Tuesday, February 23, 2010

early bird

My friend hospitalized a month ago with bacterial meningitis had her baby boy today at 28 weeks of gestation.  They are both reportedly doing well, though the baby is obviously quite premature and will need extraordinary care for a long time to come.  Thinking of the road that lies before him now that he's outside his mother's body this early is deeply humbling for me as I consider the three full-term (and then some) bambini I've delivered already and the one that is gestating now (I'm nearly 19 weeks along).

If he's anything like his mother, the little guy born today (all two pounds, seven ounces of him) will have an admirable tenacity of will to aid in what could likely be a struggle for survival.  As his mother regains her health in small but encouraging ways (with a long way still to go, as she has yet to regain feeling below her chest), I pray he too will grow in health of body, mind, and soul, and that one day very soon she may snuggle him in her arms. 

I can say with some confidence that his birth today did not happen how she would have wanted it, but what matters most is his growth and health as well as hers.  May God bless them each with strength, and their angels guard them.  Likewise may their family and caretakers be blessed with wisdom, strength, and hope.

Monday, February 22, 2010

morning people

Next to the sink in our laundry room, there's a framed picture of my beloved and me we took of ourselves the morning we got engaged (oh happy day!) in a local park.  The picture's been there for a while, but just in the past few days each of our bambini has commented on it.  Our lass flashes a big grin and says "da da da da..."  The elder lad asked if that picture is from before when he was born.  We confirm as such.  The younger lad took notice of it as he stashed a toy on the counter on the way out the door to the garage: "there's you and Daddy!"

On that beautiful morning my beloved asked me to serve God with him in this vocation of marriage.  From the two of us (with God's help), this family has grown into five (soon to be six).  It is my fervent prayer and earnest endeavor to do my part to make our marriage a reflection of the bond between Christ and his Church, something which I believe is one of the greatest gifts we can give our bambini.  Their identities are rooted in Christ and the family in which he has placed them, so it is only fitting we make the inherent structure of that family a living sign of Christ's grace at work.

A lot has happened in the six years since we took that photo.  God willing, it was the first day of many to be spent serving the Lord hand in hand with my beloved.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

this could be a problem.

I am (more than) moderately concerned that the younger lad will scoff at the extensive collection of orange shirts he stands to inherit from his elder brother.  In fact, I have it on pretty good authority, as tonight when the elder lad suggested his younger brother paint a hypothetical Mack truck model orange (the elder lad's longtime favorite color), the younger lad responded adamantly "I don't like orange!  I like red."

Monday, February 15, 2010

green clean *OR* minor triumph o'the day

Fun science experiment for the elder lad and me: on one shirt stained with berry/apple/purple carrot juice have said lad spray  regular old dishwashing liquid diluted with water.  Rub the fabric against itself.  Let that sit while reconstructing Lego vehicles, fulfilling drinkable yogurt requests, and/or attending to the personal hygiene needs of one or more children.  Return to the stained shirt, rinse it out, then have the lad spray white vinegar on it.  Observe the color change from deep blue (so absurdly lovely in an unwelcome way on an icy blue and white striped shirt of the 18-24 month size range*) to an equally unwelcome pinkish-purplish color.  Marvel as that starts to fade.  Then spray hydrogen peroxide on the color wonder and exchange amazed looks with your little laundry cohort.  Continue spraying vinegar and peroxide alternatively until nothing remains of the stain.   (!!!)  Treat with your favorite pre-treatment regime and launder as usual.


(and please pass no judgment on the prudence -- or lack thereof -- of my giving this fruit juice cocktail to my wee lass.  I did it in the name of vitamins and with very little chocolate in my system.  The stain potential did cross my mind, but I decided to risk it, being as I was low on chocolate.)

*I make it my policy to purchase children's clothing -- primarily shirts or dresses -- as big as I can get away with in the name of longevity.  This particular shirt I bought for the lass when she was about six months old.

Sincere thanks to this stain guide for the tools and sequencing of the stain removal. 
Around these parts we try to use natural cleaners like baking soda, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, castile soap, and tea tree oil whenever possible, both from an environmental stewardship perspective and one of safety (and so we can involve the littles in the homekeeping duties as appropriate).  We still keep cleaners up out of the bambini's reach, but if they were, say, to get a hold of a bottle of white vinegar, it would have far less of a health impact than glugging a gallon of bleach (not that I want this to happen, of course, and take reasonable precautions to prevent it). 

On several levels, this counts as my minor triumph of the day: heretofore hopeless stain now just a memory *and* a teachable moment for my ever-curious lad -- science and laundry care all in one.

Friday, February 12, 2010

the Game of Life

The lads are into The Game of Life.  After setting up the game board with the spinner and buildings, they choose their cars and load 'em up with people.  Then they cruise around the game board path.  They may or may not stay on the path itself, and they may or may not take turns spinning to see how many spaces to advance.  Sometimes they just cruise.  Sometimes they designate which building is whose house and invite us over for dinner.  They don't mess with money or insurance or these weird tokens that came with the new edition of the game that I don't remember from my childhood.

The elder lad has informed us that his guardian angel's name is George. I'm fully confident that this duly charged angel is well-versed in the wiles and foibles of curious boys (and monkeys, for that matter).

The younger lad has adopted one of the dolls our lass received for Christmas.  He says he's the doll's daddy.  It's a wonderful thing to see, really: this young lad tenderly caring for the baby doll (as the bambini's dad cares for each of them).  It's a skill well-worth cultivating, we think, as developing compassion and concern for someone else can only stand to serve him well all his life in whatever vocation to which God ultimately calls him.  He's rather attached to the doll now.  Yesterday he woke up asking for her.  We searched the house high and low to no avail.  Finally just before bed he went into the hall bathroom and lifted the hinged lower step of the two-step stool placed there to facilitate easy hand washing access for the vertically challenged.  Lo and behold, the baby doll was inside!  Come to think of it, he had stashed the red spatula he received for Christmas in the same little cubby and discovered it just recently.  Now I know to check that "hidey hole" first whenever something's gone missing.

The lass must be getting ready to grow, as she has a near insatiable appetite.  She wants whatever we're having, and she doesn't mind letting us know!  She's a pretty good sport about her older brother taking charge of her baby doll.  We'll see how long that lasts...

I've been contemplating how to rearrange the car seats in our Bambini Ride to accommodate another one for our fourth child due this summer.  It's a bit like the Game of Life, traveling along the path taking life as it comes.  Though it might seem we are sometimes just cruising along, our faith tells us this is not the case.  God is in control. He invites us to cooperate with Him.  We can't see where the path will lead next, but we trust our guardian angels are along for the ride, and we have our sights set on what we hope and pray and strive to make our final destination (God willing): Heaven.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Oftentimes as we drive away from dropping off the elder lad at preschool, my younger lad will say "Should we bake chocolate chip [or breakfast] cookies?" Always a fine idea, I think.

We've hit upon a charming set of books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (illustrated by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer) featuring cherubic little children and animals making, eating, sharing (or not), and musing about cookies.  As they do, various words like patient, perseverent, compassionate, moderation, trustworthy, considerate, and fair (among many others) are explained in cookie-themed easy-to-understand terminology.  Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons, Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons, and Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love are delectable ways to introduce or reinforce these lessons in charity and virtue.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

discerning: education

It's been a good year or so now (maybe longer, as I think I was still expecting our lass), but one morning the bambini and I had to make an early morning trip past the local elementary school.  The parking lot was full of parents lined up dropping their kids off for the school day.  Tears welled in my eyes as I drove past.  I could barely breathe.  It took me a more than a moment to collect myself and respond to my elder lad's inquiry "what's that, Mama?"  "That's the elementary school, babe.  It's time for school."  Maybe the pregnancy hormones had something to do with the uncharacteristic surge of emotions.  Yeah.  We'll go with that...

On the first day of preschool, I managed to hold it together fairly well in spite of great anxiety and a certain sense of loss as we bid our elder lad farewell in his classroom for the day.  It was a tough one.  We have all emerged stronger from the experience, though, and now he is thriving in his preschool environment.

As our elder lad approaches kindergarten, we are discerning God's will for school options.  We feel it is our duty to give him an education informed by our Catholic worldview, as it is that which guides every aspect of our lives, especially that which compels us to seek the will of God in everything and to be focused on fulfilling it.  The manner in which we accomplish the procurement of this education is still not entirely clear -- be it Catholic school, public school supplemented by parish-based faith formation, or home school with a Catholic curriculum.  In the end, my beloved and I are our bambini's primary teachers no matter what method of education we discern is the one in which they will thrive. 

I feel a lot of pressure to make the right decision for our children's education.  I know I'm not the first parent to feel this way.  We are trying to approach this decision faithfully, discerning God's will as we have for other major (and minor) decisions throughout our lives together. 

Whatever decision we come to, it will not be without much prayer and careful consideration of both the spiritual and academic aspects of the arrangement.  By God's grace, I trust we will make the right call.  Not that we can't change course down the line if we come to realize the situation isn't working out, but here's hoping we will remain open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to recognize God's direction for the formation of not just the minds and souls of these children whose care he has entrusted to us, but their whole selves.

So maybe next year he'll be at that elementary school that brought on the drive-by water works.  Wherever he is, we hope to foster within him and his siblings a lifelong love of learning and a quest for the will of God for his life.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Way Things Work

Curiosity has met its match here.  It might be intended for older audiences, but that hasn't stopped my lads and their dad from enjoying David Macaulay's The New Way Things Work and the videos that are based upon the original The Way Things Work.  Sensors, heat, pressure, friction, electricity, combustion, musical instruments, the color spectrum... we've been skipping around, reading about whatever looks interesting at that given moment.  The videos are well-produced, interesting, and brief (15 minutes or so) but thorough enough to adequately introduce the concepts behind these intriguing mysteries to our little sponges.  I do hope I don't find one or both of them taking the toaster apart after having read how it works in this tome, though I wouldn't put it past them.

Monday, February 08, 2010

books by Esther Averill

We have found a couple of new-to-us chapter books to enjoy together: Esther Averill's Jenny and the Cat Club, about a petite black cat named Jenny Linsky who wears a red scarf around her neck (usually), lives with a retired sea captain in New York City, and counts herself among a charming group of felines (who call themselves The Cat Club) that meets in the Captain's yard.  The Hotel Cat follows Jenny and friends after moving with the Captain to a hotel.

From planning the Annual Spring Picnic to outwitting the motley band of neighborhood dogs that vex the cats ceaselessly, Jenny and her friends are endearing and clever, even to those who are not cat aficionados.

One of Jenny's friends is Pickles the Fire Cat.  Our family first met Pickles a couple years ago when we received The Fire Cat, also by Esther Averill, for my elder lad's third birthday from one of my beloved's brothers.  Pickles sports big paws and seems destined for greatness, according to Mrs. Goodkind, who lives in a comfortable house next to the empty lot Pickles occupies.  She welcomes Pickles into her house, but he has too much a sense of adventure to be content indoors all the time.  Trouble is, he has difficulty channeling his energy into productive purposes and finds himself tormenting smaller cats.  Until, that is, Mrs. Goodkind hooks him up with a firefighter at the local fire station, who challenges Pickles to make something of himself...

Call them "vintage" if you will; these books by Esther Averill certainly do have a timeless quality about them.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Liturgy of the Hours -- for mamas

When I was working at the parish, I made it a priority to arrive before work in time to attend daily Mass and Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours (or Divine Office), the Church's prayer throughout the day.  I am remiss in keeping up with this habitual prayer, but today I ran across this piece by Catholic wife, mother, and author Danielle Bean.  It really speaks to me at this particular juncture.

I pray for the grace to be present at every moment of every day, to recognize the presence of Christ in my beloved and my children, and the fleeting time we have in this tender season together.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

a long way yet

It's approaching two weeks since my mama friend contracted bacterial meningitis.  While her condition is stable, she is still hospitalized in ICU, paralyzed (though showing some hopeful signs of regaining feeling), and fighting the infection.   Please continue to keep her, her unborn baby, husband, two young children, family, friends, and caretakers in your prayers.  It looks to be a long road to recovery for her, but we fervently pray and maintain hope that she'll travel it with grace and gusto as she does everything else, and that soon she'll be restored to complete health.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

reality check

At the end of each day, I try to ask the lads what the best part of theirs was.  Sometimes the younger lad responds with something that may have happened yesterday, last month, or six months ago (such is appropriate to his stage of development, I've read.  His concept of time is circular.), but often the elder lad's response is "playing with you."  Then he sometimes asks if we played together, so I recount our day together: "we had breakfast/lunch/snacks/dinner together; read stories; built that Lego McDonald's; baked cookies; drew pictures; went to the library..."

(Often this list might also include "did laundry, vacuumed, dusted, and/or cleaned the bathrooms" or some combination thereof.)

While there are many demands on my time each day, the most important, most meaningful use of it is interacting with my bambini -- even if we're not "playing together," per se.  I may not be able to spend all day every day building with Lincoln Logs, playing hide and seek, or tossing a ball back and forth (nor should I, really, as I'm not here to entertain them all day long but to help form them into the people they are called to be), but I know the investment of time I make doing these things with them is one that will yield immense intangible benefits. 

Children learn through play, so as much as I am able to channel my inner child and play with my bambini, the better off they will be.  It's what I have devoted this season of my life to doing.  It won't last forever.  I've come to hope for that response each night: "playing with you."  It's my reality check.

I pray the relationship we have been developing will provide the basis for a long-lasting bond from which these children whose care has been entrusted to us will operate from a standpoint of trust in us and in Christ, knowing that we are here for them and that they are valued beyond measure.  I know the dynamics will change over the years, but I pray we will always find ways to have fun together.

Monday, February 01, 2010

sweet tooth

My elder lad insists we are still in the Christmas season, which ended this year with the Baptism of the Lord on January 10th.  Or at least, I thought so.  I had requested Lori Walburg's picture book The Legend of the Candy Cane at the library probably during Advent, but had to wait a while (as in, after the Baptism of the Lord) to check it out.  Upon reading it, the aforementioned lad declared it "very nice."  He spotted the word "confections" on one page, asked what it meant, and -- once he had a definition -- said "I like confections."

Me too.  Especially dark chocolate ones.  But I digress.

At any rate, the book really is lovely.  One bleak winter, A stranger arrives in a little town and begins working on an abandoned shop.  No one dares ask him what he's up to, but the children hope he is going to open a candy store.  Finally, one brave little girl offers to help in an effort to get the scoop.  As it comes to light by her work alongside the man that the children's hopes for a candy store will soon be met, she discovers among the confections something she's never seen before: a candy cane.  She asks the man about it, and he examines aloud the characteristics of the candy -- its shape, its colors, and their symbolism: J for Jesus when it's upside-down and the shape of a shepherd's crook when upright, red for the blood of his scourging, and white for the purity Christ can and will bestow upon us when we clothe ourselves in him. 

It's a seasonless story of Christ's redemptive love.
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