Your Moment Does Not Define You

Have you ever seen a flock of starlings? They fly in concert, soaring and swooping together to create the most amazing shapes, like some sort of fluid sculpture. They look like waves, or leaves on the wind, or mercury spilled on a table. They’re mesmerizing.

The image sprung to my mind last night while I was thinking about how complicated and tortured and breathtakingly beautiful people can be.

Passion, fear, resentment, pain, reckoning, love, redemption, humility, kindness – we’re capable of them all. A single person can experience each in turn, acting out some soaring, swooping shape of emotion and action over the course of her life, or even a short span of time.

I see one person indulge his anger and resentment for years, nurturing it, acting it out, encouraging others to do the same. Until one day something breaks in him. A word of love breaks through. And his struggle, though still there, has taken a new shape.

Another person, angry at the first, doesn’t recognize that she follows his swoop. Anxiety and resentment drive her downward. She has not yet pulled up.

One person glides along gradually, her experience an undulating line. Another has spent her whole life swirling and diving, soaring and rising. She knows more pain than most. But she also knows salvation.

We are not static creatures. We grow and change and make mistakes. We learn. We seek. We crash and get back up again.

We must remember, when encountering others in the world, that each is on his own course. The person you’ve just clashed with may be on a downward swoop. He may be in a hard place. But he’s not done. That moment does not define him.

You’re not done either. Your moment does not define you. You’re somewhere on your waving, winding way, heading up or down or around.

We do not ride a rollercoaster. Our course isn’t set in steel, devised by a team of engineers for maximum fright. We soar and swoop like starlings. Our course is adjusted by the wind, the landscape, the creatures around us, but we fly it. We have agency. We can choose whether, over a stretch of dips and leaps and swirls, we are heading toward the heavens or the earth.

People, man. People can be stubborn and complicated and difficult, but back up a bit, take it all in, and you’ll see the beauty too. Breathtaking.

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons. Attribution: Walter Baxter / A wedge of starlings. Licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.)*

*This is my first time posting anything from Wikimedia Commons. If I did it wrong, I’m happy to correct my mistake!

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Intro to (My) Instagram {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 20)

It’s been forever since I’ve participated in {pretty, happy, funny, real} and I finally (accidentally) opened an Instagram account a couple of months ago, so I thought I’d do a quick {phfr} of some of my favorite Instagram pics so far. Mostly {pretty}, because ohmygosh – I’m a little obsessed with this girl:

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I really don’t know what I’m doing with Instagram (not that I necessarily know what I’m doing with Facebook either), but it seems like a good avenue for sharing the glut of photos that make me smile. I’m always wary of over-sharing such things on Facebook (surprising news to my FB friends, as I already share quite a lot), but I figure that if people didn’t want to see pretty pics, they wouldn’t be on Instagram! So anyway, my Instagram account will include pretty-ish pics of my children and our beautiful old house. If that interests you, follow along!


Baby girl is almost four months old and we are totally living that cliché: We have no idea where the time has gone, yet we have no idea how we ever lived without her. I’m biased, but she is so sweet and lovely and such a “good” baby that Brennan and I are sort of shaking our heads in wonder. What a blessing this child is to our family.

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Bonus {pretty} — flowers and a long-lashed, curly-headed boy:

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Prep for baby’s baptism party.

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If that {pretty} wasn’t {happy} enough for you, well then let me just show you some more:

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Big Brother made a cow for Little Brother, who really just wants the tape off-camera.


And then there’s the {real}. I usually go kind of negative on this one, but this round I’ll just show you some snapshots of our everyday life – a beautiful kind of reality.

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The first time this table was clear of clutter in months. Literally.

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Well now, I believe this post officially qualifies as overkill. I hope that if you enjoyed the photos you’ll join me over at Instagram. And if it’s not your thing… don’t worry, I need only introduce you to my Instagram account once. Back to wordiness next time. (Speaking of which, did you see yesterday’s post on social media and how I kind of love it even though hating it seems to be en vogue?)

Enjoy the end of your week, all! And if you’re in this part of the world, ENJOY this long-awaited sunshine and warmth. May. it. last.

Please pop on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}.


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Joyful Absurdity: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 17


Spring is my favorite time of year – there’s just so much {pretty} to be found outdoors. Everywhere you look there are pretty little discoveries, delightful surprises, reminders of what you’d forgotten during the long winter months.

These days I’m enjoying the tulips my mother-in-law planted. I’m soaking up the sounds of the fountain and the wind chimes, which drift through our open windows.

I’m watching my little boys dig in the dirt. They operate with more gentleness than I’d have guessed: rescuing worms, cradling moths in their cupped hands, mourning the deaths of ants almost too tiny to notice.

I’m rejoicing in the red buds and the beginnings of the lilac blooms. I’m eagerly awaiting my favorite: the Lilly of the Valley.





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To be honest, life has felt a little too full around here lately. And it’s for just the silliest of reasons: My boys have been taking swim lessons.

The lessons only last a half-hour, but they require us to be up and out of the house on the two days of the week when we’re not already up and out of the house for preschool. And it is so exhausting. I seriously don’t know how you working parents do it. I don’t know how you get everybody ready and out the door five mornings of the week, every week, for years on end. And you parents of school-aged children – you too!

Until this month, I had not realized how much I appreciate gentle starts to my day. Without them, I’m finding myself more frazzled and tired, more rushed, less peaceful and productive.

I tell you this to set the stage for the following:


This isn’t a very good picture to represent my {happy, funny, real}, but as I have no documentarian recording my every move, there’s really no way I could provide you with one. Or with three, as the case may be.

You see, Wednesday was one of those rushed, not-peaceful, not-productive days. I started by dropping my oldest son off at his preschool and bringing my friend’s son home with me so she could help in the classroom. The two little boys played together, running in-and-out, in-and-out of the house. The baby napped. The boys required multiple snacks and potty breaks and attentions to their shoes. They followed me around and cuddled on my lap. They kept me very busy, though I didn’t feel like I had much time to be kept busy by them.

A friend was to come over for lunch. Mary was to come help me plan the set-up for the Catholic women bloggers’ conference I’m hosting next week, so I was trying to bake us a quiche. But little boys don’t care about quiches, do they?

No, they don’t.

So I sat with them a bit and cuddled. And when I got tired of my back bothering me, I laid down on the floor to stretch it out. “Don’t climb on me!” I said.

Futile warning.

Of course they climbed on me – all three of them. They were like ants swarming over a piece of food dropped from a picnic table. Before I knew it, I’d been pinned. I had a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 1-year-old lying on my head.

They yelled and laughed and clawed at my face. I writhed and resisted, but those boys – all 90 pounds of them – they proved formidable captors.

So I started laughing. And laughing and laughing and laughing until I cried. I couldn’t remember when anything had ever been so {funny} as this stupid situation I’d gotten myself into. All I could think of was the absurdity of the situation: Anyone who walked into the room would find a thrashing set of mom legs sticking out from under a writhing, shrieking pile of boy.

I could not get up. I could not extract myself from that pile.

So I kept laughing. I laughed harder than I had in years. I could. not. stop. What would my mother-in-law think if she came in? What would my friend think if she looked through the window and saw three boys sitting on my head? What would they think of the muffled, manic, unstoppable laughter coming through the little-boy giggles and yells?

I thought about how absurd it all was and I let go of all my pressures and my exhaustion and my deadlines and my responsibilities. I just laughed.

I think it took almost a full five minutes, but I finally wrestled my way out of the melee. My son was yelling, “Way back down, Mommy! Way back down!” But I had to get back to reality.

And at that moment, my reality looked very {real} to me indeed. My house was a wreck, my quiche was barely started, I wore disheveled clothes and no make-up, and I was due to be receiving a guest in a matter of minutes.

Mary arrived just after the blasted quiche (which took forever to bake) was finally shoved in the oven. We watched the boys play and fight and run and cry bloody murder in the backyard. I toured her around a messy, dirty house. I jumped up from our lunch at least a dozen times, trying to keep the boys “quiet” so Mary and I could “talk.”

After she left, I put the baby down for a nap and prepared to sit at my computer for what I hoped would be a quiet, restful hour.

It wasn’t. The baby woke too soon but was too tired to play. So I gave up. I sat on the sofa and held him in my arms. He dozed against my chest. I half-watched the boys’ movie, half-dozed too.

I relaxed. I let go – a different sort of letting go from the kind you do when you’re squashed under three small boys. I literally put up my feet. I rested my head on the sofa cushions and studied the curly head and soft cheeks lying just below my chin.

What a {happy} feeling.

The happiness grew as my other boys began to stir, picking their way towards us. They cuddled. They climbed behind me to play with my hair. One posed for a chain of selfies better suited to a teenaged girl.









20150422_172824More absurdity, more joy. Always more joy.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more everyday contentment in {pretty, happy, funny, real}.


Let’s Just Pretend…

Let’s just pretend, shall we, that the week ahead will not look like this:



Rather, let’s imagine that March actually means Spring, and that the following will be waiting for us tomorrow when we open our doors:











I can almost feel it, smell it, hear it, can’t you? Open windows, warm breezes… shoots breaking through the dirt… blossoms on the trees… hyacinth, tulips, lilacs… the smell of new, damp grass… the sound of little children laughing outside (as in, NOT cooped up indoors)…

It’s it amazing?

Let’s just hold on to those images for a bit. Maybe they’ll help keep us warm.


This is post six of the 7 Posts in 7 Days challenge at Conversion Diary. Stop there to check out the hundreds of other bloggers who are also participating.

{phfr} In One Snowy Shot: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 9

We’re in the thick of it here. We woke to about a foot of fresh snow, with expectations that the storm will keep it up through the rest of the day. Every window we look out of, we see one breath-taking view after another.

I declare the following snowy scene to be {pretty, happy, funny, real}, all in one shot.



This one hardly needs an explanation, does it? It’s just… pretty.


We have two small boys who are going to be beyond happy to play in all this fluffy whiteness today — if they can lift their little legs high enough to walk through it.

Also, there’s just something happy about being hunkered down during a big snowstorm, isn’t there? The outside world expects nothing from you, so you can just tend to your own home, your family, perhaps some delicious baking or a project you’ve set aside… And everyone’s home! (Because they hardly have another option, do they?)


You can barely discern it in this picture, but we have a six-foot drop off the patio in front of this porch. From our upstairs windows, I couldn’t see it at all. I find it so funny that this feature, which is normally so glaringly obvious, is almost totally obscured by something as simple as snow.

There’s also a yellow bucket obscured by the snow somewhere out there (with another in the back yard). They’re remnants of the boys’ play last time it snowed. Perhaps we’ll find them sometime this spring!

Also, yes, that’s our Moravian star still up. All of our Christmas decorations (including our crispy, crunchy, saggy tree!) are still up. Perhaps I should make THAT task my project for today…


As happy as I am (and really, as thrilled as the boys will be) to have my husband home with us today, his presence is increasingly ‘real’ with every snow day that passes. We’re to have a baby in just under two months and paid leave doesn’t just grow on trees, you know? So, winter, could you please get it all out of your system with today’s fabulous snow storm? Drop feet of the white stuff, kick up the wind… I don’t care. Just let this one be the last one. I’d kind of like my hubby home with us when baby boy #3 makes his appearance. Thanks. — Me

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Stop on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter to take a look at more {pretty, happy, funny, real} this week. And enjoy the snow!

Beautiful Sunday

It is a beautiful (but cold) Sunday in these parts.


It hasn’t been perfect. We’ve had a few frustrations and meltdowns and time-outs. (Seriously, why did you think it was acceptable to hit your brother with a wrench?)

But we’ve also had “vewwy fast wides!” around the house.


And Daddy’s gotten a work-out.


We’ve had two little apprentice plumbers delighting in helping their daddy with a project. (Though why the project requires a lion, a lunch box, a teddy bear, a tractor, a carrot, a monkey, a penguin, and bunny ears, I have no idea.)





We’ve had dinner prep at an actually reasonable time.


And we have a lovely, warm fire going (not yet roaring) in the fireplace.


So, I’m happy. I’m thankful for this beautiful (if cold!) day. I’m even more thankful for my beautiful, energetic, trying boys and my very tolerant husband. I’m looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with so many of our family members in a few days’ time. And I’m excited for the start of Advent, just one week from today.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the beauty in your day too. If you haven’t found quite enough of it yet, check out these two beautiful videos, which my boys and I enjoyed together this weekend. I won’t deny crying hormonal tears into the backs of their sweet little heads as we watched them. (But don’t worry – the tears were quickly stopped by the two little rascals’ disintegration into wrestling, slamming-heads-against-each-other messes. They know how to put an end to sappiness.)

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, and Happy Feast of Christ the King!


P.S. Thank you to Grace of Camp Patton for requesting recipe suggestions on her Facebook page this week. My repertoire needed a shake-up too, so today I’m giving one of her readers’ suggestions a try. It’s looking (and smelling) delicious so far!

{pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 4)

We went apple picking this week. Our sister-in-law is staying with us right now and she suggested that it might be a nice activity to do with the boys. And of course Lisa was absolutely, 100% right: Apple picking is not only that classic, American, feel-good, crunchy, fall-time activity, it’s also perfect for small children. Lots of walking, fruit that won’t smash all over your person, confined avenues of densely-growing trees that don’t allow for easy toddler escapes… perfect.

So why would it never occur to me to do such a thing?

Laziness probably plays a part. So does that fear of toddler escape. And intimidation at the idea of doing something new. But I think the crux of it has been the “survival mode” mindset of having one small boy right after the other. Just as we started to enter toddlerhood with our first, we introduced a second and got pulled right back into baby mode. So all those fun things like trips to the orchard and library visits and heck, time at the playground, got put off in favor of the safety and convenience of home.

Now that our oldest is three and our youngest is two, we don’t have to live like that any longer. (Did you catch that? We don’t have to live like that any longer!) But I keep forgetting. Walking around the orchard the other day, I gloried in the fact that both of my boys (1) can walk by themselves, (2) can even kind of help to carry/push the load, (3) can stay out for an extended period of time without having to be fed/changed, and (4) will, when-push-comes-to-shove, follow my directions. I can scream “Don’t you run into that field!” and have a reasonable expectation that they will listen to me. Do you have any idea how liberating that is? (I’m sure many of you really, really do.)

Anyway, I need to do a better job of remembering that we’re in a short window of (relative) familial freedom. April will come quickly. Third-trimester fatigue and discomfort will come sooner. We should be taking advantage of this brief and lovely season. Maybe I should make myself a second-trimester-countdown calendar – something to pound home the message: “Enjoy this time while you can, lady! Soon enough it will be all you can do to breathe properly!”

On that lovely image, let’s move on to this week’s {pretty, happy, funny, real}.

(Pssst! Wait! Before I really direct you on to {p,h,f,r} I have to put in a little shameless plug. If you haven’t already done so, please “like” These Walls on Facebook. The page is new and I’d love to see you over there. Okay – done. Continue on!)

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~ 

Every Thursday, at Like Mother, Like Daughter!






Gosh, it was a pretty day. The kind of day that makes you want to stretch your arms wide and take a deep breath and maybe even do a Sound of Music twirl around a field or something. Don’t worry: I didn’t.






The reds were indeed delicious, but not as much as the greens, called Mutsu.


We really had to hunt for the apples, but we had such fun doing it. So simple, so so happy.




The boys were so funny pushing our wheelbarrow – especially the two-year-old, who had the tenacity to push it almost the entire time we were there, long after big brother had gotten tired of it. He required a little adult help, but he really did a great job.


This apple was pretty funny too. It had grown in the crook of those branches, so that it was utterly wedged in place. No amount of pushing or pulling could get that beautiful apple to budge. I was interested to see what shape it had grown into, but I suppose it will be rot that finally moves the fruit from its place. It somehow doesn’t seem right to let a knife do the job.



Boys always love rocks, don’t they?


These hives were pretty, but they sure did make me miss our bees. We lost our colony this past winter (they didn’t tolerate our move very well and then an overdose of mite treatment finished the job), so this was the first summer in years that my husband didn’t have a honey harvest. We’re looking forward to the spring, when we can get in an order of new bees.

(And by the way, my beekeeper hubby was puzzled by this picture. Do any of you – maybe a beekeeper yourself – have an idea as to why? I think I’ll go all dorky and explain it in tomorrow’s 7 Quick Takes. If you think you know the answer, leave it this post’s comments section. I’ll give you credit tomorrow and I’ll try to think of a worthy prize to send to you.)


Twenty pounds of apples! So far we’ve eaten a bunch fresh, Lisa has made a lovely apple cake, and we’ve made kielbasa with cabbage and apples. I think applesauce will be next on the list. I’m sure some will make their way to the dear brother/brother-in-law/husband in Indiana. But what to do with the rest? It’s a great problem to have.


Be sure to visit Like Mother, Like Daughter to see what contentment those dear ladies – and all the rest – are sharing this week. Take care!

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