Saturday, March 31, 2012 birthday

My beloved's mother has done it again: another imaginative birthday party full of fun games and thoughtful details for the birthday bambino -- the five-year-old younger lad in this case.  The theme?  Robots, of course...

build a block tower using only your robotic arm

robot bean bag toss -- she (and her little helpers) made those felt robots

pin the battery on the robot
(over Spring Break we traced around the younger lad to make this poster, then the bambini colored in the 'bot. 
Note the iPod and earbuds -- that's the elder lad's doing)

She and my beloved's father served a lovely brunch with the younger lad's favorite food.  My sister brought cinnamon rolls, and we brought this little number made of butter cake from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook and topped with our favorite cream cheese frosting -- but no homemade sprinkles:

And then there was Fruit Bot 1.0, but you met him already:

and these cute juice boxes (the bambini have been great about "pacing ourselves", as the elder lass says somberly, with the candy)

My parents and sister and my beloved's brother saw to the balloons, adding to the already festive environment.   It was a fete filled with laughter and lots of robot noises, both bambini-created and battery-operated.

These family birthday parties with everyone involved somehow are testaments to the love that binds us together, a love rooted in faith that, God willing, gives rise to the formation of children into adults open to heeding God's call for their lives.   Collaborating on the festivities gives us all a chance to be more present to the honoree, which is probably the best gift of all. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

twenty-some-odd questions: 5yo younger lad

I thought it would be fun to commence interviewing the birthday bambino(a) to create another tradition like having one's picture taken with our birthday banner, starting with the younger lad on his fifth birthday.

It took some doing, because the younger lad wasn't exactly into the whole birthday interview idea (not unlike the twenty questions I've been asking the bambini about me) when sold as such.  I resorted to some stealth tactics, asking a few questions here and a few more there, then he got rolling and more forthcoming with the answers...

How old are you?   

How does it feel to be five?

What do five-year-olds do?
protect people

What is the most important thing you've learned in life so far?
I'm a big boy.

What is your favorite thing about yourself?
that I'm five

Are you a morning person or evening person?  Do you like to get up early or stay up late?
morning...  actually evening... no -- morning. evening. morning... morning

What do you like learning about?
Good and bad.... that you should work for Jesus and not litter.

Do you know what God's plan is for your life?
being nice to people

Do you think you'll be a daddy someday?
Yes, but I haven't chosen [my children's] names yet.

What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy?
build shelters

What is your favorite thing to do with Mama?

Tell me about our family.
Everyone loves each other.

What are some of your hobbies -- things you like to do?
Legos and dirt

what is your favorite color?

what is your favorite food?
French toast and bacon

What is your favorite restaurant?
McDonald's -- and eat inside!

What is your favorite dessert?
zebra brownies

What is your favorite thing to wear?
my overalls

What is your favorite book?
Billy and Blaze (which I reviewed here)

What sports do you like to play?
baseball, boxing, soccer, basketball, football, and tennis -- but not all at once!

What's your favorite part of the playground?

What is your favorite thing about school?
playing superheroes with friends

Who are your best friends?
my brother and K at school

What is your favorite TV show?
Dinosaur Train

What is your favorite movie?
Polar Express

What is your favorite song?
you say it's your birthday (by the Beatles -- remember how culturally literate the lads are)

What is your favorite toy to play with?
my big red Transformer (a gift from one of his uncles)

What do you want to be when you grow up?
work for McDonald's

Anything else you want to say?
"That's all I can think of right now.  That was a lot of questions!"

and for some reason, now I want brownies...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

fruit bots

Oh no, we aren't finished talking about robots yet.  Check out the Fruit Bots I made (with lots of help) for the younger lad's birthday noshing -- details here at Foodie Proclivities.

Monday, March 26, 2012

for the tinkerers I love

We have been all about the 'bots (as in robots) around here lately as we've been celebrating the younger lad's fifth birthday.  Here it is Monday, when I try to write about some of the books that have struck our fancy, so I give you...

Clink by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Matthew Myers.  Poor Clink is a rusty old broken down robot in a shop full o'bots that are newer, flashier, zippier, and bigger.  Many a child comes in to choose a robot and glosses right over Clink.  Who wants a robot that used to toast bread and sing old fashioned songs?   (Do robots sing?) 

One day a boy comes in looking at the robots, finding none to his liking despite the shopkeeper's slick salesmanship.  Then the boy sees Clink, and something in Clink comes alive (in a robot sort of way) again, awakening the music within him that had long ago fallen silent.  As Clink gets more excited, his rusty old parts fail him and he sort of self-destructs.  That seals the deal for Clink, as the boy came looking for a *project* -- something to tinker with, not something to entertain him.  He finds that in Clink.

The younger lad of course is drawn to all the neat-looking robots of Myers' creation, but what resonates with me is the aspect of tinkering/creating/repurposing/refurbishing what already exists rather than trashing it in favor of something new and shiny.  It's a sort of "green" message, but not in a overt or off-putting way.  As the story ends, we see the boy tinkering with Clink and dreaming up ideas for projects to work on with his dad, which further endears the story to us, as around here the dad likes to tinker in the garage -- often with the lads close by. 

Ms. DiPucchio's most recent book is Crafty Chloe, which is another story of using one's talent and imagination to craft just the right thing. 

Robots are endless possibilities, at least to our younger lad.  They're an ideal outlet for his amazing imagination.  For a book to inspire such creativity, that's a rare find.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

haphazard and slaphappy

haphazard (adj.)
  • definition: that "any which way" attitude that enables bambini (or adults) who've tossed their belongings into a pile (rather than stowing said treasures in any sort of organized fashion) to call the result "tidy".

slaphappy (adj.)
  • definition: the state of being that results from a full weekend of birthday festivities, lots of yummy food, sunshine, fresh air, a bit more sugar than usually ingested, and sleep lost for the excitement of it all.

Friday, March 23, 2012

high five

This. Is. Sammy. 
Sammy. Is. A. Robot.
The. Younger. Lad. Built. Him. With. The. Lad's. Father. Brother. And. Papere. 
(that's robot language -- can you tell?)

We celebrate five years of life with the delightful younger lad, born this day (finally -- after *many* hours of active waiting).  The lad has always been a fun-loving, free-wheeling, highly-imaginative kind of kid.  He's  growing ever more into a considerate, compassionate, and loving boy.  He's a busy guy, with lots to act out from the stories he cooks up in his head, and he has big dreams for what is to come.

May the Lord bless you this day, dear lad, and every day, with an unfailing awareness of both His and our love for you.  We are so glad and grateful you are a part of our family.  You bring such richness, adventure, and warmth to every day.  God has big plans for your life, lad, and we're here to help you discern what those are.

We love you, young squire!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

scenes from spring break

 Building a barn for Pet and Patty (yes: of the Little House books we've been reading)... 
note the distressed finish of our coffee table.  People pay good money for such a custom patina.   
We didn't have to.

This is Jessie.  My great Aunt Sally (Papa Jack's sister) made her for me when I was a wee lass.
My younger lass is smitten.

 Elementary electronics via Snap Circuits.  The lads were gleeful each time they launched that spinning red wheel off its axis. 
The band-aid is from an unrelated (and minor) injury.

 Safety first: no long hair in the Snap Circuit area by order of safety marshal younger lad. 

Did I mention several of us have had the stomach flu this week?  (We're on the mend.)  Or that it's been raining buckets?  (not that I'm not grateful for the much-needed rain; it might be the last we get for a while!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

something up our sleeves

Home for Spring Break during what appears to be monsoon season, the elder lad and I were discussing the day's agenda. After lunch and siesta time, I told him, I "might have something up my sleeve."

"Is that an expression?" he wanted to know.

"Yes. It means I might have a surprise for you," I answered, giving rise to a guessing game.

Ice cream! The children's museum!

Nope. A program at the library given by one of the docents from the air and space museum, which ranks right up there with those other places in the lads' estimation but was farther than I planned to travel today.

As we were loading up to go, the elder lass began to fuss, asking for my help. "I have something up my sleeve!" she lamented.

The elder lad was quick to note the difference. Upon discovering a postage stamp up his sister's sleeve, he announced "She really does! How'd that get there?!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

if you give a girl a party...

Among the many books the elder lass counts as her "favorites," the If You Give... series written by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond are easily her "most favorite."  We first became acquainted with these charming books when my beloved's mother loaned to us the copy of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie that they had received from my beloved's grandmother. We still have it.  Good thing she's not charging us overdue fees!

Several books have followed, including one a about pig and pancake (and a party, in a separate story); a moose and a muffin; "Cookie Mouse" (as the lass calls the original title character) and the movies; and most recently, a dog and a donut.  Each story is a study in cause and effect, starting with logical consequences like the mouse wanting milk to go with his cookie unfolding into sillier scenarios such as the mouse wanting to take a nap and needing the kind boy who gave him the cookie in the first place to make up a little nest for the mouse's nap.  It all circles back to the beginning, with the title critter wanting whatever it was that had first attracted his or her attention and the attendant child exhausted from all the requests.

 For her third birthday festivities almost two months ago, the elder lass said she wanted "rainbows" when queried.  My beloved's mother had the great idea to create a party for her with the If You Give friends all invited (along with grandparents, siblings, and Annie -- my sister and the lass's godmother; a small group for our reserved but so sweet lass), and she and my beloved's father (who the bambini call "Papere") generously offered to both host the party and come up with all the games and decorations.  All we had to do was handle the cake ("cookie cake", the lass specified) and show up.


Grandmare was really in her element creating this party, as early childhood is one of her passions. She has such a heart for children, boundless creativity, and a talent for creating beautiful .  The result in this case was a beautiful, perfect party for their first granddaughter, who was thrilled with the result.
The If You Give friends and their books, ready for the birthday girl to arrive.

We made the cookie cake at home together using this recipe (but substituting white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose), which the lass enjoyed very much because she got to work the mixer.  To decorate it, we made homemade sprinkles -- yep: homemade -- because I'm mildly concerned that store-bought sprinkles may have a half life somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 years *and *because I had seen the idea and thought it would be a fun project for us.

Can't you see it now?  A mixer full of sticky goo that we then tint with food coloring (as in *doesn't wash out*), put in a cone made of parchment paper, squeeze out into lines on a lined baking sheet, and leave out to dry for several *days*.  Go ahead and think it: That was crazy! But they came out alright and certainly looked festive once sprinkled onto the cookie cake.  Next time... I'm not sure there'll be a next time.

sprinkle strands before the lads had their way with them.
The bambini thoroughly enjoyed the games Grandmare designed herself, including Pin the Cupcake on the Platter, a rainbow-themed cake walk of sorts, and Toss the Piggies in the Pen.  She made a beautiful rainbow of fruit with a cloud of whipped cream to dip them in, and she served a tasty meal that the lass loved.
The birthday girl and the Pin the Cupcake on the Platter game with the If You Give friends (and the younger lad, who lives in his overalls)

This book-themed birthday celebration was just the thing for our sweet Rainbow Girl, the one who usually wants to read and snuggle more than anything else, who fancies herself a ballerina, and who brings such joy to us by her presence.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

twenty questions, volume two

On my most recent birthday I had a *miserable* cold.  Consequently, I didn't ask the bambini twenty questions as I'd intended to do every year on my birthday.  Half a year later, I have finally gotten around to it.  They weren't exactly into the whole interview thing, but here are their candid responses...

1. What is something Mama often says to you?
6 year old elder lad:  I love you.
4 year old younger lad: I love you.
3 year old elder lass: cheese grits

2.  What makes Mama happy?
elder lad: me being nice
younger lad: being nice to each other  [who?]  all of us
elder lass: rainbows... smiling

3. What makes Mama sad?
elder lad: me being mean
younger lad: when we fight
elder lass: screaming

4.  What does Mama do that makes you laugh?
elder lad: tickle me
younger lad: tickle me
elder lass: snuggle me... and tickle me

5.  What was Mama like as a little girl?
elder lad: (shrugs shoulders) read?
younger lad:  I don't know.
elder lass:   I don't know... snuggle?

6.  How old is Mama?
elder lad:  almost 33?
younger lad: I don't know.
elder lass:  I don't know.

7.  How tall is Mama?
elder lad:  pretty tall
younger lad: I don't know.
elder lass: this tall (reaches as high as she can)

8. What is Mama's favorite thing to do?
elder lad: bake
younger lad: dance
elder lass: baking!

9. What does Mama do when you're not around?
elder lad: go to the store.
younger lad: shop
elder lass: I don't know.

10.  If Mama were famous, what would it be for?
elder lad:  (furrows brow.  shrugs shoulders)
younger lad: being a church worker -- play the music
elder lass: I don't know.

11.  What is Mama good at?
elder lad: taking care of and loving all of us
younger lad: playing the piano
elder lass: I don't know.

12. What is Mama *not* good at?
elder lad: carrying me.
younger lad: not playing the piano
elder lass: I don't know.

13. What is Mama's job?
elder lad: to take care of us
younger lad:  taking care of us
elder lass: to bake

14. What is Mama's favorite food?
elder lad: steak
younger lad:  Raisin Bran
elder lass: chicken

15.  What makes you proud of Mama?
elder lad: that you're my mom
younger lad: you giving me chocolate
elder lass: when you snuggle me

16.  What is something we do together?
elder lad: bake
younger lad: play cars
elder lass: bake

17.  How are you and I the same?
elder lad: we're both human beings
younger lad: we're both [our last name]s
elder lass: I don't know.

18.  How are you and I different?
elder lad: you're older than me.
younger lad: we have different color hair.
elder lass: I don't know.

19. Where is Mama's favorite place to go?
elder lad, hopefully: [our "local ice cream and dairy store"]!
younger lad: Papa's house
elder lass: Sam's (yes: the warehouse club)

20. How do you know that Mama loves you?
elder lad: because you say so
younger lad:  because she tells me that
elder lass: when you are snuggling me

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Going through some video clips I took on my camera, I found one of the elder lad giving his Cub Scout popcorn spiel -- albeit rather reluctantly.  It reminded me of a funny story concerning his Cub Scout uniform, the sewing of patches thereon, and an unfortunate turn of events that transpired after I had (just barely) finished affixing the basic patches on the lad's uniform before his pack meeting...

Since I had left the patchin' until the last minute (10pm two nights before the evening meeting, so not exactly last minute I guess), I was looking for a speedy way to get the job done.  I hand-sewed the first patch, which took too long.  I then wasted a bunch of time reading about something called "Badge Magic", a no-iron adhesive specifically for Scout patches available at the Scout Store (a retail establishment heretofore unknown to me).  After considering a trip to the local Scout Store after school with four littles and the likelihood of getting the patches on with the adhesive that had mixed reviews, I decided to try instead two different iron-on fusible webs I had in my sewing stash.  Neither worked, so I had to resort to hand-sewing after all.

The elder lad didn't even end up wearing his uniform shirt to the meeting that night because it was covered in peanut butter from the dinner he inhaled before he had to go.  He and my beloved left for the meeting, and here is where things went downhill.

Let me just say this: four kids in this house and who flushes something inappropriate down the toilet?  Me.

The contraband?  Someone's soiled skivvies that I was trying to rinse out before washing as I had done many times before after accidents.  Sadly, I was distracted (imagine) by a screaming toddler confined to her high chair and still ruminating over the uniform fiasco, so I neglected to hold on to the undies while I flushed away the  mess.  Down they went.  Suddenly they were the wearer's favorites, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

My beloved is one handy fellow, fixing lots of things around the house that would otherwise cost us a pretty penny in labor fees and service calls (we know how those go: see my humdinger post 1.21 gigawatts). Although he was able to get the commode operational again, he could not retrieve the unmentionables with his plumber's snake.

I have yet to find a way around the hand-sewing of Scout patches that yields a better result.  I'm sure my beloved's grandmother has some pointers for me, though, she with several Eagle Scout sons ...

Friday, March 16, 2012

moving on

Today would've been my Papa Jack's 89th birthday.  This explains why I've been singing the silly songs he made up to my bambini all day long -- the ones about bamboo bungalows built for two (or six) and passengers refraining from flushing toilets while the train is standing in the station (which ends with "I love you"), but I only just made the connection.

It was also on this day several years ago that I went on my first piano audition at a university I was considering in Chicago near my extended family.  I was disappointed in how the audition went, even though Grannie had pointed out it was Papa Jack's birthday *and* it was raining, which he always took as a sign of good luck.  After the dismal audition (it *was* my first one, after all), I failed to see the good in the outcome.  But it was there.

I would go on a few more auditions, one of which resulted in a scholarship to the school that is now my alma mater and, consequently, a degree in piano (which I put to use this evening with the elder lad in an impromptu and very brief piano lesson) along with a blessing-filled college experience for which I will always be grateful.

Somewhere around this time I developed an affinity for the work of American artist Mary Engelbreit.  One of her creations spoke volumes to me then and still does.  A Huckleberry Finn-like character is walking down a road marked "your life", having just bypassed an intersection with a path marked "no longer an option."  I used to have a poster of this framed and hanging on the wall, but since we still have bare walls, I had to look it up online.  Here's a link to the image

At the time of that first audition I had my heart set on going to college in Chicago so as to be near my family there.  As it turned out, I would get that opportunity a few years in the form of a summer internship at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

I thought of the "Don't Look Back" image when I learned that a mom from our school community with whom I had just recently begun cultivating a friendship would be moving down the 'pike a ways with her family.  We had only just begun to get to know each other; we share many things in common.  This move is really for the best for her family.  I only wish I had gotten to know her better sooner, though I do hope we will continue our conversations via the many ways of communicating available to us.

Recently we were discussing some points in each of our lives when we struggled with submitting our own wills to that of God.  In a few decisive events, we came to realize that the God-given gifts and talents we wanted to use clearly weren't where God wanted us to be focusing our attention at that time.  By making peace with using other gifts and talents he had given us other than the ones we had developed more and were more comfortable using, we were able to move past the disappointment and find the blessings.

So as she moves on with her family, I wish her every blessing.  I thank her for the gift of friendship she has extended to me, and I look forward to seeing her as opportunities present themselves for us to visit in person.

The road ahead goes in one direction.  We can't go backward -- only forward.  We don't know where the road will lead, but Christ has it all mapped out.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

mad scientist

Elder lad, triumphantly: "Mom. Did you know you can make a volcano without using baking soda and vinegar? You tilt a bottle of soap sideways underneath the faucet [as it's running], and the foam shoots up like ash."

My only response: "Is there any soap left?"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

aloha, annie

My sister the college freshman was in our vicinity this afternoon and thus was able to stop by and liven up our after school happy hour. Her arrival on our doorstep was heralded by squeals of delight from the younger lass.

To thank my sister -- the bambini call her "annie", I fed her a home-cooked Hawaiian-style meal.  (details here at Foodie Proclivities)

It wasn't quite the genius meal my beloved's dear mother made for us this past weekend that I was hoping to replicate, but the marinade I made up miraculously came out pretty good -- even though the younger lad, who mixed the concoction for me, kept saying that "something was missing."  How he knew this without trying the potion, I know not.

At least there were no "incidents" to speak of...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

animal house

Monday morning, the PJ-clad elder lad (in observance of PJ Day at school) declared, "I really mean this, Mom.  I want a dog." 

As in, "I know I've made this crystal clear on many occasions before.  Why has nothing been done about this?"

As if we need a dog.

So we get our dog fix via books, of course. 
 In his Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm, we meet Jon Katz's four funny dogs who live and work with him on his farm.  Each dog has his or her own job to do, from herding animals and guarding the farm to visiting the sick to one whose job isn't readily obvious until the end (spoiler alert: this dog sees to it that the other dogs do not want for company). 

The penguin exhibit is one of our favorite spots at the zoo (but you won't find me at the zoo on spring break *ever* again, just sayin'), so Jean Marzollo's Pierre the Penguin was an instant hit here.  It's the true story of a penguin living at the California Academy of Sciences (a favorite place of my mother's, just sayin') in the San Francisco Bay area who had the unfortunate fate of inexplicably losing his feathers -- and his penguin friends in the process.  His handler tries a few different things to help him, and finally finds the solution in a penguin-sized wet suit she designs and makes herself.  Laura Regan's illustrations bring Pierre, his handler Pam, and the other penguins to life most endearingly.  What would you do if you saw a penguin in a wet suit?

When I was a single gal I had a huge orangy Persian cat named (sir) Baldwin, who had shown up on my parents' driveway bald and starving.  They nursed him back to health such that soon he was neither bald (quite the opposite, actually, being a Persian in all his fluffy glory) nor starving -- though he did suffer from allergies -- eventually resembling in both appearance and demeanor the aloof cartoon feline Garfield.  Friends thought he was named Baldwin because of the piano reference, but no, the veterinarian with whom my parents collaborated to bring the poor thing back from the brink came up with the name (because the cat was bald!). 

The title character in Tumford the Terrible by Nancy Tillman reminds me of Baldwin in many ways, except Tumford is black and white.  Tumford tends to make messes and otherwise goof up, but he cannot bring himself to apologize for his mistakes.  He would rather hide.  Once he finally makes amends for a most embarrassing gaffe, he finds that his people still love him and that life goes on.  As difficult as it can be for any of us to admit wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness, this sweet story helps reinforce the need for doing so and the positive consequences that result from having accepted responsibility for one's actions and showing contrition. 

In a similar vein, David Mellina's Don't Worry, Douglas! focuses on the importance of truthfulness -- even when it's difficult to get the words out. Young Douglas receives a knitted hat from his father, who tells Douglas to take good care of it.  In a moment of exuberance, Douglas snags his hat on a tree branch, and the hat begins to unravel.  Once it becomes clear that Douglas won't be able to fix the hat, he begins to worry about how his father will react to what has become of the hat in light of the admonition the father had given.   In the end, Douglas's father shows him compassion and mercy.

As we work to cultivate virtue within ourselves and our bambini, these last two books help convey the important messages of honesty, accountability, contrition, forgiveness, mercy, and hope.  It isn't always easy to do the right thing.  That doesn't mean it isn't worth doing.

So in spite the elder lad's deep dissatisfaction, we may not have any furry friends (who breathe on their own, that is), happily we can read about the funny antics animals display and draw from them some very important life lessons.

Monday, March 12, 2012

thick as thieves

The 19-month-old younger lass has no qualms about expressing her thoughts and feelings on any subject.  Her feelings are not easily misunderstood on most matters.  She is -- usually -- very fond of her sister.  Brothers, too. 

With her sister the three-year-old elder lass, she seems to be forging a close bond.  When I made ready to go pick up the lads from school last week and take the younger lass with me while the elder lass stayed at home to bake cupcakes with my sister as a belated birthday gift project, the younger lass would have none of it.  Through her tears and protestations I asked her if she wanted to stay at home with her "sissy pie" and auntie.  "Yes!!!" she emphatically answered.  She wriggled out of my arms and ran to her sister, throwing her arms around the elder lass and holding on for dear life.

This morning at Storytime, the girls were called up by name to select instruments to play.  The younger lass went first and snagged the two coveted lollipop drums -- one for herself and the other for her sister, who had not yet been called to come forward.  Then she confidently returned to the box to retrieve the mallets for both drums.  Later I noticed she had traded with another child her drum for his tone block, but the elder lass gratefully retained ownership of the one her baby sister had nabbed for her.

These girlies dote on each other so sweetly -- and scream at each other in fits of rage over books (usually) just as often. 

The lads likewise dote especially on the younger lass.  Now that the elder lass is a little older, she takes some ribbing from the brothers that the toddler doesn't (yet).  There is almost always an argument over who gets to sit by the younger lass at mealtime.  The brothers love to snuggle their baby sis as she sleeps if they happen to get up before she does.  The elder lad loves to take her for rides on his big rig and his bouncy ball, which she likewise loves as judged by her shrieks of delight.  The younger lad is usually happy to share whatever he's eating with her.  He's generous like that. 

Of course, if she gets in the middle of their elaborate truck set-ups, all bets are off.

I pray that the bond these siblings have will continue to deepen and that the consideration they show each other continues to increase as they mature, and I look forward to the day that -- God willing -- they can work things out without shrieking at each other.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

less is more

One of the most oft-given tips I've read by mothers of many for reducing the stress of caring for a young family is to keep things simple -- one way being to keep clutter at bay and to pare down the family belongings.  A couple of years ago I read about 40 Bags in 40 Days, a Lenten decluttering challenge aimed at ridding oneself of excess baggage -- so to speak -- on the outside as an external companion to something similar happening on the inside on the Lenten journey to Easter.   As I've always been one to hang on to *stuff* (much to my Grannie's chagrin), I thought this might be a fitting exercise for me.

Two years later, I'm sort-of giving it a go.  I started before Lent, though, so I'm not sure I'm entirely within the rules.  I don't think that matters, though.  If so, I'm not playing the game.

I'm using the idea of purging 40 bags' worth of *stuff* from this household as a conduit to detaching from things that keep me from attaching more securely to God.  It's also an exercise in stewardship -- the use of God's gifts in his service and to that of others. 

It's clearing the decks taken to the next level.  I might not finish by the time Easter arrives.  As with everything else around here, I'll keep chipping away at it...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

our first Pinewood Derby

Time for lads, dads, and papas out in the garage working with tools followed by a fun and exciting day of races (some lost, some won) has made for a valuable and memorable deposit in the bank of experience.

Friday, March 09, 2012

a work in progress

Sometimes I think this motherhood business is, aside from that whole tending to and helping form the immortal souls of our children thing, one continual lesson in time management.  In fact, I might go so far as to say that after putting someone else's needs (or several someones') before one's own, time management might be the next lesson learned -- or at least taught -- in Mom School.  I wouldn't exactly call myself an eager student of this exercise in self-discipline, but nonetheless I am still enrolled and sticking with it.

Over the past six months I've adopted a couple of strategies to better manage time and domestic responsibilities.  For example, I now consider the time between our arrival home from school until the time we have dinner together as my "kitchen hour," a term and concept I learned from The Happiest Mom.   After school snacks are dished up; water bottles and reusable lunch containers are washed; folders with school paperwork and things that need my signature/attention/action are assessed; the dishwasher is unloaded; and dinner preparations are undertaken.  All of this an attempt to get dinner served sooner rather than later, since we only have a little while between my beloved arrives home from work until Lights Out and want to make the most of it.   

Another area I've been working diligently on is laundry -- specifically, the folding and stowing of laundry.   The sight of an overloaded "clean" laundry basket (denoted as such with labels on the handles and separate from the baskets we use to collect clothes that need to be washed) with clean clothes spilling over it and all around is so very discouraging that I usually keep right on walking past it.  If I can keep it to one or two loads of clean laundry to fold at a time, that's far more manageable.  The bambini are responsible for putting their laundry away.  They each have their own ways of fulfilling this task.  The elder lad employs his big rig.  The younger lad makes his arms into a forklift to carry his clothes.  The elder lass hugs all her clothes to her body and flits to the closet on tiptoe.  The younger lass -- of course -- makes sure we know which clothes are hers: "I shirt."

And then there is the subject of bedtime -- as in mine.  I'm still the most obstinate sleep fighter in this household, staying up later than I ought to most of the time. In the past several months I've been working to change that.  In the past week, I haven't done so well to that end.

All of these concessions, studies, and strides in time management are done in the name of a more smoothly-running household thanks to the comfort of routine and clear expectations for all.  Although I am still trying to figure out how -- or whether -- to fit in little (or not so little) projects here and there, the effort is paying off as each of these salad days draws to its conclusion.

Thank you, Lord, for this day and for all your many gifts and blessings...

Thursday, March 08, 2012

"the incident"

At Foodie Proclivities today I'm talking about broiling.  I've been honing my skills for this technique, which really means that I've had some successes tempered by a few spectacular failures and near misses.

One such near miss was this past Advent.  On the day my beloved and I shared on the family Advent calendar, I wanted to celebrate by making fajitas for my beloved, as it's one of his favorite homemade meals.  Using this fast chicken fajita recipe but substituting flank steak for the chicken, I was excited at the prospect of having everything prepared in the hope of having dinner shortly after my beloved arrived home from work. 

Once I knew he was on his way home, I figured out the timing for broiling first the foil-lined tray of beef and then the vegetables. It was going to work out so perfectly -- so I thought...

I peeked in the oven through the door that I'd left cracked open (and by which I had been standing guard) to see a **flame** rising up off the surface of the beef, so as my beloved walked through the door, I had to greet him not with "hello!" but with "help! the oven's on fire!"

Blessedly, it went out quickly on its own after we turned off the oven (me) and removed the steak (he).  We lowered the rack and were back in business.  It was actually pretty tasty thanks to the char I'd unwittingly achieved *plus* the whole house had a bit of the bambini's favorite Mexican restaurant's ambiance going on what with the wafting smoke and all.

As I was cleaning up afterward, I overheard the elder lad say gravely to the younger lad in reference to the dinnertime excitement, "are you going to tell your friends about 'the incident' at school tomorrow?"

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

spoiler alert

And now for something completely different...

The lads are fascinated with the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder -- well, not so much Laura as her Pa and uncles Henry and George. They've just finished Little House in the Big Woods with my beloved.  It's not their first encounter with Laura, her sisters, Ma, Pa, and their "good ol' bulldog Jack."  We're on our second pass through the picture books in the My First Little House series, having read them when the lads were younger and now again that the elder lass is able to enjoy them.  The picture books are excerpts from Wilder's original stories with illustrations to emulate those of Garth Williams that festooned her first editions.

At school the elder lad has tucked away in his desk a later book in the series for when he has a free moment and has enjoyed providing "spoilers" to the family story such as, "did you know Mary goes blind?!" and "did you know Laura has another sister?" since the picture books and Little House in the Big Woods focus on the family story before baby Grace was born.

I read the Little House books as a young girl and am enjoying reading them again as an adult.  As I do, I can't help but think about what their lives were like -- especially Ma's -- in relation to my own.  Laura was born 145 years ago, and to think of how much the world has changed between then and now boggles the mind.  They might not have had to wrestle with four car seats, but they weren't exactly riding in comfort across the prairie and back, either.

Aspects of the life Laura and her family lived remain relevant to our lives today.  Even with all our modern conveniences and technology, people will always be more important than things.  Reading the original Little House books with their greater level of detail helps us reinforce that message, because we can clearly see how happy and how resourceful they were with the little they had.  They had each other, and that was all that mattered.

As the bambini get older, I am looking forward to reading with them the books that have been written about the other women in Laura's family including her mother Caroline, grandmother Charlotte, great-grandmother Martha, and daughter Rose.

Life in Laura's day certainly wasn't easy.  To read of the hardships they endured really keeps things in perspective!  Yet their devotion to each other and their resiliency supersede all the struggles, making the Little House stories as compelling as ever and inspirational to readers (and listeners) of all ages.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

pray. hope. don't worry.

It's election day here.  Comparatively, today's trip to the polling place with the two lassies wasn't quite as eventful as this one.

In the face of what would seem like perfect hand-wringing conditions considering the state of affairs in this election year, I hope to apply what I've adopted (or rather, am *trying* to adopt day by day) as my approach to life in a nutshell:
  1. Pray.  When I'm anxious about something, I mean to pray about it -- even if in the form of "Lord, I know you can see how anxious I am about this.  Please help me be receptive to the grace I know you supply for me to let go of this anxiety to make room for the peace with which I know you wish to bless me, and kindly guide my thoughts elsewhere."  Repeat as necessary.
  2. Hope.  We are a people of hope.  All is not lost.  We have to hold on to this hope, not in a naive sort of way, but as a matter of faith. We are mistake-making humans living in a fallen world rife with suffering and selfishness, but each new moment is a chance to start fresh.  
  3. Don't Worry.  Worry accomplishes nothing.  Worry is not the same as fear or genuine concern for a person or situation.  I might be splitting hairs here, but I'm nothing if not a stickler for semantics.  This is the reasoning behind my saying to my children -- for example and hypothetically speaking of course (ahem), "I am concerned that you or someone else could get hurt swinging from the rafters" rather than "you're worrying me!!" (and besides, the latter phrase gives any-kind-of-attention-seekers who would pull such stunts more power than they should have -- just sayin')
Now, I realize this might seem overly-simplistic.   Maybe it is.  Maybe that's as it should be -- or all it needs to be, because really who am *I* to think that I can have any kind of influence over the outcome of a given problem or situation?  I'm not the one who works things out.  That's the Lord's doing.  He works through me (when I cooperate) and others as they allow him to.  He sees to matters monumental and miniscule.  Everything happens for a reason, and we are each in our particular stations in life because he wills us to be.

The world/our country/our metropolitan area might be in a sorry state of affairs, but we are not doomed.

When we are faced with such circumstances, if we pray for wisdom, fortitude, and grace, then listen for the answer, we will know how to act. 

When we act as we ought by discerning God's will through prayer, we have reason to hope for the best.

When we have faith in the Lord to reconcile all things to himself and make all things new, we can dispense with worry.


Monday, March 05, 2012

moments of greatness

Twice now in the past week there have been moments best described by that scene in the 1989 movie Major League (much of which I can quote) when the team manager Lou Brown comments to Charlie Donovan the team's general manager that things are "starting to come together". 

As we prepared for a little getaway to my parents' house last week on a day off school, the bambini (with some coaching) packed up their "pack packs" and play clothes the afternoon before so that the next morning we'd have fewer things on our "to do" list.  The morning of our departure when excitement was high, they each pitched in (pardon the pun -- that was fortuitous) according to their ability to fill water cups, vacuum the kitchen floor, help siblings get shoes on, etc.  We were on our way much earlier than on previous occasions, which meant we had more time to play. 

This afternoon we made a trip to Target after school for essentials like yogurt and bananas.  I had my reservations about making this trip, as in my mind a trip to the grocery store with four young children during happy hour might just qualify as the opening for one's cause for canonization (kidding! I'm exaggerating again.).   However, it had to be done.  So we did it.  On the way into the store, I gave a little pep talk about us working as a team just like we did before we went to Mimi and Papa's house last week so that we could get through the store quickly and be on our way home.  There were a few shenanigans but nothing serious, and no one got run over by the "brother cart".

It's moments like these that invite me to say with pride like Lou Brown that this is "my kind of team."  Of course, the very next moment there might well be an outburst from one or more children following some perceived or real injury such as the presumptuous swiping of a fresh library book for one's own perusal (the nerve!), and we are right back to normal -- whatever that is -- but they're still "my kind of team".

Sunday, March 04, 2012


Just as in today's first reading, God put Abraham to the test by asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac (but stopping him before he did so), each of us is daily undergoing some sort of test.  He gives us free will to decide how we will rise to the challenge.  God being all-knowing, the outcome will be no surprise to him. 

In his homily today, the pastor of our parish made an insight I hadn't thought of but can apply to many situations.  He posited that God didn't test Abraham in order for Abraham to prove his faith in God to God, as the Lord already knew the depth of Abraham's faith.  Rather, the test was for Abraham to see how strong his faith in God was for himself. 

There come to mind heart-breaking situations of families losing loved ones -- babies, parents, siblings, and friends.  I will not presume to think I understand the depth of their sorrow.  I do hope and pray that, in spite of that sorrow, they are able to draw peace and strength from their faith in God that their loved ones are at rest in the perpetual light of heaven and will someday greet those still living when they arrive at the end of their own earthly lives.

The testing of one's faith doesn't come only by way of losing loved ones.  In our fallen world we each are confronted with things that challenge and even shake our faith in the one true God who loves and wants each of us to spend eternity with him.

Each of us has a different hand to play, so to speak.  We can not know the internal struggles the people in our midst are battling.  I pray that by the grace of God, we will each realize ourselves to be stronger than we think we are in the faith we have in him.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


The 19-month-old younger lass is better able to express herself verbally every day.  This is a great relief on many levels since we like to know what she's thinking and appreciate when she's able to convey those thoughts in her "inside voice."

Although we have used a few signs with her as she's been acquiring a command of the language to bridge the gap between her knowing what she wants but not being able to express it verbally, she really hasn't employed too many of them herself.  Instead she uses the "i" trend to her own advantage:

"I pack pack."
translation: "I want a backpack like my brothers and sister."  Or more accurately, "I want any one of *their* backpacks."

"I yogurt."
translation: "Fetch me my Foogo."

"I pan-pake."
translation: "I would like a pancake, please."

"I daw-bewy."
translation: "Strawberries are my favorite.  Please give me more -- *lots* more."

"I dirt."
translation: "Let me in on the Mud Season action!"

To her credit, she is *very* polite.  She does parrot back "pease" when prompted to say please, and she is quick to say "thank you" without prompting, even if her emotions are running high.  Somehow, that casts the demands requests in an "aww -- isn't she so cute?" kind of light.

As this trend has evolved, my beloved and I have joked about the next step in the sequence.  He'll be "iDaddy," and I'll be "iMommy" ...

Friday, March 02, 2012

out of reach

For good reason, this cheeky wooden stool looks like it's been around for a while.

It has. It's mine from childhood.

As a toddler, the now six-and-a-half-year-old elder lad would say "stoo-dul" rather than "stool". The word has become part of the family lexicon.

I think of this red stool every time I hear one of Aunt Robin's sturdy (if a little worse for wear, not unlike my stool) wooden kitchen chairs being dragged across our tile kitchen floor up to a countertop for some baking project or find one of our own bathroom stools (which are utterly devoid of sassy phrases) some strange place in the house, knowing it has likely been employed for some clandestine purpose not unlike the ones I may or may not have attempted with the aid of my little red "stoo-dul"...

Thursday, March 01, 2012

water under the bridge

With six months elapsed since my last post, I hardly know where to pick up the story.  Most of the fall semester went unchronicled, and here we are nearly halfway through the spring semester of the elder lad's first grade year and younger lad's preschool year.

While this grieves me, I own that I've never been very good at maintaining a journal of any sort for the long haul.  This latest silence can be attributed to several factors, among them a lamentable lack of whatever motivation and ability I had to see the process from thought to written post to completion.  Part of this was owing to external factors (such as an overwhelming amount of the stuff of lowbrow humor to contend with as well as having nary a few moments in which I had both the use of both my hands *and* cognitive function to devote to navel gazing), but a lot of it had to do with me auguring into a git 'er done mode, staying on top of domestic affairs more consistently and not allowing myself to dilly dally at the glowing screen as much.

Highlights of the past six months include
  • the elder lad's involvement in Cub Scouts as a Tiger Cub.  He seems to really revel in the challenge of it, and we recognize the potential for his growing in virtue by participating in Scouts.  For inspiration and encouragement he can look to several Scouts in the family.  I'm still trying to figure out the quickest and best way to get those patches and badges on his uniform...
  • the transformation of the younger lad to a school boy, one who charges around the school playground playing superhero, rocks his snow boots (aka "moon boots") like nobody's business, and shows an ever-growing capacity for tenderness toward his sisters -- sometimes... 
  • celebrating birthday number three for the elder lass (which still sounds weird to me, but neither of these girlies is "wee" anymore, so some other distinction is necessary), who still loves to read and now is showing quite an interest in ballet.  She's about the age her mother was when said mama began taking ballet lessons... 
  • an entertaining and enchanting display of the younger lass's (now 19 months old) charm, wit, sweetness -- and chutzpah, as she has no qualms about letting us know exactly what she thinks and how she feels...
Along with these highlights and several poignant opportunities for keeping things in perspective has come a greater awareness of the beauty that lies in accepting and fulfilling some aspects of this vocation of wife and mother that aren't anything anyone would call glamorous (see aforementioned reference to that which the Honeywagon ferries away) -- if I choose to look at it that way -- and more gratitude than ever for all the many blessings with which we've been showered.

I wouldn't call the past six months the most prayerful of my existence, although I hope to offer the work that has gone on during this time -- and continues -- as such. 

As for all the soundbytes and family birthdays and books we've read together, at this moment they seem to be water under the bridge.  Perhaps I'll be able to reclaim some of them.  I still struggle mightily with "brain fog", so we'll see what cuts through the haze.

For everything there is a season.  This one in our family life continues to be very full of minute-to-minute changes in climate and conditions, and that takes a lot of stamina -- not to mention prayers.  Please continue to keep us in yours. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails