Tag Archive | mistake

Not quite right

One topic of conversation that never fails to generate lots of laughter at our parish moms’ group is the hilarity that often accompanies growing vocabularies. Kids really do say the funniest things, and the reason they are funny is because the children uttering the slightly askew words or phrases are completely innocent of the meanings of their mispronunciations.  Heaven knows our tribe has had, and continues to have, its share of anguished English, with occasionally uproarious results.  For example, all of our children have had a dreadful time properly pronouncing the word, “sit,” which is unfortunate because that’s quite the oft-spoken word around here.  So far, Bugaboo, Beanie, and Baby Guy have all managed to holler, “shit, shit SHIT,” at a sibling who refused to remain seated in a chair or shopping cart.  It is, I believe, a law of nature that small children will only do this when there is a large crowd of people present, each member of which is ready to extend a glower at the (apparently) cursing child.

Mr. Man’s current bon mot is “snake” for steak, while one of his buddies has finally mastered the pronunciation of “truck.”  Bugaboo, who has always loved to sing, used to proudly belt out “Jesus Wants Me for a Zombie” to any audience, and Beanie once reduced the entire checkout section at Wegmans to helpless laughter by pointing to those helium-filled objects that are the objects of most small children’s desire and loudly asking, “Mommy, wan’ some big boobs pease?”  I will never forget the sweet, octogenarian lady who turned to my little girl with a merry smile and said, “Sweetie, so do I.”  Then there was Bugaboo, who strikes up conversations with anyone who stops to say hello when we go shopping, responding to the question of an elderly gentleman who inquired of her what she was helping Mommy find at the big store one day with, “My Daddy needs some new panties.  He uses the potty, you know.”

Then there was the beat-all that emanate from Beanie.  My stock answer to the “I wants” used to be, “Hey, Mommy wants a Maserati, but that’s not happening either.”  One day, Beanie was striking out on all fronts with her “I wants,” and when I employed my standard reply, she burst into tears, wailing,  “I don’ WANNA mommysnotty!”  It took me almost ten minutes to compose myself enough to call my husband to relay that one.

Mr. Man is a huge fan of all the Bill Martin, Jr. books.  The example above is the only one that still has a photographable cover.  After a dinner that involved four pasta-coated faces, followed by a rowdy hour in the yard, Mr. Man wandered upstairs, grabbed a stack of books, and clambered into my lap for some storytime.  I absolutely love that he calls Baby Guy over to join him when he decides it’s time to read.  At any rate, we read through several of his favorite board books; when we had finished his initial selections, Mr. Man meandered back to the bookshelf to choose a couple more, since he didn’t have to take turns with his sisters and Baby Guy hasn’t yet figured out how to crawl while carrying a book.  Seizing his favorite (and the best-known, I suspect) Bill Martin title, he ran back to me, waving his trophy in the air and merrily shouting, “BOOM CHICKA WOW WOW BOOM CHICKA WOW WOW!”

I couldn’t help it.  I laughed so hard tears squirted out of my eyes.  When I recovered myself, two little boys were sitting in front of me, staring at me with puzzled smiles on their faces.  Gathering both boys and the book into my lap, I started up a rhythmic chant of “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” until Mr. Man was saying it correctly and clapping his hands to the beat — which had the bonus effect of getting him to clap his hands every time the phrase “chicka chicka boom boom” came up in the book as we read.

It occurs to me that moments like those are the ones the Lord sends to remind us that teaching and learning are both pretty enjoyable if I have the right attitude, and that the proper response to making and correcting errors is taking the moment to recognize the humor in our mistakes.

Incidentally, I’d love to read any stories of mangled language any of you care to share.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for laughter, for Your blessings who are learning to speak, and for the abundance of ways You have provided for them to learn new words through books, music, and playing with friends.  Remind me to always keep a light heart when correcting them for even serious errors, and to teach them to enjoy the moment of levity when they realize a mistake.  Please, Lord, teach me to enjoy that same brief laugh when I err, as I often do, and to make my corrections with good humor and gratitude for the opportunity to fix my errors, so Your blessings will see that, while we’d rather not make mistakes, we will because we are not You, and You will grant us to wisdom to laugh at our own folly if we ask it of You.

Bubbling up

As regular readers of this blog know, lessons don’t always go according to plan — and that often, what the Lord has in mind is more effective than what I had written in my notebook.  I’ve been trying to get Bugaboo to try assignments that challenge her, and that I’m pretty sure she’ll only get about half right, so that she will learn that there is merit in making mistakes and learning from the process of correcting her errors.  She has a habit of getting a mulish little look on her face and saying she just can’t do it without help.  Since we have four children, this is problematic, because I absolutely cannot sit right next to her for the entire duration of her academic work and hold her hand.

Yesterday, one of her assignments involved a page covered with bubbles, each of which contained a number.  She was to color numbers 1-25 red, 26-50 orange, 51-75 yellow, and 76-100 blue.  Since I was still in the middle of morning check-in calls when she got to that particular task, I helped her read the instructions and asked her to try her best to complete it.  Fortunately, I received a welcome assist from Deedaw (with whom I was on the phone at the time), who told Bugaboo  she was sure she could get at least half of them right.  I have to remember that “I’m sure you’ll get at least half of them right” line — it erases the “not gonna” line that often furrows our eldest daughter’s brow!

As it happened, she didn’t quite get half of them right on the first try, but she did at least attempt every one, and she only used the four colors called for in the instructions.  I went over the assignment with her and marked all the correct bubbles with little check marks (it’s a philosophical thing — I’d rather give her the visual reminder of what she’s done right than what she’s done wrong).  Bugaboo promptly asked me to tell her the correct colors for the unmarked bubbles.  I declined, but explained that I would give her some help.  In the same math workbook, there is a grid with the numbers 1-100.  After tabbing that page with a sticky note, I outlined the number groups with the appropriate colors, put another sticky note on the page with the bubbles, and showed her she could use the sticky note to quickly flip back and forth to check her answers.

The “not gonna” line started to darken Bugaboo’s forehead, so I paused in my instructions, knelt beside her chair, and asked her if she remembered the story of the prodigal son.  She told me she did, and I asked her if the son had made mistakes.  She said he had, and I asked her if he did his best to fix his mistake.  She said he had.  I explained to her that just as the errant son had to admit a big mistake and do what he could to fix it, we make little mistakes every day and do what we can to fix them.  Bugaboo replied, “You mean like when you tried to slice the bread with a spoon and then had to go get a knife?”

I replied, “It’s exactly like that.  And what I learned from that is that I need to watch what I’m doing when I put my hand in the silverware drawer.”  With a little, “oh!” Bugaboo started flipping pages.  I checked her for the first couple of corrections, then asked her to tell me when she had done two more, then three more, and before long, she had the whole thing fixed; we did a good amount of giggling along the way, and making fishy noises when she got one right (because Tot’s favorite thing to do is blow bubbles).  We talked a little longer afterwards, and I’m optimistic that she got the point that every error we make is a gift, because it gives us the opportunity to grow in both knowledge and wisdom.

Baby Guy wore out just from watching his oldest sister’s hard work.  Yes, this is a completely gratuitous photo of a sleeping baby.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your apostle, Paul, exhorted the Colossians, “whatever your work is, put your heart into it as done for the Lord and not for human beings, knowing that the Lord will repay you by making you His heirs (Col  3:23-24).”  Thank You for those apostles, who risked their earthly lives to make sure Your Good News would survive, for their hard work and their staunch faith.  Thank You for the book of love letters you left for us, to encourage and instruct us, and for Your blessings, who listen to Your parables and draw wisdom from them.  You instructed the little children to come to You, Lord, and when we read Your parables, we are drawing them near to You, for You are wiser than we.  Help me raise children who, when faced with difficult or tedious tasks, joyfully dedicate their labors to You — and please, Lord, mold me into an example I’d want them to follow.

Serenity prayer

There is a prayer, popularly known as the serenity prayer, that goes, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  I’ll be teaching that particular devotion to the tribe early and often.

My mother has one sister, who is married and has one child.  I had not seen any of them since my Granny left us in 1990, because of a disagreement between my mom and my aunt.  Because the disagreement escalated to a point where Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin have little to no contact with Mom’s side of the family, they hadn’t had any word of me since the early 2000s.

When Pop-Pop went to join Granny in 2009, I finally learned their last name.

After a modest amount of Internet sleuthing, I located a young man who I believed to be Cousin.  Since I wasn’t completely sure it was he, and wasn’t sure he, Uncle, or Aunt would welcome contact from me, I set a couple of bookmarks so I could contact him later if it seemed advisable.

Last weekend, I happened across a post by him on a website I read periodically, indicating Aunt was in the final stage of a fatal illness.  The advisability of attempting to contact Cousin was no longer debatable.  I posted a quick summary of the situation on Facebook and asked my friends for help in finding good, current contact information for Cousin.

The Lord is good, and sometimes tells me His will by what help He sends.  I contacted Cousin through an online messaging service he uses. He was quite surprised that I had managed to find him, although not displeased, and invited me to visit.  As it happens, they live less than an hour from us.  Cousin and I agreed that whatever else happens, the feud between our mothers will remain between our mothers henceforth.

We visited them yesterday.  Uncle and Cousin assure me that Aunt knew we were there. Cousin conveyed Aunt’s request that Mom not visit her.  My husband and I agreed to honor Aunt’s wishes. We have not yet told Mom of Aunt’s condition.

I hope there will be time for me to visit Aunt again in this world.  We will make the time for Uncle and Cousin.

As it happens, Uncle and I share a profession; we are both educators, although he teaches at the college level.  Cousin shares all of our love of music, my husband’s predilection for video games, and our daughters’ enjoyment of My Little Pony.

I held Aunt’s hand, and kissed her cheek, and told her I was sorry it had taken so much and so long for me to come see her and her family.

When I went to bed last night, and when I arose this morning, I couldn’t shake the thoughts of what might have been, how destructive resentments, grudges, and pride can be.  I have an uncle with stories to share who I’ve met, now, a total of three times.  I have a bright and interesting cousin who I’ve now met twice.  I have an aunt about whom I know next to nothing who is no longer able to tell me her story, and who the tribe won’t remember.  This estrangement has been for my entire adult life.  Has been.  It’s done.

I believe that I had to live every moment of my life exactly as I lived it in order to be who, what, and where I am today.  There have been times where the price has been terrible for my daily joy.  This is one of those times.  If I can go where the Lord leads me through this trial, I know my joy will increase, but I will have to listen more carefully than usual for His voice, because my memory of a grudge with foundations that are unclear to me will be trying to shout Him down.

Please forgive this unusually terse and inelegant post.  And please read Matthew 18.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for my cousin’s post on a message board that led me back to a part of our family I had given up.  Thank You for giving them enough mercy and love to invite us to visit.

Lord, please forgive me for my unloving thoughts, words, and actions over the past two decades.  Please help me teach Your blessings that there has never been a grudge among two people that has come from You.  Wrath is among the deadly sins for a reason; it cuts off a part of my heart from reaching out in love, and instead allows a hellish brew of anger and resentment to fester where love and forgiveness should be.  Help me teach Your blessings to stand firmly with You when asked to be a part of someone else’s grudge, and when I am tempted not to forgive, or am tempted to bear ill-will because of a wrong alleged by another, please show me my aunt’s face.  When I choose anger, I am spurning Your gifts.  Kindle in me a grateful heart, Lord, one that is open that what blessings You send.  Please grant me, and help me teach Your blessings, a spirit of genuine and generous repentance, instead of useless and selfish guilt.

Vocational education

Saturday, at our house, was one of those days everyone would rather forget, the kind where everyone ends up yelling, crying, or both, and harsh voices obscure the love that fills our house.  Our family was still somewhat tense on Sunday morning, as my husband and I tersely gave instructions to the tiny people and each other to get ready for Mass.  It was an uncommonly quiet van ride to church.

Mr. Man and Baby Guy were both having snuggly mornings; we actually had to roust Mr. Man, who would have been happier sleeping until noon or so.  Anger in our household upsets his sleep, and he had been up at strange hours Saturday night and the wee hours of Sunday morning.  When we arrived at our parish, Mr. Man was odoriferous, and my husband gallantly grabbed the diaper bag to change him so I could take the girls for a potty run before Mass began, then go find a place for our family to sit.

As it happened, the only available space that would accommodate our family of six was the pew directly behind the altar servers.  That particular location has been the site of some memorable Mass disasters, including the only Mass I can remember when we didn’t even make it through the homily.  I settled the girls in the pew and Baby Guy on my lap, and wished the lovely lady who always serves at 9:30 Mass a good morning and happy Easter.  My husband and Mr. Man joined us a minute or so later, just in time for the opening strains of “Alleluia, Alleluia.”

We did not have an auspicious start, as Beanie decided it would be fun to repeatedly raise her dress and flash her Hello Kitty panties to the entire congregation (the pew directly behind the altar servers is in full view for the entire church). After a sharp rebuke from me, followed by a stern warning about the potential consequences if she expressed her displeasure at my admonition by screaming, my husband, the girls and I bowed our heads in prayer.  Mr. Man and his blankie were snuggled up on my husband’s shoulder, and Baby Guy cuddled in my arms, playing a little quiet peekaboo with the two venerable and veiled ladies behind us.

After the Liturgy of the Word, we found that we had a visiting priest for the homily; the priest who is the director of the Office of Vocations.  The Lord has been known to send precisely the help we need, as my regular readers know, and Father Bashista was that help yesterday.  His homily was a brilliant explanation of the concept that every single person in God’s creation has a vocation, a calling.  Some are called to be priests, holy brothers and sisters, or deacons, but far more are called to be parents, husbands, wives, and friends who live Gospel.

A vocation, you see, is not necessarily the job a person does that brings financial recompense.  A vocation is the work the Lord has destined a person to do, to bring joy on earth and in Heaven.  Each of us who believes in Christ has the general vocation to be granted Heaven not only for ourselves, but also for as many of our fellow men and women as possible.  While I would be overjoyed if one or more of our children had a calling to a religious vocation, and my husband and I pray that the Lord will so choose, we are trying to train them all up to find joy in a life that finds its greatest joy not in the latest gadget, not in the biggest house, not in the most impressive paycheck, but in time spent in love and service to others.

Halfway through that homily, which captured even Bugaboo and Beanie’s attention, Father Bashista reminded us that the great vocation of husbands and wives is to help each other attain Heaven, by strengthening each other’s faith and setting a holy example for our children.  I sneaked a peek sideways and saw that my husband and I were doing the same thing — looking at our shoes and trying to look at each other out of the corners of our eyes.  We shared a pair of sheepish, apologetic smiles.

When the homily concluded, we held our daughters’ hands more tenderly than usual during the “Our Father,” and shared the gentlest kisses of peace with them.  “Peace be with you” and an embrace ended what may have been the worst and most potentially destructive argument in the history of our household.

After Mass, after we had buckled four tiny people into the van, my husband and I shared a long hug and a mutual apology in the parking lot before we headed for home.  Sunday was a day of rest from many things, but most of all from the stress of strife brought on by petty things.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You reminded us yesterday that our most vicious disagreements come when we forget, or disregard, the vocations for which You have chosen us.  You called us to be spouses to each other and parents to Your blessings, and You call us to raise them in love and service, not in selfishness and spite.  Please kep us mindful always that no matter how much of Your word we read to them, the lessons they will learn best are the ones they see.  Please bless them with the memory of how hurtful angry words hurled over trivialities can be, and with the memory of the joy and mercy true forgiveness brings.  Your Son gave His life so that we could be forgiven.  We are rarely asked for so profound a sacrifice; help us teach Your blessings that pride, envy, and avarice are things to be cast aside, and that sacrificing them to further Your Kingdom is no sacrifice, but a blessing.

Constructive criticism

One of the tougher things about homeschooling is making sure my criticisms of my wee pupils are phrased and delivered constructively.  It’s pointless to be passive-aggressive or outright nasty with a four-year-old, because she’ll draw the wrong pair of lessons — one, that it’s okay to be ugly to someone who is either learning a skill or has made an honest mistake and two, that learning is an ordeal to be suffered instead of a world to be explored.

I posted yesterday about Bugaboo and the nickels.  The lesson that ended up being the focus of our day turned out to be less about skip counting and more about the importance of honest effort and perseverance.  While I’d wager that my tone got a little sharper than necessary, I think she learned, in the end, that being honest and diligent saves her a lot of wretchedness in the long run.  Undoubtedly, she would rather have been playing in the yard with her siblings and the dogs yesterday afternoon; instead, she was stuck in a chair.  If you read the post, you know the rest of the story.

Today, we broke 0ut a bunch of nickels from the change jar, and made a game of practicing skip counting together.  Beanie found this fascinating, and would much rather have joined in our game than finished coloring her picture.  I wouldn’t have minded including her, except that she’s in that difficult period of learning to focus on her own work, regardless of what may be happening around her, and I’m concurrently trying to teach her that when it comes to schoolwork, there are times when my attention needs to be focused on only one tiny person at a time.  Since I really wanted to get Bugaboo invested in the idea that skip counting can be fun, I really wanted her to be my sole focus.

As usual, Bugaboo showed me she’d been paying more attention to the informal parts of my instruction than I thought.  She turned to her younger sister and said, “Beanie, Mommy’s helping me right now. The more times she has to stop to tell you to sit down, the longer it’s going to take me to do my work and the longer it’s going to take you to do yours.  If you let her finish, she’ll come help you next.”

I’d love to tell you that Beanie then parked her patootie in her chair and proceeded to finish the rest of her picture without delay while singing, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”  That would, however, be a complete lie.  She did settle down enough for me to practice skip counting with Bugaboo long enough for her to master independently doing it up to 75.  I’m actually impressed — I’d have been happy if she’d gotten to 40.

The important thing, to me, is that the tiny people hear criticism, not condemnation, and they understand that properly delivered criticism can be a very loving thing.  I appreciate it when people tell me something that I’m not getting quite right, and appreciate it even more when they’re kind enough to offer me some direction on how I can correct my error.  If I can foster that same understanding in the tribe, I think I’ll have taught them something important.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your Son’s instruction to not look at the speck in our brother’s eye while ignoring the beam in our own is often misunderstood as meaning that we are to take no notice of the errors of others, and to take umbrage when others bring our own mistakes to our attention.  Please, Lord, help me teach Your blessings that when someone offers correction or instruction to them, they act from love, and help me set a good example of how to receive criticism with a grateful heart.  You took the time to correct us, and even left us an instruction manual with which we could teach each other how to love.  Please remind me to give and accept criticism with a humble heart and a loving tone, and when I receive it, help me be gladly grateful for the freely given gift of the giver’s time.

Nickels are evil

Part of Bugaboo’s schoolwork today involved counting nickels.  She’s very good at counting, and is the chief champion divider of bags of M&Ms at our house.  We’ve been working on skip counting lately, which is a little more of a challenge for her.  Lamentably, she has the habit of pitching a fit when she’s confronted with a challenging task — especially when the task in question is mandatory.

We could have skipped her into kindergarten this year; the reason we did not is that she really needs to develop the habit of actually making an effort when she’s given a difficult task, instead of resorting to fluttering eyelashes and tears (in other words, we are aware that skip counting by fives is not something normally taught to a preschooler).  She’s mastered scissors, glue, coloring in the lines, writing uppercase and lowercase letters, and writing numbers.  She can count to 100 and do addition and subtraction with an abacus (and, increasingly, in her head), and she can alphabetize words.

I listed her achievements not to boast, but to point out that a simple memorization exercise like skip counting by fives to fifty shouldn’t really faze her.  From time to time, though, Bugaboo gets in into her head that she’s simply not going to do something.  This is one of those times.  My response is pretty simple when the problem is obstinacy as opposed to incomprehension (if she doesn’t get it, I’ll explain it a thousand different ways in a thousand different places until she does) — you’re sitting in that chair until you at least make an honest effort.  It’s not the getting it right part, honestly — it’s the attempt.  If you start reciting the colors of the rainbow when asked what a number is, you’re not really trying.

Of course, amid the banshee wails, tears, banging on the table, threats to throw her schoolbooks in the trash, saying ugly things to her sister, and other expressions of her dislike for the task at hand, she demanded to speak with Daddy.  I hate to bother him at work for a temper tantrum, but in this case, I made an exception, on the condition that she ask politely.  She phrased her request properly, so I placed the call and explained the situation.

I’m a little unclear what response she thought she’d get, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the one he gave.

After two hours, she had at least made a credible attempt at each of the eight problems.  We’ll correct them tomorrow.

Once she was a little calmer, we talked about hurting the people who love us.  We talked about how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are our friends, and how it hurts them when we abuse the gifts they’ve given us.  I praised her intelligence and tenacity, and asked her to tell me how she could use those in ways that would make her, her parents, and her friends happier.  She replied, “I could just try, and maybe ask for help.  I could ask you or Jesus or Daddy, or maybe even Beanie.  She knows lots of things, too.”

I’m taping a nickel into her baby book.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have blessed each of us with a particular set of talents and abilities.  Please help me teach Your blessings that You have given these gifts freely, in loving friendship, and that it is hurtful to You when we use them in ugly ways.  Help me to be their best example of gifts used wisely and well.  And please, Lord, help me remember always not to shriek back.  One banshee in the house suffices.

Rocking chairs, rocking babies

It’s been a rough week around here; my husband and I have been rather edgy about Nonno’s surgery (he’s doing very well, and we’d like to thank everyone who prayed and inquired), which has led to both of us being a bit short with everyone.  While he and I have found comfort in time spent with friends, I had an object lesson today in how much our stress had affected the tribe.

At playgroup today, Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man immediately scattered to play with their friends, while Baby Guy was delighted to hang out on the blanket we spread out for the crawling contingent.  The little fellow had quite the parade of little visitors; he’s a very cheerful baby who smiles and laughs at just about everything, and the toddlers in our playgroup absolutely love him.  His laughter has been a little scarce over the last couple of days, and watching him giggle and smile at the antics of the other tiny people lightened my heart considerably; I hadn’t realized how much I had missed the frequency of his chuckling.  Mr. Man was his usual active and curious self, checking out toys, doors, and other kids’ snacks, wandering back to me periodically for hugs or his blankie.

After one of Mr. Man’s check-ins, I did my periodic head count, and saw Bugaboo and Beanie piled up in a corner with two of their friends.  The four of them were occupying the rocking chair that serves as a quiet spot for moms who have babies in need of feeding or soothing; they seemed to be talking quietly, and all of them were smiling.  No furrows marked my daughters’ brows, and there was no trepidation in their eyes.  My heart gladdened at the sight of them relaxing and enjoying the company of friends.  It’s too easy, sometimes, to think about all the physical needs for which we provide, all the hugs and kisses and stories, and overlook the fact that they need time with their friends just as much as we do.  I think some revisions to our weekly schedule are definitely in order.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You reminded me today that You have provided abundantly for our every need, including our need for loving friends.  Please help me remember that Your blessings have the same need for the companionship of their friends as their parents, and that being with their friends helps them rejoice and be glad in the days You have made.  Raise my eyes from the piles of laundry and dishes and help me see that their needs, like mine, go beyond the physical.  Thank You for the companionship they find with each other, for the love that fills our home, and for the faithful friends with whom You have blessed them and us.

Sausage and corn chowder

On Tuesdays during Lent, our parish has a soup supper, followed by a talk from either our parish priest or a guest speaker.  Since I absolutely love to cook for a crowd (and a good presentation followed by a rousing discussion), this means my Tuesdays generally feature baking a huge loaf of bread and making a gallon or so of soup.  Of our tribe, only Bugaboo is not a soup aficionado, so I usually set aside a saucepan of the day’s concoction for their supper.  Bugaboo does, however, love fresh, homemade bread, so I’m usually able to cut off the complaint department by reminding her that with the soup comes at least one good slab of still-warm-from-the-oven bread, slathered in the topping of her choice.

I didn’t get a chance to run to the grocery store yesterday, so I was a little light on soup ingredients.  Since I feed a family of six, plus anyone who happens to drop by, on a daily basis, my definition of “a little light” is probably somewhat uncommon; in this particular case, it means the first thing I came to in the freezer was three pounds of smoked sausage and a half-dozen ears of frozen corn from last year’s CSA.  That sounded like soup to me, so I brought the lot upstairs to thaw, started a roux with a trio of onions that peeked their little bulbs out from the corner of the produce drawer, and threw bread ingredients together to rise.  If you want the recipes for either the soup or the bread, leave me a note in the comments.  Neither is particularly complicated.

Soup was assembled and bread was baked while Bugaboo and Beanie were finishing their schoolwork, and Baby Guy and Mr. Man were trading toys in the living room.  Several times, Mr. Man wandered into the kitchen, seized a spoon from the silverware drawer, then tiptoed over to the stove, waving his spoon and asking, “Soooooop?  Sooooop?”  No, sweetie, no soup until dinner.  These things take time.

Lunch, naps, an episode of “My Little Pony” for the girls, finishing the craft from today’s devotional, and a good romp in the great outdoors whetted the tribe’s appetite; a little after 3:00, Beanie bounced into the kitchen, parked herself at the table, and began inquiring cheerfully as to the status of the soup.

By 4:00, Mr. Man had struck the harp and joined the chorus, so it followed that I merrily measured soup into four small bowls, garnished each with a warm slab of bread, and called Bugaboo to the table.  I parked Baby Guy in his high chair to feed him his wee spoonfuls, and started the stream of reminders to Bugaboo that regardless of her dislike for the meal presented, we expect her to eat what she is served without complaining.

An hour and a half later, Bugaboo finally finished her soup, and I could then put the three ambulatory musketeers in the tub for a much-needed scrubbing.  Baby Guy was just as happy to have all the living room toys to himself for a few minutes, before he was rejoined by his newly cleaned siblings.  Once I was certain that all four kids were playing gently with each other, I headed for the kitchen to wash some dishes and prepare soup for transport.

No sooner had I found the big ladle than Bugaboo blew into the kitchen, stridently admonishing me, “Mommy, Baby Guy threw up.  It’s everywhere. And Smudgie’s outside, so he can’t help clean it up.”

My little Bugaboo is an absolute fountain of relevant details sometimes.

To make a very long story short, it was probably unwise to let Baby Guy and Mr. Man sate themselves on any dish involving smoked sausage.  As I type this, Mr. Man is snuggled in between my husband and I, as we thought it advisable to keep him up for half an hour or so after we dosed him with kiddie Pepto in an effort to avoid our fifth bedding change of the night.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, please keep me mindful that not everything Your blessings want it good for them.  It’s easy to remember when they ask for cookies for dinner, somewhat less so when it’s something that’s tasty and nourishing but unsuitable for little tummies. Thank You for granting us such abundance that when Your blessings are ill, it might be related to overindulgence in rich foods, but never from malnutrition or incurable ailments.  Thank You for the opportunity to share Your bounty with our friends and neighbors, and please help keep our eyes open to those neighbors who may need what, to us, is extra.

Sleep in Heavenly . . . oh, you hymnists are some funny people

One of the cardinal rules of our household is that we do not mess with Mr. Man’s bedtime.  When 7:30 rolls around, he is either in his bed on en route thereto; he can handle some deviations from mealtimes and naptimes, but bedtime is, well, sacrosanct.  If he is not in his cozy bed by 7:45, a rough night generally ensues.

I know this, of course, being one of the main promulgators of the rule.  Nevertheless, as I was helping Bugaboo bundle into her coat for a 6:30 trip to Target last night (we had critical shortages of formula and milk), the pitiful sight of Mr. Man trying to fumble into his own coat melted my resolve and slowed my feet, so we decided instead of having a “big girls” errand night, we’d have an “oldest of each gender” errand night.  Beanie, thoroughly delighted at the prospect of having Daddy and nearly unlimited possibilities for art projects all to herself (my husband has an art degree, and Baby Guy is generally sacked by 7:00-7:15), nearly pushed him down the stairs in her enthusiasm for him to accompany us.  My husband looked askance at me, and I said, “Hey, we’re just going to Target.  We won’t be gone that long.”

Every mother of small children who has ever taken small children to Target is now laughing.

We made it out of the driveway around 6:45, and arrived at the store about 15 minutes later.  Milk and formula — oh, we also needed an inexpensive chess set for Bugaboo, who’s developed an interest in playing — couldn’t possibly take more than 10 minutes to acquire.  Even if we detoured to pick up a small package of diapers for Mr. Man to ensure we didn’t run out before the next Subscribe and Save shipment, there shouldn’t be any problem getting Mr. Man home by the requisite hour.  Oh, wait, Mr. Man has outgrown most of his pajamas, and I don’t want to have to wake Baby Guy to get some out of the dresser anyway, and they’re not too far from the diapers and formula.  Hmm, Bugaboo was really excited when she saw those Hello Kitty nightgowns, and she’s a little short on sleepwear, too.  Ah, there’s the milk.  I wonder if there is such a thing as low-sodium cheese (my husband was recently directed to drastically reduce the amount of sodium in his diet)?  Hey, this Swiss only has 30 milligrams.  That’s a great price on shrimp.  If I pick up a head of lettuce, my husband and I could have big chef’s salads for dinner.  How much sodium is in bacon?  WOW.  We’re low on tuna, too.  What kind has the lowest sodium?

I’m pretty sure the little light-up Toy Story sneaker connected with my cranium while I was looking at the third can of tuna.

Having four kids under the age of 5 has caused me to develop some really interesting skills.  One of those skills is navigating a shopping cart using one hand with pinpoint accuracy at a dead run, using the other hand to grab the last remaining items on my list (milk and formula, remember?) and toss them over a protesting child into the basket of the cart.  Bugaboo excels at getting the rebounds on the rare occasion that I miss the basket; as an extra added bonus, she thinks this is one of the most hilarious games Mommy plays with her tiny people.

I’m not sure whether to attribute the checkout lane that suddenly opened directly in front of me to Divine Providence, or to the store manager who wanted Mr. Man, who by now was yodeling his displeasure at not being anywhere near his bed at 7:45 in high C, out of his store.  I had one of the big guy’s shoes in each of my pockets and was holding his blankie in my teeth so I could free up my hands to get everything I had in the cart onto the conveyor belt.  Bugaboo, God bless her, was trying to help me sing a lullaby, since I have not yet mastered the art of singing “Irish Lullaby” with a blankie clenched between my incisors, and kept reminding Mr. Man to use his indoor voice.  Our cashier rang up, bagged, and re-carted our 30 or so items in world record time, whereupon we beat a hasty retreat to the van.  Mr. Man barely paused for breath until he had been buckled into his car seat, re-shod, and had his blankie returned, now that I was no longer in danger of being whipped by it.  He stopped screaming, rubbed his hands across his teary eyes, favored me with a positively acid glare, then pronounced, “NOT.  NICE.  MAMA.”

Can’t laugh . . . not funny . . . and I still had to stop for gas.

At any rate, we finally got a still-irate-and-orating Mr. Man into his bed at about 8:30.  When our big fellow does not get to sleep at his normal time, he tends not to sleep well at all.  This was absolutely the case last night, as we heard him loudly lamenting the injustice committed against his schedule until nearly 3 a.m.  Milk, water, hugs, crackers, stories, lullabies, and simply ignoring him all failed to get him to pipe down and go to sleep.  Samuel L. Jackson‘s voice resonated in our heads (if you haven’t heard it, click only if you are not offended by profanity) as we tossed and turned and expressed our utter amazement that he had not managed to wake Baby Guy.

Since I was the one who had broken the bedtime law, I got up at 6 a.m. to feed Baby Guy, who, thankfully, wanted to go back to sleep after he leisurely slurped down his bottle.  Mr. Man did not stir.  By then the dogs wanted to go out, and when a 90+ pound puppy tells you he wants to go out, you put your coat on and take him out unless you are up for a re-enactment of the Great Flood.  I shlumped upstairs after he and Bo had completed their business and had exactly enough time for my brain to register that it was now 7:00, which is the hour when Bugaboo and Beanie are allowed out of their room.

They met me at the top of the stairs and asked if I would pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease pour them cups of milk and let them watch the My Little Pony “mare-a-thon.”  That sounded like a terrific idea to me, and one that gave me a fighting chance of getting a little extra sleep myself.  My husband, who can out-snore Bo, was sawing logs in our bedroom, so I grabbed my pillow pet and started to stretch out on the couch.  In order:  Smudgie decided I needed the insides of my nostrils cleaned, Bugaboo spilled milk on her chest and started screaming that it was cold, Beanie decided my tummy looked like a trampoline, Bo bit Smudgie after Smudgie stuck a talon in Bo’s eye trying to get Bo to play with him, Beanie’s overnight pullup exploded onto the leg of my pajama bottoms, Bugaboo tripped over the living room carpet while trying to hop from one end of the room to the other, Beanie decided that she wanted breakfast and started shouting “GRAPES GRAPES GRAPES please GRAPES GRAPES GRAPES please YUMMY YUMMY GRAPES please” while stomping in rhythm with her chant until the grapes appeared, and the boys simultaneously awoke screaming.

My husband, for the record, slept for another hour after the boys awoke.  I wish I had his talent for tuning out screaming.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for children with healthy lungs and strong limbs.  Thank You for only giving me ten rules to follow, and for forgiving me when I break them if I approach you contritely.  Lord, please help me remember why we’ve made these rules for Your blessings, and to forgive myself when I carelessly disregard them.  We show our love for our children by being consistent in all things, by making sure that we put their needs above our wants.  Please don’t ever let me make some extra groceries a higher priority than bedtime again.

Your name is not Karma, Mr. Man

When we are presented with the gift of a 60 degree day in January, schoolwork gets stripped to the bare minimum so that we can thoroughly enjoy the outdoors.  I believe that one of the most devout forms of thankful prayer is the laughter of children as they chase puppies and leaves around the backyard; surely, the Lord in Heaven hears them, and smiles at their gratitude.

After schoolwork, a little desultory housecleaning, and a slightly early lunch, Bugaboo, Beanie and Mr. Man sprinted down the stairs, out the back door, and peeled off for different destinations in the yard, with Smudgie and Bo in hot pursuit.  I stayed inside and attempted to convince Baby Guy that cereal is really tasty, and that sitting in a high chair isn’t so different from being snuggled up in Mommy’s arms (he’s the first one we’ve had trouble getting to eat from a spoon, but at least once a day, we keep trying).  When baby wiggles and cereal expulsions indicated that our youngest was done with the whole “big guy food” drill for today, I opened the front windows and let him get the rest of his wiggles out on his playmat, all the while keeping a watchful eye out the back window for any whispers of trouble in the yard.

Baby Guy was thoroughly involved with his toys, Smudgie and Bo had taken up guard positions, and the ambulatory small people were merrily wreaking havoc in the yard, so I decided to chance catching up on a few phone calls.  It’s the rare winter day when the decibel level in our house allows me to have actual conversations with other adults, so I was delighted to be able to talk to a couple of close friends and catch up on my husband’s adventures with our family doctor (ah, the 40-year-old physical).

During my chat with one friend, Bugaboo scampered in, begging for a bucket of paint and some brushes.  We have a large, wooden fence, large wooden playset, and lots of rocks in our back yard.  Diluted tempera paint is a terrific art medium for all of the aforementioned, and since Mr. Man had playfully hurled a full bottle of orange to the floor (thus rupturing one entire side of the bottle), I mixed up a nice big bucket, handed her some sponge brushes, gave her a kiss and instructed her not to allow Smudgie to drink the paint.  Our giant puppy’s backyard leavings are easy enough to spot without any artificial coloring, thanks.  Carefully balancing her prize, Bugaboo tiptoed back down the stairs, hollering as she went that Mommy had ACTUALLY LET THEM HAVE PAINT THIS TIME!

I finished the first conversation and returned the call of a second friend, whom I had interrupted to get the lowdown on my husband’s checkup (for the record, he is hale and hearty, if a victim of his wife’s cooking).  As she and I were catching up on each other’s current events, Mr. Man wandered upstairs, stopped to greet Baby Guy, then meandered into the kitchen.  I handed him his water bottle, still chatting breezily with my friend, and started putting the lunch dishes in the sink, since Baby Guy was still happily doing pullups on his playmat mirror.

It’s been said by many, including me, that the little things one overlooks tend to return to nosh on one’s nethers.  In this particular case, I lost track of Mr. Man momentarily, so engrossed in my conversation was I.  I would very much like to have seen the look on my friend’s face when she heard the following escape my lips:

“I really have to go now.  Mr. Man just bit my butt.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your blessings concoct some truly novel ways to get my attention.  Please open my eyes to their needs, so that I may channel their creativity into more constructive endeavors.  Thank you for all the wonders of this beautiful day!