Thursday, August 1, 2013

Preschool poetry

A few years ago, Joe and I started to think seriously about the possibility of homeschooling Marija. I wondered how it would work since I speak to her in Latvian, but the community language is English. So I looked up bilingual homeschooling and was surprised to find very little information online. (What was out there, by the way, was and still is at, a great site for people who have multiple languages in the family.)


Now Marija is almost four, and she will be home with me for awhile yet. So I've begun teaching her reading and other things, mostly in Latvian.

And since I've had two good and interesting educational ideas that work in any language, I figured I should share them with the world. This is the first idea.

Marija's book of poems

It similar to the book of poems I made when we learned about poetry in second grade. For Marija, I will paste in a poem or a Bible verse or a simple song or hymn, then have her help me illustrate. She gets excited when I tell her it's time for another poem... she loves crafts, poems and doing things with me, and every time we put together a new page, she gets all three together.

As you can see above, I try to keep things simple, but also to have Marija help. I cut out a heart, but then she cut out a flower we glued on top, for a hymn asking Jesus to make our hearts like white blossoms. Marija helped me pick out a photo of her to illustrate another verse about giving Jesus our childhood days. The birds picture is part of an old greeting card.

The composition book, decorated and labeled "Marija's Pantiņi" (Marija's poems), was my Christmas present to her. Marija had learned a few poems to recite at Christmas, which is a Latvian tradition, and it was obvious that she enjoyed it. The poems are also a great way to expose her to high-level Latvian... though I'm fluent in Latvian, my grammar and vocabulary are pretty basic.

In the evening before bed, I read the poem once and Marija repeats it line by line. After a day or a month or somewhere in between, Marija can recite it herself.

Her are some more poems. We like using paper scraps, but sometimes Marija will draw something simple using crayons or colored pencils instead.

A poem about birds nesting in trees and by the roadside

A poem about squirrels that leap into trees and eat pine cones

By the way, this is the time of year to buy composition books. They aren't $0.49 anymore once school is underway!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wild crafting

Sketching with pen, cutting rough chunks of cardboard with scissors. Scraps piling up on the rug, around Jānītis sleeping on a blanket. Marija scribbling on the scraps, putting them in a folder, carrying them to another room...  good music playing as I sing a line now and again. This chance won't last, so I am working quickly.

Done by dinnertime. :~)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A picture to remember

From a few days ago:

Joe is kneeling on the living room rug, showing Marija how to solve tangrams. Jānītis, a week old now, is falling asleep in my lap. Dinner is done; dishes are undone. The Innocence Mission album Joe got me for a pre-birth present is playing. "Where does the time go?" He is the man I met when we were 18 and climbing trees at night.

Marija is going out and Joe says she needs some shorts on, pulls a skirt off the drying rack and gives it to her to wear instead. They are playing ball on the grass and Joe is inviting me outside under the vaulted blue...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The very last thing before I go

We are a week past our second baby's due date. I have cleaned my desk, packed my bag and told my friends I won't be coming to see them for awhile. This waiting time has been quiet -- except for the storm that sent me to Marija's cribside and down the stairs when the wind hit our house at 60 miles an hour. Things were not bad for us... we got power back within half a day and didn't have to invite ourselves over to our friends' for their air conditioning.

At times today I found myself with nothing I had to do. Joe and Marija made biscuits for dinner.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ardievu, Vecmamma

My Vecmamma died last Friday. I was by her side, singing a folk song with my sister. If we had known we would be accompanying her last breaths, maybe we would not have chosen Āvu, āvu baltas kājas. But it was a fine-enough song to sing her then, an old story of a girl dressing her feet in white and weaving herself a wreath of roses that would be taken by the wind into the sea. It is the song my mother sang to me when I was a babe and cried.

My Vecmamma had been in the hospital just over a week, asleep most of the time and unable to really talk even when she was awake. I did what I have often done in recent months, as her memory faded and conversations grew shorter. I sang the songs she knew from childhood, the words she would remember even after she said she'd forgotten. I sang the lullaby prayer I grew up singing, but the version that mentioned Jesus' blood... I had learned those words from her. I sang her favorite folk songs, the sad ones and the silly. I sang every song I thought she knew, because I had time enough to sing them again and again.

After Marija was born, the nurses eventually took her from me to weigh her, and I told Joe to follow and comfort her, and he sang her Lovesong by The Cure. By my grandmother's bed, I often wonder what songs met her as she came into this world... whether her mother and father sang her the same ones on the way in as I was singing her on the way out.

We had thought Vecmamma might recover, and she was awake and nodding her head at happy news we had been longing to share with her. But her body started to fail in the night, and by the time I was back at the hospital, her medicine was the only thing keeping her alive, and there was almost no hope of healing. The nurses stopped the medicine around lunch time, told us there was no way of knowing when the end would come but it would be a couple days at most, and I thought I would stay with her and sing when she was awake and rest as she slept. But she did not sleep that afternoon. I think, now, that her heart began to race, as the nurses said it would. But then, I was surprised to find myself with hours to fill with nothing but prayer and song. I stroked her forehead, and from the way she moved her face, I could tell she knew I was there.

I got cramped from bending over her bedside, so I lay back in a chair. I wondered if it really would be days I would fill with her. I ate snacks and longed for my sister to join me so I could leave and get some dinner. I read the newspaper a little, even though I might regret it later. I sang a little less often so I would still have voice in the night, but I was still singing. When it got dark, I turned on a few lamps.

When Anita came, Vecmamma looked at her, but I thought it was too bad she wasn't responding as much as she had earlier in the afternoon. We showed her pictures of Marija on Anita's phone, though it was hard to tell if she liked them. Anita and I talked to the side a little while, and then Anita suggested we start to sing together.

It was almost eight thirty. Our first song was one of her favorites, about a rooster, Kur Tu teci, gailīti mans? Anita and I messed up a verse, said Vecmamma would no doubt know the right words. And as we started Āvu, Āvu, Vecmamma's breathing began to slow, then stop. I looked at her face to see if she looked distressed, and was suddenly aware of the skull beneath her fragile skin. Her body looked like a machine that was winding down... there was a pause, and then a last few breaths.

Vecmamma had lived with my family since I was a year old. When I was little, her bedroom was a fun place to hide away, a place I could eat Skittles out of her little candy dish and try to get her to rub my legs while she watched Wheel of Fortune. When I was in college, she'd invite me to lie on that big bed with her when I was tired, and I often fell asleep there on visits home. But though she always appreciated us there, it was only in the last months of her life that she protested when we said goodnight and went our own way. On nights my parents were away and I was bringing her to her bedroom, she'd ask me "Can't I sleep with you instead?"

Oh, Vecmamma. How I longed to climb into your bed with you and hold you in those last days. How aware I was of so many times I could have loved you better. Thanks to God for your 99 years, your two years knowing my daughter, for our precious hours together at the end. My prayer to be with you at the last was answered indeed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Getting ready for Easter

Our long winter has turned into almost-summer. Now we are opening most of our windows, keeping just a few shades drawn, and living outside as we can. Marija asks to go outside all the time and often gets upset if I tell her to stay in.

But she came in to dye Easter eggs today, lured in by the other kids who came to dye with us. I enjoy teaching people how to dye the Latvian way, with onion skins, like my family always did growing up.

Here we are assembling our ingredients... we have an egg, some leaves and flowers from the yard, onion skins, and water for dipping.

We wet the leaves and flowers to help them stick to the egg. This was the only part Marija wanted to help with.

Actually, she just wanted to put one clover into the water, and then onto the egg, then back in the water, then onto the egg again...

Once she got bored of that and ran off to play with the kids, I stuck some more greens on.

The greenery leaves white spots on the egg, and the onion skins leave a brown pattern.

So we surround the eggs, then fold the cloth and wrap it all up...

The thread keeps everything together, and the initials (made with a permanent marker) let us keep track of who made which eggs.

We added leftover onion skins to a couple pots of water, heated the water to boiling and then added the eggs. After about 10 minutes, I turned the stove off and let the eggs sit in the brown water.

About 20 minutes after that, the eggs were ready. We ran them under cold water to cool them and then unwrapped...

Beautiful eggs!

The big one is a goose egg we got from a friend!

If you like videos, here is one with a little more information about the tradition.

Today was so nice, I saw neighbors doing all kinds of things outside: eating, sorting clothes, carving a deer out of wood. (Okay, Joe was the one with the deer, finishing his carving.)

But in the morning, before the kids on spring break started waking up and spilling out of their houses, it felt like Marija and I had the neighborhood all to ourselves, for playing in.

May your Easter be blessed by our loving, giving Lord of all.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy St. Joe Day

To celebrate the name day and saint day of my favorite Joe, I made some naan for dinner and some honey-glazed pumpkin scones for dessert. The food took me some time, especially the naan: making dough, rolling it out, putting it in the pan, flipping it over... I am apparently no longer afraid of recipes requiring a spatula.

Lately I've been more conscious of the way I can use food to show my love. I think Joe did feel loved, and we are both glad to have lots of naan left over. But because I was busy making flatbread, I didn't get to the playground with Marija, though she got out briefly in the morning and enjoyed a stroller ride in the afternoon. And there are a hundred other things I could have done but didn't, because I was busy cooking.

I realized it when Marija was born... I never reach the evening and think I have loved her enough. I may have loved her well, but I never stop loving because she could always use some more. So could my grandmother. So could Joe. So could the lonelier ladies at the nursing home.

I am thinking this is one of the problems of this world, the days that end before our loving is finished.

But all we can do this side of heaven is keep pressing on, praying for help along the way, yes?

If I were a real blogger, I'd have a picture of the naan here. Instead I'm off to bed. You will have to imagine them -- soft wheaty ovals with toasted brown spots, mmm.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More than food

This is just a bit of my mundane little life, but now I've become the coordinator for my moms' club event called Cooking Club. I think it should really be called Eating Club... once a month or less often, we gather at someone's house with food to eat and talk and maybe share recipes. Some bring their children, so we have playing... lessons on sharing... tense moments in which we dig dirt from the flowerpot out of a baby's mouth.

There is usually a themes, to inspire people. Here are a few we've had:
Appetizers and salads
Fresh from the Oven -- anything baked
Think Spring (having it this month) -- anything colorful, fresh or appropriate for Lent or Easter

I have some ideas for themes for the future, including a picnic. I am telling you all this because Joe thought some of my ideas were cheesy or something, so he started suggesting themes of his own:

Farm animals (this ham used to be a piggy!)
Food you wouldn't eat unless you were starving

For the last one, he suggested I just tell everyone to come hungry.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quiet hour

Lately I've found life pretty lovely and a bit overwhelming. And I wonder if Marija will wake from this long nap, currently being conducted in my lap, in time for me to change her and pick up the living room before we have visitors. Meanwhile, I am typing with one hand to get ready for Latvian school, looking forward to another Sunday of teaching children who understand God in the simplest terms.

But I am taking a break now. For a moment I am enjoying Marija's sweet breaths (a sigh just now), soft songs in the background, peace of heart perhaps.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Today's grandmother letter

Dear Vecmamma,

I hope you are doing well! Pak pak pak -- it is raining today! I can't go on a walk outside with my little girl -- we'll have to put on some music and dance around the house!

I love you!


When we were visiting yesterday, my baby tried to give my Vecmamma some kisses. She doesn't know how to make the kissing sound, but she put her face up to Vecmamma's face, mouth open -- and, thankfully, did not bite her. Hooray for warmed hearts and the sparing use of teeth.