Tuesday, December 30, 2014

12 in 2014 - It's been a slice!

Dwija the Loveliest is kind enough to host a link up of this years best pics, and I'm so happy to have an official way of creating this sappy post because there's little I enjoy more than looking back at pictures of my growing children and becoming a puddle as I see how much they've grown before my very eyes! 2014 has been a wonderful year, and I'm thankful for all of it, even the snow.

January, heck - the whole of last winter, was rough for me guys. Vastly outnumbered by children, two of whom couldn't navigate the easiest of parking lots themselves, so many cold days, so much not leaving the house. I still have some PTSD when I think about it. This winter has been slightly better so far, but January is just tough to get through. I did post a little decorating of Gemma's room though, and some beauteous G.K. quotes that helped keep me.

See. Winter was rough for all of us. We managed to get through though, with sledding, extra trips to the city, and wine. Or at least wine for me. Here on the blog I got fired up about internet talk about the Catholic subculture not being awesome, because it is, and wrote about it. Jen held her annual 7 days of 7 posts and I am pretty happy that I made it and posted everyday for a week. I also wrote a lot about books as usual and specifically about all the Catholic-bashing in modern fiction.

My baby turned one! Grumpy Kitty had a wonderful day, and was my first one-year-old who blew out her own candle, which seems like a real accomplishment if you ask me. We journeyed through lent, I shared my love for Agatha Christie, pointed out ridiculous fashion trends, and waxed poetic about naming homes. It was a good month.

This is a pretty accurate representation of us all. Luke's off trying to capture something, Dom seems perturbed at our asking him to smile, Gemma looks calm in a sea of crazy, Max is trying to escape, Nora is unimpressed, and I'm yelling at someone. And this was us celebrating Easter! I started a series on moms trying to find time to read books in the midst of the chaos of daily life, I recapped some awesome Mad Men episodes, and had some rough mothering days

May came and we finally got rid of winter and dandelions took over the growing grass. I just love this shot of my offspring picking dandelions with our home in the background. It's an A-plus for homeschooling kinda shot don't you think? We had birthday parties, campfires, soccer, and tree house building. I didn't write about any of that though, just the importance of life online, made some sangria for a great book, and talked about how just reading books can challenge your mind when you feel like you're losing it at home with a bunch of kids.

The spring and summer are so beautiful here that I completely forget about how awful and hard the winter is and only think how wonderful it is to live miles and miles from civilization. Kids are outside, the greenery is everywhere, flowers bloom, kids are outside; it's all around awesome. I did however, fall down the stairs to our deck outside which left my incapacitated for a couple days but I couldn't help but thank God it wasn't worse because I basically fell down stairs fully on my back. I talked about summertime classic movies, and loved sharing the things I say a million times a day.

July was out of control with busyness. The oldest two kids went to bible camp in the city for a week and stayed with their grandparents, but emotionally damaged their mother. We went on our first family vacation with five kids to the mountains for a couple days. We didn't even let one fall off the side of a mountain! Then we had swimming lessons at the lake and I flew to Texas for a little thing called Edel and had the most fun I've had in years! I also managed to blog, which looking back on now was pretty amazing. I covered a variety from NFP to G.K. Chesterton to what I learned from Edel

August went by in a blur. There was lots of barbecuing, swimming, sprinklers, and popsicles. We didn't hit the books because we have to savour every ounce of warm weather we can, but I did start thinking about the new school year. I also started contributing to the wonderful Catholic devotional site, Blessed Is She. There was also some talk about going to Mass with all these little kids, and I talked about chick lit.

September saw my fifth baby, the girl who refused to crawl let alone walk on two legs, become the first of my kids to break a bone. She broke her leg and had to wear a cast for four weeks. I'm still traumatized even thinking about it, but she's completely fine now. We also dove back into the routine of homeschooling, so it was a rough transition for all, but mostly me. I mostly blogged about my cute children because I was trying to get over the routine change hardiness, and why we should just own our own cooking styles and let go of all the worry.

We had a beautiful October weather-wise so we got to spend more time outdoors which was great and even helped my dad with moving cattle around Thanksgiving. The husband and I also got to escape to Seattle for three whole nights by ourselves and it was a blissfully wonderful trip! There was also a bunch of Halloween business, decorating for fall, talking about building a living Church, and a workout that combines fitness and prayer.  

We're back to living with piles of snow in November, and I started having flashbacks to never leaving the house, but thankfully the kids are much more into Lego this year. That's all I have to say about that. I was also up to my eyeballs in trying to figure out the technical aspects of starting a podcast because Haley and I thought it would be a fun thing to start doing! I also laid a smack-down on the whole capsule wardrobe phenomenon

December has been a beautiful, frosty month, and although Advent and Christmas is a ton of work when you're a mom of little kids, it's also magical and exciting. The kids were all atwitter with anticipation this year for Santa, Christmas Mass, Christmas cookies and of course, the Christmas tree that it can't help but make your heart grow three sizes bigger with love. 

Thanks for hanging out with me this year, for reading, for commenting, for sharing your encouragement and inspiration with me. It's been a pretty great year, here's to a wonderful 2015!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

My Favourite Books of 2014

It's that time of year where we look back and ruthlessly categorize all our activities from the past year, but most importantly what we've read. I feel as if I'm choosing between children because I read 50 books this year according to Goodreads, and most of them were good ones. But I'm being extremely cruel and picking a couple favourites. I did however, make categories because...yeah...that's as decisive as I could get.


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I understand the criticisms of this book, but I still think it's a marvellous, sprawling, Dickensian-like novel with memorable characters, a twisty plot, and piles of worthwhile themes. It's ending is ambiguous but much more satisfying than Tartt's other great novel, The Secret History, which I also read and liked a lot this year.

Someone by Alice McDermott

This book is unassuming yet completely enthralling. A novel about the life of an ordinary woman but so beautifully told it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. It has a homey poignancy that I can't remember reading anything like it, and the prose is remarkably good. I would call this a Catholic novel because of it'd depth of understanding the hidden, inner, ordinary life being the key to spirituality and holiness.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

I thought this book was going to be something akin to romantic chick-lit but was blown away with what an incredible story was told. With descriptions that carry you to the Australian coast, insight into the mind of a veteran of World War I, and most importantly powerful and real telling of the sometimes tragic nature of love and family, this book has a lot going for it.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I'm confident this will be a popular favourite in book lists this year but I feel it is deservedly so. The Rosie Project is a hilarious book but with a heartfelt story that doesn't feel sentimental or cloying when the writing could have easily ventured in those directions.

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden

I know I feel as if I say this for each book I read by Rumer Godden: but she blows me away with her ability to bring together the gruesome reality of our fallen, sin-laden lives with the beautiful, unseen ways of grace and faith and how complicated it is when the two come together. This book is no exception and a real marvel.


Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler

I'm not just putting this book on my list because Jennifer Fulwiler's my hero, it's because this book is exceptionally written and I can't help but feel that anyone who reads this book will come away with a rational, honest, experience of how people come to faith.

The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was a lot of things; social justice advocate, journalist, most likely a saint, but within a handful of pages of reading this book you know she's a writer. I liked seeing all the different aspects of her life in her own eyes, how she made sense of things, how things were all connected to a God and Church who loved people about all else. A spiritual memoir that shouldn't be missed.

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

All literary nerds please raise your hands! I thought this was a brilliantly written literary biography/memoir/exploration of the novel that told a good story of how literature still affects our lives today. It treats the subject matter of Middlemarch as well as Eliot herself with a respect and humility that is so often missed in this genre (cough, I'm looking at you A Jane Austen Education, cough). If you're any kind of literary nerd you'll enjoy this not just learn from, but to share nerdy joy.

I've been curious about this book since it was announced a while ago and it more than lives up to my hopes. Insightfully written by a gay Catholic who respects and practices Church teaching on homosexuality, this book offers so much that has been lacking not only in Catholic circles but to our society at large. Discussion about chastity, what it means to actually live as a gay person who doesn't explain away the way they are or Church teaching, what friendship can give to everyone but especially the gay person, and how we can welcome and bring gay Catholics more fully to the Church are all written about with clarity, humour, and intelligence.

Saint Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton

I've read a lot of Chesterton and a lot of saint biographies, but I was surprised by almost everything about this book. Chesterton's wonder and love of St. Francis bursts through on every page and although it isn't a typical biography, you can't help but pick up on the depth of holiness and why his singular holiness transformed the Church.

Ten books! I did it! As usual you can find everything I read on Goodreads, and all my book reviews in the books tab on the sidebar.

Can't wait to hear what your favourite books of the year were!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Folks Dressed Up Like Eskimos...

One day I'm really going to take our Christmas photo with all of us dressed in full winter attire, but I'm waiting until my children will smile on cue. I wonder how long that'll take??

Until then, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas full of good hot toddys, children who don't fight over their presents, a Mass where you don't have to leave with a screaming child even once, no travel of long distances, hardly any fights with the in-laws, and many sparkly, twinkling outfits and accessories (it's not Christmas until Christy wears sequins)!

I tend to feel all romantic and fuzzy this time of year, as long as I'm not battling the flu like last Christmas, but I know this can be a difficult time for many who have lost loved ones and I pray that this Christmas there will be some comfort and consolation for all those who grieve.

I'm going to try to not eat ALL the cookies, but I won't make any promises. And here's hoping I bought one present for my husband that he actually likes. Happy Christmas everyone, see you next week!

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 109

I'm alive for 7 quick takes! I've missed a couple Fridays so you're all completely in the dark of the minutiae of my life. Let's fix that.

Oh, and make sure you check out the great Kelly and all the cool kids.


December 19?? Are you sure?! December's flown by this year, but in a nice way. Not too busy, not too slow, growing excitement everyday from 5 little people around here. It's the time of year where I shudder at the thought of motherhood + December without Amazon, somehow our pioneering mothers bought us all gifts!?! Let's all bow our heads in admiration and gratitude.


Don't we look like tough and rugged wolf hunters?

Before I hasten on to the frivolous and token kid pictures, if you don't follow me on instagram you may have missed the excitement that was me tracking down a wolf with 5 small children in tow. I wish I could let you believe the image that I was out in the forests bravely smelling random bushes for the scent of wolf while pulling 5 kids on a sled behind me, but really it's a much less dramatic story.

My dad and brother had been seeing wolf tracks a couple miles from the yard for a couple weeks, but a neighbour came to tell us he had seen a wolf on the road directly in front of our yard two days in a row. There happened to be a dead cow in the area (from another neighbour) and we thought that may be attracting the wolf closer. 

Naturally, I thought I should go out and get some instagram evidence of this wolf by finding a track on the road. It was a beautiful day out so I bundled up the baby and put her in a sled and we walked around for a while looking for tracks pretty playfully. We had no luck so I said to the kids we could just stay out a little longer since we spent all that time getting dressed and all. I walked to the end of the driveway, looked across the road, and saw a very large dog/coyote/wolf/animal as yet undetermined run down the road a couple hundred yards away from me. Naturally I told Gemma to start pulling Nora towards Gramma's house and Max to start running. It was like I was Ma Ingalls. I was so impressed when my kids actually listened to me and starting running! I thought I should stay a little longer to see if the wolf would pop out of the trees along the ditch, then though, probably not worth it so we ran back to the house, jumped in the nearest vehicle, and started driving down the road. I took these bad pictures while driving, so at least I can prove it wasn't a figment of my imagination but the jury's still out on whether it was a really large coyote, or a small wolf. I did however, definitely find a wolf track just outside the yard a little later. So who know. Either way I probably should be a more attentive mother when the kids play outdoors.

Best photo I got.

Wolf track, a little bigger than my hand.


We also jumped out of the house last Saturday, drove two minutes down the same wolf-sighting road and sawed down a Christmas tree. I know I post pictures of this event every year, so I think it must mean it's one of our favourite Christmas traditions. It also really blows my mind how big my children look. 


Nora was thrilled to decorate the tree this year. I never get tired of that sweet baby joy at the lights and the tree and the decorations. It's honestly the best. She was in awe of how big the tree was in the house, how the lights sparkled, how she could go up and touch it. And then I let the babies hang some very unbreakable decorations and it pretty much made their year.


So I know I've said previously that I'm a music snob and like to have a clear difference in Advent and Christmas music, or, at least a bit of emphasis on Advent music during Advent. But I do cave around the Third Sunday of Advent and break out any and all Christmas music all day, every day. Have you guys heard this gem yet? It's Straight No Chaser featuring Kristen Bell, and I heard it yesterday on Spotify and chuckled. I'm a sucker for some good cheesy-ness.


Guys, I want to bake Christmas cookies but I have a terrible fear that I'll just eat them all myself -  while wrapping, and doing laundry, and cleaning, and the myriad things I need to get done in a week, like an addict to processed sugar. But honestly, sometimes the thought of Christmas cookies keeps me going. I'm still staying strong and not baking yet. 


Thanks so much to everyone who's been sharing about the podcast, rating us on iTunes, and talking about it on their blogs. It's really amazing how warm and fuzzy it makes Haley and I. We recorded some really stellar episodes this week with blogging superstah Kelly Mantoan, and the paragon of motherly wisdom Auntie Leila which will air in the new year. If you didn't catch this week's episode with Arleen Spenceley I'd really think it's worth a listen, we had such an interesting and intelligent conversation about what chastity really is and how messed up our world thinks it is. But with more fun than how I just described it. 

Hope you all have a pre-merry weekend. Eat all the cookies!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Ardent Charity of The Blessed Virgin Mary - The Ten Virtues of Mary Series

Mary's virtue of ardent charity, or love, has been described as the most important and overarching of all Our Blessed Mother's virtues. So no pressure writing about it today, oh no.

Ardent charity describes not Mary's generosity towards her favourite non-profit organizations around the Nazareth area, but how her love was solely focused on God in her every action, every decision, every act of her will and mind. We aren't used to thinking in the theological terms of charity equalling supernatural love, but that is exactly what charity is; the theological virtue that gives us the grace to love God for His own intrinsic goodness and love our neighbour out of love for God. Mary was so infused with the grace of this virtue that everything she did was an act of love for God.

I'm just going to let that idea sit with you a minute. Every choice Mary made, every action she accomplished in her life both big and small, every thought and act of her will was done for love of God. Can you imagine all of your actions done for love of Christ? Directed towards that love? Chosen with that love in mind? That is a powerful, marvellous thought that summons up depths in our hearts and spirituality that I don't think we ourselves believe our own puny souls capable. Or at least I don't. I picture that singular, powerful, burning love of Mary as the pinnacle of holiness. Everything that Mary's life was done out of this love, and that is what makes her the perfect example for all humanity. But how can I emulate such an otherworldly love? How to I grow in this virtue?

I know I want to grow in this virtue of ardent charity. I think if we boil down most of our spiritual struggles we'll find at the bottom the desire of our hearts to do the Lord's will in our lives, and to do His will with love and out of love. I know that my motives to love God often come from places of wanting to earn love, to meet expectations, to show God that I'm worthy of His love. These are all motives focused on myself, and done from a place where only my ego resides. I am not loving God for His own sake, because of His boundless goodness, or His limitless love.

But Mary choose to do every action from sweeping her floor, cleaning up after a toddling Christ-child, or walking up the hill of Calvary out of love for God. She held this love as the most important part of her life, she operated purely out of this love with zero self-importance or ego invading this powerful expression in her life. She made God's love known to the whole world and the entire course of history because of this ardent love. Mary's life was the perfect human cooperation with God and she is our perfect guide for living a life of virtue because of it.

Mary's life of perfected virtue is because of her relationship with the Trinity. She loved God who also was her Son, but what gave her the grace to love God so entirely was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is the part we tend to forget, we forget that her relationship with God was not just with the physical human person she saw everyday, her own son, but how it also was a relationship with the Holy Spirit unseen within her soul.

We too experience life with the Holy Spirit through the sacraments, but how often do we try to cultivate this important relationship? I know I waste a myriad of opportunities to pray to the Holy Spirit. There are times where I feel defeated by my own small sins and could pray for the Holy Spirit for help but never do. Or what about teaching our children about God and the faith but so often come up short with the right words? I know the Holy Spirit is the fount of wisdom, but I hardly ever remember to ask for help when making a difficult decision or in asking how to deal with others with love instead of indifference.

In Mary's virtue of ardent charity I see the true beauty and power of love. It is a love the saturates the heart, mind, soul, and strength of a person. A love that transforms a young girl into the most important woman in history. But even more mysterious is the fact that the virtue of charity is given to all of us through the sacraments and living a life of grace. By treasuring the grace given to us, by appreciating it, by praying to the Holy Spirit we can grow in the same supernatural love which Mary exhibited. That's a marvel that Mary knows transforms lives and brings love to the world.

It's been a privilege being a part of this wonderful series. I have learned so much about Mary's virtues through this series of posts, please check them all out in case you've missed any - you'll really feel a boost to your spiritual life by reading these beautiful and practical approaches to learning from Our Blessed Mother. And thanks so much to Olivia for coming up with this great idea for a series, make sure to visit To the Heights tomorrow for a wonderful wrap-up giveaway!

This post is part of a series on the Ten Virtues of Mary, hosted by To the Heights and running every Tuesday until the middle of December. So if you need some help in the virtue department, here's a great place to start ;)
October 7 - An Introduction to the Ten Virtues of Mary - Olivia of To the Heights
October 14 - Lively Faith - Molly of Molly Makes Do
October 21 - Blind Obedience - Kendra of Catholic All Year
October 28 - Constant Mental Prayer - Jenna of Call Her Happy
November 4 - Heroic Patience - Kelly of This Ain't the Lyceum
November 11 - Profound Humility - Carolyn of Svellerella
November 18 - Angelic Sweetness - Regina of Good One God
November 25 - Divine Wisdom - Britt of The Fisk Files
December 2 - Universal Mortification - Abbey of Surviving Our Blessings
December 9 - Divine Purity - Gina of Someday Saints
December 16 - Ardent Charity - Christy of Fountains of Home
December 17 - Massive GIVEAWAY at To the Heights - Just in time for Christmas

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Advent and Christmas Picture Books in Our House

I have an obsession and it is Christmas picture books.

It's becoming a bit of a problem since I pull out a whole Christmas bin devoted to books we read for a glorious month a year, but I just can't help myself. I just love collecting them, and there are so many great children's books about Christmas.

Don't pull out your sleeping bag just yet though, I'm not going to go through our whole collection, but I will share the books we added this year. For the last couple years I've decided that giving Christmas books is the perfect gift for St. Nick to bring because the kids get to enjoy them before Christmas, and it seemed when I gave them for Christmas gifts they weren't enjoyed too much.

All that aside, don't get any fantasies in your head that my kids drool over books as much as I do. They'll probably all grow up into adulthood with a phobia of seasonal fiction, but what are moms for right?

Onto the show!

Ishmael: The Shepherd Boy of Bethlehem

This sweet and thoughtful story is the tale of a shepherd boy who journeys to Bethlehem and witnesses the angel's message of Christ's birth. The story also explores friendship, forgiveness, and Christ's mission of peace. This well written story is probably best for the older elementary aged kids, but Gemma enjoys it already and the detailed illustrations help bring the story to life. Ignatius Press is the publisher and I continue to enjoy their children's section, they're doing a great job publishing quality children's books that are neither trite, nor boring.

The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie de Paola

Tomie de Paola. Need I say more? We already have The Friendly Beasts which was a big hit last year, but this tale is equally enjoyable and so far everyone has asked for multiple readings. The pictures are lush and colourful as always, and I think this one is a good one to own for all ages. Also; I purchased the hardcover and it's beautiful and big. I cannot emphasize the importance of always buying hardcover. They last 100 times longer than paperback and are usually so much better quality. I know...I'm a book snob.

Home for Christmas by Jan Brett

Just like Tomie de Paola you cannot go wrong buying any and all books by Jan Brett. This one is about trolls and it's wonderful. Not inherently religious, but I'm ok with that, it has all the brilliant animals Brett is famous for illustrating and I love her troll characters. Again, I bought it in hardcover and it. is. awesome.

Merry Christmas, Curious George

This isn't an original Curious George, but I bought it thinking it was, and I'm a little disappointed. I am not a fan of rip-off Curious George because the originals are so wacky and bizarre that the generic modern rip-offs pale in comparison. But I'm making this one time allowance because Max is a huge Curious George fan and he is in love with this book this year. That sound you hear is my lowering standards.

The Night Before the Night Before Christmas! and Richard Scarry's Best Christmas Book Ever!

My boys are addicted to Richard Scarry. So I thought I should jump on that fad and just buy them all the Richard Scarry Christmas books ever made. The boys will honestly sit on the couch and just look at them for whole tens of minutes on end and, well, there's just no price you can put on that kinda attention getting. Also, beautiful and durable hardcover all the way.

Christmas in the Manger

Could Christmas board books be any cuter? I swear I own all of them, because...five babies...but even with my bias to both babies and Christmas books I think Christmas board books are in a category of cuteness by themselves. Nora kisses baby Jesus at the end of this one, so it's a memory maker. It can retire in the board book hall of fame practically!

And that's this year's contributions, but doesn't it add up quickly when you're just buying each child a book? It's a definite perk of having a lot of kids - you build collections quicker than you can say "up on the rooftop..." You can gift any of these books for Christmas, there's still time with the wonder that is Amazon, a mom's best friend this time of year!

Some links may be affiliates, fyi!

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