Conquering the "At Home" Blues: My Top 4 Stay-at-Home-Parent Skills

Friday, July 31, 2015

I am a stay at home mom. I have, more or less, chosen to be since our son was born right after my college graduation. Now, three years into this journey, I can start to look back and see where I started to get the hang of this.

So how long did it take?

I think it was somewhere between a year and eighteen months in. Seriously.

Now on my second kid, I think I can safely say that time span was determined more by my lack of staying home skills than about the baby's age.

There are true skills to staying home that have little to nothing to do with the practical how-tos of raising a baby and keeping the house clean. I'm the oldest of five daughters and I actually had a lot of those skills down already (or at least knew where to look.) Here are my top four skills that I think are needed to be an at home parent:

1. Learn how to have a social life without built in friends.

This was a toughie for me. I thought for a long time that I was more of an introvert. Come to find out, I'm a lot more extroverted than I thought, I've just never had to work for friendships and daytime interaction before.

I grew up in a big family. There were people everywhere. Then I went to an all women's college where living in the dorms was basically like summer camp with homework. It was work NOT to interact with people.

But upon graduation it was a little like getting kicked out of the social nest. Most of my friends were moving off to far flung places to have adventures, and I had moved far from home to attend college. John was born just a few weeks after graduation so I was suddenly adrift without a real friend base of my own. With a baby.
Evidence that I was super duper pregnant at graduation!

When you are home, there are no co-workers. Most of my neighbors are gone at school or work. It's me and the kids for about ten hours a day, five days a week. That's a significant portion of my waking hours!

Solution: First, leave the house! You have no idea who is around if you don't look.

I used to hang out with baby John in the cemetery up the street a lot, and all of the people who were home were doing their walks there too. It wasn't weird at all.
Though, for me, picking up mom friends is so much worse than dating ever was. I might see a seemingly cool mom at the park, say hi, ask a few questions to see if we hit it off. Maybe we'll exchange numbers or emails, say "see you around sometime." Then someone might work up the courage to ask the other one for coffee. Seriously, I'm already married, why must this dance continue?!

But I digress.

Secondly, join stuff. Any stuff. We are heavily involved in our parish young adult group. That is normally Catholic code for "singles dating club", but I like to plan stuff and bring babies. People seem ok with it so far. It creates so much Catholic flirting with people holding the babies just to be like "look what a great parent I would be!" My kids think it's the best thing ever.

Having a brunch with the young adults + babies. Bacon was had, everyone was happy! For the record, Katie is just awesome with Therese, not flirting.

2. Make a schedule for yourself

Everyone knows kids like routine (I don't think you truely know that until you try to deviate from routine with a two year old. They act like you just suggested they jump off a cliff.), but what about a routine for mom?

I know sometimes people in school or working from home think they are in charge of their own schedules, but you often don't notice how much structure already comes prepackaged. When you are the at home parent that structure must be created from scratch, by you, if you want it to happen at all.

I am a big fan of knowing, generally, what needs to be done when. Then I can see when I have time and energy for other fun things. I made a plan for myself and started doing it. After about two or three days the kids just started following suit like little ducklings.

John likes to put the quarters in the laundry machines for me. Therese was about six weeks old here.

Come to find out they LIKE knowing what comes next. Suddenly, sleeping and eating time is less of a battle of transitions and more actual sleeping and eating. The house can be generally tidy, laundry in the dressers, dishes clean, and food that tastes good and still warm!

Routines are magical.

3. Decide with your spouse what you NEED to do this

I can't function without sleep. Bad bad things happen in my brain and the world becomes a dark and sad place. I take a long time to fall asleep and I do not get back to sleep easily at all. I also hate being touched while I sleep. I never knew how much I was not a nighttime cuddler until I had babies.

We worked it out together that Matt would start doing the nighttime parenting. He gets up with the baby. He cuddles and falls asleep with her on the couch. He comforts the toddler when he has nightmares. He is basically nighttime superman.

Matt can fall asleep VERY quickly, and pretty much doesn't care where. Many nights he would have zero memory of getting up, getting the baby, changing her, giving her milk, and falling asleep with her. He just wakes up in the morning like "Huh. There's a baby on my chest. That's nice."

Exhibit A for anywhere anytime sleeping

Now I can sleep in bed and do whatever I need to do to fall asleep. I can wake up and start my day with enough rest to deal with the challenges that day will bring.

Don't make things harder than they have to be. If it's some idea of what you should be doing because you read these articles, or your friends say it's best, or that's how you were raised, I'm here to tell you those are not good things unless they actually work for you and your family.

4. Continue your life

I know babies are a lot of work. I know it can feel overwhelming and like you can't possibly find time to do something besides the bare minimum. But I really believe that stay at home parents need to find something that feeds them spiritually and intellectually in order to do their job well.

Decide what it is you really miss about your passions before kids, and find a way to continue them, or re-introduce them, in your life as it is right now.

Love reading? Get a book from the library you can potentially hold with one hand and read over the baby's head while she's eating.

Love museums? Load up the kids and go! Contain them in a stroller or carrier if needed. If you really love something, little ones will tend to match your enthusiasm and love it too.

We went to see the dinosaurs in the UC Berkeley Life Sciences building yesterday. John loves the T-Rex, and I love getting to tell him about fun words like Australopithecus afarensis.

Fun fact: that tiny one on the right is the smallest triceratops skull ever found.

Are you a maker? Find a project that is something that is needed around the house and do it! My first crafting thing after John was born was a hanging planter made out of an old t-shirt because I needed it for my airplane plant. I was so proud of that thing!

This is it! I've had this plant since week 2 of college. Her name is Gwen.

Finally, don't decide you're not cut out for this life too soon.

Maternity leave policies are abysmal in this country (not even touching paternity leave yet). I have heard so many women convinced after their maternity leave that they could never be a stay at home parent. But the time they gave staying home the "trial run" is typically during THE hardest day to day time of a child's life. Those first six weeks or three months are the most sleep deprived, stressed out, high stakes "getting the hang of it" that you may ever do in your life.

The thing is, the rest of the time you are staying home with the kids it is not like that.
You really do get your sea legs eventually. I'm not saying every day you feel like you totally got this and are doing amazing, but it feels a lot less like an impossible sea you can never stop drowning in.

It's not going to stay the same, every kid, every stage will be a little different. But once you figure out how YOU parent and what YOU need to do this job you can focus on the problem and not on the lack of fuel to address the problem.

Do you agree with this list? Anything I should add? Comment below or email me at underthyroof *at* gmail *dot* com.

Farm Box Fixin's!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This is part of an ongoing series about what we get, and how in the world we deal with, all of the veggies, fruits, and surprises we get in our farm box. 

Welcome to the introduction of Farm Box Fixin's! We have been CSA members (community sponsored agriculture) for about two years now. We currently get a box from Riverdog Farm, located in Guinda, CA. This box is sponsored by my husband's company for employees, which means it's extra cheap AND gets delivered to work. All he has to do is remember to bring a grocery bag, pop it in one of his bike saddlebags and ride home!

Part of the deal with being a member of a CSA is that you get the hand the farmer is being dealt. Sometimes you get a lot of some things and just a little of others. Sometimes certain crops just don't do well at all, while others EXPLODE.

We have had some boxes that will have normal amounts of everything else and a HUGE bunch of basil. Or a big bag of chili peppers. Both of these things are not the easiest to use up in a small amount of time. Very fresh, organic, foods don't tend to last very long. Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton has been my go to reference book for dealing with those situations.

It has a really nice amount of instructions for what you can and cannot get away with when it comes to food safety. The recipes themselves have all been really good so far. With the basil bunches I've made basil pesto, basil oil bombs, and dried it. I like to pickle the chilis or string them into a ristia.

A lot of the preserving recipes I will use here will be from Put 'em Up! but I'm very much a throw-things-together-and-see-how-it-goes kind of cook. I'm experienced enough now that it tends to turn out pretty well.

So check back here most Wednesdays and see what I've created out of the farm box bounty this week! I will probably only post if something was creative, or cool, or turned out really really good. Probably also if it was a royal disaster.

Wednesdays are farm box pick up day for us, so Tuesdays are often "use up all the things in the fridge" days, This week my big leftovers were carrots and red onions. 

I sort of started from this recipe, but really winged it a lot. Partly because it was in metric and I don't like converting on the fly, and partly because I didn't have the same ingredients they did.

I used about 6 large carrots, 5 small red onions, a little less than 1/2 c. butter, and a generous helping of dried thyme.

After blanching the carrots in salted boiling water for 3 minutes, I slow pan fried the carrots, onion, and thyme in the butter, on a low-ish heat, for about 30 minutes.

When the onions were starting to caramelize, I turned up the heat and added 1 tbsp of brown sugar and 2.5 tbsp of red wine vinegar. (I did not have red wine, so I sub in the red wine vinegar and axed the balsamic so the carrots would not get overwhelmed with vinegar flavor.)

Cook that on the high heat for about 2-5 minutes. It will caramelize fully quiet quickly so watch it and keep it moving.

This experiment turned out really well! We served it with chicken sausages on rolls.

If you liked this and have any questions or requests, feel free to email me at underthyroof *at* gmail *dot* com.

What Little Kids Think About Homeschooling

Monday, July 27, 2015

We are getting ready for our first kind of structured homeschool year around here. It's really just for John (3). Therese (11 months) is along for the ride, wherever this goes.

We'll be using 26 Letters to Heaven this year. I like to start in early August. Partly because I'm out of ideas for fun things by that point in the summer, and partly because I think it will work well for the break taking around busy times of year (like Christmas and Holy Week.)

This is sort of Charlotte Mason, but doesn't really fit completely into any of the homeschool method categories. (As far as I can tell. Perhaps someone can correct me.)
It is a "letter a week" structure. Some of the "weeks" might be longer than a week because there are some ideas I like more than others in theory.

It is a Catholic curriculum with a saint of the week (name starts with the letter), a virtue of the week (ditto), and a scripture verse (just goes with the virtue, not necessarily the letter.) We will mostly be doing the ideas for math, science, geography, literature, cooking, etc. We will be trying out as much of the booklist as I can find at the library, and recipes that I can handle.

School wall in the summer days. Liturgical year road map is for Little Lambs.

Faith we will be doing mostly Family Formation's Little Lambs program that is pretty comprehensive in that department, and it comes ready to go (no extra work for me!)

I'm going to be reporting back on these homeschool experiments throughout the year. Feel free to comment with what you have done with kiddos.

I was homeschooled up until high school. I really enjoyed the experience and found that I enjoy the pace of homeschool life. We tried sending John to a little kids camp at the rec center around the corner for almost five months, but I really hated how much it messed with nap and lunch schedules. Lots of me not getting to eat during the day + tired cranky babies = burned out mommy. I have a feeling this will work out better for us.

We will be starting up in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to get down what John thinks of all this.

The Interview

Me: John, what do you think about school?

John: I do books! Lots of books.

Me: What kind of books do you use for school?

John: Library books...

Me: anything else?

John: 1-2-3-4-5, 5 library books!

Me: who teaches your school?

John: Nirvana and Steven

Me: Who else?

John: Zach!

Me: Does mommy?

John: Mommy?

Me: Does mommy teach your school?

John: ...Mommy teach my school....

Me: What do you do with your school things? [meaning art supplies]

John: After my school!

Me: Will you make anything with them?

Me: Pictures!

He's totally got this down.

Answer Me This: Tex-Mex Edition

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's time for another round of Answer Me This linking up with Catholic All Year! In this edition: I confess my love of Tex-Mex, how I manage to have so-so handwriting, and a glimpse of summer in our neck of the woods.

1. What's your favorite grocery store splurge?

This Queso!!

It is the best jar queso I've ever had. I'm from Texas and I love Tex-Mex. It tastes a lot like the queso they had at El Fenix - our family's favorite restaurant growing up.

Look, they have a vintage postcard! How cute is that?!
If you have not gone through Dallas, you don't know the comforting deliciousness that you have missed! I was a vegetarian for a few years, so I would order the cheese enchilada dinner and sub in the queso for the chili con carne. It. Is. So. Good. It's still my order when I go back to Dallas (even though I'm not vegetarian anymore.)

They don't even carry this queso at any of my local grocery stores now (get it together Berkeley!) I'm very seriously contemplating buying it in bulk online. 

2. How's your penmanship?

Better than it was? I have a bad habit of gripping too hard and pressing too hard. I'm only just now getting better at more holding the pencil less strangling the pencil.
I can, however, still write in cursive! I was homeschooled up until high school, so we did that sort of thing. I used this text:

The warm up exercises are the way I "doodle" to this day. Clearly, drawing is never going to be my passion.

3. Do you have a "Summer Bucket List?"

Not really. I'm really not a fan of bucket lists. I'm more of a "make a plan of attack and carry it out" kind of person. I don't just want to know what I could be doing, I want it on the calendar with a time and a plan and, probably, some color coding.

So far, the plan has included Texas for my family reunion.

We only had 13 kids under the age of 9 this year. We were missing a few. 

We have been doing some fun things around town too.
Water play in the sand box we still have not filled with sand. Upper 80's - low 90's is hard with babies and no AC anywhere.

John drank this whole coconut at our friend's anniversary luau.

Our friend is the Pixar team who made "Inside Out" so John saw his first movie in a theater this summer!

4. What's the best thing on the radio right now?

Honestly, I have no idea what is on the radio right now. We don't own a car, or a radio, so the opportunities are slim. My system is every couple weeks I go through the top tracks on youtube so I know what's happening.  Come to find out, keeping up with trends and fads is a lot harder out of school.

I'm voting for this song right now because I think the music video is really sweet and it makes me smile.

5. Ice cream or frozen yogurt?

Ice cream. If I'm eating dessert I want it to be as decadent as possible. None of this low fat or low calorie business. I want creamy, sugary goodness.

Preferably a hot fudge cookie dough sundae right now. That would be great.

I'm skipping the 6th question about if I have had that baby yet since I'm really really not pregnant. You can read more about that and other questions I get from strangers on the street here:

The Talk: Why You Really Should Get Personal - Sometimes

Who Really Does This Anyway? Let's Meet Them Shall We?

Friday, July 24, 2015

We're wrapping up NFP Awareness week. As promised: here is the interview of a real life, honest to goodness, NFP using couple. Erin and Alex have been using Couple to Couple League's Sympto-Thermal Method to avoid conception for about two years now. Here is their story.

 1. Tell us a little about each of you. 


 I'm currently in my final six months of graduate school, earning my Ph.D. in nuclear and radiochemistry.  Alex and I met when we were both in college at Carnegie Mellon University.  That time was very formative for me, as I became comfortable with who I was created to be, discovered what my strengths and interests were, and converted to Catholicism through RCIA!    It was with Alex that I developed a love of cooking and baking, which are my main hobbies right now while I am busy finishing my Ph.D.  I also enjoy sewing projects, singing, emergency preparedness, throwing theme parties, and mini Coopers.


 We met at Carnegie Mellon University. Erin is a PhD student at UC Berkeley and I am an engineer working with robots in Oakland. We moved to the SF Bay Area in 2011 and got married in 2013 (in Maryland).

2. How did you hear about NFP?


I remember being aware as far back in high school that birth control was not okay with the Catholic Church, but I definitely didn't know why. I wasn't Catholic so I really didn't care.  I'm fairly certain I learned what it actually was during RCIA, although it was still a rudimentary, "we don't contracept" understanding.  I didn't fully investigate it until Alex proposed a year or so after I joined the Church.  That was really when we started actually learning what it was and how it worked.


Before getting married, the priests here in Berkeley doing our marriage prep recommended that we take a marriage prep retreat weekend and an NFP course run by the Couple-to-Couple League (CCL) at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.

3. How did you pick a method?


The class encouraged us to use the Sympto-Thermal Method but touched on others as well. The Sympto-Thermal Method seemed pretty straightforward to us and the use of multiple sources of data (sensations, mucus characteristics, cervical position, and temperature) seems to provide a 
lot of insurance. The rigor is very important to us because we are at a stage of our careers where a "surprise" might complicate our plans.


Honestly, I think our parish gave us a flyer on the resources available in the diocese and I picked the first thing off the list, there's a lot to do to prepare for a wedding and at that point we were just checking items off a list!  We ended up becoming trained in the Couple to Couple League Sympto-thermal Method, which has worked very well for us.

4. What has been your greatest challenge?


I think that one of our greatest challenges is in common with couples using any NFP methods - abstaining during Phase II. Human instincts are strong and some days it seems like we are surrounded with newborns, toddlers, or pregnant friends. We love them all and are anxiously awaiting our time to start our own family.


I think the greatest challenge for me has been continually evaluating whether we have a sufficiently grave reason to postpone pregnancy.  I absolutely adore babies and children and I am very excited about having one of our own!  However, as a radiochemistry graduate student with a lot of work to do in very little time, I'm routinely exposed to  small amounts of radiation.  It's nowhere near a level that's remotely hazardous to my health and I always feel safe at work, but radiation is most damaging to rapidly dividing cells (such as those in an embryo, particularly during the first few weeks of life) and I don't want to take that risk.  

I take comfort in the fact that, with NFP, I'm going to immediately know if I could be pregnant and could take action to protect that little person!  However, a complication with my current course of study and my particular circumstances is that I must finish within a certain amount of time.  Therefore I can't alter my work schedule to avoid or lessen the amount of radioactivity that I'm working with and still be able to complete my degree.  I will have much more flexibility later in my career, which will allow me to eliminate most of the hazards of my work and attempt to conceive without any reservations!  I try to approach this issue prayerfully, but on days when graduate school is difficult and unrewarding it makes it seem like we'll be avoiding pregnancy forever!  

5. What has been your favorite benefit?


I personally enjoy the confidence and understanding that Erin has been able to create by dutifully recording all of those different kinds of data and charting. being able to predict the end of her cycle has been handy more than once! 


I love graphs, charts, spreadsheets, and data.  I think it occurred to both of us during the first class that, not only could we learn this, we could be really, really good at this because of abilities we had cultivated for very different reasons! Alex developed a flow-chart style cheat sheet that allowed us to quickly look at the chart and analyze whether Phase III had occurred yet.   I figured out how to get the "prettiest" temperatures and what variables in my life affected the charting the most.  Initially, this was just really convenient because we were confident in the data and the method and did not have to waste time or energy worrying about potential pregnancy.  However, this evolved into detailed discussions of how we could use these talents to help others. 
Thus far, we've really only used this enthusiasm to convince friends that they should at least take an NFP class.  However, once we have some more experience through some fertility transitions, I think we would be open to becoming instructors.  It's so crazy to say that because initially when I hypothetically posed this question to both myself and Alex the answer was a flat out "No WAY, I can't get in front of people and talk about...periods!".  NFP has made it really easy for Alex and I to converse about these aspects of life in a normal way, just like talking about what we want to make for dinner.  I suppose, to condense this answer, my favorite benefit is that I love sharing being really good at something with my husband (who is my best friend) and that, with our powers combined, we have the ability to help others too.

Well that's all folks! If you liked reading this type of interview, Couple to Couple League publishes a magazine "Family Foundations" that has interviews like this one, encouraging articles, chart help, and more. You can connect with them here.

Haley, over at Carrots for Michaelmas, has a long running NFP series that interviews many women who use many different NFP methods with different reasons and circumstances. 
You can find those, and more, on her NFP Post Extravaganza


It has been a year since this - the very first of the NFP stories on this blog - went live. Here's an update on Erin and Alex, one year later.

Our lives have changed quite a bit in the last year! Erin finished her Ph.D. and we moved to Southeastern Idaho for Erin to start her post-doc. This shift in employment for her meant that we could officially change our status from "trying to avoid" to "trying to whatever" (although Erin continues to chart because she loves data)!  We hope to finally start a family soon but are patiently waiting on God's timing. 

In the meantime,we're also listening for any word on how to use our spiritual gifts (or develop new ones!) during our time here in Idaho. There are not many Catholics in this part of Idaho and there's just one parish in our town. There also seems to be a shortage of NFP instructors according to our cursory research, which has definitely caused us to reflect on whether we can help with that. Whatever the next year holds for us, we plan to keep telling others about the many benefits of NFP!

Thy Will Be Done: Why My Plans Will Always Fall Short

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I'm linking up with Blessed Is She  again today. Happy Feast of St. Bridget of Sweden!

I'm just terrible at going with the flow. My version of spontaneity is spontaneously having a massive planning session for the next three months of activities. I like to know what's coming around the bend. 

But sometimes, I'm pretty sure, God just pats me on the head and says something like "you're cute, but that's not going to be the best way for you to go."

And I say something like, "but God THE PLAN?!"

And he says, "exactly."

(You totally just got my prayer life in a nutshell.)

I find the concept of needing to die to oneself in order to fully live one of the hardest truths in Catholicism. I think it's so hard because it is not something that is done once and overcome. It has to be redone, re-decided, renewed every single day.

It's not that I can't physically live without dying to myself, but am I really living if my body and soul are not in harmony?
Every time I manage to follow the path God intended for me all along I'm greeted by such peace. It's like my soul itself is sighing, "finally!"

So why didn't I just follow God's plan in the first place?

know it would be good for me, I tend to have a feeling for what I should do, and I know firsthand the peace that comes from doing so.

So why won't I save myself the heartache?

Because I'm proud. Because I'm fallen. Because I really don't want to need God.

But I do. You do. We all do.

The sooner I remember that, the better I can be for the sake of my own soul and for the good of others.

That's way better than my newest five year plan.

"The Talk" - why you really should get personal- sometimes

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

We are well into NFP Awareness week and a critique I hear sometimes is that this topic is really too personal to be sharing with strangers. For some, this whole week is like a giant social media overshare.

But I think we really do have to talk about it because it is so personal. There is no shared outward signal that tells the world "NFP person over here!" It is way too easy to be ships passing in the night with fellow NFP users. I can't even tell you the number of people who have told me that "no one really uses that" TO MY FACE. Clearly, it is a social witness for which words are required.

I would like to point out that perfect strangers ask me extremely personal questions all the time. 

Like all the time. 

I happened to have had my boy and my girl first. I've lost count of how many total strangers have felt the need to confirm that I'm not having any more kids. Right? Right?!

Don't you want to ask, I don't know, my NAME first? Let's get your mind back on my person. 

And that's really what these conversations about NFP are supposed to be about: getting to know real people living out this very real life, and actually finding it worthwhile.

There are as many experiences with NFP as there are people who use it. Later this week there will be a guest interview on the blog by another NFP couple who have had a very different experience with NFP from our marriage even though we use the same method.

This is another facet of a person that deserves to be heard and respected. Personal questions and conversations are fine, but only as long as they are about the person.

NFP Awareness Week: in which I care more about the marriage part than the NFP part

Monday, July 20, 2015

It's Natural Family Planning Awareness Week again! Between July 19th and July 25th all of the Catholic bloggery stops and talks about NFP.
Frankly, there are a lot of more qualified people to talk about the how-tos, whys, and nitty-gritty of NFP. We have always used sympto-thermal (Couple to Couple League) with no surprises and no big issues.

So I'm going to talk about the working on your marriage part of NFP. There would not be much to talk about this week without functioning marriages. The two are connected and feed each other.

First up, praying together.
I'll be honest and say we are still working on finding a groove with this one. We had a good thing going doing the Liturgy of the Hours together pre-babies, but the bedtime dance has thrown that to pieces for a while. However, it is something I want to get better about because it makes the discernment of your "trying to" status (trying to avoid, trying to conceive, trying to whatever) go as it should.

Discernment is hard. You shouldn't go in there alone.

I have a much better system down for private devotions and getting prayer in with little ones. More on that later.
I love pictures of little kids praying so so hard! They are adorable and admirable.
Second, date nights!

Due to the having all little ones, we don't do much of the "out of the house" type of date. We do have friends who will take the kids for an evening (best people ever!) so we can do the dinner part and actually eat the food and talk about something besides why it's not a good idea to put spaghetti in your hair. Intentional time together is important.

We have been getting better at stay at home date nights. For Christmas, both Matt and I gave each other a different version of the popular on pinterest date night ideas.

I made a years worth of an envelope a month that contains two stay at home date ideas and two away from home date ideas. The away from home were not necessarily without the kids (we took them for the bookstore scavenger hunt and it was fun!) It was all very nice and organized.
It has me written all over it.

I'm good at organizing, not drawing.
Matt made a cute jar of "draw out a stick" stay at home date night ideas. It's more spontaneous and good at filling in the gaps where my "master plan" didn't work out. It's got Matt written all over it.

Ideally, there is one date night every week. Some months we are better than others, but the goal is improvement not perfection.

Third, do marriage prep - again

Isn't it pretty? This is here because I couldn't find an open source image of that FOCCUS test we all know and love.
This may seem odd, but get your hands on some of the marriage prep materials you might have had during your engagement and work through them again. The answers are probably very different now that you've gone from in theory to in practice. The USCCB has helpfully compiled most of them for you.

And, finally, make friends with an engaged couple in your parish

In my dream world, there would be a system in place for matching engaged couples with married couples within a parish. I think there is nothing like trying to explain something to another person to make you realize what you do and do not actually have down. I think it can be an encouraging experience to the discouraged, and enlightening to the proud. It strengthens our parish community too.

I'm trying really really hard not to be in charge of making that happen here. Maybe I'll do it anyway. I make no promises not to carry out my crazy ideas.


And if you're still here and itching for more how tos and whys and further reading on NFP, here is a quick link roundup.



An Invitation and Answer Me This

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Today I'm linking up with Catholic All Year for a round of "Answer Me This", the internet's virtual cocktail party. But first, an invitation!

Friday I did a link up post with Blessed is She (BiS). BiS running a series of Blessed Brunches, and if you live in Northern California, you can come to my house! I'm hosting the Blessed Brunch in Berkeley on August 8th and would love to meet you!
RSVP here:

Now for Answer Me This!

1. What's currently on your To Do list?

We're gearing up for year one of preschool homeschool around here. Accomplished: re-subscribing to the Little Lambs family formation program. They. are. awesome! A monthly box of faith formation lesson plans with activities and art projects with the materials needed. More to come on that.

We're also doing a preschool curriculum: 26 Letters to Heaven. I'm stocking up on art supplies for this letter of the week style program as sales come up. John is three and has been on me for him to go to school for a while now. We'll see if he is appeased by this.
I have found that people have strong opinions on whether or not to bother with any structured school stuff for preschool homeschool. I like it for the first kid or two, but it's really about "giving mom more ideas about what to do today" then "they will never read if they don't get structured preschool!" I think further down the birth order it becomes less realistic in terms of mom-time, and less needed due to all the interaction they are getting with siblings and being around their school work.

2. Better type of superhero: magic/radioactive powers? Or trauma/gadgets/hard work?

Hmm. I'm generally not a big superhero person. I just didn't grow up with comics and superheros. I love sci-fi though! Doctor Who is a guilty pleasure. Among others. Perhaps many others...
I make make no claims about best, but I enjoyed the 11th doctor a lot. I think the humor he brought to the show really enlivened it after going to a pretty dark place with David Tennant.
I think I'll go with the magic/radioactive powers. As much of a fan of hard work as I am, I also really value understanding your abilities, and working towards mastering and controlling them and using them for good. These powers happened to the person. The person did not try to take matters into their own hands and force out a path that was never intended for them. I think it is too easy to grab what looks shiny and pretty, and miss the unique work and place that you currently are in a prime position to do. I find making the most of your path in life, and striving for good, really impressive.

Voldemort did not do a good job of controlling his power and not being controlled by it. Not impressive.

3. Finding out if baby is a boy or a girl before birth: Good idea? Bad idea?

I like to find out, but I understand why others don't. When I was pregnant with our first, John, I was convinced it was a girl. I didn't really talk with the husband about if we wanted to find out the sex or not before going into the sonogram room. When the tech asked if we wanted to know, he said "yes" and I said "I guess we do!"

Yup, not a girl.
It just literally never occurred to me I could be having a boy. I am one of five girls and it was just stuck in my head. Good thing we found out. Poor little John might have had a crazy last minute name since there were zip zero plans for the possibility of a boy up until that sonogram.

We might not find out with every future baby, but right now I like knowing.

4. Have you ever appeared on a stadium jumbotron?

Sort of. I was on a local TV show in high school called School Zone Dallas. Another cast member and I were on Good Morning Texas promoting the show, and the interview was shown outside on the side of American Airlines Arena. Does on the wall of the building that contains the jumbotron count?

I can't find the picture of the giant screen with my face on it anywhere, but this was the group from that morning.
Cedric the Entertainer was there too.
5. Are you more book smart or more street smart?

Book smart. Pretty sure. I'm a big nerd. The super overachiever I-can't-do-anything-halfway kind. However, I'm really good at figuring things out and I'm pretty handy. My three year old is convinced I can fix anything. Seems right.

6. Have you had that baby yet? 

Yes and she's turning one year old next month!

And pretty stinking cute!

The Real World or When JPII Has My Back

Friday, July 17, 2015

This week, over at Blessed Is She, we're talking about real.

When I saw the prompt, I instantly thought of a bagillion directions to go in. "Real" is a word that gets thrown around about everything from body type (ex. "real women have curves" campaign) to food (ex. "real food movement"). But the one type of "real" that has impacted my life a lot lately is what constitutes the "real world", "real job", and "real world experience."

We live in a college town, and every year around graduation time people start talking a lot about where they are going from here. That's great! I love making plans. Big plan and list maker over here! What I don't love is when I hear moms deploring their work as moms for not being "real experience" or a "real job" That just makes me sad.

You see, valuing work solely by its worldly determined monetary value does a great job of marginalizing everyone who does not fall into the college through retirement age work force. Stay at home moms, kids, retirees, the sick and disabled, elderly  - these are people who can suddenly no longer be considered doing anything of value for society. And I just don't think that's true.

I'm a stay at home mom. All the people I see every day primarily fall into one of these marginalized categories. For ten hours a day the "not at paid work"-ers are making a community without the "paid workers." We do miss y'all! We really do. But we are not helpless without you for that time. We find joy, and assistance, and ideas among ourselves.

In Pope St. John Paul II's Letter to Women, he writes:

 "Progress usually tends to be measured according to the criteria of science and technology. Nor from this point of view has the contribution of women been negligible. Even so, this is not the only measure of progress, nor in fact is it the principal one. Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the 'genius of women.'"

I think what truly makes something of the "real world" are those times when we are interacting with other people. "Real world experience " is not had in the manipulation of a spreadsheet. It is a marketable skill, for sure, but it's not really real world experience. The real world experience came from maintaining relationships with your co-workers so you can have a healthy office environment. It came from working out problems you encounter, and learning how to admit when you made a mistake or need help.

These are all things that can be accomplished outside of the office environment. They are not improved by being monetarily compensated. Returning/joining the workforce is a big decision, but don't do it to "gain real world experience". I would bet that you have much more "real world experience", and opportunities for it, than you realize.

Becoming Home - For Bigger and for Smaller

Thursday, July 16, 2015

In a vocation that involves being tied to a home for a substantial period of the day, I've started to think about these houses that we live in. When do we cross the line from a house to a home? When does a home become my home? Better yet, when do our homes become part of our larger home - the church?

Before our first child was born, I was writing my college thesis, working in the admission office on campus, and a TA. Sure we lived in an apartment in the evenings and weekends, but there was not a big effort, on my part, to make it a home. It was more of a utilitarian place to eat and rest.

This is not to say that someone wasn't finding pretty things for the house and settling in. My husband was a grad student then with time during the day, and he is a champion thrift store shopper. He found many of the things that we still use in our home. The difference was I wasn't really participating in the making of home. For me, physical creation is an important part of feeling connected to a place. I need to do something in order to feel part of it.

I feel much the same way about our larger home of church. I can regularly go to mass and say hi to people at coffee hour, but if I am not participating in a physical doing for the parish, then I feel less connected and less at home.

I need all the aspects of my life to talk to each other. Church does not belong in a box over there, husband over there, kids over there, hobbies over there. They all exist under the one roof of my life, just as I exist under the one roof of the Church. I try to have the doing off all of these areas happen together and simultaneously as much as possible. This blog is largely about the successes, abysmal failures, and hilarity that can ensure when we try to live under God's roof.
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