Part of me was dreading Mikey’s First Holy Communion. Lots of people, expense, and work were guaranteed. Another part of me looked forward to this day because for Catholics, this is our walkabout. Our bar mitzvah, our rite of passage, our Prom with God. It’s what separates the little kids from the big kids, especially since our parish waits until the 3rd grade before the kids have their first communion. I guess a part of me was dreading it because I wanted it to be special, and if it wasn’t I was going to be sad. I decided to do something I never do to ensure the day went somewhat well. I made it as low-key as possible. I didn’t try to do anything perfect, didn’t try to have THE FIRST HOLY COMMUNION TO END ALL FIRST HOLY COMMUNIONS.
I didn’t try to get perfect pictures. The lighting in the church is horrible and I was too nervous. I focused on taking pictures of everything I wanted to remember and left it at that.
One of two class banners, this one holding Mikey’s “Holy Grail.”
Here is the infamous banner marking our pew, which turned out to be in the 2nd row thankyouverymuch. I thought my mom was going to have an aneurysm when she realized we were so close. She called me every day the week prior to ask where we were sitting, as if she asked enough, that whole “lottery thing” would disappear and we could stake out the pews with sleeping bags and lawn chairs like normal Catholic families. She called me twice on Friday on my way home from the conference and I finally snapped at her and said, “Lottery! We are having a lottery! Why do you keep asking where we are sitting? I have no idea! Please stop asking me.”
And she said, I swear on a stack of Bibles, “Well, I only ask because I thought you might have some inside connections because of the boys.”
Inside connections because of the boys?! Mikey and Nico are in the Children’s Choir, not the mob. Her excitement was palpable, endearing, and very much appreciated…but grandmas like her are absolutely the reason why the lottery system was put into place.
You know it kills me that his tie is crooked in this picture, but I got the tabernacle in the background so I’m happy. Also, his suit! We compromised and went with gray. I wanted something a little lighter that had a southern gentleman vibe that he unequivocally vetoed. Like, “over my dead body, mom” vetoed. I vetoed the “21 Jumpstreet” suit that had a vest and red tie. We bought his suit at Macy’s, for those who are curious.
We didn’t have much time to take pictures outside, but I did make sure to take one picture of Mikey and Emma, much to Mikey’s horror. Mikey and Emma have history. He thinks she’s too carefree with the rules and acts too much like a girl. She thinks he’s an uptight know-it-all and immature. Other than that, they get along great! Her mother and I, actually, are great friends and for the most part they really do get along when they aren’t around other kids from school or when Mikey isn’t telling Emma that taking a picture with her is his worst nightmare.
Yes, that’s right. I thought Emma looked beautiful. Her dress was one of my favorites and because her mom is one of my close friends, of course I wanted a picture of the kids together.
So I said, “Mikey, stand next to Emma so I can get a picture of the two of you.”
And he said, “OH MY GOD THIS IS MY WORST NIGHTMARE.”
Emma, to her credit, merely gave Mikey a withering stare that said she would like nothing more than for Mikey to have his first and last communion–while she watched.
In my head I planned to calmly say something like, “That was rude. Apologize to Emma.”
Instead, in a shrill voice that probably echoed across the four corners of the church yard I said, “WHAT?! WHY? WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!”
“Mom, I told you. No pictures standing next to girls! Look at us. People are going to think we are getting married!”
Now, to be fair, Mikey prepped me for weeks telling me he wanted no pictures with girls and, if possible, he didn’t want to stand next to any girl at any time during the day, for any reason whatsoever, to avoid the millions of staring eyes sure to result. He prepped me, but I didn’t think he believed I would listen. A mom, not taking pictures at First Communion? Lucky for you wishes are free, my son.
I told him to zip it, stand next to Emma, and smile. He did, but not before steeling himself like a soldier going into battle. He looked at her like at any moment she was going to leap at him with a marriage license and a catalog of china patterns. Emma looked at him like he was something found on the bottom of her white, patent leather Mary Janes. Then they went inside and shared the body and blood of Christ!
Days later we were still teasing him about his fear of pictures. He stands firm that his concerns were reasonable.
“You have to admit, mom, two kids getting married at my age is highly inappropriate. People probably thought we were crazy.”
My big boy. This is actually a staged shot the priest was kind enough to recreate for all the parents. We weren’t allowed to take pictures during the actual mass. I thought I was going to be a blubbery mess, but it was my stoic, silent, still waters run deep husband who burst into tears. He earned 200 bonus points.
After the service, which was amazing, we stopped at the house for a few minutes so Mikey could change for his last baseball game of the season. His First Communion party was us ordering pizza and eating it at the game while he played baseball. After the game we went home (with extended family in tow) and had cupcakes. Mikey hates frosting, so the cupcakes were white cake with custard filling and whipped cream topping. Strawberries on top because he loves fruit of all kind, especially strawberries.
It was a great day. My favorite moment of the day had to be when we were leaving Mikey’s baseball game. I was walking with him, teasing him and asking him if he felt any different. He said that yes, he did. The bruise on his knee from when he fell the other day, for example, totally didn’t hurt anymore. I looked at him and smiled, noticing his gray eyes were the pretty blue-green with light brown centers they usually are when he’s upset.
“Hey, your eyes are really blue right now,” I said. “They’re that pretty color they turn when you cry.”
Mikey looked up at me and nodded, awed but not really surprised. “Do you think it’s a side effect of having Jesus inside of me?”
I told him anything was possible.
Body, Mind, Spirit
Surfaces week! I’m running out of things to take pictures of, but at least my enthusiasm for walking isn’t waning. I swear, sometimes I think it’s the only thing that keeps me sane. I get to go out, even if it’s only for 12 minutes, and be completely by myself. This is so key for an introvert. I need at least an hour per day where I am by myself, completely alone. Normally I do this at night by reading, but walking is even better because I get both mental and physical benefits.
I also get to listen to the music I want to listen to without interruption while I walk whatever route suits me. Most of the time, I don’t even know where I’m going. I’m convinced my iphone is a photographic divining rod leading me to something I can instagram with my feet. So far, the gut feeling technique hasn’t lead me astray too far.
I chose surfaces this week because I thought I would be staying in Laguna for the conference. Since I didn’t know where I would be walking while there, I figured a treadmill or sand would factor in somewhere. Ergo, surfaces. I stayed home so my planning ended up for naught, but the challenge of this photo assignment was good. I had no idea how many of the surfaces in my neighborhood were red. Also, photographing grass with black shoes is really hard. The colors went whacky and it was boring. The end.
The other surfaces: Arizona Flagstone, brick, river rock, Saltillo tile, pavers, and decomposed granite.
Song of the Week
Lost in My Mind – The Head and the Heart
I attacked the toys and Legos the second I started feeling better last week. I worked a little bit every day, and by Wednesday I finished anchoring the bookcase to the wall and installing the doors. The right door was still falling open when it was time to take pictures, but I’ve fixed it since then and everything is flush and even.
Ta-dah! Party on top, business on the bottom. It’s a toy mullet. IKEA doors now come with magnetic closures that I elected to ignore. I’ll install cute door knobs at a later date.
Here is the interior of the glass portion of the bookcase, which is an extra-deep Billy from IKEA. Dinosaurs on top, keepsakes in the middle, and the boys’ prized rock and fossil collection on the bottom shelf.
This is our favorite shelf. The rocks are all ones they collected on walks with my mom. The fossils are ones she bought for them at museums with the exception of three, which are from a student of hers who was studying paleontology. (A female student–huzzah!) When the student found out Mikey (then 5 years old) wanted to be a paleontologist and collected dinosaurs, she gave him some fossils from her collection. He was so excited he made her a card with pictures of dinosaurs. She wrote him again, and that letter has been in his room every since. It’s folded up under the plastic jar, which is where he keeps the fossils. You can read the letter here. (Wouldn’t it be something if years from now they meet and put two-and-two together?)
Lego storage! The bottom/hidden portion of the bookcase is where all the Legos, games, and miscellaneous toys go.
Here is a breakdown of the toys and how they are organized. It doesn’t look like a lot of toys for two boys–at least I don’t think so! First, I still have to go through the closet, so there is a lot more to add/purge/organize. Big stuff, like Hot Wheels tracks, that will have to stay in the closet. Second, we try to emphasize outdoor activities and creative play, and are lucky to have neighborhood kids–who go to school with the boys–with parents who share the same philosophy. Hey, it’s good for them and it’s cheap for the parents! The four of them run between the two houses and spend a lot of time riding bikes, playing wiffle ball, or acting out really complicated skits that involve handcuffs they make from paper. (Because it looks cool when the hero explodes! out of them.)
When that fails there are Legos and video games, although video games are a last result because they always end up fighting. Never fails.
Here is a close up of what I used to store the Legos. Can you guess what I used? Those are catering containers from Smart & Final. You know, the kind you see at salad bars? I wanted something clear, easy to open/close, stackable, and bigger than the standard organization boxes and cubes I found in stores and online since the bookcase is extra-deep. I also wanted unique sizes since I knew we’d have more of some colors. These met all my requirements and the price couldn’t be beat–I think they were between $6-$12 a piece, but don’t quote me. I spent far less than $100 for all of them, and I still have a shoe box size and a jumbo size that I haven’t used.
Note the absence of labels. That’s why I wanted clear boxes. I wanted no excuses from the boys at clean-up time and, while I know some people fan themselves at the opportunity to use their label maker or Cricut, I’m not one of them. I will never cut letters out of coordinating scrapbook paper and mod-podge them to containers. More power to those who do! No judgment, just an admission that my strengths/interests lay elsewhere.
We’ll see how this goes. We have never organized Legos by color before. Prior to this, we’ve always been of the “one big bucket” variety. Once the boys started getting more sets, that system failed. So far, Mikey loves this system. I mean loves it. He loves it so much he actually said to me, “Mom, I really like the Legos organized like this.” Nico agreed, and then they spent two hours watching movies and organizing Legos.
You could have knocked me over with one of their feathers. In the two years I have been cleaning up our home–their rooms especially–never have they proactively complimented one of my systems. Fingers crossed.
This post was part of The William Morris Project, a weekly series that details the steps I am taking to create an intentional home. You can see more of my goals and completed projects here. To learn more about this project, start here.
Now it’s your turn! Feel free to share how you have lived according to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Made a plan? Cleaned a drawer? Bought a sofa? Tell us about it with a link or comment. A few guidelines:
- Please link to a specific post, not a general blog address.
- Your post must relate to your efforts to create an intentional home. I have a delete button, and I’m not afraid to use it.
- No links to giveaways, please.
- Let’s use this weekly link up as an opportunity to gather inspiration and motivation. Click links. Discover new people. Say hi and good job and all that stuff.
I have a writing tip for indie writers. A reader forwarded to me an article on the indie writing industry and the young adult/new adult genre. It’s hot. Super hot. We all know this. There are authors out there making a killing. This person wanted my opinion on the books and in order to give one, I’ve been reading most of the ones cited in the article and some others on my own. Some are good. Some are okay. Some I just don’t get. But good or bad, there is one annoying commonality that separates many of them from traditionally published young adult authors like Chbosky, Green, and company. Something so easy to remedy, too. It has to do with character names but first, some qualifiers.
First, I wasn’t even going to make this a post. This was going to be another one of my non sequiturs on Facebook, but lately I’ve been treating my Facebook page like another blog and I need to get out of that habit. It’s great for having back and forth conversations with people, but I don’t want to regurgitate content, which is easy to do when you are on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. If you follow me everywhere, you have lost any element of surprise when it comes to what I will blog about for the week. Sorry. Expect to see improvement soon.
Second, what I’m about to say can be taken for what it’s worth. I’ve never completed any fiction, though I have tried so I know how difficult it is to do. I am a pretty good editor, and part of me believes I was born to edit, not write. Hear me out on this and see if I don’t make a teeny bit of sense.
Character names. Writers, slow your roll with the creative names. If I read about one more character named Mace, Kayden, Layken, Zade, Reif, Holder, Caymen or Xandalyn, I’m going to lose my mind. Save that creativity for your plot. Every indie book I have read has been a contemporary young adult/new adult, so the setting is present day. The average character is between 18 and 20 years of age, which means they were born between 1993-1995 (God help me). Check the Social Security Administration website for popular names during the decade of your characters’ birth and select from that group for at least 75% of your characters. Here are the top 10 names from the 1990s.
Look at those names. Now look at the names of the characters in your book. The wackiest name for a girl in 1990 was Taylor. Taylor, a beautiful name that these days is considered a gender-neutral classic. Think about this when you name your characters. Think about what was going on when your characters were born, what their parents were thinking or doing. I’m old enough to know people who had kids in the 90s, and they weren’t naming their daughters Xandalyn. You give your character a name that reflects today’s trends and you date your book almost immediately. You also create unrealistic characters and setting. If your main character has parents who are dry and stuffy and intolerant, do you really think they would name their daughter Cyclamen instead of Jessica?
But wait, you say. Plenty of people had unique names in high school prior to 2010. Hey, you’re one of those people! You had a unique name, and you were born in the 70s! So true! And you know what? So does my husband, and he was born even earlier! Two people with unique names in a time of Michaels and Jennifers. But you know who else in my high school had a unique name? No one. I was one of 500. You know who else in my husband’s high school had a unique name? No one. He was one of over 1000. When you give me a book with 10 characters set in a high school and they all have special snowflake names, I’m going to think you’re living out your name picking fantasies instead of concentrating on your story.
So, while unique names happen and have a place in any contemporary young adult novel, you can get away with one, maybe two, because otherwise you will have to convince your reader that in your characters’ small town of Podunk, USA (rant for another day) an entire high school’s worth of parents all got together in 1995 and said let’s name our kids Mace, Kayden, Layken, Zade, Reif, Holder, Caymen and Xandalyn. Good luck with that.
I’m done here. Now go write me a book about a boy named Christopher who falls in love with a girl named Sarah.
p.s. One last thing since you’re taking requests. When Christopher and Sarah first touch–say they brush fingers when he hands her a pencil during Spanish–if you could leave out that line about them literally feeling currents of electricity or shocks or heat waves or any sort disturbance in polarity, that would be awesome.
Reasons I Fell for the Funny Fat Friend is one of the books I read a few weeks ago. Cute! Super light and easy–you’ll finish it in an afternoon. It’s a baseball practice book, if that makes sense. (Please don’t read this expecting classical literature.) The main characters are Brody and Hayley, so their names are plausible. I liked it because Brody narrates the book. As a mother of boys, I loved hearing a male voice. I don’t know how authentic it was since my boys aren’t teenagers, but I had fun reading it. I wasn’t thrilled with how quickly their sexual relationship progressed, and not just because I’m old fashioned. Young girls–junior high girls–need books that encourage body variety and acceptance. They don’t need to read about any of that other stuff, even if it is tame by almost any adult’s standards.
I had no idea the was so much felt involved in preparing for First Communion. First, we had to make a felt chalice and decorate it as we saw fit, so long as we included the child’s name (along the bottom) and picture (in the center). This will be on display in the church like a giant chalice quilt-thing. As you can imagine, with 8 and 9 year olds involved, these are some blinged out chalices. Glitter, gems, pearls, ribbons…if it could adhere they had no fear. I forgot to take a picture of Mikey’s chalice, but I gave him full control of the project so it ended up looking like something Black Beard would use to swig rum while sitting on a dead man’s chest.
Unless you ask Nico, who upon seeing the chalice on the table took a step back as if blinded by its beauty and solemnly asked Mikey if it was the Holy Grail.
I decided to handle making the required banner that will hang at the end of our pew. Our church does a lottery for seating. Parents and their guests are assigned a pew and the banner goes at the end of the pew so everyone knows where they should sit. The banners are cute, but you know their purpose is to prevent fighting, pushing, and shoving among the adults (in church while children receive a holy sacrament).
For about 2 seconds I considered making the banner from scratch until the temporary insanity passed. I went with a kit–there are tons of places you can buy them online–that I bought at our local Catholic supply store. The one I bought was only $9.99 and basic because that’s all you can get at the last minute. In the picture above I still had to trim the bottom and the glue on the grapes was still wet, but it’s dry now and looks okay. It was a cheap kit, but they could have tossed in a couple more purple balls. Sheesh. I might swap the purple balls with some purple stones left over from Black Beard’s chalice.
I doctored the rest of the banner kit by changing the background and cord, adding letters and shading to the cross, and adding the red tabs and gold buttons because I thought Mikey would like the medieval look. Of course, after I did it I realized it also gave it a Crusades look. Shhhh.
Speaking of those little red tabs, as I was cutting the felt into strips I…have no idea what I did but I ended up cutting the background felt, too. I guess I picked up the red and the blue at the same time? Who knows. The point is I cut straight down an area I call the “I-Guess-I-Know-Where-The-Cross-Is-Going” left of center. The cross hides most of the cut and the rest is held together in the back with adhesive price stickers from Michael’s. If you want to know the price of felt and other craft supplies but don’t feel like driving to your local Michael’s, then by all means come by my church and flip over our family banner.
Is it ghetto to keep our banner together with price tags? Perhaps. Is the banner done and crossed off my to-do list, never to be thought of again? Abso-freaking-lutely.
In the event you want to read about how people do crafts well, you might want to read my post on watercoloring over at the Craft Cabinet blog.