Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to Strip Wallpaper (Without Really Trying)

Gather the minions.
Take the child's innate love of the spray bottle,
the desire to destroy, the need to climb,
affection for any sort of tool (especially one dubbed 'the claw'),
boundless energy, and a sense of competition.
You may then harness it into something that you actually want done.

Like stripping wallpaper.


Am I the only one who doesn't consider a stairwell a room?  And therefore, because the ugliness is not staring me in the face and only snidely laughing at me just when I go up and down the stairs, I sort of 'forget' that it needs to be done.

I tried to fix these pictures so they would look better but then realized that it was the subject that was ugly so it was a pointless task.  (Subject being the room, not my son...)

Um, yes, that is my David standing on a stool.  That is standing on the stairs.

We use "the claw" and then soak the paper in vinegar water.  Leave it for 30 seconds or so then peel.  Peel slowly and keep it wet.  A slow peel helps with getting the biggest pieces and there is something strangely satisfying about getting that big piece off.  It's therapeutic or something.  The removal sometimes has to be done in two layers, the first wallpaper layer, then the white layer underneath.  Just keep it wet and it comes right off.  Did you know cookie spatulas work WAY better for scraping wallpaper than any fancy wallpaper scraping tool?  And they're less dangerous?  Figured that out a few room redos back...

The snowy (yes snowy...and yes we were using the kiddie pool last week!) Saturday turned into something unexpected and productive.  By the end of the day the entire wall was stripped and is now ready to be scrubbed, patched and painted.

Now to decide paint colors, a task which I loathe and fear and dread.  Suggestions welcome.  Otherwise we'll be going with our white trim color for the wainscoat and Cottage Linen for the walls.  I know, yawn.  But I actually do like it and I LOVE white rooms and decor.  I have serious issues with picking colors.  I like way too many.  So I figure white is the presence of all colors and therefore is my best pick.  True story.  I'm not just boring.

So long, pineapples!  Watch out, horrific copper colored filthy carpet.  Once those walls are painted, you are NEXT to face the wrath that is little boys with tools.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Runner's Pride

"WHY did I have to go and post this on the INTERNET??"
I bemoaned to my husband.  

You know those people who talk about how amazing they feel when they are running or exercising or whatever?  Or how they get that high afterwards?  I have a theory:
They're lying.

See, if you start running or exercising and you hear someone say how much they love it and feel so alive and crave it, then you start to feel like you should to.  And so you say that's how you feel, even though you feel like screaming while you're running "what is WRONG with me?  I'm going to DIE.  This sucks!"  But instead of saying that out loud you don your cute little running pants and your serene running face (at least until minute seven or so) and your ear buds and you pretend you're one of them. Although I have a feeling I'm not fooling any one of my neighbors who may happen to spy me from out of their windows.  

Well, I'm here to break this cycle of deceit.  It is so not fun.  In fact, it does suck.  And I totally would've quit by now if I hadn't gotten all motivated and spiritual and stuff and told everyone about it.

I'm only on week three.  WEEK THREE of this Couch to 5K thing.  I am such a wimp.  The first couple of times I was like, SO on it.  I got this and I am a running machine.  Then it started to stink.  And hurt.  And it has been so hard finding times to go.  Really, the last thing I want to do when the husband gets home from work and I've had a day of schooling, feeding, refereeing, nursing, cleaning, diapering, babywalking, disciplining, etc. is go out into the cold and run.  And then I went and messed up my knee.  So I want to give up but I feel like I can't since I went and blabbered to the world about this silly goal of mine.  

BUT.  But I realized this evening as I was gasping and my heart was throbbing and my lungs were aching during that whole three minutes of jogging three minutes of walking (repeat) bit that I need to reassess.  Because I came to the enlightened realization that if the reason I am staying with it is because I told people about it and don't want to embarrass myself, well then, that, my friends is a form of pride.  Am I right?  And I certainly don't want to put myself in a near occasion of sin and all.  So the most spiritually profound and edifying thing I could do right now is to quit.  That way I would be exercising humility and strengthening virtue and avoiding the awful sin of pride.  Right?


Oh.  It doesn't work that way?
Well, then.  Pray for me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Window Seats

I promised I would show pictures of the latest little home project so here we are!

The husband finished up our window seats in the 'library' (that sounds fancy, doesn't it?)!  

 He built the shelves last year and we've been meaning to put the window seats in for extra cozy seating and it took a little longer because I demanded politely asked for

In an old 1881 farmhouse there isn't much in the way of closet space here.  Two of the bedrooms don't even have a closet and there is one tiny one downstairs.  We've had to be a bit more creative with how to hide things.  So happy to finally have a better spot for the games and puzzles!  The other size is holding blankets and the older people puzzles.  The front panels also are removable since on the other side there is a radiator running underneath.  That way in the winter we can remove the panel and not trap the heat.  Thank you to the husband who worked this out for me!

Now any suggestions on where to find inexpensive cushions or (gulp) how to make them?  

What now, you ask?  Well, here's your clue about what project has now been moved to the front of the list:

Because, you know, it would be kind of nice to have kitchen seating that didn't collapse and result in dinnertime tears and bruises...  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Celebrating the Annunciation

Throughout today we've been remembering the Solemnity of the Annunciation in our own unique little way.  
This is one of my favorite days in the Church.  So overlooked but really, this is the day we remember the mind blowing mystery of the Incarnation...kind of a big deal, right?  The day when the Word became flesh.  When the God of the universe humbled Himself to not only be a cute little newborn baby but a zygote, an embryo, a fetus.  It's enough to make non-believers laugh out loud.  But enough to make the true believer fall to her knees in awe.  God with us.  Emmanuel.

And all because one little girl said 'yes'.  

The course of history was changed by a woman.  and the salvation of the world came through one little Hebrew girl.

I wonder how Mary must have reacted.  Shock, ecstasy, fear, joy...maybe all of them.  Did she expect it?  Did she know she was different?  

We talked today about Mary's fiat and how we can say yes to what God asks of us and how we can make our life one big yes.  We practiced our 'yes' expressions and our 'no' expressions.  The boys got a kick out of that.  (One little boy of mine is especially vulnerable to a general 'no' towards life and this was very good for him.)  As we talked about making our lives a 'yes', we realized that the song "Trading My Sorrows" was perfect for the occasion and that even when things are hard we can still say 'yes' to what the Lord asks of us.  It was pretty darn neat to discuss with them how some people we know who have scary or painful things to live with are still able to make their lives a 'yes' and are some of the most joyful people we know.

To be sure, the mode d'excellence of observing the liturgical year is within the rites of the Church - celebrating the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, reception of the Sacraments, and traditional prayers of the Church, etc.  But it's pretty sweet when we can add our own little traditions in there as well to help us live more fully in time redeemed and in doing so help pass along the truths and joy of our Faith to our children.

And so we do that here with popcorn.  Some mothers are exceptional at planning teas and stories and elaborate parties for every feast day (and that is so cool).  My gift lies in taking something very simple (or often something I was already going to do anyway :) and imparting meaning to it.  

Like popcorn.

See?  Popcorn. 

I was pretty proud of myself a few years ago when I came up with my catechesis via popcorn:

"Just as the pure white popcorn hides the tiny seed from which it came,
so our most pure Mary hid the tiny Baby Jesus within her womb."

Bam.  Incarnational teaching via afternoon snack.  And how cool that the kernel is Jesus, which gives life to Mary who then hides the Jesus kernel inside!!  So simple yet the boys love it and it's become our little Annunciation tradition.

Some of our other little Annunciation goings on for today:

Stromboli and chicken wings for dinner...why, you ask?  We're all about 'hidden' things on this day to show how Mary seemed ordinary but was hiding the greatest gift inside her womb.  The stromboli looks like ordinary bread but!  Score.  And the wings?  For Gabriel, of course.  Leave it to a Buffalo gal and her friend (thank you, Kate!) to impart Theological meaning to chickens wings.  I really hope the great archangel doesn't mind being compared to a poultry appendage.  And for that matter, that the Queen of Heaven doesn't mind being played by a stromboli.

Using seeds to show how tiny our Lord became but yet was still God.  I put some sesame seeds on the stromboli but there are a gazillion ways you could incorporate seeds as symbols.  Hey, poppyseed muffins for breakfast!

For dessert we enjoyed some of these decadent Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate cookies.  I subbed whole wheat flour and used carob powder instead of cocoa because it seems the babe and I are just too sensitive to chocolate.  I know.  I KNOW.  Anyway, there are so many different recipes out there for cookies or muffins hiding a treat inside.  I realized afterwards that it would be even cooler (or nerdier?) to put some sort of fruit filling inside a muffin or cookie...get it?  Blessed is the FRUIT of your womb!  How bout that?

Last year I served the boys eggs in the hole for breakfast which was a great idea.  Except they won't eat eggs that way so it's more than a little silly to make them and then get frustrated because they don't like them.  But still a cool idea!  Eggs incorporated in any way is pretty symbolic of the new life in Mary's womb.

One of the things I love about the liturgical seasons and celebrations of the Church is that it invites us into such a deep connection with the Mystery of Christ, His life on earth and His permeation of history.  I love how as a universal Church we can set aside certain days to remember different elements of the Christian story and become ourselves impregnated with that story.  There is an endless supply upon which to meditate within the life of Christ and the lives of the saints and for a person like me, the liturgical year offers an invitation to focus on small portions, to pray on them and hopefully be transformed by them.  And sometimes it's with popcorn.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

You Know What Today Is, Right?

You know, right?  

I mean, normally it's the Solemnity of the Annunciation but we'll be observing that tomorrow in the Church. don't know?  You don't know that one year ago today I started this here little blog? 
You weren't keeping track??  


Well, neither was I, so I guess we're cool.  
I just realized it yesterday, in fact.  But I guess I should take a little pride in the fact that I made it a whole year without freaking out that people could -gasp!- read what I write and know a bit of what is in this crazy head of mine.  Okay, sometimes I did freak out a little.  But I didn't stop.  I hope this blog has been edifying to your soul and drawn you into a deeper spiritual awakening that blew your mind.  And if not, I hope that you were at least entertained by cute pictures of my kids.  

Either one, I'm not picky.  

So today we will be celebrating.  And by celebrating I mean begging God for Luke to sleep while I try to make dinner and take care of the two middle boys while Brian takes John Paul rock climbing and I try not to fall asleep while standing up since our little sleepy Luke-baby has decided to revolt from his previous awesome sleep-through-the-night gig.  It's gonna rock.  You should totally come.

But I do really hope that this blog has blessed others.  I used to be super confident in sharing my writing and thoughts and feelings and I lost that somewhere along the way.  This blog here has been a scary little experiment of mine to put myself out there again and invite people to hang with me.  It's also been an attempt to live simply, more intentionally, and joyfully while chronicling this beautiful life I've been given (bam! 20 points worth of blog-speak words right there...see, I'm getting good).  

And also I thought it looked cool and fun to have a blog.
In the process, I've met some pretty awesome beautiful people for whom I am very grateful. 
Thank you for the number of people who have been coming to visit.  Thank you especially for when you encourage me in this little endeavor.  I'm grateful for you and for this blessed life I get to live.

I know, blah, blah, blah...okay, cute baby picture:

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Picnics and Protests

‎"Freedom is not an heirloom, but a life. 
Once received, it does not continue to exist without effort. 
As life must be nourished, defended and preserved; so freedom must be repurchased in each generation." 
Fulton J. Sheen 

 It was a beautiful day (again!) and we headed downtown.  While on the way to the main event of the day, we took a stop by the Naval and Military Park on the waterfront.  There you can see and tour several battleships, a submarine, and aircraft used in WWII by our armed forces.  They're pretty amazing and so are the stories behind them.

It is sobering to realize that many of the men who fought in and from them did not come back home.  That they were willing to give their life to defend their country and the principles upon which it was founded.  And many of them did.  They purchased the freedoms we enjoy with their blood.

You can walk along the park and visit the ships without having to pay.  Though paying to take the tour and visit the museum is well worth it, too.  (Cool fact:  my Grandpa helped put together a display in the museum highlighting his squad in WWII).

We strolled around and picnicked and let the boys marvel for just a little while.

And then?

Then we went and got our rally on.

(photo courtesy of a friend's cell phone...I was too short to get any good pictures to show the crowd!)

Yep, we got all activist like and joined about one thousand other people downtown to protest the infringement on religious freedom that is the federal government's Health and Human Services mandate.   In over 140 cities across the United States, volunteers, normal on the ground grassroots type of people, organized Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies and we proudly joined in.  The HHS mandate says that no matter what you believe, if you own or run a small business or institution or apostolate, you will be forced to provide coverage for pills, surgeries, chemicals, and devices that you may find morally repugnant.  The order prohibits the free exercise of religion by giving those who object the 'choice' between violating their doctrine or giving up the work that is the exercise of her care for the sick, to feed the hungry, to teach, and to minister to those in need.

How fitting it was that the rally took place right in front of a giant glass wall engraved with the words of the Constitution.  Because that, my friends, is the issue.  Not women's rights (in fact, from what I could tell it was mostly women there at the protest.  How offensive when people try to paint all women with the same brush).  Not contraception.  Not the Church trying to force her doctrine on others.  Not even specific doctrines of one specific church.  The issue is the Constitution and whether or not it will be adhered to by our present government.

I don't expect everyone to believe what I do or to get why this is important to us.  But I do expect that in this country people can still respect my right (and the rights of others, even when they are part of an organized religion) to believe and live by those beliefs so long as they don't infringe on the rights of others.  (I suppose one could try to make the case that an attempt at consequence-free sex paid for by an employer is a Constitutional right that trumps the freedom of religion, but I'm not sure it would be audible over the sound of all the founding fathers and veterans rolling over in their graves.)

Rather than get into the Theology and the doctrines to which I adhere (and don't get me wrong, I LOVE talking about all that Theo-geek stuff but really that is not the crux of this issue and this post), I ask rather that people respect me and others enough to trust that we know what we believe.  And we know when someone is ordering us to violate those beliefs.  I admit, it is hard for me to understand when people try to argue that this doesn't violate my (our) conscience.  It does.  People may not agree with it and people may not like it.  They may think it is ridiculous and they may choose to mock it.  And that's okay, too.  I sort of expect it.  But in the end a person cannot dictate another's conscience to them.  And no one should be forced to subsidize another in what they think is immoral.

(Long sort of related sidenote:  When did it become the employer's responsibility to provide healthcare for their employees?  I thought benefits provided through an employer to be just that, BENEFITS, bonuses, extras.   How much I wish people didn't expect their boss to provide for their health care needs.  Why should it be the employer's responsibility to directly fund health care?  Why not food, cars, homes?  Just give me a paycheck and I can decide where it best needs to be spent.  That would solve a whole lotta problems, I tell ya.)

Ahem, but back to the rally...

In our country a person who opposes war may get out of the draft and not participate in combat.  This person does not need to prove they are part of an organized pacifist religion.  They simply need to prove that they CANNOT, in good conscience, participate in war.  And the country respects that.  They are not then punished by the government by withholding communal benefits, access to taxpayer money, or the benefit of being protected by the armed forces.  And they are not fined into submission.

Individuals who oppose contraception, sterilization, and abortion are saying that we CANNOT pay for or support this in any way either directly or indirectly.  We will not be the vehicle for something that violates our beliefs.  And yes, we still want to fulfill our religious obligations (or keep our jobs) by providing care for the public and those who need it and if possible, partner with the government in making that happen.  Perhaps this is an attempt to get people of faith out of the public sphere.  Do it our way or don't do it at all.

How sad that people are misrepresenting this issue: we are not denying anyone access to anything.  These things are immediately available to anyone and they are cheap.  To me it is an insult to women to insinuate that if their employer doesn't provide for these pills and devices, that they are too stupid to figure out how to get it or know how to handle their money (or bodies) in such a way that they can afford it.  From the way some people speak or write you would think there were bishops standing at the pharmacy counter of every Target and Walgreens beating and shackling women, ripping pills out of their hands, and forcing them to have a child right there on the spot.

 Believe it or not, I don't really like putting myself out there when I know people will disagree or judge or hate or worse.  But I can't not speak up when I believe something is wrong and especially now when I see something I love being threatened.  I can't help it.  It's a part of my personality that drives my husband me crazy sometimes :)

I hope and pray that people will continue to stand up for freedom.  That those who don't understand will not try to vilify us or misrepresent us and will respect our right to believe differently than they do and maybe we we can even have some respectful dialogue.  I pray that the elections in November will be a turning point for our country.  I pray that these conversations we are currently having in our country will bear good fruit.

It wasn't until after we got home that I realized how fitting it was that we started the day by paying tribute to those who repurchased freedom in their generation.  Because with our next stop we honored their sacrifice by doing our own much littler part to repurchase it again in ours.

(Gratuitous shot of my boys being cute)

(And another)

(Last one, I promise.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

...And now for My Pictures {Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

Although I wouldn't doubt if the five year old's are better...
I cannot believe it is March.  I've been using the clothesline (my first real sign of spring!), we've planted seeds, used the kiddie pool, and yesterday broke out the sandals.  This is craziness, I tell you, but craziness that is much enjoyed and welcome.


 Letting the hens roam makes me very happy.  Here's hoping they eat lots of bugs for us!
 Bare baby feet happiness

Because every seven year old boy needs their own self designed and built crossbow.  Seriously, the thing actually works and could do damage considering it shoots real arrows.  I'll put him to work defending our chickens from the hawks that have been eyeing the hens from afar. 

 I couldn't help it.  I had to post another picture of this pitiful looking bird.  Poor, poor girl.  She acts just fine, though, so I guess no need to worry too much!

Looks so pretty, doesn't it?  
Well then, maybe I shouldn't tell you just why those curtains needed to be washed.  Let's just say bleary-eyed, middle of the night cleanings during that two week bout of sickness after Christmas left some lovely hidden remains that I discovered the other day.  Yep, just keepin' it real here, folks :)

 By John Paul.  I look weird.  And gray.  Which is very, very real.

When You Give a Five Year Old a Camera...

Or rather, when you happen to leave the camera outside while taking pictures of the gorgeous crazy eighty degree in March weather and he happens to get his little hands on it...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

True Beauty

There are people you meet that seep joy and peace and Christ.  
The kind who look you straight in the eye and you feel prompted to spill your soul to them.  They radiate beauty and they radiate Him.

I got to briefly meet one of these people the other day.  Mother Olga Yaqob was one of the presenters at the women's conference I attended over the weekend.  I had actually never heard of her.  She is a tiny Iraqi woman, forty five years old (though she looks so much younger) and she has been dubbed "The Mother Teresa of Baghdad."  She gave her life since her teen years to serving Christ in the poor and suffering.  And she is beautiful.  Her story of living through three wars was devastating and yet she talked continuously about how the Lord makes all things new.  She joined the Missionaries of the Virgin Mary as a young girl and in 2001, began studies in Boston.  She was then asked by Cardinal Sean O'Malley to begin a new order, The Daughters of Mary, Our Lady of Nazareth.

While I was wandering the back during the first talk of the day entertaining Luke, she came up to me and asked to hold him.  And the event photographer happened to walk up right then and he got to sneak in some pictures.  She just gushed over my Luke and he talked right back to her and I felt so privileged to have such a holy woman holding my little one.  She spoke to my heart, too, staring straight into my eyes and I felt like I had met Christ Himself.  And I'm pretty sure in some mystical way, that is what happened.

Thank you, Jesus, for women like Mother Olga.

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