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To Nora, who has finally become Six

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You’ve been waiting for Six for a long time…the way you wait for everything, equal parts anticipatory excitement and grumpy irritability that the object of your desire has not yet been granted to you. You’ve been musing over this birthday, turning it over and over in your mind as you help me fold socks or unload the dishwasher or water the garden, sharing little tidbits of your thoughts as you tumble them around.

“When I’m six, I’ll read chapter books to myself, completely to myself, like Sam does.”

“When I’m six, I won’t need any help to put my hair in a ponytail.”

“When I’m six, I’ll be able to weave and knit without any assistance.”

“When I’m six, I’m going to make dinner all by myself.”

“When I’m six, could I possibly have my own room?”

Well, as much as I’d love to grant all your birthday wishes and give you the desires of your heart, you can’t have your own room. We’re simply out of bedrooms. Also, for all your blustery rhetoric about not liking to share your things or your space, I’m not sure you’d be entirely happy all alone at night without your sister’s company.

Yes, sharing space is hard, and sharing your things with someone who doesn’t always treat them the same way as you do is a challenge. You like things the way you like them- lined up neatly in rows, carefully arranged to meet your artistic preferences, color-coded and grouped by size and shape. I watch you carefully choose shells to outline a path over the wall around your sandcastle, and I know each one has meaning to you- nothing you do is accidental. You have plans, and they all fit into a bigger plan, and other people’s unwitting blunders sometimes completely ruin your plans and therefore ruin your life.

As you said at the end of the day on your birthday, “Nothing at all went the way I had hoped it would on this birthday, and it’s the most horrible birthday I’ve ever had!”

We never need to ask you how you feel, my girl. You are always quick to tell us.

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And I’m so grateful that you can tell us- that you don’t stuff your feelings down inside and pretend that things are okay when they simply aren’t. Your feelings are enormous, after all! They explode out of you with giggles and whoops and leaps and sometimes sobs and gulps and tears and sometimes even eye rolls and door slams. What would happen to a girl like you if she stuffed her feelings inside and didn’t let them out? She’d be a walking volcano, waiting to blow at any second.

I know it can be scary to be such a feeler. You never quite know when something might leap out of nowhere and make you weep- a story read aloud at the library, a butterfly on the ground with a wing missing, a crushed seashell, a broken crayon. When your tooth came out yesterday, you brought it to me with tears welling up in your eyes. I thought you were hurt, but as you wept in my lap, you told me you were just sad…”and I have no idea why!”

Sometimes, we just don’t know why, do we?

I have never been very good at pretending things are okay when they aren’t, so maybe you got your big feelings from me. Regardless of where they came from, they are here, and they are part and parcel of who you are, and I would not change them even on the days when they are not easy to manage. You have the rest of your life to figure out how to keep your feelings from exploding onto other people. I am still trying to figure that out, myself, but I’ll help you in any way I can. For now, you are safe. I love you, just as you are, large feelings and all. And no matter how many times you slam the door in frustration, I will always be waiting on the other side of it when you’re ready to talk.

Happy birthday, dear one. You will always have my heart.

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To Lucy, on your last day of being 5

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My dear girl,
I am standing on the sand, watching you run away from me. There is a perfect evening glow and your hair is even curlier than usual. It bounces around your shoulders as you race around, heading toward the crashing waves and then away from them, shrieking with glee or terror or maybe both whenever the water approaches your toes. Your feet are bare, your dress is pink, your eyes are the same blue as the sky behind you and just as sparkly. The beach is narrow here, but we have it to ourselves, and so you run as fast as you can, as far as you want.
So much about you mystifies me. You are constantly unexpected. Sometimes when you were a baby, I would hold you and gaze into your impossibly blue eyes and wonder where you came from. You seem to be taking everything in, your eyes wide and questioning, absorbing all the things you see and pondering them someplace inside yourself. I wonder if pondering is part of what you do when you are not sleeping, when the rest of the world is exhausted from the day. Whatever it is that drives you seems unwilling to be turned off just because it’s bedtime. I wonder if I will ever plumb the depths of your energy, your questions, your relentless quest to see and understand everything.
A couple of weeks ago, you decided it was time for you to learn to ride your bike. Watching you do this was almost exactly like watching you when you finally decided to start walking. No one could convince you to try it until the day you decided you were ready, and then there was no stopping you. I was afraid- afraid you’d catch your foot in the pedals and fall, afraid you’d pitch forward over the handlebars and fall, afraid you’d topple over sideways and fall, that you’d be hurt, that you’d knock out another tooth, that you’d scrape up your face or break your arm. I didn’t tell you, but I was afraid.
Often when I’m most afraid for you, it’s because I know you are about to do something and that there’s no way I can stop you. I’m not so much afraid of what is going to happen to you as I am of the knowledge that you will, in those moments, only listen to yourself. My fear is because I know from knowing you for six years now that once you’ve gone out to do something, you won’t stop until you’ve finished it, no matter what.
Were you afraid, that day on the bike? You say you’re afraid of so many things (stinkbugs in the car, spiders at the science museum, the page of icky insects in the encyclopedia on the living room shelf) but no one was going to stop you from riding that bike that day, by yourself, without help. You dragged it up to the top of the driveway, tugging at the pedals until they were where you wanted them, threw your leg over the top and coasted a few wobbly feet before putting your sandals flat on the ground again. “Again,” you said, and pulled the bike back to the top for another try.
I’m not sure how long you worked at it that day, but I watched you for at least an hour. I heard you tell yourself over and over, “One more time!” and “1, 2, 3 go!” and even once, “Don’t worry, you can do this!” I fetched three band-aids and one ice pack for a few brutal falls. I saw you almost get it so many times before you finally managed to get your feet up to the pedals and pedal down the driveway, beaming. And I was so proud. You got frustrated, but you didn’t quit. Getting the hang of things because you work hard at them is so much better than getting them because you are naturally good at them. You didn’t learn to ride a bike that day because you have a natural gift at balancing or pedaling. You got it from sheer will, because you decided you would, and you did.
This is the most encouraging thing to me as your parent.
Sometimes, as I watch you floating through the world with your feet barely touching the ground, singing a little song to yourself and taking it all in with your wide wonder-filled eyes, I worry for you. I worry that you’ll be hurt. I wonder how we can protect you forever from pain and suffering, because you seem so lovely and fragile.
But you’re not fragile. You’re gritty and determined, and you’re going to be more than fine. Life will knock you down sometimes, but you’ll get back up again, because at your core, you’re made of strong stuff. And if you ever forget that, I’m going to be right here to remind you.
Happy sixth birthday, my brave girl. I can’t wait to see what amazing things you’ll do in this next year.IMG_1819

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To Felix, on the eve of your third birthday

This morning, we made play dough together.

You’ve been asking for days, since early last week, to play with play dough. We didn’t have any. I told you we could make some…but there was laundry to do and dishes to clean and errands to run and school curriculum to order. You were outside with your brother and sisters, or I was trying to convince you to take a nap, and we never seemed to get around to the play dough.

This morning is your last morning of being two years old, and if we can’t make time for it now, when will we? So I said “yes,” and we spent half an hour dumping flour and oil and cream of tartar and Kool-Aid and salt, mixing and stirring and tasting (yes, you did, and although it must taste awful it can’t hurt you, I guess) and kneading and rolling and patting and playing.

This, I suppose, is the difference in my parenting of you, my fourth child. I know now that now is as good a time as any. As hectic as it feels sometimes to have a two-year-old, things don’t necessarily get less hectic when he turns three, or four, or any other age. You’ll get better and better at cleaning up your own messes, and eventually you’ll be able to read Where the Wild Things Are to yourself every single night before bed instead of asking me to do it for you. You’ll pop into the bathroom and take your own shower and pop out again, maybe even remembering to hang up your towel, and I won’t sit by the side of the tub and watch you pour cups of water over your own head while you sing songs from the Moana soundtrack, all chubby cheeks and glistening skin and your sister’s heart-shaped sunglasses.

I’ll do less and less of the ordinary for you. You can already dress yourself and wash your hands and face and basically get your own breakfast. Somehow, though, your budding independence doesn’t result in our having more time to just hang out together.

Is it that you have more to do that doesn’t involve me? Or is it that I fill all those small moments when I would have been cleaning your hands with mopping the floor? Our house is tidier than it used to be when you were an infant, but I still feel like all I ever do is clean it up…and in exchange, I have a lot less time of smelling the top of your head in the rocking chair. You tag along with the big kids…out to the driveway to ride your tricycle or to the backyard to build a fort or to play hide and seek…and instead of hanging out and watching you, I run to the sewing machine or the computer or grab a book or my knitting and try to carve out a few minutes for myself to work or sing or create something that will remind me that I still exist apart from all that laundry. Your brother grabs himself a snack and gets you one, too. Your sister gives you a push on the swing or reads you that tiresome Clifford book for the thirteenth time today. You have people to do these things for you- people other than me.

Still, when you bump your head or scrape your knee, it’s my lap that comforts you, and my kisses still mostly work as the best way to take the sting out of your injuries. Although you’re quick to correct anyone who calls you “little,” you still pretend to be a baby monkey, climbing up my body and dangling from me as I shuffle down the hall.

I treasure your exuberance, your silly stories, your determination to tell knock-knock jokes even though you don’t quite understand the form. I always save you the orange cup and the purple ice pop and almost all of my croutons. You don’t like the way my reading glasses look and constantly ask me to “push those glasses up” on top of my head. If I have the book memorized, I do it just to oblige you.

You’re my “yes” kid. We said “yes” to the possibility of you, and I find myself saying “yes” to everyone else more often than I might have if you hadn’t joined our family. I’m older and wiser now on my fourth two-year-old than I was when I had just one two-year-old for reference. Beyond that, though, I know that wonderful things can happen when people say yes. Wonderful things and wonderful people, like you.

Happiest of birthdays to you, my littlest man. You’re sunshine in my heart.

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This Lent, know thyself (and thy temperament, too)

There are so many good ways to do Lent.

Every year around this time, I find myself overwhelmed by all the choices and wanting to do everything. I tell myself that I can, in fact, do everything…that I’m a little bit superhuman and that I can rock this Lent like no other.

I’m good at pushing myself just a little harder and stretching just a little further…until something snaps, and I find myself someplace around the end of February in tears and feeling like a big, fat failure at Lent.

For years, I thought this was just another way in which I am deficient- another weakness that I should be working with due diligence to overcome.

Then I learned about temperament.

Each of us has a temperament- a set of attributes and characteristics that makes us who we are. The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett does a wonderful job of explaining the four classic temperaments and how they affect our lives. Reading this book helped me to see that temperaments do come from God. They are how God made us in His image, with love. My own temperament (melancholic-choleric) tempts me sometimes to think that I have all negative characteristics and that the other temperaments are more desirable than mine…but temperament itself is neutral. It is how we learn to manage and work with what we’ve been given that matters.

Choosing our Lenten disciplines with temperament in mind can make them a lot more fruitful. One person might gain a lot by fasting from all sweets and coffee. Another person might benefit more from reading a spiritual classic. I tend to be very hard on myself about lots of things, so setting up opportunities where I’ll have lots of chances to judge myself harshly could actually backfire and put up barriers to my relationship with Jesus.

That’s the opposite of what we want, here.

So, this Lent, I’m taking my temperament and my life situation into account as I make my plans.

What I am doing:

cultivating a habit of praying throughout the day

My days run more smoothly when they are liberally sprinkled with prayer. I’ve never gone so far as to develop a rule for myself, but there are moments in the day when prayer is a natural fit. I have an alarm set at noon on my phone to remind us to pray along with our Angelus video while we get lunch ready. This Lent, I’m adding an alarm at 3pm to remind me to pray for mercy. I probably won’t always have time for the Divine Mercy chaplet, but that’s okay…thanks to a wise suggestion from a friend, I have labeled the alarm with “Lord, have mercy on us”- so even the act of turning off the alarm will be a prayer.

Thank goodness for smart friends.

I’ve snuck some other little prayers into spaces on the margin, like putting on my chap-stick (labeled with “set a guard over my mouth, O Lord- keep watch over the door of my lips!”) and drinking coffee (“my cup runneth over!”) I am trying to stop yelling when I feel frustrated and overwhelmed, so these little prayers help me to remember to keep my voice gentle and quiet.

practicing the daily discipline of finding God in the small things

I’m so excited about doing #HolyLens again with many of you. The community on Instagram has grown to become one of my favorite places to hang out. The discipline of finding God’s presence in everyday moments has really deepened my appreciation for the “thin places” where the holy and the mundane are rubbing against each other. These moments are all over the place- we just have to pay attention. Taking photos helps me do that.

practicing lectio divina…in the dark…on my phone

It is a true gift to have a scripture study written by busy moms for busy moms. My friends Nell, Laura and Nancy have put together a really wonderful study for Lent that centers on the practice of lectio divina, a focused, attentive, prayerful reading of a short scripture passage. There are written reflections for the beginning and ending of each week, but the heart of the study is just each woman alone with the word of God. It’s available as a pdf, so I can read it on my phone when I’m nursing a baby to sleep. That’s the only way it could work for me right now, as those seem to be the only quiet moments in my day.

If little, bite-sized chunks of thought-provoking scripture might work well for you, it’s not too late to join in this study. They even have an active facebook group where you can connect with other women who are participating. I haven’t found many minutes to get over there, but I love watching the conversation unfold.

What I am not doing:

giving up coffee

This is one sacrifice that would be harder on my family than on me. Since it’s not up to me to make their Lent miserable, I’m going to keep having that coffee in the morning. I do really love it, and it would definitely feel like a sacrifice to go without it, but as long as I have a baby who is waking up every night, I’m going to be tired…and as long as my children and I are together all day, I’m going to need that caffeine boost. It’s how it is.

studying all the writings of St. Francis de Sales

When I heard about the open online course that deSales University is offering exploring all the writing of Francis deSales, I was really excited to do it. I’ve long wanted to read some of his work, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. However, I’ve since realized that actually doing this would be too much for me right now with everything else that’s going on. I may still read some of his work this Lent, but it’s not going to be a focus for me.

With my family:

chaining together 40 days worth of prayer intentions

We always make a Lenten prayer chain with the kids, where we put the name of one person or family on each link and commit to pray for him or her on that day. We usually contact that person and ask if there is any special intention for which we can pray (and often, there is). It’s been a great way to remember our friends and family and to take extra time to hold their concerns before Jesus as we prepare for Easter.

limiting sweets to Sundays

We’ve become aware recently that our kids feel they “deserve” treats for almost everything. Whether we’d gotten overly reliant on treats as rewards or whether it’s just a stage our kids are going through, we decided as parents that it is best to nip it in the bud. So, no treats except on Sundays (which are little Easters and are exempt from our fasts). The kids are basically on board. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you working on this Lent? Are you well underway, or are you still trying to figure it out?

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Piles of words to write and clothes to pack.

If I had to sum up this stage of my life in one word, it might be Piles.

Piles of children. Piles of toys. Piles of dishes and laundry. Piles of books we’ve read and books we haven’t and books that are due back at the library. Piles of things I began but haven’t finished. Piles of things I never quite seem to find the time to start at all.

I’ve officially reached the point in my unscheduled blogging silence where it seems like more of an imposition to write than not to write. I’m out of the habit of writing, so when the urge strikes, I usually talk myself out of it. There is so much I haven’t written here. There are so many things I haven’t shared. I feel totally out of the loop…almost as if it is impossible to begin again. Whatever I say, it won’t be enough.

I’ve also reached the point in the packing process for our upcoming trip where the organizing and sorting I have done actually seems to have made things worse.

So…many…piles.

It’s the ultimate moment of self-doubt for the intrepid family traveler- right now, my brain tells me that even if I somehow manage to finish packing, there is no way that this stuff will fit in our van.

(Does that happen to you, too?)

It’s been a tough day for my children (who always seem to pick the days when I have something to accomplish that doesn’t directly involve them to be at their neediest). It’s a direct correlation- the less focused I am on them, the more they act out. I know this, and I should have expected the bumpy day we’ve had. Somehow, though, I always just hope that this time will be different (and am even a little surprised when it isn’t).

I’ve hollered way too much today about things that aren’t really important…so I finally gave up and turned on the television for them. They’re all watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and it is the happiest the house has felt all day. I should be packing. Instead, I’m hiding in the bathroom with my computer and remembering how much better I feel when I type words out instead of letting them build up screechy and irritable inside me.

Here’s what I know, though- it’s worth it. Taking a trip as a family is worth it. It takes a huge effort to get everything ready to transport our chaos to another location. It takes hard work to make that new place toddler proof and set it up the way we need it to be. Once we’re there, though, something almost magical happens. Things get easier. Sure, people might still be cranky or underslept, just like they’d be if we were at home staying up too late to watch the Olympics again…but being in a different place changes things. We look at each other differently. We have less stuff to distract us. We enjoy even ordinary things (like the same breakfast cereal we always have) in new ways. We laugh more and play more games. The adventure is never perfect, but it is always worth the effort.

Maybe blogging is that way, too. Instead of worrying about how I don’t have time to write the perfect post that will catch you up on everything that has happened the past few months, I’m just going to take a few minutes here and there to put some thoughts down here. It’s the only way I know to get back into the groove, which I badly want to do.

It will have to be enough for now.

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For Felix’s Birthday (2)

I stayed up late tonight…not because I had my usual last-minute birthday preparations to make for you, but because I needed to write to you in the waning moments of this year, the year that you were One.
When you wake up tomorrow, you won’t be One any more. Tonight, that feels like a really big deal. I can’t believe how big you seem these days- so chatty and independent, just like every person on the cusp of Two. You want to do everything yourself. Your opinions seem stronger by the day- which end of the bathtub you’ll sit in, who may be next to you on the sofa for stories, which bib you will wear if you will wear one at all. We are fortunate that you have the words to express all of this decision making you’re doing. It is always a blessing to be able to figure out what you mean and avoid a huge misunderstanding (or tantrum).
Mostly, you’re laid back and easy to get along with, just as you have always been. Next to your more intense siblings, you seem positively sunny and carefree. If someone takes your blueberries, though, or tries to take a toy you were planning to use, you’re getting good at using your volume to let them know how you feel.
You picked out the special foods we’ll be eating on your birthday: blueberry bagels and cream cheese for breakfast, yogurt for a snack, and baked pasta with “sprinkle cheese” for dinner. Sam, who hates both baked pasta and cheese, even agreed that he’d eat it for you, because you’re his darling.
You’re everyone’s darling.
I wonder if you realize how loved you are? Or does the love that surrounds you seem so normal to you that you don’t notice it? Either way, some amazing people think you are a really great guy.
Things you are into these days: airplanes (“sometimes, we fly onna air-pane!”), trains, cars, trucks, and heavy machinery (“I see guys buildah howse next door!”), yogurt (which you call “nogurt”), playing in the water (“on my birfday gonna swim inna pewl!”), going to Embassy Suites (you like to pack up a little pretend suitcase and talk about going there- “I go embassee-seets!”), playing with Sam, Lucy and Nora (“Sammy, Loosey an RaRa”), riding your little ride on vehicles in the driveway, reading books of all kinds, especially Good Night, Gorilla, for which you make exceptionally funny faces. You like Mickey Mouse a lot and take your stuffed one everywhere. Your other favorite “special friends” are Pito the monkey, Kattis the cat, and a bear from the Cheesecake Factory that you simply call “Bayer.” You love going to Mass and call the bells at the consecration “Jesus Bells.” You love lawn mowers and will stop everything if you think you see or hear one, because you have to go “watch-ah guy cut da grass.” You love your Dad so much and love to wave to him out the window every morning when he leaves for work, and you run to hug him every evening when he comes home. You give the best hugs…and when you don’t feel huggy, you have a menu of other options to do (like bonka-bonk, where you gently bang your head into ours, or snee-wah, where you smash your nose into our cheeks)
You named the picture of Baby Sam sleeping in my arms “GeeWater” and no one knows why. No one but you, that is, and I bet you have a very good reason.
You’re starting to recognize letters and colors.
You’re amazing.
What I want you to know is that I feel like the time you’re living in now is harder than it was when I was a little girl. The world is scary. You don’t know that yet, but you will. The times we live in have me googling “should I be afraid of terrorists” late at night instead of sleeping, which would definitely do more good for me when I’m feeling afraid and anxious about the future. Things feel uncertain and a little frightening. It’s been a hard year for me- one of the hardest of my whole life.
But you don’t know that.
You also don’t know that you are part of what keeps me going on the worst days. Your smile, your kisses, your face closeness and giggles and snuggles force me into the present. You grab my cheeks and turn my face to look at you when I’m distracted. “Mama,” you insist, “You gotta look. I’mma show ya sumpfin.” And then you stand on your head, or make your “cheese” face, or make the face like the gorilla in the book, and I can’t help but laugh with you.
You are sunshine when there isn’t enough of it anywhere else.
I hope that as you grow up, you’ll always be kind…be more like the man in the grocery store who smiled and complimented my cart driving when we narrowly avoided a collision (instead of like the woman who narrowed her eyes and sucked in her breath at us). Be like Nora, who loves to do little things for you, like helping you find your shoes or tucking you into bed. Be like Lucy, who always has a hug for you and loves for you to climb into bed with her. Be like Sam, whose devotion knows no bounds, because he thinks you are the most amazing kid that ever lived.
He’s not far off.
I thank God every single day that you were born. I can’t imagine what we did before you were here. I remember the day of your birth as one of the single happiest, most peaceful, most wonderful days of my life, and I haven’t stopped thanking God for you since.
Happy Birthday, my sweet boy. May it be filled with joy, laughter, silliness, and all the things and people you love best. You make the world brighter just by being in it. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next.
Love, Mama

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7QT: It might be the Constantinople edition

It took me two weeks to write this not-so-quick takes post. That either means I haven’t been making enough time to write or that I haven’t had enough things to tell you in a week to create a post.

The way things feel around here, it has to be the first one. Things are buzzing! It’s hard to keep up with all the excitement.

1. While engaging in social media-enabled introvert bonding with a similarly introverted friend, I saw that she was tagged in a post of this article in which a woman hires an extrovert to do her church socializing for her. It’s a spoof, of course, and it’s hilarious but dismissable if it wasn’t such an amazing idea. All you extroverted entrepreneurs looking for a home-based business should really consider this. I can think of so many applications for this service. There’s church, of course, but I also need you at some community events and possibly cartside at the grocery store (especially at Costco, to fend off over-enthusiastic twin curiosity from the general public)…and if you could just come handle the conversational needs of my very talkative children between 4 and 5:30 pm, I’d be ever so grateful.

2. Sam is up to the Great Schism and the fall of Constantinople in history now and spent some time Friday sketching the Hagia Sophia from pictures he found online. While he was busy with that, I was dancing around the kitchen humming this:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/6746927 They Might Be Giants – Istanbul (Not Constantinople) from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.

He suddenly sat bolt upright, eyes wide, and shrieked, “Oh my goodness! I actually understand what this song is about today!”

Homeschool win.

Also, it seems like over the course of his life, I may have sung They Might Be Giants more than I realized.

3. It came to my attention last week that people sometimes pose as expectant mothers of twins in order to gain access to twin groups on Facebook…and that sometimes these people even try to infiltrate real life twins/multiples clubs. Apparently this is such a problem in some places that groups are requiring ultrasounds or birth certificates for membership. People, this is unbelievable to me. First of all, it seems like if you show up to a twins group with a matched set of kids, people should be able to trust you. If you’re the kind of person who would take someone else’s kids to a twin parent support group…well, I don’t even know what to say.

Can this really be that big of a problem? Are that that many creepers out there whose particular form of creepiness is to impersonate twin moms? I just feel like I want to put a big disclaimer on my blog…something like WARNING: This lifestyle is not as glamorous as it may seem.

Also, please don’t steal pictures of my twins and pretend they are your twins.

Have you heard of this before? Nonsense. This is crazy stuff.

4. My toddler is the one at Mass who is shouting the words to the Our Father as loud as he possibly can. I guess I should be pleased that he has picked up so much of it and that he’s engaged and paying attention. All I can think is how much he must be disturbing the people around us. When I’m an old lady, I’m going to sit behind young families on purpose and smile at them encouragingly when their children are noisy, and I’m going to tell them every week how much I appreciate their being at Mass. If any old ladies are reading this, it would be so reassuring to know that you aren’t silently despising us when we struggle to keep it together. Also, Felix loves to shout out “Jesus Bells!” when the altar servers ring the bells at the consecration. He came up with the name himself. I could be embarrassed about that, too, I guess, but I think it’s rather clever.

5. The first book for the upcoming year of Well-Read Mom came in the mail this week, and I’ve never felt so relieved. I was worried about going from my nemesis Russian behemoth directly into another Russian novel with no break between. I’m hopeful, though, after seeing this book (which is really a novella at 53 pages) that I am going to be okay. I wouldn’t call it light subject matter, but we are reading it from the angle of thinking about different kinds of friendship to fit with this year’s Well-Read Mom theme, The Year of the Friend. I am actually looking forward to reading it.

6. Because I do occasionally watch TV instead of reading, George and I recently finished watching Stranger Things. We loved it…and I fully expected everyone else to love it. I’ve been surprised at some of the less-than-enthusiastic things people have been saying. I loved Haley’s thoughts on why the show is awesome (even if it doesn’t seem exceptionally original at first). As always happens when we finish a show we really love, we feel a bit lost and aren’t sure what to watch next. A friend came by one day last week and recommended a show, which I repeated back to her to fix it in my mind. Later that night, when I tried to tell George the name of the show, all I could remember was that it was a two syllable word that sounded like “maynard” or “heyward” followed by a one-syllable word that ends in “s.” Oddly enough, he couldn’t figure out what it was from that description. Sometimes, I think my brain has been replaced by a colander. What are you watching that you love? We like lots of different things across lots of genres, but we aren’t big on violence for its own sake. (Actually, really gory violence doesn’t work for me even if it has an overarching purpose.)

7. Our riding lawnmower broke last week, and there’s a large patch of grass in the back yard that has taken on a meadow-like appearance while we try to figure out what to do about it. My neighbor is one of those immaculate yard people who even blows the grass clippings off his driveway after he uses his edge trimmer. His yard always looks perfect. Sometimes, when I watch him walk out to his shed, I wonder if he’s taking stock, looking at the swings and the hula hoops and the plastic trucks that are randomly strewn about our yard and wondering why we can’t pick up our stuff. His yard looks so clean. Like he’s doing a good job. I’m not sure that any outward measures can measure my efficacy, but if there were such a measure, it could not be the state of my yard. I actually wrote what I’m sure was a pretty bad college entrance essay on a quote from Dag Hammarskjold about weeds, and I wrote about how I would pull all the weeds from the garden of my character so that they would be unnoticed next to the beautiful flowers that would grow there. Ugh. The irony…and who in the world did I think I was?

For more quick takes, please visit Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum.