Thursday, June 28, 2012

Latham Family Adventures: Dancing in the Moonlight

     There is something magical about night time when you live in the country. I realized this when our family moved a few miles outside of town. The nights weren’t the same I knew growing up in the suburbs of a big city. The darkness was different. It was velvety, black, country darkness. The sky was dotted with a million stars. The bright moon made shadowy patterns on the ground.
     The Little Lathams were like all children in that they loved to be outside after dark. This was allowed most often when family and friends gathered. The adults enjoyed the visit so much they ignored the clock. Hiding and chasing games normally played during the day had an increased element of fun in the dark. 
    When the children had tired themselves out with running games, someone would suggest dancing in the moonlight. It was my job to provide music. The children gathered and begin to dance. They swirled and twirled. They joined hands and locked elbows. Sometimes they choreographed medieval looking line dances to do over and over again. This activity was usually limited to the girls, but I do remember boys occasionally joining in the fun. They would spin until they fell laughing in the grass collecting chigger bites.
      I like to recall one fall night in particular. It was a night our family attended an annual harvest party with friends. The kids all wore costumes. There was a common theme among the girls that year. Fairies, princesses and fancy ladies were in high attendance.
      Toward the end of the night, things began to wind down. Little ones were showing signs of weariness. I realized we had forgotten our tradition of dancing in the moonlight. As I stood on the porch of the house, I saw several of the girls making their way down a gentle hill. They were in groups of two or three walking towards the bon fire. I decided to turn on the music, hoping to get their attention. When the sound reached their ears, not one of them looked back to see where the music had originated. They didn’t even look at one another. They all just lifted their arms and began dancing.
     Suddenly, a group of tired looking little girls was transformed. They became naiads, dryads, and pixies. The hillside was covered with floating, twirling figures. The fire glowed behind them making their costumes shimmer.
    I looked around to see if anyone else was watching. I was alone. I was the only witness to this beautiful sight. A little Vivaldi, a little gossamer, and little girls dancing in the moonlight…I have no doubt there is something magical about night time in the country!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Importance of Being Quiet

I encouraged my children to spend some quiet time each day when they were young. Well, that’s not exactly true…I required them to spend quiet time every day. It was on the to-do list that had to be completed before they were free to play. It was mandatory. With five kids, one may think I just needed some peace in order to keep my sanity. That was a nice benefit, but I actually have a strong belief that kids need to practice being quiet! And I don’t mean using ear phones to listen to music or play video games so no one else will be bothered. I mean real, true silence. 
When the weather was nice, I sent all the kids outside. Each one found a private spot to be alone in the quiet. Sometimes they took journals or sketch pads and climbed into the branches of a tree or settled in a shady spot next to the shed. It really didn’t matter as long as the children were cut off from the craziness of the world, for just a bit.  I wanted them to have the chance to hear their own thoughts and form their own ideas, and to pray. It’s really hard to pray in a high tech world. I set a timer then called them in when the buzzer sounded. They always seemed happy and energized upon returning. I never asked what they thought about or wrote about in their journals. I knew it was time well-spent.
As parents, we do our best to plant seeds in our young children. Then we pray the seeds take root. As my children grow into young ladies and men, I hope this is one of my plantings that truly stays with them. I hope they always remember the importance of being quiet.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Of Lego Blocks and Charles Dickens

Kids are amazing, right? I think we all know this as parents. Sometimes, in the daily grind of life, we forget just how amazing they are. Kids remember things. Many, many things. They absorb ideas and information without even trying. This is why I believe that while our children are young, it is the job of parents to surround them with the best things possible. As their minds develop, we must feed them on positive, inspiring experiences.
When my children were young, I read to them each night before bed. And sometimes after breakfast. Now and then, we took a little afternoon reading break…okay, so we read a lot! I chose books which were interesting and well-written. Many times, the reading level far surpassed a book they could read on their own.  As they listened to the book read aloud, they were able to absorb the meaning and nuances of some wonderful stories.
This idea was confirmed for me during the reading of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. The youngest of the children, boys aged four and five years, would sit quietly building with Lego Blocks while I read aloud.  The older three children were intensely engaged in the story. The little boys seemed to be concentrating on their building efforts. I soon realized that just being in the room while I read was great for the younger guys. They were being exposed to some new vocabulary even if they didn’t follow the intricacies of the story. They were listening and learning.
 Even at that young age, they laughed with the rest of us at the comical characters. They were especially entertained by Aunt Betsy’s harsh ways. One of their favorite lines of Aunt Betsy directed to Miss Murdstone made them roll on the floor with laughter.
                       "Let me see you ride a donkey over my green again, and as
                         sure as you have a head upon your shoulders, I'll knock your
                         bonnet off, and tread upon it!" 
 I’m pretty sure a Dickensian sense of humor was developed in each of them that still exists today. And the Lego towers weren’t so bad either!