Tag Archive | story time

Getting kind of hectic


Here’s the song reference.

Days that begin overcast and foggy tend to bring a cranky tribe, and this morning was no exception.  As glorious as fall in Virginia can be, it does tend to bring some rather murky mornings.  Bugaboo stumbled out of her room this morning quite thoroughly out of sorts, to the point that she was invited by Daddy and I to return to her bed, and a seriously grouchy Beanie shambled out a few minutes later to be greeted with the same invitation.

After fifteen minutes of trying to figure out what the distaff half of the bairn brigade and I could agree upon as an acceptable breakfast, I shoved plates of waffles in front of my daughters, feeling more than slightly surly myself.  In all honesty, I would rather have curled up with Butler’s Lives of the Saints and a cup of warm, creamy chai than slog through math and penmanship with distemperate children.  Such is the glamour of every teacher’s life, I suppose, whether in the family kitchen or the institutional classroom.

While the girls were snarking at their breakfast, I made the morning call to Grandma, who was having an equally slow-starting morning, then shooed the girls off to dress and brush their teeth.  Sometimes being able to choose a favorite dress or shirt shakes them out of a morning misery, and Bugaboo was a little cheerier when she came back in her flouncy dress with the scottie dogs on it.  Beanie, usually the household ray of sunshine, was still scowling, to the point that she actually complained at each and every crayon in her 64 count box of Crayolas before she would even consider coloring her picture of the Annunciation.

There are reasons I start every single school day with faith lessons.  One of those reasons is that it reminds me to thank God for my children and that I love these little blessings, for whom we prayed so fervently and so long, on the days when they are not particularly likeable.  It reminds me why my husband and I made this choice for our family, and that every work of our hearts, minds, and hands can become suffused with joy when we offer it to Him.  We read about St. Anthony Mary Claret and St. Helen, whose picture on the cover of the Treasury of Saints caught Bugaboo’s eye (she’s wearing a crown in the picture, and our eldest always enjoys a story about a princess, empress, or queen).  After we had prayed together, cajoled Beanie into coloring her picture, and read the story of the Annunciation from their Bible, I set the girls to practicing their penmanship while I made the morning call to Deedaw.

It was right about then that Mr. Man and Baby Guy woke up in even worse moods than their sisters had managed.  I did managed to duck behind the door before the Mega Bloks Mr. Man had pulled into his crib connected with my cranium; fortunately, he didn’t have very much ammo, so I had a stern word with him after I handed Baby Guy his cup of milk.  Luckily, almost every Baby Guy bad mood can be cured with milk, food, and a few verses of the “Austrian Yodeler Song” (a quick aside – you should hear it when we all break into this at Wegman’s to keep the little fellow calm if the shopping takes too long).

Having wrangled two little boys into clean diapers and decided they could jolly well stay in their pajamas, I headed upstairs, Baby Guy contentedly slurping milk as he rode on my hip, Mr. Man caterwauling at the injustice of having to walk up the stairs as he trailed behind me, and heard the shriek from Beanie just as I hit the top step.  Apparently Bugaboo decided to “help” her little sister with her penmanship by offering “helpful” advice on how to hold the pencil, hold the paper, form the letters, ply the eraser, sit on the chair, breathe through her nose . . . okay, I made that last one up, but you get the idea.  When I entered the kitchen four short steps later, Beanie was hurling invective at Bugaboo through freshets of tears, while Bugaboo, the picture of injured innocence, looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I was just helping her be a better student.”

I counted to ten in five languages, sent them both back to their chairs with instructions to finish their writing assignments, and managed to get both boys tucked into their chairs while I rounded up bowls of cereal for them.  It is a great blessing that a bowl of cereal will occupy Baby Guy for at least half an hour, particularly if the cereal is round, as he must see how many pieces he can convince to roll across the ray of his booster seat before he eats them.  When Bugaboo reminds him he’s not supposed to play with his food, he cheerfully hurls a piece across the table at her.  Many are the times when I “didn’t see him do that.”

After another hour of the howl-elujah chorus, we appeared to have reached the point of diminishing returns.  The girls were defiant, I was waspish, Mr. Man was trying to grab every writing implement in sight, and Baby Guy started crying every time I opened my mouth, which tells me I was yelling.  I gave the order to clean up their workspaces and head for the living room, where I awaited them on the floor.

“Okay.  Bring me some stories.”

I was immediately mobbed by four smiling, snuggling angels, each with a favorite book in hand.  We passed a pleasant half hour curled up on the living room floor together, none of us caring that I hadn’t had time to sweep up the dog hair this morning, sharing stories and a song or two.  Just as the bairn brigade started getting contentious about whose turn it was to select the next story, I spied the big shipping box full of craft supplies that had arrived the day before.  After hastily dumping the contents on our bed, I announced to the tribe it was TIME TO PLAY OUTSIDE, and that they could take the box with them.

By then, the sun had started to break through the clouds, and the mob needed little encouragement to riot.  I carried the box and Baby Guy down the stairs, then started to sweep the kitchen.  Hearing great joyful mounds of bubbly giggles from the back yard, I grabbed the camera and ran back downstairs.  The uninhibited joy of four little kids with a big box rinsed the last of the sour taste from my mouth.  The rest of my day’s work was offered with a much more joyful heart.  I’d rather lift up joy as an offering to Our Lord than surliness.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, Your Scriptures tell us to train up our children in the ways they should go.  Help me guard my tongue as I teach them, that I do not train them up to be shrewish with the errors of others.  I am not perfect, and sometimes need the reminder in my children’s voices of how I prefer to be taught when I am in error. Gentle my words and my voice, and when my tone is sharper than necessary, remind me that You taught lovingly, repeating Your lessons patiently.  Mold me into a teacher after Your example, in all things, Lord, and grant me the grace of a heart that seeks Your counsel before any word is spoken.  You have the power to calm any storm and soften any heart.

Not quite right


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Stories without words


Bugaboo and I had a bit of a struggle yesterday morning over, of all things, sight words.  She was pretty adamant that she had forgotten all of the personal pronouns she’s been picking out of books since she was eighteen months old, and I was equally adamant that this was a required part of the day’s schoolwork.  After a couple of hours of tears and demands on her part, and redirections and seating changes on my part, we finally got through the list just in time for lunch.  I’m partly to blame for the problem; normally, I set the girls on their lessons while I’m making the morning phone calls (I check in with my mother and mother-in-law every morning, just to see how they’re doing and share the previous day’s funny grandkid stories), but yesterday, I opted to let them play during those conversations.  Oops.

The morning’s dispute ended up being a periodic topic of conversation throughout the rest of the day; I overheard Beanie admonishing her older sister, “You shouldn’t be ugly to Mommy like that.”  I chose not to bring it up, except during a quiet moment while Bugaboo and I were alone, reading a story together, when I asked her, “Honey, was it really worth all that?  We could have had an extra hour of stories and maybe even a craft this morning.”  She looked at me and sadly muttered, “No. I’d rather have the stories than a fight.  And I’d much rather do a craft.”

After dinner, the tribe settled in for a long storytime and a big bowl of popcorn.  One of the first books we read was Tomie de Paola’s The Knight and the Dragon.  Mr. Man received the book for Easter, and when I bought it, I had assumed it was a retelling of the St. George and the dragon story; since Mr. Man’s given name is, in fact, George, it seemed like a fun and appropriate gift for the big guy. I was surprised to discover that it is a far gentler tale, and I’d encourage you to read the review linked above.  At least half of the story is told solely through illustrations, and Bugaboo, Beanie, and even Mr. Man himself had a great time filling in the story in their own words.  At the end of the story, Bugaboo asked me, “Mommy, why did the knight and the dragon want to fight each other?”  I answered that they probably thought it was what they were supposed to do, since there are so many stories about knights fighting dragons, and even in the book, both parties found lots of books in their libraries about how to fight each other.   She replied, “I’m glad they decided not to fight.  I like that they opened a stand together instead.”

We read a lot more stories before we prayed, sang songs, and bundled the tiny people into their beds.  That particular story, however, kept coming back to me, because it reminded me of our morning struggle with the sight words.  Yes, Bugaboo needs to know her sight words; yes, she needs to learn to follow instructions; yes, she needs to learn that sometimes the tasks set before us are not our favorite things to do.  That said, my job is to encourage and teach, and perhaps, in simply giving her a list of words and telling her to read them to me, then digging in my heels as stubbornly as she dug in hers, I taught her a lesson in inflexibility instead of the personal pronouns.  There will, of course, be times where a certain thing has to be learned in a certain way; this morning’s vocabulary exercise wasn’t one of them, but because I insisted on making it so, it turned into a cause of strife.  In Ephesians 4, I’m reminded that my words should be uplifting and edifying.  Telling a little kid she’s being stubborn isn’t particularly edifying; it’s analogous to telling water it’s wet.

The lessons of the lesson were still on my mind this morning as I sat down to write, and it finally occurred to me why I couldn’t get the incident out of my head.  I pulled up the Bible in another tab, and looked up St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  Sure enough, there it was, right in the middle of chapter 3:  “Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged (Col 3:21).”

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that the kids and I have been studying the parable of the prodigal son.  This morning, I’m the prodigal mommy, as I have been before and, I’m certain, as I will be many more times.  By meeting stubbornness with stubbornness instead of a gentle turning, Bugaboo and I ended up as the knight and the dragon in Mr. de Paola’s excellent story — with one of our heads stuck in a rock and the other stuck high in a tree.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the means and talents to educate Your blessings individually, here in our home.  You have given me tools, knowledge, and wisdom, and have granted me every grace when I have asked it of you.  Please help me remember that each of Your blessings is a unique, small person, as You created no two of us alike, but all in Your image.  When I try to insist that one of Your blessings must learn a certain thing in a certain way, please remind me that even You had to speak in parables at times, so that Your people could understand You.  Thank You for the reminder from a friend that each of Your blessings has his or her own particular beauty, and that while part of the trust You have placed in me involves making sure they walk in Your ways, another part involves making sure they have an example of the love You give us, one they can see always before them.

Please, Lord, grant me the grace of knowing when to shut my mouth and let my actions speak. Thank You for little blessings who are quick to forgive, and please help me think quickly and speak slowly enough that I might minimize the number of words for which I need to be forgiven.  Please infuse all of our lessons with the joy that comes from having You as my supervising teacher.

Seek and you shall find


It was a raw and rainy day hereabouts, the sort of day that begs for big mugs of hot cocoa and lots and lots of stories.

Once the ladies had colored all the pictures they could stand, and everyone had a decent nap, we opted for an afternoon story marathon, which began before the boys were done snoozing.  I’ve mentioned before that reading is a favorite pastime at our house, and we have a formidable library of children’s books.  I’ve also noted that we read a wide variety of materials, and that we’ve been able to find Christ in whatever we read.  For today’s post, I’ll share the books we read and how we saw the Lord in each one.  For those who just want to know what books we read, I’ll begin with a gallery view.

For the books that are specifically about faith, I’ll assume you can figure out how Jesus was included, but if there’s one about which you would like specific information, please ask in the comments or in an email, and I’ll be happy to answer you.

We are huge Tomie de Paola fans around here.  Fin M’Coul is a retelling of an ancient Irish legend, and in it, the wife of the giant loves him enough to use all her wit and talent to save her husband from a horrible beating at the hands of a bully giant.  It’s sort of like Samson and Delilah, except in this case, Delilah saves Samson.  We found Jesus’s teaching to the Pharisees from Matthew 19 here, about how the Lord created male and female, and the two become one flesh forever.

This one is easy.  It begins with Psalm 139:14 — “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Yes.  Every new life is.

I’ve loved this book since I was tiny.  By reading it, we are reminded that while we may receive a mild rebuke for straying, the good shepherd always welcomes the lost member of his flock.

These are pretty self-explanatory!

My Big Book of Opposites reminds us that the Lord made all creatures, great and small.  It’s Time to Play gives a little lesson on stewardship, that we are to clean up the messes we make, and that even putting our toys away can be a happy task.

Brave Butterfly reminds us that we can do things we think are impossible if we have faith.  Peekaboo Fun reminds us that the Lord made every living and non-living thing, and He made them in an infinite number of shapes, sizes, and colors.

It’s Great to be an Engine reminds us that we are to make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Jesus wanted the little children to come to Him, so we have special books to help bring them closer!

Can you tell these two have been well-loved?  The Belly Button Book reminds us that we all are born of women, as Jesus was, and Doggies reminds us that the Lord created some animals to be our friends, playmates, and protectors.

Pooh’s 1-2-3 reminds us that whenever two or more are gathered in His name, there He is, and that each of us has something we can share.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat calls to mind Noah and his ark, and, of course, Christ calling the fishermen.

Psalm 139 again!

While this book is more about snow and baking cookies, it’s also a good reminder that we share the fruits of our labors with our neighbors — and, of course, we give gifts to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

The wonders of Creation can be explored and investigated, but not always fully explained.  We thank the Lord for the mysteries he’s given us.

In the Fairy Berry Bake-Off, we learn that arrogance leads to unloving behavior, wastefulness, and destruction, but that we always have the opportunity to reconcile and be forgiven.  In Beck’s Bunny Secret, we learn that telling a lie leads to unhappiness and mistrust among friends, but, again, there is the opportunity for repentance and redemption.

The Strawberry Shortcake stories remind us of the value of friendship as defined in Sirach 6.

In the “Little Miss” books, we are reminded that He has given each of us particular talents, but that it sometimes takes us a while to figure out how to put those talents to their best use.

The Wind in the Willows reminds us that friends who lead us down the paths of wisdom are priceless, and that love sometimes means saying “no.”

In Bossy Bee, we remember that Jesus, the great leader and teacher, wasn’t rude or bossy, but gentle and humble.

The Foot Bookcalls to mind Christ washing the feet of His disciples.

We love Arch books.

If you have never read this book, go directly to your library or bookstore and get it.  Each of us has a gift to offer, and if we offer it freely and with love, even the most seemingly strange offering is pleasing to Him.  I have had this particular copy since I was five years old.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we can see Your face anywhere we seek You.  Thank You for your constant presence, and help me teach Your blessings to recognize You and Your wisdom in books that don’t mention Your name.  Please grant us the wisdom to see Your triumph and grace in all things, that we may use every word we read, song we sing, and show we watch to draw nearer to you.