Friday, November 27, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 133

Joining the lovely Kelly, who has all your Black Friday shopping needs covered!


Happy Friday and Happy day after Thanksgiving to my American friends! 
I'm always grateful on American Thanksgiving for not having to deal with the giant amounts of work, food, stress, family, and cooking less than a month away from Christmas. I'm a Thanksgiving Grinch and I like that way - I'm also Canadian so we have a lovely, low-key Thanksgiving in October which makes plenty of down time between seeing family again, eating pie again, and worrying about shopping. But if you had turkey yesterday, then I hope it was great. 


In surprising news the husband and I escaped for a few days this past week to Arizona and it was marvellous. We'd planned it out a month or two ago and then sort of stopped thinking about it thinking it was so far away and got caught up in life, then a week or two ago we got really excited at a prospect of a couple days away together and a bit of a trip. It takes a bit of coordination to get all the stars to align babysitting-wise, work-wise, money-wise, but we both always feel like it was really worth it once we're there and have ploughed through the worry and anxiety of leaving the kids. Because I always do get that gripping fear and guilt for a few days before I leave. You can't avoid mom guilt. 


A lovely, dreamlike vacation to me is really just a hotel and the prospect of food I don't have to cook. It feels so luxurious not worrying about when to eat, just choosing to walk into a coffee shop and sit down for more than five minutes, and sleeping as late as we want. We meandered around at our leisure, didn't rush anywhere, enjoyed doing things the kids would have tantrumed about, it was wonderful!


We did manage to go to the Arizona Cardinals game last Sunday night which was a total hit with my husband. The game was really good, the stadium was monstrous and crazy, the margarita I got at the stadium surprisingly strong. We had a lot of fun! 


We officially take back any previous sarcastic comments regarding snowbirds who winter in Arizona because the weather was perfect. Cloudless skies, no wind or bugs, blissfully warm in November! I loved the desert plants and kinda freaked out over the saguaro cacti. Not quite Spanish Moss levels of freak out, but still, I just loved seeing them. It's just so much fun seeing a whole new landscape-especially when ours is covered in snow for the next five months or so.


Advent. It's here. I'm not ready. But I'm ok with that. It's really not Advent we're getting ready for, it's Christmas and that's why we have 4 weeks of Advent. I wish I had new things to say about Advent but I feel like everything that needs to be said has been said. Even my old Advent posts have started getting hits this week as people look forward to the season. 
It's really a time the Church gives us to embrace silence, waiting, and preparation. And all those things can happen in small, undramatic, daily ways - not in big things that require a lot of work, effort, and drama. I'm going to try and refocus on my own prayer and I know that the kids are already looking forward to our small traditions of lighting the Advent wreath with some prayers, songs, and readings randomly interspersed over the four weeks. I am in no way prepping. I know that over the course of four weeks I'll turn over my heart and see where it lands at Christmas. 


But since we're already speaking of Advent and St. Nick's day is about a week away, I've gotten on the ball this year and have already ordered received the kids St. Nick Christmas books. Ignatius Press sent me a couple of advance copies of their delightful Maite Roche board books, one about the Our Father and one with glorious Christmas illustrations and they are delightful. They are really perfect little board books for the 2 and over set, but I have no complaints taking in the beautiful illustrations myself. The simple prose is a perfect introduction to prayer and Christmas, and the size of the books are great for taking to Mass. Highly recommended!

Well, I'm off to take some kids to see Santa at our small town light-up, celebrate a certain 7 year old's birthday, and dig through the storage room at some point in hopes of finding the advent wreath. Oh! Btw, because you all were wondering, I found advent candles at a dollar store so I'm now just hoping they don't really stink -- fingers crossed. 

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

Here's some of what I've been reading lately-- some bestsellers, some mysteries, some good, some not so good...

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

This is the second novel written by one of the authors of the highly enjoyable The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It chronicles the family of a young girl in rural Virginia during the Depression and the arrival of a young woman who is writing a local history of the area. This is one of those books where I liked the writing, I liked the story well-enough, I liked the characters -- but for some reason something is missing from making this book really good. I feel this book could have used a good dose of editing, and adding a little more polish to the plot to get it to that next level.

Still Life by Louise Penny

The first novel in Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series, Still Life is a well crafted detective novel that brings to life a whole community of great characters. I also like Penny's main character as he seems to be a gentle and intelligent man who both understands the goodness and evil in people and how both qualities come to the surface in subtle ways. The writing is well done which is essential in good detective fiction, because no matter how clever a plot a whodunnit needs to be enjoyable in all ways to make a good book. I'm already reading the second in the series.

(Amazon wouldn't let me link to the original hardcover edition which has a much better cover. I hate movie-promo book covers. End rant.)

The Martian by Andy Weir

So I am the first to admit I do not like science fiction. Science fiction of any kind and I'm out. But this book has been so highly recommended from more than a few sources who I really trust that I thought I'd give it a shot. I thought the book would be decent, but what I didn't expect was how much I would enjoy it. I was laughing, I was completely sucked into the story and had no idea how Mark Watney would figure out the next crazy thing that would happen to him on Mars, and I mostly kept up with the science. It's not a perfect book, but for a first effort the story line is a good one and the writing definitely pulls you along without letting the intricate science take away from the drama and excitement. We just watched the movie this weekend are really enjoyed it, but the movie did leave out some great scenes from the book.

On Track for Murder by Stephen Childs

This is a historic mystery which takes place in Australia near the end of the nineteenth century. The mystery revolves around a young British woman named Abigail, whose father is murdered shortly after her arrival with her brother to Australia. Abigail's mentally disabled brother is blamed for the murder and Abigail teams up with the handsome local constable to get to the bottom of what happened to her father. The plot is well constructed and I enjoyed the setting, but what was lacking in this book was good characterization. I really wanted Abigail to be more interesting, more likeable, and, well, have more of a personality.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

I finally read it! And now I can finally say that it really wasn't that great. I definitely got more laughs out of this book than advice and maybe it's just because since we live in such a small house we've learned over the last couple years that we just don't have the room for "stuff". My husband has an allergy to clutter so he is almost constantly cleaning out what accumulates, so I guess I don't really have to deal with this problem too much. I definitely am not thanking my purse every evening, or worrying about how claustrophobic my socks feel since reading the book. I think my personality just does not respond well to so much woo-woo, but if it helps/helped you clean up then I guess it's a good book...for you.

Well, that a wrap for this week. I conveniently have five books here so I'm going to link up with the wonderful Ashley for Five Faves, head on over to find great stuff! And Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

I miss blogs

I know this title is a bit silly because blogs are still around, blogs are going strong, blogs are making millions of clicks and a couple of dollars around the world -- it's not like they've disappeared or been outlawed. Aren't I being a touch dramatic?

But I have to admit that I miss the way blogging used to be. I miss the giant blogs who no longer publish, I miss the way we used to publish with abandon about the minutiae of our daily lives without regard for click bait or share-ability. I miss photos of our kids. I miss posts about dinner. I miss hearing about our latest thrift store finds. I miss the almost daily publishing. I miss the linking up with frivolity.

Times have changed. We've all grown a little older, and our children have grown by leaps and bounds. We're not in the house as much. We don't have as much useless time floating around while little ones nap. We're busy, we're driving, we're teaching, we're moved on. We've gotten new platforms, we've written books, we've succeeded.

We know blogs are very professional now, that images matter, shares matter, that voices are innumerable, that everything has been said before. And maybe we've already said everything we think we have to say. Maybe we've already written our napping manifestos and taken our stand on the Facebook controversy of the day and just don't feel like we need to say anything more. Maybe we're burnt out of "creating content". Maybe we're just done.

It's also completely natural to want to move on. To find different interests that take up our precious free time, or maybe need a break from the noise of the internet world in general.

I get that. It's totally understandable. Every one of these reasons are valid and appropriate.

And yet, I still miss it. The way blogging used to be; the oversharing and dark pictures. The random check-ins and posts consisting of stream of consciousness updates. Publishing more often with friendly posts or venting about bad days.

I think it's that these simple, more frequent posts felt a little more ordinary and friendly somehow. It bound us moms together and brought us closer. At least I felt so close and inspired by reading of the daily lives of women just like me. I know that Facebook and Instagram still make this a reality, yet somehow still not the same.

I'm the first to admit I don't like change and probably could use some more in real life friends. I've also grown attached to blogs I read with loyalty because they've really meant a lot to me. I know things changing isn't wrong or bad at all, but I thought I'd just say that I do miss the blogging days of old.

Most importantly I want to thank those of you who've shared, and documented, and posted away over the last years, whether you had a giant following or not, for letting me see a slice of your life. What we write and share matters and does really touch other people on the great expanse of the interwebs. To those of us still posting regularly, if less often - me most definitely included, thanks for keeping a great thing going and doing what you want, how you want.

Our little niche of Catholic mom blogs is a beautiful thing, I'm so glad it's here.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 132

Making myself blog for Kelly.


Where has the time gone? Oh, probably sucked into the vacuum that is the week before and the week after Halloween. I really feel like Halloween always zaps it out of me. I think because it's the big whammy of a child's birthday and getting things in gear to have 5 different kids dressed in five different costumes and out the door to do all the trick or treating but also having to fit in all the birthday things so that the Halloween baby doesn't feel like he's just born on a secular holiday. Anyway! Long story short, I was catching up till Thursday and am finally feeling back on track today. It actually makes for a short feeling week now come to think of it....or maybe not....


Gratuitous Halloween Picture of my kids!

Gemma was a princess but not Elsa. She wanted to be her own princess and since she got that insanely extravagant costume from her grandma she could do whatever she wanted in my book. Dominic was a storm trooper and it basically made all his dreams come true. Luke was Wolverine but didn't feel like wearing the mask. Max was a Ninja Turtle. And Nora just wore a princess dress from out of the dress-up box. They were all really wonderfully easy about costumes and I don't think they even understand that they could demand complicated homemade ones from their mother, so I'm going to enjoy this innocence for as long as possible because I know homemade costumes are a comin'.


As I mentioned earlier Luke is my Halloween baby and celebrated his 6th birthday. It's official that my babies are now legit kids. And the time has flown and I do. not. understand. it.

Luke is a wonderful boy and I love every ounce of his inquiring, mischievous, self and he is such a caring and generous guy. If that's what happens to middle children then I guess I can blame some of my personality faults on being an oldest child, because his ability to give and be kind is really awesome. He was worth all that labor on a Halloween afternoon, and he may one day learn how I cursed trick or treaters while pushing him out. (TMI? Home birth, Halloween, me. It was really a recipe for cursing.)


We also did something outrageous and had a birthday party for the boys at a hockey game on Sunday. It was a minor league game but the team puts together these birthday party packages and it just seemed too good for my husband to resist. I can't complain because I loved that I didn't have to clean up anything or cook anything and I think the kids had fun. Probably would have had more fun if they were older, but it was great. 


But that also means another year, and another year with no official All Saints Day party or saint dressing up or anything. Our parish has no other kids who regularly attend so there was nothing going there, and I really didn't hear anything from my friends who live further afield, either that or we just weren't invited! Basically, another year where Halloween greatly outshines All Saints Day, which is unfortunate. I really just wish there was more celebration generally for a day that is really important on the liturgical calendar. But I think I'd have to go back a couple centuries to a Catholic country for that to happen...


I really love pyjamas. It's a happy byproduct of stay-at-home-mothering that I can fulfill my dreams of wearing pyjamas as much as possible. Anyway! I just bought this pair from Old Navy and they're the dreamiest. I love em and they're on sale, but the sizes left are scare. But I love them.


When we will make the abolition of daylight savings time an election issue? How long must we suffer under this oppression? When will we rise up against the evil minds who think this arbitrary time change necessary?
I'm beginning to think wineries may be behind the perpetuation of this injustice because wine intake for me definitely went up this week. Or coffee growers. Or Starbucks...geez, this conspiracy really does make people a lot of money...

Hope you all have a weekend that's enjoyed in the scare hours of sunlight now left to us.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

On Discouragment

It's the end of October and I've had a couple of rough weeks. Nothing serious or even anything to complain about. But weeks where I'm more frustrated with just myself and how I seem to be reacting to ordinary, everyday things with anger and frustration and annoyance.

It is another one of those stumbling blocks and reminders that I'm not "progressing" or "accomplishing" or moving forward in as many ways as I want to think that I am. I want to think that I'm becoming a better mother with each passing year and in turn not have to deal with the same things that I've stumbled on in the past.

And sure, I'm sure I've gotten better at this "mom-ing" stuff and I really hope that I've become a better and holier person with each passing year, but when you hit a rough patch of a couple weeks of impatience and frustration at nothing in particular you've got to wonder to yourself why this little stuff keeps bringing you down.

It's humbling. I know. Humility. Oh, humility. It comes and it doesn't feel great, and it changes you a little bit by knocking around some of your tough prideful points and sometimes it takes a bit more force than not. But it also brings a fair bit of discouragement.

For us normal, ordinary people who encounter our regular, boring types of non-dramatic humbling it's the discouragement that can really do the most damage. Not directly to our selves, but to our faith. It's the discouragement that knocks most of us off track, makes us change course, or even give up.

I'm talking about discouragement when you know you're in the right place doing the right thing. I'm fairly confident in this vocation of mine, 5 kids don't allow for much second-guessing in that department, and I believe the daily mothering is of amazing, vital importance to them and me.

It's just that these times of frustration, second-guessing, plodding and persevering can be spiritually discouraging. I've been thinking and churning about a lot of things, but it seems that all that's necessary is trudging through this rough patch of whatever this is. It's tough to feel like you don't know what to change, and even worse to know you don't really have the internal ability to magically change yourself. It is humbling to realize you still need God in all the same places where no matter how hard we try, we just can't fix ourselves by ourself.

I think I'm also going to allow this feeling of discouragement to sit with me instead of instantly ignoring or denying it. Not that I'm giving the discouragement credibility or allowing it to take root, but just saying that's just how I feel right now. I'm going to keep trudging though.

(sidenote: I just found this photo on my camera card from a few weeks ago and I can't even believe I took because it's so good, if I do say so myself, but usually they need so much editing.)

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 131

Linktoberfest is still happening, and I am crossing my fingers I win big. Hint, hint, Kelly...


I'd just like to say a few words:
hodgepodge, brisket, synonym, caterpillar. 
Those are the words.

Sorry, I've been reading Harry Potter again and Dumbledore just gets me. 
It's been that kind of a week.


What does that kind of a week mean? Well, it means that I may have pondered whether I should move to Australia and start a new life as a wild animal catcher or crocodile hunter or something because everything around here was going wrong! Not seriously wrong. Not "I need prayers because my life is truly terrible and bad things are happening" wrong. Not even outside forces coming down upon me like plagues wrong. Not even the Whole 30 wrong. Not even hormones wrong. I have no idea why everything just felt wrong, went wrong, and was just wrong, wrong, wrong other than me, myself, and I. And that's almost the worst thing because in addition to it being all me, I have no idea why I'm so off kilter and if anything is in actuality bothering me. But it's left me impatient, grumpy, frustrated, and feeling lonely. I'm hoping I snap out of it soon.


Can we talk about Kate's bangs for a second? I am firmly in the belief that only she could pull them off. Her hair is perfect. She is a princess because she has perfect hair. 


I'm currently binging my way through The Good Wife. I'm finding it the perfect combination of soapy and semi-intelligent even though I don't really loovvee any characters. Or maybe I do? I don't know, but I'm watching it a lot.


We've had another really nice week of weather that I'm grateful for because the kids have still been able to play outside for a couple hours a day. They've been out climbing trees and watching their Papa work cattle, and helping feed calves and it's been nice. It looks like next week the weather is going to turn and probably will not be coming back to these nice temperatures where you don't need a coat during the day but it was nice while it lasted! 


Oh, have I gone almost all my takes without complaining about politics? Let me fix that. After the dismal results of our national election this past week I think I'm officially over democracy. Just because people got out and voted doesn't mean democracy works. Democracy only works when the populace has a right mind in how to vote for the betterment of the nation. That requires principles, a decent education, and knowledge of the facts of how the country is run and what's important. None of those things are left in the voting public anymore because this whole campaign was based on emotion and what's cool, and no one cares about actual facts and how a country is actually run and what actually impacts individuals and freedom. I'm going to stop because I could rant all day.


I think my most popular Seven Quick Takes post was the post Jen Fulwiler linked to and that's probably my most proud blogging moment. Funnily enough it's entitled "Let's Complain" which is basically what I'm doing today too, so it must be my niche. (And I don't know why my own photos aren't working, I'll look into that...)
Haha, there are too many unpopular ones to choose from so here's one that got dismal numbers but there's probably great reason for that...

Hope you all have a lovely fall weekend -- I think making cookies are in order! And wine. Drink that, or make it I guess...

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

What's So Important About Your Child's Imagination?

I was a guest this week on the Catholic Exchange podcast talking about why reading good books with our kids is so important. And as I was babbling on and on about how awesome books are for growing our children's moral imaginations I didn't stop to realize if I had built up a decent basis on why and how books do this.

I mean, what does it all really mean, man?!

When we talk about the child's moral imagination we're talking about how our children learn about what morals are all about and what makes them good and bad. What happens when we do things that are good? What happens when we do things that are bad? These are the basis of what morality means in real life - our choices and actions have consequences.

Now, this happens really simply and usually in a very straightforward way in fairy tales and other children's stories. The prince does something heroic through courage and self-sacrifice to save a princess or slay a dragon that's been terrifying the populace. The princess through perseverance, intelligence, and kindness falls in love and marries a prince. Characters who trick other characters or are obviously cruel meet with deathly consequences.

In other words, when people do things that are good, good things happen to them and when characters do bad things, bad things happen to them.

If we're trying to raise children who have well-formed consciences you can see why this beginning instruction in morality is so important. It matters whether or not they're beginning to understand morality as it plays out through cartoon episodes or quality fairy tales and books.

Fairy tales and quality children's literature is that first step through the wardrobe of what matters in a world outside of our own selves. Children come to know the world in small incremental steps beginning with their home and family, and stories and books are a natural way to begin understanding how the world works, and especially how the moral world works.

The stories may be simple especially to our modern, relativism-obsessed culture, but to children fairy tales make logical sense. As we're raising our kids from small toddlers on we are all about trying to get them to draw conclusions from their own behaviour and consequences, if a child misbehaves we want them to begin to expect and understand that a negative consequence will happen. We want to enforce positive behaviour with praise and exuberance.

So it's really a logical and simple connection to our children that a bad witch who wants to throw innocent children into an oven is herself tossed into an oven. They begin to understand and expect certain types of choices and behaviours to be rewarded or punished through these tales. They're making moral connections between actions and consequences - that's really an huge step towards understanding what morality is all about.

And the same happens when we expose children to great characters of virtue. When we read tales of heroes and princesses we're not just exposing them to a world that is some kind of parallel universe, but a world in which people who do good things through making good decisions are met with good ends.

I don't think it means that our children are expecting fantastical things to happen to them, but it does open their minds to the idea that by pursuing the good great things can happen. We want our children to grow up with the knowledge and belief that God wants great things for their lives and wants them to live heroically in our world today. We want them to believe that good does always conquer evil because that is our Christian belief.

Of course that may involve slaying dragons - doing incredibly difficult things in challenging circumstances and persevering when all hope is lost. It may involve a supernatural charity towards people just life a wicked stepmother who keeps a princess locked in a tower.

Through stories children begin to imagine possibilities when they haven't yet experienced them first hand. Possibilities like overcoming extremely difficult and challenging situations in order to pursue the good, having to make difficult choices, being faced with evil and yet knowing that goodness exists and needs to be fought for, as well as being open to whatever incredible plan for their lives God may have in store.

That's why the imagination and cultivating the imagination is important. Not so our children become enamoured with a fairy tale vision of the world, but that they will be equipped to have a moral understanding of our world and how to use their own virtues for good. We're preparing them to understand the importance of morality and spirituality in a world that relegates all goodness and evil to a limp relativity.

It's hard for our small children to understand that a mom who stays home, or parents who both go to Mass, or a parent willing to take a public stand at their workplace against euthanasia or same-sex marriage are acting with courage and bravery. It's hard for our children to see us being extraordinarily kind to the person in the grocery store who asks if all those little people really are yours. But it's easy for them to see that when a prince fights a dragon that there is bravery and courage involved, and that persevering in kindness when you're a princess locked in a tower really does earn just rewards.

That's why the moral imagination begins young, with the stories our kids are exposed to and how their little minds absorb them with excitement and relish. And it's in hopes that as they grow they can make those important connections to virtue and vice, the possibilities of God working in their own lives, and of the rich reward that awaits us in heaven.

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