Sunday, May 24, 2009

Counting the Cost of Fun

Jeff was in a meeting the other night which meant the more effective half of authority in our home was absent. After bedtime reading, prayers and tuck in, I headed downstairs. It wasn't but a few minutes later that I realized the “tuck” had not stuck. With coffee in hand, I listened for a good while to the familiar pitter pat of feet (which is becoming "ka-thunk, ka-thunk" more quickly than I had ever imagined), doors in need of some fragrant WD-40, and finally, the voice of an exasperated sister who was trying to read. I spoke with the guilty party from the bottom of the stairs and he turned away with a "Yes ma'am" and blue blanket firmly clutched. Back to my computer and coffee with, sigh, melted whip. Between sips and clicks, I heard more "pitter, ka-thunk", more squeaking and huffs so loud from Julia, I was worried about her hyperventilating. I called him again to the top of the stairs and with both hands held out, I began to give him his choices. As I wiggled the fingers of my right hand, I lowered my eyes to serious mode (so did he) and said, “Over here you can choose to obey, stay in your bed, listen to the story and go to sleep.” Wiggling moved to left hand, “Over here you can choose to disobey, get out of bed, bother Julia, do whatever and wind up with a spanking. It is entirely up to you.” Head bowed but eyes on me.............. evidently, thinking. Shifting his feet with blanket rubbing nose, he said through crocheted holes, “Now, that’s a hard one.”

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"That Was Fun!"

This week, two significant things ended: schooling at home as I have known it and having a child in Montessori school with “Miss” Barbara. I had my last morning of one on one teaching with Julia and Brighton “graduated” from Lambs and Shepherds. As Julia and I savored the last page of our favorite fiction book this year, All of a Kind Family, we said goodbye to Starbucks and made our way to the school to see Brighton march in his cap and gown.

Rewind 3 summers ago: I remember driving up to the church- turned- school on the unfamiliar west side of Fort Worth with two kids still buckled in car seats. Carrying Brighton, I walked Julia into the activity- filled yet completely organized room for her orientation with the, now, beloved Miss Barbara. When I returned for Julia, I reluctantly let Brighton out of my arms, loose in the room filled with a zillion pieces. While Miss Barbara and I talked, she gave him “work” to do without missing a beat of our conversation. It wasn’t until about ten minutes later did I realize we were STILL talking (in complete sentences) and Julia and Brighton were STILL engaged in their “work”. My bewilderment must have been all over my face because I, then, heard her say, “You know, your son is ready for this, too.” According to her, my bewildered face turned into disbelief. In my head I was thinking, he isn’t 3 yet, doesn’t the sign on the door say 3-6?, he's barely walked for a year, he’s only mostly potty trained, should I remind her he won’t be 3 until October? So I did and she still wanted him! I told her I was in if Jeff was and I immediately started praying he would say yes! I couldn’t think of a better environment for my energetic, curious, “ALL boy” little boy during his early developmental years.

Dropping them off that first morning, I felt excited, heart broken, proud, and anxious (for me AND Miss Barbara). Miss Barbara reminded me that when I would drop him off those first few months, I would just say, “I am sorry” and shoo him in. When I observed only a couple of months later, no one would have ever known he was the youngest in the class, unless, of course, they caught sight of his adorable cheeks. He had his “work” to do and his barely 3 year old self was serious about it. She had worked her magic and so, after that, nothing surprised me. Julia and Brighton thrived in the atmosphere she created with seeming easeand they absolutely loved it.
They sewed, they polished, they sliced, they played instruments, they dissected, they made snakes, they danced, they ran, they were quiet, they drew, they served snacks, they made toast, they painted bread, they hammered, they made mazes, they traced, they punched out the continents, they dug for treasure, they cleaned, they made number lines, they painted, they tiptoed, they planted, they learned phonics through "sound boxes", they sorted, they sang, they listened to stories, they acted out stories, they earned prizes, they made butterflies, they made topographical maps, they learned to read, they mastered the brown stair and the pink blocks, they learned to print, they made full size kids complete with skeletons and organs………….I could fill the screen. Amazing.

A SHORT three years later, she said he was ready to move on. Yikes. She was right, of course. (As far as I know, Miss Barbara is never wrong.) My only hesitation—his transition from teacher to teacher- from her to me! There is only one Miss Barbara. It matters not how much of a “wanna be” I am, her shoes cannot be filled- even my sizey 9 ½!. My “Mom” title is my SOLE qualification and I can hope that will carry lots of weight come September……………..and the fact that I feed him.

On Thursday, as Pomp and Circumstance marched off the piano keys, four little cap and gown clad students made their way down the aisle of the church. Two girls in pink and two boys in black. B’s grin was as wide as the square rim of his black hat. When it was Brighton’s turn to stand with Miss Barbara, she read him the letter she had written for him. The entire letter is an absolute treasure, for sure, but the parts I will share are, “You have never been one to keep your thoughts to yourself,” and “If there is a desire in your heart you will go after it with great passion and convince everyone around you to do the same.” It was nothing new to me, but comforting that she knew and understood him so well. My “Big B” has been in incredibly loving and discerning hands a few hours a week for three years.

She then gave Jeff and me an opportunity to speak a blessing over Brighton and we took turns. I am convinced, as much as I would love to imagine how great my influence is on him, there are no more powerful nor more influential words than ones spoken from Daddy to son. Jeff focused on his name reminding him of how he “brightened” our lives and the lives of those around him. Brighton’s moment in the spotlight ended with handing me a pink rose with a big hug and a soft, smiling “I love you, Momma.” We all sat down, Brighton sitting just in front of us with his four “fellow graduates”, and I heard him lean and whisper to his buddy Claire, “THAT was fun!” He squirmed himself into a comfortable position, took in the rest of the ceremony and never stopped smiling.

And it was, Miss Barbara—“fun” from beginning to end. Your creativity, energy, passion and "magic", as I like to call it, bear evidence as gifts from God. Thank you for challenging and inspiring Brighton to learn, to use self control, to motivate himself, to explore with purpose, to set goals, but most of all, thank you for investing your love in him. He is different and better for having spent time with you. You have sown a harvest in the lives of my children and we are all reaping the benefits. It's beautiful.

By the way, I think I owe you a few cases of pasta noodles (especially the ones that look like wheels), toothpicks, gallons of glue and maybe some reams of drawing paper.
The first use he found for his diploma!

Early Evidence

A quiet house. A thoughtful husband. A rainy day. A Bible close by. A pot of coffee. A kind note on my desk. And my favorite….a clue on the porch that someone felt extra special with Daddy this morning. Nothing warms my heart more than evidence of significant time spent between Daddy and child. Sometimes the evidence is the sounds of feet on the stairs before the sun is fully doing its job. Sometimes it is the empty hot chocolate packets on the kitchen counter. Sometimes it is the clanging of mugs in the kitchen. Sometimes it is in loud whispers. Sometimes it is not until I see the smudges of chocolate around someone's miniature mouth. This morning it was his Bible in an unusual place and two empty mugs on the back porch-one that he always uses and one she always uses.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sweet as Sugar

When my family was offered a place to stay in Branson a few weeks ago, we jumped at the chance to head out of our beloved town for a few days. We found out only a couple of days before we left that the place we had been offered was no Motel 6. (Just for the record, there have been times a "Thank You, Lord" has left my lips as my head hit the pillow in a “Motel 6-ish” kind of place.) As we made our way up the hill to our “gift” for the next four nights, we all oohed and ahhed. It was lovely………… from the setting from which it rose right down to the fragrant bottle of lotion placed on the counter. As we filed into the elevator an invitation of sorts caught my eye. “Afternoon Tea”. Hmmm. My thoughts were on Julia. Later, I mentioned to Jeff about my taking her and of course, as any other smitten Daddy, he was all for it.

We scheduled it for our last day giving the unusual occasion plenty of time to steep in its well deserved anticipation. As we approached the window lined dining room, I don’t think Julia’s silver shoes ever touched the fancy carpet nor did her fingers ever lose the tight grip on my hand. “Excitement” just doesn’t do her disposition justice. Extreme elation, maybe? The interesting mix to me was the energy oozing out of her and yet the ability to conduct herself as any self respecting little English lady would………..with a perpetual grin and giggle. Her grin only got bigger when I told her they would be bringing everything on the “tea menu” when she was already trying to choose between scones and assorted tea pastries.
To begin this 200 year tradition, our waiter gave us our own tea pots and box of teas from which to choose. Unfortunately, we aren’t HUGE tea lovers. To tell you the truth, I had a hard time passing up the coffee shop in the lobby as we made our way to tea. If I weren’t so “southern”, I would have shown up with a cup. I like the thought of “tea” and have earnestly tried, but growing up in South Georgia, my tea was REALLY sweet and poured over a glass overflowing with ice. But there in the richly colored dining room, I found myself thoroughly enjoying my hot tea. I don’t know if it was the fun we were having, the rainy day or the pairing of the sandwiches, but my THREE cups were delicious.
The first thing that reminded us we weren’t in Texas was when our waiter brought out the first tray of tea sandwiches. He described one of the sandwiches as “blue cheese on pumpernickel garnished with avocado slices”. These avocados looked like no guacamole ingredients Julia had ever seen and the confusion was apparent on her gleaming face. Asparagus. This guy was seriously mixing up his greens. Determined to get the full tea experience, nothing went untasted by Julia. After sampling all four types of sandwiches, she decided she really preferred the bread stripped of what transformed the normal into a dainty “tea sandwich” leaving only the butter and mayonnaise. The “cumcumber-less” ones were her favorite because the bread was snow white. Of course. For me, the edible highlight was the luscious crème anglaise. Oh my. Now that would have been tasty in my tea cup.
We did our best at lady like conversation and I was mesmerized by the glimpses of the lady that I was seeing. I began to ask her questions about herself and we landed on the idea of what she might want to be when she grew up. Ever since the presidential election, she has been enamored with the White House and the position of President. She lifted her tea cup and said, “I want to be the President of the United States.” Well, okay. “That’s wonderful, honey. You know, you could be, but you could also work in the White House in different position too.” This peeked her attention. “Like what, Momma?” Racing for a thought. “Well, you could plan parties, dinners and events for the President’s wife.” My scope of thought is so narrow. Poor girl. “Oh, Momma, I could never do that. (President, yes. Hospitality Coordinator, no) You would have to teach me everything you know.” I was quick to tell her that I would have no idea where to start with things on that level and that she would have to be trained by people who really knew what they were doing. She said, “You mean by someone like Jenna Lee?” “Yes! Someone like Jenna. She does things so beautifully.” Ending there would have been nice, but she went on, “You know, Mom, you really should have let her decorate for B’s birthday…………………….. but you did a fine job yourself.” Done with the lady-like conversation.
As our time went on, Julia’s most repeated sentence was, “I can’t taste the sugar anymore.” Not wanting to interject the negative into our fun afternoon, I would just pass the sugar dish over to her and watch her scoop away stirring in more heaping spoonfuls. After about the 5th time, I realized it wasn’t that she couldn’t TASTE it anymore. She could no longer CRUNCH it between her teeth. There had to have been at least a fourth of a cup sitting on the bottom of her dainty, but now quite heavy, tea cup.

What she had to say about the afternoon was worth sharing-right down to her lengthy discussion where she finds an excuse for her need for sugar. You can tell by the second video, she is all too comfortable.

“Beach of sugar”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So, here’s to tea with my daughter. Maybe one day we will be real “tea girls” truly enjoying the steaming brew and the entire cucumber sandwich. I loved it from the time we decided to do it until the last drop of sugar crunched. I prayerfully hope for a zillion more times like this with her and praying even more she hopes for the same thing.
If you're interested, here is a link that gives you the history of afternoon tea.

Friday, May 1, 2009

From the Back Seat #9 “Hot Seat”

There isn’t a sign on our beaten path that Brighton hasn’t seen, commented on or asked a question about. Not surprisingly, road/road work signs are his favorites. How much can be said about the all too familiar STOP sign after the 3146th time you have stopped at one? Just yesterday, he told us how many letters were in the word and that it was an octagon. Probably not new comments to us, just forgotten. And the other day, on our way to a friend’s house, he actually saw a sign he had never seen before. It’s the D.O.T. yellow diamond with mother duck and duckies on it. The silouhettes of the waddling creatures created LOTS of inquiries. It fascinated him, I think, because of the gentler nature of the instruction. Store signs, restaurant signs, and billboards (which is most unfortunate) don’t escape his attention either. He recognizes all our familiar stops in unfamiliar places. The unfamiliar town of Branson was a feast for his eyes for its streets were being combed with Brighton Sanders' peepers for the very first time. With all the show advertisements, local venues, and tourist spots, here is what caught his attention. From the backseat I heard, “Momma!! Look!! It's a POTTY with FIRE coming out of it!”