Posted in family life

the feast of the transfiguration

One of my goals this year is to stay more in tune with the liturgical calendar of the church, and I’ve tried to pick 1-3 feast days or saints each month to celebrate and explore more deeply. A large amount of this was shaped by what books I was able to find, especially for the saints, but I also tried to choose feasts commemorating important Biblical events as well. So we began August (the 6th, to be precise) with the Feast of the Transfiguration.

We read the story from Archbishop Tutu’s children’s Bible, The Children of God Storybook Bible, and then walked through the story again while making meringue cookies.

First we separated three egg whites into a bowl, symbolizing the three disciples, and added 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, symbolizing Jesus, and then we whipped with the beater until they rose into peaks in the bowl like the four men climbed up the mountain. It was a long walk, just like we had to stand and beat the egg whites for a long time! But at the top of the mountain, Elijah and Moses appeared before them (1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla and a dash of salt), and the glory of God shone around them (2/3 cup sugar, added gradually). At this point I let the kids taste the meringue batter, if they wanted (Aubade loved it). This is good, we realized, and if we weren’t paying attention to our recipe, we might want to stop right here just like Peter wanted to stay up on the mountain with Jesus and Moses and Elijah. But just like Jesus and the disciples came back down the mountain to share their experience and knowledge of God’s love and purpose with the rest of humanity, so too our meringues have to bake (at 250 for 45 minutes, with at least an hour in the oven cooling after turning it off) so that we can share their delicious goodness with others. It would have been best for the story to give some away, at this point, but we ended up eating them all ourselves since I didn’t really know who would want them…

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The kids seemed to take away a feeling that good things often require time and effort – the journey up the mountain for the disciples, the time beating and baking for the meringues. The part that stood out most to me this year, that I hadn’t thought much of before, was one of the reasons for coming back down the mountain, a reason for any special experience or understanding of God: not just to draw closer to God ourselves, but also to be able to pour back into God’s people, to give back to the world that He loves and is redeeming. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

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

fighting the terrible Jiboo

“And what would you do
If you met a Jiboo?”

I’m reading Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Thinks You Can Think for our bedtime story, at Rondel’s request, and because the baby’s already sleeping instead of tiredly fussing in my lap, I’m letting the boys’ comments and questions slow the story down. I pause here to let them answer the question posed by the book, a dark shadowy creature standing on a moonlit street on the pages before us.

“I would knock it over!” Rondel proclaims.

“What if it is friendly?” I ask. “Do you think Jiboos are friendly or scary?”

Rondel looks at me uncertainly, pondering.

“Maybe if they are friendly they like playing games, so you can knock them over in a fun way,” I suggest.

“No, they don’t like games. They don’t like anything.” Rondel declares.

“What do they do?” I ask. “Do they chase people and gobble them up?”

He nods, solemnly (this isn’t our first time through the book… he’s decided Jiboos are man-eaters long before now).

“That’s scary!” I say. “I would run away and hide, then, if I saw a Jiboo.”

“I would take its head off so it couldn’t eat anyone!”

“Wow, you are so brave! You would be the hero, then – you would rescue everyone from being eaten by the Jiboo!”

“I am brave!” His shoulders lift a little – I can see the idea of being the brave hero, the defender of the weak, taking root in his mind; he is thinking about the goodness of force when used for justice and protection, though of course not in so many words.

I used to be uneasy discussing violence and physical force with the boys. Well, to be honest, I still am uncomfortable with it. I don’t want them to rely on violence to solve their problems or settle their disputes, and I definitely don’t want them glorifying brute force. But I do want them to grow up into men who intervene when a woman is harassed or objectified, who protect the weak, who stand up for the oppressed, who would be willing to lay down their lives for the innocent. So when they express courage in the service of others, even if it’s in very physical ways or just in their hypothetical imaginary worlds, I want to encourage that. We can dive into the nuances of non-violence as they get older and see that power comes in many forms. For now, they can fight the Jiboos to protect those who can’t fight for themselves.

Posted in family life

rondel the storyteller

In the last few weeks Rondel’s imagination has really taken off, along with his storytelling ability, and all throughout each day I am treated to the most creative and hilarious stories about us, his toys, and characters from his favorite books.

At dinner, his broccoli becomes the apple tree from Harold and the Purple Crayon (by Crockett Johnson, 1955 – a book that deserves to be on our next favorite book list post), complete with a fierce dragon guarding it – but fortunately he eats it without waiting for the “apples” to turn red!

When “reading” one of his books, all the other literary figures he’s familiar with make their way into the current book to join the main character in his adventures, so that this afternoon If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Laura Numeroff, 1985) became Tom and Pippo Eat Cookies and Chips with a Mouse, borrowing the delightful Tom and Pippo from Helen Oxenbury’s series and telling me on every page what they were doing with that incorrigible mouse.

His race cars crash and blow their tires and race like he’s seen in Pixar’s Cars movie, but they also take time to snuggle and nurse, and some special ones (his description) have extra seats to hold “big boys” and babies, along with the mommies and daddies needed to take care of them. Some of the race cars themselves are baby cars, who need extra help to do various stunts, while the big boy cars can do pretty much everything 😛

And the best part is the way he tells the stories! He typically starts off very serious and thoughtful, creating the scenario and carefully describing it – but as he picks up steam, he gets faster and faster and more and more ridiculous, until at the end we are both laughing hysterically together at the utterly nonsensical conclusion he’s reached. This is the creativity I’ve always assumed young children have, and which I’ve been waiting to see in my own kids, not being exactly sure at which age to expect it, and it is amazingly fun to watch it develop! I hope he is able to cultivate this ability to tell stories as he gets older, because one of my favorite childhood memories was listening to my dad tell stories (real and made-up) at the dinner table each night, and as I very painfully lack said talent myself it would be the next best thing to experience it again in this next generation.