mary augusta / birth story quotes

It's been nearly a month, but my five favorite lines from my sweet Gussie's birthday (and a smattering of my fave photos) still make me smile:

1. 3:30 p.m. 

Me: *Wincing through a contraction* "It doesn't mean anything."

My Mother: "Mary, this is your third baby in five years. It's your fourth strong contraction in an hour. You're two days overdue. You're in labor and you're having this baby tonight."

Me: "I've been having contractions for weeks now and they never turn into true labor. I'm going to be pregnant forever."

2. 5:30 p.m.

Hospital Triage Nurse: "Well, you're only at 3 cm, so I think you should probably go home to labor for a few hours. Oh. Well. On the other hand, baby's heartbeat is decelerating with each contraction. So, actually, we are going to admit you, then probably break your water to speed things up."

Me: "Oh fun."

3. 6:22 p.m.

Very Sweet Resident OB: "I'm going to ask you a few questions about your medical history, so just stop me when you have a contraction and I'll--"


Very Sweet Resident OB: "You're very graceful."

4. 8:46 p.m.

Nurse: "You're doing so great, Mary! You're probably getting close to transition, since you seem much more uncomfortable now during your contractions."

Sean: "Good job honey. You're going so good. Need a sip of water?"


5. 9:06 p.m. 

Sean: "It's... a BOY!"

Medical staff: "Um... No it's not."

Me: "GIVE HER TO ME!!!!!!!"

Mary Gus, my first little girl, my first wearer of bows and dresses and tights. She's a joy to her brothers and the apple of her mother's eye, and her father's, and her grandparents' too. Welcome to the world, sweetie. 

P.S. Hi Jenna!


gluten free meal plan / 2

1, 2, 3, 4

Was it just me, or did half of the country eat chili for dinner on Halloween night? And like me, does half the country have leftover chili for dinner tonight?

This week's inspiration comes courtesy of a huge issue of Cooking Light that showed up in the mail this week, along with an invoice for 18 more issues. Budgets being tight and all that, I think I'll pass, but I will be using their online monthly recipe index--lots of good stuff there.

Leftover chili (meaning no big sink of dishes to wash). Thrilling!

Chicken stir-fry / peanut sauce / coconut-cilantro rice (Cooking Light)

My very first foray into cooking with coconut milk. Coconut paired with lime, at that. Queue the music:

Pan-fried hamburgers (no buns)

Pioneer Woman's sweet potato fries (COME TO MAMA)

Bag salad

Aidells Italian Style Chicken Meatballs (gluten free, nitrite free, kid approved and quite delish)

Spaghetti sauce supplemented with mushrooms

Steamed spaghetti squash (in place of pasta)

Baked chicken (Constant reminder to myself: TAKE OUT THE DARN GIBLETS BEFORE BAKING THE BIRD.) 

Steamed broccoli

Bag salad 

Smokey steak fajitas / avocado and tomato salad (Cooking Light)
(Yeah, I'll follow some of this, but I'm posting it mainly for the steak spice rub.) 

Head over to Nell's to plan your week's worth of meals, too. Oh, and an addendum to last week's ode to soup: Now when Joseph asks what's for dinner, he follows it quickly with, "It's not soup, is it?" And if it is indeed soup, he cries. Need to devise a way to endear him to my my viscous meals, apparently.


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.


5 dinner party albums / amazon prime music

Three essential elements to a successful dinner party:
1. good music
2. good dessert
3. pistachios.

Seriously, those little salty nuts are highly underrated as an appetizer. But I digress! If you've got an Amazon Prime membership, you now have access to a pretty awesome little library of tunes. If the parish priest is showing up at 6:00 or you got stuck hosting the book club this month, here's what I'd throw on the ol' turntable to keep myself calm and keep the background noise pleasant.

Rod Stewart

I had near-hyperventilation and cries of joy when I saw that Prime Music included ALL of Rod Stewart's crooning the classics. Whenever my sister or I hear "You Go to My Head," we immediately yearn for a cold glass of good pinot grigio and a foxtrot-like spin around the kitchen island of my parents' house. Many, many a good family dinner nights were spent in the company of Rod, the aforementioned wine, and my mom's famous New York style meatloaf.

Perfect for: any and all dinner parties--especially if your dinner parties usually include the 60-something crowd, or if you're really an 80-something at heart, like me.

2. What a Wonderful Duet
Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald 

As easy to listen to as the Great American Songbooks above, but with the bonus of female vocals--and not just any female vocals, of course. Is there a musical pair today that sounds as good together as Louis and Ella? Nah.

Perfect for: guests who appreciate a little jazzy toe-tapping.

Sometimes, though, you just need something soothing in the background, something without lyrics (or a trumpet).

This is an excellent album on the whole, but you need it for the first two tracks: "Gabriel's Oboe" and "The Falls" from The Mission.

Perfect for: guests who like weeping.

4. Live at Radio City
Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds 

Show me a person that doesn't have some kind of emotional, romantic attachment to at least one Dave Matthews song--just one! Does such a mythical creature exist?

Perfect for: dinner guests who will start humming along to "Crush" without even realizing it.

Ok, it's not the album for every dinner party, and your kids might have some questions if they listen to the lyrics of "Piano Man" too closely. But as mother to a 4-year-old, I've come to better appreciate "Don't Ask Me Why;" collapsing at the end of the day reminds me that "You're Only Human;" and  pregnancy gives new meaning to "Pressure." (Too much?)

Perfect for: humans with problems who want to be assured that someone, anyone, loves them just the way they are. Awww.

Go forth and give 'em all a listen! And vote: Next week, want 5 albums to keep you going during a marathon dish washing session? Or early Christmas picks?

Ps. Linking this up with Jenna's inaugural five favs link-up. Happy hosting, and thanks, Jenna!


oh, brother / east of eden


Six things:

1. Other women seem to BREEZE through five books in a month. Meanwhile, mother tortoise over here gets through 18 pages of Classic Dense Novel X at nap time every day before fighting the urge to nap herself. So my What We're Reading Wednesday posts come along, oh, every quarter of a year. This moderately irritates me, but not enough to do much about it. East of Eden traveled down to California and back with me before I finished it.
Pondering if the movie is as long and winding as the book. Also, Mr. Dean's awesome hair.

2. Why am I reading Classic Dense Novels? Because I can't stand being on a wait list for library books, so I only commit to books I can check out on THE DAY I'm at the library. Plus I usually end up renewing things three times before finishing them. Can you do that with a high-demand library book? Slow-reading minds want to know.

3. My standard reaction when I finish a Classic Dense Novel: "Huhn. Isn't that sumpin'." And then for an afternoon or two, I forage around the internet for critical literary analysis, trying to see if I missed some broad theme or archetype.

Did I miss anything, James?
This is how I ended up at Oprah.com (gag me) last week, reading a blathering article about villain-woman-prostitute-mother Cathy/Kate, trying to see if John Steinbeck really does have an issue with misogyny. 

4. He doesn't. At least, Oprah doesn't think so.

5. I assumed that if Oprah of all people chose East of Eden for one of her book club selections back in the day, it'd be something loosely romantic or at least moderately sappy.

6. It wasn't. DUH. IT'S STEINBECK. He's Mice and Men, he's Grapes of Wrath. And I expected sappy??

She looks so pleased to be the third wheel. 

The epic, multi-generational tale of two families (and almost exclusively male protagoanists) finding their way to the lush Salinas Valley surprised me with its depiction of an amoral, seemingly heartless woman. While Steinbeck sketched out those male protagonists with loving care and deep sensitivities, he drew his villain with an equally deep reserve of hatred and spite. Some say Cathy/Kate is based on his second wife. Hmm.

Nice hat, devil lady.

As one would expect in a book based on the first family of Genesis and their angst, the book centers around two sets of brothers. I'm raising two boys, and the relationships between both sets of brothers worried me greatly. Will one of my boys come to resent the other? Will one sabotage the happiness of the other? Does one think I love the other more than I love him?


That the fictional brothers within the novel had fractured families is putting it gently. Their biological mothers proved to be either weak, distant, or psychotic. As one essayist put it, the most caring and nurturing mother in the book is actually, of course, a man.

But providing a positive moral focus in the novel through all that mess is that man (or brother) is not doomed to sin--nor is he above sin, but that he has the freedom to choose not sin. No shortage of Catholic fodder here. Though born with sin on his soul, man may choose goodness over revenge and violence. And it is God alone who bestows that gift upon him.

Next up for me: a current analysis of religion in America--all heretics and polemics from here on out!


4 reasons to pray at abortion clinics

You know what's really depressing?

Going here to pray:

The building: an imposing yet dilapidated grey monolith lacking interest or warmth.

The iron fence outside of it: built tall and strong to remind people like me to stay away.

The activity inside: lies, pain, death, waste.

But if I don't go and pray, that doesn't make the building disappear. Death will still happen inside of it. Women (and men) will still walk away from it, wounded, forever hurt.

A kind soul recently asked me how I'd respond to people who don't understand abortion-clinic prayer vigils. Why not, they reason, spend your time inside a crisis pregnancy center? If you really want to help women, why not actually do something?

With a few caveats (one being that we financially support our local crisis pregnancy centers) I responded with my top four reasons.

1. giving alternatives 
Not every woman who knows where an abortion clinic is, also knows where a pregnancy resource center is. It would be nice if every crisis pregnancy center could be right across the street (or right next door) to an abortion clinic, but at least in our town, the center is a good 2 miles away. When I go and pray during 40 Days for Life, I hold a sign that has the phone number to our local crisis pregnancy center.

So: It's important to be there, at the abortion clinic, to spread that information.

2. mourning them 
Just as people flock to the site of 9/11 in New York City, or visit past battlefields like Normandy or Gettysburg, or even place flowers at the graves of loved ones, I pray at abortion centers because that is where babies die

They have no one to place a flower on their grave, since they are either tossed in dumpsters or disposed of as "medical waste."

So: It's important to be there, at the abortion clinic, to mourn their lives.

3. showing others
If you're driving and stop at a busy intersection, you might see a panhandler, asking for money or food. If you go to church, you might hear a missionary talk about people starving in far-off countries. If you visit a nursing home, you'll see elderly who are all but abandoned by their family. These things make us uncomfortable, and often move us to action. 

When we see suffering, it pricks our conscience. 

Many times, abortion clinics go unnoticed by the people driving by--they see only another building, not the (in)humanity of what happens behind the doors. I've talked with many pro-lifers who didn't even know that an abortion clinic was in their city, or even right in their neighborhood.

So: It's important to be there, at the abortion clinic, to show your neighbors what is happening, right on the street where they live--and that you don't approve of it.

4. being there 
I've prayed at abortion clinics for years, both alone and in peer groups. Now I take my kids with me. For this fall 40 Days for Life campaign, I'll be nearly 8 months pregnant. 

It's important for women, alone or with children, to pray outside clinics. While the presence of the older pro-life generation is undeniably important (and indeed, that generation laid the foundation for the very vigils and marches we participate in today), I believe it sends a powerful message to the world when women--especially those born after 1973--publicly pray to end abortion. 

We are there to hold out a hand and say, "Come with me to the crisis pregnancy center. You're not alone, you don't have to do this, and there is a way out. And you and your baby deserve better."

So: It's important to be there, at the abortion clinic, to show other women that they're not alone, that children are beautiful, and that life is precious--hard, but precious.  

This Saturday, 40 Days for Life kicks off in my town with a rally. I've signed up for a few vigil slots per week. 

Think about joining me. Even if you find it depressing, too.


pretty funny happy real / in CA (again) (mostly)

Looks like the last time I did the Like Mother/Like Daughter weekly linkup, I also posted pictures from a recent California trip. My only conclusion is that many pretty, funny and happy things really do happen in CA.

pretty /

Ain't no sunset like a NorCal sunset. Sky on FIRE.

funny / 

Joseph learning to finally ride a bike (thanks to Babcia's perseverance)--not funny, but it made us all giddy with pride. 

One truly funny Joseph story this week: I had Catholic radio on in the car, and a talk by Fr. Larry Richards (who I LOVE) came on. 

Joseph asks, "Mom... Is this Jesus talking?"

happy / 

A well-stocked kitchen towel drawer, filled with beautiful swaths of absorbent cotton is one of my mother's love languages (and, in turn, mine as well). If you time it right in the evenings, you can occasionally catch her at one of her guilty pleasures: ironing them. 

real / 

Back to (pre) school for my precious Little Nerd; back to mornings with mom for my Little Knight. Happy September.


maternity clothes math

In the shopping aberration of the century, the boys and I had an EXTRAORDINARILY successful trip to Goodwill. In 12 minutes, we scored new salt/pepper shakers, two train books, a barely-worn sweater for Joe AND a pair of seemingly-new Old Navy maternity jean jeggings (or leggings?) for me, for a grand total of $10.82.

I bought the jeans without trying them on and without finding a size tag in them. The waist looked to be size "extra plenty;" and big enough to accommodate the low-hanging watermelon that is my belly.

Tried them on at home--success. Nay, perfection. Maybe a little on the loose side, but since I've still got 8 weeks to go, that's a good problem to have.

Then, as I took off the blessed garment, I found that size tag. HA.

Is it fine to be a size 14? Well duh. Of course it is. But is it a shock to be a pre-pregnancy size of about 8, then to be wearing not only a size 14, but a maternity size 14, with plenty of weeks to go? YES, IT IS A SHOCK.

Maternity clothes/sizes are basically a crapshoot, so I'm issuing a new formula for determining your numerical maternity size, at least for Old Navy.

Take your pre-pregnancy size: 8

Add your trimester: 3

Add which number this baby is in your lineup: 3

In the words of Peg + Cat: Problem solved! The problem is solved!


week's best clicks / 08

1 /
Kinda like don't judge a book by its cover, don't judge a bishop (or a pope) by his residence.
2 /
Fancy that: Pregnancy resource centers giving women real help: "But she had never forgotten the unique sense of love she felt at the center and how deeply it had affected her. 'Other places made me feel like I was a bad person.'”

3 / 
Matt Walsh on "safe" sex.

4 / 
19 ways to let you parish priest know you appreciate him.

5 / 
The Cardinal Newman Society puts together 10 facts every Catholic should know about Common Core.

6 /
Ever read about a topic that makes your head spin? Try this: FIGHT! between radical feminism and transgenderism. I feel dizzy already.
7 / 
Alert the media: Woman who believes the Church has no respect for women CAN'T WAIT to see Fifty Shades of Grey.... Heh: "The hierarchy of the Church will continue to bind us, restrain us, and subjugate us, always looking for a way to make us submissive to their selfish desires."

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


protecting kids: duty and risk

Two stories. Story one:

The boys and I walked out of a grocery story today and stood by a large column, watching and waiting for the automatic doors to close--cheap thrills for the pre-school set.

A woman walked out of the store and glanced at the boys as she walked past the column, then darted back to look at them.

"Oh!" she said, surprised by my presence. "I didn't see you there."

She then backed away with both hands up in a defensive gesture. "I'm so sorry. I didn't see they had somebody with them. Sorry."

I didn't know what she was talking about. Then it made sense. In her line of view, I was blocked by the large column. She just saw two little boys, alone, standing outside of a grocery store. Her instincts made her come back.

In the split second it took me to understand this, she had already made her apology and swiftly started walking to her car. I wanted to make a quick quip of "Oh don't apologize! These days I feel so big, it's nice not to be noticed!" But she was gone.

Her apology stuck with me. I also wanted to tell her: No, please don't apologize. Do not apologize for following your instincts and making sure that two little brothers were ok, were safely with their mama. You did right. And I thank you for it.

But she obviously wasn't expecting my gratitude. She was bracing for my fury.

Story two:

At the park once with the boys, Sean and I saw a little girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, sitting sullenly on a bench, alone. She stared into space, occasionally making unintelligible sounds. From my own lifetime experience with both an autistic sister and developmentally disabled people of all walks of life, I was fairly certain the girl was handicapped.

Of the people in the girl's vicinity, none seemed to be acting in the role of parent, care giver or sibling. We watched her sit alone for about 15 minutes.

Sean then spoke to the girl--albeit from a distance. He asked her if she was ok, if her mommy was around, if she needed any help.

Suddenly an angry voice from 50 feet away called out. "What the HELL are YOU DOING?" a woman yelled to Sean. Her cell phone was to her ear. She too sat alone on a bench. "SHE'S AUTISTIC. She's FINE. Just leave her ALONE."

She then went back to her phone, saying loudly into the receiver, "Yeah, some guy just tried to talk to her. What a stupid jerk. Who in the hell do people think they are?"

We walked the boys home, stunned. And stung.

In today's world, concerned onlookers don't know what to expect from parents. News reports have been filled this summer with reports of neighbors or anonymous observers who see (or think they see) trouble afoot with kids. Instead of going to the parents, they call the cops.
Today they might not have been so lucky. For instance, they might have ended up like the Connecticut mother who earned a misdemeanor for letting her 11-year-old stay in the car while she ran into a store. Or the mother charged with “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” after a bystander snapped a photo of her leaving her 4-year-old in a locked, windows-cracked car for five minutes on a 50 degree day. Or the Ohio father arrested in front of his family for “child endangerment” because — unbeknown to him — his 8-year-old had slipped away from a church service and ended up in a nearby Family Dollar.
If I put myself in the position of these parents, I feel a wave of horror at the idea of police intervention. People who "tattle" on parents are certainly not all justified. It's not as simple as that.

But I understand someone (in today's upside-down world) choosing an impersonal phone call to their local police station before risking getting their head bit off by a parent who is insulted, irate and VERY IRRITATED at the mere suggestion that they had put their kids in danger.

When a situation looks questionable (but not outright criminal, violent or brutal), is it right to call the cops first, before speaking to parents? No. Is it fair? No. But is it understandable? Yeah.

Parents feel a duty to protect kids, both their own and others. Acting on that duty usually carries risk, but it should be the risk of approaching a parent who's having a rough day--not the risk of having an officer come to your house and take your statement.

Should Sean or I be in that same situation at the park again (as in story two), I have no doubt we'd both put the safety of the child first, even if it means risking getting our heads bit off. Just like the kind lady at the grocery store (in story one). It's worth the risk to do your duty.


week's best clicks / 07

1 /
Poor Sandra Fluke. Her campaign to get elected to the California state senate is going so badly, she had to loan the campaign $100,000 of her own money. (Don't ask her why she couldn't even afford her own birth control just a few years ago.)

2 /
Iron your clothes. Hang them outside. Put on an apron. Make the beds. It just might change your life, you housewife you.

3 / 
These contemplative Down Syndrome sisters in France "scatter flowers for Jesus."

4 / 
The best thing I read all week, maybe all month; it begins with a baby dying right after birth: "If this baby's death does not matter, no death matters."

5 / 
My friend James is now a columnist at the Say Anything Blog. I plan to get famous by association.

6 /
"I like being in a big family because the inside family jokes aren't always about you."

7 / 
I've already exposed my weakness for cheap crayons at back-to-school sales; Lacy tells me this is fine.

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


heat survival guide for the gestating / five faves

For being 25-weeks pregnant and lacking any air conditioning in my house, I'm really dealing with the summer heat quite well.

Know that saying of "Don't make an ugly face; it just might stick"? Yeah. Also, I'm pretty sure that if my hair has to be in a top knot or off-the-neck braid for one more week, I'll never be able to coax it back down.

I'm no stranger to heat. I lived--nay, flourished--through 25 summers in California's Sacramento Valley, when hot means not just a few days over 100, but 30. But every building there has AC. Now, I'm in Eastern Washington, that duplicitous region. Not only does winter bring the stinging cold and dirty exhaust-coated ice that clings to the road from November through March... but summer comes with the audacity of 90 and 100-degree 10-day heat waves. It's a "both/and" kind of place--glacial winters and boiling summers.

But hey, there's no state income tax. So, yeah.

Two weeks ago we scurried to fill our van like Steinbeck characters fleeing the dust bowl and drove out to my in-laws' air conditioned house to escape the rising temps. This week, I'm resolved to stay put. My game plan:

1. Cook nothing--NOTHING--indoors
With the advent of a gas grill onto our patio, I've declared my stove and oven to be out-of-order until September. This coincides nicely with Sean getting his whole "I'm a man and I like to grill" thing going. I might even get him an apron. After all, I might need to bolster his spirits as he braves the propane, flames and smoke, while I stay inside chopping lettuce and sticking my face in the freezer.

2. The 8-hour iced coffee

One of these things is not like the other...

I make a point making my drive-thru coffee place the very last stop on my daily errands. When I get my iced vanilla americano back home, it goes straight into the fridge--with first a little top-off of lactose-free milk, just to replenish what I sipped on the way home. Then, at each of the 400 times through the rest of the day that I open the refridge to fetch, refill or put away sippy cups, I take a sip. And my blood pressure recedes a few points.

3. Costco Camping

That membership fee pays for itself after your third slow stroll around the refrigerated dairy/produce cases.

Today the boys watched for 20 minutes as the Vitamix guy made them a smoothie. I stood by the cart and nodded at him periodically, thinking to myself with a grin, "There's no sweat running down my back. It's 11 a.m. and my feet aren't swollen yet."

I think the guy took my smile as a sign I wanted his $500 blender. We walked away instead of telling him that at $500, it better cool my house AND puree bananas.

Another Costco amusement: Watching 40 chickens receive their new plastic homes. Also: dinner.

4. Retreat underground

Our half-finished basement is not a thing of beauty, but it stays a good 15 degrees cooler than upstairs.

So while it's not fun hauling 12 blankies and 29 pillows down there (and that's just the stuff I need to get comfortable), it beats showering in your my own sweat each night.

5. Suck it up

I listened to The World Over while doing my dishes over a steamy sink last night. Want a sure-fire way to be grateful for living in a brick-oven-of-a-house? Listen to the plight of Christians not living in the promised land of Eastern Washington. Read about the children at the border, Ebola in Africa, or the homeless that whether this kind of weather sans shelter. I didn't need to go far to find people who's lives are about a million times harder than mine. That doesn't make my house less hot, but it makes my little burden much more an inconvenience than a burden.

That's my spin for this week. Linking up with Heather of unbelievably-bad-airport-experience fame.