Friday, March 29, 2013

Meditations from the Colosseum

Living in Rome during Holy Week is intense. Living in Rome without a computer only compounds that sensation. I snuck down to Dave's office to get some work done this morning, but alas I've no time to write much of anything here, so I guess I'll let the Stations of the Cross prepared for His Holiness Papa Francesco suffice. Buona Pasqua!

Monday, March 25, 2013

WIWS + Olive Branches

Palm Sunday in Italia is more about the olive branches than the palms, a strangely endearing enculturation of the liturgy that surprised me on our way to St. Peter's square in the form of gypsies (is that even PC to say? Is PC a thing in this country?) selling small bundles of them for 5 euro a PIECE on the surrounding streets. Um, what? Pay for my palms? (Or whatever those things are.)

I was mildly scandalized, until we arrived in the Square and sidled up behind the obelisk for a good view of Papa Francesco. At his signal, everyone in the square (maybe around 125,000 at that point in the liturgy) raised their branches in unison, and the piazza became a sea of waving, flittering olive leaves (and a few fancy palms). It was beautiful. And I had to explain to my 2 year old why Mommy was too cheap and indignant to shell out more than a Starbucks fancy drink for him to have his own set.

After Pope Francis blessed the branches, he proceeded up the main aisle (on foot, so crazy!) to the major alter in front of the basilica where he would say Mass. We actually exited the piazza at this point to head down the street to 'our parish,' Santo Spiritu in Sassia, where an English language Mass is celebrated every Sunday at 10 am during the Year of Faith. Papal events are great, but when you live here, you become a little less capable of standing for hours in the blazing! (and it's only March, calm down sweat glands) Roman sun with babies on your back. And besides that, Fr. Gino, our pastor from the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization via New Jersey, is a wonderful, wonderful homilist and a fantastically holy priest.

He always compliments the boys on their screaming commentary of his Masses, and makes a point to tell everyone that heaven sounds like babies screaming. So, I'm hoping he isn't endangering anyone's salvation with that little nugget.

Anyway, the blurry and less than full body pictures, without further ado:

Get him off me.
Our 'parish' is a Divine Mercy shrine run by the Sisters of Mercy, so every olive branch had a line from St. Faustina's diary tied to it. "Meditation on my Passion will help you rise above all things."

Outfitted by:

Dress via Gap
Shoes via JCrew (thrifted)
Turquoise necklace via street vendor
Shower-fresh topnot via...oh well, we were on time for once
Ergo clinger via world's most reluctant and indentured attachment parent

Thanks FLAP

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fajita Night at the Kentucky Derby

One weekend in my past life, about a million years ago, we shook ourselves from a newborn sleeplessness-induced stupor and decided to drive 3 hours to a mountain town called Grand Lake for a good 'ol fashioned family vacation. John Paul was approximately 14 minutes old, or maybe it was 3 weeks, I can't remember, and it was, in retrospect, a very stupid thing to try to do. But, but ... both children slept for the entire car ride up the mountain, so that fact alone kind of sort of made it worth it.

Upon arriving at the gorgeous lakeside lodge that we'd paid next to nothing for to notsleep for a night in a king sized suite, we piled onto the giant bed and proceeded to ... watch the Kentucky Derby pre game show. For like 2 hours. When hunger finally drove us from our nest of comfort and lukewarm imported IPAs fished from our convenient bedside Igloo cooler (class act, this family), we ambled down the hill into town in search of some nourishment. And a view of the race! Because we'd waited through hours of pre-game coverage, and dammit, we wanted to see some horses running for gold. Or flowers. Whatever. Plus, all the competitors had amazing names like 'I'll Have Another Round' and 'Little Miss Sunshine When You're Gone' and other mashups of pickup lines and Van Morrison songs.

The only restaurant we found in sleepy, off-season Grand Lake, Colorado which was open and featuring television coverage of the race, was a Mexican dive bar called La Casa de Sol or something amazing. Which was fine with me. Anyway, we didn't actually go inside to eat there, because it was standing room only, packed with locals hungry for nacho cheese and America's most questionably athletic sporting event.

Tonight was kind of like that night. Firstly, because as I type, the almost 1-year old screaming himself not to sleep in the next room over is no better a sleeper than he was 11 months ago, and secondly, because I think I made horsemeat fajitas for dinner.

Get it?

The true highlight for me was Dave pushing his plate aside and gravely announcing, "I'm sorry honey, I just can't eat this. It's the taste, more than anything."


Flicka, the other red meat. Viva Italia.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

A 'Weekend' Away

Heading out of town today for an adventure of underwhelming proportions. We have a fun game we like to play called 'walk to the train station and get on the next train going somewhere interesting.' It sounds very glamorous until you figure the logistics of rail travel with children, but nevertheless, it has busted us out of many a funk these past couple months. As an added bonus, today Dave has an entire day off work, which has happened once since February 11th, and we squandered it at IKEA, so this is momentous. Momentous, I tell you.
Now picture this sand covered in speedos. And cigarette butts.
Here's the plan: load the double stroller up with children, supplies, and layers of clothing. Curse the heaviness of the load and start removing 'unnecessary' items, one by one, until only the children, 1 umbrella, the rain cover, and a handful of dirty raisins remain. Throw one questionably clean size 4 diaper back into the basket, congratulating self on having smartly purchased size 4s for both kids instead of the more-appropriately fitted 3s and 5s. (Yes mommy, you are a badass.)

Push stroller to the front door only to realize it's raining. Hard. Curse the Mediterranean Sea, the gulf stream,, and any other entity which may be held responsible for the incessant moisture which is  primavera in Roma. Fling stroller back into the mailroom corner and strap the slightly smaller baby into the Ergo, wrap the toddler in an extra layer of water-resistance, and run for the bus.
Wait, you've seen this one? Sorry, it's one of 4 pictures our our entire family. And JP isn't even visible.
 End scene.

Or rather, begin a new, even more entertaining to passersby, scene. Arrive at the train station to find Joey's heart bursting with joy. Most times we take the trains places, Joey is very, very pleased. He approves of the seating arrangements, the lack of seat belts, the bearded and chain-smoking conductor who comes to check his bigletti (let's be honest, once out of every 4 rides or so. So tempting to work this system....), and the adoring crowds of strangers for whom he can perform.

His favorite acts involve blowing kisses and speaking in simple Italian in his raspy toddler voice while elderly Italian women faint at his feet. He also enjoys accepting piggyback rides from strange men, which is not quite as creepy as it looks in print. But almost. Don't worry, we keep him within reasonable eyesight.

Not even from my camera, I'm pretty sure. Lazy, meet your new competition.
Our recent jaunts to the countryside include a memorable overnight in Assisi, a sun-drenched but frigid trip to the gorgeous beach town of San Marinella, and a spur of the moment Monday field trip to Bracciano, home to an impressively huge and beautiful lake and the preserved mideval castle where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got married. Obviously if I had known that before we visited, I would have planned an entire pilgrimage around trying to recreate their creepy publicity shots from various towers and windows. But alas, we had no foreknowledge of its storied history.

Not 'the' castle, but a castle we hand out at sometimes. Close enough.
Today we're heading off to Castelgandolfo, temporary home to Bishop Emeritus of Rome, Benedict XVI, and a sweet lakeside amusement park for small people. Fratelli, a town 5 miles down the road, is one of Rome's legendary providers of excellent vino bianco, so if I happen to wander off from all the fun....well, I can't get too far.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of normality on this very happy Thursday, and crossing our fingers there's no rail strike today.

Ciao for now.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Defending Benedict

Holding down the fort over at Catholic Exchange today...

This morning I was feeling pretty close to a native here in my new land. Eschewing a lukewarm/cold shower for a spritz of perfume and a leopard-print scarf, I left my 2 little terrors in the capable hands of my foreign nanny (aka my little sister) and made my way downstairs and out the front doors of our apartment building, umbrella in hand.

I headed out the street into a beautiful Roman spring day, complete with hurricane force winds and horizontal rain. Feeling confirmed in my decision to spend no more than 2 Euro on any umbrella ever again, I watched with detached resignation as the cheery red number I'd chosen this morning flipped inside out, spines snapping with the force of the wind. Never mind that, a little rain never hurt anything, and I only had to drop off dry cleaning, grab coffee, and grocery shop for a family of 5, without a car. But I digress.

After successfully negotiating the cost of removing cafe e cioccolato from most of my husband's dress shirts, I decided to duck into the bar down the street for a quick espresso to fortify my grocery shopping muscles. After slamming my coffee with near-Roman speed, I stepped back out into the elements, only to be greeted and waved over to a table filled with acquaintances. One of the plus sides to city living is how very small a neighborhood becomes, and thus, despite the language barrier and enormous age difference, I've made 'friends' with several regular faces at the surrounding shops and cafes. 

I held up a cigarette with a questioning gesture and 4 lighters were promptly brandished, confirming my suspicion that indeed, everyone in Italy smokes. As we puffed away and caught up on the weekend's happenings, I put my infantile Italian to work and started soliciting opinions on our nouvo Papa, Francesco. Immediately eyes lit up and hands started flying as a consensus of approval was voiced in enthusiastic Italian.

"Molto simplice, molto bello Papa"

I agreed wholeheartedly, thoroughly relishing this phenomenon of being openly and unabashedly Catholic in public. Italy does some things better than America does, and public displays of religious affection is most definitely high on that list. From the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hanging over the fishmonger's stall in the market to the conspicuous images of the Madonna and Child adorning buildings and walls throughout the city, it is evident that we are living in a Catholic country. At least in appearance.

No sooner had the cries of adulation over Pope Francis' election subsided than one of my companions face darkened as she spat the name 'Ratzinger,' shaking her head and asking me what I thought of the man. I was somewhat taken aback by the change of mood - weren't we just celebrating the Pope? I smiled and admitted I'd loved that Pope, too. And Giovanni Paulo II, the one before him. Pushing my luck with the past tense, I awkwardly explained my love for 'all the Popes,' attempting to convey my esteem for the Office of Peter.

I must not have succeeded, for the unfavorable ratings for Pope Benedict continued on.

"Si, si," said my Italian friend, "Papa JP was magnifico..." but Papa Benedetto, or 'Ratzinger,' as they insisted on calling him, had apparently not won their favor.

This was an almost entirely foreign idea to me, contrasting the personalities of different Popes and proclaiming preference or dislike of one or the other. Coming from somewhat farther away than down the street from St. Peter's, I'd grown up knowing the Pope as a leader, a father, and a tangible representation of Christ's leadership here on earth. These people had known him as the guy down the street in the Big White House, and they had very definite opinions on his personality, his management style, and even his accent.

The contrast was especially striking when I realized that I, too, have been guilty of a little bit of this 'cult of personality' business these past few days. I stumbled in my poor Italian to convey my love for both Pope Benedict, now Bishop Emeritus of Rome, and for Pope Francis, his successor. I tried explaining the courage I thought Benedict had demonstrated in his resignation of the papacy; they parried with charges of corruption at the Vatican bank. Certo, I agreed, but he was a holy man, and he was our Pope, and there is some real work to be done in cleaning up the Curia.

They begrudgingly admitted that perhaps not all Benedict's legacy was scandal and excess, but it was apparent they far preferred their new Papa to their former.

I made my way to the grocery store wondering what this all means for the Catholicism, that in our media-saturated age, a person's personality can make or break another person's opinion of the very nature of God and His Church. There was no mention by these friends of mine if they planned to attend Mass on Sundays again...or indeed if they had ever stopped. But there did seem to be a renewed hopefulness and excitement in their eyes when they spoke of Papa Francesco. And I agree! I love him, I really do. I have lapped up eagerly every story of humility, every endearing image to hit the web these past 5 days, and every homily he has preached since his election last Wednesday night.

But I loved Pope Benedict, too. And while he might not have had the same magnetic attraction that this new Servant of the Servants possesses, I think it's important to keep in mind that very much of public opinion is shaped and deliberately cultivated by a media trying to tell a story. Do you think Pope Francesco is a humble man filled with charity and simplicity? I think so, too. But it doesn't hurt that the media seems to agree with that narrative, at least for now.

Did you think Pope Benedict was an aloof, power-tripping, money-hungry aristocrat with an inflexible view of the human person and a profound incomprehension of the state of modern man? Well I didn't...but if I were letting CNN or MSNBC shape my view of him, I sure might have.

The point is, they're both only human. And their different humans, at that. Different personalities, different strengths, different backgrounds, different struggles...what united them, and what unites those of us who follow them, is love of Christ and His Church. And if we love Him, then we must obey Him, for love without obedience is lip service. And if He saw fit to appoint a broken, humble, and even sinful man (self-admittedly!) from Galilee to take the first watch, then who are we to question it?

Popes don't have to be particularly likeable. They don't even have to be holy, actually. They just have to keep the Ship on course. That's the whole idea of papal infallibility, in a nutshell. In matters of faith and morals, the Pope cannot err...because he does not deviate from the appointed course, namely, the Sacred Tradition and the Dogma of the Faith.

This is the only possible explanation for a 2,000 year old roster including saints like Peter, Gregory and maybe one day even JPII...and more than a few bad apples, too. But thanks be to God, the Church doesn't need a celebrity or even a great saint to keep Her upright...she just needs someone who is willing to go to the Cross in Her defense.

And even if the Holy Father isn't a guy you'd want to have to dinner, that isn't really what counts in the end; and we shouldn't let the media fool us into thinking otherwise, even when they're giving two thumbs way up for the new guy.

In the end, for all of us, there's only one Guy whose approval we ought to be seeking. And the Pope is really just the Mr. Carson to His Downton Abbey. Which is why he really doesn't have the authority to authorize menu changes or other major household restructurings, if you catch my drift.

He's only the butler, after all.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Holy Smoke!

Last night was simply amazing. Despite being in the same bedroom from 10:30 pm on, both boys slept through the night. Oh, and some other significant milestones were met, too.

First Latin American Pope.
First Jesuit Pope.
First Pope Francis, ever.

Needless to say, we're already smitten with our new Papa, whose election we were privileged to witness as a family, from drizzling rain to anxious pacing to seagull-watching to white!smoke! spotting to more waiting and crowds pressing and tip toe standing to breath-catching to eyes filling to crowd cheering to the punchline: Habemus Papam.

And my God, we are thankful. It wasn't evident until about 7:13 pm Roman time last night that we'd all been collectively holding our breath for the last month or so, as a city, as a Church, heck maybe as the world. And with one act of faith, one simple 'yes,' we were able to exhale. The Cardinals had voted, the Holy Spirit had prodded, and a faithful servant had given his consent.

After we heard him announced, we were turning to eachother and to the people crammed elbow to elbow beside us asking 'who? who is it?!' All we could clearly make out was "Francesco," and so for the first 5 minutes or so, until some helpful Spaniards standing 10 feet behind us identified our Argentinian Papa, all we knew him as was "Francis."

The words from Christ on the cross at San Damiano to St. Francis were ringing through my head, so much so that I spoke them aloud to my sister Christian while we wondered and craned our necks and cheered for our new - but still mysterious - Papa.

"Go and rebuild my Church, for it is falling into ruin."


If I were the type to throw potentially irreverent words around at a time like this, I'd probably have just one thing to say to the Holy Spirit:

Nailed it.

Habemus, Papam. St. Francis, St. Ignatius, and St. Peter...pray for us.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Life On Hold

We have plans to spend the next however many days it takes (1 more, by my official bracket position) making twice daily pilgrimages to St. Peter's Square to smoke watch with a couple thousand of our best friends. Today's itinerary has been completely designed around trips to the Square at noon and at 7:30, in fact, and I have every intention of picking up a bottle of prosecco to stash in the stroller basket just in case...

Last night I was blown away to see how jammed the piazza was, even in the cold drizzle that had been falling on and off throughout the day. There were easily 20-30 thousand people there, all craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the world's most famous chimney stack. Lucky for us, we had a stellar view of both the roof of the Cappella Sistina and the jumbotron screen, where a camera was trained on a (thankfully) lighted stove pipe.

As the first wisps of smoke started to emerge from the chimney, the crowds shifted and I couldn't see the screen for about 10 seconds. But I didn't need to; the universal 'oohhhhh nooooo's' were enough to tell me that a new Papa wasn't in the cards - or on the ballots, rather - for last night.

It was such an incredible energy, to be surrounded by all these happy, hopeful people, all drawn either by curiosity, faith, the lure of celebrity, or maybe a mixture of the three. There aren't too many watershed historical moments which are scheduled and predictable, you know. The fact that we have a printed timetable for when the smoke will make its appearance is equal parts ridiculous and awesome.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Conclave schedule, here is a brief sketch of smoking times:
  • Morning session and first vote: around 10 am. (Note: smoke will only appear if a new Pope has been elected. If the morning session fails to produce a 2/3rds majority, nothing is burned.)
  • Seconds vote: around 12:00 noon. At this point there will DEFINITELY be smoke, either black or white, as they will burn the ballots from both morning sessions at this point, adding the necessary chemicals to produce either black or white smoke. Black smoke, no pope; white smoke, new pope.
  • Afternoon session and first vote: around 4:00 pm, producing smoke around 5:30 pm IF a new pope is elected.
  • Final evening session: around 7:30 pm, producing smoke either way, as again, ballots from both afternoon sessions will be burned at this time.
So does that make sense? Though there are 4 possible times per day to see smoke, there are only 2 times per day we will definitely see smoke.

Jury's still out on whether we'll be making 4 treks to and fro today, but my money is on 'most likely,' because we're only a 20 minute walk, and let's be honest, it's a great cardio workout to push a double stroller loaded down with booze and sippy cups.

Tune into my facebook page for breaking, grainy cell-phone pictures and pithy, thoughtful commentary as always. Or maybe just grainy cell phone pics.

Come on, Papa!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Adventure is Exhuasting

Just when I thought I couldn't go at this parenthood thing any more ghetto-like, I stopped looking for a bi-lingual preschool/daycare situation for Joey and just settled on 'taking him everywhere/sneaking downstairs to the market in front of our building while he naps' route. So far, so mediocre, but we'll see if we can't tweak some things.

Mingling with the neighbors.
Today marked our 7th Monday in Italia, and like most of the other Monday's before it, dawn found my trusty nanny sister Christina and me on duty once again. Dave has been working like a dog since the whole no more Pope situation reared its sad/exciting/confusing/mostly stressful/hopefully sanctifying head, so he is gone for 12 hours most days, with the exception of weekends, where we see him for all but 4 hours during the day. Wee.
"Is this an adventure, Mom?"
Having digested a grim forecast via for a '100% chance of rain,' we did what any sane caretakers of children would do in such a situation, and after one too many hours indoors over the weekend, and made the executive decision to go to the beach. Because everyone knows the only thing more fun than a rainy day at home is a rainy day at the beach. With babies.

Regardless, fortified by espresso, we marched our charges down to Stazione San Pietro and settled on a regional train bound for a medieval castle/town place, complete with a large lake. Close enough, right? Besides, the beach train wasn't leaving for another 45 minutes. Now, lest I leave the impression that I am some kind of adventurous spirit who enjoys washing her undergarments in the bathroom sinks at local hostels and eating everypartofthepig at local kitchen table establishments, I'm not. I like eating at chain restaurants of the Mexican variety, and I really used to like my washer and dryer back home in the good ol US of A. But that's neither here nor...well, actually, I guess it is there. But the point is, when in Rome...okay I'll stop, I promise.

Scraping powdered dish soap out of the latch with scissors. Or teaching Joey a vocational trade. I don't know.
We're here now, anyhow, and life is hard. It's beautiful and exhilarating and rewarding and once-in-a-lifetimeing...but the overarching theme is most definitely 'hard.' I spend anywhere from 1-3 hours per day doing basic household maintenance like laundry, dishes, and light cleaning, and if that doesn't sound like a lot, then I'd like to cordially invite you to my former life where I cranked out 45 minutes, tops, on a good day, and called it health-code compliant. Dear God, I miss my dryer and my Bissel upright. And Super Target. But I promised myself I wouldn't cry while writing this, so I'd better stop there.
The dryer with a full load.
Not to go all #firstworldproblems on you people, but I think my issues are becoming legitimately of a second-worldly nature. I have turned like 30% of my wardrobe greyish green because I can't figure out how the flip to use the washing machine, and we have no dryer. That might not sound awful, but it is awful. I spend like 2 hours a day on laundry alone, and if I don't we wear dirty clothes, because we each have so few options. And it takes hours for stuff to dry in the humidity. 24 hours, precisely, for most adult-sized pieces. And about 30 hours for jeans. And we each own 2 pairs, do the math.

Speed drying on the radiator.
Also, we walk or take the train or bus everywhere, except the one time per week when we take a cab somewhere, during which period I anxiously watch the fare climbing on the meter and mentally tabulate how many bottles of wine could otherwise have been purchased. Let me tell you something, until you have schlepped home enough groceries and drinking water for 5 people for a day or two on your back, you haven't lived. Truly exhilarating. When I'm going on a specifically water-seeking mission, I usually take the (empty) double stroller and load both seats down with 1.5 liter bottles. (We also drink the tap water, but we have been warned that the estrogen concentration is so high that the boys and Dave really shouldn't, so we try to limit how much of it we consume.) Now, I realize this is hardly walking 4 miles each way to a plague and crocodile-infested river with a jug on my head, but it sure as hell isn't Costco with a car. Somewhere in the middle, I guess.
Speaking of carseats, this is pretty much JP's now...and he loves it.
Also, the complete!lack of any discernible! order! Oh my gosh, these people run their businesses like, um, well, like they run their government. It's a shitstorm, I tell you. Case in point: we still don't have our permanent internet. We signed the contract in January, but it's only March, signora, and you can't rush these delicate matters.

I realize I sound like the world's most ungrateful and depressing downer right now, but I have to be real about how much I'm missing my friends, my parents, my car, my gym membership, and my beloved dryer. And Windex. And Oxyclean. Okay I have to stop now.

What I do have? Amazing coffee. The most incredible front-row seat to this historic moment in the life of the Church. Kids who are learning to speak Italian and interact more comfortably with adults than with other children (okay that one's kind of sad, actually, but there just aren't any here!), a beautiful view of St. Peter's dome from my balcony, a balcony, great wine, a husband who is doing an amazing job and loving his new responsibilities, a very helpful and generous sister who is staying with us an entire extra month.

And really, really cheap train tickets to nearby adventures. Just so long as I try not to think about the laundry they're going to generate...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

5 Things

Ana tagged me into this situation and so, regardless of my ignorance of the rules, I'll play along. I think it goes like this...

1. I held the school record in the women's pole vault during my sophomore year of high school. I was a competitor the very first year the sport was introduced for women in Colorado, and I guess I capitalized on the novelty with a mediocre 8 ft, 0 inches which is proudly ensconced in glass in a florescent-lit hallway to this day. Maybe I have plans to take my kids there for a visit some day, maybe I don't. But a girl can dream...

2. I had a doula (the same doula, actually) present for the birth's of both my children. I even took a Bradley class before Joseph was born, and was dead set against an epidural, etc. And I would do it again, the doula part, if ever we were to go it another round. Sure, it was $500 bucks, and sure, I let her stencil henna on my massive, stretch-marked belly and yes, she absolutely braided my hair during the second stage of labor. And there were candles and everything. But I still loooooved me some modern technology in the end. Moral of the story: be a good boy scout, but don't be afraid to say yes to drugs.

3. My favorite thing to do in the whole world is to curl up on a couch/hammock/chair/airplane seat with a good read. I learned to read really, really early, and while I don't get as much time these days, I still read a bit every single day. When I was in elementary school I was frequently in trouble for reading under my desk and spacing out with the latest volume from the Babysitter's Club during math class. This is the reason I can name every single original club member, to this day (including junior officers, hello, Mallory was a critical supporting cast member) but I cannot accurately predict my total at the grocery store to save my life. What? Some of my all-time favorite authors are Michael O'Brien, James Michener, C.S. Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, (haters gonna hate) and Anthony Doerr. Okay, and the lady who wrote the Hunger Games. Go on and judge me.

4. My go-to drink order in a fancy and/or highly stressful situation is a Grey Goose and soda on the rocks with lime. Not lemon, only lime. Absolute will do in a pinch, but I won't drink vodka any cheaper than Stoli, because I don't hate myself that much.

5. My favorite thing about being Catholic, aside from the obvious Sacramental answers, has to be the relationship between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant - aka the Saints. I regularly go to St. Therese, St. Joseph, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, St. Rose of Lima, and a host of others when I need favors, advice, help, or encouragement, heavenly or otherwise. I have never thought it was a creepy or indefensible point of doctrine ... it always struck me as so natural. Asking friends for help is the most natural thing in the world, after all, even when it's a little humbling. I remember being confused the first time a Protestant friend grilled me on the practice, and I was honestly taken aback by her vehement insistence that the saints are 'dead' and therefore of no help to us. But the Resurrection? Life after death? Heaven? ... Strikes me as the most fundamentally Christian practice in the world - or out of the world, rather - to ask our elder brothers and sisters in Faith for help.

So there you have it. Five in five ... or so. I tag Lizzie, Hillary, Emily, Joannie, and Christy.

Toddlers and (Papal) Tiaras

We had lived in Rome all of 3 weeks when Pope Benedict announced his intention to abdicate the papacy, setting in motion a frenzy of events and news coverage the likes of which the world hadn’t seen in 6 centuries. Naturally, my two darling children took it all in stride, one going so far as to volunteer to be kissed in front of an audience of about a billion by the outgoing Holy Father. Yeah, we’re living the high life…but we’re also rolling dirty, toddler style...
Head on over to Catholic Exchange to read the rest of this post.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What I Wore Sunday

It's Spring in Rome!

So I'll wear the same outfit I've worn 4 other Sundays, except I'll take off my jacket! (As soon as I'm done showing off my pockets.)
What do you do when you're too fat/poor/busy to shop in Italian clothing stores? Accessorize! (What makes you think that silver isn't sterling, or that my Gabanna isn't dolce, just out of curiosity?)
Just thrilled to be participating.

I don't know...maybe a mutual discussion about how very pregnant I look 10 months postpartum? Or something about those big Senour guns?

No sooner had I turned my attention back to my photographer than we discovered someone (ahem, a very competent mother) hadn't set the stroller brake. Naturally I snapped a pic before running after him. My heart's in the right place.
Outfitted by:

Banana Republic Outlet: dress
Frye: boots
Gap: blazer
Something close-ish to Forever XXI, emphasis on the Roman numerals: belt/pregnancy simulator
Shades: Nigerian import. Hot off the press.
Earrings: 1 Euro, baby. Nothing's turned green yet...

Ladies, FLAP yourselves.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What to Write

When there is so much to say?

I have the unique position of being on the other side of a 'hockey stick effect' as my boss calls it, that moment when internet traffic spikes in a dramatic and upward fashion, (much like the angle between the face and the handle of a hockey stick, get it?) and here I have this incredible spike in traffic...and nothing particularly profound to say.

I mean, there's so much I could say...but how much would be relevant, interesting, or effective? When I started this blog more than 7(!) years ago (insane) it was called something else - The Great Deception - and I wrote almost exclusively about contraception, abortion, Theology of the Body, and other culturewars-esque stuff. About 6 months ago, it became clear that my days of dissecting the philosophical banqruptcy of Planned Parenthood's operational model had given way to, well, more mundane discussions and lamentations of my own journeys through parenthood. Thus, Mama Needs Coffee was born.

I still like to have a good time, philosophically and theologically speaking, but I spend a whole lot less mental energy dissecting the Culture of Death these days ... and a whole lot more trying to live antithetically to it.

For any of you new faces who made your way over via one very cute baby face, I guess I just wanted to say welcome, explain myself a bit, and invite you to come back every once in a while for riveting discussions on apostolic succession and potty training. And maybe some pointers on how to make thee very best margarita of your life. (Hint: silver trumps gold in this equation.)

At any rate, thanks for stopping by. I can't promise pretty graphics or amazing craftiness or even half decent outfit ideas...but I can assure you of my honest, thoughtful, and sometimes irresponsibly passionate opinions on the stuff life is made of. Hope you'll pour a cup and hang out for a while.

Friday, March 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes from a Crazy, Crazy Week

Alternate title: 7 places my kid's face has been on the news throughout the world. Too obnoxious? Yeah, me too.

1. But obviously this was the highlight of our little family's week, followed by write ups here and here, a phone interview here (don't read the comments, you might have a rage-induced stroke), a screenshot here and a shout out from my favoritest boss in the world here. Plus a couple of filmed broadcasts via EWTN and the Italian national news channel (but I will just send those directly to you, Mom, okay?) As for the other million or so more-than-usual-visitors who made their way to my humble corner of the internet this week: thank you! I'm sorry most of what I write is not quite so exciting, and I'm also sorry for the occasional curse word (happy, Dave?) which sneaks its way into my riveting sleep-training rants. Speaking of...

2. JP, despite his newfound celebrity, is taking it all in stride, still staunchly refusing to sleep in the daylight hours unless strapped to my chest via the Ergo-maybe-I-can-pee-while-wearing...nope-Baby carrier, though he is putting in a more acceptable 9 hours overnight. At least that's what the non-earplugged members of the household tell me.

3. Last night was so emotional. After being fully immersed for weeks in Vatican biznez, I wasn't sure I'd have a tear left to spare once Papa finally bid us all adieu. But the moment his helicopter bounced on its hydraulic helicopter wheels (technically speaking) and made off for the setting Roman sunset, I lost my composure. Luckily, a helpful and not at all creepy or disrespectful Czech cameraman was there to hand me a tissue stick his giant ass video camera in my face and proceed to film for 90 or 120 very painful and snot saturated seconds. I thought if I avoided eye contact he would cease and desist, but barring results via that tactic, I opted for plan B and blew my nose repeatedly into John Paul's fleece hoodie while studying the back of his neck.

4. I am wondering if I am doing something wrong by not responding to every single comment I get? I am super awkward in real life, I promise, and I regularly entertain thoughts like 'If I make the first phone call to arrange this playdate between our kids, does that make me seem desperate?' and 'I hope he understood that my nervous winking thing wasn't so much a come on as it was a facial tick.' So sometimes I just don't know what to say to a comment besides, 'hey, thank you so much, I can't believe you took the time to read something that I wrote AND react to it.' But that is precisely my sentiment each and every time. Seriously, comments...they make my life. Like a sale at Banana Republic + a recently-deposited paycheck in the bank. That's how good they make me feel.

(Except when they're coming from you, you Polish troll. You know who you are. And you can crawl back into your pirogi-lined troll hole.)

5. Is now a good time to admit that based largely upon recommendations from some of my most trusted arts and culture advisers, I have opted to pay $2 per episode to download and consume episodes of the Bachelor on iTunes? God bless America, land that I miss...

6. Needless to say, I'll be bringing you lots more original (though perhaps not necessarily riveting or well-written) content from Rome as the Papal Conclave gets underway. I don't claim to be much of a theologian, having completed approximately 1/4 of my theology MA (sorry, mom and dad...but hey, grandkids!), but I know enough to communicate to you fine people the basic gist of what is happening in this historic time for the Roman Catholic Church, and I couldn't be more blessed to be here in the heart of it all, so come back for updates. And advice on where to buy tequila in Italy and the very best off-brand foreign diapers.
Not a bad view of a not-bad view.
7. Jen, thanks for the shout out. Now I've had 2 Catholic celebrity encounters this week.