Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Bumbo Battle: How a Tantrum Enhanced my Day of Peace and Rest

It was Sunday morning--the day of peace and rest I very much look forward to every week. No deep-cleaning, no school work, no shopping, no scheduled activities (besides worship services), and no technological entertainment to weigh us down or distract us from the pure clarity that awaits to fill us up and prepare us for a new week of busyness. If my mind is still enough to take it in, Sunday is the most refreshing and rewarding day of my week.

I find that my extra hard prep on Saturdays is well-worth the likelihood of feeling that life-giving peace on Sundays.

But some aspects of peace are out of my control.

As I fumbled with cereal bowls and spoons a few Sunday mornings ago, 4-year-old Cienna and nearly 2-year-old MaryAnn dashed to the table and erupted into an explosive establishment of who deserved to be heir of the Bumbo throne that sat on one of our wooden chairs. High-pitched shrills filled the kitchen for more than a few seconds...I felt my prospects of peace rapidly slipping from my fingertips. I sensed my own alarm systems (ie blood pressure) alerting me that chaos was definitely destroying my Day of Rest.

Brent was long gone at early morning meetings before the troops awoke because he is one of the local leaders of our congregation. So...any craziness associated with getting myself and 6 kids "peacefully" out the door for 11 am church rests on my shoulders. After years of experience (and lots of high blood pressure incidences), I expect at least half of us to have a major tear-jerking "issue" before departure.

Might as well get started right after we wake up, I guess.

My stomach used to churn during tantrum moments with my children. I've tried all sorts of tricks, logic, and consequences recommended by oodles of parenting books out there. I cringe thinking about those years. Now I (almost) rejoice when a tantrum erupts...because I'm learning to use those crazy moments to wire my brain into becoming the person I believe God intends for me to be (with His help of course).

Though far from perfect, my body jumps into action with a peacemaking process:

Knowing that my young girls' natural defense systems had been highly activated in order to selfishly (but innocently) dominate each other in The Bumbo Battle, my biggest goal quickly became an attempt to absorb their immature energy that was clearly bouncing back and forth between them so I could use my adult-sized prefrontal cortex (PFC--the brain area responsible for compassion, empathy, and emotional regulation) to change their negative energy that my body had accurately detected into positive energy again. (yikes...that was a mouthful!)

Although a few other parts of my brain offered me immediate tension-relieving solutions like slamming the cereal bowls down or out-yelling my kiddos or calmly announcing that they had just earned an extra chore or sending them back to bed until they could control their own behavior or crawling back into bed myself, I resisted the temptation to manage their negative behavior by grabbing a stick or throwing out a carrot...just so I could feel a little short-term control over the situation. While their screeches were truly ear-shattering and peace-destroying, I knew a 'time-out' for their wild and rude behavior was out of the question...it would only put the burden of changing from war to peace on their young shoulders before they have the brain capacity to do something other than strengthen their personal self-defensive walls with it.

I should explain a little further...

Let's pretend my child's immaturity (or full-blown tantrum in this case) is a ball of negative energy flying right at my face as I stand at one end of a ping pong table. My natural and normal instinct is to protect myself from it. However, a defensive or offensive or absent response on my part doesn't eliminate any negative energy in the room (energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred or changed). If I use a reactive response (including an isolating time-out), it may protect me from the negative energy for a moment, but it also deflects the negativeness that we are all trying to cope with back onto my child's side of the net for his/her underdeveloped brain to process again immediately (with more fear or anger or wildness, etc.) or hold onto as a not-so-pleasant-memory-that-will-some-day-need-to-be-unleashed-in-a-not-so-pleasant-way-in-the-future (using "stored" fear or anger or wildness, etc). What we really all need is for someone to grab that negative ball of energy and change it into something positive, which (I think) is the job of a mature PFC...and then hit it back.

In other words, a child who is dealing with stress or immaturity (like a big-ol' tantrum) needs the presence of a peaceful person in whom complete trust resides standing at the other end of the table. Otherwise the negative behavioral energy stays negative...and someone will have to deal with it again. If I want true change to occur in my household, I've got to be the mature one that not only notices negative energy flying around, but is also willing to grab it and sit with it long enough to transform it into positive energy before releasing it back out into the room.

Just thinking about this process makes me breathe a big sigh of relief.

Now back to what happened next in The Bumbo Battle...

<photo taken a few days after the dust settled>

After about 30 seconds of attentive listening to their unsuccessful pleas for space in the Bumbo chair, I gently asked Cienna to give up her ground and move to the blue and yellow booster chair and let MaryAnn sit in the fluffy pink chair this time. Cienna did as I said, but feeling defeated, tears streamed down her face. Keeping the front of my brain as engaged as I could, I knelt down to Cienna so our eyes could meet. She angrily dashed her eyes away from mine as I said something like, "When two people want the same thing, we have to take turns. Thank you for helping Mommy do that. If MaryAnn hurt your feelings with her screaming, I'm really sorry. It's hard to work through these tough challenges. We'll keep trying."

I offered a hand of comfort and Cienna refused it. I didn't 'react' to the frustration that she threw at me...instead I sat at her level for a moment longer and focused my mind on absorbing as much of her sadness as I could without judging her or her actions as bad or good. I felt grateful for the chance to stand as a symbol of peace and transformation. When her eyes finally met mine, I smiled softly and stood up to begin pouring cereal and milk into her bowl. I'd returned the energy she'd flung at me. I'd saved it just for her. Only now it would feel so different to her...much warmer and more peaceful. I sensed relief in her soul. She went on to eat her cereal.

MaryAnn on the other hand is brand new to this whole transforming immature energy thing. As a nearly 2-year-old, she has enough brain development to recognize negative energy (self-centered intents like the Bumbo take-over threat coming from older sister)...rightfully despise it...and ruthlessly defend herself from it (usually in the form of a counter-attack or a major meltdown). This is an important part of child development and I applaud her for making progress in life. But I also look forward to the day when she will be able to couple this key emotional awareness with the prefrontal cortex wisdom of choosing how to respond to it peacefully. For now it looks pretty ugly.

Even though she was triumphant, MaryAnn's body was feeling so out-of balance from her battle with Cienna that she still screamed at the top of her lung's capacity...a natural attempt to re-establish a more tolerable chemical balance. When I turned my attention to her, she screamed louder and flailed her arms and legs (which is kind of hard to do in a Bumbo chair, but she managed). I'm glad she felt safe showing her mother just how mad she was. With her back arched and her feet kicking, her eyes searched my body language for answers about what to do with all these wild and scary emotions.

I showed her what to do by being at peace. I felt my soul open up and reach for her struggles and hold them close to me until we could examine them together in the future...at a much later time when her brain was calm again and ready to comprehend more.

Because she was in the mood to reject my comforting gaze and hands, I respected her wishes and let her wiggle and scream while I bustled around the kitchen. Though I was attending to other children, I kept the experience MaryAnn was having at the forefront of my awareness and continued to soak in her anxiety as she exerted it out into the room. I accepted her unruly behavior as part of who she is right now in life and simultaneously envisioned the mature woman she'll become when her body (and especially her brain) is more complete. My eyes glanced lovingly in her direction many times and I watched for an opportunity to re-connect with her, but that didn't happen before I heard cries for help in the bathroom upstairs--Allison needed the temperature adjusted on the water that was spurting from the tub faucet. Her shrieks showed me that some of MaryAnn's chaos had likely wafted upstairs for Allison to absorb as well.

That's okay. We'll eventually get it all processed.

I motioned for MaryAnn to join me in my jaunt upstairs, because I wanted to show her that I was still very much in tune to her needs. But as I neared her, she increased the volume and intensity of her fit. Most likely assuming I was coming to de-throne her, she clung to the Bumbo chair like her life depended on it, tears streaming down her face. Such confusion she must have felt.

Again (knowing I'd return very quickly), I respected her status as queen of the Bumbo chair and I let her flail in it for a few more moments while I ducked upstairs to settle my 6-year-old. "I'll be back very soon," I gently told her.

When I returned to the kitchen a couple of minutes later, MaryAnn was still going strong with her rageful fit.
Only now she had a bigger audience. Diggy and Kirsti (Kenny was still asleep) sat at the table observing her scene and feeling rather helpless.

"What's wrong with her?" they asked sympathetically. "Why does she keep screaming like that? What should we do? How can you stand it?"

This wasn't the first major tantrum MaryAnn's older sibs had witnessed...but still. They felt accurately alarmed by her tame-less screams. Her high-pitched screeches and twisting body movements threatened their inner peace. I could read my children's minds. I used to feel vulnerable to toddler tantrums, too. (Sometimes I still do.) I remember feeling helpless...and mad...and then helpless again...when my kids were out of control. I remember attempting to stop the madness by plucking them up from their tantrum spot and planting them down in a corner or on a chair or in their bedroom until they "learned to control themselves". I even had the non-emotional 'your-tantrum-doesn't-phase-me' face down. By the time Allison came around, we made her sit in the basement...by herself...until she stopped screaming so she wouldn't disturb the whole household. (oh if I could turn back the clock!)

I'll never forget the looks on our older children's faces when they witnessed Mom and Dad isolating an out-of-control child and then pretending nothing was wrong while she wailed away in despair. I saw their trust in us melting away. I saw fear or coldness or both enter their systems.

So before Allison's brain could develop any further (she was about 24 months old), I changed. I'm a different parent now. I'm learning, by the grace of God, how to give peace during turbulent tantrum times. And I'm discovering that God grants me His peace as I do so. We are all so (with a google o's) much happier!!

But now how could I explain this peacemaking process to my older children, so they, too, could rest their minds and hearts on this Sabbath day?

A thought came racing in:

"Do you remember when MaryAnn was a tiny baby? She did lots of sleeping and even when she was awake she hardly noticed when life around her got complicated? Well, now she's older and more mature. Her brain has more connections now, but she's not completely grown up yet. She's old enough to recognize emotional stress, like a sibling rivalry over a pink chair, and the chaos often engulfs her in darkness kind of like the sun going down at night. She feels lost and confused. She doesn't have enough brains to process the darkness peacefully yet so she seeks for ways to cope temporarily by screaming and fighting. She's in darkness, but she is not the darkness. Do you see the difference?"

They got it.

"If I saw her flailing around and thought her light had gone out forever, how would I likely respond?" I continued.

"You'd be scared. Or mad. Or worried."

"You're right. Is that how you feel?"

"Yeah."

"Sometimes I feel that way, too. It's pretty normal. And sometimes those feelings make me react in a self-centered way so I can settle those unpleasant emotions pretty quickly. But I don't feel scared or mad or worried now because I know MaryAnn is not the darkness that she's feeling temporarily. So, if I know for certain that her lovely sunshine will brighten the world again soon, just like I know the sun will come up every morning, how am I likely to respond to her?"

"You wouldn't be scared. Or mad. Or worried. You would be okay."

"Right again. That's how I feel now. I feel very comfortable and confident that MaryAnn's sun will come up again. I also know that I can help lead her back to that brighter place. Young minds are very willing to follow. So, how can I help her find sunshine again?"

"You could hold her hand and give her a flashlight while it's dark." They smiled at the thought.

"Exactly. At this age, MaryAnn knows to search for light because she can tell darkness is a yucky place to be. But if I leave her to cope with the darkness all on her own, I would feel a little nervous. She may wander towards a light, but perhaps not the brightest and warmest sunshine that she deserves. And she may gather extreme cloudiness along the way which would make it hard to tell when she's standing in daylight again. Instead of expecting her to handle this on her own, I feel very aware of MaryAnn's sadness and confusion right now, so she's not alone. I'm not ignoring her. I'm happy to lend her my light and gently lead her toward True Sunshine again. I think she can feel my light radiating towards her right this minute because I'm in her presence and even though she's still screaming, she can tell that I'm aware of her in a warm kind of way. As she grows, her mind will mature and be able to handle darkness a little more independently. After many years, she'll not only recognize Perfect Light, but because of all our practicing together, she'll know how to get up and move towards it even if I'm not there."

By the time my explanation was over, MaryAnn was listening to my voice tell her siblings that "I love MaryAnn. I know I can help her through her dark times by being a glimmer of light for her to follow," and she was quiet.

It was time to roll out some bread dough. Having soaked in the majority of MaryAnn's out-of-control emotions and having kept them close to my heart as they transformed into peace, I sensed it was time to share them again with her.

Bending down at her level, I asked, "MaryAnn, do you want to help Mommy spread flour all over the counter so we can make bread?"

She sheepishly leaned in my direction, testing her trust in me. I scooped her up in my arms and hugged her tenderly, letting the love flow between us, before setting her down on a chair so her eyes could tower over the beveled edge of our dark grey Corian.
 <It was such a lovely moment, I actually asked one of my older kids to snap a picture.>

Working alongside a present-minded mother did wonders for MaryAnn's emotional balance. Sharing the peace that God has granted me--especially during so many of my tantrum moments--with my sweet daughter in her time of need did wonders for stretching my patience far enough to reach a greater capacity to understand, respect, love, endure, and rest. It felt like climbing a mountain...and making it to the top.

As the morning continued, I could tell MaryAnn's body was still trying to process the residue stress hormone leftover in her brain from The Bumbo Battle. She remained on high alert as simple stress tilted her emotional scale a few more times. I had to stay focused on being steady and strong and patient for her sake as we descended the other side of the mountain. But an hour or so later when I showed her a purple dress she hadn't worn in a long time, she smiled with all the delight of a rainbow coloring the sky as the storm departs.

I basked in the sunshine with MaryAnn and paused to take in the moment's triumphant beauty. I could not have led my daughter to light without having first received light from the Source of all Light myself. Because of the challenges that face my two-year-old as her brain develops, I have a greater opportunity to commune with Deity. What a blessing! Especially on a Sabbath morning.

I sent a prayer of gratitude heavenward.



Epilogue: Just moments before the final mad dash out the door, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror for my usual 2-minute make-up application. All four of my girls surrounded me as they fumbled with makeshift eye shadow brushes and lip gloss sticks. When Kirsten noticed me smearing yellow goop on the dark circles under my eyes, she paused from powdering her face and inquired, "Why do you put on make-up anyways?"

Without the added strength and wisdom I had gained from the yoga-like concentration I'd needed during MaryAnn's tantrum earlier that morning, I'm sure I would have flippantly rambled about blemishes and whale blubber and good impressions.

But because my mind had stretched into a greater place of awareness and peace, I paused long enough to remember that my responses to my children's questions have monumental impact on how they view life...and on how they feel about themselves. I felt my heart and mind fill up with a wisdom greater than my own before I casually relayed the response, "I like the way my make-up highlights the natural beauty God gave me."

I moved on to my eye-liner, but kept my glance on Kirsten as she carefully examined her own reflection and smiled with a joy that melted my heart. Her younger sisters had paused to watch her, too. Having been enlightened, they went back to rummaging through their make-up bags.

And we eventually arrived at church happily ever after that Sunday morning. Luckily "The Bumbo Battle" went down in the history books just in time for the commencement of "The Bench Battle: 6 Kids on a Pew while Daddy Conducts the 70-minute Meeting." All sorts of peace and rest just waiting to come my way again...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Her Erica

This post is dedicated to my long-time BFF, Erica Ruth. Today is her birthday.

Brent and I moved to Illinois with our kids six years ago. My daughter, Kirsten, turned 3 just after our arrival. She met 3-year-old Jennifer at church on our first Sunday. To make a long story short, their friendship has blossomed.
<Jennifer and Kirsti in Jennifer's back yard.>

Sometimes Kirsti and Jennifer get so excited to tell each other stuff that they disrupt their church class.
Sometimes Kirsti has to borrow my cell phone because she simply can't wait until Sunday "to tell Jennifer _____."
Sometimes I find Kirsti busy crafting something (like a paper doll, or a card, or a doll's quilt) that must be delivered to Jennifer immediately.
Sometimes Kirsti and Jennifer dream about having a slumber party and sometimes they talk and plot and plan about it soooo much that their mothers sigh and finally decide on a convenient date.

Sometimes I just look at Kirsti and Jennifer and relive my childhood...because I had a Jennifer.

Her name is Erica.

As an only girl amidst three brothers, I always longed for a sister. Though I absolutely loved my tomboy time digging for salamanders, collecting toads, creating forts, climbing in creeks, playing baseball in the back yard, and cheering for sports teams with  my brothers...I always missed having a sister.

Thankfully, I have been blessed with many other "sisters" along life's path.

Erica is one of my all-time favorites.

Erica and I first met when we were both 5 years old. Her family had moved a mile from our house and I accompanied my mom in taking dinner over to welcome them to our church congregation. Erica's mom gave us a tour of their new house and when it was time to view the attic, Erica warned me not to touch the insulation because it would make me itchy. Her thoughtful desire to protect me from the dangers of her new domain stimulated an eternal connection between us. (But it often feels like we were kindred spirits long before the attic incident.)
<On the day Erica's family moved to Utah after we'd graduated from high school, she and I posed by the infamous insulation in her attic.>


As the years rolled on during those growing up years and the phone rang during dinner (back before texts could buzz less conspicuously) my entire family would chime, "It must be Erica." I would giggle and jump up from the table to answer. 99% of the time they were right. "I'll call you back right after we finish eating," I'd say with a smile. Then we'd giggle back and forth for a few more minutes while my food grew cold.

Besides church, Erica and I went to the same school(s). We both remember having Ms. Esser in first grade and I'm sure she remembers the time when I-think-his-name-was-Matthew had stored ice cream in his lunch box after lunch and the melted mess was discovered just as the take-home buses were being loaded at the end of the day. I can't remember if Erica was on the paper towel committee with me during that classroom crises, but she probably was. Erica has always been a very hands-on helpful kind of gal.

A few years later, we both started band together. Erica played the clarinet and I played percussion...all the way through high school. During both our junior and senior years we were each named Illinois All-State musicians, which meant memorable trips to Peoria, IL in the middle of winter. One of those years our nose-hairs froze (for real) in sub-zero temps every time we walked outside from our hotel to the performance hall. Good times.

During our high school years, we attended an early-morning scripture study class at our church every day from 6:00-6:45 (except when I came late) and then we'd walk over to our high school across the street together and wait for our first classes to begin. Our lockers were both by the band room and therefore right across the hall from each other, which simplified our desire to share hourly news updates with one another. Erica was the one who decorated my locker when my varsity basketball team had to face the #1 girls' high school basketball team in the country who also happened to be in our conference...even though she knew I probably wouldn't play very much in that game.

I recently reminisced through old photographs and sure enough, Erica is in most of them...band pictures, jazz band pictures, marching band pictures, church pictures, seminary pictures, Girls' Camp pictures...the trip to Tennessee, the trip to Toronto, the trip to Boundary Waters, the trip to Yellowstone...

One day, while Erica and I were roomies at a band camp at U of I during our middle school years, 911 was summoned to our rescue. My dear friend had left her curling on high while it was sitting on her bed. Then she had tossed her pillow on top and left the room to go to a concert. Luckily, she was absent-minded enough that she'd forgotten her umbrella and upon returning to our smoke-filled room, she wisely alerted a staff member. When the smoke cleared and the fire trucks departed, we packed our bags and moved to a room that didn't have yellow caution tape across the doorway. I tried hard to convince Erica that her mom and dad wouldn't be too upset..and that some day we'd look back and laugh.
<ancient evidence of the curling iron incident...after we stopped crying and started smiling about it>

A few years later when we were tent mates at Girls' Camp, we anxiously awoke one day to participate in the beauty and peacefulness of a canoe ride at sunrise. Only the older girls who'd been canoeing dozens of times were invited on this serene excursion due to limited space. Erica and I rose a bit late, so we ran down to the dock. Along the way, I tripped and fell on a (big!) rock. My knee was badly gauged (I still have a scar). The deepness of the wound made my stomach feel uneasy. We decided to go out on the water anyways. But all I could think about was my painful, bloody knee and after rocking in a boat for just a few minutes, I said, "Erica, I think we better go back." Erica stood by my side while I puked in the grass and then walked me to the nurse without at all complaining that I'd ruined her peaceful morning with Mother Nature.

A couple of year later, Erica was again my canoe partner when we traversed miles and miles of Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota. We quickly realized that I should sit in back and she in front...we trusted my directional skills and her constant strength. On the last day of the trip, we paddled through a sudden, major rain storm (way before smart phones--or even cell phones) while in the middle of one of the largest lakes up there. White caps splashed over the side of our boat and wind pushed against our every stroke. We both felt weary but had no choice but to continue. At one point, above the sound of thunder and pounding rain, I heard an angel singing "I am a Child of God"...it was Erica. My voice tried to join hers, but her timely reminder that God is bigger than any of life's storms choked my throat as tears from my eyes joined the raindrops that were falling on my face. I began to pray with renewed faith in my heart and I felt a new energy surging through my paddle. I distinctly remember thanking God for Erica that day. It took us more than two hours to journey about 1 mile, but we made it safely to shore just as the storm calmed.

<We think no-bake cheesecakes should be part of every camping trip...as well as self-timed pictures of campers eating no-bake cheesecake.>

So many of my growing up memories involved Erica.

Erica joined Brownies in first grade because I was already in. (We both quit a few months later.)
Erica threw me the only surprise birthday party I've ever had. She also co-hosted my bridal shower.
Most of my TPing experiences included Erica as an accomplice.
I tagged along when Erica decided someone needed to be heart-attacked or ding-dong ditched with a plate of cookies.
We took prom pictures near her house.
And Erica patiently endured the hardships of being a third wheel when I decided to like a boy in high school. I don't think I'll ever stop owing her for that.


<We're smiling so big here because we were just about to meet (or just had--I don't remember which)  Donny Osmond back stage in his dressing room after watching Joseph in downtown Chicago. And my aunt had just bought us each one of the biggest desserts we'd ever seen.>

When I searched through my box of high school memories, I found a letter that looked like it was from Erica (because back then we used a pen and paper to share thoughts). Erica and I passed a gazillion notes back and forth to one another. But this particular letter was from Tiffany, Erica's older sister that I always admired. When I saw Erica and Tiffany interact, I always wished I could have an older sister or be an older sister to a fellow female. And even though Erica and I regularly annoyed Tiffany and her friends when we had joint sleep-overs, Tiffany still took the time to write me a lovely big sister kind of letter when she was headed off to college. That's how close Erica and I were. I was like family.

And then Erica and I went to Brigham Young University together. Because we were pretty much sisters by then and had helped each other mature so marvelously (*winkwink*), we had the wisdom and foresight to live near each other but not in the same apartment...since sisters don't always get along and we honestly might have never met another soul if we had had the perfect friend right at our fingertips already.
<Erica and I are on either side of the flag.>


Erica watched me fall in love for good and get married to my lovely sweetheart during our sophomore year of college and she gracefully accepted that our lives would take different paths. We both graduated from BYU a couple of years later...Erica single and ready to go out into the world of work and grad school...and me married with with my first baby in my arms excited to embark in full-time motherhood.
<at my wedding with Kirsten and Erica>
photograph by Hart Photography

When Brent and I lived in MN (where Erica was born) I was pregnant with my first daughter, Kirsten. Her due date was June 28. I thought for sure she would come a week early so she could share a birth date and a birthplace with Erica. It took some emotional regrouping to come to terms that Kirsti's week-late arrival on July 5th was still acceptable in place of my grand and meaningful planning.

When Erica and her husband were sealed in the Temple, Brent and I packed up our four kids and drove.

Erica lives in Texas now and I live in Illinois. Whenever we talk on the phone, we agree on why the Lord didn't settle us as neighbors in the same state after marrying twin brothers like we always dreamed of...we would giggle way too much, stay up way too late, and be way too absorbed in our own world of friendship that our children would go way too unattended and the people around us would stare with confusion watching grown women carry on like pre-teens.

We each have our own missions to accomplish in separate places now.

But back then was different...back then, the Lord placed us together all those years ago because we needed each other. We each needed a friend who shared the same faith, someone who could remind the other about which path to walk on even if it seemed hard. We each needed a friend who could finish the other's sentences, someone who cared about both the trivial things in life and the grand life-changing events. We each needed someone who would look past personality flaws and love completely, someone who personally sacrifices to be a good friend.

God knew I needed a sister, so He gave me Erica.

About a year ago, Erica and I shared a rare phone conversation. We picked up where we'd left off and in the midst of our conversation Erica's words answered a prayer I'd been uttering for several weeks. Once you have a friend like Erica, your life is forever changed and she will always inspire you to reach your potential. God speaks through best friends like Erica.

Now that I know about brains a bit, I'm even more grateful that I had someone who accepted me and loved me through my strengths and my weaknesses during such a critical time in my life. Not a day goes by that I don't think about you, wonder what you're up to, and feel grateful for how you've influenced my life for good, Erica. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! You will always be "The Wind Beneath My Wings."

Sometimes I look at Kirsti and Jennifer and just know that whatever life brings and wherever they end up, they will always cherish the bonds that they are sharing and building today.

So when Kirsti packed her suitcase (not a pillow case or backpack or duffle bag, but a SUITCASE!) full of treasures to bring along on her first sleep over at Jennifer's house a week ago, you can see why I glowed all over...My daughter has found her Erica. A treasure too precious to express with any more words.
I bet Kirsti and Jennifer enjoyed brushing their teeth together last week. It's something Erica and I always loved doing.


Happy Birthday, Dear Friend!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Week's Worth of Wonder: June 2, 2013

The "school year" is wrapping up around here. Public school is down to the last few days of mostly fun and celebration and Diggy and Kirsti finished most of their year-long math and grammar goals before Memorial Day. So this last week was the beginning of their summer break in many ways. While learning feels a little less structured and we're no longer cramming in lessons and concerts and practices of all kinds on a daily basis (which gives us more time to just breathe...ahhh), education and adventures still continue just the same:

 <An excellent use for the beautiful Japanese hand towels we now have, don't ya' think?>


 <Pet-sitting a guinea pig, hatching butterflies, and catching rolly-pollies fulfills all my inner desire for sharing my home with a creature. I wonder why my kids don't seem to feel the same way. They still keep asking for a dog.> 

 






 <The above picture is the beginnings of the 'log cabin' Diggy's been dreaming about for awhile now.>



<Back yard adventures (both the work kind and the play kind) are my favorite summer pastimes.>



 <I married a brave man. I learned to cut hair using his head shortly after we were married. Now, Kirsti's had her first "lesson".>

 <Look at her go...Training wheels off one day...
and the next day...TADA! Allison holds the record in our family for speediness in learning to ride a bike...and without a single tear (that's never happened before). I'm speechless.> 

  <"Sometimes I have a battle within my brain...I desperately want to join in...and I desperately don't want to join in." --MaryAnn> 

<After reading a chapter in Little House in the Big Woods, Mary insisted that she and Laura gather fruit and honey and jam to store for the winter. Thank goodness someone's all over that.>

<After 6 years of elementary school, Diggy sang his heart out (including a solo) in the 5th grade music show. Below he's blurry because he's busy 'working in the coal mine.' I think I've said it a thousand times, but Mrs. O does such an awesome job with all those kids. Her work with them is so inspiring! Diggy's really going to miss her next year in middle school. And see all those sparkly bow ties up above? My amazing mother made them. I feel pretty lucky to be surrounded and supported by so many fabulous people as Brent and I raise our kids. Congrats, Diggy, on finishing another milestone!>