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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Reviews

Between Two Worlds: Escape From Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam
by Zainab Salbi

Though it is my feeling that two subtitles is one subtitle too many (I imagine that Zainab submitted her manuscript to her publisher with a list of possible titles for the book but the publisher, confused, thought that the list WAS the title for the book), this was truly a fascinating and enlightening look into life in Iraq during the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  Zainab painted a fascinating portrait of Saddam Hussein, whom she grew up calling "Uncle,"  and helped clarify the perspective of the innocent citizens of Iraq during that time period.  She also drew my attention to the issue of wartime mass rape, which I had always imagined was something that went out with the Dark Ages.  Horrifyingly, it goes on today.  But if you want to help out the cause, check out Zainab's non-profit organization, Women for Women International.

Let Your Life Speak
by Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer is a beautiful and insightful human being.  He believes (and I agree) that each person has unique gifts that make him/her suited to contribute to the world in his/her own way.  Mostly what I got out of this book, unfortunately, was an anxiety that I wasn't following my life's intended path.  Not Parker's intent for the book at all, but I must have read it at the wrong time in the wrong frame of mind.

The best thing I learned from this book is that when a Quaker is struggling to figure out something important or make a big decision, they can request that several of their closest friends (usually around six) gather together with them and hold a "Clearness Committee," a several-hours-long meeting in which the friends ask questions that will help the individual clarify the direction he/she is intended to follow.  The friends are asked to refrain from giving directions or advice...the idea is that they are supposed to help the person hear their own inner voice and follow its leading.  Love this idea.

A Love That Multiplies

by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar

I love the Duggars.  Love them.  So very, very much do I love them.  I hope they have more children.  And write another book.

The Good Earth
by Pearl S. Buck

This is an amazing novel.  I loved the writing, I loved the story.  It is, as we Mormons like to say, A True Book.  So poignantly true.  It made me think a lot about big things like Poverty and Love and Hope and  Pride and Contentment and Remembering and The Human Condition.  You must read this book.  You must.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Soren Update April 2012

The way Soren pronounces the word "exist" makes it sound more like "resist."  ("Mommy?  Do foxes really resist?  In real life?")  This pronunciation is very fitting for a child who offers maximal resistance to much of his existence.  For example, for about a week or so he began declaring, every morning, that he didn't want to go to preschool.  He would cry, he would scream, he would flail, he would roll around on the floor like a penitent.  I checked to make sure nothing was going on at school to make him feel bad about going (there wasn't), and told him he could sit alone in his room during the time he would have been at school.  He did this for one day but still didn't want to go the next.  So, for three mornings in a row, I wrestled my five-year-old child into his clothes and physically carried him to school.  

What worries me is that Soren seems resistant to happiness.  If he doesn't have something that he wants, he makes himself miserable begging for it.  If he gets something he wants, he wants more of it.  He doesn't want to sit on half of my lap while Liam sits on the other half....he wants the whole lap.  He doesn't want one piece of candy, he wants two-- and he will throw away the one piece to protest not getting a second one.  At the end of the day I'll ask him about things that made him happy and he usually can't think of things.  Even when I offer ideas about things that might have made him happy during the day, he argues that the things weren't that good.  We've been trying to teach him about being grateful for what he has and finding happiness in little things, but I think this is a lesson he'll have to grow into.  I sure hope he grows into it.

Just recently Soren started asking me questions about whether Jesus and Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny all knew each other.  Though dubious about the divinity of Jesus myself, I don't feel entirely comfortable with allowing my child to categorize holiday characters with religious figures.  So on Easter Sunday I pulled him onto my lap and we had The Talk.  "Soren," I asked, "Do you remember asking me about whether I thought Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny knew Jesus?"  He nodded.  "And then how today you asked me if Jesus really existed?"  He nodded again.  I then took a deep breath.  "Well, I wanted to talk to you about that."  "Okay."  So I explained to him that while opinions varied regarding who this Jesus fellow was, exactly, it was pretty certain that a person named Jesus had once lived on the earth.  I said that some people believed he was an important person who taught good things and that some people believed he was God's son.  I told him that most of the people at church thought that he was God's son and that he was resurrected and still lives and cares about everyone on the earth.  And then I told him that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were fun to talk about and pretend about, but that they didn't exist (or resist) in a real, physical way.  It ripped me into about fifty pieces to do this, having believed in Santa Claus myself until I was about twelve, but Soren took it gamely.  He asked me a few questions about where those Easter baskets and Christmas presents had come from and then asked if we could go have dinner.

A few days later he called me into the bathroom, where he was bathing.  "Mommy?  Do you remember those cookies I left out for Santa?"  I nodded.  "Did you eat those?"  I nodded again.  "That's what I fought," he said, and went back to playing with his bath toys.

Today he told me that he still believed that Santa was actually real.  I told him I could be wrong, and he nodded enthusiastically.  "I talked to Santa on the phone at Grandma's house," he informed me, "and he didn't sound at all wike you."  "You make a valid point," I told him.

In other news in Soren's spiritual life, he continues to contemplate the Problem of Evil. ("Mommy?  Why did Jesus make tornadoes?  Why do people get killed by lions sometimes?") and he's been learning about how God sometimes says "no" in answer to prayers.  I came in to his bedroom one morning to find him sitting frustratedly on his top bunk. "Mommy," he told me, "I prayed and prayed that Bucky [his beloved stuffed rabbit] would come to wife but he didn't.  Why didn't it work?"  On the other hand, he told me one night that the wind blowing outside his window was "freaking him out."  I suggested he pray, which he did, and he was able to calm down and go to sleep.

Soren has spent the past couple of months obsessing about stars.  We found several YouTube videos comparing the relative sizes of celestial objects and he was amazed by them.  We watched them all repeatedly.  As a result, he can name all of our solar system's planets in order of size and he can recognize several stars, too.  He favorite, of course, is VY Canis Majoris, the largest known star in the universe.   We also checked out several books from the library about the universe. One evening we were taking a stroll around the block and he pointed out a bright object in the night sky.  "Mommy?  Is that Canis Majoris?"  "No, sweetie," I said.  "I think it's Jupiter.  Or maybe Venus."  And then I asked, "Do you want to say the star light rhyme?"  "Yes," he said, and began:  "Venus or Jupiter light, Venus or Jupiter bright, first Venus or Jupiter I see tonight..."

He has told me that when he grows up he wants to be an astronomer and an inventor.  (He has also said he wants to be everything that a man wants to be..a farmer, a construction worker, a scientist, and a rocket ship pilot, among other things.)  He tells me that he will invent a machine so big it will be able to make new stars-- even new galaxies!  He spends a lot of time describing the immense size of this machine.

Soren pronounces the word "downward," "downer," and the word "backwards," "backers."

Soren and Liam go downers.  

Soren lounges with Bucky and the bunny pillow pet he asked me to make him.  

Looking adorable between Grandma and Arielle at a birthday party.

He was so tired one afternoon he fell asleep on the floor and didn't move for a long time.

A fruit face he made as a snack.  

He wanted me to take a picture of the water he turned aquamarine using food-colored shaving cream. 

Putting together a letter to mail to a friend.

This is the church he built in his bedroom.

Soren took charge of decorating the house for Valentine's day this year.  He made several hearts to hang around the house.  We also made and decorated sugar cookies.

Soren is vigorous and strong-willed.  He is passionate and sensitive.  At his kindergarten screening, I was asked to use a list of adjectives to describe him.  It went something like, "Intense, kind, stubborn, loud, curious, persistent, easily frustrated, explosive, enthusiastic.  I hear that at school he is also cooperative, though I don't see much of that myself."   He can be very draining but I love him desperately anyway.  So glad he's my little boy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Liam Update: April 2012

One night while tucking Liam into bed, I helped him say a little prayer.  Once his chubby little arms were folded across his chest and his eyes were scrunched shut, we began.

"Dear Heavenly Father..." I prompted.  

"Dear Heavenwy Fatho, Frankyoofrthsdaaay," he said.

"Thank you for Mommy..."

"Mommy," he repeated.

"And for Daddy..."

At this point he opened his eyes and grinned.  "No, not Daddy!"  he said.

"And for Soren..."

Still grinning mischievously he said, "No, not Soren!"

Briar recently acquired a pet ferret (and before you all run off squealing, "Ewww!  Stinky!" I feel that you should know he's been deglanded is not any smellier than your favorite pet dog).  But anyway, Liam's first word to shout when he interacts with the ferret is "Mice!"  And thus was Briar's pet named.  So we now have a ferret named Mice.

Liam's current favorite foods are Graham crackers, Ritz crackers, bananas, fruit snacks, and butter.

Liam pronounces the word "bed," "dead."  So if he ever tells you, "I want to be dead," don't go calling the preschool suicide hotline.   Just give him a pillow and a blanket.

Our little three-year-old is a compulsive apologizer.  He says "sorry" all the time: when he bumps into something, when you accidentally knock him over, when you're trying to cajole Soren into apologizing to him.  He's also very sweet about saying "thank you" (or "thank you, Mommy"-- which he'll say to anyone, not just to me.)

Lum Yum Yum also really loves to go for walks.  He'll strut along happily in his signature wiggly way for an impressive length of time.  One morning we walked for about forty five minutes before he decided he needed to be carried.

Liam loves to pretend.  My favorite is when he lies down and makes snoring noises.  "Dead!"  he'll say, lifting up his head and grinning.  "Dead!"  And then he'll put his head down and snore some more.
The child becomes completely insane at night.  He runs around in circles and giggles until he falls over.  He'll sometimes sneak out of bed and quietly crawl down the stairs to visit Briar and Daddy.  He'll run back and forth between them and open and close doors, much to his own unmitigated mirth.

Liam loves music.  He'll sing along to any kind of song.  He "plays" the piano with enthusiasm and expression.  He dances and wiggles adorably in the kitchen.

I continue to fret about Liam's development, though he tested for the Special Education preschool and wasn't "behind" enough to qualify.  He really struggles to differentiate between opposites:  he's just as likely to say "cold" as he is to say "hot" when commenting on the temperature of food just taken out of the oven.  He uses "up" and "down" interchangeably.  He still hasn't quite mastered "Daddy" versus "Mommy."  

I wish I knew if this signified some bigger problem-- or if I should just relax and let him do his thing.

Playing at the park with his brother.

Getting ready for a winter walk.

Excited about the snow.

Looking rather regal in his television-watching throne.  

Happy to be in Grandma Hanson's arms.

Liam loves to read, of course.  He'll lie in the corner by the bookshelf and "read" stories out loud to himself sometimes.

Experiencing the joy of olive fingers for the first time.  

I adore this child.  He is the sweetest, easiest little guy to get along with.  I nearly fall over with joy and amazement every time I tell him "no" and he says, "Okay, Mommy."  He is super cuddly and I can't get enough of his sweet chubby cheeks.  He is my little angel and I am so thankful for his presence in our home.  


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