Thursday, January 30, 2014

In Which There are Links

Today you get links. Lots of 'em. And me trying to be smart in order to keep up appearances.

etsy, obviously

Wait, not THOSE kind of links. Although, can I just say that is totally amazing?

This nonsense has taken the interwebs by storm:

"Having kids and getting married are considered life milestones. We have baby showers and wedding parties as if it’s a huge accomplishment and cause for celebration to be able to get knocked up or find someone to walk down the aisle with. These aren’t accomplishments, they are actually super easy tasks, literally anyone can do them. They are the most common thing, ever, in the history of the world. They are, by definition, average. And here’s the thing, why on earth are we settling for average?"
Ugh. But not to worry. Ashley of Between the Linen found the perfect Chesterton quote to refute it:
"Numberless modern women have rebelled against domesticity in theory because they have never known it in practice. .. . Generally speaking, the cultured class is shrieking to be let out of the decent home, just as the working class is shouting to be let into it."
What's Wrong With the World G.K. Chesterton
Read the rest of Ashley's take here and whatever you do, don't click on the other link, because it only gets sillier from there.

I loved this post. And can't imagine how in the world it was controversial:

"He’s been away at work all day. He’d much rather be with you. All of you. He’s missed your face, your voice, your smell, and your touch. He’s had to deal with whatever crap he has to deal with in order to provide for the family that he loves. He doesn’t enjoy walking out the door every morning, but he does. Every day. For you. For them."
This was such a good reminder for me. I loved all of it. Don't read the comments because people are weird (see take number one).

In a similar vein, I also liked this:

"When he treks mud in with his shoes, let her think it is because he does not love her. Such extremes of thought may seem ridiculous to you or I, but to the exhausted mortal woman, it can seem possible. Your goal is to make her think the husband does not notice, or even better, that he does not care about her efforts at home."
I do love epistolary. Anyway, assuming the best intentions of our husbands (and all people, really) goes such a long way towards having a happy home. If he didn't do it, let's assume it's because he actually forgot. It's so much nicer that way.

And now some stuff about kids.

"The most important skills that children everywhere must learn in order to live happy, productive, moral lives are skills that cannot be taught in school. Such skills cannot be taught at all. They are learned and practised by children in play. These include the abilities to think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions."
I go back and forth on stuff like this. I don't support overschooling, but nor do I think kids should play all the time and not have responsibilities. However, the science in this article was really compelling about how important free play time is for kids. I'm feeling really good about the "shutting the kids in the backyard" part of the day. It's for their development . . . 

Also feeling good about "letting them climb on stuff and maybe fall off of it" part of the day.

'AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the research project, said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds.
"The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it's more dangerous in the long-run."
Society's obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.
Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences. "You can't teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn't develop by watching TV, they have to get out there."'
One, remind me to start saying "cotton-woolling" because that is brilliant. Two, I love this. I've always been one to let my kids take risks. I'm glad some science agrees with me.

Thanks to my mother-in-law for this one.

"All four of my girls have found friends similar to Annie. While no friendship is perfect, I've been surprised by some of the kindness I've seen at young ages. They know how to look out for a friend. They get it. And can I tell you what their kind friends all have in common? Kind mothers. Time and time again, I've become friends with the moms I meet through my children's beloved friends because they're good souls. I don't think it's a coincidence their children are, too."
I had a rough time with girls when I was in junior high (back when that was a thing) and high school. But I remember fondly the girls who were kind. As I raise my daughters now, I'm equally as concerned with the idea of them being nice girls as I am with other girls being nice to them.

I like this article's premise that if we moms are nice to our friends, our daughters will learn to be nice to their friends. Works for me!

And, lastly, this:

"I finally gave up and took it all away. I wasn’t angry, just fed up. I calmly began packing up not just a toy or two, but every single thing. All their dress-up clothes, baby dolls, Polly Pockets, & stuffed animals, all their Barbies, building blocks, and toy trains, right down to the the furniture from their dollhouse and play food from their kitchen. I even took the pretty Pottery Barn Kids comforter from their bed. The girls watched me in stunned silence for a few minutes and then, when the shock wore off, they helped. And just like that, their room was clear."
We already (mostly) limit toys to the playroom, and keep them out of bedrooms and common areas. I intend that they only have a number of toys that fits in the toy closet and can be maintained by them in a reasonable amount of time. (It was one of my earliest posts!) But oh how I want to just ditch ALL of it sometimes.

They could have a truck and a doll and maybe a hoop and stick. Just think of all the character they'd build. And then *I* would have an adorable schoolroom where the playroom used to be. With a big map! And cursive letter borders!

So far their father has intervened on behalf of the toys. But someday . . . 


Have a great weekend everyone! I'm off to host a Princess Bride-themed sleep-over for 11 little girls . . .

also etsy

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that I WON a Sheenazing Award. Seriously. I'm flabbergasted.

Unless someone calls for a recount, or I wake up . . .

Catholic All Year won 
Smartest Blog 

and came in second place for Best Lifestyle Blog 

You can find out who won all the other categories by clicking over to A Knotted Life. And be sure to tell Bonnie how awesome she is for doing this!

Thanks so much to all of you who voted, welcome to those of you who are new to the blog, and big hugs all around.

What's the bad news? The bad news is, you guys totally don't listen to me. I was quite specific.

Still . . . 

and, as my gift to YOU, plase enjoy this video of a Dad who puts on a Batman mask, gets really close to the camera, and shouts things at his family:


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Righteous Anger Wasn't Working For Me

Living our faith is a learning process. It is our privilege and our responsibility to know and understand as much as possible about our Church.

But with great knowledge can come great frustration.

I know, I've been there. As I lived my slow and steady reversion to my Catholic faith, I wanted to learn all the things. So, I read First Things and listened to Catholic Answers. I read many excellent books (this one is my favorite) and listened to smart friends. It was great. It still is. I love learning the wisdom and traditions of this church.

But sometimes, it also made me mad. Because now, I knew that the priest should be purifying the vessels Right. Then. But sometimes he didn't. I knew that the faithful are owed a Sunday homily by a priest. But sometimes we didn't get one. I knew that some types of music are liturgically appropriate and some are not. And I was pretty sure this wasn't. I knew what the role of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be. And sometimes it was clearly being exceeded.

So. What's the right thing to do? I had a few options.

A. I could sit there in the pew and catalogue all the various liturgical abuses I saw. 

I could keep a running tally in my head of everyone who was doing it wrong. I could focus on that instead of focusing on the Mass. Or on keeping my kids quiet/on the Mass.

B. I could try to fix the problems I saw by bringing them to the attention of the Pastor or the parish council. 

I could get involved in the parish behind the scenes and try to change things from the inside. I could try to catechize my fellow Catholics directly.

C. I could go somewhere else. 

If I don't like how they are doing things at one parish, if I don't like the leadership of a particular priest, I can take my time, talent, and treasure elsewhere. In every place I've ever lived, there have always been plenty of Catholic parishes from which to choose.

Stop me if you've heard this from me before, but I chose D. All of the above. I'm a both/and kinda gal.

Here's why:

A. This seems the least noble of the three options, for sure. But, really, there's no way to un-ring that bell. 

I know what we're supposed to be doing. And I notice when we're doing it wrong. I'm a pretty distractable person. I'm constantly ripping myself out of one thought or another to re-focus on the Mass. If it wasn't all the hand holding during the Lord's Prayer that was distracting me, it would be something else.

But what I've changed is what noticing a liturgical abuse does to me. It used to make me mad. Indignant. Righteously angry.

I know, I know, it worked for Jesus. But it wasn't doing ME any good. So now, when I notice a liturgical abuse, I pray. I pray for that priest and for the generation of priests that were failed by our seminaries and our culture. I pray for the church ladies who lovingly sewed that ridiculous giant felt banner. I pray for the music directors, that they would be raised up on eagle's wings, and be made to shine like the sun, if that's what they want. And I pray for me, that God would give me the graces of the Mass, despite my failings of concentration.

B. We have stopped priests after Mass to mention something. We have written letters to pastors and even to the Bishop. 

It seems like the thing to do, this one. But, really, we've never had much success with it. I'm not against it, by any means, and I'd do it again if it seemed necessary. But I've never seen it result in any changes at all. It's just awfully impersonal.

The husband has served on the parish council. We have spoken at Confirmation and Baptism classes. And that . . . didn't seem to do much good either. And was really time-consuming. Again, not against it, but again, we didn't really notice results, even agitating from the inside.

What has worked better is genuine friendship. Befriending priests and seminarians, to support the ones who are doing it right, and be there to offer advice to those who might actually take it, has felt successful where even very well-crafted letters usually fail.

C. Sometimes, the best thing to do for all involved is to just move along. 

It's allowed. In Chicago this summer, after Frankie and I had our run-in with an unkind priest, I spoke with him at some length, and wrote to the Bishop, but ultimately we decided to attend Mass elsewhere. It was the right decision for us.

Back home in LA we are members of our local parish. We attend daily Mass there, and it's where our children's sacraments are recorded. But nearly two years ago, we decided to begin attending Sunday Masses at the Old Mission. It wasn't a decision we took lightly, but our oldest son really wanted to be an altar boy, and, unfortunately, we just weren't comfortable with him serving at a Mass the way it was being celebrated at our parish church. 

We are very, very happy fulfilling our Sunday obligation at the Mission. But we're still a part of our neighborhood parish as well. So if they ever need to ask us for advice, we'll be available.

But here's the thing: the Mass. 

The Mass is what's important. I cannot allow myself to get angry, to have my peace disturbed by the accouterments. As long as it's being said by a priest and there's wheat bread and grape wine, it's a valid Mass. Even if that priest is in MORTAL SIN. So we certainly don't have to worry about the validity of the sacrament based on whether he washed his hands properly. Or if I liked the music. Or if babies were noisy.

If I let myself get all worked up about that stuff, that's on me. Not on the priest or the music director or the church lady or the "Eucharistic minister" or the baby. That's me. Me letting my emotions and preferences stand between me and the Mass, between me and grace, between me and God.

I can, and do, take any or all of the steps above to try to have the best experience of the Mass possible for myself and my family. But, now, I take those steps calmly, prayerfully, and charitably. 
update: I found a post by Jimmy Akin that makes a similar point in a very scholarly way, with illustrative Bible stories 
and everything. Check it out, Don't Let Problems in the Church Steal Your Peace.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Creating a Family Culture

When my eldest son was in preschool, I made the mistake of handing the buck to the Pope when it came to some of our parenting practices. When Jack would ask why he couldn't watch a particular show that his friends were watching, I'd say, "Well, we're Catholic and those families aren't, that show just isn't a good one for Catholics."

But then it came time for kindergarten, and we enrolled him in our parish school. Now he was being influenced by even more kids, and older kids, and the things they were watching and doing were even further outside what we considered acceptable. But now, they were all Catholic. It seemed pretty unreasonable to Jack that he wouldn't be able to go to a co-ed slumber party, or watch a particular PG-13 rated movie, or stay up until 10pm, because the kids he knew who were doing those things were also "Catholic."

We didn't last very long in that particular school (homeschooling has been a better fit for us for the past six years) but I learned an important lesson.

Now my kids all know that the reason we do things or don't do them is because WE ARE TIERNEYS. No more, no less. 

We have a family culture. It is completely unique to us. It's cobbled together with pieces of Catholic and American and Irish and German and Marine Corps and Chicago and SoCal and Jock and Geek and Nerd cultures. It's all our own.

Our kids understand that Tierneys do things the Tierney way. They have absolutely NO expectation of being permitted to do or not do the things that other children do or do not do. Because they know that they are Tierneys and Tierneys ALWAYS x but Tierneys NEVER y.

We are lucky enough now to be a part of a community that shares our traditional Catholic faith and values, but even within that group there is an astounding amount of variety in what different kids are allowed to read and watch and do, what chores they have, how late they stay up, and how they approach their school days. 

None of this is a problem now. We don't have to make value judgments on other people's parenting decisions. We don't have to tell our kids that other families are doing it wrong, or less-Catholic-ly. We just tell them that the Smiths do things the Smith way and the Tierneys do things the Tierney way. It covers a multitude of questions. Almost all of them.

Establishing that family culture was hardest with our first. I think it was for a combination of reasons. One, he's very observant and is always up in everyone else's business, so we've always had a lot of explaining to do for him anyway. Two, as our oldest and our only one who was ever enrolled in a brick and mortar school, he has been exposed to more kids and more varied kids. Three, he just tends to suffer things more than the other kids do.

So it took a while with him. He would ask why he couldn't play that video game or have a cell phone or have his own room when other kids he knew could. We would explain to him the reasons why we didn't think those things were a good idea, but we would also ALWAYS remind him that we are Tierneys and the main reason he doesn't have his own room is that Tierneys don't have their own rooms.

After years of not backing down, we got him on board. And once Jack is on board with something, all the other kids fall in line like ducklings.

Our kids know that while Tierneys DON'T do things like Have TVs in Their Rooms, or Order Chicken Nuggets at a Mexican Restaurant, or Eat Meat on Fridays, Tierneys DO do all sorts of other awesome stuff that other families don't do like Have Conversations With Their Children, and Like Spicy Food, and Eat All the Treats in the House on Fat Tuesday.

It keeps us confident in our particular brand of parenting, and it gives the kids pride in being members of our family, which they understand to be unique and special and unlike any other. Even if that means they have to go to bed earlier than the Joneses on New Year's Eve. Because the Tierneys always go to the Parade. And we always do it well-rested. It's just how we roll.


It's been a while since I linked up with the gals at Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday. So here goes . . .

Sweater, skirt, shoes: Boden
Shirt: Anthropologie
Bracelet: the Irish Saints (from QVC, thanks Gramma!)

This photo shoot brought to you courtesy of:
official sleeping baby (2 months)
official sleeping baby holder (11 years)
official photographer (9 years)


Thursday, January 23, 2014

In Which I Am PROBABLY Not a Robot

In the comments of this blog and on the blogs of others, there has been speculation that I am a robot.  Today, I am here to say that . . . I am probably not a robot. 

Now, I have watched Battlestar Galactica so I know that no one can really be sure she's not a robot. Not even people who you have been watching for multiple seasons and it wouldn't even make SENSE if they turned out to be robots, can turn out to be robots.

So I'm not going to make any guarantees.

But here is some stuff I am bad at doing, that will hopefully convince you that I am human . . . 


I am bad at gardening. BAD. I am bad at plants of all kinds. (And also at goldfish.)

I seem to be pretty good at keeping children fed and watered and making sure they get some sunlight. But plants pretty much shrivel up and die at the sight of me.

I desperately want to be a person who can grow her own food (for health, and economy, and zombie apocalypses). Every year I have grand plans of growing things. But I also just have no interest whatsoever in looking after those things once they are planted.

Fortunately for me, the husband has taken it upon himself to try to grow some food. He's doing pretty well so far with tomatoes and various lettuces. And we have fruit trees that seem to just grow fruit no matter what I do or don't do to them. So I do have something to can.

The Dishes

I like to cook, but I am not very good at doing the dishes. My unofficial motto is: It's Probably Going to Be Fine. Mostly it serves me well. But when "it" is cheese or oatmeal and you put "it" in my dishwasher . . . it's not going to be fine. It never is. But I kinda keep doing it anyway.

My kids are now old enough to do the dishes. Which is good for all of us. The husband is training them up to do it right. The way HE would do it. 

Tying Shoelaces

The husband is also in charge of teaching the kids to tie their shoelaces, because I do that wrong as well. My bows always turn out vertical.

In looking for the above image, I discovered that there is an entire blog devoted to shoelaces and on that blog is a very detailed explanation of what I am doing wrong and how to fix it. It even has a name: a Granny Knot. Now I'm feeling kind of attached to it.

Probably, I'm just going to keep doing it wrong.

Writing Things Down

I'm not good at keeping up with things like To Do lists and meal planning and calendars. Instead, I tend to have a running list in my head of things I need to do, on repeat, like this:

Loaf of Bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter

So, all day long, I'll be thinking: write post for Sunday, reply to two emails and one Facebook message, call pediatrician, thaw chicken, start beans, need to use up spinach, dentist this morning, basketball tonight.

It mostly works, except when it doesn't. Because sometimes in the middle of making a spinach salad I would sit down to answer the emails and realize that basketball practice starts in five minutes and we had missed the dentist and I wasn't going to get to that phone call. Again. 

It was happening too often. So I've been really making an effort to actually use my calendar. The reminders on my iPad are great. And I have every intention of keeping up with some meal planning with my new planner.

We'll see.


Remember that Office episode where Michael Scott drives his car into a lake because the GPS tells him to?

The Office - Michael Drives Car into lake

Yeah. That's totally me. 

I am unreasonably dependant on the GPS. I'm just missing that part of the brain that would tell a person which way North is or how to get to the 101.

It's odd considering I used to be a pilot, and I navigated just fine in the air back before there was GPS and we had to fly uphill both ways to get to school . . .

Phone Calls

I am bad at phone calls. I'm bad at making them. I'm bad at receiving them.

I often respond immediately and with great detail to emails I receive, but will let the message light flash for weeks before I push play on the answering machine.

I turn the ringer off on my phone before Mass and don't remember to turn it back on until about Wednesday.

If it weren't for my navigation issues (see above) I don't know if I'd even have a cell phone. But as it is, I need to be able to call my husband during business meetings to tell him that the GPS is trying to make me go on the 5 again. Or into a lake.


Not gonna lie. Not good at it. But it's okay. It's definitely the thing I'm most grateful for being a failure at.

I mean, look at these guys!

Q: Are these all YOUR kids?
A: All these kids are mine, but these are not all my kids.

Okay, I just read over these. Annnnd . . . I'm thinking you guys are probably right after all. Oh well. Execute Protocol Q47g (beep).

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

And now for some other stuff:

If you'd like a chance to win a copy of my soon-to-be-released book, as well as over $300 in other prizes (including Amazon gift cards!) head on over to Equipping Catholic Families. I'm helping Monica host the big 2nd birthday giveaway for Catholic Bloggers Network! There are new chances to win every day!


Be sure to check back in on the Toothpaste Jesus Miracle Link-Up! The link-up is open through February 17th, so write up your miracles and share them with the world. There are new stories to read over there everyday!


AND this blog was nominated for multiple Sheenazing Awards over at A Knotted Life. I'm honored. Thank you! Voting is now open . . . 

yes, it is.


It's the (Other) Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's time for the Sheenazing Awards over at A Knotted Life!

These awards last year were kind of my coming out party as a blogger. So I have a very special place in my heart for them. Last year, I was nominated as Best Lifestyle Blog. I lost to Like Mother, Like Daughter. Awesome blog. Excellent lifestyle. I was nominated in that category again, and am really looking forward to conceding to Auntie Leila once again. 

Let's take a look at some of the other categories in which I was nominated, and why I probably shouldn't win those either.

Funniest Blogger 

In that category I should lose to Kelly of This Ain't the Lyceum. Just look what she does to the blogs that beat her. I don't need that kind of trouble.

Coolest Blogger

Ummm . . . that's me on the right. Not that cool people.

Best Looking Blog

I CAN'T win this one, because I am currently working on a blog redesign, and if I win Best Looking Blog it will throw me into a paralysis of indecision. Obviously I couldn't debut a new, lesser blog design right after a vote of confidence like this. But I'm excited about the new stuff. Don't do this to me people.

Most Inspiring Blog

I'm pretty sure that facing tragedy with humor, forthrightness, grace, and openness to life should trump stories about zombie birthday parties and circus-themed homeschooling.

You should vote for Dwija. Or Nella. Not me.

Smartest Blog

I'm not going to attempt false modesty on this one. I like smart stuff. I like smart people. I hope I write a smart blog. I think Haley's blog is smart. So is Christy's. And Sarah's. The whole list is great.

But if you don't vote for Kathryn at Through a Glass Brightly as the smartest blog, you're dumb.

Best Memes

Now, I like a good meme as much as the next gal. Maybe more. But, Catholic Memes better have this one sewn up. It's kinda their thing.

Best Blog by a Mom

Grace won last year. And she's like 25% more of a mom this year. How could I compete with that?

And Jen Fulwiler has just written down all 22 things you need to know to be a mom. All 22 things. Done. I even got a shout out in number four. So I'm going to content myself with that.

And that's all my nominations. So I'm going to have to agree with Fulton Sheen (always a good idea) and say, "It's Sheenazing to be nominated!"


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nick and Tesla: Fiction for Kids Who Love Science, or Reading, or Both

You guys. I love these books. 

When I was a kid I my grandmother gave me one of those personalized children's books where you fill out a questionnaire about the child and get a book back. It said something like "Only KENDRA and her best friend KRISTEN could save their town of SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA from the terrible MILK DUD shortage. But could they get back in time for SOCCER PRACTICE?"

These books are WAY better than that. But it's as if I jotted down a few notes on what would be the perfect book series for my eleven year old son and someone wrote it for me. Only instead of being super-cheesy, it's clever and funny and totally awesome.

The good folks at Quirk Books sent me copies of the first two books in this series for my review: 


Jack and I read both books and really enjoyed them. They are great as action mysteries, but their claim to fame is that the books are written by an author and a science teacher, together. So when our eleven-year-old twin geniuses build a rocket or a robot, detailed instructions by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder are included so that the reader can build one too.

And that's just what Jack did. All on his own, with exactly no help from me, he built a bunch of the projects suggested in the book. He even built a robot-making kit for a friend as a Christmas gift.

As far as the stories, I have great respect for authors who are able to write kid-centered action novels without resorting to kids lying and running away from their parents or guardians and refusing to consult authorities when it's obvious that that's what they should do. Author Steve Hockensmith manages to create puzzles and peril and adventure for the kids by leaving them in the care of a caring but distracted mad scientist uncle for the summer. Caring, distracted, and also hilarious.

These books are smart. They use interesting words and don't stop to explain what they mean (I hate that). The kids are unapologetically nerdy. They love science. (I love that.) They get along with each other. They have friends. They are not sassy. (I REALLY love that.)

The characters are fun and likeable. It's nice that one character comes from a big family, and another is an only child. There's something for everyone. The books have a moral center, but aren't ABOUT that. They're just fun. There is less peril and considerably less scariness than another book series I liked (and reviewed a few months ago).

They would be appropriate for both boys and girls. The publisher recommends them for 9-12 year-olds, which seems right. But younger kids who read at a higher level or older kids and adults who are just looking for a quirky, fun read will also enjoy these books.

I haven't seen them at the library yet, but the first is available from Amazon now. The second book will be released on February 4 and is available for pre-order. (Hey, did someone say pre-order? MY book is available for pre-order too!)

A third book in the series is slated for a May release. We can't wait to read it!

linking up with Jessica at Housewifespice for 

Head on over to see what all the cool kids are reading this week.


Speaking of books, if you'd like a chance to win a copy of my soon-to-be-released book, as well as over $300 in other prizes (including Amazon gift cards!) head on over to Equipping Catholic Families. I'm helping Monica host the big 2nd birthday giveaway for Catholic Bloggers Network! There are new chances to win every day!


Be sure to check back in on the Toothpaste Jesus Miracle Link-Up! The link-up is open through February 17th, so write up your miracles and share them with the world. There are new stories to read over there everyday!


AND I was nominated for a Sheenazing Award at A Knotted Life. I'm honored. Thank you! Voting opens on Thursday . . . 

yes, it is.