Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gentle Souls.

Probably, if you spend half an hour in my house on any given evening during the witching hour, you'd agree along with me that I live in a house of wild, unfettered barbarians as they wrestle and whoop and whistle and tear through and around the house. HUGE feelings abound. They get irritated with each other and step on each other's goals and toes and lego castles. It's true that they all have a healthy rambunctious streak a mile wide, as most normal humans can sometimes. We are, after all, not tame creatures deep in the marrow.

However, I often make it a point to draw a distinction between "calm" and "kind". Calm is a mood. Kindness is a character trait, and can be just as present in our wild moments as our quiet ones. I don't often use the word 'nice' at home, and certainly don't encourage the kids to try and be nice. I do, however, encourage gentleness and true kindness, and I'm kind of blessed that it really comes fairly naturally to them the older they grow. More impulse control means more opportunity to show the kindness within, and I really love watching it flourish. 

One of my children loves babies. They like her, too, and for good reason. In her words, "We like each other because they're always honest, and I'm honest with them, too, and don't treat them like baby dolls or idiots. They're little people who understand less, but that's no reason to treat them with less respect. So I explain things to them with real words, and give them chances to do things. How else are you gonna learn? They like that." I couldn't have said it better. She's a damned reasonable person with a basic respect for anyone who's honest and open enough to ask questions and be genuinely curious without posturing. I love that about her.

My second born loves harmony (of course), and will bend over backward to find a solution that meets everyone's needs 80% of the time. She does it so cheerfully, because her best time always involves everyone just taking pleasure in a moment. I've watched her give up half her food or a toy (not at my promting; I don't usually as a rule) just for the sheer pleasure of sharing something with someone else on more than one occasion. It's so effortlessly lovely.

My third daughter loves little animals, and loves to see them comfortable and happy. She loves tiny things, and names everything she finds, and imagines lives up for them with families and homes and food, and takes careful care to give them what she imagines in her little three year old mind is necessary. She loves her baby sister with a fierceness that's only rivaled by her mama and papa, and is constantly piping up in quiet moments with an "I love you" for everyone in the family. I'm humbled by her passion for living things.

My sweet man took one of the girls out fishing today, and taught her how to cast. He brought fish home and (with more patience I could ever imagine mustering) painstakingly taught the girls how to clean them, cook them and eat them...where the best parts are and how to avoid the bones. I can see him out my window right now on the back porch after the little ones have fallen asleep, petting our calico cat and letting a little Japanese beetle crawl lazily on his fingers. His long, lanky legs are stretched out on the hot wooden deck by a open can of cheap tuna as he tries to coax a tiny stray kitten into eating and drinking so it won't die in the summer heat wave. It doesn't bother  him that most men wouldn't do this, and I hope it never does. He's lovely.

They're all so different. Their kindness comes in different shades and hues, but at the heart of each expression is compassion and a basic respect for life. I love that it's messy and immature sometimes, but, unlike "niceness", it's not a mask. It's something that's winding down into their hearts and brains, making sense, taking root, and part of their own nature. They are not me. They are not a set of rules. They are their own version of compassionate, showing creative mercy in a way that suits them perfectly.  I'm so lucky to know them.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Finally, after a few weeks of stalking the calendar, all four girls and I headed to the movie theater for the first day showing of Disney's Brave.

I don't NOT let my daughters watch Princess movies, but I try to keep them to a minimum and watch with them, so we can talk about the culture/gender issues we see. (Yes, I'm one of those people.) So while I don't want my daughters growing up under a rock and not getting any pop references that are important to their friends, I try to encourage them to challenge and take apart the morals and themes that are put out for them. Young though they may be, I think 3/5/7 are fine years to start talking about those sorts of things, since they're going to catch some moral or another. ;oP 

Because, let's be perfectly honest, Disney's main moral for girls (up until Tangled) has been fairly formulaic: look pretty, be spunky, be charming to the end of finding True Love. The End. Tangled at least has Flynn Rider as a side story (I'm being generous here), with the main point being embracing one's true destiny. Which is to be a princess. Still, she ends up with Flynn, and trusting/loving him is a major theme of the movie, which is fine. But a little tired, in my opinion. 

Enter Brave. I'll try not to spoil the plot too much, but I left the theater absolutely grinning from ear to ear. The focus of the movie is a mother-daughter relationship, understanding one another's point of view, appreciating differences and embracing one's destiny. (Hurrah, letting another relationship be important besides the dead horse of girl meets's about DAMN TIME! {cheers wildly} That aspect of womanhood is SO important, and I'm so glad they chose to portray it in a healthy light!)  It was also fun and hilarious and spirited. Both my girls and I loved Merida, and they left the theater hugging my hands and grinning and begging to watch it over and over once it hits Netflix. 

And you know what? I'm totally gonna let them. Finally, the Disney of my childhood (that filled my head with the over-romanticized marriage, perfectly pretty and "forever after") has delivered a girl-themed movie to the next generation that holds out it's hand out to my kids and beckons them to grab life by the nuts while being compassionate and tender toward the people who matter. I also love the conspicuous lack of villain. 

Bravo, Disney!! I'll admit that the characters could have been slightly more developed and the one-liners a wee bit funnier, but I'll take it. It was a lovely first stab. May you continue to pursue these themes and give us a richer, more well-rounded girl culture of stories for our youngsters to love and relate to! My inner Merida feels a little vindicated and heard. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ding Dong Ditching Day.

One of my current happy places online is Poppies at Play, and, at her behest, I took my children ding dong ditching this afternoon. In my defense, she made a REALLY compelling case.  We used GF brownies with coconut oil instead of ding dongs. Since we only bothered our friends, I figured we'd better not hasten anyone's early heart attack. XOP The same generous blog also offers the free printable labels pictured below.

Mirth made the brownies herself, and everyone suffered politely through a "test brownie" apiece before she caved and said, "I think I did something wrong. These are NASTY!" {cough, choke} Indeed, they were. We figured out that estimation in a baking recipe makes for very funny texture, and tried again aiming for precision with much better success.

We had a blast. Mirth and Lark decided that disguises were kind of a must.

Monday, June 18, 2012

So, a wonderful week of family vacation is over. If any of you are parents, you'll know I use the word "vacation" really recklessly.

Originally, we'd planned to go to some themed park, but on examining gas costs, time spent in car, hassle, we decided it was the better part of wisdom (is there an ugly, worse part of wisdom? That colloquialism always confuses me..."Hey, there, Bill, looks like you got the crappy half of wisdom. Better luck next time, old boy!" No sense.) to stay at home.

Almighty Pinterest has deemed this the "stay-cation". I got a tick or two more stupid just typing that out.

So we stayed at home. For two days, my shiny-exciting-things-loving self really had a tough time with it, I won't lie. I wanted marvels and the novel. Instead, I got a novel and some marvel comics on my own crumb-filled couch. Sadness ensued.

After I had my pity-party (yes, I, the mama had the worst pity party, even though the decision was self imposed. There's no accounting for feelings, sometimes.), I started really enjoying my family and our time together.

We had an epic water balloon fight, during which I may have nailed my oldest daughter just a touch too hard with a water balloon filled with green water. I was going to feel guilty, but then surmised that a woman has to grab a harmless chuckle where she can. And since Oldest Spawn deemed it "The best water war EVER!!", I didn't feel too badly. For a glorious, sneaky, water-drenched 20 minutes, I felt like an eight year old again, tearing around the yard whooping like a banshee, the sun slapping my skin and making it red, grass clippings sticking randomly to my wet (ghostly white) legs.

A big first was taking the girls fishing for the first time. "It'll be great!" Nafe said. "You can drive one motor raft and I'll drive the other." Turns out I'm a slow learner on the water, and ended up driving in circles for a while, until I finally got the hang of it: left to go right, right to go left, with the smelly old Tananka motor gurgling and sputtering and chortling behind me. We caught one fish, with a little whining and bickering, while Electra played with her feet in my lap and ...

...and decided to call it a day after an hour or two, at which point dark clouds had started to blow in over the back stream where we'd dropped our lines in. It immediately dropped 20 degrees or so cooler which was a welcome sensation from the lazy heat. And then, halfway down the river, it started to sprinkle. Nafe tossed a sheepish "Isn't this FUN?" grin over his shoulder. It *was* fun. It was overcast and cool and the water was making ripples and waves from the breeze, and the trees coating the curves of the mountains were a luscious, glorious silvery green. Magic. It seemed like a good time to loosen up and have a little fun with my newfound steering skills, and Lark and Grace burst into mad giggles as we did donuts on the waves.

Then, it started raining harder, and I felt my eyebrows furrow. About the time the motor coughed out from too much gas (oops), the bottom fell out of the sky. Torrential sheets of water is the only sufficient way to describe what started dumping from the clouds onto our bodies. And the thunder started rolling. The miserable hilarity of my children curled up in fetal positions to keep the rain off their faces while our weenie little motors tried to fight back to the dock against the waves had me laughing. Until I realized I'd have to drive all the way back home in a sopping, dripping sundress all the way home once we (read: Nafe) got the rafts deflated and folded.

So the kids were toweled off in the bathroom and changed into an odd assortment clothes we had stashed away in the care for a rainy day, and I was standing outside the car with them buckled in, with random strangers from the dock standing around. I could NOT drench my car that way. No sir. My car already smells like the inside of a daycare's laundry basket. So I did what any reasonable, still-carrying-a-post-baby tire woman would do. I stripped down to my underwear and bra and drove home half naked. Right there in front of God and everybody.

The kids came home, and Nafe taught the big girls how to clean, cook and eat a fish third world style: eyeballs, brains, roe and all. And mama threw in a little splash of backwater AL, and demonstrated how to eat the crispy fins and tail. They had huge fun with it, and ate the poor little fish down to a skeleton.

We also baked bread, picked blackberries around the house, went to a birthday party, watched Mythbusters and did whatever the hell we wanted to whenever the hell we wanted to. And it was *dreamy*.

Now, life goes on. I think I'll let the children in the house (I kicked them out for the morning). They're now at the front door, back door and a window, pounding and pawing at the glass like little hungry zombies with sunhats on. "Juice!! Juuuuuuice...." Life goes on.