Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Musical hooligans...

This is going to be a shameless bragging post, so if you'd rather not be bored by someone who is, perhaps, overly impressed with her own progeny, move on.

Many years ago, I decided that all of my children would take piano lessons.  It's a hill I'm willing to die on, because, really, who regrets being made to learn an instrument, assuming they're not forced to practice for hours a day, Tiger Mom style.  As my children are extremely active, okay, more like wild, violent, rambunctious hooligans,* and had never expressed any interest in learning to play,** I expected to have to throw down with them on this one.  Imagine my shock when they each, gasp, truly enjoyed playing the piano.  Don't get me wrong, they are still who they have always been.  No one is sitting at the piano and playing for hours, but, the instrument is in the hall, and whenever they walk by they often stop and play something.***

So, here are David and Jacob rocking it out on the piano.  You can't tell from the video, but there are about 120 or so people here.  I would have wet my pants.  I nearly wet my pants on behalf of my children.

And here's the reason they love it.  When I was looking for a teacher after we moved, a friend (who would have been their teacher if we'd stayed in Virginia) said, "You just need to find someone who loves music and loves kids."

*Seriously, they can turn anything into a weapon.  The FAA should add popsicle sticks and masking tape to their forbidden items list because David just made a really effective knife using only those things.
** Actually, David asked for piano lessons when he was six and saw my dad take the piano apart to check out the inner workings, but I think he kind of missed the point.
*** Especially if they're on their way to do school work or chores.  They've totally sniffed out my eagerness in this area and know they probably won't get nagged/yelled at for stopping to play something. 

Field Day in Pictures...

My homeschool group put together a fabulous field day event a few weeks ago.  Here is the event in pictures*...

This was our first event.  You held a frisbee between your knees, without your hands and raced to the end of the field.  Bryan was half way down the field when everyone else had crossed the finish line.  He broke down in tears.  So, I grabbed him and bounced him to the finish line, instantly healing his broken heart.  If only all their life sorrows were this solvable.

Bryan won musical chairs, probably largely due to the complex musical chair strategy he has developed this year at his Friday preschool class.  As far as I can tell, it basically boils down to, "Walk very slowly."  Ties were resolved with Paper, Rock, Scissors, with me chiming in the background, "The regular way, guys."  Bryan and Jacob have developed a Paper, Rock, Scissors derivative they call Paper, Rock, Scissors, Shoot in which you can make up new things like typoon, volcano, Everest,... (must include a motion) that beat everything mentioned so far.

In the three-legged race, Carrie and I gave the boys a generous head start, caught up with them because we're rock stars, but lacked the commitment to actually dive across the finish line and lost by a hair.

More pictures from the day...

*The more fabulous of these pictures are courtesy of my dear friend Carrie who was kind enough to take pictures of me and my people.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pure and unbridled...

There are so many things I love about toddlers - chubby legs, perfectly round bellies, the wobbly walk for which they're named,...  Probably my favorite thing about toddlers is the purity of their emotions.  The have no problem expressing:
No, I will not hug you.
You are annoying me.
This is MY milk, not yours.
Although that is your milk, I want it to be MINE.
I need you to hug me.
And my favorite:
They have practically no ability to filter themselves.  Imagine what the world would be like if adults were this way.  As I'm currently in Starbucks, I would be standing next to the man sitting at the best table, the one by the window, and screaming at him to move.  He might push me down or throw his coffee at me.

Different toddlers major in different forms of anger.  My little niece's forte is righteous indignation.  My big boys noticed this and shamelessly entertained themselves with this repeated conversation:
Brother H:  My name is Evie. 
Evie:  (indignant and hilariously verbal to us as she is a head shorter than Rand and was speaking in sentences when Rand wouldn't say a word, literally)  NO!  I EVIE!!!
My little nephew (Okay, he's not little anymore.  He's twelve now.  How did that happen?) would lose it when his parents ordered pizza.  Once he heard the word, "pizza," he required pizza.  Immediately.  He would sit at the door and wail until the pizza man got there.*  I'm with him on this particular form of anger.  

Well my little toddler's specialty is  pure and unbridled rage.  These are the stages of Rand's anger, sorted in increasing order of severity:
  1. He says, "Muh, muh!" and reaches for what he wants.
  2. Opens and closes his hands, bends at the waist and screams.
  3. Jogs in place, while screaming.
  4. Claps his hands, while screaming.
And, reserved for the most serious occasions, like someone withholding candy...
5.  Arches his back and SMACKS his belly with both hands, while screaming.**
But toddler anger is so easy to resolve.  Rand can be at RAGE STAGE 5, and I can...
  1. Put a sock on my head.
  2. Pick him up by his ankles.
  3. Bolt the door with my nose.
and he's instantly over it.  Actually, he's not just over it, but laughing hysterically.  I kind of wish Chris worked this way.  At what age does that break down?  It's definitely by eight years old.  David was mad the other day, and Chris shot him with a nerf gun, hoping to diffuse the situation.  It was... counterproductive.

Unfortunately for poor Rand, the rest of his family is mostly just entertained at his little anger demonstrations.***  At the park the other day, I heard David yelling, "Our baby won!  Our baby won!" with toddler tears in the background.  My Mommy radar started beeping.  I found David and a friend staging a sort of toddler gladiator fight.  Both babies wanted the single water fountain they could reach.  Their sadistic older brothers were picking them up, carrying them about thirty feet away from it and releasing them to see who would get there first.  I have no idea where David learned such a thing.

* Assuming you don't have the toddler who cries when they hear the word "pizza", Hi Pizza Man by Virginia Walter is a great picture book for this age.  I think it's out of print, but you can find it at used book sites.

** This was sad a month ago or so when his little belly was sunburned.  He'd forget until after the belly smack.

*** Rand is especially affectionate with Bryan.  I think that may partly be because Bryan is the only one of us who ever responds to his anger in kind.  It's nice to be taken seriously.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cardboard genius...

I'm posting today because in the battle between cleaning out the pantry and writing a post, the post won.  Sometimes people ask how I find time to keep up a blog.  Well, come on over to my house and have a look around sometime, and it'll become obvious.

This video is worth the ten minutes.  If you have a child who doesn't quite fit in, or if you've ever been that kid, it'll make you cry.  This kid built a cardboard arcade at his dad's auto parts store.  After weeks of building games out of cardboard, making tickets and game passes, and even making his own Caine's Arcade staff t-shirt, and after sitting patiently on the sidewalk for days waiting for customers, Caine got his first taker.  This guy sees what is beautiful and creative in Caine, and he enters Caine's world in a way that's its own form of genius... 

A few months ago, I noticed a box of broken down boxes in a prominent spot in the Children's Museum engineering room and started thinking of cardboard as more science than trash.  Since then, I established a box of cardboard in the schoolroom and added masking tape and popsicle sticks to my regular grocery shopping list, so this 

is what you see when you open my front door.  I prefer to think of it as transparency rather than a comprehensive and irreversible takeover of my home by little people.  

One of my kids is more interested than the others, but they've all made some cool stuff, and the resident cardboard genius has built some pretty intricate things:  a cash register, a robot, an engine, drums* and every kind of weapon he can possibly forge out of cardboard.  This is one of the homeschooly things I want to keep up even if/when I hang up my homeschool hat.

* The drum set started off as nunchucks.  The failed nunchucks were converted to drum sticks and a drum set  was added.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Starbucks prophet...

I've had a hard time with depression lately.  There's nothing serious going on, and honestly, that's made it worse.  I get more depressed thinking about how I shouldn't be depressed.  I have a husband I love, kids I didn't think I'd be able to have, meaningful work,...  And then I think about how I'm sure I'll look back on this time someday and wish I hadn't been so melodramatic and weepy.  And that only makes me more depressed.  So there have been mornings lately when Chris leaves for work with me in tears.  A few weeks ago Bryan spilled our dinner, Mexican corn chowder, EVERYWHERE.  It was in the fridge, under the fridge, all over the floor.  As I was crying and cleaning it up, I thought, among other things, "This cannot actually be my life.  I'm 35 years old, and I'm crying over spilled soup.  Ridiculous."  

Last week was hard.  For no reason.  The boys were at their Friday morning classes, and I was at Starbucks reading.  An older man sat down beside me and started talking.  He said, "You know, sometimes it's the smallest things in life that get us down.  Sometimes those small things are the hardest and that's okay.  We serve a good God.  He's good.  He cares about the smallest things.  And his goodness doesn't depend on our performance."

I felt like God had reached down and given me the kind of hug I've finally learned to give my kids when they're really not that hurt, but they're terribly upset.  At some point I realized that they cried twice as long when I tried to talk them out of it and that a hug and some sympathy released them in some way.

I thanked the man for his word and he said, "I made a commitment to the Lord last night that if he had a word for me to speak, I would speak it.  At my time of life I think this is what he has for me.  I'm supposed to go out and speak a word when he gives it to me."

I'm sure this sounds a little kooky, but I really do think this was a word from God to me.  I love that this man made a commitment to the Lord that, I'm sure, felt like it was about him and his faithfulness.  But it turns out that it was for the good of someone else, too.  I really needed to hear what he had to say.  I love that this word did not have anything to do with my flaws (abundant though they may be) or performance.  It was about God and his gentle goodness.  If I were to make up my own message from God it would have been something more along the lines of, "Don't you realize that there are starving and suffering people in the world?  Pull yourself together.  Be grateful.  Wake up earlier.  Read your Bible more.  Pray more."  There is truth in all those things, but they're just not helpful right now.  Like telling a suffering person that God works everything to good.  True, but not helpful in the middle of it.

So I don't think this thing is completely solved for me, but I feel lighter, freer and loved.

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