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Bang your head


Here’s the song reference.

Our kitchen is slightly less orderly than usual at the moment, perhaps because our dishwasher decided to resign a bare two months before we’re supposed to be moving.  I have no particular objection to washing dishes by hand; truth be told, I have many vivid and cheerful memories of drying dishes in Granny’s kitchen, and am somewhat looking forward to passing that experience along to my own children.  Even Baby Guy can dry and stow the spoons.  However, it does disrupt our morning timing somewhat, and while the tiny people are not exactly enslaved to their routine, they will take advantage of distractions and diversions to skitter off to Lego-land instead of working on their morning seatwork.

Nonetheless, we headed for the park to take advantage of a warm, sunny day, the second-to-last Wednesday of summer, and a day on which the less time I spend in front of any electronic media, the happier our entire household is.  Since we were running low on what we call “portable food,” and because we are trying not to generate more dishes than are necessary, we stopped at the nearby grocery store to acquire grapes, cheese, and carrots to eat for lunch.  Augmented by the blueberry biscuits I’d found in the pantry, we had the makings of a warm day’s feast.

As I was loading Baby Guy into the shopping cart seat, and his siblings were scrambling into their accustomed positions around the cart, our youngest set up a pitiable cry of, “Cuppy!  Cuppy! Where cuppy?”

I had asked Beanie to locate and carry Baby Guy’s sippy cup.  Mr. Man clung to his blankie, Bugaboo carried a stuffed penguin whithersoever she went, and had her pancake bunny when they still had to have a security object in their travels, but for Baby Guy, it has been a sippy cup since he learned to use one.  Fortunately, the color and style of sippy cup matter not to him, as long as he has one.  “Hey, Beanie, do you remember where you put Baby Guy’s cuppy?”

“I think I forgot it.”

Those who have raised toddlers just winced a little.

After a quick reminder to Beanie that Baby Guy was likely to be quite unhappy for the duration of our trip to the store, I mentally added a cup for the little fellow to our shopping list.  Baby Guy continued wailing unhappily about the absence of Cuppy, and I exhorted the tribe to set as brisk a pace as possible without running, which would be unseemly and unsafe in a grocery store.  Shepherding the older children as we trotted, I awkwardly rubbed Baby Guy’s back while pushing the cart upon which he sat and trying to murmur soothing words in between reminders to Beanie and Mr. Man that trying to step on the backs of one another’s shoes is not an approved game.

Few other customers were in the store at the time of our arrival, so we were able to acquire our few items largely unimpeded.  With four small children, I’ve developed a knack for snagging and carting things in stores without breaking stride.  When we arrived at the baby supplies aisle, however, I had to come to a full stop to select an appropriate cup.  The price of sippy cups at a grocery store has become genuinely ridiculous, and I was taken aback at the thought of spending seven dollars on a single drinking vessel.

We’d been meaning to transition Baby Guy from sippy cups to straw cups anyway, so I tossed a package of them into the cart and headed for the checkout.  To Baby Guy’s very great delight, these particular cups featured characters from the movie Cars.  He’s never seen the movie, but he loves cars.  He did not, however, love that the cups were in the cart instead of his hands, and proceeded to express his displeasure the way all of his siblings did at the same age, to wit: by pounding his head vigorously upon the nearest available surface, which in this instance happened to be the handle of the shopping cart.

We made our way back to the van without serious damage to Baby Guy’s cranium (my pediatrician’s advice has been to ignore this behavior strenuously, and only give reinforcement of any kind when the behavior changes to something that does not involve head-banging, and he’s been right so far – this stage only lasts a couple of weeks if the child doesn’t get what she or he wants from it, because it really doesn’t feel very good).  After a light-speed load-in, I reassured Baby Guy that upon our arrival at the park, he would be presented with a snazzy new cup full of his beverage of choice (he’s a milk junkie).  That changed his wail from one desirous of a cup to one pleading for the playground, which I counted as progress as we hit the road.

Once I’d settled our cooler on our base of operations, a picnic table in the shade of the pavilion next to the playground and helped Baby Guy drink deeply from his new cup, the tiny people scattered in all directions to swing, slide, climb, and make friends with the other children cavorting through the play equipment.  I stayed by the cooler to hand out drinks and food, as Mr. Man is in the habit of staging raids which result in edibles flying in all directions as he seeks his snack of choice.  Baby Guy, while somewhat put out by my denial of his request to carry his new “Cuppy” around the playground with him, was quickly lost in his quest to see exactly how fast he can descend a sliding board.  Bugaboo and Beanie cheerfully set about making friends with the other homeschooled kids who were already there, and I introduced myself to the ladies at the other table, who were meeting there to talk about setting up a new American Heritage Girls troop.  After sharing our overabundance of grapes with them, since they were the mothers of the rest of the children at the playground, I retired to our base camp to continue my rolling head count of my own crew.

We passed a pleasant hour at the park, with the tribe careening between the cooler and the playground.  Once Mr. Man and Beanie started a mulch-throwing party, however, it was time for us to depart.  The day was hot; all four children were red-faced and sweaty, so it seemed an opportune time to head home, get Baby Guy a nap, do a little schoolwork, and maybe catch an episode of “How It’s Made,” which is Bugaboo’s current obsession.

I called to the tiny people, “Bugaboo!  Beanie!  Mr. Man!  Baby Guy!  It’s time to go now!”

The predictable protest ensued.  Baby Guy attempted to flee up the steps of one of the slides, having not yet watched enough horror movies to know that when one is being pursued, one should never run up the stairs.  I tucked him onto my hip and waded back through the playground, trailing a line of little kids, each of whom had his or her own reason why we should stay at the park for ten more minutes, or even another hour.  Bugaboo and Beanie quickly remembered that Mommy is something of a Borg about park departure times; resistance is futile, and possibly counterproductive.  Mr. Man, however, would live at the playground if we would allow it.

Our three-year-old son, ruddy-faced from the heat and exertion, stomped and shuffled his way across the playground to the pavilion where I was retrieving our cooler, whining as he went, paying far more attention to his lament than he was to the tree roots that protruded from the ground.  With the grace typical for his age, he tripped over a tree root and landed, forehead first, on the corner of the concrete pad that forms the floor of the pavilion.

With Baby Guy still riding on my hip, I ran and scooped up my wailing child in my free arm.  The sound of a full-throated scream from a child who has just hit his head with a great deal of force is authentically beautiful – it means he’s conscious. As I clutched him to my chest and made my way to a bench to survey the damage, I suddenly found myself surrounded by the ladies who had been meeting at the other table.

“Is he okay?  Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I think he’s okay, but there’s a lot of dirt on his forehead, do any of you happen to have a wipe I could use, please?”

One lady produced a wipe, another grabbed a ziplock bag and an ice cube from her cooler.  After we had applied both to Mr. Man’s head, we discovered that while he had an impressive goose egg and abrasion, the swelling was all directed outwards.  I thanked the ladies profusely, and in response to their inquiry regarding whether we needed any further assistance, I replied, “Let me see.  Mr. Man, will you be okay if we can get home and find you some chocolate?”

“Ye- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) sh.  I need some chocolate for medicine, and chocolate will make me feel all better.”

We four moms chuckled discreetly.  Having calmed both boys (Baby Guy cries when Mr. Man does), I explained the story of a high school friend’s father’s method of determining the severity of his many children’s claimed illnesses and injuries.  If a child complained of being sick or hurt, he would produce a bowl of ice cream, give it to the complaining child, and watch for results.  If the child was still sick or hurt after eating the ice cream, a trip to the doctor was probably warranted; if not, the child was sent off to school.

For the record, Mr. Man is in fine fettle this morning, and currently quite put out that Mommy is focusing on her laptop instead of her son.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding me that the thick skulls You gave Your blessings are a gift; I forget that sometimes.  Thank You for the kindness of strangers, for the love they showed Your blessings and I at the park yesterday, for the reminder that sometimes “I love you” is said best by having the humility to accept assistance from people we don’t know.  Thank You for enough grapes to share, and for a bright, peaceful, and sunny day, where the only heat we encountered was from the late summer sun.  Please help us teach Your blessings to love without fear; empty me of my doubts and suspicions, and fill that space with trust in Your providence.  We would raise children who live in joyful anticipation of Your kingdom, and who see a glimmer of You in every face, even if that face is twisted with rage, or malice, or a pain we cannot fathom.  Grant us the grace of hearts that do what You made them to do, which is to love and serve You by loving and serving all of our neighbors, and by humbly thanking You for blessing us with them.

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


Here’s the song reference.

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

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

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

We have chosen differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

They wanted pink slippers with pink pancakes


Here’s the song reference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry me back, carry me back, carry me back


Here’s the song reference.

Mr. Man has realized that the big upside to having an open sided bed is that he can get up and wander out of his room if he’s so inclined.  At nap time yesterday, he again crept up the stairs with his blankies to snuggle up with me on the couch, and proceeded to sleep so deeply that even his sisters’ fairly animated discussion about whose art supply box was whose failed to rouse him.

Last night, at bedtime, I snuggled Baby Guy into his crib, then turned so I could pick up Mr. Man and tuck him into his blankies.  Much to my surprise, he was already sitting in his bed, blankies in a pile at his feet.  While I was a little sad to see that he no longer wanted to be carried and swung into his bed, I figured that this was another one of those growing up things, and perhaps even one of those differences between boys and girls (Bugaboo and Beanie STILL like to be carried to their beds), so I smoothed his blankets over him, ruffled his hair, kissed him goodnight, and headed upstairs to watch “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” with Beanie.

I had no sooner settled down with Beanie than I heard first the boys’ door, then the family room door open, followed by the sound of the Christmas carols one set of our Christmas tree lights plays.  Mr. Man loves lights and switches, and the tree is an endless source of fascination for him, especially since we have strings of lights that change their flash pattern at intervals.  Down the stairs I went, and, sure enough, there sat Mr. Man on the big beanbag chair, munching pumpkin seeds from the bowl I’d absent-mindedly left on the desk and staring at the lights.  After I smiled and shook my head, I admonished, “Okay, buddy, it’s time to go to sleep now.  Put the pumpkin seeds down, swallow what you have in your mouth, and go back to bed, please.”

Still chewing, he wandered back into his room and closed the door.  I retrieved the bowl of pumpkin seeds, turned off the tree lights, and locked the family room door behind me, so that the entire house would not be awakened in the wee hours of the morning if Mr. Man awoke bored. I settled back in with Beanie, who was riveted by the introduction to “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”  Our whole family loves that one, and everyone but Baby Guy sings along with the Miser Brothers (if you’ve never seen it, you should grab a sandwich and click the link; the video runs about 50 minutes).

This time, Mr. Man came upstairs, without his blankies. Sighing, I told him he could watch the show with us until Daddy and Bugaboo came home from fencing practice, but only if he sat quietly on the couch.  He cuddled up between Beanie and I, stuck his thumb in his mouth, and stared wearily at the television for about two minutes.  After finding that none of his favorite characters appeared in the movie, he slid off the couch and meandered into the kitchen, looking for something to do or something to eat.

“Uh-uh, Mr. Man — the deal was that you could sit on the couch and watch the movie with us, or you’d have to go back to bed.  What’s it going to be, big guy?”

Beanie chimed in, “I think he should go back to bed.”  Beanie zealously guards her Monday night hour of “mommy all to herself” time.

“I can’t want watch that movie.  I want watch Thomas.”

“Sorry, Mr. Man, no Thomas.  It’s past your bedtime.  This is a special movie that only comes on near Christmas, so I’ll let you stay up late if you want to watch it, but I’m not putting on a Thomas movie for you.”

“I go bed.  I wanna sleep.”

“Okay, buddy.  Do you want me to come with you?”

“No, I go bed all by self.” With that, he slowly padded down the stairs.

“Okay, Mr. Man.  I love you.”

Those of you who have spent time in a house with a small person who has just been released from the confines of a crib will be utterly unsurprised that this sequence played out four more times over the next twenty minutes.  When Manie and Bugaboo came home, they were greeted by a grinning Mr. Man.  His grin dimmed a little bit when Daddy also sent him back to his cozy bed, albeit with lots of hugs and kisses and plenty of praise for his big achievement of the day (going pee-pee in the potty — maybe we’re on the road to only having one in diapers!).

After the show ended, we tucked the girls into their beds.  They took a cue from Mr. Man’s antics and came back into the living room a few times each, so for about half an hour, Manie and my conversation was punctuated by regular interjections of “Back to bed, Bugaboo/Beanie/Mr.Man!”  After we had finished our dinner and Bo and Smudgie had finished theirs, I headed downstairs to let the dogs out.  I thought I heard the boys’ door crack open as I passed by, but, seeing no sleepy face, I kept going.

When I came back inside, I definitely heard the door opening, even over the minor thunder of the dogs’ paws on the stairs.  When I turned, I saw Mr. Man peering sadly around the edge.  “What’s up, sweetheart? It’s almost ten o’clock, and you really should be asleep.”

He stretched his slender arms towards me and whispered, with his lower lip trembling, “Mama carry me?”

You bet, big man.  We didn’t hear another peep out of him after that.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the healthy arms of Your little blessings, that wind around our necks, and for their healthy little legs that carry them to us whenever they are exultant, excited, trepidatious, or sad.  Thank You for their range of emotions and their constant desire to share their discoveries and their love with us.  Please help me remember how frightening change can be for small children, and help me reassure them that even though a piece of furniture has changed, they are still safe and secure under our protection and Yours.  Please grant us the grace to teach them to discern which changes are necessary and beneficial and which are simply passing fancies with destructive consequences, Lord, and to welcome the former with joy and the latter with Your wisdom.