Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wrestling with angels (revamped)

I love words. I am not athletic, at all. That tends to come through in my interactions with my children. Today, though, one of my angels was finding words inadequate. He required wrestling instead. There were a lot of little things that had stressed our relationship and his self control lately, and I've found that when he needs to connect, it needs to be physical. So, we spent all morning playing together.

In Michael Gurian's books about boys, he explains a lot about the neurodevelopment of boys and the biological differences in the way that their brains work. Among other things, they are wired for action. I see that in my girls, too, so I don't know how much of it is a gender thing, but I think that most of us are aware that all children need active play and plenty of large muscle action. Sometimes it is harder to put that into the context of our relationship and connection with them, but I believe it is vital.

All children need rough-housing and physical play with us. Just watching them at the park isn't enough. Part of our expression of love for them and theirs for us is best expressed physically. It's a lot easier to just let go and not be bothered, to send them to their room or a time out or whatever. But like Jacob in the Bible, the key to this wrestling match is in holding fast to them and not letting go.

So today we played our favorite pushing game where he grabs my hands and tries to push me backward. We wrestled. We played catch with rolled up socks. We snuggled and cuddled. We roared like lions and stomped like elephants to show our feelings. We laughed and tickled. (Quick aside--he loves tickling. Ariana hates it. Our children's bodies belong to them, and we make it clear that tickling is by invitation only. If anyone wants to stop, that must be respected immediately. Check out this article.)

Frankly, I'm exhausted. I'm totally convinced that it was worth it, though. I see our connection getting back to where it was before. I have a pretty good idea that tomorrow will involve more of the same (let's hope for a good night of sleep tonight!), but if I'm going to work out, I think the rewards from this will be far greater than merely burning calories.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A day for demonic apoidea and tineoidea

I recently described a perfect, idyllic day at that park. It was one of those which childhood dreams are made of. Today, we tried to recreate it, at least in part. Oh, my, what a miserable failure that was!

The morning started off well. The kidlets and I made chocolate chip scones together, read from The Little House in the Big Woods, and got a lot of schoolwork done. I decided that it would be a perfect day to picnic in our special place at the park. Some dear friends were going to meet us, the weather was beautiful--what more could we ask for? Quite a lot, as it turns out, specifically those special suits that beekeepers wear.

We had a good snack and met our friends. However, our dryad spot looked terribly denuded. Apparently, over the weekend, several branches were trimmed. It was still fun, but much of the magic was gone. Even worse, within a few minutes we heard an ominous buzzing. Bees, bees were everywhere! At least seven or eight were swarming around us, and others circled nearby. Ack!

We moved to another part of the park. The bees followed us. It was like a B-movie from decades past--The Swarm! I pitched the rest of our picnic, thinking they might be attracted by the fruit, but it didn't help. The swarm persisted. Thankfully, none of our allergies are to bee stings, but it was still a bit frightening.

We wandered throughout the park, hoping to escape the bees. There were always a few hovering, but we encountered another peril. Bagworms. They were present in plague-like proportions. As the kids began to count them in amazement, I tried to move away, only to inadvertently squish several. Eeeewwwww! You couldn't walk without stepping on them! :shudder:

Now, I am typically a live and let live type when it comes to bugs and creepy-crawlies. I don't mind spiders (unless I am startled by one extremely close), I like worms and crickets and other harmless things. But the relentless pursuit by the hordes of bees and bagworms at the park reminded me of the demonized hogs careening down the hill. We gave up. Amazing how our lovely fairyland from a couple of days ago had transformed into a scene from a horror movie!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

To dream the impossible dream...

Ariana and Joel have been discussing plans for the future, and both are extremely ambitious. Ariana has decided that along with being a chef, she will also be a musketeer. She practices swordfighting every day and is requesting that we move to Paris. Joel's plan is even more audacious: he solemnly informed me that he is going to be a rhino when he grows up. I just smile and nod and agree that their future sounds full of adventures.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A day for dryads

I haven't been blogging too much lately, I know, but I've had a drive to be out of the house and doing things with the kidlets the last few weeks. What have we been doing, you ask? Well, we've found two favorite new stores: Dollar Tree and Books a Million. Both have been fantastic sources for school supplies, and are inexpensive, too! Dollar Tree items are only a dollar, and they carry Spiderman workbooks for numbers and letters that delight Joelito. He begs to do schoolwork like Ariana now. Books a Million boasts a fantastic train set to play with, the best iced mochas anywhere, and 20% off any item that we want to use for homeschooling! Today, however, was a day for dryads.

We met Carlos for lunch, which always makes the day special, then he went back to work and we went to the park. It was one of those sparkly, fresh fall days where the weather is perfect (we get a couple weeks like that each year, but the rest seem to be unbearably hot or too cold).

The kids went on an exploring mission: rocks, trees, pebbles and leaves all were minutely examined. Elena was fascinated by the pebbles, and stopped every few feet to pick them up and look at them intently. Unfortunately, a few were tasted, too.

Joel was enthralled by the caterpillars, which were everywhere. But Ariana found our new favorite spot. Among some juniper trees, there is a small opening, like a door to fairyland. Once you duck through, there is plenty of room to climb, to hide, to play, or just smell the spicy fragrance of the berries and dream. We were there for over an hour in our little dryad wonderland.

After that, there were hills to climb and roll down, grass and clovers to play with, and squirrels and ants to observe. Most of our trees are still summer-green, but a few have turned a bright gold. With each puff of breeze, a shower would shimmy and swirl down, looking like giant pixie dust.

Of course, we enjoyed the slides, swings and monkey bars, too, but the real playground was the living part. We were there for several hours, and only left when I realized that I had missed two calls from Carlos telling us that he was off work and ready to meet us.

We met him at the bookstore, where the kidlets quenched their thirst with peach Italian sodas. Yum! Since Ariana has been begging to learn cursive, we found a great practice book. She read books, Joel played with the trains and squishy dinosaurs, and Elena hugged a stuffed cow and sang countless renditions of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm".

From there, we went back to the university, which was having an employee picnic. I would have thought that the kids would have worked up an appetite, but they were too excited by the giant inflatables to want to eat. We all climbed and jumped (Elena loved it!), they rode ponies, saw friends...and finally ate.

We are home at last. The sweetlings are filthy and tired but utterly content. A day when you really need a bath at the end is a good day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Verbal superpowers

Honesty is such an important thing to teach our children. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that it is something that the lines between reality and fantasy blur quite easily when you are young. For small children, words are magic. They are a superpower to change things. I love Crystal Lutton's article on this topic and wanted to share it with you all. It is a great resource for teaching our little ones to tell the truth. as magic

Monday, September 14, 2009

A mother's Psalm

Photo by YanivG
Psalm 134

Behold, bless the LORD, all servants of the LORD,
Who serve by night in the house of the LORD!
Lift up your hands to the sanctuary
And bless the LORD.
May the LORD bless you from Zion,
He who made heaven and earth.

There is something special about your service to Him and your family at night.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blue Christian's Blog

I am so excited to be able to share with you a new blog by a dedicated believer and Jesus-lover who is not a Republican. I think you will find his posts articulate and thought-provoking. Here is the addy: Christian's Blog

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When it rains...

After a drought in the blogging department, I've suddenly got several things to share. It has been raining literally, too, much to our delight. After our Psalms this morning, Ariana and I read more poetry, focusing on this one:

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

Langston Hughes

We listened to the watery music outside and cuddled and read good books, drank good coffee, and ate good banana bread.

We're seeing some exciting changes coming along with the turning of the seasons. It is always thrilling to me when God whispers the same thing to me and Carlos individually. Once we compare notes, the sense of anticipation and being close to Him and each other is amazing.

One potential change is a new position at work for Carlos. It will mean more hours, but also more money, more job security, more variety and challenge, more opportunities to use some of the unique gifts God has given him, and a far greater scope of ministry. It isn't 100% certain yet, but pretty close, and I can see God's hand dancing all over the direction for our family.

My BIL is finally starting a blog, and I am overjoyed. I've shared a couple of posts from him in the past, and I love seeing articulate, politically aware Christians share their views. So often we get drowned out by the crazies... ;) I'll be linking to his blog soon!

There were a couple of other things that I wanted to post, but I am forgetting already. Oh well. Maybe they'll come to me as I curl up with a good book, a mug of soup, and listen to the rain.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Better than expected

Don't you just love it when things turn out to be much better than you anticipated? I'm generally pretty optimistic, but when things are even better than I hoped, it spills sunshine all over my day.

We've had a few of those moments recently, so I thought I'd share:

Well-child-check-ups: The older two have a different doctor than the youngest. In fact, the reason that she isn't Elena's ped, too, is that she didn't feel comfortable with some of the choices we were making, like declining Hep B and eye ointment, even though there was absolutely no medical reason for either one. At the last visit, she suggested that I wean Joel. I love her thoroughness and aggressiveness when the kidlets are sick, but I was dreading the check-ups, thinking that she'd want me to vaccinate the kids and bring up weaning again.

Both kids passed the check-ups with flying colors, the doctor asked--instead of assuming--if I wanted to vax, and didn't even show disapproval with body language when I declined. Weaning wasn't mentioned. The only possible thing that any granola mom would have disliked was that she did retract Joel. However, since he is retractable, she was gentle, and he showed no discomfort, that wasn't a problem. It was just a helpful and pleasant visit. She also said that coming in the summer instead of during flu season was great. Yay! It made me very glad that we have stayed with her instead of switching peds.

Now, for some amazing product reviews: Xylitol and Turtle Mountain Dairy-free desserts. Joel always cried when I brushed his teeth, regardless of how gentle I was, because he said that the toothpaste burned his mouth. We have tried every flavor out there, including watermelon, bubble gum, berry and other "non-spicy" flavors. It didn't help. After reading about all the benefits of xylitol (Google if you haven't heard them yet), I found some locally. The kids are begging me to brush their teeth! They love it! And I do, too.

My dear friend, Dorm Mom, has reviewed Turtle Mountain's line of coconut milk products before, and I tried one and loved it. Afterwards, though, we had gone back to dairy and so I stopped. Since Joel has been having reactions to dairy again, I went looking for it, and found several new ones to try. Oh, my! If your dairy-free experience has been soy or rice, you have to try these! They are amazing! We had the yogurt last night, and an ice cream sandwich today. They are fabulous, and well-worth the price. Better than the dairy version, even.

I hope that today each of you find some special little (or big!) things that turn out better than you had anticipated that fill your day with smiles.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why so serious?

I love academics. Really. My husband and I are both teachers, I feel comfortable and happy in an academic environment, and always have. Yet, today while I was doing schoolwork with Ariana it hit me how differently we approach it, and it was humbling.

As soon as I suggested that she get started, she came bounding over, full of enthusiasm. I asked what she wanted to work on, and she wanted to practice writing with her phonics book. We went through several pages, and she kept asking for more. Her writing has improved tremendously, and she was making all the letters the correct size without being reminded and beginning at the top. She is decoding effortlessly most of the time, and knows which sounds are associated with the different letters.

I should have been as delighted as she was. Instead, I found myself increasingly frustrated as she happily doodled and added extra letters to the page. Rather than merely circling the letters that corresponded with the drawings, she began X-ing out the ones that didn't match the letter and drawing the correct letter underneath.

After working on the letter H, she started acting silly, giggling and scribbling and circling all over the page. I opened my mouth to reprimand her for messing up the page as she beamed and said, "Mom, this is hilarious! Get it? Hilarious goes with H!"

I stopped myself and looked and listened. I was getting upset because the page wasn't as nice and neat as I wanted it to be. What did I really want? A pristine page? For...what purpose? I wanted her to be serious. Why? Because learning isn't supposed to be fun, let alone hilarious? Ay, ay ay.

She was being far wiser than I in the moment. She was showing initiative, going beyond what was required, and incorporating even more skills than the exercise called for. Why was my instinct to shut it down as if that were a bad thing?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I love to fill quotas and put things into nice, neat little boxes and rows. I like the safety of following the letter of the law. But my five year old was following the spirit and delighting in it. We have barely begun the school year, and already I am learning new lessons. That is a good thing. I hope to capture the same joy that my daughter has in that.

Right after working on that, a friend linked me to this article, which, while on a slightly different topic, is still relevant, and very powerful. Check it out!