Wednesday, April 3, 2024

An Open Book: March 2024 Reads

Christ is risen! 

I hope that you all are having a beautiful Easter season so far. I personally am enjoying the chance to bask in the glory of Easter after the intensity of Holy Week :) With the start of another month, it's time to link up with An Open Book! In March, I did not get much done in the way of writing, but I read a lot. It was a really fantastic lineup of books, so let's dive in! 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

My Electrifying Existence

The house was hushed and the lights were dim as I walked away from the bedroom where three of my children slept. Holding the toddler in my arms, I grabbed my laptop--might as well watch a show while putting her to sleep, I figured. I grabbed the charging cable too, since my laptop would not work unless it was plugged in. 

Still holding my child, I started to plug the laptop's charging cord into the outlet. A slight shock briefly jarred me, and stupidly, I thought I had put it in wrong. Grasping the cord, I carefully tried putting it in the outlet again. 


A surge of electricity pulsed into my hand. I dropped the cord and--still holding tightly to my sleepy toddler--leaped away. "DEAR GOD, PLEASE HELP ME!" I yelled as the waves of electricity pushed up my arm. They rolled through my chest, into my other arm, and briefly down towards my waist. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

February 2023 Reads

Happy March, everyone! Since it's the beginning of the month, it's time to look back on the past few weeks to talk the books that crossed my path. In February, I read a mix of fiction and nonfiction, both adult and children's books. I was able to read quite a bit, because I was unexpectedly unable to use my laptop for an entire week--and since I don't have a smartphone, I was thus without any kind of online reading or social media. It was the perfect opportunity to pick up books! Incidentally, when I finally got my laptop in working order a week later, I discovered that I really did not miss anything. Anyways, let's talk books! 

[edited to add: make sure you head over to An Open Book for more reading recaps!]

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

How Catholic parishes can support homeschooling families

My family and I are moving to the area soon, and we're homeschoolers. What is a good church that offers opportunities for homeschooling families?

A variation of this question regularly pops up within social media groups, especially as people look ahead to the coming school year. Over time, I've noticed that in the Catholic community, the same handful of parishes tend to be recommended over and over. Homeschooling families flock to these parish communities. They know they will be supported in their educational journey, and they are excited about the existing opportunities they can enjoy. 

It's wonderful when parishes encourage homeschooling families, and I'm grateful for the encouragement that homeschoolers receive from the diocese as well. However, I wonder if more parishes could join in this support and outreach. Catholic parishes do a fantastic job supporting and celebrating Catholic education when it comes to the school system. Yet, there are families in the pews who seek a Catholic education through homeschooling. 

Homeschooling families are part of the parish community, even if we don't utilize the Catholic school system. We don't need a homeschooling equivalent of Catholic Schools Week, but we would love encouragement and support, too. I've encountered Catholic homeschooling communities across America, and between my experiences and those of my friends and acquaintances, I've observed different ways that Catholic parishes can reach out to homeschooling families. Here are a few ideas to get us started as we support these families in their mission and work: 

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Journey into Lent with Barbie (and Ken)

In the aftermath of a glorious battle that began with hobby horses and tennis rackets and ended in a fabulous dance sequence, an assortment of Barbies, Kens, and Mattel employees ponder the events of Greta Gerwig’s delightful film, Barbie. One of the Kens speaks to the group, his voice deep and resolute:

"We were only fighting because we didn't know who we were."

Throughout a series of wild adventures, the film probes the topic of identity. We follow Stereotypical Barbie on an ordinary day as she soars through her predictable, perfect life. She has always seen her core identity in being the perfect Barbie: arched feet, flawless skin, and a fun "girls' night" every night. However, when she discovers cellulite, experiences mishaps in her Dream House, and her heels touch the ground, everything falls apart. Who is she? And who is Ken, the blond guy whose job is “beach” and whose core identity relies on being Barbie’s boyfriend-but she's not that interested in him? 

Are the Kens supposed to find their identity and purpose in being subordinate accessories to the Barbies? Are the Barbies supposed to find their identity and purpose in being “long term, low commitment casual girlfriends” to the Kens?
Their confusion bursts into conflict: the Barbies against the Kens, the Kens against the Barbies, and the Kens against each other. There is no true peace. 

In order for harmony to exist, in order for them to experience fulfillment, in order for them to truly be able to love themselves and each other, the Barbies and Kens need to discover who they really are. Who they were made to be. 

We each need to do this too, don’t we? We need to learn who we are. Otherwise, our relationships--and our own lives--will suffer. 

The season of Lent offers us the perfect opportunity to do this. 


Wednesday, February 7, 2024

An Open Book: January 2024 Reads

Another month has arrived, so it's time to link up with An Open Book! I'm very excited to share the books that took me through the first month of 2024. Fiction and nonfiction titles hit my shelf, and courtesy of a teething toddler, I even managed to get through a 700+ page biography! Let's dive in. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

"Unanswered" prayers

It was October, and I wanted to watch Overthe Garden Wall. There was just a problem: every single library copy was checked out or reserved for other people.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, Over the Garden Wall is a miniseries that follows a set of brothers who are lost in a dark wood. This animated show originally aired on Cartoon Network and may not seem too profound at first glance. It's dark and very, very weird. However, the story, characters, and themes are incredibly deep and ripe for discussion and reflection. The show is also perfect for fall time and Halloween, which is why I wanted to watch it—and why every copy was unavailable. (I know online renting is an option, but I didn’t want to pay money just to watch a two-hour show)

Then, at the very end of October, on the cusp of our departure for a road trip, I received word from the library: my copy had arrived. So, for the final two evenings of October, my husband and I tucked our sugared-up kids in bed and I introduced him to this weird, delightful, profound show. As we discussed the different episodes and characters, I was filled with gratitude. God cares about my desire to watch Over the Garden Wall, I thought. Furthermore, because this DVD came in just before a huge road trip, we took it with us and introduced relatives to the beauty of Over the Garden Wall. My husband and I got to watch this show twice in a week, and another time over Christmas (since it's a "Halloween show," I could keep renewing the DVD as long as I one else wanted it anymore haha!). It was amazing. 

Soon after this, the temperatures began to dip—and I thought about cardigans. As much as I love cozying up in a hooded sweatshirt on chilly days, there’s something particularly awesome about wrapping myself in an oversized cardigan while I read, write, or take my kids to the park. All of the cardigans I had owned in the past had worn out or gotten donated in a move. The thought briefly slipped through my mind one day: It would be nice to have a cozy knitted cardigan again.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

An Open Book: December 2023 Reads

Happy New Year! It is so fun to think about the year ahead, but I want to take a quick moment to review the books that helped me finish off 2023. Back in November, I hadn't gotten to many books; between lots of travel, a couple books that I started but put down for different reasons, and lots of activity in our home, I was happy to finish the few books that I did. In December, however, I made up for it. I read a really good mix of fiction and non-fiction, both adult and children's books, and I really loved some of them. I'm linking up with An Open Book; let's dive in! 

Monday, January 1, 2024

2023: Reading & Writing in Review

It's that magical time when countless people share their reading highlights from the previous year, and I'm excited to jump in! 2023 was a great year for reading. I didn't get around to reading poetry as I had planned, but I focused on reading whatever was working for me and not feeling bad about putting books down that I couldn't get into.

In 2023, I dove into a mix of novels for adults, graphic novels (the kids and I read all of the post-show Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels!), nonfiction books and children's novels. In my official total, I reached 95 books (which does not include some cookbooks and the multitude of picture books I read to my kids). A lot of the books I read were awesome! Here's a small sampling of what I read over the past year:

Thursday, December 21, 2023

I'm not "ready for Christmas" yet (and I'm OK with that)

 “Are you ready for Christmas?”

If I was quicker on my feet, perhaps I’d be able to answer this question with some witty remark. Yet, I don’t come up with good one-liners on the spot, so when this question has been tossed my way recently, I’ve either given an offhanded comment like “sure, I guess?” or I’ve begun rambling about how our family doesn’t spend December in a frenzy of shopping and activities.

How do I put the gift of Advent into words? How can I express that I’m not ready for Christmas—but not for the reason that other people expect? How can I share my deep gratitude for this season that leads us into the desert as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ?

The act of writing is an oasis where I can silently sift through my thoughts and make them coherent in some way. So, as I sit here in the respite between the winter Ember Days, I want to rest in this question for a moment. 

Am I ready for Christmas?

No, I’m not—and I’m okay with that.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Gather 'round the manger

The other day, our family attended an annual Advent Lessons & Carols; an event which intersperses Bible readings and hymns that prepare us for the coming of Christ. During the “Third Lesson,” from the Book of Isaiah, the following happened in our pew:

Reader: “They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”

My preschooler, an incredulous look flooding her face, leans over and whispers: “She said Princess Peach!”

Me: “Shhhh…no.”

My preschooler stands up on her seat, indignant as she loudly whispers: “SHE DID! SHE SAID PRINCESS PEACH!”

And thus begins Advent.

We've been gently easing into this new liturgical year, and only just pulled out our nativity sets and Advent materials a couple days ago. My young children excitedly opened boxes, handing plush nativity pieces to the toddler and "fluffing" our small tree. My five-year-old took it upon himself to set up the breakable nativity set on our counter. I walked over to see his work, and I noticed that he had arranged the pieces in the same way that he did last year.