*Cue music…I BELIEVE I CAN FLY…I BELIEVE I CAN TOUCH THE SKY!

Yesterday was wet and blustery, cold and raw.  Naturally Rowan wanted to play outside.  Weirdo.

He circled the yard in his gator a few times, tied up a tree with bungee cords, and sat on his bike, cursing the rain.  While he was doing all those activities, keeping his blood pumping and staying warm, I was doing this: Image Rowan had the brilliant idea to dig out the kite that is currently rigged with a coat hanger, heavy string, and a BBQ skewer.  I tried to explain that it probably wouldn’t fly, as I didn’t want him to be disappointed when he couldn’t get it in the air.  As is his way, he persevered, and for a half hour he and I ran around the yard trying to get that darn thing up.  He eventually told me that I wasn’t doing it right and released me from my duties as string holder.  I went back to reading my book on the porch, and not ten minutes later I looked up from “The Decameron”, and he had that dolphin kite soaring. photo 5 (1) photo 3 (2) photo 2 (3) photo (1)

As any parent (or anyone who has spent any time with little kids) knows, they are strikingly persistent, optimistic, positive, and have a way of showing you your own bad attitude.  Time after time Rowan has proved me wrong.  When I say that he won’t be able to do something, it only drives him that much harder to want to do it.  Sometimes I love seeing that side of him, like when he flew the kite.  Other times, that side of him gets him in trouble, like when I told him not to use an entire tube of toothpaste in one day, so he did.  Stinker.

Anyway, I need to learn that just because I can’t figure something out, doesn’t mean HE can’t figure it out.  With every passing year the lad grows smarter than me, and not for one second do I want to repress that part of him.  If it means that I have to buy a few extra tubes of toothpaste, and clean a few messes, I think I can deal with that.

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Fruit

Rowan: Mom, I know the fruits of the spirit.

Me: Really?

Rowan: Yup, they’re love, joy, peace….um….uh…..and quiet.  Yup, love, joy, peace and quiet!

Me: *blink blink*

If he hadn’t puffed up his chest and grinned at me so proudly, I would have corrected him.

 

Best of Buds

A few days ago Rowan found his soul mate.  It doesn’t matter that there is four years between them, or that he lives a half hour away.  It doesn’t even matter that it’s a he!  All that matters is that Avery has this:

tractorsThis is only a portion of his (dad’s) collection!  I’m pretty sure that is part of what Rowan’s heaven will look like.

One of the things I love about hanging out with Avery, other than the fact that I get to chat with his mother, is getting to see what Rowan will be like as a big brother some day.  At first there was a little frustration about Avery wanting to move Rowan’s carefully lined up tractors, but after explaining that Avery was too little to understand, something seemed to click.  Rowan became patient and kind, loving and playful.  He gently told Avery, “No thank you, Avery, I’m playing with that.”  Sometimes Avery would move on, but if he didn’t, Rowan would silently plead with his eyes to take that kid somewhere else!  If we didn’t though, he would play with Avery for bit, explaining the parts of the tractor, or what kind of tractor it was.  It was adorable to watch these two tiny men together.

playing

Avery’s first birthday is next week, and he was the lucky recipient of a little slide that they put together while we were at their house.  The slide was great.  The box it came in was better.  Rowan patiently played peek-a-boo with Avery, letting his little friend shut him up in the box time after time.  If Avery wandered off, as one year old’s are prone to do, Rowan would invite him back to play, and they’d giggle as I threatened to ship them to Alaska.

photo 4

We also went on a hay ride this weekend.  It was a bit chilly, but perfect for warm hats, and wrapping up in quilts.  For an hour we cuddled against a scratchy bale of hay while nibbling goldfish crackers and watching the world pass by.  🙂

stare

iKid

Rowan was the very lucky recipient of an iPad for Christmas.  I know what you’re thinking: “Your kid is four already, and he’s just NOW getting an iPad?!?  Slacker.”  Okay, so you were more likely thinking along the lines of: “Why does your four year old need an iPad?”  That’s a really great question, thanks for asking.

There are some concerns that children will be less creative when exposed to the world of technology on a regular basis, and I think that’s a valid concern.  I understand the value of physically manipulating toys and objects and art supplies, which is why I don’t allow the iPad to replace those things, only supplement them.  Rowan has free access to all of his art supplies and his toys of course, while he has to ask to use the iPad.  I don’t say yes every time, forcing him to stretch his imagination, even if he whines about being bored.  We spend time outside every day, no matter the weather, and he will choose to go out and play over sitting inside with the iPad 100% of the time.  If that’s the case, one could easily argue that there is no need for an iPad in the first place.  Good argument guys!  I’m impressed!

Technology is going to be a central part of our kid’s lives, we might as well help them become comfortable with it now.  Rowan can turn on, operate his with ease, and even knows where to get free books to download.  Of course I have parental locks on there, so he can only access age-appropriate and pre-approved sites.  When I am unavailable to read to him, ie: cooking dinner, he can sit in the kitchen and be read to. (I’m a single mom, and in addition to Rowan, my 93 year old grandmother lives with us.  There’s only one of me, and sometimes I need backup.)  I confess, I’ve used it to “babysit” my child while I do things around the house, or while waiting at the DMV, or on long car trips.  Is it replacing his ability to wait?  Is he learning that instant gratification is the only option?  I don’t think so.  I see plenty of instances where he demonstrates his age-appropriate attention span, even sometimes defies it.  I remember one such instance a few weeks ago, where we had to wait almost two hours, and he amused himself with a pencil, a piece of paper, and three pennies.  I’m getting off track though.  Having a screen available to amuse him is as much of a discipline in patience and control for me as it is for Rowan-maybe even more so for me.  As with most things in life, if used in moderation, it’s not a bad thing.

The iPad is a toy, yes, but it’s also a tool.  As a homeschooling mother, I run across times where Rowan is reluctant to learn.  As with any child there are moments of frustration over not wanting to practice phonics, or learn addition.  After struggling through a lesson, he can back up what he just learned with a game involving his work for the day.  In some cases he even learns more, as he is more eager to play a game than do a worksheet.  He’s hitting all of his educational goals, and exceeding some, in part to the iPad.  Games that we can play together-we do.  Games that we could play with an actual board-we do.  If my child was in a public or private school, there is a good chance he would be using an iPad, and there is a 100% chance he would be using a computer now, or in the very near future.  This is no different from that, except the technology is more advanced.

My imagination and resources can only go so far, and what I miss, the iPad fills in.  It can provide story books, text books, and magazines that I can’t provide hard copies to.  It’s a window to the rest of the world via FaceTime and the internet.  It provides art, foreign language, and music lessons that I wouldn’t know how to teach.  Let’s face it, it can teach math lessons that I don’t know how to do!

So why does it benefit Rowan to own his very own iPad, instead of just using mine?  One of the reasons is that it’s easier for me! I don’t have to worry that he’s online purchasing a 5 million dollar car off of Ebay, or messing up the order of my apps.  There isn’t a button on his iPad he can’t touch or explore.  His has an indestructible case, and parental internet controls.  I’m not frustrated with his apps cluttering up my home screen, and he’s able to pick and choose on his own what he wants to do.  His stuff isn’t filling up valuable memory space on mine, allowing both of us to have more space.  I’m less possessive and controlling with my own iPad, now that he’s got his.  I don’t hesitate to install a new app, or allow him to get a new book.  With him having his own iPad, he can take control and ownership over that part of his learning, and he gains confidence from that.

Children and technology is a fairly new topic, therefore the studies on it are young.  I’m curious to see how children in this age are affected by it, in both negative and positive ways.  For now, I’m happy to let young Rowan use this portable learning tool as a complement to his daily life.

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Every couple of months or so, I write a blog entry in my head, but by the time I sit down to write it, I have homework to complete, or am too tired, or need to vacuum up the hamster poop from under Rowan’s bed, where the hamster, Caillou, spent a day trying to evade capture.  It was a harrowing escape from his cage, with 4 foot plummets, dashes across rugged terrain laden with petrified remains of an afternoon snack, and two maniacal predators, that stalked the addled little rodent, but were too lazy to actually hunt him.  Instead they just sat on the piano bench, licking their paws, and emitting a half meow/half growl sort of sound and left the actual capture to me.  They licked between their toes, kicked one leg into the air to lick their back sides, and then licked each other’s ears, all the while keeping their eyes locked on Caillou.  This story has a happy ending, because not only was the hamster successfully returned home, but you’re getting a blog post out of it!

It’s been a remarkable year.  The most significant and life-altering event was the death of my dear, sweet best friend.  She was brave and brilliant and inspiring.  She was enchanting and confident and bright.  She was my grandmother.  I miss her more than I knew it was possible to miss someone.  While the pain isn’t as raw, those lugubrious moments still creep through, and I find myself crying over silly things.  Just yesterday there was a cardinal prowling for food, and preening itself on a branch not far from where she used to sit in her room.  There is no longer a bird feeder there, but every now and then a hungry bird will wander over to make sure the food is still gone.  When these little remnants of her life pop up, that hole she left suddenly feels bigger, and I ache to hear her laugh, listen to her read to me, or cuddle in her bed discussing life.  It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been able to experience any of those things, but less selfishly, it’s been nearly a year that Grandma has been out of pain.  It’s been nearly a year that she’s been able to walk and run and jump with her husband, her parents, her family and friends, and her dogs. 🙂  It’s been nearly a year since she arrived at the gates of heaven.  She’s perfect and whole now, and that’s enough for me to be able to let her go from this crumbling world.

This year Rowan and I both ventured into the world of academia!  Rowan started his home school career this fall, and has flourished.  He eagerly devours any work pages I give him, kicks my booty in any educational game, and gently corrects me when he sees I’ve put the days of the week in the wrong order.  (Okay, he laughed his head off and said, “MOOOOOOM, even I know Tuesday comes before Thursday!”)  He loves any arts and crafts we do, and puzzles are easily solved.  I think his favorite thing is when I don’t give him a cap on the amount of books I’ll read to him.  Wobbly stacks of literature surround us on Rowan’s bed where we learn about bats and insects.  We laugh at Curious George, and marvel at  mighty construction vehicles and powerful locomotives.  I’ve started reading to him from Charlotte’s Web, and he’s learning to sit quietly, use his imagination, and to genuinely love words.  It’s magical.  Homeschooling is proving itself to be the best path for my little family.  It provides us ample time to be together, a flexible schedule, and a peace of mind  I certainly wouldn’t have sending my four year old to public school.   I also get a firsthand seat to the greatest show out there-watching my son grow up.  We have such an amazing homeschooling community here, filled with friends and mentors and other parents to encourage me.  Rowan has friends to play with, learn from, and be a wonderful example to him.  Rowan is swiftly on his way to graduating before I do.

I went back to college this fall to chase the geekiest degree I could find: Library Science.  In other words, I want to be a librarian.  Highest paying job out there?  No.  Most prestigious? Not really.  Great benefits?  Not so much.  A job I’ll love doing, won’t bemoan over having to attend daily, and something I’ll be proud to support?  Without a doubt.  My grandmother instilled an intense love of literature in me at a young age.  She exposed me to so many genres and authors that now I love to read everything from biographies to science fiction to the articles in Country Magazine.  She taught me to write and be read to.  She taught me the difference between books to read for fun and books to change the way I view the world.  I want to inculcate, to infuse that same kind of lust for reading into others.  I would thrive in a job like that.

Grandma’s death brought many of her most beloved friends and family into our(her) home.  People poured onto our front porch, and story after story was acquainted of her life.  Many were from her childhood, some were from her adulthood, a few about her death.  There was one recurring theme that popped up no matter where she was, what she was doing, or who she was with.  She gave.  She gave her time and her talents.  She gave everyone a smile.  She gave advise and encouragement.  She gave me a love of words, and some of the best memories of my life.  Every person at that service knew that it was a celebration of who Jean Emily Wetherbee was.  It ended up being the highlight of my summer, as I was able to reconnect with relatives I haven’t seen for years, and meet some I’ve somehow managed to live my whole life without knowing.  We are not perfect, but let me tell you something about my family: we genuinely love each other.  I know I’m sort of biased, but I think my family is pretty cool, and I wish we all lived closer together.

In between all the big stuff this year has been lots of little stuff.  Rowan completely potty trained himself in one day.  Early in the year he just decided that he was done, and would wear underwear now-even at night.  He never had an accident, and I have happily spent all his diaper money on chocolate.  He turned 4, decided he would start reading, and soaked up any form of words people would give him. He’ll sit for as many books as you’ll read to him, he loves hearing different languages, and he’s more stubborn than….than….I was going to say me, but that’s not possible.  He’s just really stubborn, and unlike some parents, I don’t want to punish it out of him.  I want that strength to do what he believes is right, to follow him for the rest of his days.  I know it’s my job to mold that little boy into a man.  He’s not perfect, as nobody is, but he is a wonderful example of love, energy, a hunger for learning, humor, and a mischievous streak a mile long.

I’ve never in my life been so confident with where I am and where I’m going.  I’m happy.  My son is happy.  It’s just the two of us in our little family, but two is all we need.

In like a lion…

Oh my gosh you guys, it’s been an insane couple of weeks.  The biggest event was my grandma breaking her ankle.  It’s left her immobile and completely dependant on me.  I went from being able to leave her on her own for a few hours to having to get a babysitter to stay with her if I needed to go to the grocery store.  The stress of the whole thing sent her into a downward spiral mentally.  She was convinced she was in a nursing home, that people were constantly coming in and out to visit her, she was having conversations on the phone with no one on the other end, and for the most part, she didn’t know who I was.  She’s fairly stabilized now, but, WOW!

What did Rowan do during the whole time?  Ride his bike!  As long as I’m wasn’t forcing him to eat, sleep or bathe, he was on his bike.  If it was raining, he was riding in circles around the dining room table.  My son loves him some wheels.  He doesn’t know it, but he’s getting his very own two-wheeler for his birthday.  Actually, he’s getting it within the next month probably.  I want him to be able to have it for the summer, and not have to wait until the end of August.  Stature wise he still fits on his tricycle, but mentally he’s in the Tour de France.  He just can’t go fast enough on a three-wheeled baby bike. 

There isn’t much else to update on, except maybe that Rowan harvested the first ripe strawberry from our garden, and kept telling people that, “I grewed it myself!”  Despite the look on his face, he enjoyed the fruits of his labor.  🙂

Here’s what else you’ve missed:

Grief

I am so clueless when it comes to parenting.  Sure, I can play trucks and chase Rowan around the yard.  I can read to him, build towers, cook his meals and do his laundry, but I totally fall short with the real stuff. 

Rowan’s first pet died today.  His red beta, named Blub-Blub has been swimming sideways for about two days, and I’ve known he was close to death.  I kept telling myself I’d think of a way to explain it to Rowan, but stuff kept coming up, and it kept slipping my mind.  Then it actually happened, and I was left with absolutely nothing.

While Rowan was in the kitchen having tea with Great (a daily ritual), I fished out Blub-Blub, and hid him in a Tupperware.  I sat Rowan down on his bed, and asked him if he remembered where Mommy’s Bapa is. 

 “In heaven with God.”

“Right, and do you know why he went to heaven?”

“Let’s go outside.”

“Actually, I need to tell you something.”

“What, Mama?”

“Blub-Blub died, Sweetie.  He went up to heaven.”  

Wordlessly he dragged a chair over to the empty fish tank and peered in.  He studied the water for a few moments, looked at me with those huge blue eyes, and started to cry.  Big heaping sobs of grief and anger filled his tiny body.  He fell into my arms and I cried with him.  I wasn’t crying for the fish, but rather the inconsolable pain that my baby was feeling.  He was hurting, and nothing I could do could fix that.  I knew he needed to feel that pain and work through his grief.  I felt so, so helpless.  So inadequate.  I would have done anything to take away his hurt.

As soon as he was able to catch his breath and talk, he just repeated over and over, “He not dead, he not dead.”  I assured him he was, and finally he just settled into my lap, and we quietly sat together for a while. 

I took him out to dinner, just the two of us.  It’s not something we ever really do, so he cheered up a little and started chatting about the dog outside.  Eventually over grilled cheese and french fries the conversation turned to death and heaven, grieving and God.  Guys, I have an amazing son with a huge heart with a great capacity to love.  He’s got an ability to grasp the intangible that I still struggle with.  His innocent, trusting soul can accept without question that his beloved pet is in heaven with Mommy’s Bapa.

This was a hard first lesson on loss for my little man.  He no longer has the advantage of ignorance any more.  He knows things die and go away.  He knows life will hurt him, and that mommy can’t protect him from everything.  As much as this day has been hard, it’s also been a growing and learning experience.  My little boy is one step closer to being a man, and I can’t help but plead for him to stop.  Slow down. 

Rowan seeing Blub-Blub for the first time on his second birthday.