7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 17)

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

— 1 —

Well, it looks like I’ve done it again: I’ve fallen into the rut of only blogging when I have a list of miscellaneous items to post. 7 Quick Takes? {pretty, happy, funny, real}? Monday Morning Miscellany? Check, check, and check. Anything requiring more substance and focus? Nope and nope.

Sorry.

It’s just that, well, I have a schedule all-of-a-sudden. I know, I know: Most of you have bunches of kids, or kids in big-kid school, or kids Who Do Activities, or official jobs, or all-of-the-above. I only have a preschooler and a bunch of doctor’s appointments.

But still, I’ve gone from a wishy-washy “Schedule? Who needs a schedule?” mentality to an “Oh-my-gosh-I-actually-have-to-be-someplace-at-a-particular-time?” one. All-in-all, this is a good thing. I’m a happier person when I have places to go, people to see, and a bit of structure in my life. And my boys seem to be too. But it’s been taking some adjusting.

This week we had two playdates, two days of school, a sonogram, an ob appointment, a 2-year-old check-up, and the arrival of an out-of-town guest. It’s not like I wasn’t busy before the start of the school year and the onset of prenatal appointments; it’s just that life seemed a little more malleable back then. Now I’m (shocker!) relying a lot more on my calendar to get me through my week. I’m prioritizing sleep. And I’m having to plan. What a concept.

Looks like writing time will be the next thing to plan for. Because I can no longer trust that a sufficient period of available time will magically appear. And apparently, I can no longer stay awake past 11pm.

— 2 —

Speaking of the pregnancy, here are some quick updates from this week:

(1) I had my 12-week sono on Tuesday and the baby was very stubbornly uncooperative. After three tries, the doctor just kind of went with what she had. The tech said that it had been a long time since she’d had such a stubborn one at 12 weeks. Wonderful! It bodes so well, doesn’t it?

(2) Morning sickness has made a comeback – every day this week. I feel like trying to cajole the baby, like s/he can somehow put a stop to it all. But… what was I just saying about stubbornness?

(3) Last night I asked my two-year-old where Mommy’s baby was. He lifted up my shirt and gave my belly a kiss. Be still, my heart! This older-children-aware-that-they’re-getting-a-new-sibling thing is going to be so cool. My first two are just 15 months apart, so there wasn’t exactly any awareness coming from big brother back then.

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(4) Yesterday I tried on a pair of shorts that I hadn’t worn in a few weeks and I couldn’t come anywhere close to fastening them. As I haven’t gained any weight in the past month (wonder of wonders), it’s got to be that my shape is starting to change already. I’m just 13 weeks! Craziness!

(5) The other day, my three-year-old asked me if the baby was going to come out of my mouth. Fortunately, there were no follow-up questions.

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— 3 —

I’m a little freaked out by the animal presence in my house right now. No, I suppose it’s not as bad as Jen and her scorpions. But this morning my husband came upstairs from his morning workout in the basement and said, “Just so you know, I found a snake down there.” I’m sure my eyes got all bugged-out big as I looked at him, begging him to be teasing. “You’re kidding.” “No.” “Really?! How big was it?” “Very small – small enough to get caught on the glue trap.” (We have mice too.) “Why would you tell me this?! I don’t want to know this!” “Because if you see the boys playing with a ‘string’ at some point, you should know that it could be a snake.”

WHAT?

And then this afternoon, I found a bird flying around upstairs. Inside the house. I ran around closing doors and opening windows and opening doors and closing windows on all three floors of the house, squealing and jumping most of the way, until I became fairly confident that the little stinker had flown out. For now, a couple of windows remain open, and interior doors remain closed, just in case it’s still inside. When my three-year-old (who was very excited about the whole thing and presented a box that he suggested the bird could live in) gets up from his “nap,” I plan to let him look around for the bird. Surely he’ll do a more thorough job, with far more delight, than I’m capable of right now.

— 4 —

Said three-year-old is currently singing Fountains of Wayne’s “Radiation Vibe” in his crib. You can blame his father.

— 5 —

I heard a fascinating piece last week on one of my local NPR stations’ midday programs: “The McCormick Spice Guru.” According to the station’s website, “As the chief spice buyer for McCormick, Al Goetze regularly travels the globe seeking herbs and spices from farms in some of the world’s most exotic regions. Goetze joins us to talk about his job and what goes into bringing the spices to market.”

Like I said, the piece was fascinating. I think it was one of the most enjoyable hours of listening I’ve had in some time. Mr. Goetze spoke about his travels, how spices are grown, what they look like in the field, how they can be used, etc. If you have any interest at all in cooking, gardening, plants, or world travel, you should check it out.

— 6 —

Do you remember my mention of Nella in last week’s 7 Quick Takes? She posted the happiest of updates on her blog this week: her cancer is in remission! Stop on over to her place to share in her joy. And please continue to keep her in prayer. Nella still has a couple of chemo treatments left, just to be sure she’s done everything she can.

— 7 —

Our sister-in-law is visiting us this week and we’re so happy to have her with us. She’s a jewelry designer who is in town to participate in a couple of local arts and crafts fairs. Her designs can be found on her website. If you like glass beads and creative, high-quality jewelry, you should check her out!

 

Stop on over to Jen’s to see everybody else’s Quick Takes. (And to wish Jen and her hubby a happy 10 year anniversary!) Oh, and if you haven’t “liked” These Walls on Facebook, I hope you’ll do so. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Fifty Years From Birmingham

This morning as I drove to mass, I heard this segment on NPR. I hadn’t realized beforehand, but today is the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Which killed four little girls. In a church. Sunday, September 15, 1963: The event has always stuck out to me as exceptionally horrible. Layer upon layer of horrible.

I can only barely, a little bit, understand how people could have fought so hard to maintain a system of segregation that is (to my eyes) so obviously unjust. I assume that fear played a role – fear of change, fear of losing power. I think those fears have motivated an awful lot of horrible over the course of human history.

I understand less how people could escalate their resistance to change to the point of undertaking violence. How does one make that leap from using speeches and meetings and rules and laws (however unjust) to causing physical damage to a person or his property? I can only assume that the original seed of fear must have been long overtaken by anger. And I think anger poisons people.

But I don’t understand at all, not in the least, how people could bring violence to a church. How could any person, who has ever possessed even a morsel of faith or morality, bomb a church? On a Sunday morning? On the church’s youth Sunday, when a bunch of little girls were in the bathroom, excitedly preparing themselves to take visible roles in that morning’s church service? No purely human emotion helps me understand that one. Even anger isn’t sufficient.

I can only see evil. I can only surmise that people let evil in when they decided to nuture their fear. That the evil grew with their anger, each feeding the other. And that evil finally made itself obvious in that horrible act. A church. Four innocent children. Preparing to worship God. Evil must have rejoiced.

I cried as I drove to mass this morning, re-learning the story of the four little girls. I cried because I knew it was unjust; I knew it was wrong; I knew how unfair it was to those girls; I knew it must have torn apart their mothers’ hearts; I knew it had impacted so many more people than the victims themselves; and I knew that evil had had a say.

It’s a sobering thought on which to end my Sunday. As I drove to mass this morning, I hoped that my pastor would acknowledge this horrible anniversary. I wanted to feel uplifted. I wanted us to make some effort to remember what happened to those girls, to make a statement that their lives mattered. It didn’t happen. In my little corner of the world, no one seemed to remember.

But I hadn’t remembered either, not before that NPR segment. Which is why I write this post. With it, I’m issuing my own little remembrance. In these last few minutes of Sunday, September 15, 2003, let’s remember what happened exactly fifty years ago in Birmingham. Let’s say a prayer for those who lost their lives. Let’s say another for the family and friends who suffered their loss. And let’s say one more for the many who lost something less tangible that day. Because when evil scored with that horrible act, so much was lost.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 13)

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

— 1 —

Well, we survived the first day of school! Though by “survived,” I mean something different than most parents do in referencing that Big Day.

As expected, our big 3-year-old (and his parents) had no problem with the drop-off. He was so busy building with blocks that he barely even acknowledged our goodbyes. (Our 2-year-old, however, cried angry tears and shouted “No bye! No bye!”) Big boy did fine in class; I did fine without him (though it definitely felt strange to only have one child with me); and little brother did tolerably well. He was a little sullen and kept asking for “Beh boys” (his nickname for his brother), but there were no more hysterics.

So. No real problems there. It ended up being the pick-up, post pre-school day that we had to survive. While all of my boy’s classmates ran to their moms with shining, happy faces at pick-up time, my guy ran straight past me, grumbling and grumpy. As we neared the car, all became clear: “I don’t wanna go home!” Now there were tears. And wails. And refusals of my attempts to take yet more pictures of the poor kid: “You already did dat!” I had to wrestle him into his car seat (no small feat; the child weighs 40 pounds) as he continued to sob, “I DON’T WANNA GO HOME!” (What must strangers have imagined of our home life?)

On the drive home, he huffed, “But, I didn’t want to weave!” Once home, we barely made it through the door before he flung himself onto the floor – an action borne of exhaustion and an unwillingness to move himself further into the place where he did not! want! to! be! A few minutes later, when I told him that I’d missed him, he answered, “I didn’t miss you!” (Ouch!) It continued. Him: “Did Daddy miss me?” Me: “I’m sure he did!” Him: “Did my brother miss me?” Me: “He missed you very much. Did you miss him?” Him: “Nope.”

You’d think he’d take a really good nap after all that, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong. Two hours! Two hours I left those boys in their room before I finally gave in and retrieved their annoyingly-awake little selves. They talked and whined the whole time, except for the few minutes, here and there, where they’d be totally quiet, probably teasing me: “Shhh! Let’s pretend we’re asleep… Shhh… Wait for it… Wait for it… Ha! We’re awake! Fooled her!” Their beautiful behavior continued well into the evening.

I’m now torn between wanting him to go back to school again ASAP because it’s clearly where he wants to be, and never wanting him to go back again, because then he’ll never want to leave.

Here are the before pics:

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And here are the after:

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Sobbing because he doesn’t want to leave.

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— 2 —

Speaking of our 3-year-old and grumpiness… it’s been his M.O. lately. Evidence:

Nina, from the Sprout Goodnight Show: “Sproutlets, are you having a good night?”
Him: “No, I’m NOT havin’ a good night.”

He and I have been having a tough time of it the past few weeks. He shouts a mean-spirited “No!” or is otherwise obstinate in the face of my efforts to get him to… do normal things. Like go to the bathroom. Or wash his hands. Or eat. Or get in the car. So I get angry, and he gets put in time-out, so he melts down, and I get more angry… It’s been a little rough. (But please, do not tell me that “It’s not so much the terrible two’s as the terrible three’s!” At the moment, I cannot take the suggestion that this is going to last for another year.)

— 3 —

Per the above, the other day I happened to re-read a post I wrote a couple of months ago: A Love That Changes You. (If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you will. The re-read pushed it way up my list of favorites.) I wrote it right around my boy’s third birthday, and though the post hammers away at one of my favorite points – that each and every individual person is infinitely precious – it’s filled with love for this little guy in particular. It was good for me to revisit. In this season of “NO!” and “I didn’t miss you!” and “I don’t wanna go home!” it was good for me to recall that image of the rocking chair. It was good for me to read about my boy’s soft cheeks and long eyelashes. It was good for me to focus on my love for him, rather than my frustration.

— 4 —

That same post also touched me in a different, much sadder way, given recent events in Syria. More than a thousand people – many of them women and children – were killed in that chemical attack a couple of weeks ago. More than a hundred thousand have been killed in the two years since the fighting began. Millions have had to leave their homes, to live as refugees, to wander in search of safety.

I thought of them yesterday afternoon as I walked the trails of a local park with my boys. I looked out over the idyllic, peaceful scenery: forest, rolling hills, green farmland. I watched my boys run and squeal and crouch down to investigate small creatures, without a care in the world. We were safe. We were relaxed. We had the luxury of taking for granted our home and our family and our very lives.

Luxury. It’s easy to forget what a luxury such security is. But for millions of people living today, and for countless millions who lived before us, life has not been so much about seeking happiness as it has been about surviving.

There are mothers very much like me in Syria today. Mothers who dare not walk outside with their children for fear they will get caught in a crossfire. Other mothers who feel compelled to walk with their children, seeking refuge from a home that has become too dangerous. As I wrote in that post, “I hear about atrocities and I think of mothers rocking their babies.” It’s a powerful image for me.

I hope you’ll join me in answering Pope Francis’ call to prayer and fasting tomorrow, Saturday 7. Please pray for peace in Syria.

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— 5 —

The reason I re-read “A Love That Changes You” the other day is because I heard a compelling, sobering program on NPR’s Fresh Air. The story, called “Program Fights Gun Violence Bravado With ‘Story of Suffering,’” focused on a program at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. “Cradle to Grave” brings small groups of at-risk youth into the hospital to show them the repercussions of being shot. It traces the story of a 16-year-old who was killed in 2004, sharing the gritty details of the treatment he received, the instruments that were used on him, and the impact his death had on his family. To me, the piece pounded away at the “every life is precious” theme from my June post. It was at once sickening, sobering, edifying, and hopeful. It did something to recognize the victims of violence in our own country, to remember the communities in our own backyard where people can’t forget that security is a luxury.

— 6 —

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love Simcha Fischer. This week, I particularly loved her post, “The Allure of Either/Or.” In it, Simcha discusses recent debates regarding rape, modesty, men and women’s sexual attitudes towards each other. She notes how the debates tend to focus on one side or the other: either the burden for good behavior falls entirely on women or entirely on men. She writes:

Why does it have to be one or the other?  Why does it have to be either/or?  What ever happened to both/and?  I have boys and girls.  I tell my girls that they need to pay attention to what they wear, both for their own safety and sense of self-respect, and so as not to make trouble for people they meet.  And my husband tells my boys that they must respect women no matter what they wear; that somebody else’s dress or behavior, whether it’s intentional or clueless, is never an excuse for bad behavior on their part.  Both/and.

As Simcha points out, “both/and” applies to lots of issues. I feel her frustration all the time. Sometimes I shout at my radio: “Why do I have to choose a side? Why can’t both sides be a little right and a little wrong? Why can’t the answer be more nuanced?” I don’t feel that on every issue, of course, but there are an awful lot of political/societal issues that just aren’t easily answered. We shouldn’t feel compelled to answer them in an either/or fashion. I touched on this, on a very basic level, in my abortion post. One doesn’t have to be a pro-life Catholic or a social justice Catholic. It’s both/and. One is incomplete without the other.

— 7 —

Well, this 7 Quick Takes was a little heavier than my usual. So let me wrap up with a nice, simple little story.

Lately when we’ve encountered other families at the park (pretty rare, actually – we tend to go at everybody’s else’s naptime or dinnertime, I guess), we keep experiencing the same scenario: Our three-year-old is so excited to see the children that he follows them around, wanting to play with them. Inevitably he starts chasing them, roaring. He’s three. The kids, who are a few years older than him, plea to me with a whiny little “Can you tell him to stop chasing us?” I agree and then have to go break my little boy’s heart, because the wimpy eight-year-olds can’t handle some roaring. (Or more like it, they don’t want to play with a “little kid.”)

So when I saw a large group of older elementary and middle school kids, accompanied by a teenager, arrive at the park the other day, my heart sank. I braced myself for my little guy’s excitement and the big kids’ scorn. Perhaps with some disagreeable behavior and questionable language thrown in for good measure. But it never materialized. The big kids started straight in on a game and asked my boy if he wanted to play too. One took his hand and showed him what to do. They all talked to him and praised his ability on the playground equipment. (“Wow! That’s awesome! I can’t even do that!”) They commented, repeatedly, on how cute both of my boys were. Before I knew it, they’d taken the almost-two-year-old under their wings too.

Moreover, they were so nice to each other. There was no mean-spirited teasing, they were polite and kind, and they seemed genuinely concerned with each other’s wellbeing. It was enormously refreshing to witness – such a nice, simple little breath of fresh air for the middle of my week.

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Well, I guess that’s it. Have a great weekend, everyone, and don’t forget to stop by Jen’s to see all the rest of the Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 2)

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

— 1 —

When I started this blog (a whole 12 days ago) to take the place of some fantasy of time-spent-in-a-bar-or-coffee-shop-talking-about-interesting-things, I knew that it was going to be challenging to find time to write. (Not as challenging as all that fantasy time away from the house, mind you.)

But, c’mon.

I think I did pretty darned well that first week (six posts!), but this week has been pathetic. And what’s really getting to me is that I haven’t even been overly busy. It would be one thing if I could chalk up my lack of writing opportunities to a bunch of outings or something. But I’ve (mostly) been home! Doing dishes and other boring stuff! It’s just that every time I sit down to write, somebody climbs up into my lap, or has to go pee-pee, or pelts me with questions, or hauls in his toys to play right next to me. Because I am never, ever so interesting as when I am looking at a computer.

(Yes, yes I know that it’s wonderful that they want to be near me, and little children need their mommies, and these years go so fast, and blah, blah, blah… But mommies need breaks, too. This one needs just a little bit of quiet every day, to think and refresh, and feel like I’ve done something productive that won’t be destroyed in the next few hours.)

— 2 —

On a more hopeful note, see this little set-up here? Water table, boys wearing nothing but t-shirts and diapers, BABY GATE to keep said boys out of the fish pond in the background… This is my Hope For The Summer. Really, I’m depending on it way more than I should be. My plan is to stick the boys in here (frequently) and enjoy all sorts of little luxuries while they’re occupied with the water fun: planning interesting new meals, cooking without someone sitting on my feet, folding laundry on the same day it’s washed, gardening, walking some laps around the house, blogging… It’s going to be wonderful. Right? RIGHT?!?

Boy at water table

— 3 —

Sorry if I’m sounding a tad desperate here. It’s just that (as indicated in #1), we’ve had one of those weeks. On Wednesday things were so rough that half-way through I gathered my boys into my lap, wrapped my arms around them, and said, “Let’s make this a better day, boys.” And my (big) little stinker answered that no, he wanted to make the day worse. As in, “Da worst day ever!”

And then he proceeded to give it a good shot. So when my husband came home that evening (blissfully, at an actually very decent hour), I told him I needed to get out of the house for a while. And I did something I hadn’t done in over a year: I went for a walk by myself. I won’t deny that I was inspired, in part, by this post from the marvelous Simcha Fisher.

Field at Evening

Beautiful view, isn’t it? This was the beginning of my walk. I love when I catch the evening light at just the right moment, when the fields and woods have a golden quality to them. And I particularly love it at this time of year, when the temperature is comfortable and the air smells like honeysuckle.

I love most things about a walk, really, it’s just that I almost never make time for them anymore. One summer when I was in college, I took an hour-long walk every evening when I got home from work. That one, simple activity helped me lose 20 pounds and get into the best shape of my life. It also helped to clear my mind and feed my soul. (I did a lot of praying while I walked.) I could use more than a little of all those things in my life right now. Weight loss? More strength? Better health? Clearer mind? Fruitful prayer? Yes, please!

But how am I supposed to fit this into my schedule of morning-to-night childcare responsibilities? My hubby usually doesn’t get home from work until dusk. And the double stroller thing is hard to do when you live in a place with super narrow sidewalks and some seriously steep, hilly streets. Can someone please send me a sweet neighbor girl to babysit a few times a week?

— 4 —

We seem to be in a season of entertaining and weddings. Last night we hosted a small dinner party (so I guess my assessment of our busy-ness this week was a tad understated in #1), two weeks ago we hosted a larger one, a week from now we’ll host the after-party for our weekend-long family reunion, and a couple of weeks after that we’ll host a teenage friend/distant relative from Germany for a few weeks. (More on that one later.) Last weekend we had my aunt’s wedding and two weeks from now we have my uncle’s. Oh, and we also have our little guy’s THIRD birthday party in the mix for June and a family trip to Minnesota in July. I’m not complaining. I enjoy being with people and I love that my husband and I are creating a hospitable home. All the activity delights me at the same time as it makes my head spin.

— 5 —

I would love to get to the point in my time-management skills (I actually have been improving in this area) where I have a few moments before guests arrive to take pictures of the set-up. I love beautiful dishes and linens and I usually make time to display everything nicely. But inevitably, I’m still preparing food (or, ahem, getting myself ready) as guests arrived. Someday I’ll get there.

— 6 —

Speaking of getting ready, lately I’ve been listening to a lovely radio show while I get ready for mass on Sunday mornings. It’s On Being, which, as its website describes, is envisioned as “a program that would draw out the intellectual and spiritual content of religion that should nourish our common life, but that is often obscured precisely when religion enters the news.”

[W]hat we cover as “conversation about religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas” drives towards ancient, animating questions at the heart of the great traditions and beyond them: What does it mean to be human? What matters in a life? What matters in a death? How to love? How to be of service to each other and to the world? We explore these questions in all the variety, richness, and complexity with which they find expression in contemporary lives. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.

It’s really a beautiful program. I don’t always agree with their interview subjects, but that’s kind of the point of exposing oneself to new ideas, isn’t it? Learning about someone else’s perspective, taking to heart the parts that you recognize as truth, and using the rest to exercise, if you will, your own thought process on the subject.

The tone of the program, if not always the subject matter, reminds me of a Washington Post series of the same name. (Here’s a link, but there doesn’t seem to be any content on the site right now.) It was a series of short videos of individuals who talked about their lives and explored being… whoever they were. I recall a video of a stay-at-home dad and his baby boy, a mother and her son with Down’s Syndrome, a young nun, and oh, lots and lots more. After the interview you’d find out what quality the individuals were representing: On being joyful, On being special, etc. I loved almost every single segment I saw. They were powerful, moving, thought-provoking – all sorts of good things. I wish they were still up so you could see them too!

— 7 —

To close, let me bring it back to the domestic realities that dominated this post with the following beautiful shot:

Messy kitchen

Yes, the post-dinner party dishes. You know what I’ll be doing today! Oh, and I forgot to put the wine away last night. Sigh… While I’m dealing with all that (not to mention the two toddlers who woke up THREE to FOUR hours earlier than usual!), you go check out the other Quick Takes over at Jen’s. I promise you it will be waaaay more fun than what I’ve got going on.

The Best Gift A Parent Can Give

I heard a really moving story this morning on the radio. “Beating The Odds: Making The Grades Without A Mother’s Help” told about a Washington, D.C. teenager named Jennifer Hightower. Jennifer has excelled in school (earning a 3.9 GPA!) without the help of her mother, who has struggled with drug addiction and illness.

I’ll write more on it later, but I have something of a left/right ideological tug-of-war going on in my mind on some subjects. (On others there are no struggles at all – my mind is firmly on one side of the ideological divide.) Poverty-related issues most definitely fall into the “tug-of-war” category. Jennifer’s story was interesting to me in part because it satisfied both sides of my ideological leanings in this area: The left-leaning side was gratified that the story shone some light on the daunting (and often ugly) challenges that so many Americans face in their efforts to succeed – or even just to function – in our society. The right-leaning side was proud of Jennifer and her commendable efforts to excel despite those challenges. (Not to mention her happy, positive outlook on life and her forgiving attitude toward her mother.)

The story also broke my mommy heart a little. The idea of a small child taking on the responsibilities of keeping her home clean, cooking, and excelling in school without a mother’s guidance – it’s hard to take in. But a simple image is what touched me most: “I had to teach myself how to tie my own shoes,” Jennifer said. “I didn’t have somebody to sit down and tell me this bunny tie that you do. All that stuff you see on TV, I didn’t have that.”

For the umpteenth time since I became a parent, a small image of trial and deprivation took the wind out of my sails. On a daily basis, I worry about keeping my home orderly, washing the dishes, cooking decent meals for my family, getting my boys enough run-around-outside time. And yes, all of those things matter. But at the base of it, what really matters is that my husband and I love our boys powerfully, unreservedly, consistently… in all the best ways one can love. And that we take care of them in the big and the little ways. Our boys don’t have to wonder whether they are loved or whether they will have their needs met. Those thoughts don’t have to cross their innocent little minds. At times like these (thinking of Jennifer’s story), that seems like such a luxury. Countless children don’t get to have that sense of security. I feel so humbled and so very grateful that I received that gift from my parents – and that my husband and I are able to give it to our boys.

An Ideal Government

There was an interesting discussion on the crisis (if you will) of democracy in the West this morning on The Diane Rehm Show. As per usual, I didn’t get to hear the program in its entirety because, you know – toddlers. But it brought forward some thoughts that have been swirling around in my head for some time.

P1140675It seems to me that in the United States, at least, a fundamental disagreement regarding the appropriate role of government is bubbling to the surface. Yes, it’s about “big” vs. “small” government, but aside from those terms being too broad, I think they’re also too subjective. (One person’s “small” is another person’s “big,” isn’t it?) Rather, I view the breakout as one of attitude. How do we think of our ideal government? The following is surely too broad and too rough, but for a quick get-us-thinking post, I hope it will do.

Many people (and most of the press) function under the idea that government, when it works properly, exists to solve problems and spur progress. Under this paradigm, some of the marks of good government are action, innovation, and cooperation.

Other people (including some of the most famous talk radio hosts) function under the idea that government exists simply to establish a basic framework of freedoms, security, and infrastructure. Under this paradigm, the primary mark of good government is restraint.

Like I said, it’s overly broad. “Basic framework,” in particular, is open to a wide range of interpretations. But still, I think it’s important for us each to consider our own inclinations. Do I respond more favorably to the idea of a government that makes my life better or to one that I hardly have cause to notice?

I wish more political pundits would start at this basic question. I’m so tired of hearing one guy say that Washington is “broken” because politicians won’t work together to solve the nation’s problems – and then changing the channel to hear another guy praise a Washington “outsider” who wants to get government out of the business of doing any such thing.

Perhaps Washington isn’t broken because politicians aren’t working together. Perhaps it’s broken because citizens (and therefore politicians) don’t have a common concept of what government should be. Let’s acknowledge this. Let’s examine our own personal desires for our government. Let’s encourage others to do so as well. Because whatever is broken in Washington, it’s not going to get fixed when we don’t even take into consideration that we’re working from entirely different pages.

What do you think? What would your ideal government look like?

These Walls

Hello! I’m Julie Walsh, a stay-at-home mom to two toddler boys. I’m a former lobbyist, an all-day NPR listener, and an avid Catholic-mommy-blog reader. I love, love, love to get into a good conversation. About pretty much anything, but especially about my family, my faith, society, politics, current events… and how they all interact. I have this fantasy of sitting in a cozy coffee shop or a snug little bar and discussing the world’s problems with interesting people.

But I have these two adorable little responsibilities, you know? So the closest I get to my fantasy these days is the occasional play-date with a mommy friend, where we maybe fit in a five-minute visit to A Topic of Great Importance, in between our review of developmental milestones, childhood illnesses, and pregnancy experiences (interspersed with admonitions to share and play nicely and not-to-hit-your-brother). If we’re really lucky, we’re drinking a cup of coffee while we chat, sometimes daring to set it down on this lovely table:

Boys and train table

I’m approaching the three-year mark on my role as homemaker/stay-at-home mom, and in that time I’ve (1) spent entirely too much time on Facebook, (2) spoken lots of my political opinions aloud to the radio, and (3) developed wonderful one-sided friendships with a slew of excellent mommy bloggers who don’t even know who I am. I guess that’s the 21st-Century way of socializing a mother of young children, isn’t it? But still, I keep thinking to myself, I want to join that conversation! I want to say something more than what I can fit into a few lines on Facebook! So after almost three years of wanting to blog and thinking I don’t have time to blog and daydreaming topics for blogs and drafting/trashing blog themes, here I am, finally giving it a shot.

As indicated in the subtitle, I intend to blog about some of the goings-on within my own home. But I expect to focus more on the events and ideas and questions that sometimes seem so very far away from the daily tasks of a stay-at-home-mom. (Or this one, at least.) And aside from the physical walls referenced in the blog’s title, I can’t help but think of the figurative walls we so frequently put up between ourselves and others because of our opinions on any number of issues. I plan to explore these in the blog as well.

Overall, I’m stuck on that mental image of a cozy venue for deep conversation on those Topics of Great Importance (and also topics of regular importance). I hope this space becomes something like that. And I hope those who participate in the conversation will do so with respect and kindness, a sincere interest in growing in understanding… and maybe a tasty beverage in-hand.

Boys asleep wine on table