Tuesday, November 20, 2012

You Never Know When They're Listening

As a young adult, I’d been around kids a lot. I had worked as a nanny and in preschools, daycares, and camp programs. Then I had my first child, a girl. And she was as cute as a button! However, I soon found out that bringing home my own little person to care for was different from anything I had experienced. Plus, this child was nothing like me. She didn’t like to sleep…my favorite thing. She didn’t like to eat… also my favorite thing. And she didn’t like to ride in the car…I never screamed my head off during an entire two hour drive! The best way to describe her behavior is to say that she seemed to be really, really annoyed by the fact that she was a baby. (Now, when my second child was born, he spent a lot of time sleeping and rolling around playing with his toes. He enjoyed being a baby!)

Naptime and bedtime were daily battles with my daughter. I spent a long time reading, rocking, singing, standing on my head – whatever it took – to get her to close her eyes. When I was near exhaustion, she would finally drift off for her usual 30 minute nap! I developed the habit of bending over her when I was positive she was asleep and whispering very softly in her ear, “Mommy loves you so much.” I’m not sure if this was to remind her or me of my love after the prolonged agony of night-night time. Either way, I did love her so much at that quiet moment and wanted to tell her. It was a ritual that I continued throughout the years with my other four children.
One day I eavesdropped on that two year old as she played with her doll. I watched as she fed the baby and tickled and rocked her.  Then, when my daughter decided it was nap time, she put the doll down on a blanket. As I continued to watch, I saw an amazing thing. My daughter leaned over that baby doll and whispered in her ear, “Mommy loves you so much”! I couldn’t believe it! She was too young and too ornery to feign sleep when I was whispering those words in her ear! So, how did she know?  I can only think that she must have heard me even as she slept.

I look back at all those child-raising years and remember the talks, explanations, and lectures I handed out to my five children. I find myself wondering if they heard any of it. Did they listen? Did they understand? You know, mothers worry about these things.

Then I recall that little two year old girl whispering to her dolly and I think perhaps they did hear.  And perhaps they were listening when I said  the most important words of all.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Latham Family Adventures: Back to the Keep!

     One autumn at the Latham place, we were visited by some enormous logging trucks.  The trucks went in and out of our woods, taking away some of the old trees. When the work was done, there were huge gaping tire tracks left in the soft ground. Eyesore, you ask? Not for the Little Lathams!

     It just so happened, that the children and I had been reading together a lot that fall.  Our favorite topic was the Middle Ages. We read every book on medieval knights, castles, and weapons that we could find. The Little Lathams took one look at the sloppy mess in our front yard and knew just what to do. They donned helmets and armor (as well as they could fashion from cardboard and old costumes) and headed outside.

     Once outside our door, the hands of time turned back to the year 1200 A.D.  The ground was lumpy and the trenches filled with water from a fall rain. A game began to take shape.  

     I saw the knights gather near the castle wall. Perhaps they were discussing battle strategies. The knights then ventured outside the castle walls to engage the approaching (and apparently invisible) enemy. The skirmish raged a short while, then things began to look bad for our noble warriors. The leader decided it was time for retreat. “Back to the Keep!” he would shout at the top of his lungs!

     At the sound of the cry, I turned to look out of the window and saw an amazing sight.  A mad scramble took place as the knights charged back toward the castle. They clambered up the mounds of earth and catapulted themselves over the moat. After much splashing and sloshing, our champions were all safe inside the keep. They would rest a bit, brag about their exploits and head out to fight again.

     The Little Latham knights were as brave as any we had read about in our books. And they never gave up defending the castle – for at least 50 battles they fought that day. Each one ended with the serious command “Back to the Keep!”…followed by cheers and laughter!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: The Princess and the White Bear King

 The Princess and the White Bear King by Tanya Robyn Batt
The Princess and the White Bear King


My family loves folk tales and books with amazing illustrations. The Princess and the White Bear King is both of these things! Beautifully written by Tanya Robyn Batt, the story includes elements from three different European folk tales woven into a simple, but captivating story. The language used by the author is fitting for such a timeless tale and the illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli are gorgeous!

     The heroine in this story makes a mistake (as we all do, right?) and when she realizes what she’s done, she goes about setting things right. Her perseverance and ingenuity pay off with a very happy ending. This is a great read aloud book that is requested over and over again at my house.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Latham Family Adventures: All Things Baseball

     When the oldest Latham boy turned ten years old, he joined a little league baseball team. Up to that point, his baseball training wasn’t very formal. He and his siblings were introduced to the game by their dad. Being a ball player and avid fan of the game, Dad wanted them to learn all about it. He taught them the basic skills needed to hit the ball, catch, and throw. That was the beginning of many sessions of batting practice and fielding grounders.
     All the Little Lathams loved the time spent playing ball with Dad, but some of them (the boys in particular) took the game one step further. As long as they had a ball and something that resembled a bat, they were ready to play. And they were good at incorporating baseball into other games they played on a daily basis!
     For example, jumping on the trampoline. It was no longer enough to bounce and flip around. They created a game that involved someone on the ground throwing pop flies to the person on the tramp. The fielder was required to make the fanciest catch possible. This hopefully involved nabbing the ball in mid-flight, landing with a roll of some kind and not breaking any bones.
      Another activity turned baseball-ish was a summertime favorite. The slip-n-slide! A long sheet of plastic was placed in the grass. Next, a garden hose poured a stream of water from one end. This made a wonderfully sloppy base path. Three players were required to play this game. Luckily, we had three Little Latham guys. Player One pretended to catch a pop fly. Player Two tagged up at third and ran toward home on the sip-n-slide.  And Player Three was the catcher. This last fellow tried to tag the runner after receiving a blistering throw from Player One. Of course, the runner slid the entire length of the plastic sheet, face first through the water. And of course, there was always some kind amazing tag out at the plate!
     They had a blast and played for hours keeping scores and statistics. Now I watch them play ball in high school and college. Judging from the bumps and bruises they bring home, I’d say those “fancy catches” were much easier back when they were Little Lathams playing on their trampoline!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Can Kids Still Create?

A common theme is emerging in my blog entries. I’m worried about our kids. Specifically, I’m worried about how America's kids will grow up in a healthy manner amidst all the technology.
Why does technology exist? To make tasks easier, faster, and more efficient. To provide short cuts in our work so we are free to engage in leisure activities involving yet more technology??
Where, in this world of quick answers, immediate communication, and constant mental stimulation does the creative process live? Will we have a society full of people who don’t know the joy of creating? In generations past, creativity was a necessary part of life. Folks sewed, built, cooked, made music. And what about the crafting of a good old-fashioned letter? I wonder if our kids today are able to slow down long enough to put their thoughts together. Then, with proper grammar and without the help of Wikipedia, can they put pen to paper and create something they are proud of?
Like I said, I’m worried.
I’m thinking of my future grandchildren. The image in my mind doesn't involve little golden haired cherubs staring intently at computer screens. (I’ve seen two year olds navigate the buttons and icons on an iPad with scary proficiency!) Rather, I hope to see my progeny in environments which allow them to think and create. In art rooms, workshops, kitchens, gardens. The possibilities are endless. The creative process can thrive alongside all the technology. After all, our kids must live in a high tech world and will surely benefit from the many advances. The challenge for parents is to make time and provide materials and opportunities for kids to create.
I know the joy of creating something. It is the feeling I wish for all of our children. It is the feeling of using what God put inside each of us: patience, energy, ideas, and love. The finished product does not have to be amazing, but I guarantee the process will be.