Saturday, November 08, 2003

Sophie's Birthday

Lately Erin, a horribly picky eater who says she'd like to be cook when she grows up (go figure... maybe she wants to develop new ways of putting cheese and bread and rice together?) has been doing lots more cooking. I was making baked beans the other day and doubled the amount of beans I prepared and turned half over to her. I showed her two or three baked bean recipes (none of which she'd ever be caught dead eating) and let her start improvising, adding ingredients that appealed to her to her pot. She came up with something that was not only palatable (though pretty salty!) but which passed her own standards. She ate some! So did the other kids. I opted for Mary's Curried Apple Baked Beans myself, but I tasted Erin's and they were pretty good.

Yesterday was Sophie's birthday. Since most of her buddies live an hour and a quarter away (where we do homeschool activities) and her grandma was away, we did our typical low-key nuclear family birthday celebration. I had made her a skirt to go with an eBay sweater/tights combination that I had bought for her. I also bought a Ravensberger "Mandala Maker" kit, sort of a cross between plastic stencils and spirograph. We have a family tradition that one birthday gift is for all the kids, and this one was a sure hit with all three older kids. There was a book and a soft doll from Grandma. Erin made her a hemp-and-bead anklet. Noah gave her a piece of art he'd made at art class, repeated black and gold patterns on rice paper. I did (if I do say so) a nice job of mounting it on foamboard as a checkerboard array. He had five 9x9 arrays each with a different pattern but the same process, and I made a 3x3 array of arrays (a centre square, then four more at each corner) with cardstock "matting". Noah was really pleased with how professional it looked and wants to take it to art class next week to show his teacher what it looks like all mounted.

The funny thing was that he had a big meltdown over how many gifts Sophie was receiving. His birthday was 6 weeks ago and in retrospect I think maybe he was disappointed with the pile of gifts placed in front of him. He'd chosen to open the one from his Grandma a couple of weeks early, and it was just one of those birthdays when we didn't go overboard. We had a long discussion about why we give gifts... I said that the proper reason for giving is because it gives us pleasure to give to people we love. We don't give because we'll get in trouble if we don't, and we don't give "in order to show how much we love someone". I pointed out to him that if the gift-giver knows that the person getting the gifts expects a certain amount, or might be angry if the gifts don't meet his expectations, that's going to reduce the pleasure the gift-giver experiences, and so it sort of interferes with the right reason for giving.

He got a little angry about that and ran away for some cooling off time. I guess it came across as a lecture, or a threat that I wouldn't give him stuff if he acted the way he was. I was clearly taking the issue very seriously, where I think he'd just felt a bit whiney as a result of the attention being on Sophie. He came back in a few minutes and said he'd changed his mind and he was okay about it all. I pointed out part of the reason Sophie was getting "so many gifts" was because he was offering her a gift. I don't know whether I should have just let it go, or whether it was an important teachable moment to grab. I have strong feelings about gift-giving taking precedence over gift-getting and have put a lot of thought into maintaining the focus on giving through the holiday season. But I'm sailing in uncharted waters here.

The funny thing was that at supper, Chuck explained to Sophie that "we give gifts because we love you" which sounded a lot like the opposite of what I'd been trying to explain. We both had to kind of backpaddle around that one. What a mess. We decided the crucial phrase was "how much". We don't give to show "how much" we love you. We give since, because we love you, it gives us pleasure to give.

I have an on-line friend who had asked if anyone had infant girl clothes for her aunt who has a new baby girl and no money at all. I had offered some of Fiona's outgrown clothes, and while I was packing them up yesterday afternoon I remembered that Tina has an almost-4-year-old herself who is facing a very financially-strapped Christmas, so the kids and I ran around collecting gifts for him to tuck into a shoebox. I didn't realize until I was typing this that this was a well-timed coincidence... a little exercise in giving on the heels of a meltdown over getting. Anyway, Tina's son is getting lots of craft materials, books, finger-puppets, a sprout-growing kit, some Canadian stamps and coins, a music story cassette, a glass prism, some other nice little things.

We tested out our nut milk recipe (which is great with cashews and macadamias and walnuts) with hazelnuts and almonds and decided we either need to win the Vitamix we're bidding on on eBay or strain the pulp off when using harder nuts. We're spearheading a music education fundraiser this fall. We've taken orders for organic dried fruit and nuts and ordered wholesale. When we repackage the orders, we're going to include a set of 4 recipes. We wanted to test how flexible the nut milk recipe is before sending it out.

After supper Sophie opened her gifts and we ate cake and the kids drew and coloured mandalas and then watched a video.

At bedtime we're reading "A Single Shard" by Linda Sue Park, set in medieval Korea in a potters' village. My kids are asking about working with clay. We have clay but no kiln. Our town has a number of skilled artisan potters, one of whom is a really excellent teacher of children. Erin did a workshop with her about 4 years ago. I might see if I can get another 4 or 5 homeschoolers interested in a morning workshop or two.

Today we're doing more fruit and nut recipe testing.

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