Tag Archive | joy

Bat out of . . . shoebox?

Here’s the song reference.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Riders on the storm

Here’s the song reference.

We had some horrific lines of thunderstorms roll through here yesterday, and the three ambulatory members of the tribe spent a good part of the afternoon and early evening trying to watch out the windows.  I say that they were trying to do so because I kept shooing them AWAY from the windows, since the weather radio was lit up with a steady stream of tornado and severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.

During one break in the storms, Bugaboo observed, “There is a little peek of sunshine coming through the clouds.  That means there must be a rainbow.”  I complimented her on her recall, and invited her, Beanie and Mr. Man to check all the windows to see if they could find one.  Unfortunately, none was visible from our little corner of the world.  However, just before the girls went to bed, I chanced to check Facebook.  Lo and behold, a friend had posted a photo of a beautiful rainbow, arcing across the sky above Wegmans.  I ran into the kitchen, where Bugaboo and Beanie were cadging one last pre-bedtime snack from Daddy, and showed them the picture.  Bugaboo jumped up in her chair and said, “Wow!  I knew there would be a rainbow!  God always sends rainbows after storms!”

Yes, he does, my love.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the storms that deepen our appreciation for calm, and for the rainbows that follow lightning.  Please help us teach Your blessings that in every frightening or destructive thing, we can see Your beauty if we pause to consider Your promises.

Sundays in the park, twice if it’s Memorial Day

Here’s the song reference.

Deedaw has been under the weather for the past couple of days, and since she did not wish to share her bug with the tiny people, we found ourselves with a planless Sunday.  Since the tribe was manic, and Bugaboo was agitating for an opportunity to ride her spiffy new scooter, we quickly changed them into playclothes, tossed some juice and snacks into a bag, and sped off to a local park for some fresh air and sunshine.

Once we arrived at the park, Bugaboo promptly decided that the playground equipment looked like more fun than the scooter, so it stayed in the van, while the Presidential Limo (our pet name for the big double stroller that has been our saving grace since Beanie’s arrival in 2008) was loaded with the Baby Guy crawling blanket and the rest of our supplies.  I pushed the stroller, and Daddy walked ahead with our two very excited daughters.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to check Beanie’s wardrobe choice before we left the house, and as she scampered up the sidewalk to the playground, she found herself suddenly hampered by the descent of her shorts to  her ankles.  It seems a pair of Bugaboo’s drawers had accidentally made it into Beanie’s drawer, with the predictable result.

Apparently, sometimes Mommies DON’T realize their children left the house in THAT . . .

One quick knot and two unbuckled boys later, we had four kids on the loose, making new friends, inventing new games, climbing, swinging, running, laughing, and sweating.  Daddy took swings detail, while Baby Guy and I set up camp under the single shade tree.  Our youngest made the amazing discovery that if one tips one’s chubby little self over to the side whilst sitting on a hill, one rolls in a highly entertaining manner.  After about an hour of fun and frolic, everyone was hot, tired, and hungry, so we headed home for lunch.  Poor Mr. Man had worn himself out to a point that he didn’t even want to eat, and for the first time in recent memory, didn’t protest when I tucked him into his crib for a nap.  Baby Guy followed after demolishing a hot dog and half a banana, at which point Daddy and I decided we could use a nap, too.  He stretched out on the couch with Beanie, and Bugaboo followed me into our room with an armload of stuffed animals.

Not much napping was actually accomplished by either the girls or Daddy and I, but it was thoroughly pleasant to be able to relax horizontally for a couple of hours.  Having rested, although not with any measure of sleep involved, the girls were ready for more adventures before their brothers awoke, so Daddy took them outside with a little plastic tub to see if our raspberry thicket had borne any edible fruit. As it happened, the three of them harvested about half a bucketful of sweet golden and purple berries by the time the boys awoke and drank the cups of milk that function as their coffee.  My poor husband scarcely had time to give the berries a quick rinse before the tribe descended upon him like locusts, and he had to enforce turn-taking to ensure that each tiny person received a fair share of the fruits of our horticultural labors.

After the raspberries had been devoured, Bugaboo started agitating for another opportunity to ride her scooter, since she had eschewed her earlier chance.  Daddy looked at me and, after a moment’s thought, I started tossing the makings of a picnic supper into  a bag, calling over my shoulder that the boys probably needed to be changed and all the ambulatory members of the tribe needed shoes. Within five minutes, we were back out the door, headed for a different park.  We did make a quick pit stop at Arby’s for a handful of roast beef sandwiches to round out our meal.

The tribe thoroughly enjoyed an alfresco dinner, then scattered across the playground at the second park of the day.  Bugaboo and Beanie made a brief plea for a visit to the pool, which was quickly quashed by the reminder that none of us had either swimsuits or sufficient cash on hand to make a pool visit feasible.  It took considerably more persuasion to convince Baby Guy that the mulch with which the playground surface is covered does not make a suitable dessert.  I’ll be glad when he gets past the age where he will pass up a cookie to eat whatever he’s found on the ground.

On both visits to the park, we left our watches at home and our cell phones in the van, as is our custom when we’re out with the tribe.  We don’t have so many hours where all of us can be together, rejoicing in each other’s company and the day the Lord has sent, that we want gadgets to rule or even intrude upon that time.  It always saddens Daddy and I to see the parents sitting on the park benches, eyes glued to the screens of their smartphones, disregarding their children’s pleas for a push on the swings or their summiting of the giant rock wall.  They always seem to be in bad moods, too.  We’re choosy about where we direct our attention, I guess.  There’s a time for electronics, and there’s a time to enjoy all the beauty that the unofficial beginning of summer holds.

When all the water bottles were empty, it was time to head for home, with very little objection from the tiny people.  Baby Guy was actually the last one standing this time, and the only one to utter a protest as we left the park.  Once we got into the house, I asked if anyone would like a bowl of frozen rainbows (local argot for rainbow sherbet, a summer staple at our house), and was met with a chorus of affirmatives.  Bugaboo, after two bites of sherbet, decided she would rather have a popsicle, so Beanie found herself with a bounty of fruity frozen goodness.  Four baths later, we assembles the troop in the living room for prayers, lullabies, and stories, the NASCAR race muted on the TV (NASCAR is great when you have kids who are learning numbers and colors).  By 8:01, we had four contentedly sleeping tiny people, and thanked God for a day where the rejoicing enormously outweighed the reprimanding.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a Pentecost Sunday on which the bright summer sun reminded us of the Holy Spirit’s fiery descent from Heaven, covering us with warmth and filling us with joy in the knowledge that You surround us everywhere we go.  Thank You for bright light and heat that are blessings, that signify life and mirth, and remind us to always keep those for whom they were the end of their days on earth.  It is fitting that on the weekend our country honors those who laid down their lives in defense of their brethren, we also celebrate the day You sent Your Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, and keep us.  Please grant wisdom to our leaders and grace to the families of those who stood in harm’s way by the orders of those leaders, and help all hearts open to Your Son’s message of love for neighbor.

Clover and over

Here’s the song reference.

Beanie has designated herself the official flower picker of our household.  As soon as she is given permission to go play outside, her first order of business is to minutely inspect the clover that grows in random patches in our back yard, find the fluffiest flower heads available, and pick them until her little fist can clutch no more.  When she has gathered what she considers an acceptable handful, she delightedly capers up the stairs, cooing, “Mama!  Mama!  I have something foooooooooooor youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!”

Yesterday morning, she repeated her ritual after scarfing down half a banana. While she had been dawdling over her little breakfast, I had emptied the (very) old cream pitcher I use to display Beanie’s offerings, and remarked on the light, cheery fragrance of fresh clover blossoms.  Once the banana was eaten, a small flower-seeking missile zoomed out of the kitchen, donned shoes, and flew out the back door.  Some moments later, I heard the telltale thud of size nine feet on the steps, and turned to see a hugely smiling Beanie, clover stems dangling from between her fingers and an impressive puff of white flowers crowning her fist.  She presented her find to me with a little flourish, and the announcement, “Mama, here’s your Beanie love present!”

It boggles my mind that with all the toys and all the things to explore in our back yard, the first thing Beanie wants to do when she goes outside to play is bring me flowers to say “I love you.”  If this is what our days being like grass means, I’ll take it.

Later in the day, Uncle and Cousin, who live not far north of us, stopped in for a visit.  My husband was delighted to have another music guy in the house, as he is currently constructing a FrankenFender, and Cousin was only too happy to test it out for him.  Before long, another guitar materialized, and the two of them sat and talked instruments while Uncle and I smiled and offered the occasional comment or question.  When I checked to see if anyone might be interested in lunch, the response from all three men was quite enthusiastic, and shortly thereafter, we all settled in for steak sandwiches.  Baby Guy slept through their entire visit, unfortunately, and Mr. Man gave up the napping ghost not long into lunchtime.  We knew he had to be tired when he turned down steak and bread.  The girls had a game going involving Polly Pockets, Transformers, and assorted other dolls in their room, and we really hadn’t heard much from them.

The sound of plates hitting the table, however, brought a smiling Beanie from the girls’ room, and she happily accepted a plate when I returned from tucking Mr. Man in to his crib.  All four of us grimaced, then stifled laughter, when she decided to wash down a mouthful of pickles with blueberry juice.  Uncle, to my delight, kept remarking on how all the tiny people seemed happy.  I was glad to be able to share a meal, some music, and some life with the branch of the family tree I hardly know, but whose members are decidedly pleasant and welcome company.  Hopefully the general clutter and chaos that characterizes our house didn’t scare them off.

After Uncle and Cousin left for their next destination, Daddy and I discovered that the boys were still asleep, so we turned on Dinosaur Train for the girls and stretched ourselves out on the living room couches to get a little rest.  Beanie decided to abscond with Daddy’s socks, as she frequently does unto anyone who reclines on a couch with socks visible, and catch a few snuggles.

I guess we were all a little tired.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a peaceful day spent with family, and thank You for the safe travels You granted our uncle and cousin.  Thank You for the food You send to nourish our bodies and souls, for a shared love of teaching and learning, for our family’s passion for music and instruments.   Thank You for teaching us that houses divided do not stand, and for giving us the opportunity to strengthen our family’s house, building it with love, bread, and joy.  Please help us teach Your blessings that building each other and our family up is a gift and privilege from You, and that love shared is never wasted.

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

Here’s the song reference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mission accomplished.

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

Lost in the rock and roll

Here’s the song reference.

Yesterday brought both my Aunt Gerri’s funeral and Bugaboo’s birthday party.  I had explained to Bugaboo previously that while the two events were happening during the same time frame, and that nothing less could keep me from her party, I needed to be at a celebration of a different sort, but that if the Lord would make a way, I would be there for at least the last little bit of her festivities at the skating rink.  Bugaboo is a loving and understanding little girl, and she understood first that sometimes grownups have to make difficult choices, and second that Mommy habitually keeps her promises.

I learned a lot about my Aunt at her funeral, not the least of which was that she and I share a common passion for feeding the hungry.  I also got the backstory on a question that’s gone unanswered since Granny’s memorial service in 1990.  Aunt Gerri loathed the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” but I never understood why until the minister who was eulogizing her told the story of how he and she had planned her final celebration together.  As it happens, she could not stand the lyric, “that saved a wretch like me,” because it was her stalwart belief that none of us are wretches, and that we are all beloved of God.

I love her logic.

It’s hard for me to write much more about Aunt Gerri’s homecoming party right now, but I do want to share something else that will remain with me for the rest of my life.  For the recessional and the procession to the memory garden for the interment of her ashes, my Aunt chose a song I sing with my children, “Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”  All those present clapped, swayed, and sang as her ashes were borne from the church, and the singing and clapping continued until the last congregants had left the sanctuary.

When I leave this earth, I want there to be as much rejoicing in the assurance that I am with my Lord as there was for my Aunt.  As joyful as it was, I could not hold back my tears for all those years that we could have shared in each other’s work, in each other’s love.  While I know that she forgives me, and the Lord Himself forgives me, it’s harder at times to forgive myself for my trespasses.

I left the church and headed down the interstate as fast as I could, in order to honor my promise to Bugaboo.  Suffice it to say that after some extremely frustrating moments in traffic, including one memorable exercise in un-Christian language (which I am grateful the tribe did not hear) directed at a driver who blocked the exit ramp while consulting his GPS and a test of the speedometer in my mom van, I did make it to the day’s other celebration, to Bugaboo’s unbounded delight and Mr. Man’s unbounded relief.  I forgot that in his two years, Mr. Man has had exactly two days when Mommy wasn’t there — one for an uncle’s funeral when Mr. Man was but a week old, and the other the day Baby Guy was born.

All of our children, their friends, and extended family had a terrific time at the skating rink, and the girls are now pretty comfortable on skates.  The older family members were all smiles from watching the passel of pint-sized people play, sing, and delight in glow stick jewelry and disco balls.  Again, it’s hard right now to write much, but I thought my heart would explode when each of my children in turn ran to me for hugs and kisses.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for such a morning as You gave me yesterday, filled with a loving family, most of whom I had never met before.  Thank You for the gift of the beautiful life of Your child and my Aunt, Geraldine Williams, for the beautiful example of covenant marriage she and Uncle Alusine built, for the beautiful gift of Daniel with whom You blessed their marriage.  Thank You for the blessed assurance that she is in Heaven this day with You, as will all those who keep Your covenants and commandments be.  Thank You for the gifts of song, dance, and laughter that You have given us to mark our celebrations for each other, and for You.  Help me teach Your blessings to love all Your gifts without qualification or reservation, simply because they come from you, and that none of us who live in You are wretched.

Knock, knock, knockin’

Here’s the song reference.

Bugaboo and Beanie have reached that delightful age where they try to tell jokes. I have aided and abetted this stage of their development by providing several CDs of silly kids’ songs, complete with intermittent joke-telling, that play nearly constantly in the kitchen during the time the tribe spends in there.  This morning, the two of them reduced each other to helpless giggles while attempting to tell the following joke:

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Banana who?
Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana!

They never did get it quite right, but it was absolutely hilarious listening to them try, especially since neither of them could stop laughing long enough to choke out the punch line.  Of course, I eventually indulged their request to “tell it the right way,” and then added one that had Beanie literally falling out of her chair when Bugaboo fell for it, to wit:

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Boo who?
Aww, don’t cry!

Grandma, who has heard them trying to tell the “orange” knock-knock joke several times (back when Bugaboo’s retelling was limited to “Knock knock bana!”), happened to be on the phone with me during part of the time the girls were giving each other giggle fits, and informed me that she had been inspired by their enthusiasm for the fruity humor to purchase an entire book of knock-knock jokes for Bugaboo’s birthday.  Once I recovered from choking on my coffee, my mother and I passed a pleasant few minutes reminiscing about a morning radio host from my childhood who used to have a “Stump the DJ” call-in segment every morning, in which listeners were invited to try to tell him a joke he’d never heard, and the treasure of my elementary school years, Truly Tasteless Jokes, through which I learned to laugh at stereotypes and myself — and what jokes to never, ever tell around my Granny.

I’m actually looking forward to enjoying knock-knock jokes again.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the reminders of how to laugh on days when it doesn’t come easily, and that there are some ways to enjoy words with friends that don’t involve a computer.  Thank You for the lively minds and lips of Your blessings, and for Your assurance that there will be times to laugh along with times to weep.  Thank You also, Lord, for knock-knock jokes.  I realize that probably wasn’t what You had in mind when You told us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me,” but I’m planning to teach Your blessings that we can always offer our smiles and laughter as prayers to You, prayers of thanksgiving for the joy we find in You.

Southland in the springtime

Here’s the song reference.

My husband has lived in Virginia since 1977, and I have been here since 1988.  He and I both agree that there are few things that can match the sheer beauty of everything in the state turning green and beginning to blossom in the spring, and, although we are both afflicted with severe seasonal allergies, we both love to see everything coming back to life. It’s an appreciation we’ve passed along to our tribe, and spring days at our house nearly always bring an outing to see what new bud or flower the Lord has sent, what new loveliness awaits the eyes that have the patience to seek it.

Spring also heralds the arrival of what we laughingly call “birthday season,” as our children’s birthdays are all clustered between April and June, which means lots of extra Grandma and Grandpa time, as well as the time when my husband’s family from Pittsburgh is likely to visit, which means lots of extra Nonno and Deedaw time, since most of the family chooses to stay there during their visits.  The first visitors arrived yesterday, when my husband’s cousins Joe and Pam arrived with our darling Zizi Carmela, who adores babies and small children and is never without a kind and loving word for all of them (even at their most obnoxious).  We’re all trying to convince her to make it an extended stay this time, and everyone has volunteered to take her home if she’d like to stay longer than Joe and Pam’s work schedules will allow.

Our tribe was a little off-kilter yesterday from a night of disrupted sleep, and Baby Guy has, partly to our sorrow and party to our relief, developed some small sense of stranger anxiety, so while the tiny people were all very happy to see Zizi Carmela, Uncle Joey, and Aunt Pam, Baby Guy wasn’t quite as willing to be snuggled by his great-aunt as he has been in the past, and his older siblings were more interested in heading outside to play in Nonno and Deedaw’s sandbox than anything else.  The littlest guy (who is named for Zizi’s late and equally beloved husband) did, however, totally delight Zizi with his utter demolition of three servings of pasta.  Zizi is from Italy, and I believe that her definition of “good baby” includes the ability to eat any pasta, anywhere, anytime, with relish.  She likes to see them enjoying her cookies (but not as much as we enjoy eating them), but the standard for whether a child is eating properly is his or her pasta intake, and she positively beamed as Baby Guy cheerfully chomped on his little seashell macaronis.

Of course, things that are lush, green, blooming and fruiting aren’t the only things that come to life in a Southern spring; in the part of the state where we live, there are abundant rivers, marshes, creeks, and streams.  This year, we had quite a dry winter, followed by a very wet spring, which has led to an absolute explosion in the mosquito population.  While my husband, Bugaboo, and Mr. Man are blessed with mosquito resistance, Beanie and I are not, and after two hours playing in the sandbox without mosquito repellent, our younger daughter bore all the marks of having been a smorgasbord for the local bloodsucker population.  I have added a family-sized bottle of Cutter to my list of “things to take over to Nonno and Deedaw’s.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the blessing of a loving extended family, and that Your little blessings have the opportunity to know Your beloved Carmela, and hear her stories.  Thank You for the joy she takes in small children, and for the songs Bugaboo sang to her; thank You for safe travels for our family and for the food with which You bless our tables every time we meet.  Please help us teach Your blessings that having many generations of our family alive at the same time is an unmerited gift from You, and shape us into examples of how to love and honor the older generations for them to follow in a way that is pleasing to You.  Please also help me remember that while You made the mosquito, You also inspired someone to create mosquito repellant, and that sometimes, the help You offer takes a mundane-looking form.