W is for Wrinkly Brain


This post was written for VIU’s 5X5X25 Challenge.


My son is two years old, four months, and 26 days old, and he is a genius.

No, really.  He read his first story book to me and my husband this weekend.

Okay – it was Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon and he took some liberties with the text – but still.  He’s heard enough of the book to recognize what part of the story goes with what picture (sort of) and can just about read the whole book himself.  And to me, that’s amazing.

When I was a kid, I remember hearing some sort of “fact” that said that the average human brain gets a wrinkle every time it learns something new.  This “fact” concluded with a little tidbit that encouraged the listener to think of how wrinkly one’s brain would get after reading a book.  That little visual stuck with me for many years.  As an avid reader, how wrinkly is my brain now?

Sadly, a quick Google search informs me that this “fact” is mere B.S., and that when you’re born, your brain is just about as wrinkly as it’s ever going to get.  But imagine what you learn, what new neural connections are made every time you read something new?

For example, just from having heard the story so many times, my son was able to demonstrate that he knew that in the great green room there was a telephone, and a red balloon, and a picture of “a cow jum’ing o’er a moon.”  Sure, he has no idea what a bowl full of mush is or why there’s an old lady whispering “hush” but he knows that you say goodnight to them, even if it’s just to be polite.  And that’s more than he knew two months ago, when he was still a passive member of our nightly storytelling gang.

I know it won’t end there; in fact, it’s just the beginning.  He’s already starting to anticipate the narrative in other favourites like A Cuddle for Little Duck and A Kiss for Little Kitten, both by the admirable Claire Freedman.  Alaska’s ABC Bears (Shannon Cartwright), with its S-is-for-swimming-bear and L-is-for-little-bear, has been mastered, even if he’s not sure what x-is-for-xray-bear really means.  But he’ll pick up the details later; for now, it’s all about collecting new words.

I can’t wait to introduce him to some of the books I read when I was younger, like James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl) and Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder).  Stories like these sparked my imagination and sense of creativity, and taught me a thing or two about friends and family and overcoming giant-peach-sized obstacles.  And oh, all the new words!

Books have taught me so much already, and I learn every time I pick another one up.  What will they teach him?  How wrinkly will his brain get?


Righty-Tighty, Lefty-Lovey

This post was written for VIU’s 5X5X25 Challenge.


My grandmother had magical hands.

Oh, she couldn’t move solid objects with a flick of her wrists but she was exceptionally gifted at transformation.  Flour, sugar, and butter were magically whipped into feather-light shortbread; yards of fabric could be reformed into skirts and dresses in no time at all.  Yarns were knitted into a staggering number of sweaters, hats, scarves, and baby clothes, each of them soft and durable, most of them destined for her favourite charities.  And she was more than happy to pass on the secrets of her magic to anyone who wanted to know them.

As I grew older, I wanted to know all these secrets, how to bend ingredients and textiles to my will.  Grandma taught me as much as she could, but when it came to knitting, we got hung up on one little thing: I am left-handed.

In fact,  I am very left-handed, so left-handed that I am forbidden by family to cut bread and set the table because I do it all wrong.  Grandma found it difficult to teach someone so left-handed something she could only do right-handed.  But we tried, sitting down with yarn and needles.  Right became left, left became right.  After a few starts, we got muddled and gave up, and concentrated on other shared passions, like shortbread.

A few years ago, as my girlfriends started having babies, I wanted to create blankets to wrap these wee newborns in.  I found a book in the library that showed me how to crochet left-handed, a skill I mastered with glee.  I churned out a few blankets and other assorted projects in crochet before I decided to look for a book or DVD or something to help me learn how to knit left-handed.  Luckily, the library came to my rescue, and one day, I sat down with a book, ball of yarn, and set of needles, ready to take on the task.

But it felt so wrong.  So, so wrong.

Right didn’t want to coordinate motions with left, left became confused and couldn’t wrap yarn around the point of the needle.

So I tried the other way.  Right was right, left was left.


Needles clicked and clacked together (although slowly and not without error at first); yarn slid through fingers and around needles like silk.  Who knew – I could knit the conventional way!

I was quick to relay the story to my grandmother, and we lamented the lost years that we could have spent knitting together if we had only figured this out sooner.  But when one is so accustomed to doing things one specific way, it can be difficult to try something completely different, isn’t it?