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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