Tag Archive | stewardship

S-O-D-A, soooda

Here’s the song reference.  If you’re not familiar with Weird Al Yankovic’s work, you might want to give it a listen.

I keep a very small stock of diet soda downstairs for when Grandma visits; she enjoys a properly iced glass of the stuff with her dinner, and I enjoy taking care of those small things that make my mother smile.  The cans stay in their little box in the basement until the night before her arrival, at which time a suitable quantity of fizzy beverage is placed in the upstairs refrigerator.  After Grandma’s last visit, we procured a new box, and, to the best of my knowledge and belief, it waited near the stack of boxes of old books, quietly gathering the yellow-green pollen that invariably accumulates on everything in the basement when the tribe forgets to shut the door.

After a quick foray to the park this morning, we came home to make puppy puppets out of discarded oven mitts; our theme for this week is dogs, which has led to many Clifford stories being read and many dog-related art projects being concocted (incidentally, if you are a FiOS subscriber, there is a lovely little short about guide dogs on MagRack).  While the glue was drying on their masterpieces, Bugaboo and Beanie decided that a little more time exploring the great outdoors was in order, and that playing with Smudgie would be a good pastime for “dog week.”  Mr. Man and Baby Guy quickly followed heir big sisters, which gave me a chance to scrub the stray glue off the table and put some cheese rolls in the oven for lunch.

Once the kitchen table no longer presented a health hazard and the oven timer shrilled its cranky tones at me, I called out the kitchen window that there was, in fact, food to be had, and that wise children would quickly come devour it.  Bugaboo and Beanie raced each other up the steps, alternating complaints about who might have made physical contact with whom on their way up.  Mr. Man followed a moment later, his eyes brightening when he saw the big bowl of sliced apples next to the platter of cheese rolls.  As our three eldest impatiently surveyed the luncheon offerings, I inquired of them, “Where’s Baby Guy?”

“He’s still outside.  At least, I think he is, ” Bugaboo offered helpfully.

“Yeah, he’s ousside, ” confirmed Mr. Man.  Beanie was too enthralled by the mere presence of food to respond.

“Okay, guys.  You know the deal.  We eat together, so I need you to wait while I go get Baby Guy.”

Beanie’s wordless wail of protest followed me down the stairs and out the back door.  Sure enough, there was Baby Guy, hands covered in the potting soil from the pots on the patio table where the girls are trying to grow beets.  Laughing, I scooped him up with a quick, “Food, dude!” and headed back to the house.  As he nestled his head against my shoulder, as he is wont to do, I caught a whiff of something sweet — just as I tripped over the empty soda can.

Once inside, I looked for the box of diet sodas.  Sure enough, the tab on the end had been ripped open, and the box now stood empty, the pollen from the flap collecting in a grimly green blob next to it.  Sighing, I carried Baby Guy into the bathroom to wash his wee hands, managed to avoid looking like a refugee from a wet t-shirt contest, then tickled him upstairs and into his high chair.

We prayed grace over our lunch, and I held my curiosity until the last morsel had been eaten.  My working theory was that Mr. Man, who is fascinated by canned sodas and takes particular pride in presenting them to anyone who visits our home, had probably emptied out the box and put most of the soda in the downstairs refrigerator.  He’s done such things before.  What he had never done was actually open one of the cans.

As the three non-highchair-dwellers were putting their dishes in the sink, I inquired, “Mr. Man, did you take Grandma’s sodas out of the box?”

“Yesh, Mommy.”

“Mr. Man, did you open the sodas?”

He looked aghast at the very suggestion, and Bugaboo helpfully volunteered, “No, Mommy, I did that. I wanted to give the beets a drink of soda.  Beets are sweet and so is soda, so I thought they might enjoy some.”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your blessings, who revel in all the wonders of Your creation.  Thank You for their loving hearts that cherish all life, for their tender care of our beloved Bo in what are likely his last weeks, for their fervent desire to bring forth new life from dirt and seeds.  Help me, Lord, to nurture their love of the truth, that willingness to admit their own fault even when it would be expedient to let another take the blame.  Please grant me the wisdom to teach them the right way to make connections – that while two things may be sweet individually, combining them leads to a big mess and a dead seed.  We would raise Your blessings to be good stewards of Your creation, Lord, and to worship You through their care for it.

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

Here’s the song reference.

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

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

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

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

Peace be with you.

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

The milkman of human cuteness

Here’s the song reference.  This one may be obscure, but if you could use a smile in your morning, do click the link.

Mr. Man has always had a particular fondness for plastic gallon milk jugs — they’re large, they make great sounds when you bang them against other objects, and, of course, they usually contain milk, which is his beverage of choice.  Our household timing is usually such that a jug is generally emptied right at Mr. Man’s bedtime, so he rarely has leisure to enjoy this prize of prizes, since he’s on his way to the boys’ room for lullabies and prayers.

Lately, however, our schedule has been shifting, and the last two gallon milk jugs have been emptied in the morning, during breakfast (if you are curious, we average one gallon of milk per day, and yes, I have considered buying a cow).  Mr. Man has been very much enjoying this turn of events, and as soon as the jug is emptied, he seizes it.  His first order of business is to ensure that there is, in fact, not a single drop of milk remaining in the jug (video evidence here), and to drink it if he should happen to find a stray dram.

Once he has consumed the very last drop of milk in the jug, he proceeds to make a round of the kitchen, making music by crashing the hollow plastic into cupboard doors, dog dishes, appliances, body parts (usually his own), Baby Guy’s high chair tray, and anything else that looks like it has the potential to make an interesting sound.  He bangs it around with the cap on and with the cap off, having discovered that an open jug makes a different sound than a closed one.  He generally prefers the cap-off sounds, as they are significantly louder.  All the while, he blesses us with a steady stream of giggles and face-splitting smiles; those of you who have spent significant amounts of time around toddlers understand that this is the reason we are loath to remove the jug from his curious hands.

november 2012 021

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for little blessings who greet Your creation with enthusiastic curiosity about every nook and cranny thereof, and with a heart’s desire to explore every thing mankind has made with the resources You provide it.  Thank You for their budding awareness that we are to be wise stewards of the bounty You have given, wasting nothing, and rejoicing in even the smallest drop of milk.  Please kindle in our hearts a deep gratitude for Your abundance, the unconditional love to share what You provide with our brothers and sisters whom You have blessed in other ways, and the humility to accept Your gifts when others freely share them with us.

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.


Bat out of . . . shoebox?

Here’s the song reference.

As part of our homeschooling, we cover a topic in science every week; this week’s subject is bats.  It’s a particularly important subject at our house, as we live near a swamp and thus are subject to an absurdly large mosquito population.  I’m loath to spray a bunch of chemicals around, partly out of concern for the tiny people and our dogs, partly out of concern for the nearby wetlands and the critters that live there.  Don’t get me wrong — I have no problem hosing the kids down with Cutter before sending them outside to play, but I’d rather not spray the entire yard.  To us, it’s a simple question of stewardship; the Lord calls us to take care of His Creation, and to me, that means considering the impact of everything we do on the creatures over which He gave mankind dominion.  I keep hoping the kids will quit pulling up the mosquito-shoo geraniums, but until then . . .

At any rate, we read a spiffy book about bats, at the end of which were plans for a wooden bat house.  While I lack the intestinal fortitude to tackle a carpentry project involving four children under the age of six as the only adult in the room, I have no problem breaking out a shoebox to build a suitable model.  Again, part of stewardship involves using the materials we have on hand.  With a family of six, there are always shoeboxes and cereal boxes aplenty at our house; quite a few of them find their way into the recycling bin without any intermediate steps, but at least half of them end up being used as craft supplies, to bring a lesson to life.  Having read about bats, and watched a couple of neat videos to see bats in action, the girls and I talked about how we’ve seen bats flittering about at twilight, and how many times we’ve gone diving for calamine to cool the itching of dozens of mosquito bites.  Beanie is particularly afflicted by the little bloodsuckers, and thus was the most enthusiastic about learning how to attract a healthy bat population.

Our basic plan was a simple one, to wit:  cut a side off a shoebox, trim another side and fold it up a little for an entry restrictor, add a small sheet of gauze for a bat toehold, then cover the shoebox with brown construction paper to simulate the wood of a real bat house.  The girls rifled the sticker box to find stickers with pictures of things bats like to eat, and came up with butterflies, moths, and bees (I don’t know if bats actually eat bees, but they had the concept of bats eating insects, so I wasn’t inclined to argue).  Beanie pointed out that some bats eat fruit, and was promptly countered by Bugaboo’s assertion that the bats we wanted to attract were the bug-eating variety.  Beanie eagerly agreed that we did not want to encourage any bats that might steal our bananas and apples.  We finished it off with a half-dozen scratch-art bats suspended from strings, “flying” into the “bat house.”

The girls were delighted with their project, and animatedly pointed out all its features to Mr. Man and Baby Guy when they boys awoke from their nap.  We may have to make another one, as Mr. Man’s wee noise is quite out of joint at not having been allowed to help with the construction.  They’re trying to convince Daddy to help them make real ones from lumber in the spring.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have blessed us with an abundance of flora and fauna to study, understand, and appreciate.  Thank You for eyes to see their beauty, and for lips to sing Your praise as we discover the wonder of each tiny piece of Your creation.  Please help me teach Your blessings that we cherish life of all kinds, and we can show our love for You in the way we care for all the lives around us, and grant me the wisdom to find anything redeeming about stink bugs.  Thank You for the mosquitos that feed the bats, for the bats that eat the mosquitos, for the writers who have taken the time to set down their knowledge about Your creatures in books, for the videographers who have recorded Your creatures in all their beauty and majesty.  Keep our vision broad, Lord, but remind us to always focus on You as we survey the world around us.  Thank You also, Lord, for the gift of little blessings who rejoice in sharing tasks, and who are learning to share the stickers as well.

Fish heads

While we do use a purchased homeschooling curriculum, Bugaboo has been finished with it since January, which has given me the opportunity to make up lessons for the last few months; we all enjoy the flexibility, and it also works well because Bugaboo’s (and Beanie’s for that matter) skills in several areas are a little past preschool level.  Whenever something really catches the girls’ attention, I’ll concoct some sort of theme for the following day that centers around that interest.

Since food originating in the ocean had generated so much interest on Sunday, we spent yesterday having fun with fish and anything else related to the ocean or the beach.  We started off with posters; each of the girls had a crab to color, a couple of “crab facts” sentences to read and finish, and room to draw a “crabitat,” and finished the posters by finding the four little crab stickers on a giant sheet of beach-themed stickers.

After the posters were done and the boys were awake, the five of us tried walking like crabs in the living room.  As we all laid on the floor, laughing, being climbed by Baby Guy and licked by Smudgie, I asked Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man what else lived in water or reminded them of summer (which is when we usually eat crabs).  We quickly compiled a list that included fish, penguins, and the beach, then set off to raid the bookshelves in search of titles that fit our list.  We had several good, long story breaks yesterday.

I loved that Bugaboo picked out the story about the loaves and fishes.  Everywhere we look, right?  As I was tucking the girls into bed last night, I asked them what they liked best about the day, trying to get suggestions for a theme for today.  In Beanie’s opinion, the best thing about the day was the crab-walking, and Bugaboo liked all the stories about fish; Bugaboo’s answer prompted me to inquire which fish story she liked best.  She told me her favorite was the Finding Nemo story, because she likes that his daddy never stopped looking for him, and that Nemo is a pretty fish and could we have one and she promised she would never be like Darla and shake him and . . . I had to stop her before she started jumping up and down, since the object was to get her to go to sleep.  I asked her if there was something in particular she liked about Nemo; she replied that he’s orange.  Our theme for today, therefore, is orange.

Incidentally, can anyone confirm that there is no word in the English language that rhymes with orange?

Here’s the song reference.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a day spent snuggling up with Your blessings and a huge pile of stories in between romps in the yard.  Thank You for books that teach us and entertain us, and for the wisdom to find Your presence in most stories, and to note the misery wrought by Your absence in a few.  Your book of love letters contains many stories about fishing, and You called some of Your disciples with an invitation to become fishers of men.  Please help us always hear Your voice in the rolling of the tide, and to praise You richly for the abundance of fishes You created for food and for beauty.  Please use the awe in our hearts for the ocean’s majesty to kindle in us a desire to be good stewards of the waters You made, and the land You separated from the water.  Thank You for the love we share, and the love You freely share with us.

Gershon Kingsley, eat your heart out

Yesterday seemed made for a certain Seussian feline, as the weather was entirely too cold and rainy for even my little tribe of stalwart mud fanatics to spend an appreciable amount of time outdoors.  Fortunately, we are blessed with an abundance of books and art supplies, and the makings of both chicken soup and spaghetti with meat sauce, both of which are foul-weather favorites around here.  Baby Guy followed his usual rainy day custom of taking his nap at ten in the morning and sleeping until sometime after two in the afternoon, while Mr. Man was permitted to opt out of his nap and join his sisters and I in our hour of quiet time after lunch.

Among the titles in our collection is this little gem from Tomie de Paola; it gives the history of popcorn, along with a host of fascinating popcorn facts, in the context of two brothers making popcorn on their stove.  This is yet another book I recommend highly.  At any rate, while we did not read The Popcorn Book today, the kids ate dinner at a sufficiently early hour to justify a snack during our evening Spider-Man social.  While Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man were busily putting toys back in boxes, bins, and cupboards, and Baby Guy was cheerfully crawling back and forth in pursuit of Smudgie’s wagging tail, I decided to make a quick batch of stove-top popcorn.

I’ve never actually made popcorn in a pan on the stove before, mind you, but I’d seen it done by older relatives over thirty years ago.  We always had popcorn machines as a child, then a microwave, and I’ve used a very noisy air popper for the last couple of years.  However, since we’ve read about the old-fashioned way, it seemed worthwhile to show the midget mob that the method of which they had read was, in fact, possible.  I heated the oil, melted a little real, unsalted butter (the kind that has cream as its sole ingredient) in a saucepan, then tossed a test kernel into the hot oil.

Thankfully, I managed to duck out of the way of the flying popcorn before it smacked me in the eye.

After I located the lid for the relevant pan, I poured in the rest of the kernels and gently shook the pan until a fluffy mass quietly billowed forth; half a cup of popcorn kernels yielded just enough popcorn to fill my handled mixing bowl.  By the time I sprinkled over a fingertip pinch of salt and tossed in the butter, our three oldest children had assembled on the living room couch and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  I put Bugaboo in charge of the bowl, helping myself to a handful of warm popcorn while reminding her to keep hold of the handle.

If you know anyone who would like an air popper, he or she can have mine.  That’s the best popcorn I’ve ever eaten, and the tribe agrees.  After the tribe was abed, I made another batch to share with my husband, and we have added him to the list of old-school popcorn devotees.

From a stewardship perspective, there were exactly six unpopped kernels out of a half cup of corn, which meant significantly less waste than any other method I’ve used.  It’s fluffier and sweeter, too.  Once the tiny people had finished watching their show and demolishing the popcorn, I asked them what they thought the popcorn did in the pan.  Bugaboo and Beanie responded by gleefully jumping up and down and making popping noises; after a moment’s skeptical observation, Mr. Man decided to join in the fun, while Baby Guy watched, smiling and laughing at his siblings’ silliness.

In The Popcorn Book, Mr. de Paola mentions that early European settlers ate popped corn with cream for breakfast.  Bugaboo remembered this as she was helping herself to another handful, and asked if we could have that for breakfast tomorrow.  I replied that while we don’t have any cream, we have whole milk, which should work just as well.  I’d rather have them eat that than most breakfast cereals!  It will be a good opportunity to teach them about this gift the native Americans gave to the Europeans, and to talk about how food brings people of all backgrounds together.

For those mystified by the title of this post, this may be helpful (link will open in a new window).

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the simple gift of popcorn to share with Your blessings, with the laughter and happiness it brought.  Some of Your greatest miracles involved food and drink, from the wedding at Cana to the loaves and fishes; You remain with us in bread and wine at every Mass.  Please help me teach Your blessings that sharing a meal, or even a snack, brings us closer together, and to praise You always for the bounty You provide for us to eat.  Please remind us to share that bounty with our neighbors who are hungry, and help us teach the lesson of Your friend Martha, that preparing food can be a ministry if it is done in Your service.  As we prepare our meals today, Lord, remind us as you reminded Martha that the food is less important than the love it fuels our bodies to share, and let us serve in all ways with glad hearts.


There are days when, for no particular reason, I’m just tired.  This is one of them.

We met some friends at the park this morning to take advantage of the playground and the bright, sunny day; the tribe had a blast until some bigger kids showed up, and, since I could not keep a line of sight to make sure none of my little blessings had strayed, it was time for us to head for home.

By now, I should know that there are two absolutes that pertain to Mr. Man and Baby Guy.  The first absolute is that if they fall asleep in the van, they will absolutely refuse to nap.  The second absolute is that if I go through a drive-through window to pick up anything at all, both boys will fall asleep.  While I generally remember the first absolute, I’ve been known to forget the second.  Such was the case on the way home from the park, and as I pulled away from a local burger joint, I peeked over my shoulder to see Mr. Man dozing, thumb in mouth, blankie clutched to cheek.  As I simultaneously smiled and rolled my eyes, Bugaboo helpfully offered, “Mommy, Baby Guy is asleep! He’s SOOOOO CUUUUTE!”

Beanie is generally my go-to gal in these situations, as she is possessed of a set of pipes that I believe could raise the Egyptian Pharaohs. I gave her my official permission to awaken her brothers, but even her most full-throated efforts failed to rouse them.  They did not stir until I opened the van doors, at which point both boys were quite vocal about their displeasure with having their sweet dreams interrupted.  Mr. Man, however, calmed pretty quickly when he realized the aroma of fries was wafting through the van, and nearly broke his silly neck running down the front steps, crowing, “Inside, upstaiws, chaiw, den fwies!”

Baby Guy, at least, finished his nap when we got home.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, keep me mindful that Your little blessings need rest when they are tired, and that even if lunch has to be hastily scrounged from the cupboards, it’s better to have an eclectic meal than exhausted children.  Perhaps You are trying to remind me through their tiredness that I must be vigilant in teaching them to be good stewards of the healthy bodies with which You have blessed them.  Thank You for the abundance of food we have in our house; please help me bear in mind that not everyone is so blessed, and that I could find wiser ways to spend time and resources than the drive-through window at Hardee’s.