Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Pre-Writing Writing Process

Taken by a manic four year old photographer
Cristina tagged me to write about my pre-writing process, which is funny because few would willingly desire to emulate any of my processes, but especially those that pertain to writing.  Still, she asked some questions so I'm playing along.  Don't say I didn't warn you, Cristina.

I apologize in advance.

(As an aside, I've learned a lot from Cristina about social media in the short time I've known her.  She is someone who really gets social media in general and marketing and promotion and I highly recommend following both her blog and her Twitter feed so you can reading all the articles and tips she posts.  Her information stream has been very helpful to me.  Plus, she's a really kind person.  Who doesn't need kindness in their life?)

What are your working on?

I think this question should read, what would you like to be working on...

Just kidding...

Kind of.

I'm always working on something, but it doesn't always look like the traditional sit and type pose.

I have a monthly writing commitment at Integrated Catholic Life and I am also always thinking about potential blog posts, other article ideas, and book ideas.  I jot those thoughts down in a folder on my phone.

You'd laugh if you saw the list.

It's a bunch of random words with enough information so I don't forget the point about which I'd like to expand.

I have half a book written and a few more ideas I'd love to pursue.  Randy Hain, my editor at ICL, has been encouraging me to get serious and put my writerly game face on.  I very much desire to "Do the work" as Steven Pressfield so aptly suggests, but  I also know that this particular moment is not the right time.

That time will come.

Until then, I write when I can and at odd times and in unusual places and I'm always very grateful for the super nice laptop my dad gave me as a gift a few years ago.  It's enabled me to keep writing.

I'm also a quality over quantity type of girl.  I'd rather produce one thoughtful blog post/article than a bunch of daily vapid navel gazing (though that still happens here sometimes). 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Parents Of Large Families: Ours Is A Public Ministry

 I went to the dentist last week and when it was my turn to have my teeth cleaned, the energetic
23-year old hygienist made small talk as she prepped the room for x-rays.

“Your husband was just in here and he told me you guys have six kids?" the young woman said.

"Yes, we do," I answered. 

I braced myself for a potential battery of inappropriate questions or statements or both. Anytime I go anywhere these days, someone somewhere has an opinion about my family size.  I've learned responding to these opinionated strangers is an art form and almost always requires a prayer.   

I sent up a silent, “Come, Holy Spirit” and waited for the woman to continue. 

"Whew," she said.  "Better you than me."

"Why do you say that?"

"I'm the oldest of six kids and I'm never having that many," she answered.

 I giggled because yeah, I know.  Six kids can be a lot.

 "No, seriously, I mean it,” she said again.  “I'm never having six children.”

Read the rest at ICL.   

Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday: Catholic Swag and Some Linkage

At the Catholic Writer's Live Conference, a few of the vendors slipped me some cool Catholic kid swag.  I wanted to write about the cute things I brought home that have already become staples in our Catholic collection of children's items.

1.  Sacred Heart Toys:  I met Laurel MacKinnon, the owner of this fine group of toys, when her toddler spotted baby Edward and darted over to say hi to him.  While the babies communicated about important things, Laurel, her husband and I chatted about family life and toddlers.  She eventually told me about her goods and the next day, when I had a free moment, I ventured over to her booth to check them out.

Her toys are the most darling plush Catholic toys around! 

The crosses and the rosaries are the perfect Baptism or baby shower of first birthday gift.  Laurel gifted a cross to Edward, which he promptly gnawed.  That toy kept him busy the entire plane ride home!  I even felt like we were evangelizing when we met a three year old little boy, Mason, at the airport who seemed intrigued both with baby Edward and his fancy toy cross. 

If you need a sweet, Catholic little something for a little baby in your life, consider these!

(Sidenote:  I especially like the baby teething rosary.  The wooden children's rosaries always leave me worrying the wooden bead rosaries will fall apart and choke my kid! But loose beads on these plush toys are an impossibility!)

images from

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Doubting The Decision To Homeschool

Editor's note:  I rarely write about homeschooling because I find I'm always struggling with and discerning our decision. 

This post is not an appeal to others to home educate.  I recognize all to well the pitfalls and weaknesses of home education and I don't think this particular educational choice is for everyone. 

This post is a reflection on how homeschooling has refined me as a parent.  I guess there is some good to all this after all.  :)


I spent the morning compiling last year's homeschool papers in order to prepare for my review for the 2013-2014 academic school year.  I'm really late in getting this necessary work completed but with the move this summer, my timing was thrown off and this was the first time I had to work on it. 

I hate preparing for my yearly review.

I spend the entire time doubting myself.

Why are we homeschooling again?

Is this academic work good enough?

What if the kids are not getting all they need?

I'm such a broken teacher.  My kids deserve better. 

Where do I fit in all of this?  How do I maintain my own emotional, mental, physical stability while educating and meeting the physical and emotional needs of my family?

And so went the internal dialogue while I sorted and filed papers into some kind of order so as to explain what we do to the Homeschool Supervisor.

This morning, after I was finished all the paperwork, I felt exhausted.

I wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

School starts in just two short weeks and I felt overwhelmed and awash in doubt.

I couldn't shake the nagging feeling, the wondering if this is the best way.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Reflection On The Desire To Feel Superior

On a rainy afternoon not too long ago, I took the kids to grab a bit to eat at the large food warehouse near our house.  We were all a bit stir crazy from being cooped up, so the seven of us braved the hellish weather with nary a yellow slicker or umbrella.

(In our family, slickers, rain boots, and umbrellas are for wimps.  Just kidding, slickers, rain boots and umbrellas are for those people who can find them.)

After our nutritious meal of hot dogs and pizza followed by PowerAide chasers, I corralled my small herd of children toward the exit, but we were stopped by the intense monsoon still busy maiming the parking lot.  We stood in the store's doorway for a few minutes watching people get doused while dashing to their cars when we saw a woman--maybe in her early sixties-- pushing a cart and struggling to breathe.  She had a nasal cannula pumping oxygen into her nose and it was attached to a tank she had strapped to her waist. 

I watched as she took deep breaths, but still struggled for air--even with the assistance from the oxygen.  Her shoulders sagged when she saw the rain pelting and I could almost hear her think:

 "How am I going to make it to the car?" 

She took another deep breath and used her weight to push her buggy full of groceries, but before she got away from me, I tapped her on the shoulder.

"Why don't you go get your car and my kids and I will load your groceries for you?" I said.  "I have lots of helpers." 

The woman took another gasp of breath and the corners of her mouth crept upward--hitting the plastic wire sitting right above her upper lip.

"Thank you," she said, heaving deeply, and she hobbled off to get her vehicle.

I returned to my own grocery cart full of kids and my son said, "That was really nice, Mom."

I nodded a thank you but I have to confess, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I was patting myself on the back for being the Good Samaritan of the day and I was thinking all kinds of righteous thoughts about the importance of going out of our way to help those in need. 

The rain was still showering sheets when the woman pulled her vehicle up to us.

"Come on, kids," I yelled.  "We have to work quickly if we don't want to get soaked."

I darted to the car, with a few kids following behind me, and when I pulled open the door, I was almost knocked over by the smell of cigarette smoke.

So that's why she can't breathe," I thought as I threw frozen food into her trunk.  She probably has emphysema or COPD from years of smoking.  She did this to herself.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Love In The Weeds?

 John and I work up early this morning to try to get in our 10,000 steps before the little people arose from their slumber demanding food and beverages and plans for the day.  We were mostly quiet mostly as we walked, though we did listen to a few chapters from CS Lewis's The Great Divorce.

The house where we live currently is on a beautiful piece of property, nestled between a set of corn fields and decorated with the most beautiful, albeit dilapidated, barns.  Our view is a little slice of heaven, especially in the early morn, when deer peak out from the growing stalks and the birds salute the rising sun atop the ridge of a fire engine red shed.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How A Trip To Chicago Activated My Undiagnosed OCD

I'm back from my quick trip to Chi-Town for the Catholic Writer's Conference sponsored by the CWG.

It was awesome and motivational and great to be surrounded by other book nerds.

The night before my 4:00 am departure, though, I had some serious anxiety about leaving.  I'm generally prone to anger, not worry, so this was relatively new territory for me.  My top areas of concern were as follows:

--bringing Edward on the plane.  I liken traveling with a wiggly 9 month old boy to being locked in a small pin with a rambunctious bull.  You are forced to sit with an uncontrollable animal who may very well poop, pee, or whine at deafening decibels at any point in time and it's expected both you and the bull be very still and quiet for several hours so as not to disturb the people/bulls in the in the pin next to you.

It's so much fun and totally not stressful!!! (Snort.)

--leaving my five other children at home.  Though they were in very capable hands of a competent, beloved babysitter, managing five kids all day for several days can be challenging.  I mean, Camille can never find her shoes, they all break things with reckless abandon, and sometimes they stick stuff up their nose.  What if they overwhelmed Madison?  Worse, what if she never comes back?

(I can promise you, friends, if Madison were to ever leave us you would find me in a corner, incessantly rocking myself over this tragedy.)

--an inability to offer anything intelligent to the professional conversation.  Have my days of chasing toddlers and changing diapers zapped the last few brain cells I might use to engage in adult conversation about important things?  What if the only "insightful" commentary I had to offer included my thoughts on potty training and removing explosive diaper stains from jammies?  (Seriously, though, we should talk about the stain solution sometime.  I have some ideas, people.)

--I also worried I might lose my luggage, a terrorist might hijack the plane, the hotel wouldn't be able to find my reservation, and that I would lose my driver's licence and wouldn't be able to fly back home.

Get it?

I was worried.

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