The season has shifted here. And in Vermont when we talk a change from hot, sticky summer days to cool, clear fall ones- we are talking pure magic.
The colors turn from green to a plethora of colors- oranges, yellows, reds. I swear this tree down the street goes to pure maroon, with a slight tinge of purple. Set against the clear blue sky that somehow darkens and lightens all at once- it is breathtaking. I point this tree out to the kids as we drive by every day, wanting to make sure they don't miss it because if you blink- poof- the tree is empty and we are preparing for snow.
Fall is quickly fleeting, but it is my favorite season. The air is cool but full of a charged energy. Energy like spending Friday night with fire pit time out on the deck under the clear moonlit sky while wearing a sweatshirt and soaking up the smell of the air. Yes, fall air has a smell. It's a wood stove/cool breeze/apple cider/happiness smell.
I love pointing out these small pleasures of life to my children. I tend to quietly internalize things, so it's sometimes tricky for me to remember that I'm supposed to speak these things out loud- that they can't somehow hear my thoughts of "Wow that's a gorgeous tree! Look at the colors!" as we drive by.
I have been working on purposefully teaching them. Slowing down my racing mind to focus on one concept at a time, exploring it with them. I have an education degree- might as well use it, right?
Especially since Carter is not in Kindergarten this year and his PreK program only meets twice a week, I have been focusing on teaching him. We cover more about his letters, numbers, reading, science, the world around him, and basic life skills. Oh and his violin lessons. It's not an official homeschool program at all, but my mind is set on "teach Carter" as to not waste this year.
Last week I realized that you can type "learn about (any kind of animal)" on youtube, and you get a ton of short educational clips that teach about that animal. Gold! (I realize that maybe all of you have been doing this forever- forgive me for being behind the times).
Our first lesson was on frogs. We saw a frog out on our deck a few weeks back, and the kids had been fascinated. So we pulled up probably 6-7 short educational frog videos and learned about types of frogs, life cycle of frogs, and everything else you can possibly imagine about frogs.
After our videos we went to the table and drew pictures of frogs while I asked them questions about what they had learned. I was pleased. That went extremely well. Their minds were eagerly soaking up all of the information; they asked cute questions to try to learn even more; and it felt good to so productively use that rainy day.
Look at me teaching my kids! I silently patted myself on the back.
Fast forward to yesterday.
The mornings have been chilly as we transition between our sticky summer and freezing cold winter. Chilly mornings call for steaming hot coffee and baked goods and pandora but I digress. The windows had been open all night, so the house was filled with a delightful chill. Aaron wasn't feeling well, so he had slept on the couch and was still on the couch waking up while I rushed around trying to get the kids ready for school.
It was Carter's morning to go to PreK, and I realized that his school sandals were out on the deck. (Yes, you know you are a real Vermonter when you pair a sweatshirt with sandals. It's a valid style choice!)
I rushed out to the deck to grab the shoes (we were going to be late!) and saw that they were all crusted over with mud from his play the afternoon before. Because of course. Hastily picking them up, I held onto the ankle strap and banged the sandals aggressively together, watching the dried mud fly off in bits. Both of the boys followed me out to watch the mud flying show.
I settled with "good enough" and made a note for Carter to just walk through the damp grass a bit on the way to the car.
"Hurry hurry! We're going to be late!" I sang...not as cheerfully as that verb might suggest.
I was over to the side of the room, stuffing lunch bags in backpacks and slipping my phone in my bag, when Carter started to complain.
"There's something in my shoe." He whined.
Ugh. Always complaining about something- that kid. I ran across the room, frustrated. Ready to flick away the piece of dried mud that no doubt had landed where his foot was supposed to go. Why does everyone always have to whine about EVERYTHING!
I knelt down on the floor and put my face right up to his shoe to do a careful extrication of the piece of mud so that we could get this show on the road.
That is when I discovered that the "piece of dried mud" was actually a huge, slimy, brown frog that was wiggling away in the comfort of Carter's Keen sandal. Slime was positively dripping off of this frog as his fat limbs squirmed with life.
In that moment I lost my mind just a little bit. I'm not really sure what happened. I think it just really startled me. Plus, my hand had just been RIGHT THERE when I was smacking the shoes together to clean them off. Not to mention my nose was almost touching it as I was searching for the imaginary mud on the brown shoe. We were practically making out- unbeknownst to me.
I remember thinking (while I was screaming and screaming and screaming and running to the hallway and hopping up and down and screaming some more) "Hey- that frog blended in to the exact color of the brown of the shoe- just like that video said it would!) But I just kept screaming.
Because I was screaming- poor sensitive Eli started crying and screaming. And Carter- feeling that slimy feel still on the bottom of his naked foot- was crying too. The baby joined in with a high pitched wail. And Addison looked at us all with a look of "What is WRONG with you people?"
"GET IT GET IT GET THE FROG!!!!" I screamed to my poor husband who was trying to rest on the couch and had no idea what was going on. All the kids raised their screams to a higher and louder place to match my hysteria.
Like a trooper, Aaron got up and took the shoe out to the deck and got the frog out of it. (Pretty sure he was laughing as he realized what was going on.
I stood in front of my wailing children and felt my "Cool Mom Who Teaches Science Lessons About Slimy Creatures" medal fall away. To be fair- it felt different when the slimy creature was a screen away- NOT able to surprise me in my own home and terrorize my children.
Shaken, I loaded up all of the kids for school drop off. I needed to make this a teachable moment! I needed to keep teaching! What do I say? How do I spin this?
We passed the tree, with tips of maroon touching the blue sky, "Hey, look at that beautiful tree." I tried, but they were all quiet. No doubt spent from all the screaming.
It wasn't until later that day, after pick-up, where I had my moment.
"Mommy, why was that frog in my shoe?" Carter asked.
"Well, probably it was a nice warm place for him to spend the night since it's getting cooler outside."
"A warm place?"
"Yes, you know how we have our nice warm house- well, the frog doesn't have that. So he used your shoe."
"And so we should be thankful for our nice warm house. Not everyone has that. Frogs don't for sure. That's why he had to use your shoe. God was so good to give us our house to keep us warm and dry at night while we sleep."
Aaaaaaand teachable moment achieved. Look at me segue right into Thanksgiving. Like a pro!!! The fall theme holds strong!
"But why did you scream?"
Oh, that little thing...yikes....
"Because sometimes mommy makes silly mistakes. And the frog scared me. And....have I told you lately how much I love you?"
Gosh this mothering thing is tough.
But we still have fall. Beautiful, beautiful fall. And nice shoes- that now spend the night in the warm house with us.
But, just in case, we have also added to our morning routine a special "shoe frog check" just to help with Carter's PTFISD (Post Traumatic Frog In Shoe Disorder).
Next lesson- butterflies. Just in case nature is listening in on our youtube science lessons. Just in case.