Monday, August 31, 2015

A Blessed Brunch and A New Episode!

On Saturday, I had the delight to attend and help host a Blessed Brunch. It was absolutely lovely!

Part of what made it so lovely was that my co-host has a beautiful, old home. It was just delightful, and it set just the right tone for the brunch!

I already knew some of the attendees before the brunch, but there were many who I had never met before. Some of us were married, some of us were single, some had children, some had lost children. It was such a mixed group! All we had in common was our hungry bellies, femininity, and Catholicism.

That, apparently, was more than enough.

I'm what Amy would call an introverted extrovert, so I can definitely mingle with others, but it's not typically an activity I choose. I was nervous going in to the brunch (although, Maria did tag along, which made me slightly less nervous). I think that's a perfectly natural feeling - apprehension before meeting a new group of people.

But there was something about this group that left me with such a good feeling. Coming together on the premise of our faith and feminine nature was more than enough to bond. There wasn't a single person there who I wouldn't have like to sat down and had a long conversation with. The women there were interesting, and I especially enjoyed getting to know people whose life experiences were very different than my own. One of the women there was in the process of discerning a call to religious life. Some of the women didn't have any children, or any surviving children. Some had far more children than I have. But, in some way, it didn't matter. We sat at the table together and we were one. Just like that.

It might sound dramatic, but it really felt like a little taste of heaven. Sometimes, when you get a group of women together, cattiness or cliquishness happens. There was none of that here. There was just a peace, a calm, and openness to getting to know each other.

I think a lot of that was due to my co-host Kate, who is just one of the gentlest, kindest spirits I have ever met. I am so grateful to her for taking on this project, and for inviting me to be a part of it!

All of this is to say - if there is a Blessed Brunch near you -  go to it! I promise you won't regret it. I wish we had a weekly one!

On a completely different note, the latest episode of Little House Mothering is now live! This week, Amy and I talk about messy houses vs. clean houses, and Amy has a guilty confession to make. You won't want to miss this one! There's something for everyone in it!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How I Learned That Being Effective is More Important than Being Efficient

So, as I mentioned the other day, Therese started attending our parish's preK. What that means is that I suddenly have a lot more time to spend with the littlest in the pack:

I love Maria with all my heart, but...she's two. I know people talk about terrible twos, and believe me, we have our fair share of them. But what I've discovered with her (and with her big sister, when she was two) is that the reason why two year olds throw fits is because they aren't getting everything they want. I'm sure that that's no news to you, but it's important to state. Of course, a two year old's worst enemy is herself. A two year old often doesn't know what she wants or she forgets what she originally wanted, halfway through her tantrum. Two year olds aren't logical.

Even if a two year old did know what she wants, she can't possibly articulate it. An absolutely brilliant two year old will talk in full sentences. Most newly turned two year olds use two word phrases (if you're lucky) and those phrases are often nonsensical. 

For example, while we were eating dinner the other night, we were all talking about our days. Maria kept insisted on having this conversation with us, in response to anything that was said. 

Maria: Mi-tull? (translation: Michael, her best friend)
Me: Michael.
Maria: Twew?
Me: Yes, Michael is two.

Over and over again.

Despite the fact that two year olds don't know what they want, there is one thing that they truly need and thrive on - attention. Poor non-firstborns have to get it while they can, but they crave it nonetheless. I really realized how true this was when we visited my family this summer, and Maria threw next to no tantrums. She attached herself to her Grammy - who gave her tons of loving attention - and she had no need to throw tantrums. 

In an ideal world, our homes (or at least our neighborhoods) would be teeming with inter-generational relationships, and our children would thrive with all that love. In the real world, that's not the case. Even people who live close to extended family (which we don't) or have older friends who try to help fill the grandparent gap in between family visits (which we do - pretty much every older person who meets the girls wants to adopt them) aren't fully experiencing the benefit of inter-generational living. (Incidentally, I really realized that when we did a podcast with Nell.)

 Be that as it may, just because we don't have the manpower (or in this case, womanpower) to fully meet the emotional needs of a two year old, doesn't mean that there isn't something small we can do.

When Therese started school on Monday, I tried my best to race around doing things. Maria and I went to Mass, went for a hike at a nature center, etc. etc. It was a disaster! I thought that because I did those things with Therese when she was two, that Maria would be on board. But she wasn't! Far from it. Unlike Therese, the two mornings a week that we spend together are the only one-on-one time Maria gets with me. And she loudly protested me trying to be efficient during that time. 


On the second school day, I completely changed my approach. I spent time with Maria, playing with playdough (her newest favorite thing) right from the start. Then, when we had to go out and get diapers, we walked to the store (because, thankfully, we live in an area where we can do that ). I slowed the whole day down, and just focused on being with her.

The most telltale moment was after we picked up Therese, and I was loading Maria back in her car seat. She started shrieking because she wasn't being allowed to sit in "Sissy's"  car seat. Normally, I would have taken a deep breath. Buckled her in as quickly as I could, and sat in the front seat trying not to cry. (This has happened more times than I can count, since we first heard her cry on the way home from the hospital.) But, today, I tried something different. I nuzzled close to her in her carseat, so we were cheek-to-cheek, and I whispered calmly in her ear. She loved the attention, and the snuggling (because snuggling is definitely her love language), and she calmed down faster than she would have otherwise. (In contrast to Monday, when she screamed the whole car ride after picking up Therese.) 


I am definitely the sort of person who tries to be efficient. I am the queen of multi-tasking, and I try to cram in as many tasks and activities as possible. But two year olds are not efficient, and in order to be effective in expressing my love to Maria, I had to stop worrying so much about being efficient.

This is precisely why God knew that I had to be given the vocation to motherhood. If I had been called to be a religious, I think I would have thought that I was a better person than I actually am. But being a mother - my failings are glaringly obvious. They're obvious in the face of a little two year old who spends her days at my side. And the remarkable thing is that I want to change, if it means loving her better.

That, I think, is how God works through our vocations, whatever they maybe. He works through love. In some ways, we are just like two year olds, and you can't talk sense into us. We are determined to be efficient, productive, and busy - even if that isn't what God is calling us to. It takes love - love for a child, a spouse, a friend - to help us to see that something else matters. Preaching the Gospel is not always an "efficient" task. Hearts are changed slowly, and we may never see the results. God calls us to trust that He will make it all come out alright.

I am terrible at trusting Him on that front. I want to keep barreling forward. Thank God he sent me a little person to remind me that my plan - efficient though it may be - isn't always the best. Sometimes, I just need to slow down. I have a long way to go, but I have the feeling that I'm in the tutelage of a master teacher...

That one.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do: Our School Plans for 2015-16

Soooo...this happened yesterday:

And while she was totally ready, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that we weren't all so thrilled about it:

(That was me on the inside. And sometimes on the outside.)

This letting go thing is hard. It's always been hard, and I don't expect it will ever get easier. It's hard to let go of your child for any length of time, and it's even harder when you know you must.

Now, for the record, I know that kids don't have to go to PreK. But I do know my particular kid, and she needs to be out of the house a couple times a week, in a classroom setting. My particular kid is ready for that (even if Maria and I are not). When we were making the decision last year, we knew we wanted to sign her up in some kind of class this year, and we didn't want to have to be driving all over the city to get her to class (which is what we did for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd last year). So, sending her to our parish's super flexible, play-based preK was a no brainer. 

But it doesn't make it any easier, of course.

The night before she started school, I read Blythe's post, and it felt like she'd crawled into my brain and had a look around. I just want my little girl at my side forever, but even if/when we homeschool, that's not the version of school we want for her. We firmly believe that homeschooling (in our family, and for this child especially) needs to be coupled with a classroom experience. I don't know how that will work from year to year (or even if that will change next year), but that's what we're committed to right now.

So, what that means is that the little girl is still insisting on doing her "reading lessons" with Mommy when she gets home. It means she still has a little desk set up next to mine. It means that I'm still ordering curriculum and school supplies. It means we're going to try to do "both and." Both school and homeschool. Because if she likes both, why can't we let her have both? A classroom experience two mornings a week, and homeschool the rest of the time?

I'm writing this nonchalantly, but you better believe I cried more than a few tears after the girls went to bed last night. It's so hard when you've discerned the direction you think God is leading your family in, and it's not something you're sure about. But I think that's what parenting is all about, right? It's about learning the balancing between loving and knowing when to let go. It's such a hard lesson to learn. And really, whether it was sending her to PreK or co-op or another year of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - I would feel it. I would feel that aching tug when she wasn't at my side. 

This is love. This is what #lovewins really is, I think - when you love even when it's painful. Even when it's hard. When you love enough to do what's best for the other person.

It's just so hard. Why couldn't her best be to just live in my lap forever????

I did start something yesterday that I want to continue doing with her whenever she goes to school or any class away from home. I snuggled with her on my bed and I asked her all about her day, and all about what she liked and didn't like. I tried to make it a safe space for her - didn't act upset or shocked by anything she told me. And it worked! I could see her unwind as we talked. She needed to process it, and I needed her to know I was there to help her process it. It's the beginning of a new stage in our relationship, I think.

On a fun note, I'm fairly itching to order the rest of the supplies for her Kindergarten curriculum. (Did I mention I just found out the other day that the husband of one of my friends was family friends with the founder of Mother of Divine Grace?? How cool is that??) I'm not going to try to do it perfectly. I'm just going to do my best to facilitate some one on one time with her while the little one is napping, and to work at her pace. She loves doing workbooks and lessons with Mommy, and I love doing it with her, too.

So for now...keep on keeping on?

By the's what we wore Sunday. ;-)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

{phfr} In the Final Days of Dissertation Writing and Weekend Reading

(Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter.)

PreK officially starts on Monday (although we've already started doing our homeschool lessons, because Therese and I were too darn excited to wait!). I'm semi dreading it (because I love that little girl of mine and don't want her gone from my side for a second) and semi excited about it (because I love that little girl and she's going to have a blast!). I'm glad that, for this year at least, we're hybrid homeschooling.

Andrew is going to be teaching four classes (but thankfully only three courses, since one of them has two sections) this semester and life is about to get seriously crazy. He's been cramming in as much dissertation writing time as possible, and he's approaching the finish line. To give him some extra time to write, we've kicked him out the door to his (much quieter) office at the seminary, and the three of us girls have been enjoying each other/trying not drive each other crazy. All you mothers of daughters know what I'm talking about.

Here are a few lovely moments from our time together...


I was trying to finish editing the latest episode of the Little House Mothering podcast before we headed out the door for a play date the other day (spoiler alert: the upcoming episode will be featuring Rhonda Ortiz, the lovely editor of the online magazine Real Housekeeping...and it's every bit as awesome as it sounds!). I finally realized I stood the best chance of having success if I gave each girl a desk adjacent to mine and kept handing them activities off of my desk. It was crazy, but it actually kind of worked. Poor Andrew walked in the door that night to see that our room was, once again, being taken over by a project of mine. Good thing he's a good sport about these things!

I've been trying to find the work/mothering work balance, and I think that having a supportive spouse is key. A friend and I may also be swapping childcare to get some of our (non-mothering) work done during the week, and I'm sure that will help, too! Something I've been talking about with a number of other bloggers and freelance writers lately is how much work you have to put in to this job before you start making any money. It's kind of ridiculous! I'm not sure how many hours I put in of working on writing type projects this week, but it was easily as many hours as a part-time job, with nowhere near the income. Is it worth it? Yes. A single comment or e-mail from one of you makes it all worth it!


They are so pleased with their new skills. I am so terrified. Comes with the mothering territory?


Whither Sissy go-est, I will go.


Who knew strep throat in the summer was a thing?

After the past few weeks, I am sooo done with doctors. Not only was our little girl sick, but I went through as series of tests and doctors appointments trying to figure out some of my ongoing nausea before another potential HG pregnancy (another post for another day - cliff notes version is that there is no concrete answer but maybe some solutions?). Anyway...just done. Done, done, done!

Finally, some weekend reading...

Ethel Says...The Dangers of DIY - Real Housekeeping

The Long Winter and Reading's Reward - Crisis Magazine via Catholic Exchange

Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dr. Who, Clara Oswald, and Spiritual Maternity

(I'm going to dedicate this post especially for the beautiful Bonnie and her in-utero baby. Bonnie is pretty sick and she and baby will be fine, but could still use some major prayers. Please and thank you!)

There has been much rejoicing in the Chronister house these past couple of weeks..the latest season of Dr. Who is finally on Netflix streaming!

Clara Oswald, the most recent lovely companion to the Doctor, is back for another season. (You can click here to learn about Clara's whole backstory.) In the previous season, the Doctor was a fine, strapping young fellow and there was always this underlying possibility of physical attraction between Clara and the Doctor.

The latest regeneration of the Doctor, however, is as an older man, and so a new shade of Clara has become visible - the role of spiritual mother. Specifically, there are seven ways that her spiritual maternity shines through.

Mothering through Transitions

In the first full episode of the season, Clara undergoes the transition that many a companion before her has; an adjustment to a Doctor who looks very different than the man she has grown to know and love. However, the Doctor is going through a transition himself, and is startled by his new, older appearance. Thanks to a special phone call she receives near the end of the episode, Clara realizes that the Doctor needs her - her support, her love, and her friendship. Although he appears older and gruffer than what she is used to, he is still the same Doctor - a man in need of her love and support.

It is the nature of a mother to be a stable force in the midst of change. For a child, a mother is home - a mother is the place where a child of any age can anchor him or herself. This is equally true in spiritual maternity, where a mother is a place of emotionally stability and love. Clara chooses to remain with the Doctor because she comes to realize that he needs her to be a place of stability for him, in the midst of so much chaos.

A Mother Through Teaching

Clara's day job is as a teacher, a role which is featured significantly in this season. As such, we see her interactions with her students, interspersed throughout her day. It's clear that she rules her classroom with a firm but compassionate hand.

She is also a teacher to the Doctor. The Doctor is not perfect (no Time Lord is), and he needs someone who will teach him. Clara teaches the Doctor to look at the universe - and himself - through a different lens. He is her teacher (as all "children" in our lives are) but she is very much his as well. 

Willing to Take Risks to Save Others

When I watch Clara, I am struck again and again by her bravery. There are so many times that she's in a situation and the Doctor says, "Get in the Tardis, Clara!" and she refuses to listen and remains by his side. Yet, it is the nature of a mother to be willing to take risks for the good of another. The love of a mother, any mother, is one that goes beyond the desire to preserve one's own self. Women would never attempt pregnancy, were they preoccupied with self-preservation! Rather, the desire of women (in regards to the vocation of woman) is to give and protect life. A biological mother does that in a very obvious way, but a spiritual one does that in a way that is equally beautiful and profound.

A Comfort to Children

In one of the first episodes, Clara travels back in time with the Doctor and meets a little boy (who turns out to be the younger version of her current boyfriend-Spoilers!).

Clara was incredibly tender with this little boy. The tenderness toward a child was clearly something that came naturally to her, despite the fact that she doesn't yet have a child of her own. And yet, children sense there is something different about women, something safe and mother-like. It is the unique ability of a woman to be able to mother.

Honest Yet [Lovingly] Critical

During one episode, the Doctor asks Clara why he keeps her around, to which she responds, "Because if you didn't have me, you'd have to develop a conscience!"

Clearly, the Doctor does have some sort of conscience, but this scene is fantastic because it highlights a different point - Clara's willingness to be brutally honest with the Doctor. It is the role of a mother to be honest (even critical at times) with her child, in such a way that her love is still conveyed. Anyone can be critical, and anyone can pretend to be loving, but it is a unique quality of maternity/spiritual maternity to be able to offer criticism with underlying tenderness. That tenderness, of course, is ordered toward the ultimate good of the child (spiritual child or otherwise).

Tireless in her Assistance

At a moment's notice, Clara drops whatever she is doing and runs to assist the Doctor. This urgency of response is not unique to mothers, but mothers no doubt possess this ability in a unique way. In my experience as a mother (married to the father of my daughters) a father will respond with great urgency to situations that warrant great urgency. When Therese got her first (and hopefully last) ambulance ride and stitches, Andrew responded with incredible urgency, and calmness. He was a rock for me during that stressful afternoon, and he didn't hesitate to do what needed to be done.

On the other hand, when a child is whining for a refill on her glass of milk - not as much urgency. Fathers seem wired for ultimate survival, while mothers seem wired to attending to the smaller details of a child's life (as well as the bigger details, too, of course). Part of that means that mothers respond more urgently to a child's cries than a father does. This isn't sexist - it's just programmed into our make-up, from thousands upon thousands of years of evolving for the sake of survival. A mother is, typically, the first to respond to a baby's cries, because countless mothers before her did, and their response caused their babies to survive and so....built into the genetic make-up. God's clever like that!

What's especially remarkable, though, is that this carries over into spiritual motherhood, too. A spiritual mother is able to respond with the same sort of urgency and intuition to the needs of her spiritual child, and so it is with Clara and the Doctor.

Unconditionally Loving

The greatest asset of any mother (spiritual or otherwise) is her unconditional love. When Clara makes the decision in the first episode of the season to remain with the new/old/gray/regenerated doctor, she does so out of love. She does so because she realizes, when she looks at him, that he is still the same man beneath all the layers. She recognizes that he is still very much in need of her love. A mother loves, plainly and simply, even that which may appear most unlovable. She looks beneath the many layers to see the heart.

I once half-jokingly told my best friend in college that I knew that we were really best friends because if she randomly shaved her head the next day I would still love her. What I was trying to get at was not a hatred for people who are bald (I don't hate people who are bald!) but at the fact that, eventually, as love deepens it goes beyond the superficial. It just endures. That is the love of any mother, especially a spiritual mother, and it is the love that Clara has for the Doctor.

Like the Tardis, the heart of a mother/spiritual mother is "bigger on the inside."

(Linking up with Kelly.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why I Still Love Those "Gather Book" Hymns

I feel guilty even admitting this, but, the truth is – I love those hymns of my childhood. Despite their cheesy lyrics and less than majestic tune, I love them. Recently, I realized why that is, and why there is something redeemable about these hymns.

For men and women of my generation, these hymns were our first introduction to the faith. Many of us may have had no real interest in our faith as children, while some of us may have had a profound love of our faith from the start. Some of us may have not have been raised in a family practicing their faith, while others of us may have been fed our catechesis with our peas and carrots.
It seems like, for better or for worse, many of those who dislike those hymns from the 1970s or 1980s, either fall into one of two categories....
Read the rest.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Good Old-Fashioned Mothering with Dwija!

I am so excited about today's episode of Little House Mothering! 

Today we're talking with Dwija of House Unseen. I'm sure most of you are familiar with her already (perhaps from reading her lovely chapter in Rosaries Aren't Just for Teething?) but be prepared to get to know her even better! 

It was such a fun interview! Amy and I decided that Dwija is the most "Little Houseish" mother we've interviewed so far, since she actually live in the country/on an old farm property. (We interviewed Rosie before her exciting move to the country.) We also totally enjoyed the fact that the three of us are all from the same part of Michigan!

Dwija shares some fun anecdotes about house remodeling with children and even gives some great tips for strengthening your marriage. Be sure to have a listen!!

Now...wanna see what we wore Sunday? (Poor Maria wore her pjs because she was sick.) 

I was looking at these pictures later in the day, and I realized that I was totally channeling my inner Rosie...which made me feel very, very trendy. I love that girl's clothes! It's no coincidence that most of our conversation with her revolved around style!

Have a lovely Monday!

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