Saturday, March 31, 2012

Oh, the good days

So some time has passed since I last posted. I am busy. Even now, I have a list of things to do. Winter clothing to sort and put away, shorts to dig out, shoes to try on boys, photos to sort, silk to dye for Etsy, things that need cleaned, food that needs cooked, and so on. I tend to wait for a really bad day or a really good day to post

And the past 24 hours have been so good. I thought it would be bad since I had interrupted sleep and I feel like most days I can barely muster enough energy for the basics.

Last night, when I picked up Elliott at school, he wowed me with his newly developed abilities, ones he has kept under wraps from Mike and me. He never reads at home with us, even easy reading books. But here sat Elliott, with a newly acquired Bread and Honey book from his cousin Shane, reading to his teacher and three friends at school. After speaking with the assistant, she explained he had read the book about four times during the day to various friends. They had assumed it was one he had been practicing at home with Mike and me, but I was thrilled to realize he had never seen the book before and just read through with such ease. Later, when he was reading to me, he came to a word he tried to sound out - between. I listened to him try various sounds out until he determined what it said. He articulated to me that he had tested all the sounds he knew (from phonogram work at school) until he found one that worked. The next time he saw the word, he did not hesitate in reading it. Not only did I see his natural reading progress happen they way I learned that it would in training, I had Elliott telling me how he was doing it with such understanding.

Right from there, I went to read to Oliver. I was singing our Wheels on the Bus book and he chimed in with me, picking key words to sing. He has never sung before. This mama’s heart was melting with happiness!

Then, this morning, I brought Elliott home from his sleepover at school. While on the highway we saw 6 hot air balloons. Knowing Mike was waiting on me to get home to get Oliver, we rushed home for him and immediately ran right back out to go on a hunt to see the balloons. I merely meant to drive by them so the boys could get a closer look. In speeding up a northern highway, we found them landing and followed roads to get there for a really up-close view. After a few minutes, the group, members of The Great Plains Balloon Club, invited us over to get a closer look, hear the ‘puffing’ of the fire, and even to climb in the basket. Oliver was not so keen on that, but they let Elliott stay in and lift off a few feet. After a bit more admiring, we got to watch how they collapsed the balloon and folded it up for transporting. A woman from this club gave the boys cards with balloons and their information. It made such an impression on both boys. All the way home Oliver kept studying the card, exclaiming ‘Balloons!” Elliott was full of questions and grand ideas on how to make his own balloon.

After that we tried to run errands, which did not work as planned, but we found a wounded butterfly outside. While people walked by, Elliott and Oliver were absorbed in watching and discussing the butterfly. We gave up on the errand and took the butterfly home to observe, figuring it would just die in the parking lot if left.

After so many discouraging days at work and so many nights with bad moods, it has been so pleasing to have so many good moments come together just right. Perhaps with such a burst into warm weather and plenty of outdoor time, there will be many more happier days ahead.

a wonky picture of Oliver and the balloon

their dog got a short balloon flight

watching it be collapsed

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Elliott, the family photographer

While I posted to Facebook about Elliott’s picture taking over a month ago, tonight as he snapped a quick shot of our neighbor, I revisited his photos. I am so glad I did. He has an interest in capturing things around him. He sees things so differently than Mike or I. And while I have to delete so many blurry or glaring bright photos, he manages to sneak some really good ones in too. They all capture a little bit of our days, things I would never think to photograph. The angle is different from his short five-year-old height. What subject matter he finds interesting is so varied. And his photos of himself are hilarious, even all the penis pictures I keep finding. 

So I had to share a few tonight, not cropped or edited, just leaving them the way Elliott took them. But I chose not to include the horrid Mommy and Daddy ones he always manages to get. The half closed eyes, the haggard, sleep deprived looks during diaper changes. I keep them, but I will never share them.

And not the penis pictures. Good for a laugh, but not for sharing!

Hike at MacLennan Park, Topeka

A favorite pose

Street sweeper... one of many Lego pictures

Oliver (Elliott's pics of Oliver are my favorite find on the camera)

Dress up + use of the timer feature = weird picture

Definitely not a moment I would have chosen for a photo, but part of the day is trying to get Mommy out of bed

Oliver is still trying

Love that little boy grin!

Another favorite of his... funny faces, straight on

testing the timer for a family photo

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I Have In Mind

I am always amazed when I am hit by a thought or realization so powerful it takes my breath away or feels like I could be running into a wall. And often, it may seem so obvious or has been thought about by so many others.

The other night it struck me that no one knows me – every single thing about me. What I do, what I think, kind or nasty things I think about. I have some friends that know a bit about me, another group of friends that know other things, family members that know some other aspects about me, and a spouse that knows most everything. But no one knows it all. Well, except me. And it felt extremely isolating at first – to realize I could not have everyone know everything about me and be able to share that with someone. But it also felt a bit good too… like I have secrets all to myself. And, I suppose the bigger (and weirder thought) if I have secrets and a million thoughts a day no one else knows, what the hell is the woman next to me like in their mind? Or the guy a few feet away?

So obvious, but very overwhelming at the moment.

Friday, January 13, 2012

On our drive

For the (longish) car ride to and from school, typically the boys enjoy snacks and music, while playing with cars and reading books. Lately though, that was not enough to content them and we started listening to more audio books in the car. I will admit, I am not a huge fan of The Magic Treehouse books so those audio books were not grabbing my attention. But last week I found Little House on the Prairie at the library. It has been perfect for our drive. It is holding every one's attention and makes for a pleasant passing of time as Laura describes coming to and living in Kansas, with its golden waving grasses and wide sky. True we are in another part of Kansas and the land is much different than it was then. But it just makes me keep falling in love again to hear such lovely descriptions coupled with the views I am seeing each and everyday. Lovely sunrises and sunsets, golden green grasses, open land and a very big ever-changing sky. I am happy this week to find slivers of peace and happiness, as this week has offered few of those.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Donating this holiday season

We often find ourselves making split-second decisions to handle a problem as we try to raise these boys. Everyone does. Today was no different. And while we are not sure it was the best choice, once the words were uttered we rolled with it, to see where it took us.

Since we are traveling next week and Santa is visiting us at Grandma and Grandpa’s house this year, we opted to do our family presents early. This morning was our family holiday time – sitting by a fire, opening gifts to one another, warm tea at hand, mom and dad watching the boys play joyfully. Well, that is how we thought it would go. But with two boys up before 6 am, whining and asking to get up to open presents, the morning got off to a bumpy beginning. After too much, I grabbed a bag and declared that if there was any more whining over gifts, it meant they were spoiled and had too much. I would put gifts in the bag and donate them. For right or wrong, it is how I felt watching Elliott ask (demand) to open gifts.

Shortly after this we settled in to give gifts with no more whining. Elliott was allowed to pick the first gift he opened. It happened that he chose a big box of 50 blank rainbow note cards, a gift I thought he would love since he enjoys card-making for friends and family. He immediately started grumbling that he did not like his gift and scowling. I plucked it from his hand and put it in the bag, stating someone else would be pleased with the gift. I explained why it upset me and what thought I put into the gift. What really made me mad though is that he did not seem to care. I was appalled at how my child was acting about a gift. A GIFT!

Since I could not bring myself to scoop up all the toys and gifts, we ate our breakfast and tried again. Apparently something must have sunk in because he thanked us for later gifts, even new sheets and new pencils, though he did not seem as excited about them as he was about legos.

I do feel lucky that after each present both boys took time to play with each item before wanting to open another. But I see a need to teach Elliott manners on gift giving and receiving and a bigger need to start curbing my impulse to buy or give both boys too much at any time of the year. Otherwise we may have a new holiday tradition – a donation bag under the tree.

And on a side note, after three years, I think we have established another actual holiday tradition – fuzzy bright socks from Mike to Diana. And I was actually looking forward to them this year!

To counter Mike’s sock gift this year, I gifted some socks his way too. I bought them from Etsy to match a hat I knit last year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our sick day

Elliott is stringing beads. To decorate for his wedding. To Sofia. “Later, when we are adults.” He declared he is worrying about the decorations since she might forget as she will be busy with other wedding plans. As I hear how the marriage was arranged by them – “we talked and talked and talked, and Sofia said we should get married” – my five-year self comes back to mind. That first kiss I got, after being chased by a boy I thought I liked while playing house. And it makes me giggle over the cuteness of my little boy’s beginning of love and how he is making memories he might not forget either.

We have been home all day since Elliott is working on day #2 of a fever. Both boys must have needed the respite from the school day. Both have been crafting cards with stamps, pencils, and stickers, watching video after video, and just playing quietly.

I have savored the day too, despite the work I felt compelled to do with so much free time. Before , I had a load of dishes done, a few loads of laundry going or done, the house tidy, and Montessori labels printing out to laminate.  But, it has been quiet here, dimly lit, and with plenty of hot tea and a few pages of reading snuck in. I think that is what my body and mind needed badly too. It has been just wonderful! Now, we will roll into a family weekend with more holiday crafting, a wee bit of holiday shopping, and plenty of cozy time by our fireplace. Have a peaceful, cozy weekend.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Since starting my job two weeks ago, life has felt extremely hectic. After each long (very long) day, I have to muster a little extra patience for my boys for the car ride home, dinner preparations, and bedtime rituals. Every moment seems valuable, time I have to be engaged doing something or spending time with one of the boys. Even watching movies or TV shows to take time to relax still means my hands should be busy. Needle felting or knitting a Christmas gift or folding laundry are perfect multi-tasking activities.

On top of having mental stress as I transition to work, there are physical pains too. My knees, unaccustomed to so much up and down all day (really, even with two kids) are in varying levels of pain.

And I am tired. In order to be ready for the next day, exercise two to three times a week and still have quality time to read or relax, I am up too late every night. I had grand plans to pace myself each day and be in bed by every night. Two hours after the children were in bed seemed like plenty of time to do a little bit of what I had to do and do a little of what I wanted to do. The reality of packing snacks for the car, running errands, checking email and the bank statements, planning meals, coordinating schedules, and many more things means I am just finishing those have-to-do things up by 10:00. And then I want to do something to unwind since I feel I could not possibly fall asleep after the energy put forth getting all the other work done.

These are my personal struggles with a new job, not to even address any transition difficulties at my new job!

But what is making it better is reflecting on the good happening. While Oliver is exposed to new children/friends and starting in the Montessori toddler community, where he has transitioned so much better than expected, he is still in the bumpy beginning. He is bring home a few bad habits from other children (more screaming, more pushing, and a bite here and there) and he is still upset to part from me on the community playground where we see each other two to three times a day. The good that is really making me feel good is seeing Elliott’s progress at his school. After a conference with his teacher, I can tell he is rapidly taking to materials and lessons he could not or would not do with me, growing beyond friendships with younger children to encompass children his own age while still helping and caring for younger friends, and developing a strong sense of ownership and responsibility towards his new community at school. The way he acts and talks about his school in two short months makes me feel that whatever stress and sacrifice it takes will be worth it.

And a positive note for me... with all the activity of my classroom and lack of sheer time to eat, or energy to even eat, I am down to my weight before I had Elliott, beating my original goal of weight loss. So in 10 months, I have lost 22 pounds, 17 of that in the past 3 months. It feels good to cinch my belt tighter and contemplate a trip to the thrift store for another size of clothing, one I have not seen in over 7 years.

Here are pictures of the past few weeks… And they may not be perfectly cropped or altered for lighting.  But, like I said, it is a bit hectic here. I know you will be understanding.

Elliott is making a dog toy with the yarn and knitting dolly.

After coloring his window art at home and reading about cathedrals with stained glass Elliott was writing about it with the movable alphabet. Here is what he was conveying: stained glass is stained. rose w_____ (windows)...

Oliver's first day of school
Elliott is working with older boys in the class on the addition bank game. Seeing him work with the golden bead materials is so thrilling since it was something we could not do one-on-one in our home environment. It is such a strong foundational material for mathematics in the classroom too.

Elliott is sorting blindfolded, a fun game with a purpose!

Elliott was thrilled to fill three rugs when writing with the movable alphabet. Words listed, translated from phonetic spelling as needed: cat, bat, sat, boo, root, cake, back, jat (?), bat, sat, bad, sad, rats, boot, hoolhoop, bob, sob, blood, cup, pup. While Elliott can write print, I am happy he is getting back on course with cursive (teaching cursive first was my training too). While he develops a hand for writing cursive with a pencil, he can still write as much as he wants, and much faster, with the movable alphabet.

Grace and courtesy practice with friends - Elliott is the visitor being served tea. Elliott felt very proud to be allowed to serve Mr. Jim, a visitor to the classroom later.

Soldier for the 'yoonyin' (as written by Elliott) for Halloween

Oliver as a firefighter. By the second house, he knew to run to the door and demand 'treeeat!"

On a day off from school, Elliott got to go to K State with Mike, napping while Mike did meetings with students.

Elliott went to the art museum with Mike to draw on his day off of school.

Elliott created his own dog, Fang, to demonstrate he could care for him and walk him on a leash to prove he is ready for a hamster. So far, Addy's bowl has been a bit dry at times, and her stomach has to growl a bit before he notices. We may be a little ways off from a pet hamster.