Smiles and Summer: {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 14)

It’s been quite a while since I’ve participated in {p,h,f,r}. We’ve just been through a series of preparing for parties and recovering from parties and dealing with emergencies and illnesses and injuries and… it’s been a little hard for me to see the forest for the trees.

But now I’m breathing a little more slowly and *thinking a little more clearly, and beginning to once again take note of my contentment with our everyday little lives. So I did a quick perusal of my camera’s memory card and I present to you the following:

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We’re now getting lots of {pretty} smiles from this little guy, who will be a full three months old on Friday!

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And even when he’s not smiling, he sure is pretty.

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When our oldest son turned four last month, we gave him a sandbox. The boys were so {happy} to be finally helping Daddy put the thing together this past weekend, and then even happier to get to play in it for the first time on Tuesday. They even had friends here to help them break it in.



He’s such a good little worker.


We’ve also been happy to see the bees do well settling into their new home. Brennan brought in some burr comb the other day. (Comb that was built where it shouldn’t have been.) The boys sure did enjoy checking it out!




The other day while the boys were playing outside, I suddenly stopped when I remembered it: the sprinkler! In my mother-in-law’s garden! Sure enough, when I got out there, the following scene greeted me:





“We’re aw wet!” Oh, yes they were – clothes and all. I’m so glad I was in the right mood to see how {funny} it all was.



Though I’m not sure the sprinkler thing was quite as funny as the dinosaurs that were – in ever such an orderly manner – exploring our front staircase.






No. explanation. necessary.


For more images of contentment, don’t miss {pretty, happy, funny, real} at Like Mother, Like Daughter.

*Please note:  I hope you’ll stop back here this afternoon, when I’ll be posting on religious freedom and why I think it’s worth worrying about. (Yes, this involves Hobby Lobby. Fun stuff!)

Spring Teases: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 11


Do you see the beehive there in the background? Our packages of new bees (we lost our colony in the move) will arrive in April!

See the beehive there in the background? Our packages of new bees (we lost our colony in the move) will arrive in April!


We had a taste of spring this past weekend, and oh, my, how {pretty} it was. Bright blue skies, warm sunshine, buds on the lilac bushes, an old birds’ nest peeking through the branches, and soft, wet grass squishing beneath your feet… Be still, my heart.


Excuse the oh-so-professional finger in the way.

Excuse the oh-so-professional finger in the way.


Of course our boys took great advantage of the weather, first by digging in leftover piles of snow (with no coats on! what a wonderful sight!), then by moving our driveway gravel from one pile to another. (Over and over and over…) My three-year-old made a little grouping of rocks and leaves next to my perch on the wall and said, “Dese are for my cowection, Mommy! Dey’re you and me.” So of course his little brother had to toss a few rocks on my other side, and declare “Wection!”

I was so {happy} to see my boys running, running, running as much as they liked, moving rocks, jumping in what was left of the snow, just busy being boys. And I delighted in seeing how happy they were, those bright eyes and smiling faces telling me more than anything they could articulate.





I told you in last week’s {phfr} that my husband has been busy painting the boys’ room. Well, since the job ended up taking two full weekends and because the paint fumes have been so bad, we’ve had the boys set up on the family room sofas for a little extended sleepover. Fortunately, they’ve done very well with the change. (It’s not like they’re not used to falling asleep on the sofas all the time anyway!) But I think our poor little three-year-old is confused. Between all the talk of baby coming and room painting and big-boy-bed fixing, the other night when I was getting him ready for “bed” he sat on his made-up-for-bedtime sofa and asked me, “Mommy, is dis my new bed?”


As it is wont to do, the weather has turned. The past few days have been cold and blustery. So we’ve retreated back into the house. My fatigue (not to mention my, ahem, commitment to Conversion Diary’s 7 Posts in 7 Days challenge) has had me laying even lower than usual, leaving the boys mostly to their own devices. They’ve been handling the situation well, (mostly) playing nicely and not whining too much, considering. I’ve tried to inject a few fun things into this {real} time of too-yucky-outside-to-play and mommy-feeling-very-pregnant. Thankfully, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well we’re getting through it all.

I made the boys a big fort, which I think the three-year-old said was "tewwific!"

I made the boys a big fort, which I think the three-year-old said was “tewwific!”


They made their own... um... I'm not exactly sure what this is. A path, maybe?

They made their own… um… I’m not exactly sure what this is. A path, maybe?

I even tapped into the creative juices to try to get the boys to eat veggies (and chicken) for dinner, a la the "Caveman."

I even tapped into the creative juices to try to get the boys to eat their veggies (and chicken) for dinner, a la the “Caveman.”

At least one of them enjoyed it!

At least one of them enjoyed it!

Don’t forget to stop over to Like Mother, Like Daughter to see lots more lovely {pretty, happy, funny, real} contentment photos this week. And if you’re visiting here from LMLD, check out my other posts (so far) this week for Conversion Diary’s 7 Posts in 7 Days Challenge:

The Little Things
Crime and Punishment and Moving On
The Best Possible Mugging

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Reminding Myself Of The Joy That Is Him: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 7

Yesterday was rough. It wasn’t exceptionally crazy; it didn’t contain a series of awful events. All the same, it was the kind of day that left me questioning, seriously, what I think I’m doing having children. The reason? I was in bad form that morning. I seriously lost my temper with the biggest little Mister. I won’t tell you what I did, because you’ll either think “Oh, that?! That’s nothing!” or “Tsk, tsk, tsk… for shame, Julie.” And I’m honestly not sure which response would be harder for me to receive.

But the what doesn’t even matter that much. What matters is what the what made me think about. Minutes after my little temper tantrum, I got the boys in the van to head out to do our first errands in almost a week. Namely, we had to go to the pediatrician’s office so my younger boy’s ear infection could be diagnosed (check) and we had to go to my ob’s so I could put an end to the month-long saga of trying to get my Rhogam shot (CHECK).

Anyway, we loaded up, made our way down our snowy, steep driveway, and got going. The littlest guy fell asleep almost right away, leaving nothing but uncomfortable silence between me and his older brother. Sniff, sniff, sniff… I kept glancing back to see my three-year-old staring off into space, looking sad. (And tired. The reasonable part of me has to remind myself that the morning’s drama stemmed, in part, from a big case of Tired Little Boy.)

I felt awful.

I asked my boy if he was okay. I told him I loved him. I apologized for my overreaction. He whispered a few “yeah’s” and “okay’s” before drifting off to sleep.

As we moved down the highway, I thought about how deeply I’d always desired to be a mother. I thought about how I’d always delighted in having lots of children around and how I always thought I was naturally cut out to be a mother of many. And it finally hit me: I don’t feel that way anymore. It’s not that I don’t still want the children – the two (and one in-process) that I already have and the however-many-more God sees fit to give us in the future – I just no longer feel like I’m naturally cut out for it.

I’m easily overwhelmed. I’m impatient. I’m stubborn. I’m a perfectionist. I’m a world-class procrastinator. I have a hot temper. I don’t have much tolerance for noise or activity or little people climbing all over me. I need a fair amount of alone time to keep from blowing my top. How in the world did I think I was a good fit for being a stay-at-home mother to lots of little ones?

But, here I am.

And here they are: these lively little guys who, after all, are only two and three years old. At the end of the day, even though I’ve told them a million-and-one times not to do x (say, stabbing at their brother with a fork or – yesterday’s trigger – roaring and charging at Mommy while she’s on the phone dealing with the Rhogam saga), they are just two and three years old.

That’s a hard pill for me to swallow. I think that children – even small children – are much more capable than our society gives them credit for. I think that if you want your children to be able to do things like sit still and follow rules and be considerate of others, both you and your children are best served by beginning to teach them how to do so when they’re very young. (Wouldn’t it be shocking to be five years old, entering Kindergarten, and find – for the first time in your life – that you’re expected to sit still for most of the day?) Still, I can attach myself too strongly to that concept, losing sight of the fact that they are just two and three years old. Yes, I should have high expectations for my children. But my expectations should also be realistic. This teaching children thing was never going to be easy.

And this boy is not easy. He is rather too like his mother. For I know that’s part of the problem between us: we have very similar personalities. We don’t do give-and-take with one another too well. We do the butting heads thing very well.

As I continued to drive down the highway, he slept while I thought. I thought about the disservices I’ve done to him. I thought about how amazing he is, and how he doesn’t deserve to be burdened with my short-tempered, overwhelmed outbursts. I thought about how much I love him.

When I saw Leila’s Facebook reminder about {pretty, happy, funny, real} yesterday evening, I brushed it aside at first. What kind of contentment could I dig up at the moment? But then I thought of my boy again, about how good he was in the afternoon, seemingly meeting my sadness with his sweetness. And I knew that at that moment, I needed to focus on the {pretty, happy, funny, real} that is him – the joy that is him.


And boy, is this boy {pretty}. I don’t care about anybody’s verbiage hang-ups: Someday he’ll be handsome; right now he’s pretty, he’s beautiful. He has these gorgeous, long eyelashes that any woman would envy. He has big, blue eyes. He has soft, round cheeks and thick, wavy hair. He has the sweetest smile.

This picture is obviously not from this week. But still -- pretty!

This picture is obviously not from this week. But still — pretty!

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My boy loves being outdoors. When he was a baby, the instant we walked outside, he would quiet down and look around him in wonder. It was a great cure for meltdowns: step outside and they’d stop, like a switch had been flipped. On pleasant-weather days, I’d set him out on the deck in his stroller so I could eat lunch in peace.

Today, regardless of the temperature or the elements, he’d rather be outside than almost anywhere else. So when we, like much of the East Coast, had our biggest snow of the season this week, you know this boy wanted to go out to play. He was so {happy} to be chilly and rosy-cheeked and covered in snow.



I don’t know what he was doing. Apparently “smile” now translates into “Cock your head and scrunch up your eyes.”


Or, as in this case, it translates into “Show me your chin and the roof of your mouth.”


After all the angst of the morning, he was so good yesterday afternoon. We went to two doctor’s offices, a sandwich shop, and the grocery store/pharmacy. At the store, I sat him in the back of the cart and he handled all the items being piled onto him with such good humor. It was so {funny}. Towards the end of the trip he voiced a little, “Umm… Mommy? I can’t weawy move anymore.” But still, a few minutes later as we were finishing up at the check-out and I was piling things back onto him, telling him “They’ll keep you warm!” he responded with a cheerful little, “Oh! Gweat!”



And then of course there are all the little, everyday, {real} things that too often go unnoticed: the play, the helping, the creating, the reading and snuggling.


Aren’t those toolboxes amazing? My very talented brother made them for the boys for Christmas.

That may look like a mustard bottle, but I’m told it’s glue.




Before we moved his baby brother into his room with him, I used to visit my son’s room every night. I’d stand by his crib and watch him sleep. I’d soak him up. I’d pray for him. But then the baby went into the room and I was nervous about waking one of them up, so I stopped. I got out of the habit of walking into that room once they were asleep. It was painful at first, but after a while, I didn’t miss those moments so much.

But last night, I felt like I was overdue. I crept into the boys’ room and watched over them for a few minutes while they slept. I lingered especially over my older son’s crib, soaking him up, praying for him. I thought over the day and how I’d hurt my boy’s feelings and disappointed myself. I asked for help.

I don’t know how to wrap up this post, except to say that today I’m trying harder – to be understanding, to be kind, to not let my interactions with my boys devolve into the kind of mess we had yesterday. I still feel yesterday’s sadness echoing around here, but I’m trying.

Thanks, as always, to Leila and the other Lawler women for hosting {pretty, happy, funny , real.} Head on over there for glimpses at others’ contentment this week.

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{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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{pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 3)

In all honesty, I write this on one of those evenings when “contentment” doesn’t seem like the most natural thing to focus on. Not for any major reason; it’s just been one of those evenings when Daddy was home late and boys were challenging. (“They have been driving! me! crazy!” is how I put it to my husband.)

So. I sit here kind of huffing and grumbling and guiltily remembering how I yelled tonight.


But… contentment: this week’s contentment for {pretty, happy, funny, real}. It is, of course, something I should focus on. Especially at moments like these.



I’d do best to think of my big boy this way on evenings that frustrate me. Aren’t sleeping children always so pretty? He sure is, with his soft, round cheeks and his long eyelashes. Each time I catch him like this, I fall in love all over again.


I do the same with his brother, of course. He’s got the prettiest blonde hair and the sweetest little lips. And I just love his chubby, scraped-up, little-boy hands.


But, motherly mush and all, do you know what really made me happiest this week? This little scene:


We have a bedroom on our second floor that you have to walk through to get from one side of the house to the other. So it’s not exactly very private. And since we don’t need all of our bedrooms right now, I’ve made this one into a catch-all room of sorts. It’s for craft supplies and wrapping paper and sewing stuff and laundry sorting and ironing and file organizing – and it’s where everything gets dumped until it finds the right home elsewhere. I can’t tell you how much I love having such a room. It’s a homemaker’s fantasy, that’s what it is.


Anyway, up until this point its primary purpose has been the last one I mentioned. It’s where stuff gets dumped. So you can imagine what it’s been looking like, can’t you? It’s been pretty bad. Boxes, piles of papers, bags of forgotten things, random items scattered around the surfaces… and everything seems to be overflowing.

But! This past weekend I got a few hours to myself and I started to tackle the mess. I got this whole lovely corner clear, I set out a few pretties, and I (gasp!) even organized the closet:


I’m far from done, but I cannot describe to you how happy this progress makes me. Now all of my *wrapping materials, at least, are organized and in reach. So are our lightbulbs. And paper. And baby books. So now if I want any of these things, all I have to do is reach in and get them! I don’t have to fish them out from underneath a pile! What a concept. Now every time I walk through this room, it’s as if I’m taking in a breath of fresh air. It feels so good to have accomplished something, even if the something is very little in the scheme of things.


* What do you think of the cabinet I’m keeping my wrapping paper in? Isn’t it silly/wonderful? I’d been looking for something, anything to suit the purpose, when the people we bought our house from offered to sell us this cabinet for – get this – $20. (They’d felt bad selling it for more, as they’d drilled it full of holes, to fish Christmas lights through it.) I jumped at the offer. I couldn’t have found something ugly and poorly-made for that price, let-alone a hand-made, glass-fronted cabinet. Score!



Yes, they’re scrubbing the floor. Yes, they’re only 2 and 3 years old. Isn’t it funny? They have this pair of black-soled “fireman” rain boots that make terrible scuffs on the floor. Yesterday they ran loops around the kitchen while wearing the boots and I needed something to occupy them for a few minutes anyway. So I handed each a wet paper towel, asked them to clean up their mess, and they happily got to work scrubbing the scuff marks. Their work didn’t accomplish much, but they seemed to enjoy it and I sure did!


We have a lovely yard, but it’s not the easiest to take small children out into. Mostly because our house is set into a hill, so most of our property is either sloped or terraced. And also because we have a lot of brick patio, surrounded by brick walls. Here’s an example:



Beautiful, yes. But also dangerous. So when I take the boys out, I like to move them away from all the hazards and give them an open space in which to play.


They’re completely uninterested in this. The boys like the hazards very much and try to escape back to them whenever possible. Of course when I’m keeping tight enough control to prevent them from accessing the big hazards, they seek out little ones wherever they can find them.


It’s a constant struggle and to be honest, I really dislike taking them outside because of it. The other evening when I attempted some outside time, I sat in the grass and tried to soak it all in. It was a lovely evening. The boys were so happy to be out. I tried really, really hard to enjoy it too. But one boy or another kept running away. They kept not listening. They kept pouring dirt over each other’s heads. They kept throwing rocks. They kept fighting with sticks. They kept trying to love (i.e. squish) poor, defenseless caterpillars.



The evening was yet another reminder that I’m mothering boys here. Sometimes they seem like foreign creatures to me, with their drives to escape and tackle and tear down. I love them deeply; I love watching their faces light up with wonder and joy. And I know it’s good for them to be out here. But – as good as I know it to be – sometimes it’s hard for me to enjoy this outdoor time with them. Sometimes the real gets ahead of the contentment.




Be sure to stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter to see everybody else’s {pretty, happy, funny, real}!

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{pretty, happy, funny, real}

I’ve been thinking about jumping on-board with Like Mother, Like Daughter’s {pretty, happy, funny, real} for some time, but I’ve had this notion that I needed to fully clean my house before I could do so. And then wait for a morning with abundant sunlight so I could take some really pretty, really perfect, really staged photos. Foolish, I know. Where’s the real in that mentality?

But LMLD’s photos are always so beautiful, and even though I’ve got a nice background to work with here, I feel like I’m always snapping pictures of clutter and wrestling boys. Oh, and boys asleep in places other than their beds.

I did, technically, participate in {phfr} that one time, right after I attended the “Crazy DC Meet-Up” with Auntie Leila, Suki, and Deirdre of LMLD. I wrote a post about the event and Auntie Leila kindly requested that I link it to PHFR. But anyway, here’s my first official {phfr}, and it’s rather more on the clutter/wrestling boys side of things than the pretty house side. It’s made up entirely of photos already on my camera, as I decided to do this post approximately 20 minutes ago. Here we go!

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~ 

Every Thursday, at Like Mother, Like Daughter!


I stepped outside for a few minutes yesterday morning to try to get some cloudless-blue-sky pictures for this post. I was relieved to fail: there were just enough clouds to dispel my dread. And there were a few pretty sights to cheer me:

I loved the way the sun was shining on the upper part of the house. So pretty.


I loved looking up at our big, old white oak, which my husband recently estimated is 262 years old. I’m in love with it already.


And I don’t think I will ever tire of taking pictures of fields. (Though you, I’m aware, may tire of seeing my photographs of this same view again and again…)



These boys are always so happy when their daddy comes home from work. So am I.






There aren’t many things better than a box, are there?


And what’s funnier than pretending to scream-wake-up your daddy, who’s pretending to be asleep?





Oh, and pudgy hands contorting pudgy cheeks? Always funny.




My boys – even the little one – have mostly been going without naps lately. (They are some stubborn, stubborn little guys.) It’s not exactly a contentment-inducing scenario. Except for this inevitable side-effect:




Well, there are some glimpses at my contentment this week. Feel like sharing any of yours? Head on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter to check out the links or post your own.