Tag Archive | jesus

What hurricane? There’s puddles!

My kids are fearless.  Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man broke out their galoshes about an hour ago.  I made them come in when the wind really started to roar.  Here they are.

If you are looking for local information about Hurricane Sandy, here are the links I use:

WTOP radio

Free-Lance Star

National Weather Service

National Hurricane Center

Today’s prayer: Lord, please grant all those in the storm’s path wisdom.  Please have mercy, and send Your comfort and peace to the fearful.

Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile

Here’s the song reference.

Beanie is a notorious grump when she rolls out of bed in the morning; like her father, she is not a morning person, and she is not bashful about letting the entire world know her feelings about the hours before noon.  She shambled out around eight o’clock, grumbling unintelligibly and whining a plaintive, “Nooooooooooooooooooo, I don’t want anything to drink,” when I offered her a choice between milk and cider for a waking-up beverage.

About half an hour later, as I was emptying the dishwasher and trying not to wake up the Y-chromosomed contingent, all of whom enjoy a good opportunity to sleep in, she stomped into the kitchen and announced, “I’m hungry now.  I want scrambled eggies, please.”

I patiently explained, at least five times, that we only have a couple of eggs left, and I needed those for something I’ll be cooking later today.  This state of affairs was quite unacceptable to Beanie, and she proceeded to spend the next fifteen minutes whining wordlessly about the injustice of it all.  Finally, after I had baked a batch of cheese biscuits, she complained that she did not WANT biscuits, she WANTED her breakfast to smile at her.  I reminded her that I only respond to properly phrased requests.

“Will you make me a breakfast that smiles at me, please?”

“That’s better.  I have apples and yogurt.”


After I sighed, prayed, and counted to ten, I explained to her that today is the day we need to eat what we have in the refrigerator, since there is a storm coming that might knock out our power for a few days.  I also explained that we should thank God for what we have, and that it is completely possible to turn apples and yogurt into a smiling plate of breakfast.  What sealed the deal was getting her to understand that she could dip her apples in her yogurt.  Beanie is an inveterate dipper.

“Okay.  I just want to make sure it smiles at me.”

Sure, I could be stern and tell her she’ll eat what she’s given and like it, but it’s been a stressful few days around here for reasons that have little to do with the coming weather event; Nonno is in the hospital again, and we’re all worried about him and Deedaw.  I’m also trying not to fall into the habit of commanding instead of persuading; I don’t want to set a dictatorial example for our little blessings, the eldest of whom is bossy enough as it is.

Moments later, I presented her with a plate:

This was quite acceptable to Beanie.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have provided abundantly for all our needs.  Help me teach Your blessings to give thanks always for your bounty, but grant me the wisdom and grace to teach the lesson with gentleness and love.  Grant that I may make our home a peaceful haven no matter what storms may rage in the skies or the streets, and keep me mindful that we are saved in You.

Lord, please comfort, guard, and strengthen the emergency responders and the utility linemen, and all those who seek shelter or flee from the coming storm.  Open our eyes to those who need a share of the blessings You have given us.


Get ready, get reeeady

As soon as the tribe awoke and ate breakfast this morning, I bundled them all into Fran the Van to pick up a few last-minute supplies; we’ve done a few more road trips than usual this summer, so some of my stocks of “easy eats and drinks” were more depleted than I like them to be when the emergency management people are warning people to prepare for power outages lasting over a week.  While using my rewards points to score a bunch of freebies at Walgreen’s, a gentleman of roughly my father’s age surveyed our little band and commented that he has four granddaughters he’s raising.  I complimented him on his dedication and energy; it takes a special person to raise another generation at an age where many people are contemplating a life of retirement, and shook my head as I commented that I didn’t know how I would do another round of child-raising if I had to raise my grandchildren.

He smiled, and told me I was blessed to have such a well-behaved crew (they really were angels this morning).  I thanked him, then told the tiny people that the nice gentleman had just given them a very kind compliment, and it would be appropriate to say, “Thank you, sir.”  Beanie and Bugaboo obligingly flashed winning smiles and piped up their thanks, but Mr. Man hung back for a moment.  After he had conducted his thorough contemplation of the situation, he very solemnly walked over to the gentleman, stuck out his little hand to be shaken, and with great seriousness, lisped out, “Sankoo, suwr,” in his very best big-guy voice.

Both the gentleman and I managed to keep it to very broad grins.  This was tougher for me as I had to stifle giggles while praising Mr. Man for his excellent deportment.

Having finished our transaction at Walgreen’s, we headed over to Giant to restock the dog food supply and pick up a couple of items with excellent sale prices, along with an extra bag of Mr. Man’s beloved “mishmawwows” and some fresh milk.  We made it home a little after 11:00, and, given the general chaos in both stores, I’ll be quite happy not to venture within several miles of any retail establishments for the next week or so.  Lunch was eaten, tiny people were tucked in for naps, and I broke out my laptop to put up a post on Facebook inquiring whether any friends needed help preparing for the storm.

While no one needed anything specific, several dozen people asked for more information about what I do to get ready for major weather events.  I have an insurance background and, I’m told, a fairly healthy dose of common sense, so I may have a few things on my prep list that are a little uncommon.  Because of the interest from the Facebook community, I decided to post a quick prep list on this blog tonight.  I hope that it’s interesting to many of you, and that none of you ever have a real need to use it.  The pantry and cooking parts are actually the last entries.


This should be common sense, but even for me, that’s not necessarily so.  As you prepare, remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The stuff at the bottom of the pyramid HAS to take priority.  Extend that hierarchy to helping your neighbors — in other words, love your neighbors as yourself, and make sure they have what they need for basic survival.

Mien it

Be calm, kind, and courteous.  If you have tiny people, they will take their cues from you.  If you are braving the madding crowds on the roads or in the store, greet people with a smile and a gentle word, and offer to help shoppers who are older, herding kids, or have disabilities reach or carry heavy or hard-to-reach items.  Kindness is contagious.  So is ugliness.  Sow carefully.  If you go about your work cheerfully, you’ll find all the annoying little tasks are less onerous.  I recommend music while you work!

Money talks

Get cash.  ATMs and credit card machines will not work if there’s no power.

Record keeping

Get IDs, insurance policies, and medical histories for your family together, including your pets.  Write important phone numbers in indelible ink on heavy cardstock or cardboard.  Important phone numbers should include your insurance companies’ and utilities phone numbers.  Don’t count on being able to text or get numbers from your cell phone address book.  Go through your house with a digital camera holding a FRESH memory card and photograph everything, including wide shots of every room.  If something has a serial number, get a clear, readable picture of it.  Do the same for your vehicles and yard equipment.  Finally get a good photograph of each member of your household, including your pets. Take all of these documents and seal them in a ziplock freezer bag, then seal that bag in another ziplock freezer bag, then secure it, at eye level, to a wall in a closet or interior, windowless room.  If you have an insurance claim, your adjuster will love you for this.

Systems check

This is the time to fix any leaks in your plumbing.  A small leak in your toilet now can mean a big fat headache when you’re having to flush it with pitchers of water.  Similarly, if you don’t have a secure drain plug in your bathtub or sink, filling it with water so you’ll have extra on hand will be a waste of time.  Also, find and learn how to use your main water valve.  If you wait until the middle of a storm to figure this out, the rain may not be needed for an indoor swimming pool to develop.  Make sure you have whatever wrench you need to shut it off.

Start unplugging electrical gadgets that you don’t ordinarily use.  This is a good, generic energy-saving tip at any time.  Check your electrical cords and power strips for fraying and for dirt.  Clean and replace them as necessary.  Charge your rechargeables and then turn them off.

Find and set a clock that does not require electricity.  Don’t depend on your cell phone.  You may not be able to charge it.

Figure out how you will pass the time without the  Internet or television.

Fill the gas tanks of all your vehicles.  Check and top off all your fluid and your tire pressure.  Make sure you have usable spare tires.

Find the main breaker for your dwelling, figure out how to turn it off, and clear a path to it.  If your power goes out, shut that breaker until you have a chance to unplug everything.

Test your sump pump, if you have one.  Make sure it works, and get it serviced if it doesn’t!

A couple of small battery operated fans can be useful, as can a space heater.  If you use a kerosene heater, check your kerosene supply and then triple-check your ventilation scheme.

Check (and replace if necessary) the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

What’s in your fridge and freezer now?

Eat it. Especially if you have seafood or shellfish and have no way to smoke it for longer-term preservation. If the storm ends up not materializing, or the power stays on, at least you’ve had a tasty seafood feast. If you have anything frozen that requires a microwave to cook, and you don’t have a generator, eat that, too! Don’t buy any more perishables. In the meantime, fill ziplock freezer bags about 1/2 full with water, seal them tightly, and pack them around the food in your freezer.  The more densely packed your freezer is, the longer foods will stay safely preserved.


Get a generator.  Once you have the generator, figure out how to connect it to the truly essential things before a storm or other disaster hits.  Make sure you have whatever extension cords you’ll need.  If, for whatever reason, a generator is not an option for you, make sure you have the following items that can run on battery or hand-crank power:

— Radio.  Oh, and get a NOAA weather radio.  They’re under $20 and come in quite handy.
— Light sources.  Never underestimate the candlepower of a book light!
— Coffee maker or hot pot, for boiling water
— Optional-but-awesome:  portable DVD player

A power inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter of your car is a delightful thing to have.  Make sure you have a good battery in your car, and plenty of fuel.  Save the inverter for dire need, because you don’t want to use all the gas in your tank charging electronics.  If conditions are genuinely awful in your area, you’ll need that gas.

If you can afford a solar array, and are able to install one safely, they can be terrific, but bear in mind that one falling tree can trash your power source.  A solar charger for things like cell phones might come in handy as well.

Make sure you have a LOT of batteries in the sizes your gadgets take.  There’s nothing more frustrating than having a drawer full of C cells when what you actually need are AAAs.


If you have a land line, as we do, make sure you have at least one phone that does not require electrical current to run.  If you are cell phone dependent, take two precautions.  First, put a pound of rice in a ziplock freezer bag and seal it, then put that bag into a second bag and seal it. If your phone gets wet, you can now dry it.  Second, get to know your neighbors!  Find out who your closest neighbors that have land lines are.  Citizens band radios are not a bad thing to have, and if there’s an amateur radio operator in your area, get to know him or her.  In almost every disaster situation, cell phone communication is disrupted.  Set up a way to check in with relatives who are out of town.

That said, take the time to make sure all of your phones and other e-pliances like Kindles are fully charged before the storm hits.  Keep a charger in a ziplock freezer bag, too.

Speaking of neighbors, remember to check on them, too.  On our “to-do” list for tomorrow is checking on the non-English-speaking family next door to make sure they have what they need, and checking on several neighbors who are elderly.  Remember Matthew 25:31-46.  It’s relevant.

Repeat this sentence frequently:  “My smartphone may not work for a week.”  Plan accordingly.


Clear out your gutters and storm drains.  Pull or cut the dead branches off your trees and get them away from houses.  Fold up and bring in patio furniture; stow children’s outdoor toys and bicycles in sheds or in the house.  Set up a rain barrel or two — this can be quite helpful if you need to wash some clothes or flush a toilet.  Garden wagons and coolers are wonderful for this in a pinch.  Look at what you have that can hold water, get it secured, and use it accordingly.  Once the rain stops, cover it with plastic sheeting or tarps so you don’t end up with a mosquito habitat.  If you can, check your roof for leaks and get in touch with a roofer to handle the small stuff before it becomes big stuff.  Check the caulking around your windows and refresh it if you need to.  Get some corrugated pipe and attach it to the end of your downspouts; route it so that the water flows out at least ten feet away from your house.  If you have a swing set, take the swings off and bring them inside.  Rake and bag your leaves so they don’t re-clog your storm drains.

ANYTHING in your yard can become a missile.  If you can pick it up, so can the wind.   Get it inside or tied down.  Pay particular attention to outdoor decorations (we’ll be moving pumpkins today) and trash cans.  Patio umbrellas need to be closed and stored.  If you have propane tanks for a grill or heater, move them to shelter.  Even a well-anchored shed is good.


Find all of your insurance policies.  READ THEM.  Call your agent if you don’t understand something.  Check your coverages and limits and make adjustments if you need to.  Once you’ve done all that (this may sound familiar), put the policies in a ziplock freezer bag, seal it, put that bag into another one and seal it.  Tack it securely to a wall in a closet or interior, windowless room.

Use Sharpies to write with.  They’re waterproof.

Many styrofoam coolers are watertight; the ones Omaha Steaks uses are particularly good.  Put foodstuffs, books, several changes of clothing, blankets, and towels into these.  If you don’t happen to have any, put those same items into . . . you guessed it, ziplock bags, which you then want to store up off the ground in a closet or interior, windowless room.

Do all of your laundry before the storm hits.  Give the inside of the house a thorough cleaning (ah, that’s a hard one for me!), then make sure you have plenty of cleaning supplies on hand.  Rubber gloves are very good to have, as are a couple of extra buckets.  Bleach is an essential; you can wash dishes in it, and you can use it to purify water if you have to.  While away the stormy hours putting everything away and making sure there are no obstacles on your floors.

There are some hardware items that are very helpful to have on hand:  a couple of sheets of plywood, a couple of boxes of nails, a hammer, a FULLY CHARGED cordless drill, a hand saw, both kinds of screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, several tarps or pieces of heavy plastic sheeting (in a pinch, vinyl shower curtain liners will do), electrical tape, duct tape, pliers, and twine.

Keep a supply of paper plates on hand.  It’s easier than washing dishes, especially if you have a boil water advisory.

If you have a FoodSaver or other vacuum sealer, you can very quickly put important papers, matches, or medications in a waterproof pouch!


Find your pets’ vaccination records and put them with the insurance policies — same procedure.

Have a month’s supply of food per pet on hand.

Count each pet as a family member when you’re laying in a supply of water.  The rule of thumb is one gallon of water, per person, per day.  That is a VERY LOW estimate of the actual water you’ll need, but it is a survivable amount.  And please, don’t leave your furry kids outside during a storm.  That’s cruel.

Health and hygiene

Make sure everyone has a good wash before the storm hits.  I highly recommend keeping a bottle of liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s makes my personal favorite) on hand; it rinses quickly and cleanly, and if you are trying to wash your hair and body with a pint of water, it’s a lifesaver.

Get your prescriptions refilled before the storm hits.  If you use medications that require refrigeration, make sure you have some plan other than ice to keep them refrigerated.  There are small fridges that can be stored and run in a vehicle. If you have to use that option, make sure you have an extra tank of gas stored in a safe but accessible place.

You will want to have a first aid kit that is rated for hikers and other outdoorsy types, with larger bandages and the like.  If anyone needs a detailed list, say so in the comments and I’ll add one.  In the meantime, make sure you have supplies of hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, cortisone cream, calamine lotion, baby powder, petroleum jelly, Epsom salts, and alcohol-based mouthwash.  The mouthwash, because it is alcohol-based, can be used as an all-purpose disinfectant.  You’ll also want to have hand sanitizer (oodles of it), aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and Benadryl on hand.  A case of baby wipes is a VERY pleasant thing to have around.

Tiny people

Our kids are all weaned.  We make it a point to keep a can each of powdered baby and toddler formula here.  If you have a tiny person who develops a tummy bug, you can give him or her the formula to keep the wee one hydrated and at least minimally nourished.  If you have a neighbor with a baby who is in a predicament, you have the makings of a life-saving blessing.  Consider it.

In the meantime, make sure you have adequate diapering supplies and even more adequate means of entertaining children that do not require power.  I recommend books, small craft kits, blocks, stickers, cards, dominoes, dolls, cars, and board games.


Oil lamps, camp lamps, candle chandeliers, candles, and flashlights are all in the mix at our house.  We also have a LOT of book lights.

Pantry items

Please bear in mind that I’m not giving an exhaustive inventory of the contents of my cupboards; it would bore you to tears.  This is what I would recommend for a family of six for a month:

Six boxes of whole grain cereal
Four boxes of instant oatmeal
Six boxes of granola bars
Ten to twenty cans of fruit, depending on the size of the cans
Large tub each of raisins, dried apricots, and banana chips
Four large boxes of dry milk
Eight to twelve gallons of juice, in single-serve containers if your budget permits it.  Juice does not mean Kool-Aid, but Tang is okay.
Ten pounds of couscous
Ten pounds of polenta
Twenty pounds of rice
Five pounds of grits
Five pounds of bulgur wheat
At least thirty bouillon cubes
Twenty cans of soup
Twenty large cans of tuna
Ten large cans of salmon
Twenty pounds of dried beans
Ten pounds of nuts
Ten pounds of nut or seed butter
Twelve large cans of crushed tomatoes
Thirty cans of vegetables
Ten cans of potatoes
Three gallons of olive oil
Thirty pounds of flour
Lots of potatoes and long-lasting squashes (butternut, acorn pumpkin, hubbard)
At least fifteen pounds of apples
Multiple cans of shelf stable grated cheese
A couple of cans of “squeeze cheese”
Jerkies and dried meats.  Use these sparingly, as they tend to be very high in salt, which will dehyrate you.
At least one full case of EVAPORATED milk (NOT sweetened condensed milk)
Five pounds of coffee
Cocoa mix and tea
One gallon of water per person or pet per day
Chocolate, candy, or individually wrapped snacks.  Bags of Halloween candy are great.  A little sweet can be a great mood elevator.

These are just things that can be quickly used.  You can make a quick and very tasty bread by mixing flour, water, and a little olive oil, rolling it very thinly, and toasting it on a grill.  If you have a generator, you can add a lot of variety to that list — those are the basics for a family of six for a month, with extra to share with neighbors who were not able to prepare.  It’s critically important to us that we have that extra to share.  I imagine most of you have spices and seasonings on hand.  Bear in mind that caffeine can relieve a lot of headaches.  This is not, for the record, an exact list of what I have in my pantry; I stock up when certain things go on sale, so I have a little more of this, a little less of that, and a whole bunch of stuff that’s not on there at all.  Listing it all would take me a full day!


We have a gas grill.  Get extra propane.  I also highly, highly recommend acquiring a fondue pot that uses either tea lights, Sterno, or denatured alcohol.  You can do most minor warming things and light cooking over a Sterno or tealight burner, including boiling water.  During the wailing height of a windstorm, it’s probably a bad idea to be outside grilling.  If you have a charcoal grill, figure out how much charcoal it takes you to cook one meal, then multiply that quantity by 90.  Camp stoves (the kind that use bottled gas) are beautiful things, but be very careful using them indoors.

This is taking longer than I thought.  I’ve been writing for two hours.  Please tell me what I missed or forgot to cover in the comments, and I promise I will address it tomorrow.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, who brought smiles to many tense faces today.  Focus my mind and my heart on that simple joy that loving my neighbors brings, and mold me into the example You would have them follow.  Please comfort all those whose hearts are fearful in advance of gathering storms, whether meteorological or spiritual, and grant them peace and the grace of security in Your friendship and infallible love.

Getting kind of hectic

Here’s the song reference.

Days that begin overcast and foggy tend to bring a cranky tribe, and this morning was no exception.  As glorious as fall in Virginia can be, it does tend to bring some rather murky mornings.  Bugaboo stumbled out of her room this morning quite thoroughly out of sorts, to the point that she was invited by Daddy and I to return to her bed, and a seriously grouchy Beanie shambled out a few minutes later to be greeted with the same invitation.

After fifteen minutes of trying to figure out what the distaff half of the bairn brigade and I could agree upon as an acceptable breakfast, I shoved plates of waffles in front of my daughters, feeling more than slightly surly myself.  In all honesty, I would rather have curled up with Butler’s Lives of the Saints and a cup of warm, creamy chai than slog through math and penmanship with distemperate children.  Such is the glamour of every teacher’s life, I suppose, whether in the family kitchen or the institutional classroom.

While the girls were snarking at their breakfast, I made the morning call to Grandma, who was having an equally slow-starting morning, then shooed the girls off to dress and brush their teeth.  Sometimes being able to choose a favorite dress or shirt shakes them out of a morning misery, and Bugaboo was a little cheerier when she came back in her flouncy dress with the scottie dogs on it.  Beanie, usually the household ray of sunshine, was still scowling, to the point that she actually complained at each and every crayon in her 64 count box of Crayolas before she would even consider coloring her picture of the Annunciation.

There are reasons I start every single school day with faith lessons.  One of those reasons is that it reminds me to thank God for my children and that I love these little blessings, for whom we prayed so fervently and so long, on the days when they are not particularly likeable.  It reminds me why my husband and I made this choice for our family, and that every work of our hearts, minds, and hands can become suffused with joy when we offer it to Him.  We read about St. Anthony Mary Claret and St. Helen, whose picture on the cover of the Treasury of Saints caught Bugaboo’s eye (she’s wearing a crown in the picture, and our eldest always enjoys a story about a princess, empress, or queen).  After we had prayed together, cajoled Beanie into coloring her picture, and read the story of the Annunciation from their Bible, I set the girls to practicing their penmanship while I made the morning call to Deedaw.

It was right about then that Mr. Man and Baby Guy woke up in even worse moods than their sisters had managed.  I did managed to duck behind the door before the Mega Bloks Mr. Man had pulled into his crib connected with my cranium; fortunately, he didn’t have very much ammo, so I had a stern word with him after I handed Baby Guy his cup of milk.  Luckily, almost every Baby Guy bad mood can be cured with milk, food, and a few verses of the “Austrian Yodeler Song” (a quick aside – you should hear it when we all break into this at Wegman’s to keep the little fellow calm if the shopping takes too long).

Having wrangled two little boys into clean diapers and decided they could jolly well stay in their pajamas, I headed upstairs, Baby Guy contentedly slurping milk as he rode on my hip, Mr. Man caterwauling at the injustice of having to walk up the stairs as he trailed behind me, and heard the shriek from Beanie just as I hit the top step.  Apparently Bugaboo decided to “help” her little sister with her penmanship by offering “helpful” advice on how to hold the pencil, hold the paper, form the letters, ply the eraser, sit on the chair, breathe through her nose . . . okay, I made that last one up, but you get the idea.  When I entered the kitchen four short steps later, Beanie was hurling invective at Bugaboo through freshets of tears, while Bugaboo, the picture of injured innocence, looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I was just helping her be a better student.”

I counted to ten in five languages, sent them both back to their chairs with instructions to finish their writing assignments, and managed to get both boys tucked into their chairs while I rounded up bowls of cereal for them.  It is a great blessing that a bowl of cereal will occupy Baby Guy for at least half an hour, particularly if the cereal is round, as he must see how many pieces he can convince to roll across the ray of his booster seat before he eats them.  When Bugaboo reminds him he’s not supposed to play with his food, he cheerfully hurls a piece across the table at her.  Many are the times when I “didn’t see him do that.”

After another hour of the howl-elujah chorus, we appeared to have reached the point of diminishing returns.  The girls were defiant, I was waspish, Mr. Man was trying to grab every writing implement in sight, and Baby Guy started crying every time I opened my mouth, which tells me I was yelling.  I gave the order to clean up their workspaces and head for the living room, where I awaited them on the floor.

“Okay.  Bring me some stories.”

I was immediately mobbed by four smiling, snuggling angels, each with a favorite book in hand.  We passed a pleasant half hour curled up on the living room floor together, none of us caring that I hadn’t had time to sweep up the dog hair this morning, sharing stories and a song or two.  Just as the bairn brigade started getting contentious about whose turn it was to select the next story, I spied the big shipping box full of craft supplies that had arrived the day before.  After hastily dumping the contents on our bed, I announced to the tribe it was TIME TO PLAY OUTSIDE, and that they could take the box with them.

By then, the sun had started to break through the clouds, and the mob needed little encouragement to riot.  I carried the box and Baby Guy down the stairs, then started to sweep the kitchen.  Hearing great joyful mounds of bubbly giggles from the back yard, I grabbed the camera and ran back downstairs.  The uninhibited joy of four little kids with a big box rinsed the last of the sour taste from my mouth.  The rest of my day’s work was offered with a much more joyful heart.  I’d rather lift up joy as an offering to Our Lord than surliness.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your Scriptures tell us to train up our children in the ways they should go.  Help me guard my tongue as I teach them, that I do not train them up to be shrewish with the errors of others.  I am not perfect, and sometimes need the reminder in my children’s voices of how I prefer to be taught when I am in error. Gentle my words and my voice, and when my tone is sharper than necessary, remind me that You taught lovingly, repeating Your lessons patiently.  Mold me into a teacher after Your example, in all things, Lord, and grant me the grace of a heart that seeks Your counsel before any word is spoken.  You have the power to calm any storm and soften any heart.

Someone like you

Here’s the song reference.

I have been genuinely appalled at the tone of our national discourse for some time.  There is so much dehumanizing language being flung about that it’s nearly impossible to listen to, or read, any public conversation without being hit in the head with some nasty epithet or other.  Because of this apparent degeneration in the way we relate to one another, I’ve become very determined to teach my children early and often to see every person they meet as another child of God first, to find common ground with every human being they encounter, and to hold fast to those commonalities when people’s behavior becomes unlovable.  It is a difficult thing to learn, and an even more difficult one to teach.

As it happens, one of Bugaboo’s assignments today was in her God and Me! devotional, a book I heartily recommend.  The title of the lesson was “Be Receptive,” and opened with Romans 14:10.  We talk a lot around here about how only Jesus Christ can judge a soul, and we are called to love everyone, because none of us are sinless; while some behaviors are unacceptable, we are never to indulge in hatred against our brothers and sisters, and are always to remember that Christ came for all of us.

Bugaboo loves her devotional, because it has lots of nifty crafts and projects in it, and she enjoys the stories, too.  She and I both particularly enjoyed this passage, found on page 36:  “People, like snowflakes, can look the same, too.  It’s easy to lump people together into groups, especially when you think they’re different from you.  However, when you look closely at each person, you’ll find that people are different and special in their own ways — just like snowflakes.”

After we read, we did the little project (dripping candle wax into ice water to make “snowflakes,” and observing that no two were exactly alike, but all had something in common),  and prayed the prayer at the end, to wit:  “God, help me to be receptive to all of the different and special people you send my way.”  A flash of inspiration hit me at that point, and I grabbed the ads from Sunday’s newspaper, quickly spreading them out on the table in front of a wondering Bugaboo.  I pointed to the people in the advertisements, and asked her, about each one, “What do you have in common with this person?  What about this person is the same as something about you?”

She lit up with excitement, her voice rising as she found that this man was wearing black pants like hers, this lady had brown eyes like hers, this boy liked Spider-Man like she does, this girl had a beaded necklace like hers.  It was that beautiful moment of clarity when I realized she understood, because after the third person, she stopped pointing out all of the superficial differences and started paying attention to the similarities.  Still superficial similarities, yes, but enough for even a five-year-old girl to understand that she can find some commonality between herself and anyone she meets.  When stymied by one particular picture of a man, she said, “Well, he’s a person, and I’m a person, and that’s how we’re alike.”


Now if I can get her to bear that in mind when she starts taking an interest in politics, it will have been a mighty lesson, indeed.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a daughter who understands that, in the end, we are all Yours and precious in Your sight.  Thank You for the ability to love even those who speak harsh and ugly words, and for the strength to call ugliness what it is.  Please, Lord, grant me the grace and wisdom to always see Your children first as Your children, and to pray without ceasing for those whose hearts and minds are so twisted by hatred and covetousness towards those who differ from them.  Help me teach Your blessings that You never resorted to profane insults or wishing harm to those who did not believe in You; rather, You begged Your Father to forgive them.  And Father, please help me remember the wisdom shared by a friend today — that no disagreement over politics is worth the love of a friend.  Help me set an example with my own language of how friends should speak to one another.

Better together

As part of her schoolwork today, Beanie made a largish lump of play clay.  While flour, salt, oil, water, and cream of tartar were being mixed and cooked, Bugaboo was sourly practicing her addition facts and lamenting that her day’s assignments did not include the concoction of moldable substances.  Beanie managed not to look too awfully smug, and I reminded Bugaboo that there are days when her own schoolwork includes a spiffy craft and Beanie’s is mostly drill.

Around 10:00, all the day’s assignments were completed.  This was about a half hour after Baby Guy decided he’d had enough of this morning and went down for an early nap.  I credit Mr. Man, who decided that he and his brother should both awaken and play a game of catch the bear between their cribs at 5:45 a.m.  Beanie snagged a couple of wipes to clean along the baseboards, Mr. Man headed for the living room to pick up the fluffs of Smudgie’s fur that seem to reproduce overnight, Bugaboo grabbed the dustpan and brush to sweep the hallway and around the living room carpet, and I started in on the breakfast dishes.

A few moments later, Beanie came skipping through to deposit her grimy wipes in the trash cans, and rendered me nearly speechless by asking, “Mommy, do you have any other chores I can do?”  Once I had recovered, I told her she could take the other dustpan and brush from behind the trash can and see if Bugaboo or Mr. Man needed help.  Shortly thereafter, Beanie and Mr. Man came giggling into the kitchen, balancing a dustpan full of dog hair between them, and managed to empty most of it into the trash can instead of the dogs’ water dish.

The rest of the day was relatively peaceful; we read stories for a while, had warm biscuits, honeycrisp apples, and slices of nice sharp cheddar for lunch, then the tribe caught the Barney Halloween special on Netflix while I dozed on the couch for a few minutes (I was up an hour before the boys, for the record) before we all headed to the back yard to play “chase the puppy” on a glorious October afternoon.

After dinner, we dropped Bugaboo off at Faith Formation (think Sunday school, but on Monday night), then came home for some more story time, a can of enormous olives, and some desperately needed baths.  Beanie generously ceded the privilege of story choosing entirely to her little brothers.  Once we had tucked them in, she and I headed upstairs for our Monday night Mommy and Beanie time (Bugaboo goes fencing with Daddy after Faith Formation).  After she put her toys away, she danced over to the kitchen table to see what tonight’s adventures might be.  She helped me chop dates, nuts, and candy for an orange slice cake, then, to her very great delight, got two make-your-own-Halloween-sticker-scene sheets for her very own.  Beanie is FANATICAL about stickers, and she set to decorating a couple of haunted houses with great glee, narrating what was happening as she built each one.  I love her stories, because everything is innocent and sweet.  Even the ghosts are nice in Beanie’s stories — they’re the ones that know the best candy to put in trick-or-treaters’ pumpkins is the chocolate kind.

Once she was all stickered out, she polished off the rest of the olives while I got her play clay, now cooled, from the refrigerator.  She gleefully dumped it out of the bag, dug her little hands merrily into it, and started to build a big snowman.  After a few rolls of the dough, she sighed and slumped back in her chair.

“What’s wrong, Beanie?  Do you need some help?”

“No, I don’t need any help.”

“Is the dough too cold.”

“No, the dough’s not too cold.  It’s just not as much fun without Bugaboo.  Will she and Daddy be home soon?  I miss making things with her.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, for whom we prayed for so long.  Thank You for guiding us to teach them that they are each other’s first and best friends, and that every joyful thing becomes even greater when it is shared.  Help us to continue and extend that lesson with the, Lord, that whatever they have can be shared with whomever they meet.  Please remind us that whenever two or more are gathered together in Your name, You are there, and that whenever we reach out a hand in love to share the bounty with which You have blessed us, we honor You.

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.

You can feel it in your olfactory

Here’s the song reference.  The title of this post is an actual line from the song, which is funny and may stay in your head for a while.

Ordinarily, I cheer the end of the spring allergy season, as I genuinely enjoy breathing through my nose.  When a day begins as yesterday does, with the aromatic realization that one of our little blessings has managed to feed Smudgie his or her vegetables again (when they try this with Bo, he brings me the offending veggie and drops it on my foot), and the result of this sleight-of-hand awaits me by the back door, I rather miss the pollen.

Once I’d cleaned the utility room floor, I could smell the coffee waiting for me upstairs, and actually received the grace of being able to drink an entire cup while it was still hot, and without interruption from early risers.  Not long after I finished writing yesterday’s post, Bugaboo and Beanie stumbled out of their room, elbowing each other in the bathroom doorway.  A few moments later, I went looking for the bathroom cleaner, as the odor and the sounds coming from said bathroom indicated I’d be cleaning a couple of potties to start my workday.  Bugaboo emerged first, informing me, “Wow, that’s stinky.  Mommy, did you know that if you eat lots of berries, you get purple poop?”

“Pretty cool, eh?”  A thought occurred to me right about then.  “Bugaboo, did you guys eat the entire bucket of raspberries last night?”

“Uh-huh.  They were tasty.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy stole the bucket, though.  I think they ate about half.”

For those who do not have children, please allow me to explain.  The effect a pint of raspberries can have on the digestive tracts of a one-year old  two-year old boys is, to use a semi-polite expression, explosive.  The bucket of raspberries devoured by the tribe contained roughly a quart of berries (we have a raspberry thicket in our side yard).  As I considered whether the movie coroner’s trick of a dab of Vapo-Rub beneath the nostrils might actually work, I heard Mr. Man and Baby Guy over the monitor; the little guy was crying, the big guy was cheerfully announcing, “I stink!  I stink!”

I grabbed their milk and headed downstairs.  About three steps from the bottom of the staircase, I started praying that the smell was residual Smudgie mess.  Noooooo such luck.  I’ll mention, for brevity and decency’s sake, that the raspberry effect lasts a full 24 hours.  You may wish to mention this to any researchers in the field of green energy you may happen to know.

Mercifully, yesterday was also CSA pickup day, which provided a wonderful reason to leave the house and take a nice long drive with the van windows open.  We were singing and pointing out clusters of wildflowers, speculating on whether or not the ground would be dry enough at the farm to allow the tribe to have a nice romp there (it wasn’t, unfortunately), and trying to get Mr. Man to say the colors of passing cars, road signs, and traffic signals.  As we passed the last traffic signal before the miles of uninterrupted blacktop leading to the farm, I heard Mr. Man exclaim, “Ew!  Dat stinky!”

I cringed a little as I started thinking about whether it would be better to pull into a private drive and change the stinker on the van deck or just wait until we got to the farm, started to roll my eyes as Bugaboo and Beanie chorused from the back seat, “WHAT is that SMELL,” then burst out laughing as I realized that they were remarking on the singular aroma generated by frightened skunks.  It’s not that offensive to either my husband or myself, but since we generally use the climate control in the van when traveling with the tribe so we can hear each other talk, I’m not sure that they’re ever gotten a full blast of the smell before.

“That’s the smell skunks make, guys.  Remember how we read in your book that God gave some animals different ways to protect themselves, and He gave the skunks a stinky spray?  That’s what you’re smelling.  Sometimes skunks get too close to the road, or can’t cross it fast enough, and get run over by cars, and they make their stinky spray then, too.”

Bugaboo and Beanie considered this for a moment.  I could see them exchanging looks in the rear-view mirror.

“Mommy, I think the skunks should either stay away from the road or wait for their turn to cross it, so they don’t leave all that stink for everyone else.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for making every living thing, each animal with its own special beauty and means of survival.  Thank You for Your little blessings, who are fascinated by Your works, and who are curious to learn what makes each one unique, and what some of them have in common.  Help me teach them to look for the miracle in each animal and plants, which ones are good to eat, and which are best left alone.  As I teach them to enjoy Your bounty, please help me also teach them that gluttony of any kind does not please You, and has some unpleasant physical side effects as well.  Please, Lord, grant me the grace to teach them continence in all things except love for You and for their neighbors.


Let the rain come down

Here’s the song reference.  I had Prince on the brain yesterday, thanks to a posting by an old friend.

The weather forecast yesterday was for rain, rain, and more rain, which didn’t exactly inspire me with confidence that we would have a joyful day.  One of the main ingredients for peace in our house is that the tiny people are able to get out of the house for a while every day, and, even with my wretched housekeeping skills, there’s only so much mud I can tolerate.  The Lord is merciful, however, and the morning was reasonably dry, so as soon as breakfasts had been bolted, Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man headed outside to play ball with Smudgie and invent all manner of games.  Now that the three of hem are big enough to use the teeter-totter without adult assistance, they spend a lot of time pretending to fly, although I’ve overheard them also pretending that each seat is a different pony.  Mr. Man takes a particular delight in rocking his sisters as hard as he can from a perch on the ground, which means my watchful eyes are frequently at the window.

Once the rain started, they bolted back into the house to see what chaos might be caused indoors.  Since I was cleaning the kitchen counters and singing with Baby Guy, they decided that a snack and an episode of Spider-Man would be a grand way to pass the time until the terrific trio decided what else they’d like to do with their morning.  I finished my chore about halfway through the show (here’s the episode — Rhino sort of reminds me of Beanie and Mr. Man), by which time Baby Guy had wandered out into the living room to play with the marvelous toy, so I took a break and watched the show with the tribe, smiling and laughing as they shouted out helpful advice to their favorite superhero.

While there was a certain amount of complaining about the TV being turned off after the show, Beanie, Bugaboo, and Mr. Man were quickly mollified by my suggestion that since it was raining outside, it would be a perfect day to paint.  Three little streaks of lightning bolted into the kitchen, where they were quickly supplied with tempera, brushes, and paper.  I also showed them the old “put a blob or two of paint on the paper and fold it over to make a butterfly” trick, which they absolutely loved, and the overhang by the kitchen window was quickly adorned with scads of vivid artwork, fluttering in the breeze from the ceiling fan.  Beanie exclaimed, “Look, Mommy, our butterflies are flying even though their wings are wet!”

I could actually get to like rainy days.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, who delight in the simplest of pleasures, and who derive joy from creating images of Your beautiful creations.  Please grant me the grace to always see the opportunity to exult in grey skies, and to teach Your blessings that the most joyful days don’t have to involve going anywhere but our kitchen table, if we are grateful for the gift of the family You have built.  Kindle in us the wisdom to see Your unwarranted generosity in every event of every day, and to find the rainbows You set for us as a reminder.

Postscript:  After doing my morning reading, I added a link to a blog post about the grace of being grateful for the Lord’s essential gift of fulfilling our basic daily needs; click on “unwarranted generosity.”  SR’s post is well worth the read.  I’ll be considering today what the things are that enslave me, that keep me from joy.

Breaking the Law

Here’s the song reference.

Mondays tend to be a little trying at our house; the tribe really enjoys having Daddy home for the weekend, and visiting with Nonno and Deedaw on Sundays.  The extra attention and fun outings are grand; there are things that, given the ages of our children, are tough for me to do without another adult around, so we tend to pack those things into Saturday and Sunday.  When the first day of Daddy’s work week dawns, all four tiny people are a little glum, and more prone than usual to snarkiness — let’s make that screaminess and whininess.  I’ve tried outings, playdates, extra-super-special art projects, music, prayers, movies, chores that separate combatants, art projects that separate combatants, science projects, cooking, playing outside, bubbles, using the bathtub as a pool, letting them make phone calls, extended storytimes, naps, rational explanations, and about a thousand other strategies, and have finally come to the conclusion that, for the time being, Mondays will generally be replete with opportunities for me to offer up small sufferings to Christ.

Yesterday was, of course, a Monday.  The first sound I heard from each of the first three wakeful blessings was a scream.  Baby Guy gets a pass for his, because he was hungry; Bugaboo and Beanie were just screaming at each other.  There is apparently some deadly insult among little girls that involves referring to one’s sister as either a yak or a tree, and once that insult is offered, a full day of combat is required to restore the honor of the offended party.  I spent a great deal of time explaining the concept of forgiveness to our daughters yesterday, sometimes in less-than-dulcet tones.  Mr. Man helpfully followed me around, his hands waving, hollering at his sisters, “Not nice!  No throw!  No push button!”

Of course, he followed his admonitions by hurling blocks across the kitchen and resetting the cable box so the on-screen menus appeared in French.  Mondays.  It was at that point I decided that a run to the store for milk and eggs was in order, partly so that I could separate them all by strapping them into their car seats.  As I put it to a friend, it was the sort of day that causes me to frequently thank the Lord for children who have large vocabularies and no speech delays, and to recall that since the Lord will send what I ask him for in faith, causes me to pray for wisdom instead of patience.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play.  By dinnertime, I was about at my wits’ end; once four tiny people were safely ensconced at the table with their meals, I grabbed my Kindle and headed out to the back porch to read and listen to a little Scott Joplin on my Kindle (click the link, listen to something beautiful), and tune out any noise that did not indicate a life-threatening emergency for a few minutes.  I decided to check Facebook as well; sometimes laughing at the silly pictures reminds me to be joyful.  Unfortunately, what I found was a terse and unresponsive response to an invitation to Beanie’s upcoming birthday party.  Sighing and composing responses of varying degrees of appropriateness in my head, I went back upstairs to investigate the source of the banging noise (potentially life-threatening, at our house).

Having ascertained that no one was in immediate danger, and having counseled Mr. Man that banging on the refrigerator with a spoon purloined from Bugaboo is not an acceptable method of music-making, I started making the rounds to see who wanted seconds of what dish.  Bugaboo scrutinized me for a moment, then inquired, “Nobody’s being very nice today, are they?”  I concurred with her assessment, and added that even people who weren’t at our house were being somewhat rude.   She considered that for a moment, then asked, “But we have to forgive them anyway, right?”

Yep.  “We do, honey.  Just like I forgive you, but still expect you to not keep doing it.  If you keep saying nasty things, or saying things in a nasty way, I’ll still forgive you, because God forgives me, but don’t be surprised if other people don’t want to be around you if you keep doing it.  We’re supposed to love each other, right?”


“Do we love each other by being snotty when someone didn’t do something exactly the way we wanted them to?”

Pause.  “No.”

“Right.  Do you want seconds of anything?”

“Is there more macaroni and cheese, please?”

“You betcha.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your law tells us that we must forgive each other’s trespasses as many times as others trespass against us, because You forgive us infinitely more times than we forgive others.  Thank You for Your little blessings, at least one of whom already understands that.  Please help me teach them what love is, and what love is not, and that love is more readily shown in kind treatment of others than by ostentatious trappings and public declarations of one’s great love for and faith in You — and help me show it in my conduct on the days when they are trying to break the world record for the decibel level of screaming and whining.