Category Archives: Things kids say

The Wonder of Education

The switch to a new school was a long time coming, but a difficult decision to make. Girl two was thriving. The grass is always greener. What if. But Boy two’s situation demanded that we find alternatives.

I could do it for the others as well, but here are boy two’s first days.

Day one (visiting day): Hi Mom. Can I stay at this school?

At dinner time, unprovoked (the rest of us were chewing): I learned about molecules today.

We tried to be nonchalant. (Later we discussed. When was the last time he came home and said he learned something? We couldn’t remember.) So what do you know about molecules? asked my husband. How do they work?

A clear explanation of molecules in three states of matter followed. We stopped eating and stared.

Day two:

The boy who does not like morning was out of bed, dressed and ready to go. That day he learned about electrons and began a unit on electricity. He sparkled telling us that there would be a project at the end. One year someone had made their own burglar alarm.

Day three:

At pick up, I could see his cheeks twitching with the smile he was holding in. Staring straight ahead with failed attempts at normal, he held a guitar. He climbed in the car and his grin won. It had been music day. He was required to study an instrument. The teacher said she had an extra guitar and would he like to learn it. He worked excitedly on music theory, then strummed his guitar for the evening.

Day four:

How was school?

Same as usual. Which for this school means great. It was a really good day.

Day five:

Hi Mom. We started learning a poem today, but I think I’ve got it, except one part, want to hear it?

A recitation of Frost’s, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” followed.

Day six:

What’s that book?

It’s a book on penmanship. I asked the teacher if I could bring it home to work on it. The other kids know all their lower case letters. Some people call it cursive. At my school, we just call it writing. Want to see what I’ve done so far?

 

Boy two likes school now. He may even be a morning person, we can’t tell. Girl one is more peaceful than we have ever seen her. She also brings home her work with new pride and intent. Girl two remains in love with all creation.

We are optimistic, but honeymoons happen. There are no perfect schools. Time will tell if we’ve stumbled into where they belong for good, or even if the goodness we found can hold its own enough to keep the doors open.

Education either provokes wonder or it lulls it to sleep. Fifteen minutes from our home, in the middle of some farmers fields, is a tiny school who prefers its students awake. To this little school, I say, thank you for the wonder.

Small thoughts from small things

It’s -30C outside (-22F). Inside we are feeding the wood stove steadily. The stomach flu which meandered through the ranks  at the end of last week, took a more direct and steady course beginning yesterday at 4am.  All stomachs are now settled. The wan and weak are on separate couches in the livingroom. I am bringing toast and applesauce in small increments.

“Thank you for loving us so much when we’re so disgusting,” said a kneeling 13 year old fresh up for air from an encounter with the toilet last night.

His face from last night has stayed with me. My boy of boundless energy and not a small amount of cockiness these days, all humility, softness and gratitude. Some days I don’t have  a lot of bold conclusions. Today I am pondering these things and not much more.

1. What it means to know we are disgusting and feel embraced by kindness in the midst of it.  What it means to us to be loved and accepted not because we don’t have puke on our face, but while we do.

2. What this says about grace. How it might long to catch us up short and change us forever. Redeem us, with the vomit of our shortcomings still clinging to strands of our hair.

Cheering Out Loud

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Girl two often wakes up before I’ve finished the last mechanics of posting in the morning.  She wants to eat and she wants to snuggle.

What did you write your blog about? Girl two wanted to know as soon as we’d settled the time for breakfast.

I told people about us getting our hair cut, I said.

She smiled briefly then frowned, serious. Why didn’t you tell them we read, “The Mouse and the Motorcycle?”

She and I have been reading Beverly Cleary together. The story acts like a vacuum, sucking the other children away from what they are doing until we are many, reading about Ralph’s adventures in Mountain View Inn. “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” arrived for Christmas. We often buy used books, but this one was brand new. Ordered in the mail. A chapter book, wonderfully illustrated, and owned by Girl two.

I got a note from a friend the other day. Not just any friend. A friend I had shared with my mother. At my mother’s request, the friend agreed to be a grandmother in her place, should my mother die. We consider it a kind of arranged adoption. Over the years, she has faithfully loved my children, invited us on vacations, offered free French tutoring and bought shoes. She also got it in her head to look out for me.

Normally, I’m not a fan of cheerleaders (I think it’s the pom, poms), but this isn’t like that. It’s just her. Always there. Always believing in what I can do. Always cheering. Most of the time it goes unsaid. But every once in a while, after a hard day, or a difficult time, I get a note. Hang in there. She knows I’ve got it in me to come out on the other side ok. She’s proud of me.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle reminds me of this. I don’t think Girl Two cares what I write about as much as she wants to know that I’m cheering.

Girl Two isn’t a baby anymore. She is a girl who likes chapter books and reads words to find where we are. She likes, “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” and she has a lot of opinions about Ralph. “No, don’t do that, Ralph! . . . Good, Ralph . . . ” she cries out as I read. We are engaged readers, if nothing else.

Just like Ralph, Girl two cannot wait to grow up. And just like Ralph, she is doing it even when she can’t see it. A tip of the hat to Beverly Cleary. A hundred cheers for Ralph and Girl two.

I may or may not have to go with a cheering theme for a day or two now. But on my word, though the fig tree blossom not, and the yield of the olive fail, there will be no pom, poms.

 

 

 

Recent Theatre

In our house, Surprise Ending plus Costumes = A Play. After hours of rehearsal, we were invited to the performance. (A welcome distraction from the problem of dead mice decomposing in bathroom wall.)

Scene 1

A fairy princess, a cow, and a wicked witch slid down the stairs on their bottoms with delight and a fair bit of speed. The cow watched from here on. Ten year old boy made introductions as follows. There are three characters in this place. A wicked witch – he pointed to girl one in the shredding Buzz Light Year costume wearing her straw Easter hat and holding a thin blue tube. A fairy princess – who is me, he said making his voice shrill and taking a curtsy. He had on black pants, a shiny blue cape, and the popcorn bucket from last year’s Hobbit movie on his head. There was a grand pause for effect. The fairy princess held a small hinged box (once home to a ring from a jeweller) in his hand. And . . . he opened the box slowly . . . in here . . .  is the prince. The fairy princess came closer and we the audience could see a solitary Japanese beetle (looks a lot like a lady bug if you aren’t already acquainted with them trying to winter their villages in your house and woodshed). The fairy princess sighed. The prince will try to save the fairy princess from the wicked witch.

Conclusion – after dramatic attempts by the witch to catch spells, the fairy princess reached out and snapped her wand. The Japanese beetle prince was lured to the edge of the open box then brought to a fatal end with a quick slam of the ring box. The stunt failed the first time but pleased the witch, the fairy princess,  and the watching cow quite well in the eventual finale. The prince dies trying to save the fairy princess, announced the happy princess.

Scene 2

(A door was needed. Audience was requested to change venues. Upstairs, the play continued.)

Archery sessions with various sundry patterns of arrow release-age followed by war hoops.

Scene 3

We were now told that girl two in the cow costume (with pink kilt) was actually a sheep. A ram to be exact. She lay very still and straight on the floor. It was requested that one of the audience members stand ready to open the bedroom door when directed. Boy two and girl one picked up the very straight, prone ram from the floor and ran with her towards the door as fast as they could.

Now, yelled boy two, his shiny blue magician’s cape flapping. My husband pushed the bedroom door open. The ram flew through and was summarily dropped onto waiting cushions on the other side.

“I was a battering ram,” said a proud girl two now allowed to speak and walk.

“Get it? A  battering ram?” beamed boy two and girl one.

Bows. Curtains.

On Signatures

Boy one was recently applying for a passport. We came to a part of the documentation that required his signature. Perhaps it is worth explaining that by 13, I routinely spent time practicing my signature, up and down rows on lined paper. Just in case I was ever famous. I studied the signatures on the American Declaration of Independence. I noticed my parents signatures. And I practiced.

I understand that boy one is not me. Good news for him, I say. Reviewing his documents, I did not expect that he had laboriously practiced his signature, only that he had one. He did not.

Son, it says to write your signature on this line.

I did.

That is not a signature. That is a poorly printed name.

That’s how I do my signature.

That may be how you print your name, but that is not a signature. If that actually was your signature, you should make certain never to tell anyone that this is so. No, son. You must write. Cursive. Script. A signature must be written. It must be yours. It is your name.

Five. Full. Minutes. Later. Boy one returned with paper in hand.

Is this good?

I could tell he was trying. Before me was a name written in the fat, double size, extra tall cursive letters typical of nine year olds. There was nothing to say. The fact that his best was deplorable was at least as much my fault as his, I the guardian of his education.

The next time we had a free hour, I called them all. Ages 5 to 13, bring paper and pencils, I said.

We sat at the kitchen table. Playing with different script styles of capital letters. Comparing the look of size and slant for the lowercase letters. It took them about thirty seconds to be so absorbed they were hunched over their papers writing intently. Girl two usually only writes her first name. She practiced the others, while everyone else did cursive. Examples and more samples were eagerly pushed my way. The level of pride in the room rose as signatures began to take on shape and style. One child went so far as to get samples of famous signatures so everyone could see what they liked or didn’t like about different ones.

This is actually kind of cool, but can you imagine telling your friends, said Boy one. Like, what did you do yesterday? Oh, I learned to write my name. They laughed but they were proud. As well they should be. They are now people with signatures. People who know that their names are important.

signature

Signatures matter. Enough said.

Good Gifts

I vaguely remember in the lead up to Christmas feeling overwhelmed and frustrated about unfinished lists. Blissfully fuzzy now are all such silly things. I remember the gifts, too many to count. In the telling I am happy all over again.

This year we got three days of an odd snow and freezing rain combination right before Christmas. Holidays can’t be ruined by weather, but it can make them sing a little more. I watched the rain come down and felt a little melancholy about the inevitable destruction of good skating ice on the pond.

Christmas Eve (twas the time for cleaning madly) I opened the outside door to see my daughter’s boots thrown on the snowy ground. Irritated, I commanded into the cold for her to come and explain. She didn’t answer. Her brothers smiled and pointed.

Girl one was skating. All over the yard, around the house, and out into the pasture. Instead of melting the snow or leaving divots all over the place, the freezing rain had hardened six inches of snow into a very hard and smooth surface. Christmas day kids were sledding, skating, and Cross Country skiing, all on the same hills and fields, sometimes side by side.

My favourite gift was a song. Boy one on the piano, girl one on the violin, boy and girl two singing. The First Noel. A surprise performance for me.

The day after Christmas, we went to see my brother and his family. We didn’t fight moving from beds to car. For most of nine hours travelling, we were kind to each other. We have no idea how it happened. I feel asleep that night with gratitude (and wonder). Two families of six (who see each other twice a year) were in a three bedroom house for days. The joy inside me was so loud, I hardly heard the kids.

I love my sister-in-law to death. I also find her organization inspiring. I started sorting and organizing the night we got home and for almost the entire next day. More order and hope are already flooding the place as I head into another day of home improvements.

In closing, the commentary department:

I am in the laundry room. Boy one puts his arms around me from behind.

“Thanks. What’s that for?”

“I feel like I’ve been a jerk today. I just wanted to say that.”

 

Mid morning on the first,  So what if I can’t marry a Dutch girl (like my brother did) at least I can learn from one cleaning day. The girls had cleaning rags in hand. I was arranging shoes. “We’re like Cinderella,” said Girl one. “We work all the time, but we’re really happy.”

During our anniversary celebration, discussion of marriage commenced.

“You guys fight a lot,” said one cheery voice.

I wasn’t sure how to take the appraisal. It surprised me. I was deciding how depressed to feel when boy two interjected, sincere and insistent.

“Mom and Dad don’t fight a lot, Mom’s just right a lot.”

Ah, my young shining knight . . .

Girl two on day three

Mom

Yes?

Can I have a drink?

Mom

Yes?

How long til you read me a story?

Mom

Yes?

I don’t feel good

Mom . . .

Plus five. Times ten. So eighty or so times later . . .

Mom

Yes?

Will you say soothing words to me tonight?

Sorry, dear, what did you say?

Will you say soothing words to me tonight?

Will I say soothing words to you tonight?

Yeah

Yes, I will say soothing words to you tonight.

Good.

 

Later . . .

Are you going to say soothing words to me?

Yes. I’m just thinking of them. I can think of some words that are not soothing right now. Can you think of some?

You shouldn’t say I hate you for soothing words.

No, you really shouldn’t.

I love you.

I love you too.

You are a very beautiful little girl.

Thank you.

I’m going to finish clearing the table now.

Ok.

 

And still later . . .

Time for bed beautiful girl.

Are you going to say soothing words to me now?

Yes, but let’s get you tucked in first.

 

Good night little one, I’m so sorry you aren’t feeling well. Mommy loves you so much.

I love you too. Are you going to say soothing words now?

I’m trying to think of more.

I don’t know soothing words.

You don’t know what soothing means?

No

Where did you hear it?

From Christopher Churchmouse. The mother in the story said soothing words.

 

So I explained soothing words and said as many as I could think of. Girl two smiled, closed her sleepy eyes on puffy exhausted cheeks and made me very happy in my messy house and life that can’t quite keep it together.