Here’s the song reference.
Days that begin overcast and foggy tend to bring a cranky tribe, and this morning was no exception. As glorious as fall in Virginia can be, it does tend to bring some rather murky mornings. Bugaboo stumbled out of her room this morning quite thoroughly out of sorts, to the point that she was invited by Daddy and I to return to her bed, and a seriously grouchy Beanie shambled out a few minutes later to be greeted with the same invitation.
After fifteen minutes of trying to figure out what the distaff half of the bairn brigade and I could agree upon as an acceptable breakfast, I shoved plates of waffles in front of my daughters, feeling more than slightly surly myself. In all honesty, I would rather have curled up with Butler’s Lives of the Saints and a cup of warm, creamy chai than slog through math and penmanship with distemperate children. Such is the glamour of every teacher’s life, I suppose, whether in the family kitchen or the institutional classroom.
While the girls were snarking at their breakfast, I made the morning call to Grandma, who was having an equally slow-starting morning, then shooed the girls off to dress and brush their teeth. Sometimes being able to choose a favorite dress or shirt shakes them out of a morning misery, and Bugaboo was a little cheerier when she came back in her flouncy dress with the scottie dogs on it. Beanie, usually the household ray of sunshine, was still scowling, to the point that she actually complained at each and every crayon in her 64 count box of Crayolas before she would even consider coloring her picture of the Annunciation.
There are reasons I start every single school day with faith lessons. One of those reasons is that it reminds me to thank God for my children and that I love these little blessings, for whom we prayed so fervently and so long, on the days when they are not particularly likeable. It reminds me why my husband and I made this choice for our family, and that every work of our hearts, minds, and hands can become suffused with joy when we offer it to Him. We read about St. Anthony Mary Claret and St. Helen, whose picture on the cover of the Treasury of Saints caught Bugaboo’s eye (she’s wearing a crown in the picture, and our eldest always enjoys a story about a princess, empress, or queen). After we had prayed together, cajoled Beanie into coloring her picture, and read the story of the Annunciation from their Bible, I set the girls to practicing their penmanship while I made the morning call to Deedaw.
It was right about then that Mr. Man and Baby Guy woke up in even worse moods than their sisters had managed. I did managed to duck behind the door before the Mega Bloks Mr. Man had pulled into his crib connected with my cranium; fortunately, he didn’t have very much ammo, so I had a stern word with him after I handed Baby Guy his cup of milk. Luckily, almost every Baby Guy bad mood can be cured with milk, food, and a few verses of the “Austrian Yodeler Song” (a quick aside – you should hear it when we all break into this at Wegman’s to keep the little fellow calm if the shopping takes too long).
Having wrangled two little boys into clean diapers and decided they could jolly well stay in their pajamas, I headed upstairs, Baby Guy contentedly slurping milk as he rode on my hip, Mr. Man caterwauling at the injustice of having to walk up the stairs as he trailed behind me, and heard the shriek from Beanie just as I hit the top step. Apparently Bugaboo decided to “help” her little sister with her penmanship by offering “helpful” advice on how to hold the pencil, hold the paper, form the letters, ply the eraser, sit on the chair, breathe through her nose . . . okay, I made that last one up, but you get the idea. When I entered the kitchen four short steps later, Beanie was hurling invective at Bugaboo through freshets of tears, while Bugaboo, the picture of injured innocence, looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I was just helping her be a better student.”
I counted to ten in five languages, sent them both back to their chairs with instructions to finish their writing assignments, and managed to get both boys tucked into their chairs while I rounded up bowls of cereal for them. It is a great blessing that a bowl of cereal will occupy Baby Guy for at least half an hour, particularly if the cereal is round, as he must see how many pieces he can convince to roll across the ray of his booster seat before he eats them. When Bugaboo reminds him he’s not supposed to play with his food, he cheerfully hurls a piece across the table at her. Many are the times when I “didn’t see him do that.”
After another hour of the howl-elujah chorus, we appeared to have reached the point of diminishing returns. The girls were defiant, I was waspish, Mr. Man was trying to grab every writing implement in sight, and Baby Guy started crying every time I opened my mouth, which tells me I was yelling. I gave the order to clean up their workspaces and head for the living room, where I awaited them on the floor.
“Okay. Bring me some stories.”
I was immediately mobbed by four smiling, snuggling angels, each with a favorite book in hand. We passed a pleasant half hour curled up on the living room floor together, none of us caring that I hadn’t had time to sweep up the dog hair this morning, sharing stories and a song or two. Just as the bairn brigade started getting contentious about whose turn it was to select the next story, I spied the big shipping box full of craft supplies that had arrived the day before. After hastily dumping the contents on our bed, I announced to the tribe it was TIME TO PLAY OUTSIDE, and that they could take the box with them.
By then, the sun had started to break through the clouds, and the mob needed little encouragement to riot. I carried the box and Baby Guy down the stairs, then started to sweep the kitchen. Hearing great joyful mounds of bubbly giggles from the back yard, I grabbed the camera and ran back downstairs. The uninhibited joy of four little kids with a big box rinsed the last of the sour taste from my mouth. The rest of my day’s work was offered with a much more joyful heart. I’d rather lift up joy as an offering to Our Lord than surliness.
Today’s prayer: Lord, Your Scriptures tell us to train up our children in the ways they should go. Help me guard my tongue as I teach them, that I do not train them up to be shrewish with the errors of others. I am not perfect, and sometimes need the reminder in my children’s voices of how I prefer to be taught when I am in error. Gentle my words and my voice, and when my tone is sharper than necessary, remind me that You taught lovingly, repeating Your lessons patiently. Mold me into a teacher after Your example, in all things, Lord, and grant me the grace of a heart that seeks Your counsel before any word is spoken. You have the power to calm any storm and soften any heart.