Friday, August 28, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 127


I'm going to be really quick today - I promise Kelly!


{one}



I am going to be really quick today because I feel like I have no thoughts. We just had a nice, lazy, quiet week around here. It's been nice to have perfect weather to lounge around outside not doing much at all. The kids have been running fairly wild which I don't mind at all, but they are needing a bit more nudges to be creative outside - I think all this nice weather has bored them into summer complacency. 




{two}

Summer weather here means last Friday it was so cold we had to turn on the furnace and our zucchini and pumpkin plants got frosted in the garden. The pumpkin and zucchini are still alive and growing, but their top leaves are now all black. It's so early for that it makes me want to cry a little. Last night we had a terrific thunderstorm at around 1 in the morning and miraculously not one child woke up. What?!? I don't even know how that is possible, let alone how it happened to us, but I was lying in my bed listening to cracks of thunder and waiting with baited breathe as to who would start crying first...but nothing...



{three}

We finished the first season of True Detective last night and whoa - that show was intense. I officially take back all my previous negative comments concerning Matthew McConaughey's acting abilities, because he's amazing. Also; my husband is now terrified of Louisiana. 



{four}

Now we need a new show because Canadian Netflix refuses to give us new seasons of the shows we know and love, so hit me with the ones my husband won't abhor because I've already got Grand Hotel covered!



{five}



I was cleaning my floors this mornings and as I was doing it I was trying to remember if I ever had standards for cleanliness? I cannot even remember a time when I would get riled up over spilt oatmeal on the floor and immediately clean it up. Entryway hasn't been swept or vacuumed in weeks? Did I ever really care about that? It's not that I like filth and dirt, and we try to stay on top of things, but things just aren't really clean for that long. And I just don't really care. When did this happen? Have I just always had a million children??



{six}



We've been playing croquet all week in the evenings with the kids. I grew up playing croquet because apparently I was an anglophile from birth or something, but this is the first time we've pulled our set out of the basement for the kids. It's surprisingly kid friendly, and the kids really like it. I really recommend picking up a set if you've got more than a postage stamp size backyard. You'll feel extremely civilized while playing!



{seven}

I'm planning on doing a Whole 30 type diet starting in September because I feel like I've gotta crack down on my bad habits and I'm curious as to what I'll feel like if I give a concerted effort towards my eating. But I'm also a bit scared it may, in fact, kill me. I make fun of Whole 30'ers out of fear you guys! I've also been cramming myself with all the gluten, sugar, and alcohol this week in preparation. I'll need an extra Whole 30 just to work off what I've eaten to prepare for the Whole 30. I'm a health all-star. Pray for me.

Happy Weekend guys, I'm going to be emptying out my cupboard of all San Pellegrino and tequila so that I won't be tempted a week from now...because....thinking ahead!





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Thursday, August 27, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately





It's been forever and a day since I had some quick lit book reviews for you - I don't know what summer has against time going at a normal pace, but summer really zooms by doesn't it? Here's what I've got this time:





The Temperament God Gave Your Kids: Motivate, Discipline, and Love Your Children by Art and Lorraine Bennett

This book was a great read! We all know our kids have unique personalities, and once you start having 3, 4 and 5 kids you see it even more. I really liked learning about the strengths and weaknesses of each temperament because it's true that some things are just more difficult for different temperaments while some things come much more easily for others. The ideas for discipline were also really great, and I feel like I'll come back to this book again and again as my kids grow. After reading I've got some questions for the authors that I'd love to hear them answer like: what happens when a child demonstrates traits from two personalities? What if a child of a certain temperament doesn't respond to the discipline you recommend for that temperament - is he really another temperament or is that discipline just not working for him?






Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis

I talked about this book in depth on an episode of the podcast, and it was a good one to both read and discuss because of the different ways Lewis brings about the ideas of love, being honest with oneself, and ideas of sacrifice and heaven. Just so many ideas and metaphors are explored in this book that is so well written you're pulled into the story so quickly that it takes a while to unpack how great it really is. I think this is a novel that you could return to again and again and keep finding new ideas that make sense to you for the first time. Probably my favourite Lewis novel that I've read. You should probably read it.





To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I reread this in preparation for the release of Go Set A Watchman (which you've already seen me write about), and it was even better than the times I've previously read it. This book still makes me cry, still surprises me with it's delightful writing of childhood and family, and still hits you with the injustice of racism. It's really an almost perfect novel to me in it's construction, prose, atmosphere, and of course, characters. Atticus Finch is the greatest.






Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

This was a Modern Mrs Darcy summer reading pick and I needed some summer reading after these heavy hitters. This book felt fairly fluffy but it's entertainment value - and chick lit value - just wasn't there for me. It was fine. If you want a book that's romanic, but clean, talks about flowers and the South with a bit of domestic drama thrown in then you may enjoy it more than I did. Definitely not terrible chick lit, just not great.






Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

More summer chick lit -- and I may be risking my internet life here in saying that this wasn't the greatest chick lit to me either. It didn't really pull me in or make me want to keep page turning, even though it ticked all the family troubles/unexpected romance/quirky main character boxes. I am just really hard to please when it comes to chick lit I think. And yet...




The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

...I keep reading chick lit! This one was a chick lit hit for me though! So high praise. I may be a huge royal loyalist and devoted daughter of the commonwealth so I may be a bit biased towards this piece of Will and Kate fan fiction. I found it quite well done, and I think they took more from Princess Diana's story in a lot of ways than from Kate's. It's pure fun and it delivers. That's what I'm looking for in some easy reading!






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Friday, August 21, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 126



Getting back in the groove with Kelly, because she never loses hers!

{one}

How we spent our 5 summer days. ;)


Wow, I just had to check when I last posted a quick takes and it's been almost two months. I honestly don't get how fast time flies. But I'm glad to be back with a quick note to check in with what I've been up to. How's your summer been? I want to see all of your summer bucket lists checked off! Wait, you don't do that either? Good, glad it isn't just me!



{two}



I spent most of this week getting organized for the school year. Oh yeah, because when I see all the crazy Americans going back to school at this ungodly time of year I finally start to think about preparing for our school year. I had to fill out a bunch of program plans for the government -- boo hiss! -- which is of course a barrel of fun, and I made Amazon go boom with a giant school order. I might as well spend that government money right? We actually have most of our core curriculum already because my kids seemed to finished what they were doing in the middle of last year so I just bought the next grade up so we can really pick up any time we want. I'm aiming for after Labor Day!  



{three}

I also got a lot of other annoying, chore-ish things done this week that I have been putting off all summer. I don't know why it feels good to finally get those things done but it really does. I also always make a list of things to get done in the summer and I always end up doing all of them during the last week of summer. I'm currently organizing books and bookshelves and the only solution I've come up with is I need more books and bookshelves. Which really isn't a solution. But for both those things I need a bigger house. 



{four}



I need a bigger house? But didn't I just write about living with a bunch of kids in a small house? Why yes I did! If you haven't checked it out it was over at Theresa's last week writing about it - the whole series was really great, check out all of them!



{five}

I've also been other places this summer writing a guest post for Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee on living the faith here in Canada. 

And I wrote about a month ago for Patheos and the great blog Love Among The Ruins about the comedy The Last Man On Earth. I don't think I ever mentioned it here on the blog, so if you missed it on Facebook you may never have known - what a shame!



{six}



We went on a little summer holiday for a couple days to the mountains last week and had a really great time! We just love being in the mountains. But it was especially nice to stay at a gorgeous cabin on an even more gorgeous secluded lake. The kids were able to swim on the hot, hot, hot days and then when it dipped to single digit temperatures on the last day we were there we could run around different trails almost by ourselves. (Because apparently the cold temperatures really put a damper on non-Canadians going out of doors...I dunno...maybe...weird...)



{seven}



It's still hilarious how much attention we garner going to tourist-y sites with five kids. It really shouldn't be such a big deal but there are plenty of stares and "Are they all yours?!" Oh, yes they are or else I wouldn't have gotten in the same car with them for 6 hours! Actually the driving went better than expected and at this rate we may be able to drive with them on a decent road trip for more than 3 days in about a decade. Give or take. I just can't not picture travelling with my children as not being utterly exhausting. Even now are kids are getting bigger but it still requires so much work to get them there, so much work while we're there, and still major disruptions to sleep. I'm getting a bit better at accepting it, but I still feel like low-acheiving mom that I don't love and want to travel with them all yet. Just a dose of mommy-confession for you. We really did have a great time and even though it was just three days it was completely worth it and everyone loved it. There's nothing like seeing the excitement of your sweet babies as they experience new things for the first time. Even if they occasionally get a little freaked out over bears and heights! 

Hope you all have a lovely summer weekend -- I may even get crazy and start blogging next week...for real.



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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What's Been Working For Me This Summer




Why yes, it is practically the middle of August already and summer is flying by! I don't know where the time is going, and I know I say that a lot, but I do wish it would slow down just a tad - except when 60% of my children tantrum/whine at the same time - then time could just whizz on by. But I thought I'd quickly jot down some things that have been really working for me this summer and what has not.

What's Been Working




This bracelet

The lovely Shannon, who has the ridiculous talent of creating this beautiful jewellery, sent me this bracelet to try at the beginning of the summer and it has been a hit. It's a really well made rosary bracelet that looks simple, yet layered, yet has the right amount of colour, AND is a rosary. It's got everything going for it and I've been wearing it all the time. I really can't believe how well it's held up with every child grabbing and pulling on it approximately 70 times per day but it has and I really appreciate that fact. Shannon is being really generous and awesome and extending you dear readers a 20% discount if you use the code "FOUNTAINS" at her great shop. She's also making great soft rosaries for babies that flew off the shelves at Edel...I'm kicking myself for not buying about 100 for baby gifts because they're a perfect baby gift.

Sleeping In

Blah, blah, blah, getting up before your kids, blah blah blah. I know it's a thing, but I've been sleeping in AND getting up before my kids and I don't feel guilty about it one bit! For some reason (probably the midnight sun of northern Canada) my kids have been staying up later and wearing themselves out to the point where they are hardly making noise till 8:30 am. Which has never happened before I swear. So I'm just taking it in as much as I can and relishing it. Sure, it might back fire come September, but so far it's making my mornings feel shorter (which is a good thing when you're the one and only getting up and dealing with 5 people and the rest of the day to come).

These Art Videos

These YouTube videos for drawing for kids have been saving my whining hours as I plunk my kids in front of the computer. They're also comprising a large chunk of "art" curriculum this summer, because we don't do a lot during the school year. I've been really happy at how my kids follow along and how quickly they catch on. Thanks to the lovely Ashley for recommending them!

Smoking the odd cigar

Sooo I may have smoked a cigar at Edel with some amazing women, but since I've been back I've been going out for late evening walks in the silence with a cigar about once a week. It's been fun and relaxing and fun. Now, I don't know if I'd be gutsy enough to walk around actual people, but since we live in the middle of nowhere and I can walk a couple miles without seeing anyone it works out fine. The evening walks when the temperature is still perfect, the sun is setting, and no children have been screaming at me have also been helping my state of mind immensely. It's definitely something that I wish could happen more easily in the winter months (you know, getting out of the house alone) but I'm savouring it now.



What hasn't been working for me


My Hair!

Guys, I don't know what's going on. I'm using the same shampoo, the same products, doing the same routine and my hair is frizz city with a side of frizz. It doesn't look soft and shiny either. It looks awful. Now, we've had a really unseasonably dry summer, so I can't even blame humidity, so I just don't know what's been going on but I'm suffering. Any helpful hints?

Meal Times

At Edel the lovely Rachel Balducci mentioned in her talk something about identifying what the worst part of our day is and examining why it's the worst part of our day and what we can do to fix it. Mine is mealtime. Not simply the effort and drudgery in preparing three meals for five kids per day, but them actually eating it with all the accompanying whining, complaining, and fighting. It's just killing me and bringing me down, and remember how I wanted to get discipline back on track this summer? That hasn't happened. I just feel stuck and that there probably isn't a solution in sight.

And that's all I've got because I'm off to pack up seven people for our mountain vacation that we're leaving on tomorrow. I'm assuming it'll be an epic three day trip, if we don't die from whining on the five hour trip to get there - adventure is our middle name around here!

Remember, head on over to Organic Mama's Shop and use the coupon code "FOUNTAINS" to get a nice 20% off your order till the 29th! 






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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Go Set A Watchman - From a Catholic Perspective







There is so much controversy surrounding Go Set A Watchman as it is as a story, that I thought I'd speak to the main ideas that seem to be so bothersome to mainstream media reviewers and why I think that their interpretation and disgruntlement aren't quite the response one has after reading the book with a Catholic viewpoint.

I preordered the book and was excited to read it even with the many reports of Atticus now being completely racist and working with the social forces and people he tries to thwart in To Kill A Mockingbird. I was fine with the idea of completely separating the two books and characters even though they had the same names. If this was a manuscript Harper Lee worked on before going back and completely reworking what she had to create a different book in To Kill A Mockingbird it could make sense.

I read the book in a week and although it definitely doesn't have the superb pacing and plot development as To Kill A Mockingbird, I easily recognized Lee's wit and cunning in the prose even though it was not as honed. Jean Louise, the adult Scout, was an amazing character to see and I loved every moment of her in the book. I wanted to say everything she said, I loved her spunk and passion. As you probably already know, the book begins as Jean Louise returns to the South for a visit home after spending a few years in New York. She comes back to her small town, her father, her dear childhood friend and boyfriend, Hank, as well as her aunt and uncle, and Calpurnia. But as she discovers that Atticus and Hank are now working with the local citizen's council which promotes racism, her childhood faith and trust in her father is shattered and she confronts him.

 I respected Lee's honesty in the telling of Watchman's story as it played out, thinking that it was almost more realistic than To Kill A Mockingbird in the sense that liberal, professional, white men like her father probably did work with white supremacist groups due to a misguided liberal idea of how black people should be treated under the guise of protecting a Southern way of life.

I thought Lee's approach to describing this problem was insightful. It's almost impossible for us today to understand how important Lee's description of Atticus as a liberal willing to accept racist and eugenic ideals in order to protect what he felt to be more important; protecting the Southern way of life from judicial and federal overreaching he felt was happening with the civil rights movement and supreme court decision. That was a very popular viewpoint and it's impossible for us to see now with the benefit of history how people can get their morality so out of whack. How people can put political aspirations, however good in of themselves, ahead of the welfare and treatment of people? And yet, we live in a time when people put their political convictions ahead of the truth and the lives of people everyday when it comes to abortion. We need to view history not as perfect assessors free from wrongdoing, but recognize that humanity and individual human beings have been wrong over and over again in every era.

I think that's why so many contemporary reviewers of Watchman have had a hard time accepting, or even giving the time of day to Atticus -- they can't stand that someone can espouse liberal ideals while at the same time accepting racism. I found that Lee's treatment of Atticus to have an almost Catholic understanding; that individuals, no matter how high we hold them in esteem and no matter how much we love them, do and can believe things that are wrong for what they think are good reasons, but that the root of the problem is that people hold political ideals above actual living, breathing, worthy of respect and dignity, people.

The other aspect of the book which has caused a furor among critics is Jean Louise's reaction to her father after their confrontation on his support of the racist citizens council. Jean Louise puts aside her anger after their confrontation that comes as the climax to the book and recognizes that her love for her father is too strong to ignore, that she'll love him in spite of their fundamental difference of opinion. This part of the book did come off extremely fast and wasn't too well developed. I can see how people can think it's a cop out on Jean Louise's part because she's supposed to be an activist and that means disowning and chastising racists in her life and shaking the dust of her southern hometown from her feet.

Here again it's impossible for our contemporary society to understand loving someone when we think they're wrong. As evidenced so strongly in the last month or so since the Obergefell ruling, there are only rainbow photos and everyone else should be vanquished as hateful bigots. No wonder people think it anathema that Jean Louise still love her father even though he is wrong. It's unthinkable. But here again is a very Catholic and compassionate response. Jean Louise recognizes that love is more important than disagreements even over something as important and morally wrong as racism. Love is all the more important when we disagree.

At the book's end we don't know that through Jean Louise's love or continued presence in his life that Atticus will eventually come around, or if for the remainder of his life Jean Louise loves him through his shortcomings and misguided racism. We don't know if Jean Louise becomes a beacon of truth to her whole hometown, or if she returns to New York and refuses to go back because of how strong a foothold hatred has in her beloved home. I believe that Jean Louise is strong enough to love her father and her hometown, in spite of this great evil, while at the same time fighting for and standing for the truth. She is not condoning Atticus by stating her love for him, she is not participating in his sin, she is just continuing to love her beloved father. If this book as we have it is what Harper Lee wrote, then I think the point she may be trying to make is that sometimes you can't fight wrongdoing and evil in dramatic ways or in courtrooms, sometimes you fight evil by still loving those who are wrong.






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Monday, August 3, 2015

I Need A Harper Lee Support Group





I think I need a Harper Lee support group.

I preordered Go Set a Watchman and then read it within a week of getting it in the mail. I've been reading all sorts of articles wherever and whenever they pop up on my Facebook feed. I am pestering my dear English professor friend about all my questions that I can't find answers to -- I feel like I'm a bit obsessed about this book, the whole convoluted situation surrounding it's publication, and Harper Lee herself.

When I initially pre-ordered the book I did so because I'm a die hard fan of To Kill A Mockingbird and to have this long awaited second book by Harper Lee seemed like a must read and a must have. I knew a little about the shady timing of the release of the book shortly after the death of Lee's sister and lawyer, Alice, but I thought it couldn't be that bad, could it?

But I devoured the book in a week and thought that I liked it initially. I had no problem separating the Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird with the Atticus of Go Set A Watchman. I could understand that this was a first novel by an author who was trying to figure out her story, her characters, her pacing and prose. It clearly was a first attempt, albeit with the spark and finesse of To Kill A Mockingbird still peaking through.

But then I saw this New York Times piece, and if the New York Times has evidence that the person who brought forward the manuscript has been lying about when she first found this manuscript, it can only mean shady things. Then to think of the millions of dollars the publishing house is making off this manuscript, the little disclosure they're offering in regards to how much of the manuscript was altered for this publication, and the fact we don't know to what extent Harper Lee is being compensated and how much is going to this person who "found" the manuscript all feels so sneaky and duplicitous.

I'm not sure if Harper Lee was in her right mind when she decided to allow the manuscript to be published, maybe she was, maybe she wanted to be alive to see the entirety of her work in publication and is beyond worrying about what the reaction will be. But didn't she have ample reason to not publish it in the intermittent 50 years since the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird? Why didn't Harper Lee talk about Watchman even a little somewhere? Why didn't Alice make more legal stipulations about the publication of this forgotten manuscript? Why is it all coming out so conveniently after Alice's death?

All these questions make me feel as if I am somehow a little bit morally complicit with exploiting Harper Lee and her work. I can't shake the feeling that this shadiness, that is making millions for the publisher, is duping not only Lee but all of us as readers. I hate the idea of Harper Lee's reputation and place among classic writers besmirched by how critics have received this book, and if it will always be an asterisk beside To Kill A Mockingbird.

I'm emotionally involved in this bookish affair. And I think it's going to take years to untangle.



Tomorrow I'll be sharing thoughts on the actual story of Go Set A Watchman, it'll have lots of spoilers! 



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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Milledgeville Pilgrimage - or; the Fountains of Carrots Road Trip!





I've been wanting to post a little bit about our wildly adventurous, long hoped for road trip/pilgrimage to Milledgeville, Georgia to visit Andalusia, the home of Flannery O'Connor and where she ended up spending most of her life, as well as where she wrote most of her works, after she was diagnosed with lupus.

Back in November, or whenever the location for Edel '15 was announced as Charleston, I may have immediately google mapped "Charleston to Milledgeville" and then texted Haley that it was only 4 hours away! And Haley, being a great friend said that this was probably the closest a northern Canadian girl was ever going to get and that we should try and tack on an extra day to our Edel weekend to drive there for a visit. The whole idea sounded perfect and like a dream come true because you know my love of the South and Flannery O'Connor in particular, and I've always wanted to visit Andalusia!






We stopped in Savannah for a really quick brunch along the way, and then realized we still had two and half hours to go and that Andalusia closed at 5. We scarfed down brunch of grits, and crab cakes, and mimosas (just me) and hit the road. This was my "I'm in Savannah drinking a mimosa" face. Attractive, I know...





Haley earned a million best friend points for driving me across Georgia even though she was suffering from a horrible cold that left her with no voice and hadn't slept well in a week. But she was the name on the rental car and was a real martyr who didn't want me to drive and break laws. We got there with a handy half hour to spare before closing time and met a wonderful blog reader/podcast listener, Shannon from Milledgeville, who met us at Andalusia and showed us around and then later had dinner with us in Milledgeville. It worked out perfectly!




Actually being at Andalusia felt so surreal. For some reason it was exactly how I pictured it to be. I guess I should attribute that to Flannery's spot-on descriptions in her writings and letters. I honestly thought we'd turn a corner and see Flannery with her hat talking to some geese. The beautiful old trees let the sunlight fall on us, and the peace of the woods surrounding the house made it feel timeless and serene.





Flannery's bedroom on the main floor of the house. I love seeing her breviary and Bible on her nightstand beside her bed underneath a crucifix. Seeing her crutches was a bit haunting; an important aspect of who she was and her suffering, how it was such a part of her life, a visible reminder of her own pain. The curtains she sewed herself, and I love seeing her radio by the window. I wish her books were still in her room, but I understand the need to better preserve and allow others to study them, but I'm sure she wouldn't know what to do without them there.








I just loved all the peacock feathers around the house! Inside the house itself was great to experience and I'm so glad it hasn't been updated or re-touched at all because it doesn't feel like an impersonal museum but really a home.




We had to have a famous porch picture together! The porch is wonderful! I want one.




The only remaining peahen on the property. I wanted Andalusia to be full of geese and assorted fowl! 



I love this picture with the trees towering over the house. I really could have spent all day soaking it all up, never wanting to leave, but it turned out to be a really fantastic visit that I'm going to remember forever. It just made me feel even closer to Flannery and her writings, and filled me with even more love for both.



I'm about 99% certain that must have been Daryl on his motorcycle.

Then we drove through a crazy assortment of Georgia country highways to get back to Atlanta where I would fly home from the next morning. It was beautiful countryside, but I couldn't help wondering if zombies were lurking in the trees, because I've watched a lot of The Walking Dead

All in all I think it was a really successful Fountains of Carrots road trip - and we should do it again sometime!




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