Monday, March 28, 2016

An Easter Recap

This year, we spent Holy Saturday in our usual manner--that is, decorating an absurd amount of Easter eggs. Seventeen dozen to be exact.  I like to go the old tried and true food coloring route, with some vegetable oil thrown to spice things up.  The kids love it and with so many eggs to dye nobody's very particular about their work.  It's just a color mixing, double dipping, experimenting free for all.  Clearly we are very fancy egg decorators.  

I spent the rest of the afternoon filling said eggs with fruity pebbles and sealing them up for our annual Easter egg hunt and otherwise preparing the house and food and getting all the other things done that need to happen when you invite entirely too many people over for a party.

On Easter Sunday, we went to mass and then came home for a quick photo shoot in which we did not get an actual family photo and I also managed to overexpose pretty much all of the cutest pictures of the children.  I'm nothing if not professional.

Once our mildly successful photography session was over we let the kids inside to hunt for their Easter baskets.  This year (once again) everyone found their baskets except Henry.  His preferred method of wandering about aimlessly and complaining that he can't find anything was surprisingly not the most successful way to locate an Easter basket.  Even with my fairly obvious hint to "look behind the curtains" he still couldn't muster up the gumption to, I don't know, lift up the nearest curtain and look behind it.  In the end, John, following my oh so subtle clues, found the basket and saved the day.

The kids each got a book, a bit of candy, a magnifying glass/watering can (or tea cup as John calls it?)/doll depending on who you were and some flower seeds.  The flower seeds area perennial favorite and I think there would have been tears if they hadn't been included.  There's already been much discussion about whose flowers are going where and I think we've worked out a game plan for where to put the sunflowers this time so that they actually grow.  (Don't tell the neighbors but it involves the front yard....our neighborhood might be a little too classy for sunflower patches, but what do you when the front yard has the best light?)

After the kids ate nearly every single piece of candy in their baskets, we commenced with the party preparations--and naptimes.  Naptimes were very important to the success of the party.  The DeAngelo cousins stopped by for a visit and Jack even managed to win the egg hunt to which we can only say, thank you for coming and we're sorry about the glitter--it's probably not coming off for a while.

Though I had my camera with me for the rest of the party I did not manage to document any of it--which is probably not a bad thing since I was obviously not on my A-game.  The egg hunt was a success, although it went really fast.  Apparently seventeen dozen eggs is not nearly enough--this year the kids were bigger and the competition intense.  I think next year we'll need to go even bigger.

It was such a lovely Easter.  We loved having a full house and a chance to visit with family, friends and neighbors.  I'm so glad we decided to host the party again this year, even if our house isn't exactly ideal for entertaining large numbers of people all at once.  I think everyone really enjoyed themselves.  I know our kids did :)

How were all of your Easter celebrations?  Wonderful I hope!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

{p,h,f,r} My Grandmother's Quilt Edition

I don't have my photos properly divided into categories, but I've been linking up my progress on this quilt for so long that it seemed wrong not to link up the finished piece. You'll just have to forgive me this time.*

My grandmother had several of these quilt tops tucked away in a trunk in her room for as long as I can remember.  She had hand pieced them with an array of fabric scraps--it looks to be mostly old clothing and maybe, flour sacks?  She never told me the story of them--when she made them, why they were never finished--and I never thought to ask until it was too late.  Isn't that the way it always goes.  You think there will be plenty of time later, and then your time is up.

It took a long time to finish hand-quilting it since it's a queen sized quilt and I am a slow quilter but I didn't mind.  It's relaxing to have a project you can pull out and work on a bit in the evenings without making a huge mess--although it did take up a fair bit of space and I think Chris was glad to not be constantly shifting it around the living room anymore.

My goal had originally been to finish it by Thanksgiving so that I would be able to work on a baby quilt once we found out what we were having.  Obviously that timetable changed when it turned out that little Frances wouldn't be needing a quilt after all.  When I called Chris to let him know we had lost her and that he needed to meet me at the hospital for my induction the one thing I asked him to bring was the quilt.  I knew it would be a comfort and that I needed something to do with my hands while I labored.

When you're experiencing a typical labor you can distract yourself with something like binge watching Gilmore Girls while you eat as much as you can before you head to the hospital where you know they won't give you so much as a popsicle, not that you'd have time to eat one once you arrived anyway.  But when you're laboring for hours and hours to bring a child into the world who you know you've already lost you need a different sort of distraction.  One that you can pore all your grief and prayers and tears into.  That's what this quilt became for me, at the hospital and then at home as well.  I was almost sorry to finish it.

I suppose Frances got her quilt after all.


*I guess this post could still be considered pretty and real, but I really veered off the happy and funny once I started writing didn't I?  I'm going to link up to Like Mother, Like Daughter anyway because I do want to share the finished quilt, and the quilt does make me happy, if not actually upbeat.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

On Being Born to Buy and Having Adorable Toddlers

It's Lent--a time for decluttering, spiritual reading and taking stock of our lives.  Well, that's what I've been doing, although most of my decluttering is still in the planning stage rather than the actually decluttering stage, but, there's still time right?

I suppose my reading hasn't been all spiritual though.  Is it inconsistent that I'm about to tell you about the book I've been reading on the commercialization of childhood and our consumerist culture while simultaneously showing you pictures of my children surrounded by piles of toys in their overstuffed playroom?  Well, here I go anyway, just scroll down for adorable pictures of John John and Margaret if you are shockingly uninterested in my book report.  I'll forgive you.  Eventually.

It's probably not a surprise to anyone who knows me to hear that I'm a little fussy about the kids clothes and toys.  I know that a lot of people don't understand it and think I just have a ridiculous aversion to all things plastic and sparkly but that isn't entirely it.   It's just that I don't like people marketing products at my children.  I don't like spending our limited resources on something that is cheaply made and bound to break.  I don't like buying trendy clothes designed to focus attention on what the kids are wearing instead of who they are, with the bonus of looking completely lame and out of date six months later so that instead of passing them down I have to buy them all over again.  Most of all though, I don't like looking at my children and seeing that the greatest desire of their little hearts is to possess one more thing.

I might be too sensitive about this issue but I've always bristled at advertising directed toward my children which is why I don't buy them things with licensed characters plastered all over them.  They pretty much know not to even ask anymore--I'm not going to get them Diego socks, or light up Ninja Turtle sneakers, or a Thomas the Tank engine backpack, or Mickey Mouse snacks.  Some may think I'm a mean mom, but I prefer to think of myself as protecting their childhoods from "the man" ;)

Now these things aren't necessarily banned from the house, I'm just not buying them.

Knowing all this, when I saw Born to Buy:The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture pop up in that ever handy "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section on Amazon, I knew it was right up my alley and immediately........put a hold on it at the library

In it Juliet Schor describes the commercialization of childhood and goes through the history as well as the current state of marketing to children in our country, well current as of 2004, but I think it's safe to say that advertisers have only further fine tuned their craft in the intervening years.  Before I read the book, I obviously knew that companies were marketing to children but to read about teams of psychologists, child development specialists, anthropologists, and sociologists all working together to convince our children that they will only be happy, cool, popular, attractive, strong, or smart once they've bought (or rather, convinced their parents to buy) whatever product they're pushing is....well, it's just creepy isn't it?

Schor also conducted her own research and found, unsurprisingly, that all this consumer involvement undermines children's well-being:
"American children are deeply enmeshed in the culture of getting and spending, and they are getting more so.  We find that the more enmeshed they are, the more they suffer for it.  The more they buy into the commercial and materialist messages, the worse they feel about themselves, the more depressed they are and the more they are beset by anxiety, headaches, stomachaches, and boredom.  The bottom line on the culture they're being raised in is that it's a lot more pernicious than most adults have been willing to admit."  
I think this is important because there's a tendency to think that advertising is just a harmless annoyance to parents but it's not.  It's a very targeted attack on our children and it's hurting them.

Schors' solutions to the commercialized childhood, for parent's at least, are to get kids outside more, limit tv time or exclude it altogether, spend a lot of time together doing engaging, non-commercial activities, and model a non-commercial lifestyle--as she says, "parents who desire less commercial lifestyles for their children need to change with them."

These seem right on the mark to me.

She says that one of the underlying messages of all this marketing directed at children is that "living modestly means living like a loser" which is not exactly the message we're trying to teach our children.  We're going for something more along the lines of, "living modestly is not only our Christian duty but also the only way to find true happiness."  What I found really interesting was that she also says that this marketing to kids is inherently dangerous because the marketers promise things like love, success, power and happiness to the kids who buy their products and those are promises that they can never truly fulfill which in turn leaves kids perpetually dissatisfied--and perpetually in search of the next thing they need to buy.

This is a secular book so the author doesn't make any religious connections but she does say that "desiring less, rather than getting more, seems to be the key to contentment and well-being."  Of course that is exactly the opposite of what our consumer culture is telling our children.  Well, "telling" is probably the wrong word.  It's more like a drum that's incessantly beating:  Buy, Buy, Buy.  It's hard enough as adults to resist the siren song of the consumer life.  I would say it's near impossible for a child--especially when there are literally teams of adult experts working against them. 

As I read through her conclusions, I couldn't help but be reminded of St. Augustine when he said my heart is restless until it finds rest in you.  What I really want for my kids is for them to grow up being satisfied with what they have and not always wanting more--which feels like a constant battle, but maybe that's the way it's always been.

What about you?  Do you fight the good fight against our consumer culture in your home?  What does that look like?


All my Amazon book links are affiliate links which means I get lots and lots of cents every time you buy something after clicking through them, but for heaven's sake check your library to see if they have them first :)

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