Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sven Speaks

Toddlers make me smile.  One of the really fun things about them is the things they say.  They imitate the big people in their life and for some reason that's funny.  (And endearing, which Scott would say is a survival mechanism.)

Sven has been in rare form lately.  He's always listening but he doesn't always understand what's going on around him.  It comes out later, which gives me insight into the aspects of family life that are most salient to him.

What he has revealed shouldn't surprise me: our family life revolves around our homeschool.  Even though a good portion of schooling happens during his independent playtime and his naptime, Sven still uses the lingo.  He wants to be a part of that most demanding part of my life and it makes me smile.

Some of the things he has said:
* while coloring at the table: "I'm doing my math."
* after a bedtime story:  "Mom, can you give me a narration for that story?"
* commenting on his brothers' chess game:  "Uh-oh.  You're in check."

I love my little chatterbox.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Boys Speak

I fried SPAM for the kids this morning.  Unfortunately, I fried it a little longer than they like.  It was slightly toasted on one side, which is perfect for me but is "burnt" to them.  They know they are not allowed to complain about the food but Carl always likes to comment anyway.  He used his most cheerful voice to pay me a false compliment:

CARL:  Wow!  This SPAM is really well cooked!

SOREN:  Yeah, it has carbon on it.  That's because SPAM is organic.

Thanks, boys.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Soren's Eighth Birthday

When I was a girl, my mom would settle disputes between my brother and I by arbitrating a guessing game.  She would pick a number between one and ten, then invite each of us to guess what the number was.  Whoever guessed closest would win the dispute.  This was her way of choosing who would have the first turn at a game, with a toy, or in the kitchen.  Randomness was, supposedly, more fair.

The only problem with this game was that my mother always picked the same number.  Patrick knew it and so did I.  So rather than having these inconsequential issues resolved randomly, victory always went to the quickest contestant.  The first person to blurt out mom's number would win.

That number was 8.

When I lost the blurting contest, I would whine.  "That's not fair.  You always pick eight."

My mom would smile--how could she smile when life was so unfair?--and say that eight was her favorite number.  "You can get baptized when you are eight," she would remind me.

Back then, I thought that was a pretty lame excuse for letting Patrick sit shotgun.  Now it makes me smile.  I also love the number eight.  It's not a sterile integer for me anymore; it's a potent symbol of rebirth.  And I tell my kids, "You can get baptized when you are eight."

Now, my firstborn son is eight.

He has grown so much this past year.  He has come to understand himself and the world in new ways.  Some of that process was uncomfortable for both of us.  But I look at the boy he is today and I am so proud of him my heart could burst.  He is more humble, more considerate, and more capable than he was a year ago.  He has faced his fear of swimming, discovered and overcome ennui, tried out entrepreneurship, learned a few social graces, and shared his testimony with neighbors.  He's eight and he's great.

So here's what we did to celebrate Soren:

1. The day before his birthday, Soren went on a camping trip with Scott and the Young Men.  He was very excited about that.  Apparently, his favorite part was playing Pictionary, although it doesn't sound much like any Pictionary I've ever heard of.

2. While he was gone, the younger boys and I made birthday cards.  They had science jokes on them.  He liked them, although he did point out to me that I had misspelled "neutron".  I left out the "t", which made it a confusing joke about neurology rather than a clever joke about chemistry.  Oops.

3. When he came home, he brought donuts to share with the family and we ate donuts while he opened some presents.  Scott gave him a raspberry pi, which was probably the most exciting present.  They worked some on getting his first computer up and running, a project I am sure they will revisit many times in the next few months.

4. I gave Soren a game called SushiGo, which was the most used present of the day.  It's a card game and its quick but interesting.  We played SushiGo all day.

5. Then, inspired by the game, we went out for sushi at dinner time.  Nan and Poppy came and it was amazing.  I love sushi and I'm glad my kids do, too.

6. Both Soren's grandparents got him chemistry sets, which was awesome.  He was thrilled to have enough gear to do the experiments with his brother; they are so cute together in their goggles with their test tubes.  We did a couple of experiments that involved mixing and fizzing, which was exactly what Soren wanted.

7. For cake, Soren requested Christmas frosting so we had a green and red cake at the end of the day.

8. But that was not the end for Soren.  I informed him that his bedtime was being extended until 8 pm.  Eight-year-olds get to stay up until 8!  Of course, they also have to help with the dinner dishes ...

A couple of weeks after Soren's birthday, on January 1st, he was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He wanted it to be on the first of the year because he knows (better than I did at his age) that baptism is a symbol of rebirth.  He wanted his fresh start to begin with 2016.

Since Soren's baptism, he has been just glowing.  He said to me the other day, "There are so many things I can do now that God wants me to do!"  And he's right!  He has started keeping a journal and has his own scriptures for personal study.  He opened a bank account so he could start saving money for his mission.  And to teach him about the path of discipleship that he has chosen, we are reading Little Pilgrim's Progress together.  Soren is my valiant Little Christian.

He is happy to be eight.  And after a tumultuous year seven, that happiness is like a rainbow.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Leif's First Birthday

Babies don't know that it's their birthday.  No amount of singing and being excited on their behalf will change their disposition.

So it shouldn't be surprising that Leif was upset this morning.  In spite of all my good cheer, he was cranky as all get out.  He didn't like breakfast, he didn't want to play with toys, and he didn't want to have any of his brothers make silly faces at him.  He just wanted me to hold and nurse him, which I could only do so much of because I was getting everyone ready for church.

He was the maddest about the drive to church.  It was bitter cold and he wouldn't let anyone warm up his hands.  It wasn't until Nan gave him a granola bar that the day started to look up.  But only moderately so, because being one is mostly frustrating.

Here's how we tried to make the day special:

1. Sven was really excited about Leif's birthday.  He wished him a "Happy Birthday, Leif!" just about every time he saw him.  That was sweet.

2. Sven was also really excited about Leif's presents.  We let him help to open them but then made him wait until Leif was tired of the new toys to play with them.  So Sven was just standing over Leif's shoulder, ready to pounce at the first sign of waning interest.  Of course, Leif is only one so he is still happy to share.  When you're a baby, watching other people play with cool stuff is almost as good as touching cool stuff yourself.

3. I made a flourless chocolate cake that was to die for (if a little mushy).  I put some of the batter into a cupcake pan so that Leif could have his own little cake to eat with his fists.  Traditional one-year-old cake mess: check.

4. We had Nan and Poppy, Aunt Rachel, Uncle Ash, and Maddy over.  That makes anything count as a party.

That's a small list.  But what else do you expect?  He's only one.  All he wanted for his birthday was to be carried around and to suck on Nan's phone.  Unfortunately, he had to put up with a lot of being put down and having stuff taken away from him as well.  That's the life of a one-year-old.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Carl Speaks

We are all painting at the dining room table (big mistake, I know).  Carl picks up Sven's (mostly) dried artwork and exclaims:

CARL:  Oh, wow!  Did Sven do this?

ME: Mm-hm.

CARL:  It looks real!  Was it fingerpaint?

ME: Mm-hm.

CARL:  It looks like a real tornado, sideways, on the grass.  I never knew that he could paint that good!  It looks awesome!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In which Soren teaches himself music theory

Having a quirky, genius kid is often delightful.

I have been teaching Soren a little bit of music theory.  Actually, he has been teaching himself by reading the text in all the piano lesson books.  But I'll pretend that I've been scaffolding it some.

This week he has been working on identifying triads, a task I never dreamed I would teach my 2nd grader.  And then he figured out something additional that astonished and delighted me.

He is learning a song called "Cockles and Mussels" and I assigned him to say each chord name of the accompaniment while he practiced.  We went over it in his lesson; at that time he found all the obvious triads as well as the ones that were inverted or split between hands.  That was cool but didn't surprise me.

What did surprise me happened today, during his practice time.

He called to me from where I was stirring monkey mac in the kitchen.  "Mom!  I found a chord you didn't see!"  I put down my spoon and hiked the baby up my hip before going to see his discovery.

He began to play the coda, saying the chord changes as they happened.  "C major.  D minor.  E minor."  When he got to the last two measures, he called out a chord change for each beat, emphasizing the second one: "d, F, G, C."  After taking his hands from the keyboard, he explained to me how he had found his mystery chord on the second beat.  Although the third in the left hand was held for two counts, the complete neighbor tone in the right hand made a new chord, changing an inverted d-minor chord into a root position f-major chord.

What I am trying to say is, he found a chord that was divided both by hands and by time.

That was when my jaw dropped.  Seven years he has been my son and it wasn't until that moment that he floored me.  How did he figure that all out?

My next thought was: this is going to be fun.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Milestone: Crawling

Lest I forget, Leif learned to crawl this September.  He was 8 months old.  At the beginning of the month, he was making a cute but feeble effort.  At the end of the month, he could get everywhere and into everything.  His favorite destination: the cat's water dish.