Frumious Bandersnatch…….and……Tchaikovsky

Today was indeed a mixture of eclectic things. But, then again, that’s what life is like as a homeschooling mom. The day began with my kiddos pouring themselves a bowl of cereal and working together trying to find the hidden spoons in the illustration on the back of the cereal box. All the while I sat neatly writing out, in teacher printing on ruled strips of  card stock, the last few lines of the Jabberwocky poem. So then homeschooling began. The kiddos and I have already worked on memorizing the first 16 lines of Lewis Carroll’s famous poem, so today’s work were the remaining 12 lines. This coming Tuesday our Adventure Club homeschooling friends will gather at Gum Grove. There in the middle of nature will be a group of elementary-aged children reciting this poem together. Oh the thought of it already makes my heart happy. Oh what a sight it will be, watching and listening to little ones saying things like “Beware the Jabberwok, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!” One of my favorite lines is “O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” That line just makes me smile. So there at the breakfast counter, with his eyes sealed shut, reciting this whole poem I watched my son…..wondering to myself if he closed his eyes to see more closely the words in his mind….or if he were doing it solely to shut out the distraction of all that was around him. He was focused and was able to recite it all from memory. What joy.

During the day we talked about ways to construct shapes with an area of 4, using a GeoBoard and rubber bands. Lots of stretching….both of rubber bands and brain cells. Loved it!

We brainstormed the different jobs involved in a roller coaster….the investors, the owner, the mechanical/structural/electrical engineers in the design and building of it, the  maintenance crew and ride operators. We researched various aspects of the jobs both online and in books. Jacob dreamed of which job he feels he would most love.

We played 90 minutes of Empire Builder- North American Rails. Picking up loads of coffee in Veracruz, Mexico to deliver in Seattle, Washington for huge revenue returns. Who would be the first to make a $250 million profit? Mama? Jacob? Which track layouts would provide the most efficient transportation routes and incur the least amount of expense? Jacob was the banker– turning in $11 million of his own money when he was expecting a revenue pay off of $39 million so that he could claim for himself a crisp $50 million bill. Oh those beloved green $50 million bills! Oh and then the exciting announcements of railroad strikes….and the worst for me…..a flooding of the Mississippi River that took out 4 of my bridges! Oh the delight in Jacob’s eyes. Ha ha ha ha.

All this while “The Best of Tchaikovsky” played in the background. Jacob at one point remarked “why did he make that note stretch out so long right there?” Huh? What? I was in the middle of deciding whether to pick up uranium in Santa Fe or go to Savannah for cotton and yet all the while his ears were listening to the beautiful musical notes dancing through the air…..this particular one catching his attention and causing him to remark aloud about why it was suspended for so much longer than the others. Before I could even process what he was talking about, the note was gone……I could never tell you again what piece was playing, even if I wanted to. But that moment was glorious. This is why I homeschool.

Tonight at dinner time as the kids ate their pasta, they begged that I would read them another “Just So Stories”. They love the Rudyard Kipling stories! They just devour them with great delight. But, no, tonight I had a different plan. Tonight I had a book for them called “Tchaikovsky Discovers America” by Esther Kalman. A beautifully written book with exquisite illustrations about the year 1891 when Tchaikovsky sailed to America for the opening of Carnegie Hall in New York City. The actual, historic observations of his diary are woven seamlessly into this fictional account of a young girl who has a brief encounter with him. As I read, both kids became more and more enraptured by the story. At one point I looked at Natalie, her eyes twinkling with almost uncontainable excitement as she put herself in the shoes of the main character, imagining that moment of honor, getting to meet Peter Tchaikovsky herself. She whispered “oh I wish I was her!” as I continued on with the story. It was as though each page of this book brought with it new ‘ooooohs’ and ‘aaaaaahs’ from Natalie. She was completely immersed in the book and living in the character’s footsteps and feelings. Nights like tonight are worth more than gold to me. To see the excitement of getting to live in the life of book’s character….on my daughter’s face. Seriously- Natalie’s eyes were beaming and her cheeks were round and rosy. If I could capture that excitement and that smile and awe, I would. And just to think….that in 15 days I will be sitting with Steve and the kids in the exquisite Royce Hall on the campus at UCLA, listening to pieces that Tchaikovsky himself composed……live…..his notes that once danced in his mind…..on that night filling the music hall with the fullness and brightness as only can be done by gifted musicians of a complete orchestra. On that night, I pray, Natalie will dream of this girl Jenny and her encounter with Tchaikovsky on the train….with the tea cup….and red jam…..and Jacob will be imagining the placement of the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg on his Ticket to Ride game board….each imagining in their own mind about this Russian man with the white beard who lived in the 1800’s.

Nights like tonight are treasures. There are many things I feel I don’t do well as a mother. But this I know I do well. I have brought the richness of books into our home. I have brought stories and people alive through my tones and cadences. The kids have sat mesmerized as I have read texts aloud…..their imaginations actively building the settings and characters in their minds as their ears made sense of the details. This I know I have done well. My children love books and love to read. On the days and nights I feel like a lousy mom, thinking on the things I should have done or not done…..I should look back at this entry and give myself some slack. Today is a day I want to treasure.

I could tell my Natalie girl went to bed happy. As I lay next to her tucking her in, she held me and sang “Mama is my Mama” over and over and over and over in the sweetest angelic voice. It was the only line of her entire song, but she sang it so sweetly and with variations of notes that it had its own little melody. It was so sweet. She sweetly stared in my eyes, had the biggest smile on her face and kept singing it over and over and over again. I seriously just wanted to cry. Today…..the same day that I got very mad at her for not emptying her lunch bag…moldy food in it since she didn’t take care of emptying her lunch bag 3 days prior….ugh….this Mama was ranting this morning about how these two children seem to think that life is only about playing….and not taking on responsibilities of their own accord, without Mama’s reminding……and on and on I went. And, yet tonight she held my face so delicately and sang this ever so sweet song “Mama is my Mama”……that rant from this morning was gone and had been long erased in her mind. Even this afternoon’s rant from Mama…..”NATALIE! Look at this dirty, crumpled up clothes you’ve just smashed back into your dresser drawers!!! Come over here right now and go take these to the washing machine and spray them all with Spray ‘n Wash!!” Even that…..all that was gone……in Natalie’s mind I was a Mama to be treasured and sung to. A sweet melody for this tired Mama. A gift.

Natalie extended an ever-so-sweet gift of kindness to a new girl at school today. Sophie is her name. Natalie came running with leaps and bounds to find me after school and introduce me to her new friend- Sophie. A girl new to the classroom today. Natalie showered her with kindness- introduced herself to Sophie, sat with her, played with her, invited her into the sandbox at lunch….and then after school came running to me with tons of excitement, hardly able to contain herself- she had SO much excitement to introduce us and ask if please, pleeeeeeeease, pretty please we could exchange contact information and set up a playdate soon.

Perhaps Natalie’s heart was full with the friendship of this new sweet girl at school. Perhaps it grew fuller as she heard me sharing with Steve how proud I was that Natalie shared such kindness and concern and care for a new girl at school today. Or perhaps it was because I read a beautiful book aloud to her tonight….and she loved it so much. Or maybe it was for all those reasons. Tonight Natalie went to sleep as a truly content little girl. So much so that she sang me a song.

This Mama’s heart is full to overflowing. I thank God for the gift of children. Thank you Lord for them, their hearts, their minds and the affect they have on me.  Thank you for the privilege of getting to be called “Mama”.

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