Friday, August 24, 2012

Quick Takes Volume 44


Katie has been on a mini-whirlwind of firsts this week.  She figured out how to take bites out of food, learned how to hold a sippy cup, has become far more bold about just standing on her own for a couple of seconds [without my permission],  and has discovered that she REALLY likes ravioli.  Oh, and thanks to the neighbor and her daddy, she also discovered that she likes chocolate cake and icing.  So much for waiting for her first birthday to give cake a try.
My parents took Madeline and Ellie for the night on Wednesday.  It's so odd to just have a baby in the house.  We went out to eat and did the obligatory trip to Target while the kids were away.
I'm having a birthday party at my house in less than a week and I have NOTHING prepared.  This is why I don't like to do parties early.  If I do them late or on time I'm prepared and things go smoothly.  Two weeks early means I'm going to be running around like a mad woman early next week.  It doesn't help that this weekend we have a soccer tournament for Madeline.  
Soccer has officially claimed all of our Saturday's for the next three months.  Actually, it sort of claimed all of this month since Bryan keeps taking the Madeline and sometimes Ellie to impromptu practices on Saturday mornings.  I'm looking forward to having a few free Saturdays sometime in the late fall.
Ever the planner, I'm looking ahead to Christmas.  I'm trying to plan out activities for helping the girls get the most out of Advent, and I'm working on Christmas shopping.  This year I'm planning on slimming Christmas down to three gifts per person [and the dog, too].  Some of the gifts may be a grouping of a few items, but I'm going to try very hard not to go overboard.  I came up with a list of items from specific categories for the stockings last year and I'm going to stick with it since it worked out quite nicely last Christmas. 
School starts in less than two weeks!  I can't believe summer vacation is nearly over.  I think the girls are ready to go back to school.  They seem to be getting sick of each other's company.   At soccer practice last night we discovered that one of Ellie's new teammates goes to the same school.  Perhaps they'll be in the same class.  I'm praying that one of the kids she knows will be in her class to help ease the transition to the new school.

Katie is such a goofball in the Target shopping carts.  It's the only cart where she won't sit still.  Bryan has taken to snapping pictures of her hanging on in the cart for dear life and posting them on Facebook.  It's become an unintended series that makes friends and family laugh.
Katie is the first child I've had who wouldn't sit still in the cart.  Look at this.  How does she twist herself around in this?  Tonight she managed to turn around and stand up in the two seconds it took for me to pull my debit card out of my wallet to pay.  Arrgh!  I'm afraid I'm going to have my hands full in the coming months.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

DVD Review: Brother Francis Forgiven!

For the past two months the latest Brother Francis episode entitled Forgiven! has been a heavily requested DVD in our house.  Forgiven! teaches young children about the sacrament of reconciliation.  As with other Brother Francis episodes, this episode beautifully explains the sacrament of reconciliation in a way that is easily understood by children and will reach them.

As with the other episodes of Brother Francis, this DVD contains two catchy songs.  The first song is called God is a Loving Father and teaches children that God wants to help us.  The song is accompanied by a fun little cartoon of children playing on a swing set.  My seven year old really enjoys this song and the cartoon.  The other song is called "Praise God, I'm Forgiven!"  It's an upbeat song celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation.  The visual accompaniment for this song is scenes of the sacrament and the children and Brother Francis joyfully singing about how happy they are to have received God's forgiveness.  This particular song is probably my favorite part of the episode, but that probably has something to do with the song getting stuck in my head.

Just like the other Brother Francis DVDs, the show flips between standard animation and CGI.  I like how they use both of the mediums because I think it adds interest to the way the show is presented. 

Brother Francis gently teaches children about sin, conscience, and what exactly the sacrament of confession is and why we need it.  His approach is such that children should come away with a good understanding of the ways in which we can sin (thought, word, deed and omission), why we should listen to our conscience, and how we can obtain God's pardon when we fail to do what we should by going to confession.

I was really happy to see the Parable of the Tax Collector in this episode.  I like that it shows children that they should approach the sacrament with a humble heart and not an inflated ego.

Brother Francis also tells children how to prepare for confession, gives them the steps for the sacrament and explains what a penance is.  I think children who are nervous about their first reconciliation that watch this episode of Brother Francis will feel a lot less anxious about this sacrament after watching this.  My seven year old who will make her first confession in six months is finding herself more at ease with the idea of going to confession the more she watches this DVD.  Hopefully by the time the date of her first reconciliation rolls around she will feel very comfortable with this sacrament.

Brother Francis easily captures the attention of children from preschool age up to about age nine.  Our ten month old will happily sit and watch an episode of Brother Francis with her big sisters.  The show appears the have the biggest appeal with our middle daughter who is now seven.  She's been hooked on Brother Francis since she was five, and is always asking if there are any new Brother Francis DVDs out yet.  

I heartily recommend this episode of Brother Francis for anyone who is preparing a child for first reconciliation.  This DVD would be perfect for religious education classes, too.  I have shown other episodes of this series to my kindergarten religious education students and they have all been well received.

I was provided with a review copy of Brother Francis: Forgiven! by the publisher, Herald Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit for more information on the Brother Francis series.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bumbo Recall

If you have a Bumbo seat there's a recall on them that you'll want to check out.  Apparently several babies have fallen out of these seats and fractured their skulls.  I know when Ellie was a baby she mastered maneuvering out of this seat by the time she was five or six months old.  Katie never got a chance to throw herself from the seat since we stopped using it as soon as she could sit up on her own.

If you go to Bumbo's recall site they give you instructions for what you need to do to obtain the repair kit for the Bumbo.  They've added a seat belt, but based on how Ellie managed to get her self out of the seat, I don't think a seat belt will stop a determined baby from leaning to the side until the seat tips over. Personally, I wouldn't use this seat on an uncarpeted floor after what I've seen Ellie do.

As an aside, for as much as I don't like Wal-Mart, I have to say I'm very impressed that they sent me an email detailing the recall of the Bumbo seat I ordered from them last summer.  I've never had Target or Babies R Us email me about recalled baby items I've purchased from them.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Review: A Mary Christmas

About a month or so ago I decided to take a look at A Mary Christmas from Kathleen M. Carroll.  A Mary Christmas is the final book in a trilogy of books that look at Catholic customs and traditions surrounding the celebration of Christmas.  All three of the books in this series are well written and engaging.

In A Mary Christmas, the Advent and Christmas seasons are examined through the Seven Joys of Mary: the annunciation, the visitation, the nativity of our Lord, the adoration of the magi, the finding of the child Jesus in the temple, the appearance of the risen Christ to his mother, and the assumption and coronation of Mary as queen of heaven.  I really enjoyed reading this book and seeing how we can look at Advent and Christmas through the lens of the Seven Joys of Mary.  The author parallels how we can apply the lessons we learn from our Blessed mother to how we celebrate or live a certain aspect of Advent, Christmas or even everyday life.  The book offers a fresh perspective that will help you to focus on the true meaning of the Advent and Christmas seasons.

The book is relatively short and could easily be read in one sitting, but I think you would likely get the most out of the book by reading it a chapter at a time and take a day or two to let the message ruminate. The book is small enough to slip into a purse to be read while waiting to pick up kids from school or practices and the chapters are short enough that you could read one in the span of time that you might be waiting.  As a busy mom who is frequently on the go, I like books like this that can be used as a bit of spiritual reading on the go.

If you're looking for a fresh take on Advent and Christmas this year that doesn't have a daily reflection and passage, this book may be a good fit for you.

A Mary Christmas will be available from your favorite bookseller August 2012.

I was provided with an advanced copy of this book by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Yours Is The Church

I just finished reading an advanced copy of Mike Aquilina's Yours Is The Church How Catholicism Shapes Our World.  It was one of those books that I really had a hard time putting down.  Mr. Aquilina writes in such an engaging way that it's often hard for me to peel myself away from his books until I come to the final pages.

Yours Is The Church gives a brief and engaging look at how the Catholic Church has shaped Western Civilization.  There are many people in secular society who seem to view the Catholic Church as an outdated, irrelevant organization that oppresses rather than contributes.  This book is a breath of fresh air that shows just how relevant our Holy Mother Church is and how much modern society is indebted to the Church for all it has done.

Even though this book isn't exactly designed as such, you could almost use it as an apologetic resource for when you encounter someone who wants to rant and rave about how the church is backwards and oppresses women and is opposed to science and reason.  I know a small handful of people who have a twisted and sadly misinformed view of what they think the Catholic Church is that I wish would read through this book.  I think it could certainly inform and possibly change the negative outlook some people have about the Church.

For those of you who aren't exactly huge fans of reading history books, I can assure you that this book does not read like a "boring" history text.  You won't feel weighed down with overwhelming historical accounts or anything of that nature with this book, but you will walk away with a good understanding and hopefully an appreciation for all that Catholicism has done for our world.

Yours Is The Church will be available in October 2012.  Look for it at your favorite Catholic bookstore.

I was provided with an advanced copy of this book by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Specs? Check!

I've spent a good amount of time getting everything on the girls back to school lists checked off.  School supplies and uniforms and making sure I have it all in order has been a big focus the past month.  Since we're new to the whole uniform thing this year, we're starting from scratch and I had to keep double checking that I was getting the girls everything that they need.  I have to admit that I find it a bit easier to buy regular clothes for school as opposed to uniform pieces.  After seven years of buying school clothing wherever I pleased, I felt out of my element when selecting uniform pieces and what not.

I've spent a week or so feeling pretty confident that I had everything that the girls needed for school.  Then Ellie's glasses started falling off her face repeatedly.  Katie has a penchant for swatting glasses off of Madeline and Ellie, so their glasses have been taking a beating.  Ellie's good pair of glasses were very bent and her cheap spare pairs were just as bad.  So I came to the conclusion yesterday that the girls needed new glasses before school began.

I was hoping to take advantage of the $25 kids glasses at JCP that my mom told me about, but I didn't like how cheap the frames were in terms of quality, so Bryan and I took the girls out to the very good optician that is a 45 minute drive from our house to get Ellie's good glasses bent back into shape and to buy new glasses.

I'm excited about Madeline's new frames.  She picked out a flexible pair that should be very difficult for her or Katie to bend.  I'm hopeful that this means fewer trips to the optician for repairs.  We also finally got around to getting her rec specs for soccer.  She's spent several years playing soccer with no glasses because we never seem to get around to ordering the required rec specs.  Of course, her vision isn't far off from 20/20 so it's not like she can't see.  Her problem is a lazy eye that turns in when her "crazy eye" can't focus and shuts down.

Ellie found frames that look quite nice on her.  I wish they were the flexible kind like Madeline's, but I'm confident that they will hold up better than her spare pairs.  I even ordered her new prescription for her current good glasses so she'll have two good pairs.  Since one of her lenses has no Rx, upgrading her current pair is very reasonable.  With Madeline it's typically not cost effective to put new lenses in old frames because the cost can be almost as much as a new pair.  I'm excited that we're getting some more life out of her current frames since they cost a nice chunk when we brought them last year.

The grand total for the glasses was more than what we will be paying for a month's tuition.  Ouch!  Bryan made some comment to the optician about how he didn't want to know how much it was all going to be and he decided he was going to cut us a small break to drop our total below $800 [I said OUCH, right? Rec Specs are expensive and so are super flexible frames] by upgrading the lens in Ellie's current frames to the new prescription for free.  It was a small amount knocked off, but it helps.  Bryan and I were actually quite surprised and grateful that he even offered to do it.

Sometime in the next week or so the girls will be sporting new glasses.  Just in time for school.  I'm looking forward to seeing the girls in glasses that aren't scratched, bent or sporting noticeable signs of wear.  I think now I can claim I'm done with back to school shopping.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quick Takes Volume 43: Ten Months

Katie turned ten months old yesterday.  I feel like the months melt away faster than a popsicle in the sun these days.  My baby is almost a year old. [Sniff, sniff, gulp, waaah!]  I wish I could keep her this size, but I know I can't.  If only time could just slow down a little.

Katie's little chompers have come in quite nicely.*  She's been testing out her four sharp little teeth on everyone in the family.  While I don't like to be bit, I'm just very happy that she chooses to bite my arms, legs and shoulders vs. the source of her favorite food.  We had some issues last month with her trying to test out her new teeth while nursing and mercifully she got the point that you don't bite the mommy that feeds you unless you want to be sat on the floor immediately.  

Katie enjoys waving at people and does what she can to engage others to give her attention.  At church she does her best to get the older woman who sits behind us to play with her during Mass.  She's figured out that Mommy and Daddy don't play at Mass and has decided that she would have to seek a alternative source of amusement for an hour a week.

She's cruising.  I can't express how much I'm not ready for this.  She cruises along the furniture looking for books that she can examine, or cushions that look just right for biting.  Once in a while she'll try out her balancing skills and give standing on her own a try.

It's not uncommon to see Katie kneeling on one leg with the other leg poised to stand.  She'll sit like that balancing herself for several minutes at a time.  I'm pretty certain it's all part of her plot to start walking like the rest of us.  Slow down baby, Mommy isn't ready to chase a toddler!

Katie loves to talk and now actually refers to herself.  She's been saying things like Kat Kat or Kit Kat for a while, but now she can sit there and look at me and say Mama, and then proudly say her name.  On Tuesday I brought her into our bed when she woke up.  Bryan had just left for work.  She decided to poke me, say my name, flail her arms like a wild baby and and squeal Kat Kat and then look for Bryan and say Dada over and over.  So she knows who she is.  I suppose that's a developmental milestone of some sort, right?  I don't recall Madeline or Ellie calling themselves by name at that age.  And so I'm not confusing any of you, I typically call Katie, Kitty Kat.  I wanted her nick name to be Kitty before she was born but nobody liked it and it was decided that we'd call our little Katherine, Katie.  I obviously didn't comply.

Katie likes to self feed finger foods and sample as many table foods as I will allow.  This month she's tried some small bits of chicken, cheese, and some fruits.  Her eyes light up when she gets to eat what the big people are eating.

She climbs steps and small pieces of furniture.  She experimented with climbing up on the the landing one day and was fascinated by the slightly higher elevation.  So now we have to be extra vigilant about her exploring.  A few weeks ago one of the girls just sat there and watched her climb five steps before saying anything to me.  If we just let her go she will climb up several steps and then try to stand and turn around.  Obviously this isn't safe at all, so we only let her climb the stairs if Bryan or I are right there with her.  I miss the stair case in our old house when it comes to this skill.  Our current stairs are one long steep staircase, where our old house had two levels of stairs with a generous landing in between.  It was nothing for a little one to climb six or seven steps and then rest a bit before going safely to the top.

Visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes

*I had previously likened her pearly whites to those of a hippo, but I didn't like that she showed up as the first image when searching for hippo dentition (using the standard word for the bony structures, of course).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: Saint Who?

Just about every time I pick up a new book on the saints I find several that I have never heard of before.  With Brian O'Neel's Saint Who? ~39 Holy Unknowns~I met about 37 saints I didn't know existed.  I had read O'Neel's other book 39 New Saints You Should Knowa while back and I have to say that I enjoyed Saint Who? every bit as much as his previous book.

As with many books on saints that devote an entire section or chapter to each individual saint, this is a book that you can pick up and zero in on reading about the saint of your choice and not feel like you should have read the book from cover to cover.  Something I really appreciated about the table of contents for this book is that there was a little subtitle next to each saint's name so you could scan the list and see if there was a particular saint that jumped out.

The stories for each of the saints featured in this book are all well written.  I really enjoyed getting to know some of these lesser known saints, and came away wanting to know more about some of them.

This book also caught the attention of my almost eleven year old daughter.  She loves reading about the saints and kept paging through the book whenever I would put it down.  While I chose to read the book from cover to cover, she chose to scan the table of contents to see who she wanted to read about.  She was excited that Sts. Perpetua and Felicity were in this book.  She has been very interested in them since watching The Story of Saint Perpetuaand seems to be eager to read about them whenever she can.  Since I'm on the subject of writing about my middle schooler reading this book, I have to say that it's not a book I would just hand off to her and let her read from cover to cover.  There are a few saints in this book who have stories that I think are a bit too mature for her.  For example, I don't think a middle schooler needs to be reading about a saint who is listed as "The Cuckold".  So as she read through this book, I made sure she told me what she wanted to read before I let her read it just to make sure she wasn't reading anything that I felt had a more adult theme to it.  But don't mistake me for saying that this book has any kind of sordid details or anything of that nature, I just think that the stories for some of the saints are too mature for a child and I am not ready for the questions that some of the stories may evoke.

Overall, Saint Who?is another great book from O'Neel on some of the more obscure members of the Church Triumphant.

I was provided with a complimentary review copy of this book by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.  If you purchase through these links Amazon gives me small percentage of the purchase price.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: My Vocation Is Love

I recently had the opportunity to read Jean Lafrance's My Vocation Is Love St. Therese's Way to Total Trust.  I was struck by how deep and thought provoking this book is.  Having just read St. Therese's Story of a Soul a few months ago, I came to realize how much I simply didn't understand when I had read that book as I slowly made my way through My Vocation is Love.

It took me several weeks to make it through this book.  It is certainly not a book you can pick up and breeze through over a few lazy afternoons.  Throughout this book I needed to stop and process what I was reading, pray and reflect.  As I read through this book my understanding of St. Therese deepened and I have come to realize that her writings and her little way are every bit as  spiritually daunting to wrap my mind around as St. Augustine.

My Vocation Is Love is a book that you truly have to read in bite size pieces so that you can properly reflect on it and get the most out of it.  I'm certain that if I had powered through this book I not only would have had yet another case of spiritual indigestion (something I previously thought only St. Augustine's writings could give me).

I heartily recommend this book if you are seeking to gain a deeper understanding of St. Therese and her  little way.  If you have read her Story of a Soul and possibly found it all to be very sweet and sentimental but didn't catch the deeper message in it all, then I'd suggest this book as a great starting point to help you uncover the depth of Theresian spirituality.  After reading this book I became more amazed by this saint.

Now my oldest daughter who is about to turn eleven hounded me for weeks asking when I'd be done with this book.  She was hoping to read it, but honestly, I think the book is written on a level that is simply not going to be easily understood or read by a middle school aged student.  She loves St. Therese, but I'm certain that this book would be too daunting for her.  Because she showed a deep interest in this book I feel compelled to let you know that I would probably put this book in the ages 15 and up category.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I was provided with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on My Vocation Is Love: St.Thérèse’s Way . The Catholic Company is also a great online store for all your Catholic gift needs, such as baby baptism and christening gifts. You can also find a wide selection of Catholic Bible Studies for both parish groups and individuals, as well as a variety of other Catholic Bible studyresources.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Faking a Cleaned Room

I'm not sure where my kids picked up this skill or why they desperately seem to cling to it, but they appear to be masters of faking a cleaned room.  It's one of those things that drive me batty.

I asked my girls no less than four times today to clean their bedrooms which were both in a state that I would classify as atrocious.  Four times they disappeared for a while and then came down and assured me their rooms were clean.  The first three times I'm not sure what they did, but the rooms looked exactly the same as it did when they were sent upstairs.  Same goes for their bathroom and the basement play room.  The fourth time they "cleaned" their bedrooms, the rooms looked like they were straightened, but in reality they had just stuffed everything where they thought I wouldn't look.

Our basement was equally dismal.  They stuffed toys that they swore they put back in their proper places in all sorts of areas where they don't belong and had left all sorts of Katie choking hazards on the floor and within her reach.

Bryan's working from home today since he severely overslept this morning and failed to make it anywhere close to work this morning due to traffic.  Since he's home I at least have him backing me up on insisting that the girls clean up all their messes or risk losing the things that aren't put away.

Sometimes I wonder if they would even care if I bagged up most of their toys and hauled them away to Good Will.  They have so much and most of it doesn't get played with unless you count scattering things and making huge messes as playing.

I feel like getting rid of most of their clothes, too.  They can't put those away either, and to be perfectly honest, they wear the same five or six outfits to death anyway while the rest of the clothes sit in the closet unworn.  I guess this uniform thing should work out nicely this school year.

Small Successes August 9th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

I think it's been a while since I've done a Small successes post.  Life has been crazy busy, but that's fine.

1. Amazon recently made it so I can watch their instant videos on my iPad, so I decided to take advantage of the fact that my Prime membership allows me access to some of the stuff for free and have been watching Downton Abby on my iPad.  This has translated into me cleaning the power room while watching an episode of Downton.  It works.  I got to focus on a show I like instead of a task I seriously dislike.

2. I'm very nicely on top of the laundry situation.  On Monday and Tuesday I obliterated the mountain of laundry I had waiting for me.

3. I was asked to do a presentation at the catechist meeting at the last minute and I managed to pull it off.  I think it went well.  It didn't go as smoothly as I wanted, but I hope what I had to say was helpful to some of the catechists.

4. It didn't feel like a success, but I made it home from the catechist meeting last night in time to feed Katie and put her to bed.  Honestly, I would have loved to have stayed at the meeting a little while longer and chat with some of my friends, but Katie had to come first and I cut out a bit earlier than I would have liked to tend to her needs.  I think Bryan was surprised that I actually made it home when I did.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Quick Takes Volume 42

Being woken up at 4am from a deep sleep is something I'm never going to get used to.  The night before last Katie woke up in the middle of the night and screamed and cried for nearly an hour and a half.  Parenthood is not for the faint hearted.  This morning she was up at 5:30 which is far more acceptable as far as waking up is concerned, but Bryan's snoring had woken me an hour earlier.  If this current trend of sleep interruption continues I'm going to be a sleep deprived mess.
Parts of the house are remarkably neat and clean.  Now if I could just get the rest of it straightened and cleaned I'd be thrilled.
In case you haven't heard, JC Penney is giving free haircuts to kids during the month of August.  No strings attached.  I took the girls there on Wednesday.  The stylist was able to undercut Ellie's hair so it doesn't look quite so fluffy.
I'm beginning to wonder if school uniforms aren't more of a hassle than a help.  I'm had the hardest time getting Madeline's short sleeved button down blouses.  I'm pretty sure my fourth attempt at getting the shirts she needs in a size that fits her will be the final time.  On the bright side, I have Ellie's uniform shirts for next year.
Yesterday the school had the uniform company out for their uniform sale day.  I managed to get the summer uniform shirts for Madeline that they uniform company didn't have in stock at the store when we were there last week.
Katie had routine 9 month old blood work done this morning.  Bryan and I were prepared for a struggle and screaming baby, but were shocked at how smoothly everything went.  In less than the time it takes to pray two Hail Marys the blood work was complete and Katie was done crying.
My new laptop arrived yesterday, but for some reason I keep grabbing my old laptop and using that one instead.  I commented to Bryan, who has no sense of smell, that Apple products have a distinct new Apple product smell.  He looked at me like I'm crazy, but they really do.
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