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.

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.

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!

From the top

"You coming home, Papi?"

I love getting calls from my kids when I’m at work. The conversations usually include details about their day, what they’re eating for lunch, who did what to whom, etc. With Natalie though, there is usually one extra question, no matter what time of the day she calls:

“You coming home, Papi?”

The other day she called but this time, the question was a little different: “You coming home right now, Papi?”

Since it was only before lunchtime, I told her that I would be coming home, not right now but soon. Apparently, she didn’t quite understand this part. Sarah told me later that at lunchtime, Natalie prayed, “Dear Jesus, thank you that Papi coming home right now!”

Even though Natalie didn’t quite get the timing of my return, she nonetheless was excited about it and looking forward to my return. When Sarah told me about Natalie’s prayer, I was reminded of how we should be looking forward to Christ’s return. We don’t know when Christ is returning, but he has told us “Surely I am coming soon.”. With the apostle John, our prayer should be “Come Lord Jesus!” Rev.22:20

Pastors and "pastors"

Some time ago, Carlos wanted so much to wear a tie or what he called a “pastor.” Not quite sure why he called it that, but it’s probably because our Pastor wears one the majority of the time. He was so excited when we got him a little clip-on tie and couldn’t wait to wear it to church. Ever since then, he, Jeremiah and Natalie have called ties a “pastor.”

This past Sunday, we were getting the kids dressed. Sarah had picked out a little “pastor” for Ben to wear. Ben would have nothing to do with it, but Natalie thought it would look good on her. She donned the “pastor” and Jeremiah exclaimed, “Natalie, you can preach now ‘cuz you have a pastor!”

That evening after the service, Carlos, ever the social butterfly, stopped to see Pastor Tim who immediately interrupted his conversation to give Carlos a hug. Carlos commented on Tim’s tie, saying that he “had a pastor too.” Then Tim said, “You know what Carlos, may I pray for you? I’ll pray that God will help you be wise as you grow and perhaps some day make you a Pastor too.” And so right then, with Carlos grinning sheepishly, Tim prayed for him and gave him a hug once more.

Why do I share this? There are some who simply play the role of being a pastor, but often it doesn’t seem to go any deeper than the tie around their neck. They’ve got the right dressing, but that’s about it. But then there are those who “rightly divide the word of God;” they weep with those who weep; they correct those who need correcting; they encourage those who are fallen; and they take the time to be an Godly influence (however small or great) to an energetic, talkative and friendly 7-year old boy by simply praying for him (and his dad!).

That’s my Pastor.

Law & Order – Toddler Unit

Anybody who’s ever watched shows such as Law & Order or NCIS will inevitably come across the plot line where the main suspect gives himself away by revealing too much information. It usually goes something like this:

(“*doink*doink*”)

Detective: “Our forensic scientists can place you at the crime scene with 99.9% accuracy (plus or minus 3%, you know how statistics are). Do you really want to make us go through all that effort? We know you whacked Bobo the Clown.”

Suspect: “I didn’t do it! There was no way I could have wiped that smile off his face with a tennis racket”

Detective: “How did you know his smile was wiped off with a tennis racket? We never released that detail to the public! Gotcha!”

Suspect: “Oops.”

And chalk another one up for the good guys. (“*doink*doink*”)

So it also goes with getting a confession from my pint-sized offenders. Inevitably, the truth will come out and the suspect dealt with accordingly. Of course, the problem is that logic is often lost on the young and they continue to proclaim their innocence. To illustrate this, let’s go back to Saturday morning at the Escalera household.

We’ve just finished breakfast and the kiddos are playing hither, thither, and yon. As is her wont (can you tell I’m getting in my quota of old English verbiage today?), Natalie wanders into the kitchen area to see what I’m doing. I turn toward her just in time to see Jeremiah run full throttle into her, pushing her down. Not sure what the motive was, but he certainly had intent!

Immediately he knew he’d been caught red handed, but this didn’t stop him from denying all involvement.

Detective (me): “Jeremiah, go to the bathroom. You were unkind.

Suspect: “I didn’t push Natalie!! I didn’t push Natalie!!”

Detective: “Jeremiah, I didn’t say anything about pushing. How do you know that’s why you are in trouble?”

Suspect: “Oops.” (This is what I would have thought he’d say, at least. But as stated earlier, logic is lost on the young and he continued to proclaim his innocence.)

Sometimes, it’s really hard not to laugh at your children’s disobedience. Which is probably why they have those special mirrored windows in the interrogation rooms.

(“*doink*doink*”)