Tag Archive | gratitude

Let’s hear it for the mom, let’s give the mom a hand

Here’s the song reference.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I would like to let everyone who inquired know that Bo lived his yesterday with great enthusiasm, trundling around the yard and eating anything that came within reach of his mouth, including most of Smudgie’s dinner.  He’s done this miraculous turnaround enough times now that we are considering changing his name to Lazarus.  The best working theory is that he suffered either another stroke or a seizure and needed the day to recover.  Our whole family would like to thank everyone who offered a kind word or a prayer.  The kindness of friends and strangers alike was a great blessing.

Yesterday was, however, the sort of day in which the effects of Monday’s stress came shining through.  As saintly as all the tiny people had been on the day Bo was ailing, they were the opposite in like measure yesterday.  Neither an instruction nor a meal came without arguments, sass, thrown missiles, or wailing.  I was deeply grateful when Baby Guy put himself to bed for a nap after he ate about four bites of the lunch he had specifically requested, then cried, “NO NO NO NO NO,” over.

In self-defense, and to preserve the tattered remnants of both my sanity and my hearing, I turned on Netflix and settled in to watch a few episodes of Super Hero Squad with Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man.  Beanie is not much on video entertainment, and quickly left the huddle on the couch for the loveseat and a couple of story books, while Bugaboo and Mr. Man snuggled close and snickered at the misadventures of Modoc and Dr. Doom in the face of the unbeatable Squaddies.  I think I may have closed my eyes for a few minutes somewhere in there, enjoying the sound of Bo’s steady breathing and Smudgie’s gentle snoring, audible over the low sound of the television.

Closing my eyes in a room occupied by three children, I should know by now, is the parenting equivalent of my nerdy high-school-aged self walking around with a “Kick Me” sign taped to my back.  If there is a thing to be disputed, whether it be how much of which couch cushion each child’s rear and feet should occupy or whether Mr. Man should be allowed so much as a sidelong glance at the Wiimote in Bugaboo’s hand, it will be, generally with the maximum possible volume and vehemence.

Having separated Bugaboo and Mr. Man by sing my body as a barrier, and sternly cautioned Beanie that under no circumstances was she to stir the pot from her perch on the loveseat, I started to close my eyes again, only to be jarred from any hope of a few minutes of peace by Baby Guy pounding on the door to the boys’ room.  He had apparently been awakened by the commotion and was eager to contribute his full measure to the mayhem.  Beanie hurriedly scurried to the fridge to retrieve her baby brother’s sippy cup and spring him from captivity; happily, the two of them decided they’d rather concoct fabulous feasts in the play kitchen downstairs than compete with the TV for Bugaboo and Mr. Man’s attention.  I took advantage of the distraction to get the dishes done and assemble a change of clothes for Manie; we were headed to Deedaw’s for dinner, and after a day in the July heat looking at wrecked cars, my best guy always appreciates comfortable shoes and dry apparel.

Since the girls’ room was a disaster area and the two couch potatoes had already had a bit too much screen time for my liking, I shut down the Super Hero Squad session after the dishes were done.  Mr. Man was unfazed by this, and headed downstairs to join in the kitchen chaos.  Bugaboo, on the other hand, found this development to be altogether outrageous, and proceeded to inform me, less than politely, that additional episodes were essential to her happiness.  I, in turn, proceeded to inform her that picking up her toys and books would very presently become even more essential to her happiness, as it’s not unknown at our house for toys that are not properly put away to be given away for children who will appreciate them more.  Additional unpleasantness ensued.  I’ll spare you the play-by-play; suffice it to say that several toys were quarantined in the linen closet pending a change in attitude and the proper storage of the remainder.  Beanie, in the meantime, had ventured upstairs and begun to quietly make her bed and put away the shoes that were strewn about the room.  Eventually, Bugaboo decided that it was in her best interests to follow suit, and we were able to leave for Deedaw’s at a decent hour of the late afternoon.

Once there, Bugaboo returned to being her usual kind and helpful little self, assisting Deedaw (who had her second successful cataract surgery yesterday) with some laundry and chattering away while I got dinner started.  All was calm and peaceful until Beanie discovered a balloon Nephew had left behind from his visit with Deedaw on Tuesday.  Bugaboo decided she wanted the balloon more than she wanted to be civilized.  Then she also decided she wanted Mr. Man’s bubble fan more than she wanted to be civilized.  Beanie was sent to the loveseat in the living room, Bugaboo was sent to the rocking chair in the family room, Mr. Man was given back his toy, and Baby Guy was given a fresh cup of milk at his request.

Beanie politely asked to be allowed to read, a request which I not only granted, but also used to give her the means of ending her time out; if she were to read a story to either Mr. Man or Baby Guy (of their choosing), she would be allowed to leave the loveseat and play.  This was highly acceptable to Beanie (and to Mr. Man, who promptly brought her several choices).  Bugaboo, on the other hand, decided to resume her earlier stream of nastiness, complaining in the ugliest tone and terms possible about everything from her dislike of the chair to her lack of desire to be seated therein to the lighting in the room.  Even Deedaw, who is very indulgent towards the grandchildren, was appalled.

Once again, I’ll skip the play-by-play.  Suffice it to say that in the end, Bugaboo was banished to the basement steps until she could regain something resembling a civilized demeanor, then allowed to return to the rocking chair until Manie got home.  When he did, I went for a short walk while she poured out her tale of woe and injustices suffered to him.

I returned to an apology from a puffy-faced Bugaboo.  After I wiped her tears away and shared big hugs with her, I set about getting dinner on the table.  Fortunately, dinner was a hit with the midget mob.  It was a relief to have one meal eaten with minimal dissension from the ranks.

After the dinner dishes had been cleared away and the tribe had grown manic from fatigue, Manie and I bade them all give Deedaw hugs and kisses, as the hour for our departure had grown nigh.  That instruction reopened the complaint department, and we were suddenly besieged with a thousand little requests for THINGS THAT MUST HAPPEN BEFORE WE CAN LEAVE.  Since we were already half an hour past all of their bedtimes, we overruled the objections, and I started herding them all towards the van, a squirming Baby Guy firmly tucked under one arm.

Once they were all securely buckled, I stood in the grass of the front yard for a moment, enjoying the cool of the evening and a slight diminution in the noise level.  Manie and Deedaw had come outside by then, and I was able to give Deedaw the hug and kiss that had been obstructed earlier by an unhappy toddler, and have a quick minute of conversation among the adults.  As we chatted, the pitch and tone of the noise from within the van changed, so I diverted my attention to ascertain the cause of it.

To my very great delight, I heard Beanie exclaim, “Ten cheers for Mommy!”

July 2013 036

This was followed by a little chorus of hurrahs and clapping, all of it loud and enthusiastic.  Manie started to shush them, but I held up a hand and said, “No, please don’t.  I don’t get to hear THIS very often, so please let me enjoy it while it lasts!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for four little blessings with strong bodies, bright minds, and extraordinary lung capacities.  Please help me to always bear in mind that these things are great gifts, and one for which other parents pray.  Lord, please grant me the grace of a heart that is grateful for your gifts, especially the gifts that have the superficial appearance of work and struggle, that are Your daily will and bread for me.  When I am offered thanks or a reward for them in this life, help me to accept either with humility and with joy for that moment when Your smile comes to me through the mouths of my family.

Fish heads

Here’s the song reference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He must love us a lot.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our little blessings amaze me sometimes.

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

Turkey of thanks

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


The best I ever had

Here’s the song reference.

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

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

“So what do you want to do tomorrow?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay . . .”

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

“Perfect.  We’ll have fun!”

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

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

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

To them, life is a great big bang up

Here’s the song reference.

Thank you to everyone who offered prayers for our family.  Everyone we know made it through Hurricane Sandy unscathed, and for that we are grateful to all of you and to our merciful Lord.

Our daughters learned the meaning of “head-on collision” this evening.  Daddy was on his way home from work, which sent Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man scampering to pick up toys so Daddy wouldn’t come home to a humongous mess.  Baby Guy was cheerfully wrestling his way through a diaper change when he realized that his sippy cup was nowhere within reach, most distressing to a toddler who finds himself in sudden, urgent need of a swig of milk.  I quickly dispatched Beanie to the living room to retrieve the missing beverage, and she sped out of the girls’ room at top speed to oblige.  Unfortunately, Bugaboo happened to be entering through the same door Beanie was exiting at that moment, also at top speed, with a handful of fairies.

Just as the weeping, wailing, and blaming of siblings began, Daddy came through the front door.  He paused to listen to the commotion for a moment before commenting, “Gee, if you’re that happy to see me, I’ll just go back to work,” then running up the steps to see what had transpired.  I was still wrangling a thoroughly uncooperative Baby Guy into a clean diaper and pleading with the kids for an explanation of what had happened in a big kid voice with big kid words.  Mr. Man helpfully piped up, “Dey go BOOM!” as Bugaboo wailed that Beanie had hit her and Beanie wailed that Bugaboo had hit her.

Eventually we got it all sorted out, and two dish towels full of ice were applied to two goose-egg-sprouting foreheads.  We have concluded that Beanie’s head is harder than Bugaboo’s, which will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog.  Twenty minutes later, after we had tucked two protesting little boys into their cozy beds, two much-recovered  little girls were ensconced at the kitchen table, coloring fuzzy Halloween stickers for a banner project tomorrow.  If you’re curious, our schoolwork tomorrow will consist of roasting pumpkin seeds, measuring by quarter-cups so they can be put in snack sized bags, making a giant door decoration to welcome trick-or-treaters, and finishing the illustrated classics version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  I’ll sneak in a little penmanship on the door decoration.

Shortly before the collision, the tribe and I were snuggled up in the living room for story time.  Bugaboo found Mr. Man’s copy of “The Amazing Spider-Man (World of Reading Level 1 edition),” much to everyone’s delight.  As I started to read it, it struck me that Peter Parker lived in Queens, a part of New York that I’ve read was hit fairly hard by last night’s storm.  That got me thinking about all the political ads I’ve seen during this election cycle, each of which attempts to divide people into groups and present a given candidate as some sort of superhero to that group, usually by “standing up” to some other group.

You know, I never heard of Spider-Man asking someone about ethnic background, religious affiliation, economic status, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, or political party.  Something tells me that the emergency responders in New England aren’t asking about those things, either.  They see someone in danger, in trouble, in pain, and offer what help they have to give.  There’s no blaming someone else for the problem, there’s no waiting to see if there’s some other program or agency that could solve the person’s problem — there is a simple recognition of, and response to, a human need.

Frankly, when it comes to who I want my children to look to as examples, I’d rather they saw Spider-Man, firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and members of all the other emergency response agencies, real and fictional, as their role models than almost anyone running for office this year.  Those people’s faces look more like Jesus to me than any of the political leaders I’ve seen giving speeches on the news.  You see, they’re asking the right question, which is “what help do you need that I can give,” not “how can I pit you against your brother so I can gain power?”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the thick skulls that You, in Your wisdom, gave Your little blessings, and thank You for ice and the wisdom to use it to good effect to soothe injuries.  Thank You for all those men and women who help without questioning what they have in common with the helped, for these beautiful reflections of Your face You have placed in our midst.  Thank You for the generous friend who, though he is horrified by so many things I believe, was Your face this morning when he called and offered help to my family.  Please help me teach Your blessings that the things that divide us are of our own making, and that when a call for help goes out, You bless those who answer that call without inquiring what they have in common with the caller.  Help me teach them that You alone are perfect, and that the rest of us need to help each other along the way in order to find You.  We who believe in You must live what we believe, and You will bear us up and give us the grace we need.  Please kindle in the hearts of my family and my readers a steadfast love for Your law, and for our neighbors.

Bat out of . . . shoebox?

Here’s the song reference.

As part of our homeschooling, we cover a topic in science every week; this week’s subject is bats.  It’s a particularly important subject at our house, as we live near a swamp and thus are subject to an absurdly large mosquito population.  I’m loath to spray a bunch of chemicals around, partly out of concern for the tiny people and our dogs, partly out of concern for the nearby wetlands and the critters that live there.  Don’t get me wrong — I have no problem hosing the kids down with Cutter before sending them outside to play, but I’d rather not spray the entire yard.  To us, it’s a simple question of stewardship; the Lord calls us to take care of His Creation, and to me, that means considering the impact of everything we do on the creatures over which He gave mankind dominion.  I keep hoping the kids will quit pulling up the mosquito-shoo geraniums, but until then . . .

At any rate, we read a spiffy book about bats, at the end of which were plans for a wooden bat house.  While I lack the intestinal fortitude to tackle a carpentry project involving four children under the age of six as the only adult in the room, I have no problem breaking out a shoebox to build a suitable model.  Again, part of stewardship involves using the materials we have on hand.  With a family of six, there are always shoeboxes and cereal boxes aplenty at our house; quite a few of them find their way into the recycling bin without any intermediate steps, but at least half of them end up being used as craft supplies, to bring a lesson to life.  Having read about bats, and watched a couple of neat videos to see bats in action, the girls and I talked about how we’ve seen bats flittering about at twilight, and how many times we’ve gone diving for calamine to cool the itching of dozens of mosquito bites.  Beanie is particularly afflicted by the little bloodsuckers, and thus was the most enthusiastic about learning how to attract a healthy bat population.

Our basic plan was a simple one, to wit:  cut a side off a shoebox, trim another side and fold it up a little for an entry restrictor, add a small sheet of gauze for a bat toehold, then cover the shoebox with brown construction paper to simulate the wood of a real bat house.  The girls rifled the sticker box to find stickers with pictures of things bats like to eat, and came up with butterflies, moths, and bees (I don’t know if bats actually eat bees, but they had the concept of bats eating insects, so I wasn’t inclined to argue).  Beanie pointed out that some bats eat fruit, and was promptly countered by Bugaboo’s assertion that the bats we wanted to attract were the bug-eating variety.  Beanie eagerly agreed that we did not want to encourage any bats that might steal our bananas and apples.  We finished it off with a half-dozen scratch-art bats suspended from strings, “flying” into the “bat house.”

The girls were delighted with their project, and animatedly pointed out all its features to Mr. Man and Baby Guy when they boys awoke from their nap.  We may have to make another one, as Mr. Man’s wee noise is quite out of joint at not having been allowed to help with the construction.  They’re trying to convince Daddy to help them make real ones from lumber in the spring.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have blessed us with an abundance of flora and fauna to study, understand, and appreciate.  Thank You for eyes to see their beauty, and for lips to sing Your praise as we discover the wonder of each tiny piece of Your creation.  Please help me teach Your blessings that we cherish life of all kinds, and we can show our love for You in the way we care for all the lives around us, and grant me the wisdom to find anything redeeming about stink bugs.  Thank You for the mosquitos that feed the bats, for the bats that eat the mosquitos, for the writers who have taken the time to set down their knowledge about Your creatures in books, for the videographers who have recorded Your creatures in all their beauty and majesty.  Keep our vision broad, Lord, but remind us to always focus on You as we survey the world around us.  Thank You also, Lord, for the gift of little blessings who rejoice in sharing tasks, and who are learning to share the stickers as well.

He’s my Baby Guy

Here’s the song reference.  One of my favorite mental exercises is to create new lyrics to songs that are fun to sing — and appropriate for tiny people.  My husband has referred to me as the Weird Al Yankovic of children’s music.

When Daddy came home last night, Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man bolted out the front door with their plastic buckets to join in the evening raspberry raid, leaving Baby Guy (with whom they had all been playing cars before they saw Daddy pull into our drive) crying on the living room floor.  Since Baby Guy is the happiest baby in the world (until he’s not), even I melt when he cries, especially when the reason for his sadness is so readily apparent, so I scooped him up and gave him some extra snuggles.

After he used my shoulder as a Kleenex, Baby Guy blew me a kiss.  This is a new habit he’s developed, and possibly his most charming one to date. Still making kissing sounds, he wrapped his chubby little arms around my shoulder and cuddled closer, rocking himself a little bit.  That rocking is how Baby Guy informs me he would like to dance, so I stood up to sway with him a little.  As I rose, I caught the strains of a certain song familiar to most children of the 80s playing on the classic rock station (aside:  when did my music become “classic?”) and picked up the beat in our sway.  Baby Guy smiled and giggled, cooed and started tapping my lips, saying, “Mamamamama” as he tapped.

In Baby Guy language, “Mamamamama” means one of three things:  mommy, milk, or music.  Since I was already holding him, and he had just hurled his milk to the floor, I assumed he wanted a song.  He chortled and bounced in my arms as I danced with him and edited the refrain in a way Warrant probably never imagined:  “He’s my Baby Guy, squishy little baby such a happy guy, smile so sweet brings a tear to your eye, he’s Baby Guy . . . he’s my Baby Guy, funny little fellow with the big brown eyes, snuggles everybody morning noon and night, sweet Baby Guy!”

He started laughing so hard he gave himself the hiccups, so I handed him his milk just as Daddy came in with the rest of the tribe and an enormous haul of raspberries (which I personally secured to avoid any repeats of the Tuesday night incident).  Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man were complaining about the abundance of mosquitoes by the thicket, and the sharpness of the thorns, and the lateness of the hour, but quickly perked up when given a bucket of raspberries to share.  Daddy, bless his heart, had also discovered the first ripe fig of the year on our tree, and brought it to me, unseen by any other little eyes.

Baby Guy just laughed and smiled, slurping knowingly on his milk.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You comfort the brokenhearted, and we follow You.  When Your blessings are downcast, let them see You in me as I comfort them, and please remind me that for a small child, a small hurt seems much larger than it would to an adult.  Please fill me with the grace I need to teach them perspective and humility, and the wisdom I need to teach them by example.  Thank You for music, Lord, and for raspberries in their season, and thank You for building us into a family that loves both.

Orange crush

We definitely painted the town – or at least the hall closet – orange yesterday.  While breakfast was devoid of citrus hues, as soon as the girls had finished eating, we grabbed a stack of old magazines and began looking for any orange objects we could find.  The girls were amazed to discover how many different things could be one color; before we started, I asked them what they could tell me was orange.  Beanie responded with “oranges, because that’s why they’re oranges,” while Bugaboo offered, “carrots, and sometimes the sun.”

As the girls pored over pages looking for images containing the color of the day, I cut out leaves and oranges from construction paper, and taped the skeleton of a tree to the hall closet door.  By the time I returned to the table, the girls had assembled an impressive pile of pictures and were chattering about all the things that could be orange, from dresses and butterflies to Easter eggs and book covers.  Anything, it seemed, could be orange — even carrots and oranges.  While I was explaining to the girls that the next step in our project would be to glue the pictures to the leaves so we could make an “orange tree,”  Bugaboo excitedly exclaimed, “Mommy!  Mr. Man will be so excited when he sees this!  You know orange is his favorite color!”

Orange is, in fact, Mr. Man’s favorite color.

The girls broke out their glue sticks and set to work.  As is usually the case, Bugaboo finished first, and thus was given the task of composing a prayer about orange.  She went with the simple, but effective, “Thank You, God, for orange.”  With a piece of leftover packing paper and some foam letters, she set about putting her words to paper, and we crowned our orange tree with her words of praise before decking the tree skeleton with rich paper foliage.

After we had leafed our tree, Mr. Man and Baby Guy awoke, in dire need of milk and Cheerios.  We are still attempting to convince our youngest that cereal is intended for ingestion, not decoration, but since we’re not making much headway with it, it’s fun to see where he’ll attach one.  Yesterday morning, it was his cheek, and Mr. Man kept pointing at his little brother and hollering, “Camwa! Camwa!”

While the boys were making breakfast a multisensory experience, the girls and I scattered throughout the house to find any and all books that had orange covers, orange letters on their covers, or orange spines.  We actually assembled too many to read in a single day, but each time we read one, we wrote the name of the story on an orange and attached it to the tree.  Mr. Man was very enthusiastic about this particular aspect of the  project; one of our biggest challenges was keeping the teetering pile of books on the loveseat from falling over when he spied one of his favorites in the stack and attempted to winkle it out.

I had hoped to look at some orange peel under the microscope, break out a bottle of orange tempera paint, and teach the kids the “O-R-I-O-L-E-S” chant, but we ran out of hours in the day.  In a way, that’s a blessing, because it means the next time the skies are cloudy and we decided to add vividness to our world by having another “orange day,” we still have plenty of different options to celebrate the color of late afternoon sunshine.

We did, however, manage to work in apricots and macaroni and cheese for lunch and carrots with our dinner.

The girls, upon hearing the news of Maurice Sendak’s death, have decided that tomorrow should be “wild things” day.  I approve.

Actually, Bugaboo brought a little mist to my eye when she saw the tidings.  My oldest brother gave the tribe a copy of Where the Wild Things Are for Christmas last year, and it is a favorite of all four tiny people.  We had explained to them that their uncles and their parents all loved the book as children, and we were happy to be able to share this piece of our childhood with them.  Bugaboo ran to the shelf, hunted furiously until she found the book, and brought it to me with the admonition, “Mommy, you need to email Uncle and make sure he’s not too sad, and please tell him his book is safe with me.”

Here’s the song reference.

Today’s prayer:  Thank You, Lord, for orange, for afternoon sunlight, apricots, carrots, butterflies, and everything else You thought to color with so cheerful a hue.  Thank You for the abundance of books, good food, and craft supplies with which our house is blessed, and thank You for little blessings who see You in all things bright and beautiful.  You advised us that Your people will be known by their fruits; please, Lord, grow our family tree into a beacon of love to nourish the hearts of those who seek Your kingdom.  Thank You for eyes to see the brightness and beauty of the days You grant us, and tongues to taste and proclaim Your goodness.

Somebody’s watching me

Whenever we have the opportunity, we try to take Nonno and Deedaw a treat, simply because they are Nonno and Deedaw and, while they expend a great deal of time, energy, and funds doing things for other people, they very rarely indulge themselves.  In this instance, Grandpa had instructed me to do something for Nonno and Deedaw on his behalf; he had wanted to send them flowers or a fruit basket after Nonno’s surgery, but after I advised him they had both in such quantities they could set up a florist shop and a fruit stand, he asked my husband and I to find something appropriate, something that would bring a little happiness to their day.

Since Nonno and Deedaw are big fans of all things crustacean, we decided that some lobsters and crab legs would brighten their day, and would also fit within the budget we’d been given by Grandpa.  After a quick call to Deedaw to ask her not to make any meat for Sunday dinner, we headed to our local grocery (which has a pretty good seafood department) and, after a brief wait for the steamer, exited with two large, warm boxes.  Our surprise had the desired effect of making Nonno and Deedaw smile, and the added bonus of causing them to rain down prayers for Grandpa and Nana.

When we sat down to dinner, it just so happened that the lobsters were facing Bugaboo.

As she was demolishing a plate of pasta (no matter what else we may have to eat, pasta is always the first course at Nonno and Deedaw’s, and salad the last), Bugaboo kept eyeing her dinner companions suspiciously.  As she was finishing her radiatore, she finally burst out, “I do not like the way those lobsters are looking at me!”

We all laughed, including Beanie and Mr. Man.  Nonno and I turned the lobsters so they couldn’t “see” Bugaboo any longer, and we all enjoyed a feast together.  As we were eating, however, Bugaboo continued casting sidelong glances at the lobsters and, after she had finished everything on her plate, she looked up at Nonno and inquired, “May I touch the lobster?”

“Of course you can touch the lobster.”  She reached a tentative finger towards the one remaining steamer; when she had all but touched it, Nonno suddenly erupted, “Ouch!”

Beanie and Deedaw nearly fell out of their chairs laughing.  My husband and I bit our lips as our oldest daughter drew herself up to her full forty-one inch height and shook her finger at her grandfather, sternly admonishing him, “Nonno, you should not frighten little girls like that.”

At that point, we joined in the laughter, too.  It was a merry dinner, indeed.

Here’s the song reference.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we gathered together in Your name, on the day of the week consecrated to You, to share food and fellowship with our family.  Thank you for the hearts and lips that overflowed with laughter, and for the blessing of two families coming together in love.  Help me teach Your blessings that, because You claim all of us through Your Son, we have family wherever we find love for You, but that we honor our parents and grandparents with an especial love.  Your love letters honor them in the book called Proverbs, and remind us that “gray hair is a crown of glory (Pr 16:31);” please help us honor them as You exhort us to do.

And, Lord, thank You for all of our senses of humor.

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.

Color our world

Yesterday was sort of an odd day, but it did involve a lot of sleep,which was a definite plus.  We’ve had a lot of early morning thunderstorms this week, which has led to the tiny people waking too early and snarking their way through days.  I’ve had my share of cranky moments, too.  The boys slept until almost 10:00 (this is rare — Beanie and Bugaboo are generally up by 7:00, while Mr. Man and Baby Guy usually make their presences known by 8:00), and by the time they awoke, the girls had giggled their way through several art projects, several stories, and an interesting round of make-believe starring Bugaboo as Camomod, the Flying Hero Girl (the name is her own creation) that I had to interrupt to tell my oldest daughter that she was not permitted to practice her flying skills by jumping off the headboards of the beds.

Once Mr. Man and Baby Guy woke and devoured pumpkin butter sandwiches and bananas for breakfast, it was time to head for the grocery store.   Armed with a list that was longer than it strictly needed to be (Grandma and Grandpa will both be here today, so I wanted to have a few extra dinner ingredients on hand), a pocketful of coupons, and a bottle for Baby Guy, I challenged the three walking children to a race to the van.  For the first time since Mr. Man learned to walk, I didn’t have to herd any lollygaggers after I buckled Baby Guy into his seat, so I’ll have to remember that tactic.

The tribe was delighted to discover that their campaign for a car cart was successful, and there were a couple parked directly in front of the store.  After a brief dust-up over who would get to share the car portion of the cart with Mr. Man (Bugaboo prevailed, and I explained to Beanie that whining and screaming in the parking lot will not procure her heart’s desires), we were off.  Beanie’s annoyance at being denied the second steering wheel was assuaged by my assurance that since she was walking instead of riding, she would get to be the big girl helper and put things in the shopping basket.

We entered our neighborhood grocery through the produce section, which is always a fun place to be with the tribe.  Mr. Man has been working on the names of colors lately, and Bugaboo was cheerfully quizzing him on the colors of carrots, peppers, and bananas as I perused.  Beanie carefully selected a bag of dark green avocadoes, inquired about the quantity of bananas we had at home, and needed a little help getting the five pound bag of carrots into the cart.  Once the cart was about a quarter full with fresh fruit and vegetables, I looked at the next item on my list, which happened to be pudding cups.

I do not normally buy pudding cups, but there were a few factors in play.  Factor one:  I had coupons which reduced the price of each pack of pudding cups to about thirty cents.  Factor two:  our grocery store has weekly features where, if you buy a certain number of items on the list, you get twenty cents per gallon off a gasoline purchase, and pudding cups were one of those featured items this week.  Gas is still close to $4 a gallon here, and my van has a twenty two gallon tank.  Factor three:  we do a lot of picnicking in the spring and summer, and pudding cups are nice to have on hand for lunches in the park.  Factor four:  the food bank is looking for dessert items, and pudding cups fit the bill and the budget.  Four factors, four wins, eight packages of pudding cups.  Stewardship comes in sweet, small, preservative-laden packages sometimes.

Beanie literally jumped for joy when I informed her that she had the awesome responsibility of picking out the eight packages of creamy goodness since she was, after all, my big girl helper.  Pudding cups of every flavor went flying into the basket, and somehow, she managed to take requests from Bugaboo (caramel) and Mr. Man (CHOCKWIT!!!!!).  I was delighted that she even remembered that the puddings with the blue label were “Grandma’s pudding,” and carefully selected a package of sugar-free cinnamon pudding, with an admonition to me not to forget to give it to Grandma (Grandma has diabetes, but enjoys a nice pudding cup from time to time).

As we proceeded down the canned fruit and juice aisle, Bugaboo convinced Beanie to trade places with her, so Beanie could ride in the car and Bugaboo could be my helper.  While they were trading places, Bugaboo informed me that Mr. Man had removed something from one of the store shelves and was refusing to replace it.

There are rules governing very small children and objects removed from grocery store shelves when I still have a couple dozen items on my shopping list.  First rule:  check to see if the object is breakable or openable by the child.  If it is, replace it with something else of a similar size, weight, and color that is on the list anyway, which cannot be opened or broken by the tiny person.  Second rule:  remind the child that we have to pay for whatever is in our cart at the end of the trip.  Third rule:  if it’s something I was planning to get anyway, thank the child for helping and remind him or her to ask before rendering any further assistance.

Fortunately, Mr. Man had acquired a plastic jar of unsweetened applesauce, which he loves almost as much as hot Italian sausage.  He cradled it gently in his wee hands all through the store, and briefly surrendered it to our smiling checkout lady, holding it up to her with a hopeful, “Pay take home eat?”

Baby Guy’s milk lasted just long enough for us to complete our selections and pay for our purchases (one of these days, I’ll post my standard grocery list as a help to any readers who struggle with grocery budgets; we feed our family of six on under $400 a month, and each meal includes at least one serving of some fresh produce item), and we headed for home with plenty of food and everyone chuckling over Mr. Man and his applesauce.  Groceries were stowed while the tribe demolished the lunch we’d picked up at the store; after that, Mr. Man and Baby Guy were ready for a nap.

Unexpectedly, Bugaboo was ready for a nap about an hour later.  She hasn’t really napped since just before she turned 3, which is why we have “quiet time” while the boys are sleeping.  Reading, TV time, or quiet crafts (or the balance of seatwork, sometimes) can fill those two hours, but only on very rare occasions do either she or Beanie actually sleep.

Beanie took a quick snooze, too, but Bugaboo’s nap was of the three hour variety, so Beanie got a lot of “I have Mommy all to myself” time.  We read her favorite stories for a while, and then she asked for some paints.  It irritates her when her colors get muddled, so she’s been practicing cleaning her brush with water and a paper towel between colors; she’s also determined, for reasons known only to her, to figure out how to paint a completely straight line.  For about an hour and a half, she adorned big sheets of paper with her practicing, presenting each one to me with a chirpy, “I made this just for you!” and receiving my smiling, “You do lovely work, sweetheart.  Thank you for thinking of me when you make something beautiful.”

I love my job.

Here’s the song reference.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we know how important and beautiful the rich array of hues in Your creation are because, in the beginning of Your creation and the beginning of Your book of love letters to us, You made the rainbow as a sign of Your promise.  Thank You for the healthy eyes You have given us to see and appreciate them, to admire the beauty of Your handiwork, and thank You for Your little blessings who delight in them.  Help me teach them that every shade You have made is a reason to celebrate, that there is beauty and purpose in every hue in the heavens and on earth, and to see the blooming of flowers and the browning of leaves as parts of the glorious rainbow of Your promise of Heaven if we walk in friendship with You.  When we err, as we will do, give our eyes the grace to see the colors around us as reminders of that promise, calling us to wholeheartedly seek the happiness You promise us we will find through earnest repentance and return.

And thank You, Lord, for the days of simple pleasures and the grace of a heart that sings with joy at the simple knowledge that You are.