By the numbers


Yesterday, as I was finishing up my morning phone calls, I called to the tribe to start putting away the playthings scattered about the girls’ room and the living room so we could be on time for playgroup.  A few moments later, I heard Bugaboo exhorting Beanie and Mr. Man, “Come on, guys, we have to get this cleaned up.  There’s a nine on the clock, and that means it’s almost time to leave.  You don’t want to miss playing with all our friends, do you?”  This was followed by a cacophony of wood and plastic gewgaws being flung into boxes and bins and a scurry of little feet running all through the upstairs looking for shoes.

As I was hanging up the phone, a woebegone Mr. Man toddled over to me, a little black croc in one hand; he shrugged his shoulders, held out the lonely footgear, and inquired, “Where shoe?  Help?” He knows that since he has two feet, he needs two shoes, and was having trouble locating the second one.  We had a little game of crawling around to find it (under the living room end table, which seems to be the preferred hiding place of his right shoe),  followed by a chortling Baby Guy, who found it rather amusing that all the people who could walk were choosing to go about on hands and knees instead.

Having gathered all the necessities for our playdate, I shepherded the tribe out the door, calling out my usual patter of reminders that the drill is to get in the van and start buckling seatbelts, no dandelions in the van, no pushing buttons in the van, no eating things we find on the floor of the van, no whining, and no diverting to chase the neighborhood cats.  It was a blessedly smooth load-in, for once, except when Mr. Man wanted the toy phone he spied on the floor near Baby Guy’s seat. Actually, his spying the phone wasn’t the problem; his being half buckled in to his car seat and trying to use my arm as a stepladder to get out of the car seat and retrieve the desired toy while bellowing, “PHONE!  PHONE!  PUSH BUTTONS!”, however, caused a bit of a complication.  After wrestling him into the seat, handing him the phone in response to his plaintive, “Phone peeease?” and closing all the van doors, I headed around to the driver’s side rubbing the sore spots on my arm, only to have my minor grumpiness relieved by hearing Bugaboo’s sing-song, “Okay, heeeeeead count!  One, two, three, four, and Mommy makes five!  All present and accounted for!”

Playgroup was a blast, although Mr. Man has hit that phase of the terrible twos where his response to another child wanting to share his space or his toy is to push him or throw something at him.  It is actually possible to put a two-year old boy in time out in a folding chair in a room full of other children.  After one time out for shoving his friend L (who wanted to play in the table fort he’d made) and another for throwing a toy at a different friend (which caught the hapless Baby Guy squarely in the cheek, to his very vocal dismay but no apparent injury), he figured out that playing nicely was probably a better idea.  Now, if I can just convince him that playing in front of the swinging doors to the restrooms is unwise, we’ll have it made.

At the end of playgroup, Bugaboo and Beanie passed the moments, while we waited for one of the lovely parish office ladies to lock up, by skipping around the room belting out, “One, Two, Buckle my Shoe” at full volume.  As we headed home, the CD in the van stereo played, “The Five Finger Jive,” and my rear-view mirror was filled with flailing fingers.  I laughed.  Yes, I know the slang meaning.  It’s a children’s counting song.  If you’re not familiar with it, listen to the sample; I’ll try to get the tribe to sing it and post a video.

When Mr. Man started counting the plates I was flinging upon the table for lunch, it became apparent it was a numbers kind of day.  There’s nothing wrong with those; there are many good reasons to count things, and many things to count.  As we were finishing lunch, Bugaboo chimed in, “It must nap time for Mr. Man and Baby Guy.  They’re cranky, and the clock says it’s after twelve.”

Two diaper changes, two little boys in their cribs, two dogs let out to answer calls of nature, two little girls ensconced on the couch with two cups of milk, one pillow retrieved from our bed and one television tuned to channel 257 for a little Tom and Jerry break later, we all settled in for a little midday rest.  I have discovered that 45 is a “magic” number for me; if I’m able to be horizontal for that many minutes in the middle of the day, my mood is significantly improved.

Since yesterday was a playgroup day, our schoolwork time was in the afternoon.  I believe the girls prefer doing their assignments while their brothers are asleep; the house is quieter, and Mr. Man does not attempt to climb onto their chairs with them to observe their progress.  We breezed through the coloring pages and talked about the Prodigal Son parable some more; Bugaboo managed to figure out that the cause of the father’s great rejoicing was not the son’s mere physical return, but his repentance and changed heart (more on this tomorrow), then moved on to her math assignments.  She identified all of the numbers up to 100 and finished her place value exercises without any help from me, and was literally jumping in her chair with the joy of her achievements.

Beanie definitely responds to the sticker workbook as an incentive to finish her coloring pages.  I also discovered that it’s helpful to ask her, when she gets distracted, “What color will you use now?  What will you color with that?”  She flashes a big smile and gets back to her work quickly.  Since her math assignment yesterday featured a relatively complex color by numbers picture, and she really dislikes being told HOW to color, I had no small amount of trepidation about the length of time it might take to get her to complete her work, but she did quite well; actually, she surprised me when I opened her book to the color by numbers exercise and she looked at it, looked up at me, and told me what colors of crayons she would need for each number.  Granted, it’s not that hard to decipher, but I usually have to get her to focus on the page first.  Yesterday, she leaned over as soon as I opened the book and explained to me what her assignment would be, instead of the other way around.

By the time Mr. Man and Baby Guy awoke from their naps, the girls were already outside playing.  While yesterday started out rainy and cool, the midafternoon hours brought increasing sunlight and a notable lack of wet stuff falling from the sky.  Mr. Man decided to stay inside so he could supervise my dinner preparations and see how many toys he and Baby Guy could fit on the living room rug, instead of joining his sisters outside.  When I sat down on the loveseat to catch up on Words With Friends, he sidled up to me, pointed at the tiles, and advised me of the point value of each.  “Thas a E.  Thas a one.  Thas a N.  Thas a two.”  Suddenly, figuring out what word I would play next wasn’t nearly as interesting as seeing Mr. Man puzzle his way through each letter and number.  He also helpfully informed me, with regard to the shape of the tiles, “Thas square!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your blessings enjoy quantifying the world around them, and they are learning to use numbers to determine how much, which is more, and which is less.  The older one already know that You are One God in Three Persons, that You gave us ten rules, and that You had twelve best friends, one of whom turned out not to be such a good friend after all.  Thank You for their intelligence and fascination with learning new things.  Please help me teach them wisdom, and that the greatest wonders are innumerable and unquantifiable.

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