Thursday, August 16, 2007

Veeka and the Big Guy

Well, at some point we need to instruct Veeka on how the universe is set up so I've taken to setting a painting - well, icon, really - of a Russian angel by her bed. But I figured I needed to personalize this a bit, so on one of her 10 flashcards is the name "JESUS."
Now, the other flashcards have pictures on them, ie photos of "shoes" and "Mommy" and "Veeka" and "ball," etc., that I was able to clip out of places like Parents magazine. But where to find a mug shot of You Know Who? Well, I thought, I get 5 zillion Christian magazines at home and at work. Surely, there must be a good Jesus photo in there *somewhere.*
I am here to tell you that there was not. I looked everywhere, first starting out in the venerables, ie Christianity Today, Charisma and Ministries Today. Nada. I went further afield, searching Sojourners (there was stuff of Desmond Tutu but not Christ), the Wittenburg Door (Jesus in a superman outfit was all I could find and I didn't think Veeka would comprehend that message), Human Life Review, Crisis (lots of Catholic saints but no saviour), Books and Culture, Cutting Edge....nothing.
Surely, I thought, there must be something wrong. I went really radical, searching through Sunstone (a Mormon publication), Christian Challenge and even Free Inquiry, a magazine for atheists. I paged through some old Christmas cards but I didn't want Veeka to mistake Jesus-the-baby for a playmate. I had the cover of "The Passion" soundtrack on hand but trying to explain to Veeka who this very sad, bloodied man is with His face half in the shadow - hmmmm; let's wait on that a few years.
There's a commentary in here somewhere and I'm fumbling for what this all means. Is there such a thing as something or Someone being so meaningful, we dare not carry any pictures at all? That's the route Muslims and Jews have taken. Or is the current attempts at portraying Him are so awful, magazines don't want to run them? Or...? I cast about for paintings by Ed Knippers, a local artist who's known in many, many places for his fabulous, albeit startling huge paintings of Jesus - all in the nude. I love his work but it's a tad violent for a 2-year-old. Other stuff, say the Salvador Dali print shown here, doesn't show His face. I was amazed at how much art I saw on the Internet was either super stylized (ie Jesus as a stick figure) or too Thomas Kincaid-style sentimentalized.
A number of years back, I was putting together an article for the Houston Chronicle religion section on decent 20th-century art of the Virgin Mary and I ran into similar problems. So one ends up borrowing from the movies or - in Mary's case - drawings of how she appeared to the Medjugorje visionaries. I bought a statue of the Medjugorje Mary when I was over there in 1990 as I thought it was one of the more decent representations I'd seen of her.
Which brings up another pet peeve: religious Christmas stamps. I hate them. The US Postal Service always picks the least likeable renditions of Mother and Child with the worse color schemes imaginable and slaps them all onto a stamp. I usually buy Hanukkah or Ramadan stamps - they're much prettier. There must be such a thing as dishonoring God through bad art; if so, the USPS wins that one hands down.
If anyone has a recent head shot of the Second Person of the Trinity, please pass it along.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Veeka and the therapists

Well, there is one big challenge for our little pumpkin and that's learning English. Now, all she heard up until mid-February was Russian. Then she had me for six weeks and then she entered a daycare where half the time, she's addressed in Bulgarian. So, language process has been a tad slow, which is why three therapists from Fairfax County spent Thursday morning with us for that all-important assessment that gets her help sooner rather than later from a speech therapist.
I am proud to say that Miss Veeka impressed everyone with how quickly she was able to follow instructions, do complex movements and even throw a tantrum on command. They termed her "fun, alert, social and active," adding that she likes to "show others her toys and mosquito bites, expecting answers." They were very impressed with how she was able to spoon her cereal into her mouth using a medium-sized spoon without spilling any of the milk. When the therapist would build a tower of colorful blocks, Veeka would copy her.
So, we set up some goals, ie by November being able to follow directions without a gesture on my part. And by February she needs to have learned at least 20 new words. Soooo, the next day, I went out and bought poster board for all the flash cards we're doing to start working on.
We are also working lots of New Experiences for our little girl. Every other day I try to get her to the local pool where she has really taken to splashing about. She is absolutely unafraid of the water so I cling to her like a leech, as the girl keeps on striking out into water over her head. So I take her to within a foot of the ladder, then push her, so she can get that feeling of propulsion while also learning how to go for the side of the pool.
And today we visited the most amazing park I have ever been into in terms of playground equipment: Clemyjontri Park in McLean, Va. - if you want to take a look - truly amazing stuff. Very advanced play equipment is scattered over two acres, all placed on a rubber surface (for kids in wheelchairs) along with tons of ramps, swings, slides, balance beams, a maze, teetertotters and of course a carousel. Well, that's just one-tenth of it. Then we went out for dinner at The Family Restaurant, a comfy place in Mclean owned by Greeks where I ordered Veeka a children's plate. All she would eat was the French fries, as she was very fascinated with how one could pour ketchup onto the place, then dip a fry into it and - yum, yum! - eat it.
Veeka is pictured here showing off her little sheep purse. She now weighs 23 pounds and Mommy is having to visit the chiropracter more for help with all those sore muscles that come from slinging Our Rapidly Growing Pumpkin around.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Play time

As temperatures here in the lovely Washington area rocketed into the high 80s and low 90s in May and basically have stayed there, I've learned that whatever I do with Veeka, it's important she keep her princess-like cool. Thus, I am fast discovering every park and swim hole within 100 miles. Three weekends ago, we headed to a local water park. Now THAT was a good idea. Lots of wet stuff to splash in, lots of cool slides to go down and tubes to float in. We will try another local one this weekend.
Our love of water came after a bad experience at Glen Echo, a place in Maryland along the Potomac River where I used to go as a little girl. Back in those days, they had a pool. Well, no more. We went one Sunday morning and about wilted in the zillion-degree heat. The only thing that kept Veeka going was the carousel (pictured here) which she rode on twice. With Veeka, anything that combines music and motion is sure to be a winner.
Life continues apace as Veeka learns important lessons, such as How To Lick A Popsicle. I forget when and how I learned this lesson, but be forewarned, one must teach a little one exactly how to get all that ice cream down her gullet without leaving much of it on the floor or on the kitty. After one unhappy experiment with a chocolate popsicle that melted too fast, I decided to get ice cream that stayed within a cone. This turned out much better. She adored placing her tongue on the ice cream and actually having some of it stick to her mouth. Wheee! If she licked too slowly, Mommy would grab her cone and slurp up the rapidly dripping sweet stuff. Thus, Veeka learned that if she wanted to retain her dessert at all, she'd better lick fast.
Then I had to teach her that one needs to EAT the cone. Hmmmm. This was a new experience. I finally got her to try this by breaking off pieces of the cone and placing them in *my* mouth and saying, "Yum! Yum!" Soon Veeka was gingerly licking the cone as well. She learned that if she imbibed too slowly, Mommy would eat everything.
By this time, we have learned that it's best to experiment in controlled conditions. Mommy learned the hard way last week when she took Veeka to Starbucks. While her mother gets an iced cafe latte, Veeka gets her own carton of chocolate milk. As Veeka watched, two other little girls sipped from *their* cartons with much aplomb. Veeka followed suit, leaving her mother to assume that once in the car seat, she would professionally down the whole carton.
Well, she dispatched the milk all right - right into the base of the car seat. About 20 minutes later, her mother lifted up a wet child to find enormous puddles of chocolate milk just sitting in two hard-to-reach areas of the seat. Fortunately Mommy had a pile of napkins sitting there from a venture to Cosi's the night before soooo, fwump, fwump, fwump - all those napkins got shoved into the car seat crevices to soak up the wet stuff.
Veeka thought all that was pretty funny. She's already planning what do to when handed her first milk shake.