Sunday, December 20, 2015

Another Ethan first: He discovered the secret of Bruce the Spruce.

Every year, the kids get to talk to Bruce the Spruce, our friendly area talking Christmas tree. I don’t tell the children anything untrue about such mysteries, although sometimes I play dumb a little. This year, Ethan didn’t ask me anything; he explored for himself. What secret did he discover? Sorry, but it’s a secret.

Ethan discovered the secret of Bruce the Spruce

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The fruits of skimping on planning

IMG_3072Ethan’s favorite activity at the Thanksgivings get-together was playing table tennis. He’s old enough now that his natural athletic skill allowed him to do reasonably well. I’d been thinking about getting a ping pong table for home, once Ethan was old enough to play with me, and was looking forward to the visit to my parents’ cabin as good test. Ethan “passed”, so I picked up a table from Sam’s Club on the way home.

I knew that the table would be a close fit for the minivan. I knew that it could fit four-foot-wide plywood, so I wasn’t too concerned. Worst case, I figured I’d have to unbox it in the parking lot to make it fit, although I was really hoping not to have to. The box turned out to be about half an inch too big when stuffed in at an angle. I couldn’t load it myself, but I didn’t even need to ask for help from the store because three well-built ladies happened to see me initially attempting to load it and were happy to amuse themselves by helping me. With two of them pushing from behind while I finessed and pulled from within, we wedged it in. I closed down the back hatch to with in a few inches, tied it down, and was off.

Extracting the table was just as fun, and the part Ethan got to enjoy in particular. I cut open the outer box and gave the accessory boxes to the kids to carry into the house. To push the table boards out, I needed Ethan to use his shoulder to force one end of the tables to the upper corner of the van. I removed the seat that Eliana had ridden home in so that I could use push the boards out with my legs. It worked, but it wouldn’t have without Ethan, and he knew it. I think it meant a lot to him knowing that he was contributing in such a significant way.

Table setup was mostly uneventful – only a few minor injuries. Ethan learned that plastic parts have a way of jumping out of their bags and attacking you if open them with too much force. :-)

IMG_3061

I think it was funny how Eliana wanted to dress fancy for putting up the Christmas tree afterwards, but Ethan was content with pajamas. :-)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Remembering his three-year-old world

Ethan and Eliana woke up early this morning, so I took them over to where they could see Venus, Mars, and Jupiter rising in the east, shining brightly and especially beautifully in the sun’s pre-dawn glow. Ethan then looked over our street and gave me some insight, as he occasionally does, into how he remembers his earlier childhood. He pointed to a couple trees and told me that when he was three years old, he thought that the entire world was the space from our house to those trees. How funny it seemed to him now!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

An E&E first: They carved turnips.

It turns out that if you drill a hole in a turnip, it has a carving consistency quite like a pumpkin’s, although the children had to keep their designs simple to fit the size. Ethan saved his elaborate cat face for the pumpkin.

Carving pumpkins and turinps

Saturday, October 3, 2015

An Eliana first: She found contentment through faith.

A soft, whimpering cry drew me to Eliana’s room tonight. When I asked her what was the matter, she told me that she would die soon. I’d noticed over the last couple weeks that she has been grasping pieces of what death is about. It was the perfect opportunity to share with her how God has a plan for her life, and lots of work for her to do, like being kind to her brother and parents, being a helper, likely loving her husband very much and making him very happy. When she’s done with all the work God has for her, probably after a long time, that’s when God will decide it’s time for her to die. It’s like going to sleep, only when she wakes up, she’ll see Jesus in heaven and be with him forever. It will be the same for me when I’m done with all God’s work for me, and so she’ll get to see me in heaven, too.

Eliana’s four-year-old emotions are fragile, but her faith is unquestioning. She immediately found full contentment in the knowledge of God’s eternal plan.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A well-timed allegory

We’ve been reading Prince Caspian from the Chronicles of Narnia for a devotional. Often it has spilled over into a bedtime story because we didn’t want to put the book down after dinner. Lewis’ allegories often bring up spiritual conversations. Sometimes, like today, they tie directly into questions already on the children’s mind.

Ethan came home commenting about how few children at school are interested in following Jesus. That evening, we read about the reaction of the Telmarines after Aslan’s army swept over the land. Some accepted Aslan’s invitation to join him, but many did not. What in their hearts motivated their choices? Did Aslan specifically call some to himself? These questions helped Ethan grapple with his own question at his seven-year-old level and a further trust for God’s sovereign election.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Weekend favorites

This evening was a relaxing respite of finishing Prince Caspian followed by a few games of Uno, after an exciting three-day weekend. We asked the children what they liked best. Two amusement park visits, complete with roller coasters, bumper cars, a train ride, end everything else, didn’t make the top selections. Neither did a wedding with cousins and other relatives to play with, a bonfire at a cabin, a nature walk, air hockey with odd-shaped pucks, foosball, a friendly cat, a hot tub with fancy lighting, all of which they also quite enjoyed at the time.

Eliana’s favorite was the Green Bay Children’s museum. Ethan described his favorite in one word, referring to the visit to Chuck E Cheese, and the rare unlimited opportunity he enjoys there: “Soda!”

Another Ethan first: He braved a roller coaster.

After years of veggie eating and milk drinking, Ethan’s long wait to grow tall enough to ride his first roller coaster was over. The Zippin Pippin at Bay Beach isn’t huge, but it’s a full-size coaster that moves rapidly between sections. In the same breath that he described how scary the ride was and how he screamed the whole way, he told us how excited he was to ride again.

IMG_4326

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another Ethan first: He won an archery contest.

Ethan shot five arrows for the best score of all the 7 to 9 year olds at a camp open house. His only practice had been similar visits to the camp over the last couple summers. Now he’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice: he won a week at camp next summer. And since he’ll be old enough to get into the sport if it interests him, who knows where he’ll go from there?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

An Eliana first: She built a circuit.

IMG_2496I got this Snap Circuits set with Ethan in mind, but there’s something about trying to use a speaker to power a fan that particularly appeals to the very young at heart.

Later, I helped her hook up to actual batteries; that was fun, too.

IMG_2685

Monday, September 7, 2015

Another Ethan first: He devised a cistern.

He also learn the word non-potable.

IMG_2682

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Another Ethan first: He entered a drawing.

I estimated that since Ethan is old enough to fill out the entry form, he’s old enough not to shoot his eye out. :)

IMG_2680

Another Ethan first: He did a suspended double back flip.

Still undaunted

Ethan and Eliana both remain impressed and excited by the huge tractors at the fair. Eliana in particular continues to climb carefully, yet with no hesitation.

IMG_2659

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Eliana first: She inspired a profit motive.

The children do most chores around the house because it’s just part of family life. Ethan has are some optional chores, rather like extra credit, that he can choose to do in exchange for money for spending on frivolities that I’m not willing to buy him. While the value of that money (or its absence) seems important to him as we pass the candy isle, it doesn’t rise to the same level on the job site.

Eliana has a contagious willing spirit. Any attempt she makes at a task instantly motivates her big brother. When I offered her Ethan’s job of moving rocks onto the the berm that had spilled past its border, Ethan had a sudden inspiration, and I had two willing workers.

IMG_2642

Thursday, August 13, 2015

An E&E first: Ethan reported that Eliana swung by herself.

Ethan has been teaching Eliana to pump her legs when she swings. I reminded him that there was a time when he was learning to swing. We’d occasionally looked back on his first-time accomplishments, looking through the blog posts and his first year book. He showed his familiarity with how I record them when with great excitement, Ethan announced, “An Eliana first: She’s pumping her legs and swinging.”

Saturday, July 25, 2015

An Eliana first: She buckled herself in.

As Beth went to buckle Eliana in on our way to square dancing, Eliana informed her that she was already buckled. When Beth asked who bucked her in, Eliana smiled big and said she did.

IMG_3634

Another Ethan first: He made a full train layout.

I walked into the basement and unexpectedly found this - a beautiful result of growing skill and attention span.

Ethan made a full train layout

Monday, June 29, 2015

Another Ethan first: He chopped down a tree.

“Tree” here means one of the trunks, but that still took some effort, since he was using a primitive Ethiopian ax.

Ethan chopped down a tree.

Monday, May 25, 2015

An Eliana first: She requested a novel.

A couple years ago, when spoken words weren't yet an option, Eliana found the novel Redwall for me to read to her. Tonight she verbalized a similar request. When it came time for Eliana to pick the children's bedtime story, she selected the novel we've been reading through, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It is a delight to see how she is drawn along with Ethan and me into the story and the characters’ choices.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

An Eliana first: She made the Talking Tree talk.

The Talking Tree's faceThe Talking Tree has been part of the meadow behind our house since before Eliana was born. He’s gotten older now. It’s not as easy to distinguish his eyes and nose as it once was. His mouth is a separate stick, which changes over time (especially if its been windy). Both children have long enjoyed talking with him.

Today, Eliana breathed new life into him by playing the part of puppet master. Over all the years, he’d always been a happy, cheerful tree, but Eliana brought in a wider range of emotions, turning the stick into a frown when the Talking Tree was sad – which fortunately, wasn’t for very long.

Eliana made the Talking Tree talk.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Peanuts, the faith of a child, and what we take for granted

At the grocery store, Ethan and Eliana talked me into buying a few handfuls of peanuts just for fun, since they hadn’t had any for a while. I didn’t remember that in Eliana’s case, “for a while” meant ever. Nor did I notice at first after I put a few peanuts on her dinner plate, that she had trustingly inserted one into her mouth. That’s what you do with food your father puts on your plate, right? It was a hilarious sight watching her try to chew the whole peanut. Fortunately, I was able to get a bowl for her to spit it out into before she got far enough along to disdain the experience, although I’m sure she’s cured for life of her peanut naivety.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Another Ethan first: He gave Eliana a sled ride on the ice.

Ethan is taking very well to ice skating. I can tell he genuinely enjoys the ice for its own sake – not just for the fancy-non-campfire s’more he had afterward.

Ethan enjoying a fancy-non-campfire s'more

Friday, February 27, 2015

Mouse and water flow non-conformity

The kids had a great time at the Children’s Museum of Green Bay and our interlude at Chuck E. Cheese’s in between. At the mouse house, our fuzzy host showed up to lead the children in his trendy rodent dance. Eliana was intimidated by Chuck E.’s size, so she stayed close to my side. Ethan was right in the mix of kids, but he wanted no part of the antics. His peers were dancing around, but Ethan just stood still with a willful look on this face.

DSCF5571DSCF5570

Back at the museum, Ethan repurposed the the water flow exhibit. Its intention is to show various current patterns as you place obstructions in a stream. Instead, he mostly learned that when a steady flow enters a closed system, no matter how hard you try to stop it, that water is going to go somewhere. The same diverters designed to pin into the stream bed stack nicely into a dam as the current’s pressure holds them together. Ethan raised the water to three times its normal level, right to the brink of the exhibit’s capacity.

I instigated and played a large role in the experiment; however, the idea to go fishing in his newly fashioned lake was Ethan’s alone.

DSCF5595

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Eliana first: She found her marbles.

This isn’t to imply that she ever lost her marbles. On the contrary, Eliana keeps a detailed inventory of her toys, even ones she hasn’t used for months. This morning, she asked me to dig out the marble run game that had been stored away in a linen sack in the unfinished part of the basement since the summer, waiting for the kids interest in the toy to renew. I built up a run for her and showed her how to send through it the few marbles that were in the sack. Eliana then told me that she knew where the rest of the marbles were. She tried to describe the location, but I couldn’t understand where she was talking about. As I carried her downstairs, she pointed to exactly where they were: inside a rarely used box of pens and pencils high up on a self. In the box was a re-sealable plastic bag full of the rest of the marbles for the run.

Eliana found her marbles.

Another Ethan first: He skated on single blades.

It was a perfect day for ice skating: just below freezing, minimal wind, and smooth ice. Ethan tried out his brand new single-blade skates for the first time. His skating looked more like walking at first, and there were plenty of tumbles, but within about fifteen minutes, he had the basics of gliding. Meanwhile, Eliana was much more at ease this year on her double-blade skates. She’s old enough now to keep her balance and move around, but still a small enough puffball that falling is part of the fun.

Ethan skated on single blades.

DSCF5556DSCF5561

Monday, February 9, 2015

An Eliana first: She sewed a bug.

I’m pretty sure we had told her the sewing machine was off limits, but this was too funny to raise as an issue.

Eliana sewed a bug.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Another Ethan first: He caught air on a sled jump.

IMG_1756

The first two times down the hill, Ethan rode his tube and aligned himself perfectly with a jump ramp, sailing through the air. Once I got into position to take a video, though, he went down and missed the ramp to the right. After I took Eliana down on the toboggan, Ethan tried again, and missed again. We all had a fun time sledding, and I hoped one of Ethan’s jump attempts would be successful, but Eliana didn’t hold out that long.

Once she said she was cold, I told Ethan he could take one more run down the hill. Then I told him that this time I knew he would hit it. Instill confidence and set high expectations… it worked! His last run was perfect, even better actually, because he had switched to the saucer, which makes the landing more dramatic – far too jarring for me (I’ve tried), but Ethan loved it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

An E&E first: They worked together to build a snowman.

It took almost an entire winter season to get enough snow and a nice day for a good snowman, but it was worth the wait. I rolled out the bottom, Ethan the middle, and Eliana (with Ethan’s help) the head. Ethan thought it would be good for the snowman to pet a snowbunny, but Eliana was ready to go inside. So Ethan and I finished the project with just the two of us. Happy snowman!

Ethan and Eliana worked together to build a snowman.

Ethan and Eliana worked together to build a snowman.IMG_1744

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Another Ethan first: He tied a balloon.

I told him that it’s easier to start with a balloon with less inflation. Apparently, he took it as a challenge.

Ethan tied a balloon.

Friday, January 23, 2015

An Eliana first: She filled the car ride with music.

Eliana had been practicing "Jesus Loves Me" for a violin-vocal duet with Ethan. I’m not sure what prompted her to start repeating the first line of the refrain, but it entertained us for much of the trip. Fortunately, her cuteness overshadowed any monotony.