Snapshot Saturday: State of the 31 (7QT, Vol. 42)

(Everyday Bravery, Day 7)

Oh, no – I’m falling behind! I’m pretty sure that when you do the Write 31 Days challenge you’re supposed to actually, you know, publish a blog post on each of those 31 Days. I’m not too far off from that, but I’m not quite there either. (I missed two days last week, but I actually wrote all seven posts. One was published earlier today and the other will be published on Monday.)

I’ll get there. Or I won’t quite, but I’ll still have done much more blogging than I normally do, and I’ll have learned some good lessons along the way.

At least that’s my hope.

So far I’m having Lots of Dramatic and Gloomy Reactions to undertaking this little experiment, plus a few that aren’t so negative. They’ll probably only be of interest to, like, five of my blogging friends, but I’m going to list them anyway. (Along with a photo, because I’d planned to show you a photo every Saturday and include a story about the bravery I was feeling when it was taken. This Saturday all I feel like writing are the Lots of Dramatic and Gloomy Reactions, so you’re getting a photo of my desk. Just imagine all my angst shoving my bravery right out of that space.)

Oh, and I’m linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes, because my list happens to contain seven items. (Follow the link to check out all the other Quick Takers!)

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—1—

I’m tired. I’ve been staying up late nearly every night to write and then getting up early to do the same. So I’ve only been getting five to six (interrupted, because kids) hours a night, and it’s wearing me thin. I need to do something about this before I get sick.

—2—

Few people are reading my posts. I haven’t been getting many views in the past several months because I’ve done so little blogging. Which is fine – that makes complete sense. But I was hoping that with this Write 31 Days project, I could build my numbers back up. I figured I could at least get to where I was a year or so ago and I was super hopeful that I could do better than that. Instead, so far I’ve been getting something like a third of the views I was back then. And I lost several followers on my Facebook page. Which is a big bummer, because . . .

—3—

This is hard work. My mind is constantly ‘on,’ I’m jotting down notes wherever I can, and I’m sneaking up to my desk every chance I get. I push a post into existence, and then once I post it, I feel all angsty until I can determine how it’s received.

—4—

This has been a hard week. Lots of people I love are hurting or anxious or stressed or just dealing with a lot these days. They’ve had hard times of it lately and will continue to for the foreseeable future. I’m here at home, hurting for them. And wishing I could do something more concrete.

—5—

I can be an insufferable know-it-all. I don’t know why this realization (which is always kind of in the back of my mind) has become so prominent to me all of a sudden, but it’s there. It’s there telling me to put my nose down, be quiet, and just leave everybody and everything the heck alone. Hmpf.

—6—

Maybe I should just give up the blog. Maybe I shouldn’t even finish this #write31days thing. Maybe I should just throw in the towel and go clean my house and read to my kids and bake a pie or something. Because this is hard work and life is hard enough already and I’m not getting enough sleep and nobody’s reading what I write anyway.

—7—

But all that drama and doubt aside, I think I’m starting to learn some practical, constructive lessons here. I’m starting to learn to write a little faster, to be a little less of a perfectionist, to take more risks. I’m discerning my most productive times for and methods of writing. I’m learning that I don’t need to step away from social media entirely, but I do need more screen-free periods in my day for peace and productivity. I’m learning to focus more on my writing while I write, more on my house while I do its work, and more on my kids while I’m caring for them.

Those are good lessons. So for now, I’m just going to keep pushing ahead, keep working with what I’m learning. I think good things will come of this project even if those good things don’t include higher viewing stats. And if I get to the end of it and decide I need a blogging break, well then . . . I’ll go bake some pies. November will be a nice month for that anyway.

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~~~

This post is the seventh in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

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~~~

Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

 

Sunday Coffee

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

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

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

First

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

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

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

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

Next

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

Then

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

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

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

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Finally

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your Sunday!

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Three Year Itch

It’s been almost three years, you know. Three years since I began trading disaster-kitchens and toddler TV time for (interrupted) hours of mental stimulation courtesy of this little blog.

Goodness, how I miss it.

I’ve tried to be practical these last several months. We’ve been in survival mode or by-golly-I’m-going-to-make-all-this-work-somehow mode for most of that time, and I just haven’t felt like I could afford the luxury of writing (much). I’ve been pushing through my days, running running running (with the notable exception of social-media-fueled nursing sessions) from early morning to late night, desperately trying to get a handle on my mothering and housekeeping responsibilities.

And surprise, surprise – I can’t seem to keep up. No matter what little enjoyments I deny myself, there’s always something (lots of somethings!) left to do.

So at this point – nearly three months after baby #4’s birth and nearly three years after the blog’s – I’m ready to throw up my hands and say, “Hey, if it’s not going to all get done anyway, I may as well have a little fun around here.”

Tonight, I’m leaving the kitchen a disaster. Tonight, I’m eating a brownie and tapping away at my computer and scratching the itch that is wanting-so-badly-to-be-writing-but-never-feeling-like-I-have-the-time.

The blog will mark its third anniversary at the end of this month. To celebrate, I plan to gift myself with 30 minutes a day in which to just sit and write. (Dishes be damned.) I plan to publish blog posts (probably just short, simple ones – but still!) three times a week. And I’m going to work on a few “housekeeping” changes to the blog that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

I hope you’ll come back to check them out. ‘Till then!
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Lately

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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Another to Love

On Saturday I wished a happy Independence Day to my friends and family and the blog’s Facebook page with the following photo, captioned:

Happy Fourth of July from me and my FOUR!

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Yes! We’re expecting our fourth baby! This newest little guy/gal (who are we kidding – it’s probably a guy) is due to arrive around January 31st, 2016. I’m currently about ten weeks along.

In the interest of openness / I can’t seem to get anything else posted these days anyway, I thought I’d pre-emptively answer a few of your questions. (Assuming your questions are anything like the others I’ve received lately.)

1) How are you feeling?

Awful. Thanks for asking.

I’m not actually throwing up, so I know I shouldn’t be complaining (especially because I have a couple of relatives who had that truly awful hyperemesis gravidarum – IV’s and hospitalizations and all), but being nauseous all day, every day really sucks.

(Can I say here how appreciative I am of my ability to get pregnant and how much I love and empathize for my friends who are unable to? And that I realize I’ve been given a tremendous gift in this child? But… that… um… I still don’t like feeling so sick all the time?)

My afternoons have been especially bad, leaving me lying on the sofa trying to keep it together while my boys use me as a prop in their doctor/hairdresser/wild animal play.

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2) Are you hoping for a girl this time?

Yes. Absolutely. You will not catch me denying it.

Were we trying for a girl? Nope – but do I relish the idea of pretty little dresses and dolls and pink finally making their way into this overly-boyish home? YES.

Not that I think our chances are all that great. Last week I found out that my two girlfriends who had their firsts the same year I did and are now expecting their fourths have each stuck with their own streaks: one is expecting her fourth girl and the other is expecting her fourth boy. So even though I greet 3 boy/1 girl families with “You give me hope!” I can’t help but think our own family is in this all-boy thing for the long haul.

Not that I’d mind having another boy! My boys are three of the best things to ever happen to me and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not for girls, not for the world. Should Little One #4 prove to be another boy, I’m sure I’ll feel the same about him.

Indeed, I think my husband would be very happy to welcome another boy. When I announced my pregnancy to him, this big grin spread across his face and he said, long and slow, “Four boys!”

3) What do your boys think about welcoming another baby into the family?

They’re thrilled! They want to know how big the baby’s getting and what she looks like, when they can feel her move in my belly and when she’ll come out. (I say “she” and “her” because they’ve decided they’d like a “sister baby” this time, so of course the baby has got to be a girl. I keep reminding them that they might be getting another brother.)

The five-year-old told me (very seriously) that he knows how much work babies are, so he’ll be sure to help us take care of this new one.

The three-year-old keeps telling people, “My Mommy’s going to have two babies!” To which I quickly follow up: “He means our current baby and the new one. We keep trying to tell him that his little brother will no longer be a baby by the time this new one is born!”

The fifteen-month-old is clueless. It’s probably better that way.

4) Are you sure you’re only ten weeks along? And that you’re not having twins? Because I see that picture of you up there and you definitely look more pregnant than you should.

(Note: This one really should be addressed to nice old ladies at church and kind but nosy grocery clerks.)

Yes, I’m sure about the date and I’m sure I’m not having twins. Yes, I concede that I look more pregnant than I should. Welcome to my world. Some women are shaped like apples, some like pears – I’m shaped like pregnancy.

I don’t really look all that different now than I did before I became pregnant, it’s just that now that I feel so gross, I figure I may as well wear comfy maternity clothes.

That said, I’ve actually lost a few pounds so far from not eating much, yet my non-maternity clothes are fitting a little more snugly around the waist. So I guess my body is already changing shape? I suppose that’s what you get when you’re pregnant for the fourth time in six years!

5) So are we ever going to see you around these parts again? Why haven’t you been blogging lately?

Sadly, I have to point you back to #1. I was so excited at the beginning of the summer to really dig into some good writing, but for the past month I’ve just been feeling so sick. Not only do I feel nauseous and woozy, but I swear my brain has been affected. I have been writing, but I’m having such a hard time putting my ideas together and tying up loose ends that I haven’t been able to finish anything.

Remember that mother’s helper I have coming once a week to watch my boys so I can get in some writing? Well, since the morning sickness kicked in, I’ve spent a couple of those mornings wrestling with words and ideas that just won’t fit into place. And during the other, I took a nap.

I’ve probably got another three to four weeks of feeling sick. I’m really looking forward to August. Though I expect to start feeling better just in time for my mother’s helper to head off to college. (Gah!)

I’m not giving up entirely – I’m going to keep plugging away, keep trying to finish my thoughts – I just can’t make any promises that I’ll succeed.

Until then – whenever “then” may be – I hope you’re well and that you’re enjoying a fun, relaxing summer. I’ll be right here, probably lying on the sofa, surrounded by my hooligans – and waiting on another to love.

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A Summer of Writing

This morning I sat in a scene I’ve been fantasizing about – a clear desk, a cup of coffee, a fresh Word document on my laptop, open shutters looking out onto my green lawn, and four hours of uninterrupted time to myself.

Pinch me.

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Flowers! I even had a bouquet of fresh flowers!

I sit on the cusp of what I hope will be a summer of peace and productivity. Or at least, more peace and productivity than I’m accustomed to. I have a good start: my house is (mostly) reasonably clean, I’m (mostly) caught up on my laundry, I have a sitter scheduled for (most) every Wednesday morning this summer, and I have another I can call for the times when I just need to catch up.

So I suppose it’s time to put my theories to the test. It’s time for me to stop complaining about how overwhelmed I feel, how I can never get ahead, how I don’t have time to write. It’s time for me to make good use of the order and (relative) freedom I now find myself with so I can be more deliberate in the running of my household and more patient with my family.

It’s time for me to reside in these quiet moments and make something of them.

No! Pressure!

Last week marked the blog’s second anniversary and I did absolutely nothing to celebrate it. But I have been working on a modest little re-vamp, so as to better organize my content and (hopefully) better represent who I am and what I write about.

I’ve been trying to read more of what inspires my mind to chew, to drill, to toss around – and less of what merely entertains.

I’m thinking about why I write and what I hope to accomplish and how to strike the right balance between conveying my family’s goings-on inside these walls and my thoughts on the world outside them.

I mean to improve my outreach to others and my responsiveness to those who come to me.

I’m excited. And nervous. But mostly excited.

Do you have wisdom to share on this front? Suggestions as to bloggers or columnists or publications I should follow? (Related to politics/morality/society/religion, please.)

Are there topics you’d like for me to tackle? Can you think of projects/link-ups/writing relationships that I should pursue? Hit me!

Thank you for anything you can offer. I hope to be “seeing” you in this space more regularly this summer. Once I settle on a publication schedule, complete my re-vamp, etc. I’ll be sure to share them with you.

For now, I just hope you can get a few moments of peace yourself sometime soon – maybe even with a clear desk and a cool, drizzly green view.

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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?

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—1—

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.

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

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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.

—2—

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.”

WHAT?!

“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…

—3—

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?

—4—

(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!”

—5—

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?”

Me:

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.

—6—

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:

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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.

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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.

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(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’.)

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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.

—7—

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.

Blogging Challenge (Ready Or Not), Here I Come

Oh, how tired I am. As much as I’d love to snuggle up with the boys and “watch” (that is, fall asleep as soon as my body hits the sofa) Cars with them for the umpteen millionth time, I don’t think going to sleep for the night at 5:30 pm is the most responsible thing for a mother to do. Especially when Daddy’s elbow-deep in a painting project and she’s set to stick dinner in the oven at 7:00.

So I thought I’d try to keep myself awake by doing some writing – you know, to occupy the mind while still letting the tired old bones rest for a bit.

And I thought I’d hop on here to (re)announce that I’ll be participating in Conversion Diary’s 7 Posts in 7 Days challenge. I know, I know – I honestly don’t know how I’m going to manage it when I can hardly keep my eyes open past 1pm. But I’m going to give it a shot.

I’ve got my week’s posts planned out in my head with a few already started. Hopefully the topics will cooperate, letting me wrestle the right words into place.

I hope you’ll stop by each day this week (Monday the 24th through Sunday the 2nd) to see what I’ve got to share. Also, be sure to hop on over to Jen’s to check out the 154 (so far!) other bloggers taking part in the challenge. I’ve already found a few gems clicking through the links. I look forward to seeing what people come up with this week!

“See” you tomorrow!

This First Year Of Blogging: “Most” Posts and 2013 in 13 Photos

As we wrap up 2013 (Happy New Year, everyone!) and my first (calendar) year of blogging draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect a little on how it (the blogging thing, that is) has all gone.

Fortunately, two bloggers currently have link-ups that facilitate my reflection quite nicely. So, I’m game. And I’m totally going to cheat by doing both link-ups in one post. Sarah of Amongst Lovely Things is hosting a link-up of bloggers’ “Most” Posts of 2013: those with the most clicks, most comments, etc. Dwija of House Unseen, Life Unscripted is hosting one on 2013 in 13 Photos.

Below, I give you both. Plus some reflections on this first year (er… seven months — I started the blog at the tail-end of May) of blogging.

First, Sarah’s prompts:

Post With The Most Clicks

My most-viewed post, by far, was “A Crazy Good Night,” about attending Like Mother, Like Daughter’s “Crazy DC Meet-Up” this summer. I wish I could take more credit, but LMLD’s “Auntie” Leila linked to it on her blog’s Facebook page (so exciting!), which explains all the traffic.

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Digging a little deeper, my next most-viewed post can also be credited to a (much) bigger blogger than myself. Grace of Camp Patton hosted a “How We Met” link-up, which has attracted a steady stream of traffic to this post for months.

And I’m just a tad embarrassed that I’ve got to dig down to number three to find a post that doesn’t owe its popularity to another blogger. Rather, it owes its popularity to a baby. Last month’s gender reveal announcement drew plenty of curious onlookers.

Post With The Most Comments

This would be “7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 14),” in which I announced my pregnancy. People are so nice… (Insert mental image of a smiley, grateful Julie.)

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Post With The Best Picture

Oh, so many pictures… so hard to choose. I think I’ll just go with this one, which is fresh from yesterday’s post, “Oh, Boys.” It represents life in our home quite well, I think. (And when I posted it on Facebook, my brother observed that it looked like my boys had murdered a snowman.)

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Post That Was Hardest To Write

That would have to be the one that took almost a week to write and nearly a month to move past: “The Weirdest of Them All.” Spinal injury + brain cyst = hard to write. (For an update on the medical situation, check out the post’s follow-up.)

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Post That Was Your Personal Favorite

This is another tough one to choose. I think I’m going to have to go with “On Abortion: Paul Ryan and Two Simple Questions.” I like to think of this blog as a mix of family/parenting/household stuff and political thought, but in all honesty, I’ve done far more of the former than the latter. I like that this post was firmly in the meaty/political/philosophical camp. I also like that I was able to capture my thought process on this most difficult of subjects in what (I think) was a clear, logical way.

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Okay, on to the second part of this post – seven more photos from this year to round out Dwija’s “2013 in 13 Photos.” I’m going to go with more pics that represent favorite posts:

I Don’t Treasure Every Moment

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7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 22): Thanksgiving Edition

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On Perspective… And Laundry

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The Glamorous Looking-Back

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The Blue-Sky Day

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That Mommy Dance

Playground Climbing

A Love That Changes You

Ring Bearer

And third, (for anyone who’s still here!) some reflections on this first year of blogging:

Because I’m something of a numbers girl, I have to report that this here post is my 73rd. When I hit 50 posts in September, I was hopeful that I could get to 100 by the end of the year. But then I got that medical news, which tripped me up for about a month. And, you know… the holidays… and life… so I didn’t get anywhere close. Still, I’m proud of 73 posts in my first calendar year. That averages to about 10 posts a month and between two and three posts per week. Not bad for someone who has never been able to keep up journal writing for longer than a week at a time.

In a particularly angsty post from August, I described my reasons for blogging. In the interest of not re-creating the wheel (and at the risk of seeming a little full of myself), I’m just going to go ahead and quote what I wrote back then:

As much as I aim to write things that other people will want to read, at the end of the day, I have to write this blog for me.

Yes, there is this and this. Yes, I’d love to attract readers and get some interesting back-and-forth going in the comment sections. Yes, I love hearing that something I’ve written has amused or touched someone. Yes, I’d like to avoid hurting or even annoying people with my writing. But These Walls is really for me. It gives me an avenue to work through my thoughts and ideas and it allows me to feel like I’ve said my piece on subjects that matter to me.

I also write this blog for my boys. Hopefully I’ll live a long life and I’ll always have strong relationships with them both. But you never know. One of my worst fears is that something should happen to prevent me from raising my sons. And almost as bad is the idea that something should happen to estrange us in their adulthood. Unfounded as those fears are, I am comforted by the idea that should they (heaven forbid) ever materialize, the words I write here give me another shot at reaching out to my boys. I like to think they would give my boys a sense of my love for them, of the way I see the world, and the values I hope to impart to them.

Besides, These Walls has got to be for me (and my boys). There’s no possible way I can please or even interest everyone else. And there’s no way I can wholly avoid annoying/offending/hurting every single person who stops by this blog. All I can ever do is write posts that I like and that I can confidently stand behind. That’s it.

I’ve been trying to keep all this in mind. “I write this blog for me… avenue to work through my thoughts and ideas… allows me to feel like I’ve said my piece. I write this blog for my boys… gives them a sense of my love for them… the way I see the world… the values I hope to impart to them.” Those phrases have become something of a mantra to me. I revisit them to keep myself on-course as I write.

I am a slow writer. I rely on multiple drafts to get things right and I’m deliberate about the words I choose. It usually takes two to three days for me to write a post. And I’ve sunk far too much time into many a half-written post that may or may not ever see the light of the internet.

But I’m okay with that. Because “all I can ever do is write posts that I like and that I can confidently stand behind.”

So, I’m feeling pretty good about this first year of blogging. By and large, I like what I wrote. I feel happier and more peaceful for having pounded it out. I need to do a better job of balancing writing time with my responsibilities to my family, but I do feel like this blogging thing is valuable enough to deserve some small part of my time. At the end of this first year, I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 17)

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

— 1 —

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

Sorry.

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

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

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

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

— 2 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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— 3 —

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

WHAT?

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

— 4 —

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

— 5 —

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

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

— 6 —

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

— 7 —

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

 

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