week's best clicks / 01

1 /
Chew on this: 17 words that describe themselves. And if that doesn't make you sufficiently erudite, read 14 words that are their own opposites. Mind = blown.

2 /
Verily Magazine (now exclusively online) pays homage to the gorgeous on-screen style of Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story.

3 / 
Housewifespice rounds up the best books about new babies. Three cheers for putting the kibosh on sibling rivalry (at least in story books).

4 / 
Simcha asks us to try this one weird trick for ending the war on women. (Hint: It involves not sleeping around.)

5 / 
Camille at Life in Mod surveys the landscape of trendy nursing tops and finds it's not all hooks, flaps, and pull-down necklines (mercifully).

6 /
Go beyond the great facebook-and-phone fast for Lent with great ideas from Catholic Vote's Tom Hoopes.

7 / 
I'm not one for keeping up much of a Pinterest board, but if I did, it'd be filled with lovely things from Oh Happy Day!, including this 3-D birthday banner.

Double link-up to Jen for Seven Quick Takes, and... (I'm writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.)


a fence for my family

The American Dream: a house, a minivan, a yard for the kids to play in. For the first four years of our marriage we rented abodes with either a small, shared yard or no yard at all. Joseph, my late crawler and late walker, didn't seem to mind this much.

During his first summer up on two legs, we visited a different park every day and utilized the little patch of grass that was "ours" behind our rented townhouse. But the townhouse, though newly-built and decently made, sat in a rough part of town. And the lush green grass that surrounded it came with a price: no fence. That left us at the mercy of our neighbors--of which we had plenty, since the townhouse was one of six in a row. But much worse, it left us exposed to foot traffic wandering up from the street. Foot traffic that included stumbling drunks, poor souls asking for money for bogus charities, and even a guy who pounded on our door on election night two years ago, cursing and threatening us for having (the losing party's) political bumper sticker on our car.

Fun times.

The summer he turned one, Amby made it quite obvious he would be neither a late walker nor would he be content visiting parks once a day. No. He wanted to be outside in the morning to watch the squirrels come out. He wanted to be outside at lunch to play in the sprinklers. He wanted to be outside before dinner to see if he could run away from momma and turn a corner before she noticed.

We needed a yard. More accurately, we needed a fence.

When we toured our current home, we asked the owner about the gorgeous wrought-iron fence around the backyard.

"Oh yeah," he said, "that wasn't here when I bought it. But my wife has a little puppy, and she insisted I get a fence up. So I did."

Ha, oh mister. You think you built that fence for the dog. You didn't know it, but you were really building it for Joseph and Amby.

We've been in the house six months, probably through the worst weather of the year, and yet we're in the backyard nearly every day. Leaf piles, snow piles, stomp rocketing, bubble blowing, dirt digging, mowing and edging and weeding. That fence gives us so much--a little slice of life protected from intrusion.

It's said that high fences make good neighbors. They also make for happy boys.

Linking up with Cari for Theme Thursday and all others on the fence. Ha. And... (I'm writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.)


five faves / amazon prime shows to love, part II

Welp. There's a big Downton-and-Sherlock-shaped hole in my life. But right quick (that's one of my favorite Joe-isms), I'll be filling it with these understudies.

1. Pride and Prejudice (BBC 1995)

Judging by the screech of joy I let out upon seeing that BBC P&P was now on Prime, Sean thought we had won a large pot of money. But make no mistake: Having all six episodes of glowing Jennifer Ehle, moody Colin Firth, and that big pond he climbs out of is reason to celebrate. Each episode runs about an hour, so this Austen love fest can be spread out over a few nights or binged on a Saturday. Delightful.

2. The Amazing Race (Seasons 17-20) 

Whenever Sean and I realize that a new season of TAR has begun, two or three episodes have already aired, and we pass on watching the rest. Once we discovered some seasons were on Prime, though, we watched each one, start to finish, on our own schedule. With little offending content (other than occasionally the relationships of some participants), it's fun watching the dynamics of pairs under stress (and success). 

The most recent season premiered this past Sunday night AT THE SAME TIME AS ANOTHER IMPORTANT SHOW, but we agreed (read: Sean kindly gave in) to watch the Downton finale instead. Luckily, CBS has it available to watch online, so now we're all caught up. 

3. Cranford (BBC 2007)

Two spinster sisters (one played by Dame Judi Dench) and a town in the 1840s that thrives on petty gossip--what's not to love? Full disclosure: Both the first episode and the last contain two medical scenes involving bones and, well, the fixing of them, that I had to fast forward (thinking of them still makes me wince). But those small scenes aside, the five-episode season has sweet humor and lovely relationships. BONUS: Mr. Carson makes an appearance, and is much less buttoned-up than he is at the Abbey. 

4. Chopped (2010-2012)

It's 5 p.m. You look inside the refrigerator for something to make for dinner and find only ketchup, pickles, lamb shanks and wonton wrappers. Can you make a meal with that? SURE! Or at least if you watch enough Chopped, you might. There's only so much Chopped you can watch before burning out, and some of the dishes look downright disgusting, but the fun is knowing the judges have to taste what's put in front of them (sometimes to their dismay). 

One celebrity edition of Chopped featured Anne Burrell making street tacos with haggis. Girl's got skills. 

Simple premise: Chef Robert Irvine visits failing restaurants and whacks the owners upside the head (figuratively), then guts their kitchens, staffs and menus (literally). The whole thing supposedly plays out in roughly two days, and the drama of "We're not going to finish in time! AAAAAHHH!" gets a little old. But everyone likes a success story. Fresh food, good service and revitalized decor always result from his intervention. Downside: Seeing the filthy and health-code violations that often turn up in the restaurants. But it strengthens my resolve to just cook my own damn dinner. 

Or get take out from Chipotle. That place always looks spic and span. 

Happy viewing!

Linking up with Hallie and the Favoriteers, and..  (I'm writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.)

get on the "fertility awareness" train

A nurse practitioner at my OB-GYN's office did my yearly check-up a few months ago, and asked me the inevitable question:

"What kind of birth control do you use?"

Back up the bus. While driving to the appointment I listened to an interview on Catholic radio regarding "fertility awareness methods." Ha, I thought, so that's what they're calling NFP now.

Then it struck me. "Fertility awareness methods." That's absolutely brilliant.

Pro-lifers have been outwitted at the semantics game for years now--not because we are an unintelligent lot or have outdated arguments. Quite the opposite. Pro-lifers have truth and science on our side. But truth hurts.

It lessens the sting to consider abortion as removing the "products of conception," "terminating a pregnancy," a "gentle emptying of your uterus." Sounds like a day at the spa.

But I digress. Maybe at one time, "natural family planning" had a modern ring to it, as every grocery store has a "family planning" section chock-full of condoms and pregnancy tests. Maybe tacking "natural" onto "family planning" was once a phrase that sparked some interest among those who frequent that aisle.

But now, it would seem that NFP is the derided younger sibling of the rhythm method. Tell the secular world you use NFP, and they ask if you and your 11 offspring can afford a roof over your heads.

Enter Kindara, a new iPhone app with this kind of success:

Is Kindara (free, but only available on iPhones with iOS 7.0) a NFP app? No no. It's a fertility awareness method app.

I see apps like Kindara as having a tremendous benefit to folks with no exposure to the tried-and-true NFP methods like Billings and Creighton.

But they must come with a warning.

There's a reason that every NaPro/ Creighton/ Pope Paul VI Institute webpage contains exactly zero information as to the nitty-gritty of charting a woman's cycle. So as to maintain the integrity of Creighton's effectiveness (which is about 97%), Creighton is only taught in person by certified instructors--hence the urgent need for more instructors to teach the growing number of interested couples. (Go Caitlin!! Go Kate!!)

If a couple were to obtain just the primary NaPro Technology instruction handbook from someone else who met with an instructor, they'd learn the basics. But unavailable to them would be the instructions on:
- charting after pregnancy and delivery
- charting while breastfeeding
- charting with persistent cervical mucus (yellow stickers)
- advice on when to visit a doctor for persistent charting issues (just read Simcha's experience)

While a basic knowledge of ovulation is enough to help many women conceive a baby, it is often this knowledge of their bodies through accurate charting (interpreted by a NaPro-trained doctor) that uncovers the cause of infertility--endometriosis, polycystic ovarian disease, low progesterone, etc. And for that, you need a doctor (or at least a certified instructor who can help find one).

So there's the question: Does fertility awareness popularity through apps and other informal sources of learning create a net gain for the method, since it unchains women from carcinogenic, hormonal, and abortifacient birth control?

Or does it set up a net loss for the method, since it will most likely "fail" some women who have more complex cycles than can be charted through an app? News of those "fails" will more than likely make their way to news sources who are unfriendly to the idea of NFP, or more accurately, who will defend the pill to the bitter end. I cringe writing "fail" since that would generally indicate a pregnancy when a baby isn't desired, and that indeed would be a fun story for Slate and the like.

However, I tend to say the former outweighs the latter. If any couples ditch the pill, conceive children or better understand their bodies through a fertility awareness app, then praise be to God for it. And in time, perhaps couples who begin using Kindara will eventually gravitate to formally learning established NFP methods.

And to circle back: What did I tell my nurse practitioner when she asked what birth control I use?

Well, I use a fertility awareness method. Naturally.

(I'm writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.)


believe what you read / my lenten commitment

I struggle to connect with certain holy women in history--those that lived their lives almost exclusively surrounded by other women within the walls of a convent.

They write of their own shortcomings or their willful desires and passions, but the all-consuming passion for our Lord overcomes them. They spend hours in rapture in front of the Blessed Sacrament; their fellow cloistered sisters write memoirs of their faith that survive through the centuries; their zeal for being espoused to Christ and Christ alone drives their every prayer.

Then there's me.

I wrangle Amby during Mass. I'm lucky if I get to say an Anima Christi after receiving communion. I say one rosary from the kid-free sanctuary of my bed each night. Then I collapse.

I have all-consuming passions too, but on a daily basis, they center mostly on Lysol and Dyson.

My house: more mayhem than monastery. More chaos than contemplation.

I know there are female saints who were married, had children and worked both inside and outside the home (St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Gianna Molla, St. Monica, St. Bridget of Sweden to name a few). But I made it a personal challenge of mine this week to find some way to connect to these holy women who lived lives so practically different than my own.

My answer came in Mass this Sunday. Our pastor's homily focused on three newly-ordained deacons for our diocese, the significance of the Book of the Gospels, and the ordination rite:
"Each newly ordained deacon then goes to the bishop and kneels before him. The bishop places the Book of the Gospels in the hands of the newly ordained, saying, “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
My answer for connecting to those holy women, who didn't have children or husbands, who didn't drive a station wagon to the grocery store each day, who didn't attend a novus ordo Mass or say the Luminous mysteries of the rosary, is Scripture.

We both believe what we read--the Gospel. 

I'm going to read the New Testament for Lent. If I were to read it in Latin (and if I could read Latin), I'd probably get the closest I could to sharing their exact same experience. Instead I'm choosing the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament as my guide. I don't think Curtis Mitch and Scott Hahn can steer me wrong.

So Sts. Matilda and Juliana, Claire and Catherine, Gertrude and Hildegard, allow me to share a little of your lives, and a lot of what we both believe.

All you holy men and women, pray for us.

(I'm writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.)

Image sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


7qt / breaking down, bad ears, progesterone

Win: Sun shows its face a few hours this week. I take the boys in the double jogging stroller to the playground.
Loss: Boys climb out at playground and said stroller loses a wheel.

You win some and you lose some, but you don't expect to lose a wheel. Got some funny looks from passing cars as we rolled our lame horse home.


Amby (and I) survived his ear tubes surgery this morning. By all accounts it's a quick and relatively painless procedure, but still, he had to fast from midnight the night before, don a gown at the surgery center and be carried away by two (very sweet) nurses for the operation. I'm so very grateful that we've never had to do anything more serious than this for either boy, but it was my first taste of what medical intervention looks like for little ones.

Simcha's post about progesterone cream may be a mouthful:

but the information is invaluable. Nine kids, one miscarriage and a whole lotta years of marriage later, and she's just finding a way to make NFP (Creighton) work for her. Big kudos and high fives in her direction, especially because:

The post-peak fight is a doozy! Fight when fertile, folks!

Joe-Joe at his namesake store, in good light.


Speaking of Trader Jose's and the many g-free treasures contained therein: For anyone who'd like to more easily access the piddling amount of information I've posted on gluten-free product reviews and recipes, I've created a "gluten free goods" tab under my fancy winter self-portrait at the top of the page. So if you ever wanted to know my thoughts on Pilsbury GF refrigerated dough, the best (and cheapest) GF chocolate chip cookie, or the best brand for GF pancake mix, you're in luck.


The Ladies of Instagram have been ever so kind in assuring me I'm not alone with this problem:

It's not the folding that gets me--I like folding clothes. It's the putting away, and subsequently having to open up every drawer in the house, that leads to two full baskets of neatly folded clothes collecting dust in my bedroom.

This afternoon, post-surgery, post-nap, two drowsy boys climbed up into my lap. Moments of sweet mother/son tranquility and love followed.

Plus a little reality.

Happy Friday to all the other quick takers at Jen's.


gluten free oatmeal cookies / and dishes

Sometimes (usually when I spend nap time scrubbing floors instead of perched on the couch with my laptop), I think people can either have a clean house, or a blog.

Other times (usually when I've just bought a huge bag of gluten-free rolled oats at Trader Joe's and have butter to spare) I think I can have a clean kitchen, or homemade cookies.

But hey, I'm a Catholic. We are a "both/and" people, and alleluia is our song (and cookies are usually worth it).

I have no picture of the cookie-making scene that took place this morning, with both boys "helping!" and perched on stools at the kitchen counter. At all times my hands were both managing raw-egg-laden dough with Joe, and playing defense against Amby's attempts to pour dirty dish water into the mixing bowl with a stolen measuring cup.

Pensive cookie watchers.

But cookies we did make, and ate, with great happiness.

I searched and searched for a recipe that did not list as one of the instructions: "Place half the oats in a food processor and grind until fine." (Ended up with this recipe, and success!) I keep all-purpose gluten-free flour on hand for a reason: so that I don't have to throw a food processor into the I-don't-have-enough-hands cooking scenario described above.

Also: Cookie making already generates a truck load of dishes. Why add another razor-sharp spinning blade and plastic bowl to the drudgery that awaits?

And speaking of, here's a blurry shot of the damage.

But now, it's the end of nap time and I've both done the dishes, and joined up with Cari for Theme Thursday.


For more gluten-free gimmicks, check out my gluten free (brands and reviews) page.


my first time.

On St. Valentine's day, I went to a dermatology appointment. Nothing says love like a little liquid nitrogen.

In the waiting room, I picked up a Glamour magazine. Don't judge me--the other options were Golf Digest and WebMD.

Ok, judge me. I should have just sat and prayed a rosary. But I consider Glamour (and Cosmopolitan and others of that ilk) to be the antithesis of all I am and believe, so I told myself I was engaging in opposition research.

I came to a collection of little first-person narratives all centered around the lovey-dovey theme of "My first time ______." Some charming examples:
- "My first time cheating on my wife (but don't worry, she was ok with it)"
- "My first time moving in with a guy"
- "My first time in a three way"
- "My first time sleeping with a woman (a straight woman's perspective)"
Nothing like a little infidelity, multiple partners, shacking up and sexual experimentation to spice up life. The narratives grew progressively more outrageous and concocted. By the time a nurse called my name, I had flipped it shut and hid it behind the now much more appealing Golf Digest.

I wonder: Does Glamour publish material like that because it is provoking and titillating? Or, do its editors truly find those kinds of "firsts" to be noteworthy?

And why is this kind of publication sitting in a doctor's office? Who makes the decision to subscribe to this kind of thing? Do women actually read these kinds of articles and feel edified or better for having read it? Or does it make women sad, sad to see a so-called women's magazine glorifying a husband's infidelity and sexual license? If it doesn't, it should.

I'm married with children. My "first time" has obviously passed. And though the sex-obsessed writers and editors of Glamour think there's quite a few firsts out there that I could try next, I'm strangely not tempted by them.

Because, they say, if you've already had your "first time," what else is there?

Lots. Since marrying, my life has been a string of first times.

My first time being pregnant. My first (and hopefully only) time losing a baby. My first time giving birth. My first time being published. My first time taking a child to pre-school. My first time hosting Thanksgiving. My first time being laid off. My first time surviving life with two babies in tow. My first time undergoing surgery.

These aren't overly momentous firsts, and they're certainly not unique. But they'e all been firsts for me. Many if not all of them are due to the fact that I chose to vow my life to one man, welcome children, and face the beautiful consequences.

Five years of firsts. And to think--none of them made the pages of Glamour. And isn't that a good thing!


what I wore sunday / to hell with hosiery

Today's outfit is notable solely for what it is not--it is not a skirt. It is pants.

And pants are good and pants are truly just fine (pants pass! pants paaaaass!), but I like wearing skirts or dresses to Mass. My fleece-lined tights (thick as sheet rock but comfy as leggings) got plenty of use this winter, but PRAISE BE TO HEAVEN it's now just a titch warmer outside. So this morning I ripped open a new pack of black control top nylons instead.

Have mercy.

Once I shimmied into them, taking great care not to snag the dang things before even getting any use out of them, I honestly thought they felt ok. On went the skirt and top. Cute! Dressy. Good.

10 minutes later I'm back in my bedroom stripping everything off.

Sean: "Why are you changing? You looked nice."

Me: "Because I feel like a snake swallowed my bottom half and is now in the process of digesting me."

Oh, the squeezing. The constriction! I've always had an aversion to tight things around my middle, but I kind of thought by now I would have outgrown it. A grown woman is able to wear nylons, and may even be happy or comfortable doing so, I thought.

I am either not a grown woman or an odd one. Whatever.

My options were either donning the fleece tights and sweating through Mass, or giving up and pulling on my pinstripe New York and Co. pants from six years ago. As Simcha would simply state: Pants.

So until it's deemed appropriate to go bare-legged (the end of March? Maybe? Early April, please?), I'll be rocking the wide-legged trousers on Sundays.

Bonfire (albeit a very quick one) at my house tonight for the offending hosiery.

Off to FLAP where I hope you will find other ladies so pleased with their outfits, their shoes flew off from abundant attire happiness.


7qt / lady mary, liam neeson and new lenses


First, Downton-related news: We all knew Lady Mary would begin taking roles in American projects at some point, but playing a bare-armed flight attendant opposite Liam Neeson in an action-thriller didn't seem to be the obvious choice. Ah well. Cute haircut.

Changing gears: In the words of the Dowager, "Oh, goody goody!"

I was hoping to get some award for traveling the furthest to get to Austin this summer, but I foiled my own plans by talking lovely Tricia (of Seattle!) into coming as well! Starstruck will be one feeling I know I'll experience at that gathering this summer. Footloose-and-fancy-free will probably be another. Many thanks to all the ladies doing all the things to make it a wonderful time.


Speaking of mothers, this article explains why the BEST time of day is when Sean gets home and takes the kids downstairs to play. Pandemonium reduction, not dishwashing, is the way to a woman's heart--because the dishes don't get in squabbling matchings over who gets to wear the fireman's hat.

In 2011, the sociologists Shira Offer and Barbara Schneider found that mothers spend, on average, 10 extra hours a week multitasking than do fathers "and that these additional hours are mainly related to time spent on housework and child care."
... UCLA researchers took saliva samples from most of the subjects of their study to measure levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. They found that while leisure time went a long way toward relaxing fathers, it did far less to subdue anxiety in mothers. So what, you may ask, did calm the mothers?
Simple: Seeing their husbands make a bigger effort to reduce the pandemonium in the house.

I got to escape the pandemonium in my own house for a whole 24 hours last weekend as Sean and I celebrated our five-year anniversary. Through some light sobbing in the car as we drove away, I told Sean I needed to call my friend Kayla (a super mom of two kidlets) for a pep talk.

"Kayla, we just left the boys. How do you do it? How do you leave them and still have a good time?"

"Oh Mare. It's hard. The first time you leave them, it's hard. I think it took me until 11 p.m. on the first night we were gone to realize that hey, it's pretty nice to have some time away."

--looking at my watch which reads 1:15 p.m.--

"So, you're saying it takes about 10 hours."

"Yeah, about that long. But the good news is that the second time you go away, it only takes 30 minutes!"

Love that girl.

We came back on Sunday morning and hugged the heck out of our two little rascals. That night, I slept really well, too well in fact. I woke up groggily on Monday morning to the sound of Amby crying, so I threw on my glasses, started rushing over to the boys' room and--

--ran into a wall. (And broke my glasses.) Welcome back and gooooooood morning.

Have lots of folks had success with those Warby Parker-ish sites? At least half of the Costco frames I tried on this week pinched my head too much for comfort, so I'm hesitant to order glasses online without knowing how they fit, even if it'd be cheaper. Sean tells me I can just measure my head, but... measuring one's own head seems an activity fraught with error. But if any other similarly wide-headed folk have had success with them, I'd love to know.

Cue gratuitous photo of kids in bathtub. With washcloths on heads. For some reason the "Matchmaker" lyrics are humming through my head now. Oh Yente. 


Oh, and what a good season it was, gentlemen.
Best line: *incredulously* "But it's Christmas!"
"Oh, yes...*smiles* Oh, you mean that it really is Christmas." *frowns*

The game is on! So head back to Jen's.


Grab a marker, ladies.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, says that what women need for Valentine's Day is "safe + legal abortion."

As romantic as that sounds, I disagree. Do you? 

The wonderful ladies behind Women Speak for Themselves are spearheading a response to Ms. Richards: 

Yesterday, Planned Parenthood tweeted a video of their president Cecile Richards, highlighting what they think #WhatWomenNeed for Valentine's Day. As you can see from the screen shot included here, Planned Parenthood continues to claim to speak for all women. And unsurprisingly, they continue to think women need more abortion and more birth control.
One of our WSFT members emailed me, suggesting that we respond to Cecile with pictures of ourselves saying what women REALLY need. So, let's speak for ourselves....as pro-life, pro-religious liberty women...how about it?! 
Here's the plan:MegWSFT
1) Take a picture of yourself holding a sign that says:
#WhatWomenNeed Fill in the blank
Ideas include i.e Love; Commitment; Meaningful relationships, not just empty sex; Better maternity benefits; Less interference with how they raise their children; Religious Freedom, etc.

2) Send us a copy of your picture Helen@chiaroscuroInstitute.org or to our Facebook page
3) We'll post the picture on our Facebook page, and we encourage you to post your picture on your page, too! Also, if you tweet your photo out, please add us to your tweet @womenspeak2012
 Let's show social media the beautiful faces of pro-life women!!



When I think of when I do any of this--"this" being this blog, or the things I post to my personal Facebook page, or the photos on my Instagram or my Twitter account--I know I do it because the year is 2014, and this is where the battle is being fought.

Sure, sharing the pictures and stories of the boys bring no small joy to my heart, as do the outfit and style posts, the ideas for new shows to watch, new makeup to try, recipes to make for dinner...

But when it comes down to it, I know that all these various social media accounts are tools in the workbox of modern evangelization. And they are available to everyone, essentially for free.

So grab a marker. Run over to the printer and get some paper. As a friend on Facebook said, enlist your five year old to take a picture. Upload it and show Cecile that on St. Valentine's Day (and every other day of the year), women deserve a whole lot more than abortion.

UPDATE: Cari's making today's Theme Thursday all about hearts (and grabbing a marker, too!). So though this was Tuesday's post, I'm linking up.


7qt: five years ago / cookiecott


Five years ago on our wedding day, my Mom joked that we didn't need many flowers for decoration at the church--we'd be decorating with priests.

The priests joked that they didn't know if they were attending an ordination or a wedding. 

They also joked that with so many priests witnessing our nuptials, there'd be no way out of it for me or Sean--that was one valid, valid, VALID marital sacrament. True enough.

What this picture omits is that to the right of the altar stand four more priests (plus one seminarian, our master of ceremonies). So that makes a total of eight priests, one deacon and one acolyte who processed in for our wedding. I cannot believe it was five years ago, and that that girl in the picture now chases little boys all the day long. God is good.

Later this month we'll be doing a dinner/date night to celebrate our anniversary and staying the night at fancy-schmancy hotel. It will be my first night ever away from either of the boys. 

I've promised Sean to only cry when I leave them. Then during the salad course. Possibly again over dessert and definitely as I'm falling asleep. Then when I get to sleep through the night and wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed around 8 a.m., I should be good. 

Joining in the CookieCott? I am. 

I know boycotts aren't everyone's thing, and I'm not saying they should be. But I find too many ties between the Girls Scouts and pro-abortion groups and politicians to be comfortable enough buying the sweet treats:

A pro-life group in Waco, TX is boycotting Girl Scout Cookies. They’ve convinced about a dozen other pro-life groups nationwide to join their boycott, after the Girl Scouts designated Texas politician Wendy Davis as an “incredible woman” who deserves to be on the 2013 “Women of the Year” list. The groups claim that the Girl Scouts have drifted too far from their original mission in honoring abortion advocates like Davis and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and partnering with Planned Parenthood.  

This week an apologist at Catholic Answers wrote a post admonishing pro-life folks for this boycott, suggesting they end their thick-headed ways and just give money to local troops instead.

I'm a big fan of Catholic Answers and we support them financially, but man. No thank you. I left a comment on the article explaining my position, which I don't normally do. And in the future, I'd prefer their apologists publish their opinions without adding insults to the many pro-lifers who support their ministry. 

Good reading (as always) from Fr. Robert Baron: Saints in a Confessional Box:

The Catholic Church couples its extraordinary moral demand with an extraordinarily lenient penitential system. Suppose the pilot of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima (I believe he was a Catholic) came into a confessional box and, in an attitude of sincere repentance, confessed the sin of contributing to the deaths of 100,000 innocent people. The priest would certainly give him counsel and perhaps assign a severe penance, but he would then say, "I absolve you of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." And that man's sins, before God, would be wiped away. Period.
The Church calls people to be not spiritual mediocrities, but great saints, and this is why its moral ideals are so stringent. 


Snow days and high temperatures of a whole 10 degrees mean fun bubble times in the bathroom.

I'm telling you, he was thrilled.

I will spend my long, long time in purgatory shoveling snow. 

Or more precisely, shoveling show while it's still snowing and while keep two little boys from wandering out into the street. 

Give me housecleaning, give me dirty dishes and stock pots with last night's creamy pasta stuck on, give me all the ironing and washing and vacuuming and toilet cleaning. Spare me shoveling. To quote Gollum: We hates it.

While shoveling today I was actually wondering if I'd rather be in labor or futilely pushing fluffy white stuff into piles that will probably be melted by rain in 24 hours but for now need to be pushed into said stupid piles. 

I haven't quite decided. But at least in labor you get drugs and a baby at the end. 

Happy wedding flowers from my beautiful February day five years ago. 

I wish that instead of taking the top tier of a wedding cake out of the freezer for anniversaries, we could freeze flowers instead, bringing them out every year just as fresh, soft and vibrant as they were on the blessed day. Ah well. Pictures will do. 


Hildegard, Hackeborn and Hungary

Fact: I am reading a book written by a pope on the subject of saints and it has neither put me to sleep nor made me feel woefully under-educated or intellectually lacking.

Not that anything written by any holy father has done that to be before--it's just what I assumed would happen should I, a person who knows more about Instagram than infallibility, try and be a decent Catholic who reads things written by popes. The fault lies solely with me.

But Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Holy Women has taken nap time by storm here. And I'm ever so glad.

My kind friend Anna gave it to to me as a Christmas present, and I made prompt use of it by unwrapping it, then setting it on my kitchen counter to admire (decor was not exactly the intention of the gift, I'm sure).

I checked Mansfield Park out of the library as an excuse to avoid picking up Holy Women, but after 20 pages of Fanny and Mrs. Norris, I just.. couldn't. So I dropped it back in the return box of the library and picked up the pretty book in my kitchen.

(I know. In one post I've admitted to being bored with Austen and presuming to be bored with the Pope. I'm on a roll.)

To be fair, this isn't technically a book-written-to-be-a-book by the Pope Emeritus but rather a collection of weekly general audiences he gave about five years ago. Each of the book's 17 chapters looks at a different holy woman from the last millennium, ranging from St. Hildegard of Bingen (born in 1098) to St. Therese of Lisiux (1873).

Six chapters in, I now know that St. Matilda of Hackeborn and St. Gertrude the Great (the only German woman to be called "great") both lived in the renown Monastery of Helfta and experienced decades of visions and mystic insights. Blessed Angela of Foligno married and had children, but when through tragedy and illness they all died, she sold every possession and turned to God and the Cross.

St. Clare of Assisi, the beautiful young woman who ran off in the night to join St. Francis and had her long hair chopped off by torchlight, has been my favorite to learn about thus far. Her instructions of a fellow future saint, St. Agnes of Prague, had me running for a highlighter:

"Happy, indeed, is the one permitted 
to share in this sacred banquet so as to be joined 
with all the feelings of her heart (to Christ)
 whose beauty all the blessed hosts of the Heavens unceasingly admire ... 
because the vision of him 
is the splendor of everlasting glory, 
the radiance of everlasting light, and 
a mirror without tarnish.

Look into this mirror every day, 
O Queen, spouse of Jesus Christ, 
and continually examine your face in it, 
so that in this way you may adorn yourself completely, inwardly and outwardly... 
In this mirror shine blessed poverty, holy humility, 
and charity beyond words..."

(Fourth Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, FF, 2901-2903)

Many moms, myself included, make the effort to get dressed each day, to look in a mirror slap on some lipstick and mascara--it just makes a person feel better. But thanks to St. Clare I have a reminder to look in the mirror that is Christ's face and find the "poverty, holy humility, and charity beyond words" and make sure that those things, along with the lipstick, are clearly visible.

Thank you, B16. Or PE-B16, rather. Either way, many, many thanks.


goggles / what I wore... monday

When goggles are having a moment at your house, you just go with it.

And the ski goggles are out because surprise, surprise, it's cold and snowy in these parts and we've been doing our fair share of sledding (and a certain three year old tends have a meltdown--ha! snow, melt, get it? ugh--if he gets snow in his eyes during said sledding).

I'm having my own meltdowns when I look in the closet each morning. Skinny jeans, I do love you, but honestly, we need a little break--a little space to find ourselves, then come back to each other in the spring, ready to cast off all socks and boots, ready to reclaim long, loose tank tops and sandals.

Until then, I'm wearing something else. Anything else.

Which leads me to this morning, when I drew inspiration from Rosie's wardrobe skills and from Jenna's take on the rule of 3. I went swimming into my packed-away summer clothes, fished out a printed sun dress, layered warm leggings under it and a warm sweater over it and deemed it acceptable. Cute, almost. And it reminded me of something a wonderful priest and friend of ours says nearly every time we see him:

Nemo dat quid non habet. 

Or for us non-Latin speakers:
No one can give what he does not have. 

Or for today:

My closet is choked with things I barely wear:
- sweaters not long enough to wear modestly with skinny jeans (nor long enough to disguise my mom-pooch)
- wide-leg trousers I used to wear to my office jobs and haven't worn in five years
- beautiful scarves I rarely think to fasten 'round my neck because they're hidden behind those damn trousers and short sweaters.

I have gone shopping at least five times in the last few months searching for long tops to wear over jeans or leggings. And there hiding in my summer clothes were at least three dresses that will easily serve that purpose. But because there's no room in my winter closet for any summer clothes, I couldn't see it.

So, my style resolutions for February: Pull out new things to see each morning when get dressed--because I can't wear it if I don't know I have it. Put away things that aren't working anymore. Organize and mix it up. Go shopping in my own closet (and probably save a little cash).

Basically: Think outside the skinny jean.

Maybe start sporting some goggles too.