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.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Books Making Me Cry These Days - Library Love

First, thank you to all who left messages and sent notes of congrats about our new little one! It means so much to Paul and I to read your good wishes and encouragement. The first trimester was definitely a struggle, and I often told people during that time that I relied on their excitement about the pregnancy because I was feeling so yucky myself that I found it hard to muster up any feelings other than self-pity.

But of course, now I'm pregnant and feeling ALL the feels. This was made especially clear to me while at the library picking out stories and Maisy books to leave at the library bring home. The little dude brought me a book to read and the last page brought me to tears - and of course, brought him much confusion. So we've had the conversation, more than twice now, that "sometimes Mommy cries tears of joy." The wee girl is quite entertained by it all and tries to make the waterworks come on by demand: "Mommy, read this book now!" But you know, that's the lovely thing about hormones - you hardly get to control when/how they will effect you. So she doesn't often get her wish. (Ha ha, little one.) OK, on to the books!

Is Mommy?

This is the one that got me crying in the library. It's a simple book, asking children questions about their mommies: "Is Mommy tall or short?" And of course the children, being children, answer with all the least flattering choices. "Short!" "Boring!" "Old!"  But do you love your mommy? Resounding YES!! (Cue the tears.) The little dude loves this one for the audience participation.

The Baby Sister

So, you know who's on the shelf below Maisy? Tomie dePaola! I credit Read Aloud Revival to turning me onto him - or maybe reintroducing me to him, as I definitely remember reading some of his books when I was a kid. In any case, while the wee girl is perusing her selection of Maisy books, I glance through the TdP ones, and of course, this one caught my eye. It's an autobiographical story of Tomie welcoming his baby sister Maureen home, and the ending line could not be sweeter: "And Tommie was the happiest boy in the world." I love this one because it presents the arrival of a new sibling with joy and anticipation, rather than with trepidation of how things will change. Not that I don't think those stories have their place, but this one is just so comforting and feel good that both kids love it and will ask me to read it over and over.

Hello In There!

I picked this book up when I was pregnant with the little dude, so of course, as I read it to him I get all misty-eyed remembering how I used to read it to his sister when she was just about the same age. The illustrations show a little girl waiting and wondering about her new baby sibling, while her mother's tummy gets bigger and bigger with every turn of the page. But what makes it especially fun are the little flaps on the mommy's tummy that open to reveal the baby inside. It works great for the 2-4 year old range for that reason.


OK, when I cried at the end of this one we were all baffled. It's a story about a pig! And has nothing to with expecting a baby sibling! Clearly, this was all hormones. But the energetic piglet just captured my heart, and her "I love you anyway too," hit me in just the same spot as all the kids loving their mommy in "Is Mommy?" (I guess that part of my heart must be especially tender from the repeated readings of that book.) Worth a checkout, especially if you have an energetic little who can "really wear people out."

It's been rather therapeutic to read so many books that let the "tears of joy" flow... so what books make you cry? Or what books might you recommend reading to little ones expecting a new sibling?