Monday, May 31, 2010

piggies like French toast

A new twist on an old favorite -- younger lad style:

"This little piggy went to..."
"market Target."

"This little piggy stayed..."

"This little piggy had..."
"French toast."

"This little piggy had a..."

"And this little piggy went..."
"weee weee weee all the way home!"

"Again, Mama!"
(French toast is his favorite.   "I just like it," he owns.)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

family ties

"Wednesday comes after Friday," the elder lad tried to convince me last week -- knowing full well the order of the days of the week.  For him and his brother, Friday couldn't come soon enough.  That was because they knew their grandfather (my dad) was coming to pick them up Friday morning for an adventure at my parents' house.  My beloved, the lass, and I planned to come over later in the day for an overnight getaway to celebrate Memorial Day.

When Friday finally arrived, the elder lad was a little less sure about the plans.  "I want to go with you," he said.  Excited as he was, it was the first time he and his brother would be traveling an hour away to my parents' house without me, and the "unknown" factor was weighing heavily on him.  They've been to my parents' house several times with me and us, and they're very comfortable there.  It was just the first time for them to do something like this.

I related to him feeling similarly when I was a little girl.  I spent a lot of time with my Chicago family, which I always loved.  I spent many weeks of summer vacation with my Grannie over several years.  I always looked forward to that, though when the time came for my parents to leave to go home, I was often uneasy.  I knew I was safe there and would have a good time, but I would miss my parents.  It didn't usually take long for me to face the sadness of saying good-bye and move on to having fun.  

Hearing this story seemed to help him, and he was further reassured when I walked through the day ahead with him, how they'd drive over in Papa's blue car, probably have some lunch, maybe some quiet time, then do any number of fun things of their choosing.  Before he knew it, we'd be there with him for dinner.  I told him he could call me if he needed to, and I made sure to say that we wouldn't be letting him and his brother go if we didn't think they would be safe.  We knew they would be. 

The younger lad, on the other hand, was practically out the door when my dad arrived.  "I want to go to your house!" he said excitedly to my dad.

A few provisions in hand, they loaded into Dad's car (the elder lad wearing a brave face) after a round of hugs and kisses.  The lass and I stood on the driveway and waved to them as they backed out and drove off.

By all accounts, they both had a great time with my dad, mom, and sister, and were so excited to tell us about their adventures when we got there that evening.  "I was having so much fun I forgot about the sad things!" the elder lad told me that evening.  "Sad things?"  I asked.  "Like missing you," he explained.

The fun continued all the way through last evening, when we reluctantly loaded up to come home. 

How blessed we are to have family living close enough to do things like this.  The bambini spend a lot of time at my beloved's parents' house -- a place synonymous with "fun" to the bambini -- fifteen minutes away from us.  Trips to visit my parents an hour away are always fun too.  A lot of my beloved's extended family lives close by as well.  I do wish my bambini knew my Chicago family better.  Some of them have visited us, but we've only been there a few times.  Here's hoping as the bambini get older we'll be able to make more visits. 

The time I spent with my family in Chicago growing up was both formative and fun.  Having the opportunity to form relationships with these members of my family I only got to see a few times a year is something for which I will always be profoundly grateful.  I'm so glad my bambini are having similar opportunities to get to know and form relationships with their family.

The lads are already planning their next adventure back to my parents' house.  They can hardly wait.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

creative license

Trying to involve the bambini in my many creative interests is something I've always tried to do, although the most obvious one -- playing the piano -- I don't do as much as I would like to.  It's really one of my greatest outlets for expression, but I find it very difficult to focus on a piece of repertoire while managing the scene with the bambini.  We do sometimes noodle around together.

I like to sew and take on other crafty projects as well as play the piano, but I am saving many of the ideas I concoct or read about for a season when the bambini are less dependent upon my constant attention.  I know that time will come. 

While it might appear that I've left the creative scene of music-making and writing that was my daily occupation for a long time -- and there are times when I really miss that, I realize that that the most worthwhile and significant creative pursuit I can and do make is the purposeful, attentive, and loving minute-to-minute care and interaction with my bambini.

I take creative license in
  • tinkering with drinkable yogurt recipes
  • spelling out acceptable avenues for hammering inside, 
  • finding ways to integrate our faith into the fabric of our daily lives, 
  • cultivating virtues in all of us by (attempting to) balance the needs and interests of the three bambini all at once,
  • doing something literally creative with the bambini like baking or an art project, 
  • getting the instruments out and having a "concert"
  • researching and testing natural means of home and health care, and (among other ways)
  • coming up with a response to the younger lad's bedtime request to "tell me about tarantulas, Mama"  (answer: "how about I tell you about the night you were born?"  "No thanks -- tell me about tarantulas."  "Daddy knows more about tarantulas than I do.  I try to stay far away from them.")
But while that might be true, this creative mama has a few other irons in the fire.  This online chronicle and its sister foodie venture are two such examples.  I often have the camera out, trying to capture the everyday moments as they unfold in still pictures and videos.  I don't take a lot of posed shots (that's one of those exercises in futility); instead I take lots of shots, hope a few of them turn out, and revel in the creative challenge of captioning those few "keepers".  I've also taken to writing something down about each child in my daily agenda every day -- something they say or do or some milestone they've passed or something about which they were excited or even symptoms of sickness or other indicators of something amiss.  Far from a full-out scrapbook (let's not even broach the subject of baby books), but at least it's a little something to mark the ways -- big and small -- in which they grow and change each day. (It's actually something my mother has done for a long time.  It's always a hoot to read back through the daily doings of a few months -- or years -- ago.)

I may not have complete control over my time and how I spend it during this season of our family life, but with a little creativity, I hope to mark the passage of this tender time while fostering the development of each soul entrusted to my care.

Friday, May 28, 2010

perennial favorites

We might be "heavy library users", with sack-fulls of books checked out at any given time, but we do have some perennial favorites in our collection of which we never tire: 
The Little Airplane by Lois Lenski.  "I think the pictures were colored with crayon," said the elder lad at the last reading a few nights ago.  With vintage charm and simple appeal, Pilot Small readies his plane for a solo flight by checking the aircraft over with his mechanic and then taking off for a tour of the countryside (checking in on his "little auto" and sailboat down below).  This is one of several books by Ms. Lenski that center on the character of Mr. Small; in other books he shows up as a policeman, cowboy, firefighter, father, sailboat captain, and farmer.  My beloved's late uncle gave us this book to commemorate a trip to Alaska he took with his parents (my beloved's grandparents).  He and his wife wanted to build a library for their children; ours is richer because of his contribution.

Mo Willems' Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale is source material for many family inside jokes and quotes.  Sweet little Trixie -- who's probably about our lass's age -- goes to the laundromat with her daddy and her trusty sidekick Knuffle Bunny.  Much like our lass loves to load the washer and start 'er up, so does Trixie.  When Knuffle Bunny doesn't make it home with Trixie and her daddy, Trixie tries to tell him what the problem is, but she's not quite verbal yet.  What results is much wailing and gnashing of teeth (for both Trixie and her daddy).   As devoted daddies do, Trixie's launches a full-out search for the missing plush bunny.  The result is both a happy reunion and a milestone in Trixie's speech development.  The mixed-media artwork in this book earned it a Caldecott honor in 2005.

Esphyr Slobodkina's Caps for Sale is the funny tale of "a peddler, some monkeys, and their monkey business."  One day the peddler balances all the many-colored caps he has for sale on the top of his head and walks about yelling "caps!  caps for sale!  Fifty cents a cap!" to no avail, so he settles down and takes a siesta under a tree.  He awakens to find his wares missing.   He looks up to see a tree full of monkeys having absconded with and now wearing his caps.  In a series of exchanges between him and the monkeys, he asks with increasing urgency and frustration for the monkeys to return the caps.  They find his accompanying gestures amusing and mimic them right back.  In his final act of desperation, he throws his own checked cap down on the ground, and the monkeys follow suit.  He regains his composure, stacks the caps back up on his head, and sets out for a fresh attempt at selling the caps.  The lads always find the monkeys' "tsk tsk tsk" parroting of the peddler's demands of "you monkeys you!  You give me back my caps!" amusing and usually have to give it a go themselves.  I'm sure many parents can identify with the peddler's frustration with such selective hearing  -- or does that just happen here?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

morning offering

Mornings can be very dicey prospects around here.  Other times they're very pleasant.  It's when one or more children (or parents) awaken with less than sunny outlooks that we all struggle to gain some traction.  Sometimes I'm able to get up and get myself together before the bambini stumble in for some wake-up snuggling.  Being able to get my wits about me first thing helps me immensely, but it doesn't always happen.  Sometimes I'm the last one ready, having hit the ground running fielding drinkable yogurt requests and changing diapers.

I'm so grateful for the blessing we've had of a stay-home existence these early years.  We have been able to have relatively easygoing mornings most of the time -- meaning we can allow everyone to wake up on their own terms and not have to be somewhere at an early hour (though doesn't mean things are always cheery and relaxed; sometimes they are far from both).  I can't even imagine trying to get myself and multiple children ready for work, school and/or day care every week day.  I think my blood pressure, which is usually and blessedly pretty good, would be off the charts (sometimes it is anyway).  With the elder lad starting kindergarten in a few months, I know this free-wheeling morning routine is going to change dramatically. 

As often as I think to when I awaken (sometimes the manner in which I am awakened interferes with this presence of mind), I try to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the new day and for the many blessings and gifts we've been granted.  I ask God to be with us, pray for his will to be done through us, and offer the day and all it contains -- ups, downs, and everything in between -- in service to Christ.  Then I seek the intercession of our guardian angels and patron saints.  It's my version of a morning offering.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

benevolence via Legos

The elder lad is showing some endearing signs of growing in the virtues of charity and generosity -- and the development of industry, conscience, and the need for reparation.  Yesterday morning while I was getting his younger brother and sister ready for the day, he was busy constructing a "forest fire truck" out of Legos for his brother.  He thought this activity and design up himself.

"Remember how I was kinda mean yesterday?" he said when he was explaining himself (referring, perhaps, to having taken apart his brother's Lego fire truck to pillage parts for his own).  "I thought I would make this for the person I was mean to."  The younger lad was so thrilled and thankful, and relished playing with the custom vehicle.  Every time the windshield came off (and it did a lot, as these are the "little Legos" we're talking about now -- not Duplos anymore -- that the elder lad prefers), the elder lad would patiently and happily snap it back on for his brother.  He's been showing more restraint and patience toward his younger brother, too -- not all the time, but with enough frequency to be commendable (and we do -- commend him, that is). 

Little Legos are, by the way, his self-described favorite toy of the moment.  He perches on a kitchen chair and constructs the vehicles according to the instructions by himself, then takes them apart and engineers his own trucks and other designs.

When the lass wanted to commandeer the truck trailer he later moved on to later and stuff it full of Duplos (because those are usually in play too), the elder lad fetched a similar truck for her to use.  She was delighted.   He and his brother have been very tender and patient with her as she's been suffering with this ear infection.

The sibling relationships aren't always as rosy, but these recent episodes and several others like them have shown some heartening glimmers of harmony.  Mama is greatly encouraged...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the "dad gone" phenomenon

Rarely does my beloved's work take him out of town -- thankfully.  He had to travel this week, though, leaving before the bambini got up Monday and due home this evening.  Upon awakening from her (late) nap Monday afternoon, the lass was running a fever.   It's still with her, and a little higher today.  Funny how these things happen when Dad is away.  In the absence of other symptoms, I'm thinking it's teething-related. As the fever increases, though, maybe it's her ears.   Whatever the cause of her obvious discomfort, she is not a happy camper.  On previous occasions my beloved's been out of town, we've had trips to urgent care for ear infections afflicting one or more of the bambini and similar ailments.  Thankfully, it's not been anything serious or emergent in nature. 

The mother of the family friends I refer so often has a name for this curious phenomenon of something happening to the house or car or someone getting sick when Dad is away:  "Dad Gone."  Her husband travels extensively, so she knows it well.  How single mothers and mothers whose husbands are deployed, travel a lot, or even work out of town on a regular basis do it is beyond me.

Barring any travel snags, my beloved will be home in a few hours.  We will all be so happy to see him.

*10pm post script: as soon as my beloved arrived home safely, I took the lass to urgent care upon the advice of our pediatrician's office.  Diagnosis: first ear infection.  Seems our brand of "Dad Gone" phenomenon skews distinctly toward ear infections, as that's what seems to come up most often.  Wonder what that's about??

update desk

Early indications are very positive for Stevie, the young woman from my hometown who had all-day surgery yesterday to remove a malignant brain tumor.  She is moving and speaking -- answered prayers indeed, as the tumor was very closely located to those areas of her brain.  She has a long road to recovery ahead of her, but it would seem she is off to the right start.  Please continue to keep her, her family, friends, and caretakers in your prayers.  You can read her story and follow her progress on the blog she and her family have started.

Monday, May 24, 2010

somber yet hopeful

My heart is heavy thinking about two families for whom today must be uniquely grueling.  One of them buries their fifty-something husband and father after he passed away suddenly.  I knew him at the university parish, where his funeral Mass will be celebrated this morning.  He was ordained a deacon and served both that community and the larger one with humor, humility, and great generosity.  One of his sons was in high school at the time and played with our "rough and tumble band of misfits" (as I called us) -- a motley crew of talented musicians majoring in a variety of academic disciplines that played for the Sunday evening student Mass: this pianist, a few guitarists, an array of woodwinds and brass, and a few singers.  This son married a girl from my hometown a few years younger than me whose mother played the piano at my home parish growing up and has long been a source of encouragement for me in my development as a musician.

The other family prays and waits for their twenty-something daughter undergoing surgery today to remove a malignant brain tumor.  She is a few years younger than I am, and a friendly acquaintance from my hometown.  With a magnetic personality, dazzling smile, and penchant for bringing laughter and levity to nearly any situation, this young woman is facing this formidable challenge with deep faith in God and a huge legion of supporters.  She is being treated at the same hospital that cared for my friend Jake and all he went through.  I can't help but think of him in reading her story.  I'm sure they would really hit it off if they ever knew each other.

I can't fully understand what each of these families -- and so many others who know grief, uncertainty, and suffering today -- is going through. I can only pray for them, that they may know profound peace, comfort, and strength.  I know Christ is present in their struggles and will remain with them.  Please keep them all in your prayers.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

speaking their language

The few Easter decorations I put up with such glee on Holy Saturday night are still out.  While it's been entirely appropriate to have them up this long, today being Pentecost Sunday and the end of the liturgical season of Easter, it's probably time to put them away.  I have relished the delightful symbols of new life.  Just as things look a little bare when the Christmas decorations are put away, so too I think will they look once I get these Easter accents taken down.  But Easter hope and new life remain with us, as does the Holy Spirit whose presence among us we celebrate today.

In the first reading today we hear about the apostles speaking in the many languages of the diverse array of people gathered in Jerusalem.  Communication and word usage are perennial interests of mine, so I can easily parlay this into the various ways I communicate with my family and those around me... 

While we may speak the same language, each person really has a different way of expressing him- or herself and of feeling "heard" or understood.  (There's an entire series of books by Dr. Gary Chapman on people's "love languages".)  I've discovered a few inlets to the hearts of my bambini (among other tangible signs of attention and affirmation):
  • Offer the lass some blueberries, raisins, crackers, or cookies.
  • Take my younger lad to the "swing playground" (as he calls it) in our neighborhood -- or some other playground with swings, because often, as he says, "I just want to swing."
  • Share some chocolate with the elder lad, or build something out of Legos with him.
In speaking their love language, I hope to communicate to and with these bambini in a way that expresses not just my love, but reflects the love Christ has for each of them.

And as for the Easter decorations, I've got a smashing wreath of red berries to hang on the door.  Red being the liturgical color of Pentecost, today is the perfect day to hang it.  I even remember where I stashed it -- but that's more likely thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit than my shifty memory.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

stay home day

Most days are "work days" for my beloved, and others are "stay home days."  How we relish the latter ones.  On this particular stay home day, we have literally been at home all day.  This is not unusual, as we have deliberately kept from taking on outside commitments and obligations during this brief season of family life, knowing the importance of just being with our bambini.  Settling into this home-based existence has been a challenge for me, because I'm one who likes to be out and about.  With three children in car seats and my ever-growing baby belly, however, getting out is not as easy as it once was.  I still do it nearly every day, as otherwise I get pretty antsy, but not today.

Instead, there was breakfast casserole this morning, haircuts for the lads after they happily cavorted in the muddy dirt box in the backyard as my beloved tended the garden (those are some of the salad greens, mega radishes, and wee little 'maters pictured above), baking a blueberry buckle, book reading, laundry, and Legos, among other things.

It's been a glory day.  I'll be ready to get out tomorrow.

same song * different verse

New strategy test drive: "can you and your brother pick up the yard/Legos/books/tools in the time it takes me to wash up from this diaper change/drinkable yogurt blending/some such other Mama task?  Ready?  Go!"

Wish me luck...

Friday, May 21, 2010

generic response

A testament to the absentmindedness of my pregnant mama brain which shows itself at the most inopportune times: realizing that our inventory of baby-strength pain relievers such as Tylenol and Motrin were involved in the recent recall, I asked our pediatrician at the lass's check-up earlier in the week what to do.

"Just get generic," she said.  "They're not made by the same company."

Duh.  Bonnie.  Really.

We use generic products whenever possible from medications to pantry goods (including the bambini's allergy medicine; the name brand is part of the aforementioned recall) -- including the adult-strength versions of these medications.  Why didn't I think of this with regard to the pain relievers we hardly ever resort to using but want to have on hand just in case?

I have no idea.  I suspect it may have something to do with my quest to find products that are dye-free, and having found them only in the brand name medicines at the time I was shopping.  Fortunately, I did find some dye-free generic alternatives on the post-pediatrician-visit shopping trip to restock the medicine cabinet.

Still, why I didn't think of the whole generic alternative remains shrouded in mystery.  Maybe it's owing to a lack of coffee or chocolate in my system -- or both. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

pomp and circumstance

Our elder lad is a preschool graduate.  While we didn't tell him to "get a job", like my father told me mostly in jest (but partly in earnest; he knew I was working on it) when I graduated from college, the milestone is noteworthy as a sort of punctuation in a continuing journey. God willing, it is the first of several such school-year-ending ceremonies.  

Donning white cap and gown, he and his schoolmates marched single file into the school gym to the tune of Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance (Check him out if all you know of his output is the graduation tune.  His music is expansive, evocative of his homeland the English countryside, and informed by his Catholic faith).   They presented a brief but well-rehearsed and age-appropriate program showing off a year's worth of hard work and the development of an obvious camaraderie among them.  Afterward, they dutifully posed for pictures, then flung off their caps and gowns for some large motor skill time running around the gym (their indoor recess place, after all).

The first few days of preschool were fraught with emotion for all of us.  It was a very difficult decision to enroll him in preschool, us having always been together and already collaborating with a group of families in a preschool co-op.  The experience has proven to be a positive one overall, thankfully.  He was blessed with a loving, devoted, and thoughtful teacher and a bevy of caring staff and administration at the school.  The pastor of the parish preschool was one of five presiding at our wedding, and he made regular visits to the school both on regular days and for special events like the Christmas program and today's ceremony.

As we turn our attention to kindergarten next year at a new parish school, I expect we might go through a similar emotional experience to that which we knew at the beginning of this school year now ended.  The element of complete unknown that was part of the beginning of preschool will be (mercifully) absent -- or maybe lessened -- but there will nonetheless be that dimension of not knowing what to expect.  There is also the sadness of saying good-bye to friends the elder lad made this year; none of them will be attending the school in which he is enrolled.

He is looking forward to kindergarten, having been positively beaming on the visits we made to the school we have chosen.  It will mark the opening of a new season in our family life, one I'm glad we have a few months yet to start.

stormy weather

Stormy weather is a fact of life in our part of the country this time of year.  In the past week or so we've had some "wicked weather" around us, but -- thankfully -- we have been spared any damage.  Last night we had some excitement with tornado sirens and severe thunderstorms just as we were readying the bambini for bed.  Stories were ready in the bathroom rather than the bedroom until we were able to ascertain that it was safe to come out of our "safe place."

Being on heightened alert for severe weather gets everyone's adrenaline going for sure, especially when we leave the continuous TV coverage going.  For this reason, we don't leave it on.  We listen to the radio and check the radar online, and watch only limited TV coverage as necessary. 

Trying to assuage the bambini's fears (and manage our own) in the face of potential tornadoes can be very difficult, as we don't want to gloss over the seriousness of the situation, but neither do we want to cause undue alarm and stress over something we can't control.  This can be especially frightening for the bambini, and we try to temper it by being truthful about the need to take reasonable precautions but the relative unlikelihood that something terrible will happen to us.  We pray and snuggle and try to maintain our routine as best we can.

Thankfully, the storms subsided in time for regular bedtime, and everyone got a decent night's sleep.  The lads were up early this morning, and a little out of sorts, but that might be owing to the busy week we're having with a school field trip yesterday, preschool graduation today, and lots of stormy (but not severe) weather all week.

We pray for those who've been injured or even killed in the recent storms, and give thanks for the shelter and safety with which we've been blessed.  Whether the storms are literal or figurative, our trust is in the same Source of strength...

Monday, May 17, 2010

loveliness personified

Our family is blessed with a gem of a woman whose birthday we celebrate today.  She is my beloved's mother -- my bambini's grandmother.  Devoted to her family, friends, and the elementary-aged students she has taught for many years, she brings grace, loveliness, and an appreciation for beauty to everything she touches.  We love and cherish her and are so grateful for her humble, tender care. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

graced and gifted

We returned to the parish where I worked as music and liturgy director before motherhood for the Confirmation of my elder lad's Godmother's 17-year-old younger lad.  The presence of the Holy Spirit was keenly felt in the reverent, relevant liturgy as these young people took ownership of their faith. 

It's been five years since I departed that post, and every time we've been back to visit it's startling to me seeing how the kids I remember as little like my own are now have grown into adolescents and young adults.  I'm sure it will likewise be the case for my own children -- before I know it, they'll be "big kids" like the ones I saw last night.

That parish community will always have a special place in my heart.  They were very gracious to me as a young single gal with a decent amount of musical experience and an aptitude for the liturgical side of things, but lacking in experience serving a parish in this capacity.  I owe them so much for their kindness and willingness to bear work with me.  For their warm welcome and the sense of belonging we feel whenever we return, I will always be grateful.

As they move forward, I pray these Confirmandi (the newly Confirmed) will always be mindful of the gifts and fruits with which they've been sealed in this Sacrament, this visible sign of God-given Grace, and draw upon these to become the people Christ calls them to be.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

pint-sized sommelier

On the occasions my beloved has a glass of wine with dinner, the younger lad has taken to smelling the contents and pronouncing the subtleties: "smells like grapes.... strawberries... pineapple."

Pretty good for a three year old.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

media savvy (selectively)

Bedtime rolls around and the lads are getting testy with each other.  The elder one makes a menacing move toward the younger one.  Seeing this, my beloved says, "Be kind.  Rewind."

And then he and I have a good laugh about that one, as these bambini have no idea what that means.  Our VCR is stashed upstairs somewhere.  They did unearth a box of VHS tapes recently, but they didn't know what the funny objects were.   We used to tape episodes of Curious George on PBS as recently as two years ago on our VCR, but the elder lad wasn't even three then and wasn't hip to the medium used to record his favorite show.

This whole business of rewinding a rented movie before returning it is so entirely foreign to our bambini.   We used to have an online movie-rental subscription but let it lapse when the one movie we'd have checked out would sit for weeks upon weeks awaiting viewing, only to finally be sent back unwatched. And even those movies were on DVD, not VHS tapes (we won't even get into Beta tapes, which I remember vividly from my childhood).

These days both lads can operate the DVD player with ease -- at least selecting which one they want to watch from among a small list of approved fare (most with the words Curious George or Mighty Machines in the title) and loading or unloading the player as necessary. The elder lad knows to press "play", though with our set-up there is usually some fiddling of settings to be done which allows for parental intervention and squelches unauthorized viewing.  We're not "no TV", but it's not on all that much, and when it is, we are rarely watching it live and can thus skip commercials.

The relevance of a phrase like "be kind -- rewind."  in the media sense might be lost on these bambini, but it's actually full of virtue -- those of self-control and respect for others.  Its succinct delivery might just get through to them.  Mama can only hope, anyway...

cool as a cucumber

The first yield from our lovingly constructed and tended backyard garden: a wee little radish -- ruby red and charming enough sliced and dressed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar to merit not one but *two* enthusiastic tastes from the elder lad followed by -- get this -- a declaration that radishes are his favorite vegetable.  (Nevermind that the competition for this title was not fierce.)

After this he went on to eat "ten or so" black seedless grapes (no exaggerating this time).  Heretofore, he has eschewed fresh fruit in favor of either dried fruit or fruit juice.  Suffice it to say that Mama is stupefied by his enthusiastic consumption of these vittles (but I tried to play it as cool as I could).

The black seedless grapes selected by the younger lad are, by the way, quite a sensation around here.  Everyone is raving over them.  Granted, Mama isn't too keen on the juice stains appearing all over everything.  I'll have to resort to my stain fighting tactics.  But if it means the elder lad is eating fresh fruits and vegetables, I am willing to deal with the aftermath...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

small world

On a recent trip to Super Target for yet another prescription (when I was still ailing with that wretched sinus infection -- I ended up with several) and various other sundries, I had all three bambini along.  Generally speaking, the bambini are pretty good on shopping trips.  They have their moments -- but don't we all?

On this particular trip, the lads were in the "brother cart" -- one of those with an attachment that allows for two children to sit.  The lads think these carts are great fun.  I tend to crash into things trying to maneuver the behemoths around the store.  But, thought I, if it's one way of making the experience at the store more pleasant for them, pretending as they do that it's a firetruck or some such vehicle, I'll give it a go.

As it turned out, the charm of the brother cart wore off before we were finished in the store, and the situation was deteriorating.  I realized with great consternation that one of the things left on my list was on an aisle I'd already been down twice before on this trip.  As I made my way back there and turned the corner, it became apparent that there was someone standing right in front of that which would complete my list.  Then I heard, "Bonnie?"

It was our longtime family friend, the mother of the family with whom we'd so often do Thanksgiving and Easter and family birthdays and innumerable everyday get-togethers (her daughter is the one who'd receive "the Bonnie Box.").   She lives an hour away in my small hometown and has known me practically my entire life.  She happened to be in "the big city" (such as it is) gathering provisions for a trip to visit family several states away.

Running into someone I know isn't that unusual.  Running into someone from my hometown isn't unheard of, but it doesn't happen very often.  Running into someone who is practically family, in this case, was a Godsend.  We conversed briefly, but she -- the mother of four herself and now grandmother of six -- could see that the window was closing, so to speak.  We acknowledged this.  "I'm going to give you a hug anyway," she said, and did.  We said our farewells, and the brother cart trudged on.

The encouragement and renewal in her hug stayed with me the rest of the day -- and beyond.  Sometimes one just needs a hug.  Coming from a maternal-type figure like she is to me, so much the better.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

new species discovered

This just in: word of a rare species of blue tiger, aptly-named "Inga Binga."  According to the three-year-old zoologist credited with the discovery, the name is "easy to say:  INGA.  BINGA.  Yes. That's how it goes."   This newly-identified species is not to be confused with the inga binga monkey.  "It's green," he says.

in the routine (or not)

By experience I have learned the importance of having a daily routine.  Without one, we are "cooked", as my college piano professor would say (except he meant it when he would hear me floundering through the first few outings on a piece of freshly-memorized repertoire).   I don't mean a rigid schedule, because life doesn't work that way.  Flexibility is a vital skill to cultivate.

Having a routine gives everyone a sense of security in knowing what's coming next and what to expect.  We're not beholden to it, but I find everyone (including Mama) fares far better when we work within the general framework of the routine (even on the weekends).  Ours includes a sequence of getting-ready-in-the-morning events and planning activities and things that need to get done for the mornings when we're all a little fresher. Of primary importance to our routine is the midday lunch and siesta.  We also have a bedtime routine including pajamas, the dispensing of vitamins and allergy medicine, books, snuggling, and prayers.

We're a little off our routine.    When siesta time doesn't happen as usual for whatever reason, this spells trouble later in the day and at bedtime.  The lads rarely nap anymore, but the lass does, and we all settle down and read books together for a while.

Since we're running a marathon here and not just sprinting, it's vital for us to stick with the ebb and flow of activity and rest in order to not just make it through the day, but really make the most of the gift each day is. (Though sometimes just making it through the day is an accomplishment.)

Here's hoping we're back on our routine in short order.  That's what I'm working toward...

Monday, May 10, 2010

a slight exaggeration (maybe)

My elder lad seems to be developing a penchant for hyperbole, a favorite literary device of mine: "this cookie is like 10 weeks old.  I'm going to throw it out."  (it *might* have been three days old, but quibbling over such details can be an exercise in futility)   He also thought the pasta that spilled all over the pantry floor in the course of a game of "store" was "something like 10 weeks old" and likewise needed to go. 

For him, it's "10 weeks".  For me, it's the number 45   As in, "I find myself with an unexpected, unspoken-for parcel of time of unknown length.  I can think of 45 things that need to get done in that time, but don't know where to start.  Maybe some chocolate will help me decide."   

Sunday, May 09, 2010

on Mother's Day

Growing up I often thought I'd have four or five children -- and, like so many girls, I had names picked out from early on.  None of my actual children have any of those names.  And that's OK.  Like so many other ideas my seventh-grade self had, things haven't worked out exactly as I thought they would.

This mothering business has been uniquely and immensely challenging for me, and I know it will remain so for a long time to come.  It isn't as I envisioned before I actually became a mom.  It is both better and far more difficult than I could've guessed.  Sometimes time passes so quickly that I have no idea where it goes -- it's a blur of Mack trucks, dishes, diapers, Legos, laundry, books, meltdowns, tickle fests, baby dolls, snacks, silliness, sniffles, messes, tears, and laughter.

But here's the thing: with my beloved, these children entrusted to our care are pivotal to our path to heaven.  The way we respond to Christ present in each of these children (as well as in each other and those around us) is the stuff of this life -- the main point. 

I once heard in a homily a story of some brick layers.  One saw his work as that of just piling up one brick after another day after day.  Another was spreading mortar and laying bricks with a similar attitude.  Their colleague, on the other hand, doing the same rote tasks, knew that he was building a cathedral.

It is easy for me lose sight of the forest for the trees, but then by some miracle I'm blessed with the awareness that in fact I'm here to help these children become the person God calls each of them to be, so that when the time comes for them to discern his will for their lives, they will be equipped to do that. 

Whatever my shortcomings as a person and mother -- and there are many -- I pray God will make up the difference between what I can offer to my children and what they need at any given moment.  By his grace, they will draw upon the lessons of their childhood to become true heirs and willing servants of God and neighbor, knowing without question of their mother's love for them.

Friday, May 07, 2010


At bedtime I was the happy recipient of a big smooch planted on my cheek by the younger lad.  "That's leftover from last week," he said.  "I didn't use it, so I gave it to you."

Thursday, May 06, 2010

time for tea

We got all gussied up this afternoon and went to a tea party in the elder lad's preschool classroom.  His teacher worked so hard to put together and help her students present a lovely tribute to their mamas. 

He's been so excited about this special event. This morning he whispered to me that today he'd be able to give me the card he'd been working on.  When the younger lad, lass, and I arrived at the classroom, all the students were seated and most of their mamas were already there.  When my lad saw us come into the room, he beamed and gestured for us to come sit with him. 

There's a sweet picture of him signing "I love you," a potted plant (in a neat vessel he and his schoolmates made of concrete and peat moss), the card, and -- in the hallway of his school, a picture he drew of me in a purple skirt (which I do have but hardly ever wear).  The caption reads "My mom is special because... she loves me."

That I do. 

That he knows this means the world to me.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

wonders never cease

My diminutive but spunky (some might say fiesty) maternal grandmother Fran would be 96 today.  Lately my younger lad has been singing little ditties, some with words, others just improvised melodies, as he goes about his doings.  In this way, he reminds me of the little badger Frances of the Frances books.  Sunny little fellow that he is, I think my grandmother Fran would revel in him just as much as the rest of us (and I bet she does from her vantage point in heaven).  He'd probably find her equally delightful.

Speaking of spunky, the multitude of prayers being offered for my friend paralyzed in late January by complications of bacterial meningitis are being answered!  In March she relocated out of state to a hospital devoted to spinal cord injury patients.  Since her arrival there, she has weaned off the ventilator, can move both arms (which means she will one day be able to hold her baby boy, who is growing steadily and may soon get to leave the NICU for home), and can wiggle her fingers.  Her husband, daughter (who shares a birthday with my elder lad, remember), and two-and-a-half year old son visited her this past weekend.  She's been able to speak to her family by phone and is now learning such skills as how to use a computer via voice recognition.  We continue to pray for complete restoration of her faculties and a reunion with her family very soon.  As evidenced by these hopeful strides, truly wonders never cease.

Monday, May 03, 2010

tough questions

This one posed by the elder lad caught us (more than) a little off guard: "What's cancer?"

My first internal reaction was Where did that come from?  Mercifully, this is not something with which we are contending presently such that we would even be discussing the topic.  When we asked him where he'd heard about it, he didn't answer.  I hope our simple explanation that cancer is a disease that sometimes can and sometimes can't be cured was satisfactory to him.

On the heels of that initial response, my thoughts turned to those families -- including very young children -- for whom cancer and other life-threatening and altering diseases are a defining reality of their daily lives.  Our health is such an precious gift. 

So for these families, I pray God's mercy be upon them.  If it be his will, may those afflicted with such maladies be healed.  And whatever his will, may his grace infuse every aspect of suffering experienced by those touched by disease of any kind -- those going through it themselves and the people who love and care for them.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Our family has an interest in classic cars, so it came as no surprise (but was still funny) when the lads opened up a couple of "vintage" shop manuals and told me "Mom!  There's the master cylinder!"

Do I know what a master cylinder is?  Nope.  But I don't need to, seeing as how I live with these gearheads.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

clearing the decks

I am by no means a neat freak.  I'm actually a pretty skilled architect of stacks.  I've made it a crusade of mine, though, to rise above the temptation to put things into stacks to deal with "later" and instead process them as they come in.  This applies to such things as mail and schoolwork and hasn't filtered down to all the areas of my realm (like closets).

I loves me a nice, clear, clean counter top.  This is not to say, however, that they are always free of clutter, as they tend to attract such matter. When the counter tops fill up with stuff, I get kinda antsy.  As it stands today, the counters need some lovin'.  They're not at their best after this past week.  (They're not alone in that regard.)

This waffling back and forth between letting things pile up (in the closet, for example) and having a (next to) zero-tolerance policy on counter top clutter is a fairly recent phenomenon and remains a mystery to me about myself.  But then again, I do eventually reach a point when I will tackle the closet and reign in the mess.  It's just less of an ongoing maintenance process like the one I employ on the counter tops.

There's something cathartic about clearing the decks.  I'll try not to let the compulsion get out of hand...
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