7 Quick Takes: Summer Reading

What I'm Reading

Hello, my name is Jenni, and I am a book addict. I have an embarrassing number of books in progress at any one time, but I really do read them all… eventually. I set a higher than usual reading goal for myself this year. While I am a little behind schedule, I will probably finish up a few of these at around the same time so I will be trucking along nicely. But some of these are SO GOOD, I just had to share.

1. Rising Strong by Brene Brown. This book, guys. This book is a life changer for me. You see, I am an INTJ, otherwise known as the introvertiest introvert that ever introverted. I can get kind of stuck in my own head. I get all logicky, and emotions can freak me out a little bit, which is ironic, because being freaked out is a pretty strong emotion. Anyway, being human, my life can get filled up with lots of BIG EMOTIONS and it’s like someone tossed me a hot potato. I keep trying to pass them back and forth to avoid being burned, but in the mean time I’m thinking, What in the heck do I do with all these big emotions?

This book gives a process. It gives a way to handle the big emotions so that you can work through them and not just keep tossing them in the air or pretending the don’t exist. It isn’t some new age baloney. It doesn’t tell you your feelings are right or wrong. The first step in the process is recognizing that there is a big emotion happening and slowing down long enough to really investigate what is going on. I know I can get swept along for quite a while before I realize that some big emotion threw me over a waterfall and now I’m all mixed up.

That was just the tiniest sip of what this book has in store. I’m super excited about it and my kids want me to stop talking about it.

2. Emma by Jane Austen. This book has given me fits. I love both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, but I’ve had a hard time getting into Emma. I just don’t like her very much. I was about to give up on the book when I stumbled on this post about it. It cleared up what was bugging me and that Emma’s selfishness is really the struggle in the book.

One of the things I love about this is the way people treat each other. Even people who don’t like each other are able to spend time together and have conversations. In our social media saturated world, we are able to confine ourselves to conversations with people we agree with. Not only do the characters in this book have regular conversations with people outside of their personal bubble, but they also have a respect for them as human beings with dignity. Well, most of them do anyway. There are still a few that are self serving jerks. But we are able to see their behavior as unkindness and not a normal way of being.

3. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. I have issues with the parable of the Prodigal Son. This has been a sticking point in my own relationship with God for as long as I can remember. Growing up with a sibling with special needs put me squarely in the shoes of the older brother. And yes, I know what kind of things that says about my attitudes: bad things. Nevertheless, that is where I began.

This is a short book but I am taking it pretty slowly. There is a lot said about each viewpoint in the parable, and it has helped me loosen my death grip on the older son. It’s a work in progress.

4. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. This is one of my favorite books ever. I don’t know how many times I have read it – I’ve worn out at least two paperback sets, plus I have it on my kindle too. Right now I am listening to it on Audible. I was in the process of listening (again) to Angela’s Ashes when our recent health crisis hit, and I had to stop that one because it was too distressing. I needed something that was like a familiar quilt to snuggle up with.

The Audible version is tolerable. The narrator is good, but he doesn’t do any yelling, and there are just some parts of this book that call for yelling. Like the escape from Moria, the narrator had Gandalf speaking quietly and calmly. Just no. Also, being a person who doesn’t really gel well with poetry, I tend to skip over the songs, poems, and ballads when I read. The audio book reads through – and even sings – Every. Single. Word. Of. Them. It’s tedious and annoying. Other than that the version is fine.

5. Walking with Purpose by Lisa Brenninkmeyer. The Moms’ Bible Study I attend did this book study this summer. I began it but haven’t been able to do much more than the first chapter and section of the study guide. But I have been impressed with what I have seen so far. The first part talked about what sins you find yourself drawn to and how that is a symptom of running low on a particular cardinal virtue. Then it gives practical advice, and then it starts talking about fixing priorities. This is real stuff. This is about getting your heart in the right place to live in relationship with God. I’m excited to read more!

6. Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendal. I swore to myself I wasn’t going to buy any books. This one just kept finding its way into my field of vision. I was feeling pretty discontented anyway, and the title was intriguing. So I caved, bought it, and I like it. It’s not deep, at least not all of it. This book is basically a journal of one mom’s challenge to herself to find contentment in her life, and what she has to do to get there. It is structured so that you could follow along and do the same nine month challenge that the author did, but I’m just reading it. It is good support for both Rising Strong and Walking With Purpose.

7. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally. I tried to read this one a long time ago and got a different translation. It was filled with thee’s and thou’s and I just couldn’t plow through. This translator though, brought out the simple language the story was meant to be in. Still, this is over a thousand pages. I got stuck about 75% of the way through, but I finally got past the boring spot and it is interesting again. This is the story of a girl, Kristin, in 11th century Norway. It is such a Catholic book! Kristin has her share of trouble with sin, but she wrestles with it as something that is wrong. She prays, she talks to her priest, she bargains with God. There is plenty of drama and life going on, it is not just about her spirituality, but that is woven beautifully through the story. I’m almost done. I’m going to finish this one if it kills me.

I’m so close to being done on a few of these. Please comment and tell me what you are reading, or give me some suggestions for what to pick up next.

Psst. Some links are affiliate links. Just wanted you to know.

That’s all for me, folks! Go see This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes!

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{7QT} Quick Takes in Honor of a 10th Child’s 1st Birthday

Sweet Gwendolyn

Today is Gwendolyn’s first birthday. She’s still a tiny thing, not 20 pounds yet, and still fits easily in her 6 month onesies. Before she was born she decided to do everything in her own way, in her own time and she has kept with the theme. I have promised her birth story for a whole year, and it will be published on MONDAY. Cross my heart. In honor of her birthday, here are some special things about Gwen, including lots of nicknames. Stay tuned for the last one. It’s the best.

1. Talking to Baby Gwen: Gwendolyn loves learning baby signs and seems to pick up a new one every day or two. She won’t say much voluntarily, but every now and then she lets a word slip out. We’ve been fans of Baby Signing Time for a long time and Gwendolyn loves to watch them and try to imitate the signs. Our discs wore out a long time ago, so we are stuck renting them from Amazon for now. They are week long rentals, though, so I’m just renting a different one every week. It’s a small price to pay for how much she likes it and how it makes communication so much easier. She even does the sign for “baby” when she wants to watch the show, which is great unless it is 3am.

The trouble is that she has blended some signs and it is hard to tell them apart. “More,” “Cracker,” “Owie,” and “Shoe” all look pretty much the same. We’re working on those. Lest you worry about her speech, we always say the word when we use the sign, or when she signs to us.

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2. The birthday “Celebration:” We kind of suck at celebrations at our house right now. But that is a post for another day. Gwendolyn’s birthday celebration happened the night before her birthday with only half the family present and I ran out and bought the cake while dinner was cooking. Nevertheless, she liked the cake, but not until she had played with it a bit. Yay, Costco for last minute cakes! Also, Thursday nights may, in fact, be the magic time to go to Costco. No line for gas, no line for the cashier!

For her gift, we gave her a little riding ladybug. I love this one because it is on casters and is easy to turn. I didn’t manage to get it wrapped (see above statement on celebrations) but she didn’t care and immediately began to play with it, pushing it all over the kitchen.


3. Gwendolyn’s Favorite Things #1 Books: I’ve never had a kid go so nutty for books this young. She just can’t get enough of them and wants anyone to read them over and over again. She loves “Goodnight Moon,” and any book showing animals. but she will also try to get you to read anything with pages to her.


4. Gwennie’s favorite thing #2 Being an Aunty: Our grandson Elliot (and his mommy) live with us, so Gwendolyn gets to spend lots of time with her nephew. He is three and a half months younger than her and finally starting to fight back. They both get excited to see each other when one has been gone for a while. First thing in the morning sometimes, Gwen will hear Elliot playing in his room and go and pound on the door to try to get to him. You can catch the antic of Gwen and Elliot together under #babyaunty on instagram. (When I remember to use the hastag.)


5. Winnie’s Favorite thing #3 Pacifiers: Or maybe they are my favorite thing, I’m not sure. We both love them and she often has one in her mouth and one in her hand. But if you offer her a bite or a drink, she doesn’t spit out the pacifier, she just opens her mouth and lets it fall out. it’s kind of cute.

Once she starts talking, the pacifier will mostly live in bed and in the car seat. We don’t allow talking with a paci.


6. Woowoo’s favorite thing #4 Going outside: She loves going swimming or sitting on her big brother’s tricycle and being pulled along. She made up her own signs for both things and uses them often. “Swimming” is like two hands splashing, and “Bike” is one finger held up and moved in a circle.


7. Gwendolyn Rose of the Desert: Gwennie is the only one of our kids to have her own original song. If you watch, you’ll see Molly cover her ears at one point of the song. The lyrics talk about not having any brothers or sisters and Molly was just so upset at that prospect, she just wouldn’t have anything to do with it. The song was written mostly by Jay, but the kids helped too.

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7QT: Summer Scramble: Grocery Stores, Bedrooms, Socks, and Gorillas

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It’s been an eventful couple of weeks around here with the end of school, graduations, and trying to establish some kind of summer routine. I’ve barely been able to form a thought, let alone write them down. So here are some truly random takes:

1: A couple weeks ago I stopped at a small grocery store on the way home from picking my kids yo from school. We needed some milk and the baby’s favorite crackers, but truth be told, I really wanted one of  their awesome salads. So just me and my 5 youngest children made a quick trip through the store. It was kind of crowded, but otherwise uneventful.

Imagine my surprise when I got home and found this on my Facebook:

So I saw you at Trader Joes today, and then I happened to be walking down the aisle after you had left it when I heard this:

Lady #1: Wow, what was that?
Lady #2: I know! I’m trying to get over the shock of it! She has 5 kids!!! That just doesn’t seem right.
Me (interrupting): Actually, it is. And she has several more than 5. And she’s an awesome mom to them all.
Lady #2 (while Lady #1 hurries away): Ummmm…she does? But how can she afford them all?
Me: Good kids are a priority to some families. We sacrifice for them because we love them. And we love our society.
Lady #2: Oh…ummm…okay…(leaves in an embarrassed hurry)

It felt SO awesome to get to defend someone else rather than myself! Your presence at Trader Joes was a blessing today.

I was so grateful to have that support. At the same time I was also a little jarred, it hadn’t really occurred to me that the negative comments would come after I leave a place. I always counted it a success to complete an errand without a confrontation. I don’t get many confrontations about my kids, and mostly they are just nosy questions, nothing overtly negative. But yes, I guess we do draw a bit of attention even when things go well. The biggest effect of this encounter for me was a reminder to say something nice to other moms I see out there, dragging their kids through stores and errands. A kind word goes a long way.

2: Introvert Problems. I also felt a little bad that I hadn’t said hello to my friend in the store. I was having such a day and was having trouble getting out of my head long enough to talk to my kids. There is just this conflict between “Yay! Friends!” and “Oh no! I’m not ready for conversation!” But you know, I never regret it when I make the effort and say hello.

3: Where Mom Books fail. Being a mom is hard. Some days it is damn near impossible. I still reach for encouragement in books written for mothers, by mothers. But while those books are excellent encouragement for those busy, exhausting baby and toddler days, they fall far short when the kids get older. Once you hit the point when you are dealing with cyber bullying, kids who stay out too late, calls from teachers about homework not turned in, when someone “accidentally” sets fire to the alley, older children who are not practicing their faith anymore or even doing things contrary to it. There are kids struggling with depression, medical bills piling in. There is figuring out how to live with adult children in the house and not let them act like children anymore while also not treating them like children anymore. Those are surprisingly different. Then there are the friends whose children got all the scholarships and sports trophies when you are just so glad that everyone passed their finals just well enough to not fail. It is so hard for moms to speak about these things because on some level, they are not our stories to share. Are we gossiping about our own children? Sharing things about them that they would rather keep secret? And what about the effect of all those things on us and on our marriage?

This stage can be far more lonely than when there are only little babies in the house and you are stuck at home for weeks on end because someone always has a snotty nose. In the early years it is easier to share the stories of messes, mistakes, and frustrations. Later on in parenting, there is only silence. I want to see more support for parents of older kids. It is just so hard to speak some of the problems out loud.

4: Well that last one was a real bummer, now I will tell you why my house is such a mess. (This time.) Since my son Ben graduated from high school, he gets to move into his own room. He is also a musician, and his former (shared) room was in between the rooms of the two babies, which made it difficult to practice. Also, the babies rooms were too close to each other and they sometimes woke each other up. We have 5 bedrooms, and one of them belongs to Jay and I. We aren’t switching with anyone. But the other 4 bedrooms… ugh, what a mess!

It goes like this:
Move Tessa out of room 1, move Ben in.
Move Lily, Molly, and Gus out of room 2, move Posy and her baby, Elliot, in
Move Ben and Max out of room 3, move Tessa, Lily, and Molly in.
Move Posy and Elliot out of room 4, move Max and Gus in.

There were no straight up switches, so everything has been up in the air (or, rather, down on the floor) for the last week. The positive is that since Ben was getting his own room, he was highly motivated to help out. The beds are all in place – well almost – we have to buy one more since Gus is moving out of a toddler bed. But the closets and dressers are still all mixed up and most of the shoes are AWOL.

Molly just came to me crying about the missing shoes. I may have to make a trip out just to buy flip flops in case we can’t find them in the next couple days. Seriously, they could be anywhere.

5: Socks. We have a lot of socks. An embarrassing amount, really. Since the laundry is always behind, it is necessary to have a few extra pairs of socks (and underwear for that matter) per person. A long time ago I had one big sock basket and just matched them up whenever I could, but with our quantity of socks and people, that became unwieldy. So I came up with this:


Top row: Mine (now holding sunscreen), Jay’s. Second row: Tessa, Ben. Third row: Max, Gus. Bottom row: little girls’ socks, little girls’ tights. Baby socks go in her dresser.


Mostly each person has their own bin, although I moved my socks into my room since they were forever being “borrowed.” The two little girls share a bin, since they are only one shoe size apart, but they also have a bin for tights, because those take up too much space to also live in their sock box. I do not match socks, except for Gus, and that is only sometimes. Oh, and I match my own socks.

Funny sock story: Tessa called me from school one day this past year to ask me to bring tights for her school concert. I asked her where I would find them and she told me they would be in box #3. The school receptionist overheard and couldn’t believe we had numbered sock boxes. Tessa thought it was cute because she didn’t even think the way we do things is weird anymore and had forgotten that everyone doesn’t just sort socks into boxes.

6: That whole gorilla episode. The whole internet has been held spellbound over the shooting of a gorilla when a 4 year old boy climbed into his exhibit. There has been entirely too much said about it already, but I’m adding my two cents anyway. I have a 4 year old boy. I live with a low grade level of terror over what it is possible for him to do. 4 year old boys are old enough to be trusted just a tiny bit – to walk next to you in a parking lot when your hands are full, to watch a video when you jump in a quick shower, to not put non-food items in their mouth, and a few other things. So when the internet began to vilify this mom for “allowing” her child to do this, I was horrified. Guys, pray for this momma. She is in her own personal hell right now. She watched her child dragged around by a gorilla, she watched him scream and cry in panic, and wondered if she would ever get to tuck him in bed at night again. It’s sad that the gorilla had to die, but the zookeepers knew what they were doing. Now this family has to recover from a very public accident and it won’t be easy.

7: Oh Hello, June. It’s June. It’s Phoenix. Welcome to the surface of the sun. The little kids went outside at 8am this morning and were back in after about 5 minutes, with cherry red cheeks and gasping for water bottles. Here we go!


Stay cool everyone, and go see more Quick Takes @ This Ain’t the Lyceum!

7 Quick Takes: Things I Said I’d Never Do.

Pass the Salt,Photo credit: Max Braun

Time and tiredness teach a lot of lessons. I’ve had some pretty grand ideas about how things in our household would/should run, and I’ve had to let a lot of those go. I’m not saying any of these are bad, just that – well, I kind of thought they didn’t apply to me. Humility is a tough medicine to swallow sometimes.

1. Feed the baby formula – I’m going to start right off with the biggest one for me. I began parenthood as a young and idealistic person. I thought that breastfeeding was best and if it was then obviously everyone should do it or die trying. I became a LLL Leader and worked hard to “help” the cause. Guys, I peeked in other moms’ diaper bags at the mall and judged them for having bottles. I had the fever bad. I’ve long since been over that stage, so please forgive me for my young and stupid past. I had my first wake up call when my oldest went to school and met other smart and wonderful kids. I eventually found out that some hadn’t been breastfed at all. In fact, I couldn’t tell who was and who wasn’t breastfed by looking at or talking to the kids in her class. Huh. Who knew? I also developed friends who genuinely could not breastfeed, even after they tried their hardest. They were still amazing mothers who I looked up to very much.

Still, for myself, breastfeeding was kind of my thing. It was how I parented, how I fed the baby, how I got them to sleep and so much more. When I had a baby, which was often, the baby went with me and I breastfed on demand and it was just how we did things. Then I had a baby at 43 and suddenly things aren’t so peachy. Suddenly we began to notice long stretches of time when the baby had no wet diaper. She got constipated. She was super into solid food as soon as we introduced it. I gulped down my pride and bought some formula. Suddenly she was a lot happier. She pooped and peed just fine. I tried to be happy about it, I mean, there are some benefits here too. She is still nursing some, but my supply is dwindling. When I have to fix a bottle and give it to her in public, I feel uncomfortable. Is there a young, idealistic mom peeking in my diaper bag? I want to tell anyone who looks my way, “You don’t even know, man! I did my best!”

2. Sleep train – My 9th baby was a record breaking terrible sleeper. I think he was at least 18 months old before he slept a two hour stretch. We tried just about everything with him, except crying it out. That was where we drew the line. He did have some health issues – severe seasonal allergies kept his nasal passages swollen, but even with treatment he was a terrible sleeper. When baby number 10 began the same shenanigans, we decided to help her learn how to sleep better. I thought that first week was going to kill us both. But now she goes to bed at night and has one long stretch of sleep. She also takes naps that don’t involve me sitting motionless for an hour and a half ruminating about all the things I need to get done. She is still a crappy sleeper much of the time, so it wasn’t the magic bullet to fix all sleep issues, but going to bed is not the hard part.

3. Leave the baby for an extended period of time, on purpose. For Valentines day this year, my husband gave me a night in a hotel all by myself. He offered me two nights, but since I hadn’t done this before, I wanted to start small. Gwendolyn was already good at taking a bottle, and I pumped every 3-4 hours, except when I was sleeping. I needed this time so desperately and it did a lot to help me recharge my batteries. I never would have considered doing this in the past, even if my husband had suggested it. I would have seen it as him not being supportive of the mother child bond or some such nonsense. In reality though, it was the opposite. My husband knew that I needed to recharge so that I could have a better bond with all my children.

A couple months later, I went away for two nights. It was wonderful – I spent much of it in complete silence, writing or sitting in the bath.

4. All the other Attachment Parenting things I have just given up on. My baby sling – I’ve become a stroller mom. Cloth diapers – the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak, and I already couldn’t keep up with the laundry. Baby food – those little pouches are the bomb!

The next ones are a little more of a stretch – I never said I would never do them, I was just pretty consistent about always avoiding them.

5. Put the baby in the nursery. Years ago I investigated joining a MOPS group. But when I found out that there was an expectation that toddlers or even babies spend their time in the nursery I decided not to go. Didn’t they know that babies needed to be with their mothers? And if my 18 month old was still nursing… I mean, that is still basically a baby, right?

This year, for the benefit of my 4 year old, I joined a MOPS group. He had a lot of fun and it was nice for him to get out of the house and do preschools things. My favorite part though, was when the baby would be calm enough to stay in the nursery too. Then I could sit and chat, do their little craft, drink a cup of coffee, whatever it was we were doing. My baby wasn’t too crazy about the whole nursery thing, so she did end up spending some of the time in with me, which wasn’t a problem for anyone. Yet it was good for me to have those moments when she was lovingly cared for by someone else.

And now I’m sure you are thinking that all I ever want to do is get away from my kids. That is entirely not true. I have spent a lot of years though, being too hard on myself, believing that everything had to come from me and me alone. It doesn’t. My children have lots of people who love them and who are willing to help so that I don’t spend every moment stretched to my very limit.

6. Get cleaning help. I swear, the more I write this post, the more I think I am still a toddler yelling, “ME DO IT!” Getting cleaning help wasn’t something I was against because I thought it should only be me doing the work. I’m WAY too lazy for that attitude. No, sometimes I would consider it and then I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that kind of money on something I was perfectly capable of doing.

Then in that notorious 10th pregnancy at 43 years old, I hit a point when I really and truly could not do that work. I also didn’t have the energy to do the amount of nagging it would take to get my kids to do all of it either. So out of desperation, we hired some help. Oh my goodness. What a wonderful thing! It relieved a ton of stress for me, it made my husband happier, and our home ran a bit smoother. I have continued to have help because I am babysitting my grandson at least three days a week. Having two babies in the house is not conducive to getting bathrooms cleaned and floors mopped.

7. Wear jeans to mass when I had perfectly good church clothes clean and ready to go. I’ve always had the idea that I should put a little extra effort into getting ready for mass. I would dress up to meet the President, why wouldn’t I dress up to go to God’s house? Well. When I can’t get enough sleep, my body goes after energy and rejuvenation in whatever way it can. This means that sleep deprivation equals weight gain for me. So, to be absolutely honest, none of my skirts fit. So jeans it is. I dread going shopping or trying to figure out something else. I still try to look my best. This time is temporary and I will be able to lose the weight before too terribly long. Then I will get some church clothes again. But for now, if it fits and isn’t stained, it’s good enough for public viewing. I’m trying, I promise.

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7 Quick Takes: Crazy, Crazy May

CirclingJericho.com (1)

May is always a crazy, crazy month around here. And it never fails to sneak up on me at least a little bit. There isn’t going to be much of a theme to this one, unless random thoughts is a theme, which I guess it is.

1. The baby of the family is graduating. Okay, he’s not the youngest child here, nor does he act babyish (did he ever?) But he was our the baby of the first “set” of kids. If we had not had the vasectomy reversal, he would be the baby of the family. Whoa. Maybe in some alternate universe there is a me whose kids are all grown up. I am very much not ready for that. As exhausting and busy as all these little people are in this house, I am so grateful that this chapter is not over. I get to spend more years savoring them, seeing the world through their eyes, and, yes, ticking off minutes sometimes as they somehow both drag and speed by.

Anyway, this baby of ours, soon to be 19 years old, is an amazing person. He’s just itching to get out into the world and figure things out for himself. I’m pretty sure he will do it too.

I don’t have those mushy saying goodbye kind of feelings right now, since he has no plans to move out. But I am sure they will hit me at some point in the next few weeks and turn me into a puddle.

2. How does May do this to me every year? It sneaks up. The calendar looks all empty. I knew that there were many events lurking, since we have a graduate, but there is this eerie calm that settles over things in April. It’s like those first few bars of the Jaws theme.

Then suddenly, emails, phone calls, invitations in the mail, notes home from school, and more all begin to fly in at once. It hits like a hailstorm. If I get one more email from school about, well, anything at this point, I may lose my mind. But here we are again, white-knuckling it through May. I think I made Google calendar cry the other day as I added yet more items to the agenda. (Thankfully, after next week we will get a bit of a break in the pace of things until the last week of July or first week of August.)

3. All of this would be easier if the baby would just SLEEP. Gwendolyn will be 10 months old on Sunday and is still taking one hour naps during the day and mostly sleeping 2 hour stretches at night. I did get a 4 hour stretch of sleep out of her the other night, but I paid for it the next night in 1 hour wakeup calls. At this point, I just always have a headache from being tired. We tried everything. Every. Thing. She is just going to have to outgrow it.

4. Fun stuff: I’m trying to get back in the habit of daily bible study (which is difficult when the only thing you can think is, “Please God, let me sleep.”) And I found this great thing:


Here’s what it looks like inside:


I’m a little bonkers for coloring. Or, at least I love the idea of it, I seldom get to do it. But I try. I even set up a table so the coloring stuff would be available at a moment’s notice. When people come to my house they just love that I have a craft table set up “for the kids.” But this little journal incorporates just a little bit of coloring and a little bit of guidance with what to write. It’s the perfect helper to make that 15 minutes or so count. I really like these pens, you can write AND color with them:

5. Joe vs. The Volcano. (I told you this would be random.) I love this movie and I was having a tough day a couple days ago, so we had an emergency viewing of Joe vs. The Volcano. It was perfect. The house was a mess, the kids’ homework was shoddily done, and everyone stayed up just a little too late. But we all went to bed happier. If you have never watched it an you like quirky movies like The Princess Bride, this one is for you.

6. My reading challenge. About the only real goal I set for myself this year was a reading goal of 50 books. I’m doing pretty well so far. I’ve finished 19. You can check out my current reads on the sidebar and the books from my reading goal over on Goodreads. What are you reading? Doe have any good recommendations? I know you do!

7. Here we are, finally at number 7, what else can be said right now? Maybe I will conclude by just being very thankful that our kids’ teachers don’t give us a grade for our parenting and follow through with homework and projects for the past year. I am worn out and ready for summer. We’re almost there.

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{SQT} 2015, vol 32: Too Many Words and Other Reasons not to Blog

Too Many Words

Hey, it’s been a while! Did you think I had quit? Nope, I’m still here, just on a very unscheduled break. It is time for Momma-Hermit to come out again.

1. I’ve been in hiding  – from blogs (both writing and reading), from the phone, from facebook. I hadn’t realized how profound my silence had been until a friend called me and said, “Hey, you’ve been radio silent for a while, what’s up?” And I had to think for a minute because it hadn’t been fully intentional. I remembered that there was a world outside my own walls (and outside my own brain, for that matter), but I had been procrastinating any connection to it. Such is the downfall of an introvert in processing mode.

2. There has been a lot to process lately, though. The end result of this is that there are too many words needed to communicate. Even sitting down to write feels like an overwhelming task because it seems like it will take hours to vomit out all the words, situations, and feelings surrounding them before I have begun to make a dent. So I spiral inward. My husband and I talk through some things, but mostly just kind of look at each other wide eyed and say, “I know! Right?”

3. I’ve learned to look at it kind of like having the flu. I need a little quarantine for a while, until the toxicity has died down a bit, then I am ready to rejoin the living. Unfortunately, this is an alienating process. I have been hurt by friends who are also emotional cave dwellers. You’d think I would learn my lesson from being on the receiving end. The bridges between people fall so easily into disrepair.

4. It hasn’t really helped that I have been actually sick during a lot of this time. Between pregnancy exhaustion and the chest cold that never ends, it’s easy to put off all this people stuff until “sometime next week.” Hopefully a trip to the doctor today will help with some of that.

5. You’ll notice that I am not actually trying to get out all those “Too Many Words” right now. I’m trying to make this Quick Takes actually quick and just stick my toes back in the water. A lot of the stuff going on right now is intensely personal and doesn’t belong on a public blog, at least not yet. My other point here is to begin the process of reconnecting. It’s time to build the bridges back up. All the words will be said, when and where they need to be, but I miss people, I miss my friends.

6. So don’t be surprised if you hear from me soon. Personally. Facebook and instagram are nice enough for a funny snapshot in words or pictures of the absurdity of life. I like those moments and being able to share them. But let’s be honest and realize that it is more like shouting into a public place than really being part of a personal conversation. I challenge myself – no, I resolve – to call or email someone every day this week. Not to vent or complain, but just to connect, see how they are, and begin to build the bridges again.

7. I challenge you too. Can you do it? (I know my extroverted friends think this is no big deal.) Call or email someone you haven’t talked to in a while. See how they are doing. The dishes and laundry will wait – they always do. There is always a reason not to call. It’s a bad time, it’s a busy week, but those never go away. What do you say, are you in? Check in down in the comments and we can follow up next week.


Go see more Quick Takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum!

{SQT} vol 31 – All About the Belly

1. I suppose that if I am going to talk pregnancy this time around, I owe a belly shot. Here you go: (Excuse the dirty mirror, please.)


This is me, almost 16 weeks with number 10. It is especially fun to see first time mommies who are this big when they are due. But, so far no one has said something like, “Getting close?” because I would have to hit them. I am big enough though that people are comfortable assuming I am pregnant. Which is okay that they don’t think I’m just going overboard on the oreos.

2. Comfort Level: Overall my comfort level is pretty decent right now. The heartburn is controllable, the nausea has ebbed. I’m not big enough to waddle yet or to have my altered posture cause pain in my back. I get out of breath walking from one end of the house to the other. Forget running to answer the phone! Still, one of the non-fun parts of having a lot of babies means that my stomach muscles quit. They rip apart (I feel it when it happens, it’s like buttons popping off a shirt.) and I have to be super careful not to engage those muscles after that or I spend hours in pain. Getting up from laying down is always interesting.

3. Fluffy Mail! What happens when you donate your entire stash of bumGenius diapers to charity? (Hint: See belly shot above.) But I was able to find a nice lady to sell me her stash of various diapers for a very good price. So I’m stocked up again. It’s not that I don’t like disposable diapers, it’s just that when I have to spend $10-25 at a time one future trash I start to think, How many good books could I have bought with this money? I would rather do more laundry and have more books, even if it doesn’t always work out exactly like that.

And they are just so hopelessly cute! See? (This is just a small sample.)


What are your favorite cloth diapers?

4. I guess I should come out and say it then since the diapers made it obvious:

It's a

Which means our boys will be outnumbered 6 to 4, and that the bathroom arguments will only increase as time goes on. The two smallest girls are super excited, and 3 year old Gus really couldn’t care less. So it’s all good.

5. Name discussions are in high gear. We have narrowed it down to a list and are experimenting with those names… yelling them out into the house, seeing what rude phrases they might rhyme with or be turned into. You know how it goes. The kids are involved in the process, but not the internet or the extended family. In fact, we have decided to keep the name under wraps until the baby is actually born. It just minimizes the negative comments and the people thinking that they have a say in the matter. We realized this time that we have a pretty specific set of guidelines for our girl names. (We have a completely different set of rules for our boy names.)

  • Feminine sound, we generally don’t go for unisex names
  • Mostly soft sounds. Our other girls are Paisley, Mariposa (Posy), Therese (Tessa), Lily, and Molly. There aren’t many staccato sounds, except for at the beginnings of the names.
  • Either a short name or a name with a nickname that we like. For example, Veronica was ruled out for lack of a nickname that I could live with. Lily was almost Cecilia, except that I couldn’t stand Cece as a nickname.
  • Nothing in the top 100, and the lower down on the list of popular names the better. I broke this rule with Lily because we didn’t know any other Lilys at the time. Her name is now #15 or so and we are running into Lilys everywhere.
  • A Saint name for either the first or middle name, we are flexible on this. There has to be a first Saint for a name to be a Saint name, right?
  • Nothing that ends with /k/, although this was mostly covered with the soft sounds one, it’s worth mentioning. Since our last name starts with a hard /g/, it just makes pronunciation difficult.
  • No creative spellings.
  • Can’t be the name of my or my husband’s siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, or our children’s cousins. This eats up an awful lot of names!

I had no idea that we were this defined and picky, but as we have eliminated names, these rules have surfaced. Did you find you had any specific rules with naming your children? What were they?

6. I think I found the perfect stroller. I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself. I’m such a junkie when it comes to strollers. But this one has everything. It is lightweight, can hold a carseat when needed, (although I rarely use that feature), has a seat that can face forward and backward, reclines, has a huge canopy, (Arizona sun, you know…) and a tall seat for tired bigger kids to ride in it. The only thing this one is lacking is a bottom basket big enough for a diaper bag. This is a serious downside, but a stroller with all these features and a big enough basket adds a lot of weight and bulk to the stroller.

I present to you, the Baby Jogger Vue:

Isn’t it awesome? Here’s a video review too, just in case you love baby gear as much as I do:

7. Now I’m bored with pregnancy and baby talk (and you probably were about 5 takes ago) so let’s see, what else is going on around here? We have a nasty cough making its way around the house. It hangs on for weeks and has made me very thankful for our nebulizer and nonstop supply of asthma meds. It hasn’t made anyone really sick, it just keeps them up at night.

They are all glad that I feel well enough to occasionally cook dinner and do the laundry. Even I was starting to get sick of pizza. Nah, just kidding.

Tomorrow is my parent’s 45th wedding anniversary, so Congratulations to them and thank you for being such a great example!

That’s all for this week, go see Kelly @ This Ain’t The Lyceum for more Quick Takes!



{SQT} AKA 7 Quick Takes, the first of 2015 (For me, anyway)

Here we are, 2015. But then I already had a whole post about new year type of stuff, so I will try to keep off of that topic. Let’s see, what is going on this week?

1.  I’ve been inching my way through an amazing book. Seriously, by the time the 4th friend of mine recommended this one to me, I knew it was time to pick it up. And I have not been disappointed. Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us is a teeny tiny book, packed with so much, I have been reading 1-2 pages a day and just stopping to journal a little, take some notes, and process it.

into your hands

It has pointed out to me (one more time) that I am still the same self-absorbed control freak, but instead of just making me feel bad and “decide to change” (with no idea how or what exactly to do about it) this book gives such a simple and beautiful way of looking at things. It is a complete change of paradigm from what I am used to. For now, at least it is sinking in and helping to transform my thinking. My favorite quote so far is this:

There is no need to distinguish carefully between what God Positively wills and what He merely permits. What He permits is also a part of His universal, all-embracing will. He has foreseen it from the beginning and decided how He will use it. Everything that happens has a purpose in God’s plan. He is so good that all that comes in contact with Him becomes in some way good. (p. 17)

Oh and one more I just can’t not share with you:

We often flee from the concrete, apparently banal reality that is filled with God’s presence to an artificial existence that corresponds to our own ideas of piety and holiness but where God is not present. (p. 24)

I am so good at fleeing from banal reality. It’s a special talent of mine, really. Dishes and laundry? Pushing a child on a swing? Those aren’t very holy or full of the presence of God, right? But this is the reality that God chose or allowed for me, and He means to use it for my good. Even the boring parts. They are not obstacles on the path to God, but the very path itself. More on this in #5.

2. And on the subject of trying harder to control my attitudes, I’ve been reading A Little Princess to my 7 year old daughter.


I know it is fiction and the characters aren’t real, but I am learning a fair bit about self control and thankfulness from little Sara Crewe. Here is an example:

She was so far away from the school room that it was not agreeable to be dragged back suddenly by a howl from Lottie. Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book. People who are fond of books know the feeling of irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment. The temptation to be unreasonable and snappish is not an easy one to manage.

“It makes me feel as if someone had hit me,” Sara had told Ermengarde once in confidence. “And as if I want to hit back. I have to remember things quickly to keep from saying something ill-tempered.” (from Chapter 6)

Uh. Guilty as charged. A few moments before I read this passage, Gus (age 3) had jumped on my bed and fell on my legs. It hurt, but not that bad. I responded in an ill-tempered manner, I’m afraid. Snapping at him to get off my bed and go out of my room.

I have a thing or two to learn from fictional British nine year olds.

3. A Little Bit of Bravery: Molly, age 5 has a natural fear of dogs. I don’t think one has ever done anything bad to her, other than the fact that some dogs are bigger than she is. I have seen other kids who are scared of certain animals, and they just try to stay away from them as much as possible. Not Molly! She is determined to like dogs anyway. I’ve seen her in one situation trying to get to know a dog, one who particularly liked to lick. Molly had her eyes closed and her body tense and was saying to herself over and over, “Licking means kissing, licking means kissing!”

Lily also did a brave thing the other day. When a classmate challenged her to jump off the monkey bars, she told her, “No, I don’t think that is safe.” I think it takes some guts to not be pushed into doing something like that on the playground. But then it probably helps to grow up in a house with a lot of older siblings who would trick a gullible younger sibling into doing something stupid. Except that never happens at our house. Oh no!

4.  The Complainy Take: I buried this one in the middle so that it wouldn’t set the tone for the list, and so that maybe you would forget about it by the time you got to the end of the list. But I am pregnant,and kind of old, and I’ve done this a lot of times, so I get to indulge in a little complaining sometimes. Bullet form for brevity.

  • I am so tired of being tired. I load half the dishwasher and have to go sit down and rest for a while.
  • Nausea. Blech. I have only thrown up once though, which is some kind of a record for me. (I had hyperemesis my first 6 pregnancies.) But, the one time I threw up was in public, on a school sidewalk, and the office was closed, so I just had to leave it there. I’m sorry. I really don’t know what the etiquette is for that kind of situation. Then I had to go back inside and let my kids finish gymnastic with throw up on my shirt. Aren’t you glad you know that about me?
  • New fun this time. Apparently my thyroid is freaking out, causing me to constantly shake and feel out of breath. And it makes me extra tired.
  • I tried to wean off my nausea meds, and quickly found that I am not ready for that step. All hail the Unisom/B6 combo!
  • Chocolate makes me sick to my stomach. People who know me well will understand the tragedy here.

5. Books I am not reading this year. Before I found out I was pregnant, I had big plans for the coming year. I was going to own my life, be a real writer, get my act together with my etsy shop, and even have a clean house, which would be eventually decluttered. I was going to be involved at school, and in the kids’ activities. I was going to do all the things, because it is amazing what you can get done when you consistently get enough sleep, right? I had a whole list of books to help me achieve this: Start, Who Moved my Cheese, Eat That Frog, The Happiness of Pursuit, and many more were on my little list. I was not going to let that banal mothering-housewifing stuff get in my way anymore. I was going to do real things, things I could talk about at a party with other adults, even ones who didn’t have kids. (Now go back and read that second quote from take #1, I’ll wait.)

But, as usual, God had other plans. So this year, I am not going to read those kinds of books at all. No Selfie-self-self improvement books. (Even though in a moment of weakness I still checked one out from the library.) My focus is shifting back to the banal, not only because I have to, but because I choose this. If I had my pick of a lot of different things, I would still choose this. (Though I might ask for a few more breaks.) And God agreed and chose it for me. This goes perfectly with my Word of the Year: Lean In.

6. Pei Wei and Other Magic Foods. If you are pregnant and in the middle of morning sickness, read this take at your own risk. I know how dangerous it can be to have food suggested to you when you feel bad. My husband has learned this lesson well.

My go-to, lifesaving foods this time around have been Pei Wei’s Honey Seared Chicken, with extra sauce AND hot mustard. Really, it is just a method for eating the hot mustard. For and extra bonus, I can order it online and send one of my kids-who-drive to pick it up for me, with strict instructions to not come home without the hot mustard. Because that will make me cry. I am also addicted to Honeycrisp apples, which are magic nausea killers this time around, but my kids keep eating them all. Sometimes I have a little glass of chocolate milk just to carry me through the nausea so I can eat something real.

7. Ben is going on his Kairos retreat this weekend. It is a Catholic retreat for kids who are juniors and seniors in high school. It can be a life changer. Please pray for Ben!

Now that I have dragged you all over my addled brain, take a trip over to This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes!




7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 29: Field Trips, Friends, and a Strange Source of Peace

1. Halloween – So, last Friday was Halloween and I promised pics. The kids were adorable, as always.

Gus as Jake (Neverland Pirates) and Max as a Doctor

Gus as Jake (Neverland Pirates) and Max as a Doctor

Lily as Aurora (who was maybe in a bar brawl?) And Molly as a ballerina.

Lily as Aurora (who was maybe in a bar brawl? Look at all those teeth missing!) And Molly as a ballerina.

I’d just like to note that we have about a hundred different costumes that we have accumulated over the years. Molly chose to wear last year’s swimsuit and a tutu she has had since she was two. But she was happy and loved it.

We went to our old neighborhood to trick or treat, because we promised the old neighbors that we would. There were less houses handing out candy this year, but we still got WAY too much.

Then there is this guy who puts his fancy telescope out on his driveway every Halloween and they hand out candy and let the kids and parents look at the moon through it. It was breathtaking.

I even dressed up a little bit. Some cat ears and a tail. A few whiskers drawn on.And then my husband decided to dress up as a rooster. That was HIS innuendo, not mine.


Then my daughter Paisley, the make-up artist, did Spider-man make-up on herself. Just look at this picture! That is NOT a mask!


2. My daughter has a best friend. I miss those days… We moved into a house with kids on both sides of us. There are two boys the same as one of my sons and one girl – just like my 12 year old. They have become attached at the hip. It’ is really adorable. They text each other over every little thing, make little posters about being BFFs and have lots and lots of inside jokes.

This is the part of being grown up I hate. Not having someone to call to obsess over completely insignificant problems with. Not being able to spend hours watching movies and painting fingernails and doing hair. Not going shopping and making fun of ridiculous styles in the stores.

It is that ability to talk about absolutely nothing – that paves the way for talking about those deep and real somethings.

I read recently that there are three conditions that are needed for friendship to truly bloom: proximity, repeated unplanned interaction, and a setting which encourages people to confide in each other.

This is why friendships are so easy as children and so dang hard as adults.

3. How long can I put off grocery shopping? I am between Costco memberships. (Long story…) It strikes fear into my heart. I have been doing about 75% of my shopping at Costco for the past few months, supplementing little things from Safeway or Target when I couldn’t get them at Costco. Time is of the essence these days. But now we are out of bread, bagels, milk, cheese and a bunch of other things. I’m going to have to go shopping somewhere else. Like real, big, two carts shopping. I will have to go sometime before Monday, or I won’t be able to make 5 lunches at 6am. It’s hard enough when there is food in the house. UPDATE: I have a Costco card again! Thank you, Jay!

4. Field trips! I accompanied two field trips this week as each of my two youngest children when to a farm with their classes. Two field trips, two days in a row, one tired momma. It was very nice to get out of the house and do something with each of them, even if it meant being in a large crowd of very loud children. Don’t you live in one of those? you wonder. Not really. My kids have learned my low tolerance for chaos. They also can follow simple directions like, for example, don’t step on the carrots. Some of the adults in the group couldn’t even follow directions that complicated. Sorry, end of vent. I got some super cute pictures! (Duh!)



Which brings me to my next take…

5. Why can’t I be a stay at HOME mom? I can’t get anything done because I’m a stay in the car mom. I had a whole morning this week, it was a day when I had miraculously gotten adequate sleep and also didn’t have to run anywhere for three straight hours. Do you know what I did?

I kicked butt on this house!

If I had this time on a regular basis (and the regular sleep to match) I would be unstoppable! I could get the things done. It was enough to show me that I am not behind completely  of my own fault. While I have a certain amount of work to do, I don’t have the uninterrupted time to attack it.

I know. My mothering and being a wife is WAY more important. I totally get that. The problem is that doesn’t make the rest of it go away. The “rest of it” that slowly chips away at my consciousness because that is white carpet in there, people. It isn’t going to clean itself! And I am going to have to cook for these top priority people in my life in that kitchen that just made me go put shoes on because the floor was so gross. I have to bathe these precious ones of mine in a tub that really shouldn’t have nearly that much mildew growing in it. And the car shouldn’t smell like that. It just shouldn’t.

So the work is part of my love and care for these people who are more important. Making this work a priority is not necessarily stealing that part of myself from my family.

Part of this Take is about being overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, from caring for my family,  carting them around, and feeding them to cleaning up our home and being a good steward of our possessions. The other part of this is in reaction to a slew of pithy little guilt-milking articles about how if you really love your children then you will set aside the dirty dishes and go read them a book, in a park, with a fully packed whole food picnic. Or something like that. (Which, I would like to point out, couldn’t be done without clean dishes.)

It can’t be one or the other. It has to be Both-And. And I still don’t know how to do that consistently.

6. So obviously you will be noticing that we are in survival mode. Yes, when a kid comes home from school and points out that they need a uniform sweater and it is that one more thing that pushes you over the edge and makes you cry, you are in survival mode. And then the holidays are creeping up? Here is how I feel about that:


And I know I need to pull myself together and fix my attitude. Maybe I will go for a run…

7. Which reminds me, I had the craziest thing happen to me the other day. I was having some dental work done, and it hurt. I was all numbed up, but I was really tense and feeling a lot of anxiety. It was just profoundly uncomfortable. I was closing my eyes and breathing deeply. I tried to imagine a place that was calming and brought me peace. Do you know what came to my mind?


I spent several minutes just concentrating on running before I realized that this was me, the nonathletic, last picked in P.E. one, finding solace in my morning run. On top of that, I was specifically concentrating on a particularly hard part of the run I do in the mornings.

I just thought it was amazingly cool that running has become not just an exercise but also a source of peace and mental health. That was a really good feeling.

I hope you have a great weekend! Go see Jen @ Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 28: A Joke and an Upgrade

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

1. Gus loves knock knock jokes. He spent about 6 months telling totally nonsensical jokes just using the knock knock joke pattern. But he finally understands how it works, or at least knows enough actual jokes to make it look like he does. Here is my favorite:

Gus: Knock Knock
Me: Who’s there?
Gus: Megan
Me: Megan who?
Gus: Megan end to these knock knock jokes or I’ll knock knock you!

2. So it’s Halloween and I guess I ought to say something about costumes. We have this giant box of costumes that we have accumulated over the years. The kids are allowed full access to it through the month of October. For that entire month, it looks like a laundromat exploded in my house. The kids have a ball, sure, but I am so happy we will be going back to only normal mess. Then I have a whole month before they start dragging Christmas decorations all over the house. I might have some cute pictures to post if I remember to take my camera. (Or bother with my phone…)

3. I started making this one about our high school’s homecoming, but other than being annoyed that it is on Halloween, I’m too tired to remember why I was going to write about this. Too tired. I’ve been too tired and too stressed too much lately and I’m starting to fall apart. But this week I stumbled across a miracle cure. I couldn’t even believe that it had never occurred to me to try this. It’s so cool, you are going to want to try it too. It’s…

getting more sleep.

I know, I know, right? This should have been obvious. But when momentum just keeps carrying you right past bedtime, it actually takes more energy to go to bed than to just ride the momentum through the evening.

Two times over the last week I got more than 7 hours of sleep in a night and noticed that I was a completely normal person the following day. Well, not completely normal, who wants that? But I had a functional brain and didn’t feel like I was constantly facing imminent doom. I didn’t even cry when I dropped a jar of salsa while making dinner. (Not that I love salsa that much, but it is just that one more thing.)

So I stand (sitting, really) here before God and the internet to state that my entire fitness goal for November is to get more than 7 hours of sleep as many days as I possibly can. Bonus points for 7.5.

4. House update. The house is finally back on the market, just in time for the market to completely die out for the holidays. I have lots of swear words about this one. But, um, it’s making me pray more, so there’s that. And before I figured out that I could get more sleep it was making me cry more. But now I’m normal enough to put on eye makeup, relatively confident that it won’t drip down my face. Trust me when I say that with the drainage system my husband put in place, flooding shouldn’t ever be a problem in that house again. (Unless it is another one of those storms that floods half the city. Then all bets are off.)

5. A couple weeks ago we joined the 21st century and got a real TV. Okay, my dad gave us his old TV and a stand for it. So now the kids don’t have to watch their obnoxious shows while crowded around a kindle or sitting on dining room chairs around the computer. It even has an antenna so my husband can watch the occasional sportsy thing in his own home. We still don’t have cable, and don’t really have regular shows we watch, so it hasn’t yet become a time eater, and I hope it stays that way. My kids are too lazy to figure out how to log into the roku or xbox and stream video without someone doing it for them, so we still have some control. I have to confess, I really like it.

6. We have a dryer! I’m kind of excited.

I went for three full months, with nine people in the house, with no dryer. Yes, first world problems, I know some people don’t even have clothes to wash. But please! Let me just be super happy that one thing in my life just got a lot easier.

7. That’s all folks! Have a great weekend, Enjoy your Halloween, go to mass twice, and do something nice like take a nap.

Oh, and check out more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!