Tag Archive | grandparents

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.

You say it’s your birthday, we’re gonna have a good time

Here’s the song reference.

Bugaboo’s fifth birthday was an absolute riot of activity and good cheer.  Time constraints will not permit me to go into a lot of detail, but if a picture really does say a thousand words, you’ll find the equivalent of War and Peace in the gallery.

Our day began well before 7:00, as both Bugaboo and Beanie were far too excited to sleep, and by the time Daddy left for work at 7:45, Bugaboo had opened all her gifts and was cheerfully playing with a few new toys.  We did “theme boxes” for her; she likes Tinkerbell, Strawberry Shortcake, Spider-Man and Transformers, so she had one box for each.  Each box had a small toy or two (except the Transformers one, which had a big Optimus Prime voice-changing helmet) and a quartet of books about the character.  She also received her first watch, which caused her to exclaim, “I must really be a big girl now!”

Grandma arrived about a half-hour after Daddy left, bearing with her a new scooter (and a helmet — Grandma worked in emergency x-ray for almost 50 years and has rather strong opinions about kids, wheels, and helmets), along with some snacks and crafts for all of  her grandbabies to share.  Suncatchers were painted, scratch art cards were scratched, and then everything chewable by Smudgie was hurriedly stowed for our weekly trip to the farm.

We passed a pleasant hour playing at the farm before I retrieved our big box of vegetables, made a quick stop at home to drop off the box (which also contained a half-dozen of the biggest eggs I’ve ever seen), then headed for the tribe’s favorite unhealthy lunch spot, Big Yellow M.  Grandma rode herd on the tribe in the play area while I waited in line for the food.  As I stood there, my mother suddenly appeared beside me and thrust Baby Guy into my arms, then turned and rushed back to the play area. I figured Baby Guy had gotten a little too wiggly, but then I heard the unmistakeable shriek of a frightened Mr. Man.  Casting about quickly to see what had happened, I spied Grandma spryly climbing the webbed-in steps of the kid Habitrail, where Mr. Man had become lost.  Bugaboo scampered past Grandma and played tour guide, and, after I had plunked our tray down on a table and secured Baby Guy in a high chair with a small pile of fries, Grandma and I switched places, as she discovered that there’s a bit of a trick to getting Mr. Man out of the Habitrail without injury to anyone.  We roundly praised Bugaboo for being such a caring and brave big sister, I gave Grandma mad props for getting into the Habitrail, and Mr. Man, after a little chocolate milk and a couple of fries, decided that he still likes Big Yellow M just fine.

After that, it was definitely time to head home for a nap.  Baby Guy, Mr. Man, and Beanie all went to sleep after brief protestations, but Bugaboo kept wandering out to make sure nothing else interesting was happening.  After about an hour, Grandma left to go check in to her hotel, and Bugaboo came back down the hall to see if, perhaps, maybe, there might be the tiniest chance that she could watch a little bit of TV to relax.  One “Tom and Jerry,” one “Puppy in My Pocket,” one “Mr. Men Show (during which she was joined by Beanie),” and one “Super Hero Squad” later, the rest of the tribe was awake, Grandma had returned, Daddy was on his way home from work, and Mommy was bustling about the kitchen trying to get dinner on the table at 5:00, which was when we had told Nonno and Deedaw (who were bringing little cousin Dubs with them).

One of our house customs is that if it is your birthday, you get to choose the menu.  Bugaboo decided that she wanted steak, macaroni and cheese, carrots, and bread for her feast, so at least there wasn’t any terribly difficult prep work involved.  Grandma did an heroic job of keeping the kids clear of the kitchen while I worked.  Nonno and Deedaw ran a little late, so by the time they arrived, we had fed the tribe and thus did not have to play musical chairs (we can seat eight at our kitchen table — ten poses quite the logistical problem).  As it happened, Nonno and Deedaw arrived with Dubs not long after Bugaboo, Beanie and Mr. Man had cleaned their plates, and thus were met by an excited birthday girl who was wildly curious about the contents of the brightly colored bags her paternal grandparents had brought.  To her very great credit, she shared all of her birthday toys with all of her siblings and her wee cousin, too, even the much-desired actually-transforming-Transformers she received from Nonno and Deedaw.

Once the adults and Dubs had eaten, and Baby Guy had polished off a second helping of macaroni, we cleared the table for singing and cake.  While we were putting the food away, Mr. Man ambled in and began requesting art supplies.  There is a special kind of chaos that attends a two year old boy using paint and markers while his parents are trying to put away food and wash dishes.  After we had sung “Happy Birthday” to Bugaboo and passed around slices of cake, we discovered that adding frosting to the aforementioned two-year old boy is something that has to be seen, because there are no words in any language that adequately describe the resultant mess — or at least none that I could use in this blog.

After all the grandparents left in a flurry of hugs and kisses, we tucked in the boys and let the girls stay up a few extra minutes for an extended storytime (sort of mandatory when one has almost 20 new books).  As we tucked her into her bed, Bugaboo declared she had “the absolute best and most awesomest birthday ever!”

Mission accomplished.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for five years of Bugaboo, for her wit, beauty, and kindness.  Thank You for the large and loving family with which You have blessed her.  Please help us all raise her into a woman who will be a joy to her family and to You.

Wonderfully made

While I have always loved honoring my mom, my stepmom, my Granny while she lived, and now my mother-in-law on Mother’s Day, there were years when I dreaded it.  Having had four children born too soon before Bugaboo arrived, and two more born too soon in between Beanie and Mr. Man, made Mother’s Day a day when I really (and selfishly) didn’t want to go out of the house.

Yesterday, I began my day with a prayer for all the other moms whose children await them in Heaven, for all those who have been called to mother children with whom they share no DNA, for those whose mothers are no longer reachable by telephone.  I prayed for those who have lost their children to choices and misguided “acts of mercy,” and for those who have gone through adoption proceedings stretching out for years, only to have their hopes dashed at the last minute.  Then I prayed Psalm 139 to thank God for His gift of life, no matter whether those lives are numbered in days or decades, and asked him to bring comfort and peace to those who still wait for their Mother’s Day.

My own day was filled with the laughter of my children, priceless and long-awaited treasures that they are, and the company of family and friends at Mass and afterwards.  I love that Mass on Mother’s Day ends with “Ave Maria,”  to remind us of a frightened young mother who said “yes” to God and “no” to fear.  Do enjoy the Andrea Bocelli version the song title link goes to.  The link on Mr. Bocelli’s name goes to a little story he likes to tell.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You knit each of us together in our mothers’ wombs.  Thank You for the gift of every life, and for the wisdom to discern that every life has merit, wholly unconnected to its income-earning potential.  Thank You for the four little blessings You have vouchsafed to our care, and for all those who comforted us and bore us up with their prayers while we waited for them.  Please help us lift up those who still wait, and those who grieve, and please bless us with the grace of knowing where and when to find them.  Lord, You came to us of woman born.  Help me look always to Your mother, Blessed Mary, for the example of motherhood and discipleship I need.

Take me down to the Party City

Bugaboo will be five years old in just over a week, so our house has been full of excitement and joyful anticipation.  Our family custom for celebrating another year is that each child gets to choose some place to take a few friends for a celebration.  Mr. Man had his first opportunity to do so back in April, and opted for the Rodent Redoubt; Bugaboo has chosen our local roller rink for her birthday bash.  Since she and Beanie first clipped on little-kid roller skates about three weeks ago, and at least four other party-goers (including Mr. Man) have never been on skates before, it’s going to be a merry sort of mayhem.

Since we are down to the last few days before the festivities, and next week’s calendar leaves very little breathing room, we headed to the local party supply store yesterday to locate some appropriate party favors.  Deedaw, finding herself with a rare free morning, decided to meet us there, and we had a grand time roaming the aisles of a store all four tiny people have proclaimed (each in his or her own wee way) better than Toys R Us.  If you ever need to occupy an infant and a toddler for half an hour, take them to the party supply store.  There are so many shiny, glittery, and light-flashing things, their little heads will be on swivels.  Even Baby Guy was heard breathing oohs and aahs!

Bugaboo finally decided on a bag of skating-themed toys, Scooby-Doo fruit snacks, and Tinkerbell treat sacks, along with a big assortment of glow stick jewelry (because, really, what’s roller-skating in these modern times without a glow stick or two adorning your person).  She was delighted, and neither Deedaw nor I had any desire to hide the smiles her happiness brought to our faces.  After the party store, we headed for the clothing store a couple of doors down so she could pick out the (also customary) brand-new outfit to wear to her party.

She is wearing last year’s birthday outfit in the picture. It’s actually a shade too small, so it will be handed down to Beanie after the next laundry day, but I love it on her.  At any rate, after a suitably tulle-adorned dress had been located, we decamped for lunch at Big Lellow M at Deedaw’s invitation, where a good time was had by all.

Here’s the song reference.  Hey, I grew up in the 80s, and I’m kind of a dork.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a sunny morning spent with Your blessings and Deedaw, preparing for a celebration of what You created over five years ago and brought safely into the world almost five years ago.  Your blessings are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), and we rejoice in every moment You grant us with them.  Please help us always to remember that we are created to love and serve You and each other, and never let us miss an opportunity to celebrate the gift of life You have given each of us.  Open our eyes to the blessings in each day, and help us jump for joy at every chance You send us not only to party with our friends, but also to bring comfort and relief to those whom You have blessed differently (Ps 25:16).

It’s the little old ladies from Baltimore

We had a cheerfully chaotic day yesterday; Grandpa was visiting from the Eastern Shore, and Grandma was down from Baltimore.  Since the tribe knew my parents were both coming to see them (it’s rare for both of them to be here at the same time), the early morning hours simmered with excited anticipation, with Beanie and Bugaboo both zipping out of their room before 6:30 to inquire about Grandma’s projected arrival time.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy opted to sleep until Grandma arrived around 9, at which time they joined in the little festival of hugs and cheers that generally heralds the beginning of a visit.  After we stowed her overnight gear, we loaded the kids into the van and headed off for Beanie’s second-to-last soccer game of the season.  Grandpa met us at the field; it was the first time he’d been able to see either of the girls play, so his camera was constantly clicking.

Beanie did manage to stay focused on soccer for about half of the time, which was astounding given that Grandma and Grandpa are two of her favorite people, and she’d much rather hang around with them than follow instructions from anyone else. Fortunately, Grandpa was able to convince her that he’d be really happy if he could see her run and kick the ball, so that got her moving in the correct direction.  We came home for lunch after soccer, put the boys down for naps, saw Grandpa back off, and settled in for some quiet time with the girls.

While Grandma was happy to time her visit to coincide with Beanie’s soccer game, the real purpose of her visit was to enjoy our Mother’s Day gift to each other.  Among the many things for which I owe a debt of gratitude to my Mom is the time and effort she spent nurturing my appreciation for the arts, taking me to galleries for Degas exhibits, to the symphony, the theatre, the ballet, and the opera.  She ensured that I would have an ear for the beaux arts and an understanding of proper dress and conduct while attending fine art performances or displays.

In addition to fostering my appreciation for high culture, my mother also spent a fair amount of time listening to other kinds of music with me; we both love jazz, Motown, 80s hair bands, beach music, big band, novelty songs generally, swing, early rap, British invasion bands, soul, and funk.  I draw the line at disco, she draws the line at (really) heavy metal, but we’ve never had any trouble agreeing on a radio station in the car. Because of our mutual love of nearly all music, I called her when our local concert venue released its 2012 schedule, with a laugh and a smile, and asked her if she’d like to catch a band for Mother’s Day this year.

She thought it was a grand idea, and we two little grey-haired ladies had a tremendous time at the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert last night.  I love that my 67-year-old mom can still rock with any crowd, and the people watching was excellent.  We danced, we sang, we laughed, and we belted out “Gimme Three Steps” waving three fingers in the air.  We also spent a good amount of time snickering at the large number of Confederate flags being waved about.  Hey, we’re from Baltimore.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You commanded us to honor our mothers and fathers.  Thank You for the opportunity to honor my parents by sharing what they love best with them.  Help me teach Your blessings that the gifts my husband and I will cherish most are not the things our children can buy in a store, but the time they freely give to share those pursuits that bring us happiness.  Thank You for the length of years You have granted Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, Deedaw, and Nonno, and, as their years advance further, help us set an example for Your blessings of how to love our parents by caring for them with happy hearts.  Kindle in us the grace of gratitude for the opportunity to serve them in love of them, and love of You.

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Yesterday brought a flurry of fun to our humble abode, as Beanie had a soccer game and Bugaboo had a Daddy date at the roller rink.  Since neither of these events required a departure time before 10 a.m., it seemed like a good morning to make pancakes and sausage for breakfast; while I was cooking, the girls decided they needed to phone a couple of relatives and invite them to join their adventures.  Beanie called Nonno and Deedaw, and was delighted to learn that they would, in fact, be attending her game, which would give her a five-person cheering section, since Baby Guy and Mr. Man were in our traveling contingent.  Bugaboo had to leave a message for the uncle she tried to reach, but in all honesty, she didn’t seem all that disappointed that she would get Daddy all to herself.

After breakfast was eaten and appropriate attire was donned, Beanie, the boys and I headed off to the local high school where a saintly woman teaches tiny people the fundamentals of soccer.  The sky was clear, the sun was warm, we had a double stroller, crackers, and water bottles, and were ready for a morning of fresh air.  When I left, my husband was cleaning off the rollerblades he hasn’t used since at least 2002 while Bugaboo helpfully dusted his knee pads and chattered excitedly about learning to skate.  It took me a minute to get her attention so I could give her a kiss goodbye.

Mr. Man was far more enthusiastic about exploring all the leafy green growing things in our front yard than getting into the van so we could get Beanie to her game on time, so by the time he was buckled into his car seat with a very stern admonition not to ever push the button that closes the van door when Mommy’s body is blocking the door, we were running tight on time.  Thankfully, traffic was light, but we still had a bit of a dash to get to the field, me sprinting with a double stroller filled with squirmy little boys, Beanie clinging to the side of said stroller and trying to keep up a stream of chatter about everything she saw while running.  We got to the field with about ninety seconds to spare, and I had a little pep talk with Beanie while Mr. Man and Baby Guy raided the diaper bag for snacks and toys.  It went a little something like this:

“Are we going to keep our eyes on Coach Jackie and the big girls today?”
“Are we going to do what Coach Jackie and the big girls ask us today?”
“Are we going to have fun with our teammates?”
“Are we going to stay on the field?”

This picture is from her first game.

Beanie has a great love for the giant orange watercooler the coach and her assistants bring to the games.  She likes to hug it, and finds the little pushbutton tap fascinating.

“Are we going to use our water bottle instead of hanging out with the watercooler?”
“Yay, Beanie!  Look, there’s your team with Coach Jackie!  Run run run run run!”

After a quick hug and kiss, thirty-eight inches of high explosive sprinted off to join her teammates.  She overshot them by about fifty feet, being caught up in the utter joy of a full-bore sprint on a sunny day.  Luckily, she remembered what she was supposed to be doing, and hurried back.  For the first half of practice, she did a stellar job of following instructions and staying with her team.  After the mid-practice water break, though, she had a little trouble sticking with the program, and I was grateful for Nonno and Deedaw’s arrival so I could herd her back into the field of play a couple of times.  She did manage to kick a goal, and to kick a ball out of the goal, but she wore out with about five minutes of soccer time to go, and decided to play at being Spider-Man on the goal netting instead.  Since Beanie has two months to go before she turns four, I count that a success.

In the meantime, we had borrowed a full-sized ball from the hoard in the middle of the field, and Mr. Man had a gigglingly good time playing a little soccer with Nonno — who coached my husband’s soccer teams back in the day.  Deedaw sat neat the stroller and Baby Guy, laughing at Beanie’s enthusiastic efforts and Baby Guy’s intense interest in the grass.  By the end of practice, grandparents and grandchildren were pretty tired, so we shared a round of hugs and kisses, then parted ways.  After a quick stop for lunch, we headed home to get the boys a much-needed nap and await the return of Bugaboo and Daddy.

Beanie was pretty tuckered out, too, so we piled a couple of pillows on the couch and snuggled up to watch the season finale of My Little Pony.  She curled up behind my legs, hugged my calves, and whispered, “I love you, Mommy.  I’m glad I get you all to myself,” before sighing happily and hugging her pillow while she watched Twilight Sparkle save Canterlot.

About an hour and a half later, Bugaboo and Daddy returned home, bearing a week’s supply of milk (four gallons, if you were wondering), a container of my favorite Wegmans sushi, our one working camera, a blue glow stick, and gigantic, if tired, smiles.  Bugaboo burbled on about her great skating adventure while I mouthed to my husband, “Did she actually skate?”  He nodded yes, I did a quick visual check to make sure there were no bandages or plaster casts on either of them, then settled in to hear the account of Bugaboo’s day out.

Apparently, I had no sooner left with the rest of the tribe than Bugaboo informed Daddy it was time for them to leave as well.  She has picked up my tendency to want to be five minutes early for arrival or opening times, so we don’t miss anything and have time for disaster management if needed.  Off they went to the skating rink, where my husband discovered he was the only Dad on rollerblades, but far from the only Dad accompanying his little girl on her very first roller skating outing (he also shared the useful information that during the little-kid open skate, adults can be on the skating floor in their socks to help little wobblers along, which bodes well for Mr. Man’s chances of learning to skate soon).  The Saturday morning skate is a Disney-themed event, with the result that the attendees are mostly within a couple of years of Bugaboo’s age.

Having acquired a pair of rental skates for Bugaboo, Daddy proceeded to switch out Tink sneakers for boots with wheels, and helped our oldest daughter carefully walk across the carpeted walkway around the skating rink itself.  She figured out pretty quickly that all she had to do was walk on these strange contraptions, and she would move forward.  While she is still a little shaky about the idea that she will keep moving even if she doesn’t immediately take another step, she definitely had a good time, managing a couple of complete circuits of the rink.  She even managed to use the potty without removing her skates.  Not too shabby for a not-quite-five-year old.  My husband apologizes for the lack of pictures of Bugaboo actually skating, but he was busy holding her hands.  He has his priorities in the proper order, methinks.

At any rate, after an hour or so of learning to skate, Bugaboo complained the rental skates were tight on her feet (she inherited wide feet from both of her parents), and asked if she could take her skates off and go to the play zone.  Since Daddy did not realize there is a separate charge for the play zone, he helped her off with her skates and sent her off to play.  She merrily climbed, slid, and bounced until another little girl stopped her with the admonition, “You’re not supposed to be in here.  You don’t have a wristband.”  A third youngster took the admonisher to task, “Hey, that’s not very nice.”  Bugaboo, however, seeing the wristbands on her two playmates’ forearms and noting the lack of one on her own, came down from the netting into Daddy’s waiting arms.  He hugged her and told her he was proud of her for following the rules when told about them, and apologized to her for not knowing she needed a wristband.

After that, they headed for the snack bar to get a little lunch.  Bugaboo opted for a slice of pizza and a small bottle of water, while Daddy had a hot dog and a big bottle of water.  Apparently, while Bugaboo was in the play zone, Daddy reacquainted himself with the joy of rollerblading, and had managed to work up quite a sweat.   Since Bugaboo was tired of skating and Daddy wasn’t sure how to get a wristband for the play zone, they decided to head out in search of further adventures once they’d eaten their lunches.  My husband asked our eldest what she would like to do next, and, without hesitation, she replied, “We could go to Toys ‘R’ Us and I could point out what I’d like for my birthday.”

That’s actually kind of a ritual around here.  While our kids don’t watch a lot of TV, they do watch enough that they see ads for lots of toys.  We’ve taken the time to explain to them that advertisements are designed to make people want to buy things, and that what you see on TV isn’t necessarily real.  I actually did a “proof of concept” them on this about a year ago — they saw an ad for those “Sham-Wow” things and thought they looked like a lot of fun, and since they kept insisting they HAD to have them, I ordered a set.  Reality quickly dawned on them, and they haven’t really trusted commercials since. If one of them sees a toy she thinks looks like fun, she’ll usually ask for a trip to the store to inspect it and see what it actually does.

Off to the toy store they went, Bugaboo explaining to Daddy that she understood no purchases would be made that day.  We now know what her little heart’s desires are, and, as usual, it’s an interesting mix, with everything from a Strawberry Shortcake scooter to an Optimus Prime helmet making the list.  After the toy store, father and daughter went to Wegmans to restock our milk supply, pick up a surprise for Mommy (the aforementioned sushi), and get a small container of macaroni and cheese for Bugaboo, who was hungry again.

The boys were still sacked when the traveling party came home, so after we had shared stories of our respective adventures, we decided to read stories to the girls with the Capitals game on, muted, in the background.  By the time the boys awoke, I had started dinner and Daddy, exhausted, was napping on the couch.  After a hearty dinner where everyone, including Baby Guy, had seconds of something (he is developing a serious addiction to spinach with ricotta), the ambulatory members of the tribe boiled out the back door for a post-meal romp in the back yard.  Baby Guy, in the meantime, decided to play tug with Smudgie (thankfully, he is the gentlest of giants), since Bo was on guard duty with the other three tiny people.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, in the very beginning of the book of Your love letters to us, we read of the vastness and majesty of Your creation.  Your blessings explored as many parts of it as possible today, from the sun and wind to the beasts and plants You created to feed us to the simple joy of a canine companion.  You called the little children to come to You, and we are trying to teach them that whenever they pause to greet another person, admire the brightness of a sunny day, or appreciate the taste of their food, they are approaching You with a prayer of thanksgiving for Your great bounty.  Thank you for these days of wonder You have granted us with Your blessings, and for allowing us to recall the simple faith and joy of our youth through their eyes.  Please help us teach them that when the world is too complex, returning to the simple things created by You brings us closer to each other and You, and You will fill our hearts with happiness when we love You and each other.

What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine

The first reading at Mass on Sunday was the passage from Acts describing how the earliest faithful shared all they had with one another (Acts 4:32-35).  It begins with, “And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul: neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed, was his own; but all things were common unto them.”

At the risk of being sacrilegious, I believe I can safely say there were no preschoolers among the early Christians.

As I’ve mentioned previously, sharing is a concept we’ll be working on at our house for quite some time.  Sometimes the tiny people do it wonderfully well; I can give Bugaboo, Beanie and Mr. Man a bowl of snacks to share while they’re getting their evening Spider-Man fix, and there are few if any disputes over the treat in question.  Given a pile of M&Ms, both girls will carefully count them off into three equal piles; if there are one or two left over, one of them will happily present them to Baby Guy, trilling, “Here’s a treat for yoo-oooo-ooou, Mister Baby Guy!” as they do.

The sharing thing gets a little murkier when it comes to playthings.  I may have mentioned before that our kids have too many toys; their doting grandparents and occasionally overindulgent parents have seen to it that our house is decorated in early American LeapFrog/Little  Tikes/Fisher-Price.  In my mind, this should lead to no problem with toy sharing; Heaven knows there are plenty to go around, and each tiny person should easily be able to reserve a couple of things that are special to him or her without causing controversy among his or her siblings.  The general rule we follow is that if you got it for your birthday, it’s all about you and you’re not required to share it (although everyone is happier if you do), but since Christmas is about sharing, you have to share those toys and games after you’ve had a chance to check them out for yourself.  It may not be the best rule, but it has generally kept the peace.

However, as Bugaboo in particular has gotten older, her definition of sharing has gone slightly awry, to a point where she’s attempting to redefine it as “you don’t get to touch my stuff, but I get to play with all of yours.”  This often takes the form of her offering to “help” her younger siblings play with a toy or use art supplies, and becomes really problematic when it brings her into conflict with Mr. Man.  Our oldest son is two years old, and, while he has a pretty good vocabulary, he has a very short fuse, and when said fuse burns down, he tends to respond nonverbally.  In other words, he will take the object of the dispute and whack his oldest sister with it.

Thankfully, Mr. Man is also a toddler with a very generous nature.  Usually, if he’s playing with something and Bugaboo comes over and starts to play with it, he’ll simply scoot over and make room for her.  However, if his markers (he is a huge fan of Crayola’s Color Explosion products) or one of his toys with a gajillion buttons is involved (like his phone or his scribble-and-write gadget), he is far less willing to let his oldest sister take over.

After Mr. Man finished his dinner last night, he wandered over to the art supplies corner, fished out his brand-new Color Explosion set that was one of his birthday gifts from Grandma, brought it to me, dropped the mylar package rustlingly into my lap and hopefully inquired, “Markers, please?”  I sent him to sit in Daddy’s chair, removed four of the markers and one of the coloring sheets for him, then smiled as he gleefully set about removing the caps from all the markers and seeing what color each would make on the page.  He kept up a running commentary as he experimented, chirruping, “Onge (orange) car, yellow car, bwown bwown bwown!”

Roughly ten minutes into his artistic endeavor, he realized that he had left his milk cup on the end table in the living room, and jumped off the chair to go retrieve it, bellowing, “NEED MY MILK!” as he thuddingly ran from the kitchen.  Bugaboo had wandered back into the kitchen by then.  Apparently, Mr. Man found a few interesting things to do in the living room, as he disappeared from view; I could hear the sound of cars zipping down the racing ramp and giggles from Baby Guy, so I decided to do some dishes.

As I turned on the faucet, I heard a chair move behind me, and turned around to see Bugaboo helping herself to Mr. Man’s markers and coloring page. The ensuing conversation went roughly like this:

“Bugaboo, those are Mr. Man’s markers and picture.  Grandma gave them to him for his birthday.”
“I know.  I just want to help him with it.”
“But he’s not here.”
“I know.  Won’t he be surprised when he comes back and his picture is all beautiful?”
“Don’t you think he’d rather make it beautiful himself?”
“He’s not very good at making things beautiful yet.  He’s only two.”
“His definition of beautiful might not be the same as yours.  I think you should put the markers down.”
“But he’s not even in here!”
“I’m aware of that.  However, the markers are still his.  Remember what we’ve said about respecting other people’s things?”

At that moment, Mr. Man wandered back into the kitchen, brow slightly furrowed and staring rather hard at his oldest sister.  After a moment’s hesitation, he moved quite purposefully over to the chair occupied by Bugaboo and clambered up onto the seat next to her.  I shut the water off and prepared to engage in a mid-air rescue of whichever child took an impromptu flying lesson.  With a bit of trepidation on her face and in her voice, Bugaboo inquired, “Mr. Man, may I color some of your picture?”

Silence.  The “People’s Eyebrow” from Mr. Man.

Then he handed Bugaboo two markers and headed back into the living room.

I did not realize until I exhaled that I had been holding my breath the entire time.

It’s a tough balance to strike, when you’re talking about kids and stuff.  Another mommy blogger wrote about this yesterday, this perplex of wanting them to have cool playthings, but wanting to make sure they’re not overindulged.  When there is too much “stuff,” and the “stuff” comes too easily, we end up with spoiled kids who forget that we love people and use things — and that sometimes, part of loving people is NOT using their things.

In this instance, Mr. Man solved the problem for me by freely sharing what he had with Bugaboo.  If he hadn’t come in when he did, there would have been an attempt by Bugaboo to debate the matter further, which would likely have ended with me simply taking the contested coloring materials away from her and inviting her to help me load the dishwasher.  Sometimes, it’s very tempting to take the easy way out and say, “yeah, Mr. Man has moved on to something else, so you can finish coloring his picture.”  That’s the wrong lesson, though, because that’s really neither sharing nor respecting other people’s property.  That’s “I don’t see the owner of this thing, so I’m going to do as I please with it.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have given us four cheerful and playful blessings, who all take joy from adding a little extra color to Your Creation.  Help me teach them that while toys are great fun, they’re better when they’re shared, and that if they want others to respect those toys they choose not to share, they must set the example of not taking the goods of others without permission, and without using coercion or subterfuge to obtain them.  We would raise Your blessings to be honest and generous, Lord; please grant us the grace to show them honesty and generosity in all our dealings with others.  You instructed us to share all we have in service to our brethren.  Thank You for their kind hearts and nimble minds, and help us train them up to use their intelligence wisely and kindly.

Swingin’ in the rain

While I don’t exactly bubble-wrap the tiny people, I’ve always been a little reluctant to let them play outside when the weather turns cool and rainy. Such was the case this morning, as a murky grey sky intermittently spat out sullen drabs of rain. Consequently, Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man spent a fair amount of time this morning looking longingly out the kitchen window and heaving sighs far larger than one might credit to such little bodies.

I made pancakes for lunch in an effort to mitigate their melancholy, which helped slightly, and allowed the girlies to watch “The Care Bears Movie” while the boys napped and I sorted five hundred loads of laundry. I tried singing, Play-Doh, raisins (they’re made from grapes and sunshine, after all), counting blessings, and a dozen or so other “can’t miss” tactics, all to no avail.

Finally, I stuck my head out the back door while folding a load of laundry. Then I thought about one of those things my head knows that contradicts the advice from Mom and Granny I carry in my heart, to wit: playing in the rain will not make you sick.

When I came back up the stairs with the load of folded laundry, Bugaboo and Beanie were glumly parked on the couch perusing a couple of their brothers’ books. I didn’t really expect the response they gave to my offhanded, “Okay, ladybugs, if you put on long pants, long sleeves, and shoes, you may play outside.  Just come in if you get cold and wet, preferably before you start whining.”

For a moment, I thought I had somehow pitched a no-hitter in game 7 of the World Series.  There was THAT MUCH cheering, jumping up and down, and general unfettered celebrating.

Off they went, waking their brothers with their thunderous bounding and jumping down the stairs.   Mr. Man, who wasn’t feeling terribly energetic today, decided his sisters were welcome to have the rainy backyard all to themselves, and wandered upstairs to play with Alphie and cadge a little extra storytime.  Baby Guy practiced his crawling and, somewhat to my surprise, came within about four degrees of pulling himself up to a stand before toppling over onto a giant teddy bear (thanks, Grandpa!).

Also somewhat to my surprise, the girls came in about a half hour before I would have called them for dinner.  The rain had stopped completely, and the sun was shyly extending a few tentative rays through a muck of a sky; apparently, the fun of being outside this afternoon wore off a bit when the rain ceased!

After dinner, Mr. Man decided that the new evening ritual of raising a post-dinner ruckus in the yard must be observed.  I am told that this time, it was he who removed Beanie’s boot and gave it to Smudgie to start the night’s game of “chase the puppy.”

Today’s prayer: Lord, Your blessings saw the beauty of a grey and rainy day, and rejoiced when they were allowed outside to enjoy what You had sent.  Thank You for reminding me, through their eyes, that You send blessings every day, if I open my eyes to see them.  Help me to always recognize the wonder of Your gifts, even when they don’t seem to be what the world would consider largesse.  You give me opportunities to teach Your blessings that beauty is not confined to sunshine and rainbows; thank You for the chance to learn it from them, as well.


I was attempting to restore order to the kitchen this morning, after the accumulated mayhem of Mr. Man’s birthday and Easter, which is probably how I managed to miss Beanie’s pad-footed entrance. When I first saw her, tousle-headed and blinky, she seemed a little sad – certainly not her usual exuberant self. Concerned that she might be suffering the aftereffects of chocolate overload, I asked her if she was feeling okay.

Glumly, she replied, “No. I’m sad.”

“What’s wrong, sweetness? Why is my teeny Beanie sad?

“Mommy, you forgot to give me hugs and kisses.”

I swept her out of her chair in a great spinning hug, and covered her little face with kisses until she giggled at me to put her down.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, and for the family who shower them with sweets and toys and love.  Please keep me mindful that showing love to them is my greatest prayer of thanksgiving to You.  You asked that the little children be brought to You; by Your example, let me learn that reorganizing the pantry can wait a few minutes.  Please don’t let the importance of finding places for all the stuff take precedence over the joy of thanking You for Your most precious gifts by greeting them lovingly. They are so much better than candy, and usually sweeter, too.

Pleasures and treasures

We met Nonno and Deedaw at the mall today; the tribe always loves to visit there, as the playpark generally offers a whole host of other tiny people with whom they can romp, particularly on days when the predominant weather feature is a torrential morning rain.  It was with no small amount of sadness that we noted Bugaboo, who is nearing the height limit for the playpark, is also nearing the enjoyment limit.  As the play equipment is definitely geared towards the two- and three-year-old set, she still runs a lap or two around it, making sure not to miss a slide or a climber, but after about five minutes, she shuffles back to where we stand with Baby Guy in the stroller, and asks if it’s time for lunch.

Fortunately for the cause of domestic harmony, the playpark was replete with over-the-size-limit ruffians today, which resulted in even our rough-and-tumble Beanie wishing for a quick departure from the land of polystyrene butterflies, bridges, and trees.  Since everyone, including Nonno and Deedaw, was in the mood for lunch, we headed for Wendy’s, our favorite mall food joint.  Not only are all the adults passionate about their burgers, but we also love their kids’ meal toys, which generally encourage creative play instead of repetition of lines from a movie.  We ended up with a total of four today, since Nonno wanted a burger and a small drink and I wanted fries.  It’s funny how those things work out sometimes.

I grinned when I presented Nonno with the kid’s meal bag.  Daddy and Deedaw were at the table with the four kids, so Nonno and I got to sit back and enjoy the fireworks.  We also got to check out “his” toy.

I wish we had brought the camera to the mall, because I don’t think I’ll ever forget Nonno, after we made a close inspection of the little gadget and discussed the physics of reflectivity, surreptitiously winkling the wee pencil loose and lightly tracing the reflection of the planet.  His tracing was, alas, so light that I couldn’t get a decent photograph.

After lunch, we headed for JCPenney to find Easter finery for our tribe, plus our nephew (who is almost exactly halfway between Mr. Man and Baby Guy in age).  The three boys in question each has his first proper suit, although I suspect we will dispense with the little clip-on ties; the girls exercised their customary good taste, and each was allowed to select her own puffy Easter dress.  They also talked Deedaw into purchasing coordinating purses and hats. I have no idea where they get their fashion sense (it’s definitely not from me), but their tastes run to the modest, feminine, and exquisitely accessorized.  You’ll have to wait until Easter for those pictures, as we have locked outfits away from the perils of small, grimy hands.

Later in the day, after naps, a little Smile of a Child, a proper romp in the muddy yard, dinner, and baths, we gave the kids their pre-bedtime snack and let them loose with the little projects each had received at Wendy’s.  Nonno was the only one who got the magic tracing folio.  Beanie got a monster-making kit, complete with craft clay.

The creatrix in her laboratory.

The theme from “Weird Science” was inexplicably playing in my head.

Mr. Man and Bugaboo each received a Colorforms-type toy, and they had a terrific time using the decals to change the appearances of the little people in the frames.

Mr. Man insisted on trying to feed his pirate goldfish cookies.

While creative mayhem was unfolding in the kitchen, I was in the living room with Baby Guy, wistfully watching his last hurrah with the exercise saucer that has entertained all four of our children.  He is now crawling proficiently enough that he doesn’t really want to be in it any longer, so tomorrow, I’ll clean it and send it on to another family who has a need for it.  As much as we would like to add a fifth tiny person to our tribe, the Lord seems to be calling us in a different direction now.

After we tucked in two very sleepy boys, Daddy and I came back upstairs to honor our promise of allowing the girls to play with a newly-acquired treasure — a box containing two hundred brand new crayons.  I believe he was nearly as excited as the girls.  Since I have the artistic talent of your average walnut, my role in this enterprise was to make sure the paper supply was ample and that no tiny people fell off chairs.

They had a blast.  Bugaboo set to drawing fairies and flowers, while Beanie decided to see how many different colors she could imprint upon her paper.  Both girls decided that paper hula skirts were in order, and set about brilliantly coloring their big pieces of paper.  Unfortunately, the paper in question was not of a size conducive to making skirts, even for little girls, so I suggested they make hula skirt hats, instead.

The idea was a hit.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the ordinary days we spend doing ordinary things with Your blessings.  You have taught us that it is right for us to rejoice in even the simplest tasks, to delight in time spent with family, to celebrate the life You have given us when we mark the little everyday passages.  Thank You for children who find greater happiness with their parents, some paper and crayons than with all the technologically advanced entertainments they have available to them.  Help us teach them that no device, no matter how impressively engineered, substitutes for time spent lovingly with family.