Archives for category: School-Aged Children

It’s short and sweet and goes like this:

Once there was a girl named Mitzi, and she had a little brother named Jacob. They slept in the same room and in the same big bed, each sprawled on her or his own side. Mitzi usually hugged the edge of the bed, teetering on the edge, and usually teetered on the edge of sleep, too, holding out as long as she could. She wanted to snuggle her mama as she went to sleep, lying on her right side with her left arm wrapped around her mama’s left arm. Jacob wanted to put his head on his mama’s right shoulder and snuggle his mama to sleep, too. They’d often drift off grudgingly, as if unwilling to give the day up without a fight. That day would never come again, and who’s to say those few last minutes weren’t the most important?

Tonight – this night – was different.

Tonight Mitzi and Jacob snuggled their mama, snuggled their daddy, and giggled and talked together, making the final moments important in a new way — and then went to sleep all by themselves.

“Good night, Mitzi,” whispered her mama and daddy in wonder. “Good night, Jacob,” whispered his mama and daddy.

And then they stayed up to do exciting things like put cardboard in the recycling bin and fold laundry, and then they all slept happily ever after. (At least I hope that’s how this one will end!)

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The school year’s begun – we’re nearly three weeks in, and starting first grade has been a little trickier than kindergarten. There were some early stomachaches and reluctance to walk into the classroom; even before school started, Girl said she was nervous (not that you can tell from her smile).

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When we asked if she had butterflies in her stomach, she said she had butterflies, birds, and worms. No wonder her stomach bothered her – she had an ecosystem inside her!

Things have mostly settled, as most things do. The only sign of homework was a reading log, which made me happy. In spite of my many years of teaching, I have some strong feelings against homework now: with only two fifteen-minute recesses (if it’s not raining and if no one has majorly misbehaved), there isn’t much free or outdoor time. I like to see her in the afternoon (or let her be involved in activities) without the extra pressure of homework. Besides that, Girl LOVES to read, and filling the log would be no hardship.

I asked her, then, if there would be other homework.

“There will be homework soon,” she said.

Tactlessly, I followed up with, “That stinks!” Not, perhaps, my best parenting moment.

“No!” replied my daughter. “That means learning and figuring it out.”

Ah. Yes it does. I think parents hope that they set the stage for a better life for their children, that their children will surpass them in all sorts of ways. I just didn’t know that it would start so soon.

School’s out, and the days yawn, tantalize, or drag on, depending on whether they’re filled with packing and errands or play and pleasure.

For the pleasure-filled ones, however, we are most grateful. Here are our greatest pleasures, of late:

  1. Picking blackberries. The patch down the road is in the slow-rolling ripening stage. We’ve been checking for weeks, smelling the white-blossomed flowers, watching the blossoms transform into green berries, then noticing the green-to-pink development. This week, we walked down and found that, in a few cases, the transformation was complete: blackberries! (Never mind that they’re really a deep purple and not really black.) Weeds and flowers rise among the brambles, and the snags on clothes and hands (or hair, arms, legs…) are just part of the price of picking. Girl enjoys picking them perhaps more than eating them, but Boy eats all that he picks, and when I put a handful into his cup, he upends it, and the berries roll down into his mouth, warm, plump, and sun-warmed, making the eating-berries-in-the-berry-patch experience at least twice as good as eating the same berries at home. It is completely glorious.
  2. Sitting on the front porch. Shaded from the near-summer’s heat, we do all sorts of things: Trim nails. Draw with chalk. Listen to – and watch for birds (especially pileated woodpeckers – those that Woody Woodpecker was based on. I think our local pair had babies!). Eat popsicles (homemade from grape juice, most recently). Eat blackberries. Snuggle on the bench. Read books. We finished Edward Eager’s Half Magic, a book I remember loving from my own childhood. Even after an adult read, I love it still. The possibilities in a world of magic! Something I appreciated, too: Jane remembers her father, who died, and while the book is about adventures and misadventures with a magic charm, the family matters add a little weight, bringing the book down from airy fluff to something more solid and earth-bound. Girl was engrossed, and we’re eager to continue reading his books.
  3. Playing with water. It’s hard to beat the joy a pool brings, whether we enjoy a friend’s pool or go to a public pool with friends (or make new friends while there). Girl’s swim lessons/swim team practices aren’t a chore but a treat. A puddle, real naturally running water – we should get out and enjoy more of that, too. Goodness knows Boy enjoys having his shoes off as much as possible! The hose at the Bluestone House is a big draw, too: arcing it to see rainbows, splashing water on the cars, watering the clover so it will grow – until they use up the water, of course (the ease of the plumbing manifold system – we can turn off the water supply to the outdoor faucet when needed!). I’ve even gotten them to paint with water on the driveway a bit, like Emily and I did when we were kids.

What are your greatest summer joys? For now, we’re looking forward to more blackberries!

March 6, 2016: A week or two earlier, Girl had been complaining that her tooth hurt. Given that brushing her teeth is not her greatest strength, Daddy postulated that she had a cavity and told her so, telling her to be sure she did a good job brushing her teeth. Days later I was looking in her mouth, and lo and behold, a new tooth, jagged and large, like a new mountain, was rising behind her right lower middle tooth. No cavity, but a cavity-making situation. On March 6th, she woke early – 6:20 on a Sunday morning. I told her to close her eyes, she wiggled her tooth, and all thoughts of sleep were gone: the old finally gave way to the new, and she’d lost her first tooth! The tooth fairy visited, bringing one Tennessee quarter and one Smoky Mountains National Park quarter.

June 4, 2016: The mountain range was growing. Behind her left lower middle tooth, a new tooth was rising as well – and the old tooth had been loose for weeks. While reading Anne of Green Gables that night, I said, “Why don’t you try twisting it, too?” She did, and out it popped!

June 12, 2016: Since her last dentist appointment in March, I’ve been flossing Girl’s teeth and helping her to use a fluoride rinse six times a week (she gets to choose which night she wants off). I noticed a discolored spot on her tooth that didn’t scrub away. Uh-oh.

June 13, 2016: After a visit to our very patient dentist (she was not keen on having an x-ray, saying that the little winged film hurt her mouth – he had to stay in the room and hold the film in her mouth while his tech took the x-ray!), it’s certain: there’s a cavity. *sigh* We’ll be on our way back to the pediatric dentist in roughly two weeks to begin the process of fixing that. Better fixed than made worse…but if it was that difficult to get that one x-ray, how will the rest of this process go?

Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were sailboats on brownie cupcake seas. Nearby, small polar-bear bags enveloped chocolate chip cookies – two, the number of cubs to which a mother polar bear usually gives birth. Above, Sriracha cheddar angels flew near gluten-free cheddar bats, blurring the line between visions of darkness and light. Heavy and earth-bound, pound cakes, crusty and golden, kept company with a moist yellow cake four layers high frosted with deep chocolate, covered in swirls pulled down from Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Sailing the seas of brownies

Sailing the seas of brownies

The combination bake sale and lemonade stand to raise money for our local park was a delicious scene, crafted with care by all sorts of local parents. Children, including mine, crowded nearby, helping to attract customers with their sheer exuberant presence – or their sign waving and instrument banging/shaking/clacking. WIth faces painted, they helped the crowd attract a crowd. They meandered down to the as-of-yet-unimproved playground, swinging and running and playing. They were semi-autonomous children in a small town, fulfilling their right to loose supervision. They were happy.

The fiercest tiger grins

The fiercest tiger grins

We were happy, too, but it wasn’t the best part of yesterday – even when we found out that we’d raised over $1500.

The first shift

The first shift

After the sale was over, we headed down the mountain for a birthday party at a local gym – and in this case, I mean a gymnastics gym, one filled with joy-inducing equipment like a long trampoline, like a runway for kangaroos, and bars, which, yes, might be good for a monkey, and a ball pit, which would get any self-respecting dog drooling. There was bouncing and climbing and crawling and pizza eating, all with friends, and present opening (we gave the gift of Press Here by Herve Tullet, a favorite at our house), and when it was all done, we were sent on our way with goodie bags.

This, too, was a good part of our day, but it wasn’t the best part, either.

The best part waited until we were home, our little family of four, with goodie bags opened and scattered: long balloons, good for making animals (the house specialty: a snake, no twisting required), with a hand-held pump, and two glow bracelets apiece.

The balloons were a little bit of magic, like children, growing quickly before our eyes.

But the bracelets held even more magic.

I pulled up Girlpool’s album Before the World Was Big, and we turned off the lights, the better to enjoy the glow of the bracelets. Boy put a bracelet on an uninflated balloon, and they took it from there. He twirled the bracelet, and it glowed, a shining light in the darkness. Girl tried it with two, and with Girlpool’s spare guitar playing and singing, sometimes in harmony and sometimes in a single line, the web was spun. It was magic, and I was caught. The lights spun and twirled, and, with only their imaginations to limit them, Boy and Girl continued to spin their ephemeral web of light. Small circles, large circles, pairs of bracelets or one, just alone, attached to a balloon, rope-like – I could have watched until my eyes grew heavy or until Boy and Girl fell into a heap, joyful and spent.

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As it was, the album ended, the spell was broken, and Daddy turned on a light in the kitchen, the better for eating snacks. Regular life always hovers at the edges of the perfect moments, waiting to intrude, often with great impatience.

But it was there. Rather, they were there: the perfect moments, the perfect children, the perfect light, the perfect darkness, the perfect family. Maybe it doesn’t matter if they’re ever perfect again; maybe it’s enough that it could happen, and that it did.