'Muff'in Dome

Category Archives: Thoughts

The Beauty of Being At Home in the World

Sitting in the square shadowed by the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, I raised my head from jotting down some notes in my journal to watch a young girl, probably around three years old, spinning in her dress, her shoes clacking along the cobblestones as she spun. With wobbly legs, she fell into the arms of her father, laughing, enjoying this moment together. Her joyous words in fragmented Italian sentences, much like the ones that would issue from my mouth, echoed across the plaza. The timelessness of the moment striking me as I watched this family interact in such a grand space that could have been any place in the world.

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Standing in the cavernous space, lifting my head up to see the vast walls rising above my head, I felt all at once the grandiosity that the cathedral sought to evoke of such a limitless God, but also my own, specific place in the Church of millions upon billions of persons through the overarching years. It was a place for my unique person; it was a place for the grand choir of saints in chorus.

********

 

These snippets from my travels are memories that I carry, brought back to life again after reading Tsh Oxendreider’s latest work, At Home in the WorldThe wanderlust that is never sated; the homebodiness that aches as one wanders about. This seeming dichotomy which may, in fact, be simply hewn from the same stone.

“Sometimes, even when I’m standing on a remarkable slice of terra firma, I’m besotted with wanderlust, my heart thumping for the next unknown place and my mind wondering what’s next. But right now, in this rain forest, floating crystal waters after a walk on ancient, sacred soil with my flesh and blood, I want to be nowhere else. Nowhere. This, right now, is home. I can hear God through the rustling of the prehistoric fan-shaped leaves, the scurry of alien insects on the bark, the familiar laughter of my children slipping on stones in the water. Everything here is unfamiliar, but it’s familiar. We are transient, vagabonds, and yet we’re tethered.”

I know this of which she speaks. With the birth of my children, it seems even more acute. I sense these moments where time nearly stands still, while, at the same time, it rushes past.

The connectedness of it all. The same two feet can bypass the crosswalk of a busy, Parisian intersection while cars whiz past or walk across the ice-kissed grass in the Blue Ridge Mountains on a frosty morning. Both instances I walk to class, I study French. The same, yet different.

“The earth’s surface is over 70 percent covered in water, and sometimes I wonder about a drop of water resting on my shoulder, whether it’s been to Antarctica or the South China Sea, or perhaps, miraculously, even out of my childhood kitchen sink.”

Living in Rome for a semester, we consume pasta like our grades depend upon it. I would never complain about the copious amounts of ravioli and penne that we eat as it is and will always be one of my favorite foods. But there are days here and there I long for the comforts of American food. It isn’t necessarily the food itself I miss, but the comfort of home it evokes. On several occasions, my friends and I steal away to the local Hard Rock Cafe to enjoy a burger and fries. Burgers are rarely the food I search for when faced with an extensive menu, but that juicy, red meat holds a place of home for me that nothing else there provides, and I could choose no other.

We want to explore Fez, but we want to see old friends more, and so, today we do what old friends do: we drink coffee, we drink gin and tonics, we order pizza, we watch questionably downloaded American television, we bake cookies, and we talk.”

A delicious ice cream bar–a dark chocolate Magnum, to be precise–held out like an unspoken language when the words fail to connect us. My friend’s grandmother gives it as a peace offering to two kids, fumbling around in a sea of foreign words and culture. We understand chocolate and cold ice cream. We accept with gracious smiles. When there is no other way to associate, there is always chocolate ice cream bars.

‘We toast to friendship that spans miles, languages, and our different lots in life. We are mothers; we belong to each other. This coffee brings us together.’

In my tiniest of apartments, after climbing eight flights of stairs to my floor and enjoying a view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower on every landing, I flop down on my bed exhausted by the day’s exertion. I reach for the Hunchback of Notre Dame, a familiar author, a familiar pastime, to delight in at the end of a hard day. Funnily, I am taken back to many of those places I have seen throughout the day, I revisit them over a century ago, just as I did hours ago. When done, I reach for my journal and pen, in an attempt to unpack all the thoughts swirling from these intersecting pieces of my day.

‘I feel at home in the world, and I feel like Alice falling down a rabbit hole.’

My body and soul long to return to many of the places I have visited over the years. Their streets, their landmarks, somehow familiar although never quite “home”. I ache to take my husband, my children, to see with their own eyes these sites that are “my own” to make them theirs too.

“[T]he aftermath and beauty of dividing your heart and leaving it in infinite places.” 

This is the beauty of being #athomeintheworld. 

I challenge you to take a peek into Tsh Oxenreider’s At Home in the World and not find yourself transported to another place while you find yourself tucked into the warm blankets on your bed, sprawled out on the warm grass in the sunshine, or speeding along on the musty metro to your job. It will incite wanderlust, either sparking movement to research flight information to that next city on your bucket list, or take you within the realm of your imagination, compelling you to revisit some of those seemingly far off places you’ve travelled once before that, in truth, aren’t all that far off. It’s an adventure to read. And its a compelling inspiration to find adventure of your own, personally or with your favorite travel companions.

 

{All quotes taken from Tsh’s book, At Home in the World. Also! For a further sneak peek into her book, Tsh offers a chapter from the audio version of her book on her podcast. Links within this post are affiliate links. By clicking through, I get a tiny portion of the proceeds–thank you!}

 

Never a Waste

 

I found myself earlier in the week running around, completing some last minute tasks for the upcoming holiday this weekend, as I’m wont to do as one approaches.

I had pulled together a few things here and there that I wanted to send to my brother in Michigan who lives there during law school, and won’t be with us to celebrate Easter on Sunday. I filled a little bag to carry the things with me to the post office, with the intention of picking out a flat rate priority mail box upon arrival to package the items in.

We had received something earlier in the week from a family member in such a box that looked like it would be an appropriate size for my things, so I went in search of this item when we arrived. Lo and behold, no such thing existed, at least not in our little town post office. There were only three choices: the first was about as small as a regular-sized novel, so way too thin for my purposes; the second, about the size of two large shoe boxes put together, about twice as big as I needed; and never mind the third.

Since I had no other packaging options with me other than what was available to me at the post office, and my children were already entering into the noontime melt-down stage, I hurriedly looked at the boxes available for sale. The smallest was still too large, but, at least, this one could be altered.

I went to work loading the box, then cut the sides down so that it would fit nicely against the objects in the box as I had nothing to fill in the empty space with. A slice here, a bend there, I finagled the edges down to close the box. I taped it shut, placed my label on top {again, searching to the bottom of my purse for a suitable scrap of paper to write on as these provided nothing for addressing}, and shuffled the children along with me to get in line.

When it was our turn, I informed the post man I would need to pay for the box too, in addition to postage. He paused for about five seconds, looking at the box puzzled, then remarked that he didn’t recognize the box, at first, as something they sold for I had cut it down.

He then asked, “Do you stay at home with your children? Are you a housewife?”

“Yes?” It was now my turn to be puzzled.

“Well, that certainly is a waste! Look at what you’ve done here! So smart!”

I was a bit taken aback by the remark, so I gave an awkward chuckle, paid for my things, and moved on.

But his remark stuck with me as I drove home. I ruminated on it and after a few minutes realized just how mistaken his comment had been.

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Being a mother and housewife, gives me ample opportunity to practice these very skills he was so impressed by. Sure, they could come in handy aiding in professional work, but they are no less useful at home taking care of my family. I’m content to be resourceful. I’m happy to find suitable substitutions when exactly what I need is not available. I’m glad to be able to adjust mathematical proportions when they are not satisfactory for the task at hand.

And why should I not employ some of my best skills at the service of my family that I love dearly?

It is unfortunate that caring for others, especially those most helpless in society, is seen as a profitless endeavor. The eyes of the world mistake what in life is really most important. The raising and nurturing of souls entrusted to my care is the most important work of my life. I want to give the best of myself right here.

I would not walk away from this interaction discouraged, however. Instead, it gave me great resolve to continue bettering my skills, my intellect, to more excellently serve my family at home.

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Today, I finished a book about Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha {Patsy} Jefferson Randolph, called America’s First Daughter. Although a work of fiction, it gave some excellent historical insight into the influence of this grand woman on her father’s legacy. As her mother died when Patsy was young, she took on the matriarchal role of the family, including serving as Jefferson’s “First Daughter” when he was serving in public office positions, at home and abroad. Her father supported her education, in both homemaking and intellectual pursuits, which left her with quite a useful set of skills in managing a household while educating and raising her own children. She was never employed in a profession, but her concealed work within the heart of the family, the influence of which sometimes stretched out into public affairs, had a huge impact on the work and authority of Mr. Jefferson. {And did I mention she raised twelve children, many of which went on to live illustrious lives?}

This book reminded me that an education is never “wasted” even if you are not employing what you have learned outside the home. A family, a household is the basic cell of society. What is happening within it has a greater influence, ultimately, on society at large than any work that is happening in a professional environment. My mind, my skills are not “wasted” on the concerns of my family and home.

Homemaking and raising children may not be acknowledged as professional endeavors but it is some of the most important work that I, or anyone, will ever engage in. Let’s not demean it, nor shame the women and men who undertake this often hidden and thankless task with great enthusiasm, giving much of their best in domestic tasks to those who need them most.

 

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Lucie at play

In the dreary doldrums of winter, Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy had the excellent idea of sharing a few thoughts on what is saving one’s life right now. So much negativity these days — this brings a positive spin to throw us back into the light.

  1. Tazo’s Joy tea — The name says it all. Every Christmas season for the past, at least, 5 years, I’ve taken to drinking a daily cup of this delightful mixture of black, green, and oolong tea. I’m not sure if it is still available at the store, but I stocked up on a few tins before the end of the season. I’m still enjoying my morning cup.
  2. Trader Joe’s fresh flowers — Erica of Be a Heart gave an excellent talk a few weeks ago in the Blessed is She‘s workshops on the importance of beauty in our lives. One thing that brings a lightened mood and beauty to my home, even on difficult or overcast day, is a lovely bouquet of TJ’s fresh flowers. I usually purchase one of the arrangements selling for $3.99, but sometimes I mix it up with a bouquet of just carnations or roses.
  3. Interior Freedom by Fr. Jacques Philippe — I’ve been struggling with finding peace lately, but this excellent read that my husband’s recommending for several years really helped me. This short work has all the right words for an honest dialogue with the Lord about finding that interior peace. He has some others that I will be making my way through soon.
  4. Knitting — I was just telling a friend the other day that finding moments daily to pick up my needles and stitch a few rows makes all the difference for keeping anxiety at bay. With all the crazy busy of life, it is difficult to slow down and truly rest. This activity forces me to still myself. I can literally feel my heart rate drop as I loop in and out.
  5. Meal planning with my planner — The Blessed is She Liturgical Planner‘s are first rate. {None in stock right now, but an updated version should be making it’s way to the shop soon!} The included meal planning and grocery list space {right next to each other!} ensure that it happens every week and makes it super simple to do. I’m actually enjoying the process.
  6. This is Us — We don’t watch a whole lot of television in our home, so you know when there is time reserved for it, it better be good. The show This is Us is a must-see for me every week. It is so well-crafted. The characters are all so real. The situations are ones we find our own selves in at one time or another. I’m laughing and crying through every episode. {And I was very sad there wasn’t a new one last night!}
  7. Raffi — This might seem like a rather silly thing to include on my list, but if there is one children’s musician I will listen to over and over, Raffi is it. I can’t say that of many {or any} others. My girls are completely head-over-heels with his songs, and I totally don’t mind. {He was my childhood favorite too.}

{What’s saving your life right now??}

 

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through, it will give a tiny percentage of the purchase to me. Thank you! 

Year in Review – 2016

My blogging has been sporadic and sparse this year. Much happening with my family and not a whole lot of time to sit down and type out words, even though I have many bouncing around in my head to share.

So, although, I had planned on this being a ’12 in 12 photos’ post, it has turned into more. A quick recap of the year in photos and a few words.

Here’s to 2016. You were good to us.

January

Carmel beach - Jan 2016

Carmel Mission - Jan 2016

wall of water - Jan 2016

jelly fish - Jan 2016

walk for life - Jan 2016

ferry building SF - Jan 2016

We took our annual trip to Carmel and Monterey to visit the Aquarium for Homeschool Days. End of the month had us traveling down to San Francisco for the Walk for Life and a quick weekend getaway in the city.

 

February

Valentine kisses - Feb 2016

top of the Space Needle - Feb 2016

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tea in Victoria - Feb 2016

tiny photographer Victoria - Feb 2016

Princess Evey - Feb 2016

We attended a Valentine’s party at a friend’s house where she had a great photo prop wall set up — Lucie was hamming it up! We went to Seattle {part one and part two} and Victoria, BC as a family, where Steve was quietly taking the Washington State Bar Exam {he passed!}. We loved the Pacific Northwest and hope to travel there again soon. The girls’ cousin, Rosie, celebrated her birthday with a tea party towards the end of the month, and the girls loved dressing up for the occasion.

 

March

exploring water - March 2016

Blessed is She retreat - March 2016

Candy Land - March 2016

Easter - March 2016

petting baby chicks - May 2016

The Fountains - March 2016

Post rain walks were a huge hit this month for watching leaves and sticks float down the runoff. I went to a Blessed is She retreat in Phoenix — my first time away from the girls for a weekend — and had wonderful, much-needed quiet time with the Lord and good friends. Evey learned her first board game, Candyland, on my childhood game board. Easter was a beautiful day with family {and chickens!}. And there was twinning at the Fountains.

 

April

bouquets to art - April 2016

tea at the palm court SF - April 2016

garden helper - April 2016

morning popsicles - April 2016

first time bowling - April 2016

swearing into the Bar - May 2016

I went with a mom and friend to the Bouquets to Art exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, followed by high tea at the Palace Hotel. My little helpers got us going on our garden. It was hot enough to eat popsicles for morning snack by the end of the month. The girls had a blast during their first bowling trip. And the greatest highlight of the month was watching Steve get sworn into the Washington Bar at my parents’ house by a good friend of my mother.

 

May

 

capital crew - May 2016

pencil behind ear - May 2016

family photo - May 2016

eating strawberries from the patch - May 2016

riding with lettuce - May 2016

Evey's tomato plant - May 2016

dancing for great grandma - May 2016

May snow play - May 2016

I watched my brother, Raphael, in the Southwest Junior Rowing Championships at Lake Natoma. Morning cutie with a pencil in her ear. A gathering at my parents’ house had everyone in attendance. More gardening {lots of strawberries and lettuce!}.  Evelyn enjoyed working with her tomato plant housed in it’s own special red cage. We celebrated Great-Grandma, AM’s “39th” birthday again. It was still cold enough for some snow to be on the ground at the cabin!

 

June

water play - June 2016

holding a ladybug - June 2016

running together - June 2016

hula hooping - June 2016

Golden Gate Bridge SF - June 2016

playing xylophone - June 2016

hiding in a tree SF - June 2016

at the beach in Santa Cruz - June 2016

Santa Cruz beach - June 2016

chillin in the sand chair - June 2016

daddy's day - June 2016

carrots and chard from our garden - June 2016

corn tassels - June 2016

strawberries from the garden - June 2016

birthday girl - June 2016

Water play began this month and we spent a large part of the summer splashing in that little pool. A trip to the cabin involved a little hike where Lucie found her favorite–a ladybug–and Evey enjoyed running with Jed. I took the girls to Children’s Discovery Museum in Sausalito and we had a blast exploring all day. Father’s Day weekend found us in Santa Cruz, spending ample time at the beach and checking out the “little red lighthouse” {a great discovery due to this book}. Wonderful summer produce from our garden! And a little someone celebrated her second birthday at the end of the month.

 

July

examining flowers - July 2016

all american - July 2016

parade time - July 2016

pretend photos - July 2016

sitting on the dock - July 2016

hammock time with daddy - July 2016

swinging fun - July 2016

Serene Lakes parade - July 2016

first fish! - July 2016

blowing seeds to the wind - July 2016

flower child - July 2016

camping hike - July 2016

Evey photog - July 2016

first ferris wheel ride - July 2016

A busy, wonderful month full of much exploration! We spent a week at the cabin to celebrate the 4th of July — lots of fun with family! Then, we hopped over to the coast to spend the following weekend at Gerstle Cove State Park to camp with our dear friends, Evelyn’s godparents. And finally closed off the month with a trip to the California State Fair where Evelyn got to go on her first ferris wheel ride {worth the hour+ standing in the blazing sun!}.

 

August

blowing bubbles - Aug 2016

fishing together - Aug 2016

our sunflowers - Aug 2016

SLO beach - Aug 2016

catching seeds - Aug 2016

hanging with my girls - Aug 2016

Winding down the summer with one more trip to the cabin for bubble blowing and fishing. We grew some beautiful multi-colored sunflowers in our garden which often graced my kitchen window. I ran away to SLO with my sis-in-laws for a weekend away complete with a requisite trip to the beach. Evelyn loved pulling the seeds from the cornflower seed pods to store away for next year. Hamming it up as we say goodbye to summer!

 

September

playing in the yard - Sept 2016

BIS retreat - Sept 2016

knit hat - Sept 2016

cheers in Sac! - Sept 2016

camping dirt play - Sept 2016

large painting - Sept 2016

play dough play - Sept 2016

writing her name - Sept 2016

going up the slide - Sept 2016

Dwindling summer evenings at the Labor Day BBQ. I went on retreat with my Blessed is She writer team in Minnesota/Wisconsin for a weekend–so wonderful to meet many bright faces I had only interacted with online before. Knit up this lovely hat for myself with Ginny’s yarn and my first pattern from Making Magazine.  Happy Hour during an overnight in Sacramento. Off to our last camping trip of the summer at the Calaveras Big Trees with Gram and Pumpkin where Lucie got as dirty as she possible could. Many great activities from our Homegrown Preschooler curriculum this autumn, including BIG painting, homemade play dough, and writing our name! We took Daddy with us to explore Fairy Tale Town on a rare day off.

 

October

Seattle date - Oct 2016

Multnomah Falls - Oct 2016

rain play - Oct 2016

playing in the rain - Oct 2016

first fair isle - Oct 2016

circus - Oct 2016

pumpkin patch - Oct 2016

explode the code - Oct 2016

Apple Hill - Oct 2016

apple picking - Oct 2016

Halloween - Oct 2016

Steve and I got away for a long weekend to Portland, a place neither of us had been before. {Our first weekend away since having the girls!} Much needed rain for California didn’t stop us from going outside–a different kind of water play from the summer, but so fun! I finished my first Fair Isle hat–a sweet little cap for Evelyn–with my favorite new yarn from Quince & Co. that I picked up in Portland. Evey’s wish came true and we went to the circus after I won tickets to a show! A pumpkin patch, of course! Evelyn completed her first school workbook. Fall just wouldn’t be fall without a trip Apple Hill, enjoying the colors of the season, as well as apple picking {and eating} in our nearby orchard. And rounded out the month with Halloween and a reappearance of Anna and Elsa.

 

November

hiking with uncles - Nov 2016

Veterans day parade - Nov 2016

backyard bonfire - Nov 2016

train museum - Nov 2016

turning 4! - Nov 2016

cousins holding cousins - Nov 2016

crazy faces - Nov 2016

digging out - Nov 2016

building a snowman - Nov 2016

cracking eggs - Nov 2016

building together - Nov 2016

knitting - Nov 2016

thanksgiving tree - Nov 2016

Thanksgiving - Nov 2016

A final trip of the season with uncles to Apple Hill. Joining in the local Veterans’ Day parade. A backyard bonfire to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. A trip to the train museum in Sacramento to celebrate Evelyn turning 4. Lucie enjoyed holding her newest cousin, Zachary. Headed up to the cabin for the first big snowfall of the season. Steve did an excellent job digging us out. And we made a fantastic snowman. Our resident egg cracker. A moment of working together that doesn’t happen too often. Lots of Christmas gift knitting. Our family thanksgiving tree. And Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house.

 

December

Advent candles - Dec 2016

counting gingerbread buttons - Dec 2016

Advent calendar - Dec 2016

Christmas crackers - Dec 2016

mama quiet time - Dec 2016

SF store windows at Christmas - Dec 2016

decorating Christmas cookies - Dec 2016

cutting out gingerbread - Dec 2016

decorating cookies - Dec 2016

fallen Christmas tree - Dec 2016

fancy dinner - Dec 2016

Nutcracker - Dec 2016

first quilt

snuggling with Gram - Dec 2016

sledding with Pumpkin - Dec 2016

Evey skiing - Dec 2016

Christmas chaos - Dec 2016

dad's new hat - Dec 2016

Christmas morning donuts - Dec 2016

Christmas breakfast - Dec 2016

doll house play - Dec 2016

Christmas girls - Dec 2016

Christmas napping - Dec 2016

Lot’s of great things this month! We dove into Advent with gusto, but fell off a bit when I got sick. The girls enjoyed the Advent calendars and a look at celebrations from places around the world, while I got to dive in deeply with BiS’s Advent journal. We took a trip to San Francisco to take a peek at the magical displays in the storefront windows. Many cookies were made and decorated. Our tree fell over {but we repositioned the bottom to stay in the stand better and had no further accidents}. On the eve of Christmas Eve we went out for a fancy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and to the Nutcracker at the Sacramento Ballet. I completed my first quilt, a gift for my brother, Dominic. We had a Christmas weekend at the cabin, complete with lots of snow fun! And a Christmas celebration at my parents’ that involved deep sea diving in wrapping paper by the young ones. My dad sporting his newly knit hat! Christmas morning was quiet and wonderful. And Lucie snuck in plenty of naps during the holidays!

 

Wishing one and all a Happy New Year 2017!

Thanks for taking this look back with me!

A Slew of Random Thoughts to End the Week

Quick post to end a long week.

1. We finally have RAIN here. Its been coming off and on all week and we’re due for more into the weekend. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal to most but this drought here in California has us so parched. We appreciate every drop that falls.

skipping in the gutter

2. I’m planning and scheming for Christmas, full-steam ahead. Partly, this was inspired by the fact I like to craft some gifts for Christmas and it takes time to make them, but I’m also eager to get all my shopping done before Advent starts. It always seems to sneak up on me. We’ve purchased big gift for the girls, and I’m eager to see their faces Christmas morning. {That is one downside to shopping so early — I have to wait soooo long to gift them! And I’m more excited about the gift-giving than receiving.}

crockpot apple butter

3. My eldest is all-in with learning to use scissors. Although, her idea of using scissors is cutting up paper into the tiniest, little scraps so that it looks like a confetti party has happened in my kitchen. I’m trying to go with the flow, but it has me wigging out some days when I’m trying to get dinner on the table in the midst of a confetti mountain.

playing in the leaves

4. This autumn season has been full of squash recipes. This one and one from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More {it involves sriracha and pesto so it is automatically my husband’s favorite} have been on repeat. {You guys, if you want more inspiration in the vegetable cooking department, either this one or his first–Plenty–are absolute necessities on your cookbook shelf.}

stuffed honeynut squash

5. Poor Lulu has had a cold for about a week now that is persisting on staying in her head. I so wish I could pull out the Sudafed for her. We’ve been attempting treatments with the humidifier during rest time and nighttime, and Vick’s on her chest too. We had one evening of croup cough and it was excruciating to hear her suffering so. I hope it lifts soon.

sleeping Lulu

6. Halloween is on the horizon. Evelyn is planning on dressing in Elsa costume that I made her last year. We were thinking Lucie would wear what she calls her “ladybug dress” {it’s red with black polka dots}, but now she’s expressing interest in wearing her Anna costume again too. We’ll just go with flow. In the interest of keeping too much candy out of our house, I purchased Goldfish snacks to hand out to our trick-or-treaters. For two reasons: they were a HUGE hit last year with the neighborhood and if we’re stuck with extras, I’d rather be able to give whatever it is to the girls as a snack, not have to throw it in the trash.

fall dinner

7. Evelyn’s birthday is coming up in about two weeks. Her birthday party is next weekend. She chose a Paddington Bear theme, but it has been nearly impossible to find Paddington things in the United States. There is no way I’m paying $20 in shipping from the UK to have paper plates and cups for the party. I found some cute Paddington fabric so I’ll be making some bunting with it. I’ve ordered a couple Paddingtons on ebay to use. If anyone has any other ideas, besides just using blue, red, and yellow colored things to decorate, I’m all ears. We will be doing a luncheon tea.

img_0742

Have a great weekend!

#write31days ~ day 9: counting your blessings

cornflowers

“Rejoicing in these singular moments of grace, I desired to see more of them and was better able to recognize His loving care woven throughout my days. My hope returned. The recognition of His presence in my life lifted me from the fog of despair and back into the light of hope.”

Today I am writing over at Blessed is She, sharing how the practice of daily gratitude can be an excellent way of keeping the joy of Christ in your life, even during turbulent, trying times. Whenever my mood is spiraling into a dark place for long stretches, I find that this practice of counting your blessings can bring great relief and inspiration through this great act of faith.

I often take an empty journal and just write in a thing or two each day that I’m grateful for. It’s an excellent practice to start during Advent or Lent as a devotion to enter into the season more fully. And one of the reasons I love the Blessed is She Liturgical Planner so much is that there is a space for this at the end of every day.

Two people that inspire me with their continual practice of this are Bobbi at Revolution of Love and Ann at A Holy Experience. Bobbi, a fellow BiS writer, is currently spending her Write 31 Days challenge sharing 31 Days of Gratitude. I read along with her last year as well when she kept this practice. {Although, this is actually her third year!} Ann has an entire book written on this practice {which I haven’t yet read, but need to!}. Her blog posts are filled with gratitude for even the smallest blessings in life.

 

#write31days ~ day 2: rain

resting in an easy chair

Today was our first day of rain in California in I don’t know how long. Even a touch of snow up in the mountains. {I know! Already?!} The crisp smell of rain hit my nostrils the second I stepped outside. Just the scent was relieving since this terrible drought we’ve been in. It meant somewhere it was coming down and, likely, soon would be hitting the earth immediately below our feet.

………………………..

It has been terrible watching one lawn after another die off. One tree after another turn brown and wilt. One bush after another languish with thirst and crisp. One reservoir after another become like a desert land, cracked and dry.

When we drove up into the mountains near Yosemite last weekend for our camping trip, I couldn’t believe the number of fir trees I was witnessing brown from tip to bottom. It takes a lot for these towering, majestic firs to flag. And here they were dead. So many of them.

There was a windstorm amongst the tops of the trees in our final night in the forest. It was rather disconcerting to have those BIG trees standing above, swaying so mightily in the wind. Even more so, with their desiccated limbs flailing. Every so often, you could hear one crashing to the ground at a short distance. I prayed more than once to our guardian angels that night to keep our tents and bodies safe from harm.

………………………..

Rain is most welcome here. To fill our rivers. To quench our trees. To enliven our flowers. To satisfy our living animals. To heal our dry land.

#write31days ~ day 1: sunflowers

sunflowers

Last year, we grew these sunflowers in our garden. It was the first year that, after their planting, they actually decided to show up. Although, I doubt the late arrival to the party was their own fault. Those birds that swoop through the yard many times throughout the day, I’m sure, may have been the influence.

The sunflowers uplifting presence was a bright highlight every day as I walked into the garden to water. Their orientation toward the sun reminded me to soak in its rays after the chilly, grey days of winter had fallen away. Their radiance brought their own source of light to cheer me. My daughters loved to stand near them and gaze up at their grandeur, their large heads providing a small source of shade from the blazing sun.

………………………..

My grandmother had a great affinity for these delightful flowers. Just recently, we began the process of emptying her house as she and my grandfather both have passed onto their eternal reward. As I swept through her kitchen, painted a sweet shade of pastel yellow, I began unhooking the pictures she had hanging there: all ones depicting in a variety of ways her favorite sunshiny flower. I wrapped them up to bring them to my home, thinking very fondly of her and our times spent in the kitchen, hoping soon to hang them on my own walls to bring back those memories from time to time.

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We planted another round of sunflowers this year. My eldest finds great delight in the color red, so we threw in a few of that shade as well. I’ve hidden them along the fence, away from the sight of the snatching birds. They do so much better in that spot. We, even, had a several volunteers from last year’s fallen seeds that produced stalks nearly resembling sunflower trees, with multiple heads shooting from the main stem.

What a joy they bring! I’m beginning to understand why they were my grandmother’s favorite. They may slowly make their way up my chart of favorites to the top as the years roll by.

What I Learned This Summer

I’ve enjoyed linking up with Emily for her monthly “What I’ve Learned” posts throughout the year. I’ve had this one sitting in my drafts for a while, adding a little as time went along because I haven’t seen a post up all summer. Well, turns out she decided to do an end-of-summer round up. Good thinking, lady. Here’s my summer’s worth:

  • My girls enjoying things that I once enjoyed as a young girl brings me even greater joy than the joy it brought me in my youth.

Evelyn and carrots

Toys, clothes, little tchotckes that brought me much joy — slowly, I pull these out for my children and witness a similar love. Evelyn, especially, has a sentimental heart just like here mama and takes great pleasure in knowing that something she is wearing or playing with once belonged to her mama when she was little.

  • A little water can make a big difference for growing a garden.

We’ve been in a terrible drought here the past couple of years. Last year, everyone was asked to kill their lawn for the summer, to reconfigure their landscaping to a more “drought-tolerant” scape. So it shouldn’t have come as any surprise to me that it would be difficult to grow a single thing in that parched soil.

I was close to throwing in the towel when it came to gardening because of this. As much as I suspected the lack of water was a huge culprit in the piddly garden I was producing, I still was feeling like it was my lack of green thumb.

But about a month into our plantings, and we had so many sprouts this year. I was a bit giddy with excitement.

We’ve had several rainfalls throughout the months of April and May and they greatly contributed to the health of the garden. I could tell as I was ripping out weeds, witnessing all the earthworms ranging around, that the soil was a million times healthier. And I was hopeful.

It seems I had reason to be.

Rapunzel tomato plant

munching strawberries

  • Tomatillos cannot cross-pollinate with other tomatoes. They need some of their own kind. {Same goes for squash varieties.}

On that same garden vein, we planted one tomatillo plant and waited. And waited. And waited. Watching tons of flowers pop out, but no tomatillos husks appear. I asked about this at our local nursery and, sure enough, was informed that we needed at least two to produce the little buggers.

It was a little late in the planting season when I realized this, so I had trouble locating others. I eventually found a few tiny seedlings that will likely be too late to help my first, but maybe we’ll get something from them later.

Surprisingly, the other day, a couple husks showed up on my plant! Maybe one of the neighbors has some too. Thank you, kind neighbor, for the good deed you have done unknowingly.

  • Short, but sweet, podcasts are my jam. 

Perhaps it’s because my occasion to listen is always in short spurts, but I’m really a fan of quick podcasts — ones that are 10 minutes or less. This one to inspire writers is one of my favorites right now.

  • Even a three-year old is capable of finding enjoyment in needlecraft.

Evey stitching

Evelyn has been begging me for months to teach her how to knit. I really want to but I’m afraid 1) she’ll find it too difficult and just get frustrated & 2) I feel completely incapable of such a feat. Someone suggested to me trying out finger knitting, which I will have to read up on. But, in the meantime, we found a little embroidery kit at the craft store that she is absolutely enjoying. I mean, she’s not doing the stitches the way that is shown on the box, but I figure, at this point, what is important is getting the hang of threading the needle in and out of the correct side each time. {Easier said than done, even for a seasoned crafter!} I’m so impressed by her desire and drive in working it out.

And last, but not least…

  • I am so happy we chose to live a quieter summer this year.

skipping rocks

All extra-curriculars were cancelled, spontaneous trips to the cabin occurred, many, many books were borrowed, purchased, read, countless hours were spent splashing in the water outside, and we spent a lot more time just being. {Plus, there were about a hundred hiccups/disappoints that needed dealing with and it always helps to have a tad more freedom to give those things the attention their due.}

 

What did you learn this summer??

Starting Somewhere {7QT}

When you’ve been away for a while, it is difficult to know where to start, so I’ll just jump right into the middle since it’s Friday, a.k.a. 7QT’s Day!

summer popsicles

1) I’m following along and living vicariously through friends that are in Poland for the annual World Youth Day with Pope Francis this week. I was blessed to be able to attend in Rome in 2000 and Toronto in 2002. I shared a bit about how Pope St. John Paul the Great has influenced my life through his great sermons given at these two events over at my friend Patty’s space, A Modern Grace.

WYD 2000 Tor Vergata Mass

WYD 2000 Pope John Paul II

WYD 2002 rainy morning Mass

2) I read through Pope Francis’ sermons {source: here and here} from the past two days and walked away with these gems that I’ll be pondering for a while:

“[God] is in our midst and he takes care of us, without making decisions in our place and without troubling himself with issues of power. He prefers to let himself be contained in little things, unlike ourselves, who always want to possess something greater. To be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances, is tragically human. It is a great temptation that tries to insinuate itself everywhere. But to give oneself to others, eliminating distances, dwelling in littleness and living the reality of one’s everyday life: this is exquisitely divine.”

“[God] does not want to remain on his throne in heaven or in history books, but loves to come down to our everyday affairs, to walk with us.”

“The eternal is communicated by spending time with people and in concrete situations.”

“Let us ask for the grace to imitate [Mary’s] sensitivity and her creativity in serving those in need, and to know how beautiful it is to spend our lives in the service of others, without favorites or distinctions.”

“To say that Jesus is alive means to rekindle our enthusiasm in following him, to renew our passionate desire to be his disciples. What better opportunity to renew our friendship with Jesus than by building friendships among yourselves! What better way to build our friendship with Jesus than by sharing him with others! What better way to experience the contagious joy of the Gospel than by striving to bring the Good News to all kinds of painful and difficult situations!”

Pope Francis WYD 2016 Poland

{source}

3) On the garden front, we’ve been fighting the good fight against an army of harlequin cabbage beetles {a.k.a. firebugs} that are ravaging our garden. They’ve gone from one plant to the next, taking them out. I finally found them in my tomatoes this morning, after grasping a ripe one and having a billion little babies crawl out of the middle. {Definitely woke up the neighbors with that squeal.} I promptly ran to Home Depot and we sprayed insecticidal soap all over the plant. I’ve tried regular bug spray {when I couldn’t use the soap on the nasturtiums} and pulling them off individually to throw them in a bowl of soapy water. It seems to kill a squad but not the entire army. Once I rip out the remainder of the bed where the nasturtiums are, I’m going to throw down the black tarp of death and hopefully extinguish them while the heat is still high so I can still plant a Fall garden come September.

harlequin/firebugs on chard

red nasturtiums

corn on the stalk

corn stalks

4) Lots of knitting this past month with many beautiful, hand-dyed yarns by this lovely lady, as well as some fun, blue color-way socks for my latest nephew. {First set of socks so please don’t judge.} Also, a warming set for my brother who is headed off for law school in Michigan next month and will get the chill of his life come winter.

blue baby socks

knitting tools

5) The heat burn has been phenomenal this week. Day time temps soaring past 100 and evening not dropping much below 80. Makes me ready for autumn…tomorrow. I’m just grateful we don’t live where the humidity is high or I might melt like a popsicle. The water table, kiddie pool and squirt guns have been our best friends. And I don’t just mean for the children.

watering the pool

throwing water

6) We had a TON of fun with our good friends and Evey’s godparents a couple weeks ago camping near the coast. It was the first time for the girls sleeping in a tent. Other than the scare Lucie experienced when she rolled into the side of the tent in the middle of the night, they were both troopers and slept like logs {albeit rolling logs}. We promptly came home and marked another one on the calendar in September.

munching s'mores

our campsite

searching for mysterious creatures

photo lessons with Matt

7) We’ve been dealing with many house issues this month too, which are slowly getting resolved one by one. The broken dryer for several weeks certainly slowed life down, as I was canvassing every spot in the house that might be “hanging rack” worthy. Maybe we’ll just forget the dryer from now on and install a clothesline. They are much more trustworthy, turns out.

hiking up the hill

Click over to Kelly’s space to read more of this week’s 7QT!

 

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