Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another Ethan first: He jettisoned bunny.

Wednesday evening, the church gathered to sing and listen to Christmas songs. At one point, the children went up from where the congregation was sitting to sing some songs they’d worked on. Ethan was among the youngest. During the second song, he realized something else different: he was the only one carrying something—his bunny. It wasn’t goodbye forever, but for that moment, bunny was tossed aside.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another Ethan first: He designed a snowplow.

When Ethan asked me to tie his shovel to the front of his tricycle, I was hesitant, thinking it would be too loose to be useful. He was confident in the idea, however, so I assembled his snowplow. He ended up using it to help me clear the driveway all winter long.


Monday, November 21, 2011

An Eliana first: She took her brother’s bunny.

Eliana has a big blankly bun just like Ethan’s, except that hers is pink. For now, it spends all its time in the crib. That didn’t matter at story time, when she and Ethan were sharing Mommy’s lap. Ethan had his bunny, and as Eliana took hold of it and pulled it toward her, they were soon sharing that, too.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Respecting machinery

Thursday night, Ethan and I watched Farmer Jim harvest soybeans. We stood next to the combine as it was unloading into the wagons. The wheels on the tractor pulling the wagons were as as tall as me, and combine was even larger. The size had quite an impression on Ethan: he didn’t want to leave my arms.

For another sort of adventure, this morning Ethan listened to Ranger Bill for the first time. I gave him some background on what Ranger Bill does. My description apparently reminded him of Hans Christian Anderson’s St. George. This was Ethan’s opinion of Ranger Bill: “He's very brave. He's not afraid of dragons or combines or tractors.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another Ethan first: He wished he had given thanks.

My dad and I were putting up shelving in the garage as Ethan played outside on a beautiful, but blustery day. Ethan played in the driveway chasing the blowing leaves. A piece of paper from the shelving package got caught up in the wind and blew into the street. As Ethan chased after it, Grandpa yelled at him to not go onto the road.

The forcefulness of his voice shook Ethan. I went over to him and told him why grandpa had to yell like that. I suggested he thank Grandpa for helping him stay safe. Ethan declined at the time, but you never know what is working in the conscious of a child. A half hour after Grandpa and Grandma left, Ethan came up to me and shared this regret: “I didn’t say ‘thank you’ to Grandpa—because I was shy.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Eliana first: She rolled over.

Eliana will enjoy this freedom, since she seems to like being on her back where she can look around more than tummy time anyway.

Eliana rolls over front to back

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The ramifications of wobbly

I reminded Ethan that if he wants to wake up in time for us to play together before I leave for work the next morning, he needs to be still in bed so that he can fall asleep. Or as he puts it, “When I be wobbly, then I don’t wake up, and you go to work, and then I be sad.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Ethan first: He helped carve a pumpkin.

After an evening of low-impact trick-or-treating, it came time for the pumpkin carve. Ethan chose to carve a bunny. First, he dug in to remove seeds and pulp. Then, he took the carving knife and helped bring forth an image of the very creature he has grown so fond of.

Rabbit pumpkin

Friday, October 28, 2011

Another Ethan first: He played the string bass.

I took Ethan up to the last full rehearsal before Beth’s orchestra concert. The violins, French horns (“She puts her hand in there!”), trombones, xylophone, and timpani especially captured his imagination. He watched attentively for more than half of the three-hour rehearsal. Ethan may well have been content in his initial seat, but I wasn’t so patient, wanting to show him different instruments and perspectives. We walked around the orchestra, tried out the balcony and its wings, but mostly watched from up close on the main floor.

There was one other instrument that captured Ethan’s interest, his favorite of all: the string bass. At break, we asked a bass player we knew well if Ethan could play his instrument. Mr. Brian showed Ethan the basics, and emphasized that it was important to pull the string tight before letting go to get a good sound. Ethan has a strong grip and had no difficulty filling the hall with his music.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another Ethan first: He thanked God for the heavens.

When Beth woke Ethan up from his afternoon nap, she and Ethan played picnic together in his bed. Before partaking of their imaginary feast, Ethan decided it would be good to pray. He said, “Thank you God for sun, moon, stars, and Big Dipper."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ethan on squid grooming

“Why is he got messy hair?”


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ethan on food processing

We were roasting marshmallows at Expeditions Unlimited family camp. They had “campfire ready” marshmallows that came as big, flat rectangles. Ethan speculated as to how his was manufactured: “It was run over by a steam roller.”

Campfire marshmallow

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

An Eliana first: She laughed.

Eliana had just finished lunch and was in a particularly smiley mood as I laid her on the changing table. This prompted me to start a little musical rendition of “The Fish With the Deep Sea Smile” by Margaret Wise Brown. Eliana liked it and smiled all the more. Then just into the second stanza, she shared her first laugh.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The next generation’s view of technology

Ethan was rummaging around in the bedroom and pulled out my watch, which I admittedly never wear anymore. He shared with me his view of the technology: “This is for when you don’t have an iPhone.”

Ethan trying on Ed's watch

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bedtime independence

Beth was shopping tonight, so I had the two kids. As I started feeding Eliana, I asked Ethan to come inside for his bedtime story. Once in his room, I sat on rocker with Eliana while Ethan changed into his pajamas. Next he brushed his teeth and went potty. After I read him some stories, he realized he didn’t have his bunny. He thought it might be outside. Looking out the window, he was distressed to see his froggy shoes (green Crocs) on the deck. So he went downstairs, brought them in, and located and picked up Bunny along the way.

Other than rock, feed, burp, and change Eliana, my role was limited to reading, giving a few directions, praying, tucking in, and (fortunately, lest he grow up too fast) winding up the music boxes.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Another Ethan first: He inferred an occupation.

Holland Festival burgemeester and town crierI said to Ethan, "See the man in red? He's the burgemeester. The man next to him in the black cape with yellow trim is the town crier. Do you know what the burgemeester does?” He said yes, which he often does even when he doesn’t know. So when I asked him what the burgemeester does, I expected a shrug and an “I don’t know”, at which point I could tell him that he decides whether the streets are clean enough for the Holland Festival parade.

Instead, I got a confident, “He makes burgers.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another Ethan first: He made himself a sandwich.

The first three family members to rise this Sunday morning were Eliana (about 4:00), I (a minute later), and Ethan (about 6:30). Ethan wanted a peanut butter and honey sandwich for a pre-breakfast snack. It wasn’t the typical breakfast snack, but I didn’t see any reason why not. It occurred to me that Ethan was probably ready to make the sandwich himself. And other than a little help squeezing the honey, he did.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Eliana first: She slept through the night.

She had been sick with a cold the week before. The irony is that only once she was over it did she get a solid night’s rest.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Another Ethan first: He volunteered to clean his room.

Ethan appreciates order in his play. He often arranges all his toy vehicles side by side in a straight line; other times, they follow the rounded perimeter of the rug in front of his dresser. This doesn’t apply to everything, however; TinkerToys and Legos, for instance, like to scatter to the four winds.

As I was helping Ethan get ready for bed, I observed the needed tidy that separated clean bedroom reality from desire. I proposed to Beth that in the future we plan some room cleanup time before bedtime. As always seems to be the case, Ethan was listening. I guess he liked the idea. He picked up his TinkerToys and miscellaneous clutter, leaving his room neat and tidy.

He arranged his vehicles on the floor a bit, but didn’t put them in toy bins. In his mind there was a place for each, and each was in its place.

Another Ethan first: He delivered a hug.

Beth and Eliana have summer colds, so they skipped our friend Stacia’s graduation party this afternoon, leaving just Ethan and me to congratulate the young lady. As we were parting, Stacia’s mother asked Ethan to give his mommy a hug for her. When we arrived home, Ethan remembered: he wrapped his arms around Beth’s legs saying, “Aunty Ann says give you a hug.”

Decorative junk food

Sometimes when Ethan asks why, there is no functional answer. He understands and accepts the answer that something is just decorative. Today, he even co-opted the concept to describe food with no nutritional value: “Popsicles do not make you strong; they’re just a decoration.”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Another Ethan first: He slid down a pole.

At Ethan’s size, there was no going halfway. As soon as his first hand was on the pole, he was committed, and the only way to get his legs on was a full leap.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Learning what it means to love

As Ethan becomes more aware of his interactions with other children, we come across more teachable moments to help him think about the wellbeing of people beside himself. Sometimes the brutal honesty of a small child can be a bit comical to those of us who see ourselves as sufficiently refined to think more unselfishly, or at least pretend that we do. An example today was in the sandbox with a girl his age, crying over a possession dispute with a toy: “Do you want her to be sad?” Ethan’s answer: “Yeah.”

The good news is that so far, Ethan has always been willing to listen to reason in these matters. They also provide opportunities to put into concrete terms this word love, which Ethan so often hears, but can’t get his arms around quite as easily as, say fire truck. Especially since Eliana was born, he has been coming to understand that love means caring that someone is not sad, even if it costs him something.

These experiences made even more poignant a simple statement Ethan made to me out of the blue a couple days ago: “Daddy, I love you.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Holding on

Eliana is getting more comfortable with her hands. Sometimes she holds onto her bottle during meals. Yesterday, she even took her first step toward using a napkin: after drinking, she was wiggling her arms under her bib and managed to use it to wipe her mouth.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Ethan first: He cleaned up spit-up.

After watching us perform this less glamorous aspect of love to the helpless for over a week now, Ethan noticed where his little sister could use a little wipe and volunteered to help out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Ethan first: He identified a man by occupation.

A friend of ours is a roofer. “Daddy, look! There’s Mr. Jon.”


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Another Ethan first: He climbed a tree.

I paused occasionally from my front-yard gardening to fulfill Ethan’s requests to be hoisted into some of the trees – that is, until he found a tree he could climb by himself.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Another Ethan first: He helped preflight a DC-9 and instruct its passengers.

What a blessing it is flying with a three year old, watching him experience the heights of which we could only point to from the ground! There are side benefits, too, like getting to board first, regardless of your assigned row. Early entrance also means plenty of time for side excursions, like slipping over to the far edge of the jet bridge to peer into the cockpit.

On our way to Greenville, South Carolina, to attend a friend’s graduation from Bob Jones University, we were doing exactly that, when the pilot spotted Ethan in my arms. He opened the cockpit window and called out for Ethan to come inside. We stepped onto the plane, where Captain Danny of Delta Airlines invited Ethan into the co-pilot seat. From there, the captain showed him which switches to throw, which buttons to press, and where to position the throttle to ensure the proper function of the airplanes safety systems.

Ethan also introduced himself over the intercom, informed the passengers of the flight time, and asked them to fasten their seat belts. Several times during the flight, Captain Danny used that same intercom to let Ethan know much he wanted him to enjoy the flight (and, of course, to remind him about his seat belt).

Among those blessings of flying with a small child, Beth and I hadn’t counted on the fun we each would have, gaining special access that we haven’t experienced since we were much younger ourselves.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Another Ethan first: He found a lost screw.

I had disassembled the rear-facing car seat to remove the covers for washing. Although they were still in very good condition, there is nothing like fresh, clean fabric for a fresh, clean baby. Despite having attempted to take reasonable care, when I completed I found myself short one screw and one washer. Ethan was with me, so I showed him an identical screw and washer and asked him to help me find them.

Immediately, Ethan wandered away from the car seat over to his tricycle. I didn’t expect him to be of much use there, but he seemed like he was searching, so I didn’t want to discourage him. Next, he dumped the contents of the tricycle’s trunk. Finally, he reached into the trunk to extract two items that didn’t dump out: the screw and its washer.

Now how do you think they got in there?

Finding a lost screw

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Another Ethan first: He saved time with yard work.

Ethan and I went out to rake up a bit of thatch in the back yard. I raked it into piles, and he used a little rake to scoop it into the wheelbarrow. We weren’t very productive, because I always had to rake the thatch onto his rake first. Then Ethan got the idea to put the rake down and just pick up clumps with his mitten-clad hands.

This new approach worked great. Ethan picked up at about the same pace as I raked, saving me a few minutes of scooping into the wheelbarrow by the time we were done.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another Ethan first: He prepped the pizza toppings.

Ethan has long enjoyed helping make pizza. He started as a cheese sprinkler. (You might say he “shared” the cheese with the pizza.) Later he moved to pepperoni and other toppings. In the last few weeks, he has taken interest in tasting the raw ingredients like flour, sugar, and salt (and baking powder if we’re making pancakes).

Today, he pulled up a chair, opened up a package of mushrooms, and started slicing them with a butter knife. Other than orienting the knife cutting side down, all I did was encourage his initiative. He ended up slicing about two thirds of the mushrooms.

After the mushrooms, he tried helping peel the garlic. That was still beyond him. But he did dump the flour in the mixer (before sampling some, of course).

I can see Ethan progressing to first-rate pizza making before we realize it. The day he no longer wants to “share” the cheese – that’s harder to imagine.

Ethan cutting mushrooms

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another Ethan first: He uncovered a laser.

The CD portion of our combo iPod/CD/radio player had been on the fritz with a skipping habit. After breakfast, Ethan and I went at it. Plan A was to clean the lens for CD laser, but it was blocked by a plastic cover. I could tell it was designed to move aside in operation, but I didn’t know how. After patiently enduring my unsuccessful fiddling, Ethan asked to turn one of the gears. As he did, the laser moved from its initial inner-most position toward the disc outside position.

Immediately, the laser cover opened. The design quickly become apparent: the cover mechanically closes when the laser is in the inner-most position, probably a parking position used when the tray is open. With Ethan’s help, the lens was now easy prey for my alcohol-laden cotton swab.

It turned out that cleaning the lens didn’t help, or at least not enough. The solution was to adjust a tuning potentiometer (looks like a white screw) next to the laser. I’m still thankful for Ethan’s out-of-the-box intuition; he helped me get over the first hurdle.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Resorting to an oversimplified answer

Ethan has become very inquisitive. We get constant questions about how the world works. For example, “Why Daddy go work?”, “Why Mommy Daddy married?”, or “Where sun come from?” He’s not shy about follow-up questions either. When he asked, “Where thunder come from?”, we talked about lightning and how it makes a big boom. “Where boom come from?” That was a tough one, trying to explain in even the simplest terms about air pressure to someone who only partially understands what air is.

Today for the first time, I was at a loss for any semblance of an answer that would capture man’s knowledge of a subject into a buo-sized nugget. When we were walking down by the river, Ethan asked, “Why water moving?” That wasn’t too hard: high ground, low ground; water goes down, like in the sink. The follow-up was the trouble: “Why ground high?” I just couldn’t see cracking the lid on glacial carving, so I bypassed a few thousand years of history and went straight to, “That’s how God made the land.” I may not have been satisfied, but Ethan was. Of course, overall I am thoroughly satisfied with how many wonderful opportunities we get to tell Ethan about the wonderful world God has given us.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A poet in the making

Ethan’s reaction to noticing a beautiful sunset: “Daddy, look! It’s cheese!”

Friday, March 4, 2011

Another Ethan first: He balanced on his hinee.

Another random “Daddy, see?”…

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Another Ethan first: He held the flashlight for Daddy.

What started for me as a routine household chore—using a pair of long-tip needle-nose pliers to extract a penguin from the kitchen sink garbage disposal—became the beginning for Ethan of an enduring childhood duty as the husband’s apprentice: holding the flashlight.

Ethan had no idea what he was stepping into; he just wanted to see what I was shining the flashlight on. But once he had pushed over a dining room chair and was standing right next to me, why not take advantage of the available steady hand? The result: Ethan had the satisfaction of knowing he played a part in keeping his Playmobil Penguin Zoo a complete, mangle-free unit.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mushing my family

Is that the right terminology? Does a musher mush his passengers or just his dogs, or does he just mush? In this case, it was Beth, Ethan, our friend Rebecca, and the dogs. The owner was offering a dog sledding experience to two riders, plus a co-musher standing next to him on the end of a ski. Those sitting on the sled have it easy, but a musher is expected to be part of the propulsion team. “Just riding is a luxury,” as the owner put it.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised then, that when I stepped on the ski, the team took off with no veteran beside me! After all, he’d been working hard giving lots of rides, and he asked me if I’d been watching carefully while waiting in line. Fortunately, the dogs were perfectly competent without any direction from me. Beth and Rebecca didn’t even know I was the only one back there until I told them about halfway around the loop.

Coming into the last turn, the dog’s master shouted for them to take a faster pace—and they did. What a ride! And at this clip I was just riding; it was too fast for me to help push. Just staying on the ski was effort enough.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Another Ethan first: He rode his tricycle in the snow.

Upon returning home from church and getting out of the car, Ethan spied his tricycle in the garage and asked if he could ride it in the snow. There’s nothing like first-hand experience for learning, right? So I said he could try. Undaunted by my prediction of how things might go, he rode his tricycle to the edge of the driveway, to the foot of the tallest snow bank.

Ethan pushed his tricycle up the bank and climbed on. He quickly realized he couldn’t pedal, but he could stand up and drag himself forward with his feet. “Daddy, it works!” Ethan trudged on, making a loop in the side yard. He tipped over once, but was resilient all the way through. After about half way, what began with initial exuberance had transformed into a more realistic outlook. “Ethan ride tricycle in summer.” Still, he never lost his joy.

Ethan seemed to like that he was by himself in the deep snow. I was standing on the driveway in dress shoes with every intention of staying there. On his way back, Ethan finally asked for help a few feet from the driveway. I told him I thought he could make it by himself. His eyes lit up, and he pushed his way forward with bubbling excitement as he cross his finish line back to solid ground.

Ethan riding his tricycle in the snowEthan riding his tricycle in the snowEthan riding his tricycle in the snowEthan riding his tricycle in the snowEthan riding his tricycle in the snow