Saturday, August 30, 2014

First Day of Co-op

We were all ready for our first day of co-op.  I had gotten all their supplies and the t-shirts they needed to wear.  I had gotten up early to make sure their backpacks were packed and their snacks were ready to go.  I tucked my lesson plan under my arm and grabbed my bagful of preschool books and games to load into the car and we were off.  Kind of.

The moment we entered the highway, I noticed that traffic was a little more dense that usual.  I figured it was rush hour and I was glad I had left an extra 15 minutes to get there.  But then traffic stopped completely.  The cars were not moving at all.  "Why did we stop, Mommy?" my oldest asked.  "Aren't we on the highway?  Shouldn't we be going fast?  Are we going to be late, Mommy?  Can you just go around?" he continued.  
"I'm not sure what's going on, love," I said hoping that he would give me just a minute to think.  No dice.  
"What are we going to do, Mommy?  Oh look! There's a car transporter!  Drew, did you see the car transporter?  I have to pee, Mommy.  I have to pee really really bad," he said.
Of course, there was nothing I could do.  As the minutes ticked by, my anxiety increased.  The thoughts rushed through my head - "I was supposed to be teaching these kids!  I needed to be there early!  I can't let them down!  Will this child please stop talking for the LOVE OF GOD!" I thought.  
"I really really really have to pee!" my five year old persisted.  
"I need to peepee too, Mama," my three year old said.
I said a quick thank you that I had left the baby with my mom.  She probably would've needed a diaper change.
"Okay, guys.  I will get off the highway as soon as I can.  I can't do anything about it right now," I told them.  I grabbed my phone to text the administrator and the other preschool teacher so they knew I would be late.  We had already been in the car for 45 minutes.

As we inched along, I checked the reason for the traffic.  Apparently a tractor trailer driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and crossed three lanes of traffic.  The highway was closed and all traffic was being redirected to back roads.  I stopped in my tracks for a minute.  I was so stressed about being on time that I forgot to think about the people that may have been hurt in an accident bad enough to close a highway.  I said to the boys, "Let's pray for the people that may have been hurt in the accident."
"Okay.  Then can I pee?" my oldest asked.  Nice.

We finally made it to co-op a full hours after we left home.  I'm proud to report that both boys made it there without peeing their pants and I managed to keep my sanity.  They loved their classes and I loved mine.  And mostly, I got a big reminder that some things are just out of my control.  

We can control what time we leave, what supplies they have in their backpacks and what they have for snack but there are a million other things that are way out of our control. All we can do is be patient, take deep breaths and know that our only move is to roll with the punches with a lot of grace.  And if you mess that up?  It's okay to take a little grace, too.

Has anthing happened this week that made you feel out of control?  How do you get yourself back to center?

Friday, August 29, 2014


Our little lady is very very verbal.  She tells entire cooing stories when I tuck her into bed at night complete with hand gestures and facial expressions.  She grabs the phone out of my hand to tell her Aunt Tess everything that is on her mind.  And she complains loudly when I try to feed her something she finds unpalatable like carrots or peas.  But she had yet to say her first word.  At least until yesterday.

I was getting ready to take the boys upstairs for a bath and she was having special time with her Daddy. This usually consists of watching baseball or football while she snuggles on his knee.  Every few minutes or so he will pick her up and kiss her to make her giggle.  Last night was a bit different.  He laid her on the floor to talk to her while she kicked and he started coaching.  "Dada...Say Dada, Rosie Rose.  Da....Da," I heard him say over and over.  Smiling inwardly, I walked into the bathroom and started the water.

A few minutes later, my husband walked in with his iPhone.  "Watch this," he said.  And there it was - Her first word.  Dada.  He was beaming.  "I think I love her even more than I did five minutes ago," he said.  "I can't stop watching it.  She's so cute!" he gushed. I had to agree.

Both of our boys said, "Mama" first so it's only fair that his little girl said, "Dada" first.  I wouldn't have traded the happiness on his face for anything in the world.

What was your baby's first word?  Think back to that moment for a minute and hold it in your heart.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Impromtu Picnic

My babysitter decided at the very last minute to go away to college.  She had been accepted; I knew it was a possibility.  But I wasn't quite ready to hear that she was actually going away.  I've been rather spoiled, you see.  I've had a sitter watching my kids one day a week for quite a long time and I've gotten used to that time.  I love being able to do a million things (who knew that Target runs only take 20 minutes when you don't have three small children with you!) and I love doing absolutely nothing (Taking time to think is very underrated these days).  Today marked my first day without this free time and so I said a quick prayer that I would enjoy my children and still have some time on my own.

We piled into the car after a bit of school work and headed to Target for a few odds and ends.  I repeated the prayer - Help me enjoy my kids - then started up the car.  As we cruised the aisles, my oldest found everything interesting.  "Oh my gosh, Mommy! They make Despicable Me JAMMIES!  Did you know that?!" he exclaimed.  My middle happily ate his goldfish while wearing his sunglasses and got more than a few, "Aren't you a cool guy?" comments from old ladies.  My daughter rode on my hip in her sling and cooed and smiled at everyone she passed. Our two items turned into ten and the 20 minute run took an hour and a half but we really did have fun together.

I grabbed the boys some lunch when we got home then headed upstairs to put the baby down for a nap.  When I came downstairs, the house was completely silent.  I called the boys names but they didn't answer.  Worried that they had gone outside, I opened the garage door and found them sitting there eating their lunch.  "We're having a picnic, Mama!" my three year old announced.  
"I see that!" I said.  Did you get yourselves drinks and everything?" I asked.  
"Yep," my oldest answered.  "And we got towels for a picnic blanket!  Grab a towel and some lunch!" he said.  And so I did.

As I ate my cold slice of pizza, I thought about how lucky I am to be a part of these moments.  Although there are times that I wish my house had an escape hatch, I am incredibly grateful to be there for impromtu picnics and Target discoveries and invitations to play.  It won't last forever so I'm going to do my best to enjoy them while they happen.  

Do you ever have days that you wish you were alone instead of with your kids?  How do you get yourself back on track to enjoying their company?

All three of them are sleeping now - A true rarity.  I have time to write and think and rest.  Who says that God doesn't answer our prayers?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Daddy's Girl

"My arm is going to fall off," my husband said as he carried our daughter around like a football.  He had tried everything to put her down to no avail.  Our little six month old is not quite talking but she voices her discontent by saying, "uh uh" as in, "no way - uh uh - don't even try it."  Play mats, exersaucers, blankets with toys and swings had all been rejected.  I even tried to hold her the same way that he had but the "uh uh's" only increased in intensity.  And each time I would get her within grabbing distance of her daddy, she would lunge toward him with a big gummy smile.

"She adores you," I told my husband as I tried again to take her from his arms.  He rolled his eyes and smiled inwardly.  He was eating it up.  "The boys were not like this, were they?" I asked him.  
"No!" he said.  "Luke only wanted you and Drew was my buddy but nothing like this."
As he talked, her face lit up with smiles and coos.  I started to walk away with her and her little hand reached out to stroke his back.  "I think someone loves you as much as I do," I told him.

She is truly her Daddy's girl and I can't even begin to tell you how it delights me.  I can't think of a better man to model how a man should love a woman.  I can't think of a better man to show her how much love she deserves.  Those are things she can only learn from him.  And if it gives me a break from carrying her around?  Bonus.

Have you noticed a difference in how your daughters are with their dad?  What could you, as a dad, teach your daughter that her mother never could?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Volcano Cookies

My preschooler has suddenly shown a great interest in volcanoes.  He is fascinated with the idea of molten rock hiding underneath a mountain then suddenly bursting out and flowing down the side.  He wants to know how the rock melts, why it melts and what happens when it dries.  He has an endless appetite for pictures and videos of volcanoes.  I've gotten some great books at the library and we have explored YouTube videos that show everything from explosions to the slow flow of fissure volcanoes.  And thanks to our babysitter, we had another way to learn about volcanic rock.

"Drew asked a lot of questions about volcanoes today," she said to me when I got home.  "I have a recipe for rock cookies if you'd like it.  It's really cool - You make a syrup then add in chocolate and see how it bubbles up like lava then cool it in the fridge.  You can explain the whole process of an eruption and lava flow as you cook!" she explained.  Genius.

We made them this morning and he, excuse the pun, ate it up.  The syrup mixture bubbled up to the edge of the pot and he could barely keep his excitement at bay.  "MAMA!  It bubbles like LAVA!  It going to blow up?" he asked hopefully.
"We won't let it blow up, love, but maybe if we put the top on it would create pressure and push the lid up.  Should we see if that works?"  I asked.  We tried it and the boiling rate increased and rattled the lid a bit.
"Ohhhh, I get it," he said thoughtfully.

We stirred in the chocolate, marshmallows and nuts and talked about all the debris that the lava flow brings with it.  I showed them how the marshmallows and chocolate melted into our syrup and we talked about how all different types of rocks end up melding together.  We poured the final mixture into the pan and cooled it down in the refrigerator.

A few hours later, we cut into our cookies.  "They are hard like rock!" my three year old exclaimed.  Both of my sons were thrilled with the whole experience.

It can be easy for me to get in a rut of worksheets and comprehension questions but that isn't always the learning the sticks.  My son wanted so badly to understand how it's possible for a rock (a rock!) to melt and because of this simple activity, he got it.  Whether you are homeschooling or gearing up for a new school year, I encourage you to listen to the things that excite them.  Put aside your plans and spend some time on the subject they feel passionate about.

Interested in making the volcano cookies?  Here is the recipe:

1 Can Evaporated Mild (6 oz)
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Chopped Nuts
1 1/4 Cups Tiny Marshmallows
1 1/2 Cups Chocolate Chips
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

1.  Grease an 8x8 pan
2.  Combine evaporated milk with sugar and salt ina  saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring for 5-9 minutes.
3.  Remove from heat.  Add remaining ingredients and stir gently.
4.  Pour into prepared pan.  Refrigerate.
5.  Cut into squares and enjoy!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Rain Helps You Grow

Life has been a little tougher than usual lately; I think that some seasons of life are just that way.  The last six months have thrown us our fair share of hoops to jump through and we're doing our best to keep our faith strong and trust the path we are on.  And yet, each time I hear something new that I must deal with, I fold into myself for a little while.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I was looking at Facebook and my sister's mother-in-law had posted a picture of my nephews in front of their moving van in Denver, CO.  It's a moving van that left our town in Florida only a week ago and when I saw it, my heart lurched.  My sister, my brother-in-law and my nephews are really and truly gone.  I've spent plenty of time rationalizing (We can still visit!  They are doing the right thing for their family!  We can FaceTime all the time!  etc.) but sometimes you just have to acknowledge that something hurts.  

My sons noticed that I was off and asked me what was wrong.  "I'm just feeling sad about Aunt Tessie being away," I explained.  "I'll be okay, don't worry!" They looked at me closely as if they were trying to figure out if I was telling them the truth.
"What is your favorite thing to draw?" my oldest asked.  He has been drawing trains for hours every day and I assumed he was changing the subject.
"Umm...I like to draw flowers usually.  Flowers and sunshine.  Makes me happy," I told him.
"Okay!" he said as he dashed up the stairs to grab some crayons.  I figured that he was done with the conversation and moved on to kitchen clean-up.

Within a few minutes, I felt his little hand tapping my hip.  "Mommy, look at my drawing," he said.  I looked down and saw a blue flower with grass and rain dripping on the flower.  It had "Mom" written along the bottom.
"Honey, this is really beautiful.  Thank you so much for drawing something that makes me happy," I said to him.
"I just wanted to remind you that it has to rain for pretty things to grow," he said.

My little philosopher warmed my heart through and through.  It certainly does have to rain for things to grow.  We can't expect sunshine in our lives all the time.  It's the rough times that end up shaping us and helping us to become all that we are.  I'm so appreciative of my son for reminding me.

What challenges in your life have helped to shape you?  If you are in the middle of one now, have some faith.  There is a purpose.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Painting the Planets

I was at a meeting for our homeschool co-op and I heard about a women who is a performance artist. At first, I thought they were referring to a dancer or a singer but it turned out to be much cooler than that.  There is a woman that attends events and as she listens to the speaker, she paints.  She is inspired by the words she hears and by the end of the event, there is a gorgeous work of art ready to be auctioned or sold.  I wondered if this same idea would work with my busy little boys.

We have been reading about the solar system over the last few weeks and I expected them to be very engaged.  No luck.  I have done crafts, shown them movies, made them be the planets orbiting the sun...anything I could think of to make the mystical aspects of space come to life.  Still, they seemed bored.  "Oh, we're still doing the planets?" my five year old would ask as I brought out our science book.  I thought that maybe we this performance art idea would help us zap some life into the topic.

"How about we paint as I read about the planets?" I suggested to them.  "Listen to the words and then create your own pictures to represent what you are hearing," I said.  At the sound of the word "paint" they lit up like Christmas trees.  They ran around grabbing paper and paints and I set-up an old sheet on the garage floor.  I started reading and something amazing happened.  They really listened.

I read about volcanoes that spew gas and lava on one of Jupiter's moons and my preschooler said, "I need red paint!"  He scooped some up and made broad sweeping strokes that looked like a volcanic eruption.  I read about the size of Venus and Jupiter compared to the Earth and my oldest painted a massive yellow circle with rings around it for Jupiter and a tiny little blue dot for Earth.  They were engaged the entire time.  And even better than that - They remembered what we had learned.

"Drew, did you know that gas planets are much bigger than dirt planets?" my oldest asked his brother as I walked out of their room at bedtime.  "Yeah!  I remember that!  They are really really big!" my two year old answered.  

You just never know what is going to make a child excited about learning something.  As parents and as teachers, we just have to keep trying.  My goal is not for them to know everything about the planets or anything else.  My goal is to have them want to learn; I want them to feel alive every time they find out something new about the world or the universe or the people around them.  If they have that, they will be able to lead a very a rich life.

As we get our children ready to go back to school, how can we help them become engaged with the topics they are exploring?
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