Tag Archive | parenting

Fear and hope and love

No song reference here.

I read a blog post from Robyn over at Scary Mommy last night about her son’s near-lethal encounter with a cookie that contained a trace amount of nuts.  If you encounter children who have food allergies, I encourage – no, exhort – you to read this post and share it in either digital or hard copy form with everyone you know.

The time I almost killed my child

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have granted us four little blessings who can, and will, eat anything that doesn’t eat them first.  Thank You for that great gift, and thank You for the mothers like Robyn who you have blessed otherwise.  Please help me teach Your blessings to appreciate how tremendous the gift of unrestricted eating is, and help me to set an example of compassion and understanding towards parents and children who must be ever-vigilant about their children’s diets.  Thank You for Robyn and her husband’s watchfulness and quick action, for the education and medical professionals who loved them and Rory, and for Rory himself, who is so clearly beloved by his family and by You.  Please protect Your little child from the “bad cookies,” and grant his parents Your comfort and peace.

My old sneakers are friends of mine

Here’s the song reference.  If you haven’t had a laugh today, you should give it a listen; you’ll need to scroll down a bit to get to the video player.

Mr. Man and Beanie share a common adoration for sneakers that have been so well-loved and well-worn that they neither fit not are able to maintain structural integrity.  As it happens, Mr. Man’s third pair of Spider-Man kicks completely disintegrated this morning, necessitating a visit to the store I generally avoid at all costs, but cannot live without because that particular store always has light-up Spider-Man sneakers in stock at a price our family’s budget can handle.  Sometimes, we have to give the nod to practicality.

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The last time we had to replace Mr. Man’s everyday shoes, I had quite the job convincing him the world was not ending and that he would, in fact, survive the retirement of his beloved footwear.  To give the little guy credit, he has yet to outgrow a pair of shoes that have not already been worn to tatters, and his last act before he goes to bed every night is to make sure they are securely tucked under his cozy bed.  There have been nights we’ve overheard him whispering a quiet “goodnight” to them.

The last time we had to replace his shoes, our first effort resulted in a pair of shoes that were actually slightly too small for him.  The rejected size 8s have, nonetheless, been gently tucked under his bed all the while, boon companions to his size 9s, and when the demise of the above-pictured shoes became apparent to Mr. Man, he immediately ran down the stairs, returning at a sprint with the too-small sneakers.  Ever so proudly, he sat on the couch, proclaiming, “Look, Mommy, I found the good shoes!” as he tried to stuff his feet into them.

After about fifteen minutes, he dejectedly slouched into the kitchen, where I was drinking my coffee and quietly checking web sites to see which local store had Spider-Man sneakers in stock in his size, to avoid a wasted trip (and a three-year-old meltdown).

“Mommy, I can’t get these Spidey shoes on.  They won’t cofloperating.  Can you help me, please?”

Baby Guy helpfully chimed in, “Helm you, helm you!”

I pulled Mr. Man, still clutching the little shoes, into my lap.  “I can try, big guy, but do you know what?  I don’t think I’ll be able to get them on, either.  See, let’s look at your old shoes.”  Tugging the tongue of one of the old shoes out, I pointed to the little number that indicated the size.  “See that number there?  What does it say?”

“That’s a nine, Mommy, I know numbers, that’s a nine.”

“Right you are, and that’s a good job.  Now let’s look at these shoes.”  Flipping up the tongue of the smaller shoes, I pointed again.

“That’s an eight, Mommy, that’s not a nine, that’s an eight.”

“Very good, Mr. Man, that’s an eight.  Now I want you to think for a minute.  Which is bigger, which is more, eight or nine.”

Grinning hugely, he clapped his hands together and bellowed, “Nine!  Nine is more!  Nine is BIGGER!”

Can’t laugh . . . not funny . . .

“Exactly right, big guy!  So which shoes are bigger, do you think, the eight shoes or the nine shoes?”

His brow creased, and he scowled at both pairs of shoes for a moment before slowly answering, “The nine shoes, the nine shoes are big enough for my feet, the eight shoes are small and the nine shoes are big, like Baby Guy is small and Mr. Man is big, eight shoes are Baby Guy size and not Mr. Man size.”

“Right, buddy.  You need new shoes.”

“I need new shoes.”

“Uh-huh.  We could go get them now in case you want to run and play outside.”  We have a 100-plus pound Saint Bernard mix who answers to Smudgie.  Running barefoot in our yard is unwise.

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“Baby Guy could have the eight shoes.  He likes Spider-Man, too.”

Baby Guy has had his eye on those shoes for a long, long time.  Every time he gets near them, Mr. Man threatens him with bodily harm.

“That would be a pretty awesome big brother thing to do, to let Baby Guy have those Spidey shoes.  Is that what you want to do?”

Baby Guy had, by now, stationed himself next to the chair where Mr. Man was perched on my lap, hanging on every word of the conversation.  Mr. Man looked magnanimously at his baby brother and declared, “Baby Guy is old enough for Spider-Man shoes.  He can have these.”

Needing no further invitation, Baby Guy scrambled up into an adjacent chair, smiled at his big brother, and excitedly inquired, “Mommy helm you put shoe?”

The small shoes were quickly adjusted to Baby Guy’s feet, and Mr. Man put his tattered kicks on for one last trip to the big box store.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the means to replace shoes for Your little blessings whenever their old ones wear out, for the van that gets us to the store, and for my husband’s job that has kept all of Your blessings from ever knowing what it really means to want for something.  Thank You for gracing their hearts, as they grow, with the desire to share even their most beloved possessions with someone who might need them more.  Please grant us hearts that always love people more than things, and make us good stewards of the rich resources with which You have provided us.

Look a little bit closer, it’s easy to trace

Here’s the song reference.

Mr. Man has recently started to join in our schoolwork time at the kitchen table in earnest, showing up while the girls are working on their math and English assignments and requesting work of his own.  At the moment, I’m casually trying to teach him how to hold a pencil properly; as was the case with his sisters, he refuses to use fat pencils or triangular crayons.  He also appears to be left-handed, which runs in both Manie and my families, so we have to be careful to teach him the correct grip without making him curl his hand around.

Also of late, our printer ran out of ink, and I’ve been disinclined to spend the money on a new cartridge.  In all honesty, we have enough workbooks that I shouldn’t need to print as many things as I do, and not having pre-printed stuff gives me a good excuse to have Beanie and Bugaboo practice their penmanship, along with other fine motor skills involving their hands, by copying and tracing.  It’s also a moment for me to stop and consider a stewardship question:  how much paper and ink do we really need to use?

One delightful side effect of not making copies are that the ladybugs are producing some neat artwork these days, because instead of copying a picture for them to color, I tape a piece of white paper over the pattern in whatever book we’re using (okay, that really doesn’t reduce the amount of paper, I suppose), and have them trace the picture before coloring it in.  Since the lines made by their pencils are lighter, they have had to learn to put less pressure on their crayons to produce lighter use, in order that the outlines may be more clearly seen.  It’s also helpful for Mr. Man, who is at the tracing letters and numbers stage of learning to write, to see his sisters tracing, too; he delightedly explained to me yesterday morning, “I make writing and numbers and letters and pictures just like Bugaboo and Beanie!”  The girls cheer him on, and he cheers them on, too, and it’s a beautiful thing to see them learning to encourage and uplift each other in what could be very drudging work.

If you are curious about how this looks, here’s a short video of yesterday morning.  There are two others.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for four little blessings who are learning to encourage one another, and so encourage me.  On the days marked by defiance and disobedience, please help me remember they are still learning, and I will teach them either to build up or tear down by the example of my response to them.  We are trying to instruct them, Lord, in the value of doing small things with great love, in taking pains to make even the smallest thing beautiful, to use the gifts you have given them to create and to think instead of relying on machines to do it for them, to use their eyes to perceive, appreciate, and render small details.   Please draw my eyes to the small details, that I may show them how to honor You in the performance of tedious tasks, and please grant us days filled with joyful songs.

Knock, knock, knockin’

Here’s the song reference.

After some of our educational misadventures earlier in the week, my level of enthusiasm for homeschooling was somewhat diminished at the beginning of yesterday.  Being greeted by the sounds of breakfast-related whining coming from the kitchen upon my emergence from the shower didn’t do much to increase my level of enthusiasm, either.  Bugaboo and Beanie were having trouble making up their minds about what would constitute acceptable breakfast fare in terms of both food and drink, and were letting Daddy know in no uncertain terms that they found the options he was presenting unacceptable.  As I dressed, I used mental prayer to drown out the unhappy noises emanating from the next room, and managed to exit our bedroom with a semblance of a smile on my face.

My heroic husband had managed to convince our daughters that cereal is, in fact, an appropriate thing to eat first thing in the morning, and was downstairs making Mr. Man and Baby Guy presentable.  Prayer results, sometimes, in miracles that seem like ordinary things, but that can become great reservoirs of joy in what at first appeared to be a lost morning.  My smile became more genuine as the boys tumbled up the stairs and into the kitchen, their grinningly hopeful pleas for waffles washing away the last of the whiny miasma that had permeated our upstairs earlier.

Once the breakfast paraphernalia had landed in the sink, the girls headed off to dress and wash up, the boys wandered into the living room to inventory the household supply of toy vehicles, and I started the morning round of check-in calls.  As I caught up on the latest news from Grandma, the commemoration of Our Lady of Knock jumped out at me from our book of Catholic customs and traditions (a wonderful gift from my oldest brother, which sees almost daily use around here), and it occurred to me that a school day that begins with construction paper, colored pencils, and glue sticks is usually a happier one.  The girls re-emerged from their morning ablutions as Grandma and I were finishing our chat, and eagerly watched as I snipped fascinating shapes from green and white paper.

The project was pretty simple, honestly, and was something of an amalgamation of two other projects from our spiffy idea book.  We used a sheet of blue construction paper as the background for a green shamrock topped with three white hearts; each heart bore a single word (love, hope, and joy) on a wee green banner, with enough space left over inside each heart for the girls to draw a little picture showing what the word meant to them.  I did the cutting and writing parts, which left them the simpler and cheerier gluing and drawing.

Bugaboo and Beanie wrapped up their project while I was on the phone with Deedaw (and nephew, who, to my delight, always wants to say hello when his crazy aunt calls).  As I described the project to her (Deedaw loves to hear about what’s occupying the tribe in the mornings), she mentioned that she would very much like to have one of the girls’ little posters for her fridge.  Bugaboo joyfully volunteered her project for Deedaw happifying detail.

Remarkably, our English and math lessons were a breeze.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for four little blessings who love You and look to Your mother as an example of how we mere humans can find joy simply by saying “yes” to You at all times and in all things, no matter how intimidating those times and things may be.  Thank You also for the gentle reminders that if we start our days by asking You to be with us, by remembering Your love and miracles, we will be more able to recognize You in each other, and recognize Your will instead of our own.  Lord, when I get so focused on arithmetic and grammar I forget to put You first, grant me the grace of eyes that see Your miracles at our kitchen table, and a heart that sings with joy at the wonder of them.  Please remind me that the needs of Your little blessings include bright colors and glue when I get too wrapped up in textbooks and pencils, and that most of Your miracles when You walked among us involved the most ordinary things, made holy by the work of Your loving hands.  Please imbue my hands with that same love, Lord, that I may be Your face.

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.

Little miss, little miss, little miss can’t be wrong

Here’s the song reference.

Bugaboo, bless her heart, is acutely conscious of the fact that she is the eldest of four siblings.  We do our level best to ensure that she is accorded privileges that correspond with the responsibilities that attend her place in the birth order, and try just as hard to ensure that the privileges only come when she demonstrates appropriate responsibility.

Of late, Bugaboo has developed a tremendously irritating habit of trying to order her younger siblings around, sometimes contradicting what Manie or I just finished telling said siblings to do.  It’s rude to her siblings and disrespectful to her parents, and she nearly gave poor Deedaw a stroke Sunday night when she told her little brothers to go outside after, with Bugaboo standing there, I had told Mr. Man and Baby Guy that the mosquitoes were too thick for them to play outside any more that evening.

Bugaboo and I had a quiet little conversation this afternoon about what my job is and what her job is.  I explained to her that my job is to make sure that everyone gets along with each other, that the house doesn’t get condemned by the health department, that everyone learns those things that are needful to know, and that there are never shortages of hugs, kisses, prayers, or stories in our family.  I also explained to her that her job is to learn, to treat everyone the way she wants to be treated, and to set a good example in such things as proper mealtime behavior, decorum in church, and doing chores without an overabundance of complaints.  After answering a round of sour-faced objections from Bugaboo, I reminded her of the prayer she has heard me utter aloud a thousand times, usually when dealing with some incident of familial foolishness that has caused me to plead for God’s peace and mercy, to wit:  “Lord, help me remember that I do not want Your job.”  I explained to her that, in the fullness of time, she will likely have charge of a household, a budget, a career either at home or outside it, perhaps children of her own, and that when that day came, she would wish for the responsibilities of a six-year-old girl again.

I hate it when I sound like my mother.  It seems to happen with increasing frequency.

The rest of our afternoon was cheerful and peaceful; we sang a little bit, read a really good book about the Anasazi, and folded a couple of loads of laundry before the tribe decided Smudgie really needed to chase a tennis ball around the yard for a while.  While I worked on dinner for the tribe, Deedaw and I talked on the phone; our conversation turned to Bugaboo, her bossiness, the manner in which she barks her orders, and how frustrating it is for us to constantly have to correct her.  In her gentle but direct way, Deedaw pointed me to one of the roots of the problem, “Please don’t be upset with me, but she sounds a lot like you.”

I may have mentioned before our family has been graced with elders who possess extraordinary wisdom.

Deedaw is one of them.

Life has had a higher-than-usual insanity quotient in our family over the past several months, and, if I spent a few minutes at the keyboard, I could generate thousands of words’ worth of excuses for why I’ve not guarded my tongue more carefully with the tiny people, why I’ve too often spoken to them in a tone more suited to a drill sergeant badgering a group of recalcitrant recruits, why I’ve neglected to take the time to model the Golden Rule with them.  All the verbiage in the world, though, would still be an attempt to weasel around the fact that I’ve been less than gentle with the tribe, and thus has set a poor example that my most priceless mirror has reflected back at me.

Deedaw and I talked a little longer, and I thanked her for loving me enough to point out my error, and for giving me the example of how to do it gently.  She thanked me for loving her enough to see the love behind the correction, and for listening the first time the correction was given.  As we ended our conversation, Bugaboo wandered into the kitchen, lured by the aromas of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pineapple, to see if anything tasty might be in the offing yet.

“Something smells pretty yummy in here, Mommy.  When’s dinner?” inquired my eldest, as she blocked my path from the sink to the stove.

I started to bark at her to get out of the way so I could drain the potatoes.  Before I opened my mouth, I heard Deedaw’s wise counsel in my head.

“Dinner is just about ready; I just have to drain the potatoes and get the chicken out of the oven.  It would be a big help if you could let Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy know we’re almost ready to eat and everyone should get washed up.  Could you do that, and use your nice voice, please?”

Bugaboo plowed into my legs and hugged me hard.  “Sure, Mommy!”

I returned her embrace, kissed her head, and said, “Thanks, Bugaboo, that’s a big help.  By the time you all get here, dinner will be on the table.”  She skipped off, happy in the difference between a departure and a curt dismissal.

Later that evening, the tiny people assembled in the boys’ room, as we do nightly, for a round of stories, songs, and prayers.  While Baby Guy still requires major assistance with pajamas (and, of course, cannot change his own diaper effectively), Mr. Man is generally capable of dressing and undressing himself.  The big fellow had managed to jig his way into his pull-up, but was experiencing technical difficulties with his pajama top, the neckline of which flatly refused to let go of the bottom hem.  Mr. Man started pulling at the unruly shirt in various places, his voice becoming increasingly shrill as the fabric refused to obey his commands.  I listened to him whining orders at his pajamas, and heard my own voice again.  Instead of shrilling back at my whining son, I soothed, “Hold on, buddy, I’ll help you as soon as I have Baby Guy down from the changing table. You’re okay, and you did a good job getting that over your head.”

Bugaboo approached him, looked up at me, and inquired, “Mommy, is it okay for me to help him?”

“Absolutely, Bugaboo, please be careful so you don’t hurt each other.”

Very gently, Bugaboo put a hand on her little brother’s shoulder.  “Hey, Mr. Man, I can help you get that unstuck.  It’s okay, I used to get my jammies stuck sometimes, too.  See, here’s the bottom of your shirt, I’ll help you get the back of it rolled down, see, now your belly will be all warm.  All better?” As she talked, she had fixed the uncooperative top.  Mr. Man smiled at her and answered, “Uh-huh.  That’s better.  Thanks, Bugaboo.”

I greatly preferred that reflection to the ones I’ve been seeing.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the four little blessings with whom You have graced our marriage, and for the wisdom of older family members who, instead of helping me make excuses for my shortcomings, gently point them out and continue to love me in spite of them.  Thank You for the reminder that however we train up our children is the way they will go when they are grown, and that You charge us with being constant teachers when You gift us with children.  Please send me the grace to teach them that gentle words turn away wrath, and that the wise listen to good counsel when it is offered.  Help me show them that allowing someone to persist in error instead of offering gentle and loving correction is no love at all, but an indifference that offers insult to Your commandment that we love one another.

Finally, you come along

Here’s the song reference.

Last weekend, we celebrated Deedaw’s 75th birthday.  To her delight, her sister, one of her nieces, and our beloved Zizi Carmela all made the trip down from Pittsburgh to rejoice with us that the Lord saw fit to grant us another year with a great lady.

The tiny people were all terribly excited about the prospect of a party, and Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man were all particularly happy to learn that three of their favorite relatives would be attending.  Deedaw’s sister and the niece who came are wonderfully fun grown-ups who make time to play trucks, and dolls, and hairstylist, and superheroes, while Zizi Carmela, in addition to having an endless supply of kisses, has the love and the patience to sit for as long as they want, listening to whatever they want to tell her, even if she doesn’t have the vaguest idea what they’re actually saying. Since Mr. Man tends to start a conversation with one person in one room and finish it with someone else in another, that last is not an infrequent occurrence, and Baby Guy is a little tough to understand for those unaccustomed to his two-year-old vocabulary and diction.

Zizi has a soft spot for Baby Guy, who is named for her late husband.  Regular readers of this blog know that we have a soft spot for Zizi.  Baby Guy, however, being a highly mobile and curious toddler, has not really had the patience to sit nicely in Zizi’s lap for over a year now, and while she still adores him (and the rest of the tribe), she’s been a little hurt that the little fellow simply refuses to be held.  Manie and I, figuring this would probably be the case again, spent no small amount of time and effort ensuring that he could, at least, bubble out, “Hi, Zizi,” and utter a couple of words in Italian (ciao, buona notte, and arrivederci, for the curious – and there’s not much cuter than Baby Guy trying to sputter out “arrivederci!”).

Happily, our youngest did, in fact, manage to greet his great-aunt by name, and greet her with a hearty, “Ciao, Zissy,” which made her smile and laugh, before zooming off to see what his cousin and siblings were doing with the sidewalk chalk on the back porch.  On the first day of Zizi’s visit, Baby Guy did deign, several times, to approach close enough to allow Zizi to give him some hugs and kisses and tell him what a big boy he’s getting to be, and even showed her where her nose was once or twice.

On the second day of the visit, we rushed through schoolwork and headed over to have another visit with the Pittsburgh relatives before they headed home, zipped home for naps, then returned to Deedaw’s for dinner with them.  We don’t get to see the Pennsylvania branches of the family very often, and they’re such wonderful company that we don’t like to squander the opportunities we’re given.  The whole tribe was a little crazy for the morning half of our visit, but settled down to a relatively civilized level after a decent nap.  In the afternoon, Deedaw’s sister and niece were kind enough to monitor some bike-riding time in front of the house so we could get dinner started; it was a short-lived adventure, as the weather was sufficiently hot and humid to spark altercations amongst the little ones regarding whose bike, trike, or scooter was whose.

After dinner, Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man headed outside to further decorate the back porch with sidewalk chalk, while Baby Guy remained indoors, busily searching for cookies.  He was quite delighted when he discovered that there was plenty of “Happy You You” cake left, and that everyone at the table was more than happy to indulge his love of frosting and whipped cream (which is known as “foof” in Baby Guy parlance).

Having scammed at least a mouthful of sugary goodness from each and every adult at the table, Baby Guy circumnavigated the table, looking to see who might be willing to play with him.  Manie and I watched hopefully as he approached Zizi’s chair . . .

. . . and could not hold back the smiles when he clambered up into her lap, where he remained for about ten minutes.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for family members willing to travel hundreds of miles to rejoice with us, and thank You for their safe travels.  You have blessed us with so many of Your best people, and blessed them with length of years.  Thank You for their love and their wisdom, which they freely share with us, and for their nearly endless patience with Your littlest blessings.  Help us teach Your blessings that among Your greatest gifts to us are the members of their grandparents’ generation, who imbue everyday tasks with holiness by the love with which they perform them.  Help us teach them that the years when those elders’ bodies weaken and memories fail are our opportunity to show them that we learned well the lessons in love You taught us through their ministry to our family, and let us never consider their frailties an inconvenience to us, but a chance to give back to them the pieces of their beautiful hearts they freely left with us.

Lights out

Here’s the song reference.

Yesterday evening, we attended Mass as a family, including Deedaw.  This is an extraordinarily rare occurrence, as Mr. Man and Baby Guy have a history of outrageously unacceptable conduct at church; we generally split up, with Manie attending the Saturday vigil Mass with Deedaw at her parish, and Beanie attending the early Sunday Mass with me at our parish.  It usually works out well for all concerned.  However, we had an unexpectedly uneventful morning Mass, with the entire tribe, on Thursday, which was the Solemnity of the Assumption, so we figured we would chance it.

There was a reason for our burning desire to attend Saturday vigil Mass en famille; our wonderful priest was accorded the title of Pastor, as opposed to Parochial Administrator, which gives our parish actual parish status, as opposed to a mission (let’s see if this works, in other words) church.  After ten long years, we are finally starting to build the physical building for our church, which currently meets in a converted motorcycle dealership.  This is progress, since we started out meeting in one of the chapels in a local funeral home, and progressed from there to a converted gym, thence to our current digs.  We love our parish; it’s a huge extended family, and even if we don’t know everyone’s name, it is a loving and welcoming house of God, and we wanted to be there for this much-anticipated celebration.

By and large, Bugaboo and Beanie, with Deedaw between them as a buffer, did well following a Mass that had a little more speechifying than usual involved, although I did have to warn Beanie a couple of times that swinging from the back of the pews is not considered acceptable participation in the celebration of the Mass.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy managed an entire Mass in a pew, which is a first, helped along by many, many, MANY whispered readings of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See and The Wheels on the Bus.  You have not lived until you have tried to sing “The Wheels on the Bus” and the responsorial psalm simultaneously – and get the rights words at the right volume for each.

Following Mass, there was a parish taco party in the multi-purpose room, and we decided to chance attending that with the tribe and Deedaw.  Before the party started, there was a presentation to our newly-minted pastor by the Knights of Columbus (Father is now a fourth-degree Knight), the unveiling of the plans for what will be an absolutely beautiful new church building, and Grace before the meal.  We managed to pacify our increasingly restless passel of pipsqueaks with tortilla chips (it was a taco party, after all) and juice boxes, and then balanced enough food on paper plates to feed our entire entourage.  The small people each managed to demolish a plate of tacos and side dishes lovingly prepared by the parish ladies, and then Baby Guy noticed the enormous cake on the table against the wall.

“I see happy you you CAAAAAAKE!”

Luckily, I was able to snag a couple of slices before Baby Guy made his winsome way to the table, and, walking backwards, held his attention by continually calling his attention to the contents of the plates in my hands.  Making eye contact with a gentleman who was watching our progress with an enormous grin, I smilingly remarked, “Look, baby bait!”

After we’d all enjoyed food, fellowship, and a rather yummy cake, Deedaw decided it was time for her to depart, so she wouldn’t be driving after dark.  We started rounding up Baby Guy’s collection of toy cars that accompany him whithersoever he goes, and collecting the kids at one table so we could make good our escape, as well.  Since Manie seemed to have the tribe well in hand, I thought it safe to go over to the buffet table to retrieve our dishes (if you’d like an interesting and well-received church supper recipe, I’ll share my confetti peppers and tomato salad one with you), and indulge in a few moments of conversation with a friend I don’t see often these days.

When I returned to the table where we’d gathered, Manie and the tribe were nowhere to be seen.  Figuring he had taken the entire tribe to the bathroom, I started packing our dishes and gear into the big bag we’d brought.  Suddenly, the lights went out.  I heard a lady at a nearby table shushing her children, with the admonition that Father must have something to say.  Moments later, my crimson-faced husband returned, with the entire tribe in tow, and brusquely informed me that it was time for us to Leave.  Right.  Now.

Manie is not normally abrupt, so I assumed one or more members of the tribe had become so unruly that he had had to remove the lot of them to the vestibule, and was attempting to herd them all out to the van before any further follies could unfold.  He brushed aside my protestations that it appeared Father might have some additional wisdom or words to impart, and he assured me that this was not the case.  As soon as we had cleared the back door of the multi-purpose room, he turned to Beanie and furiously inquired, “What on earth made you think it was a good idea to turn the lights off on everyone?”

Apparently, at least according to Bugaboo’s version of events, Mr. Man and Baby Guy had been gazing longingly at the master light switch for the room, located a tantalizing fraction of an inch out of their reach on the wall.  Beanie, of course, is that fraction of an inch taller than Mr. Man, and, wanting to make her very sad little brothers happy, flipped the switch that plunged the parishioners into darkness.  Beanie tearfully apologized, while Mr. Man and Baby Guy cheerfully chortled, “Beanie reach da lights!  Beanie turned them ALL OFF!  Spooky dark was fun!  Why the lights not come back on, Mommy?”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who are learning how to express their joy at being in Your house respectfully, and who love to sing Your praises.  Thank You especially for Mr. Man’s tremulous warbling of the refrain of “On Eagle’s Wings,” a song he’s heard far too many times on less joyful occasions.  Thank You for blessing our family with a happier memory of a song that had become painful for many of us to hear.

Lord, please help us teach Your blessings that sometimes, doing the right and loving thing for people doesn’t mean gratifying their immediate desires.  Thank You for the opportunity to teach them this with an event in which no lasting harm was done, except, perhaps, to what might just be excessive parental pride.  Help us remember to respond to Your blessings’ errors proportionally, and to always offer correction in love instead of anger.

And thank You, Lord, for the good shepherd You sent for our parish.

Postscript: Friends, please click on the words “good shepherd” in the last line of today’s prayer.  It will take you to our pastor’s website, where he posts his daily homilies.  If you are ever in need of a word of love and wisdom, click on any one of them at random, and you will be reminded of the love Christ bears for us.

Just call her angel of the morning

Here’s the song reference.

I had advised the tribe on Thursday night that I intended to make an early morning, light-speed grocery run at about 6 a.m. on Friday, and that should anyway be awakened by the sound of the front door closing, the correct course of action would be to nestle more comfortably into their pillows and blankets and resume sleep operations, and that under no circumstances was anyone to go into Mommy and Daddy’s room, or wake Daddy.

At 5:49 a.m. yesterday morning, as I was working on the blog post, I heard Bugaboo’s characteristic “I’m going to get away with something” tiptoeing sprint down the short hallway and into the bathroom, then the soft sound of our bedroom door opening and closing.  Bugaboo is a pillow thief, and mine is her target of choice.  If it happens to be unoccupied, and she thinks she can manage to not get in trouble for it, she will immediately climb into our bed and wrap herself around it.

On very rare occasions, she even goes back to sleep.

You may have already surmised that yesterday morning was not one of those rare occasions.  I did not make the pre-dawn grocery run for fear of waking the rest of the tribe.

When I shuffled into the bathroom around 7:00 to shower, my saggy-eyed husband was tying his shoes and Bugaboo, dressed in her Thor costume, was merrily chattering, and bouncing on her Tinkerbell pillow.  I rather gruffly informed her that I was highly displeased that she had chosen to disregard the previous night’s instructions, and asked her if she remembered what I had told her the night before.  With some trepidation, she replied that she did remember she wasn’t supposed to wake Daddy, but that when she came in to give him a hug after she used the potty, he was already awake, so she stayed around.

“I tried to go back to sleep, Mommy, but I really wasn’t sleepy, and I have my Thor girl costume on, and . . .”

“So you did remember what the right thing to do was, and you deliberately chose not to do it?”

“Well, kind of.”

I breathed in, ready to deliver quite the lecture about how Daddy works very hard for us and it’s important for us to let him get his sleep, about how deliberate disobedience is a poor way to say “I love you.”  Manie quietly said, “I was awake.  She’s okay.”

Great, I thought, now he’s ENCOURAGING her to be disobedient.  I scowled and prepared to include my husband in the lecture.

Ordinarily, I try to listen for “the still, small voice” that, when I listen to it, tends to guide me in the right direction. The Lord, in His omniscience, understands that the coffee doesn’t fully kick in until after I’ve showered, so the intracranial voice of wisdom boomed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

I paused and exhaled.  Then I thought about the time and energy we have spent teaching our children to love people and not things.  I thought about the nights I have consoled a tired Manie when he feels wretched that his work schedule keeps him from spending as much time with the tiny people as he’d like.  I thought about all the times I’ve remonstrated with Bugaboo for pouting because she had to spend time with family instead of going on a shopping trip.  I realized that Manie had not sent her back to her room.  And I realized that I was angry with a six-year-old girl because she wanted to spend an extra hour with her Daddy, and with a father for wanting to spend time with his daughter.

And I saw the look of trepidation on Bugaboo’s face, wondering if Mommy was going to hold this against her and be angry all day.

I hugged her, and kissed her, and said, “Love you, big girl.”

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for understanding that I am thick-headed, and loving me anyway.  Many times in the past year, You have given me the opportunity to learn that we are not given to know the length of our lives, and we therefore should spend every possible moment loving one another as You have loved us.  Many times, I have explained to Your blessings that we must value the needs of others above our own selfish desires.  Lord, I am sorry for being angry with Your blessings for heeding the lesson.  Please change my heart; please fill me with Your grace so that Your blessings may learn from me sometimes, instead of the other way around.  Thank You for blessing me with so many and such wonderful teachers, and help us all, together, seek to serve You instead of ourselves in all things.

Feelin’ hop, hop, hop

Here’s the song reference.

As previously mentioned on this very blog, the girls are studying Latin this year.  They have generous enough to include Mr. Man in their studies, which has led to the uproariously funny happenstance of two first graders having their Latin pronunciation corrected by their three-year-old brother.

One of the great beauties of homeschooling is that, when the weather is favorable, we can carry our lessons outdoors and, occasionally, find some ridiculous way to study something that requires a certain amount of repetition or practice.  Such was the case this morning; since we were blessed with a pleasant morning and some friends who shared our desire to visit one of the local parks, I advised Bugaboo and Beanie that, if they were to finish their English and math lessons in a timely manner, we could head for said park and practice our Latin with something akin to a game of hopscotch.  It’s always good when we can get away from the table and have a little fun with what we’ve learned.

This intrigued both girls greatly, and the lessons were completed in something approaching record time with near-perfect accuracy.  There was a noticeable absence of whining, as well.  After quickly assembling a tub of peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches, some carrot sticks, some gummy fruit snacks, and quite a bit of bottled water in the cooler, we tossed a big bag of sidewalk chalk into our park bag and headed off in search of amusement, with a side order of pronunciation.  Some of our friends awaited us when we arrived, and the tribe scampered off, eager to explore climbing apparatus, bouncers, slides, swings, games of tag and conversation with friends.   Mr. Man was back by my side in an instant, looking for a bag of fruit snacks, as is his custom, and Beanie shortly followed.

After I caught up on chat with my friend who happens to be the mother of the tribe’s friends, I dug around for a piece of sidewalk chalk and began scrawling rough squares containing single letters, phonemes, and the few Latin words we’re studied.  When Bugaboo and Beanie meandered back to the table to see what all I might have tucked into the cooler, they noticed the letters chalked on the cement floor of the picnic pavilion and started to investigate.  Seizing the moment, I called them over to a spot of ground a couple of feet away from where most of the chalk scribbling was and explained the rules of the game.

I would ask a question, such as “what sound does a Latin ‘a’ make,”  or “what Latin vowel makes the ‘oo’ sound,” or “what Latin word means ‘I walk,'” after which they would find the relevant square and jump on it.  Anything that involves jumping is generally big fun for the tribe; Mr. Man saw us gathered off to the side and came to read off what was written on the pavement and join in whatever hijinks were to follow.

Well, we managed a few rounds before the lure of the playground, friends, and a cooler full of goodies diverted their interest.  Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy cajoled sticks of chalk out of me, and cheerfully set about decorating the pavilion, sidewalk, and, in Baby Guy’s case, teeth, with powdery hues of pink, blue, and yellow.  To my great amusement, some of the other parents who had brought their small people to the park scrutinized the grid on the ground, and set about recalling their own Latin studies.

On the way home, around a bite of sandwich, Beanie burbled, “I liked playing hopscotch with our Latin words and letters.  Can we do that again?”

Yeah, I think we can, little one, and I’ll bet we can come up with a few more applications for that, too!

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for sidewalk chalk, for friends who come to play, for enough food and drink not only to sustain ourselves, but also enough to share with our friends and random passers-by.  Thank You for the laughter and silliness of Your blessings on summer mornings, for their sweaty little heads and hands, for the proofs of Your grace of patience You send us through them. Thank You for those who thought to preserve ancient languages, so that we may study them and learn what our forebears said in their own words, in their tongue, and learn of the rich heritage of Your people.  Please keep us mindful of Your servant’s prayer, that we should seek more to understand than to be understood; inflame us with the desire to understand, and thus grow in our love for You and our reverence for Your creation, with its many landscapes and languages.  Help us to learn and to teach joyfully, and to recall that instruction and correction are equally valuable to those who are wise.