Friday, August 26, 2016

7 Quick Takes: The Surprisingly Enough Edition

I'm feeling behind with all the things I meant to do and make and say and write this week.

Surprisingly enough, I think I can catch you all up in Seven Quick Takes.

Here we go!

1. We made it back from the beach. We unpacked. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't very hard to take things out of bags, put them away, get the laundry done, and feel like we were settled in again at home. This is due to two things I did right this time- I didn't overpack, and I washed our clothes before we came home. Putting away clean stuff is so much easier than having to wash, dry, and fold everything immediately so that people can have clean underwear.

2. Watching George drag the boogie boards and beach chairs to the shed was like watching the death of summer for me. I don't even feel sad about it. I know it's still summer for another month, but I'm in full-on ready for fall mode. We start school on Monday in this house, and things are ready to go. I'm going from one "official" student to three this year, as the girls are going to start Kindergarten.

Kindergarten. On Monday. My twins, remember?

(Bonus points if you can tell them apart here without the help of Lucy's curly hair.)

Surprisingly enough, I'm feeling a little nervous about the change from one to three students, even though Kindergarten in our homeschool is a very laid back, gentle thing with minimal academic work involved.

3. The coming of September means the coming of three birthdays for us- Lucy, Nora and Sam all have birthdays next month. Surprisingly enough, this is the year they have decided that a family getaway isn't what they want for their birthday celebration. I knew this day would eventually come- I just hoped it would wait a few more years. This year, they want to have a "real" party and invite their friends.

I tried explaining that we don't really do "real" parties in this family, but they pointed out that we just had one for Felix.

Oops. We did, indeed...possibly even with plates and decor that matched the cake.

So, we're in negotiations about how this can play out so that they feel adequately celebrated and I feel adequately sane. Some people have the strong desire and gift to create elaborate theme parties for their children and have fun doing it. I do not think I am one of those people.

Pray for us, will you? Sam has already said that he wants friends to come in costume as knights, pages or princesses. He'd like a banquet tent in the backyard, a bonfire and a boar's head with an apple in its mouth (but will tolerate a pig's head if we can't find a boar).

I guess it's time to get creative.

4. While I might not have been writing here much lately, I was working on something else, and it's finally ready. The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion  is a collaborative effort, featuring the work of 80 writers with a devotion for every day of the year. It doesn't follow the lectionary, so you can use it over again when you get to the end, and you won't be missing anything by starting in the middle. The devotions are quick but thought-provoking. Each one has a prayer and an action step to help you take your good intentions from the morning forward into your day. I'd love to give one to everyone I know (and you don't have to be Catholic to appreciate them, either). Surprisingly enough, I do have one to give away to one lucky reader. Since I have been silent for so long over in my corner of the internet, if you're here reading this now, you probably have an excellent chance of winning! Just leave me a comment below saying you'd like to win a book. I'll do a drawing next Friday and post the winner's name. You'll have a week to claim your prize. Good luck!

5. After our month-long summer break from school, my kids are asking for more routine and structure and are all asking to start doing an "activity." We have not been, up to this point, an "activity family." Sam tried out soccer in a rec league for one short six-week season, and it didn't make him happy. He also tried the violin for one academic year, but it wasn't a good fit. (I should write about that some day.) Last year, we had the flurry of preparation classes for the sacraments at our parish, but that was about it.

Suddenly, Right Now, all the big kids are asking about 4-H, gymnastics, ballet, swimming, karate, and fencing. Surprisingly enough, even the girls, who have previously been "too shy" to participate in anything, are very eager to try something new.

I want to be supportive. Really, I do...but I am certain that if they each pick one activity, I will lose my mind. 

Maybe I can get them all to pick gymnastics and put them all in the same class?
Who is the patron saint of busy family schedules?
How did we get to be people with kids who are this old?
How do y'all do it with all the things in your schedule without eating in your minivan every night of the week?
etc. etc. etc.

6. I continue to slog my way through The Brothers Karamazov. I finally passed the halfway mark, but it feels like there is still an eternity to go. I do actually like the book, but it's slow going despite my interest. I assumed for months that I had just lost my reading mojo (and that I probably just need glasses). Surprisingly enough, I read four other books while we were on vacation that weren't Broski (as my friend and slogging partner Katherine has affectionately dubbed it) and was astonished to find that I am still a pretty fast reader. I can still focus on a page of text without falling asleep. I can still finish a book in a day or so. There's just something mildly discouraging about Russian translations the size of cinder blocks.

7. One of the things I'm looking forward to resuming with the start of school is our family practice of memorizing scripture. I wrote a little about it at CatholicMom this week- about why we bother, about why we think it's valuable, and about how to get started. I'm still working out our list of verses for this year, and I'd love to know- do you have a favorite scripture verse? If you share it with me, it might make the cut...and I'll post our whole (proposed) list in the next couple of weeks after we finalize it. Usually it consists of mostly short verses, a few medium length passages, and one or two longer passages (last year those were Psalm 23 and the prologue to the Gospel of John). So tell me- what verse do you think is worth knowing by heart?

That's it for me- you're all caught up. If you made it this far, thank you for sticking around! Don't forget to tell me if you'd like to win a copy of The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion

For more Quick Takes, go visit Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


When you are at the beach, you are at the beach...and as the saying goes, if you are lucky enough to be at the beach, you are lucky enough.

There is so much to be thankful for here.

Too often lately, I seem to be too distracted or too tired or too sad to fully appreciate what's right in front of me...but when there is so much right in front of me, even I can't ignore how beautiful it all is.

Doing chores like laundry seems like more fun in a different place- one with tall trees, real trees, right outside the window! When we take the trash out, we smell salty ocean air. We might still be eating cereal for breakfast, but it's different cereal than at home. I'm more likely to say "yes" to requests for juice refills. And with the Olympics on, we've been hanging out late into the evenings together, snuggled up on the sofa and sprawled out the floor cushions, cheering for our favorite athletes, singing along with the national anthem.

It's vacation, and we all needed it.

Stay tuned for some exciting news next week (and a related giveaway!). Until then, go outside and feel the sun on your face. Or the rain, for that matter.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

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.


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 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.