09 December 2015

Tolerance is not a Christian virtue.

This. A thousand times, this:
"We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty -- these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it's never an end itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil. Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive."
From an address given by Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, ca. August 2012.

03 December 2015

And in despair, I bowed my head.

Facebook is positively revolting right now. 
Two mass shootings within the span of a week has inspired every over-emotive millennial I know (so, like, all of them) to decide that they're going to "get real" and "not worry about offending anyone" and say "what [they] really think" about guns.
And -- sorry, dudes -- what they have to say is mostly uninformed and irrelevant. And insulting.
No one talks about the breakdown of the family, or Islamist terror tactics, or actual, honest-to-God, demonic evil. There's some lip-service paid to mental illness, but strictly in the sense that We Need More Government (which we do not). 
Mostly there's dishonest and/or stupid conflation of semiautomatic and automatic weapons -- news flash, basically no one thinks you should be able to buy a machine gun for home defense -- and what I can only assume is a willful refusal to admit that the overwhelming majority of legally-owned firearms in this country will never be used to shoot anything but paper targets.
So everywhere I scroll on Facebook, I'm being told that I'm "part of the problem" because I think guns are not inherently evil. I'm "part of the problem" because I think dismembering babies in the womb and selling their parts to the highest bidder is abhorrent and I'm not afraid to say so. I'm "part of the problem" because I don't think that we should enact laws that prohibit American citizens from buying guns when they have not been so much as accused of a crime. I'm being told that as a gun owner -- as someone who has exercised my Constitutional rights -- that I bear responsibility for every misuse of a gun that happens in this country.
I reject that, outright. I am not immoral because I have purchased a firearm and learned how to use it so that in the event that I ever have to protect my children from mortal danger, I can (angels and ministers of grace, defend us!). I am not culpable for the actions of others. 
Moreover, while Planned Parenthood is easily one of the most evil corporate entities in the world, I still don't think anyone has the right to go there and commit violence against the people who work there. The ends do not justify the means. In fact, I don't even think the ends are worthwhile: violence committed against abortion clinics tends to make the general population more sympathetic and even perversely sentimental about abortion and its practitioners.
All of this brought to mind one of the latter verses of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," one of the lesser-appreciated Christmas songs, but one which I love.
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!" 
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
Peace on earth, good-will to men.

The solution to violence is not an abdication of your goodwill toward men. Throwing invective at people in your Facebook timeline because they disagree with you about gun control is not displaying good will. Refusing to acknowledge that law-abiding gun-owners are not the problem is not the way. Let's all recognize that evil exists. When someone shoots up a Planned Parenthood or a community center (for one of the most vulnerable populations in our society, by the way), let's acknowledge that their motivation was not "for fun" or "because of the Second Amendment" or "motivated by Christianity" or "ginned up by irresponsible anti-abortion rhetoric," but instead their motivation is the commission of evil in service of the Evil One.

And let's realize that two things can be true: I can be saddened and sickened by the loss of life in these mass shootings and still, in good faith, not support your gun control agenda

I pray for our country. I pray that we turn from our collectively pretty horrible ways and be the city on the hill again. I can only work on my little corner, and so can you. 

God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.

01 December 2015

Dorises Gotta Doris

This past Sunday was... challenging.

I always expect and hope that the onset of Advent will be peaceful and introspective and this year it was neither.

Declan had been up all night the night before. The pork chops I made for dinner turned out to be no bueno, even though I had just bought them the day before (I seared them off in my cast iron skillet, put them under the broiler to finish, pulled them out to rest and caught a whiff of just... Ick. So I sniffed closer and ick). Keira had a post-thrown-together-replacement-dinner meltdown so unbelievable I almost just put her to bed there and then, screaming and all, so we could start fresh in the morning. Plus I had to make it to church by 6:30 for a choir event and when I got there the parking lot was completely, entirely, overflowingly full because the 5:30 Mass was still in full swing.

So I parked as far away as I ever have, in some auxiliary parking lot belonging to the school, grumbling to myself about the distance and the cold and the rain. Because it was raining, didn't I mention that?

And then a lady from the choir, Doris*, pulled in next to me.

Let me tell you a little bit about Doris. She's probably 75 years old, and if you think I'm about to describe her as the kind of graceful older lady I want to be, you're wrong. I have only ever had interactions with this woman that left me determined never to be a black hole of relentless negativity. Because that is how she has always seemed to me.

On this Sunday evening, Doris climbed out of her car and said, "God is good to me!"

I am sure my mouth dropped open. Because I was in too bad a mood to school my face. Thankfully, she didn't see, and she went on to exclaim that she was so blessed to find a spot next to someone she knew, since she had to park so far away in the dark.

Smack in the face from God, via Doris of all people.

(Of course, the rest of what came out of her mouth during our trudge to the church was a litany of complaints, because Dorises gotta Doris.)

I couldn't stop thinking for the rest of the evening -- and the thirty-six or so hours since -- about how tricksy God is to send a message to remind me of my blessings, from the mouth of the only person in the vicinity from whom it would be so unexpected that I couldn't help but notice.

Well played, God.

*Not her real name, obviously.

30 November 2015

Anyone got half a dozen or so extra arms?

So, so busy, you guys.

So! Since last time I wrote... Wait, let me go back and see.

Okay, the last time I wrote it was a recipe. (Delicious.) The time before that, I wrote about how we had some hopeful signs about a house we liked. Shortly after that, after we had scrambled from separate states -- hubby was on a business trip -- to get together a mountain of paperwork and pay stubs and certified funds and mostly get Michael back in town so he could sign the application, and when we were about two hours from having the application signed, sealed and delivered, the owner and her realtor pulled the rug out from under us again. ("Sorry. She took another application.")

We were trying not to panic, but we were four weeks from our current lease running out. We saw three more houses as soon as we could get appointments, but they were awful (and awfully expensive for awful, to boot). We had no idea where we were going to live. Since we had seen everything there was on the market to see, we followed through on our plans to go visit my parents in Pennsylvania for my niece's birthday party.

While we were there, the realtor from The House That Kept Getting Away called us again and said that the owner wanted an extended lease -- 15 or 16 months instead of 12 -- and were we interested? We scrambled to get all the paperwork together again, because we hadn't brought the completed stuff from Virginia, and faxed him everything late on a Saturday night.

On Sunday afternoon, we were informed that we got the house. I didn't let myself believe it for two more days because until the lease was signed, she could totally change her mind again, and after the "No, yes, no, yes" we'd already been through... I was certain she was a flibbertigibbet.


Now everything is signed. She can't back out. She even offered to let us move in before the lease even starts so that we wouldn't have to spend Christmas unpacking. I think it's all going to be good. As I said, the rent is still more than we wanted to pay, but it's a lot of house for the money. And it's nice.

Meanwhile we have so much to do that my head is swimming. The packing has begun in earnest, but we don't want the kids living in a box fort so we're having to take it slower than we'd like. Meanwhile, I don't know if you've heard but it's Advent now, and so, you know: BUSY BUSY BUSY.

Help me, Jesus.

21 November 2015

You're welcome:

Microwave "Baked" Apples

2 large apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 T sugar
1/2 t cornstarch
1/2 t cinnamon

(Or whatever. I measured the sugar so I wouldn't use too much, but I straight eyeballed the cornstarch and cinnamon.)

Toss together and microwave, covered, for 5-10 minutes until tender (depending on the size of your apples, the size of your dice, your variety... My Honeycrisps needed 8 minutes total).

Serve with ice cream, or whipped cream.

(With a half cup of Breyer's Carb Smart ice cream, and a floof of Reddi Whip on top, it's delicious, and only 7 Weight Watchers points. I didn't get to do any kickass food photography because I ate it too fast.)

Oh, yeah, and we went back on WW. I'm hungry, like, all the time.

09 November 2015

God is great (but you knew that)

A family member -- one of the ones for whom I begged vague prayers earlier -- who is facing a struggle was given good news. Like, really good news.

AND! The realtor of the house we saw last Friday, which we really, really liked and whose owner didn't want to wait for us (all the way to five weeks from now), called and said that the owner reconsidered taking our application. (I guess high credit scores count for something after all!) So the good news is that we probably won't be homeless; the bad news is that I'm going to have to actually set, like, a budget because my plan to get our rent way down is not panning out.

Thanks for storming heaven for me, prayer warriors!

(And keep 'em coming, please, because none of this is set in stone yet. Just... Hopeful, for a change.)

08 November 2015

I can actually feel my hair turning whit(er).

Still need your prayers. Still stressing to the high heavens. In addition to my last post worth of issues:

  • Michael left this evening (he's actually boarding his plane right now) for a business trip. It's as short as he could make it, given that he's hitting two states, but I'm still feeling preemptively overwhelmed.
  • And, of course, Keira, who is NEVER sick, got sick like clockwork the day Daddy was leaving. She was fine when she woke up this morning, started coughing at Mass (chasing away a poor woman who had innocently sat behind us, who was clearly battling cancer, and then saw my little savage covering her mouth only about 50% of the time when she coughed), started to get warm before lunch, listlessly picked at lunch, asked for a nap after lunch (which is basically unprecedented), and woke up full-on fevered, raspy-voiced, coughing uncontrollably and wheezing. She spent the afternoon in Mommy and Daddy's bed, watching Goldie and Bear. I usually let fevers run their course, but I thought she had a sore throat too so I dosed her with Advil and she got a bath. By dinnertime, she had her appetite back and has been playing and singing and not-coughing since. Hopefully, this was a false alarm?
  • Still no place to live. We saw something we loved on Friday (tippy-top of our budget, but a whole lot of nice house for the money), but the realtor called us back and told us the owner wanted someone who could move in sooner -- again, our preferred move-in date is Dec. 15, and it's already Nov. 8 -- so we're still on the hunt. There has to be a reasonable landlord somewhere in the vicinity. There has to be. But we have yet to find him/her. {Does a credit score in the 800s count for nothing?}
  • Here's how I know I'm too stressed to function: I just put the baby to bed without changing his diaper. So that's going to be delightful in the morning.
Please, pray for us.

05 November 2015

A plea for prayers.

You know it's been a rough week when a death in the family isn't even close to being the most stressful, or the worst news.

My great-aunt Margie passed away last week. She was 87 and died, presumably peacefully, at home from heart failure. She never married or had children, and while she loved her nieces and nephews (and grand-nieces and -nephews, and great-grand-nieces and -nephews), she was really missing her siblings, all of whom had already gone to their reward. So it was what I consider a "happy death" (which is not to say there were no tears).


Today I got some bad news regarding a couple of family members. Their struggles aren't mine to share, but they could use your prayers.

Add in the stress I'm feeling over the fact that our current lease ends Dec. 20, and we don't yet know where we're moving. Almost. (Lest you think we've brought this on ourselves: we've been working on it for months, but at first no one would entertain us because "it was too long to wait" for us to move in, and just yesterday we had a possible rental situation fall apart on us, bringing us back to square one.)


All this to say that my family and I are sorely in need of some prayers. I need prayers for peace, and strength, and patience, and discernment. My family needs prayers of encouragement, peace, trust and healing.

St. Jude, pray for us.

19 October 2015

What I've been up to...

This has to be a quick one.

I just had to waste a bunch of time scooting over to the mall to the Apple store to buy a new MacBook charger because Apple seems to make them intentionally fragile. When mine (well, my second one since I got this laptop in 2011) started to fray, several weeks ago, I shored it up with white electrical tape to wring some more time out of it, but this morning it gave up the ghost. It seems, from reading product reviews on Apple's website, people tend to get only about nine months out of them, though, so I'm at least satisfied that I did my best to make it last.

Meanwhile, and working backward for some reason:

  • Declan, my sweet little monster, screamed from somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 am on this morning. (As it turns out, he cut a tooth for our trouble, so perhaps tonight will be better.) On my way back from my Apple errand, I ran into the sweet lady who lives downstairs and apologized to her for the noise. She said, as she always does, "No problem! Babies will be babies!" But she'll probably be as happy when we move out in a couple of months as we were when our old upstairs neighbors went. (Of course, we went from wild hooligan children -- old enough to know better, unlike Keira who genuinely doesn't realize she's stomping sometimes, and even if she does she doesn't realize what it sounds like to someone downstairs {judging by her blank face when I tell her to "for the LOVE, stop stomping!"}, or Declan who may cry inordinately sometimes, but is just a baby -- to wild hooligan dogs who whine and wrestle with each other all day long, so it's not exactly a huge improvement.)
  • My mother came to visit over the weekend and she babysat for us on Saturday night so we could go out for our anniversary. We thought about it and realized we hadn't gone out on a real date night in two years so we could afford to blow it out a little and so we went out to Ruth's Chris steakhouse and feasted. So delicious. 
  • Last week I had coffee with my new friend Mary, whom I met when she hosted a Blessed Brunch. We sat at Starbucks and laughed like loons about every-darn-thing in the world. I said after the brunch that my soul felt refreshed and it's no less true about three hours in a comfy leather chair with a pumpkin spice latte (yes, I'm one of those, what of it?!) and a friend. Delightful. I hope to do it again soon!

Also, unrelated: I think Karl Keating must be reading my blog because this column reminds me of something... ;)

06 October 2015

Shower Thoughts: Ants, Buddhists and Super-Rats

As you may know, I work from home full-time-ish (which is to say that I get paid for part-time work, but my production-driven job takes me full-time time to complete, so I'm obviously a winner). This has its drawbacks, like rarely seeing people other than my own little family, and its HUGE advantages, like being able to stay on top of the laundry and being able to shower, alone, when I feel like it. (Hallelujah.) And I do most of my blog-post-dreaming-up in the shower. And shiz can get weird.


Just now I was taking a shower and spending too much of the time allotted drowning ants (again), and I got to thinking: what do Buddhists do about infestations? Do they just live with them? I mean, I guess my little ant shower-crashers are basically harmless, so I'm sure a Buddhist would have left them alone rather than washing them down the drain with a maniacal supervillain laugh -- I spend a lot of time alone, remember? -- but what about, say, Buddhists who live in NYC?

What about cockroaches?


02 October 2015

7QT: 2 October 2015

1. I did a victory lap yesterday on our successful night-weaning, and it bit me on the rear with a quickness. The little booger screamed for hours last night, and being well-rested already feels like a distant memory.

2. I have the itchiest inner ears in the whole entire world. I'm starting to think I'm allergic to something I consume on the daily because... Okay, so you know how when people in movies have allergic reactions, they always start knuckling at their ears?

Hitch does it right about 0:50 in case you have no earthly idea what I'm talking about. I want to do that all the time. Or stick pointy things in there and dig around. It is not good.

3. We're looking for another new rental. We had hoped to be long gone to our new life in San Antonio by now, but it's taking its time happening. (We're waiting to do this in God's time, but after a bunch of very hopeful signs waaaay back in 2012, He has started to take His sweet time about it.)

I'm not going to tell this whole story because these Takes would cease to be Quick, but the takeaway is: please pray for us that we find something with more space for less money. (Stop laughing.)

4. It's soup weather! I'm making soup this week even though Michael claims to hate soup. Really, what he hates is plain chicken broth. I have never put mere broth in front of him, and whenever I make soup he likes it, and then promptly forgets that he liked it and goes back to "hating soup." Does anyone else's husband pull these shenanigans?

5. I turned on an old episode of Chopped while I write my 7QT and then put on my face and one of the chefs just said he plans to "take as many risks as he can safely take." That just makes me laugh and laugh.

6. Anybody got a good recipe for gluten-free chocolate cake that will be like cake and not like fudgy brownie? Keira's birthday is next weekend, she requested "chocolate cake with spickles" (sprinkles), and a couple of her cousins are gluten-free. I've been trolling Pinterest and I've found some things that look promising but I'd rather make something that's been vouched for by someone. I'd do some test cakes but then we'd have to eat them and I am fat enough thank you.

7. Facebook has really been getting me down recently. I wish there were a filter for political nonsense. I just want to see people's kids, funny memes and life events, and I'll even happily check out what you're eating! I just don't want to read about how I'm obviously soul-less because I disagree with you about gun control and abortion. Get on that, Zuckerberg. (Alternatively, can we all just agree to keep politics on Twitter?)

01 October 2015

Second kid... First night-weaning.

Sweet Declan.

Sweet, sweet Declan.

Sweet, sweet, baby terrorist Declan.

In his first nine months of life, he had slept through the night a (scant) handful of times, but his typical MO had been getting up once or twice in a night. Neither Michael nor I were happy about it, but we were getting through. Some nights he'd get up more than twice, and we were less happy about that, but we weren't broken.

And then.

Last Friday night, Declan got up FIVE TIMES between 11 pm and 5:45 am, at which point he decided he was up for real. I'm a pretty poor sleeper myself, so I only caught snatches of sleep in there somewhere. I spent Saturday in a haze of tired, irritable funk.

Saturday night, he started wailing at 11 pm again and my heart fell. Due, probably, to our poor night's sleep the previous night, Michael didn't wake up right away. During that time before my husband would have gone lurching to Declan's crib, my thoughts raced around.

I heard my mom in my head, telling me, "If you're not training him, he's training you."

I thought about all the reasons I hadn't cracked down on him sooner: he's a twenty-four pound behemoth -- and didn't get that way by accident -- so he's probably hungry; his eczema is flared up really badly and I know from personal experience that the one sensation you can't sleep through is "itchy"; he's teething so hard; he's prone to night terrors like his sister, and I can't tell sometimes if he's having one or if he's just mad; he's such a lazy lump of a baby that he doesn't know how to get himself into a comfortable position; he has never so much as paused in his screaming during the fifteen-to-twenty minute periods of trying to wait him out before; he's going to wake Keira; Keira got up a lot too, for a while, but she stopped on her own.

I thought about whether any of that justified five wake-ups in a single seven-hour period. Every night for the rest of my life, potentially.

By the time Michael awoke, I had decided that unless we were reasonably sure this was a night terror, we were going to wait him out. We pulled up the video monitor feed and watched him for a while. During a night terror, he usually thrashes and tosses with his eyes shut tight, but this night he wasn't doing that. So we were more-than-reasonably sure that it wasn't a night terror.

He screamed, no lie, for at least ninety straight minutes. I almost had to physically restrain Michael from going to get him. He sounded so mad, bordering on panicky. I prayed for discernment, and for God to give me the strength to do this if it was the right thing.

He calmed himself a couple of times in that ninety minutes, but he would start up shrieking again within five minutes. I considered listening to an audiobook with headphones to drown him out, but ultimately rejected it because I felt I needed to listen in case he started to choke or something. I switched back and forth between Declan's camera feed and Keira's camera feed (#modernparenting), trying not to worry that Keira had pulled her covers up over her head in apparent, totally justified annoyance.

I was a nervous wreck. Michael was worse. At one point, he almost stormed out of our bedroom door to get Declan from his crib even as I told him he couldn't. I may have resorted to threats to get him to get back in bed and leave him alone. (I mean, maybe I did. I was sleep deprived so I can't be sure. ;))

Finally, he exhausted himself and went to sleep. Four hours later, he ramped up again and screamed for at least another hour. At 7 am when he started fussing, Michael brought him to me and I nursed him in bed and we dozed together for another hour.

Each night since it's gotten better. We haven't gotten him out of his crib since that Friday into Saturday overnight of terror. Last night, praise be to Jesus, he slept twelve hours without a peep.

The hardest part was the feeling that if I were just a better mother, a more patient mother, this wouldn't be necessary.

But ultimately, children want boundaries, and a night with five wakings wasn't any better for him than it was for me. The last few days he's been 200% happier. I've been 2000% happier.

Thanks be to God for that.

21 September 2015

Blessed Brunch

This past Saturday, I was blessed to attend a Blessed Brunch (facilitated through Blessed Is She -- and if you're not signed up for the daily devotionals, you should be!) hosted by the lovely Mary Lenaburg. I have been a reader of Mary's blog for a while, so getting to meet her was a real treat for me. And finding out that we're neighbors was an even bigger treat!

I have to tell you: going to this sort of event is way outside of my comfort zone. I tend to project a confidence in groups, and I know I seem so outgoing... But I'm actually quite shy. I love new people, but I make them approach me first. And thanks to a vicious case of bitchy resting face (I kind of hate that term, but I haven't ever heard a better one to describe just how unpleasant I apparently look from a distance!), people rarely approach me.

When I saw that Blessed Is She was encouraging these Blessed Brunches all around the country, and that one was being held in my town, I was still hesitant. After all, Fairfax is enormous and getting from one side to the other can easily be forty minutes in the car. And I have a nursing baby, who wouldn't do well in that sort of environment, during naptime, mostly because he only nurses well in the quiet now and he absolutely refuses to sleep in public.

And and and, excuse excuse excuse.

Something made me go back and look at the list of upcoming brunches again. I realized that the fact that there was one even potentially up to forty minutes (or an hour, depending on the DC metro area's infamously awful traffic) from home was close, compared to the opportunities for ladies in some parts of the country. On the same night, while browsing Pinterest, a "suggested pin" popped up: "How to make friends as an adult." AND THEN, the next morning, I happened to be reading a blog I've never read before and saw a picture of a book entitled Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends. Around the same time, I saw that Mary had posted on the Blessed Is She Facebook group some more details about the brunch she was hosting, and I realized that her house would not be forty minutes away. More like five.

And I said, "All RIGHT, God, I get it." I RSVP'd immediately.

I have almost no friends from high school or college who are Catholic. In fact, I have almost no friends from high school or college who are not hostile to religion -- the curse of being a scientist and having friends who are scientists. I work from home and thus don't have that many opportunities to meet new people. My best friend, who's both Catholic and a mother to littles, moved to Texas before my children were born. My family is all in Pennsylvania, which is not very far from Northern Virginia but is also not around the corner.

I have felt like I've been parenting -- and Catholic-ing -- in a vacuum. I'm involved in the music ministry at my parish, but the ages skew significantly older, and anyway since Declan was born I've been unable to attend choir practice because it falls exactly at bedtime. Someday he'll be done nursing and I'll be freer to move about in the evenings, and I'm simultaneously looking forward to and dreading that time. For the time being, my life is work, and weeknight dinners as a family, and time spent with the kids before they go to bed, and family time on the weekends.

Most of the time, I don't even notice that I haven't had a social life in years. But when I do notice, it hits me like a ton of bricks.

So there I was, scared to death, on a beautiful Saturday morning, on Mary's back deck with 20+ strangers who ceased to be strangers immediately. Everyone brought something to share -- and, of course, there was enough food for four times as many women! -- and Mary provided a beautiful spread, coffee, tea, and some cold beverages. Mary's husband (who is a saint for letting everyone invade!) led us in an opening prayer. Everyone filled their plates and chatted while we chowed down. Then we went around the table and introduced ourselves to the group. After that, we had a free-flowing group discussion about community. I may have openly wept. (Okay, I definitely openly wept.)

It's such a blessing to meet so many like-minded women of faith! I had to be the first one to leave, after getting an SOS text message from Michael (poor Declan was late for his nap and completely over waiting for Mommy to come home and nurse him!), but I could otherwise have stayed indefinitely, getting to know more of the ladies better and filling up my soul. I didn't get any pictures myself, so you'll have to check out the hashtag we designated on Instagram (#blessedbrunchfx). There are only a couple because everyone was too busy bonding to do much documentation.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Mary for hosting, and to Blessed Is She for making it possible.

18 August 2015

"What punishments of God are not gifts?"

So I've been thinking about Stephen Colbert. He's often held up by Catholics as "our guy" in the world of political comedy because he's open -- and talks frequently -- about his Catholicism.

But I've always felt rather disappointed by him, personally. His tenure on The Colbert Report featured him, in character as an over-the-top right-wing blowhard; as a genuinely right-wing person myself, I found it annoying that I could nod along with his take on a situation until he took it a step too far. And he always took it at least one step too far.

In fact, that was the point: to discuss conservatism in a faux-approving way, but to reach the most obnoxious possible conclusion; to make conservatives into a caricature of a bigoted, selfish Scrooge McDuck. This formula was guaranteed to make the Comedy Central audience, still on a high from Jon Stewart's conservative bashing in the previous slot, sneer.

{I'm not sure it would be quite so harmful if an alarming proportion of my generation didn't get their news exclusively from Comedy Central. Get a grip, fellow millennials.}

Furthermore, he was known to espouse some pretty un-Catholic positions (ugh, I feel dirty even linking to The Huffington Post!). I just can't really get on board with Colbert as a Catholic we should be holding up as an example.

But then every once in a while he says something beautiful that makes me understand why Catholics do it. Consider this excerpt from an interview with GQ recently, talking about the loss of his father and brothers in a plane crash when he was young:
He was tracing an arc on the table with his fingers and speaking with such deliberation and care. “I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died.... And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example am I not bitter. By her example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.” Maybe, he said, she had to be that for him. He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. What is this in the light of eternity? Imagine being a parent so filled with your own pain, and yet still being able to pass that on to your son.
“It was a very healthy reciprocal acceptance of suffering,” he said. “Which does not mean being defeated by suffering. Acceptance is not defeat. Acceptance is just awareness.” He smiled in anticipation of the callback: “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that's why. Maybe, I don't know. That might be why you don't see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It's that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”
I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.
I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien's mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears. “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn't mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”
He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it “stopped me dead. I went, ‘Oh, I'm grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.’ I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true.
“It's not the same thing as wanting it to have happened,” he said. “But you can't change everything about the world. You certainly can't change things that have already happened.”
Gorgeous. Gorgeous. This is an absolutely breathtaking reflection on the nature of suffering. I could never have articulated that; I can appreciate it, I recognize the Truth of it, but it's beyond my ability to verbalize. He's clearly smarter and more articulate than I am.

And that, I think, is where my problem really lies:

He's smarter than I am. He's more articulate than I am. He certainly has a larger field of influence than I can ever expect to have. And he's using it to do more harm to the Church than he's doing her service. More people will have seen him bashing the Supreme Court judges who opposed the gay "marriage" ruling than will likely see him waxing poetic about God's gift of suffering in our lives. More people will remember him as a faux conservative bigot than as a Catholic.

I understand that not everyone has the courage to be counter-cultural. As a Comedy Central news-comedian, Stephen Colbert was expected to carry water for progressivism. It would have been an act of sheer foolhardiness to come out in opposition to the legalization of gay "marriage" if he wanted to keep his job at Comedy Central and his upcoming gig at CBS. And maybe it's not moral cowardice at all: maybe he genuinely thinks that the Church is wrong in her steadfast opposition to gay "marriage."

She is not, and that is why I find him to be disappointing and an unworthy role model overall. Even if his reflection on suffering and gratitude brought me to tears.

08 August 2015

Because someday I won't remember exactly how my two-year old used to count:

"One, two, free, four, fibe, six, seben, eight, nine, ten, eweben, twelbe, firteen, fifteen, nineteen, twelbe-teen..."

The. Greatest.

30 July 2015

#UnplannedParenthood: Got anything to add?

In the wake of the videos being released by the Center for Medical Progress revealing a small measure of the depravity of Planned Parenthood, and the attendant absolutely deafening silence from the mainstream media, pro-life Twitter has unleashed a barrage of beautiful, life affirming tweets using the hashtag #UnplannedParenthood.

People are sharing their stories: either they were unplanned pregnancies themselves, or they experienced an unplanned pregnancy and chose life and (obviously) do not regret it. The troll quotient is pretty low, too (surprisingly enough).

So here's the thing...

I contributed one little tweet:

... but I can't do much. I myself was a planned birth for my parents, and thanks to my experiences with infertility my own babies have been planned and planned and hoped for and prayed for and planned some more.

But this community can offer so much insight here!

And who doesn't want to make Twitter explain why #UnplannedParenthood is trending? ;)


28 July 2015

Can open, worms everywhere.

I have a daughter and a son (so far).

I was already 100% sure that my daughter would never be a Girl Scout. That is because of the Girl Scouts' extremely troubling involvement with Planned Parenthood, and also their founding membership in WAGGGS (the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts), which has been known to send girls to petition the UN for sexual and reproductive rights. This from an organization intended for girls under 18.

Just today I saw the news that the Boy Scouts of America have decided to end the ban on gay scout leaders. There is a tiny silver lining in that there is an exemption in place for scout troupes that are sponsored by churches. (For now.)

I'll say it straight out: this is depraved.

This is obviously a touchy subject. The BSA has been fighting making this change for years in the face of enormous pressure and has evidently finally buckled under the strain. And let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that all gay men are pedophile predators, or that there's no reason other than sexual interest that a gay man might be interested in being a scout leader. But the reality of the situation is that some scouts are 18, or nearly so. Furthermore, unlike other jobs that men can hold which brings them into regular proximity to potential objects of desire (for instance, high school teachers), the boy scouts go camping. Overnight. And it's not as if high school teachers have a stellar track record of keeping themselves from temptation under circumstances that afford them far less privacy with the teens by whom they find themselves tempted.

I was recently discussing this with a priest friend. His pastor has put him in charge of deciding these issues in his parish and he's feeling paralyzed with indecision. On one hand, the church-sponsored troupes of both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts are faith-centered in a way the national charters can apparently no longer sustain. On the other hand, he's worried about the trend, and how long the church-sponsored troupes will be allowed to maintain their independence in these matters.

I told him about how my pastor denied the Girl Scouts meeting space in our parish a couple of years ago. It made national news. Obviously some of that coverage was extremely unfriendly. But it blew over, and fast. In my opinion, I told my priest friend, it's smarter to cut ties now and face the angry parents -- and there will be angry parents -- than to wait until he's looking at a lawsuit for refusing to allow a gay scout leader in his troupe. I don't know what he's going to do, but this decision makes the need to decide more acute.

My decision is made: my son will not be a Boy Scout, any more than my daughter will be a Girl Scout.

Such a shame.

27 July 2015

New Life's Goal:

I've been watching Death in Paradise on Netflix and now I want to move to the British West Indies and solve murders.

Because apparently everyone gets murdered in the British West Indies.

26 July 2015

AMT: Congratulations on the new baby, Kendra!

Earlier this week I wrote up my experience (so far!) with NFP for NFP Awareness Week. It's been my most-read post to date (except for a few here and there that were part of one link-up or another). It seems like it was mostly well-received -- at least no one complained! If you missed it, check it out!

Okay so we're here for this week's the summer's final installment of Answer Me This. Here we go:

The estimable Kendra at Catholic All Year has brought back her popular linkup, Answer Me This, for the summer, ending this week. Here's Kendra's answers!

P.S. Kendra just had a baby yesterday! At home by accident! And I was only off by about 12 hours in the baby pool, and I guessed Mary Anne instead of Mary Jane, but I'm thinkin' I was pretty darn close, even if I didn't win.

1. What's your favorite grocery store splurge?
Heavy cream. A splash in my coffee, a splash in the oatmeal I'm tired of eating every day to help keep my breastmilk supply up... Heavy cream makes everything better. 

{AND I just found Red Robin steak fries in the freezer case on Friday! I bought some -- on sale, so maybe not quite a splurge? -- but haven't tried them yet.}

2. How's your penmanship?
I actually have really good handwriting. I went to Catholic school, so that helps, but really I think it must be genetic because I have the same handwriting as my sister, my mom, and most of my mom's sisters. My sixth-grade religion teacher once told me that my handwriting was "almost perfect" except that it's "too flowery." Because of the loops in my o's or something. I left the loops alone because I like them. Also that's just how my hand moves.

I have to admit it's less neat than it used to be. I was going to try harder for my sample but in the end I decided to keep it real. Which is why I also didn't try to hard to find a piece of paper that didn't have that weird bump where the Post-It sticks to its pad. (Laaaaay-zeeeeeeee!)

3. Do you have a "Summer Bucket List?"
I do not. We just got back from vacation last Sunday and I feel like it's all a downhill skid to snow on the ground from here, but a million years until Christmas, which is the only good thing about winter. Working full time really puts a damper on "summer" as a concept. Sometimes I feel like the only benefit is not having to wrestle the kids into coats to take them to daycare (which is actually a huge benefit!). 

I did not realize how deep in the summer doldrums I am until I answered that question! Sorry for being such a downer! Yeesh.

We have been making a real effort to take the kids to parks regularly on weekends. Keira thinks it's the greatest thing that ever happened to her to be at a playground, even if it's 10 million degrees and humid and no kids will play with her (what is wrong with kids these days?!). Declan tolerates it. He's just mad he can't run around yet.

4. What's the best thing on the radio right now?
I almost never listen to the radio. I don't spend much time in the car, I don't think I even have a radio except for internet streaming in the house, and I keep the car well-stocked with CDs. If I am listening to the radio, it's usually talk -- TheBlaze radio, mostly.

5. Ice cream or frozen yogurt?
Ice cream. With chunks of something crunchy. Plus extra chunks. Crunchy crunch!

21 July 2015

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week

When I was 23 or 24 years old and single, I went to a new gynecologist for an annual exam. She asked me the standard questions to get my history, and when she asked about my sexual activity I told her I was abstinent. She said, "Good for you. There is too much out there to catch."

Cleanliness was only the secondary reason for my abstinence.

The hierarchy was:
1) My deeply-held belief in the sacred nature of sexual union, and the fact that I did not yet have a husband;
2) My unwillingness to catch something that might stick around forever and/or compromise my future fertility; and
3) My unwillingness to bring a baby into the world without the proven benefit of a married mother and father.

We went on with the appointment and discussed some issues I had, specifically that my cycles were irregular and extremely painful. She didn't seem to be overly concerned, but she ordered some blood work and sent me to a radiology center to have a pelvic ultrasound. My results, it was reported, were normal.

In the following year or so, I met my now-husband and we got engaged. At my next appointment with the same gynecologist, again for an annual exam, I answered the sexual activity question in the same manner, and then later she noticed my engagement ring. She congratulated me and then said, "When you're married, what do you intend to do about birth control?" I said, "We're not using birth control, but instead we're going to learn NFP. We're practicing Catholics."

And she laughed.

She laughed in my face and said, "With your irregular cycles, that is not going to work for you."

Then she saw my stony face. She shrugged and told me she'd see me six weeks or so after the wedding to confirm my pregnancy. As if it were a threat.

I went home and Googled "pro-life ob/gyn Northern Virginia" and found out that Tepeyac Family Center, one of the largest pro-life practices in the country, was less than five miles from my fiancĂ©'s condo, which we would be sharing after our wedding. Even though I had just had an annual exam, I made an appointment.

The receptionist told me, "We are a pro-life practice and do not prescribe birth control, nor do we perform sterilizations." I said, "That's why I called."

I had lost all confidence in my old gynecologist. When she laughed in the face of my deeply-held religious convictions, I realized she wasn't to be trusted about anything else, either. I had my doubts about the results of my tests the previous year and wanted them to be run again.

Lo and behold, when the blood tests were run again, this time by a doctor who cared about the actual mechanisms by which fertility functions, the results were clear: I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). As I had suspected, my irregularity and pain were not normal, but were symptoms of an underlying pathology. The original gynecologist, in her astounding ignorance about the actual mechanisms at work in her chosen specialty, had seen the same severely out-of-whack hormone numbers and decided they were irrelevant.

The non-birth-control-pill medication protocol for PCOS turned out to be effective enough at sloooooowly bringing my hormones back in line without flipping the switch on my fertility to OFF; unfortunately I couldn't tolerate the medicine and had to stop taking it.

Soon enough I was married. My new husband and I learned the Creighton Method of NFP with the help of a retired OB/Gyn (the simpler Sympto-Thermal method is less effective when pathology exists). I took waaaaay too many negative pregnancy tests when my charts were unclear -- or more likely: my charts were clear but I didn't want to believe it. I endured all the delightful side-effects from fertility medications, especially as the doses were slowly increased to levels that made the pharmacist do a double-take. Between the Creighton lessons, the wasted pregnancy tests and the fertility medication my insurance refused to cover, it cost us a small fortune, all told.

I cried to my mother about the injustice of growing up in a large, endlessly and effortlessly fertile family and not being able to conceive, when I had been so careful to avoid compromising myself. I cried whenever I so much as thought about abortion -- what a personal insult it was to know women were throwing away something I wanted so badly! I tried to smile and make jokes when everyone I had ever known in high school and college, who knew about my commitment to my virginity, asked me constantly whether I was pregnant yet.

After three years or so, still not pregnant, I insisted on laparoscopic surgery to investigate the possibility that I also had endometriosis. On December 1, 2011, I had the surgery, which did indeed reveal (and remediate) endometriosis. I kept using Clomid. And in February 2012, I discovered I was at long last pregnant.

It never would have happened without NFP.

Without NFP, I would probably have wasted years on the Pill, convinced that I didn't want to be pregnant yet anyway. Without all that meticulous, excruciating charting, I never would have discovered that I was borderline anovulatory. I would not have been able to point to charted proof that the Clomid was working and I was now regularly ovulating but still not conceiving, thus sending me on the search for a further answer. I would not have been able to get pregnant almost immediately once the barrier of endometriosis was removed because my charts told me exactly what to do.

Most people writing about NFP awareness are writing about how it helped them space their pregnancies, or how they don't use it to space pregnancies but like knowing that they could, or how they support it but hate it personally. Everyone writing about NFP awareness mentions how good it was for their marriage.

Those aren't my experiences.

Infertility is a huge burden and it can be extremely hard on a marriage. The senses of inadequacy and helplessness, the depression that accompanies the arrival of every period, the feeling that sex has lost all fun and spontaneity: these things are real and they are heavy. Because our marriage was basically born into the crucible of infertility, we never had the chance to consider the benefit of using natural methods to space pregnancies.

This is the cross that God gave my husband and I to bear. We struggled to remind ourselves that faith in God includes having faith in His timing. We got a baby when He said it was time; we had to learn patience and forbearance and selflessness. I'm still learning to have patience and forbearance and be selfless.

But here's the reality of the situation: whether you feel burdened by your fertility because you have eight kids under the age of 11, or whether you are suffering because you just want a baby, natural family planning is a gift. Doctors who care about how your body is actually working or not working are a gift. My children are a gift. 

And thanks be to God for those gifts.

20 July 2015

AMT: Vacation Debrief!

I fell back into bloggy silence again by accident. (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!)

We got back yesterday afternoon from a family vacation. We are very fortunate that my parents own a house at the Jersey shore -- and let me just get this out of the way: it is NOT like you may have seen on that horrible "reality" show! -- and so we were able to have ten days of family time on the relatively-cheap. My parents provide the accommodations and we provided the food (which, given that we eat like kings on vacation, is a non-trivial expense, but it's absolutely worth it).

So now that we're home I have 80 million* non-bloggy things to do, but FIRST I have to photo dump our good time on you -- don't be mad -- and also tack an Answer Me This to the end because I accidentally haven't been attending the virtual cocktail party. 

Heeeeeeeeeeeere we go!

Riding in cars with dinosaurs.

"I'm ready for the beach, Mama!"

So bagel. Much happy.

And a beer-ita for Mom -- not at the same time of day. {Seriously, check out the recipe at that link. Amaze.}


This is her first solo ice cream experience {I have no idea how I pulled THAT off}, and her life will never be the same.

Evening grace.

That beach life.

Anna, Olaf, Elsa, and a hat that makes her look like a hobo.

Daddy swapped out a toilet for Mimi and Grandad. This photo opportunity was not to be missed. {This toilet was brand new out of the box! Relax!}

Aunt Kenzie had a bright idea. This took quite a bit of toddler wrangling, but we told her it would look like Up and she cooperated and I think the trouble was worth it!

After all that time together, I'm going to seriously miss my babies today, as they're back to daycare. (We magically got them and Daddy out the door early this morning, and that left me just enough time to blog before getting to ALL THE WORK.) As they all trundled off to their days this morning, I felt really sad.

But dat silence, doe. {Heart-eyes emoji.}

Ooooooookay: Quick AMT, and then I'm off and running!

The estimable Kendra at Catholic All Year has brought back her popular linkup, Answer Me This, for the summer. Here's how it goes: she posts the questions one week; you take your leisurely time answering. The next week, she posts her answers and next week's questions. Join us, won't you?

1. What's currently on your To Do list?
All. The. Things. We have mountains of vacation laundry, and I have to get back to work, and we have no food in the house, and I have to pick up a couple of packages at the UPS store thanks to poor we're-going-to-be-out-of-town-so-don't-order-anything-to-be-delivered-dummy planning on my part. Plus other stuff. Eek.

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

Hmmmm. I'm going to go with a combination platter. I like Daredevil, who lost his parents and had plenty of trauma, and is also blind. He lost his sight by accidentally coming in contact with some radioactive something-or-other that took his vision but enhanced his other senses to superhero levels. So now he can hear an eyelash hit the ground and fight like nothing else, and he goes out and dispenses vigilante justice (which is a bad, bad idea in The Real World but satisfies me to no end in the Marvel universe). By day he practices law and fights for the underdog. AND he's Catholic.

3. Finding out if baby is a boy or a girl before birth: Good idea? Bad idea?
Our first baby was a surprise. I wanted to find out but my husband really wanted to wait, so we struck a deal that if it was one baby, we'd be surprised. If it had been multiples, we would have found out. It was one baby and I was unsurprised to be told she was a girl at her birth -- we were armed with unisex everything, but I just knew. With the second baby, Daddy's practical side won out and he decided he'd like to know this time whether all of our girl stuff was going to need to be dug out of our impractical storage. So we found out at our 20 week ultrasound.

Having done both, I prefer finding out. I torture myself over baby naming, and I found it to be a huge relief to not have to decide on names for both sexes when I was only going to have one baby. And I just like to know stuff.

EDIT: I also realized that a big motivator for me is that I loathe calling my baby "It." 

4. Have you ever appeared on a stadium jumbotron?
Yes! When I was in college at the University of Delaware, we used to caravan down to Camden Yards for an Orioles game at least once a year. (I'm a Phillies fan, insofar as I follow baseball, but O's tickets are substantially cheaper!) Then we made it our mission to have enough fun -- clean, sober fun, since we could absolutely not afford stadium booze -- to be worth broadcasting on the Jumbotron. 

5. Are you more book smart or more street smart?
I'd say, just like I'm equally right- and left-brained, I'm probably pretty well equal in this sense too. I was good at school and I'm capable in life. 

(I've always thought that "capable" was a word that sounded way less impressive than it actually is; it kind of connotes "able to get by" but I always mean it as "able to figure out stuff and then do it reasonably well." And if you're able to figure out stuff and then do it reasonably well, you're doing fine.)

6. Have you had that baby yet? (Feel free to skip this one if it's not applicable to you.)
Almost seven months ago! Jeez! ;) He still sleeps like a newborn though, God help me.

* Slightest of exaggerations. {It's probably more like 76 million.}

05 July 2015

Answer Me This: God Bless America!

The estimable Kendra at Catholic All Year has brought back her popular linkup, Answer Me This, for the summer. Here's how it goes: she posts the questions one week; you take your leisurely time answering. The next week, she posts her answers and next week's questions. Join us, won't you?

1. How did you celebrate the 4th of July? (Or, for you international types . . . Do anything fun this weekend?)
My brother-in-law was in town from San Diego with his wife and their new baby, so we spent the observed holiday, July 3, getting to meet our niece for the first time! 

And then for the actual 4th, we went down to my husband's aunt's house in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and enjoyed a lovely barbecue on the farm. I'm still dealing with the after-effects of cat dander torture, but nonetheless we had a lovely day. 

And Keira blew about 7,000,000 bubbles with her godmother.

And Declan continued to be cute with Uncle Todd.

2. Do you sunburn easily?
Not especially, thank goodness, because I am shamefully lax on personal skincare (although I usually have SPF on my face, thanks to my moisturizer). If I blast myself with sun right out of the gate after a long winter, I will burn, but it's going to turn to tan. If I take it easy at first and sloooowly get a base tan, the rest of the summer is easy going. My husband, on the other hand, is as pale as pale gets, and his burns turn right back to white, so I'm a crazy person about sunblock on my children, since I don't know which of us they're going to take after yet. So far my daughter is slowly turning a golden color through the sunblock, so hopefully she's going to have the tan skin and not the white burn-y skin.

3. Hot dogs. Yay or nay?
Yaaaaaaaaaay! I used to almost never eat them -- maybe one a year. But then I had babies and after babies I realized I love them, but only on the grill, and only cooked until they burst. And mostly without a bun. But: a blackened, burst, grilled hot dog with yellow mustard and dill pickle relish? My mouth actually just watered.

4. Have you ever personally set off fireworks?
Yeesh. One of my very reasonable fears is blowing myself up. I have had fireworks set off in my honor, though! My high school boyfriend (may he rest in peace) threw me a surprise Sweet 16, complete with illegal back yard fireworks. He was a sweetheart. 

5. Have you ever jumped off the high dive?
One time. I did not like it. Because if blowing myself up is one my fears, my very tip-top principle fear is falling. And jumping off the high dive, you're falling for SO LONG.

6. Do you do anything weird in your sleep?
I am capable of a whole conversation without actually waking. I make sense and everything! I will not, however, remember a thing about it. Also, I snore when I'm congested, but that's not that weird, probably.

24 June 2015

This one kind of got away from me.

At the dinner table, Declan made a gaggy-chokey noise.
Me: You okay, bud?
Keira: Y'okay, bud? (Gags on her dinner while speaking with her mouth full.)
Me: Are YOU okay, bud?
Keira: No, I'm da girl. HE'S "bud." Y'okay buddy boy?

I suspect that's not funny to anyone but me. But I laughed until I had to wipe away tears. She's the sweetest big sister, and very sure that everything is supposed to be the way she thinks it's supposed to be.

Speaking of tears, what is up with Up?! It's Keira's favorite right now, and I have to make myself too busy to look up during the first twenty minutes. Because otherwise I cry and cry. Poor Carl and Ellie! It makes my heart break all over again for anyone suffering from miscarriage and infertility. If that's you, don't watch Up, and know that we pray for your intentions every night.

H'okay so I just wanted to share a funny quote from my kids and then this got heavy real fast. So, as my hysterical little not-bud girl would say: Sorry 'bout dat.

21 June 2015

Answer Me This: Ejection Seats and Atticus Finch.

The estimable Kendra at Catholic All Year has brought back her popular linkup, Answer Me This, for the summer. Here's how it goes: she posts the questions one week; you take your leisurely time answering. The next week, she posts her answers and next week's questions. Join us, won't you?

1. What's the best thing about your dad?
He can spin a yarn -- you can't believe a word he says, but you will be entertained {I'm not saying he's a liar, just a teaser}. I waffled a little bit about last week's AMT question about things you believed as a child; I almost shared some of the nonsense my dad told me, but ended up going boring with Santa anyway because ultimately I never believed my dad for long. 

For instance: once he had me and my immediately-younger sister very upset because he told us that the seat-adjustment lever was an ejection seat in his Jeep. He explained that it was there in case you were about to get into a head-on collision, and that the part where the sides of the car met the cloth of the roof had little explosive charges to blow the roof off. It seemed very real (I was probably 11 and my sister was 7 -- but I have to admit that even 20ish years later with an engineering degree under my belt, I still think it was pretty clever and entirely too plausible). 

He maybe took it a little too far when he said he was going to pull the lever and eject us under an overpass (Jeez, Dad) -- that's when my sister started hysterically crying into the Mylar balloon she'd gotten from the party from which we were returning home. Her face was silver where the Mylar rubbed off from her tears for the rest of the day! 

2. If you've got kids, what's the best thing about THEIR dad? (If you don't, feel free to substitute your grandfather or another father figure.) 
His generosity. My husband is a giver, and he would walk over broken glass for me or our kids. Or, you know, wear the 20lb baby and hold the toddler's hand on the way to breakfast while Mommy lurks and takes photographs.

3. What's the best advice your dad ever gave you? 
He's fond of the John Wooden quote, "The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." And I think it's absolutely true for mothers too: I shall love my husband as a favor to my children. My dad has also always told me that the order of my devotion ought to be: God, then my spouse, then my children, then my other family, and then everyone else. Parents of littles, especially mothers I think, find it hard to put our spouses over our needy babies, but my dad was right. We have to maintain Us first and foremost amidst the chaos of molding young lives -- we made a vow to each other. 

4. What's something you have in common with your dad? 
I may have picked up his fondness for teasing. I hope I have a better sense of when it's going too far and I'm about to traumatize my kids! 

5. What's the manliest thing you know how to do? 
I am really good with my hands. I love power tools, although it's been years since I used one -- apartment living is a drag. And unlike a man, I do not think it a mark of weakness to take the proper precautions. {If I catch my husband doing electrical work without having turned off the breaker one more time...}

6. Who is your favorite fictional dad?
I'm sure 95% of everybody is going to say Atticus Finch. Because Atticus Finch is the best. And then when you watch the movie and realize that Gregory Peck is the absolute handsomest, you love Atticus Finch just a little bit more.