Poetry Books: A Guest Post by Jess

Jess is really cool. I’ve been following her writing about feminism and Catholicism for a long time, and I love it. She is wise, yo. And, she like poetry. I know how to pick friends, don’t I? Today she’s talking about some of her favorite volumes.


A Post Where I Talk About Every Poetry Book I Own.
Hello, Fumbling Toward Grace readers! I’m Jess and I write over at Jess Fayette: Cathofeminism. As Sarah is taking it easy this week, (Ha!) I volunteered to fill in for a day, and I could think of no better subject than my favorite poetry.

As a sometimes angst-ridden tween and teen, I had spiral notebooks and boxes of loose-leaf paper filled with neatly rhymed poetry. I’d sit in my room with candles and incense lit, music playing, and write page after page of ABAB or ABABC verses. Sometimes I’d mix it up, but I was a pretty straight forward (and terrible) poet. There was even a terrible but ambitious song written that is burned into my memory. I lean more towards novels or memoirs these days, but poetry was my entrance into a love of being the author of the written word.




Children’s Poetry- Knock at a Star:

By far my most dog-eared book, and one of the only ones I have kept through the years. I am so happy that I have it around to pass on to my kiddos someday. It has different sections to introduce children to different forms of poetry. One of my favorites from this compilation is Travelers by Josephine Miles.


Poet- Edgar Allan Poe:

It might be cliché to name Poe, but I love his work. I was first introduced to him in the fifth grade by my lit teacher. He can be a bit tedious and long winded for some, but he knew what emotions he was trying to evoke. I always have appreciated his confidence in his own words. My favorite poem of his is definitely Annabel Lee, but I recently discovered he had written something involving Mary, so it has quickly become beloved.


At morn — at noon — at twilight dim —

Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!

In joy and wo — in good and ill —

Mother of God, be with me still!

When the Hours flew brightly by,

And not a cloud obscured the sky,

My soul, lest it should truant be,

Thy grace did guide to thine and thee;

Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast

Darkly my Present and my Past,

Let my Future radiant shine

With sweet hopes of thee and thine!


Blast from the Past - Revolution on Canvas:

In 2005, I heard about a poetry book that had work from all my favorite bands. It was an incredibly exciting find as the only poetry I was paying attention to at the time was in music form. Revolution on Canvas has some really great work from all your favorite early 2000 emo/punk/alternative bands: The Format, Taking Back Sunday, Something Corporate, and many more. It’s a great way to relive your angsty years.


To-Read - Brothers on Life (Matt and Mike Czuchry)

I was flipping through the channels a year or so ago when I found Matt Czuchry stumping his latest project- a book- on some talk show. Of course it went on my to-read list. When I opened it to thumb through it, I found most of it was poetry. I’m saving it for a rainy day when I have some time to myself. I think that a memoir-style poetry book is right up my alley.

If you’ve found yourself in a reading rut and you need something that is conducive to life as a parent or life as someone short on time, maybe poetry is just what you need!

You Are Not Defined By Your Child: A Guest Post by Nell

What can I say about Nell? She gets me. She’s a barefoot urban hippie mama who just is who she is and knows what she is about. And I love her.  Nell is the kind of woman who makes you feel like you are special, even if she’s just telling you where the bathroom is. She has been a huge supporter of my writing, the journey I am on in telling this story of my heart, and she loves poetry, so you know. I’ve only met her twice, but I consider her a dear friend. Nell is that kind of woman. So sit back, drink your coffee, and soak up the love.

You Are Not Defined by Your Child 

This post first appeared on Whole Parenting Family.

whole parenting

Dear fellow mother,
You are not defined by your children. Not the number of them. Not the age gap between them. Not their clothing choices. Not the state of their hygiene. Not the contents of their bowl in the morning. Not by how messy their hair is and how they rip out their pony tail holders all the time.

You are not defined by your child’s naughty almost humorous meltdown in front of your entire group of older adult guests at a fundraiser. You are not defined by your baby’s eczema on his face that looked as if you’ve never lotioned him up before. You are not defined by your daughter’s low-weight gain, or petite status that looks as if you’re not feeding her enough.

You are not defined by your son’s early speech, his quick ability with words, his apparent cleverness that also translates to terrible difficulty with not getting his way (long way to say tantrums). Nor are you defined by your baby’s big size and early movement, Mr. Plank, Mr. Pushup at 4 months, Mr. Scoot Around the Room on his Tummy.

You are not defined by your once fashionable eye glasses that are bent and greased out of proportion. You are not defined by your “ironing pile” as in “grab it and quickly iron it before you need it pile” that is shuttered behind a closet door. You are not defined by your garden that never produced herbs this year, or its poorly produced tomatoes.

You are not defined by the number of pieces of Halloween candy that you have eaten out of the deep freezer next to the laundry machines. Nor are you defined by the failed laundry attempts while busy eating said candy in a furtive fashion that resulted in RED CRAYON dye all over your load of whites.

You are not defined by the frayed and frazzled state of your hair at the beginning and end of day. You are not defined by how few times you’ve worn high heels (or fashionable shoes) in the last five years, or listened to a new band aside from great kids music. You are not defined by your pre-baby wardrobe that really needs to be donated and freshened up but sits in sad little heaps in your closet instead.

You are still you. I am still me, the pre-baby me. I’m just a fuller (literally and figuratively) version of that me. I cannot be me without them. My body is physically altered by them (even down to their DNA still residing inside me after giving birth). My brain is constantly on a treadmill of thoughts about them

who has to pee

when did i last nurse

do they need a snack or should i leave them alone

how wet is that spot on the bed and do i have to wash these sheets

how long can they screamfight before I need to intervene

I grow into this mothering role better and better with each year, each baby. I resent the intrusion into “my” desires and “my” life less and less. I find time and schedule it, dammmmit, for me and what I need to feel human, that me pre-baby, that me underneath. But I do not and cannot let my needs and wants direct my life anymore. My soaring spirit, my adventuresome self, all turn toward mothering. What beauties can I share with them? What adventures can they experience? What can I provide for them?

So we are all in this muddling mud pit of mothering together, we young mothers. I am trying to not define myself by my children, hang my easily bruised ego on their sleeves. And I won’t define you by yours either, instead, simply respect that you’re a person aside from your kiddos, when they’re great and when they’re atrocious.

Perhaps this is my letter to me. And a promise to you, too.


I Am the Handmaid of the Lord: A Guest Post by Bobbi


I just love Bobbi. She is like the awesome, inspiring big sister I never had and always wished for. Her blog, Revolution of Love, is so uplifting and just beautiful. It made me so happy when she graciously accepted my pleading for her to guest post for me. If you don’t already follow Revolution of Love, you simply must. Thanks so much, Bobbi!




Happy feast of the Annunciation!

When I was younger, and after my reversion to the church, one of my favorite bible scriptures was Luke 1:38.  “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The words touched my heart, especially since at the time I was also struggling with whether or not I was being called to a religious vocation. Part of me thought it was a beautiful and noble calling to be the bride of Christ. The other part of me thought, it’s great as long as God is not calling me, a boy-crazy romantic.


Boy-crazy or not, I went away for a summer-long discernment retreat with a group of lay consecrated women. I figured I’d give it a try (and prove that I was not called to that kind of life.) I went in thinking, “There’s no way,” but a curious thing happened in there. First, the amount of time I spent in prayer really started to soften my hardened heart. I keenly remember having to adjust to the schedule and bell that rung moving us from one activity to another. When the bell tolled, we were to stop what we were doing and move on to the next activity. There was no, “Hold on one sec,” or “Let me just finish this last bit.” Obedience to God was obedience to the rules and schedule. We learned to offer it up and say, “I am the handmaid of the Lord…”


As things would turn out, by the end of the retreat, I did not want to go home. I had never felt so close to God and wanted to offer my life in consecration to Him. However, my spiritual director and my confessor both advised me to return home and take a year off to pray and further discern. I did and during that time I realized I was called to be a wife and mother. But God used that summer to show me how to love and how to give and serve generously.


Fast forward sixteen years and now I am married with four children. I do not live in a monastery but our home is a little domestic church. I do not have a bell ringing, telling me to move from one activity to the next but I do have little ones that constantly interrupt my “plans.” Whether it is a sick child that needs attention or milk that spilled all over the counter or a bathroom accident that needs to be cleaned, there is a constant stream of opportunities for me to die to self and say, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”


I wish I could say that I have learned to kiss the cross and offer my sacrifice with love but all too often the cross is met with a deep sigh and my muttering, “Seriously, Lord? Again?” Yeah, I have far to go but at least I am on the right road and God’s mercy is always there to pick me up and get me going again.”


So on this feast of the annunciation, let’s renew our commitment to follow Mary’s example and say yes to God in whatever He asks of us.





Bobbi is wife, mom and part time blogger. She lives on the Monterey Bay in California with her husband, teen daughter and three rambunctious little boys. When she is not dodging light sabers, she can be found outside with her family or catching a late night movie. In her spare time, sparse as it may be, Bobbi writes about family, homemaking, and loving God in the midst of daily life at her blog Revolution of Love. She is also a contributor at Blessed Is She.net.

Spiritual Sisters: A Guest Post by Erica

For the first guest post in my “Epic Across the Metro Move 2015″ series, the lovely Erica from Saint Affairs is going to share some hard-fought wisdom for cultivating spiritual sisterhood. Erica is a wonderful writer and has personally motivated and inspired me in my own journey to embrace vulnerability in my writing. Make sure you stop by her beautiful blog, Saint Affairs, to read more gems like this, and this.


Spiritual Sisters  

I am an only child. I was born to a teenage mother and absent father. I grew up in my grandparent’s home. My grandmother was often depressed and angry. I was her verbal dart board; her words pierced my flesh again and again throughout the years I spent in her home.

The holes of the wounds left me damaged, pocked and ugly. Insecure and unsure, my thin skin let every negative comment and unkind look from others seep into my heart.

Friendships were not easy for me. Through the years, I developed relationships with a handful of girls that I sort of trusted. I enjoyed their company, but I always kept them at a distance, waiting for them to realize how unlikable I was, waiting for them to wound me, too. Often, I struck first by being cold or mouthy, pushing them towards the path that I was so sure they would eventually take. The path that led away from me.

By the grace of God, a couple of these girls stuck with me and through them I added a few more friends to my circle. Most of these girls had grown up in Christian households and faith was a part of their life. I know God placed these girls in my life. He knew I needed them.

In my late teens and early twenties, I searched through God’s Word looking for love, acceptance, and comfort. I found Him there on the pages and began to understand His ways. He whispered to me, telling me that I was His and my friends were His and together we were family. We are bonded by our love for our Heavenly Father, and through that love we are sisters. Through this new understanding, I began to let my guard down and opened myself to deeper friendship, community, and family than I had ever known. I found my sisters!

They helped me to love God better, love my husband and children better, and love myself better.

Through the years, these girls and I have studied His Word, worshiped together, and attended Christian women retreats together. We have celebrated and supported one another through weddings, pregnancies, miscarriages, surgeries, and illness. Though we don’t see each other as often as we once did, we know that all we have to do is make a quick phone call, and help will be on the way!

God blessed me when He brought these girls in my life. Girls that had a heart for Him and who opened their hearts to me.

Do you have a family of sisters in Christ?

Your spiritual sisters will make you comfortable and warm. Their home will be your home, a sanctuary when the pressures of the day are pressing in on you.

Your spiritual sisters will give you a safe place to land when you stumble under the weight that you carry. They will lighten your burden and give you a reason to smile through your pain.

Your spiritual sisters will fight for you. They will fill in your weak spots with words of love. They will build you up and make you stronger.

Your spiritual sisters will tell you the truth. They see your flaws, but they encourage you to grow, improve yourself and be transformed. Their truth-telling won’t be painful because they speak from a place of love, with a desire to see you fulfill all that God has planned for you.

Your spiritual sisters feed you with the Father’s Word. They know when you are neglecting yourself. They will take care of you even when you don’t care enough to do it yourself.

How has God blessed your friendships with other women? How has your faith deepened by building community with women, by letting them love you and by loving them back?

I was a wounded, lonely child. I could have continued along that path and perpetuated the pain and loneliness in my adult life. God’s grace and mercy healed me and showed me the beauty of friendship with women. But it wasn’t always easy, and I needed Him to show me the way.

Maybe you are still hurting and lonely. Maybe you haven’t found your spiritual sisters yet.

Pray for supportive women to enter your life. God’s plan will be revealed to you in His time. Lean on Him during your period of loneliness. But don’t just wait for girlfriends to show up at your door. I know it is hard to reach out to others when you are already hurting. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and ask the girl that you see at church every Sunday out for coffee or an afternoon walk. Allow her the opportunity to say yes. You never know, she may be lonely, too.

How can you be a better friend and sister in Christ to the women in your life?


Erica is a Catholic woman, wife, and homeschooling mom. She enjoys reading, writing, knitting, and running (not necessarily in that order). She writes about her life, all its sorrows and joys, at www.SaintAffairs.com.

Tomfoolery and The Best Week of Feasts



Let me tell you about the state of affairs. Apparently its tricky to pack an entire house AND feed, change, and keep happy 3 kids each day. Who knew? Apparently we are crazy people. We are 11 days out from the move and you may not hear from me much the next two weeks. However, fear not. Some amazing ladies are going to be guest posting on ye olde blog starting next week. Look forward to the likes of Erica, Bobbi, Laura, Jess and Nell.

In the meantime, we are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with some wearing o’ the green.



This little monster has already outgrown her St. Paddy’s shirt, so she’s in mint leggings.

We had some wonderful fun on Sunday visiting with friends and attending a Saint Joseph festival. Maggie waited very patiently in line to have her face painted.



I know I’m biased, but is she gorgeous or what?

Tonight we are eating Guinness Irish Stew and reading Yeats while we cry about oppression into some Jameson. Sounds about right, yes? We love the feast of Saint Patrick, because both Atticus and I have some Irish heritage.

Then, on Thursday we celebrate the feast of my favorite saint, Joseph. We’ve celebrated 5 St. Joseph feasts living in this house on St. Joseph street. This will be the last. He’s the patron saint of Sicily, from whence my people come. Saint Joseph has been a huge intercessor in our lives. We prayed a novena to Joseph the month before conceiving both Maggie and the twins. Most recently we prayed a novena in the months before listing our home for sale, and the very first people who looked at the house are buying it.

So, naturally, I’m making spaghetti and meatballs. Everyone in my house loves spaghetti and meatballs and this will be the last big meal I’m cooking in this house. Seems very fitting as our time in this home draws to a close.



Skeptical about this whole moving thing.

And here’s what happens when I try to get a good photo of a pair of 16 month olds.


On that note, I wish you all a very happy feast of Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph.


Capsule Wardrobe Part 2: Mary Cate and Charlie


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As I said in Maggie’s capsule wardrobe post, she has a lot of opinions about her clothes. So many opinions. Blissfully, Mary Cate and Charlie do not have opinions about their clothes, so I get to dress them however I want. Ah, the perks of parenting toddlers. Perk? Maybe that’s the only one.

As I also mentioned in Maggie’s post, we get most of our kids clothing either second hand or deeply discounted.

Our favorite places for second hand clothing are ThredUp, and we’ve recently tried Moxie Jean. Good stuff.



These are Charlie’s church clothes. For colder weather he wears cords and sweater vests a lot. I like argyle sweater vests for little boys. And red corduroy overalls.


Adorable overalls from Baby Boden. Lumberjack flannel by Gymboree.



Most of Charlie’s shirts are from Gymboree, Gap and Old Navy.


Charlie is not a big fan of hoods of any kind, so we do a lot of zip-ups and crew necks for sweaters and sweatshirts. All of the kids have Gap sweatshirts because they are really durable and super soft. The lone hooded sweater is Cherokee by Target.

For pants, Charlie wears sweat pants almost exclusively.


5 pairs of sweats, one jeans, one cords, and one cargo. All of the sweats are either hand me downs or from Goodwill. I love the cords from Gymboree and jeans are Gap via ThredUp.

And that’s basically it for boys clothes. Charlie has a pair of robeez that are seriously amazing and a pair of sneakers from Target.

Mary Cate

Just about all of MC’s clothes previously belonged to Maggie. Such is the lot of little sisters.


Starting with church clothes, and I just love jumpers. The gorgeous plaid one on the right is from Janie and Jack. Gap also makes the most adorable dresses for little girls.


Like I said, we all have Gap sweatshirts. For sweaters, Gymboree also makes these great cotton blend sweaters which are warm but not itchy. Isn’t that horsey sweater so cute?


I like stripes, so MC wears a lot of stripes. Recently I’ve discovered Baby Boden, a delightful British brand, after being gifted some adorable outfits for the babies. The red stripe shirt above is Boden. We have a lot of Carter’s, Gymboree and Gap in this batch.


That green puppy sweater. Am I right? So stinking cute.


For MC’s pants, it is all about leggings and sweats. And of course, what girl’s wardrobe is complete without jeggings? Majority of leggings and sweats for MC are Gymboree and Gap. Jeggings are Cherokee by Target.


Most of Mary Cate’s clothes are hand-me-down’s from Maggie, but these awesome fox pants are not. Seriously. Fox pants. I need to step away from the internet because this post is done with fox pants.

Hope you enjoyed a little peek into the kiddos closets. What are your go-to brands for durable and beautiful kids clothes?

A Trip to Notre Dame and Some Bloggin’


Friends, I was so delighted to have the opportunity to attend a gathering of the Catholic Women Blogging Network at Notre Dame. Because I need an excuse to visit the most beautiful campus in America, right? So throw in Nell, Bonnie, Kathryn, and my real life bestie Elizabeth, and I was down to party.

There were snacks, naturally.


There were selfies, naturally. Lots of selfies.


With the one and only Elizabeth of Coppertop Kitchen


Listening to Bob Dylan with Nell

Listening to Bob Dylan with Nell


Bonnie and Katrina did an amazing job of planning this day to rest, connect, and re-engage with our writing lives and pick up some blogging tips and resources along the way. Katrina gave each woman two beautiful handmade prints from her new endeavor, Hatch Prints. I am in love with them and only hope there will be many more.





What a gift to spend the day with these women who embody the feminine genius in all its myriad expressions, and who are sincerely sharing their hearts with the world. I’m so lucky to get to share my heart with all of you.



Father and Forgive


Yesterday’s Blessed Is She prompt for the day was father. So I skipped it. Hey, I’m in the business of truth telling over here. I skipped it because I knew there would be something there, I knew God would put something in my heart I’d have to feel. I skipped it yesterday, but came back to it today. Perhaps that’s a mark of my progress.

Of course, the readings smacked me in the face, and then it occurred to me that I’ve never told the story of how I’m forgiving my father.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”

“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Father and Forgive. Of course.

For me, these two words must always go together. It has to be this way because there is so much that needs to be forgiven; so much that I need the Father in order to forgive. By God’s grace, the work of forgiveness has been largely done, though maybe it will never be complete.

My first memory is of flushing my father’s drugs down the toilet. I was about 3, and he and my mother were fighting. Again. About his drug use. Again. My mother found some stash or other, and sent me to flush them. I did.

By the time I was 5, my parents had separated and reunited several times, and were separated for good. I had been in one major car accident due to his driving while high, and was a confused little girl. I loved my father. I remember him playing games with me and making me grilled cheese sandwiches while my mother was at work. I don’t remember him ever yelling at me or being abusive in any way. Like most addicts, he was two different people, depending on whether he was clean or using. Its hard enough for adults to understand; kids, forget it. Confusion reigns.

Throughout the years after my grandparents took over raising me, I saw my father periodically. I remember the day of my first Holy Communion being ruined when he showed up high for Mass. His mother and father, my Catholic grandparents, who had come so far to share the day with me, were devastated and it was a long time before I saw them again. He would arrive for a visit, stay a few hours, and leave to try and manipulate some local doctors into giving him drugs. Sometimes he came back. More than once, I sat at the window for hours, waiting for my father who would not be back.

Can you see now why I skipped the “father” prompt? How its a mark of progress that I returned to it at all?

By the time I entered high school, he was gone for good. The last time I spoke with him was around my 12th birthday. He was high. I was old enough to tell him that if he couldn’t call me sober, he shouldn’t call me at all. He didn’t. So I spent at least the next ten years believing that I was worthless because he chose drugs over me.

The loss of my mother was traumatic, but it did not cause me shame. I knew, without a doubt, that if my mother could have, she would have done anything in her power to stay alive for me. I knew this, and I know it still.

But the abandonment of my father. A completely different story. The shame runs so deep in this loss that even as I type this more than 15 years later, I’m trying to decide if I should publish it. You see, what if you realize what a terrible child I must have been, for my own father to leave me. You see, what shame can do? How even in hearts mostly healed, it can creep back in like the coward it is.

I struggled mightily to believe that God actually gave a shit about me. How could he? How could a God allow such suffering in the life of a child, and actually care? As a child, theology was lost on me, and for many years after, I resisted any real belief in a caring God.

Then something happened. I was in college and heard a woman speak about forgiveness. Her young daughter had been kidnapped and murdered, and she had forgiven the man who did it. She had leaned in to her Catholic faith and fought the destruction of self caused by hate. She forgave him. Surely, if she could forgive so much and find peace, then I could too?

So I did what she said. I asked God to help me forgive him. Which sounds so little, but in reality, it split everything wide open. I did not want to forgive my father, because I equated forgiveness with permission. If I forgave him, I was condoning what he did, right?

Dear hearts, this is not so. Forgiveness is not permission. We do not forgive people who have wounded us deeply because we get to a point where we are “ok” with their words or actions. I will never be “ok” with the way my father abandoned me. But I have forgiven him, in the sense that he no longer holds power over my heart. I have let go of the anger and resentment. God’s grace and gentle calls to open my clenched fists of rage just a little, let me feel the sweet release of freedom.

I still feel pain when I think of that little girl who believed she was worthless, and that’s why her father left. I want to reach back through the years and hold her close, whisper how beautiful, worthy, and loving she is. How it is his tragedy more than hers. How in time she will see him with eyes of pity for all of the demons who haunted him and all of the beautiful things he sacrificed for his god.

Today, I look at the woman I have become, who grace and love have made me, and I feel sad for him to not know me. I am someone worth knowing. My husband and children are people worth knowing and loving. He has missed all this, and perhaps that is punishment enough.

The moment forgiveness becomes possible is when we can hold in tension these truths: what happened to me is not acceptable, but I am so much more than acceptable . The pain that others inflict upon us does not define our dignity or worthiness of giving and receiving love. We are more than the worst thing that has happened to us.




Kids Capsule Wardrobe Part 1: Maggie


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Maggie just turned 4, so she has a lot of opinions. As in, all of them. Especially in regards to her clothes. I’m always in awe of people who have a 4 year old they can choose clothing and lay out outfits for. Maggie picks out her own outfit every day, because if she didn’t, it might signify the beginning of the apocalypse.

Maggie loves leggings, t-shirts, and dresses. She tolerates jeans. Thus, her wardrobe consists mainly of leggings, t-shirts, and dresses. Since she likes to choose her own outfits, I’ve tried to have color schemes that mostly match.

We do a lot of second-hand, hand-me-downs, and deeply discounted clothing for all the kids. Our favorite brands are pricey, so I scour clearance racks, Goodwill, and consignment sales to find them.

In these parts, we have Whale of a Sale twice a year, and the Twins and Multiples group I belong to also has a wonderful sale twice a year. I pick up a lot of the kids clothes here.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the nice, practically new items I’ve found at Goodwill from brands like Gap, Crew Cuts, Janie and Jack, and Gymboree (some of our favorites!).

ThredUp also has a nice selection of gently used kids clothing. I’ve heard good things about Moxie Jean but I haven’t yet tried it.

Leggings and Jeans


She has one other pair (purple) which were on her body that day. I get jeans for Maggie from Target’s Cherokee line now, because she does not wear them much, and while they’re not the best quality in the world, they are fine for the times she wears them. When she was younger and wore jeans more, I got them from Baby Gap (usually second hand or deep discount).

For leggings, we love Hanna Andersson, Lands End, Gap kids, and Circo.

Dresses and Skirts


Maggie has two kinds of dresses; church dresses and everyday dresses. Pictured above the church dresses. I am a big fan of sweater dresses for fall and winter. Gap Kids and Gymboree have wonderful sweater dresses.

The one pictured in the front in the above photo is from a sweet brand Matilda Jane. Their clothes are beautiful and whimsical, and cost a small fortune. So naturally, I buy them secondhand. Their dresses are just so sweet, Maggie and I both love them. They do make them for adults too…


These are everyday dresses. The front is a Matilda Jane outfit with matching jersey knit pants. We try to stay away from characters on clothes, but there’s Elsa poking out from that dress in the back. We may also have a Frozen t-shirt floating around here somewhere.

We love Lands End, Hanna Andersson, and Tea for everyday cotton dresses.


Skirts aren’t a huge part of Maggie’s wardrobe, but we have a few. She likes polka dots, as should we all.

We love Lands End and Gymboree for skirts (especially with built in shorts!)

Sweaters and Sweatshirts


Maggie is a big fan of short sleeve shirts. So since it is winter, that means we also have a lot of cardigans. The Cherokee brand from Target makes great light-weight cardigans. For heavier sweaters, Hanna Andersson and Gymboree are great.


Everyone loves a hoodie, and for a 4 year old girl, they better be pink. We’ve had the best success with hoodies from Carter’s and Cherokee from Target.



Maggie loves t-shirts. Right now she is into short sleeved shirts worn with cardigans because we live in the frozen tundra. She’s also very into orange right now, hence several orange shirts.

Our favorite brands for t-shirts are Gap, Gymboree, Cherokee, and Lands End.



We all wear Lands End parkas in this house. Eric and I have each had ours for six years, and they are going strong. The one pictured above is Maggie’s first. I won’t say she loves it, because truthfully she resents us terribly for living somewhere where she needs to wear a coat. But what I will say is, she doesn’t complain about being cold. And the inside is very, very soft.

I am a Lands End true believer. All our bathing suits and winter coats are LE. They can be a bit pricey, but if you catch sales or secondhand, you can get a good deal. Especially considering that they last a long time. Maggie will be able to wear this coat again next winter, and it will probably have enough life left for Mary Cate when she fits it.

Jammies, Tights, and Socks

Sorry I don’t have any photos for this one.

In the winter Maggie wears fleece jammies from Carter’s. She also loves several pairs of second hand princess PJs from the Disney store.

For tights, our favorites are Hanna Andersson and Stride Rite (we received these as a gift and love them!).

So there you have it, a little peak into the capsule wardrobe we are trying to make for Maggie. Focusing on outfits that mostly match or are interchangeable has allowed me to simplify her wardrobe and focus on the clothes she really loves. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thoughts On a Birthday


My birthday is coming again. The knot in my stomach growing just a little each day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my birthday. I always make it a point to do something every year to celebrate, even if it’s just spending time with Atticus and the kids. This year, it falls on Ash Wednesday, so the celebration is today and tomorrow. Today I’m taking the afternoon off for a massage and time to work on a writing project. Tomorrow we’re celebrating with some Cajun food for Mardi Gras. I’ll open a few small gifts, most notable of which, the one Maggie has been furtively working on since yesterday. I am so eager to see what her creative little mind had come up with.

All this is joy, and there is a lot of joy and gratitude surrounding my birthday. I am so happy to be alive, and so grateful to my brave mother for taking the risk to give me life, despite her poor health. I will be forever grateful for her courage and bravery. Of course I have to be grateful, and when I look around and see this family that would not exist if I did not exist, I overflow with gratitude.

Beautiful humans who wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Valerie Ruth

Along with joy and gratitude is sadness that I can’t spend time with the woman who gave me life as part of the celebration. Not even a phone call across the miles. They haven’t yet created a phone that can reach the dead. I’m also approaching the surreal fact that next year on my birthday, I will be as old as my mother was when she died. And the year after? I’ll be older than my mother. At 33, I’ll be older than my mother. My life will have eclipsed hers, and will continue to do so as I celebrate February 18 each year. I’m only beginning myself to process what this means for my identity and how I’ll react when it becomes reality.

Though my mother has been dead for 24 years, and the in this grief there is ebb and flow, around my birthday, it flows. And I smile anyway. I force myself to have fun and laugh anyway. I lean into the pain that often accompanies being alive, and let it flow through me while I’m with those I love. This too shall pass, and after the pain, grace.

This poem by Mary Oliver captures this process of holding grief and life in tension, so perfectly. For my mother.

Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it–
books, bricks, grief–
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled–
roses on the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?


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