Archive | January 2012

Linus


Mr. Man is a blankie guy.  Whatever may be troubling him, if he can locate his trusty blankie and his thumb (one of those is readily accessible at all times), all will be well.  If he can locate blankie, thumb, and Mommy’s lap, it’s a perfectly glorious day in his world.  Since we have a very tiny person, one Baby Guy, in our midst, Mommy’s lap is frequently occupied, and Mr. Man does not like to share.  His major motivation for learning to go down the stairs was being able to get to his room to retrieve his blankie when he wants it; it’s actually really cute when he stands outside the boys’ room door (he has not, as yet, figured out how to turn the knob to open the door) and calls for his oldest sister to open the door.  After he wails, “Bugaboo!  Door!  Open!” a couple of times, he remembers what he’s supposed to say, and a sweetly wheedling, “Pleeeeeease?” wafts up the stairs.  Bugaboo is a sufficiently kindhearted big sister that she usually puts down her toys and helps the little guy out.  Of course, she then also gets to spend a few minutes playing with the boys’ toys, which is reward enough for her.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Man and Baby Guy achieved that wonder of wonders, nap synchronicity.  They fell asleep and woke, each in his own bed, at the same time.  This, of course, afforded the girls the opportunity to catch a Care Bears movie and me the chance to catch a desperately needed nap.  For an hour, at least, there was peace in our valley.

The boys did, of course, awaken, and began chorusing for something drinkable.  While I was listening to their serenade (ahem) over the monitor and bustling about the kitchen to prepare appropriate beverages, the girls came in and asked if they could play outside.  I reminded them that they are required to wear not only shoes, but also pants, in order to do so (what is it about preschoolers and pants?!?!?), and sent them down the hall to attire themselves appropriately.  Bottle and sippy in hand, I clumped down the stairs, managed not to trip over the ever-enthusiastic Smudgie, and opened the door to quell the rebellion.

Mr. Man, as a rule, wakes up in a bit of a sour mood, which is a trait I am embarrassed to admit he inherited from his mother.  He was scowling into his sippy cup as Bugaboo and Beanie, properly clad and shod, raced to and out the back door, with Smudgie hot on their heels.  I sat in the rocking chair, feeding Baby Guy, while Mr. Man surveyed the room.  He seemed to be trying to decide whether to join his sisters or hang out and play with his toys and his little brother, who thinks he is the funniest guy in the world.

As Mr. Man finished his last slurp of milk, Bo shambled into the boys’ room.  Bo is old; he turned 11 earlier this month, and he’s a bit of a cantankerous codger.  He is also the most faithful guardian, friend, and protector four little kids (and their parents, and a ridiculously huge puppy) could ever hope to have.  While he spends a fair amount of time complaining at the tribe for stomping, screaming, and throwing things too close to his tender old head, he also curls up nearby when they are quiet, and never lets the smallest ones out of his sight.  He sleeps by the boys’ door at night.

After a quick perusal of the room assured him that this might be a good place for an ancient wonder to get a little peace and quiet, Bo curled up on the corner of the boys’ rug.  Mr. Man watched him, carefully set his sippy upright on the floor, and walked over to his bed.  While watching over his shoulder, he winkled his beloved blankie out through the slats of his crib, tiptoed over to Bo, and covered his old puppy with his blankie.  Then he put on his shoes and went outside to frolic with his sisters and Smudgie.

Bo had a rather nice nap.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You call us to comfort the weary and the lonely.  Please teach me to have the same generosity of spirit as Your blessings, who, without reservation, share the things that are most precious to them out of love, to comfort a friend.  It’s the faith of a child thing again, Lord.  Thank You for sending me such blessings as these, who remind me daily what remarkable things faith and its exercise are.

The resident soup Nazi


My desperation lunch for the tiny people is soup and bread.  It’s nourishing, warm, and VERY quick, which is an essential quality of a meal that needs to be prepared when you’ve lost all track of time and have one child sobbing and two whining because they’re hungry.  While I prefer to make nice homemade soups, and actually have a respectable stock of them in the freezer, I’m also practical enough to have half a cupboard shelf stocked with the fine offerings of the Campbell’s and Progresso companies.

This Sunday, it was our parish mom’s group’s turn to handle the donut social table after 9:30 Mass.  Since we had three tired kids and one (Mr. Man) whose digestive tract was rebelling against a weekend full of rich treats, I attended alone for the first time since very early 2003.  I must confess that it was awfully nice to be able to hear the homily, and to be able to socialize with other parishioners without having to count heads.  However, I had such fun chatting with friends, even while we were cleaning up, that I rather forgot the time.  When I arrived home at about a quarter to noon, my benighted husband was at the center of a maelstrom of whining and was looking a trifle lost.  He had put Baby Guy down for a nap not long before, and hadn’t been sure if I was bringing home treats, since we often stop on the way home from church for sandwiches and such.

I had not, of course, since my primary concern was getting home before the kids gave him too much of a hard time.  After a round of hugs and kisses, I scooted into the kitchen to see what treasures the pantry might hold, a now non-vomiting Mr. Man in hot pursuit.  One of the tribe’s favorite lunches is cream of anything soup, and since the first thing I spied was cream of chicken, that seemed like a winner, especially since we had a bounty of leftover ciabatta and salad from Nonno and Deedaw’s festivities.  Mr. Man was calling his wholehearted approval, and helpfully snagged a whisk from the utensil drawer.  I grabbed the can, spun around, and plunked it down on the stove.  Mr. Man, with his characteristic determination, attempted to whisk the unopened can, informing me as he did so, “I cook soup!”  After explaining (several times) that a can opener, a pan, and a heat source would be required to complete that process, I turned around to retrieve a saucepan from the dish drainer.

When I returned, seconds later, to the stove, the soup can had vanished — as had Mr. Man.

From the living room, I heard him crowing, “Soup!  Sooooooup!  MY SOUP!”  My poor husband, who is normally at work during the lunchtime follies, attempted to reason with a 21 month old boy armed with a can of soup.  Mr. Man has terrific arm strength and preternatually accurate throwing aim.  I’m assuming the can glanced off a well-padded part of my husband’s anatomy.  As I reached into the pantry for the back can of cream of chicken soup, I remonstrated with Mr. Man, “Sweetie, we throw balls, not cans of soup.”  While plying the can opener, I heard another thud, this one more characteristic of a full soup can making contact with the rug which covers the hardwood floor in our living room (I should mention that I also heard my husband attempting to catch a 21 month old boy who has just discovered a hilarious new game).  Naturally, the entire time, Mr. Man kept up his cheerful chant of “Soup!  Soooooup!”

It’s not normally a good idea to warm up a cream soup over high heat, but I felt like an exception might be warranted under the circumstances.  I also managed to intercept Mr. Man when he ran back into the kitchen, still clutching his can of soup, and removed his booty from his arms, much to his very vocal dismay.  Luckily, that was right around the time the soup was ready, so I plunked him in his high chair, wrestled the safety straps around him, and fired a bowl of warm soup and a couple of slices of ciabatta across the table to him.  Of course, I then heard the plaintive howl of “Spoon!  SPOOOOOON!”

My throwing arm will be almost as good as his in a couple of months . . . at least, I hope it will.  The spoon did land near enough for him to grab, and I did manage not to hit either my son or his bowl of soup.  It’s the small victories . . .

Today’s prayer:  Lord, in his homily today, Your priest taught us that one of the temptations to turn from Your loving way is to follow the poor examples of others — and to provide a poor example myself.  It would have been so easy to yell at Your little blessing when he was playing with a can of soup today, and thus to teach him that reacting with anger is how he should act when someone is behaving inappropriately.  Please help me to always provide the gentle hand that removes the contraband with a gentle admonition and a suggestion for a better amusement, instead of the shrill scream and the grudge that lasts all day.  And, Lord, if I do scream, please remind me that even mommies can be wrong, and help me set an example of humility.

Back where it all began


I would love to include pictures of Nonno and Deedaw renewing their vows in this post, but in all the hullaballoo, I forgot to put batteries in the camera. I do, however, have what might be called “before and after” pictures.

Before:

After 50 years of marriage, two sons, and six grandchildren:

There is pretty, and there is beautiful.  Wedding dresses are pretty.  Flowers are pretty.  Nonno and Deedaw are beautiful.

Yesterday morning, we hurried the tiny people into their best clothes and made ourselves halfway presentable, then ran out the door to make it to the church for 9:00 a.m. Mass.  Remarkably, we made it on time, in spite of a mischievous bag of toys that decided to flee the back of my van to have a playtime of their own in the parking lot.  If the dictionary people are ever looking for a definition of challenging, I would humbly submit the following:  “attempting to keep two preschoolers and a toddler from playing with several dozen small toys that have just spilled out of a bag in a church parking lot.”

Thankfully, years of practicing toy pickup skills helped keep the cleanup time to under two minutes, and we made it to the church on time.  The church in which Nonno and Deedaw renewed their promises to one another is the same one in which my husband and I were married a little over eight years ago; part of the roof is made of stained glass, and when the sun comes in through the glass, as it typically does in the late morning, the altar is covered with a thousand fragments of rainbows, dancing among the angels and saints and soothing the wounds of Christ crucified.

On this particular morning, I would venture to say they were dancing the tarantella as Nonno and Deedaw made their way to the altar and spoke anew the promises that anyone who knows them, knows have lived in their hearts for every day of the past half-century.  There is pretty, and there is beautiful.  The knowledge that they mean every word of those vows is beauty.

After Mass, my husband and I managed to make our way to a quiet corner of the altar, accompanied by our daughters (the boys were thoroughly enjoying all of the attention of their older relatives and did not wish to join our little party), and knelt there, with our arms around each other’s waists, just as we did on the first day of November of 2003.  We gave misty-eyed thanks to our gracious Lord and Savior, who joined us in a way that no man may sunder.  Like Nonno and Deedaw, we are a little older, a little greyer, a little more wrinkled, but we are building something beautiful together, with faith, honesty, and a love that uses Christ’s love for His church as its model.  I don’t know if we will both be alive for our fiftieth anniversary (we would both be 82, if we are), but for as long as we both shall live, I hope we can provide half so powerful a witness of what marriage should be.  I hope our children learn the lessons from us that my husband learned from his parents.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Nonno and Deedaw, who have shown us that after the pretty flowers and dresses are put away, the real beauty of a marriage is the complete sacrifice of each spouse to the other.  Please help us teach Your blessings that love between a husband and wife is, like Your love for us, boundless and eternal.  There is a reason Your Son performed his first public miracle at a wedding; we would have Your blessings know that marriage is sacred.

Simple gifts


All of our children are named for people my husband and I have dearly loved, or still dearly love.  It is, in our eyes, one of our gifts to them, that they will carry the names of men and women who were all heroic in their own ways.  One of them was a bona fide war hero, and had the military decorations to prove it, but I did not know that until he died.  Each of them were heroes to us for their steadfast adherence to everyday virtues — faithfulness to the Lord and family, determination, thrift, ingenuity, creativity, kindness.  There will be no monuments except ordinary tombstones built for any of them, but they were (or remain) the kinds of people that we would hold up as examples to our children.

Baby Guy is named for my husband’s uncle, who left us not long before Beanie was born.  He was a brilliant and faithful man, born in Italy, and one of the people I will always regret not having been able to know better.  My husband’s aunt, this remarkable man’s widow, came down here to celebrate her little brother’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.  We absolutely adore her, and she loves us and our little tribe right back.  On the days when nothing seems to be right, I call Zizi, and she regales me with family tales, including a healthy dose of my father-in-law’s history.  There is nothing in this world that she does not know how to cook, and she always has a genuine compliment to offer about each of the kids, my husband, and me.  Her loving heart both honors and humbles me.

There are moments that are seared into my memory with a fierce and soaring joy.  One of them is the day we found out Baby Guy was, in fact, Baby Guy and not Baby Girl.  We had decided that, if this little blessing was a boy, that we would name him for this delightful lady’s late husband; upon my return from that happy visit with my favorite ultrasonographer, I called her to ask her permission.  Zizi readily gave her consent, then promptly hung up on me (no offense taken — it was the sort of hanging-up that comes from simply being unable to speak).  When she called back a couple of hours later, apologizing for hanging up, we had a good laugh.  Her two oldest children are Baby Guy’s godparents; it just seemed fitting.

Zizi and Baby Guy’s godparents, along with my husband’s other aunt who is Deedaw’s younger sister, all arrived this afternoon to help celebrate a truly awesome occasion.  While Zizi loves babies on general principle — they are cute, they snuggle, and every single blessed one of them loves to smile for her — Baby Guy has a special place.  I was rocking him in his car seat, trying to get him to take the nap he so desperately needed, when Zizi materialized next to me and asked if she could hold him.

I don’t think I will ever be able to say “no” to her.

All of us had been trying to soothe him for the better part of an hour, and Baby Guy was having none of it.  No amount of rocking, singing, milk, or snuggling would calm him.  Zizi, however, has almost a vocation for calming tired infants, and for the next half hour, Zizi and Baby Guy sat in the rocker, her singing and humming, him cuddling and smiling.  I hated to take him back from her when, finally, his fatigue won out over his adoration and he started to sob again.  He actually fell asleep on the floor, sprawled out on his tummy, with his little thumb jammed into his mouth like a cork.

As soon as he awoke and had a little something to eat, he was again the center of the classic party game, “Pass the Baby.”  Everyone had a turn at making Baby Guy laugh — he’s a most obliging little chap where that’s concerned — and he eventually made his way back to Zizi.  She smiled the whole time he was sitting with her, and in those moments, I could see her as a girl, almost sixty years ago, on her own wedding day.  Beautiful then, and beautiful now, and if the joy she finds in her life may be tempered by the pain of too many losses too close together, the love she has for us gives her a radiance that no cosmetic will ever duplicate.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, one of the rarest and least merited gifts You have given us is are the members of our family who love us in spite of our innumerable flaws, who somehow manage to see pieces of You in us.  Help us teach Your blessings to savor every moment they have with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, before they learn by experience that they will not be with them here on earth forever.  And please, Lord, remind us to never miss an opportunity to share our love freely with our family, so that when they return to You, we have no reason to regret the words we did not say or the kindnesses we did not do.

What God has joined


A quick piece of housekeeping . . . I like comments, and I’m not easily offended.  Tell me what you think when you read these posts; I’d love to hear from you.  On with the blog, now.

There’s been quite the excited buzz around here in recent days, since today marks Nonno and Deedaw’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Nonno and Deedaw are my husband’s parents, and a more wonderful example of what marriage means would be difficult to find.  Celebrating this joyful milestone will occupy most of our waking hours this weekend, and much of this week has been devoted to preparing the kinds of festivities that are pleasing to Nonno and Deedaw.  These tend to center around family and faith; they will be renewing their vows and spending time with relatives who are traveling hither from yon.

Bugaboo finds all of this fascinating.  She gets that Mommy and Daddy are married to each other, Nonno and Deedaw are married to each other — you get the idea.  She also understands that some people who were married to each other aren’t anymore.  While she may not yet be able to conceive of how long a time fifty years is, she knows it’s longer than Mommy and Daddy have been alive, and since Mommy and Daddy are “old,” fifty years must be a tremendously long time.

She and Beanie are, naturally, excited about all the parties and about seeing people they love, but rarely see because they live such long distances from us.  They have been busily engaged in helping select deli trays and wrapping plastic cutlery in napkins secured with construction paper bands, hearts, and stickers, and have watched avidly while I do incomprehensible things with wired ribbon and tiny silk roses.  Unsurprisingly, they have also listened to many a conversation with Grandma (my mother), and thus have picked up on some new vocabulary, which has added some variety to the constant fusillade of questions posed by my extremely curious daughters.  Mr. Man listens intently, too, but his speaking skills are not yet developed to a point where he can add to the hubbub.

At any rate, Bugaboo and Beanie have also been curious about this notion of “renewing vows.”  I explained to them that a vow is a promise that you make in front of God that can never be broken, and that Nonno and Deedaw wanted to repeat those promises they made fifty years ago to each other.  It’s a special kind of celebration, I told them, the kind that makes us thank God for holding them close to Him and to each other for all these years, and a way to remember a day that was among the most important in their lives.  Those of us who weren’t there half a century ago will be able to join them in a celebration of a love that has lasted a lifetime.  The  young ladies were duly impressed, and both declared that one day, they will find someone with whom to share a lifetime.

Bugaboo has two stuffed penguins who have been her sleeping buddies since she was big enough to have sleeping buddies; there is a large one with a scarf who she named “Doctor Pengie,” as she thinks his scarf looks like her pediatrician’s tie, and a smaller one named “Dada Pengie,” so named, saith Bugaboo, because he has a round belly like Daddy.  They are her besties and boon companions, and no childhood joy or trauma has she endured without one of them tucked under each of her little arms.

Given all the talk about marriage over the past weeks, I knew that somehow it would end up being the subject of some play among the girls; they’re at an age when playing make-believe is the greatest game in the world, because they get to play-act all the grown-up things without having to pay the bills or worry about other logistical details.  However, I had to pull the van over on the way to playgroup this morning when Bugaboo declared, “Mommy, Doctor Pengie and I got married last night, and Dada Pengie is our little boy.  We need our own house now, right?” because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t steer.

I think I’ll save the explanation of why she can’t marry a penguin for another day — preferably for a day after she finally gets around to asking how the babies get into their mommies’ tummies.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Nonno and Deedaw, who have set for us and for Your blessings a beautiful example of what You intended marriage to be.  For fifty years, they have been one, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  Having them here is a blessing that could only come from You.  Please, Lord, bless them with joy and peace in their remaining years, and help their children and grandchildren increase that joy by following their example of faith and trust in You and Your law.

And, Lord, thank You for showing me that keeping promises is not an anachronism.  You keep Yours always, but it seems that we have trouble with ours sometimes.  It’s good to have a reminder that yes, it is possible, and that it brings the greatest of joys.

Sandbagging


Yesterday morning was an absolute blur of errands, including meetings with catering-type people who necessitated keeping four tiny people relatively quite for multiple half-hour stretches.  By the time the last errand was completed, I was worn out and only too willing to treat the tribe to a nice Wegmans lunch; Bugaboo and Mr. Man are pizza hounds, and Beanie is a sucker for vegetable roll sushi.  I have a serious weakness for their summer rolls, myself.  After we dropped off some tasty beverages for Daddy at his workplace, we motored home and tucked into some tasty provender.  Baby Guy was slightly dismayed that his lunch included only formula and rice crackers; he kept reaching for Beanie’s sushi, and I’ll admit that I was tempted to let him have some.

Lamentably, Mr. Man fell asleep in the van on the way home, which negated the possibility of his taking a nap of any significant length.  I wish I could sleep for 5 minutes and have enough energy to power a small city for eight hours, but it seems to be a talent that is peculiar to toddlers.  He and Baby Guy did, however, manage to snooze for about 45 minutes, which meant that I got to play “lump on the couch” for half an hour and the ladies got to catch an episode of Strawberry Shortcake.  By then, it had become apparent that we were being treated to another warm January afternoon, so three little bundles of excitement tumbled out the back door and into the yard, pursued, as usual, by their faithful canine guardians.

Baby Guy decided to have his bottle at a leisurely pace while his siblings throughly checked the yard to make sure all of their playthings were still there.  I watched their exploration through the boys’ window, enjoying the warm sunshine on my face and teasing Baby Guy for being a little slowpoke.  After giving him a quick “nosie,” I looked up and saw NO children in evidence.  Heard children, yes, but I could not see them.  More precisely, what I heard was Bugaboo giving orders in her very best, “I’m the oldest” voice.

Then I heard the giggles, a trio of them, laughter that carries that particular note of, “I don’t know whether Mommy’s going to like this, but it sure is fun,” that generally means I need to remember the sequence of the first ten numbers before I react.  I leaned forward in the rocking chair to gain a slightly better vantage point, then waited.

My wait was brief, and ended with Baby Guy letting me know that my mouth was hanging open by attempting to pull himself up by grabbing my bottom teeth.  What to my wondering eyes should appear but three small children (Bugaboo, the eldest and biggest, stands 40 inches tall and weighs about 35 pounds) hauling a fifty pound bag of play sand about 100 feet across the yard to their sand table.  Smudgie had helpfully opened the bag for them (and scattered a mouthful of sand before he realized it was not tasty), but that bag did not hit the ground until they reached the table.  All three of them moved at Mr. Man’s speed, the girls on each end, Mr. Man in the middle, and when they reached their destination, they took turns using shovels, plastic train cars, and a little plastic boat to scoop out their prize.

I was floored.  These are three children who literally come to blows at least once every two hours over possession of some plaything.  I have seen two of them gang up on a third, but this was the first time I had seen all of them work together for a common goal.  It may seem absurdly mundane to some, being thrilled over a trio of kids carrying a big bag of sand, but seeing them all working together instead of one of them claiming sole ownership of a highly desirable object was a marvelous thing to behold.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we have tried so hard to teach Your blessings that work and play are much better when they’re shared.  Thank You for showing me that they really are paying attention.  It was a great gift to see the bigger children patiently accept the limitations of the smallest child, and to share happily in both the labor and its reward.  Please remind us, Lord, that we can always find help in bearing our blessings and our burdens, from You and from each other, and that including the least of our brothers and sisters in all things brings its own joy.

Your name is not Karma, Mr. Man


When we are presented with the gift of a 60 degree day in January, schoolwork gets stripped to the bare minimum so that we can thoroughly enjoy the outdoors.  I believe that one of the most devout forms of thankful prayer is the laughter of children as they chase puppies and leaves around the backyard; surely, the Lord in Heaven hears them, and smiles at their gratitude.

After schoolwork, a little desultory housecleaning, and a slightly early lunch, Bugaboo, Beanie and Mr. Man sprinted down the stairs, out the back door, and peeled off for different destinations in the yard, with Smudgie and Bo in hot pursuit.  I stayed inside and attempted to convince Baby Guy that cereal is really tasty, and that sitting in a high chair isn’t so different from being snuggled up in Mommy’s arms (he’s the first one we’ve had trouble getting to eat from a spoon, but at least once a day, we keep trying).  When baby wiggles and cereal expulsions indicated that our youngest was done with the whole “big guy food” drill for today, I opened the front windows and let him get the rest of his wiggles out on his playmat, all the while keeping a watchful eye out the back window for any whispers of trouble in the yard.

Baby Guy was thoroughly involved with his toys, Smudgie and Bo had taken up guard positions, and the ambulatory small people were merrily wreaking havoc in the yard, so I decided to chance catching up on a few phone calls.  It’s the rare winter day when the decibel level in our house allows me to have actual conversations with other adults, so I was delighted to be able to talk to a couple of close friends and catch up on my husband’s adventures with our family doctor (ah, the 40-year-old physical).

During my chat with one friend, Bugaboo scampered in, begging for a bucket of paint and some brushes.  We have a large, wooden fence, large wooden playset, and lots of rocks in our back yard.  Diluted tempera paint is a terrific art medium for all of the aforementioned, and since Mr. Man had playfully hurled a full bottle of orange to the floor (thus rupturing one entire side of the bottle), I mixed up a nice big bucket, handed her some sponge brushes, gave her a kiss and instructed her not to allow Smudgie to drink the paint.  Our giant puppy’s backyard leavings are easy enough to spot without any artificial coloring, thanks.  Carefully balancing her prize, Bugaboo tiptoed back down the stairs, hollering as she went that Mommy had ACTUALLY LET THEM HAVE PAINT THIS TIME!

I finished the first conversation and returned the call of a second friend, whom I had interrupted to get the lowdown on my husband’s checkup (for the record, he is hale and hearty, if a victim of his wife’s cooking).  As she and I were catching up on each other’s current events, Mr. Man wandered upstairs, stopped to greet Baby Guy, then meandered into the kitchen.  I handed him his water bottle, still chatting breezily with my friend, and started putting the lunch dishes in the sink, since Baby Guy was still happily doing pullups on his playmat mirror.

It’s been said by many, including me, that the little things one overlooks tend to return to nosh on one’s nethers.  In this particular case, I lost track of Mr. Man momentarily, so engrossed in my conversation was I.  I would very much like to have seen the look on my friend’s face when she heard the following escape my lips:

“I really have to go now.  Mr. Man just bit my butt.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your blessings concoct some truly novel ways to get my attention.  Please open my eyes to their needs, so that I may channel their creativity into more constructive endeavors.  Thank you for all the wonders of this beautiful day!

The best thing in life is free


We are, I suppose, a family of relatively modest means for this country.  My husband works at what we consider a good-paying job, and we are able to purchase health insurance through his employer, which puts us ahead of a significant percentage of the population.  Our house is nice and solid, and has enough space for the six of us, plus two big dogs, a betta fish, and an ancient ball python.  Our children have never gone to bed hungry, never lacked appropriate clothing, and we always seem to have enough to put gas in our cars, buy art supplies and books, and pay tuition for their homeschooling programs.  We have the luxuries of cable and internet, and we manage to eat out as a family a couple of times a month.  And, of course, I am able to stay home to raise and educate our tiny people.  While it is sad that last should be considered a luxury, I suppose it is, these days.

My husband and I are very good at fixing and repurposing things, however.  We don’t throw out much, although if we find we have more than we need, we gladly give it to someone who has fewer material blessings than our family.  When we buy jeans for the tribe, we tend to buy ones that aren’t frilled or pink, so they can be handed down from one child to the next, and the same is true for socks, sweatshirts, and t-shirts.  Crayons and pencils are used until they’re gone, stains are removed, leftovers become lunches . . . you get the idea.

Expensive travel and costly hobbies, though, are beyond our reach.  That doesn’t bother us in the least, although we have been told by several people that we are less-than-optimal parents because we aren’t planning on taking annual week-long trips to resorts, teaching our children to ski, or traveling abroad.  Our children will not have their own cars, cell phones, computers, or televisions in their rooms.

What they do have is two parents who love them, and who make time for them, no matter what.  We make our own fun around here, even if it’s just spending an afternoon reading stories, then acting them out with stuffed animals or dolls.  We sing.  We clean the house together, we cook together, we suffer through illnesses together.

We are not materially rich, but we love each other, and we get that love doesn’t involve spending money.  Sometimes, love is scrubbing a kitchen floor, cooking a favorite dish, mending a favorite sweater.  Love is giving freely of your time, talent, strength, and faith.  Love is putting yourself second, even if you do have to put your own oxygen mask on first.  Love is why a kiss from Mommy or Daddy makes the boo-boo better, and why little children’s drawings are beautiful.

And love is completely wasted on things.  We love each other.  Things just aren’t as important.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your Son washed the feet of His disciples to show His love for them.  Please help us teach Your blessings that their greatest gifts to us are neither bought nor made.  Thank You for their love for us and for You.

A person’s a person, no matter how small


We have four little children who are sleeping in their beds, and have every confidence that we will wake to a like number in the morning.

We have six children who were born sleeping, and we have every confidence that we will see them at the end of our time on earth.

We believe that a unique human person is created at the moment of conception.  We also believe — and know, from intensely painful personal experience — that there are sad but wholly natural deaths in utero.

We believe that there is a fundamental difference between a person dying a natural death and a person having his or her life taken by force.

We believe that no person has the right to take the life of an innocent person.

We believe that while self-control is inconvenient and, at times, difficult, it is entirely possible.

We believe that no child should be blamed for the circumstances of his or her conception.

We believe that every human life, especially the most innocent lives, are precious and sacred.

We will teach our children that if any human life has no value,  then no human life has value.

We believe in hope, miracles, and healing.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have granted us four wee blessings to hold in our arms, and six more whose memory we carry in our hearts.  We celebrate a day that Your Church has declared “National Sanctity of Life Day.”  Lord, please help us raise Your blessings to understand that all life is a gift from you, and is to be cherished, loved, and nurtured from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.  Please free us from choosing what is convenient and falsely referring to it as mercy.