Friday, January 31, 2014

7QTF: What-Have-You and What-Not (for Lack of a Better Title)

I'm sitting down to start one of these posts.
And I'm not even sure yet if I have 7 things to talk about.  But I'm going to wing it here, and see what happens.

-1-
I just read talented author Katherine Grubb's 10 Minute Writer blog post for today, and it contained an interview with a woman who wrote a humorous novel about the homeschooling lifestyle.  The book in question is called The Homeschool Experiment, and it's by a busy homeschooling mom named Charity Hawkins.  I know a lot of Catholic mom bloggers and blog readers are also homeschoolers, so I thought you might be interested.  If you'd like to have a shot at winning a free copy of Hawkins' novel, head on over to 10 Minute Writer and leave a comment after the post.  (I can't believe I'm telling you about this; because the more people who comment, the less my chances of being the lucky winner.  So you're welcome.)

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Speaking of Katherine Grubb, if you haven't read her delightful debut novel Falling For Your Madness yet, you really should get your hands on a copy ASAP.  I did a review of Grubb's wonderful and well-written romantic comedy here, if you'd like to get an idea of what it's all about.  (You've probably all heard of this popular book by now, but I just thought I'd give it a shout-out.  I'm just thinking about you, you know.  Again, you're welcome.)

-3-
It's true that you never know which random blog post might resonate with your readers.  Yesterday, I found a painting posted on another gal's blog, and I just loved it, so I was inspired to go on-line to try to find out who was responsible for it.  What I discovered was an 18th century Austrian artist named Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller, whose name I'd never heard before, and dozens and dozens of his other works.  And I just wanted to share what I'd found, so I posted some of my favorites by this gifted and prolific painter on my blog.  Apparently these lovely images of families and family life struck a chord with some readers, as they did with me.  If you'd like to see some works of art that display the beauty of family life--and are even, as my husband pointed out, very pro-life, because of the way they depict large, multi-generational families and the joy that is to be found in them--then head on over to scroll through the gallery I posted on here yesterday.

-4-
Oh, I'm half-way there!
Oh, oh...livin' on a prayer...

You gotta love Bon Jovi, right?  Or at least that song...I mean, tell me that when you're in the Notre Dame stadium for a football game and the band starts playing "Livin' on a Prayer," you don't scream those lyrics at the top of your lungs, like the rock star wannabe you are!  If you say you don't, I won't believe you.  And I'm not sure we could be friends.

That Take was mostly filler, but now I'm over the hump.  4 down, only 3 to go!
 
-5-
I found a great website in my cyber-travels recently.  I read too many blogs these days, so I can't remember exactly where the recommendation for this site came from.  But if you love Rosaries, you might want to stop by designmyrosary.com.

I have already hinted to my husband that if there was ever a birthday or a Mother's Day where he was stumped as far as a gift is concerned, he could always go on this site and personally design a Rosary for me.  I would love anything he picked, I assured him.  "But there's just one thing I want to choose," I started to say, because I wanted to make sure he picked a Miraculous Medal for the center medal; and he and the son who was there--let's call them "those two stinkers"--started to laugh at me.  (Do any of you ladies ever come home with a sweater from TJ Maxx a few weeks before Christmas and say to your husband, "This can be my present from you,"--or is it just me?)  Really, though, the rest is totally up to him.  Except no black beads, please.  Any other color but black.  Hmmm...and I think that's it.  Now go on there and design away, my patient husband! 
But truly, these one-of-a-kind Rosaries would make lovely gifts for anyone on your list.
 
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I often write about how tough it is--sniff! sniff!--to have your children go and grow up on you and leave the nest.  It's been an adjustment for me, to be sure.  But being an empty-nester can be fun, too, if you like spending time with your man.  And I do.  When he's not away doing his airline pilot thing, we spend pretty much every minute together during the day.  We grocery shop and run errands together.  We go to matinees sometimes.  We even arrange little lunch dates, where we'll fix our plates and eat on trays while we watch a taped episode of "Psych" or "Sherlock."  It's pretty sweet, really, and one of the perks of being an empty-nester. 
 
Besides, my kids may be mostly gone now, but their stuff is not.  We haven't had the heart to make them clear out all of their trunks and boxes filled with old clothes, books, boyhood toys, stamp and football card collections, scrapbooks and memorabilia, sports posters, etc. etc. etc., because most of them are still in a state of flux as far as figuring out where they'll settle.  Until they own homes and it looks like they're definitely putting down roots, my husband and I are willing to let our attic be their storage unit.
 
So I may not have all my boys about me.  But their stuff fills the attic and probably helps with the insulation up there.  So their stuff is keeping me warm at night!
Full disclosure: the stuff is not all theirs.  My husband and I have our fair share of stuff, too.  And it was starting to look like an episode of "Hoarders" up there, so I just finished an attic reorganization project.  I'll say this: plastic bins are my best friends.
I love attics--does that make me strange?  Especially attics in really old houses.  Ours is still too "new" to be very interesting...but someday it might be a fun place for our grandchildren to nose around.
 
-7-
Well, it's time to get moving and check some items off my to-do list.  Today is a sewing day: I have to make new sashes for two flower girl dresses that are going to be worn by my twin granddaughters in three weeks, when son #4 gets married.  (Oh my gosh--that is happening in three weeks!)  The sashes were navy blue when the girls wore them for son #3's wedding on December 7; this time, they're going to be champagne-colored.  I'm sure I'll be posting photos of them sometime soon.
 
As long as I'm going to be sewing, I'll leave you with another darling painting by Waldmuller, one that shows what I'm going to look like today...well, that is, what I'd look like if I had four adorable children at my feet while I was working, which I will not have.  Or if I was wearing a turban-like contraption on my head, which I will not be.
 

Have a great weekend.  But before you do, head on over to see what's going on at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My New Favorite Artist

I've had my mind on art the past few days, and I've posted a couple of drawings I did back when I was a lovesick teenaged girl: one, a 1975 red ink sketch of my husband/then boyfriend, back when we were in high school; and the other, a 1976 charcoal sketch I did of a little girl in profile, while dreaming about what our future daughter might look like.  And I told you that people--faces--are, and always have been, my favorite subject when it comes to artwork.

Well, this morning I came across an image that I just love, love, love, while reading another Catholic mom blog.  The faces in it are simply heart-melting.  Have you ever seen this painting before?
Oh my, those faces!!  That sweet chubby baby!!  Isn't this a fabulous work of art?

I had to go on-line immediately, to try to find out the name of the artist responsible for this endearing painting.  What I unearthed was the title, "Young Peasant Woman with Three Children at the Window," by prolific Austrian artist Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller (1793-1865).

From the moment I saw it, this image spoke to me, it really did.  It made me completely happy to look at it--until I let this unwarranted thought niggle its way into my brain: If only I could paint like this...

But God gives us each our own unique talents, and He gives them in whatever degree He knows will be best for our immortal souls.  I do believe this, truly I do; so instead of being all self-deprecating about the amount of artistic talent I have, and comparing myself to artists such as the brilliantly gifted Waldmuller (because I've been reminded recenlty that "Comparison is the thief of joy," and I am taking that saying to heart as best I can), I want to thank God for giving me just enough ability to create some drawings and paintings and crafty things that, however unprofessional in quality they might be, give me a happy heart when I'm working on them. 

But oh the joy I get from looking at the works of certain well-known artists!  I've blogged about some of my favorites before: Besse Pease Gutmann, Jesse Willcox Smith, Norman Rockwell, Mary Cassatt.  Well, now I'm going to add Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller, an artist whose name I'd never heard before today, to that list!  Like Mary Cassatt, many of his paintings contain mothers with their offspring--but also fathers, grandfathers, and grandmothers.  These images of multi-generational families (many of them big families, with lots of pink-cheeked children and babies) doing everyday things together are just so precious, in my eyes.  So joy-inducing in their simple beauty.

I want to share this newfound favorite of mine with you, so here are some of the other works by Waldmuller that speak to me.
 








[Sigh...]  Aren't these Waldmuller paintings wonderful?  What a gift for faces he had.  But this last one just might be my favorite, because it depicts a grandmother and three little girls--so it of course reminds me of my darling trio of granddaughters and me, hanging out together, reading.
Of course, the little girls in this painting are a bit older than my sweetie pies.  (And I hope this grandmother looks a little older than I, too!)  But I still think of us when I look at it.  And I feel joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart!

God bless artists such as Waldmuller, who with their God-given talents make the world a much more beautiful place for the rest of us!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Glimpse into the Future?

I want to thank some of my blogging friends (as well my loyal sister/follower), who left nice comments for me yesterday when I was being a little too angsty (there's a red squiggly line under that word, but I'm using it anway) about the whole blogging business.  Today I feel compelled to look only for JOY in the process--and I know where to find it, because whenever I talk about my husband, my granddaughters, or art, that's the primary emotion I feel.

Yesterday, I was going through a binder filled with sketches I'd done in my youth, looking for a good one of my high school boyfriend (who also happens to be my husband).  Some years ago, I found a treasure trove of my old drawings from middle school and high school-- including the 1975 red ink sketch of my main man that I added to yesterday's post--stored away in rotting boxes that had been removed from the attic of my childhood home decades earlier, when my parents downsized to a condo.  Some of these vintage not-exactly-masterpieces were done on nice art paper, some were done on lined loose leaf paper, and some were drawn hastily in the margins of notebooks.  I slipped these pieces of my past into plastic sheet protectors and put them in a big binder, where they would be saved for posterity (or future laughs, or whatever).

I'm so happy now that I kept all those precious works of art and archived them with a healthy dose of TLC!  Because I found one little charcoal drawing that just about blew my mind.

As I was returning that red ink sketch of my hubby to its allotted spot in the binder, another drawing caught my eye and I was taken aback.  It was of a little girl's face in profile...and it reminded me so much of my twin granddaughters!  Although the twins are just over 2-and-1/2 and the girl in the drawing is obviously supposed to be several years older than that, the resemblance is almost eerie.  (Or maybe it isn't; family, does this look like the twins--maybe Cutie Pie more than Bonny Babe--or is it just me?  Especially from the mouth up?)
When I was first dating my husband in 1973, at 15, the four youngest siblings in his family of eight (who were between the ages of 3 and 8 at the time) got wind of the fact that I liked to sketch faces, and when I visited at their house they used to steal me away from their big brother with requests of, "Draw me!  Draw me!"  I drew their sweet little mugs so often that my mother claimed every face I drew from then on, whether I meant it to be or not, was a "Pearl face."

Of course, like any teenager in love with the boy she just knew was "the ONE," I used to imagine what our future children would look like, and many of the drawings I did reflected that.  I can just see myself sitting down to sketch this little girl back in 1976, when I was a senior in high school, and thinking, If we have a daughter someday, she might look like this.

So I suppose this face was a "Pearl face," even though I don't believe any of my husband's younger sisters posed for it.  It was a glimpse into the future--but not into a future that included daughters for us.  It was a glimpse into a future with granddaughters (three so far), who most definitely have their Papa's Pearl blood flowing through their veins.  Granddaughters with the Pearl name...and Pearl faces.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hmmm...Don't Know What to Call This One

Okay, here's the thing: I woke up this morning utterly uninspired to write.  (It happened yesterday morning, too; if you come here often, you might have noticed that.)  I've been making the mistake of comparing my little blog to all the other funny, smart, sassy, faith-filled, inspirational, informative (etc., etc.) Catholic mom blogs I follow: some of them that are so beautifully written, they read like actual literary masterpieces; some that fill me with a burning desire to improve my faith life drastically; and others that routinely make me belly laugh with abandon...And I've been doing that thing I do, which is wondering if this blog has a place amidst all that holiness, humor, and talent.

I'm not fishing for compliments, I'm really not--although I can see that I sound like I am.  (Please don't leave me any virtual pats on the back in the comment box; I was just venting, that's all.  And here I am, writing when I don't think I have anything noteworthy to say, so that's a step in the right direction!)  One should never compare himself to others, deep down I know this.  We are all unique souls equally beloved by God, and in our uniqueness, each of us has something to offer the world that no one else can offer (as hard as that is to believe sometimes).  And just as no two people are exactly alike, no two writers are exactly alike, and therefore no two blogs will ever be exactly the same.  And that's actually a good thing.

I read somewhere over the weekend that most regular blog readers take the weekend off--so Saturdays are a good day for bloggers to write about things no one really cares about, because no one is going to see those posts anyway.  This past Saturday, I wrote up and posted an homage to my #4 son, who was celebrating a birthday.  And obviously I really care about him!!  So I decided that for anyone who stopped by on Monday morning to see what was shaking here at String of Pearls, that post would make good reading (or re-reading, for you few loyal souls who check in here, rain or shine).  And with that adorable picture of my boy at four, he of the side-glancing smile and dimpled cheeks, I thought it would make good viewing, too.  So that got me off the hook yesterday, as far as coming up with something new to start the week.  And by golly, I'm not going to do any more posts about my family on the weekends if what they say is really true!  (Say it ain't so!)

Anyhoo, you nice readers you, I've been sitting here at my laptop, procrastinating, feeling so NOT like a writer, killing time by checking in on every sort of social media with which I've become acquainted recently, and I decided to stop by my book's Amazon page to see if there's been any action there lately.  And--yippee!--there was a new review posted.  For ages, the number has been holding at 13, but here's what reviewer #14 had to say about Finding Grace:

******************
January 28, 2014
 
 5.0 out of 5 stars
 
Finding Grace is a well-told coming-of-age story about a young Catholic girl whose faith surrounds her at home, at school and among friends. It is also an introduction to the lives of quite a few saints--both well-known and more obscure--as it drives home the message that everyone is called to be a saint. The author does a good job describing the interior struggles of an adolescent girl who wants to be a saint AND to have a family AND to fall in love.
 
********************
 
Reading that positive review was just the boost I needed to get excited about writing again.  I'm going to come back here tomorrow morning and just wow you with a post that'll knock your socks off.  Well, maybe not.  But at least I'm going to try.
 
In the meantime, if you know any teenaged girls (or women who are girls at heart) who like to read about young love, and about young heartthrobs who look something like the subject of this very amateur sketch (in red ink--huh?), which was rendered back in 1975 by a lovesick teenaged girl...


I think what reviewer #14 is trying to say is you should tell them about Finding Grace.

See you tomorrow.  I will, I mean it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Happy 26th Birthday to Son #4

My fourth son is turning 26 today.  This is the third birthday post I've written in his honor since beginning this blog in the spring of 2011.  The first one appeared on this date in 2012, if you'd like to read that.  It pretty much tells you all you need to know about this sweet boy of mine--including my favorite story about the way he reacted when he first made his entrance into the world, all eleven-ish pounds of him, and met his mommy for the first time face-to-face.

Son #4--as I so have so imaginatively named him for the purposes of this blog--is incredibly funny (and I don't even quite know how to describe his keen and offbeat sense of humor), but he also has a very serious side.  He's a handsome, intelligent, talented, faith-filled, and successful young man, but he's also extremely humble and can even be a little too self-deprecating.  I would say his most endearing trait is that he remains a great big child at heart.  In a good way.

Here's how my boy looked at four.
Wasn't he a dapper little lad.?  Quite the little heartthrob, if you ask me.  (But if you think he went around all the time with his hair neatly slicked back like it is in this photo, you are sadly mistaken.)

Now here he is as he looks today, happy and in love, with his beautiful fiancée--who will be his bride in less than a month!--at his side.
I adore this boy.  But today I'm feeling a little betrayed by him...because how could he go and get all grown up like that, without even consulting me?!  This is something all five of my sons have done, and--sheesh!!--don't I get a say in it?

I'm just kidding, though.  All I have to do is look at this recent engagement shoot photo of son #4 with his soon-to-be better half, and I am reminded of how very, very blessed I am.  God gave me five sons to raise and to love; and now I've lived long enough to have the privilege of seeing three of them (so far!) find the women who will love them the way I love their father.

Happy Birthday, JRP!

Friday, January 24, 2014

7QTF: Seven Posts from the Old Days


I'm joining Sheenazing blogger Jen Fulwiler (et. al.) for her awesome Friday link-up extravaganza, but I'm not writing anything new for this post.  I do love to write; as Jen explained in her 7QTF post today, some of us have "the charism of writing (a charism being a gift from God that fills you with energy when you use it)", and I like to think I have this.  Well I must have it, I guess, because since I started String of Pearls back in March of 2011, I've published over 900 posts.  But if 10 people stopped by to read any one of my posts back in the old days, it was a good day.  And all you could hear in my comment box was the sound of crickets.  But I didn't really care--I knew very little about the wider world of blogging back then, and I was doing my little daily writing exercises because...well, because I just had to.  These days, I get a lot more "hits" and comments each day than I ever could have dreamed of when I was a blissfully ignorant newbie blogger.  So I suppose I've come a long way, relatively speaking.
(My blog profile pic, which I haven't changed since I started this blog.  And it was old then--taken in 2007.
But it's my favorite picture of me with my favorite sons.)

As I said, I'm not writing anything new today.  Instead, I'm going to re-post some oldies but (I hope) goodies.  I was still working to find my blogging "voice" when I wrote these, but here are some of my favorite posts from 2011.

-1-
This one is from 6/17/11.  The first time around, it got 12 page views and zero comments, but it's dear to me anyway.  I give you "Random Thoughts about Adorable Things."

-2-
And here's a post that came right after that one, on 6/18/11.  It also got 12 page views (most likely the same 12 relatives!) and zero comments, but I think it's a good one because it's about my favorite person in the world.  It's short and sweet, and it's called "An Early Happy Birthday to My Husband."

-3-
As a mother to all sons, I have been surrounded by lots of testosterone for a long, long time (until recent years, when two daughters-in-law and three granddaughters came along and injected the Pearl family which a much-needed shot of sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice).  The differences between the sexes has always fascinated me.  Ditto for anything old, antique, or vintage--especially old letters.  So this post from 8/13/11 (20 whole page views--a big day!--and zero comments) remains a favorite of mine: "Men Are from Mars, Women Like to Talk."

-4-
This one is dated 10/13/11; 8 page views, zero comments.  When I wrote it, I was still adjusting to being an empty-nester for the first time, because the youngest of my five sons had left a few months prior to begin his freshman year in college.  I was really "Missing My Baby Boy."

-5-
So, being the mother of all sons, I have learned a few things about the hairier sex.  On 10/15/11, I wrote this post on the topic, called "Boys Will Be Boys."  The first time around, it was read by 9, commented upon by zero.  But I like it because it's about my second oldest son, a wonderful high school teacher and football coach.

-6-
One thing I love to talk about on this blog is my three beloved granddaughters.  This post from 10/17/11 was only seen by 5 readers when I first posted it, and guess how many comments it received?  But if you want to see undeniable "Proof of Life" in the womb, you don't want to miss this one about the twins.

-7-
I couldn't decide which one of two favorite posts to use for Take #7; but then I decided to use both.  They're each short enough that they could be counted as half a post.  The first, originally published on 10/19/11, completely tickled my middle son.  He was one of the 12 who read it that day, and although my comment box was empty, he e-mailed me to give me a big thumb's up.  It's called "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover."

And as if that wasn't enough humor for you, check out my ridiculously outdated glasses in this post from 11/19/11, titled "Babies and Bad Fashion."  It got 10 hits back then (and you guessed it, zero comments)--now you can be the 11th person to read it!  It'll only take you a minute.

So that's what String of Pearls looked like back in 2011.  Three years later, I hope this blog isn't getting too tired-out and repetitive.  I mean, maybe this is the year I'll give it a new look; most of the blogs I read have updated their page designs since I've started following them.  But I have the same look going on that I did at the beginning (with a few do-dads and gizmos added onto the right side of the page).  Because I'm set in my ways and I resist change with every fiber of my being.  But we old folks can be like that!

Now off to Jen's with you, for offerings that were freshly written this very day for your reading pleasure.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What True Love Looks Like

With Valentine's Day on the horizon and its arrival awaited with starry-eyed anticipation, there are many young lovers out there who think that this is what true love looks like.
I mean, that's a very nice image and all.  And although this doesn't really look like us, because we're not big wine-drinkers, I do love going out with my husband and having a nice romantic dinner for two.  I loved it even more when we were raising little boys and being alone for ten minutes was a rarity.  But once in a while, I still enjoy sitting across the table from the love of my life and letting someone else cook and do the dishes for us.

But hand-holding over glasses of wine?  That's not what true love looks like.

Perhaps some think it looks like this.
But I've got to tell you, in the 33 years I've been married, my husband and I have never dreamily smelled a rose together.  And if I ever asked my husband to pose with me for such a ridiculous picture, he would refuse.  (And I would know that I'd married me a real man!  Because no matter how many times a man presents his sweetheart with a dozen long-stemmed roses, knowing how pleased she'll be by the gesture, he just doesn't get as excited about flowers as the guy in this photo.)

Now if you substitute the rose for a baby, then definitely, my husband and I have found ourselves striking poses very similar to this one over the years.  And if I had a picture of the two of us sniffing one of our boys' (or now one of our granddaughters') sweet little heads to show you, then that would be what true love looks like.

Except for in the movies, true love really doesn't look like this.
But don't get me wrong--I'll take the chocolates.  Any day, any time--it doesn't have to be Valentine's Day or Mother's Day or any special day.

True love doesn't look like this, either--although sparkly things are very nice to get.
And Valentine's cards are nice to get, too, but true love doesn't even look like this.


(But AWWWWWW, we're getting closer now!)

The other day, as I was scrolling down my Facebook news feed, I saw a picture that illustrates perfectly what true love looks like.  But before I show it to you, let me give you the backstory.

My husband's younger brother is an airline pilot (who--like my husband--can be gone for days at a time), and he and my sister-in-law live in CT and have been married for 30 years.  She absolutely hates winter, hates everything about it--hates the snow, hates the cold, hates the shoveling and the icy roads.  In spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact that she was raised in CT and is no stranger to the cruelty of Northeastern winters, she is always happiest when it's hot out.  Summer is her wheel house.  During heat waves, when it's in the 90's with 150% humidity and all of us are dying, she says with delight, "I love this!"  If she never had to don a winter coat again in her life, I think she'd be the happiest woman on earth.  She would wear a skort and a sleeveless shirt every single day, if only she could.

Well, the other day, CT got hit with a doozy of a snowstorm, and my brother-in-law (who takes care of the shoveling when he's home) was away on a trip, but due back that night.  So my sister-in-law bundled up and spent the day shoveling the driveway, so that he would be able to get his car in the garage when he got home.  But she did even more than that: knowing that he always keeps the patio out back shoveled off as well, she took care of that for him while she was at it.

Along with the posted picture, here's what her Facebook status said:  TahhhDahhhh!  Done and Done. And for those of you wondering... "Why the patio?" It's because my man always shovels the patio and when he gets home tonight, I don't want him to go out and do it... (I'm such a good wife...haha)

There's no "ha ha" about it--she is a good wife.  Because that's what true love is all about: it's about each person sacrificing himself for the other, and doing so with joy and without complaint.  It's about getting out there bundled up in a parka, when the thing you hate most in the world is being out in the cold, and shoveling the patio for your man--just so that when he gets home tired out from a trip, he doesn't have to do it himself.

So to me, this picture is what true love looks like.
Don't you agree?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WWRW: Dear God, I Don't Get It (It's Not Just for Kids!)


I'm glad to be back with my fellow bookies this Wednesday!  I haven't been reading all that much lately (gasp!  I know!), and I think it probably has something to do with the fact that I have so many other things I should be doing and so many other things on my mind, and therefore reading just for the fun of it has taken a back seat to everything else.  (Insert frowny emoticon here.  Because no reading = no fun.) 

For what seems like ages now, sitting atop the mile-high stack of books in my "to read" pile was a little gem called Dear God, I Don't Get It, a Catholic novel for middle school-aged readers by Patti Maguire Armstrong.
Patti was kind enough to have her publisher send me a free paperback copy when she found out I wanted to review it for CatholicFiction.net.  I am normally very shy about asking authors for copies of their books, and instead buy books that I want to read anyway and then write reviews using my personal stash.  But having been sent a complimentary copy of this wonderful book a few months ago, and wanting desperately to do a good job of promoting a work by a Catholic author I really admire, I developed a severe case of not only writer's block...but reader's block (if there is such a thing).  I knew that this should be the first book I tackled, once the holidays were over, but I kept putting it off--even though it's a slim volume and I'm a fast reader.  And I didn't feel right reading other books before I read this one--that seemed sort of disloyal somehow.  So, I just sort of...stopped reading.

I'm happy to report that although I sat down to read Patti's book a week or two ago and then got distracted by life and put it down, I started it again last night and pretty much devoured it in one sitting.  This book is not only great for your middle school-aged child, moms; it's also great for YOU.  It's so well-written, and so humorous at times, and so filled with the beautiful teachings of our Faith...well, maybe I should let the review I wrote up this morning do the talking for me.  So here it is:

I have just finished Patti Maguire Armstrong’s delightful and insightful Catholic novel for young readers, Dear God, I Don’t Get It, and before I say another word, I have one very important question to ask: where was Armstrong’s book fifteen or twenty years ago, when I was raising my five sons?!  I sure would have liked to see them bringing this gem home at book report time, instead of some of the mainstream, secular award-winning books that were stocked in their Catholic elementary school’s library.
Dear God, I Don’t Get It is such a winning combination of entertainment and enlightenment, and as the mother of all sons, I especially appreciate the fact that it’s told from the perspective of a young boy.  It has been my experience that so much of the modern fiction aimed at youngsters is written to appeal more to readers of the feminine persuasion—but this story is one that both boys and girls can enjoy in equal measure.

The protagonist and narrator of Dear God, I Don’t Get It is 12-year-old sixth-grader Aaron Ajax, the oldest in a family of three brothers.  He introduces us to the rest of his family members, and even to their pets.  Of Leonardo the parakeet he says, “I had just taught him to say ‘pretty bird’ and ‘good morning.’  He had taught himself to say, ‘It wasn’t me.’  I guess he’d heard it enough around our house that he’d picked it up on his own.”  Hearing those simple words, we know that the Ajax family is a normal one that includes spirited and sometimes naughty little boys.  But Aaron also tells us that his family has recently gone from being somewhat apathetic in their faith—sometimes even missing Sunday Mass when it was inconvenient—to truly putting God first in their lives.

The Ajax family has had a good life in Kalispell, Montana, and Aaron is surrounded by longtime childhood friends, including a best friend from his first day in kindergarten.  Therefore, he is distraught to find out that his dad has lost his job—and now that he’s found a new one, it means that the family must move from the only home he’s ever known to Bismarck, North Dakota, where he will be the dreaded “new kid” in school.
Aaron prayed that this wouldn’t happen; why didn’t God listen to his prayers?  And that is the underlying question posed by Armstrong’s book: why does it seem that so often, our prayers aren’t answered the way we want them to be?

Aaron goes through some cringe-worthy experiences as he adjusts to his new life in North Dakota.  He longs to be both a saint and a hero—inspired by the books he’s read about such individuals—but falls into the age-old human trap of rationalizing his actions, of thinking that the ends justify the means.  As his life seems to be spiraling downward, he begins to doubt that God is listening; yet he continues to pray for help and guidance, to trust that God must have a plan for him.

Luckily, Aaron has the kind of parents who have passed on the Truths of the Catholic Faith to their boys.  And luckily, his wise and caring parents expect him to live up to a higher standard, but at the same remember what it was like to be young and don’t mete out unreasonably severe punishments for the mistakes he makes.  What’s beautiful is the way Armstrong reminds us, through Aaron’s father’s words to his oldest son, that we must put ourselves in our Father’s hands, with childlike confidence: “It helps if you turn your troubles over to God instead of carrying the burden alone…Many times when I haven’t gotten what I wanted, down the road I saw that in God’s wisdom, he gave me something better.”
Thanks in large part to his parents’ loving guidance, Aaron Ajax is changed by the end of the story, even though it takes place over a very short period in his young life.  Ultimately, he sees that God can use all things—even the bad things that happen—for good.  Aaron not only learns to accept God’s will, but he also learns the true meaning of being a hero.

Armstrong’s book is humorous at times, and exceedingly well-written, and her characters are fleshed-out and utterly real.  The story draws the reader in (even this adult reader, who found as much to enjoy in it as any middle-schooler), and it imparts some serious Catholic theology, morality lessons, and information about the lives of the saints—but it does all this without preaching from atop a soapbox or cramming those lessons down the reader’s throat.

Every kid who reads Dear God, I Don’t Get It will be able to relate to Aaron’s difficulties and the way he struggles with his faith when things don’t go his way; and every adult will do the same, and be reminded of the need to understand that when we pray, we must pray that God’s will be done, not ours.
Highly recommended!

I love everything about this book--even the delightful illustrations on the cover and sprinkled throughout the book.  (And good news--this is the first in a three book series.  Dear God, You Can't Be Serious, due out in the spring of 2014, is the next installment in the trilogy.)

Now check out the titles over at Jessica's.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Joining up with Other Catholic Bloggers

Today I joined the Catholic Bloggers Network (at least I think I did--I'm not exactly sure if I did it correctly!), adding my little "String of Pearls" to a list that includes over 600 bloggers who write about faith, homeschooling, parenthood, family life, and any number of issues near and dear to the hearts of Catholic blog readers.  (I'm way down on the list, at #640!)  You might want to head over there to see what they have to say.
Because today, I don't have much to say...but I have much to DO.

Today the Christmas decorations are coming down.  Which will actually take several days, probably, and I don't look forward to it; but I must begin this bittersweet process.

And I'm finally going to finish reading Patti Armstrong's novel for young readers, Dear God, I Don't Get It, so that I can write a review for Goodreads, Amazon, and CatholicFiction.net.  With any luck, that review will also make a good "What We're Reading Wednesday" post (a weekly Housewifespice link-up) for tomorrow.  Two birds killed.  One stone.

And I've got to go out to JoAnn's to purchase some fleece material with dinosaurs on it, because my #4 son has a birthday in a few days and I'm working on a present for him--and after all, don't all men who are turning 26 want dinosaur-print fleece blankies for their birthdays?

And I've got to sew up some new satin sashes for the two flower girl dresses I made a few months ago--because my little twin granddaughters, who were flower girls in son #3's wedding in early December and wore navy blue sashes on their ivory-colored dresses, are going to be flower girls for the second time in their young lives, in son #4's wedding in late February; but this time around, their sashes must be champagne-colored.   While I'm at it, I'm going to try to make a matching champagne-colored satin dress for their little sister--who will be celebrating her first birthday on the day of the nuptials!  So I've got to sit down at my sewing machine and get cracking!

Okay, so Catholic Bloggers Network: check it out.  You just might uncover some gems you didn't even know were out there!

Monday, January 20, 2014

St. Walburga, Pray for Me!

Last year, I went on Jennifer Fulwiler's Conversion Diary blog and used her Saints Name Generator to have it choose a special patron for me for 2013.  I got miracle-worker and stigmatist St. Padre Pio, a great and well-known saint of the modern era.  He was randomly chosen for me--and then amazingly, it seemed that he was sending me little messages throughout the year.  We routinely receive stacks of mailings from different Catholic groups and charities, this is true; but believe me when I tell you that we got way more Padre Pio-inspired goodies in the mail than I could ever remember getting before the year 2013.  We got prayer cards, packets of healing oil from the Padre Pio shrine, Rosary rings with relics embedded...it was eerie how often this saint appeared in our mailbox, reminding me to pray extra hard to him for all of my various intentions.
Yesterday, I saw that the new Saints Name Generator for 2014 was up, so I thanked Padre Pio for his love and protection in 2013 and gave the wheel another spin.  This year, my special patron saint is St. Walburga, who is obviously a lot less well-known than my 2013 patron.  Born in England, St. Walburga is the daughter of St. Richard the King.  She became a nun, and then an abbess, and in the 8th century, she evangelized and healed pagans in what is now Germany.  Although I knew the story of King Richard, the Crusader who became a canonized saint, I'd never heard a single thing about his daughter Walburga (and my first thought was that, as I've mentioned before, there appears to be a saint behind almost every unconventional, offbeat-sounding name an expectant Catholic couple could come up with for their as-yet-unnamed baby!).

Walburga helps those who suffer from coughs, dog bites, famine, hydrophobia, mad dogs, plague, and rabies.  She is the patron saint of boatmen, farmers, harvests, mariners, and sailors.  Her feast is celebrated on February 25.
If you'd like to have a Heavenly protector chosen for you, to help you and guide you throughout the coming year, you should give Jen's Saints Name Generator a whirl.  There's a special friend up there who can't wait to watch over you in 2014, I just know it!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Baby No Longer...

Well, my youngest son turned 21 yesterday.  I think it's safe to say that he's a baby no longer...but he's always going to be MY baby.
Sometimes, I am almost at a loss as to how I can adequately put into words just how wonderful this son is.  I love to write about him; this post from two years ago, on the occasion of his birthday, is a favorite of mine. 

You will think I am exaggerating and seeing things through incredibly opaque and decidedly rose-colored glasses when I tell you that he has given his father and me pretty much complete joy (with pretty much no requirement for disciplinary measures) his entire life.  (Aside from a year-long phase of throwing temper tantrums periodically, from age 3 to age 4--but you can hardly count that.  And he went into that brief lion's phase as docile as a lamb, then came out the other end as sweet and compliant as ever.) 

This son never acted like the spoiled baby--even though when he came along, we had four older boys ages 5 through 9, and he could have played the baby card to the hilt.  Instead, he couldn't wait to be "one of the guys"; to be in on his big brothers' teasing jokes; to follow in his heroes' footsteps in all things--playing football and lacrosse and attending the same high school where they'd made a name for the Pearl family.  He idolized them and used them as his role models, in his humility never knowing that in his own right, he is a role model for any young man.  He is the most even-keeled, sweet, obedient, hard-working, responsible, intelligent, funny kid.  He's never the loudest person in the room, but he makes friends wherever he goes.  I think his peers are drawn to his genuine goodness. 

This son of mine would probably be embarrassed if he read this (but I doubt he will, because he's not a regular follower of my blog--which is perhaps the only weakness in his character--he he he); but truly, he is a rare soul.  He was always more grown up-acting than his age.  As a small boy, he seemed like an old sage trapped in a wee child's body.  As a middle-schooler, I can't count the number of times on a Friday night that he would ask his dad or me if we would be able to drive him over to church for Confession the next afternoon; then after he turned 16 and got his driver's license, I can't count the number of times he would appear all cleaned up, wearing khakis and a nice polo shirt on a Saturday afternoon, ready to drive himself over to Confession.  And this urge to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis was--and is--just part of his make-up, because it's not like we were ever constantly on his back to do it.

I say this about my boys a lot--about different ones at different times--but when I grow up, I want to be just like my youngest son.

We were able to Face-time with him yesterday, before he went out for the night to enjoy a legal alcoholic beverage or two with his 21-and-over buddies at school, and the conversation started with a dose of humor.  My husband and I said "Happy Birthday!"--and with a big smile on his cute mug our boy responded automatically, "Yeah, Happy Birthday!  Woops, I mean...ha ha."  We all started to laugh about his faux pas and we quoted comedian Brian Regan: "You don't know how to use the 'you, too' phrase!"  It was so funny. 

Wait, you do know what I'm talking about, right?  If not, here's a YouTube clip of one of our favorite comedians (Jim Gaffigan being the other), a nice Irish Catholic boy whose humor is absolutely G-rated and absolutely hilarious.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2-5mDyCKac

Here's a picture of the almost all-grown-up birthday boy from this past Christmas, with his dear old dad.
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading about my adorable son and listening to that adorable comedy sketch.  Now I'm off to be a loyal wife and watch the Patriots-Broncos game with my hubby.  I hope you've got plans as exciting as ours on this restful Sunday afternoon.

And I hope you're rooting for Tom Brady today (although I know it's hard not to root for that sweet Southern boy, Peyton--he's supposed to be the enemy here in NE, but I secretly like him way more than I should).

And hey, take luck!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Technology Plus Me Equals Disaster

Well, the word "disaster" might be just a wee tad dramatic.  But it's true that when you put me together with any sort of newfangled technological device (laptop computers--they're still considered cutting edge, aren't they?), weird and unexpected things begin to happen.  Sometimes, when my laptop is acting all glitchy and misbehaving in explicable ways, my husband will look at me and ask, "What did you DO?"  My answer is always the same: "I don't KNOW."  Whenever I try to recreate the step-by-step process by which my computer has gotten completely messed up, I can never remember exactly which buttons I've pushed or icons I've clicked, or in what order I did so.  It all becomes a hazy, stress-inducing blur.

My poor long-suffering husband has had to fix any number of problems for me, and I think at this point he could show the Geek Squad over at Best Buy a thing or two.

Anyhoo--this morning, I was looking at my Twitter feed...

Hold the [old-school, rotary-dial] phone, right?  Yes, I opened up a Twitter account.  I mentioned that already on this blog, but if you didn't happen to read this post, then you might not have been aware that this old dog has been learning some new tricks lately--"learning" being the operative word here, because I can hardly call myself a tweeting aficionado yet.

I had no plans to ever dive into the Twitter-verse (ever!), having all I can do to keep up with blogging, Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn (yes, LinkedIn!!  I know, right?).  There was no way I was going to add another confusing form of social media to my already overflowing plate.

But I did.

Hey, everyone's doing it!
Well, I've only been on Twitter long enough to post about 20 or so tweets, and already I'm not sure if I belong there.  My very nice friend Aileen, who has been visiting this blog lately and leaving the kindest comments, tweeted a photo of herself holding a copy of Finding Grace yesterday.  "Look what came in the mail today," she said.  I was so pleased by her gesture that I re-tweeted her tweet, and I pushed the "favorite" button.  Then I did a stupid thing: I was wondering what the "flag" button was for, and I pushed it without thinking.  Unfortunately, it seems that once a photo has been flagged, it can't be un-flagged.  At least I was not able to un-flag it.  I might be wrong, but I believe people only flag photos when they are inappropriate or pornographic, so that Twitter will remove them if they are deemed too offensive.  Oh, no...I don't think even my husband can fix this blooper for me.

So today I'm here to say I'm so sorry, Aileen!  I'm not very good at Twitter.  I'm a nit-Twit!  If I've called negative attention to that innocent photo of you holding my book, I apologize.  It was so sweet of you to post it on Twitter!

Well, that's it for now, readers.

Sheephishly yours,
Laura

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Something to Ponder, While You Have Yourself a Little Snackerel

I should try to accomplish a few tasks today, tasks that I've been putting off due to inertia or laziness, or the fact that I'm a really, really skilled procrastinator.  I just don't have the energy to put together a good blog post for you today.  I wish I had more wonderful insights to impart before I sign off to get to work, but I must tell you...I'm no Winnie-the-Pooh.

Pooh Bear is my favorite philosopher, which I've mentioned before--here, for instance, and here, and here...

I mean, you've just got to love that silly old bear and the way he floats through life with nary a care.
 
Would that we could all be more like Pooh!

I tend to let the cares of the world get to me too often, to worry about a future I can't control; but that's just human nature, I guess.  Or my nature, anyway.  My blogging (as well as real life) friend Kate tackled this topic in a recent blog post.  She writes,  "The strength I draw from prayer is enormous, a sense of stillness and comfort completely envelops me as I direct my worried thoughts to God."

So that's the answer, dear readers: prayer, prayer, and more prayer--and faith that God will help us get through the trying times and face the unsure future--that spooky "phantom"!--with serenity. 

(Oh, and maybe a little dose of Pooh's wisdom every now and then, too.  That could certainly never hurt.  And neither could a snackerel of something sweet, to keep your tumbly from getting too rumbly.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

These Are a Few (or Five, to Be Exact) of My Favorite Things

I haven't done a "Five Favorites" post, a Wednesday staple for many lady bloggers whose sites I frequent regularly, in quite a while.  But lately, it seems like I want to go around singing "These are a few of my favorite things" at the top of my not-quite-tone-deaf, but definitely-not-Julie Andrews-quality lungs...so I thought I ought to join Hallie et. al. today and share a few of my most recent favorites with you!

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My husband and I got some wonderful gifts this Christmas.  One of my favorites (and his, too) was something my extremely thoughtful and creative daughter-in-law, Regina (who is married to my oldest son), came up with.  The gift was a year-long subscription to a very special and exclusive artwork of the month club.   Regina took a 12-inch square plywood picture frame, with an off-center opening for a 5 X 7-inch photo of our three darling granddaughters, painted it, and added letters that spelled out "Little Pearl Art Club."  She glued two clothes pins on the bottom for the purpose of holding precious pieces of paper which she promised would be coming in the mail each month.  The card that came with this gift read: "Merry Christmas, Papa and Grammy!  And congratulations--you are the lucky recipients of a year-long membership to the Little Pearl Art Club.  Each month you will receive a new piece of artwork (original) by [one of your three granddaughters] and can display it on your Little Pearl Art Club Gallery, if you wish.  Enjoy your subscription and these priceless works of art."
 
Is that not THEE GREATEST GIFT A PAPA OR A GRAMMY COULD EVER WISH FOR?  It's a favorite, you betcha.
 
And yesterday, we received our first piece of artwork in the mail, an original masterpiece by one of our two-and-a-half-year-old twin granddaughters.  My daughter-in-law's note said: "January 2014--Your first piece of artwork from the Little Pearl Art Club is an original by [Cutie Pie] Pearl.  The medium used was tempera paint.  Toilet paper rolls were used to give a circular effect.  Enjoy."
We will!  We will!  And we can hardly wait for the next installment!
 
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Have you ever heard of Alex and Ani bangle bracelets?  Before Christmas, I hadn't.  But my other daughter-in-law, Preciosa (who married son #3 in December), gave me one as a gift this year, and I am now a huge fan.  She chose a gold-toned bangle with a Notre Dame Fighting Irish leprechaun charm on it, and I just love it!  It's a favorite already--I wear it every day.  It's expandable, stackable, and incredibly comfortable to wear. 

I loved it so much, in fact, that I decided I really needed (yes, needed) to get another Alex and Ani bangle to wear along with the ND one.  There's an Alex and Ani store in a town about 20 minutes from where we live, and I drove over there yesterday to see what they had.  I ended up getting myself another gold-toned bangle with a Miraculous Medal charm on it.  I'm just tickled with it--especially because when I remove the Miraculous Medal I wear around my neck (when I'm wearing a scoop-necked dress and pearls, for instance), I like to wear one somewhere else on my person.  I don't like to be without this devotional at any time.  Now, if I take off my Miraculous Medal necklace, I can wear this Alex and Ani "Mother Mary" charm on my wrist.
Alex and Ani jewelry is made in the good old US of A (God bless America!) out of recycled materials.  In spite of their New Agey-sounding "positive energy" marketing slogan, they sell many items that include Catholic saints and other religious symbols.  I recommend a trip to their site--you might find a favorite piece of jewelry there, too.
 
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Having daughters-in-law--talk about a favorite!  It's been so wonderful having young women join our family: two so far, and a third will be welcomed into the fold in about a month!  (Weddings of sons--another favorite!  I have so many favorites, it's hard to limit it to five!)  These young ladies are much more than just thoughtful, generous, and creative gift-givers; they are my daughters.  This has been so special for me, having these girls to love, after raising only sons.
With Regina, Christmas 2011.
 
That's Preciosa on the right, with me and her soon-to-be sister-in-law,
 at my soon-to-be-daughter-in-law's recent bridal shower.
(I'm working on a blog moniker for the new addition.)
 
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Have you ever heard of eShakti?  This is my new favorite place to buy dresses!  If you haven't done so yet, you really must check out their site!  They sell the most lovely, modest, well-made dresses for women.  They're feminine and have a vintage look about them.  Recently, my daughter-in-law Regina told me she'd gone on there and used a $30 coupon to buy a dress.  You can order straight sizes, but she chose to send in her measurements to have hers custom-made, and she said it was the best-fitting dress she'd ever owned.  You can also change the sleeve length, neckline, and hem length of most of the styles--which is so fantastic, because I can't tell you how many times I've loved a dress at the mall but didn't buy it because it fell above the knee, and I really prefer to wear dresses that fall below the knee.  Well, at eShakti, it's up to you!  You can have a mini, a knee-length, a below knee-length, a tea-length or an ankle-length dress made out of a style you like.
 
For my first purchase, I used the first-time-buyer $30 coupon to order this gorgeous dress to wear to my #4 son's rehearsal dinner in February.  I chose to have the short sleeves lengthened so that they go down to the elbow.  What I didn't choose to do was to send in my measurements and have the dress custom-fitted, unfortunately.  I think I was embarrassed to have to give my waist size (which was never small, even before I gave birth to some oversized baby boys)--I figured I would be fine in the off-the-rack size I normally wear.  So...because I wasn't willing to reveal my measurements, to dressmakers whom I'll never meet in my life and who couldn't care less about my numbers, my dress is quite snug in the waist. I can zip it up, but barely.  If I had given my waist measurement, admitting the extra inch of room I needed, it would have been a perfect fit.  Now, I'll have to lose about five pounds if I want to be able to breathe in this dress at the rehearsal dinner.  Lesson learned.  My advice to you is if you go on the eShakti site to order a dress, pay the extra $7.50 to have it made-to-order.  I'm sure you won't regret it.
 
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A positive review for my novel, Finding Grace, that's a favorite, I must humbly admit--especially when it comes from an unexpected source.
 
My book is targeted at females, mostly--both adult women and teenaged girls.  That's not to say that a man couldn't enjoy it.  But so far, the only men who have read it and raved about it happen to be some guys who are extremely close to me: my husband and two of my grown sons.  Although I believe they really did like the book, I can't help but wonder if their feelings were in part influenced by their affection for me.  Also, they are faithful, practicing Catholics and this is an unapologetically Catholic book.  It shows the beauty and Truth of the Faith, and the way those who live according to God's will and His laws are happier and more at peace. 
 
My younger brother (less than two years behind me in our family of five) has not been practicing the Faith as an adult, but he read the book recently and said that in spite of that--and also in spite of the fact that he's not a teenaged girl--he loved it.  He Facebook messaged me out of the blue about a week ago to tell me that he was reading it and that although it took about 85 pages for "its teeth to sink in," he was hooked and looking for every opportunity to read it.  He actually said, "I love it!"  You can't imagine what this review from my little brother meant to me!  More than some of the reviews I've gotten from professional writers, even.  Then yesterday, I got a follow-up Facebook message from him, telling me he'd finished it.  "I laughed and I cried (don't tell anyone!!).  I'm left waiting for the next novel by my new favorite author.  Please tell me there's another one brewing...Seriously, are you considering another?"
 
Blown away, that's what I am; utterly and completely blown away.  I never thought my little brother would even read Finding Grace, much less enjoy it as much as he said he did.  Sometimes, when I consider how fast this book is not selling, I slip into the bad habit of judging its success by worldly standards and thinking the whole undertaking was a bit ridiculous of me.  But then I get a review like this one...and I feel that perhaps this book is truly meant to touch just a handful of people (which is the way I thought of it when I was working on it).  And perhaps, just perhaps, its work is done already.
 
Okay, time to head over to Hallie's to see what other favorites bloggers are excited about sharing with you.





Monday, January 13, 2014

7QTF: Snapshots of Boys to Men (Not to Be Confused with Boyz II Men)


I'm a little late to the 7 Quick Takes Friday party--but on Friday, I spent most of the day traveling down to VA to attend a bridal shower for son #4's lovely fiancée.  Before I left, very, very early in the a.m., I published a post I had all ready to go in my "drafts" pile, so that my husband wouldn't be disappointed when he checked later on to see if I'd blogged that day.  (It was bad enough that I had gone off and left him for the weekend [sniff, sniff]; the least I could do was to make sure he had that link between us that he looks forward to whenever we're apart.)  But I was really hoping to link up with the Takers over at Jen's as well.  So here I am, a few days late and mucho dollars short.
 
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Two of my sons (#3 and #4) live together down in VA.  Well, actually they no longer live together, because son #3 got married in December and he now shares a cozy little apartment on the grounds of the UVA campus with his beautiful new bride, Preciosa.  But until that happened, for the past couple of years the boys shared first a condo and then a house owned by their aunt.  Son #4 is still in the house, which he is now sharing with both of the brothers' big old lovable mutts...and a whole lot of dog hair.  When she heard I was coming to the shower, my sister-in-law invited me to stay with her a few doors down from my boy; but when I arrived, I was touched to see that he'd washed some sheets just for me, to put on the double bed in what used to be the master bedroom where his older brother slept when they were bachelor pad-dwellers together.  So he had clean sheets ready, and plenty of K-cups for the Keurig--so of course I decided to stay with my son.  How could I resist an invitation like that--especially when I know that although he rarely changes the sheets on the bed he shares with the two dogs, he had changed them for me?  That, my fellow moms, is an offer that is much too good to refuse.

This is the way my two VA boys look now (in a photo take on December 7, when son #4 on the left was best man at his older brother's wedding): they are strapping lads, well over 6 feet tall, with smiles that melt this mother's heart.
 
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But their smiles always did melt me.  When I was down there staying at my son's place in VA, I came across a little photo album I'd made for son #3 years ago, and I grew very nostalgic flipping through its pages.  Let me show you these two boys (now men), in grainy snapshots from the pre-digital camera age.  They were always the best of buddies growing up, as you'll be able to plainly see.

That's son #3 on the right in this photo from 1988, the day we brought his baby brother home from the hospital.  While our oldest (who was 4) admired and patted the new baby softly, our 21-month-old mama's boy wasn't so sure about the whole thing.  Not sure at all.  But it didn't take long before his father and I were calling him and the new addition "Frick and Frack," because they were so inseparable.

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Six months later, here are the besties.  This one kills me.  Not long after this photo was taken in the summer of 1988, son #4 (who was almost 11 pounds and over 2 feet in length at birth) weighed the same as his lanky older brother.
 

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Fast forward to 1990.  Where one goes, the other follows.
Is it me, or are little boys with mussy hair the cutest things ever?

-5-
Here's a winner from Christmas 1990.  Some might say these two look like they were dressed for an "ugly sweater" party.  But I say is it me, or are little boys dressed up to go to their older brothers' school Christmas concert the cutest things ever?  A dapper duo they were, indeed.

-6-
This 1991 shot absolutely cracks me up.  Son #3 (right) was 5 years old and his little sidekick was about 3-and-a-half, and they were champing at the bit to follow in their older brothers' footsteps and go to school.  I got them these backpacks when I went back-to-school shopping for sons #1 and #2, and they dutifully carried their toys and other essentials around in them, happy as clams to be like the "big guys."
 

-7-
These two boys were always there for each other, for every milestone and significant event in each other's lives.  Here they are in 1993, celebrating son #3's 7th birthday.

And they continue to be there for each other now that they're men--as the first photo up there illustrates.
 
[Sigh...]  [Deep sigh...]
 
Thanks for indulging me, dear readers, while I took that little stroll down my favorite street, Memory Lane.  I probably do this sort of thing a bit too often on this blog.  But I am one of the few Catholic "mom bloggers" that I've come across in my cyber-travels whose children are all grown-up and out on their own, so I suppose that gives me a different perspective to share.  I think, however, that sometimes I sound somewhat maudlin when I reminisce, and if so I must apologize.  I don't want any readers who are currently wrangling toddlers and nursing precious newborns to dread the passing of time and be obsessed with the idea that before they know it, their babies won't be babies anymore.  Because although that's true (as you may have heard, time does fly!), there is much more to rejoice about when you witness this circle-of-life phenomenon than there is to lament.  All I have to do to remind myself that trying to stop the clock would be the worst thing in the world is to think about the boy-now-man who washed sheets for me this weekend, hoping I would be a guest in his house, and his best friend, the boy-now-man who is at once a doting son and a doting husband.  All I have to do is to look at the picture up there in Take #1, and I realize how very abundantly I have been blessed!
 
Now head on over to Jen's for more Quick Takes--from bloggers who got theirs posted in a timelier fashion than I did.