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Throwing roses at her feet


Here’s the song reference.  The lyrics to this particular tune become particularly poignant when you consider the context.  Many of the songs I post only have one line that’s actually relevant to the post, but this one made me cry when I stopped to consider it in its entirety.

Beanie has an uncommon, for her age, understanding of certain social customs, one of which is the bringing of flowers to funeral homes.  She was very affected by this when Nonno died in December; she and Bugaboo both insisted on bringing their own flower arrangements, both of which were lovingly dried and preserved by Deedaw.

Wednesday, as I was busily packing for our trip to Pittsburgh for Great-Grandma’s funeral, a solemn Beanie approached and advised me, “Mommy, I need to get a flower for Great-Grandma.  She gave me my name.  She gave me my Deedaw.  I want to bring her the prettiest flower in the whole world.”

Beanie is, in fact, named for Great-Grandma.  I had to take a very deep breath before I answered her.  “Okay, Beanie.  What flower would you like to bring her?”

She replied, “I want to bring her rainbow flowers.”

rainbow roses

Photo credit:  100roses.com

Beanie discovered rainbow roses at Wegmans, and has long since decided that they are the most gorgeous things in the world.  I liked the idea of roses that bear the symbol of God’s promises, and, of course, I would have moved mountains to honor her request, coming as it did from the little one who reminded me that we should be happy for Great-Grandma because she went to Heaven.

Thursday morning, on our way out of town, we stopped for Beanie’s flowers.  I have prayed for many blessings upon the kind ladies in the flower shop at Wegmans, because they noted out attire, inquired as to the occasion, and promptly offered to trim the roses and put water tubes on them for Beanie, so her flowers would be beautiful.

When we arrived at the funeral home, Beanie was her usual exuberant self, and I helped her put her flowers in the casket with Great-Grandma, at her feet, along with a little paper heart she had cut and inscribed, “LOVE DOTS,” before she headed off to have something to eat and play with a horde of cousins she seldom sees.

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The next day, we all gathered again at the funeral home before heading to the church for Great-Grandma’s funeral Mass.  After the priest had led us all in prayer, everyone had the opportunity to see Great-Grandma and offer a last goodbye before her casket was closed.  Once the room had cleared except for Deedaw and her brother and sister, I settled Beanie on my hip so we could say goodbye and offer a prayer together.

We did pray a traditional prayer, and, before we left, I related to Beanie the tale of the last time Manie and I stayed at Great-Grandma’s house.  Great-Grandma had quite the sweet tooth, although she denied it, and Manie and I had a stash of Snickers bars in our gear.  We were staying with her on the occasion of the marriage of two dear friends (who happen to be Mr. Man’s godparents, and who had so much love in their hearts that they invited Great-Grandma to their wedding – in person – on the spur of the moment), and when we returned from the wedding, our Snickers bars had gone missing.  Manie and I had a good laugh over it.  After I related the tale to Beanie, I said to her, “Now let’s offer a special prayer that Jesus will help Great-Grandma find the Snickers bars.”

“Jesus, please help Great-Grandma find the Snickers bars.  She likes them a lot.”

At the church, the priest offered a homily that perfectly explained why Great-Grandma is one of the most important people any of us will ever know.  There were no reporters covering her funeral, no news obituary trumpeting her impact on national or international affairs, but there was a large gathering of family, of the people she had fed and clothed, loved and prayed for, encouraged and, yes, disciplined.  There is great nobility in a life devoted to building and maintaining a family that is pleasing in the eyes of the Lord, in offering prayers of thanksgiving for those who have chosen His path, in offering prayers of intercession for those who have gone astray.  Great-Grandma’s life was a life spent in love, a life spent as an anchor for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, an example of how we are to love and serve one another — an example, that, in the end, that same family needed so that they could love and serve her when her physical and mental faculties withered away, so that we would know that while authentic love doesn’t always look pretty,  it is real, and true, and of God.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Great-Grandma, without whom there would have been no Deedaw, no Manie, no Beanie.  Thank You for the lesson You taught through her life, that every vocation lived truly is holy and worthy of respect, whether this world lauds it or not.  Thank You for Your promise that those who earnestly live according to Your Word will be raised up to a joyful eternity with You, and thank You for the rainbow that reminds us of Your vow that You will save.  Please help us teach Your blessings, Lord, that whatever profession they choose, if they offer each day, each little act, to You, the world’s opinion of them will not matter, because You will be their reward.  And thank You, Lord, for a little Beanie who has the wisdom to answer beauty with beauty, and to appreciate Your most priceless gifts.

Singing in the shower


Here’s the song reference.  You should listen to it.  It’s funny.

Today was something of a blur, and the less said about much of it, the better.  Bugaboo and Manie are away for Great-Grandma’s funeral, and Beanie, Mr. Man, Baby Guy and I will join them later in the week.  Getting everything and everyone together for travel is something of an undertaking, and nothing is ever as simple as it should be.

Nonetheless, the boys were bathed and tucked happily (for once!) into their beds just before 8, and Beanie, having been my “big girl big helper” all day, was allowed a few extra minutes to have an undisturbed portion of tropical Lemonheads before her shower.  Since no one in this house EVER gets to eat a snack undisturbed, particularly a snack that involves candy of any kind, this was a rare privilege indeed!

She was smiling as she headed for the bathroom to shower, a little skip in her step, and I grinned as I tidied up a few things in Manie and my bedroom, which adjoins the bathroom.  After a few minutes, I heard the distinct sound of a warbling Beanie, so I stopped what I was doing to listen.

Sure enough, I could clearly make out the strains of “Jesus Loves Me,” the first song she ever learned to sing, and still a favorite of all the tiny people.  She was still singing as I tiptoed out of the bathroom to go find the camera, because there are some moments that you just have to capture on video, even if the only image on the video is the flowers on the shower curtain.  I came back in as she was finishing the last couple of words, and, after praising her for the lovely song, asked her if she would be willing to sing it again.  As it happened, she was, and so I have a sweet memory on the SD card.  That’s a gift.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank you for the quiet moments when I can hear small voices raised in song.  Help me to seize upon those moments as Your gifts, Your reminders of what matters, when I am tempted to wrath because of someone else’s disgraceful behavior.  Make me an example to Your blessings of, instead of fury directed towards fools, prayer and charity towards all.  Help me recall the words of Your servant Francis, who begged that he might be made a channel of Your peace, and fill my heart with the desire to serve You as You commanded.

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.

If you want to, you can cream on me


Here’s the (utterly inappropriate) song reference.

Whipped cream, the kind that comes in a can, is a very big deal to the kids on my husband’s side of the family.  I remember one of the first family dinners I attended featured a dessert that involved the yummy stuff, and Niece, who was not quite four years old at the time, rushed over to Zio to get a little “spruff” (Italian for froth) sprayed directly into her mouth.  Having received the coveted treat, she scampered off, giggling, only to return for another helping a few minutes later.

Niece was greatly delighted when Bugaboo reached an age where she was permitted to have a little whipped cream of her own.  Whenever there is dinner at Deedaw’s, and whipped cream is present, there appears a line of little opened mouths (and one no longer so little, as Niece is now thirteen), anxiously awaiting their spray.  The smaller they are, the messier this enterprise becomes, but it is always conducted with great good humor and no small amount of laughter from the children and adults alike.

Deedaw decided to come over to our house for dinner this evening, and, in spite of my usual insistence that she didn’t need to bring anything but her beautiful self, she arrived bearing a bag with the makings of strawberry shortcakes.  We had a chuckle as we realized that, given the family sweet tooth, there was a pretty strong possibility that all four members of the tribe would find some way to finagle not only one of the chocolate-filled, chocolate-frosted cupcakes we’d baked that afternoon, but also a decent helping of sugared strawberries and spruff.

It was one of those rare and blessed evenings where not one child decided to argue about the necessity of eating everything on his or her plate, and thus, when the dishes were cleared away, everyone was deemed eligible for dessert.  Out came the pan of cupcakes, the angel food cake, the tub of sugared strawberries, and, wonder of wonders, the tall metal can of whipped cream.  Before Manie could even get the cap off the can, he was surrounded by what looked like a convention of the world’s largest, featherless baby birds, all vocalizing wordlessly their desires for the contents of said can.

In deference to Deedaw, we did make an effort to ascertain who wanted which type of dessert before we went wild with the spruff.  Since Deedaw had expressed a preference for strawberry shortcake, we made sure she had a plate properly piled with cake, berries, and whipped cream before we risked touching the nozzle to any tiny mouths.  As they waited, Baby Guy, Mr. Man, and Beanie tucked into cupcakes, while Bugaboo daintily nibbled at some berries and cake.

Baby Guy’s manual dexterity still has considerable room for improvement, but, at almost 22 months of age, he has concluded that the absolute best part of any cake is the frosting.  If there is frosting inside and outside (as is the case with filled cupcakes), so much the better, and every fleck of frosting must needs be enjoyed by as many of his five senses as possible.

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And why, yes, we did have spaghetti for dinner.

He also managed to score a couple of strawberries to accompany his chocolate, all the while madly flailing his chubby little arms, trying to attract the attention of the holder of the whipped cream can — in this instance, Manie.  He finally succeeding in convincing Manie to circumnavigate the kitchen table (no mean feat when there are seven people seated thereat), and opened his mouth wide in anticipation.  He actually got a couple of mouthfuls, because we were trying to get a good picture.  Fortunate son.  Of course, Manie being the fair-minded Dad that he is, he made it a point to even up the whipped cream distribution after the camera had been put away.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who derive great joy from the simplest of things when delivered by loving hearts and loving hands.  Thank You for the opportunity for Manie to bottle the very last batch of Nonno’s wine with Bugaboo, just as he and his brother bottled it with Nonno when they were little children.  Please help us teach Your blessings that Your bounty is endless, and that it is far better to exult in a can of whipped cream and the company of family than to complain about those worldly goods or experiences we wish we had.  We would show them the joy in our humble, everyday life, Lord; please inflame our hearts with the grace to revel in Your bounty, instead of wishing we had the bounty of another.  Grant, we pray, that we may always find joy and a stronger faith in the little things.

She can see clearly now


Here’s the song reference.

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Very early this morning, our phone rang with sad, although not unexpected, news.  Great-Grandma, after 97 years on this earth, had left us, and there was an urgent need for someone to get over to Deedaw’s house, so that she would not be alone when her sister called with the sorrowful tidings.  Manie quickly bolted out of bed and threw on the nearest available clothes.  While he was washing his face, a sleepy-eyed Bugaboo wandered out into the hallway to ascertain the cause of the commotion.  Upon being informed, she declared that she would like to help comfort her Deedaw, and actually managed to get dressed while Manie was still tying his shoes.

I made a couple of phone calls in the short interlude before the rest of the tribe awoke.  Beanie was our next riser; she shambled out to the kitchen and inquired as to the availability of hard-boiled eggs.  While the eggs were cooking, and after she had consumed enough juice to brighten her eyes a bit, I snuggled her in my lap and told her Great-Grandma was gone.

Beanie blinked slowly, then cocked her head to the side before slowly asking, “So that means Deedaw lost her husband AND her mommy?”

“Yes, sweetheart.  And she’s sad.”

“I would be sad.  I am sad for Deedaw.  I love Deedaw.”

“I know you do, noodle.  Daddy and Bugaboo and Zio and Nephew are with her now to make sure she has lots of hugs and kisses.  We’ll go over there, too, but a little later.”

“Okay.”

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I called Deedaw a few minutes later, just to say, “I love you,” and see if there was anything I could do from across the river.  She demurred, but said she’d be very happy to see the rest of the tribe once everyone was feeling civilized.  As we were saying goodbye, Beanie stretched out her hand for the phone, and I asked Deedaw if she had a quick moment to talk to her youngest granddaughter.

Beanie took the phone and said her good mornings, then calmly stated, “You lost your mommy.”

Deedaw said that indeed, she had, and that Great-Grandma had gone to Heaven.

Beanie replied.  “Yes.  I’m happy for her.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the blessing of Your faithful servant, Dorothy, without whom our little family would not exist.  Thank You for welcoming her to a joyful eternity and a beautiful reunion with her husband, Daniel, and for releasing her from all suffering and pain.  Thank You for the quiet childish wisdom of her namesake, Beanie, who so perfectly clarified our faith when she explained that she was sad for her Deedaw and happy for her Great-Grandma.  As we bear each other’s burdens in the days and months to come, please grant us the grace to see Your love in all the gifts You send, and to recognize them AS gifts, even when it’s hard to see them through worldly eyes.  Please, Lord, bestow upon us the wisdom to use this time to teach Your blessings how to persevere, how to show compassion, how to say “I love you” without using those words or giving material goods.  Keep us mindful of Your assurance that those who mourn are blessed, and let us love one another as You have loved us.

Giving the best of his love


Here’s the song reference.

When we were expecting Bugaboo, we received a great deal of advice from many corners regarding Bo, who is now the elder canine statesman of the house.  Bo was almost insanely protective of me for quite a long time, and, while he had mellowed significantly by the time we were planning our eldest daughter’s arrival (he was 6 1/2 at that time), there was concern from most of the family that he would be displeased about, and perhaps aggressive towards, a new baby person.  I must confess that while we gently dismissed those concerns, Manie and I were just a smidge worried about Bo’s reaction.  Sheila (a border collie/schnauzer mix who left us at the ripe old age of 15 1/2 two days before Christmas of 2008) and Gretchen (a thoroughly enormous Plott hound who died shortly before her 8th birthday in 2011) had always been the very pictures of gentleness towards children, but Bo had a history of being skittish around them.

I don’t think we’d been home from the hospital more than ten minutes before we were able to discern what Bo and Jackie’s relationship would be.  She had managed to poop on the car ride home, so I whisked her into her new bedroom and set about changing her diaper.  Bo bolted past Manie, put his front feet up on the changing table, and, after giving her tiny toes a very gentle sniff, proceeded to bestow upon said toes the tiniest, most delicate puppy kisses I have ever seen a 75 pound dog give.   He has been her constant companion and guardian since that moment.

Bo has had a couple of strokes in the past year, and, at nearly 12 1/2, he walks gingerly and slowly.  He’s relinquished watchdog duties to the younger (and twice as big) Smudgie, although he still makes it a point to let Smudgie know who the alpha dog is from time to time.  He sleeps heavily, and has so few teeth left that we had to switch him over to soft food about a year ago.

Nonetheless, Bugaboo faithfully makes time to pet her oldest friend every day, to sit by him and speak gently to him.  She and Beanie actually have had many altercations over whose turn it is to feed him his “crinkly bags” in the evening, and he knows that if he’s prowling for table scraps, the best seat in the house, for him, is under Bugaboo’s chair.  He doesn’t play much these days, but he sighs contentedly when she brings out handfuls of Transformers, fairies, and toy animals and plays sitting next to him on the floor, and grouches at Mr. Man and Baby Guy if they try to make off with any of her toys.

One of the daily rituals at our house is the afternoon nap.  I am generally awake at 5:00 a.m., and generally don’t get to sleep until sometime after 11:00 p.m., so after lunch, I desperately need to lay down for half an hour (or an hour, or on some blessed and wonderful days, an hour and a half) so I can finish the rest of the day upright.  The boys sleep in their cribs, I stretch out on the living room sofa, and the girls have a daily dispute over which of them will get to sleep on the loveseat.  If there’s something intriguing on television, whoever doesn’t end up on the loveseat usually curls up with pillows and blankets on the floor.  On those days, Bo usually sleeps on the floor of the girls room, which has very soft carpet, while Smudgie sprawls between the floor-sleeper and the loveseat-lounger.

Today, Maryland was playing in the NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament, an event I deemed worthy of a little extra TV time.  Bugaboo lost the loveseat lottery today, and thus was, somewhat unhappily, piled up with her stuffed penguins, pillow, and blankets in the middle of the living room rug.  Beanie quickly fell asleep while I was still explaining to Bugaboo that if she found her accommodations unsatisfactory, she has a perfectly good bed in which she could nap.  Finally, she settled in, and Smudgie deemed it safe to stretch out between the couch and Bugaboo’s head, where he stood a decent chance of getting his paws patted.

I thought I heard Bo’s heavy, halting tread coming up the stairs as I drifted off to my own nap, and figured that when I awoke, he’d be sawing logs in the girls’ bedroom.  When I awoke, this is what I saw.

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There are moments when the tears fall before I realize they’re there, and it took me a moment to comprehend that there was nothing wrong with the camera’s focus.  I watched them silently for about fifteen minutes before Bugaboo awoke, pausing to hug Bo before she headed for the bathroom.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for blessing our family with furry members, who have loved us as tenderly as we have loved them, sometimes more so.  Thank You for the many lessons You have taught us through their lives, from the wonder of watching puppies grow to the devotion of caring for a dog who has grown frail with age or illness.  Please help us teach Your blessings that while You created mankind to rule over the beasts, we are to do so with great gentleness and love, and recall that You made Your covenant with all living creatures after the Flood.  We would keep ourselves, and Your blessings, ever mindful that the trust our dogs place in us must be met with the love You show us, that we should look to You as the example of a good and loving master, Who safeguards His charges faithfully and with tenderness meets all our needs.  Please grant that we may love as unreservedly and forgive as readily as the dogs You have sent to guard and teach us.

A love supreme


Here’s the song reference.

Bugaboo awoke while I was in the shower this morning.  When I emerged from our bedroom, still shaking a couple of stray drops of water from my ears, Manie greeted me with somewhat of a mysterious smile.

“Wait until you see what Bugaboo just did.”

Our oldest daughter sprinted down the short hallway towards me, clutching a piece of newsprint handwriting paper in her wee hand.  She thrust it at me with a gigantic grin, exclaiming as she did so, “Look, Mommy, I did this all by myself!  I just wanted to write something, so I wrote this!”

There, glowing blue against the grey paper, were the words to the Sign of the Cross prayer.

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I should point out that penmanship lessons with Bugaboo have been compared to wrestling greased anacondas in the Amazon River.  For several seconds, my jaw opened and closed, but my vocal cords were unable to cooperate with its motion.  Bugaboo stood there, the joy on her face starting to fade to uncertainty, so I resorted to the simple expedient of sweeping her and her paper up in my arms and hugging her tightly.  When I regained the ability to speak, I whispered into her hair, “I am so, so proud of you, sweetheart, and God is too, because you thought of Him.”

She has never before asked for a piece of paper and a writing instrument to simply write down what was on her mind.  Manie confirmed that this was, in fact, what had happened, and that he had not helped her in any way — he thought she was writing one of her pretend letters, which are generally composed of wavy lines running across the page, narrated as she scrawls.   He was as thunderstruck as I was when he saw what she had done.

Manie left for work, and we passed a pleasant hour before the rest of the tribe awoke.  I praised her more for deciding to create her own handwriting practice, and then yet more for choosing a prayer for her practice passage.  As she left the table to tiptoe into her room for a fairy doll retrieval mission, she casually said, “You keep telling me that if we put God first, everything else will fall into place.  So I had God be the first thing I did this morning, and now I’m happy. I should do something for God first every morning so all my mornings will be happy.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for blessing us with Bugaboo, who sees through all the complexities adults try to impose on faith and reduces it to what it true, right, and simple:  that You commanded us to first love You with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. If we begin each day with You, Lord, the day’s petty annoyances and even heavy trials are bearable, because we have started by remembering that You are with us always and in all things.  Please, Lord, grant me the grace of a prayerful heart, and as we train up Your blessings in the ways they should go, keep us ever mindful that if we put love for You first, while we may be odd in the eyes of the world, we will be doing Your work whithersoever we go.

S-O-D-A, soooda


Here’s the song reference.  If you’re not familiar with Weird Al Yankovic’s work, you might want to give it a listen.

I keep a very small stock of diet soda downstairs for when Grandma visits; she enjoys a properly iced glass of the stuff with her dinner, and I enjoy taking care of those small things that make my mother smile.  The cans stay in their little box in the basement until the night before her arrival, at which time a suitable quantity of fizzy beverage is placed in the upstairs refrigerator.  After Grandma’s last visit, we procured a new box, and, to the best of my knowledge and belief, it waited near the stack of boxes of old books, quietly gathering the yellow-green pollen that invariably accumulates on everything in the basement when the tribe forgets to shut the door.

After a quick foray to the park this morning, we came home to make puppy puppets out of discarded oven mitts; our theme for this week is dogs, which has led to many Clifford stories being read and many dog-related art projects being concocted (incidentally, if you are a FiOS subscriber, there is a lovely little short about guide dogs on MagRack).  While the glue was drying on their masterpieces, Bugaboo and Beanie decided that a little more time exploring the great outdoors was in order, and that playing with Smudgie would be a good pastime for “dog week.”  Mr. Man and Baby Guy quickly followed heir big sisters, which gave me a chance to scrub the stray glue off the table and put some cheese rolls in the oven for lunch.

Once the kitchen table no longer presented a health hazard and the oven timer shrilled its cranky tones at me, I called out the kitchen window that there was, in fact, food to be had, and that wise children would quickly come devour it.  Bugaboo and Beanie raced each other up the steps, alternating complaints about who might have made physical contact with whom on their way up.  Mr. Man followed a moment later, his eyes brightening when he saw the big bowl of sliced apples next to the platter of cheese rolls.  As our three eldest impatiently surveyed the luncheon offerings, I inquired of them, “Where’s Baby Guy?”

“He’s still outside.  At least, I think he is, ” Bugaboo offered helpfully.

“Yeah, he’s ousside, ” confirmed Mr. Man.  Beanie was too enthralled by the mere presence of food to respond.

“Okay, guys.  You know the deal.  We eat together, so I need you to wait while I go get Baby Guy.”

Beanie’s wordless wail of protest followed me down the stairs and out the back door.  Sure enough, there was Baby Guy, hands covered in the potting soil from the pots on the patio table where the girls are trying to grow beets.  Laughing, I scooped him up with a quick, “Food, dude!” and headed back to the house.  As he nestled his head against my shoulder, as he is wont to do, I caught a whiff of something sweet — just as I tripped over the empty soda can.

Once inside, I looked for the box of diet sodas.  Sure enough, the tab on the end had been ripped open, and the box now stood empty, the pollen from the flap collecting in a grimly green blob next to it.  Sighing, I carried Baby Guy into the bathroom to wash his wee hands, managed to avoid looking like a refugee from a wet t-shirt contest, then tickled him upstairs and into his high chair.

We prayed grace over our lunch, and I held my curiosity until the last morsel had been eaten.  My working theory was that Mr. Man, who is fascinated by canned sodas and takes particular pride in presenting them to anyone who visits our home, had probably emptied out the box and put most of the soda in the downstairs refrigerator.  He’s done such things before.  What he had never done was actually open one of the cans.

As the three non-highchair-dwellers were putting their dishes in the sink, I inquired, “Mr. Man, did you take Grandma’s sodas out of the box?”

“Yesh, Mommy.”

“Mr. Man, did you open the sodas?”

He looked aghast at the very suggestion, and Bugaboo helpfully volunteered, “No, Mommy, I did that. I wanted to give the beets a drink of soda.  Beets are sweet and so is soda, so I thought they might enjoy some.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, who revel in all the wonders of Your creation.  Thank You for their loving hearts that cherish all life, for their tender care of our beloved Bo in what are likely his last weeks, for their fervent desire to bring forth new life from dirt and seeds.  Help me, Lord, to nurture their love of the truth, that willingness to admit their own fault even when it would be expedient to let another take the blame.  Please grant me the wisdom to teach them the right way to make connections – that while two things may be sweet individually, combining them leads to a big mess and a dead seed.  We would raise Your blessings to be good stewards of Your creation, Lord, and to worship You through their care for it.

Your darling little prince wants to grind, grind, grind


Here’s the (completely inappropriate and rather obscene, really) song reference.

Deedaw was in the mood for the chaos of our companionship yesterday.  After the girls had finished the bulk of their schoolwork, the tribe and I bustled out to the van to meet her at Toys R Us, to spend the rewards dollars that were about to expire (there is a certain pleasure in walking out of the store with new easel pads without unlimbering my wallet) and help her find a suitable birthday gift for Nephew, who will be two years old next week.  Beanie and Mr. Man helpfullly demonstrated nearly any toy that could be demonstrated for their paternal grandmother, and Bugaboo willingly offered her best advice on what might delight a two-year old boy.

We separated for a short time; Deedaw headed for the grocery store to procure a gallon of milk and some cookies, while we braved a drive-through window for some unhealthy, but no less welcome, lunch selections from the kids’ second-favorite fast food establishment, Big Yellow M.  After gathering around Deedaw’s dining room table for chicken nuggets, fries, and burgers, Baby Guy took a nap, Bugaboo and Beanie set about finishing the rest of their schoolwork, and Mr. Man careened from room to room, unable to decide whether he wanted to snuggle into his sleeping bag for a nap or have a tea party without his sisters.  Once the girls had finished the last of their math drills, the three of them headed outside to play.  It’s been a remarkably mild winter so far, and the gift of a sixty-degree January day was one our three eldest intended to fully enjoy.

While the tribe swung on swings, made forts under bushes, and played hide and seek among the trees, Deedaw and I restored a little order to the kitchen table, then set up a pair of paper shredders.  She had a number of boxes of old documents that needed to be shredded, and figured the work would go a little faster with two pairs of hands and some conversation.  Since Deedaw and I share a love of old-school singers like Doris Day and Frank Sinatra, I added a Pandora station created just for the two of us to the mix, and we passed a few hours shredding old papers, talking, periodically bursting into song, occasionally bursting into tears as we shared memories of Nonno, and plying the occasional curious small person with heart-shaped cookies. Baby Guy awoke a couple of hours in to our task, and, after he satisfied his curiosity about these strange black machines that had the magical power of making paper disappear with a clatter, joined his siblings for a romp in the yard.

As the sun went down and the temperature dropped, the tribe returned to the great indoors, one by one.  Since they had been rather good about following instructions and helping when asked without overmuch grumbling, Deedaw and I decided to grant them TV privileges, and turned on Sprout for their viewing pleasure.  We probably should not have been surprised when they all found the paper shredders to be far more interesting than television, and we found ourselves surrounded by four very eager assistants.  After a quick discussion, we decided that in the interests of not burning out the shredder motors, we could only handle one little helper at a time, plus Baby Guy to jump up and down and clap his wee hands every time a sheet disappeared into the wastebasket.

Every so often, I had to break from shredding detail to tend to dinner; during one of those intervals, Mr. Man was assisting Deedaw by feeding papers into one of the shredders.  He was, by far, our most enthusiastic helper, and the best at redirecting Baby Guy’s hands from the power cords without causing him to wail.  As I stirred the ziti, I heard Deedaw admonish her oldest grandson, “Wait a minute, Mr. Man, we don’t grind everything up.  That’s something Deedaw needs to save.  You have to let me look at the papers before you grind them.”

Those who have known me best and longest know that there is a perpetual soundtrack running through my head, usually involving popular music from the 1980s.  Random words will trigger memories of random songs, and her reference to shredding as grinding produced one that was utterly, completely, horribly inappropriate to the situation.  I couldn’t stop the laughter that bent me double and made me grasp the kitchen counter to keep from falling over.  Baby Guy had no idea what had struck me funny, but he decided that if I was laughing, he should laugh, too; Deedaw and Mr. Man smiled somewhat puzzled smiles at the two of us, and I gaspingly explained to Deedaw that I’d had sudden recollection of an album that had completely horrified my parents when I was a teenager.

We all returned to our work, Bugaboo and Beanie periodically wandering in to relieve Mr. Man, until it was time to put dinner on the table.  As has become our custom, we remembered Nonno in our grace before the meal.

After we had eaten and dealt with the majority of the dinner dishes, we gathered in the kitchen to see if there was any other help we could offer Deedaw.  All of the tiny people were pleading to be allowed to run just one more sheet through a shredder.

The Pandora station was still playing, and a song came on that made Deedaw fall silent for a moment, then softly remark, “That was our song.  That was Nonno and my song.”

At that, Bugaboo burst into noisy tears, sobbing, “I miss Nonno!”

I gathered her to me and cried my own tears into her hair before releasing her to Deedaw, who had been gently exhorting her to come over for a hug.  Beanie, round-eyed and solemn, looked up at me and mumbled, “I miss Nonno, too,” collecting a hug of her own before wandering off into the family room to look at the old pictures; Mr. Man stood close by Manie, and Baby Guy clambered up into my lap, touching my tears with his little fingers and snuggling close, as he always does when someone is sad.

Deedaw, for her part, held Bugaboo close, smoothing her hair and drying her tears, and whispered to her how precious she had been to Nonno, how much he had loved her, how much he had loved all of us, and how terribly we all missed having him here with us.  We grieved together, the seven of us, but even in our tears, we remarked how blessed we all had been to be loved by a good and gentle man.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the family You have built among us, and for the wise counsel of Nonno, who sought always to teach and do what was right and good in Your eyes, who sorrowed when those for whom he had the care chose to disregard You and rejoiced when they returned to Your ways.  Thank You for the soft hearts of Your little blessings, who saw You in Nonno’s face and in both his playfulness and his correction, for their burgeoning understanding that the way to You is through simple acts of love and sharing.  Lord, please help us teach them that the way we are to love one another is to share the very best of the undeserved blessings which You have given us, even if the best we have to share on a given day is but the honest sorrow of a grieving heart, nimble fingers to feed papers into a shredder, or a reminder that You promise eternity with You to those who live in Your friendship.  Please help us remind them that showing love to one another more often looks like the small, everyday things done with great joy and care than the grand gesture, and that authentic love does not need to aggrandize itself, but reflects glory and honor back to You.

Golden is the sand


Here’s the song reference.

We have a great passion for reading at our house, which is why there is a bookshelf in every room (including both bathrooms — really).  Not only does the tribe learn about everything from the Word of God to the adventures of Pippi Longstocking from our library, but they also get lots of opportunities to snuggle up and enjoy some quiet moments together while we read about why the sun rises and sets, who Saint Nicholas really was, and the grand adventures of a pair of cows named Minnie and Moo.

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The new year has brought a new adventure in Bugaboo’s schooling, as, each day, she has a selection from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses to read.  Seton (our homeschool curriculum provider) recommends, as part of the art curriculum, children be given a reading selection from the nursery rhyme domain, draw a picture to illustrate the rhyme, then explain the picture.  Since Grandma helpfully provided each member of the tribe with a hardbound copy of Stevenson’s children’s poetry (it was one of her first gifts to each of them), we decided to use the poems instead.  So far, we’ve done “Bed in Summer” and “At the Seaside.”

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Bugaboo is quite enthusiastic about this new exercise, partly because it’s something only she gets to do.  It has been a wild, sad, and confusing time for the tribe, these past couple of months, and some of the lessons we’ve taught were not the ones in the planning book; we would all have much preferred making a Nativity set from water bottles over learning how to behave at the funeral home and the cemetery.

Nonetheless, life goes on, and in each day, the Lord send us some new evidence of His goodness and His majesty, and some slightly different medium through which to appreciate it.  For now, that medium is poetry written about childhood for children, and the little drawings of a little girl who now desperately wants to go to the beach so she can dig holes and watch the tide fill them.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the earth and the seas, for the sun that lights our days and the moon that drives the tides, and for the enormous eyes of Your little blessings who see all of Your Creation with the awe and wonder such majesty deserves.  Thank You for the hands and minds of those who have written songs about Your majesty in words a child can understand, and grant those of us who count ourselves as worldly adults the minds of children, that we may lose ourselves again in awe and in the peace that faith in You brings.  Please remind us that we are called to be in this world, but not of it, and when we become burdened with the weight of the knowledge that lives here are brief in comparison to the mountains and seas You created, draw our hearts closer to Yours so we may be reminded that by walking in Your law, we will rejoice with You and all those beloved who have walked in Your fellowship for an eternity that dwarfs the longest river.