NCRegister Blog:10 Classic Children’s Authors and Illustrators and their Works

From The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.

With Christmas coming, many parents tremble at the idea of adding more toys to the overflowing playrooms and bedrooms. A good book to give a child can solve the problem of too much clutter and benefit the child in many ways. It gives them hours of something worthwhile to do, adds to family community when read together, and teaches them to love beautiful things.

As a bibliophile, I have two criteria for what makes a book a “good” book for children. The first is that it must be good literature. This means that it has either stood the test of time and is still seen as a valuable book, or I have read it and found it to have great beauty and depth. The second criterion is that, if it is illustrated, the illustrations be beautiful. I do not like unrealistic, overly cartoony images, but simple line drawings with watercolor, painting, colored pencil, or woodcut prints do nicely.

My reason for being so picky is that the things that my children see and read at a young age will form and shape their minds for their whole lives…

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

Princesses In Fairy Tales

By H J Ford, L Speed – The Red Fairy Book, 1890., 10th impression 1907 Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912; Ford, H. J. (Henry Justice), 1860-1941; Speed, Lancelot, 1860-1931, ill. London : Longmans, Green, and Co. Copy held by Uni Toronto. Lib., scan made available at (online viewer). Convert to PNG, from JPG, and greyscale, with black and white point correction., Public Domain,

We do formal storytime twice a day: fairy tales at lunch time and the older two listen to a chapter book read by the professor at bedtime while the younger ones get a shorter story individually read by me.

Our lunchtime story has been from Andrew Lang’s Fairy books.* Since September we have made our way through the Blue and Yellow fairy books and now we are in the Red fairy book.

As it happens most of the “fairy” stories involve princesses in addition to fairies, and the princesses that are heroines of fairy stories always are endowed with great beauty and the very best of virtues. They are all very good, despite their various upbringings.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the nobility are evil. They are princes, princesses, kings, or queens and are very bad. It is always clear in the stories that these people are bad. Often a story will have it that the eldest two in a family of three brothers or three sisters will be more selfish or more foolish, and the third will be the most beautiful and most virtuous. And sometimes the oldest two in a family will be just bad.

One thing we have learned about princesses in fairy tales is that if she is married to a prince who is an unhuman creature by day, such as a pig, and a man at night, if she does anything to see him at night, which she most certainly will, then she will be separated from him forever, that is unless she embarks on an impossible quest which requires the aid of the sun and the moon and the west wind and the east wind and the north wind and the south wind to fulfill.

It should also be known that if a princess in a fairy story is told that she can do anything but one specific thing, then she will most certainly do the one thing which is forbidden, and then a consequence will ensue which will involve an impossible quest which requires the aid of the sun and the moon and the west wind and the east wind and the north wind and the south wind or perhaps the aid of a fairy.

Sometimes in the quest of a prince, he will help three animals out of various difficulties and they will come back to help him when he needs help to do whatever task he has to do to gain his freedom or his love. Often these tasks involve bringing a horse out to graze that runs away everyday, and if the prince cannot bring him home the witch or giant will eat him.

And while most princesses have happy endings, it does happen sometimes that the prince and princess will run out of magical resources at the end of the tale and the evil yellow dwarf who wants to marry her will slay both her and the prince with the prince’s magic sword which he drops instead of listening to the advice of the dolphin who brought him to the island on which his princess was being help hostage.

*Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books:  
The Blue Fairy Book
The Red Fairy Book
The Green Fairy Book
The Yellow Fairy Book
The Pink Fairy Book
The Grey Fairy Book
The Violet Fairy Book
The Crimson Fairy Book
The Brown Fairy Book
The Orange Fairy Book
The Olive Fairy Book
The Lilac Fairy Book

listening, eating, reading, making-vol. 1

I am joining in Anna’s linkup, because she is awesome.


Bach’s unaccompanied Cello suites have been my favorite music for de-stressing these days. And if I want to help the kids be calm, we listen to Audrey Assad’s new album Inheritance.


I think I have finally found a good dinner planning rhythm in which I get to make nice new recipes, but also have easy ones throughout the week as well. I plan longer, harder recipes for less busy days, and especially weekend dinners that I know the professor will be able to help. And do simple, but good most other nights. Like today we are having oven baked cheese “quesadillas: cheese and tortillas baked at 375 for 8 minutes on cookie sheets and served with salsa, sour cream, salad, and a frozen veggie.

This past Sunday I made steak tips with mushroom and onion gravy from our Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. The fun thing about having 1/4 beef in the deep freeze is that I get to work with cuts of beef that I don’t normally use.


The Master of Hestvikin by Sigrid Undset. I am in volume two. What is it about Undset that makes her make all of her main characters make so many bad decisions? Her novels really are a study of sin, how it builds upon itself, how it affects marriages. I have to read this one in small doses because there is so much packed in there. She totally understood human failure and weakness, but also redemption and grace.


I made (washed and changed the sheets) all the beds on Monday. I should be making lunch. The kids have been making messes. Not much creatively, except for writing these days.

(The book links are through my Amazon affiliate. I will receive a small percentage of what is purchased through the links.)

Books I Read in 2015

This post is inspired by Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas who reviewed her reading goals from the beginning of last year and let us know how she did. I don’t really set reading goals; I just read whatever I feel like reading, whatever M recommends, or whatever I think I should read. Reading is my way of bettering myself and I usually do it through literature and spiritual works.

These are the books I reread, read for the first time, and listened to while walking or running on the treadmill in 2015


Every pregnancy I have read the complete (completed) novels of Jane Austen.

  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Mansfield Park
  • Emma
  • Northanger Abbey

I love them all, and I love her insight into humanity and her emphasis on virtue in her ethics. This time around it occurred to me that I really don’t like the character of Emma Wodehouse (Emma) and that I related most to Fanny Price (Mansfield Park). I probably should elaborate on that insight elsewhere so as to not make this post take forever.

The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien–I read this every couple of years as the whim comes, or pregnancy fatigue or new-baby fatigue requires the old and familiar reading. You know how that goes.

Father Elijah by Michael O’Brien–I read this in anticipation of the release of the sequel, which I think is out by now. I suppose we (M and I) should read the sequel.

Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales–My go-to spiritual reading whenever I need a reexamination of myself, cleansing of my bad habits, and fortification of my good ones.

The Divine Comedy by Dante–For some reason I thought that this would be good postpartum nursing reading. It was not, so I gave up in the 5th circle of Hell. I suppose I should finish eventually, since Hell is a dreary sort of place to stop off in.

New reads. These were ones I read for the first time in the order that I read them.

Elisabeth Leseur: Selected Writings–I started this at the beginning of the year, but never finished. She was a very intriguing and relatable modern women of the 19th and 20th century. She is a Servant of God. I liked her a lot, but I put the book down when my Christmas present arrived in late winter.

Pioneer Girl
by Laura Ingalls Wilder–M got this for me for Christmas. This is a beautiful book to look at, and very interesting to read. It was more of a historical look at Laura’s life, with lots of informative footnotes. It was very good, but I think I like her novels better. I also wish that she wrote more of her adult life beyond the babyhood of her children.
Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley–This was recommended to me by a friend, and I read it during Lent. I found it helpful and good for praying with.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky–M read this in the spring, and asked me to read it. Personally, I found it to be more accessible than The Brother’s Karamazov and Crime and Punishment largely because there is more conversation than interior dialogue which can make Dostoevsky extremely weighty. It also helped that M gave me all of Hans urs von Balthasars commentary on this book in his Glory of the Lord volumes. The Idiot/the clown is basically on important figure in Christian literature; he is able to be like the little children. Just read the book.

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope–Trollope is great for what I consider “light” reading, but I am told that my light reading is not light for most people. He is one of those writers with conservative sensibilities that subtly mocks every type of person he writes about.

Martin Chuzzlewhit by Charles Dickens–I started reading this a couple of years ago because I needed a good novel and it was on the shelf. It is about as Dickens as you can get with absurd /memorable characters and way too much description. I finished it because we watched a BBC miniseries after T was born. It has about the evilest villain I have come across in Dickens, but you have to be up for knowing when to skim Dickensy verbosity if you want to get through it.

Call to a Deeper Love Letters of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin–This is one of my favorite reads this year. I probably should be reading her letters daily for the rest of my life. Reading St. Zelie makes me a better mom and wife; it is consoling, inspiring, and so very real. And St. Louis Martin is the perfect compliment to her, though the book has over 200 of her letters and about 16 of his. If you are trying to be a holy parent and spouse, I can’t recommend this enough.

In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden–This after the saintly letters was also amazing. I loved the rhythm of monastic life portrayed in this book. For me, it was also spiritually edifying.

Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh–Satire. Full of it, and upper class mockery. But funny. Waugh is pretty great.
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry–I finished this in 2016. I read A Place on Earth in 2014 in which we hear of Hannah’s first husband. This one is a beautiful looking back at her life and how the world has changed.

Audio Read. These are whatever I can get from the library app for free, and mostly classics/good literature that I have failed to read in my life so far. For me treadmill reading is free reading time, because I am going to exercise anyway:

War of the Worlds by H.G. WellsI started this in middle school and never finished. An invasion of Martians is quite frightening to think about, isn’t it? And I enjoyed it, though some might think it slow.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson–I should have been reading Stevenson instead of Babysitter’s club, my whole youth. A high-quality, youth oriented story.

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott–Once again, filling in the gaps of my failure to read good books in my youth. Gotta love Alcott even if she is a bit moralistic.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe–I kept waiting for things to go really badly, and I suppose that they did. It just was not as crushing to me as a Thomas Hardy novel.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton–A good book, which turned out differently than I expected.

Howards End by E.M. Forster–Recommended by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. 

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan SwiftHe is not exactly the most diverting while trying to get past 2 mile runs in my getting back in shape postpartum exercising. I know I am missing so many political references. Honestly, I prefer Waugh satire to Swift satire.

Any good books you loved in 2015?

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, Nov. 13

1. I have not done quick takes in over a month. The thing is, they are not exactly quick to write, but I have about 30 minutes if the baby stays asleep, so I am going to give it a go.

2. A month ago, I was dying of lack of sleep. Seriously. Well, not really, but since then the baby has popped in two teeth, we did a bit of sleep training/letting him learn how to fall asleep without being bounced vigorously (yes, it was that bad). And instead of waking every 90 minutes and taking 40 to get back to sleep, he is we are getting stretches as long as 5 hours, and I am only waking most nights 2 times to nurse him. Guys, it is amazing. I feel like a person again.

3. Now that I am no longer a zombie, I am thinking a lot more clearly. When we finish a school day I can manage a chore or two before lunch rather than just staring off. When we make it to quiet time I am actually able to write things instead of a mindless Facebook experience. And we are getting at least one long nap a day out of the baby, the other one is usually not as good, but still.

4. Someone woke up.

It is tricky to type with a baby on your lap, but I am going to give it a go. Also, here you see my haircut I just got literally an hour ago. I always say two inches and add some layers and I feel like after the layers they have shorn off at least 4 inches.

5. I realized that I was getting boring back when T would not sleep as I was only and always talking about it, so I am going to really try to think of something else to write about, like how G finally got that one math concept down this week that we spent three agonizing days on and I finally asked M to explain it to her and she got it in five minutes. Or how the kids stopped screaming as much, well for like two days. My mom and dad are coming next week. I have not seen them since June, so we are pretty excited to see them. I think they are excited to see this baby who has doubled in weight since they last saw him. Oh, baby again. Sorry.

6. I finished two books in the last week. The first was Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens which was about as Dickensesque as you could want. He has a way of describing grimy, dirty places that just makes me feel icky and gritty and sometimes even nauseated. M suggested that I write about our free system of English laws, but I am not going to. Second book, the letters of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin (A Call to a Deeper Love). It was soooo good. I am writing something up on it, so look for that soon. But really, just read it yourself, especially if you are married and a mom.

7. This week I started In This House of Brede by Rumor Godden. We found it at Loomes over Labor Day weekend, and it is beautiful so far. I like books that make me a better person, and this seems to be one of them. So were the letters. M this week finished Emma by Jane Austen and has decided that it is one of the most brilliant English language novels ever, and then he started Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

And that about sums up life lately, baby, homeschooling, books, and writing projects. There are few coming out soon, stay tuned…

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum!

The Awesome School 2015: What We Plan to Do (K and 1st grade)

Once upon a time, M and I decided to home school our children. Well, we did not have any children, yet. And I have been slowly dreading it to some extent. I mean, it is a lot of responsibility to educate your children, and we have this vision of a classical-traditional-sacramental education we want our children to have so that they can be awesome people.

Last year we went to the curriculum fair at the homeschool conference, and I cried got overwhelmed about homeschooling. I was trying to decide if I should do some first grade things with G (who was five at the time) or not. I finally settled on giving her a year of casual kindergarten. And we did this, and I am going to do the same thing with L (5 in November) for kindergarten this year:

I finished this book (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) with G last school year, and it was a struggle. We may have fought and cried our way through the lessons. I wish I had become a more patient person through it, though I am not sure that I did. Well this summer (five months after finishing the book and reading really simple library books together), she came up to me out of the blue and said: “Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to read.” I really did cry then. Now she reads everything she is able to read. She loves it. She reads to her sisters, she reads to herself. She gets better everyday.

(NOTE: I know this sounds like the book 100 Easy Lessons was awful, but really it was just personality and my dynamic with G. L and I have done 20 lessons so far and it is much different. We think G does better as a self-learner.)

We have been working through the Handwriting Without Tears (Handwriting Without Tears: Letters and Numbers for Me) curriculum, so we just did that everyday. She wrote to her penpal, wrote cards for family birthdays, etc.

I did not buy a kindergarten math book, we just got more comfortable with numbers doing Montessori activities from this book: Teach Me to Do it Myself And it all went well.

And we did random science activities from that book as well. We also joined a twice a month co-op which had art, gym, and a science class for her.

So, I am going to do what I did with G last year for L this year, and if it goes well I will decide if she is ready for first grade next year or just do another casual year.

First Grade:
When M and I were discussing first grade, I really felt like I wanted to get a set curriculum. I am a slight perfectionist, and I can’t do something as major as homeschooling without something like, “You will do this exact thing today in this subject, and this in this other subject, etc.” That seemed the only way.

But my dear husband, reminded me of our plan to give our kids the education we preferred for them and none of the set curricula do what we want. So, he agreed to plan meticulously with me, with our textbooks and other books, what we are going to do this year.

We decided to start the Awesome School next week. Summer weather will hopefully continue, but I think we are all ready for some structure after the baby.

We are going to do two half weeks, and then after Labor Day jump in full swing. But this also means that I have to get my act together. This week is home organization, and school supply purchasing.

Here are the books we are using (minus the St. Joseph Catechism, because a certain six year old wanted to read it during quiet time):

For reading and spelling we are using the Catholic National Reader Primer and Book One.

I love this. It is an old fashioned reader with reading practice, phonics, plus comprehension, plus spelling words. I am slightly geeked out to use it. We are also supplementing with Explode the Code  because G really likes the activities in it.

For English I am finally going to learn grammar, I mean G is going to learn grammar with Shurley English Level 1. The teachers manual is very scripted, fortunately for her. This must be my post about crying, because I cried for about a week trying to learn the parts of speech and how to diagram a sentence Freshman year of high school because I was not taught how these things in elementary school.

Once G gets the hang of grammar and reading a bit more, we are going to start Latin with Prima Latina . She is already memorizing the Latin prayers with M in his memorization hour he does with her twice a week.

For Math we are going with Singapore 1A & 1B, largely because we have heard it is the only curriculum that prepares students for advanced math. There are already algebraic concepts in 1st grade!

For science we are going all Charlotte Mason/unit study:
M is currently planning units including birds, trees, dinosaurs, astronomy, simple machines, and rocks. We might throw in the human body as well. For this we are using library books, the above pictured books, going outside, and are getting a science museum membership.

In Theology we are possibly doing First Communion prep since G will be 7 in March. We are giving her a couple months before we decide. But we will be working through two books: Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism and Our Heavenly Father (scripture based). We will also be discussion saint days and the liturgical year.
We will also be doing Fine Arts for everybody. We have selected a famous painting and a musical composition for each week to learn about. And we will work on some basic drawing with Draw Write Now.

I think we will probably be doing school 4 days a week for 2 hours (8:30-10:30 depending on baby naptime), and 1 hour on Fridays or our twice a month co-op (the same one we did last year). Science and the Fine Arts will be only twice a week.

In addition to what I am doing with the girls, M is going to be working on poem recitations, Latin prayer memorization, geography, and some history with the girls a couple hours a week. He did this last year with G, and she did really well.

F (3 in November) is going to just tag along, color, listen, and be little. 🙂

9 Inspiring Married Couples in Literature Worth Emulating

I am over at Church POP today, writing about married couples in literature. This was a hard list to compile as most of my favorite novels are full of unmarried, widowed, or onesided marriages (one person good and the other not so good).

I tried to stick with classic novels or widely known novels for the list, but if you have a great example, please comment on the article.

Click on over to see the list!

9 Inspiring Married Couples in Literature Worth Emulating

3 Missals for Small Children

One of the things that is a constant struggle with little kids is helping them be quiet and if they are able be attentive at Mass. Something that has worked for us so far is to just keep things simple. Since M and I have a missal for Mass (for both the Ordinary Form and the Traditional Latin Extraordinary form), we decided that each of our children should have their own personal missals appropriate for their age. The key to encouraging children to use hand missals is to use them yourself.

By small children, I mean children who are not yet reading or not yet reading enough to actually read along in a missal. I like these ones for their simplicity and pictures.

1) Ages 4-8: Marian Children’s Missal

While originally printed in 1958, Angelus Press has reprinted. We got our very old copy from some really sweet friends at our TLM parish in Buffalo, NY. What I love about it is the photographs of a priest celebrating Mass at the high altar. The photographs give your child a close up look at what is happening at the altar, to help familiarize her with the parts of the Mass without actually being in the sanctuary. Actual photographs are way more interesting than drawn illustrations, at least in my book.

My almost six year old uses this at both OF and EF liturgies. The great thing about children’s missals is that they focus on the key parts of the Mass which were maintained in the New Mass. This one has a lot more detail than the other ones that I am showing you today, so it is actually more appropriate for the EF Mass. This does not stop my daughter from using it at the daily OF Masses we attend.

The Marian Missal has a photograph and accompanying page with simplified prayers for: the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Introit and Kyrie, The Gloria, The Collect, The Epistle, The Gospel, The Credo, The Offertory (Host), Preparing the Chalice, The Offertory (Chalice), Washing of the Hands, Prayer to the Trinity, Orate Frates (Pray Brothers), Preface and Sanctus, Te Igitur, Prayer for the Living, Hanc Igitur, Blessing of the Offering, Consecration (Host), Elevation, Consecration (Wine), Elevation, Blessing Host and Chalice, Minor Elevation, Pater Noster (Our Father), Breaking the Host, Prayer for Peace, Prayers-Holy Communion, Domine non sum dignus (Lord I am not worthy), Priest receives Host, Priest receives Sacred Blood, Communion of the People, Communion and Post Communion prayers, Blessing, Last Gospel.

Following the photographs of the Mass are summaries and illustrations of the Gospels for Sundays and Holy Days.

Following that are the parts of the Mass in Latin and English. On each page of the photographed parts of the Mass are page numbers for the text of the Mass, so a child who is reading well could flip between them. (Our copy once had a ribbon, but a baby pulled it out):

I highly recommend this missal, and would probably purchase another once my four year old is a little older.

2) Ages 3-8: My See and Pray Missal

This little gem of a book is short and sweet. It is published by Tan and very reasonably priced. The only thing it has against it is that it is paperback and the bindings are stapled, so it is not really good for a destructive child. We once had a printing with red and black illustrations inside. It got left in church one day, and the one we have now is just black and white. The illustrations are reminiscent of the Baltimore catechism, but not as cool as the photographs in the Marian Missal.

 The Missal based on the EF Mass, but this one more than the last is very usable for the OF Mass.

The book starts with guide to the altar, and a reminder to pray to Our Blessed Mother.

The headings of each page explaining the Mass pictured with brief prayers are: The Sign of the Cross, I Confess, Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Epistle, Gospel, The Sermon, Creed, Offertory, Washing of Hands, Sanctus, Get Ready, The Consecration (Host), The Consecration (Wine), Jesus is Here, Our Father, Agnus Dei, Jesus is Coming, Holy Communion, Thank You, O God, Last Blessing, Last Gospel.

 It has the simple words SEE, HEAR, PRAY where it is appropriate, so a child does not have to be super literate to understand the prompts.

My four year old has been following this book with ease since she was about 3.5, and since she is a very active child it really helps for her to have something in her hands. I also love that the girl is pictured with a head covering, which you do not see in children’s missals featuring the OF Mass.

3) Ages 3 and under: We Go to Mass

Our copy has seen a lot of Masses with toddlers.

This is the best board book I have found for toddlers to follow the Mass. It is simple, straightforward, and the priest is young and reverent. That being said, if I were to make a board book missal for children I would use pictures like the Marian Missal, have the women and girls with head coverings (or at least some of them since that is fairly standard where we go to Mass), and the priest celebrating Ad Orientem (facing the tabernacle and crucifix).

This sweet little book, with a nice handle, has a page for the following parts of the Mass: Procession/Introit, Epistle, Gospel, Offertory, Sanctus, Eucharistic Prayer, Consecration of Host, Consecration of Wine, Minor Elevation, Our Father, Agnus Dei, Lord, I am not Worthy, Holy Communion, Closing Procession.

My two year old never follows the Mass in its entirety in this book, but she does like to see the pictures of Jesus and pretend to each the hosts. So, we get what we can in good behavior from her. One of my children at age three did use this book to follow short, daily Masses in their entirety. I like that it is simple straight-forward and durable.

So, there you have my top three missals for small children. I would love to hear of other great missal-like books for children. One last thought is that my five year old, when we attend the EF Mass often just grabs one of the red books provided by the church and uses that.

12 Week Update: Jane Austen and Pregnancy

It has been 5 weeks since our first trimester ultrasound, and now is our traditional time for announcing pregnancies. But you are all so lucky that we went ahead and did it early, because I love having lots of people praying for a healthy baby.

In the past five weeks I have had lots of pregnancy symptoms, but have been fortunate enough to not throw up, so that is cool.

Today I ventured out in the cold (13°F here in MN), but thankfully sunny day, with the three girls for the 12 week visit. It was the normal “tell me about your previous pregnancies” questions and normal how are things going with this one. He also seemed to think it was possible that the flutters I have been feeling are actually the baby. And we finally at the end of the appointment got to hear loud and clear the baby’s heartbeat on the Doppler. That is all I really cared about today. I did not even mind having six vials of blood drawn out of my arm. And G impressed the nurse by telling her that her birthday was on the Ides of March. It was an all around good appointment. I even let the kids have suckers afterwards. And to make things better I had leftover pizza for lunch, and felt some uterine flutters while driving home. 

And now I will prove to you that I am officially showing; I am pretty sure this counts. I am even isolating my transverse abdominal here, so yeah. Every baby deserves online bump pictures.

Our bedroom walls are not this bright, I promise.

And since I found rereading C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy to be a struggle for my pregnancy brain, I am officially rereading the Complete Works of Jane Austen. M seems to remember my pregnancies better than I do, and tells me that I do this every pregnancy. Good old Jane. Maybe I will pick up on more of her virtue ethics this time around.

This 1930s complete volume and my down comforter make the perfect combination for winter reading. I just need a cup of hot tea.

P.S. I am justifying rereading my favorite books by explaining that I am listening to audiobooks during my treadmill workouts, so I am getting through new literature. (And by new I mean classics that I have not read yet.)

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, September 12

1. I have heard from other moms about having a bad week or day this week, and I confess that it has been particularly rough for me here in the Spencer house, especially trying to figure out how to parent an almost four year old. I hope that part of it is just the end of the threes and transitioning into not needing a daily nap. I also know that part of it is my lax parenting with her, and that my parenting must be balanced with my personality. So, I have made some parenting plans, and I hope that by sticking with them, with all the kids, I will stop losing it entirely with them. You know you need to change something when you are confessing being impatient with your kids regularly…

2. Today has been the best day all week, and not just because it is Friday. I know that my success in not losing it will not be so easy every day, but I plan to persevere even on the hard days. We did our morning hourish of reading, catechism, math (sandpaper number tracing), and then for writing practice the girls made birthday cards for two different “C”‘s who have birthdays a week apart and are also 20 years apart in age. G (5) and L (3) worked on the cards for two hours, and F (22 months) and I worked on the weekly sheet and towel laundry along with the biannual-seasonal-clothing-dresser-swap.

3. The biannual-seasonal-clothing-dresser-swap is biannual, because it seems we only have two seasons in Minnesota: Winter and Summer. (We even have the furnace on today to keep the house from dipping to jacket weather.) For those of you not familiar with this, it means that I changed out all the summer clothes for winter clothes and checked the sizes of clothes to see what fits whom. Anyway, I used to think the whole changing sizes and seasons thing was a chore with just G, and now it takes a whole morning with three! I imagine that one day the older girls will be able to do more of it themselves. We also had a basketful of clothes handed down to us from a friend I had to sift through. As it is we have way to many pants and tops for the girls for the cold weather, and not nearly enough dresses and skirts. I did the skirt thing with leggings for them last winter, but they had holes in the knees by mid-February and that is not going to cut it. So, we are going the more practical pants route. Is it weird to put skirts over colored skinny jeans? Because I might just encourage that. They are so much cuter in skirts!

The hungry hawk is in possession of this squirrel’s sibling on the other side of the Ash.

4. Wednesday I noticed four baby squirrels coming out of a nest in our backyard Ash tree. They were squeaking and climbing up and down the tree, and were pretty cute to watch. M even stopped work for a minute to admire them.

The Circle of Life moves us all.

Then yesterday I glanced out the nursery window, and saw a young hawk with a baby squirrel pinned under its feet. I mentioned it to G and L and they started shrieking and sobbing, “No! No! Chase it away! Don’t let it kill the squirrel!” Knowing that M would want to see the event, I called him up from the study to calm down and explain to the girls about how hawks have to eat as well. All animals have a purpose, and hawks is to eat baby squirrels. The girls stopped screaming, but were not convinced of the goodness of the hawk. At least it was free-range “happy” squirrel veal, right?

5. I was nominated for the 10 book challenge, under the rule that I list 10 that have stayed with me. It is not meant to be a list of the *best* books I have ever read, but ones that have impacted me the most (off the top of my head):

  1. The Complete Works of Jane Austen (I cannot pick one.)
  2. Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (Still the best spiritual book for lay people that I have ever read.
  3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (duh…)
  4. The Rule of St. Benedict (When M and I read it in college, we knew that we wanted it to influence our family life.)
  5. Kirsten Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (I love they way she presents motherhood and womanhood. And her insight into humanity is incredible!)
  6. After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre (Virtue Ethics are the best kind.)
  7. The Conservative Mind by Russel Kirk (An understanding of conservatism that I agree with.)
  8. The Complete Works of Laura Ingalls Wilder (They are even better as an adult.)
  9. The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II by Fr. Ralph M. Wiltgen S.V.D. (This transformed my understanding of the modern Church, especially growing up post-V II.)
  10. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (I will never forgive Hardy for being so cruel to his characters, and I am scarred for life…)
The pattern is called “Ozborne Slub.” I am so glad the seam looks straight in the photo…

6. I never shared my curtains that I sewed back in July (though they have photobombed a bit).  They cover all the kitchen windows including our long ones and the back door. I managed so easily because it was a stiff cotton broadcloth. I had been putting sewing them off for a year, and now that they are finally up, I am pretty happy with them, and they add a lot to the kitchen. 🙂

7. I leave you with our blue hubbard watch:

Has it grown since last week? I can’t tell…

Linking up again with Jen at Conversion Diary.