Archive | December 2012

God rest you merry, gentle man

Here’s the song reference.

As the post title implies, Nonno went to Heaven yesterday morning.  His leave-taking was gentle; Manie and Deedaw were with him when he took his last breath.  The tribe had a moment to see that Nonno’s soul had, in fact, left his body, and that his final act upon this earth was to smile that big, broad, beautiful smile that involved his whole head — and which we had not seen for some days.  There are gifts beyond price; seeing that last smile from Nonno was one of them.

After the tribe and I had our moment to say farewell and “I love you” to Nonno, and offer what comfort we could to Deedaw, Manie, Zio Frankie, and Aunt Megan, we hugged the hospice nurse who has been our angel these past weeks and headed for home so the nurses and the men from the funeral home could do their work, and telephone calls to extended family members could be coherently made.  The kids caromed around while I hastily assembled a lunch and made a few phone calls of my own.

We pray this grace before every meal at our house:  “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, amen.  And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

About half a minute after we had finished our prayer, it hit Bugaboo that Nonno was now one of the faithful departed for whom we pray.  She took a deep, shuddering breath, then burst into tears as she wailed, “I miss my Nonno, and he isn’t going to be here for Christmas!”

I pulled her into my lap and hugged her close, wiped her tears, stroked her hair, and assured her that while Nonno’s body might not be here for Christmas, his soul would surely be, and that he and all the other people she has loved who have left us to join the company of the angels and saints would be there, as well.  She had a lot of questions, as she always does.   She was asking me about whether or not Nonno would be able to play golf in Heaven, then asked whether he would see Pop-Pop and Gretchen (the hound).  I told her Nonno would see all the people he had loved and missed the most, and she asked me, “Will he see Scary Harry, too?  Nonno really liked Scary Harry.  I did too.  He wasn’t really scary.  I think they could have fun playing golf or tag or something together in Heaven.”

Scary Harry is a beloved cousin who passed away very suddenly near Christmas of 2009.  He was very tall, very kind, and he is very much missed even now.  His daughter is Beanie’s godmother, and his widow is Baby Guy’s godmother.

It’s hard to explain Heaven to a little child, because it is beyond my own understanding, but I believe that we are reunited with our best beloveds in the communion of saints, and I explained that to her through my own tears.  She had a merry time theorizing about all the wonderful things those people and pets she has loved so fiercely could be doing with Jesus, and she made us both laugh with her speculation about who Nonno might accompany for a game of golf.  We took comfort in thinking about all the things Nonno loved best, and in understanding that now, all his pains are gone.  As we left the table, Bugaboo smiled a shaky smile at me and remarked, “Mommy, I’m glad Nonno will be able to run again if he wants to.”

Peace be with you.  If it is upon your heart to do so, please pray for our family.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we thank You for relieving the pain of Your good and faithful servant Emmanuel, for welcoming him to You, and for the smile he left with us that left us no doubt of the joy he found with You.  Thank You for the hospice nurses, relatives, and friends who have been Your face to us.  Thank You for Nonno, who raised Manie to be a husband and father who follows You, who was at his happiest when surrounded by his children and granchildren, who celebrated every small thing with a radiant joy, whose compassionate heart taught us what loving sinners looks like.  Eternal rest grant him, O Lord, and the joy unbounded of an eternity spent in Your company.  Please grant us hearts so filled with You that when our days are done, he comes with You to greet us.  Please send Your comfort and Your peace to all of us, but especially Deedaw, as we try to balance our joy that Nonno is with You against our mourning for his departure from us, and please grant us the wisdom to teach Your little blessings that, sometimes, we grieve and rejoice in the same breath.

Little boy, don’t you think it’s time you were in bed

Here’s the song reference.

The saga of getting Mr. Man to stay in his bed at night continues.  Wednesday night, Manie and I resorted to putting a baby gate across the door to the boys’ room, which worked well.  It probably helped that he hadn’t taken a nap and was completely exhausted when Manie tucked him in an hour past his usual bedtime.

Yesterday, a beautiful friend, B, gave me the gift of her day, bringing her daughter over to spend time with the tribe so I could give Deedaw unlimited time to run errands.  She remains determined to spoil her grandchildren this Christmas; it’s the little piece of normal life that is her best distraction right now.  B did such a stellar job that Mr. Man actually took a nap for the first time in several days, although he did give her a moment of heart failure when she went to check on him and Baby Guy and did not see him in his bed.  He had curled up behind the rocking chair, on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, and fallen asleep clutching his blankies.

At bedtime last night, three out of four tiny people fell asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows (or, in Baby Guy’s case, his bear).  It may have helped that I told the girls that Frisbee (our elf on the shelf, so named because he flies back and forth between our house and Santa’s) and I had some urgent matters to discuss, and any delay in their going to sleep would delay our conversation — which would probably displease us both.  That roughly translates to me having an urgent need to get their Christmas presents wrapped before they figure out where the loot is stashed, but telling them THAT would have guaranteed me a steady stream of little taps on our bedroom door.  Sometimes, metaphor and euphemism are potent tools.

Mr. Man was completely unimpressed by my need to have a private conversation with Frisbee.  I had no sooner turned off Bugaboo and Beanie’s light and closed their door, with a last blown kiss and “Love you, beautiful girls,” than I heard the door to the boys’ room snick open.  The gate was up, and I could hear Mr. Man experimentally tapping against the gate with different toys to see if any of them would result in the gate falling.  Since I had to go retrieve the box of presents from downstairs anyway, I stopped by to kiss him on the head and gently remind him that once the lights go out, it’s time to be in bed, and stay in bed until he can see daylight.  With a somber, “Okay, Mommy,” he trudged back to his bed.  I whispered, “I love you,” and quietly closed his door.

I think I had started taking the second footstep towards the utility room before I heard the door open again.

Sighing, I turned around and said, “Okay, big guy.  I love you too, but it’s bedtime.  Night-night, Mr. Man.  You need to sleep now.”

The door closed.

I fished out the box of toys.

The door opened.

“Close the door, Mr. Man.”

The door closed.

I started up the stairs and made it about halfway before I heard the door open again.

“Good NIGHT, Mr. Man.”

The door closed.

I made a quick round of phone calls to update Grandma, Grandpa, and a couple other family members on Nonno, and to kibitz with Manie, who stayed the night with Nonno and Deedaw last night, before starting in on the wrapping.  Throughout the hour or so I spent on the phone, Mr. Man kept opening and closing his door, playing with his toys (he and Alphie had a lovely long conversation about letters and numbers), and trying unsuccessfully to get Baby Guy to awaken and join in the fun.  Thinking that, perhaps, this might be one of those times where if I kept going down and giving him more attention for doing something he shouldn’t, I decided to let him wear himself out for a bit while I talked to everyone.

That tactic seemed to be working; the noise level decreased, and while I was talking with Grandma, I thought he had actually gone to sleep, perhaps just leaving his door open so the ambient noise of the house would soothe him.  When I heard the thud and the wail, I realized my theory was incorrect, so I bid a quick farewell to Grandma and hurried down the stairs.

Mr. Man had, apparently, been pushing different toys and objects over to the gate to see if he could find something he could climb that would get him high enough to scramble over the gate.  His final attempt involved pushing Baby Guy’s music table against the gate and attempting to scale it.  However, he has the balance one might expect of a sleepy two-year-old, and the table tipped over when he tried to stand on it, spilling him onto the floor.

After ascertaining that he had done himself no injury that would require immediate medical attention, I removed the guilty table from the boys’ room and stowed it safely in a bathroom for the night, then sternly explained to a throughly unrepentant Mr. Man that once the lights are turned out, he is to remain in his bed, with his blankies and all his stuffed friends, close his eyes, and remain quiet.  Should he do those things, I clarified, sleep would find him and he would be a happy and well-rested little dude the following morning, with a happy and well-rested mommy.

He didn’t seem terribly impressed by my logic, but he did stay in his bed after that.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the many ways in which You protect Your little blessings, from the kindhearted friends You send to help care for them to the soft landings on well-padded body parts our less graceful blessings always seem to have.  Please help us teach them that what they are seeing from their friends and family this Christmas is love at its brightest and truest, the sacrificial gift of self that all six of us have given to bring Nonno and Deedaw what comfort and joy we have to offer, and the sacrificial gifts of time and talent offered to us by more friends and relatives than we realized we have.  Thank You for each of them, and for each moment they have been Your loving and compassionate face to us and to Your little blessings.  Please also grant me the grace and wisdom to keep returning Mr. Man to his bed gently, and remind me that while “I love you” sometimes sounds an awful lot like “no,” little boys whose worlds are being upended sometimes need some extra hugs and kisses.

Lord, Deedaw and Bugaboo are praying for one more Christmas with Nonno.  Thy will be done, Lord.  Please give us the meekness of heart to rejoice in whatever Your will may be.  Thank you for the nurses who have taken such good care of Nonno and comforted Deedaw, and for the medications that ease Nonno’s suffering. Please let these days be a reminder to us that suffering is sometimes the best lesson in how we are called to love, and teach us to show mercy to each other.

They wanted pink slippers with pink pancakes

Here’s the song reference.

All four members of the tribe have had to learn a little more patience than I’d like lately, as I’ve needed to be on the phone for extended periods of time with Deedaw, Grandma, and the many friends who have humbled me with their generous offers of assistance with munchkin-minding and meals.  Bugaboo and Beanie have risen to the occasion in grand and lovely style, and have started to show much more responsibility for their playthings and the house in general.  It’s been far less of a war getting them to pick up their toys, even when Baby Guy cheerily dumps their ponies, Transformers, dolls and Care Bears out of their bins and throws them around randomly until he finds something that makes noise, and they have been very generous with their hugs and “I love yous” to every member of the family.

As for Manie and I, we have worried over balancing the lessons they’re learning from these past couple of months, and from what they will learn in the days and months to come.  It’s important to us that they understand that this is what love looks like when the people who brought us into this world are near the end of their earthly days, but it’s equally important that they not develop the impression that they, themselves, are an inconvenience during such times as these, but great and beautiful blessings (even when they insist on having train-whistle concerts while I’m on the phone).  We’ve made an extra effort to praise every small good deed, from Beanie remembering to tear the toilet paper off the roll before she uses it, to Mr. Man drinking his milk from a straw cup without launching any of it onto the ceiling, to Bugaboo remembering to ask before she takes things off the kitchen counter, even to Baby Guy putting stray blocks back in their bag without being asked.

I’ve been trying to grant Bugaboo and Beanie some small extra privileges, since they’ve taken on more responsibilities.  It’s tough to keep those privileges age-appropriate and meaningful at the same time, and I had to draw the line at either of them doing crafts involving scissors without an adult being physically in the vicinity, but they’ve enjoyed being able to take showers instead of baths, lead prayers at mealtimes, and go into the pantry to select their own snacks (although they have lamented that the really good stuff is out of their reach).

One privilege both girls have long sought is being allowed to wear a particular kind of slipper, called Stompeez.  Regular readers of this blog are aware that we have a very large dog who hasn’t quite left his puppyhood behind (in addition to our sweet and elderly Bo, who’s no slouch in the size department himself).  Until recently, Bugaboo and Beanie had been pretty slack about making sure their toys were secured behind their closed bedroom door before we head off for whatever adventure a day may hold, with the result that more than a few ponies, bears, dolls, and stuffed animals became Smudgie’s toys, to the often tearful dismay of our daughters.  In a quiet moment, I realized that I haven’t had to remind them to get their playthings out of the living room in a couple of weeks.  A couple of hours later, I was picking up a few things at a local pharmacy when I saw two pairs of the sought-after footgear, both in the girls’ size, in the sale bin.

We gave them quite the heartfelt speech about how proud we are of how responsible they’ve become when we gave the slippers to them on Monday night, clarifying that these were not a Christmas present, but a privilege they’d earned by their conduct.  The speech in no way diminished their utter delight at having “real big girl slippers,” which they carefully stow inside their closet any time they’re not wearing them.

While I was on the phone for an extended round of calls yesterday morning, the girls entertained Mr. Man and Baby Guy by parading around their house in their Stompeez, delighting Baby Guy in particular when the puppies played peekaboo with him (if you don’t know what Stompeez are, do click the link above, but don’t let your kids see or you’ll never hear the end of it).  I took a purposeful break from the telephone around 9:00; no one had eaten a proper breakfast yet and I needed a break, since I’d been running since a little past 5 a.m.  Upon hearing the sound of the kitchen phone being returned to its cradle, Bugaboo and Beanie piled into the kitchen to see what might be coming next in our morning.

I inquired, “What would you like for breakfast this morning, ladies?  Thank you for being so kind and helpful while I was on the phone.”

The girls looked at each other for a moment, then Bugaboo piped up, “I want pancakes!’

That sounded pretty reasonable to me.  “Okay, pancakes it shall be, then.”

Beanie had a further suggestion.  “I want PINK pancakes!”

Bugaboo heartily agreed, “Yeah, pink pancakes, pink pancakes!”

Mr. Man and Baby Guy heard the commotion and came in to investigate its source, and in short order, I had three small people gleefully jumping up and down chanting, “pink pancakes,” two of them with pink puppy ears popping around their ankles, and a fourth clapping his hands and shrieking to his siblings’ rhythm.  Laughing, I pulled the makings of pancakes from the pantry, retrieved the pink icing tint from the spice cupboard, and set about pancakery.  A good breakfast was had by all.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for our full pantry and our full hearts.  Thank You for little blessings who have the usual number of feet and hands, and who delight in being children.  Thank You for the grace and wisdom to know the needs of their little hearts and souls, even as we look through the dark glass of our own trials, and for the many friends through whom You have shown us Your comforting face.  Please keep our hearts soft and open to them and to the grace You send us through them, and grant that we may not forget that Your first and greatest commandment is to love You with all our heart, soul, and strength.  In our moments of weakness, when we are tempted to surrender to anger and despair, let us turn to You and accept the help You send with grateful and humble hearts.

Someone’s in the kitchen, I kno-o-o-o-w

Here’s the song reference.

About twenty minutes before I started writing this (roughly 5:15 a.m.), I was awakened from a deep and desperately-needed sleep by odd noises emanating from the kitchen.  After quickly donning my slippers, I flung open our bedroom door to find bright light coming from said kitchen . . . and a telltale blankie in the baby gate at the top of the steps.

When I turned the corner into the kitchen, Mr. Man turned around, atop the kitchen chair he’d moved over to the sink.

I took two very deep breaths and prayed for the grace to not freak out.

After issuing a series of very stern admonitions to Mr. Man, I ushered him back down the stairs to his room, escorted him to his bed, and informed him in no uncertain terms that he was to remain in the bed, then came back upstairs to try to set things back to rights.  The oven was on and set to 485 degrees, cinnamon had been poured all over the stove, the floor was covered in water, a milk bottle from the recycling bag was filled with goldfish crackers, the cupboard was open and multiple cups had been removed and filled with water, the sink had a fine film of blue Play-Doh in it, and . . . well, you get the idea.

As I write this, I can hear Mr. Man downstairs opening and closing his door, so I need to wrap up quickly.  I had planned to write a post about the tribe and Smudgie today; since that won’t be possible, I hope you’ll enjoy the photos that would have accompanied the post!  I thought about including pictures of the debris field in the kitchen, but it was such a mess in the first place (we’ve been flying in and out of the house a lot lately) that it might have been hard for unfamiliar eyes to discern what mess was caused by Mr. Man and the pre-existing chaos.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for our stout house, for a stove upon which to cook, dishes from which to eat and drink, and clean drinking water.  Thank You for the spices with which we season our meals, for the bounty of food with which You provide us, and for Your four precious blessings whose curiosity about Your creation is so great that it sometimes precludes sleep for them.  Please grant me what wisdom I need to figure out how to keep Mr. Man in his bed and out of the kitchen during the hours he should be sleeping, and please send Your angels to watch over him, and all of us, when we are in danger, whether we recognize the danger before us or not.

Lord, please have mercy on Your servant, Nonno.  Please release him from his pain and grant him the joy of celebrating Your birthday with You in person.  Please send Your comfort and Your peace to Deedaw, Manie, Zio Frankie, and all of us who will grieve his passing from this world. Please empty our hearts of despair and fill them with the hope in You that will allow us a small share in the joy Nonno will have with you, until we meet him again.

Do you see what I see?

Here’s the song reference.

Our parish Christmas pageant was last night, and Bugaboo was a perfectly lovely angel.  Nonno was unable to attend, but Zio Frankie (Manie’s brother) stayed with Nonno so Deedaw could attend.  Grandma came down from Baltimore, too, and spent the afternoon with us.

Words are not coming easily to me this morning, so I’ll share some recent videos of our merry band, including two videos of the pageant (I apologize for the quality), and a couple of our favorite Christmas songs.  May the peace of Our Lord be with all of you, always.

Christmas pageant, part 1 — Bugaboo is the angel who has wings.

Christmas pageant, part 2

Our family You Tube channel

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Ave Maria

Panis Angelicus

The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth

Go Tell It on the Mountain

O Come O Come Emmanuel

Hodie Christus Natus Est

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Crabs for Christmas


O Holy Night

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Old Toy Trains

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the gentle men and women who give of their time to teach Your little blessings about You, and about Your message of redemption and everlasting joy with You.  As so many of us grieve, or prepare to grieve, the end of mortal lives, please take our grief as an offering and replace it with hearts brimming with the happiness of sure knowledge that the souls of our beloveds will rest joyously with You.  Please help us teach Your blessings and each other to love one another as You have loved us, filling us with the desire to do as Your servant Francis instructed, that we may be a beacon leading those who suffer under heavy burdens to You for comfort and for rest.

In the arms of an angel

Here’s the song reference.

Christmas is coming, and all throughout Advent, Bugaboo and Beanie, who are the most talkative members of our tribe, have been quite punctilious about making sure we know exactly what they would thrill to find underneath the tree on Christmas morning.  One of the biggest lessons we’ve been trying to teach all of them is that love isn’t measured in the number or costliness of material gifts, and sometimes we wonder whether we’re getting through.  There are those days (many of them) where one child gets cranky because a sibling has received something special, or something of larger size, or something containing more pieces.  We then do our best to explain to the offended small person that she or he is loved equally, and that while the sibling may have received an extra piece of candy or an unexpected toy, she or her probably had a little extra story time, or an extra hour of undivided attention from Manie or I, or was allowed to choose the movie we watched as a family.

Nonno’s illness has been a “teachable moment” in this regard, as they have seen our family sacrifice time, energy, talent, and rest tending to him and to Deedaw.  Bugaboo and Beanie have asked a number of very insightful questions, from why Nonno now has a bed in the family room to why we have to coax Deedaw to eat a little something, and have responded with great love.  It is a sad and somewhat confusing time for them, but they chose to understand that time spent with Nonno is now a limited time proposition, and they choose to spend some time sitting quietly next to his bed, patting his hand, singing him Christmas songs, and telling him stories about their days.  He smiles, and they see, and on the way home they tell us what made Nonno smile today.

Our parish Christmas pageant is fast approaching.  For the last two years, Bugaboo has played an angel, and we assumed, up until last Monday, she would do likewise this year.  Last Monday, after her Faith Formation class, she came home and announced to all and sundry that she would be a sheep this year.

We don’t have a sheep costume.

We informed Bugaboo that we did not have a sheep costume, and asked her if she would be willing to reconsider her costume choice.  She declined.  Over the next few days, in between our usual lessons, housekeeping, helping Deedaw, and keeping the extended family informed, I thought of ways we could make her an appropriate costume.  By Thursday, I had it figured out, and lacked only the materials.  Friday brought more chaos than usual, as did Saturday; sometimes, life happens and shopping trips don’t.

Yesterday morning, after we had ascertained what Deedaw and Nonno needed for the day, we sat in the living room talking about what we could all do together in the slice of morning that was without plans.  I pointed out to Manie that I desperately needed to purchase the few items I needed to make Bugaboo’s sheep costume, as the time I had left to construct it was very short.  We had to raise our voices a little to be heard over Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy, who had a running game of tag-and-tickle caroming through the upstairs.

As we talked, we suddenly heard Bugaboo’s voice above the chaos.

“I want to be an angel instead of a sheep.”

I sat down hard.  “Bugaboo, are you sure?  Really sure?  We can go right now to get the things to make your sheep costume.  I know you’ve been really excited about being a sheep this year.  We’ll have a good time making your costume.”

“No, that’s okay.  I’d rather be an angel.  I’d really rather be an angel.”

We repeated this exchange, with minor variations, a couple more times, always with the same result.

I couldn’t stop the tears (and can’t now, as I type this).  I pulled her close and hugged her tightly, whispering, “thank you, sweetheart, you really are Mommy’s angel.”  I proposed that she should have a sparkly new pair of “angel shoes” to go with her costume, to which she excitedly agreed.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your little blessings, who fill our lives with love, laughter, and surprises of breathtaking beauty.  Thank You for using them as Your instruments to remind us that love is our highest obligation and most wonderful prayer of thanksgiving to You.  We try, Lord, to set an example for them of understanding love as being willing to sacrifice for the good of those who are beloved.  Please empty us of vain selfishness and fill us with a radiant, charitable love for each other and our neighbors, a love without resentment or envy, and thank You, Lord, for the lesson in sacrificial love Bugaboo gave us yesterday morning.

I can’t believe the news today

Here’s the song reference.

A treasured friend brought her little boy over yesterday for a playdate so I could spend a couple of hours over at Nonno and Deedaw’s, helping them take care of a few things that will make Nonno more comfortable and Deedaw more likely to smile.  I returned home in the early afternoon, bearing a bag of sandwiches and a tub of macaroni and cheese for lunch, much to the delight of our tribe.  After we’d all eaten our fill, and Baby Guy had retired to his crib for a much-needed nap, I called Deedaw to let her know four of her favorite tiny people were happy, well-fed, and sending her hugs and kisses, and to remind her that she did not need to send Manie home until she was tired of his company.

“Rachel Weeping for Her Children” Stephen Gjertson

Deedaw spoke in a hush when she answered the phone.  I had been listening to CDs on the way home, and the TV is rarely on at our house during the day, so I initially assumed she was keeping her voice down because Nonno was napping.  Once I had advised her of the tribe’s general well-being, she commented that she was terribly sad, and that she couldn’t understand how someone could be so awful to little kids.  Somewhat taken aback, I hastened to reassure her that our tiny people really were perfectly fine hanging out with their friend and his mom, at which point she realized that I had not heard the horrible news from Connecticut.  I retreated into our bedroom, quickly scanned the headlines on my laptop, checked Facebook for posts from a college friend who lives in Connecticut, and gave a silent prayer of thanks for a post from another friend of hers informed me that she and her family live in a different part of the state.

We’re normally pretty quick with hugs and kisses around here, but yesterday, I just wanted them close to me, all of them.  Mr. Man took his little nap curled against my chest yesterday, and I managed to wake Baby Guy by opening his door to check on him; housework was backburnered in favor of a couple of extra stories for Bugaboo and Beanie, and we sent out for pizza for dinner.

I wish I had a cute story to share about yesterday.  I don’t.  It’s not that I’m maudlin, or watching the saturation coverage that I’m sure blankets the airwaves this morning, but yesterday was a very reflective day for me.  A post describing those reflections in detail would probably top ten thousand words, but the gist of it is that loving my children and my neighbor matters.  As Lloyd Alexander put it in a book I loved as a child and an adult, “A pebble can turn aside an avalanche or this twig can stem a flood…but if twig or pebble are to work they must be well placed.”

No one knows what twig or pebble he or she may be in the eyes of the Lord, but each of us is one.  The lesson, at our house, is not political, but one of faith.  We are called to love our neighbors and ourselves, to love the Lord and His law above all else, and to be the light of Christ to the world.  Where there is no light, darkness reigns.  We cannot compel any other person to see light and beauty, but we can radiate both in all places, at all times, to all people, and, in faith, we must.  Instead of averting our faces from our neighbors to focus on little video screens, we must notice the need of our neighbors and love those neighbors enough to share our time, talent, and treasure to help them.  That means we must do it personally, instead of waiting for some other person or entity to take notice.  By doing so, we serve the Lord.  By doing otherwise, we serve His adversary.

“Triumph of the Innocents” William Holman Hunt 1883-4

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your four little blessings, who are presently safely asleep in their beds.  Help us teach them all Your Commandments, and that the new Commandment You gave us arises directly from the original ten.  Teach us, that we may teach them, not to avert our eyes from our neighbors, not to replace tender compassion with covetousness, envy, wrath, or sloth, not to replace extending a loving hand with a glance at a screen.  You call us to examine our own souls and look to You for healing, Lord, and we beseech You for healing and for mercy for those who suffer and mourn.  As we prepare to celebrate Your birth, Lord, grant us hearts humble enough to examine what lessons we are teaching Your little blessings, what lessons they are learning from our words and deeds about how we should live, and grant us the exceeding grace of the wisdom to teach them as You would, not as the world does.

Lord, have mercy on Your children.  Keep us mindful of the Holy Innocents, martyred at the hand of a man who usurped Your authority over life and death.  Grant us the eyes to see those who would usurp Your power and the grace to be the twig or pebble that turns them.

Mumps will make you lumpy

Here’s the song reference.

Mr. Man was the first to emerge from slumber yesterday morning, as has become his wont since he started sleeping in a bed instead of a crib.  Mercifully, the hour of his rising was around 7:00 a.m., instead of 1 a.m., then 4 a.m., then 6 a.m. . . . you get the picture.  He toddled into the kitchen looking to see what might be available in the way of breakfast.

After the manner of many two-year-olds, I suspect, Mr. Man has something of a different concept of what constitutes acceptable breakfast food than his parents.  We favor oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, eggs, fruit, waffles, toast, and the like, while his taste runs more to candy, cookies, and cake of the non-pan variety.  This is usually the topic of animated debates in the morning, and it has been a source of some frustration to Mr. Man that he never seems to emerge with a winning argument.

december 2012 002

He changed his strategy yesterday morning, as the debate over acceptable morning fare raged, offers and counteroffers flying through the kitchen (Cookies?  No, how about some grapes?  No grapes, want cupcake?  No cupcakes, how about some cereal?  No cereal, want candy.), by falling silent, walking purposefully to the pantry, and opening the door to peruse its contents.  Since most of what is at his eye level is fruit cups, granola bars, and cereal, Manie and I felt safe enough to take our eyes off him long enough to talk about a few things we needed to do over the next couple of days.  We kept talking, not really taking notice of what Mr. Man might have secreted in his little hand until we caught the flash of colored foil.

Grandma had given each child a little tin of foil-wrapped chocolates in honor of St. Nicholas day, and I had forgotten the bag containing said tins was on the floor of the pantry.  Mr. Man had not forgotten, and had retrieved a tasty Reese’s bell from the stash and unwrapped it with blazing speed.  He gently placed the foil on the table, laid the candy upon it, flung wide his arms and crowed triumphantly.

“I gotta mump!”

december 2012 001

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your little blessings, who are creative and resourceful, and remind me daily that you did not put us here to be miserable and wretched.  As we prepare to celebrate Your arrival as a helpless human infant, please remind us to see both the Advent season and the little trials of everyday life through their eyes, that we may gentle our hearts and our tongues as we give instruction with our words, in what we do and what we fail to do.

Lord, please send special comfort to Your tender servants, Peggy and Kevin, whose foster son took his own life yesterday, ten years after the children they bore were killed in a plane crash.  Please grant that the coming days and weeks will soften every heart towards your grieving children, helping us to love them as You loved us so that their own hearts may not harden into impenetrable scars as they heal.  Please have mercy on River’s soul, and St. Dymphna, please comfort all those who have lost people they love to mental illness.

Get in the kitchen and make me a sammich

Here’s the song reference, but it refers more to Beanie herself than to the title of this post.

When I returned home from teaching seventh grade Faith Formation last night, I found Manie, Bugaboo and Beanie hard at work building the gingerbread house that is our annual gift from Grandma, and a surprisingly quiet Mr. Man and Baby Guy.  Mr. Man seems to have finally internalized the knowledge that just because he can get out his bed after tuck-in time doesn’t mean he should, and we’re somewhat hopeful that his older sisters will learn from his example.  I digress.

After the gingerbread house had been decorated to the girls’ satisfaction and they’d had a proper hand (and arm, and face, and at least one leg per small person) washing, we scooted the girls off to bed, as the hour was approaching ten o’clock, which is way past their usual bedtime.  We tucked them in with plenty of hugs and kisses, and remembered to tell them we love them all the way to the end of the galaxy and back.  There have been nights when they’ve been sufficiently obnoxious about getting into their beds that we’ve forgotten to do that, and have looked at each other in horror before nearly breaking down their door in our haste to remedy the situation.  Last night, we told them twice.

Predictably, less than two minutes after we’d turned off their light and closed their bedroom door, both girls came pattering out of their room.  Bugaboo needed to go to the potty again, and Beanie zipped into the kitchen, where Manie and I were debriefing the events of the day.  With all the cheerful mischief her little eyes could hold, she gazed up at us, grinning, and announced, “You forgot to give me hugs and kisses.”

Manie and I both laughed at the silliness and audacity of her statement, and I replied, “Ohhh, Beanie, I don’t think that’s true.  I’m pretty sure we gave you lots of hugs and kisses.”

“Nooooooo, no, you didn’t.”  Had she grinned any more broadly, I believe she would have dislocated her smile.  Bugaboo was singing “Jingle Bells” in the bathroom.  I scooped her from the floor and wrapped her up in a snug hug, smacking noisy kisses on her cheeks and forehead as Manie stepped over to where we stood.  He wrapped his arms around her from the other side, and she got what she terms, “double hugs and double kisses and double all the love in the world,” before we gently lowered her to the ground and ordered her back to bed.  Bugaboo, who had apparently interrupted a conversation with her collection of stuffed penguins to use the potty, had already shufled back to her bed and was loudly explaing to said penguins that Beanie wouldn’t let her get to sleep.

Beanie, for her part, giggled up at us, “Do it AGAIN!”

We did, and as we snuggled her, she chortled out, “I’m a Beanie sammich!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your little blessings, and for these simple days when a simple embrace can solve most of their problems, particularly if combined with a piece of chocolate candy.  Please help us teach them that wherever they go, and regardless of the availability of sweets, Your embrace is always there for them, to comfort in the tough days and to celebrate the easy ones.  Kindle in our hearts a desire to speak and act lovingly to all people at all times, especially to Your blessings, and especially when we must offer correction or instruction.

Give it away, give it away, give it away now

Here’s the song reference.

We added four living children to our family in the space of 49 months, beginning in May of 2007 and ending in June of 2011.  As a result, we have a quantity of baby stuff that could supply a small town.  After a great deal of prayer and not a few tears, we arrived at the conclusion recently that it is time to start giving some of our bounty away.  We had planned to keep a couple of particularly cherished items for when we became grandparents, but in the end, decided that we have too many friends and neighbors who have real needs for the things we have to hold on to them for sentimental reasons.  In the end, Manie and I said to each other, it’s just stuff.  We love people, we use things, and when the people we love need things, we give them what we have.

That sounds so easy when you’re saying it, so noble and full of the exercise of the faith in Christ we cherish.  It’s not so easy when you’re loading the boxes filled with the things our pregnant friend doesn’t need into the back of the station wagon for delivery to a charity who will give them to families who have been blessed differently than ours.  It’s also not so easy when Bugaboo and Beanie come out of their rooms to investigate the cause of all the racket and see playthings that have been their constant companions for 5 1/2 and 4 1/2 years, respectively, being gently placed into boxes.

We explained to them, as we have done so many times before, that we are called to share what we have.  Both of our tired daughter were able to name examples of times when we  had put money in a basket, put gas in a stranger’s car, or when they had rifled through their own toys to find things to give away, things that they no longer played with but that would delight another child.  This was different, though.  This wasn’t, “okay, we don’t play with this any longer,” this was, “hey, wait, I love that thing!”

Therein lay the lesson, for all of us.  A goodly part of our homeschooling day today will be spent sorting through a lot of things we have in the house that really need to find homes where they’ll be used and appreciated.  This is part of our Advent every year (all of our parents are still living, and we therefore end up with a great deal of new stuff every Christmas, so there’s a practical aspect to it), but there’s a different dimension to it this year, I think, because of Nonno’s illness.  It is nearly embarrassing to recall the tears my husband and I have shed over things, that we have set that example for the tiny people, when we consider how the loss of things pales in comparison to the grief we share in the knowledge that we will soon be losing Nonno.

Peace be with you.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your little blessings, and for the full complement of grandparents who have welcomed all of them into the world.  Thank You for the material abundance with which you have blessed our family, and for the opportunities You have provided to share Your bounty with those whom You have blessed in other ways.  Thank You also for reminding us that, in every wise, loving each other is more important than loving our stuff.  Please help us to be gentle stewards of our earthly possessions and to be tender-hearted towards the person, not the thing, when others have need of our worldly goods.