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The Resident Theologian and I spent our first (school-) year  of married life in a cottage-y little townhouse in the beach town of Santa Marinella (featured in pics 1, 2, and 5 of this post of Mama needs coffee. [Thanks, Jenny, for the trip down memory lane!]) Santa Marinella attracts a lot of student family ex-pats because, as a beach town, it has a lot of rental properties available during the school year that are either used by their Italian owners or rented out for three times the school-year rent during the blazing Italian summers. We loved our drafty little nest, our landlords were wonderful, and though I’d had to leave all of our wedding presents in storage (read: my long-suffering parents’ basement) in the States, I feathered our nest through the year with comfort-making things like an IKEA tension-rod-mounted shower curtain, a pot lid (lots of pots, no lids when we moved in), bigger drinking glasses, and even a stick blender that a friend of ours gave us because she never used it (hello, spinach hummus!). And at some point that year, we had our first little home blessed by Fr. Luke Buckles, OP (so wonderful to run into him in this post over at Catholic All Year – if only I could run into him in person again now!).


At the end of those two semesters, we’d figured out that we’d be back in the fall for one more semester, so we packed up books and a few personal things that we didn’t want to cart back to the States for just the summer and we stashed them (with our landlords’ blessing) in a crawl space in our rental. We knew our landlords were renting the place to vacationers over the summer, and we were rather familiar with the habits of summer renters (our landlords’ sheets and an antique linen bedspread had walked off the summer before we first moved in). We were expecting some . . . attrition . . . and had an IKEA run planned for soon after our return to fill in any gaps.


But the night we re-entered our home after a summer away . . . Well, the box of stuff we’d left was intact, still sitting in the crawl space. But our sheets, blankets, shower curtain and tension rod, stick blender, pot lid, drinking glasses, and even our collection of spices – along with other things – had been taken during the summer. I was six months pregnant with our daughter, expecting to give birth before we returned to the States, and I felt like a mother bird whose nest had been torn open and plundered. Our home had been a place of peace and comfort when we’d left. Not now. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of insecurity and violation. Or the darkness of the anger and frustration. But from somewhere in the middle of the black cloud that I was wrestling with as I tried to fall asleep that night, I remembered the bottle of holy water that had been in our crawl space box of stuff. I went downstairs, dug it out, blessed myself, and then sprinkled it around our house, in every room. And the evil left, and peace returned, and I slept. That’s not to say that the hurt and the anger completely disappeared then – they didn’t, and took some time to heal (finding the 1-euro yellow spray bottle that I’d gotten in Florence and discovered hadn’t been taken helped) – but the sticky ugliness of that black cloud, and the feelings of exposure and violation and peace-less-ness left that night with the holy water.


And this was what I remembered last Saturday, when the kids and I were in foul moods all day. Pretty much our worst ever collective day – but one that we, as a family, had been building up to for a few days. (The Resident Theologian was out at an event on this particular evening, due back sometime after the kids were in bed.) Right before getting dinner together, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to make it until the kids were in bed. So Many Tears. So Much Drama. And a black storm cloud over my head, too. SO Frustrated – and then in the middle of my mental storm, remembered our bottle of holy water. Got it out, silently blessed each of the kids & myself with it, dashed a bunch around the house… Placebo effect? Not so fast – I didn’t say anything about what I was doing to either of the kids, who’ve never seen me do this before – but their moods changed (even in different rooms). And mine definitely did. (And the Resident Theologian made sure to bless himself with some as soon as I told him about it, which was pretty much as soon as he walked in the door that evening.) Neither of us has any idea what was going on except for lots of evil flying around the country that week (Boston bombing, Gosnell trial, etc.), but the tears and drama left our family that evening after a good dousing with holy water. Thank You, Jesus. Love, me.


Now for an entirely different topic. Easy readers. I naively thought that a Level 1 easy reader would be a book containing only words that may be easily sounded out by one who knows the most basic consonant and vowel sounds. Ideally, two and three-letter words with no blends or diphthongs, focusing on the short vowel sounds. Hat, bed, pig, jog, fun. English has lots of these words. I was wrong. So dreadfully, dreadfully wrong. Easy readers (with the sole exception of the mind-numbing BOB books) are just books with short sentences and relatively short “familiar words.” No matter if there’s not a chance that the new reader could sound out any of these words by herself. She’ll get them by osmosis…er…worksheets…er…by hearing endless repetitions of “sound it out” from her parent or teacher. When. She. Can’t. Because sounding them out requires knowing too many rules all at once.


So, like the Little Red Hen, I am going to do it myself. I already fired off one story (with a plot! and dialogue!) containing only two and three letter words, no blends or diphthongs (except limited use of the word “the”) before lunch one day a couple weeks ago.


Pictures are a bit more of a hurdle. But we will figure something out.

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen over at Conversion Diary. (She’s back!)