Tag Archive | prayer

Cookie, cookie, cookie


Here’s the song reference.

Zizi Carmela was in town over the weekend, along with several other members of Nonno’s side of the extended family, to celebrate a second Thanksgiving and visit with all of us here in Virginia.  It always brings us joy to see her, and it seems to bring her an equal amount of joy to see all the tiny people and how they’ve grown since her last visit.  We’re optimistic that, in the spring or summer, we’ll finally be able to pack up the tribe and take the whole crew up to visit her.

Whenever Zizi visits, she always, always, always brings homemade biscotti, in quantities that are staggering and warmly welcomed. In her lexicon, these are simply known as “cookies,” and her explanation for their bountiful appearance is that kids need some good cookies to grow up big and strong and to know that Zizi loves them.  If you haven’t guessed this already, we simply adore her.

Given all the time we spent at Nonno and Deedaw’s over the long holiday weekend, I had a daunting to-do list staring me in the face yesterday morning.  The morning’s marvel of mercy was that the tribe woke up singly, which gave me the opportunity to greet each tiny person individually and ensure that each one of them had something desirable and halfway healthy for breakfast.  Mr. Man was the last child to rise, and as soon as he exploded into the kitchen in search of food, he spied the box of cookies.

“I have cookie for bweakfast, pwease?”

“No, no cookie for breakfast. How about some yogurt?”

“No, I can’t want yoguht.  I want sit Daddy’s chair an’ have cookie for bweakfast.”

Right about then, Baby Guy, having heard one of the magic words, entered the kitchen with the pounding stagger-run that indicates he is terribly excited about something.  His vocabulary is not particularly large, but he’s very good at uttering those words that describe things that qualify as urgent priorities for him.

“Cookie?”

The girls caromed into the kitchen.  “Are there cookies, Mommy?”

I sighed.  “Yes, there are cookies.  Zizi Carmela brought us a big box of them.  She made them herself so you would remember she loves you even when she’s not here.”

I should point out that the box of cookies was, quite literally, a three-pound garden salad container.  That is a LOT of biscotti.

There are moments when I simply surrender to the likelihood of joyful noise and multiple tooth-brushings in a morning.  This was one of them.

“Okay, everyone into their chairs.  Let’s have cookies and thank God for Zizi Carmela.”

Three pairs of feet did not hit the floor between the kitchen doorway and their chairs.  The fourth pair of feet stomped bow-leggedly over to the booster chair and complained loudly until the toddler who owns them was placed therein and his tray secured.  I opened the cookie box, grabbed one for myself, then stood back and watched the merry chaos of four small children exulting in their great-aunt’s baking.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for granting so many members of our extended family length of years, such length as made it possible for Your little blessings to know them and learn from them.  Please help me recognize those little moments when we can bask in their little acts of love for us, and celebrate them with abandon instead of worrying about whether the time is right.

The night the music died


Here’s the song reference.

Every night since Bugaboo was born, we have had the same bedtime ritual with our children — stories, then evening prayers, then lullabies.  For the last five-and-one-half years, their days have ended with “Irish Lullaby,” then a little song we made up to the tune of “O Tannenbaum,”  then two verses of “Taps.”

For the past several months, lullaby time has evolved into less of an opportunity for all of us to snuggle up and wind down together and more of a free-for-all.  This may have something to do with the boys’ bedtime being an hour earlier than the girls’, so it’s possible that Bugaboo and Beanie just aren’t quite ready for that moment of peace at 7:30.  Nonetheless, the lesson of respectful listening is forgotten after prayers have been prayed, and when the girls start bouncing around merrily after prayers, the boys follow their lead, no matter how many imprecations for calm are issued.  This is highly counterproductive to the cause of getting the boys to go to bed calmly.

This has become a big point of frustration for Manie and I, but last night, as I was trying to sing the second song over a hullabaloo, I simply stopped.  None of them noticed, and none of them asked for the rest of their songs.  It’s entirely possible that they’ve reached a point where the lullabies are more important to the parents than to our children, I thought.  After Manie and I exchanged sad and wistful glances, he announced that the boys’ bedtime had come, and that it was time for hugs, kisses, and the ouster of all those who sleep not there.  He also mentioned that since nobody was listening to or singing along with songs anymore, I probably wouldn’t sing them anymore, and perhaps we could have an extra story or some extra prayers instead.

To our tremendous surprise, Bugaboo completely lost it.

When I say, “completely lost it,” I do not mean she shed a couple of tears and whined a little.  I mean her face became a stunning shade of scarlet and she emitted a Vader-worthy bellow of, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”  She cried until she was hyperventilating, and every now and again choked out a word to eventually form the sentence, “You . . . can’t . . . stop . . . songs . . . we . . . always . . . have . . . songs . . . and  . . . I . . . still . . . want . . . songs!”

After we had calmed her down, Manie said simply, “Okay, I understand.  But I have a question for you.  What song was Mommy singing when she stopped?”

No response.

“Bugaboo, we love you.  We don’t want you to be sad.  But Mommy sings to you and with you all day.  If nobody’s going to listen when Mommy sings you guys off to bed at night, it makes her sad, and we don’t want Mommy to be sad either.  Plus, with you and Beanie jumping all over the room, it gets Mr. Man and Baby Guy all worked up and then they can’t get to sleep.  It’s not fair to anybody.”

I added, “And it’s okay if you’ve all outgrown songs at night.  It’s something I do for you, not to you, and if it’s not something you all enjoy anymore, if it’s not something that helps you relax and get ready for bed, then it’s time for it to end and for us to find something else to do that will help everybody unwind.”

Manie continued, “This is supposed to be quiet family time, not everybody jumping around the room time.”

Meanwhile, Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy were quietly but intently observing the conversation.

I offered, “I’ll tell you what.  Maybe tonight is just a rough night because we’ve had such a busy day and ran so many errands.  We’ll try again tomorrow, okay, when maybe we can all remember how quiet time is supposed to look.  Okay?”

“But I WANT MY SONGS NOW!”

“No, Bugaboo.  Not tonight.  I tried to sing them to you for fifteen minutes, and the songs only take about four minutes total to sing.  My voice is tired now, and so is the rest of me.  We’ll try again tomorrow.”

And that was the end of that.  We hugged and kissed the boys and tucked them in with only minor protestations and no stuffed-animal-missile hurling.  Nothing else was said about the lullabies that night, even when we tucked in the girls about an hour later.

Honestly, I hope Bugaboo and Beanie, whose eyes were suspiciously bright during the exchange in her brothers’ room, really do still want the lullabies.  I’m not ready to stop singing them yet — and I don’t think I ever really will be.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the gift of music, and for strong voices we can raise in song.  Thank You for the years of peaceful moments we have had with Your little blessings sharing songs at the end of the day.  Please help me gently teach them that if we fail to recognize the beauty in the gift of music, or in any other thing, we will miss it when we can no longer enjoy it.  Kindle in me a spirit that will allow me to instruct Your blessings in the importance of quiet listening, and will quiet my own lips by way of example to them.  My gifts to them can never equal Yours, Lord, but please help me teach Your blessings to accept what they are given with grateful hearts, and teach me to be at peace when what I have tried to share is not what they need.

The heart of the matter


Here’s the song reference.

The son of someone I’ve known for a very long time underwent his twelfth brain surgery in his nine months of life yesterday.  I can’t imagine the anxiety level in their house about now; the little guy was born a couple of months early, and has been struggling for his life ever since.  Please, if you can, spare a prayer for Dylan.  I asked the tribe to do likewise yesterday, and the girls were only to happy to ask God to send another miracle for a baby they only know through photos on Facebook.  They also made little construction paper angels for him.

All Bugaboo and Beanie know about Dylan is that he is the child of an old friend of mine, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters to them is that he’s a baby who is sick and needs prayer.  They don’t know anything about the structure of the household in which he lives, and they don’t know that household is composed of two women, one of whom I lived with in a relationship for eleven years, and a baby.  What they do know is that God works miracles to heal bodies, hearts, and souls.  They understand that no matter what our points of disagreement or disapproval, love means we pray for one another.  As we learned yesterday, Christ can heal any sort of brokenness man can imagine.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who are healthy enough to wear me to a happy exhaustion at the end of a day, and who understand that You have blessed some people differently.  You are the Almighty Healer of bodies and souls, Lord, and You heal and forgive indiscriminately all those who approach You with humble and contrite hearts.  Help me teach Your blessings that all of us sin, that no one person’s sin is so great that Your loving arms do not yearn for the return of Your lost sheep, and that we, in love, are to pray for all of Your children who have need of our prayers.  Every life is precious in Your sight, and we would teach Your blessings to always see Your face in every person.  And, Lord, please send a miracle for Baby Dylan, as You have sent so many to me.  There are many who need to see Your face in his.

In the early morning rain


Here’s the song reference.

November re-emerged last night; after a yesterday of sunshine and temperatures above 70 degrees, clouds, rain, and chilly air have returned this morning.  The tribe is still sleeping soundly, and the house is quiet.  About half an hour from now, Bugaboo will caper down the hallway, full of enthusiasm and talking a mile a minute, so I’m downing my second cup of coffee as I type in the hope that I’ll have enough energy to handle hers with a smile.

In the meantime, there’s a loaf of crock bread in the oven.  I baked regular bread last night to go with the pumpkin soup we’re having for lunch today, but after all the chatter I heard last night among the tiny people about their hopes for another short-sleeves day, something to mitigate the inevitable disappointment seemed to be in order.  A favorite breakfast around here is a loaf of very airy bread, baked in a ceramic crock, and a table crowded with butter and a dozen jars of jam and other spreads, with steaming mugs of hot cocoa on the side.

Rainy days will come.  We can choose to curse the rain, or we can find the joy in knowing that rain, too, is necessary to life, and give thanks for electric light and a stout roof over our heads.  As for me, my morning is lightened by the anticipation of the smiles on four tiny faces when they see the big white crock on the table, surrounded by an honor guard of jars.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the rain that renews the waters of the earth, and washes the autumn pollen off the van.  Kindle in our hearts a joyful welcome for mud, and worms, and the smell of wet leaves, for these, too, are parts of Your Creation.  Help us teach Your blessings that no matter how stormy the skies may seem, You are with us always, comforting us on those days when Heaven itself seems to weep.  Please grant us the wisdom to accept Your comfort with happy hearts, and to remain watchful for those whom You send to us for that same comfort.

Autumn breeze, makes me feel fine


Here’s the song reference.

As is our custom on Sundays, we spent the afternoon over at Nonno and Deedaw’s house.  Somewhat uncharacteristically for Virginia, the afternoon was warm and golden, with temperatures high enough for the tiny people to gad about in short sleeves.

Once we had exchanged greetings with Nonno, Deedaw, Nephew, Frank and Megan (Manie’s brother and his lady friend), the midget mob began agitating to be allowed to play out in the spacious back yard.  Since it seemed almost blasphemous to disallow them the pleasure of enjoying the blessing of a springlike autumn afternoon, we adults did a quick shoe check and then dispatched the lot of them into the fresh air and sunshine.  As Nonno was resting, Frank was working on a project, and Deedaw, Megan, and I were busy with household tasks, Manie was nominated as the safety patrol officer.

Baby Guy decided to stay inside for a while, and delighted Nonno with his exploration of the toy bins in the family room and his grinning, chortling toddler babble.  Eventually, though, the littlest member of the tribe decided that he missed having playmates, and meandered over to the back door in search of his siblings and cousin.  I paused to open the door for him and notify Manie of his entry into the afternoon melee, then returned to cleaning a head of cauliflower.

A few moments later, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and looked to see which little blessing had come in looking for a drink.  Much to my surprise, I saw the motion in question had come from Nonno, who had decided that his grandchildren were far more interesting than the afternoon’s football offerings (particularly after what the Ravens did to the Raiders), and that he would therefore prefer to enjoy a little fresh air and sunshine himself.  Megan had caught the same movement from where she had been working, and the two of us fussed over him as he descended the steps onto the patio, in spite of his assurances that he was fine and did not require our assistance.

Off into the madding midget crowd went Nonno, perhaps a little shorter and thinner than he was when I first met him almost a decade ago, with his head slightly shinier, but still with the same smile in the presence of grandchildren I first saw gracing his entire face the first time I saw him playing with Niece, who was a wee girl of three and a half at the time.  It is the smile of a man who rejoices in what the Lord has sent, and one that encompasses every part of his face, not just his lips.  There are days when the tribe is particularly trying that I call that smile to mind, as a reminder of how deeply and madly grateful we are for our quiver full of arrows.

I watched through the kitchen window for a moment as he kicked a soccer ball for one child, guided another gently towards the playset, pointed out to Manie that the swing needed to be moved to a higher branch of the big magnolia, then fetched Deedaw from the laundry room, whispering, “No, really, you need to look outside.  This is way better than laundry.”

As she neared the door and saw Nonno, head glowing in the afternoon sun, face aglow with the joy of being surrounded by rowdy little kids, she smiled gently and shook her head.  After giving me a quick nugget of cauliflower advice, she leaned on the back of a nearby chair for a moment, watching the mayhem unfold in the yard, with Nonno bobbing through it like a balding rubber duck in a wave pool.  She remarked that he’s happier when he has kids and sunshine around, and that the combination of the two put more color in his cheeks, before she headed back to the dryer.  Her smile was a little brighter, too, and played about the corners of her lips a little longer.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for blessing us with Nonno and Deedaw, and for blessing them with length of years.  You have made them like trees by a river, who prosper all those who spring from their branches.  Grant us the grace of many days in their company for us and for Your little blessings, that we may be instructed by their example of faithfulness to each other and to You, and thank You for the gift of allowing us to love and serve them as their autumn and winter approach.

Human rain delay


This one is actually a sports reference.

Beanie is a very deliberate little girl in nearly everything she does.  When collecting leaves for a school project, she examines each leaf minutely to ensure that it has characteristics that are pleasing to her; when performing the forbidden “couchy-couch” jump, she carefully surveys the floor where she’ll land if she misses as well as her landing spot, to ensure that no obstacles or siblings might cause her a harder landing than she intends.

This tendency, while wonderful in terms of her work habits (you should see her cleaning the kitchen baseboards, which is one of her chores), can occasionally cause a little friction in other areas.  There are six people and two dogs who live at our house, in a total of just under 1400 finished square feet, and we have two bathrooms.

We had a busy afternoon and evening planned yesterday, which meant that, in order to not have a profoundly grouchy tribe halfway through everything, I had to snuggle everyone down for naps by around noon so we could be mobile by about 3:30.  Baby Guy and Mr. Man obligingly curled up in their beds and fell asleep as soon as their blankets were tucked in around them, Bugaboo brought a pillow, blanket, and pair of stuffed penguins out to her preferred napping spot on the loveseat, and Beanie . . . well, I reminded Beanie that she needed to go to the potty before she cuddled up to her big Funshine Bear for her nap.

Beanie is also a world-class lollygagger when there’s something she does not want to do on tap.  One thing my precious perpetual-motion machine does not like to do is nap.

Five minutes after I sent her into the upstairs bathroom, Bugaboo informed me that she needed to go, too.  I sent her downstairs and, since I also needed a rest stop, went in to check on Beanie.  A pile of uneven shreds of toilet paper lay on the floor between her dangling feet, and the loose end of the roll was torn into a triangle with a hypotenuse of about 18 inches.  I tore that off, handed it to her, and said, “Okay, Beanie, are you done going potty?  If you are, it’s time to wipe and get off the potty so other people can use it.”

What seemed a perfectly reasonable request to me was met with an ear-splitting howl of, “I DON’T WANT TO USE THE RIPPED PAPER I WANT TO USE THE STRAIGHT PAPER IT WON’T RIP RIGHT,” tears, and emphatic gesticulations at the pile of toilet paper scraps on the floor.  Her problem was threefold:  firstly, that she desperately NEEDED a nap, secondly, that she did not WANT to take the needed nap, thirdly, that she couldn’t get the toilet paper to tear neatly along the perforations.  Imperfect toilet paper squares are not acceptable at certain times in Beanie-land.

Carefully tearing off a few squares and handing them to her, I soothed, “Okay, Beanie, time to wipe and flush now.”

“I can’t.  Another drop of pee got made while I was trying to get the toilet paper to behave, and I want it to come out in the potty so it doesn’t get in my panties.”

At this point, I realized that going downstairs to use the other bathroom, which a flushing sound indicated had just been vacated by Bugaboo, was probably not a good idea, as it would start a new battle between Beanie and the toilet paper.  I turned around and started wiping the vanity top while waiting for Beanie to finish.  Some moments later, I heard the sweet sound of two little feet hitting the floor and turned around to, I hoped, use the pot myself.

Beanie, upon descending from her throne, had stationed herself at an angle that made it impossible for me to sit on the fixture without sitting on her.  I asked her if she was done, and smiled at her chirpy, “Yep!” before asking her to please move just a little bit.

“I need to pull up my pants first so I don’t trip.”

Reasonable enough.

It seemed a little less reasonable five minutes later, when she was still pulling up her underwear . . . one . . . millimeter . . . per . . . elastic . . . gather . . . at . . . a . . . time . . .

“Beanie, HONEY, Mommy really needs to use the potty.  Could you shuffle over a step or two for me, please?”

She shuffled right into the doorway — the very doorway I needed to walk through to get to the commode.

“Beanie, do you need some help?”

“NOOOOOOOOOOO!  I’m a big girl.  I’m being careful ’cause I don’t want wrinkles in my panties.”

Okay, at least that was a new one.

“Sweetie, you’re blocking the doorway.  And you really need to pull up your pants and snuggle Funshine in your cozy bed.”

“Funshine would be sad if I was wiggly because my panties have wrinkles.  I don’t want Funshine to be sad.”

I remembered to pray before I said, or did, anything else.  My thoughts were a little poisonous at that point.

“Honey, Mommy’s going to be sad if she pees in her panties because she can’t get to the potty.”

“Yeah, and then you’d have to get a towel and clean it up, too.  That would be yucky.”

Deep breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth, really is a highly effective relaxation technique.  I did so a couple of times as she meticulously continued to raise her completely unwrinkled panties.  I have seen freshly ironed shirts with more wrinkles.  Finally, I gently picked her up and moved her just enough to gain access to the toilet.

She turned around and looked at me, and said, “Mommy, we’re supposed to be patient with each other, especially if we’re trying to get something just right.”

“You are correct, Beanie, but we’re also supposed to be considerate of each other, especially when someone has a big need.”

“I have a big need to keep the wrinkles out of my panties.”

Twenty minutes later (no, really), I finally tucked her blankets around her, silently fuming at the insane amount of time it had taken her to use the potty and get into her bed.  After snuggling her in and giving her a kiss and a whispered admonition to take a nap, I closed her door and, wearily, walked over to the couch to lay down for a few minutes myself.  Bugaboo had taken advantage of the delay to build a village for her penguins on the loveseat, and after requesting that she deconstruct it so she would have enough room to lay down for her own nap, I plopped down on the sofa to rest and think.

I cracked a wide grin as I remembered the many times I had prayed for children, for patience, and for the time of their childhood to slow down so we could savor it.  Well, He certainly does answer my prayers, and does so with a great sense of humor.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have lovingly given me those things I have asked for in faith.  Please fill my heart with the same amount of patience with Your blessings that You have shown me, and when I must correct or reprove, keep my voice gentle and my face mild.  Make me a teacher to them who instructs gently and joyfully, responding to trials with love and grace.

Fish heads


Here’s the song reference.

Bugaboo, Beanie and I passed a pleasant hour this morning reading the story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes.  It’s a perennial favorite around here, partly because we are a fish-loving family, partly because it’s a good reminder that Our Lord always provides us with more than we need, but does not want us to waste a crumb of it.   The girls and Baby Guy, who was up early and making merry mayhem as his sisters worked, enjoyed slices of bread as an after-breakfast snack while they colored.

After we had finished the day’s assignments, we decided to make tuna melts for lunch, since we had been talking about the loaves and fishes.  Bugaboo piped up, “Mommy, it will be kind of like we’re having lunch with Jesus!”  It’s a favorite meal around here, and an easy one for little hands to help prepare . . . unless, of course, those little hands are busy digging through the dress-up bin.

While we ate, I asked the girls if they remembered whether Jesus had anything other than bread and fish with which to feed everyone, including himself, that day.  They both shook their heads in the negative, so I followed up by asking them what we had that Jesus did not that day.  Beanie pointed out that our fish had mayonnaise and cheese on it, and Bugaboo noted that we had yummy fruit cocktail to go with our meal.

“Girls, did Jesus complain about only having bread and fish to eat?”

“No, they story just said they had lots of leftovers.”

“Look at your plates, and think about what you just told me about our lunch.  Think about it for a minute.  Jesus provided something better for us than he provided for Himself.”

“He must love us a lot.”

“Indeed.  Can we tell people we love them by giving them the best we have?”

“Yeah, but what if we like what we have?”

“That’s okay, too, but always remember that Jesus gave us His best.  Can we remember to give our best, too, whether it’s sharing our food or doing our chores or our schoolwork?”

“Okay.  Did Jesus have to sweep the hallway?”

“I’ll bet He helped His mother, Mary.”

“Yeah, He probably did.  He was a good little boy. He probably didn’t complain about it, either.”

Our little blessings amaze me sometimes.

Later that afternoon, we set about making feathers for our annual “turkey of thanks.”  I cut orange construction paper feathers until my fingers got numb, and had to ask Bugaboo and Beanie to save some of their gratitude for tomorrow.

Turkey of thanks

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your abundant provision for us, and for little blessings who give praise and thanks to You for Your bounty. You feed us when we are weary with living bread, and quench all our thirsts with Your living water.  Thank You for never having let our children know hunger, not for food, not for love, not for comfort.  Please enrich our hearts with humble gratitude and a fervent desire to share Your blessings with all those who hunger and despair; open our eyes to their sufferings and their eyes to Your love.

 

Hello, I love you


Here’s the song reference.

Taking kids to vote

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

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

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

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

Deterring doorknockers

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

Little eyes and ears


My election day plea is not a pitch for any candidate, but a simple request:  Many people bring their children to the polls with them.  Please do everything you can to ensure that the quality of adult social behavior those impressionable eyes see is the quality of behavior you would want them to emulate.

John 13:34-35

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

34 A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.

Peace be with you all.

— Kelly

How easy it would be to show him how you feel


Here’s the song reference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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