Friday, June 29, 2012

Funny Little Things



Some funny little happenings around here. 

We went to my cousin's wedding.  I left my house in a huge mess, worried I wouldn't be ready for the scout party the next day, but it worked out okay.  We had a wonderful time in a little outdoor area at the wedding, sitting under trees filtering afternoon sunlight and the sounds of a little waterfall and children playing in gravelly rocks in their vests and bow ties.  My ten year-old sat by my grandma and explained to her his drinking problem-- he has always loved to drink and drink and drink at meals and sometimes has to be told it's time to eat, too.  He collects bottles, and they giggled and emptied some bottles for him and recruited other's bottles too.  (thanks, Grandma) :)  She is in a wheelchair for the first time in her life.  I saw them sitting there talking and laughing (he didn't leave her side all evening) and I realized if I'd stayed home to clean my house I would have missed this.  Who knows how many more memories I will have of my grandma. 


The other night the same son and I were returning from scouts when we saw some young children on our corner selling something from a brown vinyl folding table.  A mom shouted from a nearby porch swing: "Just so you know, I have no idea what they are selling!"   So we put on our best faces and checked out their wares.  There was a bag of microwave popped popcorn and a big orange drink cooler thing.  My son leaned over to me and giggle-whispered: "Mom, their sign says poop corn!"  We asked how much.  They said one dollar.  We plopped down our dollar (sorry, husband), and then opened the orange cooler and the ice cream bucket floating in water inside, to reveal an iceberg with shards of freezer burnt ice cream floating in a pool of melted creamy white.  They just looked at us.  We looked at them.  Then I asked "do you want us to dish it up ourselves?"  "Yes!" they said.  Oh boy.  :)  On the way home, my son laughed, "Mom, I think we got ripped off."


I found this left for me on the counter one day.  It has my name and my Ava's name, with pronated stick figures and some flowers.  They collected a flower for me (from my yard) along with some tree leaves and duct taped them into a bouquet.  So sweet.  :)



This is the goofiest video. My nine year old figured out how to do this weird effect on my phone. The best is at 1:25 (I think she has a lemon drop in her mouth), after that its just more of the same.





This little girl made her bed by herself!  The look on her face when I praised her (maybe I'm not a lost cause yet) was priceless.  When I asked if she had done it by herself, she closed her eyes and nodded her head several times with the cutest little pleased pixie smile on her face.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vroom


We had some fun things planned for this week, but our plans have had to be modified since all five kids are sick and I'm on the verge, too.  So we went out for milk on Monday morning, all of us :), mostly alone in the early morning in our pj's and uncombed hair.  We picked out some fruit to try--fruits that aren't native to where we live.  We ended up having a wonderful day.  We came home and sampled our fruit.  The verdict: kumquats, great.  Guava, next favorite.  Dragon fruit: overripe but still okay.  It was like taking a trip without actually leaving our house.


Emerson has suddenly taken an interest in cars.  The other day he had a train in one hand and a car in the other and would not part with them for anything.  So after our fruit excursion we decided to race our cars. 






Some day I'm so going to miss those little hands!



Then I remembered an idea I saw on Pinterest. (I wish I could link to it, here is something else cute and easy I saw on Pinterest)






I realized at one point I had to get from behind the camera or I was going to miss it!  I vroomed my car enthusiastically and promptly got pulled over by a "policeman."  We had good laughs as we traded roles-- I was the bad guy a lot, crashing into other cars and driving recklessly into trees and off roads.  I was repeatedly put in jail by my laughing ten year old.  I remembered how fun this is!


They expanded my roads and added a "peach tree forest" (made of pine trees).  After I left to make lunch, I overheard them electing a "president."  They each took turns telling why they wanted to be president and what they would do, things such as: build new roads, maintain the car "hospital," improve the economy, create jobs, and defeat bad guys. Ha ha.  I didn't even know they knew about these kind of things.  They elected a new president every so often, with each child taking a turn.  They played at this all day (very little TV, and no other messes to worry about!).  The only melt down was when my six year-old came crying, really crying, that she "wasn't a good president" and couldn't be consoled. 

It was a good sick day (I know they don't look sick, but everyone has a nasty dry, hacking cough). 


Friday, June 22, 2012

You Is Kind, You Is Special, You Is Important

6/25/12:  I just realized I made a big oops!  Oh boy.  The quote from The Help is: "you is kind, you is smart, you is important."  Sorry.


Recently I read an article about this address, in which the son of David McCullough (one of my very favorite authors) told a high school graduating class that they were not special.

For full disclosure, I have not actually read his speech, only the write-up in the newspaper.  It got me thinking-- am I doing my kids a disservice by teaching them they are special?  (this is not a critique of his speech, just thoughts on what it means to be special :))

It depends on how you define special.  If you mean: entitled to benefits without working for them, better than others, teaching them their mediocre is great, or teaching them they deserve constant praise even when they haven't earned it, then yes that would be doing my kids a disservice (see here).

I have to admit, a popular kid's movie rubbed me the wrong way the first time I saw it, because of a line the gist of which is: saying everyone is special is the same as saying no one is.  Which is another way of saying only a few people are "special," which could lead to narcissism (I'm better than others) or low self esteem (I'm not one of the chosen few).  Either way, bad.  Why not believe everyone is special and unique in his or her own way?  Not that everyone has physical abilities worthy of being an Olympian, but that each person has unique potential to bless others if they work toward magnifying their own individual talents?  Those talents might be something as simple as being easy to get along with, forgiving others easily, being good with his/her hands.   Not everyone can be prime minister or a gold medalist, but anyone can be kind and hard working, for example.  Special is about working hard because you believe in your potential, not the opposite. 

I've learned that it's difficult for me to rise above what I believe about myself.  The times when I'm the most down on myself are times when I accomplish practically nothing.  When I believe in myself, I am more likely to achieve more and be more kind and positive with others along the way.

For me, special means: having intrinsic worth just by being alive, with endless potential as one of God's children.  Every child is special.


I loved the character Aibileen in The Help.  As the black maid to an impatient white mother, she worked every day to show love and compassion and kindness to the woman's little Mae Mobley, telling her every day "you is kind, you is special, you is important."  It pricked my heart a little, because I don't know how many times I've brushed my kids thoughtlessly aside in my busy or stressed moments (I know I can't be perfect, but I can be better), like Mae Mobley's mother.  Do I, even once in a day, or even a week, lovingly take them in my arms and tell them they are kind, special, and important?  Or do I get too caught up in making the sandwich, cleaning the bathroom, stocking the toilet paper cupboard :) to stop and remember to do this? That is why I'm doing this project, so I can look back with no regrets.  So my kids know, no matter what choices they make in life, or where life takes them, that I love them for who they are.  So they'll believe in themselves and work to become that.  Or not.  But at least I will have done my part.

If my kids believe that everyone is special and important, just for being alive, for breathing this air, then I hope they'll learn the most important lesson I want them to learn: helping others is one of the highest things we can reach for.  And it doesn't diminish me, it enhances me.  Because we are all unique and special in our own way, and that is wonderful.


I'm still a believer in consequences.  My child shouldn't get special treatment if he/she doesn't deserve it.  But whether the experts agree or not, I'm going to be telling my kids from now on just how kind, special, and important I think they are.  :)





What are your thoughts on being "special?"  Next week is a new month!  I'm excited for a new resolution and interested to evaluate this month and see what I've learned.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Update:  I found this link to do  DIY shirt for baby that says "I am Kind...I am Smart (ha ha)..." here.  So cute.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sing to Me, Baby

We were walking the aisles of our local grocery store, just me and my boys and a mini-shopping cart.   We laughed while we searched for free samples while the radio echoed above us-- a song I didn't know.  I had my lovely fashionable yellow scout shirt on, and my son had on his khaki one, which has blossomed with awards over the last few years.  He is getting so tall I can comfortably rest an arm on his shoulders.  With one arm around him (while he pushed the cart), and the other holding my squishable baby, I felt so great.  It was the end of a long few days, culminating in an urgent care/pizza night/rush off-to-pack-meeting evening.   I finally had antibiotics in my hand (again!) so my sweet baby can get over another ear infection (third in three months).  We laughed when we struck out on the pizza samples (darn), and I was suddenly possessed with the urge to twirl my boys around for a minute.  My ten year old, who is getting to the embarrassed stage, laughed and didn't seem embarrassed.  My baby's hair fluttered in the fake wind, his head tipped back, his little smile revealing tiny white baby teeth.

And it got me thinking about songs that make me feel positive about my kids or songs that help them feel my love or belief in them.  I'm not up on the latest music, so these are just a few I can think of:

1) You'll Be in My Heart (Phil Collins) from Tarzan -- this is my new favorite
2)  Just The Way You Are (Bruno Mars) - alone with him in the aisle, held my baby close and danced to this one in the grocery store when he was only two weeks old, trying to freeze time
3)  Baby Mine (from the CD Baby Mine)
4)  Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) from the same CD (see here for a video that makes me cry!)

In light of my positive words time coming to a close soon, too quickly, I'm starting a new resolution-- I've wanted to do it forever, and I'm tired of waiting!  :)  I'm going to start singing to my children each night before bed.  I've already asked my hubby for extra help.  I don't think I can sing to each child every night, so I'm going to start with one per night, with a little short (5 min) chat afterward.  I hope this will help convey to them how much I love them.

I would love to add more to my positive words song playlist!  I'm sure you have some great suggestions!  Tell me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dad

I hope you'll tolerate this little diversion from my project for a minute as I think about my dad. What I love about him most: empathy, time, and example.  He did the little things: fixed my knick-knacks, taught me how to ride a bike (I promptly rode straight into a thorn bush), read stories, showed me flowers peeking out of chocolate dirt in the spring, played Atari with me :), played kick-the-can with the cousins on a warm summer night; inspired me with his devotion and his words; showed me how to be gentle with living things; treated me as if I were worth it all.  I never felt like a burden to him, but I felt his belief in me, his fierce pride and devotion.  I lived to be like my dad.  The worst I ever felt was when I let him down.  In a day when men are taught and teach to be tough, don't cry-- I could always cry to my dad. 

Some day when the records are shown and all has been weighed and measured, the greatest deeds will not be the ones done in a stadium, or at a podium, or be celebrated in a trophy case.  Some day those with earthly monuments and medals and glory will honor the courage of the dad who quietly sung night-time songs, soothed nightmares, and cheered for little girls.

If you have any suggestions for improvements on my poems, they are welcome. :)  Thanks for reading!  (Note: I must make a nod to Robert Frost, who wrote one of my favorite poems, The Road Not Taken.  The final line in this poem is very nearly an exact quote of the final line in his poem. ) (Note #2: the roads I'm referring to in this post are near where my parents live, and a little sentimental to me since I've visited my parents there with my dear little ones for years, but my parents will be moving soon.  I've had many happy moments there...esp. since at home I get to plod along on my treadmill :))


The High Road

I used to run on the
Black road
Toward the high school
As cars whooshed by.

Then my dad

Showed me

His favorite road,

High above the valley,

An overgrown path

Next to a canal

With trees bending down

To drink the water.

I had to climb to get there,

But I loved

Its tawny-honey-yellow leaves in fall,

Its swirls,

The way specks of sun

Glint off the water.

In lazy summer,

A mother duck splashed out of the grass

And her babies followed: pop, pop, pop, pop.

I went there in the spring,

Carpet fluorescing with green

And new insect life.

And in winter,
Crunching white snow

As bare-boned branches

Scratched the sky.

Now I've been there in all the seasons,

Ran with sister, laughing and talking,

Walked there with husband,

New life inside me, (threw up in the grass)

Traipsed with little legs till the

Bend in the path.

But mostly alone,

Thinking, sorting, becoming.

And last,

Meadows of grass skirting

Wooded mountains,

And a little hollow,
Where I felt so much

The nearness of

God,

And awareness of my need for His help,

I knelt down (twice)

And prayed

In the middle of my run.

My dad showed me a higher

Way,

And it has made all the

Difference.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This Sounds a Bit Fishy



I'm having a busy week for some odd reason :), highlights of today including a very dramatic fish story. 

I went to pick up my six year old from a birthday party last night; I wandered into the backyard, which was lit by tall mini-torches in the late afternoon sun and decorated with the sounds of little girls.  There was a large blue plastic pool painted with bright tropical fish, and, to my surprise, it was full of tiny goldfish.   My six year old stood ankle deep in the water looking for just the right fish to take home.  My friend handed me ~surprise~ a clear plastic bag filtered by the sun...inside was a little fish that peered at me through the bag with small black eyes and a silvery gulping mouth. 

When we got home, everyone crowded around to peer into our makeshift fish bowl  (I caught one child trying to put her fish in a cornflake bowl and another who grabbed a dark green cider bottle from his bottle collection before we pulled out a flower vase).  Everyone was eager to feed the fish all sorts of goodies before we could go buy some fish food.  Someone even placed her special "shells" from this day in the tank for the fish to look at.

At one point, I found a little brown nugget floating on top of our "fish bowl" that looked suspiciously like a piece of animal poop.  When I quizzed my cute little six, she said "I just found it where we found the rocks!  It's not poop, I promise!"  It was, incidentally, a piece of deer feces that she didn't know the identity of and that she had collected and saved with her rocks on the aforementioned day several weeks ago, unbeknownst to me.

This morning, she was up bright and early to feed her fish large chunks of soon-to-be soggy bread and her fish were soon-to-be-dead.  Poor little thing cried and cried.  She sat in her bright blue polka dot dress and sang to the one remaining fish (we started with four) a sweet little song while making fish movements with her two hands pressed together.  Later we had a little fish burial in the gravelly dirt of the backyard.  Sang an irreverent version of a child's song (I Am a Fishy of God-- luckily I'm not struck down yet) and said a little prayer, since we had exactly three minutes to have our little funeral and get my older daughter somewhere.



Later in the day, we traipsed to the pet store with uncombed hair and purchased a little round bowl, some food, and some new friends for our lone fish.  There are now chairs pulled up in our kitchen around the island where peering, delighted eyes watch little fish glub-glubbing in a clear bowl.  There have been some happy sighs, some "It's been so long since I've had a pet," and even one "where are we going to keep the fish bowl?"  A boy, last to bed, longingly looking at flitting fish, a little girl, first to rise, sitting on the counter, gazing with wide green eyes at them.  Hmmmm.... who knew in 24 hours and we'd gain four surprise pets, lose three, gain two more.  A good lesson in math and pets we never knew we wanted.


 Today I found two nightgown-clad girls at the computer, compiling a list of names for their fish from a baby naming website.  :)

Funny video of my six year old singing to her fish here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ode to an Unfinished Batch of Laundry

Busy week--- I have a really funny story for tomorrow.  For today, in the spirit of babies, here is a poem I wrote about one of my girls.



Ode to an Unfinished Batch of Laundry

A patchwork of pinks
Lies disheveled on the tiled
Laundry floor,

The washer door
Half open,

Waiting patiently

Like Cinderella’s gloved footman

At her carriage.

A splash of sunlight reaches across the floor to

Warm us

On this wintry day,

As I cradle baby’s

Down-soft head in my hands--

Breathing in her sweet smell,

Soaking in her smiles,

And pressing her

Milk-soft cheek to

Mine;

Letting the day melt away

As lullabies

Coo the

Half-finished laundry

Away into dreamland.



Here is a link to my favorite poem in this same vein.  Do you have a poem or story that inspires you?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Growing Up

We went to the library with football commands:  10 minutes, two books, everybody go!  After a little scramble for spots in aisles, pretty soon each child was immersed in something.  I searched the dark, musty stacks for Fahrenheit 451 while everyone was occupied for a minute.  The baby was wearing his blue shorts and a tight shirt with little brown monkeys on it.   After a few minutes of patience with his perusing mama, he wanted down.  I let him down, and he was gleeful-- toddling around on little stubby legs with the happiest of expressions and squeals  (sorry patrons!).  I had a twinge moment-- my baby is growing up!  He has been walking a few steps here and there, but this is the first time he teetered around without crawling at all.  Baby walking.  His face so happy.  I wanted to laugh and cry all at once.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Good Break

School is out.  I'll admit I had a little trepidation about the change in schedule beforehand, but it has been so nice.  We've spent the last couple of days sequestered together with no where to go and nothing formal to do.  Its been so nice just being together after a busy year.  I'm working on planning some summer activities and making a summer routine, as I'm learning that positive speaking on my part hinges partially on how smoothly things function around here.  I'm also working on some awards I saw on this blog (71 Toes) to try positive (free) rewards for good behavior, both things I want them to work on and things they choose to work on (so I can encourage their goals, not just my goals for them).  One of the things I love about these rewards is it encourages the kids to praise their siblings, too, as each week the family discusses the awards together.

Some highlights of the last two days:  shelling fresh peas from our garden, the afternoon light shining through empty emerald-piled husks, reading a heap of stories just because we can, watching the National Spelling Bee with homemade popcorn, and snuggling up with my three year old in a tent in our backyard, watching my six year-old hold a blanket to her nose like when she was a baby, me wondering where the time has gone; the lights from the house glowing faintly through thin khaki tent fabric as we listened to frogs, a pasture sprinkler, quieting neighborhood sounds, and sleepy chat drift off in bleary yawns.



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Family Night - Positive Words






I've been loving all I've learned about speaking positively and simultaneously wanting to share some of it with our family.  I feel if we change the way we speak to one another it could potentially revolutionize our whole way of life in a good way (we aren't bad in the way we speak to each other, we do fine, but we can always do better, right?). 

Every Monday night we have a family night.  Some days are better than others and our kids are little enough that lessons need to be short and sweet.  We talked about positive speaking-- I used stories from the examples in this post.  Even though the kids were wiggly and distracted at times I think they enjoyed it.   The best part was telling each other what we like about each other.  We're making these (above, an example of something my son made for me for Mother's Day) today so each child can be reminded of what we think is special about him/her and so we have positive words in reservoir for reminding when we need something nice to say.  :)


Monday, June 4, 2012

Well Filling

Night was falling, and in that sweet blue-ish haze, the moon was clear and bright; I was driving in my little car with the windows down as people switched on the glow of electric lights that diffused golden stars through the twilit night.  Frank Sinatra was singing to a brass band "Fly Me to the Moon."  I had chosen to leave my kids home with my husband while I ran to the store for a few minutes; it refreshed me and reminded me of the list I'd started about things that fill my well, things that keep it full so I can keep trying each day to be a better parent.  Some of the things on my list surprised me:

1.  Time alone
2.  Volunteering at the school
3.  Travel
4.  Exercise
5.  Spending quality time with my kids
6.  Dates with husband
7.  Reading a good book
8.  Blogging
9.  Nostalgia of old pictures/videos
10. Feeling pretty
11.  Being in remote natural places like the mountains or the beach
12.  Playing games late at night with extended family....we love Wildlife Adventure :)
13.  Laughing (see here)...I get a huge lift from listening to Car Talk on NPR just because the guys are so fun, and not because I'm that interested in cars.
14.  Time with friends
15.  Organizing something
16.  Cleaning or cooking can be enjoyable if the circumstances are right
17.  Having a clean house
18.  Any humanitarian work or service
19.  I just learned that I love being involved at the caucus level in politics!  Feel like John Adams for a day while still being a mom the rest of the time. 
20.  Listening to/reading great journalism.  (ie, Wall Street Journal)
21.  Going to church & having a close relationship with God.
22.  Building and using talents-- music is a big one for me

The reason I'm surprised by some of these is that I typically think of well-re-fillers as requiring little work or giving me time away from my responsibilities, but I've noticed that doing meaningful things, like service or time with the kids, actually gives me a huge jolt of happiness and the motivation to be better (if done with balance). 

As part of my project this month I'm working on getting more organized so I can clear the way for some of the more fun things on my list.  I've noticed that organization plays a big part in how positive I can be with my kids: on crazy days or in chaotic moments its much harder to be patient and kind.

What unexpected thing fills your well?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Little Things on a Saturday Morning

Woke up, my hard working husband gone, a cute little baby nestled up to me.  It was as if I forgot in the night I have a baby, and when I woke up it was such a pleasant surprise.

Later he discovered his belly button and mine too.

I discovered that if I blow in his face, his wispy brown hair flutters, he wrinkles his nose and squints his eyes and tips his face back in the cutest smile that shows his gums punctuated by a few little pearly white teeth.

Made a list of positive things about my kids, so I'm armed for some positive talk; I almost cried when my sweet little three year old beamed at the words we wrote about her-- sweet, forgiving, smart.  How have I never noticed how forgiving she is until just now?

Went for a run -- morning was beautiful and fragrant and air humming with insects.  White moths fluttering among bending willow branches.  Busy cyclists in bright pink and orange, a fair announcer echoing, parents holding toddlers on a yellow mini-train. 

On the way back, I looked across a large pasture toward the mountains and thought of all the different runs I've been on in different parts of the world.  For me they have come to symbolize what is great about the life I live right now.  When we lived in England, my son and I had a little "forest" we'd traverse, where we'd look at bugs, he'd stand on protruding roots and say "yah!" and I'd watch the sunlight filter through those beautiful English trees.  I thought life didn't get any better, and I worried that when our time there came to an end, I would leave that behind forever.  Yet in every place we've lived we've found a new walk we love, coming to symbolize that there is something good about each time of life we're in, we just need to find it and appreciate it and soak it in.

Today my baby would crane his neck backward and cheese a broad, grayish-brown-eyed smile through a slit between the bright blue stroller canopy and the stroller itself.  His little legs ended in chubby pointing-out toes, too small to bend with the stroller seat.  I looked out over the pasture, patches of tall red, brown, and green grasses, two horses, a rickety rust train taking its time down the tracks; the mountains, velvet with spring green, pines in tall herds running imperceptibly down the mountain, a rook-shaped piece of snow melting in the peak, and giraffe-spot dapples of shade and light from billowy white clouds. 

I may be working toward a destination but the best part is looking around at what I have right now.  :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Speaking Positive Words to Kids

I've been researching how words affect people, especially children.  I picked up The Five Love Languages of Children (Chapman, Campbell) again this morning and felt enlightened by what I read.  It inspired me to make a list of "to remembers"-- I'm going to break this up into sections because my list is pretty long.

Point out the positive, ignore the negative (as much as possible)... The Power of Positive Parenting (Latham): the behavior I pay attention to, good or bad, will increase. 

Encourage....It's my role to help my child become what he/she wants to become, encourage what he or she sees as success and not just what I want him/her to do, otherwise I come off as manipulative and insincere....when the child sees I want what's in his best interest, he will respond better. There are so many inspiring examples of this in history-- I love Winston Churchill encouraging the British to resist Hitler during the Battle of Britain.

Tone of voice-- I read in The Lost Art of Listening (Nichols) that tone is key when communicating.  If I start a conversation with an agitated or frustrated or angry tone, it puts people on the defensive and they're less likely to really hear what I say or open up to me.  Kids may be especially sensitive to this.

Give targeted compliments-- throwing out too many generalized compliments doesn't fool kids (I shouldn't praise them for a great throw in baseball if it was really only just average) and sets them up for a hard scenario later in life when they need constant positive feedback in order to feel good about themselves (I read about this in the Self Esteem Trap- by Young-Eisendrath).

Words are powerful-- we remember them and play them over in our heads for years-- good and bad.  I read somewhere that the little voice we hear in our head as an adult is usually the voice of our mother, for good or ill. 

I found this blog called 71 Toes.  The author is also a mother of five and a great example of positivity in motherhood.  She has some fantastic ideas about building kids up.  I love this idea about writing your kids talents on their fingertips.

What is something positive someone has said to you that you have never forgotten?