Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Our Family's Screen Manifesto

I've read some really good Screen posts* recently.  At a critical and sensitive juncture that is adjusting to our School and Fall schedule, I decided our family needed some things in writing regarding Screen Time. We all enjoy our screen time, me included. I have arranged that for M-F, from the hours of 10am- until 6am the next day, our internet shuts off.  I'm not able to connect to wifi except via iPhone. My kids can still play iPad, but that's where this manifesto comes in. Thus, I give you our "Screen Manifesto."  We have had these rules in place since early September, and by the way- it is going really well.

Here is what we've been doing:

For Molly (age 7 1/2)
- No TV on school nights
- Special Movie on Friday nights with popcorn and pizza, and her choice of candy, and/or ice-cream for dessert. ;)
- 30 min. iPad or computer games on school days, if all of her homework is completed

Right now, I bring a snack and drink for her to enjoy on the way home from school.  If I forget, it's usually a frosty or a muffin from drive-thru, or a snack from the gas station pit stop.  I know she could wait, but it's a tradition now, and then we don't worry about snack when we get home.  She has to sit down right away and show me what her homework is for the day.  It's habit. She usually does her homework right away so that she can earn iPad time.

For Frances and Madeleine (3 & 4 1/2)
-30 minutes screen time in the morning (this gives me a chance to take a shower or get some chores done)
-30 min. iPad during rest time if desired, IF their chores are completed

Anders (2)
-30 minutes screen time in the morning

Baby Annabel
- None  ;-)~

Explanation: Anders naps, and the girls sometimes get restless and frankly, I need a nap. Giving them an iPad to play games for 30 minutes won’t hurt them!

Shenanigans: Now I know that this screen problem is somewhat unique to our day and age. Never before have screens been so abundant, with iPads, iPhones, TV, and the internet, all vying for our attention.

As always, this is not “set in stone.”  We haven't followed it perfectly. If we have a hard day, I reserve the right to put on a whole movie at a random time.

part 2: Sometimes the kids watch 45 minutes in the morning. If so, I will take away their iPad time in the afternoon and do something constructive with them instead.

If the kids want to balk or challenge the system or the rules, we can discuss it at a family meeting but not “right now.”

The screen should be the ultimate collateral, because it can be too powerful and end up being unhealthy.  I also reserve the right to use snacks, treats, or a trip to the dollar store as incentives and/or leverage for good behavior.  ;)

for further reading:
Kelly has one with a contract (!!!!) and it is so good:

A Screen Time Contract; For When You Really Mean Business

Here is a good one at Catholic Sistas, written by Martina Kreitzer that addresses the issue a little bit further down the parenting road:

Confessions of the Original Online Junkie: One Does Not Simply Let Teens Play on the Internet

adding my link to Jenna's 5 Favorites

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Thing About Prayer

A few months back, I wrote a post entitled True Belief and True Repentance.  In it, I argued that the holy life must be guarded by the graces of faith and confession.

Today I'm going back to the topic of faith, because I think it is so closely tied to this question.  Do we trust blindly?  How do we find direction, what does faith have anything to do with it? It's a heavy one. And so, I want to tag on another essentialism for the life of true faith. And that, friends, would be the importance of prayer.

Can we ever stop praying?

Let me make a caveat. It is hard to write about stuff like this. What if I put all of these feelings about prayer out there, only to get disappointed or even...gasp.... hurt by the response? Or, on another hand, what if I stay silent? Silence is-unfortunately- almost always the thing to do and the automatic response I see among friends and colleagues on the internet and on places like Facebook and Twitter. It feels awkward at best to broach the subject.

But that brings me to an important question.... should we speak? Should we pray? And while we're at it, what is meant by prayer, anyway? And what's the difference between talking about the "prayer life" as a Catholic and "prayer life" as a non-Catholic?

Speaking with a group of IRL friends just two days before I had Annabel, we talked a little bit about prayer.

I was eating delicious Hazelnut Buttercreams at a fancy local coffee shop, a friend brought up  her need for more prayer in her own life. I shoved the last bite of my treat in my mouth and said, “I know my prayer life hasn’t been very good lately.... I’ve been anxious. And very, very irritable!” I'm sure it wasn't just the hormones making me grumpy.  Laughing, (and obviously without a clue as to how my birth with Annabel would actually go), we all began to share about this very personal aspect of our lives.
The Shrine of the Virgin of the Poor in New Hope, TN

We talked about the various habits among our group of friends. One friend- a cradle Catholic- said she would add our baby to her “nightly rosary.” Another Mom- a convert- said that praying the rosary at an Adoration chapel was such a sweet respite and a time of peace in the midst of her hectic schedule as a Mom with some kids in school and some at home. A third friend- also a convert- encouraged us to pray a novena in honor of the Blessed Mother together... not in person, but yet in unity. It was a refreshing conversation, with some very cool friends whom God has in my life right now. I have been blessed with some great friends and an even greater community in my town.

And I noticed something while we were sipping decaf coffee together that night. Talking about prayer is totally different when you’re Catholic.  We don’t “take prayer requests,” we ask for “intentions.” We don’t do ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication,) we pray novenas. We do not usually say things like, “Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to come be with us, for where two or more are gathered in his name…” we say, “Hail Mary.”

To Pray or Not to Pray

But... that's the thing about prayer. Prayer is just as much and every bit as essential a part of our lives. Yes, we pray to Mary- that her intercession to the Father would cry out on our behalf. Yes, we pray to the saints- that their intercession and the patron saint- of whatever our ailment- would cry out to God. Because they are holy men and women, their prayers are "powerful and effective."  We need prayer.  And let's take it further: we need to be praying people, because as God's people, we need guidance. In a world where Bill Nye and the public school system (or, the secular forms of "science" in this modern age) are teaching our kids that Life isn't Sacred, we need to be praying people. It's not a choice.

And guess what? It’s not crazy, either. Prayer isn't wacko. A few years ago, I would have been (and was) totally weirded out by all of this. Hail Mary... what? What in the world did it mean, does it mean, why in the world does it matter to me? In light of Pope Francis coming to visit our country, I feel like it is my rightful duty- or at least in my best interest- to explain our crazy not crazy ways. It is different, but it is every bit as beautiful, humbling, and powerful as a Catholic to pray as it was a Protestant.  And to do so with a Communion of Saints- here in our body of believers on earth, and with those who are already in Heaven- it’s really something, Watson.

I’m thankful and blessed to be a part of this huge, beautiful Catholic community here in my city, and abroad in the world. In my experience, my own is a sweet little spot, a wonderful smattering of real community and real friendship. As we link our hearts to the world and to our Catholic history, may we impact and evangelize with our witness, and may we change the world through our prayers.

How can I pray better?

* Bookmark the mysteries of the rosary.
* For those learning how to pray the rosary, bookmark this page.
* In daily life, apply your struggles to the mysteries. For example, if you are struggling with a hard situation, such as envy or bitterness, pray The Sorrowful Mysteries with the intention of this difficult person, friend, situation, or experience.
* If you have a desire to pray, with no specific intention, or if your family wants to do a nightly rosary ..."as suggested by the Pope St. John Paul the Great, the Joyful mysteries are said on Monday and Saturday, the Luminous on Thursday, the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday, and the Glorious on Wednesday and Sunday (with this exception: Sundays of Christmas season - The Joyful; Sundays of Lent - Sorrowful." (fromrosary

And instead of being frozen into silence, let's open up, for the sake of the New Evangelization, praying that we would have guidance in the how and in the why of sharing, and in the how often. I feel like if I stay silent about the things that matter most to me,  am I allowing myself to be held hostage by fear? Finding a way to write about it is preferable, from where I'm standing. Finding a way to speak my thoughts is better. But ever, I write. And I have to write about what is important to me, be it motherhood, wifehood, my interests, or my faith. Because I have learned from the past that saying something about prayer is better than saying nothing about prayer. And so, I speak.

What do you think?  Should we continue praying to discern the right course of action in the public sphere?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Monthly Recap vol. 25~ September 2015~ Babies born, Time off from blogging, etc.

Well, in case you missed the news, we had a baby on September 3rd! We have five kids in tow now! (what?!!!!) So hard to believe.  I've taken some time off from regular blogging, and it has been well worth it. I'm finally feeling like myself again, and fortunately, I'm looking forward to regular blogging again.

A few highlights from this month were my Birth Story for Annabel ... (if you read it you know the jury is still out on whether or not I will ever do a natural birth again... also wanted to make a big, fat disclaimer that I didn't want to come across totally rude toward the nurse midwife from the hospital. I wrote it right after it happened, so my nerves and my emotions hadn't quite recovered ;) and a big thank you to Jenny Cook for contributing a guest post this month!

Even though you can't really see it in this picture, we saw a baby river otter, not too far from my parents' dock on the TN river the other weekend. 
We got out the binoculars and we could see it so well... he was eating the green algae! It was so incredible to make out his little mouth and tail and body. We watched him for quite a long time.  I found this pic so you could see how cute he actually was. ;) Adorable!

As for what I've been up to otherwise, well....

(1) Reading...

The Royal We

I did some good reading this month, and I was partial to this one, since the heroine's name is Bex (short for Rebecca). Sorta sounds like Becks.  It is fan fiction, yes... but it's also smart and informed. It will make you roll your eyes at the fandom, and then you'll be totally hooked on the Royals, and you might find yourself wanting to learn all there is to know about their lives and histories... if you're anything like me!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

I enjoyed this, and it wasn't what I expected, at all.. which was refreshing. It is light-hearted and romantic, without being cheesy or shudder-worthy (my complaint with so many rom-com books and movies). Nor did I find it too dark, although there were certainly many real-to-life themes. I am sensitive, though, and an INFP, and it didn't bother me at all. I would say read this one! My one complaint was that I wanted to get to know A.J. Fikry even better... it could have gone on another hundred pages without me minding!

A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman

I liked this even better than Freeman's debut.  It got me thinking a lot about the art "you were created to make," and how we have guilt or self-doubt or we put ourselves down, when really we should embrace, engage, and surrender.  We are a poem made by God, and the art that he inspires us to make is a gift from him that we should cultivate and see grow. From the title it sounds like it would be disconnected,  but it really wasn't at all! ;)

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

If you are thought a writer by any of your kith or kin, read this book! If you need inspiration for writing, reading this book is like taking a course on writing. It is particularly helpful if you take her advice and do the experiments mentioned in the book, such as "write in a restaurant." I tried it and her advice was solid gold!

(2) Watching...

Parenthood (season 6 - the final season- is on Netflix now)
The Swiss Family Robinson
very good if you want a realistic picture of the jihadists at work... also very sad

Whaling in Indonesia
Love and Mercy: The Life and Genius of Brian Wilson (from The Beach Boys)
The Royals: a series on Netflix

(3) Funny Things They Say/Funny...

~during our stay in the hospital~

Me: If someone takes my blood pressure one more time...
Stephen: You're going to have high blood pressure?

~reflecting on labor and delivery with Annabel~
Stephen: I kept thinking about the line from The Princess Bride: "This is the sound of ultimate suffering."

Madeleine's conversation with Siri:

Siri: Hello Mommy!
Madeleine: I’m not Mommy.
Siri: I’m not sure I understand.
Madeleine: What are you doing, then?
Siri: Working on some corny jokes.
Madeleine: Okay, Bye!
Siri: Hello Mommy!

Madeleine: Mommy, Someday… when I go to the surface, can I get cotton candy?
Me: um… (?!)
Madeleine: Not a cotton candy lollipop, just cotton candy.
Me: Are you a mermaid, or something?
Madeleine:  No. I want to go to the surface when I’m a mermaid. I just want to go to the beach and see some mermaids.
Me: ...alllllrighty then. :-)

Madeleine: I had a dream last night that I went to the bug hospital. They wanted to see my bug bites. I said I have them here and here and here and here... and I showed them the biggest one... and they shotted it.

Madeleine: Mommy can I watch a show?
Me: Did you put the tops on the markers?
Madeleine: Yes! They’re all topped.

(4) Happiness means...

-So many kindnesses from others- meals, gift cards, sleeper sets, cards...
-Not being pregnant anymore
-Dates with Stephen to Starbucks, sipping a Pumpkin Spice coffee in the cool wind, and then treasure hunting at the consignment store together
- Nightly walks in the the crisp air
- Cuddling with Annabel in my bed nest
-Reading really good books on my Kindle (for iPad;)
- Pondering deep thoughts and contemplating my favorite quotes for the September Quotables series

(5) Pet peeves recently:

When you say "I'll be right back!" And all of your kids follow you downstairs or outside to the car, and then you either have to carry them back upstairs/inside or they talk you into staying downstairs/outside. AGHH!!!! ;)

(6) Eating and Drinking....

Also, to cure your sweet tooth, these snickerdoodles and this pumpkin spice latte syrup.

(7) Links...

Mr. Autumn Man @ The Onion
crying. ;) My husband showed me this one, and I really was laughing so hard I was crying.

Sometimes Mamas Just Need to Let Go @ Someday (Hopefully They'll Be) Saints
This is such a good reminder when you are struggling with bitterness- you've really got to give yourself and the people in your life some grace. It's not gonna be perfect, even when it's "easier"... so why wish it away with perfectionistic feelings and disappointment in the present moment?
Richard John Neuhaus, Father @ First Things
This was a really moving piece about watching a holy man and Father die. Most definitely worth reading!
8 Novels That Are Delightfully Self-Aware About the Writing Process @ Modern Mrs. Darcy
This was just such a fun and feel-good post, and it gave me some ideas for books that I want to read, as well as highlighting a few that I have read and enjoyed. I now officially want to read I Capture the Castle.

A Rough Start @ (by) Sara Damm

This is an excellent look at what daily devotion and spirituality looks like in the life of a Catholic mother.  These types of posts are few and far between- it is worth reading if you are a non-Catholic wondering what this daily spirituality looks like!
adding my link to Kelly @ This Ain't The Lyceum!
Also: Go like my Facebook page, would you, friends?...  I'm getting *so* close to 100 likes!

Monday, September 28, 2015

September Quotables: Emily Stimpson

Welcome to the series: September Quotables.  As I recover from having a baby, I'm going to be posting some of my favorite quotes here on the ol blog. Nothing fancy... although I like fancy.... Just some good quotes, as a series while I recover and take my sweet time in the postpartum department!

today, read, enjoy, and savor this quote from Emily Stimpson's excellent book, These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body.

"At the most basic level, living the theology of the body in the midst of a culture of distraction is difficult because living the theology of the body takes time, and time is something the culture of distraction steals from us...

In contemporary American culture, there are a million unimportant things- status updates, online celebrity gossip, Dancing With the Stars, Steelers stats, and political polls- stealing hours from our limited daily set of twenty-four.  There are also cultural priorities that crowd out what's genuinely important. Working weekends to pay for the vacation in Tahoe, running kids around to their resume-building gaggle of activities, throwing elaborate birthday parties for two-year-olds- they all eat up the time where we could be visiting the elderly widower up the street, sitting down to family dinner, or praying Morning Prayer."

-Emily Stimpson, These Beautiful Bones, ch. 9 p. 140

I liked this quote because...
I think living in a culture of distraction is extremely hard to overcome. Her vision for overcoming it is powerful and enticing.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Best Piece of Advice Ever~ Guest Post from Jenny

Good morning friends! I am taking my sweet time, recovering from having a baby. Thankfully
Jenny Cook is here to save my skin. Today, I'm sharing a guest post that she so graciously offered to write for {Picture a Skyline.} Jenny is the rather casual proprietress at Life in the Cookie Jar and also a contributor to Real Housekeeping and Shine Catholic.  She, her husband, and their three little kids live in a little house near Portland, Oregon.  
Take it away Jenny... and thank you!

Pretty bold statement, I know.  Right up front, please know that this is not advice I am perfect at following.  But I strongly believe it and attempt to make it a practice in all areas of my life.


Find someone who has what you want, and ask him/her how he/she got it.

This statement is not primarily aimed at material things, although it could be.  If you know someone who has a beautiful house which impeccable style, and you also know them to be generally frugal, ask them where on earth they got those adorable throw pillows or where they learned to arrange flowers so beautifully.

I mostly use it in terms of skills that I wish I possessed or skills which I have but need to improve.  For example, when I see parents whose children are a joy to be around, I ask them about their parenting techniques.  

I draw upon my circle of friends for parenting advice, because I spend enough time around them as a family to know their children well. I’m around them enough to see the kids on their angelic days and perhaps their not-so-angelic days.  I’m around the parents enough to know whether I like the way they parent.  

(That said, even people you don’t know IRL (in real life) can be a resource. I have emailed bloggers who have written extensively about their family life to ask them questions.  And they’ve written back!)  

I suppose you could say that I’m arguing for renewing the apprenticeship model of learning.  I was a teaching apprentice for two years, and I can’t imagine learning the art of teaching any other way.  My husband is currently entering into his third year as a carpentry apprentice.  Both of these were paid apprenticeship models, which is an idea whose time has come, gone, and should come again.  But you don’t have to be in a formal master-apprentice relationship to reap the benefits of learning from others.  

The other day I had a challenging parenting situation arise.  I’d talked to my husband about it but we were at a bit of an impasse with not knowing how to proceed.  I called my friend who has a couple of kids the ages of my kids and a couple who are older than mine.  I laid out the situation and asked, “What do you think we should do?”  We had a 20 minute conversation about possible ideas and things that have worked for her.  When we hung up, I felt such relief.  It wasn’t as if she had imparted some magical new revelation from on high that no other person on this earth has ever known.  She listened, asked clarifying questions, and gave me her two cents.  It’s just that her two cents is in a currency that’s worth more than mine, because I recognize that as far as parenting goes, I’m a greenhorn.  While I’m sure my friend would never call herself an expert, she has already parented three of her children out of the “terrible threes” and her son who is himself now three is far from terrible!  She’s further down the road, and I respect her as a parent...why wouldn’t I want to apprentice myself to her, so to speak?

Additionally, I think there is a huge psychosocial benefit to the idea of reaching out to ask for help and advice.  It forces us to get outside of ourselves.  Ironically, ever-expanding social media technology tends to isolate us.  Why ask another person when I can just look it up online or buy that new book about simplifying my life and organizing my house?  By asking others, we have to have relationships outside of our home and to get to know the person sufficiently well to know what their talents, gifts, and skills are.  We have to know ourselves well enough to realize a deficit that we would like to remedy.  We have to have the humility to want to ask for help and the guts to go ahead and ask.

As you think about your life today, are there any areas in which you’d like to improve yourself?  Maybe it’s a hobby, like cake decorating or gardening.  Maybe it’s more of a practical life skill, such as car repair.  Perhaps your spiritual life is in a dry spell, or you’re entering into a new phase of parenting and feel in over your head.  The possibilities are limited only by your own ability to assess your personal situation.  What, if anything, do you most want to fine-tune in your life?  Do you know anyone who seems to be a few steps ahead of you in that regard?  As women, I think we’re constantly comparing ourselves to other women anyway.  Let’s at least make constructive use of those comparisons by asking those women how they’ve gotten where they are instead of berating ourselves for not being there yet.  

Finally, you probably have some skill, talent, or life experience which someone else would like to have.  I hope you will consider making yourself available to those who ask, “How do you do it?”  Likely as not, the people in your life have already seen this (given our aforementioned propensity to measure ourselves against others) and may already be yearning to know your “secret.”  If they ask you, you don’t need to hem and haw about how you’re not actually that successful.  You’re allowed to be good at things and to know you’re good at them!  If you’re asked for advice, give it with the reminder that they can take what they like and leave the rest.  You never know whose lives you’ll touch by this simple act of sharing your experience and strength.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

September Quotables: T.S. Eliot

Welcome to the series September Quotables.  As I recover from having a baby, I'm going to be posting some of my favorite quotes here on the ol blog. Nothing fancy... although I like fancy... Just some good quotes as a series while I recover and take my sweet time in the postpartum department.

today may you enjoy these lines from Burnt Norton, by T.S. Eliot.

Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
Wtih slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plentitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.

-T.S. Eliot,  from the poem, Burnt Norton from Four Quartets

I liked this quote because...
Eliot is one of my favorite authors and poets.
Also, he used the word "twittering" a hundred years before Twitter was invented.

Friday, September 18, 2015

September Quotables: St. Paul

Welcome to a new series: September Quotables.  As I recover from having a baby, I'm posting some of my favorite quotes here on the ol blog. Nothing fancy... although I like fancy...  Just some good quotes as a series while I recover and take my sweet time in the postpartum department.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

-St. Paul the Apostle, 1. Corinthians 9:24-27

I liked this quote because...

 ~ it made me think. It made me think about how undisciplined I am.