Summer Miscellany

Where has June gone??! I have no idea how the weeks pass so swiftly, even while they feel long at some points during the day (cough, *witching hour*, cough). Brain and photo dump beginning now!

-Maeve-

This girl is giving us a run for our money in terms or her (lack of) sleeping habits, VOLUME, energy, etc. I’m thinking she may be 100% choleric, although she does have high highs and low lows, so maybe some sanguine (but she’s extremely difficult to distract, so I don’t know).

I’m trying to gradually wean her, since she is….well, a bit demanding. I gave her a bottle of cow’s milk last week in desperation and she actually took to it pretty well and will accept it as a nursing substitute about half the time.

She’s learning a few more words, (the girls’ names, most notably) but still mainly gets her desires across through a bizarre mixture of screaming, signing, and gesticulating. And, given her tendency of the last 6 weeks or so of waking up at 5:20ish and only napping an hour and 10 minutes a day, there’s been a lot of almost falling or totally falling asleep wherever she’s sitting.

 

 

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(1000% cuter when asleep :))

Still, she is so funny and absolutely filled to the brim with zest for life, and (when not screaming or clawing at me) she gives the absolute BEST hugs I’ve ever experienced, as she wraps her tiny arms as tightly as she can around my neck and lays her head on my shoulder.

-BREAD-

If you don’t LOVE bread (and if you don’t, you may be crazy, or you just may not have eaten GOOD bread and you need to fix that!) then this point will bore you. While I have been baking sourdough on and off and tweaking things for the past 4 years, it’s never been a super predictable rhythm, considering the care and long wait times between starter feeding and finished loaf. I recently tried this recipe from the always reliable King Arthur Flour website. It was SO easy and tasted absolutely delicious, even compared with our different iterations of sourdough loaves. We ate the first loaf in less than 24 hours, and the second in the same time frame. Then I decided to look into the baking phenomenon which inspired the recipe, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I love the health benefits and timeless nostalgia of sourdough, so I think I will try to keep my starter alive (going strong since 2014….I should probably name it!) and bake a traditional sourdough loaf a couple times a month. But, I’m very taken by the Bread in Five movement, and I’m excited to give it a try and see if it helps get us more homemade bread more easily (and the cookbook, which I got from the library has a ton of recipes I’m itching to try). Long live bread!

-In the Garden-

This is the first year we’ve ever seen bunnies in the yard/neighborhood. Our neighbors, who’ve lived here for about 60 years, tell us they never have until this year either! We are all obsessed with sighting them pretty much daily. There seem to be three, and one is a really tiny, adorable baby (well, probably more like adolescent). They love our weed-filled lawn and must live somewhere in our bushes or the neighbors.

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Garden-wise, we’re getting more cukes than we can eat, the green beans are starting to come in nicely, we have a couple heads of cauliflower left (blanching them by tying the leaves up over the heads solved the pest problem), cosmos and zinnias (but our fancy flower seeds are either struggling and/or got eaten by the birds, so sad!) and the zucchini is being really, really weird:

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It looks like a zucchini-pumpkin hybrid. And despite the nearly 6 feet of zucchini plant we have, this is the only fruit we’ve gotten! The rest of the flowers are all male, and we have no idea why it isn’t producing female flowers. Probably the lesson here is: throw your really old seeds away and use new ones, unless you want some crazy plants!

-Family Fun-

Lucy celebrated the 4th anniversary of her Baptism! Traditional celebrational skillet cookie cake.

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A visit from my very dear high school friend, Beth!

Who also tried really hard to get a family photo of all five of us! Haha!

-Reading-

Whenever I’m not dashing after Maeve as she careens into the road or down the sidewalk, I try to have a book outside with me.

Father Brown: The Essential Tales by G.K. Chesterton — these are fun, short little mysteries, the perfect thing to pick up and read a mystery or two if you have to read in snatches like I do. I actually don’t usually love the mystery genre (I could never really get into Agatha Christie or the like), but these are so very Chestertonian and their brevity makes them very satisfying.

Cymbeline by Shakespeare– I basically forced Tom to take the Shakespeare course offered as an option this summer so I could read along and glean from his insights/discussions. It’s taking me way longer, of course; he’s already about to start the third play (they finished A Winter’s Tale, and will read The Tempest next). I like all the footnotes and explanations in the Oxford editions since it makes everything much more accessible to read on one’s own.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck– I just started this for our summer book club. Gripping so far, and everything about peasant life in China is very fascinating and very foreign!

33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley– Since my absolute favorite spiritual book is I Believe in Love, I figured I would like this book, and I do! It doesn’t have the same soul-feeding poetic beauty as I Believe in Love (i.e. his writing is just so-so and not all that inspiring), but the ideas, which of course are not his own, are still profound and beautiful. I recommend it if you have any devotion to St. Therese, Divine Mercy, and/or St. Faustina. (But then go read IBIL, because it’s solid gold).

-Listening-

A couple podcasts I’ve enjoyed recently:

“Enjoying Your Toddler” from Messy Parenting-– this had a lot of helpful little reminders and hints about living la vida toddler. (This podcast is one of our favorites for its Catholic marriage/parenting/family life advice!)

“Aristotle’s 3 Types of Friendship” from Pints with Aquinas— we’ve been talking about friendship lately, what it is, how to make/keep/be friends, and how friendships wane or wax through the years. This was a helpful explanation of Aristotle’s 3 levels of friendship (utility, pleasure, virtue) and it makes you think twice about the way you interact with people! (And many more of these podcasts episodes are great too; check out the archives).

Also related to friendship, specifically as a mom: “Nell on Friendship “from Just One Small Thing— all about why having other mom friends is crucial and how to make/be a good one!

-Looking Forward To…-

  • Lena’s third birthday next week! This girl has been plotting and planning her special day since about March! She has requested a chocolate, pink-frosted kitty cat cake. NO PRESSURE! I actually did find a very do-able, even for craft-allergic me, template, so let’s hope I can make her wildest dreams come true.
  • Solo trip up to Boston for my cousin’s wedding! This will be the longest I’ve ever left all 3 girls, and as Lucy would say, “Maeve is a big fan of you, Mom!” I’m just praying out of sight, out of mind will last for 36 hours. (Pray for Tom!) But, I’m really excited to a) have a quiet hour on the plane, b) sleep in a hotel, c) sleep in, and d) catch up with all my dad’s side of the family/see a dear cousin get married, at what is sure to be the swankiest wedding,!

(Linking up, late, with Kelly and the other Quick-Takers!)

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Babymooning Like Pros

We snuck away last weekend for a little 24 hour babymoon. If you can, you should really always try to do a little getaway without kids, before the next is born. It’s so refreshing to get ready in the morning without worrying about diapers and strapping little shoes. It’s also nice to drive around (or even get lost) without risking the wrath of car-seat-bound toddlers. We’re now pros at babymooning. The first time was a 2-day whirlwind NYC trip, from which we returned to no kids, so the whole idea is laughable, now. The second time was a countryside wine/B&B escape, pretty much the epitome of relaxation.

For this auspicious third baby, we chose to explore Baltimore, which is only about an hour away, and filled with numerous free places and activities. We were planning to come home late and spend the night at home, but then my sister-in-law’s very generous parents gave us a free hotel night on their points. Soooo nice. And in case you ever find yourself in Charm City, here’s what we did in roughly 24 hours:

  • We intended to spend about 2 hours in the Walters Art Museum, which has one of the biggest Ancient artifacts exhibit in the country, BUT it was closed just for that day for a gala set-up. Of course. We were pretty bummed, but I guess it gave us more time to see other things slowly. So we visited the first Cathedral in America, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is filled with early Catholic American historical significance. And it was beautifully remodeled on its 200th anniversary a few years ago.

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  • Explored the downtown area of Baltimore, where the annual half/full marathon was going on, the very one I ran five years ago. I was definitely glad to be on the other side of the sidewalk, especially since just walking for long periods made my round ligaments ache like craaaaazy. We did walk about 8 miles over the course of the day to my credit, which is about 7 miles more than my daily quota.
  • Got lunch at Lexington Market, which was interesting, crowded, and infernally hot. Tom kept grabbing my arm, because he was afraid I was going to get mugged or something. Once we got out and stopped sweating, we ate gyros (made by Koreans), and watched the runners go by. The people of Baltimore sure know how to encourage a runner (I loved having them cheer us on when I ran, and pretty much was equally entertained watching them this time around). Then we got some really delicious and expensive lattes at Dooby’s, where I rested my ligaments for a while, and we steeped in the hipster ambience.

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  • Tried to park near Edgar Allan Poe’s grave site, but it was a zoo. Ended up driving around the same three blocks, three times, over 45 minutes. We’re really good at directions. We both laughed at how much that would’ve bothered us while we were dating/engaged, but how now it was no biggie at all, since there were no screaming banshees sweet girls in the car.
  • Finally drove down to Little Italy, where we got pretty amazing “chip n dip” cannoli at the famed Vaccaro’s pastry cafe. It’s basically a container of broken cannoli shells and a big scoop of cannoli filling to dip them into. Perfect afternoon snack, worth the long wait in line.
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Image via vacarrospastry.com

  • Lazed around the hotel room and rested the ole ligaments some more.
  • Walked around the beautiful Inner Harbor and historic Fell’s Point before our dinner at Mezze Cafe, where we ordered far too many tapas plates. I wish we had come to Fell’s Point earlier in the day (before sunset) so we could’ve had more time to explore. The cobblestone streets and historic town homes were gorgeous.

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And then collapsed early in the huge bed to watch some Harry Potter and read from our current read-aloud. We finished up our babymoon the next morning with perfectly light and chewy Belgian waffles at Miss Shirley’s and Mass in Little Italy. Then sped off to pick up our little munchkins from my parents’, where we found that they hadn’t missed us for one second and would rather stay with Nana and Papa, thank you very much.

And that’s that– an amazing 24 hours of good food, uninterrupted conversation, and more exercise than I’ll get the rest of the pregnancy (kidding! Maybe…)

Currently, Vol. 5

Recovering: from a lovely mini beach vacation earlier this week, and the three days before that in which everyone but me was sick with nasty summer head colds. The beach did seem to be a great antidote though (those Brits were onto something when they “went to the shore for their health”).

With that in mind, I’m just here to drop a few pictures (half of which were taken by my much more on-top-of-it sister-in-law/her dad…

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Someone super excited to start the road trip…

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…and some great links that I’ve been saving to share. Some of these things are probably old at this point, but still worth sharing I think!

4 Reasons Midwives Are a Superb Women’s Healthcare Solution

This is an excellent and informative article by our friend Joy. I can firmly attest to the truth of all the facts she mentions here, and I think it’s worth a read even if you love your epidural (which is totally fine, btw) and/or think midwives are illiterate backcountry women asking you to go boil some water (they’re not). Particularly in light of the recent Planned Parenthood scandals and discussion about women’s healthcare. The only thing I’d add here, is that if you are someone who really needs or wants the hospital setting/drugs, you can still use a midwife! Many midwives only practice in hospital in conjunction with an OB system, so that is a very common option for anyone not ready to go 100% natty.

Our Marriage is Stronger Because My Husband Isn’t My Best Friend

Another article by a friend, Julie (we have a lot of talented writer friends!). This one sparked a lot of interesting controversy amongst the comments, but I totally understand where she is coming from. Tom and I had only known each other for a short while before starting to date, and then got engaged less than 6 months later, so I would never say we were some kind of life-long besties or anything. Many people missed her main point though (probably because of the click-baity title) that while a spouse can be a best friend, he or she is actually much more than merely that.

To the Gentleman in the Target Parking Lot

I already shared this on Facebook, but it’s just so good. It’s hard to imagine fielding such vitriol but apparently lots of adults have little self-control. Anyway, if you see a mom of multiple little ones trying to navigate any place in the public sphere, just a) offer to help or b) smile and say something positive (and no, “You’ve got your hands full!” does NOT count).

Hope you’re week is full of joy and cheese!

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Stars, Stripes, and Edelweiss: Book Review

In what now feels like another lifetime, I once spent a semester living and studying in Europe. The ubiquitous semester abroad. It took place, in my case, in a tiny Austrian mountain town, and we lived and went to classes in a 14th century Carthusian monastery. As you can imagine, some of my best college memories and closest friendships were forged there. I also learned an immense deal about myself as I traveled almost every weekend to a different country, soaked up wisdom from the humanities professors there, and experience the universality of the Catholic Church as well as the profoundly individual love of God for me.

My dear friend Mary shows off our digs

My dear friend Mary shows off our digs

The waterfall just down the road from our campus in Gaming

The waterfall just down the road from our campus in Gaming (ignore my terrible fashion choices)

Beer at the Hofbrauhaus in München

Beer at the Hofbrauhaus in München

So, when my former Student Life Director of the study abroad program and his wife, Mark and Niki Kalpakgian, wrote a book about their time working and living in Austria, I couldn’t wait to read it. I got to know them and their boys well while I lived there, and loved having the connection to a young family amidst all the flux of travel and being in a foreign country. When Niki sent me a copy of the book so I could review it, I pretty much devoured it.

The stories in the book not only brought back countless memories from my time there (like sorting our trash into multiple bins each week and the idiosyncrasies of the little village grocery store), but I also learned many things about Gaming and Austria that I had never known in my short time there, especially the Advent and Christmas traditions which I didn’t experience in the spring semester.

Mark and Niki take the reader on their crazy adventure of leaving their comfortable, suburban life, and learning how to live and thrive in a very different culture. They include snippets of the local and national history, the personality of the Austrian people, illustrated with hilarious anecdotes, and highlight many of the differences between the United States and Austria (particularly a small, rural community like Gaming). I loved reading about their experience with the local public school, the village doctor. They describe the sense of community in the little town, how the neighbors look out for each other, the storekeepers guarantee all their products and replace them when something goes wrong, and how everyone participates in the holiday customs that have been around for centuries. And there are plenty of downright hilarious accounts of their cultural “education”: learning about the local spa and its very naked patrons, how they received a note after the first day of school, because they sent their snacks in plastic baggies, rather than the eco-friendly plastic boxes all the other kids had, and getting cited by the local police because the university students were riding bikes on the sidewalk.

Their stories definitely open your eyes to how differently other countries handle things, from school and child-rearing, to medical care and trash collection. Living abroad is a fantastic way to help you both appreciate your own homeland, as well as see what could be done better there.  The only complaint I had about the book was the frequent jumping from one tense to another, sometimes within the same sentence. Most of the time, though, it didn’t detract from the stories themselves, which were told with humor and vivid detail.

If you have lived or dream of living abroad, this book will inspire you. You’ll also enjoy it if you just love travel, adventure, and learning about new cultures.

Their book is available on Amazon!

Lately

Hello from Vacation-Land! AKA, Staying at My Parents’ for a Week. Tom has jetted off in a “hair-plane” to beautiful, sunny Greece on a week-long trip with his high-schoolers. We have taken refuge with my parents and find it easier to be holed up with 2 extra adults plus an uncle!

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I know, looks like he’s having a horribly awful time, huh.

The first couple weeks of Lent were quite trying, as Magdalena caught Lucy’s cold and one (or two or three) upped it. She and I shared many sleepless/snot-filled nights together, until I began to wonder when I would sleep a continuous hour again. But finally, she has turned the corner, and we’re all sleeping much better. It’s always good though, when God sort of chooses the Lenten sacrifice He thinks will be best for you: no milk in my coffee now sounds like child’s play. Parenting two sick kiddos on hardly any sleep is actually much more sacrificial, especially since it required finding hidden reserves of patience, surrendering to the fact that the house was going to be a wreck for a week and we would eat mostly leftovers, and not feeling guilty for letting Lucy watch several-many episodes of Winnie-the-Pooh and Curious George. It was a good reminder that I’m not in control, and the most important aspect of my life right now is simply loving and taking care of the girls. Even/especially at 3, 4, 5 in the AM!

Still, I know how exceedingly lucky I am that I have them, they’re healthy, and I get to stay home with them. Lucy’s first two years of life have already seemed to whizz by, and she’s talking in complex sentences and forming pre-alphabetic doodles. It’s a little crazy.   I can’t wait to see how Magdalena’s personality develops, but for now she’s a little fat, smiley bloop who wants to skip crawling and go straight to walking.

Literally, her favorite activity of all time (right now)

Literally, her favorite activity of all time (right now)

She prefers to stand... always

She prefers to stand… always

And speaking of the little goober, I hear her awaking, so I must away. Ciao!

Reflections on warmer times: The Honeymoon

In this, the eternal winter, which is finally starting to thaw (I think…I hope!), it is necessary for the soul to think about warmer, sunnier times. So I present to you some highlights of a time that was exceedingly sunny and exceedingly warm…our honeymoon in the Mediterranean, nearly two summers ago. I also realized I have never disclosed the pictures to the public, because they were on my dad’s camera mostly, so here we are!

Tom surprised me with the whole honeymoon. We went on a cruise that took us through the Mediterranean, stopping first in Venezia:

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Weary but happy travelers

Weary but happy travelers

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The green dome is Santa Lucia's

The green dome is Santa Lucia’s

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St. Mark's

St. Mark’s

A beautiful sunset gondola ride

A beautiful sunset gondola ride

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Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

Crusin'

Cruisin’

Our ship, the Holland America, with Tom for some perspective

Our ship, the Holland America, with Tom for some perspective

The next day we sailed to Dubrovnik, on the gorgeous Croatian coast:

The water was absolutely amazing. We snorkeled at the beach and saw so much underwater life!

The water was absolutely amazing. We snorkeled at the beach and saw so much underwater life!

View from the boat

View from the boat

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Ancient cloister in the city

Ancient cloister in the city

Next up were three Greek islands, the first of which, Corfu, was the most well-preserved ancient little village:

Old fort in the background, and more beautiful water

Old fort in the background, and more beautiful water

Winding streets

Winding streets

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Argostoli, mostly a beach town:

We pretty much hung out here all day...

We pretty much hung out here all day…

And we saw these enormous sea turtles near the dock on our way in!

And we saw these enormous sea turtles near the dock on our way in!

Last of the Greek islands was the famous Santorini:

Perched on the top of the caldera...shall we take donkeys or a cable car up??

Perched on the top of the caldera…shall we take donkeys or a cable car up??

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Catania, Sicily:

Ancient amphitheater, still used today

Ancient amphitheater, still used today

Inside a beautiful, but sadly defunct church. That red rope was the line we couldn't go past.

Inside a beautiful, but sadly defunct church. That red rope was the line we couldn’t go past.

Just a few of the tasty sights at an open air fish market we stumbled upon...

Just a few of the tasty sights at an open air fish market we stumbled upon…

Sea urchins!

Sea urchins!

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We also hired a car to drive us up Mt. Aetna...said car had no AC and the very windy roads were a little ick, but beautiful views awaited!

We also hired a car to drive us up Mt. Aetna…said car had no AC and the very windy roads were a little ick, but beautiful views awaited!

Craters!

Craters!

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Then Naples, where we spent a half day in Pompeii, but were too tired and sweaty to tour Naples at all…

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My intrepid explorer/Roman Empire expert

My intrepid explorer/Roman Empire expert

The next day, possibly our very favorite, was none other than Rome. Little did we imagine we’d be there just one year later!!

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We found a marker for the exact center of the courtyard...

We found a marker for the exact center of St. Peter’s

And then as Tom stood on it, a very eager group of tourists see it too, and began to swarm him

And then as Tom stood on it, a very eager group of tourists saw it too, and began to swarm him

Enjoying a leisurely lunch on a side street somewhere

Enjoying a leisurely lunch on a side street somewhere

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On the Bridge over the Tiber, with Castel St. Angelo in the background

On the Bridge over the Tiber, with Castel St. Angelo in the background

Our next stop was the port “close” to Florence, meaning two hours away… so we opted for a closer day trip to Pisa, which neither of us had visited.

Thar she be-- you're welcome for NOT taking any obnoxious pics

Thar she be- you’re welcome for not taking any obnoxiously posed pics

Killing time in a cafe. Tom takes stealthy photos of me in a heap of exhaustion (heat, early pregnancy symptoms...)

Killing time in a cafe. Tom takes stealthy photos of me in a heap of exhaustion (heat, early pregnancy symptoms…)

And our final destination was a day in Barcelona. We had a great tour of the city and then spent a few hours wandering around before taking a quick flight to Madrid overnight, and heading back home the next morning.

Gothic cathedral in the city

Gothic cathedral in the city

A view of Barca from the top of Mt. Juic

A view of Barca from the top of Mt. Juic

Inside Sagrada Familia, Guadi's masterpiece!!

Inside Sagrada Familia, Guadi’s masterpiece!!

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Oh and of course, there was a bit of this while onboard the ship:

Fancy, delicious dinners

Fancy, delicious dinners

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High tea on our little verandah looking over the ocean

High tea on our little verandah looking over the ocean

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And plenty of sunshine lying out on the many decks of the ship. It was such a lovely and easy way to travel to several countries at once and see so many beautiful sights, without having to pack and unpack more than once. We highly recommend cruising in that part of the world, though if you could ever do it in the fall or spring, you might have more energy to make it through the day trips without being scorched to death. But that heat sounds really, really great right about now…

PS- I chose the best pictures (in my opinion), but if you want to see them all, you can go to the photo site here.