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I say a little prayer with you


Here’s the song reference.

All the tiny people were awake and active before Manie left for work yesterday morning, a somewhat unusual happenstance, as the boys usually sleep until around 8:00.  This posed certain logistical challenges, since I generally use the time between Manie’s departure and the boys’ awakening to make the morning phone calls in relative quiet.  I’ve never been entirely certain exactly what it is about the appearance of a telephone at the side of my head that causes the volume dial in toddlers’ heads to automatically crank up to ten, but it’s always been the case.  Perhaps one of the tiny people will become a neuroscientist and answer that one for me.

In any event, Grandma had a busy day on tap, so our call was short.  Once she and I had finished our chat, Bugaboo and Beanie were ready to start their math lesson.  Just as they settled in with their books and pencils, Deedaw called me before I could call her, as she had errands to run and wanted to get an earlier than usual start to her own day.  We had just started to discuss Manie’s building project for this weekend when Baby Guy ambled into the kitchen, arms laden with toy cars and trucks.

The little fellow climbed up into his daddy’s chair at the kitchen table, as he often does during the day, and started to arrange his load on the table.  Bugaboo and Beanie loudly complained at him, since he was shaking the table with the force of his parking the cars on the wood.  Still talking with Deedaw, I started to gather up Baby Guy’s playthings and gently return them to the living room; we discourage the playing of Demolition Derby on the kitchen table during seatwork time.  Mr. Man was having a morning romp with Smudgie in the back yard, having already devoured a waffle and about a quarter of a pound of cheese.

This turn of events greatly displeased Baby Guy, who alighted from his perch, stomped into the living room, loudly insisting upon the necessity of having toy motor vehicles in the kitchen as he went, wagging his wee finger at me and scowling as he intoned, “Babababad!”  Deedaw, being on the other end of the phone line, could laugh.  Apparently the audio of the scene made it pretty easy for her to get the visual.

We repeated our little dance, with Baby Guy slamming his toys onto the table and me gently gathering them and returning them to the other room.  His complaints finally became so loud and continuous, and were so augmented by Beanie and Bugaboo’s warranted lament that the racket made it impossible for them to concentrate on solving math problems, that Deedaw and I agreed to cut our conversation short.

After hanging up the phone, I remonstrated with Baby Guy about the principle that if books are on the table, cars and trucks should not be, gave him a kiss on the head and a cup of milk for his hand, sat down at the table between our daughters, and opened up my laptop to order American Heritage Girls uniforms for Bugaboo and Beanie, figuring we should have at least ten minutes of peace.

This being the fourth time since 2009 we’ve had a two-year-old in the house, one might think I’d know better.  However, our children come by their thick skulls honestly.  As I typed in all the shipping information, Baby Guy returned to the kitchen, fire truck in hand, and proceeded to clamber back up into Manie’s chair, gleefully shrieking, “I da FIYUH CHEEF!” as he did so.

Beanie put her head down in her math book.  Bugaboo started twirling her hair around her pencil, glowering alternately at her youngest brother and her mother.

“Baby Guy.  This is schoolwork time.  We cannot have trucks on the table during math lessons.  Take it back into the living room please.”

His wee face crumpled, his little chest heaved, and he started to cry big, fat, sad tears as he wailed, “No wivig woom!  Fiyuh cheef!  Bump twucks on tabuh!”

I picked him and his fire truck up, set them both gently on the floor, and gave him a little pat on the back to indicate that he did, indeed, need to head for the other room.  “Go on, sweetheart.  We’ll be done soon, and then we can all play fire chiefs together.”

Baby Guy collapsed on the floor in a shuddering, sobbing, heap.

His sisters stared – not at him, but at me.  No mathematical equations were being solved.  The problem at hand only tangentially had anything to do with books.

“Hey, girls, put your pencils in your books and close them for a minute.” I scooped up Baby Guy and snuggled him against my chest.  His tears made wet tracks down my shirt front as he tremblingly pushed his red face into my chest.  “I think maybe Baby Guy is sad that he missed when we did our morning prayers.  Would you mind if we did them again?”

Beanie jumped on that lifeboat with a cheerful, “That’s a great idea!  There’s no such thing as too many prayers!”

I cradled Baby Guy’s little hands between mine as we repeated our morning devotions, feeling the hitches in his breathing slowly diminish, then stop, as he calmed in my embrace.  The words of the prayers, and the promises they contained, washed over me, particularly “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  As we finished praying together, Baby Guy’s countenance having settled into a contented smile, I whispered into his hair, “I’m sorry, baby.”

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Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for the reminder that Your blessings inherited many traits from me, including the tendency to be a little thick-headed.  Please grant me the grace to have as much patience with them as You have with me.  Please open my eyes to their need for comfort and attention, and keep me mindful that however important whatever I’m ordering on the computer at that particular moment may seem to be, it pales when compared to the significance of spending that same time with one of Your little blessings.  Engrave it upon my heart, Lord, that what may appear to be an inconvenience is, in Your eyes, an opportunity for me to teach Your blessings that love means my to-do list can wait.

If I could save teeth in a bottle


Here’s the song reference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

They blinded me with science


Here’s the song reference.

I could relate a thousand pieces of news about the recent adventures of our little tribe, but for now, let me assure all of you that they are all well and happy.  Beanie turns five tomorrow, which should not surprise me nearly as much as it does, and Baby Guy will be two on Saturday.  For obvious reasons, life is a little hectic right now.

My husband and I recently made the momentous (for us) decision to forego the boxed curriculum approach to homeschooling for the upcoming school year.  Because of this, I am busily engaged in lesson and unit planning.  For the next couple of weeks, at the request of a couple of friends (one of whom is not a homeschooler but is intensely curious about exactly what it is that we do), I’ll be posting those lesson and unit plans.  Comments and suggestions are, as always, welcomed; there is great love in pointing our error before it becomes disastrous!

At the enthusiastic request of Bugaboo and Beanie, I started my unit planning with science.  Both girls (and Mr. Man, for that matter) are possessed of an intense and joyful curiosity about the world around them, how things work, and why things are.  It is my great privilege to provide them with enough answers that they know how to ask more probing questions, and to look for their own answers both in books and in experimentation, the latter where appropriate for their ages.  In our family, we instruct always in the context of fostering a sense of awe and wonder at the boundlessness of the Lord’s creation, and with an eye towards Christian stewardship of that creation, including stewardship of our own bodies.  Please pray for us as we create the structure within which we will train up our children!

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have favored us with a bounty of blessings, including four who are flatly refusing to sleep at the moment because they are too excited about tomorrow’s birthday celebration.  Please grant us the grace and wisdom to regard even the smallest moments as miracles, worthy of joy, and deserving of a prayer of thanksgiving to You.  As we plan for a new school year, Lord, with new knowledge and experiences, please help us keep love for You foremost in our hearts, and grant that we may teach Your blessings truly always and in all things.

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.