Saturday Morning Sneak-Peek

I shouldn’t be up right now.

I should still be sleeping, soaking up those last few minutes of sustenance before what is sure to be a busy day. I should be trying to hit the six-hour mark of sleep after a late night of birthday party preparations.

Instead, our (almost four-year-old) birthday boy appeared at the side of our bed. He’d had a nightmare. Up he went to be nestled in between us, sniffling and wiggling and keeping me awake.

Or my mind did that. Too much on the to-do list today: bake a cake, fill goody bags, make some chili, clean up the remaining messes, vacuum, build a dinosaur.

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Yes, I drew this free-hand. Yes, the Internet helped.

(What? Isn’t that a standard part of any worthy to-do list?)

I’ve been running a little ragged this week – or rather, my mind has. I’ve mostly been home, but I’ve been absorbed in party prep, the Pope’s visit to the U.S., my region’s effort to celebrate and reflect on it, and other mentally-draining chatter in the blogging world. It’s really been pretty exhausting.

So I should be sleeping right now.

Instead I sit here at my laptop, a bowl of cereal before me, tapping out a few words. I want to say hello and welcome to the new readers I picked up this week. I want to tell my existing readers that I’m here and alive and very much missing writing to you. And I want to say to my mom that no, I didn’t get very much sleep last night, but I swear it’s not my fault.

So I’ll take the opportunity to point you to the fruits of my labor this week – a compilation of writings on Pope Francis’ U.S. visit to the Mid-Atlantic. Members of my regional blogging group have attended or are attending nearly every one of his public events during his visit, and over a dozen of us are writing on it, whether we’ve been able to see Pope Francis in-person or not. We’ve a load of great post so far (22 posts from eleven bloggers), and I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of them.

A Walk In Words With Pope Francis

From Abigail Benjamin:

“I almost stopped my 8 year old kid from buying a souvenir Vatican flag because we had already brought a large Vatican flag from home to wave during the parade. As the Mom of many children, my default answer to any child’s impromptu spending request is usually “Let’s not buy it now.” Somehow outside the security gate of the Papal Parade, I hesitated before saying no. My hesitation was enough time for my 8 year old daughter to offer to spend her own allowance money to buy a flag. Then my husband to suggested adding another $5 from his wallet so that her younger siblings could share in the joy. If I had a metaphor for that impact of the Papal Parade, it’s that we came to the Parade with a one large family flag to wave for the Pope and we left with 5 of my children waving individual flags inside their heart for our Pope.”

From Rita Buettner:

“I had the opportunity to attend the Pope’s Mass on Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C., with 25,000 of my closest friends. If you were there too, I’m so very happy for you! If you weren’t, I wish you could have been, and I wish we could have crowded together against the barricade as we waited for the Popemobile to pass. For now, I thought I’d reflect on how the experience has made me think about the beauty and richness of our faith.”

From Brigid Hogan:

“I was lucky enough to see Pope Francis twice this week. On Tuesday, I was part of the relatively small delegation that greeted his first steps in the US at Andrews Air Force Base. On Thursday, I stood shoulder to shoulder with thousands, watching him address Congress and bowing our heads as he blessed the crowd – especially the children. On this week’s Catholic Stuff podcast, cohost Fr. Michael O’Laughlin said: “Expect good things… Whenever the Pope comes, amazing things result.” I’m not expecting Congress to heed the warnings and instructions the Pope gave them. I don’t expect them to even realize how excoriating his remarks are to the priorities both parties have set for our nation . . . But already this week, I have witnessed people side by side, joyful in their faith, renewed in mercy and vigor. I have seen Facebook posts honoring him . . . from people who haven’t considered themselves part of the Church for years.”

From Erin McCole Cupp:

“I wasn’t sure I had much to say about the World Meeting of Families . . . Nothing helpful to others.  Nothing that would be anything but navel-gazing.  Seriously, have you seen my navel?  No?  Then give the good Lord a nice, big “Thank You.” Then this morning, someone on Facebook asked a friend, “What’s so great about Wawa?” Hold the popephone. I may live on the border of Sheetz country these days, but I spent the bulk of my first thirty years under the warm glow of that golden rectangle emblazoned with the sleek silhouette of a Canada goose. You mean to tell me there are people who don’t know what’s so great about Wawa?  That is when I realized that I have something to say about next week’s events, something important, even something unique.  I may have left Philly and its suburbs, but Philly and its suburbs certainly never left me.  I, dear reader, have been called.  I have a mission. I have, my friends, found my WMOF blogging voice.  And thus I bring you… Seven Things You Need to Know About Popeadelphia: Your incredibly unofficial guide to the 2015 World Meeting of Families”

From Abbey Davis Dupuy:

“My hands are full, people say-
busy slicing grapes in half
strategically placing Band-aids
peeling the pink crayon to make it last a bit longer
busy steadying a wobbly bike
rebraiding flyaway hair
washing wiggly feet.

His hands were full, too-
busy breaking bread (somehow stretched to plenty)
busy drawing in the dirt
touching ears, heads, foreheads
busy not casting stones
grasping a hand and pulling it back to life
flipping over tables when necessary
washing reluctant feet.

I examine my hands and wish they were more like His-
less afraid to touch a stranger
more willing to reach across a fence or a language barrier
less concerned with my own comfort.

They’re full, yes, but they’re lacking.
I could always hold a little more.”

I hope you’ll stop over there to check out all the contributions. How lucky we are to have such talent in our region!

And on my way out, one more sneak peek of my little guy’s “Night at the Museum” birthday party later today:

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Yes – we’re in for a good time.

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Last week, as you may know, I launched my little “What This Catholic Wants in a President” series. It was great. I had so much fun writing the posts (yes – I’m a nerd) and I was gratified by the number of people who expressed their interest in what I’m doing.

But boy, it wiped me out.

I finally got Part Three posted after 10pm on Friday night, not having included half of what I’d hoped to. I promised to post the other half (immigration, foreign and military policy, etc.) on Monday.

But boy, am I still so wiped out.

So I’m moving back that date a bit – to sometime later this week. (Broken promises such as these are one of many reasons why I will never be a Big Blogger.)

Oh, well. I spent this weekend with my family, preparing for the upcoming school year and helping my husband install a couple of new storm windows. (We sure know how to have fun!) Yesterday we had a full day and today we’ll have another. Last week we enjoyed a couple of days at the county fair.

We’ve been good-busy, trying to fit in what we can before summer ends. And I thought you might like to see some pictures of it – of our good-busy, of what we’ve been up to lately:

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He fell asleep in baby prison.

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Playing Mass, complete with texting parishioner.

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I hope you’re squeezing a bit more summer out of August, before school and September and busier schedules. And if you’ve beat us to it, I hope your school year is off to a great start. “See” you later this week.

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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}!

I Built a Fort

Lately I’ve been thinking about how I interact with my boys. I’ve been wondering how much they’ll remember of our lives in this particular here-and-now. I’ve been imagining how they might remember their mother when they’re grown.

And it makes me sad.

Because I have such a temper. I have such a temper and such an inability to deal, that I routinely switch straight from ‘I’m being a nice, calm, gentle Mommy who can handle distractions and misbehavior and loud dinosaur shrieks’ to ‘OH MY GOSH I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU DO THAT TO YOUR BROTHER?!’

Sometimes they take my outbursts in stride, but sometimes I frighten them. And oh, how hollow that makes me feel.

Other times my guilt comes from not having taken enough time to teach them, to read to them, to enjoy their play. It comes from my distractible mind and my inability to ever feel like I’ve accomplished what I need to.

If my boys (heaven forbid) had only this season’s worth of memories of me to draw upon, I know they would know I love them. I bestow an abundance of hugs and kisses on my little guys. I tell them I love them all the time.

I think they would know I worked hard to care for them.

But I fear they would think me impatient and harsh. I fear they might even think I’m uninterested in spending time with them.

So yesterday, I built a fort.

I’m trying to be more aware of our interactions. I’m trying to be more patient and more playful. So, a fort:


Yesterday I put their lunches in bowls and I let them eat in their fort.

I put the bowls on a tray and I let them help me carry it into the family room while saying, “Wunch is served.”



Yesterday I crawled into their fort to get a tour. I sat in there with them and read them stories. (Brennan read their bedtime stories in there too.)


Yesterday I tried harder not to overreact when one boy pushed the other, when he hit the other.

Yesterday I did some laundry, but I didn’t clean. I did dishes, but I didn’t make dinner. I didn’t try to cram in as much as I usually do.

Yesterday, I built a fort.





What Matters To Him

This weekend I was laid low by a fever and a few other bothersome symptoms, so today I took myself to the doctor to be checked out. Diagnosis: sinus infection. It’s my standard affliction – all-in-all, not such a big deal.

While I waited for my new insurance information to be processed, I noticed a sign on the counter:


Ebola. How awful that we – that anyone – should have to be worried about that horrible, alienating disease. I’d thought about Ebola victims over the weekend while in the chilled, achy throes of my fever. How much worse they must feel. How scared they must be. How much they must want to be helped and comforted by those they love.

Heck, I only had a 101 degree fever and I texted “Wah! I want my Mommy!” to that lucky lady.

On the drive home from the doctor’s office, the news program I was listening to also focused on Ebola: this time on the nurse in Dallas who’s been infected and that city’s efforts to keep residents informed and the disease contained. I was thinking on all of it as I walked to my back door.

But then I opened it and my beautiful little four-year-old turned his head to me with a horror-stricken look on his face. Someone had died, surely.

“I don’t get my treeeaaat!”

He had tears running down his face and peanut butter smeared all over his mouth. His hand was stuck in mid-air, holding a spoon full of the stuff. I looked to Brennan for an explanation.

“He was crumbling crackers – he made a huge mess for me to clean up, so he doesn’t get a treat.” (Please know that this is a long-standing issue with this child. Anytime we give him a food that crumbles, he crumbles it. Not in the normal, accidental way that any child is expected to do – no, this guy delights in crumbs; he makes piles of them and pushes them around the table and they go We’re working on it. And part of working on it is, you don’t get treated for good mealtime behavior when you don’t, um, exhibit good mealtime behavior.)

Anyway – Ebola. Here I was, stewing on death and fear and serious, grown-up issues, when I walked into my kitchen and found my little boy, devastated because he wouldn’t be allowed to have dessert.

I couldn’t help but smile. I hid my face while I tried to stop myself from laughing. It was just so beautiful, so delightful. My child was so safe and healthy, so loved, that he felt the loss of a handful of M&M’s as if it were a great tragedy.

What matters to him is being able to eat mediocre milk chocolate in a colorful candy shell. What matters to him is being able to play with his little brother’s new metal airplanes. What matters to him is getting to dump “avalanches” of animal and dinosaur toys onto himself and his brother. What matters to him is giving his father and me the right number of kisses on our cheeks.

These things matter greatly to him, and how I love him for that. He feels deeply. Someday he’ll mourn the wars and diseases of the world, but for now he’s consumed with treats and play and the people he loves.

Once I’d gotten my laughter under control, I walked over to my stricken little boy and held his face in my hands. I whispered some words to him, words meant to comfort but not to undermine his father’s authority. I hugged him and wiped the peanut butter off his face.

How lucky we are.

And how lucky this boy is, to have these be the things that matter to him. (Matter so much that his father’s heart softened and he gave the boy another chance.)



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.

Spring Teases: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 11


Do you see the beehive there in the background? Our packages of new bees (we lost our colony in the move) will arrive in April!

See the beehive there in the background? Our packages of new bees (we lost our colony in the move) will arrive in April!


We had a taste of spring this past weekend, and oh, my, how {pretty} it was. Bright blue skies, warm sunshine, buds on the lilac bushes, an old birds’ nest peeking through the branches, and soft, wet grass squishing beneath your feet… Be still, my heart.


Excuse the oh-so-professional finger in the way.

Excuse the oh-so-professional finger in the way.


Of course our boys took great advantage of the weather, first by digging in leftover piles of snow (with no coats on! what a wonderful sight!), then by moving our driveway gravel from one pile to another. (Over and over and over…) My three-year-old made a little grouping of rocks and leaves next to my perch on the wall and said, “Dese are for my cowection, Mommy! Dey’re you and me.” So of course his little brother had to toss a few rocks on my other side, and declare “Wection!”

I was so {happy} to see my boys running, running, running as much as they liked, moving rocks, jumping in what was left of the snow, just busy being boys. And I delighted in seeing how happy they were, those bright eyes and smiling faces telling me more than anything they could articulate.





I told you in last week’s {phfr} that my husband has been busy painting the boys’ room. Well, since the job ended up taking two full weekends and because the paint fumes have been so bad, we’ve had the boys set up on the family room sofas for a little extended sleepover. Fortunately, they’ve done very well with the change. (It’s not like they’re not used to falling asleep on the sofas all the time anyway!) But I think our poor little three-year-old is confused. Between all the talk of baby coming and room painting and big-boy-bed fixing, the other night when I was getting him ready for “bed” he sat on his made-up-for-bedtime sofa and asked me, “Mommy, is dis my new bed?”


As it is wont to do, the weather has turned. The past few days have been cold and blustery. So we’ve retreated back into the house. My fatigue (not to mention my, ahem, commitment to Conversion Diary’s 7 Posts in 7 Days challenge) has had me laying even lower than usual, leaving the boys mostly to their own devices. They’ve been handling the situation well, (mostly) playing nicely and not whining too much, considering. I’ve tried to inject a few fun things into this {real} time of too-yucky-outside-to-play and mommy-feeling-very-pregnant. Thankfully, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well we’re getting through it all.

I made the boys a big fort, which I think the three-year-old said was "tewwific!"

I made the boys a big fort, which I think the three-year-old said was “tewwific!”


They made their own... um... I'm not exactly sure what this is. A path, maybe?

They made their own… um… I’m not exactly sure what this is. A path, maybe?

I even tapped into the creative juices to try to get the boys to eat veggies (and chicken) for dinner, a la the "Caveman."

I even tapped into the creative juices to try to get the boys to eat their veggies (and chicken) for dinner, a la the “Caveman.”

At least one of them enjoyed it!

At least one of them enjoyed it!

Don’t forget to stop over to Like Mother, Like Daughter to see lots more lovely {pretty, happy, funny, real} contentment photos this week. And if you’re visiting here from LMLD, check out my other posts (so far) this week for Conversion Diary’s 7 Posts in 7 Days Challenge:

The Little Things
Crime and Punishment and Moving On
The Best Possible Mugging

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Monday Morning Miscellany (Vol. 8): St. Nicholas Day, Toilet Hate, and SNOW


I started writing this post as a 7 Quick Takes Friday, so I was all set to open with a “Happy St. Nicholas Day!” but, um… see numbers two and three. The day was fun, but it pretty much sucked the life out of me.

Anyway, it took my boys a few minutes to remember/discover their goodie-filled shoes Friday morning, but when they did, their delight was, well, delightful. The little one ran up to me with a look of glee and a shout of “Wa-pop!” and the big one with a “Wook what Nickwas bwingt!” Totally worth the effort it took to remember the whole deal.



We celebrated the good saint’s feast by hosting a little St. Nicholas Day party for friends. Except it didn’t end up being so “little” after all: we had 18 kiddos (two four-year-olds and SIXTEEN three-and-under’s), plus nine adults. I meant for the party to actually be St. Nicholas-focused: I bought materials to make these cute little St. Nicholas ornaments, I thought I’d do some sort of reading or lesson on who St. Nicholas was, and I planned to print off some St. Nicholas coloring pages for the kiddies to work on.

Also, my friends and I had decided to make the party a cookie swap.

But… did I fulfill those expectations? No way. Neither the ornaments nor the cookies were made, the lesson was not planned, and the coloring pages were not printed. One friend did bring this cute St. Nicholas book, which I read aloud to the swarming mass of children. But, you know: 18 children. Surrounded by toys. And each other. Very little attention was paid to me and my feeble narration, I assure you.

Whatever. For once I was dressed and made-up before my guests arrived. The house was clean-ish and arranged for the party before it even started. And I actually had the food ready (pretty much) on time. Also, we had no injuries, no broken toys, no spills, and no major fights. So the party totally goes down as a win in my book.


The only real hitch was this little guy:


He’s been like a big, flashing neon sign of hyped-up emotions lately. When our guests arrived, he was so EXCITED he ran around the house screaming and roaring, throwing himself on the floor once per lap to flail his limbs and scream some more.

When things didn’t go his way, he was so DISTRAUGHT he sobbed and carried on like he was experiencing an actual trauma. Not like his mother had just told him that no, he couldn’t go outside to play while he had dozens of guests in the house. Especially since it was raining.

Then of course when people started to leave, he became HYSTERICAL. He screamed and sobbed and sniveled, wet-faced and shaking, begging for hugs and kisses from the departing children. Those poor kids. No one wants to hug and kiss someone who looks like that. Still, a few of the kind souls obliged him.

After everyone left, my little guy calmed down considerably. He was really quite lovely. For about five hours. Then it was back to the grind.


Speaking of the grind, I have a potty training question for you experienced parents out there. Or, maybe it’s not so much a potty training question, because (other than nighttime) my three-year-old son is already potty trained. It’s just that he hates going to the bathroom if it’s not his idea. With a passion.

The child actually potty trained pretty easily. (I attribute this to waiting so long – more than 2.5 years – to work on it. By that time he was just really, really ready and it wasn’t that big of a deal.) He gets through most nights dry and he hasn’t had a true potty accident in weeks. And it’s common for him to just announce that he has to go and go ahead and go like it’s no big deal.

But. Almost every single time that we ask him to try to use the restroom, he fights us on it. (We ask him to go at pretty reasonable times, I promise you: when he first wakes up, when we’re about to leave the house, when it’s time for him to go to bed, or when we’ve noticed that it’s been hours since he’s gone.) We tell him that it’s okay if he doesn’t actually go, but that he has to at least try.)

Once he hears our request, he loses it: He claims he doesn’t have to go, he cries, he runs away, sometimes he throws himself on the floor. It’s lovely. But once we get him in the bathroom (sometimes we pick him up and bring him in there, sometimes he comes under threat of a time-out), he goes! He used to stop crying immediately, brighten up, and say (unprompted), “Oh, I did have to go potty! I’m sowwy, Mommy and Daddy!” But increasingly he continues to cry and claim he doesn’t have to go potty while he is actually going.

Any ideas as to what this is about or how to address it? We’re several months into this issue and it has gotten very, very old.


On to happier things. Yesterday we had our first snow of the season. (The first snow, a real snow, in a part of the country that’s not accustomed to getting much of the white stuff. So yes, this snow qualifies as happy!)

The morning was something of an adventure for us. We had planned to make the 9am mass and then head straight to a Christmas tree farm afterward to select our big, honkin’ tree. I’d packed sandwiches and snacks and everything. But as usual, we were running late. We were in the car and ready, but would have been embarrassingly late to mass, so we decided to switch the two agenda items. We went straight to the tree farm instead.


We selected one of the few remaining big ‘uns (12 feet!) as the snow began to fall at 9:30. By the time we were on our slow way 45 minutes later, the tree tied precariously to the roof of our minivan, everything was white. My Minnesota-born hubby, who is normally more than a little impatient with the local slow-snow drivers, was thankful for them this time, because of our Christmasy cargo. We munched sandwiches as we trudged through the snow, listening to Christmas music on the radio. It was really all very happy and festive.

Before mass

Before mass

We made it safely to our (rural) church and waited in the parking lot until it was almost time for the 11:30 mass. The church, which is usually filled to the gills with hundreds of people, had no more than 30 that morning. So intimate! And so revealing of wiggly, whispering, wanting-to-play-in-the-snow toddlers!

Really, it was fine. I was happy to have my whole family together at mass. (We spent most of September/October keeping one or both of the boys home because they had a series of awful colds and are too little to know how not to cough all over strangers. November was challenging because I had to cantor/sing in the choir a few weekends and Brennan doesn’t feel comfortable monitoring the boys by himself during mass.) And anyway, it was so lovely to watch that snow fall outside those tall church windows.

After mass

After mass

Still happily under the romantic spell of the swiftly-falling snow, my daring, brave Minnesotan chose to take the (unplowed?) curvy, hilly back roads home. The trip was a little stressful at times (like when we couldn’t see anything but white out the windshield), but we made it home safely. If only it hadn’t ended up taking Brennan five hours of shoveling, scraping, and snow-blowing to get the van all the way up our long, steep driveway.



While poor Brennan worked on the driveway, I took the boys out to play in the snow. Last winter was mild, so this was our two-year-old’s first opportunity. It was only the second or third for our three-year-old. Naturally, they were captivated.







So was I.





Have a great week everyone! Stay warm!

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

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!


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!

{pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 3)

In all honesty, I write this on one of those evenings when “contentment” doesn’t seem like the most natural thing to focus on. Not for any major reason; it’s just been one of those evenings when Daddy was home late and boys were challenging. (“They have been driving! me! crazy!” is how I put it to my husband.)

So. I sit here kind of huffing and grumbling and guiltily remembering how I yelled tonight.


But… contentment: this week’s contentment for {pretty, happy, funny, real}. It is, of course, something I should focus on. Especially at moments like these.



I’d do best to think of my big boy this way on evenings that frustrate me. Aren’t sleeping children always so pretty? He sure is, with his soft, round cheeks and his long eyelashes. Each time I catch him like this, I fall in love all over again.


I do the same with his brother, of course. He’s got the prettiest blonde hair and the sweetest little lips. And I just love his chubby, scraped-up, little-boy hands.


But, motherly mush and all, do you know what really made me happiest this week? This little scene:


We have a bedroom on our second floor that you have to walk through to get from one side of the house to the other. So it’s not exactly very private. And since we don’t need all of our bedrooms right now, I’ve made this one into a catch-all room of sorts. It’s for craft supplies and wrapping paper and sewing stuff and laundry sorting and ironing and file organizing – and it’s where everything gets dumped until it finds the right home elsewhere. I can’t tell you how much I love having such a room. It’s a homemaker’s fantasy, that’s what it is.


Anyway, up until this point its primary purpose has been the last one I mentioned. It’s where stuff gets dumped. So you can imagine what it’s been looking like, can’t you? It’s been pretty bad. Boxes, piles of papers, bags of forgotten things, random items scattered around the surfaces… and everything seems to be overflowing.

But! This past weekend I got a few hours to myself and I started to tackle the mess. I got this whole lovely corner clear, I set out a few pretties, and I (gasp!) even organized the closet:


I’m far from done, but I cannot describe to you how happy this progress makes me. Now all of my *wrapping materials, at least, are organized and in reach. So are our lightbulbs. And paper. And baby books. So now if I want any of these things, all I have to do is reach in and get them! I don’t have to fish them out from underneath a pile! What a concept. Now every time I walk through this room, it’s as if I’m taking in a breath of fresh air. It feels so good to have accomplished something, even if the something is very little in the scheme of things.


* What do you think of the cabinet I’m keeping my wrapping paper in? Isn’t it silly/wonderful? I’d been looking for something, anything to suit the purpose, when the people we bought our house from offered to sell us this cabinet for – get this – $20. (They’d felt bad selling it for more, as they’d drilled it full of holes, to fish Christmas lights through it.) I jumped at the offer. I couldn’t have found something ugly and poorly-made for that price, let-alone a hand-made, glass-fronted cabinet. Score!



Yes, they’re scrubbing the floor. Yes, they’re only 2 and 3 years old. Isn’t it funny? They have this pair of black-soled “fireman” rain boots that make terrible scuffs on the floor. Yesterday they ran loops around the kitchen while wearing the boots and I needed something to occupy them for a few minutes anyway. So I handed each a wet paper towel, asked them to clean up their mess, and they happily got to work scrubbing the scuff marks. Their work didn’t accomplish much, but they seemed to enjoy it and I sure did!


We have a lovely yard, but it’s not the easiest to take small children out into. Mostly because our house is set into a hill, so most of our property is either sloped or terraced. And also because we have a lot of brick patio, surrounded by brick walls. Here’s an example:



Beautiful, yes. But also dangerous. So when I take the boys out, I like to move them away from all the hazards and give them an open space in which to play.


They’re completely uninterested in this. The boys like the hazards very much and try to escape back to them whenever possible. Of course when I’m keeping tight enough control to prevent them from accessing the big hazards, they seek out little ones wherever they can find them.


It’s a constant struggle and to be honest, I really dislike taking them outside because of it. The other evening when I attempted some outside time, I sat in the grass and tried to soak it all in. It was a lovely evening. The boys were so happy to be out. I tried really, really hard to enjoy it too. But one boy or another kept running away. They kept not listening. They kept pouring dirt over each other’s heads. They kept throwing rocks. They kept fighting with sticks. They kept trying to love (i.e. squish) poor, defenseless caterpillars.



The evening was yet another reminder that I’m mothering boys here. Sometimes they seem like foreign creatures to me, with their drives to escape and tackle and tear down. I love them deeply; I love watching their faces light up with wonder and joy. And I know it’s good for them to be out here. But – as good as I know it to be – sometimes it’s hard for me to enjoy this outdoor time with them. Sometimes the real gets ahead of the contentment.




Be sure to stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter to see everybody else’s {pretty, happy, funny, real}!

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