Life As It Is



The greatest madness 

is to see life as it is

rather than

what it could be. 

– Cervantes


Summer is for growing.

Lately, the deep green and life that comes with summer inspires my goal-driven personality. A few summers ago, when we sold our first home, I was inspired to return to simplicity in my parenting.

It was in this return that I found myself.

And what started as finding simplicity has developed into a full-fledged journey. While once I may have adamantly insisted that you need to know where you’re going in life, now I can sit back and recognize that the unplanned adventures are the ones really worth setting off on.

And so this summer began, so full of new life. And yet, I felt like I may lose myself again. Having finished grad school, I was feeling such a sense of loss. I know, I know who the heck gets sad about finishing school? 

I could feel a part of myself slipping away amidst the worry and the fear of what comes next?

Having been down that road before, I sincerely do not wish to travel it again.

So I decided that this will be the best summer of my life.

Hey, we can all have goals.

But truly. This is going to be the best summer of my life.

I’ve been reading a lot, per usual. A lot of my informal research, conducted in an effort to improve my parenting game, has centered on growth mindset. Such a fun little topic.

But really, growth mindset isn’t just for kids!

So I thought to myself: what are some areas where you need to grow? 

Tagging along in the research with growth mindset is this little thing called mindfulness.

Now I’m not talking about meditation.

Mindfulness, at its basic level, is being aware of or being conscious of something.

It’s super useful to use mindfulness as a mom….”You see, my child, when you whine like that, it makes me want to curl up into a ball, sink into the ground, and turn into an earthworm because I am afraid that I will never get you to stop. Of course I realize that this is a completely irrational response to your attempt to express a need. So please, my child, could you KINDLY STOP WHINING?”

Just kidding. That’s not the best application of mindfulness. Although, being honest, I really have used it to help myself be aware of what it is about my children’s behavior that triggers a less than ideal parenting response.

Anyhow….so off track here…

Learning about mindfulness reminded me a bit about minimalism. The premise that #theeuropehouse was built and designed upon.

Minimalism has helped me to recognize the little things. It has helped me to be more aware, and to seek out meaning.

This idea has helped me to recognize this summer as the best summer of my life.

Really, this is going to be the best summer of my life.

So many summers have passed me by…ones wasted on wishes.

Wishes that I would be a different person, live somewhere else, do different things, see different people, go different places…wishes that I had enough money I didn’t have to work, wishes that my children would behave like cherubs and not track so stinken’ much sand into the house. Wishes that I had a different job, wishes that I could afford an exotic vacation, see beautiful places, wear different clothes…wishes that I didn’t have so much laundry, that my windows would clean themselves…

I wished for a life I could never have. A life that would never be.

I spent years hoping that some day I would wake up, and all the things I could ever have dreamed would be true.

I spent years looking at life as it could be.

Not as it was.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams. Trust me – I have them. Tons of them, and a load of goals as well.

The danger with dreams and goals is that we humans tend to hyper focus on them. In the words of the infamous Albus Dumbldore: “it does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live”.

This summer, I realized that I have spent my time looking at my life as it could be rather than as it is. 

I tried to be more mindful about my thoughts and attitudes as well. Instead of getting upset when my five year old wakes up at 6AM and interrupts my coffee-Bible-quiet time, instead of wishing for life as it could be – him sleeping until 8 AM on all my days off, I took a step back.

My five year old likes to wake up at 6AM and have coffee with me.

I mean seriously. How adorable is that.

So now, we wake up by 6 AM and snuggle on the couch. He drives his trucks around the cushions, and I drink my coffee and read my Bible out loud to him.

This is life as it is.

I used to dream about traveling to places and hiking to places with Instagram worthy, breathtaking vistas. I would naturally be wearing the cutest hiking clothes, with perfect hair, and wouldn’t be sweating at all. Yes, life as it could be.

But my life doesn’t allow for me to travel. So this summer I decided, I was going to hike to Instagram worthy, breathtaking vistas in my own backyard. 

So I did.

The picture at the top of this post was taken from our latest excursion. It is the view from along a 21 mile trail which I can view in it’s entirety from #theeuropehouse

I never knew that my own back yard offered such views. The rolling green hills, the crisp blue sky, and hardly a house to be seen. Hiking from the valley, where civilization lays nestled among the forest, it would seem that all you would see is civilization – that boring small town, the sites you drive by every single day, the monotony of small town life. I could hardly have been more wrong! The expanse of green and sky offer little evidence of human life, birthing a new appreciation for a beauty that I never knew existed in my own little piece of the world.

My own little piece of the world is beautiful, and amazing, and it is life as it is. 

And this is the greatest summer of my life.

Not because it, in itself, is great. But because I, in myself, have chosen to recognize beauty, and happiness, and life. Life not as it could be. But life as it is. With a deeper appreciation and positive mind set, a soul willing to grow and change.

An adventure not sought out, but one worth embarking upon.

Life, as it is. 






Mr. Aksel Turns 3 – On Letting Go of Birthday Expectations

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.  – Voltaire

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.  – William Barclay

I still haven’t forgiven myself for failing to have my hospital bags packed when I was a week over due. The irony is that, though my bags were not packed, my homework for the next two weeks was complete ahead of time. But my bags were not packed, and if they had been I would have missed Mr. Aksel being born on that infamous first day that people like to attempt to fool one another one. Alas…

And now it has been three years. Three years and finally most days bring more smiles than they bring tears. And while he still is a challenging child, speech delay and all, I finally feel like we are getting there. Like I can handle each day and not need to talk to a therapist at the end of each day.

But another year older bring another years party…and parties have proven to be all but disastrous for Mr. Aksel. I can’t remember one of his birthdays that have been “fun” or “cute” or anything that you would generally imagine.

Of course, year one he put the candle out with his fingers – and didn’t cry – I should have realized then he had sensory problems 😉

Year two, I can only remember thinking…let’s get this thing over with.

When your child, the birthday star, is clinging to you and fussing through his entire birthday, too overwhelmed to even eat his cake, and dis-interested in opening his own presents you start to wonder if having a party is even worth it.

It is sort of one more thing that I’ve grieved over this boy-I-never-wanted, but the boy-who-God-knew-I-needed.

So I won’t have all of the instagram and Pinterest worthy pictures that every other mommy posts.

So I won’t get to make my daughter’s day planning and decorating for a party (she on the other hand, thrives on parties).

No cute pics. No cute decorations.

I’ll tell ya, you definitely get some weird looks when you tell your family and friends that you are not having a birthday party for your own child.

But guess what?

We didn’t have a party.

And it was the best birthday that little boy every had!

All day smiles and all day celebration.

Ellie and daddy went to the store and got him balloons and a sister-present before breakfast.

He opened his presents from us, played with them, and ran around with his balloons most of the day.

Grandparents and his Aunt stopped by throughout the day to give him a gift and wish him happy birthday.

And we ended the day with cupcakes and candles and singing happy birthday.

Because even though you may think that society expects you to have a party and that is just what you do if you are a good parent – sometimes, it is just not true. And while you yourself may grieve the fact that your baby boy just does not like crowds, and noise, and parties and all the pictures and planning that go along with them…you may be surprised to find out that you like a no-party birthday after all.

Because every child is different. And every child needs different things.

This idea is the whole reason why I began studying child development and chose my career path anyways.

God made them all, but He made them all different too.

And what’s good for one is bad for another. And in learning about your own child you will learn a lot about yourself.

And so Mr.Aksel…I hope that you remember this day – your third birthday. Or at least the feeling of joy that we saw on your face. What a long way you have come! Like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon as a butterfly – finally prepared to face the world in a beautiful way, independent and with emerging confidence.

I pray that you take this gift of life that God gave you and live it well. I pray that along the road He takes you down you will come to understand yourself, and realize your purpose in this world. We are so lucky to have you in our lives…mom, dad and Ellie, you have taught us so many things. And because of you we have realized that it is okay to let go…and now we understand what is truly important in this life. The little things.


Holding On…

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
― G.K. Chesterton

I have been taking part in an Online Bible Study and am loving it. One of my biggest regrets of being a WAWM (wicked awesome working mom) is that I don’t have the opportunity to participate in Bible Studies.

Problem. Solved.

I freaking love the internet.

Oh, you want to go to college but don’t actually want to GO to college? Go to college online!

You want to participate in Bible Studies, but can’t actually GET there? Go to Bible Study online!


The topic of this Bible study is centered around the book of Ruth. It is a practical approach to not quitting things.

Honestly, I’ve struggled a bit with having anything to apply this whole concept to as (and I hate to toot my own horn here) but I really don’t actually every quit things. I kill myself mentally, emotionally, and what often feels like physically…but I never, ever, ever quit. I mean really, that’s what being a WAWM is all about. Doing things and doing lots of things, and never giving up.

But as God always does I have been shown that there is an area of my life that I have quit…

I know, shocker. I was shocked myself when I realized it.

You see, I am this kind of person: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” ― Alexander Pope

And I have given up on hope.

Who really knows how it happened. As it does, life likely whittled and chipped away at the walls surrounding my soul until slowly but surely the  hope that once lived there began to slip away. Until one day I just quit having hope.

They (and don’t ask me who exactly because I really don’t know) say that the first step to fixing your problem is admitting it.

Well, here I am admitting it. I have quit hope. Which is really quite shocking because I truly love inspirational and motivational things. Maybe in an effort to jump-start my own dying soul…

It’s funny how you don’t always see the truth about yourself. There I was in the middle of a Bible study about quitting things and being all “I’m-so-awesome-I-never-quit-things” driving to work and I hear the words of the song by Danny Gokey:

There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen, there’s hope in front of me

And I realized all at once that I don’t have hope in front of me.

I don’t have hope at all.

I like to talk about hope, but I don’t actually have any.

I just take life and all that happens and goes on and try to deal with it. I just move along through life doubting anything and everything.

And the only place that has gotten me is into a depressed and negative place…like a dark, dark forest that you can feel closing in on all sides. And you can’t get out. At first, you want to. But then you sort of just get used to the forest. You tell yourself it’s not so bad. This is just what life is like. It just…it just is.

But it doesn’t have to be.

A quick search for the keyword ‘hope’ in the Bible revealed 151 results.

Well, guess I’m not the only one who has quit this thing!

So many  powerful reminders of what hope is…and where it can be found.


The way I see it, hope is rather like love. It’s not actually something that we feel. Like love, it is a choice. It is something that we do, and seek, and look for, and purposefully put into our hearts and souls.

And when we find ourselves in the heart of that oppressive forest we don’t give up. We look for hope. We look to Him to give us that hope. And we carry on victoriously in life with His hope in our hearts.

Because life doesn’t have to just be.

Hope gives us victory in life.

Since the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, I think I’m on the right track to not quitting hope.

I will hope that these college degrees are the tool He has equiped me with to make a difference…

There is hope in your future, says the Lord… Jeremiah 31:17 a

 I will hope that things will be fine financially, and not allow financial worries to consume me…

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not. Lamentations 3:21-22

 I will remain hopeful that He has my best interest at heart…

That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments. Psalm 76:7

I will hold on to hope and will not fear my future…

Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

I will not let depression and anxiety fill my soul…

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

When I’m tempted to lose hope, I’ll turn to Hos word…

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. Psalm 119:114

When I want to worry and stress about my job, my kids, my life, my finances, anything and everything…I’ll let His promises comfort my heart…

 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I won’t let go of hope, instead, I’ll hold on to it…

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.Hebrews 10:23

And so my sweet Ellie and my passionate Kreade…

Find your hope. Find it in Him and hold fast to it. Don’t let your souls wander into that dark forest. Be hopeful. Remember that every detail of your future rests in His all knowing and perfect plan. And never lose hope. I pray that He fills you with so much hope in the midst of so much doubt that people cannot help but notice. And when they ask you why you dare to hope…tell them. Tell them why. Tell them where. And tell them Who. May the hope that He gives you be the reason that despairing souls find their way out of the darkness and into the light…

 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15




Abundantly More: Happy Birthday Kreade

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Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Today, April 1st, 2015, it has been exactly a year since Baby K was born.

Exactly a year since all the crying began.

But today he is one. And what a transformation has taken place!

Not only is it amazing to watch all of the miraculous developmental changes that children undergo naturally, it has been even more amazing to watch an infant go from a screaming little ball of misery to a happy, independent one year old.

This has been one of the most difficult years of my life. Perhaps even the most difficult. I don’t do well with babies in general. Never mind the ones that cry. All. The. Time. And though I said I could never do it – I did! And I survived with most of my hair and most of my sanity.

But through it all I have learned so much. I’ve learned to be flexible, and not become too attached to the plans that are my design. Because sometimes, even though the road is often narrow, His plans are so much better. But we cannot know them until we have learned to let go of our own. And Kreade taught me to let go.

And through it all I’ve learned that I can do things that I never thought I could do. But I also learned that I’m not actually a superhero and I can’t do everything myself. Yet, through Him I can do all things. Kreade taught me that I can do anything, through His love and power living and working in me.

And though I feel like Kreade’s personal version of Jesus, loving him through the sleepless, scream-filled nights and days, I have such a better understanding of the love that He has for me. Unconditional. Even at 10 PM, 12 AM, 2 AM, 4 AM, 6 AM…love never fails. I’ve loved him through it all. And come to understand His love through it all.

I never dared to hope that this day would come. I honestly lost hope that Kreade would ever sleep through the night. That he would ever be somewhat happy. That he would grow up to be even partly normal and well-adjusted. I know it sounds crazy – but when all you’ve ever known is an infant that cries all the times and needs you all the time ( literally ALL the time). You really do begin to lose hope that they will ever be…normal.

But guess what!

The day has come…exactly a year later, when I can say that through it all has emerged a somewhat normal, beginning to be well adjusted, somewhat happy one year old. It’s really been in the last month that things have really come together.

Like the flip of a switch. One calendar day to another.

He started sleeping through the night. I mean like 11 or so hours all night long. Hallelujah!

He stopped nursing every 3 hours and weaned himself to a sippy cup of regular milk. Literally all by himself. Wow!

He has learned to entertain himself for short periods of time. And the days of cooking one handed with a  baby on my hip are slowing starting to fade. Amazing!

He is almost walking.

He doesn’t cry all of the time.

He smiles at people and lets other people hold him.

He cuddles with Klayton.

He goes to bed sleep all on his own after a snuggle and Bible story.

And though I doubted that it would ever be possible, Kreade has transformed from a needy, fussy, screaming ball of misery to a thriving little boy.

All thanks to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think.

So Kreade, I pray that your heart will know His love as I have known His love for me through loving you. Always remember that we all are a work in progress. But through His power at work in you, you can be and do abundantly more than you could ever ask or think.

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The Beauty of Experience

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
― Eleanor Roosevelt
Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced. – John Keats

While I find my energy and patience, which sadly depend upon each other, growing thin these days I try to remember the important things in life. Namely, my daughter. Afterall, it’s not her fault that my energy is low and my patience nearly non existent. Even though it takes a great effort to do things with my sweet little girl, usually when I do them I gain a bit of energy; the enjoyment gained through these activities is worth my last ounces of energy and my time. While I often am tempted to say that not only am I tired,  but I have far more important things that I should be spending my time on. But do I really? Is  there anything more important than spending quality time with and providing enriching experience for your child. Nope. The laundry can wait. And so, I try to embark upon little adventures with my Ellie girl at least a few times a week.


One of the adventures we have journeyed through together was baking cookies. Ellie is to the age now that she can ask for things she wants to eat, hence the chocolate chip and M&M cookies. I know that the thought of baking with a not-quite-two-year-old might be, well, frightening.  It can also be a time for learning and experience. I explained to Ellie the process of reading the recipe and measuring. She carefully emptied cups of flower into the mixing  bowl. Then she used the wooden spoon to stir the dry ingredients together. She was fascinated as she watched me place the cookies on the cookie sheet and nicely reminded me that the oven is “hot” wheni put the sheets in to bake. What better way to learn about where things to eat come from than to experience the process yourself?


Daddy helped us out with our next mini adventure. We gave in and finally bought mums and pumpkins for our porch. We always transfer them into our own decorative pots, this time our walking, talking Ellie was right there to help. She was absolutely fascinated with the whole process. She got her garden tools from the garage and plopped right down to help Daddy. She helped fill the pot  with dirt, and then filled another happily exclaiming “dirt daddy! Look!” Is there anything more “fall” than planting mums?! Being invloved in the things that your parents do not only helps you feel important, but your parents realize that you have something to offer: even if it is something as small as placing tiny handfuls of dirt in a flower pot. If you teach your child the process there is likely something that they can contribute, no matter how small. What a confidence builder!



Paint. This may be the most feared substance among parents. I just so happen to love it. Stick them in some play clothes,  put an art smock over them, and tell them not to eat it. Easy. Ellie loved painting. So much so that we tried two new types of paint: watercolors and tempera. Of course I went over the “rules” about twenty times while she painted: we don’t paint our bodies, we don’t paint the counter, it’s not for eating, turn the brush around,  not in your hair… The process of watercolors was even more complicated. Water, then paint, then paper… And while it may seem unlikely that a toddler could “get” the process of watercolor painting, it is possible. What a fun experience this was. And so many things were gained through it: the experience of processes (the watercolor won’t work if you don’t use water first), learning persistence and not giving up, following rules and boundaries, experimenting with mixing color, cause and effect…the list goes on.



It isn’t fall in New England if you don’t take a trip to the apple orchard. Besides, all the applesauce and apple pie that you get from those apples makes the whole experience better. Ellie already went apple picking this fall with her Mam (grandma) and aunties. When we told her we were going apple picking again she was so excited. We got to ride the tractor hay ride to the orchard, which Ellie thought was a train. She experienced one of those earlier this summer. Outin the orchard Ellie tried the process of twisting and pulling the apples. She tried so hard! After filling our bag we rode the hay ride back and made our way to say “hi” to the goats and pigs. Ellie loves animals. She loved them even more up close and studiously observed what the pigs were eating: “dirt?” Even this traditional fall experience held room not only for quality family time, but for learning as well. There was the whole process of twisting and pulling, the lesson of keep trying, the observation of animals and how they live. She even learned that pumpkins were too heavy for her to pick up!

Experience. Life is for living, for experiencing. Being able to see a child take part in happy adventures is a beautiful thing. I hope that these early experiences set the foundation for Ellie’s future response and approach to experience. Martha Washington once said “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstance”. Even as a small child Ellie is learning from her experiences. I hope that she learns early that her approach to the variety of experiences that life brings her way makes all the difference. I hope and pray tha she never loses that happy eagerness to try new things, to help other people, to learn new processes; for eagerness and joy through all experiences make all the difference.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” –Thomas Edison

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” –Thomas Jefferson

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go! This is the song that I sang this week as I headed back to school to substitute teach for the preschool summer classrooms. I call the weeks that I substitute in the summer my ‘mental health weeks’…they keep me sane and help me stay mentally balanced while being home for the summer with my adorable Ellie. A lot of people don’t understand why I substitute in the summer, after all, who would choose to work when they have the chance not to? In fact, some people wonder why I work at all, especially now that I have Ellie. And though they may not say it, I know they think it. After all, society all but expects women to stay at home all day cooking and cleaning the second they get pregnant. Ha! I worked full time and all school year and summer long my entire pregnancy. I didn’t have the luxury of napping, or sleeping in; and I loved it! I took 8 weeks off when Ellie was born and went back to work for the remainder of the school year. Take that society! I love being a working mom; it keeps me sane.

But what about your children? It’s not fair to them that you work. Or is it? For me, I need to work. I go crazy if I’m not doing something, I loose patience, I feel like I have no purpose, so I get depressed…and you’re fooling yourself if you think that this doesn’t effect my parenting. Of course it does! I find that I spend far more quality time with Ellie when I am on my work schedule. Furthermore, in an article by The Washington Post research concerning working mothers is reported. The study that the article refers to found that the effects on child development of full-time working mothers was neutral; there was no difference in a child’s development when comparing a child of a working mother and a child of a stay at home mother. Additionally, the Post reports that working mothers “displayed greater “maternal sensitivity,” or responsiveness toward their children, than stay-at-home mothers”. Again, take that society. You were wrong once again.

Not that society is the only social influence that makes working moms feel bad. For a long time religion has also advocated stay at home motherhood. I find this rather amusing. Religious groups from wide and far love Proverbs 31…a wife should be virtuous, she will be praised by her children, she will gird herself with strength. Yes, I agree. But it seems that we so often focus on only these things and skip over the in between. Proverbs 31 also speaks of a woman who “willingly works with her hands” (this can apply to baking bread or working on an assembly line), she “considers a field and buys it…plants a vineyard” (she could have an at home vegetable garden or be a smart business woman), she “perceives that her merchandise is good” (maybe she sews clothes for her family or maybe she is an entrepreneur), and “her hands hold the spindle” (perhaps she makes things for her family or maybe she works as a seamstress), while she also “supplies sashes for the merchants” (aka: she has a job). Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not attacking stay at home moms. But they need to understand that all too often you make the rest of us feel like really horrible people because of the fact that we work; and based on what? A Biblical passage that you take bits and pieces of, the bits and pieces that you want to. The key word here is or. The actions of the virtuous wife that Proverbs 31 talks about could be considered in both lights. It is important to remember that either choice is not wrong, we are all different and pursue this adventure of life differently, but we do need to understand and support each other regardless of what path a person chooses.

For me, I have to work. I love it. As Thomas Edison says, I would have missed so many opportunities if I did not work and teach. I wouldn’t have been able to give that little boy a winter jacket, or pray for that little girl who witnessed her mother being shot, or hug that child who was having a bad day, or refer that child for speech services, or pray for an entire class of children that someday God would touch their hearts and they would come to know Him as their savior. Not that this was easy; teaching is hard work. Leaving my daughter while I work is not easy either; but it’s worth it. Not only is she able to spend time with family members, but she is learning independence. I want to raise a child who some day has the confidence to go out into the world and make her own way; independence starts young. Besides, she gets to have so many adventures of her own while I am at work. And not only this, but I believe so much in what I do; I believe that it is a work worth doing as Thomas Jefferson says. With an emphasis on foreign missions, churches sometimes forget about the poor and weary and suffering within our own communities. My job allows me to serve within my community and work to love and teach and support families and children who need it most. It is fulfilling. It keeps my humble. It gives me opportunity that I would never have if I stayed at home. And it teaches Ellie that there are other people in the world that mumma needs to help besides her; it teaches her selflessness and giving. I know she is only seventeen months, and she may not fully understand for a few more years, but the lesson will be there when she is ready.

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(Ellie hanging out with her Aunties and Mam while Mumma is at work)

Was this week a long one? Certainly! I worked hours that I do not prefer while also taking two upper level college courses. It was hard. Ellie was less than happy, but she survived. And someday she will understand. Despite long hours of teaching only to head straight to class or home to write essays and complete other homework, I had tons of fun! I had conversations about what kind of car we would all drive when we grew  up. One girl wanted a “very very very pink pink pink cars with stickers I can take on and off”. While a little boy wanted a “blue truck with spikey nails and stickers.” I got to hug a child when he fell down, and engage in wondrous observation of an inchworm. Then I helped to coordinate the construction of two fabulous sand castles that five or six three and four year olds worked together to create, complete with landscaping consisting of bushes and grass and apple and banana trees, a moat and several drawbridges and firebridges.


It’s a pretty awesome sandcastle. And it was a pretty awesome, yet crazy and difficult week. Some people may question or lack understanding for why I work and attend college. They may believe that it is not fair to my child. But I would not have chosen another path or another adventure. I love what I do; work and school alike. And it is my prayer that someday Ellie will look back on my adventure and understand. She will see my hard work and the way that I value it. She will see my love for learning and my commitment to furthering my knowledge. Hopefully she will learn from my adventures and be given the desire to follow her own path, valuing hard work and education as much as I did.

Trying New Things

You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing.  What!  Is it nothing to be happy?  Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long?  Never in his life will he be so busy again.  ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762

Creative play is like a spring that bubbles up from deep within a child.  ~Joan Almon

I am big on art. I love looking at it, love seeing children do it, and love giving them the opportunity to experiment with different kinds of art-like utensils and sensory materials. This week I decided to introduce Ellie to a few different childhood “art and sensory” staples: markers, chalk, and play dough. I think that it is important to expose young children to new things; it gives them the opportunity to explore and create and work through the process of how things work and what can be done with them. Without showing them, they can figure out so many ways to use things. It is truly quite fascinating to watch.

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First we experimented with markers. I let her use them on her cardboard box she has been trying to fit herself into for days (she is definitely trying to figure out how she fits into her environment). She thought that was pretty cool and spent nearly twenty minutes carefully making her scribbles and swirls all over the box. When she was finished with one color she would hand it to me and seemingly thoughtfully select her next color. Markers are a lot different than crayons. They are smoother, faster to mark the coloring surface, and make such bright colors. Ellie seemed to really enjoy this new art utensil. Before dinner she pointed to the basked containing her art materials, so I got them down and she sat with her Daddy coloring while dinner finished cooking. She even put the caps back on some of her markers!

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Even though she got it all over her clothes, face, and counter (washable markers are amazing by the way) and cleaning it all up was not exactly what I wanted to be doing right before dinner I would let her use markers again and again if she wanted. They are so much fun! Even though they may seem to ordinary, such a simple part of life to me…to her they are an exciting new adventure! A new thing to explore and experiment with! Scribbling on paper and cardboard boxes may seem like nothing to some, but to children it is their work. Learning through playing is essential in the lives of children.

Next I introduced Ellie to chalk. I personally cannot stand the feel of chalk and tend to avoid it, but I thought it would be the perfect thing for Ellie to use outside, since she adores playing outdoors. So, once the rain let up and the driveway dried off we grabbed our new box of chalk and went outside. First I have to say that chalk has evolved since I was a child. It is no longer a simple cylindrical colored shape, now it is fancifully shaped like a crayon. I do like the new improvement though; it makes very nice lines. In a short time I had a lovely array of  bright patches of color all over my driveway. It didn’t take her long to figure out what to do, that’s for sure!

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Will some consider this nothing too? Probably, but to Ellie it is everything. New things, new experiences, busyness and learning, getting to know the world around you and how you can influence and interact with the things in the world…this is being a child. When she was satisfied with her creativity on the driveway she tried the chalk out on her shopping cart. Now I know that chalk doesn’t work so well on plastic shopping carts and that it usually is not a good idea to allow children to chalk up whatever they want, but I am a big believer in natural consequences, so I decided to let Ellie figure this one out on her own. She tried to use the chalk on the shopping cart, but when it was’t working well she quickly abandoned the idea and went back to working on the driveway. The beginnings of the understanding of the properties of different materials happened right there in that short interaction between Ellie, the chalk and the shopping cart. Do you see it now? A child’s play is far from being nothing…it is everything. It is how they learn. It is what they do; and never again in their lives will they engage in so much creative interaction and experimentation.

After the successful and fun introduction to markers and chalk I was dying to try out play dough. So many of my childhood memories involve play dough, and I was eager to share this experience with my Ellie. I got my chance one rainy morning this week. It couldn’t have been more fun! After her morning snack I got out all of the ingredients needed along with the measuring utensils, and since modeling language for children is incredibly important you can bet that I was telling Ellie exactly what I was doing as I did it. I thought afterward that perhaps next time I should close the kitchen window so that my neighbor doesn’t hear me talking to myself and begins to think that I’m a raving lunatic. Oh well, anything for the children!

I started telling Ellie about what a recipe is and how we should follow it. Then I explained measuring. I gave her the pot and a spoon and she immediately put the spoon in the pot and began to stir, looking disappointing when she discovered there was nothing in the pot. I had no idea that she would know what do to with a spoon and a pot! I guess she learns more from watching me than I know. Then I placed the measuring cup of flour near the pot and she surprised me again by carefully dumping the flour into the pot. Wow! I mean, I knew that children learn from behavior that is modeled to them, but I always applied it to some complicated psychological perspective of  learning modeled aggression, classical conditioning, or the like. Sometimes those bricks hit me really hard on the head and I wonder  how I failed to see the obvious enormous truth that was right behind the entire theory of learning behavior…you can learn ANY behavior. Even the small mundane ones. It’s moments like these that I wonder how I have managed to maintain the 4.0 I am so devoted to.

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Anyways, it was now quite obvious to me that Ellie basically know the basics of cooking, so I let her get more involved than I had first intended. She measured with teaspoons and measuring cups, carefully dumping each new ingredient into the pan and then stirring it. The whole time her little brow was furrowed intently while her eyes twinkled with excitement and interest. I never would have imagined that my one year old would be so helpful in making play dough. She never ceases to amaze me. But, children know what they are capable of and she didn’t hesitate to show me.

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After I let her choose which color of food coloring that she wanted we transferred the pan from the counter to the stove. She watched me from the step stool as I stirred the mixture on the stove top. Shortly, the play dough thickened and we set it to cool. Once it cooled it was back to the counter and I was scrambling around trying to find play dough toys. Of course, I have none. But thankfully I have my vast preschool-teacher inventiveness and I remembered that usually children are more interested in things that aren’t necessarily meant to be toys and that expensive play dough brand toys are not needed. So I cut up some straws, found a few plastic toys and some cookie cutters and gave them to Ellie.

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It didn’t take her long to dive right in and begin experimenting with this new (and apparently interestingly scented, judging by all of the sniffing Ellie did) and exciting material. She didn’t even eat it! I was quite surprised by that. After about fifteen minutes of playing with the dough she tired of it and helped me pick it all up. Now, what can a one year old learn from fifteen minutes of poking and prodding salty smelling dough? Nothing, right? Though I cannot say for sure just what she learned, sometimes the outcome of the activity is not nearly as important as the process of engaging in the activity. This is just another example of that important truth. And while it may seem like nothing to the adult eye, it is everything in the eye of the child. Encourage adventure. Try new things.