Wednesday, June 21, 2017


"You get used to it." --Francisco, about the dill pickle potato chips he inadvertently purchased.

Later: "I asked you what kind you wanted and you said you didn't care!"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


At the place where we are summering (my parents' house), we have between 1 and 5 desserts per night. The kid woke up the other morning and immediately said, "I want dessert." #dessertlife

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Goodness (Children's Book Version)

Since most of my spiritual reading these days comes in the form of children's books read to my son before bed, I thought I'd tell you about some of my favorites. 

When my father read us books growing up, he always insisted we pick out the Christian ones, which always made us grumble. And in our defense, the Christian books we had were not always the most enticing. But now I understand--I love reading to my son about the saints, about people loving God and following Him. I am basically always moved and inspired by these stories, and hope the kid will be someday, too. 

(And I do think that there are better and worse Christian books, and there are stories of goodness that are outside of the Christian tradition.) 

Christopher, the Holy Giant

Tomie de Paola is the best children's writer that I've encountered at presenting worlds that are permeated by the supernatural. And he's also great at portraying people doing the thing that they were created to do, whether it's his autobiographical works about his own devotion to drawing, or legends of people working at their own art and skill, and doing it for God. 

The story of Christopher is my favorite of the Paolas I've read--which is not as many as I wish of his 250 plus books. Reprobus the Giant wants to serve the strongest person in the world (a noble endeavor), which sets him off on a journey that leads him to Christ. The hermit he meets tells him a profound truth--that Reprobus can't find Christ, but that Christ must find him. What shall he do in the meantime? Pray, and serve people by using his size and strength to carry them across the river.

The Clown of God

Similarly, a clown in his declining years offers his best skill--juggling--as a gift for the Christ child. What a reminder to offer our talents to the Christ child. 

Old Befana retells an old Italian legend of a woman obsessed with cleaning who sees the star in the East and seeks the Christ child. To be perfectly honest, I'm not 100 percent sure that I understand the story, but I like that it merges with the Three Kings, a favorite in our house. 

Legend of the Bluebonnet

And I think what I love best about Paola is that not all of his legends are Christian. He tells the story of a little girl who sacrifices her most beloved doll for the people who become her people. The childlike obedience is inspiring. 

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is the story of an artist who is so devoted to his calling that he is ready when the divine intervenes. (And it reminds us that we're just supposed to do our own job, and not wish we could do the jobs of others.) 

On to non-Tomie de Paola books:

Saint George and the Dragon

Don't we all need lots of courage plus divine assistance? And aren't we all tempted to go straight for heaven and skip the difficulties of earth? 

(I'm not too comfortable with all this knights-rescuing-princesses business in general, but I really like this story.) 

Legends of the Saints

I think I mentioned before that I wasn't expecting the kid to have a long attention span for this at his age, but he especially loves Saint Blaise because there are lots of animals and a fish bone. 

The Selfish Giant

I love Oscar Wilde and was thrilled to discover that he wrote a children's story. Add in that the Christ child appears in the story and there's a conversion and it's my favorite book ever. (Although, at least in the version that I have, the picture-to-words ratio is a little off.)

Song of the Swallows

I love the missions in California. This book has beautiful illustrations, a mission, and music (not that I can figure out the tune).

(I'm a little uncomfortable with the priests-coming-to-help-the-poor-Indians-who-didn't-know-anything-about-how-to-live narrative, though. It sure as heck also shows up in that Thanksgiving book everyone reads.)

Good King Wenceslas

We sang this a million times at Christmas. What an excellent reminder to share what we have with others. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In Memory of PAL

When my grandfather died several years ago, what stood out to me the most from his funeral was the number of other people who had been the co-beneficiaries of his kindness and generosity. My grandfather made me feel like the only person in the world, so lavish was his steady affection, but really people he encountered in all the other areas of his life--Boy Scouts, choir, the funeral home where he worked in his retirement, and his church--were similarly cared for. I guess it's not shocking: If someone is good, that goodness will show up everywhere, but it shocked me. 

When I found out about the great PAL's death on Tuesday, I had the same realization. I feel his loss acutely, but so do hundreds of others whom PAL treated with the same generous respect. Reading remembrances on his facebook wall reveals students, colleagues, and friends who all say the same things. I'll say them, too. 

I met PAL when I was an undergraduate at a summer program. We were at Oriel College. The thing I remember most from that week is PAL talking to me about my evangelical upbringing with fascination and respect, as if I had something to teach him about the world. He also mentioned wryly that I'd need a new religious tradition for my time in graduate school, and that Catholicism would be best. And so he set me on the path to my conversion. He instructed me later, ever the pragmatist, Don't be a zealot about it. 

Between graduate programs I gave a paper at a conference and he happened to be on the same panel. It was the first paper I ever gave. Afterward, he took me out for a drink, gave me comments on my presentation, and just talked. PAL never had anything to gain from me, but looked out for me throughout graduate school--inviting me to dinners, events, just to catch up, introducing me to many of his friends. He was a reader on my dissertation. The last time we spoke was this spring to talk about which academic position I should take. He was the best person to get advice from and with whom to work out a tricky situation. He was a constant supporter.

Once I ran into him in advance of a dinner or event that we were both attending. I saw him go into a store and so I followed him in. It turned out that when he packed for the trip, he grabbed two maroon shoes that almost, but didn't quite, match, and so had to pick up a third pair of these virtually identical maroon shoes. I thought this the height of silliness and didn't shy away from telling him that. Ever self-deprecating and sheepish, of course he didn't mind.

Which brings me to his sense of humor, which isn't even remotely like any other I've encountered (I suspect it is similar to that of WCM, who I never met). He mumbled his jokes, under his breath, so you have to be listening carefully to even hear them. They're always sarcastic, extreme, and just sort of ridiculous, and he follows them up with an "uhhhhh." He's the funniest political theorist I've ever met. 

I haven't even gotten to his insights, which I always found sane and refreshingly fleeing any whiff of ideology. PAL was conservative and was suspicious of "conservative" theories that weren't grounded in practice. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Walmart isn't great, he would say, but there are plenty of big Catholic families that couldn't live without it. And of course, the infamous, oft-quoted solution he had to our demographic crisis: Get married and have babies--really take it seriously and stick with it; and start smoking--and really stick with that, too. 

PAL was a Catholic political theorist, bringing the insights of Augustine and Tocqueville, Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor, and Friday Night Lights and Mad Men, to bear on contemporary problems. He emphasized our relational nature and our alienation in the world. There's really no one who so eclectically and agilely interprets anything from GIRLS to transhumanism from the Christian perspective. His unique voice will be greatly missed. And of course, his use of capitalization. 

His death is a great loss to me and to countless others and to our world. And his seemingly boundless impact makes me aspire to treat my students with the same generous respect, patience, and attention with which he treated everyone he encountered. May he support us as much from heaven as he did on earth. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017


29 months

Chester is starting to listen to the sounds in words and think about what letter they start with. 

He loves books and often asks for one to sleep with. The other day he sat on his little chair and read a book to his stuffed dog, "Robbie" (this is the first stuffed animal he has named beyond identifying what kind of animal it is). 

Things have not been going well with his daycare--we are very dissatisfied with it and don't have other choices right now. He is incredibly flexible, though, and just goes with the flow. That, at least, is a relief. 

He's taken to asking both parents for anything he wants. He has to compare notes before he accepts defeat. And he is quite aware that daddy is more likely to give him nice foods and shows. 

​He announced the other day, happily, that he is pissed. I guess it's time to restrict my language further (didn't even realized that I said that much). Alas. ​

He's hilarious--intentionally and unintentionally: Riffing off a book on early locomotives we have, at dinner he claimed that there was prairie dog rather than chicken in his chicken gravy. After his uncle showed him a skunk, every time I tell him that he's being bad, he asks if I'm going to spray stinky on him. The other day I asked him what an ancestor is (it's in one of our books); he got excited and said, "Nana is my ancestor!"

He is obsessed with dragons recently. We told him he was a brave knight after getting some blood taken and now he proclaims that widely.

When we're having dinner and Francisco and I get to talking about stuff, Chester interrupts us, saying, "What are you guys talking about?"

30 months

Down to nursing one time a day!

He has never had a blanket, but he's recently become very attached to my tea towel--it is his apron and priest outfit, as well as a picnic blanket. Plus he sleeps with it.

I don't think I recorded it here, but sometime a little before he turned two, he started sleeping through the night. Bliss!

He remains, however, a terrible napper. I can't always get him down; thankfully, daycare usually can.

He now talks nonstop and asks why constantly. It's a combination of super annoying and hilarious. The stories he tells!

His favorite color is brown.

Almost 31 months

For lent, we're trying to sing a verse of "Lord of All Hopefullness" at the appropriate time of day. 

Lord of All Hopefulness 

1. Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever child-like, no cares can destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
2. Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.
3. Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.
4. Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

This mostly only works for us at nighttime. We each (including the kid) hold a sheet of paper and sing. The kid never starts to sing until he's holding the sheet of paper, as if he doesn't know the words until he reads them. Other times he insists on holding the sheet for his father, but holds it so far away that his father can't see the words. 

He knows most of the words of the Lord's Prayer now, although he's silly right before bed and often recites them in a silly voice. 

He starts every question with, "Hey" right now--I guess he picked this up from me. And after every answer we give, he says, "Oh." 
​31 months

He has begun to dissolve into tears at the slightest thing--I put blue socks on him instead of brown, we ran out of sour cream for our chili. Or my personal favorite: We insisted on accompanying him to the counter of our local fast food spot to buy ice cream together. He would have preferred that we give him the money and let him do it himself. The kid is 2 and a half. ​
​32 months

Sometimes when he's playing priest, he says, "The holy gos-i-pel."

He's been able to say almost all of the Lord's Prayer for some time now (although rarely can be cajoled into keeping his attention through the whole thing), but at some point we switched to chanting in together before bed and he likes that so much more. It's amazing what music does for a toddler. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

A Random Assortment

~ "Catching California's Superbloom" (and social media)

~ "Superbabies Don't Cry":

But Dr. Calhoun said the process is vital because it maximizes diversity. This way each person is 100% unique. This way some of us are immune to lethal plagues, and some of us are tall, short, fast, slow, good with numbers, allergic to wheat, nonverbal, uber-social, flatulent, fierce. Biology wants a wild mix.
I can still see Dr. Calhoun’s two index fingers intertwining and then untangling. In that moment, a new idea presented itself to me: Perhaps the point of life was not to achieve some kind of perfection. Perhaps illness was an integral part of life’s dance. Perhaps fragility was built into our very design. Perhaps fragility was also strength. Through the neutral lens of science, my kid’s genetic deletion was a product of diversity, and who could be upset about that?

On parenting and disability. Via MMR.

~ "Reciting Whitman at a Drug Court in Alabama"

~ McMansion Hell. Lots of good laughs.

~ "A View of Abortion with Something to Offend Everybody" (Walker Percy)

~ The Recreation of the Philosophy Chamber at Harvard

~ On a white woman identifying as black

~ "Further small steps toward designer babies"

~ "The Victorian-era Daguerreotypes of Women Breastfeeding" (We are breastfeeding positive around here.)

~ "Overlooked by guidebooks, Slovakia is a worthy European destination without the crowds" (I've been to most of these places and love them and miss them dearly.)

~ "Southern Despair" (Oh to write like Wendell Berry.)

~ "Who is the Victim in the Anna Stubblefield Case?" and "A Reply to McMahan and Singer on the Stubblefield Case"

~ "Buying a $500 house in Detroit"

~ "How Parenting Became a Full-Time Job and Why It's Bad for Women":

To some, this sounds like common sense. But the paradigm of believing that you can do X and Y to produce a child like Z is a suspicious twentieth century development. It has its roots in the 1920s, when childrearing advice exploded. With the rise of psychology, parenting experts (read: male) weighed in with vigor on the behaviors and decisions of mothers and how they were affecting (often adversely) their children. (Most famously, John B. Watson told women they should stop kissing and hugging their children because such affections would interfere with habit-training. The world would not kiss and hug them, so why should mothers?) As Paula S. Fass, author of The End of American Childhood, argues, “Male experts attacked women’s knowledge and made [mothers] suspects in the mismanagement of their children.” Right or (often) wrong, male experts became the informed bosses to whom mother-workers should submit.
The male expert reigned so supreme, in fact, that Mrs. Max West, mother of five and author of the Children’s Bureau’s popular pamphlet, Infant Care, saw her name removed from all editions published after 1919. An amateur mother could not possibly be a trusted voice of wisdom, copyright ethics be damned. “The new experts — psychologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, and others — would become each mother’s personal trainer,” wrote Fass. It seems far from coincidental that the influx of parenting advice occurs precisely when women were bobbing their hair and casting their first votes. By making parenting a daunting job for which women’s intuition couldn’t be relied on, and for which male experts had to be consulted, the culture tugged women back toward prescribed gender roles.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Two Luxuries

The two hands down best things I've done this year:

1) Buy a pair of slippers. I had always thought of this as a needless luxury, but they make my life way better.

2) Hire a house cleaner. I had resisted having someone else do what I can do for myself for a really long time. But it became pretty evident that I couldn't do this for myself, as was evidenced by my utter giving up on cleaning. Now this did not bother anyone else in our home, but me. Now, every two weeks I come home to a totally clean house. It's pure bliss.

She also rearranges things. I thought I would hate this, and I slightly do, but really, it's so comforting to have other people move your stuff into slightly better (and sometimes wrong) places. It's like having your mother visit.

Monday, April 24, 2017


It's been years since I've been back to Central Market. I was so happy to have all my old foods there again--spanakopita, giant pickles, and whoopie pies. (Although I'm pretty sure I ate one of the last whoopie pies in the whole place, which really means that the vendors are sleeping on the job.)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Seattle, The Market

The daffodils were incredible. I had no idea that that many different kinds existed.

A brief detour with tulips. Also beautiful.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Seattle, a great conference, and a camera. That combination makes me perfectly happy.

I know, I know--too many pictures. I can't help it.

Highlights: Reading Muriel Spark's Aiding and Abetting by the water. (Why have I not read all Sparks? They're perfect--this one is a psychological mystery with some religious mysticism thrown in.)

Also, a visit to the SAM, where I stumbled again upon my favorite--a thirteenth century painting of Christ being whipped. So overcome with devotion to Christ, one of the painting's early viewers gouged out the eyes of the men beating Christ.

Also, visiting the sculpture park. Which is sort of ugly, but a nice walk--my first time there.

Oh, and an incredible seafood dinner on the water at sunset.

Above: That's gum. Gross!

I told the kid before I left that I was sorry to leave him and that I'd miss him and he said (in less sophisticated language): "I know! I will come and daddy will come--we'll all go!" His face lit up as if he'd solved the problem. So sweet.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring Flowers at the Art Museum

We walked, strollerless, through the lovely gardens at the art museum in Indy. It's just the beginning of the flowers, but what a great way to welcome the spring.

The kid loved the many fountains. He also loved when we gave him his own museum tag. He carried all the sticks he could find--his arms were full of them. Heaven forbid he just choose one.

Last time we went to the art museum, we tried to get him hot chocolate for a treat. But, much to his consternation, the machine was broken. This time he remembered that and excitedly demanded a hot chocolate. He insisted that the machine was not broken anymore, and he was right. Who am I to say no to a kid who likes chocolate? Even if his wishes aren't exactly seasonal.

There's also a cool old Lilly mansion you can tour, and loads of orchids in the greenhouse. Not saying that that flower above is an orchid, because I don't think it is, just that there were plenty. And I don't know, maybe it is.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Graham Greene's Children's Books

First of all, I wish I had the real books, illustrated by Greene's mistress, Dorothy Craigie. Ardizzone's pictures are just a little too vague. I like something crisper. (The originals are obviously more expensive than these reprints.)

Second, these aren't the best books for children in the world, at least for 2 and a half year olds. Chester can get a little distracted.

But they do have the advantage of being centered on transportation forms that are very attractive to kids.

And they do have the advantage of very clever humor for adults. There's the new evil grocery store--the Hygenic Emporium--and it's terrible owner, who is too ugly to draw. There are secret codes made of pictures that smugglers use. There is a big train with a Scottish accent.

Several are very nostalgic--new technologies and soulless interventions threaten the old and caring citizens. The Little Steamroller solves a mystery (not a very well-formed mystery). The Little Train learns to value the small town over the allure of Smokeoverall, the big city.

So again, not the best. But full of a lot of charm in the meantime.