September 27, 2009

What's the word?

I am intrigued by Bright's fascination with written language. It seems he can't get enough, that he can't learn fast enough. He is interested in all things academic, but the written word most of all.

Examples? Let me see. Well, this morning, he read the word "name" and said, "It has a silent 'e' on the end so we know not to pronounce it 'nam'." Ok, he's four, people. Does that seem a little crazy to anyone else? The other day, we were riding through the city on our three-wheeler and we passed an electronic billboard scrolling something in the local language which none of us could read BUT it included commas. I didn't even notice the billboard. Cities here are like Manhattan meets Vegas meets Haiti...if you know what I mean. At any given moment there are literally thousands of things to see. But, Bright saw the commas.

"Mama," he asked, "What are those little marks for at the end of those characters in that sentence?" I followed his little pointing finger and saw what he was looking at. "Those are commas, honey." "But what are they FOR?" he asked. "Oh, well, they indicated a pause in the sentence, like 'Hello Bright (comma) how are you?'" He was satisfied. Then today, he was sitting on my lap at the computer and he was looking at the keyboard (rather than the screen, you see my point?) and he asked about the key with the colon and semicolon, and he asked why there was a little line below the question mark. I'm telling you, folks, he is FASCINATED.

Then again, I wonder if he is less fascinated with words and more fascinated with laws and the way things work. Perhaps he loves reading right now because reading is the only thing he knows that involves laws (as in this letter makes that sound and an exclamation point tells you to read the word with excitement, etc.) Just look at this picture of him painting. This is his style. He likes everything to make perfect sense. Maybe our little linguist is really a mathematician with no math.

Who knows, really. At the end of the day, he a four-year-old kid who didn't wipe his rear-end very well. But it is beautiful to watch, the unfolding of your child. Absolutely amazing.


It has happened. We are officially happy here. I know we are supposed to be sacrificing - earning the badge, so to speak - but ooops, we up and fell in love with this place.

I love the weather. I love the mysterious flocks of dragonflies that flit about in the air outside our screen-less bathroom window as I take a shower, 12 stories above the ground.

I love it that I have a favorite butcher, and a favorite grocer, and a favorite spot to buy milk (even if the milk tastes very little like the milk in the good old U.S. of A.)

I love to watch the elderly as they wake early to stretch, drink tea, and smoke tobacco from long brass pipes. The women meet for ancient dancing in the courtyard, every evening that it doesn't rain, slowly moving their seasoned limbs through the air, holding costume swords or large red fans, while their ring-ting music floats up to the tops of the tall buildings all around.

I love the smell of the food stir-frying in the shop-owners woks as they prepare their lunches and then prepare to close down their shops for the mid-day nap.

I love the snacks that people eat. Instead of Cheetos or Combos, kids are plucking roasted corn from the cob, or sunflower seeds from the actual flower. Toddlers are chewing on chicken feet, and business women on their lunch breaks are gobbling fruit and pickled vegetables.

All of these things were so strange to me last year that I couldn't even begin to enjoy them. I was simply trying to keep myself culturally afloat. But now, after one year in East Asia, I am finally able to look around me and say, "This is good. This is home."

September 25, 2009

In Love and War

The newest outlet of testosterone in our home is dragon-slaying. Daniel (as you might well have guessed) is the dragon, and Bright and Zion are the slayers. It happens nearly every evening after dinner, and on this hazy Saturday morning as well. There is one Styrofoam sword, which we acquired in Thailand recently, that serves as the weapon of choice, and Bright is it's chief wielder. Zion goes in close as bate, distracting the beast, and Bright follows briskly for the kill. The sword smacks and pops against the dragon's back, shoulders, head, face and arms until he finally rolls over in "pain" - but not for long! While he is nursing his wounds, the slayers scamper off to their bedroom to regroup and discuss strategy. Just about the time the dragon is back on his feet, the slayers appear excitedly for more.

I stand nearby with a permanent smile, enjoying the whole thing very much. Brave just drools.

This and other such escapades fascinate me. Men need to fight. They need to take on the beast and be victorious. Daniel will tell me of dreams he has where he is wrestling giant snakes or taking on an intruder (usually a trained ninja-type guy) with his bare hands. Men sign up to go to war. They play paintball. Boys collect superheros and pretend they are running each other through with Styrofoam swords. My kids run around the house with bubble-blowing guns, blowing air at each other. Boys and men play American football (which is essentially a reenactment of war), and those who can't play watch and cheer with great intensity. They flex their tiny muscles in front of the mirror at age four. They arm wrestle on recess, and throughout their lives make almost everything they do together a contest.

And women and girls? We watch "What Not to Wear" and "The Notebook" over and over. We ache to be kissed the way Buttercup is kissed in The Princess Bride. We spend our adolescent years writing our names with the last names of a dozen different awkward boys who barely know we exist. We play "house" throughout our childhoods, swaddling rubber baby dolls and whipping up mud pies. Women swap recipes and subscribe to decorating magazines, determining whether they prefer "cottage style" or "eclectic" or "shabby-chic." We buy baby name books and bug our husbands with name options when we are only 8 weeks pregnant. We cry. We hug. We remember.

But then, of course, there are the moments when the line gets muddled. For example, when Zion turns to Daniel in the middle of the slaying ritual and says, "I love you, Dragon."

September 16, 2009

"Mrs. Mama"

Well, the home- schooling preschool is going (most days) well. Bright's attitude has completely turned around. He is back to his smiling and willfully (most of the time) obedient self. He is a child who thrives in an environment with clear boundaries, and no one sets boundaries like mom, right?

Today we learned about lobsters. We learned that they start out so tiny that they are part of plankton, and then they drift down to the sea floor where they grow into the carnivorous, nocturnal invertebrate that they are. We felt each others' back bones and talked about how invertebrate don't have them. We talked about other carnivores. Bright mentioned wolves. We talked about other nocturnal critters, like the kids' favorite, the owl. Zion does a great owl impression. Then my two little "students" sat down at the kitchen table (while I nursed the baby) and colored pictures of lobsters, printed from I instructed Bright on how to color around the edge and then fill in the middle, and my scribbler actually stayed in the lines for the first time! Amazing! I taught him something! I was very encouraged. The lobster lesson itself came from my new friend, (thanks, Laura). I am just getting my feet wet here (no pun intended) but soon I hope to be incorporating the science lesson with the reading/writing lesson (i.e. while studying the letter "J" also learn about jellyfish, make home made jam together, etc., etc).

By golly, this is fun. I am frazzled to the max most days but my kids are sparkling and their hearts are full, and so is mine. Bright has even taken to calling me "Mrs. Mama."

If you have any more ideas for me, or leads on resources, please let me know.

September 11, 2009

Daniel's best one-liner in the last 24 hours:

"You probably can't even hunt in California. You could marry a deer, no doubt, but not kill one."

(Ok, so that was a two-liner)

September 09, 2009

for him

Let me start by saying that I thought about deleting the last two posts from this blog to save face, but decided that, no, this is my journey and you are on it with me, through thick and thin. "You" being cyberspace, I suppose, but I like to think of you as a great big, bottomless diary that speaks back.

We pulled Bright out of school. Yes, the same school that I just finished praising. And well, the school IS great, but not for Bright, not for now.

His first (and only) week went "well," so to speak. He cried in the minibus the whole 40 minute city commute, and wouldn't be coaxed into the classroom upon arrival at the school, but that wasn't too concerning to us. The red flag was his attitude and behavior once back at home with us, and the flag was growing redder and redder each day. He was not himself. Was he imitating another child at school? I don't know. The truth is, he could have just been Bright after almost 6 hours of going unchecked. I know the teachers there do all they can, considering, and I am sure they don't let the kids kick and scream and throw things, but those weren't the behaviors we were seeing in him. We were seeing cockiness, disrespect, and body language that was communicating, 'shut up, you idiots.' It was like watching the last four years come unraveled in a matter of days.

Neither Daniel nor I had a peace about it. As much as we tried to convince ourselves that we were just overprotective, over-worried parents who were over-thinking the normal kid-adjusting-to-school stuff, we knew in our hearts that Someone was speaking to us and, even though it didn't make sense, we couldn't not listen.

I tearfully sought the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Allison Hilliard, back in Arkansas, who told me it was clear that I already knew what we were supposed to do. "But I feel so foolish," I protested, and it was true. The two reasons I didn't want to pull him out were because he had more fun at school than he has at home, and because we already video taped his first day of school, bought him a new backpack and shoes, paid the (mostly refundable) tuition, and blogged about it. The reality of the situation is he does not know what is best for himself. He is four. I'm sure he would love to eat a candy bar every day for lunch, too, but I shed no tears when I serve him carrot sticks. And come on, we BLOGGED ABOUT IT???!!! Pride is such a pathetic thing to watch in action.

So I swallowed it. We put the backpack on the top of the closet for now.

Are you looking at the next homeschooling guru? I don't know. Heaven help me if you are. I have a two-year-old and an infant at home with me right now and the thought of running Rupp Academy is daunting at best. What I do know is that a teacher's job is to teach a child, not to shepherd his heart. That is our job, Daniel's and my own. For now, our little Bright needs more shepherding, and he is home now where that can take place. I will trust the One who made him to show us the rest.

September 02, 2009

The ones he left behind

Now that Bright is off taking the educational world by storm, it is just me and the little ones here at home. We are, admittedly, having loads of fun together. Zion has the run of all the toys. Brave is getting some of Zion's cute attention, which he eats up with delight. I am able to focus on Zion's discipline, training, and love needs all morning long. It is working out in Bright's favor, too. I have all afternoon with him while Zion is napping (since we decided school boys don't take naps) and then when the boys are finally back together in the evenings they have missed each other so that they get along splendidly. Happy school days to us!
Note: You will notice Zion's bloodied nose and fat lip in this picture. No, nothing has changed in that department.