Saturday, May 31, 2014

Real Knowledge - Weekends with Chesterton

I just love this quote to remind me of what's really important; what's important about learning and education and the life of the mind is not to acquire a party-trick like mind, or a brain to brag about, but the ability to appreciate a poem, or the world around us. 

This can apply to ourselves, but also to our children. Especially homeschooling moms who feel the weight of having to teach their children True wisdom comes in the ability to appreciate, enjoy, and take in the world. Yes, it requires being able to read and write, but they in themselves are not the end we're trying to attain. We're not trying to attain skills, but we're practicing skills in order to appreciate and know the world. 

This all feels much too brainy for such a beautiful Saturday!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mad Men Recap - Waterloo

If you had told me two episodes ago that this mini-season of Mad Men was going to end with the hopeful, whimsical, after-death, song and dance number by Bert I would never have believed you. And that ladies and gentlemen is why Mad Men is one of the greatest tv shows ever. I rest my case.

But there is still so much to talk about in this episode!

It's hard to see in obvious ways where the themes of this season are present in more than one episode because the writers are so good at weaving in small ideas in small places. But when we break the themes down to brass tacks we can see general recurrences. There is the hope versus scepticism idea that is present in almost all the story lines, but plays out most dramatically at the office as Jim plots the overthrow of all creativity, art, and the human element of advertising for the number crunching, impersonal touch of the IBM. The idea of family, what binds a character's family together and how they have failed in many aspects of family life, comes out again at the office where surprisingly Roger and Don fight for the preservation of each other and the common goal of everyone in the office. As the unknown consequences of technology have everyone tentative or frightened at some level this season, most noticeably sending Ginsberg off the edge, in this episode the moon landing has the surprising effect of bringing the whole country together and creating a human connection through shared experience of something inspiring and wonderful.

The episode's overarching hopeful tone was one that has been so missed in this season and most of last season as well. It felt satisfying to finally see genuine growth in positive directions especially in our main characters. Peggy and her odd relationship with Julio is such a sweet, intimate scene where Peggy's maternal instinct hits the right note; a skill she has such difficulty with when it comes to men or at the office. It's interesting that this is the first positive moment of a maternal nature she's experienced, and after she asked what she could be doing wrong last episode. There has been a lot of discussion about the idea of Mad Men redefining the family last week, but in another light I think of it more as a rediscovering of what family really means since every character has had such bad experiences involving family. Peggy hasn't dealt with her motherhood for almost ten years, to finally have a glimpse of maternal feeling may be a step to a deeper realization about the fact she is a mother, even though she isn't raising her child. I can't help but feel this was an important episode for Peggy both professionally and personally. She even capitalizes on this maternal view in her poignant pitch for Burger Chef, jumping in to deliver the pitch with panache and confidence, thanks to Don's selfless act of giving her the pitch.

This passing off of the pitch to Peggy is the first thing Don has done for someone else when times get tough. He usually is reactive, searching out people to stomp with his advertising genius, flexing his creative muscle, or finding another woman to sleep with, or bottle to empty. But an act of selflessness is completely contrary to his earlier behaviour. It's this selflessness not only towards Peggy, but to the whole agency to which he now recognizes loyalty towards; even though they have been actively trying to push him out, that signals personal change for Don Draper.

As Roger tries to defend Don to Bert, Bert comments that Roger is no leader. It's a stinging remark even though it was meant in Bert's trademark kindly sage/uncle manner. Roger has never really shown leadership, he's cruises merrily through life and even psychedelic orgies; at work he likes to go where the money is and does what it takes to keep his name on the door. But after Bert's death Roger springs into action to save SC&P from the soulless agency of Jim Cutler's dreams. Roger's genuine friendship with Don is the impetus for him to pursue a takeover from McCann, and he finely crafts a subsidiary agency of which he'll be president and Jim only a lowly partner. The catch is everyone must sign a 5 year contract, including Ted Chaough, who is clearly going a bit off his rocker when he cuts the engine in his plane while flying with Sunkist. Don quickly smooths things over with Ted, promising the creativity both he and Ted can't live without with none of the hassles of running the company.

After this seemingly happy conclusion of winning Burger Chef and saving the company by selling to McCann, Don turns to see a Bert apparition standing be-socked in the office, calling Don "my boy". Bert's lilt into "The Best Things in Life Are Free" complete with dancing secretaries was one of the best moment in tv ever. I thought it was a hilarious, whimsical ode to a character the show has always valued, if used sparingly. To have Bert come to Don singing the praises of a life not built around material wealth and Don so visibly touched was a moment that was revealed to contain so much meaning. Don must recognize this truth spoken to him from beyond the grave, and yet he has just signed up for more money and 5 more years of work. Is his happiness to be found through his work? Can he find and maintain hope for ever really knowing love? Will the office continue to find human connection in each other or does this hopeful mid-season ending spell doom and destruction for the finale?

Even though this show has great writing, fantastic acting, and impeccable costume and set design, I believe that what makes the show inherently great is Matthew Weiner's creation of a truly human story. Don is journeying through the question of "Who Am I?" but also "Who Are These People in My Life?" These are the questions we've been asking throughout history and in every great story and piece of art. As a Catholic I believe that this human story ends in hope, but we will have to wait yet another year to see if that is how Mad Men will finish.

Wrapping up with some quick notes:

  • Sally and the older shirtless boy. I don't really buy what has been floating through the blogosphere about Sally wanting to be Betty and trying to find a test subject of a boyfriend.  I think it was more of Sally flexing her teenage charms, but then realizing the nerdy boy with the telescope may be more interesting than the boy she wants to impress. All the domestic scenes of the families watching the moon landing were perfectly done, I really appreciated the glimpse of awe and wonder.
  • Joan! I don't think Joan got good shift with the writing this season because her anger to Don just because he's costing her money doesn't seem to warrant her cold reactions. I believe that she's a good business woman, that she deserves all that she gets, but it's harder to believe that she can so easily toss Don under the bus. 
  • Harry Crane - No millions for you! Muahaha!
  • Megan - I was somewhat disappointed she wasn't the one dying this episode. Just because I was so tired of her I hoped for a dramatic ending to redeem having to sit through her storyline all season. And the shameless last scene in a bikini?!? Really?!? If all she does all day is sit around in the California sun in a bikini then the writers never really wanted us to feel bad about this breakup. Let's all collectively cross our fingers she doesn't come back when she hears about Don's new millions.
  • Meredith was so hilarious. How she beckoned Don to sit next to her on the couch? I may have been laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face.
Well, thanks for putting up with me. I wish I could have written better, deeper recaps but then they wouldn't get posted until next season! Maybe next year I'll give it another whirl!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How To Love Being Home When You Feel Stuck at Home .... is a guest post!

fountains of home

Sarah my friend from the great blog Two O's Plus More, had her sweet third son last week! Since it takes a while to break newborns into the habit of blogging Sarah is kindly hosting me at her place today. 

"I thought I'd write a little something about what I'd like to read about if I had just given birth to my third child, and what struck me is how to love your home when it feels as if you're home all the time. Like that lovely period when you have a newborn infant who likes to breastfeed every 4.3 minutes, and other toddlers whom you don't have the energy to both dress and wrangle into car seats for a glorious 5 minute errand, and/or it's been snowing for 5 months..." 

Head on over to Sarah's to read it all.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 90

I've done 90 quick takes?! How long have I been blogging anyway?
Jump over to the Fulwiler for the best of the best!


We had a lovely week on the whole after recovering from a stomach-flu ridden long weekend! Doesn't a normal day without vomit really show you how good life can be? I think it was good we were all forced to slow down somewhat last week, even though we didn't have fancy plans, because it's been a bit of craziness with soccer and my husband driving so much to go to school everyday in the city. It was a weekend full of family tromps through the forest, looking at baby calves, playing with baby kittens, and nursing our baby Nora who was stricken the worst with the stomach plague. And the weather wasn't great so we didn't have to feel guilty about not going camping somewhere...oh wait...I never feel guilty for not camping!


The big news of the week however was Gemma turning 7! 7 people!? How did this happen?! I know, I know, every sentimental mom out there waxes poetically about their rapidly aging offspring but honestly, my child was honestly a baby yesterday and now she's seven. And reading and telling me I can't say things because they're not cool. 

We had a small family birthday with her but as usual she was joyful and enthusiastic and full of birthday glee! She's really a wonderful, caring, happy, joyful person, who just loves everyone so much. Seriously, she's such a love. We're so lucky to have her in our family, and I'll stop before I start crying...


The day after Gemma's birthday is my birthday so we just kept the cupcakes coming and pretended I'm not trying to lose all that baby weight that's been hanging around for over a year. It works out to a birthday week of sorts so there's nothing to complain about around here. It's my last year of 20-hood, which means I should be hitting some 30 before 30. Maybe?


On to some newsier news: Sarah, from Amongst Lovely Things, has just written and released a great new ebook on homeschooling called Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace. It's a wonderful read that brings into focus what our attitude should be towards homeschooling and how this relates towards our kids, our homes, and ourselves. I think Sarah did an impeccable job bringing together spiritual ideas to the practical forefront of motherhood and life in the home. It's really a great resource that I think can speak to anyone no matter what point they are in their homeschooling experience. I'd even recommend it for those currently not homeschooling because the book's philosophy towards motherhood and life is really valuable.

The ebook itself is really well done, with plenty of Sarah's great photographs and is clearly laid out and easy to read. It sounds silly mentioning that, but an easy to read ebook is something I appreciate!

Sarah's put together a series of audio conversations that go along with the book, and I've found them to be really excellent. She also created a journal to go along with the book so you can write and bring together your own thoughts. She's kind enough to run a sale on the book until June 1st and it is a steal of a deal, so maybe take advantage soon!

(I'm an affiliate, so if you're interested and make a purchase through my link I'll get a small percentage. Thanks!)


Speaking of homeschooling, I never really write about it but we're still plugging along. For the most part I feel like this year has gone well. Which may be because I had severely low expectations, what with having a baby and a toddler and a preschooler in addition to Dom and Gemma basically being taught together.

I think one of the hardest things about homeschooling is of course breaking out of the mold of a traditional school mindset, with classes and subjects, and fears the kids aren't doing enough, which haven't been as bad for me since I was homeschooled myself. But those fears are always there and need to be put in their place, it is a lot of responsibility to be solely responsible for all of your child's development including their schooling.

I think we've reached a point where "school" is just a part of our daily routine and it seems to flow fairly well within our day. Since we've reached this sweet spot I think we'll continue to do our little schooling through the summer because it would be more disruptive at this point to stop it altogether and then go through trying to bring it back in September. We'll take off a week here and there for vacation, when Daddy has days off, and when we want to just pick up and go to the lake for the day and I won't feel guilty one bit!


Our day looks pretty informal. We don't even have a specific "morning time" but usually read aloud every morning, rotating through different books each day, books on the saints, the Bible and religion, then good quality fairy tales or My Book House, then maybe just picture books they've picked from the library, and various books on animals, birds, etc. The kids and I usually need a break just from that, so they'll play for awhile, and I'll do a little cleaning, get the baby down for her nap, read a blog. Once Nora's napping I'll try and get Luke preoccupied with stickers, drawing, just reading a Lego book while trying to contain the Max chaos. He ends up in his room 50% of the time for school if he's being impossible, and he really does need a little break by that time in the morning regardless.

Then while Nora's sleeping I'll work though the writing and reading lesson with Gemma and Dom for the day. We've been using the Primary Arts of Language program and we usually need two or three days to go through each lesson. The kid's seem to enjoy it, and they are learning a lot and reading quite well I think, so I'm on board with it. It doesn't take us too long to work through the lesson, usually 30-45 minutes by which point everyone's fully done.

Math doesn't get done till after lunch when everyone's been reset and all the babies have been dealt with. It's not the best time, but if we devout a solid 15-20 minutes to it we get a lot done. I've recently bought the A Beka math books for the summer because using the Singapore Math program for Grade 1 was just turning out to be too much work on my part for not very much reward on the kid's learning part.

If I ever write a homeschooling ebook it will be called The Lazy Girl's Guide to Homeschooling. Has that been written already? It probably didn't sell well. And that is enough homeschool talk for everyone today.


I love that the trees are budding and finally getting leaves, that the kids are right this moment playing outside, and that it's warm out! I am a million times more grateful for summer this year. It smells like heaven outside too, and I fall asleep to the sounds of frogs croaking and owls hooting out my gloriously wide open window!

Hope everyone has a great spring weekend and long weekend in the States!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mad Men Recap - The Strategy

A good dose of friendly reuniting and Frank Sinatra can cure a whole host of Mad Men least for me! This week's episode had the in-and-out theme of family working it's way through the characters and even through the agency's "Burger Chef" pitch. Whether the characters know it or not, they're all looking for family and the love you find within it.

We'll jump in with Don who seems to be on the up-and-up work wise as he's actually listening to Peggy, contributing to the team pitch, and staying quiet in meetings. But on the home front Megan comes to New York for a visit, (Gah, Megan again?! Why?!?), she's still way behind the curve when it comes to Don's work situation and even though she's up early making breakfast on the Balcony of Doom and Foreboding in a flouncy nightgown, she's not really home. She's scouring for her possessions in closets, and desperately searching for her fondue pot telling Don she'd rather they next rendezvous on neutral ground and not L.A. Don's look of dismal introspection shows that they both know this relationship is over. This second attempt of his to create a family hasn't panned out. The idea that two people could come together under the assumption that they were solely working and pursuing their own goals has been a bust. With no mutual sacrifice, or even sacrifice from one side - like Betty sacrificing at least in having children, there is no hope for a family.

Next there's Pete. The depths of Pete's slimy-ness apparently have yet to be fully mined! He's smartly set up with his blonde Californian girlfriend, free from the responsibility and commitment he always loathed in his marriage, and comes to visit little Tammy. His daughter hids behind her nanny at the sight of him and doesn't have the ability to even speak to him when he arrives. To Pete, who always wants everything because he feels it's owed to him, this seems like a terrible slight that he can't preserve his fatherhood with the absolute barest amount of time and effort put in. When Trudy returns to find him drunk and angry in their kitchen, (the literal heart of their home), he spews awful, hypocritical vitriol at her. His sense of entitlement runs so deep that he accuses her of the very things he himself is doing. Trudy responds to his ranting by saying, "You are no longer part of this family." Which was true even when he was living in the same house and not the other side of the country. Again, the lack of sacrificial love, of putting another ahead of oneself is nowhere in Pete's relationship with his ruptured family.

The idea of family is again seen with Joan and her interaction with Bob Benson this episode. Bob, in New York with the Chevy execs, waltzes in for a visit with Joan, her mother and little Kevin. His friendship with Joan is still going strong from last season. But when Bob proposes getting married to Joan as some kind of arrangement, Joan immediately stands up for the truth that no good can come of such an setup. She says Bob shouldn't be with a woman and then that she still lives with the hope of finding real love, both truths come as a complete shock to Bob. I wasn't a fan of Bob Benson last year - his cold ambition was so off-putting, but I couldn't help feeling so sorry for him this episode. His offensive proposal to Joan was done out of fear and ambition, possibly out of the belief that love is impossible for him, but it was done in such a way that you couldn't help feel compassion for him. I think Joan shows that she's been through enough tragedy when it comes to love and marriage to know that the pain is real and, in a way, a testament to the real, self-giving reality of love actually existing.

Then we wind back around to the idea of family back at the office. Peggy has pulled off a successful pitch to the rest of the office, but when Don casually tosses another idea at her, she is thrown into her customary whirlwind of self-doubt. Many have pointed to this as a female response to always being beholden to the male leadership in the office, but I also think it speaks to Peggy's artistic personality and how she truly strives for creative integrity in her work. It's her own powerful driving force, and while you can't ignore that she's always been pushed around on the job, she is her own worst critic and harshest task master. Finally Don and Peggy begin working together again. Their working together has been one of the best facets of the whole show, and it always makes good viewing, this episode included. Peggy gradually thaws as she knows only Don can quite understand her desire for creative expression through the work. Don in turn feels on equal footing with Peggy in a casual, familial sense over their work and when it comes to how they accept each other and their personalities. Peggy also sadly asks what she's done wrong, why she hasn't been able to find love and family, and yet Don hasn't either and has nothing to say to her deep yearnings.

Peggy and Don are finally reunited in their friendship and office camaraderie. The sweet dance to Frank Sinatra may be my favourite scenes on tv ever - I kinda swoon just thinking about it! Then as they sit casually in a booth at Burger Chef discussing the pitch, it's ideas of creating a sense of home and family the show comes full circle. Don, Pete and Peggy share burgers, showing that the only relationships close to real family, honesty, and acceptance may be the ones they have with each other. Their brokenness on display for years creating a shared yet unintended intimacy that stills binds them together.

Quick notes:

  • I am in full belief that Roger is on top of Jim Cutler's plan to Take Over the World. His scheming demeanour when Joan railed him for Harry Crane's partnership makes me confident.
  • Ugh. Harry Crane! He's the worst!
  • Is this the last we'll ever see of Bob Benson?
  • Stan's beard gets better every episode I think.
  • I'm beginning to think I want Megan's demise at almost Andrea-from-The-Walking-Dead levels. So, we're talking momentous proportions people!
  • Next week is the last episode of this horrible split season! Tell me your predictions!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Loving Your Inner Book Nerd: Challenging Yourself Through Reading {The Bookish Mum}

Welcome back to The Bookish Mum, a series on reading for moms! We've discussed why reading feeds our soul and why we should keep at it in the midst of babies and diapers, and we've tried to come up with solutions for the tough question of finding the time to read when you're a busy mom.

Today, let's talk about how to nurture lifelong learning and challenge yourself through reading.

We all want our children to grow to be lifelong learners and people who love learning. And like most things in parenting, we are our children's first and best example when it comes to learning. It's possible to expand your knowledge and channel your inner nerd just by reading books. Trust me, you won't even look nerdy to your kids.

It's so wonderful to feed our souls and our hearts with reading what gives us enjoyment, pleasure, and relaxation, but we can also use these opportunities to expand our knowledge and to challenge our intellects. This challenge doesn't have to involve tedious textbooks by any means, it usually just means finding good books that may be outside our scope of knowledge or what we typically read.

Once we've developed a habit, routine, or even a bit of time we devout to reading on a regular basis is becomes easier to switch things up a bit. I can't guarantee that every book we pick up we'll love and find enjoyable immediately, but I can say that even if we have to take a couple rejects back to the library because they didn't strike us the right way or pull us in, we will find great books out there that will expand our minds.

Embrace Your Inner Book Nerd

Sometimes the most difficult part about branching out your reading can be figuring out what to read.  In a sea of book covers it can be hard to even get a direction about where to start. I think it can be helpful by starting to think about interests you've always had but haven't had a chance to pursue or by taking a wild leap into something completely different from what you've read in the past.

Reading allows us to pursue interests we may have just glimpsed in college or even high school. I've always been a history lover even though I didn't specialize in college, one day I picked up a biography on Catherine of Aragon and was completely sucked into a world I'd never thought twice about before. Now I enjoy biographies of monarchs like new seasons of Parks and Rec. Sure, it sounds nerd-y but I've come to know an amazing breadth of history through simply reading about the lives of queens. I can't get enough of those dysfunctional upbringings!

In choosing something that is completely different to what we normally read, be it subject or genre, we are taking a blind leap into learning something that could surprise us. Expanding our knowledge and interests becomes easy through a good book. Pretty soon one book leads to another, leads to another: almost effortlessly you've become a book nerd.

Finding Inspiration on What to Read

One of the many, many things I love about blog reading is that there is a profusion of great book blogs out there, and so many smart women talking about the books they love. In reading about others' love of books, you can't help but be inspired and thrilled by their enthusiasm for whatever topic a book may cover. I've found so many great books from recommendations I've read from others. It's also so much easier to trust someone's opinion on a book when the topic is completely new to you. So why not try a recommendation from someone and see how you like it, let inspiration strike you no matter the direction!

Some of the best books I've read in recent years have come from recommendations from blogs. If you're looking for some book starting points Modern Mrs. Darcy always has a new book in a new genre. If you're looking for a good gathering of lots of different voices on any book no matter the genre Housewifespice runs a weekly linkup of What We're Reading Wednesday. I really enjoy The Deliberate Reader's extensive reviews of a great variety of subjects too. For a great reporting of Catholic books all books under the sun, Julie at Happy Catholic and Happy Catholic Bookshelf never lets me down.

Why not try a biography, a book of essays, spiritual readings, detective fiction, a survival storya cooking memoir, or a book on education? You're one book away from opening up a whole new interest, hobby, and world of knowledge.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 89

Joining the lovely bestseller, Jen for a little Friday news. Make sure to visit all the better takers!


If you could please spare a prayer for the repose of the soul of Fr. Gilbert Dasna, a priest from my diocese who was murdered last weekend, that would be wonderful. It would seem he was killed because of his faith. He was a priest who came to Canada from Africa, and was killed on the third anniversary of his arrival in Canada. It's pretty amazing that African priests are becoming missionary martyrs in Canada in 2014, but that seems to be the case. Priests live heroic lives in our times!


I'm sure you read Design Mom right? I was catching up with her today and was so thrilled to see Nell from Whole Parenting Family and her home profiled. It's an absolutely stunning home! Do click over for a visit.

 I love Design Mom's series on peering into people's homes as they live with kids because it can be eyeopening in both the direction of living in beautiful homes even with kids, and how the common kid mess/clutter doesn't have to seem strange or bad but just part of the beauty of your home. Nell's house is some kinda incredible, I've always dreamed about living in a house that old, but here in Alberta that's incredibly hard to come by, unless you like living in a half blown over, partly sod covered pioneer's shed. 


I also mention Nell's home and the post because I think it's really great that Catholic bloggers are being recognized in the blogging world, and by Mormon blogging. Mainly because Mormon blogging seems to be the creme de la creme of the blogging world. It's just exciting that more Catholic written blogs are becoming acknowledged and "out there". Am I making sense? Sometimes I talk blog and I swear I'm the only one who could understand it.


I bought this contraption this week as a birthday prezzie to myself. I think I may be getting a bit fanatical about iced coffee, but I really need something to get me through the summer month without the use of cheesecloth. Because... really, cheesecloth Pioneer Woman?!


How many of you journal on a daily/regular basis? I'm talking more about journalling as a vehicle for prayer/personal growth and I like the concept and think it would help me out a lot but....time. I have this discussion with my spiritual director all the time and my excuses about time because I can't just sit down and journal for ten minutes, I need hours to dissect and cry about all my issues! Anyway! Tell me you secrets in this are if you've got em.


I've been fighting some strange stomach bug all week. It's weirdness and capacity of throwing me off from my regular 100% is dragging me down. There's no functioning with 5 kids when you're not running at 100%. I mean, you live through it, but it is no fun at all and the house completely crumbles! So. I think I should just take a vacation and the house and children will magically take care of themselves, right?


Just a picture of the boys, totally unrelated, from the Gram.

By the time Friday rolls around I feel like all the wonderful great things I've read all week have vanished from my memory. I need to become adept at saving my loved things to share with you! I hope everyone has a great weekend, is it a long weekend in the States too? Memorial Day confuses me.

I'm going to finish the second season of Bletchley Circle tonight - yi - talk about a heavy show, but I like it? I'm reserving judgement because I probably have to think about it a little more and not just revert to my default position of Every British Television Show = Awesome.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler and the SOTG Sangria

Conversion stories can be an intense brand of memoir. Usually dramatic, crazy things happen and the reader is left shocked and agog at how God can change a life around. But what about the majority of those around us who are good people but have no faith? What would that conversion story look like? I think it would look a lot like Jennifer Fulwiler's.

As most of us who read her blog know, Jennifer was a confirmed atheist since her childhood. Simply the idea of a God existing seemed utterly absurd to her. In searching for happiness and truth Jen comes to discover the reality of God and faith in his Church, a reality so far from what she thought possible in the days of her childhood. It's this intense intellectual pursuit of truth that drives Jennifer and her husband Joe deeper into the ideas, ethics, and dogmas of faith. While asking the questions we all ask about life, death, suffering, joy her journey takes her through acquaintances with other faiths then finally to the realization that Christianity reaches it's fullness in the Catholic Church.

It's this intellectual pursuit that I think most readers will find imminently relatable whether or not we're converts from atheism or cradle Catholics. We all ask the first questions about life: where did we come from, what is our purpose on earth, how do we live with each other, how do we judge goodness? Even those of us who have grown up with faith come to ask these questions ourselves at some point down the line. We may have always believed in God's existence, and experienced his love for us in different ways, but the questions our souls face about our life here on earth and it's meaning is something we discover personally.

Being a primarily intellectual journey into faith, Jennifer's story would at first glance seem like an uninteresting read. But the writing is cohesive, tight, and creates a fast pace of prose that carries you through Jennifer's life and the step by step discovery of faith. Not only does the writing bring you into her very personal story, but it becomes a very emotionally compelling one as well.

Jennifer perfectly lays out how coming to understand faith is built upon reason and logic. Faith, especially in the Catholic Church, is not something based on emotions, or a vague drawing towards a good life, or a blind obedience in the hope of eternal rewards. But as she gradually comes to believe in Jesus and his Church Jennifer is confronted with how challenging his teachings can be. Having to completely change her lifestyle in the process of conversion was no simple, easy, overnight decision and it's this humility and conviction to embrace the inconvenient for the sake of her newfound belief that is so inspiring.

Jennifer and Joe come up against the big teachings of the Church in very real ways. The Church's stance on abortion and birth control being some of the hardest to accept and practice for most of our society is perfectly illustrated throughout the book. It's not easy following the Church when it's inconvenient or difficult. Jennifer doesn't sugarcoat these difficulties but through honesty really brings to light how life changing the Church's teachings regarding Natural Family Planning and birth control are. I wondered as I was reading these passages how those outside the faith would take them, would they think Jennifer was putting herself through needless torture? I completely related to this aspect, and felt a kinship as she described how sacrificial it can be to live a life open to God's will. It requires every aspect of our life, and vast amounts of trust. Not being a convert myself, can I admit that it was refreshing to hear that a convert still deals with the struggles of living out the faith? It's disheartening at times to read a conversion story only to hear that once the person converted everything became easy and life was all rainbows and sunshine all the time!

Jennifer's humour, humility, honesty, and intelligence are everywhere throughout Something Other Than God. She makes you feel a part of her life, while never putting on the airs of some who write their own memoirs. I cried at the beautiful passages where she describes her prayer, how she becomes personally convicted in God and his working in her life. It is stirring to read how someone can come to God through being attentive to their own convictions, but also honestly seeking the truth no matter how inconvenient and life-changing it may be. I'm so happy this beautiful book has come to be, and I hope through many people reading it ripples of grace will appear in unlikely places.

Now onto the drink!

I thought I'd come up with a sangria recipe because when I think about this book, its ideas, and its author I think of a wonderful party of great people having a ball talking about everything under the sun, including scorpions or cosmic occurrences. I was also out of gin and tequila so my options were limited!

Something Other Than God Sangria

You'll need:

1 bottle decent tasting, yet not expensive red wine. (I used a Spanish table wine here.)
1/4 cup Cointreau or Triple Sec
1/4 cup brandy, preferably St. Remy
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
1 pint raspberries
1 cup diced pineapple
1 orange, sliced
1 can orange San Pellegrino (All I had was lemon and although it still tasted good, I'd prefer the orange.)

Combine all ingredients, save the San Pellegrino, in a large pitcher and chill for a couple hours. Before serving, add the San Pellegrino, stir, fill wine glasses then, using a slotted spoon, top with plenty of fruit -- because wine-soaked fruit is the best fruit of all! 

And visit Housewifespice for more great book reviews!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mad Men Recap - The Runaways

For an exceedingly shocking episode, this week's Mad Men felt a bit stunted and frustrated. Or at least brought frustration for the viewer. I feel as if we're still waiting, and hoping desperately for some development in a positive direction from, well, anyone really, but that carrot just keeps dangling in front of us.

If last week's episode was an ode to the time's a-changin while characters remain in stasis, or a circular pattern of non-development, this week took that to a further level of revealing that even though we've watched these characters over years, they do not so much change as become more like themselves.

Let's start with Megan. Oh, why oh why did Megan have to remain in this season?! I'm really over her and feel as if she's most definitely not adding anything interesting to the dynamic. People complain about Betty all the time, but I feel that she's a compelling character in that she is so vigorously superficial, but also so firmly planted in a reality completely of her own making in which everyone revolves that it's entertaining to see how people collide with her understanding of the world.  Megan on the other hand we know everything about: she's manipulative in a cutting, intelligent, emotional manner and has really always been looking out for herself in everything she's touched along the way. To see her move to California and loose her grip over Don isn't a surprise but an inevitability. She claims to be independent but depends upon being able to maneuver those around her like chess pieces for her own comfort.

Enter Anna Draper's knocked-up niece Stephanie who calls Don for help. Megan appears at first welcoming and benevolent but prickles as soon as Stephanie references her relationship and knowledge of Don. Not only does this hit all the insecurity buttons, but Megan is also taken aback by Stephanie's maternity. I'm sure no secular tv critic would ever acknowledge the fact that Megan sees motherhood and maternity as the one thing she has no control over, especially after her pregnancy loss of last season, and why it could be a serious factor in her insecurities, but let's think about it for a moment. Megan is supposed to be the quintessential "modern" woman who steers her own career and life, she didn't want her pregnancy last season but was shaken at her miscarriage, now to be confronted with the beauty of motherhood in the face of her increasingly shallow, Californian image of selfish female ambition she is challenged. Megan doesn't usually respond badly, she usually takes an apt temperature of those she encounters to determine how to deal with them, but here Megan wanted to be rid of Stephanie as soon as possible. It's the impact and encounter with motherhood that has Megan reeling. Megan continues to respond badly to the pressure she feels in being unable to rekindle intimacy with Don; drugs and a threesome happen. It's all a desperate attempt and use of sexuality to somehow create a rise or any spark of interest from Don. An attempt that appears fruitless as Don won't even spend the next day with her.

I'm not quite sure if Don's attempt at a coup with Lou and Jim with Commander Cigarettes will pay off. He seems willing to change his previous alliances to not deal with tobacco, so to gain an upper hand over the partners who have cuck-holded him. Lou was especially slimy this episode, with his dreams to become a famous cartoonist discovered and made office fodder, power tripping by not letting anyone go home Friday night, and meeting clandestinely with Jim in the air conditioned computer room on Saturday.

Which brings us to poor Ginsberg. His mental illness was something that fit in, or at least be tolerated, with the rest of the crazy that is the office of SC&P. Stan seemed aware that it was more serious than simple ranting and raving, and Peggy had glimpses of it as well. His increased paranoia of the last episode where he claimed that the computer would destroy them all was foreboding as it's the sound of the air conditioning which cools the giant computer that drives him over the edge. His going to Peggy's apartment was at first strange, then touching, then really awkward. Peggy reading the situation completely wrong of course, thinks Ginsberg has romantic feelings for her so when he comes into her office to apologize everything seems much more normal. Maybe Ginsberg has turned it around? But no, Peggy opens the small box he hands her to see - his nipple in a box. I think this may have been the most shocking moment in Mad Men history, and there have been a few doozies. It was heartbreaking seeing Peggy's reaction as she calls for help, and the men in white haul him away on a gurney.

The general theme of runaways - be it Don from Megan, Stephanie living on the streets, even Bobby wanting to leave the Francis haunted house, comes full circle in Ginsberg. You can't runaway from facets of yourself, especially mental illness. We can change or not change as the world around us shifts at varying speeds but is there really any running away from who we really are?

Case in point, Betty. She's basically the cover girl of "I'm Never Changing Magazine". She collides with Henry at a dinner party over talking politics. He's outraged that she dared voice an opinion, especially one contrary to his pro-Nixon stance. I was just pleased she was making connections between events at a federal level and the kids writing graffiti in the neighbourhood! She responds in her trademark childish retaliation just like during her marriage with Don as soon as the men in her life denigrate her to the point where she's not allowed opinions or information. All of which is fairly awful, maybe we wouldn't respond quite so off the handle as Betty, but her relationships don't allow much growth as a woman, or really any intellectual life as her own person. When Henry made the remark that she should run for office to be able to express her opinion I thought "Yes!" she is the perfect politico! Hard outer shell that reveals nothing, yet exudes perfection and beauty, killer instincts to take no prisoners as she's only out for herself --  basically Betty is Hilary Clinton's role model.

Some short tidbits:

  • Harry Crane....I guess I should sorta almost kinda like him for this episode and his spilling the beans about Commander, but it's just. so. hard.
  • Sally broke her nose! Boy, I find her scenes with Betty to be beyond entertaining. They're both so heated and perfectly matched in their passion although from completely contrary views. I'm glad that Dr. could see her on a Saturday!
  • Peggy and Julio and Ginsberg was almost my favourite scene all year. But how cute/pathetic is it to see Peggy spending her Saturday nights watching tv with the boy from upstairs?
  • I liked the juxtaposition of the two parties in this episode. One; the suburban, white collar, conservative, wealthy party with silver and cocktail wieners, the other a bombastic, hippy bash with weed and a jazz clarinet! The fashion for both was fun to watch, and to compare hemlines!
  • That Amy woman. Anyone else think she's the one who'll end up murdered and not Megan like all the speculation from last season??
I know I'm forgetting things, so what did you think? And remember, I gave you that nose!

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 88

Joining Jen, who's actual book I can now hold in my actual hands! Woot!


Oh boy. This week. Challenging.

I keep waiting for this whole mom-to-five-kids thing to get easier and, yeah, not easier yet. The week has culminated in today which has been a marathon of yelling and arguing and disciplining. All of which take up so. much. time. By noon I hadn't had time to eat a thing, tried to save our carpet after Nora spilled my coffee which involved a lot of scrubbing, and made a hearty vow that all the toys will be packed up to be given away after the kids are in bed tonight. 
I'm also really fighting the urge to live in this bad mood for the rest of the day and make everyone else's day a misery. Because that would fix everything, clearly!


Sometimes I stop myself on these bad days and think about what my actual goals are and if maybe I'm just lining myself up with unrealistic expectations. The thing is I'm not trying to attain some level of "perfect motherhood" because I know that's ridiculous and there is no such thing. I would like to calmly deal with issues and I would like issues to not take all day to deal with and I would like things to be easy. 

I need to do a better job dealing with things calmly as I am prone to anger as my go-to emotion.
I would like things to be solved quickly because I love efficiency, loathe time-wasting because I like to get stuff done as quickly as possible so I can lounge on the couch while eating bonbons. Personality thing here, mostly. 

But it's the wanting things to be easy thing that makes me think. Because why is it so engrained in us that things be easy? Is it human nature? Is it personal inclination? Is it the culture/society we've grown up in? I assume it's a sweet, complicated combo of all three. But why do I want things to be easy? Why is that my most driving motivation? I mean I can't even remember a time where I didn't have this as my main motivation for most everything. Obviously, I'm striving for holiness, to be close to God. BUT I want it to be easy. Seriously. Why do I think this way? There is absolutely no evidence in the history of Christianity that being close to God = easy life. Nothing. It's not the truth. It's not even the truth is you want to have an interesting life. Think of one interesting person who practiced no faith yet had an inspiring life. Was it all easy? No chance. It drives me bonkers that somehow my mind and heart are geared to this and I can't overcome this pesky desire for easiness. Oh right, it's that personality quirk that I want everything in a timely manner!


This week was one of such boyish parenting dramas it's almost comical. 
A cat at my parent's house had kittens a couple weeks ago and the kittens have lived in the barn since then. I let the older kids out there by themselves which of course, is a recipe for disaster because Luke can't be left alone anywhere for more than five minutes without figuring out a way to destroy something, because it's his superpower apparently. But when I looked out the window to check what they were up to it was Dom who was walking towards the house holding a dead mouse up in the air by the tail. 

If I wasn't so busy shrieking in terror as I ran out the door I woulda instagrammed the crap out of it. 

I then made him wash his hands 1.5 million times.


Dom's response when I asked him what on God's green earth could possibly possess someone to want to touch a horrible dead mouse why he thought he should wave a dead mouse in the air by it's tail, he said "I just thought you'd wanna see it because it's head was bitten off." 



The next day, the same barn, Luke and Dom decided to turn on the hose and aimlessly spray the entire inside of the barn with water. This brilliant thought occurred to them in the approximately five minutes they were at my parents house before Gemma and I caught up with them. They also completely soaked each other. On a day where it was 4 degrees Celsius outside. 

They're no longer allowed near the barn.


By now you're probably asking out loud why I let my children run wild. It's partly because I believe in unsupervised play, partly because I think they should have unstructured time outdoors, and a huge, heaping part because I would like 5 minutes of bloody quiet. And frankly, if I'm not going to let my kids play outside by themselves when we live in the country in the middle of nowhere what is the point of living in the middle of nowhere?

So maybe they're too young/too mischievous for unsupervised play? But it is so exhausting supervising them 24/7. I mean, there's nothing life-threatening around, they're not in danger, but ohhh the trouble they seem to find in seconds. It's a double edged sword. 


I did not mean for these quick takes to take such a sharp nosedive into Whineyville. It was more meant to come across as various tales of the week. So pardon my sass and negativity. 

Here's a highlight of my week!

My copy of Something Other Than God finally arrived and I've been reading it in every spare minute. It's so far so wonderful, and I'm really marvelling at how well Jen has written it. Because if you think about yourself and how you've come to understand things in life from an intellectual standpoint, has that been thrilling? Has it been entertaining? Now, a spiritual conversion of any kind is fascinating and more important than regular intellectual development in my opinion, but crafting an exciting, readable story that is mostly based on intellectual investigation seems a towering feat in my mind. And that's exactly what Jen has done. But I'll save my opinion till I'm finished! 

Hope you all have a blessed Mother's Day weekend, you're in my prayers, especially moms who continue to mourn their precious children.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Life Online is Part of Your Life Too

There is so much to say about life online.

For me, life online in it's various forms has added to my life in ways I never thought possible, and when I think about them they add up faster than I realize. I've found women I can look up to, women who share my faith, women who share my interests, women who don't give me a face of revulsion at the words "using NFP". Not only has it been wonderful to read about their lives from a distance, but I've become connected to many women I'd never have met otherwise. It's been encouraging and eye-opening to come to know people's stories, to share in their struggles, and feel their compassion even over the internet. I've made dear friends in the process who understand where I'm coming from, and even my quirks and flaws.

Not only am I a young mother to very small children, which in itself is inherently isolating, I live in an isolated area, near only a very small town with approximately zero other practicing Catholic families. As we all know, living a life of faith isn't the easiest when hardly anyone even understands what your faith is about, let alone why you would want to live it. Discouragement can seep in when we're going it alone, and that ever present dark voice likes to sneak up to remind us that maybe you are the only one living this way. Many times has my own self-confidence and self-reliance in my own faith has left me lonely and spiritually stagnant.

When I discovered the world of Catholic blogging I was overjoyed that there were normal, joyful, practicing Catholics in the world who enjoyed talking about it and sharing their life stories on the internet. Our Universal Church was here online, wide open for me to read and relate to on so many levels. I didn't feel quite so strange for hanging up icons in my house, or having 3 kids under 3, or thinking homeschooling was a valid family decision, or knowing how to translate names of Papal Encyclicals. It was beautiful to know I wasn't alone.

It's exciting to know that we're connected through a strange thing called Facebook, that I can see pictures of friends I've never physically hugged on Instagram, that a spiritual help can come through an email. I smile when I read my feeds in the morning when I can't get out of the house because I'm changing a dirty diaper every 10 minutes, or feeding kids every hour! Being able to text a quick hello to a friend when I'm still in yoga pants at 3pm 5pm with dirty hair and various baby smears of peanut butter and applesauce on my shirt brightens my day.

The fact is that those great people I've come to know through blogging, through Facebook, through Instagram, or those who have been thoughtful and kind enough to read the words I put online, have blessed me and made me a happier person. So for this reason alone I think it's time we all acknowledge that our time and life spent online is really just that: part of our life. It's important, rewarding, sometimes irritating, sometimes wildly out of proportion, but a part that helps us form real connections with each other across the many miles.

Here's some great ladies who are saying more great things about social media today, make sure to visit!

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mad Men Recap - The Monolith

This episode was so fraught with metaphor and drenched in foreboding that I won't even attempt to get to it all, because much more brilliant people will talk about it. 

Let's get to it.

Firstly, I had so much personal expectation, or rather personal preferences, for Don going back to work. I wanted him to metaphorically punch Lou with a smart witticism, tell Peggy he respects her and she's a genius, and generally kick creative ass. Did any of that happen? No, of course not, because it's Mad Men. Don doesn't really attempt to work, drinks coke, then vodka, ends up drunk dialling Freddy Rumsen. We've all seen it before. And as much as I love Don Draper and everything that is Mad Men, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD PLEASE START TO SHAPE UP DON! 

Don being assigned Lane's old office was a fairly heavy-handed symbol of the collective desire of SC&P for Don's death since it's too expensive to buy him out of the company. Burt eschews Don's attempt to bag a new account with the computer company that is setting up a behemoth computer in what was previously the writer's lounge. Don is frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement of his business foresight. The literal metaphor of the computer killing the creative side of the company doesn't sit well with Don, or Peggy, or all of creative for that matter either. It's becoming a battle between the integrity and personal aspect of the creative work of advertising versus the number crunching, computer-using, mediocrity that is becoming the calling card for the agency now.

I especially like the idea of the computer making these people, mainly Peggy and Don, wonder about the future of their jobs in the workplace. For people who's sole identity is found in their work and status in the business environment dealing with something completely unknown with unknown power would be intimidating. Don brushes it off in his trademark philosophical want when Computer Guy notes the computers ability to count stars in minutes compared to a lifetime of human effort, "But who looks at the stars and thinks of a number?" Don, in a way, is standing up for the personal and human over the giant digital revolution. Creativity is one thing computers will never be able to take over, and Don realizes it in 1969.

Meanwhile, Peggy is dumped with Don by Lou, who is both a cowardly weasel and a plotting general hoping his two thorns in his sides will somehow destroy each other. Any grand illusions we had of Peggy being Don's boss, asserting herself as a competent and gifted creative director, are dashed as she snidely grins when doling out Don's assignment. Peggy is miserable and realizes she's caught between two pompous jerks both of whom don't care a fig about her work. Which isn't such a new situation for her, let's be honest, but this season she's coming off as bitter and mean. If we're forced to watch Don endlessly never change and Peggy be bitter everyday at work it's going to force us to head to the commune!

Speaking of commune, just as we all thought, Roger's daughter has joined a cult/commune and left her family for upstate New York where the showers are few but the joints are a-plenty. I was thrilled that Mona found a way back into the story because she's one of my all-time favourite Mad Men characters. She just oozes mid-century glamour with the big hair and furs and gold jewelry, and her chemistry with Roger is unmatched.

The conflict comes down to Margaret walking out on her 4 year old son. Mona refuses to even consider Margaret's response that she's found happiness at the expense of her son and leaves Roger at the commune. Roger seems at first enticed, because he's spent his whole life looking for a place where there are no consequences, no standards, the ability to freely pursue each and every passion to the fullest. His daughter is right in thinking they can somehow relate to one another because they find apparent happiness in a world with no morality or constraints. But Roger is changed at the sight of his own daughter's sexual behaviour that isn't all the different from his own. Be it hypocrisy or twinges of conscience, Roger insists it's time for her to leave. Marigold's response to his pleading for her to be a mother to her son, that she is needed, is that he'll be fine because she's just fine for having grown up with a very absent father and a mother who hid her unhappiness in the bathroom alongside a pint of gin. It's a horrible cycle of unhappiness, poor parenting decisions, and the inability to deal with one's own issues come back again in a different guise. Roger is punched in the stomach with the consequences to his own careless disregard for his daughter. I'm not sure if this will change anything in Roger who seems so unmoved and unwilling to see his own weaknesses. He operates on a base level that there is no point in correcting himself, or seeking a higher good than his own whims and passions. The damage he has done to his daughter may not be salvageable, and now the effects of his actions are reaching another innocent generation.

Some short snippets:

  • Pete showing concern for his father-in-law's death? What?! I love seeing a glimmer of a heart beneath the slimy-Pete exterior. The acting is so good. I wonder how this information will play out, not just for the Vicks account but for Pete's marriage and family.
  • Jim and Harry were two peas in a pod - loving the construction/destruction of creative. 
  • Could I love Meredith anymore? I don't think so. 
  • Joan letting Peggy know that there were stipulations on Don's coming back may bring about some difference in how Peggy deals with Don? 
  • Freddy Rumsen is pretty awesome.
  • I wish Don broke the window when he threw the typewriter. 
  • How funny was Pregnant Hippie?! 
Ok, what did I miss? Let me know, because we make all decisions together around here.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 87

Joining Jen, who's wonderful book that I'm dying to read - Something Other Than God - was released Tuesday, so go get it!


Exhausted by 10 am anyone? 
These kids have been waking up with their A-game in mischief and bad attitudes all week, and as the worst morning person in the world dealing with all the fighting and noise and fighting before breakfast is not the funnest. (Funnest isn't a word is it? Why is blogger not correcting me profusely?) I kinda want to just wake up for a good two hours before releasing them from their rooms, but that wouldn't solve my noise problem at all. And Nora-grumpiest little baby on the block. Her perma-teething is hanging on for dear life.


I'm formulating the Something Other Than God Perfect Cocktail. It's hard because the name should imply a very nearly divine alcoholic beverage. Which I think is probably a beautiful old scotch, or hundred year old bottle of Dom Perignon, but I'm fairly certain Jen wants something creative instead of a picture of alcohol older than all of us combined at a price we couldn't afford if we all chipped in. Soooo...I'm working on it!


The husband is taking his first year, 8 week long course to get a second trade ticket. He started this week and he has been commuting to the city every day which means a lot of driving. Does this stop me from thinking he should stop for both pizza and the post office in his travels? Not really. Seriously, Canada Post, I'm dying for a certain book to come in record Canada Post time!


I've been really enjoying reading the Who's Coming page for Edel in July! So excited to meet so many wonderful women! And so far I see that I'm the only one from Canada? Is this possible? It seems hard to believe, but if I am....I hope there's door prize for "Person from Canada"! 


Does everyone have great ideas for what they want for Mother's Day? Does it sound awful to say I want a gift? I'm going to come up with a wish list that includes links for the husband I think. Nothing crazy, because I'm saving the crazy stuff for my birthday which is a week later!


I'm escaping from the house for the day tomorrow to spend the day at a Catholic women's conference in my area! I know, Catholics exist around me, I just have to drive at least an hour to been anywhere close to them. But I'm looking forward to a day away that will not be spent grocery shopping, because that is what I do approximately 100% of the time I'm kid-free.


Thanks for all your sweet comments for my little meltdown post of Wednesday. It's tough to get through the bad days sometimes. Tough and challenging when you realize that stay-at-home-mom-ing is so much harder than you ever thought and it would be so easy to choose the 9 to 5 on those days. But I'm still happy with my choice to be home, even when it's ridiculous. And I love my kids beyond words even on those tough days. I so appreciate that you all understand where I'm coming from, and it's so nice to hear such supportive words from such wonderful moms. 

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

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