Tag Archive | christian

Fear and hope and love

No song reference here.

I read a blog post from Robyn over at Scary Mommy last night about her son’s near-lethal encounter with a cookie that contained a trace amount of nuts.  If you encounter children who have food allergies, I encourage – no, exhort – you to read this post and share it in either digital or hard copy form with everyone you know.

The time I almost killed my child

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have granted us four little blessings who can, and will, eat anything that doesn’t eat them first.  Thank You for that great gift, and thank You for the mothers like Robyn who you have blessed otherwise.  Please help me teach Your blessings to appreciate how tremendous the gift of unrestricted eating is, and help me to set an example of compassion and understanding towards parents and children who must be ever-vigilant about their children’s diets.  Thank You for Robyn and her husband’s watchfulness and quick action, for the education and medical professionals who loved them and Rory, and for Rory himself, who is so clearly beloved by his family and by You.  Please protect Your little child from the “bad cookies,” and grant his parents Your comfort and peace.

Finally, you come along

Here’s the song reference.

Last weekend, we celebrated Deedaw’s 75th birthday.  To her delight, her sister, one of her nieces, and our beloved Zizi Carmela all made the trip down from Pittsburgh to rejoice with us that the Lord saw fit to grant us another year with a great lady.

The tiny people were all terribly excited about the prospect of a party, and Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man were all particularly happy to learn that three of their favorite relatives would be attending.  Deedaw’s sister and the niece who came are wonderfully fun grown-ups who make time to play trucks, and dolls, and hairstylist, and superheroes, while Zizi Carmela, in addition to having an endless supply of kisses, has the love and the patience to sit for as long as they want, listening to whatever they want to tell her, even if she doesn’t have the vaguest idea what they’re actually saying. Since Mr. Man tends to start a conversation with one person in one room and finish it with someone else in another, that last is not an infrequent occurrence, and Baby Guy is a little tough to understand for those unaccustomed to his two-year-old vocabulary and diction.

Zizi has a soft spot for Baby Guy, who is named for her late husband.  Regular readers of this blog know that we have a soft spot for Zizi.  Baby Guy, however, being a highly mobile and curious toddler, has not really had the patience to sit nicely in Zizi’s lap for over a year now, and while she still adores him (and the rest of the tribe), she’s been a little hurt that the little fellow simply refuses to be held.  Manie and I, figuring this would probably be the case again, spent no small amount of time and effort ensuring that he could, at least, bubble out, “Hi, Zizi,” and utter a couple of words in Italian (ciao, buona notte, and arrivederci, for the curious – and there’s not much cuter than Baby Guy trying to sputter out “arrivederci!”).

Happily, our youngest did, in fact, manage to greet his great-aunt by name, and greet her with a hearty, “Ciao, Zissy,” which made her smile and laugh, before zooming off to see what his cousin and siblings were doing with the sidewalk chalk on the back porch.  On the first day of Zizi’s visit, Baby Guy did deign, several times, to approach close enough to allow Zizi to give him some hugs and kisses and tell him what a big boy he’s getting to be, and even showed her where her nose was once or twice.

On the second day of the visit, we rushed through schoolwork and headed over to have another visit with the Pittsburgh relatives before they headed home, zipped home for naps, then returned to Deedaw’s for dinner with them.  We don’t get to see the Pennsylvania branches of the family very often, and they’re such wonderful company that we don’t like to squander the opportunities we’re given.  The whole tribe was a little crazy for the morning half of our visit, but settled down to a relatively civilized level after a decent nap.  In the afternoon, Deedaw’s sister and niece were kind enough to monitor some bike-riding time in front of the house so we could get dinner started; it was a short-lived adventure, as the weather was sufficiently hot and humid to spark altercations amongst the little ones regarding whose bike, trike, or scooter was whose.

After dinner, Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man headed outside to further decorate the back porch with sidewalk chalk, while Baby Guy remained indoors, busily searching for cookies.  He was quite delighted when he discovered that there was plenty of “Happy You You” cake left, and that everyone at the table was more than happy to indulge his love of frosting and whipped cream (which is known as “foof” in Baby Guy parlance).

Having scammed at least a mouthful of sugary goodness from each and every adult at the table, Baby Guy circumnavigated the table, looking to see who might be willing to play with him.  Manie and I watched hopefully as he approached Zizi’s chair . . .

. . . and could not hold back the smiles when he clambered up into her lap, where he remained for about ten minutes.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for family members willing to travel hundreds of miles to rejoice with us, and thank You for their safe travels.  You have blessed us with so many of Your best people, and blessed them with length of years.  Thank You for their love and their wisdom, which they freely share with us, and for their nearly endless patience with Your littlest blessings.  Help us teach Your blessings that among Your greatest gifts to us are the members of their grandparents’ generation, who imbue everyday tasks with holiness by the love with which they perform them.  Help us teach them that the years when those elders’ bodies weaken and memories fail are our opportunity to show them that we learned well the lessons in love You taught us through their ministry to our family, and let us never consider their frailties an inconvenience to us, but a chance to give back to them the pieces of their beautiful hearts they freely left with us.

Lights out

Here’s the song reference.

Yesterday evening, we attended Mass as a family, including Deedaw.  This is an extraordinarily rare occurrence, as Mr. Man and Baby Guy have a history of outrageously unacceptable conduct at church; we generally split up, with Manie attending the Saturday vigil Mass with Deedaw at her parish, and Beanie attending the early Sunday Mass with me at our parish.  It usually works out well for all concerned.  However, we had an unexpectedly uneventful morning Mass, with the entire tribe, on Thursday, which was the Solemnity of the Assumption, so we figured we would chance it.

There was a reason for our burning desire to attend Saturday vigil Mass en famille; our wonderful priest was accorded the title of Pastor, as opposed to Parochial Administrator, which gives our parish actual parish status, as opposed to a mission (let’s see if this works, in other words) church.  After ten long years, we are finally starting to build the physical building for our church, which currently meets in a converted motorcycle dealership.  This is progress, since we started out meeting in one of the chapels in a local funeral home, and progressed from there to a converted gym, thence to our current digs.  We love our parish; it’s a huge extended family, and even if we don’t know everyone’s name, it is a loving and welcoming house of God, and we wanted to be there for this much-anticipated celebration.

By and large, Bugaboo and Beanie, with Deedaw between them as a buffer, did well following a Mass that had a little more speechifying than usual involved, although I did have to warn Beanie a couple of times that swinging from the back of the pews is not considered acceptable participation in the celebration of the Mass.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy managed an entire Mass in a pew, which is a first, helped along by many, many, MANY whispered readings of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See and The Wheels on the Bus.  You have not lived until you have tried to sing “The Wheels on the Bus” and the responsorial psalm simultaneously – and get the rights words at the right volume for each.

Following Mass, there was a parish taco party in the multi-purpose room, and we decided to chance attending that with the tribe and Deedaw.  Before the party started, there was a presentation to our newly-minted pastor by the Knights of Columbus (Father is now a fourth-degree Knight), the unveiling of the plans for what will be an absolutely beautiful new church building, and Grace before the meal.  We managed to pacify our increasingly restless passel of pipsqueaks with tortilla chips (it was a taco party, after all) and juice boxes, and then balanced enough food on paper plates to feed our entire entourage.  The small people each managed to demolish a plate of tacos and side dishes lovingly prepared by the parish ladies, and then Baby Guy noticed the enormous cake on the table against the wall.

“I see happy you you CAAAAAAKE!”

Luckily, I was able to snag a couple of slices before Baby Guy made his winsome way to the table, and, walking backwards, held his attention by continually calling his attention to the contents of the plates in my hands.  Making eye contact with a gentleman who was watching our progress with an enormous grin, I smilingly remarked, “Look, baby bait!”

After we’d all enjoyed food, fellowship, and a rather yummy cake, Deedaw decided it was time for her to depart, so she wouldn’t be driving after dark.  We started rounding up Baby Guy’s collection of toy cars that accompany him whithersoever he goes, and collecting the kids at one table so we could make good our escape, as well.  Since Manie seemed to have the tribe well in hand, I thought it safe to go over to the buffet table to retrieve our dishes (if you’d like an interesting and well-received church supper recipe, I’ll share my confetti peppers and tomato salad one with you), and indulge in a few moments of conversation with a friend I don’t see often these days.

When I returned to the table where we’d gathered, Manie and the tribe were nowhere to be seen.  Figuring he had taken the entire tribe to the bathroom, I started packing our dishes and gear into the big bag we’d brought.  Suddenly, the lights went out.  I heard a lady at a nearby table shushing her children, with the admonition that Father must have something to say.  Moments later, my crimson-faced husband returned, with the entire tribe in tow, and brusquely informed me that it was time for us to Leave.  Right.  Now.

Manie is not normally abrupt, so I assumed one or more members of the tribe had become so unruly that he had had to remove the lot of them to the vestibule, and was attempting to herd them all out to the van before any further follies could unfold.  He brushed aside my protestations that it appeared Father might have some additional wisdom or words to impart, and he assured me that this was not the case.  As soon as we had cleared the back door of the multi-purpose room, he turned to Beanie and furiously inquired, “What on earth made you think it was a good idea to turn the lights off on everyone?”

Apparently, at least according to Bugaboo’s version of events, Mr. Man and Baby Guy had been gazing longingly at the master light switch for the room, located a tantalizing fraction of an inch out of their reach on the wall.  Beanie, of course, is that fraction of an inch taller than Mr. Man, and, wanting to make her very sad little brothers happy, flipped the switch that plunged the parishioners into darkness.  Beanie tearfully apologized, while Mr. Man and Baby Guy cheerfully chortled, “Beanie reach da lights!  Beanie turned them ALL OFF!  Spooky dark was fun!  Why the lights not come back on, Mommy?”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who are learning how to express their joy at being in Your house respectfully, and who love to sing Your praises.  Thank You especially for Mr. Man’s tremulous warbling of the refrain of “On Eagle’s Wings,” a song he’s heard far too many times on less joyful occasions.  Thank You for blessing our family with a happier memory of a song that had become painful for many of us to hear.

Lord, please help us teach Your blessings that sometimes, doing the right and loving thing for people doesn’t mean gratifying their immediate desires.  Thank You for the opportunity to teach them this with an event in which no lasting harm was done, except, perhaps, to what might just be excessive parental pride.  Help us remember to respond to Your blessings’ errors proportionally, and to always offer correction in love instead of anger.

And thank You, Lord, for the good shepherd You sent for our parish.

Postscript: Friends, please click on the words “good shepherd” in the last line of today’s prayer.  It will take you to our pastor’s website, where he posts his daily homilies.  If you are ever in need of a word of love and wisdom, click on any one of them at random, and you will be reminded of the love Christ bears for us.

Just call her angel of the morning

Here’s the song reference.

I had advised the tribe on Thursday night that I intended to make an early morning, light-speed grocery run at about 6 a.m. on Friday, and that should anyway be awakened by the sound of the front door closing, the correct course of action would be to nestle more comfortably into their pillows and blankets and resume sleep operations, and that under no circumstances was anyone to go into Mommy and Daddy’s room, or wake Daddy.

At 5:49 a.m. yesterday morning, as I was working on the blog post, I heard Bugaboo’s characteristic “I’m going to get away with something” tiptoeing sprint down the short hallway and into the bathroom, then the soft sound of our bedroom door opening and closing.  Bugaboo is a pillow thief, and mine is her target of choice.  If it happens to be unoccupied, and she thinks she can manage to not get in trouble for it, she will immediately climb into our bed and wrap herself around it.

On very rare occasions, she even goes back to sleep.

You may have already surmised that yesterday morning was not one of those rare occasions.  I did not make the pre-dawn grocery run for fear of waking the rest of the tribe.

When I shuffled into the bathroom around 7:00 to shower, my saggy-eyed husband was tying his shoes and Bugaboo, dressed in her Thor costume, was merrily chattering, and bouncing on her Tinkerbell pillow.  I rather gruffly informed her that I was highly displeased that she had chosen to disregard the previous night’s instructions, and asked her if she remembered what I had told her the night before.  With some trepidation, she replied that she did remember she wasn’t supposed to wake Daddy, but that when she came in to give him a hug after she used the potty, he was already awake, so she stayed around.

“I tried to go back to sleep, Mommy, but I really wasn’t sleepy, and I have my Thor girl costume on, and . . .”

“So you did remember what the right thing to do was, and you deliberately chose not to do it?”

“Well, kind of.”

I breathed in, ready to deliver quite the lecture about how Daddy works very hard for us and it’s important for us to let him get his sleep, about how deliberate disobedience is a poor way to say “I love you.”  Manie quietly said, “I was awake.  She’s okay.”

Great, I thought, now he’s ENCOURAGING her to be disobedient.  I scowled and prepared to include my husband in the lecture.

Ordinarily, I try to listen for “the still, small voice” that, when I listen to it, tends to guide me in the right direction. The Lord, in His omniscience, understands that the coffee doesn’t fully kick in until after I’ve showered, so the intracranial voice of wisdom boomed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

I paused and exhaled.  Then I thought about the time and energy we have spent teaching our children to love people and not things.  I thought about the nights I have consoled a tired Manie when he feels wretched that his work schedule keeps him from spending as much time with the tiny people as he’d like.  I thought about all the times I’ve remonstrated with Bugaboo for pouting because she had to spend time with family instead of going on a shopping trip.  I realized that Manie had not sent her back to her room.  And I realized that I was angry with a six-year-old girl because she wanted to spend an extra hour with her Daddy, and with a father for wanting to spend time with his daughter.

And I saw the look of trepidation on Bugaboo’s face, wondering if Mommy was going to hold this against her and be angry all day.

I hugged her, and kissed her, and said, “Love you, big girl.”

august 2013 001

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for understanding that I am thick-headed, and loving me anyway.  Many times in the past year, You have given me the opportunity to learn that we are not given to know the length of our lives, and we therefore should spend every possible moment loving one another as You have loved us.  Many times, I have explained to Your blessings that we must value the needs of others above our own selfish desires.  Lord, I am sorry for being angry with Your blessings for heeding the lesson.  Please change my heart; please fill me with Your grace so that Your blessings may learn from me sometimes, instead of the other way around.  Thank You for blessing me with so many and such wonderful teachers, and help us all, together, seek to serve You instead of ourselves in all things.

Color the people you love with love

Here’s the song reference.

august 2013 006


From the very first time Bugaboo saw a lady with a freshly painted pedicure, she has been obsessed with coloring my toenails; as soon as she was able to wield a crayon, Beanie joined her in her endless pursuit of the perfect waxy pedicure.  They have since graduated to markers.  Once the two of them discovered tattoos, they graduated to coloring my feet in rainbow hues of marker.

This afternoon, while we were idly watching a special on myths and monsters of the Louisiana Bayou, Beanie remarked that my toenails were looking very colorless, and dashed off the to the kitchen, looking for a handful of markers with which to remedy that situation.  She returned a moment later, triumphantly waving a small rainbow, bounded onto the couch, then seized my feet and set seriously about her work.

I should mention two things at this point, to wit:  I am wildly ticklish on my feet, and only on my feet, and I am violently allergic to nearly every flower on the face of the earth.  One of those facts is well-known to the tribe.  Their blissful ignorance of the other is a credit to the nice lady who taught me the breathing technique I tried to use to avoid an epidural with Bugaboo.

At any rate, I practiced breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth as Beanie quite studiously turned my toenails pink and purple.  Bugaboo, realizing she was missing out on the fun, sprinted to the kitchen and grabbed her own handful of markers; she succeeded in making one toe green before Beanie informed her it was HER turn to give Mommy a pedicure.

This is yet another one of those times where it’s not funny, and I can’t laugh.

Beanie leaned back to assess her work, then frowned before solemnly intoning, “Mommy, your legs are really, really white.  Your legs are like paper.  They look so much like paper that I think I need to draw something on them.”

“Okay, Beanie.  How about if you let Bugaboo help, though?  She really wants to help.”  A rather forlorn Bugaboo was slouched against the couch, watching the interplay out of the corner of one eye.

After heaving the kind of melodramatic sigh that only five-year-old girls and Zsa Zsa Gabor can manage, she grudgingly muttered, “I guess so.”  With great excitement, two little girls set about adding some color to my legs (I am of mostly Irish descent, and have the skin tone to prove it).

As they worked, I set the cable guide to switch over to music after the show we were watching, then programmed in a baseball game Manie and I wanted to watch tonight (He is a Pirates fan, I am an Orioles fan, and we dream of a 1979 rematch).  Once I’d finished, I looked down to see that my right shin was completely covered in wee hearts and flowers.

“Beanie, I like all the hearts and flowers!”

“Thank you.  The hearts are because you love me.  The flowers are because I love you and I wanted to give you flowers that would not make you sneeze.”

august 2013 021

They added some “hugs and kisses,” too.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, who constantly remind me that love is sometimes messy and often does not happen exactly where or how we think it should.  Thank you for the wisdom to not discourage them from showing their love in their way, and thank You for their steadfast belief that anything associated with love must have the most vibrant and merry colors possible.  Please keep us mindful that genuine love, the love that wishes only the true and lasting good of another, is best seen when it is made vivid, and when it shines forth from every part of us; fix it in our minds that You have given each of us different gifts, different talents, with which to draw all souls to you.  Please help us understand that love seeks always to build up, to beautify the lives of others with flowers that will not make them sneeze. Thank you for markers, for crayons, for all the little hands that brighten up my soul on days when the world has told me my work with Your blessings has no value.  Guard my heart against the insidious whisper that tells me treasures here matter more than Your rewards, and help me teach Your blessings the same watchfulness.

Voices carry

Here’s the song reference.

august 2013 001

The threat of thunderstorms led us to seek mostly indoor pursuits yesterday; the mosquito swarm that infested our back yard for most of yesterday, unfortunately, kept the tribe from venturing out-of-doors to play chase-the-puppy with Smudgie, which is my usual go-to activity when they need to burn off some energy, and, you know, be little noisy kids for a while.  Insect repellent is wonderful, but when the bugs are in such an enormous cluster that you can observe it changing shapes like clouds in the sky, the wiser course of action is to simply avoid the area.

After a relatively uneventful morning studying reading, math, and Latin (incidentally, if you’re looking to work on Latin with littles, I highly recommend Prima Latina), we headed off to the library, just to have a reason to get out of the house for a while without going shopping.  Our library has a wonderful, enclosed area for the very youngest patrons, which bears the charming name of “Preschool Reading Room.”  It is full of giant magnetic letters, huge foam building blocks, a big, sturdy dollhouse, a wall-sized felt playboard, and a small basket of board books.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy think it’s the berries, and Bugaboo and Beanie are not averse to passing a pleasant hour there, either.

august 2013 042

After that hour, the boys were tired and everyone was hungry, so we headed for home and lunch, after which I attempted to put four yawning, stretching children down in their cozy little beds for naps.  There is something about the sight of a bed at naptime which re-energizes all of our children.  Thankfully, Bugaboo and Beanie have learned to channel this second wind into quiet reading time, particularly when the library bag is full of previously unexplored literary goodness.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy, however, tend to use the post-lunch burst to have spectacular fights that involve throwing Mega Bloks at each other and at random points on their walls and door.   These battles are generally accompanied by shrieks of either delight or pain, depending on whether the block being hurled connects with the house or the other brother.  We’ve seriously considered removing the blocks from their room, but when the boys are not using them as missiles, it’s fairly common for Mr. Man to quietly build tower cities while Baby Guy slumbers.

After several reminders to the male half of the tribe that, even with their door closed, the sounds of war were still clearly audible throughout the house, including their sisters (who were, in fact, trying to nap), the noise level finally decreased to a point where it seemed possible that I might be able to recline on the couch and close my own eyes for a few minutes.  It was at that moment that Beanie, who when I had peeked in on her just before retrieving my pillow, had been curled up in a sweetly somnolent ball amongst her stuffed animals, decided to start playing with her alarm clock.  She has an old-fashioned double bell alarm clock of the Hello Kitty variety, and the noise it makes is enough to rouse a comatose elephant.  It’s a wonderful thing in the mornings when two little girls need to get up and moving, but not so much at two o’clock in the afternoon when everyone, including poor Smudgie, is just drifting off for a much-needed nap.

It took a few minutes to calm the startled boys, who finally decided to settle down and sleep, and then the girls came out of their room to see what might await in the afternoon.  We did a little more work on our food pyramid unit; just as I was explaining how to use the dictionary to look up definitions of words, Smudgie developed an urgent need to go outside (mosquitoes or no, a 125 pound dog’s gotta do what a 125 pound dog’s gotta do).  Leaving the girls with a few last words of guidance, a dictionary, and a vocabulary list, I took off down the stairs after Captain Enormous.

I had no sooner opened the back door than the shrieking started from the kitchen, accompanied by the unmistakable sound of the kitchen table being stabbed and drummed upon by pencils in the hands of suddenly insane girls.  The combination of the mosquito swarm and my proximity to the boys’ room meant that I could not leave the door open to run upstairs and remonstrate with them, nor could I holler up at the kitchen window to advise them that their activities were clearly audible to their hearing-impaired mother.  Luckily, Smudgie’s not a mosquito maven, so he finished his business quickly, and we zipped back upstairs together.

Bugaboo and Beanie had the grace to look guilty as soon as they saw my face crest the top step.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for active little blessings who exult in making joyful noises of various kinds.  Please help me teach them that there can be equal joy in moments of silence, and that when our joyful noise-making interferes with our neighbors so that what they hear is an obnoxious racket, we must, in love, lower the volume.  Please grant us the grace of hearts that are grateful for the many tools You have provided, from the power of speech, to the ability to read and write, to nimble hands, and help us offer all those daily tasks and celebrations to You.  Please keep me mindful that my every thought, word, and deed is an offering to You, and let me show Your blessings, by my example, that we do all things with all the love and skill You have granted us.  Help me teach in love instead of complaining in wrath.

Eat like an Egyptian

Here’s the song reference.

Our school year started last Monday, at the girls’ request.  Once the shelves in the corner of the kitchen were taken over by the new school books, both Bugaboo and Beanie reminded me daily of the texts’ existence, and of their great and burning desire to explore and learn from them.  After a month of furious lesson (over) planning, I acceded to their increasingly plaintive requests, and a new school year was born.  Going forward, I think we’ll probably go year-round, with five-to-ten day breaks salted in.  This summer and last taught me that a break of longer than two weeks’ duration is something they neither desire nor enjoy.

august 2013 010

At any rate, our first science unit this year is the study of the food guide pyramid, which is timely because this has been the summer of explaining to Bugaboo that she cannot live on pasta and milk alone, and to Beanie that she cannot live on fruit and juice alone.  Actually, our entire first-grade year in science is devoted to the miracle of our bodies and how we should care for its parts and for it as a whole.  Food is a great starting point, partly because good nutrition plays such an important role in keeping all systems go, as it were, and partly because there are so many excellent tie-ins to math, history, and religion.

Yesterday, we took a stack of grocery ads and cut out pictures of various foods, then labeled the cells in a blank food pyramid and added one example of food from each group.  This was actually a bit of a trial for Beanie, who likes to cut things out very precisely along their outlines, and the picture of strawberries she wanted to use had so very many berries that she became frustrated trying to cut out each one individually; we won’t talk about what happened when she tried to cut out each individual kernel of corn from a picture of corn on the cob.  As it happened, her greatest lesson from yesterday’s exercise was that sometimes, we can lose sight of the larger picture because we become so focused on, and frustrated by, each tiny piece of it.

We also read the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  Bugaboo was mightily impressed that the person who gave the food that started the miracle in motion was a child.  We talked about how when we share the best we have to offer, the Lord multiplies it and uses it to feed many more people than we could have fed under our own power, and that this goes not only for loaves of bread and little fishes, but also for acts of kindness and prayers for help.

Today we’re going to cut out more food pictures, this time with the prices, and make a stack of meal planning cards by gluing them to cardboard we’ve reclaimed from cereal and pasta boxes.  We’ll learn about how to estimate and round, because it’s quicker to figure the cost of five pounds of apples at about two dollars a pound than to calculate that same cost at $1.89 per pound, and we’ll learn that “lb.” is the abbreviation for pound.  Mr. Man will probably receive his first pair of scissors that actually cut (I have them hidden in the family room), and be able to join in the fun.  I’m grateful to our local Giant for being so generous with their sale ads!

august 2013 005

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the bounty of good things to eat in Your creation, and for providing for Your blessings, who have never known real physical hunger.  Through teaching them how to be good stewards of their bodies, help me instill in them a desire to be good stewards of all You have given us, from the soil that grows the food to those who lack good food to eat.    Please grant us all the grace of eyes that see the needs of our neighbors and hearts that long to fulfill those needs, not with our expired leftovers, but with our first and best fruits, as we would offer them to You.  Please help us to not only be Your merciful face, but also to see Your glory in the faces of those who hunger and thirst, and to not become so frustrated with their numbers that we seek to send them away instead of coming to You, in faith, for help.

Turn the page

Here’s the song reference.

This morning found the girls and I sitting in the kitchen, after the morning calls to Grandma and Deedaw, after teeth and hair had been brushed, but before Mr. Man and Baby Guy made their snarky morning way up the stairs.  I had books spread across the table, and my trusty, yellow plastic, three-ring binder full of college ruled notebook paper open in front of me, with hundreds of pages covered in lesson plans written in black PaperMate ink.

Bugaboo and Beanie, surveying the pile of pages with sparkling eyes, cozied up to me, and Beanie hopefully inquired, “Mommy, is it time for us to start schoolwork, real schoolwork, again yet?  I really like schoolwork.  I like learning new things.  Can we have our new school year yet?”

I had told her and Bugaboo, when this question arose just over three weeks ago, that I needed a month to get everything together, whereupon Bugaboo helpfully informed me that would mean our new school year would start the first of August.  Still and all, while this year’s math texts have a little too much review in them, they contain a bounty of pages designed to improve numeric penmanship. Since they both need some work on forming their numbers properly, I grinned, pulled the books of the shelf with a flourish, and asked, “Would you settle for getting started with one new schoolbook until I get everything else together?”


I am surprised that the ensuing clatter of chairs did not awaken the boys. It certainly sent a disgruntled Bo shuffling into the living room to find a more peaceful napping venue.  Two new, glittery pencils through the sharpener later, and Bugaboo and Beanie were happily settled in at the table to practice writing their twos, threes, and fours, and to giggle over the exercises that required them to count to five – which, I should add, they completed anyway, just for the joy of showing off that they already KNEW the first few things in this math book.

They tired of practicing their number writing around the same time I came to a stopping point in my planning, so, after we stowed all of our books, we decided to take a few minutes to pray together.  We offered up our  prayers for all of the people who would need water and shelter from the day’s heat, for the people who were working to provide those essentials, and for gratitude that we do not lack them.  As we finished, Baby Guy and Mr. Man came snarking upstairs, looking for milk, food, hugs, kisses, and clean britches.  The boys settled in for peaches and French toast, the girls grabbed their jigsaw puzzle books, and the five of us sat companionably until the boys’ stomachs were sated to the point that they resumed their usual resemblance to perpetual motion machines.

That also happened to be the point at which they started plaguing Bugaboo and Beanie for access to their puzzle books, which the boys are absolutely not allowed to touch at this point.  To head off what appeared ready to become a battle royale, I sent them all into the living room to pull the little table and chairs out from under the couch, tore a handful of pages out of a coloring book, and tossed a box of crayons into a basket for easy sharing.  With great enthusiasm, I proclaimed it children’s coloring time, and strewed the table with the coloring pages as the four of them scrambled to unfold their little chairs, giggling as they went.  Bo took this opportunity to complain at me as he shambled back into the kitchen, his nap disturbed once again.

We have three small chairs and four small people, which generally means that child who lollygags ends up either standing at the table or using a full-sized folding chair at a half-sized table. Yesterday, Mr. Man was the odd man out, and his displeasure resulted in the particular sort of temper tantrum that deafens anyone within the blast radius.  Bugaboo, Beanie, and Baby Guy completely ignored him.  They were busy coloring (well, Baby Guy was busier trying to eat the crayons, really).  I pulled him aside and gave him his options, one of which involved using the big chair, on of which involved using his feet, one of which involved asking his siblings politely to switch chairs with him, and the last of which involved going downstairs to play by himself in his room.

He didn’t like any of those options.  I’m pretty sure the neighbors eight blocks away can confirm this.

Half an hour later, Mr. Man finally settled down, just as his siblings tired of coloring.  Bugaboo and Baby Guy headed off to go play with superhero action figures and trucks, and Mr. Man happily helped himself to Baby Guy’s chair, which had been the original object of his desire.  Beanie decided to stay at the table for a few more minutes, talking to her little brother and helping him find an unused coloring page.  When she got up to leave, he decided to accompany her instead of staying at the table by himself.  As the two of them decamped for the girls’ room to play with the dollhouse, I inquired, “Mr. Man, was it more fun to scream and yell by yourself, or to color with Beanie?”

“Color with Beanie.”

“Remember that, please.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who rejoice in the new, even when it’s really something old or ordinary with a new cover or unmarked pages.  Please help me teach them that even if you’ve done a thing a thousand times, and can do an adequate job of it, practicing the talents and gifts You have given us until we perfect them gives honor and thanks to You.  Grant me the grace of mindfulness that no matter how badly I want to join in with what a group is doing, I should approach it, and them, with Your love in my heart instead of envy and wrath for the seemingly inferior seat I am offered at the table; let me show Your blessings that accepting the least of places joyfully makes me a vessel for Your greatness.

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.

Science Unit Plan 1: The Food Pyramid

NOTE:  I am posting the first half of this tonight, June 26.  I will get the other half up tomorrow.  Typing time has been a mite scarce!

Please note that this is a first grade lesson.  If I forgot to mention this earlier, Bugaboo and Beanie will both be in first grade this year; Beanie did all of the kindergarten work with Bugaboo this past year, and actually scored higher than Bugaboo on the end of year testing, so we decided it would be a special kind of cruelty to, essentially, make her repeat kindergarten.  A bored Beanie is a defiant and destructive Beanie.  We tend not to cause her to experience ennui unnecessarily as a result.

And without further ado . . .

Science Unit Plan:  Food Pyramid


Name the six food groups.
Explain how many daily servings should be consumed from each food group.
Classify at least a week’s worth of food intake using a blank food pyramid.
Identify which food groups in our family diet should be increased or decreased.
Compare the prices of healthy foods to the prices of snack foods and luxury items.
Create a lapbook incorporating information about the food pyramid, food production, and food budgets.
Grow at least one kind of vegetable.
Learn to catch fish as a source of protein.
Prepare 3-5 healthy snacks.
Identify ways to use food to perform acts of mercy.

Time needed:  10 x 30 minute lessons, not counting field trip time.

Texts needed:

Seton, Science 1 for Young Catholics
Hello Kitty Hello USA
The 50 States
Rand McNally Children’s Atlas of the United States
Children’s Bibles

Materials needed:

Plain paper, construction paper, pencils, markers, grocery ads, department store ads, scrapbook paper, scissors, glue, crayons, seeds, fishing tackle, pail and shovel, blackline US maps with state outlines, car, notebooks.

Field trips:

Grocery store
Dairy farm
Food bank
Motts Run Reservoir or Fredericksburg City Dock (fishing)


food guide pyramid

Scripture verses:

1 Cor 10:31 “So whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Gen 9:3 “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.  And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”


Lesson 1

Read Scripture verses.  Make foldables for lapbook to write verses, then glue into lapbook.   Introduce vocabulary/spelling words; make foldouts for lapbook.  Read pp 1-7 in Science 1 for Young Catholics.  Make 7-10 food pyramids on white paper and hang on the wall un the upstairs hallway (use textbook for shape/division reference).  Discuss favorite foods and where each one fits into the food pyramid.  Discuss why we pray graces before meals, and introduce the grace after meals.  Make foldables for lapbook with the graces.

Lesson 2

Read Scripture verses aloud.  Girls quiz each other on vocabulary definitions and spellings.  Let little boys identify the letters in the words, too.  Enter previous day’s food intake on one food pyramid chart.  Cut out pictures of things our family enjoys eating from grocery store ads.  Sort pictures into piles of healthy foods and not so healthy foods.  Make a chart of healthy foods and their prices, and a chart of less healthy foods and their prices.  Discuss which healthy foods would make good snacks.  Calculate how much it would cost to buy enough ingredients to make enough healthy snacks for our family for a week.  Go to the grocery store and purchase ingredients.  Make a snack from those ingredients.

Lesson 3

Read Scripture verses.  Review food groups and enter previous day’s food intake into a food pyramid chart.  Sort yesterday’s cut out food pictures into the six food groups, and identify those foods which might fit into more than one group.  Use the grocery ads and food pyramid reference to calculate how much it would cost to purchase healthy food for a family of six for one day.  Make a circle book or accordion foldable with this information for the lapbook.  Get food from our pantry that would provide a day’s food for a family the size of ours, and explain that it pleases God when we share our best instead of our leftovers.  Have girls call the food bank and ask how to donate they food they’ve gathered.  Take food to donation site.  At home, repeat 1 Cor 10:31 and pray for a blessing upon the food and the family (families) that receive it.

Lesson 4

Read Scripture verses; try to repeat from memory.  Review and practice vocabulary.  Re-read page 5 in S1FYC. Discuss what fruits and vegetables we like to eat.  Read instructions on a packet of spinach seeds and follow instructions to plant in a box garden.  Enter previous day’s food intake into a food pyramid.  Visit an orchard or a berry farm.  En route, discuss the Garden of Eden and explain what is meant by the term “forbidden fruit.”  Harvest some fruit and ask if we can take water to any workers who are tending the orchard.  Have girls ask whether the orchard or berry farm donates produce to charity, and if so, what and how.  On the way home, try to name a fruit and a vegetable beginning with each letter of the alphabet, and sing the “Apples and Bananas” song.  At home, have some fruit for a snack, remembering to say grace.

Lesson 5

Review Scripture verses and try to repeat from memory.  Review and practice vocabulary and spelling words.  Enter previous day’s food intake into a food pyramid.  Use The 50 States, Hello Kitty Hello USA, and Rand McNally Children’s Atlas of the United States to find food items that come from each state.  Make a lapbook foldable for each state (label blackline US map with state names, Mom cuts out the states, kids glue state cutouts onto foldable containing what produce comes from each state – lists can be words, pictures, or both).  Group the states into food groups and put the groups into cover “folders” to go into the lapbook.  Sing the first verse of “America the Beautiful” and explain that “amber waves of grain” refers to grain used to make bread.  Prepare a snack using bread, and discuss what states produce foods that are good to eat with bread.  Remember to say grace.