Recently in Family Category

Believe it or not, this is progress


Actual conversation with my 3 year old:

Charlie: "Poppy, I hope you are happy today."

Me: "Thank you Charlie. I wish to show you some form of affection, but I don't know what would be acceptable. May I shake your hand?"

Charlie: "Yeah."

[Hands are shaken]

Me: "May I give you a hug?"

Charlie: "Yeah."

[Hug is exchanged]

Me: "Do you want to box?"

Charlie: "No."

Me: "Well, how about a hi-5, then?"

Charlie: "Yeah."

[High 5 is exchanged.]

According to my wife, this day should go down in family history as a day of positive breakthroughs for Charlie and me.

UPDATE! Today, Charlie did, indeed, wish to box, so I took on the three of them, including Little T, who came after me saying, "Peas Me?"

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Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel


Happy Feast Day to all Carmelites, especially the one in our family!

i'd like to say we purchased our new Our Lady of Lourdes statue to honor the Marian feast day, but in truth, we ordered it weeks ago and it just arrived today. But we did, um, put it out front to celebrate the feast day.

mary 002.jpg

I'd be happy to tell you the maker, so long as you promise to order it through your local Catholic book/gift store if you have one. They don't direct ship to consumers anyway.

mary 003.jpg

Why Our Lady of Lourdes? Well, although I do have somewhat of a devotion to Lourdes (details here), the main reason is that it seems odd to buy a 27" statue that is going to rest on the ground and have Mary looking down. This one was one of the few where she is actually looking up.

mary 001.jpg

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Because not everybody is on Facebook...

| is a picture of my boys with their cousin Rachel, who is a month younger than our Baby T.


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Which is it?


Very remorseful, guilt-ridden father: I'm so sorry I stepped on your toe. It was an accident!

Teary-eyed 4 year old: That's OK Poppy, you don't have to apologize. I know it was an accident. It was my fault for stepping forward.

VRGRF: No Pumpkin! You don't have to apologize for getting stepped on! We were both playing silly, weren't we?

TE4YO: Yeah, you really scared me and you made me step forward. Wahhuhuhuuuuuuuh!

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One of us is not a morning person


Spouse #1: "You're better than coffee!"


Spouse #2" "You're better with coffee."

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After the Smart Martha Seminar


by Mama-Lu

A few weeks back I posted that I would be attending a Smart Martha Seminar. Last Saturday, I did.

As I expected, there were no earth shattering revelations, but I left highly motivated and validated. I can admit skepticism now (three boys, a clean house and sanity? in this lifetime? right), because the seminar really was useful. It was nice to share problems most mothers face in a positive "what can we do about it without going crazy" kind of way. Plus I got some new ideas.

So, now what have I done? That afternoon, I came home and asked Chris to finish building our compost bins. Then we shredded a month's worth of the Wall Street Journal. It felt great! I also started removing all toys from the boys' room. This project stalled because we have some sickies here.

I have a whole list of other projects to tackle. It's pretty much the same list I had before the seminar. This was just a good push in the right direction. Next on the list is signing up for adoration.

Since the seminar, I've been wondering what other attendees have done. It occured to me that if I am using this blog to crow, others could too, maybe every Friday. If you have a Martha or Mary victory to brag about leave it in the comments.

Here's to happy homes!

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Sunday Morning Conversation


[Puliing out of the Church parking lot]

4yo: Poppy, you don't have to worry. The world is never ever going to end.

Poppy: Why do you say that?

4yo: Because shooting stars only shoot at night, so they can't destroy the world.

[10 minutes of continuous conversation on the end of the world and the resurrection of the body later]

4yo: Poppy, why do some animals die and stay on the ground until they rot away?

Poppy: Animals don't bury their dead, only humans do.

4yo: Do animals not like digging holes? I like digging holes.

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Fair Trade Coffee


by Mama-Lu

There's fair trade coffee and then there's fair trade coffee.

In our house we do not use "Fair Trade Certified" coffee beans. "Fair Trade Certified" is a relatively new group of programs and they have their flaws. The most significant one being the cost to certify. Farmers have to pay inspectors to certify their farms, and the same goes for organic certification. So the farmer sees even less of his already small profits.

Instead we prefer to buy from small roasteries whose buyers investigate the farms themselves as part of the purchasing process. There is no extra cost for this, and the roasteries or buyers also get a chance to see in what way they might build up the communities in which the farms are located.

Here in Champaign, our own local Columbia Street Roastery is doing just that. So not only are we buying fair trade, but we are also supporting local business. It's a win-win. There are many other roasteries with practices like this; it just takes a little poking to find out what the companies values are.

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Fair Trade


by Mama-Lu

October was Fair Trade month. All month I meant to put something up here about my thoughts on fair trade. Better late then never!

For some time I have been making a concerted effort to only purchase items that are sweat-shop/abuse free. The idea started with a simple question from our eldest, at the time 3 years old, "Who made my shoes?" The shoes came from Target and were made in China. My response was, "People working in a factory in China." The conversation continued with requests from him to visit China and see the factory where the shoes were made. Then we moved on, but in my mind I could not stop thinking about the "who" and the conditions under which that person worked.

In thinking about this person who suffered unknown injustices to make a pair of cheap shoes for my son, I felt complicit in their abuse. The obvious next step was to avoid this in the future. The question was and is, "How?"

So far, it has not been possible for me. Despite high ideals, I have all kinds of loop-holes and exceptions. Abuse of persons in the third world is frightenly common in our ordinary life. In our house two simple, yet significant, steps reduce participation in that abuse. First, we buy second hand as much as possible. The item's origin might have been a sweatshop, but our money is not supporting systemic abuse. Second we buy fair trade coffee and cocoa/chocolate. Coffee and cocoa are widely sold at prices that cannot support even remotely just practices. A few extra dollars for these luxuries prevents our money from driving a farmer deeper into debt or supporting the routine kidnapping of boys for labor.

These steps are not going to change the world, but they can bring about solidarity. We cannot avoid every level of abuse in our society. It is barely possible to avoid the abuses we are aware of let alone the ones of which we never even hear. Yet giving up and saying there is nothing that can be done is not an option for a person of conscience. Something must be done; something that says "I will not participate in the suffering of my brothers and sisters." These things are our small way of saying that. Hopefully, we will grow toward greater solidarity as we relearn how to shop.

Dorothy Day explained this much better than I ever could. I will try to locate her words on the subject and share them here, but until then I have a few more things to say on this subject, which I will save for another day.

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[... 5 AM, Lu-household]


Poppy: [Poppy scrambles out of bed, being careful not to strain his injured knee, and rushes to child's bedside.] What's the matter pumpkin?

2yo: Poppy, can you spread out my blankets?

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My little chain gang


What do you do when you little punks angels spend their quiet time dumping almost out every box of toys and clothes in their closet?

Why, you send them outside with rakes to work it off.


Good job boys!

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Me: "Lord Byron famously proclaimed that lobster salad, served with champagne, was the only thing a woman should be seen eating."

She: I hate lobster

Me: You're not a big fan of champagne either.

She: And I don't really like Byron.

The review is actually pretty interesting.

The most gripping moments in Barbe-Nicole's saga occur in 1814 as Russian troops, retreating from battlefield defeat at the hands of Napoleon's armies, threatened to overrun Reims, where the family's then-flailing business was based. Ordering workmen to seal the entrance to her cellars, the widow hoped to prevent the soldiers from raiding her wines, especially those made in 1811, the year of a legendary grape harvest. The cellars were not looted, as it turned out; the soldiers mostly bought the wine, spreading the word of its nectar-like qualities when they returned east. "Today they drink," she said. "Tomorrow they will pay!"
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He knows me, he really knows me

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4yo: "Poppy, you should get a job selling animals! I bet you could make a lot of money and you'll get rich and then you can buy lots of shiny, expensive things. And lots of BEER!"

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4yo: "Poppy, can you lay down with me?"

"Of course, Pumpkin."

Seven minutes later...


"Yes, Pumpkin?"

"Not so lo-ong!"

"Sorry. You can say that nicely, you know."

"Well, you can sit on the floor if you want."

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Pray for my sister!

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by mama-Lu

This year on December 28th, my sister will make her final profession as a Carmelite with the Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. We are very happy for her and excited about visiting. Please keep her in your prayers are she prepares for this blessed event. (I should also add that Sister Mary Louise is a regular reader here so if you would like to leave a message that you are praying for her, she will see it.)

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"What's up with that?" Wednesday (II)


by Mama-Lu

What's up with Curtis Orchard? My sons love our local orchard and pumpkin patch. We spent a lovely afternoon there this week. The boys had fun feeding the goats (with food they had picked up off the ground,) driving the play train, and walking in the maze. After our friends left, we walked out and visited the pumpkin patch.

Back inside we looked around at all the nifty stuff to buy and watched the electric train. Finally we went to check out. I was not buying apples or pumpkins because I knew those were understandably expensive. It is harder to make a buck with a small family than a mega farm. All we wanted were donuts. However, I was a little shocked when I discovered that the price I expected for a dozen was actually the price for just six.

So I wonder, are they really charging a fair mark-up, or are they taking unsuspecting city slickers to the cleaners? Not that I begrudge anyone the right to make a buck -- and they do deliver a good time. I just wonder. I also wonder if they would be interested in carrying my pumpkin hat next year. :)

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The Musical Fruit

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by Mama-Lu

In these tight times, I recommend eating beans. They are nutritious and cheap, and can be delicious. They do have some side effects, but when you are with your family (which you have to be because you cannot afford to go out,) that is not so bad.

The trick to great beans is to start with dry beans. After attempting to cook dry beans many times, I had given up. They always came out tough! Then I read an article in Cook's Illustrated which gave me the secret ingredient -- salt. If you add a generous amount of salt to your soaking liquid, the bean skins will melt in your mouth. The other trick is to keep out acids (tomatoes) until the end.

To prepare my family's favorite black beans, simply boil 1 cup of cleaned beans in 6 cups of salted water (or broth) for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let them sit for about and hour. Return to medium heat, add a diced onion and cook for about 45 minutes. Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. These beans, served over a simple rice pilaf, make a fabulous comfort food and a very cheap meal.

Happy Eating!

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"What's up with that?" Wednesday

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I do not want to be an angry blogger. For that reason, I am going to limit my complaints, rants, and general grousing to Wednesdays. [Ed. note: Here's where I mention that Mama-Lu will be contributing thrice weekly.] Today, children's pajamas. Doesn't sound like a problem, does it? First, I received sticker shock. If I can buy sweats for $10, why not pajamas? Then, I was surprised by the slim lack of choices.

Being in a crafty, thrifty mood, I said, "That's ok. I'll make my own." Off to the fabric store I went. There I found a pattern on sale and started looking for fabric. Here is where I hit a brick wall. The store had about 8 different kinds of flame resistant fabric (naturally mostly girly) and they cost 12 dollars a yard! (Also they were all made in Taiwan, but I'll save that for another Wednesday.) It seems that the federally required flame resistant fabric is not easy or cheap to make.

So, do children really need to be in flame resistant pajamas? I don't know anything about the history of this law or the research to support it (if there is any.) Yet, I feel compelled to buy flame resistant pajamas for my children. Part of me rationally says that it probably doesn't matter, but another part of me sees a child going up in smoke. I do not want to buy into this law, but I cannot escape the guilt it imposes. Let's just hope I can resolve my internal conflict before Matthew notices that his pajama pants keep getting shorter.

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"You got a genius baby over here!"

A boy from across the street said that to me after having a conversation with Matthew about how to process walnuts. I was not surprised. Even as a newborn, Matthew was alert, strong and already "talking," though he never cooed like some babies -- he litigated. I have always known that Matthew has a good mind, fierce independence, and tremendous enthusiasm for life.

As a baby, Charlie's astounding physical ability soon set him apart. Walking by 9 months was a feat in itself, but watching him push himself up to a standing position without holding onto anything at 8 months was, to me, even more shocking. Now it's not surprising to see him pull off with grace things that make other mothers tremble.

Then along came Tony. His great talent seemed to be sleeping. When he began crawling at 6 months it was a surprise, but not terribly remarkable after Charlie. But once he became mobile, I began to see that he has a great talent for solving his own problems.

All of my boys are very bright and they challenge me to keep up with them every day. However, I think the title "genius" will have to go to Tony, who recently said his first word. Granted, saying one word at 9 months is not miraculous. It was his choice of words: "Mama."

Yes, I got a genius baby over here!

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Punkin Head

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pumpkin 001.jpg

Ain't he cute? Someday i'll get around to prettying up this blog. But in the meantime, I'll be sure to post the occasional picture.

By the way, if you like the hat, you can buy it at Jenny's Etsy store.

(Oh, and yes, I have forgiven Charlie for last week's act of aggression.)

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Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Family category.

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