Could also be titled: here's a post that matters very little in the grand scheme of things (heck, as most of my posts do, heh)! But it's Friday, and it's hot, and online shopping for fun/cheap items is a lot more fun than online shopping for school uniforms.
1 / essential t-shirt dress
I saw this on my way to the self checkout (read: I spied this on the clothes rack placed strategically close to the self-checkout so mothers who must take FOUR SMALL CHILDREN to the grocery store during the summers will get a spark of hope that they could buy a cheap item off the rack at a grocery store and that by magic, it might work). I love it. It's 100% cotton, long enough to not scandalize the neighbors and perfectly loose in the fit. I think I have a medium and paid $10.
2 / classic three piece bamboo cutting boards
Ordered these and am waiting for them to arrive. We haven't gotten new cutting boards since... yikes, our wedding? Overdue. I wanted to get smaller, bamboo ones like these that could also be used as serving platters and table trivets. $13.99 for the three.
3 / toddler flutter sleeve t-shirt & shorts
4 / swiss dot embroidered tank top
I didn't snag one of these before most of the sizes sold out online and I'm regretting it. 100% cotton and would be such a great summer shirt. $11.86 in four colors!
5 / striped ruffle sleeve top
This is another one I regret not grabbing, which is also all cotton. (Can you sense a theme?! I get twitchy wearing rayon and the like.) $11.98 online and also comes in a black stripe.
6 / essential short sleeve v-neck t-shirt
I picked up these in blush pink, white and blue when they were on clearance at my store and probably paid between $3-5 for each. They've been great, lightweight summer shirts. And when they invariably get stained and splotched from my kids, I shed no tears.
7 / glass pitcher
Ok this is just a non-Walmart bonus, but had to share my best frugal find of the week--this glass pitcher I scored for $4 at my favorite local thrift store! It's the perfect size to keep on the table for ice water during dinner. And again, when someone drops it on the floor... I'll only cry a little.
Linking up with Kelly for quick takes!
I need to stop it--but people are so darn FUNNY. Click the names to listen.
And don't miss the new Coffee & Donuts with John & Mary episode (number 17!!). John and I play Catholic Balderdash. We're very bad at it.
1 / Anthony Ryan, Marketing Director for Ignatius Press
How can you not laugh when Tony Ryan ends his stellar interview (about a book on Sts. Louis and Zellie Martin, so awesome) with a note that "there's no "o" in the "Ignatius" of "Ignatius press dot com." Like, people really put an "o" in it? Ignatios? Ignotius?
2 / George Weigel, The Fragility of Order
Me beginning the interview: "He's the prolific author of many consequential books, including the official biography of John Paul II---"
George: "NO no no stop it right there, I've said this so many times, I am NOT the official papal
biographer. I wrote the authoritative biography of John Paul II."
Me: *dies inside*
God love this man, he put up with my questions, and after the call, he talked to me for another 10 minutes, which rank up there with my wedding and births of my kids as one of the best moments in my entire life. Sorry if that's creepy for you, George. I waxed on about it on instagram, and I wonder if he knows just how many people count him as a cultural influence that changed their lives. Very grateful for him for, as they say, taking my call.
3 / Leila Miller, author of Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak
WOW. This book. Leila is on the front lines of fighting the culture lies on divorce, the LGBTQ juggernaut, and abortion. She's a tireless advocate for children, for family and for marriage. Praise hands, thumbs up and high fives, Leila!
4 / Tyler Blanski, author of An Immovable Feast
Hello, my name is Mary, and from now on I will include a reference to An Immovable Feast in every conversation I have. It was so good. Read it cover to cover, dog eared it, underlined it, read it out loud to Sean, still quoting lines around my house. ("I came across more theological issues, and I ordered more and more books to study them. And then Brittany reminded me of the budget.") A great guy and a great interview.
5 / Karlo Broussard, Catholic Answers apologist and author of Prepare the Way
I prepare for Karlo's apologetics interviews by reading chapters of his incredibly well-written book, and then talking to myself in the mirror, saying "You can do this. You can talk with a Catholic apologist about the St. Thomas Aquinas' existential arguments for the existence of God and NOT SOUND LIKE AN IDIOT... .I mean, at least you can try. No guarantees." Karlo, God love him, keeps putting up with me.
6 / Tom Hoopes, The Rosary of Saint John Paul II
Is there anything Tom Hoopes can't talk about? No, no there is not. The man has done everything and done it well, and this sweet book he wrote on JPII's apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae is a treasure, for kids, adults and family use.
7 / Michele Chronister, author of The Catholic Field Guide
Sweet Michele wrote and illustrated this book which will be extremely useful for any parent who has felt that tug on their shirt during Mass by a kid who is pointing at a cruet/vestment/gold thingie/you-name-it, and whispers "Mom, what is that??"Also, she compares her home life with little kids to the rhythms of monastic life. "We eat at certain times, we work at certain times, we get up during the night..." it's not to pray though, unfortunately! Ah, mom life. She cracked me up.
Linking up with Kelly for 7 quick takes.
Enough is freaking enough.
Before today, I had already gone to Sean saying, do you think it's time we get rid of it? It's barely a blip on our budget, at $11 per month. And yes, we'll each occasionally binge watch shows on it. The kids have their favorites on it. Sure sure sure. But do we need it?
A while back, also, I read an article of the new lineup of Netflix-produced programming coming to my TV. No thank you.
And then today, I saw this headline and Drudge: "Netflix Under Fire for Suspected Child Pornography Scenes."
I clicked. I read a pretty graphic account of the scenes.
And I regret it. Why wasn't the title alone enough to make me take action? But no, I read about the sexual abuse of the children, and now that is something I cannot un-read. I'm not going to link to it here. The headline says what needs to be said. Here's a tamer account, for what it's worth.
We're canceling our subscription. I'm ashamed to say I've allowed--no, paid--to have that kind of material available on my family's television screen for far too long. That "movie," if it can be called that, was mere clicks away from my children. That "movie," which filmed the sexual abuse of two innocent, small children, was completely accessible to my family. Free of additional charge.
I'm horrified. I'm embarrassed that I casually allowed a streaming service into my home in the name of "entertainment."
The eminently quotable Matt Walsh is uncomfortably right on this, as he is on so many issues regarding our lost compass of cultural morality: if that TV show (or TV streaming service) doesn't bring you closer to God, don't watch it. Get rid of it.
This is a bridge I've tried to cross before. When Target's executives decided to let men use women's bathrooms, because #tolerance or something, I said then, too, that enough was freaking enough. And in the years since, I confess to crossing the threshold of my local store only handful of times. It wasn't and hasn't been a perfect boycott, but I've made an effort to keep that business out of my life.
I've read blog posts on boycotts, on how people don't like them. They don't "work." They don't make a dent. You'd have to boycott every company you use on a daily basis, they say, to be consistent. You'd have to throw out the phone you used to read Drudge. You'd have to toss the very computer on which you're typing this blog post. You'd have to forge your way in a world without Walmart, Amazon, Gap or Apple.
Yes. That's right. To be absolutely, perfectly consistent, yes, I would.
However, I've taken up a little motto: do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
I cannot be perfect. I'm a flawed mother who regularly loses her ever-loving bleep and barely makes it to confession, ever. I'm a hypocrite, a liar, and a self-righteous blogger. Yep.
However, I cannot produce my own smart phone. But I can produce or find wholesome entertainment for my kids. I can't make my own computer or sew my own clothes, but I can shop local thrift stores instead of buying everything new. I can barely make my own coffee, since I've also tried to swear off of Starbucks, which is one of the few major corporate sponsors of abortion.
I can start small, and I can try and get better. I can stop paying a company that is purely superfluous to my life and is sponsoring child porn.
I can cancel my Netflix subscription.
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.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.
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?
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.