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Pooh Bear’s Gift

My son likes Winnie the Pooh. Actually, it’s a bit beyond like. If a day goes by without him watching a Winnie the Pooh episode or reading a Pooh story, he’s more cranky than I am on the days I skip my chai.Allen with Pooh and Tigger

But who doesn’t love Pooh? Who couldn’t love pretty much all the characters, in their own way?

The other day, Allen was watching the original Pooh movie… you know, the one we all probably watched when we were kids.

It came to the part about Eeyore’s birthday, where he is not surprised that no one knew it was his birthday. He’s just sitting there, gloomy as ever. Pooh and Piglet decide they should get a gift for him and rush off to their respective houses to find something.

Pooh finds a pot of honey (what else?) and begins the walk to Eeyore’s houseless hill. On the way, he gets a rumbly in his tumbly and decides he better sample the honey, “to make sure it’s okay”. Before he knows it, the honey is gone and he’s left with an empty—and rather sticky—pot. He heads to Owl’s tree house and Owl scribbles a birthday message on the pot, so that Pooh can present Eeyore with “a useful pot” for his birthday.

Meanwhile, Piglet finds the perfect gift, a red balloon that was three times his size. As he heads off to find Eeyore, the inevitable happens: the balloon pops.

Piglet arrives first with his “gift”, stammering his way through the story of what happened as he presents the broken and deflated red balloon. Just then, Pooh shows up with his gift.

“It’s a useful pot, and it’s for keeping things in,” he cheerily states to Eeyore.

“Like a balloon?” Eeyore asks.

“Oh, no. A balloon is too big to…” Pooh stops short when he sees Eeyore put the little red object into the pot and then pull it back out.

“Red, my favorite color…” Eeyore says…happily?

Parenting is like that sometimes. We have great ideas and concepts, hopes and the way we expect things to turn out. They never do turn out that way, though, do they? Sometimes we have to improvise, or come up with a whole new plan.

Then we have our kids, who don’t seem to mind; or if they do, they roll with the punches pretty well. Like Eeyore—well, at least in that scene—our kids are happy with what we have to offer. They are forgiving of the mistakes we make. Actually, they don’t even seem to notice.

Okay, I realize parenting is not quite as uncomplicated as an episode of Winnie the Pooh. Situations are not always resolved within 10-20 minutes. But at times like that, I can always put on Winnie the Pooh for my son, and make myself that cup of chai.


[Reposted from May, 2011]


The Joy of Giving

The Joy of Giving

Love, Cards, and Goldfish

Children love to give and receive love. They understand a simple truth—that loves makes people happy. In their minds, love makes them happy and they like to be happy; therefore love must make other people happy too. Children enjoy making others happy.

cuddle from a little boy

A cuddle from Allen, when I was pregnant with Aiden

One night, I was putting my children to sleep. My son asked me to cuddle with him for a “just a few minutes”. After a moment of quiet, he asked, “Do fish go to Heaven?”

I answered that Heaven is a place where everything that we love will be, so if you had a fish that was special to you, it would probably be in Heaven. Then I asked him what will be the best part about Heaven.

Without hesitating at all, he said, “Jesus.”

“What is the best part about Jesus?” I then asked.

Again, he had the answer right away: “Love!”

“And what’s the best part about love?”

This time he thought for a moment before he said, “Giving.”

For a three-year-old, I thought that he had grasped the concept of love pretty well. It is giving.

Because giving and receiving things make children happy, many children have a strong desire to give things to others as well, from hugs, kisses and cuddles, to “second-hand” items wrapped in a blanket or newspaper.

Every now and again, one of my kids will get in a gift-giving mood and will look through everything they have, wrapping up item after item and finding someone to give it to. Once my daughter wrapped up my hairclip and gave it to me.

“Thank you,” I said whole-heartedly “but it’s already mine.”

She stopped for a minute, and then said, “I wrapped it up for you though.” Something about wrapping things just makes it all that much more special.

home made card by JessicaKids often enjoy making “cards” for people. My daughter will sometimes ask for a piece of paper, and within half an hour, she will have produced a colorful and unique picture with a note that usually says something like, “I love you. I hope you have a nice day. Form Jessica. To Mommy and Daddy.” It might have a few spelling errors, but it’s made with love; what can be better than that?

At any sort of occasion, a friend’s birthday, etc. she will ask if she can make a card.

Cards are simple and make wonderful gifts from children. A little bit of creativeness and help on the part of a parent can make a card into a memorable and lasting gift for the recipient. It can also bring a parent and child together with a meaningful project, and garner creativity in the child.

It will be an unforgettable experience, and who knows what could potentially come of it? I know an artistic family in which each child contributes something to the designing of all their cards: thank you cards, greeting cards, and Christmas cards. They save money, and I’m sure those who are on the receiving end feel more touched with an artfully handmade card than with a last-minute store-bought card quickly signed, “Much love from all of us”.

If you have a free evening and are about to sit your kids down in front of the TV so you can get a few moments to yourself (or to finish up the laundry and pay your bills), stop and reconsider. Give just half an hour of your time to your child. Ask your child if there is anyone they know of who is not feeling well, or whose birthday is coming up, and work with them to design a card. They will be thrilled at the chance to do something for someone else, and something with their parents. The card might not last forever, but the memories created together will last always.

The Way It Worked

It wasn’t a plan. It wasn’t actually even something I really wanted to do at first. More than anything, it was necessary at the time.

I enjoy being a mom. I enjoy teaching my kids. In fact, I had every intention of educating them at home. After all, my mom had done it, why couldn’t I? There are all kinds of pros for home education, such as being able to teach your children according to their particular learning style, recognizing their talents and proclivities in order to help them build stronger skills in those areas, being able to spend more time focusing on areas that need a bit more attention, and many more!

I never had much practice in early childhood education. I felt that those who teach younger children need a certain skill set that I personally lacked—an enthusiastic and playful nature. Once they reached a certain age, I was confident in my ability to teach. I was privileged to have friends and other experienced mothers who spent a lot of time with my daughter during that “early education” stage. They gave me flash cards, fact cards, math dots and storybooks; they referred me to some great educational websites; they taught my daughter songs and verses.

It was August of 2010 and my daughter, Jessica, had reached the stage that I was actually comfortable in teaching. She was in the middle of second grade, and was doing remarkably well. Then everything changed. We had been in the planning-to-move-across-the-world stage, planning to make the big step in November, when we were suddenly—and somewhat rudely—informed that my husband’s visa would not be granted, because I was not living and settled in my home country.

“Moving as a family sometime at the end of the year” rapidly changed to “moving with my kids as soon as possible”. Once we arrived in the States, it was necessary for me to gather as much “proof” as I could of the fact that I was here to stay.

The plan was, in fact, conceptualized on the way from the airport to my parent’s house, as my dad drove and I began to doze after a 28-hour journey without sleep. He mentioned that my sister was very happy with the school she sent her kids to, and that he would be happy to cover the tuition fees for that first year for my daughter to attend. My first reaction was, “No, Dad. We couldn’t ask that of you.”

A few days later, I met my sister and she told me also how great the school was. My dad repeated his offer and we met the teacher and principal of the school. Within two weeks of arriving in the States, my daughter was enrolled at Faith Baptist Academy, and we had our first “proof” towards my husband being able to join us. In the meantime, my father drove her to school on his way to work. My sister looked after her in the afternoons until my dad was able to pick her up in the evenings.

My husband was able to join us within two months, and Jessica’s education at FBA continued.

Yesterday evening was the school’s awards ceremony. My daughter had been sick pretty much the whole last week of school and barely finished her last test on the last day, a few hours before the ceremony. I wasn’t exactly expecting what took place, nor was my daughter.

Jessica, with her teacher, at the awards ceremony

Jessica, with her teacher, at the awards ceremony

She was actually quite embarrassed and reluctant to step forward time and again to receive certificates for the highest scores in nearly every subject, and the highest GPA in the school. I kept having to encourage her to go up, whispering to her to please smile, and assuring her that it was almost over.

At the end of the ceremony, a few friends and acquaintances came up to congratulate my husband and me, as parents, mentioning that we must be proud of our daughter and that we must be great parents. All I could think of was: it really wasn’t us.

It was my dad, who made it possible for her to attend.

It was my sister, who took care of her so many afternoons, on top of taking care of her own kids.

It was my friends and co-workers from India who spent so much time teaching her from the time she was just a baby.

It was the great and inspired teachers at the Academy who pour their time and effort into every child who attends, and has attended, that school.

And it was Jessica, who woke up early every school morning, overcame her timidity at meeting new people, learned the new study skills needed, and applied herself to keep plodding along until the year was done.

Most of all, it was God, Who gives gifts and talents to everyone, as unique and varied as each individual is. Some children might “walk away” with awards; some might not receive even a tiny bit of recognition, but each one is special and gifted in His sight, created for a unique and divine purpose. Our task, as parents, is to encourage our children, love them, pour into them as much as we can, and be open to new opportunities, even if it isn’t what we originally had in mind for them. Who knows? It could be something even better.

(Photo taken by Joel Rockey)

Mother’s Day Mindset Change

I know I haven’t been a mother for all that many years, but I already had in my mind what I considered the “perfect” Mother’s Day. It would start with a sleep in. (Every good day starts with sleeping in.) I would wake at my leisure and be “surprised” with coffee or chai, courtesy of my husband. He would then offer to take the kids out and I would have some “me time” for the rest of the morning. In the afternoon, we would go out together to a park and play. The kids would be extra obedient and cheerful, and there would be no arguments, power struggles, or other “downers” to dampen the great spirit of the day. The day would end with my kids getting into bed without me even having to remind them once about changing their clothes or brushing their teeth. It would end with me kissing them good night and them saying how happy they are to have me as their mother.

Needless to say, reality was very different. With my husband’s job, he was gone from 4:30 in the morning until past noon. No sleeping in; no leisurely morning. But that didn’t mean the day was not special.

I woke and heard my daughter in the kitchen. She ran to the room and saw that the little guy was waking up.

“Aiden, don’t wake up mommy!” She ran back out. She ran in again and saw that I was awake.

“Mommy, happy Mother’s Day. Where is the hot chocolate kept?”

“We don’t have any left.” Her face fell and her shoulders drooped.

“Is there anything else you like to drink? What kind of juice do you like best?”

“Water is good.” I replied.

Allen started laughing. “Water isn’t juice!” The day had begun.

At breakfast time, Allen ran up to me, “Mommy, here’s your Mother’s Day gift.” He had a huge smile on his face as he stood there. “It’s me!” He added. I gave him a hug and said that’s the best gift ever.

My dad (whom my kids call Paca) offered to take the two older ones to church. I jumped at the offer. They were happy to go, yet I still faced the usual power struggle with one of them just getting them out the door (long-standing issue… “I don’t know what to wear.”)

I put on a video for the little guy and decided to clean. Cleaning in a (somewhat) empty house equals music, which always lifts my spirit. I lined up my favorite songs on my playlist and got to work. Kodak moment? My son, just turned two, began singing along with my all-time favorite song, “Who Am I” by Casting Crowns. He would finish every line, and he’s in tune!!!

Everyone arrived home within ten minutes of each other, and found me still cleaning. There was a shuffle of action and whispers and I was presented with a few gifts for Mother’s Day. All this past week Jessica (and sometimes Allen too) would disappear into (my mom) Maca’s room and the door would be locked for up to an hour at a time.

The result? Well, for one, my initial plan to wait until my daughter is seven or eight to teach her to cross-stitch is no longer valid. Mother's Day gift, a cross-stich "Happy Mother's Day"

Mother's Day gift from Allen, angel earringsAnd my son presented me with angel earrings, which he had also made with Maca. They are beautiful! (The scans can’t do the subject justice; you can’t scan their faces when they gave me the gifts; their smiles and hugs were the best gift of all.)

The day wasn’t perfect. There were a few heated discussions and I had to intervene. There were a couple disappointments. There was a challenging moment or two.

But there were also highlights, such as sitting on the backyard swing in the afternoon, Aiden cuddling up to me after waking up from his nap, telling him a story about a bunny—which he of course converted into a story of his own, about a racing car.

Or Allen running up to me and grabbing my hand at the park, “Come mommy, let’s run down the hill together!”

And, at the end of the day, as I prayed for the night with them, Jessica cuddled up to me and said, “You’re such a cuddly mommy. You’re such a good mommy.”

It wasn’t a perfect day (what parent ever gets a perfect day?), but it was a great day, and I couldn’t ask for more.