{PFHR} Spring has sprung!

Anyone who used to watch Sesame Street in the 80’s might remember this one:

(That’s about the screen quality I saw it in at the time, too.) Anyway, that song has been in my head all week as we finally have been doing some earth-turning, week pulling, worm-finding, and seed-planting!


Not garden-related, but spring-themed: Look at my pretty door! I’ve been scowling at my ugly storm door all winter and now it’s off and I can see my nice shiny black door and forsythia wreath. And my hubby got me that hanging basket of petunias.



Petey is fun to watch outside in his very element, with so many new things to poke around in. He NEVER wants to come back inside these days.



I’m very happy to be out in the garden again and getting onions, peas, broccoli, and lettuce into the ground!

This also makes me happy — how adorable is my Paul’s hand-drawn garden plan, composed back in January? We’ll have to compare and contrast his efforts to Dave’s spreadsheets I’ve heard about!




For real, people, those are tiny strawberries. Already! Hooray!

Other not-so-hot “real” things: Allergies  hitting big time for me and the kids, ugh; deer eating my tulips; and bunnies eating my parsley and squirrels attacking the bird feeder. Oh well, it’s all part of spring, and I welcome it!

Head over to Like Mother Like Daughter to check out some more captured contentment!

7 Quick Takes – March Madness

When you run an Irish dance school, March Madness is all St. Patrick’s Day themed! We have squeezed a few other activities into this month so far, but do I have photos of them? I mostly do not.

1. St. Paddy’s Week-ish



The little Catholic school that my kids and Claire’s kids attend was nice enough to let us have a St. Patrick’s Day party in their gym/auditorium. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, with performances, ceili dancing, and even a live ceili band! This kicked off St. Paddy’s season for us, which also included a few nursing home performances and one last-minute gig at a Montessori School.


Getting the beginners to do their dance is always like herding cats, which is why the audience was treated to my rear view through this whole dance, and still Claire had to be onstage herding them from the other side!


We even made it into a small local paper after one of our nursing home performances.

2. Singing Sisters and pesky kids


The mulit-talented Joanie has become quite good at the guitar, and she and Mary and I got to sing together at a couple of our performances. Occupational hazzard of performing and being a mom: getting asked to open a bag of chips mid-performance. Sigh, Margot…

3. Basketball and Broadway Babies


After a lucky win in cousin Joe’s basketball pool (thanks, Aunt Jane!) Margot and I were able to get great tickets to see Annie in a REAL THEATER with a traveling Broadway cast. The adult actors were fantastic, the sets were very cool, and Margot had a great time, even if all the Depression/Hooverville/Roosevelt-in-his-wheelchair stuff went right over her head, not to mention the whole idea of orphans being a little foreign/scary to her. I don’t actually get the appeal of this show after the “Hard Knock Life” opening number, but whatever. The place was packed with little girls, and my little girl loved it. I do think she liked this part best though:

photo(4)Sharing the rare treat of a soda with Mommy!

4. Signs of Spring

So, right now it’s not even above freezing out, but we had enough days over 45 last week to make me feel like living again, and most of the snow has melted, and we got outside and stomped around in the mud in our new rubber boots. One day the girls made a “cake” of sticks and pinecones:


And Petey found some mud.


5. Lenten Fails

Let’s see: haven’t gotten to Confession or Stations of the Cross yet, have failed on my Lenten promises on a daily basis, haven’t done the daily readings or prayers that I meant to, but, hey, Petey’s giving alms:


I have been keeping up with Fr. Barron’s Word on Fire, and even better, with Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever, and through my Lenten challenges have managed to get the dishes, laundry, and bed-making done every day by 9:30am, which feels good!

6. Kondo-izing

Speaking of laundry, I lightened my laundry load to the tune of 5 garbage bags worth of my own stuff after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Paul actually ordered it from the library for me, thinking it sounded like something I’d like, and I have to say, it was intriguing and inspiring, and quirky in such a sweet way. Plus, Rachel Balducci says you have to read it!

7. Quotable Kids

This could be its own post, but since I never post and I needed another quick take I’ll share one of the funny things my kids have been coming out with lately. I picked up Margot at school last Tuesday and reminded her as she got into the car that we had an Irish dance performance that afternoon at a nursing home.

“Oh yeah,” she said, “Molly’s really excited about it!” (Molly is a classmate who dances with Margot). “She said, ‘I can’t wait for our performance today.’ Then Justin (random boy in class) said, ‘What performance?’ and I said, ‘The one for the old people.’ Then he said, ‘Well, what kind of old people? Old people with grey hair, old people with white hair, old people in wheelchairs, or old people in hospitals?’ And I said, ‘Old people in hospitals, I think.'”

Yeah, you had to be there.

Thanks Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for hosting the only link-up that the McSisters get their act together for! 

He’s here!



Just wanted to jump on the ol’ blog to let Ellen’s faithful readers know that they can release the breath they’ve been holding all weekend — Gus has arrived!

How cute is that little face? His full name is Augustine Anthony and he was 8lbs 12oz, which is nothing compared to his big sister’s birth weight (and yes, compared to any of Claire’s kids) but I still think it’s pretty good. Mom and baby are doing well and SK is hanging with Mimi and Aunt Joanie for the week. I’m sure Ellen will be back with more details soon!

Are you the 2 Percent?

You’ve probably heard the statistic: 98% of Catholic women do not follow the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control. It’s a number that’s been thrown around a lot lately, between the controversy about the HHS mandate’s birth control coverage and the upcoming synod on the family and the issue of bishops allegedly “polling” Catholics about their practice of the Faith. As usual, we’re feeling pretty misrepresented around here. Really, only 2% of us practice NFP? In the various circles of my little Catholic bubble it sure feels more like that statistic should be the other way around sometimes!
So, are you the 2 percent, too? If you are part of that supposed minority who embraces the Church’s teachings with joy, albeit sometimes with difficulty, would you consider signing and passing on this open letter to the bishops that my husband wrote? There’s a link at the bottom to the petition form, although it’s really not a petition — it’s a show of support, and a way to make sure that our bishops know that some of us are grateful for what the Church has given us, and would love to see her message taught more effectively to more people. Spread the word!

St Paddy’s Day/Weekend recap


Top o’ the morning and all the cheesy Irish sayings to you! I know, I know, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t even that big a deal in Ireland, but I enjoy my true heritage and a little bright green shmaltz this time of year. March is so loooooong otherwise!


We did a little leprechaun mischief — they dyed the milk green and put all the cereals in the wrong boxes, and tossed up a few decorations while they were at it. Usually Daddy gets balloons to tie to the girls’ chairs, but unfortunately he was smacked down by another stomach bug on Sunday. So far the rest of us are ok (please please please!) and most importantly, I made it through both of my dancers’ performances this weekend without getting sick.


Here is a link to a little video from my Irish dancers’ performance on Saturday, at a local nursing home (you can see Joanie, our youngest McSister, who is the tallest and most graceful dancer of the bunch!). They also performed yesterday at our local library. I’m supposed to go to Margot’s preschool on Thursday and teach them some dancing as well. That should give me a taste of what it’s like to teach that age — I constantly have requests to open up the class to younger kids, and I feel myself caving as Jackie and Margot are both really ready to start dancing. Plus Claire said she’d do it 🙂


Paul must have had a little premonition of his impending illness, because he decided to make his St. Paddy’s meal on Saturday instead of Monday, which meant we got to enjoy a savory lamb stew (and Guinness, for him). Yum!




Hope you all enjoyed your green weekend! I’m looking forward to seeing some real green outside soon. Enough of this winter and all its germs!

I’ve got a lot of problems with you people…

No, it’s not Festivus again, but I am about to air some grievances…with Masterpiece Theatre. As per repeated requests (from Ellen and our McDad) I am going to attempt to break down just what it is that has disappointed me about Downton Abbey particularly and Masterpiece shows in general lately. When I went on a little Facebook Rant after the Season 4 premier some people were not too happy with me (although a few admitted they had secretly felt the same way). This is not personal — if you enjoy something, I don’t want to take that enjoyment away from you. It’s just that I am disappointed in the show, and in a lot of the new Masterpiece shows, which I have enjoyed in the past but with which I am now finding myself unsatisfied. I will attempt to dissect the reasons why I am feeling this way using an unbiased third party who died a very long time ago: Aristotle.

The philosopher Aristotle wrote an analysis of Poets (writers) and their art (poetry and stage drama) called The Poetics. He was, in a sense, the very first theater critic, and so I think it’s fitting to go back to the basics and look at how Aristotle judged the entertainment of his time (which included such true masterpieces as the Odyssey and the Theban and Orestian Trilogies) and then use those same criteria to judge our modern tele-dramas — in this case, Downton Abbey.

(Some of the Poetics, mainly the part dealing with Comedy, is missing, and so we can only go from what Aristotle wrote of epic poetry and Tragedy, but I do think it’s general enough to apply to the serial drama we are discussing. For the purposes of this discussion, where he says “Tragedy” I will say “play,” and assume that covers television shows. Okay? Okay.)

Aristotle breaks the play down into 6 component parts, which are listed here in descending order of importance:

1. Plot

2. Character

3. Thought

4. Diction

5. Song

6. Spectacle

Plot, Character, Thought, and Diction, are essential parts of the play; Song and Spectacle are “Embellishments.” Plot is of the utmost importance.

Why? All Art, according to Aristotle, is Imitation; and a play is an imitation of action and of life, so the plot — the series of events that make up the action — is the soul of the play. I won’t go into lots of specifics about Character, Thought, and Diction — suffice it to say, that’s basically how different types of characters are presented, the way in which they speak and express ideas, and the actual manner of their speech. These things are important, and all serve to support the plot, but should not come before the plot in importance. Song and Spectacle come last because they are the least important — as “Embellishments” they are only there to add to what has already been presented in the plot and characters.

And here’s where we come to my critique of Downton Abbey. It seems like what everyone loves most about the show –The gorgeous sets and scenery! Sweeping music! Those beautiful period costumes! — all fall clearly into the category of Spectacle and Song — they are Embellishments.

Even the clever one-liners from the Dowager Countess, which I quite enjoy myself, fall into the category of Diction, Thought, and Character — they are funny because of HOW she says them, WHAT she says, and WHO her character is — which are all secondary to the plot. And not one critic, much as they love this show, will say that the plot of Downton Abbey is anything but chock full of holes. Large swathes of time disappear and are never mentioned, huge plot points take place offstage entirely, way too many problems are solved by letters arriving, deus ex machina-style, in the ta-da! nick of time. I am not the only person to have recognized or commented on this, but it seems like we’re all so dazzled by the spectacle that we don’t care.

Hmm, that was only one of my points and it’s taken a while to make already, so I guess I’ll let that one sink in and maybe continue with the rest of my points next week. I will leave you for now with the genius of Edith With Googly Eyes. This is why the Internet is awesome:

Catching Up, Journal-Style

It’s been so long I thought I’d swipe a neat idea from Mary of Better than Eden (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! And laziness.) and catch you all up on what’s been happening by breaking it down into categories. Here we go!

Outside my window…

Do you need to ask? It’s the Polar Vortex returned with a vengeance, people. 11 degrees when I dropped Margot at preschool this morning. Ah, January, the month of my birth.

Thankful for…

Healthy kids, especially my chubsy boy, and a sweet and helpful husband. Thankful for these moments of peace in my day when I can regroup and even blog a bit.

Thinking about…

My latest Irish dancing venture, a long-awaited (by me, anyway!) class for adults! Since deciding to go ahead and send Margot to the local Catholic school (if she gets in!) on top of paying a monstrous amount of school taxes to our local district, Paul gave me the green light to take another night of the week to teach dance and make a few extra bucks to put towards next year’s tuition. I have been wanting to teach adults ever since I started teaching here in NY, but for a number of reasons I haven’t been able to make it happen until now. Lets hope all those adults who’ve been pestering me about this come out of the woodwork and join the class!

From the Kitchen…

I made a delicious beef stew for the second time the other day (more as an excuse to buy a bottle of red wine than anything!) and I highly recommend it. I used this recipe with all of Corrine’s alterations (hers is the first review at the bottom, labeled “Most highly rated helpful review.”) I realize that makes it a little complicated to follow and that I should just write out the entire altered recipe and put it in a book, but will I? Probably not. Just try it, and make sure you have some crusty bread to mop up the sauce with. Yummy!


Oh, so much in progress! Right this very second I have a cardboard “M” sitting in front of me that I’m decorating to go with Ruthie’s letter “R,” which I made when she was a baby. The girls are sharing a room now and I’ve been wanting to make Margot a letter of her own so I can hang both letters up over the girls’ beds. It will look better when there are two twin beds instead of one twin and one crib-turned-toddler bed, but Mommy never gets to the craft store these days, so I’m striking while the iron’s hot!



I’ve also gone back to work on Moby Dick the dollhouse. My new plan — set up a program at the library where I explain all the little tips and tricks I learned to finish and furnish a dollhouse cheaply, like cardboard siding, egg-carton bricks, and the many many uses of popsicle sticks and other woodsies. I just need a deadline, I can’t work without one, and this dollhouse has taken almost five years already!

I’m  almost finished with a drawing of Joanie that I plan to enter into the next Art Association show at the library. I was asked to join the Albany Artists Group, which is very flattering. I just don’t have enough time to take advantage of all the great shows and venues where I’m entitled to hang my work as a part of these organizations, but as long as I get something into the two library shows I feel like I can avoid getting totally rusty.

photo 3


To MOPS tomorrow, playgroup on Friday, Mimi’s on Saturday — for my birthday! — and out to do something fun with my husband soon. We usually just go out to dinner, and while I appreciate a toddler-free meal as much as anyone, I really want to DO something this time. I have been wanting, for example, to try rock wall climbing for years. My husband was about to get it for me as a Christmas gift the year I got pregnant with Ruthie. I just feel like I’d rather have an experience than just another meal. If it weren’t January I’d have gone with hiking or canoeing. Any other good winter activity suggestions?


Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis, a re-read of a very much loved favorite for book club next week. I hope everyone likes it. I’m beginning to feel like it’s kind of long for book club, but oh, it’s just so beautiful. I think Alfonso Cuaron should direct a film of it.

I also just finished all three volumes of the memoirs by Jennifer Worth that are the basis for the BBC series Call the Midwife. I like the show, despite some controversial content, and I found that it doesn’t stray very far from Worth’s memoirs, which is probably why it’s so good. It makes me worried for the upcoming third season, though, since the show has already used pretty much all of the stories in the books and now I’m assuming they’re going to be writing new content, which rarely works out well. BBC shows in general have been disappointing me lately, and I dearly hope that Call the Midwife doesn’t join the list of Show that Have Let Me Down (I’m talking to you, Sherlock!)


For an old friend’s godchild, a tiny baby with a terrible tumor; another baby back in NH with some kind of mysterious disease; and for all parents of sick children.

Around the house…

Trying to organize things a bit. I have managed to clean and organize the linen closet in the bathroom and create an accordian folder in the kitchen for all the papers that tend to pile up here. So far it seems to be helping. We culled some toys as well, but I don’t think we did enough. All these girls play with are their princesses (and one very fought-over prince) and their castle, completely ignoring every single toy they got for Christmas. We’re also coloring a lot and listening over and over again to the soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz. Petey is just sitting around and soaking it all in, bless him.

There’s a glimpse of life with this McFamily, and sorry to take so long off! I’ll try to come back soon and catch you up on the many quotable quotes that have been happening lately.


WIWS Postpartum Edition

Sorry about my prolonged maternity leave from blogging. I actually went back to dance class last week, though with Claire’s help I could do that and still nurse the baby, whereas typing with one hand is a bit difficult for me. But I will soldier on for the sisterhood!


Let’s start with what I wore and confess that other than the shoes and jacket it’s still maternity clothes over here for the most part. I’ve been passing the wee hours of the morning watching a lot of dumb TLC shows on Netflix, and Stacey and Clinton (What Not to Wear) have made it clear to me that jackets are my friend, hence the suede jacket over maternity shirt and maternity khakis, with my scarf serving the dual functions of belly camouflage and “pop of color.” Bam.

Obviously I have a lot to catch up on, but since I also have to catch up on sleep, I’ll make it short…

This little guy is a month old!


The shirt is a big lie — he’s very sensitive, and it’s made for an interesting first few weeks! First there was a rapid breathing episode in the hospital that led to IV antibiotics; then two weeks of misery, mine and his, around having his upper lip and tongue lasered to fix his tight frenulum to fix his bad latch; and then there’s the ongoing tummy troubles, both gas and reflux, keeping us up and night and unhappy during the day…I won’t say he’s my toughest baby (MARGOT) but he’s no walk in the park (RUTHIE).He also happens to have lost all the hair on top of his head so he looks like a middle-aged Portuguese guy. All he needs is a sleeveless undershirt and a wife named Maria.

Love you, Petey!

P.S. Margot’s been full of one-liner’s lately, and has also watch The Wizard of Oz every day for a week. In church this morning I took Peter out of his carseat to nurse him and Margot looked over to see an empty seat with just Peter’s knit hat left inside it. She picked it up and said, “Where’s Peter! Oh no, he melted!”Thank you to the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for hosting our favorite Sunday  link-up!

Fruits of Fall

My garden seems to have become a metaphor for this pregnancy. The most obvious food-related parallel to any pregnant woman has to be watermelons — we all look like we’re trying to sneak one into the movies under our shirt … Continue reading