Sunday, October 31, 2010

family treasure

For sure, the best part of Halloween in my mind is celebrating my beloved's grandmother's 80th birthday.  I could do without the goblins and definitely without the overabundance of sugary foodstuffs everywhere that sends everyone bouncing off the walls (for a short while, that is, before the inevitable blood sugar crash), but I'm all for treating Grandma to any and all manner of festivities and merriment. 

From our first meeting, Grandma has shown me unfailing kindness.  She is an inspiration to me every day as I go about the business of caring for my young family.  She's been where I am now.  Whenever I wonder how I can possibly manage to do this job, I think of the times I've heard Grandma's response to remarks to that effect with regard to how she did it.  "You just do," she always says.   

And she prays -- a lot.  Her Catholic faith is the cornerstone of her life.
Grandma's life's work has been focused on caring for her eight children, their children, and several friends who've become close like family.   She is ever gracious, quick to offer a reassuring or positive word, and obviously delights in the antics of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

With a smile as radiant as the sun and a lifetime of wisdom to share, Grandma is truly a family treasure.  I hope she knows how deeply cherished and loved she is. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

pizza night

 We are homemade pizza aficionados here. The bambini do most of the work.


 Aerating the dough.

quality control

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
(It's a good way to blow off some steam after school, this pizza dough kneading business.)

Dinner is served!

Monday, October 25, 2010

books for pun'kins

When someone floated the idea of going to a pumpkin patch a few years ago, my internal response was something like "why would I want to do that?!"  This kinda prissy, allergy-beleaguered mama had no interest in tromping around in a probably wet, muddy field sniffing pumpkins and mingling with livestock at a petting zoo.  No thanks.

We went anyway.  And it was so fun.  We go every year now.  The lads love climbing all over the stacks of pumpkins and examining each variety for its idiosyncrasies.  The elder lad -- to all our surprise -- likes to take his grandfather through the dimly-lit maze as many times as possible.  There are rabbits to feed, horses to ride, guinea hens to laugh at, and a veritable cornucopia of pumpkins, squash, and gourds, among them cucerbits, a word so cute when pronounced by a toddler.

Of course I try to find books to accompany most any of our present day circumstances, and this topic is no exception.  There are lots and lots of books of a pumpkin nature out there, some of which are much better than others based on my own subjective scale.

While it may be too late to request these books at the library in time for Halloween, here are some of our favorite books about pumpkins ...

Rollicking, rhyming The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by S.D. Schindler, is my default pumpkin book.  Two boys and their sister (I can't help grafting my lads and 21-month-old lass onto these characters) discover an enormous pumpkin. In spite of their sister's warning to leave it alone, they cut it loose from its vine, which sets off a series of comedically catastrophic (but ultimately tasty) events for the family members in the pumpkin's path.  (No children or pumpkins are hurt in the course of this book.)   Kevin Lewis authored a few other favorites of ours, including My Truck is Stuck!, Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, and The Lot at The End of My Block.

When a man's favorite field goes up for sale, he sells nearly everything he has in order to buy and preserve it from development in Pumpkins: A Story for A Field by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Barry Root.  He buys a packet of pumpkin seeds, plants them, and lets nature take its course.  At harvest time, he utilizes several modes of transportation (including a flying carpet) to ship the pumpkins worldwide and share with those unfamiliar with pumpkins some fun ideas for how to use the orange beauties.  Devoted to keeping the field free of "improvements", his pumpkin-aided mission has an obvious environmental message, but also one about greed (or lack thereof).  When it's time to plant pumpkins again and anticipate another handsome profit, the man instead gives the seeds away, in the hope that another field someplace else might benefit from the same care given by a similarly-minded person.

The Very Best Pumpkin, written by Marc Kimball Moulton, is a very sweet story.  Peter lives on a farm with his Mimi and Papa (which is what our bambini call my parents, by the way).  They grow strawberries, corn, and pumpkins.  Peter notices a vine trailing off on its own, and takes special care of the pumpkin at its end.  When the family opens their pumpkin patch up to visitors, he helps lots of pumpkins find the right homes, but he saves his special pumpkin.  One day a girl arrives with her family to pick a pumpkin.  They happen to be the new neighbors to Peter and his grandparents, having moved in over the summer.  The girl had spent the summer by herself reading and watching Peter tending the special pumpkin.  She thinks he didn't notice her, but he did, and he gives the pumpkin to her.  This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.   Karen Hillard Good's illustrations are simply charming, reminiscent of American artist Mary Englebreit, but not quite as bright. 

Margaret McNamara's How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? is a fun way to introduce or reinforce the mathematical concept of estimation (not one of my sharper skills).  The smallest boy in class is always last in line because his teacher lines them up tallest to smallest.  When the teacher gives the class an assignment to estimate the number of seeds in three pumpkins, one small, one medium, and one large, the lad is happily surprised at the results.  Illustrations are by G. Brian Karas, whose work appears in other favorites of ours including On Earth, Atlantic, The Class Artist, The Village Garage (all of which he wrote and illustrated), My Crayons Talk written by Patricia Hubbard, and Oh No, Gotta Go!, one of several bilingual books written by Susan Middleton Elya.

We've yet to make our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, but there's still time.  And these books (even Runaway Pumpkin) don't have to be put away after Halloween.  In fact, the less Halloween-y the pumpkin books, the better in my mind.  I'm not such a fan of the "holiday".  Were it not my beloved's dear and lovely grandmother's birthday, I might just opt to skip the observance all together (killjoy that I am).  The family  parlays the Halloween festivities into birthday celebrations for her, which has been a lot of fun.  The bambini are cooking up some creative and appropriate costumes for her 80th birthday this year.

With these books in our stash, this time of year is festive and fun for us and our little pun'kins.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

home sweet home

The kindergartners in one of the classes at the elementary school where my beloved's mother teaches third grade are apparently studying transportation.  On one bulletin board, black construction paper cutouts of VW Beetle-shaped cars are affixed to pages that say "my car is going..."  Each child finished the sentence and drew a picture to match.  A few of the cars were going to McDonald's or outer space or someplace equally exciting.  Six of them, however, were going "home."

The centers in our elder lad's kindergarten classroom have a Halloween theme to them, but their pretend play center is called "home sweet home." 

As the heart of this home, I pray that my loved ones -- the ones who spend many of their waking hours away from home (at least on weekdays), those who are here with me all the sometimes live-long day, and those who visit for a little or a long while -- may find this place to be one of refuge, peace, and joy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

young squire

The 1996 movie That Thing You Do! is one of my favorites. I could probably recite the entire thing. It's the story of a one-hit wonder band from the 1960s comprised of four clean cut, fresh faced young men. Their manager is portrayed by Tom Hanks (who also wrote the movie). He sees to it that they project an image of being "nice boys" (except maybe for the drummer, who is probably actually the nicest guy of them all).

Once they've made it big with their one hit, they're flown out to the west coast for some publicity maneuvers and recording. The porter at the hotel addresses them as "young squires." He treats them with respect and civility, in a way revealing his expectation of their behavior in return as living up to a certain standard.

My father addresses our lads "young squires," as does my beloved now. It's an appeal to the lads' love of a challenge and their budding understanding of character, integrity, and virtues. It has a profound and positive effect on the lads. They want to be young squires.

As we endeavor to raise these lads to be the men Christ calls each of them to be, many fine examples of honorable men to whom they can look for guidance in the family around them, family friends, and the saints help pave the way. How richly blessed the lads are for such men in their lives. I am humbly grateful for them myself.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Elder lad, throwing a nickel in a wishing well on a solo outing with his grandparents:
"I wish my brother would be a good brother to me.
I wish my sister would be a good sister to me.
I wish my sissy would be a good sissy to me.
And I wish I would be a good brother to all those guys."

Younger lad, from the backseat of the same grandparents' car as they left our house en route to the zoo:
"Mama looks so tiny!"
(I'm not tiny -- I was just far away from him by then as I stood on the driveway and waved good-bye.)

Lass, in reference to a scrape on her shin from a few weeks ago that healed quickly but has left a little scar:
"Boo boo healing.  So happy."

The raven-haired lass is finding her voice and adding a delightful dimension of babbles and coos to the conversation -- when she can get a word in edgewise.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

all star

These brown Converse All Stars are on their third child.  Don't they look nice with pink monkey jammies?  They're a little faded from lots of washing, but that gives them a kind of character you just can't get fresh out of the shoe box from Zappos.  I remember thinking how huge they looked on the elder lad's foot when he first wore them as a toddler.  I'm not sure they'll hold up for the fourth child, as they are starting to come apart in a few places, but we'll sure try.  Her brothers and sister would all get a kick out of seeing her wear them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

easier said than done

I know where I stand with my three-year-old.  One minute, I'm a "good mom," and the next I'm the opposite.

This valuation depends upon his perception of my cooperation with his desires, so if I dole out yet another yogurt refill or get that toy down off the high shelf (that was put there for a reason) or snuggle him close, I'm a "good mom."  If  I attempt to enforce the "eat what you take" rule or deny access to some plaything that has gotten him in trouble before, I'm a "bad mom."

These designations confound me, as we don't judge our children or anyone else as "bad."   We teach our children that God creates us all good, but we each sometimes make bad choices.  

When my lad renders these judgments I thank him for the positive ones and ask him to rephrase the disparaging ones.  Under no circumstances do whining or insults result in the fussed-for outcome.  This goes for all of us.

He's not really out to get me.  He's three.  Three-year-olds can be like that.  Whenever possible I try to use humor to deflect the negativity and get us to a place of resolution.  For this child especially, this approach is the most effective.  It is, however, easier said than done.

I haven't felt much like laughing things off of late.  I get pretty tired of the fussing, and I let that be known (often in a fussy voice of my own).  Usually, though, fussiness answered with fussiness only exacerbates the problem. 

My younger lad has a delightful sense of humor, vast imagination, sensitive heart, great concern for others, and a fun-loving spirit.  He also has a way with words, an admirable way of expressing himself that I wish to encourage and guide.  I am interested in his thoughts and feelings, but I expect him to express them respectfully. 

We all have our moments of brilliance and those where we know we didn't quite make the grade.  My better mothering moments are marked by humor, gentleness, and a certain perspective that serves as a reminder that I am for whatever reason the adult here, the one who has the final say in spite of whatever protests may come. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

tastes like chicken

In a feeble attempt to manage the morning to-do list, I try to prepare tonight for tomorrow.  One of the line items is packing lunches for my beloved and elder lad.  I set the lunchboxes out, pack the non-perishables, and group the perishables on the eye-level shelf in the fridge for fast retrieval in the morning when everyone is up too early and (ahem) imploring me for bagels/pancakes/applesauce muffins and yogurt.

My girl beat me to the task this time.  She likes to rummage through the cabinet where I keep the backpacks and lunchboxes and load 'em up (kind of like I do).  I opened up her brother's lunch box to start gathering things up, and inside I found her other brother's flip flops.  So that's where they were...

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Grannie may have gone home, but her unique expressions are a part of my vernacular:
  • When one or several of the bambini are getting a bit unruly, he/she/they are my yokel dokels. 
  • We don't have a designated cleaning day here.  We do the housework in dribs and drabs.  
  • Often Sometimes we give it a lick and a promise.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gran-tastic week

It's always so difficult to say good-bye.  We are not big on long good-byes.  Just a hug, kiss, promise to stay in touch, and "we go," as Grannie says.  Prolonging the farewell only makes it more difficult.

This was our way of doing things on the many airport runs when I'd fly to Chicago on my own to visit Grannie.  She'd usually drop me off at the curb and be on her way.  It wasn't that she was ready to be rid of me or I of her -- it was just that it was time to go. 

The visits always pass too quickly, which is a blessing really, since that means we enjoy them so well we hardly notice the passage of our time together until it has ended.  So it has been this week Grannie has spent with us.  It seems like she just got here, and now she is headed home. 

I miss her already.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Gran-tastic conversations

Our Gran-tastic week is drawing to a close. Grannie will fly home to Chicago tomorrow morning.

We've had so many conversations about everything from present-day challenges to great-great-grandparents. It's been wonderful having her here. She's been a delightful guest and welcome presence in our little family. I'm going to miss her, and not just for her laundry-folding, dinner-salvaging help.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this time with Grannie, and for all the many conversations we've had not only during this visit, but throughout a lifetime of visits. For my Grannie and the wisdom she continues to impart, I am ever grateful.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gran-tastic family tree

Grannie has a charm bracelet with baubles and silhouettes for each of her grandchildren and now great-grandchildren.  Today is her birthday, so we gave her a girl's head silhouette charm for the bracelet with the raven-haired lass's name engraved upon it, as we have done previously with charms bearing the names of our lads and other lass.

As Grannie showed the elder lad the bracelet this evening, she named each of her littlest loved ones and explained their relation to him.  While he has met most of them once or twice, he doesn't know them in the sense that he could name their favorite colors or interests.  Still, they are his family, and that's been one of the biggest reasons I'm so honored Grannie has come to spend this week with us.  As the week has progressed, each of the bambini has come to know Grannie better, and vice versa.

The lad and his siblings are richly blessed to have lots of family close by with whom they are developing relationships.  We don't get to see our Chicago family very much, so any opportunity is one to be seized and savored.  There is much my beloved and bambini can understand about me by knowing the family that has nurtured me throughout my life -- my Grannie in a particular way, since she and I have built such a special relationship over the many years of visits and time we've spent together. 

The roots run deep and wide in our family.  There are many examples of faith-filled, honorable, hard-working people the bambini can look to on *both* sides of their family tree.  By the grace of God, we can see his goodness in the faces of our family members both near and far away, and feel his love in the many ways they care for us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gran-tastic geography

puzzle building with Grannie and geography lesson all in one

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gran-tastic guest

My first lessons in hospitality came from my Grannie.  Every time we'd stay with her, we could tell she had gone to great lengths to prepare for our visit and had thought of many ways to make our stay comfortable.

From the spread of food awaiting our arrival, to the way she prepared our sleeping quarters with fresh bedding and space to unpack our things, to the deference she gave to our preferences when it came to our daily routines or comfort level with certain activities, and most of all the time she spent conversing with and listening to us, she made us feel welcome.  We knew she was glad we were there.

I hope Grannie knows how happy I am that she is here.  I didn't roll out the red carpet for her.  In fact, she's been folding laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, and making dinner for us -- and she's our guest!  But (she would protest), she's family, and that's what family does.

These past few mornings we've sat at the kitchen table, she holding the raven-haired lass and I refilling yogurt cups, each of us with our cup of coffee, just visiting.  It's been the logical progression from the days when I'd stay with her and come out in the morning to the sound of WGN on the radio, her puttering around fixing breakfast and reading the newspaper.  Now she's helping prepare food for her great-grandchildren, keep our household humming, and letting us love on her in the way we are able to at this moment.

She's both a gracious hostess and a delightful guest.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gran-tastic faith

Every trip to Chicago has included at least one trip to Mass. Going with my Grannie is always an honor, an outing I savor.

Hailing from a small town where Catholics are a minority, visiting my family in Chicago and going to Mass with them was a major source of encouragement for and reinforcement of my own faith. I was always astounded by the sheer number of people at Mass. Compared with our little parish, Grannie's was humongous. It was my first glimpse at the universal Church.

The number of Masses Grannie's parish would offer over the Christmas holidays in order to accommodate all those wishing to attend boggled my mind. Many Christmas Eves I'd go to (a usually very crowded) Mass with my cousins, the four of us girls (this was before my sister and boy cousins were born) in our crinkly Christmas dresses. We'd come home to a Christmas Eve feast and all manner of merriment.

We've spent many Christmases in Chicago, and they've come to celebrate Easter with us a few times. We've gone there and they've come here for many sacramental occasions including baptisms, first communions, confirmations, and weddings. The celebrations afterward are always festive.

Such happy occasions have been largely due to living the liturgical year, celebrating the sacraments together, and sharing a common faith.

Grannie's faith has long been a source of inspiration to me. As I reflect upon the events of her life, some very joyful and some filled with sorrow, I realize that it is her faith that carries her through them. So it is for me too, God willing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gran-tastic help

Grannie's lake house has been the family getaway for a good long time now.  We'd pack as many as 25 people in the four-bedroom cottage for the Fourth of July festivities.  What fun that was.   All the adults pitched in to help in various ways -- cooking, cleaning, taking people out on the boat, playing with kids, attending to household fix-it needs, etc.

While there were no boat rides this weekend and we didn't have 25 people staying under our roof, the same "many hands make light work" principle applied.   Among other things, my beloved manned the grill.  My dad put himself on KP.  Last night my sister made the breakfast casserole for this morning's brunch.  My mom picked up last minute groceries.  Grannie held the raven-haired lass as much as the wee one would allow her to before returning to me for some resetting.  Several of us chased after bambini on tricycles. 

As Grannie is at the lake, we might have been the hosts, but (at least we hope) everyone's at home here.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Gran-tastic fun

From a young age I spent a lot of time in Chicago.  As a family we'd visit a few times a year.  Most summer visits we'd make the trip together, but then my parents would return home and I'd stay a while longer with Grannie. My grandfather had died when I was five, so it was just Grannie and me for sometimes a couple of weeks, usually about three weeks, but a few times as long as five or six weeks.

(When I was in college I spent an entire summer with her while I was an intern in the development department of Lyric Opera of Chicago.)

My aunties always had great ideas for fun things to do when I'd be in for an extended visit.  One of my aunties has three daughters around my age, and she was pretty hip to the fun things to do in the area.  My other two aunties didn't have children when I was growing up; at the time they were glamorous single working gals who commuted by train to downtown Chicago.  Grannie too always went out of her way to make sure I had a good time.  My aunties would take my cousins and to the pool.  I took art and drama classes one summer.    I'd go with my cousins to their friends' houses.  Grannie would take me shopping and to the movies, and we'd always plan at least one trip downtown on the train.  We spent a lot of time at her lake cottage, too.

It was fun just being there among them, even if we weren't off doing something or going someplace. 

With one auntie in town this weekend along with her five-year-old son and Grannie, our activities have largely revolved around making things fun for the kids.  Our cousin (one of many in our family) and my lads are having a rollicking good time being silly together, building with Legos, and playing outside in the beautiful weather.  This afternoon we took them to a local playground with lots of things to climb on, plenty of swings for kids of all ages, and a massive climbing structure with several slides spiraling and bumping riders to the ground.

Seeing the young cousins having fun together reminds me of the fun I had with my cousins growing up.  We might not have been quite as rowdy as these boys have gotten at times, but we made our own mischief all the same.  Such fun times, just being together...

Friday, October 08, 2010

Gran-tastic welcome

The 750 mile drive to Chicago always left us hungry, even if we'd just stopped an hour or two before that for one last tank of gas and a snack. Grannie would be waiting for us, no matter how wee the hour of our arrival.

She would've been to the Jewel that morning and would offer us something to eat from her fully-stocked fridge.  The welcome snack was usually just lunch meats -- and brick cheese. Oh how we love brick cheese. We've been known to bring home whole bricks of it as edible souvenirs, since it's not available in our area. After the initial round of hugs, we'd make some sandwiches and visit (and eat brick cheese).

When Grannie arrived with my aunt and cousin this afternoon, the sandwich fixins were set out (sans brick cheese). After they assembled their sustenance, we sat around the kitchen table and visited.

No artful presentation -- just help yourself.  We're so glad you're here.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


We are making ready for some special visitors due to arrive tomorrow.  My grandmother, aunt, and cousin are coming from Chicago for the weekend.  Grannie will stay with us next week as well.  I am so excited to see them and grateful she is coming to visit us for the week.

In a way, it's a role reversal.  I've been traveling to Chicago to stay with Grannie and visit family my entire life.  They've traveled to see us here, too.  Traveling these days is a lot more challenging than it was when it was just me to pack up and get there.  I've talked about that before.  Now Grannie is coming to me (as she has before). 

Over the next week, I hope to post some memories I have of the times I've spent with Grannie and the things I've learned from her.  As fun as it is to reminisce, however, it's more important to maximize the time I have her here under my roof.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

brotherly love

a little something for his younger brother, should the latter be missin' his big bro during the school day, hastily scrawled before heading out the door...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

baking up memories, one double batch at a time

From the time my five-year-old elder lad was a wee babe, I've been cooking and baking with him.  At first he loved watching the mixer churn up cookie batter (from a safe distance, of course, in my arms).  Now he mans the mixer most of the time (with close supervision, of course).  As his siblings have grown, they've pulled their own chairs up to the counter to bake with us.

There are all manner of great outcomes from baking with one's bambini, among them tasty vittles, an opportunity to teach about nutrition in a fun way, and even mathematical and scientific lessons right there for the taking.

Baking with bambini is not for the faint of heart, however.  When the adult baker is at peace with the possibility of messes, ready to mediate squabbles over whose turn it is to run the mixer or scrape the bowl, and prepared to answer pleas for "just one chocolate chip", things tend to turn out much better overall, as the inevitable minor mishaps aren't fuel for frustration that might lead to snappish tones of voice or the like.

Here's how this morning's cookie baking scene went down.  It's a school day, so the elder lad wasn't in on the action. 

The 20-month-old lass is tired and ready for a nap at 10am, but I am able to rouse her interest in cookies -- except she wants them *right now*.  The younger lad is rarin' to go mix up batter but balks at the idea of washing his hands.  (Why they do this baffles me, as they *love* to play in the water.)  Mama holds her ground on the hand washing, asserting no mixing is to be done until hands are clean.  The nine week old younger lass is rousing from a catnap and wants to nurse.  This holds up things in the batter-making process somewhat, but that's alright.

Hands are clean, so I scramble to queue up ingredients in an effort to simplify the process.  That in and of itself is one of the mightiest challenges of the entire undertaking.

Butter is churning in the mixer under the younger lad's watchful eye.  The lass is happily scooping and spilling the mixture of dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, edging out only a tiny amount of the mixture onto the counter.  She's angling for a chocolate chip, though, each time her brother asks for one.  "It's not time for those, yet," I tell them, and they register their discontent. 

Finally the moment has arrived to add the chocolate chips.  They each get one (and so do I).  When it's time to add the dry ingredients, the lass is not so willing to give up her bowl.  She will, however, if she can use the mixer, too, but this idea is a "thumbs down" according to her brother (even though he's had use of the mixer all this time). She dumps in her contribution, and because we are making a double batch, the batter begins to climb over the beater.

The lad is placated by the idea of him scooping the dough out of the bowl and plopping it onto the cookie sheets.  As I put the first four scoops in the four corners of the cookie sheet to hold down the parchment paper, he says the cookies are like magnets.  He and his sister each take turns helping me dole out the dough onto the cookie sheets, which then go into the oven.  The younger lass is climbing up my shoulder from the confines of my left arm.  This cookie baking business has lost its luster for her.

The waiting begins, and if not for the prospect of a banana and some yogurt (and some other "growing food"), I might've had mutiny from the little ones who want cookies for lunch.

Nutritional requirements met, the lass gets to try one of the cookies from the first tray out of the oven.  She wants another.   The lad has deferred cookie gratification until after his brief nap, as the thought of finishing his lunch at that time did not suit him.

Why do I put myself through such sometimes harrowing moments baking with my bambini?  Well, for one thing, I want cookies just that much.  But more than that, in this venture together we cultivate patience in the Mama, an understanding of and respect for the mixer's machinery in the bambini, consideration for those not present who might want cookies too; build valuable kitchen skills that will serve the bambini their entire lives; and have home baked treats to show for our efforts. 

Most of the time, baking with the bambini is a fun way to spend a chunk of time together.  The times when things get dicey have refined my multitasking and quick-thinking skills.  As much time as we spend together in the kitchen, I pray the memories we are making are happy ones for the bambini.  Through the lens of hindsight and with a healthy dose of humor, our family lore is being baked one batch at a time.

Now on to clean up the mess...

Monday, October 04, 2010

books for armchair travelers

Our bambini have a growing collection of postcards they've received from their aunt and uncle's travels abroad.  It's been fun to look up the locales on the map and see pictures from their trips.  From the British Isles to the land of Ephesus where the Blessed Virgin Mary lived her final days, it's safe to say they've traveled "hither and yon."

We haven't traveled like that, but some of our favorite children's books (mine, anyway) have been about places far away:

Adele and Simon (by Barbara McClintock) live in early twentieth century Paris.   Every day Adele collects her little brother Simon from what is probably similar to preschool here, and they walk home together by way of the park, art museum, and patisserie (among other stops).  Simon loses his belongings along the way, which elicits some big sisterly chiding from Adele, who warns of what Mama will say to Simon when he gets home.  McClintock's illustrations are beautifully rendered in a vintage style evocative of the time period in watercolor and delicate drawing.  We like to look for the lost items in the pictures.  In Adele and Simon in America, the two visit their aunt living in New York.  The three of them travel across the still-growing United States, Simon losing his things along the way but Aunt Cecile ready to recollect them.  Maps in both books show their trails, not unlike the points we're plotting on our map here at home of the places our family visit.

Many of the books in Miroslav Sasek's "This Is" series date from the 1960s and 70s, and thus aren't necessarily up-to-the minute accurate (though the recently-published editions have footnotes updating where necessary).  That doesn't matter one bit to me, though, as I am not looking for travel tips here.  What they may lack in guide book accuracy they make up for in the style and fun factors.  Our library only has This Is London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Hong Kong, Texas, and Edinburgh (from whence my paternal grandfather emigrated when he was seven years old), but there are at least that many more and then some, including Ireland, Israel, Greece, New York, San Francisco, and Australia.  Maybe someday...

We also like Ludwig Bemelman's Madeline books, especially Madeline in London, Madeline and The Bad Hat, and Madeline and The Cats of Rome.

From the comfort of our siesta nest we can travel the world with these books and others like them.  Bonjour!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

down home delight

buttermilk biscuits my beloved made from scratch with little helpers,
sweetened with Aunt T's homemade jelly.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

leaving a legacy

When they're grown and on their own...

Will they remember the silly songs I'd make up to give instructions -- or the irritated tone in my voice when instructions I'd given went unheeded?

Will the image of my face in their mind's eyes be one of me smiling at them or frowning?

Will they think of the countless hours happily spent snuggling them either awake or to sleep (and lots of other times, too) -- or the times when they asked me to snuggle them and I was busy doing something else like packing lunches?

If they scrape a knee or cut a finger, will they be able to bandage up themselves up as well as Dr. Mom (or Dad)?

Will they remember all the time we spent playing, reading, coloring, baking, and dancing -- or the times they asked me to do those things with them and I couldn't or wouldn't for whatever reason (cleaning, for example)?

When one of their siblings calls for a chat (here's hoping they'll do that), will they laugh about something funny that was said or seen -- or will they lament together some shortfall of attention or affection?

Will they come to realize by their own experiences that my mistakes and failings were those of a person trying to figure things out and do the best she could at that moment with what she had to work with?

Will they treat themselves and others with kindness, respect, and compassion? 

When they catch the aroma of coffee wafting through the air, will they wonder if the barista is making my favorite beverage?

Will they remember where the chocolate is hidden?

Will they take ownership of the faith they've been given, seeking God's will for their lives?

Lord, I pray you will make up the difference between what my bambini need from me and what I'm able to give them in the moments of their needs.  Please heal the unintended hurts and clear up any confusion I may have inadvertently caused.  Bless them with the peace that only you can give.  Hold each of them close all the days of their lives.


Friday, October 01, 2010

natural consequences

Stalling during the bedtime routine does not delay Lights Out.  Choosing to dilly dally means there is no time left for book reading, something everyone looks forward to.

Haphazard handling of the slicing and dicing of homegrown peppers means fingers en fuego.  Good one, Bon. 

Consideration of one's siblings and their feelings (in the form of inviting them to join the "bug club" on the school playground at day's end) means more fun for everyone.

Prompt response to "it's time to go" (after fair warning, of course) means we get to come back again.
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