Saturday, November 22, 2014

Storytellers


Driving home from a trip the library, my 9 month old daughter began singing in a monotone voice. "Aaaaaaaah Aaaaah eyeeeee Aaaaah."  She tends to fall into a reverie anytime there is a rare moment of silence.  It's as if she is so delighted to finally get a chance to share what's on her mind that she can't help but get lost in it.  The drone was not exactly musical but nonetheless, I let her know her singing was beautiful.

"She's not singing, Mama," my three year old said.  "Her telling a story."

"Oh really?  Can you tell what she's saying?" I asked.

"Of course.  She saying, 'There were monsters in the car everywhere.  They were big scary monsters.  But her knew we could get out.  So I opened the door and...'"

"Was the car moving, Drew?  Did we jump out of the car while it was moving?" my oldest asked as he slipped off his headphones. 

"Yeah, we did," Drew continued.  I saw a half smile creep onto his face.  He knew he had a rapt audience.  "We jumped and we ran and we ran. The monsters jumped out too, right Ro Ro?" He looked over to confirm with his baby sister.  

"Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhh."  Apparently she concurred.

"We ran SO FAST that those monsters couldn't find us anywhere." 

"Wow!  She is a great storyteller!  She's flapping her arms now.  What does that mean?" I asked.

"She say that the monsters DID find us so we flew into the sky where they couldn't ever get us ever."

"She's lucky to have a brother that can understand her so well," I told him.

"Yeah.  Her lucky," he said as he stared out the window.  Suddenly, he lifted his head and peered over at his sister.  "I love you, Ro Ro."

His creativity and imagination are so alive.  As he told the story, I could see the events playing out.  I really began to believe that he understood what his sister was saying.  Who knows, maybe he did.  

There are so many times that I wish for quiet in the car.  Time to think, time to plan, time to listen to the lyrics of a new song that I love or a story on NPR.  But if I stop and listen, I get a window into their minds.  I am able to live in their world for a small period of time.  I will not remember that NPR story for longer than a week but I will never forget his animated storytelling and his sweet adoration of his sister. That, in the end, was a gift wrapped up for my heart.

When do your childrens' imaginations come to life?  Be there for it this week and listen.  Really listen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Tree Huggers


Getting three small children out of the car in a busy parking lot is always a logistical exercise.  My oldest is great about staying close to me but my three year old lives in his own mind.  He will wander away to look at a bird or check out a drain if I look away for even a moment.  I usually will slide open his door so he doesn't suffocate in the Florida heat then ask him to wait in the car while I get the baby in her stroller/baby carrier/sling/hip.  Yesterday he decided against my plan.

I was unbuckling my daughter when I looked up and realized he was out of the car.  I ran to the other side and found him bent down analyzing the paint on the parking lot.  "Buddy, you have to listen to Mommy and wait in the car.  This is a very busy parking lot.  Come and wait over here by your brother."  I walked him over to the other side of the car where he could safely wait in a mulched area and got back to unbuckling.  When I was ready to head into the store, my oldest got distracted by a small tree.

"Why are there ropes on this tree?" my oldest asked.

"Because it's a baby tree.  A sapling.  They moved it here and tethered it until it's roots are strong enough to hold it up."  I tried to stop worrying about getting to their class in time and stay in this moment. I said a quick prayer to help me enjoy their curiosity then refocused on their words. 

"Awwww!  It's a baby!  Look how cute!" my three year old was saying.

"I can't believe it's a baby tree!  Let's see if it' snuggly like our baby!" my oldest said to his brother.  

They proceeded to wrap their arms around the trunk of the live oak until they both fell backward laughing.  "That baby is NOT snuggly at all!  Cute, but not snuggly!" my oldest boomed through a fit of giggles.  My three year old grabbed his belly and doubled over laughing. 

"You guys are so silly, " I said as I grabbed their little hands and headed into the library.

As I walked, I thought about how sweet these guys are.  They delight in their baby sister and have since fallen in love with all baby things.  They have such tender and kind hearts.  Yes, their minds are always wandering to birds and trees and paint on asphalt instead of getting to their classes on time but in the end, what is more important?  I certainly subscribe to the philosophy that this world is ours (and theirs!) to discover.  Who am I to stand in the way of that?  

Does your childrens' curiosity ever get in the way of your objectives?  How can you embrace their creativity instead of your agenda?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Keep Doing What You Are Doing

My five year old shows many signs of being gifted.  I say that with hesitation because I believe all children are gifted in some way.  Whether they are great at school work or musically inclined or emotionally in touch or tremendous athletes, they are gifted.  As a homeschooling mom, I try to really pay attention to my kids' areas of giftedness.  I want them to be able to fully explore those areas and understand that there are many ways to be "smart".  But sometimes I worry that I will not be able to keep up with my son's gifts.  Sometimes I worry he will blow me out of the water by third grade.

Every where we go, someone stops us to tell us how smart he is.  The pediatrician marvels at his verbals skills.  Waitresses pull us aside to say how impressed they are with his manners and reading skills.  Recently, at an ear, nose and throat appointment, the doctor said, "There's something special about this kid.  I really hope you are doing everything you can to help him reach his potential."  While it would be easy to feel proud of this, I see it as a mounting challenge.  Am I doing enough?  Is he challenged enough?  I'm never sure.  So I prayed.  I prayed for God to help me to know if I need to outsource more of his learning to people who actually know what to do with gifted kids.  I prayed for God to help me to know if I'm on the right track.  And yesterday at our town's Chalk Festival, I got my answer.

Chalk artists from all over the country congregated in Venice, FL to draw endangered species.  We have been studying animals and I thought the kids would love to see these beautiful drawings that colored an entire city block.  We came upon a picture of a frog and my three year old asked what it was.  "It's a froggy," the artist answered as he shaded the webbed feet of the frog.  
"Actually, it's a poison dart frog," my oldest said.
"No way - Really?  Is it really a poison dart frog?" my husband asked the artist.
The artist stared at us open mouthed.  "He's right.  It's a poison dart frog.  That's insane.  That kid is a genius.  Keep doing what you are doing."

I let that phrase sit with me for a minute.  Keep doing what you are doing.

We looped around the block to see the drawings from another perspective and a woman touched my arm.  "Excuse me.  Your son was really amazing when he knew what type of frog that was.  I was so impressed."
"Oh, thank you.  We've been studying animals at home so that's probably why he knew it," I answered.
"Well, keep doing what you are doing.  It's working."

I couldn't deny that God was trying to tell me something.  Keep doing what I'm doing.  Believe in myself.  I am doing enough.

We all have doubts about our choices as parents.  That's why I find it so amazing that we have a parent that we can always turn to.  God.  He may not answer us right away.  He might not answer us in the way that we expect.  But he will answer us.  Always.

What fears do you have that you could hand to God today?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Little Buddy

I took my kids to the park the other day to enjoy the sunshine and hoped that there would be other kids for them to play with.  School is in session and, most days, we find ourselves alone in the park.  But this day we were in luck.  My oldest rolled his oversized dumptrack down to the sand pit and found another five year old that was just as passionate about filling and dumping sand.  My middle found the swings and rocked back and forth with a daydreaming look in his eye.  That left the baby and I on the bench for a snack and some conversation.

There were three kids playing and I started asking their grandparents their ages and names.  One man who had a three year old boy with him said, "Oh, he's not my grandson.  He's my neice's son but we are raising him."  I told him how lucky the little boy was to have him.  "Well, I look at it the other way around.  He had a heart attack right after he was born and they brought him back to life.  We were in the hospital for a long time.  A really long time."  He stopped and looked at this beautiful child for a moment.  "Anyway, he has a degenerative kidney disease.  He probably will only live a few more years."

I took that in for a minute.  He had said so much in that short little phrase.  "Do you find yourself worrying all the time?" I asked.

"No.  We are old enough to know not to worry.  He's my little buddy.  I take him everywhere I go.  We try to give him the very best life while he is with us on earth.  We've looked into transplants but the kidney transplants only last a few years.  Did you know that?  I just learned that when I started researching all of this.  Anyway, we think it's best to just enjoy him."

"What a beautiful way to look at it."  My eyes started misting over as I followed his gaze to this busy little three year old.  "You are a true angel.  You are blessing his life every day."

"Thank you but he's the one blessing mine."

My breath caught for a minute.  How incredible.  Some would only see the tragedy, the utter unfairness of this.  Some would be filled with anger and resentment.  But this man felt blessed in the midst of this undeniably sad circumstance.  He and his wife made a point to give this kid an incredible life from beginning to end.  That is what it means to be a Perchable person.  

Are you thankful in all circumstances?  I wish I could say that I am but I am not always able to see the blessings in the pain.  Let's look at our lives today and figure out how to take a page out of this wonderful man's book.  What is happening in your life that may be a blessing in disguise?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Day of Yelling

I don't yell as a rule.  I hate yelling.  I judge people who yell.  And yet, there I was, standing in my sons' doorway, yelling.  "GET BACK IN YOUR BED!  I have had ENOUGH!  I don't want to hear a sound out of either of you!"  The boys looked back at me with wide eyes.  My three year old was the first to break.  "Mama!  Why are you being so mean to us?" he asked as tears welled up in his eyes.  "Because you aren't listening and I'm at the end of my rope.  Good night."

I walked down the stairs feeling a mix of satisfaction (I finally said what I was thinking and let them know I was the boss!) and guilt (I can't believe I made them cry!).  I was too busy to dwell on it right then so I put myself to work on my three year old's Halloween costume.  As I hand stitched the perimeter of his "spooky moon," I let myself start evaluating the chain of events.

They had been difficult all day.  Every "no" was questioned or ignored.  Every request fell on deaf ears.  Every game they invented involved screaming and throwing.   When nap/rest time finally was upon us, I silently celebrated.  Finally, a moment of respite.  I tucked them in with instructions to stay in their room for a minimum of an hour.  Within moments, I heard them wrestling and laughing.  I trudged upstairs, repeated my instructions to stay in their beds and then went back downstairs.  This sequence repeated itself four times until, finally, my three year old stood in front of his sleeping baby sister's room yelling, "Mama!! I'm not really tired!!"  Right on cue, the baby started crying and I did too.  I Just.  Needed. Five. Minutes.  I stomped up the stairs and proceeded to yell.

We've all lost it at one point or another.  This job is frustrating and it's hard.  But what had I taught my children?  That you have to be a 500 pound gorilla to win and get what you want?  That dominance, not mutual respect, is the key?  I asked my very bright five year old what he thought when he came out of quiet time.

"I didn't like it at all.  You could have just talked to us nicely."
"I know, babe.  I was frustrated.  Do you ever get frustrated?" I asked.
"Yeah but you put me in time out when I yell like that."
"Yes, I do.  And I put myself in time out for this one.  Do you understand why I was frustrated with you?"
"Because we didn't listen."
"Right.  Can you work on listening and I'll work on yelling?"
"Okay.  Don't yell anymore, okay Mommy?"
"You got it, bud."

To my three year old, I kept it a little simpler.
"I'm so sorry I yelled and scared you before your nap, my love."
His eyes widened as he looked at me tenderly.  "Oh Mama, that so nice.  I love you."

We all screw up with our kids.  We all have moments that will come up when they are in therapy someday.  But if we can admit our faults, our regrets and our mistakes, they will be more apt to share theirs with us.  We can't be perfect and neither can they.  But if we can model God's forgiveness and transparency, we just might help them understand the meaning of unconditional love.

Is there anything that you have messed up on this week?  Try talking to your kids about it and asking their take on it.  You may be surprised at their perspective and their willingness to forgive.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Little Nurturing

Every October we spend an evening at a hometown festival called Sun Fiesta.  We drink a little beer, eat way too much and watch the boys bounce in the bounce houses.  This year, we had our little baby girl with us.  She hadn't quite finished her jar of pureed something or other so the boys raced to the bounce houses while I stayed with her.  

She sat on a picnic table and grabbed a huge pile of napkins to wave back and forth and up and down.  She giggled as she watched them blow in the wind.  We talked about the band that played in the background and I sang the cheesy eighties songs just so that I could get some smiles out of her.  Still half smiling, she went back to her napkins.  Then I saw her stop and look up at me with love.  She reached over and gently wiped the corner of my mouth, just like I have done with her countless times.  I wasn't sure if that was her intent so I said, "Thank you, baby!  I think you missed a spot.  How about over here?"  She paused and looked at her napkin then reached up again to gently clean off my face.  

My little boys are tremendously kind but they have never been nurturing.  She was exactly that.  She wanted to mimic my care taking.  She is learning how to care for others.  Or maybe it's innate, natural and the way she, as a little girl, has been designed.  Whatever the reason, it was wonderful to see a bit of her heart.  I got a glimpse of her personality and spirit that I would (and DO!) miss when she is being lugged all around town on my hip.  And for that I am so grateful.

We focus so much on the love we give to our children and when that love is returned, there is no better feeling.  They are watching us all the time.  The more love we show them, the more they will have in their heart.  

Spend some time watching their loving gestures this week and pat yourself on the back.  You really are doing a great job.
 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Reevaluating My Homeschool


Sometimes I think the hardest part of homeschooling is knowing when to change courses.  I am constantly watching my children and trying to decide to push through something that is hard or to slow down and try a different approach.  

My oldest has really been struggling with handwriting and math.  He will close his eyes and drop his head on the table anytime he sees me get out his copywork.  Math is fine until he gets to something that takes work to figure out.  At that point, he starts falling on the floor or going to the bathroom a hundred times.  I wonder if he is putting his head down during math and handwriting because he's bored or because he's too challenged.  I wonder if I am explaining it clearly.  Do I need to be harder on him or more understanding?  I really don't know. But this week, I was able to gain a bit more clarity.

I have been teaching a preschool co-op class once a week and during playtime, I get some time to talk with the other moms.  We're always swapping ideas, frustrations and breakthroughs and it's opening my eyes to new possibilities.  One of the moms does not used a boxed curriculum and worries more about the long term goals.  She gets a check list of everything she wants them to learn that school year and works backwards.  But here's my favorite thing - She asks them to tell her what they want to learn about and spends a month on each topic.  

I started thinking about the boxed curriculum I use.  It's filled with wonderfully enriching books and I love that aspect.  But the kids don't have any input and, frankly, neither do I.  I'm just following my checklist and feeling mounting pressure to "get done" every day.  So I decided to change my approach.  I will continue to read them great books but we are going to take a unit study approach and focus on one topic each month.  I decided to run this idea by the boys.

"We really get to pick!?" my oldest said.  "Let's do trains!  And clocks!  Can we take some clocks apart and see what's inside?" 
"Sure!  What about you, Drew?"
"Airplanes and cars and volcanoes and tv's!" he answered.
We were off to a good start but I still had one more concern.  "I've noticed you've been struggling a bit with math and handwriting.  Is it too easy or too hard for you?  I can't really tell," I asked my oldest.
He slumped his skinny long body down on the couch and said in a muffled voice, "I'm really bad at handwriting.  I get my b's and p's and d's all mixed up and I write my s's backwards!  It's so hard!  And I don't know the answers for math.  I think I do but then I'm wrong and it's so embarrassing.  I hate getting the answers wrong."
I paused for a minute and said a silent prayer to get this right.  "Could I show you something?" I asked him.  I went to our school book shelf and grabbed his Kindergarten handwriting book.  "See this page?"  I showed him a page of ten squiggly A's.  "This took you a full half hour a few months ago.  Now you can do this," I said as I showed him the paragraph he had written that morning.  "It's really hard work, I know.  But you're doing it.  You are really and truly doing it well."
"And look how bad those A's are!" he said giggling.  

I learned this week that they have the answers if we only ask them.  We don't have to guess and we don't have to hold firm to a tactic that isn't working.  If we come to them with understanding, they will be open and honest with us.  And that honesty will help to guide us.  

Are there any parenting tactics that you use that seem to have "stopped working" for you?  Take some time to reevaluate - Maybe even ask your kids what they think of your new ideas.


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