Saturday, March 31, 2012

Never Underestimate Your Kids

Amanda and her big brother, Jeremiah, have a special bond. When we first shared our news with the kids that I was pregnant with our fourth child, Jeremiah was so thrilled that he ran to tell his friends who lived nearby. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how the kids would react to the news and so I was a little surprised that he was so excited.

Yesterday, Amanda told me about a conversation that her brother had with her. She told me that he had said how adorable and precious she was. She then told him how special he was to her. As she was telling me this, I could see that it touched her deeply. Amanda finished off by saying, “It was so sad.”

I asked her, “Don’t you mean ‘so sweet?’”

“No, Mom. It was sad. You can be happy and sad at the same time.”

Her choice of words was unusual, but I realized that she was speaking about something touching her so deeply that it almost hurt. I had explained to her before in movies why some people cry when they’re very happy. Later I told Jeremiah the odd thing she had said and he replied, “She’s a philosopher.”

Never underestimate your kids’ abilities to understand and reason no matter how young they are. I think adults in general are too quick to brush kids aside thinking they are too young to say anything of value and therefore don’t need to be heard. I have known my kids to say profound things at just the right moments.

I recommend you read (if you haven’t already), “Out of the Mouths of Babes.”

I took the above photo of Jeremiah with his baby sister, Amanda, in 2008.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Learning Doesn’t Only Happen in School

Amanda goes to a playgroup five days a week. It’s wonderful for her, because they paint and make things, they sing and dance to children’s music, play on the playground, do movement games and more. For a while now, she’s been learning to write the first letter of her name. She likes to include the letter “A” in many of her drawings and she likes to find it on signs and labels.

Yesterday, I bought M&Ms and shared them out with my family of six. Smarties are the common candy in South Africa, but even though the candies look similar, they are very different to the taste buds. I think my craving for something American was brought on by all the mouth-watering American desserts I see regularly pinned on Pinterest, but I hardly ever buy M&Ms because they are a bit pricy over here.

I enjoyed looking at the colors with Amanda and I showed her the “m” on each candy and explained that it comes after the “A” in Amanda. I sounded out the letter for her too. She wasn’t quite convinced, so I also showed her how her name looked on one of her art projects from playgroup. She has been learning to copy the letters of her first name and so when she saw the “m” on her project, she recognized it.

You can use M&Ms or Smarties to teach a life principle as well. Rob and I were youth pastors in a post-apartheid nation in 1996. I took Smarties with me to one of our youth groups and had the kids observe the candies. I pointed out that even though the candies look different on the outside, they still taste the same on the inside, meaning that our differences are only skin deep.

While we were eating the M&Ms, I took the opportunity to tell Jessica and Samantha the same analogy. Jessica then mentioned how she had been having trouble with a teenager at school making racist comments about people that she likes. I think he does it on purpose just to get a reaction out of her. Anyway, I told her the next time he’s eating Smarties, she should tell him my analogy. Rob and I also encourage her to keep him at arm’s length. I wrote about the impact people have in our lives in “Blessed to Have You in Our Life” along with a word of advice on the subject.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Family Outings

I have four kids who are at different stages of their lives and who have different likes and dislikes. They are individuals and I treat them as such. They are also part of a family unit and as a family we do things together whether they all feel like it or not. They don't always want to come along on family outings, but when I see them all enjoying themselves then I’m satisfied that my husband and I insisted the unwilling one (or ones) join us.

There’s also wisdom in not always insisting that everyone comes along on one of our outings. I also want to enjoy myself and there’s nothing worse than having a sour participant at my side. One outing that I knew wouldn’t suit my kids was a tour of privately owned gardens in the area. It was a fundraiser for the Deaf Institute.

Not too many kids would want to give up their Saturday or Sunday looking at other people’s gardens. However, we have one child that we knew would enjoy herself… Amanda. She loves outings. We brought her along without hesitation. All three of us had a wonderful day of it. Rob and I especially enjoyed watching Amanda take pleasure exploring the beauty around her.

Photo Above: My husband, Rob, took this photo of the kids and me during a holiday on South Africa’s west coast.

Photo Below: Amanda is being a garden nymph on our tour of privately owned gardens.
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Horse Stories - Part 2

Amanda has been picking out books about horses these past couple of days. The day before it was Black Beauty and now it’s The Lipizzaners Share Their Secrets, written by Maureen Dalglish and illustrated by Nicole Houzé. In this book there are eight short stories and so I’ve been reading one a day. The stories are simple enough for my four-year-old to understand and based on real South African Lipizzaner horses.

I don’t think that this book is available at bookshops. It appears to be a privately published book. My mother-in-law purchased a few copies some years back as the book was being sold to help raise funds for these amazing horses. I’ve added two links of interest, one is “Be a Friend” and the other is “The Horses.”

Whenever I’ve read a story to Amanda, she likes to have a turn to “read” it back to me. (I mentioned in the previous post how important this part of learning is for a child.) I loved hearing her telling me about the shy horse, Merlin, in the first story. It would have been so cool if I could have recorded what she had said and posted it here. This is something that I must do in the future. Photos make great memories, but so do recordings. I don’t want to miss these moments.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Horse Stories - Part 1

Last night, when I told Amanda that I’d read to her in bed she said, “Yeah! I’m the luckiest!” That brought a smile to my face, but also a twinge of guilt. In truth, I should read to her more often, but I’m often leaving her to read to herself or I get one of her sisters to read to her.

The book she picked out this night was Black Beauty, re-told by Beryl Johnston and published by Grandreams Ltd. I read to her an even shorter version of it, often summarizing whole parts. She asked a few questions along the way.

Once the story was over, she “read” it back to me. This is part of her routine. In her mind, we’re taking turns. I first read to her and then it’s her turn to “read” to me. Sometimes I would rather she didn’t, because I want to get away and do something else. However, allowing her to tell the story again in her own words is a very important step in learning. According to Charlotte Mason (1842 - 1923), this is the "Act of Knowing."

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Giving thanks for fish and chips
I mentioned previously that Amanda had been sick. When your child is sick, it’s often difficult to know what’s wrong and if you need to take him/her to the doctor. If you do take your child to the doctor, the doctor will decide what the problem is, but there is room for error even with all the learning and years of experience that your doctor will have had. At the end of the day, you know your child and you must go with your gut feeling to insure his/her good health.

Two days ago, I was still worrying about Amanda. It wasn’t clear to me if she was on the road to complete recovery. Deep down I knew that she was, but there was a specific moment that I doubted myself. It was at that precise moment, as the worry thoughts passed through my mind, that Amanda voiced what I had not said. “Mom, don’t worry, I’m fine.”

How did my child know what I was thinking? How did she know what to say at the right time? It was so specifically appropriate that I decided to heed her advice. Out of the mouths of babes, God speaks (Luke 10:21).

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why We Don't Have a Cat

I took my dog for a walk this evening. It wasn’t late, but it was already dark outside. I was walking in my neighborhood where the street lights are scattered along the way, leaving patches of darkness between them. At one of these dark sections, we nearly walked into a dead cat. It gave me such a fright.

Nothing seemed wrong with it, except that it was stiff. Since the dead cat was lying next to the road, I figured that it must have been hit by a car. This reminded me of another incident that happened last year. The details were no longer clear in my mind, so I went to my Facebook to find the proper wording. This is what I had written:

Yesterday morning we were driving to school and I saw a beautiful dead cat on the road. I took the opportunity to tell Samantha that this was another reason why we didn't want to get a cat (she's been begging us for a kitten) and then Amanda replied, "But we don't want to get the dying kind. We want another kind."

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When to Say "Yes" or "No" to TV Programs

The book Amanda is reading is called Who Lives Here?
It's a pop-up book published by Playmore and Waldman.

The other night Amanda said the silliest thing to me. “I’m going to get full of fire and I’m going to destroy the bad guys!” She demonstrated this by shooting her arms out in front of her and curling her fingers like claws. Obviously, she’s been watching too many of her brother and sisters’ TV programs. Secretly, I was impressed that she had used the word “destroy.”

When I had the three bigger kids, I was very strict with what they were allowed to watch even when it came to cartoons. Our youngest at the time was Samantha. She was more sensitive when it came to certain programs than Amanda is. I think it has to do with Samantha’s personality more than with my protectiveness, although I’m sure people will argue it the other way. Whatever the case, I’m less strict about what Amanda watches. Her siblings are that much older than her and I can’t tell them not to watch programs that relate to their age just because she’s there.

The previous weekend, however, I didn’t let Amanda watch the family-friendly movie that her three older siblings were watching. The movie was Nancy Drew. It has a so-called haunted house in the story and Amanda is still too young to distinguish between fiction and non-fiction. I didn’t want her to get scared or have bad dreams, so I put her to bed early and let her look at books instead. (She still corrects me and tells me that she’s “reading” and not “looking.”)

As a parent, it's very important that you decide what your child may or may not watch. Each child is different, so the line you draw must be fitting for that child. As the child grows and matures, that line must also be adjusted.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Yikes! Pinworms!

The other day I mentioned that Amanda had a nosebleed episode at night just before she went to sleep. Nosebleeds can be quite common in children, so we didn’t let it worry us. We just kept an eye on her. The day after, she had another nosebleed incident and she also complained about a swollen lower lip.

She had been to the doctor about a week prior to the nosebleeds. We had her checked because she had been complaining about her stomach and discomfort in her private areas. We had noticed inconstancy with her urine and constipation. It seemed to the doctor that the constipation was the only thing causing the other problems and so we had nothing further to go on.

With these latest developments, I had a feeling that she was in fact showing signs of having an illness, but what it was I did not know. I went on to Google and typed in her symptoms and came across this fantastic website called (PBC) Pregnancy and Baby Care. I went on to their "Toddler" page.  The sore lower lip helped narrow down my search and what I discovered is that Amanda most probably had pinworms. One of the symptoms mentioned on the site was that toddler’s infected with pinworms can have behavior changes. Amanda was particularly stroppy these past few days and she got into trouble for her bad attitude a few times. Now we just blame it on the worms! (If only we could always blame our negative behavior on something/someone else!)

My husband went to the pharmacist and now we are all on de-worming medication. I know it’s not the nicest of topics, but these things happen even to parents like us who insist that everyone wash their hands regularly, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

A Perfect Evening Gone Wrong

The night Amanda gave us a scare.

Last night I put Amanda to bed with one of the new books that she got for her birthday. It’s called Nursery Rhymes & Fairy Tales by Disney. She’s at that age where she loves to recite and sing nursery rhymes and so this book has come at a good time. A neat bonus to the book is that two pages of tiny Disney stickers are included.

Amanda’s evening seemed to have come to a perfect end. I took a photo last night so that I could share with you how happy and peaceful this moment was. It was only a few minutes later and the perfect moment changed into something like a scary movie. I had just gone to my room when Samantha called out to say that Amanda had left her bed (the two girls share a room). I looked down the dark passage and saw her heading the opposite direction. When she heard my voice, she turned around and came towards me. Immediately, I could see something was wrong, because there was a huge dark patch between her nose and mouth.

I quickly got her to my bathroom and in the light I could see that she was covered in blood. Besides what I had already observed on her face, I could now see that it was also on her hands, arms and nightgown. I called out to her dad with alarm, which upset her, but then I switched my tone and she calmed down. Her dad went to check out her bed while I cleaned her up. Her bedding was covered in blood too and some went on her new book, but it wiped off easily and the bedding went straight to the wash. Of course, I didn’t take a photo of that. It had been too unexpected.

None of my kids have ever had a nosebleed like that before, but just as quickly as it had started, it also stopped. Today she was fine without another incident. As they say, “Life happens” and there’s not always much we can do about it. An unexpected nosebleed reminds me that nothing in this life is perfect.

As a teenager, I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and something he explained in there about perfection made a lot of sense to me. I had always had this strong need for things to be perfect. Lewis’ book points out that our understanding and desire for perfection comes from our inner knowing that perfection exists, but not on earth, which can frustrate those who are seeking it. Perfection is found in God and in His heavenly kingdom. One day He will make all things new – even our world – and that day I am waiting for with great expectation.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Birthday Card in the Mailbox

Amanda said the funniest thing...

A few days ago it was Amanda’s birthday. Ever since she got two cards in our mailbox, she has wanted to go out and check if there are more.

It just so happened that she received four birthday cards for her fourth birthday.

Yesterday, we went out to the mailbox together and came back inside with a birthday card for me. (Our birthdays are a few days apart.) Once inside the house, she said, “Mom, when you turn four you can also have four cards like me!”

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