Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Learning to Swing

My 6 1/2 yr old son, David excels at figuring things out and is always the first child in my house to learn something new. He's my little perfectionist, always watching and analyzing what everyone else is doing, making mental notes. He practices little, yet seems to get it right with very few attempts. This has been the norm for as long as I can remember and David's younger sister, Dani generally goes with the flow, watching and learning from him. As they've gotten older, however, it's apparent that Dani makes up for her lack of speed in her strong determination. While she rarely gets something on the first try, she's content to practice it over and over, for hours at a time, until she gets it right. Yesterday, this sparked an interesting shift in my household.

We recently added a swing set to the backyard. Since neither child had ever learned to work a swing on their own, I'd given them a few training sessions, in the hopes that my arms might get a break. Since David's not much for practicing things, intent on always doing everything perfect, after a few tries at swinging and not getting it, he'd simply move on to something else. Every day, they'd play on the swings in this manner, Dani practicing swinging and David coming up with several alternative uses for the swings. This was the trend, up until yesterday.

Yesterday, there was a new development, much to David's dismay. Dani, after several days of practicing, announced that she had finally learned to swing. I looked outside to see her working the swings, all by herself, pumping her legs just as I'd shown her. It was amazing watching her go back and forth, in perfect swinging form. I gave her lots of praise and congratulations for all her hard work in practicing. David, who had been sitting on the swing next to her, had completely frozen. He didn't quite know how to take the news. There were no words at all, just this expression on his face of disbelief in what had just occurred.

The next 3 hours went by like a 12 step program. First, David was angry, both at himself and at Dani. He wandered about the yard, sulking, watching Dani as she tested her new found skill. He stared at the swing set in disgust, refusing to even sit on it. We talked about things like jealousy and learning to be a good sport, since no one can win all the time. We talked about being happy for Dani and celebrating the accomplishments of others. There were tears and grumbles and denial. At one point, during the afternoon, David would not even go outside. He just sat in the living room, playing the Wii, occasionally breaking out in to tears. The discussions continued, until there was nothing left but silence, as he moved on to perfecting his game playing techniques.

After this seemingly long afternoon, something happened that I did not expect. All of a sudden, without saying a word, David stood up, went outside, got on the swing, and started practicing. There was a new look on his face of sheer determination, like I had only seem a few times before. It didn't take him long to master the art of swinging, once he'd made his mind up to do it. Within half an hour, I heard a familiar yell, as David announced he had finally gotten it. It was a beautiful thing to watch. The two children laughed together, swinging as they talked about swinging. They were perfectly in sync, looking at each other in discussion. I must have watched them for at least 2 hours, as neither wanted to get off.

Believing the day could not have ended better, I was given one more surprise. I was standing in the kitchen when David walked in with a somewhat serious expression. He had something he wanted to tell me. 

"Mommy, I think Dani learning to do the swings first was a good thing. I wasn't really serious about learning how to do it, but seeing her do it made me really want to learn. I don't think I would have practiced, if it weren't for her. So...maybe sometimes being jealous is a good thing."

Crouched down on the floor to talk to him, I just about fell over as he spoke. It was exactly the right way to look at the situation and was a profound observation for someone so young. While he may not have understood what I had said to him, he'd made the connection, stating in his own language what I'd wanted him to take away from the experience. Without knowing it, he had learned the value of healthy competition, something he'll experience many times in life.

A new David emerged out of the day, becoming much more aware of Dani's determination. He'd always seen her as just a little sister. But, for once, she'd managed to teach him something, rather than constantly learning from him. And, though humbled by the experience, David managed to find that happy place in it all, as both children went to bed with tired legs and a feeling of accomplishment.

Perfectly Synchronized Swinging

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Many Poses of Dani

My 5 yr old daughter, Dani has a talent for knowing exactly where the camera is at all times. This has spurred many a pose. Even my sneakiest attempts to catch her in a "natural" state most often fail, as I look back at the photos, to find she's managed some sort of face or strange arm gesture. In her mind, she's a top fashion model, strutting her stuff before a room full of photographers and executives. A good pose is essential and she's determined to try every possible combination of moves, to get that one, great shot. While I'm sure there's some attempt to copy something she's seen, before, the resulting poses end up unique, in true Dani style.

Though some poses are a 1 time thing, others have become favorites of her's, requiring them to be appropriately named.

The Chicken Pose
A recent favorite - chicken-like arm position & outward chest.

Disco Dani
best done while wearing sunglasses

Rock On
fist in the air & wave it like you just don't care

Surprise Face

Side Pose
variation of the Chicken Pose

The Sweetheart
squinty eyes & clasped hands

Advanced Yoga Pose
involves odd & painful looking leg positions

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Safety in Numbers

I've always wondered what life would've been like had my husband & I not made the decision to stop having children after 2. Though, I absolutely hated pregnancy & am happy not to go through it, again, there are times I am just a bit envious of those with big families. While I love my children & wouldn't change them for anything, they are such different people that disagreements are inevitable and as they've grown, the gap between them has widened quite a bit. They fight about everything, lately, from the games they play to the shows they watch. They see the world in completely different ways, which makes it difficult, sometimes, to find that middle ground. Having other children around for them to interact with would certainly help at those times, by broadening their perspective and eliminating the boredom that comes with only having each other on a day to day basis.

After spending an evening with 6 children (my 2, plus 4 belonging to our neighbors), I can totally see the benefits of having a big family. Though, I'm sure things are much different around bed time, there is that sense of safety in numbers. Not only do they keep each other entertained, it's a far easier feeling when sending them out to play in a pack vs. sending them out as a 1 or 2. For about 2 hrs, last night, there were no injuries, no fights, and no one asking mom/dad to get them anything. I gave them each a flashlight, sent them outside, and the rest developed out of their collective imaginations. It was joyous watching them run around the house, playing some form of hide & seek in the dark.

While my body is done having children, the experience of numbers has spurred a realization that the best way to get my children past their fighting is to give them far more exposure to other children. So today, as a trial, I have a 5 yr old boy coming to stay with us for about 5 hrs. I'm hoping it goes well, as if it does, I have the option to become his regular caretaker, 2-3 evenings/week, through the summer and in to the school year. I am a tad bit nervous about the prospect, as I haven't taken on a position like this since having children. However, the idea of having a permanently scheduled play date for the kids, in addition to extra income, is pushing me to really want this to work. I also feel as if fate is once again trying to show me the direction I need to go. The boy's parents contacted me out of the blue, right when I'd been considering such an idea. That perfect timing is difficult to deny. No matter what happens tonight, I'll know I at least did my best to go with the flow and trust that something worthwhile will come out of the experience.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Projects - Progression of a Playhouse #1

What We Ordered - A Kit To Build This:

What We Received (4/21):

After a month long delay, due to heavy rains...

Began Construction (5/21):

On May 26th, 2011 severe thunderstorms swept through the region, producing tornado type winds.

The 1st Storm Moving In:

The playhouse and several trees went down...

Assessing the Damage (5/27):

On 5/29, Vin and neighbor, Cliff righted the playhouse frame and repaired the damage. 2x4s were added to the cracked support posts and sunk in to the ground, for added stability. Ripped out screws were replaced, bolts were tightened, and the frame was leveled.

Back to Work - A slightly torqued, but level frame (5/30):

Vin helps with the lower part of the roof and dormer, since I'm not fond of ladders:

The Kids Move In (6/6):

Added a Pulley and Bucket:

[Swing Set to Follow]

Sunday, June 12, 2011

KidQuotes - Building Things (2011/6/12)

David ~ "Look, Dani. I made a machine gun."

[Holds up machine gun looking thing]

Dani ~ "Look, David. I made ahhh.....um....I made ahhh..."

[Holds up thing with lots of other things sticking out of it]

Dani ~ "I made a something."

Monday, June 6, 2011

KidBlog - When I Grow Up (6/6/11)

What do you want to be when you grow up?

For the week of 6/6/2011:

David says...
"Um....Still a pilot."

Dani says...
"A baker."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kindergarten Trip to Echo

On Wednesday, I acted as chaperone for David's Kindergarten field trip to the Echo aquarium in Burlington. It's a great little museum and the day was perfect for enjoying the beauty of the lake. Though many of the concepts within the museum were over David's head, he had a blast with all of the hands on activities made for his age level. The only downfall being in a school group is that it was a bit rushed for David. While he wanted to spend time looking at everything there, most of his classmates were zipping from spot to spot, forcing him to try and stay with his assigned group. At one point, I was just short of running to keep up with them. We're already planning a trip there, this summer, so both children can have the experience and really look at the exhibits.

I included a few pictures of the flooding, down there. It was quite amazing to see how high the water is, right now, considering it has actually come down a foot. The museum back lawn and part of the patio area are still under water.