Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Soren: June 2011

Oh Soren.

So we've been trying to teach you about having gratitude for the things you have, rather than languishing over the things you don't have. In fact, we spent a rather lengthy (and fruitless) Family Home Evening one night trying to explain to you that a little cookie dough (what you were offered) was better than no cookie dough (what you got), even if it wasn't as good as a lot of cookie dough (what you wanted.) We would ask, "Soren? Which would you rather have? Some dough? Or no dough?" And you would say, "I don't want no dough OR a little dough. I just want A LOT of dough." "Right, Soren, but what if you CAN'T have a lot of dough? Then which would you rather have? A little dough? Or no dough? And you would say, "I don't want no dough OR a little dough. I just want A LOT of dough." When this line of questioning continued leading to the same a brick wall, we switched tactics slightly: "Okay, Soren? Which would you rather have? One block, like this? Or no blocks, like this?" And you just looked at us like we'd lost our minds and said, "I don't want no blocks or one block. I just want A LOT OF DOUGH."

Anyway, I tell you this story because yesterday you demonstrated that you HAD internalized this lesson. You fixed a bowl of food for Liam and sent him out to the porch to eat it; then you fixed yourself a bowl and followed him out to the porch. A few minutes later Liam started screaming. A moment after that you ran inside. "Mommy! Liam doesn't want what he has. I took some of his food because I was so hungry and left him some but now he doesn't want it. He is not being very grateful."

Sigh. Close, dear. Close. But no cigar.

Tonight you popped out with a similar garbled regurgitation of something I might say to you. We were playing in your bedroom and you telling me what you wanted our blanket house to look like. At the end of every sentence you added, "Do you understand me?" You've been saying that a lot lately, and though I don't think you intend it to be, the tone/phrase sound a bit bossy--perhaps even menacing-- so I finally told you to stop saying it. "Why?" you asked. "I don't like it," I said. "Why?" you asked. "Because I don't," I said. You then took a step back, looked at me sympathetically, and said, in your kindest voice, "I'm sorry, sweetie. I'm sorry you don't like it. But sometimes people say things you don't like and they're just going to keep saying them. Do you understand me?"

How I love you. In so many ways you are just like the baby we brought home from the hospital four and a half years ago--alert, active, and-- above all--intense-- but in so many other ways, you have completely morphed. You have turned from a helpless infant into a long-legged coltish boy creature with an insatiable curiosity. You talk. And talk. And talk. And talk. And multiply all that talking by one million and you get the number of questions you ask every day. You continue to grow and develop and learn and change and I love being a part of your life, to try to see the world through your eyes. It's a joy watching you try to gain a grasp on this great big complicated place called Earth, a pleasure to see you learning how to love others and treat them with kindness. My greatest happiness comes from watching you and your brother play together as friends, to hear you talking to him with a gentle voice, to see you sharing your toys with him.

You continue to make strides at improving your ability to recognize and cope with emotions. Just recently, for example, you allowed Liam to enter your bedroom. This in itself was a noble gesture; unfortunately, while Liam was in your room he accidentally broke one of your many Duplos creations. Normally a calamity like this would result in an intense fit of rage, probably some violence--most definitely some weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. But this time you just turned to me and said, "Mommy, I'm really disappointed that Liam broke my airplane but....I guess it's okay."

"Soren!" I said. "I'm so proud of you! You handled that very gracefully."

"What do you mean?" you asked.

"Well, usually you would have gotten really upset and yelled and maybe hurt Liam. But this time you told me how you felt and didn't get mad at all. I'm proud of you."

"Yeah," you said, "But I'm still REALLY disappointed."

I know you were, sweetie. But I was still REALLY proud.

Sometimes during the day your father will send me little text message updates about you and Liam. Here are a few I saved from the last month about you because I think they capture well your very....um....how you say....colorful personality.

Soren is napping. He was just doing his 'I-have-no-life-left-in-my brain-or-my-eyes-I-will- just-scream-as-loud-as-I-can-while-I-stare-straight-ahead' thing."

"Your son started his own dance party. Stripped off his clothes, got a hip-hop station, and was doing the boogie on a storage box in the kitchen."

"It's like he is wired directly to a 220v socket all the time."

You were playing in your bedroom one peaceful afternoon when, out of the blue, you started scream-crying and ran out to your daddy, who was reading on the couch. Your face streaked with tears, you begged, "Don't let the doctor cut me until I'm big!"

Er. Whaaaa.....?

Between sobs it came out that you had swallowed a piece of floss. This was something we had warned you to not do when you took to chewing on wads of the stuff. We had told you that if you swallowed it, the floss would get stuck in your stomach and a doctor would have to cut you open to get it out. Apparently you took that to heart. It took Daddy quite a while to convince you that you wouldn't be going under the knife.

Some other random things about you:

You've been intrigued by very small things as of late. Recently you asked me, "Are ants small enough to see atoms?"

Your brain seems to be being sponsored as of late by the number twelve. You will often tell me, "Mommy, I love you twelve." And you frequently remark that you have twelve songs in your head.

Your favorite all-time activity is building "houses" around the house. If it were up to you, the house would be strung wall-to-wall with blankets and sheets all the time.

You call Dr. Seuss Dr. Suzie.

A quote: "Mom, I want to go to Auntie Clee's house today because it's cooler than Grandma's house. Do you know what 'cooler' means? 'Cooler' means something has more funner toys and stuff."

You are afraid. Of a lot of things. Automatic toilets. Haircuts. Being alone. Noises at night. Heights. Bees. Dogs. Lawn clippings. Ambulances. Trampolines.

Recently I committed some sort of parenting indiscretion--let you and Liam eat sugar cereal for supper or something--and your papa was calling me on it. "I'm a Bad Mom, all right?" I quipped. To which you immediately responded, "No, Mommy! You're a good mom. You're really nice to kids."

You are not much of a pray-er. When called upon to pray during family prayer times, you usually offer some resistance. Generally I only call on you once a week or so because it's such a battle to get you to do it. But one morning I insisted that you pray. "It doesn't have to be long, honey," I said. "Just say a prayer." So you did:

"Dear Heavenly Father, Please bless that all the shapes will keep all their sides. That squares will have four sides, that triangles will have three sides, and that circles will just have one big side. Name of Jesus Christ, AMEN."

Pretty legit, really. Can you imagine waking up in a world where squares suddenly didn't have four sides?

This is the day before Easter, 2011. You used a sticker to attach a clear plastic sheet to your face. You insisted, however, that it was NOT a beard.

Rare (as in blue moon rare) nap that I just HAD to record for posterity. Rare for you, anyway. Daddy can fall asleep any time, any place.

You brought that paper bag owl home from church and decided that it needed some babies. So we made it some babies.

You helped me make molasses sugar cookies one day but insisted that at least a few be given faces.

Isn't he/she cute?

Love you so.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book Reviews: Or, Why I Haven't Posted in a Long, Long Time

The Wolfblade Trilogy
by Jennifer Fallon

These books are the primary culprits for my recent long bout of silence on the interwebs. These, combined with regular doses of The Mentalist, have commandeered all my spare time and attention. I'm not much of a fantasy reader, but Abe has been recommending this author to me for a year or more, so I finally broke down and read Wolfblade. It took me a little while to get into it--mostly, I think, because my reading opportunities usually come in five minute spurts of time--but I got hooked pretty quickly and, as you know, invested every single one of my 15 spare minutes a day into the series.

These are the things I liked about the Wolfblade series:

-Complex, multi-faceted characters with realistic psychological make-up.
-An engaging plot.
-A socio-political emphasis in lieu of the usual fantasy quest/dragon-slaying rigamarole.
-Interesting ethical questions raised in a non-polemical way.

These are the things I didn't like about it:

-The lazy editing. Nothing like an occasional typo or a malformed sentence to jerk a person back into reality.
-The ridiculous covers.

Overall they're a worthwhile form of entertainment, though the series does contain some sex and violence that some readers might find objectionable.

Don't Shoot the Dog!
by Karen Pryor
Non-fiction, Pyschology

Applied behaviorism 101.

Karen Pryor was a professional dolphin trainer for many years. As part of her work, she learned--and learned to apply--the basic principles of behaviorism. In spending a lifetime training animals, she discovered that these principles of change could be effectively applied to people as well. Her feeling was that, while a lot had been written about behaviorism, very little had been written about how the principles could be applied in real life. Her goal in writing this book was to fill that gap.

Don't Shoot the Dog! makes an excellent case for the use of reinforcers-- never punishment--to bring about permanent behavior change. It describes many effective ways to bring about meaningful, long-lasting behavior modifications in all sentient beings--from fish to people--without using punishments.

All in all, the book contained some useful ideas and a warm conversational writing style. The only shortcoming is that Pryor used a lot of anecdotes and very little data to back up her material.

Death Match
Lincoln Child

Eden Incorporated is a dating service that stands out from the crowd. It promises a perfect match, guaranteed. Thousands of couples have used the service and found happiness through their flawless compatibility. Years have passed and the business continues to create successful unions.

But then three couples--three Eden couples--are found dead in their homes, presumably murdered, and Christopher Lash, a retired forensic psychologist, is called in by the company to investigate the deaths.

Intriguing premise, addictive plot.

Change Me into Zeus's Daughter
Barbara Robinette Moss
Non-fiction, Memoir

It's kind of hard to review a memoir-- it's like assessing someone's life and the way they feel about it. That said, I did enjoy reading Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter.

Barbara is the third of eight children, growing up in abject poverty in the South in the mid-20th century. Her mother sings and recites poetry. Her father drinks and stomps around abusively. The children run around participating in the sort of antics kids in really big families do.

Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter was well-written and engaging. There was a distracting theme/topic change at the end, but other than that, it was good stuff.


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