family, Kids, Uncategorized

Gifts from Little People

emily-flowers-drw

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Mama. Sorry they’re dead. But uh, it’s winter, so…”

Wyokiddo @ 4  years old.  If I’m being honest, I’ve received far less thoughtful gifts from far less cuter humans.

Happy Valentine’s Day.  Show the world how big your heart is today, and every day.

Teresa

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family, Kids, photography, Uncategorized

First Loves

rocky-fish-final-drwMeet Rocky. He’s Wyokiddo’s fish, bought to replace the gold fish she won at a 4-H carnival that died approximately 15 hours after we brought it home. Rocky is much more hearty, and photogenic. Thankfully.

Someday, we’ll tell Wyokiddo stories about her first pet. Stories like how for the first three weeks after his arrival, she’d wake up in the morning, run to his bowl and breathlessly exclaim “Oh thank goodness! Mama, Mama, Rocky didn’t die last night!”

Her enthusiasm for Rocky has waned a little bit with the arrival of Ziggy the puppy.  But I will still catch Wyokiddo standing at Rocky’s bowl, her finger tracing a path for Rocky to follow.  She chatters at him, telling the fish stories of her day, her friends and her life.

It warms my heart.  Somewhere in the heavens, there’s a chestnut mare with spots and an attitude that has all my childhood secrets woven through her thin, black mane.

Now Rocky will have Wyokiddo’s secrets, and she’ll always have a photo of this beautiful little guy.

Teresa

Children, Kids, photography, Uncategorized, Weekly Photo Challenge

WPC: Vibrant

 

Painting DinosaursMy contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant

One of my goals this year for my photography was to take some more lifestyle shots.  I wanted to do a better job of capturing moments, and not necessarily faces and smiles.  Those are wonderful, but sometimes the little details are much better.

I love this photo because it is vibrant.  But it’s also tiny fingers with a cartoon bandage eagerly painting pictures of her newest obsession.  A quiet afternoon spent with just the two of us laughing and talking.  A vibrant photo of a moment in time with my vibrant little girl.

Teresa

family, Kids, parenting

Girls with Grit

DSC_0264Early in May, Wyokiddo and I spent a morning exploring a nearby children’s village and garden.  It’s a wonderful space, designed for all sorts of hands-on exploration and play.  The morning was blue-bird beautiful and perfect for an end-of-spring outing. I guess we weren’t the only ones who had the same idea.  There were several schools and even a Girl Scout Troop there.

Wyokiddo loved taking her shoes off and splashing in the water with the older girls.  I was staying out of the way, giving all the kids some space to just be kids.  Suddenly, the morning was filled with terrified shrieking, splashing and a dozen panicked 9-year old girls scrambling to get out of the wading area.  They were literally climbing over the top of one another to get out of the water.  I grabbed Wyokiddo before she got knocked over in the fray, and tried to figure out what was going on.

“Oh. My. God.  It’s a Monster!”  one girl cried, pointed to the water, and the others set off shrieking again.

I scoured the water for the beast of the deep.  The way these girls were wailing and screaming and carrying on, I expected to see a great white shark or Nessie herself rise from the depths.

It was a crawdad.

Crawdad, or crayfish for the non-Wyoming hillbillys, are a small, freshwater crustacean that resembles a lobster.  Some are kept as pets.  Others are used as bait in fishing.  I’ve even participated in a crayfish boil and ate the delicious little buggers.  But this one wouldn’t have even made a good appetizer.  He was about an inch and a half long, and contentedly climbing over the rocks looking for food.

“It’s just a crawdad.  It won’t hurt you unless it feels threatened.  Just give him some space to eat his breakfast,” I told the girls.  When I knelt down to take a closer look, I set off another round of screams and flailing.

“I am not getting near the water with that thing in it,” one Girl Scout told me adamantly.  The others nodded and stepped back further from the water.

The 9-year old tomboy in me desperately wanted to grab the thing and chase the sissy la-la girls around with it.  But that is probably frowned upon these days, especially when you are 38.  Instead, I called Wyokiddo to my side and pointed the crawdad out to her.

“See, it’s a crawdad.  We catch them fishing sometimes,” I told her.  “He came in with the water, and he likes living here because it’s safe and he can find bugs and plants to eat.  If he lived in the big lake over there, he could get eaten by a fish or a bird.”

“Can he snap me?” my daughter asked, pointing to his small claws.

I told her yes, they could pinch, and it can hurt.  I explained that crawdads don’t go around pinching just for fun.  They do it for survival, like when they are scared by bigger animals or people try to pick them up.

We crouched by the ponds and watched the critter dig in the rocks for a few minutes.  Soon, she was bored with the monster and decided to get back in the water and wade around.  She had the ponds all to herself.

I spent a lot of time thinking about that day.  The girls’ reactions really bothered me.  It wasn’t the fear of the unknown that grated on me.  I understand fear.  It was the screaming and flailing and just the drama of it all.  I think only two of the girls actually saw the crawdad, the rest were just joining in the drama for the sake of it.  I spent much of my teenage years mired in drama (some of it self-created, admittedly.)  It took up a lot of my time and emotional energy and made high school so much harder than it ever needed to be.  So now I have very little patience for drama of any kind.

I thought about what kind of young woman I wanted Wyokiddo to grow up to be.  Not the activities I want her to participate in or the skills I want her to have, but what sort of character I wish for her. And along with grace, kindness and integrity, I realized I want her to have a little bit of moxie, a little bit of grit.  I want her to see the crawdad as something cool to learn about, not something to fear.  I want her to follow her own instincts, not the crowd.  I want her to be the kind of girl who can love pink and wear dresses and play in the dirt.  I want her to assess a situation then confidently say “I’ve got this.”

But how do you raise those kind of girls?  I wish I had all the answers.  But Outdoor Guy and I are doing our part by fostering Wyokiddo’s curiosity.  We let Wyokiddo explore outside and have new experiences.  We visit zoos and museums.  We encourage her to talk to adults and ask them questions.  I try to take her questions seriously and provide serious answers.  I try not to shy away from tough questions about death or disease, instead providing an honest answer in a way I hope a 3 year old can understand.  It’s no small task, because I think she asks approximately 2,224 questions each and every day.  If I don’t know the answer, we ask someone that would know, or we look it up online together.  When she’s older, I’ll let her research answers on her own and report back to me.

We are also working to teach her resiliency.  I try to give her the freedom to mess up.  I let her spill milk so she can learn to clean it up.  I try to give her the freedom to get hurt, (in small ways, of course, we’re not talking about letting her play with a machete or anything.) Outdoor Guy will let her fall so that she can learn that she can get back up and go on.  It’s probably one of the hardest things I do as a mother, because my natural instinct is to control everything.  As she grows, I’m going to do my best to give her the opportunity to sort out her problems on her own before I swoop in and try to fix things my way.  But I know that giving her the opportunity to do things for herself will build Wyokiddo’s confidence, and teach her that she can overcome setbacks or small hurts.

God has blessed us with a smart, capable, beautiful little girl who abounds in confidence and curiosity.  May he bless her with parents who don’t mess that up.  And may we all have a little luck as we try to raise girls with grit.

Teresa

Kids, parenting

Letting Go

It’s been a big week for Wyokiddo.  A few nights ago, we said good-bye to the binkies and she became an “official big girl.”  There were a few tense moments, lots of tears and a few restless nights of sleep.

Wyokiddo cried a little, too.

Of all of the transitions Wyokiddo has made, this one was absolutely the most difficult for me.  But it was time to pack away the pacifiers.  We gave her warning, provided an incentive and set a night.  I quietly sought advice from friends and family on how to best make the leap into binky free life.  Then we set our deadline.  On the official night, Wyokiddo packed her binkies away and she had a little cry.  And then I cried.   And cried a little more.  I probably laid on our bed for 20 minutes, tears trickling down my face while Outdoor Guy held my hand and tried not to laugh at his crazy wife.

I knew it had to be done.  It’s part of growing up, like giving up bottles and potty-training.  We had relegated them to nap time and bed time only.  But she wasn’t giving them up on her own, as our pediatrician suggested she might.  And Wyokiddo wasn’t attaching to some other object, like a stuffed animal or blanket.  Her comfort item was always her binky.  So it was time, especially before I had another David Beckham moment with my mother-in-law over the topic.

So I set the stage by telling Wyokiddo about the Big Girl Fairy, who would come collect the binkies when she knew Wyokiddo was ready to be an Official Big Girl.  We promised the Big Girl Fairy would leave her a special present to help her be brave and strong.  The day before, we wrote her a letter on behalf of the Big Girl Fairy, explaining it was time to be an Official Big Girl.

In all, she has been incredibly brave and handled it well.

I thought we might have a setback this morning at the library, when a little boy her age was bebopping around with one in his mouth.  I had fleeting visions of her knocking him down, grabbing the pacifier and making a break for it out the open front doors.

“He has a binky, Mama,” Wyokiddo told me, in a tone that was a more than a little accusatory.

I held my breath wondering if my last glimpse of Wyokiddo would be of her with a Pete the Cat library book in one hand, a handful of the kid’s hair in the other and a stolen binky in her mouth as she screamed down the Main, butterfly dress flapping in the breeze behind her.

“Huh,” I told her.  If 3 years of parenting has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes the best defense is a complete and total lack of commitment.

“He’s not ready to be a big kid like me yet,”  she said in the self-assured, matter-of-fact way that only kids can do.

DSC_0063
It’s hard to remember Wyokiddo being this small. Or having blue eyes. Now the eyes and the binky are gone, and I’m left with a rompin’, stompin’ preschooler. We are blessed.

I see now that my reluctance to shed this last bastion of childhood was as much about my own need to keep her small and innocent as it was about not causing her any pain.  She’s growing up, getting independent and forming opinions and ideas that aren’t mine.  She isn’t a toddler anymore, but a preschooler, ready to tackle whatever life throws at her.  It was time for me to recognize that transition, too.

As we headed to the car, she took one last look at the boy with the binky and asked, “Do big girls get a special snack at the grocery store?”

Well played, my little one.  Well played.  I pray you handle all of these growing up moments with such confidence and aplomb.

Kids, parenting, photography

Here’s to Kairos time

Farmer Emily 3Recently, a friend of mine shared a blog post called Don’t Carpe Diem.  In all honesty, I didn’t care for the post.  But she does reference “Kairos” time, and the concept resonated with me.

Wikipedia defines Kairos as follows:

  1. Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens.

In Christian theology, kairos is “the appointed time in the purpose of God.”

No matter which definition you prefer, the concept is a powerful one.

As a mother, and wife, I can get caught up in chronos time.  When time did Wyokiddo get up?  How long did she nap?  How long will it take me to get dinner on the table?  How long to I have to tinker with my blog before my husband needs the computer?

But sometimes, I get out of my own head and just enjoy the moment instead of worrying about what should, or could, come next.

As the blog author described her interpretation of kairos time, I couldn’t help but think back to this photo, one of my favorite I’ve taken of Wyokiddo this summer.  She was having fun picking up dandelions and blowing the seeds into the wind.  Watching her that night, in that moment, time stopped for me.  I wasn’t worried about if she knew her ABCs well enough or if she watched too much TV.  I didn’t care if we were late for bedtime or if the house got vacuumed that night.  I simply enjoyed an amazing moment with my beautiful, precious, precocious 3-year old.

I need more of those moments.  No, wait.  More accurately, I need to make space in my life for more of those moments.  Because kairos moments happen all the time.  I’m just too wrapped up in myself and the worries of my day to notice.

So here’s to letting go of the chronos and embracing the kairos moments, when the world stops and love and life and happiness and sadness come together in a glorious, shining moment.

Kids, Little Girl Bedroom

Zebra Cowgirl

In a few short weeks, my daughter will officially be a preschooler (SOB!).  When we moved, we promised Wyokiddo we would create a new “big girl” bedroom for her that she could help design and decorate.  Originally, she asked for black walls.  Outdoor Guy said no.  Then she asked for pink and black and white and green and purple and blue.

YIKES!

In lieu of making her room look like one giant package of Skittles, we settled on aqua for the walls with black, pink, white and purple accents.  Since she’s been spending the last few days with her grandparents, I took the opportunity to get to work.  I’m pleased with the results.  I call it Zebra Cowgirl.

I love the paint color (previously it was a dark blue that made the room feel like a cave) and the pop of pink added by the bedding, rug and outlet covers.  I also repurposed some coffee cans with a little pink spray paint to create colorful canisters for her toys.  But it’s the little touches that I hope make Wyokiddo feel right at home, like her name above her bed, and vinyl cow silhouettes.  After all, moo cows are her most very favorite animal!

Soon enough, the cows and horses and Minnie Mouse stuff will be replaced with pictures of boys and clothes and other assorted tween and teen paraphernalia.  But for now, it’s a room perfect for my cow-loving, pink and black and white and purple and blue and green craving little dynamo, who outgrew her nursery but is still perfectly little enough to snuggle with Mama.

Teresa

Zebra Cowgirl Room

photo (3)

Birds, country living, Kids

Of Babes and Birds

Google “best books for 3-year olds” and you’ll see a lot of different titles.  Olivia; Pete the Cat; Click, Clack, Moo (my personal favorite); and one of the How Do Dinosaurs books will probably make just about all of those lists.

But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Wyokiddo’s new favorite book is not among the recommendations.  Her new choice for reading is the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America.  Third Edition.

I can’t make this stuff up.  We’ve read it three times today, and it’s only nap time.  Yes, I use the term read loosely.  We look at the photos.  We talk about what birds live near us and other birds we’ve seen.  I read her the description about some of the birds and tell her what they eat or what their songs sound like.

Hawk in Goshen County

Right now, her obsession is hawks.  I recently photographed this hawk sitting on the telephone pole near our home.  We’ll flip through the pages of Buteos and look at red-tailed hawks and Swainson’s hawks, searching for the “one you took a picture of, Mommy.”  When we’ve identified it, we browse the other pages with her calling out names of the birds she knows.

“That’s a willet!”

“Herons used to eat Daddy’s fish.”

“That’s a woodpecker.  They eat bugs and ants in the trees.”

Or my favorite “We don’t have flamingos here.  They live in Florida with Mickey Mouse.”

I guess she comes by it naturally.  My sisters tell me my favorite book was a dictionary.  I requested it be read to me so much, my father begged my sisters to hide it.  A friend’s 6 year old likes “Weeds of the West.”  I think the other Dirt Road Wife I know had a son obsessed with farm implement catalogs.  Ag kids… 🙂

But she’s my kid, and she amazes me.  I love her interest in what most grown ups would consider dull or obscure.  And I marvel at her ability to recall names, concepts and associated facts.  Perhaps we have a budding ornithologist on our hands.  Maybe she will follow in Outdoor Guy’s footsteps and become a wildlife biologist.  Or maybe she’s just a weird kid.

Any way it goes, I love my little bird lover and it saves me from reading Corduroy…

Teresa