Monday, May 28, 2012


On the last day of school we drove to the library and signed up for the Summer Reading Program, which asks each participant to read (or be read) a certain number of books and visit the library a few times in order to earn a medal and prizes.  There are special programs and events throughout the summer as well.  We've made it a point to participate since the elder lad was a toddler.  We read to him in those days.  These days he can read to himself (and his siblings). 

Each year when the bambini sign up for the program, they are eager to see the medal and prizes -- sometimes stuffed animals, other times inflatable toys -- they stand to earn.  As soon as we get home from the library they ask me to get out the previous years' medals, which I usually have stashed somewhere after said prizes have been used as lassos or other contraband. 

Reading books together is a high-priority agenda item most days, so we reach the goal of however many books it is to win the whole shebang of prizes fairly early on in the summer.  The elder lad has reveled in writing down the books he's read in his log.

A day or so into the book-logging project, my beloved was giving the elder lad some good-natured teasing about reading before bedtime -- more specifically, that the lad needed to cease his dilly-dallying getting ready for bed lest there be no time left for reading.  The lad wasn't too concerned. 

"It's important to keep reading during the summer so you don't forget how," said my beloved, hoping to motivate the lad.

"But Dad," said the lad," I've already read 12 books today!"

Our aunt who teaches at the school our bambini attend had a snappy comeback of her own when she heard about that:  "Time for longer books!  Next up: War and Peace..." 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

on the agenda

This happened last year too.  The end of the school year seemed like a prolonged tsunami of music programs and special events with Mother's Day thrown in there somewhere and teacher gifts to cook up and help lads execute. We may have collectively been recovering from illness then, too. I can't remember.

So here we are a week into our summer. With no snow days to make up, the school year ended on the early side.

The early side is when these lads are still waking up, even though they're on summer vacation. This way they can have breakfast with their daddy, who has laid aside his morning school bus driver duties for the next two months.

I might be one to while away the hours in a lovely haze of crafting, coffee, writing, and piano-playing if left to my own devices, but seeing as how those times are not the norm in this season of family life I take a different approach to the "lazy" (ha!) days of summer.

handwritten agenda for May 23rd
a full day.  The symbols next to the agenda items are meant to be clocks.
Reams of unstructured time might work well for some families -- maybe even ours eventually (there's that word again), but for the time being we need a little more structure. The elder lad has been drafting "agendas" for us each morning (I think the main draw is the dry erase marker he gets to use). It's a loose framework for the day so we all know what's coming next and what we need to accomplish. It's subject to revision (ahem) and refinement.

handwritten agenda for May 27th

Items that make the agenda are, for the most part, fairly broad.  "Cook" refers to preparations for dinner (in which I am trying to involve the elder lad most days -- we call it "cooking camp"), the whipping up of snackies, or a baking project.  "Art" could be crayons and paper, paint, beads, clay, or something else.  "Play" and "clean" are wonderfully vague.  In the past week I've encouraged the bambini to play outside as much as possible before the temperatures hit triple digits.  Picnic lunches have been the norm.  "Wii," on the other hand, means playing the Wii video game system.   Time spent playing Wii must not be greater than time spent reading.  Or something like that.

Our days don't always elapse according to the agenda.  There weren't enough nappers (or "nodders," as I like to call them) here today.  We did get to go have some happy family fun time, however, but there was no more Wii when we got home from the festivities.  Last Friday the day's agenda was drafted the night before, only to be happily upended by an impromptu trip to pick berries with Grandmare

Around here we go one day at a time.  Making a plan for the day is one way I'm finding to help make the most of these salad days, knowing that nothing is etched in stone and that every day is a gift from God.  When I take proactive measures like these, I'm better able to revel in the gift.  I may be ready for some downtime at day's end, but I can do so knowing that we didn't just pass time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

little things

happiness is...
elder lass reading a library books with other library books stacked nearby

...a sack of fresh library books and a favorite pair of "clip clops"
(and a washing machine back in business, with many thanks to my handy husband)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

speed dial

In case you've been trying to put a face with my name, here's a fairly recent portrait by the younger lad:
"Momm" by Younger Lad, age 4.5 • November 2011
Yes: my hair usually does look like that, and I'm trying to incorporate more "bling" into my everyday look with accessories and embellishments.

These bambini of mine are by turns sweet, spirited, imaginative, and resilient.  They along with my beloved play a major role in the ongoing process that is my conversion of heart to the will of Christ.

Someone who always spoke of the lofty nature of motherhood while acknowledging its far less glamorous aspects was the pastor emeritus of the parish where I served as director of music and liturgy for a few years.  He was a man of such size and stature as to cause young children to wonder if he was God or Santa Claus.   He died a few days before Christmas this past year, and his absence is felt keenly by those whose souls he tended for many years and whose hearts he lifted with words of encouragement and prayer. 

I had the great honor of playing the piano at the vigil service held for him the night before his funeral was celebrated.  I chose music to reflect the servant leadership he so deftly offered as well as music that summoned the prayers of Christ's mother Mary, whom this Irish Catholic priest (as noted by the funny sign stationed at the head of his casket for the vigil that proclaimed "parking for Irish Catholic priest only") held in highest regard and mused about often. 

The well-timed phone calls from him are sorely missed, not just by me but by lots of folks, I'm sure.  The brief exchanges of pleasantries and vocational affirmation always helped me in my quest to mother intentionally, faithfully, and gently.  As much as I miss those phone calls now, I trust he continues to pray for us, and that those prayers are carried to the Father speedily. 

With sincere appreciation for my mother, my beloved's mother, our grandmothers, godmothers, aunts, cousins, and friends who mother us so lovingly and for those who support and care for mothers of any kind, I pray the Lord will bless in a special way those who are in dire need of mothering, whatever their age, and in need of someone like this dear priest to affirm them in living out the call of Christ. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

good news • bad news • good eats

This can't be good:
broken washing machine with cover removed
our washing machine presently

...especially when we're going on a week with a nasty virus afflicting most of us (the elder lad and I are the holdouts).  One might expect that a few days with an offline washer might mean I'd catch up a little, but alas this is not the case.

Downer as that may be, I am happy to report that the elder lad has been branching out a bit from his standard fare, eating more fresh fruit and even some vegetables.  He says broccoli is his favorite, but he and his sister (the three-year-old elder lass) made short work of some of our backyard garden-fresh peas.

elder lass shelling garden fresh peas
Lass could use a manicure.

We had planned to use those peas in a stir-fry for dinner, but our little field hands took a hefty "fee" for their picking work.  That's alright. 

Speaking of stir-frying, that's what I'm writing about today at Foodie Proclivities.  Check it out here.  Have I ever mentioned that my beloved and I lived in the same high-rise residence hall for a semester but never once met?

He lived in the guys' tower and I lived in the girls' tower, but the two towers shared a cafeteria with a wok station (about which I reminisce further in the post at Foodie Proclivities; please do click over).

I can't help but wonder how many times we were in that cafeteria -- maybe even wok-ing -- at the same time.  The Lord sure does have a sense of humor.  He knew it wasn't yet time for us to meet.  I had to work on my stir-frying skills...

Friday, May 11, 2012

wrong answer

"What am I going to do with you?" I asked the elder lad at bedtime.
He, knowing full well the expected answer, answers my question with one of his own:

"What are my options?"

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

bath time 4.0

In the name of cleanliness with expediency and all that,
sometimes a tub full of bambini is where it's at.

Alas, this can make for choppy seas
with splishes and splashes and plenty of pleas
to keep the water in the tub.
(Remember when tre' bambini went "rub a dub dub"?)

Now with four small(ish) sets of limbs to get clean
after muddin' and grubbin' and baking projects e'en,
when parents are up for the challenge at hand,
we can hastily dispense with the dirt and sand.

It's no small feat. There are bound to be some antics.
But if Mama (or Daddy) has the right playful 'tude, we can keep from growing frantic.

When billed as a "dog wash" with a tub full of yappers,
the bath magically (or not) concludes with no need for snappers.
(though sometimes there is some goofy singing
especially if the poochies' howlings have Mama's ears ringing)

Or if the bambini balk at the idea of a fresh water rinse,
the image of watering plants helps me to convince
them of the need for such a shower.
This helps bring the proceedings to a close (unless it's happy hour).

If someone is illin' or tensions are high,
a stand-up shower in lieu of a bath comes to mind.

At best the elder siblings can help the youngest one wash
(unless, of course, she is covered in ganache).
To see them helping each other brings joy to my heart,
soon to be followed by a sigh when they utter the word 'f*rt'.

Still, they are bigger and every day more capable.
The elder lad is especially able
to wash and lather
(though he'd rather
conduct science experiments with shampoo and other stuff --
of such explorations he can never get enough).

My brand-new mommy self or single self (or even mother of three self) would never have guessed
that I could bathe four children at once with a modicum of success.

Things don't always go smoothly.  Sometimes I am terse
when there are shennigans or tidal waves or worse.
It can be messy, this business of getting clean,
but here's hoping before-bedtime baths lead to sweet dreams.

If anyone's looking for a gift idea for me,
a bath apron like this one might be just the thing.

I have already disclosed my lack of enthusiasm for poetry,
so why is it that bath time brings out the versifier in me?

Monday, May 07, 2012

their stories

At last week's storytime, the kids in attendance made their own books as part of the "Day of the Child" celebration at the library.  They got to write and illustrate the stories themselves (or dictate the stories to their caregivers, if necessary).

That's what the elder lass did -- dictate to me a story about a cat who plays at the playground with her sister then has a snack and takes a nap.
elder lass's book about a cat
Clearly, I am not an illustrator of any distinction.

The younger lad's story was, of course, about a robot.  This unnamed robot (not Sammy) dresses up like a dragon and scales some power lines before resting in some grass.

younger lad's robot book book

While I was writing (taking dictation, that is) and illustrating (ahem) the elder lass's tome, the younger lass went to town on some illustrations of her own.  I'm hoping she'll fill in the story eventually.
younger lass's book
younger lass's exuberant artwork, much like her personality.  PS: I'm smitten with my new gold tablecloth.

Complete with snacks and more books, it was a festive conclusion to the school year storytime series our friend the talented librarian does so well.  We're looking forward to summer storytimes starting in June.

Inspired by his siblings' creations, the elder lad starting writing a book of his own -- a chapter book, no less.  I'm eager to see where it leads.
The Tree House, a story the elder lad is writing
"The Tree house" -- a work in progress
In other book-related doings, I've updated a couple of recent book posts, including the follow-up zoo book post and the duck-themed one, with books that came to mind after I'd published the posts and photographs of the books themselves.   I'm always hesitant to assert that I've canvassed the books on a given topic for this very reason.

Whatever shall we do until summer Storytime begins?  Write our own stories, I suppose. I for one will try my hardest not to let our vast quantities of library materials go overdue, which is what usually happens when Storytime is on hiatus and I'm consequently off my routine -- in spite of the safeguards and reminders...

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Of all the bambini, the younger lass is the most touchy-feely child.  She loves to poke her fingers into the crevasses of my face, twist my hair around her fingers, twiddle, fiddle, smack, and kick when I'm holding her close.  Attempts to divert her are not usually well-received, Many a baby doll, stuffed animal, and silky soft blanket I've tried to employ in an effort to divert her tactile-seeking compulsion.  So far, nothing will do but Mama's hair, Mama's nose, or Mama's neck.  She seems to already know that people are more important than things.

Each of the bambini has his or her way of touching me that seems to give them reassurance or otherwise soothes them. Try as I have several times to introduce "loveys" to my bambini -- things that can help to assuage some serious Mama-needing drama, especially helpful when there have been multiple children in acute need simultaneously (of which times there have been plenty) -- not a one of the babes ever gone for the person-substitute to the degree that there is one unquestionable lovey that must be in sight or attendance at all times lest there be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  They simply never took to them to that extent.

max the monkey: a stuffed monkey made of a variety of fabrics
Max the Monkey: the lovey I chose for the elder lad.  I bought two Maxes, just in case one got lost.  The elder lad liked Max, but not as much as I hoped he would.

Each child does have some favorite stuffed animal "friends" and toys that go with on sleepovers to the grandparents' house or reside on the bed of each sleeping (if only they would) child, but they aren't what I think of as "loveys" in the sense that compelled my Grannie to Fed Ex my own childhood lovey back to my parents' house when I'd left it behind in Chicago as a young girl.

Maybe that's because, to borrow and tweak an expression coined by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, *I* am my kids' lovey.  Grannie has long used this term of endearment to address me, my cousins, and other loved ones. I've adopted this habit myself, but I know a woman who calls her mother "Lovey."  It seems either usage is appropriate.

 Here is where I must own that I am not always gracious about responding to Mama-I-Need-You-To-Hold-Me-Right-Now beseechings, which is -- I realize -- a primary reason for introducing a lovey.  Many times I ask for "a moment, please" or flat out say "I can't hold you right now because....  I will hold you as soon as...".  Sometimes the neediness and close physical proximity is almost too much for me.  In these moments I try my level best to model healthy ways of calming myself and expressing my discomfort so that eventually the bambini will be able to do this for themselves.  

large stuffed dog
The elder lad's eventual and longtime friend, given to him by a friend of his daddy's and mine that the young lad named for his grandparents' family pet.
I am in no hurry to push the bambini into independence.  They'll take take that in their own time.  By my presence and availability to them, I hope to help cultivate within the bambini a burgeoning sense of confidence in themselves that leads to the development of their ability to manage their strong emotions.  Their need for my physical closeness will diminish as time marches on, although I do hope to be a calming presence to them in their time of need whatever their age.

Long after the hair pulling and nostril poking have subsided, I hope the attachment we've forged will flourish, because nothing in this world is more important than the bond of love that holds us together no matter how close together or far apart we are.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

important matters of Legos and life

A few weeks ago the elder lad was especially fretful.  At first he worried that he'd sucked up a Lego when he was vacuuming one evening.  He was willing to sift through the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag in search of the missing piece.  He was persuaded to first dump out the various containers of Legos we've amassed and put each piece back so as to check for the missing one.  Blessedly, my beloved helped him with this endeavor, and they found the longed-for Lego.  There was much rejoicing.

That moment was a long time coming.  As they worked together and throughout the many episodes in which the lad expressed with great emotion how much he wanted to find the missing Lego, my beloved would talk to the lad in a sympathetic albeit straightforward way about how the Lego was just a thing, that it wasn't something that would matter in the final analysis of the lad's life.  It being a thing, it could not keep him from loving and serving God (unless he let it). 

Once that was resolved, the lad began to worry that something *might* be buried in the dirt box out back -- something like a favorite truck or toy that he would miss if we were to move to a different home.  As often as they've tilled that dirt box with their shovels, this is highly unlikely.  He is not convinced, and since now there are vegetables planted in that box, they may not go uprooting those in search of the toy, which may or may not be missing.  The lad is still worried about losing something important to him (although he can't articulate what it is he's looking for or recall having buried it -- whatever it is -- in the dirt box), but he does now acknowledge "it's just a thing" (whatever it is).

We have a saying here:  "people are always more important than things.". I didn't coin the phrase, but I have employed it many a time.

A few nights ago the lads had the Legos out again (along with the requisite separator tool).  By some misfortune, the younger lad accidentally broke one of the trucks the elder lad had created.  The younger lad apparently said something apologetic to his older brother, who was surprisingly gracious about the mistake.  After the elder lad reassured his brother that this would not spell imminent doom for the younger brother, the grateful lad said, "it's just a thing.  It can be fixed.  People can't be fixed."  Together they rebuilt the truck.

Thank you, Lord, for these reassurances that the messages of gentleness, forgiveness, and respect that we're trying to send are getting through.  Such gifts help buoy us when any one of us chooses to behave otherwise.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

magical ideas

Three year old elder lass asks me as we're driving home from school: "Mama, when I get older, can I have a pink wand?"

me:  "What would you do with it?"

her: "I'd wand [my baby sister] to my room."

me: "Then what?"
her: "I'd play with her."

me: "Play what?"
her: "Horses.  She'd ride in my lap on my horse.  I'd put the wand on her lap."

me: "Like a seat belt?"
her: "Yes."

later that same trip...

Elder lass, looking up from her book: "'B' is for buffalo and for Bonnie, so maybe you should get a buffalo for your birthday."

All this from the usually-reserved girl who described the outfit she meticulously chose for herself today as that of a "rock star."  

I can't make this stuff up.

Epilogue: when she told her daddy that she was a "rock star," he asked her what that meant.  "Is it a person who likes to look at rocks?" he asked her.  "Yes," she declared. 
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