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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Friday, October 9, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol 130.


So excited to join Kelly and her Linktoberfest
I did some digging and it's been over 4 years since I started doing quick takes. Here's my first sad little post. But here I am doing my 130th quick take post, so I'm nothing if not dedicated to my random musings. Head over to Kelly's to win some great prizes, and write some quick takes too because I am equally dedicated to reading 7QT's as I am to writing them.


Last weekend I finished my Whole 30. Which is pretty amazing for me because I honestly never thought I'd ever do one, because I've been pretty adamant in making fun of people who do the Whole 30, so it was a big deal, guys. 
I adjusted fairly well actually. I really thought I'd be miserable the entire time, and while I wasn't super happy about things some days, gagged on sautéed greens a number of times, and constantly wanted a decent coffee with cream, I made it. 
But I basically white-knuckled it. I didn't look up any fancy recipes. I didn't make any cheat desserts. I didn't make substitute coconut milk lattes. I just ate meat, vegetables, and fruit. It was boring, I missed flavour and making more complicated recipes, and adding cheese to my gluten.
But I made it. I really knew that for me to stick with it for 30 days that I just had to make it as simple as possible. I was willing to give up flavours for less work. I basically made my family what we usually would eat for dinner, and I would just eat the meat and vegetable components. It was fine. I never felt very hungry but I could tell I was definitely eating less if only because I was not feeling a huge hunger for more meat and vegetables. It also really helped my terrible eating habits which usually saw me skipping breakfast, eating junk for lunch, and more junk for snacks in the afternoon. That was my biggest issue I wanted to deal with. I felt I needed a dramatic kick in the pants to get out of my terrible eating habits. So far this week it's still worked, I'm making myself eat protein for breakfast, I'm making sure I eat something decent for lunch, and I've hardly wanted to snack at all. But the cheese and bread have tasted divine! I'm so happy that I don't have any dramatic food sensitivities although I have noticed that my reaction to sugar isn't the greatest. I'm getting old. 
And I lost some weight that has refused to budge since my last baby. I finally felt after 2 and a half years that it was time to get gone, I guess. 
To sum up: I did the Whole 30 and I didn't even die! A seriously life accomplishment even if it didn't make me feel amazing or make me lose 20 pounds, it was probably good for me.


The leaves are almost all gone now but the weather is still holding out and on the warm side. It definitely is relished when we know that snow can happen anytime from here on in. Why do I always have the most vivid memories of when it snowed for the first time when I was pregnant? I can remember feeling very pregnant with Max at Thanksgiving and snow driving down from the north. I just thought I'd reminisce for a second. 


I read The Martian last weekend and could not believe how much I liked it. I hate science fiction. But because this book was so well reviewed by people I trust so much when it comes to books I gave it a whirl and it was an entertaining read that I enjoyed way more than I thought I would! Even the science bits didn't put me off. As soon as my husband finishes it we're going to try to see the movie, but we only see one movie in theatres a who knows if we'll actually make it to a theatre for it.


It's Thanksgiving up here this weekend and I'm looking forward to all the turkey, gravy, and pumpkin pie! It may have been my dream for the last month while doing the Whole 30, but I am ready for all the Thanksgiving! I think tomorrow I'm going to try and bake some pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookies because we need all the pumpkin things. We're helping my dad move cattle Sunday and Monday, and by helping I mean I'm going to be watching everyone else help move cows and/or just herding kids around, but we'll see what happens.


It's fall, there's football and hockey on tv, the nights become dark so early - it's time for me to start crafting again. I really miss something to do with my hands in the evening, usually my brain is mush so I can't write or blog or do anything else but read novels and watch tv. Which I actually really enjoy doing - obviously! But it does feel really good to be working on a cozy blanket while sitting with my husband watching sports. It is the right combination of craft combined with not requiring a lot of mental concentration. I'm going to be crocheting another blanket from the great Attic24 blog, because her designs are so pretty. 


Hope you got a chance to listen to the podcast this week - we were chatting with Nancy C. Brown, author of The Mysteries of Harry Potter all about Harry Potter and it's themes and ideas especially how they relate to Catholicism. It was a geeky good time, but also made for really interesting conversation! 

I'm off to eat pumpkin pie...well...soon at least. Happy Thanksgiving! 

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Looking for some great Catholic children's books?

I'm happy to report I'm drinking coffee again. That Whole 30 didn't kill me, and I didn't seem to notice much difference without caffeine in my diet, so I'm back to drinking my glorious elixir of life which in turn has drastically improved my homeschooling mood, my mothering mood, oh heck, my entire personality. Or I'm being a bit dramatic.

We made it through September which I always find to be a challenging month to get back on track, but so far I'm happy with our homeschooling progress. Oh sure, I've still got one kid who finds writing more than two letters at a sitting to be a ridiculous request, another kid who thinks carrying twos to be way too much work, and some number phobia going on. What all of my kids still agree on is sitting down with me and a good book.

Honestly, that's something I hope they never grow out of. There are so many great books on so many great subjects that if they'll sit and listen with me I feel like half the job of homeschooling is done.

I've also mentioned this about a hundred times before: but I think it's really great to have as many good resources and books explaining and teaching the faith around our homes as possible. You never know what will jump out and touch a child so I really love having a good variety in our collection.

Ignatius Press has been doing such great work creating quality Catholic children's books for the past several years and I was lucky enough to review a couple of the new additions to their catalog in the past couple months.

Catholic Saints for Children

This is a great saint book with well done illustrations of new saints and old, along with a short description of each person, as well as a short prayer. My kids have loved returning to this book, and keep asking for more. I've been really impressed at how much they've liked praying along with the book since usually prayers within books are met with glazed over looks, but with this book they keep asking to say different prayers. I think everyone has found a new favourite saint as well. Highly recommended!

This is a introductory missal that explains the Mass in easy to understand language for little people. The beautifully done illustrations are just perfect for making the Mass recognizable to kids, and hopefully gives them a little bit more knowledge of what happens when they're at Mass. I would say this is perfect for 3-6 year olds and makes a really good book to take to Mass because it's small and easy to smuggle in. 

At first glance I thought this was going to be a book just based on the mysteries of the Rosary, but it actually is a really neat exploration of the origins of the Rosary itself, as well as the role it has played in the history of the Church. From the battle of Lepanto to Bernadette at Lourdes to little known holy men and women, this book gives a great historical understanding of the Rosary that I've never seen before in a children's book. The illustrations aren't my favourite, but the content is something that is really unique and would make a great addition to you library of holy books as well as giving a really good basis of knowledge to your kids about the historic basis of the Rosary.

I think this has become my favourite children's Bible. I really can't recommend this book enough for small kids as their first introduction to the Bible. It's illustrations are second to none because they're done by the amazing Maite Roche. Her work is just so beautiful while at the same time appealing to small children. Each story is detailed and vibrantly illustrated.  The stories are kept simple, yet explain the Bible stories well and at an age appropriate level. I'm so happy to have this as a beautiful resource for my kids, it's really lovely!

I hope this helps you add to your own home Catholic libraries for your kids, I'm always on the look out for great books, so let me know your favourites too! 

Ignatius Press gave me review copies of all these books, but the opinions are entirely honest and my own. 

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