Monday, April 29, 2013

Survival Mode Monday

Oh, how I've wished to join in Manual Mode Monday with Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things ever since she started documenting her adventures in manual photography.  (I love her blog!  Go take a look if you haven't before!)  But when I start tinkering with the manual mode on my camera, I get pictures like this, just not quite as in focus...

My skills, not a lack of desire, are the barrier between me and  Manual Mode Monday, though I will continue to read and learn from Sarah's tips... and maybe one day... well, we'll just have to wait and see.  

For now, may I present to you my photo submissions to Survival Mode Monday - a mode forced upon me by the absence of my husband all evening and the scary piles of laundry that are looming large and appear to be engaged in a sit-in - some sort of peaceful protest of filth and wrinkles.  I don't really know what it's all about...  I don't ask.

Survival Mode Monday consisted of the type of dinner that only the Best Mothers in the World make - pizza casserole.  (don't worry, they had salad too.) Followed by tons of backyard scooter time and a new game called "Under Arrested," which as far as I can tell is the sheltered child's version of Cops and Robbers.  Followed by ice cream sundaes and lots of laughs with Shaun the Sheep.  I definitely earned Favorite Mom status (at least until I announced bedtime) and have even laid some of the laundry to rest.  We made it through Monday.

PS. The laundry is pretty bad around here.  My system got away from me during the switch from Winter -to- Spring clothes.  Under these circumstances, a person might adopt a positive-energy mantra to overcome the struggle (Breath. "I ought to do this laundry.  This laundry won't do itself.  I will do this laundry.  It's not even like I have to go out to the well with a washboard.  I have an automated machine... and still it doesn't get done.  Peace.  I will do the laundry piece by peace."  Breath. Repeat.)  I didn't go with the mantra option.  I just threw up my hands and spoke the truth.  Ruth caught on... 

(tip your head sideways, and enjoy!)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Growing a Board Book Library

Twice in the past week I stumbled upon lists of "Must Have Baby Books."  I don't know who's writing these lists, but I'm either Too Cool for School or totally out of the loop, because except for a few obvious classics, we 'aint readin' the stuff on those lists. I prefer to think it's the former.  So, since I've just dubbed myself Little Miss Turns Up Her Nose at Plebian Book Lists, it is altogether fitting and proper (my nod to A. Lincoln... Gettysburg Address Board Book Edition coming  soon to a bookseller near you...) to offer you my thoughts on board books and give you a peek at our board book library... 

I'm not really big on scientific studies on the benefits of reading to babies 'cause I already know it's the thing to do.   I'm really into books, and I'm definitely into cuddling with my babies!  I recently determined that for me personally, one of the most important factors when choosing books for my kids is Can I read this book over and over and not want to tear my hair out?? When I had my first child, this criterion wasn't even on my radar.  But now I see that I wasn't really doing myself any favors by buying random 10 cent board books at the thrift store just because they were ten cents.  Oh my goodness, I bought some trash...  Seven years later, my husband has a job and we are blessed with a "book budget" - we don't really have one, I just made that up! - that's bigger than it was in the 10 cent book days of early motherhood.  I've decided that if I'm going to read to my babies and toddlers it will be books that I think are great.  

I'm not on the lookout for lift-the-flap anything - the plots are often limp, and my babies have plenty of opportunities to lift stuff around the house ("Lift those cinder blocks, move it, move it, move it!)  And I don't intentionally seek out touch-and-feel tomes.  Again, we have a plethora of textured items around our home that are available to children of all ages ("Come get this new textured toy, sweetie... your very own cheese grater!  But wait!  There's more.  If you come over right away, I'll throw in this plush robe for free!")  Ok, back to being serious...I tend to stay away from licensed cartoon character type stuff and anything obviously computer written and illustrated.  But beyond that, "great" is totally subjective - my favorites may not be yours.  I go for clever, quirky stories, delightful artwork, thoughtful (not cheesy) rhymes, and of course, always Classics and Culture, dah-ling.  

I can't defend my list to you.  I can't tell you these are the types of books that will improve your baby's brain power, eye focus, hand-eye-lift-the-flap coordination, gross (or fine) motor skills, sensory awareness, emotional I.Q., or foreign language ability.  Pretty much the only thing I can guarantee is that reading to little ones is joy beyond measure - and I intend to keep it that way around here with our ever-growing Baby Board Book Library.  (note to self: if you don't have any more babies, it's time to stop buying board books.  ok?  ok.)

My Recommendations For a Delightful Baby Board Book Library...

Good Night Gorilla,  Peggy Rathmann
Guess How Much I Love You,   Sam McBratney
Big Red Barn  
Goodnight Moon, both by Margaret Wise Brown
Planting a Rainbow
Eating the Alphabet, both by Lois Ehlert 
(I really enjoy her artwork, check out her other books too!)
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Bill Martin and Eric Carle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
 Hooray for Fish, Lucy Cousins
(fun Cousins-style illustrations - bright, splashy colors - like your grade school poster paint days)
Gossie, Olivier Dunrea
Blue Hat, Green Hat, Sandra Boynton
(Everyone has their favorite Boynton.  This is ours!)
I Love You Through and Through, Bernadette Rossetti Shustak
The Birthday Box, Leslie Patricelli
I Like Vegetables
I Like Fruit, both by Lorena Siminovich
(I like the scrapbook collage style of the pages here.  No plot though, just your basic colors and opposites.)
Bear on a Bike, Stella Blackstone
(such a huge family favorite that we don't even have it anymore... it was worn away to a fine powder by frequent use... sort of.)
 I LOVE LOVE LOVE Clare Beaton felt artwork.  (the kids do too) 
(I *think* that Secret Seahorse and Elusive Moose might be my all-time favorite board books...)
Secret Seahorse, Stella Blackstone and Clare Beaton
Elusive Moose, Joan Gannij and Clare Beaton
How Big is a Pig? Clare Beaton
Who Are you Baby Kangaroo? Stella Blackstone and Clare Beaton
 Cozy Classics (Moby Dick and Pride and Prejudice), Holman and Jack Wang
(read my recent book review here!)
Baby Lit Series, Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver - concepts for babies (counting, opposites, etc...) using the characters and setting from classic novels.  Cute.  The Baby Lit Wuthering Heights: a Weather Primer was my motivation to pick up the real W.H. for the first time since loving it in high school.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewis
Zoo Animals, Brian Wildsmith
Little Pea; Little Hoot; Little Oink, all by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Tip Tip, Dig Dig, Emma Garcia
(Not in board book format yet, but this was another favorite that took so much love from the boys when they were little, it's gone to the great book binder in the sky.  The board book edition comes out in Sept.)
and to satisfy moms who want "educational" without sacrificing lovely...  
My First ABC, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charlie Harpers 123's (love his illustrations)
and more Brian Wildsmith because I love him too...
Brian Wildsmith's ABC
Brian Wildsmith's Opposites (funny/witty illustrations to balance out the inevitable boredom of a Baby Book about Opposites, like the pelican's mouth is "open" because there's a hippo in it!)
 and finally...
These are not board books, but they are worth mentioning.
They are Indestructibles  - a magical miracle type of fabri-paper that can literally be chewed, washed, smashed, trashed... they will stand up to whatever your baby can dish out.
Typically, we try to discourage "mouthing" books, and have always reminded the kids "books are not for chewing on" even when they were just learning how to hold a book at five months old (or whatever).  
But sometimes, you just need to give a kid a book and not have to pay attention to whether it's disintegrating in your newbie reader's mouth.  These are those books.  I usually use them in the car, or in church - times when I'm not really available to read to baby or to train her in proper book handling etiquette. 
I'm pretty sure that all the Indestructible books are text-free.  Those illustrated by Karen Pixton are lovely (pictured here) and those by Jonas Sickler are kind of funky and fun - mostly illustrated versions of popular nursery rhymes.)

-end of list-

And don't forget, board books aren't just for babies...  at least not in in our house:

So, I love books, and I love blog comments!  Let's combine them, shall we?  I'd love to read your thoughts on other great baby board books you've come accross!

Happy Reading!  Love,

Sunday, April 21, 2013

So Be It. A Lesson From My Son.

Two weeks ago our oldest son, Aaron, was hospitalized and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Overwhelmed and grateful.  That's how I feel. Overwhelmed at the speed at which it all happened - from an inquiry visit to the pediatrician to *bam* in the ER, diagnosis, overnight, needles, and tests, and carbs (oh my!)  There's so much to learn and manage, I'm still reeling.  But I'm grateful because the diagnosis was swift (no waiting or wondering) and his condition is treatable.  While it hasn't changed our lives dramatically, it's required some permanent changes to Aaron's daily routine and it has certainly put a great deal of additional responsibility and work on my husband, Russ, and me.  

I haven't written about it yet, or spoken about it much with anyone outside our circle of family and close friends, because I've wanted to avoid giving the impression that I'm complaining about it.  I've been thinking weird things like, "well, I've accepted this so there's no point in hashing it out in front of other people whose lives it doesn't affect."  Christ invites us to "take up our cross" and follow him - he probably could have added, "crosses are hard and you shouldn't complain about it, but you don't have to hide it, or pretend it isn't there."  He certainly didn't try to hide his cross.  As Catholics, we have the opportunity to learn how to "carry our crosses" in an intimate way when we pray the Stations of the Cross or meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.  We have a model for suffering because Christ didn't hide his cross from us. Admittedly, we may often be called to be silent on points of suffering, but not necessarily every time.  To accept something doesn't mean to hide it away.  I have been confusing "acceptance" with "silence" and "sharing" with "complaining."  

Aaron clued me in to my error.  He is willing and happy to speak about his new condition with any interested listener!  He's already using words that I can't believe he's picked up on - pancreas, ketones, glucose.  He can explain a little about the different types of insulin he uses, the acceptable injection sites on his body (stop him if he starts to drop his pants to show you his backside, ok?), and the "free foods" he can eat to his heart's content.  (We've been hard boiling a way more than normal amount  of eggs lately...)  He talks about it a lot.  And he isn't complaining.  

It hit me between the eyes when I was dropping him off at the study center he attends twice a week.  We ran into a parent of his classmate and she casually asked Aaron what he'd been up to.  His cheery reply? "Oh, I've been tucked away in the hospital for a few days."  Tucked away???  He made it sound like a cozy retreat in a countryside bed and breakfast.  

He speaks about it matter-of-factly because it is what it is, and more importantly, it's now a significant and matter-of-fact part of who he is.  Sometimes it's difficult and stressful, but it is what it is, and it's about my son.  Discussing "difficult" and "stressful" doesn't  necessarily mean complaining about it.  (I occasionally *ahem* may start to complain, so stop me when I do.) More importantly though, if I don't speak about what's "difficult" simply because it is so, what message does that send to Aaron?  Um... not a good one.

We can accept our circumstances with grace and greatness of spirit.  We can speak about them with grace, clarity, and thoughtfulness.  We can acknowledge our difficulties with grace and speak about them without apology or feigned cheerfulness.    Acknowledging our difficulties is admitting our reliance on God.  The truth is, our life is changing. God may not offer to prevent these changes or alter this course, but he does offer us grace.  Grace is the "free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God...  the gift that God makes to us of his own life... into our soul... to sanctify it."  (I read it in the Catechism, so I know it's so.  CCC 1996, 1999)  It's by the grace of God that we can accept the unchangeable, often sticky, circumstances in our life and say, "Amen.  So be it."

This is our new reality. It's been stressful and difficult. I'm not complaining.  I'm certainly not tooling for sympathy.  I'm just going to talk  about it because it is what it is and it's about my son.  We've been blessed with our dear and amazing Aaron.  He has diabetes.  We will care for him.  So be it.  

PS - An afterthought - please do not suppose that I have just compared managing diabetes to the sufferings of Christ or even to other families who suffer much more than we at present.  If there was a sliding scale of suffering, our current circumstances would be "trying" - somewhere in between "inconvenient" and "suffering."  My musings took a turn toward human sorrow and suffering in general.  We have certainly offered up prayers of thanksgiving that Aaron's illness is manageable and that he isn't suffering.  And of course my prayers are with families whose sufferings are great, especially as regards the health of their children.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boys and Their 2x4's

And to think that when we first moved in I wanted to throw all this scrap wood away...

I always imagined that when we bought a home that we'd also have a lovely yard.  I don't have a lovely yard, and I've grown accustomed to all that the yard has become as a result of my boys.  Although I used to, now I don't mind the dirt, rocks, twigs (or logs), mounds of grenades pine cones, and scrap wood that the kids haul all over the place.  I'd rather have my crazy creative kids than a pristine yard.  I have to remind myself of this frequently because a tranquil, beautiful yard does sound immensely delightful... I just don't envision it happening any time soon.  I've given myself over to boys and their 2x4's.  

Linking up with Cari at Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursday: Boys.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cozy Classics: a Book Review

So... you know how I'm always on the lookout for great books for my kids???  Who knew my focus would broaden to the Great Books for my baby...

My newest find is the board book series, Cozy Classics, by brothers Holman and Jack Wang.  They're dads so, it's all good.  They get it - a book, even one for a baby, has to hold the attention of the parents or else it's rubbish.  Cozy Classics do just that because they are the classics that have stood the tests of time, trends, and literary treatises.  

In these first two books of the series, the stories of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Herman Melville's Moby Dick Moby Dick  are told in just 12 words each.  (Trust me, it works.)  The real genius though, is in the needle felted illustrations that are a unique combination of adorable and artistic.  Lighting, scenery, facial expressions, accessories - it's all there.  Babies can't help but love them (or lick them, in Clare's case), and parents certainly won't enjoy them any less(though you'll probably have the necessary self control to withstand the temptation to taste the cardboard pages.) I dare you to find a mom or dad who can't get into these sweet baby classics!  Who can resist living the adventure of Moby Dick or the romantic anticipation of Pride and Prejudice in a few cozy minutes on the couch with your baby curled up in your lap!

(images from Cozy Classics Moby Dick and Pride and Prejudice, by Holman Wang and Jack Wang.
Simply Read Books, 2012)
Classic stories to share with your kids?  Yes, please.  Handcrafted, delightful and well-done artwork - a testament to the fact that babies can appreciate, and in fact, deserve, real art?  Absolutely.  Holman Wang states, "Unlike Barney and Dora, Moby Dick’s Ishmael and Pride & Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett are characters that children will never outgrow."  Amen to that.  The only downside to all this fabulousness is that even with Amazon Prime, you don't get your books for a couple of weeks.  Patience.  They will come.  (and you can pre-order the other 2013 releases while you wait!  I have my eye on Les Miserables, Oliver Twist, and Jane Eyre.)

Thank you, Mr.'s Wang for these unique and  absolutely enjoyable works of art and for believing that even little ones deserve good literature!  Your work enriches what so many of us parents already strive to do - introduce even our young young children to the best of what they have to look forward to - in literature and in life!  

Further food for thought... my older kids like the books too!  While I have no intention of reading the original Moby Dick with my children any time soon, now they at least know who Herman Melville, Ishmael, and Ahab are; they know of Ahab's obsession and its role in the fate of the Pequod. And occasionally you'll hear someone yell in a distant part of the house, "Have ye seen the Great White?!?!   Thar she blows!"  It's cool to have kids who get literary references that are (sadly) used with less frequency and relevance.  Promote the classics!  Start young!  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Theme Thursday: Grow

It's easy to get back into blogging after taking a week off when you can dash outside, shoot a couple pictures, throw 'em up here, and call it a post! 

So here we go...

Thanks Cari, for hosting Theme Thursday...  "grow" keeps me not minding the rain so much and gives us a happy glimpse of what's to come!  

I knew I wanted to post a picture of my "Autumn Joy," but I didn't know the fancy-shmancy official name until I spotted it over at Mary's!  So may I present for your consideration, some front yard sedum.  

it's a wonder our gardens survive at all with all the little boy activity that takes place amidst them...

I couldn't quite get the picture I wanted to capture how pretty this was - the leaves were holding enormous rain drops - the drops were so huge they were bulging up over the tops like rounded balls - you know, that whole cohesive property of water in action.  This was the best I could get + a dash of "saturation" in ipiccy :)  
Head over to Clan Donaldson for other fine "growing" things :)  

Friday, April 5, 2013

7 Quick Takes (including 3 Things!)

7 Quick Takes (including 3 Things to Love about Catholicism)
(thanks to Jen and Micaela for inviting us linkers!)

"Spring Break" 2013 ROCKED!
Today's the last day of our "Spring Break."  I got to SLEEP IN every day this week (thanks, Babe!)  And although we did squeeze in a few lessons every day - we mostly laid low and had at-home fun.  Lots of Legos, puzzles, catching up on Art and Music, and even outside fun in the sun.  It was just what I had hoped for after the cRaZy BuSy month of March we had. 

Some of how we spent our Spring Break: 
(we're saving the wild parties and bikini beaches until next year... when they're a little older)  ;)  

My husband and I are going out tonight!  Usually our dates are a quick dinner somewhere and then Target (or other errands that are easier to get done without the kiddos.  A little lame, but it's efficient and at least we're together!)  But tonight is a date date.  Dinner and a show.  Well, it's a stand up comedian.  
I've been stressing over whether or not I would order an adult beverage at dinner - would it loosen me up to enjoy the act more, or would it put me to sleep?  The second is probably more likely, since the show does start practically after my bedtime.  To avoid all confusion about tonight's adult beverage consumption, I just had a beer at nap time and am set :)

I thought the Shackleton Craze of March 2013 was over, but apparently not.  Aaron came over to me the other day and said, "Mom.  Look.  I'm the stowaway with Mrs. Chippy."  Kids. I love it when they learn stuff.

Reason to Love Catholicism No. 1...
The Mass
is the Mass is the Mass is the Mass.  No matter where you go.
I don't travel much anymore.  But when I did, and when I do again, I didn't (and I won't) have to search for the local version of my hometown church; I don't have to find a place that most closely fits my usual brand of Christianity for Sunday worship.  When I go to Mass across the street or in another hemisphere, it is the same.  It is the same Faith, the same Creed, the same prayers and responses, the same Sacrament, the same communal Body of Christ, and the same transubstantiated (is that a real form of the word?) Body and Blood of Christ everywhere the Mass is offered.   Wow.  It is comforting and awe-inspiring at the same time.

My point in pictures:

Haiti and India seem worlds away from where I am... but I know what these people are doing and I know what they believe.  I could feel fairly comfortable here!  

Reason to Love Catholicism No. 2...
Likewise inspiring awe and offering comfort is the Church's longevity.  I hadn't thought about this much until recently when I was reading Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth (a book that I'll write about another time.) While "trying out" different faiths, Dion DiMucci and his wife walked into a evangelical store-front church (no doubt called something like the Second Reformed Church of the Third Old Order of Traditional Modern Day First Reformers!) and she said dryly, "I wonder where this place will be in 2000 years."  Forever a fan of sarcasm, I loved her not-so-subtle nod to the Catholic Church.  It made me think more seriously about what a blessing it is to have a Church that has weathered the "best of times and the worst of times." 
 (I tried to get a picture to prove my point that the Church will be around to weather the challenges of the future, but I didn't get any Google Image results for "Catholic Mass on the Moon."  Shoot.)

Reason to Love Catholicism No 3...
The Communion of Saints
Yet even more awesomeness and comfort.  
Read it straight from the Catechism:
955 "So it is that the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the peace of Christ is in no way interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, this union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods."
962 "We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers" 
and from the Bible:
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."
How grateful I am to have the prayers and encouragement of the saints.  What an honor to pray for those who are close to obtaining heaven, though still undergoing purification.  And what a joyful responsibility we have to pray for each other - "pilgrims" and "wayfarers."  
Man, I hope I'm doing this prayer and pilgrimage thing right because I really want to make it to other side :) 

Don't forget to check out the links up top to read more Quick Takes and Reasons to Love the Faith!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Theme Thursday: Funny

Linking up for the first time with Cari at Clan Donaldson 
for Theme Thursday.  

This week: funny.

The "funny" part is what I said when I came accross this child:
"You KNOW that we don't wear rosaries around our necks.  It's not safe and it's not appropriate.  But... that's funny.  Don't take 'em off until I get a picture!"  

And I couldn't resist adding another... while this picture may not technically be "funny" it does make me smile like crazy every time I look at those sweet cheeks!  

Check out the other funny photos linked up at Clan Donaldson!  
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sewing Stuff...

... Even Though I Know it Will be Grossly Under Appreciated

I love to sew.  Especially cute stuff - like dresses for little girls, baby blankets, toys and dolls.  The first Christmas after we were married, my husband gave me a sewing machine accompanied by a cryptic note that I interpreted to mean he believed this was an investment that would save us money in the long run because now I would be charged with making all of our family's clothes.  He insists that this wasn't his message, but it's still a source of contention between us :)  I barely sew clothes and I don't use my sewing machine to save on essentials!

A couple years ago I had the idea that I would sew saint dolls and simple cloth dolls for my first daughter, Ruth, so that she'd have something homemade and precious to become attached to, love and cherish, and that she would sentimentally save for her own daughter some day.  Well, I made those dolls, but she's not attached and she does not love and cherish them.  I thought I'd try again for her birthday this year... I made her a quilt - small enough for her toddler bed but big enough to transfer to a twin bed.  She won't even put it over her body.  She will only consent to sleeping on top of it.  Similarly, with the matching pillow, she doesn't like the side with the lovely patterns, she'll only sleep with it flipped over onto the flannel backing side.  Why do I even bother?  (I know the answer is it's really because I love to do it.)

I try not to take it personally.  I even thought I'd try again with a new doll.  (my husband heard my plan, and said "will you ever learn??")  Ruth has a resin statue of Our Lady holding the child Jesus in her room that she's taken a special liking to.  It's pretty heavy and has some sharper edges, so you can imagine I'm not crazy about Ruth sleeping with it or setting it on the nearby windowsill at bedtime - because I KNOW that one night it will fall on her in her sleep and cause a concussion or some other form of facial damage possibly requiring future cosmetic surgery.  We made a deal - if she would agree to leave it up on her dresser, I would make her a soft Mary doll that she could take into bed.  Ruth decided on Our Lady of Guadalupe - no doubt stemming from a deep spiritual bond she feels with OLG, stemming from her portrayal of Our Lady for All Saints Day, a costume stemming from the materials I had on hand at the time............  

cute, right?  I thought so!
Aaaaaaanyway... I made Our Lady of Guadalupe for Ruth and St. Clare for Clare (a few-weeks-late birthday gift).  While Our Lady of Guadalupe has found a home in the far corner of Ruth's bed (next to Mumford, the meerkat,) and Clare seems to enjoy chewing on St. Clare, it is as I suspected - I love the dolls more than the girls do.  But I'm willing to give it time.  And I'm willing to set my sights on my next victim... I offered to make a doll for Russ.  Although he said "no thanks" I don't feel like I really need to take him seriously.  After all, that's Ruth's take on all my handmade gifts and it hasn't stopped me yet!

a partially staged photo - it really was nap time, that was a real yawn, but I placed the
statue to best portray previous practices 

...hahahahahahahahaha... in a weird twist of events...

I originally wrote all this during nap time this afternoon.  After nap time, Ruth came downstairs with 5 dolls and Mumford in hand.  Dominic went to gather up the rest of our dolls and this is what transpired...

And then, this...

Maybe my kids have inherited a stich of my creative genius!!

Or, maybe not...

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