Happy New Year!

Happy new year, friends!  A lot has happened since I last wrote here.  Most significantly, Little Guy arrived in mid-December:

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We are all in love with him.

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I’ve been determined to Take It Easy this postpartum time, for once.  So far, so good.  I’m feeling a lot like a glued-to-the-couch cow,

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but Little Guy is napping well today, so maybe we’ve turned a corner, maybe.  And I’m so happy not to be pregnant anymore.

Seriously, I’ve left the house for two pediatrician appointments, Christmas day Mass, Christmas dinner at my in-laws, and one walk around the neighborhood.  That’s it!  Even my homebody self is getting cabin fever, but this postpartum experience is so much better than the last two, so I’m sticking with what works.

These days I’m

reading:

Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy

(Pretty ironic reading this while nursing almost constantly. What’s going on here in my subconscious? . . . I read an interesting review in the Wall Street Journal before Little Guy was born, so anyway.)

The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women (I don’t agree with a lot of her premises but it’s interesting reading a modern feminist/ French perspective on the low-birth-rate crisis in the West.)

I Believe in LoveA Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

watching:

Homeland.  So addicted.  I’m beginning Season 3, which is not the best, but I hear it improves in Seasons 4 and 5.  Claire Danes is so good, as is Inigo Montoya, uh, I mean, Mandy Pitinkin.

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Damien Lewis is good too, but I’m sick of the whole Brody/Carrie thing.  I’m inclined to agree with Saul (pardon the French):

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During the day, I watch a whole bunch of Strawberry Shortcake Berry Bitty Adventures

and The Magic Schoolbus.  Over and over and over and over and . . .

We’re so ready for school to start back up.

eating:

whatever delicious meals my kind friends make me, plus Cliff bars and lots of yogurt

wearing:

ratty old yoga pants and tee-shirts and pajama pants.  I just ordered the Metro Skinny pants from Athleta (currently on sale), hoping they’ll do the trick when it’s time to go out into the world.

Baby’s sureto wake up any minute so I’ll leave off here.  Thanks to everyone out there still reading this blog!

Recently . . .

Getting back to “normal” after a visit with my family in FL last week.  The primary reason for the trip was my grandma’s funeral.  She actually passed away and was buried several weeks ago, but the service was held later.  I think I’m still at the beginning of wrapping my mind around her passing.  I do think taking an SSRI dulls my emotions and that’s troubling a bit.  But b/c of the meds I’m not so troubled about being not troubled.  So weird.  Also, her death was a long, slow one at age 95 so it wasn’t a shock.  Still . . . we had a great time, including a day at the beach.  It was even worth the 2 a.m. arrival home the other night.

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Dealing with insomnia.  Coughing, hacking children don’t help.  Waiting for Benadryl to kick in (for me!)

Reading

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and Lit by Mary Karr.  Finished both recently and recommend them both.  Looking forward to the movie adaptation of the former, which will be released soon. . . .

Also the Wall Street Journal.  I ❤ the Wall Street Journal.  It’s almost my only source of news, which probably gives me a lopsided perspective.  I pride myself that I don’t agree with all their editorials.  Not yet.  . . .

I’m mostly skipping coverage of the presidential race.  Can. Not. Stand. to listen to or read about politicians in all their politicianyness more than I have to.  Once the race narrows down I’ll read a bit and figure out who to vote for. . . .

I also enjoyed reading “How to Stay Catholic” by Michelle Arnold at Catholic Answers.

Various American Girl books–Molly, Samantha, and Addy–outloud to the girls.  And the Ramona books.  Always the Ramona books.

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Painting our fireplace.  Can you believe it??  I had a bit of energy one recent Saturday afternoon, and the girls were playing nicely so I went for it (Pat had to spend a couple hours helping me finish later that night).  Like most of my DIY projects, I prioritized Just Doing It over doing it just right.  And it shows.  Kind of scary with something so permanent.  . . . Common wisdom is to mix latex paint and water 50/50.  I didn’t add enough water so it went on thicker than I expected.  I might go back and even it out later.  But I’m happy I did it.  Hoping eventually to order a mantle like The Nester’s.  Possibly these guys could make it.

Before:

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After:

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I cleaned the sooty areas of the brick with Scrubbing Bubbles, which worked well, as you can see here (right side washed left side not):

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Watching nothing in particular since we finished the last episode of Dark Matter on Netflix. . .

Watched a few episodes of “World’s Worst Chef” on Netflix and it was entertaining. . . .

I checked out the 2010 movie adaptation of Ramona and Beezus from the library.  The girls have watched it a couple times and, from what I can see, it’s pretty good.  Not great, but pretty good.  . . .I have fond memories of the PBS television series made in 1988 from the Ramona books, starring Sarah Polley.  As far as I can tell, the only way to get them now is to find the VHS copies that pop up on eBay.

They’ve also watched the newer, live action Charlotte’s Web movie.  It’s been ages since I read the book, so I don’t remember how close it hews, but I like it. . . . Recently I watched Big Eyes with Amy Adams (apparently a true story with a fun Tim Burton style) and Philomena with Judi Dench (also based on a true story, not sure how accurate).  Thought they were both good.

Cooking very very basic, boring meals:

Spaghetti and meat sauce (browned ground beef with a jar of marinara sauce),

frozen chicken breasts stuck in the oven at 400 with some baby carrots and bottled Italian dressing drizzled on top

beef stew (browned stew beef, chopped onion, baby carrots, simmered in a crock pot or on the stove with beef broth, worcestershire, and tomato paste),

Sometimes I’ll fry a steak. . . .  We still have pounds and pounds of beef in the deep freeze from the half a cow we bought from some rancher friends.

Tacos

Chili

*snore*

Shopping online.  Subscribe and Save from Amazon works for a lot of staple household products.  I order peanut butter from Soap.com (aka Diapers.com . . . a subsidiary of Amazon but for some reason with better prices on Smucker’s creamy naturay).  Some supplements from Vitacost.  And I just finished Christmas shopping for the girls at Jet.com.  It’s interesting seeing how Jet compares with Amazon.  The prices are often better, though the selection isn’t as big.  Also, the shipping is really fast and the web interface is very clean and less overwhelming than Amazon’s.

Still pondering what to name this little guy inside me.

Feeling huge.  I fear this baby will be BIG.  Girl 1 was 7.5 pounds.  Girl 2 was 8.5 pounds.  See where this is headed??

Hoping you all have a lovely week and a fun Halloween!  And that you don’t mind all the affiliate links in this post.

Third Tri[mester]’s the Charm

Hello Friends, How have you been?

I’ve been . . .

Feeling tired but better the last few weeks since realizing (a) I need to keep taking my Floradix iron supplement and (b) need to be drinking a LOT more water.  Those two changes, plus a few trips to the chiropractor, and I’m feeling better than I was most of the second trimester.  Not what I was expecting!

Leading a more Luddite life. I’v removed almost all apps from my phone, and removed my primary email account from my phone too.  And the laptop is in a separate room from the main living area.  Overall it feels good, calmer.

Eating So Delicious chocolate coconut milk “ice cream” because dairy seems to give me heartburn.  It really is delicious.

Watching my sugars, because my blood glucose levels are a little high (although often I felt more like they were low . . . I don’t know what’s going on).  So, I try to make sure to watch as the coconut ice cream disappears . . . . Ha ha.

Also watching Dark Matter on Netflix.  Somehow it’s holding my interest, even though I’m such a snob and it’s all I can do to keep from commenting every other minute about how dumb the dialogue is.  (It’s a lot like Firefly, which I also enjoyed despite myself.)  It’s fun to have a show Pat and I can watch together in the evenings.  For a little while there it was Rehab Addict but we quickly got through the one season Netflix has.

Reading A Walk in the Woods, about a guy who tries to hike the Appalachian Trail.  I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought, especially the first half, which made me frequently laugh out loud.  I’m wondering how the movie is?  I don’t see enough material in there for a movie, but I’m curious  . . . . Now I’m reading Mere Christianity.  Is it heresy to say I’m finding C.S. Lewis a little priggish, or something?  I’m not feeling it.  Also about to start I Believe in Love–about the saint I don’t get.

Wearing maternity leggings and a dress or tunic (I have about five of them).  Every day.  So simple.  Again, much better than the second trimester, when it was too hot to wear leggings.  I’m trying to forget the outfits I wore this summer.

Also wearing Superga sneakers in a gray/silvery color.  Every year around this time I look for the perfect shoe and wind up with something in some garish color or another.  Glad I avoided that trap this year.

Singing “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” because Girl 1 just lost hers.  She listened intently and then exclaimed, “But that’s not all I want!”

Preoccupied with this house.  I have a list titled, “Things That Will Drive Me Crazy If Not Done Before the Baby Arrives.”  “We” are making good progress.  Meaning, Pat asks me every weekend and most evenings, “What do you want me to do now?” . . . I feel like all my creative energy is going into this house–and this baby.  Haven’t felt much like writing lately, although I do miss it.

Here’s some of the good:

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remember the before for this room?

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the bad and the ugly

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The fireplace will look nice once I get around to whitewashing it (kind of like Jill’s, maybe a little whiter), don’t you think?

Laughing at the positions I find Barbies scattered around the house every day. They’re usually in various stages of undress though so it’s a little . . . inappropriate.

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Struggling with insomnia.  It helps if I stay off of computer screens and my phone in the evenings.  So with that . . . good night and thanks for reading!

(I’ll link up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes, even though I’ve got more than seven here.)

On Virginia Woolf and Maria Goretti

Combining a [not so] Quick Lit post with a Seven [not so] Quick Takes post . . .

Virginia Woolf image via Wikipedia

1. I just finished Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own, and it gave me so much to think about; I could go on and on.  Primarily, though I was struck by Woolf’s emphasis on writing for its own sake, with no specific telos*.  Toward the end of the essay, Woolf emphasizes “reality” and that women should focus on reality and not people and relationships.  The implied premise is that women before had been confined to the world of relationships–the drawing room and the nursery and their duties therein–and they hadn’t been encouraged to explore the world as it is.

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.

It is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people, I would say, if I knew how to make it sound exalted. Think of things in themselves.

See human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality . . . . Our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women.

In other words . . . Ladies, shake off your concerns for other people and any responsibility you have to help other people through your writing.  Focus on being yourself and writing what you want to write and describing the world as you see it.  In other words . . . prioritize work over relationships . . . like men do.

2. And just after reading Ms. Woolf’s essay, I turned to a shorter one by John Cuddeback, in which he proposes that men should prioritize relationships over their work [like women do?].

We need to do more to reimagine and then reinstate a different model of family life. At the center of this model will be a husband and father whose very success in life is fundamentally, though not solely, seen and judged in terms of what he does in the home. Indeed, a central measure of his manhood will be the quality of his presence in the home.

I tend to agree with Dr. Cuddeback.

3. At the same time,when I start mentally criticizing Virginia Woolf, I catch myself and remember that

My life is better than pretty much any woman’s from any other time period or any other part of the globe. 

If I were a man, I might prefer to live in other times or other parts of the world (a [male] taxi driver once extolled North Africa to me as the best place in the world to live), but as a woman, nope.  I think I have it as good as it gets, and possibly as good as it ever will get.

I don’t know how much credit Virginia Woolf deserves for my enviable position, but . . . .  I can take so much for granted that perhaps it skews my understanding?

4.  Virginia Woolf also makes statements like,

“Chastity … has, even now, a religious importance in a woman’s life, and has so wrapped itself round with nerves and instincts that to cut it free and bring it to the light of day demands courage of the rarest.”

After reading Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and (a few months ago) Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, and of the horrific sexual assaults both women experienced I think . . . maybe we’ve unwrapped those nerves and instincts too much and thrown out the baby with the bath water?  Nerves and instincts are not virtues, but they can be preemptive self-defense measures.

5. Still it bugs me that the Catholic Church hasn’t done enough to unravel “nerves and instincts” from what is actually the virtue of chastity.  (Consent!  Consent is implicit in the definition’s use of the word “gift.”)  I mean . . . if you’d humor for a moment, please picture a Venn diagram: physical virginity and chastity are two separate circles that overlap a great deal, but are not concentric.

So that brings me to Simcha Fisher’s post on Saint Maria Goretti.  (She also uses the baby-with-the-bathwater-cliche but that’s coincidental.)  I’ve mulled over a post on this saint for almost a year, planning to write something around her feast day.  But July 6 came and went.  Probably I was sleeping/eating/gestating and not much else.

As it turns out, my essay was written for me, in various comments to the post.  (Reading the comments to Simcha’s posts is usually a waste of time, but occasionally I slip back into old habits.)

The objection to how St Maria Goretti’s cult is often presented is the notion that she was canonized because she managed to die before her attacker was able to succeed in raping her. Usually in words to the effect of “die rather than lose her chastity.” Which leads to the horrific implication that she would indeed have lost her chastity if he had succeeded in overpowering her against her will before killing her, and that his action carried out against her will would have been a sin on her part, and that anyone who does NOT fight to the death against a rapist is somehow “accepting” and therefore complicit in the attack and committing a mortal sin themselves.

. . . .

Did he say, “Let me rape you, or I’ll kill you,” and she said, “I’d rather you kill me”? That would give the impression that being raped is sinful, which seems confused. Or did he say, “Let’s have sex,” and she said no, and then he got angry and killed her? If the latter, then she was trying to avoid sexual sin (perhaps indeed for his sake as much as for her own), but there’s no reason, in this version of the story, to think there’s any worrisome implication that she was trying to avoid the pseudo-sin of being raped.

. . . .

She was 11. He had a knife and already heard the word “no” many times without impact. If anyone sees the potential for HER to sin in this situation, get thee to a therapist. Consent was not an option.

. . . .

I am sorry but this is trying to paper over an ugly truth in the Catholic Church.. the Church cared more about little Maria Goretti’s purity than it did her life. Maria Goretti was definitely not canonized for her forgiveness but for her purity. Pius XII mentioned as much in his homily at her canonization. It was all about her purity; she was a symbol used to condemn Italian girls who were sleeping with the American GIs.

These ^ are all other people’s words, not mine, but I’ve had the same back and forth in my head.

6. And I ponder why so many (all?) cultures place more weight on women’s physical purity than on consent, or on actual virtue, or on men’s chastity.  Like Dr. Iannis says in Corelli’s Mandolin,

It’s a fact of life that the honour of a family derives from the conduct of its women.  I don’t know why this is, and possibly matters are different elsewhere.

I do, sort of, understand why this is.  In the grand, sordid, scheme of life men generally have to have some assurance that children are their own before they’ll support them.

Simcha’s description of why Saint Maria G. was canonized is a nice idea but it certainly isn’t the story I’ve been told.  In fact, in his homily during her canonization homily, Pope Pius XII stated,  “With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity.”  The Church’s teaching is a lot more nuanced than the crude-if-necessary emphasis on physical purity that so many cultures have.  But you wouldn’t get that impression from Saint Maria Goretti’s story as it’s traditionally been told.

I have no neat, insightful conclusions for you.  Just my thoughts.

7.  Oh phew! I have more links to share, but that’s enough for tonight.

Have a great weekend!

* Telos = secret code word used by conservative-Catholic-liberal-arts majors to identify themselves to one another.

Friday Link Love (and some quotes): June 26, 2015

1.  Even children experience His Passion, for our natural age has very little to do with our Christ-age, and the fact of being in Christ at all implies a state of childhood in the soul, a child’s almost infinite capacity for experiencing joy and sorrow completely.

–Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God

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I ordered a copy of Angel in the Waters for the girls.  I read it to them for the first time Tuesday night.  Girl 1 read it to herself multiple times and was weepy and mopey all day Wednesday.

“I just can’t stop thinking about Angel in the Waters. *sniff* “

“Does it make you sad?”

“No, it’s just . . .  *sniff* . . . The baby is just so little and so cute.  *sob*”

 

2. “Fed up with law practice? In about a year, you can be a computer coder, says lawyer who made switch.”  Pat has pretty much the ideal job.  I can’t say switching hasn’t crossed my mind . . . .

3.  We had the perfect family dinner a few weeks ago at my former-new-favorite sushi place (we’ll call it FNFSP).  The girls tried new food–shrimp tempura!  We called it “shrimp nuggets.”  The girls gobbled it down.  They loved using chop sticks.  Pat and I enjoyed delicious sushi.  Taking the girls out to real restaurants has been mostly disastrous for years, and this was like a light at the end of the tunnel.

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And then . . .

  • Both girls puked that night, and all the next day, and most of the next.  And then . . .
  • We felt better Saturday and took an overnight trip to my cousin’s graduation party, and then,
  • I stupidly bought them Happy Meals during the car trip, and then . . .
  • Girl2 puked in the hotel pool . . . multiple french fry filled heaves before Pat could get her out of the water (we tipped the unfortunate lifeguard/ pool cleaner).  And then . . .
  • She fussed and cried all during the pool party the next day.  We let big sister swim but not Girl 2.  I just couldn’t risk doing that to my uncle.  And then . . .
  • Last week we noticed some unauthorized purchases made on our debit cards.  We cancelled the cards, contacted the bank, got the money credited back, etc. etc.

But still . . . .

  • We couldn’t figure out how it happened.  Both of our debit card numbers had been stolen.  The cards were still in our possession, so they must have been skimmed.  But Pat hardly ever uses his debit card for purchases.
  • The only place we’ve both used our debit cards lately has been our own bank’s ATM and, oh yeah . . . .

at FNFSP.

Insult upon injury x 1000000000.

6.   Girl1: [out of the blue] “Man, I like Jesus too.”

       Girl1: “Mom!  Your bum bum is just like your [pregnant] belly!”

Girl 2: “I weally want Jesus to come back. . . . I weally want Uncle John to come back. . . . I weally want Jesus to come back.”  [conflated identities, perhaps?  they both have beards]

Girl 1: “That’s a picture of my mom and dad when they got married.”

LittleFriend: “Your mom looks really different!!!”  [So. I’ve. been. told, kid.]

Girl1 [just now, looking at the photo I posted of our FNFSP trip]:  “Ewwww, yuck.   From now on, I hate FNFSP.”

7. Have a lovely weekend. Click over to This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick takes.

 

Five Favorite Books Lately

I’m going to review them ultra quick.  Blink and you’ll miss it.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.  A beautifully written page turner.  So many elements in common with Patchett’s Bel Canto: South America, dramatic beginning, characters stuck waiting in stressful situations and separated from their cell phones, opera.  But still a completely new and original story.  Really enjoyed it.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen . Middle schooler turns to 1950s teen popularity manual and writers about the results.  Funny and heartwarming.  Anyone else wonder if a fourteen-year-old actually wrote this?  I don’t really doubt it, but this little part of me wonders.

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the LongestDan Buettner: Investigation of lifestyles in areas with unusually high number of people living to be 100 (topic addressed here).  Easy to read, although I think it could have been written better.  Also, his conclusion is that our life expectancy and quality of life are within our control.  I think his studies suggest the opposite, as most of the centenarians he profiles were just living the life customary to their particular culture.  They aren’t countercultural, as we would have to be to imitate them.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, audiobook read by Cherry Jones: We all finally listened to the whole thing on our last car trip.  Really enjoyed it, especially hearing her sing the songs with a fiddle accompaniment.  Only qualm is that Ms. Jones reads Pa’s lines with a Southern accent.  Charles Ingalls was born in New York and spent most of his life in the Midwest.  Seriously?  All the same, looking forward to getting the next in the series.

Ramona’s World by Beverly Cleary: Girl 1 is having us read certain chapters over and over.  I can’t complain.  I just love this series.

Started but not yet finished:

Pioneer Girl, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the newly released annotated version of Wilder’s original, never-before-published autobiography.  All the footnotes are fascinating but it makes for slow reading.

Reed of God by Caryll Houselander: There are parts I like about this book, but for the most part it’s not my style.  Everyone I know who has read it loves it.  I’m going to persevere.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead  by Brene Brown: I’m disappointed by this book so far, although I plan to at least skim the rest of it.  It has some great ideas but is written in such generalities that I skim over a lot of it.  Not the page-turner I’d hoped.

Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII by Deborah Cadbury: Well-written look at the English monarchy during WWII.  Previously all I really knew was what I saw from the movie, The King’s Speech (just realized the movie is based on a book by the same name).  I never manage to finish history books, though, and this time it won’t be any different.

I’m linking up with Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy, and tomorrow with Jenna for Five Favorites.IMG_8474

Friday Link Love May 29, 2015: Shoeties and More!

1. Apparently one of the secrets of longevity and health is to . . . eat more beans and walk a lot and live in community. This short article about the living habits of people in areas, like Sardinia, with very high longevity made me want to read the author’s book on the same subject, The Blue Zone Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People.

It also made me think that our American obsession with diet and exercise is so ridiculous.  Drinking shakes and counting calories and doing workouts are not really hallmarks of a healthy lifestyle.  They’re substitutions that might help–maybe–when we can’t live an actually healthy lifestyle.  (Says me, for whom shakes and the gym would be a huge improvement from the status quo.)

via the Wall Street Journal

2.  This article cracked me up.  The title is No More Ballet Flats: Summer Shoes for Work: Designer Ruthie Davis favors colorful looks but doesn’t sacrifice comfort.  These are the photos attached to the article:

via the Wall Street Journal

via the Wall Street Journal

If there’s a single comfortable anything in either picture, I can’t find it.  Maybe her watch.

Also, the lady in the article is fond of the “shoetie,” a cross between a bootie and a shoe, like the shoe on the bottom right in the second picture.  “She likes that most styles have a zipper in the back of the heel, making the shoe fairly easy to slip on and off. ‘You’ve got some coverage but there’s an open-toe aspect so there is breathability.'”

I can’t think of anything worse than a shootie.

3. The Magnificat recently had this passage written by Saint Philip Neri:

To preserve our cheerfulness amid sickness and troubles is a sign of a right and good spirit.  A man should not ask tribulations of God . . . he who bears what God send him daily does not do a small thing.

I’m thinking about this today, since the girls have been puking all day, and Pat and I are feeling puny too.

I’m just going to have to leave off with three quick takes for this week.  Click over to This Ain’t the Lyceum for more.  Have a happy weekend!

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: 7 Quick Book Reviews

Let’s see if I can finish this before the three-year-old wakes from her nap:

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1. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge: I keep hearing about Elizabeth Goudge. She has a devoted following.  Her books mostly went out of print but are now back in print.  Sadly, I’m not a fan.  She develops some lovely themes of redemptive suffering and the working of grace, but she has a wordy, sentimental style I’m not fond of.

2. Growing Up With Sensory Issues: Insider Tips from a Woman with Autism: I really appreciated this first-hand account of growing up with sensory processing disorder and autism/Aspergers.  I’ve read a lot of books on similar topics, so I just skimmed it but I might go back.  I especially liked her accounts of what worked for her (her parents’ tough love mixed with lots of understanding) and what didn’t (a lot in the conventional classroom).

3: Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn’t Fit In- When to Worry and When Not to Worry:  The title is misleading.  It sounds like it’s about kids who are quirky but without a diagnosable condition.  Actually, it focuses mainly on kids who are on the autism spectrum, although it doesn’t completely ignore those who don’t have a diagnosis.  Again, I skimmed because a lot of books on this topic cover the same material.  But the one page on picky eating made the book for me: basically, don’t make a big to-do over your quirky child’s eating preferences, they’ll probably do just fine no matter how self-limited their diet; you have bigger issues to deal with.

4. It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig: I keep hearing about Whole 30, and this is the book that started it.  I find the authors’ writing style condescending (“We’ll keep the science-y stuff to a minimum,” . . . because I’m too dumb to understand it??? . . . I hate having my intelligence insulted.)  And yet . . . I found it compelling.  I haven’t done a Whole 30 yet for reasons I won’t go into now, but I’m inclined to try in the near future.  I ate almost-paleo for a few weeks and was surprised at how much I liked it.  Also . . . white potatoes now are allowed!  This makes a world of difference to me.

5. The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne: This was fun, easy reading.  Total chick lit.  I got bored with the sequel though.  The premise of the first is just original enough to keep me interested but the second felt formulaic from the get-go.

6. Death Comes to the Archbishop, by Willa Cather: So beautiful.  It’s not really about anyone’s death, it’s about a missionary priest–eventual archbishop’s–life, told in a series of short stories about incidents in his life throughout the years.  I wish I could think of a way to make the topic more interesting–as it is, I never would have picked it up if it hadn’t been chosen for book club–but it’s really beautiful and exciting too.  For those who have read it–I almost think the real protagonist is Fr. Joseph, and not the archbishop.  It’s kind of like Fr Joseph’s story is told through the archbishop’s story.  At least, I found Father Joseph a lot more personally likable and colorful than the archbishop.  What do you think?

7. A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh:  I read this years ago, but just discovered it’s a selection of the month for the Wall Street Journal book club.  I’ll following along because I think Waugh’s writing is brilliant, this book included.  To quote the Wall Street Journal article on it,

What they’re talking about is this end of civilization, or the end of a certain kind of civilization. He’s saying it’s all falling apart. These people are losing whatever heritage they’ve ever had. But there’s a subtext where he’s saying: And didn’t they have it coming? These are frivolous, morally groundless people, who are careless about their privilege, careless about each other and careless about society. And they need some moral underpinning that they don’t now have.

The character’s are ridiculous enough to make you laugh, but their faults are realistic enough to make you cringe.  The ending is just wonderfully over the top.  It’s great satire.

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Girl 2 is waking up.  Gotta go.  Click over to Kelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum for more quick take posts and click over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more quick lit (she’s finally posting about books she doesn’t like and why she doesn’t).

Seven Quick Takes 2.27.15

1. The girls and I listened to Kids Songs Jubilee in the van today.  I grew up listening to the Kids Songs tapes by Nancy Cassidy.  Now Girl 1 sits on the couch, reading the songs to herself and singing them.  I love hearing her sing.  And both girls listen to the tape together, singing and dancing around the living room.  Love it.

This is the only clips I can find on YouTube (speaking of which, did you know YouTube has one billion viewers but no profit?):

2. Per Kelly’s prompt, this was my first post.  Random thought off the top of my head.  Nothing much has changed.

3. My most-viewed post is Style & the Stay at Home Mom: A Quest.  By far.

4. My least-viewed post is this (no surprise).  You can read its follow-up here (oooh, exciting!).

5. This post today might end up down at the bottom of the list too, because it’s one of those days . . .

6. where I’m just . . .

7. not inspired.

Oh here’s a thought: how many years off Purgatory should I get for letting my kid “help” me paint?  I’m thinking lots and lots.

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Oh, and my new living room arrangement I showed you last week?  These are “before” shots (or a halfway-there shots).  Oh, this house . . . .

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Click back to This Ain’t the Lyceum for something worthwhile to read.  😉  Happy weekend folks!

On Writing Well and Why I Blog

I recently finished On Writing Well by William Zinsser.  I enjoyed it because it reminded me why I blog.  Some people craft, not because the world needs another afghan or cross-stitch sampler, but because it’s rewarding to make something yourself and do it well.  I’m not much for making things with my hands, but I like to turn a phrase.  And doing so well is a challenge–a fun challenge.  Too many things in life are challenging but not fun, or fun but not challenging.  Writing well is both.

The book is full of writing wisdom, a lot of which I’ve heard before in legal writing class–be brief, use short words and sentences, choose strong verbs and nouns over adjectives and adverbs, don’t lose your reader’s attention.  Write about what interests you.  (Okay, that last part wasn’t in legal writing class.)  A challenge is doing this while developing a distinctive voice.  (I should add that Zinsser takes what could be a dry manual and makes it a book that is fun to read on its own.   The chapters on sports writing and science reporting, however, I skipped.)

Blogging is a low-risk, relatively high-reward way to practice writing well.  For me, it’s fun to look at a paragraph and think, “How many sentences could I chop here?” or to look at a phrase and think, “how could I replace all these words with a single word?”  Until it gets to be midnight, then I stop and hit publish.  And 99.999% of the population will never read it; the rest (Hi Mom!) don’t care that it’s not perfect.

Zinsser, in a book written before blogging existed, is harsh on blogging.  He says to stay warm and personal while avoiding chattiness and clichés.  I wonder how the chattiness prohibition applies to blogging  Grace‘s blog, for example, epitomizes chattiness, but she’s a great writer in her own distinctive way.  Meanwhile, a lot of blogs or articles that use the same style fall flat.  I think the distinction is that Grace writes exactly the way she talks (so I’ve been told on good authority), whereas others (myself included!) sometimes try too hard.

So, lots of food for thought here.  At another stage of my life, I might have gotten discouraged by this book.  At this stage, I find it a fun challenge.

(I’m linking up with Jessica for her monthly What We’re Reading link-up.  I’m a week late but here I am!)