Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: Saint John Bosco

I have been a fan of the books in the Encounter the Saints Series from Pauline Kids for the past several years.  The books are kid friendly and do an excellent job of retelling the stories of saints in a way that will stick with your child long after he or she reads the book.  One of the more recent books in this series is Saint John Bosco Champion for the Young by Emily Baeta Marsh FSP.
Saint John Bosco is a great addition to the Encounter the Saints Series.  The book gives an account of the life of St. John Bosco from his infancy through adulthood.  I sat down one afternoon to page through the book and I found myself reading it from cover to cover because I really enjoyed the book.  It's a book that will certainly appeal to young boys, but I suspect many girls will also enjoy reading it, too.

One of the things I like best about this series of books is it offers pronunciation guides for words that might not be familiar to young readers.  There's also a glossary in the back of the book that further explain some of the religious terms used in the book.  Given that the book is geared to middle grade elementary students, I find the glossary to be a wonderful addition.

Compared to other series of books on saints from other publishers, this book and the others in this series, are easy and enjoyable to read.  My kids have never groaned about reading these books like they do with other series.  The book does have a few black and white illustrations that are spaced out quite a bit, so older children who feel they are too old for books with pictures won't feel like they're reading a book intended for a younger audience.  The illustrations are nicely done and complement the story.

Overall the book is nicely done.  It certainly gets my recommendation.  With Christmas just a few weeks away, I'd suggest that this book or others from this series would make a great stocking stuffer for a child between the ages of 9-12 on your list.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  For more information on this title or to take a peek inside, visit Pauline Books and Media.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Book Review: God Has a Plan for Boys and Girls

Pauline Kids has added a few more books to their Building Blocks Theology of the Body series for kids.  The first books are geared to little ones ages two through five, and the next step up is for children between four and seven.  One of the books in this series is God Has a Plan for Boys and Girls.
In God Has a Plan for Boys and Girls children learn that both boys and girls can do a variety of things that children of the opposite sex can also do.  Their own individuality and uniqueness are also emphasized.  But, they also learn that their gender does make them distinctly different from the opposite sex.  Children will learn that while there are some things men can't do, because they aren't women, doesn't make them any less special or less of a gift for being male, and they will also learn that the same is true for women.  In a world where these simple truths seem to be muddled by the current cultural climate, this message is very much needed.

The book is well done and I think children will understand and appreciate the message in this book.  The parent and teacher overview page for the book does an excellent job of explaining the theme of the book so that parents and teachers will be better able to present the book and field any questions they may get from little ones.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Pauline Books and Media to see inside this book or for more information on this title.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: Christmas Fun

Happy Advent everyone!  Since we're in the season of preparing our hearts and minds to celebrate the birth of Jesus, now is the perfect time to also help our children to do the same.  I recently received a copy of a great children's activity book that is ideal for helping little ones between the ages of four and seven (pre-k through 2nd grade) to understand the real meaning of Christmas.  Christmas Fun Bible Activity Book is a full color activity book that will be sure to catch the attention of little ones.
Christmas Fun has more than 15 puzzles and activities, so you could use this book throughout Advent to help teach your children about Christmas.  As children complete the activities they learn a bit more about the Christmas story.  The book starts with the Annunciation and ends with the flight into Egypt.  The activities are varied so you're children won't be bored using this book.  There are mazes, dot to dots, games and simple crafts.  

Overall, it's a very nicely done activity book that tells the story of Our Lord's birth in a way that little ones will understand.  The book isn't short on fun, so kids will enjoy it.  I'm looking forward to using this book with my four year old this Advent.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  You can learn more about this title and even take a peek inside here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Freaking Out on the Inside

I've probably mentioned a few times in the past that I'm not a fan of traveling by air.  When Bryan has a business trip that involves flying I spend days before his departure and the entire time he's gone worried about him having to fly.  I've always been like this when it comes to planes.  When I was a kid, my parents would try to quickly shush my never a whisper voice when I'd sit on a plane before takeoff and ask if we were going to crash.  It's just who I am.  I worry about these things, because I feel like any flight involves a certain amount of risk.  So here I am, nearly eleven years after the last time I flew anywhere freaking out and having intermittent panic attacks because Bryan, the kids and I are getting set to fly out to California.

I don't do particularly well on the two hour flight from Philadelphia to Orlando, so I can only imagine what the five hour flight from Philadelphia to San Diego will be like.  I think my fear of flying is mostly linked to my motion sickness.  The thought of willingly putting myself through several hours of nausea where I have no way of stopping for fresh air or a few minutes of solid ground beneath my feet is pretty unsettling.  The lack of control over my circumstances is concerning to say the least.  And as much as I'd like to just call the whole trip off, I know I can't.  The kids are excited about going, Bryan is probably still in some state of shock that I agreed (even if only very reluctantly) to go out there, and one of my best friends was just so surprised that I'm flying out there that she and her husband have set us up with tickets to Disneyland for two days as well as a VIP tour guide for one day.  So while I'm totally dreading the flights, I am excited about the things we'll get to do and see while we are there.

I'm spending a lot of time these days just trying to distract myself with things that are keeping me busy so I spend less time fretting about the flight.  I'm trying to make sure we're packing the essentials that we'll need while we're out there.  We have a tendency to overpack in a big way, so I'm trying to focus on going out there as slimmed down as possible.  So far I think I'm doing this right.  Of course, the moments where I start to feel like I'm going to have a panic attack when my mind goes back to why I'm packing have been keeping me from getting the job done.  But, I'm almost done.

We're already in our second week of homeschooling for the new school year, and initially I thought we'd just leave all the work behind while we went away, but seeing how quickly the girls have been getting through most of their work, I've decided to put together packets for each of them so we don't have to completely lose a week of school.  Bryan assures us that with the time difference, we will have several mornings where we wake up and it's still going to be the wee hours of the morning on the west coast, so I figure having some work with us will give the girls something productive to do in those instances.  I also imagine they can get some work done on the plane.

This is the first time the kids and I will be going to California, so we're looking forward to being tourists for a week.  Bryan keeps telling me that I have to see what it's like to have the ocean on the wrong side.  That should be interesting.  I'm looking forward to visiting a couple of the old Spanish mission churches.  There are two near where we will be staying so I'm planning to visit each of them.

We'll be in the San Diego area so if any of you have any suggestions for places we should visit leave me a comment.  I'm not too familiar with what's out there.  Are there some great historical sites that we should visit?  Is there a particular beach we should check out?  Someone recently mentioned that there was some great shrine out there but she couldn't recall the name of it.

I'm doing my best to approach this trip as calmly as I can so I don't freak out the kids with my fear of flying too much.  To me it feels like a crazy trust exercise with God.  So on Saturday I'm going to do my best to offer up all my worries and fears and just lean on Our Lord to get me to the other side.  So do me a favor, offer up a prayer on Saturday morning and the following Saturday morning, as well, that our flights will be on time, and uneventful.

I will do my best to share lots of pictures of our trip.  I need to get back to blogging.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

How to Freak Out Your Friends

A lot has been going on around here lately.  School is pretty much done, although one child is still finishing up math for the year.  I'm in full out VBS planning mode.  Soccer season is so close to being done that I can almost imagine what a house that doesn't smell like dirt or grass will be like.  In my scarce free time I'm pouring over lesson plans for the upcoming school year while trying to compile study guides. Bryan is just hours away from having his ankle sliced open to repair a tendon he had the misfortune of snapping off two and a half weeks ago and I am just trying to stay sane in the midst of it all.

So tonight I stopped by a friend's house to drop off something, and I managed to freak her and her son out a bit.  I was talking about Bryan's upcoming surgery and the fact that he's going under general anesthesia, something neither of us is thrilled about.   I'm of the ilk that always seems to go to worst case scenario in just about any situation.  Not in the pessimistic sense, but more or less just acknowledging the reality of what could happen.  So when asked if Bryan was ready for tomorrow and talking about how he's just ready to get it done so he can get on with the four weeks of life on crutches followed by another two weeks in a walking boot, I had made an off handed remark that you should always be prepared to die.  Now, I didn't mean that I think or expect that he will have any complications but rather, that one should always make sure their soul is in such a state that you're ready to die.  I know not everyone thinks or feels that way.  But I do and I feel so strongly about it.

You can well imagine that my friend was probably more than a little stunned at my words.  So I had to explain how I feel that one should take care to make sure their soul is in a state of grace.  Is my approach off?  I'm really not sure that it is.  I feel like the biggest tragedy that can befall a person is to be so lax in caring about the state of your soul that you would be willing to take the chance of dying while not in a state of grace.

Perhaps I'm too scrupulous, too focused on dotting i's and crossing t's, but I certainly make it a point to be sure that I get to confession regularly in my journey towards eternity.  I would not want to spend an eternity in hell going over the should've could've would've's that would have saved me from an eternity of total separation from God.  My end goal is sainthood, anything less than that would be tragic.  Until then, I will continue to strive for sanctity.  Will I fail along the way?  You bet!  But, the point is I'm not about to give up.  As many times as I fail,  I'm determined to dust myself off and seek reconciliation with Our Lord so I can try again.  I figure eventually, I've got to make some progress on the road to perfection.

My friend did raise an important question that is certainly worth pondering.  Is anyone ever really ready to die?  I suppose some are, like those who have suffered through a long terminal illness who know that death is imminent.  But I would imagine that most, like my friend and even me, have that unprepared not quite ready feeling.  Until any of us really, honestly and truly knows where we stand with Our Lord,  how can we be?  But, really, it all boils down to hoping and trusting in God.  One thing is certain.  We're all going to die, so the least we can do is try to be at least somewhat prepared.  Acting like you have years or even decades to go before you need to ponder this inescapable reality is likely not the best approach.

My advice is simply this.  If you haven't been to confession in ages, just go.  Why chance an eternity of misery; and more importantly, why deny yourself the mercy Our Lord so ardently desires to bestow on you if only you humble yourself and ask?

Monday, May 18, 2015

On My Mind

It's been such a long time since I've been able to just sit down and write.  I really miss it, but it seems in any given day a small plethora of things just wind up taking precedence over me being able to blog.

Without fishing through previous blog posts, I have no idea how much I've shared about the kids.  I had started to write about Katie and her being assessed for speech (which insurance frustratingly denied us coverage).  We were told back in October or November that she's likely just a late talker.  This past month has been very promising with Katie beginning to talk more.  She uses sentences pretty frequently and people who don't live with us are starting to understand the things she does say.   I'm in an odd place of feeling thrilled and excited about the words she can say, and yet still feeling frustrated and impatient that she isn't further along with speaking.  It's a challenge, but I'm so grateful anytime she utters words I can understand.  About two weeks ago she kept asking me "Why?" on a ride home from Target.  With my older children the whys got on my nerves after so many iterations of it, but with Katie, I'm rejoicing that she's asking me a question with an actual word.  It's interesting how perspective can change.

Anthony is a year old!  It's crazy how quickly that first year passed.  He's been walking since around Easter, but had started taking his first steps back in February.  He's presently on a mission to slip by us and scale the stairs anytime he's sees an open gate.  He claps, he waves, he shakes his head no, and tries to tackle me by throwing himself at my legs.  Today he almost succeeded in knocking me over.  He says words, for which I am very thankful.  He can say Mama, Dada, Daddy, no (I'm not exactly thrilled he learned that particular word.), uh-oh and something that sounds remarkably like bye-bye.

The girls are pretty much done with the school year.  They both have a state history test to complete and we still need to take a field trip and then we can call History done.  Ellie has everything else for the year completed.  Math and Madeline just shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence.  I made an executive call last week and decided that even though she had just finished the final lesson in her math book that we were going to have to start over at the beginning of the fourth quarter and do it again.  She wasn't retaining the information and when she would get stumped on classwork, she would go back to whatever lesson the problem was from and look at the example to figure it out.  The problem with that was she would get the work done and it would be right, but when it was time to take a test, there was no book for her to look at to see how to do the problems.  I'm sure I wasn't her favorite person when I told her we had to start over.  Right now I'm going over two lessons a day with her and hand selecting the problems she struggles the most with to make sure she really understands how to do them so she won't have a problem when it's time to take the test.

Soccer season is still going.  We had a lot of bad weather in March so three weeks of games that should have happened got cancelled or rescheduled for later in the spring.  So while soccer should have wrapped up this past Saturday, it won't be done until June 6th.  So that means that twice a week soccer practices will also keep going for the rest of this month and into June.

I came to the realization a few weeks ago that I've been praying for a specific intention for over six years now without seeing the result I'd love to see.  Perhaps Our Lord is helping me to learn to be patient.  Here and there I've seen articles and what not that say things to the effect that when a prayer isn't answered in the timing that you expect, it's because your heart isn't yet prepared to fully appreciate it.  So on those days when I feel a bit like this is a hopeless cause and I feel like I'm on the brink of despair, I think maybe, just maybe that's it. It's also in those moments where I think that I should have a better relationship with St. Monica.  I know she knows how I feel.

Since it's been over two months since I last wrote anything I suppose I should also mention that Madeline was confirmed last month.  She chose Maria for her confirmation name to honor the Blessed Mother.  I have every intention of putting together a post with pictures soon, I hope.

The VBS program had reached the max number of children we can take two months before hitting the registration deadline.  I think registration was open for only about seven or eight weeks.  Either the program has gained a really good reputation over these past few years, or the parents are really eager to get fifteen hours of kid free time for just $40 per child.  Right now I'm working on making sure I have all of the volunteers that we need and I'm trying to pick out the music for the program.  I'm almost there.  Instead of stressing about it as I have in years past, I've just been focusing more on praying about it and seeing where the Spirit leads me.

The little man has just woken up from his nap.  If all goes well, I'll find time later to add some pictures.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: Saint Ignatius Loyola The Spiritual Writings

Have you ever started to read something and almost instantly felt overwhelmed?  That's pretty much how I've felt when reading the writings of Saint Ignatius Loyola.  Reading just little chunks of his writings leaves me with that feeling of spiritual indigestion I had only felt previously when reading too much by St. Augustine in a short period of time.

Initially I was near incredulous that I was having such a tough time reading St. Ignatius Loyola's writings.  Then I talked to a friend of mine who told me that he wasn't surprised because he had also arrived at the same conclusion a while back.  That's when I told him that I was about to delve into Saint Ignatius Loyola The Spiritual Writings annotated by Fr. Mark Mossa.  At that point he perked up and told me how awesome an annotated book St. Ignatius book sounded.  I'm not exactly someone who likes bouncing back and forth between a passage and then commentary on the passage, so reading this book still wasn't easy for me.  It took me a little bit of trial and error, as well as some emails to Fr. Mark asking his opinion of how I should best approach the book before I found what worked best for me.

Ultimately, I found that reading the complete selection from St. Ignatius first and then reading Fr. Mark's commentary was the best way for me to get the most out of this book.  In many cases, I found myself rereading the selection a second time after reading Fr. Mark's take on the passage.  His commentary was very helpful in alleviating the Saint Ignatius induced headaches.

My take aways from this book are simply that I like Saint Ignatius's approach to the spiritual life but I find his writing style difficult to digest.  I had begun the task of delving back into his writings using this book after having just finished reading St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life.  I feel like they're very similar in many ways, but I found St. Francis to be more approachable.

If you are looking to jump into the writings of St. Ignatius, I'd suggest picking up a copy of this book where you'll have excellent explanations of each of the selections.  Reading this book made St. Ignatius's writings seem less daunting.

I was provided with a review copy of Saint Ignatius Loyola The Spiritual Writings Selections Annotated & Explained, by the publisher, SkyLight Paths, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to take a peek inside this book or to purchase a copy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Review: Now What?

Fifteen years ago I was preparing to enter the Catholic Church.  At that time, I was a mix of excitement at finally becoming Catholic and more than a little worried that I stuck out like a clueless Lutheran in a Catholic church.  That feeling of being a bit lost didn't magically go away once I was Catholic.  In fact, it took me years to really feel like I wasn't sticking out like a sore thumb.  Something tells me that if Patrick Madrid's Now What? A Guide for New (And Not-So-New) Catholics had been around in 2000 and a copy had found its way into my hands, that I would have felt a lot more at ease and would have had a far better understanding of what it means to be Catholic.

This book really is the answer to that "Help!  I converted to Catholicism and now that I'm here I have no idea why Catholics do half of what they do!" feeling that I'm sure many of my fellow converts have also felt.  I can recall different practices being addressed in RCIA, like why we genuflect, or what's the deal with the gesture everyone does before the gospel reading, but there was a lot that just wasn't covered.  For example, I had been a Catholic for nine years before I had ever heard of Eucharistic adoration.

As a jumping off point, this book is a wealth of information for someone who is in RCIA or has just been received into the Church.  It will help to fill in the gaps that may not have been covered in an RCIA class.  But this book isn't just for new converts.  Let's say you're a cradle Catholic who spent eight years in CCD pencil fighting when you should have been, I don't know, paying attention during class.  Well, this book will help to bring you up to speed on those things you missed while you were busy learning that the made in China pencils were stronger than the others.

In short, this won't be the only book you'll ever have to read if you are serious about practicing your faith, but it's an excellent start.  If you know someone who is in RCIA, do them a big favor and buy them this book.

I was provided with a review copy of Now What? by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to take a peek inside this book or to purchase a copy.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review: The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio

Over the years I've read several books about St. Padre Pio, and while I like him a lot, he's yet to become on of those saints I could say I feel connected to, at least, not in the way I feel connected to some of my favorite saints.  I have, however, found him to be more approachable since reading Patricia Treece's The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio.  The book is a collection of stories, letters and prayers.

I've had this book sitting out for the past several months and I find myself picking it up nearly every day to read a bit of it.  The book is arranged in such a format that you could really just open it up to any page and find a short piece that is either a recollection about Padre Pio or a quote or excerpt from on of his letters.  These little sections can be read in a few minutes or less.  Reading it is like grabbing a little spiritual recharge.

This book has left me wanting to read more about Padre Pio.  After reading through this book, I can see why Padre Pio appeals to so many people.  If it weren't for this book, I don't know if I would have realized that he actually had quite a sense of humor.  My perception of him prior to reading this book was that he was on the more serious and rigid side, but apparently, that's not the case.  I was pretty surprised when I found a few stories or quotes that left me chuckling.

I was provided with a review copy of The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to take a peek inside this book or to purchase a copy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Review: Adventures in Assisi

Adventures in Assisi is another lovely picture book by Amy Welborn.  It's the story of a brother and sister who tour Assisi with their great uncle, a Franciscan brother.  As they tour the city, they learn about St. Francis of Assisi.

The story book is filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations that will surely captivate young children as they listen to the story.  After reading the book to my children we went and looked at pictures online that a seminarian from our parish who is studying in Rome had taken when he visited Assisi.  So the book not only tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi, but it also connects the story to actual places.  My kids liked that after reading through the book that we were able to then see actual pictures of Assisi.

The story is a bit lengthy, so it seems to be better suited to younger elementary students.  My three year old who typically sits through longer story books became antsy as we read through this book; so given how she responded, I'd say a good target audience for this book would be 1st-3rd graders.  The length of the book might be too much for pre-schoolers-Kindergarten aged children to sit through in one reading.  While the book is a bit long for my younger daughter, she certainly enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful illustrations.

This book would be ideal for reading to children leading up to St. Francis of Assisi's feast day, or as part of a feast day celebration.  It's a good pick if you are looking for a book that will let you teach children about St. Francis and Assisi.

I was provided with a review copy of Adventures in Assisi by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to take a peek inside this book or to purchase a copy.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: Saint of the Day

Reading about the saints is something that I enjoy immensely.  I draw a lot of inspiration from reading about how they pursued the path of holiness and obtained heaven, so a book filled with short accounts of the saints is always nice to have laying around where you can pick it up and spend a few minutes here and there reading about them.  The updated and expanded Saint of the Day book offers a wealth of information on the saints and various feast days that are celebrated throughout the year.

The book is arranged by month with a saint or feast day for nearly every day of the year.  Some days have multiple entries and there are a few days that have no entries.  The saints are featured on the dates their feast days are celebrated liturgically.  After a brief biography of the featured saint, you'll find a related comment and quote.  The comments and quotes are often good jumping off points for reflection.

The book is useful not only as a daily devotional, but also as a reference on the saints and various feast days.  The table of contents lists the saints by date.  If you are looking for a specific saint, the index will be the most expedient way to find the saint if you aren't already aware of the date for his or her feast day.

We have several different saint of the day types of books on our bookshelf and I think I like this one the best.  The other's are intended for kids, but I find a lot of the stories in those books seem like they were written with adults in mind.  This book seems a bit more accessible than some of the other ones.
I was provided with a copy of Saint of the Day by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.  You can take a peek inside this book or purchase a copy at Amazon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Joyful Witness

I wasn't sure what exactly to expect when I picked up Rany Hain's Joyful Witness How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic.  Once I started reading this book I had the hardest time putting it down.  When my little ones took naps, I reached for this book.  It was such an enjoyable book that I zipped through it in just a few days time.

The book is less of a how to for being an extraordinary Catholic and more a collection of stories about people just like you or me who do things that make them extraordinary Catholics.  The key is, they joyfully embrace their faith and seek to answer the call to holiness and from there they radiate it and ignite others.

The stories of those who are featured in this book are nothing short of inspiring.  I know sometimes you can look at someone and say "Wow, so and so is so holy!  I wish I could be like that but she's just in a totally different class.  I can't do that."  The thing is, you can.  You just have to start.  Everyone of these extraordinary Catholics featured in this book are all just like you or me.   Each story begins with a quote either from scripture or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Their stories illustrate a real life example of that scripture or catechism reference in action.  At the end of each story there are steps you can take to emulate the example of the person featured along with a series of questions for reflection.  So if you're thinking that you're just an ordinary Catholic and you can't do what they have done, think again.  Holiness is for everyone.  You just have to want it and be willing to pursue it!

I highly recommend this book if you're looking for inspiration to become an extraordinary Catholic.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

I was provided with a review copy of Joyful Witness by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.  You can lear more about this title or purchase a copy of this book here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review: Prayers for Young Catholics

Prayers for Young Catholics is a pocket sized hardcover prayer book compiled by the Daughters of St. Paul that is good for school aged children.  The prayer book contains a dedication page which makes it ideal for gift giving.  It would be a great gift idea for a child who has just received the sacrament of first reconciliation or first Holy Communion.

The prayer book is divided into nine sections:

  • Basic Prayers
  • Prayers to Mary
  • Prayers to Saints
  • Prayers from the Bible
  • Prayers for Various Needs
  • The Rosary
  • The Stations of the Cross
  • Our Catholic Faith
  • The Seasons of the Church
Overall, this prayer book provides a wonderful overview of the faith and contains the means to help foster life long devotions.  I think the layout for the book is quite nice and the book looks like it will withstand many years of use.

The artwork in the prayer book is varied.  It's really a mix of traditional and modern images as well as photographs.  My personal preference with prayer books is to have a more old fashioned traditional feel, so while not all of the artwork in this prayer book appeals to me, it might be more appealing to those who are maybe put off by things that have a more traditional look.  So really, I suppose it all just boils down to personal preferences.

Overall, this is a nice prayer book that is easy to use thanks to a great table of contents.  I have several prayer books that I love that I wish had a table of contents like this.  This prayer book is a good pick if you're looking for a prayer book that isn't also a missal.

I was provided with a review copy of Prayers for Young Catholics by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  You can purchase a copy of this book or take a peek inside of it here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Fearless

It's odd, but for the longest time I felt like there weren't all that many American saints.  I knew about St. Katharine Drexel, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann but outside of those, I was largely unaware that there were many more.  Early last year I had read a book on American martyrs and saints which served to whet my appetite for learning more about them.  I can't tell you what I was reading when a copy of Alice Camille and Paul Boudreau's Fearless: Stories of the American Saints showed up at my house many months ago.  All I know was shortly after it arrived, the book was in my hands every time I found a spare moment until I hit the Bibliography.

The book details the lives of about a dozen American saints.  Unlike the book I had read early last year, these stories gave more background on the saints simply because there were fewer saints being discussed.  So I rather enjoyed getting to know some of these saints better.

I found this book to not only be a great source of information on various American saints, but also a great source of supplemental material for my daughter's 8th grade history book.  Many of the saints who are detailed in this book are also mentioned in her history text book, so the book is good supplemental reading for her, or for me to be able to help her take a more in-depth look at the saint or the time period from which he or she hailed.

Overall the book was an enjoyable read.  I found it hard to put the book down.  You know you have a good book on your hands when you don't want to stop reading it until you get to the end.

I was provided with a review copy of Fearless by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.  You can purchase a copy or take a peek inside this book at Amazon.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: Queen of Apostles Prayer Book

I don't think it's any big secret that I really like prayer books.  Most books I read get read once, maybe twice and then they sit on a shelf or get passed around to my friends.  Sometimes I feel like I'm a private library, only I don't exactly keep track of who has borrowed what and there are never any fines for returning books late.  But prayer books are different.  The ones I like I find myself turning to frequently.  They're the books that will be around for the long haul.  Generally speaking, I find that I gravitate to prayer books that are pre-Vatican II because they tend to contain prayers where the language is more beautiful, and in using those prayer books, I feel like I am able to draw closer to God.

I was recently given the opportunity to review the Queen of Apostles Prayer Book from Pauline Books & Media.  Queen of Apostles is a new up-to-date edition of a prayer book that has been around for more than fifty years.  This prayer book is really beautifully done.  It has a leatherette cover and the sewn page binding, so there are no worries about the pages falling out from years of use like you can find with glued bindings.  The pages are nice and thick, too.

As I paged through this prayer book I was amazed at how much this resembled my favorite older prayer books.  From the prayers included in this book to the language used in the prayers, this book has a very traditional feel to it.  It's not modernized to the point of stripping it of all it's beauty like some others.  It reminds me of a cross between the Mother Love and Blessed Be God prayer books, with more of a leaning towards the former.

The book is divided into the following sections:

  • Daily Prayers
  • Prayers to the Holy Trinity
  • Eucharistic Devotions
  • Prayers to Our Lady
  • Prayers to the Angels
  • Prayers to the Saints
  • Prayers of the Saints
  • Prayers from Scripture
  •  Seasonal Prayers
  • Latin Prayers and Hymns
  • Helps for Spiritual Growth
  • Catholic Beliefs and Practices
I was particularly impressed with the sections of this book that included prayers to the Blessed Mother and the prayers to and by the saints.  In the section on the Blessed mother I like the scriptural explanation of the mysteries of the Rosary.  I think this is done better than in other prayer books I have.  The section on prayers to the saints is filled with prayers for all different situations and needs. The prayers by the Saints is a beautiful variety of prayers written by the saints. I found several prayers in that section that I know are destined to become favorite prayers.

There is a section with Latin prayers and hymns, but the English translation is not given alongside the Latin prayers as you often find in other prayer books.  I'm used to seeing the English translation next to the Latin so it struck me as a bit odd, but I suppose when the compiled the book they thought it better to not repeat prayers that were already elsewhere in the book in English.

I like the examination of conscience that is found in this book.  It is very much like the one in the Mother Love prayer book which presents questions by commandment, only in Queen of the Apostles, the examination is more modern, which I like.

The prayer book comes with a dedication page which makes it suitable for gift giving.  As I read through this book I kept thinking that it would make a great gift for someone who has just gone through RCIA since it offers not only a lot of great prayers, but also a section on Catholic beliefs and practices.  As a convert, I know I would have found a book like this immensely helpful right after I was received into the Church.  This would also be great as a Confirmation gift.

I was provided with a review copy of Queen of Apostles Prayer Book by the publisher, Pauline Books in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Pauline Books & Media to learn more about this book or to purchase a copy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Small Successes February 12th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up...

1.  I've been blogging more.  Months ago I realized that my blog was rather neglected even though I had things I wanted to write about.  But, I came up with a litany of excuses and distractions rather than actually sit down and blog.  FaceBook seems to be the blog's #1 enemy.  I log on to FaceBook and POOF! just like that I've lost a nice chunk of time.  I am seriously considering giving it up for Lent or limiting myself to using it for only 15 minutes a day, or possibly only using it to post links to new blog posts.  I haven't decided.  I'm still trying to figure out what I need to do.

2.  You can't tell it now, but I've actually written a lot of book reviews this past week.  I decided that rather than stick with my feast or famine blogging style, that the scheduler for posts could be my friend.  So for the next several weeks, there will be a book review every Monday and Wednesday.  I am hoping I can keep up with that.  I mentioned to Bryan the other day that I've noticed that I find time to read books, but then never get around to writing the review.  Again,  another indicator that I've spent too much of my precious little free time on FaceBook.

3.  I am slowly but surely working to detach myself from more material items.  I need to remove a lot of visual noise (clutter) from my home.  I came across this article [on FaceBook, of course...I really need to give it up for Lent, don't I?] recently and shared it with my husband.  It's kind of where I am with regards to the excessive amounts of things we have.   I wouldn't say I'm depressed about the copious amounts of stuff, but it does leave me feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  It's a problem and I think the messes we frequently have in the house are directly related to the copious amount of things we have.

4. Anthony has branched out to eating more solid foods.  He had been eating little bits of bread and those baby puffs for the past couple of weeks, but now he will also pick up and eat peas, hash browns, pancake, and pasta.  He really seems to enjoy eating table foods.  He acts like a crazed wild animal who hasn't seen food in days whenever we put some table food on his tray.  He goes nuts trying to get it all in his mouth.  He's such a funny baby.

5. Katie has learned several new words this week.  At long last, she now says up and down.  She came out with a few more words like baptize,  but I can't recall the rest of them at the moment.  She also learned how to fasten a snap.  And the best part about that was no one even taught her how to do it.  She learned it all by herself.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Work In Progress

At Mass this morning the homily struck a chord with me and I was thinking about what Father had said on my drive home.  He talked about how each and every one of us is a work in progress.  We're all a project that won't be completed until the end. Think about that.  How often am I trying to rush to perfection only to find that I'm more like the proverbial frog in an algebra word problem who is trying to get out of a well only to fall back a few feet every time it makes some headway getting toward the top.  I frequently find that I'm annoyed with myself for not being able to grasp perfection.  That annoyance, is pride.  And I'd go further to say it's because I often feel like attaining perfection is something I should be able to do on my own.  But I can't, because it's not something I can do by myself.  It requires grace, which I cannot fashion on my own.

So on my drive home it just sort of hit me.  This work in progress that each of us is as we strive for perfection is really a lot like a fixer upper or money pit house.  When you bought the house you knew there was going to be a fair amount of work involved.  You may have even thought you could do all the repairs yourself.  And maybe, to start, you were able to do a lot of the projects on your own.  But what about when you discover that the house has some issues that aren't just cosmetic easy fixes like needing a coat of paint or a new tile floor?  You find out the house has termites or some other problem that threatens the structure of the house.  You need help; you can't do this job on your own.  So you acknowledge your limitations and call in a professional to get the job done.  It's a hit to your pride and probably your pocket because this was your project and you were the one who was going to take this fixer-upper and transform it into something perfect.

If you look at yourself as that fixer upper house, it's easy to see how our frustrations at our own imperfections is pride.  And what is that pride doing?  Is it helping you reach perfection, or is it like a collapsing foundation?  You can't fix that foundation without help and you can't fix a broken soul without help either.  We really are that broken down house, each and every one of us.  Some of us may fly towards perfection faster than others, but we can't realistically expect to become perfect on our own.  No, we need a professional, we need a Savior.

Thinking more along the lines of that fixer upper house, I like to think about how I was at the onset of this faith journey.  I can recall sitting there thinking I really didn't have any vices or any real sins.  And at some point I came to understand that I was essentially in denial. Wanting to be perfect, I was happy to stuff everything that I thought would shatter that illusion of perfection into a closet.  In short, I was ok with just lying to myself.  But I came to a point where I couldn't reconcile my perceived perfection against the words of 1 John 1:8-10.  If we say, "We are without sin," we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, "We have not sinned," we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.   Once I stopped deceiving myself, I took a look at myself, the fixer upper and realized there was some work to do.  There was more than just some minor cosmetic issues that needed attention.  There were big problems, too, like termites and structural issues.  Once the big problems were gone, I thought for a short time that I was pretty close to attaining that sought after perfection (Why hello, Pride!  What are you doing over there?).  It didn't take long for me to realize that perfection isn't something easily won.

Like that frog in the algebra problem, every time I feel like I'm getting closer to getting out of the well, I slide back.  Why?  Because just like the fixer upper house, every time I make a needed repair, another issue, which I hadn't noticed needed fixing before, crops up.  And so, looking at it like this, I came to realize that maybe I don't need to beat myself up when I take note of how far I am from perfect.  Maybe when I draw my final breath I will have come close to perfection, but until then, I will remain a work in progress and for today, I'm ok with that.

Book Review: Saint Thomas More

Pauline Kids has a great series of chapter books about the saints called Encounter the Saints.  I've had the pleasure of reviewing several of the titles from this series and I'm never disappointed in the stories.  The books are enjoyable to read whether you're a middle elementary school aged child or an adult.  The most recent title I've read in this series is Saint Thomas More.

Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated with Tudor history and St. Thomas More has always been one of those figures that I find inspiring.  In this book, Saint Thomas More is brought to life and we see him under a spotlight that you don't often encounter when reading about this period of history.

Although the story of St. Thomas More took place over 400 years ago, his story is so very relevant to Catholics today.  His courage, and convictions and refusal to back down from what he knew was right before God is a powerful message for us to recall when faced with a culture that is oftentimes add odds with Catholicism.  Given how our government has been lobbying attacks on the Catholic conscience in present times, this book is quite timely and a great source of inspiration for Catholic youth.

The book is ideal for readers in the third to eighth grade age range.  The story is well written and will keep young readers turning pages.  Throughout the book, readers will find some greyscale illustrations.  The illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book so children who feel they're beyond the point of reading books with pictures shouldn't be too off put by the illustrations.  The book contains a glossary which is helpful for words and terminology that are likely to be foreign to children who are not steeped in Tudor history, as well as other faith related terms that they might not be familiar with.

This title is certainly another great add to the Encounter the Saint series.  My eldest daughter read the book and enjoyed it and when she was done, her younger sister was waiting for her turn to read it, too.

I was provided with a review copy of Saint Thomas More by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to purchase a copy or take a peek inside this book.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Review: The Holy Land

A while back I received a copy of Fr. Mitch Pacwa's The Holy Land An Armchair Pilgrimage.  The book is essentially a tour of the Holy Land in pictures and commentary.  It's really a beautiful book that will leave you wanting to visit the Holy Land to see all of these amazing places in person.

Throughout the book you'll find loads of full color photographs of places and artwork found in the Holy Land.  Fr. Mitch's commentary gives the reader background on the historical significance of the place that is being visited as well as scriptural tie ins.  Throughout the book you will also find many prayers that will allow for further reflection. In short, the book is just really well done.  His experience of having led many tours of the Holy Land shines through in this book.

The book is filled with beautiful and inspiring photographs all of which tie in nicely with the text and the scriptural accounts that are presented alongside them.  I only wish that this book contained more photos.  There were several sections where I would have liked to have seen more pictures of an area that was being presented.

The book takes you on a tour by region and is separated into the follow eight sections:

  • Bethlehem and Ein Karem
  • Jerusalem Old City
  • Mount of Olives
  • East of Jerusalem
  • Mount Zion
  • North of Jerusalem
  • Western Galilee
  • The Sea of Galilee
The sections of the book are broken down into chapters, the number of which varies by region.  In all, there are thirty chapters of beautiful pictures, art, commentary, and scriptural and historical background.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.  I initially read this book over the course of several weeks last year during Lent and I felt like it offered a lot of opportunities for reflection.

I was provided with a review copy of The Holy Land by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.  You can learn more about this title or purchase a copy at Amazon.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Patience, Penance and Spills

I don't think it's any secret that I struggle with patience.  Patience has really never been my strong suit.  It's something that I've really had to work at over the past several years.  Who am I kidding?  I've had to work on it pretty much all my life, but it's only been in recent years that I've been making a concerted effort to actually cultivate patience.  And my cultivation of this patience at times is about as successful as trying to grow a tomato plant in soil soaked with deck cleaner.

The weeks leading up to last Saturday were a bit on the trying side.  Homeschooling had hit that point that you often hear people talk about where everyone hits this winter slump and no one wants to do work.  I didn't feel like grading anything and when I did get around to doing it, I found myself growing impatient with the kids who took advantage of my laxity and hadn't done all of their work.  Then we all got sick (except Madeline) just before Bryan had a business trip.  By the time I successfully made it to confession last Saturday, lack of patience was topping my list.  In fact, I regarded my impatience as being enough to add the word exceedingly in front of it.  Good job, Karen, toss out those awesome modifiers!

So do you want to know what kind of penance I managed to walk myself into thanks to my love of descriptive language?  Father decided to pick out the word exceedingly and use it, too.  I think I almost fell over when he told me that my penance would be to pray to become exceedingly patient.  Now I'm not someone to ever question the priest about the penance.  I'm sure there are some who probably do, but I never have, until last Saturday.  I couldn't help but ask him if he knew what he was asking me to do.  The response was him laughing and telling me that he did.  Arrgh!  I told him that I knew that I was going to have loads of opportunities to practice patience now since I know full well what happens when you pray for patience.  You don't get the actual patience. No, no, you get opportunities to BE patient.  They are not, in fact, one in the same.

Do you know what happens when you spend several days praying to become exceedingly patient?  Let me tell you.  You get a super-sized dose of opportunities to be patient lobbed at you from all directions.  Child crying for no apparent reason? Check!  Bickering kids to set your nerves on edge?  Got it!  Dog barking as soon as the baby finally falls asleep?  Yup!  Spills?  We got 'em!

What's that about spills?  They don't require much patience, right?  Ha!  Did I mention that I mopped the floor on Saturday?  So for the first time in I don't know how long I mopped the kitchen floor.  I held my breath for the first 24 hours because that's when spills usually happen.  We made it over 48 hours before the spill happened.  Not sure how she did it, but Ellie was being nice and getting Katie a cup of apple juice and somehow she dropped a full bottle of apple juice on the floor.  She stood there in shock as the juice glugged out copious amounts of apple juice  all over the floor and under the oven.  I had to tell her to pick up the bottle before all 96 ounces ended up on the floor.  Somehow, I managed to be patient.  Crazy, right?  Cleaning up this spill was more involved than a normal spill.  The juice was in all sorts of crevices on the oven that I didn't know about prior to the spill, and it even dripped into a cabinet.  But the important thing is I stayed calm and was patient.

The next day I had a new spiller in town.  Katie was playing with her klip klop ponies and spilled apple juice all over the table, herself and a little on the floor.  I got it cleaned up quickly and was happy that none of Ellie's school books got hit.  Spill #2 conquered.  Five minutes and a new outfit for Katie later spill #3 happened.  It was a repeat of the previous one.  The blasted ponies she was playing with behind the cup led to another spill.  Deep breath. Exhale. Wipe up mess. Get a new shirt for Katie while my granola in my yogurt goes soggy.  Another hurdle cleared.

Today I realized that the first three spills were just a warm up act.  Somehow, Ellie managed to spill milk and while it wasn't a lot, she hit all of the bottom kitchen cabinets, a large area of the floor, and the oven and all it's annoying crevices, along with her hair and her shirt.  Don't ask.  I have no idea and I don't even think I want to know.

Not sure if I've ever mentioned it before or not, but I absolutely hate the smell of white milk.  I can't stand being around it unless it's in cereal.  So there I was this afternoon, wiping up splatters of white milk and thinking about that penance of praying to be exceedingly patient.  It was in that moment that I realized that this really wasn't an easy penance at all. I knew within seconds of being told what my penance was that it was going to have an element of difficulty, I just didn't realize that it was going to require so much cleaning.  As I was on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor wiping up spills for the fourth time in four days I couldn't help but wonder if Father had any idea just how far reaching this penance would go.  Who knows, maybe one of these days I'll be patient or perhaps even exceedingly patient.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Super Sharpener Begets Pointy Pencils

So about eighteen months ago I was sent a pencil sharpener to review on the blog.  And then life happened literally.  The sharpener arrived at my house at right around the same time I found out we were expecting.  The energy to blog was hardly there and the sharpener hung out on my kitchen counter reminding me daily that I need to write a review.  Then the baby was born and well, it's been a whirlwind nine months, but today is the day I write this review!

I've had a lot of pencil sharpeners over the years.  I've killed more electric sharpeners than I can remember.  I have no luck with the electric ones.  They seize up on me and some of them are just awesome at breaking the pencil points before we even get to use them.  I've had more success with manual sharpeners, but I'm not particularly fond of sharpening a dozen pencils with those little hand sharpeners.  I always end up either breaking the point or dumping shavings all over the place.  Me and sharpening pencils just don't go together.

As a kid I remember how much I loved sharpening my pencils at school using the cool wall mounted sharpeners that were in every class room.  Those sharpeners rocked!  So imagine my delight when I was given the opportunity to review a sharpener that was just like those school sharpeners.

The sharpeners from classroom friendly supplies make the pointiest pencil points I've ever seen.  So sharp that if Ralphie from A Christmas Story had asked for one of these sharpeners for Christmas instead of a Red Ryder BB gun, everyone would have said "You'll poke your eye out!" instead of saying "You'll shoot your eye out!"  Seriously, if you pull the guard out all the way, this sharpener can give you the sharpest pencil you've ever seen.  It took me a few tries with this sharpener before I figured out how to sharpen a pencil so that it didn't look like the perfect eye gouging weapon.

My kids love this sharpener.  They're happy that all it takes is a couple quick cranks of the sharpener to have a perfect pencil point.  Hardly any effort is required to get a nicely sharpened pencil.

Have I mentioned that this sharpener is pretty quiet, too?  Our electric sharpener is wake the baby loud so using that sharpener isn't an option when the little ones are asleep.  This sharpener is quiet enough that there are no worries that sharpening will wake the baby.  In a classroom setting, this sharpener won't create a disturbance.

The sharpener comes with a clamp to mount it to a table top or counter.  I wasn't overly impressed with the clamp.  It always ended up popping off while we were using it.  I actually find it easier to just hold the sharpener in place when sharpening the pencils.  There is an optional permanent mount available for this sharpener, which is sold separately, but I have no experience with it.  It looks like it might be the solution to having it securely mounted to a table or counter.

Overall, I'd say this is a great sharpener if you're looking for a manual sharpener that does a great job sharpening pencils every time.

I was provided with a free pencil sharpener by Classroom Friendly Supplies in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Classroom Friendly Supplies for more information on their sharpeners.  They come in five different colors so you can find just the right sharpener to suit your homeschool or classroom.

Book Review: Building Blocks of ToB for Tots

Pauline Kids has a new series of board books for preschoolers called Theology of the Body Building Blocks for Tots.  The three books that have been recently released cover the topics of gender differences, self-respect and self-giving in a way that is simply put and easy for children aged 2-5 to understand.  Each of these board books also has a parent page that explains the way in which the story relates to Theology of the Body and how the topic at hand will ties in with laying the foundation of a particular concept whether it be self-respect, gender identity, or self-giving.
In Everybody Has a Body: God Made Boys and Girls, gender differences are explained in a way that little ones will understand.  There is an emphasis on the genders having differences that make them special.
In Every Body Is a Gift: God Made Us To Love, children learn how we use our bodies to show love for others whether it's through making things with our hands, playing games or giving hugs.  Children learn that everyone is a gift and can give of themselves to show love.
In Every Body is Smart: God Helps Me Listen and Choose children learn about how our bodies tell us things and how we have to learn how to respond to those cues properly.  Whether it's exercising self-control at Mass and practicing patience when he or she would like to run an play instead or listening to our body's signals when we're hungry, tired or hurt.

The illustrations for these stories are all cute.  The very young children in the illustrations will make it easy for preschoolers to identify with the story.

Overall, it's a cute series for laying the groundwork of Theology of the Body for small children.

I was provided with review copies of Everybody Has a Body, Every Body is a Gift and Every Body is Smart by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: Before I Sleep

Not too long ago a copy of Carol Gordon Ekster's Before I Sleep I Say Thank You arrived at my house.  The book is about a little boy who is being tucked into bed by his mom.  Instead of saying what you'd probably call standard bedtime prayers, this little boy and his mommy have a bedtime routine that is an adaptation of the St. Ignatius of Loyola's Examen prayer.  I've read through the book several times now and the more the I read it the more brilliant I think it is.

The story is really sweet and thought provoking.  From a parent perspective, I realized that I the same sort of approach I take with my own prayer life can actually be adapted for a child quite easily.  I simply had never thought to do so.  This book was an eye opener for me with regards to how I could help my younger children think about situations and resolve to make changes for the better going forward.  I also like the emphasis this book placed on showing gratitude.  I know I frequently have to remind my children that our prayers shouldn't only consist of asking God for something, but should also include praising Him and thanking Him for those blessings we have received.  A child will encounter this book from an obviously different perspective.  He or she will recognize the familiarity of a bedtime routine that probably resembles his or her own a bit, and be able to see a different way of saying bedtime prayers modeled in the story of this little boy as he gets tucked into bed.

The illustrations in this book are bright and cheerful.  The pictures aren't overly busy, but there is enough detail for little ones to discuss different aspects of the pictures.  My three year old daughter is never content to just listen to the story and glance at the pictures, she always has to look at the details and point things out that she recognizes or finds interesting.  The illustrations were done by Mary Rojas who also illustrated another book which has been a hit with my kindergarten religious ed students, Forever You.

While I've enjoyed reading this book to my three year old daughter, I am most excited about reading this book to my kindergarten religious ed class.  I feel that this book is perfectly suited to their age group and I'm hoping the story will impact them and possibly help transform their bedtime prayer routines.

I'd certainly recommend this book if you're looking to help shake up a tired bedtime prayer routine for something that will help your child have a richer prayer life.

I was provided with a review copy of Before I Sleep by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

Book Review: Tell Me about the Catholic Faith for Small Children

I'm always on the look out for good books that help me to teach small children about our amazing Catholic faith. With two small children at home and a class of kindergarten religious ed kids, I love to find new ways to present the faith to them so it will stick with them.  With Tell Me about the Catholic Faith for Small Children, a wide range of what the Catholic Church teaches is presented on a level that I'd say is best for children ages three through six.

With small children the illustrations in the book are every bit as important as what is written.  The illustrations in this book are beautiful.  They're friendly and approachable illustrations that are vividly colored. The illustrations allow children to easily envisage what is being read to them in the text.  An older child could easily look at this book after having had sections of it read to him or her and be able to look at the pictures and recall what they learned.

The book covers a wide range of topics from Old and New Testament Bible stories, to Church history highlights, which includes introductions to a handful of well-know saints, and a section on what Catholics believe.  This book would give a young Catholic child a good foundation for learning the faith.  The bible stories are simply told and illustrated with several pictures each.  They're perfect for a short lesson which is great if you're dealing with short attention spans or are using the book in a classroom setting where you only have a few minutes for a bible story.  The Church history section covers from early Church history up to saints from our own time period.  The section on what Catholics believe covers the sacraments, with explanations of what each one is, prayers, Christmas, Easter, a trip inside a church and those who serve the church.

In many ways, Tell Me about the Catholic Faith for Small Children is the junior version of the Tell Me about the Catholic Faith book that is for children aged 6 and up which contains a wealth of information.  The book has a useful table of contents and index so you can easily find a specific story or topic.  The book is 93 pages long, so this isn't exactly a book that you're going to sit down and read cover to cover with a small child.

I really like this book and think it offers a great presentation of the Catholic faith.  It's a nicely done book that will appeal to small children with it's simply told stories and beautiful illustrations.  This book would be a great gift idea for a young Catholic child.

I was provided with a review copy of Tell Me about the Catholic Faith for Small Children by Tiber River in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ask Me Something!

Give me something to write about.  Ask me a question in the comments, pick a question, any question, and I'll answer it in a blog post.  Just don't ask me about vomit unless you really want stomach churning details (and pictures, I've got pictures...and you don't want me to have an excuse to use them, or do you?).  So ask away.  Give this blogger some purpose!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On Vomit and Confession

My past week has really been something.  It's the kind of something that I'd choose never to experience again if I were in control of such things and I'd certainly go back and delete it if that were even a possibility.

Last Friday afternoon Anthony started spitting up huge amounts.  So much that I started to question whether there might have been oatmeal in his new box of rice cereal since he was reacting the way he does when he has oatmeal.  The spitting up, which we later realized was vomit, kept happening, and it wasn't until he vomited about two ounces of baby food that I was still in the process of feeding him for dinner that we realized there was something other than just regular spit up going on.  Almost immediately after the disturbing dinnertime display he began vomiting a lot and his color quickly turned very sickly looking.  He was starting to remind us of how Katie looked when she dehydrated from her bout with pneumonia so Bryan ran out and got him pedialyte and we began hydrating him every ten minutes with a few MLs of pedialyte.  After an hour or two he was seeming a bit better, but it was obvious that he wasn't feeling well.

Neither of us was comfortable with the idea of putting him to be in his room, so we set up a playpen in the family room and decided he would stay down there with us until we were certain the vomiting had passed and he was hydrated.  I had kept telling Bryan that I thought I felt sick, too, but he kept telling me that I was just worried about the baby and his impending business trip to Denver.  I figured he was right since I do stress out to the point of feeling ill when he goes away and I was also stressing out about the baby.

Around ten or eleven at night I started getting sick.  By midnight I was vomiting all over the bathroom floor because I had no other choice.  Within minutes Bryan was also sick and once the next wave of feeling sick came around Bryan and I were practically doing synchronized vomiting.  Then Anthony got in on the action and woke up wanting of all things, to be fed and held and neither Bryan and I were in a position to tend to him.  Nursing a baby while succumbing to a nasty stomach virus just isn't possible.

We ended up having to wake Madeline at 1AM and have her come down to take care of the baby and help us as we tried to clean up two bathrooms that were covered in vomit.  An hour or so later Katie woke up and had vomited all over her bed, herself and her carpet.  So Madeline had a new patient.  I tried as best I could to help clean up the mess, but that's not easy when you're also throwing up and running to the bathroom every few minutes.  We got Katie settled and an hour or two later Ellie fell victim to the same horrid fate as the rest of us [except Madeline].

I don't think Madeline got much sleep the rest of the night as she helped her younger siblings and did her best to get the loads and loads of vomit laundry through the washer.  She came through for us in a huge way.  I'm not sure if we would have survived without her.  She kept the baby hydrated, made sure Bryan, the girls and I had drinks, saltines and orange slices.

I'm amazed that the didn't get hit with the stomach bug, too, but we think she may have had it last month.  The day after Christmas she was sick and had very similar symptoms to the rest of us.  She was the only one to get sick with it then.

The timing for this virus was not ideal.  Bryan was getting ready to leave for a business trip and I had loosely planned out my Saturday.  Once I had gotten sick I realized that heading to Mass for the feast day of St. Francis de Sales who has become one of my favorite saints over the past year or two was out.  And going to confession was also out.  Soon enough I realized that there was no way I was able to teach my CCD class on Sunday and there was no way we could go to Mass and share our grotesque stomach bug with everyone else.  Even though we all stopped vomiting by early Saturday morning the fun of horrible body aches, fevers and dizziness were just getting warmed up for their two day stay.  I laid on the couch thinking to myself that labor, strep throat, ear infections, and possibly hand foot and mouth disease were all less miserable.  Of course, that last one is a misery in itself and I'd rather have the stomach bug for a few days than relive a day of hand, foot and mouth disease.

We were mostly all on the mend by very late Sunday night or Monday morning.  Katie and Ellie had some lingering effects for a day or two after, but were doing much better by today.  Anthony, on the other hand, will seem like he's doing just fine and out of nowhere have an explosive diaper.  That I could handle.  But this evening I fed him dinner and then loaded the kids into the car so we could go to confession.  All was going well.  We were there right at 6:00 when confessions begin and I was hopeful that we might not be at the end of a long line since the parking lot hardly had any cars in it.  Then I opened the door to get Anthony and was met with a baby sitting in a puddle of vomit that consisted of all the freshly pureed peas I had just fed him.

I thought maybe the spit up wasn't as bad as I thought but a quick attempt to clean him up with a burp cloth revealed that there was no way I was getting this child out of his seat and standing in a line for confession.  We would have had a slimy green trail following us.  It was that bad.  It was so bad that I took pictures when we got home so I could show Bryan.

As I stood in the cold parking lot completely defeated, I told the girls to get back in the car.  They were more than happy to comply.  I was just left with the feeling that if I didn't need to go to confession when I pulled into the church parking lot, I certainly needed to go now.  Patience had officially left the building.  Inside my head I raised my little white flag of surrender to God, all the while grumbling that I now had a phenomenally bad mess to clean.

When we got home I made the unhappy discovery that Anthony needed bath number two in four hours. The kid was covered in green pea vomit.  Can I shock all of you and tell you that I've bathed Anthony three times in the past two days which is more times than I've bathed him in the past month.  Bryan is much better at washing babies than I am, so I usually propose to him that I'll dry and dress the baby if he washes.  So yes, he's cleaned regularly, just not by me.  I will say that I'm feeling more confident washing him after the last two baths I gave him today.

Once he was cleaned I set about getting his clothes sent down to the laundry room only to discover that the dog decided to try washing them.  Arrgh!  Why are dogs so gross?

The real fun began when I had to pull the carseat out of the van.  That cute cover that can be pulled off for washing so you don't have to remove the harness is a load of crap for people who don't live in reality land.  When junior pukes all over the harness and there's so much vomit that it dribbles out of the car seat and onto the car upholstery, the easy remove seat pad is worthless.  I had lots of choice words and thoughts about the engineers and designers of the Britax Marathon 70-G3.  Ignore my 5 star review of it on Amazon.  I obviously didn't have real world baby disaster experience with the seat when I wrote the review.  My recurring thought was "What genius makes a car seat where the *@&%@*$ harness cannot be removed?!"  It's covered in green pea sludge and the omnipotent owners manual is telling me to "sponge clean" the harness if it needs to be cleaned.  Ok, Britax manual're drunk, you probably don't have any children and have never had to clean up green vomit; it's time to pack it up and go home.

So picture me dear readers at the kitchen sink with a giant car seat sitting on the counter top with the harness, dripping with green oozy grossness hanging out of the bottom of the seat and into the sink so I can wash it with mild soap.  The seat and the fantastic design that does not allow the harness to come out is an occasion of sin, my friends.  Plain and simple.  On the bright side, I kept all the expletives that I had regarding the seat, and it's designers in my head so the kids were at least spared that nice little show.

Madeline had very kindly offered to clean the puddle of green slime off the car upholstery, so that was a huge help.  I was really impressed to see that the got it all up.  I guess she gained some practical life experience this past weekend.

I was going to attempt to put the carseat cover back on the seat tonight and get it back out in the van, but it's not dry.  I hope it will dry sometime this evening so I can get everything back where it belongs.  I'd really like to get to Mass tomorrow morning.  This is one of those times where I wish I didn't keep our spare carseat in Bryan's car.  Since he's out in Denver until tomorrow, my spare seat is sitting over in the Philly airport parking lot.  Some days it just seems like nothing can be easy.  Too bad this happens to be one of those days, right?

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  Bryan will be back and I don't know about you, but I'm confident that it's going to be a vomit free day.  If it's not, I'm going to go and eat a lot of chocolate and have a glass of cranberry wine.

If you made it to the end, thanks for sticking with me.  I promise not to talk so much about vomit next time.  Maybe I'll talk about the upcoming name change for the blog.  Oh and how happy are you that I didn't share any pictures with this story?  I almost did.  Sure they aren't something anyone really wants to see, but the watermark on the picture would have revealed the new name for my blog.
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