Friday, June 26, 2015

7 Quick Takes: A Random Assortment Of What-Nots



1.  Last week Edward threw my iPhone into the toilet.  I swear that kid is like a pint-sized Harry Houdini, wriggling into all kinds of tight spots, nabbing items I don't know he's got, and causing a general, but constant ruckus.

Good thing he's cute.

As for the phone, I threw it in a bag of rice and waited with baited breath for two days in order to determine if it would work again.

Can you believe it?

The rice did the trick.

(I guess it draws the water out of the device?)

Though there is damage to my phone, it does indeed work, which means I don't have to purchase another expensive piece of technological equipment to replace my old one.

For now, anyway.

2.  Summer is officially here and by 10 am every morning, the children have exhausted use of their games, books, and toys.  Yesterday morning looked something like this:




  • 6:50 am:  Camille descends the stairs and demands breakfast.  I send her back up the stairs, put her in my bed with a stack of books and command her to stay until I call her.
  • 7:00 am:  Camille reappears and asks for breakfast.  She announces she's read all the books and she's hungry.  She also tells me she's not going back into my bed. At this point, Meaghan has emerged from her slumber, so she offers to make oatmeal.  I accept the help.
  • 7:30 am:  Breakfast is over.  All six children have been fed and hydrated.  I proceed to put a clean diaper and dress Edward for the day.
  • 7:45 am:  Now dressed for the day themselves, Camille and Christopher situate themselves outside on the porch with a pile of cars and toys.  Meaghan, Mary, and Patrick begin a rousing game of Monopoly at the dining room table.
  • 8:00 am:  Christopher and Camille feud over who actually owns the one toy car out of the five million laying in a pile.  To ensure he "wins" the debate, Christopher grabs Camille's favorite chap stick from her bag, holds it up above his head and yells, "I'm not giving this chap stick back.  It belongs to me."  Camille begins to shriek and kick and threaten Christopher with all kinds of intended mayhem should he not return her chapstick.  While this is happening, Edward chucks matchbox car off the deck.  I suggest a different game.
  • 8:10 am: Camille and Christopher pull out their art supplies and set up at the picnic table outside.  Edward joins them, if only to torment them and their efforts to create.
  • 8:20 am:  Christopher and Camille tire of coloring and tell me their bored.  I start counting down until nap time.
  • Rinse and repeat all day long.
 The pool opened this week so I'm hoping frequent visits there will help with the "Mom, I'm bored" stuff.

3.  Let's talk books, shall we?



Per a dear friend's suggestion, I just finished reading A Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson.  It's the memoir of an attorney who has spent his life working for the imprisoned.  His stories and statistics are so harrowing, at one point I texted my friend with the question:

THIS IS AMERICA?

Prior to reading the book, I was already against the death penalty.  We have a system to adequately contain criminals in the United States so I don't think it is probably ever necessary to kill criminals.  But this book increased my awareness to the injustices people of color face in our penal system.

It highlighted for me how black people are not treated the same as white people when they are convicted of crimes.

It made me aware of the injustice of trying children as adults (which is a practice that runs rampant in this country).

It heightened my awareness of how gravely cyclical poverty coupled with a lack of education stymies people and limits their ability to make different or better choices.

And for these reasons, of course, I highly recommend the book.  It will open your eyes to a man who has devoted his life to working for the impoverished, mentally ill, and emotionally/physically/sexually abused.

But the book is not perfect, of course.  Though I think Stevenson is a warrior for those without a voice, I struggled with his strong defense of the imprisoned without mentioning the other important injustices against life (mainly abortion and euthanasia).  Because he didn't mention the value of all life--not just those on death row, but also those in the womb or in a nursing home--I think he risked  promoting a sort of political agenda, instead of living the gospel.

Still, the book is worth a gander and will move your heart.

It did mine.  Stevenson is a modern day hero.


I've also been reading the  Hawk And The Dove by Penelope Wilcox.  I read it in fits and stops, picking it up and plowing through 150 pages only to put it down and not pick it up again for a few weeks.

This book is the first in a series and came highly recommended to me by the ladies in my Great Books Club.  It's the lovely story about monks set in fourteenth century Yorkshire during the time of Chaucer.  The thing I love about the book is the way the author depicts these monks who are very serious about living out the vocations God calls them to, but who are also deeply flawed and wounded by life's circumstances.  This is an edifying read for anyone who loves God and wants to be a better neighbor and love others well.

I'm also reading The Aeneid and am struggling greatly.  I'll leave my commentary at that.

4. The last time I met with my spiritual direction, I mentioned how I wanted to discern the role writing and photography takes in my life.  Father and I spoke a long time about these hobbies and his parting words to me where,

"You're on to something here.  You should keep discerning how God wants you to use your gifts.  Just make sure that as long as you pursue these forms of art, you do so in a way that is beautiful, that promotes truth and goodness."

I reflected on Father's words all afternoon because if there is one thing I want to do with any kind of art I do, it's reflect goodness, beauty and truth.  But I also worry and wonder if I should dedicate myself to these artsistic hobbies I find so edifying.  I wonder what the role writing and photogrpahy should play in my life.

In short?  I wonder if these things are God's will for me.

The next day, I had committed to take pictures at a Baccalaureate Mass for a homeschool group.  I was busy running around the back of the church, snapping photos like a mad woman.  As I worked, I heard the music ministry people cue up Matt Maher's song "Lord, I Need You."

And then I looked at the Crucifix and saw this. 


I lifted my camera to capture the image and as I did I heard the choir sing these words:

"Where sin runs deep, your grace is more.
Where grace is found, is where you are.
Where you are, Lord, I am free,
Holiness is Christ is me."

And I started to weep right there in the middle of the Mass.  

(Poor form if you are the photographer at an event.)

I thought of Father and our recent conversation to search for beauty and I knew right there in the middle of the preparation for Communion, God is in fact inviting me to pursue the arts in my life.

He wants this for me, like I want it for myself.




5. Camille and Christopher started another round of swim lessons and Camille loves every minute of it.  Every two seconds she looks for me in the crowd and waves like Princess Diana addressing at her adoring fans.  It's a sight to behold.










6.  We have another Murphy baby.  She's cute, ain't she?


7.  That's all I've got.  Have a terrific Friday and don't forget to stop by Kelly's for more awesome quick takes.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why I Will Never Say To Another Parent "Little Kid, Little Problems, Big Kid, Big Problems"



Sam Cooke wasn't lying when he sang, "A Change Is Gonna Come."

Sometimes I'll look over at Meaghan as she is diapering Edward's bottom or baking cookies (her favorite afternoon activity) and I'm blown away at her maturity.  Lately, she'll relay a funny story about something one of the little kids did and the ease she possesses as she tells the tale makes me think she's one of my peers.  When she rolls her eyes and waves her hand dramatically to emphasize her point, she conveys a type of sophistication I didn't know was possible for a girl her age.



 I know this is a very mom thing to say, but Meaghan is a beautiful girl.  She's got legs up to her eyeballs and freckles sprinkled all over her fair skin.  She has started curling her stick straight,  blond hair before school in the morning and I've noticed--all of a sudden--she's stashing some of my personal care items in her room.

Last week, I decided to bring Meaghan with me to meet my new niece, Eliza, and on the way home she said, "Eliza is a doll, mom."

Then she looked over me with a big question mark written all over her face and said, "Do you think she looks like a Murphy?"

I squelched a giggle and felt my mom heart swoon.

My girl, Meaghan?  She's a delight.

I have to confess...I'm surprised I enjoy her so much.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

On Motherhood, Cultivating Our Own Interests, And Accepting Ourselves


 I read a blog post from Christy at Fountains of Home  awhile back that resonated with me.  She was giving tips on how to survive the long winter in Canada and one thing she wrote had me shaking my head in agreement.   She says:

"Maybe I should just read a little more, maybe an episode of Parenthood isn't the end of the world, or chatting with a friend is more important folding another basket of laundry. I just find that when I think those things aren't important I get much more irritable and angry and frustrated and that's what begins the downward cycle of winter-hating-stay-at-home-mom-depression."

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!

I know what it's like to live enslaved to high standards without a good dose of self-care, so I'm probably overly sensitive to this cause.  I've grown a lot since my first days of marriage and motherhood when I didn't know if it was OK if my baby fussed for a minute or two while I took a shower.

But I like to think I've mellowed a little bit, partly because I've matured and partly out of sheer desperation.  Over the years, I've realized if I don't take care of myself, no one will.

I have to make the effort to get enough sleep.

I have to make the effort to exercise.

I have to make the effort to engage in renewing activities.

When I need help with my house or with educating my kids, I get it.  (Over the years that's taken the form of a maid, childcare, and/or a two day a week homeschool academy.) 

I needed to quit waiting for someone to give me permission to be a human being and I needed to start acting like one.

It's been a long, hard road and I haven't perfected the art but I am much more savvy at doing what I need to do so I can function.

I think it's OK to do any of the following if I'm feeling so overburdened by life, I'm are not quite sure how to get out of bed:
  • put the television on for the kids so I can drink a cup of coffee or run on the treadmill in peace,
  • let the house get messy so I can read a book or engage in another pleasant activity,
  • or scrap all the housework and put the kids in the car so I can go visit with a friend!

Sometimes I think we moms don't know ourselves well enough.  We don't know, for instance, that the cup of coffee with a girlfriend will actually motivate us to go home to our families and be a better mother than we would have been if we had dutifully stayed home and folded the laundry and completed all our chores.

Motherhood Is Not Indentured Servitude  and we moms need to figure out a way to live out our humanity without putting our own personal growth on hold for 18-22 years. 


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Forty Ways Not To Lose Summer



Elizabeth Foss posted  Forty Ways To Keep Summer From Slipping Away last week and I loved reading her summer goals.  For the last week or so, I've thought about how I want our summer to look, so I decided to follow her lead and write out my own Summer goals for our family and me. 

1.  Even though I can sleep in because school is out, I'll continue to rise at 5:00 am for my coffee and prayer time.  This really is the best time of my day.  A friend asked me recently how I get up so early and I told her not to be too impressed.  I'm wired for early mornings.  In college, when everyone arrived to the library for late night study sessions, I was usually packing my things to go home.  I'd much rather get up at 3 am than stay up until 3 am.  It's weird, I know.

2.  Continue to write every morning from 6 to 7 am.  Work on being detached when I'm interrupted by needy children.

3.  Continue to exercise three to four times a week.  Vary the routine with both exercise DVDs, walking, and running.  Involve the kids as much as possible.  (Side note:  I just started the Jillian Michael's videos.  Wow.)

4.  Read good books.  Our great books club is slated to read The Aeneid this Summer and I have to confess, I'm not at all excited about it.  I realize how uneducated that is to admit, but it's true.  I'm going to have to supplement my reading list with some other books I really want to tackle to keep myself motivated.

5.  Have the kids keep a list of all their Summer reading.  Maybe create a friendly competition and offer a date night with mom and dad to the winner?

6.  Take pictures with either my real camera or my iPhone everyday. 

7.  Take the kids to the swimming pool or the lake at least once a week or more.

8.  Prepare dinner on the grill as much as I can.

9.  Host several outdoor family movie nights.  (We hosted one last summer and invited our friends and it was so much fun.)

10.   Read a few picture books to my little kids everyday.

11.  Institute thirty minutes of required reading everyday.

12.  Blow bubbles and color with sidewalk chalk.

13.  Take a long weekend trip to Florida with my girlfriends.

14.  Teach an iPhone photography class to elementary and middle school students.

15.  Persevere on that writing project.  Don't listen to negative Nellies (also known as my thoughts).  Keep going.  Have confidence.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When The Same Post You Wrote Goes Viral Not Once, But Twice, You Know You Hit A Nerve

Well, that's weird.

On Sunday I noticed several new blog notifications, which caused me to check my stats, something I rarely do anymore.  I just don't have the time or energy to police who is coming to this here blog these days.  However, I wandered over to that stat counter anyway because of all the new notifications and low and behold, someone had unearthed and re-posted the article Sorry, Catholic Parenting Is Not An Insurance Policy For Raising Well Adjusted Catholic Children.

Yesterday, at the two-day a week Classical academy my children attend, I saw two of my mom-friends and both said they had read the article over the weekend.  Both women also admitted they have experienced the same type of thing--judgment from like-minded women about their parenting practices--and that my words resonated with them.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Artist's Way Is Anything But Silly




Once I was at the park when a mom announced that her husband used to be a writer.

"He wrote for years before we got married," she confessed, "but now we have kids and I told him to put that silliness away."

I almost choked on my tongue so astounded was I at this woman's flippant disregard for her husband's creative life.

I've been reading Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a spiritual self-help guide for the creative who needs to get back in touch with his or her artistic side.  The first sentence of her book encapsulates the heart of why I was so put off by my acquaintance's commentary.

Cameron says, "Art is a spiritual transaction."

Yes, yes it is.


Friday, May 1, 2015

A Mother's Serenity Prayer


 *the photos in this post are dedicated to Aunt RaRa, who loves my kids so much it hurts



When the heat goes out and the temperature is negative two degrees outside and I wonder when the oil company will arrive to save us from this dangerous situation,
Lord, help me to accept hardship as a pathway to peace, to take as Jesus did the sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

When we are on day three of no working heat and we don't hear the pipes burst and a child wakes us the next morning to tell us there is water gushing from the wall and pouring all over the living room floor,
           Lord, help me to accept hardship as a pathway to peace, to take as Jesus did the sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

When a child wakes in the dead of night with a scream so blood-curdling I suspect the neighbors may have heard, a scream so loud it causes a second and then a third child to awaken and require middle of the night attention,
Lord, help me to accept hardship as a pathway to peace, to take as Jesus did the sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

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