Monday, November 21, 2011

Let's Play Superheroes

So tonight we turned the TV off and let our brains wander into the world of Let's Pretend.  At the end of the night Ellie recapped all the fun with a quick summary, "We had fun playing Doctor and Baby and Superheroes. It was so fun!"

As the grown-ups were winding down I suggested, "Mason maybe we could draw or do something else."  I had just about hit my limit of playing "Baby".

From this little suggestion Mason lit up, "Yeah, let's play superheroes.  First we have to draw our designs for our superheroes and then we can play."

Ellie and I joined him on drawing and he created 3 to our 1 picture each. The following characters were born.
Super Stretch By Mason

Super Good Hero By Mommy, Face and Name By Mason

Ellie Superhero By Ellie

Weather Man By Mason

Force Field Guy By Mason
Uncle Chris needed a bit of coaxing, but he got into the spirit of things with a bit of persuasion from his nephew.  "Just doodle a guy and then we can play superheroes with our guys," Mason said handing him doodling supplies. "Who is that guy? Crazy Hair Guy?" No, it's "Hammer Hand!"

Hammer Hand By Uncle Chris
As Daddy was just beginning to convince the wee ones it was time to brush teeth and get ready for bed I heard, "But we didn't play our superhero guys yet!"

Thankfully the boy is a speedy artist and had extra heroes ready for play.

Daddy as Super Stretch, 
Grandma as Weather Man, 
Mason as Force Field Guy, 
Mommy as Super Good Hero, 
Ellie as Ellie SuperHero, and 
Uncle Chris as Hammer Hand.

The wild adventure that followed will play out in your imagination.  Enjoy.

After a late afternoon nap, Ellie was not quite ready to sleep so she got back up with me a bit and decided after drawing she wanted to cut something.  She got her drawings and began.  I asked her what she was making. "Nothing, I am just cutting."

Here is her masterpiece. I think I will clean it up tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"May the Memories Wrap Their Arms Around You..."

"...May your childhood take you by the hand. May what you remember find healing when it hurts, so the memories will protect you when they can." -Tom Hunter, Bev Bos, and Michael Leeman

Tiny Teddy sporting his new finger-knitted scarf.
November is a time for reflection.  A time for traditions. A time for making memories. Last weekend we ventured to Apple Hill. Our sister-in law arranged for the family to meet up at High Hill and the weather was fantastic.  We made it in time for carmel apples for lunch.
Fall Favorites: Carmel Apple, festive fall fashion, and family time.  Oh and yes that is Pooh Bear on the table.  He had a visit to Dr. Ellie and received a bandage for his Onyx inflicted nose injury and wore his hospital gown all day.

Attempting to steal a bite...a must.
Before eating Mason tried to get us to let him ride the carousel, but I felt like that wasn't the Apple Hill experience.  It was more of a mall sort of thing.  As we walked away from it I realized that we typically distract and blow by them at the mall too, so would the world end if it made it into our Apple Hill experience?  Probably not, so giddy up!
Mason: "Can we ride the merry-go-round?" Me: "No, we could do that at the mall. Let's see what else they have." Then while walking around I realized, wait we always say no at the mall so live it up.  Me: "Alright guys here's some quarters hop on."
Next Ellie's request to ride the pony was on the agenda. That girl loves her animals.
Ellie our animal lover and thrill seeker.
We then went in search of the train ride. The conductor tried to fool the kids that if we waited for our relatives to arrive he'd be taking a break and we'd miss out.  Ellie saw right through his act and laughed saying, "NO!" You'd have thought that man never smiled.  Leave it to Ellie to see through that jokester's tough exterior. It takes one to know one.
Waiting for our train ride.

See, I told you: Thrill Seeker.  Entering the tunnel on the train.
The day continued with the Hay Maze at Abel's and then we headed back down the hill on home.

Getting Taller
This weekend we headed south for a Pre-Thanksgiving celebration with our family and friends. On Thursday evening Mason was SO eager to get going on our trip.  He had fallen asleep on the way home from a busy day and woke up, scurried around the house and packed his own suitcase and backpack.  It was hard falling asleep that night knowing we had to wait another day before we could go.

He had been talking about the trip and telling us how he would bring the tiny gas truck back and play with the plane when he arrived. He had borrowed the truck over the summer and had kept it safe through many adventures.  He would play and then feast on "toast with butter, because Grandma always has toast at her house."

I love these little memories. It got me thinking of the little things I remember from visiting my grandparents.  The little parts of their home that was different than mine.  The rectangular faucet in the bathroom, the staircases where we played and pretended, the walks we took in their neighborhoods.  Whether it was Oregon or Idaho, the magic was always there. The bits of magic that you carry with you, "protect you", fill your heart.  Friday evening we set out on our trip to spend 4 hours in the car to be back home sleeping in our beds until the accident on I-5 could be cleared.  We woke up rested and ready for our adventure.

Brunch at the Tower Cafe and we were off.

Spoon noses

No Traffic and Beautiful Fall Leaves out our window...We are on our TRIP!!!

Ellie and her bear took a nap to pass the time.
When we arrived Mason instantly found the toys, unpacked the gas truck, and danced to the music of the clock.  As he danced I thought of how that clock is one of his memories.  One he'll hold close to his heart like the flashlight adventures he played with Ellie, Dakota and all the "wild animals" (grown-up monsters) last night.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

To Carve or To Sculpt...That is the Question.

There aren't a lot of photos in the post.  Be prepared to visualize.
Read on, let your thoughts run wild.
I have been reading a book to my class over the past several weeks.  We finished reading the book this week, and are embarking on our journey of exploring our creativity and expression of how the book can inspire us. Yesterday was wrapped with meetings, a staff meeting in the morning and a preschool parent meeting in the evening.  Both were thought provoking and an inspiration to "one up" myself and kick my teaching power up a notch.  Typically I think of "one up" as a negative, but in this case I do not.  There are times when I feel competition can be negative and just before drifting off to sleep last night my mind was spinning with thoughts, quotes, moments, little gems from the day.  I was wishing I could write them all down, but sleep won out. Ellie woke me early this morning and as I lay with her and she drifted back to sleep my mind spun again.  Not in a wild out of control chaos, but a glorious spin like a dance.  At one point Ellie burst out giggling, asleep and dreaming of something mischievous or comical, but giggling with utter joy. I lay there longer struggling between my desire to start capturing my thoughts and letting them spin joyfully like that laughter.

In the staff meeting we reflected and discussed and I left feeling inspired to enjoy the bittersweet ending of a great book.  That feeling you have as you are dying to get to the end to see it through and discover, yet the sadness that the journey has ended.  With this book, I feel that the ending has opened another door.  One student said, "Maybe there's a part 2!" For us, the "Part 2" is within us.  The book travels through the journey of a young girl finding her voice within herself.  Her path to finding the strength to speak up for what she believes, what she knows is truth, for the people she loves and cares about whole-heartedly. I can relate to this child.  One who, at times, would watch things happen around her and not know how to speak up.  My journey has not been as short as hers to finding my voice and I continue to strengthen mine and deepen my understanding of why I need to use it.

I recently heard from fellow colleagues about how they had been hearing me talk about the power of play for our students. They shared with me how they have taken that and run with it in their classrooms. This was such a gift to me.  Knowing that I made a difference, an impact in more students' lives than just those in my room was powerful.  It pushed me on, made me feel like "what more can I be doing for my own class and teaching?" Not how can I make more work for myself, but how can I bring my work to a higher level?

Last night it hit me (again) how powerful rowing was for me.  For me it was my turning point, my fork in the road for which I landed on the best route of the path.  The one where strength, passion, and the need for others is critical for you to cross the finish line in your best possible way.  Sometimes you may end up with the silver medal, but when you have rowed on through with your team's golden efforts of strength, courage, camaraderie, passion, common vision, and determination, after the initial tears of disappointment fall you stop and reflect on what you have accomplished and the power of what you have achieved is so much more than any medal can give you.  Yes, the medals are amazing and can hold a special memory or capture a feeling and give you a physical object to hold in your hands, but it is what we carry with us constantly in our hearts that endures, shares, and drives our true self. All my medals in my treasure box cannot compare to the strength and true understanding of teamwork that I won in rowing. For in a boat you must strive to make yourself your personal best, yet it isn't all about you.  You must also make yourself the best fit for your boat, your crew, your team. Having 9 talented women is not enough, they must also help each other aspire to be more than they thought they could be, each urging one another on to take the risk to reach beyond. Without competition I am not sure this could happen. I was moved to see my colleague speaking SO passionately about her students yesterday.  She spoke and tears welled up in her eyes. I began to think about her and how her little comment a couple of weeks ago to me made me work better to improve my own teaching as well, not with the intent to "one up" her, but to kick things up a notch for my students, for myself, so that we all may be inspired to carry on in this journey of living and learning and loving it along the way.

Yesterday we carved soap. Our main character in our book carves soap.  She is incredibly talented at it.  The author writes about it in such a beautiful way, saying "When the promise doesn't reveal itself early, your imagination must dictate your intentions. Then the wood, or the soap, it will become what you least expect." Some of my students had challenges with their first attempt at carving. This morning I thought about the language of it. When we think of carving, perhaps that isn't the best word. Today I will teach them how to sculpt.  How to peel back the layers.  For our true selves to be revealed, like what we hope to sculpt, we can't simply stab in and carve deep.   The risk from crumbling is too great. We must do it bit by bit, shaving away that which we don't need.  Our character, Naomi, says she imagines what's inside and takes away what she doesn't need. This is what my day wrapped in meetings was all about.  My best teaching self is within me.  I need to keep peeling away that which I don't need and it shall be revealed.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I Like

Did you ever see the movie Amelie?  I love the cover of the box, the bold green the sassy haircut, the mystery...I honestly don't remember  the entire movie, for it has been too long, but I love the lists of likes and dislikes for the characters...for that is what I am thinking of on this chilly, early morning.

She likes the quiet calm before the storm.
She likes that the weather has turned cold and she gets to pull out a few new "looks" in her wardrobe.  Bring on the scarves and sweaters!
She likes snuggling with her family in the night as her chilly, little ones creep from their bed to ours in search of warm snuggles.
She likes that she was up at 2am making muffins, so Mason could bring them for our turn to bring "Parent Snack" at school yesterday, which he brought proudly and told his teacher that his daddy made them for everyone.  (Yes, this is in my likes because if a muffin fairy came into our house in the night and made muffins while I was sleeping I would most likely predict it was Daddy because like Mason told his teacher, "He is the best Chef." I don't mind being in the background on this one. Besides I have proof that I do some "cheffing" now and then. Styling by Mason.) 

Pirate Chef preparing 1st carrot cake for Halloween! 

She particularly likes that Mason's conversation with his teacher prompted her to write it down and share it with Josh in a note. (Reading the conversation in it's entirety was inspiring as well as her taking the time to share her take on it. ) 
She likes being awake and finding time to just be.

Mason's sign...oh there is a story here, but there is also a bit of sleep to be had.  More to come...
She dislikes that the weather has tuned cold and her feet and hands are sticking out of the blanket and she is cold. 
She dislikes that every time the wee ones snuggle us it means there is a dirty dog creeping into their warm, cozy, vacant beds.
She dislikes having to rewash all that bedding that she was feeling productive about being caught up on.
She dislikes that she didn't make enough muffins to be able to try one or give Ellie one as she asked to eat one yesterday morning.
She dislikes that she is awake and not sleeping because she fears how exhaustion will come to visit when she is least prepared. 

As I said, I don't remember the whole movie or the order of how these lists came together, but I am thinking I should have put the bad before the good to end on the up swing of things....

....she likes reading and writing and the magic that they bring whether it is alone or with others. Each can bring a smile, a tear, a laugh, a feeling that helps you know why you do what you do. 

That is if  you take a breath now and then to be awake and find time to think and just be.
Ellie my new little "writer". "Do you see my bone? Do you see my leash?"
The girl loves her dogs.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Curtain Rises

Last Sunday, Jen took some alone time. You know, time for herself. Time to do things that people do so that they don't go insane, build shacks out in the woods, and write manifestos. Now she said that she was going to go get some groceries, but I know the truth: It was a mini-escape.

So I was home with the kids. We played some games, watched people swallow things that they shouldn't swallow on YouTube, and listened to some music way too loud. You know... we had fun! While we were listening to music, Ellie started air guitaring (which apparently is not a word according to my computer and its dotty red line). "I wanna rock out like a rock star!" she shouted.
"Let's have a rock concert," Mason chimed in.
"Ok, but we will need a stage," I said. I went out to the garage and retrieved several lengths of spare PVC (always have a spare). In less time than Van Halen's "Jump" I had lashed the pipes to a pair of dining room chairs (funny that I call them "dining room" chairs since we really only have one room in our house other than the bathroom, but I digress... again), tossed on a make-shift curtain, and we had our stage, complete with my bread proofing light and some jack-o-lanterns.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the culminating performance of that evening: A horror in one act - "The Cupcake'

P.S. The stage is still up. Tonight at dinner I had to sit on the ten inch step stool and enjoy my porridge. It was a bit uncomfortable, and Ellie laughed at me, but THE SHOW MUST GO ON!