Friday, July 25, 2014

7QT: Because photos are easier than typing...

1.

This girl had a birthday (six weeks ago).  Drivers' Ed.  Again.  Pray for us.

2.  

A month ago yesterday.

3.  How is Jill handling it?





4.  Marvelously.


5.  Polly is a wee bit colicky.  I keep saying and hoping it's a wee bit.  Please be just a wee bit.  

Pray for us me.


6.  One month old already!


Her baptism is tomorrow! And so many out-of-town relatives are going to be here! Including her godmother and uncle and newest cousin, Isaac!  17 pound ham!  Maple Bacon Upsidedown Cake!  Chrism!  All the good smells! (Hey!  Our families smell pretty darn good.  Most of the time.)

7.  

One more month and this tall baby of mine goes away to college.

Patrick, Edmund, Jill, Polly, and I are all "helping" him move in.  I'm certain our caravan of characters will make a great first impression on his classmates.  

Pray for him too.

Thanks.

Linking up with Carolyn because she's not at the Edel conference either.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WWRW: A Book Review and a Link Up as usual.



Miss Amy at my library asked me to read The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer.  It's a new Young Adult novel, and I think the Young Adult label works, as much as a general label like Young Adult can.

Selwyn Academy is a school for the creatively gifted.  It is a school of the arts:  dance, theater, music, art, writing, etc.  The students are high-minded intellectuals contemplating truth and beauty, art vs. life, until a reality show comes in and makes contestants of them.  "For Art's Sake" reduces the student population to shilling their skills and faking relationships in exchange for a shot at screen time and scholarship money.

Some of the students fight back.  Amidst an in-depth study of Ezra Pound's The Cantos, Luke, Jackson, Elizabeth, and Ethan (the voice of the novel) create their own underground publication, The Contra-Cantos. In doing so, they uncover bribery among the administration, dishonesty in their teacher, and lose one of their own to the reality show bizniz. (Note my use of tri-colon.  Ethan loves tri-colon.)

Hattemer writes a great story with lots of references to art and literature (love!), but the plot of Vigilante Poets moves clumsily.  The foursome plan, attack, fail.  Plan again, attack again, fail again.   Plan a third time! And so on.  It's a lengthy book and some parts are downright tedious.

Other parts are exquisitely written.
"But I can also tell you - not from experience but from the glimpses found in day dreams and books and cold hard thought - that once you'be recognized a person as a person, you can start to love that person well.  It's an awful thing to learn, but it's the best thing in the world to know."
Then again, there are some crude jokes as well as rumors that one of the contestants is sleeping her way to the prize money.  (She isn't really, she just needs that prize money so badly, she'll sacrifice her reputation to get it.)

As Ethan says,
"Remember:  this is not a novel, not a memoir, not produced by anyone with artistic skill.  It's just about what happened last year. It's about reality TV, a desperate crush on a ballerina, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise.  But mostly it's about my friends. Please remember: not art, just life." 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WWRW: Two for the Moms



Everybody's talking about The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful.  I first heard of this book by Myquillin Smith over at Conversion Diary and since read it about it on a few WWRW links.

Can you see those coral wedges in the cover photo above?  Those are identical to Susan's coral wedges and they are from Payless Shoe Source.

Did you notice that the chair is missing a leg? It was the very last thing that caught my eye...after I finished reading the whole book.  A stack of old but attractive books is propping up the chair, and on that stack is a plastic dinosaur.

"It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."

There are lots of good takeaway quotes in this book about home decor/organization/spiritual acceptance of one's circumstances.  Smith forces one to really examine the purpose of one's home.

Smith has a gift for thrifting and re-purposing furniture and home accessories.  From the photos, I spied several items that had been rearranged in different rooms.  And of course, I want to rearrange all my furniture and go thrifting, and paint all the things RIGHT NOW!

Smith has great ideas for the budget minded decorator, but she has no advice for the mother of a newborn who is sitting and nursing 98% of the day, and scrambling for personal hygiene and sustenance in between. Survival mode doesn't last forever though.

I should have read this book last summer.

I'm getting lots of inspiration for the future though.  Crazy ideas like tossing out the pecan wood china cabinet with the swirls carved in it (that I hate with every fiber of my being) and either replacing it with a long thin table against the wall with wall-mounted shelves above, or...wait for it...re-painting the Ethan Allen girl's desk complete with hutch (that we got free from someone in the homeschooling co-op) and using that instead.

Maybe I can take some pictures of what I'm talking about and share with you on Friday.

One last thing about The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful, my library did not own it, and the other librarys weren't allowing inter-library loan, SO I had to buy it.  Sight unseen.  Totally worth it too.



I've also been reading My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Collen Carroll Campbell. (Not as quickly as The Nesting Place, because there are no pretty pictures in this book.)

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir is Campbell's autobiography interspersed with biographies of various female saints and the impact they had on her at different points in her life.

I'm not terribly into this book yet, mostly because the only story in that I'm not already familiar with is Campbell's.  Campbell has identified some good "saintly" bios that I have yet to read.  Good book recs are always appreciated here.

Campbell's writing is clear and concise and when I force myself to put down the social media, the YA books, and the homeschooling catalogs, she helps me to focus on the important things. Things more important than furniture placement.


If you wouldn't mind leaving a comment, it would be most appreciated.  Other link-ups require this.  I'm just asking nicely.  :)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Five Baby Favorites for the First Six Weeks

1. Homemade Wipes

I do not use cloth diapers.  I toyed with the idea when I was expecting Jill, but a near and dear friend told me "Jessica, I just don't see you doing it."  Thank you, Kathy, for saving me from my wanna-be crunchy inner hippie with your honesty.

I DO make my own disposable wipes with my very favorite Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Angel Baby Shampoo & Body Wash.  I used these wipes on Jill for the first several months, and have already talked Patrick into sawing rolls of paper towels in half for me.


For one half roll of paper towels, I use this recipe.  If I'm using Kirkland paper towels (and you know I am), I have to multiply everything by 1.5 because Costco is like Texas.  Everything is bigger.  If I went to a Costco in Texas....I can't even...

I find these wipes to be softer, drier, and gentler on baby skin than any store bought wipes.  They are also cheaper and smell delicious.  Not that I would eat them.  I keep the half roll in a gallon size ziploc.

If you follow Earth Mama Angel Baby on IG, they post discount codes every Friday!

2. Baby K'tan Baby Carrier


I posted this out of focus picture on Instagram yesterday.  I have been petitioning St. Anthony to help me find my misplaced Baby K'tan Baby Carrier for weeks now, and the moment I committed to buying a new baby carrier yesterday, the K'Tan turned up.  (Thanks, St. Anthony!)  In the front hall closet of course.  Under the pool bag and the library books, naturally.

I love my ERGO, but it's not practical for anewborn.  I even invested in the infant insert which is like wearing a baby carrier inside a baby carrier, no good for me or the baby here in No Central A/C July.

Truthfully though, our window units are off and the windows are open as we experience yet again the only gorgeous season in Chicago, summer, high of 75.

3. Starbucks Refreshers


I picked these up before Polly was born, knowing some excruciatingly exhausting days were in my future.  I loathe coffee, and under normal circumstances, I loathe the soul-sucking corporation of Starbucks.  I much prefer locally owned Funky Java if I have to partake of the bitter coffee bean.

Starbucks Refreshers are made with green coffee.  I won't say they taste good, but they don't taste like coffee either, so that's something.  They help me power through when Jill and Polly double-team me with bouts of sleeplessness.

I might re-invest in the Zipfizz too.  It's expensive, but it works.

4.  Fiber One Bars


In the first six weeks of newborn life, I need food I can throw in my mouth.  Hopefully, food that is not always jalapeno kettle chips or handfuls of chocolate chips.

Enter the Fiber One bar.  It tastes like a chewy chocolate chip granola bar, and it's not half bad for you either.  Takes the hangry away for a few hours.

5.  Lily Jade Baby Bag

I used my Vera Bradley birthday coupon to pick up this sweet bag. (40% off - KaChing)
 Did you know VB sells bags that aren't fabric?  My mother didn't.

It's a nice size tote, big enough to hold all the things a mother of many needs on her person.  However, it does not zip, and it only has one teensy interior pocket - also non-zipping.

So I started looking for a diaper bag insert thing.  You know, like the guts of a bag with good organization, but sold separately.

I checked out Etsy, but those organizers cost more than my tote, so I ended up ordering from Lily Jade.
I got the red baby bag in medium.  It ZIPS!  And has lots of pocketses! And it's washable!

Hey Mr. Postman, please bring it soon, because every time someone needs my keys or a tissue, I stick my arm in my tote up to my elbow and swirl it around like James Herriot turning a breech calf.

You didn't need that image.  My apologies.

Linking up with Heather (eventually) for Five Favorites.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WWRW: Five for Summer Reading


I've been tearing through the 2015 Caudill nominees and here are soundbites about five that I've read recently.

1.

Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow is set in post WWII Russia, all the German shepherds and pretty much all the dogs in Russia have been destroyed.  Anti-German sentiment still runs high, but a fatherless family with three kids risks everything to save a German shepherd found in the forest.

This story starts out grim but turned out much less dark than I anticipated.  In fact, the ending was downright pleasant.  Plus, it's always interesting to read yet another perspective on World War II.

2.

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby is The Invention of Hugo Cabret meets Oliver Twist and A Little Princess.  The Clockwork Three includes Frederick the orphan apprenticed to a clockmaker who is secretly making an automaton, a mechanical man, in the basement of his master's shop, Hannah, a servant in the grand hotel who by a lucky turn of events becomes the personal assistant to the wealthy Madame Pomeroy, and Giuseppe, a talented violinist who owes everything to the evil "Fagin" in charge of all the buskers.

Part steampunk, part fairy tale, part depressing Dickensian novel, The Clockwork Three is a mesmerizing tale or three whose plotlines all cross and become united at the end. Madame Pomeroy is a medium at a seance invoking the dead and she does a reading with tarot cards, and there is quite a bit of violence, lots of beatings, locking young boys in a cellar full of rats, and a murder threat hanging over the local man of the cloth.  Definitely for the mature student.

3.

Ungifted by Gordon Korman.  What would happen if a hyper possibly ADD kid accidentally caused a disatrous accident at his middle school and when he got caught by the superintendent his name was inadvertently added to the list of kids to be transferred to the local school for the gifted and talented?

Donovan Curtis may not be a genius on paper, but his impact on the Academy for Scholastic Distinction and its students is undeniable.  Not only does he change the students and the way they approach problems and take risks, but Donovan grows in sensitivity, protecting these nerds from ridicule from his homeboys back at Hardcastle Middle School.

4.

Tuesdays at the Castle by one of my favorite authors, Jessica Day George, is an adventure in a land of royalty and wizards, but in this story the Castle Glower itself is an important character.  Also of note is the loving pair of parents (the king and queen), and the three royal offspring who love and respect each other (even if they don't always agree).  A fun read for any competent reader.

5.

Never Say Die by Will Hobbs is about a GROLAR bear!  Yes, you read that right.  Part grizzly, part polar bear, this hybrid creature is the result of disappearing ice in the Arctic circle due to global warming.  I thought everyone knew that global warming isn't really a thing, but I digress.

Nick Thrasher is the half-white half-Inuit teen who discovered the grolar when packs of fresh caribou meat were ripped from his back while hunting.  Nick's half brother Ryan contacts him for the first time ever about going on an expedition on the Firth River for a month.

Ryan is thirteen years older than Nick, an expert outdoorsman, and a professional wildlife photographer for National Geographic. Ryan would surely love to snap a cover photo of a grolar.  Ryan and Nick meet disaster pretty early.  The fact that Ryan insisted Nick leave his gun behind is likely to come back to bite them.  But I can't say for certain, since I'm not finished.

Yes, there is a lot of politics mixed into this tale of wilderness survival.  Nick's mother and father were never married.  His father was also an adventurer, and died somewhere in the Himalayas one month after Nick was born, which is just one more reason why I will never mess around in the Himalayas.  If you can stomach the environmental and anti-gun sentiments, this book is appropriate for middle-school and up.

Since I review five books here, I just might link-up my link-up to Heather's Five Favorites, not that these are my favorite books...whatever.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WWRW: What this family is reading


Peter is starting a lot of books but not finishing them.  I think he's giving up too quickly. Sometimes I have to force myself to read the first 100 pages of a book before I fall into it, but he's not taking any advice from me these days.


I referred him to Nick Offerman.  Nick Offerman, that manliest of men, who played Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation did an interview and had many wise things to say on many topics.  His words on books are what stuck in my mind.

"I love a series of books that perpetually fleshes out a world," Offerman said, "like Wendell Berry's Fiction (start with The Memory of Old Jack or Nathan Coulter), The Lord of The Rings, Madeline L'engle's Wrinkle In Time series, The Horatio Hornblower series, Patrick O'Brian's 21-volume Aubrey/Maturin series, The Flashman Papers, The Sharpe series, Little House On The Prairie, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Martin Amis' Dead Babies and Time's Arrow, As I Lay Dying, Michael Pollan's entire catalogue, for a start."

Now, I'm not familiar with all of these titles, but LOTR, L'Engle, Horatio, Patrick O'Brian, and Little House are all stellar picks, so I'm thinking the rest are probably good too, except Dead Babies.  Not going to recommend a book with that title, especially based on the Amazon review.   (Yes, I've read the Faulkner, but I'm not a big Faulkner fan.  Go ahead.  Revoke my English degree.  Just not into Faulkner.)


A week later and I am happy to say that Peter is just finishing The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings for the very first time.  Actually, I'm a little ashamed to say that.  Stupid movies ruining it for the bibliophiles.


Susan:  Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility

She never did read the Anne books, but she's very much into Jane.  I suppose I can deal with that.  (Click here to get the complete collection of Anne books on your Kindle or eReader for only $.99! Yes, it's an affiliate link and I will get about a tenth of a penny for every click-through.)


Lucy:  The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

Come for the cover art, stay for the Romantic-Victorian knock-off.

Susan and Lucy have read quite a few of these Julie Klassen books.  I really need to read one myself.  "Fans of the Janes (Austen and Eyre) won't want to miss it."  High praise. Must check it out.



Edmund:  Rivals by Tim Green

Once upon a time, I heard former NFL player-attorney-best-selling author Tim Green speak about writing for children.  I bought loads of his books at that time.

Tim Green writes sports-themed mysteries and dramas for kids.  Edmund chose this book for himself, and he loves to tell me what page he is on, and what is going on.  His last update included bits about the kid who threw a bean-ball intentionally at the hero. Rather than take the base, the kid at the plate chose to finish the at-bat, which you can do apparently, according to the rules of the game in this book.

He's reading, he's reading at will, and he's enjoying it.



Jill:  All the things but especially Kevin Henkes' Lilly's Big Day (which is about being a flower girl, something that Jill is an expert at now), Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, and Chrysanthemum.


NOT Kevin Henkes' Julius Baby of the World which is everything I cannot stand in a "new baby" book including the words "I hate the baby."


Polly:  Polly, Jill, and I all fit in my mama bear chair like puzzle pieces, so Polly gets to listen in on the ten to a billion books I read aloud every day.  No fears about not following the latest advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics about reading to your newborn.  Not around here, no sir!



Me:  So Big by Edna Ferber...a Grown Up Book!

Want to wow the hospital staff after your next delivery?  Pull out a Pulitzer prize winner for those long nights and early mornings.

Giant and Ice Palace  by Ferber have entertained me in the past and I recommended them to Susan and Lucy for summer reading, so I requested  So Big  from the library a weeks ago.

 So Big is the story of Selina DeJong, on the outskirts of Chicago in the early part of the 20th century.

Beautiful, young Selina was raised in Chicago and many other cities by her widowed gambling gentleman father.  When he dies suddenly of a gunshot wound, she is left alone with two diamonds and nearly $500 cash.  She decides to become a teacher in the rural town of High Prairie.

High Prairie is settled by Dutch vegetable farmers, and though Selina is struck by the back-breaking hard-work of "truck farming" she finds herself doing exactly that after a whirlwind romance.  Disaster strikes, then fortune comes calling, and Selina is able to raise her young son, Dirk, exactly as she likes giving him a college education and a bright future.

Then the novel switches focus from Selina to Dirk, and starts to read like The Great Gatsby as Dirk is entranced by the "plastic" people, the wealthy, the socialites, and starts to feel shame about his roots and the woman who sacrificed everything to get him where he is.

Dirk's education is not over til the very end.  He falls for a girl who is the total package: smart, savvy, talented, successful, and she recognizes that the man she wants must have "scars on his hands," and that probably eliminates Dirk.

Despite the abrupt ending, I thoroughly enjoyed So Big.  Ferber is an excellent writer (Pulitzer prize!) and her historical settings provide a rich backdrop to all of her novels.

I'd say her novels are appropriate for readers of any age, but probably only teens and up are going to be able to savor and appreciate the writing and the history.

Now it's your turn:

Belated Birth Announcement

You're going to want to see the pictures in this post, so please open in your browser.


She's here!  She's been here for a week, having arrived at 11:53pm last Tuesday evening, which was also the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which is also a solemnity so she'll have Meat Friday birthdays whenever her birthday falls on a Friday.  Sometimes, God's plan just screams to be noticed.


I'm not big into birth stories.

But in a nutshell, after fearing repeats of Jill's 20 hour ordeal, we came into this with a lot of anxiety.  A few weeks of prodromal labor, one wasted trip to the hospital the previous Friday, a thunderstorm, tornado sirens, and less than 4 hours of active labor brought us one brunette baby girl WITHOUT pitocin, or any of the other labor speeding up things we needed last time around.

Also, this time: water birth.  Loved it.


We're all pretty excited she's here.

She's named after lots of people.


This lady hangs in our parish church.  The plaque reads "St. Margaret Mary" but we know her as St. Marguerite Marie Alacoque.

My sister Mary was named Mary Margaret after the same lady.


Patrick and I had a completely different middle name picked out.  Every time I said this other name, Patrick corrected my pronunciation.

Tuesday evening, while walking through the endless hallway to the silver elevators to get to the labor and delivery floor, it occurred to me that my mother and the saint of the day share a name, in French.

Before the beheading, before the Crucifixion, they had some nice times together.
Unlike the previous selection, he needed no convincing.  The real miracle was that she was actually born on Tuesday, or she might have ended up with a name her parents can't agree on how to pronounce.  As it stands, her middle name rhymes with Bean, which is one of many nicknames she bears.


Had she been a boy, her bloggy name would have been Eustace, of course, because Eustace's story is my story, and yours...and it's wonderful.

Her bloggy name could have been Daisy, seeing as how her first name is the name of a variety of daisy, but we're sticking with Clive's characters for the duration.

So we will refer to her in this space as Polly.


Or Sleepy Kitty.


Or Mrs. Eyebright.






Blessings without number.
Deo Gratias.

Friday, July 25, 2014

7QT: Because photos are easier than typing...

1.

This girl had a birthday (six weeks ago).  Drivers' Ed.  Again.  Pray for us.

2.  

A month ago yesterday.

3.  How is Jill handling it?





4.  Marvelously.


5.  Polly is a wee bit colicky.  I keep saying and hoping it's a wee bit.  Please be just a wee bit.  

Pray for us me.


6.  One month old already!


Her baptism is tomorrow! And so many out-of-town relatives are going to be here! Including her godmother and uncle and newest cousin, Isaac!  17 pound ham!  Maple Bacon Upsidedown Cake!  Chrism!  All the good smells! (Hey!  Our families smell pretty darn good.  Most of the time.)

7.  

One more month and this tall baby of mine goes away to college.

Patrick, Edmund, Jill, Polly, and I are all "helping" him move in.  I'm certain our caravan of characters will make a great first impression on his classmates.  

Pray for him too.

Thanks.

Linking up with Carolyn because she's not at the Edel conference either.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WWRW: A Book Review and a Link Up as usual.



Miss Amy at my library asked me to read The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer.  It's a new Young Adult novel, and I think the Young Adult label works, as much as a general label like Young Adult can.

Selwyn Academy is a school for the creatively gifted.  It is a school of the arts:  dance, theater, music, art, writing, etc.  The students are high-minded intellectuals contemplating truth and beauty, art vs. life, until a reality show comes in and makes contestants of them.  "For Art's Sake" reduces the student population to shilling their skills and faking relationships in exchange for a shot at screen time and scholarship money.

Some of the students fight back.  Amidst an in-depth study of Ezra Pound's The Cantos, Luke, Jackson, Elizabeth, and Ethan (the voice of the novel) create their own underground publication, The Contra-Cantos. In doing so, they uncover bribery among the administration, dishonesty in their teacher, and lose one of their own to the reality show bizniz. (Note my use of tri-colon.  Ethan loves tri-colon.)

Hattemer writes a great story with lots of references to art and literature (love!), but the plot of Vigilante Poets moves clumsily.  The foursome plan, attack, fail.  Plan again, attack again, fail again.   Plan a third time! And so on.  It's a lengthy book and some parts are downright tedious.

Other parts are exquisitely written.
"But I can also tell you - not from experience but from the glimpses found in day dreams and books and cold hard thought - that once you'be recognized a person as a person, you can start to love that person well.  It's an awful thing to learn, but it's the best thing in the world to know."
Then again, there are some crude jokes as well as rumors that one of the contestants is sleeping her way to the prize money.  (She isn't really, she just needs that prize money so badly, she'll sacrifice her reputation to get it.)

As Ethan says,
"Remember:  this is not a novel, not a memoir, not produced by anyone with artistic skill.  It's just about what happened last year. It's about reality TV, a desperate crush on a ballerina, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise.  But mostly it's about my friends. Please remember: not art, just life." 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WWRW: Two for the Moms



Everybody's talking about The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful.  I first heard of this book by Myquillin Smith over at Conversion Diary and since read it about it on a few WWRW links.

Can you see those coral wedges in the cover photo above?  Those are identical to Susan's coral wedges and they are from Payless Shoe Source.

Did you notice that the chair is missing a leg? It was the very last thing that caught my eye...after I finished reading the whole book.  A stack of old but attractive books is propping up the chair, and on that stack is a plastic dinosaur.

"It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."

There are lots of good takeaway quotes in this book about home decor/organization/spiritual acceptance of one's circumstances.  Smith forces one to really examine the purpose of one's home.

Smith has a gift for thrifting and re-purposing furniture and home accessories.  From the photos, I spied several items that had been rearranged in different rooms.  And of course, I want to rearrange all my furniture and go thrifting, and paint all the things RIGHT NOW!

Smith has great ideas for the budget minded decorator, but she has no advice for the mother of a newborn who is sitting and nursing 98% of the day, and scrambling for personal hygiene and sustenance in between. Survival mode doesn't last forever though.

I should have read this book last summer.

I'm getting lots of inspiration for the future though.  Crazy ideas like tossing out the pecan wood china cabinet with the swirls carved in it (that I hate with every fiber of my being) and either replacing it with a long thin table against the wall with wall-mounted shelves above, or...wait for it...re-painting the Ethan Allen girl's desk complete with hutch (that we got free from someone in the homeschooling co-op) and using that instead.

Maybe I can take some pictures of what I'm talking about and share with you on Friday.

One last thing about The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful, my library did not own it, and the other librarys weren't allowing inter-library loan, SO I had to buy it.  Sight unseen.  Totally worth it too.



I've also been reading My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Collen Carroll Campbell. (Not as quickly as The Nesting Place, because there are no pretty pictures in this book.)

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir is Campbell's autobiography interspersed with biographies of various female saints and the impact they had on her at different points in her life.

I'm not terribly into this book yet, mostly because the only story in that I'm not already familiar with is Campbell's.  Campbell has identified some good "saintly" bios that I have yet to read.  Good book recs are always appreciated here.

Campbell's writing is clear and concise and when I force myself to put down the social media, the YA books, and the homeschooling catalogs, she helps me to focus on the important things. Things more important than furniture placement.


If you wouldn't mind leaving a comment, it would be most appreciated.  Other link-ups require this.  I'm just asking nicely.  :)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Five Baby Favorites for the First Six Weeks

1. Homemade Wipes

I do not use cloth diapers.  I toyed with the idea when I was expecting Jill, but a near and dear friend told me "Jessica, I just don't see you doing it."  Thank you, Kathy, for saving me from my wanna-be crunchy inner hippie with your honesty.

I DO make my own disposable wipes with my very favorite Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Angel Baby Shampoo & Body Wash.  I used these wipes on Jill for the first several months, and have already talked Patrick into sawing rolls of paper towels in half for me.


For one half roll of paper towels, I use this recipe.  If I'm using Kirkland paper towels (and you know I am), I have to multiply everything by 1.5 because Costco is like Texas.  Everything is bigger.  If I went to a Costco in Texas....I can't even...

I find these wipes to be softer, drier, and gentler on baby skin than any store bought wipes.  They are also cheaper and smell delicious.  Not that I would eat them.  I keep the half roll in a gallon size ziploc.

If you follow Earth Mama Angel Baby on IG, they post discount codes every Friday!

2. Baby K'tan Baby Carrier


I posted this out of focus picture on Instagram yesterday.  I have been petitioning St. Anthony to help me find my misplaced Baby K'tan Baby Carrier for weeks now, and the moment I committed to buying a new baby carrier yesterday, the K'Tan turned up.  (Thanks, St. Anthony!)  In the front hall closet of course.  Under the pool bag and the library books, naturally.

I love my ERGO, but it's not practical for anewborn.  I even invested in the infant insert which is like wearing a baby carrier inside a baby carrier, no good for me or the baby here in No Central A/C July.

Truthfully though, our window units are off and the windows are open as we experience yet again the only gorgeous season in Chicago, summer, high of 75.

3. Starbucks Refreshers


I picked these up before Polly was born, knowing some excruciatingly exhausting days were in my future.  I loathe coffee, and under normal circumstances, I loathe the soul-sucking corporation of Starbucks.  I much prefer locally owned Funky Java if I have to partake of the bitter coffee bean.

Starbucks Refreshers are made with green coffee.  I won't say they taste good, but they don't taste like coffee either, so that's something.  They help me power through when Jill and Polly double-team me with bouts of sleeplessness.

I might re-invest in the Zipfizz too.  It's expensive, but it works.

4.  Fiber One Bars


In the first six weeks of newborn life, I need food I can throw in my mouth.  Hopefully, food that is not always jalapeno kettle chips or handfuls of chocolate chips.

Enter the Fiber One bar.  It tastes like a chewy chocolate chip granola bar, and it's not half bad for you either.  Takes the hangry away for a few hours.

5.  Lily Jade Baby Bag

I used my Vera Bradley birthday coupon to pick up this sweet bag. (40% off - KaChing)
 Did you know VB sells bags that aren't fabric?  My mother didn't.

It's a nice size tote, big enough to hold all the things a mother of many needs on her person.  However, it does not zip, and it only has one teensy interior pocket - also non-zipping.

So I started looking for a diaper bag insert thing.  You know, like the guts of a bag with good organization, but sold separately.

I checked out Etsy, but those organizers cost more than my tote, so I ended up ordering from Lily Jade.
I got the red baby bag in medium.  It ZIPS!  And has lots of pocketses! And it's washable!

Hey Mr. Postman, please bring it soon, because every time someone needs my keys or a tissue, I stick my arm in my tote up to my elbow and swirl it around like James Herriot turning a breech calf.

You didn't need that image.  My apologies.

Linking up with Heather (eventually) for Five Favorites.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WWRW: Five for Summer Reading


I've been tearing through the 2015 Caudill nominees and here are soundbites about five that I've read recently.

1.

Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow is set in post WWII Russia, all the German shepherds and pretty much all the dogs in Russia have been destroyed.  Anti-German sentiment still runs high, but a fatherless family with three kids risks everything to save a German shepherd found in the forest.

This story starts out grim but turned out much less dark than I anticipated.  In fact, the ending was downright pleasant.  Plus, it's always interesting to read yet another perspective on World War II.

2.

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby is The Invention of Hugo Cabret meets Oliver Twist and A Little Princess.  The Clockwork Three includes Frederick the orphan apprenticed to a clockmaker who is secretly making an automaton, a mechanical man, in the basement of his master's shop, Hannah, a servant in the grand hotel who by a lucky turn of events becomes the personal assistant to the wealthy Madame Pomeroy, and Giuseppe, a talented violinist who owes everything to the evil "Fagin" in charge of all the buskers.

Part steampunk, part fairy tale, part depressing Dickensian novel, The Clockwork Three is a mesmerizing tale or three whose plotlines all cross and become united at the end. Madame Pomeroy is a medium at a seance invoking the dead and she does a reading with tarot cards, and there is quite a bit of violence, lots of beatings, locking young boys in a cellar full of rats, and a murder threat hanging over the local man of the cloth.  Definitely for the mature student.

3.

Ungifted by Gordon Korman.  What would happen if a hyper possibly ADD kid accidentally caused a disatrous accident at his middle school and when he got caught by the superintendent his name was inadvertently added to the list of kids to be transferred to the local school for the gifted and talented?

Donovan Curtis may not be a genius on paper, but his impact on the Academy for Scholastic Distinction and its students is undeniable.  Not only does he change the students and the way they approach problems and take risks, but Donovan grows in sensitivity, protecting these nerds from ridicule from his homeboys back at Hardcastle Middle School.

4.

Tuesdays at the Castle by one of my favorite authors, Jessica Day George, is an adventure in a land of royalty and wizards, but in this story the Castle Glower itself is an important character.  Also of note is the loving pair of parents (the king and queen), and the three royal offspring who love and respect each other (even if they don't always agree).  A fun read for any competent reader.

5.

Never Say Die by Will Hobbs is about a GROLAR bear!  Yes, you read that right.  Part grizzly, part polar bear, this hybrid creature is the result of disappearing ice in the Arctic circle due to global warming.  I thought everyone knew that global warming isn't really a thing, but I digress.

Nick Thrasher is the half-white half-Inuit teen who discovered the grolar when packs of fresh caribou meat were ripped from his back while hunting.  Nick's half brother Ryan contacts him for the first time ever about going on an expedition on the Firth River for a month.

Ryan is thirteen years older than Nick, an expert outdoorsman, and a professional wildlife photographer for National Geographic. Ryan would surely love to snap a cover photo of a grolar.  Ryan and Nick meet disaster pretty early.  The fact that Ryan insisted Nick leave his gun behind is likely to come back to bite them.  But I can't say for certain, since I'm not finished.

Yes, there is a lot of politics mixed into this tale of wilderness survival.  Nick's mother and father were never married.  His father was also an adventurer, and died somewhere in the Himalayas one month after Nick was born, which is just one more reason why I will never mess around in the Himalayas.  If you can stomach the environmental and anti-gun sentiments, this book is appropriate for middle-school and up.

Since I review five books here, I just might link-up my link-up to Heather's Five Favorites, not that these are my favorite books...whatever.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WWRW: What this family is reading


Peter is starting a lot of books but not finishing them.  I think he's giving up too quickly. Sometimes I have to force myself to read the first 100 pages of a book before I fall into it, but he's not taking any advice from me these days.


I referred him to Nick Offerman.  Nick Offerman, that manliest of men, who played Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation did an interview and had many wise things to say on many topics.  His words on books are what stuck in my mind.

"I love a series of books that perpetually fleshes out a world," Offerman said, "like Wendell Berry's Fiction (start with The Memory of Old Jack or Nathan Coulter), The Lord of The Rings, Madeline L'engle's Wrinkle In Time series, The Horatio Hornblower series, Patrick O'Brian's 21-volume Aubrey/Maturin series, The Flashman Papers, The Sharpe series, Little House On The Prairie, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Martin Amis' Dead Babies and Time's Arrow, As I Lay Dying, Michael Pollan's entire catalogue, for a start."

Now, I'm not familiar with all of these titles, but LOTR, L'Engle, Horatio, Patrick O'Brian, and Little House are all stellar picks, so I'm thinking the rest are probably good too, except Dead Babies.  Not going to recommend a book with that title, especially based on the Amazon review.   (Yes, I've read the Faulkner, but I'm not a big Faulkner fan.  Go ahead.  Revoke my English degree.  Just not into Faulkner.)


A week later and I am happy to say that Peter is just finishing The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings for the very first time.  Actually, I'm a little ashamed to say that.  Stupid movies ruining it for the bibliophiles.


Susan:  Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility

She never did read the Anne books, but she's very much into Jane.  I suppose I can deal with that.  (Click here to get the complete collection of Anne books on your Kindle or eReader for only $.99! Yes, it's an affiliate link and I will get about a tenth of a penny for every click-through.)


Lucy:  The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

Come for the cover art, stay for the Romantic-Victorian knock-off.

Susan and Lucy have read quite a few of these Julie Klassen books.  I really need to read one myself.  "Fans of the Janes (Austen and Eyre) won't want to miss it."  High praise. Must check it out.



Edmund:  Rivals by Tim Green

Once upon a time, I heard former NFL player-attorney-best-selling author Tim Green speak about writing for children.  I bought loads of his books at that time.

Tim Green writes sports-themed mysteries and dramas for kids.  Edmund chose this book for himself, and he loves to tell me what page he is on, and what is going on.  His last update included bits about the kid who threw a bean-ball intentionally at the hero. Rather than take the base, the kid at the plate chose to finish the at-bat, which you can do apparently, according to the rules of the game in this book.

He's reading, he's reading at will, and he's enjoying it.



Jill:  All the things but especially Kevin Henkes' Lilly's Big Day (which is about being a flower girl, something that Jill is an expert at now), Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, and Chrysanthemum.


NOT Kevin Henkes' Julius Baby of the World which is everything I cannot stand in a "new baby" book including the words "I hate the baby."


Polly:  Polly, Jill, and I all fit in my mama bear chair like puzzle pieces, so Polly gets to listen in on the ten to a billion books I read aloud every day.  No fears about not following the latest advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics about reading to your newborn.  Not around here, no sir!



Me:  So Big by Edna Ferber...a Grown Up Book!

Want to wow the hospital staff after your next delivery?  Pull out a Pulitzer prize winner for those long nights and early mornings.

Giant and Ice Palace  by Ferber have entertained me in the past and I recommended them to Susan and Lucy for summer reading, so I requested  So Big  from the library a weeks ago.

 So Big is the story of Selina DeJong, on the outskirts of Chicago in the early part of the 20th century.

Beautiful, young Selina was raised in Chicago and many other cities by her widowed gambling gentleman father.  When he dies suddenly of a gunshot wound, she is left alone with two diamonds and nearly $500 cash.  She decides to become a teacher in the rural town of High Prairie.

High Prairie is settled by Dutch vegetable farmers, and though Selina is struck by the back-breaking hard-work of "truck farming" she finds herself doing exactly that after a whirlwind romance.  Disaster strikes, then fortune comes calling, and Selina is able to raise her young son, Dirk, exactly as she likes giving him a college education and a bright future.

Then the novel switches focus from Selina to Dirk, and starts to read like The Great Gatsby as Dirk is entranced by the "plastic" people, the wealthy, the socialites, and starts to feel shame about his roots and the woman who sacrificed everything to get him where he is.

Dirk's education is not over til the very end.  He falls for a girl who is the total package: smart, savvy, talented, successful, and she recognizes that the man she wants must have "scars on his hands," and that probably eliminates Dirk.

Despite the abrupt ending, I thoroughly enjoyed So Big.  Ferber is an excellent writer (Pulitzer prize!) and her historical settings provide a rich backdrop to all of her novels.

I'd say her novels are appropriate for readers of any age, but probably only teens and up are going to be able to savor and appreciate the writing and the history.

Now it's your turn:

Belated Birth Announcement

You're going to want to see the pictures in this post, so please open in your browser.


She's here!  She's been here for a week, having arrived at 11:53pm last Tuesday evening, which was also the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which is also a solemnity so she'll have Meat Friday birthdays whenever her birthday falls on a Friday.  Sometimes, God's plan just screams to be noticed.


I'm not big into birth stories.

But in a nutshell, after fearing repeats of Jill's 20 hour ordeal, we came into this with a lot of anxiety.  A few weeks of prodromal labor, one wasted trip to the hospital the previous Friday, a thunderstorm, tornado sirens, and less than 4 hours of active labor brought us one brunette baby girl WITHOUT pitocin, or any of the other labor speeding up things we needed last time around.

Also, this time: water birth.  Loved it.


We're all pretty excited she's here.

She's named after lots of people.


This lady hangs in our parish church.  The plaque reads "St. Margaret Mary" but we know her as St. Marguerite Marie Alacoque.

My sister Mary was named Mary Margaret after the same lady.


Patrick and I had a completely different middle name picked out.  Every time I said this other name, Patrick corrected my pronunciation.

Tuesday evening, while walking through the endless hallway to the silver elevators to get to the labor and delivery floor, it occurred to me that my mother and the saint of the day share a name, in French.

Before the beheading, before the Crucifixion, they had some nice times together.
Unlike the previous selection, he needed no convincing.  The real miracle was that she was actually born on Tuesday, or she might have ended up with a name her parents can't agree on how to pronounce.  As it stands, her middle name rhymes with Bean, which is one of many nicknames she bears.


Had she been a boy, her bloggy name would have been Eustace, of course, because Eustace's story is my story, and yours...and it's wonderful.

Her bloggy name could have been Daisy, seeing as how her first name is the name of a variety of daisy, but we're sticking with Clive's characters for the duration.

So we will refer to her in this space as Polly.


Or Sleepy Kitty.


Or Mrs. Eyebright.






Blessings without number.
Deo Gratias.