Tag Archive | homeschooling

She will sing, sing a new song

Here’s the song reference.

We homeschool year-round, taking breaks of a week or two when they seem warranted.  Quite honestly, when we try to take longer breaks, Beanie gets weepy and starts asking when she can have her math time again. and Bugaboo develops a profound case of Notgonnadoit Syndrome with respect to pretty much everything.  We had been on a bit of a break through most of May, but in the early days of June, it became obvious that it was time to do some formal school time again.  Out came the math and penmanship books, but no more than that.  It is, after all, summer, and one of the more important lessons they’ll learn is the glory of a summer’s day, and the value of time that has only minimal limits.

I do, however, make it a point to have a few things lying around that, should any pint-sized personages complain of boredom, can be immediately placed into their waiting hands to relieve that dread malady.  Most of those things are of the printed matter variety.  As it happened, today’s selections were a book of traditional children’s games and the Wee Sing children’s songs and fingerplays songbook.  Since none of the tribe slept especially well last night, I declared universal naptime at noon, immediately following lunch, primarily to prevent bloodshed.

Beanie and Bugaboo, even on the rare days when they do nap, don’t sleep long during the day.  When they tumbled downstairs to see what wonders the latter part of the day might bring, I first offered them the opportunity to straighten up their room.  There are times when having taught these children logic works to my short-term disadvantage, as was the case when our daughters brightly informed me that the picking up and storage of Legos results in a decibel level that is nearly certain to awaken their little brothers, both of whom happen to be nursing summer colds.  To their credit, they did wash the dining room table and put the books back on the shelf in the playroom, since they agreed that a chore or two would be in order.

Since Mr. Man and Baby Guy were still sawing logs when the girls completed their labors, I handed Bugaboo the book of children’s games and Beanie the songbook, then suggested that each might choose something from her book to learn today, to teach the rest of the tribe.   Since both of them love to be placed in charge of almost anything, my recommendation was met with the quiet rush of two pairs of bare feet scampering off to preferred reading spots.

While the girls were weighing their gaming and musical options, Baby Guy shambled down the stairs, arms laden with toy cars and mumbling something about needing milk.  As I filled his cup, Beanie skidded into the kitchen, waving her songbook, and Bugaboo bellowed from the downstairs that freeze tag looked like great fun.  We play regular tag, but she had been hitherto unaware of the freeze variant.  Beanie had found a song she found enchanting, but needed some help figuring out the tune.  Off to the family room couch we four went, Baby Guy dripping cars as he walked, Bugaboo loving her baby brother by gathering them as they fell, so he would still have the full complement when we arrived.

After a moment of figuring out the melody to “Three Blue Pigeons” and a quick round of practice, Bugaboo suggested we sing and play tag outside.  Mr. Man, who has the worst of the household summer cold, was still peacefully sleeping (he ended up taking a four-hour nap).  Allowing him to continue in that state seemed advisable, so, after a quick drink of water to combat the heat of the day, we found a good singing spot in the shade of a grand magnolia.  Little pigeons flew and landed, with a madly grinning Beanie conducting our little chorus.  She tried ever so hard to convince Smudgie that he should be a pigeon, but he was far too interested in chasing us to sit nicely on a wall.

Once we’d tired of playing at being pigeons, and run out of Mo Willems references, it was time to play freeze tag.  Mr. Man was still comfortably snuggled up on Daddy’s pillow, which led Bugaboo to declare that she would give him special freeze tag lessons once he was feeling better.   A noisy, merry chase around the back yard ensued, with Smudgie being declared the winner of our game of freeze tag; any time anyone started to run, he or she was immediately tagged by a cold, wet nose.  Among our other discoveries were Sal’s excellence at sprinting off in random directions but utter inability to freeze, the blissful cool of a light breeze in the shade when we’ve been running, and the softness of grass (relative to dirt) for cushioning high-speed falls.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for summer afternoons, and for the gift of a big back yard where Your blessings can safely revel in them.  Thank you for the ability to read, for those who taught me, that I might later teach Your blessings, and for all those wonderful people who committed their childhood memories to paper that we might learn new and hilarious ways to enjoy Your creation.  When our calendar gets crowded, Lord, and I get cranky over the amount of work to be done, please keep me mindful that what I do, I do to serve You, and the greatest service I give You lies in the time I spend loving Your blessings instead of video screens and telephones.  Help me to cherish these days when playing tag and singing silly songs is my most important labor, and give me the wisdom to always teach Your blessings that we rejoice in each day You send.

I say a little prayer with you

Here’s the song reference.

All the tiny people were awake and active before Manie left for work yesterday morning, a somewhat unusual happenstance, as the boys usually sleep until around 8:00.  This posed certain logistical challenges, since I generally use the time between Manie’s departure and the boys’ awakening to make the morning phone calls in relative quiet.  I’ve never been entirely certain exactly what it is about the appearance of a telephone at the side of my head that causes the volume dial in toddlers’ heads to automatically crank up to ten, but it’s always been the case.  Perhaps one of the tiny people will become a neuroscientist and answer that one for me.

In any event, Grandma had a busy day on tap, so our call was short.  Once she and I had finished our chat, Bugaboo and Beanie were ready to start their math lesson.  Just as they settled in with their books and pencils, Deedaw called me before I could call her, as she had errands to run and wanted to get an earlier than usual start to her own day.  We had just started to discuss Manie’s building project for this weekend when Baby Guy ambled into the kitchen, arms laden with toy cars and trucks.

The little fellow climbed up into his daddy’s chair at the kitchen table, as he often does during the day, and started to arrange his load on the table.  Bugaboo and Beanie loudly complained at him, since he was shaking the table with the force of his parking the cars on the wood.  Still talking with Deedaw, I started to gather up Baby Guy’s playthings and gently return them to the living room; we discourage the playing of Demolition Derby on the kitchen table during seatwork time.  Mr. Man was having a morning romp with Smudgie in the back yard, having already devoured a waffle and about a quarter of a pound of cheese.

This turn of events greatly displeased Baby Guy, who alighted from his perch, stomped into the living room, loudly insisting upon the necessity of having toy motor vehicles in the kitchen as he went, wagging his wee finger at me and scowling as he intoned, “Babababad!”  Deedaw, being on the other end of the phone line, could laugh.  Apparently the audio of the scene made it pretty easy for her to get the visual.

We repeated our little dance, with Baby Guy slamming his toys onto the table and me gently gathering them and returning them to the other room.  His complaints finally became so loud and continuous, and were so augmented by Beanie and Bugaboo’s warranted lament that the racket made it impossible for them to concentrate on solving math problems, that Deedaw and I agreed to cut our conversation short.

After hanging up the phone, I remonstrated with Baby Guy about the principle that if books are on the table, cars and trucks should not be, gave him a kiss on the head and a cup of milk for his hand, sat down at the table between our daughters, and opened up my laptop to order American Heritage Girls uniforms for Bugaboo and Beanie, figuring we should have at least ten minutes of peace.

This being the fourth time since 2009 we’ve had a two-year-old in the house, one might think I’d know better.  However, our children come by their thick skulls honestly.  As I typed in all the shipping information, Baby Guy returned to the kitchen, fire truck in hand, and proceeded to clamber back up into Manie’s chair, gleefully shrieking, “I da FIYUH CHEEF!” as he did so.

Beanie put her head down in her math book.  Bugaboo started twirling her hair around her pencil, glowering alternately at her youngest brother and her mother.

“Baby Guy.  This is schoolwork time.  We cannot have trucks on the table during math lessons.  Take it back into the living room please.”

His wee face crumpled, his little chest heaved, and he started to cry big, fat, sad tears as he wailed, “No wivig woom!  Fiyuh cheef!  Bump twucks on tabuh!”

I picked him and his fire truck up, set them both gently on the floor, and gave him a little pat on the back to indicate that he did, indeed, need to head for the other room.  “Go on, sweetheart.  We’ll be done soon, and then we can all play fire chiefs together.”

Baby Guy collapsed on the floor in a shuddering, sobbing, heap.

His sisters stared – not at him, but at me.  No mathematical equations were being solved.  The problem at hand only tangentially had anything to do with books.

“Hey, girls, put your pencils in your books and close them for a minute.” I scooped up Baby Guy and snuggled him against my chest.  His tears made wet tracks down my shirt front as he tremblingly pushed his red face into my chest.  “I think maybe Baby Guy is sad that he missed when we did our morning prayers.  Would you mind if we did them again?”

Beanie jumped on that lifeboat with a cheerful, “That’s a great idea!  There’s no such thing as too many prayers!”

I cradled Baby Guy’s little hands between mine as we repeated our morning devotions, feeling the hitches in his breathing slowly diminish, then stop, as he calmed in my embrace.  The words of the prayers, and the promises they contained, washed over me, particularly “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  As we finished praying together, Baby Guy’s countenance having settled into a contented smile, I whispered into his hair, “I’m sorry, baby.”

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Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for the reminder that Your blessings inherited many traits from me, including the tendency to be a little thick-headed.  Please grant me the grace to have as much patience with them as You have with me.  Please open my eyes to their need for comfort and attention, and keep me mindful that however important whatever I’m ordering on the computer at that particular moment may seem to be, it pales when compared to the significance of spending that same time with one of Your little blessings.  Engrave it upon my heart, Lord, that what may appear to be an inconvenience is, in Your eyes, an opportunity for me to teach Your blessings that love means my to-do list can wait.

Bang your head

Here’s the song reference.

Our kitchen is slightly less orderly than usual at the moment, perhaps because our dishwasher decided to resign a bare two months before we’re supposed to be moving.  I have no particular objection to washing dishes by hand; truth be told, I have many vivid and cheerful memories of drying dishes in Granny’s kitchen, and am somewhat looking forward to passing that experience along to my own children.  Even Baby Guy can dry and stow the spoons.  However, it does disrupt our morning timing somewhat, and while the tiny people are not exactly enslaved to their routine, they will take advantage of distractions and diversions to skitter off to Lego-land instead of working on their morning seatwork.

Nonetheless, we headed for the park to take advantage of a warm, sunny day, the second-to-last Wednesday of summer, and a day on which the less time I spend in front of any electronic media, the happier our entire household is.  Since we were running low on what we call “portable food,” and because we are trying not to generate more dishes than are necessary, we stopped at the nearby grocery store to acquire grapes, cheese, and carrots to eat for lunch.  Augmented by the blueberry biscuits I’d found in the pantry, we had the makings of a warm day’s feast.

As I was loading Baby Guy into the shopping cart seat, and his siblings were scrambling into their accustomed positions around the cart, our youngest set up a pitiable cry of, “Cuppy!  Cuppy! Where cuppy?”

I had asked Beanie to locate and carry Baby Guy’s sippy cup.  Mr. Man clung to his blankie, Bugaboo carried a stuffed penguin whithersoever she went, and had her pancake bunny when they still had to have a security object in their travels, but for Baby Guy, it has been a sippy cup since he learned to use one.  Fortunately, the color and style of sippy cup matter not to him, as long as he has one.  “Hey, Beanie, do you remember where you put Baby Guy’s cuppy?”

“I think I forgot it.”

Those who have raised toddlers just winced a little.

After a quick reminder to Beanie that Baby Guy was likely to be quite unhappy for the duration of our trip to the store, I mentally added a cup for the little fellow to our shopping list.  Baby Guy continued wailing unhappily about the absence of Cuppy, and I exhorted the tribe to set as brisk a pace as possible without running, which would be unseemly and unsafe in a grocery store.  Shepherding the older children as we trotted, I awkwardly rubbed Baby Guy’s back while pushing the cart upon which he sat and trying to murmur soothing words in between reminders to Beanie and Mr. Man that trying to step on the backs of one another’s shoes is not an approved game.

Few other customers were in the store at the time of our arrival, so we were able to acquire our few items largely unimpeded.  With four small children, I’ve developed a knack for snagging and carting things in stores without breaking stride.  When we arrived at the baby supplies aisle, however, I had to come to a full stop to select an appropriate cup.  The price of sippy cups at a grocery store has become genuinely ridiculous, and I was taken aback at the thought of spending seven dollars on a single drinking vessel.

We’d been meaning to transition Baby Guy from sippy cups to straw cups anyway, so I tossed a package of them into the cart and headed for the checkout.  To Baby Guy’s very great delight, these particular cups featured characters from the movie Cars.  He’s never seen the movie, but he loves cars.  He did not, however, love that the cups were in the cart instead of his hands, and proceeded to express his displeasure the way all of his siblings did at the same age, to wit: by pounding his head vigorously upon the nearest available surface, which in this instance happened to be the handle of the shopping cart.

We made our way back to the van without serious damage to Baby Guy’s cranium (my pediatrician’s advice has been to ignore this behavior strenuously, and only give reinforcement of any kind when the behavior changes to something that does not involve head-banging, and he’s been right so far – this stage only lasts a couple of weeks if the child doesn’t get what she or he wants from it, because it really doesn’t feel very good).  After a light-speed load-in, I reassured Baby Guy that upon our arrival at the park, he would be presented with a snazzy new cup full of his beverage of choice (he’s a milk junkie).  That changed his wail from one desirous of a cup to one pleading for the playground, which I counted as progress as we hit the road.

Once I’d settled our cooler on our base of operations, a picnic table in the shade of the pavilion next to the playground and helped Baby Guy drink deeply from his new cup, the tiny people scattered in all directions to swing, slide, climb, and make friends with the other children cavorting through the play equipment.  I stayed by the cooler to hand out drinks and food, as Mr. Man is in the habit of staging raids which result in edibles flying in all directions as he seeks his snack of choice.  Baby Guy, while somewhat put out by my denial of his request to carry his new “Cuppy” around the playground with him, was quickly lost in his quest to see exactly how fast he can descend a sliding board.  Bugaboo and Beanie cheerfully set about making friends with the other homeschooled kids who were already there, and I introduced myself to the ladies at the other table, who were meeting there to talk about setting up a new American Heritage Girls troop.  After sharing our overabundance of grapes with them, since they were the mothers of the rest of the children at the playground, I retired to our base camp to continue my rolling head count of my own crew.

We passed a pleasant hour at the park, with the tribe careening between the cooler and the playground.  Once Mr. Man and Beanie started a mulch-throwing party, however, it was time for us to depart.  The day was hot; all four children were red-faced and sweaty, so it seemed an opportune time to head home, get Baby Guy a nap, do a little schoolwork, and maybe catch an episode of “How It’s Made,” which is Bugaboo’s current obsession.

I called to the tiny people, “Bugaboo!  Beanie!  Mr. Man!  Baby Guy!  It’s time to go now!”

The predictable protest ensued.  Baby Guy attempted to flee up the steps of one of the slides, having not yet watched enough horror movies to know that when one is being pursued, one should never run up the stairs.  I tucked him onto my hip and waded back through the playground, trailing a line of little kids, each of whom had his or her own reason why we should stay at the park for ten more minutes, or even another hour.  Bugaboo and Beanie quickly remembered that Mommy is something of a Borg about park departure times; resistance is futile, and possibly counterproductive.  Mr. Man, however, would live at the playground if we would allow it.

Our three-year-old son, ruddy-faced from the heat and exertion, stomped and shuffled his way across the playground to the pavilion where I was retrieving our cooler, whining as he went, paying far more attention to his lament than he was to the tree roots that protruded from the ground.  With the grace typical for his age, he tripped over a tree root and landed, forehead first, on the corner of the concrete pad that forms the floor of the pavilion.

With Baby Guy still riding on my hip, I ran and scooped up my wailing child in my free arm.  The sound of a full-throated scream from a child who has just hit his head with a great deal of force is authentically beautiful – it means he’s conscious. As I clutched him to my chest and made my way to a bench to survey the damage, I suddenly found myself surrounded by the ladies who had been meeting at the other table.

“Is he okay?  Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I think he’s okay, but there’s a lot of dirt on his forehead, do any of you happen to have a wipe I could use, please?”

One lady produced a wipe, another grabbed a ziplock bag and an ice cube from her cooler.  After we had applied both to Mr. Man’s head, we discovered that while he had an impressive goose egg and abrasion, the swelling was all directed outwards.  I thanked the ladies profusely, and in response to their inquiry regarding whether we needed any further assistance, I replied, “Let me see.  Mr. Man, will you be okay if we can get home and find you some chocolate?”

“Ye- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) sh.  I need some chocolate for medicine, and chocolate will make me feel all better.”

We four moms chuckled discreetly.  Having calmed both boys (Baby Guy cries when Mr. Man does), I explained the story of a high school friend’s father’s method of determining the severity of his many children’s claimed illnesses and injuries.  If a child complained of being sick or hurt, he would produce a bowl of ice cream, give it to the complaining child, and watch for results.  If the child was still sick or hurt after eating the ice cream, a trip to the doctor was probably warranted; if not, the child was sent off to school.

For the record, Mr. Man is in fine fettle this morning, and currently quite put out that Mommy is focusing on her laptop instead of her son.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding me that the thick skulls You gave Your blessings are a gift; I forget that sometimes.  Thank You for the kindness of strangers, for the love they showed Your blessings and I at the park yesterday, for the reminder that sometimes “I love you” is said best by having the humility to accept assistance from people we don’t know.  Thank You for enough grapes to share, and for a bright, peaceful, and sunny day, where the only heat we encountered was from the late summer sun.  Please help us teach Your blessings to love without fear; empty me of my doubts and suspicions, and fill that space with trust in Your providence.  We would raise children who live in joyful anticipation of Your kingdom, and who see a glimmer of You in every face, even if that face is twisted with rage, or malice, or a pain we cannot fathom.  Grant us the grace of hearts that do what You made them to do, which is to love and serve You by loving and serving all of our neighbors, and by humbly thanking You for blessing us with them.

Black vultures, if you please

Here’s the song reference.

One of our favorite features of homeschooling is the freedom to go wherever the tribe’s curiosity takes us, insofar as learning is concerned.  While we have a daily requirement of English, math and religious studies lessons, it’s not uncommon for the day’s planned science or history lesson to be set aside in favor of exploring some question one of the tiny people has posed, particularly when it’s one to which I don’t have an immediate answer.

Yesterday, while she was working on her arithmetic, Bugaboo heard a bird crying in the skies outside, and excitedly declared, “I think I hear a vulture!”

“Hmm. I don’t think so, Bugaboo, that sounded more like a crow to me.”

“What sound do vultures make, Mommy?”

“I’m not exactly sure, honestly.  Tell you what.  You finish your math, there, and Beanie, you finish yours, while I get the computer and see what I can find.”

“Okay! Maybe we can learn how to talk to them!”

We live in a semi-rural area, where wildlife populations are robust.  Because the automobile population is also robust, Bugaboo and her siblings are accustomed to seeing vultures on the side of the road, cleaning up the inevitable results of encounters between the two populations.  I believe her first inquiry about the big carrion birds came when she was about three, at which time I explained to her that every creature the Lord created has some purpose, and vultures are God’s garbagemen, eating up the dead things so they don’t stink for a long time.  Seconds later, I had to further explain that no, vultures would not make good pets, in spite of the amount of garbage we might be able to generate.

I still haven’t come up with an explanation for the purpose of mosquitoes, unless they’re meant to be a reminder that the smallest things can cause the biggest trouble.

Grinning as I recalled that conversation, I fetched the laptop from its table and started searching for vulture calls online.  The first interesting result didn’t have any actual vulture speech, but was a nifty two-minute short about the black vulture.

“Hey, Bugaboo, hey, Beanie, take a little break.”  I turned the screen so it faced Bugaboo’s chair.  “This doesn’t have their actual calls, but it’s interesting anyway.”  Beanie scrambled out of her chair and tucked in beside her sister, and the two of them raptly watched a nature center’s introduction to one of its avian inhabitants.

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“That was neat, Mommy, can we watch it again?”

“Sure, why not?  Then you can finish up your math while I look for some more, and hopefully I’ll be able to find one with the actual sounds vultures make.”

Bugaboo hurriedly recommenced solving equations, while Beanie dawdled her way back to her chair.  Vultures were significantly more interesting than practicing sums.  A few minutes later, I located a page with audio clips of the various sounds turkey vultures make, cranked up the volume, and played the sounds for the girls.  “Mommy, they sounds like they’re snoring!” exclaimed Bugaboo excitedly.

“They do, don’t they?  And listen to this – when a young turkey vulture thinks it’s in danger, it hisses like a cat.”


After all the math and reading were done, the girls headed off to play while I looked for documentaries about vultures on Netflix and Fios.  My lesson for yesterday was that if one searches with the string “movies about vultures,” one will get a large number of search results that have absolutely nothing to do with wildlife.  While I didn’t succeed in finding anything vulture-specific, I was able to add Sir David Attenborough’s excellent Life of Birds series to our queue, along with Wild Kratts (am I the only one who misses Zoboomafoo?) and a quirky little animated series called Oscar’s Oasis, which features a vulture as one of the recurring villainous characters.

By the time I finished my searching, Baby Guy and Mr. Man had finished their breakfasts and begun making merry mayhem in their sisters’ room.  If I’m not mistaken, Legos were being used as missiles, and I think it was Baby Guy who pulled Beanie’s Wall Tracks off of the wall . . . again.  With a sigh and a bit of an eyeroll, I waded into the battle zone to deliver the news that suitably education viewing materials had, in fact, been located, and that should the room be rendered navigable again, we could watch them over sandwiches on the couch.

We watched the Attenborough episode about carnivorous birds, after which Baby Guy decided he was ready for a nap.  I decided Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man and I could use a little rest, too, so I came back upstairs from tucking Baby Guy in with Mr. Man’s blankies and pillow, then advised all and sundry that we could have a little movie if everyone could rest quietly while we did so.  Since Joseph, King of Dreams happens to have vultures in it, that seemed like a good viewing choice, and gave me a good opportunity to talk with the tribe about the importance of forgiveness (a particularly relevant lesson, given what we commemorate today), we watched that, each of us in repose in our comfy spot of choice in the living room.

Before we left for Deedaw’s in the late afternoon, we had also caught an episode of Oscar’s Oasis, and talked about references to vultures in the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Revelations, as well as the Gospels of Mark and Luke.  We read up on carrion birds in our wildlife folio collection, and talked about avian life cycles and anatomy.  My one regret is that we didn’t have time to turn our newfound knowledge into a craft project of some kind, but I suspect we’ll devise one today.

Our drive over to Deedaw’s house was punctuated by joyful exclamations from Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man whenever they spotted vultures circling overheard.  As we drove past a car dealership, Bugaboo explained to Mr. Man, “Look, there are lots of vultures flying over that car store.  That means there’s probably something tasty there, probably in the back, and it’s probably stinky, too.  There’s lots of cars at a car store, so maybe somebody ran something over, and the vultures are waiting for it to be safe for them to go eat it.  Then it won’t be stinky anymore, it will just be food in the vulture’s tummy.”

They also made a project of teaching Baby Guy to say, “Booteeful vuchuz!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the eyes of Your blessings, so eager to find the beauty in every living thing You created.  Thank You for the ability to read, and the joy of passing that skill along to the tiny people You have entrusted to my care.  Thank You for reminding me, through them, how full of wonder the world is, and to contemplate how all the things in it work together for Your glory.

Lord, on this day when the minds of so many will be occupied with remembrances of a day filled with evil, fill my heart with awe and joy.  Help me teach Your blessings to seek Your face on dark days, to find that glimmer of You in every other person, and to respond to each of them as You would have, with gentleness even in reproof, by sharing whatever nourishment those other souls may need.  Please guard our hearts and tongues from wrath, and help us remember to seek justice instead of vengeance in all things.

These shall not be forgotten years

Here’s the song reference.

After a chaotic weekend, it’s always a pleasure to have a mellow day on Monday, with no plans that involve dashing hither and yon.  Yesterday was such a day; although even Mr. Man and Baby Guy were awake and rambunctious before 7:30 a.m., no one was advocating for any trips involving distances beyond our back yard.  There were, however, quite a few requests for movies; the frequency and plaintiveness of those inquiries, combined with the still-prominent grey circles under four lovely pairs of eyes, told me we had one tuckered-out tribe.  Naps would be taken.  Huzzah!

Bugaboo and Beanie practiced their addition with regrouping and sentence structure, and colored some lovely pictures of the Blessed Mother. Baby Guy and Mr. Man ambled in while the girls were working and requested “schoolwork” of their own, and were rewarded with coloring pages;  Baby Guy is getting much better at consuming crayons by using them to color instead of to eat. While Mr. Man’s interest in writing letters and numbers is intensifying, he still likes to color, especially if his sisters are coloring, and it’s almost a certainty that our elder son is left-handed.  It runs in the family.

After that little bit of table work, the tiny people ran off to play with Legos, soccer balls, Smudgie, a katydid they found in the yard, and each other.  In between folding laundry and packing donation boxes for this morning’s veterans pickup, I read them stories, kissed a few boo-boos, and offered several gentle reminders that if you wouldn’t want someone to do something to you, you probably ought not do it to him or her. I spend a great deal of time doing that.  Incidentally, some of that time is spent explaining to a child snuggled into my lap why I should not have chosen to react harshly to some actual or perceived behavioral infraction.  If we want our children to learn humility and forgiveness, we have to show them what it looks like.  One of my more obscure blessings is that I screw up with enough frequency that I have lots of opportunities to model that on a regular basis.

Yesterday being the memorial of St. Peter Claver, we spent some time reading and talking not only about the good saint and his ministry, but also about Moses and the enslavement of the Israelites.  We ran back and forth between the couch, where we cuddle up to read, and the map on the hallway wall, to find the different places these people had lived and answered the Lord’s call.  Bugaboo and Beanie were both appalled by the concept that people had ever been viewed as property, to be bought, sold, and disposed of as another person pleased, and utterly horrified that the practice still exists.  We prayed together for both the liberation of those held in bondage and for the Lord’s grace in changing the hearts of those who use people as things.

Later in the day, when even solid naps had not ameliorated the fatigue of four small children who had a very busy weekend, I finally acceded to their earlier requests for some screen time, on the conditions that we would watch show episodes only, and that in between shows we would do something else.  The “something elses” ranged from drawing pictures of things they recalled from the shows (their renderings of Chuck the Truck were pretty darned cute), to putting away specified categories of toys in their rooms, to eating dinner, to practicing our best Woody Woodpecker laughs (click the link, they’re funny).  I had to deliver a couple of “time-outs” for jumping on the couch (behind which is a ten foot drop to the foyer floor), and one for wanton whackings with a Tonka fire truck (Baby Guy got his diaper in a dither because Beanie wouldn’t surrender her watching spot on the couch), but there was a great deal of giggling and general silliness in the latter part of the day.

While Manie and I occasionally differ over child-rearing minutiae, such as how many Oreos constitutes an acceptable dessert serving for a preschooler, the one guiding principle upon which we have agreed since (literally) our first date is that we want our children to have a childhood, and we want them to remember it as a time when they were innocent, when their responsibilities involved keeping their rooms in some semblance of order, collecting food for the food bank, and learning how to play with others with civility and respect.  We revel in these years where a big night out involves Chuck E Cheese or Joe’s Crab Shack (which, for the record, has an *awesome* outdoor playground to go with its tasty seafood fare).  Do we miss restaurants with fancy china and crystal and establishments where live rock music is played?  Sometimes, yes, and once or twice a year we engage the services of a babysitter and enjoy a couple of hours in the world where only adults tread.

In one of the books Mr. Man asked me to read to him yesterday afternoon, I found the following little prayer:  “Lord, You are good to me.  Thank You for my family.  Watch me closely while I play.  Help my friends throughout the day.”

When they are grown, we want our kids to thank God for parents who let them be children, parents who never considered them fashion accessories or trinkets to be trotted out for the admiration of others, but loved them as the small people in need of nurturing and protection they are.  We want them to remember that while yeah, Mommy sometimes let them watch an Avengers episode just so she could make a phone call in peace, our time with them was more important than anything else.

Maybe we’re not the cool parents who think it’s so cute to let toddlers dance on a bar at night, or teach their preschoolers how to be sexy, or give second graders unrestricted cell phone and internet service, or take girls who are still figuring out how to detangle their own hair for a spa day.  That’s okay.  We know how to throw gummy bears in the air and catch them on our tongues, how to laugh like Woody Woodpecker, and how to say, “no,” in such a way that it sounds like, “I love you.”

Today’s prayer:

Lord, when Manie and I married, we asked You to bless our marriage with children.  Thank You for answering our prayer with great abundance, and for the trust You have placed in us with Your answer.  We try to thank You by giving them an example of how we honor You in our thoughts, words, and deeds, how we humble ourselves when we err, and how we savor the days of childhood without polluting them by forcing small children into adult environments and situations.  Thank You for “off” buttons, for books, for mud, and for little chocolate-covered fingers.  And Lord, please don’t ever let us get so busy pursuing our own entertainment that we either shove Your blessings off in a corner or take them places children should not go.  They will encounter the adult world soon enough.  Please help us provide them with the tools they will need to beautify it with Your light, Lord, because there is an overabundance of dark corners in it.  Let us teach them that love without sacrifice is not worthy of the name.

And, Lord, when I am tempted to push my children aside because there’s something I’d rather do, help me remember the six children who went straight to Your arms.  Give me whatever I will need to raise the four siblings who run to mine so that all ten of them will gather together in Your presence at the end of time.

The rubber band band starts to jam

Here’s the song reference.

Manie had a rare day off yesterday, as his employer closed in observance of Labor Day, and an even rarer opportunity to sleep until 9 a.m., as the boys also decided to sleep in.  Bugaboo and Beanie chose quiet pursuits, doing a little bit of school work, building a little Lego oasis, reading a couple of books, and I was able to keep the noise I made doing some light cleaning and packing to a minimum.  When the head of our family awoke to the smell of pancakes and bacon cooking, he was ready for some fun with the tiny people.

Over our morning meal, I tantalized the tribe with the promise of a craft involving the many shoeboxes I’d unearthed while cleaning and packing.  The promise of any art project occasions great jubilation among the midget mob; plates were cleaned with lightning speed, although I’m pretty sure Smudgie scored more than his fair share of pancakes amidst the tumult.  As I was washing the breakfast dishes, Bugaboo and Beanie grabbed pencils and textbooks and set quickly about their work, the sooner to be able to delve into whatever crafty wonder awaited.

After breakfast, the girls finished their lessons while the boys tried to outdo each other in both the volume and odoriferousness of diapers filled; even Smudgie fled their presence at one point.  While Bugaboo solved her last few equations and Beanie noodled out her last phonics exercise, I rounded up the half-dozen or so shoeboxes scattered throughout the house, piling them on the table along with rubber bands, waxed paper, and aluminum foil.

Our round-eyed children began filtering into chairs around the kitchen table, curious about the implications attached to such a hoard of treasure.  Mr. Man inquired wonderingly, “What’s that, Mommy?”

“We’re going to make instruments, buddy.”

After a few false starts (silly me, I tried to read them all a saint story while there were interesting things piled on the table), Manie and I managed to get four kids seated and quiet enough to hear directions.  With a flourish, I tore open the bag of rubber bands and announced we would be making guitars, while Manie quietly retrieved a pair of kitchen shears and began cutting a circular hole in a box lid.  Our children are quick studies generally, and after a few rubbery stretches, Baby Guy held the first creation of the day in his little hands, along with an extra rubber band so he could add another string to his instrument if he so chose.

It was a joyful noise, indeed, although we had to referee a couple of ownership disputes over the rarer brightly-colored bands, and after a great deal of experimentation, we ended up with several box guitars, one box bass, a waxed paper-covered comb, and a couple of cardboard kazoos.  Armed with implements of melodiousness, four children and their father tumbled into the living room, led by Bugaboo, who excitedly crowed, “We can make our own band!”

As lunchtime was fast approaching, I enjoyed the art of noise coming from the living room while I tried to restore a semblance of order to the kitchen and turn the ball of pizza dough I’d started, before activities of mass construction had commenced, into a pizza crust.  However, the sounds were so hilarious I felt the need to grab the camera and attempt to record our silliness for posterity.  When there is a two-year-old in your family, keeping some semblance of a meal schedule is essential to maintaining one’s sanity, so I reluctantly had to forego the opportunity to jam with the rubber band band.  Recording the moment for posterity, however, should have been easy.

Once again, I underestimated the force of Bugaboo’s desire to have me participate in playtime.  As I tried to record the hijinks of four kids and their Daddy pretending to be rock stars, Bugaboo, with great persistence, tried to thrust a box guitar at me.  Because I had a bowl of dough in one hand and a camera in the other, I was unable to take what she offered, and tried to wave her off with a smile and a shake of my head, nodding in the direction of her siblings to indicate she should keep playing and having fun with the rest of the family.

She didn’t take the hint, and continued thrusting the guitar at me with increasing force.  Her forehead developed the “I want” groove that is all too familiar.  Her demeanor had escalated from, “please play with me, Mommy,” to “you’re going to do what I want and I’m going to make you” rather quickly.  I stopped the camera before quietly explaining that I was not able to play at that moment because I had some work that needed to be done so everyone could eat, that I had simply been trying to capture a snippet of the fun she and her siblings had been creating, and that I most emphatically did not appreciate having anything pushed at me after I had clearly said, “no.”

Had Bugaboo given any evidence that she was feeling rejected, I probably would have given her a hug and a box guitar a quick strum before returning to lunchtime preparations.  When, instead, she stomped her feet and insisted, “Mommy, you need to do what I tell you,” while continuing to shove the instrument at my midriff, I shook my head and frowned.

“Bugaboo, I’m going to explain something to you.  It is probably the most important thing you will learn today.  When people tells you no, especially if they’re telling you no about something that involves things touching their bodies, you listen, and you stop.  Immediately.  No questions.  Unless you are pulling someone out of a rushing river or a burning building, if someone tells you not to touch them or to get something away from her body, or his body, you stop.  No means no.  Period.  No exceptions.”

She glared at me.

I asked her, “Bugaboo, think about this for a minute.  When someone grabs you, or shoves things at you, and it makes you uncomfortable, even if it just isn’t what you want to do right then, does it make you feel happy?”

The glare metamorphosed into an angry glower.  “No.  And I want them to stop doing it.”

“Right.  Now, think again.  Do you want to play with people who keep doing things like that after you’ve told them to stop?”

The realization crept over her face like cobwebs in a crypt.  “No,” she whispered.

“Then what makes you think that someone would want to play with you when you do it?  Remember, we treat other people the way we want to be treated.  Do you want me to shove things at your tummy when you’re trying to do something else, or do you want me to listen when you say no?”

Softer still came her reply, “I want you to listen.”

“I thought so.  Bugaboo, I really want to play with you guys, but right now, I can’t.  I need to get a pizza in the oven.  And instead of everyone having a good time doing what they were doing, now nobody is playing, partly because instead of doing the fun thing with everyone else, you kind of made it all about you and what you wanted.  That’s not a very good way to say I love you.”

I went back to the kitchen and finished assembling the pizza.  As I worked, I could hear Bugaboo crying, and Manie gently reinforcing the concepts that no, we don’t push things at people and yes, we do stop to consider other people’s needs and feelings, especially when we’re trying to do something with a group.

Once the pizza was assembled, I joined the rest of the band in the living room.  Bugaboo was snuggled on Manie’s lap, strumming a box bass, while Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy sat scattered around the room, seeing what sounds they could charm from their respective instruments.  Surreptitiously, I recorded a few seconds of video, then complimented Bugaboo on the deep, resonant sounds she was drawing from a shoebox strung with colorful rubber bands.

“Thanks, Mommy.  I like this project.  Do you want to play?”

“Absolutely!  Thank you for offering.”  I reached over and plucked the bands, laughing with her at the silly twanging sound my awkward fingers made.  “And thank you for understanding that I had to get lunch ready for all of us before I could play.  Better now?”

“Better now.  What kind of pizza are we having?”

“Ingredients pizza, with green peppers and ham and mushrooms, but I made sure there would be a few slices of just plain cheese.  Does that sound good?”

“That sounds GREAT!  Hey, are there any slices with just cheese that might have some mushrooms on them?”

“Not at this moment, but I’ll bet I could arrange that.”

“Thanks, Mom!”

I leaned down and kissed her head.  “Love you, Bugaboo.  Bunches and bunches.”

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, please keep Your arm around my shoulder and Your hand over my mouth, and grant me the wisdom to understand what can wait and what cannot.  There are times, Lord, when I must instruct or correct Your blessings, especially when it comes to matters of accepting another’s right to be secure in his or her person, but Lord, help me keep a sense of proportion and context, and not let a child’s desire to include me in her play become a reflection of the worldly issues of the day.  Grant us all the grace of understanding that one who makes music, prays twice, and let that desire to prayerfully rejoice override and infuse all of those tasks that must be done.  And please, Lord, keep me mindful that You have entrusted them to our care for a relatively short time, and they will learn every lesson we teach.  Grant me the humility of heart to seek forgiveness even from my children when I am in error, for they will learn this from us, as well.

The final countdown

Here’s the song reference.

The tribe slept in a little yesterday morning, which I attribute to the later sunrise times of late August.  Mr. Man was, once again, the last one to the kitchen for breakfast; by the time he arrived on the scene, Baby Guy had already hauled a fire truck onto the kitchen table, and Beanie and Bugaboo were just about done with their seatwork for the morning.  Beanie, for the record, is setting the world of first-grade math afire, and is on track to start second-grade math before the end of September.  Bugaboo has finally gotten it through her head that she, too, can let her natural math aptitude run wild, and is now racing to catch up with Beanie.  My criterion is strict; they must get at least 90% of any given exercise right on the first attempt, and be able to correct it to 100% accuracy.  If they’re going to accelerate, I cannot have any margin for error when it comes to assessing their skills – but I digress.

Upon his arrival into the kitchen, Mr. Man tugged open the refrigerator door that generally holds his cup of milk (I fill four cups before any of them awaken, so if I’m otherwise occupied, each child can at least sit down with a cup of milk until I can get food that constitutes acceptable breakfast fare in front of him or her), fumbled his cup out of the caddy, then turned to me with a hopeful grin.

“Mommy, I see biscuits.  Can I cook some biscuits, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?”

Every so often, I’ll buy a can of refrigerated biscuits – the really cheap kind.  They’re sort of my emergency lunch plan, since I can throw just about anything on top of or in the middle of a little biscuit and have it deemed positively ambrosial by the tiny people; while I prefer to bake my own, there are those days when time is short and appetites are large.  It doesn’t hurt that I happen to like them, too.

“Sure, why not, Mr. Man.  You get the can out and put it on the table.  Make sure you don’t put it down near Baby Guy, please.”

As Mr. Man clapped and chortled over his gastronomic victory, I got down the faithful ceramic pie plate, incubator of many a batch of canned biscuits, and turned on the oven.  Turning from those tasks, I turned to see a grinning Mr. Man waving the blue cardboard tube triumphantly.  “I got da biscuits out now, Mommy!  Now YOU have to make it go POP!”

I do believe that one of the kids’ favorite things about canned biscuits is the little explosion when the tube is breached.  Mr. Man joined me in a shouted countdown before the biscuits made their obligatory racket, then settled into his chair to arrange the biscuit dough in the pan.  As he worked, he glanced at the stove, where the timer was counting down the minutes and seconds until the appliance finished preheating.

Mr. Man loves numbers and counting, and he will count any object or read any number in sight.  The sight of the numbers ticking slowly backwards was irresistible to him, and he turned his gaze to me, eyes full of wonder, and inquired, “What’s that, Mommy?  Is not a timer, biscuits are still here, not in the oven.”

“Actually, big dude, that is a timer.  It’s the timer that tells us when the oven will be hot enough to cook the biscuits.”  As I offered my explanation, the time remaining crossed into “under a minute” territory.  “When the third number goes away, it means there’s less than a minute left, and we can count down the seconds until the oven is ready to bake.  See?  Fifty-four, fifty-three, fifty-two . . .”

Mr. Man was awestruck by this new discovery, and joined in the countdown.  “Fifty, forty-nine, forty-eight . . .”

It’s not that I didn’t have a thousand things to do yesterday morning, but I don’t know that any of them would have given me the joy that counting down forty-eight seconds of a day with Mr. Man did.  At around the twenty second mark, Bugaboo and Beanie joined in what had become a singsong chant of backwards counting.  I was almost sorry when the stove beeped to signal the end of the preheat cycle.

“Timer dinged, Mommy, you set the timer and it’s done now, can we cook the biscuits now, the oven is ready!”

“Well, we could, but we were having so much fun counting we forgot to finish putting the biscuits in the pan!  Here, let me help you.  Remember, we make a circle with them, with two in the middle, and make sure they’re all touching so they can snuggle up to each other while they bake.”


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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding me seconds of time matter, and an instant can loom large in the eyes of a child. Thank you for the opportunity to teach Your blessings time can pass joyfully, and even waiting can be a happy task if we choose to make it so.  Please grant us the wisdom to recognize that while we know neither the hour or the day, You call us to rejoice in each moment of each day You grant us, and the grace to never become so busy we are unable to recognize the small miracles of children learning.

Ice, ice, baby

Here’s the song reference.

Our plans for yesterday became somewhat scrambled when the entire tribe opted to sleep in.  This is a rare and unpredictable happenstance, and as much as I frequently lament that none of our children seem capable of sleeping past 7:30 a.m., it always surprises me how much I miss them when they do.  Bugaboo was the first to emerge at around 7:40, just in time to kiss Manie good-bye before he left for work; by the time Beanie shuffled into the kitchen at 8:30, she’d finished half of her seatwork for the day.  Before Bugaboo started her grammar assignment at around 9:30, I asked her to go down to the boys’ room and open the door a crack, as I was getting a little concerned that we hadn’t heard anything from the Y chromosome contingent.

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A couple of minutes later, Baby Guy meandered into the kitchen to see what his sisters were doing.  Bugaboo finished her assignment a couple of minutes after that, and condescended to grant Baby Guy the privilege of playing Legos with her in the girls’ room once he’d devoured his sausage biscuit.  Beanie was able to finish her math mostly in peace, and with a little extra attention from me, since her siblings were all otherwise occupied.  Mr. Man finally grouched his way upstairs, trailing a blankie, around 10:15; around mouthfuls of sausage biscuit, he brought himself to full wakefulness by snarling at anything that moved.

Beanie finished her morning seatwork at about the same time Mr. Man finished his breakfast, and the two of them decided to join the Lego party in the girls’ room.  This, I assumed, gave me an opportunity to fold the load of laundry that was cooling into wrinkles in the dryer.  Four shirts in, I heard Bugaboo howling, “MO-O-O-O-M!  MR. MAN STOLE THE BOX OF POPSICLES OUT OF THE FREEZER!”

I should probably mention that Mr. Man and Baby Guy share a fascination with the freezer, along with everything that resides in it.  While it’s awfully cute to watch their antics as they try to access ice cubes, ice cream, frozen waffles, or any of the other delights, replacements of and repairs to major appliances are rather expensive, so we have to discourage the boys from opening the big drawer that holds the frozen foods.  We must also frequently remind them that the drawer handle is neither a monkey bar nor a stepladder.

Abandoning the laundry, I raced up the stairs, to be greeted by a weeping Mr. Man.  Both of his hands were thrust behind his back, and he greeted me with a desperate, “No, Mommy, you don’t come upstairs, you said you needed to fold the laundry, no, Mommy, you go back downstairs.”

“Dude.  Seriously.  Were you in the freezer again?  Bugaboo says you took something out of the freezer.”

“I want a popsicle, Mommy, I really want a popsicle, I NEED a popsicle, popsicles were in the freezer!”

“Right, buddy, I know popsicles were in the freezer.  What are you supposed to do if you want a popsicle?”

“I want a popsicle, I need a popsicle, I supposed to ask Mommy may I have a popsicle please?”

He’d been holding the box of freezer pops behind his back long enough at that point that his fingers were too cold to hold on any longer, so he thrust the box at me with a plaintive, “Mommy, may I have a popsicle please and would you use the very sharp scissors to open the popsicles please and can I have a red one?”

Decisions, decisions.  Mr. Man’s initial tone and actions required redress, but he was now asking properly, and we’ve been trying very hard to give him lots of positive reinforcement when he chooses to ask properly.

“Tell you what.  It’s eleven o’clock, and you’re still in your jammies.  If you get dressed first, I think we could arrange a popsicle.  I’ll help you get some clothes.”

“But I want a popsicle NOW!”  His chest started heaving, and the beginnings of tears threatened to overspill his improbably long lashes.

“I understand that you want a popsicle, but you NEED to get dressed.  I’m going to put these back in the freezer now, and once you’re dressed, you can practice asking for them properly, and then you may have one.  Okay?  Let’s go!”

With the anguished wails from Mr. Man as he trailed down the stairs for a soundtrack, I replaced the box in the freezer, then met him on the landing to accompany our elder son to his room for clothing selection.  After helping him find a clean pull-up and a shirt and pants that wouldn’t constitute an ocular assault when combined, I went back upstairs to clear the remains of the morning’s schoolwork off the table.  Bugaboo, Beanie, and Baby Guy met me at the top of the stairs.

Spokeswoman Bugaboo inquired brightly, “Mommy, are there really popsicles?”

“Yes, Bugaboo, there are really popsicles.”

“Are we getting popsicles?”

Baby Guy stomp-ran to the kitchen and began tugging on the freezer drawer crowing, “Possicles, possicles, possicles!”

I sighed.  “Everyone will get popsicles when Mr. Man comes back upstairs.  Are you done playing Legos for now?  If you are, this would be a good time to put them back in their bucket, while we’re waiting for Mr. Man.”

Bugaboo and Beanie headed for their room at a run, nearly crashing into the wall in their haste.  Baby Guy continued his assault on the freezer.  As I peeled our youngest child’s hands from the drawer handle, I heard the pitter-patter of Mr. Man’s feet on the stairs, then on the wood of the upstairs hallway.  “Hey, buddy, are you all dressed and ready for popsicles?”

I turned, with Baby Guy snuggled against my hip to prevent further attempts at a freezer incursion, to see Mr. Man standing in the kitchen doorway, stark naked, and with a jubilant smile on his face.  He had apparently overheard my conversation with his siblings.

“I back upstairs now, Mommy, may I have a popsicle now please, I really need a popsicle now, you told Bugaboo if Mr. Man came up we could have popsicles, here I am, may I have a popsicle now please?”

As I frequently assert on this blog – can’t laugh, not funny.

“Mr. Man.  I told you that you needed to get dressed before you have a popsicle.  You are definitely not dressed.  Please go back downstairs and get dressed.  You did ask properly, but you are still not dressed, and I cannot let you eat popsicles with no clothes on.”

I have to admit that I briefly considered that it would be much easier to clean him up if he DID get the popsicle before he garbed himself.

“But . . .”

“No but.  You know what comes out of butts.  Get dressed now, please.”

I could hear him grumbling quietly about the injustice of it all throughout his entire descent back to his room.  A couple of minutes later, he came back into the kitchen, fully dressed, albeit with his shirt on backwards.  I decided we’d fought enough battles for one morning.

“Okay, buddy, what can I do for you?”

He gazed at me soulfully.  “Mommy, may I please have a popsicle please a red one please?”

“That was wonderful asking.  Yes, you may.”

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the opportunity to remember You have granted my petition for patience, just as You granted our prayer for children.  Please help me teach them the difference between a need and a want, and that we should do the things we must before the things we like, when they differ.  Thank you for the people who invented the appliances that free up so much of our time to work on non-manual tasks, and grant us of the grace of hearts that long to use those extra hours to serve You instead of ourselves.

My old sneakers are friends of mine

Here’s the song reference.  If you haven’t had a laugh today, you should give it a listen; you’ll need to scroll down a bit to get to the video player.

Mr. Man and Beanie share a common adoration for sneakers that have been so well-loved and well-worn that they neither fit not are able to maintain structural integrity.  As it happens, Mr. Man’s third pair of Spider-Man kicks completely disintegrated this morning, necessitating a visit to the store I generally avoid at all costs, but cannot live without because that particular store always has light-up Spider-Man sneakers in stock at a price our family’s budget can handle.  Sometimes, we have to give the nod to practicality.

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The last time we had to replace Mr. Man’s everyday shoes, I had quite the job convincing him the world was not ending and that he would, in fact, survive the retirement of his beloved footwear.  To give the little guy credit, he has yet to outgrow a pair of shoes that have not already been worn to tatters, and his last act before he goes to bed every night is to make sure they are securely tucked under his cozy bed.  There have been nights we’ve overheard him whispering a quiet “goodnight” to them.

The last time we had to replace his shoes, our first effort resulted in a pair of shoes that were actually slightly too small for him.  The rejected size 8s have, nonetheless, been gently tucked under his bed all the while, boon companions to his size 9s, and when the demise of the above-pictured shoes became apparent to Mr. Man, he immediately ran down the stairs, returning at a sprint with the too-small sneakers.  Ever so proudly, he sat on the couch, proclaiming, “Look, Mommy, I found the good shoes!” as he tried to stuff his feet into them.

After about fifteen minutes, he dejectedly slouched into the kitchen, where I was drinking my coffee and quietly checking web sites to see which local store had Spider-Man sneakers in stock in his size, to avoid a wasted trip (and a three-year-old meltdown).

“Mommy, I can’t get these Spidey shoes on.  They won’t cofloperating.  Can you help me, please?”

Baby Guy helpfully chimed in, “Helm you, helm you!”

I pulled Mr. Man, still clutching the little shoes, into my lap.  “I can try, big guy, but do you know what?  I don’t think I’ll be able to get them on, either.  See, let’s look at your old shoes.”  Tugging the tongue of one of the old shoes out, I pointed to the little number that indicated the size.  “See that number there?  What does it say?”

“That’s a nine, Mommy, I know numbers, that’s a nine.”

“Right you are, and that’s a good job.  Now let’s look at these shoes.”  Flipping up the tongue of the smaller shoes, I pointed again.

“That’s an eight, Mommy, that’s not a nine, that’s an eight.”

“Very good, Mr. Man, that’s an eight.  Now I want you to think for a minute.  Which is bigger, which is more, eight or nine.”

Grinning hugely, he clapped his hands together and bellowed, “Nine!  Nine is more!  Nine is BIGGER!”

Can’t laugh . . . not funny . . .

“Exactly right, big guy!  So which shoes are bigger, do you think, the eight shoes or the nine shoes?”

His brow creased, and he scowled at both pairs of shoes for a moment before slowly answering, “The nine shoes, the nine shoes are big enough for my feet, the eight shoes are small and the nine shoes are big, like Baby Guy is small and Mr. Man is big, eight shoes are Baby Guy size and not Mr. Man size.”

“Right, buddy.  You need new shoes.”

“I need new shoes.”

“Uh-huh.  We could go get them now in case you want to run and play outside.”  We have a 100-plus pound Saint Bernard mix who answers to Smudgie.  Running barefoot in our yard is unwise.

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“Baby Guy could have the eight shoes.  He likes Spider-Man, too.”

Baby Guy has had his eye on those shoes for a long, long time.  Every time he gets near them, Mr. Man threatens him with bodily harm.

“That would be a pretty awesome big brother thing to do, to let Baby Guy have those Spidey shoes.  Is that what you want to do?”

Baby Guy had, by now, stationed himself next to the chair where Mr. Man was perched on my lap, hanging on every word of the conversation.  Mr. Man looked magnanimously at his baby brother and declared, “Baby Guy is old enough for Spider-Man shoes.  He can have these.”

Needing no further invitation, Baby Guy scrambled up into an adjacent chair, smiled at his big brother, and excitedly inquired, “Mommy helm you put shoe?”

The small shoes were quickly adjusted to Baby Guy’s feet, and Mr. Man put his tattered kicks on for one last trip to the big box store.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the means to replace shoes for Your little blessings whenever their old ones wear out, for the van that gets us to the store, and for my husband’s job that has kept all of Your blessings from ever knowing what it really means to want for something.  Thank You for gracing their hearts, as they grow, with the desire to share even their most beloved possessions with someone who might need them more.  Please grant us hearts that always love people more than things, and make us good stewards of the rich resources with which You have provided us.

Feelin’ hop, hop, hop

Here’s the song reference.

As previously mentioned on this very blog, the girls are studying Latin this year.  They have generous enough to include Mr. Man in their studies, which has led to the uproariously funny happenstance of two first graders having their Latin pronunciation corrected by their three-year-old brother.

One of the great beauties of homeschooling is that, when the weather is favorable, we can carry our lessons outdoors and, occasionally, find some ridiculous way to study something that requires a certain amount of repetition or practice.  Such was the case this morning; since we were blessed with a pleasant morning and some friends who shared our desire to visit one of the local parks, I advised Bugaboo and Beanie that, if they were to finish their English and math lessons in a timely manner, we could head for said park and practice our Latin with something akin to a game of hopscotch.  It’s always good when we can get away from the table and have a little fun with what we’ve learned.

This intrigued both girls greatly, and the lessons were completed in something approaching record time with near-perfect accuracy.  There was a noticeable absence of whining, as well.  After quickly assembling a tub of peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches, some carrot sticks, some gummy fruit snacks, and quite a bit of bottled water in the cooler, we tossed a big bag of sidewalk chalk into our park bag and headed off in search of amusement, with a side order of pronunciation.  Some of our friends awaited us when we arrived, and the tribe scampered off, eager to explore climbing apparatus, bouncers, slides, swings, games of tag and conversation with friends.   Mr. Man was back by my side in an instant, looking for a bag of fruit snacks, as is his custom, and Beanie shortly followed.

After I caught up on chat with my friend who happens to be the mother of the tribe’s friends, I dug around for a piece of sidewalk chalk and began scrawling rough squares containing single letters, phonemes, and the few Latin words we’re studied.  When Bugaboo and Beanie meandered back to the table to see what all I might have tucked into the cooler, they noticed the letters chalked on the cement floor of the picnic pavilion and started to investigate.  Seizing the moment, I called them over to a spot of ground a couple of feet away from where most of the chalk scribbling was and explained the rules of the game.

I would ask a question, such as “what sound does a Latin ‘a’ make,”  or “what Latin vowel makes the ‘oo’ sound,” or “what Latin word means ‘I walk,'” after which they would find the relevant square and jump on it.  Anything that involves jumping is generally big fun for the tribe; Mr. Man saw us gathered off to the side and came to read off what was written on the pavement and join in whatever hijinks were to follow.

Well, we managed a few rounds before the lure of the playground, friends, and a cooler full of goodies diverted their interest.  Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy cajoled sticks of chalk out of me, and cheerfully set about decorating the pavilion, sidewalk, and, in Baby Guy’s case, teeth, with powdery hues of pink, blue, and yellow.  To my great amusement, some of the other parents who had brought their small people to the park scrutinized the grid on the ground, and set about recalling their own Latin studies.

On the way home, around a bite of sandwich, Beanie burbled, “I liked playing hopscotch with our Latin words and letters.  Can we do that again?”

Yeah, I think we can, little one, and I’ll bet we can come up with a few more applications for that, too!

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for sidewalk chalk, for friends who come to play, for enough food and drink not only to sustain ourselves, but also enough to share with our friends and random passers-by.  Thank You for the laughter and silliness of Your blessings on summer mornings, for their sweaty little heads and hands, for the proofs of Your grace of patience You send us through them. Thank You for those who thought to preserve ancient languages, so that we may study them and learn what our forebears said in their own words, in their tongue, and learn of the rich heritage of Your people.  Please keep us mindful of Your servant’s prayer, that we should seek more to understand than to be understood; inflame us with the desire to understand, and thus grow in our love for You and our reverence for Your creation, with its many landscapes and languages.  Help us to learn and to teach joyfully, and to recall that instruction and correction are equally valuable to those who are wise.