Wednesday, March 31, 2010

all a-twitter: Easter books

Here we are in Holy Week, the holiest of our liturgical year.  Beginning with Palm Sunday, we go through Holy Week to Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and -- at long last and with great joy -- Easter Sunday.

To mark the solemnity of the week with our bambini, we have a couple of books in our home library that are particularly fitting for this week, both featuring birds as the primary characters experiencing Christ's love for them:

The Easter Swallows by Vicki Howie is a telling for young children of Christ's passion and death through the eyes of a pair of swallows.  They see Christ ministering to the people around Jerusalem, then on the evening of the Passover they spot Judas leaving the Last Supper to hand Jesus over to the Roman authorities.  Dismayed as they are, they remain faithful to Jesus and follow the events that lead to his crucifixion and resurrection, ultimately rejoicing on Easter morning.

Meryl Doney's The Very Worried Sparrow is the story of a perpetually fretful little sparrow too scared of bad things happening to be able to hear the good news of "God our Father, who made the world and everything in it."  From his childhood until he becomes a father himself, he lives in constant fear.  Finally he is able to hear the comforting and hopeful message of God's love for him and all creatures, and the sparrow's worry turns to joy.

By fun coincidence, both sets of birds have four baby birds -- like our family soon will.

Both books are available via the Pauline website.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

sibling revelry (or something like that)

This whole sibling relationship thing is one of the biggest quagmires of my mothering mission.  How do I foster peaceful, respectful relationships (I'm not even talking about *friendships* at this point) among these little people that will serve as the basis for friendships (there it is) to last throughout their lives?  Can this be done without micro-managing everything but also not abandoning children to figure things out for themselves with no tools or training on how to do so such that one ends up always bearing the brunt of another's ire or being bullied?  Is there a way to cultivate positive feelings between and among them without forcing affections that may not be authentic (at least, not now)?

Siblings are among the greatest gifts parents can give their children, as these people (ideally) serve as lifelong ties to family and God himself.  Getting my bambini to the point of having this kind of relationship is something to which I devote a huge amount of time and energy every day.  It is an extension of my basic day-to-day agenda: form these young souls in the virtues and values Christ shows by his own example to be the way we are called to live this life. 

I have one sister.  She's almost 17 (we collaborate on this blog).  This means that I was nearly 15 when she was born, so we are essentially two only children sharing the same mother (who is an only child) and father.  We have always had a special relationship, but it does not feature the typical sibling dynamics that involve sharing toys and taking turns riding shotgun and what not.  Most of the insights into sibling dynamics I have come from the three cousins (sisters, they are) I spent many a summer with in Chicago, along with those I gleaned growing up with the family of three boys and the girl who inherited many of my outgrown clothes.  I now have two brothers-in-law, one of whom will soon celebrate his first anniversary of marriage to my lovely sister-in-law.

I've read a few books on the topic of siblings (among them Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish of How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk fame, which I also have read -- more than once now) hoping to find some instructions, really, on navigating the tumultuous waters of sibling relations.  I think in the end, though, it comes down to helping the littles understand our individual identities as children of God.

I hope to instill within each of our bambini the knowledge that he or she is God's unique creation with a place in our family that his or hers alone.  It is because of this God-given identity that we love each of these children for who they are and who God will call them to become.  Each of us in the family has some role to play in the formation of the rest of us -- we are each a part of another's path to holiness and heaven.

I realize that in the course of childhood -- especially one with siblings as close in age as our bambini are -- conflict, upset, disappointment, frustration, and even jealousy are not entirely avoidable.   None of us is perfect, and we will unfortunately hurt each other at some point and need to seek forgiveness.  But in working out these kinks of self-control and emotional management, I hope to help us all learn to recognize within ourselves those things that set us off (so to speak) as well as the things that set each other off and avoid or work through them so that when they present themselves they don't lead to someone getting hurt physically or emotionally.  At times this seems an impossible goal, but I have to believe and keep working as though it is not.

When our lass was born, our elder lad was especially excited to meet and hold her, and he remains (for the most part) quite taken with her.  I'll always remember the deepest belly laughs we've ever heard from her coming in response to some silly faces he made at her when she was about four months old.  He also seems to have a lot of fun with his younger brother a lot of the time, discussing trucks or jamming with their banjos to classic rock music or digging in the yard.  Our younger lad has a great capacity for generosity and kindness; he often says things like "I love my sister" or "I love you" to his brother (who usually answers in kind).   

As sweet as those moments are, there are also times like in the not-so-distant past when the younger lad would tell his brother to go to Dallas, as it happened that my beloved had made several brief business trips there *and* we had family traveling to or from Dallas, so it must have seemed to a very young child like Dallas was the place where people were when they weren't here.  

Both lads often show great gentleness and deference to the lass when she toddles up to get in the middle of their Lego structure or makes a move for one of their trucks.  They'll usually ask me for help or offer her some other toy as a distraction from the ones they're playing with.  As she gets older, she's less easily dissuaded.  They keep trying. 

But then the time comes when someone gets fed up and smacks someone else or says something like "I don't like you".  It happens.  I can't help but get upset when one of my children hurts another one.  I know it's imperative for me to channel that feeling into a productive one that helps them all learn the virtues of self-control, temperance, justice, and kindness.  Likewise, as with many other struggles that seem to be par for the course in this season of our family life, a sense of humor and levity go a long way in restoring peace, soothing hurts, and moving us all past the cause of trouble and into a better place.

I don't expect perfect peace here, but can't they all just get along?

Monday, March 29, 2010

proper party priorities

The culmination of birthday festivities for our three-year-old younger lad came in the form of a family gathering at our "skruction" site (translation: "construction site.").  We are grateful for all the family who were able to be with us today, and missed the ones who weren't able to make the trip.

Planning and executing a child's birthday party is -- like many other things relating to parenthood -- a balancing act.  I try not to overextend myself with party plans and projects, since the surest way to communicate celebration and birthday excitement is by being present to the one whose birthday it is.  While I might have lots of ideas and grandiose plans for everything I want to do for a birthday party, in the end it's A. not about me and B. all subject to being able to balance getting the things done with quality interaction with the one being celebrated (for some party preparations, these two things can be reconciled with each other quite happily by doing them together).

Getting the house ready for company and decorated festively, the cake baked and decorated, and the menu set are all ways of showing the honoree love, but I try not to get so caught up in those things that I miss moments like the one that happened in the midst of the party when the younger lad and I excused ourselves to freshen up.  He threw his arms around me and said "I love you, Mama."  Or stepping away from the food preparations to take in the sight of the birthday lad and his brother back in the dirt pile, the younger lad with a balloon tied to his back belt loop to serve as his T-Rex tail.    Or visiting with family we hadn't seen in a while.  

We are very blessed to have lots of help pulling off these birthday celebrations.  Each one offers unique gifts and talents to address some aspect of the details -- decorations, menu, house-keeping... This helps tremendously, and I'm so grateful for the loving help offered and given.  

We've had a lot of fun celebrating the younger lad's third birthday, and we're so grateful for the many blessings and great joy we know because of his being an irreplaceable part of our family.  That's the whole reason we celebrate.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

in their element

It's been a long time dream of my beloved's to have an organic vegetable garden in our backyard.  He's been working on the planters since last fall, but due to a variety of circumstances (among them life with young children and the wiles of the weather), the boxes are only just recently in the ground.  Today he went for a big load of dirt to dump into them.  One can imagine the excitement this might elicit from our lads.  They were rarin' to go with their boots on and shovels ready when he got home with the dirt.

The memory of the lads out there with their shovels and trucks will stay with me for a long time (but I took pictures too).  My nearly 17 year old sister has been spending the weekend with us helping get ready for our newly-minted three year old's family birthday party tomorrow afternoon, so while the menfolk were outside dealing in dirt, we were inside getting ready for the party.

I stuck my head out the back door at one point to ask how things were going.  The elder lad replied ebulliently "great!  We could use some help here.  Want to come out?"

'scuze me?  Dirt doesn't hold quite the same attraction for me. (though I do love seeing them so happy covered in it)

"Um... I'm working on getting ready for the birthday party tomorrow. Could I get you a water refill, though?"

"Sure!"  he replied. 

Now if we can get them to eat the veggies that issue forth from this lovingly-constructed and tilled garden, that would be really something...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

my third arm

On nearly every outing, I wear the wee lass in a ring sling, just as I wore the younger lad in one before she came along.  I almost always get a comment or inquiry about it.  People will often take note of how content she looks snuggled up on me, or how she can see everything, or how they wish they had those things when their kids were little.  Some want to know if it's comfortable or if it hurts my back (it *is* comfortable so long as it's on correctly, though I do feel tired if I wear her in it for a long time). 

Babywearing is commonplace in many cultures around the world, but it's attracted some negative press lately because of a government warning on the potential dangers of infants suffocating in them (in a particular "bag" style, I should say). Not all slings and baby carriers are created equal or hold the baby in the same way.

Just as with any other piece of baby gear -- cribs, swings, car seats, and bouncers included -- caregivers need to use common sense and educate themselves on the correct usage of slings so as to insure their wee  bundle's safety and comfort.  The slings I have come with instructional videos that are also posted on their websites, and I've spent lots of time practicing getting the babes situated just so before setting out on any shopping jaunts or other excursions. 

Speaking personally and as I did when I dispensed some unsolicited advice for weathering pregnancy sickness, here are some further thoughts I have on babywearing based on my own experience...

I wore the elder lad in a wrap like these occasionally, though I found it to be cumbersome and in need of adjusting a lot.  It was difficult to nurse in, but it *was* comfortable to wear once we were situated because the weight is distributed over both shoulders.   I got my first ring sling when my younger lad was about two months old and have always loved how easy and quick it is to get on, off, and adjust.  It goes over one shoulder, though, so the weight is localized more on side.  If the fabric is spread out over my back as it's supposed to be, this is usually not a problem.  That first ring sling is a versatile steely gray-blue color.  When the lass was born, my mom gave me a girly pink one with butterflies and polka dots and other lovely images.   Now I'm able to coordinate my outfits to my slings.  :)

When both lads got to be about a year old, I switched to a carrier similar to an ERGO, which can be worn on either the front or the back (though the particular Patapum I have is for bigger babies or toddlers, which is why I wait so long to use it; the ERGO and another style of Patapum can be used from infancy).  When the weather is such that I don't need to wear a jacket or coat *and* when the lass gets a little bigger, I'll dig out this carrier again (if I can manage it with my baby belly). I practiced and practiced (and will again) getting the babes onto my back in this carrier at home on the sofa or in front of a mirror so that I'd be adept at and safely able to get the "slingling" (i.e. the baby in the sling) on my back at whatever location we happen to be.

There are several online resources for babywearing, including some to help one figure out which type of carrier might be best for him- or herself.  One such site is, which presently has links to several sling safety sites but also has extensive information and reviews on the various styles and brands of carriers.  (One such page on sling safety is on Babywearing International's site; has its own safety pages, and each sling manufacturer has information on safe wearing.)

Choosing a sling is a very personal thing, and many babywearing mamas I know have two -- if not several -- types of slings they use for different situations and durations.  The many documented benefits to wearing babies include facilitating bonding and nursing (the latter of the two I've yet to master but will have another go at here in a few months), aiding Baby's digestion, and reducing fussiness, among many others.

With any sling, there is a learning curve and a window of adjustment for both the baby wearer and the slingling.  So long as the carrier is on correctly, if the baby fusses when first put in the sling, often it helps to get up and moving for a bit of a walk to help the baby settle in.  If the fussing continues, it's a sure sign to stop and check everything is kosher.

I call my sling "my third arm."  I could not function as I do without my sling.  I can keep my littlest babe close to me where each of them has always preferred to be, care for my other children, attend to many (but not all) household duties with careful consideration to how I move or get up and down so as not to pitch the babe forward, and go to the store/playground/library/wherever with free hands and baby able to see everything from "the catbird seat," as one manufacturer describes it. 

Given my multitasking mandate, slings help me fulfill the many duties in my charge.  The babes are content and things get done.  Wearing the babies has saved me untold amounts of hassle and struggle with infant car seats (ours is particularly cumbersome) and strollers (my babies never seem to want to ride in them very long until they get a little older, so I'm stuck holding a baby and pushing an empty stroller), and allowed me to manage  two or more children at the grocery store by having one (or two) in the cart and one slung on me.

I welcome the inquiries I receive on babywearing, and hope my experience can help other caregivers and their precious cargo.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


A week or so ago, my friend paralyzed as a complication of bacterial meningitis moved out of the local hospital to one equipped to teach her how to live life to the fullest in her present state while maintaining hope that she will one day regain movement.

The thought of her being hundreds of miles away from her family and friends while she tries to heal is one that weighs heavily on my mind.  In fact, the enormity of her situation is something that I struggle to understand -- and don't really think I can -- but I don't believe God has caused this to happen to her.   As this homily by Fr. Jack Gleason from the Third Sunday of Lent addresses, that is not how God operates.

While I can't explain why my friend is suffering so greatly (and each in their own way her husband, children, family, and friends), my faith tells me it is not without meaning.  I can find great hope and strength of faith in seeing the ways people have responded to this family's crisis.  Untold numbers of people are praying for her recovery and for the protection and well being of her children and family.  Her direct caretakers and those caring for her children have had and continue to have opportunities to give comfort, offer aid, show mercy, and allay anxiety.  And each one of us aware of her situation cannot help but be moved to consider the multitude of blessings and gifts bestowed upon each of us -- down to the very gifts of life and breath.

I continue to pray God's will be done in my mama friend's life and in the course it takes from here.  If it is his will, I pray she is restored to complete health with full use of her body.  Considering the road she is on helps keep the road I travel each day in proper perspective.  Each of us is not without struggle or difficulty or pain, but most of the time what I face as a result of fatigue or stress or whatever else pales in comparison to what she must grapple with.

The move to this hospital is one that will, as our mutual friend has written, teach her "how to live in her home, with her family, raising her children."  So many people suffer so greatly in so many different ways.  Never far from mind are my Aunt Robin and my friend Jake, who both lost battles with cancer at early ages, and the many people in my family and friends who struggle with chronic illness and the grief of having lost loved ones.  Disease and suffering are never easily understood for anyone of any age.  When they strike "young" people, it is even more difficult to comprehend.    Keeping this in mind helps me maintain some perspective -- specifically, the grace to be grateful for the particular cross Christ calls me to carry, knowing that he will supply all the grace and aid to carry it, and that such suffering is not without value when joined to those Christ endured on the cross.

It seems my friend has been living Lent in a very tangible way since late January when she fell ill.  I pray as Easter approaches, she and all those who suffer will know Christ's healing grace.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

three years -- all in a day

It's been a day of celebration here, as our younger lad turns three today.  There have been trips in "the big truck" with Daddy to the hardware store to check out the riding lawnmowers and various other offerings, then later (in the Bambini Ride) to the ice cream shop and (water-logged) park.  Grandparents came for dinner and truck-themed birthday cake.  The birthday lad and his siblings climbed all over each other reaching for toys both just-unwrapped and those brought out from the closet to compliment the new ones (and there might have been words to the effect of negotiating whose turn it was with the brand new this or that).

All this we've done to honor and celebrate the lad who brings us such joy on a daily basis with his sunny disposition, funny little running commentary and facial expressions, endearing declarations of love, and generous spirit toward those around him. 

I may have intuited that he was a girl the entire time I was expecting him, but I am ever grateful for the lad he is.  I look forward to getting to know the man he will one day grow to be, and pray that the time between now and then passes only at a pace such that I'm able to fully relish each burst of laughter, display of affection, sound effect, and opportunity to be his Mama. 

Birthday blessings upon you, dear lad.  We love and cherish you. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

it all comes out in the wash

Tonight's yield from the wash load of dark-colored clothes (that the lass loaded and started herself, with only a modicum of Mama's help):
  • 2 berry-tipped twigs of unknown variety (probably collected during today's snowman-building session)
  • 1 tube of Chapstick (missing for a while)
Will I *ever* learn to check pockets before starting the washer?

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Shortly after I accepted the post as director of music and liturgy way back in the day, I received a note in the mail from the director of religious education at the parish welcoming me aboard and thanking me for taking the job.  I had met her a few times already because I had been playing the early Sunday morning Mass at the parish for a few months before taking on the full time job, but I didn't know her very well.  That gesture of friendship and hospitality was the beginning of a very dear friendship that continues today.

She is a mentor to me in many ways, especially in living out this vocation of marriage and motherhood.  She has two sons and a daughter close in age like I do -- but they're teenagers now, so she has much-needed perspective, experience, and insight to offer me.  She shares my affinity for chocolate, and she is my elder lad's Godmother.  We are bonded forever in a special sort of sisterhood.  Her sensitivity and faith-informed insights have proven invaluable aids to many seeking spiritual direction, hope, healing, and renewal.  She is a reflection Christ's love to everyone she encounters.

Today is her birthday.  I wish for her a year full of blessings, hope, joy, peace, and grace.  Love and cheers to you, girlfriend...

Friday, March 19, 2010

a man's man

Had our younger lad, who will turn three next week, been born on this day *and* a girl (which I thought he was the entire time he was in utero), I would've been strongly inclined to name her Lily.  This would be in honor of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus, whose feast day we celebrate today.  The lily is one of the symbols associated with St. Joseph, as many stories speak of Joseph's staff flowering with lilies to indicate his being God's choice as her spouse.

Since the year my beloved and I became engaged (shortly after this feast day), I have made it a point to observe the feast of St. Joseph as a day to honor the husbands and fathers (and uncles and brothers) in my family and that of my beloved's.  In some countries it is celebrated as Father's Day, and I love the idea of incorporating the liturgical feasts into family life for days like today.

In past years I've tried to make the day special for these valiant men in my life -- my beloved, my dad, my father-in-law, and my grandfather-in-law, among the many other honorable men among our family and friends -- in a variety of ways, usually involving such things as lilies -- either fresh or pictured on a card, and/or by going to daily Mass to pray for their intentions.  None of that happened today.   These men I love and cherish and for whom I am grateful beyond words have been in my thoughts and prayers all day, even if I didn't make as big a deal out of the day as I might've liked to.

When it comes to seeking the counsel and prayers of a wise, honorable, holy, devoted husband and father to serve as inspiration and aid to men trying to live out these virtues in their own vocations, there is no better man either living or dead than Good St. Joseph. He was a fully human, hard-working man, one who knew all too well the struggles men face in their daily lives.  His prayers garner the attention of Christ, and I have every confidence St. Joseph prays in earnest for every man married or single, father or not, that each one may be the person Christ calls him to be in whatever station of life he may be, and that each man may serve Christ by serving those around him. 

So to the men who have worked and continue to work so hard to take care of me, our bambini, our family, and countless untold others, today I thank and wish you all the blessings of a happy feast day.  May Good St. Joseph remember you today and every day in his prayers, and may the humble example of loving service to his family always be a source of strength and inspiration for you as you endeavor to do the same with such devotion and tenderness.  I love you all so much.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Few things cause me to go from zero to 60 on the consternation scale like computer troubles -- specifically, being offline.  I am inclined to bang my head against the wall in utter frustration when this happens, though I (usually) restrain myself only because I know in my rational mind (such as it is) that doing so will not get me back online.

This morning I went offline, not voluntarily, but because of some hardware issues that have since been resolved.  A similar thing happened on Good Friday last year, and by God's grace I was able to recognize (after some initial internal grumbling and kvetching) the opportunity presented to me.  I chose on that day to view it as an imposed Internet fast and offer it up as a sacrifice, and I did so again today; it's a particularly fitting Lenten mortification for me when I am not in a position to fast from food on account of my gestating status.

Having the Internet connection is something of great importance to me for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which being the connection it affords me with people I love and value.  This connection is vital to me.  Without it, I easily turn fussy or even anxious. 

The most important connection for me to have is that with Christ.  I don't need an Internet connection to maintain that (though having one does help edify this connection by providing access to a wealth of spiritual resources). In the fulfillment of my vocation as wife and mother, Christ is my most important resource.

Still -- I'm so glad to be back online -- even if it is past my bedtime.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

pay up

Just as I predicted, the lass *did* eat more French toast than her brothers this morning.  Perhaps this is due in part to her not having had much time to eat breakfast before Mass, as I got her up and dressed mere minutes before we had to leave (she had time for a breakfast cookie, and that was about it).

And as I thought it might, this whole Daylight Savings Time thing has us all a little out of sorts -- up early but also up late (ahem -- note my time of posting).  As I've learned in these few years of motherhood dealing with time changes, however, this too shall pass...

(I hope.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

easy like Sunday morning

We're in the habit of having French toast for breakfast on Sunday mornings, and I've hit upon a way to get it on the table pronto: I make the batter the night before by first mixing together the dry ingredients, whisking them together with the eggs to make a slurry, then adding the (soy) milk and stirring it all up.  Mixing the dry ingredients together first and then into the eggs to make a slurry helps keep them in suspension, rather than falling to the bottom of the batter.  Something about having the night to think things over together as a batter elevates the end result to a higher level of delectability.  Fret not, though -- it's still fabulous made and cooked immediately if the craving doesn't strike until the morning.

This way, when we get home from Mass and everyone is hungry (though we do try to eat a little something beforehand, as this helps Mass go better for everyone), all I have to do is slice the bread and heat up the griddle.  Voila!

Daylight Savings Time begins overnight.  This always throws us for a loop, so here's hoping some yummy vittles will help us adjust...  I'm willing to wager the lass will out-eat her brothers.

photo credit: my talented beloved

Friday, March 12, 2010

field trip

It'd been "like a hundred weeks" (according to the elder lad) since our last visit to the aquarium, so this morning we made the trip with a "schoolmate" of his (as my lad refers to his friend) and the lad's family -- neighbors of ours, it turns out.  Orchestrating a field trip of this scope takes some doing, though I do find the aquarium far more manageable than the zoo.

The greatest challenge lies in handling the excitement the lads feel before we leave the house while trying to check things off my list to get us ready to go, as this can quickly dissolve into bickering or other unruly shennanigans when the lads are keyed up to go but it's not yet time.   I do try to involve the bambini however I can -- them packing snacks, taking their dishes to the dishwasher, brushing teeth, gathering stuff, etc.  And I try to prepare as much the night before, but there are still some things that can't be done until the morning of.  Still, let's just get going already!

Finally we roll out with our theme song "Big Field Trip" by Justin Roberts queued up on the iPod.  We review our going-out-in-public safety procedures:

Me: "We stick together at all times.  But if we get separated, who do you look for?"
Elder lad: "a worker."
Me: "And if you don't see a worker, who do you look for?"
He: "a mama with small children."
Me: "And what do you say?"
He: "Please help me find my mama."

Me: "Do you leave the building with her?"
He: "No." 

Right on, dude.

(I've also tucked notes into his pocket and that of his brother's reading "My mama's name is Bonnie.  Her phone number is...")*

With great jubilation we pile out of the Bambini Ride and greet our neighbor friends.  Thus begins the heightened state of awareness wherein the two mamas among us take mental (and digital) pictures of the bambini (six in all, one slung on my hip) and continually scan the scene to keep them all in view.  I understand they've been renovating the shark exhibit, but I really can't recall too many details of the changes, as I didn't pay that much attention; I can, however, describe in detail what each child in our group was wearing.

Both lads handled themselves so well on our outing.  I made sure to tell them this, and that because of this I was inclined to take them on field trips again.  The elder lad beamed at this news.

Favorite parts?
  • elder lad: the horseshoe crabs
  • younger lad: the squid
  • Mama: the countless "look at that!" declarations and accompanying expressions of wonderment on the lads' faces (and similar pre-verbal outpourings of excitement from the lass)
These field trips take a lot out of us, but they are well worth the effort when the bambini have such a good time.  The rest of the day was kind-of low key until happy hour (and by that I don't mean drinks with the girls).  Good thing the weekend is upon us!

With several such field trips in the "bank of experience," I'm learning how to manage the preparations and kid-wrangling aspects such that the true joy of seeing the bambini's delight can be my focus.  That alone makes it all worthwhile.

*These child safety ideas I gleaned from Gavin de Becker's Protecting the Gift.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

two fun books for young lads and those who read to them

We lucked out with a couple of recent library selections.

Monkey with a Toolbelt is right up our collective alley.  Chico Bon Bon (love the name) has an array of implements in his tool belt and is thus ready for anything, including capture by an organ grinder in need of a new monkey.  As it happened, shortly after reading this fun book (written and illustrated by Chris Monroe), the younger lad took a spill on the wood floor, landing on his hip.  We whipped out the "tool belt" ice pack from the freezer, and he was good as new.  

The snickers emanating from my beloved's otherwise bemused reading voice belie the wide-reaching appeal of Mini Grey's Traction Man is Here.  Household items like scrubbing brushes and garden spades are elevated to hero and villain respectively as the action figure Traction Man sets about saving the world one spoon at a time.  Wildly imaginative and fun from start to finish, this story is both visually and aurally entertaining for everyone within earshot.  The sequel Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog continues the fun, though the first in the series retains pride of place around here.

We've read and reread these two funny books countless times in the week we've had them checked out. For our two young lads, they are fodder for laughter, imagination, and dreams of tools and super heroes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

scenes from the Bambini Ride

We're driving to pick up the elder lad from school when this conversation unfolds:

younger lad: "Mama, you're a giant blimp."


me: "What?"  (trying to think up a snappy albeit nonchalant comeback)  "I'm not a blimp............................  I don't float."

he: "yes you do -- in Papa's pool."

me: "oh."  (words fail me here)

he: "I'm a whale."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

one point twenty-one gigawatts

We are having some routine (if a little late) maintenance done on our heater.  The same company came out a few times last summer to service our wily air conditioner.  On one occasion, the technician conveyed the diagnosis in terms I heard as "yadda yadda yadda capacitor blah blah blah..."

(What do I know about air conditioning units?)

Shortly thereafter, we had to call them back out to service the ailing air conditioner again.  When this technician arrived, I tried to explain to him what he probably already knew if he had read the notes in our file from the previous technician's visit.  Nonetheless, I went ahead and told him that when his colleague had been out before, he mentioned something about the flux capacitor.  The guy handled himself pretty well, barely batting an eye and responding politely that "no, ma'am, that's something from a movie, but the capacitor is (blah blah blah)." 


Allow my gaffe to serve as a public service announcement of sorts.  Be sure to think twice before speaking on this subject with anyone well-versed in the mechanics of air conditioning units -- or time travel.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Will, Boo & Baa

Olof and Lena Landstrom are to thank for some of our perennial favorite books.  Simply written (translated from Swedish) and illustrated, they capture the simple delights and experiences of children and anthropomorphic animals.

One series is about a little boy named WillHe's a pretty easy-going little guy, and a capable one.  In Will Goes to the Post Office, he sets out to retrieve a package from his uncle Ben.  His neighborhood friends help him lug the big package home.  He and his mama spend a delightful day at the seaside in Will Goes to the Beach.  Back before I was so proficient at home haircuts, we read and reread Will Gets A Haircut.  And we never tire of the bravery Will shows in Will's New Cap when he goes to get a newspaper and falls down on the way home.

Boo and Baa are a lovable duo of sheep who manage all manner of adventures both domestic and otherwise. They whip their abode into shape in Boo and Baa on a Cleaning Spree and welcome a new little critter friend in Boo and Baa Have Company.  They navigate the high seas in Boo and Baa at Sea; the forest in Boo and Baa in the Woods; and the grocery store in blizzard conditions in Boo and Baa in Windy Weather.  They team up to present their friend Bob with a thoughtful birthday present in Boo and Baa in a Party Mood and face things that go bump in the night in Boo and Baa Get Wet.  These two are charming, endearing, and always well-received in our house.

These books are difficult to find.  Our library system has some of them, but I've resorted to buying others used online.  They're worth it, though, as they retain pride of place on the bookshelf.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

humility via laundry

For all my crowing about my victory over juice dribbled down the lass's shirt, I must now admit with great humility the loss of a favorite shirt belonging to my younger lad at my own hands.  This one went through the laundry with a big dose of drinkable yogurt front and center gone unnoticed.  Thinking back to the bleaching properties of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide that had helped erase all traces of the juice, I sprayed alternating doses of the two on the lad's shirt -- lots and lots and lots of alternating doses.  It did seem to be making some progress even though the stain had been through the dryer.  I hadn't wanted to use the bleach pen on it (something I resort to when all else fails) because the shirt's color was described as "milk" and not white, so I thought the bleach pen would work too well and take things a bit too far -- if you know what I mean.

I digress.  I finally decided to attempt laundering the yogurt-stained shirt.  When I pulled it out of the washer, it was in tatters.  Literally.  Holes -- nay, rips from end to end -- everywhere.    There was nowhere for the poor shirt to go but the trash.

Herein lies the lesson... vinegar and peroxide work wonders gently bleaching things *in small doses*.  Rinsing with water afterward helps too (I've since had a couple of minor victories with the same dish soap/vinegar/peroxide treatment on other clothes, making sure not to leave the potions on very long). 

Mama really ought to check the laundry for stains *before* loading the washer, though this is easier said than done when I have several little helpers vying for who gets to turn the machine on and jockeying to empty the contents of the laundry basket into the tub like a dump truck doing its thing.

The poor lad hasn't mentioned the shirt since it disappeared from the stack in the closet.  That's probably for the best. Mama will have to hang her head in shame if and when he does ask for it.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

living Lent cheerfully

No, I didn't go on an Internet fast for Lent -- nor did I give up chocolate. Such might result in great suffering for those around me, which misses the point entirely.  I'm not really sure what has happened to the time that has elapsed since my last post and this one.  Life, I guess.   Living Lent.

The disciplines I have undertaken for Lent are meant to rid myself that which keeps me from God.  There are certain food-related things we are to abstain from during Lent (namely meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent), though as a pregnant mother, the Church does not ask me to adhere to the fasting and abstinence laws with as strict an observance as women who are not pregnant or nursing (I still do abstain from meat on these days, making up the protein deficit with other foods).  I try to find other things from which to abstain in other ways (extravagance, for example).  And I'm trying to make a return to God in areas that I've let slide, such as the daily readings and certain daily prayers that had been routine but have somehow slipped through the cracks.  In fact, I think I'll look at it as trying to seal up those cracks with God himself.  As it should be.

But still, this undertaking is not easy -- nor is it meant to be.  Nothing worth doing well is going to come easily, now is it?  And when the going gets rough -- when I'm missing the pleasantries that are okay when enjoyed in moderation but are dangerous if they ultimately distract me from God, I'm faced with the choice to either despair at their absence or turn to God to fill in the gap they've left.  The latter is the whole point of the Lenten season.  To be more ascetic just for the sake of doing is not the objective; clearing out the clutter -- figuratively and literally -- to make room for God and to rely upon him instead of worldly things is what we're going for.

A few weeks in with a few more to go of Lent, it can seem like a long road.  But Lent doesn't last forever, and it doesn't exist for its own end.  The glorious celebration of Easter awaits.  We can't fully celebrate that feast without the mortification of Lent, and we live Lent in gratitude for the ultimate gifts of sacrifice and redemption each of us now possesses because of Easter.

We live as a people redeemed by Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, so when we are tempted to give into  melancholy or even despair over those things that we think bring us joy but really are rather inconsequential, let us offer those weaknesses to God and ask him to redirect our thoughts to Easter and its eternally joyous meaning.  Though it is a penitential season, I am striving to live Lent cheerfully -- and by that I mean in a manner grateful for the opportunities to unite my own small sufferings to those of Christ crucified.  By God's grace may we find ourselves closer to him than ever on Easter morning.
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