Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 22

December 22 already!

Our wild, patchy, yet perfect tree is trimmed, the presents are (mostly) on their way from Amazon, snow has fallen in the last week to make everything look cozy and blanketed, and I'm barely wrapping my mind around Christmas being so soon!

Our last week was pretty rough with my poor Nora being really sick last week. A raging fever that didn't let up for three days, doctors visit, antibiotics, finally feeling better a few days after that - it was one of those sicknesses where she only wanted to be held by me for all her waking and sleeping hours. I lost a week a week before Christmas.

But she's on the mend, I was lucky enough to get out of the house on Saturday, and Christmas is still on it's way. Christmas can't be stopped, and that's almost a comforting thought to me as a mom to a bunch of little people who sometimes/all the time thinks that I must do everything before Baby Jesus can come. Seriously, I gotta check myself often because I can begin to operate like a kind of automatron who must get all the things done for everyone OR. ELSE. CHRISTMAS. WILL. BE. RUINED.

But I've had Christmases in the past few years where I was nine months pregnant, six months pregnant, and unable to get out of bed Christmas Day because of a terrible case of the flu, and yet Christmas went on and children were completely happy even if all the cookies weren't baked and each present wrapped perfectly. Christmas really does have it's own joy even when things are going pretty crumbily, and I think that's something I'm just learning even though the lessons were given a few years ago. I'm sure I'll need to relearn it again and again.

Now, even though I'm still pretty overrun with small children and their bubbling excitement that needs to be corralled on the busy days, I'm trying to soak it in because their precious little years really don't last long. I'm really so lucky to have a house full of kids who are completely over the moon about all aspects of Christmas, from Santa to the tree lights to candy canes to remembering every thing we've done before because it's all tradition to them.

It's a crazy kind of chaos where I feel like Christmas week is a wild sprint to the finish. Where I'm cooking and baking, finding fancy church clothes an hour before Mass, staying up late trying to find where I've hidden the stocking stuffers, still staying on top of the never ending laundry that doesn't stop for the holidays, packing for all of us, making sure we have milk -- it's tiring, I'm weary by the end of Boxing Day. It really is a lot.

But I'm going to remember the joy and actually enjoy myself too. I don't want to look back on my children's Christmases and only remember feeling frazzled and exhausted. I want to remember their sweet faces and expressions, that I was happy to see them happy. I want to remember the family dinners spent with our family and how lucky my children are to be part of it all. I want to remember the late nights of wrapping for so many people and then remember hugging and hanging out with them on Christmas Day. And while I watch them binge the littles binge on cookies and chocolate I'm going to enjoy a drink myself.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 135

Checking in with Kelly because I can't find time to write any other time it seems lately...


Well, I don't know what happened to this past week but it was a bit of a blur of sickness. A strange stomach virus hit and one kid would go down for a day, then another, then people just seemed lethargic, then there was all the sundry laundry that accumulates when people are throwing up everywhere...you know how it goes, right?


I've noticed signs of improvement to my mothering through illness though! Improvement! Woo hoo! I remember in the early days of having more than one kid I was paranoid and panicked when any kind of sickness or illness hit. I'd be freaking out about when the next kid would get it, how bad they would get it, how no one would ever sleep again!! It was fairly illogical, but when you have 4 or 5 babies who are all toddlers or young babies it's kinda expected that this is a big deal. Now though I've noticed I'm a lot more peaceful about it. I know I can't control which kid the virus will hit next, it may hit every one of them, we may be dealing with vomit every hour on the hour like we have before, but somehow I'm a lot calmer than I was before and it makes nursing sick kids so much easier. I don't worry as much who's going to get sick next, I just try and deal with whoever's currently vomiting. Present moment guys, present moment.


However, that's not to say that I didn't lose sleep this week even when no one was awake throwing up wondering who was going to throw up next. Because I did. Because of course I could sleep through kids throwing up and crying and needing me -- I need to remain vigilant, stay awake, lie in constant tension waiting for the next kid to spew! It's one of those crazy things you just can't turn off as a mom, I swear.


All that fun news aside, I really didn't do too much this week that was too exciting. The weather has been foggy and dreary and feeling a bit more Christmas like. Ask me how many times my two-year old has said "Christmas time is here, Mommy!"? I wish I knew, because it's a lot.


I'm sending out Christmas cards. Nothing makes me feel quite so old and antiquated like mailing Christmas cards. I feel like I'm participating in an ancient tradition from the dark ages or something. I have to buy stamps?! What?!


The podcast was back this week! We chatted with Emily Stimpson all about the importance of food and hospitality which seems fitting for this time of year when we all may want to throw a party or just have people over for popcorn and hot chocolate. Hope you get a chance to listen!


Since this weekend is Gaudete Sunday we're getting our Christmas tree! My girls have only been asking everyday since the end of November and have been making sure we're aware of this weekend and the promise we made. To be honest with you I kinda love decorating the tree. I'm sure I'll out grow this phase soon, but I do kinda love it. Every Christmas I always start to wish my house was bigger so I could have more decorations...which isn't bizarre at all, right?

Hope you all have a great weekend!

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 134

Joining Kelly and the many better takers this Friday...


We're doing it, we're living Advent and simultaneously getting all the things done. Right?? Right?? Well, I'm just going to keep telling myself that because then I won't freak out. I feel as if Christmas will be here before we know it. I'm having waves of "hurry up and do it all" feelings. Where does that feeling come from anyway? I'm trying to squash it.


It's been a beautiful week up here. The daytime highs have been above freezing which is practically tropical feeling in December. This is the first year where we've just shovelled off the small pond/dugout/"cow pond" (as my children call it) in the field in front of our house for the kids to skate on. Gemma has spent whole afternoons out skating which is really adorable. (Don't worry - we can see that it's frozen at least 12 inches deep.)


We hardly have any snow though, which is also weird. I think last year we were cross-country skiing by this time and we need a lot more snow until we can do that anytime soon. We also usually go out Christmas tree hunting in about 12-15 inches of snow in the woods, but this year it'll be much easier finding a tree! 


We usually try and wait till Gaudete Sunday to go Christmas tree hunting and really begin decorating. I like a slow lead up in the decorations that way I'm not sick of them before Epiphany. I have a really low tolerance for seasonal decorations. The idea of Halloween and fall decorations out in September makes me batty, Christmas decorations I love but I can barely last a month. Other than twinkly lights of course, twinkly lights forever!


I have to admit that I feel as if my whole week has been swallowed by online shopping this week. I just don't understand why it's so time consuming, and yet it is. Maybe I'm being indecisive? We don't even buy our kids that many gifts, yet I'm still spending inordinate amounts of time searching and comparing and adding and removing. I honestly shudder to think how much time it would take me to Christmas shop in real live stores. It would be torture to me. I like shopping, but not that much! 


That all being said, I love reading gift guides. I feel supremely uncreative when it comes to coming up with gift ideas for anyone, so I can't get enough guides. If you've got some or know some that you love send 'em my way!


These were really quick I know, I hope to get more time to write something substantial next week, after I'm done with all this online shopping business, get out from under the mountain of dirty laundry awaiting me, or maybe I'll just make myself write and quit being distracted by Facebook, the horrible daily news, and clicking on every Gwen Stefani headline I see. Still praying for some focus this Advent... 

Hope you all have a great weekend!

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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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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately - October Edition!

Too much time has passed since I did I quick rundown of what I've been reading! I'm not sure if this is really a popular blog niche of mine, but I just like writing about books so I miss it after awhile. Today seems a perfect time to ignore my dirty counters and neglected and unswept floors for some books.

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

I bought this in the airport on my way home from Atlanta this summer because I finished a whole chick-lit paperback on the trip to South Carolina and needed something easy and fun to read. I think this is the fifth Elin Hilderbrand book I've read and I just don't know why! She's very formulaic, and while her characters can sometimes be interesting there are occasional periods of prose that make my brain want to vomit. I can go along with the cheese, the melodrama, but start writing bad paragraphs describing sex and I'm out. Anyway! Just remind me next time I'm in an airport to pick any other kind of chick-lit than Elin Hilderbrand. (I just realized I didn't say anything about this particular book. So to sum up: a couple dies, they were having affairs, their friends have complicated histories they explore because of the deaths, lovers mourn, marriages are put to the test, the ending sappily wraps things up. You're welcome.)

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O'Toole

This book is really in a class by itself because it is somehow a crazy mixture of satire and humour, while at the same time a piercing look at human nature and philosophy. It follows Ignatius Reilly from living with his mother and being generally insufferable while penning his Medieval masterpiece to being forced to find an actual job after an encounter with a policeman. What follows are madcap adventures that have acute commentary on society while showing the hero to be a combination of savant and helpless oaf. Walker Percy discovered this novel and I wish I could discuss it with him. Recommended if you're looking for something completely different.

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

An expertly crafted biography of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for almost 70 days. I'm a sucker for a survival story and this one was interesting in how it told the stories of many of these men as well as South American culture. I thought the book was very well done in how it described the many different aspects of the story from the trials of living underground, the problems that come from instant celebrity, to the role faith and even miracles played in the saving of these men.   I feel this book allowed me into the South American culture while honestly describing extraordinary events.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

I had such a terrible time trying to get into this one. I felt the first 100 pages terribly disjointed and didn't allow me to get close to the characters at all. But as I persevered I found the book left me thinking of the characters and story much more than I thought it would. It tells the life of a British fighter pilot after he survived WWII and it's after effects. His quiet life, his marriage, his relationships with his daughter and grandchildren. It was a thought-provoking read, I just wish the first hundred pages were as well done as the last hundred.

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers

By the end of the summer I had read what felt like some major books in a row and needed to hit my store of classic, Queen of Crime stash of mysteries for a break. This novel by Dorothy Sayers follows our hero Lord Peter Wimsey as he solves the death of a 90 year old club member through the tangles of family connections. It's a perfectly paced mystery with loads of Lord Peter charm, and a perfect escape read.

Ok, there's five for today, I'll join up with Jenna for 5 Faves and Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit when she puts that up this month!

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