Coming Out of Hibernation

I guess you could say my mama bear instincts kicked up in the late fall, around which time I started realizing that far too many minutes of my time were being poured into big or little screens, scrolling through other people’s lives. So I essentially went into a social media hibernation, deleting all social media from my phone and winnowing down the blogs I read to a handful, which I subscribed to by email (is that old school now?) and deleted my blog reader app, which had essentially become another iteration of Infinite Scroll. That also meant that this space went into a deep hibernation, too, and I pretty much have zero regrets.

It’s been a really good, stretching time for me. The self-knowledge that the internet is way, way too distracting and that the temptation to escape the trials of the day is strong, was hugely valuable. I needed to declutter my mind and soul (well, still do). I really think moms living in our technological age actually have a much more difficult time being present to our families than in past generations, while at the same time being more isolated at home. Texting and commenting on Instagram are not the backbone of real friendships! While it is nice to know you can be connected to friends who don’t live close by, there’s a real temptation (especially for introverts with a passel of tiny people who can’t put on their shoes or buckle themselves in the car) to just keep it all there and not actually, you know, ever see anyone else outside your four walls.

And beyond connecting with other people, the most disheartening realization was that I was wasting away valuable and precious time with these children, while the time of their childhood races by. I intend NOT to miss it, and thus, the major step back from technology (Jenny is being way more hard-core about it and I think she is awesome!! I definitely have a long way to go still).

It turns out that real life gives you plenty to do, particularly when the baby grows into a 9-month-old who starts walking and then climbing stairs and then proceeding to become our most destruction-prone toddler yet, leaving a trail of terror crazy messes in her wake. (The list of behaviors we haven’t had to deal with till Maeve and temporary solutions to them is getting longer each day: extra gates for stairs, magnetic locks for all the cupboards, wishing there were lock solutions for all dresser drawers, moving all accessible books off of our already maxed-out bookshelf [the 3 now-empty shelves are such a sad waste!], looking into a toilet lock, looking into a freezer door lock, and considering ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones :P). Whew!

Messes by Maeve^^ (that last one she was able to enact in about 35 seconds!)

But life here isn’t all damage control, all the time (despite what it feels like to us!). I’ve found it really encouraging to notice how my taste and desire to read more has actually increased dramatically when I started taking social media (and screen time in general) off the table more. This, coupled with a really lovely arrangement we began at the beginning of the new year in which Tom insists* that I take the first half hour or so when all the kids are asleep to sit on the couch and finally pray/read/recharge, is for sure making me a better, more sane, more human person. (And in addition to reading, I’ve been loving listening to anything read by Karen Savage on Librivox (well, specifically her L.M. Montgomery and Austen collections– I got through Anne’s House of Dreams and Kilmeny of the Orchard in record time, and Mansfield Park, and currently Persuasion.).

 *This is something I think he’s been trying to have me do for…a long time. I’m just really stubborn and decided to wait till my sanity was nearly expended before realizing he was obviously right and graciously accepting his amazing offer of cleaning the kitchen whilst I pursued leisure. Pro tip: marry up!

And when I do take to the Internet, I’m trying to be a bit more careful about what I am taking in, things that will be nourishing and inspiring in my state of life, and not so much the kinds of things that just make me anxious or angry. There’s a time and place for debate and healthy disagreement (and depressing news), but the Internet just really makes a person wade through sooo much muck before getting to anything good.  So the last couple months I’ve been diving into all things education. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me; I was a teacher all the years before having kids (indeed, up to less than 24 hours before Lucy was born!). I love teaching, and education, and exploring what it means and why it matters to learn. Both the practical and the philosophical aspects. We are planning to homeschool the girls (and I say “we” purposefully because these girls happened to get two teachers for parents! Either blessed or cursed, time will tell! ;)) It’s been a real joy and hugely interesting for me, though not without plenty of, “GAHHH why was NONE of this extremely valuable information made available to me when I was going through ‘teacher education’ in college?!” moments. I’ll find myself nodding and agreeing to what I read or hear and then think about all the ways these principles or practices could have been used in my classrooms with my students.  I’m just really glad I am finding out these things now before we actually begin “formal” schooling with the girls (and much to my delight, it’s becoming very clear that we really do not need to begin anything formal until Lucy is six, so we’ve got plenty of time to let them be little!). More on all this later, I’m sure.

 

Oh, and if you’re wondering what I look like these days…(minus the peaceful gaze)



Motherhood
 Mary Stevenson Cassatt

(Mary Cassatt, normalizing breastfeeding before that was a hashtag!)

But for real, here we are in our yearly Fancy Garb. 

Hopefully, I’ll be back soon with normal updates of what we’re doing, reading, watching, and all that. No guarantees that it will be anything like regular posting, but for now, it’s nice to be back at long last!

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7 Books I’ve Read in the Past 7 Months

Despite the fact that I haven’t written about books since before Maeve was born, I have been reading since then! There was that lovely period of time right after she was born when I stayed in bed for awhile and Tom was home, so I got to read a lot while nursing/holding a sleepy newborn. Then followed some stretches of fussy baby waking up to the world, and far less reading, and then a bit of a crazy spring /summer, during which I was supposed to read Brothers K for book club (still working on it- halfway there!). But I’m confident that I’ll finally be able to get a lot more reading in, primarily because we moved Maeve’s crib into the nursery. So no more tiptoeing in the dark to get ready for bed, and worrying that every whisper and creak will wake her up, much less turning on a light.

Anyway, of the books I read, there were some hidden gems, some that were just ok, and a couple I won’t be rereading!

(All links are Amazon affiliate!)

7-books

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Where has this hidden gem been all my L.M.M.-obssessed girlhood??! This is a such a different story! Her heroine starts off as just the most awful, pitiful, mousy character, and her transformation is glorious. L.M. Montgomery shines, as she always does, in painting vivid characters, hysterical caricatures, fun plot twists, and glowing descriptions of a place that sounds heavenly. I started this shortly before having Maeve and finished it the night we brought her home. I highly recommend it, especially if you were a fangirl of Anne, Emily, Jane, Pat, and any other L.M. Montgomery series. Since the main character is just a bit older (late 20s) than most of Montgomery’s female protagonists, it especially makes great reading for a grown-up Anne fan.

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

Willa Cather strikes again! This book is long-ish, but I had a lot of nursing sessions in late February through March! 😉 I particularly found it interesting because the main character is a plucky young girl from middle-of-nowhere Colorado who has an extraordinary singing voice and sets off to conquer the world of opera. Cather evidently did a lot of research for this one into the world of music, vocal performance, opera, etc. I really enjoyed the character development and Cather’s gift of making the settings come to life.

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

I read this towards the end of college, and I remember being really struck and impressed by it and wanting Tom to read it as well. So Tom and I picked it up as our next read aloud during the winter and early spring. As you might guess from the title, it’s about an adulterous affair that has recently ended. The narrator is the man who carries on the affair, and the book moves back and forth between his memories/retelling of the entire affair; his present day depression since his lover, Sarah, has died; and Sarah’s journals that he is reading.

Let me just say that I had forgotten the intensity of this story! It explores deep and heavy issues, but it’s ultimately the story of Sarah’s response to a Greater Love than what she thinks she has with Maurice. That said, it was a much more difficult read as a married person and Greene does have some rather explicit descriptions of the affair. So it’s gritty at times, but Greene also does a really amazing job of diving into the emotions and thought processes of people who are hurting, searching, and ultimately seeking fulfillment in God. I still highly recommend it, though it isn’t exactly light and uplifting!

(Also, quick caveat: NEVER EVER watch the movie with Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes. It is complete trash and misses the entire point of the book. Ugh).

Helena by Evelyn Waugh

Ah, Waugh. Such a funny, witty, smart, and engaging writer. This is a short little novel, following St. Helen’s life and journey to find the Cross of Christ. He really does such a fun job showcasing the absurdity of so many key players and events in the Roman Empire at the time with lots of tongue-in-cheek dialogue, in a really British way. Also, he wrote that this book was his own favorite of all his works, so if you love Brideshead, you need to read this one.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

This one I actually read in like, 9th grade, and promptly forgot it in its entirety. Upon re-reading it for summer book club, I’m not at all surprised. I mean, it’s Hardy. So yeah. It still was a bit ponderous to get through, even now. It was pretty good, though, once I got through all the sheep-herding explanations and demonstrations. I’m not a huge Hardy fan, but this is definitely better than his others. And then we watched the recent film adaptation with Carey Mulligan, and it was really well done: super faithful to the book, beautifully shot, and superbly acted. Bottom line: just watch it. You’ll get the story and skip all his Victorian rambling.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I never would’ve picked this up had it not been for book club. I’m really, really not a fan of Romantic writers. This story was just so not my thing, and the writing style irked the heck out of me: framing devices within framing devices within framing devices (yeah, you’re confused, right?!), overly flowery language, moralizing, etc. No thanks! That’s about all I’ve got for this one, sorry…

A Room With a View by E.M Forster

I’m no great Forster fan either but this was for summer book club. It was ok, but Forster is clearly trying to push his ideology of progress and Romanticism: good! and tradition and moral values: bad! So that was annoying. But his characters were really funny and well done, and the lush Florentine backdrop is a pleasure to take in.

Whew, well, that’s that for the late winter/spring/summer! I’ve got some good stuff waiting in the wings, but would love any additional recommendations you can throw my way!

Linking up with Queen Kelly for Seven Quick Takes!

End of Summer Quick Takes

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Wow, I really lost my blogging mojo for, oh, about a month there. Oops! In my defense, that month contained:

  • Tom’s last week of the grad school semester
  • Our 4th anniversary
  • A big road trip up to Vermont with my parents and the girls, for a week-long Smith fam reunion
  • Recovery from said trip
  • A crazy hot heat wave
  • Potty training Lucy
  • Somewhat-sleep training Maeve
  • Selling our Pilot, buying an Odyssey
  • Staycation adventures with Tom during his time before school starts
  • Home projects, trying to keep the house clean, actual cooking now that my sous-chef/child-wrangler is home in the evenings again!

So not much time left for tapping out updates or thoughts or book reviews or anything of that sort. But a good, full, stretching-ourselves-in-a-good-way type of busy!

 

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Fuzzy, cheese-y mornings #allthejammies #allthechins

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I’m starting to plan out what I hope our fall “routines” and daily “schedule” will look like (fully realizing that both terms are used very loosely!). But Lucy definitely needs a little more structure to her day to avoid boredom and serious acting out/torturing sisters/destroying property. I realize now why people send off 3-5 year olds to preschools. So we’re just going to improvise here at home.

She loves all kinds of fine-motor and crafty type activities, so I just got  this book for us, and will eventually stock up on the very basics: glue, safety scissors, good quality watercolors, finger paints, homemade play dough, etc, to make it happen. I am woefully un-crafty, but I think I can handle this level, where the kids don’t really care what it is, so much that it is. Art/fine-motor– check!

This adorable book will be fun to go through with the girls, and Tom takes them to local nature centers several times a month. Nature study/science– check!

Lucy also really likes alphabet-related activities so I may start doing some of these with her. Pre-reading/religion– check!

We dug up some old-school Wee Sing books from my parents’ (i.e. from my childhood) and Lena and Lucy both LOVE going through and singing the songs and doing the finger plays. We’re compiling a classical faves playlist and Lucy likes to listen to it for the approx 3 minutes she lays on the couch for quiet time, if she isn’t listening to audio books.  Music– check!

Any ideas for good quality children’s lives of the saints and Bible stories? I’m looking for something with good prose and beautiful illustrations to read aloud to the girls every day (no dumbed down text and no ugly cartoons!). Help!

We’ll continue, as always, to read a plethora of books, and Lucy will probably be happy to take on some more memory work from Children’s Garden of Verses (we have this one, and it’s beautiful), Mother Goose (we have this one which I loved as a kid), and The Harp and Laurel Wreath.

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Perhaps we’re being overly optimistic, but starting Sunday we’re going through 30 Days Grain Free.  I did a zero-grain protocol for about 3 months 5 years ago, and it did wonders for my health, so I’m hoping for similar results, as well as building better snacking habits. Tom’s also going to be starting this, kind of in tandem, so…yeah…pray for us!

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I just signed up for the Mid-Atlantic Catholic Women’s Blogging Network Conference. I loved it last year, and can’t wait to get out to beautiful Front Royal for this year’s! Definitely check it out if you’re a local blogger.

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Links!

The Weeds and Wheat in Children’s Literature

Yes, yes, yes! I always hated hearing, “But at least they’re reading!” as a teacher when the content was absolute drivel!!

I instantly knew which school the author here was referring to– my dear husband’s alma mater! He always lamented about the phenomenon she’s talking about, and it happened with fair regularity at my alma mater as well.

I’m curious about whether or not the upcoming Netflix original about the current royal family, The Crown, will be any good. I like Clare Foy from Little Dorrit and several other BBC things, so we shall see!

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Photos!

 

 

Lena's baptism day celebration

Lena’s baptism day celebration

A series of selfies and shots that the girls are constantly taking on my pilfered phone…

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And this cutie just turned SIX MONTHS … and is CRAWLING all over!

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Have a fun weekend and stay cool!

Linking up with Kelly!

2016 Reading List

2016 Reading List

I’m kind of excited to have a list already laid out for myself so that when I finish one book I won’t go for days and weeks wondering, “Ugh, what can I read next?!” as I typically do. Now it’s all here and hopefully, I can get it all done!

Book Club:

Postpartum/Other Fiction:

(Mostly lighter stuff that I can read while nursing, and some I may listen to on Librivox).

Fiction Read-Alouds with Tom:

As you can tell, I really love Greene and am super excited to reread these with Tom (who hasn’t read them yet).

Spiritual:

Non-Fiction:

What are you reading this year? I’m always up for recommendations!

(Disclosure: the links here are affiliate, meaning if you click through them and purchase anything on Amazon, I will get a couple cents at no charge to you!)

Around the Interwebs

So, occasionally I’m able to finish an article, essay, or blog post before my iPad is lifted by the resident toddler/klepto. I’m a sucker for other people’s lists of interesting, engaging, funny, weird, inspiring, and so on links, so I thought I’d share a few of the ones I’ve come across lately!

  • This one’s more of a PSA for anyone to whom I’ve ever given cloth diapering advice: I AM SORRY, I WAS DOING IT ALL WRONG!! Really. Go to Fluff Love University (and its companion Facebook group, where amazing cloth diapering gurus will promptly help you solve your dilemmas) and follow their advice instead! Who knew there was so much science behind those fluffy waste receptacles.
  • I thought this little video about the youngest priest in Baton Rouge was both funny and inspiring. He’s my age, and I loved hearing about his gradual conversion from checked-out adolescent, to reluctant young 20-something, to priest, who raps to evangelize:

“I would just go to the Adoration chapel every day, for hours and hours. Go to parties, leave the parties, and go be with Jesus. Go on dates, leave the dates, and go be with Jesus.”

  • This article from Verily Magazine, about not having strippers or other distasteful practices at bachelorette parties was spot-on: 

“I suppose it is all intended as good fun, but there is something a little gross about involving a stranger’s nudity in          a celebration that is supposed to preface a wedding.”

  • If you use essential oils at all, I recommend this article, as well as the website she links to at the bottom. Good info about why you should not ingest oils and on being cautious with their use, especially around children.

 “Misquotable or not, Pope Francis is our Pope. He’s our father. He’s also a figure of contradiction and amusement and confusion and excitement and all the other adjectives for the rest of the world, looking on in wonder/disgust/mild curiosity. So yes, he will be in the news. And yes, all the things he says will be analyzed and dissected and translated and represented to you, the consumer, to ingest. But it’s your responsibility to monitor the quality.”

“All in all, Franciscan’s study abroad program offers an intimate setting, excellent education, and life-changing experience.” 

That’s all I have time for; someone is chattering away in her post-nap prison and occasionally shrieking, so I’ve got to go!