Archive | August 2013

The final countdown


Here’s the song reference.

The tribe slept in a little yesterday morning, which I attribute to the later sunrise times of late August.  Mr. Man was, once again, the last one to the kitchen for breakfast; by the time he arrived on the scene, Baby Guy had already hauled a fire truck onto the kitchen table, and Beanie and Bugaboo were just about done with their seatwork for the morning.  Beanie, for the record, is setting the world of first-grade math afire, and is on track to start second-grade math before the end of September.  Bugaboo has finally gotten it through her head that she, too, can let her natural math aptitude run wild, and is now racing to catch up with Beanie.  My criterion is strict; they must get at least 90% of any given exercise right on the first attempt, and be able to correct it to 100% accuracy.  If they’re going to accelerate, I cannot have any margin for error when it comes to assessing their skills – but I digress.

Upon his arrival into the kitchen, Mr. Man tugged open the refrigerator door that generally holds his cup of milk (I fill four cups before any of them awaken, so if I’m otherwise occupied, each child can at least sit down with a cup of milk until I can get food that constitutes acceptable breakfast fare in front of him or her), fumbled his cup out of the caddy, then turned to me with a hopeful grin.

“Mommy, I see biscuits.  Can I cook some biscuits, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?”

Every so often, I’ll buy a can of refrigerated biscuits – the really cheap kind.  They’re sort of my emergency lunch plan, since I can throw just about anything on top of or in the middle of a little biscuit and have it deemed positively ambrosial by the tiny people; while I prefer to bake my own, there are those days when time is short and appetites are large.  It doesn’t hurt that I happen to like them, too.

“Sure, why not, Mr. Man.  You get the can out and put it on the table.  Make sure you don’t put it down near Baby Guy, please.”

As Mr. Man clapped and chortled over his gastronomic victory, I got down the faithful ceramic pie plate, incubator of many a batch of canned biscuits, and turned on the oven.  Turning from those tasks, I turned to see a grinning Mr. Man waving the blue cardboard tube triumphantly.  “I got da biscuits out now, Mommy!  Now YOU have to make it go POP!”

I do believe that one of the kids’ favorite things about canned biscuits is the little explosion when the tube is breached.  Mr. Man joined me in a shouted countdown before the biscuits made their obligatory racket, then settled into his chair to arrange the biscuit dough in the pan.  As he worked, he glanced at the stove, where the timer was counting down the minutes and seconds until the appliance finished preheating.

Mr. Man loves numbers and counting, and he will count any object or read any number in sight.  The sight of the numbers ticking slowly backwards was irresistible to him, and he turned his gaze to me, eyes full of wonder, and inquired, “What’s that, Mommy?  Is not a timer, biscuits are still here, not in the oven.”

“Actually, big dude, that is a timer.  It’s the timer that tells us when the oven will be hot enough to cook the biscuits.”  As I offered my explanation, the time remaining crossed into “under a minute” territory.  “When the third number goes away, it means there’s less than a minute left, and we can count down the seconds until the oven is ready to bake.  See?  Fifty-four, fifty-three, fifty-two . . .”

Mr. Man was awestruck by this new discovery, and joined in the countdown.  “Fifty, forty-nine, forty-eight . . .”

It’s not that I didn’t have a thousand things to do yesterday morning, but I don’t know that any of them would have given me the joy that counting down forty-eight seconds of a day with Mr. Man did.  At around the twenty second mark, Bugaboo and Beanie joined in what had become a singsong chant of backwards counting.  I was almost sorry when the stove beeped to signal the end of the preheat cycle.

“Timer dinged, Mommy, you set the timer and it’s done now, can we cook the biscuits now, the oven is ready!”

“Well, we could, but we were having so much fun counting we forgot to finish putting the biscuits in the pan!  Here, let me help you.  Remember, we make a circle with them, with two in the middle, and make sure they’re all touching so they can snuggle up to each other while they bake.”

“Yeah, we make a BIIIIIIIIIIIG CIRCLE!”

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding me seconds of time matter, and an instant can loom large in the eyes of a child. Thank you for the opportunity to teach Your blessings time can pass joyfully, and even waiting can be a happy task if we choose to make it so.  Please grant us the wisdom to recognize that while we know neither the hour or the day, You call us to rejoice in each moment of each day You grant us, and the grace to never become so busy we are unable to recognize the small miracles of children learning.

Pour some sugar on me


Here’s the song reference.

Nearly every time I set foot in the kitchen, I am immediately beset by the midget mob and their pleas to be allowed to assist with the preparation of whatever food might be on the menu for our next meal or snack.  While I try to accommodate them as often as possible, the mayhem that usually accompanies their participation, particularly the heated arguments among the tiny people over who should be permitted to do what, generally has me shooing them away from the stove and dispatching them to fold napkins or retrieve forks and spoons from the silverware drawer.

Of course, as I type this, I’m struck by the realization that I’ve been missing a wonderful opportunity to teach them patience, humility, and cooperation that has a built-in and highly desirable reinforcer.  Sometimes the efficient way isn’t the best one.

At any rate, I had thawed out a pork roast to cook for last night’s dinner, and, as I removed it from the refrigerator, it occurred to me that the preparation of that particular roast was fairly simple, and something Bugaboo could certainly do.  As I took a pie plate down from the cupboard, I called to her, “Hey, Bugaboo, do you want to help make dinner tonight?”

A faint “Wha-a-at?” wafted up the stairs at me from behind the closed door of the boys’ room, where Bugaboo was into something involving stuffed animals, action figures, and a toy picnic basket with Baby Guy.

“Do you want to help make dinner tonight?”

I heard the distinctive sound of a door crashing into a wall, then the pounding of Bugaboo feet ascending the stairs at a run.

“I can help make dinner?  Yes, I’d love to!  What are we making?”

I showed her the bag with the roast in it.  “What is this?”

“I think it’s pork. Are we making that?”

“Yup.  And you can help, if you want.  Go wash your hands.  When you think they’re really clean, wash them again.  And please don’t slam the bathroom door,” I added, as the bathroom door slammed shut behind her.

Moments later, my able and eager assistant was perched on a kitchen chair, awaiting instructions.  Her first task was to line the pie plate with foil (because Mommy hates scrubbing caramelized sugar and other burnt stuff off the dishes), and she quickly learned that it’s not as easy as it looks to get foil to conform to the contours of a round pan.  Still, she managed to do a decent job of it, and I showed her how to put a finger in the center of the foil and use her other hand to trace the outline of the pan’s bottom in the foil with her finger, which makes it lay flat.  She thought that was pretty cool.

I handed her a can of cooking spray and asked her to spray the foil, so the roast would release when it was done cooking.  She stared dubiously at the can for a few moments, and I reminded her to find the hole in the can top, and point that at the pan, but not at her face.  About a minute later, as I was assembling ingredients for her to mix the crust for the roast, I heard a sound like an angry snake, followed by a great deal of coughing.  Turning to see what had happened, I saw a puddle of pale yellow foam in the middle of the pie plate and a red-faced, coughing, six-year-old.

“You okay, Bugaboo?”

“Yeah (cough), I think (cough) so.”

I handed her a paper towel and a cup of water.  “What happened?”

“I finally got it to spray, but it sprayed at me.  I didn’t point it at my face, see, I pointed it at the pan, but it still sprayed at me.”

Managing not to chuckle, I gently reminded her (she’s used cooking spray before) that she needed to hold the can a little farther above the pan when spraying it, or the mist would ricochet off the pan and into her face.  “Are you okay? Do you want to try to finish it, or do you want me to help you?”

“Can you show me how high to hold the can?

“This, I can do.”  Holding the can about a foot above the pan, I gave the pie plate a quick spritz. “See? Like that.”

“Oh.”  Bugaboo glanced up at me sheepishly.  “I guess that was pretty silly.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it.  Everybody forgets things, especially things they don’t do that often.  Ready to try again?”

“Sure.”  This time, she succeeded in coating the pan instead of herself, and went on to finish the rest of the steps to prepare the pork for roasting, while her envious sister watched.  I’ll spare you the play-by-play, but I will include the recipe after today’s prayer.

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Dinner was delicious.

Beanie extracted a promise from me that she would get to help make dinner tonight.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the abundance of nourishing food You provide for our family, for the home with its kitchen table where we all gather for meals, for a family that believes that meals should be eaten together, without distractions, for the means to pay for electricity to run the appliances to prepare them, for a place to store our daily bread safely.  Thank You for Your blessings who want to learn about and help with everything that goes into making those family dinners.  Please grant us the grace to give sincere thanks to You for all Your gifts, instead of rushing through a prayer before meals, patient hearts that yearn to teach the right lessons to Your blessings, and gentle tongues when we instruct.  Remind us, as we enjoy Your bounty, to recall and refresh Your children with whom we should share it, and inflame us with the desire to minister to them.

**********

Pork roast even picky two-year-olds will eat:

Pork loin
1/3 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp (or more) ginger
salt for sprinkling

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking pan with foil, then oil, butter, or spray the foil.  Sprinkle a pinch or two of salt on the greased foil.  Lay the pork loin on top of the salt, fat side up.  Mix the brown sugar with the remaining seasonings (if you have maple sugar, this recipe benefits hugely from a dash of that as well) and pat it onto the pork loin, forming a crust.  Roast for 30 minutes per pound.  Slice thickly, and lay the slices in the pan juices for serving.  If you have kids, be prepared for fights to break out over pieces of the crust.

Ice, ice, baby


Here’s the song reference.

Our plans for yesterday became somewhat scrambled when the entire tribe opted to sleep in.  This is a rare and unpredictable happenstance, and as much as I frequently lament that none of our children seem capable of sleeping past 7:30 a.m., it always surprises me how much I miss them when they do.  Bugaboo was the first to emerge at around 7:40, just in time to kiss Manie good-bye before he left for work; by the time Beanie shuffled into the kitchen at 8:30, she’d finished half of her seatwork for the day.  Before Bugaboo started her grammar assignment at around 9:30, I asked her to go down to the boys’ room and open the door a crack, as I was getting a little concerned that we hadn’t heard anything from the Y chromosome contingent.

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A couple of minutes later, Baby Guy meandered into the kitchen to see what his sisters were doing.  Bugaboo finished her assignment a couple of minutes after that, and condescended to grant Baby Guy the privilege of playing Legos with her in the girls’ room once he’d devoured his sausage biscuit.  Beanie was able to finish her math mostly in peace, and with a little extra attention from me, since her siblings were all otherwise occupied.  Mr. Man finally grouched his way upstairs, trailing a blankie, around 10:15; around mouthfuls of sausage biscuit, he brought himself to full wakefulness by snarling at anything that moved.

Beanie finished her morning seatwork at about the same time Mr. Man finished his breakfast, and the two of them decided to join the Lego party in the girls’ room.  This, I assumed, gave me an opportunity to fold the load of laundry that was cooling into wrinkles in the dryer.  Four shirts in, I heard Bugaboo howling, “MO-O-O-O-M!  MR. MAN STOLE THE BOX OF POPSICLES OUT OF THE FREEZER!”

I should probably mention that Mr. Man and Baby Guy share a fascination with the freezer, along with everything that resides in it.  While it’s awfully cute to watch their antics as they try to access ice cubes, ice cream, frozen waffles, or any of the other delights, replacements of and repairs to major appliances are rather expensive, so we have to discourage the boys from opening the big drawer that holds the frozen foods.  We must also frequently remind them that the drawer handle is neither a monkey bar nor a stepladder.

Abandoning the laundry, I raced up the stairs, to be greeted by a weeping Mr. Man.  Both of his hands were thrust behind his back, and he greeted me with a desperate, “No, Mommy, you don’t come upstairs, you said you needed to fold the laundry, no, Mommy, you go back downstairs.”

“Dude.  Seriously.  Were you in the freezer again?  Bugaboo says you took something out of the freezer.”

“I want a popsicle, Mommy, I really want a popsicle, I NEED a popsicle, popsicles were in the freezer!”

“Right, buddy, I know popsicles were in the freezer.  What are you supposed to do if you want a popsicle?”

“I want a popsicle, I need a popsicle, I supposed to ask Mommy may I have a popsicle please?”

He’d been holding the box of freezer pops behind his back long enough at that point that his fingers were too cold to hold on any longer, so he thrust the box at me with a plaintive, “Mommy, may I have a popsicle please and would you use the very sharp scissors to open the popsicles please and can I have a red one?”

Decisions, decisions.  Mr. Man’s initial tone and actions required redress, but he was now asking properly, and we’ve been trying very hard to give him lots of positive reinforcement when he chooses to ask properly.

“Tell you what.  It’s eleven o’clock, and you’re still in your jammies.  If you get dressed first, I think we could arrange a popsicle.  I’ll help you get some clothes.”

“But I want a popsicle NOW!”  His chest started heaving, and the beginnings of tears threatened to overspill his improbably long lashes.

“I understand that you want a popsicle, but you NEED to get dressed.  I’m going to put these back in the freezer now, and once you’re dressed, you can practice asking for them properly, and then you may have one.  Okay?  Let’s go!”

With the anguished wails from Mr. Man as he trailed down the stairs for a soundtrack, I replaced the box in the freezer, then met him on the landing to accompany our elder son to his room for clothing selection.  After helping him find a clean pull-up and a shirt and pants that wouldn’t constitute an ocular assault when combined, I went back upstairs to clear the remains of the morning’s schoolwork off the table.  Bugaboo, Beanie, and Baby Guy met me at the top of the stairs.

Spokeswoman Bugaboo inquired brightly, “Mommy, are there really popsicles?”

“Yes, Bugaboo, there are really popsicles.”

“Are we getting popsicles?”

Baby Guy stomp-ran to the kitchen and began tugging on the freezer drawer crowing, “Possicles, possicles, possicles!”

I sighed.  “Everyone will get popsicles when Mr. Man comes back upstairs.  Are you done playing Legos for now?  If you are, this would be a good time to put them back in their bucket, while we’re waiting for Mr. Man.”

Bugaboo and Beanie headed for their room at a run, nearly crashing into the wall in their haste.  Baby Guy continued his assault on the freezer.  As I peeled our youngest child’s hands from the drawer handle, I heard the pitter-patter of Mr. Man’s feet on the stairs, then on the wood of the upstairs hallway.  “Hey, buddy, are you all dressed and ready for popsicles?”

I turned, with Baby Guy snuggled against my hip to prevent further attempts at a freezer incursion, to see Mr. Man standing in the kitchen doorway, stark naked, and with a jubilant smile on his face.  He had apparently overheard my conversation with his siblings.

“I back upstairs now, Mommy, may I have a popsicle now please, I really need a popsicle now, you told Bugaboo if Mr. Man came up we could have popsicles, here I am, may I have a popsicle now please?”

As I frequently assert on this blog – can’t laugh, not funny.

“Mr. Man.  I told you that you needed to get dressed before you have a popsicle.  You are definitely not dressed.  Please go back downstairs and get dressed.  You did ask properly, but you are still not dressed, and I cannot let you eat popsicles with no clothes on.”

I have to admit that I briefly considered that it would be much easier to clean him up if he DID get the popsicle before he garbed himself.

“But . . .”

“No but.  You know what comes out of butts.  Get dressed now, please.”

I could hear him grumbling quietly about the injustice of it all throughout his entire descent back to his room.  A couple of minutes later, he came back into the kitchen, fully dressed, albeit with his shirt on backwards.  I decided we’d fought enough battles for one morning.

“Okay, buddy, what can I do for you?”

He gazed at me soulfully.  “Mommy, may I please have a popsicle please a red one please?”

“That was wonderful asking.  Yes, you may.”

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the opportunity to remember You have granted my petition for patience, just as You granted our prayer for children.  Please help me teach them the difference between a need and a want, and that we should do the things we must before the things we like, when they differ.  Thank you for the people who invented the appliances that free up so much of our time to work on non-manual tasks, and grant us of the grace of hearts that long to use those extra hours to serve You instead of ourselves.

This is Captain America calling


Here’s the song reference.

I live in a house full of Avengers fanatics.  This works out well, since my husband and I are both big, big fans of the Marvel Universe.  Through the miracle of DVDs and Netflix, we have introduced the tribe to the animated Avengers and X-Men series.  It’s good to be geeky parents with appreciative children.  One adorable side effect of this is Baby Guy’s recently-developed habit of, when he wishes to call his siblings to him, pointing his wee index finger in the air and loudly proclaiming, “Avengews!  Assemboo!”

Since the first part of our day had been a scene from Chaos, and none of the tiny people believed in the restorative power of naps yesterday, I was charitably inclined towards Baby Guy when he pointed to the remote control and used his new catchphrase in the interrogative sense.  His cause was quickly adopted by Mr. Man and Bugaboo, so, with a laugh, I turned on Netflix and the television, started an episode of Avengers:  Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and joined the tumble of bodies squirming for a spot on the couch.

Before the opening song had finished, Bugaboo had decided that all the Avengers action figures needed to emerge from their hiding places, partly that they might be used to act out what was happening in the episode, partly that the toys might “watch” their onscreen counterparts.  Her idea was likely inspired by Baby Guy tromping around the living room, waving his little arms and growling, “HUWK SMASH!”  One major upside to our kids’ superhero obsession is that I get to point out – regularly – that the Avengers are make-believe, and we do not go around smashing things in real life.  Children scattered to every corner of the house to retrieve their superhero dolls, and we quickly had quite the impressive assemblage in the middle of the rug.

I had my usual fun playing dumb with the tribe, asking silly questions like, “Why is he dressed in red, white, and blue?”  It’s a habit I picked up from playing the videos in the van where, of course, I can’t see what’s happening on the screen, because I’m driving.  Bugaboo, Beanie, and now Mr. Man have developed the skill of attending to detail from this little game, since I’m likely to ask a question about something that supports the plot of the episode, but isn’t an integral part of the story (for instance, “What was the building Hulk just smashed?”).  We’ll use anything as a teaching tool around here.

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Every episode of every good superhero show or movie has its villains, and the Avengers shows usually have a team of them.  As the first episode wound to a close, Bugaboo and Beanie were singing the praises of Captain America (the first Avenger, don’t you know), who had vanquished the evildoers with the help of the Avengers and was contemplating joining their team, and Iron Man, who is just freakin’ COOL.  As they excitedly discussed the virtues of the first Avenger and the wealthiest one, their conversation took a vicious turn towards the villains, particularly Modoc.

You might need to watch an episode or two to follow this, if you’re unfamiliar with the dramatis personae of the Avengers universe.

At any rate, Beanie began to refer to Modoc as “stupid,” and Bugaboo proclaimed that she would like to kick Modoc in the face.

As previously noted, we’ll use anything as a teaching tool around here.

Since the credits were starting to roll, I called the girls over to where I was relaxing on the couch, and snuggled one of them in under each of my arms.  “Hey, ladies, I take it you don’t like Modoc.”

Beanie brightly replied, “Nope!  He’s stupid!”

“Hm.  I see.  Doesn’t someone in the show call him that?”

Bugaboo helpfully advised, “Uh-huh.  Zemo calls him that.”

“I see.  Is that something good to say about someone else?”

Silence.

“And what about kicking someone in the face?”

Bugaboo hotly fired back, “Hey, Captain America kicked Modoc in the face!”

“I see.  Was he doing it because he liked Modoc, or was he doing it to protect himself?”

Beanie clarified, “He was doing it because Modoc is a bad guy, and he was trying to destroy the planet.  Captain America was trying to protect the planet and the other Avengers.”

“That sounds about right.  Did he call Modoc names while he was fighting him?”

Beanie uttered a multisyllabic, “No-o-o-o-o-o.  Captain America doesn’t call people names.”

“Right.  Why do you think that is?”

A pause before Bugaboo hesitantly offered, “Because that would be a mean thing to do.  Captain America isn’t mean, he just wants to help people and protect them.”

“Right.  Does he just go around kicking people in the face because he doesn’t like them?”

Beanie looked horrified, and gasped out, “NO!  Captain America would never do that!  He’s a hero!”

“Right.  So do you think it’s a good thing to go around calling people, even people who do bad things, mean words, or wanting to kick them in the face?”

Two very, very quiet, answers, delivered in unison, “No.”

“But is it okay to cheer for the good guys when they’re taking down the bad guys?”  I grinned as I looked down into two troubled pairs of eyes.  “Ladies, it’s always okay to cheer for the good guys when they’re taking down the bad guys.  We want the good guys to win.”

Bugaboo flashed me her best smile and said, “Since it’s okay to cheer for the good guys, can we have another episode of Avengers so we can practice?”

“You bet.  Who do you think will be in this one?”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the writers and artists who created superheroes, those larger-than life fictional characters who remind children and adults alike of Your promise that Your side wins in the end.  Thank you for the many marvelous tools You have provided to help us lead Your blessings closer to You.  Thank You for little blessings whose heroes are the good guys in the Avengers and in Your book of love letters to us, who love truth and justice even though their understanding of both is that of children.  Please help us cultivate their desire to protect the weak, to live lives of heroic virtue, to sacrifice their time, talent, and treasure for the good of their neighbors, and kindle in our hearts a desire to set an example of that life that would rival the cartoons they enjoy. Help us teach them that even when we must counter those with bad intentions, we do so with loving hearts that desire to protect, to preserve, and to instruct, forsaking malice, wrath, and hatred.  Let us always remember and teach that Paul, Zacchaeus, and the Incredible Hulk were all bad guys once.

Love the one you’re with


Here’s the song reference.

Sunday morning brought a little, pleasant surprise.  Bugaboo generally attends Mass with Manie and Deedaw on Saturday evening, and I usually take Beanie to the early Mass on Sunday with me.  We’re still working on Mr. Man and Baby Guy.  Since Saturday had been a very busy day with a very late night for the tribe, I had decided not to awaken Beanie at 6:30 on Sunday morning, as a sleep-deprived Beanie is a cranky Beanie, and usually a disruptive-at-Mass Beanie.

To my joy, Beanie shambled out of the girls’ room of her own accord at about a quarter to seven, flumped down in her chair at the kitchen table, and asked if she has awoken too late for Mass.  She favored me with a brilliant smile when I replied that she did, in fact, have time to eat breakfast and dress for church.  Thirty-five minutes later, we were out the door, Beanie clutching the children’s Bible she always carries to church with her.  She has discovered that, if she gets fidgety during Mass, she can read the Bible to give herself something to do, and she will generally be favored with lots of smiles and praise from the parishioners seated nearby for doing so.

We arrived a minute into Mass, and thus sat very near the front of the church.  I’ll never understand why those seats are the last to fill.  Beanie did a stellar job of following along with the Mass, joining in the prayers she knew, giving me big, happy hugs during the ones she didn’t, and she only needed a spare handful of reminders to keep her eyes on the altar.  Finally, the moment came for Beanie’s absolute favorite part of the Mass, to wit:  the exchanging of the sign of peace.

During the sign of peace, Beanie is absolutely free to be the loving, affectionate child she is.  Anyone and everyone near our pew is eligible for handshakes, gigantic grins, and, occasionally, enthusiastic hugs.  As it happened, the lady and gentleman seated next to us had offered our cheerful Beanie a warm, albeit silent, greeting when they joined us in the pew, and she had clearly been waiting for the moment when she could return the favor with all the love in her five-year-old heart.  The gentleman was somewhat surprised when Beanie hurled herself at his legs and graced him with her warmest embrace, but quickly recovered, and, with a kindhearted laugh, hugged her back gently.

I started to apologize for the force of her greeting, but both husband and wife chuckled and waved me off.  Beanie resumed her spot next to me, and she followed the rest of the Mass with her face aglow from the love she’d given and received.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Beanie, who reminds me what love without reservations looks like.  Please help me nurture her loving heart and grant me wisdom so, while I am teaching her about safety, purity, and the right of bodily integrity, I do not squash this precious gift of boundless love with which You have favored her.  Please pour Your grace into our hearts as we teach her that sometimes physical contact, however well-intended, is not the best way to express our love for our neighbors, but that we should still love exuberantly and wholeheartedly, as You love us.

Fear and hope and love


No song reference here.

I read a blog post from Robyn over at Scary Mommy last night about her son’s near-lethal encounter with a cookie that contained a trace amount of nuts.  If you encounter children who have food allergies, I encourage – no, exhort – you to read this post and share it in either digital or hard copy form with everyone you know.

The time I almost killed my child

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have granted us four little blessings who can, and will, eat anything that doesn’t eat them first.  Thank You for that great gift, and thank You for the mothers like Robyn who you have blessed otherwise.  Please help me teach Your blessings to appreciate how tremendous the gift of unrestricted eating is, and help me to set an example of compassion and understanding towards parents and children who must be ever-vigilant about their children’s diets.  Thank You for Robyn and her husband’s watchfulness and quick action, for the education and medical professionals who loved them and Rory, and for Rory himself, who is so clearly beloved by his family and by You.  Please protect Your little child from the “bad cookies,” and grant his parents Your comfort and peace.

Paradise by the front turn lights


Here’s the song reference.

Yesterday was one of those days where very little was accomplished, but we were busy from waking to retiring; the morning featured our SHARE pickup (if you are unfamiliar with the organization, do click the link and learn about an extraordinary program), along with a whirlwind of attempted cleaning.  Our weekends contain a higher-than normal insanity quotient at the moment, as we are preparing two houses for a move that appears ready to happen in mid-to-late November. While it’s a great opportunity to bless a lot of people with the abundance we’ve been given, it also involves a lot of running, occasional bouts of tears, and a whole lot of sorting, stacking, and boxing of the non-recreational variety.

Manie and Bugaboo decamped for Mass with Deedaw in late afternoon, leaving me with Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy, and a dinner to prepare at Deedaw’s.  It was a great mercy that the day was mild and sunny, and exerted a siren’s call over our three youngest children to come play in the yard; truly, it is a beautiful thing to be able to peel potatoes and slice onions without having to tap-dance around the little feet of curious little ones!

Dinner featured Bugaboo pretending to eat her steak, German potato salad, regular salad, and fresh figs, while actually dropping them onto the dining room floor under her chair.  We think she forgot that Smudgie doesn’t live at Deedaw’s yet.

An hour or so after dinner, it was time to get the kids home to bed, as Baby Guy was making a valiant effort to fall asleep on the floor.  Manie and Deedaw helped me bundle the tribe into their car seats, and stood watching in the driveway as I backed out, heading for our house.  I thought I noticed Manie pointing at the front of Fran the van as we departed, and remembered that my left front turn signal bulb had burnt out a few days earlier.  I’d need to be careful making left turns, I thought, and a stop at the auto parts store for a replacement on the way home from Mass Sunday morning might not be a bad idea.

After prayers were prayed and lullabies sung, four little angels snuggled sleepily under their covers and were not heard from again.  I found myself with some unexpected quiet time.  Half an hour or so into my reveling in silence, I thought I heard Manie pull into the driveway, but since I heard no subsequent key in the lock, figured he was still working on things over at Deedaw’s.  Shortly after 9:30, I did hear his key in the lock, and turned to greet my husband, so we could enjoy what remained of Saturday night together.  He’d been running since 8:00 in the morning.

He was covered in sweat, dirt, gravel, and grease.

My jaw dropped, and I started to ask what misadventure had befallen him.

He spoke before I could panic further, “Hey, hon, your left headlight was out, too.  I stopped and got bulbs and changed all of them out, just to be safe; they’re all about the same age, so if two of them are out, the other ones are probably on their last legs.”  Pausing to survey his appearance, he grinned at me and added, “I’m kind of a mess now, so I think I’ll go take a shower.  Love you!”

Best.  Husband.  Ever.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You so much for Manie, the miracle I never expected and would not have known to ask You for.  Thank You for saving Your greatest blessings for the moments I don’t expect them.  Thank You for the wonderful children with whom You have blessed our marriage, for joining two lives and souls into one.  Thank You for giving him the wisdom to know that I don’t need flowers, jewelry, or anything else fancy as proofs of his love.  Please, Lord, let me never take him for granted, and grant us the grace to teach Your blessings about marriage the way Nonno and Deedaw taught him – by example.  Thank You for this man, who has dedicated his time, talent, and treasure to serving You and us, who works fifty hour weeks to keep us fed, clothed, and sheltered, and whose only wish in his off hours is to find ways to rejoice with the family You have helped us build.

I can’t say it enough – thank You, God, for my Manie, Your proof to me that You give greater blessings than I could ever merit or imagine.

My old sneakers are friends of mine


Here’s the song reference.  If you haven’t had a laugh today, you should give it a listen; you’ll need to scroll down a bit to get to the video player.

Mr. Man and Beanie share a common adoration for sneakers that have been so well-loved and well-worn that they neither fit not are able to maintain structural integrity.  As it happens, Mr. Man’s third pair of Spider-Man kicks completely disintegrated this morning, necessitating a visit to the store I generally avoid at all costs, but cannot live without because that particular store always has light-up Spider-Man sneakers in stock at a price our family’s budget can handle.  Sometimes, we have to give the nod to practicality.

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The last time we had to replace Mr. Man’s everyday shoes, I had quite the job convincing him the world was not ending and that he would, in fact, survive the retirement of his beloved footwear.  To give the little guy credit, he has yet to outgrow a pair of shoes that have not already been worn to tatters, and his last act before he goes to bed every night is to make sure they are securely tucked under his cozy bed.  There have been nights we’ve overheard him whispering a quiet “goodnight” to them.

The last time we had to replace his shoes, our first effort resulted in a pair of shoes that were actually slightly too small for him.  The rejected size 8s have, nonetheless, been gently tucked under his bed all the while, boon companions to his size 9s, and when the demise of the above-pictured shoes became apparent to Mr. Man, he immediately ran down the stairs, returning at a sprint with the too-small sneakers.  Ever so proudly, he sat on the couch, proclaiming, “Look, Mommy, I found the good shoes!” as he tried to stuff his feet into them.

After about fifteen minutes, he dejectedly slouched into the kitchen, where I was drinking my coffee and quietly checking web sites to see which local store had Spider-Man sneakers in stock in his size, to avoid a wasted trip (and a three-year-old meltdown).

“Mommy, I can’t get these Spidey shoes on.  They won’t cofloperating.  Can you help me, please?”

Baby Guy helpfully chimed in, “Helm you, helm you!”

I pulled Mr. Man, still clutching the little shoes, into my lap.  “I can try, big guy, but do you know what?  I don’t think I’ll be able to get them on, either.  See, let’s look at your old shoes.”  Tugging the tongue of one of the old shoes out, I pointed to the little number that indicated the size.  “See that number there?  What does it say?”

“That’s a nine, Mommy, I know numbers, that’s a nine.”

“Right you are, and that’s a good job.  Now let’s look at these shoes.”  Flipping up the tongue of the smaller shoes, I pointed again.

“That’s an eight, Mommy, that’s not a nine, that’s an eight.”

“Very good, Mr. Man, that’s an eight.  Now I want you to think for a minute.  Which is bigger, which is more, eight or nine.”

Grinning hugely, he clapped his hands together and bellowed, “Nine!  Nine is more!  Nine is BIGGER!”

Can’t laugh . . . not funny . . .

“Exactly right, big guy!  So which shoes are bigger, do you think, the eight shoes or the nine shoes?”

His brow creased, and he scowled at both pairs of shoes for a moment before slowly answering, “The nine shoes, the nine shoes are big enough for my feet, the eight shoes are small and the nine shoes are big, like Baby Guy is small and Mr. Man is big, eight shoes are Baby Guy size and not Mr. Man size.”

“Right, buddy.  You need new shoes.”

“I need new shoes.”

“Uh-huh.  We could go get them now in case you want to run and play outside.”  We have a 100-plus pound Saint Bernard mix who answers to Smudgie.  Running barefoot in our yard is unwise.

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“Baby Guy could have the eight shoes.  He likes Spider-Man, too.”

Baby Guy has had his eye on those shoes for a long, long time.  Every time he gets near them, Mr. Man threatens him with bodily harm.

“That would be a pretty awesome big brother thing to do, to let Baby Guy have those Spidey shoes.  Is that what you want to do?”

Baby Guy had, by now, stationed himself next to the chair where Mr. Man was perched on my lap, hanging on every word of the conversation.  Mr. Man looked magnanimously at his baby brother and declared, “Baby Guy is old enough for Spider-Man shoes.  He can have these.”

Needing no further invitation, Baby Guy scrambled up into an adjacent chair, smiled at his big brother, and excitedly inquired, “Mommy helm you put shoe?”

The small shoes were quickly adjusted to Baby Guy’s feet, and Mr. Man put his tattered kicks on for one last trip to the big box store.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the means to replace shoes for Your little blessings whenever their old ones wear out, for the van that gets us to the store, and for my husband’s job that has kept all of Your blessings from ever knowing what it really means to want for something.  Thank You for gracing their hearts, as they grow, with the desire to share even their most beloved possessions with someone who might need them more.  Please grant us hearts that always love people more than things, and make us good stewards of the rich resources with which You have provided us.

Look a little bit closer, it’s easy to trace


Here’s the song reference.

Mr. Man has recently started to join in our schoolwork time at the kitchen table in earnest, showing up while the girls are working on their math and English assignments and requesting work of his own.  At the moment, I’m casually trying to teach him how to hold a pencil properly; as was the case with his sisters, he refuses to use fat pencils or triangular crayons.  He also appears to be left-handed, which runs in both Manie and my families, so we have to be careful to teach him the correct grip without making him curl his hand around.

Also of late, our printer ran out of ink, and I’ve been disinclined to spend the money on a new cartridge.  In all honesty, we have enough workbooks that I shouldn’t need to print as many things as I do, and not having pre-printed stuff gives me a good excuse to have Beanie and Bugaboo practice their penmanship, along with other fine motor skills involving their hands, by copying and tracing.  It’s also a moment for me to stop and consider a stewardship question:  how much paper and ink do we really need to use?

One delightful side effect of not making copies are that the ladybugs are producing some neat artwork these days, because instead of copying a picture for them to color, I tape a piece of white paper over the pattern in whatever book we’re using (okay, that really doesn’t reduce the amount of paper, I suppose), and have them trace the picture before coloring it in.  Since the lines made by their pencils are lighter, they have had to learn to put less pressure on their crayons to produce lighter use, in order that the outlines may be more clearly seen.  It’s also helpful for Mr. Man, who is at the tracing letters and numbers stage of learning to write, to see his sisters tracing, too; he delightedly explained to me yesterday morning, “I make writing and numbers and letters and pictures just like Bugaboo and Beanie!”  The girls cheer him on, and he cheers them on, too, and it’s a beautiful thing to see them learning to encourage and uplift each other in what could be very drudging work.

If you are curious about how this looks, here’s a short video of yesterday morning.  There are two others.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for four little blessings who are learning to encourage one another, and so encourage me.  On the days marked by defiance and disobedience, please help me remember they are still learning, and I will teach them either to build up or tear down by the example of my response to them.  We are trying to instruct them, Lord, in the value of doing small things with great love, in taking pains to make even the smallest thing beautiful, to use the gifts you have given them to create and to think instead of relying on machines to do it for them, to use their eyes to perceive, appreciate, and render small details.   Please draw my eyes to the small details, that I may show them how to honor You in the performance of tedious tasks, and please grant us days filled with joyful songs.

Knock, knock, knockin’


Here’s the song reference.

After some of our educational misadventures earlier in the week, my level of enthusiasm for homeschooling was somewhat diminished at the beginning of yesterday.  Being greeted by the sounds of breakfast-related whining coming from the kitchen upon my emergence from the shower didn’t do much to increase my level of enthusiasm, either.  Bugaboo and Beanie were having trouble making up their minds about what would constitute acceptable breakfast fare in terms of both food and drink, and were letting Daddy know in no uncertain terms that they found the options he was presenting unacceptable.  As I dressed, I used mental prayer to drown out the unhappy noises emanating from the next room, and managed to exit our bedroom with a semblance of a smile on my face.

My heroic husband had managed to convince our daughters that cereal is, in fact, an appropriate thing to eat first thing in the morning, and was downstairs making Mr. Man and Baby Guy presentable.  Prayer results, sometimes, in miracles that seem like ordinary things, but that can become great reservoirs of joy in what at first appeared to be a lost morning.  My smile became more genuine as the boys tumbled up the stairs and into the kitchen, their grinningly hopeful pleas for waffles washing away the last of the whiny miasma that had permeated our upstairs earlier.

Once the breakfast paraphernalia had landed in the sink, the girls headed off to dress and wash up, the boys wandered into the living room to inventory the household supply of toy vehicles, and I started the morning round of check-in calls.  As I caught up on the latest news from Grandma, the commemoration of Our Lady of Knock jumped out at me from our book of Catholic customs and traditions (a wonderful gift from my oldest brother, which sees almost daily use around here), and it occurred to me that a school day that begins with construction paper, colored pencils, and glue sticks is usually a happier one.  The girls re-emerged from their morning ablutions as Grandma and I were finishing our chat, and eagerly watched as I snipped fascinating shapes from green and white paper.

The project was pretty simple, honestly, and was something of an amalgamation of two other projects from our spiffy idea book.  We used a sheet of blue construction paper as the background for a green shamrock topped with three white hearts; each heart bore a single word (love, hope, and joy) on a wee green banner, with enough space left over inside each heart for the girls to draw a little picture showing what the word meant to them.  I did the cutting and writing parts, which left them the simpler and cheerier gluing and drawing.

Bugaboo and Beanie wrapped up their project while I was on the phone with Deedaw (and nephew, who, to my delight, always wants to say hello when his crazy aunt calls).  As I described the project to her (Deedaw loves to hear about what’s occupying the tribe in the mornings), she mentioned that she would very much like to have one of the girls’ little posters for her fridge.  Bugaboo joyfully volunteered her project for Deedaw happifying detail.

Remarkably, our English and math lessons were a breeze.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for four little blessings who love You and look to Your mother as an example of how we mere humans can find joy simply by saying “yes” to You at all times and in all things, no matter how intimidating those times and things may be.  Thank You also for the gentle reminders that if we start our days by asking You to be with us, by remembering Your love and miracles, we will be more able to recognize You in each other, and recognize Your will instead of our own.  Lord, when I get so focused on arithmetic and grammar I forget to put You first, grant me the grace of eyes that see Your miracles at our kitchen table, and a heart that sings with joy at the wonder of them.  Please remind me that the needs of Your little blessings include bright colors and glue when I get too wrapped up in textbooks and pencils, and that most of Your miracles when You walked among us involved the most ordinary things, made holy by the work of Your loving hands.  Please imbue my hands with that same love, Lord, that I may be Your face.