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Category Archives: Books

Gathering My Thoughts ~ Extra Time with Daddy

we-be-rollin

Outside my window: We were so blessed last week with daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Today, summer comes back with a vengeance, soaring into the 100s by Thursday. Ugh. Is the splash pad still open?

Listening To: The ever-classic Ray Charles–Lucie’s choice. She very emphatically said no to the quieter hymns I started to play. Girl likes jazzy music.

Clothing Myself In: Workout clothes. I dressed in these out of my pjs when we went to the store earlier this morning with the intention that it would remind me to get my workout out done when I got home. It’s mid- afternoon and it still hasn’t happened.

Evey-and-her-easel

Talking With My Children About These Books: We are on letter “M” this week in our lessons. Our selection for the week is: First Pictures of Mary by Maite Roche, Madeline by Ludwig Behelmans, The Mitten by Jan Brett, The Town Mouse and the County Mouse by Helen Ward, and Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh. This is the first week that our selection is entirely composed of books I’ve read before — all great ones too! We may add on some others before the week is out.

I can’t speak highly enough of Maite Roche’s books. {The first one listed.} They are published through Ignatius Press. We currently have the Easter one and My First Prayers for the Family, but hope to add her others over time. She is a French writer so they are all translated from the original language.

cousins-reading

 

evey-and-logan

In My Own Reading: I’m looking forward this week to starting Emily Freeman’s latest book, Simply Tuesday. I read A Million Little Ways about a year ago, and absolutely loved it. She has such a beautiful way of assisting her reader find depth and meaning to their life, even those who perform the simplest and most mundane of tasks.

Thinking and Thinking: With the way the polls are leaning currently, the upcoming presidential election has me feeling quite uneasy. What our country thinks is acceptable {even if they are not satisfied with the current governance} is scary to me. Even if they are not satisfied with the current governance–or the last few presidents’ terms–we can’t just elect somebody because they sway the opposite direction and oppose what we don’t like. We have to choose what is right and good.  A college professor of mine wrote a great little post titled ‘When Scoundrels are Honored‘ that reflects a bit on this.

practicing-g

Practicing the letter “G” {we’re working on it ;)}

glitter-paint

 

Glitter paints during “G” week

Pondering: “What is the goal of Catholic education in the midst of the flurry of screens and devices that bring the modern world to our fingertips? It is to keep the human person at the center of our enterprise. The world of information may be only a swipe away, but we should know better than to think it is the most important world. That honor goes to a world made of flesh and spirit, of encounter and conversation. That world must guide our schools, and everything else must follow from it.” from ‘Catholic Education in the Digital Age’

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: This transition back and forth between summer and fall means a transition of schedules so we’re fluctuation between the two and suffering a bit of exhaustion from it. Looking forward to the full switch into cooler weather, warmer foods, a little more time relaxing indoors.

knitting-and-reading

Creating By Hand: I’m on my second of three sweaters using the fabulous In Threes Cardigan pattern. The current one is for Lucie. After finishing the first for my sweet niece {soon to be here next month!}, I took the girls to the knitting shop to pick out colors for ones of their own. Lucie fell asleep on the way, so Evelyn took over the duty of choosing colors. She picked a beautiful blue with flecks of green and purple for Lucie and a radiant red for herself. I’m about 3/4 done with Lucie’s, then I’ll get to work on Evey’s and hopefully be done before the cool weather hits. {Linking up with Ginny’s #yarnalong — be sure to check out more inspiring projects there!}

Learning Lessons In: Finding ways to make time for what is truly important and fulfilling for me and my family. I’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home but had forgotten about her idea of the Power Hour. Anne writes here about how she uses that hour weekly to dive deeper into things that enrich herself. I’ve been trying for several months now to delve deeper into my photography, but have been unsuccessful so far. I’m going to set an hour each week, starting this week, to make this happen. It is important to me so I need to make it actually so.

riding-the-car-waves

Encouraging Learning In: Not standing on furniture. My little daredevil is turning up the heat, standing on chairs, tables…rolling cars! She doesn’t seem to understand the consequences even when she tumbles, so I’m hoping something influences her in a positive way!

Crafting in the Kitchen: We’re enjoying the tomatoes from the market as my plants have been growing horribly this year. We really enjoy this stuffed chicken using tomatoes and feta that I shared last week. Thursday I will share a favorite pancake recipe that will get you inspired and excited for the autumn. We’ve made it twice already in the past week.

tomatoes-in-the-trunk

To Be Fit and Happy: I was doing well in this department but have been slacking off over the past week. I need to find an activity that I can interchange with the Barre3 classes. I’m hoping to go running once or twice a week once the evening temperatures have dropped a bit.

Loving the Moments: We enjoyed a three-day weekend with Steve home. It is such a joy for me to witness the moments he is able to spend bonding with the girls. They love their daddy so much. Both run, shouting with glee, to greet him when he walks in the door every evening from work. Many times, Lucie prefers his company to mine. They snuggle on the couch and sometimes watch funny animal scenes on his iPad. Evey always gets him to build the best forts and they read together inside. Such wonderful moments to witness. <3

sliding-with-daddy

blowing-bubbles

Living the Liturgy: Today is the feast of the Nativity of Mary. We will be enjoying vanilla ice cream {pure — in honor the Virgin Mary} to celebrate.

Planning for the Week Ahead: As mentioned earlier, it is going to be super hot this week so we’ll be spending the majority of time inside {unless we can find a good splash pad that’s still open}. We’ll send a meal to a friend who just had a baby late last week. We’ll probably make milkshakes and eat popsicles. And I’m hoping to get a bit of writing in. I’ve been a little “dry” these past few weeks….hoping for inspiration!

happy-birthday-to-mary

Taken after I wrote the post…Happy Birthday to Mary, she sang! 🙂 

Gathering My Thoughts : Reading, Recipes, and Relaxation

swinging-with-daddy

Outside my window: Heat, heat, and more heat. This week is a scorcher. We’ve had some fairly mild weather this summer, minus a series of a few days here and there. I’m grateful. And I’m ready for the Fall. The only good thing about this heat is that it might make my tomatoes turn red. Here’s to hoping.

Listening To: My husband and daughter make pizza for dinner. She asks so many questions about everything. I’m glad he’s fielding them for now as my brain hurts a little from the continual bombardment throughout the day. 🙂

Clothing Myself In: My favorite blue skirt {similar to this one} and tank top {this one but it’s sold out!}. Light and breezy to stay cool in this heat.

books-for-b-week

Talking With My Children About These Books: We are starting on the 26 Letters to Heaven curriculum {loosely} this week. Evey has been showing a strong interest in learning letters so I decided to seek out a easygoing curriculum that would allow me to introduce them better to her. I’m planning to do another post in the next week or so about books I’m using for education with her and my reasons for doing so.

We’re not doing the letters in order. “B” is the letter of the week. Our books for the week are: Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, Angelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird, Berlioz the Bear by Jan Brett, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter, Seven Hungry Babies by Candace Fleming, Beach by Elisha Cooper, Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff.

Have any others we should add??

In My Own Reading: Over the past week or so I’ve binge-read two novels: The Orphan Train and The Girl On the Train. The fact that they both have to do with trains didn’t occur to me until I picked up the second to read it. As with a lot of my pleasure reading these days, both of these came recommended by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy. The first was also recommended strongly by my mother, hence, it ended up as my choice in the category of “a book recommended by your mother” in the Reading Challenge. It was fantastic. It follows the story of a young, orphaned Irish girl when she is shipped to the Midwest to be adopted and tells of the life she found when she got there. It is interwoven with the story of a contemporary orphan. Highly recommended now by me too! 5 out of 5 stars.

The Girl on the Train is a high-speed thriller {you see what I did there?} which I sped through in a matter of 24 hours. I was a bit hesitant to read this when I saw it listed as a thriller as I am not too fond of blood and guts and crazy psychological yuckiness, but it was pretty easy to stomach and the plot pulled me right along to the end. 4 out of 5 stars.

Thinking and Thinking: About the Autumn and all the wonderful flavors of the season that will soon be coming. {Despite the fact we still haven’t harvested any of our tomatoes yet this year. They’re on the slow boat.}

I’m also very excited about all the crafts and such I’ve been planning to do with Evelyn. Her imagination is really taking off and she loves creating and crafting {I’ve got a kindred spirit. ;)} so we’re going to go at as many as we can stand! 🙂

candlelight-family-dinner

Pondering: 

“It is God himself who teaches us the importance of dedicating time to contemplating and enjoying the fruits of our labours, not only in our employment or profession, but through every action by which we as men and women cooperate in God’s creative work, even in times of difficulty. In the workplace too, we celebrate – a birthday, a marriage, a new baby, a farewell or a welcome. True moments of celebration make us pause from our work, because they remind us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is not a slave to work, but the Lord of work! And so we must never be slaves to work but rather its master!

Moments of rest, especially on Sunday, are sacred because in them we find God. The Sunday Eucharist brings to our celebrations every grace of Jesus Christ: his presence, his love and his sacrifice; his forming us into a community, and his way of being with us. Everything is transfigured by his grace: work, family, the joys and trials of each day, even our sufferings and death. May we always recognize the family as the privileged place to understand, guide and sustain the gifts which arise from our celebrations, especially the Sunday Eucharist.”

~Pope Francis, General Audience, August 12, 2015

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Since we’re in the space between summer and Fall, we’re sticking to our summer routine here for a little while longer still since the sun is up a bit earlier. It also stays hot here often into the early days of October. Early mornings are spent outside in the {semi}fresh air, afternoons indoors in air conditioning crafting, watching a show or two, prepping for dinner, etc. I’ve enjoyed the rhythms of our days this summer, hoping to find a similar one that works this Fall.

knitting-pink-sweater

Creating By Hand: Knitting tends to be a seasonal craft for me. So, since the cooler weather will be upon us soon, I’ve busted out my stash. There are a few babies making an appearance within the next couple months so a few items for them are first up on my list.

I found a fabulous little cap-sleeve sweater I’m creating. I’m about halfway done now. If it continues as well as it has so far, I will probably make both of the girls ones for the cooler months. {Joining up with Ginny’s Yarn Along this week. Join us if you like to knit or crochet too!}

Learning Lessons In: Balance. Time is precious. I want to use it wisely. Figuring out priorities and making sure I’m giving of myself in the places where God most wants me to be.

Encouraging Learning In: Sweeping. Evelyn insisted on a dustpan and broom to take home with her when we were shopping at Ikea last week, so she’ll be in charge of that chore…once she learns it is more than just brushing things around the room. 😉

sunday-dinner-with-wine

Crafting in the Kitchen: I’ve begun posting weekly recipes focused around what is in season on Thursdays here on the blog.

A few recipes to use up the last of that summer produce include: Breakfast Peach Crisp, Salmon Bread Salad, Blueberry Banana Bread Muffins, and Tortellini Salad with Avocado and Broccoli.

To Be Fit and Happy: I was having a really hard time fitting exercise into my days, really just getting motivated to get it done. But I revived an exercise accountability group on Facebook that I had with a few friends, and it’s helped me get my backside in gear a little more frequently. I’ve been doing the Barre3 workouts 3 times a week. I’m hoping to up that to 4 or 5 within the next week or so. I think part of the problem was I was trying to do too much to begin {I’m really out of shape} and starting out slow, not doing back-to-back days, has helped me immensely in wanting to do it, rather than forcing myself.

drawing-a-cow

Loving the Moments: To go along with our “schooling” I purchased Evelyn a new easel. She loves the whiteboard. Literally spends an hour or more every day doodling there. She draws a lot on paper too, but an interesting thing happened when she began drawing vertically: she’s drawing realistic figures! She made me a cow the other day and began adding accessories and such to it, naming each thing. It was quite discernible. This is the first I’ve seen her do this. I love to witness these milestones! 🙂

Living the Liturgy: This coming Sunday is the Feast of St. Rose who is a patron of both Evelyn and myself {her middle name, my Confirmation saint}. We’ll celebrate by going to Mass and enjoying Root Beer floats for dinner that evening. If you couldn’t guess, our letter next week will be “R”. I need to think of a good “R” food to serve for dinner….

painting-her-legs

Planning for the Week Ahead: We’re about halfway through {I started writing this on Tuesday but the time gets away from me}. We have dance tomorrow, I’ll enjoy our monthly dinner together with my mom in the evening, then winding down to the weekend, Steve and I are looking forward to a much-anticipated date a local winery where we’ll be savoring a tasting-and-pairing menu alongside a tour.

 

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The Finding and Keeping of Habits ~ “Better Than Before” {A Book Review}

better-than-before-review

I’ve been anxious to pick up a copy of this book since it came out earlier this year. Gretchen Rubin’s books are a great read as they get you to stop and take a look at your life as a whole. They help you consider: Am I living an intentional and purposeful life? Am I striving for things that I want in life…or for what other people want for me? Am I living a life I am proud of?

Her newest — Better Than Before — is no exception. After exploring the concept of happiness and what it meant for her in her own life, she now explores the topic of how to develop habits, which can help lead to a better quality of life and help one grow into a better person.

“For a happy life, it’s important to cultivate an atmosphere of growth–the sense that we’re learning new things, getting stronger, forging new relationships, making better things, helping other people. Habits have a tremendous role to play in creating an atmosphere of growth, because they help us make consistent, reliable progress.”

Rubin’s intention in this book isn’t to instruct us on what habits to take on for ourselves, but rather to give us tools that help us determine which good habits we would like to inculcate in our lives {or which bad ones to quit} and some “Strategies” on how to get there based on our strengths and weaknesses.


Rubin claims that every person falls into one of Four Tendencies: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. I’m still wavering between Upholder and Questioner–which makes me think I might be a Questioner, although I do tend to stick strictly to the things I’ve set out for myself to do.

After reading through the myriad of suggestions, I’ve found that her Strategy of Scheduling is one I need to incorporate more strongly into my life. I was better at this in college, but since having children, have really fallen away from the habit. It’s obviously more difficult with children, but I think having more of a schedule to our day would help me get more done, plus find more time to play with the girls {and free time with my husband}. Win-win.

“Scheduling is an invaluable tool for habit formation: it helps us eliminate decision making; it helps us make the most of our limited self-command; it helps us fight procrastination. Most important, perhaps, the Strategy of Scheduling helps us make time for the things that are most important to us. How we schedule our days is how we spend our lives.” 

I also realized from her descriptions that I do better with moderating, rather than abstaining. Having just a little of something that I’m craving and doling it out in small doses, helps me to curb that craving. Whereas, if I completely cut it out, I’m more likely to indulge in it in a big way.

“…from what I have seen, Moderators shouldn’t try to abstain; if they try to deny themselves, they can become very preoccupied with indulging.”

I like her suggestion on choosing a reward from sticking to a habit within the habit itself. For instance, some office gyms will offer the reward of a year-long free membership after sticking to a habit of going to the gym for so many days straight.

I’ve been thinking of rewarding myself with a new iPod after keeping a schedule of running three times a week for three months. {I’ll load it up with good pump up songs!}

“By finding my reward within the habit itself, with a reward that takes me deeper into the habit. If I look outside a habit for a reward, I undermine the habit.”

picking-strawberries

Ultimately, it is not the habits themselves that give meaning to our lives but the small acts committed repeatedly. As Rubin states, “[O]ften, when we consider our actions, it’s clear that any one instance of an action is almost meaningless; yet at the same time, the sum of those actions is very meaningful.” 

I strive to live a life of meaning, one which is infused with goodness, happiness, hard work, and light-heartedness. By better striving to figure out and maintain the habits that help me towards mine and my family’s goals, I can find a way for us to live ‘better than before.’

“The conduct of our lives is the true reflection of our thoughts.” -Michel de Montaigne “Of the Education of Children”

This book has inspired me to try more earnestly with some habits I’ve been trying to take on for a while. Hopefully, I can share some success soon! 🙂

I highly recommend this book to others who are interested in learning more about the habits they form and how better to do so.

 

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

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Gathering My Thoughts : {Summer Play}

strawberries

Outside my window: Plants to be watered. I’m procrastinating a bit this morning on getting outside and watering my garden but I’ll regret it if I do for too long. It’s going to be a hot one.

Listening To: Good ol’ Bebo. He’s one of our go-tos for inspirational music and a good jam.

Clothing Myself In: Comfy clothes. I slept about 4 hours last night and I have no desire to get out of clothes that I would happily fall back asleep in. Hoping for simultaneous naps this afternoon….a great joy of motherhood.

abacus fun

building blocks

fun with daddy

Talking With My Children About These Books: We have an annual favorite we get every summer: Elisha Cooper’s Beach. The beautiful watercolor pictures and descriptions of a day at the beach help relieve that itch when you can’t visit.

In My Own Reading: Just finished Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Still processing but hoping to get a post up soon on my thoughts regarding vulnerability and shame {the topic of her book}. Next up on the book shelf: The Man of Villa Tevere by Pilar Urbano and Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. Steve just finished the former. It’s a biography about St. Josemaria Escriva. He said it was one of the best books he’s read in a while so it’s made its way to the top of my stack of to-reads. The latter is Rubin’s latest about developing good habits in our lives and how to do that well. I’ve enjoyed her books, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. She has some great insight into having a positive outlook on life and living one’s life intentionally. Stay tuned for a review of her latest.

Thinking and Thinking: About how quickly this summer is passing us by!

Pondering: 

“Anyone who can casually discuss tearing children to shreds while having lunch and a good cabernet is a victim of the father of lies. Anyone who thinks that divvying up murdered bodies does “a little bit of extra good” is a captive subject of the dictatorship of relativism. This video reminds me that anyone who traffics in abortion loses a vital and beautiful spark of humanity. Evil coarsens us and deadens us—robs us of the freedom life offers.”

“This week’s video put a human face on the power of the culture of death. Let us pray for those who promote and support the abortion industry. Let us pray that they might experience conversion. Let us pray that they might know mercy and freedom. Let us pray that through Jesus Christ, who came to the world as an unborn child, every abortionist might rediscover the dignity, the joy, and the beauty of humanity.”

Great thoughts by Bishop James Conley reminding us of the power and importance of prayer for those who are ensnared by the Culture of Death so prevalent in our society. Let us pray for their release from the darkness.

bubble

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: The warm days have us running outside first thing in the morning for some fresh air. There is a slowness to the mornings which I’m really savoring. I usually try to get a few things done in the garden while they bike and dig in the dirt. Bubbles and sidewalk chalk usually make an appearance too.

Creating By Hand: I bought some yarn for a project that will be a gift this Fall. I haven’t done any knitting projects since last winter. It’s kind of a seasonal habit for me. Time to start thinking of warmer clothes and cooler seasons.

leaf

Learning Lessons In: Parenting an extrovert. Until our sweet Lucie came along, we were a family of introverts. 😉 She has such a strong need for interaction with others that goes beyond my comfort zone, BUT is so good for me. There are so many people we end up chatting with that we otherwise would probably have walked past because she reaches out to all that pass her by. Her need for exploration is strong, so I have to be extra vigilant about dangers to her, but I love watching her venture out. Her exuberance is a delight…and a challenge all in one! 🙂

Encouraging Learning In: Puzzle making–Evey’s absolute favorite pastime. We’ve graduated to 24 piece puzzles without a guide board and she’s fantastic at them. These petit puzzles by Petit Collage are her favorites. {And at $5 each, the price is right!} We also enjoy their floor puzzles and colorful alphabet flash cards.

farmers market haul

Crafting in the Kitchen: Weekly trips to the Farmers’ Market has yielded us an array of fresh produce to work with in the kitchen. I love supporting local farmers and enjoying such rich, flavorful food. We’re in peach and nectarine season currently. It’s been difficult holding onto enough for a pie or cobbler as the girls and I just want to munch them all up at lunchtime every day. Salads have been frequent here too as the warm weather is a strong deterrent for turning on any heat source in the kitchen. Our neighbor produces a wonderfully peppery arugula we purchase frequently.

To Be Fit and Happy: I managed two days of Barre3 last week. Hoping for three this week. There is a noticeable improvement to my energy and mental clarity on the days I dust off the cobwebs and get moving for even just 15 minutes. Gotta stay motivated.

fort!

Loving the Moments: Family time on the weekends. Our ability to indulge in time together has increased tenfold since Steve completed his Masters program, and I couldn’t be more grateful. {Love language–quality time–may have something to do with this.} This past weekend, Steve and I spent Saturday morning working on a project for a new business endeavor he’s attempting. Then, the afternoon with Uncle Eric and Aunt Lindy swimming and enjoying dinner together. {So fun to have them closer now!} Sunday morning, we went to the State Fair in Sacramento. We enjoyed taking in a few exhibits before the sun began scorching us. Steve got a perfect hat for the hot weather that he’s been searching for for some time now. Evey and Lucie enjoyed visiting Smokey’s Safety area and learning all about fire safety. The rabbit, guinea pig, and fowl exhibit was a huge hit and we made it out without any fingers getting munched. And the kids’ play area with larger-than-life blocks was hard to pull them away from. Steve and I each enjoyed a beer at the craft brewery pavilion and meandered through the county exhibits while the girls slept in the stroller, gaining new ideas for places to explore nearby. Church and Sunday dinner together were a perfect ending to the {too short} weekend.

smokey the bear

smokey the bear

Evey fire truck

 

naptime explorations

Living the Liturgy: We are currently celebrating “Ordinary Time” in the Church’s calendar. I love this post by Laura Fanucci on 3 simple ways to celebrate Ordinary Time. Celebrating the hidden holiness of daily life. Summertime is a great time to just relax into the every day. Love it.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Cleaning and errands are the biggest things on the to-do list this week. {And that’s plenty!} We’re hoping to hit up Wee One Wednesdays in Roseville tomorrow. Storytime, art projects, and splash pad fun — all great things for some mid-week fun!

 

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Gathering My Thoughts: The Beginnings of Summer & Answer Me This

lucid-eating-corn

Outside my window: The heat of the summer and thoughts of making it outside to take a swim with the girls and Steve sometime this evening.

Listening To: The loud hum of the air conditioner. {Thank God for air conditioners!} Need to have it looked at before summer is in full swing. Although it may be too late…. Also, my daughters chatting and playing together. They adore each other and it makes my heart sing.

Clothing Myself In: Pjs still. There is a trend on Mondays that I just can’t break. We had a long weekend so my husband proclaimed it ‘pajama day’ so I’m only following orders, anyway. 😉

target-shoppers

Talking With My Children About These Books: Evey is on a birthday literature kick. {Well, it’s not limited too literature. She wants to bake someone a ‘birthday cake’ every day and celebrate someone’s birthday. Little party animal, that one. ;)} We picked up Bears and a Birthday and Happy Birthday, Bunny! at the library on one of our recent trips and we read them daily and discuss making Lucie’s birthday cake next week. Apparently, it is going to be the flavor of ‘pink’ — no exceptions. We’re also still making our way through books about trains. She really loves one called Locomotive. It is a beautiful non-fiction, Caldecott award book that is appropriate through late elementary school ages. Telling the story of a trip on the early railroad from the Midwest to California, she loves pointing out on the map at the front the spot that is Sacramento, where Daddy takes the choo-choo to work. We’re already working on our map skills at two-and-a-half!

In My Own Reading: These past two weeks have found me with my nose stuck in quite a few books. I finished Still Life, The Homegrown Preschooler, and A God in Ruins. I’m about to start The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’ve been waiting on it from the library for over four months. It’s a popular one and I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s all it’s hyped up to be. {And hoping that it has a profound impact on my house making too. ;)}

Thinking and Thinking: Trying to determine where God wants us to be as a family. Now that Steve has finished his Masters program, he’s trying to figure out where to go on with his career. But that also means the possibility of us moving to another location. It’s difficult discernment. Say a prayer for us, will you?

steve-and-laurel

Pondering: “A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.” – Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator 

Keeping light-heartedness alive in my life….

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Last week was hard with the girls and I sick with colds. We’re still recovering this week but I’m hoping to get back a bit to our daily schedule. Although, there are a lot of activities outside the house happening this week so we’ll see how successful we are in this.

Creating By Hand: Mostly dreaming, but really determined to get out my machine, at least by the weekend, and get some baby blankets and knit jersey dresses stitched.

yummy-pizza

Learning Lessons In: Patience. I’m running a little thin with it lately. Learning to take time for self-care makes this a much easier task.

Encouraging Learning In: Summer enjoyment. 🙂 I want the girls to remember summers as times of {mostly} family fun and relaxation. Of course, we have chores and such that never go away, but it is important to slow down and savor this season a bit.

Crafting in the Kitchen: I want to bake…but I don’t want to turn the blasted, hot oven on. Oh, the conundrum. I have a trio of well-ripened bananas on my counter begging to be made into banana bread. Perhaps an early morning baking session is in the near future.

getting-on-up

To Be Fit and Happy: I signed up for the Barre3 classes online and even started one of the programs to help keep me on track. But: sickness. It seems like every time I start to make progress in getting active again, sickness rears its ugly head and sets me back again. I have been getting out the garden and putting in a good workout with the removal of that ugly Bermuda grass, so at least there’s that.

Loving the Moments: Very proud of my brother-in-law who graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry at UOP. Steve and I were able to have a little “vacation” while my parents watched the girls and we attended all the festivity over the weekend. I’ll have to share a post of the revelry sometime this week. Without babes in arms, I was able to take quite a few photos. {You’ve been warned! ;)}

dental-school-graduation

Living the Liturgy: We thought about and had the intention of doing the Enthronement to the Sacred Heart together as a family on the feast day. But it came and went. {I did write up a nice, little post about devotion to the Sacred Heart, if you care to take a look.} We’re not going to give up, though. Hopefully, sometime this week it will happen.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Much on the calendar this week. I’m going to attempt to keep quiet moments for us as a family even as we forge ahead through the week’s activities. It’s essential to our well-being, collectively and individually.

static-slide-hair

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Also, joining up with Kendra for her summertime series — Answer Me This — where you get to know us bloggers a little better through a series of fun, random questions that she posts each week for us to answer. This week’s:

1. Any big plan’s for the summer? We’ve taken our two big trips of the year {New York and Los Angeles} so we’ll be hanging close to home for the summer. We’re hoping for a weekend camping trip to the coast, a day trip to San Francisco, and some time at the family cabin in Serene Lakes.

2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child? I really can’t think of anything for this. Perhaps I am too much of a realist?

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride? (can be a specific one at a specific park or just a type of ride) I’m not a big fan of amusement park rides but I did enjoy the Medusa at Six Flags quite a bit in high school. Not sure how I would fare on it as an adult. {I seem to get motion sickness on swings now. No bueno.} I do enjoy the Ferris Wheel and Carousel, so we’ll go with those. 😉

4. What’s on your summer reading list? I’ve always got a stack of books a mile high so I’ll try to narrow it down to priorities. 😉 The one I mentioned above — The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up — is next on the list. Then, Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation by Alexandra Horowitz and, hopefully, some writing and copywriting books to help me step up my game.

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public? On a park bench in Swansea, Wales. That was glorious. Also on public transit a few times, but I don’t know if that counts. I think most people do at some point if they ride it.

6. What is your favorite smell? Lavender and red, ripe strawberries.

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Gathering My Thoughts

Inspired by the lovely Elizabeth Foss for a gathering of my thoughts….  

Outside my window: A yard that is quite brown and dry. This drought will mean very few plants in the ground this year. We will forgo most of our vegetable garden.

Listening To: My youngest attempting to chit chat. She was taught ‘uh oh’ the other night and she’s trying to figure out all the best times to use it. {Which, for her, is most of the time.}

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Clothing Myself In: Still my pajamas {it’s afternoon as I write this}. If we aren’t leaving the house, I find little excuse to get myself out of my lounging clothes if I’m simply sitting with my daughters and doing chores.

Talking With My Children About These Books: Evelyn is very fond of Hey Mr. Choo Choo, Where are You Going? and Hands Say Love. Her love for trains never dies, and she has one of the most caring hearts I’ve ever encountered — no wonder she’s attracted these. Also, her Children’s Bible. She is rarely seen without it. She gets us reading a story or two every moment she catches us sitting down.

In My Own Reading: I’ve picked up a mystery novel, Still Life, for the category of “Book in a Genre You Don’t Typically Read” in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I’ve never cared much for mysteries {although they are my mother’s favorite} but I’ll give them a try from time to time. The only ones I’ve really enjoyed are the couple of Agatha Christi’s I’ve read. I thought I’d jump in again as this book is highly-acclaimed and enjoyed by many whose opinions on books I trust. Also, slowly working through Parenting with Grace still.

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Thinking and Thinking: Of organizing and cleaning. The summer. I have lots of grand plans for the summertime. Hoping to get them on paper soon. It always helps me to set goals {and accomplish a few} if I get them written out. Family time and REST are high on top of the list. Also, thinking of how to be more intentional with “educational” things with Evelyn. I’m not talking workbooks just yet, but perhaps themed gatherings of books at the library and working on shapes, letters, numbers in our sidewalk chalk, etc.

Pondering: “[U]topias pull us forward. It would be sad if a young man or woman didn’t have a utopian dream. There are three things we all need to have in life: memory, capacity to see the present, and a utopian vision for the future. We can’t lose our memory. When nations lose their memory, there’s the great drama of neglecting the elderly. Capacity to analyze the present, to interpret it and know the path to follow with that memory, with those roots we carry, how I have to handle the present. That’s the life of young people and adults. And the future, that’s for the young people above all and for the children [to determine], with memory, with capability of managing the present, of discerning, and a utopian vision for the future, which is where young people are involved. That is why the future of a nation is shown in caring for the elderly, who are the memory, and for the children and young people, who are the ones who will carry it forward. We adults have to receive that memory, work on it in the future and give it to the children. I once read something very beautiful: ‘The present, the world we have received, is not only an inheritance of the grownups, but rather a loan given us by our children so we can give it back better than it was.’ If I cut my roots and I lose my memory, that which happens to every plant will happen to me: I am going to die; if I live only in the present without looking at forward to the future, I will suffer the same thing as every bad administrator who doesn’t know how to make projections. Environmental pollution is a phenomenon of that kind. The three have to go together; when any of them is missing, a nation beings to decline.” -Pope Francis

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Trying to find a good rhythm to our day. It is hard as nap times shift, but more and more often I’m able to get the girls down together. It makes the whole day better when this occurs. Otherwise, I spend most of it at home while one naps, then the other, than the first back down again….next thing I know, it’s time to make dinner.

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Creating By Hand: I haven’t done much lately and I’m looking forward to some sewing projects this summer. More embroidery and trying my hand at making the girls some knit dresses.

Learning Lessons In: Finding peace in this phase of life. I like schedules, I like predictability — neither of which happens too often these days. It’s a good lesson in letting go and letting God.

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Encouraging Learning In: Evelyn is beginning to learn her ABCs and she enjoys singing songs and memorizing prayers. We’re going to be doing a lot more of these this summer. Also, thinking of breaking out some chapter books to read before nap time. Lucie is learning to take steps. She started walking a few weeks ago. We’re learning boundaries and safety — s.l.o.w.l.y. She’s an adventurous one. 😉

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Crafting in the Kitchen: We’ve missed going to the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, so we’ll be back there and cooking more seasonally. I like incorporating lots of fresh fruits and veggies in our meals so I’m going to make more of an effort in that regard these next few months.

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To Be Fit and Happy: I haven’t done well in this area for a while now. I’m signing up for a Barre 3 challenge during the month of June. Keep me accountable, please! 🙂

Loving the Moments: I love watching my girls interacting and playing with each other more and more. I never had a sister so it delights my heart that they have each other. It’s worth the ear-splitting squeals of delight.

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Living the Liturgy: One of my favorite feast days is coming up: the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Perhaps we’ll do an enthronement at home together.

Planning for the Week Ahead: Attempting to get house projects moving forward. I bought the paint yesterday for our bathroom. It has a rather small wall surface area so shouldn’t take me too long. Hopefully, I can get it done during a nap time or two. Planting a few things before the heat hits hard. Searching out and finding a good weekly rhythm with the girls for the summer months ahead.

 

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When the Well Runs Dry ~ ‘Capture the Moment’ {A Book Review}

The creative well can run dry. Any creative soul knows this. But true artists know that pushing through the dry spell is not only necessary, but can often result in a renewal of the fountain.

The intricacies of photography are not unknown to me {although I am constantly learning new skills and improving}, but where I really run into a wall sometimes is finding inspiration in my creativity. Finding new angles, new subjects, new sources of light.

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Sarah Wilkerson, the CEO of Clickin Moms, has a new book out which is helping me overcome that creative dry spell in leaps and bounds. Not only does she provide ample, novel technique suggestions in Capture the Moment {accompanied by exquisite example photographs from the Clickin Moms community}, but she also gives challenges at the end of each chapter to complete.

Maybe it’s my competitive nature, but it certainly helps get me motivated to get out there and get clickin’.

Photographing my every day is important to me. I love capturing what may seem like the mundane, but, in truth, is really the beauty and substance of life. Sure, it is wonderful to capture the once-in-a-lifetime moments — birth, weddings, etc. — but the day-to-day is equally special.

The interest of the viewer {and the photographer, really} is better captivated through a bit of creative license, rather than just an average snapshot. Wilkerson’s book helps one do just that.

With a wealth of ideas for photographing a variety of subjects, it would be hard to find one’s creative well run dry with her book in hand.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

My Favorite Childhood Books {7QT}

I’ve been working through Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2015 Reading Challenge. She recently gave some great ideas for the category — “a book from your childhood”, so I thought I would share a few of my own.

I’m not sure when I get to it whether I will choose one I have already read and enjoyed or pick one that I meant to read as a child but never got around to it.

Here are the top 7 books from my childhood:

little women

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Perhaps it was a lack of sisters that drew me to this book, but I always loved the stories of these lovely ladies relating to and leaning on one another. Beth was always my favorite. I even got to play the part of her in a short excerpt from the play I did in an acting workshop. Definitely a highlight of my childhood.

sideways stories from wayside school

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar – These silly stories were so entertaining for someone who didn’t spend much time inside the walls of a school (I was homeschooled). Perhaps it was the imagining of the somewhat unknown in this way that made it all the more fun.

TheBFG

The BFG by Roald Dahl – The character for whom this book is named seemed the giant who would defeat all the scary monsters of my imagination. And it is good to have one of these.

hailstones and halibut bones

Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill – I’ve never been one who was too hot on poetry but this one stuck by my side throughout childhood. I think it was the lyrical poems paired with the beautiful color drawings that captured my attention. I even attempted some of my own poem/drawing pairings inspired by this book.

Beezus_and_Ramona

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary – I’m not really sure why, but I always identified with Ramona from this book. Although I was the older sister and probably would have been a better fit with Beezus, I liked her antics and sassiness.

linnea in monet's garden

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson – This book sparked my love for Monet and his paintings from a young age. I still love to look through this book and admire his waterlily paintings. It was a huge lifelong dream when I got to see many of his works at the Orangerie in Paris while I was studying there. Someday, I hope to go to his home and see his garden.

From-the-Mixed-Up-Files

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Koningsburg – Was this a favorite because it took place in the MET? I don’t know. 😉 There seems to be a common theme of art here in many of my favorites. I love the adventure she went on with her brother there and I secretly hoped to do something as adventurous in life.

 

I also had a serious thing for the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series. I usually ended up going back to the beginning several times, trying out all the different options. But I don’t think I will be revisiting those at this time. 😉

 

What are some of your childhood favorites?

 

Linking up with Kelly from This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday.

 

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The Ancient Path {A Book Review}

The Ancient Path

I’ve dabbled a bit in reading the works of the Church Fathers {or Patristics, as it is commonly called}, but my familiarity with it certainly falls short. This became quite apparent after reading John Michael Talbot’s latest work, The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today.

To be honest, I picked up this book because I love his music and several dear people in my life have a love for the Christian Eastern spirituality {where knowledge of the Fathers is much more prevalent} and I wanted to know better why. I didn’t know quite what to expect. And I got much more than I bargained for in reading it through.

Talbot introduces us to his great love for the Fathers’ works by recounting his journey with them through his conversion, his establishment of a monastic lay community, and beyond. I never heard his full story {and I won’t spoil it here} but it is an inspiring one of honest struggle with the truth of God and how He calls us to live out our lives.

The Church Fathers guided Talbot on the path to Catholicism. Throughout the first half of the book, He shows where they affirm and confirm how Scripture finds its source and measure in the Church, uphold the doctrine of the Eucharist, defend the Church against heresies concerning Christ’s humanity and divinity {still alive and well today in slight variations}, show how Apostolic authority is handed down, and demonstrate the development of doctrine.

The second half of the book, he turns to Catholics reminding them of the importance of the Church “breathing with two lungs” as Pope John Paul II called it. He invites Westerners to delve more deeply into the Fathers so can come to appreciate and welcome more easily what the East has maintained and shares with us in their Liturgy and customs today.

I had heard of the Jesus Prayer {Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner} before but this simple prayer became all the more rich and beautiful after his explanation of it. {Note: Found out he’s written an entire book on it.}

That simple formula includes elements of adoration, contrition, and supplication. It confesses Jesus’s divinity and our own sinfulness. It’s as hard as a diamond, but it rises lightly as a breath. It has sustained the inner life of ascetics and ordinary folk in the Eastern churches for well over a millennium. . . .

The Fathers teach us to unite the Jesus Prayer with our breathing, and breathing takes place in two motions. We inhale, and we exhale. . . . With the intake, we say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God”; and then with the outflow, we say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

As we inhale, we fill our lungs up, and so symbolically we fill our spirit–with Jesus, the Lord and Christ!

Then, as we exhale, we’re letting go. We’re separating ourselves from sin by our confession that we are sinners and our plea for mercy.

We would do well to adopt this prayer.

Be warned: this book just might add more reading to your shelf. My first purchase after finishing this book was Jimmy Akin’s The Fathers Know Best.

Time to fall more deeply in love with all that the Church has handed on to us.

 

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

The Quotable St. John Paul the Great

pope john paul ii

I’m thinking of St. John Paul the Great today on the tenth anniversary of his death, which happens to coincide with Holy Thursday this year. He died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. It seems rather apt that the recollection of his death always falls within Lent or the Easter season, as he was an amazing witness to living the life of Christ crucified, especially towards the end of his life.

This heroic man was a man of great faith, great hope, great love in this oftentimes rough world we live in. He had a profound impact on my youth as he did in the lives of many others. That’s a story for another day, but I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes of his with you today, as well as my favorite books.

His writings and words are nearly inexhaustible and everything is so rich. Most things I have read at least twice, which is saying something as it is not something I do often with books.

 

peeking jpII

  • “Faith and Reason are like two wings of the human spirit by which is soars to the truth.”
  • “Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.”

jpii arms outstretched

  • “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
  • “A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”

Pope_John_Paul_II and baby

  • “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
  • “Ask yourselves, young people, about the love of Christ. Acknowledge His voice resounding in the temple of your heart. Return His bright and penetrating glance which opens the paths of your life to the horizons of the Church’s mission. It is a taxing mission, today more than ever, to teach men the truth about themselves, about their end, their destiny, and to show faithful souls the unspeakable riches of the love of Christ. Do not be afraid of the radicalness of His demands, because Jesus, who loved us first, is prepared to give Himself to you, as well as asking of you. If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”

john paul ii actor

  • “The Gospel lives in conversation with culture, and if the Church holds back from the culture, the Gospel itself falls silent. Therefore, we must be fearless in crossing the threshold of the communication and information revolution now taking place.”
  • “Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love.”

Pope-John-Paul-II-Shaving

  • “Life is entrusted to man as a treasure which must not be squandered, as a talent which must be used well.”
  • “Without wonder, men and women would lapse into deadening routine and little by little would become incapable of a life which is genuinely personal.”

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  • “Christ is the sacrament‎ of the invisible God – a sacrament that indicates presence. God is with us.”
  • “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, can fully find himself only through a sincere gift of himself.”

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  • “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
  • “Faced with today’s problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility. Escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape.”

jpii writing

Books

Love and Responsibility
Theology of the Body
Person and Community
The Jeweler’s Shop
Crossing the Threshold of Hope
Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a New Millennium
Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

Encyclicals and Letters

Faith and Reason {Fides et Ratio}
The Gospel of Life {Evangelium Vitae}
The Splendor of Truth {Veritatis Splendor}
On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering {Salvifici Doloris}
On the Most Holy Rosary {Rosarium Virginis Mariae}
On Commitment to Ecumenism {Ut Unum Sint}
On the Family {Familiaris Consortio}
On the Dignity and Vocation of Women {Mulieris Dignitatis}
On Catholic Universities {Ex Corde Ecclesiae}
Stay With Us Lord {Mane Nobiscum Dominae}

Three Great Biographies

Witness to Hope by George Weigel
John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father by Peggy Noonan
Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert

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