FLOP {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 19)

{pretty,happy,funny,real}

{pretty}

I thought it would be nice to do {phfr} this week, so I reviewed my phone’s photos (no idea where my regular camera is at the moment) to see what I could come up with. And I found, like, three shots that the average person would consider {pretty}. Which are pretty much duplicates of each other:

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See?

Otherwise, all I have to show you are scenes that are “boy” pretty, if you will. You know, like pirates and scaffolding and a jungle’s worth of animals gathered around a single model tree.

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Such is my life these days: a slice of regular pretty frosted with a thick layer of the boy variety.

{happy}

Those boys are so sweet, though. They make me so {happy}. This weekend they earned their own money for the first time. Their cousin had lost a small toy she’d brought with her to my parents’ house, so my oldest son asked his grandma:

“Can I do some work so you can give me some money, so I can give it to Caroline, so she can give it to her mommy to buy a new Mikey?”

My preggo heart was full to bursting – my boy (sniff, sniff) wants to earn money so he can (sniff, sniff) buy his cousin a replacement for the toy she lost? (Sob!)

Both boys did a little cleaning around the house (just toys – not much of a feat) and when they’d finished, my mom paid them each SIX quarters. Man, oh man – were they proud of themselves!

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No, they’re not begging for food — they’re showing off their hard-earned quarters.

And all’s well that ends well: My niece found her toy, so the boys get to keep their earnings. Now to decide what to do with them!

{funny}

Though my morning sickness is tapering off a bit, it still won’t let go entirely. Which is mostly annoying, but once in a while makes for some {funny} when it has the effect of keeping me on the sofa. Because sometimes when I sit on the sofa, my boys decide to do my hair. With tools.

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{real}

I’m kind of cheating here – I grabbed this pic out of my files from a couple of years ago and doctored it up to fit the following {real} thing around here this week:

FLOP

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Yep, my “7 Posts in 7 Days” was a flop. Sigh. Why do I do these things to myself? There was no way I was up to publishing a post every day this week. No way, no how.

Morning sickness is still hanging on. Baby hasn’t been sleeping well. We’ve had commitments. Brennan’s been completely occupied with the roof. Boys have been bickering. I keep walking into the kitchen to find the baby on the table. Then I turn around to find him back up there.

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But I’m going to take Heather’s advice and try to KEEP GOING. I’ve blogged more in the past couple of weeks than I have in months. I have another post partially-drafted on paper and more in the beginning stages in my head. I have some wind behind my sails. So forget the 7 in 7, right? I’m going to KEEP GOING.

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Thanks for joining me, all! Be sure to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}!

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 34): He’s Not Afraid to Climb the Roof, But I’m Afraid to Ride a Bike

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

Wait, what did I say about posting every day this week? Because yesterday came and went, and as far as I know, I didn’t post a thing. (Shhh…)

For those of you visiting from 7QT, here are links to Monday’s (late) 7QT post, Tuesday’s post on a man who saved 669 children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of WWII, and Wednesday’s post on my 12-week sono and thoughts about mothering all boys.

There’s more to come – I promise.

—2—

If there’s one subject that I’ll spend hours writing on and still not get it right enough to publish, it’s racism. That was my problem yesterday, and it’s been my problem many times before. Can’t… quite… get… up… the… nerve!

—3—

After a kind of foggy/dreamy Wednesday because I was living inside my head, trying (to no avail) to get that racism post right, I took a break yesterday. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and Brennan had taken off work to tackle a project (see below), so we all spent more time outside than usual. I made a stab at weeding the jungle behind our house, the baby sat in his stroller (poor guy – I don’t trust him to roam free), the boys busied themselves with sidewalk chalk and sand, and Brennan went about his work…

—4—

… which kind of terrifies me.

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Do you see the chimney at the top of that photo? Well, there are some pieces of (wooden) siding just next to it that are rotting because there used to be a leak in the roof. We had the roof replaced a couple of years ago (THAT was a PROJECT), so the leak is no longer an issue, but the rotted siding still needs to be replaced. (Or at least that’s how I understand the situation.)

Anyway, Brennan is a worker-bee kind of a guy who would rather do just about any home-repair job himself rather than pay someone else to do it. So here we are. He bought scaffolding (which he plans to use in the future to paint the entire exterior of the house), a harness and other safety equipment (thank goodness), and replacement siding, etc.

Now he’s off to the races. Yesterday he erected the scaffolding and secured it to the house. I believe today he’ll be building some sort of a platform to reach the roof. Then, hopefully, he’ll be able to complete the actual siding work.

Please pray that he does it all safely!

—5—

As I said above, we all – including both boys – spent more time outside yesterday than usual. For one child, “more than usual” ended up being a couple of hours, maybe. For the other – my lover of the great outdoors, his Daddy’s helper and shadow – “more” meant all day. It was so sweet to see: He followed Brennan back and forth between the house and the garage, he helped me weed the garden, he drew “storms” all over the brick patio, he played in the grass next to the scaffolding while Brennan worked to build it, and he even ate his lunch on a picnic blanket with a perfect view of the thing.

I love that child.

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—6—

Since I’ve got a whole “link to an article and write some commentary on it” thing going this week, I thought I ought to include at least one such piece in this 7QT. A light one, with a little personal story rather than commentary. So here’s a Wall Street Journal article on adults who never learned how to ride a bike.

Alas, I fit into this category.

In my case it wasn’t the whole “kids don’t spend much time outside anymore because of cable and videogames” thing – I spent plenty of time outside. It’s just that my outdoors time was mostly spent loading my favorite possessions into a little red wagon, trekking through the neighbor’s yard as if across the prairies, and then building forts behind his forsythia bush.

For me, it was that we lived on a pretty busy rural road, so we didn’t have a ready-made place to practice. And I needed ready-made, because I was a huge wimp about it. My brother grew up in the same house and on the same road I did, obviously, but once our dad had taught him the basics in the back yard, he took off with it. Soon enough, Eric was riding through the yards and the little streets behind our house. Later, he got into triathlons and long-distance cycling.

(Yes, he and I are very different.) When our dad taught me the basics of bicycle riding in the backyard, that’s where I stayed. To this day, I can make a bike go, but I can’t safely make it turn or stop. If I’m lucky, I’ll do a continuous loop of big, wide circles in the grass.

But really, I can only think of one time in my life when my inability to ride a bike was anything near problematic. And that would be on the campus of Stanford University in the fall of 2000. My senior year of college, I was dating a guy who had just started a master’s program at Stanford. I flew out to visit him a couple of times (which felt like a BIG DEAL) and found, to my dismay, that riding bikes around campus was the thing. My boyfriend had borrowed a bike for me to use, and he clearly intended for us to spend much of the weekend seeing the sights on two wheels.

“But I don’t know how to ride a bike.”

“What do you mean, you ‘don’t know how to ride a bike?’”

“I mean, I don’t know how to ride a bike. I never really learned. I can make one go, but that’s it – I don’t know how to control it.”

He was flummoxed and incredulous and determined that we were going to ride bikes anyway. (Clue #47 that he was not the right guy for me.) So I got on that bike and white-knuckled it across campus. I honestly don’t know how I made it. I know I was terrified, especially whenever we were near roads. I also know I was shaky and wobbly and just about at the end of my rope. On the return from our lunch (or whatever kind of outing it was), my luck ran out: I first ran into a (parked) car, throwing the bike out of the way to avoid damaging the vehicle. A few minutes later, I ran full-on into a bush. At that point, I snapped.

I do not know how to ride a bike. I will not do something I am uncomfortable with.” (Death stare in his direction. Clue #48.)

Fun fact: Just before I was due to fly out to Stanford the second time, the boyfriend dumped me. As I had already purchased the ticket (and had very little money at the time), I informed him that I would still be coming. One night I prepared he and his roommates a delicious home-made dinner that caused the roommates to gush that I was a princess and that the (ex)boyfriend should marry me at once. 😉 The other night, I made him take me out to an expensive dinner. It was overlooking the Pacific and incredibly elegant and I ordered whatever. I. wanted.

—7—

Back to my life in the here and now. (And can I just tell you, when I think back on that boyfriend, how very, very grateful I am to have ended up with Brennan?)

I forgot to include sono pictures in Wednesday’s post! So here’s our little cutie #4:

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Have a very happy weekend, everyone! Don’t forget to stop over to Kelly’s to check out all the rest of the Quick Takes!

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7 Quick Takes… Monday? (Vol. 33) – A Mash-Up of Weddings, (Not) Delightful Baby Phases, and a Possibly Rabid Fox

Yes, I realize that 7 Quick Takes are supposed to be a Friday thing. And that it’s been months and months since I’ve linked up to 7QT (Hi Kelly! It’s my first time linking up with you!) But hey, my morning sickness is beginning to fade so I am blogging. That’s good enough for me.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

Other than the sobbing child who attempted to chase us down the driveway as we pulled out (stab me in the heart, why don’t you?), last last weekend’s wedding/anniversary festivities went really well.

On Saturday we jumped from (1) a formal wedding at a gorgeous gothic-style downtown church to (2) a more casual outdoor wedding at a country club just outside the city, then (3) back downtown for a waterfront reception on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Whew!

Both weddings were lovely, both brides beautiful, both families happy. We were able to visit with both sides of my family, we enjoyed a delicious meal, great views, and even a special dance for our anniversary. I call that a win!

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On Sunday we celebrated my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary with almost every member of my mom’s side of the family. With relatives having flown in from San Diego, St. Louis, and Chicago, I believe we hit over 60 people, missing only my Uncle’s family in Maine.

As one of my aunts put it, “So glad to be sharing the 60th celebration with these two in the same way we grew up – a casual picnic, surrounded by kids & adults alike running around catching frogs & lightning bugs, playing games, singing & dancing. Always someone passing a baby or toddler to another to enjoy, & simply catching up with the everyday events as the generations grow!”

She’s right – the anniversary party was very ‘us’ – a potluck meal, lots of talking and laughing, lawn games, group pictures, kids running around in packs, even random wildlife. Granddad kept saying that we shouldn’t have made such a fuss, but I think we made just the right kind of fuss.

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—2—

I’m enjoying reading the recap posts from those who attended this year’s Edel Gathering. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I very much regret that I wasn’t able to hear Rachel Balducci’s talk, watch Jen Fulwiler record her radio show, witness Rachael Escandon’s craaaazy shoes, visit the beautiful city of Charleston, and hang out with so very, very many wonderful women. But I don’t at all regret missing out on the extreme humidity or (worse yet) the hotel’s plumbing problems. Not. at. all.

—3—

Here’s something I never thought I’d be glad to hear: “Jude spit on me!”

My poor little three-year-old was suffering a stomach bug last week. The other morning, once he finally seemed settled and the baby had gone down for his nap, I grabbed a quick shower. I’d given firm instructions to my oldest to run to get me if the baby started screaming or the three-year-old needed my help. So imagine the panic that set in when I heard a shriek shortly after I’d gotten out of the shower: “Mommy!… mumble, mumble… MOMMY!… indiscernible shouting (during which I imagined vomit sprayed over half my family room)… Mommy!… Jude spit on me!”

Aaah…. What a relief! I’ll take a brotherly spat over vomit clean-up any day.

—4—

And here’s something I never thought I’d have to say: “If you see a fox, I want you to run as fast as you can back to the house!”

My mother-in-law returned from her hair appointment the other day to tell us that her hairdresser had recently had a terrifying experience right in front of our house. The woman was walking up the street when she saw a skinny, mangy-looking fox run out of the woods. And it chased her! She started running, but it kept chasing her, and she was seriously frightened for her safety until some Jeep pulled up and placed itself between her and the fox. The fox attacked the Jeep’s tires and the woman ran to safety.

So that’s just great, isn’t it?

(And what a quick-thinking, amazingly helpful person that Jeep’s driver was!)

It looks like we have a very sick, possibly rabid fox in our neighborhood. I didn’t let the boys go outside to play (well, the one wasn’t feeling up to it anyway) for a few days, but I finally let them out with that warning. I can’t keep them indoors forever, can I?

—5—

We’re officially in the phase where I walk into the kitchen to find the baby standing on the table. I hate this phase.

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—6—

When it comes to caring for small children, workloads are a funny thing, aren’t they?

In some ways it doesn’t take that much more effort to care for three than it does for one – you’re already cooking the meals and doing the laundry and running the errands, so what’s a bit more? At any rate, my first child was much harder to work around than my three now are together. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight. He wanted me to be engaged with him during each of his waking moments. They have each other to play with, so they come to me for mommy things: comfort, nourishment, arbitration. They go to their brothers for entertainment.

But on the other hand, caring for three sometimes seems exponentially harder than caring for one. For instance, in the last two weeks, my two older boys attended swim lessons together while the baby and I participated in a little Mommy and Me swim class. (It seemed like the best way to keep him from screaming for the duration of the boys’ lessons.) It was great: the boys loved their lessons, I could watch their progress from the other side of the pool, and the baby was sometimes kinda sorta happy to be in the water. But it was so exhausting.

Getting everybody up and fed and dressed and out of the house each morning… keeping up with the pool bag and the towels and swimsuits… crouching on the pool deck to pull off boys’ shoes and shirts and hand them their “gobbles” (definitely my favorite preschool mispronunciation)… then rushing over to the other side of the pool to pull off my own cover-up and wrestle the baby into his swim diaper and suit… wrangling everybody into a changing room afterward… managing four rounds of showers and drying off and dressing…

Exhausting!

The last two days of lessons, the three-year-old was in the middle of his stomach bug, so my husband went into work late so our oldest could still finish his lessons. The baby was left home too, for convenience’ sake. And it was so much easier! Taking one child to swim lessons is about 100 times easier than taking three and being in one of the classes yourself. I seriously felt like waving my (empty!) arms around to demonstrate just how freeeee I felt.

Next year’s kindergarten/preschool combo? I’m coming for you!

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—7—

As I mentioned above, my morning sickness seems to be fading away. Thank the Lord! I still have it for much of the day, but the intensity is decreasing and I’m actually starting to have some short windows in which I don’t feel sick at all. And I have some energy – what an amazing feeling!

So I think the time is right for a little jump-start to my blogging efforts. Partly inspired by the 7 drawings in 7 days Heather is just finishing up (they’re great! check them out!), I thought I’d commit to 7 posts in 7 days.

But, needing to not get too ahead of myself, these posts are going to be pretty simple. Every day I run across news articles or blog posts or radio segments that make me want to answer them aloud with my own take on the situation. So that’s what I’m going to do. For each of the next seven days, I’ll take a recent item (by someone much more original than myself) and I’ll comment on it. That’s it, but that’s something!

I hope to ‘see’ you back here this week for my itty bitty baby steps back to regular blogging. And I hope you’ll go check out the other Quick Takes over at Kelly’s. (For those of my readers who don’t regularly follow Quick Takes, 7QT used to be hosted by Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary, but now it’s hosted by Kelly Mantoan of This Ain’t the Lyceum.) Have a great week!

7QT33

Another to Love

On Saturday I wished a happy Independence Day to my friends and family and the blog’s Facebook page with the following photo, captioned:

Happy Fourth of July from me and my FOUR!

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Yes! We’re expecting our fourth baby! This newest little guy/gal (who are we kidding – it’s probably a guy) is due to arrive around January 31st, 2016. I’m currently about ten weeks along.

In the interest of openness / I can’t seem to get anything else posted these days anyway, I thought I’d pre-emptively answer a few of your questions. (Assuming your questions are anything like the others I’ve received lately.)

1) How are you feeling?

Awful. Thanks for asking.

I’m not actually throwing up, so I know I shouldn’t be complaining (especially because I have a couple of relatives who had that truly awful hyperemesis gravidarum – IV’s and hospitalizations and all), but being nauseous all day, every day really sucks.

(Can I say here how appreciative I am of my ability to get pregnant and how much I love and empathize for my friends who are unable to? And that I realize I’ve been given a tremendous gift in this child? But… that… um… I still don’t like feeling so sick all the time?)

My afternoons have been especially bad, leaving me lying on the sofa trying to keep it together while my boys use me as a prop in their doctor/hairdresser/wild animal play.

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2) Are you hoping for a girl this time?

Yes. Absolutely. You will not catch me denying it.

Were we trying for a girl? Nope – but do I relish the idea of pretty little dresses and dolls and pink finally making their way into this overly-boyish home? YES.

Not that I think our chances are all that great. Last week I found out that my two girlfriends who had their firsts the same year I did and are now expecting their fourths have each stuck with their own streaks: one is expecting her fourth girl and the other is expecting her fourth boy. So even though I greet 3 boy/1 girl families with “You give me hope!” I can’t help but think our own family is in this all-boy thing for the long haul.

Not that I’d mind having another boy! My boys are three of the best things to ever happen to me and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not for girls, not for the world. Should Little One #4 prove to be another boy, I’m sure I’ll feel the same about him.

Indeed, I think my husband would be very happy to welcome another boy. When I announced my pregnancy to him, this big grin spread across his face and he said, long and slow, “Four boys!”

3) What do your boys think about welcoming another baby into the family?

They’re thrilled! They want to know how big the baby’s getting and what she looks like, when they can feel her move in my belly and when she’ll come out. (I say “she” and “her” because they’ve decided they’d like a “sister baby” this time, so of course the baby has got to be a girl. I keep reminding them that they might be getting another brother.)

The five-year-old told me (very seriously) that he knows how much work babies are, so he’ll be sure to help us take care of this new one.

The three-year-old keeps telling people, “My Mommy’s going to have two babies!” To which I quickly follow up: “He means our current baby and the new one. We keep trying to tell him that his little brother will no longer be a baby by the time this new one is born!”

The fifteen-month-old is clueless. It’s probably better that way.

4) Are you sure you’re only ten weeks along? And that you’re not having twins? Because I see that picture of you up there and you definitely look more pregnant than you should.

(Note: This one really should be addressed to nice old ladies at church and kind but nosy grocery clerks.)

Yes, I’m sure about the date and I’m sure I’m not having twins. Yes, I concede that I look more pregnant than I should. Welcome to my world. Some women are shaped like apples, some like pears – I’m shaped like pregnancy.

I don’t really look all that different now than I did before I became pregnant, it’s just that now that I feel so gross, I figure I may as well wear comfy maternity clothes.

That said, I’ve actually lost a few pounds so far from not eating much, yet my non-maternity clothes are fitting a little more snugly around the waist. So I guess my body is already changing shape? I suppose that’s what you get when you’re pregnant for the fourth time in six years!

5) So are we ever going to see you around these parts again? Why haven’t you been blogging lately?

Sadly, I have to point you back to #1. I was so excited at the beginning of the summer to really dig into some good writing, but for the past month I’ve just been feeling so sick. Not only do I feel nauseous and woozy, but I swear my brain has been affected. I have been writing, but I’m having such a hard time putting my ideas together and tying up loose ends that I haven’t been able to finish anything.

Remember that mother’s helper I have coming once a week to watch my boys so I can get in some writing? Well, since the morning sickness kicked in, I’ve spent a couple of those mornings wrestling with words and ideas that just won’t fit into place. And during the other, I took a nap.

I’ve probably got another three to four weeks of feeling sick. I’m really looking forward to August. Though I expect to start feeling better just in time for my mother’s helper to head off to college. (Gah!)

I’m not giving up entirely – I’m going to keep plugging away, keep trying to finish my thoughts – I just can’t make any promises that I’ll succeed.

Until then – whenever “then” may be – I hope you’re well and that you’re enjoying a fun, relaxing summer. I’ll be right here, probably lying on the sofa, surrounded by my hooligans – and waiting on another to love.

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A Summer of Writing

This morning I sat in a scene I’ve been fantasizing about – a clear desk, a cup of coffee, a fresh Word document on my laptop, open shutters looking out onto my green lawn, and four hours of uninterrupted time to myself.

Pinch me.

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Flowers! I even had a bouquet of fresh flowers!

I sit on the cusp of what I hope will be a summer of peace and productivity. Or at least, more peace and productivity than I’m accustomed to. I have a good start: my house is (mostly) reasonably clean, I’m (mostly) caught up on my laundry, I have a sitter scheduled for (most) every Wednesday morning this summer, and I have another I can call for the times when I just need to catch up.

So I suppose it’s time to put my theories to the test. It’s time for me to stop complaining about how overwhelmed I feel, how I can never get ahead, how I don’t have time to write. It’s time for me to make good use of the order and (relative) freedom I now find myself with so I can be more deliberate in the running of my household and more patient with my family.

It’s time for me to reside in these quiet moments and make something of them.

No! Pressure!

Last week marked the blog’s second anniversary and I did absolutely nothing to celebrate it. But I have been working on a modest little re-vamp, so as to better organize my content and (hopefully) better represent who I am and what I write about.

I’ve been trying to read more of what inspires my mind to chew, to drill, to toss around – and less of what merely entertains.

I’m thinking about why I write and what I hope to accomplish and how to strike the right balance between conveying my family’s goings-on inside these walls and my thoughts on the world outside them.

I mean to improve my outreach to others and my responsiveness to those who come to me.

I’m excited. And nervous. But mostly excited.

Do you have wisdom to share on this front? Suggestions as to bloggers or columnists or publications I should follow? (Related to politics/morality/society/religion, please.)

Are there topics you’d like for me to tackle? Can you think of projects/link-ups/writing relationships that I should pursue? Hit me!

Thank you for anything you can offer. I hope to be “seeing” you in this space more regularly this summer. Once I settle on a publication schedule, complete my re-vamp, etc. I’ll be sure to share them with you.

For now, I just hope you can get a few moments of peace yourself sometime soon – maybe even with a clear desk and a cool, drizzly green view.

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Becoming Community: Mid-Atlantic Conference for Catholic Women Bloggers

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I hosted a small conference for Catholic women bloggers at my home last weekend, and it was just lovely. The weather, the people, the talks, the general feeling – it was all so lovely that I’m really kind of pinching myself at how well it went.

Because I was not ready for this thing.

I greeted my first guest (thankfully, someone who’d arrived early to help set up) in my bathrobe, my hair and make-up undone. I’d had three hours of sleep the night before. I hadn’t read up on the materials I was supposed to. I hadn’t put together the folders. I hadn’t arranged the flowers I’d bought or cut the lilacs I’d planned to. I hadn’t made the coffee or the mimosas or the iced tea or the sangria. (Yes, this was a fun conference.) The tables weren’t set up. The tablecloths weren’t ironed. The outdoor chairs were filthy from being stored in a shed alongside a tractor.

And all this was after running myself ragged for 48 hours, getting everything else accomplished.

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Like the indoor chairs! I had set up the chairs!

So when my helpers arrived (several ladies came early to help – thank you, kind souls), I threw jobs at them like I’d known them for years. (Though I most definitely had not.) One – poor lady – ironed linens that just wouldn’t be tamed. Another, who’d spent the night at our home, had already ironed the more cooperative ones. Lovely Mary, who had brought flowers for the lunch tables, also arranged the flowers I’d bought, set them all out, put together the folders, and served as my weary brain’s go-to question answerer. One woman poured the mimosas. Another made the decaf. Several directed our (potluck) food to the table and refrigerator. They pulled out the cups, plates, flatware, and goodness knows what else.

In short, women did what women do: they helped.

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Photo credit: Rosie Hill

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Photo Credit: Rosie Hill

(I can’t neglect to mention my wonderful husband: By this time, Brennan was knee-deep into his third straight day of helping me prepare. He’d already mulched flowerbeds and cleaned bathrooms and taken our older boys up to my parents – thanks, Mom and Dad! Now he was setting up tables and making coffee and cleaning those dirty, dirty chairs. God bless him.)

(Nor can I neglect to mention the two ladies who helped me organize the event – Rita Buettner of Open Window at the Catholic Review, and Erica Saint of Saint Affairs. Without them, I surely would have burnt out before the conference day even arrived. Both were generous, wonderful collaborators and valuable sounding boards.)

So as this big day began – and as I grasped at every bit of help I could get – all I could think about was how badly I’d screwed up by not having everything ready when my guests arrived. I’d wanted the day to be peaceful, elegant, relaxing. Instead, we – all of us – found ourselves plunged into a confusing jumble of bodies and baked goods.

And I was embarrassed.

The Idea(s)

Now, allow me to back up for a moment.

Because the more I reflect on our conference, the more I believe that there was something important at play here – that our day was guided by One who knew what each of us needed, and who helped us to meet those needs for each other.

I’d first thought of hosting a gathering of local Catholic women bloggers a couple of years earlier. Jen Fulwiler had mentioned attending a “salon dinner,” at which guests listened to a speaker and split into groups for a sit-down dinner/discussion. Information about the guests had been circulated in advance to help people get to know each other, and groups were assigned in such a way as to introduce guests to those who might be new to them.

I thought it was a brilliant idea. It was right up my sociable/nerdy alley.

When I thought about how I might implement the concept in my own life, I landed on the idea of using it to try to get to know other Catholic women bloggers in my area. I’m not far from Washington, D.C. and I figured that there had to be plenty of such ladies around – right? So I tried, along with a couple of other local bloggers I knew, to get something going.

But the timing just wasn’t right. For a number of reasons, it became very clear, very quickly, that the idea would need to be set aside for a while. So it was.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when members of a Facebook group I’m part of began to discuss blogging conferences and what they’d like from one. Soon those conversations turned into efforts to put on regional Catholic Women Blogging Network conferences across the country.

Quick as I could, I stepped forward to host one for the Mid-Atlantic. The time was right. And just as I’ve learned so many other times in my life, the right circumstances make all the difference.

Out of the Weeds, Onto the Meat

Now, back to my embarrassment.

I focus on it because it shows where I was as our day began. I was months into the planning of the event and sunk deep in the weeds. I hadn’t actually given much thought to the meat of the conference: how the talks would go, how the day’s events would fit together, what people would get out of it. And I’d only recently – since reading re-caps of the California conference – come to realize that some of my guests might be nervous about attending. Until then, I hadn’t thought of what they might be feeling as we started our day together.

Then we began.

We started our program a half-hour late, but we started well. I gave a short welcome and had everyone introduce themselves. (And one woman hit on the wonderful idea of introducing the babies!)

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Gabriel, Peter, Margaret, Felix, Heidi, Magdalena, and Isaac. Photo credit: Rosie Hill

I recited a special Prayer for Peace issued by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in light of the riots there last week. Then I introduced our first speaker.

Meg Hunter-Kilmer, of Held by His Pierced Hands, was terrific. She (I’m stepping into my emcee role here) has two degrees in theology from Notre Dame. After five years as a middle and high school religion teacher, she quit her job to be a “hobo for Christ,” traveling the world speaking about the love of Christ.

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I was still moving around the house a bit, making sure things were set up properly and that my guests had what they needed. (I was also grabbing my own coffee and breakfast, thankyouverymuch.) So I didn’t catch Meg’s entire talk, called “Living an Examined Life.” But I was blown away by her enthusiasm, and what I heard from her renewed my desire to set aside some daily quiet time in which to just be – to listen, to pray, to simply sit in the presence of God.

Besides providing us with some general encouragement and commiseration on that front, Meg taught us about the Examen – a daily form of prayer that encourages one to examine his life and pay attention to how God is moving in it. It struck me as a beautiful and useful exercise, and I’m eager to put it into practice in my own life.

Restoring Reality

After Meg’s talk, we welcomed our keynote speaker, Leah Libresco, of the Patheos blog Unequally Yoked. Leah grew up as an atheist and started studying Catholicism “in order to have better fights with the most interesting wrong people she met in college.” She ultimately conceded the fight and became Catholic herself. But she still likes to argue: On her blog, Leah discusses anything from dating ethics, to approaches to almsgiving, to ways to forge communities in cities. She runs a monthly debate group in Washington DC and hosts sporadic Christian forums.

Leah says that she likes to find ways to have fights that turn into friendships and she makes sure to infuse disagreements with charity and love.

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Boy, does it show: I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about arguments with as much light and joy as Leah did. She spoke on “Sharing Our Faith in Secular Spaces,” giving us plenty of smart, insightful strategies for making arguments that are not just compelling, but also life-giving.

Maybe that sounds strange. First, that we had a talk on arguments at all, and second, that arguments could possibly be life-giving. (My label, not hers.) But consider our lives since the advent of social media (and indeed blogging): how many of us witness our friends and acquaintances snipe at each other over politics or current events or parenting practices? How many comment boxes have become so nasty, we don’t even bother with them anymore? Which sort of radio and television programs thrive most today? The running theme to me, at least, seems to be: conflict, conflict, conflict…

And not the constructive sort.

Leah works hard to counter that culture – not by acting like disagreements don’t matter, but by respecting them enough to encourage them to be aired openly, respectfully, fairly, and in good humor. She remembers what so many seem to have forgotten: that behind every disagreement lies real people with (usually) honest motivations. Not one of us is a caricature of our beliefs. We’re individuals who deserve to be viewed as such.

So Leah said things like this to us:

  • Learn what your opponent loves about his argument and re-direct those goods to a better cause.
  • Discern what the strongest argument is for the particular person you’re arguing with.
  • It is more important to keep people dialoging than to “win.”
  • Leave things a little unsettled, because settling a debt exactly implies the closing of a relationship.

She also told us a story that, in my mind, somehow has come to represent our whole conference:

Leah said that she once had a couple of friends who were having quite the argument on her Facebook wall. Eventually she popped onto their thread with a suggestion: “How about you guys come over to my place and have this argument in person? I’ll make cookies!” (Leah seems to pair many such challenges with “I’ll make cookies!”) They – smart guys – took her up on her offer.

When the debaters arrived, however, Leah (deliberately) didn’t have everything ready. The cookies were still in the oven and she was scurrying around in a (manufactured – shhh!) rush. She tossed out a few directions: move this sofa there, those chairs here, carry these glasses of milk, please.

Leah took two people who’d been duking it out online and not only did she bring them together to resume their argument in person, but she made them work together on common, non-controversial goals beforehand. She brought them together so they could stand shoulder-to-shoulder and see eye-to-eye, literally. In doing so, Leah was “restoring reality” to the situation, as she put it. Working together, sharing food – these are things that bond people to each other. And when people are bonded, their arguments are more likely to be respectful and fruitful.

As you might guess, Leah’s story struck me for its similarity to our day’s beginning. Though my own rushing was genuine and my guests had not come to argue, their helpfulness served a similar role. Before many of our ladies had even met each other, they were working together. They – we – were building bonds through service, which would then be strengthened by sharing prayer, food, and conversation. So as I scurried through the jovial chaos that morning, embarrassed and a little panicky, I was unknowingly playing my part in the day’s success.

Honestly, I could listen to Leah’s talk all over again. Meeting her left me feeling a little resentful of the fact that I’m no longer a young single thing living in DC, with plenty of time (and the Metro access) to crash her homemade-cookie-fueled debate parties.

(By the way, Leah just released her first book this past Thursday! Consider checking out “Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer.”)

Faithful, Social Friends

After Leah’s talk, we broke for lunch. I threw more jobs at people (“Who wants to make the iced tea?!”) and we all scurried around to get the food ready. Soon enough we were settled at one of four tables, where we participated in small-group discussions with ladies who blog on topics similar to our own. I’d assigned the groups in advance and asked each attendee to submit links to the three posts which best represent what she’d like to do with her blog. Theoretically, everyone was supposed to read their group-mates’ links before arriving. (Though I’ve already confessed that I did not personally get to this!)

I can’t vouch for the other groups, but mine was great. We relaxed, we chatted, we asked questions, we commiserated, and we laughed. What more could you ask for?

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Photo credit: Rosie Hill

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Photo credit: Rosie Hill

After lunch we re-grouped to hear Cristina Trinidad speak. Cristina – who blogs at what was Filling My Prayer Closet, but is now, as of this week Faithfully Social – is a married, full-time working mother of two boys. Working in corporate by day, she is a blog and social media coach by night (or whenever she can get a minute).

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Cristina says that she enjoys helping other bloggers get noticed, or providing just the right prescription to manage their social media. Accordingly, her talk, “Blogging Smarter, Not Harder,” was full of insights into social media and tips as to how to better engage with it.

Images, titles, search engine optimization, pins, schedules, branding, design software, videos, keywords, alt tags, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram… it all kind of made my head spin. But in the best possible way! Cristina was friendly and energetic and she left me with pages of notes and several ideas for improving my outreach to current and potential readers.

We spent the remaining 15 minutes of the conference in a lively wrap-up session, which was moderated by Rita Buettner, of Open Window at the Catholic Review.

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I have to say, up until this point in the day, there were many things that made me happy. But now, as people enthusiastically offered ideas as to how we could collaborate and be helpful to each other going forward – I was thrilled.

One woman offered to host everyone for a day of quiet, uninterrupted writing. Another suggested meeting for a “write-in” at Starbucks. Ladies talked of a blog carnival. They mentioned Doodle and Google Docs and a resource page on our Facebook group where people could list their expertise.

The ideas bounced around the room haphazardly but the consensus was clear: We were excited about what we’d found here and we were eager to build up relationships with one another. We wanted to get together again soon – as soon as this summer. We wanted to offer a variety of ways for people to meet up and help out and collaborate.

(The activity on our Facebook group this week has reflected that excitement: multiple posts per day, questions, request for and offers of support. It’s been really beautiful to witness. I feel so grateful for this burgeoning community – and just a little proud.)

After our conference formally broke up, women lingered to say goodbye after goodbye. They took with them lovely boxes of delicious fudge, which was generously made by Emily Borman, Editor-in-Chief of Conversation With Women. (For the writers among you, Conversation With Women is a blog made up entirely of anonymous submissions from women who have struggled with, but ultimately found joy in living the Catholic faith in regards to marriage, sexuality, fertility and society. If you have such a story to share, stop over to Emily’s to see about submitting it.)

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Photo Credit: Rosie Hill

As the others headed home, eight of us struck out to enjoy dinner together. We walked to a local restaurant for some amazing pizza and more laughter than probably should have been allowed. (Seriously – we were the loudest party there!)

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I was so happy as I looked around at our group – women of different ages and backgrounds and family make-ups, women who write on different topics, whose lives have taken different turns – we chatted (and hooted and hollered) like we were a real thing, like we were a solid group.

And, I guess that now we kind of are.

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Photo credit: Rosie Hill

Back row: Patti Murphy Dohn, Marie Bernadette Griffiths, Meg Hunter-Kilmer, Cristina Reintjes, Laura Scanlon, Mary Lenaburg, Jamie Gewand, Lisa Mayer, Abbey Dupuy, Laura Wright, Leah Libresco, Abigail Benjamin, Emily Borman

Front row: Erica Saint, Rita Buettner, Colleen Duggan, Kate Abbot, Rosemary Callenberg, Cristina Trinidad, Nicole Cox, Julie Walsh (me), Rosie Hill

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Photo credit: Rosie Hill

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Photo credit: Rosie Hill

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Photo credit: Rosie Hill

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(Many thanks to Theresa Conlan for designing our logo.)

 

Catching Up: In Our Home And On My Mind

My posts have lately been too few and far between, so I thought I’d do some catching up on what we’ve been up to in our home. And on what I’ve been thinking on a slew of random, recent current events. Maybe that way I can settle my mind well enough to tackle properly focused, one-subject posts here soon!

That Blasted Knee

As far as home and family go, my mother-in-law (who lives with us) had her knee replaced in mid-February. Thankfully, the surgery went well and she suffered no complications. My husband’s brother flew in from Minnesota the very day Hilde came home from the hospital to help her kick off (no pun intended) her recovery. It was quite the busy week and I honestly have no idea how I could have managed it by myself. THANK GOODNESS my brother-in-law was here to help.

Besides being relieved for Hilde’s sake that her blasted knee has finally been fixed, we’re all so glad that the surgery no longer looms before us. I feel like I spent half the winter worried that we’d pass on our illness-of-the-moment to Hilde and the other half worried that we’d get some illness that we’d then pass on to her. The surgery could have been postponed! We could have been left without any help during her recovery! It was a nail-biter to the bitter end: Hilde beat a cold just in time and we had a snowstorm the night before the surgery, prompting my husband to hit the driveway with his snow-blower at 4:00 am so he could get her to the hospital in time.

Not the same storm -- but close.

Not the same storm — but close.

But! Now we’re past it and I want to CELEBRATE! Cue the margaritas and the music! Let down your hair! And LET’S BRING ON THE PLAYDATES! GERMS NO LONGER SCARE ME! Your child has a runny nose and a hacking cough? I don’t care! Get us sick! As long as we get some social interaction and views beyond these here walls before we’re felled by the sickness du jour, it will have been worth it!

[Would you believe that within two hours of typing these words, my son started throwing up? Perhaps I should have been more specific: Cold germs no longer scare me. Stomach bug germs most definitely do!]

But… My Back

So we get past the surgery and my brother-in-law’s visit and we get (mostly) back to our usual habits and routines. Then, less than a week later (during which we’d suffered through something like three snow/ice storms), I was just the kind of stupid, out-of-shape idiot to swing my ginormous baby (in his heavy, carrier car seat) into the middle seat of our minivan and WHAM. I injured my back badly enough that three days later I was pretty much immobile, unable to think of anything other than the pain, even while taking painkillers and muscle relaxers.

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Mr. Massive

But the meds and the heating pad and time ultimately did their jobs (and my saintly mother came to help me so I could put off carrying Massive Baby for as long as possible), so by last Tuesday, I was pretty much back to normal. On Wednesday, I felt good.

Until some lady drove her car into ours.

We were parked in a grocery store parking lot – me crouched in the rear of our van, about to unbuckle the boys from their car seats – when a woman drove into us, head-on. She’d been trying to park, so the collision wasn’t that fast or that serious, but I was knocked over and my muscles knew it.

Blah, blah, blah… enough with my sob stories. The bottom line is that I was stiff and sore for a few days AND I’M REALLY READY FOR THIS SEASON TO BE OVER.

Come on, spring! Come on, activity! Come on, season of not being invalids!

(Alright, I think I’m done using ALL CAPS for the rest of this post.)

On Maybe / Kind of / Almost Being Considered A Smart Blog

Back in January, I told you that I’d been nominated for a Sheenazing Award in the “Smartest Blog” category. And then I never fessed up to the fact that I did not end up winning said award. I’m sorry for that. I should have updated the kind souls who voted for me.

But I’m not sorry that I didn’t win. Because I shouldn’t have! Mama Needs Coffee won, and I’m glad for it, because Jenny is one of the smartest things out there. She’s witty, she’s funny, and she writes about tough issues like the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage with great bravery and clarity.

I’m so proud that These Walls was listed alongside blogs like hers and like I Have to Sit Down, Unequally Yoked, Through A Glass Brightly, etc. It’s a great list to be on.

On Current Events

Maryland is one of several states currently considering legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. I think it’s a terribly scary idea. Such legislation is problematic on many counts, but the one that gets to me most is a “what if?” related to the idea of becoming burdensome. None of us want to become a burden to our loved ones in our illness or old age, but what if we really had a choice about it? What if physician-assisted suicide were to be legalized? What if it became normalized, even to the point of being routinely undertaken? What if people started to choose it, not because they don’t want to suffer, but because they don’t want to become a burden to the people they love? What if we started to expect our loved ones to choose physician-assisted suicide so they don’t become burdens to us?

Learn more about the legislation at Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide. And if you’re a Maryland Catholic who hasn’t done so already, contact your legislators via the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network.

My husband and I had a big argument the other day over the 47 Republican Senators’ letter to the government of Iran. I thought the letter was shameful and inappropriate; he thought it was a proper response to President Obama’s negotiations with that country. I like Michael Gerson’s take on the thing. (Just as I like his take on most subjects.) Brennan and I ended our political debate on the subject with a huffy sort of agreement: though we’re both Republican, neither of us will even consider donating to the party right now. He refuses to support one wing of it; I refuse to support the other.

The Diane Rehm Show’s treatment of the above-mentioned letter provided me with one of my favorite quotes ever, I think: “If your first reaction to hearing of problems of partisanship is to blame the other party, you’re not helping the situation.” (David Rothkopf) This has sort of been my thing, politically, for the past few years. I think people are right to call Washington broken, I just wish they’d recognize their own role in making it so.

And Hilary Clinton totally should have used a State Department email address for official business. Totally. Not only does choosing a personal account over a government one show disregard for the spirit of the rules (and maybe the letter), but it shows a serious lack of foresight. How in the world could she not have expected this to become an issue?

Oh, and this isn’t related to the political kind of current events, but it is current: I saw The Drop Box. The movie was beautiful and powerful and gave me so much to think about. However, I didn’t like that it was immediately followed (and preceded, actually) by a Focus on the Family-driven presentation on the film. That approach may work for audiences sitting in (evangelical) churches, but it felt odd for a public movie theater. As a Catholic, I found the tone of the presentation unfamiliar and (though I know it probably wasn’t, really) artificial. To a truly secular viewer, I imagine it would have been off-putting. The film would have been more powerful if it were presented on its own.

Well, that’s it for now! See you back here soon!

Honored

Would you believe that my blog has been nominated for an award?

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I know. I can’t believe it either. Crazy stuff.

But it’s true! These Walls has been nominated for the 2015 Sheenazing Awards in the “Smartest Blog” category. (Smartest blog!) Bonnie of A Knotted Life is so generous and supportive to her fellow Catholic bloggers that she’s been hosting her “Sheenazing Awards” for the past few years. In Bonnie’s words:

The Sheenazing Blogger Awards get their name from Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, who was amazing at using the newest forms of media to communicate the beauty of the Catholic Church and his love of Christ to the world. They are a fun way to celebrate the excellence of the Catholic blogosphere and honor Venerable Sheen.

There will be a winner and a runner up in each category. The winners will earn a firm virtual handshake, the pride in knowing that they’ve been named the Best of something by a fairly obscure blog, and the right to display the following on their site:

Except it will say "Winner".

Except it will say “Winner”

Obscure or not, I’m super honored to be part of it all. Thank you for your work in coordinating the effort, Bonnie, and thank you to the kind souls (whoever you are) who nominated me!

So.

If you’d like to – ahem – cast your vote in my direction, kindly click here. Or don’t vote for me. There are lots of other terrific blogs to check out while you’re there, which are probably more worthy of your vote. Besides Smartest Blog, Sheenazing Awards categories include Funniest Blog, Most Inspiring Blog, Best Under-Appreciated Blog, Coolest Blogger, Miss Congeniality, and Best Blog By A Non-Papist. (I’m not making that up.)

In case any of you need a refresher on what my particular shtick is here at These Walls – or if you’re visiting for the first time (Hello! Welcome!) – I thought I’d give you a little summary.

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Things I love – and love to write about – include my husband, my three little boys, the rest of my amazing family, my old house, my faith, politics, and good, meaty debates on controversial subjects. Stoking fires just for the fun of it isn’t my thing, but here are some things that are:

Let’s just say I take a “holistic” approach to politics – I care about the morality of an issue – not whether it’s labeled Left or Right:

I write about big moments in my life:

I tend to wax sentimental on motherhood:

And sometimes I keep it really real:

Also, my boys fall asleep – all the time, all over the place. I like to share that joy with you.

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Thanks again to whoever nominated me! (And also, while I’m at it, to Jenny Uebbing of Mama Needs Coffee for calling me one of her “Political Muses” the other day. That was so cool!)

I’ve got a whole list of topics I’m itching to get into this year. And even though I still have Christmas decorations to put away and boxes of ten-year-old papers lurking in my corners and closets, I’m feeling energized about digging in.

See you here soon!

Twenty Minutes (But Not Really)

It’s a blue-skyed, balmy 57 degrees this afternoon, so the boys are outside playing, enjoying the beautiful weather.

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Let me re-phrase that: I’m enjoying the boys playing outside in the beautiful weather. They’d rather be inside watching a movie, but I told them their choices were outside play or naps in their beds. Surprise, surprise: they chose the former.

I have a million things on my to-do list, but thought I’d take a quick twenty minutes* to post a little update on the blog, because: Quiet! Ohmygosh it is never quiet around here! Boys outside, baby napping, and this the first quiet, awake, non-committed moment I’ve had in a week!

I’ve got to sit here and savor it a bit.

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We’ve been very busy lately – the typical Christmas stuff, plus commitments and medical appointments and then, for the baby, a hospital stay. The poor, pathetic little thing has pneumonia. He came home on Saturday after two nights in the hospital and fortunately, he’s already most of the way back to his usual happy, peppy self. Brennan and I are slowly (slowly) recovering from all the sleep we lost during the ordeal.

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But anyway, I’ve been meaning to note my relative absence from the blog over the past couple of months. And here I am, so here we go!

The thing is, I am an easily-distracted, easily-overwhelmed, easily-overstimulated kind of gal. And I’ve come to realize that I need to get a handle on the things in my life that distract and overwhelm and overstimulate me. Like, really need to – actually need to – not just acknowledge that I need to and promptly move on to something more interesting.

When I try to live my daily life (namely, when I try to mother) in the midst of those distracting, overwhelming, overstimulating things, I fail. At so much. I have too little patience, I enjoy too little time with my children, and I have far, far too many meltdowns.

A few weeks ago I told my boys that I’d be back in a minute: I just needed to take the baby upstairs to put him down for his nap. After I changed his diaper, I set the baby down on the rug with a few toys so I could wash my hands. But then I noticed some bins of clothing that I hadn’t put back in their place, so I went to move them. Then I noticed how dusty that corner of the room was, so I decided to sweep it before I put the bins away. Then I went into the laundry room for the Swiffer, where I remembered that I hadn’t yet switched over the laundry. Then I had to retrieve a laundry basket so I could get the already-dry clothes out of the dryer. Then, just as I started emptying the dryer, I heard (1) the boys erupt in a massive fight downstairs and (2) the baby screaming, tired, ready for his nap.

I ran downstairs, yelled at the boys, and ran back up, flustered. I still needed to wash my hands. I still needed to take care of the baby and the bins and the sweeping and the laundry. I’d wasted all that time, gotten nothing accomplished, and worked myself into a tizzy. This is completely typical behavior for me.

I know there has to be a better way.

So I’m trying to deal with the background noise – the unfinished chores lingering in each room, the fluid schedule, the tasks I’ve been telling myself I’ll get to for far too long, the disorganized ways in which I deal with the information and the responsibilities that come my way.

I’m nowhere near through, but I’m making progress. It’s come at the expense of blogging, spending time on social media, communicating and getting together with my friends, and pretty much any other fun thing I can think of.

For the past couple of months, I’ve tried to find something constructive to do with just about every spare moment I come across. Goodness knows that I could be in this mode for a year and not quite end up where I need to be, but my plan is to push through as well as I can ‘till the end of December. Come the New Year, I’ll try to stretch my legs a bit, to occupy this less-cluttered space (both physical and mental), and see how it works for me. I certainly can’t keep up my current pace forever.

So while you’ll hear from me a few times before then, I probably won’t get into a regular blogging routine until January. I’m hoping that by then I’ll have dealt with enough of my issues to operate on a more organized, more peaceful level.

Hoping.

Wish me luck! And in the meantime, I wish you a blessed Advent, a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.

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* Ha! Did I really think I could get away with that? It took an interrupted two hours, full of potty breaks and crying babies, smashed fingers and late naps chosen over outdoor toy clean-up. C’est la vie!

Reset, Catch Up, Move On: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 31)

Well, hello there.

It’s good to be back on the blog after my month-long, completely unintended break. I wish I had tales of fabulous travel to make up for my time “away,” but no, we’ve been here the whole time. We’ve been busy, but just in the ways young families are apt to be: We spent time at the county fair, at parks, and at more playdates than I can count. We celebrated my father’s 60th birthday with a good ol’ Maryland crab feast. We’ve been meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. My son has started his second year of preschool and I’ve been trying to organize my home and my mind in preparation for the upcoming season of school, celebrations, and hopefully, writing.

And on that last count, I’ve been stuck.

I had a tremendous response to my last post, the one on breastfeeding (or rather, on not breastfeeding) and I kind of didn’t know what to do with it. So I thought I’d wait a few days to process everything. (Bad idea, Julie. Bad idea.) Soon enough I became caught up and weighed down by all those horrible events going on around the world and I figured I needed to write on them before I did anything else. But (surprise, surprise) they’re not the easiest to write on, and it didn’t take long before I was stuck in the mire, both mentally and spiritually. After a couple of weeks of unproductive writing, I decided to work on cleaning up my physical space so at least something would be heading in the proper direction.

It was the right decision. And it brings me to where I am today: Reset. Catch up. Move on.

What better way to do that than with a 7 Quick Takes?

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

—1—

The biggest thing to happen in the past month, I suppose, is that my four-year-old started his second year of pre-school. I’m not the sappiest when it comes to the passage of time, but I admit that I’m really starting to feel the weight of having just one more year before I turn my first baby over to full-time, full-day school. Sniff, sniff.

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His brothers and I went to the park to console ourselves.

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When we returned to pick up our guy after his class, the little one up there in green gave his big brother one of the tightest, most earnest hugs around the neck ever. Gosh, next year’s going to be hard.

—2—

My actual baby (five months old yesterday!) has the most pathetic-sounding hoarse voice right now. When I brought it to my husband’s attention the other day, he looked at me with these dull, accusatory eyes and said, “It’s because he’s been screaming so much at night before you go in to get him.”

WHAT?!

“No way!” I said, “I go in as soon as I hear him!” He just looked at me. With those eyes.

So that night, wouldn’t you know it, I woke in the middle of the night to find my husband standing in our room holding the unhappy baby. “He’s been screaming for quite a while,” he said over those awful, pathetic, hoarse little cries.

My poor baby. I don’t have a problem with babies being left to cry themselves to sleep when necessary, but how sad is it that my little guy has been screaming so much in the middle of the night that he’s gone hoarse? For no reason other than that I’ve been sleeping right through his cries? Oh, the guilt…

—3—

In my defense, though, I’ve been sleeping unusually poorly lately. This baby, like each of my boys, has always been a pretty good sleeper. Until the last few weeks. He seems to be in a phase (a growth spurt, maybe?) where he’s honest-to-goodness hungry in the middle of the night. I usually respond by offering him a pittance in the form of nursing for hours on end while I doze in the rocker. But frequently that’s not enough, so Brennan stumbles downstairs to make a bottle and I attempt to feed it to the baby without dropping either it or him. And every night lately I seem to find myself feeling around in the dark for my little pacifier-addict’s fix, praying and hoping that it does the trick so I don’t have to spend another couple of hours sitting on the tailbone killer.

Sleep, baby, sleep!

Sleep, baby, sleep!

Anyway, I don’t need to explain exhaustion to anyone who’s ever had a baby. I’ll just add that the situation has made me realize something: God sure knew what he was doing when he gave me the parenting cross (vomit) that he did. My boys have vomited enough to teach me that I’m actually pretty well-equipped to deal with the stuff. But exhaustion from the rare phases when my boys aren’t sleeping well? It makes me a wobbly, achy, dizzy, headachy crybaby. I’m being quite honest when I say I can hardly handle it.

I never thought I’d be grateful for vomit, but now I kind of am. At least, I’m grateful that I feel well-equipped to deal with our most bothersome parenting challenge.

What about you? What’s your parenting cross? Do you (strangely, maybe) feel that it suits you?

—4—

(Speaking of crosses…)

We’ve had another snake sighting. I was rounding the corner of the house to get the boys in the car when I saw it on the ground, just inches away from our feet. I LEAPT and ran and squealed and shuddered and my boys… they just stood there. They stared at me with gaping mouths and they were quick to not obey my pleas to RUN! GO BACK INSIDE! NO! COME HERE! JUST COME HERE AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Once they realized I was bleating on about a snake, they started in on the “But where is it? I want to see the snake! I want to see it! I wuv snakes!”

—5—

A few days later we had an exterminator here to check out some carpenter ants that my husband had discovered in the house. After he left, Brennan was updating me on what the exterminator had to say about the other pests we’ve had lately. (Bats, groundhogs, etc.)

Me: “What about the snakes?”

Him: “Snakes?”

Me: (Giving him the look this time.) “Yes, snakes.”

Him: “Oh! I didn’t even think about snakes. Did you want me to ask about snakes?”

Me:

Him: “Are you really concerned about them?”

Me: “Yes, I am concerned about the possibility of a nest of snakes under our parlor. I don’t exactly want more snakes slithering out of our children’s toys.”

So he proceeds to tell me how he found that some things in the basement had been disturbed and he figured it was probably because big, huge snakes had knocked them over while they were slithering every which way like they own the place. (Or something like that.)

That night I dreamed of snakes. Lots and lots of snakes. Everywhere.

—6—

A couple of weeks back we met some friends at a park and ended up having one of our coolest experiences all summer. The boys spotted one of these little guys:

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And then another, and another… climbing out of a little mound in the playground mulch. They had just hatched! It was so exciting, like those films you see of baby sea turtles floundering toward the surf.

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At first my friend and I wouldn’t let the boys touch the critters because we didn’t want them hurt. (The turtles, not the boys.) But then we realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea for baby turtles to be making their way to the middle of a playground on a bright, hot day with lots of littles swarming around. So we let our boys each pick up one or two and gently place them in the grass.

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(I realize that somebody out there might scold us for this, maintaining that we should never disturb wildlife for any reason, but I was not about to allow baby turtles to be squished by running little boy feet if I could help it. For the turtles’ sake and the boys’.)

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He’s pretending to be a turtle.

The boys were so sweet, and so interested. We could hardly divert them from their find for the rest of our visit. All I can think now is: Thank goodness it wasn’t snakes.

—7—

I’m a little hesitant to make this commitment, but I feel like I need to make some commitment to myself to get me back into writing regularly, so… here it goes…

I pledge to post every other day for the next two weeks.

It’s not quite 7 Posts in 7 Days, but for someone who hasn’t blogged for a month, it’s ambitious! Wish me luck, and stop on back to see if I keep my word.

 

Happy weekend, all! Don’t forget to stop over to Jen’s to check out all the other Quick Takers.