Tag Archive | loving people instead of things

We don’t need no education

Here’s the song reference.

Bugaboo greatly dislikes math, although she is, in fact, very good at it.  This causes the occasional conflict at our house, as her disdain for things numerical tends to take the form of pretending she doesn’t know what the numbers mean, or which number is which.  Since she has been correctly identifying digits since before her second birthday, her lament that she doesn’t recognize them holds very little water.

While we do add in fun math stuff, like using brightly colored gems and pompons as manipulatives, the reality is that Bugaboo is at a point where our main goal for her with math is that she commits the basic addition and subtraction facts to memory, and the most effective way for her to do this is to practice.  I’d love to let her design her own problems using multihedral dice, which would definitely amp up the fun factor, but she’d rather not use the dice for their intended purpose  For now, for purposes of both practice and assessment (because she does like to see a page covered with rainbow checkmarks showing all of her correct answers, it’s textbook time.

Yesterday was one of those, “I hate math,” days for Bugaboo.  Her regular math book has gone suspiciously missing, so we resorted to a couple of workbooks I keep around for extra practice problems.  For the record, as of this writing, I have still not located the missing tome, so whoever moved it has done a pretty decent job of hiding it.  As it happens, the book she was given had some slightly easier problems in it than the regular text, so I handed it over, assuming today would be a nice, easy, numbers day, since she could breeze right through the problems and be on to English and science, which she greatly prefers to math, in a matter of a few minutes.

There is a somewhat profane saying about the word, “assume.”  If you’re not familiar with it, do click the link.

It’s not all that unusual for one or more members of the tribe to revolt during our school time; sometimes the rebellion has to do with the work, sometimes it has to do with Baby Guy or Mr. Man being highly annoyed that the kitchen table is not available for car racing, play cooking, or finger painting.  Generally, the offended party settles down in a matter of minutes, sometimes because I’m able to say the magic, soothing words that restore balance to the tiny person’s universe, sometimes because I do my best drill sergeant imitation.  As I mentioned yesterday, I’m trying to minimize the drill sergeant voice, because it really bothers me that I’m hearing so much of it coming from Bugaboo (and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Man).

Apparently, Bugaboo and I have both become a little too accustomed to me barking orders in the face of defiance.  For four hours, I kept my tone mild and calmly explained, redirected, encouraged, and ignored, by turns.  For four hours, the math remained undone, or was filled in with random numbers by my oldest child.  By the time she finally got around to completing the work, most of her toys were securely locked in Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom, with the promise that she would earn one object back for each task she completed throughout the day, including, but not limited to, her assignments.

This earned me several rounds of a Bugaboo wailing, “You don’t love me!  If you loved me, you would let me have my stuff back!  I can’t live without my stuff!  I have to have my stuff back in my room if I’m going to do work!  I won’t do it unless you put all of my things back from where you stole them!”

She was, in fact, able to reclaim all of her belongings, with the exception of a couple of small, broken toys she didn’t notice failed to make the return trip to her room, but it was almost dinnertime before she did.  Her math assignment was completed after I finally lost my temper and raised my voice, about an hour past lunch time.  After she finished it, I sent her off to her bed to take a nap, for both of our sakes, and, as I tucked her in, we had a little conversation about the importance of doing our daily, routine tasks gladly, even if they’re not exactly what we’d like to be doing at that moment.  I gave her examples of the tasks I dislike (regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised to learn that most of them are in the housecleaning domain), and explain that even though I’d rather be reading a book, playing a game, or doing stuff with her and her siblings, I still do them, because they’re necessary.  Once the work is done, I can play.  We talked about why math is important, about the times she’s sat next to me while I worked out a shopping list that worked with our grocery budget, and how she would be allowed to help with it if she could only remember the basics of addition and subtraction.

We also talked about how “stuff” is not a good measure of one person’s love for another, which turned into a discussion of people we know who have decided that when material largesse stops flowing, love must stop flowing as well, and how terrible is the hurt that decision has caused.  Bugaboo is six years old, so I’m not sure how clearly she understands the concept that toys, money, and expensive outings don’t constitute the most important part of love, but she did bless me with a glimpse of her comprehension after she’d had a nap.  I offered her a cookie, and she looked at me and said, “Mommy, you don’t need to give me a cookie.  I already know you love me.”

Alrighty, then.

She ate the cookie anyway, because cookies are tasty, and she was a little hungry.  I had one, too, and then we finished her phonics lesson.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the four intelligent and strong blessings You have entrusted to our care.  We have made mistakes in raising them, Lord, in that we succumbed to the temptation to use a wrathful voice instead of a reasonable one too often.  Please grant us the grace of patient and penitent hearts as we seek to unlearn the easy path of anger and thereby teach your blessings the narrower way of patient teaching.  We pray that you will use us as Your instruments to teach Your blessings, and anyone else in need of instruction, Your definition of love, which involves neither money nor possessions, unless it is in sharing those with those who direly need them.  Please bless our household with the grace of loving people more than things.


Here’s the song reference.

Our house was filled with the sound of sirens yesterday morning.  All of our little blessings have a great love for cars and trucks, but none more so than Baby Guy, who is at his happiest when surrounded by toy rescue vehicles.  Any car trip he takes is punctuated by little exclamations of “Fiwe twuck!” and “Poweeeeeese caa!”  There are days when his passion for said toys exceeds his desire to eat, and Monday was one of them.  I was a simmering, grey-haired cauldron of frustration at my absolute inability to get our youngest child to sit decently in a chair and eat a waffle and grapes.

Initially, it didn’t help when a large plastic fire truck, sirens wailing, collided painfully with my talus.  I whirled around, wincing, to excoriate the little offender, but stilled my tongue when I saw Baby Guy standing there with his arms spread wide and his face consumed by a huge and hopeful grin.

“Fiwe twuck, Mommy?”

I sighed and cast a rueful glance at the plate containing his nearly untouched breakfast before bending down, reversing the little truck’s direction, and giving it a gentle push back towards the waiting Baby Guy.  He chortled and clapped his wee hands merrily as the fire truck came to rest an inch from his little toes, then pushed it back to me.  We passed about five minutes playing fire truck catch, and his complete, delighted absorption in our game dissipated my frustration.  I laughed along with him, forgetting about the stickiness of the kitchen floor, the uneaten breakfast, the pile of books awaiting inclusion in lesson plans, the dog hair bunnies infesting the areas under the living room furniture.


As I reluctantly turned from our game to start the morning chores, I heard Sunday’s homily ringing through my head.  A piece of advice – bookmark that link, and the next time you’re angry because you feel like everyone else is doing something fun or interesting and you’re stuck doing all the scutwork, listen to it.  Twice.  Once again, I’d been schooled by a two-year-old.  I’d forgotten to rejoice in the day because I was so caught up in mundane minutiae, and instead of radiating love and offering the best work of my hands to the Lord, I was permeating the air around me with sourness and anger.  In that moment, my calling was to play fire trucks with a little boy, not to scrub the floor. My calling was to make sure that Baby Guy knew that he was more important than waffles, papers, books, and dirt.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your little blessings, who frequently remind me of what really matters, that we are to love one another instead of fretting over things.  Thank You for the joyful moments that sound like toy fire truck sirens and toddler giggles.  Please, Lord, help me teach Your blessings that it’s not the books, the dirt, or the breakfast that matter most to You, but the gifts of self we freely give.

And please, Lord, if today is the day You call Your faithful canine servant Bo to you, let his passing be gentle for both him and Your blessings.

Give it away, give it away, give it away now

Here’s the song reference.

We added four living children to our family in the space of 49 months, beginning in May of 2007 and ending in June of 2011.  As a result, we have a quantity of baby stuff that could supply a small town.  After a great deal of prayer and not a few tears, we arrived at the conclusion recently that it is time to start giving some of our bounty away.  We had planned to keep a couple of particularly cherished items for when we became grandparents, but in the end, decided that we have too many friends and neighbors who have real needs for the things we have to hold on to them for sentimental reasons.  In the end, Manie and I said to each other, it’s just stuff.  We love people, we use things, and when the people we love need things, we give them what we have.

That sounds so easy when you’re saying it, so noble and full of the exercise of the faith in Christ we cherish.  It’s not so easy when you’re loading the boxes filled with the things our pregnant friend doesn’t need into the back of the station wagon for delivery to a charity who will give them to families who have been blessed differently than ours.  It’s also not so easy when Bugaboo and Beanie come out of their rooms to investigate the cause of all the racket and see playthings that have been their constant companions for 5 1/2 and 4 1/2 years, respectively, being gently placed into boxes.

We explained to them, as we have done so many times before, that we are called to share what we have.  Both of our tired daughter were able to name examples of times when we  had put money in a basket, put gas in a stranger’s car, or when they had rifled through their own toys to find things to give away, things that they no longer played with but that would delight another child.  This was different, though.  This wasn’t, “okay, we don’t play with this any longer,” this was, “hey, wait, I love that thing!”

Therein lay the lesson, for all of us.  A goodly part of our homeschooling day today will be spent sorting through a lot of things we have in the house that really need to find homes where they’ll be used and appreciated.  This is part of our Advent every year (all of our parents are still living, and we therefore end up with a great deal of new stuff every Christmas, so there’s a practical aspect to it), but there’s a different dimension to it this year, I think, because of Nonno’s illness.  It is nearly embarrassing to recall the tears my husband and I have shed over things, that we have set that example for the tiny people, when we consider how the loss of things pales in comparison to the grief we share in the knowledge that we will soon be losing Nonno.

Peace be with you.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your little blessings, and for the full complement of grandparents who have welcomed all of them into the world.  Thank You for the material abundance with which you have blessed our family, and for the opportunities You have provided to share Your bounty with those whom You have blessed in other ways.  Thank You also for reminding us that, in every wise, loving each other is more important than loving our stuff.  Please help us to be gentle stewards of our earthly possessions and to be tender-hearted towards the person, not the thing, when others have need of our worldly goods.

And they call it kitty love

Here’s the song reference.

Beanie is something of a legend at our county’s parks and recreation department.  Last spring, when I was picking up the supplies for Bugaboo’s soccer team (Bugaboo, Beanie and Mr. Man in tow, Sal practicing corner kicks in my belly), the nice gentleman leaned over to address our younger daughter and asked her, in the singsong voice some adults use with very young children, “And are you going to play soccer like your big sissy?”

I should mention here that Beanie is altogether disdainful of anything that remotely resembles condescension.  We have NO idea where she gets that.

At any rate, she looked up at the gent with a facial expression that suggested she was questioning his intelligence, then slowly replied, “Nooooo.  I want to play football.”

Continuing with the singsong tone, he cooed at her, “Aww, are you going to be a little kicker?”

She regarded him again and sighed with the mild exasperation she often expresses when she has to explain something that, to her, is patently obvious, before replying, “Noooo.  I want to WHAMMO somebody,” while punching one little fist into the opposite little palm.

I should point out that at the time, Beanie was two years and nine months old, about 31 inches tall, and about 28 pounds.

The poor man snorted, then literally fell to his knees, laughing until tears ran down his face.  Some minutes later, as he wiped his streaming cheeks, he blinked up at me and choked out, “Lady, you’ve got A LOT on your hands.”  I somewhat smugly replied, “Mister, you don’t know the half of it.”

I am relating this tale as background to the story of my morning yesterday.  Beanie shambled out of the girls’ room a little after 7:00, and, after a couple of failed attempts, managed to clamber up onto the sofa and snuggle in next to me.  As it happened, I was perusing the Internet looking for party supplies for her upcoming birthday bash.  You see, this tiny titan has decided that nothing in the world will do but that she has a Hello Kitty-themed birthday party, complete with a pinata.  There are, fortunately, quite a number of purveyors of such pinatas, and a wide array of Hello Kitty goodies with which to fill them.

Since Beanie is the honoree of this particular shindig, it seemed appropriate to seek her input on the question of the pinata.  I pulled up the Google page containing a dozen images of the different types of Hello Kitty pinatas, then explained to her that we needed to decide whether she wanted a pull-string version or a bash-it-with-a-stick version.  She looked at me with a genuinely horrified expression, then emphatically exclaimed, “We have to have the string kind!  I don’t want anyone to whack Hello Kitty with a bat!  Poor Hello Kitty!  Hello Kitty is nice!  I don’t want anyone to break Hello Kitty!”

My comment on Facebook last night was, “I believe I may have to dress all of her siblings as Hello Kitty from now on.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who fill our days with laughter, and who derive joy from many different aspects of the world You have given us.  Please help me teach Your blessings to treat their siblings with the same tenderness they treat their imaginary friends and toys.  It is sometimes difficult for adults to treat gently with people who have given them offense, Lord, but please help me give them the right example of treating people more lovingly that we treat inanimate objects that cannot love us, or You, back.

And please, Lord, let me never lose the ability to laugh while I’m teaching, even if I have to do so silently.