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.

These Walls - Saturday Morning Sneak Peek - 1

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:

These Walls - Saturday Morning Sneak Peek - 2

Yes – we’re in for a good time.

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14 From ‘14

Merry Christmas to you! And a happy New Year too!

As we wrap up 2014, I thought I’d do a little recap o’ the blog to highlight some of my favorite posts from the year. (I’ll admit – it was pretty fun to scroll through them all.) And since I want to do you the favor of making it obvious as to why I chose these particular posts, I thought I’d include each in its own category. So… without further ado (since there’s plenty of it below)… here are 14 From ’14:

1. The most viewed post (and the closest to “viral” that I’ve ever gotten):

When Breast Isn’t Best

Wow. I knew this post in opposition (so to say) to Breastfeeding Awareness Week might attract a bit more attention than usual, but it went and blew “a bit more” out of the water. In the post’s first day, I received nearly ten times as many views as I usually do on post-publishing days and I more than doubled my best day ever. All told, the post has gotten more than a dozen times the views of my average post.

So let’s see… what element of the mommy wars should I tackle next?

(No, no – I’m kidding. Stoking fires just for the fun of it isn’t my thing – there are plenty of others you can go to for that.)

Doubly selfish: using formula and counting on the four-year-old to feed it to his brother.

Doubly selfish: using formula and counting on the four-year-old to feed it to his brother.

2. The post that was hardest to write:

It Is The Same Evil

This thing was a bear to get through. (ISIS? Evil? Hmm… I wonder why?) I worked on it for weeks – weeks in which I felt like I was trudging through mud every time I sat down at the computer. It definitely felt like there was some Resistance at play. When I finished writing the post, I could barely look at the thing, I was so unhappy with it. But with a little more distance, I’ve come to think I did a decent job of it.

3. The post with the best discussion in the combox:

Yes, I Worry About Religious Freedom

This post makes me so happy. Not because I think the piece itself was any work of art, but because it generated such a great discussion in the comments section. This (despite all my mommy ramblings about exhaustion and vomit) is why I started the blog – to encourage discourse on touchy, divisive, important matters of politics and society. Polite discourse, open-minded discourse, respectful discourse. I know this one little post was just the tiniest of drops in the bucket, but it’s my drop and I’m glad to have let it fall.

4. The post with the strangest subject matter:

The Best Possible Mugging

I had a mugging story. I had to tell it!

Yet another incongruous photo. It's not even Washington, it's Germany. But it was taken around the same time as the events in this post.

Yet another incongruous photo. It’s not even Washington, it’s Germany. But it was taken around the same time as the events in this post.

5. The post that would make the best sitcom episode:

Epilogue (Please) To The Day Of The Snake And The Water

Snake slithering out of a basket of my sons’ toys? Jumping toilets? Brown water shooting out of a toilet’s tank and at my face? It’s my own brand of slapstick!


6. The post that most pulls on my heartstrings:

Single Lady Gets A Family

During my single twenties, I began to think I might never have a family of my own. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am that I was wrong.


7. The funniest (in a desperate sort of way) post:

Think Of Your Closets

“If I had to choose one piece of advice to offer young people at this very moment, it would be: Don’t be a pack-rat. And if you absolutely can’t resist the urge to be a pack-rat, make sure to be an organized one.”


8. The bossiest post:

Why You Should Vote – Even When It Feels Like It Doesn’t Make A Difference

In which I use guilt and just a little bit of elections expertise to strong-arm you into becoming a regular voter.



9. The post with the most (and maybe the best?) pictures:

Taking A Weekend For Us

Brennan and I went away for a weekend before the baby was born – without our boys. It was heavenly. I took lots of pictures.


10. The post that best showcases my boys’ narcoleptic tendencies:

Greetings From The Land Of Nod… Nod… Nodding Off

New here? My boys fall asleep all. the. time. At the table, in the car, on the sofa, in the highchair, on the floor, in the shopping cart… And when I’m pregnant, I’m almost as bad as they are.


11. The post that seems most pertinent to the events of this week:

Courtney’s Love

Courtney Lenaburg, the beloved daughter of Mary from Passionate Perseverance, passed away this past Saturday morning. Courtney’s wake will be held tonight and her funeral tomorrow. Please keep the entire Lenaburg family in prayer during this very difficult time.

12: The post written with most love for my oldest:

What Matters To Him


13: The post written with most love for my middle:

This Child


14: The most consequential post:


I had a baby this year! Few things are of greater consequence than that!



I’m linking this up with Dwija’s 12 Photos in 2012 link-up at House Unseen, Life Unscripted. (12? 14? Photos? Posts? Close enough, right?) Be sure to stop there for more 2014 recaps — and much more beautifully-shot photos than my own.

I hope 2014 was kind to you. The year brought me some great challenges, but even greater blessings. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

A Note To My Four-Year-Old

If you have a day full of school and play, and

If you successfully fight off sleep during your mandatory “resting time,” and

If you pull out a looong piece of toilet paper to wind oh-so-carefully-and-tightly around the toilet paper holder*, and

If you shout a mean-spirited “NO!” to your mother as she puts you in Regular Time-out for the toilet paper offense, and

If your nasty “NO!” lands you in bed for More Serious Time-out, and

If you climb under the covers for a more comfortable punishment,




You might just fall asleep.

Sweaty, dirty, still fully clothed.

Sweaty, dirty, still fully clothed.


*He’s been warned.

Reset, Catch Up, Move On: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 31)

Well, hello there.

It’s good to be back on the blog after my month-long, completely unintended break. I wish I had tales of fabulous travel to make up for my time “away,” but no, we’ve been here the whole time. We’ve been busy, but just in the ways young families are apt to be: We spent time at the county fair, at parks, and at more playdates than I can count. We celebrated my father’s 60th birthday with a good ol’ Maryland crab feast. We’ve been meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. My son has started his second year of preschool and I’ve been trying to organize my home and my mind in preparation for the upcoming season of school, celebrations, and hopefully, writing.

And on that last count, I’ve been stuck.

I had a tremendous response to my last post, the one on breastfeeding (or rather, on not breastfeeding) and I kind of didn’t know what to do with it. So I thought I’d wait a few days to process everything. (Bad idea, Julie. Bad idea.) Soon enough I became caught up and weighed down by all those horrible events going on around the world and I figured I needed to write on them before I did anything else. But (surprise, surprise) they’re not the easiest to write on, and it didn’t take long before I was stuck in the mire, both mentally and spiritually. After a couple of weeks of unproductive writing, I decided to work on cleaning up my physical space so at least something would be heading in the proper direction.

It was the right decision. And it brings me to where I am today: Reset. Catch up. Move on.

What better way to do that than with a 7 Quick Takes?

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!


The biggest thing to happen in the past month, I suppose, is that my four-year-old started his second year of pre-school. I’m not the sappiest when it comes to the passage of time, but I admit that I’m really starting to feel the weight of having just one more year before I turn my first baby over to full-time, full-day school. Sniff, sniff.



His brothers and I went to the park to console ourselves.




When we returned to pick up our guy after his class, the little one up there in green gave his big brother one of the tightest, most earnest hugs around the neck ever. Gosh, next year’s going to be hard.


My actual baby (five months old yesterday!) has the most pathetic-sounding hoarse voice right now. When I brought it to my husband’s attention the other day, he looked at me with these dull, accusatory eyes and said, “It’s because he’s been screaming so much at night before you go in to get him.”


“No way!” I said, “I go in as soon as I hear him!” He just looked at me. With those eyes.

So that night, wouldn’t you know it, I woke in the middle of the night to find my husband standing in our room holding the unhappy baby. “He’s been screaming for quite a while,” he said over those awful, pathetic, hoarse little cries.

My poor baby. I don’t have a problem with babies being left to cry themselves to sleep when necessary, but how sad is it that my little guy has been screaming so much in the middle of the night that he’s gone hoarse? For no reason other than that I’ve been sleeping right through his cries? Oh, the guilt…


In my defense, though, I’ve been sleeping unusually poorly lately. This baby, like each of my boys, has always been a pretty good sleeper. Until the last few weeks. He seems to be in a phase (a growth spurt, maybe?) where he’s honest-to-goodness hungry in the middle of the night. I usually respond by offering him a pittance in the form of nursing for hours on end while I doze in the rocker. But frequently that’s not enough, so Brennan stumbles downstairs to make a bottle and I attempt to feed it to the baby without dropping either it or him. And every night lately I seem to find myself feeling around in the dark for my little pacifier-addict’s fix, praying and hoping that it does the trick so I don’t have to spend another couple of hours sitting on the tailbone killer.

Sleep, baby, sleep!

Sleep, baby, sleep!

Anyway, I don’t need to explain exhaustion to anyone who’s ever had a baby. I’ll just add that the situation has made me realize something: God sure knew what he was doing when he gave me the parenting cross (vomit) that he did. My boys have vomited enough to teach me that I’m actually pretty well-equipped to deal with the stuff. But exhaustion from the rare phases when my boys aren’t sleeping well? It makes me a wobbly, achy, dizzy, headachy crybaby. I’m being quite honest when I say I can hardly handle it.

I never thought I’d be grateful for vomit, but now I kind of am. At least, I’m grateful that I feel well-equipped to deal with our most bothersome parenting challenge.

What about you? What’s your parenting cross? Do you (strangely, maybe) feel that it suits you?


(Speaking of crosses…)

We’ve had another snake sighting. I was rounding the corner of the house to get the boys in the car when I saw it on the ground, just inches away from our feet. I LEAPT and ran and squealed and shuddered and my boys… they just stood there. They stared at me with gaping mouths and they were quick to not obey my pleas to RUN! GO BACK INSIDE! NO! COME HERE! JUST COME HERE AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Once they realized I was bleating on about a snake, they started in on the “But where is it? I want to see the snake! I want to see it! I wuv snakes!”


A few days later we had an exterminator here to check out some carpenter ants that my husband had discovered in the house. After he left, Brennan was updating me on what the exterminator had to say about the other pests we’ve had lately. (Bats, groundhogs, etc.)

Me: “What about the snakes?”

Him: “Snakes?”

Me: (Giving him the look this time.) “Yes, snakes.”

Him: “Oh! I didn’t even think about snakes. Did you want me to ask about snakes?”


Him: “Are you really concerned about them?”

Me: “Yes, I am concerned about the possibility of a nest of snakes under our parlor. I don’t exactly want more snakes slithering out of our children’s toys.”

So he proceeds to tell me how he found that some things in the basement had been disturbed and he figured it was probably because big, huge snakes had knocked them over while they were slithering every which way like they own the place. (Or something like that.)

That night I dreamed of snakes. Lots and lots of snakes. Everywhere.


A couple of weeks back we met some friends at a park and ended up having one of our coolest experiences all summer. The boys spotted one of these little guys:


And then another, and another… climbing out of a little mound in the playground mulch. They had just hatched! It was so exciting, like those films you see of baby sea turtles floundering toward the surf.


At first my friend and I wouldn’t let the boys touch the critters because we didn’t want them hurt. (The turtles, not the boys.) But then we realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea for baby turtles to be making their way to the middle of a playground on a bright, hot day with lots of littles swarming around. So we let our boys each pick up one or two and gently place them in the grass.


(I realize that somebody out there might scold us for this, maintaining that we should never disturb wildlife for any reason, but I was not about to allow baby turtles to be squished by running little boy feet if I could help it. For the turtles’ sake and the boys’.)




He’s pretending to be a turtle.

The boys were so sweet, and so interested. We could hardly divert them from their find for the rest of our visit. All I can think now is: Thank goodness it wasn’t snakes.


I’m a little hesitant to make this commitment, but I feel like I need to make some commitment to myself to get me back into writing regularly, so… here it goes…

I pledge to post every other day for the next two weeks.

It’s not quite 7 Posts in 7 Days, but for someone who hasn’t blogged for a month, it’s ambitious! Wish me luck, and stop on back to see if I keep my word.


Happy weekend, all! Don’t forget to stop over to Jen’s to check out all the other Quick Takers.

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

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

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









My oh my, does he LOVE the snow!


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



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



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


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

After mass

After mass

We got stuck coming up the driveway after mass.


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




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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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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?



7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 19)

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I’m sorry for throwing that brain cyst thing at you and then walking away for two weeks.

I didn’t mean to be absent for so long. And I certainly didn’t mean to worry any of my loved ones who have been stopping by the blog looking for an update.

It’s just that following up on all those medical questions takes a lot of work. In the past two weeks I have met with a dermatologist, a cardiologist, an Ear Nose Throat doctor, a neurosurgeon, and an obstetrician. And I’ve had an echocardiogram. That’s six separate medical appointments. Plus I attended a board meeting and I helped out at my older son’s preschool, leaving my younger boy at home. That’s a lot of looking for sitters.

So as you might expect, I’m tired. And my mind has been rather too occupied with pondering illness and trial and the small, beautiful things in life to generate an actual, ready-for-public-consumption, finished product. Also, I’ve had to be brutal in distinguishing between the have-to-do’s and the want-to-do’s. My attention has gone to my boys and to stacks of medical forms. (And laundry when I have absolutely nothing left to dress the boys in.) Most other things (ahem, cooking and dishes) have been left by the wayside. Thus too went the blog.


I remembered (too late) last week that it’s probably never a good idea to say to oneself before bed, “I am so tired. I’m really looking forward to a good, solid night’s sleep tonight because ohmygosh I need it so badly.” You know what happens when you say such things, don’t you? The small children on the other side of your house hear you and collude to disrupt your oh-so-badly-needed sleep. They wake up multiple times per night. They may even end up in bed with you, together, fidgeting and giggling away your hoped-for last precious hour of would-be sleep.

(Co-sleepers, I really, truly do not know how you do it. Anytime we’ve had the boys in our bed, they get little sleep and we get less. And we all suffer accordingly.)


That said, I actually had two solid, interruption-free, 8-hour nights of sleep last weekend. After the second, I couldn’t believe how alert and energetic I felt in the morning. “This is what it feels like to be well-rested!” I thought to myself. “This is marvelous!” and “I should do this more often!” and “I’m never going to make sleep a low priority again!”

I don’t even need to tell you what happened next, do I? Because you know: schedules, commitments, medical forms, boys’ nightmares… Lack Of Sleep.


Okay, enough with the sleep stuff. It’s about time I gave you a little update on all those doctors’ visits, isn’t it? Here’s the deal in a nutshell:

  • Dermatologist: “No problem! Don’t worry!”
  • ENT and cardiologist: “We don’t think there’s a problem, but we need a bit more information before we can be sure.”
  • Neurosurgeon: “You have two potentially serious problems. But don’t go getting yourself all worried about them, because (1) due to the pregnancy, we’re not going to know anything more about them for at least a year and (2) there’s really no rush anyway, because both problems are years away from becoming truly problematic.
  • Obstetrician: “Baby looks good! Let’s just keep tabs on everything else.”


As I indicated above, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about trials in life and how we react to them. Personally, I tend to be a positive, glass-is-half-full, optimistic kind of person. So when these thoughts started running through my head two weeks ago, all I could think of was how comically, joyfully absurd my old stories of misfortune seemed to me now. I wrote a light-hearted piece on the subject… and then I didn’t post it.

I’d already felt a little silly to be extolling the “don’t let things get to you!” mindset when my own personal trials didn’t seem all that serious to me. I thought of people who’d been through much more serious ordeals and who (understandably) couldn’t move on. But then I happened to hear a few stories of people who lived through the most sobering and serious of trials, and still preferred to find the positive in their experiences. I was awed, and humbled, and taken down a few notches from my “delight in absurdity!” perch.

And then a few days ago the neurosurgeon told me that I might have a couple of my own serious trials ahead. He expects that the spine situation (herniated disc; vertebrae situated how they shouldn’t be) will get worse. Ultimately, he expects that I’ll need spinal surgery. (Remember that the problematic part of the spine is in my neck. For some reason, the prospect of spinal surgery in my neck is so much scarier to me than if it were my back.) Less certain, but perhaps more scary, is the (remote) chance that the brain cyst could impact my ocular nerve and cause me to go blind. There is only a small chance that this will happen, so I’m not panicking. I am, however, saddened at the thought that sometime in the future, I might lose my ability to see my family… and sunsets… and autumn leaves… and the written word.


But even with this news, I felt a redoubling of my conviction that positivity in the face of trial is the way to go. There is so much we can’t control in our lives: we can’t prevent all illness, we can’t protect from all harm, we can’t stop all misfortune. But we can control our reactions. Maybe not our first reactions, but certainly our processing of the situations and the ways in which we allow them to affect our lives.

When I think about positivity in the face of adversity, I feel like I’m touching on a powerful truth, a good. I feel hopeful and at peace. How could I choose any other path?

The above thought process brought me to the realization that all of that positivity-in-the-face-of-adversity stuff is part of the same story. Finding the joyful absurdity in small trials, the admirable strength in serious ones, the quiet hopefulness in those you see coming – they are all good, and they are all connected. I think I might go ahead and post that lighthearted piece after all. And then follow it with another, more serious one. Neither part of the story is less valid than the other.


Was that heavy enough for your Friday afternoon? How about we finish off these “Quick” Takes with some sweet pictures of toddler Halloween celebrations?

At our house, we had a “Big Gween Dwagon With Fire” and a “Bwave Knight.



Gotta love the preschool Halloween parades!




He seems to take the knight thing very seriously.



I don’t at all consider this to be a crafty blog, but I do enjoy being crafty when the occasion presents itself. I didn’t take a single in-process photo, but here’s how I made the boys’ costumes, in case you’re curious:


  • I purchased a gray sweat suit, a loosely-knit gray/silver scarf scattered with a few sequins, a patterned gray/silver scarf, a loosely-knit gray/silver cap, and a child’s set of shield/swords (all from Walmart).
  • The sweat suit went on first, with no alterations.
  • The loosely-knit scarf was cut to the appropriate length (about three feet for my two-year-old), folded in half, and a head-sized slit was cut into the middle of the folded edge. It went on (just slipped over my boy’s head) after the sweat suit.
  • The other scarf was tied around his waist.
  • The tassles and pom were cut off the hat and it was set on his cute little head.
  • I handed him his shield and a sword, and we were done!



  • I purchased a green sweatshirt, two pairs of green sweatpants, a loosely-knit green cap with a rim on the front, a tightly-knit green cap, and two loosely-knit (one orange, one gold) scarves (all from Walmart). I also purchased some patterned brown felt, some (red, yellow, and white) foam sheets, some batting, and some googly eyes (from Michaels).
  • I cut the brown felt to size and glued it to the front of the sweatshirt (which conveniently covered a design on the front of the shirt). I also cut two small circles (for nostrils) and two triangles (for ears) from the felt.
  • I left one pair of the sweatpants alone. With the other, I made the tail: I cut away one of the legs, leaving the waistband intact and some extra fabric at the top. I folded the extra fabric over and sewed it in place to cover the hole left at the top of the remaining leg. I then stuffed the leg with batting and sewed the bottom of the leg shut.
  • I stuffed the tightly-knit green cap with batting and sewed it shut. I then place it on top of the rim to the loosely-knit green cap and sewed it on.
  • I cut teeth and fire (in three layers) from the foam sheets. The fire was hot-glued to the rim of the loosely-knit cap (just under where the tightly-knit cap was sewn on). The teeth were glued to the underside of the tightly-knit cap. The nostrils were glued onto its top side. The ears were glued onto the top of the loosely-knit cap. The googly eyes were glued onto its front.
  • I cut each of the (orange and gold) loosely-knit scarves into three pieces. The longest was sewn down the back of the tail. The next was sewn down the back of the shirt. The shortest was sewn down the back of the hat.
  • The sweat suit went on my boy first, then the tail, then the hat.







Have a great weekend, everyone! I hope you had a fun Halloween and you’re having a happy All Saints Day today! Be sure to jump on over to Jen’s to check out the rest of the Quick Takes.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 4)

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— 1 —

This has been one of those weeks when I feel like I’m behind on every front: My house is a mess; piles of (possibly damp and smelly) dirty laundry and baskets of unfolded, clean (yet probably still smelly) laundry seem to be taunting me; a rotating collection of dirty dishes has been occupying my kitchen counters; I owe a long list of emails and phone calls; I’ve been getting to bed too late and my boys have been waking up during the night (usually with their sheets soaked – seven crib sheets in three days!); and my list of interesting-looking articles to read has been growing and growing…

I guess I feel like I should be caught up on something. Like, if I’m going to neglect my house, at least my mind should be stimulated with interesting reads. Or if I’m not responding to people’s emails, it should be because I was busy eliminating the mountains of laundry and dishes.

— 2 —

Also, someone has vomited every day this week. As anybody who is friends with me on Facebook knows, my boys are prolific vomiters. Some parents deal with children who won’t sleep through the night, or are picky eaters, or throw major tantrums. Ours vomit. All the time. And it’s not because they’re sick – we’ve never been so unfortunate as to have a stomach virus visit us. (I say with trepidation, because you know that once I say it, we’ll get one.) The boys are gaggers. We have to go to ridiculous lengths to feed them food in such a way that they won’t gag and vomit. And when we get a respiratory bug with phlegm and coughing: Watch Out.

Anyway, last week I made the stupid mistake of saying to my husband, “Can you believe that we’ve gone almost a month without anybody throwing up? Maybe the boys have finally outgrown it! And even if they’ve haven’t entirely, at least #2 knows to lean over the side of his booster seat so he doesn’t get it on his clothes anymore and #1 runs to get a bowl to catch it! Win, win! I barely even have a mess to clean up anymore!”

Yeah. So on Sunday, the little one throws up on his Grandpa. (Sorry, Dad!) On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, he throws up all over himself. On Wednesday, the big one gets carsick and throws up all over himself and his car seat. Once again, I have a load of vomity clothes to deal with. And a car seat to clean.

— 3 —

But. Yesterday when I came up the driveway, I saw this:


Isn’t it lovely? And have you ever seen a hydrangea with both blue and pink blooms? When I saw the bush after a long day out with the boys, I had kind of a funny response:

Wow, that’s beautiful. I love hydrangeas. I should cut some to put in vases around the house. That little white pitcher would look really nice filled with hydrangeas and placed on the kitchen mantle. But it’s covered with junk right now. What’s the use of going through the effort of cutting and arranging flowers when the house is so messy? I should clean. Really clean. I should do a big push and get the house in great shape and put hydrangeas everywhere.

Makes sense, right? That a five-second glance at a flowering shrub would turn into enthusiasm for cleaning my house? Whatever; I don’t care where the enthusiasm came from. After a week of vomit and no sleep and peed-on sheets, I’ll take whatever enthusiasm I can get. So let’s see what I can do today: Dishes and laundry and junk, here I come! Hydrangeas, don’t fail me!

— 4 —

I have to admit that part of the reason (besides the rough recovery from a full weekend and the boys not sleeping and the vomiting) that I’ve been in a funk this week (and btw, Grace Patton had a good post this week on being in a funk) is that I spent a couple of nights staying up waaay too late writing blog posts.

I am someone who is very easily distracted; I can’t concentrate well when there’s commotion around me. (Rachel Balducci had a good post this week about needing quiet in order to write.) So starting a blog with two toddler boys in the house was a great idea, wasn’t it? With my days full of monster roars and “pwetend kitty-cats” mewing at my feet and boys who like to act, alternately, like rock stars or members of a marching band, the quiet of a late-night, everybody-is-asleep-but-me house is oh so enticing. Enter one, two, or ahem three o’clock bedtimes. With 3:30 wake-up calls from a soaking wet 20-month-old. Yes, sometimes I am brilliant.

I’m nearly a month into the blog now and I’m trying to figure out how best to fit it into my life. Right now I feel like I’m in the trying-it-on phase. I’m hoping (hoping!) that once I’ve done it for a little while and examined its impact on the rest of my life, I can find the right balance of writing time to housework time to time with the boys. In the past year or so, I’ve done a pretty decent job of establishing some general guidelines for running my home and schedule to minimize my stress. Soon I’ll need to recalculate them to account for the blog.

— 5 —

In particular, I want to make space in my schedule to take on some meaty subjects. I was decently well-pleased with how these longer, more serious posts on my background, immigration, and parental love turned out. And I’ve done a few shorter ones that fall into the same mold. But I feel like most of what I’ve been writing so far has been light and focused on my home life. And though there’s nothing wrong with that (and I very much enjoy reading such things from other bloggers!), I’d like to keep a steady pace of at least one or two more meaty posts a week.

Like I said when I started the blog, I want this space to become a comfortable place for readers to dialog on some societal/religious/political issues. I don’t have in mind a certain number of visitors I want to attract; I only hope it’s enough to generate some good discussion in the comments section. So, (hint, hint!) speak up if you have something to say! For my part, I’ll try to keep up that steady pace.

Here are a few topics I’m thinking about right now, and on which I plan to write once I’ve read up on some of those interesting articles I mentioned in #1: The worth of the individual, religious freedom, Pope Francis and the liberal/conservative split, and global poverty. I hope you’ll come back to weigh in!

— 6 —

I spent a long time Wednesday night cooking a very complicated meal for my husband. On the one hand, doing so made me feel like a very good wife, because it took FOUR hours and like a million steps and it involved a couple of his favorite dishes: Spaghetti Bolognese (as in the real deal, with carrots and mushrooms, veal/pork/beef, wine, etc.) and a dark chocolate tart with a gingersnap crust (which, to be honest, sounds fancy and tastes divine, but isn’t all that hard to make).

Father's Day Dinner, 2013But on the other hand, Wednesday night made me feel like a bad wife, because (1) dinner wasn’t ready until 10pm, which (2) meant that the boys got their standard hot dogs instead of partaking in the deliciousness, (3) the whole reason we had a fancy dinner on Wednesday was to celebrate a belated Father’s Day because I wasn’t prepared on Sunday. (I’m blaming that one on our family reunion and the celebration of our son’s birthday, both this past weekend.) And (4) one of our gifts for my husband was the oh-so-thoughtful catalog in a gift bag, so he could pick out which item he wanted. (Though I was thoughtful about which catalog it was: The Great Courses, because we’re the kind of nerds who like to listen to recordings of university lectures.)

J Coloring Card

Working on a Father’s Day card for his grandpa — also belated.

— 7 —

I’ll sweeten the end of this mildly negative Quick Takes by leaving you with some of the cute/funny/stinkerish/sweet things our big 3-year-old boy said this week:

“I’m havin’ a bad, wough day!”

After being put into time-out for yelling a nasty “No, Mommy!” at me:
“I sorry for sayin’ a bad no to you, Mommy.”

“Dere’s a bug in my back! Es eatin’ me!”
(There actually was a bug under the back of his shirt; it was not eating him.)

“Yiyons and mans and bears, oh my!”

Lunging and dancing while singing into his new toy microphone:
“I yike a wock sar!”

Pointing out the sunset:
“Yook! A boo-ful sy!”

Just after I walked away from him and his little brother, who was pretending to be a cat. I’d heard the little one scream and marched back into the room, asking big brother what he’d done.
Him: “I hit da cat.”
Me: “Do you mean you hit your brother?”
Him: “No. I hit da cat.”
Me: “Did you hit the cat that is your brother?”
Him: “Yes.”

After I gave a quick kiss to his injured thumb:
“No, not a pwetend kiss! I want a weal kiss yike diss.”
(He demonstrates.)

“I’m a man washin’ my hands.”

Him: “Mommy! Da table is waffin’ at me!”
Me: “The table is laughing at you? Why?”
Him: “Because, es funny! I bedder take a nap.”
(He lays his head down on the table.)

Dark Chocolate Tart

“Dis is a tart.”

At the playground as I was pushing him on the swings:
“You’re good. You’re a nice mommy. Sank you pushing me SO fast.”

Now be sure to go vist Jen and all the rest of the Quick Take’ers!