She will sing, sing a new song


Here’s the song reference.

We homeschool year-round, taking breaks of a week or two when they seem warranted.  Quite honestly, when we try to take longer breaks, Beanie gets weepy and starts asking when she can have her math time again. and Bugaboo develops a profound case of Notgonnadoit Syndrome with respect to pretty much everything.  We had been on a bit of a break through most of May, but in the early days of June, it became obvious that it was time to do some formal school time again.  Out came the math and penmanship books, but no more than that.  It is, after all, summer, and one of the more important lessons they’ll learn is the glory of a summer’s day, and the value of time that has only minimal limits.

I do, however, make it a point to have a few things lying around that, should any pint-sized personages complain of boredom, can be immediately placed into their waiting hands to relieve that dread malady.  Most of those things are of the printed matter variety.  As it happened, today’s selections were a book of traditional children’s games and the Wee Sing children’s songs and fingerplays songbook.  Since none of the tribe slept especially well last night, I declared universal naptime at noon, immediately following lunch, primarily to prevent bloodshed.

Beanie and Bugaboo, even on the rare days when they do nap, don’t sleep long during the day.  When they tumbled downstairs to see what wonders the latter part of the day might bring, I first offered them the opportunity to straighten up their room.  There are times when having taught these children logic works to my short-term disadvantage, as was the case when our daughters brightly informed me that the picking up and storage of Legos results in a decibel level that is nearly certain to awaken their little brothers, both of whom happen to be nursing summer colds.  To their credit, they did wash the dining room table and put the books back on the shelf in the playroom, since they agreed that a chore or two would be in order.

Since Mr. Man and Baby Guy were still sawing logs when the girls completed their labors, I handed Bugaboo the book of children’s games and Beanie the songbook, then suggested that each might choose something from her book to learn today, to teach the rest of the tribe.   Since both of them love to be placed in charge of almost anything, my recommendation was met with the quiet rush of two pairs of bare feet scampering off to preferred reading spots.

While the girls were weighing their gaming and musical options, Baby Guy shambled down the stairs, arms laden with toy cars and mumbling something about needing milk.  As I filled his cup, Beanie skidded into the kitchen, waving her songbook, and Bugaboo bellowed from the downstairs that freeze tag looked like great fun.  We play regular tag, but she had been hitherto unaware of the freeze variant.  Beanie had found a song she found enchanting, but needed some help figuring out the tune.  Off to the family room couch we four went, Baby Guy dripping cars as he walked, Bugaboo loving her baby brother by gathering them as they fell, so he would still have the full complement when we arrived.

After a moment of figuring out the melody to “Three Blue Pigeons” and a quick round of practice, Bugaboo suggested we sing and play tag outside.  Mr. Man, who has the worst of the household summer cold, was still peacefully sleeping (he ended up taking a four-hour nap).  Allowing him to continue in that state seemed advisable, so, after a quick drink of water to combat the heat of the day, we found a good singing spot in the shade of a grand magnolia.  Little pigeons flew and landed, with a madly grinning Beanie conducting our little chorus.  She tried ever so hard to convince Smudgie that he should be a pigeon, but he was far too interested in chasing us to sit nicely on a wall.

Once we’d tired of playing at being pigeons, and run out of Mo Willems references, it was time to play freeze tag.  Mr. Man was still comfortably snuggled up on Daddy’s pillow, which led Bugaboo to declare that she would give him special freeze tag lessons once he was feeling better.   A noisy, merry chase around the back yard ensued, with Smudgie being declared the winner of our game of freeze tag; any time anyone started to run, he or she was immediately tagged by a cold, wet nose.  Among our other discoveries were Sal’s excellence at sprinting off in random directions but utter inability to freeze, the blissful cool of a light breeze in the shade when we’ve been running, and the softness of grass (relative to dirt) for cushioning high-speed falls.

june 2014 016 june 2014 013 june 2014 010 june 2014 004 june 2014 003

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for summer afternoons, and for the gift of a big back yard where Your blessings can safely revel in them.  Thank you for the ability to read, for those who taught me, that I might later teach Your blessings, and for all those wonderful people who committed their childhood memories to paper that we might learn new and hilarious ways to enjoy Your creation.  When our calendar gets crowded, Lord, and I get cranky over the amount of work to be done, please keep me mindful that what I do, I do to serve You, and the greatest service I give You lies in the time I spend loving Your blessings instead of video screens and telephones.  Help me to cherish these days when playing tag and singing silly songs is my most important labor, and give me the wisdom to always teach Your blessings that we rejoice in each day You send.

Fly me to the moon


Here’s the song reference.

First, let me share my customary Father’s Day greeting, to wit:

To all the fathers who hold their children in their arms, to all the fathers who hold their children only in their hearts, to all the fathers-in-waiting, to all the men who have lovingly given of themselves to act as a father to other men’s children, to all those who would give much to be able to call their fathers just one more time – happy Father’s Day. May we remain ever thankful for dads and their love!

We have a few Father’s Day and Mother’s Day customs in our family, most of which revolve around things we do not do.  Neither Manie nor I enjoy either pushy crowds or big fusses, so we eschew going out to eat.  We always start those days with Mass, to give proper thanks for each other and for the parents and grandparents who trained us up to be the parents we’ve become – and, of course, for the children we hold both in our arms and in our hearts.

Insofar as gifts and other tangible expressions of appreciation go, we also tend towards the nontraditional.  Our budget doesn’t allow for expensive presents, and even if it did, we frequently laugh that it’s such a bother to find places to store things, and then to have to clean them, so we’d rather have simple things we can enjoy together.  Sometimes that “thing” is a nap, or a movie in the playroom with lots of popcorn, or time spent tooling around the neighborhood on bikes and scooters.

That said, Manie and I love the gifts our tribe makes and selects for us.  One of the traditions the midget mob and I  have developed over the years is hoarding Walgreens rewards points for Daddy’s birthday and Father’s Day.  He loves toys, you see, and none more so than toys that give him the chance to make a little mayhem with the minions.  Walgreens in summer is a virtual treasure trove of such delights, and all four of them mark the days until we make those two shopping trips to fill a cart with things that will make Daddy smile and laugh.

Manie was awakened this morning by a small parade of small people bringing him their treasures, their biggest hugs, and their best kisses.  Nestled among the bag of beef jerky, the giant package of Cracker Jacks, and a plethora of peanut butter cups, he found a water balloon launcher (Baby Guy does not yet realize his selection is a little more than a giant box of balloons, but it’s going to be a riot when he finds out), a balloon animal kit, and, wonder of wonders, a rubber band rocket.  A great deal of the morning, both before and after Mass, was comprised of Daddy laughingly and lovingly crafting a small army of balloon dachshunds.  We fully expect to hear these popping the middle of the night, as all four of the small people insisted on taking their inflatable pets to bed with them.

It was the afternoon, however, that brought the great hilarity of the Mega Rocket.  You see, some weeks ago, Manie procured one of those little plastic rockets that launches with water.  Unfortunately, he managed to land it into one of the roof vents on his third flight, and has been earthbound, from a toy perspective, ever since.  When Mr. Man espied the Mega Rocket hanging from its peg in the store, he seized it and crowed, “Mommy!  Daddy needs a brand new rocket!  It’s a BIG rocket!  Daddy can fly this rocket all the way to the moon!  I want to get this rocket for Daddy!  He will be so happy to have a rocket again!”

As it happened, Daddy was quite happy to have a rocket again, especially when he discovered that its advertised flight of 250 feet was not, in fact, an exaggeration.  For hours, our front lawn rang with laughter from father and children, along with several neighbor dads who had to come over to see what was causing such cheerful commotion.  One of them beckoned me aside and said, “So, did Manie get anything, you know, good for Father’s Day?”

“Yes,” I replied.  “The kids gave him exactly what he wanted – a bag full of toys of his own and his favorite snacks, an afternoon bike ride, and eating anything Daddy wanted to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

june 2014 007 june 2014 015 june 2014 016

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a husband who thanks You for our four little blessings by rejoicing in every opportunity to laugh and play with them.  Thank You for Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy, and for their six siblings whose faces we will see when we meet You at the end of our days on earth.  Thank You for our fathers, for our grandfathers, for our godfathers, and all the other good and Godly men who have loved us throughout our lives and shown us what beauty there is in fatherhood.

Lord, thank You also for simple pleasures.  We like a great many of our treasures here, Lord, from guitars to books to computers to pretty clothes, but please help us be mindful that all those things will pass away.  Please burn it into our hearts that to loving one another is not measured by the amount of money we spend, but by the love we pour out upon one another, as You poured Yours out upon us.

 

I say a little prayer with you


Here’s the song reference.

All the tiny people were awake and active before Manie left for work yesterday morning, a somewhat unusual happenstance, as the boys usually sleep until around 8:00.  This posed certain logistical challenges, since I generally use the time between Manie’s departure and the boys’ awakening to make the morning phone calls in relative quiet.  I’ve never been entirely certain exactly what it is about the appearance of a telephone at the side of my head that causes the volume dial in toddlers’ heads to automatically crank up to ten, but it’s always been the case.  Perhaps one of the tiny people will become a neuroscientist and answer that one for me.

In any event, Grandma had a busy day on tap, so our call was short.  Once she and I had finished our chat, Bugaboo and Beanie were ready to start their math lesson.  Just as they settled in with their books and pencils, Deedaw called me before I could call her, as she had errands to run and wanted to get an earlier than usual start to her own day.  We had just started to discuss Manie’s building project for this weekend when Baby Guy ambled into the kitchen, arms laden with toy cars and trucks.

The little fellow climbed up into his daddy’s chair at the kitchen table, as he often does during the day, and started to arrange his load on the table.  Bugaboo and Beanie loudly complained at him, since he was shaking the table with the force of his parking the cars on the wood.  Still talking with Deedaw, I started to gather up Baby Guy’s playthings and gently return them to the living room; we discourage the playing of Demolition Derby on the kitchen table during seatwork time.  Mr. Man was having a morning romp with Smudgie in the back yard, having already devoured a waffle and about a quarter of a pound of cheese.

This turn of events greatly displeased Baby Guy, who alighted from his perch, stomped into the living room, loudly insisting upon the necessity of having toy motor vehicles in the kitchen as he went, wagging his wee finger at me and scowling as he intoned, “Babababad!”  Deedaw, being on the other end of the phone line, could laugh.  Apparently the audio of the scene made it pretty easy for her to get the visual.

We repeated our little dance, with Baby Guy slamming his toys onto the table and me gently gathering them and returning them to the other room.  His complaints finally became so loud and continuous, and were so augmented by Beanie and Bugaboo’s warranted lament that the racket made it impossible for them to concentrate on solving math problems, that Deedaw and I agreed to cut our conversation short.

After hanging up the phone, I remonstrated with Baby Guy about the principle that if books are on the table, cars and trucks should not be, gave him a kiss on the head and a cup of milk for his hand, sat down at the table between our daughters, and opened up my laptop to order American Heritage Girls uniforms for Bugaboo and Beanie, figuring we should have at least ten minutes of peace.

This being the fourth time since 2009 we’ve had a two-year-old in the house, one might think I’d know better.  However, our children come by their thick skulls honestly.  As I typed in all the shipping information, Baby Guy returned to the kitchen, fire truck in hand, and proceeded to clamber back up into Manie’s chair, gleefully shrieking, “I da FIYUH CHEEF!” as he did so.

Beanie put her head down in her math book.  Bugaboo started twirling her hair around her pencil, glowering alternately at her youngest brother and her mother.

“Baby Guy.  This is schoolwork time.  We cannot have trucks on the table during math lessons.  Take it back into the living room please.”

His wee face crumpled, his little chest heaved, and he started to cry big, fat, sad tears as he wailed, “No wivig woom!  Fiyuh cheef!  Bump twucks on tabuh!”

I picked him and his fire truck up, set them both gently on the floor, and gave him a little pat on the back to indicate that he did, indeed, need to head for the other room.  “Go on, sweetheart.  We’ll be done soon, and then we can all play fire chiefs together.”

Baby Guy collapsed on the floor in a shuddering, sobbing, heap.

His sisters stared – not at him, but at me.  No mathematical equations were being solved.  The problem at hand only tangentially had anything to do with books.

“Hey, girls, put your pencils in your books and close them for a minute.” I scooped up Baby Guy and snuggled him against my chest.  His tears made wet tracks down my shirt front as he tremblingly pushed his red face into my chest.  “I think maybe Baby Guy is sad that he missed when we did our morning prayers.  Would you mind if we did them again?”

Beanie jumped on that lifeboat with a cheerful, “That’s a great idea!  There’s no such thing as too many prayers!”

I cradled Baby Guy’s little hands between mine as we repeated our morning devotions, feeling the hitches in his breathing slowly diminish, then stop, as he calmed in my embrace.  The words of the prayers, and the promises they contained, washed over me, particularly “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  As we finished praying together, Baby Guy’s countenance having settled into a contented smile, I whispered into his hair, “I’m sorry, baby.”

september 2013 001 august 2013 017

Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for the reminder that Your blessings inherited many traits from me, including the tendency to be a little thick-headed.  Please grant me the grace to have as much patience with them as You have with me.  Please open my eyes to their need for comfort and attention, and keep me mindful that however important whatever I’m ordering on the computer at that particular moment may seem to be, it pales when compared to the significance of spending that same time with one of Your little blessings.  Engrave it upon my heart, Lord, that what may appear to be an inconvenience is, in Your eyes, an opportunity for me to teach Your blessings that love means my to-do list can wait.

Compliment without caveats


The ladies over at Scary Mommy have had some remarkable postings lately.  I would strongly encourage all of you to read their latest, “About Children with Down Syndrome.”

Every life matters, friends, and most people appreciate both an honest compliment and an honest question.  The rules of etiquette teach us it is best to separate the twain.

Peace be with you,

Kelly

Bang your head


Here’s the song reference.

Our kitchen is slightly less orderly than usual at the moment, perhaps because our dishwasher decided to resign a bare two months before we’re supposed to be moving.  I have no particular objection to washing dishes by hand; truth be told, I have many vivid and cheerful memories of drying dishes in Granny’s kitchen, and am somewhat looking forward to passing that experience along to my own children.  Even Baby Guy can dry and stow the spoons.  However, it does disrupt our morning timing somewhat, and while the tiny people are not exactly enslaved to their routine, they will take advantage of distractions and diversions to skitter off to Lego-land instead of working on their morning seatwork.

Nonetheless, we headed for the park to take advantage of a warm, sunny day, the second-to-last Wednesday of summer, and a day on which the less time I spend in front of any electronic media, the happier our entire household is.  Since we were running low on what we call “portable food,” and because we are trying not to generate more dishes than are necessary, we stopped at the nearby grocery store to acquire grapes, cheese, and carrots to eat for lunch.  Augmented by the blueberry biscuits I’d found in the pantry, we had the makings of a warm day’s feast.

As I was loading Baby Guy into the shopping cart seat, and his siblings were scrambling into their accustomed positions around the cart, our youngest set up a pitiable cry of, “Cuppy!  Cuppy! Where cuppy?”

I had asked Beanie to locate and carry Baby Guy’s sippy cup.  Mr. Man clung to his blankie, Bugaboo carried a stuffed penguin whithersoever she went, and had her pancake bunny when they still had to have a security object in their travels, but for Baby Guy, it has been a sippy cup since he learned to use one.  Fortunately, the color and style of sippy cup matter not to him, as long as he has one.  “Hey, Beanie, do you remember where you put Baby Guy’s cuppy?”

“I think I forgot it.”

Those who have raised toddlers just winced a little.

After a quick reminder to Beanie that Baby Guy was likely to be quite unhappy for the duration of our trip to the store, I mentally added a cup for the little fellow to our shopping list.  Baby Guy continued wailing unhappily about the absence of Cuppy, and I exhorted the tribe to set as brisk a pace as possible without running, which would be unseemly and unsafe in a grocery store.  Shepherding the older children as we trotted, I awkwardly rubbed Baby Guy’s back while pushing the cart upon which he sat and trying to murmur soothing words in between reminders to Beanie and Mr. Man that trying to step on the backs of one another’s shoes is not an approved game.

Few other customers were in the store at the time of our arrival, so we were able to acquire our few items largely unimpeded.  With four small children, I’ve developed a knack for snagging and carting things in stores without breaking stride.  When we arrived at the baby supplies aisle, however, I had to come to a full stop to select an appropriate cup.  The price of sippy cups at a grocery store has become genuinely ridiculous, and I was taken aback at the thought of spending seven dollars on a single drinking vessel.

We’d been meaning to transition Baby Guy from sippy cups to straw cups anyway, so I tossed a package of them into the cart and headed for the checkout.  To Baby Guy’s very great delight, these particular cups featured characters from the movie Cars.  He’s never seen the movie, but he loves cars.  He did not, however, love that the cups were in the cart instead of his hands, and proceeded to express his displeasure the way all of his siblings did at the same age, to wit: by pounding his head vigorously upon the nearest available surface, which in this instance happened to be the handle of the shopping cart.

We made our way back to the van without serious damage to Baby Guy’s cranium (my pediatrician’s advice has been to ignore this behavior strenuously, and only give reinforcement of any kind when the behavior changes to something that does not involve head-banging, and he’s been right so far – this stage only lasts a couple of weeks if the child doesn’t get what she or he wants from it, because it really doesn’t feel very good).  After a light-speed load-in, I reassured Baby Guy that upon our arrival at the park, he would be presented with a snazzy new cup full of his beverage of choice (he’s a milk junkie).  That changed his wail from one desirous of a cup to one pleading for the playground, which I counted as progress as we hit the road.

Once I’d settled our cooler on our base of operations, a picnic table in the shade of the pavilion next to the playground and helped Baby Guy drink deeply from his new cup, the tiny people scattered in all directions to swing, slide, climb, and make friends with the other children cavorting through the play equipment.  I stayed by the cooler to hand out drinks and food, as Mr. Man is in the habit of staging raids which result in edibles flying in all directions as he seeks his snack of choice.  Baby Guy, while somewhat put out by my denial of his request to carry his new “Cuppy” around the playground with him, was quickly lost in his quest to see exactly how fast he can descend a sliding board.  Bugaboo and Beanie cheerfully set about making friends with the other homeschooled kids who were already there, and I introduced myself to the ladies at the other table, who were meeting there to talk about setting up a new American Heritage Girls troop.  After sharing our overabundance of grapes with them, since they were the mothers of the rest of the children at the playground, I retired to our base camp to continue my rolling head count of my own crew.

We passed a pleasant hour at the park, with the tribe careening between the cooler and the playground.  Once Mr. Man and Beanie started a mulch-throwing party, however, it was time for us to depart.  The day was hot; all four children were red-faced and sweaty, so it seemed an opportune time to head home, get Baby Guy a nap, do a little schoolwork, and maybe catch an episode of “How It’s Made,” which is Bugaboo’s current obsession.

I called to the tiny people, “Bugaboo!  Beanie!  Mr. Man!  Baby Guy!  It’s time to go now!”

The predictable protest ensued.  Baby Guy attempted to flee up the steps of one of the slides, having not yet watched enough horror movies to know that when one is being pursued, one should never run up the stairs.  I tucked him onto my hip and waded back through the playground, trailing a line of little kids, each of whom had his or her own reason why we should stay at the park for ten more minutes, or even another hour.  Bugaboo and Beanie quickly remembered that Mommy is something of a Borg about park departure times; resistance is futile, and possibly counterproductive.  Mr. Man, however, would live at the playground if we would allow it.

Our three-year-old son, ruddy-faced from the heat and exertion, stomped and shuffled his way across the playground to the pavilion where I was retrieving our cooler, whining as he went, paying far more attention to his lament than he was to the tree roots that protruded from the ground.  With the grace typical for his age, he tripped over a tree root and landed, forehead first, on the corner of the concrete pad that forms the floor of the pavilion.

With Baby Guy still riding on my hip, I ran and scooped up my wailing child in my free arm.  The sound of a full-throated scream from a child who has just hit his head with a great deal of force is authentically beautiful – it means he’s conscious. As I clutched him to my chest and made my way to a bench to survey the damage, I suddenly found myself surrounded by the ladies who had been meeting at the other table.

“Is he okay?  Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I think he’s okay, but there’s a lot of dirt on his forehead, do any of you happen to have a wipe I could use, please?”

One lady produced a wipe, another grabbed a ziplock bag and an ice cube from her cooler.  After we had applied both to Mr. Man’s head, we discovered that while he had an impressive goose egg and abrasion, the swelling was all directed outwards.  I thanked the ladies profusely, and in response to their inquiry regarding whether we needed any further assistance, I replied, “Let me see.  Mr. Man, will you be okay if we can get home and find you some chocolate?”

“Ye- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) sh.  I need some chocolate for medicine, and chocolate will make me feel all better.”

We four moms chuckled discreetly.  Having calmed both boys (Baby Guy cries when Mr. Man does), I explained the story of a high school friend’s father’s method of determining the severity of his many children’s claimed illnesses and injuries.  If a child complained of being sick or hurt, he would produce a bowl of ice cream, give it to the complaining child, and watch for results.  If the child was still sick or hurt after eating the ice cream, a trip to the doctor was probably warranted; if not, the child was sent off to school.

For the record, Mr. Man is in fine fettle this morning, and currently quite put out that Mommy is focusing on her laptop instead of her son.

september 2013 003 september 2013 008

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding me that the thick skulls You gave Your blessings are a gift; I forget that sometimes.  Thank You for the kindness of strangers, for the love they showed Your blessings and I at the park yesterday, for the reminder that sometimes “I love you” is said best by having the humility to accept assistance from people we don’t know.  Thank You for enough grapes to share, and for a bright, peaceful, and sunny day, where the only heat we encountered was from the late summer sun.  Please help us teach Your blessings to love without fear; empty me of my doubts and suspicions, and fill that space with trust in Your providence.  We would raise children who live in joyful anticipation of Your kingdom, and who see a glimmer of You in every face, even if that face is twisted with rage, or malice, or a pain we cannot fathom.  Grant us the grace of hearts that do what You made them to do, which is to love and serve You by loving and serving all of our neighbors, and by humbly thanking You for blessing us with them.

Black vultures, if you please


Here’s the song reference.

One of our favorite features of homeschooling is the freedom to go wherever the tribe’s curiosity takes us, insofar as learning is concerned.  While we have a daily requirement of English, math and religious studies lessons, it’s not uncommon for the day’s planned science or history lesson to be set aside in favor of exploring some question one of the tiny people has posed, particularly when it’s one to which I don’t have an immediate answer.

Yesterday, while she was working on her arithmetic, Bugaboo heard a bird crying in the skies outside, and excitedly declared, “I think I hear a vulture!”

“Hmm. I don’t think so, Bugaboo, that sounded more like a crow to me.”

“What sound do vultures make, Mommy?”

“I’m not exactly sure, honestly.  Tell you what.  You finish your math, there, and Beanie, you finish yours, while I get the computer and see what I can find.”

“Okay! Maybe we can learn how to talk to them!”

We live in a semi-rural area, where wildlife populations are robust.  Because the automobile population is also robust, Bugaboo and her siblings are accustomed to seeing vultures on the side of the road, cleaning up the inevitable results of encounters between the two populations.  I believe her first inquiry about the big carrion birds came when she was about three, at which time I explained to her that every creature the Lord created has some purpose, and vultures are God’s garbagemen, eating up the dead things so they don’t stink for a long time.  Seconds later, I had to further explain that no, vultures would not make good pets, in spite of the amount of garbage we might be able to generate.

I still haven’t come up with an explanation for the purpose of mosquitoes, unless they’re meant to be a reminder that the smallest things can cause the biggest trouble.

Grinning as I recalled that conversation, I fetched the laptop from its table and started searching for vulture calls online.  The first interesting result didn’t have any actual vulture speech, but was a nifty two-minute short about the black vulture.

“Hey, Bugaboo, hey, Beanie, take a little break.”  I turned the screen so it faced Bugaboo’s chair.  “This doesn’t have their actual calls, but it’s interesting anyway.”  Beanie scrambled out of her chair and tucked in beside her sister, and the two of them raptly watched a nature center’s introduction to one of its avian inhabitants.

september 2013 015

“That was neat, Mommy, can we watch it again?”

“Sure, why not?  Then you can finish up your math while I look for some more, and hopefully I’ll be able to find one with the actual sounds vultures make.”

Bugaboo hurriedly recommenced solving equations, while Beanie dawdled her way back to her chair.  Vultures were significantly more interesting than practicing sums.  A few minutes later, I located a page with audio clips of the various sounds turkey vultures make, cranked up the volume, and played the sounds for the girls.  “Mommy, they sounds like they’re snoring!” exclaimed Bugaboo excitedly.

“They do, don’t they?  And listen to this – when a young turkey vulture thinks it’s in danger, it hisses like a cat.”

“Wow!”

After all the math and reading were done, the girls headed off to play while I looked for documentaries about vultures on Netflix and Fios.  My lesson for yesterday was that if one searches with the string “movies about vultures,” one will get a large number of search results that have absolutely nothing to do with wildlife.  While I didn’t succeed in finding anything vulture-specific, I was able to add Sir David Attenborough’s excellent Life of Birds series to our queue, along with Wild Kratts (am I the only one who misses Zoboomafoo?) and a quirky little animated series called Oscar’s Oasis, which features a vulture as one of the recurring villainous characters.

By the time I finished my searching, Baby Guy and Mr. Man had finished their breakfasts and begun making merry mayhem in their sisters’ room.  If I’m not mistaken, Legos were being used as missiles, and I think it was Baby Guy who pulled Beanie’s Wall Tracks off of the wall . . . again.  With a sigh and a bit of an eyeroll, I waded into the battle zone to deliver the news that suitably education viewing materials had, in fact, been located, and that should the room be rendered navigable again, we could watch them over sandwiches on the couch.

We watched the Attenborough episode about carnivorous birds, after which Baby Guy decided he was ready for a nap.  I decided Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man and I could use a little rest, too, so I came back upstairs from tucking Baby Guy in with Mr. Man’s blankies and pillow, then advised all and sundry that we could have a little movie if everyone could rest quietly while we did so.  Since Joseph, King of Dreams happens to have vultures in it, that seemed like a good viewing choice, and gave me a good opportunity to talk with the tribe about the importance of forgiveness (a particularly relevant lesson, given what we commemorate today), we watched that, each of us in repose in our comfy spot of choice in the living room.

Before we left for Deedaw’s in the late afternoon, we had also caught an episode of Oscar’s Oasis, and talked about references to vultures in the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Revelations, as well as the Gospels of Mark and Luke.  We read up on carrion birds in our wildlife folio collection, and talked about avian life cycles and anatomy.  My one regret is that we didn’t have time to turn our newfound knowledge into a craft project of some kind, but I suspect we’ll devise one today.

Our drive over to Deedaw’s house was punctuated by joyful exclamations from Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man whenever they spotted vultures circling overheard.  As we drove past a car dealership, Bugaboo explained to Mr. Man, “Look, there are lots of vultures flying over that car store.  That means there’s probably something tasty there, probably in the back, and it’s probably stinky, too.  There’s lots of cars at a car store, so maybe somebody ran something over, and the vultures are waiting for it to be safe for them to go eat it.  Then it won’t be stinky anymore, it will just be food in the vulture’s tummy.”

They also made a project of teaching Baby Guy to say, “Booteeful vuchuz!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the eyes of Your blessings, so eager to find the beauty in every living thing You created.  Thank You for the ability to read, and the joy of passing that skill along to the tiny people You have entrusted to my care.  Thank You for reminding me, through them, how full of wonder the world is, and to contemplate how all the things in it work together for Your glory.

Lord, on this day when the minds of so many will be occupied with remembrances of a day filled with evil, fill my heart with awe and joy.  Help me teach Your blessings to seek Your face on dark days, to find that glimmer of You in every other person, and to respond to each of them as You would have, with gentleness even in reproof, by sharing whatever nourishment those other souls may need.  Please guard our hearts and tongues from wrath, and help us remember to seek justice instead of vengeance in all things.

These shall not be forgotten years


Here’s the song reference.

After a chaotic weekend, it’s always a pleasure to have a mellow day on Monday, with no plans that involve dashing hither and yon.  Yesterday was such a day; although even Mr. Man and Baby Guy were awake and rambunctious before 7:30 a.m., no one was advocating for any trips involving distances beyond our back yard.  There were, however, quite a few requests for movies; the frequency and plaintiveness of those inquiries, combined with the still-prominent grey circles under four lovely pairs of eyes, told me we had one tuckered-out tribe.  Naps would be taken.  Huzzah!

Bugaboo and Beanie practiced their addition with regrouping and sentence structure, and colored some lovely pictures of the Blessed Mother. Baby Guy and Mr. Man ambled in while the girls were working and requested “schoolwork” of their own, and were rewarded with coloring pages;  Baby Guy is getting much better at consuming crayons by using them to color instead of to eat. While Mr. Man’s interest in writing letters and numbers is intensifying, he still likes to color, especially if his sisters are coloring, and it’s almost a certainty that our elder son is left-handed.  It runs in the family.

After that little bit of table work, the tiny people ran off to play with Legos, soccer balls, Smudgie, a katydid they found in the yard, and each other.  In between folding laundry and packing donation boxes for this morning’s veterans pickup, I read them stories, kissed a few boo-boos, and offered several gentle reminders that if you wouldn’t want someone to do something to you, you probably ought not do it to him or her. I spend a great deal of time doing that.  Incidentally, some of that time is spent explaining to a child snuggled into my lap why I should not have chosen to react harshly to some actual or perceived behavioral infraction.  If we want our children to learn humility and forgiveness, we have to show them what it looks like.  One of my more obscure blessings is that I screw up with enough frequency that I have lots of opportunities to model that on a regular basis.

Yesterday being the memorial of St. Peter Claver, we spent some time reading and talking not only about the good saint and his ministry, but also about Moses and the enslavement of the Israelites.  We ran back and forth between the couch, where we cuddle up to read, and the map on the hallway wall, to find the different places these people had lived and answered the Lord’s call.  Bugaboo and Beanie were both appalled by the concept that people had ever been viewed as property, to be bought, sold, and disposed of as another person pleased, and utterly horrified that the practice still exists.  We prayed together for both the liberation of those held in bondage and for the Lord’s grace in changing the hearts of those who use people as things.

Later in the day, when even solid naps had not ameliorated the fatigue of four small children who had a very busy weekend, I finally acceded to their earlier requests for some screen time, on the conditions that we would watch show episodes only, and that in between shows we would do something else.  The “something elses” ranged from drawing pictures of things they recalled from the shows (their renderings of Chuck the Truck were pretty darned cute), to putting away specified categories of toys in their rooms, to eating dinner, to practicing our best Woody Woodpecker laughs (click the link, they’re funny).  I had to deliver a couple of “time-outs” for jumping on the couch (behind which is a ten foot drop to the foyer floor), and one for wanton whackings with a Tonka fire truck (Baby Guy got his diaper in a dither because Beanie wouldn’t surrender her watching spot on the couch), but there was a great deal of giggling and general silliness in the latter part of the day.

While Manie and I occasionally differ over child-rearing minutiae, such as how many Oreos constitutes an acceptable dessert serving for a preschooler, the one guiding principle upon which we have agreed since (literally) our first date is that we want our children to have a childhood, and we want them to remember it as a time when they were innocent, when their responsibilities involved keeping their rooms in some semblance of order, collecting food for the food bank, and learning how to play with others with civility and respect.  We revel in these years where a big night out involves Chuck E Cheese or Joe’s Crab Shack (which, for the record, has an *awesome* outdoor playground to go with its tasty seafood fare).  Do we miss restaurants with fancy china and crystal and establishments where live rock music is played?  Sometimes, yes, and once or twice a year we engage the services of a babysitter and enjoy a couple of hours in the world where only adults tread.

In one of the books Mr. Man asked me to read to him yesterday afternoon, I found the following little prayer:  “Lord, You are good to me.  Thank You for my family.  Watch me closely while I play.  Help my friends throughout the day.”

When they are grown, we want our kids to thank God for parents who let them be children, parents who never considered them fashion accessories or trinkets to be trotted out for the admiration of others, but loved them as the small people in need of nurturing and protection they are.  We want them to remember that while yeah, Mommy sometimes let them watch an Avengers episode just so she could make a phone call in peace, our time with them was more important than anything else.

Maybe we’re not the cool parents who think it’s so cute to let toddlers dance on a bar at night, or teach their preschoolers how to be sexy, or give second graders unrestricted cell phone and internet service, or take girls who are still figuring out how to detangle their own hair for a spa day.  That’s okay.  We know how to throw gummy bears in the air and catch them on our tongues, how to laugh like Woody Woodpecker, and how to say, “no,” in such a way that it sounds like, “I love you.”

Today’s prayer:

Lord, when Manie and I married, we asked You to bless our marriage with children.  Thank You for answering our prayer with great abundance, and for the trust You have placed in us with Your answer.  We try to thank You by giving them an example of how we honor You in our thoughts, words, and deeds, how we humble ourselves when we err, and how we savor the days of childhood without polluting them by forcing small children into adult environments and situations.  Thank You for “off” buttons, for books, for mud, and for little chocolate-covered fingers.  And Lord, please don’t ever let us get so busy pursuing our own entertainment that we either shove Your blessings off in a corner or take them places children should not go.  They will encounter the adult world soon enough.  Please help us provide them with the tools they will need to beautify it with Your light, Lord, because there is an overabundance of dark corners in it.  Let us teach them that love without sacrifice is not worthy of the name.

And, Lord, when I am tempted to push my children aside because there’s something I’d rather do, help me remember the six children who went straight to Your arms.  Give me whatever I will need to raise the four siblings who run to mine so that all ten of them will gather together in Your presence at the end of time.