Monday, April 29, 2013

Receiving Unwanted Gifts

My mom told me the other day that she used all her self-restraint to resist buying a battery-operated monkey for Peter that kicked its feet and laughed. I told her she could have stopped at "battery-operated" and I would have thanked her sincerely. She knows that, of course, which is why she didn't buy it, even at thrift store prices. (I find battery-operated toys excel at stifling creativity, annoying me, and breaking.)

Generally speaking, we avoid toys that are battery-operated, plastic, or low quality. Most gift givers in our lives know this and have given us wonderful toys. Peter loves his wooden blocks, art supplies, balls, matchbox cars, and puzzles. We've also received some high quality books, which I've used to slowly replace the books  with literary value comparable to a cereal box.

He also likes his friends, shown here after a meeting.
Notice the empty seat to the right, where Peter sits.

But there are always generous friends and family who don't know our preferences.

The problem is what to do with the gifts I don't want in my house. I could exchange, donate, or re-gift these items or keep them and hope they break quickly. Either way, I feel uncomfortable. If I get rid of them, I'm concerned the giver will find out and be hurt. If I keep them, they clutter my home and detract from time my kids could be playing with something of better quality. I don't want to sacrifice relationships to my sense of aesthetics, but nor do I want to sacrifice my kids' education to ruffled feathers.

What to do?

Sometimes I re-purpose a gift. Perhaps it can be used as a decoration or incorporated into another set (e.g. play kitchen). Sometimes I wait until the novelty wears off, then donate it. If it is battery-operated, I remove the batteries. In a few cases, I've refrained from telling Peter to be gentle and it has broken and taken the decision out of my hands. But almost every unwanted gift still makes me uneasy. Sigh.

Friday, April 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 37): Bragging

It's been a busy night, so I'll fall back on Peter to entertain you all. :-)

Peter: Mommy, will you read that magazine again to me, without skipping pages?
Jeremy: Busted.

Mommy, Anne is crying because she is all alone in her chair with no Mommy to hold her.

*holding his inflatable globe* And then, Mommy, we can play with my Google Earth.

While pretending with Daddy -
Jeremy: Ahh, I think I'll just go to sleep.
Peter: No, you can NOT go to sleep. It is two in the morning and not a time for sleep!

OK Peter, you can have your ice cream sandwich now.
I just want the ice cream. You can have the sandwich.

Peter wouldn't stand still for his picture, but here's a video of his new haircut!

Monday, April 22, 2013


I read somewhere that our taste buds are most sensitive to bitterness. We taste sweet, sour, and spicy, but are particularly attuned to bitterness. The smallest amount overwhelms our palates. What I was reading hypothesized that this developed because many toxic substances are bitter. People who immediately spit them out lived longer and passed this trait to their children.

I've been realizing over the past few months that bitterness has the same effect on the soul. Joy, anger, and sorrow all have their seasons, strengthening and fading as events pass. But bitterness overwhelms. Like a slow poison, it colors everything - politics, friendships, economics, family, even relationship with God. The bitter heart expects disappointment, is critical of all, sees the cloud before every silver lining. It is not satisfied, no matter how many blessings are poured out. It criticizes others for daring to have undeserved wealth, power, influence.

Bitterness feeds on pride. "I know better. I would never behave as they do. Can't they see how hypocritical they are? Who would DO something like that?" Not I, Lord. Surely not I.

If you've successfully weeded bitterness out of your heart, how did you do it?

Friday, April 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 36): Can I sleep now?

The past couple days, Peter has been waking before we do and playing by himself downstairs for awhile. When Jeremy gets up to get ready for work, Peter joins him for breakfast. I've been sleeping in until 8:30 or so, which has been a lovely recompense for the 30 mins of sleep I lose to Anne's nightly feeding.

Last night Early this morning, Peter came in to join us in bed. Between getting him back to sleep and Anne's feeding, I lost a bit more than a full hour of sleep. And of course this morning, he came right into our room when he woke and only wanted me.

We had a pretty good morning together. Anne slept almost the entire time, so Peter and I were able to do a lot of reading, write a note to Daddy, and "play beans."

Good math activity!


By 1:00, he was more than ready for his nap, as was I. Anne chose that time to wake up, though, so she and I had some quality time together while I cleaned the house with one hand. :-) Around 3, I finally got my nap.

Peter woke around 5:30 (yes, 4.5 hours!), clingy with a low-grade fever. He only wanted to eat fruit. I had a sinking feeling that I knew what was coming. Yep. Shortly after Jeremy's friends arrived to celebrate his new job, Peter and I were covered with what had been his dinner. I commented to our friends, "Doesn't this make you want to have kids?"

Same as last time, he bounced back quickly after that. He entertained our guests, had some more to eat, and went to bed easily and happily some time after 9:00. Anne is awake again, but with any luck she'll sleep soon. Goodness knows I want to.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wordless Thursday, Spring Edition

No idea why I didn't remember to get this up last night. Certainly not a good excuse like last time. Enjoy!

First experience of grass


Making a house for his frog

Monday, April 15, 2013


At dinner, we share our gratitude and prayer requests with each other. Today, I have so much for which to be thankful. I'm also close to exhausted, due to a number of factors, including messing with my sleep schedule by staying up late this past weekend (hence no post on Friday). So today, a list of blessings, both silly and significant.

Our kitchen floor. Peter knocked over his milk during dinner. I just wiped it up. I hope the thrill of an uncarpeted kitchen never disappears. :-)

The weather. We had a high of 74F today! The diapers are smelling fresh after drying outside, Anne got to experience grass for the first time, and Peter wore his new flip-flops.

Spontaneity. My husband had a meeting tonight during Peter's bedtime. It seemed like Anne was going to sleep through it, but she woke up about 10 mins before I was going to start his get-to-bed routine. Happily, one of my former campers is in the area and agreed to come hold Anne so I could concentrate on Peter. (Anne cried almost continuously for the 45 minutes she was being held. About 5 minutes after I took her, she burped and then was fine. Poor Anne, poor babysitter!)

Chocolate. Really, I'm thankful for this just about every day. Today, in addition to the dark chocolate Irish creme Smidgens I have from Easter, I also had some fudge that my husband brought home from work.

Health. Especially in light of the injuries and deaths in Boston today, I am thankful for the health and safety of my family. What a wonderful gift too often taken for granted.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Monday, April 8, 2013

Should I be more than a mother?

My childhood friend, Mlle. Michael, had a post today asking her readers to brag about themselves and share their dreams. I can fairly easily create a list of areas where I excel, both silly and significant. But dreams? I haven't thought about that in quite awhile.

I have goals, which I think are different. We plan to pay off our mortgage in the next seven years. I homeschool Peter and will do the same with Anne when she is older. I'm working to lose these last five pounds of pregnancy weight in the next few weeks. I intend to teach Sunday School for many years to come, unless God nudges me away. These are good goals, very practical and attainable. They are not dreams.

When I contemplated dreams, first I drew a complete blank. I have a wonderful family, I've traveled, I wrote a book that people actually paid money to own. I'm married to the love of my life. What dreams do I really have? I realized my dreams are for my children.

I dream of them discovering their passions, finding their vocations, having a powerful connection with God. I dream of their delight in nature, their joy in solid friendships. I dream of an ever-maturing relationship with each of them.

These are good, beautiful dreams. They reflect how completely my vocation as a mother has filled me. I don't see a lack because I don't have dreams for myself... should I? I wonder if somewhere down the road I will wish I had done "more" with my life, although I can't see that happening. I tend to think that if I am enjoying the present, I won't regret it in the future.

If you're a more experienced mother, I'd enjoy reading your thoughts on this!

Friday, April 5, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 35): Working in Fear and Trembling

I may have mentioned before that Kristen Heitzmann's novels are amazing. For Christmas, I got some Barnes & Noble money and bought the three books in the Michelli Family Series. It's possible that I've read the entire set three times already. They are absolutely inspiring. And Lance Michelli is Catholic, so I understand his faith culture.

As an aside, I am hooked on my Nook. I like having so many books in one place, but my favorite feature is being able to turn pages with one finger, especially while I'm nursing. So easy! I'm just a bit sad that it is hard to lend e-books. C'est la vie.

Anyway, Lance Michelli's faith can be characterized as extreme. He desires God above all else and is willing to sacrifice whatever is required in order that he might fulfill God's will. Of course, he doesn't always get it right, but the desire is there.

This series prompts some compelling questions for me. What is my desire? Do I simply pray for God's will to be done, or do I actively seek to do it? Is there anything in my life I would not be willing to sacrifice if God asked it of me? If so, why?

My "mission field" currently is kids. My two children, my Goddaughters, and the kids whom I serve at church. (Particularly strong-willed middle school boys, it seems. I told this to Jeremy who said, "What does that say about you?" J) I love these kids and pray I do not fail the "least of these" who have been entrusted, in part, to me.

Here's the tension. I am called, as are we all, to live a life worthy of the calling to which I have been called (Eph. 4:1). Much has been given, much is expected (Lk. 12:48). I must seek God above all else, be willing to take up whatever cross is given and follow him. But I also need to trust. I work toward a goal, while knowing that the hearts of these children and teens are not mine to change. The Spirit is at work within them. To assume I have given them faith is pride, to abdicate my responsibility is despair.

This, I suppose, is why we are working out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

He is Risen! Happy Easter!

Jeremy and I attended the Vigil Mass without the kids, as 2+ hours seemed to be asking a lot of little ones. They stayed with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law.

Two cool dudes
On Easter morning, we went to Mass together, the four of us with my brother, sister-in-law and dad. Mom had liturgical duties at a different Mass, but at least most of us went together. We met up with her afterwards for brunch at my parents' house.

Anne and her Godfather

I had planned last spring to get this dress altered, as it was a size too large, but I kept procrastinating and never got it done. Laziness pays off! Between the weight I haven't lost around my waist from the pregnancy and being larger from nursing, it fits quite well. :-)

Easter joy!
All photos courtesy of my brother Keith

Monday, April 1, 2013

Peter Says

My dad recently explained to Peter that waste water goes down the drain, through the sewers, to a waste water treatment plant, and back to the lake. Today when flushing the toilet, Peter told me, "And now it's going to the sewers and to the eggplant."

"Mommy, Anne is spitting up. Don't do that, Anne. (resigned) Anne did not answer. She was spitting up."

*reading the Bible* "The prophet Isaiah is wanted in the city of New York."

"I will bring Anne my zebra, because she is sad. Here, Anne. It is a zebra!"

Fr. Jerry gave a homily about the woman caught in adultery. He suggested that the first time Jesus drew in the dirt, he was saying, "'Don't press it. Don't press it.' But sometimes, we do." Recently, Peter was misbehaving, so I said his name in a warning tone of voice. "Don't press it. That's what Fr. Jerry said, Mommy. Don't press it, but sometimes we do!"

Anne and her Papa