6/21/2018

this is why we can't have nice things (and shouldn't always want them)


The world, it seems, was created for throw pillows.

And light gray upholstered furniture. And white rugs. And delicate vases on coffee tables.

The world consists of trendy home stores and "master bedroom reveal" blog posts. Even my own daydreams are filled with the stuff of grown-up living and kid-free zones (hey, I'm guilty of this myself). Just today I was spot-cleaning a throw pillow cover which up til now had escaped the perils of the laundry room, but this morning was mouthed by a child who had just consumed a bowl of half-frozen, extra juicy blueberries. No good pillow goes unmarked.

Saturday night of Father's Day weekend, Sean and I shopped around for some new outdoor folding chairs. We ultimately decided on a sturdy pair of these, but we poked through the "outdoor seating" departments of a few big box stores to get an idea of what else was out there.

Ha. You know what's out there? Outdoor throw pillows. Outdoor light gray upholstered furniture. Outdoor rugs, and delicate things to put on your outdoor coffee table.

All in all, it's stuff of such quality and expense that I wouldn't even want to put it in my living room, because it's TOO NICE, and my kids would stain in in two hours flat.

And so hubby and I sighed and laughed, and talked about how when we don't have little kids with blueberry-stained mouths running around, maybe then we'll buy outdoor furniture like this.

And therein, I believe, lies the problem. I've bought the two-part lie that the culture is selling:

1. the goal of life is to have "nice things"
2. "nice things" get ruined by children.


Now this is not a post that bashes capitalism and this is not a post that bashes interior decorating and this is not a post bashing NFP. This is a post that at its root is about, I think, contentment--especially the contentment that comes with building a family, not just a model home.

Even beyond just the tiny fingerprints and carpet stains, I see the other signs of age in my home that have nothing to do with its smallest residents.

I see "dated" pink and purple tile in the master bathroom. I see kitchen cabinets with peeling paint. I see old light fixtures with shiny brass trim and frosted white glass.

I see all of this and know I need to "update" all of it. But these updates are all the non-essential type. We actually had a "house updates" budget line item going, but putting in a new HVAC system last month quickly brought that line item down to $0. And while new air conditioning is a great luxury in the summer heat, it's not quite as instagramable as a new bathroom vanity with non-fogged mirrors.


Last month I read this article on Curbed by Kate Wagner of McMansion Hell fame. I've seen my house with new eyes ever since:
Remodeling and other house-fussery has become a national pastime. In 2015 alone, Americans spent $326.1 billion on renovating. Previously contained to affluent households and the glossy pages of architecture magazines, remodeling has been transformed by 24/7 media like HGTV and websites like Houzz, Pinterest, and Dezeen. While older media, like early issues of House Beautiful, discusses the process as mastering the careful art of interior design, newer media is more neurotic and self-loathing, describing houses in need of renovation with words like “dated”, “immature,” or “wrong.” Whether presented as a self-improvement project (update your house lest you be judged for owning a dated one) or a form of self-care (renovate because it will make you feel better), the home remodel is presented as both remedy and requirement.
Instead of falling prey to this thinking, take a moment to consider this simple idea: There is nothing wrong with your house.
Most of the time, this statement is true (especially if one lives in a house constructed relatively recently). The roof does not leak; the house is warm or cool when it needs to be; there are no structural or electrical issues; nothing is broken or needs to be replaced from routine wear and tear. Why, then, do so many of us feel dissatisfied with our perfectly fine houses?
The answer? That's probably going to be different for every person. But it's interesting to think that in this age of "body shaming" and shame in general being such a bad word, I often look at parts of my house with guilt and shame, thinking that if and when I don't have little kids in my house, I'll probably be able to afford those updates.


BUT. What if that wasn't my mindset? What if that wasn't the mindset of even, say, every Catholic family? What if we planned and hoped for a lifetime of children in our houses--and made that a good thing, not a merely tolerated thing?

What if a block of families looked at their homes and said hey, updates and cosmetic renovations are all well and good and indeed can make us really happy. But even if we don't have the money to rip out our perfectly fine 1970s tile and replace it with white subway tile? Well, that's just fine too. We're lucky to have a home.

What if we saw the showrooms full of antique armchairs and Italian leather sofas, and laughed and said, "Yes, how gorgeous! Now, please direct me to the washable, slipcovered hide-a-beds."

What if we wished for a lifetime of children in our homes--little children, grown children, and grandchildren--and said yes, these are the "nice things" in life?

I write about this because it's hard for me to live with the contentment mentality. I want the new things! The clean things! The nice things!  I want ALL the things! It's not even that I want to really limit my family size. With NFP, that the door is always open to God giving our family another baby, of course. And a baby is, arguably, a more tidy housemate than a child from ages 2-12.

These are merely the ramblings of a 30-something mother of four, pondering her life which still includes roughly 10 more years of fertility and about that many years of a mortgage. And taking this life (and this beautiful, lived-in, stained and sweet home of mine) and comparing it to the seeming perfection of child-free living always makes me grumpy. It gives me a bitter cup of never-to-be-fulfilled materialistic longing.

But contentment--contentment with this life, with this home, with these crayon-colored walls and blueberry-stained pillows... Contentment takes my cup of joy, fills it to the brim with a coconut margarita, and hands it back to me with a wedge of pineapple and a paper umbrella.

It's not perfect. But it's better than yearning for more throw pillows.


6/15/2018

just a girl, on the phone, talking to much cooler people / 7qt


In a turn of fate that had zero to do with me and everything to do with other people believing that I could do this whole radio gig, I've had the chance to interview some incredible people lately. It's like my life has become this uber-Catholic and non-raunchy version of She's Out of My League, only it's called "They're Out of My League" and "they" are the people I nervously dial each week.

"Hello?"

"Hi, is this Tim Staples? This is Mary with Mater Dei Radio."

WHAT?!? I don't know who I am anymore.

1 / Tim Staples
Tim gave a great explanation of the new Marian feast day added to the Roman Calendar by Pope Francis. The obligatory memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church will now be celebrated every Monday after Pentecost. Neato!

2 / Leila Lawler
AUNTIE LEILA! Even though The Little Oratory has been out for a while, I still enjoyed asking this domestic jedi about setting up a proper prayer table in the home. If you've ever sat and talked to your mom while she did the dishes after dinner (like I've done many, many times), listen to Leila. She's a gem.

3 / Steve Ray
Jerusalem Jones never disappoints! Steve's got an infectious enthusiasm for the faith and has spent the last decade of his life creating the Footprints of God DVD series--and I'm thinking that if I ever decide to homeschool my brood, I'm just going to turn on a Steve Ray DVD every morning and call it good.

4 / Sancta Nomina's Kate Towne
Holy baby names, Batman. Kate's new book is Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: 250 Ways to Honor Mary. It has the prettiest cover (and the sweetest content). Makes me want to have 246 more kids just so I can use them all. 

5 / Fr. Joseph Fessio
Nothing has so changed my perspective on recent events as Fr. James Schall's new book, On Islam: A Chronological Record. Fr. Fessio expanded on some of Fr. Schall's brilliant essays, most notably on remembering then-Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture in 2006.

6 / Karlo Broussard for Catholic Apologetics 101
This may be the domestic apologist blog, but I've got so much to learn about true Catholic apologetics that it's fairly embarrassing. Karlo's been doing a fantastic job of going through common objections to the faith, and giving listeners real tools to help remove obstacles to believe in truth, in God, and in the Church.

7 / Ken Davison of Holy Heroes
Family goals: Ken and his wife Kerri built Holy Heroes with help and input from their eight sweet children, and today, their company is a household name in Catholic homes with little ones underfoot. I loved getting to hear more about their beautiful new little book, The Rosary of Saint John Paul II.

Linking up with Kelly--thanks for hosting! 
 

5/08/2018

book report - spring 2018


Totally cheating by adding in a book I read TO MY KIDS to make my stack taller. But look at that cute yellow spine!

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Barbara Kingsolver
First up: the book that made the now ubiquitous farm-to-fork movement really take off. Kingsolver's classic bestseller from 2008 was an incredibly successful non-fiction project for this prolific fiction author. I didn’t know until I read it, though, that Kingsolver is pretty darn antagonistic toward every deeply-held belief I have: my Catholic faith, the structure of the Church, gender (that link is a doozy) patriotism, and basically everything else I stand for in life.

What do we have in common? We both like to eat vegetables. 

The closer I got to finishing her book, I started calling it Animal, Vegetable, Eye Roll because come on, the lady bashes on All Saints Day. All Saints Day! But whatever, Kingsolver is a master wordsmith, and her book is a one-year snapshot of the life of living off food she and her family either grew, or purchased within a 100-mile radius of their home in the Appalachian mountains. She’s a literary giant and the queen of writing accessibly and colloquially. Kingsolver writes fascinatingly about, literally, dirt. And slaughtering her home-grown turkeys. The book’s a classic, even if she’s quite a piece of work. Glad I read it, but won't be picking up The Poisonwood Bible anytime soon.

2. The Wideness of the Sea
Katie Curtis
I follow Katie's New England life on Instagram and love seeing pictures of both her beautiful family life--including the recipes she creates for her foodie blog, the humble onion. This is dangerous. She regularly makes me seriously rethink giving up meat and dairy. Drool. 

This beautiful little book alternates between New York City and a small coastal town in Maine. It follows a family and one daughter in particular after her mom, who was a successful and talented painter, dies of cancer, and the emotional ripples an event like that sends out for years in a family. 

If it sounds like it might be a sad read, well, yes, parts of it are more bittersweet than merry. But as a whole, this book made me feel like I was on a vacation and this was the beachy yet soulful book I had taken along with me to read with my sand in the toes. Heartily recommend. 

Trevor Lee Stewart
Do you have children? Do they have ears? Yes to both? READ THEM THIS BOOK. 

It's a well-written, hilarious, triumphant gem that celebrates the ingenuity and value of children. We're reading it's sequel now which I'm finding a little dark, but this first one is pure gold and we've read it out loud, twice, by request of the boys. 

Trent Horn
I loved getting to chat with Trent for an interview that aired on both Coffee & Donuts with John & Mary and the Morning Drive show. This scrappy little book on popular (yet either fake or inaccurate) quotes by Catholic saints is useful, relevant, concise, and most importantly, it's incredibly well-researched. The first quote that's debunked (quite thoroughly) in the book is the old trope trotted out in the name of St. Francis of Assisi to silence the more vocal supporters of the faith: Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words. 

You know, because the New Testament is full of Jesus not preaching. Just opening doors for folks, and such. 

G. K. Chesterton
Additional cheating: I have not finished this book, this 800-page book, which has type so small, a lady in my book club avowed that she physically could not read it--because the words are so tiny. ;)  I've nearly finished the first set of stories the collection, dubbed "The Innocence of Father Brown." At "The Flying Stars" I nearly gave up--reading and grasping anachronistic cultural references isn't my strong point. But after pushing through the next two or three stories, I think I'm going to stick with it for a while. Uncannily insightful yet unassuming, Chesterton's humble crime-solving cleric was the literary answer to the question posed by the popularity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: To brilliantly solve the crimes of the world's psychotic criminals, must one by a sociopath? Chesterton said no, of course not. And he's got 800 pages to prove as much. 

That's my stack! Let me know if you've read of of these too, and what your thoughts are!

5/01/2018

five favorites / amazon music


And by "free" I mean the music you get with a Prime membership, but not with the ridiculous up-sell of an Amazon Music Unlimited membership. So, free-ish. 

I'm having a resurgence of playing music during the day, during the dinner hour, in the afternoons. Seems to make me less on edge, less fully overwhelmed by the magnitude of tantrums, and toddler pants wet from another bathroom accident, and babies cranky over anything. It's like playing something, anything, allows 10% of my attention and patience to be reserved and focused on the music, and therefore, I don't lose my sh*t when all hell breaks loose.

It helps.

Top five melodies on repeat here:

1 / Want you back - Haim 

They're three sisters, I think, singing bubbly little pop tunes. 
Stephanie of NieNie Dialogues wrote a post on this, and said it beautifully: "If you only do one thing today, (besides saying your prayers of course), listen to "Spring 1". Now, don't just play it in the background as you work or do the laundry. Promise me that you will sit down and listen to it.
And I hope you can be alone since I am almost positive the arrangement will make you cry.
I also hope you are able to listen to it as loud as you possibly can and unequivocally know that GOD IS." 

It was good advice. I did it, cried, and have listened to it at least 5 times every day since. 

3 / The Piano Guys - custom set of sappiness 

Made myself a good ol' fashioned playlist circa college in 2006 and added my faves to a good neutral-yet-toe-tapping playlist: Ants Marching, Begin Again, Beethoven's 5 Secrets, What Makes You Beautiful, A Thousand Years. Prime has a bunch of their albums to cherry pick from. 


Auntie Leila at Like Mother Like Daughter mentioned this one in a bits & pieces post a while back, I think because her kids are wickedly talented fiddlers. I pluck no strings over here, but man, these fellows make some great music. Don't miss "Go, Lovely Rose."


Ok ok, it's not on Prime music! I listen to it on YouTube (is that illegal? immoral??) so it fits the free-ish category. I've been seeing folks talk about this one for MONTHS now and finally rented it from redbox last weekend. And now, a million dreams are keeping me awake, and this is brave, this is bruised, OH!! THIS--IS--THE GREATEST--SHOOOOW, etc, etc. Can't stop it from playing hourly, either in my head or on my phone. Polling the audience: How long before you get it out of your system? A week? Ten days? Does it take buying the whole thing to be cured of it?