Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Inquisition


Why? Why? Why? Why?


Are you tired of this yet?

I try really hard not to get frustrated at Max's overzealous curiosity. I answer his questions to the best of my ability... usually. But sometimes it gets downright ridiculous! I know all kids have a "why?" stage, but is it too much to ask that he only ask questions that have answers?

I'll give you an example. Usually these conversations start out innocent enough. "Why did you give Lucian a smaller plate than me?" "Because he doesn't eat as much as you do."

And does Max then respond with, "Oh!" and go back to whatever he was doing? Ha, ha, hahahaha. Let's continue. "Why doesn't he eat as much as I do?" "Because he is smaller than you." "Why is he smaller than me?" "Because he was born two years after you." "Why was he born two years after me?" "Because... uh... that's when he came out of Mommy's tummy?" "Why is that when he came out of Mommy's tummy?" (Oh dear... uhh...) "Because that's when God wanted him to be born." "Why is that when God wanted him to be born?"

And this is about where I give up. Either I throw up my hands in frustration and snap, "Because He did." or I throw the question back at him: "Why do you think that's when God wanted him to be born?"   If I ask him a question back, he usually comes up with an answer. In this case, maybe it's "Because it was a good time to be born." or something of the sort. I'll usually smile and say, "Yeah!" or "That could be!" or "Oh!"

And then, THEN my friends, is the question that drives me up a wall.

"Why did you say 'Oh!'?"

This happens at least a few times every day. What kind of answer can I give to this question? Why did I say 'Oh'? Why does anyone say 'Oh'? To end the conversation, that's why! But if I give any kind of response to this question, it results in a completely new line of questioning, ala "Why did you want to end the conversation?" And we're back to Square One.

I feel like I'm walking a fine line here. I don't ever want him to stop asking questions. I love his inquisitive nature, and I love that he wants to know the answers to everything. I only wish that two or three rounds of questions would satisfy his curiosity... rather than six or eight or ten.

Lately he's been really curious about the human body: skeletal system, organs, the like. I love answering these questions, if I can. But even these quickly devolve into meaningless back-and-forth before he's satisfied:

"Why do we have a skull?"
     "To protect our brain."
"Why does it protect our brain?"
     "The skull is made of hard bone and it goes all around our soft brain to keep it from getting hurt."
"Why is it made of hard bone?"
     "Because if it was soft it wouldn't keep our brains safe"
"Why wouldn't it keep our brains safe?"
     "Why do you think it wouldn't keep our brains safe?"
"Because it would be soft!"
"Why did you say 'Oh!'?"

The one thing I really enjoy is watching Max go after other people with his endless line of questioning. As they fumble for answers to some of his most ridiculous questions, I just get to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Watch out, you might be next!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Counting Cars

We love our home. There are very few things I would change about it (yes, a second bathroom would be stellar), but the one thing I really wish we could change is the one thing we cannot change: the street we live on. The street in front of our house has fairly consistent traffic, and although the speed limit is low, I would never send the kids out front to play without me. That's a hard-and-fast rule in our house. Backyard, fair game. Front yard, not so much.

But there is one upside to our location that we would not be able to experience if we lived on a nice, quiet, residential road, and that is car-watching! Often in nice weather, we sit on the front step and wave at cars, counting how many wave back at us. It's heartening to see that nearly every driver who notices us lights up and waves back enthusiastically! People really do respond well to a smiling kid.

In colder weather, we don't make it to the curb very often, but sometimes we'll sit at the front window and watch for big trucks to pass. Our street happens to be a bus route, plus there are several restaurants and a grocery store that get regular deliveries, so it seems we never have to wait too long for a reeeealy big one.

So we watch and wait, and Lucian narrates the experience: "Ca... ca......... ca..... ca... YUCK!!!" (if you need a translation, that's "car... car......... car.... car.... TRUCK!"). And the icing on the cake is the occasional ambulance or police car that zooms past with sirens blaring.

On hot summer nights, I grumble as speeding motorcycles roar past our open window, but so far we have managed to make the most of the traffic. Someday we hope to live on a zero-traffic, tree-lined street where the kids can learn to ride bikes out in front of the house, but I think a very small part of me will miss watching cars with the boys.

Whew, that's hard work!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

At Home

It's official. I have become a homebody. Within the last six months I have finally made the transition from needing desperately to leave the house at least once a day to being content to stick around the home front for several days in a row. Don't get me wrong, I love getting out! (Especially without my two adorable cling-ons.) I still really enjoy our trips to the library and play dates with friends, but I no longer feel like I need these outings in order to function properly. Our home life has fallen into such a rhythm that I actually look forward to days that we have nowhere to go.

I'll take you through a quick tour of my change of heart. When Max was born, I don't think I left the house without Paul for a full two weeks. I think I was afraid that if I took him anywhere, I would suddenly drive off a cliff or spontaneously combust or something. But I ached to get out and get around! As soon as I got over my initial fear, I took him everywhere. Then when Lucian came and I began to stay home full-time, I tried to find excuses to leave the house every day: grocery shopping, visits to the library, even just driving around the neighborhood... I had to get out or I would go crazy! It stayed like this for quite some time, and although I managed to suffer through the days that we were home-bound, I didn't enjoy them. I counted down the minutes until Paul came home, thinking that if I didn't talk to an adult soon, I might lose all cognitive function! Ok, so I still follow him around like a puppy when he gets home- things are just better when he's around- but I no longer mentally wait at the door for him.

If I had to put it into words, I think the change began with Max's increased interest in learning and doing organized activities. When he just wanted to play pirates or Duplos with me all day, I wanted to pull my hair out. I used to feel really guilty about this. I mean, am I not supposed to love playing with my children? In moderation, I don't mind building Duplo robots or sailing the seven seas looking for treasure, but it was wearing on me. Then I suddenly realized that Max was old enough to do crafts and activities, bake with me, learn some early literacy skills... and the days began to fly by!

Now we do a "project" of some sort almost every morning. We love baking cookies and muffins, Max is memorizing the names of all of the bones in his body, we do simple "science experiments" around the house, and we are taking time to enter into the liturgical seasons. Instead of waiting for the day to end, there are many days that I feel like we can't fit everything in! Yes, we still have those days that can't end fast enough, but I can honestly say that I love being at home with my boys.

Part of me worries that when our baby girl comes, everything will be turned on its head and I'll be clawing at the doors again. But I think that maybe... maybe it's not just Max that has changed. Maybe my heart is really, truly, finally in my home. And when our baby is born, maybe this time the transition will be easier because I've discovered that everything I need to be happy (and sane) is right here. At home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Captain Bogg

Way back when Max began his pirate obsession, he named Lucian "Captain Bogg", not knowing that "Captain" meant "head of the ship"... "person in charge".  He has since figured that out, and although Louie's name hasn't changed, Max makes it clear that Captain Bogg is actually his first mate and/or cabin boy, depending on the day. So far Louie doesn't mind, but I think I foresee a possible mutiny in the future...

Awhile ago, my dad brought both boys to see a puppet show by Heart of the Beast theater, called "Monkey Mind Pirates". Both boys really enjoyed it, and my dad bought the CD for them afterward. For a few weeks following the show, we listened to that CD at least seven times a day! I think I know every word to every song, and I know Max does. The surprising thing, though, is that Lucian is really the one who is hooked on this music! Every time he sees the CD player, he walks over to it and yells in a growly pirate voice, "Arrrr, Tee-Tee!" (This is Lucianese for "Arrr, Matey!", the name of one of the songs on the disc). The more we listened to that CD, the more Lucian began to turn into a pirate like his brother. It is now a rare moment that at least one of them does not have a cutlass, sword or pistol in hand... and often they spend their time sword fighting each other! Thankfully we have collected enough weapons and pirate hats around these parts to fully satisfy two buccaneers.

The defining moment came during prayers last week. It was a flash back to this day, over a year ago, when Max said all of his prayers in an enthusiastic pirate voice. Well, guess who decided to take after his big brother? Yes, even though he only knows the last word or so of each prayer, Lucian has started to pirate-growl his prayers... and his bedtime song! I sing "Twinkle, twinkle..." and he chimes in with "Yiddle tarrrrr!"

So even in the unlikely event that Max outgrows his pirate fixation, I think we have a new little scallywagg who's ready to take the wheel!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shopping with a Pirate

I wonder how many of my blog posts have a pirate-related title? It seems like any time I have a story to tell about Max, those scallywags are somehow involved. Tonight it was a simple trip to Target for corned beef and heavy whipping cream (not to be used together, I assure you). We were waiting at the deli counter and Max started softly singing, "fifteen men on a dead man's chest... yo ho ho and a bottle of rum..." The deli worker looked up at him and asked, "So you like pirates, huh?"  "ARRR!" was his enthusiastic response, followed by, "Do you want to hear my pirate song?" Of course she did, and he repeated (at a much higher volume) "Fifteen MEN on a dead man's CHEST! YO HO HO and a bottle of RUM! Want to hear it again?" and hear it again she did, whether she wanted to or not. By then our meat was sliced, but as we wheeled away from the deli counter, he continued to sing at top volume until he finally got distracted by the frozen dinner aisle. I could barely keep a straight face, but I couldn't help wondering what all the other customers were thinking of me... "Where did that sweet, innocent child learn a song about dead men and rum? What kind of mother lets her child sing about such things??"

But crazy mother or not, I made no attempt to stop him. In fact, our pirate adventure continued into the kids clothing section, where Target was having some great deals on summer clothes. I started sorting through shorts and t-shirts and found not one, not two, but three pirate-themed t-shirts in Max's size. Meant to be? I think yes. I took the kids to the dressing room so Max could try on some shorts, and he Argh'ed his heart out to the dressing room attendant, who assured him that he made a very convincing pirate. When he took out his "hook" and began challenging her to a fight, however, I decided it was time to move on. By the time we made it to the check-out, Max Salty had retired for the evening and my own Maximilian was back. But what an adventure we had!

Friday, March 9, 2012

We Adore You, O Christ...

"Dear Jesus, I adore you. I love you and thank you for dying on the cross for me... Today I want to follow You up the hill of Calvary and to understand a little better at each station all that it cost You to make me God's child. If I had been the only person in the world, You would have been willing to suffer in just the same way... Thank You for loving me so much. Please teach me every day to love You more and more."
   -Stations of the Cross for Children, Preparatory Prayer.

Paul and I have tried to make a commitment this Lent to pray the Stations of the Cross with the boys every Friday. I am overwhelmed by the idea of bringing the kids to St. Joseph's parish Stations of the Cross, because although it doesn't last too long, I feel like the time would be spent more on shushing and juggling wiggly kids than praying and teaching. So instead, we have decided to go to the church by ourselves in the evening and walk the Stations as a family. We found a great children's version of the Stations at a blog called Family Feast and Feria. The link to the printable booklet is here.

This week, we are heading out of town today so we won't be able to make it to the church. Instead Paul came up with the idea of having Max draw each of the stations so that we could pray it in our living room! It turned out to be a great idea for our little artist- he took some creative license (Mary ended up with a pirate's hat, and Simon of Cyrene has a toy pirate ship), but he got the basic idea. The best part was that it gave us a great opportunity to discuss each of the stations as he was drawing them! When he drew Jesus being stripped of His garments, Max's big question was whether Jesus would ever get a new robe. We talked for awhile and decided that in Heaven, Jesus would make a brand new shiny robe for Himself! When he drew Jesus falling the first time, his immediate question was, "Who's going to help Him??" Out of the mouths of babes...

When we were done coloring, we placed the drawings in a line through our living room and up the stairs. Then we walked from station to station as we would at the church, stopping to pray at each picture. It turned out to be a beautiful way to pray the Stations right in our home!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Real Pirates: Aboard the Whydah

Months ago, it was brought to my attention that there would be a pirate exhibit at the Science Museum starting in February. Of course we marked it on our calendar right away, and soon we started to see Jolly Roger banners and posters finding their way into downtown St. Paul. The Red Balloon Bookstore hosted a pirate party a few weekends ago, and Max has been on pins and needles to visit the actual exhibit since then.

Thursday evening turned out to be the perfect time to go! We ate a quick, early dinner when Paul got home and  made it to the museum by 5:30. Apparently 5:30 on a Thursday is not prime museum visitation time, because we had the run of the place. Max got to spend as much time as he wanted at each piece of the exhibit, and we even backtracked to his favorite spots a couple of times.

And what an exhibit it was! I'm heartbroken that I forgot my camera, but I guess words will have to suffice. We started out in a dark room watching a short video on the history of Captain Sam Bellamy and the Pirate Ship Whydah, then the screen rose to reveal the actual ship's bell that rang as the ship sank into the sea three hundred years ago. It just got better from there. We learned how to load a cannon, make sailing rope and play "Sheep's Knuckles" - Max lost the game to a "real live" pirate and was told he'd have to be pressed into service on a ship til he could pay his debt. (Too bad it didn't really happen... it would have been a dream come true for our son!) The rope maker even gave Max a piece of the rope that he wound right in front of us... and that rope stayed tight in Max's fist for the remainder of the exhibit.

We also hoisted a Jolly Roger, learned about the different flags used by famous pirate captains, and touched actual pieces of eight-- real Spanish silver pieces recovered from the wreck of the Whydah. Interesting factoid: the treasure from this shipwreck is the only real pirate treasure ever discovered! And there were chests and bags full of it! Wow...

The crowning moments for Max were getting to step foot on a scale model of the Whydah's main deck, stand in the captain's cabin next to a model of Cap't Bellamy, and walk down into the hold of the ship. For the first time, all his imagining became totally real for him and he could stand among pirates on a ship! Unfortunately he wasn't allowed to climb the rigging (yes, he asked) but he still had a magical experience.

This was our first trip to the Science Museum, and we learned that they really know how to do things right! If we could, we'd go back again every day until the exhibit closes. Max certainly would never get bored, and honestly, there's plenty more I'd like to see again!

If ever his interest in pirates was in danger of waning (which I don't really believe it was), this trip to the museum was enough to solidify his passion for the foreseeable future. So shiver me timbers, mateys, we're off to sea!