M is for Museum

"H! I have H! I have H! H! H! H!"

Laurel found a foam letter H in her art supplies. It was the first time I heard her identify H. The first letter she knew was M ("for Mark!"), and L, and then K for Katy, except she calls it "A". She was very, very excited when she found a second foam H in the box. Sometimes she looks at a street sign and says "What are those letters doing, mama?"

We went to the museum this weekend. Laurel asked to look at beautiful paintings and dinosaur bones. They have a kids section now, called M is for Museum, and there are lots of things to touch and do. C is for collection, and at that exhibit, you get a plastic bin that you can fill with whatever you want from this table piled with miniature frogs and rocks and plastic dinosaurs. When you are done, you label your collection and leave it on the shelf so that other visitors can look at it. I love this way of teaching that a museum is a place of collections. It made me think of all the strange museums I've been to over the years, and people's houses that are filled with collections of one kind or another.

When we went to art side of the museum, Laurel was tired and fussy and she kept saying, "No! That is not a painting!" at all my favorite Impressionist paintings until we got to Mark Rothko and then she seemed satisfied that she had seen what she had come for. She fell deeply asleep in the car on the way home and I carried her inside and slipped her shoes off without her even stirring. When she woke up, she wanted to paint. Her paintings were colorful and heavy with paint and featured dinosaurs.

At bedtime, she curled up next to M and recited many lines out of the Lorax, and went to sleep as soon as the book was finished - unusual, but probably due to the fact that we kept her up very late because we were too busy roasting rutabaga and golden beets to pay attention to the clock. (It's a delicious combination, by the way.)

I'm amazed to watch her literacy develop so effortlessly. I've been passing out pamphlets for years, advising parents to do a "few simple things" to ensure school readiness, and it's funny to be following that advice myself and seeing that it actually does work, without it being a lot of work. We've been reading every evening before bed since she was about two months old, usually 2-3 books per day. Over a thousand stories she's heard. It's strange to see how nightly rituals add up over the years. Part of the pleasure is the books, for sure. M and I rediscovered the strange imagination of Maurice Sendak lately. But I think what makes it a sustainable ritual is all of us piled up in bed. Squirmy Laurel jumping from one lap to another. Turning pages. Giving kisses. Best part of the day.

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