Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A birthday letter for Peter

November 17, 2009
Dear Peter,

Today you are one year old! We’ve lived 365 days together since you were born, but the details of this day one year ago are still vivid. I remember realizing as I woke up that morning that your entrance into the world was beginning, slowly but surely. I had enough time to eat a light breakfast, take a shower, and clean up the house. I wore a blue sweatsuit I had borrowed from a friend. Daddy stayed home from work so he could drive me to the hospital, and Grandma came over to take care of Gabriel, because he wouldn’t be able to stay in the hospital while we were there with you. I remember the silly questions the nurse asked me as we checked into the hospital. You were more and more insistent about wanting to come out and be with us, meanwhile I had to respond to questions about if we had stairs in our house, and whether I would be walking up and down them after you were born! Finally we were admitted, and not too long after that–after about 2 hours, and some creative help from our Midwife Wendy–you were with us, wearing your I’ve-just-been-born hospital cap and lying on my chest. Grandma told me it snowed the day you were born. I didn’t know it– you, Daddy, and I were snuggled up together in our room rejoicing that you, Peter Timothy, were finally in our arms!

Thanks to your big brother, I already had practice with the logistics of babies and toddlers. If you were anything like him, you would be happy nursing or being wrapped in the sling or carrier. So I did what seemed best and you were happy, and you shared your happiness with us. The first day you laughed at Gabriel, playing silly games with a baseball cap after dinner, and he laughed back at you, I realized the dynamism that is having another person in our family who can both give and receive joy. Now that I can see this, I pray that someday God will bless us with more children, brothers and sisters for you to tease first smiles and giggles out of, just like Gabriel did with you.

You are your own person, Peter. Gabriel wanted me to hold his hands for three months straight while he was learning to walk; I think I tried that with you once or twice but you preferred to crawl, usually after your brother and whatever exciting thing he was doing. Now that you have learned to walk, you fling yourself into it with gleeful abandon, arms held wide, running towards the next adventure until you lose your balance and plop to the ground. You’re persistent, though. You scramble up, all on your own, and keep going.

The world offers you its treasures and you marvel– yellow ducks, barking dogs, playground slides, bike trailers, tennis balls, sand boxes, and ice cream all elicit exclamations of interest and approval from you. Your smile is contagious, and your hugs (you even pat me on the back sometimes!) are encouraging. I know God sent you to me for a reason–sometimes I can make mothering such a complicated and busy proposition–because without fail your grins entice me to play, to relax, to be. As my second son, my little Peter, you are ushering me into a motherhood of greater fullness–each day I spend with you, I am more aware, less afraid; more appreciative, and less anxious. Here’s to many more years like this one.


(Thanks to Elizabeth Foss for the inspiration to write birthday letters--I can do this, even if I can't keep up with a baby book!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sacrificial Giving

My little ones and I made a weekday odyssey into downtown Washington, D.C. today. Highlights included my three-year-old crowing “ALL ABOARD!” in the mostly-quiet commuter train, my one-year-old nearly crawling into an indoor fountain in the art museum, and a perfect-for-little-boys exhibit featuring lots of armor and swords. The day also gave us all an unplanned lesson in sacrificial giving.

Just before entering the museum, I paused to rummage around for something in the bottom of the stroller. While we were stopped, an older woman approached us. (Read the rest here...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest I think my efforts are in vain...

Today as Gabriel, Peter and I were riding in the car to go pick up our veggies and milk from the co-op we participate in, we were listening to the classical music station on the radio. A Mozart piece came on– don’t ask me the name, because I don’t really focus on these things(!)– and I waited for a reaction from Gabriel. Suddenly from the back of the car I hear:

“Mommy! Is that your phone? Is your phone ringing?”
“No, Gabriel. That’s the radio.”
“But, no, Mommy, I hear your phone!”
“Actually, what you hear is the melody my phone plays when it rings. Mozart wrote that melody a long time ago, and now someone is playing it on the piano.”
“Is it Daddy?” [Daddy is our home’s resident pianist and musician extraordinaire...]
“No, it is a different man, or maybe even a woman.”
“Hey...Mozart! That’s like the book we read! Is this the melody he found? Is this Mozart’s melody?!”

At least ten months ago we read a book from the library called Mozart Finds A Melody. Gabriel would have been not quite 2 ½ years old. It was a rather whimsical rhyming picture book about Mozart and his pet bird, and his attempt to find a melody for his next composition. I had just grabbed it off the shelf, seeing that it looked kind of like a “living book” and hoping he might connect it to Daddy’s piano playing. It seemed way over his head at the time, but we read it a couple times and then returned it, not to mention it again. But it was there, swirling around in Gabriel’s little thoughts, and it!

Episodes like this make me increasingly more committed to filling my children’s hearts and minds with excellence and beauty, and more averse to fluffy cartoon characters or books featuring characters with bad attitudes, slapstick violence, or potty humor. You’d think the library would know better than to stock such stuff, but I find that 75% of the time when Gabriel randomly finds a book off the shelves, it features the above-mentioned attributes. Books can be fun without all that... Cynthia Rylant’s books are great examples. (I’ll talk more about them in an upcoming post.)

Finding living books that feed Gabriel’s mind and heart takes extra effort–in our case, I check trusted booklists, go to the library website, request the books online, and wait until they come in. Then our trip to the library is much simpler... I have a huge stack of genuinely good books waiting for me (although I always flip through them now before reading them) and we can make a short visit to the children’s section for one or two spontaneous finds. Much easier than browsing shelves with two little ones in tow!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Recipe for Learning at Home

It’s been quite an adventure figuring out what method of education is going to work for our home this year, but finally, two months in, I think we have it somewhat figured out. It’s kind of like one of those long-simmering winter soups that keeps expanding as I add a handful of this, a pinch of that...and so on. I can never be sure until later which flavors will stand out, which will recede into the background, and which things I know I would leave out next time.

Here’s the “recipe” for what I've been doing with Gabriel (3yrs old) so far:

  • I began with a curriculum book called Little Saints which featured three days of a structured preschool curriculum, but it just seemed too... constraining, as well as a little over Gabriel’s head. I’ve been using it instead as a resource.
  • As a preview to reading, we’ve been structuring our weeks around the alphabet, working mostly on sound-letter correlation. I’ve been getting many of my language ideas from Mommy, Teach Me to Read.
  • We’ve been using a lot of ideas from Elizabeth Foss’ Alphabet Path, particularly the booklists for teaching science with living books and the saint ideas.
  • Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy has pointed us in the direction of focusing on teaching everything possible through books that engage the heart of the child, lots of outdoor nature study, and a focus on the formation of good habits.
  • I have skimmed some Montessori books and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials, and I've been using Moira Farrel's Home Catechesis Manual to begin introducing Gabriel to some "altar work"--in other words, he gets to learn about the Mass and its purpose using hands-on materials.
  • I've planned my weeks using the following categories: Language, Math, Nature Study/Science, Habits, Saints, Music, and Menu Ideas. We tend to try to focus on language elements on Monday, the Saint of the Week on Tuesday, and everything else basically shuffles in between outings, chores, meals, playtime, etc...

  • I'll try to post some highlights and photos of this week, along with a review of our favorite book this week, on Friday.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hidden at Home

He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man. ~Luke 2:51-52

These sparse words, found after Mary and Joseph retrieve the young Jesus from teaching in the Temple, encompass about 20 years of Jesus' life. When I stop to ponder them, they are astounding. Jesus, God among us, was a “stay-at-home son” for most of his life.

Being a “stay-at-home mom” is a relatively new thing for me. I've only been home full time for about two years. My former life involved spending twenty-plus years out of the home, receiving a formal education, much of which never mentioned what one does when one is “at home”, or, for that matter, that there is any value whatsoever in “home”...

Read the rest here!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Gabriel's First Poem, for Mommy

I love you like the sun loves setting on the horizon
I love you like the river loves flowing down the mountain
I love you like the plug loves the drain
I love you like apple pie loves icing
I love you like rain loves splashing
I love you like the sun loves the moon
I love you like hugs love kisses.

(Narrated to Mommy at age 3 years, 3 mos, while splashing in the tub with little brother Peter, in these words precisely. A spontaneous and original response--albeit in the style of a book we have called "I Love You, Good-Night"-- to a few simple words from me: "I love being a mommy to you, little boys." Gratitude bringing forth beauty. Material for later blog post indeed!)

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