Saturday, June 29, 2013

whatever it takes

Oh sure -- there's plenty to write about:
  • the elder lad's First Holy Communion and eighth birthday
  • an amazing Day of Service at our home parish
  • summer adventures close to home 
  • minor victories of the prayer variety
  • ongoing efforts to be a better steward and help our bambini do likewise
  • creative outlets I've been utilizing at the expense of this chronicle
  • the continued challenge of managing minute-to-minute while taking the long view
  • other random musings loyal readers have come to expect from me
But for now, this will have to do: homemade chocolate granola.  Easy, tasty, healthy, and a whole lot less expensive than the stuff in the grocery store.  It ranks right up there with our favorite oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but healthier and more versatile.

Check it out at Foodie Proclivities!
(and stay tuned for more about those other things up there)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

[insert favorite Batman reference here]

In that special kind of crazy that is the hallmark of a bedtime routine that should've started already, here is yet another exchange that I couldn't make up if I wanted to:

me to lad who shall remain nameless: "My patience is really waning.  Please listen and follow directions."

him: "What does 'waning' mean?  Like Bruce Wayne?"

something like that...

Friday, April 05, 2013

the secret of success

This is a special day for my beloved's family, for it is the anniversary of his grandparents.  He is their eldest grandchild, born on their 25th wedding anniversary.  That was a while ago, and a lot has happened since then. 

Sixty-plus years of marriage do not elapse without struggle.  Arriving at this milestone requires each spouse’s commitment every day to living the vocation to which God has called them.  This daily acceptance of God’s will is a choice each spouse makes to work for the good of the other, to love each other as God loves each person.  When asked how they accomplished this feat of longevity, my beloved's grandmother is quick to note that prayer is essential to the equation.  Without a prayerful perspective, the ins and outs of daily life weigh heavily on shoulders with the best of intentions but little foundation upon which to rest.  

The pair who now call me their granddaughter (omitting the "in-law" part) continue to give witness to the power of faith, hope, and love in action by their daily commitment to prayer and self-sacrifice, using words only when necessary to explain with great humility the great blessing they have received of so many years spent hand in hand serving the Lord.  Built on the foundation of sacramental marriage, this couple (like so many others) has seen its share of happiest joys, deepest sorrows, and the gamut of emotions and experiences in between.   Their family and friends rejoice with them on the happy occasion of their anniversary and thank God for the blessing of knowing and learning from this couple as we do.    

Stories like this one serve as inspiration to those wondering how to make marriages last so long or how to keep children close to the faith.  My beloved's grandparents and other long-time married couples like them know the accomplishment is really a blessing that, along with the blessing of relative good health for both spouses, comes through having allowed themselves to be the instruments through which God works out his plan, by cooperating with the Lord through an attitude of self-giving, and by taking up the crosses big and small that the Lord sees fit to place in their paths every day.  This approach has made the Earthly journey the couples have traveled together an altogether happy one, but their ultimate goal is to see each other in Heaven. 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Twenty-some odd questions: 6yo younger lad

A couple of weeks ago, our tender-hearted, fun-loving, precious younger lad earned another candle on his (King Boo of Super Mario Brothers) birthday cake.  He remains imaginative, thoughtful, sensitive, generous, cheerful, friendly, and enthusiastic.  In the past year, he has grown taller, kinder, sillier (if that's possible), rougher, and keener than ever on being a valiant young squire.  How blessed we are to have him in our midst.


Some of his preferences have changed, but his sweet nature is still his hallmark. 

How does it feel to be six?
good [his stock answer to most open-ended questions, by the way]

What's the best thing about being six?
opening presents

What do six-year-olds do?
go to first grade

What's the most important thing you've learned in life so far?
being good to God -- not being an evil person

What do you like most about yourself?
being a redhead
self portrait
Are you a morning person or evening person?
I'm a morning person!

What do you like learning about?
how to play Star Wars

Do you know what God's plan is for your life?
to be a good person

What's your favorite thing to do with Daddy?

What's your favorite thing to do with Mama?
ride in the car... to the ice cream shop.

What do you like most about our family?
a lot
The lad's Kindergarten teacher conducts interviews as well.
What do you like to do with our family?
I like going to the zoo.

What are some of your hobbies?
playing battle

What's your favorite color?

What's your favorite TV show?
Wild Kratts

What's your favorite movie?
the pod racer scene from Star Wars

What is your favorite food?
cinnamon rolls

What is your favorite dessert?
mint chocolate chip ice cream

Your favorite thing to wear?
my Mario overalls

What sports do you like to play?
baseball, soccer, basketball... that's pretty much all the sports I know how to play.

What's your favorite thing about Kindergarten?
nap time because I like to read my Star Wars book

What's your favorite subject in school?

What do you want to be when you grow up?
an army soldier

May the Lord bless you all the days of your life, dear lad, and preserve both your sunny disposition and your zeal for life and the world around you.  May he guard your heart and fan into flame the desire you have to serve him as he calls you to. And may you always remember how precious you are to us.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

no blarney

Confession: I did a double take when I pulled this out of the elder lad's take-home folder:

elder lad's pot of gold art

Sure enough it *does* say "My brother means more to me than gold because we lov each other and he my brother." [sic]

Considering their interactions go from thick as thieves to gauntlets thrown down in the blink of an eye, I am amazed at this declaration for anyone and everyone to see.  Then again, it isn't without precedent.  And there was that whole staring-at-the-ceiling thing...

The younger lad made a similar piece in return, declaring his elder brother "his best friend." Chalk my incredulity up to my still-stymied understanding of sibling relationships

Sunday, March 10, 2013

good and evil

The two-and-a-half-year-old younger lass has a way with words:
"My eyes are choc'late." (referring to their luscious dark color)
"Bad boy!" (directed at her sister)

Every time the latter zinger is hurled, one of us always responds (even if it's not quite the "teachable moment" yet), "she's not a boy, and she's not bad."  Under normal circumstances, the younger lass *does* know that her sister is a girl like herself, but in moments of upset, that crusher is her biggest gun.  She picked it up from a sibling who shall remain nameless known for using it as a sort of heat-seeking missile against his brother.  In such cases, a similar response is given about the lad not being bad (laying aside the gender confusion). 

I'm not sure how this epithet came into being, since neither my beloved nor I employ it ourselves in the course of correcting inappropriate behavior on the part of our bambini.  Nonetheless, these fighting words persist and still sting, even though we are quick to say "God made [your brother] good.  He's not bad," and go on to talk about how we all make mistakes in the form of bad choices now and again, but that we are essentially good people -- even the sibling that has just pressed another's hot button.

As adults, we probably don't go around calling other adults names like "bad boy!", but we'd probably be fibbing if we didn't acknowledge at least once thinking to ourselves something along those lines (or worse).  We might even go so far as to think of a particular person as "evil," especially when considering the track record of a person who clearly has little respect for others to the point of destroying them literally or figuratively. 

It is contrary to our Catholic faith to think of people as evil.  God made us good.  He gave us free will, and sometimes we make bad choices from which evil has its way.  We can be under the influence of evil, and we struggle mightily against the effects of original sin, but we can also choose to do good (however difficult this may be) and have recourse to the grace we receive at Baptism and through the sacraments to live uprightly. 

Halfway through this Lenten season, we are far enough on the journey to Easter to have gained a little perspective since Ash Wednesday when some of our Lenten practices began in earnest.  God willing, we have come to recognize some ways in which evil has insinuated itself between us and the God who loves us.  With this reminder of pure, perfect love to encourage us, we dare to believe in our inherent good.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Pinewood Derby, vol. 2

Pinewood Derby this morning, Blue & Gold Banquet this evening, and Daylight Savings Time overnight -- that's what I call a trifecta.

elder lad's gold & black Pinewood Derby truck
the elder lad's second-place-in-his-den-winning truck

Friday, March 08, 2013

Friday night live

Earlier this evening...

All four bambini are out in the garage with my beloved.  Tomorrow is the Pinewood Derby for the elder lad's Cub Scout pack, so the lad and his dad are putting the finishing touches on his lustrous truck (another one).  Through the open door I can banging, clanging, scuffling, and the younger lass yelling jubilantly "here we go!"  She and her sister are sitting in the green wagon that is rarely used for outings to the neighborhood playground anymore.  The younger lad is nearby in a stance that reads "train conductor" although he is wearing a black shirt vest (over his white school uniform polo) with green felt strategically cut and placed to look like what Chris Kratt wears on the lads' favorite show Wild Kratts graciously made for him by the mother of one of his classmates after hearing how much he, his brother, and his sisters enjoy that show.  The lasses say they are going to the beach. I'm not sure how the lad fits in the beach trip, but I have every confidence that he's got a plan.  Maybe they're taking the train to the beach.

How they love to go tinker around in the garage with their dad, sometimes stomping around in the bed of his truck, sometimes dabbing paint on small blocks of wood like the elder lass did last year as her brothers painted their Derby cars, sometimes using tools on a project with his skilled and immediate guidance.  The younger lad won't get to enter a car in the Pinewood Derby until next year when he is a first-year Cub Scout, but he's made a car (or is this year's a boat?) both years alongside his brother. 

The outcome of tomorrow's Pinewood Derby is anyone's guess, and we're not worried about that.  The process of creating, crafting, and finishing the cars has been the real prize.

The day has had its ups and downs, from these amicable sounds, school Mass, and lunch with a cherished friend to displays of fury from tired, frustrated bambini and sibling squabbles that are nothing new.  The scene in the garage ended when the lasses came in to get ready for bed and the Derby truck with freshly-installed wheels came in to cure overnight. Then it was the usual nuttiness that is the bedtime routine.

I'm sure glad I stepped away from folding laundry to take in the sights and sounds out in the garage.  It was a moment meant to capture forever.

Friday, March 01, 2013

taking notes

close-to-six-year-old younger lad to his sister the four-year-old elder lass,
with whom he is usually a jovial and willing playmate
(even when the game suggested is playing house):
"Why do you like to play mom?"

elder lass: "because you get to have a purse"

In typical fashion, the four-year-old elder lass has zeroed in on an aspect of the world around her and made it the linchpin of her carefully-considered plans.   As a mother, which she wants to be, she'll tote a purse around (likely with several books and who knows what else, like her own mother) -- but she does that already.

The elder lass at four years old has a very basic, age-appropriate understanding of how mamas are built by God to care for babies.  Realizing how closely the lass is watching me, the other women in her life, and her young girl friends (and taking notes, as evidenced by the purse reference, among others), I am ever mindful of my own attitudes, habits, and comments about myself and others.  I'm also humbled to think of imperfect I am, how prone I am to impatience even as I try to handle sticky situations with humor and fortitude.  I hope she and her siblings grow to be better at that than I am.

Yes, I do know she is four years old.  Remember I take a long view.

Should the Lord call the lasses to be mothers someday, I know they will draw from many sources (including the legacy their mother leaves for them) in approaching their journeys, which likely will not be exactly the same as my own.  As they seek to understand themselves and what roles they are called to play in this world, they will find many pundits -- not all of them trustworthy -- all too willing to supply them with information about what it means to be a woman nowadays.  Thankfully, we have recourse to a wealth of good, insightful, and spiritually-sound resources to help them wade through the static.

Just as Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, so too are mothers who are seeking to care for the children entrusted to them both physically and spiritually.  The love we have for our children is a reflection of God's love for us. When we submit to the Lord's will and seek to conform ourselves more closely to it every day, the grace that flows freely is that which makes a job well done possible. 

I pray all our bambini will grow and flourish in the knowledge of God's love for each of them through the care they receive from our hands, so that they might in turn someday lead their little ones to Christ. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

birthday books

The four-year-old elder lass's deep and abiding love for books is well-chronicled here.  She comes by it honestly from both sides.  So for her recent birthday, some gifts were a given.  She had one specific book request: The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen (I reviewed it here).  I took the liberty of selecting a few others, including a couple of Toot and Puddle books (review here); Sugar Cookies, one of the Cookie books (review here); and this feast for the eyes by Tasha Tudor:

A is for Annabelle by Tasha Tudor

Ms. Tudor was one of those illustrators whose prolific work is iconic -- it evokes feelings of nostalgia, beauty, and wonder.  In this story, two little girls are admiring their grandmother's antique doll named Annabelle and all her accoutrement.  Each page of this doll's alphabet is intricately adorned with details from Annabelle's dresses, furniture, and accessories to floral borders around each scene.  I could easily sit and stare at each page, but the lass urges me to turn and keep reading (or say "beep," much like the sound effect on an audiobook, so she knows to turn the page herself).

This beautiful book ranks high among my other favorite doll books and is one I hope the lasses will continue to pore over for a long time to come.

We weren't the only ones to think books would make good gifts for our lass.  She received, among others, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr from her aunt and uncle.  I don't know if they knew beforehand, but this book is on my top five list of favorite children's books ever.  It is so charming.  Sophie and her "mummy" are having tea when they receive an unexpected visitor: a tiger.  He's hungry and asks if he may join them for tea.  Her mummy graciously welcomes the tiger inside their apartment (think London 1968, when this book was first published).  Sandwiches, buns, and tea aren't enough to satisfy the tiger; he goes searching for more food and effectively clears the apartment of anything edible as well as all the water in the tap.  When Sophie's daddy comes home, he takes the news pretty well and has a solution to their lack-of-dinner crisis.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

Throughout the story, little Sophie is clearly smitten with the tiger.  The sweet illustrations are a soothing counterpoint to what otherwise might be a rather alarming story of a tiger showing up at one's door and proceeding to eat everything in sight (except the people, thankfully).

We had a great time celebrating the elder lass's fourth birthday with a vintage circus theme (based on the pink-on-the-inside tiger cake she requested).  These books are lasting reminders of that happy occasion. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

twenty-some odd questions: 4yo elder lass

Our elder lass turned four years old about a month ago.  What an amazing child of God she is.  Wise, cautious, sensitive, and introspective, there is a lot going on inside her head that she doesn't necessarily share.  She started preschool two days a week this year, and while it took a while for her to be at peace with the idea of separating from me, she has come to love school.  At home she is often found playing school with her dollies,  "snuggle friends", and younger sister.  When she's not teaching , she's likely having storytime for the motley crew, dressing up in a fancy frock along with her sister, or lobbying to get the Play-Doh out.  She studies the world around her intently and is most comfortable with her family members, a few good friends, and her books.  She has mastered the look that is The Stare, but when she smiles her face is radiant.  Her eyes dance, and her laughter can range from bell-like to belly-busting.  One might describe her as enigmatic.  Aren't we all?

With an understanding of her world that continually amazes me,  this precious girl has a read on the landscape that is both complete and insightful.  I pray she will use the traits that are inherent in her God-given temperament to seek him in the quiet spaces and reflect his light in the more chaotic.

The following birthday interview was extracted one question at a time, for she is not given to such disclosures about herself in large doses.  Some of the answers surprise me, but then again, so does she.

What’s the best thing about being four? 
Getting things you wanted for your birthday

What do four-year-olds do?
Go to school; be sweet to their baby sister

Favorite color

Favorite thing to do with Mama
Stay home

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A mommy

What’s the most important thing in life?
To be nice

Favorite thing to do with Daddy
Ride in the truck

Favorite TV show

Favorite food

Favorite book
Skippyjon Jones

Favorite restaurant

Favorite thing about school

Favorite center

Tell me about our family.
There are six people.  There are four children.  One of the children has red hair.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

my kind of study buddy

After a week of saints costumes, school spirit dress, and "crazy hat day" (in which I fashioned a cardinal's biretta something like Cardinal Dolan is sporting here with a little help from this dude), the Catholic Schools Week festivities culminated with school Mass and receptions in the classrooms.  Back in the triple digit heat at the beginning of the school year, I had signed up to supply a "sweet treat" for the younger lad's party. This is what I came up with (by way of one of many gracious hostesses I'm delighted to count among my relatives):

study buddy snack mix
I call it "Study Buddy Snack Mix".  It's crazy good.

It was so easy, I didn't even stay up half the night making it (although I may have botched melting some white chocolate in the process; it all worked out in the end).

Get the full scoop at Foodie Proclivities!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the ultimate gift

At the end of January we observed Catholic Schools Week, one devoted nationwide to celebrating the unique gift that is a Catholic education.  After much discernment and continued prayer, we made the decision a few years ago to enroll our bambini in a parish-based parochial school for a number of reasons, chief among them being this particular school's faithful witness to the message of Christ as evidenced by its commitment to teaching Gospel values by example and living them in love.   While the academics taught at the school are first-rate, to have the reinforcement of a community actively seeking to live in accordance with God's law as we tend to the formation of our children's souls -- always by God's grace and with his help -- is priceless.

This was not the easy choice for us, but we feel it is the right one for our family.  Our bambini are thriving at this school, and they show an ever-increasing love for the Lord and consideration of other people, which we understand are the Lord's two greatest commandments.  We hope and pray this trend continues as the bambini grow to maturity, but maybe someday one or more of them will, to be blunt, chuck it all either by a willful departure from the faith or by an lukewarm apathy that creeps up over time.   There are plenty of stories of such alumni.

The pastor emeritus of the parish school often still presides at school Mass.  More than once I have heard him speak in reference to the gift that the students are receiving in the form of their Catholic education.  He always goes on to stress the importance of the students taking ownership of the gift they are being given and making it their own, carrying it with them, nurturing the seeds of faith their parents, pastors, and educators are working to plant every day, and guarding against the temptation toward laziness in the all-important matter of faith.

We can go to great lengths in the name of passing the faith on to our children, including providing access to a Catholic education for them (whether that's at a Catholic school, a  public school supplemented by parish-based faith formation classes, or home school), being active in a faith community, and living each day visibly seeking the Lord's will, all of which we know can heavily influence how the bambini filter all the messages they hear and apply them to their own lives. None of it will guarantee, however, that our bambini will ultimately become men and women of faith themselves.  That gift comes from God himself, and has to be sought, claimed, and lived by each person.

I pray the Lord will fan into flame the sparks of desire within our bambini and all God's children to know, love, and serve him in this life so as to be with him in the next.

Monday, February 18, 2013

crickets chirping

As this virtual space has fallen dormant (again) over the past three months, a similar phenomenon has played out in real life.  For those faithful readers of mine (God bless them) who keep checking to see if this is the day I've clicked "publish" to post something -- anything -- since that last bit of good advice from the younger lad, I am grateful.  Thanks for sticking with me.  


Have you ever offered to help only have to your gesture ignored?  Not even ignored, but maybe politely noted, then not acted upon?  

This has happened to me more than once, and for the most part I've been able to cultivate a certain detachment that if verbalized would sound something like "here's what I'm offering.  You don't want it?  Fine.  Moving on..."

I've struggled to maintain this detachment recently when, once again, I offered to help when I saw that I could.  For whatever reason, what I was offering wasn't what the other party was looking for.  They didn't come right out and say it; they thanked me but then didn't get back to me on the offer for a while.  Maybe they didn't want my help.  Maybe they forgot.  Maybe they figured the offer stood (which it does). 

Maybe it wasn't about me at all.  

As I stewed in my juices cooking up reasons why I wasn't hearing back on the offer, I began to have an awareness that I was making it more about me than about the gift I was offering, which I truly meant as a gift.  Once I had this realization, I began to think more about my reasons for making the offer.

Was it to fill a need I saw?
Definitely yes.

Was it to fulfill a need of mine?
Yes to this also.

Was it to draw attention to myself?
I hate to think so, but maybe a little, given how much I'm letting it bother me.

In light of this last less-than-flattering thought, I began to pray for the grace to let go of any ambition I may have had lurking behind the offer (which I earnestly made with a sincere desire to help) and leave it all up to the Lord.  Maybe it just wasn't God's will that they take me up on the offer.  If he wanted me to serve him in this particular way, I knew he'd make it happen.  If he didn't, then I needed to accept that and pray for wisdom to discern his will for me here and now. 

Waiting on someone else to respond to some gesture of mine leaves me open to the awkward silence of no response -- what some might refer to as "crickets chirping" -- as in quiet enough to hear those critters that give me the heebie-jeebies serenading their sweeties.

This goes for prayer as well.  While it may seem our prayers are going unanswered, that all we're hearing is crickets chirping, such is not the case.  The answer to prayer does not come on our time table or even in terms we expect.  Answers can be found, however, as we "keep turning the cards over" as my dad would say, as life unfolds day by day.

In the particular case I describe, I have had to level with the Lord by letting him know what he already knows, that I very much wish for something specific to happen, but that even more than that I wish to do his will -- even if it means something other than my desire being fulfilled in this particular circumstance.  I trust that all things will work out according to God's plan, in God's time.
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