7 11 Quick Takes

7 11 Quick Takes


I started to write a quick takes post last week but only got five of them and then got distracted and never posted them. I thought I’d round up some from this week and post them all together. (As usual I’m transcribing and expanding those Twitter comments that I think were worth preserving.) So naturally this week I have far too many. It’s either feast or famine. You can stop reading at 7 if you want; but they are all pretty short.)



I love it when Bella sings. Especially when she makes up her own songs. One of her recent songs is this sweet ditty: “Dance, child, dance. Dance, child, dance. Whenever the seem looks nice and clean. Dance, child, dance. ” (I’ve got a short video which I need to upload of her singing it.)

When I asked her if she’d heard that song or made it up, she told me she’d made it up. But a minute later she corrected herself: My friend posted it on her blog.



Recently as we were getting ready to go I addressed the girls, “Let’s go. Both of you.”

Sophie smiled and responded, “Both of us!”

And I was so floored by her grasp of grammar that I repeated it again just to hear her repeat it again: “Both of you.”

“Both of us.”



The other day I heard Bella repeating this phrase: “the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.” Se kept repeating it, almost chanting it. I looked over and saw that she had this anthology of Winter Poems . It was open to a selection from “The Bells” by Edgar Allen Poe. The line she was repeating was the final line in the selection.

By the way, I adore this book. It’s a great selection and it’s illustrated by the wonderful Trina Schart Hyman. It’s too bad she hasn’t done similar anthologies for the other seasons.


I asked, “Bella can you please put your quesadilla in a bag.”

Bella responded: “A sandwich bag? Or a quesadilla bag?”

Sometimes she’s too clever by half!



For some reason we’ve had a hard time settling on what to have the girls call Dom’s mother. All the grandchildren call his dad “Nanu”; and most of them seem to call his mother “Grandma”. Which we usually do to; but then we also call my mom “Grandma” and are afraid that might be a bit confusing. So sometimes, rarely, Dom refers to his mom as “Nana,” which is what he called his own grandmother. Evidently it is so rare the girls don’t remember it.

The other night as we were saying prayers he was tired and added, “God bless Nana.” to the usual litany. For some reason this struck Sophie as hilarious. She started repeating it, “God bless Na-na! Bwahahahaha! God bless Na-na!” Soon Bella joined in. Both girls were laughing so hard and Dom and I caught it and we were laughing to as we tried to finish our bedtime prayers. Every night thereafter they’ve done the same. After God bless Mama and Dada and Benny, suddenly one or the other bursts out with, “God bless Nana!” and everyone laughs and laughs and laughs.



O Mother Goose, how I love you! My girls constantly speak in snippets of rhyme. Sophie especially often will spout bits and tags of poems as if they were normal conversation. If I’m not paying close attention, I’ll miss it.

The other day Bella was walking out the back door with a purse slung over her shoulder. “I’m going to St. Ives. Bye!” she announced.

Then yesterday Sophie was sitting in my lap and suddenly declared,  “Leave them alone and they’ll come home.” When I repeated the whole rhyme from the beginning she beamed at me, pleased to have been understood.


“I used to eat turkey with cereal, “Bella says, “I put some Cheerios and Puffins in a bowl with some milk and then I put some turkey on top.”

She’s echoing me. The day before I’d told her that I used to eat Cheerios with bananas on top. I had a turkey in the oven for dinner. I suppose in her mind turkey is no stranger on top of cereal than bananas.



I’m pretty sure that Ben is saying “water” now and “cheese”. And “Dada” and “Jesus” and “Bella”. Still no “mama,” though. When I ask him to say “mama” he just stares at me. And then he says “Dada.” Stinker.


The girls are having pretend snack. They kneel down at the coffee table to say “Bless us, O Lord” before they eat.

I love how Bella becomes obviously self conscious in her singing or praying as soon as I give her my direct attention. When she sees me looking at her as they pray, she sort of pauses and squirms. I just realized what it is that’s happening. When she realizes she’s got an audience, suddenly it ceases to be play and becomes performance: look at me doing something cute.



Bella and Sophie are biting their pita bread into shapes. Bella: “It looks like an old man’s shoe.”

Sophie is going through this phase right now where everything looks like something else. It’s a strange sort of fascination.


Bella’s sneaky method of getting the dolly from Sophie: “I think she wants me. She just needs some milk. ” And then Sophie hands the dolly over for Bella to nurse her. Poor Sophie. Why does she always fall for it?

Visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for more quick takes.

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  • Thanks for letting me know. I fixed the second link.

    scotch meg,

    oh my prayers are with you!

    The author goes on to say:

    “A goal has to be something that I have the power to actually accomplish.

    And no parent, no parenting method can save a child. That goal is solely in the hands of an ever-loving, perfect God.”

    I’ve got almost a decade until ill have to worry about teenagers; but I can imagine how hard it must be to know you’re sending them out into a world full of dangers, hoping you’ve given them the foundation on which they can build their own lives, the tools to make the right choices.

    I found great comfort in what she points to as what she can do: “To show my children their need for God by living out my own need for Him.” Nothing in my life has more clearly shown me my need for God than has parenting. By this measure even my failures become an opportunity to teach my children about our dependence on God.

  • I was chatting with James about her article and he took issue with her definition of a “goal.” Why does it have to be something that you have the power to accomplish? I mean, my goal is to get to heaven but I can not do that on my own. I’m not sure I understand how she is using the word “goal.”

    One other thought James had was regarding what she says her goal is. She says her goal is to live the Gospel at home and give her children an example, but would our goals end there? I don’t know if she is Protestant or Catholic but I know, even after I die, I plan on continuing to pray for my children to get to heaven. Even when this life is over, I’ll still be a parent and I don’t think my goal as a parent would be done until my children (and any grandchildren,etc.) joined me in heaven.

    Maybe I’m using the word “goal” differently than she is. She seems to be limiting the term somehow that I don’t think I would. Sorry I am not being more clear … my head is getting fuzzier as the day goes on.

  • Katherine,

    I’m not sure I understand your objection.

    Do you not agree that it is helpful to distinguish between things we can reasonably expect to accomplish under our own power and things which only God can do? (I’m sure you agree that only God can save.)

    Or is it semantic? Is it the choice of the word “goal” to make that distinction that you disagree with?

    Do we agree on the point that ultimately we cannot save our children by what we do as parents? Do we agree that we lay a foundation but the Holy Spirit is what saves? Do we agree that our children have free will, given to them by God, and will make decisions for themselves. they will decide to accept God’s grace or reject it and while we can foster a life which will make it easier for them to accept, it is not our decision to make for them?

    As for the semantics, I might not always define “goal” so narrowly. I’ve certainly been known to say things like “my goal is heaven,” using it in a looser way than she does. But she defines it more narrowly for the purposes of her particular argument and I do find that narrower definition that she outlines is helpful to that argument and is helpful to me as a parent

    What does that distinction mean for me as a parent? It means I rely more on God than on my own powers. It means I spend more time praying and less time trying to micromanage every aspect of my children’s lives. It means I realize that no homeschooling curriculum or philosophy of parenting or philosophy of education will save my children.

    It also means I recognize that there can be room for reasonable disagreement on these matters because they aren’t what will save my friends’ children either.

    Not that these things don’t matter or make a difference; but that they are not the end-all be-all. Parents must work out what will work best for their own families.

    As far as praying for your children from heaven…. Again, that is a reasonable thing to hope for; but it is presumption to assume I’ll get to heaven. I can only hope and trust in God’s grace and do my best to work out my own salvation in fear and trembling, as St Paul says.

    Is that helpful or have I only muddied the waters further?

  • This is very interesting. I loved the post and i think it spurs conversation which is probably better than just stating something that everyone agrees with at face value.

    Marc and I have been talking about our educational goals for our children a lot lately. I tend to think less about the overarching big goal, and more about the formation to get them there. I guess i personally find little benefit in worrying about what i mean by the big “goal” because so much of it is not in our control. It’s interesting to discuss but i think i’m currently more practically minded, or maybe i’m just coming at it from a different direction.

    A big part of my vocation is to my children’s formation. We form a foundation for faith in their religious education, a foundation for greater learning through their early intellectual education, a foundation for later emotional maturity through the love we give them and model for them…just to name a few parts of that formation. With a strong formation, I hope that my children will then follow Christ, devote themselves to their own vocations, and go to heaven one day.

    Since i cannot force these things upon them, i cannot see them as goals in my mind. I too see a goal as something that almost practical and is the result of checking off a list. These things are certainly hopes and I will work tirelessly on the formation that I feel makes them more likely. But it is that formation that feels more like the goal to me.

    My opinion is not fully-formed on this, but i wanted to mention these few things.

  • Melanie,

    Certainly I agree only God can save. But I am having two difficulties based on how I am understanding what is being said.

    First, I am having a hard time dividing what we as parents do from what God does. Is there anything we do on our own? Every good we do we can do because of God’s grace. She defines “goal” as “something that I have the power to actually accomplish.” But what can we accomplish apart from God? And if God is just as necessary “To accurately teach about and represent God in my home. To show my children their need for God by living out my own need for Him.” Then why is that any more of a goal than my children’s salvation? Either we accomplish anything that is good with God’s help or we accomplish nothing at all. Nothing is our own victory.

    Second, as parents, we are the first and possibly the greatest representatives of God to our children. We are quite possibly the greatest collaborators with God in striving for our children’s salvation.  I understand that, as children get older and become adults, their own cooperation becomes necessary. But I don’t think that means it ceases to be our goal but rather we share the same goal. I think we work with God sharing the same goal, cooperating with His grace for the benefit of all. I don’t think that negates the very wonderful points you and the original poster make about relying on God to do His part. Since everything we do requires His grace, we should trust that He will give us what is necessary and help us when we need it, regardless of how those means may vary from family to family. I think when the Church tells us to get our children Baptized, we are being called to share God’s goal for our children’s salvation. Just as we are co-creators with Him in the conception of our children, I think we are cooperators with Him in the salvation of our children by His grace.

    Even when my children are grown and on their own and I am hoping they make the right choices, I will still be praying and sacrificing for them that they will get to heaven. I will still be sharing that goal. St. Monica chased St. Augustine all over the place weeping, praying and trying to convert him. She never relied only on herself but she likewise never said that he was grown and her goal was over.

    I don’t presume I will go to heaven. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. Pain meds have not helped my head today.

  • Betsy,

    I know I definitely tend to be a global thinker. For me the big picture is the most important and the details are interesting only in so far as they help me to see the larger pattern.

    It’s sort of a question of do trees make up a forest or is a forest comprised of trees. Both statements are true, of course; but some people see trees first then forest and others see forest first then trees.

    I remember when studying art history, for example, I’d remember the individual works of art by placing them within a broader movement or theme. But I studied with Stephanie who was much more detail-oriented. For her the individual works helped her to find the big themes. We complemented each other nicely and I think studied better together than individually for just that reason.


    I agree with everything you have said here. We cannot divide what we as parents do from what God does. We are the primary educators of our children and bear the greatest weight of responsibility throughout their lifetimes of helping them to know God and helping them to choose to serve him.

    It’s not that she’s suggesting we can do anything apart from God so much as emphasizing that we need to remember that ultimately we don’t have the power to make results happen according to our own will. We cooperate with his grace but it is his grace not our own power that moves us. All we can do is cooperate with it, we cannot control or force it. And if our children reject it, that too is out of our control and ultimately not our fault.

    It’s not about absolving parents of their responsibility to do everything they can to work for their children’s salvation; but rather removing the too-great burden of being the cause of their children’s salvation.

    Look back at the original piece. The author’s sister says: “We have the same goals for our children, but we have very different ways of trying to accomplish that goal. We are very concerned that your methods will not get you the result you want.”

    She speaks as if having kids who love God and serve him is something that can be accomplished by a certain kind of method. As if parenting were a mathematical formula or an engineering process: do x and y and then you will achieve your goal, z. But it isn’t; you can’t. Nothing I can do will guarantee that result. I can work for it and hope for it and pray for it but ultimately I cannot make my kids love God and serve him. There is no method under the sun that can get me that result. Even God does not, will not, force that result. He allows us the free will to fall if we so choose.

  • It is an interesting post. I’m not sure I could articulate just what my “goal” is in parenting. I always think of it as simply getting my children to heaven, but she has a point that that is really up to God. Maybe it is more doing anything and everything I can to help my children get to heaven? I suppose I’d have to think about it more to be more specific and the onset of a head cold has shut down about 65% of my head.

    What I really loved about the article is the point and reminder that God is not some immovable object we need to convince to worship and love and serve on our own. “God is entirely capable of winning my childrens’ hearts to Himself. I don’t need to parent in fear for their souls.” It can be easy to take everything upon ourselves, including the impossibility of saving them ourselves. (After all, if we could have saved ourselves, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus to be born in the first place.) It is so wonderfully comforting to remember that not only does he want the salvation of our children but that He is working even harder than we are to secure it! I wonder if this will be easier to remember when my children are not so young and needing me for everything – Will trusting in them then help me trust in Him?

    Thanks so much for posting this! Blessed Sunday!

  • I can’t access the article, and so can’t comment except indirectly.

    However, having much older children (two grown and out of the house), I would say that there are many moral dangers in the world.  Just as we try to protect young children from physical dangers without being obsessive about them, so too must we try to protect teens from moral dangers without being obsessive – and while giving them the appropriate amount of freedom to make their own decisions.

    But it’s much, much trickier with teens.  And, as a parent wrestling with decisions about where to send college applications, I would say that this last bit of guidance is the trickiest of all.  Having been burned once by sending a child to Very Prestigious University, I would appreciate your prayers as we work with our third child.  The second is serving in the Marine Corps in lieu of college (although college will come in a couple more years), a course which has been extremely beneficial to him, but is not the right choice for his younger sister.

    So, again, please pray for our family and all those who are trying their best to parent their teens with appropriate guidance and not inappropriate control.

  • Hi Melanie!

    Thanks so much for the link.  Such interesting continuation of the conversation here.

    I, like you, am a more global thinker.  Perhaps that might explain why those thoughts hit us differently than it might for others.

    I’ve been surprised but completely understand how the issue of semantics comes up.  I absolutely have always thought of a goal as something I am capable of accomplishing in my own power.  Therefore, it makes complete sense to me to surrender what I’ve always thought of my “goal” in parenting to the gentle and powerful wooing of our Savior.

    Can I make it my goal to live out the gospel on a daily basis?  Well, I can make that my goal, but honestly I find I cannot do even that apart from His power at work within me.

    I’m finding more and more that the one thing I can do is wake up each morning and surrender my heart, mind, soul, and strength to Him.  I can speak the truth of His Word in our home and nurture a soil ready to receive the truth of the gospel.  I can pray, pray, pray over my children, and then I can choose to trust that He will show up in ways that are irresistible to my girls and believe that the work of the Cross is more than enough.

  • Melanie,

    I’m glad we seem to be on the same page.

    I had not interpreted the sister’s words that way. I simply thought she meant, if you are hoping for your children to turn out a certain way, I don’t think you are going about it the best way. Certainly it is silly to think of children as some sort of constant that you can calculate a particular result. Saints came from saintly parents and sinful parents. Saints were the parents of saints and sinful children. In some sense, that is what makes having children so frightening – the uncertainty of everything. But that is also what makes faith and trust in God so critical and so valuable.

    The poster does not continue to write about methods though. She doesn’t contest her sister about methods. She contests that their goals are not the same and from this argues that they cannot compare methods. She says, “I would gently suggest that our goal may not actually be the same, and, as such, you may not be able to judge our methods by what you think the goal is.” She states that “ending up with kids who love God and serve Him” is “absolutely NOT” her goal because “that goal is solely in the hands of an ever-loving, perfect God.” This is where I disagree with her. Raising children who love God and serve Him is a goal I share with Him by His grace.

    The poster says in a previous post (2/18/09) that she is Southern Baptist. I do not know, but is it possible she has a different understanding of participating in our children’s salvation that a Roman Catholic would? I don’t know what the various Protestant churches believe, but I wonder if a difference could be playing into why she and I would be viewing goals so differently.

    Thanks for all your feedback. This has been an interesting conversation and has given my brain much-needed stimulation. Peek-a-boo is good but it only goes so far. smile

  • Katherine,

    I don’t think Catholic or Protestant has anything to do with it since I completely agree with the way she uses the word “goal” for the purposes of her article. I understand the way you use it, too; but you do use it in a looser sense that makes it harder for you to understand the point she’s making. Perhaps it’s more a matter of temperament or personality type or thinking style than anything else that is confusing communication here.

    I suppose this piece speaks to me in part because I struggle so much with control issues. Perhaps you don’t have that particular temptation and that’s why it isn’t useful for you to separate out what is not in your power to control and what is. For me, though it is a very useful distinction. I have a tendency to think that if I can just get everything right I can control the outcome. Thus I understand the temptation to think that if I just do all the right things I can guarantee that I will end up with children who will love and serve God. It is thus incredibly freeing to me to realize that I need to turn that over to God, to realize that I can set my sights on things I can control: my own choices to do my best to live out the gospel, to cling to his mercy and to pray, pray, pray.

    But my parenting journey has led me more often to places where my children teach me how to love God. They show me how to serve him. He has given them to me to gently lead me toward him in so many ways. God gently uses them to show me that I am more of a student than they are. Because that’s what I need in order to work out my own salvation.

    The Shema, Deuteronomy 6, which the author quotes, speaks to me powerfully as a parent. My job is to love God and to speak his words to my children. That they love God is none of my doing, it is purely his grace.

    To me the piece’s redefinition of the word “goal” is about letting go of the illusion of control. It’s about turning over to God the work of saving my children, turning over to the Holy Spirit the job of kindling the flame of love in their hearts. It’s about realizing that love is an action of the will and I cannot force anyone else’s will, not even that of my children.

    I parent as best as I can, recognizing that only God can win my children’s souls for himself and that recognition, which I have to revisit frequently, frees me from the trap of trying to exert too tight a control on the process.

  • Megan,

    Thank you so much for stopping by.

    I love what you say about surrendering “to the gentle and powerful wooing of our Savior.”

    I also find the image of nurturing soil ready to receive the gospel to be very helpful. My experience of gardening has been very much like my experience of parenting. I’m sort of shocked that my pitiful little efforts yield such amazing fruits. It helps me to recognize God’s amazing grace working in my life and is reassuring to me. I don’t have to do all that much, just plant the seeds, make sure they have adequate water and light, pull the weeds as I see them, and then somehow, mysteriously, sit back and enjoy the sweetness of the gifts that God nurtures in my own backyard.

    “He will show up in ways that are irresistible”… So true. Right now I have a very sweet 10 month old boy who, when I point to the crucifix and whisper the name Jesus in his ear, grins and giggles and whispers back “Jeesh”. Planting the seeds of love and devotion is so easy at this age. Now if only I can remember that God is the master gardener and I am just a worker in the vineyard…. 

  • Melanie,

    I completely understand about letting go the illusion of control. I think the semantics may be the biggest problem here. I simply would not use “goal” in such a manner and have a very hard time applying it in such a way. I simply could not say that my children’s salvation is not my “goal.” I could say it is not a goal I carry alone, but not that it is not my goal. I think you an I agree in general, we just would not say it the same way.


    I appreciate your post. As I said in my first response, I found your reflections on God’s role in our children’s salvation wonderful and well worth the reminding. My difficulty lies in your saying that because your children’s salvation is not something you are capable “of accomplishing in your own power” it is not your “goal” and then go on to say that your goal is living the Gospel but that that is likewise something you cannot do apart from His power. I can well believe that, as Melanie explains it so well, I would agree with your understanding of parenting. But I likewise hope, given the choice of words, you can understand why I have struggle with what you said and why I cannot concede to your words. I think, in the end, it comes down to a difference of words rather than ideas.

    I must admit though, given all of the conversation here, it makes me really curious what the sister in your post would contribute to the conversation – would she be sitting where I am having difficulty with the semantics?

    God Bless!

  • Melanie, I linked to this from my Google Reader because #1, I love Megan at Sorta Crunchy and #2, I agree with what she said and agree that those who aren’t comfortable with it are disagreeing because of semantics rather than ideas.

    The theme here is what Melanie just wrote in her most recent comment: “God is the master gardener and I am just a worker in the vineyard.” It’s a theme all parents would do well to remember.

    Great discussion. Blessings.

  • Thanks Kate, both for the comment and for the original link. (I knew it was someone whose Google feeds I follow; but I was too lazy to go back and scroll through to find out who.)

    Its funny but I love disagreements (so long as they are cordial) more than a chorus of consensus.  Discussions like this one are the real reason I blog and I wish I knew how to make them happen more often because they pull me beyond my original reaction and help me get beyond: well said, I agree! to really making the author’s ideas my own. (That’s probably also what I miss most about teaching.)

    So for that I really owe Katherine a huge debt of gratitude.