Tag Archive | kindness

Hello, I love you

Here’s the song reference.

Taking kids to vote

We voted as a bloc, as it were, yesterday.

Before we disembarked from Fran the Van, I reminded Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy that we would greet each and every person we met with a warm, “Good morning, sir,” or, “Good morning, ma’am,” and an honest smile.  We spent the drive to our precinct singing selections from “Wee Sing America” and talking about how the Lord gives us free will.  We had talked about choices earlier in the day, and even took a vote on what we would have for breakfast (President Pancakes and Vice President Sausage were the victors).

As we walked the gauntlet of electioneers, Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man and I greeted every poll worker for every candidate exactly as we had discussed.  Baby Guy chimed in with giggles and waves.  Each man and woman returned our greeting warmly and offered us sample ballots, which we politely declined.  Mr. Man hopefully extended his hand to each one, and was rewarded by at least a dozen smiling handshakes.

Inside the precinct, we continued greeting the people we met, from the election judges to the other voters.  People smiled, and told the tiny people what nice children they were, and commended me on their good manners.  With the exception of a minor Beanie meltdown, they weathered the 45 minute wait to cast our ballot beautifully, and made a couple of new little friends along the way.  After we voted, one of the electioneers was kind enough to take our picture.  Once we returned home, we taped a sign to the door of our little house in a swing neighborhood of a swing state so some very weary children could take their afternoon nap.

Deterring doorknockers

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who rejoice in being salt and light to the world.  Help me teach them always, in my words, in my deeds, and in my silences, that we owe our first allegiance always to You, Who sacrificed Your life for ours.  Let my words and deeds also show them that we render unto our temporal leaders the respect they are due, and we love all of our neighbors, not just the ones who agree with us.  Lord, we serve You first, and we serve You best by being Your face to this world, in hopes of bringing others into the warm embrace of Your friendship.  We do this because we love You; grant us the strength, the courage, and the grace to share that authentic love, which does not fall into easy, feel-good gestures, but which daringly passes through the narrow gate.

How easy it would be to show him how you feel

Here’s the song reference.

We moved our classroom over to Nonno and Deedaw’s house today; the cousins were spending the day there, and it was a rare opportunity for the six of them to enjoy each other’s company for most of a day.  Bugaboo made a brief attempt to snow Deedaw and Niece into believing that she really couldn’t read her assigned passage, but righted herself when I came in to ascertain why it had taken 15 minutes for her to decipher five lines of thirty-six point text.  Deedaw, Niece and I smothered our chuckles at her red-faced and rapid reading of the page thereafter.  Interestingly, Beanie finished her seatwork in record time, and received showers of praise from both Deedaw and Nonno as a result.

It was actually a very pleasant homeschooling morning, although I was slightly discombobulated from having to extract books and materials from a backpack instead of my little kitchen cubbies.  Mr. Man, Baby Guy, and Nephew wandered in and out of the dining room where we had stationed ourselves, I took a couple of diaper-changing breaks, and Deedaw produced a largish pan of macaroni and cheese just as the last math problems were solved.  We even worked in a round of the “Austrian Yodeler” song.

After lunch, the shorty syndicate wanted to go outside.  Niece, before heading outdoors, asked Deedaw where she might find a rake. Having been directed to the shed, she proceeded to gather the leaves in the side yard into neat piles.

I should point out here that Nonno has been ill of late, and has had a lot of difficulty getting outdoors to do his usual yard work.  Deedaw and I had discussed that last night, and I had assured her that over the course of the week, I would take care of the leaves.  Heartened by the unexpected assist from Niece, I grabbed the other big rake, distributed toy rakes among the tinier helpers, and set about raking and bagging the backyard.  Bugaboo did heroic service fetching and delivering the big leaf bags, and helping pile leaves into them. We managed to get in a couple of hours’ worth of work before Mr. Man and Baby Guy started “need a nap” meltdowns.

After Bugaboo and Beanie awoke from their naps (the boys were sacked out until nearly dinnertime), I called Deedaw to see how she and Nonno were faring.  Niece and Nephew had gone home with their father by then.  I marveled to Deedaw about Niece’s willingness to help, and asked her if Deedaw had instructed her to assist.

“No.  She did that all on her own.  She asked if she could do that right after she got here this morning.”

When I teach my seventh grade Faith Formation class later this week, and ask them the same question I ask every week, Niece will have provided a shining example for young people only a year her junior.  Oh, the question?

“How did someone say ‘I love you” without using words or giving you any material thing?”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a niece who sets an example of comforting the afflicted for Your blessings.  Without words, she showed a love that is patient, kind, and humble.  Please grant Your blessings the wisdom to remember her wordless teaching as they grow, and help me to reinforce the lesson with my own thoughts, words, and deeds.   Grant us all the grace to honor our parents as we should, to be Your face to them as they have been to us.  They are Your first gifts to us.

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.

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.

Somebody’s watching me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the song reference.

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

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

Good will hunting

I had a tough time getting myself together to make it to Mass yesterday morning; my head was a little foggy from Saturday, and I was grateful for my husband’s gentle prodding to get in the shower and dressed.  He took on the challenge of waking Mr. Man, dressing him, and jollying him into enough civility to give us, as it were, a prayer of making it through Mass.  It’s a good thing my best friend was able to shepherd us all towards the van; he remembered what I had forgotten, that it was our parish moms’ group’s turn to serve the donuts after the 9:30 celebration.  I had forgotten it so completely that I had not notified the other moms, so it would have been rather bad if I had not made it to Mass myself.  Luckily, we share our duty with the Secular Franciscans group, and when I explained my situation to their lovely leader, she responded by embracing me warmly and assuring me that she would lift up our family in prayer.

The tribe was exceptionally well-behaved at this particular Mass, and my husband and I were actually able to hear Father Hudgins’s homily this week.  This Sunday’s Gospel was the passage about Christ as the Good Shepherd, Whose sheep know His voice and answer His call, no matter how lost they may be.  Bugaboo listened quietly throughout most of Father’s teaching, and I’m planning to replay part of it for them when we continue talking about the parable of the Prodigal Son this week.  It occurred to me that I am thankful for a husband who shepherds our family into Godly pastures, even as Christ tends his flocks and leads them to the best of lands when they heed His call.

My biggest lesson from Mass, however, was something I’ve heard at every Mass since last year.  Some readers may be aware that the language of the order of Mass was changed to a more accurate translation late last year.  As part of those changes, the Gloria is now sung, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”  To me, that may be the most important prayer in the entire Mass at this time; I pray that the Lord will create me as a woman of good will, and help me raise our tribe as people of good will.

We are trying to create a household where our children recognize the rightness of kindness and humility.  A fellow blogger wrote a terrific post the other day about creating a 93% chance of a successful marriage just by managing the ratio of kind words to critical ones (5 to 1 is the target).  If we can set an example of that for our children, we will foster good will in our domestic church, and while we do not want our children to be fools, neither do we want them to grow into the kind of adults who immediately leap to criticize, to tear down, to find reasons to dislike.  Perhaps teaching them to see the beauty first, to see the work of the Lord first, and to spend five minutes admiring it before spending that one discordant minute, will have the effect of arming them against the temptation to petty divisions.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You call us to gather together in Your name on the Sabbath, to worship You as a community of believers.  When we gather, we see Your love in action through our brothers and sisters in faith, praying and singing together.  Thank You for a loving parish community in which to raise Your blessings, and for the many brethren who model Your exhortation to charity to them.   Please keep my tongue gentle, even when I must correct, and help me show always my love for Your blessings in the way I raise them.  They will treat each other the way they see me treat those around me, and if my mouth is filled with spiteful words and anger, they will learn it from me.  Please grant me the grace of a heart filled with mercy, and a direct line from that heart to my mouth.  Teach me to celebrate life and give thanks to You with every thought, word, and deed.

Roman hands and Spider-Mans

I was musing about what today’s “blog moment” might be while doing my evening reading.  As it happens, I’ve been working my way through Romans, and after a few minutes I chanced across this gem:

“Let love be without falseness: hating evil, clinging to what is good, loving one another with fraternal charity, surpassing one another in honor: in solicitude, not lazy; in spirit, fervent; serving the Lord; in hope, rejoicing; in tribulation, enduring; in prayer, ever-willing; in the difficulties of the saints, sharing; in hospitality, attentive. Bless those who are persecuting you: bless, and do not curse. (Rom 12:9-14)”

I have probably read that particular passage at least two hundred times in my life, and I am quite aware that the Apostle was not intentionally referring to preschoolers.  However, it brought to mind one particular episode from the day, and caused me to reflect that we are called to have the faith of a child.  Everything to which I am called by that Scripture seems so difficult sometimes . . . and then the Lord uses His little blessings to school the homeschooler.

Mr. Man receive a belated birthday present today from two of his wee playmates who, being afflicted with hand, foot, and mouth disease, were unable to attend his birthday festivities at the Rodent Redoubt.  I had mentioned to their mom, who is a good friend and former colleague of mine, that our oldest son loves Spider-Man, and she helped her daughters select a pad of giant Spider-Man coloring pages, a Spider-Man puzzle, and a big playbal with superheroes on it.  The ball, to Mr. Man’s eyes, was pretty darned cool, and he had a terrific time taking all the puzzle pieces out of the box and telling me which ones had bits of Spidey on them, but the absolute treasure of the lot was the coloring pages, which featured an enormous picture of his hero on the package (that’s going to become a poster in the boys’ room tomorrow).

He stood on his Daddy’s chair at the table, eyes aglow and a positively jubilant smile radiating from his entire face, petting Spidey through the plastic (Mr. Man pets people and puppies alike) and cooing, “Hi, Spidey.  Nice Spidey!  Is big Spider-Mans!”  Bugaboo, whose admiration for the webslinging hero is rivaled only by her little brother’s, stood close by. I was carefully monitoring her proximity to Mr. Man’s new prize, since, as I mentioned a few days ago, Bugaboo has a nasty little tendency to “help” her siblings play with things by taking them away and using them all by herself.

While Mr. Man loves to color, these pictures are absolutely HUGE, so I asked him, “Mr. Man, would you like Bugaboo to help you color a big Spider-Man?”  His little face crinkled in thought for a moment; he squinted, cocked his head, and said, “Okay.”

This is what happened next:

When there is a kerfuffle at our house involving two of the tiny people, it is most likely to be Mr. Man and Bugaboo; although Mr. Man is very generous and kind for a two-year old boy, he is still a two-year old boy, with the attendant temper and tendency to disproportionate responses to wrongs, real or perceived, and his oldest sister’s acquisitiveness has started a few tiffs where I thought I might have to break out the boxing gloves.  He eyes her warily whenever she comes near something he’s really enjoying.  That said, he will almost always let her play with him if he’s given the choice.  He’ll even share his M&Ms with her if she says, “please.”

Last night, when he shared his coloring page, he was living Romans 12:9-14.  He doesn’t understand that yet, of course, but he loves his sisters and his brother, even though his sisters aren’t very kind to him sometimes; what he does comprehend is that if you love somebody, you share what you have with them, and are glad to share not only the object, but also the time and the joy with them.  No temporal laws or rules can compel loving behavior, and when he acted from his love for his sister (I would not have made him share, and he knows it), he reminded me that no matter how much I, as an adult, try to argue and nuance and rationalize, following Christ really is as simple as freely sharing our blessings, whatever those blessings may be.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You commanded us to love one another sacrificially, and to forgive one another as often as we transgress.  Your blessings reminded me today that simple, childlike faith and love are pleasing to you; no matter how I try to justify not showing love to particular people because of the wrongs they hay have committed, the offense of another does not relieve me of the responsibility to treat them with charity.  Help me teach Your blessings that if we love You, we will conduct all our dealings with others in the manner explained by Your apostle — with love, joy, honesty, charity, and diligence.  Thank You for the lesson You taught me through Your little blessings, and for softening their hearts towards each other (and, sometimes, towards their parents).  Please remind me that my tendency to rationalize uncharitable words, thoughts, and deeds comes not from You, but drives me away from You, and help me to see clearly the loving response You expect from me in every situation.

Skating along

Yesterday brought a new venue for adventuring, as we headed off to our local skating rink for a nifty little gathering called Stroll and Roll that takes place there on Wednesday mornings.  Since a couple other members of our playgroup were also interested in checking it out, and Nonno and Deedaw were interested in bringing Dubs (their grandson, my nephew, and no, that’s not his real name) to play with a passel of pipsqueaks, we knew we would be in good company regardless of what we found there.

As it happened, what we found there was a whole lot of fun.  A couple dozen preschoolers, toddlers, and babies shared several riding toys, bunches of balls, and possibly the best kid Habitrail I’ve ever seen.

Rather than try to fit the pictures to the story, I’ll just show you a quick gallery of the better pictures.  My camera flash wasn’t being terribly cooperative, but I think the pictures convey the terrific time had by the tribe.

Each child, of course, had a favorite thing about this thoroughly enjoyable playdate.

Among the toys provided for the enjoyment of the tiny people were scooters.  Bugaboo has seen some recently, and developed an interest in learning to ride one — to the point that she requested one for her birthday.  When she saw them scattered about the skating rink, she looked curiously at them for a while, until she saw a girl of about her own age riding one proficiently.  After a few moments of careful observation, she snagged one and imitated what she saw; her peer noticed, slowed to a stop near her, and gave her a little coaching until Bugaboo, too, was zipping around the floor, dodging play balls and toddlers.

Beanie, meanwhile, found a large rocking puppy, and had a delightful time figuring out exactly how hard she could rock on it without flipping it over.  There were several times I thought she would end her impromptu physics lesson in the ER with a concussion, but she did manage to keep her cranium from contacting the floor.  When she tired of rocking, she was delighted to discover that the rink offered her enough level space to run as fast as she could, which happiness was only increased when she realized that other children would join her if she giggled while running.

Mr. Man loved the shopping cart and the water fountain in nearly equal measures; his shirt was completely soaked by the time we left.  While normally the most generous of little boys, I had a bit of a time getting him to understand that the water fountain was not among the intended entertainments offered by the kind people at Cavalier, and that he absolutely had to let the other children drink from it.  Having been separated from his fascinating new discovery, he set about pushing a shopping cart around the rink, exchanging one ball for another in his basket.  Of our four little blessings, he was the only one who didn’t really play much with the other children, except for a brief stint of “bowling” with his wee friend Vee and her Wela.  Of course, his normal lunchtime is about an hour into the time of the play session, so he was a little out of sorts.  I suspect that if I bring a snack for him on our next visit, he will be in a much better mood throughout!

Baby Guy loved the bowling pins, the balls, being able to crawl all over the place, and what must have seemed an infinite number of people telling him what an adorable little fatness he is.  I was a little surprised by the number of kids his size who were there; he was still, I believe, the youngest whose mommy would allow him into the field of play.  He was all smiles and giggle until he wore out.

After the first half hour or so, Bugaboo and Beanie disappeared into the Play Zone and made mayhem with the rest of the preschool crowd.  Beanie returned to the skating floor to check out the scooters after about half an hour more, but Bugaboo would still be in there if I hadn’t told her we had to come home.  I mean that rather literally — when she came out the first time to tell me all the wonders she had found, she pointed out to me that if she had brought her sleeping bag, she could camp out amongst the cargo nets.

I loved meeting the general manager of the place and finding out that she, too, is a homeschooling mom.  We had an enjoyable chat about birthdays, roller skates for toddlers, and the challenges of fulfilling the homeschool PE requirement.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for new opportunities and new friends, and for the infinite diversity of both You provide for us if we approach each day with open hearts and minds.  Your Spirit is with us always when we see new friends with eyes that see You in each face, and will bring us “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, forbearance, meekness, faith, modesty, abstinence, chastity (Gal 5:22-23)” if we let You guide even the chancest of meetings.  Thank You for the joy and laughter we shared, for the fellowship Your blessings found, and for the practical lessons You taught me about how to best care for Your smallest blessings.  Please help me bear in mind that even the most enjoyable day can be ruined by neglecting to make wise provisions for the needs of a little child.

Scenes from a birthday

Today is my birthday.  I was blessed to have a day filled with friends, family, and no small amount of laughter.  The tiny people weren’t exactly on their best behavior all day, but we still managed to have a pretty good time.  Plans got thrown out the window, and I spent the boys’ naptime watching cartoons from my childhood snuggled up on the couch with my daughters.

Even though the kids were a little rotten for most of the day, I am grateful.  Six years ago this week, we found out for the fourth time that we had lost a child.  On that day, I would have given anything to have four children whining at me for hours.  I give thanks for it now, and pray that friends and family who are still waiting for their miracle will get the answer they want to their most passionate prayer.

Because I want to spend the rest of the evening enjoying a Wegmans chocolate dome and hanging out with my best friend (who happens to be my husband, too — great benefit, that), tonight’s post is comprised of some moments from today for which I happened to have a camera handy.

Mr. Man, pulling out a chair so he could “teach” Baby Guy.

He gave Baby Guy a deck of flash cards and patiently told him what all the letters were.  He was even more patient in removing said flash cards from Baby Guy’s mouth.

Nonno and Deedaw made a special trip across the river just to wish me a happy birthday.

Mr. Man was assessing the possibility of climbing into Nonno’s lap, Baby Guy was trying to pull himself up on the chair, and Beanie was trying to jump off the chair over Baby Guy’s head.

Mr. Man was pretty intrigued by the “squishing game” Bugaboo was playing with Deedaw.

My very thoughtful and loving husband knows that the best birthday dinner going for an ex-pat Baltimorean is steamed crabs.

Beautiful birthday flowers from Nonno and Deedaw.

Cheery birthday buttercups (one of my favorite flowers, actually), lovingly gathered from our front yard by Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man when we came home from playgroup today.

My aforementioned wonderful husband also remembered that ever since Wegmans opened up here, I have wanted to have a chocolate dome for a birthday cake.  When I get done with this post, I’ll be enjoying a slab while listening to the Scott Joplin collection he found for me.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have blessed me with a large and loving family and an abundance of friends who are genuinely pleased that You have seen fit to grant me another year in Your Creation.  Thank You for the time they took to share joy with me, either in person, on the phone, by notes, emails, and Facebook posts.  Thank You most particularly for the friend who knew the greatest gift she could give me was to tell me about the plight of a neighbor in need, and thank You for the means to ease her distress.

Please, Lord, in the coming year, help me teach Your blessings that the greatest prayer and the greatest witness to our friendship with You we can give is to love our neighbors, to rejoice in their happiness and comfort them in their sorrows, to recognize the beauty and worth in every life and every day.  Help me live that witness and make my life a testament to the beauty of walking in fellowship with You.

And, Lord — thank You for enriching my life with ten children, four to hold here in my arms, and six to hold in my heart until I meet them again in Heaven.

A hundred flowers

I believe I mentioned yesterday that we do lots of things with flowers during Holy Week.  Not long ago, Deedaw invited me to raid her stash of artificial flowers and other craft supplies, which have been waiting in an airtight container for almost twenty years to be taken out and loved.  Fortunately, our daughters are always willing to give a little love to an underappreciated flower or fifty, and they are tremendously excited to have such a bounty of beauty for their creations.

Speaking of beauty, I reblogged a picture accompanied by a quote from Corrie ten Boom this morning.  The tribe and I spent a lot of time talking about that general topic today, in a very gentle context.  It was more along the lines of loving the people who aren’t our enemies, though.  Whenever strife was primed to break out between two of them, I reminded them that Christ called us to love each other, and asked them if they were responding with love or something else.

I heard a whole lot of “I love him/her, but . . .”  I reminded them, frequently, that even when someone wrongs us, we can point it out to them, but screaming, shoving, and name-calling are not required.  We can speak gently and still make the point that the chocolate and the hand holding it do not belong to the same person. We can decide whether we really have to play with that toy right now, or whether our brother or sister can have it for a while.  We can love enough that when a little voice pipes up with, “I’m sorry,” we can give the speaker a hug and a kiss and forgive her or him, and explain what was hurtful about the behavior.

We made little standups of the risen Jesus, ardorned with flowers, this evening.  While we worked, we talked about how Jesus was born and died so that we could be forgiven for our transgressions against the Lord and His people.  That led us pretty naturally to a little conversation how we are obligated to forgive those who hurt us, and to forgive them as often that is necessary.  For now, their hurts are pretty much limited to retrieving purloined toys.  I reminded them that the need to forgive as we ask to be forgiven doesn’t mean that we have to keep putting ourselves in positions where we’re going to be hurt — and that putting their toys away properly will probably reduce the likelihood that they’ll be pilfered by their siblings.  I also reminded them that if they respect their siblings’ things, they’re showing how they expect to be treated.

The more painful example I gave them was when I’ve used a sharp or angry tone and angry words towards them.  I told them that even Mommy and Daddy make mistakes, and that sometimes we realize we’ve made them when we see our children repeating what we’ve said or using a tone they’ve heard come from our mouths.  We all cause pain, and we all feel it, too.

A quick rundown on the project:  open all the flaps on an empty cereal box, then cut down one of the folds.  Fold a large side in half, then re-fold the box, inside out, to make a triangle with blank sids.  Tape the triangle together at a corner.  Fold the upper and lower flaps inside the triangle to give the structure stability (you’ll need to cut the folded flap).  Draw an outline of Christ, let the kids color Him as they see Him, cut out the picture, and attach it to the big flat side with glue dots or glue.  Give the children fabric or construction paper flowers and let them surround their picture of Jesus with them.  Here’s a photo gallery for you:

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You command us to love our enemies, and promise that You will give us the the love to follow Your command.  Help me remember You promise to grace our hearts with enough love for everyone we meet, and help me teach Your blessings that forgiveness is the greatest gift You gave us.  Please help us share, and teach, that grace freely.