7 top clicks / 09

1 /
On home organizing: "Discard everything that does not 'spark joy.'"

If them's the rules, I throwing out my Spanx. (NYT)

2 /
Homeschooled 8-year old opens own checking account; keeps balance and makes withdrawals. If anything had my Joseph written all over it, it's this. (oh crap. potty training)

3 / 
"Mixed in amongst a slew of lies about the status of unborn life, the feminists offer a reassuring dose of reality. Sometimes, pregnancy stinks." (First Things)

4 / 
Nell is meal planning, and I'm all-in. I joined her with my gluten-free meal plan last Saturday, and am planning on joining her again tomorrow! (Whole Parenting Family)

5 / 
George Clooney's wife took his last name, yada yada yada. All I have to say is: the woman has the most perfect teeth I think I've ever seen. (Verily Mag)

6 /
MUST READ: Calah Alexander takes on the Ebola Intellectual Elite, and it is equal parts epic, brilliant and absolutely scathing:

"Most people don’t believe anything you’re saying to us about Ebola anymore. Further, there are plenty of doctors who have publicly admitted that our fears are not unfounded, because the “science” of Ebola is far from settled. You cannot regain our trust and avert public hysteria by mocking our fear from your Science towers." (Patheos)
7 / 
They're saying that assisted-suicide advocate Brittany Maynard wants to live. Keep praying for her. (Patheos)

Linking up to Conversion Diary's weekly septuplet of takes.


inexpensive pregnancy must-haves

This current womb resident isn't giving any indication of his/her early check-out. And I'm looking at another couple weeks of "intense pelvic pressure." Woop!

This baby has been sitting lower, and for longer, than either of the boys did, and staying comfortable has been both essential and somewhat elusive. But just because this pregnancy has been harder doesn't mean I've had extra money to spend surviving it (hello, new-to-us minivan!). So, I submit my picks for staying comfortable (or as comfortable as possible) on the cheap for nine months.

1. Comfort for sleep
I truly wish I could buy one of those huge, horseshoe-shaped pregnancy pillows. Really I do. But I have:
- a queen size bed, and
- a regular size husband
and I just don't think it'd fit.

But, I'm able to get pretty darn comfortable with:
- a super-firm decorative rectangular pillow, and 
- a quilted throw.
Between the two of them, I have plenty of options for both soft and firm support, either behind my back or between my knees. They're infinitely adjustable, washable and (super importantly) easily transitioned back to home use after baby arrives. 

2. Comfort for the couch
Pet peeve: having to get up 6 dozen times during the boys' naptime/my rest time to refill my little standard-size water bottle. I now buy cases of the big Arrowhead flip-top bottles (23 oz) at Costco and have cut my trips to the watering hole in half. 

3. Comfort for skin
In addition to making me a raving, sweating lunatic, summer gave me a nice case of painful heat rash on my legs that lasted for months. My dermatologist prescribed a few prescriptions that helped, but on top of that, he recommended buying a tub of CeraVe and applying it over the prescriptions.

Oh man. That stuff. Thick, non-fragranced goodness that not only helped my rash disappear, but gave me the softest skin I've EVER had. Get a tub and use it for 6 months, easy. And cheap. 

4. Comfort for queasiness
For my first two pregnancies, a large Sprite or root beer from McDonalds helped keep the queasies at bay. But why stop at a large Sprite when a large french fry would go along so nicely? $3 and three hours of heartburn later... ugh. A friend introduced me to La Croix sparkling water recently, and I promptly fell in love (and quit the McD trips).

Disclaimer: No sweeteners (either artificial or caloric) takes some getting used to. I'm pretty sure my sister thinks it tastes like foot. Guess it depends on your tolerance for... foot. 

5. Comfort for the waistband
I hate pregnancy pants. I hate belly panels. I HATE TUCKING STUFF INTO PREGNANCY PANTS/BELLY PANELS in the hopes of keeping them up. 

I bought two pairs of Old Navy maternity leggings. No panels, no tucking shirts into them, no constantly trying to pull them up.

I wear a pair nearly every day.

I am a nicer person for it. 

Those are my cheap pregnancy lifesavers. What are yours? What cheap, pregnancy-nirvana products am I missing? Or, what should I really be spending the money on, since it's worth it? Tell me, please. Then peruse the other offerings at Call Her Happy!


gluten free meal plan

Skinnytaste, how I love thee. And thy photography.

Nell is leading the Saturday Meal Planning Revolution, so I shall join her ranks--not because I enjoy planning our family's meals, but because I save a ton of money when I do.

AND FURTHERMORE, when I meal plan, I get to avoid that awful, panicky, cold-sweat feeling in the meat department of the grocery store, as Amby tries to dive head first out of the cart, Joe asks me for the 95th time if we can go get that flippin' free cookie from the bakery, and I stare frantically at a display of raw chicken.

The sum of my wisdom: Drumsticks. When panicking, never buy drumsticks.

Baked chicken (you know I love 'em)

Mashed faux-tatoes (links to a Nom-Nom Paleo recipe, or...)
My recipe: Chop and steam a head of cauliflower. Drain out all water; let cauliflower "dry" a bit. Add salt and pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, plus 1-2T butter. Use a stick blender to mix. Add a dash of milk if needed. 
Green beans sautéed with garlic and butter

Chicken, Shiitake, and Wild Rice Soup (Use leftover chicken; sub rice flour for regular flour. My thanks to Skinnytaste for having a ton of low-cal soup recipes of which I will be pilfering shamelessly all winter long.)

Leftover soup? 

Celebrating a family birthday--take-out!

Dijon pork cutlets (deceptively simple, incredibly delish, thank you Weight Watchers) 

Steamed broccoli

Bag salad 

Chili. (Maybe some cornbread too, contingent upon me also buying honey; cornbread is worthless without ample butter and honey on top.)

Head over to Nell's to plan your week's worth of meals, too--and resolve to not be held hostage by raw drumsticks ever again.


those portentous porta-potties

Scene: the pumpkin patch.

Mary: Boys. What are you doing?

Joe: Daddy's in the bathroom! We're protecting him so no one else can go in there!

Mary: ... Ok then. Uhm. Good job.


5 dishwashing-marathon playlists / amazon prime music

Doing the dishes--you can see it as either an evening drudgery, or some treasured alone time!

Ha. Haaa. Hahahhahahahahahhahahhaa.

Not really. At all times (at least for me), dish-doing is a both/and proposition--an evening drudgery during which I usually get to be alone. So, why not make the most of it, eh? I present my top five Amazon Prime playlists for getting the job done. They fall into two camps:

a. toe tapping / motivating, or
b. soul-sucking / emotional / reflective / heartbreaking.

Take your pick. That's just how I scrub.

This all-purpose playlist goes from "Love Shack" to John Legend's immediate classic "All of Me" without missing a, err, beat. I usually skip the first two tracks (Prince's "Kiss" and The Romantics' "What I Like About You") and go straight to "Groove is in the Heart." Wooooo! Makes me almost wish I had booked the DJ instead of the four-piece jazz/classics band for my wedding.

Almost. But not quite.

Mood: Sing-along, feel-good, pretend-you're-a-guest-and-eating-cake booty shake.

Those Amazon Prime writers are so very clever. Playlists description: "Find what you're looking for in this playlist featuring our favorite early U2 songs." Kick off your dishwashing with "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and get yourself to bed by the time "With or Without You" plays--because by that time, your mate will probably be going to bed (with or without you).

Mood: surging emotions (like pride, desire, or anything in the name of love, etc... ha).    

I'm showing my age here. Cake (a Sacramento band, oh yes) takes me back to my high school days--or at least, all of the selectively happy memories of them. Plus, this playlist throws in some Ben Folds Five, a little Eve 6, a dash of Barenaked Ladies and a sprinkling of Modest Mouse.

Mood: toe-tapping, soul-sucking, righteous indignation. Just like high school.

My Ryan Adams kick began a few years ago when I first heard "Desire" on a West Wing episode (have ya binge-watched all of The West Wing yet, also on Prime? No? Get on that). Since then, my love for the American troubadour and his smooth fusion of rock, country and ballad has only grown. Pardon the language contained in the refrain, but "Come Pick Me Up" is one of my faves. A little Pete Yorn and Josh Ritter round out the list.

Mood: reflecting on every failed love lost (while scouring the stovetop like it deserves it).

Remember my hyperventilation at finding that Prime had included EVERY track of Rod Stewart's Great American Songbook in their Prime albums?

Well. Upon finding this playlist, I basically passed out.

Seen any of the following movies? And by "seen," I mean "watched a minimum of 106 times?" And by "watched a minimum of 106 times," I also mean "and bought the corresponding soundtrack for each  movie because the songs elicit such feelings of joy and love in your heart?"

When Harry Met Sally - Pretty Woman - My Best Friend's Wedding 
You've Got Mail - It Could Happen To You

Mood: Don't cry, Shopgirl. Just hit play.

So again, I say: Go forth and give 'em all a listen!

And if you missed the first in this little series: 5 Dinner Party Albums / Amazon Prime Music.

Linking this up with the happy gal herself, Jenna!


should kids hold pro-life signs?

Between the two of us, my sister and I have five (going on six) kids. For a couple of mornings a week, we try and make it over to the local abortion clinic to pray--taking three of those kids (ages three and under) along.

[Insert joke here about herding cats, squirrels, whathaveyou.]

Our one and only goal is to complete a lightning-speed rosary while maintaining a semblance of control over our little rascals. Since it's the fall campaign of 40 Days for Life, there's always a handful of other people there too, either praying peacefully or doing sidewalk counseling.

On one such morning full of kid wrangling, rushed Hail Marys and lots of hip swaying on my part to try and convince my bladder that I didn't need to IMMEDIATELY find a restroom for the third time that hour, a sidewalk counselor sweetly asked when I was due. I told her I had about another month.

"Oh!" she said, "well, it'd be wonderful if you could be out here on Wednesdays or Thursdays, because that's when they do abortions, and you'd be a terrific witness for people to see."

I know that she was not trying to be funny--and that hers was a honest, heartfelt request--but I had to stifle a laugh. Because really, ma'am? I don't feel like a terrific witness. I feel like a NFP-mom who's heavily pregnant at the time of her life when she's still chasing after another baby-like person, and doing so with little to no grace or elegance. I feel like a walking billboard for motherhood in the trenches. I feel...like I need to pee.

Not exactly inspirational.

During our conversation with her, Amby found the "Women Do Regret Abortion" sign that leans against our stroller while we pray. The sign is just about as tall as he is, so when he holds it up, all you see of him are two shoes and 10 clenched little fingers around the edges.

Him holding the sign made me uncomfortable. I don't like my kids wearing clothes with words on them in general, and I especially don't like those words to deal with adult issues.

Images of the showdown in Texas this summer (over a proposed late-term abortion ban) flashed through my mind. In that setting, pro-choicers had children hold signs like, "If I Wanted the Government in my womb, I Would f*** a Senator!"


Don't forget the six-year-old holding a coat hanger sign, too.

Using kids as political props isn't new. But is that what's happening, when Amby holds a pro-life sign? Am I using him, or letting him unknowingly be used, as a mouthpiece for what I believe?

Maybe I'm asking the wrong questions. Children are, by their very nature, witnesses to life. They already are little pro-life billboards. And when it comes to showing the humanity of an unborn child, you can't always show someone an ultrasound picture--but you can show them a child of any age, full of spunk and sweetness and life.

So maybe the question is not "Should kids hold pro-life signs?" but does a child even need to hold a pro-life sign? Isn't it redundant? A child, with his presence, says to the world:

Life is precious.

Protect me.

Defend life.

Smile! My mom chose life.


Women do regret abortion.

I think the rub comes with the actual word "abortion," because the word signifies such violence--and the sort of violence that seems inconceivable (and emotionally unexplainable) to children. I tell both of my boys that we go "pray for the babies" at a "bad doctor's office." I do not say that within those walls, unborn children have their skulls crushed, their little limbs ripped from their bodies, their organs sucked out of their mommies with a hose. They're not ready for that reality. None of us should be.

But you know what kind of reality they are ready for? The reality of what's happening in my body, right now.

They are ready to testify to this kind of pro-life positivity. Their exuberance for babies, children, and all things innocent are what give the pro-life movement its youth, its energy, and its unparalleled grassroots activism--something the pro-abortion lobby would desperately like to replicate.

This week, Amby and I are going to get some poster board and cover the back side of my "Women do regret abortion" sign.

In big yellow letters, we're going to write up his own little message. It will say "We love babies."

It will be covered in dinosaur stickers.

And I will be so happy to see him holding it.


you can blame Amanda

A Liebster nomination from sweet Amanda at Erring on the Side of Love has me posting again. So I have her to blame for both pulling me out of my writing slump, and for breaking the dam that's been holding back all my third-trimester pregnancy whining. (I think I just might write that kind of post this afternoon, and "zinging pain radiating from my pelvis" will be a phrase that features prominently.)

1. Are you a morning or night person? 

I am a gluten-free cereal aficionado, and sometimes I feel like I go to bed only to be that much closer to waking up and having my bowl of Panda Puffs with lactose-free non-fat milk. My average time between when I open my eyes until I'm shoveling puffs in my mouth is about 3.2 minutes.

And for those reasons, I'm a morning girl.

2. What are your morning routines like?

See above. Add an iPhone perusal of news, Facebook, email. And the daily Old Navy sale. Always contemplate going. Rarely do.

3. What's your favorite snack for yourself?

In keeping with the cereal theme, gluten free Vanilla Chex, straight, no chaser.

4. What's your favorite snack to give to your kiddos?

Applesauce pouches. Amby used to LOVE his bottle, and now, he sucks down those pouches with the same fervor--and always has at least two, three if he's a quart low on his daily fruit intake.

5. Favorite thing to bake in the fall or winter?


Really. I know I should have a sweet, dessert-like answer, but I don't do a lot of gluten free baking. Since our house doesn't have air conditioning, I don't use our oven from about May-September. When the weather changes, I start throwing birds in there at 4pm at least once a week and have a delicious, home-roasted bird ready by 6pm. The Costco rotisserie version is indeed cheap and acceptable, but nothing beats a bird you cook yourself.

6. Favorite dinner to make during the fall or winter?

Slow-baked shredded beef and pork. And this no-mayo slaw.

Why a no-mayo slaw? See #8.

7. What do you miss about your college years?

My waistline, ha. My girlfriends--I miss them very, very much. Being an editor, or the editor-in-chief, of publications and projects. Being able to work out at any hour. Feeling invincible.

Also, carrying big flags.

8. What's your favorite way to love your spouse?

Ironing his dress shirts for work. And never forgetting that he hates mayonnaise with the heat of a thousand suns.

9. What's your favorite way to love your parents? 

Sending them cards and care packages (from both me and the boys) for the days that honor them: Mother's Day, Father's Day, and their birthdays. Mail is my love language.

10. Do you have a note perpetually covering your doorbell, telling people not to ring your doorbell in case there's a child napping? If not, do you love your doorbell? 

No note. LOVE the doorbell, naps be damned.

I practically sing "Wells Fargo Wagon" from Music Man when I see the Fed Ex truck pull up. Ring that bell, man! As in #9, mail = love language. "I hope I get my raisins from Fresno!"

Tagging: Kayla at The Sweet Wonder (you're not in labor yet, are you dear?), Tricia at Not So Jumbo Jack, Ann at A Mama and Her Littles, Eleri at The Knitting Republican. and Caitlin at Tales of the Elders.

Queries for you ladies:

1. Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Taking a dish to another home? 
2. Are your kids sufficiently revved up for Halloween, AND, when do you buy your Halloween candy? 
3. Costumes or saint getups for your kids this year? 
4. Everyone loves fall. Is there anything about autumn that bugs you?
5. Stealing this from a previous Liebster list I saw, but what recent meme really cracked you up? (Amanda's favorite just kills me: 

6. With what kind of intensity are you following the Synod?
7. On weekend mornings, do you cook a special breakfast at your house?
8.  Pick one current pop song. Expound upon your love or hate of it. 
9. If you had one for eternity: kettle corn or movie theatre popcorn? 
10. Predict the Superbowl champion. Or, recount your man's elation or misery at the outcome of last year's Bowl. 

HA. That was quite fun.