Sunday, November 28, 2010

hurry up and wait

Yes, I've started Christmas shopping and am getting in the "holiday spirit," but we haven't put up our Christmas tree yet.  We've deferred that for a couple of weeks to live the season of Advent -- that liturgical season leading up to the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas.   

Our Advent wreath is in a place of prominence (if out of reach and in need of some greenery) and we've begun the family Advent calendar my beloved's grandmother puts together every year.  Each day of Advent we pray for a person, couple, or children in the extended family.  It's a beautiful, long-standing tradition in his family, one in which we "pray with one another... for one another," as she pens on each calendar. We have a calendar for both sides of my beloved's family.

We got out the nativity scene and have stashed tucked the baby Jesus in a drawer until Christmas morning (here's hoping he stays there).  Mary, Joseph, and the donkey are over yonder on the kitchen counter; the wise men and their trusty camel are on the mantel. 

I'm hoping to put together a Jesse Tree, an Advent activity in which ornaments symbolizing events from  Creation through the birth of Christ are hung on a tree branch (or in our case, the ornament tree I received for Christmas last year that has stayed up year round, holding paper bird ornaments for the lass's first birthday party decorations, Easter eggs during that festive season, and an array of bambini hats after that).  I've wanted to do this every year for the past several but haven't gotten all the ornaments together -- and that's still the hang up this year.

As with other celebrations and observances, I'm trying not to get mired down in the minutiae of decorations and details, taking the bambini with me on a confusing, stressful decline.   If we don't get a Jesse Tree together this year, God willing we can work on the ornaments later in preparation for next year.  Advent is already evident in our praying for our loved ones with the aid of the family Advent calendars, lighting the Advent wreath, serving others by our St. Nicholas Day observance, and retelling the nativity story. 

Tuning into the stillness and wonder of the reason for this season is a tall order amidst all the hustle and bustle.  A taller still order is helping our bambini focus on the true meaning of Christmas with so many distractions, temptations, and mixed messages about what's really important.  By rolling out the seasonal decorations incrementally, we hope to deepen the bambini's understanding and, by turns, experience of Christmas.

In some stores it's been Christmas for weeks or even months now.  We're not there yet.  This time before Christmas is one of expectation and hope.  I know what it's like to be a month out from the expected day a baby is due to arrive, wondering if the day will ever come, trusting it will, and using that time to prepare our hearts and minds to receive the gift of God Incarnate at Christmas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

my Peanuts gang

We checked out A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving from the library again this year.  Beyond the lovable absurdity of a Thanksgiving dinner consisting of popcorn, toast, and jelly beans, the lads are loving the personality quirks that define each of the Peanuts kids.  The younger lad gets to giggling each time Marcie calls Peppermint Patty "sir."  The elder lad likes how Peppermint Patty addresses Charlie Brown as "Chuck."  Hearing the bambini's laughter has been my favorite part of watching this classic animated TV show.

I've long been a fan of the Peanuts gang -- Schroeder being my favorite (with his ever-present piano, of course).  Sometimes I like to match up the fictional characters with my real life cast of characters.  No one is an exact match -- except maybe for me.

Who am I?  The teacher, of course.  The abstruse sound of her voice was (according to this) created by a trombone with a plunger as a mute.  I can relate.  O the sheer glee the lads would express during attempts to recreate her mellifluous sounds in the comfort of our own home...

Friday, November 26, 2010

the high road

In every instance of interpersonal struggle for which I've sought advice from my dad, whose birthday we've been celebrating today, he's always told me to "take the high road" -- no matter how the other person chooses to conduct him- or herself.

It's time- and battle-tested advice from a man who treats others with compassion, kindness, sensitivity, and generosity.  He gives others the benefit of the doubt, and he applies his finely-honed analytical skills with gentle precision to sticky situations and other such dicey prospects.

The depth of my gratitude for this man being my father cannot be quantified.  Time and again he has shown me -- and many others -- the gentle, loving face of Christ.  Today and every day I pray he is blessed to experience the love of of Christ reflected in the faces of those my dad encounters.  I know he's looking for Christ in each of us simply by the way he treats us, as though Christ himself were standing in each of our places -- because he is.

I find myself telling my lads to "take the high road" time and again.  Delivered with "as Papa say... take the high road," the young squires often receive the advice with a different kind of openness knowing it's practically coming from their grandfather.

Happy birthday, Dad.  For all you are and all you do to care for all of us, we are so grateful.  I'm trying to navigate the high road.  Thanks for showing me the way...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

my domestic monastery

A new-to-me idea has taken up residence in the forefront of my active thoughts (along with the heap of laundry, discipline or lack thereof, the season of Advent beginning this Sunday, the suddenly shorter length of all the elder lad's pants, self-care or lack thereof, pumpkin roll for Thanksgiving, and random other things).  Those are, obviously, all over the place, but this one is hefty: it's the concept of our homes being domestic monasteries.

Yup.  Monasteries.  Homes with young children being monasteries.  As if. 

I know better than to say I stumbled upon the idea, because truly the Holy Spirit led me to this piece by Fr. Ron Rolheiser in which he describes a monastery following the discipline of the monastic bell and grafts those principles onto home life.  When the bell rings, it signifies the beginning of a new activity, regardless of the person's readiness to undertake that activity because of his or her involvement in some other activity at the moment.  Responding to the bell requires the development of discipline, a stretching of one's heart to allow God's will to prevail over one's own, and a submission to the will of God, whose time it is that we are spending -- not our own.  

The monastery, then, is "a place set apart" -- not just for vowed religious, but for anyone who is trying to use the time God has given each of us in this lifetime for God's glory and according to God's will.  In the home as monastery we are removed from what Rollheiser describes as "the centres of power and social importance" and placed in close proximity to those who are among the mildest of the mild -- i.e. young children (though they don't always seem so mild!). 

Beyond seeing myself as the heart of the home or even striving to create a home sweet home, as an inhabitant of the monastery I am attuned to the sounding of the monastic bell (or bells, as it sometimes seems, sounding simultaneously) so as to be attuned to the voice of God speaking to me through these particular people and circumstances. With each passing day I constantly reminded that my time is not my own -- it is God's, and conforming myself to his will is my primary objective.  He sees fit for me to serve him by caring for this family, right here and right now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

go-to guy

On observing a full and strangely buttery yellow moon as we drove home this evening and not getting a satisfactory response to his inquiry as to why it was so yellow from his mother, the elder lad knew who would know why:

"God. Because He knows everything."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

can o'crayons

I've had this can o'crayons bedecked with stickers (including one scratch 'n' sniff strawberry) since somewhere in the vicinity of second grade.  (The mail truck came much later.)  When they were new they had green wrappers on them.
Those wrappers have since been removed by some little artists who create such masterpieces as these:
They didn't draw trucks in my hands.  (Rainbows, hearts, and flowers were their specialties.)   And I didn't imagine then that someday they'd be used to draw this:
  That'd be the six of us, gathered 'round the family soccer ball... he finally obliged my request.

Friday, November 19, 2010

the eye of the storm

Kind of a tough day here:

The 21-month-old lass is running a low grade fever and has needed extra "Mommy-O" attention.  In the final minutes of dinner preparation, the younger lad took a header off the sofa during a jumping episode (still against house rules) and hit his jaw with a sickening whack on the corner of the coffee table.  He's OK, if a little puffy and sore.  All the emotional residue of a day filled with fussiness converged at the table, when the eldest and youngest bambini had reached their limits and let the stress they felt be known in their respective ways.

Had we not made it to school Mass this morning, I think the course of the day would've been much different.  The graces poured out upon me there sustained me as I tried to manage the rest of the day in a triage situation.

Since the lass had not been able to sleep during siesta time today, both because she fell asleep on the way home from school Mass rather than at siesta time and because she felt so crummy, she hit the hay early even as her three-month-old sister lamented some tummy trouble of her own.  With one lass asleep, I was able to snuggle the elder lad for bedtime prayers, whose snuggling requests are often fulfilled after his sisters have gone to bed.

Truly the grace of God infused this challenge-filled day from beginning to end.  He got us out the door and on the road to Mass at a time when I am often still trying to get myself together (not to mention everyone else).  He held me up as I held both lasses and corralled the younger lad during Mass.  And he kept my head in the game, so to speak, throughout the long day with no pause for resetting myself.  It is for this last gift I am most grateful (though I am for all of them).  It was the difference between me hitting a wall and me having the grace to go on, the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Yes, I know the Grace is there for the asking, even if I'm not at Mass when I ask for it.  Going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist opened the door, though, and helped order my thoughts and heart in such a way as to receive that Grace.

I have wanted to make weekly school Mass part of our regular routine but been daunted by the logistical considerations.  Experiencing the surge of spiritual nourishment from having gone (even if I didn't catch every word of the readings or lose myself in prayer because I was trying to keep the younger lad's truck-vrooming noises in check those last few minutes of Mass) helped confirm the desires my heart has continued to express to put forth every effort to make it to that weekly liturgy.

The elder lad asked if we'd come back to Mass again.  I told him we will.

And now I'll go finish my dinner...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

queen of my castle

"Your majesty,"  he says as he ceremoniously hands me the remote to queue up an after-school episode of Curious George.
I think I might prefer this to being likened to a front end loader...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

music appreciation

Bona fide percussionists perform barefoot.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

in the picture

Photography is a family hobby.  While my beloved has taken the craft to another level after studying its technical and artistic facets, I just snap away on my camera and hope one of the images turns out nicely.  He makes photographs.  I take pictures.

I have a vague understanding of the technicalities of photography, but when I hear such terms as "F-stop," I am inclined to think first of an organ (the musical instrument), rather than how much light my camera is letting in when I take a picture.  Having said that, I have developed a rudimentary understanding of what makes for good photographs such as considering the source and direction of light cast on my subjects while also considering what's in the background of the picture field so as to reduce "noise." 

Sometimes after I post batches of pictures that I've captioned for family and friends to view, reviewers ask me where I am in all the pictures.  I'm behind the camera in most of them, unless I've tried to take a self portrait of me with one, some, or all of the bambini (which happens on occasion if I happen to luck out and have a good hair day, or if I want to show off my cute slingling).

When Grannie was here last month, I was determined to take lots of pictures to document her visit.  We took a few together toward the end of the week, I asked my beloved to take some with me in the picture so we'd have that "multigenerational" thing going.

A few weeks ago we had our family photograph taken for the upcoming parish pictorial directory.  I signed us up to participate not because I wanted to order family photographs (because we can make those -- equally as good or better -- at home for free), but because I wanted the directory that will be coming out soon so I can put names with faces of fellow parishioners.  Having these directories at my disposal when I was new on the scene as the music and liturgy director of another parish was hugely helpful in getting to know people.  In order to get a copy of the directory, we had to have our picture taken.

Coordinating everyone's attire for the photograph wasn't so much of a chore, but getting myself ready to have my photograph taken proved mighty challenging.   Of course I fretted about it way too much.  With little time to primp, I hoped to try to resurrect some of my curling iron skills (not that I ever really had those) to freshen up my limp curls.  This resulted in a tangle of hair and several pointed warnings to not touch the metal part of the curling iron issued to curious lads who rarely see such a gadget in use in our home.

The resulting photograph is decent enough.  It pretty much captures us as we are today, from the skeptical look on the 21-month-old lass's face to my "come as you are" appearance.  I'm sure this will resonate with people who look us up in the directory.  They might not recognize us if I was all coiffed and curled, accustomed as they are to seeing me in a state of quasi-dishevelment. 

Truth be told, I'm usually not too keen on having my picture taken, as I don't really want to have a permanent reminder of looking pale, puffy, tired, and disheveled.  But it occurs to me that this camera-dodging business might have some negative consequences down the road....

Someday when the bambini look through the multitude of photographs we've taken over the years, I want them to have a few with me to go along with the oodles they'll have of themselves and their other family members.  I know they won't be looking for a supermodel (or Super Mommy).  They'll just be looking for their mom.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

my little Macgyver

elder lad: "Mom, where's the Allen wrench?"
me: "I don't know."

him: "That's alright.  I fixed it."
me: "What?"

him: "the coffee table"
me: "How?"

him: "with a rubber band and two twist-ties"

Thursday, November 11, 2010


All it takes is a dinner table rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" by the lass to break the tension at the twilight of a long day.  Lads may be sparring, baby fussy, parents wilting, but hearing her sing that simple tune snaps us all out of our collective funk (at least for the moment).  Next thing we know, we're singing along, charmed by her sweetness, and on to happier topics such as the approaching weekend and the rainbow we saw driving home from school today...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

not Super Mommy

Some well-meaning people when marveling at my posse of children have made the declaration "wow!  You must be Super Mommy!"

(but thanks for the vote of confidence)

Sometimes I lose my temper, I grow weary of caterwauling and shenanigans, and I'm not too keen on the idea of constructing a complicated Lego truck while also trying to manage a toddler who thinks she's as big as her brothers and a baby who'd like some nursing, please.  I would love to be more present in my elder lad's Kindergarten classroom, but I have an obligation to the little ones at home.  I can't be everywhere at once.

I was late to "Muffins with Mom" this morning.  I was behind from the moment I got up this morning, and my timely departure for school was adversely affected.  As I drove I imagined the lad waiting for me, seeing the other moms coming in and hugging their children, and wondering where I was.  I called the school to let them know I was en route (and to please pass that reassurance along to my lad, which they did), but I know that didn't really make up for my tardiness.

Once I got there, he (and the other moms) seemed relieved.  If he was upset that I was late, he did not let on.  Instead, he read me the book he had made for me entitled "My Magnificent Mom" and introduced me (again) and his baby sister to his "school mates".  (The middle two children went to the park with my mother and sister.)  As I looked around the room I spotted a drawing on the wall he'd done of us, his family. I've been asking him for just such a thing.  I think it's part of his "home sweet home" center.  I plan to break up some of the expanse of bare walls around here with it once it comes home.

After school the bambini successfully lobbied to play on the playground.  We do this at least once a week.  It's been a good way for me to meet some of the other moms.  As I stood near the play structure surveying the scene and drifting in and out of the conversation a few moms were having behind me, my eyes landed on the figure of a child lying face down on the ground on the opposite side of the structure not so very far from me, but out of arm's reach.  It was my child -- my younger lad, who had misplaced his foot on a spiraling ladder-type apparatus and fallen about five feet.  He'd been all over that structure lots of times before and is an able climber, so his fall was a sorry surprise to me. He was not injured but understandably shaken.  Of course I rushed right over, as did a friend of mine who'd seen him fall.  She spoke of seeing other children do the same thing before -- not to minimize the incident but to commiserate with me in a way.  After checking him over and hugging him close, we walked back to the car and went home.

I know I can't protect my children from every hurt, be they physical or emotional, though I try my utmost to do so.  I hadn't foreseen such an accident happening or else I wouldn't have let him climb up there.

As these most recent cases in point illustrate, I'm not Super Mommy.  Meeting the needs of these little ones can be an exhausting, emotionally draining endeavor.  I am humbled to be entrusted with their care and honored to give it.  I'm not perfect, but I'm not giving up.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

hunting for wabbits

The brothers are, for the most part, having fun together.  One even went so far as to call the other his "best friend" last night (coming to his brother's defense when Mama was taking the latter to task for some selective listening).

I think they might also fancy themselves Lewis and Clark, as this map shows:

Sunday, November 07, 2010

novel idea

"Fall Back" means an extra hour of sleep, right?   Crazy as the idea sounds in light of all there is to get done around here, I actually went to bed early last night -- after the bambini had as well.  They did it *again* tonight, so I'm going to also.

What a novel idea. 

This  time change is going to catch up with us -- probably around 5am tomorrow...

Saturday, November 06, 2010

time to make the doughnuts

We made doughnuts this morning -- the younger lad, all-things-purple-loving lass, and I.  Not fried doughnuts, because I'm too scared to fry things at home (and too lazy to clean up the mess), but baked

The elder lad eyed the mini Bundt pan with suspicion, asking if he could lop off the fancy part of his doughnut.  Once it was dipped in chocolate, though, he didn't care about the shape.  He ate that one and the better part of two more.   I'm still working on that perplexing vanilla frosting recipe using dry milk, powdered sugar, vanilla, and boiling water.  My taste testers were very gracious to eat the experiment anyway.  Cinnamon sugar paired nicely with the spices in the cake batter.

'Twas a fun start on a frosty morning.

Friday, November 05, 2010

minty fresh

younger lad: "what's that good smell?"
(this is a welcome change.)

me: "What kind of smell?"

him: "kind-of minty."

me: "I just used some minty-smelling lip gloss."

him: "I like the smell of your lip floss."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

internal memo

Dear Bonnie,

I see you literally going in circles, overwhelmed by the (not so) little things here and there and everywhere, cluttered counter tops, and the ever-growing mountain of clean laundry awaiting proper stowage, unsure where to start and much preferring to stand here at the computer and write or play the piano or -- heaven forbid -- go to sleep.

Just pick up the nearest thing out of place and put it where it goes.  Continue likewise for as long or as little time you have before the next feeding, diaper change, or fisticuffs between brothers.

Remember that this season of your life is about being present to the little ones in your midst -- obliging when they bring you a book (or three) to read, building, baking, and playing cars with them.  This effort shows its fruit in the spontaneous hugs from your Kindergartner, the cheeky grins from your three-month-old lassie, the notice from your three year old that "you're a keeper," and the commentary  "hug -- kiss -- beep [on the nose]" as your funny girl bestows these things upon you.

The most pressing household needs are met with determination, focus, and perseverance. The rest don't matter so much.  The bambini will eventually be self-sufficient.  God willing, they will remember that you were present to them, even as you tried to "get things done."

Laundry, dishes, diapers, and messes are all signs of the life that dwells within this home, the life of a family abundantly blessed -- and commissioned -- by the love of Christ. 

You may feel like you are so far behind, but when you're mothering your children and caring for your beloved the way you've discerned God calls you to, you're exactly where God wills you to be.  

Peace to you.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

civics lesson

Are votes marked by a five year old giddy at the idea of using "a marker that stains" at his mother's direction still valid?   Let's hope so.

I fulfilled my civic duty this election day with four little helpers in tow (which attracted the usual marveling) -- the littlest one in a sling, the middle two in our double stroller (though one made his escape), and the eldest pushing the rig. 

The prospect of seeing the sea foam green vintage charter bus with the name "Patsy" displayed in its destination marquee parked on the lawn adjacent to the church that served as our polling place with a "for sale" sign in its window piqued the collective curiosity in the Bambini Ride (she wasn't there, though).  After an explanation of the term "polling place" and why it was a church (but not ours) and a probably inadequate reasoning for this whole voting business, we unloaded and went in...

They did pretty well with the short wait, as they have when I've taken them with me to vote before -- even though it was after school and snacks were in short supply and we'd been in the car for a while already.  I'd read the ballot online before we set out on this endeavor, which sped up the actual ballot-marking process.

Choices made, I asked if either of the lads wanted to put the ballot in the reader machine.  They both just looked at me and then at the machine, curious about the beeps and clicks it was making and not wanting to be responsible for them.  That was alright.  The polling place attendants were generous with the "I voted" stickers anyway.  Each child (except the slingling) got one.

I was halfway expecting an election to be organized to determine the dinner menu this evening, but alas it did not come to pass.  (The gravitational force field of the planter box full of dirt out back won out).  I wouldn't be surprised to see one soon, though.  Someone I know has an insatiable interest in permanent markers, the cutting up of paper into smaller pieces, and the stashing of said paper tidbits into discarded boxes that could very easily be transformed into ballot boxes (minus the beeps and clicks)...
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