Saturday, October 13, 2018

Cozy, Snowy Cuddles: A Children's Book Review


What I Loved: It's a nice size, nice length of story, has rhymes on each page. The touch and feel element is fabulous-- my kids love textures, especially "fuzzy animals" like these. I like the themes of winter, animals, and cozy snuggles.

What I Didn't Love: It's not as good of quality as some board books. I like when the covers of board books are the "bubble" type-- they just seem sturdier. This one feels like it could possibly get bent, yet it's definitely thicker than basic cardboard. Although I love the rhymes on each page, I would have liked an actual story. This is simply four-line rhymes on each page describing the animals cuddling. Definitely still a sweet idea, but my daughter is starting to like the idea of stories.

Overall, not my favorite board book, but it's a sweet gift idea (and good price!) for the holidays. Little ones would definitely like the lovely illustrations and the touch and feel furry animals.

4 out of 5.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary copy in exchange for this honest and original review.]

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Currently // October

It's been so long, I can't believe how the days fly by...yet the days are "not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string." -Anne of Avonlea 

It's a perfect season to quote Anne, no? I have her famous October quote on my chalkboard this year. Here's what we're currently up to these days...some of our pearls slipping off a string.

wearing // the baby. haha. a lot! He still takes the majority of his naps in the Lillebaby carrier but here and there will surprise me with a longish stretch in the crib. Other than him, I want to be wearing cute sweaters and leggings as soon as our crazy weather cools down. We're still pushing 80's this week.

collecting // a handful of fall recipes to make. Little G loves to make muffins with me these days-- we made some delish chocolate chip pumpkin ones, and a few days ago I made to-die-for Snickerdoodle Pumpkin Bread. This weekend I hope to make Butternut Squash and Spinach Sausage Penne for dinner.

making // more time for prayer. It's an ongoing process but it's encouraging to feel closer to the Lord and to find time to seek Him even with the littles around. I'm also trying to be more intentional praying for the 40 Days for Life campaign going on right now and was able to organize a pray-from-home network of other moms who can't commit to go to the actual abortion clinic to pray on a weekly basis.

taking // life slowly. My schedule has slowed down so much the past month and I'm finding that I love being home with the kids and having a mostly free schedule. It's so much easier to roll with the craziness of an infant and a toddler when we don't have lots of deadlines. It also frees me to be more creative at home, more on top of the laundry (but never completely! ha!), host a play date, or take fun trips like to a park or the library.

planning // Christmas presents. I know, I know, I am definitely getting excited about the holidays already...it's such a great time from here to the rest of the year. I love fall, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas. And I'm getting the crocheting bug again and started on a market bag. I also plan to try my hand at rubber stamping some drink coasters. We shall see.

That's it here! What are your current pearls slipping off a string?

Linking up with another famous Anne for the Currently link-up! ;)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

God Bless Our Bedtime Prayers: A Book Review


I just love this author and series of books. Beautiful illustrations, sweet rhymes, good quality board books that are just the right length for young attention spans. This particular book is about the animals at bedtime as well as different prayers to help kids learn all the things you can talk to God about. It's a lovely way to introduce bedtime prayer to children as a way to talk with God about your day, your struggles, or your desires rather than having bedtime prayer be just a mindless habit. You can never start too young to introduce your children to the God who loved them into being. Books like these are a great way to do that. 5 out of 5.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary review copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Friday, August 17, 2018

7 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You



I recently read 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke and it was fascinating. Like, the best book I've ever read on technology/smartphones. I'm usually pretty into articles that discuss the neurological and psychological effects of technology...I think it's because I grew up during the unveiling of the internet and didn't have a cell phone until college. So I remember the Dark Ages, haha, and have memories with which to compare the status quo. And while there are definitely perks to social media and the internet, I'm not convinced we're actually in a better place. 12 Ways focused more on the spiritual side of things than the psycho/neuro stuff, and that actually was more compelling for me to make changes. No it's wasn't that it's a sin to have a smartphone but rather he talked about ways our phone might be holding us back from prayer as well as becoming the people we're meant to be. Here are a few ways our smartphones are changing us (a la the book. GET IT, by the way. ;) But be prepared for it to change your life if you read it slowly and intentionally.)


1. We have a constant temptation for distraction. Yes, even without media we'll be tempted to distraction from the important or mundane things (that's human nature as well as spiritual warfare) but never before have we had such flashy, ever-changing, cutting-edge distractions literally at our fingertips.

2. We are conditioned to skim articles, books, and other written sources by our phones which teach us to scroll quickly due to information overload. We also develop a decreased attention span because of this. Anyone notice their ability to focus in prayer or spiritual reading decrease with an increased use of smartphones or internet, or is that just me?

3. We become desensitized to real and lasting pleasures or beauty. For example, we see pictures of vacations (Grand Canyon, etc.) or nature or cute kids through our feeds and get so used to the mediated thing that the real things holds less pleasure for us. We also become addicted to the quick flashy updates and don't have that deeper appreciation for real beauty around us.

4. Technology can feed superficial relationships. Our online friendship habits (clicking 'like', a quick comment here or there) become our real-life relational habits. We keep it quick, superficial, and avoid long or difficult encounters. Even our emotions are altered by our online habits-- instead of sitting with a grieving person and learning how to grieve, cry, or be silent with them, we can simply click a "cry face" and move on with our scrolling. We are bombarded by multiple emotional events in a simple scrolling session (ones inciting joy, sorrow, anger) but we don't pause long enough to truly feel these feelings. It's not normal and it's changing us and our ability to empathize.

5. Our phones create isolation as well as false community. The marketers for technology sell more items when they make them smaller and for the individual. No longer do we enjoy music via a theater orchestra or even a radio, now we have individual iPods. No longer do we watch live musicals (well, sometimes) or go to movie theaters as much, we can simply watch on our phones or iPads. We are encouraged to isolate ourselves. When we're in public, we isolate from real-life people by using our phones. When we're in private, we fear isolation and loneliness so we go to our online 'communities' and 'groups.'

6. Because our phones and the internet can connect us to people all over the world, we're less likely to focus on building local community or allowing ourselves to be rubbed by people who are slightly different than us and could help us grow. We simply seek like-minded people online instead of doing the work of building relationship (and evangelizing) with those who truly live near us.

7. We become addicted to novelty. We would rather mindlessly scroll through our social media feeds than take time for reflection. It's easier to sort through fun things in the here and now than allow ourselves to sit with the past or ponder the future. We're afraid of them and don't allow the time to focus on them...to see where God might be inviting repentance and growth, change and freedom, redemption and mission.

Not all of us are affected by every single one of these points, but our world in general is definitely affected by all of them. I see our phones changing our social abilities, our spiritual abilities, our intelligence. I see it changing my own. This book was a powerful read for me, so much so that I decided to delete social media apps on my phone and do a "40 Day Smartphone Fast." I'm already seeing fruit from it after only a week, and my ability to live more fully is enhanced. I'd love to hear your own thoughts on how you manage technology and smartphones in your own life. I'll never completely eliminate it (hello, blogging!) but I'm more convicted than ever to put it in its rightful place, to use it for God's glory, and not allow it to become an idol.

Sorry but not sorry for such a serious post! Normal content and kid pics to resume soon, haha. Happy weekend, all, and stay off your phones! ;)

Joining Kelly and the gang for Quick Takes!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Safe in His Arms

I cried at the county fair tonight. And then laughed at my silly tears. Hormones, I said as I shrugged to my husband and shifted the sleeping infant in a carrier on my chest. We were watching the Terror of Vikings ride-- that huge long boat that goes back and forth like a giant glider swing. When I was a kid, it was called the Banana Boat. Terror of Vikings sounds much cooler and more fitting. But I digress. On the very tip of the boat, the part that goes the highest, sat a young boy and his dad. The boy's face held a mix of fear and excitement as the swing went higher and higher. The dad's arm was draped around the boy and held his son tighter each giant swing back and forth, a gentle smile on his face as he enjoyed the ride with his son. The boy began to relax and laugh with delight despite (or because of?) the height and speed of the ride.

And that's when the tears came. There was something so incredibly beautiful about seeing the peace and security that come from a loving, protective father. It was a small moment that spoke of a larger truth. In a world of absent or dysfunctional fatherhood, seeing this sweet cameo of true fatherly love and protection, seeing the confidence and joy it brought to the son, made my heart swell with how good and right the picture was.

It was also a glimpse of the great love our Heavenly Father has for us. This all-powerful Father who allows us on the ups and downs of life because He's right there beside us. He holds us tightly and wants us to trust Him and His protection. Only through leaning on Him can we truly begin to relax and see the view.

His arm is around you and holds you safely. Open your eyes, throw up your hands, and enjoy the ride.

Monday, August 6, 2018

More Summer Book Reviews


This lovely little journal caught my eye one day when I'd been noticing I was in a negative slump. You know, the one where you've slowly gotten out of the habit of being grateful for the everyday blessings and you start to see only the annoyances and irritations and monotony of everyday life. (Oh, I'm the only one that does that?) Even though we know being grateful each day brings joy, it helps so much to have a tangible reminder to do so! This journal is a daily devotional with a Bible verse, meditation, and a unique question for journaling to get you started in counting your blessings each day. It's a beautiful hardcover with a ribbon bookmark. The pages have color illustrations and each place for journaling is just a few lines (nothing too intimidating!). Some of the devotions were beautiful and thought-provoking but some were a little generic or superficial. I don't think this journal would necessary deepen your relationship with the Lord in big ways but I do think the daily habit of writing down blessings and pondering the verses and meditation is helpful in cultivating a joyful spirit-- and this journal is a creative, guided way to do so instead of just writing them down in a blank notebook. 4 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]



Oh, the Clarksons have done it again with their thought-provoking Lifegiving series. This time it was The Lifegiving Parent. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about all three books (Lifegiving Home, Lifegiving Table, Lifegiving Parent). Sometimes I feel like their views are idealistic and unattainable, yet I have to say there's a lot I love about their books! I think it's okay to read books that we can be inspired by without fully emulating all they contain. I really appreciate the Clarksons' emphasis on raising children to know deep love within their family and deep love in the Lord. They focus on excellence in every area of life, with that excellence giving glory to God. Lifegiving Parent was very in-depth and I'd have to read it every so often to pick up new things, or perhaps even read a particular chapter here and there. It was less practical than the other two books and more philosophical. Overall, I think it's a great read to ponder the magnitude of the gift as well as responsibility we have in raising children-- shaping minds, hearts, souls for eternity by the ways we spend our days. (But if it's one of those motherhood days where you are going crazy and need to plop your kids in front of Daniel Tiger with some microwaved chicken nuggets, shelf this sucker and pick it up a different day. We all have those days, even the Clarksons. ha.) 4.5 out of 5.

[Thank you to Tyndale Blog Network for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Saturday, August 4, 2018

7 Quick Takes



1. It's been a long week but things went better than expected. My husband flew to Arizona to the USCCB pro-life directors conference (he was even one of the speakers for a panel there-- good job, babe! ;) ) and I was home with the kiddos. My MIL stayed overnight with me the first night, I traveled to stay with my parents the next couple nights, and then did the solo parenting thing the last night back at home. Our kids are tough at bedtime and wanted me the whole time (and at the same time *so many tears*) but both my mom and MIL were so helpful with other stuff like meals and the dog and keeping me sane.

Me, two kids, and the dog. We got this. (Thanks to mom and nana ;) )


2. On a related note, I'm pretty sure we're going through the 4 month sleep regression here. Send help. Send coffee. Send chocolate. Um, and maybe send a maid service? hahahaha. Kind of. But this too shall pass and I'm a little more chill about it than I was with G because I'm less concerned that it's something I'm doing wrong and more aware that it's a normal development stage and we'll make it through. (A special thanks to cosleeping, babywearing, dairy free chocolate, and covered coffee mugs to keep it warm.)

Morning snuggles make me forget nighttime troubles!

3. It's climbing temps again this weekend and we'll be hitting in the 90's by Sunday. Time to fill up G's new (hand-me-down) pool from the cousins. And it's big enough for me to sit in as well if I can convince the baby to nap on daddy for awhile. Anyone have a swimsuit they want to recommend? I'm looking for a cute print, modest yet attractive (dump the frump), relatively inexpensive new swimsuit and thus far I'm returning the five I got from Amazon. #notpickyoranything

4. G's second birthday was last week and it was the best. The best. I'd like to call it The Old-Fashioned Non-Pinterest Birthday Party. I'm not against Pinterest but sometimes you just need a good ol' birthday celebration without consulting them, you know? For her first bday, I had the whole ice cream theme with food and decor and games and it was great. But this year I reveled in a simple, homemade 9x13 frosted cake with candles, a family trip to the zoo (our last time for the under 2 discount haha!), and some grandparents and cousins singing happy birthday on our back patio. It was so sweet. We all chatted outside on a gorgeous evening while the kids played in the backyard.

Tuckered out at the zoo


Check out the size of this pool! I'm as excited as she is
although I don't think I'll fit on the slide ;)

5. On a less happy note (#understatement), there's the McCarrick scandal going on right now within the Catholic Church. It's so deeply disturbing to unearth such corruption. Yet I really appreciated this letter from Ralph Martin of Renewal Ministries. It's long but comprehensive, and he makes some great points about the amount of corruption we allow when we gloss over the Gospel and the hard teachings of Christ. That it's okay to be upset with this and acknowledge there is corruption within the Church and still acknowledge that this same Church will withstand the gates of hell in the end. Pray, pray, pray. And maybe take some time to read it for some helpful thoughts.

6. I'm still loving my Kindle and reading lots of books this summer. I'm currently in the middle of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (can't remember the author right now), and I just finished Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. The latter was a painful read as it's based on a true story (a woman who stole children from poor families and sold them as 'orphans' to the rich from the 1920's to 1950). I haven't decided if I'd recommend it or not but it was a powerful read that's staying with me. Kinda like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I think I need some light fiction for awhile.

7. I'm so excited to be a new contributing writer for CatholicMom.com! I'll be writing once a month for them. Check out their website for tons of resources for living your vocation to the fullest. I love their book lists and went there last year to look for ideas for my book club.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the other quick takes at Kelly's!