Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Family Altar

I've been thinking about a family altar since we moved into this house, and Lent seems a good time to set one up. Then Auntie Leila posted about her forthcoming book (which I've pre-ordered, and  you should too!) and my friend Christine wrote about setting up a home altar. But I've been having trouble finding a spot that met my three criteria:

1. a place that's prominent rather than an out-of-the-way corner of the room,

2. a place that's easily accessible to gather around and pray, and

3. a place that's unlikely to be collided into by rambunctious little boys.

Thinking about it was getting me nowhere so taking advantage of a rare opportunity when all three children were sleeping, I did some experimentation with two ideas.

Number one:

A beloved statue of Our Lady, St. Therese, our boys' patron saints

This little table served primarily as a family altar in our old apartment, and it has a little drawer that could be used for rosaries, holy cards, and such. I think it makes a very pretty altar. The only problem is where it's located in our dining room. 

Yep, that table's not likely to get bumped by a little boy, unless it's when we try to squeeze in front of the altar during family prayer. There really is no room between the altar and the dining room table. Plus it's really only noticeable from one direction (I stood in the kitchen doorway to take this picture).

So, option number two:

On the mantle, so very prominent, nothing likely to get bumped or broken, and quite easy to gather around. But I just feel it lacks a certain something ... 

Why yes, there are two babies asleep in those swings!

I think part of the problem is that the mantle is so BIG. We're going to eventually build shelves on either side of the mantle so perhaps that will create more of a "space" but for now it just seems like the altar is more "stuff."

I've also thought about setting it up where the computer is--right now the computer is the first thing you see on walking in our front door, and how neat would it be to have the altar there instead? But I don't think we'll be rearranging our furniture any time soon. I'm thinking the dining room is our best bet for now, simply because it's the space that most feels like an altar.

What do you think?

(Posted as part of the seven posts in seven days challenge ... even though I missed day two.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pre-Lenten Pondering

Oh geez. I committed myself to Jen's seven posts in seven days challenge. On a week where I'm finishing up an editorial session (which I'm badly behind on), celebrating a family birthday, and visiting more people than average. (Seriously, some weeks I'm home alone the whole time, but somehow this week I'm going out or have someone over almost ever day!) I had this idea it would help me prepare for Lent somehow ...? Something about discipline.

Anyway, this is my largely unedited stream of thought. Not very disciplined, but there you go.

So, Lent. Keith has asked that we give up dessert as a family, so we'll be doing that. But I am still figuring out what I ought to do for myself.

Last Lent I put a lot of effort into organizing my homemaking. I planned meals and kept a close budget while shopping, and stuck to a loose routine in my housekeeping chores. And it was great. (And then I got pregnant and tired and it all sort of fell apart again. :-P) I feel like I need something similar this year--NOT the meal-planning, chore-organizing sort of thing, because I am just not there yet. But something that helps me figure out where my focus needs to be as a wife, mother, and homemaker. That helps my life feel purposeful and a little less scattered and frantic.

I don't mean the busyness that comes naturally from having littles, because that is part of where I'm at; but how to live where I'm at in a way that opens the door to grace and growth in holiness and love of God. I feel that Lent is the ideal time to "make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed." So how can I make living my vocation at this stage in life easier and more fruitful?

I have a couple ideas, but one that's giving me some puzzlement is the idea of harnessing my time in the morning. The reality is that for most of the day I have little control over my day's structure. I try to keep mealtimes and bedtimes in order, but all it takes is one screaming child to throw things off! I have long felt that getting up before my offspring would help me so much, in practical and psychological ways--having that time to pray, read, or just sit with a cup of coffee before the day makes its demands. But there are two problems. First, I wake up every morning in the middle of a baby sandwich. When I move and take my body heat away with me, it's only a matter of time before the babies wake up. Second (and more important?), sleep is still a very precious commodity around here. I truly don't feel lazy in wanting to grab every moment of it I can!

So ... do I just tough it out and get up a half hour or fifteen minutes earlier anyways? Or commit to something lighter like saying a morning offering in bed with a baby sleeping on either side? Anyone have any other ideas...?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Seven Quick Takes, aka Survival Mode Blogging (17)

1. Something about today struck me as a "mental health" sort of day and so I ended up eating an obscene amount of cookies. To make myself feel a little less guilty I gave part of every cookie to Michael. Go ahead and judge me. My kid thinks I'm awesome. :-P

2. I also watched too much Lark Rise to Candleford, until the speakers stopped working in the middle of an episode. Grrr.

3. My mom stopped by and treated us all to pizza which was fantastic. And Michael also ate grapes with lunch. So see, I'm not an entirely awful mother today.

4. While Michael napped the babies took turns falling asleep/staring at me mournfully from the bouncy chair until finally, finally, when Michael was stirring in his crib but not ready to really get up yet, Dominic was fast asleep and I figured Gregory and I could just cuddle on the couch for a sorely needed time-out. And then Dominic stirred, and started to fuss. And Gregory was pretty soundly asleep so I thought I could leave him on his own for a few minutes and ... well, I'm sure you can guess how that went. Don't get me wrong ... this is pretty much par for the course (one baby falls asleep, the other pops awake) and most days I can deal with it because (as I keep reminding myself) it is temporary. (I totally believe in sleep training.) But for some reason today it was just a bit much. Both boys started crying and I just couldn't. So I had to step away from them for a bit, and went to hide with Michael in his room for a few minutes.

5. Anyway, things have gotten a bit better in the hour since. And now Gregory is waking up, just as Dominic shows signs of drowsing off.

6. The upshot of all this is that Keith is bringing home thai food for dinner and I really hope he isn't late. Hopefully he will have left work precisely one minute ago. Not that I'm counting or anything.

7. Oh yeah. I'm also doing Jen's 7 posts in 7 days thing again. Or trying to. I don't plan for them to be posts like this. We'll see what happens!

In the meantime, linking up with her for these quick takes!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


First I want to thank Rosie, who very sweetly included a link to my blog in her latest post about twin blogs. Some of the other blogs on there are ones I already follow and love, and others I am excited to check out!

Rosie also wanted to see side-by-side pictures of the twins to guess whether they were identical or fraternal--a request which I am quite happy to oblige. After all these guys are pretty darn cute. ;) I think for those who spend a lot of time with them the difference is pretty clear, but from pictures and seeing them only occasionally it may be less so. We are pretty convinced they're fraternal though.

Dominic L, Gregory R
Differences you can't see in this picture--Dominic is bigger, although Gregory has the longer torso; Dominic has reddish hair (just a little bit!) and Gregory's is dark and thick in the back; Dominic's eyes are blue as blue while Gregory's seem to be staying a pretty grey color; and Gregory only has one line on his palms, a trait he inherited from me. (Michael has it too.) Their complexions are also pretty different: Dominic has Keith's (fair), Gregory has mine (a fair olive).

Dominic, I believe, looks the most like Keith of all our children. He looks more like Keith's baby pictures than Michael did.  (I would show you but I think Keith would not be pleased to find his baby pictures on the internet. ;) )

But Gregory looks like my mom's side of the family. Specifically, my mom's mom's side. More specifically, my mom and I both think he looks like my great uncle Jim (who was only a few years older than my mom). 

Uncle Jim as a child

Their personalities are quite distinct. Gregory is the quiet one, but quick to smile, quick to coo, and overall quite the charmer. He is very easy-going (although he is reaching the age where they develop opinions ... I guess that happens around 3 months, doesn't it?). Dominic has a louder personality. He wants to be at the center of any action. If you sit him up in your lap so you can see the world he's generally happy. If he's not happy, he will let you know.

They are both becoming more aware of Michael, and Michael is deciding that sometimes he likes having brothers to be his audience.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Well, Keith's scarf has crept along another few inches, and I am reading a new book. Sand, Smoke, Current is Wiseblood Books' first publication of the year, and I am much enjoying it. Robert Vander Lugt is able to draw the shapes of the stories in ordinary people's lives in a way that is beautiful and meaningful, and that is something I always admire in an author. These stories are quiet but earnest. My favorites so far are the title story and "Love, Double-barreled."

A while back when I shared progress on Keith's scarf I mentioned hiding a mistake I'd made in the cabling that I hid outside the camera frame. That very Sunday I dressed Gregory for Mass in a sweater that Keith's grandma had knit him when he was a baby. My mother-in-law gave us some of Keith's baby clothes when Michael was little(r) but because he was born in the spring it was usually the wrong season for him to wear them when they fit. But now the twins can wear them, and it makes me happy (although Keith finds it kind of embarrassing, I think!). It's so special for them to wear something their great-grandma made.

All pictures of the boys stolen from my Dad's facebook. :)
Anyway. While Gregory was wearing it, I found a mistake in the cabling. Far from being an imperfection, I found that so neat, evidence that this came from the hands of a real person and was made with love. Anyone might have knit a sweater, but Keith's grandma made that mistake. That missed cable is such a direct connection to her as an individual knitter. 

And it made me look at my own knitting differently.

So I won't be pointing out my mistakes to you ... but I won't hide them either. :) Kind of sounds like a life lesson, huh?

(Oh, and that day, Michael was wearing a sweater knit by his grandma.)

(And Dominic wasn't wearing any sweaters, but he was wearing some pretty spiffy overalls and a collared onesie. :) )

Linking up with Ginny and her yarn-alongers.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


You can't really tell from the picture, but Keith's scarf has not progressed very much since my last yarn along post. Maybe ten repeats, max. And I am still reading These Beautiful Bones, which is a great book but not amenable to stop-and-go reading while chasing/nursing young children. So things have been moving slowly.

But that doesn't stop the plans from brewing.

I want to knit a sweater.

A long time ago I bought blue sport weight yarn at Pittsburgh's Handmade Arcade from a local dyer,  Cosy Makes. And then early last year I found the perfect pattern for it. But then I got pregnant and had lots of baby knitting to do and figured it was best to wait until my measurements stopped fluctuating to knit myself a fitted garment anyways.

And then last week I found Tarian.
I am rarely an impulsive pattern buyer, at least not when the patterns cost $7, and not when they are sweaters. (Lace shawls are occasionally another story.) But for some reason I saw this and clicked "buy." And then headed over to Webs online store to buy the yarn. Which arrived in my mailbox last week. So there's that.

And there' the sweater-quantity of beautiful fingering weight yarn in a lovely shade of purple that my parents gave me for my birthday. It's from Autumn House Farm in Punxsutawney, and it is lovely, but I am having a very hard time choosing a pattern to go with it.

Not sure what the upper yarn is, perhaps brushed alpaca?
I have no idea when I'll have time to knit any of them, but there are sweaters brewing.

And books piling up. Quite literally on my bedside table. And I love it, all except for the fact that I can't read them very easily. My arms are almost always full of baby. And while it is much easier to read with one hand than to knit, it is even easier to pick up a Kindle Touch while nursing. So I have been reading a lot of scifi in ebook form lately. (And most of that dystopia. It's an addiction.) Keith and I want to read Diary of a Country Priest together so that we can watch the movie afterwards. We don't usually read the same books, so it should be fun. :)

(A Little Way of Homeschooling belongs to Christine and I've had it for at least six months, so I really need to finish it soon!) 

Linking up with Ginny.

Monday, February 3, 2014

After Candlemas

Yesterday was Candlemas. We have been burning candles at dinner since Christmas, and I would like to set up a family altar sometime in the coming months, so I bought a bunch of candles with the intention of getting them blessed at Mass yesterday. And then forgot to bring them.


I hope that as my boys grow older I am able to gradually build the habit of organizing things such that the rhythm of the liturgical year, with all its wonder and beauty, is second nature to them. And I myself want to enter more deeply into these feasts and learn what they mean. Right now, the spiritual significance of Candlemas isn't something I'm all that familiar with; instead I think: "Candlemas ... blessing candles ... COOL!" Which is probably what my boys will think.

But if we can really live that rhythm and allow it to shape our lives, I know it will sink in to a deeper level, shaping our minds and hearts as well. That's what it means to live liturgically; that's why we have a liturgy to begin with.

We got our tree down just under the wire--Keith took it out on Saturday evening. And I LOVE how open and light our living room feels now. I also love having my little corner back. Not that I have much time to sit in it with a book or knitting. I have been reading voraciously but that is only thanks to my Kindle. (Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord for that gift. My 25 year old self would be shocked and scandalized how much I love this device.)

ANYWAY. Stream of consciousness blog posting ... speaking of lighting dark places, I just consumed half a chocolate bar before 11am. I really don't know how that happened except February, and three poopy kids. And breastfeeding. Breastfeeding excuses all things ... right?