This is one of my all-time favorite words. I learned it in Honors English in high school but, unlike other vocabulary words (adjudicate, obfuscate, mercenary) that have faded into the background of my memory, this one is always at the forefront, ready to be used whenever it makes sense do to so.
Or sometimes even when it doesn't. A couple of years ago I was driving Little Tiger and The Milk Belly Princess to a lunchtime play date at my friend Cassie's house. I stopped at the grocery store to buy something for the play date and, turning out of the parking lot, somehow almost got hit. I don't remember whether or not it was my fault, but I DO remember bringing the wrath of God down on our car as I swore with indignation.
I was sorry as soon as I said it, even more so after looking in my rearview mirror and seeing four wide little eyes staring back at me. Ugh. Even worse than being The Mom Who Yells is The Mom Who Swears In Front Of Her Children. Not only did I swear, but I said the worst thing you could say to two little girls that I'd heretofore raised to show up at Sunday school once a week and sing "Jesus Loves Me" with the devotion of angels. This gaffe of mine could not leave the car.
Thinking quickly, I laughed and said, "Hey, girls! Words are fun! Let's say some wacky ones together, OK? Repeat after me: ennui, haberdashery, JUXTAPOSITION!"
At this last word (and, as I said, my favorite) their expressions relaxed, they laughed and we moved on. The Bad Word(Phrase?) was never repeated by either of them and, to this day, "You're a poopyhead" is the closest they've come to swearing.
Part of the reason why I like this word so much is because of how it sounds, but (although I'm not a big fan of dressing up myself) I'm enamored by a fancy word that really means something simple, in this case, "an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast." (In case anyone was going to stop by Dictionary.com after this, I put their definition here to save you the trouble.)
This evening, as I was looking at my latest import on iPhoto, I was reminded of this word when I saw two completely different photo ops right next to each other. First, there was Little Tiger (as it turns out, her name is kind of ironic) pretending to be fierce in her outfit for Dress Like a Pirate Day at day camp:
Immediately following this picture is The Milk Belly Princess, the one who, with some recent challenging behavior, has loomed very large in my imagination, looking very small as she waits to see if the lake will nibble her toes: Since her sister is at day camp this week, The Mister and I thought that we could use this time to connect with our youngest and most expressive/volatile in hopes that she would happily, pleasantly thrive as the sole focus of our attention. Alone with just Mama or Daddy to talk to and cuddle with The Milk Belly Princess shows us her true self and we are reminded that, underneath it all, (the tears, the hitting, the shouts of "You're a poopyhead!") she really is small and vulnerable.
Not only do I feel guilty about spending time away from my girls, but about the experiences that they miss out on because I have to work. Where we live, the majority of places offering activities for preschoolers cater to the schedule of stay at home moms (Lest you think otherwise, I'm not being critical of stay at home moms. Make no mistake--I'm jealous). When Little Tiger FINALLY met the criteria for most of the local preschool activities of being three years old AND potty trained I was discouraged to learn just about everything she was eligible for was offered at 10:30 on Tuesday morning...right in the middle of my third period English One class.
While many families see summer as a time to cut back on scheduled activities, I like to use my weeks off to expose my girls to experiences that they cannot have during my teaching year. This year especially, since I am making an extra effort to focus on doing instead of having, I want to introduce Little Tiger and The Milk Belly Princess to the many different worlds they have expressed interest in to see what speaks to them and inspires them to explore more deeply.
Last week, Little Tiger attended five days of pony camp at Rocky River Stables. She was part of a class of six little girls who were each assigned a pony and a teen helper. Every session began with grooming the ponies, followed by a ride on the trail (weather permitting) or in the indoor arena.
Little Tiger was thrilled to have Buttercup for the whole week. In a pair of thrifted cowgirl boots and a riding helmet borrowed from the stables, she looked like a pro. On the last day of camp, all of the parents gathered at the fence and watched the campers guide their ponies through a number of tasks including trotting which Little Tiger seemed to really enjoy.
Odds are that Little Tiger will not grow up to show horses (or be a gymnast, or a ballerina or a professional figure skater), but it doesn't matter. Life isn't about being conditioned for the one thing that you will ultimately become. In fact, if you are wise, you know enough not to commit yourself to anything until you have really considered all of your options. Life, especially childhood, is about the ride and living well enough to know that when you get there you will have sampled enough of the world to know that is truly where you belong.
My alarm went off at 5:00AM.
"Are you ready? Do you still want to go...or would you rather sleep and do it another time?" I asked.
Clear as a bell, almost like I'd just fed a quarter into her and made her come to life, she said, "I want to go."
While her father and little sister slept, Little Tiger and I dressed, climbed in the car and were off. Our first stop was The Doughnut Pantry for one with chocolate icing and rainbow sprinkles and one of my favorites, an old fashioned stick. Although the selection at The Doughnut Pantry is something to behold, we didn't dilly dally; our eyes were on the clock. We wanted to be at our destination by 5:53 to see the sun rise.
We got back into the car and drove to one of our favorite parks on the lake. We were the only people there. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see the sun rise up over the lake, but we didn't let that ruin our good time. Where we live, you can't afford to let the clouds upset you. Besides, there were doughnuts to eat.
Beyond this, I was unsure of how to play. My first reaction was to cringe at all of the debris on the beach. But where I saw dirt and the potential for germs, Little Tiger saw a playground. I watched as she picked up sticks and drove them into the sand. Then, something about one of the sticks caught her eye. I didn't see the "church cross" in the rotting piece of driftwood, but she did and set about building what she kept referring to as a church. She sang as she worked, little songs that combined familiar tunes with her current thoughts. I watched and was impressed by how comfortable she was with what she was doing and wished that she could keep that same confidence in her play and her imagination for the rest of her life.
I took some pictures, then I realized standing back acting like a tourist observing an exhibit called "Girl at Play" was ridiculous. So I asked her if I could help. She requested more nails (small sticks) which she pounded into the sand with a larger stick that was vaguely shaped like a hammer. After that, she asked for decorations, shells and sea glass. We both were especially excited to find a piece of red sea glass--rare in these parts--and took it home as a special treasure.
Happy Summer! I hope that your Summer Solstice was full of play and imagination.
I just had this amazing idea for a post that involved asking The Mister to step in as a guest blogger and tell you all about yesterday's adventure with The Milk Belly Princess. The Mister is currently a library-media specialist, formerly an English teacher and a writer extraordinaire. Simply put, the man knows his words.
Unfortunately, like many of my best ideas, I'm inspired at a time when I can't do anything about it. The Mister is currently off on a bike ride. Instead, I'll take this opportunity to review a blog that I've been wanting to tell you about for quite some time.
Most of the friends I've met through blogging are already familiar with The Crafty Crow. In fact, several of you have had projects and tutorials featured there--something that I would like to do someday. If you only ever look at one blog related to children and crafts, The Crafty Crow should be it. Cassi, the "Crow Keeper" if you will, describes it this way on the "About" page of her site:
The Crafty Crow began in 2008 and came out of my
need to keep track of all the wonderful children's crafts
I see on the internet. This collective specializes in crafts
found on weblogs of creative people who either have, or
work with, kids. There is an emphasis on projects inspired
by nature, crafts that make use of recyclable materials
and open-ended art meant to bring families closer
together through the creative experience. You will also
find tips, tools, resources, and other ideas sprinkled in
too. To help you in your search for just the right craft or
activity, I've created an extensive category list where you
will find thousands of ideas just waiting to be enjoyed
by you and your children.
The projects are indexed by age and theme. In a section called "The Rookery," Cassi links to the writers of all of the blogs who have had projects featured on her site. I especially like this because it is like a blog library for the kind of online reading that I'm interested in--posts by creative mamas who offer a variety of insights in to crafts and parenting.
Right now, The Crafty Crow is featuring entries that pair a children's story and a related craft project. Earlier this week, I was drawn to "Chasing Degas" and how to make paperdoll ballerinas. We do not have "Chasing Degas," but Little Tiger and The Milk Belly Princess both love ballet, dolls and coloring, so I thought they would enjoy this project. They did, and I was excited to see The Milk Belly Princess draw her first-ever faces.
Every Tuesday the local Chick-fil-a celebrates Kids' Night with balloon animals and face painting. Each girl chose their own design without any prompting. I could tell the woman in charge of face painting was startled by The Milk Belly Princess' request, but was happy to oblige.
This morning, Little Tiger went off to her first day of Vacation Bible School. Being prepared is very important to Little Tiger and I thought we were. We had the information about what group she would be in, the instructions for the car line drop-off procedure and even a big bag of pretzels to donate for snack.
Hours later, a disappointed Little Tiger told me that we forgot her offering. During VBS, children are encouraged to donate money to help the mission of the week. It is a worthy cause, and I want Little Tiger to participate, but I wasn't sure how to go about this. Stuffing two folded up dollars from my purse into her hand and saying, "Here, give them this" didn't seem like a great way to go about instilling a spirit of giving in my daughter. Merely transmitting a couple of bucks from one grown-up to another would do nothing to teach Little Tiger about the importance of generosity.
However, Little Tiger is not employed, nor is she independently wealthy, so any money she donates to VBS has to come from me and The Mister. In spite of this, I wanted to find some way for her to take an active role in the process. I thought about offering to pay her to complete some sort of household chore and then having her take the money to church, but I'm not entirely comfortable with this idea. I feel like household chores are something that children should do simply because they are part of a family--not for financial gain, regardless of how the money may be used.
I was standing in the middle of the kitchen contemplating my next move on this issue when I saw it, the big glass container full of change. Change that gets dumped there from pockets and the bottoms of purses because, although the Mister and I are not wealthy, we are in a position where we regard a handful of nickels and dimes as clutter. As I stared at the jar, I remembered Little Tiger's preschool teacher talking about how much she enjoys math and, all of a sudden, I had a plan.
As Little Tiger sorted, we described how each different kind of coin looked. She had some trouble differentiating between the nickels and the quarters, so we discussed how, in addition to size, they have edges with different textures. Then we talked about how much each different coin was worth and how, if the coins were all put together, they could add up to dollars.
I tried to gently explain how some people don't have enough money to buy food or pay their bills. I wasn't sure how far to go with my description of what it means to be poor or even homeless. At five, Little Tiger is old enough to begin to grasp this, but The Milk Belly Princess was flitting about and I thought this might be too much for her three year old mind to handle.
Speaking of The Milk Belly Princess, she didn't want to be left out. By the time she joined us, the dimes had all been sorted so she was able to sort the pennies, nickels and quarters into piles of small, medium and large.
I looked at both of my girls working together and realized that I was in the midst of one of those teachable moments that are wonderful when they happen naturally, but are so challenging for me to consciously create.
When it was over, The Milk Belly Princess felt like she had participated in something important and Little Tiger was pleased to have her offering sorted into four different bags for the rest of the week.
I felt like I helped both of my girls learn some basics about the value of money and giving.
How do you instill the importance of sharing wealth with those less fortunate in your children when they are too young to truly have "their own money?" I'd love to hear about it.
You may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote about Little Tiger getting ready for Parade the Circle 2011 in this post. Parade the Circle is a completely human-powered parade that takes place the second Saturday in June. Anyone can assemble a group and participate as long as they respect the fact that there is absolutely no advertising. All participants are forbidden from wearing any clothing with writing on it.
I love it. It is one of the places where I feel like my mission to protect my kids against commercialism is truly supported. My girls can see people of all ages and from all walks of life using their imaginations to create wonderful, moveable works of art. They can see that creating art to bring joy to others is something they can do for the rest of their lives.
Little Tiger worked with a group at Bayarts to create four creatures called "Nightflyers." Here they are ready for take-off in the staging area:
Little Tiger insisted that they were butterflies. Here is a close up of the one she spent the past month working on: When Little Tiger arrived at the staging area on the roof of the museum, she had to get into costume and get her face painted.
"Miss Madison," as Little Tiger calls her, does an amazing job with face painting, as you can see here:
Once all of the performers were ready, they waited patiently for their cue to get up and march. Here is Little Tiger and her group entering the parade route: Notice the addition of buggy eyes in the form of painted eyeglass frames. Here they are toward the end of the parade:
It was a hot day with the sun ablazin' and poor Little Tiger was tired. I greeted her at the end of the route with an ice cold drink of water. She perked up and was excited to sit with her mama, daddy, sister and friends for the rest of the parade. Happy weekending everyone! I hope that you had a similarly spectacular Saturday.
We're big fans of The Lake Erie Nature and Science Center . Not only do we visit often to see the exhibits, but Little Tiger and The Milk Belly Princess have taken several classes there. Miss Teece and Miss Maggie, two of LENSC's preschool teachers, are like wizards with little children. My girls are captivated by everything that they say. Not only are they able to get children excited and motivated to care for nature, both women are really nurturing and go out of their way to make the preschoolers in their classes feel loved and important.
So last Sunday, Little Tiger and I were only too happy to attend LENSC's annual Family Funfest and give back to an organization that has given our family so much joy. By purchasing tickets, children were able to participate in several different activities like face painting and planting flowers in little biodegradeable pots.
The highlight of the day was the duck race in Porter Creek. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this phenomenon, let me explain. For five dollars each, participants bet on a rubber duck. They do not actually take possession of the duck, but complete a form and are given a ticket with their duck's number. Little Tiger was excited that this year she was old enough to write her own name on the form. Oh, we had big dreams early in the day. The actual race took place at 2:30. We walked down to Porter Creek early to find good seats. One of the older children helping with the race was happy to show us some deer tracks, one of which I photographed next my my dear's little foot.
Then we took our seats right next to the bridge where the race would begin. Shortly after 2:30, the keepers of the ducks gathered at the top of the bridge and set them loose. Down, down they fell into the creek. In spite of all of the rain we've had lately there wasn't much of a current so, instead of rushing away, they just floated en masse for awhile.
Finally, they began to separate out and head toward the finish line. The first thirty ducks to cross the finish line were declared the winners and their sponsors were awarded a prize. Unfortunately, the going was slow and several of the ducks had their dreams dashed on the rocks at the bottom of the creek. Little Tiger and I planned on walking to the finish line to see the winning ducks, but the slow pace of the race prevented us from doing that. When one of the people in charge said that it was going to take an hour due to how low the creek was (waaaay up from last year's five minutes) we knew we couldn't stay. We wished duck #1057 well and were on our way.
I've heard mamas of boys express surprise at how quickly their children developed a fascination with trucks. Before I had children, I believed that interests were based on what was promoted by a child's parents. This obvious gender bias with boys and motor vehicles has me confused. My girls and I pass construction sites with little more than a passing "Oh, look at that." There is some interest in riding a school bus in the future, but this has to do more with where the bus will take them rather than the bus as a vehicle.
In spite of this, the girls are still interested in attending the "meet the trucks" events that local ECPTAS put on at this time of year. I'm having fun looking at these photos and imagining the silly story that I could write to accompany these pictures.
Happy weekending everyone!