Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Meaning of Fruit Salad

"I making fwoot sayad foh ev-wee body. Eben Eefan, eben Adam. "

Jonah proudly chopped clumsy banana chunks to add to the bowl of apple slices. He repeated his declaration to everyone who walked through the kitchen, but I'm probably the only one that knew it's deeper meaning. 

A week or so earlier Jonah was mad. "My bwudohs mean! Dey not yet me watch dem pyay bideo dames!"  Just as well, I don't want him watching skateboarding killer robots or whatever they play on their xbox.  

 "Want a banana?" I extended an invitation in hopes of distracting him, to which he replied, "Tan I make fwoot sayad?"  

"Sure," I answered, relieved that resetting his mood-meter had been so simple. 

"I dunnah make fwoot sayad foh you, foh Daddy, foh Ellie-Tessa (when he speaks of both girls, it is in the Hollywood Beniffer, Branjalina way), foh Na-no-nie, but not foh Eefan, not foh Adam!  Dey mean!"

In his pint-sized world the only way he felt he could get back at his brothers was through fruit-deprivation.  Boy, I sure hope I don't make him mad at me; I like me my bananas. 

Weeks later he remembered the hurt, but as little ones do (always so much better than we Bigs), he had gotten past it. That second bowl of diced fruit was Forgiveness Fruit Salad. And of course, it was much sweeter. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Math and Mercy

All year we have been looking forward to the last day of school.  Yah, 'cuz duh, it's the last day, but also, because of the ice cream.

The kids worked this year on memorizing times tables, and as incentive, the moms (Kathy and I) dangled a banana-split flavored carrot - first kid to memorize all of their times tables got to have a banana split party, hosted by the other family.  Each item in the sundae was connected to a number... 0's = Dish, 1's = spoon, 2's = banana - you get the idea.

Of course, Owen won the honor of not hosting the party by finishing first.  He knocked it out of the park, as usual.  The rest of the kids dragged along learning just the easy ones, or the ones that were coupled with their favorite items.  Tessa realized she had only earned a banana and sprinkles, and moved ahead to earn some ice cream before bothering with toppings (6-9) or a cherry (12).  Ellie puttered along, not trying too hard, and not making much progress.  She figured she had time to spare. 

The day arrived for the party.  I told my girls they had to actually know the tables, not just have checked them off weeks ago, only to have forgotten them.  It was then they realized that they hadn't earned much.  Time was almost up.  There ensued a mad rush to learn and earn toppings.  But it was too late, and Ellie found herself with only a banana and two scoops of ice cream earned.  Tessa had a banana, one scoop and sprinkles, but seemed to take it in stride, knowing that this would not be the last banana split she would ever eat in her life.  But as we were dishing up the fancy treats into fancy boats, I noticed we were one child short.  Ellie had gone missing.

I wandered the house and found her under her quilt, tear streaked and tragic.  She was sad to be missing out on all of the choices, she was miffed that there had not been more time (only 4 months!), and she was embarrassed, first that her sundae would show to everyone in the room how little she had earned, and also that she had been, as she put it, "a cry baby".

I tried to comfort and encourage, but the bottom line was this: she had made her choice when there was time to choose, and now, in fairness to everyone, she must live with her choice.  But it broke my heart.  I remember missing out on a party that my 5th grade teacher offered each Friday to kids who had gotten all of their homework in.  I had cried, and the teacher wanted to just let me come to the party, but I knew I didn't belong there.  That almost felt worse.

As Kathy and I tried to coax Ellie out to enjoy what she had earned, we exchanged troubled expressions with each other.  We knew how much this hurt her on the pain-scale of an eleven year old girl.  We knew we had to be fair to the kids who had worked hard for their reward.  As Kathy and I scooped ice cream for Ellie, we found ourselves being a bit generous with the size of scoops we gave her, somehow compensating a little for what would not be there.  We wanted badly to show her Mercy.  It was so tempting to just give her a full sundae, but it wouldn't be fair to the rest.  I think "fair" was redefined for me that day in some subtle ways.

I have always told my kids, "Fair is not 'everyone gets the same'.  Fair is 'everyone gets what they need.'  It would be fair if we all got wheelchairs, but we don't all need them."  The lecture resolves with me explaining how the perceived injustice they are whining about now isn't what they need, necessarily.

I am learning that just as the reward was tailored to the effort of the individual, in the future I need to consider the requirement.  We had not required Jonah to do any of the math memorization.  He's three.  Lauren had memorized a few addition and subtraction facts, but earned her whole sundae, not for what she retained, but for how hard she tried.  But we had clumped all of the other kids together just because of their ages, neglecting to consider temperament and attention levels.  Maybe that wasn't quite fair.

I think in the future I would have a different set of expectations for each child.  One might be based on effort, another, quantity... speed, scholarship, time spent; possibly as many ways as there are children.  It would seem that in this way both Justice and Mercy may be served.

Ellie didn't eat her ice cream until the Jensen's had gone home that day.  By then she had been able to enjoy it a little.  She came to me later and asked if we could try again, feeling that next time she knows she would work harder.  I told her that sounded like a great idea.  Second chances and Mercy go hand in hand.

Landing the Big Promotion

Back in the early 1700's when I was a kid, our parents threw us out of the door in the morning after a hearty bowl of oatmeal, and let us back in if we could show them a decent report card at the end of the day.  Those were simpler times, when your teacher could snitch on you for rotten behavior and not worry that they would get sued.  When you took your lunch to school in a metal lunch box, and only graduated once, not every time you moved up a school.  Ah, the good old days.

I wasn't a terrific student.  Maybe okay, but I was no award winner.  So I am all the more impressed when one of my spring-offs makes happy ripples in the pond of his or her life.  

We got an invitation to the Middle School awards ceremony for Adam.  It didn't say what he would be getting, so the event held a little mystery for us all, even Adam.

At the ceremony he was called up early in the program to stand with the other Honor Students in recognition of a GPA over 3.0.  Not bad for a kid who jumped over from homeschool in January.  I thought it might take him a while longer to get his bearings in public school, but he seemed to have no trouble at all.  He had come home each day, done his homework without being asked (I know, cool, huh?), and generally made pretty good choices.  Honor student material for sure.

Then came the rest of the program with high honors and uber-high honors, and "I-will-be-performing-brain-surgery-in-10-years" honors. There were a few kids that were up 5, maybe even 8 times.  I became one of their fans just listening to all the things at which they excelled, and feeling glad to know that my kid was brushing shoulders with them. 

Then Adam's favorite teacher got up to read out his award winners.  He paired each with a quote, and toward the end of his list, he said, " "With great power comes great responsibility." In a really difficult 7th and 8th grade class, this guy always chose to do the right thing!"

I knew what name he would read next.


My eyes were already filled with tears because I knew this about Adam.  His teacher had sent an email early in the semester saying the same thing; that no matter what the rest of the class was doing, Adam could be counted on to be doing the right thing.  Always.  Of course, I hadn't needed to be told.  We know this about Adam.  I mean, sure, he's not perfect, in fact, about two months ago he may have rolled his eyes at me, and his room has the funk of death, but his moral compass is always pointed in the right direction.  I have actually seen Adam abruptly walk away from a situation that seemed to be heading for trouble.  He's a good kid.

Later in the week there was a promotion ceremony.  I'm not sure why.  They are all heading off for High School whether they like it or not.  500 people crammed a quad in 90+ degree heat with camping chairs and strained to hear their special kid's name called on the crackly and muffled loud speakers.  

But though all of the hoopla seemed unnecessary, I still got excited when Adam's name was called.  I got on tip toes to see over the heads of the crowd that now crammed the quad shoulder to shoulder, and yelled a little "Yay!" in the .04 second pause between his name and the next.  It's easy for my mind to rush ahead to the real graduation we will attend in four short years.  I suppose it was good to have this dry run as a reminder to enjoy these last few years with him in our nest.

I am very proud of you Adam.  I imagine you may not read my blog posts until you are a grown up, but I know you will have always known how proud we are of you.  You are sensitive and kind hearted.  You will be a great man, and I know, because you are a great young man.  You are a hard worker, an honest person, and a youth with integrity.  I love you.

Adam and Jessica went to kindergarten together
and remain supportive friends
Quite the little crowd.  Jonah refused to be in the picture.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sugar and Spice - A Birthday in Pictures

My baby girl 
has traveled the universe 
on this spinning planet 
for one full trip around the sun.  
What a blessing to have her.
What a gift she is.

Happy First Birthday, Natalie!

We had a quiet little evening yesterday with just the family, and then today friends joined us for a celebration.  What a fun weekend!
(Custom made cake by mama, with spot-application assistant, Jonah.  When I had my back turned, he rolled out blue fondant and cut out a dozen little circles!  We used them, of course.  He was so proud!  Look out, Cake Boss!)


Sisters (the Before)


"Cupcake, you have met your match!"


"You will be putty in my hands."


The After.
Move over Lady GaGa, this kid invented wearing food.

Saturday Party Time!!!

Such lovely young ladies; Kaylie, Ellie and Hope.


Sweet Ruth and my Natty girl.  Oh, and mama.


William, Joanna, Guy and Wayne.


My Running partner, Dani and her little Morgan


My biggest girl and my littlest.


A whole bunch o' rug rats.


Our Sweet Ruth, Steve and clan.




The Muffin Man and the Ethan Man.  In a battle of brawn,
 it is entirely possible that Ethan would be out-muscled.  
(At 6 months, Gabe weighs 18 pounds... two pounds more than Natalie!)


Natalie and Ryan.  Their marriage has already been arranged.  
She will be wearing a top for the wedding, however.  


Muffin and Muffin Senior.


What a darling.
Oh, how I love her.  I am overwhelmed by how she lights up
 the darkest corners of my heart, and quiets the chatter in my head.  It has been said by many that she has been sent with a special mission in this life.  I don't know what that will be, but she has already worked a miracle in my life.


It was the sweetest day, but I spent several quiet moments in tears.  It is crazy the way the mind can flash on events from the past.  The pregnancy riddled with health crises, Natalie's birth, having to be knocked out for it, was so scary.  And that whole day away from her, and all the chaos around her.  I know there are moms that have been separated from their babies for weeks, months even, and I didn't have to go through anything like that.  And she was so unexpectedly healthy.  So many moms have sat by the beds of their critically ill babies.  I have gotten to spend every day after that first one with her.  364 out of 365.  Still, we all have our trials, and the memories of those days and those trials are pretty fresh.  I'll work on that, but I've decided not to judge myself about the time frames. 

At one moment, I told Guy how I was struggling to stay present.  Like waking someone from a nightmare, he simply said, "It's over.  That's all over."  And it is.  Sometimes it takes a long time to process difficult things.  Days like today make that a lot easier.