Posted in wwlw

what we’re learning wednesday: episode 4

Rondel and Limerick are very different academic beings. Rondel’s first love is stories – he tells them, he listens to them, he invents them, he demands them, he constantly (since before he could talk) brings us books so he can hear their stories too. He soaks up facts about animals, and then populates his worlds with monsters generated from conglomerations of the different animals he loves. Limerick, on the other hand, has always been intrigued by symbols and patterns. He knew all (and could write most) of the letters and numbers by 18 months, spent a good 6 months nearly inseparable from a Duplo pattern board he created, and currently puts a lot of energy each day into creating symmetrical designs and exploring the world of numbers.

When we introduced Cuisenaire rods (a really great math manipulative, by the way – I grew up using these with the Miquon math curriculum and have always felt that they gave me a strong conceptual foundation in mathematics) for the first time this week in preparation for more kindergarten-type activities, this difference in their inclinations was immediately evident.

Limerick went through each color rod, noticing how long each one was as compared to the small white unit blocks. When he reached the longest rod, he began to line up the smaller rods next to it, to see how he could split it up. Ten is ten groups of one, he realized, and five groups of two, but when you try to split it into groups of three you end up with one empty space.

We made squares (one group of one, two groups of two, three groups of three, etc.) and talked about the difference between the perimeter of a shape (how long all the edges are, put together) and its area (how many white unit squares could fit inside it).

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Meanwhile, Rondel was using different sizes and color of blocks to retell the story of the Three Little Pigs with house-building fleas and a predatory lion (I think he chose fleas because they are too small to see, and he didn’t have any prey animal toys on hand to use with the lion figurine). He went through all the steps of the story with sound effects and drama, creating and destroying as necessary, completely immersed in his imagined world.

When the boys play together, I see these inherent differences leading to growth in each of them. Rondel’s love of imagination draws Limerick along with him into wildly creative and unrealistic pretend games, while Limerick’s fascination with numbers and patterns motivates Rondel to learn the vocabulary and concepts of math also. It makes me glad all over again that they have each other to grow up with.

So what are we learning, this Wednesday? We are learning about how numbers work together, how they split apart and recombine in consistent ways. We are learning about the trial and error it takes to finally build a house that can keep out a powerful lion. And we are learning about each other, and how we can help each other learn in grow in different ways.

Posted in family life

an oasis in the desert

I took my children to the lake last Thursday.

Yes, even here in the desert we have lakes! They are mostly manmade and act as water reservoirs… but they also serve as beautiful oases, especially when temperatures start rising.

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My sister-in-law joined us for a couple hours with her four kids, which was especially good when Limerick got in too deep and started panicking and needed me – that extra pair of adult eyes and hands makes a big difference sometimes. It was also fun for us just to spend time with them! But we stayed after they needed to leave and it was equally wonderful in different ways.

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I mentioned our day trip to someone and they instantly reacted with the words, “what a chore!”

I still haven’t been able to figure it out.

It isn’t a chore to spend time outside, in the natural unbuilt environment, enjoying the beauty of creation. In fact, it’s something I’m constantly striving to do more often! I want my children to love and respect the natural world, to feel connected to it and desire to protect and preserve it; they won’t if they are never exposed to it. And we were so lucky on this particular day to be visited by a herd of wild horses. I mean, how often do you get to see large wild animals like that? We were all in awe – even Aubade kept pointing and exclaiming in wonder as they moved through the water.

It isn’t a chore to take my children out on an excursion – at least not this type of outing. Rondel and I both struggle in crowded indoor environments, or in highly structured populated activities, because of the constant sensory bombardment and social expectations. Limerick and Aubade are both still noisy constantly-moving little people (as they should be!). So when we’re outside, away from the artificial stimuli and the obscure social norms of the city, free to make the sounds we want to make and move our bodies in comfortable ways without bothering anyone, it is incredibly relaxing and refreshing.

It isn’t a chore to be with my children, to let go of my own pursuits and just focus on them for an afternoon, enjoying the small details of life with them. They remind me how exciting a lake bed scattered with shells can be; they delight my heart with their surprised laughter at things that are now old and familiar to me. After you’ve been to the beach a few times, you anticipate the way the waves knock into you; when you’re only 1 or 3 or 4, each new wave comes as a surprise and a gift.

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And it certainly wasn’t a chore to watch Rondel and Limerick playing together for hours, intent on their exploration of this new world, sharing it with each other as best friends do. On the contrary, it was a gift for me as a parent to see my children growing and deepening in their relationship with each other in such a natural and unforced way.

I know these days are fleeting. For only these few years will I have such a strong influence on their lives, and such a deep connection; I don’t want them to stay little forever, but I do want to live these years with intentionality. Of course it takes a bit of planning and organization to take three small children to the lake for the afternoon. But the riches all of us reap as a result far more than outweigh that work of preparation. For us, places like this are more than just real and physical oases in the desert: they are also oases of renewal for our souls.

Posted in family life, sqt

{sqt} – our random happenings

For the quick takes link up this week, some moments and thoughts that were really too small to make up a whole post on their own ­čÖé

  1. As Aubade grows older, her relationship with Limerick is really beginning to flourish and deepen. He took a while to adjust to having a younger sibling around, but recently he has taken on the older brother role more consciously. If he sees her lying down he will lie down next to her and snuggle; if she is playing with something he will join her; if she is struggling with something he will try to teach her or help her. He will also tell me how cute she is and how much he loves her, and will describe to me all the things she does that make him laugh. She in turn follows him around, wrestles and dances with him, randomly comes up and hugs him, and wants to play with everything he is playing with.

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    Aubade and Limerick using an automatic sink, backs to the camera, faces reflected out-of-focus in a mirror behind the sink
  2. Non-toy items are apparently the best things to play with these days. Currently, all the forks are spread out on the kitchen table as a herd of fork monsters. They use their long sharp teeth to fight each other to establish dominance, I’ve heard.
  3. Limerick has a significant dislike for shoes, which is somewhat inconvenient now that the pavement is too hot to touch every afternoon. He has one pair he will tolerate when necessary but he takes them off every chance he can find (such as at the zoo, until a zoo volunteer told us it was against zoo rules).
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    Aubade is leaning into a large stone water fountain; Limerick, next to her, is looking at the camera while taking a bite out of a cucumber.

    Also, he likes to eat cucumbers like most people eat apples. I’m not going to try to persuade him otherwise!

  4. Rondel’s hair is so long. As in, almost shoulder length! I’m going to be sad when he finally asks to have it cut, I think.
  5. Our anniversary was this weekend! Seven years so far, with four homes, three kids, two jobs, and one degree along the way. We celebrated by having dinner as a family and spending most of it apart with one of us handling a meltdown and the other feeding the two remaining kids. How is that for real life? We are planning on doing something together when my parents are available to babysit, however ­čÖé
  6. I should not be allowed to go shopping on my own with the kids: I can’t resist when they ask for certain things. In other news, we now have a child-sized floating stuffed turtle that can double as a pool raft that will be living (and swimming) at Grandma’s house…
  7. A couple nights ago I was putting the boys to bed and they both plastered themselves up next to me, to the point where I started to feel panicky. Little kids have high physical touch requirements, and that can definitely be hard for me sometimes. But at other times I think to myself, when will I ever again have the opportunity to give and receive so many hugs and kisses and snuggles every day? And the spontaneous exuberant hug of a toddler is hard to match.

Head on over to This Ain’t The Lyceum for the rest of the {sqt} link-up today!

Posted in family life

when a little boy turns three…

He knows birthdays involve cake, so he comes to you in tears with his sad tiny voice telling you he’s hungry, and when you ask him what he’s hungry for he answers, “cake!”

(You may have stayed up until 11:30 the night before baking said cake and want to cut into it just as much as he does! But these things must wait for the proper moment!)

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Six layer cakes require a ludicrous amount of buttercream frosting – as in, I used a whole pound of butter…

He may be so excited about being the center of the family circle, with everyone singing happy birthday to him, that he literally cannot contain his joy, and bounces up and down laughing the entire time.

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He may love rainbows so much that when the cake is cut and he sees for the first time the colorful layers within he may just squeal with delight!

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A rainbow cake is really the only appropriate choice for a child who has stayed up late with me pondering on the wavelength of different colors of light, how some colors can mix together to create others, and how white light can split apart into all the colors

He may be such a generous and inclusive little soul that he lets not only his beloved older brother but even the pushy and interfering (from his perspective) baby sister help unwrap his birthday presents.

And he may be so happy with his gifts that he spends the rest of the afternoon contentedly playing with them, with the family that he loves.

Happy birthday to a boy who is curious, intelligent, and observant like a scientist; who finds pleasure in order, symmetry, and patterns; who adapts his desires and whims to accommodate his siblings with a grace and maturity far beyond his years; who can be rough and wild with Rondel but gentle and protective with Aubade; who grows more independent every day and always loves to help and learn; and who still loves to snuggle with his mommy for any reason and no reason at all. It is such a joy to watch him grow – to see his understanding (emotional and intellectual) deepen and the lines of his personality and character emerge.

Posted in family life

my aubade (a belated six month post)

Aubade is not quite seven months old, and already I find it hard to imagine what our lives would be like without her.

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She is bold, tenacious, and adventurous; she pursues what she wants with determination and persistence. She constantly pushes herself to do more, to learn more, to find out more, and to be more. When she falls, as all of us fall in the process of growth, she gets back up again to keep trying – but what I find more remarkable still is that she takes the time to appreciate the world from her new perspective before going back to her original course of action, and is not so bent on one path that she is blinded to alternate opportunities around her.

(She can fall straight backwards from a standing position, gaze curiously around her while lying on her back for several minutes, than roll over and continue playing and exploring as though nothing had happened. I am amazed every time it happens.)

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She finds happiness and excitement in just about everything she encounters: the feel of grass on her feet, water to splash, a smile to return, a familiar voice, a snuggle and a kiss, a toss in the air, the wind on her face, or the laugh of a friend.

And her closest friends of all are her two big brothers. Rondel seeks her out for hugs when he’s feeling hurt or sad, brings her toys to play with, and makes silly sounds or plays peek-a-boo with her when she is tired or upset. He almost never fails to make her smile when he tries to cheer her up, and takes pride in every laugh that she directs at him. Limerick has had a more difficult time adjusting to her addition to the family (Rondel’s already been through this once before, after all), but he also loves to see her smile and laugh, and is becoming more enamored of her as she becomes more able to play along with his games and participate in the things he enjoys doing. Her presence brings out in both of them a social maturity – a desire to share their happiness and involve others in their activities – that is beautiful to see.

I am so thankful for this curious, strong, independent girl. She encourages me in my own femininity and as a mother, just by being herself, and I am so excited to watch her grow and mature over the years to come.

 

Posted in family life, musings

learning together

Rondel and Limerick are near-constant playmates these days, and the presence of another child to play with is doing amazing things for each of their social play skills! Every day I see them create and play elaborate games together, both physical games or pretend games, with agreed-upon and negotiated setup and rules; I hear them get into arguments and fights and resolve conflicts independently of adult input; I watch them learn to observe and take into consideration the things that are important to and enjoyed by each other even if their own inclinations are different; and I see them choosing freely to share their toys and cups and take turns with coveted items. (It’s pretty adorable to hear your 2.5 year old ask his brother to “please move Rondel”, and even nicer to see said big brother make room for the little one – and best of all to see both of them accepting “no” as an answer and offering other options in the attempt to find a solution that leaves everyone happy.)

I don’t force them to share and take turns. If they seem stuck I might suggest those as possible solutions, but unless they’re overtired and getting physical about their conflict, they usually do better without my input, and can come up with solutions that seem “unfair” to me but result in them playing happily together – successful in resolving their short-term conflict with the added benefit of gaining diplomatic skills and confidence for the long run. Honestly, my interference can often make things worse, it seems!

I also don’t try to make them play together. When they want to, they can play alone; but they almost always choose to play in the same room even when they are doing independent activities, for the shear pleasure of showing each other their creations and telling each other their ideas and plans.

In short, they are friends, and they are learning the skills by which friendships are strengthened and maintained.

If they can learn these social skills so well just from each other, with minimum parental guidance for safety and advisory purposes, simply because they are intrinsically motivated to maximize their mutual environment, what else might they learn through that same motivating power? Forcing them to memorize and drill phonics or addition would be as effective as enforcing my ideas of fair play on their interaction: in other words, it would likely lead to resentment and poor skill acquisition. But when they are ready to learn, motivated because they are interested, caught by the beauty or use of a thing, they will learn with the speed and power of a wildfire in drought.

Posted in family life

a vignette

On Saturday my parents-in-law watched the kids for a few hours so we could have some time to celebrate our anniversary, and they brought a few activities with them to occupy the time. One of the toys they had found was a wooden bowling set, with a small wooden ball about the size of an orange and six (I think) wooden pins with different color stripes around the neck.

After understanding how the game worked, and attempting to knock over the pins with the wooden ball a few times (without much success), Rondel set the wooden ball down on the table, walked over to the toy shelf, and came back with a basketball… not surprisingly, it worked much better!

Meanwhile, Limerick spent his time lining up the pins in perfectly straight rows, organized by the color of the stripe on each one.

Neither of my boys are “typical” kids, but they deviate┬áfrom the norm in very different ways! As my in-laws put it, and as this one situation┬ádemonstrated, Rondel is an out-of-the-box thinker, while Limerick is an organizer and categorizer to his core. And I can’t imagine my life now without either one of their quirky personalities.