Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Now I know my ABCs

Evan identified 13 letters on his Sesame Street ABC cards the other night. His dad had suggested we play a game...any letters he can identify, he kept that card. Any he didn't know, Mommy kept the card. He was proud to have named 13 of them. The very next night, he identified 15 of his letters. I made a big deal about him learning two more letters in one day, but this didn't impress him quite as much.

I try to focus their attention on their alphabet place mats whenever there is a lull in conversation at a meal. What I am really excited for, though, is when we put the POSTER up on the wall!

I can't believe how much Evan is learning, and how much he can do. It all seemed to happen SO fast! Amelie seems to be learning and growing even faster. This is probably true, and most likely because she gets to see Evan do things first, and she has the motivation to "do what Evan does". More about Amelie later...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Books, Glorious Books!

We have a few really good pictures of the kids with books, but we have to get more. They love books so much, and that makes me SO happy. Amelie brings me books and says "read me" all the time.

However, a really funny picture today was of the "train" of books she made. Or I think she calls it a bridge. Anyway...she has always liked to line things up....her people, and before that it was blocks. Today was a whole other level. Her room had one long stretch of books across it. She was very proud of it.

The book they hear last every night is "The Bear Snores On". I love the Sandra Boynton books...and this is saying a lot because I don't usually like books with short, rhyming lines. ;-) This is usually the second-to-last book we read. Of course we all love Big Red Barn. Evan especially loves "I Kissed the Baby". Amelie loves to be tickled at the tickling part. They both love a book from their Godfamily called Hugs for Baby. Amelie loves her Dora the Explorer stories book.

And I am really excited that Evan requests bible stories now. We must be doing *something* right. ;-) He calls his baby bible his "Hope Church Bible". I think it is wonderful that he feels such a connection to his church. Their Godparents are very active in their lives, all the way from PA. They regularly send books to them. In addition to their baby bibles we read from, they gave them a book called "What is God's Name". It is a lovely story about people having names for God related to what God means to them (the nurse called God "Healer", the lonely child called God "Friend", the soldier, "Maker of Peace"). I found it a very good omen that this book was the first whose artwork drew in Evan's attention so much that he pointed to it over and over.

Evan's first trip to the library with his preschool class was very exciting. He picked out a book about Elephants. He is very excited about the library!

When he was little, Evan loved pictures of the moon, particularly in Good Night, Moon. He would point to any picture of the moon and exclaim, "Moon!". Too bad by the time I had compiled a good list of moon themed books, he was out of that phase. ;-) He also used to love when I would read Olivia, to point to the picture of an actual painting that Olivia sees at a museum. It really impressed me that the thing that stuck out most for him was a piece of "fine art". ;-)

There is so much more to say about books...and I'll either add to this post and/or post more as they discover and explore more books!

The little tidbits

Most of my memory collecting has been in groups of things, sort of tying them together in a theme (like music, etc.). But tonight Evan and I were in the car waiting for Kevin to come out of the store getting baby wipes. Evan asked me where he would get them in the store and I told him they would be with the diapers and other "baby stuff". Then he asked if there were toys there. I told him there might be a few little toys for little babies, but most toys for big kids were in a bigger store.

And for some reason the memory of buying him a little cow who would moo when you pressed his belly came to me. I told him that was the first toy I ever got for him, so we should keep that one, even when we give his other toys to other kids when he's tired of them.

And then I remembered how much Evan loved TAGS when he was a baby. I guess this is not unique, because some ladies have made a whole line of toys called "Taggies" with tags on them. Evan loved tags so much, he often went straight for them on ANY toy...and would often be more interested in a toys tag than any other thing about it. So I went a little nuts in the gift store one day and get a taggie blanket, a taggie ball, a taggie rattle...LOL

I will have to amend this post with a picture of Evan w/ his taggie blanket as a baby sometime.

Amelie currently has a little baby doll in pink pjs that is "Baby". She sleeps with Baby. If she looks for her and can't find her, she has to be found. She's the "baby" she was changing with Desitin a while back (I'll come back and link to it here).
Speaking of the Desitin...Wednesday was an INSANE day. And one of the things my little devil of a boy did was to take the tube of the white creamy stuff...and smear it ALL OVER the top of my bedside table. (He's lucky there wasn't an Oprah magazine on it! ;-). He also got it all over his hands and legs (wearing shorts still), and on his face.

I can't easily plop him in the bath, so it was a sponge bath and take off your shirt...and I never did get to the Desitin, so Daddy got the honor of cleaning that.

For Heaven's Sake

I didn't grow up in a church going family. This never bothered me, and I don't regret it now that I'm an adult "of faith" who goes to church either. I have friends who grew up in a faith tradition, and they have grown into adults with a strong faith. And that is wonderful. But I also know folks who spent their young adulthood doing things like (and this is a true story)taking turns with their friends going to church and finding out what the Homily was about so the other friends could lie to their folks and skip church.

I don't believe that this kind of behavior happens because there is anything inherently wrong with any faith, or the way these parents are trying their best to raise their children up in faith - both are blessings in peoples' lives.And I don't think this is a rampant happening. Most families pass down their faith in such a way as to help their children come to their own understanding of God and other things of a spiritual nature. They have a true grounding, and love of God, and so their children LIKE church and want to go because it is important to them, just as it was to their parents. But I prefer the way I came upon my faith, to a faith that isn't truly deep within me, because it was foisted upon me by well-meaning parents.

To contrast that first experience: A dear friend was recounting her daughter's experience on the bus one day. Another kid was making fun of her, and being really mean. She was on her own that day, because her sister didn't ride with her like she usually did. As her mom spoke to her about her experience and she was telling Momma how it felt, she said (paraphrasing)"It was really hard. But I thought about Jesus, and it made me feel better." I think its safe to say this parent was ecstatic about this. I even got a lump in my throat. If this is the kind of feeling and knowledge of God's love for them that my children carry around with them as a result of our spiritual teachings and their church experiences, it will be my proudest accomplishment as a Mommy.

I believe that God exposes Herself to us in a variety of ways. That's why we have so many different religions. But God is *everywhere*, "always speaking" to us (as the UCC church tells us). He uses all sorts of experiences to bring us to Him. So I am perfectly happy that I came to my faith through conversations with my mom about her upbringing and beliefs, my Dad's love of Amazing Grace and their love-your-neighbor way of being, some experiences in college, Amy Grant's music, my dear friend Dawn who I met right after college, my Quaker friend Jessie, and Lawrence - my dear friend, poetry mentor and spiritual inspiration. The Watertown and Arlington Street churches of the UU church, and our lovely UCC church here in town where Evan and Amelie were both baptized me, have fed me and helped me along my spiritual journey. And the amazing Hope Church that is both UCC and DOC, where we're are currently raising our children in the light of God.

So I came to my faith in a different way from my parents, and my children will come to their faith in ways that are different from their parents. But I've landed in a place in life where I am able to bring my children up in a strong faith community. And while I don't feel I missed out by not having that...I am blessed to be able to provide this for my children. God has, and continues to bless me beyond my imagination. (It's all God's Angels, watching over me ;-).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More on the joy of music

So Amelie was sitting on the desk in front of me to listen to stories. My Slacker kids station was playing in the background. (We have many, actually ;-). I started to read, when I heard an audible gasp from my little girl. She swung around and exclaimed, "Laurie!"

And so it was; our favorite children musician - Laurie Berkner. Amelie pointed to the floor and said, "Drum!" She ran and got her little play drum (a nice soft one that you just hit with your hand instead of those dreaded, hazardous sticks). Once up with me again, she wanted down again...and went and retrieved two tambourines from our "music toys box". (I love that we have a whole box, bordering on two now, of just instruments!). She brought them to me and said, "Mommy, you play!"

We proceeded to "jam", as Jack would say. Amelie has started to do what Evan did at this age...sing the last word of each line, with a few others thrown in here and there. So there we were, singing "I'm Not Perfect"....my anthem these days. Funny how easily I tell my daughter that of course she isn't perfect...and I love her just as she is.

My friends have started to notice on Facebook that I put myself down a lot when I don't do "just the right thing". Or even screw up...as if I'm going to permanently damage my children. There are times when I really mess up and do something really not acceptable...but usually its just letting a mess happen, or something equally annoying, but not at all "harmful". Anyway...I'm glad that I'm at least telling my kids they don't need to be perfect to be loved...I just need to practice modeling that for myself.

So after that, we buzzed along to "Buzz Buzz" (again, courtesy of Laurie). Then came Big Bird, celebrating there is "Just One Me". Another great message for all of us. Amelie turned around and saw Big Bird's picture and giggled. (We're big on Sesame Street around here, too). And then Laurie sang to us about "a world without trees" (Can You Imagine). All these talented folks are really helping me be the kind of parent I've always imagined. I'm beyond grateful for the joy, the positive messages, and the love that music gifts our family with.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Food (and nourishment)

The kids and I just had the most delightful lunch together. Everyone was quiet, and calm. But they were chatty. We talked about all sorts of things, like how we're looking forward to Nana and Aunt Jenn, Uncle Rob and cousin Nora's visit soon. They asked me questions, and answered mine. They both said "thank you" when I gave them their plates, and both cleared them, pretty well. What more could a mom really ask for?

We've been lucky since day one in terms of feeding the kids healthy foods. They both love almost every fruit, and they like a large enough collection of veggies that I can mix it up a little to keep them from getting bored, and the get a pretty good fill of vitamins. (They like broccoli, corn and sweet potato...so you've got THREE colors right there! :-)

We are fortune to live near several Farmer's Markets. Over the summer, watermelon was a BIG hit. We started serving bigger and bigger pieces, as they were coming back for seconds over and over. They both started exclaiming about how big their pieces were...bragging almost. ;-)

The Farmers' Markets of summer have also been a lovely opportunity to talk about "where" our food comes from, and the folks who help get it to us. I'm woefully uneducated about what grows here when, so its hard for me to know what foods to plan to buy that will be grown within a 50 mile radius. But I want to learn. Hope Church had a "Local Food Pot luck" recently. This is such a great place for us to learn new and exciting ways to live as Jesus would want us to. People there are just so conscience of how the things we do, buy, eat, the places we shop, etc., effect the people of the world and this planet. And food choices is just one way they are helping us learn to live a more socially, globally conscience life.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My preschooler!

Evan started preschool this fall. His group at school is called "The Lollipops"...I'm Mama to a Lollipop! I just love this. And this week, we got our first parent newsletter! I can't express how excited I was to be in proud possession of my first parent newsletter!

Evan is loving preschool. He went off happy as a clam from day 1. (Both children slept in their "big kid beds" in much the same way....we are truly blessed). I called my mom the night before. "I'm NOT sad...I'm just - EMOTIONAL!", I told her. I got a bit of a lump in my throat as he headed down the stairs with his Daddy, his little red lunchbox in hand, too.

He doesn't seem to like to talk about his day when he first gets home. "Maybe later", he'll say. Or "Not this day". But over dinner a few nights later, he'll tell me about one of his friends' favorite colors, or a picture he drew. We have his first-ever drawing done at preschool. The teacher wrote a quote from him on the bottom of it. "I'm drawing circles!". This is such a thoughtful touch, and quite characteristic of his teachers. They do everything in such a thoughtful way.

Evan only had a bright and chipper morning from the moment he opened his eyes, once. The next preschool morning (he goes two days a week), he groaned and wouldn't open his eyes or even turn over onto his back. I somehow managed to get his pants and shoes and socks on without his participation at all, until I finally had to insist he wake up and help me out a little. But by the time he is done with breakfast, he is going in the refrigerator for his lunchbox and ready to go.

The first afternoon after school, Kevin told me that the teachers said that at naptime, he wanted to sleep with the note I left in his lunchbox. I know I'm a mush-ball...something Evan will probably tell me when he's older. (I can only hope he says it affectionately ;-). But the tears started to well from my eyes. This whole experience of my baby's first "growing up" experience is something else!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Drumming!

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The Sound of Music

It makes my heart sing to think that I am passing down the love of music that my parents instilled in me to my children. Kevin and I both love music. And our children are already following in our footsteps.

Evan enjoys playing his toy violin. His favorite song (of the 12 or so you can play automatically on this toy) is what has become known in our house as "the yellow button song". Its "My Love is Blue", and I have to look up the composer's name. But he always goes for this song, hums it when he isn't playing...and was pretty tickled when we heard it on the radio the first time. I think what impressed me most is that he has held the violin in precisely the right way, from almost the first time he "played" it.

He also likes to "play" the piano. Luckily, our piano is downstairs...so we can listen from a distance.

Evan likes to drum the best. He has a collection of "drums" sitting in the dishwasher before we close it. (The pasta pot, strainer and other assorted pots). Lately he has taken to drumming along with songs we play on the cd player in the kitchen. (This was a gift from my dear Aunt Barbara "Auntie", though I have yet to get him hooked on country music like my aunt did for me.) I can definitely see him years from now, using our guest room (downstairs) as his drumming room.

Evan definately has favorite songs. At the moment they are "Victor Vito" by Laurie Berkner, and "Violin" by They Might be Giants. (He calls it "speck of dust", a line from the song.). Evan first discovered TMBG's on two DVDs we have about the alphabet and numbers. He loves the songs on these, and was very amused when he found out that some of them were on the cd "No No No!". He listens to these few favorite songs *over* and *over* again. The repeat button on the cd player has become my new best friend.

And Evan is his father's son. His memory amazes me. He learned the lyrics to the song "Alphabet of Nations" - at THREE years old. I don't think I could ever memorize the whole song! He sings many other lyrics to TMBG...and these are not repetitive songs to say the least.

Amelie enjoys playing her guitar with Evan. I think she likes the *idea* more than actual playing...since this guitar broke and doesn't actually make any sound anymore. But she rocks back and forth in a way that would make Wynonna proud. (Girls With Guitars). :-)

Another singer Evan likes is Elizabeth Mitchell. He loves "Peace Like a River". This is a cd we mostly listen to in the car, and often this song is on repeat for the whole trip. We always listen on the way to church. At church he loves the "Amen" that is sung when the offering is brought forward by the children. He also likes her "Alphabet Ditty"...its just an ABC song, but it is funky.

The other day I asked Evan if there were any instruments we didn't have that he would like. He told me he wanted a clarinet and a saxophone. We have lots of music to look forward to!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blogging my childrens lives...and my life with them.

In the liner notes for her album Lead Me On, Amy Grant tells her son Matt firstly, how glad she is to "finally see him face to face". How I can relate...I talked to Evan just about every day in my tummy during those long months. I remember watching Amelie move around in my tummy when I laid back in the bathtub, and I told her how we couldn't wait for her to "get here".

But she also mentions how she wants them to know "how their Mama felt about things". I guess that is part of the reason I want to keep this blog, and hope it will be even more special to them than a baby book filled with facts about their "firsts", because I am hopefully expressing how all of these events in their development bring me such extraordinary joy.

To that end, I've thought about either deleting all the posts that aren't about "joy" (i.e. are about stress!) when this is all over and I'm ready to share this blog with them....or not blogging about those feelings anymore. Well, for starters, that is just not an option. I use this space as much to process my feelings as to record events in their lives and my reaction to them. And in the end, I want them to know that even in the times when bringing them up was challenging, I loved them to pieces.

And who knows? Maybe sharing my parenting challenges and how I tried to react to them as "my best self" will help them with their own parenting someday. Sharing only the cute moments gives their story a disingenuous feeling. (It's not like they never see their Mama lose her cookies, much as I work to not do that in front of them). Life with Evan and Amelie is amazing. Having my children has made my life richer and more joyous than I ever could have imagined. And they are teaching me lessons I probably never would have learned without them.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Alternative Alphabet poster

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The Things Kids Say

I get such a kick out of so many cute and clever things my children do. And the things they say. This list will get edited as I collect more to add.

Evan

"Daddy cooks on the grill just like Sponge Bob!"

Evan: "Pick me up, Amelie."
Amelie: "No, Evan!"
Evan: "You can't Amelie, that's because you're little."

"That's you, Mommy!" (Pointing to an image similar to this one below on his Alternative Alphabet place mat.)




Amelie

"Thank you" and "No thank you" (notable I think because she's only 2 and says them every time)


Argh! I can never think of them all when I sit down to write. Like I said, will have to edit/add to this later.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Evan's first day of school

Amelie loves to line up things. It started with *all* of the little figurines I mentioned she collected in her little containers. (This collection is growing as she commandeers more and more figures from other toys to join her crew, btw). Now she likes to line up her letter blocks.

This may seem so mundane, but it is these sweet little tiny details of their childhood I most want to remember...maybe because they seem like the things I'll most likely forget. But they are just so sweet and full of wonder...it makes me smile to think about.

I am going to start playing the Slacker station I created using just Laurie Berkner's name. It results in Laurie's songs, but also great folks like her. (I added Peter Paul and Mary and Pete Seeger and Sally Rogers and Elizabeth Mitchell for a really great combo of music). I also added some "grown up" folk singers who focus most on peace and justice, because there's nothing wrong w/ kids listening to some grown up music and these messages are important to me.

Amelie and I are listening to it right now, and she is just sooo happy! Children should have lots of music around them as much as possible...and I haven't been doing a great job of making sure this happens.

So this peaceful moment with my daughter is brought to you today by Evan's preschool. ;-) But he will be home any minute now (from his *first* day) and I can't *wait* to hear how he liked his day. He woke up so happy and in such a sweet mood. He was a bit more snuggley than usual (or maybe it seemed that way to me as I prepared to say goodbye). I think it might have been the only possible hint he gave of any apprehensions. He was really just completely happy to go. We took a picture of him with his lunchbox, so when we're old and forgetful we'll remember this was his first day of school. When I get Kevin to transfer pictures to the computer I will post one here.

Anyway...if you're reading this, I'd love to know! Send me a note or post a response. I'm not quite as obsessed with getting readers as I used to. This blog is really becoming the kids' baby book. I will treasure it when I'm old. God help me, please don't let the internet blow up! :-)