Tag Archive | time

Sundays in the park, twice if it’s Memorial Day

Here’s the song reference.

Deedaw has been under the weather for the past couple of days, and since she did not wish to share her bug with the tiny people, we found ourselves with a planless Sunday.  Since the tribe was manic, and Bugaboo was agitating for an opportunity to ride her spiffy new scooter, we quickly changed them into playclothes, tossed some juice and snacks into a bag, and sped off to a local park for some fresh air and sunshine.

Once we arrived at the park, Bugaboo promptly decided that the playground equipment looked like more fun than the scooter, so it stayed in the van, while the Presidential Limo (our pet name for the big double stroller that has been our saving grace since Beanie’s arrival in 2008) was loaded with the Baby Guy crawling blanket and the rest of our supplies.  I pushed the stroller, and Daddy walked ahead with our two very excited daughters.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to check Beanie’s wardrobe choice before we left the house, and as she scampered up the sidewalk to the playground, she found herself suddenly hampered by the descent of her shorts to  her ankles.  It seems a pair of Bugaboo’s drawers had accidentally made it into Beanie’s drawer, with the predictable result.

Apparently, sometimes Mommies DON’T realize their children left the house in THAT . . .

One quick knot and two unbuckled boys later, we had four kids on the loose, making new friends, inventing new games, climbing, swinging, running, laughing, and sweating.  Daddy took swings detail, while Baby Guy and I set up camp under the single shade tree.  Our youngest made the amazing discovery that if one tips one’s chubby little self over to the side whilst sitting on a hill, one rolls in a highly entertaining manner.  After about an hour of fun and frolic, everyone was hot, tired, and hungry, so we headed home for lunch.  Poor Mr. Man had worn himself out to a point that he didn’t even want to eat, and for the first time in recent memory, didn’t protest when I tucked him into his crib for a nap.  Baby Guy followed after demolishing a hot dog and half a banana, at which point Daddy and I decided we could use a nap, too.  He stretched out on the couch with Beanie, and Bugaboo followed me into our room with an armload of stuffed animals.

Not much napping was actually accomplished by either the girls or Daddy and I, but it was thoroughly pleasant to be able to relax horizontally for a couple of hours.  Having rested, although not with any measure of sleep involved, the girls were ready for more adventures before their brothers awoke, so Daddy took them outside with a little plastic tub to see if our raspberry thicket had borne any edible fruit. As it happened, the three of them harvested about half a bucketful of sweet golden and purple berries by the time the boys awoke and drank the cups of milk that function as their coffee.  My poor husband scarcely had time to give the berries a quick rinse before the tribe descended upon him like locusts, and he had to enforce turn-taking to ensure that each tiny person received a fair share of the fruits of our horticultural labors.

After the raspberries had been devoured, Bugaboo started agitating for another opportunity to ride her scooter, since she had eschewed her earlier chance.  Daddy looked at me and, after a moment’s thought, I started tossing the makings of a picnic supper into  a bag, calling over my shoulder that the boys probably needed to be changed and all the ambulatory members of the tribe needed shoes. Within five minutes, we were back out the door, headed for a different park.  We did make a quick pit stop at Arby’s for a handful of roast beef sandwiches to round out our meal.

The tribe thoroughly enjoyed an alfresco dinner, then scattered across the playground at the second park of the day.  Bugaboo and Beanie made a brief plea for a visit to the pool, which was quickly quashed by the reminder that none of us had either swimsuits or sufficient cash on hand to make a pool visit feasible.  It took considerably more persuasion to convince Baby Guy that the mulch with which the playground surface is covered does not make a suitable dessert.  I’ll be glad when he gets past the age where he will pass up a cookie to eat whatever he’s found on the ground.

On both visits to the park, we left our watches at home and our cell phones in the van, as is our custom when we’re out with the tribe.  We don’t have so many hours where all of us can be together, rejoicing in each other’s company and the day the Lord has sent, that we want gadgets to rule or even intrude upon that time.  It always saddens Daddy and I to see the parents sitting on the park benches, eyes glued to the screens of their smartphones, disregarding their children’s pleas for a push on the swings or their summiting of the giant rock wall.  They always seem to be in bad moods, too.  We’re choosy about where we direct our attention, I guess.  There’s a time for electronics, and there’s a time to enjoy all the beauty that the unofficial beginning of summer holds.

When all the water bottles were empty, it was time to head for home, with very little objection from the tiny people.  Baby Guy was actually the last one standing this time, and the only one to utter a protest as we left the park.  Once we got into the house, I asked if anyone would like a bowl of frozen rainbows (local argot for rainbow sherbet, a summer staple at our house), and was met with a chorus of affirmatives.  Bugaboo, after two bites of sherbet, decided she would rather have a popsicle, so Beanie found herself with a bounty of fruity frozen goodness.  Four baths later, we assembles the troop in the living room for prayers, lullabies, and stories, the NASCAR race muted on the TV (NASCAR is great when you have kids who are learning numbers and colors).  By 8:01, we had four contentedly sleeping tiny people, and thanked God for a day where the rejoicing enormously outweighed the reprimanding.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a Pentecost Sunday on which the bright summer sun reminded us of the Holy Spirit’s fiery descent from Heaven, covering us with warmth and filling us with joy in the knowledge that You surround us everywhere we go.  Thank You for bright light and heat that are blessings, that signify life and mirth, and remind us to always keep those for whom they were the end of their days on earth.  It is fitting that on the weekend our country honors those who laid down their lives in defense of their brethren, we also celebrate the day You sent Your Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, and keep us.  Please grant wisdom to our leaders and grace to the families of those who stood in harm’s way by the orders of those leaders, and help all hearts open to Your Son’s message of love for neighbor.

Lost in the rock and roll

Here’s the song reference.

Yesterday brought both my Aunt Gerri’s funeral and Bugaboo’s birthday party.  I had explained to Bugaboo previously that while the two events were happening during the same time frame, and that nothing less could keep me from her party, I needed to be at a celebration of a different sort, but that if the Lord would make a way, I would be there for at least the last little bit of her festivities at the skating rink.  Bugaboo is a loving and understanding little girl, and she understood first that sometimes grownups have to make difficult choices, and second that Mommy habitually keeps her promises.

I learned a lot about my Aunt at her funeral, not the least of which was that she and I share a common passion for feeding the hungry.  I also got the backstory on a question that’s gone unanswered since Granny’s memorial service in 1990.  Aunt Gerri loathed the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” but I never understood why until the minister who was eulogizing her told the story of how he and she had planned her final celebration together.  As it happens, she could not stand the lyric, “that saved a wretch like me,” because it was her stalwart belief that none of us are wretches, and that we are all beloved of God.

I love her logic.

It’s hard for me to write much more about Aunt Gerri’s homecoming party right now, but I do want to share something else that will remain with me for the rest of my life.  For the recessional and the procession to the memory garden for the interment of her ashes, my Aunt chose a song I sing with my children, “Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”  All those present clapped, swayed, and sang as her ashes were borne from the church, and the singing and clapping continued until the last congregants had left the sanctuary.

When I leave this earth, I want there to be as much rejoicing in the assurance that I am with my Lord as there was for my Aunt.  As joyful as it was, I could not hold back my tears for all those years that we could have shared in each other’s work, in each other’s love.  While I know that she forgives me, and the Lord Himself forgives me, it’s harder at times to forgive myself for my trespasses.

I left the church and headed down the interstate as fast as I could, in order to honor my promise to Bugaboo.  Suffice it to say that after some extremely frustrating moments in traffic, including one memorable exercise in un-Christian language (which I am grateful the tribe did not hear) directed at a driver who blocked the exit ramp while consulting his GPS and a test of the speedometer in my mom van, I did make it to the day’s other celebration, to Bugaboo’s unbounded delight and Mr. Man’s unbounded relief.  I forgot that in his two years, Mr. Man has had exactly two days when Mommy wasn’t there — one for an uncle’s funeral when Mr. Man was but a week old, and the other the day Baby Guy was born.

All of our children, their friends, and extended family had a terrific time at the skating rink, and the girls are now pretty comfortable on skates.  The older family members were all smiles from watching the passel of pint-sized people play, sing, and delight in glow stick jewelry and disco balls.  Again, it’s hard right now to write much, but I thought my heart would explode when each of my children in turn ran to me for hugs and kisses.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for such a morning as You gave me yesterday, filled with a loving family, most of whom I had never met before.  Thank You for the gift of the beautiful life of Your child and my Aunt, Geraldine Williams, for the beautiful example of covenant marriage she and Uncle Alusine built, for the beautiful gift of Daniel with whom You blessed their marriage.  Thank You for the blessed assurance that she is in Heaven this day with You, as will all those who keep Your covenants and commandments be.  Thank You for the gifts of song, dance, and laughter that You have given us to mark our celebrations for each other, and for You.  Help me teach Your blessings to love all Your gifts without qualification or reservation, simply because they come from you, and that none of us who live in You are wretched.

It’s the little old ladies from Baltimore

We had a cheerfully chaotic day yesterday; Grandpa was visiting from the Eastern Shore, and Grandma was down from Baltimore.  Since the tribe knew my parents were both coming to see them (it’s rare for both of them to be here at the same time), the early morning hours simmered with excited anticipation, with Beanie and Bugaboo both zipping out of their room before 6:30 to inquire about Grandma’s projected arrival time.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy opted to sleep until Grandma arrived around 9, at which time they joined in the little festival of hugs and cheers that generally heralds the beginning of a visit.  After we stowed her overnight gear, we loaded the kids into the van and headed off for Beanie’s second-to-last soccer game of the season.  Grandpa met us at the field; it was the first time he’d been able to see either of the girls play, so his camera was constantly clicking.

Beanie did manage to stay focused on soccer for about half of the time, which was astounding given that Grandma and Grandpa are two of her favorite people, and she’d much rather hang around with them than follow instructions from anyone else. Fortunately, Grandpa was able to convince her that he’d be really happy if he could see her run and kick the ball, so that got her moving in the correct direction.  We came home for lunch after soccer, put the boys down for naps, saw Grandpa back off, and settled in for some quiet time with the girls.

While Grandma was happy to time her visit to coincide with Beanie’s soccer game, the real purpose of her visit was to enjoy our Mother’s Day gift to each other.  Among the many things for which I owe a debt of gratitude to my Mom is the time and effort she spent nurturing my appreciation for the arts, taking me to galleries for Degas exhibits, to the symphony, the theatre, the ballet, and the opera.  She ensured that I would have an ear for the beaux arts and an understanding of proper dress and conduct while attending fine art performances or displays.

In addition to fostering my appreciation for high culture, my mother also spent a fair amount of time listening to other kinds of music with me; we both love jazz, Motown, 80s hair bands, beach music, big band, novelty songs generally, swing, early rap, British invasion bands, soul, and funk.  I draw the line at disco, she draws the line at (really) heavy metal, but we’ve never had any trouble agreeing on a radio station in the car. Because of our mutual love of nearly all music, I called her when our local concert venue released its 2012 schedule, with a laugh and a smile, and asked her if she’d like to catch a band for Mother’s Day this year.

She thought it was a grand idea, and we two little grey-haired ladies had a tremendous time at the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert last night.  I love that my 67-year-old mom can still rock with any crowd, and the people watching was excellent.  We danced, we sang, we laughed, and we belted out “Gimme Three Steps” waving three fingers in the air.  We also spent a good amount of time snickering at the large number of Confederate flags being waved about.  Hey, we’re from Baltimore.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You commanded us to honor our mothers and fathers.  Thank You for the opportunity to honor my parents by sharing what they love best with them.  Help me teach Your blessings that the gifts my husband and I will cherish most are not the things our children can buy in a store, but the time they freely give to share those pursuits that bring us happiness.  Thank You for the length of years You have granted Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, Deedaw, and Nonno, and, as their years advance further, help us set an example for Your blessings of how to love our parents by caring for them with happy hearts.  Kindle in us the grace of gratitude for the opportunity to serve them in love of them, and love of You.

The flasher

As part of reorganizing the kitchen, I’ve created a space for our sizable collection of flash cards that is accessible to the entire tribe.  Mr. Man finds this fascinating, and at nearly every opportunity, he scoots off to the kitchen and seizes a deck or two.  Sooner or later, I will convince him that they are for use on the table only, and that tossing them into the recycling bin does not constitute “putting them away.”  This evening, when Daddy came home from work, he cheerfully grabbed the pack of alphabet cards and passed a pleasant half-hour showing off his knowledge of the alphabet with his favorite loveseat buddy.

Flash cards will probably be the central part of working Mr. Man into our school routine; he will cheerfully sit in his booster playing with cards that have letters, shapes, numbers, or colors, merrily crowing the names of the ones he knows and plaguing Bugaboo to fill in the gaps in his knowledge if I’m busy with Beanie or Baby Guy.  Grandma helpfully sends me wildlife magazines, so I believe we may have a craft project in the works, making a set of animal flashcards for the big guy (which will, I am sure, later be used by Baby Guy as well).  Those could even be used as research starters for the girls . . . sorry, I’m thinking aloud again.

At any rate, setting up some more structured learning activities for Mr. Man has been on my priority list for a while, since he loves to learn but, being not quite two years old, has a tough time sitting still for any stretch of time.  He’s recently taken an interest in markers and coloring books, so, rather than confine him to his booster, I put his little “school supplies” box by Daddy’s chair with a sheet of construction paper and a coloring book opened to a still-blackline page.  He’ll hop up while his sisters are doing their lessons, scribble a bit, chortle, “I did it, I did it,” then carom off in search of adventures elsewhere in the house.  If I’m not doing direct instruction with one of his sisters, he’ll stick around a little longer, which gives me a chance to help him hold the crayon or marker correctly and show him the concept of coloring inside the lines.

Interestingly, Bugaboo’s devotional today had to do with being organized, and using time wisely so that we have time to do all the things we should do and still have time to do the things we want to do.  She, Beanie and I spent some time this afternoon talking about that, about how sometimes lollygagging on lessons results in a severe restriction on their time to explore the world or watch what little TV they’re allowed.  With all the moving of stuff I’ve been doing, I forgot that I need to make sure that Mr. Man and Baby Guy get their own pieces of “teaching time,” too — not as structured, and definitely looking more like play, but some time set aside specifically for their books, and blocks, and even flash cards. That led to the re-emergence of my pocket chart, and a quick round of time cards, so I can organize the day by hours, with the tribe’s help, each morning.

It was an interesting conversation, one which brought me some joy because both girls agreed that the most important thing in our day was our time for prayer and “Jesus lessons,” so we decided that we need to continue starting every day with those.  Bugaboo even volunteered that she should get out her own coloring book and Bible while I’m making the morning round of phone calls to Grandma and Deedaw, and offered to help Beanie do the same so that once the check-in calls are done, we can get right to work.  Beanie told me she could help by putting the school supply boxes at the correct places, and that would give us more time, too.  I love that whenever they’re given the opportunity to be helpful, they jump on it with both feet.

We also talked about the craft project that accompanied the devotional, and, after Daddy and I had tucked the boys into their beds for the night, I gave them the supplies and told them if they worked carefully and used their time wisely, they could finish the project before their bedtime arrived.  Both girls made very pretty flower gardens, and Beanie decided to draw two pictures of flowers while Bugaboo was having her evening chess game with Daddy.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You have given me time to raise Your blessings in ways that are pleasing to You.  Thank You for granting them the wisdom and humility to recognize that You should be our first priority every day.  Thank You for their willingness to offer what help they can.  Please, Lord, guide me to use my time with them wisely, to find ways to give each of them time that is theirs alone, and to find ways to include all of them in everything our family does.  Thank You for all four of their love of flowers and dandelion fluffs.

I don’t want to miss a thing

Around 5:00 this afternoon, this was the scene at our house.

It’s not an atypical mess for this time of day, especially a day that’s included me spending a lot of time on the telephone.  I try not to do that often, because the family chaos theory asserts itself, to wit:  the more distracted Mommy is, the more chaos the tribe will create, and the larger the resultant cleanup job.

However, I was not cleaning it up.

I was listening to Bugaboo and Beanie giggling on the swings outside, listening to Mr. Man tell me the names of all the shapes on his busy box (yeah, that language delay thing has evaporated over the last week), and blowing raspberries with Baby Guy.

On my first Mother’s Day with a living child, Bugaboo’s daycare sent home a little handprint with a bit of verse glued to it.

“So quiet down, dishes
Dust, go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby
And babies don’t keep.”

Yep.  The three who are becoming increasingly independent, to my alternating joy and anguish, are proof of that.  I left the mess be and tried to see how many ways I could find to make Baby Guy giggle.  Mr. Man decided to come join the fun, and the three of us made a joyful noise in the living room, while Bugaboo and Beanie continued making theirs on the swingset.

Did I mention Mr. Man got a haircut this weekend?

So it took us forever to pick up all the toys.  So I have a floor that still needs a scrubbing and dishes and laundry that still need to be washed.  I would not trade one moment of this afternoon for the extra hour of sleep.

And, for the record, we read almost all of those books that were scattered on the floor before we put them back on their shelves.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the wisdom to recognize Your gifts, and the grace to accept them with a glad heart.  Help me teach Your blessings that You bestow Your most precious gifts without ribbons, paper, cards, balloons, or fanfare of any kind.  You sent Your Son to the humble mess of a stable, and You have blessed our mess of a house with four precious children.  Thank You for opening my eyes to the treasure of each moment, even the moments spent scrubbing bananas mixed with potting soil off the foyer floor.

Pleasures and treasures

We met Nonno and Deedaw at the mall today; the tribe always loves to visit there, as the playpark generally offers a whole host of other tiny people with whom they can romp, particularly on days when the predominant weather feature is a torrential morning rain.  It was with no small amount of sadness that we noted Bugaboo, who is nearing the height limit for the playpark, is also nearing the enjoyment limit.  As the play equipment is definitely geared towards the two- and three-year-old set, she still runs a lap or two around it, making sure not to miss a slide or a climber, but after about five minutes, she shuffles back to where we stand with Baby Guy in the stroller, and asks if it’s time for lunch.

Fortunately for the cause of domestic harmony, the playpark was replete with over-the-size-limit ruffians today, which resulted in even our rough-and-tumble Beanie wishing for a quick departure from the land of polystyrene butterflies, bridges, and trees.  Since everyone, including Nonno and Deedaw, was in the mood for lunch, we headed for Wendy’s, our favorite mall food joint.  Not only are all the adults passionate about their burgers, but we also love their kids’ meal toys, which generally encourage creative play instead of repetition of lines from a movie.  We ended up with a total of four today, since Nonno wanted a burger and a small drink and I wanted fries.  It’s funny how those things work out sometimes.

I grinned when I presented Nonno with the kid’s meal bag.  Daddy and Deedaw were at the table with the four kids, so Nonno and I got to sit back and enjoy the fireworks.  We also got to check out “his” toy.

I wish we had brought the camera to the mall, because I don’t think I’ll ever forget Nonno, after we made a close inspection of the little gadget and discussed the physics of reflectivity, surreptitiously winkling the wee pencil loose and lightly tracing the reflection of the planet.  His tracing was, alas, so light that I couldn’t get a decent photograph.

After lunch, we headed for JCPenney to find Easter finery for our tribe, plus our nephew (who is almost exactly halfway between Mr. Man and Baby Guy in age).  The three boys in question each has his first proper suit, although I suspect we will dispense with the little clip-on ties; the girls exercised their customary good taste, and each was allowed to select her own puffy Easter dress.  They also talked Deedaw into purchasing coordinating purses and hats. I have no idea where they get their fashion sense (it’s definitely not from me), but their tastes run to the modest, feminine, and exquisitely accessorized.  You’ll have to wait until Easter for those pictures, as we have locked outfits away from the perils of small, grimy hands.

Later in the day, after naps, a little Smile of a Child, a proper romp in the muddy yard, dinner, and baths, we gave the kids their pre-bedtime snack and let them loose with the little projects each had received at Wendy’s.  Nonno was the only one who got the magic tracing folio.  Beanie got a monster-making kit, complete with craft clay.

The creatrix in her laboratory.

The theme from “Weird Science” was inexplicably playing in my head.

Mr. Man and Bugaboo each received a Colorforms-type toy, and they had a terrific time using the decals to change the appearances of the little people in the frames.

Mr. Man insisted on trying to feed his pirate goldfish cookies.

While creative mayhem was unfolding in the kitchen, I was in the living room with Baby Guy, wistfully watching his last hurrah with the exercise saucer that has entertained all four of our children.  He is now crawling proficiently enough that he doesn’t really want to be in it any longer, so tomorrow, I’ll clean it and send it on to another family who has a need for it.  As much as we would like to add a fifth tiny person to our tribe, the Lord seems to be calling us in a different direction now.

After we tucked in two very sleepy boys, Daddy and I came back upstairs to honor our promise of allowing the girls to play with a newly-acquired treasure — a box containing two hundred brand new crayons.  I believe he was nearly as excited as the girls.  Since I have the artistic talent of your average walnut, my role in this enterprise was to make sure the paper supply was ample and that no tiny people fell off chairs.

They had a blast.  Bugaboo set to drawing fairies and flowers, while Beanie decided to see how many different colors she could imprint upon her paper.  Both girls decided that paper hula skirts were in order, and set about brilliantly coloring their big pieces of paper.  Unfortunately, the paper in question was not of a size conducive to making skirts, even for little girls, so I suggested they make hula skirt hats, instead.

The idea was a hit.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the ordinary days we spend doing ordinary things with Your blessings.  You have taught us that it is right for us to rejoice in even the simplest tasks, to delight in time spent with family, to celebrate the life You have given us when we mark the little everyday passages.  Thank You for children who find greater happiness with their parents, some paper and crayons than with all the technologically advanced entertainments they have available to them.  Help us teach them that no device, no matter how impressively engineered, substitutes for time spent lovingly with family.

I’ll meet you on the potty line

This morning featured a little more craziness than normal, partly because the ambulatory members of the tribe were aware that a trip to the Rodent Redoubt (Chuck E Cheese, for the uninitiated) with friends was in the offing, and partly because I was on the telephone for nearly an hour and a half catching up with news from our extended family.  Breakfast was a little rushed, and most of Mr. Man’s ended up on the floor.  He has developed the somewhat disturbing habit of pooping as soon as he sits down to eat.  Given that we are still working on teaching Smudgie that an unattended plate is not an open invitation, this creates a bit of a logistical problem.

As I was throwing bottles into the diaper bag, I inquired of our younger daughter, “Beanie, we’re going to Chuck E Cheese today.  Will you remember to use the potty today, or do I bring extra pants (I’m not completely stupid — they were already in the bag)?” She enthusiastically replied, “I’m going to use the potty!”  Bugaboo helpfully offered, “Remember, Beanie, you can’t use the men’s room.  You’re a girl.  And you can’t use the kitchen, either.”

Ah, the wisdom of an older sister.

Into the van we piled.  I was relieved when I saw our friend, Breanna, had already arrived, as this would make the process of ordering while keeping trap of the pipsqueak posse significantly easier.  Her three-year-old daughter, Miss P, is buddies with Bugaboo and Beanie, and her one-year-old, Miss J, is still closer chums with Baby Guy than Mr. Man, who tends to be a little on the loud and rowdy side.  Our other friend, Joanne, whose three-year old granddaughter Miss L rounds out the girl-power group and whose one-year old granddaughter Miss V is the apple of Mr. Man’s eye (he learned to say “pretty” because of her and Miss S, who is also part of our playgroup), was slightly delayed.

Breanna and I herded our troops in, obtained the requisite handstamps, and procured enough pizza, beverages, and tokens to ensure a fun morning for the entire crew, including the adults.  We all still get a kick out of winning a few tickets to add to the communal pile.  Having staked out a couple of tables with diaper bags, sippy cups, and Baby Guy’s car seat, we decided that since Miss P is having just as much fun with potty training as her pal Beanie, a potty run before loosing the horde was probably advisable.

Bugaboo took charge, leading her sister and her friend to the ladies’ room, chattering a steady stream of instructions about which entrance to use and the inadvisability of disrobing before reaching the facilities.  An astonished Breanna stood next to me, shaking her head.  Both Beanie and Miss P are generally a little reluctant to head for the head, but the two of them tagged right along with Bugaboo, all of them giggling at this unexpected bit of independence.  When Bugaboo emerged alone a few moments later, I reminded her that the right thing to do would be to wait for the other two girls to complete their business, and with a nod, she disappeared back around the corner.   All three little girls emerged a few moments later, and were promptly granted a handful of tokens each with which to wreak their bits of havoc.

When the pizzas arrived, we again dispatched the wee trio to the ladies’ room, and again they went merrily down the hallway together.  Mr. Man thought this looked like such fun that he decided to attempt a solo run to the men’s, which I decided was probably a bad idea.  Luckily, he was easily redirected with a slice of pizza — and somehow, at Chuck E, he doesn’t poop when he has food before him.  The girls returned and settled in to have some lunch.

Joanne arrived shortly thereafter with her two granddaughters, to Mr. Man’s delight.

As the kids’ energy and our token supply began to wane, we sent the girls off for one last bathroom break before we headed for the ticket muncher and prize counter.  This time, Miss P emerged alone, and informed me that Bugaboo was having a problem.  I ran down the hallway (my speed was because Bugaboo happens to be the one child who has actually fallen into the commode) and around the corner, where I found Bugaboo attempting to comfort Beanie, who was most distraught over the toilet paper roll whose end had somehow fallen into her boot.  As a result, she was trailing quite the impressive cloud of white tissue behind her.  After I freed the offending paper and assured her that she was not, in fact, being chased by a ghost, the girls headed off to count tickets and select treasures with their friends.

Baby Guy was tired of Chuck E Cheese and everything else by this time.

Joanne and Breanna headed off, trailing a cloud of little girls (Mr. Man was still trying to cadge an extra game of skee-ball from one of the employees), to the ticket muncher.

We pool all of our tickets and split them among the kids; Mr. Man, Miss V, and Miss J each get some stickers and a whistle or a piece of candy, and the older kids share the rest evenly (Breanna, Joanne and I use our mad skill game skills to augment the horde’s hoard).

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the company and love of our friends.  Thank You for Your blessings’ dawning comprehension that many scary things are less so when we have a friend or two with us.  You instructed us to love one another as You have loved us; help me teach this to Your blessings, and to remember it myself.  Friends are gifts from You, and we should treat them accordingly.

Seldom seen

We’ve been going non-stop for the past five days, so after a morning toilet paper and fresh produce run (remarkable how those two things go together, is it not?), during which we got to spend a little time with Nonno, Deedaw, and baby cousin Anthony, today was a “stay day.”  By the time we returned from BJs, both boys were showing the effects of nearly a week of too much excitement; I barely managed to get a bottle into Baby Guy and some roast beef and bread into Mr. Man before they were nodding off.

Bugaboo and Beanie decided that, since they are not allowed to go screeching through the yard for the first hour or the boys’ nap, they would like to watch a movie.  To give credit where it’s due, Netflix has recommended some movies about which I  never would have known otherwise; today’s feature was Moonbeam Bear and His Friends, which I would highly recommend adding to your queue if you have tiny people.  It runs just over an hour, and is very innocent and sweet; it’s apparently based on a children’s bedtime story, of which I was equally ignorant until just now.

After we all had a bit of a cinematically assisted rest, the ladies seized their shoes and water bottles, then clumped down the stairs to go explore their yard.  Honestly, I never would have thought our little yard would hold enough wonders to occupy them for terribly long periods, but between checking for new green growing things, digging in the dirt, climbing the playset, chasing Smudgie, applying sidewalk chalk to the fence, and making up an endless stream of games, they never seem to tire of being outside.  I approve of this, as I firmly believe that sunshine, dirt, and imagination are much better for children than computers and television.  That probably makes me a Luddite of sorts.

I realized Mr. Man was awake when I heard him bellow, “Wan’ go OUSSIDE!” over the baby monitor.  Luckily, I’ve had a lot of practice changing and shoeing an impatient almost-two-year old, and thus managed to escape serious injury before loosing the big guy on his unsuspecting sisters.  His escape into the great outdoors was somewhat marred by tripping over Bo, who was snoozing in the doorway.

Baby Guy thoroughly enjoyed having an hour of my undivided attention while all his siblings were playing in the yard.  Eventually, it seemed advisable to call them all in long enough to make them eat and drink something, so we had a “breakfast for dinner” night before the ambulatory ones went pelting back outside.  Whoever first thought of scrambling eggs with cheese should have a statue erected in his or her honor.

When the sun began to set, I started a warm tub and called them back in.  After hosing them all down, I let them crash in a pile on the couch with a big bowl of animal crackers, bug cups of milk, and Care Bears to the Rescue, the one film on which all three of them can agree, to give them a chance to wind down before bedtime.  Baby Guy curled up in my lap for some extra snuggles and a vigorous raspberry blowing contest, and his siblings took turns climbing up onto the loveseat next to us with books. I love that they take breaks from their movies by having me read stories to them.  Of course, Baby Guy finds books fascinating; unfortunately, he also finds them tasty, which means reading to the older kids with him on my lap can be a bit of an exercise in physiological origami.

They’re all in bed and presumably (since the house is never this quiet if any of them are awake) asleep now, and I’m struck by the realization that Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man spent the majority of their waking hours today going about their business with very little help from me.  I’m grateful for their relative independence . . . but there’s a little twinge of sadness that their independence happens so quickly.  After all, it was just yesterday that I had to keep Bugaboo’s head from flopping around on her neck, right?

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for four little blessings who are curious about, and thankful for, the world You have given them.  Help me teach them always to prefer Your works to those of mere men, and to recognize that Your miracles are born of dirt.  Please remind me to pray without ceasing for those whom You have blessed differently, and never let me take for granted the gift of healthy, noisy, active children.

And, Lord, please keep me mindful that no matter how frustrating some of those moments may seem at the time, every single moment You grant me with Your blessings is a wholly unmerited gift.  Let me give thanks to You for every one of them.

Wish lists

We are entering birthday season at our house; Grandma’s, which was Thursday, marks the beginning of it.  Counting grandparents, there are two birthdays in April, two in May, two in June, two in July, one in August, and one in October.  Amusingly, most of the adults are of the mindset that we have too much stuff as it is, and would rather spend some time together sharing a meal.  The kids, however, are at the “I want” age.

We don’t have a problem seeing to it that each child has a couple of cool new toys for his or her birthday, along with some gathering of friends that usually involves either bowling pins or a teenager in an oversized rodent costume.  It is, however, becoming increasingly apparent to us that we need to teach our children that they cannot, and will not, get everything they want. 

Mr. Man and Baby Guy are still very easy on that score.  For Bugaboo and Beanie, we’ve asked all the grandparents if, instead of an expensive present from a store, they would be willing to pay for an activity (either a sport or a class, since both girls have very wide-ranging interests) and maybe one piece of equipment for the activity if they really feel a need to have something to gift-wrap.  Even with that, though, I wonder if we’re missing the mark.

My grandparents were completely awesome people, but without consulting a photo album, I could not tell you what they gave me for any Christmases or birthdays.  What I could tell you is the details of hundreds of afternoons spent doing things with them, even if it was just quacking at the frozen ducks in the grocery store with Pop-Pop.

Because my parents are divorced and my Dad has remarried, our tribe has been blessed with five living grandparents.  All of them are older now than my grandparents were when I was a child, partly because my husband and I had our children later in life.  Thinking about those afternoons with my grandparents, however, has started me thinking that the best gift of all, the thing that isn’t a thing and hence cannot be emplaced on an Amazon wish list, is an afternoon with each grandparent, to hear the stories, see the pictures, make the old family recipes, cut the paper dolls, make the baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, plant the flowers . . . you get the idea. 

They’ll probably still get the toys, but I’m guessing that in twenty years, the memories that they’ll have are not what lay beneath the bright wrappings and ribbons, but of how to bake Grandma’s sugar cookies, grow Nonno’s Italian beans, keep Grandpa’s baseball scorecard, paint Nana’s flowers, and sing Deedaw’s beautiful songs.  As Bugaboo prepares to turn 5 and Beanie to turn 4, it seems to me that this is the time to introduce the notion that the very best gifts from our grandparents are the things they have to teach us.  I don’t want our children to remember their grandparents as ATMs that dispensed presents.  I want them to remember them as the remarkable, loving, and enormously talented people they are.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the rich blessing of grandparents You have bestowed upon Your blessings.  Please help us teach them that these men and women are a great treasure from You, and to treasure the years You have allowed them to remain here and be parts of their grandchildren’s lives.  Please bless me with me the wisdom and the patience to help them understand that the greatest gifts their grandparents will give them can’t be broken, outdated, or returned for store credit — and to help their grandparents understand the same thing, if they’ve forgotten.

“Olive” is an anagram of “I love”

Today brought our annual, and eagerly anticipated, trip to Grandma’s house to celebrate her birthday.  We are all thankful that the Lord has granted her sixty-seven hale and hearty years, and that she is still going strong.  As it happens, she is going so strong that we’ve made plans to attend a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert together as our Mother’s Day gift to each other.

After rousting a passel of pipsqueaks before 7:00, we headed up I-95 a little before 8:00 a.m.; the trip went so smoothly that we had time to stop at the florist to secure a bouquet of her beloved lilies.  Grandma understands her grandbabies, and shares their love of craft projects and puzzles, so she had all manner of wonders awaiting them.  It was tough to get them to hold off long enough to let her open her gifts and cards.

We passed a pleasant few hours celebrating another year in the life of a remarkable lady, joined by her cousins Sherrie and Tony, who, when I am in need of an example of kindness and gentleness, are the first people who come to my mind.  They were delighted to meet Mr. Man and Baby Guy, both of whom were born after Pop-Pop’s memorial service, which was the last time we saw them.  I’d venture to say a tremendous time was had by all.

Beanie decorated that cake all by herself.  Grandma will be picking little pearl pink candy beads out of her carpet for weeks.

The tiny people having already eaten, the adults settled in to enjoy lunch together, swap stories, and generally catch up.  Having been to the store with me the previous day, Beanie and Mr. Man were both acutely aware that among my purchases had been a tray of pickles, olives, and tapenade, so when they realized that we were sitting down to eat, the two of them stormed the table looking for olives, about which they are both fanatical.  Both were somewhat put out when they discovered that the shiny black fruits were nowhere in evidence, and Grandma, being thoroughly tenderhearted where her grandbabies are concerned (and also being of the mind that it’s hilarious that a toddler and a preschooler both have olive addictions), retrieved a can of their hearts’ desire from her pantry and dumped it into a bowl.  She placed it within easy reach of little hands, near the edge of the table, and that’s when the fun started.

You see, in Beanie and Mr. Man’s world, olives are not only delicious, but aso enormously fun to eat.  They have holes in the middle, you see, and if you have very small hands, you can turn each of your fingers into olivesicles.  Tony and I dove for our cameras to record the resultant floor show.

All in all, Grandma declared this a thoroughly delightful birthday.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for grandparents and all the elder relatives who have taughtus, and now teach our children, how to love unreservedly.  Thank You for the years You have granted them, and granted us with them.  Thank You for olives and fish and all the other wonderful edibles with which You have graced our world.  Please help us to be good stewards and caretakers of our elders and of the world You gave us to share with them, and open our eyes to the beauty and wonder of that world, all its growing things, and all its people.