Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Perfect Catholic Children's Books for Shoes, Stockings, and Under the Tree

I love children's books on a good day. But I may have a full blown obsession with children's Advent and Christmas books! I love them!

I love that I store them away all year and that my collection keeps growing. I dream of the day when I'm a grey old grandma who has a whole bookcase devoted to Christmas children's books. They're amazing.

I know a lot of us are shopping for our own little ones, or nieces and nephews, and godchildren this Christmas and that good quality Catholic books are always a good option if you can find them, so I wanted to share these books with you because they're great options for a variety of kids in your life.

Thanks to Ignatius Press for sending them my way for review, I squealed with glee when I opened the package.

The Christmas Star by Maite Roche

I'm Maite Roche's biggest fangirl. I'm not sure if this is officially a new title this year, or if I've just never bought this particular board book, but I have all the other books in this series so I was happy to keep my streak going with this title. Along with Roche's stunning artwork, the story of the three wise men is told simply through this book that's perfect for toddlers. But every other kid will stop to read it because of how beautiful it is. A great gift idea for all those godchildren on your list.

My Little Catechism

I wasn't sure how approachable and how deep a child's catechism could be presented but I think this one hits the mark quite nicely. The illustrations themselves are well done and fit the topic that is being discussed, and the book goes through the aspects of the Creed just like the format of a regular Catechism which I really appreciate. Definitely not dumbed down which is fabulous, but simplified and straightforward for young readers. This is a perfect book to have lying around the house for your elementary age kids, or those preparing for their First Communions as it gives short answers to great questions of faith in an age appropriate way which is a hard thing to find in Catechetical resources it seems.

A Missal for Toddlers

A completely darling bubble board book for the toddlers in your life! It even has illustrations of kid's fighting in Mass - it doesn't get more realistic or accurate than that. The writing and prayers are sweet and the artwork bold and colourful. It grabbed my 4 and 3 year olds attentions right away and they seem to love it so far. A perfect godchild gift and also a perfect book to take to Mass for your little...fighters?

A Gospel Advent Calendar by Maite Roche

Maite Roche Advent Calendar?! Yes, yes, yes.
A beautiful, large, sturdy foldout calendar with sweet little windows to open everyday till Christmas, as well as extra boxes to open for the feast days after. It also comes with a great booklet that has a story from Scripture, and a little prayer for each day to read to your children that goes along with each window they open. I think it's a beautiful and simple way to journey through Advent with your kids.

Hope these help you check off your lists for St. Nicholas Day and Christmas!

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Little Traditions, Big Rewards: Living Liturgically to Grow Faith

I can hardly believe yesterday was the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar.

Maybe it's my kids getting older and wiser, or maybe it's me getting older and....tired-er?...but each passing year seems to fly by faster. And it's equally true for observing the liturgical calendar. I could swear we just made it through Lent, celebrated a joyous Easter, lived it up with the great feast of Pentecost, and now we're here just having celebrated the Feast of Christ the King.

Just the other day I completely missed the boat on Martinmas. Completely. Like, it was November 14 and the thought of St. Martin of Tours and lanterns just began to dawn in my mind. (The feast of St. Martin of Tours is November 11...3 days before I even contemplated it.) It is hard to keep up with all the major feast days.

I would love a personal liturgical assistant (I would also love for this mythical personal liturgical assistant to be Kendra) who would prep, shop, craft, cook, and decorate for me prior to the actual feast day. I would love to wake up and have a kid's craft completely prepared for the kid's to work on without me having to even click into Pinterest. Or a gourmet ethnic meal simmering on the stove while I leisurely sip tea and eat bonbons.

But I'm living in a world where my mornings are devoted to school with my kids, the afternoons fly by with everything else that needs to get done, and by dinner time I am booking it to get some food on the dinner table. I have very, very little margin in my regular old, real, everyday life to be planning anything or decorating anything. I just still feel very maxed out. I'm out of survival mode, and living fully in maxed out mode.

But that doesn't mean that making memories with my family and instilling a love of the Church through observing the liturgical year is not a really important goal and value in my life. I am so glad that the little things I have done have cemented their way into my kid's little brains.

And let me tell you if you're currently in survival mode and/or just enjoying your baby or toddler, start now with the little traditions you want your family to love! Set up those Advent candles, celebrate your family's baptismal days with store bought cupcakes, let your little boys dress up as knights on the feast of St. George, whatever it is you like doing that is tied to the liturgical year, do it and start small.

You will be shocked at how quickly kids notice things that happen every year and start asking for them themselves. And the best thing is that little kids are so easily impressed! Take advantage of this and aim low. My kids love the special St. Patrick's books we own and love being able to find them in March. They love special nights when we just light candles while we say evening prayers for their baptism day or name day. Roasting marshmallows on the feast of Pentecost or the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is low work on your part and high excitement reward for littles!

I have been blown away with how traditions grab little hearts. We think that we should constantly be trying new things, entertaining our kids with the new and exciting, but what little hearts crave is tradition. They long for stability, to know they can expect and trust in things in their lives. The little things we do to celebrate tradition, which is really what the liturgical calendar is all about, are what build the trust in the love of God that we are really trying to give to our children. 

So we might not be able to do it all. We might not be able to celebrate all the feast days we want to, the way we want to. But I am telling you that the little things add up to big things in the eyes and hearts of our kids. So start small and start today.

And hey, maybe one day I'll be able to make lanterns for St. Martin and an Indian meal for St. Teresa of Calcutta -- I can dream!

The best news I've got for you today is Jenna's new book. If you're looking for simple and straightforward ideas for the liturgical calendar The Lazy Liturgical has got you completely covered. Jenna goes through the entire year, emphasizing the important feasts of the Church and different saint days and gives simple ideas that don't involve complicated crafts or tons of sugar. It's a great way to not stress about the liturgical year yourself, but to start traditions with your kids now. Head over to her Etsy shop to pick up your copy today!

Today Jenna is generously giving one Fountains of Home reader a hard copy of her book, just enter away, you've got till Advent! 

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol 153

Hi Kelly! Head on over to say hi too!


Sooooo...November?? It really got sucked down the election toilet didn't it? I barely know what day it is between trying to figure out how I should be feeling about everything. Because everyone is telling me I should be feeling something terrible. I feel like I've had all these grieving feelings a long time ago, and have never regained positive hope for any political future. I'm basically over democracy, it's the conclusion I've come to just so that I don't harbour ill will for my fellow countrymen. (I'm Canadian, our crappy election was last year, I'm still working through it)


We've been busier than normal because we added swimming lessons for this month to the mix. It's twice a week but since it's an hour away it sucks up basically the entire afternoon and makes the morning really busy trying to get school done in time to leave. But the kids love it and are having a fun time, and it's doable because it's only a month long. I love shorter time period activities. But I keep thinking I have time when I don't which means I haven't blogged in forever and am struggling with some writing deadlines this week. I just need more time in the day - said everyone ever.


We've had such a wonderfully mild November that it's made up for the awful, snow-filled, dark and depressing October we had. We've been able to spend lots of time outside which makes me feel better, and the kids have had more space which has been wonderful. But now that things are getting colder it's a bit brown and bleak outside so it will be ok to have snow on the ground again. I think the kid's are ready for snow activities. And they want colder weather so they can skate on our pond, and go ice fishing again. And since I've been able to clean up my yard, planters, and summer furniture we'll maybe be ready for snow instead of when it snowed the first week of October!


I cruised through The Crown on Netflix and pretty much loved every minute of it! The acting was impeccable, the writing was great, the pacing of every episode felt pretty good, much faster paced than the last few seasons of Downton I thought and much more satisfying. I know that there were a few historical inaccuracies, and what I found the most unbelievable was idea that the Royal family et. al, would have no clue about the Royal Marriage Act. It's not as if it would ever effect them, why would they need to know?? I hardly believe that it was news to the Queen or Princess Margaret in the way it is portrayed on the show, but again, I will make allowances based on how great the melodrama was.

I'm trying to finish rematching Gilmore Girls for the....I won't admit how many times I've watched it...but I've got two full seasons to go before Thursday. My plan is to skip each and every episode with Luke's annoying daughter. Possibly some of the extra flakey Lorelei episodes, and definitely the first half of season six when Rory is a big old baby. Basically there's not a lot of good spots going for the last two seasons, hence the dire need for some goodness with this new mini-series! I'm excited!

I haven't finished Poldark yet's been such a boring season! And I've heard that bad things are a coming, and I'm so spent from raging at things in real life that I have barely left for television, but hopefully soon, I Insta-Story Poldark so if you want my opinions check your instagram!


I got crafty and painted another peg doll. This time for a nativity peg doll swap. I painted the little shepherd boy and I'm pretty sure I was the least talented person in the swap, which works out nicely for me, because all the other dolls were just gorgeous. People are so talented! I didn't mind painting mine, I find them pretty fun for the most part, especially when it's a good excuse to just keep watching The Crown, but I definitely don't have a great attention to detail which is need to be An Artist.


Completely unrelated cute photo of kids in costumes!

I am needing to get on the Christmas shopping bandwagon. I think I'm going to try and get the majority done next week, or as much as I can online next week. I really like having Christmas shopping mostly done before Advent. It really forces me to be more organized and intentional about what's happening so I don't just buy, buy, buy for the entire month of December. Of course I have no good shopping lists for you, but if you have some send them my way! 


I don't have any exciting plans for this weekend other than writing another letter to my MLA! I am so tired of writing, and calling, and dealing with the crappy government in my province. It feels like a hobby. And there are two more years to go! But it's my responsibility as a citizen in a sorta democratic country, even if this government won't really listen to what I say. I'm just going to offer it up, maybe even pray for them, and keep living my life, because at the end of the day that's what we've gotta do. There's been much worse times politically, and people still lived their lives as best they could, we can too. 

And bonus take! New podcast episode this week where we talk about all these Flannery O'Connor, come on over and have a listen! 

Happy Weekend everyone! 

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 152

Hi Kelly and the cool kids!


Friday! So thrilled to have made it through this busy week! With Halloween, birthdays, swimming lessons, school, and all the other extras, this week was pretty packed! And after almost a solid month of cloudy, grey, and cold weather the sun finally came out yesterday and I swear my mood improved approximately 150%. I was just so cranky and miserable Wednesday when it was foggy and damp, then yesterday the sun was shining and it felt great to be outside and the whole day was so much better. I'm officially diagnosing myself with seasonal affective disorder.


You know I'm kinda over Halloween, right? I don't share these feelings with my kids though, so they found Halloween to be the greatest and I still love seeing them enjoy these things so much. They just look forward to everything with such enthusiasm! It does make all the work and organization worth it, probably doesn't completely erase my need to whine about it, but it does make the work worth it. 


Halloween is, of course, Luke's birthday so that adds to the festivities around here. We try to make sure his birthday is celebrated with the complete equality of everyone else's birthday around here, just with lots of costumes and candy added on top! He requested his birthday pavlova once again, and was just the sweetest all day long. He's pretty much the sweetest the whole year long. We're so lucky to have him in our family and we love him so much - and I can't believe he's 7 since he was born yesterday.


See the tile?? If I was a good blogger I'd have before and after photos.

We've had some minor renovations done to our house, our doors were replaced, the bay window in my kitchen was also replaced and the window sill was tiled in these beautiful tiles that I love. I'm just so happy and grateful for these small changes, I'm almost surprised. Since we're currently renting we can't completely change this house to be the way we want it, nor would we want to invest in this particular house too much, but just having new tile in one little spot in my kitchen suddenly makes me love my kitchen a bit more! I can't imagine having a completely new kitchen! I could cry over this windowsill. Let alone an entire new kitchen. 
Sometimes when watching Fixer Upper what I'm shocked by most is when the couple walks through their entirely new dream home completely nonplussed. HOW CAN YOU NOT BE CRYING?!? You just got a beautiful new home, had to make none of the agonizing decisions or deal with the stress of overseeing a renovation and had it all done by famous people on tv, AND YOU'RE NOT CRYING?! Do you have hearts of stone?!?! 


I just finished The Good Wife last night in time for The Queen to come out today! I enjoyed watching The Good Wife even though I didn't really love any of the main characters. Actually, I did kind of love Eli, Cary, and Diane. But does anyone love Alicia? Did we expect anything but misery throughout the entire show? It ended in such a nihilistic way for women. It didn't even end in a way where Alicia somehow fulfilled her feminist dream. I think I'm mostly unhappy because it was such a badly written finale. Even if it ended in a way I philosophically disagreed with, if it was well written and more true to the characters of the show I would be more accepting. 

Wow. Way too many thoughts on this tv show...


We had a great new podcast come out this week all about the saints and creative work with Kristyn Brown, a photographer who has a new project of creating photographs of the saints. The project is so interesting and it's so cool to hear about the story behind it. I hope you get a chance to listen!


And I forgot to report that we got away for a few days kidless last week! It was sooo nice and relaxing to just get away from the real world and endless child-needs. The mountains are always beautiful and refreshing, and I think I could probably do with a getaway like that once a month - a girl can dream! The only thing I wish is that the effects of having such a lovely break lasted longer, already this week I found myself thinking, "That break was so awesome, we should do that again sometime, oh wait - that was a week ago!!!" 

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol 151

Saying hi to Kelly and the rest of the great quick takers!


Well, I'm alive and temperatures are above freezing so things are looking up! I don't know how October has sucked me up but it really has. I know it's annoying to blame the weather, but I'm blaming the weather. We had over two weeks of gray, cold, snowy, rainy, cold, windy weather. The two separate snowstorms that brought first 4 inches, then over 6 inches of snow a week apart in early October just really took the wind of my sails. It seems so demoralizing to wake up to winter in mid October, to have to dress everyone for snow and cold with boots and mittens, to feel trapped in my house with my kids for the next six months. It's just a tough adjustment. At least the snow has melted a lot, although still fully covers the ground at my house, and the forecast doesn't look too dismal for the next week or so. Maybe I'll pull myself out of this before winter really settles in for the long haul!


I'm knee deep in the seasonal clothes turnover around here. I spent an hour the other day going through the thousands of shoes we have. I mean, it's not thousands obviously, but man, we have a lot of shoes. We have a whole closet devoted to children's jackets and coats. And I don't buy 5 new everything every season, but handmedowns x seasons equals so much clothing for so little a house! I was thinking about it at my kids each have at least three different types of coats depending on the weather, snow boots, rain boots, running shoes, church shoes, and usually crocs or sandals for the summer. I don't even go to crazy and buy the girl's more fashionable choices but look how fast that adds up! 
The funny thing is by the time I get all the clothes organized I'll still have kids refusing to take off their shorts in the snow. Kids cling to seasons harder than I do! 


But not quite true...most of the kids have thought it a thrill there's snow on the ground and Nora insists Christmas is only a few sleeps away! Max has been out late playing in the snow peacefully which has been a complete departure for him as of late. 
See, I'm trying to find the positive in all this...I really am!


I am so tired of hearing about the election and knowing it exists. And I'm Canadian. I read one thing after another about either candidate and vacillate and wonder how the other could be worse, and yet the answer is, THEY ARE WORSE! I feel personally that what I believe is so unrepresented in politics in my country that I've gotten used to it. Not that I don't still believe in the importance of politics and government, it's just I'm so very used to being discouraged and living with incompetent, corrupt, or just morally blind politicians in power. I just can't even picture what things will be like in January, although if we were really honest, we shouldn't be surprise when things turn out to be exactly the same as they are now.


I'm picking up my yarn and crochet! It feels like such a seasonal hobby for me I just can't separate it from long dark nights and snowy days. I have no desire to work with yarn in good weather. I clearly have a way to go to yarn addict/granny status. I've just started another blanket which doesn't require a lot of brain energy but feels so comforting when inside on dark evenings.


New episode of the podcast was out this week talking about my favourite book of the summer - The Awakening of Miss Prim! I found this to be such a delight to read, while at the same time being surprised with how it wove such interesting ideas of faith into the story. You know we love our book episodes, but we hope you do too!


I am so looking forward to next week when my husband and I are able to get away for a quick getaway by ourselves! Uninterrupted sleep, drinking hot coffee, eating at great restaurants. That's the dream! I really love how I could have a good time going anywhere with him. And that sounds incredibly sappy. It's a really great time for me to reset hopefully, and I plan on going to confession this weekend which I've felt like I've so badly needed lately. Needed resetting on all levels is what I'm aiming for! 

Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately - October edition

Trying to pull myself out of the non-writing abyss here...trying so hard!

What have you been reading lately?

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I've read so many amazing reviews of the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante that I had to read them...they've just been on my TBR list for a year or two now! I was instantly drawn into this story of two female friends in 1950's Naples. Growing up in a tough neighbourhood, with tragedy and violence always at their side, the girls forge a bond because of their shared intellectual gifts. At times you can't tell which girl is the brilliant friend, the enigmatic Lila or the quiet but astute narrator, Elena. It's just written in such a provoking, yet completely engrossing way - it's unlike anything I've ever read. This first book of four is on the shorter side and I just flew through it, if you like complex characters with emotional power you will love this book.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

I read this book alongside Jane Steele, so the combined effect was a touch too much Jane Eyre fan fiction, but this story was surprisingly enjoyable. A descendent of Charlotte Bronte, Samantha finds herself studying at Oxford under a dashing but sarcastic tutor and realizes she's got more than a few skeletons in her family's closet that she needs to work out for herself. This book read like a good rom-com with a literary panache, I thought it was a fun but smart read.

Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse  (currently out of print but in public domain, hence this terrible cover)

This was my P.G. Wodehouse read of the summer because I always need a P.G. Wodehouse in the summertime. A farcical story of two boys at boarding school it's quintessentially British. You instantly recognize the setting of quirky boys at boarding school because so many have copied Wodehouse's perfect representation. A quick read, but probably not for first time P.G. Wodehouse readers, make sure to read Jeeves first!

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

I've recommended this book to all my friends, and I think it will continue to be the book I recommend to practically everyone; it's just a delightful read that shows the beauty of truth in surprising ways. Miss Prim begins a new job in a small Spanish town, but not just any town, a town where all the inhabitants have a completely unique view of how life should be lived. Her employer also happens to be an intriguing, and dashing man of faith she completely misunderstands. What follows is a really enjoyable conversion story in the shape of a romantic comedy. We also discussed it on this week's new episode of the podcast, take a listen!

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller, even if the ending wasn't perfect. I thought the pacing and writing were of such a great quality that I couldn't put it down. I wouldn't recommend reading on a flight as it surrounds a plane crash involving very rich people and the resulting investigation, but if you enjoy thrillers then you'll enjoy this book. After I read this book I began watching Fargo, which is the tv show written, produced, and directed by Noah Hawley and was completely enamoured with the quality of storytelling. Obviously Hawley has some amazing gifts for writing and after watching both seasons of Fargo he's entered the hallowed ground of Matthew Weiner and Vince Gilligan of geniuses who make astounding television.

Joining Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit, because I have a compulsion to write about books and I need the monthly reminder! 

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 150

Joining Kelly and the great takers - happy Friday~


Well. I made it through this week. 
Just wanted to start this post off positively so that my laments of woes and whines is evened out somewhat. 
But in reality, my husband worked through last weekend, worked at least 14 hour days, the weather was cold, grey and awful, and then I came down with a weird cold from the kids. I made it through and it definitely wasn't my worst week of parenting, because, oh boy I've had some weeks. I'm not sure if I should blame all those factors, but I just feel like crawling into bed for a few days with Netflix, books, and a big bag of yarn and pretending the outside world doesn't need me, but 5 kids, yo.


I'm about to complain about a date night. Which is the worst, I know. 
Last Saturday we went out to see Jim Gaffigan, and he was hilarious. I really recommend his show, it's start to finish laughs and it was great. And I love him. 
But! As a date night for us it just was kinda ridiculous. Firstly, I was home with the kids by myself because my husband was working, I was leaving the kids with my parents who also had a bunch of things going on and I had to make sure everyone had church clothes and everyone got into the car so they could take them to Mass and then it was pouring rain all day so loading everyone turned into a fiasco. Then I raced to pick my husband up at his work, he was barely able to get away from work because things were so busy and hectic. We were about 45 minutes away from the show when I picked him up at work, we ate awful hamburgers that I had to wait a ridiculous amount of time for in the car while I raced through the city at breakneck speeds trying to get to the venue in time. I was stressed out and grumpy that things seemed to be taking so much work and effort and coordination just for us to go out for a few hours. We get there with about 2 minutes to spare, the show was great, then as soon as it was over at 8:45 we went to spend the night at my in-laws in the city because my husband was exhausted from getting up before 5 to work for 13 hours that day and to get up before 5 again the next. 
I mean, I know, first world problem in a way. But it still kinda stinks when we only get out of the house alone together every 6 months or so. It's just so. much. work. I bought these tickets six months ago not knowing it was going to be such an awful time at work for him, so it definitely could have been avoided, but, it was kinda a bust.


It's the beginning of October but it is cold. Windy and temps around freezing make things really unpleasant. We didn't get snow this week at the very least, but the kid's are already showing signs of weather rebellion and refusing to go outdoors for more than five minutes because "my nose is cold" and "I can't feel my knees!" Do you ever feel your knees, btw?? Nora brought me one of her summer dresses and said that was what she was going to wear that day and when I responded with how it was too cold outside to wear something so summery she demanded, "But I just want it to be sunny outside!" And I couldn't argue with that.


I'm so glad there seems to be a proliferation of decent movies on Netflix because I'm going to need them. Also - the last season of The Good Wife is out so now I can finally finish/hand over my life to the Good Wife again. We're also watching Luke Cage and I think I may secretly be in love with Luke Cage.


Since this post is almost exclusively about complaining about stuff, how about Halloween? I'm not complaining about it on a theological, moral basis at all, I'm complaining about the costumes and the need to get them. I'm officially a horrible, boring mom who would rather sit through a Presidential debate (singular though - I'm not a total heartless mother) than figure out kid's costumes. My kids are also at the stage of being horribly uncreative when it comes to costumes and so dearly want the mass marketed, ridiculously overpriced and yet cheaply made store costumes. Which you think would make my life easier except Amazon in Canada has a terrible selection, the stores in my nearest city have been sold out of the costumes my kids want to be since August,  and I don't have the time or will to go to every store looking for their perfect costume x5. I just want it all to go away. I'm a Halloween grinch.


Cherrier note, new podcast this week and it was with Anna Liesemeyer of In Honor of Design! I've wanted her to be a guest on the podcast for so long and was thrilled she came on. She's just got the greatest perspective when it comes to motherhood and business and really has a mind for both. I think she's got great things to say if you haven't listened already.


Thanksgiving weekend around here! We are helping my dad move cattle though so it'll be a working/holiday weekend. It means we'll be sticking around home for the weekend and be at my parents for dinner. We'll probably have turkey Sunday and leftovers Monday and possibly pie for every meal. And crossed fingers no snow! 

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