These styles are so different, they really belong in different posts, but I was on a roll, so here they are. This first one just took me by surprise - Eliza worked on it upstairs while listening to Afternoon of the Elves, and this is a fairy, peering through her hand. Or just contemplating her hand. I don't know what gave her the idea for this perspective - presumably she outlined her hand, filled it in, and then the face...I was kind of amazed by how different it is.
These just tickled me with their color...and I love how she is trying to figure out the criss-cross legs.
This is a Greek god, who has turned his daughter into a mouse...
In the spirit of Nancy's comment from yesterday (see the link she included here), here is a little celebration of the snow that has been falling here this week. These have been hanging on our cupboards in the kitchen since Christmas, and are an example of Dan's handiwork when he gets the chance to make art with us! The girls and I make the old, traditional, "look! it looks like a heart!" kind of snowflakes, but Dan has elevated it to a new art form around here...
On Saturday the girls and I went to a performance/workshop on campus with people from our imagined favorite part of the world (meaning, we have never been there, but fancy that we would fit right in nicely). An Da Union were a charming group of musicians from Inner Mongolia (so, close to Tuva, our dream destination, and when I say "our", Eliza at least is totally on board. She told me with great confidence that she would really like to live in a ger, or yurt.), and they shared their instruments, throat singing, and dancing with us, inviting us at several intervals to join them on stage. Eliza and I braved it for the dancing bit, but saved our throat singing for the privacy of our kitchen. Eliza did decide that she needed to talk to one of the women after the performance and made a bee-line for her while she was packing away her instrument. I watched as the Chinese interpreter saw her and knelt down to help with the interaction. I stayed back with Anika and could only imagine what our family ambassador had to say - there were lots of smiles and tickling and at one point she fell over backwards in embarrassment when the woman apparently asked her to sing for her. It wasn't until we had been home for a while that Eliza told me that she shared one of her favorite jokes with them. Keep in mind that this all goes through the helpful interpreter:
Knock knock! Who's there? (at this point she tells me he turns to her and checks in, "is this how it goes?") Peas. Peas who? Is that right? Peas to meet you!!
Anika at her most magical, merrily singing her own words to her favorite holiday song. It is easy to find the magic in her impish fairy self, her smarts and humor and curiosity. It is the other side of Ani that is still a mystery. I'll admit, I have not yet put "Your Three Year Old" on hold at the library, and here we are on the slippery downslope to four already. My aunt Kerry once told me, in my early days of parenthood, that if I found myself at a loss during the infant phase, or out of synch with toddlerhood, I would likely find my niche in adolescence or young adulthood. Her theory is that everyone is good at some age. I don't think "my age" is three. It was hard with E and it is proving challenging, albeit in different ways, with A. I had three kids come to me at coop today to tell me that Ani was being a bully. Now, mind you, I am with her about 90 % of the time there, when I am not getting her lunch, helping another kid in the bathroom, or taking my turn supervising free play in the gym, so I'm not sure how extensive this bullying was, but suffice it to say that the word on the street is that Anika and her newly-3 little buddy Sawyer were terrorizing the older kids. When I asked Ani about it, she laughed merrily and said she LIKES playing with mad people!! Hm. I actually believe this, though I cannot begin to really understand it. We have had a few mornings when I am fortified with enough sleep and St. John's Wort to remain patient and calm while being harassed in some form or another (particular buttons: yelling something over and over while someone is still sleeping; opening and closing the fridge door over and over) and eventually she stops and tells me she is waiting for my mad voice. While this makes me sad, because she is all too familiar with my mad voice, I find it really interesting that she is that direct and aware of what is going on. I have recently and fortuitously been reminded that kids her age need a lot of help developing empathy. How could I have forgotten that? She is still at the age where she is fascinated by another person's emotions, and completely detached at the same time.
Sigh. I will let you know when the epiphany comes and I finally "get" three. In the meantime, here is some more magic, which glues our days together...(This first picture was taken while she held us and some friends captive with 10 minutes of song and story. While Eliza takes easily to performing and begs for that kind of attention, Ani is usually more reserved with company, sidles up to you and checks you out. I look at her feet and her face in this photo and get tingles of how swept up she was in her world.)
And, as my friend Stacy has said, because this is my blog (!), and parents can and will brag about every little thing their starry children do, I had to include evidence of one of Ani's true talents: folding. She has been doing this since she was 2, and she is GOOD at it! So, here she is, in action. In her more expansive and generous moments I will even overhear her offering to help Eliza fold the clothes that are strewn about her room.
An addendum by Poppy:
Tonight at dinner (while Debbie was at the gym on campus and in pain thanks to her "Core" class) Ani was blissfully telling herself a non-stop story while Eliza and I talked over tomato soup and cheese on toast. This happens a lot. It is not for anyone else but her. I was sitting right next to her and could not make out what she was saying. After a while Eliza said to me, "She's in her own world - and it's Romantic!" I was surprised by this and denied that the world that Anika is in is always romantic. Eliza said, "I'm with her a lot more than you are, Dad. It is romantic."
I don't have time to try (again) to upload photos (I'm working on it - IT's WORKING!), but I do have a moment to log in our day...now, this is as much for me as for anyone, but I know that those who read blogs (being one of them) tend toward the voyeuristic (hi, sister), so here it is for all y'all as well...
It did not, for the most part, feel like a good day. I had the greys today: unmotivated, lazy, befuddled, uncreative, blocked, and maybe a touch sad. Just the day. I also failed numerous times to be the mom I want to be, which takes me a long time, each time, to recover from. I thought, though, that it would be helpful to see what happens, and what learning still takes place, in the midst of my feeling unproductive.
Anika and I made pancakes together.
Ani and Eliza turned the "learning tower" into a shop, and sold various items to each other while I finished the pancakes. Made open/closed shop signs and talked about money.
Breakfast with Dan. Ani asked about the word "midwife", then the word "mid" which led to the German "mit", which led to me talking about my German class at College for Kids in sixth grade, and the singing of "Mein Hut der hat drei echen" (sorry dad - I didn't check my spelling!).
After breakfast we all spent time drawing at the kitchen table.
At some point, the couch was dismantled for some sliding, climbing game, while I checked email (no new messages).
Dan left for school (yes, it is Sunday) around 11 while we were setting up a new game we got for Christmas, called Wildcraft. The premise is a journey from Grandma's house to the huckleberry patch. Along the way you harvest plants for your medicine pouch, and run into all kinds of trouble like wasp stings, bruised knees, bramble scrapes, hungry stomach, etc, and together you have to try to use the plants you've found to fix those troubles. This is game is sooo up our alley...I love it.
At some point we had lunch and read a couple of stories.
More drawing, and then got out the watercolors. The paper got bigger and bigger, and then we moved from the kitchen table to the kitchen floor and things got crazy. Paint everywhere. So, of course the floor needed some washing (again) and at this point I got a phone call about helping with homeschool choir which starts back up tomorrow, and...the floor got totally flooded, of course. Into the bathtub with two girls, hair washed, floor toweled off, laundry started...
MORE drawing, some cracking of nuts, some drawing ON nuts, some snack and then David Attenborough's "Life of Mammals".
Dan came home while I was making dinner, I took a walk in the snow on the bike trail and shook off the day (ha), came home, ate dinner. Dan and the girls started a game of Blokus while I cleaned up and I even got some time to visit with my worms.
The girls are now playing "goat". This goes in the category of...pretend animal play? Along with "bat lions", "baby lions" and "foxes". We also discussed birthing babies, mud houses (what if our house was made of mud and we had a mud roof?), growing millet, MLK, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, did some funky dancing and some singing, and changed clothes a few times. Life. Today. The End. (Oh, and we talked about why "e" sounds different at the end of The in "The End")
I remember reading once that despite being told so time and time again, a child often has no sense of themselves as being small beings. They are small people living the lives of giants - in the face of our constant reminders to make themselves smaller, quieter, calmer, they do their best to live the large lives they know they were meant to live.
This is Eliza all over.
At six, she exactly fits the description of a six-year-old as told in the Gesell Institute of Human Development series by Louise Bates Ames. Titled "Your Six-Year-Old: Loving and Defiant" (!!), it describes the average six as a "paradoxical little person...bipolarity is the name of her game". Like a two-year-old, the six lives at opposite extremes. Oh, yes. There is the larger-than-life dramatic, playful giant, and the serious, maturing soul who is so helpful. Here is more that hits the mark:
"Facial grimaces, sometimes almost tic-like in nature, are frequent, and many make numerous, irritating throaty noises or throat clearing."
"...even when not actually ill, she tends to be full of complaints. Her legs hurt, her arms hurt, or the back of her neck...nose and throat membranes seem much more sensitive than at other ages."
"She wants to be the life of the party and tends to be irrepressible. She likes to bounce her ball in your face, step on your feet, climb all over you, sit on your lap. She is likely to interrupt whatever an adult is saying, to monopolize the conversation."
"She enjoys boisterous, ramble-scramble play. She likes to wrestle with her father or a sibling, but this may end in disaster, for she does not know when to stop."
mmmmhmmm. I could go on and on and it all describes where our dear Eliza is right now in her journey of unfolding. As a funny aside, this series of books, while super helpful just when I'm thinking that she is going through something totally abnormal (those throat sounds and facial tics!!), they are also pretty dated. For instance, "...the path of wisdom is to have your child sit beside Mother and as far from Father as the size of the table permits. Then Mother can, unobtrusively, give what help is needed, catch that glass before it spills, and give any other assistance required".
Eliza wants to engage you, to make you laugh, to have you see her. She has been really loving being six - tying shoes, braiding hair, cooking, helping Anika on her better days - and will often ask if I'm proud of something she has done (to which Anika always responds, "I am proud of my own self") or check in to make sure I am really listening. Her energy is huge and she would love nothing other than to be picked up and thrown about - a person (me, for example) who might be crouching down to get a pan from a low cupboard is a target for a running leap and impromptu horse ride (ugh.). Because I am always braced for this level of energy from her, she will surprise me when she is contemplative..."Mama, I guess there are some questions that don't have any answers, and I am really interested in those." She told Dan this morning that she sees how hard it is to have children (I believe she said "manage" children!) and that she thought it might be a difficult thing for her someday...
Perceptive, curious, big spirit - that's our girl.
Oregon. Where else would a person go to have a long thirst-quenching soul-filling drink of life? Green as far as I could see, lichen covering the oaks, moss covering the ground, rain falling softly for days, wet dogs and wet dog kisses...I went to visit my cousin in Corvallis and from the Portland airport (where the restrooms have these AWESOME toilets - pull up on the handle to flush for #1, down for #2, regulating the amount of water consumed - only in Oregon, right?) to the dark cocoon of a shuttle ride back 2 days later, I was fed, literally and figuratively by the people and the place. Talking in the car, talking over the squish-squish of muddy boots, talking from underneath the leaning bodies of large dogs. And eating - eating amazing Sesame Tempeh, lovely birthday Salmon, addictive new year's day black-eyed pea salad, and of course the Edward Abbey pizza (again - only in Oregon)...Having Jessica in my sight was an unimaginable gift, and the icing on the cake was visiting with my aunt and uncle, Christopher (whose birthday it was), and - this was just bizarre - via Skype, I had a long conversation and even a round of "In The Manner Of The Word" with cousin Ben and Chrystal, who are in Japan.
I feel connected, loved, alive, and maybe the best part was coming home to find that Dan and the girls shared 3 days of hikes, sewing projects, good food, books, and love. I am full full full and grateful. Happy hopeful new year!
Confession: we are those parents. The ones whose kids are thigh-deep in the mud puddle, shrieking gleefully at the squishiness on their skin; the ones whose kids are allowed to disrobe on a ridiculously beautiful and warm day, because "mama, I want to feeeeel the wind on my body"; the ones whose kids are right this minute buck naked and sliding past the doorway to the kitchen in their version of hilarious slapstick poses, gleefully hollering for more water (I wish it were legal for me to share pictures - it is soooo funny, and they have kept this up for the past 45 minutes) (note: this activity began as a floor-scrubbing. let's just say the floor got scrubbed AND buffed)! We used to show up at the local Elementary school playground in Richmond, after-hours, because we knew they had this one gigantic dirt spot that became prime mud puddle whenever it rained. The school kids would still be there, poking at it timidly with long sticks, parents close by admonishing them not to dirty their shoes (um...take them off?) and the girls would run straight for it, shedding shoes and socks, and amidst a chorus of "you're gonna get dirty! your mom's gonna be maaaad!" they'd immerse themselves knee-deep in the deliciousness. It took a little self-talk to focus on it really being ok for them to get dirty - kids come washable, as do most clothes - and a little more self-talk to remember that they are the kids in MY family and if we are all happy (so so very happy) with what is going on and it is not hurting anyone else (is extreme envy painful? i guess it might be...), then I can survive some dirty looks from other parents who finally have to give up and either remove their children from the vicinity of the heavenly puddle or help their kiddos take off the precious shoes. Besides, we are often in the situation where other kids are eating things I don't want my kids eating (yeah - those days when the ice-cream truck would show up just when we did) and I have to pull out the "each family does things their own way, and we just don't eat that much sugar, etc" and scramble in my bag for an attractive substitute. The truth is I don't always manage this level of devil-may-care, but I find it hard to resist the essence of childhood I hear in the giggles and sighs of pleasure that emanate when they get to explore the world a little closer...
Debbie just returned from three days in Corvallis, Oregon, where she visited Uncle Johnny, Aunt Kerry, and her cousins Jessica and Christopher. Jessica is on furlough from the Peace Corps, halfway through her tour of duty in Niger. For all the details on her work there, go to the link at the head of this blog. She was told by her Nigerien family to fatten up, and they did not utter this commandment lightly. Suffice it to say that Debbie and she ate and talked for three days straight. A lovely, though too brief, time for two kindred spirits to love each other up.
She took the camera so I have no photos to share of our shenanigans on the home front. I will, however, share that we also talked and ate quite a lot. 'Twas a great opportunity for me to get my girls to myself before I have to go back into my cloister. Classes begin on Monday all over again. This time there is no six week break and the end of the quarter to look forward to. A paltry week and then back to the grind is all I can expect. This is the second time Debbie has flown the coop since we moved to Athens - the first being Ms. Rebecca Christian nee Sherr's wedding last August - and between these two (brief) periods of time without Mama, I am reminded of the difficulty of always being "on" with the girls. Though, I had such fun running around outside at the Ridges and Stroud's Run (both Eliza's suggestions) and in cooking with the girls and setting up and playing with the fairy house and reading reading reading, I did not check email or even the telephone for three days, did not read my work for three days, did not do any of the things that I spend nearly all of my time doing when Debbie is here. I am reminded that staying home with the girls is the harder job. By far. So I am looking forward to the quarter starting again. But I am also thinking of the seclusion and the feeling of "visiting" at supper and bedtime. My first quarter was tough, perhaps evidenced by this being my first post on the blog. But we are looking forward to spending this quarter more together and better together. And I'm sending Debbie away occasionally - not to Oregon, just out of the house without children.
We have this tradition: the first bird of the new year. The bird you first spot and identify on New Year's Day is your bird for the year. (Take that as you will.) Last year my bird was a Downy Woodpecker spotted in our neighborhood in Richmond. This year I figured it would be a Turkey Vulture - what would that say about my year? On Thursday, not having yet spotted a bird, Ani, Eliza, and I piled in the car and set off for the Ridges to hike and snack. Driving past the Hocking River we saw a whole gaggle of Canada Geese, sitting around on one foot, heads tucked under wings. That's our bird - the Canada Goose. I thought that a very appropriate bird. It is a bird that works together with its family. When was the last time you saw a Canada Goose alone? The bird is also famously migratory - like us these last few years. We're not going anywhere this year or next, but another move is inevitable. I think this will be a good bird for us to think on as we continue to work together to make our home here.