Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bringing Literature to the Table

When I was a member of the San Dimas UCC I had a few really good conversations with the pastor's husband who was a physics professor at one of the Claremont colleges. At one point I learned that he had a few siblings and when he mentioned what their professions were, I was super-impressed. I believe one was a doctor, another was a history professor at another university and the third worked at JPL. I asked him, "So tell me, what did your parents do to get all of you to do so well academically?" He said that the best thing his parents ever did was bring something interesting to read to the dinner table every evening. Maybe it was a poem, or an article from the news, or something from a biblical writer. But every evening they had something to share and they'd often discuss it. As the kids grew up, they brought their own interesting reading to the table to share and there was always a lot to discuss and debate.

Seeing this man, who was not only smart, but first and foremost a genuinely good kind person I took note of his words and, like that Oprah episode about the cooking I wrote about, I've had this bit of advice tucked away in my heart for several years.

I'm not sure when it started exactly, but at some point during the school year, I decided to read one story from 100 Classic Stories each evening at dinner. Or even breakfast if we were all there at the same time. On Sunday we were late for church and ended up not going at all, and for the first time I cracked open our NIV Study Bible and started reading to the kids straight from John.

I can tell there are good things happening here for all the kids, and even for me. It's only the beginning of something that I hope continues for many many years.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Vault

Hey now, it's kindergarten y'all. Get ready Adam!

Time to go to school.
He's serious.  Hup two!
 Find your spot on the carpet.

Now the rest of the kids find their spot too.
And Mommy do your best to crop out every kid in class so as not to violate the "internet privacy code of conduct concerning other people's children". 

 Day Two

Adam's a happy guy. And he's loving school. The funny thing about it all is how much more TALKATIVE he's become since starting! He's like a different kiddo. Kindergarten has opened the vault. 

Natalie's silly little habits (A BIG long post)

I know I haven't written enough stuff about Natalie! And she's seriously the silliest little thing ever. So I'm compiling a bunch of "Natalie-isms" here to make up for several posts. Hopefully this gives a good sampling of the broad spectrum that is Natalie at the wonderful age of 3.

One of her silly habits is that she falls asleep in the middle of the hallway at night. Gets out of her bed, drags her ladybug pillow and blankie out and plops herself right there above the stairs. I've moved her back into bed several times only to get a report from Jason, "did you know Natalie was asleep in the hallway when I got up?" Now I just let her sleep there undisturbed.
night #1

night #2
night #3

And of course this is how it really looks as I'm walking up the stairs trying not to step on her.
She kind of does whatever she wants at night which means that she's often up playing in her room for at least an hour or two after "bedtime". And obviously she sleeps wherever she wants. I mostly go with the flow on this unless she's bothering the other two.

In kitchen news, Natalie loves to cook.

She makes "tookies" out of playdoh...and then sticks them in the fridge.

So I find bags and tupperware with multi-colored "tookies" tucked all over the fridge that I'm not supposed to touch. "Because they're cooking." And they're for Noah's party. See the pink tupperware down there?
In the lunchmeat drawer. Tookies.

And down deep in the produce drawer. More Tookies.
Don't take them out! They're cooking.

I really should do a whole post on Natalie's wonderful Bie. That Bie is so important to her and such a part of her that I will be sad if/when she decides she doesn't need it anymore! Her Bie is her precious pink blanket that she carries with her all over the place and sleeps with and still sucks on like she's a breastfeeding baby. And she delicately pinch, pinch, pinches the pink fabric up and down one of the folds, just like "twiddling" nursing behavior. She holds it up to her face and I see her big brown eyes always peering over and I just know I will always hold that picture of her in my mind as a sweet toddler girl. (And notice how every single sleeping picture I posted with her in the hallway has her Bie in it.)

Where Natalie goes, the bie goes.

Even in Brother and Sissy's first day of school picture 
A picture from May 2011. You can see her "twiddling" the fabric.

Another picture from May 2011. Her tongue is doing that suckle thing. And she's sleeping with her Wiggles DVD like it's a teddy bear. This is one thing she doesn't do anymore! Although now she sleeps with her teddy bear "Jeff". (Named after the sleepy purple Wiggle of course.)

All that time watching Wiggles videos I think has contributed to her being really excellent at remembering songs. Here she is singing a song she learned at Vacation Bible School. Now mind you, she didn't utter a peep of this song during that week nor the week after! And then bam a week later I start hearing her bust this out and she sounds like the most evangelical three year old I've ever heard.

So that's a bit of my sweet lovable and ornery Natalie. I wuv her!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hooray for the Wiggly Party!!!

We just got home from our super-duper Wiggles concert! Hooray! Or "Hoop de Doo!" as they say. I was so excited when I found out the Australian group would be coming to So. Cal. I simply had to buy tickets. And AFTER I bought the tickets I found out that this will be their very last tour with the original group members: Greg Page, Murray Cook, Jeff Fatt and Anthony Field. All but Anthony are retiring and there will be three new Wiggles cast members starring in the show.

This silly little children's group is a big deal because they've been singing and dancing to my children almost every day and thus their music has become the soundtrack of this stage of my life. I just know that in 30 years if I happen to hear "Do the Monkey" I'll be right back in this house in this living room with a 3 year old Natalie, 5 year old Adam, and 7 year old Francesca. It's a beautiful thing! And I'm quite grateful to the group for that.
The Wiggles characters: Dorothy the Dinosaur, Henry the Octopus, Captain Feathersword and Wags the Dog

So for this event I splurged and got us some good seats and all five of us went to our "Wiggly Party". We enjoyed ourselves so much although I know the kids were pretty overwhelmed at first with the whole thing. It is quite strange to meet people, whom you've only seen as 5 inches tall on TV, in real flesh and blood. Like "hey these are the real Wiggles!" Not just characters playing the fake Wiggles cast, but the actual Greg, Murray, Jeff, and Anthony. And even the real Captain Feathersword. That's pretty cool! Natalie especially was much much quieter and still than I thought she'd be. It wasn't until I bounced her around a lot on my lap that she loosened up a bit. Adam was scowly through quite a bit of the show which is pretty typical for him. I do know that he enjoyed it though and will likely talk about it in a week or so at the oddest moment. He never forgets things. He'll remember this one for sure. Francesca enjoyed the concert a lot and I know she'll remember too.

I smiled through the whole show!

Anthony coming into the crowd to collect roses for Dorothy
So happy Greg was at the show!
Natalie loves Jeff. She even has a stuffed bear she named Jeff.
Captain Feathersword Paul Paddick

Can you point your fingers and do the twist? Natalie can!

They sang favorite songs, did lots of silly acrobatic tricks, and came out into the crowd to say hello. For me, it was a celebration of my kids' childhood and of me and Jason as young parents! Thank you Wiggles for a wonderful show!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kids Cooking 101: AKA "Make it your darn self"

Many many years ago a woman with a Down Syndrome child was on Oprah and she said that having a special-needs child forced her to research everything that kids could do at certain ages. Most parents stop hyper-reflecting on their child's developmental milestones after the age of about 3. Which is a good thing, in my opinion, since there is no point in being hyper all of the time. But while culturally there is more focus on "performance achievements" (ie: in school, sports, music, art) overall it seems we're dropping the ball on teaching kids functional achievements (cooking, cleaning, repairing stuff, making stuff, being of use to others!). In this interview, the mom said that she learned children should be able to cook some things by age 7. So she started her Down Syndrome daughter in the kitchen at that age to help prepare her for the future. Reflecting on this, I recalled hearing stories of women from other countries who said they were preparing the entire family meal by age 9.

Believe it or not, I've had that Oprah episode in my head for all these years, just waiting to have a kid old enough to put to work. ha ha!

Kids it is time. Actually I've had Francesca learning a few things already, but definitely now that she is 7 I feel she is at an age where she can more reliably learn things. How to cut, how to turn on the stove, how to work the microwave, how to measure, and most importantly, how to read and follow directions.

So last week when she wanted Top Ramen I said "Sure if you can make it yourself!" So I stood in the kitchen, but I absolutely refused any help beyond watching her turn on the stove.

"Mom, what do I do?"

"Read the directions!"

"Boil two cups of water." "What do I do?"

What does "Boil two cups of water mean?"

"I don't know."

"Well, I guess you're not getting any Top Ramen because you're going to have to figure it out."

Lo and behold someone figured out to get a pan.

It was quite an interesting experience watching her struggle with this concept of reading and following directions all by herself. But most importantly, I want her to learn that she can DO THINGS. She can solve her own problems. She can think things through. She doesn't need me to do every single thing. She can read. She can measure. This is all fun stuff actually, and I'm glad she's at an age where she can develop these skills. It's quite fun!

So here is a pic from yesterday. We decided to make cookies. Adam learned how to crack an egg. Francesca had to read all the ingredients and directions and she learned the difference between how to measure out brown sugar and measure out flour. She worked the beater. Both she and Adam spooned the batter onto the sheet. I stood there and watched and did as little as I possibly could.

Hooray for growing independence!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adam at 5 :)

My sweet Adam turned 5 years old a few weeks ago. He is my precious boy! A few short years ago all I could do was complain about how much he cried and how much I didn't know what to do with him. And then, with a bit of practice on my part, and a bit of maturing on his, our forces came together and Adam bloomed into a wonderfully sweet boy! YAY!

At this point, just about everything charms me about him. His fuzzy wuzzy head. The way he can't pronounce R's at the end of woods. (Did you get that?) And I especially love his shy demeanor that explodes into a raucous WOO! OH! at the smallest surprise.

He has this funny little habit lately of kissing flowers on shirts like he's a bee. Which means that if one of us girls in the house is wearing a flowered shirt, we will be bombarded with bee kisses that just don't quit. So then someone gets mad and yells "STOP IT ADAM!" and he's actually gotten himself on timeout for not stopping with the kissing!

And right now the thing he likes best

is looking like his Daddy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Francesca happenings

One of the coolest things about being a mom is watching the kids grow up and into their own personhood. I love that I get to be here to guide and witness. It's so much fun!

So around here one of the milestones I've been waiting on is for Francesca to lose her first tooth. I noticed that all of the other children in her class look like little jack 'o lanterns and it got me wondering when in the heck my girl was going to start shedding some incisors. So finally about two months ago we realized one of her bottom teeth was slightly loose. FINALLY! She was nearly seven!

Anyhow, about a month after that, I noticed something else: Her adult tooth was coming through behind the baby tooth. That's when I started prodding her to get serious about the wiggling. So she did, and it did get looser but still it hung on and hung on. I started getting impatient and wanted that tooth out of there because by the time her birthday was near, that adult tooth was 1/2 way in. But her birthday came and went, and still that tooth was loose, but not out. I gave myself a "call the dentist" deadline, but on the day of the deadline she made so much progress with it, that I knew I wouldn't have to take her to get it pulled anymore.

On Thursday night, I'd had enough and decided we needed to pull it ourselves. So up to the bathroom we went and with minty dental floss I tied a slippery knot around the thing. I let her fiddle with it for about 5 minutes before I got the courage to grab the floss and give her tooth the yank it needed. Not wanting to go wimpy on the thing and possibly not pull hard enough, making things worse, I jerked my arm really fast and out popped the tooth! We heard a "clink!" and no more. She was surprised I pulled it but said it didn't hurt. I was BUMMED because we lost the darn thing! It really is gone, I've checked.

However, I was glad to have it out, requiring no dentist calls and her big tooth looks super cute in its new spot.

For her seventh birthday, I decided to change things up a bit this year. In years past we've done the whole "bounce house" big party thing. And that is a lot of fun, but since she's getting a bit older, I wanted to scale things down a touch. Probably due to my own desire to bowl I decided that she should have a bowling party! It turns out I didn't have a chance to bowl (why I thought I would I have no idea) but the bowling turned out to be a great idea. I invited some local friends to bowl Friday after school when they have a discounted rate from 3:30-5pm. This was pretty cool because it cut down on party costs, and I didn't have to clean my house before or after, and the kids all got to try something new and fun. Just as I love watching my own kids grow and change, it's really fun to also watch my friends' kids' grow and change so I'm glad I got this cute group shot:
Seth, Clara, Catie, Miriam, Nicholas, Hannah
Adam, Naomi, Nattie, James, Matthew,
Frannie, Kathy

Frannie is having a great first grade year overall. She's really doing well in math. She's improving steadily in her reading although I'm not sure I'd say it is her best subject. But she works at it and is doing just fine. She's still doing her piano lessons and I'm really excited because I think we've finally found a system to help her practice. For the past 3 or 4 months she has been doing ok at piano but really not quite good enough simply because she doesn't practice enough. As she's introduced to more skills the practicing gets harder and she complains more and I haven't been super-disciplined about her having a set time to practice etc... Sometimes when she's complaining about it I've wondered if we should just throw in the towel on the thing, but something inside of me always says "No." So I've talked about it with Jason and we both agree that this is good for her and she should continue and we just need to figure something out with the practicing. So here's what we're doing now and it has worked really well for the past two weeks and I hope it keeps working! Basically I've told her that her lesson costs $15 a week and she's going to be paying for her lesson now, and the way she earns money for her lesson is that each daily practice session is worth $3. So she has to practice 5 days a week to have the money for her lesson, but if she practices more she can still earn more. And if she practices less, then she'll have to take the rest from her other money. Each day that she practices I physically hand her the three dollars that she puts into her piano bag. I feel like this very physical exchange may be helping her to understand that the time she puts in is worth something and her songs are sounding SO much better! The first two days of wrestling with the new songs seem to be the hardest, but after that it really starts coming together. It is music to my ears seriously!