They think we live in a musical

I planted a seed and did  little to encourage it to grow.

First, we showed the children this clip from Annie Get Your Gun.

Parents, please review before showing to children.  The pictures in the sidebar are not always appropriate.****

Then, we watched the whole movie later.  In recent weeks, we have also watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and The Sound of Music again.  Then I kind of jokingly suggested that there should be no arguments in our house that are not sung. 

There were a few laughing reminders “Children, you are not singing.”  And Sid and I sang a few silly arguments.  But all was done in a joking manner.  No hard rules were laid down.

Then last week I overheard the boys talking.  It sounded like they were slipping into an argument.  Note that my definition of an argument is about any contradiction of another person that has little purpose or value.  I think most contradictions, even gentle ones, stem from the contradictor’s pride and desire to be “right.”  I’m kind of picky about it, but I like for the kids to recognize their motivations BEFORE it ever gets to the point of a heated, raised voice.

Just as I was about to draw the boys’ attention to the direction their conversation was going, they broke into song . . . . . .  . .

“YES, you arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”

“Nooooooooooo, I’m noooooooooooot.”

And this week the girls have sung arguments over whether Rachel is allowed to remove knives from the dishwasher and who was going to use the dustpan to sweep up their chocolate zucchini muffin crumbs from the floor.

I think they get it.

Although, I think there will be more arguments in the house now.  They are finding it too much fun to argue in song, and with such sweet, charming voices raised, I can hardly complain about that.

As I was climbing

the steps to bed the other night, I was enjoying the quiet of the house.  The girls go to bed at 8:00 pm, and the boys are supposed to be in their room by 8:30 pm reading quietly until 9:30 pm. 

That reading hour for the boys has not been a hard and fast rule, sometimes they read, sometimes they draw designs for a building project or make signs for a new business venture.  As long as they are quiet and engaged in useful activity, I generally leave them alone.

But on this particular night, I was pretty sure I heard . . . . . . . . . . . .sawing.  I listened more intently.  Yep, it sounded like someone was using a handsaw, and I didn’t have to wonder who.  I knew who.

I debated peeking into the boys’ room to see what was going on, but I was tired and wanted to spend time with Sid so I elected to discuss this with him.  I closed our bedroom door to further muffle the sawing.

“Is that sawing I hear coming from the boys’ room?”  I ask, hoping I was wrong.

Sid laughed, “Yeah, Sidney is sawing apart an old t.v.”

I sigh, dreading the sight of television parts that would be strewn across his bedroom tomorrow.  My creative, inventive son loves nothing better than to be given other people’s junk that he can take apart and rebuild into other things.  I am still learning to balance my intense need for order and no clutter with his need to experiment and explore, which often creates . . . . .well, disorder and clutter.  And it is true that my own creative spot often looks like a whirlwind swept through it.

The next morning I come downstairs to this . . . . . . .

“I thought maybe Fletcher wouldn’t be afraid of me in this since he can see my face,” Sidney said.

Fletcher, who is about 19 months old, visited our home with his parents last week.

“He was kind of afraid of me when I wore my robot costume, I think because he couldn’t see my face.  But when I took the costume off, he loved playing with the light switch.”

This is what poor little Fletcher had to face when he visited . . . . .

And no, those wires and light switch are not mere robot decoration. 

They light up Mr. Robot’s nose, of course.

The lightbulbs currently are just decoration, though out of curiosity, I asked Sidney, “Could make the bulbs come on if you wanted to?”

“Well, yeah,” he said, “but I would have to plug them into the wall.  I can’t do it off these batteries.”

I quietly nod my head, as if I understand his train of thought and wonder at how his interests and talents are so very different from my own.

Apparently, I give lousy punishments

but my house is cleaner than it was before.

One of my boys, whom I shall call The Perpetrator, was having issues with distraction Friday morning.  He found a multitude of excuses as to why he couldn’t do this school assignment or another.

I decided to make him suffer.

And I wanted to benefit from the situation somehow. 

So I made a list of chores that needed done and I was behind on:

Take Christmas decoration boxes to basement.  (Yeah, I know, it’s February).

Take down Christmas lights, card and tape over the family room windows.  Put in a Christmas box.  (I’ve been busy, okay?)

Thoroughly sweep the kitchen and dining room, taking care to get all corners and under furniture.  (It is a BIG room.)

Mop with old rags, on hands and knees, the entire kitchen and dining room.  (This last part was thrown in after reading a discussion among homeschool moms on a message board about how often they clean their floors.  I got paranoid.  Transferred paranoia to my wayward child.  By now, Sid is shaking his head in amusement over ” the ladies.”)

A half hour later, I was schooling the girls in the schoolroom, when I hear the sounds of relaxed conversation and laughter.  I assumed my other son, whom I shall call TenderHeart in this story, was distracting The Perpetrator.  Marching into the kitchen, I planned to pull TenderHeart into the schoolroom with the girls and me.  

What I found instead were two boys, on their knees, happily scrubbing away at the floor.

And appearing to enjoy themselves.

“Ahem,” I say.  “TenderHeart, WHAT are you doing?”

“I am helping The Perpetrator clean the floor.”

“I don’t think you understand,” I say.  “This is supposed to be a PUNISHMENT.  Punishments are not enjoyable, but is SOUNDS like you guys are having fun.”

“Actually,” says The Perpetrator, ” this is kind of fun.”

Hmmmmm, I think to myself, I wonder if he realizes that he still has do his morning school AFTER he finishes the chores.  I’m betting he won’t think the punishment is fun then.

Walking away, I heard The Perpetrator happily whistling.

An amazingly short time later, The Perp reports to me that his chore list is done.  I inspected to find superior work.  “I swept the whole room a second time after we mopped, because it stirred up more dirt from the cracks in the wood floor,” he tells me.  Is this a sign of the diligence I have longed to see in him?

Then The Perp heads off to the schoolroom, without any reminders from me, and pleasantly finishes up his schoolwork.

And I am left with a much cleaner house and a confused brain.  Do I just not understand punishment or perhaps it is the workings of the male brain that befuddles me?  And if he really is becoming diligent, how else will I get my house clean?

An UnOrdinary Hour

***In the interest of complete truthfulness and because my children will likely read this post and wonder at my ability to understand the passage of time, this “night” actually occurred  5 nights ago, which is when I began writing the post.***

Sometimes we are just living our ordinary moments when suddenly, I am struck by the UN-ordinariness of our lives — the preciousness of “here and now,” this exact moment, those exact words, the shape of Prairie’s eyes when she scrunches up her face, the curve of Lincoln’s smile.  It is that brief moment when I am wise, and my heart clings to every sight and sound, savoring it, wrapping it in memory, protecting it from loss.

This happened to me tonight, and these are the memories I captured . . . . . . . . . .

“What’s for supper Mama?” Rachel asks.

“Roast, sprout salad and buttered noodles.”

A very brief moment of silence as her mind shifts through her distaste for roast and ambivalence toward sprouts.  In the next instant, she throws her arms around my thighs and hugs me.  “Oh THANK YOU for making noodles Mama!”  Suddenly, I want to make this girl cookies.

Cleaning up after supper,  Sidney wiping counters,  Lincoln sweeping the mudroom, I load the dishwasher and Sid clears the table.

“I took some of your Lentil Soup for lunch today.  It was most excellent,” Sid complimented me.

“Oh, did you remember to douse your lunch portion with oil and balsalmic vinegar before you took it with you?”  In my book, these last minute additions to the individual serving MADE the soup.

“No,” he said.  “But you added it to the big pot of soup last night.”

“No, I didn’t,” I said, half-frowning and searching my memory, feeling certain that I had followed the new recipe to the letter.

“I watched you pour it in.”  Sid insisted.

I bit my bottom lip and kept loading the dishwasher.  Sid stepped toward me in a mock-threatening way, pretending to stare me down if I dared to look at him.

I peeked up at him, smiled and said, “I am soooo defying you in my head.”

In his best John Wayne voice, he drawls, “As long as that is where is stays, Little Lady.” 

Our way of recognizing that we were on the verge of foolishly arguing over oil and  balsamic vinegar and poking fun at ourselves.

After-supper-chores done, we piled on jackets and tied on shoes.  Stepping into the January night,  I was thankful for these warmer days after the previous weeks of freezing temperatures.  It felt chilly, but not freezing tonight.  The three eldest children ran down the driveway, yelling, laughing, blending into the darkness except for the crazy dance of their flashlights.  They are brave in their togetherness.

The stars clear and bright, a sliver of moon with a haze over it.  Prairie’s hand grasped tightly in mine to keep her from slipping on the gravel driveway.  Sid grabs my other hand.  “Just wait until this spring . . . . . . after the kids are in bed, we’ll take walks down the driveway, holding hands, in the moonlight.”

I hear the warm anticipation in his voice and feel mildly surprised.  We had begun those nightly walks 2 years ago when I was nearly bedridden sick.  I had needed the exercise, though it felt physically impossible to move.  Sid pushed himself to do 4 times more work in a day, pushed himself to get home at a decent hour, then pushed his exhausted body further still, while pulling his diseased wife around our trailer at night. 

What had begun as desperation turned into a beautiful hope.  He would talk to me during our walk, taking my mind from the dwelling place of exhaustion, health research and debate over my next treatment option.  The anticipation of those nightly walks with him kept me tethered to the hope and beauty before me.

One night, we laid on a blanket in the yard and looked at the stars.  I remember how time seemed suspended and if I just looked hard enough, I could look right past those stars, beyond the universe and see God.  I remember thinking that I might not live long, but that moment with Sid under the stars was bigger than life and death, and I was peaceful.

But tonight . . . . . . . . .tonight, we are not trudging along in exhaustion and three of our children are wisps in the night, while the littlest fearfully clings to my hand.  We are on a mission, a mission to see Daddy’s new “baby” trackhoe.  We finally make it to the old trailer, where Sid parks his trucks and equipment.  I hear lots of giggling, shushing and finally, a howl.  The boys must remember their “camping trip.”

Gathering around the truck and trailer, we watch Sid unload his “baby,” which unleashed a flurry of excitment in the children.

“Daddy, may I ride with you?” asks Rachel.

“Can I drive it?”  Sidney test-drives the machine, already looking like a young man on that thing, even at the tender age of 10.  Both my boys filled to the brim with brashness and foolhardy confidence.

Sid lifts the extra bucket,  “Look at the bucket.  Isn’t it cute?”  Though I wonder at his definition of “cute,” I am certain of the man’s brilliant business sense.  No doubt that trading in one of his bobcats for the “baby” will prove to be a wise business move.

The night’s chill worked its way through our jackets, and we were ready for the long trek back to the house.  Prairie and I nearly run into Lincoln, standing still as a statue in the dark.  My Mama Sense knew something was wrong and I was fairly sure I knew what it was.  But I wanted my reticent boy to verbalize his thoughts, so I waited.  Haltingly, he finally shares his disappointment that he did not get a turn on the baby trackhoe.  The desire to turn back and give my son his turn is great, but greater still is the desire to raise a strong man, a man who won’t turn away in frustration with the people he loves because his voice is too soft, because he has not spoken clearly and made his thoughts and desires known.

One hand still clasping Prairie, my other hand on Lincoln’s shoulder, I pull him close, hoping he can feel my love for him if he doesn’t hear it in my counsel.  After a few moments, he takes off, once again running in the night with his siblings, and all appears well again.

My littlest tightens her grip on my hand.  “Mama, I’m afraid of dinosaurs.”  Relieved, I am more confident in my ability to handle this concern.

Reflections on Christmas……

When I was growing up, my family wasn’t much on tradition.  We had a Christmas tree because I initiated the purchase and decorated it.  There were presents and a family meal, of course, but that was it.  I always felt letdown after it was over —–wondering to myself, “Is this all there is to Christmas?  Isn’t there something more?”

Now, my hope is to create traditions with my children that are meaningful and that they will look back on fondly.  I probably won’t know the extent of my success until my own children are grown and creating traditions with their own families.  It will be a true test of my character if I don’t drown my sorrows in mounds of chocolate if my adult children don’t choose to continue some of our traditions.

We read Jotham’s Journey each night of Advent this year again.  We all enjoyed this story.  It is particularly exciting for young adventurous boys, and there is some meat to chew there as well.  Of course, we did our usual stocking routine.  This is where we read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve and send the children to bed.  Then, starting with the youngest child, we get them up one at a time.  That child gets to put on the Santa hat, gobble a few cookies and milk, and help fill the family’s stockings with candy and trinkets.  The children are thrilled to have this alone time with Mama and Daddy and love to play a part in filling the stockings.

We did something new this Christmas that I hope we can continue for many Chrismases to come.  We packed up Sid’s guitar, pumpkin bread and ginger cookies and went carolling.  We visited Grandma Sandy  and Grandpa Louis and Grandma Louise first.  After we finished singing to them and giving out pumpkin bread, Grandma Sandy grabbed her coat and joined us on our adventure.  We then visited our neighbors, the Coxes, our friend and helper, Jeff, Jeff’s neighbor (whom we didn’t know), the Foertchs and then my Mom.

Sid loved going carolling and it was probably my favorite Christmas activity this year too.  We so love the idea of spreading love and cheer with our family.  That is our hope anyway.  It is possible that some of the poor folks we carolled were just suffering through our singing while making us feel loved and cheered.

Daddy, did you know…….?

A day or two ago, I overheard Lincoln saying,

“Daddy, did you know that I would rather die to save Sidney’s life, and Sidney would rather die to save my life?”  Then he giggles.  “We’d each rather die to save each other’s life.”

Just as my heart begins to melt at the sweetness of this child of mine, I hear Rachel, another child of mine, yelling, “NO, Prairie, NO, Prairie!”  And Prairie, yet ANOTHER child of mine, answers with a squeal that pierces right through my skull, making me grind my teeth.  They sound like they are killing each other.

Oh well, I thought Lincoln’s comment was particularly appropriate to the season.

Here’s an important lesson sons

It is three days until Christmas, and we are busy with last minute preparations and Christmasy activities.  But even in the midst of holiday celebrations, the dedicated father does not pause in the training of his sons.  While I’m caught up in the busy-ness of making bread, keeping an eye on Prairie, and directing children through chores, my husband has not lost sight of the important things in life.  He watches for his opportunity and then he pounces!  The next thing I know, I am body slammed, my bedroom slippers flying off my feet.

“Boys, when you have a wife one day, you can tackle her like this,” Sid says in his authoritative voice.  While the boys are giggling, he continues.  “But you don’t tackle your kids.  You kickbox your kids —- like this!”  Then the boys go flying and giggling.

One day, our daughters-in-law will thank their father-in-law.