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Paradise by the front turn lights


Here’s the song reference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best.  Husband.  Ever.

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

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

The best I ever had


Here’s the song reference.

Nine years ago, I married the love of my life, the song in my heart, the light of my eyes.  Without him, there would be no Dailymomprayers.  It is something of a family joke that our priest obtained dispensation for our marriage to take place on All Saints’ Day figuring, having met the two of us, that we would probably need the intercession of the entire communion of saints along the way.  I’m of Irish descent.  He is of Italian descent.  Our kids got both, and there are certain stereotypes about tempers that are funny because they’re true.  And yet, here we are, still very much in love and still building our family by the grace of God.

Last night, after I had finished writing the blog post, Manie looked at me and grinned.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, the conversation that ensued will probably make you smile, but not surprise you.

“So what do you want to do tomorrow?”

“I don’t know.  It would be nice to go out to dinner.  When I talked to your mom this morning, I asked her if maybe we could come over for dinner.”

“I feel awful.  I didn’t get you anything.”

“I didn’t get you anything either.  I didn’t even get a card!”

“I’m a rotten husband.  Come on, there has to be something you want.”

“Yeah, a nap.  Really, it would be nice to go out to dinner.”

“We should probably do something with a play area.”

We left it at that, and curled up to watch the end of Apollo 18.  The movie was forgettable, but the company was terrific.

Although he was off today, Manie went into work for an hour to get a couple of things off his desk.  By the time he came home, Bugaboo and Beanie had finished their breakfast and were attempting to coordinate a raid on the Halloween candy.  The secret to their lack of success was their inability to agree who would be the mission leader.  I suppose I need to work on teaching them to cooperate, but it’s so terribly convenient when their bickering over who gets to be in charge keeps them out of the pantry.  While the girls were having their breakfast, Deedaw called to see if we might, perhaps, like to come over for lunch.  That sounded like a terrific idea, so I offered to run to Wegmans and bring lunch.  Nonno was in the hospital again last week, and is still a little weak and weary from it, so I didn’t want to put Deedaw to a lot of trouble cooking unless she was looking for a diversion.

Deedaw liked the Wegmans idea, so when Manie came home, he helped me get Mr. Man and Baby Guy some waffles to eat and clothes to wear, after which we bundled the bambini into the van and headed off to acquire the makings of an anniversary lunch.  Suffice it to say that sushi, cream of crab soup, salad and a roast chicken were involved.  We had a feast indeed for the Feast of All Saints; it was good to see Nonno and Deedaw laughing.

After lunch, we trooped home and settled the tiny people in for a desperately-needed nap, then sprawled ourselves across the loveseat (he) and the couch (me) to relish a few moments of quiet relaxation.  We talked for a while about things we needed to do later in the week, had a desultory discussion of some long-range plans, then enjoyed a warm silence for a bit.  I was pondering, with great wonder, the miracle of our little family, recalling the years before the children came, when we prayed and prayed to be entrusted with even one little life on this earth,and our joy when He answered our prayer with Bugaboo, then answered it again thirteen months later with Beanie, twenty-two months after that with Mr. Man, and fifteen months after that with Baby Guy.  For the record, there are presently no buns in the oven, as it were.  As I considered, smiling, that vow we made, nine years ago, to welcome new life joyfully, I realized there was a pretty good opportunity for a somewhat unorthodox prayer of thanksgiving to our mighty and merciful Lord.

“Hey, I know where I want to go for dinner tonight.”

“Okay . . .”

“Let’s take the tribe to Chuck E. Cheese.”

“Perfect.  We’ll have fun!”

And so, there we were, planning our anniversary dinner at the Rodent Redoubt, thanking God for blessing us with the children who made us want to do such a thing.  He and I agree that there will be many years for the quiet, intimate dinners at fancy restaurants, but the Temple of the Rat years are precious and few.  So, for now, we trade neckties and pearls for strings of plastic beads and mouse stickers . . . and count it as the most extraordinary of blessings, worth savoring and cherishing.

Afterwards, when the kids were loaded into the van for the ride home, Manie and I paused for a moment.  We looked at each other, started giggling, wrapped our arms around each other and chorused, “Best . . . anniversary dinner . . . ever!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have blessed our marriage with love, laughter, strength, and grace.  Your design, from the beginning, was that two should become one in flesh and spirit, and we praise you for Your wisdom.  Thank You for blessing us with children, and for the wisdom to recognize the beauty, wonder, and brevity of their childhood.  Please help us teach them that all blessings come from You, and that a stalwart, humble faith in You, coupled with reliance on the guidance You left in Your book of love letters to us, will provide them with everything they need to love as they should.  What You have joined, no many may put asunder, Lord, and we thank You for joining us together forever.  Please mold us into an example of Your will for married couples, and grant that our hearts may turn always to You, whether we face exhilarating joy or exhausting grief, with a psalm of praise.  Keep us ever mindful that marriage is so important to You that You performed Your first public miracle at a wedding, and keep us ever mindful of the sanctity of the sacrament You created.

Breakfast for dinner, stories for dessert


We are all suffering through Baby Guy’s first real illness; I’m just grateful that it took him 8 months to get it.  While we initially thought he and Mr. Man were afflicted by the richness of the soup, the fevers they developed indicate that something else is at work here.  Mr. Man has an iron constitution, which always surprises me because he is such a little string bean, so he shook it off in just under 24 hours.  Baby Guy, however, is still wretchedly running out of both ends.  The laundry relay continues, unabated.

Since Baby Guy has enough baby sense to sleep through it when he’s sick (oh, what a blessing that is), after schoolwork was completed this morning, I let Mr. Man, Beanie, and Bugaboo run amok in the backyard for several hours this afternoon.  When I called out the kitchen window to inquire about their dinner preferences, Beanie cheerfully hollered back, “Scrambled eggies!”  Breakfast for dinner it was, and a happy bunch tucked into scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and applesauce.

Happy Beanie!

Mommy’s home fries rival Big Yellow M in popularity.

Mr. Man’s skill level with a spoon is now such that most of the applesauce makes it into him, instead of onto him.

After a couple more hours of finding new and interesting ways to get themselves completely filthy, the trio came in for a much-needed bath, molasses cookies, and big cups of milk.  I finished cleaning up poor Baby Guy’s last exhausted offering to the “Mommy and Daddy need to go buy a new living room rug” spirits, and then Daddy and I snuggled up with tiny people for what proved to be a 90 minute storytime.  They were all up past their bedtimes, but we were all enjoying ourselves so much that my husband and I didn’t want to pack them off to their beds until Mr. Man finally started crying from fatigue.  It was a pretty wide-ranging storytime tonight; we read some Clifford, some My Little Pony, some Disney fairies, some Little Misses, some Wind in the Willows, and some simple basic words books.  After the mayhem caused by two vomiting boys last night, we truly delighted in the peace we found with our cuddly children and their boundless love of books.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the peace and joy that comes from sunny days and children’s stories.  Thank You for providing us with everything we need to take care of a sick baby, and for his kindhearted siblings who visited him whenever he was awake, patting his hair, blowing him kisses, or whispering their love for him.  Thank You for the friend who called to see if I needed an extra pair of hands, and for a devoted husband who checked in half a dozen times to make sure his job as Daddy didn’t need to take precedence over the one that pays the bills.  Please keep me mindful that even the icky tasks of motherhood are gifts from You; I have four living children who make messes, while many families wait anxiously for even one child to create a joyful clutter.

Valentines


I’m a little flaky about Valentine’s day.  My husband is under strict orders not to crash our household budget with trinkets that I’ll have to either store or clean or flowers that will set off my allergies.  It is a testament to his love for me that, completely against his wishes, he abides by my wishes; he is the kind of guy who brings me chocolate just because he called to say hello and heard one of the tiny people throwing a tantrum in the background, or who quietly does this dishes while I let the dogs out after dinner.  He shows his love for me in a thousand little ways every day, from notes written on the shower wall with the kids’ bath crayons to restoring a creche my Pop-Pop made me that I thought was ruined beyond repair when our basement flooded.

That said, I hope everyone reading this had the sort of Valentine’s day that brought joy into his or her life.

This was the first year we deemed Bugaboo and Beanie old enough to have their own little boxes of kiddie valentines; we figured they’d have a good time folding them and giving them to all their playgroup buddies.  Bugaboo’s featured Tinkerbell and her fairy friends, and Beanie had a box of My Little Pony cards, along with their traditional little heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.  Since the girls were up long before the boys, who had a rough night, had even thought of stirring, and I had a ton of cooking to do for a friend’s soiree this evening, I hugged them, kissed them, showed them how to fold their little valentines, and set about kneading a loaf of parmesan-oregano bread (some semblance of a recipe will follow today’s prayer).

Some moments later, I realized that I was flanked by little girls, silently watching me knead bread.  Pausing to shake out my wrists, I asked them if they needed help with their little cards.  Bugaboo, who is usually the spokeswoman for the tribe, shook her head, smiled, and held up one of her little cards.  Beanie scooted around to stand next to Bugaboo and proffered one of hers, too, as her big sister told me, “Mommy, we think you should get the first Valentines.”

I scooped both of them up in my floury arms and held them close before they wiggled away, protesting that I was going to get bread all over them.  They returned to the table and gathered their treasure, scampering off to their room to compare the pictures on all their little cards and try to tuck all the little edges under all the little tabs.  The concept of actually putting names on the Valentines didn’t quite sink in, but they sure did have a good time.

My husband met all of us at the party this evening, then took the girls over to Nonno and Deedaw’s for a little Valentine’s visit while I brought Mr. Man and Baby Guy, who were both worn out, home.  After I had sung the boys their songs, said their prayers with them, and tucked them in, their Scouts playing a few minutes of lullabies for them, I called over to Nonno and Deedaw’s to let him know we were all safe and sound here, and the little guys were sacked out.  As we were saying goodbye, Beanie apparently wandered over and heard Daddy saying “I love you.”  She wanted the phone, so he gave it to her.

There just aren’t many things that can beat the sheer bliss of hearing your three-year-old daughter say, “By the way, Mommy, I love you.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, who love me, and for the sweetness of the ways they choose to show it.  Help me guide them to become men and women who will show, and share, their love freely.  Thank You for sending me a husband who doesn’t need the date on the calendar to tell him it’s time to love his wife, and for the many opportunities you put in our path today to share the love with which You have so richly blessed our lives.  Lord, please remind me that everyone needs to know that he or she is loved, and help me find ways to show that love to people who make it a challenge.

*******

Parmesan-oregano bread “recipe”

I never measure anything when I make bread, so all measurements are very, very rough

1 c  warm water
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp yeast
2 tbsp olive oil (I use extra virgin; you don’t have to if you’re not partial to the taste)
3 + c flour
1/2 c parmesan (or romano, if you prefer) cheese, grated
1 tbsp oregano

Dissolve honey in water; add yeast and stir.  Let stand 5 minutes, then stir in everything else.  Knead on a floured surface until dough is smooth and stretchy.  Roll into a fat rope, then form the rope into a circle on a big pizza pan so that you have about 3 inches between the outer edge of the pan and the dough.  Let rise for about 90 minutes; dough will spread and rise.  Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Put a pan with about an inch of water in it on the bottom rack; put the bread on the rack above, and bake for 25 minutes.  You’ll get a focaccia-shaped bread with just enough puff, a crispish crust, and a moist crumb.

Corinthinking


I was having the sort of morning that begins with the sound of two little boys screeching, continues with the discovery of two diapers filled with explosive runny poop, proceeds to a snit from Bugaboo over the Sunday morning TV ban, and is escalated by the realization that the only sound I hear coming from our bedroom is my husband’s rhythmic snoring.  My thoughts started that horrible death spiral that starts off with, “I’ve been up dealing with every unpleasantness imaginable, and you’re in there getting an extra couple of hours of sleep.”  The actual thought was a little more profane than that, but my understanding is that there are some younger readers of this blog.

With a very definite anger setting its hooks into my consciousness, I slammed open the laptop and prepared to launch a little screed on Facebook.  God has a way of smacking me upside the head with a metaphorical brick when the kids’ hugs and tears don’t cause me to realize that I’m about to do something stupid, and He got me this morning with a one-line post from a young friend of mine, who is to be married Tuesday.

She had posted, “I give up stuff for you.. You won’t for me!!!”

Gee, that’s exactly what I was thinking.  I don’t know the exact circumstances that caused her upset, but I do know mine.  How humbling it was to realize that with all the emphasis I’ve put on how we can show love for one another this past week, I had missed a fairly essential part of the lesson myself.

Most people are familiar with at least part of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians; it’s often heard at weddings, and reads thusly:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor , and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

4Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; 6rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; 7beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. 12For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. 13But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

Love does not consist of expensive presents or passionate exchanges of bodily fluids.  It is a complete gift of self, a gift for which we expect nothing in return.  Granted, in all of human history, there has been exactly one Person who loved perfectly, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to give it, flawed as I am.  It is the reason I thank God for our children’s strong lungs when they’ve been screaming all day, and the reason I was ashamed of myself for letting that spiral of rage get started just because my husband, who works 60 hours a week to provide for our family, then spends most of his days off either giving me a break from dirty diapers or helping one or more of our aging parents take care of things they are no longer physically able to do for themselves, needed an extra hour or two of sleep this morning — after he got up at 3 a.m. to take care of Baby Guy so I wouldn’t have to.  The only reason I know he did it is that I saw the empty bottle in the sink this morning, and when he exited the bedroom this morning, I asked him when our tiniest tribesman awoke.  Then I found the pants stained with what the diaper couldn’t hold, neatly folded on a counter so they wouldn’t stain anything else, so obviously, he dealt with that too — all without complaining or raging at any of us.  Real love, the kind that comes from the gift of self, doesn’t worry about whether the time or place is convenient.  If I let it, it will fill the spaces in my heart where anger seeps.

After lunch, we insisted Bugaboo and Beanie take a nap to sleep off some of their crankiness, and my husband went downstairs to play with the boys.  Smudgie decided he’d had enough of being cooped up in the house and refused to come inside, so we gave him the run of the back yard for a while.  I decided to lay down on the couch for a few minutes, and, after a few minutes, the male half of our household came back upstairs.  Mr. Man, carrying one of his favorite books, climbed up onto the couch and laid down in the crook of my arm, looking at me hopefully.  I never thought it would be such fun to read a book about Cheerios, but it always makes both of us smile.

When I finished that one, Mr. Man succeeded it with a half dozen more.  Around the middle of the third book, my husband said he was still a little tired, so he was going to take Baby Guy into our room and lay down, since the couch was fully occupied.

While Mr. Man was retrieving his eighth book of the day, I closed my eyes for a moment; reading without my glasses gives me a headache, but I hadn’t really wanted to go find them and break Mr. Man’s rhythm.  Moments later, I felt a little kiss on my lower lip, then a honk of my nose, then the snuggling of a not-quite-two-year-old boy against my belly.

I suppose I drifted off, because I was startled from sleep by the sound of a Scribble ‘n’ Write crashing to the floor.  Glancing at the clock, I noticed about 45 minutes had passed since we had let Smudgie out, so I gave Mr. Man a hug and a kiss, then headed downstairs to retrieve our giant puppy.  Mr. Man followed me down the stairs, so he could retrieve his blankies from his bed.  When I came back up, the big guy was standing at the top of the stairs, crying because he couldn’t find me.  I picked him up and hugged him, sat back down on the couch and talked quietly to him while he cuddled against my shoulder.

In the meantime, Smudgie, having emptied the water dish, took up his position on half of the loveseat, using the arm of it as a pillow.  Mr. Man pointed to him and observed, “Puppy.  Muzhy [Smudgie] puppy.”  I replied, “Yes, Smudgie’s sleepy. He played outside for a long time.  He’s cold, too, so he’s trying to get warm.”

Without further ado, Mr. Man gathered his blankies, rolled off the couch, tucked Smudgie in with his beloved blankies — the best things he has, in his view — and gave him a little kiss.  Then he turned to me and said, “Shhhhhh,” before giggling his way down the hall to see what the noises coming from his sisters’ room might be.

I find a tremendous joy in realizing how much I am loved, and how many opportunities there are to learn new ways to love other people.  The Lord has blessed me with much to give.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You defined love for us, and set an example of self-sacrifice that none since has been able to approximate.  You have blessed me with a husband and children who give freely of themselves, and a husband who sets a tremendous example of sacrificing for the good of our family while expecting nothing, not even a word of thanks, in return.  Thank You, Lord, for these gifts, for these proofs of Your love, which I did nothing to merit, and for Your gentle reminders that expecting something in return for love is no love at all, but a commercial transaction.  Please keep me mindful that not once have You asked me, “What have you done for Me lately,” and help me to rejoice in the opportunities You provide me to love, instead of cursing the inconveniece.

Technicolor


We know a young lady who is marrying the father of her infant twins on Valentine’s Day, while he is home on leave from the Navy.  Many, many people who know her and her family decided that even though they’re being married in a little wedding chapel, even though lots of plans had to be made rapidly, every girl deserves to have a beautiful wedding day.  Crowdsourcing can be an amazing thing; it’s been remarkable to see people come together, each offering to share what she has, to celebrate.  If Christ thought marriage to be an institution worthy of honoring with His first public miracle, we can at least whip up a decent party for two young people and their two little babies.

Since we had a couple of ladies who knew me during my teaching days coming over this afternoon to help make decorations for the happy couple’s reception, I passed a decent part of the morning raiding bins, boxes, buckets and drawers for craft supplies in the couple’s favorite colors.  By the time the decoration fabrication committee had assembled, Bugaboo and Beanie were nearly rabid with excitement over all the pretty papers, stickers, ribbons, and flowers, and were pleading to be allowed to assist.

Beanie was the first one to the table, scampering into her chair before I had even put all the supplies on the table.  She loudly announced, “I want a craft!” to the great amusement of our guests, and happily accepted a magic paint picture, paintbrush, and water.  As she painted her picture, she kept a constant watch on the growing tumble of supplies upon the kitchen table, commenting on which stickers, paper, pencils, ribbons, flowers, etc. she thought were pretty.  Throughout the entire supply dump, however, she stayed in her seat and continued working on her wee project.

Then I took out the stamp pads and rubber stamps.

I don’t know exactly why stamp pads hold at least as much attraction for Beanie, Bugaboo, and Mr. Man as a U-Haul full of M&Ms.  I just know that I never, ever say what they are if I’m taking out  or putting away supplies, because any announcement of their presence results in a stampede of small feet and a chorus of little voices pleading for as many of each as their little hands can carry (Bugaboo has actually been known to drag out a shopping bag and ask if she can have enough stamps and ink to fill the bag).  Almost before I could react, Beanie and Bugaboo had opened four stamp pads and hijacked a pair of rubber stamps, and were proceeding to cover every imaginable surface with pink, orange, blue, and green hearts, cupcakes, and flowers.

I’m not sure when Beanie decided to use the ink pad to practice taking fingerprints.  I believe that she did practice on her piece of construction paper before she decided to decorate her face.  I’m almost positive that she made the fingerprints using the ink pad before she made the lip prints.

In an attempt to channel this torrent of artistic expression, I set up the kids’ little table and chairs in the living room, handed them a pile of coffee filters, a dozen markers, a couple of ink pads and a couple of stamps, and gave them some general instruction on how to color the coffee filters to make pretty flowers.  That way, I told them, you will get to help make decorations for the wedding.  I am absolutely certain that I instructed them to keep all coloring and decorating materials on the table and on the coffee filters.

I am, however, slightly fuzzy about when Mr. Man absconded with the orange ink pad, and exactly what the current location of said ink pad might be.

I first realized that Mr. Man had, in fact, scored an ink pad when he came into the kitchen with bright orange hands — roughly the same color Bugaboo generally uses for Jesus’s hair.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that he also had an orange chin, and as I’ve been sitting here typing this, I just noticed a neat orange rectangle printed on the wall in the hallway.   Shortly thereafter, Bugaboo announced that she and her siblings had finished their project and that she would still like some pretty flowers from the box.  I thanked her, did a double take, then realized that she had half a rainbow dribbling down the lower half of her face.  The other half was covering her fingers.

For the record, the three adults in the room managed to make what we think are some pretty spiffy decorations during all this mayhem, and all seven of us enjoyed an early dinner together.  It’s good to have friends who understand that children’s curiosity can have hilarious outcomes — and that, sometimes, it’s okay to laugh, because it is funny.

Bugaboo and Beanie went with my husband to his fencing practice tonight.  As I was attempting to make them presentable for their night out with Daddy, I realized that the label, “washable,” on the markers and ink pads apparently refers to cleaning with substances other than baby wipes, water, hand soap, and dish detergent.  At least the ink somewhat matches the colors of their dresses . . .

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for friends who give freely of their time and talent to make something beautiful for a person they’ve never met.  Thank You for letting Your blessings see what it is to give of yourself while expecting nothing in return, and for granting all of us a healthy share of joy in the act of giving.

Lord, Your blessings love color.  To them, the infinite number of shades they can create with paints and ink is one of the most marvelous things in Your creation.  Please help me foster and encourage that sense of wonder at what You have wrought, and remind all of us that we can honor You by stopping to admire a particularly arresting hue, then giving silent thanks for the beauty of it.

Back where it all began


I would love to include pictures of Nonno and Deedaw renewing their vows in this post, but in all the hullaballoo, I forgot to put batteries in the camera. I do, however, have what might be called “before and after” pictures.

Before:

After 50 years of marriage, two sons, and six grandchildren:

There is pretty, and there is beautiful.  Wedding dresses are pretty.  Flowers are pretty.  Nonno and Deedaw are beautiful.

Yesterday morning, we hurried the tiny people into their best clothes and made ourselves halfway presentable, then ran out the door to make it to the church for 9:00 a.m. Mass.  Remarkably, we made it on time, in spite of a mischievous bag of toys that decided to flee the back of my van to have a playtime of their own in the parking lot.  If the dictionary people are ever looking for a definition of challenging, I would humbly submit the following:  “attempting to keep two preschoolers and a toddler from playing with several dozen small toys that have just spilled out of a bag in a church parking lot.”

Thankfully, years of practicing toy pickup skills helped keep the cleanup time to under two minutes, and we made it to the church on time.  The church in which Nonno and Deedaw renewed their promises to one another is the same one in which my husband and I were married a little over eight years ago; part of the roof is made of stained glass, and when the sun comes in through the glass, as it typically does in the late morning, the altar is covered with a thousand fragments of rainbows, dancing among the angels and saints and soothing the wounds of Christ crucified.

On this particular morning, I would venture to say they were dancing the tarantella as Nonno and Deedaw made their way to the altar and spoke anew the promises that anyone who knows them, knows have lived in their hearts for every day of the past half-century.  There is pretty, and there is beautiful.  The knowledge that they mean every word of those vows is beauty.

After Mass, my husband and I managed to make our way to a quiet corner of the altar, accompanied by our daughters (the boys were thoroughly enjoying all of the attention of their older relatives and did not wish to join our little party), and knelt there, with our arms around each other’s waists, just as we did on the first day of November of 2003.  We gave misty-eyed thanks to our gracious Lord and Savior, who joined us in a way that no man may sunder.  Like Nonno and Deedaw, we are a little older, a little greyer, a little more wrinkled, but we are building something beautiful together, with faith, honesty, and a love that uses Christ’s love for His church as its model.  I don’t know if we will both be alive for our fiftieth anniversary (we would both be 82, if we are), but for as long as we both shall live, I hope we can provide half so powerful a witness of what marriage should be.  I hope our children learn the lessons from us that my husband learned from his parents.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Nonno and Deedaw, who have shown us that after the pretty flowers and dresses are put away, the real beauty of a marriage is the complete sacrifice of each spouse to the other.  Please help us teach Your blessings that love between a husband and wife is, like Your love for us, boundless and eternal.  There is a reason Your Son performed his first public miracle at a wedding; we would have Your blessings know that marriage is sacred.

Simple gifts


All of our children are named for people my husband and I have dearly loved, or still dearly love.  It is, in our eyes, one of our gifts to them, that they will carry the names of men and women who were all heroic in their own ways.  One of them was a bona fide war hero, and had the military decorations to prove it, but I did not know that until he died.  Each of them were heroes to us for their steadfast adherence to everyday virtues — faithfulness to the Lord and family, determination, thrift, ingenuity, creativity, kindness.  There will be no monuments except ordinary tombstones built for any of them, but they were (or remain) the kinds of people that we would hold up as examples to our children.

Baby Guy is named for my husband’s uncle, who left us not long before Beanie was born.  He was a brilliant and faithful man, born in Italy, and one of the people I will always regret not having been able to know better.  My husband’s aunt, this remarkable man’s widow, came down here to celebrate her little brother’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.  We absolutely adore her, and she loves us and our little tribe right back.  On the days when nothing seems to be right, I call Zizi, and she regales me with family tales, including a healthy dose of my father-in-law’s history.  There is nothing in this world that she does not know how to cook, and she always has a genuine compliment to offer about each of the kids, my husband, and me.  Her loving heart both honors and humbles me.

There are moments that are seared into my memory with a fierce and soaring joy.  One of them is the day we found out Baby Guy was, in fact, Baby Guy and not Baby Girl.  We had decided that, if this little blessing was a boy, that we would name him for this delightful lady’s late husband; upon my return from that happy visit with my favorite ultrasonographer, I called her to ask her permission.  Zizi readily gave her consent, then promptly hung up on me (no offense taken — it was the sort of hanging-up that comes from simply being unable to speak).  When she called back a couple of hours later, apologizing for hanging up, we had a good laugh.  Her two oldest children are Baby Guy’s godparents; it just seemed fitting.

Zizi and Baby Guy’s godparents, along with my husband’s other aunt who is Deedaw’s younger sister, all arrived this afternoon to help celebrate a truly awesome occasion.  While Zizi loves babies on general principle — they are cute, they snuggle, and every single blessed one of them loves to smile for her — Baby Guy has a special place.  I was rocking him in his car seat, trying to get him to take the nap he so desperately needed, when Zizi materialized next to me and asked if she could hold him.

I don’t think I will ever be able to say “no” to her.

All of us had been trying to soothe him for the better part of an hour, and Baby Guy was having none of it.  No amount of rocking, singing, milk, or snuggling would calm him.  Zizi, however, has almost a vocation for calming tired infants, and for the next half hour, Zizi and Baby Guy sat in the rocker, her singing and humming, him cuddling and smiling.  I hated to take him back from her when, finally, his fatigue won out over his adoration and he started to sob again.  He actually fell asleep on the floor, sprawled out on his tummy, with his little thumb jammed into his mouth like a cork.

As soon as he awoke and had a little something to eat, he was again the center of the classic party game, “Pass the Baby.”  Everyone had a turn at making Baby Guy laugh — he’s a most obliging little chap where that’s concerned — and he eventually made his way back to Zizi.  She smiled the whole time he was sitting with her, and in those moments, I could see her as a girl, almost sixty years ago, on her own wedding day.  Beautiful then, and beautiful now, and if the joy she finds in her life may be tempered by the pain of too many losses too close together, the love she has for us gives her a radiance that no cosmetic will ever duplicate.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, one of the rarest and least merited gifts You have given us is are the members of our family who love us in spite of our innumerable flaws, who somehow manage to see pieces of You in us.  Help us teach Your blessings to savor every moment they have with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, before they learn by experience that they will not be with them here on earth forever.  And please, Lord, remind us to never miss an opportunity to share our love freely with our family, so that when they return to You, we have no reason to regret the words we did not say or the kindnesses we did not do.

What God has joined


A quick piece of housekeeping . . . I like comments, and I’m not easily offended.  Tell me what you think when you read these posts; I’d love to hear from you.  On with the blog, now.

There’s been quite the excited buzz around here in recent days, since today marks Nonno and Deedaw’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Nonno and Deedaw are my husband’s parents, and a more wonderful example of what marriage means would be difficult to find.  Celebrating this joyful milestone will occupy most of our waking hours this weekend, and much of this week has been devoted to preparing the kinds of festivities that are pleasing to Nonno and Deedaw.  These tend to center around family and faith; they will be renewing their vows and spending time with relatives who are traveling hither from yon.

Bugaboo finds all of this fascinating.  She gets that Mommy and Daddy are married to each other, Nonno and Deedaw are married to each other — you get the idea.  She also understands that some people who were married to each other aren’t anymore.  While she may not yet be able to conceive of how long a time fifty years is, she knows it’s longer than Mommy and Daddy have been alive, and since Mommy and Daddy are “old,” fifty years must be a tremendously long time.

She and Beanie are, naturally, excited about all the parties and about seeing people they love, but rarely see because they live such long distances from us.  They have been busily engaged in helping select deli trays and wrapping plastic cutlery in napkins secured with construction paper bands, hearts, and stickers, and have watched avidly while I do incomprehensible things with wired ribbon and tiny silk roses.  Unsurprisingly, they have also listened to many a conversation with Grandma (my mother), and thus have picked up on some new vocabulary, which has added some variety to the constant fusillade of questions posed by my extremely curious daughters.  Mr. Man listens intently, too, but his speaking skills are not yet developed to a point where he can add to the hubbub.

At any rate, Bugaboo and Beanie have also been curious about this notion of “renewing vows.”  I explained to them that a vow is a promise that you make in front of God that can never be broken, and that Nonno and Deedaw wanted to repeat those promises they made fifty years ago to each other.  It’s a special kind of celebration, I told them, the kind that makes us thank God for holding them close to Him and to each other for all these years, and a way to remember a day that was among the most important in their lives.  Those of us who weren’t there half a century ago will be able to join them in a celebration of a love that has lasted a lifetime.  The  young ladies were duly impressed, and both declared that one day, they will find someone with whom to share a lifetime.

Bugaboo has two stuffed penguins who have been her sleeping buddies since she was big enough to have sleeping buddies; there is a large one with a scarf who she named “Doctor Pengie,” as she thinks his scarf looks like her pediatrician’s tie, and a smaller one named “Dada Pengie,” so named, saith Bugaboo, because he has a round belly like Daddy.  They are her besties and boon companions, and no childhood joy or trauma has she endured without one of them tucked under each of her little arms.

Given all the talk about marriage over the past weeks, I knew that somehow it would end up being the subject of some play among the girls; they’re at an age when playing make-believe is the greatest game in the world, because they get to play-act all the grown-up things without having to pay the bills or worry about other logistical details.  However, I had to pull the van over on the way to playgroup this morning when Bugaboo declared, “Mommy, Doctor Pengie and I got married last night, and Dada Pengie is our little boy.  We need our own house now, right?” because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t steer.

I think I’ll save the explanation of why she can’t marry a penguin for another day — preferably for a day after she finally gets around to asking how the babies get into their mommies’ tummies.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Nonno and Deedaw, who have set for us and for Your blessings a beautiful example of what You intended marriage to be.  For fifty years, they have been one, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  Having them here is a blessing that could only come from You.  Please, Lord, bless them with joy and peace in their remaining years, and help their children and grandchildren increase that joy by following their example of faith and trust in You and Your law.

And, Lord, thank You for showing me that keeping promises is not an anachronism.  You keep Yours always, but it seems that we have trouble with ours sometimes.  It’s good to have a reminder that yes, it is possible, and that it brings the greatest of joys.