Sunday, September 22, 2013


Today I'm not referring to the sacrament of Reconciliation, but about the fact that I went ahead and did some shopping after all... Even if I lose my target weight, I will still be the same size in shirts, so I went ahead and ordered two from, because I had coupons to use! Remember I had to send back the blouses I bought from Ebay, so I still needed tops. I also got the quintessential white, collared, button up shirt, an Ann Taylor Loft from Ebay, because that is one of those classic pieces that every wardrobe should really have. I am concerned it might actually be too big, so fingers crossed. I can always have it tailored, right? Oh, and I almost forgot the Old Navy sweater coat I also won on Ebay. In a neutral color, a classic to wear for years to come!

The other thing all women must keep in mind is that properly fitting bras are imperative. I usually shop for them at Macy's in Ft. Wayne, but I went online this time, so again, wish me luck! You really need to be fitted professionally, so go to a department store or Victoria's Secret and make sure you are in the right size. And when the elastic is shot and your bosom starts to look lumpy and/or saggy, you need new bras! Even if you are petite in this area, it looks better to have some shape and maybe just a little padding. This is not an item on which to skimp. French women spend most of their money on lingerie and skin care. I have a feeling I will look 5 to 10 pounds lighter when I am once again wearing an uplifting bra, if you know what I mean. (And wow, this would so not be something to discuss with a priest!)

I should be getting some of my items in the mail tomorrow, including a black belt, which I haven't had for years and really do need for practical reasons. I'll keep you posted on how everything turns out with these online orders, hopefully including some chic mom photos. I lost a bid for Calvin Klein boyfriend jeans, but I'm still on the hunt...

Hope you're having a prayerful, restful Sunday! (And let's all get to Confession soon...)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cara Loren's Chic Mom Blog

Cara Loren

I just had to introduce you to Cara Loren's namesake blog today. I found her while searching for chic mom blogs. Sometimes I get really great ideas and inspiration from these. Usually Cara is wearing high heels, but happily today she is in Birkenstock sandals. This look, with a white tee shirt, cardigan sweater, and distressed boyfriend jeans is so easy to duplicate. Even wearing such a casual look, this mom is glamorous!

I have also been searching for the perfect pair of boyfriend jeans. I remember being in my early 20s when my younger sister came to visit me in Columbus. My boyfriend at the time really liked her look. She was actually wearing men's jeans, which sat on the hips rather than at the waist like women's jeans all did at that time (the '90s). There were no low cut pants for women then like there are now. Honestly, I was annoyed when he suggested that I wear this style! Well, now you don't have to borrow jeans from a guy to get the look, and I would call it a classic.

Cara often links to her friend Amber's blog ("barefoot blonde"), another gorgeous, young blonde. The style of these women reminds me of the vintage glam looks I used to wear in my younger days. While cleaning last evening, I came across photos from my time working as a model. Oh, the nostalgia! I got a little teary-eyed, being taken back to my single life. I think we women often lose a part of ourselves when we get married, have children, and grow older. But she's still there, that essential part of yourself who is ageless and beautifully unique. Get back in touch with her. That is what this joie de vivre exploration is all about!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall Essentials, Pared Down

(Image: Anthropologie, fall 2013)

A few chilly days have thrown me into a minor style panic. Will I be warm enough for the coming seasons?! This says a lot about me. My primary concern is warmth over style. Thinking ahead to long winter days in front of the fireplace leads me to pondering how I will manage to be comfortable and cozy. Yet of course, I don't want to fall into frumpiness. I have a couple of pairs of drawstring pants in a velour fabric that I usually rely upon, but I've been wearing them for years. I think I may keep them for morning walks, when I want to be able to just throw something on, before I actually get dressed for the day. Therefore, they will go into my exercise clothing cubby, rather than into my dresser drawer. I have plenty of time to search for replacements.

I have begun to collect my strictly-for-summer clothing to put into storage. I think I will head to the dollar store today for a couple of bins, since we seem to need at least one more. This week, my plan is to begin to sort through the winter clothes I have stored away. I already brought a few pieces down from the attic to incorporate into my essential wardrobe for fall. Then I started to worry about my dresser drawers and closet becoming too full! Imagine such a problem. You probably can. After spending all that time purging our wardrobes, we don't want to fall back into patterns of having too much clothing yet nothing to wear.

Is it time to shop yet? I have been fighting the urge. The thing is, I have a plan to lose about 12 pounds by Halloween. If I buy new items, they may not fit soon. I'd rather wait until closer to Christmas and then gift myself with a few high quality pieces that I absolutely adore. Doesn't that sound like a better plan?

(Image: Anthropologie, fall 2013)

So first things first. Pare down what I already own, including accessories and outerwear. Then, and only then, make a list of specific pieces to fill in the gaps. Begin to source where I will look for these needed items, and whether it is something to purchase now, or to wait until the inches are lost and/or Christmas is coming. Finally, be merciless in my choices! I want future pieces to be only those things that I will look forward to wearing for years to come.

In this transitional phase, you can have fun combining warmer and cooler weather items. You can wear lightweight trousers in a capri length that translate into fall if you wear socks (or not) and booties, loafers, or ballet flats, rather than sandals, with them. Put a sleeveless or short-sleeved blouse on top and add a cardigan, blazer or jean jacket. The same thing can be done with skirts and dresses. Simply pare them with tights or leggings and closed toe shoes or boots, throwing on a sweater or jacket to keep out the chill. Peep toe shoes can also work, especially with feminine socks. A chic scarf and a cute hat add instant flair when you're out and about and are quintessentially French!

(Image: Anthropologie, fall 2013)

The key is to avoid wearing anything that screams summer, either because of the colors, style, or fabric of the item. Keep in mind that it will warm up as the day progresses, so you want to be able to add or remove layers. Some pairs of sandals will still work for fall. I will do my best to begin posting some of my own fall looks next week, now that I have a new camera. So far I have been able to hit the right note for this transitional period by keeping it simple. The other key is to apply the rotating wardrobe aesthetic. This means that you can wear the same clothing, either changing things up or duplicating the exact same outfit, from week to week. If an outfit looks great today, it may also look perfect for church next Sunday. Especially if you are not seeing the same people every day, no one will know that you just wore those jeans with that blouse 5 days ago.

This is how the French manage to look pulled together always. They don't worry about repeating a certain look or wearing the same pieces often, even to the office twice in the same week. Besides, if you tweak the look with different extras and accessories, most likely no one will notice that you wore your black pencil skirt on both Monday and Friday. The more classic pieces in solid, neutral colors do not stand out as much as trendy shapes, patterns, and loud colors, so you can get away with rotating them frequently. Just wear the flashier pieces a little less often, or wear them when you go places where you are not seeing the same people. Keep most of your look neutral, but add a shot of color with your shoes, a statement necklace, or a handbag.

(Lydia cut out loafers by Anthropologie)

So how is your closet purging going? Are you feeling more free and less stressed about what to wear? I would love for you to share what is in your essential wardrobe and how it is working for you. Have a lovely week!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Natural Learning Updates

Over on The Sparkling Martins blog today, Dayna has written about how her oldest two children learned to read naturally, without phonics training, direct teaching, or tests. It's food for thought, the idea that people will want to learn this wonderful and useful skill, and therefore internal motivation will lead to the acquiring of it, when a child is interested and ready.

At my house we do "natural" reading lessons, using a Montessori inspired approach you can read about in the Aug. 31 post. Reading is not so far an activity that takes priority in Beezy's life, though occasionally I find her reading of her own accord, not only because it is part of "school". Still, she likes to read, and it isn't being forced upon her. Reading is also a part of other activities, such as the Pictureka! board game we played today. Being read to is still one of Beezy's greatest joys, and her comprehension skills are strong. Some days I feel content with her reading progress, while other days I find myself feeling a little frustrated. Then I know that I have to step back and refocus.

Keeping track of daily activities in my small leather notebook helps me to see that learning happens all day long, in a variety of ways. Learning is simply life. And for children, play is the primary and most effective method of education. Just now, Beezy brought a bug in that she found in our birdbath and said, "I'm studying it." I noticed it had wings and so was likely to die in the cup of water she had put it in, so she took it out and set it in the shade. So much can be learned simply through observation and conversation.

I do still need to have some formal learning time and a basic system to follow in order to feel comfortable with our homeschooling life. My foray into unschooling, however, has taught me that having a rhythm to our days, rather than a set schedule, provides for a relaxed flow and an openness to spontaneous choices. I do feel more joyful with a natural learning mindset. I think it is the unschooling attitude that sets it apart from other methods more so than the actual things done throughout the course of the day. Reading, math, writing, science, history, religion and other "subjects" happen in every homeschooling situation, and many of the same resources are being used. The difference is in why a topic or skill is being pursued, in what context, and in what form.

A common concern I come across in my reading are the so called "gaps" that may occur with homeschooling, and especially in the case of unschooling. This seems like a lapse in common sense. Regardless of how one is educated, no person will have learned everything there possibly is to learn, even if he lives to be 100. I know nothing about statistics, robotics, calculus, or accounting. Nor, at this time, do I care to. Even in my strongest areas, such as literature, there is still much to be learned. I was recently turned on to the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, an English Jesuit priest from the Victorian era, who I somehow missed in college. I suppose Hopkins has come into my life at the time that we were meant to be introduced. What a happy surprise! I'm grateful for the gap in my education.

There is much deconditioning to do in our understanding of what it means to be educated. The U.S. is possibly on the verge of military action in Syria. Are we to embark on yet another war in the Middle East? All of the knowledge in the world will not help our leaders make the best decisions if they lack wisdom. Sadly, our youth is growing up in a culture in which wisdom is rarely considered, and even knowledge has taken a back seat to "information." The Common Core Curriculum being implemented this school year seeks to replace much of classic literature with "informational textbooks." The written word will be dissected until anything alive and inspiring has been gutted from it like a fish.

Education as information must be cognitively understood and memorized, within a limited context, whereas an emphasis on culture--symbol, story, nuance, philosophy, art, history, religion, language, ethics, and experience--results in greater understanding, in a relational context. Culture is not easily measured by multiple choice and true and false tests. Test taking skills are measured by tests. Only a small fraction of the learning styles and intelligences natural to humanity fit into the public schooling model of education. The "smart" people are the ones who best fit into that limited fraction and who are the most obedient and compliant to outside authority.

Despite my sometimes negative impressions of radical unschooling, I am continuing to open my mind, little by little, to its potential goodness. Yes, I believe that it sometimes goes too far in the name of "freedom" and veers into the perils of unparenting and neglect. But within the peaceful borders of what I believe to be the truth of the Catholic faith, I see the promise of a beautiful, thriving garden of limitless possibility for a better future for humanity. A sea change, one mindful family at a time.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Contemplating a Protective Bubble

Father's homily today was a message I really needed to hear. Unfortunately, my ability to hear was hindered by unhappy young children behind me. But fortunately, Father is plugged in, and his normal speaking voice is very strong. It occurs to me just now that my experience at Mass this morning is a metaphor for being distracted from my spiritual path. There is dissonance all around us, and sometimes it is a strain to hear God's voice. We have to focus very hard, or we might miss something crucial.

In the Gospel reading today we find Jesus' enigmatic insistence that Christians must be willing to hate their families and relinquish worldly possessions to follow him. Is the word "hate" what he really meant, or is this a case of inadequate translation from Greek into English? Father's interpretation, as well as I could hear, was that we are not necessarily being called to give up everything we own or to forsake all of our relatives, but that we may be required to give up some of our possessions, or certain people in our lives.

Being a disciple of Jesus comes first, before anything or anyone else. That is the crux of the message. The question is, what are we willing to do, or to do without, in order to follow him? In a book I am reading by an American woman who has been living in Paris with her French husband for 30 years, the author says that the French have the ability to experience joie de vivre even in suffering. They live life fully and passionately, not shying away from controversy, pain, or uncomfortable events or feelings. I imagine that this has something to do with the fact that France is a traditionally Catholic country.

On my own journey to the Church, I learned that suffering is not an experience to be avoided. We don't go out and look for trouble, but if trouble comes into our lives, we are provided a way to work through it. We can offer our suffering up for a blessing on another who is in need, and we can unite our own suffering to Jesus' on the cross. My suffering can help someone else, and if I allow it to, it can purify me. But I must also welcome God's healing graces into my life and not wallow in grief. Jesus didn't stay on the cross forever, and neither should we.

All Christians are called to die to ourselves, but we aren't all called to be literal martyrs. I would also argue that figurative martyrdom isn't always necessary. In fact, if my ability to do the work God has called me, and only me, to do, is hindered by a person, an object, an institution, or an activity, then that "offending arm" needs to be cut off. Saying no to the invitation to walk on hot coals can be more difficult than walking barefoot across the fire. The devil does tempt us, every day. If we take our eyes off the ball even for a moment, the whole game could be lost.

It is my duty as a Christian parent to do everything in my power to get my child to heaven. The Church teaches that the education of a child is primarily the responsibility of his parents. Not his school teacher, Sunday school teacher, or religious education teacher, but his mother and father. Furthermore, a curriculum that is not permeated with the faith is not considered to be a valid education. At one point in history, public schooling did not separate children from their families for such long periods of time or conflict so acutely with Christian values as it does today. As it now stands, my husband pointed out, sending children to school is destabilizing to family life. Homeschooling is one remedy for these social and spiritual ills.

Being a homeschooling parent is a divine calling. It is something I am willing to defend with bared fangs if necessary. But mostly I wish to evangelize through my own example, with information for anyone who is genuinely interested in learning more about it, and by spreading positive messages to the community about this overwhelmingly successful educational option. In every area, I want to evangelize with passion and respect, not worrying over what anyone else thinks or says. Sometimes I fail to give myself permission to live in a Catholic bubble when that is what is necessary to keep my eyes on the prize.

Our children may not always understand when we have to say "no" in order to protect them. We have to teach them good and appropriate values, attitudes, and conduct. Each Christian parent is on his or her own leg of the journey. In order to protect our children, we may need to be vigilant in protecting ourselves from debilitating outside influences. One mom is tough as nails and criticism slides off her like water off a duck's back. Another is very sensitive, whether it be to words, images, negative energy, or loud noises. We have to know ourselves well, be very familiar with our strengths and weaknesses. One dad can invite a bear into his home, feed him honey, and send him on his way. Another will wrestle the bear and lose, or walk away alive but severely injured. Also, where we're at on the path changes over time. As I grow spiritually, I am hopeful that I will be able to detach with more finesse. Right now, however, it seems that I need to learn to pull that Catholic bubble around me and not allow anyone to pop it. Life is too short, and it's too exhausting to fight when it isn't absolutely necessary. As the saying goes, choose your battles wisely.

Prayer to Our Lady of Victory

O sweet and gentle Lady, Immaculate Mother of God, we beg you to be our Mother now and all the days of our life. Shield us Mother Mary with your holy mantle that nothing of the enemy could harm or molest us. Ask your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to spare us from any calamities that will cause our life misery. Pray for us that we may lead a life pleasing to Him, and when our end comes present us to Him, and may we live in His kingdom forever and ever, Amen. Our Lady of Victory, please pray for us.