Scared fish

(I was going through some old notes and came across this entry I had written in May 2006, just four months after we brought Carlos and Jeremiah home.  Enjoy!)

I am finding out that 4-year olds can and most often will interpret what you say QUITE literally. We were shopping a few days ago and while Sarah did the grocery shopping, I wheeled Carlos and Jeremiah around the store to keep them entertained. Carlos was talking away and suddenly he got excited because he saw some fish tanks nearby with fish in them. So off we went to see the fish.  Big fish.  Small fish.  There were even a couple of little tubs with fish in them ready to be taken home. After a few minutes, Carlos wanted to tap on the glass. I tried to explain to him that this would scare the fish, by saying, “Carlos, if you tap the glass, the fish will be scared, like ‘AAGGHH!!'” (Usually this is exactly what he says when he is scared or thinks he might be scared and is trying to convey the scariness of whatever situation he is thinking of.)  After a minute of thinking about this, he looks at me with a puzzled expression and says, “Fish no say ‘AAGGHH!’ – they’re in water!” Yup, definitely can’t pull one over on Carlos! I finally had to demonstrate by tapping on the tank and sure enough, the fish scattered.  BUT they didn’t say “AAGGHH!”

Almost Paradise

Last Saturday, I took Jeremiah, Natalie and Ben with me to the store to get a few various and sundry food items that Sarah needed. (Yes, I know saying “various” and “sundry” is redundant, but you have to admit, it’s fun to say together.) Usually, such a venture is a crapshoot – you never know what’s going to happen, how they’ll behave and whether or not I’ll end up getting the urge to buy a roll of duct tape. Sometimes, it’s an ordeal just getting them to cooperate by riding in the cart. And believe me, I would MUCH rather have them ride in the cart. That way, I know where they are and know where their hands are (“please keep arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.”)

But on Saturday’s excursion, they each did wonderfully. There was no arguing as to who got to ride where, why couldn’t they walk instead and generally refrained from adding things to our cart that didn’t need to be there. Jeremiah, in particular, however offered up some rather funny moments. This should be no surprise since this is also the child whose style of worship leading covers quite the range of music. On the subject of putting things in the cart, Jeremiah quipped “Do you know why we don’t put things in our cart? Because it’s not on our list.” He definitely gets that from his mother.

After getting all of the food items on our list, we went to get some toothpaste. Since the toothpaste is right beside the toy section, we couldn’t possibly NOT go down the toy aisles. Especially since the munchkins had done such a great job in the store. I lifted them out of the cart and they made their way down each aisle, checking out the various and sundry toys [see? You had fun reading that, didn’t you?]. We checked out the pink aisle with all the girlie stuff and the more colorful aisle with the Legos, building block and other learning toys. But then, we rounded the last corner and Jeremiah must have heard angels singing and a bright light shining a path for him. He stopped, stretched out his arms and exclaimed with a sigh, “Ah! The toys with all the buttons!” And that’s exactly what they did – pushed buttons to their hearts’ content.

I told Jeremiah that I felt the same way when I go into a bookstore. He just looked at me like I was nuts.

World Piece

Hey, this puzzle looks great!  It’ll be a fun thing for the kids to do and educational to boot!

Yeah, famous last words.

When we ordered our school books last year from SonLight, they threw in a free 600 piece world map puzzle.  Tonight, Carlos got it out of the closet and we went to work.  Now, in theory, a puzzle whose pieces are shaped like the actual country is a pretty cool puzzle.  In theory.  The downside is that pieces with irregular shapes do not interlock like a regular puzzle would.  The water pieces interlock and the border pieces interlock, helping to make a frame to keep the country pieces together, but this works only if you actually do the water and border pieces first.  I, of course, went straight for the countries.

I learned several things tonight.  First, don’t pay any attention to kids who complain that the puzzle is too hard while they do the VERY easy, interlocking border pieces.  They obviously aren’t struggling with the complexities of getting Georgia, Turkey, Kazakhtsan and Russia to stay together, much less India, Pakistan and Nepal.  (And yes, I actually spelled Kazakhstan right the first time – thanks Sporcle!)

Second, keep the country pieces away from the seismic activity of a toddler’s feet.  For whatever reason, Jeremiah insisted on putting his pieces together near me.  This wouldn’t be so bad if he also didn’t insist on turning around and around, swiping his feet across Southeast Asia and the Middle East with every turn.  My poor tectonic plates couldn’t handle much more abuse.

Third, when you have a 600 piece puzzle with pieces shaped like countries, many of these pieces will be tiny.  Very tiny.  Liechtenstein tiny.  Combine that with numbers one and two above and things get a little more nerve racking.

Fourth, if you have a 600 piece puzzle with incredibly tiny pieces that when finished (ha!) is supposed to be 3 feet by 1 ½ ft, almost everything on these pieces will be printed very small.  The box picture was certainly no help.  Why?  If the printing on a puzzle that will be 3 feet by 1 ½ ft is small, imagine how small the printing is on a box that is 12 by 8 inches.  I was desperately wanting some kind of magnifying glass to read these labels.  Right about then a one world government was sounding like a good idea.  It sure would make crazy puzzles like this simpler.  It’s a good thing this puzzle was free too.  Now we can put that money towards eye exams.

Educational indeed!

Turn in your hymn books to…

All my children love to sing, dance and listen to music.  They also love to “play church.”  I remember doing the very same thing when I was their age.  My sister, brother and I would line up all our stuffed animals in a row, play some music of some sort or just make up our own, then someone would “preach.”  The “preacher was usually me since Michael was too young and Sharon, well, no women preachers and all that.  Occasionally a bear would get converted or a dog might “rededicate his life.”  But the outpouring of the Spirit was rare.  But I digress.

So it is often with fond memories when I watch my kids doing the same thing.  This morning, we were busy get ready for church.  As I walked past the living room, I noticed Jeremiah, Natalie and Ben holding pieces of paper and were singing “Holy! Holy! Holy!” — or what they could remember of it — with great gusto.  Jeremiah, apparently the designated song leader, then said “Now turn to #136.”  As they started singing “My Soul finds rest in God alone”  my heart swelled with love and pride for them.  Here they were singing two great songs praising our God.  Alas, the moment was short-lived.  Next on the kindergarten liturgy:  Jeremiah launched into the final song with just as much gusto – “Pants on the ground, pants on the ground, looking like a fool with your pants on the ground!”  Sigh.  Back to the drawing board.

All together now on the last verse.

Flashback Week – Things that go *chink* in the night

[originally posted on January 8, 2008]

3:30 a.m.

Sarah wakes me up, shaking me and whispering, “Stephen, someone’s in our house.” Then I hear a faint *chink* sound, like someone knocking against glass.

Immediately, my eyes pop open and I feel the adrenaline start to pump. I grope around the floor for the bat I keep handy. “Never thought I’d have to use this thing,” I remember thinking as my fingers find toys, socks, a book – everything but the needed bat. “I guess I still won’t use it.” All kinds of thoughts race through my head. “What does this person want? Would they be armed? What if they had already been upstairs where the children are sleeping?” In those few fleeting seconds, I realized that I cared nothing about whether or not anything was stolen – only that my family was safe from harm. And I was prepared to tear into anyone who tried to harm them.

I walk toward the door and immediately stumble over yet another toy. By the time I reach the door, I figure that whoever is in our house has had fair warning of their impending doom – or mine. With that and thinking that the element of surprise is clearly still back in bed where I left it, I yank the door open and step into the hall.

Silence. And then, *chink* again. Then I realize what that sound was and who was making it.

I went around the corner to the kitchen and confirmed my suspicions. Jeremiah, my cooking-inclined, somewhat independent-minded two-year old had decided that it was breakfast time. He had found his way to the counter, pulled over his stool, and was happily munching “cookies,” what he calls the M&M’s that we keep in a glass jar. *chink* – the sound of a little hand probing the depths of the jar for more treasure. He calmly looked up at me and simply said, “Eat cookies.” I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or not, so I simply picked him up, deposited him back in his bed with a stern warning, and returned to bed.

Needless to say, it took me quite awhile to get back to sleep. But my family was safe, even from the “cookie” monster.

Schooling for the birds

One of the nice things about homeschooling is that you get to do all kinds of cool projects or illustrations with your kids.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We study science in the evenings and lately we’ve been reading about birds. Now, generally birds are, well – they’re boring. No offense to all you feathered fowl out there, but you don’t really lead lives of mystery and intrigue.  At least, that’s what I used to think until I actually started reading about them with the munchkins.  But we’ve learned so many different things about birds, many of which are actually quite interesting.

For instance, Black Herons makes an umbrella shape with its wings, shading the water it wades in to help it look for fish.  (This is the bird of the “Nighttime, daytime!” infamy.  If you don’t know what I mean, check out this video. It’s hilarious.)  Flamingos aren’t born pink, but get this color from a natural chemical in its food.  In general, most female birds are a drab color to help camouflage it and protect it and her young from hunters.  A female Cuckoo will lay an egg in a Reed Warbler’s nest after dropping one of the Warbler’s eggs out.  When the Cuckoo chick hatches before the other eggs, it will shove the Warbler’s eggs out of the nest, even while still blind and naked.  The Reed Warbler feeds and takes care of the Cuckoo chick, thinking that the chick is its own, even when the chick outgrows the adult Warbler.  An owl can turn its head in almost any direction, even upside down!  And then of course there’s the many various and beautiful kinds of Birds of Paradise (like the neon smiley face one).

We’ve had a lot of fun illustrating various things about birds.  The kids curled up in a ball on the floor, pretended to “hatch” and then follow the first moving thing that they saw to learn about how goslings “imprint.”  We tried eating “fish” (a.k.a. marsh mellows) upside down like a flamingo.  We tried tossing up our fish and catching it in our mouths like a Snake Bird.  We tried flapping our wings in a figure eight movement like a hummingbird.  And we saw how much water a Pelican can hold in its pouch.  The videos below lets you join our class for this special project.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Riding the rails

My kids love to play with trains.  So for the past couple of months, I’ve been working on making them a train table as a Christmas present for their Thomas the Tank Engine trains.  Most of the ones for sale in stores are too expensive and rather small anyway.  I wanted something that all four of them could use at the same time and have plenty of room.  I used a 64″ x 32″ piece of plywood as the table top; some 1″ x 4″ wood planks for the sides, support beams and part of the legs; and 1″ x 3″ wood planks for the other part of the legs.  Here are some pictures of the work in progress and the finished table.

First, I penciled an outline of what I wanted the top to look like.  Since just having land would be rather boring, I made a lake with a river “flowing” through the land.  The outline of the water area can be seen below.

After the top was finished, I painted the legs, sides and braces a bright red.  Here is the bottom of the table complete with sides and braces.

Now to make sure the legs are lined up correctly…

And here is the finished table, complete with trains ready to roll!

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