Monday, April 29, 2013

W.I.W.S.- Thoughts from a Nesting Mom

I have not posted regularly lately because I am an anxiety-driven, nesting momma. At 35 weeks gestation, feeling Baby George's every shimmy, shift, and kick, I am increasingly aware that I've hit the home stretch, and although excited, I don't feel mentally or materially prepared to have this dude on the outside with me yet. I have cleaned a lot more, parted with a good amount of clutter, and had the girls' room re-arranged by my husband.   Still, none of George's gear is unpacked, set-up, washed or organized.  I have a random hives-looking rash on both wrists and arms which my doctor is treating while admitting that he does not know what it is... and I'm now ingesting prescription drugs with George still in utero (the OB assures me none of this is harmful to the baby).  Still.  Freaking out.

Pregnant or not, itchy or not, ready or not, the world of family life continues to swirl around me.  My son's First Holy Communion is in two weeks, my daughters' dance recital falls on my due date, and between now and then I have way way wayyyy more appointments (mine & theirs) and activities scheduled than I sanely should have at this point.  I should be home with my feet up.  I should be washing with Dreft and folding baby clothes.  I really should go out and buy that infant car seat.  You know... on top of the daily homeschooling, feeding, and general maintenance of this family.  And getting ready for a First Holy Communion.  I should probably buy the boy a suit that fits, for instance... (sigh).

Instead, I am pounding away at this crazy-stupid, frenetic pace... Thankful for every minute (even when exhaustion, apprehension about labor [It has been six years; why didn't' I take a Bradley Method refresher course!?] or late-night insomnia cause me to burst into tears.)  Really.  It is all good.   I just still have big issues with letting things go, and with accepting that which is outside of my control.  I will sometimes miss an activity.  I will not always have a house that is swept.  Dinner is going to be soup & sandwiches some nights.

I am going to have to swallow my pride and accept help from people.

Thank God for my husband, my increasingly helpful, growing children, and the support of good friends.  Furthermore, words don't quite convey what healing and relief I got from a much overdue   confession with a wonderfully pastoral priest.

ANYWAY, enough venting.  I'm here to post about what I wore on Sunday (do you see what is happening in this brain!?  Chaos!  Disorder!  Ack!!)

Without further ado, here is how I looked for Mass.  We're up by 6:45 am, and we leave the house at 8:15, to get to CCD on time.  I had to search unfolded piles of clean laundry to find my one pair of (ugly) pregnant-momma tights. Thus, I had no choice but to skip makeup and earrings to get to the church on time... This is another "Lee needs a full-length mirror in her room" shot;  my buttoning of the blouse is less-than-ideal.  I am not including feet in the shot on purpose, because my choice of shoes = a big ditto on the full-length mirror.

For anyone who doubts that make up and earrings drastically improve an outfit/demeanor, I present to you "how I dressed up for dinner guests later that evening:"

A little less severe, right?

35 weeks: This baby bump is getting pretty big!
Dress: Take Nine Maternity via my friend, Christina (Thank you!!)
Shirt: No Boundaries (non-maternity) via Marshalls (seriously like 4 years old)
Necklace: You've seen it
Earrings: I've had since high school, via my mom, but never ever wore them as a youth because I found them too conservative/old-fashioned (???!) Whatever.  I guess I've grown into them.
Boots: forget about it.

We have lately taken to singing the Stevie Wonder tune, "Isn't she Lovely?" to our daughters, who of course had never heard it before.  (Again, as a young person I'd hate hate hated that song...  Boy does life change a person!)  Anyway, Emre decided to remedy that yesterday; he downloaded the tune and played it for Gianna on the iPad.
Gianna's impression: "That sounds like a chicken."
Let's just say they both have momma's taste in music...

Emre had already changed his church clothes in favor of get-work-done-outside-clothes.  John Paul, on the other hand, maintained his dressed-up style for all of Sunday.
John Paul "helps" mow in style.  
I fully admit that my first feeling upon realizing Daddy let John Paul share a ride was,you guess it: anxiety.  I was raised to be anxious about everything.  Anything could be dangerous, so just stay inside and play with your dolls and be safe...  Not exactly healthy.  I buttoned my lip, put trust in my husband, and let the boys have their moment.  I am so glad that I did.

Such intensity! 

What they wore Sunday: Smiles.  Big ones.
For more fashion and less pregnancy-driven anxiety, click over to Fine Linen and Purple!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Thank God for Boys...

I would not be the woman I am without these guys; they teach me how to be a better and more whole human being, just by sharing this home with me.  They challenge me, love me, and rely on me.  They call out my better attributes.  Sometimes, they bring out my worst, when I didn't know my worst was there.  Always, they bring me into a better awareness of what it means to be a wife, mother, and trusted friend. 
I do so love these boys.
Words can't convey what it means to see this boy cozied up with a book.
J.P. is a gamer and lover of Star Wars, like his daddy. 
George Thomas: the active little boy who is my ever-present companion.

Emre and John Paul, building Star Wars legos. 

The finished project is handled carefully...
Imagination.  Family.  Love.  (And Porkins.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

{Pretty Happy Funny Real} These Are Not the Treats You Are Looking For

I never buy myself flowers or plants for inside the house.  The kids, the cats, or my own neglect would just kill the lovely blooms;  I am too practical for sacrificial plants.  We did buy Easter Lilies for both grandmothers and my sister.  However, when my family couldn't make it here for Easter, I found myself in possession of two plants.  (I swear, I could almost hear them weeping at their fate.) I then planned to give both away to elderly neighbors, but John Paul begged to keep one of the plants.  We did.  I decided to photograph them before my non-green thumb took its toll on ours.
If  lilies could talk: "Psst... I hear she isn't so good with plants.  Can we just leaf now?"  

Easter weekend itself is so busy that I never have the time to try all the fun, Christian-themed crafts or recipes I find online.  I try to incorporate something from Catholic Icing... but this year being pregnant had sapped my energy.  Luckily, Easter is a season, not just a day!
Thus, during the Easter Octave we tried our hands at making the Rainbow Resurrection Rolls I'd seen on Lacy's site.  Marshmallow Peeps, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, melted butter & some cinnamon.  This sounded easy, yummy and fun!  (Also like a great subject for blog photography!)
The kids were really into this project!
Anna prepares "Jesus' body" for burial with "oil and spices" (butter & cinnamon).
Gianna places "Jesus' body" into the Crescent-Dough "tomb."
John Paul loves his sister.  At least, I think that's a hug and not a half-nelson...
Finished with the wrapping of the Peeps & eager to get these into the oven!
So after all this fun and anticipation, and our really trying not to leave gaping holes in the crescent dough, are you ready to see how these super-simple Rainbow Resurrection Rolls of ours turned out?
Good!  First, check Lacy's link (above) to see what we were expecting.
This is what came out of our oven:
Somehow, Lacy's looked much neater than these.  
John Paul had suggested that we skip the cinnamon for these.  I should have listened; I think we overdid it on the "spices" and kept the dough from staying sealed!  Ah, well.  They still tasted delicious, and the children were thrilled to have made their own dessert!
The eyes of a satisfied customer.
Now that you've seen what I managed to do to the resurrection rolls, I will leave it for you to imagine the havoc I've wreaked on our plant.

Head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter, where you'll find some pretty, happy, funny, real pics that flaunt a bit more elegance than my own non-rising Easter Season treats!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Do Not Be Distracted...

I never cease to be amazed.

Already the alarmists are hinting (if not outright alleging) a government conspiracy in the wake of yesterday’s explosions in Boston.

This was brought to my attention by a smarmy meme in my Facebook newsfeed which
calls yesterday’s attack a “distraction” from what is being debated in Congress today.


I am as wary of our elite “ruling class” as the next person.  They, in turn, mostly look down their noses at religious/bigoted/closed-minded folks like me, we raging Catholics types.  

No matter.  Moments like these call us all to transcend ourselves.

Minimizing and denying tragedy to fuel our own fears (even if such fears had their seeds in reality) is dysfunctional and precisely what the Prince of Darkness wants to see.

This is the kind of self-focus that can arise from anxiety and despair.  This is what happens when we are so well-meaningly bent on “winning” a culture war in this world, that we forget that God calls us to be salt and light.

This is the kind of self-obsession which leads some folks to allege that Sandy Hook was merely staged by actors.  (I live down the road a piece....  It wasn’t.  I know people who were shot there.  I have a relative who hid her class in a closet.)

This is the kind of reaction that is at its heart, fueled by anger and hate.

Satan is real, and this is what he wants.  He is not targeting only one type of person; he is not merely after “those people.”  He is gunning for those who would claim the deepest allegiance to Christ.  

He wants you, dear reader.  He wants me.

He will use this event to tear us away from the rest of humanity, our brothers and sisters who right now need our prayers, our kindness, and our very blood.

He will whisper and stir our fears, our hurts and our passions to do so.  He is a tricky bastard.

Whether it is the initial explosion and violence itself, or this latest wave of conspiratorial wish-fulfilling denial...

Do not be distracted by the darkness.  

Be a light in it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Faith Journey Back Story, Part I (Warning: This Gets Weird)

A page from my college scrapbook: I loved this daily walk.
As I'd said some time ago, my conversion to Christ is an on-going event that has rarely been entirely “comfortable.”  Like most post-modern Catholics, I spent several years outside of the Church, trying to discern whether I would break free from it and disavow it, or just try to hunker down and make the best of being this Thing that everyone, Catholics included, seemed to be rather down on...

In my high school, college, and my newly-married, post-college years, I would never have guessed that I would have chosen to don the label of "Orthodox Practicing Catholic."  How the heck did that happen, anyway?

To sum up: not easily. And yet, paradoxically: it fit.

However,  my return to the faith was gradual, not sudden.  Hindsight reminds me of a few pivotal experiences that eventually led me back.  This post details one of several "biggies."

In college, a well-meaning friend I was enamored with began reading into and experimenting with Wicca.   I am now fuzzy on the details,  but at some point during my junior year, she invited me to join her as she stepped up to offer her first-ever moon worship. (Seventeen years later, I am not even sure this is the proper term, but that is the gist I remember.)

As supportive of my friend’s New Age explorations as I’d been, as interested in and receptive of her emerging Wiccan exploits as I’d been, Something held me back from giving her my own assent.  

I was also a New Age-y type; I'd been crafting my own "personal" religious paradigm for four or more years.  I'd freaked out roommates with my Ouija Board, had recently embarked in Tarot Reading, was interested in the power of crystals, interpreting dreams, and I was working my way through A Course in Miracles.  Oddly, I did all of this with a rosary in my pocket, even though I was ignorant of anything about that prayer (for instance, I'd never known that meditating on the Glorious, Sorrowful, Luminous, or Joyful mysteries were part and parcel of the rosary).  I looked at my rosary as special for having been blessed, as a kind of talisman against evil.  They were my insurance policy, my "just in case."

I had not been to Mass in years, had not espoused much of anything the Catholic Church teaches, was in fact actively striving in my personal life to sever the spiritual umbilical cord which tethered me to Her Moral teachings vis-a-vis “Catholic Guilt,” and yet... And yet... This invitation to take those things I'd mulled over and step into outright pagan worship gave me pause.

This was Big.  This was parting company with Christianity completely; this was no longer worshipping and professing God the Father or the Son.

Part of me was highly attracted to the idea.  Not one to succumb to irrational traditions when there were human relationships and friends’ expectations in play,  I tried to find a way around the First Commandment.  I asked myself: 'If wiccans are not even worshipping a deity, but all of nature, how is this bad?  Would calling “God” a “goddess” even truly matter?  Is that really sinning, denying Him, or  worshipping a false God?  I mean, if there is only One Creator, then isn’t it all just the same God in the end, no matter what you choose to call Him?  My mom had always told me this was so...'

Luckily, I didn’t just ask these questions of myself. 

Even in the midst of all my build-my-own-religion activity, I’d never stopped talking to Him about anything and everything, everyday.  

This day was no different.  As I walked along Lower Lake, watching ripples reflect back the light-dappled landscape I daily thanked Him for, I cast my question to Him, as if I were tossing a rock into that pond, “God, you know I’m wondering: If you’re a Spirit, without a body and so without gender, would it matter to you if I call you “Mother” instead of “Father,” “She” and not “He”?  Doesn't mankind just create religions around you, anyway?  I don’t understand how a name or manner of worship could matter to You, as long as I am giving you thanks and praise... but I don’t want to do anything that would hurt or upset you.  Please let me know.”
A different year and season, but no matter; here is where I conversed with my Creator.

Seriously.  That was my prayer.  I was a radical feminist, wanna-be New Ager.   I also believed in a Creator who knew and loved us all in a deeply personal, parental way.

Some time later, as I settled into sleep in my dorm room, the ripples from my afternoon stone's-throw prayer lapped across the hours and reached me.  

Was I dreaming?  Because I heard a voice say to me:

What do you do about Jesus?

Cue prickly skin.  Cue sudden, wide-awake lucidity.  I stared into the darkness, and no one was there... but I wasn't alone, either.  Oddly, I wasn’t freaked out.  I was glad to have been heard, just puzzled by the question.   

I whispered back, "What do you mean?"

What do you do about Jesus?  If God is only a Spirit, then there is no man who is also God... To say that is to say that He did not love, did not suffer for, and did not die for you.  To say that is to deny all he endured.  Are you saying Jesus isn't God?  Are you joining the crowds against him? 

As a young child, I used to imagine myself standing by the route along Christ's way to Cavalry; His walk with the Cross, His Passion, were familiar to me.  The thought that I might leave his side to be counted among the jeering masses, and not among his friends...  How would that feel to Him?

In a moment, I remembered with clarity what I knew: this omnipresent God is three persons in One.  His love surrounded me everywhere, always.  I knew it.  And I knew, trusted and believed in His love on a level that is akin to breathing without having to think about breathing; Jesus was not just some guy, or some myth, but a fact.  A presence.  God Himself.  A reality in my life.  

He was a person I would never purposefully betray, because I loved Him too much.  And I knew without question how deeply He loved me.

My throat ached and my eyes were wet.

I never went to that Wiccan thing.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Theme Thursday: We Grow Up

It is good to stop and look up; it is the direction we grow in.

Looking up forces my gaze away from those earth-bound cares that daily distract and ensnare me.  Instead of this cluttered material world, I can set my sights on where I'm really going (which truly is not around in circles, as I sometimes feel down here).

Doing so, I again remember to reflect, wonder, and praise.  Doing so, I recall another mother's example.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  

(Luke 1:46-55)

Click over to see more growing's- on at Clan Donaldson's Theme Thursday!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Five Favorites, with a Bonus Recipe!

To make up for my near-internet absence of the past few weeks, I'm joining the Five Favorites link up hosted by Hallie Lord at Moxie Wife.  I am totally new to this scene, and it looks like fun.

1.  I'll start this post how I start my day: dark.  As in whole bean dark roast/ I want to be a cowboy/ way-better-than-good-to-the-last-drop goodness.  Yep.  I am a Mystic Monk devotee.

If you have never ordered from Mystic Monk, you are missing out!  Visit their website, check out their roasts, and have a religious experience.  Seriously.  No other coffee will ever make you happy again.

2.  I wouldn't be able to rock the whole bean without this:
Easy to use & inexpensive.  The Mr. Coffee model I'd bought at Target two years ago still does its job.  That is my kind of appliance!

3.  Speaking of appliances: I love my Cuisinart CBK-200 bread maker.  Not so much for bread, mind you, as for making the perfect home made pizza dough (enough for 2 pies).  When my game is "on," this baby saves so much money in ordering delivery.

Pizza is my son's favorite food.  Using this I can make it a whole wheat or near-to-whole-wheat crust.

4.  Sticking with the pizza-in-the-kitchen theme.  Three words: Pampered Chef Stoneware.  My Pampered Chef pizza stones are well seasoned, believe you me.

5.  OK, so we're still on the subject of pizza, and we all love good stuff cheap.  Having married into an Italian family, I learned to make a pretty decent sauce from inexpensive pantry items.  This was just necessity.  And I've adopted the brand of my mother-in-law, which was that of her mother before her: Tuttorosso.

I use the green can. One can makes more than enough sauce for 2 pizzas. When making up sauce for a meal of Eggplant, pasta, or lasagna, I usually cook up three cans, on low heat, for three hours. A crock pot works great for this. Oh heck, here... have my recipe:

Lee's (Mostly Stolen from Her Husband) Homemade Tomato Sauce
 1-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves of finely chopped garlic (or use a teaspoon of the refrigerated pre-chopped kind)
1-3 small onions, finely chopped (but if making pizza sauce, I just use onion powder, because 2 of my children don't like the texture... picky eaters, you know?)
1-3 cans of Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes
1-3 teaspoons of sugar
oregano (While I prefer fresh herbs, I typically have to stick to the dried variety, which still works!)

1.  Start with warming your olive oil, add the garlic and brown it (which flavors the oil), then add the chopped onions.  Season it!  I tend to toss in some salt and sugar at this point, and cook the onion until tender.  FYI- I use a one-for-one ratio on the onions and sugar.  So if I make up only one can of sauce, I use one onion and one teaspoon of sugar here.  If I make up three cans, then I use three onions and three teaspoons of sugar.
2.   Plop in those cans of sauce.
3.   Have fun adding those Italian seasonings!  I start off with a couple of tablespoons of each kind, stir, taste, add, and repeat, until I've brought it to a happy place.
4.  Stir often.  Keep stealing tastes after each stir.  You are looking for that acidic quality to abate and have the flavors get smooth.  (Does that even make sense?  I dunno.  I never went to cooking school.)
5.  Ideally, three hours on low heat makes this unbeatable.  If pressed for time however, you can cook it on high for half that time, or even less if cooking on the stovetop.  Just keep stirring and tasting.

There you have it: my five faves for this week.  That was fun!  Click over to the Moxie Wife for more favorites, and let your heart melt over her sweet newborn, Charlie!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Easter Sunday Retrospective

I have been trying to come up with what I want to say about our Easter Sunday, and I am stuck.  I have written and deleted three posts, and stared at empty screens for four days running.  

That's it.  I fold.

 In the words of Inigo Montoya: "Let me 'splain...  No, is too much.  Let me sum up."

God has not removed my interior cross, but he has blessed me with family, which was always what I've yearned and hungered for most.  This family, under this roof, in this time and place, challenges and nurtures me in countless ways, even as I still am learning-by His grace- how best to nurture them.

Despite a rocky Holy Saturday evening (when half our dinner guests of extended family cancelled), Easter Sunday truly was a joy-filled day.  The tomb that looked merely empty and robbed at first glance in fact pointed to the truth: God has fulfilled His promise to send a savior.  We are redeemed; darkness does not have the final say.

I told the kids we had to get George in the shot, too.

My husband, Emre, who I swear has started looking younger as he ages!

Let's push Cari Donaldson's "smoosh faces together" portrait advice to the edge...

Three of the loves of my life.  How much joy can one pack into a photo, anyway?

Anna Theresa takes a pretty good photo for a nine year old!  (She'd gasped at the suggestion that she use my uber-expensive camera.)
It has been too long since I've linked up with the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple (Pregnancy foot problems have revealed just how much shoes rule an outfit).

Shirt: Motherhood maternity via Savers via my mom, six-plus years old.
Skirt (sorry for lack of full-length shot): long brown Duo Maternity skirt (again: old!)
Invisible boots: red ones you have seen on Sundays past!
Necklace: ditto
Earrings?: We don't need no stinkin' earrings.

And since I am so proud of the matching outfits of my brood (Not that I have any full-length shots to prove it, but the girls' tights actually matched their dresses this week!  Woo-hoo!) I'm linking up with Grace at Camp Patton as well.

Happy Easter, all.  He is risen!