Monday, June 29, 2009

Dinner, Painting and Playdough

I had to get a picture of my happy girls eating dinner. They are both naked because they just got out of a warm bath- they got cold playing in the sprinklers. E painted while we ate.

After dinner I made them some playdough with flour and water. Sticky, sticky!

Garden Co-op

This is the view from our garden. All of that property belongs to the family who donated the plot to be used for the garden co-op. Isn't it beautiful?! I want to own property like this someday.

E helped me water and pick peas.

This is the tomatoes, corn, beans, and lettuce. We also have peas, strawberries, potates, cabbage, watermellon, sunflowers, and some edible flowers. The harvest of peas and strawberries just started and they are so good!

E is eating peas with St. Francis.

Playing in the Sprinklers

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Brownies and a Bath

E and I made brownies tonight, and afterwords she played with water in the sink. I sat down to nurse L, and E said, "I want to get in the sink!" I said no at first, because I didn't want to get up to help her- I was tired and nursing the baby. But I quickly rethought that, and changed my mind. "YES!" So, I got up, filled up the sink with warm water, and helped her climb in. She had so much fun, and I remembered how nice it was when my mom used to wash my long hair in the sink and massage my head.

D's Football Game

Here are some pictures taken by the game photographer. My camera battery died by the time the game started, so I didn't get to take any pictures.


On Saturday, we went to a parade. D is playing minor league football for the Portland Raiders, and they took part in this parade before their game.

D is on the left- the one with a mohawk.

Here's the whole team.

E loved seeing the horses! This was the prettiest one.

Fire trucks and ambulances.

I took pictures of the flags, because of her current fascination with all flags. Every time she sees an American flag, she gets so excited. I sang her the national anthem today, but I think it was a little slow for her tastes (and a few too many high notes for me!).

I was so busy taking pictures of things that I knew E would like to remember, that I didn't get any pictures of the girls. :(

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Don't Learn Anything Today

E was watching PBS this morning, and I walked in the room at the end of a segment. A woman was saying "You just learned something new! Wasn't that fun!" I had to roll my eyes. Do they really think that anyone could actually *avoid* learning something new all the time? Seriously. Try it some time.

I almost typed that you couldn't avoid learning something new unless you were locked in a box, but I think that's not even true. Imagine what one could learn in solitary confinement. How does it feel to be alone? Physically, mentally, emotionally. Is this room big enough to walk in? Run in? Can I relieve stress by working out? Or maybe I don't have enough energy for that. Not enough food? How does lasting hunger feel? Will my body adjust to that? What does each precious bite of food taste like? The texture? The smell? What time of day is it? Can I tell by watching the little bit of sun come through the cell window? How many days has it been? If I stay really quite can I hear the person in the next cell? I'll think about past experiences and conversations. What could I have said differently? Done differently?

When I woke up this morning, I didn't decide to learn anything new. And it hasn't been a particularly mentally stimulating sort of day. But as I think back on it, I've learned quite a few new things. I learned how to transplant lettuce. I learned that it needs water every day, and so do the strawberries, but the tomatoes will be ok for a few days. The British nickname for Nasturtiums (which are edible flowers) is "nasties." Saint Francis didn't wear shoes. A new study has been conducted which shows that the cord wrapped around a baby's neck in utero isn't usually dangerous. D's second favorite holiday is 4th of July. His favorite is Thanksgiving. There are several different kinds of epoxy. Target doesn't sell large bandages, but they do have maps of Europe for $1. Diaper cream needs to be kept out of E's reach or it could end up in L's hair. The library has a lost and found. My niece's ballet class is out for the summer. My sister knows what she wants to do when she grows up.

That's just a small portion. I learned a lot more subconsciously or things that I don't recall at the moment, but they will come to me when I need them.

I challenge you to try it sometime. Don't learn anything new for a day. That means you can't talk to anyone, read anything, use the computer, play any games, watch any tv or go anywhere. And don't do anything where you might make a mistake. After all, those are usually the best learning experiences.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Did You Know?

Watch this video:

One more reason I won't be sending my children to be educated by an outdated, industrial age system.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Improv and Saying Yes

When I was in highschool, I took drama for several years with my favorite teacher. We did a lot of improv, which is acting without a script. Think of the tv show, Who's Line Is It Anyway? With improv, the actors can use games or suggestions from the audience about locations or themes to get the ball rolling. From there, they have to feed off each other and respond to each other's ques, words and timing. They never know what the other person is going to do or say next.
My teacher told us to never refuse an offer when doing improv. So, if my acting parnter said, "Wow! You ate that whole burrito. Isn't that going to give you really bad gas?" My response could be to fake a fart and say "Yah, it does it to me every time. Can I borrow some of your Tums? I know you have to carry them around since your surgery." To which my partner could respond by talking about the surgery (or better yet, pulling out their colostromy bag). The point is to make it as entertaining as possible for the audience, and usually humorous though sometimes it can be dramatic. It's only entertaining if the actors paint vivid pictures, with their words and actions, since there is no set and often no props.
If an actor is too embarrased to talk about farting, they might refuse the offer, and respond "Oh, no burritos don't do that to me." But that stops the story in it's tracks and the audience is disappointed.

So, here's the point of all that:
I've been trying to make my default answer to E, YES. I read somewhere recently about families that "say no to everything, and then the negotiations begin." I don't want to do that. If my default answer is YES, then it opens up a million possiblities of when and where and how she can do what she wants to do, while still being safe and respectful.
I really struggle with this though. And while I've been getting a little better, I still find that my YES isn't as enthusiastic as my NO. My YES is "hhhmmm, ok, I guess" or "sigh, sure, why not" instead of a joyful "I would love to help you explore the world!"
When she wants to do something she's making me an offer. She's giving me a chance to be a part of her world, help her explore, be her partner, watch her grow, and connect with her. When I say no, the show stops. The opportunity is lost. Too often, I say no because I'm busy with something else and I don't want to take the time. But then the negotiations begin, and after all the time I've spent explaining my no, figuring out how to justify it to myself (which is usually harder), listening to the tears, and trying to redirect her, I might as well have spent that time helping her do what she wanted to do. After all, that's where the learning and connection happens.
So, that's my newest challenge to myself- accept all offers, and see where it leads the story. This life is really one, big improv show.

Flags of the World

We have an American flag in our office that we've been letting the girls play with lately. Now, everywhere we go, E notices American flags and comments on them. So, tonight I asked her if she wanted to see flags from other countries. I found this website: where we could see lots of different flags and try to guess where they were from. It's hard! I had never even heard of some of the countries. Tuvalu? Maldives? Then I got the globe, and we found all the countries as we looked at their flags.
I also found a website where we printed blank "color by number" flags.

More Writing Practice

We have a small white board on the outside of our door where we write the phone number of the apartment building we manage so prospective residents can get the number when we aren't home. E was playing outside and wanted to write and draw on the board, so I pulled it down to her level. She wrote what looked like capitol U's over and over again, and then said "Look, mom! L, M, N, O, P." I said, "Cool! Can I write L, M, N, O, P too?" She said yes, so I wrote the letters underneath hers. She looked really intently at them and said "Oh, that's not an L!" and erased the side of her U, so that it became an L.
For about half an hour, she wrote on the board, erased it, and wrote some more. Each time she finished, she showed me what she wrote. Sometimes she wanted me to tell her what it looked like she had written. Sometimes she wanted me to write letters and she tried to copy them. Other time she wanted to tell me what she wrote, and needed me to just say "Cool!"


We've had a really busy couple of days, but I wanted to share a few things we did Thursday. Or Wednesday? hhhhmmm oh well.

I was working in the office, and E was playing right outside the open door. She came running to me to tell me she saw a spider. She has a love/hate relationship with all bugs, but especially spiders. She screams and says she's scared when she sees them, but she's fascinated by them. So, I suggested we go take a closer look at this spider.

It's web was on the fence, right at her eye level. It was a tiny, brown spider- I don't know what kind. We watched it for a long time. At first we thought that it was eating something, but then we saw it drop whatever it had. I commented "Oh, it dropped it's lunch," and E said, "I'll get it some more lunch! Let's catch a bug!" But before she did that, the spider moved to another part of it's web, pulled something off and dropped it. That's when we realized that it was picking little, tiny leaves off it's web. It was cleaning it's house!

I pointed out that part of it's web was broken, and I hoped that it would repair it while we were watching. E said "I'll help fix it! I'll use my stick." So, she ran and got her big walking stick. She almost touched the web with it, and then she realized that wouldn't help. She said, "I think the spider needs to fix his own web."

Then she found several other spiders on the fence, including a really weird looking green one. Later we found some pictures of spiders online. We have done that before- the first time was right after she got bit by a spider and we were trying to figure out what kind. This week I'm going to take her to the zoo or somewhere else that has a bug exhibit. I'll try to remember to take some pictures to post.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cleaning House

After dinner I looked around at my messy house. I could have thought "WHAT A PIG STY! I should have cleaned all morning, so I could spend the afternoon making a nice meal." The thought crossed my mind, but I quickly banished it. I did end up cleaning up the living room, while the girls played with the piano and listened to music. I picked up the balls that E and I had played catch with, and the clothes that she had worn to the garden today. I picked up books L had pulled off the shelf to look at and the stuffed animals they had played with together. I hung up the towel E had used after taking a bath complete with her swimsuit and floaty tube. I threw away a receipt from shopping for (mostly) nutritious food. The mess wasn't so bad when I looked at it as reminders of a fun day.

I never did get the dishes done. I quit cleaning because E wanted me to dance with her. Then we drew some pictures together and painted a balloon. After painting the ballon, E noticed that it wasn't flying up all the way to the ceiling anymore and she thought it was losing helium. I suggested that maybe it was too heavy because of the paint on it. She wanted to test that theory, so I got her a wet paper towel and she washed the paint off. Sure enough, the balloon was able to go all the way to the ceiling once it was clean.

So, do I regret not doing the dishes? Not at all.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Table Manners

I talked on the phone to my sister today, and she told me about a book she is reading by Nancy Campbell. She said it's about the family meal table, and Bible verses that support eating a nice meal together every day. She was wondering what I thought about that. I said that I thought it made sense for families who were running every which way during the day. When the kids are at school and the parents are at work, when else can they all be together to connect and talk? But in our case, I'm with my children and often my husband all day long. Sometimes we eat one or two meals together in a day, but not necessarily the same food. Sometimes, we don't eat together at all. Once in a while, we'll take the extra time to prepare a really nice meal, but usually we eat pretty simply.

So, tonight I was thinking about that while we ate dinner. D had a "date" with his brother- they talk on the phone and play a computer game together. I made an easy dinner for myself and the girls. We ate chowmein noodles with celery sauteed in butter. The girls had been snacking on blueberries before dinner and those carried over to the meal. E stood up in her chair and kept getting down to go see what D was doing. L threw her food all over the floor and E cheered her on. E used her fork part of the time, but then decided she was a baby like L and started using her fingers. We didn't do a family devotion, use nice dishes or a white table cloth, and I didn't slave over the stove for an hour to prepare the meal.

Do I think God was disappointed? No. Not at all. We prayed before our meal. While we ate, E and I talked about the storm last night, and how God sends the rain to water the plants. She put her noodles in her water glass. Some would call that bad manners, but I call it a science experiment. I asked her if the noodles were getting squishy, and she checked them and they were. Then she asked me to tie a noodle around her finger like a ring, so I did. She wanted me to show her how to tie, and then she practiced tying a knot with a noodle around her fork.

I do value manners and it is nice to have a nice family dinner now and then. But I think God is more interested in our hearts than the appearance of our table.

Lots of Good Things Today

One of the good things that happened today was that I was better about being present and involved with E and L when they weren't getting along. I tried to remember everything I was thinking about last night when I wrote about them experimenting. When we were in the car, E was grabbing L's hands and making loud noises while L was trying to sleep. In the past, I have sometimes responded by yelling "Leave your sister alone! Don't touch her!"

Today I said, "E, it looks like L is tired. What can we do to help her sleep?"

E: She needs a toy to help her sleep.

Me: Like a soft toy she can cuddle with?

E: Yep, I'll find her one!

Unfortunately there were no soft toys within reach for either of us. So I asked her what else she thought we could do.

E: Let's sing her a song!

Me: Ok, what song?

E: ABC's.

So, we sang the ABC song several times. I doubt our singing actually helped L sleep, but it did distract E from bothering her. After a while she said, "Mama, L is sleeping! We need to sing softly." So, we sang once or twice more, nearly whispering.

Then tonight, I was helping E with something, and L was standing by E's chair fussing. E put her face right in L's face and yelled "AACCHHHOOO!!" like she was sneezing. That just upset L more. Rather than assume that she understood that L was upset and knew what to do about it, I chose to talk to her about it.

Me: How do you think L is feeling right now? Do you think she's happy?

E: No, she's sad. But she's happy when I say "AACCHHOO!"

(Sometimes that's true. E and L play a hilarious game where they both pretend to sneeze. It's really cute! But it wasn't working this time.)

Me: Hhhhhmmmm. It doesn't look like she's liking that this time.

E: Oh!

Then she grabbed a cracker off the table and handed it to L. L liked that!

E: See! She's happy now! I helped her to be happy.

I didn't do so well every time today, but those moments give me hope. If I can just do a little better this time than last time. Be a little more present. Have a little more patience.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


D and I have both been really frustrated with E lately. She takes L's toys away, annoys her by sticking her feet in L's face in the car, "helps" her walk, and sometimes even pushes her over. My knee-jerk reaction to her behavior is to yell or roughly physically remove her. It's not any better than what she is doing to her sister. In fact, my reaction is worse, because I'm an adult who should be modeling appropriate ways to deal with anger and conflict.

I've been thinking about all the things I *know* intellectually about her behavior and trying to remember them in the heat of the moment to more effectively help her.

I know:
that her 3 year old brain is not physically capable of empathy.
that she is often trying to help L or play with L when she accidentally hurts her.
that she hasn't fully learned to recognize when L changes from enjoying what E is doing, to making sounds that mean STOP.
that even when she does recognize the L doesn't like what she's doing, she doesn't understand why that should signal her to stop.
And even IF she knows she needs to stop, her 3 year old brain is not physically capable of impulse control, especially if she is enjoying what she is doing.

So, when I was posting my last post about L's first word and how she's experimenting, it dawned on me that E is doing the same thing. I'm thinking while I'm typing here- if I look at everything I *know* about E's behavior, what are the questions she's asking with her experimentation?

If I do this what will L's reaction be? What will mom's reaction be? Why does she react differently when I do X than when I do Y? This time L laughed. That time L cried. What was the difference? I'll do it again to try to figure that out. Mom likes it when I help her. What if I help L? Why does L cry when I help her? Mom likes when I take some things away from L (chokables), but not other things (toys)? Which one is this thing?

Of course, because she hasn't yet developed empathy or impulse control, usually she's just doing something because she wants to do it, and realizes after the fact that it causes reactions from us. I've been spending way too much time reacting in a way that tells her "You're bad and I'm angry with you." I need to react in a way that says "I'm going to help you answer these experiment questions. I know you want to learn how to act. I'll help you learn."

As usual, the way to do that is to be more present, more in the moment, more aware. Some days I'm able to do that really well, but it requires my attention, my focus. If I sit on the floor between them and see things from each perspective and work with them, we connect and flow. If I stay focused on me and what I'm doing or want to be doing and see them as a problem to solve or a battle to win so I can move on to the next task, then tempers flare and feelings get hurt, and nothing actually gets better anyway.

So tomorrow (or today since it's after midnight) is a new day. But that's too big. When I wake up in the morning that's one moment. How will I choose to react in that moment? And the next. And the one after that.

First Word and Experiments

L's been saying mama and dada for a while now, and she actually knows what they mean, she's not just babbling. So this is her first word other than those.


For days she's been coming up to E and bopping her on the head and saying "Ow! Ow! Ow!" Obviously, I don't want to encourage her hitting her sister, but E thinks it's hilarious. It is really cute the way she says it!

This morning she pulled my hair and said "Ow!" I didn't laugh, and moved her hand and said "Ow! That hurts mommy." She looked real serious and thoughtful. I can see the wheels turning as she's learning this new word and putting it together with actions. She's experimenting.

What happens when I do this? What if I do it to sister? What if I do it to mommy? Their faces look different. Sister laughs. Mommy doesn't. Sister doesn't always laugh. What if I do it a little differently? On their heads? On their legs? On the couch? Hard? Soft?

It's a good reminder for me that E is also still experimenting in the same way about a lot of things. That's how they learn. They try something, see what the reaction is, try it a different way, see the new reaction. They want to find the actions and words that help them be successful in the world, but that takes a lot of tries and a lot of mistakes. And that's what my next post is about...

I turn my back for a second....

She used the little rocking chair at the bottom of the picture to climb up there.

Pictures from Life is Good Picnic

I'm finally getting around to posting these. We spent most of the picnic on the last day of the Life is Good conference with my friend April and her family.