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It was slightly touch-and go with the weather, but yesterday evening Br. Paul Mary, F.SS.R. and Br. Xavier Maria, F.SS.R. arrived home to Papa Stronsay from Christchurch New Zealand. They are staying on Papa Stronsay for two months.

The brothers were picked-up from Glasgow airport and are seen here driving off the Stronsay ferry.

Welcome home!

A joyous homecoming after a long journey from the other side of the world!

On the way home, they collected the next issue of Catholic. Here it's being loaded onto the boat.

Br. Xavier Maria with Papa Stronsay in the background.

And Br. Paul Mary

First step back onto Papa Stronsay ground.

We flew the New Zealand flag for their return!

28 Weeks

{ they look ridiculously big in this picture }

{ my favorite from this week, so much love there }

Ryan: 6 Months

Dear Ryan,

I am sitting here and I don't even know where to start with this letter. Your growth over these last few months has overwhelmed and astounded me. I swear that around four months you stopped looking like a baby and started looking like a little boy (and a handsome little boy at that).

I guess what you look like is a good place to start. You are growing hair, tons of it. You were born with very dark hair like your momma. Around three months all of that fuzzy baby hair started to fall out. I would find it all over your crib, and in its place you started growing thick hair (again, like your momma). Except for the color wasn't mine. Some of the hairs have grown in bright blonde and others have grown in mousey brown. That is all your Daddy. His hair was blonde as a baby, so it will be interesting to see if you keep going blonde or if you stay this very light brown. And your eyes. Oh boy, Daddy and I have spent hours talking about your eyes. The most obvious thing is the color, we have no idea what it is. Some days they are green, some days they are a muddy blue and some days they are gray. (Again this is all your Daddy.) Best we can figure right now is that they are hazel. But brown is not outside the realm of possibility.

And regarding your eyes. You smile with them. In fact, Daddy and I say all the time that when you smile it is with your soul. Your whole face changes shape and you emanate happiness. Pure unadulterated joy. It fills my heart with so much love.

You are shy and cautious and bashful. In the mornings when I take you out of your crib, you snuggle into my shoulder. I bring you to see your Daddy and when he says good morning to you you smile HUGE and turn into me hiding your face and then you look back out at him smile again and then burrow back into me. We do this for as many minutes as Daddy has time to in the morning. You love that man so much.

You enter new surroundings with a bit of hesitation, but it doesn't take you long to warm up. Last month when we took you to North Carolina, each and every new experience was tempered until you were comfortable - whether it was putting your feet in a pool, on the sand or in the ocean - you slowly built up your own confidence with your new surrounding. And then once you felt safe, you opened up and turned into the effervescent little boy we know and love.

You are curious. Always studying how things work, they way they operate. You reach and grab for things and examine them. Your face becomes very concerned and focused. I would love to be able to hear all of your thoughts.

At this point in time, you have mastered the art of sitting upright (while still leaning on your hands) and rolling from your belly to your back. I have tried so many times to coax you from your back to your belly. You come SO close and then lose interest. If it's that far out of your reach, apparently it's not worth your time.

Up until very recently, you had no desire to put weight on your feet or legs. In fact, if you were in a toy and your feet would touch the ground, you'd pull your legs up under your butt so that you just hang there. Daddy and I call this your frog leg. Sissy is still shorter than you and she likes to stand, so we haven't adjusted the heights on a lot of your toys. I actually think this has worked to our advantage because now you have no choice but to plant your feet in order to play. Over the last week you have been standing and holding yourself up on your legs. While I'm so proud of you for this new skill, I will definitely miss watching you go to such great lengths to keep your feet off the ground.

You grab your feet with both hands now, and love to chew on your toes while I'm changing your diaper. I promise it is cuter than it sounds. You laugh often. It's a whole belly laugh punctuated by squeals and screams of delight (there's also some weird gurgling noise in there too). You laugh at random times that surprise me, and then there are times when I know you will laugh. Like when you are in the bathtub and I wash underneath your neck and around your shoulders. You lose it every single time. I love this about you.

You love to blow raspberries. The faces that you make when you are chattering and raspberrying are beyond hysterical. It's like you are in your own little world. While I haven't always appreciated the shower (of spit, plums - which stain by the way, or peas) I do find it comical that you develop these new skills and then become obsessed with employing them.

You are a funny eater. You like all foods, but as you explore the taste and texture of things you make the best faces. Some looks would lead a stranger to believe I was poisoning you, others are looks of sheer surprise. Funny, funny. You still prefer a bottle to a spoon. But if I'm holding a cup, look out. You want that cup. And not to play with, but to drink from. Although it always surprises you when the liquid in the cup hits your mouth. What a character you are.

You love your sister. You let her crawl and climb all over you, grab your ears, grab your face, grab your clothes. Whatever makes her happy is okay with you. I can't tell if this means you will be a patient, laid-back kid in general, or if you are going to have a special kind of tolerance for Reese. Either way, I love that you love her. When you are sitting next to one another, you will reach for her hand and hold it. How you learned how to do this at 4 months old, I have no idea. But it makes my heart explode each and every time.

On July 6th you sprouted your first two teeth. You have been such a good sport with teething. Some drool, some fussiness, maybe even a few wakeful nights. It's hard to tell. I would have never guessed that your teeth were that close to coming in by your behavior though. Your little tooth nuggets are cute beyond cute (but holy moly they are sharp!) I can't believe you are big enough for teeth. It makes you look more like a boy and less like a baby by the day.

Speaking of big, baby boy you are huge. At your official weigh in you were 16 pounds and 29" long! That's in the 97th percentile for your age. Or, as I explained it to your Aunt Vicki, that means at 6 months old, you are nearly half my height. Wowza. I look at you and shake my head. How did you get *this* big? You are long and lean, I swear you outgrow your PJ's by the week. I am thankful that it is summertime, since I can put you in smaller size shorts that fit you in the waist. Come winter, we are in big trouble. You will either look like Steve Erkel with your pants up to your nipples or people will wonder where's the flood?

Your favorite toy is still the exersaucer, but you are learning the wonders of jumping (when you actually let your feet touch the ground). You enjoy riding on your new dinosaur and swatting at the butterflies on your jungle mat (lately you've been grabbing and pulling on the leaves at the very top, when did you get this big??). Peek-a-boo both scares you and makes you laugh hysterically.

I can't believe we are already halfway through your first year of life. When I thought about what being a mommy was going to be like, I never envisioned it was like this. You are so much more fun, more joyful, more amazing than I could have ever imagined. You are the most beautiful boy I've ever laid my eyes on, and you have my whole heart.

I love you little man, don't grow up too fast on me.



Coppersmith priests rev up for more disobedience - Zum zum zum!

This evil iniative began last month.
We pray for the Holy Father

the Church in Austria.

About 300 of Austria’s 4,200 priests
(a minority of 7.1%,
no doubt they are mostly old liberals from the 1960's era)
have pledged to take part in
Aufruf zum -zum zum!- Ungehorsam
(Call to Disobedience),

an initiative launched in June.

The Call to Disobedience manifesto cites
“the Roman refusal of a long-overdue Church reform
and the inaction of bishops.”

Dissenters who support the document pledge:

- to pray for Church reform at every liturgy, since “in the presence of God there is freedom of speech”
- not to deny the Holy Eucharist to “believers of good will,” including non-Catholic Christians and those who have remarried outside the Church
- to avoid offering Mass more than once on Sundays and holy days and to avoid making use of visiting priests--instead holding a “self-designed” Liturgy of the Word
- to describe such a Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion as a “priestless Eucharistic celebration”; “thus we fulfill the Sunday obligation in a time of priest shortage”
- to “ignore” canonical norms that restrict the preaching of the homily to clergy
- to oppose parish mergers, insisting instead that each parish have its own individual leader, “whether man or woman”
- to “use every opportunity to speak out openly in favor of the admission of the married and of women to the priesthood” ...
All so much foolish talk endangering the salvation of souls.

Our Lord said:
I came down from heaven,
not to do my own will,
but the will of him that sent me.
(Jn. 6:38)

Time on Earth is running out.
Eternity approaches.
Soon death will come,
judgment will follow
and then
Heaven or Hell for ever.

Alexander the coppersmith
hath done me much evil:
the Lord will reward him according to his works:
(2 Timothy 4:14)

Knock Off City

Once upon a time, what seems a long time ago, I used to have hobbies. Some of them included running and some of them included decorating and renovating. But then I couldn't have kids, and then I got pregnant and then I had twins and, well, you know how these things go.

So here I am nearly 7 months into our babies' first year of life and I'm finally sitting down with a cup of coffee and a catalog. It doesn't hurt that my husband is home to help with the kids either.

You can imagine my surprise when I saw the new Home Decorators catalog. Forgive me if I'm a little late to the party on this one. I've had my head up my own arse for the last seven months. But seriously, when did Home Decorators stop looking so junky and actually start offering some cute - albeit trendy - affordable items?

Here were some of my favorite finds.

the James and Sandra side chairs
(knock-offs of much pricier DWR Bertoia and Emeco side chairs)

these bentwood side chairs

the holbrook coffee table

and my favorite find was their parsons desk

The parsons is a clear knockoff of West Elm's popular desk. I've seen the WE desk and it's not worth the cost for the quality. I've considered ordering the look for less version on Overstock, but Overstock is one of those sites where you literally get what you pay for.

I was also shocked to see Martha paired up with Home Decorators. Although, I guess she's had her fair share of partnering up with discount box stores to peddle her goodies.

I'm interested to know if anyone's ordered from them lately? What did you think?

Life Planners

Just a quick PSA in case there is anyone out there like me that can't (or refuses to) use electronic calendars to manage their lives - Erin Condren life planners are on special on Plum District. If you use the promo code "inwithnew" at checkout it takes an additional 20% off. I ended up getting the life planner ($50) for $20. Not too shabby.

I've talked about my obsession with the perfect planner before (here, here and here). The first step in any addiction is admitting you have a problem. Sadly, I still haven't found one that I'm enamored with...yet. For $20 I figured I'd give this one a whirl. Plus its cute, comes in pretty colors and (most importantly) it's cheap - making it worth a test drive.

Click here for a direct link to the special.

Story Books

The kids have been on this crazy up/down schedule for a few weeks now. They just don't need the same amount of sleep and no amount of juggling and manipulating is making things easier. I fought and I battled and I begged for synchronized napping (read: mommy downtime) and then I waved the white flag and welcomed this new schedule we're evolving into. One upside to the crazy is that I now get about an hour of alone time with each kid per day.

I've taken to reading to them. This is something I don't get to do a lot, since my squirmy wormy babies like to wriggle and writhe more than sit and stare. But one-on-one, I can easily hold a baby in my lap and we read together.

My favorite children's book right now is The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka (the illustrations by Lane Smith are awesome too!) - I used to use this to teach point of view and characterization back in the day so I had it in my stash of books for children big and small. Reading to the kids has been awesome, I forgot how easily you could get lost in a book.

One of the plans I have for the almost, really someday it will finally be finished basement playroom is a reading nook.

{ the title of this photo is insomnia and photoshop }

To help fill the nook with reading materials, I started going through book lists like the ALA's Notable Children's Books, the Newbery Medal list, the Caldecott Medal list, and the Coretta Scott King book awards and compiling a list of books I want to have in the kids' library. I figure these are good things to have on Christmas and birthday lists too. I seriously can't wait until the kids are older and I can read them chapter books like Island of the Blue Dolphins and the Giver and Freak the Mighty.

The way it will silently break Joe's heart if the kids don't love lacrosse, it will silently break mine if the kids don't love to read. What a gift it is to sit with a book and have the world stand still.

So mommas out there, what are some of your favorite books to read with your kids? Any that I should add to our growing list?

Snow to sea level in New Zealand. Flights cancelled.

Snow down to sea level in Christchurch.
Br. Paul Mary, F.SS.R. and Br. Xavier Maria, F.SS.R.
were to have left Christchurch today
to return to Papa Stronsay for two months.
With flights cancelled
they will now come home a day or so later!

When they arrive back they may not be missing too much.

The great advantage of our Orkney climate
is that we can often have winter conditions even in the summer!

Today's is the worst snow since 1997.

Akaroa harbour near Christchurch.

Sheep in Lumsden, South Island.

When Death Comes For Your Child

Yup, the title caught me too. My friend Aaron keeps a blog on The Daddy Files and recently wrote about a 5 year old girl, Leah Fernandes, who is in her final stages of battling brain cancer. This was the title of his article. It stopped me in my tracks.

Leah was diagnosed with brain cancer on March 21. The original tumor that they found was removed and shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, meaning the tumor that she had removed was malignant and that the cancer had spread to the fluid in her brain and spinal column.

In April Leah had a shunt placed to help drain excess fluid and relieve pressure in her brain. A subsequent MRI revealed that the tumor had grown back, spread and multiplied. Because surgery was not an option, Leah underwent high doses of radiation and chemotherapy in hopes that the cancer's cells would immediately start shrinking. Her last MRI revealed that the cancer cells have continued to grow despite the treatments, resulting in neoplastic meningitis. The cancer cells have coated her brain and spine and continue to multiply at a rapid pace. There is no cure for her condition.

This little girl is fighting a losing battle for her life. I don't know her. I don't know her family. But I know what it's like to look at my children and see the world through their eyes. So I'm reaching out to you, dear readers, to ask that you pray for Leah. Pray for her family. May God grant them strength to face tomorrow and serenity to hold onto today.

Members of the Fernandes' community are holding fundraisers and collecting donations to help with the medical costs and other arrangements. If you'd like more information, please visit Leah’s facebook page.

27 Weeks Old

I have squirmy babies. Really squirmy. If you put them on the floor they roll away. And if you put them on a chair to take their picture, they scoot down, flip over and try to roll away. Yesterday I was taking the babies' 27 week pictures for their photostream.

Reese kept scooting, flipping and rolling. I'd stop, put the camera down, readjust her, pick the camera back up - wash, rinse, repeat.

She was having none of it. She wanted to roll and she wanted to roll NOW. My constant repositioning only infuriated her. Cue the meltdown.

My kids are really into sympathy crying these days, so it wasn't long before Ryan decided to join in the fun.

I was *just* about to pick them up and console them (really, I was) when I realized how well you could see their teeth while they were crying. I've been trying to get a good picture of Ryan's teeth for weeks. And Reese just cut her first two teeth yesterday. Clearly I couldn't pass up the opportunity to freeze their tiny teeth in time.

{ see our teeth? }

The effects were cataclysmic. I mean, my kids really lost their shit. Over a picture. Of their teeth. Sheesh. So then I thought, my husband should really get to see what my day is like. Let's keep taking pictures. So I readjusted them and snapped away. 

It looks like I left them flailing for hours. I promise it was a mere 30 seconds - yup, this much fun in just 30 seconds - not all days are filled with happy babies hitting milestones. Some days are spent in diapers, others we make it to PJ's and sometimes, we get all dressed up and just cry.

{ Ryan's hand on his face - priceless }

{ doesn't she know we're seriously pissed off?

why is she still taking our picture? }

{ The babies both blow raspberries when they cry.

Here, Reese is caught mid-berry; the drool is particularly classic. }

{ are you still crying brother? Okay, good. So am I. }

{ just let me rollllllllllll }

Enjoy your weekend :)

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