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My toddler and Chewbacca, a comparison

26 Jul

140517-news-mcconaughey-starwarsWe are all Matthew McConaughey watching the Star Wars trailer.

Of the innumerable utterances of my two-year-old, I can decode about 70 to 80 percent. My husband is close behind that, and other folks tend to fall into the 30 to 50 percent range in translation accuracy.

Sometimes I flatter myself that my knack at understanding Little L’s toddlerspeak dialect is thanks to an unbreakable parent-child bond. But the fact is, it’s more a matter of quantity than quality: I am his primary caretaker. I am there every time he discovers a new word or constructs a new phrase. I have the context of remembering (if fuzzily) how he has spent virtually every waking minute and how he and his language have evolved, word by word.

* * *

When I saw the trailer for the new Star Wars movie, what really got my Matthew McConaughey tears pumping was the final shot:

anigif_enhanced-9098-1429208948-4Image from here.

Part of it was my nostalgia and affection for the characters and their relationship and the entire Star Wars universe. And part of it was the thought, “Whoa! My linguistic relationship with my toddler is like Han and Chewie’s relationship!”

tumblr_looetiRWvW1qe8di7o1_r1_500Not unlike this revelation in Community.

The initial connection I made was that Han must have learned to speak Chewbacca’s language simply because they spent a lot of time together, much like L and I do. They hang out on the Millennium Falcon and roam the galaxy; L and I hang out in our apartment and roam the parks and bus routes of our city.

It seemed unusual, though, that a scoundrel like Han Solo managed to communicate so fluently in another tongue. He just never struck me as a polyglot, you know?

Turns out, according to (natch) Wookieepedia, “It was not uncommon for beings to speak at least two languages in addition to their native tongue, particularly among those involved in space-faring occupations and those who had attended military or educational academies.”

So perhaps the toddler/Chewie analogy wouldn’t work, I thought. Darn, no nerd points for me! But then I read further in Wookieepedia, reaching the entry about Shyriiwook, the language of the Wookiees. Here’s the peculiar thing about Shyriiwook:

“The unique shape of the Wookiee throat made Shyriiwook a very difficult, even impossible language to speak for most non-Wookiees. … It was also incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for most Wookiees to learn to speak Basic [English]. As a result, most inter-species communication involving Wookiees had to be carried out in a bilingual format, usually with the Wookiee speaking Shyriiwook and the other party speaking Basic.”

Now here’s an analogy I could work with–because sometimes it does feel like I’m talking to my toddler bilingually. When he speaks his own little version of English, I can (usually) understand him, but I don’t exactly replicate what he said–either because it was too garbled for me to catch or because I prefer to model standard grown-up English (even though I adore how he says “Yegos” instead of “Legos”). So, much like Han and Chewie speaking Basic and Shyriiwook, Little L and I speak grown-up and toddlerspeak, and we manage just fine.* Of course, unlike Chewbacca, L has the vocal chords to eventually be able to speak grown-up. Though if he grew up to speak Shyriiwook I would not be disappointed.

I realize my linguistic Star Wars parallel is a stretch. Maybe I just really enjoy attempting to liken Star Wars to my life, OK? (It was fun dressing my kid as an ewok.) But there is also the obvious toddler–Wookiee analogy: they both have a short temper. L’s second birthday has ushered in a new affinity for tantrums, and just as with a Wookiee, it’s often wise to let them win if you want to keep your arm sockets and sanity intact.

* * *

Language acquisition is hands-down my favorite part about being a parent so far. Nothing has made my heart swell with joy and exhilaration and pride and love and awe quite as much as hearing my two-year-old fashion complex concepts into coherent strings of words. “I play in room.” “Don’t hit; hitting’s bad.” “Cookies! I eat it?” “I wuv you, Daddy.” “Mama. Read stories? Sit next to me?”

Plenty of times, Little L is simply parroting what my husband and I say or what he hears when we’re out and about (he cheerfully echoes “Stop Re-quest-ed!” on the bus). But much of his speech is carefully self-constructed. And it’s not that my kid is some Baby Einstein; delightful TED talks like this and this and books like this testify of the hidden grammatical and statistical genius of all babies. Young children are an absolute marvel.

Day-to-day, minute-to-minute child care is often mundane, but it is a privilege to be a stay-at-home/work-from-home parent, not only for the relative financial stability that implies but also for the opportunity to watch this tiny being observe and make sense of the world–the chance to serve as copilot for this tiny being during his first few years of roaming the galaxy.

 

* Sometimes I wonder if Little L thinks I’m the one who’s the novice at this whole language thing. One day he asked for a “paci” and I said sorry, he couldn’t have it for now. He frowned, made firm eye contact, and sounded it out slowly: “Pac-i-fi-er.” As if the only possible explanation for me denying his request was that I am too dimwitted to understand him. (You do what I tell you. Capisce, Mom?) Now I am imagining a series of books written for toddlers like How to Deal with Your Slow Parent, filled with advice just as reassuring and inane as any parenting book. Get on that!

Diversity in kids’ books: “Why are they always white children?”

27 Jan

This post is in honor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, which promotes children’s literature that celebrates diversity. I’m also a big fan of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.

whitebooksImage by Anne Zane Shanks/Saturday Review

Why we need diverse books

“Why are they always white children?”

It’s a question a five-year-old black girl posed to the author of a bold 1965 article–“The All-White World of Children’s Books” by Nancy Larrick in the Saturday Review.

It’s a question I’ve wondered about too. As a writer and editor by trade, I am a hyper-critical reader of my kid’s books. I get so dang angsty when I come across clunky syntax or some dreadful grammatical error or flimsy character/plot development. I am also bothered by the extent to which white characters and narratives are dominant in children’s literature. This isn’t helping anyone. I, for one, want my son to read books that help him both make sense of his own experiences and learn from the experiences of others.

The 1965 Review article states that about 9 percent of books that year included one or more people of color (the article uses a different term). That number has risen at least a little since then, right? Alas, wrong. According to numbers gathered by the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the percentage of books by and/or about people of color in 2012 was… 9 percent. Yes, the number is the same as the year Selma took place. Between 1994 and 2012, the number hovered between 7 and 12 percent. Meanwhile, 37 percent of the U.S. population are people of color.

The 1965 article concludes that the cause of the diversity gap is the publishing industry submitting to the pressure of bigots. In a similar article published just last year in the New York Times, “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature,” Christopher Myers writes that “the villain here is elusive,” settling on “The Market” as the culprit:

“… The Market is so comfortably intangible that no one is worried I will go knocking down any doors. The Market, I am told, just doesn’t demand this kind of book, doesn’t want book covers to look this or that way. …”

Childrens Books Infographic 18 24 V3Image via Lee & Low Publishers

In effect, as one Harlem school district librarian told the Review, “publishers have participated in a cultural lobotomy.”

That “lobotomy” deeply harms children from diverse backgrounds. As one report on literacy commented,

“When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.”

The narrow representation in children’s books also affects white children and the larger culture. White parents are much less likely to talk to their children about racial issues, assuming that kids are Lockean blank slates and as long as they aren’t overtly racist, the kids will turn out fine. But as numerous studies show, children demonstrate racial preference or prejudice as young as 30 months. (Adults aren’t perfect either.) This 2014 Slate article explores what shapes these early prejudices:

“Beverly Tatum, a race-relations scholar and the president of Spelman College in Atlanta, has referred to this pervasive cultural message as a ‘smog in the air,’ noting that ‘we don’t breathe it because we like it. We don’t breathe it because we think it’s good for us. We breathe it because it’s the only air that’s available.’ Ultimately, kids may infer that the patterns they see in privilege and status are caused by inherent differences between groups. In other words, they may start to think that whites have more privilege because they are inherently, somehow, smarter or better.”

Last year, author Walter Dean Myers wrote in the New York Times :

“Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?”

The bibliophile in me is pained that books–wonderful books!–can be part of that “smog.” (Lobotomy! Smog! What vivid imagery we have going here.)

We must clean up the air, if only in our own sphere of influence. We can choose to read and support books that reflect authentic, empowering stories of diverse people and experiences. Every child deserves to recognize himself or herself in a story, to feel that his or her story is one worth telling, worth reading about, worth understanding.

How to support diversity in children’s literature

Read books that reflect diversity. Obviously. Though the numbers I’ve mentioned here mainly focus on white-vs.-people-of-color representation, diversity is so much more than that. As the Association for Library Service to Children suggests, we need books that foster understanding of “diversity based upon culture, ethnicity, linguistic ability, religion, physical ability, immigration status, and sexual orientation.” You can find lists of book ideas here and here, and check out some books I’m reading below.

Be a critical reader. Just because there is, say, a person of color on the cover doesn’t guarantee it’s a beneficial book. The ALSC shares a few things to look out for:

  • A “tourist approach” to other cultures: “This approach highlights the five Fs–food, festivals, folklore, fashion, and famous people of a particular culture–rather than exploring the daily interactions of people within that culture. …Often this approach focuses on cultural elements that are exotic, flashy, or quaint. Introducing children to unusual fashion or ‘costumes’ and festivals from a culture reinforces a sense of exoticism or otherness rather than fostering understanding.”
  • Authorship: “[S]elect materials that include books written and illustrated by people either from the culture being profiled or with considerable knowledge about and experience related to the culture.”
  • Date: “[E]xamine the copyright date of the materials to identify outdated content.”

Donate diverse books. If you find a book you love, get an extra copy and donate it to your local library.

Participate in a virtual book drive. First Book, a program that provides access to books for children in need, has a great selection of multicultural books that you can choose from to donate. (Many books cost only a few dollars each!) Check it out here.

Support your local library. The greatest demand, and the greatest need, for multicultural books is in libraries–but they continually face funding cuts. If you feel so inclined, contact your local representatives to express support for public and school library funding.

From my bookshelf

Here are a handful of books I’ve been reading recently with my toddler. (Kudos to my local children’s librarian for promoting these titles–many of these I picked up right off the display table.)

graceAmazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch (1991)

One of my favorite books as a kid, one of my favorite books ever, and one of my toddler’s favorite books. Also, a Reading Rainbow selection. You can’t go wrong. The story incorporates elements like prejudice from schoolmates and a grandmother’s nonstandard English both elegantly and naturally. Kids will easily identify with Grace’s love of stories.

uptownUptown by Bryan Collier (2000)

A young boy, via conversational prose and cool collage-style illustrations, gives you a tour of the geography and heart of his home, Harlem.

 

hereiamHere I Am by Patti Kim and Sonia Sanchez (2014)

In graphic novel style, this picture book tells the story of a young boy arriving in America from Korea. The wordless approach beautifully captures the boy’s emotions and experiences as he faces both difficulty and discovery in his new world.

juneteenthJuneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper (2015)

The illustrations are ethereal and lovely. A perfect introduction to the celebration of Juneteenth, as a young girl learns about the struggles and triumphs of her ancestors. On June 19, 1865–more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation–soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, announcing the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery in the United States. Learn more about Juneteenth here.

ronRon’s Big Mission by Rose Blue, Corinne J. Naden, and Don Tate (2009)

I love picture books that offer mini-biographies of little-known yet fascinating people, and this is one of them. (Here’s another favorite.) A young boy uses peaceful resistance to get a library card–and prompts desegregation of the county library. (I’d love to learn more about the library desegregation process throughout the country, too.) This real-life story is inspiring, and my boy loves to read it over and over.

xrayMy Mom Has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister and Alex T. Smith (2010)

This is a fun, silly story that just happens to have a black boy and his mom as the main characters, and a diverse cast of supporting characters. What an idea! Anyway, this is totally worth reading for the fact that everyone is pictured in delightfully sixties-British-mod attire.

 

P.S. A list of the unbearable whiteness of all the things, according to Google.

P.P.S. Favorite scripture about books.

 

I received a copy of Juneteenth for Mazie and Here I Am from Capstone Young Readers in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. Amazon links are affiliate links.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015 Sponsors: Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop. Gold Sponsors: Satya House, MulticulturalKids.com, Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof. Silver Sponsors: Junior Library Guild, Capstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books, The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors: Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing, Rainbow Books, Author Felicia Capers, Chronicle Books  Muslim Writers Publishing, East West Discovery Press.

Packing with pom-poms

5 Dec

I’m in the middle of prepping for an across-town move. It’s our seventh home in six years of marriage, so I am pretty dang experienced when it comes to packing. However, this time around I have a little “helper” of the toddler variety.

Today as I was packing the dozenth (isn’t it wonderful to live in a world where dozenth is a word?) box of books, and Little L decided that his contribution would be to grab a fistful of pom-poms and pack them into the box.

pompomsMy first inclination was to get flustered and hastily transfer the pom-poms from the packing box to the toy box, because that is simply not the way one packs books, correct? My second inclination was to stop and recognize that there is really nothing wrong with packing with pom-poms. So the pom-poms stayed.

In fact, I relished the bright puffs of color set against the cardboard brown. It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood picture books, If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow (that’s an affiliate link). It’s full of whimsical illustrations and delightfully absurd-seeming aphorisms like “If tomorrow morning the sky falls, have clouds for breakfast” and “If it’s the last dance, dance backwards.” My less poetic addition: “If you’re trying to get something done with a toddler around, pack boxes with pom-poms.”

It occurred to me that in the year and half since this boy transferred from my womb to the world, nearly every minute of the day he finds ways to challenge how I want or expect things to be. (Surely anyone who is a parent–or really anyone who has opened their heart in raw, messy, vulnerable ways–can relate.) Sometimes I manage to be super zen and Elsa-like and let it go, and sometimes I feel chafed and bruised by the frustration and exhaustion of failing to find a happy medium. I feel and hope that through each challenge, I am coming closer to vague, elusive traits like grace, peace, and contentment–like when I can smile at my boy’s chubby, dimpled fingers stuffing pom-poms into a box.

P.S. This week I wrote a guest post for Feminist Mormon Housewives about President Eyring’s remarks on gender complementarity. Check it out!

When you get what you pray for

21 Nov

Ten days ago I posted this:

fbstatusThe idea of our toddler sleeping until the late hour of 7 in the morning was indeed laughable. I chuckled mid-prayer.

It was not unlike Sarah, who “laughed within herself” at the idea of giving birth in old age–she was all, yeah sure, like that’s gonna happen.

Then the thing she thought was a joke became reality. She was gently reminded, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

Of course I thought it would be nice if Lars slept a little later so I could sleep or–gasp–shower. But his average wake-up time of 6 (it’s 5 on the most punishing days, 6:30 on the most luxurious days), and asking for more seemed downright esurient.

So maybe God, along with me, laughed at Dave’s boldness. Maybe He wanted to reward Dave for dreaming big, or to humble me for lacking faith.

Whatever the divine thought process, this is what happened: Almost every day in the past week and a half, that baby has indeed slept in until 7. Once, even 7 freaking 30. And today he magically slept in ’till 10 (I checked a couple times to make sure he was still breathing), though that was because he came down with something from a kid at the park who was literally coughing in his face.

The thing I thought was a joke became reality.

I had sent many pleas heavenward in the first year of Lars’ life. Please help me know how to get him to stop crying. Please help me get through the next ten minutes of painful breastfeeding. Please, please, please, let him sleep.

In some moments prayers seemed to be answered, others not. But as far as I understand the whole faith thing, sometimes God answers your prayers the way you want, and sometimes He doesn’t, and the trick is to keep believing in His love and His plan whatever and whenever answers come.

These days, I am grateful that answer comes in the form of a 7 a.m. wake-up call with my sweet boy.

Airport adventures

22 Oct

In my last post I gave myself license to throw out a look-at-my-cute-baby post, so here goes: cute baby, airport edition!

We just survived a 13-hour trip from D.C. to Sacramento, including one trying six-hour leg. We had a couple hours of crying, squirming, and fighting sleep, but we also had a few hours with a sleeping baby and a row to ourselves, and fellow travelers who were kind and understanding. I also learned a few tricks that I may use to update my post about flying with a baby (I’ll wait to see if I survive our return journey).

The best part of the trip was the layover we had in Chicago, where my just-learning-to-walk boy had fun weaving through the rows of seats at our gate and tentatively testing out moving walkways. Once on the plane, he also enjoyed walking up and down the aisle flapping his arm in a clumsy, heart-melting wave.

This edition also features my fledgling iPhone photography skills (I’m only a few months in with smartphone ownership). I missed out on my mom’s talented-photographer genes, but lately I’ve tried to absorb the simple yet awesome photography tips from Elise of enJOY it. I got some unusually decent shots–allow me to share a few, alright?

IMG_1113

IMG_1117A wide airport window is a perfect place for a curious boy.

 

IMG_1118 A flocculent landscape.

 

IMG_1123Mama, what is this fascinating relic?

 

IMG_1126Scoping out the moving walkway.

 

IMG_1131Those eyelashes.

 

IMG_1132King of the row! Ah, if only flying with a baby were as easy as this picture makes it look. I try to be grateful for the good moments like this–and even when it’s hard, it’s totally worth getting to spend time with the fam.

#DiaperNeed and the NATO phonetic alphabet

13 Sep

This post was not sponsored in any way by Huggies or any other organization–it’s just a cause I care about and wanted to share with you. 🙂

Dave and I live terribly exciting lives, so our date night yesterday featured watching Divergent from Redbox and consuming ice cream. But before we started, we did something a little different. You see, I’ve had a small collection of Huggies Rewards codes piling up on my desk:

huggiesenvelopeThis week is Diaper Need Awareness Week, and it was just the motivation I needed to finally enter the codes. They can be used toward things like gift cards or entering sweepstakes, but you can also donate them to Huggies’ Every Little Bottom program, which provides diapers to families in need. Huggies donates one diaper for every three points donated (you can usually get about 10 to 40 points for a large package of diapers).

Along the way I’ve collected the codes, figuring it was more efficient to enter them all at once in a batch, and last night, I enlisted Dave’s help. Since they’re long strings of letters, we decided to make use of the handy NATO phonetic alphabet as Dave read them off to me:

BRAVO-WHISKEY-ROMEO-CHARLIE-TANGO!

OK!

QUEBEC-X-RAY-JULIET-ROMEO-DELTA!

Got it!

That’s pretty much what we sounded like. And it was fun! Within half an hour, we were able to donate enough points for 159 diapers. We got to feel like retro radio operators and help a good cause with minimal effort, all at the same time. Of course I wish I had a ton of money to throw at this worthy cause, but since I don’t, it’s nice to have a small way to contribute.

There are so many worthy causes out there, but providing diapers to needy families is something close to my heart. I think of it often in the midst of my own seemingly endless cycle of diaper-changing. Dealing with dirty diapers every day–heck, being a parent–is harrowing enough without having to worry whether you’ll be able to buy food or diapers. And when families (most often, single mothers) struggle to provide clean diapers for their child, it can make it more difficult to go to work or school and lead to further problems, like depression.

If you’d like to help families in need of diapers, one wonderfully simple thing you can do is tweet about it. For every tweet using the hashtag #DiaperNeed (through this Sunday), Huggies will donate a day’s worth of diapers to babies in need. You can even just retweet this:

You could also organize a local diaper drive or volunteer at a local diaper bank (learn more here). You could donate to the National Diaper Bank Network; Help a Mother Out, another network supplying diapers and supporting mothers and children; or Giving Diapers, Giving Hope, which specializes in providing free cloth diapers to needy families. (Although many families need disposable diapers to have access to childcare and early education programs, cloth diapers are more financially and ecologically sustainable, so it’s a wonderful thing to support as well.)

I wish I had realized earlier in the week that it’s Diaper Need Awareness Week, but hey, it’s a cause we can support year-round. Let’s HOTEL-ECHO-LIMA-PAPA those little bottoms in need of diapers!

diaperneed{Image via National Diaper Bank Network}

Whisper, whisper

5 Sep

This post is inspired by Five Minute Friday: Kate Motaung provides a one-word prompt, and you write for five minutes flat–no extreme editing, no overthinking. Today’s word is WHISPER.

whisperWhisper whisper … very soft, very high … like the soft, soft whisper of a butterfly.

I heard those lines gently whispered from two rows back in the chapel, from father to two-year-old son. Their familiarity caught my ear, and I smiled to myself. I had read them many times to my own boy, from the pages of a favorite Seussian book.

It was a fitting suggestion for the setting: the boy was, perhaps, getting restless, and a reminder to whisper was needed. Oh, how hard it is for those boys to whisper. Or, you know, to simply not make a racket. Volume control is hard for big, bright souls in little bodies. (Especially those that missed their morning nap.) It is a daunting responsibility to teach them the where, why, and how of whispering. Where–in church and other special places where people need to listen and hear. Why–to show reverence, respect. How–well, we’re still figuring that out.

I love that the words we whisper, line after line, cuddle after cuddle, bedtime after bedtime, into the ears of our little ones become so deeply printed in our own minds. My parents, they of five children, can still rehearse entire volumes of board books of yesteryear (e.g. Stella the Spaceship: “Speeding through space dust, diving through the air, Stella gets hot, but she doesn’t care.”) And Dave and I already frequently and oh-so-cleverly allude to our own favorites (Urban Babies Wear Black, Are You a Cow?) in everyday conversation. I hope the words I whisper into my boy’s ears, whether they’re lines from a page or simple I love you‘s drifting straight from my heart to his, will become printed in his mind as well.

Five Minute Friday: Fill

8 Aug

This post is inspired by Five Minute Friday: Blogger Kate Motaung provides a one-word prompt, and you’re supposed to write for five minutes flat. No extreme editing. No overthinking. Then, you read and encourage other FMF participants. It’s pretty great!

GO.

Rocks in a jar: it’s an object lesson I remember from many a family home evening and Sunday School lesson. The first time, you try and put in the little pebbles, then put in the larger rocks. You find the larger rocks won’t all fit. So then you take them out, start again. You put in the large rocks first, then fill in the remaining space with the little pebbles. What a miracle! It fits!

rocks{Image via Julia Webb/Flickr}

I’ve been occupied lately with worrying about whether I am filling my time well. The Internet is a consistent culprit; I know that’s a pebble and could do less of. I try to at least read my scriptures before I browse blogs and Facebook.

STOP.

The after five*:

… I figure the scriptures are a worthy big rock to start with, considering Christ is the rock upon which we should build our foundation. And He is the One who promised that those who hunger will be filled. What motivates me is a great one-liner I remember from general conference awhile back: “Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to text.” (Also, guilt. Guilt is a good motivator. I feel so lame when naptime is over if I’ve read five blog posts but no scriptures yet.)

Another big rock I want to work on in filling my day is serving others. I am such a hermit sometimes, it’s hard to stumble upon opportunities to serve, so I want to figure out something I can do from home. I also want to work on filling my day with work–in particular, I really need to be better about cleaning. I’m a little too laidback about housecleaning, so I tried to step it up and tonight I spent two hours scrubbing toilets and floors and sinks. I daresay it was fulfilling.

In other fill-related maters, I wonder what else I might do to fill my day with Little L. Most days we just hang out at home, with his playtime a loop of the same activities: playing with Tupperware, balls, and Legos; eating; making silly faces and tickling; and following me around while I ready food or do stuff around the house. No clever, Pinterest-worthy, ultra-developmental-enhancing activities there. Then again, at this age his attention span is too short and his coordination is just not quite developed enough to manage many of the ideas I’ve seen. Crayons still go straight to the mouth. So for now, I’ll be content with how we’re filling our days together. (I also read a post on this ridiculously hilarious blog recently that made me feel a lot better about this.) And I really do feel lucky that I get to hang out all day with such a delight of a boy.

Now I think I have filled this post with everything on my mind on the matter. (Maybe for another FMF I will fill the entire post with puns on that week’s word. I think that would be fun.)

 

*Because I can barely finish a few sentences in five minutes. I am in awe of the other FMF participants who manage to produce paragraphs of beautiful prose in that time. Perhaps one day I will evolve to that level.

Evidence

5 Aug

Tonight after baby went to bed, I wandered into the kitchen to grab a glass of water, and something in the corner by the trash can caught my eye.

tupperwareIt was a cardboard box I had set aside to take out for recycling, with three Tupperware containers stacked jauntily inside. I knew how they got there: Lately, while I busy myself preparing meals, Little Lars has taken to entertaining himself by taking all the things out of the kitchen cupboards and giving them new homes. Clearly this was his handiwork.

Seeing it made me smile. Our house is strewn with many evidences that we shelter a tiny human here: stroller, high chair, board books, crib, diaper bag, piles of toys, the works. It was invigorating to happen upon an evidence created by him–not something we bought or accumulated for him. It is the beginning of many marks he will leave on the world, the kind you and I and all immortal-legacy-loving humans yearn to make: I was here. It is evidence of his “increasing personhood,”* a prospect that is both thrilling and overwhelming. He is gradually growing from one who is acted upon toward one who acts. One who has his own opinions, plans, and dreams, and then works in earnest to make them real. As his mother, I feel the weight of my responsibility to teach him how to act.

I loved seeing this little evidence that he is increasing in his own personhood, and I feel so grateful to be able to witness and support him in this journey.

 

* Phrase lifted from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which has been amusing me in audiobook form this week.

Five Minute Friday: Begin

1 Aug

8-crop

This is my second time joining Five Minute Friday. Basically, blogger Lisa-Jo Baker (though she’s passing the torch to another blogger next week) provides a one-word prompt, and you’re supposed to write for five minutes flat. No extreme editing. No overtime. Then, you read and encourage other FMF participants.

GO:

The second I saw the prompt “begin,” it flashed into my mind: Lars. Walking. Soon. Baby? No, perhaps not much longer. Toddler. One who toddles.

But then I thought, no, no, that is just so mommy blog. It can be such a crutch to write soaring, feelsy posts about motherhood because it’s so dang easy. But FMF is all about writing what sprouts in your mind, allowing it to fall on good ground. So.

Little Lars, my baby, is on the precipice of walking. He will stand for a few seconds on his own. As soon as he realizes he’s doing it, he’ll promptly plop down on his bum. Why stand when you can crawl, perhaps? He doesn’t quite get the connection that standing leads to walking unsupported. But yesterday, he stood for a few seconds, and he noticed it. I noticed it, and squealed, “You’re standing, Lars! Good job!!” He smiled. He stood a few seconds more, then sat.

I just know he’s going to begin walking soon. And then he will begin to be a toddler. And then he will begin–continue in the everlasting process–of being less my baby. Which begins to bring tears to my eyes. Oh, how I love that baby. Can he please always be that?

STOP.

Oh, my. Cards on the table, I went a minute over for the last paragraph, but I hated to leave it unfinished. I don’t understand how all these other bloggers write so much in five minutes! Now I’m going to go cry and caress my baby’s head before I go to bed. Also, I’ve enjoyed reading the handful of fellow #FMFParty posts I’ve read and look forward to many more.

P.S. Reading through another FMFer’s post reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite LDS general conference talks as of late, this one by President Uchtdorf, that speaks so beautifully of beginnings (emphasis added):

“…Is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings. Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny. The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful. How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.”