Saturday, December 14, 2013

Little Drop of Sweet

Andrew and Evan love to hold their baby sister, even though she is no longer very amenable to being held by them.  Shes wiggly, and she's got places to go.  Andrew holds on tight.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Who can resist a little girl in polka dots?

I had a little thought this morning.  It's personal.  I almost don't want to post it here.  But I think I will.

I looked at little Eleanor Carolyn, and I thought how thankful I am for her.  She's fun.  She's sweet.  Not that that isn't also true of my other children, but I tend to be slow to come around to things, and my adjustment to motherhood has been slow and grueling at times.

I recall that sometime last year --I can't quite remember just when-- I was struggling, treading water, and having a particularly hard time with life.  Not for any particular reason, or even any good reason.  It's just the way life is sometimes, I think.  So I started to pray for joy.  Joy in my children, joy in my life.  There I was, trying to figure out how to love and care for three boys-- two who were so little, both still nursing, needing me so much.  I didn't want to hate it.  I didn't want to feel the air being slowly squeezed out of my lungs. Then I was pregnant again, and I was sure I was really going to drown.

So I kept praying --desperately imploring God-- for joy.  I thought it would elude me forever.

So I looked at Eleanor this morning, and I laughed out loud.  My Heavenly Father --I think HE laughed out loud-- heard my prayer and answered it.  "Here's some joy." He said.  "Joy in the form of a sweet baby girl."  He knows me well, of course.  He knew I wouldn't be happy at first.  He knew I would cry.  He knew I would complain.  He knew the work would be hard.

I was (and am) more overwhelmed than ever.

And more joyful.

To refresh my joy in motherhood by increasing my motherhood?  Only God can pull off a stunt like that.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


I guess it's been awhile since I've just posted photos of our recent goings-on.

We carved Reformation pumpkins.  Jonah did his completely on his own, and Evan pretended to do his.  I hadn't planned on him carving a pumpkin, but he really wanted to carve his tiny little pumpkin.

We may not celebrate Halloween, but we like to have fun, too.

It turned out pretty cute.

This little punkinhead is the cutest of all, though.

She learned a new trick in the last few days.  It always cracks me up how determined babies are when they are learning something.  Once she figured out how to get up on her knees, she's done nothing but practice, practice, practice.

"Push her down!" her Grandma says.  Yes, really.  I actually kinda sorta want to.  I'm very happy with an immobile baby, but babies will grow and she will learn new things no matter what I think.

I made her some little hairbows.  A friend told me about the idea of making baby hairclips from the zippers of ziploc bags.  It's genius, really.  Those things really grip little bits of fine baby hair.  She's lost so much hair that she really only has a little shock of long hair on the top.  I try to spread it around. Like a little baby comb-over.  Poor girl...  But never has a comb-over looked so cute on anyone, right?

Balding like a middle-aged man, and she's still stinkin' adorable.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Two-Year-Old!

Andrew turned two today!

I admit that I was actually a little surprised to realize that he's only just now turning two.  He's been acting like a two-year-old for quite a while now, and I was already thinking of him as being two.  I hope that doesn't mean that the terrible twos, I mean, uh.... terrific twos... are going to get worse now that he's actually two...

He's been so sweet today, though, and he had a really fun birthday.  It's always so fun when they know what a birthday is all about and can enjoy it.

His Grandma gave him new boots which he sorely needed and is very excited about.  I was praying he wouldn't ask to sleep in them, because that's the sort of thing he would do.  He got lots of new little cars and trucks, too, though he spent more time lining them up neatly on the floor than playing with them.  He definitely has a little case of two-year-old OCD, I'd say.  After he finished eating his cake, he couldn't get down from his chair until he had stacked all the cake plates within his reach and laid the forks neatly on top of the stack. All things decently and in order, unless it's contradicts his will in which case he always just opts to roll on the floor and yell "NO".  

Life is so complicated for a tot and there's just so much to learn to make it all tolerable.

It helps to be cute.

Happy second birthday to my sweet little chunka-lunka hunka-monka!  (For some reason, I have more nick-names for this guy than all the others put together.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

And it was all over too fast

I took my two littlest people and went to Oregon to visit family.  Did you know that?  No?  Oh, that would be because I have completely failed to tell you about it.

  I actually got home a week and a half ago, and then I uploaded these photos, but got interrupted and never actually wrote the post.  And then, all week, I've been thinking of other things to post, but I couldn't, because I knew that this post was unfinished, so I could hardly start a new one, now could I?

So we went, and came back, and it was a terribly short (but full!) trip.  Nathan stayed home with Jonah and Evan because it was just too expensive for us all to go. I think that was a little tough on them, but they survived just fine.  Everyone back home was just itching to meet Eleanor before she got any bigger.  Andrew got to go, too, much to the jealousy of his brothers.

I'm pretty much used to living far away from everyone, but every time I have a new baby, the distance really grates on me.  I want so badly to share the babies with everyone who loves them.  This is just the way things are, and we make the best of it, but sometimes I almost can't stand it.

We really made sure to pack this visit with love and fun.  Andrew and Eleanor were snuggled and kissed and generally doted upon.  Andrew has been shaping up to be my most challenging 2 year old (and he's not even 2 yet...), but having him away from his brothers for a while on different territory was actually wonderfully refreshing.  Once he settled in, he was sweet as pie and I was able to enjoy him more as well.

Eleanor is the most social baby I have ever known.  She's never shy, never afraid of going to someone new.  She just loves to see people and talk and be talked to.  She never tires of attention, she (almost) never gets grumpy.  It's kind of amazing to me.  And a little scary because I'm so... well, not very social.  It appears that she may very well be a "people person" and a chatterbox and even, yes... an extrovert.  (Yeek!) Time will tell.  For the present, she charms everyone.

I greatly enjoyed the change of pace from normal life.  My siblings are just such a fun group of people, and my parents love the rare times we're all together, even though it means a lot of noise and chaos and food to cook.   We played cards until late at night, drank lots of wine, and had some rousing and hilarious discussions.  A group of us went to my sister's play --a small-town production of Shakepeare's Macbeth-- and had a lovely evening out.

We managed to get some family photos while we were all together.  We did a four-generation photo with my Mom and Grandma.  We have one from when I was a baby with my great-grandma as well.

You know how hard it is to take a family picture with little kids clowning around and/or crying?

Yeah, well, I'm thinking that never really changes.

And before we knew it, the week was over, and we had to get back to real life.

I miss those people.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Wittle, Itty-bitty Baby...

No, sorry, not that one.  This one. The big one.

My wittle, itty-bitty, biggest baby boy looks so growed up.

We finally got this kid an eye exam and it turns out, sadly enough, that his eyesight is worse than mine.  And mine sure ain't great.   He's only 8.  Being a precocious reader plus genetics not in his favor are not a good combination.

So now he's stuck with "speck-TACKles" as he calls them (is that hilarious, or what?  I can't bring myself to correct him.).

His amazing discovery of clear sight has been fraught with hilarity.  When we walked out of the eye doctor's office, he stopped dead in his tracks to look at the landscaping rocks.  Driving home all I heard was, "Mom! Look at that!  Mom!  Did you SEE that?  Whoa!  That's amazing!"  We've realized why he lost interest in star-gazing and looking for wildlife, why baseball has been a struggle for him, and why he sits so close to the danged screen when we watch movies.

I try not to think about what comes next.  If he's anything like his Daddy (and he is), his eyesight may continue to deteriorate for awhile as he grows.  Nathan was coke-bottle-boy at 12.  And then there's the very strong likelihood of broken/lost glasses.  Jonah is only 8, and he's very distractable.

But.  I am so glad he can see again.  Sight is a gift.

(And I had this thought: maybe this is just a teensy bit like what it will be like getting to heaven.  It'll be like getting glasses and seeing everything so clearly for the first time and exclaiming in wonder at everything around.  Truly, a gift.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fair Day

We took the kids to the county fair on Sunday evening. 

Before that, it was very important to lounge around on the couch and take naps and all that to store up some energy for the massive undertaking that is navigating the fair with little kids.

Evidently, I was too busy having fun to take very many pictures.  The kids really loved seeing all the animals, even though we have lots of animals at home.  And Jonah and I looked through the exhibits and pipe-dreamed about what we want to enter next year.  Being at the fair always makes me miss entering things and I make all sorts of plans for next year, but when it comes around again, I'm just too busy to get to it.  BUT.  We totally could have won the "largest potato" contest, so next year, baby.  Next year.

And then we made a little parenting slip-up that I laughed about when I realized it at home.

"And now you can ride some rides, guys!" we said.

And they were like, "Uh.  Okay."

Evan and Andrew did not ask to ride rides.

They couldn't have cared less about riding rides.

They were quite happy to look at all the rides from the safety of our hand-holds.

In fact, they might have been a tad bit nervous.

Okay, so they rode two rides.  They were fine on the kiddy train, even if they completely couldn't have cared less.  Evan got a little upset about getting on the ferris wheel with Daddy, but was fine after a few minutes, though again, he really didn't see the point.

I think we've just gotten so used to the rides being a big deal for Jonah over the last few years, that we totally went on autopilot and didn't think about it for the little guys.  We just did it.  They're 2 and 3 years old for cryin' in a bucket.   We totally could have saved that four bucks.

Not a big deal, I guess, but I really laughed about it later.

And actually, Jonah wasn't that into rides this time around, either.   Last year he discovered the joys of riding rides with friends, and going alone just doesn't hold so much excitement for him now.

Corndogs, however.  

Now those were a pretty big hit all around.

I watched the 4-H kids milling around with their animals and projects, and it occurred to me that the day may not be far off when we'll be spending plenty of time at the fair every year.  For now, we'll enjoy our one afternoon each year.  It's probably a short-lived phenomenon.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Baby pictures will make you happy...

Okay, okaaaaaay.  I give in.  So much for philosophy.  Photos it is!

I know you all only love me for my good-looking babies, not my brains anyway.  It's okay.  I'm fine with this.

This.  This little miss is 4 months old today!  I don't think there's a more delightful baby in all the world.  I'm just sure there can't possibly be.

Nor a more handsome little boy sporting a highly sophisticaed hot-cocoa-mustache.  He's an old soul, is Evan.

And if that didn't lift your spirits, how about 9 jugs of hard cider bubbling away and looking so happy they could just float off with their yellow airlock-balloons.

But I know you really only come here for the baby pictures.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Math Buzzing

Blog?  I have a blog?  Oh yeah, I do have a blog.  And it's been a while, hasn't it?  And you're probably hoping I'm going to post some more photos of this sweet little lump of baby flesh that is wriggling in my lap right now, but alas, I have no intention of doing that today.  I have a bee buzzing in my bonnet and I'm going to work it out right here, right now, while my supper cooks and my boys play and my baby soaks me in drool.  You see, I have a marginal intellectual life that peaks out from under the laundry pile every now and then.

Okay, so I've been thinking a lot about math.  Teaching math, learning math, using math.  I've just completed a free online course from Stanford University called "How to Learn Math" and my mind = BLOWN. All I can say is sometimes a little inspiration goes a long ways.  It's taken me about two months to work through the class material and in that time I've done a lot of thinking and digesting and pondering.

Our general view of math is so warped.  Actually, not just warped, but limited and stunted.  How far would we get in music if we first had to spend years and hundreds of hours studying music notation before we could start to make music?  Dang that would be boring.  I would quit.  I'm guessing we'd have a lot less beautiful music in the world.  When you decide to build a pole barn or a house or a garden shed do you spend years learning the names of your tools and pounding hundreds of nails into boards?  No, you start your project, figure out what you need, and if you weren't very good at hitting a nail with your hammer in the beginning, well, you're gonna be improving that skill, aren't you.  If you fix a car, but it still won't start, do you write it off and go on to the next car?  No, you're going to back up and find your problem and keep going until it works.  Do we require extensive courses in parenting and all the things you'll need to know about children before having a baby and raising it into an adult?  Some might think that would be a good idea, but no, it's definitely a learn-as-you-go endeavor.

In no part of life do we think we need to have all the tools and understanding of them before we start.  It's not possible.  Our brains simply don't work that way.  We get bored, we can't keep track of information we don't use, and we simply don't have that kind of time.

And yet with math, we think the proper way to learn it is to spend years drilling, memorizing, and practicing, learning the tools in order, going through the steps before we use any math, if we actually ever do.  It's no wonder it's a classic, stereotypical question, whined by school children across the world:  "When are we ever gonna use this stuff?" 

And then of course, we're all well-drilled in the idea that mistakes are wrong! and bad! and must be purged out of our mathematical work.  If you make a mistake, you get a big red check mark and your grade goes down, and if that happens enough, you can't get into a good college and you'll be doomed to menial, minimum-wage jobs for the rest of your life.  Avoid those check marks!  No mistakes!  What about real life?  In real life when we make a mistake, we learn what not to do.  We learn what doesn't work, and we move on to find what does.  Are you getting this?  When we make mistakes, we learn.  Isn't that what school is supposed to be?  Learning?  But mistakes are not allowed in school.  That's a non sequitur if I've ever seen one.

I've come to the conclusion that we just have a very poor understanding of what math actually is.  I really like this quote by British mathematician Keith Devlin for describing what I (and most of the rest of the population, I gather) are not seeing:

"Mathematical notation is no more mathematics than musical notation is music.  A page of sheet music represents a piece of music, but the notation and the music are not the same; the music itself happens when the notes on the page are sung or performed on a musical instrument.  It is in it's performance that the music comes alive; it exists not on the page, but in our minds. The same is true of mathematics."
How beautiful and inspiring is a sheet of music?  Eh... meh.  But when we hear music?  Amazing!  I have to say that I honestly do not know what math "sounds like" or "looks like" or however else it can be beautiful. But I've been told that it is.   It's a way of expressing our experience of creation, but most of us don't "get it" even though we've spent many years learning math.

I recently read a portion of Plato's Republic and was astonished when Socrates said that math "leads naturally to reflection, but never [has] been rightly used; for the true use of it is simply to draw the soul towards being."  That may be a little esoteric, but this is Socrates we're talking about.  We know that math has lots of practical applications, but if kids are getting neither practical application nor beauty and meaning and excitement, then it is a dry subject indeed, and I can understand why so many kids love to hate math.

So.  This is all well and good, but where do we go with this idea?  Kids still have to learn math; can't get through life without it; it's useful in our society; need those shiny college credits... etc.  Well, that's what I'm trying to find out.  I want to learn to teach math to my kids without textbooks and worksheets.  And I'm no mathematician, so I think I'm gonna have to do some digging.

I saw an interview with Sarah Flannery, a young mathematician who has won awards for her work.  She said that she learned math because her father gave her math puzzles to work on.  As she worked on the puzzles, she discovered the tools she needed by asking questions and collaborating with her family and then she learned how to communicate the solutions.  I've also watched videos of classrooms situations where the students are all solving tangible problems together and learning together as they go. And then I've seen how my own  8 year old son lights up with real-life problems or entertaining math games and how he wilts at the prospect of a whole page of repetitious addition and subtraction combinations.

 I really think that the most important part of learning math like this lies in key #3 of the Seven Keys of Great Teaching: inspire, not require; and #7, you, not them. Sarah Flannery's father did puzzles with her.  The kids in the videos I saw had a teacher engaged in the problems with them.  Jonah loves to work out math problems or games that I am working on.  If I shudder at the thought of a math worksheet, why should I expect it of my child?  But if I'm learning to use a Japanese soroban abacus instead of a calculator, or Nathan and I talk about a math puzzle at the supper table, or I'm figuring out how many gallons of paint I need to buy for the room I want to paint, or I'm calculating the right amount of pectin and sugar to use in my quintuple batch of strawberry jam, you better believe my child will be wanting to use that math, too!  So my goal, for the time being, is rather than make them do math everyday, to show my kids math everyday and help them be excited about the solutions.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cameo Appearances

Here she is, ready for her close-up.


Who is this?!?

He's ruining my shots!

Awwww... Pretty wittle pink tights!

What a beautiful dolly!

Work it, baby!


Well, I never!

Can't you goofs be serious?