Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – spring in bloom

This is really one of the loveliest times of year here in Arizona. It seems like everything that can bloom is blooming, and flowers of all different shapes and hues and scents are everywhere.


so many yellow daisies!
daisies against a field of purple lantana
bold and brilliant pomegranate reaching out to the orange tree


smiling at grandma being silly

This little guy is one of the happiest people I know. If he isn’t exhausted or hungry, he’s typically smiling, laughing, and generally being silly. His good spirits bring such joy to our house, especially since Rondel and I are less even-keeled… And it’s hard not to smile back at Limerick when he gets that twinkle in his eyes and that little dimple on his cheek, even when it’s been a rough day!

{funny} and {real}

Rondel was sick over the weekend (hence the rather disheveled look – this was one of his brief interludes away from his sick nest on the couch), which I suppose is {real} and not {funny}, but I found this new activity he’s devised really quite amusing. We have three wooden puzzles that spell out our names – one for me that I’ve had since childhood, and one for each of the boys. So Rondel took the letters out of the puzzle and lined them up on the lid of the piano, and was very pleased with himself for the accomplishment! By the end of the day he’d managed to balance them all up along the piano and was then fiercely guarding it against his fascinated little brother…

There’s no linkup today, which I maybe should have foreseen since it’s Holy Thursday, but since I wrote the post preemptively, I’m still sharing it here 🙂 Like Mother Like Daughter has a different (but very fascinating) type of post up today, about the Triduum and the curious fact that tomorrow is the celebration of both the Annunciation and Good Friday, including thoughts on this rare event from the 17th century poet John Donne – so go read it, especially if you need a seed idea to help you pray and meditate on Christ over these next few days.

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – in which some oddities of my family are revealed

Let me preface this week’s edition of {p,h,f,r} by telling you that all these pictures come from the same day, and that this day is not really that extraordinary of a day for us – I just happened to have my camera on hand for most of it. I feel like my goal is calm, ordered, semi-normal routines, but the reality of our family life is spontaneous, diverse, and weird. Or maybe it is just the things that fill in the routines that are strange… we still do have normal activities each day like naps and meals and baths 😛


On this particular day we visited the zoo for my nephew’s birthday. I am not a huge fan of large groups of people with small children trying to do the zoo together, but it worked out alright and we were able to go at the kids’ pace. We saw the flamingos and the monkeys and got to go inside the aviary, which are all highlights for my boys. One thing I love about the zoo is getting to see the incredible beauty and diversity of the animal kingdom!

Their eyes are a bit unnerving, but I love the graceful curve of their necks and the soft overlay of their feathers.


Another nice aspect of our local zoo is that it has a small splash pad just right for smaller kids – it is a great way to unwind and cool off before heading home, especially when the weather is warmer. Limerick was already past his nap time but the water (and birthday cake) gave us an extra 30-45 minutes with the extended family.

Rondel hung back at first but about 10 minutes later he was down to his diaper, running and dancing and laughing in the water.
Limerick ran right at the camera with his signature goofy grin 🙂


After nap we had a pretty relaxed afternoon, reading books, playing at home, etc., and while I was making dinner I left the kids to their own devices.

IMG_4040Maybe that wasn’t the wisest idea.


But it was certainly amusing! And we don’t use the dishwasher, so I didn’t really mind the boys playing with the rack. Later that evening I found a pile of random objects behind the office door and Rondel informed me that they had been recycled by his stuffed monkeys, who carried them there in their dump truck (the dishwasher rack).


Could there be a more random assortment of items?


This was part of dinner cooking in its early stages – baby gold potatoes cooked in chicken broth. Everything was going well and then I got distracted by the kids’ creativity and hilarity and came running back to the kitchen to discover all the broth evaporated (which was supposed to happen) and the potatoes all sticking to the skillet (which was not supposed to happen). Sigh. They still tasted good though! In my dream house, the kitchen wouldn’t be a little closet of a room disconnected from everything else…


There would also be better lighting for indoor picture-taking, I think. You know, if we’re dreaming here 🙂 One of the drawbacks of a town home is that there aren’t many available walls for windows!

Head on over to the link up at Like Mother, Like Daughter and check out some of the other blogs! It’s always fun to see the craziness that goes on in other people’s families, to know we’re not the only ones 🙂

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – random pieces of life

The ladies at Like Mother, Like Daughter were encouraging this week’s {phfr} to be about desk space, since an organized and clean desk is such a great jump start for productivity and clear thinking. Unfortunately, my desk is in a very dimly lit room and I didn’t have opportunity during the daylight hours to try to take a picture of it! So in the spirit of the link-up I cleaned and organized the horrible mess that was my desk and then enjoyed getting some HOA work done on the newly-emptied surface. It really does make a difference, having it clean!




We are in the height of citrus season here in the low desert, and my parents have quite a few trees, so on Monday afternoon we took some time to make orange marmalade, candied orange peels, and candied grapefruit peels. The jars in the picture above are of the orange syrup left over from boiling the peels – the flavor is quite strong and sweet and makes a good addition to different types of drinks. I think it would be good with just some sparkling water but my mom has an old-fashioned in mind 🙂 She’s not as much of a lightweight when it comes to alcohol as I am!



Our garden has really become a play space. On Tuesday I watched my nephew and niece for a couple hours and they had a great time exploring the dirt and plants in the garden; I’m not sure who slipped this little construction crate under the cilantro, though! It looks like a little elfin summerhouse to me – I can just imagine the little people frolicking in the dappled green light under the leaves, and resting for the night in their hideaway.


Because the weather has been so unseasonably warm, our little orange tree has begun budding already. Its branches are beginning to encroach rather significantly into the yard, but it had been trimmed ruthlessly and ignorantly before we bought the house and suffered a lot of sunburn as a result, so we’re giving it a few years to heal before we try to trim it again. So, some of the branches are at just the right height for Limerick to explore, and he’s been quite intrigued by the new flower buds. In fact, he’ll stand at the tree, oblivious to the world, picking all the flower buds off, saying “flower bud!” each time and then dropping them on the ground or into a cup. Some of the fruits (flowers?) of his labor he then put on the edge of the raised bed garden, for no reason known outside of his own small head…


If I had gotten a “before” picture of my desk, that would have been my {real} picture for the week! I had pre-Christmas decorations, old mail, HOA papers, the remnants of a Christmas craft, some chocolate and essential oils, and some items destined for Goodwill, all piled up on a table no more than 30″ square. Even the “after” picture could be {real}, though, tucked away as the desk is by my husband’s school desk, his weights and bench, the vacuum, and a couple large bookshelves… all of our random things seem to have ended up in the same place, which is also the only way to get into the backyard, so there’s always a bit of chaos going on. But it is cleaner than it was, and that makes me happy 🙂

Go check out the rest of the link-up!

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – a warm spell

After an exceptionally cold January, we seem to be having a record-breakingly warm February – which means the weather has been absolutely perfect for enjoying our cool and shady little backyard and patio again! The main disadvantage of the backyard is that there isn’t enough space for the boys to actually run; the two main advantages are that it is completely child-safe so my baby can play without feeling the need to constantly test the limits, and that I can slip into the house to do dishes or dinner prep if necessary (the kitchen window opens right onto the patio).



Look at those eyes. Oh my goodness. He’s so beautiful… and at the same time so mischievous! He takes delight in crossing boundaries in a way my firstborn never did – but he is also far more bold and adventurous. He’s at least six months younger than Rondel was when he finally became comfortable on a slide, for example, and he’ll go up and down time and time again, even on the tall slides at the playground.

The white stuff all over him is cloud dough; the back patio is the perfect place for messy play like that, and I let the boys migrate to the yard to play more before bringing them in for a bath.


One of Rondel’s most-loved Christmas presents (which we actually opened nearer to Epiphany) was this set of construction trucks from my parents, supplemented with another construction set my in-laws had found for him over a year ago. These trucks live in a special spot in the garden, where I had a summer crop planted but then left empty for the sake of these trucks. Rondel spends so much time here digging with the trucks and telling me what they are building and doing, and I love watching him!



He asked me to take a picture of him eating a leaf and this is the best I got because he wouldn’t look at me! In Arizona, early spring is one of the most fruitful times of year because all the winter crops are flourishing as the few night freezes fade and are forgotten. Right now we have four types of lettuce, arugula, kale, cilantro, oregano, and mint in our main garden, and English peas growing around the trellised garden by the walls (Yes! They can grow out here in the low desert! They just need the right microenvironment, which our tiny yard happens to provide.) Rondel, in his typical information-accumulating way, can identify all the different plants that we have, and enjoys snacking on them while playing outside. The arugula is apparently a bit too “spicy” for his taste, though 🙂



Limerick wants to do everything his big brother does, but Rondel isn’t always happy about having a small interfering shadow. I’m discovering that if I try to persuade Rondel to accept Limerick’s presence, he usually refuses outright, but if I redirect Limerick or let them drift together slowly, Rondel will make space for his brother to join him, and include him in his games. This was a rare moment where they were playing happily next to each other without Limerick destroying Rondel’s creations in his attempt to be like and play with the brother he adores.

Don’t forget to join the link-up today at Like Mother, Like Daughter!


Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – Christmas cookies!

One of my family’s cherished traditions is the annual Christmas cookie bake. Now, we make many different types of cookies for Christmas, but this tradition centers solely on the rolled and cut frosted sugar cookies, because it is such a monumental group effort to bake and decorate them all. This year my mom, my sister, and I rolled and cut the cookies, and then everyone pitched in to decorate some later in the day. Unfortunately I forgot to get any pictures of the decorating or the finished products… you’ll just have to take my work about the heights of our decorating abilities! 😉


My lovely sister (and my mom lurking in the background).



Two of my favorite women – so happy to be laughing and doing life together over the Christmas season.



His little jammies are just a bit small for him, and he doesn’t like to stay still, so diaper changes usually end with him running away with the legs unsnapped, like a little skirt. Even when I do get them snapped, the two snaps right by the diaper usually pop open after he crawls or climbs around for a while… drawbacks of using cloth diapers, I suppose!


I suppose my {real} is that this is as far into the process as I remembered to take pictures! Also I suppose the fact that it’s a secret family recipe so I won’t be sharing it with you 😉

Do any of you have fun family-specific traditions like this? I feel like it adds so much happiness to Christmas to have things to look forward to every year – things that are always the same through all the other things that change, pieces of familiarity and festivity that endure as time passes. They help bind us together with both shared memories and shared expectations.

Don’t forget to head over to the link up today at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Posted in musings, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – the beginnings of Advent

Advent is blossoming slowly in our home this year, growing from the seed of a single candle, small and lonely in the darkness, but bearing the power of eternal hope. There’s been a lot more “real” than “pretty” or “happy” this week but I’m realizing that Advent doesn’t have to be a big or glamorous production to invite wonder into my heart or introduce the hushed anticipation of the season to my children.

For me, the most beauty has come in re-discovering the ancient Advent hymns, including one of my all-time favorites:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
Comes the powers of hell to vanquish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

I love how it weaves together the themes of all His comings – the Incarnation at Christmas, His coming into each of our lives as our Lord and King, His presence with us in the Eucharist, and His Second Coming when He will completely conquer sin and death. Though right now we’re specifically remembering the waiting for His birth, there’s a sense in which we both wait for Him and meet Him every day – hailing Him as our Lord, consuming Him in the bread and the wine, longing for Him to come finally and fully heal and redeem all things.

In the meantime, while we wait, we do the little things we can do remember Him and prepare for His coming. I may not have a beautiful handmade wreath this year, but I can get out my plastic evergreen backup wreath and still light the candles and sing the hymns and point my eyes to heaven. I may not have any sort of tree to use for the Jesse Tree devotional, but I can still read the stories with my children and see how God has been writing His plan of salvation through all the pages of history.

He is coming. Into this darkness, He is coming with hope. And I, in my brokenness and inadequacy and sin, am holding desperately onto that hope. In this crossroads between my reality and His promises, I am finding the heart of Advent this year.

(Joined to the link-up at Like Mother, Like Daughter today – the theme is Advent this week, and everyone’s first beginnings of the season, so there should be a lot of beauty there.)

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – enjoying the cooler weather!

November and December are very joyful, celebratory months in our house, because in addition to the normal holidays we have three of our four birthdays (rather nicely spaced over the season, I might add). The festivities begin with my birthday, then Limerick’s two weeks later, continue through Thanksgiving a week after that, pick up my husband’s birthday about two weeks after Thanksgiving, and end with Christmas and New Year’s about two to three weeks later. Adding to this festive spirit that strikes me at the beginning of November is the fact that the weather here finally becomes cool and crisp right around the same time. It finally feels like the world is ready for cookies and hot chocolate and pot pies and stews and fresh bread and festive music (I try to wait on the Christmas music but I feel so ready for it!). There’s just something so much nicer about baking with all the windows open and a cool breeze wafting through the house than with the windows shut up and the AC on trying to combat the triple-digit temperatures outside…


In the few weeks between “hot” and “freezing” (“freezing” having a very generous definition for us wimpy Phoenicians), we spent almost all our time outdoors and fell in love with our little park. (see the pants and long sleeves? I think it was in the high 70s when we were there… we really are wimps about the cold).

For a smallish city park, this one has a lot of open grassy areas as well as a great playground, and it’s all fenced in so the boys can run and explore freely (without making me worry that they’ll run off or wander into a road)


I’m always trying got encourage the boys to get out of the built environment (as much as possible given that we live in a very urban context) and lately I’ve been working on getting them to walk on the grass instead of on the sidewalk. It’s not as smooth and stable so they don’t prefer it, but Rondel was more than happy to run into the grass in order to give that big tree a hug.


It reminds me of the library I grew up going to as a little girl (in semi-rural Pennsylvania) – my mom and I would always stop to hug the big oak tree in the front. It makes me happy to pass that on to my son now.


Limerick gets super focused sometimes and he always looks so fat and grumpy when he does 🙂 It’s neat seeing him so engaged in what he’s doing though.IMG_2730




Rondel used to be quite nervous around slides, but as he’s gotten older he’s gotten a lot more comfortable with them. Limerick suffers from no such anxieties… now my only difficulty is trying to keep Limerick from going up the same slide that Rondel’s trying to go down!IMG_2666

The double slide lets them be in the same space without running into each other all the time!


I hope your November is beautiful and joyful as well. Head on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for the link-up today!

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – at the fire station

Rondel has a deep and abiding love of firetrucks. As an infant, one of the first imitative sounds he ever made was a firetruck siren (seriously – he was 5 or 6 months old, sitting there with his toys, making siren noises!), and now, if he hears a siren coming, he runs to the big window upstairs, asks to go outside, or (if we are outside) almost frantically tries to get to the nearest road in case it is going to pass by. We live less than a mile from the biggest station in our city, so we hear and see the trucks fairly often, but I wondered if there was a way to see them up close and personal.

To my delight, I discovered that our city offers free tours of the fire station as long as you have a group of 6-20 people! Completely against my personality and preference as a shy, logistically-challenged individual, I recruited some other families I knew, called the fire department, and set up a date.

The ladder truck (the biggest fire engine) had to leave for a call just about the time we arrived for the tour, so the firefighters showed us some of the other vehicles – the support trucks, the IT van, and the community care ambulance. That ambulance is one of the more fascinating and unique things about our fire station. Using funds from a federal grant to study ways to reduce health care expenses, they converted the ambulance into a sort of clinic on wheels, and take it to low-level 911 calls that would otherwise have resulted in an ambulance trip and an ER visit. (This type of call can include a headache, a baby’s fever, a cut that might require stitches, and so on; the firefighter who helps staff the community care vehicle told us that we would be surprised at the calls that come in.) In addition to providing immediate medical care with the onboard physician’s assistant, they can provide basic health education to equip people to deal with non-emergency situations on their own in the future. It’s a pretty awesome idea and I hope it makes a difference in our community!



The boys weren’t quite as interested in the community care concept as I was… fortunately, the ladder truck returned and they were able to check it out! Rondel walked around the whole truck with the firefighter, listening to him explain about all the different tools stored in each compartment on the truck (the ladder truck carries some heavy-duty equipment for cutting through roofs or into cars). He wasn’t so sure about sitting on the front of it but he let me get a picture at least.


The icing on the cake was when he realized they would let him sit in the driver’s seat and pretend to drive the truck. I don’t think he ever wanted to get out!

IMG_2425 IMG_2418


It’s a little hard to see, but his jaw is dropped open in awe or disbelief here. This was the moment he reached out and grabbed the steering wheel for the first time – I think he thought he was literally driving the firetruck.



True to my aforementioned logistically-challenged self, I scheduled the tour at a time that overlapped with Limerick’s morning nap (in my excuse, I had to schedule it a few weeks in advance and he was transitioning from 3 naps to 2 at the time). He probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if he hadn’t been so tired; he spent most of the hour-long tour sitting in his stroller just watching everyone else. He did get to check out the second-row seating in the ladder truck though:


He was loving it despite his exhaustion when – of course – they got another emergency call and we had to whisk the kids out of the truck. Oh well. I’m sure we will go again sometime! The firemen were incredibly welcoming and friendly, and very accommodating to the little kids (my friend with older kids canceled last minute, so we only had toddlers and babies). So thank you very much, Mesa Fire Department! You rock!

Don’t forget to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for the link-up today!

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – RAIN!!!


This is a desert sage. It’s not actually related to culinary sage and the leaves aren’t edible, as far as I can find out. But it is a good landscaping plant so it’s all over the city and this particular one lives right outside our front door. Here it is, sparkling with the fresh rain, rejoicing with us in the cooler, wetter weather.



I love the rain, but no one loves the rain more than a young child set free to run around in it! I didn’t realize how much I had mellowed with age until I saw the exuberant glee of my babies running and splashing and exulting in the downpour.

the walker gives him so much more independence!
I don’t think he stopped moving the whole time it was raining 🙂

When I was younger I didn’t want to age and mellow, to lose the fierce intensity and passion of adolescence and young adulthood, or the wild happiness and anger of childhood. To me, adults seemed to have lost the ability to deeply feel life – to truly experience its terrifying highs and devastating lows. I think what I’m beginning to realize now is that it’s possible to mature in one’s reactions to the roller coaster of life and emotion without getting off the roller coaster or taming its hills and curves. That is, I can still feel everything just as deeply – enjoy things just as intensely, become angry just as quickly, and so on – without letting those feelings control how I treat others and respond to my environment. Also with age comes greater understanding of the passions that burn inside my heart, so that I’m not caught totally unawares by them, and can in turn direct them to areas of greater and more lasting value (so instead of letting the power of my emotions be wasted on a crush or a car cutting me off in traffic, I can use them to rejoice in the beauty of great music, or delight in the presence of my husband, or grow fiercely angry at the injustice surrounding immigration, abortion, or homelessness). It’s not dulling my conscience or my emotions – simply deepening my understanding of my emotions and bringing them into greater unity with my conscience and my reason. And it is a good thing, despite the fears of my youth!


Rondel noticed the raindrops landing on the driveway, leaving the little wet splotches behind, and started pretending to pick up the fallen drops and eat them. It was really cute – and then his daddy joined him and it was even cuter 🙂



And, no surprise, we have more dirt-eating. I can’t get this kid to stop putting dirt, rocks, and sand into his mouth. Where does the fascination lie? I can only imagine it tastes terrible (from my one childhood recollection of tasting sand intentionally, it wasn’t pleasant). He seems happy about it though…


I hope you all have had a great week too! We have been so blessed out here with four (four!) consecutive rainy days. This never happens in October in Arizona! Join the linkup at LMLD and visit the other blogs – they are such a good source of encouragement and happiness in the simple everyday aspects of life.

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – thankful for the things I do have


We may not have much space, especially outdoor space, but we have room for the beauty of green growing things:

I’m not confident we’ll get any harvest, but at least the corn is pretty while it’s growing…


We may not have lots of space to run around, or big places to explore and build forts and play games, but we have the security to play with carefree happiness in the space we do have:

IMG_2252 IMG_2219


We might not have space for me to back up enough to capture the whole of our tiny yard in a picture, but we have space for the boys to play together where I can capture them both at once like Rondel asked me to:

Limerick splashing Rondel, who is really learning to put up with a lot.
Parallel play – and the impossibility of getting them to look at the camera, or at me!


We may not have woods and grassy hills and flowers so they can touch and see and smell the wonders of nature, but at least we have a garden so they can feel the dirt on their hands… and taste it in their mouths! The realities of toddlers!

There’s dirt in his mouth, on his face, and on his hand!
No clue why he’s eating the pot… I don’t ask anymore

To be real with you, it makes me happy deep in my heart to see Rondel with dirt in his mouth and on his hands like that. The garden is one of the few places where he’ll relax enough to get truly messy: he’ll use his whole hand to dig in the soil instead of using one finger or a scoop/tool like he prefers to do with sand or play dough. (He won’t even touch gooey or slippery things, like cornstarch slime or Jello…) I know that letting him get dirty and become comfortable with his hands and body in the soil will have huge payoffs for his sensory processing skills, and since he really hates getting messy at other times (even with food) this is our stepping stone to improving his tactile processing skills. For me, even if nothing in the garden bears fruit, it’s worth it just to see my boy getting dirty without being bothered or wanting to be cleaned up instantly.

Go visit LMLD for the rest of the link-up! I hope you had a wonderful week as well 🙂