Sunday, March 29, 2020

a COVID-19 confession of being ordinary

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” -- Victor Hugo

I am not doing anything very significant right now.  I wake each morning thinking I ought to join some great movement to provide aid or relief to people, or perhaps to find a way despite social distancing to share uplifting music with others, or at the very least to deliver handwritten notes to each of our neighbors, but somehow each day seems to bring with it enough on my proverbial plate.  It is enough just to keep my children fed and cared for, to prepare for the rapidly approaching arrival of our fourth child, to keep our home from falling into chaos.

I am not doing great things, and if I am honest with myself, I am not even heeding Mother Theresa's call to "do small things with great love," for sometimes I cannot seem to summon in myself the great love.  There are in fact times in each day when I'm doing small things not with great love but with great impatience, or with great annoyance, or even with great bitterness.

I am sitting at the table, three meals a day, reminding children to chew with their mouths closed, to not interrupt one another, sometimes just to take another bite without complaint.  I am ushering children into coats and boots to take them out of doors for a walk, and wondering why at least one of them seems to be fussing at any given moment.  I am folding loads of laundry daily, and loading the dishwasher again the minute it's been run and emptied.  I am reading aloud through frequent irritating interruptions.  I am wiping hands and bottoms, giving baths, and reminding these small people, over and over, of the the rules and expectations of our family.  It does not feel like a great thing, this life of mine, but somehow, nonetheless, it can be enough to exhaust me.

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The world is a weighty place, and we are all feeling it right now.  People are sick and some are even dying.  We are staying home, and we are waiting as the data unfolds in real time.  Knowing that the numbers represent real lives and deaths.

But there are beautiful things happening too, even if I'm not contributing to them.

In the past week, I've been touched by a few things personally: a delivery to my doorstep of a bag of flour when Nathan couldn't find any at the store; a package of my favorite almond butter cups from Trader Joe's brought to my porch; conversations held through the doorway; a friend bringing a gift for our new baby; a bunch of forsythia from a friend's yard; another doorstep delivery of labor and postpartum supplies.  And in my gratitude for these moments of mine, I've also been humbled in the realization that I have not done very much for others lately.

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Nathan's work must feel, I think, more meaningful than any of mine at a time like this.  The music he coordinates for Sunday worship services has become a lifeline to many people right now, with more than a thousand people tuning in to the livestream each Sunday to hear the music as well as the sermon and to participate, such as they can, in worship.  

For my own work, my spring gigs have all been canceled.  I'm continuing to teach violin, albeit virtually for the time being.  Two weeks ago I could never have imagined that I would someday feel strangely thrilled to see the faces of students on my computer, to feel that saying hello to a middle schooler or chatting briefly with a beginning student playing Twinkle would become a bit of a lifeline, a glimpse of humanity outside my own door.

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Life is changed for all of us right now, in our work lives and in our home lives.  And isolation, I am learning, is not always good even for an introvert such as myself.  Even for us, a family who already homeschooled and thus was accustomed to life with children home all the time, nothing feels very normal right now.  Our rhythms and routines are disrupted.  And where things do manage to continue as normal, a blanket of anxiety can threaten to envelop me at any moment of the day.

If I read too many news articles in one day, I can feel the creeping fears -- While we are hoping to have a home birth, will I somehow end up delivering in a hospital situation where my husband is not permitted to be with me?  Will my family and friends be able to remain healthy through this epidemic?  How many will have lives inevitably altered by this, either by disease or by financial ramifications?  I have to put down my computer, go outside for a bit and breathe the fresh air, try to find a sense of normalcy.

Amidst these global concerns, I am confronted daily with my own pettiness and selfishness.  I think of things I had wanted to do before the baby comes -- updating the framed pictures from eight years ago hanging on the living room walls, changing a few decor things to create a space I'll enjoy being in when I'm nursing a new baby.  And yet, a trip to Michaels to update my walls or even a trip to Target for baby essentials is suddenly not possible, or at least not advisable.  I find myself feeling a petty sense of self-pity that I won't be able to take the new baby out in the near future, won't be able to go through a Starbucks drive-through on a particularly wearying day, won't be able to see any friends in those early newborn days.  I know that none of these things are particularly weighty problems in light of a world battling a global disease, nurses overworked and patients dying, and yet I cannot seem to help feeling them.

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This morning a timely online sermon reminded me that God never promises that we won't be in the valley of the shadow of death.  But he promises that he will be with us.  The presence of God.  I want it to be tangible right now, to myself and to my children, but instead some days I feel as though I'm reaching around in the darkness unable to quite grasp ahold of his presence.  I'm grieved that we won't be able to go to church during Holy Week or for Easter.  And while I usually love celebrating these special times and observing them in many ways in our home life, instead of feeling empowered or energized right now to do this even more for my family, I feel... tired.  Overwhelmed.  Isolated.  Sad.

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So, I'm not doing great things.  Today's small accomplishments included beginning a good and timely chapter book with my kids, and baking two loaves of sourdough bread that, for the first time in a couple of weeks, actually rose beautifully and turned out nicely.  With the heat in our house only working sporadically, along with a shortage of flour until recently, I have had depressingly dense loaves lately.  So it felt like a victory to have this morning's loaves bake up the way I wanted them to at last.

We dipped chunks of fresh sourdough into homemade hummus tonight, and we were grateful.

God reminded me of his presence in a loaf of bread today - our daily bread, our needs provided for.

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So this is me today, right now: not inspirational, not a world-changer.  Just getting through each day, tired and rather hugely pregnant, waiting for the time each evening when I can fall into bed.  Despite a million clever and creative ideas flooding the internet with things we could all be doing with our children lately, I am just maintaining the normal around here for the most part.  Not doing spectacular craft projects with my children, not making medical supplies, certainly not nursing patients back to health or even brightening anyone's day, really.

Just baking two loaves of bread and feeding my husband and children.

The pastor I listened to online earlier today said this, repeating advice he was once given when he had reached a low point: "Be faithful.  Do the next thing that you're supposed to do, and do it well."

So I shall continue to do the little things I've been given to do each day, even on the days when all is grey and rainy and my tasks feel unimportant.  And when I have accomplished my tasks, I will go to sleep, because sleep is something I seem to require a lot of right now.  And I will remember Victor Hugo's words: "God is awake."  He is present.

Friends, if any of you are like me, and not feeling that you are accomplishing great things in these difficult days, you are not alone.  Remember that the little things matter, and remember most of all that you can go to sleep after your day's labors, knowing that God is present with us and he does not sleep.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

how to enjoy your kids during the coronavirus

Well, the COVID-19 concerns have officially set in, along with extensive social distancing as we as a country attempt to "flatten the curve."  Schools are closed, events are canceled, and we are all staying home.  As a second-generation homeschooling mother who is naturally an introvert, I've been training my whole life for this moment.  A few glances at social media sites, however, have assured me that not all parents are feeling peaceful about these coming weeks of isolation.  A lot of parents are feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for increased time spent in close quarters with their children.  I get it.  If it's not what you're used to, it can probably seem like a lot to have an entire day to fill with these small humans, and then to do it again the next day, and the next.

I originally had no intention whatsoever of adding to the clamor out there.  I mean, my goodness.  The "COVID daily schedules," those color-blocked moment-by-moment methods of recreating the intense structure of public school in your homes!  The cutesy, picture-perfect unit studies all over Pinterest!  And the homeschooling programs that have realized they are one sector of the economy that could possibly thrive in this difficult time, suddenly filling everyone's feeds with endless options for free curriculum samples, discount codes, and more!   What could I possibly have to add with all these options?

Allow me instead to attempt to subtract, rather than add. Take it from someone who has been overwhelmed by the options before.  When I was choosing not just how to fill a few weeks of extra time with my children, but selecting entire curricula to begin in each subject when we began the task of officially homeschooling two years ago, I was overwhelmed.  Nathan finally walked by me one day, nose buried in my computer, and declared, "No wonder you're overwhelmed!  Allow me to close fifty tabs on your computer for you and you will feel better."  In this era of the interconnectedness of the world wide web, there are so many options.

And many of them are good options.  But you really don't need to download 50 curriculum samples, 95 free worksheets, and daily and weekly schedules to get through these next few weeks with your children.  In fact, I believe that you can not just survive these weeks, but you could find yourself thriving in them.  I have even gone so far as to think to myself that certain sector of society -- not everyone, mind you -- may enjoy their life of telecommuting, decreasing daily activities, and increasing time with their families so much that they may want to continue in a simpler, less scheduled and structured way of life even when this is all over.

So do yourself a favor and close some browser tabs, and trust that it will all be okay.  Your children can survive without school, and they will not fall behind academically.  You, their parent, can survive this.  You'll find a way that works for your unique family, and it may or may not resemble the color-coded schedules you've seen online.  It may or may not involve worksheets.  You might choose to set aside the worksheets, in fact, and do something that could be, in the end, far more memorable.  You can use these weeks for unexpected snuggles, for reading books together that will make you laugh and cry, for spending time in nature together, for baking favorite recipes together, for creating art together.

In a nutshell: you do not need to buy a curriculum to spend the next few weeks with your children.  You do not need to suddenly undertake the task of "homeschooling."  Take a deep breath.  Your children, while probably challenging at times, can also probably be a lot of fun.  You've got this.

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First of all, a disclaimer: My children are almost-eight, almost-six, three, and due-next-month.  So I have spent almost eight years parenting, which I realize is not very much time in the broad scheme of things.  I don't have experience parenting teens or even pre-teens.  But if you, like me, have young-ish children, you may find a word here or there to be helpful.

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Perhaps most importantly, I'll begin with this: my three main strategies to swiftly turn around a day that is going poorly (and we all have days or moments like that):

1) Go Outside: Send the kids out, or better yet, go out all together, because it's as good for a parent or caregiver as it is for the kids.  Run around in the yard.  Sit on the patio furniture and listen to the birds.  Take a walk.  Go on a hike.  Children are less grumpy out of doors, they argue less, and they are more pleasant.  Just go outside!

{Go outside.  Even if it's messy.}
2) Turn on Music: We like a variety of music around here, including lots of classical music, music from ballets which our girls love to dance to, and folk music by singers like Elizabeth Mitchell.  Turn on music and watch the kids get happier.

3) Involve Water: This could mean running a bath and putting young kiddos in it, or it could mean letting someone splash in the kitchen sink and play with measuring cups.  It could mean letting them help wash dishes.  It might mean pulling out water beads, which are great fun.  It might mean swiftly tossing whoever is the grumpiest into a bathtub and adding bubbles and watching at least one other young kid decide to jump in, too.  Children forget to be grumpy when they're playing with water and bubbles.  (And it probably goes without saying, but supervise young children around water.  Of course.)

{Sometimes #1 and #3 can be combined, like playing in a bucket of water outside, a totally winning combination.}

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Now, let's say there's no particular grumpiness going on, or you've already dealt with it using one of the above strategies or one of your own tried and true methods.  Now what should you do with your children all day?

I would humbly submit that you don't need a curriculum, or even a big pile of worksheets, to enjoy a few weeks with your children and to watch them grow, learn, and thrive.  It might take them a few days to adjust to the total change in their lives and schedules, but they will adjust and learn how to play, how to fill their time without bells, buzzers, or teachers telling them to switch tracks every 50 minutes, and suddenly you'll be surprised to realize they've been engrossed in a project of their own creation for two hours, coming up with something cool and fascinating (or maybe bizarre and only fascinating to them, but still!) all of their own accord.

So, if your school hasn't already assigned work to be done from home during the Coronavirus school closures (and I know some districts have and others haven't), or even if they have but you have other hours in the day to fill, here are a few thoughts:

Get dressed

Have your children get dressed.  I promise, the allure of days at home in PJs will wear off quickly, and you will find it is easier to love them if they are wearing something clean and pleasant, and their hair is combed.  Dress yourself, too, because you will feel more like a human being instead of a sleep-walking zombie surrounded by wild zoo animals as soon as you put on clothes, and maybe even a necklace or a pair of earrings.

Morning Basket

This idea is definitely not unique to me, and if you've spent even a little time in Charlotte Mason homeschooling circles you will have come across this phrase.  I can't recommend it highly enough!  Into a basket you want to put some books that will help you start your morning with something beautiful and meaningful.  Some of our favorites include a book or two of calendar poems or other seasonal poetry, perhaps some A.A. Milne poetry, our family notebook of poems we've memorized or are currently memorizing, a folksong or hymn we are learning together, and maybe a book of artwork by an artist you are studying or just an artist you love.  I keep our morning basket easily accessible, and during breakfast when the children's mouths are full and they are sitting reasonably still and wreaking less havoc than usual, I read to them.  A Psalm, a few poems, maybe a chapter from a current read-aloud book.  They love it and beg me not to stop reading, so in between sips of coffee, I just keep going.  Before you know it you've front-loaded your day with literature and poetry and beauty, and if the rest of the day goes a little off the rails, at least you've got that to show for your day.   It's no small thing, and it has saved many a day over here from feeling like a failure.

Read Aloud

I'm pretty sure all parents know the importance of reading aloud to your kids.  Whether they are not yet independent readers, or are struggling readers, or are already solid independent readers, the research is clear: reading to your kids will help set them up for a lifetime of loving to read.  Just get started and watch their vocabularies blossom, their comprehension grow and amaze you, their ability to recall it all astound you.  (Nell and I are finishing up The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge at the moment, and if you had read me even a paragraph of this book two years ago and told me that by age seven my daughter would be loving this book, I would have laughed.  And yet here we are, and she is engrossed with the story and loving it.)

Aside from academic advantages, reading aloud as a family will give you a shared family lexicon of beloved characters and stories that will become intermingled with your own family story in a way that is really special.  One of my go-to websites for book suggestions is Sarah Mackenzie's Read-Aloud Revival.  It's a great place to go for book lists of every kind: Seasonal book lists! Books about math!  Audiobooks that are on sale for pennies! Books divided by age or grade level!  Favorites for all ages!

{Because it's too cute not to share, a picture from our Little House in the Big Woods literature club with friends back in November.}
Don't forget to utilize Hoopla, Libby, or Librivox apps for audiobooks when your own voice gives out or you just need a break.  I borrowed the Complete Ramona Quimby Collection on Hoopla a couple of weeks ago and since then my two older girls have powered through all 15 hours of Ramona books not once but twice, and are midway through a third time through.  They are quoting it, living it, laughing about it.  They are deep into Ramona's world at the moment, and loving it.

A few other favorite read-alouds and audiobooks around here have included: The Wizard of Oz (read by Anne Hathaway on Audible), Charlotte's Web (read by E.B. White himself), The Trumpet of the Swan, The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, and the other Melendy family books, Half Magic by Edward Eager, Thornton Burgess books, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, the Narnia books we've read so far, books by E. Nesbit, The Princess and the Goblin, Astrid Lindgren books like Pippi Longstocking and The Children of Noisy Village, the Winnie-the-Pooh books, which you are never too old for really, Heidi, the All-of-a-Kind Family books, the Clementine books, and.... well, goodness, I'll stop myself for now.  So many good ones!

{Don't forget to help littler ones find things to occupy themselves while you read bigger read-alouds to older children.}
Say Yes

My kids wake up every day with about six hundred ideas of things they want to do.  Just by saying yes to some of them, we can fill our days pretty easily with meaningful activities.  Just today Nell asked if she could sew a tutu for her doll, and while I couldn't manage it today due to teaching quite a few virtual violin lessons over FaceTime today, I told her that YES!  We can absolutely do that tomorrow!  Marie saw a basket of yarn and wanted to crochet something yesterday --YES!  Molly wanted to take a bath with her new birthday bath toys -- YES!  Nell wanted me to read to her from her geography book -- YES!  The older girls are deep into a phase of coloring book obsession and can't get enough of working through our stash of wonderful Dover coloring books -- YES!

{Building a model covered wagon yesterday after finishing a book about the Santa Fe trail. Sometimes it takes courage to say yes to, or even propose, something involving glue and hammers and small nails.  Take courage; it'll be worth it.}
Scatter Things With Intention

In case your kids don't have one hundred overwhelming ideas of things they're dying to do each and every day, or if you're all just going through a bit of a slump and need some inspiration, you can thoughtfully choose a few things to leave out in conspicuous places that you think your kids might see and subsequently want to do.  A basket of fabric, a jar of buttons.  A pile of favorite picture books you haven't read in a while placed nonchalantly on the coffee table for them to re-discover in the morning.  A jar of coins they can play with and practice counting.  Or maybe you just want to begin an ordinary task and watch them wander through and ask if they can join you.  Sure, kiddo, you can help me reorganize the kitchen cabinets!

Kitchen Help

If your days are anything like mine, by the time you've made breakfast, spent a rich and meaningful hour pouring over the books in your morning basket, tidied up from breakfast, and read aloud for an hour or two from a pile of good books (oh, and don't forget to read to the littlest ones first sometimes!), it'll be almost lunch time.  Let the kids help choose if there are choices to be had, and then, let them wash the veggies or fruit, slice the cucumbers or peppers or apples, spread the peanut butter on the sandwich bread.  They'll love being part of the preparation process if they are still young, and they'll thank you for teaching them these life skills someday.  They're also more likely to take ownership and actually enjoy eating the meal if they've helped prepare it.

{You might even be bold enough to say yes to a stark naked toddler "helping" you with the sourdough bread sometimes.}

Quiet Time

Friends, this is essential.  Do not under any circumstance neglect the importance of quiet time or rest time or whatever you want to call it.  We all need it, from the youngest toddler to the oldest and inevitably most exhausted parent.  Maybe everyone goes to his or her own space, or maybe a few children play quietly together or listen to an audiobook while coloring side by side.  Whatever works for your family, during this time, you as the parent are not in the least bit responsible for entertaining them.  My goodness, you've just filled their minds with a few hours of good stories and food for their young imaginations, and maybe you've even done a handicraft or art project with them, too.  You've fed them not one but two meals!  Congratulations, you are now totally and completely entitled to go "offline" for a bit.  Read your own book, work on your own project, or lay down and take a well-deserved nap.  They'll have a great time playing together.  You, the parent, are not actually obligated to entertain your child or children or to pretend that you want to play trains with them.  It is my firm belief that adults don't need to play with children for most of the day unless you are the sort of adult that actually wants to do this.  Nope.  Say to your children, "Go play," and they will do it.  They want to!  If they've temporarily forgotten how, they'll soon remember.  Don't despair.  Children accustomed to a rather long school day of constant structure may need a little time to "de-school" and get reacquainted with their imaginations, but it will happen.  Before you know it half the recycling bin will be mysteriously emptied, the scissors and tape will have gone missing, and your kids will have constructed an adobe village at the end of the Santa Fe trail or something, all because you read them a book recently and then gave them time and space to be kids.

Clean Up

Do yourself a favor, parents and caregivers.  Teach your children to help with the cleanup.  This way of life, with kids in your home doing interesting and wonderful things, is a messy one.  You will lose your ever-loving mind if you don't teach them, by gently coming alongside them in the cleaning up process, to clean up their messes, preferably one at a time before they create too many new ones.  These skills won't come overnight but they will gradually grow and your future sanity will thank you later for building these habits in your children.

{a couple of real-life "before" pictures.  AKA what our life looks like multiple times each day.}

Need another afternoon activity?  You don't need to do anything fancy, but if you want to help your children begin to create their own notebooks they can enjoy adding to and looking back on later, we have two favorites.  Each of my older children keeps a "nature journal" and a "book of illustrations."  We don't fill a page a day by any means, but we try to get an entry into each one about once a week, which to be honest, sometimes ends up being less frequent.  But it's something I want to do better at, because not only does it cement things in their memories, it gives them meaningful work of their own doing to look back on gathered into one nice and neat place.

The nature journals contain pencil sketches, water colors, and colored pencil drawings of favorite things they've discovered in nature or science- / nature- related things we've read about in books.  The books of illustrations contain drawings related to read-alouds we did for fun, as well as illustrations sometimes accompanied by "narrations" (recaps in their own words) of school books like history, stories from Shakespeare, etc.  They treasure these notebooks and love looking back at their previous work and remembering the stories and the discoveries we've shared.


I know many parents who are used to working full-time while their kids are in school full-time may not be accustomed to embracing a regular and somewhat early bedtime, but if you are spending much of your days home with your kids, I cannot recommend bedtime highly enough.  Spending the day with your kids is quite different from spending the day apart from them and needing those precious evening hours to reconnect.  We put our three-year-old to bed by 7 pm, and the older girls get ready for bed at the same time, and can look at books or listen to audiobooks or music in bed from about 7:30 or, at the latest, 8:00, until they're ready to sleep.  Meanwhile, I go do something separate from them, recharge, and get ready to do it all over again the next day.

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Congratulations, you've made it to the end of my unwanted advice.  

If you're still thinking you need a "curriculum" to occupy these weeks with your children, Ambleside Online has a great page of ideas for a "crisis curriculum."  It's simple, it's uncomplicated, it's a great starting point for reading good books with your kids, connecting with them during this time when they may be worried or unsettled, playing math games, reading good books, and keeping it simple. 

{Lest you think I'm "anti-worksheet," here's Marie happily doing a book of word worksheets she utterly adored completing.}
Your kids probably won't remember doing a random worksheet, no matter how thematic or cute or age-appropriate or academically challenging or what-have-you.  If they love worksheets then by all means give them a few to do, but what they will remember is this strange, unexpected time at home with their family.  Which may yet turn out to be unexpectedly wonderful in one way or another.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

"Mama, are you nice?"

A week or two ago Molly began asking me this question, sometimes several times a day: "Mama, are you nice?  Are you nice, Mama?"

At first I was both amused and perplexed by the question.  And should I be, perhaps, offended?  Why does my two year old need to ask me if I'm nice?  How should I answer?  "I mean, I think so, Molly.  I try to be nice.  What do you think?  Am I nice?"

Gradually I came to realize that a reasonable translation of her questions, as she intends it, might be, "Mama, are you in a good mood?"  In other words, "Are you going to be nice right now?"

And when I realized that, it made me stop and realize what a very reasonable question this is for a toddler to ask.  And how very unpredictable the world -- and her family members -- must seem to her at times.

"Mama, are you nice?"  Is this going to be a snuggle on the couch and read books moment, or are you about to start hollering at everyone to put their shoes on because we are late to go somewhere?

"Mama, are you nice?"  Will you swing me up onto the counter and let me rub my hands around in the flour and help you make the bread, or are you going to say it's too messy and you don't have time for that today?

"Mama, are you nice?"  Will you tickle my tummy and blow raspberries when you change my diaper, or get frustrated that I'm not potty trained yet?

"Nell, are you nice?"  Will you invite me into your room to play trains or calico critters with you, or are you about to slam the door and yell to Mom that I'm ruining everything?

"VeeVee {ReeRee}, are you nice?" Will you kiss me and snuggle beside me on the couch, or will you push me away and say I'm getting in your spot?

"Daddy, are you nice?" Will you pull me up into your lap while you work in your study, or send me out because you're stressed about work today?

"Mama, are you nice?"  Will you snuggle with me at bedtime and rock me and sing every song I request and not weary of it for at least half an hour, or will you be in a hurry and have to tuck me in and leave right away?

Come to think of it, there are a lot of things about human beings that can be unpredictable and hard to understand.  How could a toddler understand my underlying state of emotional well-being and how that is likely to influence my responses on a given day?  As much as I'd like to say that I'm consistent with my kids, the reality is that Mama on a relaxed day at home when the house is tidy and the chores are mostly done and the kids are well-behaved is probably a bit different than Mama slightly bothered by a messy house and the underlying stress of undone chores, running late for a gig or behind on work I meant to do.

* * *

Mama, are you nice?

My kids teach me a lot about myself, and this little phrase in particular stops me in my tracks multiple times a day of late.

When they show me their latest artistic endeavors, will I delight in their creativity, or be frustrated by the resulting mess all over the table and floor?

When they scatter their belongings around the house in a massive game of who-knows-what involving all three girls and seemingly every possession they own, will I smile and say, "Play is the essential work of childhood!  Now let's work together and clean up before dinner!" or will I bemoan the resulting disaster zone spread throughout the house?

* * *

I am consoled to know that there is much grace in this, and that I don't have to be a perfect parent or even a perfectly consistent parent to raise these kids.  Children are naturally so very forgiving, and when I occasionally react from a place of stress rather than responding calmly, they are quick to understand if I simply talk to them about it.  "I'm so sorry.  I am feeling worried about this mess because we are having company soon, and I have a headache so I'm not feeling well enough to tackle it all myself right now."  They leap into action, hugging me and promising to be helpful, and scrambling to put their things away or clean up their art projects as needed.

So Molly?  I'm trying to be nice.  Some days it's harder than others, but I'm trying.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Reflections on Preschool for Ree

As I recently reflected on a completed year of first grade with Nell, it seems only fitting to look back at pictures and quotes from Ree at the beginning of last year, her "preschool" year.

Q: What do you think people learn in preschool?
A: "I don't know.  I think they do some drawing of pictures of God.  And painting people who was in the world and who died.  And learn to be a grown up.  And how bout learn to do games that are really tricky to do.  Learn to stay in bed at night and be nice while Daddy is at work and don't scribble things."

Q: What do you most want to learn this year?
A: "Games!  And I want to have apple cider.  And learn to fly.  Peter Pan can teach me!"

Q: What are some of your favorite things to do?
A: "Dress up and be a ballerina.  Have a pizza every night.  Play a game.  Get ice cream!  Just be fun.  Play at a park.  Have people over for dinner and have a barbecue.  Be close to the ocean and go to a beach!  I like to go on hikes, and I like to go outside and ride my bike and... nothing else.  And read with Mom."

These pictures kind of crack me up, because they demonstrate how the best laid plans don't always go according to plan.  Exploring Nature with Children is a wonderful book I planned to work through with the girls, specifically as Marie's preschool curriculum.  Guess how far we got with it?!  Ha-ha-ha... not very far.  With that said, we did explore nature a whole lot on our own terms.  We just didn't quite keep up with the book.  So... I think I'll give myself a second chance this coming year for Kindergarten!  And I'm totally fine with the fact that we didn't get to it very often last year.  Instead let's think of all the things we DID do with that fun four-year-old pictured above (who is now FIVE!).

clearly this poor child has no personality to speak of

We hiked with friends in rain, shine, and snow.  We observed the year both seasonally and liturgically and threw ourselves into all the delightful seasonal celebrations we could think of.  Ree likes participating in math conversations she hears Nell and I engaging in, and has begun experimenting with adding numbers.  She can write her name, as well as most of the letters of the alphabet, although I wouldn't say her letter formation is 100% correct yet.  She came alongside Nell for so much of first grade this past year that she learned a lot about trees, seeds, the night sky, the history of Britain, Native Americans, and many of the other things we studied, too.  She easily transitioned from her balance bike to a two-wheeler, she can pump herself on a swing, and she can do a pretty decent cartwheel.  She helps me wash dishes, she chops fruit and veggies quite well with a paring knife, she cracks eggs and helps cook and bake.  She adores ballet and is uncommonly graceful for a five-year-old and enjoyed a six-week class over the summer.  She loves being outside and helping me garden, and holds a particular affinity for weeding as well as watering.  She is quite the artist with her drawings and paintings, which range from heart-warming to hilarious.  She has a connection with nature and a particular love of bugs at the moment, as well as cows, bunnies, and birds.

We may not have utilized that lovely curriculum as well as it deserved to be utilized, but I tend to think we still had a pretty good year last year.

A lot of things have changed over the past year, but one thing remains the same:

She is still quite frustrated that she can't fly, and even seems to believe that she used to know how to, but has forgotten!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Reflections on First Grade

A new school year is soon to be underway, and it seems like a good time to reflect on the previous school year.  I found myself going back and looking at pictures we took, book lists, education plans submitted to our school district, documents on my computer, etc.  There's something fun about doing some of our record-keeping retroactively -- a First Grade plan is a very exciting thing, but to actually look back at what First Grade consisted of is even more satisfying, I think.  {I did this in looking back on preschool in this post a couple years ago, and I remember how helpful it was to look back on all we had accomplished even without formal schooling going on at that point!  The days may not feel productive but we really do learn things and get things done in the end!}

Was it really just one year ago those two front teeth were adorably missing?  
All eight front teeth are now grown in adult teeth!

Our plan for first grade was a somewhat modified version of Ambleside Online Year 1.  I modified this somewhat from my early planning stages, and then we modified additionally a bit as we went on (after two terms we were just not that interested in reading any more Aesop so... we didn't!).  We are influenced by the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, so we embrace reading really good, "living" books, spending lots of time outdoors, and using "narration" as a means of remembering the things we read and learn, as well as a means of developing compositional skills.

Look at that proud girl with her stack of books!  It should go without saying that not all of those books are things we read cover to cover; they are resources we used to varying degrees.  The thick dark blue book in the middle of the stack, Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall, we did history readings from, and will continue to use this year.  And many other books we read selections from without reading in their entirety.  Others, like Children of Foreign Lands, and Peter Pan, we did read all of, and there are still others we ended up reading that weren't included in these initial First Day of School pictures!

math! hurray!

Here she was holding up her math book, with much excitement -- math was a subject of great interest to Nell prior to beginning first grade, and I'm happy to say she continues to enjoy it... phew!  I feel like that's most of what I'm aiming for at this point, anyway!  We played with money, bundled popsicle sticks and used them as manipulatives, counted buttons, skip-counted, and worked with adding and subtracting one- and two-digit numbers.  Here it is the following August, and I'm still on the fence about what math we will use this year!  Nell liked doing all the word problems in this arithmetic book from Simply Charlotte Mason, and I'm leaning towards going ahead and purchasing the next year's materials from the same series, but I'm considering a few other options as well.  I also bought Mortensen Math block manipulatives off of eBay over the summer to give us another concrete thing to look at and play with... things that will stay stuck together in their tens and hundreds and not end up scattered all over my house, ahem... thanks, Molly.

silly faces are always fun!

* * *

First grade had its up and downs.  Schooling with a toddler crawling and later walking around, requiring frequent interruptions, probably goes about the way you might imagine it does.  Add in my own work schedule to juggle with the home and the kids, and then a brutal winter that had us sick for literally weeks on end with one illness after another... we lost significant ground at times from what my original plans had been.

Still, I can't help looking back on the year and calling it an overall success.  We had fun together.  We spent time together.  We made memories.

We spent hours at beaches on some days.  We hiked on sunny days and even on rainy and snowy days.  We held beetles and frogs and salamanders.  We sang and did folk dances with friends.  We read many, many good books.  We memorized beautiful poetry and learned good hymns.  We studied the night sky and learned to identify constellations, stopping at night on drives home to unload from the van and look up in wonder.  We played with good friends.  We learned all the musical characters in Peter and the Wolf.  We studied violin and picked out melodies on the piano, too.  We slowed down, noticed, observed.  We nature journaled outdoor finds, illustrated tales of history we read, narrated things we read and learned.  We read beautiful summaries of several Shakespeare plays, and Nell fell in love with A Midsummer Night's Dream in particular.   We enjoyed observing and celebrating the seasons and the church year.  We visited the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Science.  We saw an owl in our yard up close and personal.  We participated in a book club with friends that ended up being a really special highlight for our family.  We tended the plants in our yard through the spring and summer.  We took a boat ride through the locks of a canal in Lowell.

Some favorite books we've read over the past year include:
Paddle to the Sea by H. C. Holling
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
Half Magic by E. Eager
The Saturdays by E. Enright
The Penderwicks books by J. Birdsall
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
Heidi by J. Spyri
The Secret Garden by F. H. Burnett
The Princess and the Goblin by G. MacDonald
The Courage of Sarah Noble by A. Dalgliesh
Favorite Fairy Tales Told In... books by V. Haviland

* * *

In all honesty, I struggled at times with that aptly-named Thief of Joy, comparison.  Why wasn't my own six-year-old reading as well as a friend's six-year-old?  Was I failing her?  Why couldn't I keep my home tidier so I could make better use of our daytime hours to do school?  Why was I falling behind?  Was I overlooking my middle child even as I homeschooled my oldest and tended to my littlest?   It is all too easy to hear that so-and-so's children are doing such-and-such, or see a post on social media, and suddenly begin feeling that you and what you are doing is not enough.  I have a feeling I'm not the only person who struggles with this!  So if you're reading this and feeling that you are not enough right now for your kids -- you are probably doing enough.  Really!  Sit down and write down some of what you did over the past year.  I know for me, it really helps me take stock of all that we did accomplish, even if we never finished a few of the books we meant to, never finished that cross-stitch project, haven't mastered the art of french cooking, and don't have perfectly-behaved children.

Over the past year, one minute we'd be keeping up really well with our history readings, while skipping some of the daily work I meant to do like handwriting and math.  I'd re-assess our goals, and before I knew it we'd have a winning streak of several weeks of consistent math, while skipping over weeks of reading about the Vikings.  It was really hard to balance it all!  So I'm trying to make sure this fast approaching year of second grade is full and adequate, but also achievable for our family.

I'll end with sharing portions of our Term 2 exams from back in the winter time.  I wrote down Nell's answers word-for-word, and when I look back on this I can't help thinking that it encompasses so much strength and success.  This girl sure loves stories, and I think she has the heart and soul of a writer.

Recall for me one of the stories we read from 50 Famous Stories OR one of the stories about the Romans and the Britons from Our Island Story.

The Coming of Arthur:
“As soon as Uther Pendragon was dead, the British people began to fight with each other about who should be king next.  While they were fighting, along came Merlin with a young boy at his side.  The minute he came, they stopped fighting.  And he said to them in a firm voice, “Before Uther Pendragon was dead, he had a son.”  And the people began to fight with him and said, “He did not have a son! What are you talking about?” And he said again, “Uther Pendragon did have a son!”  And yet again they said, “He did not have a son! What are you saying?”  And yet the young boy at Merlin’s side was the son of Uther Pendragon.  His name was Arthur, and it was said that he would be the best king that had ever ruled in Britain.  And it was true.  Merlin said, “Follow me,” and the people did, even though they were fighting that Uther Pendragon had not had a son.  And with Arthur at his side as before, Merlin led the people of Britain to a cathedral in Britain.  And there was a big stone in front of it that had never been there before, and stuck in it was a sword upright, and underneath it, carved into the stone, was a message, and I will tell you what it said.  It said, ‘Whoever can remove this will yet be the next king.’  And everyone started pulling with all their might at it, but no one could do it, and yet it was held fast firmly in the stone. But at last Arthur went to do it, and he pulled it out as if anyone could have done it; he pulled it out with great ease.  And there was great rejoicing and now they knew Arthur was to be the new king.”

Tell me how the sky helps us know the different directions, both during the day and during the night.  Show me where North and South are in relation to our house.  
{She correctly identified North, South, East, and West in relation to our home, and recalled where we had seen the Big Dipper and where we had seen Orion one night stargazing on our street.}
“Orion rises in the East and sets in the West at night.  If I didn’t know where North was I could go outside and look for the North Star.  And if I found it I would know that’s North.  The North Star is the end of the handle of the Little Dipper so if you find the Little Dipper you can find the North Star.  And if you find the Big Dipper that helps you find the Little Dipper.  The bowl of the Big Dipper, the diagonal line points to the North Star.”  
“During the day the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. So in the morning it’s in the East and that tells us where East is!”

Natural History:
Describe a bird we read about this term, and tell me what you know about it.  
“A mourning dove has some kind of milk in its throat that its body develops.  (Should I say that? Develops?  I think it’s a nice word.) It’s very easy for me to spot them and one time I spotted one on the roof of Trader Joe’s.  I also have seen one on our neighbor’s roof when we were just walking around the circle.  We stood by it and we made its call to it and it called back to us several times.  We see them in our yard also.  They’re rather big and they’re sort of the color of a sparrow but a little lighter brownish.  As I was saying they have sort of a milky thing in their throat and it holds there so when the babies are hungry they have very long beaks so they can put them down their parents’ mouth.  I was wondering if it hurts them to have their babies’ beaks go down their mouth but I don’t think it does.  The parents find grain seeds and swallow them, and it makes a seed cereal for the babies in their own bodies.  When the babies are hungry they spit it back up into their mouths for them.   It’s like bubbling over into someone else’s mouth. Mama showed me a picture of them doing it.
{She accurately imitated the mourning dove call.}

Describe your favorite hike from this winter.  Where did we go? What did you notice / find?
“One day we went in search of amphibians: peepers, salamanders, and wood frogs and amphibians of all kinds.  We went with a group of people, and some of the older kids found things that Marie and I did not find, like salamanders and a peeper.  The peeper was missing one of its front legs! It might have been hurt in some kind of accident.  We went near all kinds of vernal pools.  The man who was leading us had tall boots and could walk into the water.  He broke a branch off and put it in a tub of water. The branch had wood frog eggs on it. We all got to feel them.  One girl felt them and said they felt like jelly and I felt them and she was right, it felt exactly like jelly.  They felt also kind of like water beads.  We also saw salamander eggs from another vernal pool. They were a little bit tinier. They had little tiny black dots inside and they felt like water beads too.  We saw four or five vernal pools on that hike.”

Identify three different constellations in the H.A. Rey book.
{She identified the Lyre, the Scorpion, the Swan, the Bull and the Pleiades, Sirius the big dog, the Charioteer, the Twins, Orion, the Great Bear, the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Polaris all in the H.A. Rey book.}

Describe and define the phases of the moon.
“The phases of the moon start with a new moon, which means no moon. As it gets bigger it is called waxing. Then comes a crescent, then comes a half moon, which is also called first quarter, then comes gibbous moon which sounds like “give us moon,” and then comes full moon.  And then it starts waning, which is getting smaller.  Both waxing and waning are new words to me. From the full moon, it goes to gibbous moon, then half moon which is also called third quarter when it’s waning, and then comes crescent and then comes new moon again.” 

Katie has a dime and Abby has a nickel.  How much money do they have together?  How much more does Katie have than Abby?
“15 cents.” / “five more cents.”

How much is a dime, two nickels, and one penny all together? 
“twenty-one cents.”

Aunt Emily needs 15 apples to make an apple pie.  She has 9.  How many more does she need?

What is 30 take away 10?  What is 30 take away 11?
“Twenty.”  / “Nineteen.”

What is 14 + 7?

Skip count by 10’s.
“Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, one hundred.”

Recite one of our poems from this term for Mama and Daddy.
{She recited Spring, Almost.}
Describe your favorite Grandma Moses picture.
Taking in the Laundry:
“This Grandma Moses picture is called Taking in the Laundry. It shows clotheslines, three of them. There are beautiful trees waving in the wind, there are three houses, and people taking the laundry down into the houses.  There is beautiful grass and there are people riding in a wagon.  It looks like summer.  The wind and the sun might be drying the clothes for them.”

 ~~ Term 2 exams, Nell, winter 2019, age 6 ~~

Monday, March 11, 2019

grace in these weary days

My children and I have been sick, in alternating days and weeks, for nearly four weeks straight.

The winter began with the usual colds and then lingering coughs,  but then about a month ago the kids came down with fevers and deeper coughs, upset tummies, etc.  Soon I too was shivering under piled blankets, sinuses hurting, body aching to the depths of my bones.  Struggling to keep the basic necessities done to care for the kids while fighting a virus of my own.  A {very long} week later we were all on the upswing, only to have the eldest and youngest get fevers again a few days later.  A visit to the doctor's office to rule out secondary infections like pneumonia or ear infections yielded a positive flu swab for Nell.  {If this was the flu what had we had before?!}  Another rough week was underway.  We survived it with lots of snuggles and audiobooks and Mr. Rogers, vitamin C and elderberry syrup and my favorite thing when I'm sick and nothing sounds good - sprouted grain sourdough toast spread with manuka honey and cinnamon.  And just when we thought all that was winding down, that we were finally turning a corner, Molly turned two and got a nasty case of conjunctivitis for her birthday over the past weekend.  And Mama got a bad cold.

My feelings exactly, Molly.  My feelings exactly.
As any parent knows {and I've written about before}, caring for sick children takes what I call the usual "busy monotony" of caring for little ones to new heights.  The days are reduced to blowing noses, washing hands, soothing hot foreheads, doing extra loads of laundry, making meals palatable to sick children to whom nothing sounds very good, refilling water glasses and humidifiers, applying lip balm to cracked lips.  Sometimes emptying bowls filled with the contents of someone's stomach.

It's exhausting, and it's frustrating at times, and it's not very glamorous, but I've been pondering lately that I'm actually--


What a gift it is to me to be able to do these things for my kids.

What could be more important?  It's not just that I'm smoothing their sheets, tidying their rooms for them and providing a moment of company while they rest in bed.  It's not just that I'm making a fruit smoothie or sourdough toast or refilling a glass of water.  I get the incredible responsibility to show them a moment of grace.  To show them... the way grace can seep through every crevice in life when we least expect it.  It's in the extra snuggles and reading chapter and chapter together.  A gentle hand on your brow, a mother bathing you and rubbing lotion into your tired, aching body.  Mama finding it in her weary throat to read another book aloud.  Sharing a soft blanket.  Grace in the midst of misery.  What more do I want my kids to know in their hearts and feel in their bones but this -- that there is grace in the hard moments, beauty to be found even in and through suffering, hope and love and meaning in all of it.  Even when it's hard.  Even when it's miserable.  Even when it feels endless.

So these are my moments, my chances.  Will I show them glimpses of Jesus and love and grace in these mundane and miserable moments?

May it be so, God help me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Reeisms, Vol. 6

Ree is only a few months away from turning five!  How is that possible?

She's uncannily perceptive for a four-year-old, in my {none-too-objective, perhaps} opinion.  Her teachers at church and other adults who spend time with her have sometimes commented on her fine motor skills, her understanding, and her ability with language being surprising for her age.  I don't have another four-year-old in the house to compare her to at the moment, but I can definitively say that sometimes she blows me out of the water simply in the way that nothing seems to get past this girl.  For example, earlier this week she wanted cheerios and milk for breakfast, and was tearfully protesting when I responded that we were having eggs.  Frustrated, she declared,

"Nobody ever gives me what I want!  They give me what they want me to have, and then teach me to be polite about it."

I mean, that's pretty perceptive for a four-year-old, right?!  I had a hard time keeping a straight face!

She calls the Hershey's Kiss Nell brings home from choir rehearsal every week a "Wooshey Kiss," and mis-pronounces the word "handicapped" as "candycapped," which if we're honest, sounds kind of delicious.  She calls armpits "ticklepits," and still calls pistachios "spasmashios."  I'm enjoying these last lingering little mispronounced words while they last.

The queen of silly faces just as she's always been, Ree has been realizing that her facial expressions don't always default to the most appropriate or expected reaction in a given situation.  Recently, as Nell was throwing up during a brief virus, Ree covered her own face with her hands and wailed, "I don't know how to make the right faces because I know it's sad that she's sick but I can't stop smiling!"

And that actually paled in comparison to the time that Nell was coughing, and Ree said sweetly, "Ohhhh Nell, I'm soooooo sorry you're sick!" But then turned to me, mere inches away, and said matter-of-factly, laughing a little, "Of course I'm just saying that.  I don't even love her."

I think I just sat there and blinked at her for a full five seconds at that one.

Boy, does this kid know how to calculate her words for full impact and reaction!  She's really smart!  I mean... Usually I think I'm a step ahead of the game, but sometimes I have moments where I think... what if she's the one who's a step ahead?  What if she's running this whole show?  And if she's like this at four, what will the future bring?!

{Oh, and I've googled for signs that your child might be a sociopath a time or two.  I'm 99% certain we're in the clear.  ;-) }

Ree doesn't love going to bed alone, and is always looking for someone willing to snuggle with her.  She recently told me, "I feel like I'm going to die.  And also I'm worried our house is going to be on fire."  My heart!  Poor sweet girlie.  {See!  She does have feelings.}  So of course, we try to snuggle with her whenever we possibly can.  And hey, the bedtime snuggle times almost always provide some pretty good Reeisms in the course of our conversations!

Pontificating on theology at bedtime:

Ree: "I don’t like dying and sometimes I think about it and I don’t like it."
Me: "Oh darling, you aren’t going to die for a very long time.  You get to be a kid for a very long time first, and then a grown up, and then maybe someday a mom and then a grandma.  And when you do die, you get to be with Jesus."
Ree: "I know but then we'll just be in a world with no food and I don't like that.  There's no food with Jesus really."
Me: "Why don't you think there's food with Jesus?"
Ree: "Because they only had bread and wine remember?  That's all they had at the dinner.  And some kinds of wine I don't really like.  Some kinds of wine I do like though I guess.  And I like bread. So maybe it will be okay."
Me: {explanation of how we don't know what the feast will be like but it will be far grander than the Last Supper, and exceed our imaginations in every way}
Ree {grinning}: "OH so Jesus would have grapes for me?!"
Me: "Yes."
Ree: "Oh yeah!  God can make everything because God made everything.  Well, with Jesus.  Jesus maked things too with God even before he was a baby."

{I love hearing her little mind work.  And notice how she's got that whole "all things were made through him" thing understood?}

Looking at a map, and studying detached, floating Alaska, set apart from everything else on the U.S. map with particular interest:

"Is that the God area? Is that where God lives?"

* * *

"Mama's big and strong and SO HEAVY!"
{Thank you.  Thank you so much.  #blessed.}

* * *

Half asleep one night, driving home in the dark:
"It’s mine. It’s mine! The moon is mine."

* * *

Playing in her play kitchen:
"I’m gonna have a french fry sandwich!"

* * *

"I’m going to make up a song on my violin about the shepherds of the sky."

* * *

A distinctly unexplainable one:
"Sometimes bugs come into my eyes and they don’t try to bite me they just snuggle in my eyes. They think it’s their couch."

(No, she doesn't really have bugs in her eyes!)

"But Mama, why don’t some families have any girls?  Because... girls are so good and so fun! So why don't some families have any?"

* * *

Uttering a long, dramatic sigh while engaged in the apparently exhausting task of eating dinner:
"I’m tired of feeding myself every day and night!"

* * *

Outside last summer, playing with Nell:
"We like dandelions.  We like to pick them and blow them up to God."

* * *

"When I grow up I’m going to have a feast of chocolate. Chocolate for breakfast, chocolate for lunch, chocolate for dinner."

* * *

Ree: "What’s for breakfast?"
Mama: "Toasted rice cakes, and a smoothie."
Ree: "Wow!  Wow!  I wanted it to be chocolate and gummy bears but it turned out to be something even yummier!"
{I don't even know how she knows what a gummy bear is!  But pretty pleased she knows a smoothie is preferable, ha!}

* * *

After being sick recently, she woke one morning and croaked:
"I’m all better except my voice is a little smudged up."

* * *

Descending the stairs at 9 pm (two hours after she'd gone to bed):
"Mommy, I need to draw a picture. Of a cloud. Right now."

* * *

After giving away a few bags of donations of things we no longer needed:
"YAY!  Now our house is cleaner and their house is gonna be so messy!"

Watching the King's College choir singing, and quite enamored with the sheer number of boys:
"Mama, how do their mom and dad fit so many children in their car?!"

* * *

Running down the stairs from the bathroom, wearing a dress-up scarf and smiling suspiciously:
Me: "Ree, have you done anything naughty?"
Ree: "I just put spit on my eyelids like makeup.  And then I put water on the spit.  Like makeup."
Me: "Of course."

* * *

"God is in my bones, right Mama?"

* * *

Nathan: "Ree, did you ever move any of my records? I can’t find the one I'm looking for."
Ree: "No. I didn't and I know that I didn’t because I was watching myself every day."

* * *

Handing me a lucky penny she found:
"Here Mama.  I was going to keep it for myself but then I thought, I love Mama even more than I love myself, so I want you to have it."

* * *

Running her mouth across a piece of dental floss over and over:
"I like licking all the mint off because it’s yummy."

* * *

In church, after the priest said, "All things are yours, oh Lord, and of your own have we given you," Ree asked a whispered question about that.  I replied, "Yes, all we have belongs to God.  Did you know that?"  And she replied, "Even our poop?  I don't think our poop belongs to God."  Well... maybe God doesn't want our poop.  Valid point.

Looking at the sky one evening:
"One of the colors in the sunset tonight is black. No no no that’s not pretty at all."

* * *

Curiously feeling the perimeter of her eyes with her fingertips:
"Hey, is this thing just a round ball in there??"

* * *

Me: "Did you know you fell asleep in the car?"
Ree: "I wasn't asleep."
Me: "You were!"
Ree: "Oh!  Well, I didn't see myself sleeping so I didn't know!"

* * *

Singing a hymn together at bedtime:
"God set the stars to give light to the world..."
Ree: "Can we sing the word 'earth' instead of 'world' because I can't say 'world' very well but I can say 'earth' really well."

{both she and Nell sort of pronounce 'world' like... 'wouwd'.  That rl sound together is tricky!}

* * *

Out of the blue, at 5:34 one evening:
"It’s eleven o’clock! Time for me to clean up!"

* * *

In the bathtub:
Ree: "I can hold my breath for maybe thirty-nine-twenty-six minutes."
Nell: "Ok, go."
Ree: "No, Nell, I can't do it because it would take too long! It would take every single day until we die!"
Nell: "Yeah, see, you couldn't do it."
Ree {sighing exasperatedly}: No, Nell, I can do it but I don't have time to do it."

Describing someone to me: "She had a crumbled face."

* * *

"Oh Mama, I love your necklace. Can you get me a fancy necklace? Or just take somebody else’s to give me?"

* * *

Ree: "Mama, when you were a little kid what did you call Daddy?"
Me: "Well, I didn’t even know Daddy yet."
Ree: "Ohhhhh. And Nell and me weren’t even born. We weren’t even in your tummy. I was still a tincey little drop of rain."

{where does she come up with this stuff?!}

* * *

Singing an elaborate and very long improvisation recently, she concluded with this bit of made-up lyrics:
"Get that axis out of your head! Get that axis out of your head!  And leave that special ice.... cream..... iiiiiiiiinnnnnnn!"

* * *

Ree: "When is the person gonna die who is really old like maybe 20 or 69? The lady with a crumbled face. She goes to our church."

Me: "I don’t know. Only God really knows when someone is going to die."
Ree {matter-of-factly}: "I guess when we don’t see her anymore then she’ll be dead."

{I don't think young children are very good at tact.  Or subtlety.  Or social niceties.  But I remember Nell going through a big phase of talking about death a lot too around this age, so maybe it's normal?}

* * *

We were watching a YouTube video of a violin song Nell is working on over lunch one day, and Ree just kept shaking her head.  Finally she said, "It’s so weird because a girl is playing the piano and a boy is playing the violin. Isn't that so weird?!"

{In our household, the boy plays the piano and all the girls play the violin!  How could it be otherwise?!}

* * *

"I want to be the bestest of all the entire world.  That's what I want to be when I grow up."

* * *

"I'm gonna be the goodest and nicest violinist in the whole entire world.  Well, earth.  Because I can't say world.  Can you teach me to say world?"

{because, as mentioned above, world comes out "wouwd" every time, which is actually pretty cute.}

On a day when Nathan took Nell in to work with him for a bit, and Ree was quite sad to be home without Nell to play with, we found that we could watch footage of the Prix de Lausanne online thanks to a tip from a friend, and this cheered Ree up immensely.  Watching the skilled dancers, she kept proclaiming confidently, "I can do that.   I can do that too.  I can do all the things that dancer is doing."

* * *

Watching a male dancer compete:
"This one is not so fancy. I mean I do like boys but... I like fancy boys."

* * *

"How can I stop my toots from coming so I can be a real ballerina?"

And maybe my favorite one ever:

Molly went up the stairs, and I called up after her to check on things:
Me: "Ree? What’s Molly doing up there?"

Ree: "She’s just coming into my room and happying me."


"It means she makes me feel happy."

You'll never stop happying us around here, Ree.  We love you!