blogging so intermittently lately that I'm always surprised when I actually get comments on the posts I do manage to write. And I only have two kids!

No advice, just YEA your back!

"Huh. I have admitted that I find it easier to let the kids settle their own quarrels even when I know it's going to involve pinching. I wonder if that is excellent parenting or just really lazy."

I vote for the former. Learning how other kids will react to various actions is important for preschoolers. (My mother, who has many children as opposed to my single child, backs me up: "Let them settle it themselves wherever possible." Which pretty much means as long as one no one is in danger of serious physical or emotional injury, keep out.)

It's great to see you. My son (who is a year older than your twins, and also not reading, sigh. It's not that I want him to be academically advanced, it's just that I want to be able to tell him to GO READ A BOOK (so I can have some peace & quiet). But I digress.) has a "100 Trucks" book which, unlike the field guide *just* has 100 trucks and their names (also? they aren't actually all trucks and the book gets some of the names wrong, realities we often have to discuss at length), so just let me say, I feel the pain of the field guides. Too funny. I wonder whether if I tried those, he'd go for them? He picked the stupid truck book out with a gift certificate he'd been given, which was fine as far as it goes, and had I not had to "read" it almost nightly since nearly Christmas ... well, again, I digress.

@KellyH "Don't bother them, they're working!" I *love* it. May have to try that one!

I was taught "Kings Prefer Cabbage On Fine Golden Spoons" but I quite like your version too! One of the more helpful ummm...mnemonics? I've learned and still use regularly, along with righty tighty, lefty loosey, Roy g biv and 30 days hath September etc. etc. So nice to see you back and to catch up on the exploits of your family! And I heartily agree with letting the kids sort out their own problems - in the long term it's the way to grow kids who can think for themselves.

Oh, am I envious of Patrick's school. I just called the school district in which we own a house and was told that they no longer do testing for potentially gifted kids due to budget cuts. We don't really need testing per se, but of course, no testing means no accommodations as well, sadly.

Related: perhaps you've already heard all about it, but I suspect that at least Patrick (and possibly his siblings) would qualify for the DYS program: http://www.davidsongifted.org/youngscholars/ .

glad your back.. my son cares not a wit about spelling and will cross things out or erase instead of being carefull.. i don't know if it is a boy thing or an age thing. i know he is as lazy about some things as the day is long.

Thank you for quoting Anchorage. My husband included that song on a mix CD that he made when he proposed for me. We were about to move here to (godforsaken) North Carolina from Texas, and the CD (and thus Michelle Shocked's track) got a lot of play in the car when moving from here to there. It still makes me cry sometimes, because it's all about growing up/moving on/finding oneself in a new stage of life, etc. and that song ended up being one of those that so perfectly mirrored my life at that point that it felt like it was written just for me.

Patrick reminds me somewhat of myself when I was in elementary school (though I was not then or now quite to the level of exceptionality that Patrick is-- I was gifted, not REALLY gifted...), in that I was actually removed from the Aim High program (our school's version of gifted/talented) because I couldn't reliably complete my homework on time. Or ever. I mean, I did all the fun homework, but if it was remotely mundane, I wasn't interested in finishing it, so I either finished it at school before I left, or it never got done, because I forgot about it. Or I didn't want to remember it, which is the same thing, I guess.

I may have already told you about this but just in case:


Patrick can test next spring to do UMTYMP starting in the fall of his 6th grade year, if you can stomach the thought of all the driving. They do try to facilitate carpools, at least.

My daughter tested and got in and is really excited about it. At the orientation meeting they discussed how the classes work and noted that most UMTYMP kids have had the experience where the math teacher explains a concept and they get it immediately. And then she spends three days doing examples before the rest of the class catches up. In UMTYMP they assume that you can read the examples in the book, if you need examples, and the teacher just moves on to the next explanation.

(If I had tried to do that math program, well, I wouldn't have gotten in, but if somehow I HAD gotten in it would have been a complete disaster. I needed the three days of examples.)

I am envious of this school.

When Molly was a preschool-aged chatterbox I would try telling her not to bother people, but mostly she would approach other parents so I always got a reproachful look and "she's not bothering me!" and they totally reinforced the exact behavior I was trying to discourage. Sigh.

If there's any joy in shared misery, both of my girls (turning 5 next month) enact wrenching parting scenes every morning. It certainly makes me feel better most mornings to think of Edward. And the following around the house and demanding that you answer his question? I've got one of those, too.

Our daughter wasn't as gregarious as Caroline as a small child, but she still flunked the "stranger-danger" part of her 4-year-old check-up because when the doc asked what you do when a stranger talks to you, she replied, "Wait until they are done talking to answer?"

Of course, by 6, she was over that. We had moved abroad, and she wouldn't talk to any of the old ladies who cooed over her because they might not have been able to have a child of their own and would snatch her, etc. *sigh*

I hope Caroline finds an acceptable middle ground, with your help, of course.

My son, god love him, every morning without fail still comes into my bed and asks hopefully "Is it the weekend yet?" and when answered in the negative then he weeps and flings himself about.

I used to read him a story after drop-off to help him ease into his day but my work has picked up so now mostly his dad and I just wave at him and leg it to work while he stares at us with sad puppy eyes and holds up a book with an equal measure of hope and melancholy.

Caroline can read? Wow. My son is the same age as her and still views reading as some sort of arcane rite.

Stranger Danger is vastly overestimated. In fact it can work against children who may be reluctant to approach strangers for help if they get lost and so on.

I work with children who were sexually abused and I haven't yet had a case in which the perpetrator was not a member of or known to the family (such as neighbour and so on).

I have had a friend of mine abducted by a stranger when she was a young woman, so it's not that it never happens, but it is very very very rare. (She escaped, the guy was caught). I also remember strangers exposing themselves to me when I was a child, but these weren't really dangerous - just unpleasant.

I think the best chance for keeping children safe is to help them trust their instincts and get them to memorise/create some safety rules. E.g.

* if you get a strange or uncomfortable feeling about someone, then don't approach them. You don't have to talk to them.

* don't be alone with a stranger, be where other people can see you so you could call for help.

* if you get lost, memorise your address and/or phone number so that you can ask a policeperson to call your parents.

* if you need help it's probably best to approach a person who has other children of their own and those other children don't seem frightened and so on.

* if someone asks you to keep a secret, don't. Okay secrets are nice things like a surprise for someone's birthday, but uncomfortable or unpleasant things should not be secret but you should tell mummy and daddy so that they can protect you.

While I wouldn't expect a 4 year old to be able to manage all that, I certainly would expect that a 6 year old could.

Also ask how she herself would know when something was dangerous, or when her company is unwanted by other people? What rules is she already using?

If Edward hasn't yet enjoyed "United Tweets of America: 50 State Birds, Their Stories, Their Glories" by Hudson Talbott, my own birder child suggests he should.

I have no advice on gregariousness, but wish you good luck. Lovely to see your font again.

Welcome back! You were missed.
Most of the times when I read your posts, I find myself laughing even before I reach the actual punchline(s). Your children are absolute treasures!
Good luck with Caroline, I'm in the camp that literally goes mute around strangers, so no helpful advice to give.

I see scores of people also recognized the Michelle Shocked quote, so huzzah for us. Reminds me of the recent Vanity Fair article about The Sopranos where one of the cast members phoned David Chase (the creator of the series), concerned that a reference to Matt Helm was too arcane. "And the phone was quiet for a moment. Finally David said, “Well, somebody will know.” Exactly! And thanks to my friend Google I now know what a Trone d'Amour is, too.

I'm so glad you posted. I was getting worried, which is absurd, but still.

I laughed and laughed over the attempt to enlist Caroline into helping Edward. Oh dear. She will most likely develop a little more empathy, but that is hilarious.

A note about the gregariousness--I have one who, now 7 years old, walks up to strangers, holds out his hand and introduces himself. And asks their name. It's like some kind of etiquette class from the 1950s. But he loves "making new friends" as he calls it, so I allow it. And we live in Manhattan. I find that although people are often startled (even the kids), everyone is won over by his charm (of which he has more than sufficient) and everyone ends up enjoying the experience. And he has been doing this for years and no kidnapping yet. I think it's probably safe to let Caroline approach strangers in your town too.

Oh Julia....how I have missed you!

My name is Inigo Montoya, you stepped on my hand when I was just sitting there, prepare to have your hand stepped on in return.

How did you know that this is my VERY FAVORITE MOVIE EVER. If you lived in Texas I just might have to invite myself over every day so My Julia and Caroline could play and you could entertain me with your witty remarks.

Please write more often. Seriously it makes my day when I read a post of yours!!!

Night Circus--more style over substance, if you ask me, although I think it could be made into a beautiful move.

For Caroline, don't make it a stranger thing (as someone wisely said earlier, "stranger danger" is overrated and not really what we should be teaching our kids). Make it an etiquette thing. Whether or not it's SAFE to chat up random strangers, it's not necessarily POLITE.

That picture of Patrick is really cute. I love his hair.
And the picture of Caroline kissing Edward's nape is way too adorable.

I love the picture of Patrick too and I do love the picture of Caroline kissing Edward too. I kiss my boys there all the time!!!

@Stephanie, great callback to the Michelle Shocked song. Sigh, I am in a relatively urban area of Southern CA and am realizing that the song could apply to me too. When did that happen?

Julia, As others have shared, your posts are something special, and I always feel like I used to when a hand-written letter had arrived in the mailbox.

Your kids are fabulous, and so is your storytelling.


Let us know what you figure out on the chatty Kathy scenario. My son will talk to anyone and tell them anything. And I, being somewhat social awkward, find most of it uncomfortable and am also afraid that he will be embarrassed or say something he shouldn't, although at this point it seems he doesn't notice like I do.

"Oh? Is he sad?" Made me laugh out loud. And then Edward and Patrick also made me laugh out loud.

And I wish my kid had a school like Patrick's. We just moved to a town where "the schools are amazing!" as everyone in the state tells us, and what we've found is that they seem to be geared very nicely to the 80-85%ile. However, the children in the 97th and up are somewhat bored. Arrg.

Thank you for making my Monday!

I would say avoid the "stranger" word all together because knowing Caroline (and myself) I could hear her saying, "Well, I have been talking to them and they are my new friend so they aren't strangers anymore!"

Might do it like, "Don't go anywhere with someone who is not friends with mommy - mommy has said they are friends."

Just love your posts! The antics of your kiddies make me smile every time and the fact that they are also cutie-pies is the icing on the cake!

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