Monday, March 26, 2012

Evidence of a Toddler's Day

I remember my husband asking if it was time for our two year old to take more responsibility cleaning up her toys. Of course I knew it was time. She was actually pretty good at following directions. And she understood the whole idea of picking up after oneself. So, with a newborn to care for, why wasn’t I embracing the idea and taking advantage of my daughter’s compliant nature? I’ll tell you why.

It had to do with nighttime. Once the children were asleep, the world slowed down. I felt the tension go out of my shoulders. I found myself smiling as I remembered something cute my daughter said.  I chatted with my husband, giving him the highlights of my day. We quietly moved through the house cleaning up before we settled down for some grown-up time.

In the living room, we came across a family of stuffed bears where my daughter had been playing. She sang her first original song to the family of bears that day, entitled One by Heart. There was a basket, filled with a collection of play food she had chosen at the pretend grocery store. And in a corner of the room, we came across a beautiful, symmetrical design made of beaded necklaces and gaudy clip-on earrings. My daughter had neatly arranged the pieces on an over sized book. It looked like a framed piece of art. I didn’t even catch the little sculptor at work on that. As I put the things away I felt as if I were erasing the evidence of my daughter’s day. One that had passed so quickly.
 I cherished that nighttime ritual. Somehow, when telling my husband about our day, I forgot how messy, loud, and exhausting some parts had been. Instead, I focused on the happy evidence strewn about the living room as I once more vowed “Tomorrow, she starts cleaning up her own toys.” Well…maybe.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Latham Family Adventures: The Big Pit

      Maintaining property in town requires that one follow certain rules pertaining to the appearance of the home and lawn. When the Latham family moved to 20 acres of cow field in the middle of nowhere, we celebrated the absence of such rules.
    Case in point: the children informed me one day that they were planning to dig outside in the yard. We had no manicured lawn to worry about, and no power lines or plumbing buried behind the house. So, my only request was that they move a little distance from the back door so we could still go in and out. They chose a spot on the back side of a gentle rise about twenty feet from the door. I peeked through the window to see them discussing which two would take the first shift digging as we only had two decent shovels. They got busy, and I turned back to my housework.
     Each time I walked by the window that afternoon I glanced out and was astonished to find the children persevering with this project. Sweaty and dirty, some were digging, others moving buckets of dirt and all staring down at the ground, a point I couldn’t see from the house. The ridge blocked my view, but I was fairly certain the tops of their heads were sinking lower. That hole was getting deep.   
   The digging of such a hole, or Big Pit, as it came to be named, may not seem like an adventure. The pit itself played a role in several other adventures that I’ll not mention now, but the digging…yes, the digging was quite something. Unlike some forms of work (i.e. housework) in which it seems progress is never made, a hole can be measured. This is what kept the kids excited, and digging for several weeks. When friends came over, the little Lathams would run to meet them asking if they wanted to help dig the Big Pit. They always did. Especially the friends who lived in town.
     It was a happy day when the children realized that The Big Pit was deep enough and wide enough to hold two of them. They could stand inside and not be seen at all from ground level. The Big Pit was suddenly a hobbit house, a tiger trap, a beggar’s cave…who knows? The digging was done for now, Let the games begin!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune

 Lad: A Dog
I like dogs well enough, but I've never considered myself to be a dog person. Nor have I had a love for dog stories, as a child or an adult. That is, until I started reading the books of Albert Payson Terhune aloud to my children. Terhune's stories are of noble characters, exciting adventures, loyalty, joy, and some tragedy. And all of the heroes are the four legged kind! Terhune takes the adage "Write what you know" to heart, for his stories are all based upon his personal experiences with his dogs. Published in 1919,  Lad: A Dog is the first of several books featuring his different pets.

Expect kids to glean some new vocabulary from reading the Lad books. It's a happy side-effect. Terhune’s books are chock full of interesting and unique word choices.

I first read these books to my kids when they were elementary age and we all loved them. Then a few years ago, when they were teens, our power was knocked out for days by a huge ice storm. I pulled out our old copy of Lad: A Dog and we read it again. It was even better by candlelight!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Latham Family Adventures: The Hammock Circle

     It all started one fall morning in the kitchen with the sweet, inquiring face of one little Latham smiling up at me. His request was simple enough. He needed a bed sheet. One he could use outside. I pointed to the linen closet and told him to choose an old one. He ran out with the sheet and I continued washing dishes thinking the kids must be tent-building outside. Ten minutes later, another little Latham shot through the door asking if he too might have an old sheet. Luckily, I hoarded such things, always wanting to be prepared for the next sewing or craft project. Number two ran out, passing the other three in the doorway who had come with similar requests. It seemed strange that they needed so many sheets to build a tent, but I knew better than to ask questions. I granted their request… but started to worry about my sheets.
     After finishing the kitchen clean-up some twenty minutes later, I decided it was time to see what fun the little Lathams were having. I walked outside, glad for a reason to sample the day.  Just beyond the perimeter of our back yard was a persimmon grove. The persimmon trees were skinny, tall, and spaced closely together. I was zigzagging through these trees, when my ears caught the sound of laughter. I finally spotted the five children and stopped a few yards away to observe what was happening.
      I saw that the sheets were hung as hammocks, about four feet from the ground, one for each child. The trees provided posts and the hammocks were placed end to end to form a circle. At first I thought the kids were just enjoying the breezy day, swinging and talking together. Then I realized they were playing some sort of game, moving from hammock to hammock. Apparently, there was some penalty for touching the ground because they did whatever was needed to stay in the hammocks. The bigger Lathams sometimes helped the little ones make it across the gap to the next hammock. And some were even diving, somersaulting into the safety of the next sheet. I decided not to disturb the game, no longer concerned with rescuing my sheets. The group seemed cozy and happy playing and talking together.

      I allowed them to leave the hammocks up for months. The game grew and changed and the sheets became permanently knotted on the trees…but who cares about a bunch of old sheets anyway?