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The Joy of Boys

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My amazing, hilarious, talented best friend is not only a kick-butt sales director for 31 Gifts, but also a crafty little bugger who turns out awesome signs like the two above.  When she sent me this pic, I fell completely in love.  Having raised only boys, I know just how super-heroic they can be.  (Don’t get me wrong, there was a time when I desperately wanted a girl.  As time has passed I’ve realized I am blessed to have been surrounded by all these boys. Plus, said friend has a girl who is gorgeous in every way, so I get to live vicariously.  Without worrying about the teenage years.)

What’s so superhero-like about my boys?

I talked all about Big last week, so if you don’t already know his superhero qualities, you can read about him here.

Middle is a keenly intelligent kid with a strong sense of compassion.  Though only 12, he has a way of looking at the world that is kind and respectful while maintaining an innate curiosity.  He’s the guy who would figure out how to save Everyone on the collapsing bridge rather than focusing on the people who might be considered ‘important.’  Money wouldn’t sway his moral compass, power wouldn’t touch it, fame wouldn’t faze it.  He is a natural leader who likes to think things through but is capable of making quick decisions that seldom turn out to be wrong.

Littlest is a joyful, fun-loving guy who loves deeply and lives loudly.  He’s the flashier guy who is flying around the bridge saving all the pretty girls first but making sure to leave time for the babies and other folks.  And maybe relying a little on his older brother to bring the whole plan to fruition, but he’s a heck of a team player.  He has a lot of leadership qualities as well, but they stay mostly dormant while he’s still under his brother’s shadow.  He doesn’t mind.  He really is that guy who shrugs it off, goes with the flow, and just makes sure the endgame is accomplished.  With a lot of fanfare.  And fireworks.  And maybe an explosion or two.  And definitely an Eminem song playing in the background.  Full blast.

Here’s the thing.  Though my little superheroes may have a bit of trouble with the whole ‘cleans his room’ thing, they do keep it in a semblance of order.  They all share without even having to think about it.  They use kind words.  Most of the time.  Because they Are brothers, after all.  Smiling and giggling is their strong suit.  You can’t survive in this house without a rollicking sense of humor.  They run, jump, and climb more than I’d like.  They put family before all else because that is the way they’ve been shown.  They dream.  Great big, wonderful, fantastic dreams that I encourage with all my soul, even if, as a grown-up, I think they might be impossible.  I never tell them.  What kind of Nick Fury would I be if I squashed their dreams?

Now, if only I could do something about all the bodily function jokes, I would be a happy mama.

IMG_20150528_105742107What makes a boy a superhero?  Knowing who he is and where he comes from.  What he loves and what he shouldn’t tolerate.  How to treat others and how to be strong.  And laughter.  Definitely shining eyes and shaking bellies and great, rolling belts of laughter.

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What about you?  What makes your boys superheroes?  Better yet, what kind of superhero is your girl?

.Love wins,

KT

Lessons from Spongebob

Everybody knows I’m not a huge fan of television.  It is mostly mindless drivel, and I only watch it when I’m sick or well… when it’s Sunday night and The Walking Dead is on.  Because who can miss their weekly dose of Daryl?

Anyway (forcing myself back to the point)… Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of a lot of screen time for littles.  I’m not one of those, “OMG, YOU LET YOUR KIDS WATCH TV?!” moms, because, well, most kids these days consider that child abuse.  I just try to gently lead the Littles away from the tube and on to more productive activities.  Mainly because I Cannot Stand the incessant noise.

Enter Spongebob and his supremely annoying voice.

I thought, a year ago, that I hated Spongebob and all his friends.  The laugh, the voice, the Stupidity.

But then I started listening.  And enjoying.  And realizing that Spongebob is Funny.  And sometimes there are lessons in that show that are downright Surprising.

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My favorite Spongebob episode involves a box.  In fact, the episode is called The Idiot Box.  The idiot box is, of course, a plain cardboard box that Patrick and Spongebob put to excellent use.  The box comes with a television in it, but that wily sponge and his starfish sidekick throw the TV away and jump straight into the box.  Squidward, the classic grown-up-next-door, asks why they threw the TV away, and Spongebob happily explains that he and Patrick don’t need the television, they  are going to use their imagination to play with the box.  My favorite part is the way he says Imagination like it is the greatest thing in the known universe.  Because it is.

Spongebob and Patrick go on to climb mountains, have police run-ins, ride helicopters.  Squidward, hearing whirring blades, avalanches, and sirens,  repeatedly opens the box to find the friends just sitting in the bottom of it.  He doesn’t get it; even when he gets a box of his own, nothing happens.  He sees nothing, hears nothing.  Spongebob and Patrick, however, are having one thrilling adventure after another.

How can I hate my kids watching a TV show that blatantly tells them it is infinitely more fun to use their imaginations than to be sitting there watching said show?  Without fail, they turn the TV off after that episode and go find something imaginative to do.

Amazingly, there are other lessons to be learned from the Spongebob cartoons.  Spongebob’s constant quest for his boating license teaches kids how important it is to learn to drive carefully, know traffic laws, and take the whole process seriously.  The episode in which Patrick bonds with Grandma Squarepants teaches littles how (not) to handle feelings of jealousy.  The episode in which Spongebob becomes a stand-up comedian and uses his squirrel friend, Sandy, as the butt of all his jokes teaches why we shouldn’t spread racist humor.  The show is filled with lessons about friendship, work ethic, and staying optimistic under any circumstances.

Who knew?

One more thing I bet you didn’t know.  The creator of Spongebob Squarepants is a marine biologist.  Um… What?  That is pretty cool.

It feels weird for the Lit Mama to be recommending anything TV for your children.  But I do like being surprised, and Spongebob surprises me with its hidden depth and wit, and if you have to let your kids watch a little television so they don’t call Child Protective Services on you, you may as well let them watch Spongebob.

Love wins,

KT

The Blessings of Motherhood

Today is Big’s birthday.  He is 22 years old.  I keep having to repeat that to myself.  My joyful, curious, take-on-the-world-with-his-sense-of-humor little man is a big man now.

lunnqBirthdays always make me ruminate on this whole motherhood thing.  With Big, I have been telling people since he was a toddler that I can’t take any credit for how sweet he is or how smart he is–he was born that way.  It is who he is.  Now I also tell people that I can’t take too much credit for his loyalty to his friends, his work ethic, his refusal to be one of those 20-somethings who cares about nothing but partying.  It is who he is.

He visits his mama and dad and brothers weekly, sometimes several times.  He has 9 years on his next brother, but you wouldn’t know it when they’re together.   He is attentive and interested; he even plays their imagination games with them still, breaking out the Nerf guns, the Nerf swords, or other paraphernalia.  The Littles never feel that Big doesn’t have time for them.  Even though he’s out on his own, occupied by the love of his life, finishing up college and working hard, he always makes times for his brothers.  After all, he did beg me for 9 years to give him one (sorry it took so long, buddy.  I had to find you guys a good dad first).

I can’t take credit for the brother he is.  He is just that guy.

When Martin needs help around the farm or a partner-in-crime for a trip to get building materials or even just car parts, Big is always the first person he calls.  When Martin first came into our lives, I was a little jealous of their relationship.  Big and I had been all we had for so many years that even though I fell in love with Martin partly because of the way he treated Big, I lost a little bit to him.  Because Big had been craving a strong man to admire all his life and now he had one.  He didn’t need his mama in quite the same way.  I’ll never forget the moment I knew I was going to marry Martin.  We were standing on the front porch of my house and Big had just said something really sweet before scampering back inside.  Martin looked at me.  “How could anyone ever leave a kid like that?” He said of my ex-husband.  “He has so much love to give.”

I can’t take credit for that.  Big was born with his big heart.

So I found Big a daddy and gave him brothers and watched him grow into the most amazing young man I have ever known.  I have watched him fall passionately in love with a girl I would have handpicked for him if he hadn’t found her himself.  I listened while he made the decision to become a teacher, and I knew it was a perfect job for such a compassionate person with so much love to give.

And I can’t take credit for that.  In fact, I don’t want to.  I have always said I am blessed to know him, let alone be his mother.  After 22 years, he still makes me the luckiest woman in the world.  I am still as in awe of him as I was when he spoke his first sentence at 15 months.  (It was, “Car-co, get down!”  The cat’s name was Scarlett but he couldn’t quite get those syllables out.  He did, however, know she wasn’t supposed to be up there.)

So Happy Birthday, Big.  Thank you for making this motherhood thing easy.  Thank you for being you.  I love you.

My friends, being the mother of a grown child is different from having littles.  It has a whole new set of instructions.  You have to choose when to offer advice and when to let your child work things out for himself.  You have to be careful not to inhibit him while worrying always about his safety because he is away from your eyes and out of your control.  You have to Trust. Trust that you did things right and he will live his life in a way that makes him happy and causes minimal heartache.  You have to stay out of his relationships, because he doesn’t need you nagging him, but you have to be there for him if he needs your input.  And trust me when I say, sometimes that is such a fine line I don’t have any idea where to put my feet.  But it is just as joyous as having littles, getting to see the outcome of all your hard work.

I look forward to his future more than I ever have.  I hope your experience is as wonderful, rewarding, amazing, fun, incredible, and awe-inspiring  as mine has been.  And your weekend is sunny. 🙂

Love wins,

KT

Littles’ Lit for 20th Century History

Yesterday I posted about some of the novels we’ve read to supplement our history lessons.  In response, my fellow awesome blogger, Anna Marie, asked what I would recommend for studies from WWI on.  So since I have been dreaming about tackling the 20th century for 2 years, I have plenty to recommend.

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope FarmerCharlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer

This absolutely amazing book tells the story of Charlotte, who goes to a new boarding school one night and wakes up the next day in the time of the first world war.  I read it a few years ago just for fun and immediately added it to my list of things for the Littles to read when we study WWI.  It’s wonderful for those everyday details about how life really happened during that time period.  I also recommend Searching for Silverheels by Jeannie Mobley, which provides a window into how the war affected immigrants in America, what patriotism meant, and even teaches about women’s suffrage.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon over ManifestLove. This. Book.  A brilliantly written novel that shows littles how the Great Depression broke families up with a tie-in to WWI.  You can’t really ask for a better novel to put your littles smack dab in the middle of the early 20th century.  I would also recommend Children of the Dust Bowl by Jerry Stanley.  It’s not fiction, but it is an interesting account of the school at Weedpatch Camp, a place in California to which Oklahomans migrated during this difficult period.  It is Filled with photographs of the time period and largely told in the words of the migrants.  Finally, of course, the Lit Mama recommends John Steinbeck’s awesome, incomparable The Grapes of Wrath.  A must-read when studying the Depression.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Oh.  This book.  I know it is also set during the depression, but it broaches a subject near and dear to my heart, the Worst Human Flaw Ever, prejudice.  And Scout has been my hero since I was a little girl, and Dill was my boyfriend, and my real-life brother was so like Jem it almost hurt.  Needless to say, it is on my list of top 5 favorite books Ever.  There is, of course, the delicate matter of the rape, but if you are uncomfortable, skip the descriptive sections.  I read this to the Littles 4 years ago for summer reading, and had many people look at me aghast.  Well, there are ways to get around the sketchy parts and still make the story enjoyable for kids.  All in all, the experience made me glad my parents never censored my reading choices!

Do Not Skip This One. 🙂

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck A Year Down Yonder

Get out of the Depression, KT! I can’t.  Too many excellent books set in the time period.  This one the Littles and I have read together three times.  Three.  All of us.  Because this is just a peak into life in the 1930s and how normal people kept on living through the tragedy of separated families and hard, hard times.  But it is an adventurous peek full of lovable characters and a million little things that make us laugh and cringe and wish we knew Grandma Dowdel because she is Awesome.

Number the Stars by Lowis Lowry

I became a Lowry fan with The Giver and she didn’t disappoint with this haunting tale of WWII Nazi occupation in Denmark.  It’s a great way for kids to see the emotions and dangers children faced during this horrific time.  Of course, The Diary of Anne Frank is a must-read about WWII, but I also highly recommend The Shadow Children by Steven Schnur, a story about the ghosts of the children involved in the tragedy at Mont Brulant haunting a young boy.  It’s a short book and a little dark by definition, but provides good insight into the horrors of the war.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963  by Christopher Paul Curtis

This is a seriously cool book about the racial tensions in the south in the 1960s.  It’s really funny and at the same time it’s an insightful look into how the civil rights movement affected families, especially African-Americans.  A super important read for all kids.  Also look at Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood (is that her real name?  What a cool name!).  It is a lyrical coming-of-age novel that focuses on the segregation of public swimming pools and the racial tensions of 1964.

I think I could go on with books about the 1960s like I did with books about the 1930s, but seriously, I am running out of time.  I hope this list inspires you to share wonderful fiction with your children as they learn history and that the reading instigates a million discussions about a million different things.   That is, after all, the best part.

Love wins,

KT