Even More Powers of Henry

We’ve been reading Powers of Ten and watching the film. I’m not sure how Henry and Brad got going on this, but one day recently the obsession began. We have been talking a lot about the sizes of things. Henry loves both the book and the film. Both Brad and I remember seeing the film as youngsters and really enjoying it. In the film, you begin with a man sleeping on a picnic blanket spread out by the lake in Chicago. You proceed outward widening your view by a power of 10 every 10 seconds until you are looking at the vastness of space with the great distances between galaxies spread out before you. Then, you zoom back in to the man, and then continue on into his hand, decreasing your field of view by a power of 10 every 10 seconds until you get down to inside the nucleus of a carbon atom inside a cell inside the man. It’s fascinating.

Last week, we went driving around in our minivan because Henry was sick and so we couldn’t actually go anywhere around people but we were all so tired of being in our house, what with the rain and darkness and sameness of it all. Henry watched this film over and over for the two hours we spent driving around. (Yes, he could have done this just as well at home. The drive was for me and Brad, an attempt to keep at bay the insanity of being stuck in our house for another rainy day. Also, Charlie loves taking naps in the moving minivan. So it was good. The minivan is very, very good.) After this repeated watching, Henry seemed done with it and didn’t watch it again for a few days. Then, a few nights on, after dinner I was trying to find something for Henry to do that didn’t involve being loud or watching TV or playing on the computer and that did involve drawing or writing, and I was coaxing and making suggestions. (“Hey, how about a dinosaur, like a pteranodon? No? A house, then? Plants, flowers, people, shapes? Lines? Dots? Jabs at the page? Anything?” as he gingerly held a marker and made a few unenthusiastic stabs at the paper.) Frustrated, I took a bunch of different colors of construction paper and laid them out on the table and then all over the kitchen floor and I pointed at the one closest to his hand and said, “On this one, draw part of the biggest thing you can think of.” Then I pointed to one of the pieces of paper on the floor and said, “Draw the smallest thing you can think of there. And then,” I continued, gesturing to all the other pieces, but he cut me off. “This is a girl riding her bicycle on the Burke-Gilman trail,” he announced, making a few squiggles and lines on his paper. Moving on to the next nearest piece, he went on: “Here you can barely see the girl anymore; this is the huge hill by UVillage.” (More squiggles and lines.) On the next piece of paper, he said you could almost see the whole earth; on the next piece, the earth was a dot. And so on, through the solar system, out to the Milky Way, and beyond. And, then he drew successive pictures from the girl’s hand down into her skin, into a white blood cell, down to the nucleus of a carbon atom. He gathered up all the pages in the correct order. The next day, we stapled and taped them into a book (his idea). We then went through and wrote the words to the book (I wrote the words as he dictated them, though he did write a few on his own, and he also wrote all the powers of 10 that went with each picture, getting a little crazy with the negative ones, including a -10000 power.) No, none of the drawings really looked a lot like what they were supposed to be. Well, the orbiting planets and electrons kind of did. His handwriting was shaky and difficult to read. But, he kept going. He didn’t freak out that he couldn’t make it look exactly the way he wanted or write the numbers exactly right. He was just consumed by the doing of it, talking it all through as he went, moving from page to page on the floor intent on his project. He calls it “Even More Powers of Ten.”

In Charlie news, we failed to report the arrival of two lower teeth. More to come very soon, we suspect. Charlie is starting to develop enthusiasms. He loves this one hook in our dining room. Really. We have many decorative hooks in our house, because several rooms have picture rail. The hook in the dining room is his favorite. It’s a simple, nearly black metal hook and whenever Charlie sees it he starts grinning and waving his arms and, when you lift him up close to the hook, he gets very animated. He sometimes looks at the picture that hangs from this hook but usually his eyes go right up to the hook itself. Also, he is fascinated with hats. Whenever one of us wears a hat, he stares and stares and sometimes laughs and often tries to pull the hat off. Especially when the wearer is Brad. Today, at the park (which we were able to go to because it was sunny! thank god! with blue sky!), we met another baby (a 6 month old as big as Charlie!) who was wearing a knit cap, until Charlie pulled it off. We had dinner at Burgermaster, because it is important to keep the good nutrition going in times of distress. We sat at a booth right next to the coat rack, full of hooks! with a hat! on one of them. This kept Charlie occupied for a good five minutes. It only got ugly when he realized no one was going to lift him up to inspect more closely these hooks with their hat.