Thursday, July 17, 2014

If You're Bored You're Boring: My 9 Month Social Media Fast

"If you're bored, you're boring." - mom

Growing up, this was (one of many of) my mom's wise mantras.  Life is beautiful, full of wonderful riches to explore, people to know, experiences to have.  This must have sunk in with me, because I have far more interests and goals and hopes and dreams for life than I will ever hope to accomplish before I am called to my eternal home (I hope!).

As I sit to read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and a snack with my son, or as I dream of gardens and skills I'd love to acquire, as I spend leisurely afternoons visiting with friends or evenings sipping wine and cooking with my husband, I realize that I have been wasting time.

Long ago, as a brand new wife and mother, I needed community.  I didn't find much of the "in real life" sort, but I did find great supports in other catholic wives and moms online who probably have no idea that they taught me how to love my husband so much better, how to balance baby and housekeeping, and how to further my own faith life in the midst of this beautiful vocation.  I am grateful for this, especially because for a long time that quiet life was otherwise lonely, but necessary.  The time I used to cultivate these skills by "watching" more experienced moms was well spent.

But now, I do not need to feed my own curiosity on Facebook.  I've become increasingly uncomfortable with it for many reasons, and today I was confirmed by a particular incident that I need to take a break from social media.  I like Facebook!  I think it is valuable in many ways.  I really enjoy Instagram a lot, there is so much beauty to behold there.  Twitter....well, unless there is some big news event going on, I really dislike it.  Mostly, I am disenchanted with what I see on Twitter.

At this point in life, my dearest friends are not active on social media.  It does not hold it's value as a way to keep in the loop with them, or far-away family, because most family is no longer far away!  While there is beauty to behold on Instagram, there is so much more to behold in my own home.  Am I missing a breathtaking sunrise out of my very own window while I appreciate the scenery of someone else's local flora?  Am I impressed by a friend's beautiful meal while I procrastinate on feeding my own family?

These issues are my own.  I would like time to reflect on them and to truly pray about the use of social media in my life, and I project none of this on anyone else.  Because of that, I am going to disconnect my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) for the next nine months, a novena of months, if you will, while I pray and think and observe, and refocus my time on what is going on in my true sphere of influence.  I may come back and love them for all new reasons (like when I took a smartphone break)!  Or maybe, I'll appreciate the reprieve from "mental clutter" as my dear friend calls it, with greater focus on family, friends, and serving others.  I don't know the answer, I just know that I need a good, long break to make sure that I don't make an emotional decision since I do enjoy social media!

I maintain that my day is not ruled by social media, as it may have once been, but it still occupies more of my time, efforts, emotions, and so forth than I would like to lay down right now.  There are too many things I'd rather do, and not enough hours for all of it.

I'm not leaving the internet!  I'll stick with Pinterest, because I use it a lot!  I'm still going to blog (and read blogs - I got to catch up today, yay!), and I'm hoping that stepping away from Facebook in particular will help me to focus my writing.  I go back and forth so often on why I write this blog.  So often, I want to walk away, and then someone contacts me with comments or questions and I see the value once again.  The blog stays for now, because the blogging community is one that brings me life, even though it's not like it once was (which is too bad, in my opinion).

So please, friends, stay in touch!  Especially if you came over from Facebook to read this.  Shoot me an email or a text every once in a while.  I'd love to hear from you!

"the business being done in the home is nothing less than the shaping of the bodies and souls of humanity" - chesterton // i had better keep my eyes on my own work for a while 

PS - If you usually come to the blog from Facebook, you can add it to an RSS reader such as Bloglovin or Feedly.  Alternately, you can have it emailed to you whenever I post!  Right under my bio to the right, there are subscription options, as well as "follow by email!"

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day by Day {A Daybook}

Easing back into blogging with a few thoughts on this and that....

Outside my window...
...this has been a cooler than usual and wet summer so far.  While it is quite hot, these drippy Houston summers are not quite like the blazing heat and unfiltered sunshine of my own childhood in North Texas.  One too many pool trip has been thwarted, but it's a clear sunny day today.  It's too bad the schedule didn't allow for swimming!  

Giving thanks...

...for beautiful gifts like this:

Colette created this painting for me on this special day!  Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Caramel, but she knows I love Our Lady of Guadalupe!

We are learning...

...There has been a plethora of reading lately.  In fact, I am often unable to motivate the girls to do anything save pressing their sweet noses into the pages of their latest book.  When we moved a few months ago, I had been using Charlie's library card, it's a long story, but we didn't go back to the library until I finally went back to get my own.  Now Felicity, Gabrielle, and Colette have their very own cards for the first time as well!  We are loving all the good books!
(After this week, we only have 3 weeks of break left.  We start school August 11!)

From the kitchen...

...lots and lots of fresh produce!  I LOVE summer and all the goodness that comes with it!  Truly, not much makes me happier at meal time than opening the fridge to find fresh diced watermelon and blueberries.
I've been eating spinach like it's my job too, beautiful salads all the time...and smoothies!

While I miss the comfort and relative ease of Fall/Winter cooking (my favorite season after all), soups and stews and roasts can wait while we enjoy grilled steaks and other delicious summer fare.

At the gym....

...I'm contemplating one more triathlon for the season.  I would sign up right now if entrance fees weren't so high and if I had my own road bike.  We'll see if it works out.  I'm still running, spinning, and lifting weights.  I was dreading yesterday's workout, but once I got going I just did not want to stop!  But alas, promises I made to the children of library trips, Trader Joe's, and Chick-fil-a got me to wrap things up.  I haven't been to the pool in a while though (for lap swimming, not for recreation!), maybe I'll go on Saturday!
Charlie and me enjoying margaritas and fish tacos post-workout on our "meet-a-versary" on the 8th - we met for the first time 16 years ago!

Out of the mouths of babes...

...this is kind of personal, but was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.  I started off quite the tiny thing before I had children, and my first pregnancy, especially, was quite the shock to my body.  The unfortunate result (well, one result....) has been the permanent stretch marks that I have in certain places.  Felicity and Gabrielle asked me about the ones they noted on my upper legs and I explained calmly to them what they were, how I acquired them, and while I try not to say negative things about myself in front of daughters, I'm sure they picked up that I wasn't super excited about the permanent presence of markings on my body.
Felicity said to me, "oh!  That is part of what makes you special and beautiful, Mama!  Just like my freckles!"
Out of the mouths of babes, indeed...
my sweet girl in all her summery freckly glory on one of our recent adventures

I am working on... planning.  I am so excited about our upcoming school year.  I'll have Kindergarten, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade.  I can't wait to share what we are studying!  
I've also been working on organizing all the hidden parts of the house that get neglected when we are shoulder-deep in learning and I only have time to maintain order, not construct order.  Lots of closets have met their match over the last few weeks.  I was almost defeated by my daughters' closet though.  Wow.

I am reading...
...I've been pretty engaged in enjoying my family lately, which has left little time for reading and has left me exhausted by the end of the day.  Typically, I'm reading several books at a time, but right now I'm just reading The Fellowship of the Ring.  Just as when I read The Hobbit for the first time around Christmas, I am just so annoyed that this isn't my 2nd or 3rd reading of The Lord of the Rings!  Why was I reading junk when I was younger and not this beautiful work?  I love it.
I have also read zero blogs in probably a month.  I need to catch up on my favorites!

I am praying...

...Today wrapped up my 33 Days to Morning Glory, a modern version of St. Louis de Montfort's consecration to Jesus through Mary.  After 33 days of prayer and preparation, I joined many other Catholics in my area for Holy Mass and the consecration prayer this morning.  Often, this consecration is called a "new dawn," my first thought as I awoke to the most breathtaking blush-pink sunrise this morning, even before my alarm went off.  I hope to write more thoughts about this tomorrow.

I am struggling...
...hmmm....that's a hard one to share isn't it?  I'm having a hard time with doing well reaching out to friends.  While I *see* friends quite often, I've been failing at calling back, texting back, emailing back.  Over the last few weeks (note my complete absence from the blog, as well), I've been very much in my own head.  Pray for me?
I love all of my sweet, sweet friends.  
I am hearing...
...Ave Maria: Praise of the Virgin Mary Through the Centuries
and the chit-chat of my little girls while they watercolor in the kitchen.

Clicking around...

...while I haven't read any blogs lately, I've been doing lots of homeschool shopping.  Some things on my "maybe" list:

I'd love to hear if you're familiar with any of these!

Around the house...

...we got a new dining table!  When we move across country, we always just sell most of our furniture and buy used when we arrive.  We sold our big table in Wyoming and purchased one that I mostly liked when we got here, but I haven't loved it.  It sat eight, but was bar-height which came with two ill side effects: 1) toddlers (need I say more??) and 2) one's circulation tended to be cut off with prolonged sitting, Charlie and I love to sit and chat after dinner so that was a deal-breaker.  We sold that one and have been without a table to fit the whole family for about 6 weeks.  It's worked out ok since we have a big picnic table in the covered porch and our school table has been temporarily housed in the eat-in kitchen.
Part of buying used furniture is you have to be very, very patient while you wait for just the right piece to show up.  We found a beautiful new table yesterday and I'm so happy!

it's really only covered because this is my favorite table cloth I haven't been able to use in a long time....
but the finish is lovely!

One of my favorite things...

...Have you visited Flor Larios Art on Etsy?  I just love her art work, the traditional feel with a beautiful up-to-date touch.  The colors and expressions she uses makes me want to have one of everything in her collection! (I'm not getting anything from this...she doesn't know who I am....I just had to share!)
This beautiful piece spoke to me, as a mother, the first time I purchased from her, and it hangs over in my desk and in my line of vision from my prayer chair:

She recently had a big sale and I ordered this tiny Our Lady of Guadalupe for my bedside table. 

A few plans for the next week...

...the usual...working out, swimming, hitting the library, dinner with the in-laws over the next few days.  Next week we have VBS at our church (no ordinary affair, the little ones will be doing Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the big girls will be "touring the Vatican Treasures and learning all about the Holy Father, St. Peter's Basilica, St. Peter's square, the Sistine Chapel, and more," not to mention daily mass!  It's going to be quite an effort to get there each morning (our church is 40 minutes into Houston on a Sunday morning...longer on a weekday I'm sure!), but 100% worth it! (Then at the end of the week, Edel!  But more on that later...)

A final note as I end this posting...please say a special prayer for a member of my family this evening, if you will.

Love and prayers, my friends.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Y'all, I Don't Have a Tattoo, but I Love My Wild Bathing Suit {Answer Me This}

It's Sunday, Corpus Christi Sunday, and it is glorious!  Mass today was breathtaking, as always AND the choir sang two of my favorite songs!  (Pange Lingua and Ave Verum Corpus....give me a BREAK!  So amazing.)

Tonight we're going to have pizza and a movie night, featuring The Song of Bernadette.  I remember watching this as a little girl, it had a profound effect on me.  I can't wait to share it with my daughters. (Luckily they have a tendency to like old movies.  They watched The Man From Snowy River a few days ago with Charlie, and we watch The Bells of St. Mary's every Advent while making popcorn & cranberry garlands for the tree.) Earlier in the school year, I purchased the DVD, not quite remembering that my computer does not have a DVD drive, and we didn't have a player.  Oops.  Oh well, today is the day.

Since my children are engrossed in LEGO play, I thought I'd come post up an "Answer Me This..." to link up with Kendra.  Plus her questions are fun this week!

1. When's the last time you got a new bathing suit?

Bathing suits were pretty much the bane of my adult existence until I started loosing weight last year.  So, I was actually excited to get a new one from ModCloth for Mother's Day a year ago.  I agree with Kendra's feelings on modest swimwear.  I'm not going to dive off the deep end (ha!), but you won't see me there with a bikini or anything like that.  Been there, done that, and I'd rather not ever go back.  Too much baggage from the bikini days.... that's a whole other post.

Anyway, my current suit was an investment, but worth it due to it's high quality and the fact that it is cut in a way that I am very comfortable.

I love this suit so much, that only an hour or so ago I was two seconds from purchasing the peacock print to have another one...  It's still in my cart....decisions decisions.

2. Who made the last incoming call on your phone?

My friend Lucy.  And I am bad, bad, bad because I missed it and have not called her back.  I have a phone phobia.
I need to get over that, for the sake of charity.
Friend fail.

3. If you receive communion, do you receive in the hands or on the tongue?

Like most children of the 80's and 90's, I was taught to receive in the hands.  By the time I was a teenager and actually realized what I was doing, I would alternate because I was unsure.  Not long after, I chose to always receive on the tongue, which works out great because in my parish we receive kneeling at the alter rail on the tongue.

Check out that communion-rail-goodness!  Old school FTW.

4. Do you have a tattoo?

Um.  This is a funny question.

No, I do not have a tattoo.

That said, I was just telling Charlie on our drive to mass this morning that I feel about 85% sure that I DO want one.  I know what I want, I know where I want it, and it's tiny.

We'll see.

I felt like a rebel even posting one a little bit similar to what I want on my Pinterest board, so I don't know if I have enough guts to actually pay and endure pain.  But, we'll see.  I won't say never.

5. How many dinner plates are in your house?

There are not nearly enough dinner plates in my house.  My only wedding registry success was my dishes, I love them.  We have Pottery Barn Great White dishes, but I only registered for a set of 8.  Stupid.

By the time I made it through 9 moves and 5 pregnancies (this is relevant because I become very clumsy and break a lot of stuff when I'm pregnant), we only had 4 salad plates.  When you purchase a set of these dishes (dinner plate, salad plate, bowl), you realize that the "dinner plates" are more like platters (so I still have 7 of those), and the "salad plates" are more dinner plate size.

Blessedly, we were the recipients of some generous Christmas cash that we used partially to buy 4 more salad plates & 6 dessert plates.

So...I guess
7 dinner platters (ha!)
8 salad plates
6 dessert plates

I'd still like to get more salad and dessert sized plates.  I like to be simple though.  That said, we don't have enough to get through the day without washing or paper plates!

I don't have china.

Aren't you SO glad you know all that about my dishes???

6. Do you have an accent?

No.  My parents are both from Colorado, so I don't have a Texas accent or any accent at all.  I do throw in a "y'all" every once in a while, but sadly I'm not nearly as charming as the people with actual Texas accents.

My native Colorado parents and me.  But I got here as fast as I could (I was only 3, whatever).  Texas is the motherland!

Happy Sunday, friends!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

River Trip

"Do all things without grumbling..." 
Phil. 2:14

This is how I spent the bulk of this week. 

There was true rest and fellowship this week, in a way I didn't expect.  God is so good and always exceeds my expectations.  

When Charlie decided that we would go on this trip, I did not want to go.  I complained and was scared (if you know me at all, you know that I have a huge fear of children and natural water) and dug my heels in, even at one point trying to convince Charlie to go without me!  Most of this was fear based, but as I realized he was not going to change his mind, I had to alter my thinking.  I asked all of my friends to pray for me, and as I listened to St. Paul's letter to the Philippians for the millionth time, I heard "do all things without grumbling."  I stopped grumbling, but I was still pretty unsure about the whole thing.

The moment I felt physical relief, as if a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders, was when Charlie, who surely was caring for me more than anything, asked our pastor on the way out of Mass to say a prayer of safety and blessing over our family before we left.  When Father asked God to protect us, keep us safe, and to send our guardian angels, I had an immediate sense of peace.

Our trip included 3 big families, one couple, several awesome single people, and an amazing young priest.
We spent our days sitting in the river with great conversation and drinks, we worked together to provide meals for the group, the children had a safe sense of freedom and grew in friendships.  We listened to music, enjoyed a fun and delicious dinner out with adults only, chatted about "things temporal and things eternal," danced and danced, and just enjoyed the community of one another.  The over all sense of rest and rejuvenation completely blindsided me.

One of the highlights of the trip was that we were able to attend Mass on site each day, in thanks to Father, who brought us the sacraments.  

Joe really took a liking to Father, which manifested itself in somewhat of an embarrassing/funny/adorable event during Mass one day.  He was sitting up next to me, and the rest of the children were sitting on the floor together.  At one point, he looked at me and asked if he could sit next to Felicity, or at least that is what I thought!  I replied quietly that he may.  However, he had actually asked if he could sit next to "Fa-fa" (Father), so thinking he had permission, he trotted over and just took a seat!  When I popped up to grab him, Father whispered that he could stay, which was so sweet.  We never know how these moments of kindness ingrain themselves in children...maybe Joe will be called to be one of God's holy priests someday!  

out to dinner at the Grist Mill, right next to Gruene Hall


super shallow spots where the children could play: they found fish, turtles, clam shells, duck eggs, they pretended to be mermaids, and had all sorts of adventures with their friends

This week was beautiful.  I learned my lesson, and am humbled.  I feel sustained...and so very blessed.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Greatest Gift of All

He stood beside my mother as I entered this earth, watched over me as I was baptized & confirmed, walked with me down that long, long aisle to hand me over the man who would one day become the father of my own children.

He calls me to wish me luck in my big moments.

He sits to talk with me and my family when we visit.

He tells me he's proud of me.

I know he prays for me.

He gave me the faith.  Truth.

He probably has no idea how his gifts over the years, little things to him, a set of CD's here a book series there, a new veil I've been longing for, my favorite Bible, sustain me and have been growing my faith and love of my heavenly Father.  All that, and I remember with thanksgiving (I thank my God in all my remembrance of you... Phil. 1:3) him every time I pick these treasures up.

When I'm a little old lady, I hope to still be turning the pages of In Conversation with God throughout the year, reminded of my father's love, generosity, and the greatest gift of all - the faith he passed down to me.

I love you, Dad.  Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Last Day of School 2013-2014

Today was our last day of school.  We've never ventured into June, so I was just praying that we would finish strong, which we did!  I'm proud of all of us!  We're going to celebrate tomorrow with root beer floats and a trip to the symphony.  I've already kicked off the celebration by enjoying a night cap of Glenmorangie.  Yum.

Just to remember, here are my sweet girls in the middle of August when we started this school year:

And, here they are today, so much more grown up after working hard to learn and play all year, becoming more fully human and growing in virtue:

It was nice to read my projections at the beginning of the year this evening, I was spot on in many ways, but one line was like my famous last words (more on that later)!  (hahaha!)

I would like to do a re-cap post about what our favorite subjects were this year (geography, ancient history, poetry), and some of the things that didn't work out as we hoped (re: "famous last words" math - we'll be working math all summer).  Everyone's reading skills exploded, with no end in sight this summer.  To us, summer and reading are synonymous.  To skip reading in the summer would be like skipping the pool.  Not gonna happen!  Then of course, are the things that I did or didn't do well, all of which I want to flesh out so that we can do even better next year.

Our "extras" this year were downtown science museum class, ballet for Gab and Colette, and choir for Felicity.  This coming year, we're going to change it up a bit.  We'll still be doing choir and ballet but more girls in each, and hopefully we can re-join science classes for 15-16 (meanwhile, we're going to study outer space next year, good thing we live within driving distance of NASA!).  I also tossed around the idea of joining two different co-ops, and a hand full of other organizations (AHG, for example), but ultimately decided not to add anything else for next year for now.  We have all been happy with the way things went this year, for the first time ever.  It was our best school year yet (it was our 5th year)!  I don't want to try and fix what isn't broken.  (That said, if the right opportunity presented itself for piano lessons, art lessons, or 4H, we'd jump.)

And now, I must go get my beauty sleep because in the morning I have the big project of clearing out the coat closet of winter and fall gear to make room for beach towels, floaties, pool bags, swim shoes, kick boards, and a big library bag.
Happy summer, friends!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Light and Strength and Love {for my sister}

"We need saints without cassocks, without veils - we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hangout with their friends (...) We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs,that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theatre. We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints”."– Quoted by Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2013

Over the weekend, I was blessed to attend my little sister's Confirmation.  It was such a happy occasion, and I am so glad we got to be there.  It seems not so long ago that I was her age and she was getting baptized.

I am praying the Pentecost Novena with this sweet girl as my special intention.  May she always be blessed with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, as she is commissioned to, "go therefore and make disciples of all nations...."  M, He is with you always, to the close of the age.