Hope and Love (and the Same Old Pitfalls) in a New Season (7 Quick Takes, Vol. 45)

Goodness, it’s been too long. Again. As always. The prudent thing for me to do at this point in non-blogging would probably be to throw up my arms and walk away with a liiittle dignity. But I can’t give it up. I can shove it aside and starve it and neglect it, apparently, but I can’t give it up.

So, here you have me.

Since it’s been so long, I thought I’d do a little 7 Quick Takes to tell you how the 7 (seven?!) members of our family are faring these days. Beginning with…


Myself. Because I’m the blogger.

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(Would you believe that this, I think, is the first ‘baby bump’ photo I’ve taken this pregnancy? You may not be able to see the whole bump because of my hanger-on, but I think she adds a certain something to the picture.)

Looking at my calendar, I see that I’m now 35 weeks into this pregnancy. (Yes, I had to look at the calendar to figure that out.) Somehow, I’m feeling simultaneously comfortable/healthy/energetic and uncomfortable/unhealthy/fatigued. Part of it just depends on the day – some days I feel great and other days I am whooped. (My blood pressure has been really low this whole pregnancy and boy have I been feeling it.)

But I think a lot of it has to do with how I’m carrying this baby. She’s hanging out really low – almost entirely below my belly button. So on the one hand, I can breathe comfortably and (from my vantage, if not yours) I don’t even look that big. But on the other hand, I’m having some difficulty walking and sitting. It feels like she’s cozying right up into my hip bones. And like she might just decide to pop out at any moment.

My OB thinks that Baby’s positioning might mean that I’ll actually go into labor on my own this time. But I’m skeptical. I’ve needed Pitocin for every labor so far – even the one in which my water broke ten days early. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to experience labor without it.

Other than the pregnancy stuff, I’m fine, I guess? I’m currently feeling pretty overwhelmed about the (disgusting) state of my house, but I just don’t have the energy to get to most of it. At least not with my kids underfoot. There’s such an incredible difference between what I can accomplish alone vs. what I can do with them around me. Not just because of their (constant) needs, but also because I really struggle to focus on the tasks in front of me. I’ve found that if I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and listen to a good podcast, I can work happily and productively for a good long while. But while trying to monitor the kids, ‘focus’ is pretty much a lost cause.

Fortunately, I now have two little ones who will nap pretty much every afternoon while their brothers are at school. Would you believe that, seven years into parenthood, this is the first time I’ve experienced that wondrous, almost mythical afternoon break that is a reliable naptime? My first child was a terrible napper and my second gave it up early, and until now I’ve had at least one of them home every afternoon anyway. But with the two big boys at school, Mommy has some freedom in the afternoons. Woo-hoo! Something to celebrate!

For another month or so, that is – until we add a newborn into the mix.

So far I’ve been using naptimes to do housework or prep dinner or even take the occasional cat-nap, but I’d really like to see if I could claim at least some of it for writing. (I have so much on my mind! So much I’d like to chew on with you!) We’ll see. I’d like to promise that I will, but I feel like I’ve broken enough promises in this space.


On that cheery note, let’s move on to the baby!

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Not much to report here. Baby Girl’s pretty quiet for now. (I mean, obviously. But she’s also pretty quiet, activity-wise. I’m thinking she’ll have a more sedate personality. We shall see!)

She’s shaping up to be just as big at her arrival as her siblings were at theirs. At my 32-week sono they estimated her weight to be 5lbs, 3oz, which sets her up to weigh around 9 pounds at birth. Imagine that. Her big sibs were 8lbs, 10oz (4 days late), 8lbs 15oz (10 days early), 9lbs, 1oz (7 days early), and 9lbs even (4 days late). So I’d say that 9 pounds is a pretty good guess!

We still haven’t chosen a name for her, and as we’ve barely talked about it, I don’t see us coming up with one anytime soon. But that’s pretty typical for us. We don’t usually get very serious about our baby-naming discussions until a few weeks from delivery, when I’m so hormonal and weepy about it that Brennan takes pity on me. Then we whittle down our list to a couple of options and decide when we see the baby.

Okay, on from Baby Girl No Name to…


Baby Girl who shouldn’t really be called Baby Girl anymore!

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Can you believe this little one is now 20 months old? She’s a real toddler! And, toddler-like, she’s starting to express some opinions, exert some independence, sneak in some misdeeds, etc. Overall, though, she remains super sweet and easygoing, and we are completely in love with her.

It’s been really interesting to see how she’s coming along developmentally as compared to the boys. She’s been saying a decent number of words for months, and now she regularly uses little phrases and sentences. (She ends every meal by holding up her plate and saying, “I done, Mama!” At which point I promptly melt into a puddle of maternal mush.)

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She’s absolutely in love with babies and baby dolls, so I think she’s going to be preeetty happy here in about a month. We’re just going to have a big task ahead of us, keeping her eager little hands in check around her baby sister. Oh, well. That’s better than the alternative!


This one started preschool this fall. Can you believe it?

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I’m not sure I can, yet I rejoice in the development. (I mean, seriously, the Hallelujah Chorus would have been completely appropriate for the start of this school year.)

And it’s not just me. I think he is also much happier these days, what with the fun school to attend twice a week, the relative peace on the other three weekdays while his big brothers are at school, and a generally reliable rhythm to his days. I think this is a kid who likes to know his schedule.

He’s still a screamer, but as his language skills (slowly) improve, he’s expressing more and more and screaming (a little) less. The other day he told me, “I so angy!” and I almost laughed for joy. (But I didn’t. Because it would be really annoying for your mom to laugh while you were telling her how angry you were.)

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He’s gotten to be a (mostly) sweet big brother and good playmate to his sister, which I’m just pinching myself over. I did not see that coming. He also regularly pulls off what is possibly the cutest moment of my day, when he comes down the stairs after his nap all sleepy-eyed, smiling and whispering “Good morning, Mommy!” Again – I melt.


This one has entered Kindergarten. Kindergarten: real-deal, all-day, away-from-Mommy school. And he’s done great.

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I thought he might not. He’s my mama’s boy, the one who clings to me and smothers me with hugs and kisses each day. I thought he’d be afraid, that being away from home all day would be hard on him. But he seems fine! He loves his teacher and he’s making friends and he hasn’t complained once about going to school. It’s been such a relief.

We celebrated his sixth birthday at the end of September and I think it may well have been the happiest day of his life. We held his party at a local bounce-house place where he and a bunch of his friends and cousins were able to run and jump themselves silly. He had a Star Wars cake and got a bunch of nice (mostly Star-Wars-themed) gifts, and at the end of it all we revealed his biggest gift to him: a guinea pig.

(We should cue the Hallelujah Chorus again here.)

I am not a pet person. I have nothing against animals; they just don’t do much for me. I don’t care to really touch them or play with them, so why would I ever want to go through the trouble of caring for them? Brennan is more of a pet person than I am, but he’s also more of a practical person than I am, so it’s been easy for him to say no up until now.

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But this child. He just loves animals. (This past Sunday as we left his religious education class, he announced to me, “I want to be a saint, Mommy. I want to be an animal saint like Saint Francis, because I love animals so much.”) He loves them consistently and passionately, and it might have been the time he wanted to keep a cricket he found at the drug store, or the time he cuddled and kissed a baby snake he found in the yard, but he finally wore me down. And so Brennan and I decided it was finally time for a pet.

A caged one, but a pet nonetheless. Meet Houston:

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The kids are in love. Brennan seems to like him pretty well, and I’m guess I’m warming up to him. He is pretty cute. And thankfully, he seems to have a good temperament for being surrounded by a bunch of little kids. Our house now smells like guinea pig cage, but whatever – our house kind of smelled to begin with.


Now onto this one.

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My boy! My sweet, thoughtful, growing-too-fast firstborn. He’s in second grade now, old enough for me to start seeing glimpses of what he’ll look like, and what he’ll be like, as an older kid. It’s bittersweet.

This child has lately been my reminder and my hope regarding seasons of life and difficult phases and how they pass. The last half of the summer (the slower half) was hard for him. He’s super social and loves people and I’m seeing now that he’s a much happier person when he has people and work to occupy him. For a while there, he’d just about pulled into the lead on the ‘most challenging child’ front, but once school started, he perked up immediately. Second grade, including his lovely teacher and (from what I hear) great class have been so good for him.

Except for tiffs with the brother nearest in age to him (and what’s new in that, right?), he is such a good big brother. Our daughter adores him. She’s taken to walking next to him with her hand in his, and backing herself right into his lap when she sees him sitting still. He reads to her, and the other day I caught him helping her down one of our terrace walls in the yard: He climbed down one level, she reached her arms out to him, and he put his around her waist and lifted her down. Then he climbed down the remaining level and did the same. (Again with the melting!)

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He always humors the 3-year-old when he wants someone to play outside with him, he helps him and reads to him, and he does a pretty good job of keeping tabs on the little guy.

And even with his just-15-months-younger-than-himself brother, he can be so generous. When he received his first little cash gift from the tooth fairy, he gifted one of his (two) dollars to his brother. And he seems to have done so every time since. This week I was kind of annoyed when the 6-year-old held out his hand to receive one of the 7-year-old’s tooth fairy dollars, tossing out a flippant, “It’s mine, right? I get one every time the tooth fairy brings you two?” But there was no hesitation or annoyance on the big brother’s part: “Yes, you do. It’s yours,” he said. For all their squabbling, I think they view each other as partners, and that partnership is one of the greatest gifts in my life right now.


Now for my husband.

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I guess I’d say Brennan is doing pretty well these days. After a frustrating run at work for a good long while, he has finally started a new position. Brennan (a software engineer) has done this several times since I’ve known him, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him shift from work that was so dull to work that interests him as much as this new job looks to do. I’m relieved!

At home, Brennan has been keeping busy with projects, of course. He recently finished a section of iron fencing on a couple of the walls that surround our back patio. It was a long, dirty process: the fencing arrived unfinished, so Brennan had to grind them down, prime them, paint them, attach feet to them, and install them himself. He also added one light post, moved another, and painted all three. Here’s the final result:

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Isn’t it pretty? Now we just have to host an outdoor cocktail party or something. Once we pull all the weeds growing out of the patio. And move the sandbox out of the way. And get rid of all the junky, broken toys. And buy patio furniture. And, like, have a little TIME on our hands…

Which these guys pretty much never allow us.

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Brennan has also just finished painting the boys’ new bedroom. (The room shuffle goes like this: All three boys will be moving up to a room on the third floor. Our daughter will move into what was her brothers’ room, and we’ll put the new baby in the nursery for now. When she starts sleeping through the night decently well, we’ll put her in the same room as her sister.) Brennan’s next project? Building bunk beds!


Alright, I’ve bored you plenty by now. I hope that you and yours are all well and that the beginning of this new season/school year has been as good for you as it has for us. I hope to “see” you back here soon. Hope. We’ll see. Maybe you shouldn’t be surprised either way.

Also, don’t forget to hop on over to Kelly’s for the rest of this week’s Quick Takes!

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Sunday Coffee

A few weeks ago I resolved to mark my third year of blogging (the anniversary of which is this coming week, I think?) by taking 30 minutes each day to write and by posting on the blog at least three times per week. I’ve mostly succeeded. I think I’ve written almost every day, though a couple were such blurs of activity that I’m pretty sure they were left off. I did the thrice-weekly posting for the first two weeks, but this week I’m likely only fitting in two.

Oh well! On we march. The whole point of that little promise I made to myself was to exercise my writing muscle, so to speak, and I’m doing that.

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Being the weekend and all, I have my mind on lazy mornings and delicious coffee, and I’m thinking about what I would say to you if we were sitting down together for coffee.


I think I would mention this post and how some people seem to have gotten the impression that I had lost my cool with my son and was therefore writing from a place of regret.

(Now imagine me laughing while looking a little embarrassed.)

Um… if you think that was me losing my cool, you are far too generous. I promise that I am capable of some truly outrageous meltdowns. Like, spittle and popping veins outrageous. Once I was so mad I even had to go outside to run laps across the backyard.

So that post? That was just me recognizing the opposing tugs a parent feels while administering a punishment. And being decently comfortable that (in that one particular situation) I’d dealt with it the right way.


I’d remember that I never updated anyone on how my children behaved at Mass last Sunday. The verdict? I mostly got off easy. My second son turned out to still be too ill to be taken to church, so he stayed home with Daddy. As did the toddler, because… toddler. So I was left with the five-year-old and the baby. And it all went fine except for the two minutes in which the baby spat up all down her front and the boy exclaimed, “She exploded!”


I’d probably complain about being really, really tired of having somebody in the house sick for, like, two months straight. Currently we’ve got two boys (hopefully!) wrapping up their colds. I’m praying that we enjoy at least a small period of good health before somebody else goes down.

I’m sure I’d complain about all this cool, rainy weather we’ve been having. (Seriously – where did May go? Haven’t we been having March for like three months now?)

I’d tell you that I’d failed, once again, to find lamps to replace the ones my boys destroyed ages ago. It turns out it’s not so easy to find lighting that is (1) sturdy enough to withstand being knocked off tables by little boys and (2) not so sturdy that it will seriously injure little boys while falling off tables.

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If you and I had time to discuss all the ideas we have for our homes and gardens, a la this post, I would report that I exercised some restraint by only planting tomatoes and herbs when I really wanted to go whole-hog and establish The Most Amazing Kitchen Garden Ever.

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I’d tell you that we really need some fresh paint around here. And that I’m itching to hang more things on the walls. (Any idea as to how to get your husband to take up a task without nagging him to do it?)

I might admit to making myself yet another schedule to try to get a handle on my life.

I’d say how we really just need to decide whether to get a playset and patio furniture, already.

And that Brennan and I are leaning toward putting on that kitchen addition one of these days, but that we also daydream about having This Old House do an entire home renovation for us. (Oh, the dreams that boring 30-somethings can come up with…)

By this point I’d have bored you to tears – and we’re caught up by now anyway, so I’ll sign off. Time to see what kind of Mass behavior my boys give us this time.

Enjoy your Sunday!

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



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Seven Quick Takes Friday


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

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

There’s more to come – I promise.


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


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


… which kind of terrifies me.

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

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

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

Please pray that he does it all safely!


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

I love that child.

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

Alas, I fit into this category.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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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!

Their Favorite Thing In The Whole World, For Tonight

Is this rug:


As I’ve mentioned, we’re in the process of turning our boys’ haphazard, never-fully-unpacked nursery into a real, comfy, all-set-up big boy room. At this point, I’d say we’re about two-thirds of the way there. Brennan still needs to clean and put together the boys’ beds. We need to bring their new reading chair and some more of their toys upstairs. And we’ve still got to buy mattresses, bed rails, and additional items with which to accessorize.

But tonight, all that matters is… this rug:


I swear, their reaction to it was honestly, truly, one of the most joyful scenes I have ever witnessed. In my whole life.

To understand their response, you’ve got to know that there is no carpeting in our 150-year-old house. (Okay, fine, we’ve got some gross, decades-old carpeting on our main staircase, but I don’t exactly consider that living space.) And we’ve purchased very few rugs since we moved in. We have a nice wool one in our family room and a couple of cheapie, very thin ones in our parlor. That’s it – nothing soft, nothing particularly comfortable. The boys run and wrestle and crawl around on bare floor all day long.

So this soft, plush, almost shag rug just about boggled those little boys’ minds.


They’ve been sleeping on the sofas in our family room for nearly three weeks, first due to Brennan painting their room, then due to the fumes and clean-up. Tonight, we were finally ready for them to sleep in their own beds (er, cribs) again. So I brought them upstairs while Daddy readied their bath, all “Come see your new room, boys! Daddy’s finished painting your room! Your cribs are ready for you! We even got you a rug!”

All I really needed to say was “rug.”


The moment they spotted the thing, they squealed and shrieked and threw themselves down upon it. They rolled around, jumped up, and threw themselves back down. They laughed and oooh’d and aaah’d and snuggled into it and rolled some more.

“It’s so comfy and warm!”

“It’s white!” (It’s not.) “Did you know dat’s my favwite cowor?” (He has a different favorite color every time you ask.)

“It’s wike snow! Yet’s make snow angels!”


They indeed made “snow” angels on the rug, then hopped up to run/skip circles around it. The little one copied everything his big brother said and did. They chased each other, jumping and leaping and dancing, kicking and saying, “Hi-ya! Take dat!” Once every minute or two, they’d throw themselves back onto the floor to revel in the rug some more.


Big brother even used a new word: Joyful. As in, “I am so joyful!”

He was.


I didn’t have my camera on me at the time. I nearly ran downstairs to grab it, but I didn’t want to miss a moment of their silly, genuine, intense joy. So I just sat there and grinned and tried to soak it all in. After the boys’ bath, I found my camera and grabbed a few shots of them enjoying the rug all over again. And then I soaked it in some more.

What a strange, thrilling, wonderful thing to end your day on – a rug.


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

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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Five Favorites (Vol. 2): Anniversary Edition


Linking up with Hallie for this week’s Five Favorites! Be sure to check out the rest!

(Updated to add that I’m also linking this post to Jenna’s “I Pray I Don’t Forget: What I Love About My Husband” at A Mama Collective. Check out those stories too!)

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s Five Favorites to my excellent husband, Brennan. So here’s some background on our relationship, Five of my Favorite things about B, and some of my favorite photos from our wedding. (Randomly placed and more than five, because I needed to break up the looong intro in #1.)

— 1 —

Brennan is interested in things – so many things.

Wedding Pic 1

In passing, this may seem pretty inconsequential: “Umm, big deal, Julie. Everybody’s interested in something. Even lots of somethings.” So let me back up for a minute and give you a little background on what lead up to our relationship. It should give more meaning to this and some of the other Favorites. Or maybe I just like to provide more information than anyone could possibly care about. One of the two.

Wedding Pic 2

Anyway, I was single for what felt like a looong time before I met Brennan. And I mean single single, not dating-but-not-yet-married “single.” Other than three very brief relationships in my early twenties, I was alone and lonely, day-dreaming of my ideal man. (Does that sound a little pathetic? Sorry. It was what it was.) Toward the end of my twenties I had the blessed insight that I needed to adjust my outlook on single life and my approach to maybe/hopefully finding the man with whom I could share a future. All-in-all, it’s a longer topic for another day. But the pertinent part is that I refined the list of qualities I hoped to find in my future husband. I realized that, most of all, I wanted to find a man who was good and kind, moral, responsible, hardworking – and interested in the world around him. I knew that I could never marry a man who didn’t have those values. And I figured that if my husband had an interest in the world, a hunger to learn and do, then our life together would be an open horizon – something to be explored.

Wedding Pic 3

We walked to the church, which was super fun,
except for how worried I was about the hem of my dress.

When I met Brennan, everything fell into place very quickly. Good? Kind? Moral? Responsible? Hardworking? Check, check, check, check… and check. But the clincher was really that he was interested in so many things. He caught my eye on eHarmony (yep, that’s how we met) because he said he loved bees.

Bees? Who loves bees? My beekeeper of a hubby, that’s who. A few years before, Brennan had gotten to talking with a co-worker who kept bees as a hobby. B thought it was interesting, so he started to read up on it. He read and read and researched… and the next thing he knew, he was putting together hive boxes and picking up packages of buzzing bees from unhappy postal workers.

Wedding Pic 4

We gave out little jars of Brennan’s honey as favors.

Brennan has done the same thing with other hobbies: skiing, target shooting, cooking, home improvement, etc. On the house front, he’s taught himself how to do all sorts of useful things: woodworking, plumbing, mechanics, painting, even pest control. Brennan identifies something he wants to know how to do and he just figures it out. There doesn’t seem to be a “What if?” with Brennan – just a “How?”

Likewise, Brennan has cultivated his interests in history, architecture, and politics by reading and reading and reading… The man loves the internet. And good nonfiction. And audio books that he can soak up on his commute to and from work.

Brennan didn’t grow up doing any of the above; he wasn’t influenced by beekeeper or carpenter or plumber or historian or architect or politician parents. He just happened upon something (many things) that interested him, he had an open mind, and he decided to pursue the new activities and ideas. With gusto. I love that. I can’t wait to see what will be inspiring my husband in ten or twenty years.

— 2 —

Brennan gets stuff done.

Wedding Pic 5

Just as I love how Brennan is active in pursuing his many interests, I also love that he takes the initiative to just go ahead and do what needs to be done – even if it’s tedious or unpleasant. Me? I’m the procrastinating type. The type who avoids the things I find intimidating or disagreeable. But, big or small, Brennan does what needs to be done. Hours upon hours of schoolwork while also working full time? He does it. Paying the bills, going to the doctor, cleaning the bathroom? He does it. Doing preventative maintenance on our very old house? He does it. And not just that – he does it well, without a fuss, and with very few complaints. What a great example to set for our boys. (And, er… for me too.)

— 3 —

Brennan is a loving father and a patient teacher to our boys.

Wedding Pic 6

On one of our first dates, Brennan and I visited an arboretum. Walking through the trees, Brennan spotted an insect hovering near some leaves. Very gently, he pointed it out to me, studied it a bit, and explained what it was doing. In that moment I thought to myself, “Wow. What a wonderful father he’ll be.” And he is. Brennan had very little experience with children before our boys were born, but he jumped in with both feet – doing all kinds of tedious tasks, showering the boys with hugs and kisses, playing all their wild games, teaching them about the world around them, and showing them great patience and a powerful love.

— 4 —

Brennan is a kind and supportive husband.

Wedding Pic 7

This cake tasted so good that our guests gobbled it up before we could even get pieces ourselves!

I love staying home with my boys, but I am a social person by nature and I need to be around other adults. I need some mental stimulation and I need a bit of a break from the constant demands that come with having two very active young boys. I also need to feel like I’m giving something to my community. Brennan understands this, he supports me in my efforts to do things outside of the home, and he has never once complained about it. And it’s no small thing on his part: I serve on the board of a historic home an hour away from our house and I sing in our church’s choir. Both require my presence at times that necessitate B leaving work early. Sometimes hours early, meaning he has to make up those lost hours on another day. But Brennan says that if I really want to do something, I should do it.

— 5 —

Brennan has high standards.

Wedding Pic 8

Gotta love the tiny spectators.

Brennan has high standards about lots of things – work, behavior, food, coffee and chocolate, goods and services that we buy – but let me feel flattered for a minute that he also had high standards when it came to finding the person he wanted to marry. When he was doing the eHarmony thing, going out on first date after first date, Brennan’s buddies at work started to give him a hard time. They’d joke about how he rarely made it to a second date. “What’s wrong with her this time?” was their standard question. One friend told him “everyone settles.” But my Brennan? He answered, “Not me.” He shared my conviction that it was better to be single than to be with the wrong person.

Perhaps this last Favorite sounds a bit self-gratifying. Certainly I’m glad that my husband didn’t “settle” for me. But more than that, I admire a person who will hold out and work hard for what he or she really wants. Too often these days, people expect instant gratification – in relationships, in their homes and careers, in their spare time. But Brennan couldn’t be farther from that. To achieve the kind of life he wants, Brennan works hard, he makes smart decisions, he sacrifices, and he is patient. He sets high standards for himself and he keeps to them.

I am so thankful that this man came into my life. I am grateful for all his hard work and careful planning. I am glad to have his love and his good company. I feel blessed to be building a life with him. Happy anniversary, Brennan. I love you.

Wedding Pic 9

All photos are credited to Gordon Eisner.