Happiness Isn’t Everything (Part Two)

The other day I wrote a piece on happiness, on how transient and subjective it is, and how it therefore makes a poor measure for determining the worth of a thing.

(In that case, I was mostly referring to the ‘thing’ of reproductive technologies – efforts that aim to make people happy by making them parents, or by producing for them children who are healthier or otherwise more desirable than they might have been.)

Of course, there are countless such ‘things’ in life, and it can be dangerous to allow their potential for making us happy to overshadow their worth on other counts. When we do that, we run the risk of hurting others to help ourselves, or even harming our own long-term interests in favor of the short-term.

But I think there’s a more important tendency to think about here. As bad as it can be to use happiness to measure the worth of a thing, it’s much worse (and it can be more consequential) to use happiness to measure the worth of a life.

(Read the rest at the Catholic Review.)

The Space Between - Happiness Isnt Everything Part Two

Happiness Isn’t Everything

A couple of weeks ago, The Economist published a commentary called “Sex and science.” Its print edition carried the subtitle, “Ways of making babies without sex are multiplying. History suggests that they should be embraced.”

I’m a big fan of The Economist. I love the breadth of issues it covers, I love its wit, I love pondering the questions its articles and commentaries bring to my mind. But I found this particular piece to be so unsatisfying.

To be sure, I was always going to disagree with the conclusions of a commentary bearing the subtitle “Ways of making babies without sex are multiplying. History suggests that they should be embraced.” But more than that, I think “Sex and science” fell flat. It offered up a complex, even mind-bending set of possibilities and considerations and then answered them not with an elegant argument, but with a simplistic, “Happy parents and healthy children make a pretty good rule for thinking about any reproductive technology.”

Happiness and health: the only measures that matter, apparently.

(Read the rest at the Catholic Review.)

The Space Between - Happiness Isnt Everything


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.

Lately {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 16)

Lately, we’ve been busy.

(That’s nothing new! Everyone seems to be busy these days! All the time!)

And it’s fine: I don’t even feel particularly stressed out right now. So this isn’t one of my cranky, complaining posts. This is simply me telling you a little of what I’ve been doing lately. (And yes, maybe it’s also me making some excuses for another couple weeks of not blogging.)

Lately, I’ve been taking my own advice: I’ve hired babysitters so I can “re-set” parts of my house that have been causing me anxiety for some time. I’ve tackled projects that haven’t been touched since we moved into this house 2.5 years ago. I’ve (LET ME SHOUT THIS ONE TO THE HEAVENS) arranged for a mother’s helper to come once a week this summer, to give me regular, focused time in which to write! (God-willing, maybe I’ll actually turn myself into a decent-ish blogger this summer. Stranger things have happened!)

We’ve hosted the baby’s first birthday party. (Our sunshine of a boy is already one! How can that be possible?)

We’ve celebrated Easter with friends and family and (terribly impractical, ostentatiously old-fashioned) matching get-ups.

We’ve celebrated my birthday and spent an out-of-town weekend at my parents’ house. (a.k.a. The best grandparents three little boys could wish for.) We’ve also celebrated my niece’s birthday.

We’ve painted the kitchen and put it back to rights. (My husband did the former, I did the latter.)

The two older boys have started swim lessons. And the oldest has made his second (very tentative!) visit to his soon-to-be-new-school. (Kindergarten is a much scarier prospect than I ever imagined.)

I’m preparing to host a small blogging conference in a couple of weeks. It’s the Catholic Women Blogging Network Mid-Atlantic Conference. (What a mouthful!) Registration has already closed, but if you fit that bill and you want to join us, contact me ASAP. I can probably fit you in. 😉

That’s a lot for two weeks, right?

It’s produced a lot of photos, that’s for sure. And since I feel like it’s been forever-and-a-half since I last participated in {pretty, happy, funny, real}, I thought I’d share the photos with you under those headings. Here we go:


We enjoyed a beautiful Easter.


But this isn’t Easter. This is a week earlier, at our neighbor’s egg hunt. (That’s our garage in the background.)



Grandpa and his boys.





Cousins (aren’t cousins the best?) all lined up for the egg hunt.







Sleepy little chub.


I’ve never seen a baby so happy to celebrate his first birthday. Our boy crawled all over the place, crammed his cupcake into his mouth, and smiled, smiled, smiled.


I was so proud of myself for making the (buttercream) frosting the night before… until I realized I’d forgotten to soften it for the party. My mom said they were the ugliest cupcakes she’d ever frosted. I didn’t care, though — I thought it looked like grass. (Fitting for our wild animal theme.)





There’s no doubt who the “class clown” of our family is:







 Cleaning, organizing projects, and home improvement — oh my!






Post-birthday-cake energy burning.

Post-birthday-cake energy burning.



Be sure to hop over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}. Enjoy!

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.”

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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!

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!)

Better With Bees

Hello there! Welcome back to this sporadically-kept-up little blog.

Last week we suffered a great disappointment in the Walsh household:



Those are bees. Tens of thousands of poor little dead bees.

Oh, what a gloomy day it was.

After 18 long months of being bee-less thanks to one household move and one improperly-applied mite treatment, we were all eagerly awaiting the delivery of two new packages of bees. They’d arrive too late to give us hope of a honey harvest this year, but still, once they arrived we’d be beekeepers again. (And by “we” I mean “Brennan.”)

So it was with good cheer that Brennan took off work that Wednesday morning, one eye on the driveway and another on the door. The bees were supposed to arrive by 10:30. He waited and we waited and… no bees. Afternoon calls to UPS and the apiary revealed the sad news: our bees’ truck had suffered a major delay when one package was punctured and (you guessed it) thousands of bees convinced their driver to pull over and call for help. One long, hot day later and the damage was done: 75 packages of bees (nearly a million of the little gals) were lost.

Our own two packages were to be delayed by just one day, but we knew it wasn’t looking good for the critters. Sure enough:



Poor little dead queens.

Dead, dead.

But! One last-day-of-preschool, a few celebratory ice creams, one evening stroll by the water, and a couple of long days later…




This is the spot where his father proposed to me six years and three boys ago. Mushy, mush, mush...

This is the spot where his father proposed to me six years and three boys ago. Mushy, mush, mush…




Poor, neglected third baby gets most of his bottles this way.

Poor, neglected third baby gets most of his bottles this way.

We got another shot at the deal. This morning, Brennan once again took off work and kept an eager eye on the driveway. Thankfully, he was not to be disappointed again. Some 20,000 of the little ladies arrived safe and sound.


He's spraying them down with sugar water.

He’s spraying them down with sugar water.



Not only were they alive, but they were nice and docile, which is a great sign. They looked healthy and seemed to have accepted their new queens. (That is, they were working hard to “rescue” them from their cages. Brennan decided to help.)


He had no problem placing the bees in their hives, so as far as we know, the operation was a success this time around. Let’s hope so, not only for the sake of those precious little things, but also for the happiness of my hubby. (And our wannabe-beekeeper little boys.)

"I wanna hold a queen dead bee!"

“I wanna hold a queen dead bee!”


Keep your fingers crossed. We’d like to keep adding to the following collection. Life is better with bees.


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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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Big Boy Room in Progress: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 10

Before I was married, whenever I moved into a new place I felt like I needed to get settled right away. No sooner had the moving truck pulled away, than I’d be unpacking boxes and figuring out where to hang things on the walls. But now that I have a husband and two (soon-to-be-three) small children, I no longer have the freedom to do what I want in that respect. I’ve got to, you know, make sure my household actually functions before I can decorate it. And even once we’re functioning normally, the decorating and unpacking of pretty stuff has to take a back seat to the care of little ones and the availability of my built-in handyman (a.k.a. husband).

So, a year-and-a-half after moving into this house, we still have a long way to go before it’s arranged the way I want it. We (and by “we” I really mean “Brennan”) have painted three rooms, re-finished the floor in another room, rolled out two new rugs (no carpeting in this house! zilch!), and hung precisely one art print. (We do have a few other things on the walls, but only where nails already were. Eventually, we’ll likely move those things around.)

With every step forward, I experience a little thrill of delight.

So this week? Thrilling. Work on converting the boys’ haphazard nursery into a Big Boy Room has commenced! Here are some “before” pics. Note the sickly green walls with nothing hung on them, the still-packed boxes and bins, and the bare floor.




This past weekend I took the boys up to my parents’ house to give Brennan a little space while he worked on the room. He completed the drywall in the closet, he moved things, he cleaned, he painted, and now…





Isn’t it pretty? Okay, maybe it’s not actually {pretty} to anybody but me, but I just about swoon every time I walk into that room now, even though it is still full of messy tarps and other painting gear. And even though all the furniture (which will be moved to the new nursery before long) is still shoved to the middle of the room. The new color (Valspar Oat Bran) just seems so much fresher and calmer and more dignified to me. I can’t wait to see how it looks with the boys’ new beds and bedding and rug and art prints and reading chair and toys. I! Can’t! Wait!


Besides the paint color (which, in case you didn’t pick up on it, makes me so happy), there are all the other elements of the room that are so close to coming together. There are the beds. (Update: Brennan’s now acquired the stuff he needs to build the sideboards. Hopefully he’ll get them together soon.) There is the rug (fluffy! soft! wonderful to play on!) and the bedding (bright but not babyish!) There are a couple of fun art prints (though there’s a good bit more to do in that department.) There’s the big, comfy reading chair that my parents sent home with us this weekend. {Happy, happy!}




The boys and I (especially the boys) had some good fun at my parents’ house this weekend. My dad, who is exceptionally good with kids (we used to joke that he’s like the pied piper in grocery stores: all the little kids would ditch their parents and follow him around if they could), was a great sport as usual. He wrestled and tickled and played ball and allowed himself to be buried under pillows, jumped on, and half-smothered by his excitable little grandsons. That last part was so {funny} that I could barely bring myself to stop the boys, I was laughing so hard. (I was doing that whole silent laugh thing, where you can barely catch your breath, let alone speak.) It was good for all of us, that fun time with the grandparents. (And cousins! My nieces came over too, leading my older son to proclaim them “Da BEST!”)



Grandpa triumphs!

Grandpa triumphs!


Just in case the glimpses of spattered paint tarps and jumbled furniture weren’t {real} enough for you, here are some more photos of the fallout from the big painting project. I don’t care, though! It could be five times worse (don’t tell Brennan) and I wouldn’t care. Because the boys’ room is being worked on! And progress is being made! And soon the boys will have a completed room, designed just for them, with plenty of comfortable space to play.



I’m so excited.

Be sure to stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter to get a look at other’s contentment this week. Though I’m sure none of it is nearly as exciting as tarps and paint cans and a new color on little boys’ walls. Consider yourself warned.

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

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

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



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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

{pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 6): Snow, (Non) Advent, and Christmas-a-Coming

With Advent upon us and Christmas coming and unseasonably early snowy weather here in the Mid-Atlantic, it seems that this week I have an inordinate number of things to file under {real}. But I’m sure I can dig up some {pretty, happy, and funny} too.

And with a half-dozen half-finished posts open on my computer right now, another that would have been finished if I hadn’t fallen asleep with the thing on my lap last night, and this one written during my new favorite (4am) mid-sleep wakeful hour, I have few words to give to this {pretty, happy, funny, real}. Which is just as well.









My oh my, does he LOVE the snow!


This little guy, however, prefers to be warm and dry.



Yes, I made the boys a flying race car. I have my moments.



Apologies to all you mommas with children who don’t sleep. Mine seem to be perpetually stuck in the “sleep anywhere” phase. I’m sure I have hundreds of sleeping-in-places-other-than-their-beds photos. But even this, THIS was a first — sleeping on your brother. The little one awoke with an “Off me!”


As I mentioned the other day, we picked up our Christmas tree in the middle of our first snowfall Sunday morning. Consequently, we were in a real rush to get it tied to the roof of the van. And since we knew we were looking for a large tree and very few large ones were left, we snapped one up without getting a good look at it.

After mass

After mass

We got stuck coming up the driveway after mass.


And when we finally got the snow cleared off the tree and the tree into the house, we discovered that it was… umm… a good bit bigger than we expected. I think the thing is 12 feet tall and 8 feet across. No wonder it took us 2 hours to get it in and up. I can’t believe my husband did all that work (pretty much) by himself. Pregnant wife wasn’t much good.




Nevermind all the work you put into getting me dressed, Mommy. I don’t LIKE this stuff!

And — still on {real} here — how do I show you a picture of an Advent that has not been observed? Or a picture of Christmas shopping that has barely been started? Or a (tasteful) picture of a whole household with a cold?

I’ve been hopelessly behind with Advent and Christmas preparations before, but then I had decent excuses: a busy month at work, gearing up for far-away Christmas travel, a new baby, a new home, an awful coughing thing that laid me up for weeks and damaged my vocal chords… This time, I’ve got nothing. And the whole thing is starting to get me down.

So today, a to-do list. This week (because there’s no other time!) I’ll get it all done. I’ll just plug away, no fuss, no stress; I’ll work hard until we’re there.

Also for this week: some last-ditch preparation of my soul for Christ’s coming. A few stories for my boys. I think I’ll feel better if I set aside all the other “plans” I had for this year’s Advent; they were hanging me up. I’ll dust them off next year.

So, there’s my {real} right now. The contentment isn’t in the things themselves (or rather, the lack of things), but in the peace I nonetheless feel about it all. If one thing has gone right for me this December, it’s been a feeling of peace. I have had no part in the frenzy of pre-Christmas stress, and for that I am grateful.


I hope you all have a beautiful end to your week. Be sure to stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}.

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