Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A New Library (to) Love

I feel like a bit of a cheat to say this, but...

...I think I found my new favorite library. The outside is nothing spectacular, but of course, like all the good things, it's on the inside. When you walk in the "New Arrivals" are well presented, front and center. The kids' area has a wee... dome? rotunda? with a fresco painted in it of literary characters and a little stage for putting on puppet shows. I love that. There's even a book "store" (a room of used books for sale).

It's just too bad it's in the next town over. (And yes, I *can* hear the snickers of all you folks around me who think that driving to Rohnert Park is an issue. Let's just say, "Different strokes..." mmm, kay?)

In any case, we loved taking the little field trip this past weekend to a different library - and as a result, I picked up a few books worth sharing:

The Kraken's Rules for Making Friends
So, around here, we are not above the occasional bribe to get behavior we want - i.e. would you just stand still and let me brush your hair, please?! On one such occasion I found a video combining two of the wee girl's favorite things - Lego and ocean-stuff - and it was just the right length for getting her hair brushed and in a pony tail. (If you've got 7 minutes, it's fun and worth a watch.) This was how she learned about The Kraken - so when I saw this book in the library, I knew we had to check it out.

It's definitely quirky, and some of the Shark's rules (yeah, it's actually the Great White who makes the rules) rub me the wrong way - but the overall message "Be the friend that you want to have" and the illustrations, and of course The Kraken, have made this a winner here.

Pancakes, Pancakes!
It was the wee girl who had a very valid insight about this one: "Why is it called PancakeS? There's only one!" Which is true. But it's a great story about how one *really* makes pancakes (you gotta thresh wheat to get the grain, and feed chickens to get eggs and milk cows to get milk, etc...) AND it's illustrated by the beloved Eric Carle (substitute "iconic" if he's not beloved at your house). Even though I find this to be a bit on the long-side for a 2.5 year old, it's actually been the 2.5 year old who has requested this book every day since we brought it home. He likes it a lot (and I do too)!

Today Is Monday
Another Eric Carle one. There's only a few words - but one of them is "ZOOOOUP!" so it's a hit at our house. Apparently, the text is from a song, and the sheet music is included at the back. I have yet to fire up the keyboard and plunk out the tune, but it looks catchy. :)

Songs and Story: Cars
A friend introduced this Disney/Pixar CD series to me. Each CD has a few songs from the movie and then a dramatized (and much abbreviated) narration of the story afterwards. This is the only other audiobook that I've been able to get both kids (but mainly the wee girl) to listen to - and I can't tell if that's because she's familiar with the story, or if the character's voices are included, or what. In any case, when she turns it on I have at least 20 minutes of "quiet time" to myself, so I'm not complaining! It's well done too, so I'll be looking into the others in the series.

That's the best of the best here! What have you been picking up at your library (or the next town over's library)?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Little Bit of Community - My Sunday Best - 07

Just barefoot and pregnant - though my husband
insisted that I not (also) be standing in the kitchen
for this picture ;)
Hey look! I found something new to wear to Mass! Thanks, Mom! :)
Top: H&M  Skirt: Old Navy  Bump: 22 weeks

We made it back home! It really was so nice to be back in our home parish - seeing familiar faces, singing songs also so familiar I don't need to hold the book for them (a definite plus when those hands are needed to pull wandering boys back into the pew *ahem*). I think the kiddos also appreciated being back on home territory - if nothing else, they were back where they get their own special bread after communion! And they were pretty well behaved (knock on wood?) so I even got to hear some of the readings and homily.

Today's first reading gave me a lot to think about today - most all of it pretty superficial, I have to admit. (Sorry.) First of all, the Shunammite woman: she decides she wants to build Elisha a room, and one sentence later, BOOM. It's built and Elisha's moved in.  Clearly, this is a "woman of influence"! We started our own building project last year, and have yet to even break ground on the project, much less furnish it with a "bed, table, chair and lamp."  Though it's not for a lack of trying! (What do we gotta do to find a contractor around here??)

But really, it was her hospitality that struck me. Hospitality is truly a gift from God - when done right, people open right up and community is forged. I'm always awed by it when I'm on the receiving end, or even when I just witness it for someone else.  That's why I was so grateful to meet a few ladies after church today for a little park picnic. We had "met" through Blessed Is She's regional group on Facebook and decided to get together IRL this afternoon. Our kids ranged in age from 2 to 14, but they all seemed to get along great and us moms got a chance to introduce ourselves and learn a little bit about each other. It really was a lovely afternoon and we ended with plans to get together again next month - so I think, "Success!" But as always, glory to God - because it had very little to do with me and a lot more to do with Him (and the mom who brought the package of cookies to share)! What's been your best experience of hospitality (giving or receiving)?

Rosie, her sister and I are (apparently) barefoot buddies this week... head over there for more MSB community!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Do Not Be Afraid - My Sunday Best - 06

I should be packing things up right now, but the lure of blogging is stronger than my desire to be responsible. This is always the hardest part of any trip for me. Well, to be honest, packing *for* the trip is harder than just packing back up to go home, but either way the act of packing reminds my body that change is on the way. And *that* is the hard part: forcing my body to change its environment and routine. (And again, let's be honest, forcing my body to get on a plane. I haven't quite reached the point where drugs are necessary to get me through a plane trip - and I hope I never reach that point! - but we've considered it more times than I care to admit.)

Just me in my pregnancy-standard Mass outfit, Saint Margaret
 of Scotland and a wee little photo-bomber.
Which is why, upon reflection, today's Gospel and homily were more timely than I first considered. " not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matt 10:31) God cares for us more than we let ourselves believe sometimes - and Jesus reminds me of this often.  Because of God's love my fear is truly unfounded. But what I find odd though, is that in this gospel reading he basically says, "Look. If you *are* going to be scared, at least be scared of the right thing. Let's get our priorities straight here. Don't fear people who can just kill your body. Fear the one who can kill your body AND soul." I need this no holds barred kind of talk sometimes (especially when I'm about to get on a plane.) And just in case I missed it in the gospel and the homily, the priest also said it as his parting remark as I was shaking his hand and leaving. "Do not be afraid!" All I could say in response, was "Yes, Father!" But Father was African, and I think the way they say it around here is more entertaining/endearing:

The Scottish equivalent of "Keep Calm and Carry On"?
So yes, we're getting ready to go home... I'm sure you won't mind then letting me take this opportunity to dump some photos of our trip on you (and should you want to skip this part and head back to Rosie's for her My Sunday Best, then go ahead and click away. I won't hold it against you ;) )

See you back State-side!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

(not exactly) Library (but still a whole lotta) Love - UK Edition!

Do you have a particular topic of conversation that, no matter how many times it comes up, you always seem to bumble through it? I always feel like a bit of a dope when I talk to people about my husband because usually at some point in the conversation, I have to share that he's Scottish (cause otherwise the next part of the story won't make sense or something like that). And 90% of the time, that piece of news is met with "Oh yeah! I've got some Scottish in me too." To which I then need to clarify, "No I mean he's really Scottish. Like from the UK." It seems such a simple clarification to make, and I don't know why, but after nearly 9 years of marriage I still flub it by saying weird/awkward things like "Yeah, fresh off the boat!" as if he were a catch of Atlantic salmon or something. (When will I be able to figure this out?)

But speaking of flubbing things - how's that for an intro? Uh... yeah! We are currently in Scotland visiting my in-laws, and for the first time we planned it so that we would be in one spot for the whole of our visit (rather than hopping on to a new place every 4-5 days). I was really hoping this would pan out into a trip to ye olde local library, but so far that hasn't happened and probably won't. Fortunately, my in-laws are library loving folks just like us, so we haven't been at a loss for books to read! These have been our favorites this time around:

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy
This one is the little dude's favorite (and it really is more appropriate for the birth to 3 years crowd). Simple rhymes, cute dogs and one "terrible tom" who's caterwaul requires some theatrics from mom to pull off all make for a sweet little read before bed.

There's a Bear on My Chair
Another one for the 0-3 year olds, though saying that, the wee girl enjoyed this one too. Maybe because the mouse's tantrum throwing at the end was very "pigeon-esque"? Or maybe it's because she's really understanding the concept of rhyming words now... or maybe it's the bear? (Or maybe it's just a well written, well-illustrated children's book Sara. Hence the award stickers on the front cover.)

Mr Tickle and the Dragon
You can't come to the UK and not see the Mr. Men and Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves. They're ubiquitous, and for a while I wondered why - after all, one of my favorite books (on cassette tape!) was Mr Tickle - but then of course, it dawned on me: he's British (Hargreaves that is. Not Mr. Tickle.) Normally I'm not a fan of series that have become so commercialized that even after the author has died, new books keep coming out - but this story is decent and it fits in with the bit of a dragon kick that the wee girl has been on lately. Sooo... keeper.

Sugarlump and the Unicorn, and Fox's Socks
What's a trip to the UK without finding a new book by Julia Donaldson? Her rhymes and stories are just the best. Sugarlump is a story about a rocking horse who wishes he were somewhere else, and eventually learns the old "be careful what you wish for" lesson - but don't worry, it's still a happy ending for him. Fox's Socks is a simple rhyming book, either good for beginning readers or good for the 0-3 crowd (my brother-in-law has an adorable 11 month old, hence all the books for that age range).

I feel slightly bummed that I haven't come across a knock-out hit this time around, but nonetheless these have proved a strong showing. So, like the weather as of late, I really can't complain. ;)

What have you been reading lately?

Monday, June 19, 2017

What's That Bright Thing In The Sky? - My Sunday Best - 05

Three years ago, when we took my sister and brother-in-law to Scotland for their very first trip to the UK ever, we had the most gorgeous weather... beautiful blue skies with white fluffy clouds, and hardly a drop of water to be seen (unless of course, you were looking at a river or loch). It made for dramatic landscapes and was truly stunning. So much so that my husband and I commented on it nearly every day, "You guys are getting the *best* weather here! Truly!"  After we got home, we continued to talk about it. It was that remarkable.

Fast forward three years... and last week, we arrived here with my parents for *their* first ever trip to the UK and... alas. The weather has not been as "show-offy."

In a much more typical Scottish fashion, it has rained nearly every day we have been here - sometimes all day, sometimes just on and off - but regardless, gray and cloudy 24/7. Really, the kind of weather one is much more likely to expect in Scotland. So I'm not complaining, I'm just sharing all this as a preface for my MSB picture:

Same-o same-o skirt and top. Bump: 20 weeks

Pardon the grimace, but it's bright out! Sun! Yay!! (Ouch!!)

A Blessed Corpus Christi to you! In a funny coincidence, we celebrated Mass at a church with the same name as our home parish: Holy Spirit. Half-way around the world and same name. What are the odds of that?

On our way to church, I told the wee girl that while the name of the church would be the same as our church there were probably going to be some things that were different too. So she suggested that we play a game: she would look for all the things that were the same, and I would look for all the things that were different. Honestly, I would have been more interested to hear about all the things that she noticed that were different - especially since the only thing that she said was the same were the "colors". (The colors where, honey? The ones the priest wore? The flowers? She wouldn't elaborate, so I guess we'll never know...).

So, would she have noticed the priest was African? That the music was accompanied by organ?  That we spent time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and chanted in Latin? Or that the walls were decorated with mosaics? There were so many things that struck me as different, especially when I tried to imagine the view from her perspective and experience.

It was a good game to play I think. It got me thinking about the things I still need (and want) to learn (the Latin prayers being first and foremost), and about the things that I want to teach the kiddos. The amount of "material" (for lack of a better word) that is part of our faith really is overwhelming. I hope the kids and I always find that to be a source of inspiration rather than a cause for despair.  At the very least, I know that when things get to be "too much" I can always fall back on the Eucharist - the real and true presence of our Lord - always present to us and helping us to get home. Corpus Christi is a good day to celebrate indeed.

My MSB is a day late and a dollar short, but that just means you all can see everyone else's posts over at Rosie's! Do stop by and share the love. :)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Little Gems - Library Love

I almost didn't think it would be worth it to do a Library Love today, except that as I was collecting books to return to said library I realized that - quite by accident or luck - we had a few real gems worth mentioning.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
I can't remember if I've shared this one before (and clearly I'm too lazy to go check the archives) but what I love about this is the artwork that shows what the cat looks like to each observer: to the young boy the cat looks like, well, a sweet fluffy cat; but to the dog, the cat looks skinny and rat-like with an overly large bell around its scrawny neck. And of course, to the flea the cat looks mostly like a forest of fur with the cat's head as a mountain waayy in the distance. This book was voted as a "Mock Caldecott" finalist by our local library. So how's that for a recommendation?

Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman
This book is a Caldecott finalist. And for good reason! I won't give the story away, but will share that it's about the first "manned" hot air balloon flight that took place in Versailles, France on September 19, 1783. Again the illustrations win out (along with the story). I had to pick this one up when I saw it because the wee girl just loves seeing hot air balloons (and we've been seeing quite a few these past couple weeks on our way to preschool - it must be ballooning weather here!)

Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake by Thomas Taylor
This falls under the "Last but not Least" category. I had asked the little dude what kind of book he wanted at the library and all he said was, "Chocolate chips!!" So I figured, what the heck? I'll ask the librarian for a picture book about chocolate chips. And this was the result. I have to say I wasn't particularly impressed with the cover, but I felt like I had to take it home because it was pretty much the only book the librarian could find.
But I ended up being pleasantly surprised by how much both children loved this book! It includes a nice lesson on sharing, and the picture of the mouse eating the cupcake at the end genuinely makes the little dude laugh. So thumbs up to our librarian for suggesting it!

What little (or big) gems have you found lately?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Living in Bodies and a My Sunday Best

I guess when you think about it - our bodies are really important.

Get used to that outfit folks. I'm currently 17 weeks preggo
and it's just about the only Mass-worthy outfit I gots, so
you're going to be seeing a lot of it

Earlier this week, I picked up my copy of The Catholic Catalogue (my first actual, physical, non-internet reference for how to live like a Catholic), with the intention of reading up on the Ascension which we celebrated today.

Instead, I found myself in the beginning of the book reading about the sign of the cross. You know, that quintessential hand movement that makes Catholics stick out like sore thumbs at any ecumenical prayer meeting or that football players sometimes make after a touchdown? It seems so basic to Catholicism. So fundamental. And yet...

Can I share this in my most quiet, private voice?

I've always had such trouble with it. Not inside the church, of course. It's quite easy to make the sign of the cross when you're standing with a hundred or so others who are making it with you. But outside. With others. Certainly with non-Catholics, but oftentimes with Catholics as well. Heck, we don't even make it at dinner before we say grace. (Which, as you can guess, will now change as a result of this post.)

"But why?" you may ask. "Aren't you, sort of, a cradle Catholic?" Well, yeah. Sort of. I've spent more time in a Catholic church than any other. But you know what the real deal is?

(Lean in close please... cause I'm not really wanting to say this out loud.)

It makes me feel like a fake.

It's a pious action, and I fear it makes me look more pious than I am. It feels like a "holier-than-thou" motion when in the company of Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

So this was my frame of mind when I ran across this passage in The Catholic Catalogue:

"I remember as a teenager sometimes wishing for a disincarnate, less bodily Christianity. I wanted to belong to a church that was less ancient, more modern, less strange. I worried when my parents made the sign of the cross in mixed company that people would think they were superstitious, or uneducated fools. I wanted God to be a private matter. I wanted him to live in my heart, not on my head. Being Catholic was embarrassingly bodily, and I knew that public expressions of religion, like the sign of the cross, were considered poor taste." (emphasis mine)

This woman got me! She might be coming at it from a slightly different place, but she nailed it for me: being Catholic is embarrassingly bodily. From making the sign of the cross, to fasting from meat on Fridays; from using rosary beads while praying, all the way to practicing Natural Family Planning (NFP) instead of using contraception - the Catholic church insists that we are not to ignore how our bodies play into our spirituality (and more than that, it provides guidance on what a holy use of our bodies looks like).

To be honest, this was one of the aspects of Catholicism that drew me back to the Church - it forced me to get out of my head. When I have to physically go somewhere and talk to someone to confess and repent, then forgiveness no longer feels like a mind game. (And, on a related note - it then also happens! Prior to returning to the Catholic church I hardly ever thought about confessing my sins - because, honestly, who ever wants to think about that? - and so, I didn't.)

But this is also the aspect of Catholicism that is the most uncomfortable - because when I use my body to, say, make the sign of the cross, I am immediately communicating to others that I'm playing by different rules. My whole self shrinks back from sticking out like this. I'd like to call it "being sensitive to others" or even "showing by example how to not let ritual get in the way of authentic prayer" - but we all know it's fear. So maybe, maybe, if I remember that the sign of the cross *is* a prayer in of itself; maybe if I remember that "to make the sign of the cross is to say yes to God, yes to the Blessed Trinity, yes to the passion of Christ and the forgiveness of sin" then maybe I can put this fear aside, and step into this reality of new life and being clothed with Christ. Because that is what I really want - from the top of my head, to the tips of my toes.

Brownie points to you for reading to the end - if for no other reason than to find out why in the world I considered this a "My Sunday Best" post... well, isn't it obvious? Bodies, clothes, Catholicism... it's all related, right? Right? Well, should you disagree, head over to Rosie's to see what a real MSB looks like. And thanks for letting me ramble.