Monday, December 31, 2007

Baby!


Paula Kathleen
"Polly"
born at home December 31, 2007 1:21 AM
8 lbs, 0 oz

born hand first (!), reaching out to explore the world already, and with a full head of black hair, a first for us.

As usual with newborn pictures, the photo does not do her cuteness justice.

Mother and baby are doing well.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

An Explanation of the Names:
Paula after St. Paula, friend of St. Jerome and collaborator with him on the Vulgate Translation.
Also in honor of the upcoming Year of St. Paul (2008-2009) to be proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.

"Polly" after Lady Polly Plummer of Narnia :)

Kathleen after her paternal grandmother.

Thanks for all your prayers and good wishes!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Nativity 2007


Blessed Christmas!

I keep hoping that my next post will be a baby post, but I am now two days overdue, and the baby is not yet coming, so I might as well make a Christmas post during the Twelve Days while I wait and quilt and wait...

One cherished treasure from my growing-up years was a little porcelain Napcoware Nativity scene which I received for my confirmation. Alas, when my car was broken into during the time I lived in New York City, it was among the things that were stolen. Unlike most of the things from my trunk, though, I really missed this Nativity scene. Then several years ago, I was able to replace the set, thanks to Ebay. So every year I particularly enjoy setting it up on my dresser with different background pieces, and occaisonally showing off a new acquisition (there are approximately eight other figures that could be part of the set which I still don't have - ah, the thrill of the hunt).

This year during my pregnancy I was fortunate to receive a "blessing party" from my friends in Classical Conversations, hosted by my friend Doran whose ministry, Blessing God's Way, ministers to women with special ceremonies during the onset of maidenhood, pregnancy, and menopause. As part of my "shower", Doran presented me with a tray of sand set with candles, one for each friend who attended the blessing. During the ceremony, each woman lit a candle, set it in the tray, and shared a prayer, story, poem, or gift from the heart about pregnancy. It was truly a wonderful time, and if you've never heard of this ministry, feel free to check it out.


Well, the tray made a perfect and fitting backdrop for this year's little Nativity. When labor starts, I'll light the candles again and remember the prayers.

I forget which friend gave me the "Pax Et Bonum" tile (one of my Franciscan friends, I believe) but it's become a welcome holiday background, along with some pretty Christmas cards, books (Trianon, by Elena Maria Vidal), and two elves with candles on a striped box. (Someday I shall hunt down the angels holding candles who really go with the set, maybe next year!)

And since I myself was born on the eve of the Feast of the Ephiphany, I have a special place in my heart for the three kings, who are journeying here towards Bethlehem atop a cinnamon bark box from my mother. The vintage cover of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis books, The Pilgrim's Regress, ripped, so I added it to the display. You can't see the postcard of Galahad seeing the Holy Grail (our Christmas theme this year was "Knights") and the memory book from the shower that Doran made me, but they're also there, adding to the festivity.

Ah, I am rambling. But indulge me as I enjoy these Christmas days and sit back, waiting for my Christmas baby to come.

Peace and good,
Regina

Thursday, December 20, 2007

St. Lucy's Breakfast



"This is the shortest Advent ever!" one of my girls exclaimed yesterday. I am inclined to agree: due to upheavals in moving rooms around, we couldn't find our Advent calendar or Advent wreath until last week. And while the Advent Calendar is at last in its familiar place, there's no room for our hanging Advent wreath, due to new light fixtures. So we are wreath-less in the fourth week of Advent, a telling sign as to how behind we are.

For instance, I meant to post this photo of our St. Lucy's morning breakfast by the fire last week, but only got to it now... I actually had a few other Advent posts I never got to. I will mention how glad I was that I did manage to find our little Lucy doll. We purchased her from Magic Cabin Dolls last year, and she oversaw the holiday table with the help of an overturned pot and some plasti-tak. Our main course was Monkey Bread (eaten too fast to be photographed), which my husband and oldest daughter delight in making. Since my oldest daughter is a budding cook but not an actress, she refuses to wear the white dress and lighted crown while serving us. So little St. Lucy stands for her instead. :)



So Advent marches on. Though I do have gifts all wrapped and am making preparations for the upcoming labor and delivery, of course not everything else is done. The rest just must fall where it will. Please pray for a safe birth for our new little one, and if this is the last you hear from me before Christmas, so be it. So many things that happen to us as mothers are out of our control: labor and the time of birth being only the most prominent. Christmas, like the Parousia, will come whether or not we are prepared. All we can do is do our best to be ready.

Peace to your final preparations,

Regina

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Book With Santa as Saint

While pondering a few years ago why my children have never seemed to have difficulty understanding that Santa Claus was actually St. Nicholas, I came across this book in our bookshelf, which I had purchased for my oldest son his first Christmas: Country Angel Christmas by Tomie De Paola. Then I realized that perhaps this oversized thin picture book is part of the reason.

De Paola is a great storyteller whose greatness does not lie in his consistency. Some of his books, like The Clown of God or Our Lady of Guadalupe, are masterpieces. Others are forgettable fluff. This book, as a story, is somewhat in between, though I think the illustrations are among his best, particularly if you are fond of country-style-simplicity. This lightweight, pleasant story is set in Heaven among the "Country Angels," a homier and humbler brand of angelic being, whose friend is St. Nicholas.

Although he is only part of the background, serving as a friendly mentor to the young trio of angelic heroes, St. Nicholas is clearly at home in Heaven, where he dresses like a lumberjack and drives a horse-drawn cart. But on Christmas Eve he dons his familiar suit and sets out to visit the children on earth. In this book, Heaven has Santa's snow and reindeer, but is much nicer than the North Pole. And at the end of the story, De Paola gives a nod to the iconic kneeling Santa as the angels join St. Nicholas in the stable to kneel before an unseen but radiant Christ Child.

De Paola smoothly links American folk tradition with Catholic tradition as he sets his Santa in Christ's Kingdom with a subtlety that escapes super-piety by its very naturalness. What better way to subtly form your child's imagination. This book is out of print, but can be found on Amazon and other sites.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

St. Nicholas Day preparations


Tonight is the night when your children may exhibiting extra-good behavior combined with a sudden rare desire to locate both of their shoes, for tonight is the Eve of St. Nicholas. We found that once you surprise your children with candy in their shoes for the first time, the yearly ritual quickly establishes itself. So, if your family celebrates St. Nicholas day, you as a parent will probably be readying some shoe-sized treats for stealthy delivery late tonight.

My typical tradition is to give books, usually from the annual library sale. Here is a picture of last year's toddler shoes. I was lucky with my candy finds: the church bazaar sold candy canes decorated with marshmallow Christmas figures and chocolate cake-lollipops. Also in the shoes was a frosted gingerbread cookie and a jingle-bell bracelet, respectively made by my two oldest girls.

This year I'm packing the shoes with discounted lunchboxes from a fall school sale. I just hope I have enough gingerbread cookies!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Small Gift for a Small Girl


Last Christmas, I decided to buy my older girls "heirloom quality" dolls, as they were both reaching the age where they can take better care of their playthings. Plus, (deep sigh) I know that my oldest girl's time with dolls is limited as she will pass the age of ten this coming year. I chose Nova Natural's Peruvian-made dolls as their present. The dolls were an investment, but they are still gorgeous, have held up well after a year's worth of playing, and the girls still refer to them affectionately.

The problem was that my youngest daughter, age 2, loves the dolls as well, but I wasn't so willing to buy her a 14" doll. First of all, there was the cost: secondly, from a beauty-lover's point of view, a larger doll just doesn't look right being hauled around by a toddler. So I went hunting for a smaller doll.

And once again, Nova Natural solved my problem by choosing to introduce the Kusi doll this year. I snuck my doll out of its Christmas wrapping paper to give you all a sneak peek.

This sweet little wool-stuffed doll is made by the same cooperative of Peruvian moms as the larger dolls, and has the same fine quality. The hair is braidable and tightly sewn to the head: she's fully jointed, something that I know, as a dollmaker, is tricky to pull off! Plus she comes with a removable jumper, shirt, underpants, as well hand-knitted socks. And she's petite: a mere 9 1/4" tall.

A word on the price: while I know the price is still high, the doll is comparable in price to the German-made Kathe Kruse dolls, plus the money goes into the pockets of hardworking moms in Peru instead of into the coffers of an international toy conglomerate.

Anyhow, I honestly can't wait to see my daughter open up her box on Christmas morning and see this little one. God bless your Christmas shopping!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Preparing for the Baby...

You would think that after having six kids, babies would become "old hat." But the paradox is that each sucessive baby becomes more precious. Is it because you recognize how short a time babyhood actually is? I feel as though I spent all my time with my first baby anxiously awaiting milestones: lifting the head, rolling over, crawling, walking... But now, I'm more delighted in the baby just being an infant, small, helpless, utterly adorable.

And with every new baby, I try to gather a few things that are special and new just for them. As I prepare for my December 27 due date, here are a few things I'm setting aside: a silk-and-wool infant cap from Nova Natural. It's dreamily soft and finely made. A thrift-store find of a never-used cotton velour sweater in soft green. Also from Nova Natural: a spiral crystal rainbow maker. Hang one of these in the bedroom window and your baby will have rainbows to play with! (I actually was so enchanted with this one that I gave it as a present to my godbaby, Chelsea Anne, this past weekend.) And lastly, I'm working on making a baby quilt out of small squares of Liberty of London fabric I found on ebay. Unusual for me, I'm sewing this by hand, since these days I find myself with more waiting-around time than sewing machine time. I think the peacefulness of the handwork is just what I need right now...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving Antipasto

Growing up Italian, one part of the fabric of my life which I assumed that everyone else knew about was antipasto, "food served before the pasta." What I knew as antipasto, most Americans refer to as appetizers. But the food that was served before a festive meal at my relatives' homes seldom resembled canapes or stuffed mushrooms, nor was it simply chips and pretzels. I look back on the ritual now and realize that the antipasto course taught me how to serve a feast that didn't revolve around starches and sugars, and how to keep kids from being excessively "sugared up" during holidays.

At my mother's home on Thanksgiving Day, eating begins at noon and continues into the night. During the morning, someone (usually my tireless Aunt Pam) spends a few hours cutting up every conceivable kind of raw vegetable and arranging them on a silver platter: zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, celery, bok choy, squash, broccoli, cauliflower. Then at noon the antipasto course is set out: the fresh vegetables (and dip) take center stage, surrounded by other simple finger foods. There's a tray of pickles and preserves: artichoke hearts, pickled cucumbers, peppers, and our family favorite, black olives. Usually several kinds of cheeses and breads or crackers accompany the spread, as well as fruit like grapes or pomagranate. Not to mention seafood: shrimp, mussels, or steamed clams might make a brief appearance on the table before being devoured. Aside from the rush for the seafood, the pace of the course is leisurely. Adults gather round the table and talk and eat: children take handfuls of cucumbers or olives on their rush through the room en route to other places. And the ceremonial touch is our beloved beverage, Asti: Italian sparkling wine, which has heralded virtually every event of importance in my life. The adults offer one another toasts over the antipasto: in thanksgiving for health, for marriages, for new babies, for family, for all the blessings of our lives.

The antipasto goes on for several hours. No wonder most of us put slivers of turkey and dabs of mashed potatoes on our plates by the time we actually sit down for the official Thanksgiving dinner! (Although, I've noted, antipasto seldom keeps us from dessert!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Favorite Things: Simple Patchwork Quilts


I quilt, but not elaborately. For some reason, given today's frenetic lifestyle and the perennial lack of time to do most good and worthy things, I can't ever see myself attempting one of those elaborate quilt patterns where you spend hours cutting up shapes and then more hours sewing them back together. I love how they look, but not enough to actually try to make one. It just doesn't make sense for me, on some fundamental level. (Please understand I have no philosophical objection to anyone else doing it, though!)

But quilts made of simple squares make sense to me: because I do still occasionally sew, and I know what it's like to find a small amount of material and to sit and drink in its beauty, and long for enough of it to cover an entire bed. Hence, when you have a large amount of small bits of beloved material, sewing them into a quilt large enough to cover your bed makes all the sense in the world.

I made this quilt of favorite bits from an upholstery shop (blessings upon its memory: the owners, now retired, used to give me and my friends bags of designer scraps -- for free. Our husbands blessed them when they retired!) alternating with denim from my husband's old jeans. So that quilt holds memories of both my husband and this wonderful old store. The center square is a plum purple velour which I adore (there is a matching pillow on the bed), and the cross (I always put a cross in the center) is composed of a tapestry fabric made of peacock fan-shaped designs in wine, blue, purple, and white. Teal blues and a purple and wine patterns make up the outer corners of the central design.

I love my quilts to be heavy and non-fluffy: my first quilts were made with army blankets inside them, and this one is backed with a woven cotton blanket dyed purple. The years took its toll on this quilt, and the already-frayed denim frayed further. It was actually pretty sad-looking for a while.

Then, after my son Joshua died, a good friend who was a quilter came to me and asked me what she could do. I asked her to repair my quilt, and she did. So I am indebted to her for the border of navy blue checked and brown squares along the edges, some of which you can see in this photo. The quilt is now prettier and more durable than it was when it was new.

That is the other reason I love quilts: it's so natural for ones' friends to become a part of them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wanted: Joshua Bears


Before it gets closer to Christmas, I wanted to post this special request:

Last year for Christmas, we collected teddy bears for our Christmas tree in memory of our son Joshua who died. Joshua's family nickname was "Teddy Bear" and so we decided that for Christmas, we would decorate our tree with quality teddy bears. We gave some of them as gifts to any children who visited us during Christmas. And after Christmas, we donated them to a good cause: I gave them to a disaster-relief nurse who is taking them to expectant mothers in Africa. This year, I am looking into making a donation of the bears to our local hospital and emergency services.

So I am searching for medium or smaller-size brown or beige teddy bears (please no white or pastel or colored! These are "boy" bears :) ), either new or good-as-new (they can definitely be "played with" and "handled" but they probably shouldn't be in such bad condition that a thrift store would refuse to sell them), that we can use to decorate our tree and then pass on to a good cause after the holiday season. If you have any bears you'd like to pass on to me, you can mail them to me at:

Regina Doman - Bears for Joshua

P. O. Box 949

Front Royal, VA 22630

If you need a street address for UPS, email me at regina@reginadoman.com and I'll send you one.)

Oh, and if you know of or are involved in a good cause that could use a stash of donated teddy bears (I put fresh fabric ribbon bows on them for donating), please let me know, as I'm looking for this year's charity.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Second-Generation Rennovators


We had an interesting All Saint's Day, starting when I came upstairs and found broken drop-ceiling tiles on our girls' room floor. "Um, Mom... could we take down our ceiling?" my daughters asked. Apparently it had been bothering them as much as it has been bothering us. Drop ceilings can be very nice in their own way, but they certainly can look out of place in a farmhouse bedroom. So my husband and I said yes. And after I made them cover their furniture with bedsheets, the girls went to town

I had to help them, of course, but with the help of a hammer and claw, it only took about two hours, including piling all the tiles in the garage and putting the twisted metal frames into the truck to go to the metal recycling factory and vaccumming the room. And now the ceiling looks like this:


Ascetically, it doesn't look great, though I feel at last like there's "breathing room" in their little bedroom, whose ceiling always felt cramped to me. But a few sheets of 12' drywall (we have a stack in our garage right now: we are drywalling the addition) and a visit from our electrician to reroute the wire on the ceiling light will do wonders. We warned the girls before they started wrecking that they might have to live with the results of the demolition for a while: but that didn't dissuade them. Which lets me know that, much as I worry about passing on our values to our children, we don't need to worry about their not inheriting our Rennovating drive. :)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Baby Birthday Treats


When a baby has a birthday in our family, there's certain things I like to do to celebrate. While I'm not a "no-sugar" mom, I definitely am interested in limiting my two-year-old's intake of celebratory sucrose, just so that the day after birthday day is not a sick day. :) And while I love presents as much as the next birthday person, it never seems right to burden a baby with big presents on a birthday.

So here's roughly what I do for a toddler birthday, particularly one where there is no party outside of a family party: I buy balloons. One big mylar balloon for a one-year old, or two balloons for a two-year-old. The balloons aren't decoration: they're presents. If you don't know what I mean, watch a baby with a balloon sometime and you'll understand that these fascinating items are actually transient, disposable toys that give delight for a day or two, then vanish, just like a birthday.

Another great birthday treat is croissants: I bought my toddler a box of fresh ones this morning and christened them "birthday bread." Cheddar cheese, clementine oranges, and bananas finished off our birthday brunch, together with a bottle of Turkey Hill Peach Tea. (We were on the run this morning: normally it would be a berry tea from Celestial Seasonings, warmed up!)

After dinner, our baby is receiving two pairs of new shoes (which she loves) from her godmothers, and some assorted "presents" her brothers and sisters have found and wrapped up for her. And of course we'll have a birthday cake. By that time, I won't mind giving her sugar. :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Catechism from Apple Harvest


A catechism-of-life lesson I tend to give my children when we go fruit picking is,

"What does this tree tell us about God?"

When He says He will look after our needs, how does He do this? Is He sparing, giving us only what we need? Or is He generous? Does He give us far more than we could possibly ever need

The children look at the branches heavily laden with fruit, and at the fruit scattered everywhere on the ground, so much that you can barely walk without stepping on one, and they conclude

"He is generous!"

Amen!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fall Breakfast: sausage and apples


My husband is our breakfast cook on the weekends, and one of his specialties is sausages cooked with apples. Simply fry the sausage in a covered pan on low heat, covered with sliced apple rings and sprinkled with brown sugar, until the apples are soft and the sausage is cooked through. We indulged a few weeks ago: here is one small portion with a buttered scone and cup of tea.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Celebrating the Lord's Day


Following my upbringing in a charismatic covenant community, our family does "Celebrating the Lord's Day" prayers before and after the Saturday night and Sunday night meals. A sort of combination of the Liturgy of the Hours Evening I and II prayers and the Jewish Sabbath prayers, it's a tradition we retained when we drifted away from regular charismatic expression. I love the simple ritual of it, and the aura of solemnity it always gives our Sunday evening dinners.

We made our own booklets out of parchment printer paper, as you can see. To make your own, you can download a PDF of the prayers here. And here is a page that gives some additional links.

(Note: Blogger seems determined to blog these URLs for some reason. So here are the direct links:
The PDF is http://sos-nar.com/Lord's%20Day%20Materials/Celebrate.pdf
And http://sos-nar.com/lord's_day.htm is the additional resources link. Cut and paste them into your browser window if you have to!)

My daughter created our fall centerpiece out of a hollowed-out log she found in the woods while she and her father and brothers were cutting firewood for the winter. And I'd also like to show off my latest acquisition of Sunday Silver: the covered dish I found at a thrift store for about six dollars. :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Clothing Organization part 6: And So It Goes...



Filling out the final categories, casual clothes, turned out to be the hardest for me, because I have a lot of casual shirts. Plus we're still in the middle of "warm fall strangeness" and it hasn't yet become cold enough for me, in Virginia, to definitively put away my tank tops (I'm wearing one now). And there is the matter of my still-expanding pregnant waistline, which makes negotiating the lower half of the wardrobe tricky. So I cheated on the 35-item system - for now. Once the cold weather goes in, I shall banish the final remnants of the summer wardrobe and hopefully will report on having 35 pieces alone in my closet!

Thanks to those of you who read and enjoyed this series: many of you raised questions I'm still pondering: including how to apply this to young children. I think I may do that soon: my toddlers have too many clothes right now. I used to have a system in place when I had two children, but I let that fall by the wayside. When I revisit the question, I promise to post about it.

In the meantime, I'd like to get back to posting about fall and the upcoming holidays!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Clothing Organization part 5: Dress-up clothes


To me, one of the funnest parts of being a woman is being able to dress up. I thank God I am not a man, forced to wear a suit and tie as the only socially acceptable way to celebrate. So even though the life of a housewife might not seem as glamorous as the life of a socialite or executive, I enjoy having some nice things in the till for a night out on the town. And even Sunday Mass, that weekly celebration of a more celestial sort, provides time for adornment.

So, continuing on with the organization, my job was now to cut down my fall Sunday wardrobe to seven pieces of clothing. Fortunately this wasn't too hard this time around: staples for Sunday dress-up for me include my black wool suit (Talbots and going strong!) which fortunately still fits a pregnant figure, and a white silk blouse. I'd purchased a blue print skirt-and-blouse set on clearance (mostly to match a favorite vintage purse) and I can mix and match the suit and that set quite nicely. I also included a brown 80's suit that I pulled out of a giveaway bag which I thought I'd have fun wearing this fall. And it matched the boat-neck print shirt I still had from high school.

Since taking this photo, I can no longer fit into the brown suit, (third trimester pregnancy kicking in!) so I'm having to overhaul the Sunday wardrobe yet again... Actually I find I'm borrowing items from other categories to wear on Sundays because I'm just so big...


For *real* dress-up, I keep a couple of shiny, glitzy things on hand. I'm the type of person who's always thought that velvet was the most beautiful fabric in the entire world, and I've been enjoying the recent comeback of sparkly fabrics to the fashion scene. My dress-up wardrobe includes two long gowns - one for pregnancy and one for being much thinner :), both of which I have packed away, since there are no glamorous occasions in my near future. For the occasional night out at a nice place, I rely on some basic pieces that I can match with black.

My mom handed me down the blue-and-brown glittering cardigan (a pressure purchase, she admitted, that she's never worn, which is now my boon) that matches with the brown nursing dress from the Everyday Mass category. And the silver-trimmed black silk cardigan (luxury) and velveteen maternity top I pulled from a friend's giveaway bag. The cranberry top will probably come in handy for Christmastime too. I found the shiny sleevelss cowl at a thrift store. It's see-through but easy to layer over camisoles and under suits and sweaters.

To round off this category, I have a nice little black dress of a modest length, which didn't make these pictures, plus a brown dress (also unshown), plus some black maternity pants, which I'm relying on these days. Since I'm an accessories girl, I also rely heavily on some glamorous sequined scarves and jewelry to dress up a basic outfit. To me, that's more fun than storing several ritzy dresses in the closet.

To tell the truth, it was due to my husband's adamance several years ago that I finally gave up and cleaned out the bridesmaid's gowns and leftover college dance dresses that I had stored for years upon years, a process that was as painful to me as having a tooth extracted. But the reward was being able to buy fabric for and make the gown I mentioned earlier, which is my standby should I ever be invited to the White House Christmas party or something similarly magnificent. :) Although I can't fit into the gown now, I truly adore it, and one of these days I'll post a picture of it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Random Moment of Beauty: Baby and Cocoa


Just to post to say I really, really want to get back to posting my clothing series, but life has overwhelmed me just now. But I will get back to it, I promise!

In the meantime, hope you enjoy this picture of the baby enjoying hot chocolate milk on one of the rare cold mornings we've been having this fall.... (It's actually the Reliv chocolate supplement, but she thinks it's cocoa, and I don't mind!)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Clothing Organization part 4: Finding Daily Mass clothes



So -- now the challenge after ruthless paring down was to separate each of the remaining pieces of clothing (which still numbered way more than 35) into one of the five categories I'd determined: (see the circle chart below)

1. purple circle: dressing up, the 'glam' clothing
2. red circle: daily Mass and shopping or visiting
3. brown circle: yard work, super casual clothing
4. green circle: ordinary casual clothes for housework (not as casual as #3)
5. blue circle: Sunday Mass clothing

I started with the category of going to daily morning Mass, which right now I do three times a week, and I have this "thing" about not wearing pants to Mass. Like I said, I tend to use any excuse to dress up. If you check the chart below (and ignore how horribly I numbered it) you can see that I was trying to fill out this category by picking eight items that I could wear to daily Mass and for slightly dressy occasions, like visiting. Two of these items had to be able to be worn in other categories -- in this case, the dressy category and the more casual working category.

I started with a navy blue sheath, a purple tank dress, a brown nursing dress, and a vintage 70's dress that I wear once in a while for fun. The trick here is that I won't be able to wear some of these dresses for a while once I have the baby and start nursing, so this category is set to be in flux in the near future.

Then I paired the dresses with three new jackets I had just bought (one new on clearance, two from the thrift store) and an old one. I knew it would be best for me to keep only six of these items.

It was a nice surprise to discover the new pink light jacket matched the vintage dress. Hooray! The brown dress (from Motherwear) I'm keeping, though I'm irritated with it for being so low-cut. I always have to wear a camisole with it, and it's a real disappointment that something so expensive has turned out to be not as flexible as it seems. (I'm going to write to Motherwear about it.)


After trying on each outfit (and matching with shoes, scarves, etc.), I decided to eliminate the purple sundress, whose sandwashed silk I love but --well, on two different occasions when I wore it, my husband said, "Do you HAVE to wear that?" I guess it's just not flattering to my figure.


After some debate, I decided to keep the navy blue silk jacket but retire it to the back of the closet: after all, it's not its fault that dark blue has been out of style for the past few seasons. I know I look good in navy, and it's a basic piece, so I'll let it sit one more season.


Sadly, since I took this picture, the navy sheath dress was ruined in the wash. :( Although I could only have worn it for two more months, I miss it. But maybe I should start looking for a navy sheath nursing dress...
To fill out the eight items in the category, I put in this white sweater and the black silk shirt, both of which I can wear over these dresses. The silk shirt naturally overlaps with the "dressing up" purple circle but I admit it's more of a stretch to describe the white sweater as "super casual" (although I do wear it with jeans sometimes). Or should I have put the pink jacket in the super-casual overlap? Hmmm.... Tweaking the system, tweaking the system...
So -- down to eight items for circle #2 -- four circles and 27 items left to go!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Clothing Organization part 3: Detachment and Appreciation


The first part of organization is ineviably, paring down. And that brings with it the sometimes heartbreaking exercise of detaching yourself from things you once loved. (Yes, loved in the lower, materialistic sense, but nevertheless, loved.)

So, in my effort to cut down my wardrobe, I gathered all my clothes from off-season storage and the cranies of the laundry basket and heaped them on the bed. I did the same with all my accessories: purses, scarves, shoes, and jewelry. Then the winnowing began: ruthlessly purging the unfit: clothing that was stained or getting straggly, clothes that really didn't fit me except in my fantasies, clothes that I never got around to wearing, and so on. Then I further winnowed out the remaining spring and summer clothes (farewell blue and green, till summer when we meet again!) as well any clothes that won't fit my third-trimester-pregnant figure. Also excised were maternity clothes from the last baby that were just too worn or out of style.

I continue to ponder how some expensive garments really do last longer than cheaper ones: a red sweater turtleneck I begged my husband to buy me despite the price is still going strong and unstained, while an nearly-identical blue one of a cheaper brand has become dingy beyond repair, and I sadly retired it. I know that not everything expensive is well-made: but figuring out further criteria is difficult...

I had to make a special post of this particular shirt, which I sewed in high school. When I was about seventeen, I walked into a fabric store, beheld a fountain of patterned green-and-plum flowers on a background of palest pink, and fell instantly in love. I approached, I dug out the price tag -- and flinched. But before I left the store, I gathered my courage, put down the earnings from my waitressing job, and bought three yards of the floral challis, while cringing at the price. That evening I sewed it into a boat-necked, loose-fitting shirt. I still remember how easily the fabric yielded to being cut, folded, and sewn. And it was beautiful. I loved it. I kept it in the back of the closet, and pulled it out for special occasions and fun occasions. I wore it to dances with patent leather heels and a black satin poufy skirt. I wore it to church with a forest green sweater and plum skirt (ah, the colors of the 90's). I wore it with maternity jumpers, matched it with different shades of green and burgundy and purple, and it always worked with black. I just wore it yesterday with black maternity pants and mj shoes.

And the shirt still looks fresh and intriguing and not discernibly dated, even after nearly a decade of use. How often can you say that, especially about a homemade sewing project?

So in a burst of anthropomorphic sentiment, I want to honor this shirt with its own picture and congratulate it on surviving yet another round of wardrobe reductions. And despite the fact that I'm nearly twenty years and six pregnancies older, I rejoice that it still fits me. :)


This reminds me again how Catholic life and love is such a delicate balance between appreciation and detachment. The Catholic soul feels free to delight in the sheerly material: in the color and texture and sheen and grace of fine fabrics and leathers and jewelry.

And yet we understand that even the dearest treasures need to be set gently but firmly in their place: when they come between us and God, or our husbands and children, or our friends and family, or the needs of our poorer neighbors, or even if they are simply interfering with our ability to handle our duties more efficiently -- we need to decide in favor of the higher good.

But as usual, the apparent conflict can become a paradox: complete detachment can peacefully co-exist with complete appreciation.

As an example, this morning my pastor spoke warmly of the beauty of fine, classic clothing -- this from a man who never wears more than a simple black cassock! But even though he himself had detached himself from this particular kind of earthly concern, he could understand how it occupies so much of the mental energy of his female parishioners -- and could applaud the results.

So the struggle goes on -- but sometimes it's worth remembering as you fight to give away that special blue turtleneck that is, nevertheless, stained in a conspicuous place -- that the goal isn't puritan spartanism, but freedom to love the beautiful more fully.

More later...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

No Matter What Happens, Blessed Be His Name

Forgive this intrusion into the Clothes Organization series, but I thought it might be of interest to some...

This past summer, I gave a talk called "No Matter What Happens, Blessed Be His Name" at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference. It was the first time that I spoke about losing our son, Joshua Michael, in public. It was a hard talk to give, but I'm told that it helped people in the audience who were going through their own bouts with suffering. In the talk, I retell the Biblical story of Job and share how I found that God's story about suffering had real applicability to what our family experienced.

I just found out that the talk is available on CD from St. Joseph Communications for $7.00. To order, call Monica at 1800-526-2151, ext. #413. Or, you can email her at monica@saintjoe.com. The item number for the talk is #MWCFC07-CDM#8.

Clothing Organization part 2: Back to the Drawing Board


Thanks for the encouragement, all!


So, in the effort to pare down my thrift store wardrobe, I spent about a week trying to come up with a template that would work for me.

It had to be specific, because my wardrobe is no ordinary set of clothing. No indeed, it is specially tailored to the tastes of one person in particular: my husband Andrew.

Andrew likes two kinds of clothing on me: polished, simple, Audrey-Hephburn style clothing in strong colors and soft textures, and totally casual farm clothing like checked shirts and jeans. No prints, no muted or muddy colors, nothing too dramatic or too flouncy. Just simple, cute clothes. At least that's what his taste has currently evolved to this season.

Of course, Andrew's never actually come out and told me this. Are you kidding?

No, this is based on thirteen years of careful research, note-taking, and stealth inquiry. Because as most women can tell you, men are rarely forthcoming about what they like in clothing, and the question, "What do you think of this shirt?" posed to a man while dangling it in front of him on a hanger is generally met with a blank stare.

Research generally takes the form of careful observation of body language and raised eyebrows, along with meticulously recording any spontaneous and generous compliment, both of which are rare. I've found that compliments that were solicited: ie: "How do you like this outfit?" are generally unhelpful or insincere.

*SO* the wardrobe is an evolving, highly personal project designed for the tastes of one man.

Years ago, I tried basing my wardrobe on seven outfits, which didn't quite work out. But for some Catholic-based reason, I find it hard to abandon the number seven. After all, there are seven days in a week. So, this year, I tried to base this around the five sorts of clothing I own, used for five basic activities.

1. Going out for formal evenings or for fun, when I tend to dress up in something glamorous.
2. Going to church on Sunday, which requires nice clothing, but nothing really glitzy.
3. Working around the house, writing and doing homeschooling.
4. Working in the yard or doing messier housework.
5. Going to daily Mass or out shopping or visiting

I made each activity a "circle" as you can see above, and allocated myself seven pieces of clothing for each circle. Of course, there's some overlap between circles, so as you can see, I have five pieces of clothing that count in two circles.

Now, I find I tend to dress up more than other moms: maybe it's my Italian background that dictates that real women are never caught dead in public without jewelry and makeup (I follow the first, not the second rule). Maybe it's that I still prefer skirts to jeans, though I currently own no jean skirts. And I wear sneakers only for going to the gym or doing construction work. Yes, I tend to homeschool and go grocery shopping while wearing flats, a skirt, and earrings. Maybe it's the "home executive" mentality that's rubbed off on me. I just feel better about myself when I dress up, and my husband has no toleration for denim jumpers and country calicos.

A few years ago when I had my fashion style evaluated by the very fun and very useful Catholic apostolate Elegance in Style, I found I'm the owner of a rather plump hour-glass shaped figure who looks best in a Winter palette with some browns, and my general style is romantic-dramatic (as opposed to classic or casual, both of which I find boring).

After I drew up my circles, I now had the job of justify the continued ownership of each piece of clothing by allocating it to one of the circles. Next post I'll try to show how I did this.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Beginning Clothes Organization...


The change of seasons brings about the inevitable changing of the wardrobe. I'm forever trying to come up with some organizational model for reining in the amount of clothing in my closet. About a decade ago, I first formulated the plan known as the Seven-Dress wardrobe, (also known as Liturgical Dressing) which worked well - for a while! But I confess I found it hard to maintain such a minimalist approach to dressing, and age took its toll on both my figure and my ability to regularly sew myself a new wardrobe.

Now, some ten years after writing the above article, I'm back to my old standby: thrift store dressing, and for some reason, keeping up with the fashion scene has become more important to me as I age. But when you shop constantly at thrift stores and through bags of hand-me-downs, wardrobes have a way of ballooning out of proportion just as much the closets of those who hit the mall every Saturday. I still find myself in need of a template, a directive for how much is enough, and how much is ... too much.

So the field experiment in simple dressing goes on with variations and missteps, and I thought I'd post an update. I don't think I have any terribly new insights, but I thought I'd share my struggle in these next few posts, which at the very least should be entertaining: ongoing posts in the battle to find beauty and order in the modern realm of fashion...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Starting Homeschooling



Sorry I've been on hiatus, but we just started homeschooling again. I'm with the Classical Conversations program, and our group just started this past Tuesday. So - given that right now, I am busier than I have ever been in my entire life - I put off starting school till the group program started.

So I spent last week organizing homeschool material that will hopefully be moved into the new addition sometime next month. But right now I am fortunate to be able to fit everything into a computer armoire, due to my husband's generosity in buying it for me when it was on sale two years ago. The armoire hides the messy avalanche that schoolwork had become over the summer, but now the avalanche is eradicated and safely filed and labeled in our file box system.

Everything else is organized in four wooden magazine files from IKEA (which sadly, don't fit binders, their one flaw), two metal bins which slide onto shelves below, and in a desk organizer, which is not the Truly Useful Object it pretends to be, but is painted red and (to me) looks beautiful.

One selling point for me of Classical Conversations was the sparse amount of material it involves. Working on the one-room-schoolhouse model (which is the model of the typical homeschooler with multiple ages in one "classroom"), all the curriculum is gathered in one 200 page book (in the red folder). The Essentials of the English Language program, for my older students, fits into one thick binder, and this year I had the inspiration to gather spare looseleaf, page protectors, spelling lists, reference guides, and anything else I had trouble laying my hands on quickly last year into one large Homeschool Binder.

For fun, I copied blocks of Morris prints off the Internet and used some demo Arts and Crafts fonts from Fontcraft to create some fun and beautiful covers for the clunky plastic binders. See below:


Wanting to share my fun idea, I'll see if I can figure out how to upload more generic versions as PDF files and attach them to this post.

So -- the school year begins! (Better late than never!) Happy schooling everyone!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Catherine Fournier's House: Mirror on the Wall

Here's another photo and commentary from Catholic writer Catherine Fournier:


One of the nice things about moving into a new house after living for a long time (in our case 18 years) in one spot, is that you discover new things about your furniture and decorations. Suddenly, in a different arrangement or in a different light, that chair or dresser you took for granted takes on a whole new beauty.

This mirror was my mother-in-law's; she inherited it from her parents. Initially, I didn't find its ornate, elaborate style terribly appealing, but a mirror is a mirror and it was useful in our bedroom. As you can see, it's not very exciting hung against a plain white wall (though the cutie in the reflection is quite nice!) I only kept it when we were moving because it was a family-piece and may well have been one of the first "beautiful" objects her parents bought after spending years struggling as Ukrainain settlers in Manitoba.


But in our new house, with its much more interesting colour scheme, this mirror suddenly comes to life! The cut glass and mirrored flowers just pop right out. "Bun" seems happy perched on top too. This example confirms my research that the decorating style of the era when this house was built (and the mirror was made) tended towards strong, dark colours, even though the rooms and windows were much smaller than is considered normal today. You'd think it would be depressing, but I'm finding that a small room with a window or two, wide woodwork, maybe a cupboard door or an angled ceiling, means that the walls are broken up and the dark colour isn't overpowering at all. It's comforting. And comforting is what you want in a bedroom.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Help Save Oliver Hill Farm!


A few months ago in June I blogged about visiting Molly and Bill McGovern and their delightful little family farmette, Oliver Hill. This weekend I received a plea for emergency help from Molly. They were able to buy the farm because they purchased a sub-prime loan: at the time, this was their only option. Last year, they lost their baby son Oliver to SIDS, and then Bill lost his job as a result of all the time he took off to take care of his family during the crisis.


Not to be kept down, Bill started his own business as a home health care aide, Oliver Hill Home Health Care. As an aside, he is thriving in the business: he's a big teddy bear of a man with years of emergency medicine experience. He specializes in helping older men with their health needs in their homes: for those of us who know Bill, this job is a perfect fit for his warm, compassionate personality, and his clients and their families have nothing but praise for his work. Molly has been holding classes in sewing and in the fiber arts for young girls in the area now that family life is settling down after the tragedy of losing their young son.


That's the good news: now for the bad news.


Even though the McGoverns have duly made every mortgage payment on their farm, they are in danger of losing the farm in two weeks, because the company that owns their mortgage is going under, and is demanding full repayment of the loan. If they can't pay the loan in full by October 1st, McGoverns will be out on the street -- in two weeks.


So Molly decided to swallow her pride and ask her fellow Catholics for help in paying off their mortgage. You can click here to see her letter at her blog, HeavenNotHarvard.typepad.com.


The loan is only for $53,000. While that's a big chunk of change for any one person to handle, it's definitely an amount that could be raised if many people make small donations.

Molly and Bill have set up a PayPal account (okay, I have it working now) to handle donations to help save Oliver Hill farm. Enter the email address bill@oliverhill.net to donate. If you are able to even make a small donation of $10 or $20, I know it will help them. Placing her complete trust in God, Molly hopes that they will be able to use any overpayment of the loan to help other families who are in the same situation: as Steve Wood recently warned on his August 23rd radio show, the sub-prime loan industry is in the process of collapsing, taking many struggling families with it.

Please consider making a donation to them: and if you feel so moved, please spread the word.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Catherine Fournier's Upstairs Hall


My friend, Canadian writer Catherine Fournier, kindly allowed me to post some photos of the rennovation of their upstairs hall, with commentary. Thanks for sharing, Catherine!

Upstairs Hall

When I arrange a room and begin to decorate it, I think first about what the area will be used for, who will see it, then traffic patterns, then about ease of maintenance (keeping it clean and tidy.) I usually try to develop a theme for the colours, pictures and knick-knacks.


In the case of our upstairs hall, it started with finding a (safe) place for our statue of Mary; somewhere where she’d be properly and respectfully seen without being in danger of being knocked over, always a hazard in the large-footed & large-elbowed Fournier household. Once she was in place I realized that this transient zone –in my opinion you can be a little more overstated or emphatic in an area where people just pass through than in a room where people sit and stay – would work well as a “Marian devotions” area.
This left photo is what you see as you climb the steep stairs. I love the slow reveal. The statue came from the Nazareth Family Retreat centre – we brought it home to clean over the winter and then Nazareth closed, so Mary stayed with us. The picture is a copy of a 1969 Analog cover featuring an Anne McCaffrey story entitled “A Womanly Talent.” It was one of Peter’s favorite stories as a teen – imagine! A teen aged boy liking a story about a woman whose psi talent is creating psi talented children! I had if framed for him years ago and it always hangs somewhere in our home.


This view is to your right as you reach the top of the stairs. It’s fun to discover just how many pictures or items in a theme you’ve collected over the years. Here we see a Michael O’Brien print of the Assumption, a cross-stitch of the Memorare that I designed and Faustina stitched for me (the pattern is in “Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church,” a silk tapestry of OLPH that we found at Madonna House and contributed greatly to our family conversion (when we bought it we didn’t even know what “name of mary” it was!) and a silk painting of Our Lady of Japan, that we again found at Madonna House.






When we were in Rome we discovered a type of store that we called "The My-son-the-Priest" stores because they seemed to be full of all the beautiful, elaborate, wonderful liturgical type things that you would buy your son as an ordination present or similar occasion. One especially wonderful example of this kind of store was just off the square in front of Santa Maria Maggioria. (I'm pretty sure I haven't spelled that right...) Not only did it have vestaments, chalices and the like, it had a huge section of icons and statues (and off down a hallway, I spotted a cowed priest being made to try on endless black v-necked sweaters by a contingent of nuns, all fussing to find exactly the right sweater for him...) Anyway, I disgress, sorry about that, it was a fun afternoon.

The store had a glass cabinet full of different sizes of this Nativity set. They are carved in Africa of ebony, I'm not sure if you can see in this photo that the figures have African features. I was first enchanted and then thrilled to realise that not only could we afford the smallest set and we also still had space in our luggage to bring it home. The woven "hut" behind them is actually a woven grass basket that my father-in-law brought back as a souvenir from the Caribbean, set on its side. It seems to fit and Mary and Joseph certainly need somewhere to shelter! For years, I only brought this set out (with all the others) at Christmas time. But I like it so much and it's safe there and it fits the theme of the space, I think I'll leave it for a while.

Catherine

Friday, September 07, 2007

Plastic Elimination Campaign: Kids' Swimming Pool


At times I feel like a snob for admitting it, but plastic things really upset my sense of beauty. I can tolerate it in the house at times (yes, I do own Tupperware!) but when it comes to plastic outside, the contrast between the artificialness of plastic riding toys, swingsets, etc. and the vibrancy and realness of the natural world is jarring. So whenever I can, I try to find ways to eliminate outdoor plastic fixtures.

I find that for babies, a galvanized metal tub makes a fun wading pool. While it's not really big enough to swim it, it definitely takes the edge off the last hot days of summer. And even bigger kids like to soak in it. I've found that one of these tubs (we just "upgraded" from a 30 gallon to a 45 gallon model this summer - $25 at the hardware store) and a good sprinkler is all the water fun my small children need.

And this fall, we can use it for bobbing for apples. :)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Favorite Things: William Morris prints

Years ago my friend Joan introduced me to the art and work of William Morris, the ecclectic genius of the Arts and Crafts movement of the last 1800's. Although not Catholic, Morris was fascinated by the art that was birthed by Catholic culture, and used his considerable fortune to fund the production of paintings, books, fabric, wallpaper, furniture, and architecture that paid homage to medieval art. He sought with mixed success to raise the level of popular culture in his day and age, away from mass production and towards the appreciation of what he considered to be true culture.

Ironically, he never embraced the faith of the intensely Christian culture he sought to emulate, but spent his life a child of the wind, flying from one philosophy to another. I suspect that if he was saved in the end, it would be because that his heart was wiser than his head.

Above is one of his popular patterns, Briarwood Manor, one of my favorites. Different companies release new versions of the patterns in fashionable colors each year. If I could find this particular pattern, which contains my favorite shades of red and green, in curtains for my kitchen, (and if I could afford it!) I would be truly delighted.

May the soul of William Morris rest in peace.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Summer Centerpiece: Blue, Orange, and Green



Contrary to what I just wrote on my site on Facebook, I admit that there are some times when the colors blue and orange look good together: such as in nature, exemplified by these tiger lilies in a cobalt-blue vase. The warm orange-brown of the saltshakers is also a nice complement. Okay, so I would never wear orange and blue together, but sometimes they do look just splendid. But for me, I need to add a splash of green. We usually think of dark green candles as being more appropriate for fall or Christmas, but I love how they combine with cobalt blue: during the hot days of summer, blue and green is the ultimate cooling combo. And I was delighted to find this unusual bright green homemade doily at a flea market (I always look through piles of old linens for finds like this one! It was only a dollar.).

Stay cool!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Joshua Memorial Stone: new


I wanted to post this revised version of Joshua's memorial stone to thank those of you who gave us feedback on the earlier version. As you can see, we added a Sacred Heart and cross to the stone, and Ben Hatke added leaves and mushrooms (in homage to hobbits). Here's a closeup of our family crest, which we created in fun with the Hatkes years ago, but which we're making official by including it on this gravestone. The Latin motto is "audacia et prudentia" - courage and prudence. The Siamese cat supposedly stands for courage: the black hen with an egg stands for prudence. The tree represents Christ, the stars represent the Church, and our Blessed Mother is represented by the moon.

It might take us two years to actually have the stone made, but I'm grateful to see the design completed at last. Thanks again for your suggestions and prayers!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Favorite Things: Colored Glass Bottles

For some time now, I've been collecting glass bottles in different colors. I'll pay for small bottles that are cobalt blue, light blue, or green (my price is no more than $3 per bottle - usually I pay $1 or less for the small ones at flea markets). The clear and brown glass ones just come my way from medications and herbal supplements. When arranged in a group or in a line on the counter (this is the backsplash of our stove), I like the color combination. And they're great for those times of year when small meadow flowers like dandelions or daisies bloom, tempting small children to bring their mommy a bouquet on every trip outdoors.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Small Salad

My daughter Rose created this diminutive salad for her dad's lunch one day last week, featuring radishes from her own garden. Of course they were very tiny radishes, so she made a very tiny salad. :)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Katie's Room: the Makeover

While work on our house addition languishes between building inspections, a Christendom College student and friend of ours has moved in with us. Since the room that was supposed to be hers still lacks electricity and insulation, she's moved into one half of the boys' room for now. To make her comfortable, we did a little redecorating, and I was pleased at how things came together.


So, a la Better Homes and Gardens, I'll do a price countdown: I painted a flea market dresser ($5) and a 24" high table with drawers ($10.50) blue. The blue paint was a bucket of rephrensible wall color that came with the house when we bought it (free, if you don't count buying the house). For some reason, the aquamarine that would look appalling on a wall looks wonderful on these salvaged finds. And since the room was already dark blue and light blue with a green stripe, the medium blue was just right. Feeling in a 60's kind of mood, I kept the brass handles on the table and bought new knobs for the dresser (c $12.00). The color combination of bright blue and gold reminds me of a 1960's Hallmark gift book I remember reading as a child.


Following an idea I'd seen in Better Homes and Gardens a few days ago, we made a bed using the low table, some cinderblocks and planks, and an oversized wood frame for headboard. The cinderblocks (hidden behind the dresser) form one half of the bed, and the table supports the other side of the mattress.


The battered wood frame was one I had dug out of the woodshed of our old house, and spray-painted gold to hold a collage for a few years. When the collage fell apart, the frame was relegated to the garage, where my husband would occasionally grumble over it.

But now mounting hardware ($3.00) and one yard of batik fabric ($7.00) fastened in place with upholstery tacks has made the frame into a great focal point (it's the First Thing You See when you go into the room, and it works!) And the colors of the fabric pull everything together even more. Ahhh!

We already owned the IKEA oversized pillow in blue and green check, patterned rug, and green blanket. And Katie contributed her dark blue sheets and a velveteen blue bolster (which, by angelic miracle, matched!) I found the mirror at a thrift store for $6.00. Maybe later we'll add some pictures or wall storage units but for now, it's done. Total cost of rennovation: just under $40.00.

Maybe I should submit it to Better Homes and Gardens...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More Shopping with my Guardian Angel: Church Pew


It's taken me a while to get this picture up. For a long time, I've been hunting for a church pew for one side of our table. A bench doesn't quite bridge the gap between wall and table, yet chairs were too troublesome fit in the narrow space. But now that antique church pews are all the rage, it seemed impossible to find one for a price I could in conscience pay.

But earlier this summer, I was visiting my in-laws. The day before we left, I went down the cellar to find something, and spotted the church pew that had formerly graced their entranceway sitting in a corner beneath an old blanket, gathering dust. "Are you giving this away?" I asked my mother-in-law. She was torn: she liked it but had no room for it, and her younger daughters, who have taken over interior decorating, were adamant that it had to go. She had acquired it when someone in the 1970s had dumped a pile of old pews at the 4H hall where their family belongs. The board, anxious to get rid of them, asked everyone to take one home. Then years later, her son-in-law had refinished and refitted the pew. But she was tired of having it in their living room.

Well, like I say, in America, you can acquire just about any material object if you are in the right place at the right time. And your guardian angel, knowing your needs and desires, is usually happy to put you in the right place if he can. So my husband and I took advantage of a nearly-empty suburban to bring the pew home with us. And as you can see, my older children immensely prefer it to the backless bench they had before. Many thanks to my husband, mother-in-law and guardian angel!