Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately - Lots of Mysteries







I'm checking in to talk about some books I've been reading because we've been inundated with illness for over a week here and I can tell ya, it's got me in a mood! But I can always talk about books, and it won't make me sound too cranky so we're all winning. Remember, if you want to find more great reads Jessica is running her WWRW linkup today.






After the Funeral by Agatha Christie

Every so often I have to read a mystery novel. And not just any mystery novel, a classic. To me there's nothing so comforting as settling in to an isolated English manor house where a terrible crime has occurred with a set number of suspects and an enigmatic but eccentric master detective. Life just gets better when you're trying to figure out whodunnit. I also want to read every book ever written by Agatha Christie, so this was a natural pick from my shelf. Although a later Poirot novel, this one perfectly combines strange relatives with an eye on inheritance and crimes committed in different locations. Christie's writing only improves the more you read because you come to appreciate her succinct prose and her laser sharp characterizations.







The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

This is new story of Poirot by an author who has been approved by the Christie estate, which I believe makes this a big deal. It revolves around the murder of three people in the same hotel, and the mystery threads it way through the past connections of the three victims. While the plot was twisty enough to be an original Christie, the author goes to extremes to make Poirot "persnickety" and "eccentric" and you have to be told how eccentric and persnickety he is during his every conversation. This is a criticism that probably will only bother the devoted Christie fan, because otherwise the novel is well constructed and reads very well for a mystery. So I'm just going to play my Agatha Christie snob card on this one.






The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley

Clearly, once I get into a mystery bent I just want to keep going! Honestly, it sometimes feels like I have to force myself to not read mystery. I'm completely in love with Flavia. A wickedly smart, precocious eleven year old living in rural England, Flavia loves chemistry and solving the murders that occur in her small village. She's the perfect mix of Nancy Drew spunk and innocence mixed with a delightfully well-read British detective. I enjoy the mysteries, but I love even more the constant literary references, the little Flavia-isms, her eccentric family, and her love of chemistry. I'm trying to space out my reading of this series because I enjoy it so much. This is the second in the series and I believe the seventh was just published. This series is written by a Canadian -- just thought I should point that out.






The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This is a lovely, light, but heartfelt, story of a bookseller living on a fictional New England island. It's fairly delightful. Written with a good dose of sarcasm, it succeeds in creating characters who love books but aren't completely obnoxious or unlikable - which doesn't sound too difficult but try to think back to a specifically bookish character who you liked? Once the story winds around to a small child opening up the heart of A.J. and in turn the entire bookshop, I was as good as hooked and enjoyed it till the end.


That's it for today, I'm currently reading some heavy duty awesome books that probably deserve their own posts so hopefully I'll get the chance to write about them sometime soon. Until then, have you read any of these? Got some more good ones for me??






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Friday, February 27, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol. 115



Hi Kelly! There are some really great bloggers linking up with her this week, go take a peak!



{one}

the one nice day...


I wish I had big exciting bloggable news, but this week has been very un-newsworthy. We had one blissfully around freezing day, where I flung open the windows, basked my pallid face in the sun in it's natural outdoor habitat, and let the kids frolic in snowsuits. But then grey day, grey day, bitterly cold day, snowing and grey day. February, not cool. I honestly noticed how fast the day seemed to go on the sunny/warm day. Time flew by, I was singing show tunes, everything was coming up Christy. The rest of the days....time slowed.




{two}



What doesn't help the passage of time as every mom ever knows, is children being sick. This week I've had a different kid go down with a weird coughing, fever thing that makes them languish with glazed looks on their faces. So that hampered school this week, which actually set back our usual routine which made the days feel longer. We mostly did "couch school" and the Magic School Bus. Couch school accomplishes quite a lot actually. We covered a multitude of "subjects" (boy, I loathe that word when talking about young children's education) and even covered math with Life of Fred. But the regular routine was washed out, and there was soooo much tv watching. But it was either tv, or hearing my children nitter and natter each other to death before this plague ever would!




{three}

Since I feel like February has officially killed off any creative brain cells I once had, and I'm feeling like a very lazy writer, let's talk about what I've been watching shall we?



On our bi-annual date night last month the husband and I saw The Imitation Game. Miraculously, my husband wanted to see it because he's a computer nerd who has known about Alan Turing for a while, and since I'm a very loyal anglophile it was up my alley naturally. Benedict Cumberbatch was very good, and Kiera Knightley didn't ruin it for me by upping her game and her personality to that of "slightly above a wooden board". Also; the actor who plays Branson on Downton played a jerk who works with Turing at Bletchley with a very confused accent. Was it Irish? Was it English? It was basically horrendous. 

We hesitated and prepared ourselves because we thought that this movie might be overtaken by a blatant gay agenda bent, however it turned out that the main theme of the movie was if you're going to be remarkable you will have to accept that your differences are part of who you are and what makes you remarkable. Which is not an idea contrary to Catholic thought at all, but is easily played up with current trendy societal thinking. It was still a good movie despite it's agenda, and the agenda could have been dealt with much worse and much better. 



{four}

Something that drives me crazy with movies is how "agendas" make a movie cool or not. Our hipster-ism drives me insane with the proclamation of some movies like American Sniper having a clear "agenda" and thus should be dissed and smeared at, but other movies such as The Imitation Game are just proclaiming truths somehow. No. They all have agendas, just be intellectually honest and say you think American Sniper isn't worth watching because you're politically bent by the media into thinking it's somehow a tool of pro-Americanism and is thus an agenda you don't agree with. Every movie has an agenda, just be logical. Thanks.



{five}



We also saw The Grand Budapest Hotel, because it's finally on Canadian Netflix, and I am a huge Wes Anderson fan so I enjoyed it, although not as much as his past work. While I enjoyed the kooky twists and turns of the plot, the story didn't have the same depth and beauty of past Anderson movies. It felt like this was the movie he made to get broad critical acclaim, which worked out well, while his other movies were completely about the storytelling. The interiors and whole look of the movie is amazing, and I would like Jude Law to narrate my life.



{six}



I'm also totally into Better Call Saul. One hundred percent all in on that show. I think Bob Odenkirk is amazing, and Vince Gilligan is a genius. I only regret having to wait the epically long time of a whole week in which to watch another episode. It feels so torturous. We binged Breaking Bad in a few short weeks because it was so good, and I want to immerse myself in Better Call Saul too - but a. whole. week!!!!

Also; the Parks and Rec finale this week was cute and fun. It was one of my favourites and I'm sad it's over. It's so rare to have a well written show about ordinary life and ordinary characters who actually like each other on television. I kinda want to watch it all over again.



{seven}

Well, I think this miserable cold weather is great for podcast listening! Wink, wink! Thanks to everyone who has been listening to the podcast, we really had a great time talking to Heather Sleightholm of Audrey Eclectic Folk Art this week about what inspires her and how she makes time for her art, and she was just lovely to talk to. I find it so comforting to hear that other mom's just squish in time for the things they like to do because it gives me hope for the little things I do with my very little time! 


Have a great weekend everybody!




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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Falling on My Face as a Mom in Lent






Oh, Lent.

It's always shockingly surprising when we go into Lent at how quickly we can be shown that we really do have a lot to figure out, and be humbled about, and how badly sin has warped our every facet of mind and heart.

It's been just a week and I think I've already had hearty wake up call.

Yesterday was one of those days. With a girl confined to the couch with a bad cough, cold and grey weather, and toddlers climbing the walls it felt like a long day. It felt a million times longer when my husband called to say he'd be home late, and late as in hours past the kids would have to be in bed. The last two waking hours of the kids' day was full of tantrums, fights, refusals, protests, talking back, yelling and screaming. Enduring a meal with them alone at 6 pm felt like another level of torture, and I should have just made them jam and toast instead of a meal that was fought over with actual vegetables. I fell on my face because I tripped on one of the many toys strewn dangerously on every square foot of the floor. I was frustrated and fuming by the time everyone was tucked into dark rooms.

Of course, afterwards I stewed in my failure. More frustration, more failure. And of course I could mention all the blah, blah, blah about grace and motherhood and starting again. Because we all know it. But at that moment of stewing and bubbling in your actual failure and actual frustration you would really rather punch something than hear another rambling and emotive sermon. Or at least I would.

The problem in my head is that it felt like failure and it really was failure. But I feel at this stage of the game, almost 8 years into parenthood, I should have a little less face to face with this abject suck-age. I want to be tangibly better at this. I want more success. I want less crash and burns. I want my motherly love to wrap up neatly into a square box that can be distributed daily at fixed times and accepted in a polite manner. I want my parenting prowess to shoot straight up in a nice line. I don't want fluctuations. I want some order and progress. I want accomplishment.

Parenting, and more especially at-home motherhood, has no visible production checklists for the day. We can't wake up and get the kids fed and clothed and be successful. There are way too many intangibles that make up motherhood. There are so many emotions, personalities, unknowns in just one day to make what we do equal success and accomplishment impossible. It's all complicated and mixed up and nothing at all fitting neatly in a box. That's why in part, it is so hard to go from having a job that everyday you accomplish things and are recognized for and see what you create, to being at home in a jungle of invisible heights to climb and unseen castles to build. Sure, in the long term, and even shorter span of years we see our efforts in the growth of our children, but in the day to day when faced so often with our own inadequacies that growth and accomplishment is just not there.

But that is all a problem of my own. I'm the one who searches for progress, accomplishment, production. I'm the one who wants efficiency in the loving of my own children. I want to love in a small, tight, cramped box when really, motherly love is a wild, unfettered, sunshine that should spread and light up everything in it's path with nothing left untouched. Which is only accomplished with crushing my own pride and practicing generosity. In other words dying to self in order to really love.

I realize that so often my parenting failures are the result of my stinginess. My refusal to accept the reality of the chaos and unorganized, and instead love the whole of it. My pride wants to put my children, my day, my house, my mothering in a tight, small box. When love is the light that wants to flood everything, even in my messy house full of children who just want to yell. This Lent I want to fast and pray to submit my pride in order for true generosity and love to grow.






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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

See Me Homeschool (complete with embarrassing photos of all types)





Today I'm happy to be linking up with a wonderful homeschool linkup created by Theresa and Micaela called "See Me Homeschool".

This is only my second official year homeschooling my kids ages 7, 6, 5, 3, & 1, but I consider all the years my young children are at home full of learning and education, even if it happens in a very un-purposeful, looks-like-normal-life kinda way. Because I'm vastly outnumbered by little people I've purposefully planned our school days with the focus being on play and reading aloud rather than on workbooks, although we do devout time to curriculum for reading/writing and math each day, mostly when the baby naps. My main challenge so far has been dealing with toddlers - mainly because I've got a lot of 'em! It can be chaotic and full of messes; I've been known to let a toddler rummage cupboards and dump cereal in the middle of spelling if it keeps them occupied!

This was a very normal day for us in February in Canada. We spend the majority of our days at home, but try to get out even if it's just to my parent's house each day for a bit of an afternoon outing so we don't go completely crazy. Hopefully I've included enough "keeping it real" pics so you guys can pick up the flavour of my chaotic days which include a lot juggling, reading, cleaning up toddlers, and sometimes getting myself dressed by noon.































And that's mostly a wrap - because I didn't think you wanted more pictures of quiet time and the witching hour's tantrums, you can just use your imaginations there. Hope that left you mildly amused and if you have any questions feel free to ask me anything!

Remember to head on over to Theresa's or Micaela's to check out the way more inspiring bloggers who are sharing their homeschool days in pictures for the next two weeks. If you've gotta a blog and wanna share your homeschool day you can link up too - you know I wanna snoop! 












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Friday, February 13, 2015

Seven Quick Takes vol.114



Joining Kelly and the other...less sarcastic quick takers this week!


{one}




Whoa, boy. Have I complained about being stuck inside with 5 little people in interminable winter lately? Let's just say I'm fantasizing about my own sound proof room I can lock myself in. Soundproof, with a comfy chair, a tv, wifi, and maybe an icon of a really powerful saint that I can pray to in hopes that the kids will just watch themselves and not pull apart the house from end to end. Perfect.




{two}




This week has been either grey, freezing cold, or full of snow so we really haven't gotten out. Today being Friday, and a Friday that the husband works, my patience is running below empty. I hate admitting defeat and turning on the tv for some sanity/non-yelling time but such is life today. Yesterday the sun came out, it was around freezing, I went for a luxurious walk outdoors for more than five minutes and felt like life was worth living again, only to wake up to grey and more snowing today. Not cool, weather, not cool.



{three}

Really, I don't have to do anything extra for Lent, I just have to continue living here. Done.



{four}


Just pretty.


Everywhere in my house needs cleaning! And organizing! And cleaning! I'm thinking we should just move so I don't have to touch any of it. This non-approved weather is sucking the life outta me and the idea of cleaning sticks a fork in my motivation completely. Lenten sacrifice coming right up!



{five}




In other words, we've been hibernating this week. I've been reading, the kids have been reading, we've made valentine's, baked, sewed, watched movies, we're covering the gamut of indoor activities. I also brought out secret stores of sticker books which were a big hit with the older kids and I've done the same toddler puzzles about 100 times with Max and Nora. 


These and these were awesome sticker books for my 5, 6, and 7 year olds by the way. I originally found them at Costco maybe in the late summer early fall and knew that they'd be perfect for the dark days of winter. They're really well done and I recommend them for all your indoor time-killing needs! 



{six}




Podcasting and talking to Haley every week has been saving me lately. It's so much fun talking to so many interesting women and I think our conversations are really fun and feel so much like hanging out and chatting. Which is what I like in a podcast, or at least in listening to something while I'm suffering from cabin fever!
This week we talked to our friend Bonnie and we of course had a great time, even though we were talking about Lent! It was a miracle! Bonnie had great ideas and hopefully I can implement some of them this Lent, we'll see.


{seven}

I've already watched all of the new season of Downton, and since Parenthood isn't available on Canadian Netflix, because Netflix apparently doesn't want to make people happy only terribly annoyed, I've started Friday Night Lights because I have never watched it ever. And so far I'm totally hooked because I'm a sucker for a soap and have an inordinate amount of football knowledge. I am also in love with Better Call Saul so far, which is zero surprise. What have you been watching? Help the snowbound!

Hope you all have an excellent weekend, if you can get out of the house think of me!







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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What Should I Give Up For Lent? - A Conversation Between My Mind and My Conscience







Lying in bed last night I went through this tried and true mental discernment on what to give up for lent. It was so comical because I swear I think the same things every year. This year I'm going to make progress in self-displince somehow, but that how is still a big question. But I had to laugh at myself because, this, this is what goes on in my head: 


MY MIND: So Lent is coming up, what do you think I should give up, Heart? What are my biggest, most gripping struggles that need a good kick to the curb? What discipline would really realign my spiritual life? What small sacrifice could I give up for Lent? What would St. Catherine of Siena do?

MY CONSCIENCE: Well, where should we start? You want me to run through the regular list of usual suspects? We could always start with chocolate, that's what most people find to be a good sacrifice. How bout giving up chocolate?

MY MIND: Chocolate!?! Unless we're hiring a nanny for the hours between 3 pm and 6 pm then I'm going to not give up chocolate for the sake of my children.

MY CONSCIENCE: Ok, then. Most people are also willing give up alcohol as a fitting sacrifice for Lent, that would probably make us all kinds of holy.

MY MIND: I still can't give up alcohol. I'm still getting over having to give it up for some 45 months of pregnancy. I just did the mental math and that should give me 30 years worth of Lents. So there.

MY CONSCIENCE: Fine, fine, fine. Let's look at other things that may be bringing us down. What about your social media time? We spend a lot of time on Facebook getting made at stupid people, this is probably something we could cut down on.

MY MIND: Gosh, yes. If I eliminated Facebook I'd automatically cut out 50% of my cursing. But I'm home alone with small children aaalll daaaay. Come ooonnn. {long pause} Fine, I'll think about addressing social media on my phone, but I can't go whole hog, I can't do it I tell you!

MY CONSCIENCE: We could also take this opportunity to address exercise. You know how we did better working out to that Rosary workout? It seems we need a little spiritual motivation to make the exercise thing happen? What about some form of exercise for 40 days, every day? It would be a sacrifice because we're lazy, but if we prayed while doing it that would be even better! It'd be building two habits and disciplines at once!

MY MIND: Exercise. Everyday. Yes....maybe...but exercise....everyday. It's so awful sounding that sounds like a very effective sacrifice. Good option, Heart.

MY CONSCIENCE: Of course, there's always television. We could stop watching television?

MY MIND: What?! Don't you remember Better Call Saul just started? And I just started watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix?? Plus, I feel like I've actually gotten better with tv the last couple years, we're just watching a little before bed most nights...it's not that much time and we veg out together...it's good for our marriage, really.

MY CONSCIENCE: You're doing a lot of rationalizing, Head.

MY MIND: Uh, that's what I do.

MY CONSCIENCE: There's also good things to start doing like not yelling at the kids, keeping the kitchen clean, or stop all non-essential spending. Or sackcloth, ashes, giving up eating food. But I'm not sure if that's really what the Holy Spirit is telling me, maybe I'm overreacting, maybe I don't know what I'm feeling? What time is it?

MY MIND: I don't know man, it's like, past 11... I really should be sleeping I'm so exhausted...wait what time is that doctors appointment tomorrow...did I put that laundry in the dryer...ok good talk, Heart, let's figure this out later....zzzzz....

MY CONSCIENCE: Phew, I'm tired too. Lord, let us have a good Lent. Amen, goodnight.






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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately - The First 2015 Edition!









I haven't written about books in so long! It's been killing me. But I've been reading a lot...because winter. Here's some quick thoughts - let me know if you think I'm crazy or not!





Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Haley and I did a whole podcast talking about this book (as well as Gaudy Night) so if you've heard it already you know I like it. I typically don't read fantasy and while this book felt like it took a while to drag me in, once I was part of the world I was hooked and enjoyed the over 1000 pages! The characters are memorable and the author does a fantastic job creating an alternate history of England that includes magicians. I also enjoyed the interplay between the humorous and some terrifying scenes of evil. I would recommend this to anyone who doesn't hate 1000 pages of just one book, and anyone who likes Jane Austen or magic in books.





The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

I loved The Rosie Project so much that I was willing to take a flyer on the sequel, but even my low expectations were disappointed by this follow up. Everything that made the first book original and sweet and charming was made repetitive, frustrating, and grating. The book could have be saved by a good editor and a complete rewrite of Rosie's character. We all wanted them to fall in love, but seeing Rosie become completely undeserving and behave so badly while watching Don try so hard and fail so often was unfairly cruel to devoted readers. I also really didn't appreciate some insulting bits about parenthood thrown in. Avoid like the plague if you enjoyed the first!





Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

I would say that overall this was a decent chick-lit read. The story of two sisters healing their relationship in the midst of cancer and romance was engaging but imperfect, but I liked most of it to enjoy it on the whole. I feel like being overly critical of a chick lit read is almost unfair, so I'm just going to stop here. If you're looking for a nice, easy read this one is worth it.





Yes Please by Amy Poehler

So sometimes I wonder why I read books written by celebrities. I read this book mostly because I really love Amy Poehler and thought it would be Bossypants-esque. But unfortunately this book feels like it was written simply because she already got a boatload of money. Her stories don't really cover the important parts of her life in a complete way and it just wasn't that funny. I for sure don't want to read a celebrity's book for her wisdom about life so any pontificating chapters were fairly frustrating.





The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor

It's been a while since I read this novel so I thought it was time to go back. I cried so much. For Tarwater, for Rayber, for Bishop. It's such a stark novel but her words are so perfectly written that emotion catches you off guard and that is something that I've found no one can do as well as Flannery. Like I wrote the other day I think I should stick with reading Flannery during the summer months where everything doesn't seem quite so depressing, but everyone should read Flannery, this book is no exception but the proof for that rule!



I'm so happy to join Jessica again this week for What We're Reading Wednesday, and I'm going to cheat a little to join Jenna with 5 Faves!





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