finn the pirate

Every night before bed, Finn gets a story, and he often picks the subject. Many times of late, the requested story has been something along the lines of "Finn, the bad pirate" or "Finn, the scary pirate." Those adjectives are needed, by the way, because of my tendency to "tame" the pirates or sharks or other scary characters into someone who actually helps people or is really nice underneath or whatever else I can come up with as I struggle to stay awake. (Really, have you ever tried telling a story while you are falling asleep? Some crazy stuff comes out, let me tell you ... )
Pirates as subject matter are, in a way, a compromise to begin with--sometime last year, after Finn started preschool and got introduced to superheroes and guns, he developed that very normal boy fascination with fighting. And while I respect his need to work out issues around power and helplessness and control and even just the thrill of making a loud noise, I'm certainly not comfortable with the way that much of commercial culture deals with these things. Pirates, though, feel a bit tamer to me--at least the swash-buckling, romanticized pirates of lore, with treasure maps and a parrot on the shoulder. I'm conveniently ignoring the all-too-real pirates of today with machine guns.
So Finn was determined to be a pirate this year for Halloween. When he also requested that Willa be his parrot, and started talking about making a treasure box to hold the candy, and maybe even turning the wagon into a boat, I couldn't resist. And once we had his costume all together (just pulled out of our closets and dress-up bin), I saw something that made me appreciate anew the benefits of Halloween, and even of dressing up as a "scary" character. He put on his fringed, torn up pants and shirt, his boots and a scarf for a belt, and brandished his homemade wooden sword, and a transformation took place. He walked with a bit of a swagger, he started talking tough, he grew muscles and inches and confidence.
The pirate stories I tell are still all about redemption. No matter how bad or scary they start out, I'm always going to find a way to turn things upside down, or at least introduce a little complexity. And here's the best part--this story-telling practice is changing me too, reminding me every night that no matter how bad or scary a situation or a person looks, God can always change things. My job is just to stay awake.


birthday fun

A little one has had a birthday around here, and we celebrated in fine, low-key style. Finn heard a story this fall (from Sparkle Stories, an audio story subscription we've fallen in love with) about a brother working on a gift for his sister, and ever since he's been excited about making something himself for Willa. He was full of big ideas (talking robots, for one) but we managed to guide those ideas into something doable--furniture for her new doll house--and with some helpful parental prep, he was able to do it.
Together, we made a pumpkin cake, opened a few presents, restrained an excited big brother from helping too too much, and made a fire for the eating of said cake.

      Afterwards we went to the park for some exploration along the creek, until the little miss came within inches of being knocked out and we realized we were right in the path of the frisbee golf course--an all-too-appropriate situation for her birthday, seeing as her life has been a series of falls, accidents, and near-misses.
      Along with her birthday has come an explosion of language--"self", "mine" and "no" are daily hourly heard, but so are "fun!" (generally after some daring and dangerous activity that send Matt or I running) and "chat" --what she likes to do when papa comes home. She keeps us all laughing, that girl, and we all live to hear her deep belly laugh. Sweet Willa, we love you so. Happy Birthday.


fall craftiness

Some kids love to color, some kids love paint. Our kid loves tape. Really, any kind of tape--masking, scotch, duct, electrical, painting. I have to ration him, if I'm to make sure that we have tape in the house when it's actually needed for something. And the truth is, he does pretty cool things with tape, and has actually gained some good taping skills, something I didn't even know existed until I watched one of his otherwise-coordinated friends really struggle to work with tape. Clearly she hasn't had the practice he has.
But lately a new material has taken over, and that's the hot glue gun. I know it sounds crazy to let a four-year-old use the hot glue gun, but he does it with supervision and he's really careful. It's a great material, really, because it's so easy and precise and it hardens quickly. But boy, can that kid go through the hot glue sticks!
Thus inspired by my son, I had myself a nice little date the other night with the hot glue gun and some of the outdoor treasures that have been filling up pockets and baskets of late. It was nice to put these items to use, and truly, they are so beautiful--all these ways that trees have to reproduce. I was happy to walk by these decorations every day, until we found out that half of the buckeye trees we collect from have really precious buckeyes that the campus arborist wants to collect and propagate into gifts for graduating seniors. But the other half are just rubbish. And here I have them all happily mixed together, hanging on my wall.


a child's view

Sorting through photos last weekend (our computer was running oh-so-slow and we needed to clear some thing out!) I came across photo after photo that Finn had clearly taken. We let him use the camera sometimes, with the hand strap tightened to it doesn't drop, but I typically don't pay too much attention to the outcome. Most of the pictures, to be sure, are quite blurry and sometimes unrecognizable, but the ones that aren't! Man, I tell you, I just love seeing how he sees the world--what interests him, what his view is like ... it's like a little step into his world, which I suppose all photography is. So here I present--the world according to Finn, age 4.


dancing into fall

Since having a second child, the hardest part of mothering has always been for me the stress of so many different needs to meet, and figuring out how to meet them all, or whose needs to meet first--from the baby (toddler!) whose sleep is still precious and protected, to the parent who works out of the house with lots of commitments and responsibilities, to the older sibling with activities and playdates and plans, to the stay-at-home mama who wants simply to accomplish something, anything. Each of us has had our turn in pole position at various points, and now we're trying, once again, to find our way into this season's dance. It is a dance, isn't it? Someone stepping forward, someone stepping back, everyone getting a turn to spin.
Finn has wanted, for quite some time now, to take a dance class, and this fall was the promised start date. But once he saw the Olympics this summer and discovered gymnastics, that was his only goal. And I have to admit that the dance has, thus far this season, felt more like gymnastics than a dance. Some leaping and flying to be sure, but some crashing too. Plenty of stretching, and learning to bend.
I have every hope that things will settle soon into something workable for us all. I'm considering radical changes--pulling Finn out of some things, having more time at home for us all, slowing things down, so that our life is a little less like a four-year-old gymnastics class. Maybe something more like floating, or climbing or swinging or exploring or the many other things our fall has also been.
Hope your feet are finding their steps in the dance... 


Summer Rules #4--Gather and Be Gathered

As a corollary to rule #3: eat outside as often as you can, we've been eating an awful lot of food that we picked, grew or otherwise harvested ourselves. For awhile cucumbers were the abundant crop, and we had sliced cucumbers at every meal, along with cucumber juice--so refreshing on those hot days!--and even cucumber sorbet. Then we moved on to green beans--and I tell you, there is nothing like hunting for green beans from inside the teepee to turn your children into green bean fiends (unless it's the honey mustard dip served alongside). And now--it's all tomatoes, all the time. We still haven't convinced either child to actually like eating them, even when spread with mayo, which we thought would surely do the job. But fortunately that doesn't hinder their love of picking them, which is good because I've got big canning plans.

And more than once this summer, while outside harvesting, or tending, or picking off Japanese beetles, or simply trying to understand this particular plot of land and its soil and its sunshine, we've experienced another great gift of living in this place, close to both I-80 and I-90--the gift of being on the way. You see, people drive through here. And when people are driving, they need food. And beds. It hasn't always been convenient, and we sometimes had to shuffle things a bit, but this is when we become so thankful for our daughter's (middle) namesake, Ruth, and what she taught us about hospitality and generosity and remembering what is important. It's a great gift, to be on the way, even when we're not the ones going anywhere. We don't always get it right, and sometimes I may grumble a bit that I had plans, plans to do something important. But lucky for us, the people come anyway, and there is food and laughter and stories and as we gather, we are gathered. We are gathered into the great heart of God, a heart that is ever-loving, ever-serving, ever-open. "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17.


Summer Rules #3: Eat outside

We're still doing this, eating almost every meal on our porch and taking snack outdoors as often as possible. Our little bean tent is perfect for this, but so is the backstep, to be honest. Camping is good, but it takes some advance work, and there's just some something about an impromptu picnic. Putting together a little picnic kit with silverware, dishes, wipes, a knife, and a blanket made such meals easier, and therefore more likely. Here's to many more outdoor meals this season!