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.



3 ways to put the brakes on spending

I know I'm spiraling down the money vortex when I spend the free minutes of an entire day perusing the HomeAway, Walmart and Amazon apps. NOT GOOD. 

When the "Confirm Purchase" button comes calling, if I have even a hint of guilt or hesitation, then I  run through a couple of steps to make sure this is something I actually need and truly, seriously want.

This is my first line of defense. If it's a clothing purchase, I check the clothing category and see what I have left to spend in the month, taking into consideration any other clothing purchases still needed. Same goes for miscellaneous purchases (which is anything not grocery, clothing and medically-related) and date night.  

This is the yellow light on my spending; this is the gas gauge vs. miles per gallon; this is that big yellow electric flashing sign on the sign of the road, show your illegal speed in a school zone. (a little too heavy on the vehicular metaphors today, lady.)

No other budgeting program has worked for us like Every Dollar has. This is not a paid sponsorship of Every Dollar either, ha! It just happens to be the one that I recommend to anyone who says "budgeting just doesn't work for me." And then I cackle an evil laugh and grab their phone to open the App Store.

2. Shop my closet

This could also be "shop ALL THE CLOSETS IN THE HOUSE." I'm a sucker for a clean, free-of-clutter room. But I'm not a sucker for giving away lots of stuff. No, I just box it, bag it, then push-cram-stack it three giant tupperwares deep in the closet of any given room. 

Out of sight and out of mind, for sure. It means that in April, I forget where my summer clothes are. In October, I don't see the boy's sweaters. I had a crisis once when Sean was travelling somewhere frigid for work but it was 60 degrees where we live, and he wanted to take his gloves with him. Cue me half buried in our master closet, shouting out "I KNOW they're here somewhere" and "HEY look I found bathing suits!!"

It totally goes for shoes, too. I found myself perusing a new pair of summer Crocs on Amazon Warehouse last month, but a cursory look at the shoes in my closet revealed the Birkenstocks (pictured above) that I bought last spring--bought for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of being multi-summer shoes so I wouldn't have to buy a new pair every summer.  #facepalm

3. Make a deal with myself

Often I'll identify a household need--say, footed-but-not-fleece sleepers for the baby. Or a new colander for the kitchen. Or more juice glasses because uh-oh, another one shattered. 

Once I zero in on a thing we need, I'll give myself a few weeks to try and find that item at a thrift store. or Once Upon a Child. Or, I'll even hold out that a bag of hand-me-downs will magically appear from a friend who is cleaning out her closets--which happens pretty frequently, I'm blessed to say. 

But if after a few weeks and a few trips to various used stores, I'm still not finding that item, then I have a greater sense of justification that the only way we could get the item (or get it in decent condition) was to buy it new. And even then, I try to price-check it with at least three sources: Amazon, Walmart, and my own local stores.  

So, that's it! And after all that, I could still probably cut down my spending a lot more. I'd love to hear how you put the brakes (there she goes again) on spending. 


hey, could I take you out to dinner? or coffee maybe? **GIVEAWAY**

Apparently, no one dates anymore. Guys don't work up the nervous courage to ask girls out. Girls don't walk through the door at 11pm, walking on clouds after a great good-night kiss.

No. Generic modern-day courtship is 20 and 30-somethings on Tinder, swiping, fumbling drunkenly in the dark with an attractive stranger, with varying degrees of consent and intimacy.  

And that's all. 

Whatever. This isn't new. We've known this for a while now. It's awful and it makes me fear for my kids. 

It makes me laugh, though, that as married people we're supposed to "date your spouse," because that's supposedly what keeps the magic alive. Ha, really? Because if the key to a happy marriage is reliving the magical single days (but going about it solely with your spouse), then logically what married people now should be doing now is getting sloshed and then messing around. 

It'd be a lot cheaper than dinner and a movie. At least for me. I can't feel my face after one glass of wine. 

Enter The Dating Project, a one-night movie theater event coming up on Tuesday, April 17.

I've watched the trailers and a special sneak-peek. I'm hooked.

When I see these immense social issues that seem to be damaging the culture irreparably (like hook ups over courtship), I tend toward despair and defeat. I'm grateful for Paulist Productions, then, who took up the flag of reclaiming dating:
Half of America is single. The way people seek and find love has radically changed. The hook-up, texting and social media culture have profoundly altered the dating landscape. Traditional dating has become “outdated,” yet men and women still seek meaningful relationships. People are frustrated in love, but does anyone really know how to connect in today’s virtual world? 
THE DATING PROJECT is a new non-fiction film from executive producer Steve McEveety (The Passion of the Christ, Braveheart), produced by Paulist Productions, Mpower Pictures and Family Theater Productions that follows five single people ages 18-40 as they navigate beyond the hookup culture to traditional dating. Professor Kerry Cronin from Boston College is featured throughout as she teaches and encourages her students to return to traditional dating. There is no script. There are no actors. These are real people trying to find love and happiness in an age of swiping left or right.
After graduating college I worked for a year at my alma mater, and I began to face the reality: I had gotten my B.A., but not my MRS. What came next? Dating coworkers? Catholic match dot com? After the security net that is a college campus and having everything (date nights included) in walking distance, and 500 familiar faces comprising your potential dating pool (all of whom you knew at least a little bit about, or knew someone else who did), how did one transition to a world of single sharks? 

I didn't know. I wasn't exactly eager to find out. But I knew it lay ahead of me, if I wanted a wedding in my future. 

At least this guy liked me. 

Well, then. A kid in the year below me threw out what I took to be a lasso, but was really a life preserver. He told me he wanted to date me with the hope of discerning marriage with me. I looked at him and blinked. 

Then I told him no. I told him probably never. I told him, okay, maybe not never, but not now. Come back in, like, six months or something. I've got to go date some single sharks. 

He came back six months TO THE DAY later, looked me straight in the eyes again, and told me his feelings hadn't changed. That day was March 19, the feast of St. Joseph. 

I said yes. And I've been saying yes to that guy ever since. 

He's a keeper and a treasure and my knight and my love. 

And he and I are heading out on a date, a good old fashioned date, on April 17. And I'm hoping a lot of other people will do the same.  

Want to win tickets to see The Dating Project's one-night showing on April 17? Win a pair of tickets 2 ways!

1. I'm giving away a pair of tickets to The Dating Project!
To enter to win, do any of the following (each comment, share or tag will earn you another entry):

- leave a comment on this post telling me where your best date happened

- leave a comment on the Facebook post, telling me where your best date happened

- share the Facebook post

- tag a friend who would like to know about The Dating Project
{contest runs from Tuesday, April 10 - Saturday, April 14; winner will be randomly selected and then notified by email or direct message}

2. The Dating Project team is running their own giveaway of a pair of tickets.  ** Click here to enter! **

View showtimes and available theaters here to see where The Dating Project is showing near you. 


how to make friends and show divine mercy to people / 7qt

1 / ALLELUIA! From your favorite disheveled family who noisily occupied the third row from the back at Easter morning Mass. We appreciate your patience, and how generously everyone returned the thrown sippy cups. Repeatedly. 

2 /   One of the greatest parts of having an itty-bitty, teeny-tiny work-from-home part-time job is that even in the midst of my entire household weathering the Great Flu Strain B disaster of 2018, I still got to have some amazing conversations with dynamic, inspiring Catholics.

I also still have some antibiotics in my fridge that I forgot to dose out. 10 days, twice a day x 4  = more math than I've done since... yeah. 

Get this: Emily Jaminet has this best friend, Michele, and at Emily's wedding, she says to Michele, "I'm going to find you a husband." So it shall be said, so it shall be written, because then Michele meets her soon to be husband THAT DAY at Emily's wedding! The two friends remain close--super close, like, having babies on the same day at the SAME HOSPITAL close.

Fast forward a few years and Emily Jaminet and Michele Faehnle are now not only friends, but co-authors of two outstanding books. I talked with Emily about The Friendship Project and the problems Catholic moms (and most women today) have in making and keeping long-term friends.

During 20 years friendship, these two realized that friendship "was an integral part of their lives as Catholics and they needed to continually work to develop deep, meaningful relationships that would allow them to be themselves, to care for others and be cared for, and to deepen their Catholic faith."

Amen to that, sisters. 

Because these ladies just cant quit the Catholic book scene, they wrote yet another deep yet eminently practical book: Divine Mercy for Moms

Get this one. Just get it. Get both these books. I talked with Michele about why and how they wrote this book, and I think it's a must-have for Catholic moms. On their website for the book they have this prayer posted: 

A Mother’s Prayer
Dear Lord, Calm my inner chaos, bring peace to my mind, and refresh my soul. Allow me to be a vessel of your living waters and share it with those who need strength. Help me to be merciful to my neighbor and to love You above all things. 

It's much better than my daily prayer, which is: Lord, please, just for today... don't let me run into anyone I know at the grocery store.

I love these two free printables that Michele and Emily have posted on their website: 

6 /  And if all of that good Catholic Motherhood Friendshiping And Mercy Working wasn't enough, I had the additional joy of talking to Colleen Duggan, author of the new book (to which I give all the praise hands): Good Enough is Good Enough: Confessions of an Imperfect Catholic Mom.


Colleen's a mom of six and her book is a manifesto to the power of letting go--letting go of perfection, of the need for control, of the fear that if any single little thing with the kids and the house isn't right, it's somehow mom's fault. I need a book like this like I need my 2pm La Croix. It's that good. 

7 /  In honor of Colleen's wise words, I chose "good enough" today over "showering" and got by on what my insta friends call the mom uniform: 
striped shirt
top knot
jeans (dirty ones, in my shining example) 

I'm off to polish off the jelly beans before the kids do. Linking up with Kelly!