February 2010

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My daughter is now old enough that I can ask her to remind me of things, and there is a better chance that she’ll remember than that I will.  Of course, this only works with things that she values, but I still find it to be quite practical for my own sake, with the added bonus that she gets to exercise her memory and enjoy the rewards of doing so.

I realized this explicitly one morning when I told her to remind me after school to show her a video of hang gliding.  (She is still fascinated with flying and I’ve been telling her about all the ways that people can fly, even though we don’t have wings.)  I said, “I can show you a video of hang gliding.  Remind me after school.  Tell me that you want to see the video of hang gliding.  Can you say ‘hang gliding?’”


“Good.  Hang gliding.  Remind me after school, ok?”


Driving home after school, after we had talked about what work she did at school and what she wanted for lunch, she suddenly said,


It’s all about values.

I think we have a new host this week!  The Secular Foxhole has published The Objectivist Round Up.  There are 4 parenting posts this week, and a lot of other great stuff.  Check it out!

This Teaching Moment is one of my favorite kinds.  It doesn’t really teach Sammy something specific, but is just a way to identify and emphasize my values. 

Sammy and I were in the car and I was listening to Diana Hsieh’s latest Atlas Shrugged podcast.  I stopped the playback to think about something she said, and Sammy said, WHAT HAPPENED TO DI-NANA, MOMMY? 

“I turned it off.”


“Because I’m thinking.”


“Because Diana has interesting things to say and they make me think.  That’s why I like to listen to her – because I like to think.”

Sammy and I were eating applesauce out of those little disposable cups, using regular, stainless steel spoons.  When I finished, I set my spoon on my napkin.  Sammy said, WHERE’S YOUR SPOON, MOMMY?  “It’s here on my napkin.”  YOU PUT IT THERE SO YOUR CUP DOESN’T FALL OVER.  “That’s right – if I set it in the cup, the cup tips over, like this.”  I put my spoon in my cup and it tipped over.  Sammy knows how this works from her own experiments, but I was impressed that she could identify the reason I set my spoon on the napkin.

After I showed her how it tipped over, I suggested she try her own, which was still about half full.  IT DOESN’T TIP OVER, MOMMY!  “Do you know why yours stays up and mine tips over?”  BECAUSE MINE STILL HAS APPLESAUCE IN IT!  “That’s right!  Because it still has applesauce in it, it is heavier.  See, lift them both up.”  And she picked up the empty and the half-full cups to feel their weight. (I didn’t want to teach her about how the weight was distributed, just the simplest, observable facts.)

Then I asked her, “What do you think will happen if I put water in my cup?”  I poured some water from her glass into my cup.  “Do you think it will stand up?”  YES.  “Look, you’re right.  It’s heavier with the water in it so it stands up.”

Then  we had fun pouring water back and forth and testing our theory.  I wanted to try just a bit of water and show her that if there was not enough, it would not stand, but there was too much spilling before we got there. 

It’s not too difficult to find “teaching moments” like this, since a 3-year-old is constantly noticing things, experimenting, and asking WHY?  Sammy is finally into the WHY stage in a big way and I’m loving it.  This is the part of parenting that I’ve been looking forward to!  I hope I can build a good thread of Teaching Moments here on my blog, because these are true Little Things.

New Experiences

Sammy has grown up so much in the past month.  She now sleeps in a real bed, in a room that feels more like a kid’s than a baby’s.  She’s learning how to deal with social situations in a more independent way, such as learning to introduce herself, ask someone’s name, and to interrupt with, “Excuse me.”  And, she’s had a lot of new experiences lately.  There was the New York trip in December, then the chaos of home improvement in January, the snow in February, and in the past week, she’s gone ice skating and to her first rock concert.

Ice skating was about what I had expected.  It took about 20 minutes to get her skates on.  NO, MOMMY, THEY’RE TOO TIGHT!  DO IT RIGHT, MOMMY!  She had a valid complaint.  It’s very difficult to know just how tight to pull those laces.  We went to an outdoor rink and it was about 34 degrees out, so it was deserted, which was perfect.  If there had been skaters whizzing by, I don’t think she would have gotten on the ice at all.  As it was, she watched me a bit, and was willing to come out on the ice 4 times, each time starting out scared-curious, each time ending with just scared, but after returning to the safety of non-slippery ground, each time wanting more.

Sam has really turned a corner with her persistence.  She seems to have learned the lesson that practice and trying lead to success, at least at a rudimentary level.  She now works on things.  She’s been working on buttons, getting her shoes on, locking the front door, and other things that I can’t think of right now.  But I definitely see a difference in her willingness to try and fail.  Hopefully this is a lesson that will be naturally reinforced as she tries and succeeds with all the new things that she continues to work on.

On Saturday, we took Sammy to a bar where some neighborhood kids were playing in their band which is organized through their music school, The School of Rock.  It was a real rock concert – loud and raw, with covers of songs from “The Monster Mash” to “Sympathy for the Devil.”  Our neighbors were great!  As usual, it took Sammy about a half-hour to get used to the new situation.  Her M.O. is to just sit and observe quietly until she decides something is ok.  She looks spaced out, and won’t engage, and if you didn’t know her, you’d say she was just off on another planet.  But she is observing, taking it all in, and judging.  Adam and I didn’t know how this outing would go because last year, Sammy decided she didn’t like loud things.  She wouldn’t even go to a movie.  But we sat in the back and it was tolerable.  And after her usual half-hour, she let loose and started dancing and doing the rocker’s headbanging.  Unfortunately, when she started, she was sitting at the table and literally banged her head on the table twice before she got to her feet and had some space!  But after that, she was the star of the bar.  It was unbearably cute – this tiny girl rockin’ out, flipping her hair up and down, falling to her knees and banging the floor with her fists, and, of course, spinning, her trademark dance move.  She really listens to the music – when there is a pause she’ll stop in a dramatic pose, and then when it kicks in again she’ll be back to her crazy moves.  It was also interesting to see how differently she dances to loud rock music than she does to the stuff we play at home.  It all just confirms to me how musical she is.

Adam tried to get some video of the whole thing, but it was too dark.  What a shame.  Luckily, I can give you a little taste of the dancing with this video I took after the ice skating.  Her concert performance was much better, but you can see a bit of the head movements here.  Imagine the head flipping doubled in intensity with jumping and wiggling and spinning mixed in, and you’ll have an idea of what a born rocker our daughter is:

Lynne has the Objectivist Round Up this week at 3 Ring Binder.

Two Cute Quotes

After dropping a piece of food on to her chair in between her legs:  I DROPPED IT AND MY BOTTOM CAUGHT IT!

Mom:  Sammy, you can have an M&M when you finish your lunch.

Sammy got some great loot for Christmas and I’ve been wanting to write about all of it, but I only have time for a quick post today, so I’ll tell you about my favorite gift that she received.

Adam’s aunt and uncle sent Sam a few CD’s from this great collection from “Classical Kids - A Symphony of Stories for all Ages.”   They are like audio books with music.  A story is told about a famous composer - Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven, etc. - and his music is played in the background, and as part of the story.  There is a little bit of historical accuracy in the stories, but they really aren’t meant to teach you about the composer.  Here is the description from Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery:

The story:  Katarina, a young violinist, arrives at the Pieta orphanage where Antonio Vivaldi was music director.  Aided by Giovanni the gondolier, she searches throughout Venice for clues to her mysterious past.

The Music:  Over two dozen excerpts, including Vivaldi’s best-loved Four Seasons (with real sound effects), guitar, piccolo and trumpet concertos.  Also featured are many of the violin pieces played by young violinists today.

Sammy loves these stories so much.  I think she is listening to the music in a more active way.  I’m fine with excerpts, as opposed to whole pieces.  At her age, it might even be a better way to listen.  We listen to all kinds of music at home, including classical, but the way the stories are interwoven with the music is a whole new experience for her.  She just stands and listens, totally captivated.

I’d been meaning to get her some audio books but hadn’t found anything that seemed right.  These are perfect.  There were times during our snow days that she would listen to Vivaldi three times in a row, and it is over 45 minutes long!  Obviously, this is wonderful for me too.  This is a real alternative to television when I simply must have a break. 

I think these CD’s are a perfect gift for kids from 2-12.  And parents will appreciate it too!

She did it again!  She improvised an instrument!  I especially love how she interrupts her song to scratch an itch and then picks it back up right where she left off:

(Link to video)

I still hate snow.  Not only did the 2 storms bring all normal activity to a halt for 12 days, but somehow being housebound caused Sammy to stop using the potty.  Not only is she back to pooping in her pants 5-6 times per day (I’m not exaggerating) but she has started peeing on the floor as well.  It’s a nightmare.  This is not regression.  She was never this bad, even the first day we took off the diapers.  This is devolution.  Anyway…

We did have a lot of fun playing in the snow.  Here are the best photos from the past 2 weeks.

We know it’s a bad storm when the garbage can turns into a garden gnome:

These are cars:

This was taken before our neighbors so kindly gave us their daughter’s old snowsuit for Sam.  We never bought her any real snow clothing since it doesn’t snow more than an inch or two in Virginia:

The walls of snow were so high that Sammy could make vertical snow angels, especially once she had her new snow suit:

This one is just plain cute:

Someone built a snow fort (and a snowman) in the park across the street:

This is our next door neighbor, H.  He’s 8 years old and likes to dig big holes in the snow and then climb in.  In the background you can see the blue street sign with the snow piled up almost to the top of it:

Ok, so I don’t really hate snow.  We had a great time.  Going outside was like joining a big block party, but instead of drinking and grilling, there was snow shoveling and sledding.  It just all went on a little bit too long, and it ended with a pre-planned “mid-winter” break at Sammy’s school, which brought the total consecutive days off of school to eight.  I can now say that I fully relate to this old commercial.  (It’s one of the pleasures I’ll have to forego as a homeschooler, but hey, everything has its pros and cons):


The month of January was home improvement month here at the Mossoff house.  It really started in December and it’s continuing into February, but January was basically all-chaos, all-the-time.  I’m proud to say I only flipped out once or twice!

We’re nowhere near done yet – this house was a real mess when we moved in – but we did enough that I feel like we live in a mostly nice place now.  And I finally have photos!

We installed new lighting – new fixtures in the dining room and foyer and recessed lights in the kitchen and basement.  These photos were taken before we repaired and painted the ceilings, but isn’t that chandelier awesome?





We moved Sammy to her new bedroom.  (She picked the pretty blue paint color and the girly pink lamp.)  This project included moving Adam’s office to the basement bedroom, painting, installing closet shelving, buying and setting up Sam’s “big girl bed,” and all the little details of setting up a little girl’s room.  We also had to do some touch-up painting in the old room, which is going to eventually be the nursery for SS:

Sam's old room

Sam's new room

Since we have two really brightly colored bedrooms right next to each other, we decided to paint the dormer windows the same color as the other bedroom.  This really integrates the two rooms.  I love them both!  And Sammy was totally fine moving to her new room.  She moved to 5 new houses in her first 3 years of life, so change is not a problem for her.

A while back, I moved Sam’s playroom from the dining room into the kitchen eating area.  The only problem with that was the hard, tile floor in the kitchen.  To solve that, we installed a large Flor area rug, and now we have a really wonderful playroom:

New playroom

And finally, the best improvement of all was the painting.  We painted the whole main level except the powder room, plus the upstairs hall, which was a mess.  You can’t see the colors too well in photos, but we’re very happy with them.  It’s all very clean and modern.  You can see the pumpkin color of the playroom above.  The cooking part of the kitchen is yellow, and the separate colors help to define both rooms nicely:

Yellow kitchen

Here’s a shot that shows the blue of the dining room next to the grey of the living room and hallways.  We picked cool colors to balance out the really warm orange tones of the bookcases and floors:

Blue and Grey

I really dig the fact that our dining room has warm, orange floors and blue walls, and the playroom has warm, orange walls and a blue floor.  Again, the integration by reverse colors.  It’s impossible to get a good photo of it, though.

And then, of course, we replaced the dishwasher and hot water heater, both of which died during this process.  You can see the boring diswasher in the kitchen photo.  I just bought something to last the next 3 years or so, since we’ll have to completely update the kitchen at some point.  It’s very loud and doesn’t clean the dishes well, but I think it will get us through.

Now we just have to get all of our art back up on the walls.  If we get it done by the end of the month, we’ll be in good shape!

Titanic Deck Chairs hosts the Objectivist Round Up this week.  Enjoy!

The 2010 Objectivist Summer Conference schedule and details are here!  I’m super excited because we are actually going this year.  That’s a certainty, because my husband, Adam Mossoff, is giving a general lecture - Intellectual Property Rights: Securing the Values of the Mind.  Here is the session description from the OCON web site:

The extraordinary achievements in the modern pharmaceutical, biotech, telecommunications and computer industries are dramatic evidence of the significance of intellectual property rights to man’s life. Yet patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights are under attack—theoretically, morally and legally.

This lecture explains why intellectual property rights are fundamentally important property rights by grounding them in the values that man must conceive and produce in order to live and flourish.

Fundamentally, all property is at root intellectual property, which is why Ayn Rand believes that intellectual property rights represent “the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his own mind.” In explaining why this is the case, this lecture identifies the radical political and legal implications of Rand’s innovative ethical theory, such as her novel concept of value and her discovery of the role of man’s mind in sustaining his life.

Adam’s presentation at the conference will be geared toward Objectivists, but this lecture is not some side-line of his intellectual work as a law professor.  This is his intellectual work!  And if you are thinking about how lucky he is to be able to do this for a living, shame on you.  Luck had nothing to do with it.  Adam created this career for himself through a relentless, passionate, independent, selfish quest.  There was no road-map for him, and being an Objectivist made everything more challenging.  And just last month, the faculty at George Mason University School of Law voted in favor of tenure for him.  There are a few, mostly bureaucratic, hurdles left, but we can pretty safely say that Adam has earned tenure!

I’ve learned so much from the way Adam has managed his career goals, and if you can’t tell, I admire him greatly for it.  I actually think that he could give a conference lecture on the subject of pursuing a career in academia, but in the meantime, he’s promised to guest blog about it here sometime in the near future.

Anyway, I hope to see and/or meet many of my readers at the conference.  With Leonard Peikoff giving another series of lectures on his DIM Hypothesis, Adam’s lecture, and what looks to be a really nice venue, it should be quite an event!

I Hate Snow!

This is how I feel about snow right now.   And, like Lorelai, I don’t need a physics lesson right now, no matter how well it’s intentioned:

Snow and Books

So here we are, virtually snowed in for the fifth straight day and waiting for yet another storm.  (As a friend of mine said: “In December we had the Snowpocalypse. This weekend it was Snowmageddon. Coming our way tonight and tomorrow: Snoverkill.”)

You’d think that I’d have plenty of time to blog, being house-bound with Adam at home to help with Sam and all the chores; but I can’t seem to get anything done.  I’m falling behind on the laundry and dishes, I keep forgetting to cook dinner, and the “postpone” hotkey on my task list program is getting worn out.

I was heartened to see that the library was open today and that it was packed!  I guess people do read, after all.  I’ve been reading a lot too, so I guess I’ll do a quick report on the last two books I’ve read, both for my book club.

First, I re-read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.  I love Jane Austen more each time I read her.  This time around, I finally started understanding her ironic sense of humor.  I was fascinated with the portrayals of “sense” and “sensibility” in the novel, and surprisingly, I was much more sympathetic to the characters who displayed an overabundance of sensibility than I had been in previous readings!  I found that, because Austen accepts the ethics of her times, “sense” includes a heavy dose of altruism and duty.  The (sensible) character of Elinor, although hugely admirable in her strength and moral ambitiousness, is much too concerned about the feelings and fate of others.  She also represses (not just suppresses) her emotions.  I still love her dearly, but I didn’t see her as the clearly better half of the sister-pair.  In fact, I ended up admiring the overly-emotional Marianne even more in the end, because she seemed to grow into a much more sensible person by learning from the trials of herself and of her sister.  The fact that I see these characters quite differently than I did 10 years ago showed me a lot about how I have changed in that time.  What a powerful psychological insight Jane Austen has, and no wonder this is a classic.

Next, I read The Butler Did It, by P.G. Wodehouse.  For the book club, we were supposed to read Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, but I got the wrong book from the library (a compilation of 5 other novels) and decided to read this short one instead.  It was quite fun!  I loved the humor and the ridiculous ever-twisting plot, and I got quite a few of the literary references (although I’m sure I missed more than I caught).  The end was disappointing.  It had a little twist, but it wasn’t something that made me think, “Of course!  That makes everything else make sense and of course it had to be that way.”  It was more like, “Oh, that’s cute.”  I’d read more by Wodehouse, but I probably won’t seek him out.

I have Getting Things Done reserved at the library but it hasn’t come in yet.  Maybe by the time it does, the roads will be cleared and I’ll be able to go pick it up.  Probably not.

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