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REVIEW OF THE LITTLE PRINCE MOVIE (SORT OF)

REVIEW OF THE LITTLE PRINCE MOVIE (SORT OF)

When I started reading The Little Prince to my boys, I was optimistic. We had already read The Mouse and the Motorcycle20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Peter Pan (adapted versions of the latter two). But my kids didn’t care about The Little Prince.

Was it too much philosophy? Too much beautiful language? Too little action?

The Little Prince is one of those books that I could read in one day, one of the few books that I have read in one day. I know it’s small, a children’s book, but now that I have tried to read it to my kids, I wonder if it really is. Though I think children can become enthralled with the fantastic stories within each chapter, to fully grasp the enormity, years must exist behind your present life.

I was shocked when someone recently told me that they didn’t care for the book. They said it was too cynical. While that comment shook me for a moment, it also formed a full-bodied question that has been flickering in my mind: is The Little Prince only useful to those of us who can identify with all the child-likeness of The Little Prince, while at the same time seeing ourselves within the vanity of the rose, the wildness of the fox, the power-hungriness of the businessman, and of course with the consequential and dynamic aviator?

Even though we hadn’t finished the book, we watched the movie. I admit that I was skeptical. Could a movie really capture everything that Antoine de Saint Exupéry shows through The Little Prince? Surely not.

Not long before we showed the movie in our living room, I had seen a display of its figures at Barnes and Noble. All the figures were marked 50% off and I considered purchasing some for my sister. She collects The Little Prince things. Things like the book itself in every language, a stuffed doll, and various artworks, stamps, calendars, etc. She is the one who introduced the book to me, when I was a child.

The movie is not really a movie of The Little Prince as we know it, but of a post-Little Prince world. Really, it is about a little girl who learns of the book’s title character, and realizes, like the book’s narrator, that the world is so much bigger than what we can figure.

Kind of like the book. The movie is a great homage of the book, a reminder of what it is like to read the book for the first time. The movie is interesting, beautiful, even uses the exact opening words and a bit of the French language. It is tremendous, shockingly good, and my whole family enjoyed it.

This week, my 5 year-old even brought the book back to me and opened to chapter 7, where our bookmark had landed that fateful day when I thought The Little Prince was lost to my household. But we opened it back up and read together the story of the aviator’s agitation at The Little Prince’s concern for his rose’s life. This was a rose that he loved so much, he had to leave her, and then he regretted leaving. What a grownup emotion. A roller coaster. A group of feelings difficult to pin without the simplicity that childhood beckons.

“It is such a secret place, the land of tears,” I read. The aviator dismisses The Little Prince’s concern, thinks it unimportant, then realizes that it is more real than the aviator’s desire to repair his plane and fly home. The plane was tangible, breakable, would eventually, one day, be useless, be replaced. The Little Prince was human. His rose, a friend.

The Little Prince is a child, and my children are children too. I know that speculation of the book’s meaning has been made. Is it about war? Certainly, I see that in it now. Yet having read it many times with only fantasy in mind, for me the book is firstly about humanity, reminding of childhood desires and thoughts which continue to exist well into adulthood.

Yet now that I have children, my childhood exists again. It’s getting a callback. My children don’t hear fantastic beauty in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. They don’t feel attached to the allegory in the dessert. They just see a depiction of the world they know as truth.

So I smile. Thanks, Antoine. I hope you’re smiling too.

WHAT DO WE ACTUALLY WANT OUR KIDS TO LEARN IN HOME SCHOOL?

WHAT DO WE ACTUALLY WANT OUR KIDS TO LEARN IN HOME SCHOOL?

Lately, the reality of home school has set in for me.

And before we go any further, let me remind you that my oldest child is only just now in kindergarten.

We are using Saxon Math along with Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool (Getting Ready and Math 1). We are taking a relaxed approach because we have two younger children in the mix and, while my kindergartner could probably do math and reading all day long, I can’t keep the younger two engaged for it. We do what we can, and we take every opportunity. Like, “We have 10 gummies and 3 children. How many gummies does each child get?” Then we divide them up equally. “How many are leftover?” Then we might have a little lesson on fractions. Handwriting is often enforced when we make birthday cards. Vocabulary is learned every day. We might not have formal lessons on it, but we talk about words and what they mean as we use them. For us, this just works better.

I feel the pull toward more formal teaching, but our life just does not work that way right now.

But I also have these aches: Can’t we just sit close in pajamas, arms linked, bellies still hungry, still fasting from the night. Empty, but waiting expectantly for something delicious. Something hot. Can’t we just read books without fights about who gets to turn the page? Can’t we just listen?

I can teach addition and vocabulary, but we didn’t decide to home school because we wanted to be in charge of math lessons.

And this brings me to the crux of this post: What do we (my husband and I) actually want our kids to learn in “school”?

Here’s a list I came up with, and I’m sure we’ll add to it through the years:

  • to find joy
  • to live thankful
  • to marvel at God’s creation
  • to listen to opposition while remaining steady (not erupting) in truth
  • to say no to fear
  • to cast out thieves
  • to hear the voice of God
  • to love all people
  • to stand up for the weak
  • to respect authority
  • to make sound decisions
  • to value family
  • to build

These things are much harder to teach, and much harder to test. It takes time. It takes training. The answers to the questions tied up in these teachings are not so straightforward. There is no teacher’s manual, and while we teach these lessons, we are also learning them.

But we continue. And every once in a while we see that our children are learning.

Like when that song “Break every chain” comes on the radio and my kids stop everything to participate. “There is power in the name of Jesus,” they sing, “to BREAK every chain. BREAK every chain. BREAK every chain.”

Of course my destructive children love the word break more than any other here.

It’s the verb. The action. The thing that moves the sentence and gives force. (That’s a grammar lesson, guys!)

My children LOVE this song. And I know they’re not the only kids who do. Kids everywhere seem to cling to it.

To be honest, I don’t like when my kids break things. Be it glasses or toys or remotes, or the button on a pillow my diseased grandma made. But the power to break has a place. There are many things in our city, in our world, that need not remain. I know my kids are looking for these things because the library we live near is a historic school and at one flight of stairs, a chain hangs. I have no idea what it’s for, but it is probably a piece of the historic charm. My 3 year-old grabbed it one day and pulled. “BREAK every chain,” he said.

Luckily, the actual chain didn’t break, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that library came across some extra freedom that day.

Sometimes we have to start where it’s easy, where it’s natural or literal, before we can get down deep into uncovering the actual lesson.

Fun With Food: A Snacky Scrabble Game

Fun With Food: A Snacky Scrabble Game

**I admit that this is a little different from the usual Fun With Food posts, but stay with me. I promise this fits.

This morning’s Fun With Food brings us to a game that is dear to my heart. One that I have racked hours playing, in various scenarios, with all kind of friends and family. Yet my first love for this game is centered around my grandmother’s giant oval table, in her ancient dining room with a tall grandfather clock that ticked and chimed, next to french doors that never closed, sheer white curtains hanging over their glass and creating the opportunity for a barrier that was never taken.

My grandmother loved words. She loved literature, gardening, and history. Actually, she loved anything that could be learned, anything that could grow. She loved the act itself. She used to tell a story about how when she was a child her school did away with algebra and she and her classmates went to the teacher begging to be taught the ins and outs of the elusive x and y.

Yet her real love could only be found in literature and art history. Not a day went by without Shakespeare’s words. She knew them all. She believed learning could happen anywhere, and would say that the best way to learn American history was from Normal Rockwell and Ogden Nash. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother taught literature to a group of homeschooled teenagers. Together, they read Shakespeare and Homer. They acted out Macbeth (and others, I’m sure) because my grandmother always said the only way to really understand Shakespeare is to act it out, to get into the text and realize how the words created life. This is a Scrabble principle too. In Scrabble, we have to get into the confusion and find meaning.

I’m finding this is true in motherhood as well. In motherhood, we are given a tray of tiles that at first make no sense. Maybe we have tears, diapers, heartbeats, coos and gurgles, little arms that shake randomly, and a belly that is never full. These tiles continue to be moved around. The tray is confusing, full of non-words, difficult to sound out. We don’t know what to do with them. But we try anyway. We move our tiles around and we make their noises, we shuffle, we try to find meaning. Then, one day, we do. We place those life-giving tiles on the board and we draw new tiles. We start over. But not really. All new words must connect through existing ones.

In one of my college writing portfolios, I placed this in the front page: Dedicated to my grandmother, who unknowingly taught me to love words, whether mumbled by a weary man on a street corner, written in Shakespeare’s finest, or lost in a game of Scrabble.

Scrabble: scratch or grope around with one’s fingers to find, collect, or hold onto something.

Scrabble: the game where words are made.

In any game of Scrabble, both definitions are used. While we move 7 letters around on our narrow trays, we find newness in a void. Once an array of nothingness, we grope (we search blindly or uncertainly with the hands) until we find something useful, something that makes sense, something that makes our heart go “yay!” My grandmother added one rule to the game: if you learned a new word, you got 50 extra points. In the above dedication, I said that my grandmother unknowingly taught me to love words, but I know she was intentional. It’s just that her educational ways were not made from rules. She was simply sharing the things she loved. She was simply living and inviting others to live alongside her.

When I found these Scrabble Math Worksheets, I knew my kids would love them. My oldest had already found our game of Scrabble and was intrigued by the letter and numbers and set of squares that filled the board. We started our Scrabble life with those Math Worksheets, then we moved onto Word Building. My oldest was not content. He knew there was more to the game. So we tried a round of real Scrabble and we found that it was amazing.

Kids can play Scrabble! Who knew? (See: My Tips for Playing Scrabble with Preschoolers)

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First thing this morning, my 5 year-old asked to play Scrabble. I poured myself a cup of coffee, filled a little bowl with trail mix, added almonds and cheerios, and we sat down to a lovely morning with words and food.
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My 5 year-old is getting antsy to read and write. This morning he tried to spell the word “furnace” (FRNSHE). “Furnace. That box that heats up.”
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I told him “FRNSHE” was not the correct spelling of furnace. He was disappointed, but then found the word “FUN” on his tray.

At my grandmother’s table, food was a part of Scrabble. My grandmother was always hours behind the rest of the world, so by the end of a game she was usually still finishing dinner. We were probably all snacking on our desserts.

This morning on our Scrabble table, we snacked on this:

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Most of the yogurt-covered peanuts, banana chips, dried apricots and mango were gone by the time I took this photo. But this was the perfect pre-breakfast snack to have while Scrabbling.

There you have it, all the best thing in life: Fun! Food! Scrabble!

Tips for Playing Scrabble with Preschoolers

Tips for Playing Scrabble with Preschoolers

When it comes to teaching small children, I think the key is finding something you love, something that they love, something that is fun and also full of learning opportunities.

Enter, Scrabble!

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It’s not easy, but Scrabble offers so much for children:

  • word building
  • counting
  • adding
  • the concept of double and triple
  • the respect for rules and taking turns
  • the ability to wait
  • celebrating each other’s victories
  • the art of observation (you have to pay attention to double/triple word/letter)

Tips for Playing Scrabble with Preschoolers

  • Don’t get caught up in high scores.
    • I always want to find the longest word that will give me the highest score, but when playing Scrabble with preschoolers, I have found that a quick word they know is better. My kids won’t sit around for 3 minutes while I fumble with letters.
  • Small words are best
    • Three and four letter words, and words that they know, will help to reinforce spelling and make them feel good about the things they already know. When my 3 year-old spelled the word “ice” he was so excited because he loves ice and he could see how those three letters fit together to make a word. It’s okay, and encouraged, to find and introduce new words (this builds vocabulary!) but that should not be the goal.
  • Use all the pieces
    • What I mean by this is, let them draw on the score sheet. Let them run their fingers through the bag of tiles (really good sensory play!) Let them turn their trays on their sides and try to build towers. This is a game after all, and should be fun for everyone!
  • Think simply and don’t be afraid to bend the rules
    • Scrabble can be really simple or really complicated. Don’t get caught up in the Scrabble dictionary or proper names at this point. Just do what fits your kids, but make sure you spell real words. Making fake words won’t help much because then you could just throw anything down.
  • Use my grandmother’s rule
    • 50 extra points when you learn a new word! This gets kid really excited about building their vocabularies!
  • Let them count the points
    • Even a very small child can count to 10, or 20, especially with your help. Since you’re building small words, they can probably help you count most of the points. They can look at the tiles and identify numbers. If they can’t do it, then you add the points up for them, but count out loud so they can start to understand the concept. I love teaching my 5 year-old to count double digits by lining them up, and he’s really into it and it makes him feel important and smart to add such big numbers. 
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      Today, my 3 year-old quit playing and my 5 year-old won by almost 30 points!
  • Grab a non-messy snack
    • Something like trail mix or dry cheerios, something yummy to keep your kids busy when they have to wait for other people’s turns

Have you ever played Scrabble with your kids? What tips would you give to parents?

Fun With Food: Twizz-Literacy with a Side of Generosity

Fun With Food: Twizz-Literacy with a Side of Generosity

First, you must know that Twizzlers do not show up on our table very often.

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The idea for Twizz-Literacy started with this marked down bag of Patriotic Twizzlers.

I have never been the kind of person who buys candy or desserts of any kind. Except when I’m pregnant… then I’ve been known to purchase 5 cartons of ice cream at once to fulfill a lingering craving. (It seems that taking advantage of a “Buy 2 Get 3 Free” sale saves some money by preventing me from going to the ice cream shop twice a week.)

I’ve also been known, when pregnant, to eat half the Now and Later’s before arriving to the Halloween party.

But I am not pregnant right right now, so sweets are not in abundant supply around here. But my kids love candy, and every once in a while I give in to their cute little faces.

You know, candy was just made for kids. It’s sweet, it’s sticky, and it’s colored to look festive and bright and wonderful, even though it’s really kind of evil.

Anyhow, Patriotic Twizzlers were $0.60 a couple weeks ago at Food Lion so I snagged them, thinking that we could do a little literacy activity with them.

I had recently purchased two of these sheet protectors from Dollar Tree:

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I thought they would go perfectly with the Twizzlers. I thought my kids could peel the Twizzlers apart, cut them up and use them to make letters. Originally I thought I would print off 26 letter sheets. I thought I’d make my kids say each letter, then what sound it makes. Maybe a word that begins with that letter, too.

When it came time, though, I hadn’t printed off letter sheets and we all just needed a fun activity, so I just left the original papers in for inspiration and let them make the letters they wanted. Because right now the goal is just to make learning fun!

It definitely worked. My kids loved this activity! I sat with them to ensure that they actually made letters and didn’t just stuff their faces with sugar. I let them get creative, too! I’m a big fan of creativity. I love when my kids figure things out on their own. I did have to peel the Twizzlers apart because they were too sticky for my kids to do on their own. Maybe that’s because they’re from 4th of July, or maybe that’s how all Twizzlers are. I don’t know. I don’t usually try to peel Twizzlers.

Now, the thing you’ve all been waiting for:

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My kids made brains.
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And more brains.
Snakes!
Then they made rattlesnakes.

Oh yeah! We made letters too:

Carpe

A few days later, we made lemonade and we colored watermelons onto paper plates and gave them away as “Happy Summertime” gifts, one for the girl who manages the office at our apartment complex and one to the most wonderful maintenance man anyone could ask for (these people receive gifts from us a lot because we love them and it’s super easy to just walk over and brighten their day. Maybe you have a neighbor or a co-worker that you could start showering with gifts?) This was a hurried activity so I don’t have pictures of the finished summertime gift bags. But here are the watermelon cards the boys made for their dad. You probably know what lemonade looks like, so just use your mind to add it into this picture.

Can you tell which one my 5 year old made?
Can you tell which one my 5 year old made?

These are not quite as elaborate as the ones we made for the people who manage our home, but maybe you get the idea. I circled the inside and told my kids to color it pink. My 3 year old decided the inside of his watermelons were going to be multi-colored. Originally I thought we would cut these in half, but then we decided to just fold them like cards. We pasted pieces of green tissue paper around the edge for some texture and to add interest, and we added seeds and a little note.

When we were packing the gift bags, my oldest son suggested we include some Patriotic Twizzlers and I was fully on board. Guys, he wanted to give away his candy!

Now go, and spread forth your own generous, creative, genius children!

The Destruction of Womanhood: On Titles and False Justification

The Destruction of Womanhood: On Titles and False Justification

I have two boys and one baby girl. She’s not actually a baby, but she is the youngest and we still call her baby.

She is actually a feisty 18 months. A toddler. A young woman, if you will. A sister who is always looking for a place among the boys, a place where she can build and play catch, where she can run around with one hand raised, ready to destroy anything that gets in her pretty little way.

She loves necklaces and baby dolls too. She loves purses and shopping carts, baskets and hats (and so do her brothers!) But she’ll plop right down in the middle of any male bonding that goes on near her. If the boys shut their door before she enters, she will scream and bang with her fists until help arrives. She can’t open her own doors.

I, on the other hand, can open doors, but I have lots of difficulties with the boyhood that runs here. Video games, sword fighting, jumping and running, punching anything in sight, throwing, kicking, and yelling, are not in my blood.

I prefer a quieter home, one where we sit at a table and color. I would even take an hour of cutting and pasting. I have one boy who loves to cut and paste and color, but he gets caught up in his older brother’s pursuit of more intellectual things. Theirs is a battle of physical vs. visual, mathematics vs. art. Both boys play both parts well, but hardly ever at the same time. When convinced, they will sit and do almost anything, but this takes some serious convincing. Their sister loves art supplies. She loves to taste markers, dissolve cardboard on her tongue, and shake crayon boxes until every color explodes on the floor. This is why I always think twice about getting the art supplies out.

These are young children. They have great imaginations. They have great desires to try to do things they can’t possibly accomplish on their own. My 3-year old has recently started proclaiming, “I’m a creative thinker.” I’m not sure why he says this. I know we have commented on his creative inclinations, but I can’t recall ever telling him that he is a creative thinker. Still, he knows it and he speaks it.

Sometimes, when I am overcome with the desire for quiet, quick obedience, without the creative thought attached, I want to shout, “I am your mother! Do what I say!” On a few occasions, I have let those words slip, angry eyes bulging, I’m sure.

“What you say flows from what is in your heart.” ~Luke 6:45

Then, what is in my heart?

These are not usually words of love. They are selfish words.

I think I deserve to be obeyed. I think I deserve respect. I do, but it’s not my job to demand it.

The title of Mother was given the day I bore life in my belly, but it’s my job to live up to it, to show my children that a mother is kind and strong, creative and a good listener, a seeker of beauty, a teacher with patience, a learner always expecting, no matter what goes on around.

Before I was a mother, I was a daughter and a woman. These parts of me still exist but often feel crushed, like the sidewalk chalk that my 5-year old prefers to bang on the ground instead of draw with. Sidewalk chalk is meant for creation. It’s a tool, a toy, used for drawing. But my math and science boy wants to see what happens when you crush it. I know he’s just curious, in the same way that he’s curious about what happens to the light inside the refrigerator when the door closes.

This kind of exploratory habit is not in my nature, but I suppose it once was. Most children are curious beings, like the monkey George. Now that I know the answers (or I think I know the answers), wonder has become a nuisance. Now, I don’t want to stop to explore. I want to take the answers I know and I want to create something.

My children are young and don’t know the answers yet, so maybe it’s not that they are trying to destroy my womanhood, but to bring life back to the very core of me.

Perhaps every child brings the gift of relearning, of experiencing once again what it is about life that makes us who we are.

Perhaps every child brings the gift of relearning, of experiencing once again what it is about life that makes us who we are. (1)Since we are only discovered in the context of others, maybe my womanhood can only be truly discovered in a life of battles. Through the searching for band aids. Through the peeling back of packaging and the rubbing on of healing salve. Through the sticking together.

It’s not just the cuddles and the kisses, but the tantrums and the scraped knees that bring us life.

So, let me ask a question. When my kids smash their chalk or throw their Legos, what am I doing? How am I using my position of mom to give meaning to the same word’s title? Am I letting my own answered questions dictate the answers for my children? Or am I allowing them discovery, and at the same time allowing myself to continue learning what the word Mother means?

Words always have two meanings: the denotation (the literal definition), and the connotation (the positive and negative associations that words are given through cultural and personal experiences).

How am I forming my children’s connotation of the word mom? Is a mom someone who yells, someone who causes her own destruction, and therefore the destruction of her children and her home? Or is a mom someone who sees beyond herself and uses her words to speak life, her creative abilities to change the atmosphere of her home and generate goodness and love in the hands and voices of her noisy, fearless children?

How are you using your position of Mom (or whatever your title may be) to bring life to your home?

Finding Truth in the Midst of Anger

Finding Truth in the Midst of Anger

Do you ever feel so angry that you do something you later regret? Yeah. Me too.

Ever with your kids? Yeah. Me too.

Actually, most people who know me probably don’t think I ever get angry. That’s because if I’m ever angry I’m probably the only adult around. I’m probably standing right over my kids wondering why they are still fighting, still yelling at each other, still pinching and pushing and taking things from each other. It makes me angry when my kids are mean and when they’re disobedient. I know they need correction, but sometimes I feel like they should already know they need to be nice and they need to follow directions. But that doesn’t matter. For me, anger is often a result of impatience.

Training kids takes patience. And patience isn’t always just about waiting an extra ten minutes in line at the grocery store. Patience sometimes means getting up every morning for several years before a bad attitude stops and a “yes mom” is spoken without reminder.

Anger and impatience are daily battles for me. Battles that begin in my spirit and that I have not been able to shake off.

When we allow anger, it takes over.  It’s easy to allow anger in because we want to be heard. We want to be right. We want to be the boss. Anger makes us feel like we’re the boss, but really we’re out of control. When anger is allowed in, it only breeds confusion.

But I feel anger rise when my kids wake up whiny. When they tell me for the fifth time, “I don’t like (whatever amazing, delicious thing we’re eating that day).” When they throw an attitude because I asked them to please put on their shoes, we’re going to the children’s museum.

Who throws a fit about going to the children’s museum? It’s the most amazing place in the world, where you can touch and climb and build and explore everything. But sometimes I think my kids just want to be contrary. I could offer a bowl of ice cream topped with a whole bottle of chocolate fudge and they’d say, “I wanted a popsicle.”

In her book Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic offers the idea of “Cranksters and Thanksters.” She says that she asks her kids, “Do you want to be a thankster or a crankster?” I tried this with my kids and they didn’t get it. They just kind of laughed at the silly words. But the idea is great: look at what you do have, not what you don’t. What can you be thankful for right now?

Maybe it’s that my children are in their own worlds. They are small. They don’t see things the way I do.

Or do I not see things the way they do?

When I am standing, I see everything. I see the inside of the toaster. I see the pile of papers stacked on top of a shelf. I see the dust that has settled on the fan blades. I see that I am bigger than my running, jumping children.

But they see something too. They see something to be excited about. Why else would they be running and jumping and loud-laughing? When I sit down, the room gets bigger. What would I do if I couldn’t reach the top of the fridge? I would have to climb.

Sometimes our kids need to be corrected. Bad attitudes are unacceptable. Yelling and throwing fits need to be monitored. It’s not okay when one of my children hurts another. Selfishness is not permitted.

But sometimes, I think, I need to slow down and look at the world from a small point of view because my selfishness is not permitted either. Sometimes my children are angry because they are actually sad. They don’t want to stop playing with their cars. They only see what is right now. They don’t understand what is coming.

But let’s talk about King Nebuchadnezzar, who commanded that everyone bow down and worship a gold statue and when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t, he got angry.And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in.

“Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in.” DANIEL 3:19-22

So basically, King Nebuchadnezzar was so angry that he was distorted. He was overcome with rage. He let his rage shield him from truth. He didn’t even take the time to understand why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t want to bow down to a pile of gold. Maybe if he had stopped and listened. Maybe if he had been seeking truth above obedience. Maybe if he had had the interest of his people in mind rather than the interest of his own thoughts and pride. Maybe if he had taken a deep breath instead of allowing his emotions to kill his soldiers.

The soldiers were on his side. They were willing to do his work. But he killed them while the men he hated lived on. But it’s not about hate and it’s not about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It’s about the truth they lived for. It’s about what they saw.

My kids always see the fun in things, whereas I usually see the work in things.

My kids want to go outside and ride their bikes and scooters, but I see that I will have to monitor their impulses to ride too far. My kids want to play checkers, but I see that their little sister will want to grab and throw all the pieces and everyone will start crying.

Truth is that parenting is work. But it’s also fun. If I only see the work, then truth is not upheld. If I only see the fun, truth is not upheld either. Training children to be functional adults requires both work and fun. Requiring that my children bow down to statues that I have built from pride and blindness is not the answer. Getting down on the floor and trying to see what my children see is probably the only way I will be able to help them in their own battles against selfishness and impatience and anger. And it’s probably also the only way to conquer my own battles against the very same things.

 

Why I Make My Kids Share

Why I Make My Kids Share

Here’s how it starts: you have one child who is lovely and amazing and he plays well on his own and he gives you hugs and kisess all the time and he sleeps until 9:00 every morning. Then you decide to have a second child. The second one never sleeps and mostly just cries and when he finally gets over crying all the time, he starts to take things from his brother. That’s your firstborn. You love both of these children and you want them to get along. So what do you do?

Okay, so here’s a little confession: those are my two boys, the oldest of my children. We were lucky enough to get a firstborn who was really an amazing baby, pretty even-keel, emotionally speaking and nice and would let anyone hold him. Our second is pretty great, too, but very different. He is either very happy or very sad. When he was 2 years old he loved The Hulk (not Captain America or Iron Man, like other kids… The Hulk.) He would walk around holding this little Hulk figure and he would say, “Hulk SMASH! Hulk SMASH!” in a loud low kind of voice. I would tell people that he probably identifies with The Hulk. He goes from zero to monster in no time. When he’s angry, he’s the  “Hulk SMASH!” kind of angry.

When “Hulk SMASH!” wanted something, no one wanted to say no. So, there we were, going head first into a big river of sharing. And the current was strong. And the rocks were bruising.

I’ve heard the opinion that explains why we shouldn’t teach our children to share. I understand that as adults, we are not expected to share our cell phones and cars or homes or groceries. As adults, our possessions are ours and we don’t have to share them. And if someone asks to share them we shouldn’t feel obligated.

I understand that sometimes what is ours is ours and no one else can have it. Like my glasses and my purse.

Then there’s the principle of generosity.

I have this really old, beautiful, smelly dictionary that I love to use. Someone actually gave it to me…someone who was being generous and thoughtful. Here’s what it says about the word “generous”:

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It attributes generosity to nobility. It says generous people are magnanimous. Willing to give or share. Unselfish. Bountiful. Rich in yield, fertile (said of land, but I think it applies to people too.) Rich, full-flavored and strong (said of wine, but I think it applies to people too.)

I want my children to know that things are just things. Anything that they own and find precious, I know is simply not worth arguing over. Anything they own and love can be easily replaced or remade. I know that kids are sticklers for keeping their stuff in their own hands, but I don’t believe that’s healthy.

My children get the generosity lesson a lot with Lego creations. I tell them that “Legos are meant to be taken apart and rebuilt.” My children are allowed to put a Lego creation on a dresser, out of reach, for a little while, but the next day (and sometimes sooner) they have to take it apart or give it away and start over. And they can’t hoard the Lego blocks.

This is a lesson I face every day too. I do need my glasses and my purse, but if my daughter (not included in the sharing saga because she’s a happy 1.5 years old) wants to pick it up and carry it around for a little while, I let her. She’s not allowed to dig into my purse and scatter its contents around like breadcrumbs, but carrying it around isn’t going to hurt a thing.

My children don’t go to school anywhere, so we mostly deal with this sharing thing in our own home or at playgrounds. There, especially with strangers, I want them to learn generosity. I think that’s a true test of character. It’s easy to be generous with those we love because we get to reap the benefits of friendship. But if they can learn to be generous toward people they don’t know, well, they could change the world.

If I teach my children that they don’t have to share, I am teaching them that their possessions mean more than people do. That’s not what I want them to learn. I want them to find joy in the joy of sharing. I want them to learn to love people. I want them to be noble, unselfish, rich, full-flavored people, not stingy, selfish, lonely people. They are not allowed to expect that others share; that would create another kind of monster. I just want them to learn generosity.

 

Why I’ve Been Rubbing my Son’s Earlobes

Why I’ve Been Rubbing my Son’s Earlobes

Does that sound weird to you?

It was strange to me, too, when I witnessed two little girls rubbing each other’s earlobes at the playground. Their mom said that she does the same thing. She’s apparently always been obsessed with earlobes. She rubs them all the time without thinking, and now her children do too. She also told me that rubbing earlobes releases oxytocin.

That same night, I was sitting at church with my family. Now, you have to know something about my 3-year old. He is touchy. I know that all kids are touchy, but he is extreme. Anything, anywhere, the slimier, the sandier, the more unhygienic, the better. He LOVES grabbing the insides of pumpkins and rubbing oil on potatoes. He LOVED making oobleck (I have still not read Bartholomew and the Oobleck because our library didn’t have it when we did our “Intro to Science” week. But I discovered oobleck from Raising Little Superheros and, even without Dr. Seuss, it was a big hit). My 3-year old continues to LOVE LOVE LOVE sandboxes, water tables, and play dough, and he once opened a package of pork chops while I was in line at the grocery store, just to see what they felt like. Yuck! Right? Yeah. That’s my life.

So, I was sitting in church with my family. Knowing that my 3-year old does not sit well unless he is also doing something kinesthetic, I thought, maybe I’ll rub his earlobes. I thought that maybe he would pay attention to the man with the microphone if I rubbed his ears. Maybe it would help him to pay more attention to what his ears can do. Well, I’m not sure what happened, but he immediately sat completely still and stayed that way until we stood up. It was almost 20 minutes.

Today, I tried it again because I was reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out loud and wanted him to sit still with his brother and me while I read. And again, he was still, concentrated, focused.

He said to me, “Mom, rub my ears gently,” and my heart melted. Maybe from the extra oxytocin that was circulating around or maybe because that is just a sweet thing to say. Either way, I want to take that sentence and form a poem with it because I think it’s the most beautiful thing the world.

Do you have a high-energy kinesthetic leaner? Have you ever tried rubbing his or her earlobes to get them to focus?

What Are You Listening To?

What Are You Listening To?

Last weekend I attended the West Virginia Writer’s Conference. It was the first time I’ve been away from my children overnight. And it was actually a two night stay.

Did I miss them?

I thought I would, but no, actually, I didn’t. And I struggled with that.

I know that when we leave our children, we should immediately feel like a piece of us has gone missing. Like we aren’t complete and that if we don’t get home immediately, we might die or at least not be able to sleep or function in some other capacity. (In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m being sarcastic. I don’t think we are “supposed to” do any of that.)

During my stay, I never stopped loving my children. But that brings me to another point. I’ve heard many moms say before that when they first held their newborn babies, they were overcome with love. Maybe they wept or shook or felt like they couldn’t contain their happiness so they burst out in smiles and laughter, surprised when others around them did not.

When my first son was born, I was not immediately in love. I was shocked. I was frightened. I was surprised. Who is this little person? Where did he come from? As if my belly had been growing a hiccuping watermelon.

My husband and I have discussed our initial parenting reaction at length and we think it has something to do with the aloofness of newborns. They can’t smile. They can’t laugh. They can’t do anything really, so it took us a few weeks to feel that immense love that so many people talk about. My second and third babies brought out earlier love, but I think that was due to having seen how lovely babies can be. By then I knew that babies eventually laugh and hug their parents. I knew that babies eventually do silly things like try to grab at mirrors, drink from cup-less straws and look deeply into your eyes as they gurgle on about who knows what.

On my drive to West Virginia, I had a lot of time to think. About 5 hours, actually, which is more time than us mothers ever have alone. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, especially since I had forgotten to bring my c.d.’s and my knock-off iPod, and it took me almost the entire drive to realize that I wasn’t scrolling through the radio stations, but the rental car’s presets. All I could hear from the speakers was fuzz and I thought that was just because I was in the middle of trees. Beautiful trees, though. The most beautiful trees and lands that I have ever seen. I wish I had photos to share, but because I was driving vertical and horizontal zigzags, I couldn’t manage to capture a single image.

Well, here is one image, but it’s not one that I took. It’s a free one from the internet. Pretty, isn’t it?

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At one point, I turned off the radio and silence entered the air. Then, some actual thoughts.

I thought, What are you listening to?

Even in silence, I was listening to something. The noises of tires rotating on asphalt. The whooshing of wind. The occasional swish-swish of my cell phone notifications.

I thought about the sounds of my  daily life.

When I drive around in my minivan, three children chatter on. They ask and they wonder out loud at me. They bring up philosophies of life. They tell me their failures and their successes. “Mom! Did you see that? I jumped so high!” “Mom! I hit that ball so hard!” or, “Mom, I wasn’t really good at that.” That last one comes from my 3-year old son who, today, told me over and over that he “wasn’t really good at” the spray ground, where he was continuously running to our towel to wipe his eyes of water drops. He was just playing in the water, like everyone else, but he apparently kept forgetting to close his eyes when he ran under the showers. “My eyes hurt!” He kept telling me.

What are you listening to?

I usually broadcast K-Love in my van, and it’s not because I like the music. In fact, though I love Jesus and I love worship music and I love hearing stories of God’s faithfulness, it is purely the positivity that I love in this station. There’s enough negativity out there already, and when I have the opportunity to control the words that are coming out of my speakers, I want them to be words of life.

I have started playing worship music in my house, all day every day, and I’ve realized that when I get angry, when I get frustrated, when I get worn out or overwhelmed at the demands of motherhood, the music keeps positivity from leaving. Even if my mind is reeling, I can bring myself back to calm because of the love that pours out through the music around me.

What are you listening to? Do you find that music helps keep you grounded at home, at work, or in your car?