Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Release Day!!! It's Here!!!

I'm eeking this out before midnight in my timezone, and the reason for that is another story for another day. BUT...the book is here!!

I am so excited to share this beautiful little book with you. As I said in my last post, we've found some good resources for praying the Stations of the Cross with slightly older kids...but what about the one year old? The two year old? The three year old? (And some days...even the five or six year old???) How can we bring the Stations into their awareness in a gentle, yet theologically solid way? 

Enter this simple book.

I Walk With Jesus - A Simple Way of the Cross is modeled after the style of book that my young children love best. Each station has a picture, a word to focus on, and a brief sentence to summarize the station. The beginning and end of the book feature short, classic prayers associated with the Stations of the Cross and Paschal mystery, and you could easily incorporate the announcement of the name of the Station and the "We adore you O Christ, and we praise you..." prayer into each Station if attention spans allowed. 

But you'll also notice something else - this book isn't just for toddlers and babies. It could very easily be used with older kids, including (but not only) older kids with special needs. It's simple, but it's not babyish. 

I'm releasing this book at the start of Lent, the most popular time to pray the Way of the Cross. But honestly...this classic prayer of the Church is one we would benefit from praying throughout the year. 

Throughout Lent, I'll be sharing this book (and opportunities to win a copy of your own!!!) on some of my favorite blogs. If you can't can buy your copy today!!

The book is available on Kindle Fire, Kindle Android, paperback, and PDF. I can't get it to work on my KindlePaperwhite right now, so I'm going to troubleshoot that (just to give you a heads up). BUT it has been formatted for Kindle, and if you want to read it on your Kindle Fire or Android device it looks absolutely beautiful! (And really, those are my preferred means for reading kid's e-books anyway, so that you get to see any color. Most of these pictures are black and white, but there are color coded words throughout the book). 

And, well...why don't we go ahead and give away a copy right here??? Winner will receive a Kindle or PDF copy of the e-book. Giveaway closes on Sunday!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Stations of the Cross - for Toddlers????

First of all, have you heard about Waiting in the Word - A Mother's Lenten Journey?? Nell sent me a review copy and I am SO excited to dive in! I hadn't had anything planned for my prayer life this Lent, and this is just the ticket.

Oh, and I wrote another book for you all! You guys...this is my favorite project yet! I'm so excited about how it's turned out, and so excited to have a copy in my hands to use with my own toddler.

There are some great resources out there for older kids and families, wanting to pray the Stations of the Cross together. Our family won this beautiful set a couple of years back in a giveaway, and have loved using it. But for the littlest ones in the family...the baby, toddler, or young preschooler? What about them. 

Enter this book.

The official release date is set for Ash Wednesday...and I'll share so much more about it then. But I had to share it tonight, or else I would burst! I just can't wait for you to get a copy in your hands, to begin to teach your little ones about the Way of the Cross this Lent.

I should add, though, that this book is NOT just for the littlest members of your family. You'll notice that the subtitle isn't "A Baby's Way of the Cross" or "A Toddler's Way of the Cross." Because honestly? Even your slightly older kids will appreciate this. It's so simple and straightforward that it will help even you and your big kids to memorize the Stations. I also envision it being a possible resource for little and big kids with special needs, too. Basically, this little book is one that your whole family can pray together! Imagine...being able to pray the Stations of the Cross, as a family, in only a minute or two??

Check back later this week for more details! I can tell you that it will be available both in e-book (PDF and Kindle) and paperback forms. AND the e-book formatting will be slightly different to maximize toddler swiping satisfaction (EVERY single page must have pictures, or my toddler will lose interest!). 

Oh, and don't worry...there will be giveaways and reviews coming, too. ;-)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Remembering Who You Are (Even After Becoming a Mother)

Andrew kicked me out of the house this afternoon to go for a walk in the woods. I didn't realize how much I needed it until I did. 

The path I chose was a familiar one. I'd walked it countless times in the four and a half years that we've lived here. (In fact, it was the very trail that I'm fairly sure put me into labor with our youngest.) Today was incredibly, unseasonably warm (even for down here), and I hiked in short sleeves, soaking in the sunlight. 

I had so many things on my mind today (I only seem to have more and more opportunities to trust God in the face of so much uncertainty). I try to spend time in adoration or at Mass by myself at least once a week, but this afternoon, I really needed to just be moving. Moving, thinking, and mentally praying. 

I was so consoled by the sights and sounds and smells of the woods. It wasn't just the fact that I was out in nature on a beautiful day. It was the specific smells, sounds, etc. and how they triggered memories - memories of all that's led me to the woman that I am as I sit here and write this. 

I was in track and field in high school. The first month or so of practice was inevitably held indoors (I went to high school in Michigan, and practice started in January). But I remember those first few practices held outdoors, and those early track meets. The air was warm at first, but chilly the longer you stayed out in it. When I'd run, rapidly inhaling the cool air would make my chest ache. To this day, whenever I feel that sensation, I feel as if I could close my eyes and open them and be back there.

Feeling that sensation today reminded me of the girl I was in high school. It probably doesn't surprise you to hear that I was no wild girl in high school. I was steady and level headed. But it was also during my high school years that I fell more deeply in love with God, where I began to seek out time alone with him in the Eucharist. It was during this time that I began to understand what it meant, when I heard people talk about vocation. It was during that time that I began to understand how to take time in silent prayer, to discern my own vocation. 

The campus of Notre Dame is stunningly gorgeous. It was during my time there that I learned the art and beauty of solitude. I had some amazing friends at Notre Dame, and feel so blessed by the men and women who came into my life during that time. But part of what formed me during that time was learning the importance of seeking and finding ways to be alone. When I was still a newly minted freshman, overwhelmed by being surrounded by strangers all day, every day, I went for a walk by myself and discovered a beautiful cross nestled in the woods around the lake on campus. That spot saved me. It grounded me. When I found that spot, I knew that I would be alright. 

Walking through the woods always takes me back to those woods around the lakes of Notre Dame. I prayed on those paths, talked to friends on those paths, cried on those paths, and kissed my (now) husband for the first time on those paths. I discovered who I was as a young woman on those paths, and discerned who God was calling me to be. So many of those feelings came rushing back to me today, on my hike. 

Where am I going with this? I don't know what your walk in the woods is, but whatever it is - find it. Find what reminds you who you are.

This is particularly a challenge when you are a mother who spends most or all of her days with her children. It's a challenge when you're married. It's a challenge when you don't have time to yourself. But it's incredibly important to have a rich interior life, no matter what age or stage you're at. Prayer is an important part of it, as is self-reflection. It's important to spend time thinking about who you are, and who you've been, and who you want to be.

A lot of mothers feel guilty taking time to do this. They feel like it's selfish. I'm raising my hand here...guilty as charged. I almost took the girls to the park instead of taking my husband's (very wise) advice. 

Because the truth is - I'm not just doing this for myself. I'm doing this for them. My children need a mother who knows who she is. My children need a mother who has an interior life from which she draws strength. My children need me to be fully myself.

You are the woman your children need. They don't need you to be anything other than yourself. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Single Bead - A Book Review and Giveaway!!!

I was recently invited to read and review A Single Bead. Written by Stephanie Engelman (who blogs over at A Few Beads Short) this beautiful little novel is a part of the Pauline Teen offerings.

From the book's description:

"On the anniversary of the plane crash that took the life of her beloved grandmother and threw her own mother into a deep depression, 16-year-old Katelyn Marie Roberts discovers a single bead from her grandmother's rosary-a rosary lost in the crash. A chance encounter with a stranger, who tells Katelyn that a similar bead saved her friend's life, launches Katelyn and her family on a quest to find the other missing beads. Their mysterious journey, filled with glimmers of hope, mystical encounters and unexplained graces takes them further into the unknown. Katelyn turns to the Rosary for answers and soon finds that family, prayer and the help of others may be the key to restoring what was lost."

This is the book that I wanted to read when I was a teenager - a book steeped in Catholic culture with a beautiful, compelling story line. 

Although my teenage years are but a memory, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. I'm always a little bit leery of reading religious fiction, as it sometimes sacrifices quality writing for the sake of conveying the message. Engelman's book does not fit that stereotype. The writing is simply beautiful, the characters are rich and full, and the entire book is extremely readable.

In a world that is often hostile to Catholicism, it was reassuring to be lost in a story that was so thoroughly steeped in Catholic culture. Although the main character does not have a particularly strong faith at the outset of the story, she is surrounded by a large and loving extended family that does. Yet, there is nothing preachy about her family. Their faith is believable because they practice what they preach, and in a time of family crisis, they pull together and find a way to pull through. The rosary, Mass, the faith - they do not overpower the family experience. They are simply and naturally woven throughout. Kate's aunt invites her to go to Mass with her at one point, but she also takes her out to dinner. This natural interaction of faith, family, and food - the Catholic trifecta, as any good Catholic knows - carries Kate through a time of doubt and anxiety. Not only does Kate's extended family offer her emotional support, but they feed her warm food and surround her with companionship at table. I'm reminded of James 2:16, which says, "If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?" This family gets that.

But most importantly, the writing in this book is simply beautiful, and it makes the reading experience cathartic. I'm not sure what your personal history is, in terms of life, family and friend relationships, healing and grief - but no matter what your background, I'm sure there will be something here that may strike a chord with your own suffering. I've never known the grief that Kate knows, but I've known my own griefs, and sought my own hope. I find a real comfort in this novel, and in Engelman's ability to bring the emotions and faith of Kate to life. 

A truly good book brings you through a place of pain, shows you bits of beauty, and leaves you with a deep sense of hope. This book does that. The ends don't need to be perfectly wound up in a good book, and it tends to be more realistic if they aren't. Although there is reconciliation at the end of this book, the ending isn't perfect and tidy (as no real life ending is). But the ending is infused with hope.

I highly recommend this book - for your adolescent or teen, for the young adult in your life, for someone of any age who is in need of a story of hope and healing, and especially for anyone with a deep and abiding love for Mary, our Blessed Mother. 

You can purchase the paperback or e-book copy of this book on Amazon, or directly from Pauline Books and Media.

Pauline Books and Media is generously offering one lucky winner a copy! Fill out the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win. :-) Giveaway closes on Friday night at 11:59 p.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Why Catholic Parents Should Love Star Wars

 A well told story – if it does not aim to merely preach – can convict us of a truth that we previously only grasped at surface level. Art that is Catholic captures our imagination, stirring within us a deep desire for good, and even a longing for God...

...The Force Awakens beautifully displays all that is true, good, and beautiful – and the beauty is striking. The movie is well done all around (not that we would expect anything less from J.J. Abrams, of course). The scenery is striking, the acting is genuine. It is simply a beautiful movie.

I promised I would share with you my thoughts on the latest Star Wars movie! Click here to read the rest.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why I'm Bringing Back Tea Time (and You Should, Too)

(Sharing some of what is pretty, happy, funny, and real around here.)

With the airing of the latest season, I've been tumbling back down the delightful Downton rabbit hole. In between new episodes, I've been tiding myself over with past episodes on Amazon prime, and digging for articles and books to learn more about the period. (This one was an enjoyable, fast read and I'm more determined than ever to finish up the beast that is Eliot's Middlemarch.)

As I'm sure fellow Downton fans would agree, one of the most beautiful parts of the show is the sense of order to each day in "the Big Houses." In particular - tea time.

Recently, I took our five year old to a birthday party at a friend's house, and I observed a trend that I've noticed at playdates and friends' houses. As the hostess made her way around the room, offering drinks and cupcakes, one after one the mothers (politely) turned down her offers of refreshments.

It seems that (especially when we're with our children) the mothers of my generation take an almost "on duty" mentality, "I'm on duty and I'll relax once the children are napping or in bed." But what a miserable life that makes for! Part of friendship, part of bonding, is sharing food and drink. Part of learning to enjoy daily life is taking time for nourishing our bodies (and our minds and our souls!).

Thanks to some dear friends and family I've gotten to know along the way, I've learned the importance of offering and accepting hospitality. And I've learned that something as simple as sipping cups of coffee or tea with a friend while watching our children play (and stopping to break up arguments and kiss ouchies, as needed) has the power to calm us both and allow us to have a real conversation. It also has the power to make us both feel civilized - no small feat for mothers of small children.

But I've also started making myself some tea during naptime, using a tea set that we were given as a gift for our wedding (but which I haven't used previously). Something as simple as sipping a warm drink from is a powerful thing. 

(We finally got snow!)

And so, I've started this simple afternoon routine. I plop our youngest in her crib and brew a pot of tea. I accept offers of coffee and tea when visiting friends, and I offer when we have friends over. I even use real cups and saucers when fixing the hot chocolate for my post-lunch read aloud time with the girls. And do you know what? It helps. It truly helps to partake in such an old ritual. It helps to remember that we are a part of a civilization, part of a society. 

And for a young mother, still figuring out her place in the world, that can be a real comfort.

(On a happy note...we were able to find a babysitter and sneak out post bedtime the other night to see this FANTASTIC film. Sooo many thoughts on this wonderful movie for another day.)

For more of my thoughts on slowing down, hop on over to Nourish Motherhood.

Friday, January 15, 2016

On the Importance of Making Home

(Joining up with Auntie Leila for {pretty, happy, funny, real}).

I've been mulling over a lot of things lately, but one thread that runs through all the variables in my life right now is simple: home.

It feels like our family has a million and one things to discern in the next few months, everything from where we'll live next year, to career discernment for us both, schooling/homeschooling options for the girls, and our ongoing desire for more children (with no success so far).

Andrew has applied to a jobs in a number of different places (no offers yet! Keep him in prayer, please!). We've developed our own little ritual, one that I'm sure is familiar to many academic families in this stage. We take time to look at the homes available in a given area, dreaming and trying to figure out if a given location is one we could see our family settling in. It's far too early to say what the end result will be, but it's fun to dream.

Underlying everything, though, is my desire to make wherever we live into a home - a place where we can all live, thrive, and be safe.

One of our best friends and a colleague of Andrew's recently left with his young family for a sabbatical abroad. Prior to them leaving, they rented a very small house for the semester. The house had some very dated features, which I remember seeing in all their glory when they moved in back in August.

But by the end of the semester, that house was beautiful. They were renting, so there were no renovations done or anything, but the wife/mother had turned that house into a home, and it looked positively lovely. It was her presence, her touch, that made all the difference.

I'll couple this with saying that an Ikea recently opened up a reasonable driving distance from our house. Have you ever been to an Ikea? It's like a living Pinterest. I love wandering through all those staged rooms, getting inspiration for our home.

But let's be honest - we're still living on a grad student budget. I'm not filling the cart as I troll the aisles. I'm mostly just dreaming, and planning future purchases (or planning what I can look for on Craigslist for a tenth of the price).

But that dreaming matters. In fact, I think it matters more than the actual purchase. Having a mother or a wife as the heart of a house - loving it and its inhabitants - is a big part of what makes a house a home. It is her love that makes all the difference.

This isn't exclusive to women who are staying home, either. There's such a real value to the role of homemaker, regardless of how many hours you have to devote to the job.

The job of homemaker matters. What you are doing for and dreaming of for your family matters. Even your home decor Pinterest boards matter.

If no one has told you that today, let this be your reminder. You matter.

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