The Best Kind of Gifts

This afternoon after going out on a few holiday jaunts, the littles and I came home.  They never made it in the house, as they saw their friends out playing in the neighborhood and took off to join them.

As it was growing darker, I walked down to my neighbor’s house to call the children home.  I saw Cooter and two of his friends working on something inside of the garage.

And Cooter was carrying this.

img_0935

Cooter’s buddies know him. His reputation as a stellar Star Wars fan might have gotten out. What a thoughtful and wonderful gift!

Turns out the three boys decided to “build” Christmas gifts for each other.  Two of them would create something for the third, and they all took turns until all three of them had a present.  When I walked up Cooter and J were finishing up a football “helmet” for their buddy A.  To some it might have looked like a box with holes cut out of it, but to those little guys, it looked like a helmet.

To me, it was beautiful.

And so much fun.

No electronics required.

I love imagination powered fun.  And when giving to others is involved…..well, it just about doesn’t get any better than that.

Tonight I’m giving thanks for the blessing of living on this little street where the children come in when the streetlights come on and pack in as much fun and adventures before that happens as they can.  I’m thankful for the blessing of the friendships between the neighbors and their families.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the spirit of giving and cooperation I saw tonight.

Our future, y’all.  I think we’re going to be all right.

Love to all.

 

Hats and Capes and Striped Socks, Oh My!

Today was the culmination of over two months of “I’m gonna be a…..” and “Do you think we can find a ______ so I can be _______ for Halloween?”

Two months.

And now it’s done.  Tomorrow I will put away my bargain jack o’lanterns and the leftover treats until next year.  (That’s the beauty of the Teal Pumpkin Project and non-food treats–the leftovers keep beautifully!)  The costumes will be washed and hung up or tossed in the dress up bin.

Our Princess knew pretty much from the get go that she wanted to be a witch.  She had a dress that we got last year when she thought she might want to be Bellatrix Lestrange.  Now was all about accessorizing.  Some bright striped socks with WITCH written down the side.  A fun little broom and gloves with long fingernails on them.  She was so excited she got dressed up by 2 pm.  Cooter, on the other hand, has been most indecisive.  This was the year we discovered that we didn’t need to purchase him the one piece whole body suits anymore.  Each one we tried pulled in areas that don’t need pulling.  In the end, it was decided he’d either wear one of his old Star Wars dress up outfits or this one piece Superman top/cape thing or–and this was my favorite–be a Hobbit.  He asked about being one two months ago, and I thought that would be so much fun.  I even found a top for him to wear and planned to cut an old pair of khakis just so, but no.  He was most comfortable wearing a t-shirt and jeans with his Superman top/cape on.

And so it was.

IMG_0251

The magic of hats and capes–so much fun!

There is something so magical about dressing up and becoming someone else for a night, isn’t there?  There must be or else this holiday would have long become nothing but a blip in the history books.  It’s about imaginations and taking on a different form.  I even got into the fun of it this year.

I am so in love with these socks, y'all!  All three of them. *sigh*

I am so in love with these socks, y’all! All three of them. *sigh*

I love Raggedy Ann.  It goes way back.  So when I found a beautiful brand new, unopened Raggedy Ann costume at the GW Boutique, I got it.  I still wasn’t sure if I was going to dress up, but it was too fabulous to leave there.  When I got it home and opened everything up, I was amazed by the detail–the dress and apron, the bloomers, and a hat with red yarn hair.  There were even socks–only, of course, there were THREE and not the proper two because Someone has a sense of humor and knows my frustration with socks who’ve lost their mates.  And so this one came with one what had done just that–lost its mate.  *sigh*

After Mess Cat, Leroy, and Shaker got here to join in the fun, I finally decided that YES, I would dress up.  After all, Halloween is once a year, and a year’s a long time to regret something that would be so easy to make happen.

And so I did.

And I had a blast.

My favorite moments were seeing the very small ones who took in my costume and were in awe and then smiled and waved.  LOVE.  Absolutely precious.  I was like a rock star.  For toddlers.  Not too bad for a GW-on-sale costume.  As for the older ones, they smiled sometimes too.  One even asked, “Are you that girl from Wendy’s?”  Sigh. “No, I’m a doll.”  “Ohhhh, one of those Lalaloopsy’s?”  Umm, no.  Oh well.  Did I mention I rocked it with the younger crowd?

Tonight there were also other special moments.  The little Peter Pan who came up and when I spoke to him, his Mama said, “Oh, he doesn’t talk much.”  Because of compassionate friends who have shared the stories of sweet children who are non-verbal and how they experience Halloween, I was able to talk with him and hopefully ease his parents’ concerns that someone would say “No treat for you until you say the magic words–trick or treat!”  He was so sweet, and his parents deserve an extra hug.

I saw families dressed up together.  The whole Incredible family stopped by.  A barista stopped by who couldn’t have been more than eight.  I LOVED her clever costume.  She said it was her own idea.  There were more than a few folks with those scary skeletal masks paired with a cute costume.  Two young boys wore those really scary masks and walked around slowly, saying nothing.  That was a bit eerie until I heard the voice of a young boy say, “Trick or treat! Happy Halloween!”

No.  All is not as it seems on Halloween.

This guy was a little--okay, a lot--scary until he reached in his basket and offered some treats.

This guy was a little–okay, a lot–scary until he reached in his basket and offered some treats.

As I wrapped up the night and was about to turn off my porch light, a few more young people came.  They were older, and I was happy to see them.  Earlier today at the pumpkin patch a father stood with three children, an older teen and two who were young teens.  They were all about the costumes and pictures and the fun and I wondered if this was their first experience ever with something like this.  I often think about that and wonder if that is the case when a teenager or even young adult comes up on my porch with a jovial, “Trick or Treat!”  Is it that they didn’t get to do this when they were young?  Or are they, like I was this year, enchanted by the magic and the mystery and the fun and just really need to find that inner child for a night?

Either way, treat it is.

My last two visitors were anywhere from 16 to 18. They had on jeans and t-shirts and tiny little witch hats on their heads.  “Could we have just one piece of candy?” one asked, almost apologetically.  The other shared, “I’m sorry we are so late.  We were at the house, giving out candy, and so we didn’t have time for a costume or anything, we’re just out here like this.”

Oh bless.  I think they were adorable.  And they looked like young people cloaked in kindness to me.

And since I didn’t have any candy to share, I gave them a slap bracelet AND a wall ninja.  Because I was really impressed.  (And I felt bad that I didn’t have the one thing they had asked for.)

Tonight I’m thankful for all the little faces I got to see and meet tonight.  Staying home on Halloween and handing out goodies is my favorite part of the whole night. I’m glad that I went ahead and broke my costume in this year.  Aub says Halloween is the only time I should wear it, but it was really comfortable, and I felt pretty awesome in it, and a year’s a long, long time to wait, don’t you think?

Love and magical wishes to all.

On Imagination and Familiar Ground–The One with Galileo, DaVinci, John the Baptist, and Emily Dickinson

Today was one of those homeschooling days that puts a smile on the teacher’s face and a song in her heart.  Oh we had some hurdles, sure.  Today’s hurdles were brought you by Long Division and Regrouping.

But we triumphed through sheer determination and doing umpteen problems until our grasp was a little stronger.  We read about Galileo and watched a movie about him–one that had me in tears at the end.  Bless him.  What we people do to each other…..but that’s a story for another day.  We studied Leonardo DaVinci’s “St. John the Baptist,” and read John’s story from the Good Book.  We also read the story about when John’s father was told he was going to be a father, because I really love that one.  We ended our day by reading a poem by Emily Dickinson.  It’s just too good not to share.

I started Early – Took my Dog – 

And visited the Sea – 

The Mermaids in the Basement

Came out to look at me – 

And Frigates – in the Upper Floor 

Extended Hempen Hands – 

Presuming Me to be a Mouse – 

Aground – opon the Sands – 

But no Man moved Me – till the Tide 

Went past my simple Shoe – 

And past my Apron – and my Belt 

And past my Boddice – too – 

And made as He would eat me up – 

As wholly as a Dew 

Opon a Dandelion’s Sleeve – 

And then – I started – too – 

And He – He followed – close behind – 

I felt His Silver Heel 

Opon my Ancle – Then My Shoes 

Would overflow with Pearl – 

Until We met the Solid Town – 

No One He seemed to know – 

And bowing – with a Mighty look – 

At me – The Sea withdrew – 

Isn’t that lovely?  We read it through twice and talked about the images, and I introduced my children to that which I love so much–anthropomorphism.  We talked about the image of the Tide as a person following her.  Our Princess loved the mermaids and Cooter loved the frigates.  And I loved it for so many reasons, not the least of which is that Emily Dickinson is my very favorite poet.

A couple of thoughts occurred to me as the day eased its way into night (seems so much less harsh now that it gets lighter later, all frustrations with the time change aside).

First, Emily Dickinson was something of a recluse.  She never went to the sea.  Yet her imagination was so vivid that she was able to travel there in her mind and take us with her.  It is so beautiful, this picture she paints with her words.  I can smell the salt in the air and feel the wind on my cheeks.  I hope that I can encourage and plant the seeds for that kind of imagination to grow in the minds of my own littles.

Second, I really do appreciate the imagery of the tide as he follows and threatens to overtake her.  He has her on the run as he rises higher and higher, about to eat her up.  As she moves to get away, he follows until they meet “the solid town.”  Familiar ground for Emily Dickinson.

Fear is like that, isn’t it?  When I am in unfamiliar surroundings, a new place or situation, it is easy to be frightened and feel overwhelmed…..and perceive nearly everything as a threat.  And yet, once I reach my comfort zone once again, I realize, upon reflection, that it really wasn’t something to be all that afraid of after all.  I made it.  I survived.

Tonight I’m thankful (again/still) for the opportunity to learn alongside my littles and watch their minds absorb, grasp, wrestle, learn, and formulate new thoughts.  I love that they are interested in so many different things that sometimes my mind spins.  I beam with joy when one or the other or both tell me about something they already know, something I was about to teach them.  They have so many wonderful folks sharing stories and wisdom with them.  I shouldn’t be surprised that when I mentioned John the Baptist, they piped up with, “He ate bugs!” or that when Galileo’s name came up, our Princess shared that he was the one who proved that things of different weights travel at the same speed when dropped.  I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am, and pleasantly and thankfully so.  We have our “off” days, our “hard” days, so when a day like today comes along, I want to shout my gratitude from the rooftops.  (Where we could also do some birdwatching so it could count for school, along with all the hollering.)

I’d love to hear what this poem says to you.

Wishing you all a delightful imagination and the ability to get back to your comfort zone and realize what had you running wasn’t quite as scary as you thought.

Love to all.

This lovely illustrated book of Emily Dickinson's poetry can be ordered at your local bookstore or purchased here.

This lovely illustrated book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry can be ordered at your local bookstore or purchased here.

Why I Don’t Say I’ll Never Forget and a couple of moments I hope I don’t

I used to say “I’ll always remember…..” or “I’ll never forget…..”

I don’t anymore.

Not since I watched as Alzheimer’s Disease tore away page after page of memories for someone I loved, slowly at first it seemed and then more quickly.  She covered well; I’m not sure how many could pinpoint what was going on exactly.  She was great at asking questions that you could ask over and over and it not seem very odd.  “Seen any good movies lately?”  “How’s the weather been back home?”  and so on.

And so I tuck away precious moments into my memory bank, and sometimes I wrote about them here, in the hopes that they will always be there for me.

But I know they may not.

Today was just such a day, one that I’d like to always remember.  I have snapshots in my mind of sweet moments that I want to keep.

  • Our Princess and her friends have been having a great time with the sand and water table on the back deck.  I originally got it thinking that Cooter and his friends would enjoy it more.  But his two buddies moved, and the girls have taken it over.  They flood the water side, and they pour just enough into the sand to make it the consistency of a nice “scrub.”  They are playing spa, y’all.  There are two chairs on one side–one for the person being served and the second for the next in line.  The other side has one chair that is rarely sat in, as the person giving the spa treatment is very busy.  They spread mud–ahem, excuse me, scrub–all over their feet and then rinse them a few minutes later.  They don’t know that I’m aware, I was peeking out of my bedroom window at this hustle and bustle of activity.  It was so wonderful to see their imaginations blossoming in a way that I never would have thought of.  It amazes me, especially since over the past few weeks it’s been a Ninja School back there, and our Princess was the instructor.  I just love it.  Who needs a pool when you have a SPA in your backyard?  Never mind, please don’t ask my children that.  I know what they will answer.  (We do.)
  • Cooter rode off on his bicycle with his Daddy and Miss Sophie for her evening constitutional.  I stopped and watched as he rode up the street.  And it occurred to me–I never tire of watching him ride his bike.  He is so graceful and smooth as his little legs pump the pedals and his hair flies out behind him.  And he always smiles the biggest smiles.  He LOVES his bicycle. (Has it really already been seven months since he gave up the training wheels?)  I nodded as I thought to myself, I could sit and watch him and his joy and movement for hours on end and never lose interest.  And then I was thankful that I feel that way.  In the busy-ness of life, it is so easy to get distracted.  But not when my baby boy’s making the wheels go round and round.  That’s good stuff right there.
  • I have been doing some cleaning and organizing and culling around here.  (That’s right, I said culling.  I will pause for a moment so those of you who know me and my tendencies NOT to cull can catch your breath.)

 

 

  • As I mentioned, cleaning up.  Straightening up.  And so on.  I found a basket with a couple of devices and several cords all tangled up.  *sigh*  That’s about par for the course around here.  As I started to untangle by grabbing the larger “outlet plug” end first, I soon became frustrated with how hard it was to push that big end through the knots of cords to disentangle.  And then it occurred to me to try the other end first.  To take the tiny little end, the one that plugs into a device, and work it through the knots.  So much easier.  So much quicker.  And the gravity pull on the heavier end helped me figure out how to work through the knots.  Win!  As I disentangled cords in record time, it hit me that this is probably a lesson for life.  To work through situations that are such a mess, maybe it would be easier and make more sense if I start with the small bits first.  Don’t dive in and tackle the biggest part of the problem first.  Take it slow and easy and work through it.  And the answer will present itself a little quicker.  I don’t know, maybe a stretch, but it was worth pondering over anyway.

 

Tonight I’m thankful for a napless day–and it’s not often you’ll hear me say those words.  I had the energy and the drive and the patience to make some things happen around here, interspersed with moments I hope to treasure for a long, long time.  Thankful for all of that.  It was a day of one thing leading me to another room where I saw something else that needed doing, started on it until it led me to something else.  And yet, somehow, a few things got done.  And I’m very thankful for that.

May your day be filled with moments to treasure and easily untangled “cords.”  Love to all.

If You Were Ever A Child…..

The homeschool curriculum I use with my littles is literature based. There is a list of books for “required” reading and then another list of “suggested” books if you have the time and your child loves to read.

Which mine does.

It was touch and go her kindergarten and first grade year. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. I gave her a copy of “Old Hat, New Hat” in November of her first grade year. Hoping she could read it. Eventually. Less than five months later she was reading Magic Tree House books. Something finally clicked. Now her favorites are the Rainbow Magic Fairy books by Daisy Meadows. I’m thinking that’s a pen name–you?

As we are looking at wrapping up the school year, I went through the suggested book list and put in many hold requests at the library. (Can I just say I LOVE Interlibrary loans?) We are running a bit behind this year because of the January/February HospitalStay, but reading will be a wonderful pastime for our summer break as well.

Yesterday the first of our hold requests came through, and we ran by and picked it up. Last night my second grader, who loves to read all the time, asked if I would come and read her a story. This was a special treat for me, as she enjoys being an independent reader. I picked up our library book, and we began reading.

Roxaboxen by Alice McLernan, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Oh my, bless it. Precious.

If you have a child or know a child or were ever a child, you should find this book. And read it. Right now. It’s a story of children playing, imaginations taking flight, and the memories we carry with us into adulthood.

Yes, I cried. It was that good.

It reminded me of our little brick house on Old Boy Scout Road. The little two bedroom house where, when she brought home my baby brother, child number four, Mama told Daddy, “I don’t think another thing will fit in here.” And so we moved to Blackberry Flats. But before I was nine, we lived in that little brick house. There was a spot under the pines between our house and the one next door that was perfect for sweeping out and using the pine needles to mark off rooms and houses. At one point, two young girls lived next door and we would play out there for hours, sweeping and building and playing.

It also reminded me of playing at my Granny’s, where we built toadhouses along the banks between her yard and the peach orchard right next to her. We created whole villages and were allowed to bring cars out (“be particular”) to drive in and out of them. My cousins and I used to play “Cowboys and Indians” at their old house on Rabbit Road, where the deep slope of the yard made for some great chases and use of imagination.

When we moved to Blackberry Flats, we had a horse, Betsy. Each fall Daddy would go and get a load of hay to put back for the winter. I can remember the smell of the sweet hay and the feeling of hefting up a bale and handing it down off the truck to him. He stacked it up in the side area of his building. (I guess it was a workshop, but all we ever called it was “Daddy’s building.”) I remember crawling up to the top of the stack of hay in that little shed and reading. Mama let us have the boxes their checkbooks came in, and we created a post office, each of us having our own “mailbox.” We made up our “names,” and we spent lots of time writing letters and “mailing” them.

Creating. Dreaming. Playing. Imagining. Only it all seemed so real.

Just like in Roxaboxen.

I’ve driven by the old home place on Old Boy Scout Road since I was grown. It seems so much smaller now, like the woods crept up towards the house. The old sand pile is still visible at my Granny’s old house. And while there is no hay, the shed at Daddy’s is still standing, stock full of memories that bring a smile and a tear.

I am thankful for those happy memories of a carefree childhood and for my own “Roxaboxen” places. I give thanks for my girls who love to read and dream, and hang onto the hope that my little guy will also find a love of reading one day. As I write this I look out my front window where my two little ones are playing with their friends, and soon they will come in all breathless, eager to tell me about their latest “adventures.” I love that they too have their own “Roxaboxen” right here on our little cul-de-sac. And I give thanks for those who have gone before, sharing stories and reading books with us, helping us to dream and play and imagine. Right now, I can’t think of a better gift that’s ever been given.