Sunday, June 26, 2011

June Happenings

 Some of the things that have been going on here in the last month:

* Richard scored some great FREE bikes for every member of our family! These are high-quality bikes that just need a couple new tires and some minor tuning - it's really quite fantastic. In one of those weird quirks of life, both Richard and I had our bikes (and my bike trailer) stolen just before we got married, and we haven't owned bikes since then. Family bike rides were a highlight of my life growing up - lots of wonderful memories - and I'm SO excited to be able to finally make some of those memories with our kids. To top it off, I found a mint Schwinn bike trailer at a garage sale for $75, so we're basically set. (If we do a longer trip, Moses will have to ride in the trailer with Judah and we'll need a seat for Clementine, but for short rides he can handle riding by himself.) We are so pumped!!

Moses has been practicing with training wheels for a while and he's really good.

Judah just started on his bike and he's still learning.

This was actually the only bike we bought - $8 at a garage sale!

The bicycle bell is an important feature.

* Grace finished the school year at RiverTree with an AMAZING Shakespeare Festival. The 3rd-7th graders performed "Much Ado About Nothing" and the younger kids sang and recited sonnets. It was amazing. It was brilliant. Did I say it was amazing?  Grace played the part of Don Pedro, a Prince of Aragon. (If you've seen the movie, which is great, her character is played by Denzel Washington. =]) Several of the girls had to play male roles and they did fantastic. I was so proud of how Grace got into character and really sold the part. She didn't merely recite her lines, she became Don Pedro. It was just an all-around wonderful play! I mean, some of these kids were THIRD graders, memorizing line upon line of Shakespearean English, and the oldest kids were only 13, memorizing up to 90 lines! There were touching scenes, inspiring speeches, hilarious banter, subtle humor... wow. It was just a great finale to the school year.

Getting her beard and sideburns applied.

I present His Grace, Don Pedro of Aragon!

The small play-goers, ready for the performance.

The girls in Grace's class, all of whom performed with incredible skill!
* Clementine is 20 months old. That means she's the same age Moses and Judah were when the next new baby joined the family! But there's no new baby and so Clemmers gets to keep being Mama's baby. This is definitely a change for us - it's a little strange and sad not to have a new baby here - but it's also wonderful! I really, really love my sweet little girl being able to stay my little girl. Here's what Clementine is up to, 4 months before she turns two:
  • She's a little spitfire! It must come from having 2 older brothers, but she can hold her own physically. She's not scared to get into the mix with her wild and rowdy brothers, nor to engage in a little hair-pulling or pinching, unfortunately. :-/  She can be sweet, but she can be pugnacious too!

  • She's a Mama's Girl still! She's definitely the baby of the house, and (although she can be feisty and independent) she loves to cuddle with Mama, be worn in the sling when I'm making dinner, and be rocked and nursed to sleep. She has Papa wrapped around her little finger too. =]

  • Clementine loves to be where her sibs are, doing what they're doing. When she's not in the mood for a cuddle with Mama, she's content just to toddle around after her brothers. Especially now that it's [finally!] nice out, I won't hear from her for hours and hours! Playing in the sandbox with Judah, being pushed oh so gently on the swing by Moses, playing Orphanage under Grace's direction, or just running around in the back yard is enough to make her perfectly content.

  • She's talking up a storm! My last child said not a word until he was 2, and then it was another 6-8 months before he was coherent. So having a little girl who started saying words at around a year and now has a good 300+ word vocabulary is a bit... strange! She's putting together sentences of 3+ words and adding to her vocabulary every day. It's incredible the words she knows! A couple that have surprised me in the last few weeks:
-dragonfly  -yogurtstrawberries (a favorite breakfast)  -popsicle  -ship (when she made something out of Duplos)  -dolphin  -Lightsaber (no surprise, really!)  -Monkey Baby (her name for one of her dolls)

Pretending to be a puppy!

Hamming it up with Papa
Clementine's just pretty darn fun and cute. She has a bedtime routine where she tells everyone goodnight, "Nigh-nigh Papa, Nigh-nigh Sissy, Nigh-nigh Mo Mo, Nigh-nigh Doodah!" She'll beckon to you with her little hand, whispering, "Here! Here!" when she wants you to come see something. She'll [usually] apologize sweetly when she's clobbered you over the head with a toy. When she's being reprimanded for something she'll wrinkle up her nose and smile and laugh beguilingly, which is VERY naughty and VERY cute.

*Moses turned 5 years old! It's always insane how fast your children grow. I'll never forget hearing him cry and holding him in my arms for the first time, how sweet that was after all the pain of losing Matthias and all the waiting for Moses to arrive. That first year of his life was so incredible, almost magical. I remember feeling in awe most of the time, that we finally had another child in our home and that he was as adorable and funny and sweet as he was. Five years and 2 more children later, it all feels a little more normal, but I do feel amazed at how big Moses has gotten and I LOVE watching him grow into a young man. He's really, really fun, and really, really cute, and smart and charismatic and full of wonderful things that delight a mother's heart.

The birthday card with the light-up Lightsaber and Star Wars theme music was worth the $8.

It's a fishing pole... and it's Star Wars.

I can't get over his shaggy, curly hair. Could Not Be Cuter.

Seeing your friend's toys is almost as interesting as getting toys yourself!

Birthday Friends

* Judah Buddy hasn't had any big adventures or events happen this month, but in typical middle-child fashion, he's had a lot of fun doing what the other kids are doing.
  • He went to Grace's play and seemed to like it.
  • He had great fun at Moses' birthday party, although the SHARING of the toys might be an ongoing issue...

  • He's been Clementine's buddy out-of-doors as well as in. Sometimes they fight, but Clementine dishes it out as much as she takes it, so I have to instruct both of them in greater gentleness. But when they're getting along, Judah is very brotherly-protective and sweet to his little sister.
  • He went fishing with Papa and Moses! What little boy doesn't love fishing? 

  • He learned how to ride a 2-wheeler with training wheels!
  • He's not at all squeamish about collecting all kinds of bugs, unlike any of the other kids. He especially likes "Junior Bugs" (June bugs) and "Boxer Brief Bugs" (Box Elder bugs).  But he'll collect all kinds of worms, centipedes, spiders and various creepy crawlies. I think he's a budding naturalist.
This means fun.
  • He loves to show me how fast he can run and how strong he is. He's still so baby-faced and stocky and short-legged! I LOVE how cute he looks when he runs. 
If you're not that good on a bike yet, it's faster to run.
  • He NEEDS to nap basically every day. But many days he has trouble obeying and laying quietly until he falls asleep. This is tough for both of us, but despite what seems like crazy naughtiness on his part, I've found that usually what he needs is not discipline but for me to rock him to sleep. I hadn't done that in many months, but apparently he still needs it, and I love the chance to cuddle my active, big boy for a little while.

  • Judah still needs lots of cuddles from Mama even though he tends to have a pretty stoic demeanor. He definitely challenges me the most out of all my kids but I think that's a good thing. It makes me really have to seek God for wisdom to parent him. He doesn't allow me to be nonchalant in my mothering, or lazy or careless. I can be that way with my other kids some of the time and get away with it, but not with Judah. With Judah I have to really pay attention and really be mindful of how I'm speaking to him, how I'm acting, what I say, etc. And most days I have to dig really deep to figure out how to deal with the situations that arise with Judah. One minute you think he hasn't even heard you because he's staring at you totally deadpan, and the next he's an angry, sad, weeping, yelling mess. But like I said, when I'm tempted to think of Judah as my "difficult child", I immediately cross that out from my mind and think of him as the child who's most challenging me to be a better mother. He's just not easy to figure out. There is SO much feeling IN him (but he tends to keep it in) and there's SO much going on in his mind (but again, he doesn't communicate a lot of it) and he just needs a very sensitive, mindful, wise mother. That's a good thing to have to learn to be.

He's showing me how the brakes work

So that's kinda what's going on here. Richard's doing some work around the house, mostly yard/landscaping sorts of things, I've been fitting in a little bit of sewing and crafting (about 1% of the ideas and projects I'd LIKE to do!), and once all the kids are in bed, we like to sit on our deck and just feel thankful for our wonderful home and family.
It won't make you feel any younger, but an occasional hogpile with your kids is a good thing.

This is the start of a scrappy quilt for Grace. Stay tuned. It'll probably be done sometime before she leaves for college.

I love looking out the kitchen window and seeing this.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Moses for Five Years!

In honor of Moses' FIFTH birthday on Saturday, I made this Birthday Photo Montage! I think it really captures Moses - his bright and cheerful personality, his charisma, his goofiness, his sweetness - and how the adorable chubby baby grew into an adorable but maturing five-year-old boy.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tending and Tending

Do you read a wonderful blog called SouleMama? It's written by a dear mama named Amanda Soule who's written two of my favorite books, Handmade Home and The Creative Family. (These books are really, really worth owning, even if you don't picture yourself as a super creative person.) SouleMama just had a baby. Some other dear mamas are guest blogging for her, and this post by Tara Thayer just pierced me. Such a perfectly-worded insight into mothering....

i began as the mother of babes.

and i mean that, for i was born then, too.

all of the me that had begun,
the wonderings and wanderings of my first three decades,
melted away in the faces of those new babies
and i was born anew.

i spent the next decade tending.

and tending, i did well. it was my thing, apparently.

i grew into it, and i loved every minute.

you know that to be a gentle lie.
there were quite a few minutes of awful.  of anguish, even.
and so much comedy, uncertainty, dishevelment.
you know.

but now...

some of my babes are almost grown.
do not kid yourself about how quickly that happens.
do not kid yourself and do not miss a second wishing those
wonderfully intense, delicious early years away.

for it happens even as you are watching them.

they grow.

and as much as you need to lose yourself to care for those newborn babes, those littles-

when they have grown to your size almost-when their feet may be as big!-
it is then that you need to find yourself again.
you need to grow.

for then, as they come upon ten; at twelve maybe...fourteen certainly;

then you must find yourself in order to know how to guide them.  you must be the you
that you want to be,
so that the you they are growing up against and alongside, is the you that you want them to know.

for here's the thing:

in the end,

what you want for them most of all is to leave you.
to leave your house to become who they will be.
and when they are gone
who do you want to be left with?

my wish is that my own answer

is the me that was born out of mothering them.
and the man that's loved me all along the way.

~ ~ ~ ~

Friday, June 17, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers.  A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your “moment” in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Snake Man

Toy snake? Yes, please.
Moses will be 5 at the end of this month! Five just seems so.... old. He's really big. He's really grown-up. He's completely left the world of babyhood and toddlerhood forever. When did this happen, someone please tell me! It's just not right. Well, it's amazingly fun to watch him mature and become a fascinating little boy, but it's hard to see it happen so quickly...

Anyhoo, I wanted to share with you this kid's amazing, voracious obsession with SNAKES. Yes, he is a snake fiend. I remember many years ago when Mo was just a baby, I was watching some preschool kids in nursery at Grace's Musik Garden class, and there was a 4 year old boy there who knew everything about construction equipment. I was just blown away watching him point to pictures in his book and say, "That's a skid loader, that's an excavator, that's a backdumperscraperbulloaderhoe...." or whatever. It was crazy, he couldn't read but he knew all 50 or so pieces of equipment in his book - he just rattled them off, no problem. I thought this kids was some sort of prodigy or something!

Now I realize that it's more likely he just had a fascination with construction equipment and had a book about it and had parents who were willing to read that book to him 10 or 12 times a day. Every day.

I know this, because that's what's happened with Moses and Snakes. First I brought out a stack of books I had gotten at a sale and had packed away for a while. In the said stack of books was one about snakes. Moses snatched it up and was super keen on it. Thus started the interest. Then for Christmas he got the Mother of All Snake Books from his super-cool Great-Grandparents.

Then the obsession really started. First thing EVERY MORNING, Moses could be seen stretched out on his tummy, paging through The Snake Book. We read it non-stop every day for weeks and weeks. Pretty soon he could identify 20+ snakes on sight.

"That's a Reticulated Python, that's a Green Anaconda, that's a Burmese Python, that's a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, that's a Black Mamba, that's a King Cobra...." and on and on. AND, he could tell you pretty much any random fact you might want to know about snakes. Did you know that some snakes lay eggs and some give birth to live babies? Did you know that Sea Snakes have the most potent venom, the King Cobra is the largest venomous snake, and the Indian Cobra is responsible for the most fatalities? Did you know that the Milk Snake looks just like the Coral Snake, but one is poisonous and one is harmless?

Which is Milk, which is Coral??
(In case you're ever confronted with a snake of red, black and yellow bands, and want to know if it's the poisonous Coral Snake or the harmless Milk Snake, please remember this rhyme: "Red on yellow, you're a dead fellow. Red on black, you're alright Jack."  You're welcome.)

The poor book was tattered within a couple months, and has since undergone major reconstructive surgery in order to reattach covers and mend torn pages. Thankfully half a dozen more snake books have been added to the originals, giving us endless snake-reading possibilities. 

Here's some of our favorites, in case you have a snake-lover in your home:

Snake by Chris Mattison (The Mother of all Snake Books)

Verdi by Janell Cannon (Wonderful storybook for the whole family) 

Snakes by Seymour Simon (This one has AMAZING photos!)

Moses' favorite: the Green Tree Python!

I personally have never been squeamish about snakes - in fact, I think they're pretty cool. Maybe if we lived somewhere where there were deadly snakes about I might feel differently, but I'm pretty okay with the Minnesota varieties. There's a long history in my family of snake-hunting, going all the way back to when my sibs and I were little tykes and my dad and uncles would take us out looking for snakes under piles of scrap lumber and in the fields. Now that tradition is being carried on to a new generation, as my dad and brothers are taking my kids snake-hunting when we're out in the country.

Well, Uncle Caleb has taken things a step farther in recently acquiring his own pet snake. Princess Buttercup is not some 12-inch-long Garter Snake in a little tank. Oh no, she is a long, heavy, gorgeous Ball Python. Every little boy's (and big boy's!) dream! It's hard to describe the delight when we got to meet Buttercup face-to-face.

 I'm not sure how long snakes will be at the forefront of Moses' interest, but it's really fun to be able to take something he's naturally interested in and "run with it." Yes, he can identify 500 different snake species and he's a walking encyclopedia of snake trivia, but that doesn't mean he's a prodigy. His interest has simply been captured by a certain subject and we've fed that interest with plenty of good books and toys (okay and some You Tube videos as well!)

It's one of the most satisfying and enjoyable parts of parenting, to see where your kids' interest leads them and to enhance that interest in healthy ways. I was blessed to have parents who did that incredibly well and I'm so happy to be doing it for my kids now!

One of many snake drawing adorning our fridge


What subjects have your kids become keenly interested in, and how have you cultivated that interest?