Archive | July 2013

Bitchin’ (at a) Camaro

Here’s the song reference.

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Yesterday morning found us headed over to Deedaw’s to spend a little time with her and with Nephew, who was keeping her company for the day.  We were having a little sing-along in the van when we approached an intersection, at which I thought it prudent to stop before turning right, since there was a truck of impressive size and weight barreling down the road, its driver apparently unaware of or unimpressed by the speed limit for the road.  This caused our rousing chorus of “There Was a Little Rooster” to be punctuated by loud bursts of honking from the individual in the car behind us.  When the truck passed us and the lane was clear for us to make our turn, that car’s driver revved the engine to an impressive volume before zipping around our poor, lumbering Fran the Van and coming back into our lane at a closeness which gave me sure knowledge the anti-lock brakes on said benighted van are, in fact, in proper working order.

Sarcastically, I snapped, “Well, buddy, I hope you get where you’re going,” and started to mutter a few more choice words under my breath, when I heard Bugaboo’s voice, full of concern, from the back seat, pipe up, “Yeah.  He must really be in a hurry.  I hope everything is okay.  It looks like he has an emergency.”

I shut my mouth, and, had the task at hand not required my eyes to remain focused on the road, I would have looked at my feet.  In my head, I had already convicted both the truck driver and the Camaro driver of reckless disregard for public safety, selfishness, arrogance, and quite the host of other unattractive things.  From an objective standpoint, their conduct on the road certainly violated a couple of traffic laws, and it was not inappropriate for me to make note of the breaches, but I had imputed quite a few motives to both of them that were not within my power to truly discern.  What if one, or both, of them, really did have an emergency?  What if they were distracted by some bad news they’d received that morning?

What if someone decided to assess my character on the basis of one bad decision or moment of inattention behind the wheel when I was having a bad day?  What if no one offered me the benefit of the doubt, or a prayer?

After turning down the volume on the music, I thanked my little girl for her lesson.  “You know, Bugaboo, you’re right.  Do you think we should take a minute and say a prayer for that man, a prayer that he gets to where he’s going safely?”

“Uh-huh.  Because he was going really fast.  We need to pray he doesn’t have an accident.”

“Good call, Bugaboo.  Let’s do that.  Praying hands, everyone.  Let’s pray for that man, for whoever he’s going to see, and for the other drivers on the road, that all those people get safely to someone who loves them.”

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the bounty of teachers You’ve given me over the years, particularly for Your blessings, whose innocence leads them to love their neighbors in the face of conduct that tries their parents’ charity and faith.  Please convert my heart so that when I see reckless behavior, my first impulse is to pray instead of curse, and help me teach Your blessings to offer help instead of condemnation, as You taught.  Please open my eyes to the danger my own sins cause to those around me, whether that danger is physical or spiritual, and mold me into a better steward of all Your gifts.  Help me teach Your blessings that I will lead no one to You by hurling angry invective out a car window, but I might just chase someone away if that person perceives this is how Your children treat one another.

Things on my chest I need to confess

Here’s the song reference.

I have been told, privately, by several people, that Dailymomprayers paints an unrealistic picture of our daily life, where everything always ends up sunshine and rainbows.  This is most emphatically not the case; however, I do make an effort to find that tiny nugget of joy, or the lesson, from each day and share it, to encourage both myself and anyone who happens upon this blog.

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Yesterday morning actually began shortly after 3 a.m. for me.  Tuesday and Wednesday were rather hectic around here, and I did not realize until I woke up at shortly after 3 a.m. on Thursday that I had not showered since Monday morning.  The reason I awoke at shortly after 3 a.m. was the furious itching of my scalp, the only cure for which seemed to be an immediate shower.  As I exited the shower, I heard Bo complaining from downstairs, where he decided to camp out for the night, so I headed downstairs somewhat after 3:30 a.m.; the poor old lad had apparently lost his balance and gotten his leg stuck under a bookshelf.  After extricating him from his plight, I took him outside for a rather-too-early constitutional, then brought him upstairs so he could get to the big water dish (and raid Smudgie’s leftovers if he was so inclined).

Getting Bo a drink of water is not as simple as it sounds, as his feet tend to slide on the kitchen linoleum.  He braces his feet against mine and take slow sips until he’s slaked his thirst.  A little after 4 a.m., Bo finished his drink and decided to go for a slow stroll around the kitchen.  Of course, his feet slid, causing him to crash one of the chairs into the kitchen table.

I am blessed with three children and a husband who can sleep through a nuclear blast.

I am also blessed with Mr. Man, who wakes at the sound of a feather falling from a robin in a tree four counties over.  Frankly, I was astonished that my shower hadn’t roused him, so I wasn’t surprised when I suddenly heard a muffled, “Hey!  What’s that noise?” coming from the boys’ room.  Usually, he rolls over and goes back to sleep after a few minutes, so I helped Bo settle into a comfy (and quiet) spot on the living room floor.

By the time Bo was tucked in, it was about 4:30 a.m., and Mr. Man had begun a shouting match with one of his stuffed animals.  While it was pretty one-sided, It was also at a volume that would have precluded my going back to sleep immediately, so I settled in, finished writing yesterday morning’s post, and started the coffee.  I honestly anticipated falling asleep on the couch after I was done typing, and thought it would be a good thing to have the coffee waiting when one of the girls woke me again.

I should probably mention at this point that I fell asleep sometime after 1:00 a.m. Thursday morning.

At around 5:30 a.m., Mr. Man finally succeeded in waking up Baby Guy.

At around 6:30 a.m., I went downstairs and informed the boys that it was entirely too early for either of them, much less both, to be awake.

At around 7:15 a.m., Manie came into the kitchen to have breakfast and put his lunch together.  I shuffled in to refill my coffee cup and mentioned that the house had been steadily awakening since sometime after 3 a.m.  He pointed out that it might be a good idea for me to try to get some more sleep.  I pointed out that while I concurred with his assessment, the noise level was rendering that impossible, and if I didn’t make the morning phone calls by 8 a.m., a ringing phone would increase said noise level further.

He shook his head and remarked that it appeared I was in for a long day.

A little after 7:30 a.m., I surrendered and shooed the boys upstairs for breakfast.

A little after 8 a.m., Bugaboo and Beanie bubbled into the kitchen.

A little after 9 a.m., after the boys had picked at their breakfasts, harassed their sisters, and spent so much time rubbing their eyes and yawning that I feared for the structural integrity of their skulls, I shooed them back downstairs and into their beds, with strict instructions to remain therein and quiet, preferably asleep.  After tucking in the apparently exhausted boys, I returned to the kitchen, where I was greeted with a request for jigsaw puzzles by Bugaboo and Beanie.  That sounded like a quiet pastime, so I stacked several boxes on the table with instructions to either assemble them with sisterly tenderness or work on two different puzzles at opposite ends of the table. Bo was in need of a trip outside, so I assisted him, then returned to bed.

Around 9:30, I headed downstairs, pulled Baby Guy off the top of the dresser, retrieved the pen George was using to draw pictures upon and tear holes in his sheet, sternly repeated my earlier instruction to go back to sleep or at least rest quietly, then returned to bed.

Shortly before 10:00, I re-emerged to advise Beanie that her bed is not intended for use as a trampoline.  Back to bed.

Shortly after 10:00, I roared out of bed, threw on some presentable clothes, exited the bedroom, roared at two noisy little girls to get dressed and shod immediately if not sooner, went downstairs to issue a similar admonition (with more, shall we say, technical support) to two noisy little boys.

Around 10:30, I shooed the lot of them out the front door and into the van, uttering admonitions about the need for sufficient sleep for all members of the family and advising the tribe that if no one was going to either sleep or allow me to do so, we were going to go run a couple of errands.

Around 11:00, we arrived at the mall and bundled the boys into the double stroller.  I informed Mr. Man and Baby Guy that they would remain in the stroller for the duration of our visit to the mall, which might or might not include lunch or time at the playground.  Baby Guy and Mr. Man responded by informing of every single passer-by of their distaste for clothes shopping with their sisters at full volume, accompanied by tears and pounding of fists on the stroller sides.  This continued through four stores, three of which had very sympathetic and efficient employees.  We did succeed in acquiring first-day-of-homeschool outfits that were acceptable to Bugaboo and Beanie.

Around 12:00, we were homeward bound, both boys still full-throatedly voicing their opposition to anything and everything connected with our outing, the van, their sisters, and anything else that did not involve copious quantities of chocolate.  I was beginning to sympathize.

Around 12:30, we had finished lunch, and both boys were again rubbing their eyes and yawning heartily.  I tucked them into their beds, helped Bo get outside, brought Bo upstairs, and had a little chat with the girls about acceptable options for the next hour or two while the boys were sleeping.  The girls helpfully informed me that even they could hear the boys were not sleeping.  I helpfully informed them that notwithstanding that bit of trivia, it happened to be quiet time, and while I would be more than happy to turn on the Pirates-Nationals game to assist them with closing their eyes, my expectation was that each and every member of the family would practice both horizontality and silence.  Pillows and blankets were duly arranged in the living room, I assumed my spot on the couch, Bugaboo claimed the loveseat, and Beanie decided to curl up in the hollow of my legs.  Both girls were saggy-eyed and yawning, so a nap appeared to be in order.

Around 1:00, I asked Beanie to please stop kicking me, then rose, headed downstairs, put the boys back in their beds, and informed them that while the block tower they had built was impressive, neither it nor the noise made by the blocks they were throwing at it in their attempt to knock it down was conducive to sleep.  For anyone.  My tone and word choice probably weren’t conducive to sleep either.  I put them back into their beds, went back upstairs, and origami-ed myself back onto the couch around Beanie.

Around 1:30, I again advised Beanie that I don’t like being kicked or head-butted, and suggested that if she was having trouble getting comfortable on the couch, perhaps either the floor or her cozy bed would be better alternatives. She decided on her bed.  Bugaboo chimed in that she was doing likewise, as the baseball game was so fascinating that she could not fall asleep.  As they bundled up their blankets and pillows, I returned to the boys’ room, rescued the painting Mr. Man had Baby Guy climb to the bookcase to take down from the wall, rescued Baby Guy from the top of the bookcase, put them both back in their beds with an even sterner admonition to take a nap, then returned to the couch.

Around 2:00, I entered the girls’ room, informed them that while I was delighted with their powers of imagination, repeatedly slamming a bed into the wall to imitate the rocking motion of a ship at sea was not an acceptable activity when anyone in the house was trying to sleep, particularly if that someone happened to be me, told them that closing their bedroom door did not buffer sounds of that nature, explained that whining was not an acceptable response to my sensible advice, and admonished them both to get in their beds, close their eyes and mouths, and take a nap.  As I finished my instructions, I heard a crash and a wail from the boys’ room and headed downstairs.  Mr. Man was counseling his younger brother in the ill-advisedness of attempting to play with his older brother’s toy grill, particularly when said elder brother was sleep-deprived.  From the position of the various objects on the floor, it appeared that this counseling had involved several items of play food and a stuffed bear.  I issued further admonitions of various kinds, punctuated by several words and phrases I’d rather they didn’t repeat, put them back in their beds again, and stomped back upstairs.  Bo needed a drink by then, so I helped him obtain one.  Smudgie needed a hug, so I gave him one.  A quick check on the girls revealed that they were both snoozing.  There was quiet belowdecks.  I returned to the couch a little before 3:00.

Around 3:15, a thud coming from the boys’ room shook the walls, so I arose again, jumped down both flights of stairs, and flung open their door to see Mr. Man climbing back up to perch on the headboard of his bed, preparatory to what I surmised was another mighty leap therefrom.  Baby Guy was clapping and cheering in delight at his brother’s mad acrobatic skills.  I sighed, surrendered, filled four cups with milk, put out a big bowl of carrots for a snack, and settled in to read the crew a couple of stories around the kitchen table.  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day somehow managed to avoid being on the reading list.  I didn’t even consider The Napping House, as I think it would have sent me completely over the edge.  By a little after 4:00, the kids were off finding things to do and games to play, so I started working on dinner and a little desultory kitchen cleanup.

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Around 5:00, I went to sit on the couch and catch the news headlines.  Mr. Man plunked himself down on the opposite end of the couch, stuck his thumb in his mouth, and promptly fell asleep.  Almost simultaneously, I heard Baby Guy crying downstairs.  Before I could get up to see what was the matter, Bugaboo, my chief champion snitch, burst into the living room, shaking her head and sorrowfully reporting that Baby Guy had climbed into his bed and fallen asleep, right in the middle of playing chef with her and Beanie, and that Beanie had taken it upon herself to rouse him from his slumbers.

I paused for a moment, then started to speak.

I closed my mouth and paused for another moment.

I gathered my oldest daughter to me, hugged her tenderly, and, with what I hope was a smile on my face, told her that she and Beanie had carte blanche to do whatever did not involve theft or assault to keep their brothers awake until after dinner.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, I didn’t do very well with patience, perseverance, or doing unto others as I would have them do unto me yesterday.  Please grant me the grace of a patient heart, one that bears annoyances with mildness.  Thank You for the blessing of four energetic children, who look to me for an example, and help me set one for them that shows them that handling the minor adversities of everyday life with grace and joy are essential to the ability of those around us to see our love for You.  Keep us all mindful that love for one’s neighbor starts with love in the home, and that we are called to forgive each other as You have forgiven us.

Let’s hear it for the mom, let’s give the mom a hand

Here’s the song reference.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I would like to let everyone who inquired know that Bo lived his yesterday with great enthusiasm, trundling around the yard and eating anything that came within reach of his mouth, including most of Smudgie’s dinner.  He’s done this miraculous turnaround enough times now that we are considering changing his name to Lazarus.  The best working theory is that he suffered either another stroke or a seizure and needed the day to recover.  Our whole family would like to thank everyone who offered a kind word or a prayer.  The kindness of friends and strangers alike was a great blessing.

Yesterday was, however, the sort of day in which the effects of Monday’s stress came shining through.  As saintly as all the tiny people had been on the day Bo was ailing, they were the opposite in like measure yesterday.  Neither an instruction nor a meal came without arguments, sass, thrown missiles, or wailing.  I was deeply grateful when Baby Guy put himself to bed for a nap after he ate about four bites of the lunch he had specifically requested, then cried, “NO NO NO NO NO,” over.

In self-defense, and to preserve the tattered remnants of both my sanity and my hearing, I turned on Netflix and settled in to watch a few episodes of Super Hero Squad with Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man.  Beanie is not much on video entertainment, and quickly left the huddle on the couch for the loveseat and a couple of story books, while Bugaboo and Mr. Man snuggled close and snickered at the misadventures of Modoc and Dr. Doom in the face of the unbeatable Squaddies.  I think I may have closed my eyes for a few minutes somewhere in there, enjoying the sound of Bo’s steady breathing and Smudgie’s gentle snoring, audible over the low sound of the television.

Closing my eyes in a room occupied by three children, I should know by now, is the parenting equivalent of my nerdy high-school-aged self walking around with a “Kick Me” sign taped to my back.  If there is a thing to be disputed, whether it be how much of which couch cushion each child’s rear and feet should occupy or whether Mr. Man should be allowed so much as a sidelong glance at the Wiimote in Bugaboo’s hand, it will be, generally with the maximum possible volume and vehemence.

Having separated Bugaboo and Mr. Man by sing my body as a barrier, and sternly cautioned Beanie that under no circumstances was she to stir the pot from her perch on the loveseat, I started to close my eyes again, only to be jarred from any hope of a few minutes of peace by Baby Guy pounding on the door to the boys’ room.  He had apparently been awakened by the commotion and was eager to contribute his full measure to the mayhem.  Beanie hurriedly scurried to the fridge to retrieve her baby brother’s sippy cup and spring him from captivity; happily, the two of them decided they’d rather concoct fabulous feasts in the play kitchen downstairs than compete with the TV for Bugaboo and Mr. Man’s attention.  I took advantage of the distraction to get the dishes done and assemble a change of clothes for Manie; we were headed to Deedaw’s for dinner, and after a day in the July heat looking at wrecked cars, my best guy always appreciates comfortable shoes and dry apparel.

Since the girls’ room was a disaster area and the two couch potatoes had already had a bit too much screen time for my liking, I shut down the Super Hero Squad session after the dishes were done.  Mr. Man was unfazed by this, and headed downstairs to join in the kitchen chaos.  Bugaboo, on the other hand, found this development to be altogether outrageous, and proceeded to inform me, less than politely, that additional episodes were essential to her happiness.  I, in turn, proceeded to inform her that picking up her toys and books would very presently become even more essential to her happiness, as it’s not unknown at our house for toys that are not properly put away to be given away for children who will appreciate them more.  Additional unpleasantness ensued.  I’ll spare you the play-by-play; suffice it to say that several toys were quarantined in the linen closet pending a change in attitude and the proper storage of the remainder.  Beanie, in the meantime, had ventured upstairs and begun to quietly make her bed and put away the shoes that were strewn about the room.  Eventually, Bugaboo decided that it was in her best interests to follow suit, and we were able to leave for Deedaw’s at a decent hour of the late afternoon.

Once there, Bugaboo returned to being her usual kind and helpful little self, assisting Deedaw (who had her second successful cataract surgery yesterday) with some laundry and chattering away while I got dinner started.  All was calm and peaceful until Beanie discovered a balloon Nephew had left behind from his visit with Deedaw on Tuesday.  Bugaboo decided she wanted the balloon more than she wanted to be civilized.  Then she also decided she wanted Mr. Man’s bubble fan more than she wanted to be civilized.  Beanie was sent to the loveseat in the living room, Bugaboo was sent to the rocking chair in the family room, Mr. Man was given back his toy, and Baby Guy was given a fresh cup of milk at his request.

Beanie politely asked to be allowed to read, a request which I not only granted, but also used to give her the means of ending her time out; if she were to read a story to either Mr. Man or Baby Guy (of their choosing), she would be allowed to leave the loveseat and play.  This was highly acceptable to Beanie (and to Mr. Man, who promptly brought her several choices).  Bugaboo, on the other hand, decided to resume her earlier stream of nastiness, complaining in the ugliest tone and terms possible about everything from her dislike of the chair to her lack of desire to be seated therein to the lighting in the room.  Even Deedaw, who is very indulgent towards the grandchildren, was appalled.

Once again, I’ll skip the play-by-play.  Suffice it to say that in the end, Bugaboo was banished to the basement steps until she could regain something resembling a civilized demeanor, then allowed to return to the rocking chair until Manie got home.  When he did, I went for a short walk while she poured out her tale of woe and injustices suffered to him.

I returned to an apology from a puffy-faced Bugaboo.  After I wiped her tears away and shared big hugs with her, I set about getting dinner on the table.  Fortunately, dinner was a hit with the midget mob.  It was a relief to have one meal eaten with minimal dissension from the ranks.

After the dinner dishes had been cleared away and the tribe had grown manic from fatigue, Manie and I bade them all give Deedaw hugs and kisses, as the hour for our departure had grown nigh.  That instruction reopened the complaint department, and we were suddenly besieged with a thousand little requests for THINGS THAT MUST HAPPEN BEFORE WE CAN LEAVE.  Since we were already half an hour past all of their bedtimes, we overruled the objections, and I started herding them all towards the van, a squirming Baby Guy firmly tucked under one arm.

Once they were all securely buckled, I stood in the grass of the front yard for a moment, enjoying the cool of the evening and a slight diminution in the noise level.  Manie and Deedaw had come outside by then, and I was able to give Deedaw the hug and kiss that had been obstructed earlier by an unhappy toddler, and have a quick minute of conversation among the adults.  As we chatted, the pitch and tone of the noise from within the van changed, so I diverted my attention to ascertain the cause of it.

To my very great delight, I heard Beanie exclaim, “Ten cheers for Mommy!”

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This was followed by a little chorus of hurrahs and clapping, all of it loud and enthusiastic.  Manie started to shush them, but I held up a hand and said, “No, please don’t.  I don’t get to hear THIS very often, so please let me enjoy it while it lasts!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for four little blessings with strong bodies, bright minds, and extraordinary lung capacities.  Please help me to always bear in mind that these things are great gifts, and one for which other parents pray.  Lord, please grant me the grace of a heart that is grateful for your gifts, especially the gifts that have the superficial appearance of work and struggle, that are Your daily will and bread for me.  When I am offered thanks or a reward for them in this life, help me to accept either with humility and with joy for that moment when Your smile comes to me through the mouths of my family.

They wrapped their love around him like a blanket

Here’s the song reference.

Our venerable dog, Bo, appeared ready to shuffle off this mortal coil yesterday morning.  When I awoke, he was gasping for breath, unable to stand, and totally uninterested in food and water.  He had a couple of strokes at the beginning of the year, and we were cautioned a few months ago that his days were likely numbered.  As a result, when there’s been a family event out-of-town that necessitates an overnight stay, we’ve generally chosen to split the family, so that one of us can stay here with the elderly gent; when Great-Grandma left us in April, Manie took the girls in one car, and I followed for an up-and-back-in-24-hours with the boys.

He slept through most of yesterday, and I tearfully informed the tribe that we appeared to have reached Bo’s final hours.  Baby Guy found these tidings fairly unimpressive, probably because to him, they were incomprehensible.  Mr. Man was uncharacteristically quiet, Beanie offered that she was happy for Bo, as we was going to Heaven and would see all of the people she loves and misses, and Bugaboo burst into tears.

With the exception of a very brief errand, we stayed home yesterday.  Bo’s breathing calmed before the kids awoke, so no emergency calls to the vet were necessary, and Manie and I decide that watchful waiting was the best approach to take, so long as our old fellow showed no further signs of distress.  Bugaboo, after giving Bo a teary hug and kiss, went into her room, retrieved her favorite blanket, and tenderly covered Bo with it.  Once Mr. Man and Baby Guy were down for their naps (ostensibly – the noise level from their room throughout would indicate that little if any napping actually occurred), I permitted Bugaboo and Beanie to have a rare TV afternoon, so they could spend lots of time close to the ancient wonder who has been their knight-protector from the day they were born.

We proceeded through the day with very little movement from Bo, although he would smile in his sleep (a trademark behavior of his for over a decade) whenever one of his tiny people cuddled close or petted him.  He didn’t eat or drink, save for once around lunchtime and that with a great deal of assistance, but he was peaceful and in no apparent distress.  Bugaboo raided the bookshelves for every dog story she could find, sat close to him and read him every single one of them, and Beanie sang him little lullabies when she could pry Bugaboo away from the spot by his ears.  It took no small amount of effort to convince the two of them to go to bed last night.  They wanted to stay with Bo.

After we finally got them settled into their beds for the twelfth and last time, we decided to see if Bo was willing or able to awaken.  Manie sat gently on the floor by him with a little dish of water, a can of Mighty Dog, and a baby spoon.  Bo raised his weary head enough to empty the little water dish twice, then happily accepted several spoonfuls of food.  Not much, but enough to make us happy, and the food and water stayed down.  As Manie headed back towards the kitchen with the bowl and spoon, Bo attempted to rise, but couldn’t quite gain his feet unaided. Manie put a supporting hand under Bo’s once-burly chest, and the old man stood, grinning.  We helped him to the kitchen for more water from the “real” water dish, then Manie carried him downstairs for a quick visit outside.  All systems, as they say, were “go.”

As I type this, my old friend, who has been with me since before I met my husband, is resting comfortably under my favorite Orioles blanket, having accepted a small serving of puppy treats and a mighty drink of water.  Every day, we assess whether his declining health and strength constitute an inconvenience to us or suffering for him.  For love’s sake, we can live with an enormous amount of inconvenience – and we can rejoice in being so inconvenienced for one more day.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for creating dogs, and for whoever it was You inspired to turn them into our friends.  Thank You for Bo, who has loved and guarded all of us with all his might since You sent him to me in February of 2001 as a helpless, fluffy puppy, and who is now teaching all of us a most valuable lesson:  that love creates joy, not burdens.  Lord, I am humbled by the hearts of Your blessings, who, instead of complaining that their furry friend is taking up the good spot in front of the television, bring him their best blankets and read him their best storybooks.  Please help me guide them by my example as they translate that practice into wholehearted love for all of Your people, and imprint upon all of our hearts that what is merciful is not necessarily what is expedient.


Here’s the song reference.

Our house was filled with the sound of sirens yesterday morning.  All of our little blessings have a great love for cars and trucks, but none more so than Baby Guy, who is at his happiest when surrounded by toy rescue vehicles.  Any car trip he takes is punctuated by little exclamations of “Fiwe twuck!” and “Poweeeeeese caa!”  There are days when his passion for said toys exceeds his desire to eat, and Monday was one of them.  I was a simmering, grey-haired cauldron of frustration at my absolute inability to get our youngest child to sit decently in a chair and eat a waffle and grapes.

Initially, it didn’t help when a large plastic fire truck, sirens wailing, collided painfully with my talus.  I whirled around, wincing, to excoriate the little offender, but stilled my tongue when I saw Baby Guy standing there with his arms spread wide and his face consumed by a huge and hopeful grin.

“Fiwe twuck, Mommy?”

I sighed and cast a rueful glance at the plate containing his nearly untouched breakfast before bending down, reversing the little truck’s direction, and giving it a gentle push back towards the waiting Baby Guy.  He chortled and clapped his wee hands merrily as the fire truck came to rest an inch from his little toes, then pushed it back to me.  We passed about five minutes playing fire truck catch, and his complete, delighted absorption in our game dissipated my frustration.  I laughed along with him, forgetting about the stickiness of the kitchen floor, the uneaten breakfast, the pile of books awaiting inclusion in lesson plans, the dog hair bunnies infesting the areas under the living room furniture.


As I reluctantly turned from our game to start the morning chores, I heard Sunday’s homily ringing through my head.  A piece of advice – bookmark that link, and the next time you’re angry because you feel like everyone else is doing something fun or interesting and you’re stuck doing all the scutwork, listen to it.  Twice.  Once again, I’d been schooled by a two-year-old.  I’d forgotten to rejoice in the day because I was so caught up in mundane minutiae, and instead of radiating love and offering the best work of my hands to the Lord, I was permeating the air around me with sourness and anger.  In that moment, my calling was to play fire trucks with a little boy, not to scrub the floor. My calling was to make sure that Baby Guy knew that he was more important than waffles, papers, books, and dirt.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your little blessings, who frequently remind me of what really matters, that we are to love one another instead of fretting over things.  Thank You for the joyful moments that sound like toy fire truck sirens and toddler giggles.  Please, Lord, help me teach Your blessings that it’s not the books, the dirt, or the breakfast that matter most to You, but the gifts of self we freely give.

And please, Lord, if today is the day You call Your faithful canine servant Bo to you, let his passing be gentle for both him and Your blessings.

He sees skies of blue

Here’s the song reference.

I went to early Mass yesterday, then scooted home to gather up Mr. Man and Baby Guy, who would be accompanying me on a short trip with Deedaw while Bugaboo and Beanie went to 9:30 Mass with Manie.  You see, yesterday marked exactly 7 months since Nonno left, and Deedaw wanted to take her best guy some flowers.  After a bit of circular driving to purchase flowers and locate Deedaw’s cane, we headed northward to the cemetery where Nonno’s remains rest.

This particular July in Virginia has been very hot and very sticky; walking through the rows of headstones to get to Nonno’s grave somewhat resembled a walk through a vat of unfinished taffy.  Baby Guy was cranky from  being in his car seat and thus unable to run; while he was able to walk around the cemetery, the number of visitors and the overall solemnity of the place precluded his really being able to bust loose in ebullient two-year-old fashion.  He contented himself with helping Mr. Man clean tombstones with the bag of baby wipes that always accompanies us on these trips for a few minutes before pelting off down the row.

Mr. Man stayed devotedly by his Deedaw while I chased down his errant little brother, alternating between patting her shoulder and patting Nonno’s stone.  When Baby Guy and I returned, the four of us joined in a last prayer for the living and the dead, Baby Guy squirming and complaining in my lap all the while, before we started the sweaty walk back to the van.

On that walk, Mr. Man stopped to get a wipe from our stash, and turned briefly aside to help a widow, a stranger to us, clean her husband’s gravestone.  He patted her arm, too, when he noticed she was crying.  We all stopped to offer her our comfort and understanding, and to assure her of our prayers, before continuing back across the grass.

Baby Guy is still working on the concept of holding hands when he’s let down to walk, so our progress was punctuated by me diverting off to one side or the other to catch him after he slipped his hand free of mine and took off to see the many flowers that decorated graves in that section of the cemetery.  Eventually, I had to scoop him up and carry him, kicking and screaming, back to the van.  The heat and humidity of the day were simply too much for Deedaw, and I fretted that Baby Guy, if he continued sprinting amongst the stones, would either draw the ire of other visitors or drop from heat exhaustion.

As I belted my struggling son back into his car seat, I sighed between his cries, thinking the twenty-five mile ride home was going to be rather a long one.  Deedaw shot me a sympathetic glance, and wordlessly produced a bag of veggie fries from among her belongings.  That seemed to calm our youngest a bit; it’s always struck me as a great mercy that all of our children have responded well to a little snack when they’re grouchy.  After a quick stop at the trash can to dispose of used wipes and water bottles, we headed southwards, intermittent complaints from Baby Guy still punctuating the audio from the movie the boys were watching.

As we drove the curving ramp onto the interstate, Baby Guy’s irritated ejaculations turned to sounds of wonder and happiness, and we heard him repeating, over and over, “I see blue!  I see blue!”  A quick peek into the rear-view mirror showed me that he was pointing out the van window at the sky.

“Yeah, big guy, you see skies of blue, don’t you?  Do you see the clouds of white, too?”

“I see white!  I see white!”

Deedaw gave me a wry smile.  We’d both been so caught up in our sadness, in our missing Nonno, that we’d forgotten the majesty of the heavens, the beauty of a blue sky adorned with billows of puffy cloud.

Our trip home was pretty peaceful, actually.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the reminder from the mouth of Your little blessing that when the cares of this life grieve us sorely, we need but look to You and Your promises to find comfort and peace.  Thank You for the opportunity You provided to comfort a mourning stranger, and for the means You have given us to get to the places where strangers need comforting.  Please guard my mind and heart from anxiety over our daily cares, and help me teach Your blessings that You will provide what we need for the day.  We will not be without discomforts, but if we bear in mind that Your service is our priority, we will be able to bear those small crosses joyfully.

Daddy’s hands

Here’s the song reference.

An aside – no, I do not still call my father “Daddy.”  We prefer “Dad” or “Grandpa” these days.

Grandpa – my Dad – will be 68 in a couple of days.  I’m always at a loss for what to do for his birthday, because there really aren’t many material things he needs or wants.  In recent years, we’ve settled on giving him shirts lovingly handprinted by the grandchildren, a couple of books he really wanted, a homemade pizza, things like that.  He delights in our simple gifts.

This year, as it happened, one of his all-time favorite country singers gave a concert here in our little town.  When I saw the concert announcement, I called and asked him if he would like to go to the show for his birthday this year, since the date was only three days off.  He enthusiastically agreed that this would be a wonderful gift indeed.  Plans were made, tickets purchased, and the countdown to the big day began.  We decided that, since Manie loathes country music, and there’s not a single member of the tribe that could handle the heat and experiences that attend a Hank Williams, Jr. concert in Virginia in July, this would be a straight-up father-daughter outing.

He could not, however, resist being Grandpa, and insisted on treating the tribe to a snack at Big Yellow M before the show.  No visit here would be complete for him without hugs from the grandkids, with perhaps a touch of grandparental spoiling thrown in for good measure.

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After our snack, Manie took the tribe over to hang out with Deedaw, while Grandpa and I headed for the concert.  As it happened, the promoters were a little optimistic in their estimation of what time the show would start, so we found ourselves with some time to wander around the grounds and see the vendors and exhibitors who had set up pavilions around the lawn seating area.  After checking out the various food and beverage offerings, we chanced upon a pavilion manned by some fine young members of the United States Marines.

There was a pull-up bar in front of the tent, and a strategically placed placard advertised little prizes to any man who could do certain numbers of pull-ups, or women who could pull-up and do the bent-arm bar hang, chin above the bar, for certain numbers of seconds.  Grandpa eyed the bars speculatively, whereupon the young men began gently teasing him.

“Come on, give it a try, if you can do just one I’ll give you a lanyard!”

Grandpa gave the young fellow the “you gotta be kidding me look” that I have known well for 42 years, confidently approached the apparatus, and climbed up.

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The young men were grinning, somewhat incredulously, and while their words were encouraging, they seemed to doubt his prospects.

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They’ve never met my Dad before.  Their facial expressions were quite different a moment later.

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Alas, I lack the photographic evidence that I earned my own lanyard.  I guess I always have been kind of a Daddy’s girl.

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My Dad taught me the same lesson he has taught, consistently and gently, for all forty-two years of my life, in a time of my life when I needed the reminder that along with the science, math, and English lesson plans, there’s something my kids need to know that they’ll learn from my life, not from their textbooks.  Sometimes, things are hard.  Sometimes, people will laugh at you, either to your face or behind your back, at even daring to try.  But you do try.  You take the challenge in your hands, hold fast and hold tight, call on the Lord to help you, and use every ounce of strength you’ve been given.  Sometimes you fall flat on your backside, as Grandpa did on his first attempt at the pull-up.  Instead of sitting around complaining about how the bar is too high or the people around you aren’t responding the way you think they ought, you get up, brush the dirt off your pants, and try it again.  If you make it, you make it.  If you don’t, at least you know you gave it everything you had, and you walk away with your head held high and a prayer in your heart that you will listen to the Lord  when He leads you where He wanted you to go in the first place.  You don’t blame the people who scoffed, you don’t blame the bar, you don’t blame the ground – really, you don’t blame anyone or anything.  You either do it, or you don’t, and you keep living and eagerly anticipating the next opportunity you’ll have to accomplish something.  You choose joy.

Today’s prayer:

Lord, thank You for my Dad, who even in his darkest hours, has loved me.  Thank You for using him as Your instrument to teach me that I am nobody’s victim, that I am beloved by You even when the world ridicules or despises me.  Thank You for the young men whose faces reminded me that I should approach the worthy endeavors of others, no matter how trivial or foolish they may seem at the moment, with an encouraging word and, perhaps, a silent prayer to You.  Please help me teach Your blessings that You are our strength and our hope, and that when some worldly endeavor ends badly, we should take the time to listen for Your wisdom, and that instead of clinging bitterly to past slights, injuries, and failures, Your will for us is that we move forward, shining Your joyful light upon whatever we do.

If I could save teeth in a bottle

Here’s the song reference.

For the past several days, Bugaboo has been working on her second loose tooth, adjacent to the first tooth she lost (on the bottom – as it happens, she was born with that particular tooth).  She has tried everything short of raiding Daddy’s toolbox to get that tooth out; fortunately, this has given me a lovely opportunity to feed her more apples and carrots for snacks, the tooth-removing properties of both produce items being well-known among the six-year-old set.

We stopped at our local Walgreens en route to Deedaw’s yesterday to pick up a snack for the midget mob,  and a soda for me, as I was slightly undercaffeinated.  All the way through the store (we wandered around a bit to take advantage of the deliciously cold air conditioning), Bugaboo worried at her loose tooth, so focused on her labor that I nearly misplaced her twice.

Having selected appropriate snacks and drinks, along with several new flashing balls and the package of highlighters I’d forgotten on my regular shopping trip earlier in the week, we headed for the checkout to purchase our goods.  Mr. Man and Beanie enthusiastically leaned into the cart to retrieve the items and put them on the counter, to the great amusement of the young fellow at the register (who they greeted very politely as “Mr. Ben” after spying his name tag), dodging buffets from Baby Guy’s sippy cup, which he was flailing at their heads to express his frustration at being firmly belted into the cart seat.  He managed to connect with Beanie’s cranium, which caused her to wail and drop the bag of popcorn she was retrieving from the cart, which Mr. Man eagerly seized, which caused Beanie to alternate the direction of her wails between Baby Guy for bonking her in the head and Mr. Man for “stealing” the bag of popcorn, when Bugaboo started jumping up and down and crying, “Look, look!”

Bugaboo’s amateur dental efforts had finally borne fruit, and she held a tiny tooth in her hand.  Fortunately, this had the effect of temporarily quelling the riot, as Mr. Man and Beanie rushed over to see both the newly-enlarged gap in their eldest sister’s grin and the tooth; chaos threatened again when Bugaboo had to clench her prize in her little fist, which she then raised high above her head, to keep her siblings from running off with it.  Beanie was diverted by the need to get the last items out of the cart, while Mr. Man suddenly decided the keypad of the ATM adjacent to the cash register was far more interesting than his sister’s dentition.

Mr. Ben, the cashier, let slip a chuckle before warmly congratulating Bugaboo on her accomplishment.  My immediate concern was that Bugaboo not lose her tooth in the van, so after thanking him for his kindness and patience towards our tribe, I asked if he might have a small bag or box in which we could preserve it.  He did not, but suggested that the pharmacist might, so after piling our bags back into the cart, we headed for the back of the store, much to the chagrin of one Baby Guy, who was ready for his cart ride to end (Baby Guy cannot be trusted in a store that sells candy at this point, especially if there is any chance my attention will be diverted from him).

We waited patiently in a short line at the pharmacy counter; when our turn came, Bugaboo confidently walked up to the clerk before I could say a word, and pleasantly asked, “Excuse me, ma’am, but I lost my tooth just now.  Do you have a little box or bag I could keep it in until I get home?”  I quickly added an offer to pay for it, which the lady just as quickly waved off.  She disappeared for a moment, then returned with a small pill bottle and two broadly grinning pharmacists, who insisted on seeing Bugaboo’s treasure and telling her how adorable she was with her gap-toothed grin.

She thanked everyone profusely and giggled, I thanked everyone profusely and started herding the tribe back towards the exit.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the reminder that sometimes, the things that served us when we were very small have to fall away so that we can grow and mature.  Thank you for the kindness of strangers with generous hearts, and for the simple grace of a little orange plastic bottle.  Thank you for Your little blessings, who have their own voices, strong bodies, nimble minds, and exuberant hearts.  Thank you for a day on which our visit to the pharmacy was only to get a container for a lost baby tooth.  Please help me teach your blessings that each little pain we experience is an indication that You are preparing us to grow in some way, and open our hearts and minds to the wonder of what You will have us become.

Turn the page

Here’s the song reference.

This morning found the girls and I sitting in the kitchen, after the morning calls to Grandma and Deedaw, after teeth and hair had been brushed, but before Mr. Man and Baby Guy made their snarky morning way up the stairs.  I had books spread across the table, and my trusty, yellow plastic, three-ring binder full of college ruled notebook paper open in front of me, with hundreds of pages covered in lesson plans written in black PaperMate ink.

Bugaboo and Beanie, surveying the pile of pages with sparkling eyes, cozied up to me, and Beanie hopefully inquired, “Mommy, is it time for us to start schoolwork, real schoolwork, again yet?  I really like schoolwork.  I like learning new things.  Can we have our new school year yet?”

I had told her and Bugaboo, when this question arose just over three weeks ago, that I needed a month to get everything together, whereupon Bugaboo helpfully informed me that would mean our new school year would start the first of August.  Still and all, while this year’s math texts have a little too much review in them, they contain a bounty of pages designed to improve numeric penmanship. Since they both need some work on forming their numbers properly, I grinned, pulled the books of the shelf with a flourish, and asked, “Would you settle for getting started with one new schoolbook until I get everything else together?”


I am surprised that the ensuing clatter of chairs did not awaken the boys. It certainly sent a disgruntled Bo shuffling into the living room to find a more peaceful napping venue.  Two new, glittery pencils through the sharpener later, and Bugaboo and Beanie were happily settled in at the table to practice writing their twos, threes, and fours, and to giggle over the exercises that required them to count to five – which, I should add, they completed anyway, just for the joy of showing off that they already KNEW the first few things in this math book.

They tired of practicing their number writing around the same time I came to a stopping point in my planning, so, after we stowed all of our books, we decided to take a few minutes to pray together.  We offered up our  prayers for all of the people who would need water and shelter from the day’s heat, for the people who were working to provide those essentials, and for gratitude that we do not lack them.  As we finished, Baby Guy and Mr. Man came snarking upstairs, looking for milk, food, hugs, kisses, and clean britches.  The boys settled in for peaches and French toast, the girls grabbed their jigsaw puzzle books, and the five of us sat companionably until the boys’ stomachs were sated to the point that they resumed their usual resemblance to perpetual motion machines.

That also happened to be the point at which they started plaguing Bugaboo and Beanie for access to their puzzle books, which the boys are absolutely not allowed to touch at this point.  To head off what appeared ready to become a battle royale, I sent them all into the living room to pull the little table and chairs out from under the couch, tore a handful of pages out of a coloring book, and tossed a box of crayons into a basket for easy sharing.  With great enthusiasm, I proclaimed it children’s coloring time, and strewed the table with the coloring pages as the four of them scrambled to unfold their little chairs, giggling as they went.  Bo took this opportunity to complain at me as he shambled back into the kitchen, his nap disturbed once again.

We have three small chairs and four small people, which generally means that child who lollygags ends up either standing at the table or using a full-sized folding chair at a half-sized table. Yesterday, Mr. Man was the odd man out, and his displeasure resulted in the particular sort of temper tantrum that deafens anyone within the blast radius.  Bugaboo, Beanie, and Baby Guy completely ignored him.  They were busy coloring (well, Baby Guy was busier trying to eat the crayons, really).  I pulled him aside and gave him his options, one of which involved using the big chair, on of which involved using his feet, one of which involved asking his siblings politely to switch chairs with him, and the last of which involved going downstairs to play by himself in his room.

He didn’t like any of those options.  I’m pretty sure the neighbors eight blocks away can confirm this.

Half an hour later, Mr. Man finally settled down, just as his siblings tired of coloring.  Bugaboo and Baby Guy headed off to go play with superhero action figures and trucks, and Mr. Man happily helped himself to Baby Guy’s chair, which had been the original object of his desire.  Beanie decided to stay at the table for a few more minutes, talking to her little brother and helping him find an unused coloring page.  When she got up to leave, he decided to accompany her instead of staying at the table by himself.  As the two of them decamped for the girls’ room to play with the dollhouse, I inquired, “Mr. Man, was it more fun to scream and yell by yourself, or to color with Beanie?”

“Color with Beanie.”

“Remember that, please.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who rejoice in the new, even when it’s really something old or ordinary with a new cover or unmarked pages.  Please help me teach them that even if you’ve done a thing a thousand times, and can do an adequate job of it, practicing the talents and gifts You have given us until we perfect them gives honor and thanks to You.  Grant me the grace of mindfulness that no matter how badly I want to join in with what a group is doing, I should approach it, and them, with Your love in my heart instead of envy and wrath for the seemingly inferior seat I am offered at the table; let me show Your blessings that accepting the least of places joyfully makes me a vessel for Your greatness.

Oh, ho, what I want to know, is are you kind

Here’s the song reference.

While I have not posted any additional lesson plans (yet), rest assured that lesson planning for the new school year continues at a frenetic pace.  The “First Americans” unit of this year’s study of American history has taken on a life of its own, and may well encompass an entire year of study by the time we’re done; Bugaboo and Beanie keep finding new and fascinating nuggets in the books I’ve checked out from the library, which has led to more field trips being added, more projects being planned, and . . . well, you get the idea.

I am mindful, however, that our children learn from us whether school is officially in session or not.  One lesson my husband and I have endeavored to teach our children is that when there are terrible things in the news, it is better to simply turn off the television, the radio, and the computer, and go find something constructive to do.  It is rarely useful to sit around, gawking, while people who have more opinions than facts attempt to increase advertising revenues for their stations or sites by provoking responses of intense anger or fear.

There was a recent decision by a certain jury in a certain criminal trial in a certain city in the state of Florida that has greatly upset, according to all media reports and my Facebook news feed, quite a number of people.  It seems as though the overwhelming response to the verdict is to look for someone to blame, someone to accuse, someone to find loathsome or frightening or hateful.

We have chosen differently.

This morning, as on many summer mornings, we headed to the park with a cooler full of snacks and water, hoping to meet our usual group of friends in spite of the oppressive heat and humidity.  While we did not see any of “our crowd” there, we did meet up with a group of gentlemen who live in a group home for people with intellectual disabilities, a lady training a puppy, and about a dozen children (with their mothers) whom we had not previously met.  There were also a couple of fellows who work for the Parks and Recreation department taking care of some playground maintenance.  We had plenty of company, in other words, of all ages, abilities, and skin tones.

Our cooler was full of snacks and water, as I mentioned before, and the gentlemen from the group home were sitting, along with their assistants, a couple of tables away from our base camp.  As members of my tribe returned to the table for something to eat or drink, I asked them if they would like to share anything from our cooler with the other occupants of the picnic shelter.  Bugaboo offered water to the girls with whom she’d been playing tag, Mr. Man offered marshmallows to the Parks and Recreation employees, and Baby Guy scrunched up his face and hollered, “NO!  MY SNACK! MY CUPPY! NO!”

We’re still working on that one.  Hey, he just turned two, after all.

After a moment of sober consideration, Beanie took the bag of pretzel Goldfish from our cooler and walked over to the other group occupying the shelter.  She looked up into the face of the first man she came to, smiled, and inquired, “Would you like to share my snack?  I have plenty, and it’s really yummy.”  The fellow beamed, and eagerly reached for the bag.  One of the assistants with the group quickly offered a cup to hold some of the little crackers, then started laughing when he realized that Beanie intended to go around to each and every member of the group, offering to share her bag of fishies.  She also offered them to the aides, and told them, “You were so kind to give everybody cups for their snacks.  Wouldn’t you like to have a snack, too?”

We smiled together.  We ate pretzel goldfish under a picnic shelter together, while some of the other moms at the park looked on incredulously.  Mr. Man came back, helped himself to a couple of the remaining crackers, and sat down amongst the men, introducing himself and asking if their favorite snack was fishies.  When we left for the library about a quarter of an hour later, we exchanged farewells and hopes we would meet again with our new friends.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that sharing pretzel goldfish at the park will solve any of the world’s problems.

I do have faith enough to teach my children that if we seek common ground with everyone we meet, even if it’s something as simple as the need for shade on a hot day, and practice kindness with everyone we meet, and share the gifts we have to give freely, without conditions, categories, or condescension, then we will be following the Great Commandment:  “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy strength, and love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the kindness of the people who accepted the small gift offered by a little girl and the companionship of a little boy, without hesitation or fear.  Thank You for Your little blessings who see Your face in every person they meet, and for always putting people in our path with whom we can share Your bountiful gifts.  Please, Lord, keep my heart simple, that I may recognize Your image and likeness in every human being and offer to them the love I bear towards You, and grant me the grace to train up the children with whose care You have entrusted me that this is the way they should go, that when they are grown, they shall not depart from it.  Please infuse our every thought, word, and deed with such love that we shall be a beacon to all people, pointing them to You and away from all divisions sown by Your adversary.