10/10/2018

4 great books to bring to Mass for little kids

Sunday morning fire drill: Eat something! Mass clothes on! Comb hair! SHOES!! For pete's sake please wipe the peanut butter off your mouth.

When all that's done and Sean's strapping them all in the van, I have about 7 minutes to go from sloppy mom pajamas to a semi-dressy outfit that screams "I tried this morning." I regularly forget either my earrings or my mascara, but what I don't forget is my stack of Mass books. 

Disclaimer: Sean would prefer we ditch the books altogether and bring nothing with us to Mass. These four books are our compromise.  



By far, my favorite. Simple, holy, and actually helpful for kids. Look in the pics below and find the little string of dots with the larger red dot. 

 


For a kid that's not old enough to read but old enough to want to know when Mass will fiiiiiiiiinally end, it helps him move along in the Mass by paying attention to the priest's posture. It's a life saver. Also, it's a hardback, so it's lasted a long time for us.  



Such sweet and simple (yet well-detailed) pictures! Maite Roche's bright colors and sweet faces make Gospel scenes come to life in beautiful ways for toddlers. Our copy has seen a lot of love through the years. 



There are literally hundreds of illustrated Bibles for children to choose from, and I'm sure lots of them are great. I like the size of this one, along with its format of having a hardback cover but regular-weight pages (it's not a board book). The New Testament includes pretty good coverage of Holy Week as well, with spreads for Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and even Doubting Thomas. 





Here, Tiny Saints website--take all my money. Just take it. It looks like this sweet little book isn't offered right now on their page, but the book gives the cutest little look at the heroes of Catholicism. They began the business after a family tragedy and have created something so beautiful. Pretty sure I'm getting every big kid on my Christmas list a Tiny Saints Charm for their school backpack this year. 

I'd love to hear your family's favorite books to take to Mass! 

9/26/2018

how my Christmas spending will be different this year


Fall is in the air, Halloween candy is on store shelves, and I'm procrastinating on working on both the kids' All Saints Day getups and their Halloween costumes.

So that means, LET'S TALK CHRISTMAS!

For as long as we've had kids who have been old enough to expect presents and a stocking from St. Nicholas on Christmas Day, we've had basically the same structure to our Christmas budget. Throughout the year we'd wait and see if a bonus commission check would come in, or if I'd earn a check through one of my side gigs, and then we'd get that amount out in cash and put it in a Christmas envelope. We'd have a mini-monthly-budget meeting for our Christmas budget, and we'd make a list of all gifts and Christmas expenses: the tree, Christmas stamps from the Post Office, teacher gifts, all that good stuff.

Last year, we did our usual planning, but then somewhere between Black Friday and Christmas morning... I went off the rails. It wasn't that I spend too much or blew our budget--no, just the opposite.

The budget became an obsessive focus point for me. Case in point: I found a great deal on Vtech smart watches for the boys, early in December. Two for $60, and free shipping, wahoo! But merely getting the great deal wasn't enough for me--I kept checking on various store websites for the rest of the month to see just how great my deal really was.

No other retailer ever beat the price I got them for. Yessssssss.

But. There's nothing like spending Advent by pouring over my phone, waiting for daily affirmation that yes, indeed, I was a TERRIFIC BUDGETER and SHOPPER EXTRAORDINAIRE.

And then Christmas day came, and those gifts were opened, with thank yous and hugs all around.

But I was left with a feeling of remorse over all the time I wasted--yes, wasted--pouring over sales and taking victory laps with price comparisons.

The boys did enjoy those toy smart watches. But did they change our lives? Am I still reveling over the great price? All that time I spent online--what was the long-term benefit?

I told myself that all the time I spent focusing on the gifts and the budget was time responsibly spent. I told myself that the joy on my kids' faces when they opened the *perfect* gifts (scored at the best prices) made it all time spent responsibly, instead of a time suck.

No. It was a time suck. I let myself be sucked into the vast world of Christmastime materialism, but even worse, I considered myself as better than the other "holiday" materialists, because I was doing it in the name of BUDGETING!

Gah. This year, I'm planning a different approach. (And to truly ready myself for it, I'm starting in September. Apparently.)

This year: I'm making every attempt to purchase gifts in-store from Costco, second-hand from thrift stores, or sparsely online. I've already deleted the Walmart app from my phone once I saw their new clothing line which collaborates with Ellen Degeneres. Enough already.


This year, my goal is to make sure that the buying of Christmas gifts, the checking of the budget and the frenzy of shopping all stand in service to the ultimate goal: preparing for the birth of Jesus.

 Anything that detracts from that needs to be tamed, or pruned. In my case, it's both. I need to tame my desire to ensure that I've gotten the best deal--and then prune back all the time I waste on that pursuit. 

Was our whole household consumed in this frenetic, add-to-card shopping spree last year?  No. We did a lot with the kids to make sure our family focus stayed on that journey to Bethlehem: Advent calendars, moving the wise men closer to the stable day by day until Epiphany, praying the O Antiphons together at night. All well and good.

This is by and large a personal discipline for me, and one that I need to put in place so that I, too, can move closer to that humble stable in Bethlehem, day by day this Advent.

9/17/2018

my reaction to design mom: there's got to be a better way (oh wait, there is)


I waded through the murky waters of a Twitter-thread-turned-blog-post by Design Mom founder Gabrielle Blair. It's a doozy: The confirmation process for one soon-to-be Supreme Court justice has caused Blair to ruminate on the problem of abortion. She posits that all "unwanted pregnancies" are due to "irresponsible ejaculations of men."

To solve the problem of "unwanted pregnancies," she suggests either castration (as a punishment for, I guess, what someone deems "irresponsible ejaculations") or, mandatory sterilizations.

For all male children. At the onset of puberty.

And we thought the possibility of mandatory Guardasil for all kids was bad! Ha!

All I want to do is write and tell Mrs. Blair that there is a better way--better than surgically sterilizing my sons for the mere crime of being male.

This better way is, I think, the way of God. The better way involves living the truth of our bodies, as God made them. Since Mrs. Blair identifies herself as a Mormon, I hope she might be inclined to look at sex, pregnancy and the human person through a lens of faith.

I'll keep it concise--maybe not twitter-concise, but close.

First off, "unwanted pregnancies" is a pretty crude way to describe... people. Do we call any other class of people unwanted?  Unwanted furniture, unwanted kitchen tile, unwanted old toys. It's how we describe things, not people, each one made uniquely by God.

We, especially we people of faith, can do better when we're talking about the problem of abortion.

Things can be discarded. People shouldn't be.

Next: I write from my home. I'm a 30-something mother married to a 30-something father and together, we're raising a bunch of young children. Our marriage has, and always will be, free from contraceptives.

If we don't want to conceive, we abstain. (As Mrs. Blair points out, a woman can only conceive a few days per month. I'd argue with her given number of 2 days, but, still.)

Think of it: no condoms. No pills. No side effects of extra hair. No weird skin spotting.

No irreversible changing of the chemical makeup of my brain to make it less female. No accidentally transgendering of my kids' genitals.

No stocking up on condoms to keep bedside to be discovered inadvertently by my kids (ick).

And, perhaps most notably, no mutilation of my body, or of my husband's body.

All it asks is persistence, and sacrifice. No one can tell me that using all that junk above doesn't take persistence and sacrifice, too. Only with my way, my skin still looks just fine.

I am part of the the aberration, the counter-cultural movement. My peers and I (and our larger than average families) are mocked by our skeptical doctors and belittled by shocked onlookers at the grocery store.

But we don't have to worry about "irresponsible ejaculations." I made a choice to live my sexuality authentically, wholly, freely, with one man who fervently believes the same. Isn't that the ideal we should strive for--and not resort to calls for penal castration and pubescent sterilization?

While reading Mrs. Blair's post, my first instinct was to eye roll at the whole thing--but that's only because I've lived so long in the world of what she might call responsible sex, sex in which the man and woman both share responsibility. I don't get what an "irresponsible ejaculation" is. It seems to be that a man promises to use a contraceptive, but then, deceptively, does not.

Ok. So wouldn't you want, first, to not be sleeping with a deceptive man?

Wouldn't you want to structure your life so that sex is done with a person who wouldn't lie? Wouldn't you want to give your most precious gift to an honest man who valued you so much, such a deception would be unthinkable?   

It's long been said that abortion is not a cause but a symptom of the sad state of our generation's outlook on sex and morals. I find it amazing, always, when folks say (as Mrs. Blair says in her post) to "stop praying in front of abortion clinics," but have nary a peep to say about any other form of protest. How about the Women's March? How about gay pride parades? Is voting with your feet wrong in all circumstances, or only those that you find objectionable?

I'm just me. I haven't earned the success and enormous online platform from which Mrs. Blair can broadcast her thoughts.

But I can share the truth here, my tiny space. And the truth is this: Contraceptive sex kills love. And abortion kills a human life. Unless those two immutable truths are acknowledged, we're going to have pain and sin, and we're never going to figure out how to end abortion. That's all I'm saying.

(Oh, actually, one last thing: Anyone threatening to surgically sterilize my boys will find themselves face to face with a very aggravated, very aggressive mama bear. Take note.)

8/28/2018

book report - summer 2018


I'm praying more now, and reading more too, now that we know all that we know. Both help.

1. A Postcard from the Volcano
Lucy Beckett
Oh, man. A friend told me she was a mess when she finished this one, and yeah, that's about right. I finished it and cried on and off for two hours. Beckett's brilliant work is filled with deep historical and geopolitical analysis of the roots of both WWI and WWII, but even more than that, its characters ask the questions of life. What makes things beautiful? What makes people good or bad? What has God created us for? In brief, Volcano follows a boy through his aristocratic Prussian upbringing, his schoolboy years, and then to his young adulthood in pre-war Germany--and the growing foreboding and panic at what lies ahead once Nazis gain control of the country. Even though I felt like many scenes almost read like a play, in which two or more characters are placed in a scene to debate or dialogue on an idea; those very characters are written with nuance, tenderness and deep love. Heartily recommend.

2. An Immovable Feast
Tyler Blanski
Alert: READ! THIS! BOOK! I'd never read a true conversion story before, and was so glad that Blanski's was my first. Good gravy, there is material in here for everyone: the atheist hipster, the spiritual-but-not-religious 20-something, the dyed in the wool Anglican, and the lukewarm Catholic. Don't be fooled by the softly scenic cover: this is a doozy of a story. I interviewed Tyler for episode 17 of Coffee & Donuts with John & Mary, and he was a lot of fun to talk to. Planning on grabbing this as Christmas presents for both the Catholics and non-Catholics on my list. It's that good.

3. Boundaries
Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
I felt like the only human who has picked up Boundaries and not immediately loved nor identified with it, and multiple times felt like just dropping it for another book on my stack. But then I read a passage about God's boundaries--and it stopped me. God has boundaries? Yes. His boundary is my free will. I can choose to accept Him, to seek to do His will, to follow His commandments. And if God has such respect for boundaries, well, then, I thought, I better finish the darn book and get a better handle on them, too.

4. The SleepEasy Solution
I got this book because I'm such a pro at this mom thing by now, I read baby sleep books just for fun. HAHAHHAHAHAHA. No. I got it because sweet little Stevie was still waking up 3-4 times a night. I was on the brink, and he needed to learn how to cut that crap out, pronto. This book isn't filled with magic, but it is filled with the kind of encouraging confidence that I needed to gut through some crying and get him sleeping better. It helped, a lot. 

5. One Question
Ken Coleman
Sean sweetly grabbed a copy of this once he heard it mentioned in a Dave Ramsey podcast. Each of Coleman's chapters feature a big-name personality or business leader he's interviewed, plus an emotion or challenge: fear, perseverance, failure, character. I picked up some great interviewing tips and strategies for getting great answers out of interviewees. Which reminds me: if YOU (whoever you are) just read a book or have a Catholic author or subject you think would be great on the radio or Coffee & Donuts (or just a great book in general), please shoot me an email or PM!
domesticapologist at gmail dot com
or
maryh at materdeiradio dot com
or
IG: @domestic_apologist

Full disclosure: I read two beach reads this summer. It's junk, ok? I know!  They're not in my book stack pic above because they were (mercifully) library books. I like my junk to be free junk.

6. The Identicals
Elin Hilderbrand
I read one Hilderbrand book every summer. They're ALL the same: beach, romance, East Coast snobbery, beautiful clothes, love triangles. They're not terribly raunchy but they are more raunchy than anything I should be reading. But every July, I grab one from the library, read it in 36 hours, and utterly disregard everyone in my family. Then I go back to the pre-WWI Nazi uprising novels.

7. Island Girls
Nancy Thayer
I read somewhere that Nancy Thayer novels are just like Hilderbrand books, so I grabbed one. I think this is akin to grabbing a pack of Starbursts when you're already buying Skittles. This one reads like a shallow treatise on why divorce is awful and why women are ridiculous. Lesson learned: don't get Starbursts when you're already getting Skittles.

8/13/2018

what happens when a Catholic starts reading her Bible


For far too long, I thought daily scripture reading was something done by people who were either more religious, more pious, or just generally smarter/better than myself.

This year I realized: that's a stupid way to live my life.

On nights when I've given up on my life, I escape for 14 minutes to go pick up Thai food for dinner, and I listen to the Sunday homilies of Fr. Larry Richards who, in my opinion, is one of the best preachers we currently have in the American church. He's not everyone's style, I'm sure. But the man speaks the truth. No--actually, he YELLS THE TRUTH at the faithful in his parish every Sunday. I love it.

I usually come home with chicken satay, fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce, pad thai, an affirmation of my sinfulness and a resolve to live a holier life. Thai food and contrition. It's a win-win.

He preached one particular homily on June 24, the feast of St. John the Baptist, which is one of the few solemnities, he says, whose feast is still celebrated on a Sunday.

He says:
"We were all baptized to be prophets. But does anybody read their bible? What, four people in this church? Ah, well the rest of you are going to purgatory for a long time. We're all called to be prophets. A prophet is one who hears God's holy will and proclaims it to the community. You were called to be a prophet. The first thing you must do: listen to GOD. So the first thing you must do--you must PRAY with the scriptures! Most of us don't listen to God because we don't read the Bible every day. This is who God chose you to be! You are called to be the prophet of God! And if you don't act on this, you won't go to heaven the way you need to go to heaven! 
I've screamed about this for many years--I don't know why I scream about it now; nobody listens. We are ALL called to share in this prophecy. We're all called to share it with the people we live with, and work with. We say we're a prophets for God, but we fail to hear the Word of God first. You can't hear it if you're not spending time with him in his Word every day."
Well. That was a compelling enough rant for me. I came home with the pad thai and looked at Sean over the dinner table.

Me, very seriously: "I think we need to start reading the scripture together every day."

Sean: "AWESOME!"

He's always game for devotions, that guy. But even when you want to start reading scripture every day, where do you start? I had already bought a big study Bible (more on that in a minute); did I need a scripture study kit too? Did I need DVDs? Did I need a day-by-day plan to finish it in a year? WHAT WAS THE PLAN????

In a bold move indicative of his inner tendencies toward setting and achieving goals, Sean took the reigns and said, "Let's just open to the New Testament and... start reading it." Ok.

Back up the bus: Five years and two babies ago I thought I could spend a super holy Lent by reading the whole New Testament. I bought the revered Ignatius Study Bible, certainly in part because I trust Ignatius Press and anything they publish, but mostly because I was convinced that I needed Catholic scholars to explain scripture to me. [See the note above about feeling stupid.] I was convinced that scripture was just like Shakespeare--and reading Shakespeare in high school involved reading a book that had, on every spread, the Bard's words on the left page, and line-by-line commentary and contextual explanations on the right page.

When the Ignatius Study Bible arrived before Ash Wednesday, I questioned both my Lenten practice and my sanity.


Clocking in at 720 pages and more than a couple pounds, this was the definitive Biblical study guide (for the New Testament at least) for Catholics--definitive meaning it is a thoroughly cross-referenced work of exegetical genius, containing commentary, extensive footnotes, and indexes and charts. And more.

So I put it up on my mantle, set a flower vase on it. Then swore off chocolate til Easter and just called it good.

Fast forward to this summer, when I finally unearthed said study Bible from our book stacks. Sean grabbed our big hardback family Bible, and suddenly, there we were, prophets reading the Word of God, sitting together in the living room.

We've been reading every night together after the kids have been tucked in bed. We read 5 chapters at a time out loud, alternating who reads each chapter. We went through Matthew (who, I now know, was writing mostly to the Jews), Mark (author of the "secret" gospel who used the word "Immediately" 40 times in his 16 chapters!), Luke (the doctor/author who beautifully recounts Christ's earthly life including the beautiful infancy narrative, and shares this good news with the Gentiles), and John (the poet author, whose chapters repeatedly made Sean and I pause our reading and say, "Wow.").

And that brings me to now. Last Sunday, a crazy weekend with a work crisis for Sean meant that I snuck out for a Saturday vigil Mass by myself. And what did I hear at the Gospel? Ah, yes:

"The Gospel according to John."

Hey, I thought. I just read that.

"... So they said to him,
"What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat."So Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world."

So they said to him,
"Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them,
"I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

The end of the Gospel reading found me with tears running down my face.

I didn't know that if I read the scriptures straight through, like I would a book--instead of solely hearing it in bits and segments as we do as Catholics at every Mass--I would begin to hear it differently. I didn't know I would start to recognize what I'd hear as parts of a greater whole, a story with centuries of context, and generations upon generations of hope. 

I didn't know that when you read the Word of God--when you read it outside of Mass, when you read it without beautiful, squirmy little babies crawling all over you, you then hear it differently.

I didn't know that spending time reading the Gospel every day is a better use of my time than reading any novel, ever, period.

I didn't know that Jesus lets Lazarus die so that he may perform the miracle of bringing him back to life, thereby converting many to believing in Him--but this miracle would, in turn, set the events of his arrest and execution in motion. And that He weeps. He stands and weeps.

I didn't know that what made Jesus' new covenant so radical was that it was available to every single person with deep, unquestioning faith in Him--every single person in the world--and that THAT was impossible for the scribes and pharisees to accept.

I didn't know, truly, what a pivotal role the Holy Spirit played in the nascent Church. And what role He still plays today.

I find it to be a miracle, a true turning point in my life, that I listened to Fr. Larry's homily.

Let those who have ears, hear. And let those Catholics who have Bibles... read them.

8/06/2018

the best stroller is a FREE stroller


Welcome to the most useless post on the internet today!

Back story: I posted a pic to instagram that pictured the double stroller I've used every weekday for the past three years. A couple folks said, hey, what's the deal with that double stroller, what do you like about it.

And my first reaction to those questions was: I like this stroller because IT. WAS. FREEEEEEE.



For six of my nine years as a momma, I've been pushing a double around. This is a topic I've thought about, a lot.

I've done the thing of paying $150 for a double jogger with two seats across (and that was, for us, not a winner). I've done the thing of looking up Bob strollers and City Stroller or whatever they're called. And I've contemplated buying them used off of Craigslist and spending just $300 instead of $500 or something. (And I've laughed at the prospect of me, Mary, spending $500 on a stroller. #cheapcheapcheapcheapcheap)

My last two double strollers have come to me as hand-me-downs from moms wise enough to know that their stroller still had lots of life left in it--and kind enough to know that I, heavy breeder that I am, would really, gratefully accept anything they had to pass down to me. So to Aunt Bridget and Michelle, I salute you, ladies! And I thank you.

Why is the best stroller a free stroller?

Because second to only maybe a high chair or the car seat, the stroller takes the most abuse of all the kiddie gear. My stroller is regularly:

 - saturated with spilled milk from sippy cups
- covered in sand from the beach
- filled with crumbs from the free cookie at the grocery store bakery
- doused with juice
- filled with rocks, sticks and moss collected from the park
- pee (let's be honest)
- the opposite of pee (it's happened at least twice)

Maybe there's a reasoning that says: since you touch/use the stroller daily, then it follows that having a nice stroller with all the bells and whistles makes that interaction more enjoyable.

I'm not of that school of reasoning. We're a family that drives cars into the ground. And strollers too apparently.

When that whole list of "stuff" drips on, spills on, or generally beleaguers my Graco DuoGlide, I, blessedly, do not freak out. I've taken a hose and a bottle of Dawn to it multiple times, and done so with gusto.




For those that want the actual details on it, and what specifically I like about a beat-up front-back double stroller, here you go:
- I believe it's a Graco DuoGlider (looks like this, new)

-  front-back strollers fit though store doors more easily

- front-back strollers have bigger under-carriage baskets, better for grocery shopping

 - the two Graco front-back strollers I've used have both accommodated infant car seats--not in the official "snap in" sort of way, but I've been fine with how securely they fit

- front-back strollers can be collapsed more or less with one hand, and for me, they've always been lighter than side-by-sides.

 - We do not run with this thing--it is purely a walk and push. It goes to the park, the beach, sure, but I'm not expecting it to survive a 10k. Or a 5k, for that matter.

If I hadn't been the lucky recipient of two used front-back doubles, I would have marched myself down to Once Upon a Child and grabbed a used one, hopefully for less than $50.

This current DuoGlider at times holds a toddler and bigger toddler, a toddler and a 6-year-old, a toddler and a watermelon and 2 gallons of milk... and she's maybe a 10-12 years old at this point. Her basket fabric is finally starting to rip, and that makes me sad.

But not too sad. I've got nothing to lose, because the dang thing was free. And that's the best.

7/30/2018

5 favorites / stuff big catholic families like

Just got back from a week at Lake Taco (as Gussie calls Lake Tahoe) and I'm procrastinating on buying all the school supplies.

1 / the catholic card game



WHAAAAAT. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, this just-released knockoff of Apples to Apples features all the moderately off-color and campily Catholic cards you could ask for. We had a group of seven adults (three couples and one priest from the good ol' Gonzaga days) who played this last week, and it was a hit. As proof of this, the small army of our combined children who were camped out watching a movie in the other room asked us repeatedly to PLEASE KEEP IT DOWN BECAUSE WE CAN'T HEAR OUR MOVIE, THANK YOU PARENTS.

Turn down for what, ehh.

2 / lake tahoe



California's got taxes and incredibly bad politicians and yeah, all the rest. But it's got (half of) Lake Tahoe. So I'm staying.

3 / actually eating all the food we order at in n out


I have notoriously skinny kids with elusive appetites, and it's the worst when they tell me they want all the foods, then the foods all come, and they don't eat the foods. Now we're finally consuming most of what comes in the blessed red plastic trays. Pass the ketchup.

4 / book backlog


My queue is getting longer and longer and the books sit in such close proximity to my dish rack that they're getting rather watermarked. But I like my mini kitchen library.

Right now I'm working on
- A Postcard from the Volcano
- Boundaries
- The Gospel of John (in the Ignatius Study Bible)
- The Little Oratory
and getting the month of August ready in my Blessed Is She liturgical planner.

5 / better homes and gardens 5-shelf leaning bookcase

You know me, always a sucker for a good piece of Magnolia lookalike furniture from Walmart. $99, heeyyy-yo.

Linking up with Ashley at The Big White Farmhouse.

7/19/2018

7qt / what I'm loving at walmart vol. 3

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

Carter's makes this adorable line of clothes for Walmart, and for every season they come out with some matching toddler sets that are super cute. $9-10 for two-piece sets.

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!


7/13/2018

laughing inappropriately during phone interviews / 7qt


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.

6/28/2018

we just cancelled our Netflix subscription.


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.

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? 


4/16/2018

making grown-up spaces (in a house overrun by kids)


Nearly 10 years ago, Sean's first official act of preparing to bring his bride back to what would become "our" apartment after our wedding was to go to a furniture store and buy us a set of bedroom furniture.

I'm pretty sure he owned a sleigh bed before he owned a couch.

At the time, I, of course, balked. Wait for me to pick it out with you, I said (since he was in Washington and I was living in California). I want to help! I want to see the choices! I want to give OPINIONS!

And Sean, in something of an act of defiance and bravery for a groom so young, said, no, dear, I'm going to buy this before our wedding, and we're going to come home to it, and I'll let you give opinions, but this is something I'm doing for you.


More times than I can count since that pre-marital purchase of his, I have thanked him (probably more in my mind than actually saying it out loud). Not every couple starts their marriage with a matching 5-piece set of classic, solid bedroom furniture. And then after the wedding, other expenses (like BABIES) come, and a matching armoir and dresser seem low on the priority list.

So maybe it's because the bedroom furniture is our one "thing" that's been with us since before having kids, but we've both always agreed that our bedroom is a toy-free and somewhat kid-free zone. Sure, the co-sleeping infants are notable exceptions, and we've been known to host a Saturday morning snuggle fest or two.

But for the most part, this is a little sanctuary for us. For mom and dad.

It's not fancy. There's no jetted soaking tub in the miniature en-suite bathroom. You cannot walk into our closet--if you do, you will walk into the clothes hanger bar. The room holds a queen bed, one nightstand, two dressers, and even with just that, it's a little tight.

But I like it. There's room for him, and room for me. The kids, who proudly fly their kid flags in the other 90% of the house, recognize this. And for the most part, they're respectful of it.

One way I try to set off our bedroom from the other rooms of the house is to put the breakables and the fragiles in there. Queue the silk peonies and the picture frames.


Faux flowers are, to me, a no-brainer when it comes to decorating in houses with little kids. Sure, the real deal from Trader Joe's at $3.99 a bunch is a great deal and beautiful, but real flowers need real vases with real WATER in them. Ain't no way I'm putting a vase full of water in my living room (which often doubles as a wiffle ball war zone).

Using flowers like this in my house helps bring a little more dignity and grace to a room--but without the threat of spillage. It makes me feel a little less like I'm living in the loony bin of PBS Kids shows and Magformers.

Silk Plants Direct kindly offered to send out one of their products for review, and I jumped at the chance to work with them. In waiting for my 12 stems of pearl cream peonies to arrive, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I've been delighted by their quality and size.

Their silk flowers from their site come with stems that are pre-notched for easily changing the stem length. I used longer stems in my bedroom vase and shorter ones for my living room.


Silk Plants Direct is offering readers 10% of all products (except custom orders) with code BLOGGER10.

My arrangement of 12 peony stems is only listed at $45.99, which comes down to $3.83 a stem. Compare that to peony stems on Pottery Barn, which cost $16 a stem!

Many thanks to Silk Plants Direct for the chance to review their product.