Quick Takes: I’m So Lazy I’m Just Going to Use Others’ Words Edition

I can’t even remember the last time I popped in to participate in Jen’s Quick Takes, but this seemed like a good way to kick off the first Friday of 2011. Since we are engaged in full Christmas detox and working to get our children back on track after several weeks of sweet binges, late bedtimes, and an out of whack routine, I’m coming up short on words, so I’ve decided to share a few quotes that have recently given me pause (or made me laugh). Enjoy!

*UPDATE: Please keep Jen in your prayers. From her friend, Hallie: “Jen’s been having regular pain in her legs for a while now. Since her clotting disorder puts her at an increased risk for DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) [a, her doctor thought it would be best for her to head to the hospital for an emergency ultrasound of her legs this evening.” In case you were unaware, Jen is pregnant, and pregnancy increases her risk for blood clots. You can read more about her clotting disorder here, and Jen, as she’s able, will be providing updates on Twitter.

“The word ‘epiphany’ means ‘to show forth.’ Epiphanies, both large and small, tend to be private events – yet events with great significance for the public. Trying to share the details with another of an epiphany is fraught with complications. The words are never quite right, and even the most sympathetic listener cannot fully bridge the gap between description and what is was like being there. Most of us keep our personal experiences of the Holy to ourselves. Who would believe it? And who would really understand?
The irony is that epiphanies are made for sharing, [emphasis mine] even as they are impossible to communicate fully.…
 Unlike the poor shepherds, the Magi had to travel a long road; they had to face adversity to reach their goal. It was anything but a romantic, sentimental pilgrimage that we often see in our manger scenes! The experience of the magi reminds us that all who make the tedious journey to the truth will finally encounter it and be changed in the process. They can never go back to a ‘business as usual’ way of life. When we meet Christ and see who he really is, we will never be the same – and only then can we hope to begin to share in his mission.…”

-Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
, 2010 Solemnity of the Epiphany

(HT: Appleseeds)

This made me feel better about sharing my own rambling epiphany recently, which came across as a tad corny when I re-read it but which was true and from the heart. (That sounds corny, too, but, again, it’s true.)


“Authenticity, as the concept was presented [in a self-help book], ended up looking a whole lot like navel-gazing selfishness. But at the time, as viewed through this woman’s lens, it seemed I’d given up far too much of myself for my family. The premise of this woman’s argument was that the key to self-fulfillment–and a low body fat percentage–was my being more me-oriented. Of course, in order for me to be me-oriented, everyone else had to be oriented towards me, as well–an idea which if I thought it could work out I might still be entertaining.

Where did all this self-absorbed navel-gazing leave my husband, Dan? Well, that wasn’t my concern, really. I had a void to fill and a dress to fit into. But as I demanded that things change he (already hugely selfless) was left to pick up the slack. The author in question’s prescription of focusing a laser beam on my own desires (and let’s not kid ourselves–that’s what they were: desires) was crowding out even my husband’s most basic needs. (And if that didn’t make him want to run for the hills, I assure you my many soliloquies about a return to authenticity did.)”
This an excerpt from a must-read post over at Betty Beguiles.


My newly turned 6-year-old, Madeline: It’s not a real elf, you know. [Said to a friend who is telling her about her Elf on the Shelf.]

Friend: Yes, he is. He does magic.

Madeline: When?

Friend: When I’m sleeping.

Madeline: How do you know he does it if you’re asleep?

Friend: Because.

Madeline: Where did you get this elf?

Friend: From the store.

Madeline: Do you really think a real elf can be bought in a store?

Poor friend does not reply.

Madeline: Here’s what you need to do to see if he’s really real. Look at his ears. See if the skin on his ear matches his face. When I sat on Santa’s lap this year, I knew her elf wasn’t real because her ear skin didn’t match her face skin.

That’s my girl – crushing the dreams of little children everywhere. I mean, honestly, I thought she had one more year until the age of reason.


It's a Book“I’ll charge it up when it’s done.”

“You don’t have to. It’s a book, jackass.”
-From It’s a Book

Bibliophile that I am, I’m somewhat surprisingly and very well-pleased with my new Kindle, but I’ll always be loyal to good, old-fashioned books. I thoroughly enjoyed this clever and hilarious picture book our retired librarian neighbor gave us for Christmas. In the story, a donkey (the jackass) is fascinated by his friend’s book and asks questions like, “Can you blog with it?” “Does it need a password?” “How do you scroll down?” It’s a Book is a delightful reminder that there’s nothing quite like the real thing and that despite its dearth of whistles and bells, a good book has the power to allure, to enlighten, to engage, and to entertain – batteries not included or necessary!


“Enjoy that beautiful creature that is your child. Appreciate their wonder and awe, delight with them in their achievements, and be amazed at their thirst for knowing the world. Watch a movie together, push them on a swing, and savor the time that they are young. And when you tuck them in at night (maybe in their own bed!) tell them you love them.”
-From a helpful post on attachment parenting with older children

Personally, I predict I will spend the year falling down and getting up, with (I hope) a bit of progress due entirely to the grace of God. By year’s end 2011, I expect to be still disappointing most people, including myself.
My New Year’s wish is that my readers have a living and lasting encounter with Jesus Christ that leaves them forever changed.”
-An excerpt from Mark Shea’s conversational and honest predictions and wishes for 2011.
Read the rest of the Inside Catholic staff’s predictions and wishes for 2011.

I loved the way books looked, loved the way books smelled, loved that books made me forget. My favorites were The Diary of Anne Frank, The Yearling, Uncle Tom’s Cabin: tales of grotesque cruelty and unbearable loss. That was precisely why I liked them. Even back then I understood the real purpose of literature. I didn’t want to hear that people lived happily ever after. I wanted to know that other people suffered, too.”
-From Heather King’s Parched
Perhaps this helps to explain my recent obsession with memoirs such as Parched. Reading here’s-my-raw-and-bleeding-hemorrhaging-heart-books like this makes my life seem mighty peachy.

Have a good weekend! Jen, thanks for hosting!

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Books Read in 2010

Happy New Year!

I’m still working on ferret out the perfect word to embrace in 2011. I’ve particularly enjoyed these words/posts from others this year: mindful, enough, harmony, and Eucharisteo. Everybody seems to have their act together more than I do. Ah, but I’m not supposed to be comparing.

No word yet, but I do have a saint for 2011, thanks to Jen’s nifty saint name generator. My spiritual mentor for 2011 is none other than Saint Teresa Avila. I know assigning me her was based on some random code, but it seemed fitting. I used one of her prayers to end my book, which, yes, will finally be published sometime in 2011 – probably in the fall. Likewise, when I followed the link from the saint’s name generator to further info about St. Teresa, a lot of what was said about her resonated with me, and I plan on reading more about the Doctor of the Church to help me come up with a word for 2011. Stay tuned.

As I was reading about Saint Teresa, it struck me how cool it is about to have all of these saints to turn to when we’re trying to come up with the right word for the year, a deeper prayer life, or the sense that we’re not the only ones who sometimes need to be hit across the head with a 2×4 to get what God is saying to us. Saints aren’t untouchables or mysterious. They’re often ordinary people we can relate to on some level, and reading about them is so much more satisfying than reading a promissory, prognostic horoscope. I might nod my head to both, thinking, “Wow!  This is so true and just what I needed,” but the saints were real people. Their stories aren’t the product of some witty writer who has a knack for writing what seems specific but is really a bunch of vague hooey that fools the reader into feeling like the words were written just for her. But the saints, well, they are just for us.

Speaking of words and the real point of this post, I’ve a read a fair amount of them this year, although my reading habits have definitely been curbed in recent years as a mom, especially as a homeschooling mom. But I still squeeze in a little bit of book reading almost every day.

I asked for a breadmaker for Christmas from my husband, but apparently he’s starting to feel like a big cliche even though I’m the one asking for appliances and refuses to gift me with anymore domestic gadgets. (When he bought me my Kitchen Aid Standing Mixer a few years ago, I was swooning. What a guy.) So this Christmas he gave me a Kindle instead. No complaints here; however, I was very surprised by the gift, not only because I didn’t get a Mr. Breadman, but because my husband and I had had multiple discussions about how we just weren’t sure if a Kindle would do it for us. We’re both avid readers and love the whole experience a book offers – not just how you immerse yourself in the words and sometimes a whole different world – but we love the way a book feels in our hands, the crisp, clean smell of a new book that reminds us of new beginnings, the musky smell of an old book that’s been in one of our families and read by those who came before us and is evidence that words – especially good, wise ones – are not ephemeral, the soft glow of a reading lamp over the pages (no glaring white screen or eye strain), and the satisfaction of closing a book you’ve finished and slipping it back onto the shelf.

My mom has had a Kindle since her back surgery in the summer of 2009. She was always raving about it (and still is) and said she didn’t miss old-fashioned books at all. During my book writing process, I did find the search function on my mom’s Kindle very helpful. There was a quote I loved from Mere Christianity, but I couldn’t find it in my hard copy. It took my mom all of five seconds to track down the words I wanted to use and reference in my book. I remained skeptical though. I’m never the first to jump on the technology bandwagon (I leave that to my husband), and remember scoffing at my new iPhone last spring. That little gadget has quickly become one of my favorite things. I love that I can easily check in email, carry my grocery list with me on it, teach phonics to my daughters, and carry my calendar everywhere.  So I guess I’m an easy sell once I take the plunge.

Prior to Christmas, I had recently I started considering the benefits of a Kindle while traveling and the fact that I could read PDFs on it. Over the past year, I’ve had several friends ask me to read/edit their book manuscripts. One of them included a rather lengthy novel. I didn’t want to print out a gazillion pages, but reading the book on my computer screen wasn’t enjoyable to me. It felt artificial. That’s the only word I can come up with to describe reading a book on my computer (I’ve avoided really neat sounding e-books for this reason). Furthermore, I typically reading in the evening; yet, I was trying to limit the amount of time I spent on the computer at night because of how it can affect sleep. Not surprisingly, I kept putting off reading the book. I mentioned aloud to my husband that it might be nice to read e-book PDFs on a Kindle someday, but I also stressed that this seemed like a silly reason to splurge on the gadget. (It reminded me of how my dad decided an iPad might be a good gift for him because he would have a bigger screen for Angry Birds. Lucky man that he is he got his iPad. We all chipped in together to get him one – and he won one in a raffle, too. He’s in Angry Bird heaven.)

Well, Dave decided to go ahead and splurge (to the best of my knowledge, he did not see this, and I have to admit how happy I’ve been with the Kindle. I immediately downloaded Heather King’s Parched (per Betty and Melanie’s recommendation) and Son of Hamaas (per Jen’sParched while we were on the road. It’s portable, and it’s surprised me how much it feels and even looks like a book. And I do love the fact that I can read PDFs on it. Oh, and how great it is that I can download classics like Little Women (Oxford World’s Classics) (one book I don’t happen to have in my personal classics collection that I’ve been wanting to read to my girls) for free. A FREE (quasi) book I don’t have to return!  The entire collection of G.K. Chesterton’s greatest works are one buck. One buck!  I’m in book heaven. recommendation). Dave also got me a nifty cover for my Kindle that includes a book light, so the other night I was reading

But it’s not a book, of course, and we’ll still have plenty of the real thing on hand in our home. We even have a room in our new house that the previous owner set up as TV room that we call our library. It’s my favorite room in the house. It’s where I sneak way to on early mornings to read and play. It’s where the Madeline sometimes does her narrations for school. It’s where I read stories aloud to the bigger girls while Mary Elizabeth plays with wooden blocks or empties all those lovely books from the shelf. We’ve banned television or electronics (save listening to music or audio books) from the room. There are some puzzles for little hands, decks of cards stowed away in wicker boxes, hand painted saint dolls, and lots of lots of books.

Come to think of it, every single room except our formal dining room has at least a few books in it. We’ve moved several times over the past few years and during each move, I’ve purged. We have too much stuff, but we can never have too many books (that was one area I disagreed with in Simplicity Parenting when the author suggested having only a few books on hand. Pooey to that, I say!) Truth is, no matter how worn, dog-eared, old or stained a book was, it was designated to the “keep” pile.  I just couldn’t part with any of our books. We’ve put IKEA bookshelves and now beautiful, built-in bookshelves to good use over the years and  have stocked them liberally with literary treasures. Even as a toddlers, our children have a sense that books are special. And since kids are tactile, there’s no way I’m going to toss our books away and rely on the Kindle for all of our reading pleasure. They need to touch and feel books. They need picture books, too. Books where the eye candy is as beautiful as the words. Funny thing is, they don’t seem too interested in my Kindle. It doesn’t seem to hold the same appeal as real books (or my iPhone) for them.

The Kindle is wonderful. It really is. I like it way, way, way more than I ever thought I would, and I’m excited about downloading some audio books from Audible onto it. But I’ll always still need to hold a real book every now and then.

Well, I had every intention of this being a brief, list-inspired post (ha! hope I do a better job at holding myself to my intentions for the New Year), but I guess got a little carried away. I haven’t been in much of a mood to write lately, which is really weird for me, but it felt good to just sling some words out there.

If you’ve actually read this far, congratulations. If not, I understand. Go read a real book or download something new on your Kindle. If you’re looking for ideas, check out my reading list for 2010. The books are listed in no particular order. I wouldn’t strongly endorse every book I read this year, but I haven’t recently read a book that I hated or would tell someone to avoid. I wish I had time to write a review for all of the books, and I’d like to get back to writing more reviews, but I also need to sleep and sleep has been winning lately, which has been a good thing for my family and me.

All in all, it was a good reading year. I also discovered an interesting trend in my reading habits when I perused my list of books (which wasn’t divided into genres as I’ve done here). I used to almost exclusively read fiction, but I seem to be reading more and more nonfiction and memoirs. Not sure what that says about me or my life right now, but it caught my attention.

Please note that some of my 2010 books would fit into several genres, but I tried to place them in the genre that seemed to make the most sense to me. I’ve also read more chapter books aloud to the kids; I realized I didn’t keep track of all of them and when I tried to conjure up more titles, I came up blank.

I have a huge stack of books to read for 2011 as well as several on my wish list that I’ll likely download on my Kindle. I’d love to hear your recommendations. I wish Anne Tyler had a new book coming out; she’s probably one of my favorite fiction authors. If you’ve read anyone who’s Anne Tyler-ish, please do share.

Happy reading!


Unaccustomed Earth: Stories (Vintage Contemporaries)
House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler

Parenting/Mothering/Family Life:

Gift from the Sea: 50th Anniversary EditionMitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison

The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison

A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study with the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola

The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant ChildThe Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child by Alan E. Kazdin

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Soule

Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes 

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne


Small Steps for Catholic Moms
Mother Teresa and Me by Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle

The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul by Lisa Hendey

The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary by Karen Edmisten 

Small Steps for Catholic Moms by Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss

The Secret Diary of Elsabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest by Elisabeth Leseur (in progress)


Lit: A Memoir (P.S.)
The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr

Lit by Mary Karr

Cherry by Mary Karr

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Lift by Kelly Corrigan


The Body Image Workbook: An Eight-Step Program for Learning to Like Your LooksWomen, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

The Body Image Workbook: An Eight-Step Program for Learning to Love Your Looks by Thomas F. Cash

Chapter Book Read Alouds with My Kids (most of which I read as a child):

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Movie Tie-in Edition (rack) (Narnia)The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Stuart Little by E.B. White

 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

 Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lingren

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum

More Magic Treehouse Books than I’d like to think about.

Books (All Old-Fashioned, Not Kindle Downloads) I Received as Christmas Gifts and Plan (Hope!) to Read Soon:

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could LoveOogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin

Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess by Gael Greene

How Big is Your God? by Paul Coutinho

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life by Kathleen Norris

Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horses in Their Lives
The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook
(Yeah, I’m enough of a foodie that I actually like to read cookbooks; sometimes I actually read them more than I use them to cook/bake!)

What about you? Favorite books of 2010? Books on your wish list for 2011? Books you’d use for kindle (as in fire, not Amazon)?

UPDATE: Because this post really wasn’t long enough, I have a few more things to add. First, I totally forgot that I also read Rachel Balducci’s wonderful book, How to Tuck in a Superhero, which is geared toward moms of boys but is a good read for any parent. Really, its central theme is letting your children be whom they were created to be and accepting God’s plan for your family. Rachel writes with hit and humor, and her journalism background shows; the book is a conversation, quick read.

I should have mentioned as well that the links to the Kindle books I mentioned are not actually the Kindle versions of the books. You’ll have to search the Kindle storefront to purchase the Kindle books.

Finally, I forgot to link to the Kindle cover my husband got me, which I love. I got mine in blue, and the book light is perfect for reading while nursing a little one in the night or during night drives when you’re the passenger.


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Parenting by the Book – Part II

Part I, in which I ramble on and on about how you should always trust your own parental instincts over the experts, can be found here. This is Part II where I share some of my favorite parenting/family resources.

This list includes books and resources that I:

A) Just enjoyed reading.

B) Found practical information and/or strategies I actually have implemented in the parenting trenches.

C) Keep around because they remind me that I’m not alone in my struggles – and joys – of being a mother.

D) Return to again and again. (I’ve starred my absolutely favorite, must-read books.)


E) All of the above.

I hope some of these books might be helpful to other parents out there; however, as this beautiful article (HT: Melanie B.) reminded me: it’s far more important to read your child than to read the books.

General baby/toddler care: 

The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears

I’ve given this book as a shower gift to several friends, and everyone who has ever added it to their parenting library has said it’s a helpful resource. You don’t have to read it cover to cover, but it’s handy to have nearby when you want to look something up – like let’s say, dealing with a nursing strike. The book is quite comprehensive covers virtually every topic you might wonder about from newborn to age 5, and I personally like Dr. Sears’s approach to parenting.


Kid Cooperation by Elizabeth Pantley

Actually, I love anything written by Elizabeth Pantley. Thanks to Jessie for introducing me to her long ago.  Pantley is a mother herself and while she has years of experience as a parenting coach, she doesn’t have a lot of professional initials after her name. That’s exactly why I like her so much. She doesn’t ramble on about parenting theories. Instead, she gives you strategies you can apply in your everyday life as a mom. Her writing style is down-to-earth and conversational, and she gets it that reading a book is one thing, but putting it to practice can be difficult (like when she suggests in her sleep book, which I mention below, sometimes putting your wee one down to sleep instead of always holding her but then admits that she rarely followed her own advice when her kids were babies).

The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears: Foreword by Tim Seldin (Pantley)
The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears
* by Elizabeth Pantley

This Pantley’s updated discipline book. Very helpful read!

Taming the Spirited Child: Strategies for Parenting Challenging Children without Breaking their Spirit
by Michael H. Popkin

I don’t own this one, but it was a Godsend when I checked it out from the library a few years ago when I was struggling with a tenacious, spirited child of mine. Part of the reason I liked this book is because the author makes the analogy of taming a horse without breaking its spirit (think: Seabiscuit) and as a former equestrian, I could really relate.

General child development:

 The Child Under Six* by James L. Hymes, Jr.

This one is an older book that my mom-in-law gave to me, and I’m afraid it’s going to be tough to find. But start digging around in thrift stores and at garage sales because this child development classic is fantastic and a fascinating read.

Here’s one of many insightful quotes from the book:  “When you work with humans, you are not dealing with dead, inert matter but with live, changing organisms. Our role is not to provide the engine power. We need not push or prod or punish children into maturing. We guide children, yes. We remove roadblocks from their path. We make sure they have the emotional nourishment so their growth continues. Now and again we have to help all children get back on the main track of growth. These are tremendously important, yet relatively easy jobs. The child himself takes care of the biggest job of all: To grow! The human must grow. He wants to, with the fiercest kind of fervor.”

 How to Really Love Your Child* by Ross Campbell

Loving our littler cherubs comes easily, right? In my heart, I always love my children, but do my actions reveal the kind of unconditional love a child deserves even when her behavior is unlovable? Campbell’s book focuses on concrete ways to show your kids you love them such as giving them focused attention or physical touch. His book was a great reminder for me that saying, “I love you” isn’t always enough.  He also addresses why a healthy marriage is critical to making children feel loved. Every parent should read this book.

Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education* by Shinichi Suzuki

Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent EducationA friend of mine who was way ahead of me in her mothering journey (her daughters were older than I was when I first became pregnant) gave me this book. She inscribed its inside cover with: “As a parent, this is the most influential book I ever read. It’s about much more than music. Hope you enjoy and may we all be ‘nurtured by love.'”  She was right on. We haven’t enrolled any of our children in music lessons yet, but I do hope I’ve taken some of Suzuki’s (this is the Suzuki who developed the Suzuki method for classical music education) advice to heart.

He writes in the book’s postscript: “My heart brims with a desire to help make all children born upon this earth fine human beings, happy people, people of superior ability. My whole life and energies are devoted to this end. This is because of my discovery that every single child, without exception, is born with possibility.”

I share the same belief, and I hope my whole life will be devoted to this end as well. Nurtured by Love explains Suzuki’s beliefs further and gives parents the inspiration to developing their children’s potential.

When Your Child Drives You Crazy* by Eda LShan

Bless you, Mom-in-law for handing me this book when I thought something was wrong with me because my kids’ antics were starting to drive me stark raving mad. I highly recommend this book. It’s not all about your kids driving you crazy. It offers practical advice and insight into why children behave the way you do, which really helps in mitigating the amount of crazies you feel on any given day.

Your Five Year Old: Sunny and Serene
Another older book series that is written for several ages and helps you know what’s “normal” for your child’s particular stage of development by Louise Bates Ames* (Your 1-year-old, Your 2-year-old and so on…). These books have really helped me understand what behavior is appropriate for my children at any given age.

I remember when my 4-year-old became fascinated with poop.  I really was wondering if my dad’s potty humor jokes had ruined her for life. Then I read that this is a very normal part of development for a child her age, and I was relieved that we didn’t have a future proctologist in our midst.  So often parents set themselves and their children up for failure simply by thinking certain behaviors are not appropriate or are just plain weird when, in fact, they are completely normal and even necessary for a child’s growth. These slim volumes shed light on appropriate child development and also include lists of toys and games that are good for the child’s age.

Siblings Without Rivalry* by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

If you’ve got more than one child, get this book. It’s chock full of advice on how to raise siblings who care about one another and gives plenty of advice on how to help everyone get along (most of the time).

Sleep (you know that thing you used to get in limitless amounts, uninterrupted by 3 a.m. cries):

My first child was born wired not to need much sleep. I’m happy to report that at the ripe, old age of five,  she finally sleeps through the night (she actually now takes the title for “best sleeping child” in the family, so if you have an insomniac on your hands, there is hope!), although she still has more energy than plutonium and runs circles around the rest of us on most days (and I’m a pretty high energy person myself). My second was easy. She’s actually fallen asleep during the hiding phase of Hide and Seek (I found her snoozing in a closet), although we have had some sleep issues (e.g., nightmares, etc.) lately. My third daughter still wakes up to nurse, but that’s okay. She’s helping to naturally space my babies. I call that grace after my bout with postpartum depression. Ask and you shall receive. For my babies, it’s ask and you shall nurse.

At any rate, I’ve read a lot of sleep books on the market, but my all-time favorite is – you guessed it –The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. Now the book is a bit of a misnomer because there are still likely to be some bedtime and/or nighttime tears (from you and/or your child), but following her strategies can help you get the sleep you need without feeling like you’ve abandoned your baby. I also own Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers.


Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking by Stephanie O’Dea

I don’t have quite as impassioned of a love affair with my crockpot as the book’s author and creator of the blog A Year of Slow Cooking does, but I have to say my family and I have enjoyed several of the book’s recipes, especially the homemade Chex mix, the Greek Chicken, and Crockpot Applesauce. (I hope to share some of my own crockpot concoctions down the road, if time allows.) The main dishes are great for nights when you won’t have a lot of time to cook. Prep everything in the morning, dump it in, and viola! Dinner’s ready!

Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely

This is a wonderful book that not only includes delicious but practical recipes for busy families, but it also provides complete menus and shopping lists. I’m a big believer in meal planning, and this book does most of the leg work for you.

Whole Foods for the Whole Family Cookbook

Whole Foods for the Whole Family * published by Leche League International
 I’m a foodie and have dozens of cookbooks, but this is hands-down my favorite. The recipes are wholesome, but they don’t skimp on flavor. I can feel good about any recipe I cook in this book – even the desserts.

Grace Before Meals: Recipes and Inspiration for Family Meals and Family Life*

Grace Before Meals: Recipes and Inspiration for Family Meals and Family LifeI’m a big fan of Father Leo (you do know the priest-chef who dueled it out with Bobby Flay – and won!) and the Grace Before Meals movement, and I was fortunate to meet this holy foodie and snag an autographed copy of his first cookbook (I’ve heard another one is in the works). Although the recipes are tasty, what I really love about the book is how it’s organized by holidays (like Mother’s Day) and liturgical seasons and includes more than recipes for delicious dishes but also recipes for strong families. The book includes conversation starters for mealtimes and other ideas to make gathering around the table a memorable and meaningful family affair. Speaking of conversation starters, my girls and I have really enjoyed The Meal Box: Fun Questions and Family Faith Tips to Get Mealtime Conversations Cookin‘. This is a deck of cards that includes fun questions and exercises as well as faith applications.

Here’s an example:

One one side of a card it reads: “If you had to wear an object around your neck at all times, something that would be attached to a thin chain or string, what would it be? (Don’t choose something too heavy – you have to wear it all the time!)

On the flip side is this “Food For Family Thought”: One of the most powerful ways to nurture a living faith in your child is to adorn your home with objects that represent your faith – a cross, a family Bible, a statue, a prayer. These objects speak to your child around the clock of the faith that sustains us in this lifetime.”

Magazines (listed here are only the ones that pertain to mothering and family life; I happen to love literary journals and political mags, too, but I’ll spare you my artsy-fartsy leanings and strong political opinions):

Cooking Light

I’m a big fan of this magazine because it offers healthy but flavorful recipes that usually don’t require highly exotic ingredients. Each issue features quick-prep meals and recipes that use whatever produce is in season. I’m constantly clipping and trying out new recipes from the glossy. My husband and I also both love Cook’s Illustrated. It’s just a beautiful publication and fun for a foodie to read.

Faith & Family*, the magazine for Catholic living

Think of this as a Catholic’s Woman’s Day. The magazine isn’t heavy-handed; yet, virtually every topic is covered through a Christian perspective. The magazine also always includes ideas on how to live the liturgical year and turn your home into a domestic church. It features a wide-range of articles and covers everything from marriage to fashion.

Family Funmagazine

Crafts, recipes, fun activities that encourage time together as a family. I’ve enjoyed this popular mainstream magazine for several years now (though some of the projects are too complicated for craft-challenged mom such as myself).

Mothering magazine

I’m not too impressed by most mainstream parenting publications, but I do enjoy Mothering. Not only are its articles well-written, but the magazine does a great job of promoting breastfeeding, natural childbirth, and healthy eating while at the same time encouraging and supporting moms in their roles as nurturers. Although it rarely mentions God, the kind of parenting it promotes agrees with natural law and the way I believe God, rather than our fast-paced society, designed moms to mother. My only minor quibble with the publication is its endless barrage of anti-vaccination articles/blurbs (forgive me, my granola friends, but my crunchiness begins to crumble when it comes to vaccines.).

Homeschooling Resources:

Charlotte Mason Companion* by Karen Andreola

Although this book, which I adore, is the perfect primer for anyone wanting to learn about the Charlotte Mason model of education, it’s also an encouraging read for all mothers who want to make their children’s childhood a little sweeter. From poetry to picnics, Andreola’s essay-like chapters give readers practical suggestions as well as living book recommendations on how to put the Charlotte Mason method into practice. FYI: The book has a strong emphasis on Christian principles.

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum: A Guide to Catholic Home Education by Laura Berquist

If you’re drawn to the Classical approach to homeschooling and are also Catholic, this is a valuable resource. The book includes sample schedules, resources, and book lists.

The Handbook of Nature Study* by Anna Comstock

Highly recommended. Whether you are including nature study as a part of your homeschooling curriculum or are just a parent who wants to accompany your intrepid bug-catchers on their expeditions, this book will help you and your children cultivate a love of nature.  The book was written in 1911 by the founder and first head of the Department of Nature Study at Cornell University and was originally geared toward elementary school teachers. It covers countless nature topics, including bugs, weather, plants, farm animals, etc. Each topic begins with an expository paragraph. Then a group of discussion questions follows to encourage the child (and you) to take a closer look at the object at hand.  In addition, there are snippets of poetry and nature writing marbled throughout the book. I’ve also enjoyed following one mom’s personal blog that she’s transformed into a nature journal based on Comstock’s book. The blog author also includes outdoor challenges to get your family outside.

Learning Ideas at Serendipity

The girls and I journeyed down Serendipity’s Alphabet Path last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. There are tons more ideas and resources (including wonderful book lists) for literature-based homeschooling.

Little Saints Catholic Preschool Program

I bought this when Madeline was three and while we haven’t come even close to completing all the activities, I used a lot of its ideas and themes and book suggestions with my old homeschooling co-op for our Pre-K class. I also still use some of the craft ideas, etc. with my girls. We just recently made tissue paper trees just like these to represent each season (iridescent glitter on the tree for winter, pink crunched up tissue paper for spring, red and orange for fall, and green for summer).

Another helpful series of book for preschool activities are written by some of my mom-in-law’s friends (she used to run a church preschool with these friends). They sent me several of the books, including Science Activities A to Z, Math Activities A to Z, and Reading Activities A to Z. Although the books are designed to be used in a preschool setting, many of the ideas are simple enough to be used at home or with a co-op. The activities are organized by theme and/or season (e.g., Christmas, Fall, etc.). The reading activities book is particularly helpful as it has tons of fun activities to supplement whatever phonics program you choose to use.

Liturgical Teas

The girls and I have Tuesday tea time. We not only practice our manners, but we try to incorporate a saint or something from the liturgical season. I’ve gleaned lots of  teatime ideas from Alice Gunter’s site.

Mater Amabilis

A free (yes, free!) Charlotte Mason-style Catholic homeschooling curriculum. This was so very helpful to me when I was planning for this year. Although I created my own curriculum and plan for the year, I used many of the resources suggested in this thorough curriculum, including Cay Gibson’sCatholic Mosaic: Living the Liturgical Year, an illustrated book study for Catholic children.

mater et magistra*

What a gem of a magazine! I just recently subscribed, but I wish I had a long time ago. I thought that as a mom of little ones (my oldest is only 5 – almost 6!) and a newbie homeschooler it was premature for me to subscribe to a homeschooling magazine. Not so! The first issue I received (Winter 2010) inspired me so much.

I seem to question this homecoming vocation on a daily basis, and I too often assumed that veteran moms were much more secure in their mothering/homeschooling shoes. Yet, the winter issue helped me to know I’m not alone in my doubts. It’s many a homeschooler’s daily bread. Every day I have to reaffirm my beliefs as to why we are choosing homeschooling for our family right now. This magazine helps me to do just that. It also has curriculum resources, sample unit studies, and feature articles dedicated to making school at home run more smoothly.

Pondered in my Heart

This is the personal blog of a Catholic homeschooling mom of seven that never ceases to inspire me. This post on strategies for early readers was very helpful, and my oldest (a budding artist) and I were in awe of the joy of watercolors her family brought to life. (Inspired by this post, I recently bought her some Yarka watercolor paints for her birthday since she asked for a “real” art kit. No Crayola for my little Monet.)

Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home* by Elizabeth Foss

Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the HomeThis is one of those books that I marked all over. It’s also a book I will revisit year after year whether we decide to continue to homeschool or not. Elizabeth is a veteran homeschooler and a mom of nine. She’s also a wonderful writer who encourages as much as she inspires. I first discovered Charlotte Mason through her, and Real Learning is a great resource for any home educator wishing to introduce her children to “living books” and nature study, but it’s so much more and would be a worthy addition to any mom – homeschooling or not – who wishes to create a peaceful and happy home environment.

The chapters read like conversational essays and cover everything from battling burnout to children and chores.  Since distance and circumstances prevent me from sharing the joys and challenges of motherhood over a cup of tea with Elizabeth, I have to settle for reading (and re-reading) her wisdom. Passages like the one below are ones I return to when I’m in need of a little pick-me-up or a gentle reminder to take a deep breath and let God in:

“If we shatter time into into tiny fragments we cannot be fully present in it. We cannot be conscious that our work is a prayer and find the sacred in the ordinary. We cannot feel the presence of God. To go even further, if we bustle along at this pace, we are not readily available to the people in our lives either. And, finally, we are on the short track to burnout, the inability to see, or hear, or feel, or sense the joy that is abundantly present in everyday life. We are simply too tired, too stressed, too preoccupied.”

Science At Home

This former science teacher shares lots of creative and often simple ideas on how to make science come alive for your children. She also offers a free e-book called Young Scientists geared toward parents that has tons of tips on how to teach science to your kids.

Simple Homeschool

This wonderful website’s slogan says it all: “Never let your schooling interrupt your education.”

Simply Charlotte Mason

A great online resource of fans of CM.

Waltzing Matilda

This is another personal blog of one talented and creative homeschooling mom. She shares free Catholic coloring pages, ideas for garden parties, and other domestic and learning inspiration.

The Well-Trained Mind* by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition)This is a must-have resource for every home educator, especially those wishing to embrace the Classical approach to education or at least marble in bits here and there. This book has been invaluable to me in helping me choose various resources, especially for reading and math. It also gave me ideas on how to structure my day and exactly how long we should be gathered around doing “real” schooling.

Natural Structure: A Montessori Approach to Classical Education At Home by Edward and Nancy Walsh

This book shows how to combine two methodologies into your homeschool. The book also briefly discusses the history of the Montessori and Classical methods as well as details on how both can provide a solid foundation in the Catholic education of a child. There are lots of photos that show you how to set up your school room, and the book also includes some sample activities.

Okay…I know I’m leaving some homeschooling resources out. I discover new ones nearly every day, and there are just so many helpful books and websites out there. This might just deserve its own post one of these days. But for now, I will add that when I need some humor and a realistic look into homeschooling that doesn’t always involve perfect crafts or seamless days, I enjoy reading Minnesota Mom and Rosetta Stone. Both of these veteran homeschooling moms are inspiring while keeping it real (and hilarious).

On my nightstand now:

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections
The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Soule of Soule Mama(NOTE: I will never sew or be quite as artsy as this mom, but I love her philosophy, and some of her ideas – like having regular theatrical performances – aren’t too difficult or messy to orchestrate.)

Discipline that Lasts a Lifetime by Ray Guarendi

Rewards for Kids
by Virginia M. Shiller
I’ve never a big fan of stars and charts, but one of my friends who has her Ph.D. in school psychology and is a licensed psychologist highly recommended this book and encouraged me to see the distinction between bribes and rewards. There is a difference, and the book helps you understand it. It’s also full of creative chart/reward ideas. My preschooler loved putting animals in the zoo when we were working through a certain behavioral issue (every day she went without hitting, she got to put an animal sticker on a black and white drawing of a zoo).

Simplicity Parenting* by Kim John Payne 

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

I’m not finished with this one yet (I squeeze in reading it between my novels and a spiritual book), but so far it definitely ranks among my favorites.

The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child by Alan E. Kazdin (Also highly recommended by Ph.D./gentle parenting friend!)

On my wish list:

Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry) by Lenore Skenazy (I love Skenazy’s Free Range Kids blog.)

Parenting With Graceby Gregory and Lisa Popcak

Believe it or not, I actually had more books I wanted to share, but I’m losing steam (forgive any typos; I didn’t have the time or frankly the energy to proof all this). Some other book “genres” I’d like to include down the roads perhaps are books that fall under “creative inspiration” (crafting books, etc.) and “heavenly inspiration” (books  like that encourage moms in their vocations as mothers and wives). In the meantime, what are some of your favorite parenting books?

The Fine Print: I participate in the Amazon Affiliate program. Therefore, if you click through an Amazon link on this post (or via any part of my blog) and make a purchase, I will receive a small credit from Amazon. As an extreme bibliophile, I’m very grateful for this credit and will use it to support my book habit as well as apply it to the cost of some necessities. We BUY everything on Amazon these days – skin lotion, snacks – you name it. :-)

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