Archive | February 2012

We interrupt this blog


I apologize for the two day post drought; my beloved laptop met with a tragic accident.  Since our ancient desktop can’t seem to get along with WordPress, my husband finally convinced me to buy the new laptop he’s been trying to convince me (for two years) I should have.

I’m setting up this spiffy new gadget tonight, and should resume posting tomorrow evening.  Thanks for your patience, and especial thanks to those who emailed or Facebooked me to inquire after my well-being.  Nice to know I’m not all alone out here 🙂

 

Today’s prayer:  Thank You, Lord, for people who care.  My Granny used to tell me that You did not put us on this earth to ignore each other.  Thank You for letting me know that my little pleas and praises give comfort to those who did not benefit from having her in their lives.

Seldom seen


We’ve been going non-stop for the past five days, so after a morning toilet paper and fresh produce run (remarkable how those two things go together, is it not?), during which we got to spend a little time with Nonno, Deedaw, and baby cousin Anthony, today was a “stay day.”  By the time we returned from BJs, both boys were showing the effects of nearly a week of too much excitement; I barely managed to get a bottle into Baby Guy and some roast beef and bread into Mr. Man before they were nodding off.

Bugaboo and Beanie decided that, since they are not allowed to go screeching through the yard for the first hour or the boys’ nap, they would like to watch a movie.  To give credit where it’s due, Netflix has recommended some movies about which I  never would have known otherwise; today’s feature was Moonbeam Bear and His Friends, which I would highly recommend adding to your queue if you have tiny people.  It runs just over an hour, and is very innocent and sweet; it’s apparently based on a children’s bedtime story, of which I was equally ignorant until just now.

After we all had a bit of a cinematically assisted rest, the ladies seized their shoes and water bottles, then clumped down the stairs to go explore their yard.  Honestly, I never would have thought our little yard would hold enough wonders to occupy them for terribly long periods, but between checking for new green growing things, digging in the dirt, climbing the playset, chasing Smudgie, applying sidewalk chalk to the fence, and making up an endless stream of games, they never seem to tire of being outside.  I approve of this, as I firmly believe that sunshine, dirt, and imagination are much better for children than computers and television.  That probably makes me a Luddite of sorts.

I realized Mr. Man was awake when I heard him bellow, “Wan’ go OUSSIDE!” over the baby monitor.  Luckily, I’ve had a lot of practice changing and shoeing an impatient almost-two-year old, and thus managed to escape serious injury before loosing the big guy on his unsuspecting sisters.  His escape into the great outdoors was somewhat marred by tripping over Bo, who was snoozing in the doorway.

Baby Guy thoroughly enjoyed having an hour of my undivided attention while all his siblings were playing in the yard.  Eventually, it seemed advisable to call them all in long enough to make them eat and drink something, so we had a “breakfast for dinner” night before the ambulatory ones went pelting back outside.  Whoever first thought of scrambling eggs with cheese should have a statue erected in his or her honor.

When the sun began to set, I started a warm tub and called them back in.  After hosing them all down, I let them crash in a pile on the couch with a big bowl of animal crackers, bug cups of milk, and Care Bears to the Rescue, the one film on which all three of them can agree, to give them a chance to wind down before bedtime.  Baby Guy curled up in my lap for some extra snuggles and a vigorous raspberry blowing contest, and his siblings took turns climbing up onto the loveseat next to us with books. I love that they take breaks from their movies by having me read stories to them.  Of course, Baby Guy finds books fascinating; unfortunately, he also finds them tasty, which means reading to the older kids with him on my lap can be a bit of an exercise in physiological origami.

They’re all in bed and presumably (since the house is never this quiet if any of them are awake) asleep now, and I’m struck by the realization that Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man spent the majority of their waking hours today going about their business with very little help from me.  I’m grateful for their relative independence . . . but there’s a little twinge of sadness that their independence happens so quickly.  After all, it was just yesterday that I had to keep Bugaboo’s head from flopping around on her neck, right?

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for four little blessings who are curious about, and thankful for, the world You have given them.  Help me teach them always to prefer Your works to those of mere men, and to recognize that Your miracles are born of dirt.  Please remind me to pray without ceasing for those whom You have blessed differently, and never let me take for granted the gift of healthy, noisy, active children.

And, Lord, please keep me mindful that no matter how frustrating some of those moments may seem at the time, every single moment You grant me with Your blessings is a wholly unmerited gift.  Let me give thanks to You for every one of them.

Wish lists


We are entering birthday season at our house; Grandma’s, which was Thursday, marks the beginning of it.  Counting grandparents, there are two birthdays in April, two in May, two in June, two in July, one in August, and one in October.  Amusingly, most of the adults are of the mindset that we have too much stuff as it is, and would rather spend some time together sharing a meal.  The kids, however, are at the “I want” age.

We don’t have a problem seeing to it that each child has a couple of cool new toys for his or her birthday, along with some gathering of friends that usually involves either bowling pins or a teenager in an oversized rodent costume.  It is, however, becoming increasingly apparent to us that we need to teach our children that they cannot, and will not, get everything they want. 

Mr. Man and Baby Guy are still very easy on that score.  For Bugaboo and Beanie, we’ve asked all the grandparents if, instead of an expensive present from a store, they would be willing to pay for an activity (either a sport or a class, since both girls have very wide-ranging interests) and maybe one piece of equipment for the activity if they really feel a need to have something to gift-wrap.  Even with that, though, I wonder if we’re missing the mark.

My grandparents were completely awesome people, but without consulting a photo album, I could not tell you what they gave me for any Christmases or birthdays.  What I could tell you is the details of hundreds of afternoons spent doing things with them, even if it was just quacking at the frozen ducks in the grocery store with Pop-Pop.

Because my parents are divorced and my Dad has remarried, our tribe has been blessed with five living grandparents.  All of them are older now than my grandparents were when I was a child, partly because my husband and I had our children later in life.  Thinking about those afternoons with my grandparents, however, has started me thinking that the best gift of all, the thing that isn’t a thing and hence cannot be emplaced on an Amazon wish list, is an afternoon with each grandparent, to hear the stories, see the pictures, make the old family recipes, cut the paper dolls, make the baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, plant the flowers . . . you get the idea. 

They’ll probably still get the toys, but I’m guessing that in twenty years, the memories that they’ll have are not what lay beneath the bright wrappings and ribbons, but of how to bake Grandma’s sugar cookies, grow Nonno’s Italian beans, keep Grandpa’s baseball scorecard, paint Nana’s flowers, and sing Deedaw’s beautiful songs.  As Bugaboo prepares to turn 5 and Beanie to turn 4, it seems to me that this is the time to introduce the notion that the very best gifts from our grandparents are the things they have to teach us.  I don’t want our children to remember their grandparents as ATMs that dispensed presents.  I want them to remember them as the remarkable, loving, and enormously talented people they are.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the rich blessing of grandparents You have bestowed upon Your blessings.  Please help us teach them that these men and women are a great treasure from You, and to treasure the years You have allowed them to remain here and be parts of their grandchildren’s lives.  Please bless me with me the wisdom and the patience to help them understand that the greatest gifts their grandparents will give them can’t be broken, outdated, or returned for store credit — and to help their grandparents understand the same thing, if they’ve forgotten.

“Olive” is an anagram of “I love”


Today brought our annual, and eagerly anticipated, trip to Grandma’s house to celebrate her birthday.  We are all thankful that the Lord has granted her sixty-seven hale and hearty years, and that she is still going strong.  As it happens, she is going so strong that we’ve made plans to attend a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert together as our Mother’s Day gift to each other.

After rousting a passel of pipsqueaks before 7:00, we headed up I-95 a little before 8:00 a.m.; the trip went so smoothly that we had time to stop at the florist to secure a bouquet of her beloved lilies.  Grandma understands her grandbabies, and shares their love of craft projects and puzzles, so she had all manner of wonders awaiting them.  It was tough to get them to hold off long enough to let her open her gifts and cards.

We passed a pleasant few hours celebrating another year in the life of a remarkable lady, joined by her cousins Sherrie and Tony, who, when I am in need of an example of kindness and gentleness, are the first people who come to my mind.  They were delighted to meet Mr. Man and Baby Guy, both of whom were born after Pop-Pop’s memorial service, which was the last time we saw them.  I’d venture to say a tremendous time was had by all.

Beanie decorated that cake all by herself.  Grandma will be picking little pearl pink candy beads out of her carpet for weeks.

The tiny people having already eaten, the adults settled in to enjoy lunch together, swap stories, and generally catch up.  Having been to the store with me the previous day, Beanie and Mr. Man were both acutely aware that among my purchases had been a tray of pickles, olives, and tapenade, so when they realized that we were sitting down to eat, the two of them stormed the table looking for olives, about which they are both fanatical.  Both were somewhat put out when they discovered that the shiny black fruits were nowhere in evidence, and Grandma, being thoroughly tenderhearted where her grandbabies are concerned (and also being of the mind that it’s hilarious that a toddler and a preschooler both have olive addictions), retrieved a can of their hearts’ desire from her pantry and dumped it into a bowl.  She placed it within easy reach of little hands, near the edge of the table, and that’s when the fun started.

You see, in Beanie and Mr. Man’s world, olives are not only delicious, but aso enormously fun to eat.  They have holes in the middle, you see, and if you have very small hands, you can turn each of your fingers into olivesicles.  Tony and I dove for our cameras to record the resultant floor show.

All in all, Grandma declared this a thoroughly delightful birthday.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for grandparents and all the elder relatives who have taughtus, and now teach our children, how to love unreservedly.  Thank You for the years You have granted them, and granted us with them.  Thank You for olives and fish and all the other wonderful edibles with which You have graced our world.  Please help us to be good stewards and caretakers of our elders and of the world You gave us to share with them, and open our eyes to the beauty and wonder of that world, all its growing things, and all its people.

Kermit would have loved it


Today was insanely busy, and it’s not finished yet, but I did want to share a quick “hand of God” moment from today.  Beanie’s daily devotional today had to do with Noah and the flood, and the Lord’s promise to never flood the earth again.

After a whirlwind of activity this morning and early afternoon, I managed to load the tribe into the van a little after 3 p.m.  The tribe was somewhat miffed, as the bustle of the morning and the awfulness of the weather had caused me to break my promise to take them to the park.  We had to run to the grocery store to acquire supplies for Grandma’s birthday lunch tomorrow, and a spectacular thunderstorm had just torn through the area, leaving rivers of water and debris in the streets.  I can honestly say I’ve never seen a thunderstorm like that in February before.

When we pulled in to the parking lot of the grocery store, this sight greeted us:

The tiny people were all quite impressed, and Bugaboo, who had been helping comfort her little sister during the torrential rains and pounding thunder, helpfully offered, “See, Beanie?  God promised.”

I’d say it was a good trip.  Gingerbread and groceries and rainbows, oh my!

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we are trying to teach Your blessings that no matter how many promises people may break, Your are eternal, and that You never lie.  Thank You for sending the rain and Your rainbow on a day when I had to break one of my promises, so they would see that You never will.  Help me be careful in making those, Lord.  I want them to see that I follow You.

Concrete concepts


Thursday is playgroup day, and the tribe had a merry time playing with all the other tiny people, including some new friends.  We scampered home to meet a friend of mine who was in need of some algebraic assistance, and whose nephew is friends with our children.  After my friend and I shoveled some lunch into the munchkin mob, we loosed them in the yard with Smudgie to enjoy a beautiful afternoon.

It rained last night, incidentally, rather heavily.  Consequently, the concrete birdbath in our backyard was very full of water, which proved quite alluring to two little girls and two wee boys.  My friend and I had the kitchen window open as we worked; since Baby Guy was sawing logs in his crib, and Bo and Smudgie were keeping their usual close watch, we peeked out periodically to make sure the children were all playing with a reasonable degree of civility in between deciphering the mysteries of greatest common factors, exponents, and least common denominators.

We had just managed to unravel the last of a mathematical tangle when we heard the shriek from Mr. Man.  In his eagerness to scoop the last of the water from the birdbath, he had managed to pull the top of it down onto him; he lay crying, covered from chest to knees by a concrete dome.  I rushed down the stairs and into the yard, with my friend pounding behind me, and was greeted by the remarkable sight of Bugaboo lifting the concrete birdbath bowl off her little brother so he could escape.  Thankfully, it didn’t shatter, so we didn’t have to pick concrete shards out of him.

I can’t recall another moment when I’ve been so happy to see Mr. Man stand up, with the possible exception of the day when he did it for the first time.  That’s a coin flip.  At any rate, I swept him into my arms and quieted his sobs with kisses until he calmed, then checked him from stem to stern for injuries.  Evidently his guardian angel was nearby today, as he was miraculously unhurt, except for a small abrasion on his chest.  He could wiggle, move, grab, run, and scream.  The goose egg he raised on his head by face-planting into the molding of the kitchen doorway about fifteen minutes later was the more severe injury, from the looks of it.  A few Reese’s Pieces and a cup of milk later, he was fine, if pretty tired from about three hours of constant motion.

After our friends left, and Mr. Man curled up with his blankie for his nap, I sat on the couch to catch my breath.  Bugaboo snuggled in next to me, and I remarked to her that I was terribly proud of her for doing such a brave and loving thing when she lifted the concrete bowl off her brother.  She smiled at me and said, “I was strong like Jesus is strong, and I love him like Jesus loves me.”

When I teared up, she patted my arm and said, “It’s okay, Mommy.  Mr. Man’s okay.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, who are strong and loving and good.  Thank You for the strength and curiosity that get them into and out of trouble, for their quick thinking, for their strong lungs and voices.  Thank You for Your Son, who set an example of love for one’s brother that even a four-year-old can understand and follow.

Pro-choice


Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent.  Our day began with Mass this morning, with the assistance of friends who have six children of their own.  Maybe it was the solemnity of the day, maybe it was being able to go up to the altar twice (and one of those times get to do what the big people did), but the tribe was reasonably good throughout.  We had a quick moment of angst when Mr. Man decided it would be enormous fun to crawl under the pew and greet the parishioners seated behind us in an up-close-and-personal way, and a brief outcry when Baby Guy’s bottle did not arrive in his mouth with the speed he would have preferred, but we’ve had far worse Masses.  I actually heard the homily today, and I think the people around us did, too.

The puppy is not the only one who is Smudgie today.

I spent a decent part of the morning explaining to the girlies why we wouldn’t have sweets today, and why Mommy and Daddy would be eating as little as possible.  See the links in the first sentence if you’re also a little fuzzy on that.  We had a few errands to run after Mass, since our friend over at Christ the King has a coloring book about Lent in her stock that seemed like a good idea; once those were done, home we came to have a little lunch and do schoolwork.  Part of the beauty of homeschooling is that the school day starts whenever we need it to, so if a priority like Ash Wednesday Mass comes along, we don’t miss any instructional time.  Just saying.

Most of Father Hudgins’s homily today dealt with choices that we make.  We can choose to use loving or hateful words when we speak, we can choose to help or to pass by a person in need, we can choose to build up or tear down.  It was rather helpful that Beanie’s daily devotional involved a story about a little girl who saw a box of candy and a book and wanted both, but had only enough money for one.  She opted for the book, because it would give her a more lasting benefit.

The wisdom of three-and-a-half-year-olds never ceases to amaze me.  Beanie actually got it.  She said, “That’s like when we go to Wegmans.  I like candy.  I like books, too, and if I get a book, you read it to me again and again.  I’d rather eat candy and read the book, though.  But we don’t have enough money.”

Okay, we’re not REALLY that broke, but it’s at least put the idea into her head that she’s not going to get everything she wants.

We both enjoyed the little prayer at the end of the story, too, which read, “Jesus, please help me to make choices that are not only good, but good for me as well.  Amen.”  Throughout the day, whenever Beanie balked at something she was asked to do (like using the potty), I explained the choice before her, and asked her what the right choice would be — not the choice that would give her the immediate result she wanted, but the right choice.  She chose rightly every time.  I doubt that will last until bedtime, because there is a bath in her future tonight, but she actually understands the concept.  It will serve her well later in life when she has to choose between going to the movies and paying the water bill, between a fancy dinner for herself and making sure her neighbor’s children have any food at all, between indulging a sexual impulse and living the life she’s imagined without regrets, between love and wrath, between life and death.

I’m glad the Lord gave us free will, and ten simple rules.  Every word, every action or inaction, is a choice.  We are free to choose to gratify an immediate desire, or we can choose to look at long-term consequences.  Long-term includes which way we’ll go when, eventually, to dust we return.  If we choose to destroy, to break, to kill, we’re not walking in friendship with Christ or with each other.  We’re still free to do it, though.  There’s a reason that wrath and covetousness are numbered among the deadly sins.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your blessings and I are faced with choices every day.  It is so tempting, at times, to go for the easy indulgence, to gratify the whim of a moment, without looking at the consequences.  It can be as simple as spending the dollar on a candy bar that we could use to provide a bag of rice for someone who hungers, or giving a child a cookie just so he or she will stop screaming.  Please, Lord, help me set a good example of right choices for them, to teach them to pause and reflect on whether a choice is good or just easy.  I want to teach them compassion, love, and generosity in all things.  You sacrificed Your life for us, and before you did, You withstood every temptation, to show us that walking in the Lord’s way is possible.  Let us see temptations for what they are, and to choose to follow You.

Rage against the ma . . . ma


The tribe had a rough night last night; Mr Man rolled over onto Scout shortly past midnight, which started Scout singing good morning songs, which triggered Mr. Man histrionics, which woke Baby Guy who decided it was about high time someone showed up with a bottle for his eating pleasure.  Of course, Daddy’s arrival with the bottle completely unhinged Mr. Man, who kept up his expressions of disapproval for our chain of priorities until sometime after 3 a.m.  Suffice it to say that I was unprepared for two sour-faced little girls shambling out of their room at 7 a.m., each afflicted with a serious case of “me disease.”

“Me disease,” for those unfamiliar, is that awful disorder of thought which causes an individual to believe that the entire universe revolves around him or her, and that any deviation of those around him or her from that belief is grounds for screaming, kicking, projectile hurling, or any one of a hundred other variations on completely unacceptable behavior.  By nine o’clock, when two more cases of this dread disease had awakened, I had a six-Advil headache and had prayed so much my knees were hollering for six Advil of their own.

The combination of sleep deprivation and disappointment has horrible effects on small children; we had three different plans for fun with people we love get kiboshed yesterday and today.  It’s not great for their parents, either.

At any rate, we somehow managed to slog our way through lessons this morning, Bugaboo refusing to work unless she had my undivided attention and Beanie using her big sister as a role model, Mr. Man protesting when his sisters declined to allow him to climb into their chairs with them, then hurling his own crayons at them when I offered them to him, Baby Guy shrieking every time I tried to put him down.

If you have, or have ever had, little kids, you know that days like these are the ones when they will absolutely refuse to take a nap.  I finally gave up when Mr. Man pulled a painting off the wall above his crib onto his head.

Since one of the girls’ major sources of disappointment was missing the parish dessert party this evening (upon further review, the timing of the thing made it impossible for us to attend), I figured I’d try to ameliorate some of the general grouchiness by having a little dessert party of our own.  All of their grandparents feel a need to keep our pantry well supplied with treats, so after dinner, the tribe was presented with a veritable smorgasbord of cookies and candies.  There was great rejoicing, and for fifteen whole miraculous minutes, nobody screamed.

After the dishes had been cleared, Baby Guy fell asleep on his playmat, while Beanie and Mr. Man ambled down the hall to play with Alphie.  It seemed like a good idea to offer Bugaboo a big-girl craft project of her very own; she loves almost anything that comes with that label.  So we read and discussed the little story in her preschooler devotional, then talked about the craft project.  I may have to take this picture down, but I think “fair use” lets me put it here:

I thought the project looked pretty cool, and so did Bugaboo.  Newspapers and a bowl of water were procured, and the wee artiste set to work.

According to Bugaboo, this is a duck.  Please notice the enormous pile of wet newspaper in front of her.  She had a grand time for about half an hour playing with her newly-discovered sculpting medium before she tired of playing with it.  In some distress, she showed me her hands, blackened by the ink from the newsprint.  I reassured her that it would wash off, and packed her off to the bathroom to wash her hands.

After five minutes of listening to water running in the bathroom, and several unanswered requests that she turn the water off, I figured it might be prudent to check on my oldest daughter.  I had heard the stepstool move, so I figured maybe she was just having a little fun with the soap bubbles.  Unfortunately, what greeted mine eyes when I threw wide the door was a creditable imitation of a chimney sweep just finishing a job.  Instead of washing the black ink from her hands, she had rubbed it all over her face and hair, the vanity top, and the floor.  I should point out that the hands in question were COMPLETELY DRY — and still black.  This is a public service announcement for those of you contemplating this sculpture project — please make sure the child actually gets his or her hands wet to wash the stuff off.

Oh, yeah — the medicine cabinet was open, too.

I proceeded to read Bugaboo the riot act, punctuated by frequent references to using her smarts wisely as we’d just read, which I probably should have done in a lower voice, since the sound of me shouting sends Baby Guy into paroxysms of hysterical tears. She was instructed to get in the tub, scrub herself clean, then carry her little tucchus back to her room, get into a nightie, and park the aforementioned tucchus in her bed until Daddy got home (about 45 minutes later).  I managed to calm Baby Guy, and as he slurped down the last of his bottle, Beanie approached me and said in a tiny voice, “Mommy, may I please have a craft?”

I looked up into a pair of very sad little eyes.

Thank God for magic paint books.

The night got a little calmer after that, although Bugaboo kept wailing until Daddy sprung her from her room, twenty minutes or so after he got home.  Hopefully, they’ll all sleep well tonight.  We took Scout out of Mr. Man’s bed as a precaution.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your oldest blessing is just now beginning to understand the difference between intelligence and wisdom.  Thank You for the many tools you’ve put in our hands to help teach her to use the remarkable gifts you’ve given her wisely, including Your Word.  Please help my manner be patient and my voice be gentle as she learns that great gifts come with a great obligation to use them wisely and well.  Please let me show all of Your blessings by example how to use lovingly what You have given freely and without any merit on our part.  And please, Lord, help me get it through to them that we correct them out of love.

Square blocks in round holes


This is a rare, supplemental midday post, because I am sick to pieces of being referred to as a hatemonger because I am a faithful Catholic.

Among the tribe’s favorite pastimes is seeing what fits where.  Examples of this pursuit range from figuring out how to get all the dominoes back in the box to figuring out how many stuffed animals will fit in a Hello Kitty lunchbox to trying to shove blocks into a toy that has only round holes.  As long as they’re not doing anything destructive, I tend to let them test their theories of geometry; after all, both of their parents could be charitably described as “square pegs” themselves.

There are times, though, where I have to stop their explorations.  Usually it involves imminent damage to a sibling’s possessions, as when, earlier today, Bugaboo got it into her head to stuff Beanie’s treasured Hello Kitty lunchbox (it came filled with Hello Kitty Pez dispensers, and yes, I am the idiot who bought it) with accessories from their many My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake playsets, then tried to force the clear plastic lid of an overstuffed container closed.  Other times, a more metaphorical geometry is involved, as when they try to bend the rules governing acceptable behavior, either by sleight of hand or of language.

Because I love my children, I tell them, “no.”  And I stand behind that “no.”  I still love them, even when they make poor decisions, even destructive or hurtful choices, but part of that love involves me telling them, firmly and repeatedly, that while my love for them is steadfast and unconditional, their behavior is unacceptable.

Love does not mean saying, “if it makes you feel good, do it.”  Love means teaching and enforcing boundaries, but doing so kindly and as gently as possible.  Love means offering praise for wisdom and guidance for folly.

Love means understanding that square blocks may not fit in round holes, but that does not diminish their beauty.

My regular blog post will still go live at about 9 p.m. tonight.  Thank you for indulging me.

If . . . Then Statements for Preschoolers


Finally, finally, finally, enough snow fell for the tribe to go have a bit of a romp. As soon as Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man had bolted their breakfasts this morning, they began pleading to be allowed to go play in it before it all melted. Since the girls had finished their assignments by the time Mr. Man made it upstairs and ate, I decided to let them go enjoy the February sunshine.

Me being me, I spouted a steady stream of instructions at them as I bundled them into galoshes, warm pants, and heavy coats.  We had a minor mitten revolt, and I decided that not fighting that battle probably meant they would catually come inside when they got too cold.  That said, before they scurried out the back door with Smudgie the resident canine cryophile, I made sure they repeated back to me such motherly words of wisdom as “don’t eat any snow that isn’t white,”  “if you can’t feel your fingers, come back inside,”  “you are not a puppy, so come inside if you need to pee or poop,” and, perhaps most importantly, “if you stand under the trees, then a big pile of snow will probably land on your head.”

Thus warmly bundled and wisely instructed, they sprinted out into the yard.

Mr. Man required a little coaxing, never having played in this frozen white stuff before, but his curiosity got the best of him.

The three of them decided that the best thing to do with what little snow we had was to pile it all in the sand table.

Seeing them this cheerfully occupied, and safely away from tree-falling snow, I headed back in to spend a little singing time with Baby Guy, who was happily chowing on Cheerios in his high chair.  I left the kitchen window open so I could hear any wails of distress or warning barks and had some silly musical fun with our youngest.

Shortly thereafter, I heard peals of laughter from Bugaboo and Beanie, followed closely by sobbing from Mr. Man.  Before I could put Baby Guy safely in his saucer, the howling boy stormed up the stairs, looking for all the world like Eddie Munster, so plastered to his head was his hair.  He appeared uninjured, so I called out the window to the girls, inquiring what could possibly have caused the soaking of Mr. Man.  They both hastened to assure me, with their very sweetest smiles, that they had certainly not told Mr. Man to stand under the tree, and even more absolutely had not stationed his favorite playball under said tree and told him to go find it.

I sighed and rolled my eyes.  This was probably not the time to deliver a lecture; Mr. Man was cold, wet, and hungry (again), and I needed to tend to him before Baby Guy tired of being in the saucer.  After securing our oldest boy in his high chair and providing him with a plateful of his favorite munchies, I went downstairs to retrieve the little miscreants.  The quiche I was baking wasn’t quite done yet, so I had a few minutes in which to make my point.

Once the girls had changed into dry clothes, I asked them if they would have liked to have a bunch of snow dumped on their heads and down the backs of their coats.  They were properly horrified at the thought.  I asked them why they had told Mr. Man to stand under the tree when they knew that was likely to happen.  They looked at their feet, but it was more the “we’re in trouble” toe-gazing than the “we did something wrong” kind.  Bugaboo answered for both of them that Mr. Man doesn’t play nicely with them.

Every now and then, the very best sort of “gotcha” moment drops into my lap.  I asked them both, “If someone told you to go stand in a place where they knew something yucky would happen to you, would you play nicely with them?  He learns how to treat you by how you treat him.”

Silence.

Then, Bugaboo, whispering, “I need to go potty.  Come on, Beanie.”  Both of them stopped to say, “I’m sorry” to Mr. Man on their way out of the kitchen without being asked to do so.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, every time we interact with another person, we have a choice to be kind, indifferent, or cruel.  It pleases You best when we choose kindness.  Thank you for the knowledge that indifference is in itself a kind of cruelty.  Please help me teach Your blessings that while a moment’s cruelty may produce a moment’s laughter, it diminishes both them and the person targeted by it.  Help me teach them to recognize unkindnesses before they speak or act, and to seek forgiveness promptly when they have wronged another.  If they can learn it now, they will be able to teach others about You in a loving way when they are older.

And Lord, help me not to laugh.