Thursday, August 22, 2013

Catholic Product Placement

Saint Michael the Archangel
Tiny Saints.

My birthday was last week, August 15. Also the Catholic feast day of the Assumption of Mary. My mother chose this date for my birth (planned C-section) and dedicated me to Mary. So, I get my birthday and my feast day all in one, glorious celebration!

My third son, Romeo, gave me a present on my birthday. I opened it to find a nice paracord necklace with the above St. Michael charm to go on it, along with a keychain. Apparently, the Basilica, where he purchased it, was all out of Mary charms.

But that is okay, because I have been praying the St. Michael prayer every morning and evening; only Romeo did not know that! St. Therese was my saint last year, so maybe this year St. Michael is making his presence known!

ArtGuy, being an artist and all, is always on the prowl for good Catholic products with decent design and artwork. It is amazing how much this is in short supply in modern times. Most things, especially for children, seem to be from more distant times, or, sadly, of inferior quality. There are exceptions, of course, but in the main, it is hard to find Catholic products for kids that are attractive in form and design and quality. Even their website is well designed. Score!

As soon as I opened this Tiny Saints charm, I was in love! The design is super, super cute, lightweight, easy to wear. The materials seem to be good quality. I love that you can buy different charms and just clip the one you want on to your necklace. (I plan on getting the Mary one soon!)

I think Romeo even put out a big hint that he thought these were cool, too. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. 

Tiny Saints - check 'em o!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What I Learned on My Vacation

3000 miles. In a minivan, with 4 kids. 11 days gone - 6 of those 11 days were spent driving.

Lots of "family togetherness"!

I learned a few things on this trip.

1. My kids are awesome travelers. Really, really awesome. Even the Monkey! 10-12 hours driving a day is not "fun", but they managed to make it much more enjoyable.

2. Be careful what you collect - Cookie Boy collects playing cards. He buys a new deck of cards for every new state he visits (or sometimes I get him a deck when I travel). The decks have to be State decks or represent the special place he is visiting - he is looking for unique, fun, commemorative cards.

 Apparently, finding playing cards is a hit-or-miss type of thing. 

We visited many, may gas stations and souvenir shops. Want a dinner bell? No prob? Shot glass - easy, peasy. Collectible spoon - everyone has them.
Playing cards - not so much.
However, he did manage to get 7 new decks this trip - Arkansas (the only ones we could find were Razorback cards, but it works!), Tennessee, Virginia, Annapolis, Maryland; and the Cape May/Lewes Ferry for Deleware. We also got him special cards from Graceland and the National Shrine in DC.

Mission accomplished!

3. Weather - we saw lots of weather on our trip. Storms lit up the sky while we drove from Memphis to Nashville, TN last week. It did not rain on us then, but we watched in awe as the lightning forked the skies, mainly jumping from cloud to cloud. It was awesome.
We went through many showers and downpours. We even had fog and low clouds on mountains.
Awesome clouds in Virginia

No one seemed too impressed. But I was!

Cool and windy - but sunny - on the beach

Weather! Clouds!!! Rain!!!!!

It made me think - the weather in Texas is pretty uniform - sunny and warm or sunny and hot. If it is not those things, it is apocalyptical, end-of-the-world stuff. Not much in-between.

rainbow cloud!
I loved looking at the clouds, rain, lightning, wind, sun, moon, stars.

Blurry, but you can make out the clouds on the mountain 

4. We really need to get out more. I am pretty sure I spent more time with my husband on this trip than I have in the past two years. Being trapped in a van for 3000 miles will give you time to talk.

5. I found out my husband only reads my blog "occasionally". Sigh. Nothing like feeling supported, although he is encouraging in a general, "go, you!" kind of way.

Sad face.

6. We are raising our kids right! Musically, anyway.

I am very eclectic in my musical tastes. My kids were laughing at my iPod as it played in the van. Queen followed by Lady Antebellum followed by the Tallis Scholars singing chant. Yeah . . .

The Monkey had his favorites. It was cracking us up to hear him sing:
  • Another Bites the Dust - Queen
  • Don't You Want Me - The Human League
  • Day-O - Harry Belafonte
  • Don't Stop Believing - Journey
  • Can't Touch This - MC Hammer
  • Hey, Soul Sister - Train

7. I learned a new way to pack. I read this blog about packing a family up for vacation, but I dismissed it. The day before we left, I decided to give it a whorl. The blog suggests using bins to pack. I only had a few, so I only packed some things this way. Next time, everyone is getting their own bin. It saved SO MUCH SPACE! It was awesome.
We have a minivan, but it is a very small minivan - a Mazda MPV. There is very little trunk room.

Packing 6 people for 11 days, for the beach, when the weather will be 100 degrees some places and 65 in others - it was daunting. But, the bins made it all better.

ArtGuy and I had all our clothes together in a 58 Qt bin. Plus some shoes and other things. Cookie Boy and Romeo each got their own 15 Qt bin. We rolled the clothes up nice and tight (helps reduce wrinkles, too!).
Things got more messy on the way home, but hey! The driver can see out the back.

Love the bins!

In addition, each boy received a shoe-sized bin for their in-the-van stuff. They have backpacks, but it gets very squished as we travel. These bins held sunglasses, earbuds, iPods, Nintendo DSs, pens/pencils/markers, and other small items. It helped them to keep smaller stuff together, and they were able to trade places a lot more easily. (The blog I read recommended shoes in these, too, but I am guessing the lady has some small children, not boys with giant feet!)

I also had a shoe sized bin for the front seat that had Mom's-heroic-moments-type stuff. Need a tissue Ta dah! A wipe for sticky hands? Here ya go! Fingernail clippers? Ibuprofin? Travel sized laundry detergent? Sunscreen? A Sharpie (you have NO idea how much that Sharpie came in handy)? An extra grocery bag for trash? Got it!

We also packed a separate small suitcase (in the future this will be a bin, too) with our "hotel" clothes. Since we were staying at hotels overnight both ways, we only had to unload that suitcase and a couple of smaller items, and not the whole van.

I packed our toiletries and charging cords and other miscellaneous items in a small red carry-on.

Everything stayed pretty neat and organized.

Lesson learned!

8. 11 days is a long time to be gone. 3000 miles is a lot of traveling. Not everyone was nice on the road or in stores or at attractions. However, ArtGuy and I noticed that while not everyone was nice, most people were nice.
We were amazed at the number of nice, friendly, mannered people we encountered.

Sometimes you forget or just think no one cares. And then the world shows you there is goodness all around.

9. People in Virginia need extra help? I guess? That is the conclusion I draw from these handy signs on almost every entrance ramp on Interstate 81 in Virginia.

It made me wonder - why????? Before these signs, were people getting on the freeway and making random left turns?
"Well, Bob, I am going to get on the Interstate and then I am going to turn left. Makes sense. Oh no! Wait! Oh, man! There is a sign that says 'no left turn. Dang it."

10. Some things cannot be shared.

On our final jaunt last night, we crossed back into Texas. The sun began to set, throwing gorgeous color into the sky. The sun hung big and low on the horizon, a kind of peachy-pink-sherbety orange colors. It cast an orange edge to the clouds, and threw orange, pink and blues across the sky. It was utterly lovely.
I love the beach, I love the mountains, but I love my Texas more.

I tried to get a picture, but I couldn't. Maybe it was the bug-encrusted van windows, maybe it was trees in the way. Or maybe, some things cannot be shared, but can only be experienced.

It made me sing this song to myself. (Sixpence None the Richer, but actually from a project of Rich Mullins called Canticle of the Plains). So pretty.

A million things in my head, swirling around. So much to do.

But I am not getting back in that van today, if I can help it!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Birthday Wish

This is it. The big 4-0.

I would like to give myself one thing for my birthday - the ability to love myself, the way I am, flaws and all. And it is mainly flaws.
It is hard to be a mom and a wife and not feel all your flaws, every day, like irritating, biting gnats swarming around your self-consciousness every hour of every day.


It is kind of ironic, really. I am 40, fat, frumpy. All those things I never wanted to be. (Well, I would rather be 40 than never get there. But the other two things I could do without.)

I have never been a skinny girl. I have hated my body since I was 11 years old. I matured faster than all my friends. I hated being the only 5th grader with boobs! I hated the way my body looked and felt and moved. I have always thought I was fat.

Of course, now I realize I was not, and I would give anything to go back and be that size again.

About seven or eight years ago, I started gaining weight. Slowly. Every year some more. I had the Monkey in that time period and that added more pounds I have not been able to lose.And still I add the weight, a little at a time.
I had everything checked. My thyroid is good, my blood work is excellent. I know my hormones are off, and that is being treated for over a year, but it has not made a difference in my weight,.
And we are not talking 10 or 20 or even 30 pounds. 60 pounds in 8 years. It is a number that blows my mind. 
Since this weight gain started, say 8 years ago, I have:
  • run
  • walked
  • been a member of a gym and attended regularly
  • done Weight Watchers
  • done South Beach
  • done My Fitness Pal
  • regular use of a stationary bike
  • regular use of small hand weights (5 lb each)
  • 30 Day Shred
  • Insanity

Nothing helps. Sometimes I can get 10-15 pounds off, but it is only a matter of time before it creeps back on.  The worst was last year, when I did 30DS for 3 months along with very careful accounting with My Fitness Pal. At the end of the 3 months, I had lost 1, maybe 2, pounds.
That is it. All that work, for nothing. And no, my clothes did not fit better, my measurements were not any different.

I can understand the weight coming off slowly, but not . . . nothing.

I hate the way I look. I feel it in my body. I hate the way clothes fit me. I hate seeing my arms, my legs, and - oh my gosh - the belly that won't die since the Monkey came along.

My weight is with me all day, every day. Every morning when I dress, every evening when I put on pjs, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. When I -shudder - see a picture of myself.

It is torture, every day.

I will not give up. My eating habits have vastly changed. I exercise, regardless of weight loss, because I know it can only be doing me good. I try to ride 6-10 miles on my stationary bike, 6 days a week, while doing my hand weights. Some weeks I may only make it 4 days, some weeks 5, some 6.

I will not give up.

But still.

I know I need to come to some kind of peace with myself. I need to learn to love myself, regardless of how I look. I know this. I crave
I am just not sure how to get there.

It is my birthday wish for myself. To learn to love who I am, now, here, as I am.

Happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Husbands, Love Your Wives, v 2

Today's edition of "Husbands, Love Your Wives" is a more along the lines of a service announcement. For you, the husband, to know how to better love your wife in the little, daily ways.

We women are bombarded, daily, about how we look. We are very aware we live in a culture that values external beauty, and that beauty is defined in a very specific way by our culture. We are reminded in every movie, tv show, billboard, magazine ad, and catalog how our society defines "being attractive": being thin, being young, being fashionable.
 No matter how much your wife knows she is not bound by those societal dictates, no matter how much of her own woman she strives to be, these things manage to slip into our subconsciousness unawares.

You husbands have an awesome job - to love your wives. You have to power - POWER - to build her up. You have the power to make her feel loved, attractive, and desired. You have the power to make her feel beautiful.

Because the truth is, most of us know we fall far short of society's demands of outer beauty. But we don't care so much, so long as you find us beautiful!

So, what can you do?

1. The Bathing Suit Rule

Your wife should never, ever put on a bathing suit without a sincere compliment from you. I do not care if her chest hangs down to her feet and her stomach rolls can hide small mammals: when she puts on a bathing suit (which is an act of bravery, believe me!), you better say something nice. Notice her right away, and say something to make her feel attractive.
If you say nothing, she hears your silences as loudly as your voice. Sure, maybe you find her attractive, but it is doing no one any good for you to feel that way and not express it so that your wife can clearly hear it. Often. Very, very often.

So say something.

And let's review Compliments, in general.

Acceptable: "Honey, you look goooood in that bathing suit."

Not acceptable: "You look nice."

"Nice" does NOT cut it, guys. "You look nice" is something you tell you mother or your sister, not your wife. Sure, it is a nice thing to say, but it is not worthy of your wife. "Nice" is safe. It is bland. It is boring. Save your "nice"s for family members and colleagues.
 Tell your wife something only you as a husband have a right to say. 
Come on! Put some sizzle into that relationship. 
(One caveat: You can get away with "nice" every once in a while, IF you are using much better compliments other times. But use it sparingly.)

2. The Dress-Up Rule

One day I came down for church. I had taken extra time with my clothes, my hair, my make up. My husband looked up as I entered the room and said nothing about how I looked, but started talking to me about something else. My 5-year-old, on the other hand,jumped up and said, "Wow, Mom! You look so, so pretty. You could be a princess!" He then ran to me and kissed me. After which my husband said, "yes, you look nice today."
Who do you think made me feel more attractive?

This is very similar to the bathing suit rule. When your wife dresses up, say something. (Remember, not "You look nice").


You noticed her when you were dating. You sure noticed her when you were engaged. You definitely noticed her when you first got married. If you have gotten out of the habit of noticing her, make a better effort to be aware of her.
See, that is the point. It isn't that you are laying down and worshiping at the feet of our beauty. It is more about being noticed. Knowing our husbands see us. See something beautiful in us. Something attractive. Because we often do not feel beautiful or attractive.

Of course, she does not have to dress up in order for you to throw a compliment her way, either. Be lavish. Be crazy with your compliments.

 3. The Lonely Hand Rule

I would like to subtitle this one: how to know if you kind of stink as a husband. But I won't.

Hold your wife's hand as much as you can. Holding hands has been a sign of affection since we were kids. Why would that be any different now?

There is nothing more frustrating than sitting next to your husband, your hand in plain sight, and he does nothing.
Not that it is always a good time to hold hands, but if you are regularly leaving your wife hanging, you are kind of stinking as a husband.

Hold her hand.

Let's review:
1) Bathing suit =  compliments
2) dressing up = compliments
3) Hold her hand

Well, that is enough to get you started. You have your homework. Get to it!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Prayer This Week

We sang a hymn at church today with a traditional melody, but words I did not remember, or have not noticed before. They really struck me. The words are beautiful and challenging - our faith must be a living thing, moving us towards who we are meant to be. And if our faith remains only a personal one, and finds no expression in our daily life - through love of neighbor - then it will never live.

This will be my prayer this week.

God, Whose Purpose Is To Kindle
text based on Luke 12:49, byDavid Trueblood

God, whose purpose is to kindle:
Now ignite us with your fire;
While the earth awaits your burning,
with your passion us inspire.
Overcome our sinful calmness,
Stir us with your saving name;
Baptize with your fiery Spirit,
Crown our lives with tongues of flame.

God, who in your holy gospel
will that all should truly live,
Make us sense our share of failure,
our tranquility forgive.
Teach us courage as we stuggle
in all liberating strife;
Lift the smallness of our vision
by your own abundant life.

God, who still a sword delivers
rather than a placid peace,
with your sharpened word disturb us,
from complacency release!
Save us now from satisfaction,
where we privately are free,
Yet are undisturbed in spirit
by our neighbor's misery.

Friday, August 2, 2013

7Quick Takes Friday

Happy Friday!

 Here are my thoughts on 7 quick topics today. Thanks Conversion Diary, for hosting!


 How is it Friday already? Wasn't yesterday Monday? This week flew by. Not only that, but it is August now? I am still trying to adjust to the fact it is 2013 not 2012.


I have discovered a genius! My neighbors next door have a 16-year-old-son, M, who is an organizational and cleaning savant! Maybe he cannot be literally a savant at his tender age, but he is highly gifted, at any rate.

Last week, M came over and directed the total cleaning out of my coat closet (why did we have a million coats? There are only 6 of us and we live in Texas, for heaven's sake! I don't think I have worn a coat in two years!). We also began my large upstairs linen/game/homeschool closet. It apparently had a thousand blankets in it, left over from our last house, which - while only 15 miles away - was magically transported to Siberia in the winter months. We froze during winter in that house. My solution was to collect blankets. Lots of blankets.
Before - Blanket CHAOS!

After: Ahhhhh!

M is very patient with me.

He is coming over today to finish up that closet. And there is great rejoicing.

Jen from Conversion Diary  had a great post yesterday about Organizational Hacks for the Rest of Us. Very funny and very helpful.

 Another good recent blog post is "OverExposed"  at The Busy Mom (why does Heidi St. John always looks like a beautiful model on a catalog shoot in her pictures? Unfair!)

Heidi talks about how some of the down side of social media. How it can rob us of intimacy. How it can hurt. How there needs to be balance. But she says it all so well.

You know I have said many times I have a love-hate thing with facebook.  As Monk would say, "It is a blessing and a curse."


If you get your knowledge of the Catholic Church from CNN . . .well, I don't know how to finish that sentence. Hey, I got it!

If you get your knowledge of the Catholic Church from CNN, you will never know anything about the Catholic church.

Or pretty much anything else. And not just CNN, either.

Monday afternoon I was eating a delicious chocolate-dipped ice cream cone at Dairy Queen, frittering the time away with the Monkey while Romeo was in pottery class. I glanced up at the tv screen, tuned to CNN, to see the ticker flash by something like "Pope Francis says he will not judge homosexuals" and then "Pope Francis says homosexuality is not a sin; Twitter erupts with controversy".

Sigh. Not again.

In a nutshell: Pope Francis did not say anything different to anything else the Church has been teaching for a long time. I will not explain it all, just because many other people have done with much better than I can. Cardinal Dolan's blog is, as always, friendly and down-to-earth and highly intelligent. Read this.

It reminded me of the firestorm started by - tah dah - the media! - in one of Pope Benedict XVI's first talks, when he was speaking about Mohammad. Whatever the media grabbed onto made it sound like Benedict was rude and ignorant and mean. I remember hearing that sound bite and thinking, "Wow, that does not sound like the Church to me". All I had to do was simply go to the transcript of his actual speech. Yes, the quote the media flung about was accurate, but it was entirely out of context and changed the whole meaning of it all.

I look at any news organization kind of like Wikipedia: a good place to start with a little information about a subject, but not at all reliable, or even necessarily true.

Or maybe more like a reality show. 

In other words, do not believe everything you hear. When possible, go to the source.


Staring forty in the face, fatter than I have ever been my entire life, with the body left-over from carrying Four Strapping Sons into this world (complete with c-section scars!), I bought my first ever bikini top.

Less like this

More like this

Not that anyone will see it. When worn, it is safely hidden under my super-duty, can't-touch-this, rashguard swim shirt.

Apparently my Irish heritage strangled my Native American heritage in a death match.I go white-red-white. That is it.

We went to a water park earlier this summer. In spite of applying 50 SPF many times throughout the day, I burned. So I went home and bought a a water shirt. Then I realized something has to go under the shirt. So, I bought a bikini top.

It is much more exciting than it sounds. It certainly has not impressed Art Guy.


It is August. It is Texas. It is hot.

Dallas 7 day Forecast

We are getting ready to vacation at a beach in Delaware, where the highs are in the low-to-mid 80's. Can you even GO to the beach when it is only 82?

I am thinking our family, used to hotter-than-heck-Texas weather, will be huddled under parkas or something. "I'm a little chilly."Teeth chattering. Only toes dipped in the water.


I am catching up on some Amazing Race. Love that show! I so want to be on it and have excellent adventures. ArtGuy and I would be the bickering couple. I would be constantly out-of-breath and red in the face. We would snap at each other often as we navigate the crazy tasks given. We would make awesome television!

Have a great weekend!