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You can go your own way


Here’s the song reference.

After the dinner dishes had been cleared away this evening, Manie and I were pleasantly surprised to discover that the girls had, in fact, cleaned their room satisfactorily.  We sat and read stories with the girls for a while, until I remembered a box of wooden toy cars I had stashed in the back of one of the kitchen counters.  While the girls were drinking their milk, I quietly put their art kits and the box of cars on the table; upon further thought, I put Manie’s out as well.

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No one needed a second invitation to gather for an art project.  I puttered around the house for a few minutes before I joined the rest of the car-coloring crew, who had quickly decided that markers were the proper tool for painting wooden cars past bedtime.

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We had to moderate a minor disagreement between Bugaboo and Beanie.  Bugaboo has developed a habit which we are trying to redirect, which involves insisting that anyone who is not using her preferred colors is not exercising creativity correctly.  That’s an overly diplomatic way to say she tells Beanie that Beanie is “coloring wrong,” which upsets Beanie to no end, and leads to an exchange that goes something like this:

Bugaboo:  “Beanie, you’re coloring that all wrong.”
Beanie:  “No, I’m not.  Mommy, she’s telling me I’m coloring wrong.  I don’t want to use her colors.”
Bugaboo:  “You should be using this color instead of that one.  And then you’re going to say yours is more beautifuller than mine.”
Beanie:  “No, I don’t like that color, and mine IS more beautiful than yours, because I picked the colors myself.”

Tonight, I interjected as soon as Bugaboo started to tell Beanie how to color her cars.  Beanie had delightedly informed us that she was making a rainbow car, and Bugaboo piped up, “You ALWAYS do rainbow stuff.  You should do it . . .”

“Bugaboo, let her be, please.  If she wants to make rainbow cars, she can make rainbow cars.”
“But, Mommy, then she’ll want everything to be rainbows.”
“That’s okay, Bugaboo.  You do yours your way, she’ll do hers her way, and Daddy and I will each do ours, our way.”
“But she . . .”
“Bugaboo.  What colors do YOU want YOUR cars to be?  I’m putting a blue and yellow flower on mine.”
“I can’t decide what color to use.”
“Well, take a minute to look at all the colors you have there.  Which one do you think is the prettiest?”

Beanie proceeded to color one rainbow car and one black one, Bugaboo created a pretty good variety of designs, including one car she reversed to look like a pickup truck, and Manie and I had a good time coloring cars with our daughters.  We chatted as we worked, one of those aimless and meandering conversations that ranges from whether apples or bananas taste better with pancakes to whether, if Manie was a superhero, he would be Iron Man or the Incredible Hulk.  When he explained to Bugaboo and Beanie that he probably would not fit into Iron Man’s suit, Beanie chimed in with, “That’s because you’re big and chubby, Daddy, so you’d be better as the Hulk.  Could you fit in his clothes?”

If he could have stopped laughing long enough, he might have answered her.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for all the colors, and for four little blessings whose eyes can see every one of them.  Thank you for their desire to add color and light to the world, to re-create Your promise by painting rainbows everywhere.  Please grant us the grace to diligently teach them that we love each other even when we disagree, and while one of us may draw flowers and another butterflies, the love of You and Your law unites us.  Help us teach them to always speak the truth boldly, but to do so tenderly and with the intent to help, not harm.

Away in a manger


Here’s the song reference.

Today marks the beginning of the new liturgical year for us; it is the first Sunday of Advent, the season in which we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Every year on the first of December, we start on what may be my favorite project of the year, to wit:  constructing a “manger” to receive the Christ Child.  I’m also doing this project with my seventh grade Faith Formation students.

Our goal is to fill the cardboard manger with construction paper straws, upon each of which is written a kind word or deed we’ve seen, or a song, story or picture we’ve encountered that brings Jesus to mind.  The only rule is that no person may write down his or her OWN actions or words, which helps foster the virtue of humility and opens our eyes to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the people around us.  On Christmas Eve, we make a figure of the Christ Child from construction paper; on Christmas morning, before any gifts are opened, we put the wee babe in his bed, softened with the Advent season’s worth of loving words, thoughts, and deeds, and sing “Joy to the World.”

Here’s how we make our manger:

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We begin with an empty box, of which we generally have several on hand.  This year, blueberry waffles got the honor.

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Next, we split the box seam and lay the cardboard flat.

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Then we fold over the flaps so that the outside of the box will become the inside of the manger.  We don’t want the manger to be an ad for Eggo waffles, after all.

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Next, cut away most of one big side of the box, which will make the opening for the straws and the Christ Child figure.

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Tape the box back together, inside out.

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Take some brown construction paper and cut it to cover the sides of the box.

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Glue the construction paper to the sides of the box.  Bugaboo chose to do the inside, too, and quickly discovered that part of the reason we turn the box inside out is that glue does not adhere well to the printed side of the cardboard.  That’s why we don’t just use a tissue box.

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Take some pink and purple construction paper.  Pink and purple are the colors of Advent.

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Cut the construction paper into thin strips.

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I asked Bugaboo to tell me what kind words or deeds she’d witnessed to that point far yesterday, and what songs or stories she’d heard that reminded her of Jesus.  We wrote them down, using the purple strips for people’s words and actions that weren’t on recordings or in books, and the pink strips for “stuff.”

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Hopefully, this will be a very full manger on Christmas morning.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, we are joyfully preparing to celebrate Your birth on this earth, Your humble arrival as a helpless infant born to poor parents.  Thank You for miracles and hope, and for taking on the flesh of Your creations to dwell among us. Please help us teach Your little blessings that no gaily wrapped package will ever be more pleasing to You than humble hearts pouring forth kindness and mercy upon Your children, and that the most profound gifts are not available in stores.