Friday, September 27, 2013

7 Last Songs of Summer

I don't listen to a ton of music, but after being abroad for the better part of 3 seasons this year, I experienced a unique glut of enjoyable, 'new to me' music when we got home in August, and suddenly picky me had like, five songs I regularly bump now on repeat rather than the usual one or two.

I should probably mention that my taste is horribly pedestrian, I pick songs to like based entirely upon gut feeling, and I listen to a 'new' song anywhere from 20-30 times in a row until just the opening lines of it are sufficient to induce nausea. So maybe don't take musical advice from me. Or maybe do, because look at this awesome selection I've curated. Be warned, the genres are many and for one in particular, the sap factor is high. Enjoy at your own risk.

1. Get Your Shine On - Florida Georgia Line

2.  Sing Loud - Alpha Rev

3. Royals - Lorde

4. Gone Gone Gone - Phillip Phillips

5. Dancing in the Mine Fields - Andrew Peterson

6. Hey Pretty Girl - Kip Moore

7. Running Out of Moonlight - Randy Hauser

I understand if you don't want to be friends anymore, because God knows even my three year old is begging me to find a 'song about baby tigers' so disgusted is he with my sophomoric and uncultivated musical tastes. But it's my laptop, kid.

Happy freaking weekend. Hope Jen and the crew lead you to many happy hours of blog hopping.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Room for Cream

This being my triple crown pregnancy, I've had the distinct pleasure of finally being able to relax a tad about this whole gestation business. This is not to say that I don't still Google fatal conditions and occasionally lie in bed frantically poking at my abdomen, trying to make a sleeping baby prove her continued existence via kicked out Morse code, but I'm a little more chill about most of the 'thou shalts' and 'thou shalt nots' that accompany an American pregnancy.

Yesterday morning, for example, when I broke my own newfound resolve to stop drinking terrible coffee and ambled into Starbucks for a $2 cup of drippy Pike Place, my order was greeted with a raised eye by Mr. Barista.

"So you're not worried about caffeine with the baby?"

As my other two babies were not dragged on this particular coffee run, I had no visual aids, but I communicated to him that 2 out of 2 pregnancies had turned out well enough, java jolts and all.

He chuckled a little and handed over my disappointing cup of joe, and I dumped non-organic half-n-half in to further insult the injury. My poor, defenseless in-utero babe was now swimming in caffeine and cow hormones.

Beginning this pregnancy in Italy and ending it in America (my 2 months more pregnant than I am now self is punching my current self in the face for even mentioning 'the end' at 28 weeks) has given me the privilege of seeing two very different perspectives on procreation, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. In Italy salad was dangerous business, as was carrying my then 14-month old. Wine, however, was fine. Encouraged, even, as a way to soothe mother's anxious nerves at the day's end and ensure that the wee bambina had a sophisticated palate upon arrival. (Love that line of reasoning.)

In America, wine is not only frowned upon (quite literally by strangers in restaurants, if you're bold enough to drink in public) but websites and plenty of MDs go overboard preaching fetal alcohol syndrome to women rarely accustomed to imbibing more than a glass or two of Chardonnay in a given week. Ri-diculous.

Even exercise is controversial here: either you're overdoing it ala last week's Crossfit controversy (Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about) or you're condemning your helpless babe to type 2 diabetes in the womb with that second bowl of Cherry Garcia.

In other words, it's hard to strike a balance.

I think  this time around I've just about got it down. I work out 3 or 4 times per week, nothing crazy, but sometimes I get ambitious and do 4 miles on the elliptical, which my back promptly informs me is a terrible mistake, usually around 2 am the next morning. Some evenings I'll have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner. Last month on a date night at the Rio (Coloradans, you know what magic I speak here) I even had a (gasp!) mini margarita. I know, I know...worst mom ever.

Except here's the thing: I'm not in some kind of 'temporary' state during pregnancy and nursing. In fact, over the nearly 4 years we've been married, I think I've had 5 collective weeks where I wasn't one or the other. And 2 of them were our honeymoon. So the whole 'no drinking/no coffee/no Tylenol/no heavy lifting/no soft cheeses' business? Not gonna fly.

Call me crazy or uninformed or what you will, but women have been carrying, birthing, and feeding babies a lot longer than the AAP has been blasting missives of doom onto the WWW, so I've got a feeling there is more collective wisdom in childbearing and rearing than in the entirety of Add to the crazy the fact that most moms-to-be have been pumping their bodies full of doctor-proscribed synthetic hormones and chemicals for years and years and, well, I think you can see why I'm skeptical over the medical establishment's recommendations for gynecological health. Or health in general.

I actually think it's a symptom of the larger anti-life culture which sees pregnancy as some kind of disease (unless it's planned, and then it's a critical high-risk condition). In reality, pregnancy is a normal - albeit special - season in a healthy marriage. And unless you're screwing with the process or are struggling with infertility, it's a season that comes around again and again...and again. As seasons are wont to do.

So yes, I will drink that coffee. Might even make it an espresso, while you're at it, since I have 2 nanny-less toddlers to keep up with all day long. I've got plenty of other primo opportunities for mommy guilt in my life, no need to seek it out in the bottom of a wine glass or a plate of melty Brie.

Cheers ;)

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Little Homework

Yes yes yes...times a million.

And that wraps up my last post about Papa F, at least for this week.

Be sure to check out CNA's nuanced exploration of the "controversial" comments here (written by my dear friend Alan Holdren, who is one Roman I really miss) and Kathryn Jean Lopez' excellent-beyond-words summary of the whole thing.

And then pray...for our Holy Father, for the Church, and for conversion in your own heart. God knows I need more of it in mine. God knows we all do.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

7 Thrift Takes

The other night while feeding the kids and early and ambitious dinner of gluten free grilled cheeses and uncooked green beans (I roll high and heavy in the culinary department), Joey looked up from his plate and nonchalantly stated "I'm gonna pop some tags, Mommy." before dropping his eyes back to his food. I guess that makes me an awesome parent? Or a really, really truly negligent mother, because this song is full of f-bombs. Now, in my defense, it was playing on constant repeat in every bar and restaurant in Rome for a good 2 months of this summer, so he heard it plenty without my queing it up on the Youtube, but still.
Poppin' taaaaaags.
What I really want to communicate to you, fine readers, is the deep and abiding love that I (and my innocent young children) have for thrifting. It's truly my competitive sport of choice in this season of my life, and the way my heart rate elevates at the mere sight of a "Goodwill" logo tells me there is at least a minimal amount of cardio benefit to be had.
Various frames, Goodwill via Target, $2-$4
Like any other sport, there are ground rules which are critical to the success and enjoyment of the game. Imma lay a few down for you, because if I've perfected anything over these past 10 months of purging, donating, purchasing, packing, and than hitting 'replay,' it's the art of the thrift.

Pottery Barn espresso cups, $.99, Rainbow plate, $2 via Saver's.
And so, here you have it:

1. Don't go in blind. This is the first and foremost rule of thrifting, and it is one I didn't fully understand until somewhat recently. Saver's is not Target, and the Salvation Army is not laid out by the same people who stock Anthropologie. 19 times out of 20, you are not going to happen upon some treasure ala Antique Roadshow that is beautiful/functional/valuable just because you happened to wander in to a secondhand shop. Oh no, no no. You need to have a vision, a laundry list of needs and wants, and one that is broad enough to leave room for interpretation but not so broad that you end up buying some crap that is probably only 20% marked down from it's original retail value. I call that getting swindled, and so does Joey. So do your research, make a list of what you're looking for, down to color and cost, and don't settle just because you find something that 'might do.' Trust me, once you get it home, it won't.
I went in looking for a couch, I left with a couch. Tan microfiber couch, Goodwill, $40
2. Which brings me to my next tip: if you don't love it, don't buy it. I'm not saying that piece of beat up furniture you're going to refinish has to be swoon worthy at check out time, but if you don't feel that thrill of excitement when you load that puppy into your cart, don't do it. You wouldn't do it at a full price store, so why would you do it when purchasing other people's discarded crap? If anything, be more choosy when you're thrifting; you can afford to be! At the same time, if you are conisdering something...throw it in the cart and drive around with it a while. You can always put it back (and I do this multiple times in a successful trip) but you can never wrest it from bargain grannie's fingers once she has snatched it up.
Espresso wine cabinent, new in box, Target via Goodwill, $30
3. Don't buy a brand you wouldn't gladly pay full price for. I heed this especially when clothes shopping, because it's important to value cut and quality above all else, especially when it has already been loved once by someone else. This may sound vain, but I won't even look at an item of clothing for myself if it doesn't say J Crew, Banana, Gap, White Black, or Ann Taylor. I have maybe strayed from this rule a half dozen times, and I can tell you, I've got a half dozen mistakes in my closet that never see the light of day. Don't spend your money on second hand 'value' brands, because it isn't a value. Not by the time it gets to you.

(For kid's clothing, my go-to's are Gap, Janie and Jack, Crew Cuts, Children's Place, soooooometimes Old Navy if it's in awesome shape, and Stride Right)

Espresso folding bookcase, Pier One via Goodwill, $15. Random gold mirror, $3.
4. Don't be afraid to take your kids. If I had to think about when I was going to get to a store without the boys, I'd do a lot of thinking and very little actual browsing. The awesome thing about a thrift store is that they are without exception interesting and engaging to little people. Most have a book section, some are even set up like a cafe with tables and coffee. And the toy section: it's a train wreck. So, I park my kids happily in the wreck and, keeping them in eye/ear shot, I shop. They play, I browse, and nobody raises an eyebrow. Because again, we're not at Target here. These teammembers are just trying to stay sober and make an honest buck, they aren't going to look twice at your kid digging happily through piles of grimy toys. Nothing a little Clorox can't handle...

Pottery Barn kids kitchen via Saver's, $8. Tea kettle and various kitchen tools, $.50-$2, Goodwill.
5. Use your imagination...but don't stretch it too far. This kind of goes hand in hand with 1 and 2, but don't fancy yourself some kind of avant garde hipster just because you're standing in front of a pile of 'retro' dinner plates and suddenly envisioning your kitchen looking like a loft in the East Village. But, do take risks. You can afford to be a little more interesting than usual, because if it doesn't work, you can usually exchange the offending item for store credit or simply re-donate it. I took a chance on a pillow that wasn't strictly up my alley and needed a little laundering, and now it's one of my favorite details in our living room.

I love you $30 Target chair, and your $2 World Market pillow pal.
6. Shop early and shop often. Do not make the mistake of hitting up Goodwill one Saturday morning every two months and thinking you're 'doing' this thrifting thing. Part of the reason I find some of the crazy deals that I do is because I go often. These days, that looks like once and sometimes twice per week, because we're trying to put an entire house together, and also because I'm gestating a Christmas turkey here and I need to get my nativity affairs in order. I definitely don't always find something, and I am NOT afraid to walk out emptyhanded, because I know that I could come back in 4 days and find something just perfect waiting for me. Timing is everything, and so is persistence. Find one or two or four stores in your area that you regularly see good merchandise at, and then hit them up. Regularly.
The beige wasteland that is our current family room: couch, kid's rocker (PB kids, $8), IKEA table set ($8), and lone wall decor, all thrifted.
7. Don't be afraid to bargain. While a thrift store is not a garage sale, it's also not the mall, and the employees and managers actually do have the ability to mark down your item if you can make a good case for it. If something is damaged, missing an element, or just plain seems overpriced, ask if they will come down in price. The worst thing you can hear is 'no,' and it's not embarrassing in the least. Because hello, it's a thrift shop. People made one teeny stretch of effort further and dropped their castoffs here instead of the dump. So ask away!

Dave calls this my "mirror mirror." Whatev, I love it. Saver's, $5.
The moral of the story is this: if you love fashion, design, or DIY, you need to accquaint yourselves with this way of life, because it is so much fun and it is so possible to do it well. If you're in Denver, I can point you in the direction of a few of the most lucrative hot spots, but then I will have to kill you ;)
Genevieve's nursery, in progress. Nate Berkus for Target curtains, $10 via Goodwill. Anthro pillow, $6 via Goodwill.
(hint, hint: Cherry Creek Goodwill. Super Target dumps their off-season merchandise there every Wednesday morning.)

Now get out there and start thrifting. And be sure to take thyself to Jen's on your way out.

In Which We Read Francis Through a Non-Secular Lens...

Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square before the Wednesday general audience, May 22, 2013. Credit: Stephen Driscoll/CNA.
Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square before the Wednesday general audience, May 22, 2013. Credit: Stephen Driscoll/CNA.
.- In a new wide-ranging interview, Pope Francis called for Christians to “heal wounds” in society by sharing the entirety of the Church’s message, offering the proper context for its spiritual and moral teaching.

The Holy Father explained that “the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”

Proclamation of salvation must come first, followed by catechesis, and then the moral consequences that flow from this teaching, he said, warning that if this does not happen, there is a risk of reducing the Church’s message to aspects that “on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of the Jesuit-run Italian newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica, conducted the interview with Pope Francis in August. The U.S. Jesuit magazine America published an exclusive English-language translationof the interview Sept. 19.

In the interview, Pope Francis highlighted the need to proclaim moral truths in the full context of the Church’s Gospel message rather than as isolated requirements to be imposed.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said, explaining that this would not be the fullness of the Gospel, but instead a “disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

Observing that some people have criticized him for not speaking more frequently about these moral matters, he clarified his agreement with Catholic teaching on these issues, explaining, “The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church.”

However, he maintained that “when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”

He urged a missionary-type proclamation of the Gospel that focuses on the “essentials,” on “what fascinates and attracts” and on “what makes the heart burn.”

“The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow,” he explained.

Without this proper balance, he cautioned, the moral teachings of the Church will lose “the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis said the Church should “go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.” The Church most needs “the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.”

He compared the Church to “a field hospital after battle.”

“It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”

In addition, the Holy Father cautioned against temptations to seek God in the past or in a possible future, saying that “God is to be encountered in the world of today” and that the Lord is present in every person’s life, no matter what their circumstances.

The interview also touched on the Pope’s personal preferences in books, movies and music, as well as his prayer life and spiritual journey to join the Jesuit order, which attracted him with its missionary spirit, community and discipline.

Reflecting on the Ignatian spirituality’s emphasis on discernment, he encouraged a mindset that is constantly seeking God, while remaining alert because we do not know where we may encounter him.

Asked to describe himself, Pope Francis said he is “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon,” both “a bit astute” and “a bit naive.” He recounted mistakes he made as a Jesuit provincial superior, especially his “authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions.”

The Pontiff also reflected on the nature of the Church, stressing that it is “the people of God, pastors and people together.”

“No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.”

He commented that Pope Benedict’s decision to allow the wider celebration of the Tridentine Mass was a “prudent” move to help those sensitive to the old Mass, but voiced worry of a possible “exploitation” and “ideologization” of the old rite.

On the topic of church reform, he said structural reforms are “secondary” to a change in attitude.

“The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost,” he said. “The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”

In addition, the Holy Father emphasized the essential role of women in the Church.

“Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops,” he said, adding that women’s “feminine genius” is needed for important decisions.

The Church must “work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman,” he said, while also noting that he is “wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man.”

Dear Secular Media

Thanks for carrying my water. People who have never considered Jesus or who have rejected the Church outright are now considering, for the first time, what it means to be a Christian.

You're adorable when you think you're stirring the pot.

Love, Papa Francesco.

Dear pro-choice women everywhere, Pope Francis loves you AND your unborn babies. Signed, God.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

5 Favorites

A little brain candy for your Wednesday internet trolling, because I am short on sleep and long on a laundry list of domestic duties to be tackled before my! little! sister! and her family! get here on Saturday afternoon for a prolonged staycation with us. They're moving to Colorado and I could not be more excited. This is how good God is: when Dave got the call about his current job, we were sitting in my in-law's living room in South Bend, Indiana. 4 hours later we were waiting for our flight in the South Bend airport when Lizzie called to say "Guess what...?" At almost the same time, we blurted to eachother "We're moving home!" Shocked squeals abounded, and now, 2 months later, it's really happening. Between our 5 ex-utero children under the age of 4, it should be a really fun couple of weeks while they house hunt. Or so I'm telling myself as I needlessly bleach towels and fruitlessly mop floors.

Anywho, please enjoy the following random. As for me, I'll be rocking my Alpha Rev playlist and swiffering the shit out of the first floor.

The Pope is single-handedly destroying the Catholic Church. Oh yes he is, you'd better believe it. You'll have the easiest time believing it if you spend lots and lots of time trolling comboxes and kvetching over the ineloquence and foolishness of this simple man in white. Oh yes.

The Church exists to evangelize. It is her deepest identity, the role of missionary. So why are we in the habit of strafing our biggest target audience with friendly fire?

I wanted this chair ruhl bad. I passed by it at Target many a morning, giving it the side eye and willing-away it's $140 price tag. Well well well, guess what I happened upon at Goodwill earlier this week, still sporting its Target tags and marked down to $30 dollars? I should probably write a how-to post on thrifting, because I'm kiiiind of obsessed with it, and I'm a little bit good at it. 

My precious
This guy.

He naps only every other day, meaning that on off days (hellooooo, today) I have this sensation of oh holy hell, how is this day going to play out until 6 pm? (He also has an alter-ego where he assumes the persona of "Charkey the dog" and will only answer to such. He also insists on calling John Paul "Gary" while he's in character, to which JP readily barks his agreement. Charkey is a character from Curious George I'm pretty sure, but I have no idea who in the hell Gary is. They both think they're hilarious.)

And so I've had to start thinking of stuff he can do on his ownsome, since mama's gotta work part of the day and my nap window is slamming shut on my typing fingers. Case in point, he was literally perched across my forearms while I typed that last sentence. He's a dainty 28 lbs at nearly 3 years old, so he is a peanut, but still. My forearms. 

Here's what I've come up for 'independent play' options: 
  • Read books (he can't read, but he will stare for 20-30 minutes at a stack of library books, flipping through them at the pace of an actual reader. I don't know, maybe he is gaming the system by forcing all those read-alouds and he actually comprehends at a 6th grade level. 
  • Work on my letters, mommy. This one involves foam letters from the Target dollar spot, a lot of answering questions when he fetches me various members of the alphabet, and then some halfhearted attempts to point out things around the house to match the letter in question. Rosie inspired this idea.
  • Worm or rabbit hunting. Now that the floods have subsided, we're mostly back to bunnies only, but our neighborhood is teeming with rabbits. Think 3-4 on every lawn up and down both sides of the street at dusk. If you drive too fast into the driveway, you can flush an entire Disney animated short out of the shrubs. I send the boys out regularly to hunt and report on the whereabouts of our fecund neighbors. Never fails.
  • Cutting. With scissors. Safety scissors + old newspaper, magazine, bulletin, whatever = 30 minutes (I am not kidding) of uninterrupted and relatively quiet concentration on his part. He is only allowed to cut at his IKEA kiddie table, and he thinks it is the coolest.thing.ever. Then he cleans it all up at the end of his special cutting time. Homeschooling: nailed it.
We hired a milk man. Hell yes suburban motherhood, I have arrived.

Coming soon to the cooler sitting on my front porch: 2 gallons of milk, a dozen eggs, and a pint of half and half every Monday morning. All organic, and all cheaper than our local organic grocery store. I'm lumping this into the category of "why not accept a little help if you can afford it/it's available?" It's actually cheaper than Costco, in terms of gas and sanity, and come on, they have seasonal eggnog. Win/win.

Be sure to check in with Hallie and her legion of favorites.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Birth Week

In my family of origin we have a little tradition whereby the birthday celebration somehow gets streeeeetched into a weeklong fun-stravaganza of indulgences for the lucky celebrant. I'm not sure how this got to be the case, considering there are seven of us kids, but so far it's something I've managed to carry into my own little family, basically throwing it around as a blanket excuse for partying for longer than 24 measly hours.

And so I give you Joey's 3rd birth week. Yesterday, because I hate myself, we went to the zoo at/around naptime. And then to a major league baseball game. Yes, all in one day, and no, it wasn't planned. And yes, I know what causes that. Stupid mommy guilt, that's what causes that.

Anyway, we had a free zoo pass gifted by a sweet friend who had the temerity to meet us for the first day post Noah's second flood (we had nary a spot of water damage in our 'hood, thankfully) with her 2 daughters, one of whom is 4 weeks fresh and came with a matching c-section scar for mommy. So basically super mom. Who was I to say 'no, we can't possibly do the zoo at 11.' So we went. And honestly, it was so much fun for all parties involved, that I took nary a picture, but let it be known that Joey thinks Giraffes are "Big, biiiiig zebras" and that mommy tigers have nurses to nurse their baby tigers. And nurses = boobs.

Around 4 pm, when nap time ought to have been ending but was only just beginning, Dave texted me to say he'd scored 4 Rockies tickets at work and didn't we want to take the boys to see the Cardinals get  poached at 6:40 pm that very evening, 20 minutes before bedtime? Why yes, yes we did. So up came the boys, 70 minutes into their ill timed naps and very, very angry about it, and off went we and a pair of Jimmy John sandwiches and smuggled water bottles to Coors Field for a very lovely 6 innings of baseball.

This was another huge home run with the boys, if you'll forgive my saying so, and Joey kept raptously singing out "GO ROCKIES" and whooping whenever anybody did anything and the crowd made any noises of approval in response. On either side. He also wore his Uncle Patrick's little league hat from last season, and was in full-on big boy mode as he strode manfully about the rows and rows of seats, reassuring me when I coaxed him back down to our row, 30 levels below, "I'm just being up here right now Mommy, it's okay."

Alright son. It's your birthweek, after all. Counting down till the real party gets crunk on Saturday night, complete with cousins, a gluten free chocolate cake, and a Superman pinata filled with tiny bottles of something special for all the adults forced to participate.

We love our little Jojo, attitude and all. What a wonderful three years it has been.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Are You Done?

(Hop over to Catholic Exchange for the original column.)

I looked askance at the well-meaning lady in the Target checkout linebeaming her possibly over-caffeinated morning smile in my direction.
Am I done? I wondered, looking down at the pile of crap winging its way down the conveyor belt to the accompanying tune of dollar signs being sucked out of my bank account. I shrugged and wondered if she was being philosophical. Is one ever truly ‘done’ shopping at Target, after all? Is one ever fully done becoming the person she was created to be? Works in progress, those.
Suddenly I realized she must be talking offspring, the two precariously balanced blondies in the cart and my burgeoning belly, specifically. Ohhhh, am I done? Thaaaat’s what she’s wondering.
“Heh, we’ll see.” Was the best I could muster. Other encounters have yielded more or less confrontational answers:
“God only knows.”
“I sure hope not, they’re kind of fun.”
And once, when I was feeling particularly socially engaging: “Nah, we’re just getting warmed up!”
I generally tend towards the vague, less-is-more answer with strangers, however, realizing that they’re just trying to make conversation and probably feeling the need to comment on my amazing and obvious ability to produce children. I try not to dwell on the reality that we’re basically discussing my sex life, these strangers and I, and that what they’re really wondering is whether and what kind of birth control I’m using, and if I realize it isn’t terribly ‘effective.’
Who knows, maybe they’re just hoping to run into the next Duggar family.
This encounter could have been any of the dozens of similar encounters I’ve had since birthing bebe number two last year and, frankly, what used to incense me in theory hardly even elevates my blood pressure in practice these days.
If only these well-intentioned (or even malevolently-intentioned) observers could see into my heart, and into the depths of my selfishness and struggle, they’d know without a doubt that I am nowhere close to being ‘done.’ Not with mothering, and not with slowly, painfully, incrementally growing in patience and experience and – please God – holiness, in the gritty pancake batter-encrusted day in and day out of it all.
I wonder if anybody realizes what a weird thing this is to ask someone, whether or not they’re ‘done’ having children. I guess if motherhood and marriage were recognized more widely as ‘vocations’ rather than current occupations, it wouldn’t be such a common mistake. Imagine how weird it would be to ask your pastor after Mass one Sunday if he were ‘done’ preaching homilies. Or asking a couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary whether they were ‘done’ being married.
Motherhood, at a fundamental level, is not just something you do; it’s something that you are. And just as priests preach and confer the Sacraments and married couples live their vows and pick each other’s wet towels up off the end of the bed, mothers have – and mother – children.
God, in His Divine generosity and possibly, Lord forgive me, foolishness, has seen fit to give me three beautiful babies to mother so far. Who am I to assume that He won’t give me more, or even worse, to presume that He will eventually, and try to manipulate my present circumstances in such a way that best suits my preferences and conveniences.
This is my take on the contraceptive mentality that is so prevalent in the West today: it’s about selfishness. And not obvious selfishness, either, like the grabbing and hoarding kind. Rather, it’s about a kind of creeping, meticulously over-planning and profoundly limiting selfishness, the kind that says to itself, “Hey, things are pretty good the way they are, let’s not rock the boat here…let’s not pile any more on this plate.”
And so we suffocate, quietly, slowly, and perfectly according to plan. Rather than allowing God to breathe new life into our ever-changing situations, we wrongly presume all things to be static and unchanging, and so we stubbornly insist that we know best, that we can see the future, that we are ‘done’ becoming what – and who – we are.
So no, Target shopper. I’m not done. Thank God I’m not, because I’m a hot selfish mess right now. And I have a sneaking suspicion that, thankfully, you’re not done either, no matter what you might think.
Life is full of surprises.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Newsflash: God loves everybody...

...And we're all bound by moral law to follow our conscience, out innate barometer for discriminating between good and evil. And it's breaking news? Way to play the media at their own game, Papa. We have a mighty evangelizer on the Chair of Peter.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

5 Feminine Favorites

How's that for a terrible title?

But thanks to Grace hosting for Hallie, I can burn your retinas with some girly girl favorites for the week:

This post has gotten me thinking...and thinking, and thinking. I'm in a similar place in my life and motherhood, and it feels like the time is ripe for real growth. At any rate, I can pinpoint a big reason why writing has been so infrequent lately.

Introspective flash of insight: I feel physically ill at ease when my house is undecorated and/or cluttered. It's like my home environment is wearing dirty yoga pants and no bra, and I am struck to the core with the realization that fresh flowers and plumped throw pillows are the decorating equivalent of a shower and a blow out. So sometimes when I don't have time for the latter, I rely on the visual cues of the former to keep me from going to a scary, scary place mentally.

So stuff like this? Life saving, for me.

My sweet, sweet boys have become so very snuggly lately, and Joey has become quite free with his compliments. This week he has told me multiple times that "I like that hair color, Mommy" and lately at bedtime in lieu of the usual tantrum + face punching combo he has actually been asking me to lie down with him and snuggle. He then snakes one little arm around my neck and pulls me in tight so I can breathe his toddler poop breath while he kisses me repeatedly on the lips. Way to a mama's heart for sure. Melt. 

Dave called me this weekend while I was out running errands and announced that he had planned and scheduled date night for tonight, with zero prompting or input from me. Not that this is completely out of character, because I probably married the most thoughtful and romantic man on earth, but he has been swamped at work and it was just such a nice surprise. He even tried to line up the babysitter by himself, which is like hot fudge on chocolate in my book. Husbands: all your wife wants is a night out of the house and some childcare. Truly.

From our engagement party, salvaged during recent Facebook purging.
Honestly, it's a good thing he is such a good husband and father, because it will give our little girl something to pattern her tastes after. 

Surprise! Meet Genevieve Therese. Lured by the unbearable temptation of a 4D ultrasound machine and an OB appointment sans toddlers, we decided to 'meet' our latest interior baby a few months earlier than usual. 

She's a bit daintier than her brothers were, so we get to go back in a month for another peek to make sure she's growing well. Isn't she pretty? I have a daughter...I can't believe it. And she clearly can't believe we had the audacity to photograph her. Her sweet little hands were covering her face and/or eyes the whole time. What a little doll. 

I tried to buy her first outfit today and left Old Navy with a nary to show for myself but a rainbow-striped onesie from the clearance rack and elevated blood pressure. I don't know if I can handle all the crazy that will be dressing and accessorizing a lady baby. Good thing I have 4 more months to plan and execute her sartorial debut. I'm thinking houndstooth.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How to Lose 5 Inches During Pregnancy

So maybe I spent a tiny more time (and money) than I meant to, but all in all, it's worth it in my book to get Aveda products and color at beauty school prices. I trotted off the the Aveda Institute on Denver's 16th Street Mall this morning at the crack of dawn and was rewarded with a shiny new do for autumn. And the opportunity to read 4 semi-trashy to self-improvement magazines cover to cover.

Without further ado, "Fall 2013 Jenny," this time, with pictures:


Thursday, September 5, 2013

His Laughter, Our Plans

When I was 24 years old, I was a wreck.

I mean a serious wreck. Working as a cocktail waitress, fresh from an extremely unhealthy relationship, and oh, by the way Mom and Dad, no longer enrolled in college so I could take some time to 'find myself.' What that looked like on a practical level was lots and lots of partying and nights of memoryless alcohol-fueled recreation that left my spirit (and my bank account) very, very empty.

I thought I was being prudent by discontinuing my already expensive education at this point, since I had no idea what I wanted to 'be' when I grew up. In practice, all I was actually doing was prolonging my own eternal adolescence. And earning beer money.

The Spring semester of my senior year rolled around and I found myself in a kind of limbo. A heated exchange with my younger sister over Christmas break had resulted in my defiant acceptance of a 30-day challenge to refrain from drinking, and as the days of that long month slipped away, so did all of my so-called friends, one by one, until I finally found myself alone one Tuesday night, quite without any social opportunities of any sort.

Now, there is only so much time one can spend alone on an elliptical machine, especially when one is not in game day shape. So eventually, I had to broaden my non-partying horizons. Enter an embarrassingly titled little website that may or may not still exist (okay it does, I just checked) called Catholicity, which was patronized almost exclusively by little old ladies and parish priests, I believe. And my mom. And me, one boring Tuesday evening, when I impulsively clicked 'purchase' on a cassette tape (I swear this was only in 2005) copy of "A Protestant Minister Converts" for the reasonable price of $2.99 for shipping and handling.

I had all but forgotten about my impulsive foray into scary church lady land until about a week later, when a manilla envelope arrived on the doorstep of my cute Boulder party house. Having yet another open night on the 'ol calendar, I waited until my roommates had finished pre-gaming and had departed for Pearl Street before sequestering myself in my attic room with somebody's ghetto blaster and pushing 'play.'

My world was rocked.

I've mentioned before on the blog that John Paul II was instrumental in my reversion to Catholicism. There was another guy who played a pretty big part in the story too, and that night as I listened to his story for the first time, I had no way of knowing how very different my life was about to become.

After the tape clicked to the end, I reached down and hit 'rewind' and immediately listened again. By this time my roommates were back from the bars and were jokingly and drunkenly pounding on my door, begging me to come out and join the after party. I wouldn't. I listened to that stupid cassette tape 3 times in one night, and the following weekend during a visit home, I snuck a copy of "Rome Sweet Home" off my parent's shelf and read it cover to cover in a single evening.

If JPII was the patron saint of my conversion, than Dr. Scott Hahn was my personal trainer. Less than a year after I'd heard his story for the first time coming through my roommate's boom box speakers, I would be sitting in class listening to him teach in a crappy little town called Steubenville, Ohio.

Fast forward another year and I'd end up working for his apostolate, the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, where I eventually managed the office staff and had my very first taste of getting paid to write things. He was my favorite professor, and he become my favorite boss. At the goodbye party the SPC staff threw for me,  I finally told him the dumb story about the cassette tape, and his eyes moistened as he enfolded me in a fatherly hug.

Last night I slipped out of the house after the boys went down for the night and drove to a parish not too far from our new house. I sat with a thousand or so other adoring fans and listened to him speak about his latest book, 'Consuming the Word,' and on the New Evangelization and our role as laypersons and families. It was completely awesome.

I slipped in to say a quick hello as he was taking off his mic and was rewarded with a guffaw and a bear hug. "You're pregnant, what a joy!" and then "I saw the picture of your son getting kissed by the Holy Father, I had tears in my eyes."

Me too Dr. Hahn, me too.

Chalking another happy day in Denver up to Divine Providence and God's good, good plan for us. For each of us.

Something he said last night stuck with me, and it was this: "Family life will save the culture." I truly believe that, and I thank God for my own little slice of Heaven here at home with Dave and our boys, and for my larger, worldwide family, the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

5 Favs

Sorry the blog has been gathering a little dust lately. Just chalk it up to a busier schedule and a slightly less exciting daily grind in Centennial versus Rome. And to the looming third trimester of our latest edition.

Still, it's nice to depend on one of my two southern girls for motivation to write at least twice weekly. So yeah, I'll probably be back on Friday.

Without further ado:

1. I was so pumped to read (from a reliable source) this news today: a canonization date at last! And only a week after my John Paul turns 2. I'm thinking of hosting a killer double header party at our house. Polish vodka, miter shaped cupcakes, and maybe a koala hugging station. Let me know if you want to get on that guest list.

I'll drink to that.
2. This stuff is legit.

I first bought in it grad school and wouldn't you know it, even though I need it so much more desperately now, I rationalize that it's soooo much more essential to buy organic pain-free baby soap and sunscreen for my offspring than to wipe away the traces of their nighttime terror campaigns on my delicate complexion. But last month, I ordered some again and, for the first time, used it yesterday evening and again this morning and even though John Paul (not the koala hugger) woke up every 94 minutes last night to breathe croupily into my mouth and splay like a sweaty starfish across our king-but-felt-like-a-full-last-night bed, I look...fresh. Dewey, even?  My girl Elizabeth will hook you up if you're ready to take the pamper plunge.

3. This is super embarrassing to admit, but I'm a tiny bit into dystopian young adult fiction. I'd like to blame somebody, but personal responsibility dictates that I own my nasty Amazon habit, loud and proud. But, buuuut, after my latest foray into modern Orwellian-aping pseudo lit, I'm proud to say that after spending $8 on Amazon 2 nights ago and devouring the first installment of the "Delirium" trilogy I marched (drove) my disciplined 30-year-old self to not one but two libraries yesterday to pick up books two and three. I should finish the whole series by tomorrow evening, and be none the wiser, smarter, or holier for it...but they're entertaining, and they're smut free. And damn I love me a good post-American dystopia.

4. I took all of your thoughtful advice and input and decided to lurch into a lumbering cantor on Saturday evening and may I just say, my back did not thank me. I may not have gained as much weight yet but my holy Relaxin, that felt really terrible on Sunday around 3 am. Like really terrible. Double stroller power-walking, you're my new favorite.

5. And while this is not a favorite, I would now like to poll the audience about something extremely serious and mysterious: my hair color. Apparently, as the lurking underlayer nearest my neck would seem to indicate, I am no longer actually a blonde. I don't know how long this has been the case, but I mean to get to the bottom of it sometime Saturday morning around 10 am for my annual professional cut and style. I usually do a full set of foils, sometimes I throw some lowlights in there too, just to be crazy, but I think I'm going to allow whatever lucky Aveda lady I get set up with this go-round to conduct some archeological research on my color and get to the bottom of it, so to speak. And also cut off an inch or five.

So this is now: (please overlook the stunned selfie)

And here's what I'm thinking for later:

Darkest espresso + longish layers

Medium with caramel highlights + side bangs

Legit bangs. Terrible idea? + Chocolately brown

Thoughts? Vote me in, and I'll prance down to the Aveda school with a cell phone image in my hot little hands.

Be sure to head over to Hallie's for more mental stimulus than you could shake a stick at.