The Boys’ Birthdays

This summer our friends invited us to tie dye shirts with them.

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on August 28, 2013.

Last week my boys turned seven and four. I’m not sure where the time has gone. When I started writing this column, I was eight months pregnant with the four-year-old.  My seven-year-old was still two. I can barely remember what he was like at that age.

As I write this, my four-year-old is in the living room playing with his toy animals and dinosaurs. I hear him chattering in an unintelligible language while he pretends the animals are fighting and interacting with each other.

It wasn’t long ago that he didn’t give me any freedom. He’s a mama’s boy, and ever since he came out of the womb, he’s been trying to climb back in there. It can feel a little suffocating, but I try to give him all the affection he needs because I know this time is fleeting.  And he’s pretty cute.

My seven-year-old continues to astound me with his questions and varied interests. We have been learning about carnivorous plants and growing them too. If you asked me a year ago if carnivorous plants could grow in my yard, I would have guessed not. I’m learning quite a bit through my son’s interests.

It wasn’t long ago that the seven-year-old was a shy little boy, but now he’s grown tall, and he’s eager to join his summer camps. There’s no warming up period when we get together with our friends for play dates. He doesn’t need me by his side anymore.

He has also been more interested in using the iPad, and one of his favorite apps is Google Earth. He sits for long spells studying the globe in detail. His favorite places to visit are Mt. Everest and the beach condo we stayed at in Florida over a year ago when we took my in-laws there for their 50th anniversary. How we wish we could take him back there.

He also loves the app Solar Walk 3D which allows him to tour the solar system in great detail. This has spurred an interest in the Curiosity Rover, so we found a documentary and some library books about it. Like I said, I’m learning  a lot.

My sons are similar enough to enjoy each other’s company, yet they are very different. Sometimes they argue over a toy, and sometimes the younger pesters the older to do things he doesn’t want to do, but most of the time, they live in harmony. I hope it stays that way.

I have no idea what the future might hold for them, and as many parents do, I worry about whether I’m making the right decisions for them, but I know I can’t control everything.

I’m grateful that my natural tendency is to record history through writing and photography. As the future pulls us forward like a giant vacuum, I can look back at my photographs and the words I’ve written and know that these boys have been loved. The days didn’t go by unnoticed.

Happy Birthday Six-year-old

a little wet after playing in the fountain at the Chicago Botanical Garden

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 22, 2012.

In a few days TODAY the “five-year-old” becomes the “six-year-old.”  In a flash he has grown taller, more able-bodied, and smarter.  And if those first two sentences sound familiar, that means you read my column last week. (Thanks!)  Yes, my two boys birthdays are one week apart.

I didn’t plan it, and when I first learned it would be this way, I was a little disappointed.  Would it be birthday overload, I wondered?  Fortunately, it hasn’t been a problem at all, and it’s actually been convenient.  For one thing, my younger son was able to inherit a lot of his older brother’s clothes – they were weather appropriate.

It’s fun to have them close together because it makes for a joyful time of year.  Having them right before September makes a nice end to the summer and mark of a new school year.

The first year we had a dual birthday party, but ever since, we’ve had a low-key, family celebration for each on their respective special days.  I don’t want them to feel like they have to share their day, and it is not much problem since I only have to decorate once and leave it up for a week!

This is the first year I’m having a bigger party for the six-year-old.  Six seems like a good age, and I couldn’t resist letting him have a party at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, Georgia.  They do a 45-minute program of our choice, and of course, we picked “snakes,” which is his current passion.  He can’t wait.

Speaking of the Nature Center, I give the staff there credit for helping my five-year-old blossom this past year.  This time last year we began taking their various classes (some for homeschoolers and others not), and he started off a bit reluctant and shy.

But nature and animals are his passion, and seeing them up close, especially snakes, opened him up.  Whenever the class took him on a hike through the woods, he would stay right next to the instructor, wanting to see and hear everything she had to say.  Now at the end of the year, he doesn’t even need me anymore.  He willingly participated in their summer camps and had a blast.

I can’t thank “Miss Sarah” enough.  On one of those first days of the knee-high naturalist class, my son asked her about the rattlesnake that he didn’t see in the center anymore.  She explained he was feeling poorly, so the staff moved him to the inner offices.  But she brought my son and I back there to see him, and she spent twenty minutes with my son, answering his four-year-old questions about the snake.

Over the year, I have watched my son become confident and outspoken in the classes.  Outside of those classes, we have made friends in the homeschooling community, and when he meets them, he runs off to play.  Like I said, he doesn’t need mama anymore.

Five-years-old has been a truly wonderful age.  No more temper tantrums, no more clinging, but plenty of hugs, questions, and an expanding mind that is soaking up all the new things his world has to offer.  I’d be lying if I said it was always easy with him.  He has his whiny moments, and he can battle with is younger brother at any moment, but at five-going-on-six, he’s easy to reason with and explain things too.

He is usually helpful, kind and his imagination knows no bounds.  Just today he showed me a “habitat” he made inside his Frisbee for a toy ant.  He filled it with soft dirt, grass and moss.  When I see him walking or sitting in our yard by himself, I’m happy that he has the free time to develop his creativity.

It must be this age that so many veteran parents tout as the opportunity to relive our childhoods, though I’m quite sure my son is teaching me more about the world than I ever learned growing up.  I can barely wait to see how he’ll blossom this coming year and what wondrous things he’ll invent and learn.

Happy Birthday Three-year-old

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 16, 2012.

In a few days TODAY the “two-year-old” becomes the “three-year-old!”  In a flash he has grown taller, more able-bodied, and smarter.  When my eldest was this age, I thought this must be the cutest and most frustrating age of young children.  My youngest is not disproving that theory.

It’s been wonderful to see two boys grow.  They are alike in many ways, but they are extremely different too.  A year or so ago I started to read Discover Your Child’s Learning Style, and though the author stated that you probably couldn’t assess a two-year-old’s learning style yet, I had to chuckle when I read some of the characteristics of a kinesthetic or tactile learner.  I could check off every single point for the two-year-old and then some.

He likes running and climbing.  Though my five-year-old loves to run and climb too, the two-year-old has shown an agility unprecedented in my older child.  And he seeks out every opportunity to climb whether it is on the arms of our sofas or the rails at a museum.

I have a photograph I took of my five-year-old at the Museum of Science and Industry, and the two-year-old is in the background climbing some equipment.  I sent it to my family and said that is typical:  an attentive five-year-old and a climbing two-year-old. At two, my five-year-old never climbed like his brother.  He has always been more cautious.

The two-year-old touches everything.  Everything.  Children like my two-year-old are the reason someone invented hand sanitizer.  My step-mother told me my father is like this.  They might be somewhere you aren’t supposed to touch things, but even at seventy-six years old, my father can’t help it.  So maybe my son takes after grandpa.

My youngest son is also much more affectionate than his older brother, and family members know that he’s practically attached to my hip.  Sometimes he follows me around with his palms up and open, lightly feeling the soft fabric of my cotton shirt.

Another characteristic for kinesthetic learners is that they like to play in the dirt, sand, and they don’t mind getting dirty, but heck….what child doesn’t mind those things?  I have noticed, however, how much the two-year-old likes to build with blocks, and how he enjoys the toy toolbox.

At two, my five-year-old loved blocks, but he didn’t want to build anything himself.  Instead, he wanted to watch me build.  This is more of a characteristic of a visual learner.  He’ll only try things after he has watched enough and feels confident he can do it on his own.

The two-year-old just plows into building and creating on his own, but if things don’t stay in place, he’ll scream until he thinks it’s right.  And this brings me to the less desirable side of this age: temper tantrums.  He wants to do everything on his own, but he can’t.  It’s frustrating for him and exasperating for me.

Fortunately I have been through this age once before, and I know it’ll pass. It’ll go quick too.  So I’m keeping my wits about me, and I’m welcoming all the hugs I can get.  Happy Birthday, my sweet, energetic boy!

And I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog in the right hand margin because in the future I’ll be trying to learn about kinesthetic learners as well as auditory and visual learners (which is my older son), and I’ll be sure to share what I find out with you!  ————>

Happy Birthday to My Boys and Kindergarten Goals for this Next Year

August is closing, and it’s hard to believe that Autumn is almost here.  It’s been a busy month.  During the first week we were still in Chicago visiting relatives and going to all the places that I shared in this, this and this post.  Right before we left Chicago, my boys’ grandparents threw them a big birthday bash, and when we returned, we geared up for a couple of smaller celebrations on their actual birthdays.

My boys were born exactly one week apart, so we celebrated a new 2-year-old one night with my parents, and then repeated that for a new 5-year-old one week later!  So now I’ll be referring to “the 2-year-old” and “the 5-year-old.

I bragged a little about my boys and why I love them so much in my recent column for the Barrow Journal, and I hope you’ll take a moment to read it by clicking here.

Then perhaps you can tell me how all this happened?!  It was only yesterday that I left the hospital with that little baby feeling absolutely helpless and traumatized from the experience of my first labor.  I pretended I was fine because I knew I would be, but I desperately wanted someone wiser to help my husband and I through those first few days.  I guess it’s an experience every new parent has to go through.

Now it’s five years later and I’m a much more confident mama, but sometimes I still worry and wonder if I’m making the right choices.  It wasn’t long ago that I debated if I should send my 5-year-old to Kindergarten this Fall, but now I’m so glad I listened to my gut.  I’m working on “Kindergarten” with my son, and we’re both having fun, which is how learning should be.

“It is estimated that 95% of kindergarteners feel good about their learning potential.  However, 98% of seniors in high school have lost their creative, inquisitive spirits.  So, what has happened to all but 2% of these seniors?” — Discover Your Child’s Learning Style, Mariaemma Willis, M.S., and Victoria Kindle Hodson, M.A.

The more I think about it, the happier I am with my decision to homeschool.  Realistically, I believe there are both pros and cons to homeschooling and to sending a child to school.  Each family has to weigh those pros and cons and decide what is best for their children.

With that said, I thought I’d list some of what I’m hoping to blog about in the coming months.  These are projects we are working on right now or that I’m planning to work on, and I’m excited to share our results with you. Here they are in no particular order: (UPDATE: Click on the links to go to these posts.)

So I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog or come back often.  Unfortunately, I can’t promise that I’ll blog regularly or often.  My boys keep me too busy.  But you can bet some of these topics will be fodder for my newspaper columns, and I have to write those every week, so something will get done!  Hopefully.

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you’ll tell me that you were here.