Thursday, March 27, 2014

pursuing her happily ever after

THIS girl!  When we named her Ruby (her name meaning a vivacious, undiluted gem), I didn't know what we were in for!!  Ruby is extraordinarily passionate!  And she is all girl!  I have never seen someone who can turn absolutely anything into a 'cute little baby', ie: snowflakes, legos and army guys, guns, birds, and of course barbies.  She can play barbies for hours on end.  And it's almost always the same plot: bad guy captures Rapunzel.  Good guy saves Rapunzel.  Good guy kills bad guy.  All barbies fight over good guy.  Rapunzel has a baby.  Good guy becomes a daddy.  Daddy dies.  You didn't see that coming, did you?  She also plays with her polly pockets in which she has these tiny crowns and cakes and jewels that are half the size of your pinky nail but she always knows exactly where to find them! 

Which leads me to my next observation.  Ruby is a treasure hunter!  We don't go anywhere without her finding and picking up coins, teeny little jewels or gems that have fallen off items in the store (you know, things that are just vacuumed up... heaven forbid!).  Last week she found this small fluffy bird in the store which I was unaware that she had until after we were out of the store. I'm pretty sure that she didn't take something she shouldn't have because a) there wasn't a tag on it, b) it was kind of raggedy and c) she found it on the ground.  By the time I discovered she had this little bird, I had buckled everyone in and was about to drive away.  Had we still been in the store, I probably would have asked a cashier about it.  So, hopefully we didn't steal anything!  That being said, we lost a hat of Charlie's in that same store and never got it back.  So yeah, we're good.  Plus, I am the type that corrects cashiers if they charge me too little money!!  So go away, guilty conscience!  Anyways, she is always spotting things that the rest of us overlook.

Ruby has been a little sweetheart for quite some time too.  For awhile there, she was very dramatic.  I think because SHE wanted to be the mom.  But now, she is always looking out for everyone.  She plays really well with Natalie and Charlie and if/when there are issues, it's usually either one of them. She used to play with her dolls more but Emmy is currently her big, real-life, baby doll.  I can hardly find any pictures of Ruby where she's not holding onto Emma and coercing her to do what she says with her most sweetest voice.  I'm so proud of who she is and who she is becoming.  She has always had this genuine sweetness to her.  She is going to be a great babysitter and mother someday.  Or a teacher.  She lectures Charlie sometimes and he's been learning a lot from her.  Or I can see her being a princess at Disney World.  Seriously!!  The way she talks, sings, and dances.  The way she naturally poses.  And the way she is with kids... yes, that could (and probably should) be in her future!  Except for I doubt that Disney princesses fart!  Ruby can let out the loudest farts!  In the morning you can hear them from anywhere in the house. I promise, she gets it from Jordan, not me!!

She's such a lover!  She loves to hold my hand and sit by me.  If she senses I'm not happy, she talks to me like I'm the daughter and she's the wise mother!  She tries to keep the peace between everyone.  And if she sees that someone isn't getting along with someone else (as long as she's not part of that equation!), she tries to figure out how to make everyone happy.  This happens at home, in school, and on the bus, I am told!

And Ruby is doing wonderfully at school!  She is already starting 'pop corn words'... in Young Fives!!  She has always been a book worm so I know she will try her hardest at reading.  I am blown away by what she is learning.  When we filled out Valentine's Day cards, Ruby knew her entire class by first and last names!  I'm thinking it's because her teacher must do that?  It sure is cute though when she refers to her friends like that!

This girl reminds me everyday how important this 'let them be little' stage is.  I know sometimes I pressure my kids to just grow up or to stop pretending.  I sometimes expect them to act like adults.  But these times of play really promote learning and development and I can definitely see this in Ruby.  She is so sweet and innocent right now.  In a time when our culture is negatively influencing girls to mature faster and faster, why would I inhibit her play?  She's got such an amazing imagination!  Ruby makes it her duty that her life is a fairy-tale!  She's a passionate, playful, princess, treasure hunter pursuing her happily ever after!

she gallops and growls and lurches and sneers

Natalie has changed so much this school year.  She is reading like a champ and hasn't really had any struggles, which we're so grateful for.  There are many times where she whips through her entire 4-day homework packet in 15 minutes.  She enjoys all of her electives in school as well: Spanish, music, gym.  

She lost two teeth within a couple days of each other which she was ecstatic about!  Most kids in her class had already been losing teeth (so I'm told).  I was honored to have ripped them out myself! 

She still loves to act like an animal, tigers and cheetahs, specifically.  One night, she had a serious discussion with me about her belief that I am not actually her mother.  She said she is pretty sure that her real mom is 'out there somewhere'.  She was quite somber and really troubled so I questioned her more about where she thinks her real mom is.  And to that she answered (completely serious), 'probably the zoo.'  Great!  Jordan has heard about these kinds of people that start to believe they're real animals!  And she is a little too awesome at pretending to be tigers and cheetahs!  Yikes!

Natalie is definitely a jokester but also very sensitive.  For the past couple weeks, with almost every bedtime, she is crying about a certain girl at school who is always telling Natalie, 'you just want to be cool'.  It breaks Natalie's heart (and mine!) and she doesn't want anything to do with 'being cool' because she's worried that it looks like she's trying to be.  I don't remember having feelings like that in first grade already!  But the thing is, Natalie IS cool!  From what she tells us, she usually plays with boys on the playground (which most other girls seem to shy away from).  She's also been coined 'The Dipping Girl' because she gets all adventurous with ranch dressing at lunch time.  Basically, she's just cool because she's herself and she's not obsessed with making any certain impressions.  

And she is brave (like her favorite Disney princess, Merida!)  One night when she was crying about this girl being bossy to her, she shared with me that she told a bully on the bus about how Satan was a good angel but turned bad so God spit him out of heaven.  Then she went on to tell him about how the world was made and Adam & Eve.  Then about Jesus, how he came and died on the cross for him (the little boy) and that God wants him to be in heaven someday.  The boy did that blow-off gesture with his mouth (that I don't know how to convey with words) so Natalie went on to invite him to church (while emphasizing that they get cookies in Sunday School!)  It brought me to tears!  And just this morning, she ran out to our van and grabbed the extra children's bible we have in there to give it to that boy.  And he took it from her.  Seriously, so proud of her!!  She's got the weight of the world on her shoulders already, she actually takes on too much stress sometimes.  But then she gallops and growls and lurches and sneers like the tiger that she is inside... and all is right with the world :)

you know, just eating pizza outside in their bathrobes!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

sunshine and Jordan

This has been the craziest... season, I'll call it, at the Barkel residence!!  Crazy, stressful, confusing, busy, cold....  Jordan was gone for over 4 months where he was only home for 3 days each week but 2 or his 3 days 'off'', he was then working full days at his parents' home which he completely remodeled.  His only day off, which was Sunday, wasn't exactly a peaceful one because we tried to cram one weeks worth of 'family time' into one afternoon and evening.  All the while, I would be making lunches and dinners for him for the 4 days he would be away from us, the kids would be clobbering him for attention, and Jordan would be on this countdown to when he'd have to leave for Lansing again (at 4am).

During the week while he was gone, the kids and I did really well.  We had a few meltdowns in that time from the kids and myself but overall, I know that the ongoing prayers from my friends carried us through.  We also worked during the week and weekends at mom and dad's house and this may be the first time in history that our kids have complained about going 'to grandpa and grandma's house again.'  However, Jordan had the toughest time of us all, I believe.  He was cramming 45 hours into 4 days and then working at least 24 hours between Friday and Saturday.  He struggled and the weight of it was felt on us all.

But now we are on the other side of this!  We see a happy Jordan once again!  I think just by looking at him I can see the burden beginning to lighten.  We are trying to re-establish 'normal'.  He's still gone at night working at the house, but now we eat dinner together and he's been able to tuck the kids into bed occasionally.

So we decided to celebrate Jordan's 'homecoming'!!  We surprised the kids with a weekend at a hotel with a pool!  I love how clueless kids can be.  We got to the hotel and Natalie was the only one who inquired about where we were.  Before we could answer, she told us all that this must be 'social studies'!  We still have no clue what she was thinking of!  Each of them, without question, carried a bag with their clothes in it and Jordan and I had our arms full of stuff.  Still no questions! Once we walked in the hotel they could smell the pool and that's when the gig was up!  They were elated!  We swam, ate pizza, swam some more, and played a game while watching a movie before they finally went to bed after 10:00.  Emmy and Charlie cuddled on the floor together.  The next morning, we swam again and the kids didn't stop until 15 minutes before checkout.  Great times!

Now the snow has been melting, the temps are rising! We are almost out of this season of winter and excessive work.  We made it!  And our hearts are happy to be seeing more sunshine and Jordan.