Saturday, February 28, 2015

Thoughts on Middlemarch

“Marriage, which has been the bourne of so many narratives, is still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honey-moon in Eden, but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic - the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which make the advancing years a climax, and age the harvest of sweet memories in common.” 
-George Eliot, Middlemarch

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who was actually a college professor taking a year off to rewrite the English curriculum for our school. She taught the AP English class that I took junior year.  She was an amazing teacher, and I credit all of my 5 on the AP exam to her.  Her favorite author was George Eliot, and we read Silas Marner in her class. I liked it, but it was always in the back of my mind to read Middlemarch, because I feel sure that was the professor's favorite book.

Although I was excited to settle into it, the first part of Middlemarch felt stilted to me. She is painting a very grandiose landscape of a town in England (is Middlemarch a real or imagined place? I think imagined).  It is very wordy and her characters are drawn as very uppity and self-absorbed.  I almost cast the book aside a couple of times, so fed up I was with this condescension and long, laborious, self-righteous sentences. But around the second book, there is a not-so-subtle change. And so, good reader, neither should you give up on George Eliot. When the setting moves from England to Rome, her words start to flow freely.

Dorothea becomes more likable, she fights with her husband on their honeymoon, but despite the character's imperfections, the prose is beautiful and natural. Her introspective nature is all the more believable and thusly appealing.  She is a rounded-out character.

The first part comes into light with receding shadows: your doubts about her authorship is resigned and you see the first part for what it actually is: the laying of a foundation for a great and glorious story.

Later on in the book, the dryness returns, along with a sprinkling of uppity lines. But it is accompanied by the gracious, beautiful prose. And even more importantly, not just Dorothea, but the entire story becomes more developed. She has created an entire town, full of issues, monetary quandary, and deep characters. As the subtitle ("a study of provincial life") suggests, it is an upper class look at a middle class town. The ending just absolutely sings, the dryness melts into spirituality and just a touch of sweetness... and it is worth it to read the whole thing to find out the ending.

I credit the dryness to George Eliot's focus on financial issues: gambling, debts owed, debts paid, and money given up for the betterment of the characters.  The plot twists are subdued- an excellent stylistic aspect- and I think the overwhelming detail is in the end worth your time.

I couldn't quite place the exact location of Eliot's spirituality- or the landscape she paints in the book- but I think she believes in the power of shining light into darkness, and the heroism of those people who despite pain and severe life challenges, make sacrifices that cannot be rivaled except by the saints. She is known, to the best of my knowledge, for all but having abandoned Christianity, but maybe she didn't, altogether. Perhaps we learn from this book that she shed its orthodoxy but kept it's basic principles of love, light, and sacrifice. At least I'd like to argue that she didn't, but I can't know for sure.

I'm thankful that I could read the original English text, and I encourage you and recommend that you read this book at some point in your life. Although not American, it is always nice when we don't have to read a translation!

“We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, "Oh, nothing!" Pride helps; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our hurts— not to hurt others.” 
-George Eliot, Middlemarch

Have you read it? What thoughts do you have to add?

read more on Middlemarch:

Friday, February 27, 2015

SQT: My Favorite Books: of all time and right now

Today, I give you my list of the best books I can think of. You're welcome.  I say that these are my favorite books of all time, but I felt like it needed a qualifier "right now," because they are subject to change if I consider how many books I will read down the road. Thus, "of all time, and right now." My favorite books have to fall into a few categories: they have to be timeless, literary, and life-changing.

First, they have to timeless. They bring you into a world out of time, where all the same rules apply to me as they do to the characters (in fiction), or where the advice offered isn't tied to whatever philosophies that are currently en vogue. Even if they might encapsulate a certain time period, in a quintessential way, the universal principles stand above that time.

Second, they have to be (mostly) literary. A writer's writer, a book-lover's book, or just clear and lovely prose. All of the books listed fall into this category in my mind.

Third, they have to be life-changing or moving.  I don't mean sentimental or tear-jerker. I mean... it makes you stop to ponder... oh wow how beautiful this world is. The content comes into your heart, melds with it there for a while, and then you stop, look in the mirror and think "And, now I'm a different person completely."

These are the books I'll either tell you to drop everything and read, or they're the books I'll literally just give you a copy of.  So, without further ado... my seven favorite books of all time and right now:

novels (foreign):
1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

I read this while I was pregnant with our first child, Molly. I love everything about it and would happily reread the monster at some point when I make the time. He weaves philosophy into a very interesting story seamlessly, giving us lots of food for thought and time and food for contemplation. Make sure you get a good translation and good comments if you can.

2. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

My husband gave this to me several years ago as an anniversary present, and I was finally inspired to read it last November.  It was worth every page. Tina Nunnally's translation was PPIEW.* It will make you think about Norway, Catholicism, motherhood, life, death, and living well.

for kids:
3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I have read this so many times I've lost count. I used to read it every time I got sick.  Have you seen the illustrations by Tasha Tudor? Own it. I can't wait to read this to my kids and share the love.

4. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
I've reread this one several times, and I'll recommend it until I'm blue in the face. I read it for the first time in Middle School, if you can believe that, after my Aunt recommended it while I was staying with her for a week.  It influenced my life profoundly, made me want to be a writer when I grew up, and sucked me into the world of Lamott, a world of which I have yet to leave and will happily stay a very long time.

novels (american):
5. The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

This book just shimmers with beauty. it is the perfect combination accessible, American, and mysteriously clairvoyant. Steinbeck just gets the profundity of the 'normal class' America in a way that no other author seems to be able to capture. I think it was one of the few that I re-read voluntarily after being required to read it in high school. If I were to write a(nother) novel, perhaps it would look a little like this. If it makes you want to write, it scoots itself to the top of a list.

6. From Brokenness to Community by Jean Vanier

Of all the books, this one rises to the the top as one of the most 'life-changing.' A best friend (roomie at Westmont, in my wedding) recommended it to me after a high school religion teacher required that she read at her High School St. Louis.  I then read it about a billion times, and started giving away copies to random unwitting friends. Vanier started the L'Arche communities, for people with disability to live in a shelter of faith together.  This book explores the importance of coming to terms with our sinfulness and weakness, in order that we might more fully love each other. There are countless jewels of wisdom, and quotables on almost every page! It's short, but PACKED with wisdom.

7. Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux

This book is/was the reason I finally assented to the conversion to Catholicism  that my husband and I had been discussing and sparring about for about three years! It is soo good! Her love for God and her passion for Jesus' work and ministry, and her insights about faith and spirituality will truly change your life.

runners up (aka the books that I really had a hard time NOT including):

for kids: The Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace
spirituality:The Little Oratory by Leila Lawler and David Clayton
novel: A toss up between Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) and Brideshead Revisited (Waugh)
american:Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
on writing: If You Want to Write by Brenda Euland

This does not include my favorite works of poetry, memoir, biography, among a few other genres and gems. I'm also a huge fan of the foodie genre, but we'll have to save that for another day!

to see all the books I've read see my Books I've Read board, and feel free to follow me on Pinterest!

What are YOUR favorite books and genres?

*practically perfect in every way;-)

Linking up with Kelly and the gang at This Ain't the Lyceum

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Prayers to Know as a Catholic Family

Recently, I have been compiling all of the prayers I want our kids to have committed to memory, that I believe we should know. I feel firmly that we would be in grievous error if our children were not baptized, attending Mass faithfully, and praying at mealtime.  But I don’t want to stop there. I don't want to do just the bare minimum when it comes to their rich faith. I want them to be hungry for knowledge and wisdom. I want to help them to come to a rich understanding of Catholicism. Thus, I have been compiling the things (besides the Catechism) that they are committing to memory.

Here is the list.
You can view and/or print my Memory Work document here, on GoogleDocs. I included English and Latin versions for some of the prayers.

Prayer as you say the sign of the cross 
Hail Mary prayer
Apostle's Creed
Hail Holy Queen
The Memorare
Glory Be
Ecce Agnus Dei
The Confiteor
The Angelus
Act of Contrition
St. Andrew Novena Prayer

As I mentioned, many of the prayers can be said in Latin as well as in English. My list includes prayers from Mass, from the Rosary, some novenas, and some extras thrown in. Again, feel free to print this out for your family!

If you do not own it, a wonderful resource is Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, put out by the United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishops.   We are really lucky to have a copy on our shelf, and it has been a wonderful reference as we try to teach our kids these prayers.

Now, you tell me. What did I forget? What prayers or blessings would you add to the list I compiled?

Cross-posting at the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers

Monday, February 23, 2015

Weekly Minutiae vol. 12~ Snow Days, Lent Decor, and a Riddle

Molly had a snow day, and she actually was off Monday thru Wednesday because of President’s Day, icy road conditions, and finally a little dusting of snow on Wednesday. The snow came back just as she was getting out of school on Friday, and really started to stick around 7:30 Friday night.

Snow day in Tennessee, folks. This is how much it takes to get out of school here! :-) #snowissnowyo

Molly was begging me to take her with me for the Ash Wednesday service. Stephen had already attended the service at our parish at noon.  We went to the 5 o’clock, which was followed by a soup dinner provided by the Living the Eucharist ministry at our church.  A little boy from our parish, who is a friend of ours', sat down beside me.  He started saying, “Man… my Mom didn’t let me have ANY fun today, because she was really serious about Ash Wednesday.”  I said, “Oh, really? What did you give up?” “My favorite video game…” he responded. Molly piped up, “Well, I have to give up TV for Lent!” And our friend Sean looked at her and goes, “BOY… that is a REALLY hard one!”

I took Madeleine to run errands with me on Thursday, while our babysitter watched the other two.  She picked out this Frozen Play-doh kit, so I caved since we have a lot of down time sans screen these days.

We listened to the Frozen soundtrack while they played and played with it. When the CD was over, they continued singing it for another 30 minutes or more… before I finally made Madeleine take her nap. She fell asleep right away, without any kind of entertainment, which is always nice.  She occasionally likes playing iPad games, particularly when she’s having quiet rest time. I think all of those errands with Mommy wore her out for sure!

Stephen took the girls to the theatre to see a movie! They went on President's Day and had a ton of fun. (It was Paddington Bear and apparently it's really good!)

And I took this guy to the playground to SWING!This was a hat for him from Zulily last summer.  :-)

My kitchen table centerpiece for Lent...I've never owned a diffuser, so I was excited to find a purple liquid- lavender sage- to match the kitchen table centerpiece for Lent (I know it kinda looks pink in the picture, though!)
Incense holder and our beans-for-sacrifices jar

For the other Lenten decor, I purchased a yard of purple fabric, the centerpiece tray, purple candles, the very small frame, silver letter stickers, burlap, and brown scrapbooking paper. I cut the paper to fit the frame, and added the word "repent" using the stickers.

 I also purchased the succulent.

While I decorated for Lent, the girls helped decorate the house with watercolor paintings on Friday afternoon. They are doing really well without tv.  Whenever they're are complaining about the tv thing, we made a list of the things we are going to do instead:

- go to playground at least once per week
-have a picnic
-have a tea party
-do playdoh and/or watercolor painting
-run errands
- visit Mom
- read books
- listen to ebooks/audio books (Spotify has some Bedtime Stories playlists: see "Time for Bed:20 Kids' Stories")
- listen to music (Lent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary is a good one, also on Spotify)
- Lenten crafts of many kinds :-)
- toys and coloring books and stickers galore
Molly made a bunch of signs to remind her. :-)

The kiddos went to play at Grandma’s near the end of the week.  This picture my Mom took just makes me laugh. :0)

Reading update: I finally finished The Secret Life of Bees, I’m half way through the Lewis Carroll biography by Morton Cohen, and I’m seriously close to finishing Middlemarch (see that bookmark?).  I've made it my goal to reach the finish line before March. I’m still reading about 1-2 Flannery stories per day until the end of February… or until I’m finished with her Complete Works. So. good. I also bought a Lauren Winner book that I’m really excited about reading. I'm trying not to read Alice in Wonderland et al while I read the LC biography, but that is next to impossible.
whoooo are you? future Oxford scholar

I claimed that I would probably never finish Gilmore Girls, but on Fat Tuesday, I had about a half of one of Stephen's Nooners (at night) and watched the rest of season 7. I think I only skipped about 6 or 7 episodes in the entire Series, seasons 1-7. Whoa. All in the past 4 months.  My kids were starting to get sick of “Where you go… I will follow…anywhere…. that you tell me to.” ;) And SPOILER: (only read the following sentence if you’ve a) finished the entire series or b) never plan to.)  I was shocked at the fact that no one got together and everyone just ended up living for work. {?!} When Logan proposed I was all, this is gonna be so awesome. But no. And I was happy for Lorelai and Christopher when they did get together. But no.  But I still cried so many times. When Lorelai’s father had a heart attack?! And when Lorelai did Karoake and sang “I Will Always Love You” and Luke walked in? TEARS from this pregnant lady right here!!!!

And man…. Lewis Carroll. This has been a great read.  What an amazing specimen of Victorian England and the Oxford don tour de force. I would like to write a post about his biography, although I  just don’t think I could handle a research paper, so, we’ll see. The book is over 500 pages, gee. I just remembered that I don’t really like writing research papers just for fun. Maybe it's 11.5 weeks pregnant talking? Ahem. I don’t know… what do think about book reports or research book posts?  Maybe it is better to stick to a post like a Goodreads or Amazon review?  Just know that I will always tell you if I’m going to give any spoilers. :-)

a Lewis Carroll riddle*

Me: All you have to do to write and publish a book, is to make friends with a famous person… like Lewis Carroll befriending George MacDonald. Macdonald encouraged Carroll to publish Alice in Wonderland, and then later, Through the Looking Glass. It reminded him of his own fairy tale Phantastes.
Stephen: Yeah, and go to one of the best universities and get one of the best educations in the world.
Me: They really had a mutual understanding and passionate agreement about such things like God, love, fairy tales, and innocence.
Stephen: And Oxford.**

We also had a long conversation about the new algorithm for things like Pinterest and Facebook. . Apparently, according to him (a techie alltheway), new social media sites like these are cropping up and changing all the time. At first, I was annoyed by Pinterest’s new algorithm, until I figured out the “News” feed thing.  It is at the upper right hand when you're on the site on a real computer -but easier to find on the Pinterest app on my iPhone. I didn’t know why it would start suggesting things for me, when I really was looking for my friends’ pins and suggestions. But, when I figured out that all of that was under News Feed, I wasn’t so frustrated.

However, the thing I’m most frustrated with is the relatively new FB modus operandi. I would assume that the news feed would simply show things according to a timeline…. but NO, it has to be according to how many likes or comments a post has. Thus, a really old post with a bunch of comments will trump a recent post. This way, when I hit refresh, my most recent post appears buried under a miscellany of boring announcements and/or funny memes, and things that get lots of comments. He agreed that it’s really frustrating to see old FB threads bumping up to the top … although he doesn’t go on FB very often.;)

Isn’t there a way- like Pinterest- to show both the popular posts as well as the most recent things your friends have said? I know from recent conversation that there is a way to turn off the Pinterest thing, by hovering over the "picked for you" and clicking the x to hide all pins inspired by a certain board.... so we'll see if that will work to change all of my settings to improve the experience.

In other news, I'm trying my hardest to talk him into taking the Myers Briggs test, since he has NEVER taken it, you guys. I actually took a 5 minute online test FOR him and got ENTJ but that's just me. So, it doesn't count. But it would make sense, knowing him, (For the record, I'm INFP, like two other bloggers that I know of).

SO. We’ll see how that goes. I’m really excited about the plans we have coming up for our Easter holiday and vacation.

* Yes... the riddle DOES have an answer.. And yes, it has something to do with puns. If it's driving you crazy, I can tell you the answer in the comments.... and if it's not, then next week. :-)
**Upon further research, George MacDonald was Scottish, and was educated at the University of Aberdeen. Sorry.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

SQT: 7 Quick Reads~ On Privacy and the Internet, Capsule Wardrobes, and More

Well. I think it has been about three weeks since I did a round-up of good reads from the internet. I have been all around, reading things here and there. Whatever strikes me on Facebook, the news, or  in my feedly. I have some really good stuff today! I hope you settle in for a minute, and check out these links!


Privacy For Mom Bloggers @ The Mirror Mag (Written by Laura from This Felicitous Life)

"I think blogging is analogous to driving.  The best way to reduce the risk of our children’s being injured in a car accident would be to cut out all unnecessary car trips: no play dates, no extracurricular activities, no shopping excursions, no dining out.  But of course, we don’t do that.  Instead we use car seats, drive carefully, get our brakes checked, and say traveling prayers. 

Worth reading. I tend to agree with Laura most of the time! ;-) I love her lawyer Mom's perspective, and I think where we really intersect in our thinking is her no-nonsense (no-embarrassing) approach as well as a laugh-at-yourself attitude (and as she mentions with the driving analogy; I think I can safely interpret her analogy as saying, don't live in a little bubble of fear). The internet, with all of its highs and lows, is here to stay. Mom bloggers are one piece to that good-bad-ugly puzzle.  Might as well make it a beautiful piece.


How to Respect Your Children While Using Social Media @ One Catholic Mama

Again, a perspective I almost 100% agree with. To quote a little bit of it:
"Some bloggers avoid talking about their kids at all, some bloggers don't call their kids by name (using things like #1), and some bloggers, like Jessica, come up with totally super awesome pseudonyms for their kids. I honestly wish I had thought of that before I started this blog.   But, I didn't.  I use my kids' real names, which are great names, if I do say so myself. 
Another good tip in her post is not to complain or whine about your kids online.  I know of one or two bloggers who can air their frustrations with humor, and get away with it. But that's not many. I think I remember a blogger a while back discussing the issue of "snark," and how hard it is to actually pull off without sounding like a terrible person. So true. We should always be careful how we state our thoughts, and take reputation into consideration... the reputation of all parties involved. Us, our kids, our spouses, our extended family... and keep the golden rule in mind when recounting facts, anecdotes, and photos.


The Dating Advice I Wish I Had Heard in my Twenties @ Verily

"Take it from someone who spent all of her twenties dating. Finding lasting love is the best. If you’re in your twenties today and want true love someday, why wait? Start dating like a grown-up now and you are more likely to end up with one when the time is right.

This is so true. I felt like I was seeing my own reflection in my coffee cup while I was reading it. We got married in our twenties, but my husband was definitely a grown-up about it.  I love this oh-so refreshing reminder to take yourself seriously (but not too seriously) while that biological clock is ticking.  You never know when love, commitment, and maturity will align with that special person you're longing for.


Capsule Wardrobe vol. 2~ Ideas and Inspiration for the 2-year-old Girl @ Whole Parenting Family

"The thing about having a two, almost three year old, is that you get to pick their clothes. And I am also not into pink-pink girlie so instead she gets this array of long sleeve shirts. Mini BodenTeasmafolkGap Baby, you know. All used, gifted, or handmedown.

Wow! Am I the only one thinking "Girl... you scored some amazing hand-me-downs?!" But seriously, this is a great series. It is inspiring me to pare down my girls' clothes a bit. It can be so hard to keep it as organized as she does. I feel like my kids are always outgrowing things faster than I can jump in with new *or used, or hand-me-down* stuff. I'm inspired.


In Bitter Cold, Entertaining Kids With Games, Films, and Dumplings @ The New York Times

five words:
“Anna and Elsa all day.”

I am so thankful for the weather in Tennessee usually, but I'd say even here, it has been a {maybe not bitterly, but} cold winter.  Now that my girls have given up TV for Lent, it is no longer "can we please look up Frozen on Ice on youtube?" If we were somewhere even colder, I'm not sure I'd be 'out and about' all that much with kids if I could help it! At least not until it warms up a little bit. BRRRRrrrrr.


Fifty Shades is Abuse @ The Rambling Curl

 I'll level with you:  When I started writing this blog, a whopping SEVEN HOURS AGO (yeah, my eyes are falling out), I had a moment of panic and thought: "What if I can't find fifty examples of abusive behaviour?  If I go through the three books in chronological order, what if I stop at thirty or forty?"  It's hilarious that I thought that, because 1) Thirty or forty incidents of abusive behaviour in a so-called "love story" is sick.  2) This is Fifty Shades of Grey, for crying out loud.  Of course we've got a book and a half to go and we've run out of room on our list....

I thought, that of all the NUMEROUS reports on this book/film, this little gut-level UK blog summed it up well, and it is worth a skim at least. How did this book even get published?! (Did Twilight or bad pornographic romance novels have anything to do with it, perchance?) Folks, this "grey" part of our culture isn't cute. And abuse shouldn't be a grey area at all. And let's get this one thing straight: it was brought to be released on Valentine's Day??!! I didn't read it or see the movie, so I'm not really one to talk. But, from what I gather, it's not what you think it is; wake up Americans.  UGHhhhh...... ugh, ugh, ugh. (I think I heard a collective "NOooo!" from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes as well... 26% is not a good score, FYI Focus Features).


Experiencing Lent Through Our Five Senses @ More Than Enough

"The purpose of this post is not to make you think that you have to do ALL of these suggestions! On the contrary, this list is meant to get you thinking about what will work for your family. I am a big advocate for keeping Lent as simple as possible. What I hope to convey is that Lent does not have to be an abstract idea but rather something tangible that we can truly experience in our everyday lives.

If you don't read Sarah's blog, you should! She's a fun one for sure. Catholic Mom contributor, knitter extraordinaire, and a fun writer all told. I love her ideas for experiencing Lent three-dimensionally.

Also, Bonus:

~My post for Real Housekeeping that went live yesterday~ Making Lists: How I Get My Life Organized

~My new Movies Worth Watching board on Pinterest~

Adding my link to Kelly and all the others over there today!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

An Article for Real Housekeeping

First off, thank you SO MUCH for all of the words of encouragement on my post Monday. Your thoughts and prayers mean the world! I'm just praying and hoping that the prayers work, and that I don't have to experience the same things again; ever again!

Second, I have an article at Real Housekeeping today.

read it here: Making Lists: How I Get My Life Organized

I hope you enjoy it. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter! :-)


Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekly Minutiae vol. 11~ Unfortunate Events, and Valentine's Day

~Warning: some words in this story may be graphic or hard to read! If you don't like birth stories, you probably will not take a liking to this story (although it is not a birth story FYI).~

On Wednesday, I went to Kmart. I was pulling through the Wendy's drive thru just after that, when all of a sudden, I felt a warm burst pooling underneath me. I was scared. I immediately put a stack of napkins in my seat, but by the time we got home, it was soaked.  I spent the rest of the day waiting.. but fortunately, the bleeding tapered off and stopped by Thursday morning.

On Thursday morning, I had an urgent appointment with my Ob-Gyn to get an ultrasound and find out what had happened (and what was going to happen.)  It was scary waiting for that appointment. I was hoping to sleep well, and slept well the night before, and the bleeding continued but slowed down to minimal or next to nothing. But I knew that what I was experiencing was odd and strange.

The doctor's office told me on Wednesday that I should visit the ER if the bleeding continued heavily, or if I soaked through two pads in an hour. I immediately emailed my old midwife from Maryland, as well as my best childhood friend who is a midwife in Oklahoma, to get a second and third opinion. I didn't want to go the ER if it wasn't absolutely necessary.

Talking to my friend, I decided to stay home because the bleeding had tapered off almost completely.  I rested, took two pain pills, worried that the minimal pain I experienced would increase, and I called Stephen. He came home and then took the kids to pick up Molly from school while I rested and watched Netflix.

From the discussion with my friend, as well as judging from the email I received from my MD midwife, I had fully prepared myself for a safe, at-home miscarriage. The blow was heavy. I cried several times.

I set up childcare for the next day and asked my Mother-in-law to help care for the kiddos.

When I went into the doctor’s, she immediately asked me a bunch of questions, did an exam, and announced hopefully that my cervix was in tact, which was, according to her, “a very good sign.”  She asked if I felt pregnant. I said I wasn't sure. They did an ultrasound and drew blood. Waiting for that ultrasound could have been the longest, scariest thirty or forty-five minutes of my life.

They did the ultrasound, and after about five minutes of checking, they turned on the sound- a loud, strong heartbeat!  Honestly, I was shocked. I was in shock. When the hemorrhage had happened, after feeling tired all morning (and more often than not, in general), I felt really awake, which I assumed was a bad sign. I had already gotten all of my tears out at home- and crying in exam rooms has never been my thing— too sterile and cold!  But I just kept saying, “Oh, good...oh, good.” It was a big scare, I’ll be honest. I think the "awake" feeling was because of nerves.

The doctor told me my diagnosis: a subchorionic hemorrhage. I hoped I would never have to write or remember how to spell those words. But now I know how.

I honestly will never be able to look at pregnancy and the gift of life the same way again.  I was confident that we had lost this baby. It was terrifying, because the thought of losing a baby had never been this close to hitting home. I've never previously despaired of things turning out well. Now I know how it feels.

I’m sorry to be so dramatic on you today, but that’s just what’s been going on for us this past week! We were so glad to have that behind us for Valentine's Day.

Some pictures from Valentine's Day....

For our Valentine's date, the kids were with their grands, so we made an amazing home-cooked meal together- Roasted Pork (using this yumyumyumyumyum) with raisins and pine nuts, roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, and a salad....all except the salad, inspired from this picture I cut out from the newspaper. Then we attempted a to make a dessert together- Chocolate Pots de Creme, and watched one of my all-time favorite movies  Reality Bites (added to my new Pinterest board, Movies Worth Watching). I know, I know, don't judge. (!!!) It has some seedy characters, but it is such a good soundtrack and an amazing screenplay. I had a blast re-watching it.  :-)  haha. All in all, such a fun night.

The Valentine's dessert turned out a little runny. I'm not experienced in the way of custard-type desserts.... so, sad. We discussed where we went wrong... I think it was the fact that we didn't stir the coconut milk first, and we only let it boil for a second. Apparently, custards require that the milk boil for 2-3 minutes. We also tried doing it with sweetened pieces of dark chocolate, which apparently is a no-no according to a friend of mine who is a cooking wizard genius. So, we drizzled our chocolateness over the raspberries!

This is from brunch at the Camphouse together, sans kids. I had the Hot Goat Waffles; apples and goat cheese with bacon and warm syrup on waffles. So yummy, and so nice to eat a big meal that you didn't have to cook!
On Valentine's Day, I saw our kittens snuggled up together taking a nap. Swoon- so sweet!

We rounded out the fun weekend with a trip to McKay bookstore. SO.MUCH.FUN. I was remiss not to have bought the kids anything for Valentine's Day yet, so I remedied that with a stack of books and some candy! :0) See, we recovered from a poorly made custard.

I'm feeling thankful and deeply grateful for the life within me, considering what could have happened. What's been going on in your week?

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Friday, February 13, 2015

7 Ways to Turn Kiddos Into Helpers

My first and foremost disclaimer, is that I feel like my house is always messy.  With four kids seven and under (oh yeah- and one on the way…) it can feel like an overwhelming, nigh unto impossible task to keep up with their little messes on top on my normal chores.  However, I shouldn't have to spend 30 minutes cleaning up after them every time they play!  Here are some simple, doable ways to get your kids to clean up after themselves, and to assist them in becoming naturally helpful around the house.

And, as I'm sure you already know, habits and routines are far more powerful tools than incentives such as using bribery! However, I will say that I concede an occasional bribe… because I have taken into account that we all have hard days, and we all like milk and cookies, imeanright?  Here are some ideas for getting your kids to clean up after themselves and take part in the chores of the household,  and only the last one mentions using bribes! That does not correspond directly to the use of bribes in our house, unfortunately.


Have a Routine

Have them put books back on the shelves, or put out a basket to leave them in when they’re done reading a book. If you have story time every night before bed, have them put the books away as a matter of course when you’re done reading to them.  You could add to the after-storytime-routine to put the books on the shelf (or in the basket), clothes in the hamper, and pillows or blankets on the bed, if there are any left on the bedroom floor.


Make it easy

Ask them to put their clean, folded clothes in an open drawer. That’s right— open the drawer for them and pass them the clothes. Do a hand off. This is so easy, and we try to make a habit of this at least once a week, if not more often. We try to make a nightly habit of putting all the dirties- or dress-up- in a hamper or basket in their room. Good for tinies. Doing the hand-off technique is good for tinies, too!


Try Ingenuity

Put two brown paper grocery bags- one for toys and one for trash- or a small-sized toy bin (or clip a plastic grocery bag to a toy bin if there’s trash) in the middle of the room, and tell them to put 5 things off the floor into the bin. If they do that quickly, tell them to get 5 more things from off the coffee table (off the shelf, etc) and put that in the bin. We did that recently with strips of paper that had gotten strewn all over the living room. For bigger kids, and/or bigger messes, tell them "10 things."


Form Habits

Write a chore chart that includes Setting and Clearing the table.  Even the youngest can carry forks from the drawer to the table. For some reason, my kids love to "help" me make dinner. Carrying an empty cup or setting napkins could be their way of helping.  It is far better than stirring hot rice and getting a burn on their hand (true story).  Make a habit of asking them to clear their dishes to the sink after dinner- when they’ve been excused— and when a little older, scraping their plate of its leftover contents into the trash can.  Our kids can't get up from the table until they say, "May I be excused please?" Usually that's our last chance to say "three more bites!" and then, "take your dish to the sink!"


Give Consistent Reminders

We’re actually terrible about this, but try to have them make their bed everyday.  Keep trying until it’s a habit— even if they have to do it in the afternoon! I remember this being a rule for me growing up, and the habit has stuck for me, even though it hasn’t really stuck for my kids yet. :( I have to tell my daughter Molly, "go make your bed!" again and again. The other day, she made her bed right before dinner. You live and learn! ;) As long as they eventually do it, I think that counts.


Make it Fun

Teach them to "wash dishes" even when they’re very young. When I think about my kids, I am sure they ALL loved this from 18 months on. Put a little soap on their hands, and let them go to town running their hands under the stream of water, and splashing and playing in the soapy bubbles. As they get a little older, they'll start pouring cups of water into bowls, and that kind of thing. Even if it isn’t productive necessarily, it is teaching them a good habit. And it can double as a washing hands-before dinner- kind of thing.


Use Incentives

You can pass on this if you are super- strict, but when you’re having a rough day, give them a little treat of m&m’s or oreo cookies and milk when they’re done! Or use an allowance as incentive to get them to pick up. A chore chart, routine, consistent reminders, and a little ingenuity will take you far as you get them to clean up after themselves!  This list doesn't even mention the importance of obedience, respecting your parents, and the responsibility of being a part of a family. For another day!
Adding my link to This Ain't the Lyceum today!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

~Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real~ Cross-stitch for the First Time


I found this cross-stitch kit at Tuesday Morning for a little bit of nothing.

I liked that it wasn't your typical flowery fare, but as I'm getting into it, I'm realizing the pattern is difficult. The first day was all... this is fun! this is terrible! this is fun! this is terrible.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to complete it, to be honest.... look at the pattern...

I've never done cross-stitch before, and the learning curve was sort of minimal, because I have done embroidery.  But don't worry, my brain was still hurting. I'm just a little worried, and on top of that, I lost the embroidery needle that came with the kit. Maybe this was a practice round. I get the stretching fabric thing, and threading needles, and working with my hands. But all of the extra little things, and the taping of the sides, and the separating of the thread, and the counting- diagonal across 2-- and all of the exactness... my hat's off to you cross-stitchers out there! I have to talk to myself out loud while I'm sewing.

But if you've never done it, hey, it's fun! You should try it!

Definitely a good skill to have in the long run.


My February reading is coming along, although I feel like I picked a whole lot of long books all at once.  Middlemarch is coming, I feel like I've made  a serious dent (about 3/4 of the way through).  I've also resolved to read at least one Flannery O'Connor story per day this month, which has been easier to do than I thought. Several of them are re-reads for me, so that helps!  However, this edition includes several stories that have never been published before, as well as several that are new to me.  You guys, they're all so good. So, so good.  I just want to shout off the mountain top, "THESE ARE NEVER-BEFORE-PUBLISHED!! FLANNERY!! OMGoodness--- Go read them right now!"


Remember the "book your Mom loves" idea from the 2015 Reading Challenge from MMD?   Well, one of my February reads is a book my Mom loves-- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I'm really enjoying it so far.  What's funny is, she heard a mutual friend of ours' discussing Kristin Lavransdatter, (It takes place in Norway.... that's really all it takes for my Mom!!!!! :)  and now she is reading a book that I love! At the same time I'm reading a book she loves.


As I mentioned on Monday in my WM post, our cats/kittens are sorta driving me crazy insane.  The final straws are that
~I can't change kitty litter because of Toxoplasmosis - risk to our unborn baby.
~They haven't learned from our "no's" not to get up on desks and tables yet. Aranea-- who we now know is a boy kitty, name change in process-- jumped up on my desk and chewed through my laptop cord. Stephen has a backup, but if something happens to our backup, that's a $50 replacement fee, at least!
~for the first day or two, they wrestled so aggressively that we had to separate them; they started screaming while wrestling, so each cat took turns being closed in. They finally - finally- figured out how to wrestle without screaming/biting each other on the third or fourth day, and now they can be together in peace, but that did not come easily-- e.g., not without those several days of consistent separation.

They are adorable and heartwarming and fun to cuddle, but you know. Insane.

Speaking of WM, please feel welcome to join our link-up on Mondays!  I added more details about that on my About Page!

Have you bought Rhonda's book yet? Also, if you haven't yet, please consider subscribing to our newsletter. A prompt will show up if you visit, and you simply enter your email address, and you'll receive a confirmation email. Easy peasy.

oh, and happy v-day!!! go see like mother, like daughter for more pictures of contentment and ~pretty, happy, funny, real~!