Thursday, July 30, 2015

Food Is My Love Language

It's not an original comment. Surely you've heard it in some form before. Food is my love language. Coffee. Chocolate. Wine. Whatever. I certainly know I have. And I know it's meant tongue in cheek, but there's some truth to those words as well.

I've been thinking about it lately. Because, oh my gosh, you guys, food is so my love language. The kitchen is my happy place. I talk whine here about my kitchen a lot. And I really, truly am grateful for a functioning, reasonably modern Western kitchen. But I daydream about the kitchen I long for. I watch Property Brothers and Fixer Upper to swoon over the kitchens. 

If you're not familiar with the Five Love Languages, I'd definitely recommend you checking them out. Understanding how to communicate love to those you, well, love, goes so far in keeping those relationships running smoothly. And if things are rocky, you might just find that there's a love language disconnect. I think the apology language stuff is really interesting, too.

So food is my love language. And quality time, acts of service, and, sometimes, touch. I score just about zero when it comes to gift giving --  I try for those who value it, but it's just not my forte. Sorry.

That's what got me thinking.

I was making dinner to take to the mom of a recently birthed little bambino. I had met this woman exactly one time in my life, but I very, very happily spent the better part of a day getting her dinner perfectly aligned and ready to deliver. For someone who doesn't do gifts, this was turning into quite the spread.

But it wasn't a gift, I said, it was an act of service. I totally do acts of service.


People, food isn't a love language. It's all of the love languages.  Or at least it invites all of the love languages. Think about it. Food invites us around the table: quality time. We prepare it, clean it up, share it: acts of service. Eating is a physical activity: touch. It call us to words of affirmation and thanksgiving: for preparing food, for joining us at the table, for sharing your story or your joke. And giving food to those around us: gifts. 

And then, my mind kept going . . . what is the centerpiece of our faith? A meal. First, God called the Israelites to prepare for, and then commemorate the Exodus with a meal. Then, he perfected it by becoming the Passover lamb. A meal we become united with at each Mass. Christ calls us to share in him, in his unity, in his love . . . through food.

Maybe I'm on to something.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Answer Me This (07.26.15)

It's the last internet cocktail party of the summer -- so I'm here for one last round of Answer Me This with Kendra.

1. What's your favorite grocery store splurge? Steak -- I love a good, moo-ing steak as much as the next girl, but it's too pricey for me to justify on a regular basis, so we rarely make it ourselves. Plus, then we don't have to deal with the complication of Charles not liking moo-ing steak. 

2. How's your penmanship? Okay. I get compliments on my penmanship cursive often, but I actually don't love it. And my printing is terrible. I never mastered that 1st Grade Teacher/Student Council perfect printing and lettering thing. Do you know what I'm talking about?!? Anyway, I have hang-ups about it. But I don't have doctor or lawyer scrawl either, so there's that.

Source: 9GAG

3. Do you have a "Summer Bucket List?" Nope. Since my kids are so little, summer is still just a hot, humid season of the year that forces us inside more than I would like. Next summer, Clare will have had a year of pre-school, another to come (read: summer vacation) and it will likely be our last in Wichita (how did that happen?), so I'll probably be more bucket list-y and sentimental then.

4. What's the best thing on the radio right now? I usually listen to Catholic radio when I'm in the car, so I'm an appropriately cliche Catholic Answers fangirl. If I switch to music, it's always country (sorrynotsorry), but there hasn't been anything lately that makes me want to turn up the radio and off-pitch car sing too loudly. Long way of saying, "I don't know."

5. Ice cream or frozen yogurt? Ice cream. I mean, I won't turn down FroYo, but if I had the choice, I'd go ice cream. Every time.

Replay, but we actually did go to ice cream yesterday, and the scene looks eerily similar.

6. Have you had that baby NOW? (Again, you can skip this one if you want.) Yeah, last week's answer still stands. 

Sending big time congrats to Kendra on the VERY crazy arrival of #8!! Head over her way to coo over her baby cuteness.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Why We Don't Have "a Number"

{Disclaimer: No, this is neither a pregnancy announcement, nor a prelude to a pregnancy announcement.}

I think we're all familiar with the litany of questions:

When are you going to get engaged?

When's the wedding?

When are you going to have kids?

When are you going to have another?

How many kids do you want?

With our girly girl and boy's boy, Charles and I have our "matched set." We have our one boy, one girl. All we need are a white picket fence and a dog. We're set.

Except that we're not. As Catholics who are doing our best to live according to Church teaching and to conform our lives to Christ's will for them, we do not use contraception. And contrary to what society might want you to believe about us, we're not uneducated/repressed/lacking a television. I will leave my thoughts on NFP (mostly positive!) for another post another day, but I will say this. I assume that we're not done growing our family. At a minimum, our family doesn't "feel complete," though I'm not entirely sure what that means either.

The problem with having "a number" of kids we'd like to have is that, consciously or not, it shuts God out, at least a little bit. We're telling Him that we have a better idea than He about what would be best for our lives. And yes, He can work miracles and make happen what He wants. But free will and Providence, they're dancing a complicated tango, you know?!?

When people ask how many kids we want, Charles and I can honestly tell them that we don't have a number; we're taking it one at a time (hopefully!). We've been so so blessed thus far to have not struggled with infertility or secondary infertility. We have not had to mourn pregnancy loss. I have had healthy pregnancies and easy deliveries. We're both in good health and have a stable home life. But most of those things could change at any time. Or maybe God is itching to surprise me with multiples or . . .  there are just so many wrenches that life can throw in our way. Having "a number," for us, would change the way we handle those twists whatever they may be.

Not having a number. Using NFP. Being a follower of Christ. In a very real way, each of these is challenging, in part because they are so counter-cultural. They ask us to give up control. They ask us to let go of the perception that we are running the show. We have to let someone else steer, and that is hard in a society that believes that if you want something done right, you do it yourself.

Instead, we trust. We trust each other. And more importantly, we trust God. Not our will, but yours be done, Lord.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Answer Me This (07.19.15)

Thanks to a visit from my in-laws, and a (never fun) night shift, I have "extra" time on my hands, so I decided to play along with Kendra today. I just can't resist a good survey! ;-)

1. What's currently on your To Do list? Chores, mostly. I really need to clean/sort kids' clothes, but since I'm mentally already preparing my list of things they need for fall, I'll probably manage to put it off awhile longer. Yes, it's July. No, will will not need such things for two or three months. Yes, I have problems.

2. Better type of superhero: magic/radioactive powers? Or trauma/gadgets/hard work? This is hard, because if you asked me, I'd normally say I'm a hard work proponent, but I feel like when I think about the superhero stories I like (and I'm SO not much of a superhero girl, with a son who's not there yet), they tend to be more magic/radioactive. I'm calling it a draw.

3. Finding out if baby is a boy or girl before birth: Good idea? Bad idea? I don't think either is bad or good, right or wrong. We found out with both kids, and we loved settling on names and calling the baby he/she/by name during the 2nd half of pregnancy. That said, whenever #3 comes along, we'll possibly (probably?) wait and find out at birth. Partially because we really truly don't care. Partially because I've got one of each and so have all the stuff, so why not?!? Partially (mostly?) because Peter's birth was fast enough to put us on alert for potential crazy fast labor in the future. I feel like the excitement of "finding out" might help ease end of pregnancy anxiety/motivate me through labor.

4. Have you ever appeared on a stadium jumbotron? Several times, actually. A friend in Phoenix's husband (He's my friend, too, just that I'm more friends with his wife.) used to be a camera operator for the Jumbotron at Bank One Ballpark (fine, Chase Field, the Diamondbacks' stadium), so pretty much anytime he knew someone was at the game, up they went. And since I used to go to games with my friend a couple of times a year, I always knew it was a matter of time before we got our awkward wave on.

5. Are you more book smart or street smart? I'm definitely more book smart. I was the girl who always did her homework, studied for tests, did the reading, etc., and then lamented a grade less than an A. Book smarts come easily to me. Street smarts are a lot harder, but I feel like, especially since having kids, I'm getting better and better. Thankfully, I have a fair amount of common sense, so that helps, too.

6. Have you had that baby yet? (Feel free to skip this one if it's not applicable to you.) Well, I've had two babies. Peter is 15 months. Clare is 3. So if you're waaaaaay behind here, yes, I had those babies. But since I'm otherwise not pregnant or recently postpartum, I'll stick with no. 

Visit Kendra to find more answers to questions -- and her response to #6!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Why I Decided to Read "Go Set A Watchman"

Like any number of fellow To Kill a Mockingbird fans, my reaction to the news that a companion piece would be published were as follows:

Can't wait?
Ummmm . . . things seem sketchy here.*
But I'm going to read it anyway.

I placed the book pre-order in and out of my Amazon cart for months. I got on the waiting/hold list at the library. I hemmed and hawed. 

Then the negative reviews started pouring in, and I grew ever more dubious. Not intending it as a game changer, I brought the brouhaha up to Charles the other night.

"Well, you have to get it."

I tried to articulate my doubts, but I realized that they would not be assuaged by not reading out of popular protest. I was going to read the dang book, and this is why:

1. It would have been published posthumously if it weren't published now. That's how it has gone in publishing for as long as memory serves. In a few years, Harper Lee will pass. The manuscript would have been discovered and published. Yes, the current circumstances are somewhat suspect, but that hardly affects the end result.

2. It is unfair to judge a work of art based on what we want it to be. Most of the criticism of Watchman seems to center on people not liking Atticus' portrayal, but, as much as I love me some noble Atticus Finch, I can't make a work of fiction go my way (unless I'm writing it, I guess), any more than I can make real life go my way. Liking the way things end, the way characters are portrayed or the message the author sends are all well and good, but not liking them does not diminish the rest of the value of the work.

3. If you take Watchman's origin story at face value, it was not written as a sequel to Mockingbird, or even as a companion piece, but as a sort of first draft, or rejected version that got a total rewrite to tell a different, earlier story, which became a Great American Novel. Even if you choose to believe that it was written as a sequel to Mockingbird, though, the mere fact that it was not previously published means that it was not quite ready for prime time. It was not edited, refined, perfected. It was rejected and wholly rewritten. It deserves to be read for what it is, not rejected for what it is not.

Ultimately, I decided that I need to read Go Set a Watchman for myself and judge the book on its own merits, as it deserves. I bought the book this while I was running errands earlier this week. I'm trying to read with no expectations -- easier said than done, of course. It makes sense, considering how carefully I've dissected Mockingbird, but even though I'm in the earliest chapters, I've been pleasantly surprised at how easily I slipped into Lee's comfortable writing. I feel home again. 

We'll just have to see how the rest of the novel plays out. I mean, we all know that sometimes, you just can't go home again.

*For those who aren't following the story, the Wikipedia article details it well. In short, the manuscript was "discovered" by elderly Harper Lee's lawyer and agent, and plans for publication were soon in place. Plenty of people have cried foul given the tenuous state of Lee's health and the sure financial success of the publication of Watchman.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

To Clare on Her 3rd Birthday

{I wrote this last Friday, but didn't hit publish quickly enough, so today it is!}

Dear Clare,

Today, you are 3. And oh, are you 3! In the last few weeks, you have definitely become a threenager -- not always listening, opinionated about everything, and fighting with your brother.

But oh, you are such a treat to be around as well. You are so sweet and funny. You make friends everywhere you go, and usually, you lead some kind of running (and possibly squealing) activity. You are getting better at snuggling all the time. My favorite thing to do with you is snuggle up under a blanket and read a book together. Your favorite is to help me bake (and then lick the beater, of course).

Many mornings, we have "coffee" together before Peter wakes up. I have my coffee and you have a cup of milk. I have a feeling that is a tradition that will last us a long time. Quality time is definitely your love language. 

This has been a big year for you -- potty training, sleeping in a big girl bed (no rail!), making friends, growing a thousand inches, and blowing us away with the things you do and say.  

The dancing! Oh, the dancing! You are always dancing and twirling. Tutus, dresses, skirts, and ballet slippers galore! You are a princess. Or a ballerina. Or something. You are always imagining, acting out what you read and what you see on TV. (You love books and cartoons.) You are always in character -- and we are, too. My favorite lines are, "I'm not a Sheriff Callie, I'm a Clare Bear," and "I'm another animal. I'm Princess Sofia." Or Minnie Mouse. Or Angelina. Or Katerina Kitty Cat, meow meow.

Most importantly, you have a huge heart and a real love for people. And a real love for Jesus. You bring us joy everyday. I am so blessed to be your Mama. 

I love you, Sweetie Girl.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Reflections on 4 Years of Marriage

{I started this post on our anniversary, July 9, but things got busy, so it's getting published today.}

Four years ago, Charles and I stood before our family, friends and God and freely promised to be together faithfully, and (God-willing, (and He has been)) fruitfully, for all the days of our lives. We exchanged rings and prayed. Our first act together as man and wife, really, was to kneel at the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist at our wedding Mass. God first. After sharing in the Lord's Supper, we celebrated. 

I shared this picture on Facebook with the following caption, "4 years, 2 kids, 1 great adventure, countless blessings! So grateful to be celebrating with Charles Armstrong today. (As an aside, this is one of my very favorite pictures from our wedding, because it exemplifies what we want our marriage to be, man and wife in prayer with Christ as our focus.)"  Left unsaid was my prayer that, in some small way, we were, are, and will be something of an example to our community of people trying our best to live an authentic Christian life in this world of turmoil. 

(by Noyan Photography)

This morning, we woke up in our king-sized bed, a tangle of arms and legs, stuffed animals and blankets, kids and adults. A beautiful tangle of the life we have built in that time. I could think of nothing more perfect.

I mean, I get it, we've only been married four years. We have plenty to learn. 

The weekend before our wedding, we were at a 4th of July BBQ where a woman, married for 30something years, from our then-parish shared this story with me:

She had, the week before, made blueberry pancakes for her husband. As she told the story, it was clear that she was pleased with the gift she had given her husband, and as he was eating, he looked up, appreciative, but mentioned, "You know, off all the berries, blueberries have always been my least favorite." The moral of the story was that there is always more to learn about your spouse.

I reflect on that story frequently. 

On the surface, it's a silly story about blueberry pancakes and learning about your spouse, but it's so much bigger than that to me. I think it's an example of how marriage should be. Serving one another. Accepting one another's love without condition. Learning, molding, growing, changing, honesty, giving, together through thick and thin. Kindness.

And above all else, love. The wife told the story with love; the husband chuckled at it with love. At the end of the day, they love each other, not in a fit of frenzied romance, but in a true desire for the best for one another. 

The Second Reading at our wedding was from Romans. We chose it because of how it reflected Christian love. "Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer" (verses 11-12). (The full reading is Romans 12: 1-2, 9-18).

I only pray that, as the years go on, our marriage continues to be full of growth, of love, and of life.