Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately

I've got a good mix of books this week! Some great fiction, nonfiction, even parenting! I love hearing if you've read them too and what you thought.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This beautiful novel tells the stories of the descendants of two sisters in Africa, some of whom are taken as slaves to America, and those that remain on the continent. They are such varied stories told with such an honesty through beautiful prose that I can't think of anyone I wouldn't recommend this book to. It was one of the best books I read last year, even if it is oftentimes difficult to read, it's beauty stays with you and the characters remain very much alive in your mind.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

This book was great in that it basically reaffirms my parenting style/philsophy. I felt supported in the different reasons simplicity is so important and foundational to our kids, but I mostly skimmed it. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good parenting book, and even if you too end up skimming it, it really can't hurt and you might pick up some more good ideas!

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

It's a book about dysfunctional families growing up and living their lives, but Ann Patchett's eye for story and ability to create such believable worlds and characters even when you're not sure if you should be believing them, makes for an interesting read. I wonder how much is autobiographical, and I truly hope some of the traumatic moments aren't, but I felt this book had the honesty about family life and how the choices of parents impact their children that wasn't in The Nest. If not my favourite Ann Patchett novel, I still felt that Commonwealth had a lot to say.

On the Other Side of Fear: How I Found Peace by Hallie Lord

Hallie's honest writing brings to life so vividly the fears and anxieties we all experience and how God speaks to those fears in our lives in a concrete way. It really is foundational to our experience of faith no matter where you are in your relationship with God; life involves these fears in one way or another and it's really the place where faith makes a tangible difference to our lives. Hallie shares her personal stories in a way that is so accessible to the reader that this book can really speak to anyone no matter where they are spiritually. There is so much richness to understanding God's love in our lives when it comes to peace and fear that we all need to be reminded to see and experience God in our lives. A great book to read yourself, or to give as a gift!

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

The fifth Armand Gamache book in the series involves the murder of a virtual hermit in the town of Three Pines. The regular cast of townspeople continues to be entertaining, and the twists of this one are at times a bit far fetched but still engrossing. I thought the ending left the reader hanging, but it does make a lot more sense once you read the sixth instalment!

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Seven Quick Takes vol. 156

Happy St. Patricks Day to Kelly who clearly has the luck of the Irish without being Irish...


Well hellllooo. It's been weeks since I blogged. Again. It's just crazy how I start out my day with the greatest of intentions to get so much done, to write, to blog, to plan, and for there to never to be time to carry out all these good intentions! I really feel kinda snowed under lately just by the sheer amount of things I need to get done in a day and have no spare minutes. And then when I do have spare minutes I'm interrupted every two minutes. Or I'm just so fried I really do need to rest, read, watch Netflix. I'm trying not to feel hopeless about this situation but it's feeling like only giant lifestyle changes are going to solve this problem. I don't know, I'm praying about it. And trying not to be my completely regimented, allergic to change self.


The reaaaallly big news was we got away for a really quick trip to Texas sans kiddos and kiddets! All the jazz hands!! I always stress about leaving, have anxiety over leaving the kids for so long, wonder if it's worth all the work, effort, coordination, and money to go away with just my husband for such a short time and then am always completely convinced and proven wrong; that it is completely worth it to get away even if it's for a short time. It always surprises me. Because leaving 5 kids, even when it's in the cushiest situation we've got going, is always so much work before hand. But then we go and relax and do what we want and hardly even end up talking about the kids. It's a really good break and just the change of pace is so good. I'm really grateful for it!


The highlight of the trip was seeing Haley! Haley and her family drove down to San Antonio to meet us and it was so much fun to see her again and to meet her family in person after all these years of just knowing them through the internet! We went out for Mexican food at the greatest place, drank huge margaritas, saw the wonderful light show on the San Fernando Cathedral, then got to go to Mass together the next morning at the beautiful San Jose Mission. It was just so lovely! Our husbands met each other. It was completely bonkers! I mean, they got along of course, it just felt so surreal but awesome.


We really loved San Antonio. It's a great mix of history and culture that's unique to us, as well as having some fun touristy things, fabulous food (which is one of the primary reasons we travel it seems), and beautiful weather for March! We ate barbecue, walked the beautiful river walk at our leisure without worrying kids were going to fall in (because I had that thought often), drank a lot of margaritas, toured the Alamo. Basically, had such a wonderful time!


We were so glad to have even a slight reprieve from the weather because March weather has really stunk around here. And the last two weeks of February. Only the last couple days have been above freezing -- finally! I just think I'm hitting the winter wall and desperately need some sunshine and no more snow. The kids have been cooped up and I swear each day they do crazier things. Yesterday a boy ate half a slice of uncooked bacon which he later confessed to me at bedtime. Why?!?! Whhhhhyyyyyy?!?! Winter's gotta end.


Since I haven't been blogging lately I just wanted to mention our newest podcast episode with the wonderful Lisa Hendey. She shared her new books the Chime Travellers as well as some great words of wisdom for moms who still want to pursue their passions and why it's so important. I really appreciated hearing from her and felt a bit star-struck talking to her! She was lovely! 

It's also #trypod month! If you know someone who might enjoy our podcast but has no idea what podcasts are - let them know about it, and maybe install a helpful podcast app for them. And if they're your mother you'll probably have to teach them how to search and subscribe for them too. I keep meaning to teach my mom how to listen to podcasts come to think about it...


It's been a rough week for me. Mostly just parenting wise. Or job wise. Or life wise. It's all related in the SAHM game. I think that's sometimes part of the trouble trying to work things out. It's hard to see what's parenting, what's down to a particular kid or phase, what could be something that's bothering you, if it's a time issue, if it's just a bad week. It's hard to figure out when your one job, place of work, and people you work with are all your own offspring to figure out what the problem is when it's not easy to spot. Should you make changes or is it something the kid will work out? Do you need to just continue with what you're doing and consistency will help fix things or do you need to change directions? Are things just hard because it's just a tough week and you don't need to rethink things? I guess I just wish that in tough weeks that there was a more objective checklist I could work and analyze somehow that could tell me exactly what I need to change or fix. I do sometimes wish that my place of work was outside that home and if that were bad I could place blame on that job without guilt. Or if things were frustrating at home that at least time at the ol' job would give me some time doing something completely different and get some mental break. It's just tough when it's an all consuming, full time deal yo. 

I'm sure most of you dear readers get this. Whether you're full time at home or not, you know where I'm coming from mamas! 

Hope your weekend isn't full of leftover green beer...or maybe I do??

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Seven Quick Takes vol. 155

Hi Kelly and your fabulous February weather!


Well, February hit me guys. It hit me. Like a giant pile of grey shit that just won't leave you alone even though you've hinted, sworn at it, and physically tried to remove it from your life. I was doing so well surviving it until this week. If anything, having it hit me so hard this week makes me a bit madder if only because I was doing so well. I was on a roll! But this week was a perfect storm. It made me question my life choices, want to quit everything, and basically just move to Mexico. #screwthewall 
I mean. Nothing horrible happened. I'm fine. There's less than a week left. I'm dramatic.


It's been a while since I've done some takes so I'll catch you up! 
I went to the opera with my sister and it was a great night out! 
The superbowl happened and I want it to burn in the fires of hell for eternity and never have it mentioned again.
We took the kids to the Batman Lego movie...or is it Lego Batman? Could I be less cool??? It was entertaining if a bit seizure inducing, or that could just be me because I'm old and haven't played video games in a while. The kids all loved it.
And then last week I did this....


I got my hair dyed purple! It's more a deep violet with more shocking purple at the ends which will wash out to a nice light purple (hopefully) but it's a giant change. I just wanted a giant change. And I'm also definitely not married to my natural colour. It's mousey. It's boring. Hair colour feels like my limit of crazy things to do. I can't go any further, this is as crazy as I get.


The kids have been living it up. Ice fishing, going on sleepovers, going to plays, and yet still seem to be driving me insaner by the day. Yesterday my oldest child dumped the entirety of her dirty laundry on the floor beside the basket. I mean, I know I'm stuck in the Februarys, but back me up here, is there anything that makes you want to scream more?! I've dealt with tantrums and discipline issues and whining all week so when these little things happen I feel like I'm going to blow. 


I've bought a couple new cookbooks in the last month or so because I can't quit the cookbooks, and hopefully I'll write up some kind of review? comparison? post soon. I always want to cook more interesting and exciting recipes and always time and energy defeat me. At least having the physical cookbook gives me that extra boost to try at least a couple, or one or two, new recipes every now and again. I also want all your favourites.


Lent is upon us and I still have no clue what to give up, if I'm supposed to give anything up, what would be the most fruitful. I'm always comforted in knowing that Lent is much more a journey towards someone instead of simply following rules. It's just so much easier to myself gaining in progress (read: holiness) when I'm doing something and following rules! Even if they're my own rules. So it's always tricky. It's also good for me to remember it's 40 days, and part of the process of can mean figuring this stuff out as I try to fast and pray more. I also really need my spiritual director to get back from Rome.


Speaking of Lent - Nell, internet cheerleader extraordinaire is giving her extraordinary wisdom on Lent this week on the podcast! If you need some inspiration that's right up your Lent alley, give it a listen.

Also on the podcast from a few weeks ago that I failed to mention over here was our interview with Shannon Evans about adoption and building a culture of life which I found so honest and amazing. I hope you listen to it sometime. 

And that's all I've got. I hope you're surviving February and have a great weekend planned! 

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately - I need to catch up!

It's been so long guys. I know it doesn't feel like it to you because you feel like I write about books every other day, but it's been a loooonngg time and I've read 20 books since I last wrote!

The catching up begins now!

Helena by Evelyn Waugh

This was my Waugh pick of the year and if the title doesn't describe it enough it's the fictionalized life of St. Helena. I love Waugh. I love saints. I didn't love this book. The story is well done of course, and the writing is impeccable, but I didn't love it like I thought I would. I wish I had read this one with a book club (I know it's a Well-Read Mom book club pick!) I feel like I missed the heart of it somehow and St. Helena just didn't grab me like I assumed I would. I remember reading Edmund Campion, also by Waugh, and was blown away! That book probably remains the best novel of a saints life I've ever read. If you've read Helena please tell me what I'm missing. It's still a wonderful book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend because it's a good story, but I just feel like I'm missing what makes it really great.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

This was probably the book I hated the most last year. And I don't like writing about books I hate...oh wait...I sorta do. It's the chronicle of a young, soon-to-be-disillusioned, woman moving to New York City and working as a server at a top restaurant and the ensuing drama of the staff and those who come to the restaurant. This book is pretty much everything I detest about our generation. The lack of meaning and integrity, the willingness to do whatever it takes to get ahead, the random sex, the lack of principles, the disillusionment that gives us pseudo-wisom. The writing is ok, I like the setting of a restaurant which is why I wanted to read it in the first place, but the story is just....nauseating? It was genuinely hailed as a great first novel and a defining novel for millennials which further depresses me.

Burial Rites By Hannah Kent

The story of a woman accused of murder in nineteenth century Iceland is just as dark and morose as you would expect! But somehow it's captivating and conveys a real empathy as well as a good story. The atmosphere was also one of the best parts of this book and somehow rural and rugged Iceland becomes a character. It somehow reminded me of The Light Between Oceans because of how much a part the sense of place took in the book as well as the emotionally challenging story. If you liked that novel then you might want to pick this one up too.

Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey

I was on an Indian memoirs kick last summer and this was part of it. Although this memoir of the author's childhood in India as it gained it's independence was descriptive of life in India at the time, it didn't dive deeply into the authors own thoughts. I felt it was a perspective I had never heard before, and I enjoyed it for that reason. India still fascinates me so if you've got any good titles send them my way!

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

The second of the Neapolitan novels was more compelling than the first. I think what helped me in reading this book is that I read it in large chunks on a flight and it really helped me enter into the story better. These novels aren't for casually reading five minutes here, five minutes there. I think they are best read by immersing yourself in them as best you can, then you can really see how far you are falling into their world and how well written they are. I was alternatively shocked and proud as the characters entered adulthood and it just pulled me in again. I wish I could more articulately express how well these books delve into feminine psychology. If you've read them let's talk!

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit once again.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What's getting me through the long days of February

What's saving my life right now is just...pretty dramatic for me.

But at the same time hyperbole is pretty popular these days.

Let's just say these are good things in February that I like. Which sounds so much less dramatic. And let me tell you I still really need these things because it's been -20 with a windchill of -34 all week! I'm not including Netflix on this list, but it's doing it's fair share around here too.


February needs fresh flowers. I have a hard time saying no to tulips when they're at Costco. They're just so pretty they trick you into thinking it's almost spring. Or they trick me. Either way!

This Milk Frother

I guess it's official I'm a coffee snob. I got this milk frother for Christmas and it's magical. It perfectly froths and steams your milk in a minute or two at the push of the button. It creates velvety foam and makes normal coffee taste like a cappuccino. It feels a bit frivolous to own, but then you use it and it makes the world make sense.


Do I feel obvious for putting this on the list? Yes. But at the same time I'm gonna put it on my list because I'm a BA.
Specifically I can't stop drinking Spanish wine. I go to the fanciest liquor store I can find because shopping for alcohol is almost my favourite thing to shop for. This fancy liquor store has aisle upon glorious aisle of wines from every corner of the world. They have samples of all the wine that's on special and let me tell you who is an easy sell when it comes to selling wine?? This girl! I love the samples, I will always buy a bottle of the sample. Bam! And although I buy wine that tastes good and is on sale from any part of the world, I keep buying Spanish wines. They're delicious. Go buy some.

Wool socks

Once upon a time in my youth I thought wool socks were lame and I couldn't understand why people would want to make their feet sweaty and itchy. But then I bought real wool socks and the comfort and warmth is basically the greatest thing ever. Old lady fo life!


I am not a big buyer of make up. Even though I wish I were. I just buy basics but I continue to try and buy quality make up because it really makes a difference, lasts way longer, and is amazing. Sephora has free shipping over $50 (and if you can spend LESS than $50 at Sephora I'll eat my hat) so I can shop online to my hearts content! I keep a running tally of stuff I will need in the future, things recommend by Kate from The Small Things, and whenever I get an email saying they've got an awesome extra sample deal I grab myself a little something. It's a treat, and it comes in the mail. Two awesome things to keep you going in February. But go for the extra sample deals, the extra samples are the best part!

Those are the things off the top of my head that help a February. But it's only February 8 so...??? I hope I make it, I hope you make it.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Seven Quick Takes vol. 154 - I'm Back!

I'm back! Kelly probably didn't notice I was gone for two months, but I can't quit the takes!!


I love quick takes! I think it's the extremely old timer blog reader in me that loves to read the random and ordinary bits of people's day and I will forever be loyal to the 7QT format. Part of me writing and posting more has to include the little, the ordinary, the very non-click-bait worthy. I have to fight the idea that in order to write anything I've got to have a fantastic idea that's been thought out for weeks and perfectly edited. Because it never happens. Not right now anyway. And I make no money from blogging so I have to stop thinking about each and every post as appealing to the completely imaginary masses. But all that being said, I do value you as a reader. I can't believe you still read this corner of the internet but I'm so glad you do! I trust you that if things are too boring you'll skip a post and come back next time, because you're really the best.


We have a very ordinary week around here. We got through school work at an appropriate pace, even learned some times tables - which better be memorized by now or I'm going to eat my hat - and had an alright week for weather. An "alright" week of weather means I can bundle the kids up to play outside for half an hour but I'm not going out unless I have to! It was windy most days and around -10 for the most part. No skating or ice fishing since last weekend in other words.


A funny, sweet thing that happened this week is Dom wanting to watch the entirety of Hamlet with me. He's been really into Shakespeare this year (we memorize some passages from a couple plays, then read overview/kid versions of a couple plays per semester). So when he discovered a copy of Kenneth Branagh's Hamelt at my mom's he asked to watch it but I thought it would be about 15 minutes before he found the language too complicated and the whole movie a bit boring. But we're still watching it! He kept telling me what was going to happen next, and it's pretty hilarious. We're watching about half an hour a day, and I'm fast forwarding any "mature" scenes. We're cultured.


It's February! Before we all dump on February, I'm going to give myself a pat on the back for making it relatively unscathed through January! I don't know what the difference was exactly but it seemed that January went by fairly painlessly in comparison to past years. I just want to keep this magical positivity moving through February!


What have you been watching?

Of course I've been watching Victoria and it's been good. I don't love it as much as The Crown because I have a deep, abiding love for The Crown that probably isn't completely healthy. But British costumes dramas are kinda my kryptonite! 

I also watched Shetland on Netflix which I really enjoyed although I really liked the first season and was kinda left cold with the second. I just wish mystery/detective shows were happy solving small town crimes. Why does it always have to graduate to elaborate, mob-connected, serial killers? Why can't it simply remain ordinary people committing crimes in small towns?

Oh, wait. Because that's really challenging to write!


I've read a lot of stuff on immigration and refugees this past long week and have uncovered some interesting stuff. I don't think hysteria from any side helps anyone and found that this article was a really great compendium on facts from a person who knows how the system works which seems next to impossible to find in major media outlets these days. I'm just passing it on because I found it a nice source of facts, even though I feel like I'm going to make myself stop sharing anything political because I want to be part of the solution not the problem. Or some such catch phrase. 


I'm going out to the opera tomorrow night and I'm so excited!! I'm getting dressed up and I'm going to drink cocktails and have a glorious night out.

Then on Sunday I'm going to cheer with every fibre of my being for my new favourite team the Atlanta Falcons. I just want the Patriots to never win a game again. Until I'm dead. Is that so much to ask?? 

I know, I'm crazy. Go Falcons and Happy Weekend!

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Boy Mom-ing

Yesterday as I stepped out of the house and checked to see where the kids were playing I couldn't see the boys. I heard their voices, shrieking and laughing at each other but I had to double take as to where they were coming from. The voices were coming from about 15 feet in the air near to top of our big fir trees in the yard. I was a bit shocked at how high they had climbed, then a bit scared when I realized Max the 5 year-old had climbed the highest and seemed perfectly happy about it.

It got me thinking about being a mom to a bunch of boys. Three boys in a row, separated by all of 3 years. It can sometimes feel like parenting a small gang, until you realize that they have three starkly different personalities.

One is strongly opinionated and willful, competitive, smart, but not one for emotional outbursts or displays of affection. The next is everyone's best friend, caring, generous, able to figure anything out on his own given five minutes, and prone to emotional ups and downs and cuddles. The third is quiet, deeply observant, hard to satisfy, and determined. They're all uniquely themselves and not quantifiable simply as "boys".

They are extremely active to varying degrees. One prefers to be moving when doing reading and spelling lessons. They all enjoy weapons. They love Legos. But they also love books and music.

Sometimes I feel like they don't seem to be so different from my girls and other days I can't even begin to understand why they do the things they do.

And sometimes I feel like boys are so much easier than girls. They're straightforward and headstrong but don't hold a grudge. They forgive me most of the time for my mistakes. Sometimes I just feel like there's less to worry about with the makeup of boys than girls even though I know that's not how it works.

I think it really all comes back to the fact that we don't parent ourselves. It doesn't matter if they're boys or girls; they're foreign individuals whom we don't completely understand even though we desperately want to at times. I think this is both challenging and a gift. I'm glad that the things that bother me don't bother them, I'm glad they don't have the same struggles I do, I'm happy to see the world through their fresh eyes.

It's a weirdly human experience to grow up and know our parents don't understand us, then to become parents and realize we don't completely understand our children. It's really not a bad thing. It opens us to the reality that we can know more through being in relationship with others and not just living for and within ourselves. It's a gift that gives us new discoveries through other people, it expands our minds and hearts, it's exactly how we become more human and less only ourselves -- alone.

I love sneaking in little hugs and kisses when the boys are moving so quickly and don't want to stop for mom. I love knowing that these wild, unique, can't-hold-back boys are part of me.

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