Friday, September 27, 2013

Quick Takes: Edition 5

It's Friday again!  (Wow, where did that week go?!)  Back again with Quick Takes, and linking up to Jen, of course.

1) When I was organizing the den this week, I found the box of letters I wrote to Justin.  Most were from our two years of long-distance dating, when I was working in Harrisburg and he was already here in Ithaca.  When I pulled them out to start reading, I was prepared to roll my eyes at the sappiness of the whole thing - but in fact, I was pleasantly surprised.  The two biggest lessons: first, I love him far more now than I did then.  Second, a reminder of the little things that I may take for granted now, but so longed for then - seeing each other every day (then, we were lucky if we saw each other once a month!), sharing the little moments of day-to-day life.

I also had written a lot about wanting to take care of him - his first semester of grad school was very intense, and I was frustrated that I couldn't help to alleviate some of the additional stressors (cooking for himself for the first time, for example).  Despite writing them at the time when I had an excellent career (aspects of which I certainly miss), the underlying message was a longing for the life I have now.  That was a great reminder.

2) Speaking of mail, did you know that you can print postage for packages at home?  Not only do you save the time of waiting in line, they'll come pick up the packages, and the prices are always less expensive (I think 10%?) than at the counter.  Win-win-win.  I did have to buy a postage scale (which I anticipated would be far more expensive than it was), but it will soon pay for itself in postage savings.  I've been having a great time mailing small little care packages to my sister in college and others, and it's also handy when I sell old clothes or things on eBay.  This is in no way an official advertisement for the USPS, just a very pleased customer :)

3)  The whale dress.  As I expected, showing the fabric here on the blog has been incentive to finish the project (or at least work on it).  It just needs sleeves and a hem, and then it's ready for the big reveal.  My goal is to have it done for her to wear next Friday, so stay tuned for pictures next week.  Spoiler alert: it's even cuter than I imagined it could possibly be, and that's without Anna even in it yet.

4) Why next Friday, you ask?  It's our first story-hour at the library!  They're starting up for the year with "Babies, Books, and Bounce," and given her affinity for all three of those things, I think she'll love it!  I've been so excited to take her that it's reached first-day-of-school status in my mind; thus my desire to finish the dress for that day.  Because I clearly never have enough projects going, I also decided that I should make her a little tote bag for library books.  Anything to foster her growing love of reading!  (Speaking of which, she's currently sitting on the floor surrounded by a pile of books, paging through them and pausing every once in a while to bring me "I Am a Bunny" for another read.)

5) Remember on Wednesday when I (less than adequately) was trying to define "home" and the difference between a house and home?  Later that day, John and Sherry at Young House Love posted this video on their blog.  Young House Love is the first blog I started reading, and still at the top of my list.  Even if you've never read their blog, or even if home improvement blogs (other than mine!) aren't your thing, check out the video for a very sweet way of taking about home:

6) (We just had a fifth reading of I Am a Bunny - since I started the 2nd quick take).  This has been Anna's clear favorite book since birth (it would captivate her attention for impressive periods of time as a newborn).  I'm thankful that the one she requests on repeat ("gin" again) is at least one that I also like.  So, if you're reading this and you are a baby, have a baby, or know a baby - this book is definitely worth buying!  I'm thinking of listing some of our other favorite stories next week.

7) Just a final, quick note that I really do appreciate the comments/emails/messages that I've gotten in response to my blog resurgence.  You can also consider this a strong hint (or maybe just a beg) for more - it keeps me highly incentivized to write when this is a two-way street of communication :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Anna's First Birthday Party

I had all sorts of other things in mind that I might write about today, but since I've found that I tend to sound on the blog like I take myself (and everything around me) way too seriously, I thought I'd post a little bit about Anna's birthday party, which I've been wanting to share.  (In case you missed it, I already posted about our celebration of her Baptismal anniversary here).

We hosted a small backyard get-together, and were thrilled that among other guests, all four of Anna's grandparents could be here to celebrate.

You all know by now that photography isn't my strong suit (in terms of quality of pictures or in having the camera charged - although now that the house is no longer under construction, I can typically locate the camera, which is an improvement!)  So naturally, I don't have pictures of her invitations, but I'll at least share the wording here:

Although it may seem that her life’s just begun,
Our sweet little Anna is going to be ONE!

To mark the occasion, we hope that you’ll come
To a party in her honor – it ought to be fun!
On the thirty-first of August, at 2 we will start
From then ‘til whenever the guests do depart.

Our home is the site for the party that day;
We’ll be in the backyard if the rain stays away!

Feel free to stop by as your schedule allows -
We’ll have lots of snacks there for you to browse.

And since it’s her birthday, there’s going to be cake
With singing and candles and pictures to take!

We’re keenly aware of how Anna’s been blessed,
And so on her birthday we have one request:

In lieu of a gift for a girl who’s got many,
We’d ask that you’d help someone else without any.

We’re planning to make a donation in her name
And we would be touched if you’d do the same!

We hope you can make it -  but please let us know

Our email and phone number’s listed below.

We were nervous about including the request for donations on the invitations (Emily Post wouldn't approve), but I'm glad we did.  We made a donation to the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Harrisburg where my mom is a volunteer (they do amazing work - check them out and support them here!), and were so thankful that others donated money and diapers to this organization and other non-profits in Anna's honor.  It was a win-win situation, with keeping Anna from being overwhelmed with more than she could need or want, while helping some of the people in the world who are lacking so much.  I'm not sure how it will play out as she gets older and more cognizant of the gift-giving component of holidays, but I'd like to incorporate some facet of this "sharing" in all of our birthday celebrations in the future.

As for decor, the theme was pink & orange and pennants.  Basically, I went for simplicity, and for colors and designs that make you smile.  When my sister and I left Party City with the balloons, we were talking about how happy it makes you to see someone walking with a bunch of balloons - you know they're celebrating!  It's the same as seeing someone buying a bouquet of flowers - you know they're going to make someone happy, and you can't help but smile :)

Many thanks to the family helpers we had (in particular, my mom, who was sewing pennants to ribbon less than 1 hour before the party!)

I thought I had some more pictures, but I think many are on other peoples cameras :)  We had a little drinks (pink lemonade & water) station on the back porch and a buffet of snack foods (BBQ meat balls, veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, and fruit) on the peninsula inside the kitchen.

Naturally, this looked much nicer in person.

Justin's mom brought Anna an inflatable giraffe pool, which turned out to be a great party accessory and Anna and her little guests enjoyed climbing in and out of it with toys throughout the afternoon.  (She also had a great time when we added water the next day and she got to splash with her auntie!)

There were party hats and cupcakes (and far more parental love than seems to be conveyed here!)

All in all, a fun celebration of our wonderful little lady.  All of the "my baby is turning one" emotions for me played out as pure joy and thanksgiving - and excitement at sharing everything with her.  We did all of the decorating while she was napping, and bringing her downstairs and hearing her squeal with glee as she pointed and lunged from my arms, saying "buh!!" (balloon!) was, for me, one of the highlights of the last year - in that moment, I had a keen sense of how much she's grown over the last year, how much we've grown as parents, and how many blessings we've had through it all.  I compared it to the new mom moment when you've been handed your baby for the first time, and all you can think or say to sum up the myriad of emotions surrounding this little amazing bundle is..."WOW."

What a year, my sweet Anna Rose!  Here's to many, many more happy birthdays and a lifetime of joy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Showing Love

Those of you who have been reading for a while know that the title "homemaker" used to make me cringe.  As I'm growing to love the title and embracing all that comes with making a home, I'm continually thinking about defining what that exactly means.

Webster's disappointed me:


 noun \ˈhōm\

: the place (such as a house or apartment) where a person lives
: a family living together in one building, house, etc.
: a place where something normally or naturally lives or is located

Despite what the dictionary says, I think we as a culture understand "home" to be much more than simply the place where one lives.  There's more emotion, I think.  We collectively understand a distinction between "house" and "home," as evidenced by the number of people who talk about "making a house a home," and in that sense I think the dictionary definition above is more about a house than a home.  As I continue to try to define (mostly for myself, but also for those of you who are tagging along here) what exactly home is, I've looked again to some wise words.

(Note: the Wisdom Wednesday (obviously) has not become an every week thing...some weeks I've skipped posting all together, and other times on Wednesdays I've done the 5 Favorites link-up - like last week's 5 favorites about being a stay-at-home mom).  When I do include wise quotes, I'll add them to my "Home Inspiration" page).

Turning again to Mother Teresa:

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...but how much love we put in that action.

Above all, I think it could be argued that as Christian parents, our obligation is to teach our children to love - not to love as the world loves, but to truly, selflessly love as Christ does.  And, really, it's our obligation in our own lives to continually develop and grow closer to this perfect love.  We are called not just to teach it, but to live it.  And by living it, thus teaching it in the most effective way.

As I see it, all the trappings of home are showing this love.  We all have different ways of showing our love (you've all read The Five Love Languages, right? - if you haven't, go do so!), but whether its cooking or baking or decorating or - is there really anybody that gets excited about... doing lots of laundry? - that we get excited about, I think the root of that is loving our families.  Or maybe for some people there's no excitement or joy at all in doing any of these tasks, but you do them anyway with love.

The reminder for me, today, in this quote is not to get focused in the details - all alone, the fall candle doesn't mean anything to Anna.  But if she knows I lit it because I care about her feeling warm and cozy and loved - that's worth something.  The more important lesson for me is that some days there's no time for decorations or nice meals or the ways that I want to show love.  On those days or those nights (ahem, last night; two molars = fussy baby), I'm called to put all of my love into the actions that my family needs most.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall: food, fun, & philosophy


I love fall.  So much.  I think my favorite reason is because it evokes memories of being cozy at home with family.  I remember coming home from the bus stop after school, and coming in from the crisp air outside to find that it was the first day of the season that my mom was burning the Spiced Pumpkin candle.  There was a warm dinner ready and it felt like the whole house was giving you a hug.  Providing this - this tangible love - is one of the major driving forces in my day to day life.  To make a place where Justin and Anna and all of our visitors can walk in and feel that peace and comfort that comes from being home.

That got more philosophical than I intended, pretty fast.  Back to fall.

I'm pretty excited about decorating for the season in the next few days (my burnt orange kitchen doesn't look this good with red and green at Christmas!).  And for pumpkins and pumpkin baking.  And for cozy evenings with my two favorite people.

Tonight, I made the meal that has become my unofficial fall kick-off meal: a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, and green beans.  (I think it's the squash that makes it unofficially/officially fall to me?)

You tell me: poor quality cell-phone photos better than no photos?
I think I've only roasted a chicken once before (unofficially kicking off last fall, but not until November because I had a newborn).  There was also the time that Justin almost gave himself food-poisoning by partially roasting a chicken while I was in labor, but that's a story for another day.

Anyway, today I tried it in the crock-pot with this recipe.  It was delicious.

Something about making chicken broth from scratch is very compelling to me (I think it relates to that desire to capture the simple goodness that is part of the fabric of homemaking - and something that the collective we used to do much more in the past.  I'm planning to write another post the reflects on all of the types of "former glory" I'm looking to find - snippets of things that used to be better in some way or another).  The blog with the chicken recipe suggested making it in the crock-pot, which I thought was brilliant (and also makes me feel like I can leave the kitchen, a luxury I'm too scared to afford myself if something is simmering on the open flame of a gas stove!)

I picked our home-grown celery for the first time tonight to put in the broth - so I'm basically feeling on top of my little homemaking world today.  That is, until I walk out of the kitchen and see the neglected laundry, etc :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Quick Takes: Edition 4

As I've done in the past, linking up to Jen for 7 Quick Takes Friday - a great format for the random assortment of thoughts floating around in my head!  Despite the title, I haven't managed to master writing about anything "quickly" - more rambling forewarned!


We went to the fabric store yesterday for some material to make Anna some fall dresses.  It brought happy memories for me to see her playing with the fabric when we got home, as I remember the excitement of new fabric for things my mom was going to make for me.  I once spread out at least 8 different cuts of fabric - to be a summer wardrobe one year - and jumped from piece to piece in our family room.  Anna preferred peek-a-boo and making it a scarf, head-covering, and blanket for her horse.

I'm excited to play the mom role [here, as simple as shopping for fabric!] in re-enacting such happy memories from my childhood.  I hope they one day are happy thoughts for Anna, too.


In addition to the gray & pink plaid above (that will be a jumper if there's enough of it - it was just a remnant), I got this incredibly happy fabric:

I was imagining something much daintier when I started looking for dress fabric, but I just couldn't pass this up.  And, at age one, a whale dress is totally acceptable :)


I just realized that showing you that fabric can be good incentive for both sewing AND blogging.  If I don't show you a picture of a finished whale dress within the next few weeks, someone bug me for an update!


Anna's been really fascinated with putting things "ehn" (in) other things, so we've been a little worried that we'll accidentally empty a trash can without noticing that she put a toy in earlier.  It turns out that I'm the one we had to worry about, as I think I accidentally recycled one of my favorite possessions.

As a back story, my grandmother makes these lovely knitted dish cloths.  She taught me to make them when we were on vacation together when I was maybe 11 or 12, and wrote wrote the instructions on a piece of pink notebook paper.

I was recently getting some pictures ready to hang in the house, and I thought I would also frame the instructions to put on my sewing table.  I took it with me in the photo envelope when I went to buy frames, but didn't find one that looked right for the instructions.  I brought home the other photos, framed them, and hung them up and then recycled the envelope, forgetting about my treasured instructions inside.  There's a tiny chance that I remembered to take them out and have since forgotten where I put them, but I think they're gone.

I could have her write them out for me again (I'm thankful that it's a possibility), although part of the charm was the memory of her writing it back at camp on the paper I carried with me to write to my pen pal, as well as the her lovely writing that arthritis has slowly distorted over the last 15 years.

Ultimately, it's just a thing.  But I'm still mad at myself for losing it - especially in the process of trying to preserve it.


On a more happy note, Anna's skills at putting things "ehn" came into practice this evening while we were making dinner.  I was making eggplant parmesan, and just as it was time to bread the eggplant slices, she was getting a little fussy with her toys.  I sat her up on the counter next to where I was working, and I handed her an eggplant slice from the pile and showed her the bowl of eggs where it needed to be dipped.  She was SO proud of herself for putting it in (complete with clapping), and I was impressed that she stayed still and patiently helped with putting at least 15 slices in, one at a time as I would ask for them.  Even more impressive, she didn't put her hands in the egg at all.

I'm excited about having a little helper - it makes household chores a lot more fun!  She seems to enjoy it as well, and loves to help clean (she likes to "wipe" anything and everything with a dry rag), although - despite her enjoyment - she's pretty counterproductive with folding laundry.  


While we're talking about Anna's household chores and her fascination with putting things in, I will note that she's particularly fond of putting things into the dryer while I transfer the wet clothes from the laundry machine.  I had to run downstairs today after noticing an unusual "thump" in the load I had just started - and rescued a board book in that mission.  The mesh filter from the coffee pot also made it through a full cycle not too long ago (that one, a result of her burying it in the basket of partially-dried towels that sat in the kitchen between their time on the line outdoors and my emptying the entire basket into the dryer without checking for stow-away kitchen appliance parts).  I consider both of these mishaps an improvement to her prior interest in emptying the lint trap...into her mouth..., which was her preferred way of helping in the laundry room until a few weeks ago.


I posted on facebook earlier today that I had an entire post written (in my head) and was hoping for time to type it all.  Prior to sitting down at the computer, it seemed like I had 70 (not just 7) things to share, but now I'm clearly running out of steam......Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

5 favorites: job perks

Back in February of 2011, I wrote a post (Titled "Raindrops on Roses") about a few of my favorite things.  I had anticipated it becoming a recurring series (it didn't), but since then, I've found Hallie's blog and her 5 Favorites link-up every Wednesday.  I thought this was a good opportunity to start singing along with Julie Andrews - here are a few of my favorite things!

In future weeks, I'm sure I'll hit all sorts of other favorites, but this week I've been thinking about my day-to-day and my vocation as wife & mother.  I've written before about some of the challenges that come along with it (being reduced to a not-well respected title, for one), but I am acutely aware that I'm privileged to have both the opportunity and choice to stay home full-time.  I know that many families aren't in the position for someone to do this, even though they may want it desperately.  I also want to make it clear that I don't unilaterally think that this is the best scenario for every family at every time - this is by no means meant to make working moms feel guilty.  I just wanted to reflect on the good things (for my own sake and for anyone else who's reading and needs a little encouragement in the day-to-day) that have convinced me that this is the right choice for us right now:

1) I can focus on doing one thing well instead of fumbling through juggling two.  Let's be honest, running a home and supervising a toddler isn't really ONE thing, but at least it's one category (one location!) of things.  It's a bit of a stretch to say that I'm doing everything "well" yet, but I'm working on it, and I'm definitely doing it better than I would be if I was also managing a career.  There have been some opportunities where I've been able to learn something about housekeeping or parenting that I never had time to research when I was working (you should have seen how giddy I was when I figured out how to get white deodorant stains out of black shirts!).  I also know that I would be too distracted by my concerns for Anna and my running at-home to do list to be focused and perform well at a job right now, and I think my employer deserved someone who could give the position the attention required.

2) I have the time and energy to focus on what really matters.  Ultimately, Anna's care and education, but also, my marriage, our extended family, and the community at large.  I'm doing far more volunteer work at the church than I could ever do with a job, and I'm in the position to be able to help friends with new babies, make meals for people who need them, etc.

3) I have the flexibility of schedule to meet Anna's needs. I am so thankful that I can let her sleep each morning until she's ready to wake up.  If she's having a hard day with new teeth coming in, I can spend a few hours rocking her (see #5, development of the virtue of patience).  For most of her life she could sleep when she was tired and eat when she was hungry (and I could write a whole other section on how great it is to be able to breast-feed without worrying about pumping and washing all those bottles!).  Even now, as the daily routine becomes more formalized (don't worry, it's not a total toddler dictatorship!) I can be more attuned to her specific needs and adapt to meet them.  Work deadlines don't move just because babies need cuddled, and meetings aren't rescheduled just because toddlers needed to sleep in a bit that morning (at least not in the line of work I was in!)  She'll be weighed down by the ways of the world for enough of her life - I don't need to burden her with an adult schedule yet.

4) It's a witness to the world about the importance of children & family.  In general, the world doesn't accept that the day-to-day tasks of caring for children and running a home are important enough for a well-educated woman to undertake.  However, those of us who are making this choice are taking a stand in saying that it IS worth our time - not because cleaning dirty bathrooms or washing lots of laundry has value in and of itself, but because they are acts of service to people who are absolutely worth our time.  This vocation ultimately highlights the intrinsic good in children, home, and family - all things that have been desecrated in our society.

5) It provides many opportunities to develop virtue in my own life.  Yes, the ultimate goal of parenting and housekeeping is very lofty, but the day-to-day doesn't have a lot of glory.  I have frequent occasion to practice (or attempt to practice) patience, self-discipline, compassion, and humility (among other virtues) - and time spent completing physical tasks (cleaning, nursing, cooking) allows more time for self-reflection than, say, thinking about a spreadsheet report.

Other moms - what are your favorites?  I've never actually sat down and listed my reasons before, but it's been an encouraging exercise!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Happy (re)birthday, Anna!

Anna, the Christian community welcomes you with great joy. in its name I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his cross. I now trace the cross on your forehead, and invite your parents and godparents to do the same.

One year ago today.

She was absolutely welcomed with great joy.

"You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring her up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?"

We couldn't have anticipated the joy (or incredible challenge) we'd have exactly one year later, when daily Mass was punctuated by a little finger excitedly pointing towards the altar and repeatedly calling out "Dees!!" (Jesus).  She also folded her hands and said "men" at the end of a prayer (the first she's said Amen, but not the first time she put her hands together in prayer).  She also mistook Father's raised hands at the opening prayer as a wave and excitedly waved back to him.  She was thrilled to dip her fingers in the holy water font as we left.

We take her with us almost every Sunday (we've tag-teamed Mass only a handful of times in her life), and while it is certainly can be a challenge to keep her quiet and still and minimize the distractions to ourselves and those around us, it has been wonderful to watch her begin to grow in excitement and understanding of the practice of the faith.

This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I get chills every time the priest says that part at a Baptism (right after the renewal of Baptismal promises by the parents and godparents).

Justin and I try to be very intentional about making our home what the Catechism calls a "domestic Church," where, as parents we are "by word and example....the first heralds of the faith" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1656).  Today, as part of that commitment, we celebrated the anniversary of Anna's Baptism.

I researched some traditions of how families often commemorate the occasion.  It is popular to have a cake (much like a birthday), and to light the Baptismal candle.  I wanted to find some traditions that we could adopt and use each year for each member of the family.  I've included some links at the bottom of the post for anyone who wants to celebrate a Baptismal anniversary for your children (or yourself! - I just learned today that there's a plenary indulgence for renewing your Baptismal promises on your anniversary!)

I decided to set the table with her Baptism candle and a picture of her Baptism.  I took a few minutes to make it "company special" instead of our more casual typical dinners.  We were just having left-over lasagna and some garlic toast I made quickly from the remainder of a loaf of bread.  The little touches were enough to remind us that it was a special day.  Again, I wanted to set myself up for success in future years!

I also saw an idea on Shower of Roses blog where she made shell-shaped candies as favors for a Baptism party.  (The shell is a symbol of Baptism, and you can see in our pictures above that Fr. Jeff used a shell to pour the water over Anna's head).  I thought this would be a simple dessert that I'd be able to make each time we celebrate an anniversary.  Some years I may get fancy and make a cake or something else to go with it, but we just had some vanilla ice cream this year!  (I let Anna have approximately 1/4 of a teaspoon, and she thought it was the best thing ever - that's my girl!)

We said two special prayers (links below), lit her Baptismal candle, and blessed her with holy water before enjoying our dinner and treats.  I think Anna realized something exciting was happening (or at least unusual!), and it was also a great reminder for Justin and I of great privilege and responsibility of sharing this awesome faith with our family.

You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.

This is my other favorite part of the Baptismal rite.  It speaks to the immense grace we receive in Baptism, and the incredible responsibility we have to live as Christians.

Today, I put Anna back in her Baptismal gown.  You can imagine how big it was on her at 2 weeks old since it fit her perfectly now!  Clearly, we should have gone down a pattern size...or 4...when we made it from my wedding gown.  Although she won't be able to put it on again in the future, I was thinking that it might be nice to have a tradition of having the family member celebrating their Baptismal Anniversary wear a white shirt on that day as another tangible reminder of the Sacrament.

I'd welcome other suggestions of ways to celebrate this joyful anniversary each year!

Here are some links I found useful:

Catholic Liturgical Library -
Full Baptismal Rite (source of the italicized quotes above):  HERE

Loyola Press -
Baptismal Anniversary Family Prayer service (this was lovely, we used it tonight): HERE

Catholic Culture -
Renewal of Baptismal Promises (for adults or older children; Justin and I will use this on our own anniversaries): HERE

Raising Little Saints blog -
Baptism Anniversary Prayer (scroll down; we also used this one today in conjunction with the prayer service above; she also links to some other lists of ways to celebrate and other prayers): HERE

National Catholic Register -
Celebrating your birthday in the Church (article on why it's valuable to celebrate the day): HERE

Catholic Answers forum
Other ideas on ways to celebrate the day: HERE

Catholic Prayers -
Prayer to One's Patron Saint on the Anniversary of your Baptism: HERE

Catholic Mom -
Celebrating your birthday in the church (more ideas!): HERE

Sunday, September 15, 2013

On friends, real and electronic

In the past few months, while I haven't been writing a whole lot of blog posts, I have certainly done my fair share of reading blog posts.  I have a dozen or so blogs - mostly written by Catholic mothers - that I check often, most on a daily basis.

I sometimes have to stop and ask myself if it's weird or OK that I know more about the daily lives of random writers who live around the country than I do about some of my own close friends and family.  It's one of the challenges of living in this electronic age, and I think, and something we all struggle with to some extent - how much to share on much to read on much screen time is acceptable for our children, and for ourselves.

In moments of frustration at myself, I've taken an "all or nothing" approach, thinking that I should cut off all time online (rather than a more moderate - but somehow more difficult - approach of perpetually seeking a balance).  There is something compelling enough that makes us come back to Facebook, email, and blogs - and I think it is something good.  Granted, an online connection is absolutely never as good as - nor should it be replacement for - an actual "real-life" relationship, but in a world where we seldom live close by to all - or, in some cases even some - of the people we really want to be near, an online community can be a valuable addition to the connections we otherwise maintain with friends and family.  

I came to the realization about the good that can come from online connections this week because my worlds (real and electronic) collided when one of my favorite bloggers came to stay at our house while she was in town to give presentations at our church.   Meg Hunter-Kilmer is a Catholic blogger and self-described "hobo for Christ" who travels the country speaking to youth groups and church groups and  random people who come up to her when she's wearing her "I'm Catholic - ask me a question" T-shirt.  I've read her blog for a while (as you absolutely should also go do! - find it HERE) and while we kept joking about me being a crazy fan meeting a celebrity, the reality was that we became fast friends who stayed up until 3 AM alternating between having really awesome conversations about faith and trying not to wake up Anna with our laughter at the kinds of things (platypus farming?) that you could only happen upon in conversation at that time of day.

I thrive on relationships where I'm able to commiserate - good or bad - and connect and share about our common experiences.  God put us all together on Earth to share the beauty of this world, but ultimately to support each other as we grow in holiness. Talking to friends or reading about women in similar situations can be a huge comfort to me - on good days and on bad.  An online community - while based on an impersonal technology - is still ultimately a human community.  As my time with Meg showed me, the people behind the computers are real people.  (I mean, I obviously knew before that was not a robot, but you know what I mean....)  Conversations in person are richer and better than emails or blog posts could ever convey, but when distance is involved, those online connections are better than nothing!

One of the things that has been most challenging for me in the online community is the apparent imbalance.  I started this blog to stay connected to friends and family, but as I write, you end up knowing far more about our current life (and the color of our walls and where we've hung our pictures) than I know about yours.  And I read blogs written by people to whom I am essentially an anonymous number.  My new-found interest in writing more on the blog is part of an effort to be more a participant than an observer in the online community that has given me strength.  I hope that in some way, I may provide a little bit of the encouragement I've received from reading other blogs to someone who happens upon mine.  And, I hope that as you read and keep up with our lives (and my musings), you'll consider it an invitation to communicate back with us (even just with a quick blog comment - if you forget (or never knew) how to post one, see this tutorial:  How to Post Blog Comments.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stating the obvious

As the title of the post indicates, I've got something obvious to say...and I bet that you can guess what it is!  Yep, I've been M.I.A. from the blog for a long time.  (Again).  While such absences used to bother me, I've fallen into my groove of letting the blog be what it will be - here when I want it, and with (some of you) waiting for me while I'm gone.

The other part of the "stating the obvious" is a bad pun about - States!

Back in March of 2008, my (relatively) new boyfriend, Justin, was headed up to Cornell from Bucknell for an admitted students weekend.  I decided to ride along with him and spend the weekend with my Aunt Mary, Uncle Tom, and cousins Rachel, Jacob, and Sarah, who live between the two locations.  While Justin was up at Cornell, we somehow got the idea to trace the map of the United States on their then-unfinished drywall in the living room (they were in the middle of an expansion).  We don't remember exactly how this came about, but it was a combination of their interest in geography, the presence of a big blank wall, and the awesome fact that 9-year-old Sarah happened to own an overhead projector (her pretend schoolroom was the best ever).  Justin came back to pick me up and was amazed at our "free-hand" drawing skills.

The map lived on the wall for a while, then was painted over in primer and paint, but our "someday we should paint that" promises lingered.  So, a few weeks, ago, Anna and I went down for a visit and to paint the map.  The whole family was involved:

I should note that my photography skills have not improved at all during my blog absence.

Sarah's first blog appearance. (!)

From the time we first traced the map to painting it, Justin decided to attend Cornell (although he went to that initial visit assuming he wouldn't be going there), put 5 years into his studies, and went from my new boyfriend to fiance', husband, and father of our daughter!  If you could see the map in person though, I think you'd agree it was worth the wait.  Here's the best full picture I have of it (I had a better one from Sarah, but apparently deleted it accidentally).

My favorite part is how Hawaii curves over the outlet.  It makes me smile every time I look at it!  The whole things is going to look even more charming once they put their furniture back in the room.

So sometime during the course of painting (I think I was in the midwest - Missouri, perhaps?) we somehow started talking about the blog, and my aunt said that she has enjoyed reading it, and mentioned that she identified with some of the things I've said about keeping house, making a home, etc.  Something about this conversation really struck me.  She is someone who I respect and look up to for her ability to have a warm, welcoming home that has been a nest for three great kids and a place of respite for visitors (she's my mom's sister, after all - they've got the genetic pre-disposition to such awesomeness), and yet she's finding some encouragement in reading the things I've written.  I guess it boils down to the comfort that women find in knowing that others are in a similar situation - or the ability to say "me too" - even if it's just the frustration at never getting that last load of laundry put away (until the company comes).

Some of the back-story here is that part of my lack of posts recently have been that once the home renovations were "finished," I felt like I was stretching a bit to find things to write about (it felt a bit weird to share minute details about the house with the entire Internet, Justin and I aren't comfortable with having tons of information about Anna online, and it seemed that anything I wanted to write about keeping house or making a home wouldn't interest everyone, or - worse - come off as though I was a know-it-all).  However, comments like my Aunt Mary's and some others (again, from people I respect as having it together - both on the home-front and otherwise) about enjoying the things I wrote gave me some encouragement.  I certainly don't know it all (in fact, I'm solidly in the know-a-little category) about making our house a home or keeping it clean and comfortable.  But as I become more comfortable in my stay-at-home mom shoes and embrace this vocation, I'm reading more and learning more, and am becoming excited about sharing it.  Ultimately, I'm just writing about what is important to me.  I don't promise that what I'll write will be interesting to everyone.  Some of you may stick around just because you like me (but not necessarily the things I like), and others may share my interests in making a house a home and using the home as the tangible way of showing love for family.  I hope that from time to time the things I share will be helpful or encouraging, and that you have the opportunity to say "me too."


Although, as I mentioned above, I plan to keep the Anna information relatively light (due to our insecurities about an extensive online presence before she reaches the ripe old age of 2), I know that seeing her is what readers REALLY want.  This picture is just too cute to not oblige :)


So in addition to thanking my Aunt Mary for giving me the inspiration to pick up the pen keyboard again, I also want to thank my dear friend, Deanne, whose entrance to the blog-o-sphere gave me the final inspiration to finally write this "I'm back" post that's been floating around in my head for two weeks.  If you're interested in reading something much funnier and better written that what I've got to offer, check her out here: