Very often, the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children's games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups - playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.

~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oyama and the Bears

Last summer, we witnessed the appearance of Oliver's imaginary friends: Oyama and the Bears.  In fact Oliver and I mentioned them in a previous post.  They have appeared off and on since then, although Oliver frequently goes for weeks without mentioning them.   They've been around more this week though, so I decided it was time to share a little bit about these friends that live in our house, go places with us, and have their own adventures.

First, what we know about them.  Oyama is a girl.  Until today, we have not known much more about her looks.  we have no idea where her name came from - it is as made up as she is.  But, I'll save those details for later.  Trust me, it is worth the wait.  There are several bears, specifically, there have been as many as 12.  Last summer, the bears were small enough for Oliver to carry them in his hands.  Now, they've grown up quite a bit.  Apparently, they no longer fit in his room so they sleep in the basement.  I learned this one morning when we were going downstairs and Oliver told me we had to be quiet and whisper because Oyama and the Bears were still sleeping.

This week, I found out that Oyama and the Bears were hanging out in the car with us.  Oliver likes to play a game when we drive where he requests that I make various kinds of food and serve it to him, Coco, and Bear (those are his special animals that go everywhere with us).  So I wave my hands around, ask what is going on the pizza and cake, and pretend to bake it and serve it.  Well, one morning this week he requested pizza and cake.  They all had little bit.  I dropped him off at daycare, and when I picked him up he wanted me to make pizza.  I told him there were leftovers from the morning.  He said no, it was all gone.  I asked if someone had come in the car and eaten it - apparently someone had.  You guessed it - Oyama and the Bears like pizza.

As for adventures, this week Oyama and the Bears went stomping through the woods to a house with "plenty of toys."  Apparently this also had beds, but no chairs, tables, or food.  Hmmm.  So now you are getting the idea.  So far, Oyama and the Bears have not gotten into trouble and seem to be quite well behaved.

Now, this morning, I finally learned more about what Oyama looks like.  Our conversation went like this:

Oliver: Mommy, what's in the woods?
Me: You mean what animals?
O: Yeah.
Me: Well, there are deer in the woods.
O: Like Oyama?
Me: Oyama is in the woods?
O: Yeah!
Me: Oh really?
O: No, she's in our house.
Me: Oh, ok, that's what I thought.
O: Oyama has antlers!

With a little more clarification, I learned that Oyama is still a girl even though people don't have antlers.  Well, if you were a Reading Rainbow fan as a kid like I was, you might be thinking this sounds familiar.  This is why: 

And no, Oliver has never seen this book.  But at least I feel like I have finally seen Oyama.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

In high school and college, I studied Spanish.  I loved learning a new language.  I was fascinated by the differences and similarities in how people expressed themselves.  But I didn't learn the language naturally.  It was an effort, and it took a lot of practice and memorization.  Now that I'm seldom using Spanish, I'm slowly starting to forget things I once knew.  But, hearing how Oliver learns to talk constantly has me thinking about language.  Not just what I should and shouldn't say around him, but also how I say it.  I've noticed, for example, that Oliver not only learns a work here and there, he also learns expressions and combinations of words.  (I think if I had realized the trick of learning combinations of words to use in different situations, I would have picked up more Spanish more quickly.)

he also picks up on our speech mannerisms.  A couple weeks ago, I noticed a new habit of his.  He would tell me a story, pause, and then say "So..."  or "So, yeah" while shrugging his shoulders.  Pretty cute.  Then I realized that Seth does this too.  There have been plenty of other examples of this - like Oliver picking up the words "actually" and "fascinating" and using them a lot - something I do too.

And then, of course are all of his own cute sayings and pronunciations.  We love some of them so much that even though we realize that he needs to learn to say things correctly, we are sad to see them go.  Here is a list of some of our favorites, roughly in order of appearance.  Some of them have become common household terms.
  • Happy, happy, happy - Something to say in your carseat or when you are playing and feeling in a good mood
  • Fickis - fix it
  • Mucksick - music
  • Pack-pack - backpack
  • Gee-bees - either green beans or excuse me
  • Hot sauce/ hot saucing- exercise/exercising
  • Almos tome - almost home
  • Yum-yum - M&M
  • Vite-yum-yum - vitamin
  • "Be fun!" - A shortened version of our often said phrase "Let's do ______, it'll be fun."  Said when he wanted us to come to do something with him.
  • Mail-cycling - recycling (aka, what we do with most of the mail as soon as it is delivered)
  • Deifier - dehumidifier (no, not a god-maker)
  • Picnic truck - pickup truck
  • Ta-gore-it - Tag, your it (also simply used to refer to the game tag)
  • Bow down - Bend over or lean over, as in "Mommy, bow down and give me a kiss."
  • Feel you better - Make/help you feel better, as in, "If you get hurt, I'll give you a hug to feel you better."
This is a pretty good list for the moment, but I'm sure we'll keep thinking of more cute stuff Oliver has said and he'll keep adding more to his repertoire.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011


    As parents, there are many things I'm not quite sure how to do, and teaching Oliver about the Bible, God's love for him, and the offer of salvation through Christ is one task I find daunting.  I feel like I am constantly stumbling forward, clumsily trying to teach him the truth without feeling like I've gotten into a theological point that is far over the head of a two-year-old.  But stumble through we do.  

    We pray together at dinner, and Oliver usually starts our prayers.  We read a couple of stories each night from his beginning level Bible story book.  We pray before bed, sometimes with Oliver leading and sometimes with us leading.  Sometimes, Oliver gets silly and won't settle down for prayers.  Other times, he thanks Jesus for all kinds of things that I don't take time to pray about - like eyes and glasses and a ceiling fan.  He gets his inspiration from looking around the room.  I know he is still learning about reverence in prayer, but his prayers do remind me to be thankful for little things and to talk to God as a father rather than a distant, omnipotent being.  In his innocent (or sometimes not so innocent) way, sometimes he gets it more "right" than we do.  

    We've been talking with Oliver lately about kids who don't have all the good things he has - toys, houses, clothes, toothbrushes, beds.  Last week Oliver and I went to the store and filled a shoe box with toys, toiletries, and small clothing items for the Operation Christmas Child Program, which sends these boxes to children all over the world as part of a ministry to them.  We talked a lot in the store about giving nice things to kids who don't have them.  Oliver seemed to be getting it, but I didn't have any idea how much he got it and was putting ideas together.

    Last week, Seth was praying with him before bed.  In the prayer, Seth thanked God for the people who take care of Oliver.  Then he prayed for kids who don't have anyone to take care of them.  Oliver stopped him, "No, Daddy!  God takes care of them!"    

    You might be thinking we must be doing something right.  And maybe we are, but I am so thankful that it isn't really up to us.  God is using our clumsy words and actions to teach Oliver about him and his love and care for everyone.  So, we'll keep doing what we can - teaching him ourselves, taking him to Bible study, and letting him listen to lots of VeggieTales and WeeSing Bible Songs in the car.  And we'll keep trying to answer his questions and teach him what we believe.  And we will hope and pray that God will keep leading him and that someday he will be able to truly claim God's love and promises for himself.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Serious fun

    Last Friday I had a really fun day planned.  In the morning, Oliver and I were headed to the Little Gym for his second class, then we were headed to a friend's house to squeeze in a lunch playdate before heading home for a nap to rest up for a little Trick-or-Treating in the afternoon.  I was excited.

    Oliver was not.

    First, Little Gym.  Let me back up a little to the first class last week.  I didn't know how he would react to a class like this and I didn't know what we would be doing the first week.  Well, he wasn't into the singing, shaking bells, saying his name, and pointing to body parts that they started with as a warm up.  No surprise there - this was a new place and Oliver always needs to settle in for a little while before he joins in.  But, by the time we were walking and running in a circle he was following along willingly, even if a little less enthusiastically than the other kids.  Then they let him go off to do whatever he wanted on the mats and equipment.  Well, that did it - he was into it.  He walked the balance beam and jumped off the end (holding my fingers of course).  He ran from the balance beam to the bars where he would swing and then drop down.  He jumped off of the spring board.  When they called us back together for the "skill building" activity, he paid attention and was ready to give jumping and forward rolls a try.  It was clear he was having a grand old time.

    So naturally, I expected the second week to go just as well.  I even hoped maybe he would participate with shaking the bells.  But no.  He didn't want to do anything.  Walk in a circle?  Nope, I'll just sit thanks.  Run in a circle?  Still sitting.  Play with a parachute?  Not having it.  Free time?  Ok, I'll try this stuff out again.  Wait.  Some things have changed since last week.  That's not right.  Mommy, fix it.

    At this point, I was feeling just a tiny bit frustrated (ok, more like really frustrated).  How about the balance beam, Oliver?  Well that was ok with him, but he had no intention of getting excited like he did last week.  And I started to remember that 1) there were a lot more kids there this week, which was a bit overwhelming, 2) he was tired from not going to sleep until long after he was in bed and waking up really early for no reason at all, and 3) I'm not doing this for me - I'm doing this for Oliver.

    We made it through the rest of class pretty well, with just a few tears when another kid took the ball he was playing with at the end.  At the car, I asked him if he had fun.  He said yes.

    Then we headed off to the playdate, which went great, and home for a nap.  He was asleep in minutes. I had to wake him up to go on our Halloween adventure.  I was excited to take him trick-or-treating in his cute little construction worker costume.  And at first I thought he was going to have a great time.

    But, Oliver hardly smiled the whole time.  He didn't talk much.  We went with a friend he had been talking about and asking about for weeks, but when she got there he didn't want to play with her.  He just stared around him with his super serious face.

    I wanted smiles and excitement.  He wasn't showing any of that.  I wasn't sure he was having a good time at all.  I kept trying to tease a little smile out of him, but he was just so subdued.  Then we got back to the car, and he completely surprised me.  He told me we could take his costume off because he was done "Halloween Treating."  And then, you know what he said all on his own?

    "I had fun."  That's right.  I never would have guessed it, but he was having fun.

    Friday reminded me that Oliver's personality is quiet and observant.  He doesn't get upset by new situations or a lot of people, but he doesn't get excited by them either.  He stops talking and smiling and just takes it all in.  It's not that I don't know this, it's just that I forget.  Sometimes I'm the one who gets excited, while Oliver takes in the world around him, notices details, and has a quieter kind of fun.  And now, looking back at the pictures, I can see a few glimmers of the fun he was having.  I was just too busy wanting him to be something other than he was to appreciate that these little moments could tell me more about how he was feeling than all the serious faces he could put on.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Birthday Excitement

    Today is my birthday.  I love my birthday.  I enjoy hearing "Happy Birthday" all day, I look forward to birthday treats, and like opening presents and cards from my family.  I also think it is cool that I share a birthday with Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.  (Did you know today is National Hobbit Day?)  But as much as I enjoy my birthday, Oliver seemed far more excited than I.

    He and Seth made Death by Chocolate Cake for me on Monday, and they may chocolate truffles too.  I was astounded and very pleased.  Oliver has been talking about my birthday ever since.  You see, I think he sings "Happy Birthday" every day, and if he can't think of anyone to sing it to he just sings "Happy Birthday to No One."  He bakes birthday cake in his kitchen and decorates it with M&Ms (in other words, he pretends to make his birthday cake). 

    Tonight, he helped Seth put the candles on my cake, he helped me blow them out, and he helped me lick them off.  He ate all his cake and asked for more (we told him he can have more tomorrow).  Then he gave me my presents and helped me open them and take all 15 bows off of the present from him and Daddy.  

    Don't get me wrong - birthdays can be fun, special, memorable, and exciting without a two-year-old.  (I'm sure some people prefer them without two-year-olds!)  But tonight, Oliver reminded me of the anticipation and excitement that I met birthdays with as a kid.  Somehow, as I've gotten older I've learned to tone it down and have a nice, calm, adult approach to my birthday.  But underneath, I think my inner two-year-old is just excited about the cake and presents.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Hunting for Happies

    Yesterday was a rough day.  Oliver woke up whining and crying, and he went to bed whining and crying.  It was one of those days when I wonder why I think it is fun to be a mom and when I am really glad I am not a single parent.  It was one of those days when I had a slightly modified version of a Shel Silverstein poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends stuck in my head:

    For Sale

    One [toddler] for sale!
    One [toddler] for sale!
    One crying and [whining] young [toddler] for sale!
    I’m really not kidding,
    So who’ll start the bidding?
    Do I hear the dollar?
    A nickel?
    A penny?
    Oh, isn’t there, isn’t there, isn’t there any
    One [person] that will buy this old [toddler] for sale,
    This crying and [whining] young [toddler] for sale?

    This morning, Oliver woke up crying and whining again.  We needed a change.  Sometimes, when he’s in a mood like that we play a little game.  We send him to find his happies.  I asked him to go find his happies this morning, and here is what he did:

    Oh, and in case you are wondering, he was looking for his happies with "Oyama."  That's his imaginary friend.  But more on that another day.

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    There's something about the first time

    We are obsessed with firsts.  A quick search for idioms with the word "first" in them brings up long lists of common phrases.  Here are a few:
    • First things first
    • First come, first served
    • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again
    • Ladies first
    • There's a first time for everything
    In fact, our obsession with "first" seems to be wrapped up with being human. History records firsts; science is concerned with firsts.  In the Bible, the disciples were so concerned with who would be "first" in the kingdom of heaven that Jesus admonished them with the warning that "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first." Our obsession with "first" is not always healthy. 

    Then again, maybe we like firsts because firsts are different.

    With babies and kids, we talk about the first time they hit all the big milestones - first smile, first steps, first words.  Those firsts don't stop, and somehow the first time we do something it is often memorable and somehow it seems different than the next time, and the time after that, and the time after that.  Even as an adult, I realize that the first time I go somewhere or do something will always be a little different from the next time.  

    I'm drawn to Oliver's firsts, and even though I know Oliver won't remember all these firsts, for me they are special.   Sometimes they are a sign that he is growing up and doing well.  Other times, they are first experiences that I enjoy sharing with him.  They mean something to me, and seeing him delight in something new gives me a thrill.  

    So, this isn't the first time, and it won't be the last time that I post pictures of "firsts."  Because I want to remember them.  Oliver enjoyed these firsts on our recent trip to Michigan to visit family.  

    First Time Driving Grandpa's Boat

    First Hair Cut

    First Fishing Trip

    First Ice Cream Cone

    First Sail on the Zephyer

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    O, O, Os for Oliver

    When Oliver was about 7 months old, he ate his first cherrios (affectionately known simply as o's at our house.)  He managed to get a few in his mouth, got a few stuck to his face, and kept most of them on his tray.  O's even got their own song (O, o, o's for Oliver, Oliver eating o's!)

    Since then, o's have been a snack, but not a meal.  Breakfast has been toast, pancakes, waffles, muffins, eggs, fruit.  All the basics except for cereal.  I didn't know how he would feel about milk on o's, and quite honesty, I wasn't sure how well he would do with scooping it up with a spoon.  He can use one well enough, but half the time he still opts for fingers and milk is, well, really liquidy.

    This week, though, Oliver wanted o's at breakfast time.  So I gave him a bowl of cereal - with milk.  Once he got over the trauma that was caused by me pouring milk on his o's and telling him he had to eat them with a spoon, it was a lot of fun.  He was so proud to be eating cereal just like Daddy and Mommy do.  And you know what - he did a really great job.


    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Pulling the Plug

    This weekend, we decided it was time.  Time for Oliver to give up his plugs (that's what we've been calling his pacifier since he was a couple days old).  We'd spent some time thinking of how to make this transition.

    I thought about doing what my mom did to mine.  She cut holes in the ends.  I declared them broken, threw them in the trash, watched the trash truck take them away, and - supposedly - that was the end of it.  But that didn't seem right for Oliver.  For one thing, I'm not sure that being broken would have been enough.  He has this stubborn streak, and I think he would have kept them anyway.  For another thing, he LOVES trash trucks.  We have a library book called "Trashy Town."  It's about a trash man named Mr. Gilly who drives around Trashy Town picking up all the trash.  Oliver yells "Mr. Gilly!" every time he sees a trash truck.  I'm afraid he would have started saying, "Mommy, look, Mr. Gilly.  Mr. Gilly has my plug!" every time we went for a drive.  

    And, so, we came up with our own plan.  Oliver loves pillows, but he didn't have one of his own.  So, yesterday, we took him to Ikea and let him pick out his very own pillow.  Our conversation on the way to the store went like this:

    Oliver, do you know where we're going?
    "To the store."
    Why are we going to the store?
    "To get Oliver own pillow."
    Why are we getting you a pillow?
    "Because big boy."
    Why are you a big boy?
    "Because sleep with plug anymore."

    He picked out his pillow (a fuzzy red one).  He left his plugs on a shelf at Ikea and said good-bye to them. (I picked them up on the sly a minute later. We couldn't litter, and besides, what if we NEEDED those yet?)

    When we got home, he got to play in his brand new sandbox.  This was also part of "being a big boy."  (He had no idea we were getting it for him anyway, so why not butter him up a little more, right?)  Here he is, enjoying the sand.

    I moped around after we got home.  This big boy thing was getting to me.  And besides, I wasn't sure who needed that plug more - Oliver, or his parents at 2:00, or 5:00, or 6:00 in the morning.

    We put him to bed at 8:00 after he spent 5 minutes waving out the window in the general direction of Ikea saying good-bye to his plugs "just a little more."

    It took 2 hours for him to fall asleep.  He fussed and cried, we went in and out.  We got him a band-aid for his finger.  We threw the band-aid away.  We put cream on his finger.  And then Seth sat in his room for half an hour, and he finally fell asleep.

    At 5:00, he woke up, and wanted Daddy to sit on his floor.  As I was laying in bed, I heard his little voice say, "Daddy,  please give me my plug just one more time."  (Yep, that's really what he said.)  Seth sat on the floor for another 30 minutes.  Oliver fell asleep.  At 6:15, he was up for good.

    This afternoon, he didn't nap.  He played in his bed for an hour and watched me sitting outside his room reading a book.  Then, he got up and spent the afternoon playing in his sandbox.  He had a bath, and then he ate dinner.

    This was him at 5:38.  Then he slept through a diaper change for the first time in his life.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    Happiness is ______.

    There is something about watching Oliver succeed in doing something new or take joy in something he loves that gives me a simple, uncomplicated happiness.  Maybe it is because this happiness has nothing to do with me.  It is all about him.  

    Last spring, I took Oliver to the park for the first time.  He stood there for awhile, taking it all in and deciding whether it was safe to walk on wood chips.  Once he decided it was safe, he wandered around under the play structure.  When he fell, I had to help him up because he refused to put his hands in those prickly bits of wood.  Later, he tottered up the play structure ramp and spent most of his time "driving" at the steering wheel.  I introduced him to slides - he needed a lot of help.  I picked him up, set him at the top, and held onto him all the way down.  In his own hesitant way, he loved the park that day.

    A little later in the summer, we headed out to another park to meet up with friends.  This ended up being another successful day.  He loved the slides, and was good enough at keeping his balance to push himself down.  

    And then I discovered one of the reasons for going to the park that I hadn't fully realized yet.  Oliver did something completely new.

    He walked up a step.  Then, he turned around and sat down, beaming pride in himself.

    Fast forward to about a year later.  Oliver is no longer slow to warm up to a playground.  He climbs the stairs like a pro, and he's mastered slides big and small.  I say park, he says slides.  Here he is enjoying the twisty slide last week.

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Taking Time to Grow Up

    Growing up is not – as I thought when I was a child – something you do until you finish school, get a job, move out of your parents’ house, and head out to make a life of your own.  Growing up is a much longer, much slower, process.  It is not something that we can rush through.  It requires experiences.  Growing up is joyful, and it is painful.  It teaches you beautiful things, but along the way you discover darkness and sadness as well. 

    When Oliver was born, we started talking constantly about how quickly he was changing and how quickly he was “growing up.”  We were right – at a little over two he is nothing like the newborn we took home from the hospital.  But right from the start I began to realize that I was changing too.  Each day was about learning how to take care of a baby and somehow keep taking care of myself and keep caring for my relationships with my husband, my family, my friends, and God.  I’ve been doing my own growing up right along with Oliver.  

    And so the seeds for this blog began to grow too.  I started noticing how many people around me are still “growing up,” and I’ve realized I never want to stop growing up.  I want to be like my grandparents who are still learning and trying new things in their 70s and 80s.  Sure, this blog will have a lot on it about what Oliver is doing as he grows up.  But I hope it will also be about a lot more.