Tag Archive | Catholicism

In the shape of a heart


Here’s the song reference.

Not long after I settled the girls in at the kitchen table, Bugaboo with her morning waffle and Beanie with her morning milk, I had to go downstairs to let Smudgie out.  Hoping to get a little laundry folded, I asked the girls to please eat and drink quietly until I returned.  Of course, a piercing Beanie wail shook the house as I took the second shirt out of the dryer.

At the top of the stairs, I  met Beanie’s tear-filled eyes and asked her to go sit on her bed and take a few deep breaths, so she would be able to use her big-girl words and big-girl voice to explain the problem to me.  As she watched her sister exit the kitchen, Bugaboo held up her hands innocently and said, “I don’t know what got into her!”

As I entered the girls’ room, I took a deep breath myself.  Beanie has a notoriously short fuse and a bit of a penchant for melodrama. We are thankful that as she’s gotten older, her expression of temper has gone from physicial aggression to tears and screaming, which are far less injurious to her siblings and her environment.  I knelt down beside her bed and held her little hand.

“Okay, Beanie, what happened?”

“J-J-J-J-JACK-K-K-K-K-KIE Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-YELLED AT M-M-M-M-M-E!”

“Okay, what did she yell at you, and can you answer with your big-girl voice, please?”

“She yelled at me to drink my milk and pick out something for breakfast and give her my toys and she tried to take my toys away and she said I was a bad sister.”

Now, this is a tough one.  Getting Beanie to ingest anything in the morning is often a struggle, and one I’ve been trying not to push overmuch, preferring to let her start her day, then have her breakfast after she’s been awake for a while.  It took a while for me to get to that point, since I have a thing for structure and doing things as a family unit, but we had hit a point where half the morning was taken up butting heads with Beanie over eating breakfast.  I backed off, she eats something reasonable when she’s ready.  Since I usually have to be awake for a couple of hours before I can stand to eat, it seemed a reasonable accommodation.  If it had just been a question of Bugaboo fussing at Beanie for not eating, all that would have been required would have been a gentle reminder to Bugaboo that Beanie’s breakfast habits are just another example of how God made each of us just a little different.

The issue of Bugaboo’s acquisitiveness, however, is a little more serious.  We’ve had an ongoing problem with our eldest daughter appropriating her siblings’ playthings, and, while there are occasions when said siblings simply leave things near Bugaboo’s storage drawer and she just puts them away at toy pick-up time, it’s more common that she gets it into her head that she has a better use for their toys than they do, and tussles ensue over her desire to “borrow” this or that.  Calling Beanie a “bad sister” was just out of line.

“Beanie, what did you do to Bugaboo?”

“I screamed at her when she called me a bad sister.  Sh-sh-sh-she was being MEAN!”

“Okay, Beanie.”  I pulled her off the bed and into my lap.  “Can we remember to save the screaming for bleeding, broken bones, and somebody trying to take you away?”

“Oooooooooookaaaaaaaaaay.  I guess.”

“Did anything else happen while I was downstairs?  Is there any other reason Bugaboo might have yelled at you?”

“Nooooooooooooooooo.”

“Is Bugaboo going to tell me about some other reason she might have yelled at you?”  This usually works at getting untold bits of story.

“Nope.”  Calmer now.  Hugs can work wonders.

“Okay, then.  You are not a bad sister.  You’re a very good little sister, and a very good Beanie.  It’s kind to share your toys, but since we’re not supposed to have toys at the breakfast table, you were right not to share just then.  Did you have the toy with you?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, then.  Go back in the kitchen and finish your milk.  Are you better now?”

“Yeah.”  She skipped back off to the kitchen, and I followed with a slightly less springy gait.  Bugaboo sat in her chair, munching on a piece of waffle and studying an ink spot on the table fascinatedly.

“Hey, Bugaboo, can you tell me what happened there?”

“It looks like somebody missed their paper with a marker and got the table instead.”

“It does, doesn’t it?  But I meant what happened with the Beanie.”

“Oh.  I don’t know.  I was sitting here eating my waffle and being quiet and all of a sudden she just started yelling for no reason.”

As I took another deep breath, looked at the ceiling, and started to pray silently, Beanie piped up, “That’s not true!  You lied to Mommy!”

I looked back at Bugaboo, who had suddenly discovered something terribly interesting on the floor.

“Well, Bugaboo? Beanie says you yelled at her and told her she was a bad sister.  Is she telling me the truth?”

“A little.”

“Did you tell a lie?”

“A little.”

I sat down at the table, and Bugaboo confessed.  We talked about how lying hurts people just as much as calling them ugly things does, and that both are things that sadden Jesus, who wants us to be kind and gentle with one another.  I gently worked in the word “betrayal” after remembering what some of the day’s homeschool lesson plans held, and reminded them that Jesus also calls us, in love, to forgive all hurts as we wish to be forgiven by Him.  After a few minutes of discussion, Bugaboo apologized to Beanie, Beanie forgave Bugaboo, and it was time to get on with our school day.

Beanie’s school day started with a reading and coloring page about Judas’s betrayal of Jesus.  Both girls colored while I read the story, first from the picture Bible, then from a more mature edition that included how Peter severed the servant’s ear, which earned him a rebuke from Jesus.  I pointed out that even in the face of His betrayal, Jesus didn’t hit or scream at anyone, and He even forgave the people who came to arrest Him, taking the time both to heal the servant’s ear and to remind His disciples that their weapons were of faith, not of iron.

Later in the day, we read the story of Pocahontas.  I pointed out to the girls the Pocahontas was betrayed by one of her friends, and asked them if they knew of anyone else who was betrayed.  Beanie and Bugaboo both, with wide eyes, breathed, “Jesus was, ” which prompted me to remind them that one of the reasons we study history is so that we can learn to see the patterns in the way people act and how those patterns can help us predict what the consequences of decisions will be. We talked a little more about what it means to be a good friend, and a good neighbor, and repaying kindness with kindness.

After we’d read all the books and finished all the written work for the day, Bugaboo and Beanie helped clear the table for their favorite part of the day, which is whatever art or craft project we have on tap to reinforce some lesson from the day.  As the girls put away their pencils, they peeked over their shoulders to watch me draw big hearts on two pieces of red construction paper.

“Do we get to cut those out?”

“Yep.”

“Can we keep them and hang them in our room?”

“Once we’re done with them, you may do that if you like.”

They bustled excitedly to the drawer where their scissors live, returned to their seats, and looked up at me expectantly.  I handed each of them a heart and instructed them to cut carefully and slowly, showing our loving Lord that love and hearts are important.  As they worked, I got out a couple of pieces of regular paper and a roll of tape.

“Are we going to tape the hearts to the paper, Mommy?”

“Eventually.  We have to do something else with them first.  You both did a very good job cutting them out.”

Two very round pairs of eyes, one hazel, one deep brown, stared expectantly at me.

“Okay, tear them in half.”

“Rip them up?!?!?!?”

“Yes, rip them in half.”

They did, half confused, half intrigued, then looked back to me expectantly.

“Tear them again.”

I had to stop Beanie from turning hers into heart confetti as I tore of pieces of tape and stuck them to the edge of the table.

“Okay, now take the white paper and try to put your hearts back together.”

They looked at me, flabbergasted.  Why had I told them to tear up perfectly good construction paper hearts and tape them back together?  Had Mommy slipped a gear?  As they worked, uttering little exclamations of frustration at the impossibility of getting them to go back together just exactly right, I explained.

“You see, when we lie, when we take things that aren’t ours, when we betray each other and God, we hurt both another person’s heart and God’s heart.  We do everything we can to fix what we’ve done, but that heart is never quite the same, is it?”

“No.  It doesn’t go back together right.”

“Exactly.  We’re only human, ladies.  We still apologize, to each other and to God, but we can never totally make it right on our own.  Can a broken heart be made whole again, ever?”

“Maybe?”

“Yes.  If we ask Jesus, He can heal a broken heart.  So when we do the wrong thing, when we hurt somebody, we ask to be forgiven, and we also ask God to heal the other person’s heart, and our own hearts.  It hurts us when we do hurtful things, too, and we want God heal our hearts so they want to love instead of being mean.”

“Oh.”  Bugaboo paused for a minute.  “That makes sense.  He’s God.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who understand that You can heal broken hearts.  Help me teach them to always turn to You when they are downcast either because of an injury caused by another or committed by themselves, and that You call us to forgive as we wish You to forgive us.  Please burn into our hearts and minds that forgiveness and the need for it are not a cause for guilt, but for rejoicing, and that the more we forgive, the more we grow in the love You taught.  While we sin through our own free choice, Your love and mercy are boundless, and You will grant us infinite grace and help to avoid it if we ask You with humble hearts.

Autumn breeze, makes me feel fine


Here’s the song reference.

As is our custom on Sundays, we spent the afternoon over at Nonno and Deedaw’s house.  Somewhat uncharacteristically for Virginia, the afternoon was warm and golden, with temperatures high enough for the tiny people to gad about in short sleeves.

Once we had exchanged greetings with Nonno, Deedaw, Nephew, Frank and Megan (Manie’s brother and his lady friend), the midget mob began agitating to be allowed to play out in the spacious back yard.  Since it seemed almost blasphemous to disallow them the pleasure of enjoying the blessing of a springlike autumn afternoon, we adults did a quick shoe check and then dispatched the lot of them into the fresh air and sunshine.  As Nonno was resting, Frank was working on a project, and Deedaw, Megan, and I were busy with household tasks, Manie was nominated as the safety patrol officer.

Baby Guy decided to stay inside for a while, and delighted Nonno with his exploration of the toy bins in the family room and his grinning, chortling toddler babble.  Eventually, though, the littlest member of the tribe decided that he missed having playmates, and meandered over to the back door in search of his siblings and cousin.  I paused to open the door for him and notify Manie of his entry into the afternoon melee, then returned to cleaning a head of cauliflower.

A few moments later, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and looked to see which little blessing had come in looking for a drink.  Much to my surprise, I saw the motion in question had come from Nonno, who had decided that his grandchildren were far more interesting than the afternoon’s football offerings (particularly after what the Ravens did to the Raiders), and that he would therefore prefer to enjoy a little fresh air and sunshine himself.  Megan had caught the same movement from where she had been working, and the two of us fussed over him as he descended the steps onto the patio, in spite of his assurances that he was fine and did not require our assistance.

Off into the madding midget crowd went Nonno, perhaps a little shorter and thinner than he was when I first met him almost a decade ago, with his head slightly shinier, but still with the same smile in the presence of grandchildren I first saw gracing his entire face the first time I saw him playing with Niece, who was a wee girl of three and a half at the time.  It is the smile of a man who rejoices in what the Lord has sent, and one that encompasses every part of his face, not just his lips.  There are days when the tribe is particularly trying that I call that smile to mind, as a reminder of how deeply and madly grateful we are for our quiver full of arrows.

I watched through the kitchen window for a moment as he kicked a soccer ball for one child, guided another gently towards the playset, pointed out to Manie that the swing needed to be moved to a higher branch of the big magnolia, then fetched Deedaw from the laundry room, whispering, “No, really, you need to look outside.  This is way better than laundry.”

As she neared the door and saw Nonno, head glowing in the afternoon sun, face aglow with the joy of being surrounded by rowdy little kids, she smiled gently and shook her head.  After giving me a quick nugget of cauliflower advice, she leaned on the back of a nearby chair for a moment, watching the mayhem unfold in the yard, with Nonno bobbing through it like a balding rubber duck in a wave pool.  She remarked that he’s happier when he has kids and sunshine around, and that the combination of the two put more color in his cheeks, before she headed back to the dryer.  Her smile was a little brighter, too, and played about the corners of her lips a little longer.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for blessing us with Nonno and Deedaw, and for blessing them with length of years.  You have made them like trees by a river, who prosper all those who spring from their branches.  Grant us the grace of many days in their company for us and for Your little blessings, that we may be instructed by their example of faithfulness to each other and to You, and thank You for the gift of allowing us to love and serve them as their autumn and winter approach.

Fish heads


Here’s the song reference.

Bugaboo, Beanie and I passed a pleasant hour this morning reading the story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes.  It’s a perennial favorite around here, partly because we are a fish-loving family, partly because it’s a good reminder that Our Lord always provides us with more than we need, but does not want us to waste a crumb of it.   The girls and Baby Guy, who was up early and making merry mayhem as his sisters worked, enjoyed slices of bread as an after-breakfast snack while they colored.

After we had finished the day’s assignments, we decided to make tuna melts for lunch, since we had been talking about the loaves and fishes.  Bugaboo piped up, “Mommy, it will be kind of like we’re having lunch with Jesus!”  It’s a favorite meal around here, and an easy one for little hands to help prepare . . . unless, of course, those little hands are busy digging through the dress-up bin.

While we ate, I asked the girls if they remembered whether Jesus had anything other than bread and fish with which to feed everyone, including himself, that day.  They both shook their heads in the negative, so I followed up by asking them what we had that Jesus did not that day.  Beanie pointed out that our fish had mayonnaise and cheese on it, and Bugaboo noted that we had yummy fruit cocktail to go with our meal.

“Girls, did Jesus complain about only having bread and fish to eat?”

“No, they story just said they had lots of leftovers.”

“Look at your plates, and think about what you just told me about our lunch.  Think about it for a minute.  Jesus provided something better for us than he provided for Himself.”

“He must love us a lot.”

“Indeed.  Can we tell people we love them by giving them the best we have?”

“Yeah, but what if we like what we have?”

“That’s okay, too, but always remember that Jesus gave us His best.  Can we remember to give our best, too, whether it’s sharing our food or doing our chores or our schoolwork?”

“Okay.  Did Jesus have to sweep the hallway?”

“I’ll bet He helped His mother, Mary.”

“Yeah, He probably did.  He was a good little boy. He probably didn’t complain about it, either.”

Our little blessings amaze me sometimes.

Later that afternoon, we set about making feathers for our annual “turkey of thanks.”  I cut orange construction paper feathers until my fingers got numb, and had to ask Bugaboo and Beanie to save some of their gratitude for tomorrow.

Turkey of thanks

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your abundant provision for us, and for little blessings who give praise and thanks to You for Your bounty. You feed us when we are weary with living bread, and quench all our thirsts with Your living water.  Thank You for never having let our children know hunger, not for food, not for love, not for comfort.  Please enrich our hearts with humble gratitude and a fervent desire to share Your blessings with all those who hunger and despair; open our eyes to their sufferings and their eyes to Your love.

 

Hello, I love you


Here’s the song reference.

Taking kids to vote

We voted as a bloc, as it were, yesterday.

Before we disembarked from Fran the Van, I reminded Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy that we would greet each and every person we met with a warm, “Good morning, sir,” or, “Good morning, ma’am,” and an honest smile.  We spent the drive to our precinct singing selections from “Wee Sing America” and talking about how the Lord gives us free will.  We had talked about choices earlier in the day, and even took a vote on what we would have for breakfast (President Pancakes and Vice President Sausage were the victors).

As we walked the gauntlet of electioneers, Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man and I greeted every poll worker for every candidate exactly as we had discussed.  Baby Guy chimed in with giggles and waves.  Each man and woman returned our greeting warmly and offered us sample ballots, which we politely declined.  Mr. Man hopefully extended his hand to each one, and was rewarded by at least a dozen smiling handshakes.

Inside the precinct, we continued greeting the people we met, from the election judges to the other voters.  People smiled, and told the tiny people what nice children they were, and commended me on their good manners.  With the exception of a minor Beanie meltdown, they weathered the 45 minute wait to cast our ballot beautifully, and made a couple of new little friends along the way.  After we voted, one of the electioneers was kind enough to take our picture.  Once we returned home, we taped a sign to the door of our little house in a swing neighborhood of a swing state so some very weary children could take their afternoon nap.

Deterring doorknockers

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who rejoice in being salt and light to the world.  Help me teach them always, in my words, in my deeds, and in my silences, that we owe our first allegiance always to You, Who sacrificed Your life for ours.  Let my words and deeds also show them that we render unto our temporal leaders the respect they are due, and we love all of our neighbors, not just the ones who agree with us.  Lord, we serve You first, and we serve You best by being Your face to this world, in hopes of bringing others into the warm embrace of Your friendship.  We do this because we love You; grant us the strength, the courage, and the grace to share that authentic love, which does not fall into easy, feel-good gestures, but which daringly passes through the narrow gate.

How easy it would be to show him how you feel


Here’s the song reference.

We moved our classroom over to Nonno and Deedaw’s house today; the cousins were spending the day there, and it was a rare opportunity for the six of them to enjoy each other’s company for most of a day.  Bugaboo made a brief attempt to snow Deedaw and Niece into believing that she really couldn’t read her assigned passage, but righted herself when I came in to ascertain why it had taken 15 minutes for her to decipher five lines of thirty-six point text.  Deedaw, Niece and I smothered our chuckles at her red-faced and rapid reading of the page thereafter.  Interestingly, Beanie finished her seatwork in record time, and received showers of praise from both Deedaw and Nonno as a result.

It was actually a very pleasant homeschooling morning, although I was slightly discombobulated from having to extract books and materials from a backpack instead of my little kitchen cubbies.  Mr. Man, Baby Guy, and Nephew wandered in and out of the dining room where we had stationed ourselves, I took a couple of diaper-changing breaks, and Deedaw produced a largish pan of macaroni and cheese just as the last math problems were solved.  We even worked in a round of the “Austrian Yodeler” song.

After lunch, the shorty syndicate wanted to go outside.  Niece, before heading outdoors, asked Deedaw where she might find a rake. Having been directed to the shed, she proceeded to gather the leaves in the side yard into neat piles.

I should point out here that Nonno has been ill of late, and has had a lot of difficulty getting outdoors to do his usual yard work.  Deedaw and I had discussed that last night, and I had assured her that over the course of the week, I would take care of the leaves.  Heartened by the unexpected assist from Niece, I grabbed the other big rake, distributed toy rakes among the tinier helpers, and set about raking and bagging the backyard.  Bugaboo did heroic service fetching and delivering the big leaf bags, and helping pile leaves into them. We managed to get in a couple of hours’ worth of work before Mr. Man and Baby Guy started “need a nap” meltdowns.

After Bugaboo and Beanie awoke from their naps (the boys were sacked out until nearly dinnertime), I called Deedaw to see how she and Nonno were faring.  Niece and Nephew had gone home with their father by then.  I marveled to Deedaw about Niece’s willingness to help, and asked her if Deedaw had instructed her to assist.

“No.  She did that all on her own.  She asked if she could do that right after she got here this morning.”

When I teach my seventh grade Faith Formation class later this week, and ask them the same question I ask every week, Niece will have provided a shining example for young people only a year her junior.  Oh, the question?

“How did someone say ‘I love you” without using words or giving you any material thing?”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a niece who sets an example of comforting the afflicted for Your blessings.  Without words, she showed a love that is patient, kind, and humble.  Please grant Your blessings the wisdom to remember her wordless teaching as they grow, and help me to reinforce the lesson with my own thoughts, words, and deeds.   Grant us all the grace to honor our parents as we should, to be Your face to them as they have been to us.  They are Your first gifts to us.

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.