Thursday, March 31, 2011

fun in a jam jar

For the Kindergarten moms' monthly gathering last week, I took something tasty and (partly) homemade...

 Get the recipes at Foodie Proclivities!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

minor victories: happy hour edition

I would love to say that I wrote my ticket to a (relatively) peaceful final few minutes of dinner preparation -- all too often the pinnacle of happy hour, but it wasn't my doing.  It wasn't like I ceremoniously set forth the box of recyclable paper that I'd been squirreling away for just this purpose so that the lads could hone their fine motor skills with scissors and scraps of paper.  I didn't have the wherewithal to do that after a few too many reminders to "use kind words and gentle hands" for one afternoon.

In fact, I had stashed all that junk mail and already-read church bulletins in a paper sack (under the sink, because it's next to the trash bin and therefore handy at the time of disposal -- key to actually separating out the recyclables and not just tossing them in with the trash), which the elder lad had discovered and decided to "sort" -- another early childhood skill that he took upon himself to refine.

The younger lad had been biding his time until his fourth birthday so he could start using scissors himself (because his mama -- following the advisory on the scissors packaging -- had said he had to wait until he was four like his brother had to undertake such an activity).  When his brother got out the signature orange-handled child-sized scissors and commenced the cutting of paper into bits that often elicits reminders to "leave no trace" (as in, "clean up after yourself"), the younger lad asked for his own green-handled ones.

And in a moment of clarity, I saw it: the win-win-win situation:

Lads happily (and safely) snipping, scraps going back into the box they came from (for the most part), Mama getting dinner on the table, lasses charming their daddy with giggles and grins even before he took off his jacket.

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

one of the guys

M'lady is establishing herself as one handy little gal.  Not only is she quite capable in the kitchen, but she now wields a wrench.   She likes to go "work wif Daddy" along with her brothers in the garage, and in the evenings she starts out in her brothers' room reading bedtime stories with them before flitting away ready for some snuggling with Mama. 

Should she be out of sight for very long, she is often found thumbing through books in the lads' room.  Attempting to entice her away from a round of verboten jumping on the bed is darn near an exercise in futility.  And the girl loves to dig in the dirt and sand as much as or more than her brothers.  She doesn't mind getting muddy, but she doesn't like her hands to stay dirty once she's moved on to some other activity.

Claiming dump trucks as her own while snuggling her baby dolls in her carseat, she's a complex girl with a simple sweetness that's utterly irresistable.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

cultural literacy

elder lad (the family D.J.): "Mom, look! It's Paul McCartney!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

fabulous four

Our redheaded younger lad is four today.  We've had a "blast" celebrating our little astronaut, as he has chosen an outer space theme for the festivities.  In honor of his four years on this planet, here are a quartet of four-isms that I hope serve as a verbal snapshot of our younger young squire these days...

The lad is (among other things)



"I love you" sign-showing


*which we do, with all of our hearts

May the peace of Christ always dwell within you, dear lad, and may the love of Christ always pour forth from your soulful eyes, your sunlit smile, and your tender heart.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

live long and prosper

Were I to label my parenting style, I would probably call it "Golden Rule Parenting" more than anything else -- though I probably wouldn't label it now (I would have in my first few years of mothering).  When I think seriously, though, about the kind of parenting I wish to practice and need some pointers on how to accomplish that, the best answers come from prayer and meditation on how Christ would want me to treat him in the little people whose care he has entrusted to me.

In the quest to hone and refine my mothering skills, I've read a lot of parenting books (though not Dr. Spock's iconic tome).  Sometimes I need some gentle reminders (or reassurance) from "experts" to help me keep my priorities straight and my insecurities in check.  One such person I look to for this is St. John Bosco, who dedicated his life to the education of disadvantaged boys.  He took a three-pronged approach to his "preventive system" of discipline: reason, religion, and kindness.  Don Bosco's religious order continues to educate young people and serve Christ in the underprivileged and suffering among us to this day, almost 125 years after his death, with this same approach. 

Of all the experts out there whose influence can have significant impact on my parenting (good or bad) and, by extension, the interactions I have with my bambini, Don Bosco is arguably among one of the best.  He is a fixture in our family litany of saints.  When I find myself on thin ice, I will often ask for his intercession on my behalf.  When I happen to get something right handling some delicate situation, I can only imagine Don Bosco's prayers might've helped in that accomplishment.

Don Bosco, pray for us!

Monday, March 21, 2011

everything personal

However much I may want to be able to do everything for my bambini, the simple truth is I can't -- and I shouldn't.  I'm here to (alongside providing a faith formation) facilitate their learning to do things for and take care of themselves.  They may not want to do things for themselves, and I'm not one to push independence upon them, but when they demonstrate they *can* do some life-necessary skill, they *should* from then on. 

All the same, there is no one more personally invested in the success of my children than I am (along with my beloved).  Nearly every waking minute of my day is spent caring for them, and my devotion is unwavering.  They know I love them and want them to succeed and will do everything I can do help them in that endeavor.

So how is it that when it comes to certain milestones in every young child's life, Mama is the last person able to help?  Certain abilities that come with time, practice, patience, and self-confidence are somehow more easily acquired with the help of certain trusted persons other than Mama.  I suppose it's a kind of testament to the confidence these bambini have in my love for them at a level much deeper than anyone else. 

I can't help but think of the love our heavenly Father has for each of us, and wonder how many times each of us, no matter our age, displays this kind of behavior. 

Even as I try not take personally those emotional outbursts that invariably eminate from bambini working (more or less) toward a goal and instead try to help them navigate through the strong feelings to a peaceful resolution, there is everything personal about the march of time, its accompanying if incremental acquisition of independence that is the whole business of growing up, and my role in that process...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

no special reason

Many of my happiest childhood memories are of times spent with my family at Grannie's lake house north of Chicago, all of us together for no special reason other than simply to be together.  Some of us would be doing one thing, others another, still others engaged in something else, but we were all together.  We were ever mindful of the house being Grannie's, but it wasn't as though she was the hostess entertaining us all (although she is a very gracious hostess). 

The communal-style living arrangements of the dormitory where I resided my freshman year of college lent themselves to the fostering of friendships with some ladies who I still consider my close friends today, even if I haven't seen them in a long time.  Over the course of that year, the room I shared with a childhood friend became a gathering place for these new friends of ours.  When we were in our room, most of the time the door would be open and friends would wander in and settle down for as little or as long as they could.  I loved it. 

When the occasion presents itself for our family to come visit for the day or a weekend or however long, perhaps for a holiday or even just a few days' getaway, I relish the time and the sense of this place, our home, being a place where people are comfortable just being.   Special events like birthdays, baptisms, and holidays are exciting to plan (if a little stressful at the same time), but those times that surround the special events can be just as memorable.

As our bambini grow older and develop more friendships with their peers, I hope and pray that our home will be a place where they feel welcome to gather -- for any reason, or no reason at all.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

good guy

Good St. Joseph*, protector of Mary and Jesus,
pray for my beloved this day,
  and for our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, friends,
  and those who have no earthly models of virtuous men.

May your example serve as an inspiration and aid in the loving, humble service
  they render to us, their loved ones,
and may your prayers and ours on their behalf
  be instruments of God's grace working in each of them.


*For an explanation of the significance of St. Joseph Day to our family, check out last year's post.

Friday, March 18, 2011

mama girl

Remember old school the first generation of Camcorders?  We had one like this when I was a wee lass.  My dad video-ed everything from a trip to Epcot to the annual family Fourth of July trip to Grannie's lake house.  He was a master of the "action shot" as well as a skilled editor, knitting the footage into a true "home movie" complete with synchronized soundtrack.

He also filmed "Bonnie's Sleepytime Stories Club," featuring a girl missing a few teeth dressed in her jammies reading The Berenstain Bears And Too Much TV (note the irony), then pretty much hot off the presses, reading a bedtime story to an imaginary audience and making sure they could see the pictures (like someone else we know).

Many years after its filming, the short video has been transferred to DVD, and found its way into the player this afternoon for a two-year-old lass who likes to read herself.

"Who that girl, Mama?" she wanted to know.

 "That's me when I was a little girl,"  I told her.  This was a surprise. 

When one of the brothers wandered into the room and noticed the young girl with the bangs and incredulous expressions, he knew who it was.  The lass still told him.

"Mama girl," she said.
That's me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

an ode to dirt

What can separate two lads from their love of dirt?

Neither heat nor chill,
snow nor rain,
food nor drink,
sniffles nor splinters,
twilight nor darkness.


For what are such concerns
when there are roads to grade,
worms to examine,
and wheelbarrows to fill?

Though they be bundled from head to toe,
and the knees of their pants split open,
their love of dirt will prevail.

It shall not pass away.

Monday, March 14, 2011

bedtime story

the elder lad reading stories by headlamp to his sister at bedtime...
(alternative caption: buying a few extra minutes after Lights Out.  Sold.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

loving action cross

Acts of charity and sacrifice made by the bambini this Lenten season are being commended with stickers (as well as expressions of gratitude) on this Loving Action Cross (an idea borrowed from the preschool at the elder lad's parochial school).  May it be a visual sign of their ever-deepening concern for others, and a way of reinforcing for them that God loves us (which the elder lad spontaneously noted when he drew the cross for this project).


Saturday, March 12, 2011


Out with the lassies to run a couple of quick errands this afternoon, I walked hand in hand with the two-year-old lass and wore her seven-month-old "sissy pie"  in the slingFunny Girl caught a glimpse of us in a series of glass storefront windows as we walked, and she was transfixed.  She smiled at her reflection sweetly, proudly, and with a certain silliness, lifting her chin up and grinning.  "I see us!"  she said. 

Where did this little girl come from?  Just yesterday she was the one in the sling.  Tomorrow she'll be shopping for graduation dresses like my sister is doing.

While there have been many times in these postpartum months when I have avoided my reflection in the mirror, today when I saw us, we were -- if I do say so myself -- pretty as a picture.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

life goes on

Soooo... where do I go from here?

I'm inclined to throw up some diversion to lighten the mood a bit.  Something like this:
Please.  The cuteness defies quantification. 

But instead I will expand just a little upon some of my ramblings from last night...

As a pianist, I've played *lots* of funerals both Catholic and Protestant over the years.  They are always fraught with emotion and laden with sadness, especially for those bidding farewell to someone they love.  I've been one of those people bidding farewell to loved ones many times myself.  Even in the midst of sorrow, however, the Catholic funerals especially that I've played have been some of the most uplifting, soul-edifying experiences I've had for many of the reasons I listed yesterday. I am always honored to play a funeral for anyone, to be present at that moment of grace, to help fulfill the work of mercy that is burying the dead, and to stand with those who are grieving.  To be a part of planning a funeral for someone is likewise an honor I humbly undertake when asked. 

Someday my bambini will have to bid farewell to someone they love dearly, as they will subsequently have to many times over the course of their lives.  I am not expecting this day to be imminent for anyone close to us, but we never know what tomorrow will bring.  As a family we've already said good-bye to a couple of pets the bambini's grandparents have had, as well as an uncle of my beloved's (when the lads were very little -- before the lasses were born).

When the day does come to say good-bye, it is my fervent hope that the services arranged to facilitate this farewell will both offer some solace for the grief our bambini feel and hope for them that their loved one is still accessible to them, though not in tangible, visible form any more.  Perhaps the positive experience of having been to funerals before will at least give a certain sense of familiarity that helps accomplish this.

Further, I pray for the grace to equip our bambini with the knowledge that is a pathway to faith in the hope Christ gives us of everlasting life and resurrection by my openness to discussing with them the questions they have about life, death, faith, or anything else on their minds (at an age-appropriate level, of course, and only to the extent they are comfortable discussing it barring any urgent necessity). 

I post many quips and soundbytes of our family life -- most of them funny, heart-warming, illustrative or reminiscent of things that transpire in these parts.  When the younger lad posited his becoming imaginary at the end of his earthly life, it left a lasting impression on my heart that I knew I needed to chronicle.  He's not only impish (and he is back to being impish after a couple days of strep throat-induced lethargy), but he's existential as well.  God love him for that.

So we toddle on with life, eagerly awaiting Easter and trying to live each day in peace, with sanctity, grace, and no short supply of humor.

About those shoes: they were a gift to the two-year-old lass from an aunt very dear to us, and they're not at all appropriate for mud season...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

real (if invisible). not imagined.

Our almost four-year-old younger lad tends toward the thinker/dreamer type.   Several weeks back he let me know that when he and his brother die, they will be imaginary.  I'm pretty sure my response in real time was a mixture of befuddlement and surprise, what with the din of the Wii in the background and all.  I think I said something like, "well, when you die -- as every person does -- your soul will -- we pray -- be in heaven with God.  You won't need your body anymore, but your soul will live on."  He wondered aloud what a soul was, but he wasn't really looking for an explanation beyond "the part of you that makes you *you* that God made to be with him forever" and changed the subject. 

We've attended two funerals for aunts in our extended family in the past couple of weeks.  I don't think I ever met the aunt for whom last week's funeral Mass was offered, but we went because she was family, and because it was Mass, and because there are fewer (if any) more worthwhile, constructive ventures than praying for each other -- especially for the souls of those who have passed from this life into the next. 

Except, going to Mass with young children isn't always a prayerful experience, as this example illustrates, but this position statement rationalizes.  That's alright.  

I thought of the lad's comment many times of the course of these two family gatherings, always intending to write about it here but not having taken the time to do so until today.  It being Ash Wednesday makes the timing seem appropriate somehow.  I digress...

Along with all the reasons I gave for our attendance, my beloved and I thought it was also important that our children be present at the funerals (the elder lad was in school the day of the second one, but the three littler littles were there) to help solidify the understanding, belief, and hope we have in the everlasting life Christ offers us.  The funeral liturgy is a beautiful aid in that endeavor and, in my personal experience, a great solace for those who are grieving.

The Scripture readings and prayers that comprise a Catholic funeral liturgy are by turns an acknowledgment of the sorrow we feel for the loss of our loved one, an expression of the joy we have by faith that that person is now with God, and a way for us to pray for the forgiveness of any sins our loved ones may have committed while in this life so that he or she may be cleansed of those and enter into eternal life.   It is (usually) Mass as we are accustomed to, with a few added elements pertaining to the person whose soul we are praying for.

Death is never an easy subject of conversation, but that doesn't mean we don't discuss it with our children (even if we might inwardly shudder at the prospect of being separated from each other by death).  They are usually the ones to bring it up, so we try to answer their questions simply and honestly. They know every living thing is created by God and eventually dies, and that just as each of us is born, so too will each of us die someday.  We don't know when but don't expect it to be soon, though we strive to live each day as the gift that it is. And though we don't always understand or find it easy to bid someone we love farewell, we hope that we will see them again someday and trust in God's care for that person until we do, even though we can't see him or her anymore. We believe they live on -- for real. 

Here we are at the beginning of Lent, the time of preparation for Easter when we ask God to create clean hearts in us, and to illumine the shadows in our hearts that keep us from him.  The culmination of this penitential season leads to Good Friday, the day of the Lord's passion and death, followed by his glorious resurrection on Easter.

There is nothing imaginary about the sacrifice of Christ for our salvation.  It's a weighty subject for anyone to deal with, but it's something we as a family will enter into together, so that come Easter morning we will have walked with Christ through death to new life.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

likely story

me: "What's that on your shirt, babe?" as the elder lad boards the Honeywagon after school.
him: "I think it's mud."

me: "that's a strange place for mud -- it's just a little bit and right at your collar."
him: no comment.

me: "I ask because I want to know how to treat the stain."
him: "It's chocolate milk.  I got it because it's Thursday -- almost Friday."
*As in, bring on the weekend!  Chocolate milk all around!
I've used this logic myself, but the shirt still hasn't come clean...

Monday, March 07, 2011


Strep throat was not on my radar screen as I watched the younger lad -- the picture of health yesterday -- wilt before my very eyes this morning, one moment a bit feverish but still impish as ever, the next shivering and slouched, asking for me to snuggle him.  Of course, had he mentioned that his throat hurt, I might have considered strep as the cause.  Instead, I was fretting about pneumonia, as he sat with chest heaving and blue fingernails.  All the same, a quick test at urgent care confirmed the true culprit, and now the lad is, God willing, on the road to recovery.

When the littles turn up ill, I turn to a couple of resources to help me assess and treat maladies at home -- and when to call the doctor.  The first is Smart Medicine For A Healthier Child by Janet Zand, Robert Rountree, and Rachel Walton.  It's a reference book of common childhood illnesses, conditions, and injuries that synthesizes conventional medical treatments with holistic, natural, and alternative routes.  The other is, the online home of Dr. Robert Sears and his family of medical practioners.  His The Baby Book is one of my go-to resources for the under-two among us, and much of the online content is drawn from this book and others he and his family collaborators have authored. 

Of course, I use these resources because I'm not a medical professional, but I don't rely on them to advise me instead of our pediatrician.  When my instinct tells me that something's *wrong* or that one of my children needs to be seen by their doctor, I try to honor that gut feeling (not to mention my ailing children) as best I can -- even if Ferris Bueller might deem me a "nervous mother".  

The younger lad is not the only one hot and bothered.  So is his sister who keeps telling me "new tooth" when I ask her where it hurts and why she is sniffly and fragile.  She woke up feverish Sunday morning.  In light of the lad's diagnosis today, I am seeing a domino effect forming.  Will the elder lad and the younger lass follow suit?  Time will soon tell, but now I'm on the lookout for causes other than the initially obvious -- no stealth strep next child...

Saturday, March 05, 2011

git 'er done

 Would you look at that?!  Clean, folded, *and* ready for delivery.  Now where's that cute five-year-old truck driver?? 

Friday, March 04, 2011

by popular request

Storytime is a highlight of our week.  When we don't make it, the two-year-old lass is not pleased.  She has gone so far as to conduct her own, "reading" aloud from the book in her hands and asking "can everyone see the pictures?"

Between impromptu storytimes and time spent in the rocking chair paging through books either on her own or on either my lap or my beloved's, the lass has developed a short list of library books that she asks me to request repeatedly, including
  • Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow.  The diminutive title character might be vertically challenged, but thanks to the encouraging words of her equally-diminutive grandmother and plenty of chutzpah, this sweet little girl deflects the taunts of one Ronald Durkin and wins the admiration of all she encounters.
  • Sugar Would Not Eat It (reviewed here).  Along with Molly Lou Melon,
  • the Toot & Puddle books as well as Holly Hobbie's Fanny and Fanny And Annabelle, about a plucky young lady who sews and fashions her own doll when her mother flat out refuses to buy her a Connie doll, who Mama says is "just too... much".  I think I might find myself in a similar position someday, and I would *love* to create homemade dolls with my lasses instead. 
The lass also carts around three ballerina-themed books from my sister in a toddler-sized owl backpack (along with sundry other "necessities").  At virtually any time, one may be assured of a willing storyteller in a pint-sized package.  Does it get much better?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

budgetary constraints

elder lad: "what if I had ten brothers and ten sisters?  There would be 23 of us!" [including parents]
younger lad: "then we wouldn't have money for curtains."
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