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.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

saying goodbye to summer 2019

January 2021: I found this in the drafts of this poor neglected blog -- written a year and a half ago with all the many photos compiled, but never published.  I'm pressing 'publish' now, long after the fact so I can enjoy looking back on what already feels like nearly a lifetime ago.  Those tiny faces!  Where does the time go?

* * *

Oh summer 2019, you were perfectly full and perfectly empty in all the right ways.

The Autumn equinox has come and gone, and while we're still having some warm days, today I reached for a sweater and pulled out my slippers.  I always love autumn, but this year I noticed a delightful willingness to say goodbye to summer, untinged with regret.  In this stage of life, quite often I reach the end of a season or other phase and think of all that I meant to do but didn't manage.  Pregnancies or young babies, either of these things can leave you at the end of a summer feeling like you failed to make the most of it all.

This summer we didn't go to the beach as much as we sometimes do, but I don't mind.  We didn't gather with friends as much as we sometimes have, but that's okay, too.  I missed a few standard summer gigs I usually play due to scheduling conflicts, but I got to play other new ones, instead.

And it's all that we did do that has me feeling content, peaceful, satisfied.

Nathan and I went to England, which really deserves a post of its own.  It was unforgettable, and exactly the kind of thing I thought we'd never get to do, except that then ... we did.  And the girls got to spend quality time with their Aunt and Uncles and Grammy and Grandpa, and had the most marvelous time.

When we returned home it was already early July, all of June having been occupied by the trip and also, leading up to it, last-minute trip planning (for a trip that was, in fact, quite last-minute).  We settled right into the summery goodness of a very relaxed work schedule for myself, unstructured days in the sun, working in the yard for hours on end, and actually finding myself with time to cook!  During the academic year it's a thorn in my flesh that my work schedule makes it quite difficult to make dinner.  I try to plan ahead with crockpot meals or pre-prepped things but it's always a bit frantic somehow.  Summers are my delight -- picking up farm produce from our CSA share each week, planning menus and actually having time at my disposal to make zucchini galettes, fresh tomato sauce, deliciously homemade salad dressings, Swiss chard pancakes, fruit crisps.  You might imagine that few of these things are Nathan's favorites -- and you would be correct -- but the girls and I do not care!  We eat homemade sourdough pizza topped with heaps of fresh arugula with wild abandon while Nathan eats his sad, everyday slices of pepperoni. 

There were days at Appleton picking up our farm share each week, and visiting with baby cows and climbing trees while we were at it.

There were a few delightful beach days here and there; perhaps not as many as I'd have liked, but we enjoyed them.

A visit to Aunt Hannah and Uncle Andrew's house allowed this Charlotte's Web lover to live out her favorite moments and scenes from the book on their delightful rope swing.

There were a few activities here and there, like an orchestra concert followed by ice cream in Rockport.

Nell and Marie both did a six-week, once-a-week ballet session, and a week of a particularly wonderful and one-of-a-kind VBS program, and a week of summer "camp" mornings run by dearly beloved teenage friends, and in spite of all these wonderful activities summer managed to feel perfectly leisurely, restful, and balanced.

A family day trip to Lowell planned by Nathan ended up being a real highlight:

{presenting: Molly on a Trolley!}

Frequent visits to a local library provided us long moments to watch monarchs transform before our eyes.  And the older two girls participated in the summer reading program, logging many hours of reading / listening to good books.

And mostly, for July and August, there were long days spent at home, soaking up sunshine and relaxed time together. Children playing in endless unstructured hours... life as it should be.


The house had a dumpster parked in our driveway for pretty much the entire summer.  We began many projects (including repairing our shed, the source of all the demolition materials requiring said dumpster!) and finished few if any of them.  

And with plenty of days of endless hours just being at home, we may not have gotten as much done as I'd have liked, but we didn't do nothing, either.  I did extensive work creating new garden spaces where we used to have overgrown, mostly-dead trees.  The girls created a garden space of their very own (and continued to plant and grow in it this past summer, too).

{a new space for perennials ... and it actually gets sunlight now with the big overgrown trees gone!}

Looking back on it all, aside from the once-in-a-lifetime trip to England, it was very much like any other summer and probably very much like anyone else's summer.  Perhaps the only difference is that this year, instead of wishing we had done more or feeling as though we missed out, I was able to sit in a place of true contentment and heartfelt gratitude.  The fixer-upper we call home still needs work.  The children were usually filthy.  The house was often untidy.  Books I wanted to read remained unfinished, and plenty of friends led more exciting lives than we did over those summer months.  

But I look back at these pictures and can't help thinking we had more than our share of a truly wonderful summer.  

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!