Monday, March 30, 2009

Some Thoughts on Love and Raising Children

Some years back I read the book "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. Contrary to my expectations (what could a book with a pink cover adorned with a doily and flowery writing have to offer me?) I was quite impacted by the concepts in the book. The author talks about how there are five different ways in which people express and receive love and the importance of communicating love to a person in their primary love language, in the way in which they best give and receive it. With kids it can be hard to know what their primary love language is, and it is important to express love to them in all 5 love languages. Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means for me to love my girls in all 5 of these ways. Here are some of my thoughts. You don't have to read it all if it's too long for your busy day, but it is good for me to write it and think about it:)

Quality Time: As a stay-at-home mom it could be easy for me to just check this one off the list. "I spend all my time with my girls, I can't give them more time than I do, I'm good at this one!" But I think that quality time for Anna and Josie and Ruthie is time that I spend completely focused on them without other mommy distractions. Quality is especially time with each of them one-on-one without their sisters taking any of my attention away from the one that I am focusing on. That, my friends, is hard to do. This week there were a few days when Anna didn't take a nap. Sometimes that is hard for me because getting them all down for a nap at the same time is one of my highlights. I actually get some time for me! But the time that I was able to spend with Anna was precious time. We played Go Fish and a few other just mommy and Anna things and we both loved it. I find I have to be very intentional and creative and it takes a lot of energy for me to find the space in our lives to spend time with just one daughter at a time.

Acts of service is another way of expressing love that seems at first glance to be easy for me. I feel like I am serving my girls all the time. Serving them feels like all I do sometimes. But then I realized that for me there is a difference between acts of service that are just my daily responsibilities and acts of service that are extra ways that I put in extra effort to serve them. In our house there are things that are Anna and Josie's responsibility to do and things that are my responsibility to do. When I need them to do something that is their responsibility to do I tell them to do it, I don't ask them to do it. Anna is responsible for getting herself dressed every morning. When it is time for her to get dressed I tell her that. I don't just ask her to. There are things, like changing diapers, that are my responsibility to do as a mom. Sometimes when I am changing Ruthie's diaper I ask Anna or Josie if they want to do me a favor by bringing me the diaper. They usually love to help out in little ways like that. But it is always something I ask them to do and they have the option of saying no to the request because it is something that is completely and totally my responsibility to do. When they do choose to help me out with something that is my responsibility to take care of then they are serving me, then they are showing me love and I try and express to them that I really appreciate what they are doing. I want them to know how it feels to show love like that, how right they feel inside when they serve. When they obey me and take care of something that is their responsibility to take care of, that is great but it is not an act of service. When I make lunch for the girls I am doing something that is my responsibility to do, it is not an act of service in a going above and beyond the call of duty sort of way that they will receive as love. It is an expectation in our daily life although done with a lot of love on my part. When they are doing something that is their responsibility to do, like getting themselves dressed, and they ask me for help, I can choose to help them or I can choose not to. When I choose to help them in those duties that they know are their responsibility to do then that feels like I am truly serving them and I can see in how they respond to me doing those acts of service that they do feel loved and nurtured by that.

Physical touch is a way of expressing love that seems extremely important to young children, especially babies who don't have a separate identity from their mothers yet. In our household with three girls aged three and under there are constantly needs that need to be met from the moment the first one wakes up in the morning until the last one is finally asleep at night. Despite this pressure to do, do, do, I find that making sure I take the time to sit with each of the older girls each morning (one at a time) until they decide they have had enough snuggle time and climb out of my lap on their own goes a long way towards meeting their need for physical love each day. If I rush that time and try to move them on before they are ready to move on (breakfast has to be made, laundry needs to get started, I want a shower before Mitch walks out the door...) I find I pay for it later with little girls who are fussier and clingier than usual and just want to be up all day, their way of making sure their need to be close to me is met. I have also found that my baby carriers are invaluable. They are one item on the endless list of 'stuff you supposedly need to buy for your baby' that does actually seem important to me. They truly help me to be a better mother. I love my Ergo backpack for that reason, I can carry any one of our three girls on my back or front and still go about my day getting the endless list of chores done that makes our household function. It allows mothering and the domestic arts to go hand in hand. Wearing my girls (hopefully one at a time) allows my girls to feel loved even when I feel overwhelmed by all the stressors of life and don't feel like I can just stop and hold the one that needs to be held. Wearing Ruthie allows me to hold her and be responsive to her needs even as I keep moving to meet the needs of the older two and do all the tasks in my day that require two hands (laundry, chopping veggies for dinner, changing Josie's diaper...) Another thing that feels like it helps meet their need to be close to me is cosleeping. I love our big family bed! We have a queen size bed and a twin size bed right next to each other in our room that we all sleep on. Our room is basically one big bed:) It feels like this is what allows Mitch and me to continue parenting our girls in the way that we want to (responding to them when they need us, letting them be physically close to us when they need to...) even at night and still get the sleep we need. When they wake up at night they can roll over and feel our warm, sleeping bodies right next to them and they can go right back to sleep feeling safe, secure and loved even at night. (For tips on safe bedsharing check out: http://www.mothering.com/articles/new_baby/sleep/family-bed-safety.html )

Verbal affirmation, telling them I love them, is something it is easy for me to forget. Of course I love them! But I find that it is so easy for a day to slip by without telling them so. Coming from a 'Deeds, not Words' family where the emphasis was more on showing love means it is especially easy for me to forget how important it is for Anna and Josie and Ruthie to hear me say "I love you." But every time I tell them and see their responsive grin and how they cuddle up to me I am reminded that they do care. They do need to hear it. It does contribute to their feeling of well-being, to their physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Gifts are hard in our family because neither Mitch nor I are good gift givers. More 'stuff ' is not a very high value of ours nor do we have much money to spend on gifts or often have the time, hands and money it takes to make gifts. But it is another way in which our girls receive our love. So the little bit of time we do find to devote to making gifts is usually spent on making gifts for our girls, sorry to all of you who haven't received a gift from us in the last number of years:). I think that kids are natural gift givers. Our girls love to tell me who each of their creations are for and sometimes I am able to get those creations to their intended recipients.

It feels like all of these things are pieces of what contribute to our girls feeling a sense of rightness inside themselves, a sense of security, a foundation with which to approach the world, a confidence in themselves and joy in the world around them. I love the smiles on their faces when they feel these things inside themselves. I love seeing them share that love with each other and with others around them, modeling how they see us loving them. It is good for me to remind myself of what I am trying to do, of how I want to love them each day in the ways that Mitch and I have chosen to parent our girls.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Anna's Song

This is a little song that Anna wrote. I like it for its truth and simplicity.

video

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Happened to Spring?

We've got a foot of snow on the ground and it's still coming down hard. Here's a few pictures from our fun 'spring' day in the snow.
Ruthie was awake when we first came outside but then she promptly went to sleep and missed seeing the creek:



The girls are watching Mitch shovel the walk:

Here's a picture of the snow fort Mitch built. Quite a structure! It'll be around for a while since it's on the shady north side of our building. That's Anna and Marcelo playing inside of it:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spontaneous Music Making

I love it when Anna and Josie spontaneously make their own music. Two pencils can become rhythm instruments and they sing whatever comes out in the moment and let their little bodies move to the music they make without any of the social inhibitions that stop us older folk. They are full of kid creativity. I was able to capture this little moment on video before it was over. Enjoy!

video

You can tell by Josie's perkiness that she is feeling much better today. Still not 100% and she hasn't eaten much, but I did get her to drink quite a bit by having a tea party!





Anna didn't take a nap today, but then she fell asleep on the couch listening to a tape of Beatrice Potter stories at 5 pm. (Why do they call it tape, Mommy?)

At dinner Josie insisted we put Pooh Bear inside her shirt on her back because she wanted to carry him that way and keep him close to her. Interesting that just lately I have started carrying Ruthie on my back in the backpack, too, instead of just in front. Monkey see, monkey do. How much of what we learn in life is actually formally taught to us and how much is picked up by watching the people around us? Tonight as I was in putting Josie to sleep we could hear Ruthie start crying out in the living room. Josie told me "Ruthie wants Mommy, I think you need to go get her, Mommy. She wants to lie right here with us, too." So I did, and two girls fell asleep at the same time, content with their mommy. Anna and Josie are learning so much about mothering right now as they watch me mother little Ruthie (and them). They are sensitive to their sister's cries and understand her nonverbal cues about what she wants and needs and mimic those same things in their play. They make my heart happy:)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Afternoon's Activities

This day was not off to a good start when I was awakened at 2 in the morning by Josie puking all over me, a scenario which was repeated every 30 minutes for the next 8 hours. Poor girl. You feel so bad when your little ones are sick. They look at you with their sad, tired eyes and ask you to make it better and you want to but you can't, and they don't understand why you can't. But then Josie was finally able to get to sleep for a while and when she woke up she was much perkier and wasn't losing all the water she was trying to drink. By the afternoon it felt like there was a little more order and activity to our day. We were able to plant some seeds in seed flats (which, if you haven't figured us out yet, means we were engaged in one of our favorite activities!). Here Anna and Mitch are planting the lupine seeds that she chose at the store in a seed flat made from an egg carton:


Anna and Josie had fun painting with watercolors:

And then by dinner time all Josie's energy from her nap was gone and she just wanted to be held, along with Ruthie who was taking a nap on my back.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Family Garden

Anybody who knows me (Mitch) very well would not be suprised that my first posting on this blog (with the exception of my description of my career as a children's silly song writer) would be about gardening.

I love gardening. It is very much a spiritual act for me. It combines worship, art, a little science, some good physical exercise and a lot of fascination. I think what I love about it most is the opportunity to work together with nature. I love learning about how nature operates--its common patterns and structures--and then figuring how to work within that using nature's patterns as a model. For me gardening is not an attempt to overcome nature in order to grow what I want. Rather it is tending to the living soil and enhancing it in a way that produces healthy results. Of course, if you are wanting to have a productive vegetable garden, it takes a fair amount of 'enhancing.' A lovely crop of tomatoes does not just appear in some spot you pick in the soil. Still, there is a way to go about it that treats nature as a teacher more than as an adversary. Maybe I love this aspect of gardening so much because I feel like it takes me back to part of the original mandate given to mankind by our Creator--to be stewards of the earth (some people might have translation issues with that, but that is a different matter). This is where the spiritual aspect and the worship come in. Aside from reasons to worship over the shear wonder of beautiful, nutritious food forming out of a tiny seed in a mass of minerals and decaying plant matter, there is also the sense in which gardening gives us a bit of a glimpse of the good earth as God designed it and a foretaste of what is to come. Wendell Berry, who writes far more eloquently than myself on these matters, wrote, "To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration." I hope for our family's gardening to be a small act of the former.

There are many other things I love about gardening: the look, smell and feel of healthy, living soil in your hands, the cycle of the seasons that defines our gardening activities, the great satisfaction of serving healthy food to our family that we harvested hours or minutes before and tended with our own sweat, the beauty of a diverse mini-ecosystem of plants, insects, animals and microorganisms, the opportunity to always learn more, the mystery of it all. I could go on and on. Today I got to enjoy one of my other favorite parts of gardening--working in the garden as a family. We have two garden areas. One is a small onion patch and herb garden with salad greens mixed in just outside our front door. The other is our main garden, about 200 sq. ft. in the family housing community garden. With spring break just starting, today was the first chance to really work in the main garden. When it was nap time for Katie and the girls, I headed out to work, and later Katie brought Anna, Josie and Ruthie out. Katie and I have always hoped that gardening would be a delightful actvitiy for our whole family, that our children would develop a wonder and fascination in it as well. Today we got to see that happen.

-Ready to work in the garden

-Planting arugula seeds that we grew from last year's crop.
-After helping me plant shallots and carrots and investigating numerous creatures they found in the soil, Anna and Josie moved to playing in the water. The water to the spigot is not turned out yet, so Katie hauled water over in buckets in our wagon. Anna and Josie found this pot to be an acceptable wading pool and got soaked, loving every minute.
-Planting beets with Ruthie.
Tonight as the girls were going to sleep, I was lying next to Anna and asked her if she had a good day. She sat up with an excited smile and said, "I liked working in the garden. That's my favorite thing." We went on to discuss all the parts she enjoyed. She had nearly been asleep, and it took a while to get her to lay down and settle down again, but it was well worth it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Amazement

Sometimes in the midst of the stress of having three young kiddos, a husband going to school full time and my own emotions taking me through a rollercoaster ride each day it is good to remind myself of all the amazing things in my life. To share a few (in no particular order):
-Spring! The cycle of the seasons never ceases to amaze me. Winter is officially over and our days seem full of the warmth of sunshine and flowers starting to bloom!



-It is amazing to me that little Ruthie stays asleep after I put her to bed at night and doesn't wake up 5 minutes later.
-There is plenty of money in our bank account!

-The worm that Josie found:


-Our friend's new baby girl, Irelyn
-Ruthie's constant smile, despite the stress and chaos around her

-Grace
-Onions coming up in the garden:



Friday, March 20, 2009

Fingerpainting Fun

Here's a few pictures from our day yesterday:









Here's Anna enjoying the feel of gooey fingerpaint on her hands making a three year old creation.


















Here she is again joined by Josie and our neighbor, Sophie June.














Then the sidewalk chalk got pulled out. I'm not sure what was more covered in chalk by the end, the girls or the sidewalk.












This is my favorite, Josie helping me water the garden. We've got onions, spinach, lettuce, chard and kale all coming up on the warm south side of our building along with our herbs that made it through the winter.











What is this? Was this the most comfortable position for a nap for Anna? I guess she must have thought so since she slept the whole time like that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hanging the Laundry


Okay, so I'll admit I'm a little weird, but I actually like hanging the laundry out to dry. As long as the girls are content playing I find it very peaceful, a good activity for thinking while my hands are occupied in a very useful way, meditative. If the girls are not content, then that's a different story altogether. But just look at this, isn't that attractive?! Hanging clothes look so colorful and homey and fresh and clean and satisfying and healthy! Healthy? Don't ask me about that last adjective, but for some reason clothes hanging on the line do look healthy to me. Maybe part of it is that in order to hang clothes on the line you have to live a life that is intentionally slow enough to make space for an activity like that. In a culture that bases your value as a person almost entirely on doing and on what you can accomplish, I choose to live a life that takes time to just be, to enjoy the domestic art of clothes hanging on the line, a life that makes space for my daughters to play outside and be kids for as long as possible.



And what were Anna and Josie and Ruthie contentedly doing while I was hanging the laundry? Well, Ruthie was taking a nap, of course. But Anna and Josie were playing all over the Jungle-Gym that is out by the clothes line. ("Hashim would love that! It's made up entirely of two-force elements!"-mitch) Anna is my 'summer-time' girl who wants to wear her summer tank top dress and be barefoot even on a blustery chilly day like today. She says she's not cold, that silly-kiddo! But I think it's more that she enjoys the energy of feeling her body repel the cold by being in constant crazy motion. That's my Anna for you!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bread

I've had a hard time making good bread lately (read: I have made a number of batches of poorly risen barely edible bread ). What mom with three little ones has the time it takes to knead bread well? Hands covered in dough for an hour, a whole hour of uninterrupted time... It just doesn't happen, at least not in this house. So my bread has not been well kneaded, or the kneading process has taken me 2 hours because of all the interruptions, or the bread doesn't get loafed when it is ready because I am busy with the needs of my little ones. Whatever the reason, it seems that making bread and mothering were having a hard time fitting together in this house. But I love making bread! I love the physical activity of kneading it, I love the smell of it rising and baking, I love the fresh taste of it hot out of the oven, I love knowing all the ingredients that are in my bread and where they come from, and I love those ingredients being few in number. It all feels healthy and full of life to me. It is what I want my girls to be able to participate in as a part of their week. It is something I want them to know how to do and love doing. It is what I want them to be able to eat. But mothering requires the things I do to be short in duration, interruptable, not time sensitive, and to have hands ready to meet the needs of my daughters.

And then I remembered the stretch and fold method of making bread! It is perfect (for me)! You can take almost any bread recipe that requires kneading and by utilizing the stretch and fold method you take out the need to knead. It is a method of making bread where you mix the ingredients, let the dough sit for 45 min., stretch it out into a large, flat rectangle and then fold it into thirds in both directions, let it sit 45 more minutes and repeat the stretch and fold 2 more times before forming it into a loaf and putting it into the pans for the final rise. Viola! Bread that has a texture even better than what most people get by kneading it. For a more in depth lesson including videos check out http://www.sourdoughhome.com/ under "tips and techniques". For a stay-at-home mom it's perfect! It is a longer process, but time at home is what I do have. It is interruptable, not time sensitive, and only requires 5 min. of me every now and then. I wish you could be here right now to smell what our house smells like with fresh bread just coming out of the oven. I would cut you off a huge hunk of crusty warm sourdough bread and you could enjoy it with me.



I have had some requests for my bread recipe so here it is:

  • 2 c. starter
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 T melted butter or oil
  • 4 T honey or sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. water or milk (it rises better if you warm the milk a bit)
  • 4 1/2 c. flour (whole wheat or white)

That is my basic recipe. It makes two loaves. Usually I use oil, water, honey and whole wheat flour, but it is yummier the other way around. The stretch and fold method works better with at least some white flour, but 100% whole wheat works as well, you just have to do a few more stretches and folds (not just the three). I mix all the ingredients, knead it until it passes the windowpane test (a golf ball size piece can be stretched out into a square 'windowpane' that you can see light through without it tearing or getting holes in it). Cover and let it rise until doubled, punch it down, form it into loaves and place in greased bread pans or baking stone, let rise again until doubled, bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or so, remove from pans and let bake another 5 minutes until crust is well browned. For the stretch and fold-no knead method check out the above website. If you're doing 100% whole wheat it usually takes me 5 stretches and folds before it will pass the windowpane test. This is our 'everyday' bread. It uses a sourdough starter to rise the bread as opposed to dried yeast, but does not have a sour flavor like a San Francisco sourdough unless you let it rise too long. (We have a recipe for San Francisco sourdough as well, or see the above website.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Let's Party!

Wow, what a weekend we have had. Friday night and all day Saturday is our Sabbath, our family day, the day that we don't do the things we normally consider to be our work. Mitch doesn't do any school work, I let the dishes pile up (although we went into the sabbath with a pile of dirty dishes:), don't tell!) and we do the things that we find restful and enjoyable as a family. Sometimes what we find enjoyable is not always restful and we end our Sabbath more tired than we went into it, but at least we usually come out the other end feeling more connected as a family again and feeling like we got a break from the normal stressers of our daily life.
The girls got a new Djembe drum yesterday so our Friday evening was spent making music and dancing. The Djembe is what they wanted to get with the money that various people that love them had given them for Christmas and birthdays recently. They wanted this particular one because you can wear it around your neck and play while you dance or march. I can't imagine why my little girls would want a drum that they can dance with!? Mitch even pulled out his guitar last night! It has been good to see Mitch feeling not as exhausted and overwhelmed at this point in his semester as he has in every other semester. That has been one of our biggest blessing lately. Enjoy this little video from our evening!


video

Anna playing the Djembe:



After such a fun evening we decided to continue the fun and ended up going to the zoo today. It was enjoyable by all (I think Ruthie enjoyed her nap). It was Josie's first time to the zoo since she was old enough not to be sleeping through it all and I think the immensity of some of the animals was a new thing for her creative mind. Anna would have stayed all day if she didn't have a little sister who was ready for a nap by 1 pm.









What post would be complete without something about little Ruthie? Here's a little video of her laughing at her crazy mama. I love how she laughs with her whole body and how she laughs in anticipation of what is coming.



video


Here's a fun picture of Anna cutting mushrooms helping me make dinner the other night. She was so proud!





This is the end of our Sabbath, Daddy and Anna crashed out on the couch:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Mother's Musings


Some days mothering seems like the most intimidating of occupations, if you can even call it an occupation. A calling, a privilege, a fact of life and nature, a way of being... Today I looked at Anna and Josie and was struck by the weight and responsibility of raising them to reach their full potential as healthy individuals. I was wearing a bandana this morning, and of course they wanted to too. They mimick everything I do. They carry their dolls around in slings and moby wraps of their own making, they nurse their babies, they lay them down to sleep and lay with them, they cook and garden and take out their pretend compost... Their whole day is spent watching what I do, learning, taking it all in. What an incredible gift and responsibility. What a lot to live up to. The blessing of raising them is one of my greatest joys. But on the days that I am down or overwhelmed I feel sorry for them that they have to put up with me and all my quirks and I wonder what scars or disfunctions they will carry into adulthood with them. I guess that is part of being human. Part of being a part of a family. I just have to look at the smiles on their faces and the peacefulness of Ruthie's face as she sleeps in the sling and I find some reassurance in the pure joy of just getting to be with them today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

For Jack and Caroline

video
The dialogue, if it's hard to understand, is "Thank you for the bear puzzle! Thank you for the playdough! And we're coming in our boxes to visit you!" They loved the package you sent and how you colored it all. Did you notice how they colored their boxes, just like you did?



Here they are playing with the puzzle you sent



And here they are playing in the box again. They wanted me to tape the boxes shut so they could mail themselves to your house and come and visit you!



Here's Boulder weather for you. Barefoot playing in the sun yesterday, coats and cozy mittens today. 19 degrees out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Edadaddy

"I'm not having Edamame for my snack, Mommy. This is Edadaddy. I'm eating Edadaddy and it's salty, salty, salty!"-Josie. Gotta love the little girl!
As I was putting her to bed tonight she started talking about her scrape on her knee. "Jesus is not healing my body, Mommy. He's just healing my leg." I asked her if she wanted to pray about God healing her knee. "Yeah, I want to pray about that." I told her she could say 'God, please heal my owie and make it all better.' So Josie said "God, Thank you for my owie and thank you for my bandaides." Out of the mouth of babes...

Here's Ruthie's day:




First this. Sweet sister time.



And then this.





And finally, "Mommy, Wuffie's awake!"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Josie's Birthday Party


Look who just turned two! My favorite two year old in the world, Josie Joy Clement! All right, I'll admit I'm slightly predjudiced, but I plan to stay that way. Her birthday was last Friday, March 6th. We had a dance party with a few of her little friends and their jammin' parents. What do Anna and Josie like to do? They love to dance! I think they could dance all day! They didn't stop as long as we kept the music rolling! Daddy'O (as they love to call him) made a great DJ and dance partner. You can't beat dancing to Huckleberry Flint! Josie had a great time, which was the ultimate point, in my opinion.
video
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Anna decided to dance the whole time with a balloon in her mouth. She kept telling us to look at how much bigger her balloon was because she was blowing it up. Their absolute favorite song to dance to right now is Aiken Drum (sorry Huckleberry Flint, you're a close second). Since the songs goes: "and he played upon a ladle, a ladle, a ladle, and he played upon a ladle and his name was Aiken Drum" they always find a ladle and play it through the whole song.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOSIE!!!

A Plant Between Your Toes?

video

We were camping last summer in northern Colorado and were spending some time along a creek digging our toes into the mud. I made a comment to Anna along the lines of, "What happens if a plant grows in the dirt between your toes?" and thus began my career as silly song writer for kids (so far limited to this moment of inspiration). By the time we had returned to the car this song had been born. Katie and my mom have been trying for a while to get me to post a video of it. I have to apologize that the video does not quite display the enthusiasm the song deserves (the song is typically performed with much more exuberance in our household), but it is all we have for now.
--Mitch

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dirt Bath


Anna and Josie decided that today was the perfect day for a dirt bath. Actually, they were making salad and soup and Anna was harvesting vegetables from her garden to put into her 'fresh salad'. At the end of their playtime you couldn't tell what color Anna's pants were supposed to be. Ruthie had fun watching her big sisters and chewing on her rattle. She's getting better at holding onto things these days and actually reaches for things she sees. The warm, sunny, south side of our building is the best for spring-time fun.