Monday, October 31, 2011

I Love A Book

Eli's first take-home project was due today. On Halloween each year, the first grade classes dress up as their favorite book character, complete with homemade front-and-back signs, and parade around a few of the school halls. We were given the poster board three weeks ago, with instructions about what to put on the front and back. Eli chose Mr. Popper's Penguins as his favorite book; we finished it just a week before the project was assigned. For his costume, he wanted to dress up as Captain Cook, the main penguin. One weekend we worked on the front (a book cover, complete with title and author). Eli drew a great picture and we cut out foam letters for the words. The other poster board was to depict his favorite scene; Eli chose the ending scene since it was the happiest for him. For his costume he wore black pants, a black hoodie and we made an orange nose. Adorable.

Maddux and I arrived to the school just as the parade was starting. Eli and his friends were all so cute in their unique outfits. Eli was the only penguin we saw, but many of the kids were dressed up as characters from books that Maddux recognized.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Faith In Action

This morning we spent our time at an Elementary School near our church. Lehr was in charge of the painting team, so any work Maddux and Eli did would get them messy for sure! It was rather chilly today, so after our initial walk around the school, Maddux was already asking to go play with the kids instead of paint with Daddy. She ended up staying in the gym all morning. Eli hung out with Lehr more than half of the time, spilling paint on himself no less than twice. But he did paint some lattice and provide smiles for many others who were working, so that counts for something.

The kids have done many FIAs, but every time brings new conversations because of their increasing age and awareness. This time we talked about how these classrooms didn't have Smartboards like Eli's school, or fancy playground equipment like Maddux's school. The end result was Eli commenting how excited he thought the kids would be to walk into school on Monday morning and see the new basketball and hopscotch paint in the back area. Cool.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parent-Teacher Conference

Yesterday afternoon, Lehr and I met with Eli's teacher for his fall conference. The main point of the conference this year was to review Eli's work and report card. This was our first conference with the teacher since this year has gone so smoothly. (YAY!) Eli seems to be doing really well. REALLY well. He is reading at the upper end of the spectrum and his math is great. His teacher recognizes that he loves to draw and create stories, which speaks so well to her character as a teacher; she looks for the good in our boy! We did ask about his behavior, just because of the past... She told us that he has been sent 'out' a few times for excessive talking, but she didn't seem concerned about it at all since it was never negative in nature. She ended many of her explanations with, "Eli is so bright." or "Eli doesn't miss anything - he keeps me on my toes." His report card was full of top marks, even in behavior. Only a few places were marked down...what a change from last year! I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face when we left; it was so nice to have such a great conference!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

Ever since Maddux has been around, we've made Operation Christmas Child boxes each holiday season. Eli and Maddux usually really enjoy this process; we always go to Target and raid the dollar bins for fun books, toys, and socks. This year was the first year that Maddux remembered what types of things we've put in the boxes in years past. She did a great job shopping with me. All of the toothbrushes, play jewelry, books, and crayons were picked by her, and when Eli got home from school, the three of us divided them into their correct box. (We did two for each age group: one for a girl and one for a boy.) The kids really got into picking out specific books, pencils, toys for each gender and each age was cool to see them put so much thought into it!

Early Release Week

We have parent-teacher conferences this week at Eli's school, so he is on an early-release schedule each day. That puts him home before Maddux each day, giving us lots of fun play time each afternoon. Today I decided to take the kids hiking. We are very fortunate to have a great set of shorter trails just over a mile from our house. The kids hadn't been in a while, so off we went. With no worry of return time, we set out to throw rocks at the creek itself. This system of trails all lead to the same place eventually, but there are a million different ways to go. Because of that, I rarely look at the map unless I'm on a time schedule. I let the kids lead us to the creek this time which put us at a location I'd never been before. We were way further down than usual, and the hike back up was really steep. I opted instead to have us hike back along the 'shore' of the creek. This was fine except for two parts with extremely steep climbs on a very thin trail with a hill up on one side and nothing but rocks and water (waaaay down) on the other. I love that kind of stuff, but when you're the only adult with two kids who don't seem to have a concept of 'careful', it's quite stressful.

We all survived and made it back to our usual stomping ground eventually. One trip around the paper mill and then we started back to the car. Immediately Eli got stung by a bee. He was a trooper, only crying for a minute. The whole walk back, he held my hand, so I can't say it was sad for me! Also, the whole walk back, Maddux played hide-and-seek. She kinda played with herself because we never looked for her. We'd just turn around and she'd be out of sight, behind a tree. Crazy girl... I loved loved loved every minute of my time with them today...need to find a way to make them stop growing immediately.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween Parade

On of our annual Halloween traditions is the Little 5 Points Halloween parade. If you're not from the ATL, L5P is a little more alternative section of town known for creativity and ink, and the parade itself crosses many lines. As sheltered as I try to keep my kids from many images or subjects on TV or in movies, this parade is something I really enjoy taking them too, and great conversations take place the week before and afterwards. One great thing about the parade is the very VERY realistic and gruesome costumes, make-up and masks. Because of that, and because we've reminded the kids many many times that costumes are not real, Eli and Maddux don't appear to scare too easily when it comes to Halloween. That makes it more fun for all of us.

This year the kids wore their costumes and brought their candy-collecting receptacles. Maddux rocked her Ariel wig, and Eli looked perfect for the part of astronaut, as we watched the many cars, walking groups, and floats pass by. A few pieces of candy and a few hours later, we ate at a cool new burger joint. Eli even ate two full burgers. (Stop growing!!)

Season Closer

We are in the 'post season' of baseball, and it's a double elimination tournament. We already lost one game, so every game we play now determines if and when we'll play again. Last night was a nail-biter, going into extra innings. We won, so first thing this morning we were back at the fields. Today's game was against the Bulls, which is the team of Eli's buddy, William.

Both teams played really well...we knew it was going to be close. Eli got a hit every time, two or three singles and a double. His fielding is what was so great though. In recent games, Eli has really stepped up his game, throwing more precisely and getting to the ball much quicker. Today he made an out at third by running the ball to the bag, and was involved in at least two plays that resulted in close calls at first base. Even though we lost the game, this was my favorite game of the season. Eli played hard, stayed really focused, and enjoyed every minute of it. Even after we lost (which means our season is over), Eli high-fived the other team and then asked me, through his smile, "Mommy, did we win?" I told him we didn't and he said, "OK", as he ran over to his team, still smiling. I hope he always has that much joy around this game!

As the coach debriefed the team, going through each boy's individual plays, he chose Eli to receive the game ball. So cool. During the regular season, every player gets a ball at some point. Not that they don't deserve it, but it's a given. In the post season, it is much more who really deserved it in that game. I was so happy that Eli's awesome efforts this morning were rewarded with the final game ball of the season.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I've been trying really hard to intentionally do fun things with the kids. I always have great ideas, great plans, but horrible execution. That is, I rarely do what I want to do with them because we're short on time, it'll make a mess, too late to stay up, etc. My control-freak self is trying to let go of some of that and be a more fun mom :)

Last week we searched for cool leaves at the river and in the yard and then did a leaf rubbing. Eli said he'd done it at school already, but he still loved the project. And even though Maddux didn't quite do it 'correctly', she had a good time too.

This week we made spider cupcakes. Sugar. Frosting. Candy. Oh, the horror. I made the cupcakes just before Eli got off of the bus so that we could decorate them together. That meant me doing the frosting and decorating and the kids just sticking the 'legs' in, but that was enough for them to feel totally involved. They loved it. And even though it totally trashed my kitchen and consumed my afternoon (and two trips to the store earlier in the week), I loved it too. Once we were done, we delivered a few to friends in the neighborhood...the kids REALLY liked that. Now if you'll excuse me, as I'm off to tackle clean-up now as my kids run around in a sugar frenzy :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trombone Shorty

Over the weekend we had a rare opportunity to include the kids in a musical event they would normally not be able to attend. Eli's current favorite N'Awlins talent, Trombone Shorty, was performing downtown Saturday night. Even though it was a late (10PM-ish start) show, it was all-ages. We offered it up to both kids, but Maddux voiced her preference to stay home with a babysitter and have a movie night instead.

I personally guaranteed that Eli slept a GOOD nap that afternoon (read: I 'rested' in the bed with him) before we had a quick snack and headed out. We planned to eat with some other friends attending the show: I even let Eli have a milkshake. (Crazy, I know!) We got to the show just as the opener was finishing her last song or two. Not much later and Shorty took the stage. Eli got so excited when he walked out with his horns....his smile was enormous! Eli stayed with Lehr and I, alternating who held him up to see, for the first half of the show. Fatigue was definitely setting in at this point (11PM), so Eli and Lehr went back to sit down and watch from the seats for a handful of songs. They came back up front for the end, and Eli was totally impressed when all of the band members switched instruments for the last song. Especially because Shorty took over the drum set.

Shockingly, Eli even stayed awake for the drive home, meaning he didn't sleep until 12:50AM. I'm not sure how we managed to not have a meltdown the next day, so I'll just chalk it up to a great experience!

Monday, October 17, 2011

That Boy Of Mine

How many changes can take place in such a short time once a baby starts going to school... Last year was his first year on the big yellow bus, and we saw the introduction of 'specials', the cafeteria, report cards, and many classroom procedures. At home we saw Eli start to read a little better, start to write a little better, and towards the end he even took an interest in drawing. This year, however, those changes are capitalized, to say the least.

Eli's favorite thing is to make books in his room. He draws, he writes, he cuts, he pastes. In addition, Eli has a few small notebooks that he always has in his room and/or backpack. I recently bought him a new one from the dollar bin at Target. Within a week it was halfway full. If I were even more obsessive about recording daily life with the kids, I'd take a picture of each individual page... The book is full of math, shark pictures, Star Wars pictures and lists. Yes, lists. Lists of dangrs animals (that's his spelling), vlnt storms (what 6-year-old uses the word 'vlnt'??) and dedly sharks. Awesome.

Last weekend the kids woke up a little before Lehr and I were ready to rise. Eli entertained himself very quietly, making a Darth Vador costume out of a backwards t-shirt, a black hoodie, and a red boom wacker. Love it.

Finally, every time I mow the yard, Eli asks to help. I usually let him assist me in the backyard, which usually results in a Roomba-esque pattern of mowing. The last few times, he's concentrated on making straight lines like I do. And now I'm proud to say that Eli mowed the whole backyard by himself last weekend. I was a great supervisor, encouraging from the side-lines and not lifting a finger.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oh, Baby Girl...

Where do I start.... The reason for this post is nothing new; Maddux is, has been, and always will be crazy, unpredictable, and awesome. At least once a month I'm just reminded how unique she is....

Mad Dog's two latest loves are homework and singing.

This is what Maddux calls any project we do at home, especially if it comes out of a work book. I'm sure it started over the summer as I attempted to keep the kids from losing any pre-learned knowledge as they swam away their free time. At least a few days a week we'd pull out some workbooks and do 'homework'. Well now she is obsessed. She often pulls out the book (one of the big thick ones which is almost complete now) and asks me to pick out some 'homework' for her. Of course, because she is Maddux, when I tell her what the intended 'assignment' is, she often says, "Hmmm....well can I just (x, y, or z) instead?"

This one is not something Maddux would admit to, but I think it is because she doesn't realize just how much she sings. In fact, just the other day I asked her to repeat the words to me and she innocently asked me, "The words to what?" as if she HADN'T been singing for the last five minutes. Maddie will sing as she is brushing her hair, making her bed, dressing her magnetic dolls, coloring, riding her bike, putting on her seat get the picture. And I love that half of the time the songs go like this: "Where is the green crayon oh it is right in front of me..."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mini Shorty

Eli is VERY excited about seeing Trombone Shorty this coming weekend. He listens to his music and memorizes it immediately. And when he does get to see him (on the computer or in person), I swear he memorizes his mannerisms as well. In this video, you'll hear Eli hitting each of the notes in tempo (not in pitch). You may also notice him 'wiping' his mouth around :30 - EXACTLY like Shorty does. Oh, and don't miss Maddux dancing so hard that she kicks off her shoe around :12...crazy girl

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Artist or Author?

I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, Eli because a very focused author and illustrator. I remember 'way back' when Eli was in Pre-K; I could barely get Eli to color a picture of something he liked, let alone draw something. And writing? It was sometimes a struggle just to get him to copy the words "Happy Birthday" onto a card for a friend. Nowadays, you can find the boy working diligently at his desk on a book or three. Sometimes they're fiction, but usually they're non-fiction, based on something he's interested in for the day or week or month. Sometimes they are word for word from a book he's already read, but they are never copied - they are always from memory.

Eli's latest books include:
  • Lion King
  • September 11
  • Shuttles
  • Sharks
  • Sharks (another one - this one may have had 'dngr' in the title)
Only one or two of the books are actually complete, but I have no doubt they'll all be in publication soon.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friends, At Last?

More often than not, I'm seeing Eli and Maddux interacting positively and by choice. It's not just a Maddux-driven relationship these days, and I'm overjoyed. In the last week, Eli has asked to eat next to Maddux at dinner, read books with her in her bed, play in the front yard with her, and have room time with her. In addition, last Saturday morning found Lehr and I awoken by the kids around 7:30. Then nothing until about 8:30. In that time, Eli and Maddux played really well TOGETHER and Eli voluntarily read his sister several books on the couch. And during our after school snack time, which we talk about each of the kids' days at school, Eli has actually been showing interest in his sister. Just yesterday I asked her about a song they sand in music. She couldn't remember the words, so Eli asked, "Maddux, can you remember it tomorrow so you can sing it to us after school?"

Last night was the best...they ran around the front yard for a good thirty minutes together, bouncing the ball off of each other and running into one another on purpose. They they wanted to take a bubble bath together and snuggle during books. I must say I'm loving this new phase!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Buckle Up

Eli has a friend that lives one street over. They are almost exactly the same age, and they seem to get along great, though we've never really had the boys get together to play. Just two weeks ago my world was rocked when said boy rode his bike over to our house one Sunday afternoon and asked if Eli could play. The boys rode bikes in our cul-de-sac for about ten minutes before riding through the yards to this boy's house. Gulp. Playdate, but I didn't set it up.

New stage. Hold on, Mommy.

Late last week the same little boy came over and asked, but we had just taken dinner out of the oven, so it was a no-go. When he came over and asked if Eli could come to his house today, our Community Group families were pulling into our driveway. I told him that Eli couldn't go to his house, but he was welcomed to stay here and play with Eli and the other kids. He smiled and said, "Sure, I just have to go home and ask my mom. I'll be back in a jibby."

So scary for me that I am not longer in control of setting up Eli's 'playdates'. So sad for me that Eli now has a much more appealing offer after school than hanging out with Mommy. So not ready for this change.

I will say that this friend is a great kid, so I am not at all apprehensive about Eli's time with him. And he is every bit as polite as I could hope for when he knocks on our door and looks me in the eye while he's talking. (The fact that he said "jibby" makes him just a little bit adorable too.") But I'm still going to need a moment or five to adjust to this next new grown-up era....

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Eli has two friends that are girls that live within a stone's throw of our house. He plays with them often enough and he really likes them both. I never see him get nervous or giggly about them though, even though at various times he's told me that he will marry each of them. There is a girl in his class, however, that I suspect may be his first crush. "E" was in his class last year and he had a bit of a liking to her then, as well.

The fact that she is the only repeat classmate he has this year was definitely good news to Eli. They even sat at the same desk-cluster for the first month or so of 1st grade. And often times when I go to eat lunch with Eli at school, he'll be sitting with or very near her and her friends. The main reason I think Eli like-likes her is his attention to her details. He'll tell me randomly, "Mommy, "E" has pink shoes with purple laces and a little white line down the side.", or "Yesterday "E" had carrot sticks in her lunch too.", or even, "Some days "E's" hair is really curly, but usually it's just a little curly." And when she sweeps the floor in the lunchroom after she finishes her lunch (apparently it's a privilege to do that!), Eli always sticks his feel out so she has to sweep them. (This is a detail she told ME the last time I went to school for lunch. Strangely, she had a silly grin on her face as well...)

It seems as though nothing is too insignificant for Eli to notice about this girl. And when I ask him if he likes her, he grins really big and says, "Nooo." Yeah,'re not fooling anyone.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Money Talks

In the past few months Eli has requested he be allowed to buy legos at Target with his own money. Two times he's been granted permission and fun math and savings talks have followed. We've also discussed tithing several times, and Eli has even participated willingly. But we had yet to really dive into savings and how to manage money as it comes in yet. And with Eli's last birthday and some recent extra jobs for Daddy, money has been exchanged more than usual.

So tonight we talked to the kids during dinner about how our family manages money. For them it meant setting up three piggy banks in each room (not a problem because they've received plenty over the years): one for tithing, one for savings and one for spending. We talked about what each bank was used for and we also let them know that any money put into savings would be matched by Lehr and I. For us, savings is not saving for a week to buy a set of legos, or even a month to buy a bigger set of legos, but more of saving for several, many months, maybe not even with a specific goal in mind. That bank is not to be touched without Mom or Dad present.

The conversation was great and the follow-up activity was even better. Both kids went to their rooms to get all money and banks. Lehr helped Maddux and I helped Eli as we then counted it all (hello, math!) and sorted all coins into dollar piles. Then we talked to them about how they wanted to divide it. I'm not sure of Maddux's strategy, but they piles seemed somewhat even. Eli wanted to split it totally even, three-ways. His bills lended themselves to one pile being a little larger, so I suggested he put that pile into savings, which he was happy with. I feel really good about the direction we're hopefully leading them in with money. So far Eli has been so willing to tithe when he receives money....hopefully it will continue, especially when he's able to see how much money God is still allowing him to use at his own discretion.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Good, Good Day

Lehr and I drove separately to church due to conflicting schedules today, so after church, Eli rode with me to his baseball practice and Maddux stayed with Daddy for a meeting and to get a break from the fields. Most Sundays find us struggling to extract from Eli what was discussed in church, or what his memory verse was. He loves church, he loves C3 (the kids' ministry area he attends, complete with a worship band, basketball, video games, and a drama each week), and he loves God, but he does NOT love talking when he doesn't want to. Regardless of how we approach it, the fatigue, the hunger, and the mood get the better of Eli and he tends to shut down when either Lehr or I inquire about his morning.

Today was so different and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I did so that I can do it again each week. Not only because of our discussion about church but because of our complete absorption in a conversation the whole time from church to baseball (about an hour). It was unprecedented!

I started off in the car asking about his verse. We've been working on verses at home so I asked if he learned a new one this morning. (They usually tackle one verse per month and this morning was the first Sunday of the month.) He couldn't remember it, so we moved on. When I asked about the 'sermon' topic, he couldn't remember. I dove right into the adult sermon. I told him how interesting and exciting it had been and then I just filled him in. I hadn't planned on doing that, but it just worked so I went with it.

Our sermon dealt with anger and how to deal with that in our lives, as believers. Since this is something we struggle with so much where Eli is concerned, I hoped to plant a few seeds in his head. Because I hadn't planned on delivering a sermon myself, much of what I said sounded like a retelling of the sermon to Lehr or a friend, with lots of, "Oh, and then...." and "but before that..." Eli seemed to track it all really well, which is amazing due to my poor attempts to recount things. We talked about how easy it is to get out of control when we are angry, and how getting out of control leads to bad consequences. I told him about a video we'd seen of some parents and coaches being out of control at kids' sports activities. There was even some, I informed him, that ended up fighting, physically. At this point he looked at me and said, "Mom, that's just crazy!" (Amen.) By the way, at this point I'm basically in shock over the level of participation in the conversation. Eli is SUCH the child that internalizes things and doesn't always participate, especially if the topic is scary or overwhelming or just not to his liking.

Towards the end, I was able to pull out of my poor memory a portion of James 1:19 from that morning: " quick to listen and slow to speak..." I then gave a scenario to Eli of the different outcomes rendered from the same situation handled in anger (quick speaking, no listening) versus grace (quick listening, slow to speak), using myself as the person in or out of control of my anger. Eli interacted with that part really well, which tells me he got it, even if only for the moment. It was awesome.

Once at our quick lunch destination the conversation changed to friends and what that relationship should look like. Eli brought up something that happened in C3 that showed less than friendly treatment of Eli by someone he counts as a friend. I reminded Eli that he was perfectly made by God to be treated with respect and kindness, and while he should love his friends gracefully, he should not surround himself with those who do not show that they value him or his friendship. We talked about how it feels to be on either side of his interaction that morning and to my relief he agreed that it was wrong what the other boy had done and he hoped he (Eli) never did the same to anyone else. This was really cool because of how Eli brought the incident up to me: it was without prompting or prodding of any sorts. PLEASE let this confiding be a trend that continues!!

Finally we talked baseball and the relationships on the field. Anyone who has been a part of sports has seen some kids who are better teammates than others. Unfortunately Eli has recently witnessed several examples of how to NOT be a team player. So far, he's done a good job of staying true to his character and I wanted to encourage him that he was on the right path. I also wanted to remind him that not everyone thinks the same way as our family, and while that's ok, we shouldn't change our values to follow others. I know how hard it is for me to swallow some of the choices other families make about handling things on and off of the field, and I'm sure it's even harder for Eli to wrap his little brain around any way other than what he has been taught.

Whew....that is a loooong retelling of a short hour. But it was a FULL hour, and I don't want to forget a second of my fully engaged, unplanned but intentional time with my sweet, keeps-his-thoughts-to-himself boy, so this post will be my reminder :)