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!

These Walls - Sunday Coffee

Well, Hello There

It appears that yesterday’s post hit on something.

At least the Big Family folks must have liked it, because that little written-when-I-should-have-been-doing-dishes ode to big families smashed every (modest) record this blog has accumulated in its young life.

So I thought – just in case any of yesterday’s visitors are tempted to pop back in – that I’d issue a little hello and a welcome and an I’m so glad you’re here.

Because I am!

Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Julie. I’m married to the wonderful Brennan, whom (shhh!) I met on eHarmony. Together we have three beautiful boys, aged five, four, and 18 months. In January we expect to add our fourth child to the mix, whom we recently learned is a GIRL. (Pinch me!)

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Our young, LOUD, more-than-a-little-rambunctious family lives in my home state of Maryland, in a 150-year-old Victorian. Which happens to be rather formal, and so makes for some hilarious incongruity.

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These Walls - Oh Boys

Before my sons were born, I worked as a lobbyist for the Catholic Church, advocating on poverty, health care, and immigration matters. I lean right on some issues (like abortion and marriage), left on others (like poverty, immigration, and capital punishment). I think religious freedom is vitally important. I pay decently close attention to foreign affairs, including the recent horrors and happenings in the Middle East. I generally enjoy sharing my thoughts on (gasp!) politics and society. Indeed, lately I’ve been running a series on What This Catholic Wants in a President.

For the past five years, I’ve been your typical stay-at-home-mom. I do lots of cooking and laundry and far too few dishes. I send my oldest to Kindergarten and my second to pre-school. Lately my toddler has been keeping me on my toes by reaching ever further onto the kitchen counters, grabbing glasses or plates or moldy corn muffins. (Should I confess that the latter was partially consumed before I caught him?)

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Here at These Walls you’ll find a mix of motherhood, mayhem, politics, current events, and whatever else is occupying my mind at the moment. You can subscribe to my posts over there to the right, or you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Bloglovin.

I’m so glad to have you here!

These Walls - Well Hello There

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 21): Baby News, House FAQ’s, Toddler Meltdowns and Quotes

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In case you missed it, we had a big announcement on Tuesday: We’re expecting another BOY! Boy number THREE!

Heaven help me.

I’m kidding! Kind of.

After my sonogram, my husband headed homewards to pick up the boys from my friend’s house (thank you, Jenn!) while I went in the opposite direction to attend an evening meeting of the board I serve on. It was nice to get all that driving time to myself to help me process the news.

The primary fruit of all my contemplation was this realization: “I think I’ll just throw my hands in the air and tell the boys that I don’t care what they do to each other as long as nobody gets killed. Whatever! I give up! I concede that bones and furniture will be broken. I just can’t worry about it anymore.”

I decided to treat myself to a milkshake AND a big cookie on the way to the meeting. “I just found out I’m having my third boy,” I blurted out to the cashier. “I thought I could use some sugar.” Then, after a moment it occurred to me, “Gosh, I probably should have gone to a bar instead.”


In last week’s Quick Takes I bemoaned my recent blogging lull and vowed to kick it back into gear with three posts this week, on (1) the Affordable Care Act, (2) my parenting philosophy, and (3) a tour/history of my house. The good news is that I actually posted four times this week. (Woo-hoo! I think it’s the first time I’ve done that since Jen’s Epic Blogging Challenge.) The bad part is that I skipped over 1 and 2 and only gave you the house post.

I’d totally forgotten (how could I have forgotten?!) that I’d likely have a gender reveal post to do. And then my grandmother gave me an old washboard and I felt compelled to write about laundry instead. I mean, come on – who wants to finish their (mostly written! I promise!) post on the Affordable Care Act when you can write about laundry? This will teach me to ever announce posts before they’re completely hatched.


Speaking of the house post, I thought I’d provide answers here to two of the most frequently-asked questions we get from visitors:

(A)    How did you get so much furniture?

  1. We both lived on our own for years before we married, so we had two household’s worth of furniture to combine. (Granted, one of those households was a bachelor’s, but the other was of a furniture-loving pack-rat.)
  2. I spent years saying yes to almost every hand-me-down piece of furniture that came my way. (We also purchased and were given some pieces from the people we bought our house from.)
  3. When I first started making money after college, I spent it in true dork fashion: not on liquor and handbags, but rather on an antique dresser set and a custom sofa.
  4. My mother is an interior decorator who is kind enough to give me wholesale prices, so I get to purchase (said) custom, good-quality items at the price of medium-quality ones.
  5. I fill in wherever necessary with items from Target, Home Goods, and Ikea.

(B)    How do you keep this big ol’ house clean?

  1. I don’t. I try (and often fail) to keep it tidy. I clean when company’s coming.

And here are some bonus pictures of the house, which didn’t make the cut for yesterday’s post because it was already too photo-heavy:


My great-aunt’s bedroom set, which I used as a teenager. My parents were kind enough to let me steal it from them when I left home.


Isn’t this bed beautiful? We were recently able to buy it from my mother’s cousin, who had purchased it at my great-grandparents’ estate sale years ago. I love having something that was in an old family home.


No antiques here — wholesale buying from Mom! Yay!


What wacky things do your kids melt down over? Yesterday my 3-year-old lost it (for about 30 minutes?) because he wanted to go to the grocery store. And mean ol’ mom that I am, I thought one trip to the grocery store per day was enough.

After posting that lovely little situation on Facebook, one of my cousins sent me a link to a whole compilation of photos of toddlers who were crying for odd reasons. Check it out – it’s hilarious. I was just about crying myself.


Lately, I keep falling asleep on the sofa at 10 or 11 o’clock at night and if my husband’s already gone to bed, I don’t wake up until 2 or 3 in the morning. By the time I get upstairs and all ready for bed, I’m wide awake! On the one hand, it’s kind of cool because I’ve been able to get some writing done in the middle of the night. (Hello, 7QT Friday!) On the other hand, I should be sleeping. I’m starting to think there really is something to that whole two sleeps thing.


I wanted to have some NPR links to share with you, but I feel like all they talk about these days is the Affordable Care Act. Blah, blah, blah… I already said that one gets its own post; I’m not going to pellet you with links about it. And it seems like all the news segments make me cry. I did a “What made Julie cry?” Take last week. It probably shouldn’t become a weekly occurrence.


Let’s wrap up instead with some quotes from my 3-year-old:

Upon learning from his father that he too will one day grow a beard:
(Horrified) “But I don’t want to be all fikey!” (spikey) “Dose fikes would hurt me!”

After running all the way upstairs to the bathroom:
(Concerned) “My heart is beeping so fast!”

Him: “We’re goin’ have anoder Hawoween!”
Me: “No, the next holiday that’s coming is Thanksgiving.”
Him: “Yay! We’re goin’ to everyone’s houses and say, ‘Tanks-givin’!'”

Him: “Mommy, Mommy! Da baby’s out of your bewwey!”
Me: “Really? Where is it?”
Him: “It’s in the parwor! (parlor) Wiff its baby hammer!”
Me: ???

Happy weekend, everyone! Head on over to Jen’s to check out the rest of the Quick Takes. I’ll usher you out with the following pictures of when we told our boys they’re going to have another brother. They look thrilled, don’t they?



These (Lovely, Old) Walls: {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 5)

We live in a very special house.


It’s a big (five bedroom, 4.5 bath, lots of sq. ft.), beautiful (turret, porches, tall ceilings), old Victorian. The central portion of the house was built in 1859 and the two side sections were built in the late 1880’s, when the house underwent an extensive renovation that included a circular central staircase, most of the seven fireplaces, and big single-pane windows (a new innovation at the time).


Or, we think that’s how it went. The house did not come with any coherent written record of its history, so my husband, true-to-form, researched the heck out of it. He looked through old deeds and plats and news sources (it’s amazing what you can find online), closely examined the house’s architectural clues, and wrote up a history of his own.

Brennan learned that two of the home’s first owners were former Confederate soldiers (and in at least one of those situations, the house was technically owned by the soldier’s wife, because in the years after the war, Confederates feared that their properties would be confiscated). Other owners of the home were local businessmen – a banker, a furniture store owner, a factory owner – who had the misfortune to live in a town that seemed to be always burning down. The property changed hands a lot until the 1930’s, when the factory owner bought it and did another renovation. His family lived in the house for over 50 years, until a high-energy, work-horse of a couple bought it and did another extensive renovation – by themselves.

The couple brought the plumbing and electrical systems inside (they’d previously been attached to the exterior of the house) and modernized them. They stripped layer upon layer of wallpaper, getting down to the plaster (where they found two signatures from a worker on the 1880’s renovation.) They modernized the kitchen and the bathrooms. They enlarged the basement. They refinished most of the floors. They added a sprinkler system. They built patios and a massive garage. They re-routed the (very steep) driveway.


We were fortunate enough to buy the house from them. When we came to the house, it was in great shape for its age. There were just a few things left to fix and then any other changes we made would be because of our tastes, not because of any inherent problem. Beyond the convenience of that situation, the couple was so nice. We were coming off of two failed home-buying experiences, in which we’d wasted several months, plus money. We were getting discouraged. (Or at least I was – my husband was probably fine. He’s not the kind who is easily discouraged.)


Brennan did refinish these floors himself — such hard work!

The couple could not have made it easier on us. They were kind and fair and honest and open. Everything fell into place easily, which was such a blessing after all we’d been through with the other properties. I really felt the Holy Spirit at work. After four years of looking and two failed attempts at buying – two tortuous experiences of trying to fit square pegs into round holes – we were finally where we were supposed to be. We were home.



That said – and as much as I love the house – I still feel awkward about it. My husband and I both grew up in very modest homes. (Brennan once even shared a bedroom with all five of his brothers.) But this house? It’s anything but modest. Neither of us could ever have imagined living in anything like it. Probably, most people would never seriously consider doing so.

It’s just that we love old houses. We love their beauty, their character, their solid construction. We love their stories. We knew that we wanted to be part of one and that we wanted an old-house experience for our children. We also knew that we wanted one large enough to accommodate a growing (who-knows-how-large) family. And this one ended up fitting us perfectly.


As an old-house lover, I’ve always enjoyed my opportunities to visit old homes. (Which is why I’m writing this post at all. I thought some of you might enjoy such glimpses as much as I do.) I’ve seen lots of beautiful homes, but my favorites have always been those that are lived in and loved. I think big, grand houses should be full of life. That’s what we’re doing with ours.


Enter {pretty, happy, funny, real}.

(Sorry to have taken so long to get here, Like Mother, Like Daughter readers!) Here are a few {pretty, happy, funny, real} things about living in this lovely old house:


Oh, there are just so many pretty things to choose from. Here are some of my favorites:









There’s also so much that makes me happy about the house, though I suspect the things that make me happy would be meaningless to others. There are deep window sills, there are wide hallways, there’s a catch-all room for all the laundry and the wrapping and the crafts and the junk, and there is storage galore. The floor-to-ceiling cupboard accessible from both the dining room and the butler’s pantry makes me especially happy.

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There are just so many funny things about having small children in an old home. I love the juxtaposition between 120-year-old windows and dinosaurs, crystal chandeliers and play kitchens, lovely fireplaces and toy tractors, a koi pond with a fountain and a Cozy Coupe. I could go on…






Of course we also have some real considerations to make with daring boys in this place. We had to get creative about baby gates. We’re holding off putting the boys into what will eventually (I think) be their big-boy bedroom, because it’s aaalll the way at the top of that staircase. We’re not yet confident that they can refrain from trying to climb over the bannister. And also, all these wood floors! I think our boys are probably the only toddlers who know not to drag things on the wood floor, lest they damage it.





I hope you enjoyed this little tour of our home. Have a lovely end of your week, and be sure to stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real.}

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 20): Back to Blogging, A pirate ship in my family room, and Get me to Texas!

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I think it’s about time I breathed some life into this barely-limping-along blog, isn’t it? I’ve posted precisely two new pieces in the past month – way worse than the dozen or so I’ve been averaging since I started blogging. Sure, I had a decent reason for some of the lull. And really, except for the fact that I’ve had a difficult time producing finished pieces from all the writing I’ve been doing lately, I’m not too fussed by that only-two-posts-in-a-whole-month thing.

But the bottom line is that I’ve realized I’m a happier person when I’m productively blogging. Just like I’m a happier person when I’m involved in a choir (check), and in the middle of a good book (nope), and keeping up with the dishes (nope). It’s time I checked off at least two of those boxes, right?

So last week, in the middle of my aforementioned writing-related frustration, I issued a pathetic Facebook plea for blogging ideas. And I received some good ones. (Yay! Thank you, lovely friends!) I’ve been busy writing ever since. Next week, I’m planning a Let’s Kick This Blog Into Gear Week. Not quite as intensive as Jen’s Epic Blogging Challenge from the summer, but close. Here are a few things I’ve got in the works:


In response to the Facebook plea, a long-time friend of mine jokingly answered, “The new affordable health care act is always a fun topic.”

“Ha!” I thought. “That really is funny. I wouldn’t touch that thing with a ten-foot pole.”

I chuckled to myself, thinking about how wound up people are on the issue and how absurd it would be for me to write on the topic anyway, given that I don’t have a strong opinion on it. Or even a clear position for or against it.

Chuckle, chuckle.

“But then,” I thought, “I do actually have plenty of opinions when it comes to health care reform in general, and even some when it comes to the Affordable Care Act in particular.” Maybe it would be good to express my neither-for-nor-against opinions. We’ve got quite enough of the rabid for’s and against’s, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe it’s time for some of the muddled middle.

So I’m throwing caution to the wind. Next week I’ll be giving you my miscellaneous, muddled thoughts on health care reform. In two parts, because even my muddled thoughts are lengthy.


The same friend, in more seriousness, also suggested that I write up my take on how to raise children who don’t feel entitled to everything.

Now, of course I don’t really know how to guarantee that outcome. My oldest child is only three years old. And even if my children were grown and happily settled outside of our home, I concede that all individuals are different. All children are different; all parents are different. There is no one recipe for success.

But I think it’s important to parent with a recipe in mind. (And not one that you find in a book.) I think it’s important, rather, to consider the qualities you value in adults you admire, and contemplate how to instill them in your children. I also think it’s important to consider your family members’ personalities and your household situation, so as to devise practices that will help everyone and everything (schedules, space, etc.) to get on as well as possible.

In sum, I guess you could say that my parenting motto would look something like this: “Think not on the type of childhood you want for your children, think rather on the type of adults you want your children to become. Also, think of your family’s sanity.”

If you’re not turned off already, come back next week for an example of a parenting “recipe” via my own personal parenting philosophy.


And one more topic for next week: We live in a pretty interesting old house, so my best friend suggested its history as a good subject for a blog post. I haven’t known quite what to do with the house, as far as the blog is concerned, but I really would like to write about it. And now somebody’s asked. So, what the heck. This 150-year-old Victorian beauty (poetically juxtaposed with the dinosaurs, racecars, and Happy Meal toys strewn throughout it) will get a treatment on the blog next week, too.


Moving on.

I’m assuming that all of you who read Conversion Diary or Moxie Wife saw this week’s big conference announcement, right? (For those who didn’t, those two lovely bloggers will be teaming up to host a conference aimed at Catholic mothers next July in Austin, Texas.) I am absolutely one of the throng of women who gasped and squealed and did a little dance when I read the news. (Okay, it can hardly be called a “dance” – more like a groggy little wiggle, as I was still lying in bed at the time.) Whatever – I was excited. And I was calculating like mad, trying to figure out how I could get myself there. The biggest hurdle is convincing my husband that it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for me to fly by myself to Texas with a three-month-old in tow. I’m working on it.

Of course, Jen and Hallie have received a tremendous response to the announcement. And the (lovely) venue they’ve chosen won’t be large enough to accommodate everyone who says they’d like to go. So there’s a good chance that there will be some disappointed ladies come registration time. And who knows, I may be one of them. Ah, well… c’est la vie. For now, I’ll just keep on being excited and hopeful. That’s way more fun than anticipating disappointment.


Given my current “condition,” weepiness keeps sneaking up on me these days. A few hours ago I started crying because… Shutterfly has some pretty Christmas card designs. Ahem. Here are some other things that have made me cry this week:

  • The officers and sailors of the current USS Dewey granted a Pearl Harbor survivor’s dying wish, and in doing so, treated him with the utmost kindness and respect.
  • This video of the typhoon wreckage in the Philippines. Those little girls… oh, my. I just want to reach through the screen and touch their little faces and give them some small measure of comfort. Awful, awful, awful. (By the way, please consider helping the excellent Catholic Relief Services, which has a strong on-the-ground presence in the Philippines, to provide much-needed aid to the storm’s victims.)
  • A British WWII Veteran died with almost no one to attend his funeral. When the word spread, hundreds gathered to honor him.

Need a tissue?


As you might have guessed from Take number three, I am not a very fun mom. However, I occasionally experience little bursts of ideas for fun (and easy! always easy!) activities for the boys. I landed on a good one this week. I moved our coffee table out of the way, slid our sofa and loveseat together, and told the boys it was a pirate ship.

They. were. thrilled. They ran for their swords and their “pirate” hats (really, Revolutionary War-style tricorns), while I turned on their pirate shanty CD and made them treasure maps. They climbed on and off their “ship,” jumping and wrestling all over it while yelling “Argh, maties!” (Or “Argh, bebies!” in the case of the two-year-old.) They fought with their swords until somebody hit his brother too hard. And they perfected their jumps off the coffee table, onto (1) their ship and (2) the floor (er… the ocean?) (Confession: I totally encouraged the sofa jumping because I was trying to get a mid-air picture of it.) We’ve kept the family room set up like this all week. Their pirate ship happens to be a super comfy, cozy place to write in the evenings.



So, three years into this Mom Of Boys thing (and maybe just about to learn that I’m a mom of THREE boys? My 20-week sono is next week!), they must be rubbing off on me or something. I may not be spending tons of time devising creative ways to entertain toddler boys, but some decent ideas are coming to me nonetheless. I guess I’m starting to think like them.




Have a great weekend, everyone! I look forward to “seeing” you here often next week! Don’t forget to stop on over to Jen’s for the rest of the Quick Takes!