The Kids Are Alright (And the Parents Are Too)

(Everyday Bravery, Day 3)

In the years since I became a parent, there have been a series of signs I’ve wanted to hang on my person/child/stroller/grocery cart while my children and I roam in public. They include:







And of course:


But lately the one I’ve wanted to plaster all over everything (to be brave enough to shout to a world that often views children as burdens) is:


Because the general public? They tend to see us at our worst.

They see me carrying a hefty two-year-old across the parking lot, his flailing body tucked under my arm. They see him screaming his way through the grocery store because that blasted place puts a blasted balloon every five freaking feet. They see me balancing a baby carrier, a massive mom purse, and a cup of coffee on one arm while dragging the two-year-old with the other. They see me shooing and barking the two older boys in the right direction like some sort of frizzy, frazzled herding dog.

They see us running late. They see us overwhelmed. They see us hushing little ones who are accustomed to yelling and singing and roaring as loud as they like. They see a toddler who is frustrated to have been put on a short leash and boys to whom tact is a foreign concept.

They don’t get to see us at home, at peace, actually enjoying one another.

(Not that home is always peaceful. I am thankful every day that the general public doesn’t get to see my sons flipping out because I’ve told them to pick up their toys or me shouting a crazed, wild-eyed JUST EAT YOUR FOOD, ALREADY.)

Ours is a happy home. It may be chaotic and disorganized and screamy, but it’s also full of love and imagination and wonder.

Those strangers don’t get to see my husband hoisting the boys up to the refrigerator door to see if they’ve become magnetic. They don’t get to hear me reading The Story of Ferdinand to that two-year-old at naptime. (“His mother saw that he was not lonesome, and because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy.”) They don’t get to brush the curls off his forehead or kiss his great, big, squishy cheeks.

They don’t get to watch these boys build museums and castles and railways together. They don’t get to see them chase each other in their Star Wars fantasies. They don’t get to eat Brennan’s Saturday morning French toast or my killer chicken pot pie. They don’t get to see our baby girl kick and jump and squeal with glee when her brothers approach.

Brennan and I are almost always tired. We’re often worn thin, overwhelmed, frustrated with our kids – but in them we also find our greatest joy.

We delight in these children, and they delight in us and in each other.

So when you see us out and about, wrestling with a stroller or a car seat or a child, don’t pity us too much. Don’t think those brief moments of struggle or stress or embarrassment are accurate representations of our lives. The kids are alright. (And the parents are too.)


This post is the third in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

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I’m also linking this post to Bobbi’s (of Revolution of Love) Weekly Writing in October link-up. Check it out to find other bloggers who are trying to get back into the writing groove this month.


Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

Catching Up (7 Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 41)


Tap, tap, tap.

Is anyone there?

I’ve enjoyed writing at the Catholic Review for the past almost-two-months, but I’m afraid I’ve killed my (this) blog! The thought makes me so sad.

How can I find the right balance to it all? Between writing and everything else I’m responsible for, between this blog and the other, between political writing and more personal writing? I have no idea.

No idea.

I guess I’m just going to keep plugging away at it and hope it works out somehow?


My six-year-old boy started 1st grade this week. I’m currently a tad sappy about the passage of time and all that, but mostly just very proud of my boy.

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He’s been really interested in being helpful lately, so we’ve found some small jobs around the house he can do. He’s taking out the recycling and putting away the flatware and even making some sandwiches.

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Best of all, when it’s time for my crew to load into the van, he puts on the two-year-old’s shoes, ushers his little brothers outside, and then HE BUCKLES THEM INTO THEIR CAR SEATS. Truly, this is a life-changing level of helpfulness for me. I always thank him with something like, “Thank you so much! That is so helpful and it makes things so much easier for me!” He responds with a sweet little “No problem, Mommy! I like helping.”

I think I like six.

One more thing about my boy, which I already blogged about over on my Catholic Review version of 7 Quick Takes:

I had a sad but beautiful little exchange with my six-year-old son the other evening, courtesy of my almost-all-day-every-day NPR listening habit. While I was driving, my boy spotted a bug in the car and I told him that I’d seen a mosquito. “Is that mosquito virus here yet?” he asked.

“Mosquito virus? Do you mean Zika?”

He did.

“Well, it’s here in the United States,” I told him. “But it’s not here in our area. It’s in Florida.”

“Oh, that’s too bad for the babies there. There will be a lot of babies dying in their mommies’ tummies.”

Most people would probably be appalled to know that my six-year-old was thinking of such things. I’ll admit to feeling a little guilty about it. But mostly, I just felt proud. My boy is paying attention. He’s understanding. He’s asking questions. He’s caring. And he wrapped up our conversation by suggesting that we pray for the babies.

“God, please take care of the babies in their mommies’ tummies. Please keep them from getting the mosquito virus. That’s all.”

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My four-year-old boy is a funny kid. He’s been telling me he loves me for a long time now – like, laying it on thick: “Mommy, I wuuuuv you, Mommy. You’re da best Mommy in da whole world. You’re boodiful. I JUST WUV YOU SO MUCH. I wuv you more den Jesus wuvs you.”

I’m not complaining.

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But I am noticing that he tends to say these things when (1) he wants something from me, (2) I’m already helping him with something, or (3) he’s been naughty or annoying.

Clever kid, that one.

Lately he’s been adding the following into the mix: “Mommy, you’re da gweatest Mommy of aw time. You’re da gweatest PERSON of aw time! You’re MINE. You’re my mommy and no one else’s!”

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This morning when I asked him why he was doing this fake crying thing, he answered: “Sometimes people just cwy because you’re so boodiful.”

Whoah. Slow down there, kiddo.

It’s gotten to the point where every time I become visibly annoyed with him he grins at me and raises his eyebrows and whispers, “You’re mine. You’re MINE.”

And I crack up. This kid! This manipulative, clever little bugger. I think we’re going to be in real trouble when he becomes a teenager.

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Boy number three has been less charming lately. He is two. He is very, very much two. A couple of Sundays ago when our priest asked (playfully) why our boy had been screaming so loudly that we removed him from Mass, we explained that he has a major case of the TWO’s.

He is a screamer and though we are working on the screaming (i.e. lots of consequences for screaming), I will admit that the screaming is kind of driving me nutty. I do not like this phase.

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I’m hopeful (though I may be deluding myself) that the screaming has something to do with the fact that our almost two-and-a-half-year-old is not yet talking. He says twenty or so fairly indistinguishable words, but he doesn’t yet put them together and he hardly ever uses them. He mostly just grunts. And screams.

We have a speech evaluation scheduled for the end of this month. If they deem him to be more than 25% behind, he’ll qualify for free in-home speech therapy. I’ve never before thought much of looking into such services, but now I’m all, “SIGN HIM UP.”

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Our sweet baby girl, on the other hand, continues to be as sweet as she can possibly be. She’s still happy and laid-back and easy to handle. (Maybe she’s aware of our household’s overabundance of screaming?)

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She’s feeling very well and eating and growing like a champ, but she still has salmonella in her system. We’re waiting on the results of the latest stool test. The last one (in late July) was positive and they need two consecutive negatives before they’ll consider her clear. Fingers crossed that the latest (taken in mid-August) is negative; then we’ll just need to do one more.

Little girl is now sitting up fairly well (though she still falls over) and is just beginning to become really, actually mobile via that rolling and scooting thing that babies do. Yesterday I put her down on a quilt in the family room, walked into the kitchen, and returned to find her missing. It took a few moments of looking around and listening for her cries before I located her.

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I think she enjoys her new skill.


Apropos of nothing, I have recently been reminded of a few blogs I used to read. As in used to. As in no longer read. It’s been interesting to remember those blogs and what my life was like back when I was reading them and to realize that me no longer reading them actually has nothing to do with them.

It’s not you, old favorites – it’s me.

I’ve changed. I’ve moved, in some ways, into a new season of my life. What I needed then in terms of encouragement, inspiration, and commiseration, I no longer need. At least not right now.

I read different things these days, things that meet my current needs. Who knows where I’ll be looking for inspiration tomorrow.

The realization has helped me to calm down a bit re: my woe in Take #1. My readership isn’t what it used to be and there are probably a number of reasons for that. But one reason might just be that people move on and change and need things one day that they didn’t need the day before.

It’s a big ol’ lesson to me to just chill out and not worry too much about things you can’t control.


Can I tell you how excited I am about this weekend? I honestly can’t remember when I’ve had so many fun plans jammed into such a short span of time. Here’s the run-down:

Friday afternoon: Get my hair done! I plan to sit in that salon with a glass of wine and a good book and let everything having to do with Take number four just roll… off…. my… back.

Friday evening: Join one of my girlfriends and several of her girlfriends for a little mommies-only birthday party. We’re going to sit on her front porch in the cool evening air and drink cocktails and eat hors d’oeuvres and just enjoy being in each other’s company. I can hardly wait.

Saturday: Head to Virginia for this year’s Mid-Atlantic conference of the Catholic Women Bloggers Network. It’s being hosted by Rosie Hill of A Blog For My Mom and will feature Kelly Mantoan of This Ain’t the Lyceum and Mary Lenaburg of Passionate Perseverance and lots of other amazing ladies too. I’ll try to write about it when I get back. (I wrote about last year’s conference, which I hosted, here.)

Sunday: Drive to Annapolis with my husband for Mass at beautiful St. Mary’s Church (where we were married – see gratuitous wedding photo below), followed by a dedication and reception at the Charles Carroll House. Which was the Annapolis home of Charles Carroll of Carrolton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. And on whose board of trustees I used to serve. (And, for those of you who keep up with the Catholic mommy blog world, where I once arranged a tour for Catholic All Year’s Tierney family.)

Whew! That’s a busy Labor Day weekend before even getting to Labor Day itself. I am so excited! Now let’s just pray that the hurricane/tropical storm working its way up the East Coast doesn’t dash our plans.

(I’m linking up with Kelly of This Ain’t The Lyceum for this week’s 7 Quick Takes. Be sure to stop by her place to see what she and the other 7-Quick-Taking crowd have been up to!)


Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and think “aloud” on motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls’ Facebook page. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

These Walls - Catching Up 7QT41

Honesty From A Fed-Up Mommy {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 15)

Welcome to another installment of “My kids are driving me crazy, so let’s focus on the {pretty, happy, funny} and – okay fine – {real} of my little ol’ life this week.”

pretty happy funny real[1]




Baby pictures, but of course. Because he’s undeniably, unequivocally beautiful. But also because he’s too little to be too annoying just yet.

Sure, a cold has transformed the poor child into a fussy, needy, restless little thing with a spigot for a nose, but… those cheeks. Those fat little hands. Those blue (if red-brimmed) eyes. He’s so {pretty}. And so sweet (for now). We’re so, so lucky to have him.



Three words: Gin And Tonic

Wait! Two more: Sleeping Children




I know – I’m a horrible mother to be classifying pictures of hard liquor and sleeping children (the two are completely, totally unrelated to each other – promise) as my {happy}. But I’m all about honesty, and those pics? At this moment, they’re honestly what my happy looks like.

It’s just been one of those days. Besides the baby being sick and the weather being miserable, this has been The Day Of Meltdowns. My middle son completely lost it this morning when he woke (very late) to find that his brother had already left for school. He’d wanted to say goodbye. Sweet, hm? (Hint: It would’ve been sweet if the meltdown hadn’t lasted nearly an HOUR!) Then when we picked up big brother from school, BOTH boys lost it over an umbrella – a stupid, yellow, bumblebee umbrella. We ended up walking through the rain in a huddle, me holding the umbrella aloft, them screaming and jumping and grasping and (I think) hitting.

Meltdowns continued in the car and at home, over the above and over who-knows-how-many other things. Just before dinner, I actually illustrated to the boys just how fed up I was by holding a glass under the tap and letting it fill to the brim, then spill over before their eyes: “See this, boys? This glass is like Mommy. At the beginning of the day, Mommy’s got plenty of space. But then lots and lots of noise fills Mommy up through the day and when she gets to the end of it, she doesn’t have any space left, so all the noise spills over and Mommy loses it.” (So please let’s just have a quiet dinner!)


If all that’s not {funny} enough for you, how about a bandit/cowboy? Gosh, he’s cute, isn’t he?


And then there’s the game “cowboys having a big cowboy fight.” Apparently it involves ropes (that’s what that toy measuring tape is supposed to be) and swords (sticks, of course).



We came unprepared (but of course) to the scarecrow-building activity at my son’s school last weekend, so this is as far as we got: scarecrow legs and torso. Nothing to connect them, no head save a precariously (and temporarily) perched pumpkin.


Thus it sits on our porch. It’s cheerful enough, if rather too {real} to be really well done: The thing is headless, propped up next to the two little pumpkins my boys decorated that scarecrow-building evening. It sits below the tacky, cheapy Wal-mart scarecrow I only purchased because my son tore off one of its legs. We are talented seasonal decorators, we are!


There! There’s some cheer for your Thursday! Even if it’s only the kind that comes at someone else’s expense. Ah, well… stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter to locate some nicer, kinder cheer – the kind that comes from lovely people reflecting on the {pretty, happy, funny, real} contentment in their own (probably less grumpy) lives. Enjoy!

Disappointment, Truth, And Chocolate Cake

Is it Monday yet?

Because I’m really, really done with last week. With the last fortnight, actually. (“Fortnight” – let’s bring back that word. Isn’t it delightful?)

In the last fortnight the members of our household have suffered: a (thankfully, minor) car accident, a decently bad fall, a fever, a mild stomach bug, an ear infection, a glass shattering high enough up that we needed to clean a fine dust of glass off half the kitchen, two thwarted birthday celebrations before we hit upon a successful one, enough internet connectivity issues to make me somewhat concerned for my mental health, and a pickle juice spill in the refrigerator. (You might think that last one’s silly, but you didn’t have to clean out the refrigerator.)

Lesson: Steer clear of our family right now. You don’t want to be standing next to us when whatever’s-coming-next happens.

Folded into that litany of woes were two great disappointments for yours truly: First, due to my boy’s little stomach bug, I had to miss Jen Fulwiler’s talk at the Catholic Information Center in DC. And second, what “should” have been a nice evening of board meeting/reception/birthday dinner/walk by the water/maybe-even-ice-cream turned into a sad, stressful, embarrassing couple of hours of trying to distract my boy from the intense pain in his ears. And stop him screaming. (Poor boy – he suffered all those ailments in the span of three days.)

However, as disappointments sometimes do, these gems helped me recognize a few truths:

1) It’s not so awful to miss out on a good thing when you do so for the sake of someone you love. I’m definitely an angsty, crying-over-spilled-milk type of person by nature, so I surprised myself a little last Monday evening when I wasn’t a whiny, resentful mess over missing Jen’s talk. In fact, once the decision to stay home was made, I relaxed. I gained some clarity. I left my dress laid out on the bed and took my freshly-made-up face downstairs to spend some time with my sickly boy. We snuggled on the sofa and read his brother’s new books. I don’t do that often enough – just sit with him on the sofa to read. It was a lovely silver lining to our disappointing change of plans and it felt so right and so good.

2) Small children don’t care as much about plans as grown-ups do. My middle son turned three last week. Because we had a commitment the evening of his birthday, I made a few days’ worth of birthday plans so we could fit in everything I thought necessary to “properly” celebrate the occasion. Then most everything went wrong.

On Sunday, when we were to have our birthday dinner as a family – spaghetti and “wochate cake”* and presents and all – our oldest son and Brennan’s mother were both unwell. They ended up half-way joining us for the meal, present but not entirely so. Most of the birthday boy’s gifts (all but the bedtime books) were put off for another day. We sang “Happy Birthday” tired and deflated and sad about the unwell grandma and the glassy-eyed, red-cheeked, somber little boy who just needed to go to bed. We ate just a little bit of cake.

When they don't eat their cake, you know they're sick.

You’ve got to be sick when you won’t eat your cake.

On Tuesday (the actual birthday), we were due to head to Annapolis. I was to attend a board meeting while Brennan watched the boys, then we were all to attend an informal little reception. Afterward we planned to walk toward the water for a pizza dinner, maybe some ice cream. But as soon as we arrived, (though he’d seemed perfectly fine all day) my oldest son mentioned that his ear hurt.

Soon, that little off-hand comment turned into full-on wailing. The poor child couldn’t stop moving; he seemed to be trying to walk away from the pain. He wandered around, screaming. “My ear huuurts! I want Daaaddy!” (Daddy had gone to the drug store for some Children’s Advil.) “I want to go hooome!” (Please understand that this might be the first time in his life that this child has ever uttered those words. Our little social butterfly would usually rather be anywhere but home.) I tried to help. I sat on some steps and tried to hold him, to comfort him, but he was beyond comforting. All he wanted from me was pain relief, but until Daddy arrived, I couldn’t provide any.

But the birthday boy? (Getting back to my point now – promise.) He was fine. I could wish that he’d had enough empathy to be concerned about his brother’s plight, but I’m really just glad he was fine. He followed us around wherever we walked, singing and performing and pretending that a formal little flourish to the concrete steps was a trophy he’d won racing back and forth across the lawn. He showed me how fast he could go. He threw himself down on the ground and rolled in the grass. He ate a little cupcake.



He didn’t care that we’d driven so far for a couple of hours of confusion and concern and wailing. He didn’t care that we never got the pizza or walked along the docks or ate the ice cream. He was fine with pretending to be a race car. He was fine with the mini cupcake. He was fine with the chicken tenders he ate on the way home. He was fine with the frazzled, grumpy parents on his birthday evening. He’d been fine, too, with his sad little birthday meal on Sunday night. He was fine.

The plans, as it turned out, were for me, not him. He had people who loved him and wished him a happy birthday. He had a couple of presents. He had a “wochate”* cake. He was a perfectly happy little boy.

*(When I’d asked him what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he answered, “wochate.” “A rocket cake?” I asked. “No, not wocket, wochate.” (They sound the same.) “Oh, you want a chocolate cake? We can do that! But what do you want it to look like?” “Wochate,” he repeated, “wiff eminems.”)

I obliged.

I obliged.

3) As hard as you try, as well as you mean, as much as you plan, sometimes taking your children out into the world is going to go horribly. I’m a very stubborn person. I tend to think I can just force something into place. I tend to think that if I’ve thought something through and tried very, very hard to achieve it, I will. And even though I know theoretically that everything can fall apart for reasons outside of my control, I really don’t expect them to.

So it’s not like I went into Tuesday’s meeting/reception/dinner plans thing on a whim. I usually don’t take my children with me to such events. (Or the mobile children, at least; I routinely bring my infants to meetings.) I’d arranged to have my husband meet me there to watch our boys during the meeting. I knew he’d enjoy chatting with some of the people at the reception anyway. I knew we’d be at a location where the boys could run and play with some freedom. I knew that my boys enjoy being around new people and that they’re generally well-behaved in public. I knew that we’d only be at the reception (i.e. my little people in the same space as all the grown-ups) for about an hour before we walked into the land of pizza and ice cream and water viewing. We weren’t there because of a thoughtless, “Hey, I want to do this thing! Let’s bring everybody, regardless of temperaments/accommodations/situation!” I’d thought it through.

But it didn’t matter! Just as small children don’t care about plans, neither do ear infections. My poor boy was caught unawares by a sudden onslaught of pain, and so were we.

I wish I could tell you that when my child was wandering around that beautiful place, wailing his sad little head off, he was my only concern. But he wasn’t. Though I felt horrible for him and hated how helpless I felt not being able to make him feel better, I was concerned about the other people at the reception too. I felt badly about our family creating such a distraction. I was embarrassed. (What a cliché we must have seemed: harried parents chasing after screaming children!) I was frustrated that I couldn’t force this situation back into place.

Just keep thinking about the cake.

Just keep thinking about the cake.

This must sound like another cliché, but I feel like I learn something new from this motherhood gig all the time. And even when the something isn’t entirely new, it becomes more present in my mind or more relevant than I’d previously considered. So it was during this (wonderful! terrific! ha!) past fortnight. And like so much of what I learn, this fortnight’s truths can be boiled down to one simple message:

“Chill, Julie.”


When Things Fall Apart

(Sometimes it pays to just give up.)

Today was the only day this week when we didn’t have to be up and at ‘em, out and about, busy. And it was a lovely day to be inside: dark, cool, and drizzly. So I milked it.

Once the flurry of breakfast happenings had been gotten through, I cracked some windows in the kitchen, turned on the radio, and sat down at the table with my cup of coffee. I sorted through the near-avalanche of magazines and papers on my side table. I re-organized my stash of paper plates and plastic utensils, which had been strewn throughout my kitchen and dining room for most of the summer. I cleaned the disgusting top of my refrigerator. I took out the trash and the recycling. I put random things in their places.

The baby alternated between napping, sitting happily in his high chair with a few toys, and taking his bottles. His big brothers played (mostly) quietly and happily, and watched just a couple of their favorite shows. There weren’t many fights. There wasn’t much fuss. It was such a good sort of day: peaceful, quiet, and productive.

Until it wasn’t.


He said that they were going to a tool meeting, where they would be fixing stuff.

A little after 4pm, I pulled the carrots and celery out of the ‘fridge and put the chicken on the stove. I started the washing and the chopping that should have gotten me well on my way to some homemade chicken pot pies.

But then one boy peed all over the bathroom and I had to clean it up. I had to direct him upstairs to wash his hands while I cleaned the bathroom. I had to tell him that if he was too tired to walk upstairs, then he’d better just go to bed. I had to deal with the other boy, who was unhappy about not needing to wash his hands too.

I had to direct the first boy back upstairs to find clean shorts. “No, not those. Those are your brother’s. Yours are on the left. The left. This one is the left.” (He’s learning.)

The baby was fussing, so I had to make him a bottle and sit down to feed it to him.

I had to intervene upstairs when one boy hit the other with a (toy) hammer. I had to intervene again, when somebody did who-knows-what to somebody else. I had to send the first somebody to bed and then call him back out again to appease his brother/victim, who wanted his playmate back.

I had to check on the chicken, but I didn’t anticipate all the steam that would come from the pot once I removed its lid, so I burnt my arm. I ran cool water over it for a while, then I wrapped a towel around an ice pack and used it whenever I could. It sat there on the counter, next to the cutting board with fewer cut vegetables on it than there should have been.

I had to take at least three phone calls.

I had to change a couple of diapers.

I had to deal with the boys again: they were chasing and screeching underfoot, their faces right next to the baby’s. No longer able to deal with interruptions with anything like grace, I yelled at them for bringing their crazy into the kitchen when “I NEED TO MAKE DINNER!”

Finally – 1.5 hours, one pot of chicken, six carrots, four stalks of celery, one onion, and one burnt arm into dinner prep – I gave up.

“That’s it! I give up!” I actually said out-loud. I probably even threw my hands up in the air.

I put plastic wrap over the vegetables and chicken, stuffed them into the ‘fridge, and pulled out some leftovers. I made plates for the boys and sat them in front of “The Cat In The Hat (Knows A Lot About That)” to eat their dinners in the mesmerizing glow of the television. I heated up my own and sat down to eat in front of my laptop, my arm resting on its ice pack.

And you know what? It was absolutely the best thing I could have done.

There was a time when I would have pushed through, no matter what. I would have kept on yelling and rushing and complaining and working so hard to get it all done that I made everyone miserable. I would have put dinner on the table at 8:30 at night and felt a mixture of exasperation and guilt about little boys who fell asleep in their plates. I would have lost my appetite from the stress of it all and cried at the dishes left in the sink.

But tonight, I decided to cut my losses. Tonight’s thwarted dinner became tomorrow’s dinner prep. We each enjoyed our own separate, relaxing dinners rather than suffering through a family meal that would have been late and stressful.

“Giving up” is usually far from the ideal thing to do, but when you’re a perfectionist learning how to deal with the imperfections of family life, sometimes it can be just right.

Just A Little Slump

Yesterday afternoon I sat in my kitchen, brooding in a comfortable sort of way. The window was open and the day was cool and drowsy. If I’d spent it cuddled by a fire with a good book and no cares, it would have been lovely. As it was, the day felt like a lovely kind of somber. I was preoccupied with my vaguely depressed mood, my feeling of being in a state of “meh.”

I was perched on a pillow because of a ridiculous hip joint that’s been bothering me for a few days. (And by “bothering” I mean making me hobble around like the overweight old lady I feel like I am. And making me wonder whether I’m too old and out-of-shape to be popping out an adventurous man-baby every couple of years.)

But my five-month-old was napping in his swing while his two big brothers took their daily movie-watching-on-the-sofa “resting time.” (I choose my battles and I choose not to engage in that awful, horrible, no-good battle called “naptime.”) All three were quiet and still, so SCORE. Hip be damned.


I had dishes in the sink, but not too many. I had a pile of papers sitting behind me, but not too tall. My kitchen floor was relatively free of clutter, but the dining room was covered with it. I had (ahem, have) loads of lovely emails and blog comments to answer (I love you people even when I take forever to get back to you!) and I’d meant to take care of them then, but instead I decided to finally, finally put school and choir dates in my planner.

I was feeling perpetually overdue, disorganized, and distracted. I was feeling like I don’t spend enough time doing fun things or educational things or creative things with my children. I was wondering whether I’ll ever get my act together. (Please don’t tell me I won’t.)

But I was also recognizing that I have healthy, polite, happy little boys. That they give and receive an abundance of cuddles. That I make dinner most every night and my boys eat reasonably well-rounded meals. That they have clothes that fit and we always seem to have clean laundry to wear, even if it has to be pulled, crumpled, from a pile at the foot of my bed.

In short, I may not feel all that successful at managing my home or my family (or my blog), but I’m keeping it together. Everything is at least functioning, if not flourishing. Meh.


A short while later, wouldn’t you know, my boys reached down into my slump and started to pull me out of it – with some delightfully poor behavior. While I was trying to prepare their dinner, the four-year-old lay screaming at my feet, in full meltdown mode because I’d turned off his movie. I stepped over his flailing limbs, determined to ignore his temper tantrum.

Then I saw it: a wicked robot was advancing, in the form of my slowly-stomping two-year-old. He wore a menacing look on his face and he stretched out his wiry little arms and fingers into claws. He knew that his prey was vulnerable. And… he pounced.

Honestly, I thought it was a brilliant way to deal with a brother who had lost it. And I kind of enjoyed the ensuing ruckus: two boys rolling around on the floor, one sobbing and hollering and the other striking with his robot claws. (We don’t call that kid “fierce” for nothing.)

Soon the baby started screaming too, so I picked him up and sat in the rocker with him while we watched his brothers.

Today my slump has returned, and sunk a bit deeper. Today’s brooding doesn’t feel as lovely as yesterday’s. I’m feeling more discouraged about my hip and a little more grumpy, all around. Those “carefree” summer days seem long over; we’ve now re-entered the season of schedules and commitments and comparisons and knowing that time passes too quickly. I’m feeling sort of unequal to it.

But it’s just a little slump.

I have these wonderful little trouble-makers, you see, who are liable to make me jump out of it at any moment. I’m sort of looking forward to whatever-it-is they come up with next.


For now, they’re pretending to be alligators.



And the little one has brought back something interesting to their alligator nest — a trophy from his latest conquest, perhaps?

What To Do With An Annoying Husband

I went to my cousin’s bridal shower on Saturday. (Congratulations, Jaime!)

In my typical fashion, I did that thing where I get all excited about making something fancy for a special party, so I overestimate my abilities and I underestimate the time needed to pull it off. Accordingly, I spent a flustered Saturday running around like a madwoman, trying to fit in all the normal stuff, plus grocery shopping, making myself presentable for the party, and constructing 48 beautiful little tartlets filled with feta/spinach/pine nuts and tapenade/artichoke/pancetta/parmesan/arugula. (Yum.)

No time for an artfully-arranged photo before serving the tartlets: these babies are leftovers.

No time for an artfully-arranged photo before serving the tartlets: these babies are leftovers.

The boys were bouncing off the walls, my husband was managing them, and both he and my mother-in-law were enlisted to help me with the food. I was scurrying around, so consumed with the tasks at hand that I hardly made eye contact with anybody. (Because who has time for eye contact when you have stuff! to! get! done!?) I’m sure I was a peach.

Somehow, I got everything mostly put together and (thunderstorm notwithstanding) arrived at the shower a mere 20 minutes late.

But that’s beside the point. (And I promise I have one.)

At the shower, there were these notecards on which guests were asked to write messages to the bride. You might be familiar with the idea: on the envelope, the guest writes an event in the bride’s future and on the card, she writes a message for the bride to read when the event comes to pass. (Incidentally, when they did the same activity at my bridal shower, a bunch of the envelopes read “When you have your first daughter.”)



Anyway, on to my point.

On my envelope, I wrote, “When you get annoyed with your husband.”

Now, I certainly don’t think I’m the ideal person to be giving marriage advice. Brennan and I have only been married for five years. And ours is probably not the marriage most starry-eyed engaged couples are dreaming of: We’re not all that romantic. We’re probably pretty boring, even.

But we work. We’re content. We’re happy. And we’re getting better at our marriage every year.

A significant reason for this, I think, is that seemingly small thing: how we deal with being annoyed with one another.

When we were first married, all of my husband’s little idiosyncrasies drove me nuts. The dirty dishes on the counter, the socks on the floor, the cabinet doors left wide open, his absolute conviction that he is always right. And I could tell that he was annoyed with me too: my OCD tendencies, my procrastination, my perfectionism, that little sticking noise I make in my throat when I breathe.

So for the first several months of our marriage, there was this cloud of gloom hanging over many of our interactions. I was annoyed. He was annoyed. Sometimes it was all I could think about. Why did he spread those things across the kitchen counter? Doesn’t he realize I just spent an hour cleaning it off? He’s so inconsiderate! He doesn’t even notice that this bothers me! He wouldn’t care anyway! He must not love me! Waaaahhh!

(In my defense, I was pregnant at the time.)

Ultimately, the gloom built to the point where I couldn’t take it any longer. Our annoyances had left us each feeling self-righteous. And my annoyance with his annoyance with me (got that?) left me feeling hurt. So I prayed about it. And we talked it through. We realized that we needed to stop letting ourselves become so annoyed. After all, when we’re annoyed by something another person does, the other person isn’t the only one responsible for the situation. We’re responsible too. We have a say in what we let get to us.

Over time, we have decided to choose our relationship over our individual selves. We’ve decided to remind ourselves that annoyance can build on itself, growing into something darker and more damaging. And we’ve decided to recognize that words said in annoyance, frustration, and anger can act as chisels, chipping away at a marriage, bit by (seemingly insignificant) bit.

Now every time Brennan does something that gets to me — every time I feel that hot, prickly annoyance welling up in my chest — I ask myself which is more important to me: my relationship with my husband or my own feeling of being wronged. I no longer find it acceptable to dwell on the situation; I’ve got to either deal with it head-on or walk away. I can find a kind and constructive way to ask that Brennan do something differently, or I can stop letting that something bother me.

And it goes the other way too. There was a time when a day like Saturday — a day in which I’m running around like crazy, trying to do too much — would have really bothered my husband. Maybe it bothered him yet; I’m sure I was indeed pretty annoying to be around. But there was no palpable tension over it: he was so kind. There was simply him, stepping back or stepping in as needed and me, quietly pushing to get it all done.

I now try, and I think Brennan does too, to react, to act, to think, in ways that will build up my marriage. What a difference this has made. For all the talk of honeymoon periods, my husband and I are far more happy and relaxed in our marriage now than we were back then. I hope that Jaime and Dustin — and other engaged couples — will be able to say the same.

So, what to do with an annoying husband? Love him. Be kind to him. You’ll never regret those responses. And hopefully your love and kindness will encourage your husband to respond just as charitably to his annoying wife.


P.S. I know, I know, I know I made a little pledge to post every other day for the next two weeks. But I’m making a small adjustment to the thing. Rather than every other day precisely, I’m doing seven posts in fourteen days. Given my propensity to fall asleep at the computer, I’ve got to be somewhat flexible with deadlines. (And though I missed posting on Sunday, I’ve already written three posts in the first four days. So that’s not bad!)

Unreliable Equation: {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 13)

It’s funny, isn’t it, how you can feed the same variables into the homemaking/mothering equation day in and day out, and yet get completely different outcomes? All. the. time. Same mother, same children, same schedule, and one day turns out to be sunshine and roses while the next is miserable misery.

Yesterday afternoon while waiting for my husband to come home early from work (yippee!), I pondered what I might write for my {p,h,f,r}. Despite not feeling my best, I was very much in the sunshine-and-roses mindset. (Sing it: Home early from work!!!) My mind was full of pretty, pretty, pretty…

Until it wasn’t.

Six hours into fussy baby, hungry baby, FUSSY baby, HUNGRY baby, fussy, fussy, FUSSY baby… I’d had it. I was done, cooked. Everything was suddenly very, very real.

Grump, grump, grumpity, grump.

After developing an awful crick in my neck from falling asleep nursing little-mister-nearly-four-weeks-old (which STILL didn’t do the trick), I finally deposited the unhappy little bugger in his Rock-n-Play (seriously, our absolute favorite piece of baby gear, hands-down) and tossed dirty dishes into the dishwasher with rather too much vigor. I’m lucky I didn’t break anything.

Thank goodness for daddies who are good with babies.

And thank goodness for those sunshine-and-roses moments, which feed the soul and soothe the mind and which will surely, surely come again.

Until they do, I’ll just go ahead and remind myself of the following:





I think this little guy will be serving as my {pretty} for quite some time. He really is a dear, isn’t he?


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The boys are {happy} to have something as exciting as Grandma’s new garden going in the backyard. I’m happy to have the boys outside. Grandma’s happy to have her own piece of dirt at her new home. Brennan’s happy to be done digging.

I’m also happy to finally have these new titles in my hot little hands:


(For those who don’t already know, the books are written by two wonderful bloggers. “The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home” is co-authored by Leila Lawler of Like Mother, Like Daughter and “Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It” is written by Jennifer Fulwiler  of Conversion Diary. I’ve started both and can’t wait to get through them. I’ll report back when I do.)



Oh my, has this little guy been funny lately. He is such a ham.

Yesterday afternoon when I scolded him for waking up the baby, he said, “But Mommy, I was just twying to teach him to dance!”

A moment later he walked back into the kitchen looking like this:

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When he repeated the ensemble for his father that evening (this time with the lovely addition of oven mitts on his feet), he said “I yook fashion!” and “C’mon, everybody, yet’s CWAZY shake! Yet’s have some fun!”


Need I include anything more in this category?

How about the beautiful, moving kind of brotherly love that also kind of drives you nuts because you know it will result in a woken up/disturbed/crying baby? Yep, that’s {real}.

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He loves that baby so, so much.

So do I. (Grumble, grumble…)


Head on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more in the way of {pretty, happy, funny, real}!

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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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Oh, Boys

We had a lovely Christmas, we really did. Our prep, while time-consuming, came off without a hitch. The boys were thrilled with their gifts in the most simple, refreshingly non-greedy way. They had a blast playing with their cousins and wishing everyone a “Mawwy Chwimas!” / “Ma mas!” And we thoroughly enjoyed witnessing their joy. Like I said, it was lovely.


But you know what came next, don’t you? The Day After Christmas. The one that you tell yourself will be great because children will be tired and they’ll have lots of new toys to play with and a couple of new movies to watch. But the problem is, children are exhausted and they have lots of new toys to feel possessive about and a couple of new movies to compete with their shouting matches. Or at least, that’s how it went in our house.

Towards the end of the (LOUD, jarring) day, my fried little brain started asking that unkind question: “Why, oh why, has God seen fit to give me all boys?”



I can only assume that these boys are meant to give my patience and my intellect and my very soul a supreme work-out, because I promise you that I am not the kind of woman who is naturally suited to life with boys.

Don’t get me wrong: my boys are wonderful. They are ridiculously cute, more loving and cuddly than I could ever have hoped for, bright, cheerful, creative, even kind and polite. The cliché rings true: I wouldn’t trade them for the world.


But still, I find life with small boys to be something like walking through an automatic carwash. You’re jostled, you’re sprayed (sorry – that one was too easy), you’re pelted, you’re surrounded by NOISE, you’re knocked down, you’re roughed up, and everything’s coming at you so quickly and furiously that pretty much all you can do is react. And duck.


So, as much as I love, love, love my boys, do you know what comment from well-meaning strangers I find most irksome? It’s not, “You’ve got your hands full!” It’s not even “Treasure every moment!” It’s… wait for it… “Boys are easier than girls.”

I get that all. the. time.

Stranger: “Two little boys!”
Me: “Yep. And we’re expecting a third!”
Stranger: “Three boys! Well, at least boys are easier than girls!”

I’m generally very good at not letting strangers’ comments bother me; I think that most come from kindness or sympathy and I choose to take them that way. But this one bugs the heck out of me.

For one thing, if you haven’t noticed, I’m a girl. Or I was. And I was a girly girl too, so any drama/intrigue that you want to blame on girls, I’m sure I was guilty of at some point. Sue me for being a little defensive of my sex.

For another thing, my desire to someday have a daughter is quite genuine. It’s not so wobbly as to be shaken by strangers’ warnings that girls are particularly hard to parent. I could give you a whole list of reasons as to why I’d like to have a daughter. And cute little dresses don’t even feature prominently among them. (By the way, I loved this post. I loved seeing daughters celebrated, for once. Just because I don’t have girls of my own, doesn’t mean I want them to have a bad rap.)

But mostly, the comment bothers me because, this parenting boys thing? This is not easy. Wonderful in its own way? Most definitely. But easy? Absolutely not.


Boys are LOUD*. They are destructive. They are aggressive, even violent. They think they are invincible. I know that parents bemoan the difficulty of dealing with girls’ emotions, but I personally feel better equipped to pick my way through the emotional morass than to constantly worry if my boys are going to break their necks. My mother used to say of my brother and me: “You have to worry about keeping Julie happy. You have to worry about keeping Eric alive.”

(*Yes, yes, yes – I know that there are exceptions to every rule. I know that there must be some rare docile male specimens out there, as well as some destructive females. But I’ve found that, by and large, there’s a truth to the aforementioned stereotype. Certainly, it’s borne out in my home.)

Boys, as little males, also think rather differently than we females do. And I confess, so often I just don’t get them. They delight in destruction, seeming to build only so they can tear down. (Seriously, why do we even have building blocks – aka sharp-edged projectiles – in our house?) They are often oblivious to others’ pain. Little brother can be lying on the floor, shrieking from a bleeding head wound, and big brother will be trying to tell me a story about how monsters can be scared away by dogs. They are forever in-the-moment, emotionally. The boys and I can have just emerged from a major, dramatic disagreement, involving (them, not me – I promise) wailing and throwing themselves on the floor, and all-of-a-sudden, they’re fine! I’m left all hot and huffy and they’re like no big deal! Let’s eat lollipops!

Would you believe that moments after this picture was taken, they dropped to the floor and started wrestling? At church? In front of the HOLY FAMILY?

Would you believe that moments after this picture was taken, they dropped to the floor and started wrestling? At church? In front of the HOLY FAMILY?

Let me paint you a picture of life in our home: Imagine a writhing bundle of boy, a tangled mess of arms and legs, shrieking as it rolls from one end of the house to the other. Imagine small boys chasing each other in circles, roaring, fangs and claws bared. Imagine a flurry of crumbs flying from their hands and mouths as they eat, because – didn’t you know – they’re sharks, not boys after all. Imagine pirates and lions and bears. Everywhere. All the time.

You try to sit and read them a book; they jump across the sofa, onto you. (Like, actually onto you – and they’re not particular as to which part of your body bears the brunt of their attack.) You hand them an old paper towel roll, it becomes a sword. You hand them a broom, it becomes a sword. You hand them a sword and a “Thefirsttimeyouhitsomeonewiththisitgoesaway!” and you hear screaming in about three minutes.

Imagine that your boy tells you he has made his dinosaur hairy. You’re momentarily puzzled, until you see this:


And you realize he’s done this:


Or even this:


This Advent, I brought out our child-friendly nativity set to try to teach the boys the story of Christmas. Even though I’d really prefer to focus on the few precious moments when my boys were talking about Mary and Baby Jesus and tenderly moving the nativity pieces across the table, I fear that that the BANG! BANG! BANG!** I heard from the family room one day is closer to the truth. Because my boy was, indeed, smashing every figure of the (thankfully, plastic) nativity set to the floor with his (thankfully, also plastic) hammer.

And that hammer-on-Baby-Jesus scenario is regrettably still preferable to the manger-on-little-brother scenario that took place a couple of weeks earlier. Because, yes, my older son threw this:


At his brother’s face. With force. From across the room.


And even though that offense landed him in bed for a full hour, he still went ahead and repeated it the next day. (Though fortunately, that time he only got the little guy on the foot.)

(**Yes, all three offenses were greeted with the appropriate level of Catholic guilt, including stern exclamations that included the words “HOLY” and “GOD” and “CHRISTMAS.”)


Oh, well – you get the idea. I’ve probably gone overboard with my picture-painting. The bottom line is that Boys ≠ Easy. Which isn’t to say that Girls = Easy. My grandmother, a mother to seven, boys and girls included, maintains that a five-year-old boy about equals a 15-year-old girl in difficulty. They’re both hard, she says – just at different times. The other day, my aunt told me much the same, except she emphasized that my hard (assuming I never have girls, that is) will be over in a few years. Girls’ hard, she said, is “a long, slow boil.”

That may well be true. I don’t know what it’s like to have teenaged boys, let alone teenaged girls. But I feel pretty sure that when I get to that point in parenthood, I still won’t think it’s easy. Easier, perhaps, than the little-boy years, but still not easy. One never stops being a parent, never stops worrying, never stops feeling some measure of responsibility. I expect that when I’m a mother to teenaged boys, my mind will be firmly trained on the self-sufficient, moral, responsible young men I’ll soon need to turn out into the world. My daily life may be less frantic then than it is now, but its consequences (other than the keeping-boys-alive thing, that is) will be weightier.

I’ll end on another boys-related comment I received from a stranger the other day. It was the week before Christmas, at the tail-end of our one-and-only mall shopping trip of the holiday season. I was exhausted, the boys were hyped-up. They were strapped into their double stroller, swatting and kicking each other, squealing. We were waiting to check out in always-cramped Gymboree (why in the world doesn’t a children’s clothing store leave more room for strollers?) and strict-mommy Julie had given up on trying to contain the boys’ enthusiastic aggression. I shrugged and gave the other waiting mommies a pathetic glance and said, “There comes a point when you just can’t do anything else.” They chuckled and smiled sympathetically and an older woman, a grandmother, replied, “Boys are different, aren’t they?”

I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. Yes. Yes, boys are different. Not better, not worse. Not easier. Boys are just different.



P.S. If any of you are mothers-to-boys, in need of more sympathy and solidarity, be sure to check out Rachel Balducci’s blog, Testosterhome. Rachel is a mother to five boys – and one beautiful little girl. A friend gifted me with Rachel’s book when I had my first son. It gave me great joy, great comfort, and maybe just a little bit of fear too. It turned me on to Testosterhome, which later introduced me to more mommy blogs, which then introduced me to others. All of my favorite reads today can be traced back to Testosterhome, and for that – not to mention all the solidarity – I am sincerely grateful to Rachel. (And to Mary.)