Saturday, July 30, 2011

miss popularity

My precious summer sweetie girl,

We celebrate your first birthday today.  What fun we have had!  We who love you (and that's a lot of us) have taken much delight in marking the occasion of your birth one year ago.  What joy you have brought us in that time.  It seems you are always happy to see your "people" -- your siblings especially, who now stake their claim for the seat next to you at the table much like they used to call dibs on holding you (back when you allowed yourself to be held, but you're too busy for that now that you're walking all over the place). 

In a home that's always humming with activity, you are by turns easy-going and assertive.  I hope through the course of your life you will hone the process that helps you decide which of these to be in a given moment or situation.  And above all else, I pray you will be blessed with an awareness of the love Christ has for you, the plan he has for your life, and the unwavering support you have from your family as you seek God's will for your life.

Keep that sunny outlook and friendly demeanor, sweet girl.  The rays of God's love shine through your cheerfulness.

With all my heart I love you~
your mama

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

favorite authors: Rosemary Wells

Some of my sweetest memories of storybook reading with the elder lad as a very young child are thanks to a book called Only You by Rosemary Wells.  My beloved's grandmother chose this book for our family.  She always seems to know just what will resonate with us at a given season of our family life or at a particular age.  In this story, the little child revels in the knowledge that his (or her) parent loves him (or her) no matter what.  That security enables the child to grow in confidence and explore more of the world around him, even though ultimately the child's favorite place remains the close comfort of his parent's lap. 

Along with this sweet story, we've come to delight in several more of Wells's prolific output, especially the stories about a little West Highland Terrier named McDuff (McDuff Moves In, McDuff and The Baby), the beautifully depicted and tender account of a kitten named Yoko learning origami from her Japanese grandfather before moving to America in Yoko's Paper Cranes, and the shennanigans of an overtired and plucky guinea pig named Felix in Felix Feels Better.

Wells is also the originator of the popular Max and Ruby books upon which a children's television show is based.    We've read a few of these books, but they haven't captured our affections like the others. 

Adept at both sentimental stories and those that have a life-lesson dimension to them, Rosemary Wells is an author we are always happy to read.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

team players

By God's grace I managed to evade ever having to participate in team-building exercises via a ropes course in the course of my working career or church camp days.  It's not that I'm not a team player.  It's just that I've been on enough "teams" where I was among those pulling more than our share of the weight so that now every time I hear phrases like "team-building" and "teamwork", it's all I can to suppress the darn near involuntary rolling of my eyeballs.

As overused as these closely-related terms are, they are very useful in family life.  After all, and as I often tell our bambini, God has built our family for a reason -- or several.  We probably won't fully understand those reasons this side of heaven.  Nonetheless, each of us has unique God-given abilities to help the others in the family become the people Christ calls them to be, and we are to use those gifts always with that service to others in mind. 

This focus on teamwork is a revelation to me of late as a means of counteracting selfish tendencies -- we all have them -- and a tool in both developing empathy and cultivating virtues like courtesy, respect, generosity, gentleness, and humility.  The virtues serve as the framework for my "phrasology" (to quote Mayor Shinn from The Music Man, which was our movie night feature last weekend) to expand upon the token "teamwork" buzzword I loathe but use anyway in certain circumstances.

So it is with reluctance that I continue to utter the "T" word, knowing that it's a good, quick reminder that each of us has an obligation to the others to help us all get to heaven.

Friday, July 22, 2011

minor victory: crouton edition

Caesar salad on the menu with no croutons in sight = shortcut, please!
Here's one.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

summer reading

Hot summer afternoons make for excellent reading time (if the bambini are cooperative).  When the stars align, we all pile together to thumb through some pretty picture books.
If the lassies are sleeping (or primed for sleeping), the lads and I work our way through a chapter book.  It helps stave off the requests to turn on the glowing screen when pleas to go outside in the brutal heat are shot down.  We just finished The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden.  The title character named Chester (a country cricket who rode into New York City underneath some sandwiches in a picnic basket) turns out to be graced with the gift of perfect pitch and the ability to remember and perform music of any genre after hearing it once.  This talent soon becomes known, and the cricket (with some help from his friends Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat) is soon the toast of the town from the subway station newsstand in which resides.  Fame isn't what Chester wants, though.

Before that satisfying story we read My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (illustrated by her mother in law Ruth Chrisman Gannett -- this very easily could get me off an a tangent about having a spouse with the same name as one of your parents.  What's that like?) and will start the next story in that set of three soon.  The rich character and scenery descriptions make it ideal for reading aloud. 
The relentless heat is taking its toll on the tempers of certain lads ages four and six, who have been likened by their hapless mother to the tigers in Helen Bannerman's The Story of Little Babaji (illustrated by Fred Marcellino).  Handsome Little Babaji parcels out his beautiful clothes to tigers who threaten to eat him.  Those tigers' respective needs to be the greatest among them force them into a showdown that results in their dissolving into butter that Little Babaji's father Papaji collects and takes home to Mamaji to cook with!  In honor of this story, we recently had pancakes for supper, just like Little Babaji and his parents. 

As usual, the two-year-old lass is happiest thumbing through a stack of books reading to herself and anyone else who wants to listen.  
And despite his protestations whenever I ask him to read to me, the elder lad has been observed reading books to himself, things like the comic-book style series of Lori Mortensen and Jeffrey Thompson including A Day at the Fire Station, Going to the Dentist, and Working on the Farm.  Rumor has it he's even been reading Mary Pope Osborne's The Magic Tree House series with his grandmother on those days she's been hosting "camp" at her house. 

As many times as we stack up the books and get them just-so into the canvas Trader Joes bag imported from Chicago that serves as our library bag, they are shortly thereafter strewn all about with children in various degrees of recline poring over their pages.  And that's okay by me -- especially if it precludes them from chasing each other until they turn into butter like those tigers...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

the long view

In the midst of extreme close-ups and rapid fire attention-seeking maneuvers from multiple children, I try to detach myself in a way so as to take a long view.

Where is this all going?  What am I supposed to be learning from these people at this moment?  How is that going to affect what happens tomorrow?  Or next year?  Or ten years from now?   Or how our bambini ultimately come to treat themselves and those around them?

Finding that sweet spot of grace that is staying in the moment yet keeping it all in perspective is one of those holy grails of parenting -- of life, really, isn't it? 

Years from now there will be memories of family life both exhilarating and heart-wrenching that will stick out in my mind, as I'm sure there will be in each of our bambini's memories.  I pray the overall picture will be suffused with peace and the sure knowledge that Christ has been with us at every moment.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

the enforcer

Six-year-olds, I'm learning, are keenly aware of rules.  They may not always follow them.  They may attempt to tweak or place certain conditions on the rules.  But should some sibling deign to break a house rule, woe to that one.

The Enforcer will see to it that the perpetrator realizes the risk involved in choosing not to fulfill a certain obligation in order to merit a certain incentive.  He will likewise be swift to point out the longstanding logical consequences that follow some injustice one sibling does to another.  Never mind that it may not actually be his place to do so.

To be fair, The Enforcer is also taking on more responsibility for his siblings of his own volition and showing more concern for them as well.  He especially likes helping care for the younger lass.  Sometimes she'd rather him not cart her around (she'd rather walk), but there have been many times he's been a big help to me in caring for her while I am engaged with one of the other bambini.  He's got big plans for her first birthday coming up.   He's also been very encouraging of the two-year-old lass as she has recently attained a certain "big girl" status.

So yes: justice must prevail, but always with mercy and empathy.  For some of us, the latter aspects come more naturally.  For others, it's the former.  Together we'll work to find the balance.

Friday, July 15, 2011

good idea: batch grilling

The dog days of summer wear us down handily enough without us doing it to ourselves slaving over a hot grill (or stove).  Batch grilling in the morning (on a weekend!) helps us help ourselves.

Get the full scoop here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

fresh start

After such a long hiatus from this venture, it's difficult to choose a starting point.

Do I give a rundown of what's been going around here, from eleven-month-old baby girls walking and big sisters championing milestones of their own?  Or should I rhapsodize on the blessing it has been to have all four bambini together (most of the time) and a reprieve from the pressure of the early morning school preparations?  I couldn't write about that without an accompanying long-winded expression of gratitude who have made it possible for me to have some regularly-scheduled and sorely-needed downtime to regroup and renew. 

Perhaps a minor victory in the sustained management of the family laundry load -- if only I have the self-discipline (and free hands -- which when I have two of those together I generally prefer typing chronicle entries to household chores) to fold the laundry one or two loads at a time soon after it's finished washing and drying -- and the developing sense of responsibility three-fourths of the bambini have for putting their laundry away? 

And whither all those book reviews that have gone uncomposed and unposted? 

The real explanation for the silence, though, is in the daily application of effort, attention, and will to making peace with the present, often chaotic conditions -- trying to bring peace to those situations where peace is lacking, especially within my own heart.  For that, it's been a matter of praying for the grace to be open to receiving the love of God and the strength he gives to fulfill the duties he's entrusted to us.

It's meant a diversion of my attention from crafting sentences and stringing deep (such as they are) thoughts together and instead being present in the moment, acquiescing to going several directions at once, and knowing that's exactly where I'm meant to be.
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