Monday, December 30, 2013

What I Read in 2013


I was so excited when Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas said she was going to host this link-up! My running goal for the past few years has been to read 50 books per year--a much easier feat when I was in grad school and required to read a book a week. This year I completed 41--not too shabby, considering we moved AND I gave birth to twins. :) That number includes several issues of Dappled Things Most (all?) of my reading in the past 6 weeks has been on my Kindle, since it's a lot easier to use while nursing. (I think I averaged a book every three days when the twins were first born. Lots of couch time.)

But, reading has slowed down the past week or so as the babies have woken up a bit more ... as has blogging time. So I've picked some of my favorites from the longer list to write a few words about. (Surprisingly, most of them are nonfiction. Generally I read more fiction than nonfiction because ... well, because I'm addicted ...? It's part of why I read so quickly. My husband just sent me link to this article that talks about the effect of reading novels on your brain chemistry.)

The Presence of Grace, by J.F. Powers

I didn't discover J.F. Powers until this year, and I can't even take much credit for it. Keith bought me this book last Christmas. This is a collection of short stories, all of which feature priests as the main character. (Except for two of them that feature a pastor's cat. Those are my favorites.)

In Praise of Homemaking: Affirming the Choice to be a Mother-at-Home, by Connie F. Zimney

Unfortunately, this book is out of print. But if you can get your hands on a copy, do so! My mom lent it to me, and it is a beautiful reflection on motherhood and the meaning of homemaking.

A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin

I got sucked into Martin's fiction this year, both the books and the HBO show. This series is not for the faint of heart, partly because it is a commitment (I mean, those books weigh like five pounds apiece) and partly because everyone you love will die. In particularly gruesome and/or unfair ways.

All that to say these are well-written books. The HBO series does a good job of adapting them, but ... well, it's HBO, so be prepared to avert your eyes!

The Summer House, by Alice Thomas Ellis

One of my favorite, favorite authors. This is actually three novels about the same event from the perspective of three different characters. If you like Flannery O'Connor, you HAVE to read this author; I'm not sure why more people don't know her, but she deserves to be read. And if you don't like O'Connor, you should read her too; she embodies the things people like about Flannery (the operation of grace among and through very imperfect and often less-than-virtuous human beings) without the grittiness and violence that depresses some folks. Also, she has a wicked sense of humor. (I'd recommend starting with her book The 27th Kingdom, unless you want to save the best for last.)

My Sisters the Saints, by Colleen Carroll Campbell

I read this with a group of other Catholic moms. Her writing is very engaging. I'm hoping to read some of Edith Stein's writing this year because of this book.

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning, by Simcha Fisher

Simcha is one of my favorite people that I've never met. Some of the material in this book I'd read before in some of her blog posts, but all of it is wise, funny, and worth reading many times.

Pope Awesome and Other Stories, by Cari Donaldson

This was one of the books that I read while nursing, and I am so glad. I think I would have zipped through it even if I hadn't been stuck on the couch breastfeeding. Cari's experiences and insights are great, and some of them were exactly what I needed to hear at the moment I read them.

Mariette in Ecstasy, by Ron Hansen 

I'd been meaning to read this book for ages. It did not disappoint. I love how it is structured according to feast days and prayers, how it moves with the rhythm of convent life. I love how you don't know whether Mariette is holy or crazy, and yet either way it's clear she loves. A beautiful book.

The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy

I started this book because 1) Keith downloaded it, and 2) I felt like Walker Percy was an author I "should" read. I have to admit that I spent the first half of the book disappointed and unimpressed, because I feel that Percy's fiction is a lot like his nonfiction. More an illustration than a story. But by the middle of this book, his characters and their actions took on more force for me, and I can say that I'm glad to have read it.

2012 Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction

Excellent stuff. Especially the winning story, "Eyes That Pour Forth"--wow. I highly recommend buying it: it's good stuff, short stories are easy to read even if you're really busy, and you'll be supporting a small Catholic press.

How Do You Tuck in a Superhero? by Rachel Balducci

I read this book. Then suddenly I had three boys under age 2. I think it's Rachel's fault! ;) (Seriously though, this is a funny and heartwarming book, and I certainly recommend it to any mother of boys!)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!

A blessed and happy Christmastide to you all. :)

(And if you are going to sing "Good King Wenceslaus," this is the day to do it. Happy feast of St. Stephen!)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Seven Quick Takes (15)

1. You know what's cute? A toddler resting his head on the couch with a cherubic grin so that he's eye-to-eye with his baby brother, then saying "Hi! Hi! Hi!"

2. What else is cute? A toddler holding a toy in front of his baby brother while he's in the swing so that every time the baby comes forward his feet hit it and saying "Kick! Kick! Kick!"

3. So yes, Michael is adjusting to having two younger siblings. It is a slow process and in the beginning it was really difficult. I think this age (19-20 months) is probably one of the hardest to lost only-child status (although I'm sure I'm biased by my own experiences ...). And I KNOW it's hard to go from being the beloved only child/grandchild who is always the center of attention to having two younger siblings. Sometimes there are simply no arms available to hold you. Especially when Mama had a c-section and can't pick you up at all. (Oh man. That was really hard. On both of us.)

He still gets jealous, of course. But he is secure and knows he's loved, and he is starting to interact with his brothers every now and then as opposed to either pretending they don't exist or glaring balefully at them.

4. So, Christmas preparations. Postpartum with twins. Oy. Thank goodness for online shopping, especially Amazon Prime two day shipping. We're set on everyone except my brother, and Keith's presents at least are wrapped and ready to go under the tree on Christmas Eve. (Michael's presents are still in transit!)

5. As for Advent, well, I did manage to dig out the Advent ring (it has no wreath) and the stubs of last year's candles. We made sure to light the purple ones in reverse order, but even so I'm not sure that the second purple candle is going to make it to Christmas!

6. And I am also doing Christmas cards. Which ... was a bit more ambitious of an undertaking than I thought when I started ...? They may end up being Epiphany cards. :-P As long as it's within the twelve days of Christmas, right?

7. Thanks for your prayers for baby Gregory. We have another appointment in four months to reevaluate, but it seems that he will likely not need surgery, which is such a blessing.

And now I'm off to try and get some Christmas cookies started ... head over to Jen's blog for more quick takes!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I have some Christmas knitting, but ... I haven't been able to pick it up since Friday. I'm afraid someone is going to be getting a package with needles in it under the tree! The yarn is from Brooklyn Tweed, which I've been wanting to try out for a long time. It is a very wooly yarn, perfect for winter knitting; I can feel the lanolin as I work with it, which is something that I'm not used to.

Because it's Christmas knitting and I never know who may read this ... I will just give you a peek at the yarn. Upper right corner. :)

My reading has also slowed down a bit. I started The Moviegoer by Walker Percy but ... I don't like it as much as I'd hoped. I refuse to abandon it because I feel like it's something I should read. (Although really, it takes a lot for me to abandon a book.) I feel like Percy writes fiction as an illustration of his ideas more than anything else; I've read some of his nonfiction and his characters just go around monologueing or thinking or conversing about the same things he writes about. I think if I was reading him in a class or other setting where someone knew more about him than me I would appreciate his novels more, but as it is ... eh.

But still. Walker Percy!

Say a prayer for us today as we are taking one of the twins to Children's to see if he needs surgery. It is nothing dangerous and (most likely) not an emergency, but still ... This is out of the blue for us, as of yesterday's one month check-up. Otherwise both boys are doing well, gaining weight as they should and so on.

Aaaaaand .... I have a lot to do before leaving. (Getting dressed and feeding Michael before his nap ... but seriously, that's an impressive to-do list when you have two babies in the house!)

Grumpy Dominic is grumpy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stripe by Stripe

Happy to be linking up again with Ginny's yarn along

I have not been blogging much, but I have been knitting a little. Not every day, but some days. Stripe by stripe. This is the perfect pattern for me right now. Lots of garter stitch, nothing too complicated to keep track of. Just stripes in pretty colors.

As for reading, that I have been doing a LOT of, thanks to breastfeeding and my Kindle Touch. (I still maintain, as a hardcore bibliophile, that the Kindle is one of the best inventions for breastfeeding mothers ever.) I've read at least four books in the past two weeks and am working on the fifth--Delia's Shadow, by Jaime Lee Moyer. So far I am enjoying it immensely.

Jaime was published in a (now defunct) webzine that I once volunteered with. Her poetry was always very beautiful to me, and her poem "Rosemary" holds a special place in my heart--not just because of the name, but I do have it in my email signature for that reason. ;) (And in looking up that poem, I remembered that it was published alongside my first-ever-published short story in an anthology. Oh man. I love that story, but I wrote it in college. If for any reason you happen to read it please don't judge me by it! And Jaime's poem is MUCH better than that story.) Anyways, I've admired Moyer as a writer from a long time back, and so I've been eagerly anticipating this novel. So far it doesn't disappoint.

Anyway ... how about some baby blanket action shots? :)

Dominic with Smooth Sailing

Gregory with Hamako
 Unfortunately I wet-blocked Gregory's blanket and it lost a lot of the texture it had before, which makes me sad. :( It is bigger than before, which is convenient, and it's still pretty; but, sigh.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Seven Quick Takes (14)

1. So the twins' birth story is half-written, and I've had this thing about not posting anything until it's finished and up on the blog. And then I decided that was silly because ... well, let's be realistic. Who knows when that novella will get finished. (And I've tried writing it in a more succinct fashion, but ... it just doesn't work that way with me. Never has, never will.) Not that I would have been hammering out anything special in the meantime, but the feeling of not being able to post until this is finished was stressing me out. So I am posting.

2. Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! I'm afraid there were no shoes left out last night, so the good old saint had no place to leave us treats. (Although he might have left some M&Ms for this mama in a drawer in the kitchen somewhere ...) Although we have no Nicholases in the family, we have an icon from Keith's grandmother, who was (for a time at least) Russian Orthodox, so I feel like he has (or should have) a special place in our family's devotions. There's always next year, I guess. In the meantime ...

3. On a similar note. I have the advent wreath on the table. But it has no wreath--just the brass ring, unadorned. More to the point, it has no candles. I half-heartedly looked for them in the boxes of Christmas stuff, but decided to order fresh ones a few days before Advent started, and ... they just shipped yesterday. So maybe we'll have our candles by Gaudete Sunday ...?

4. Nor have I set up the Nativity. Partly this is because there's not much of a place to put it. Our mantle is piled with homeless books and a few random other things, including a fire extinguisher. We're just not with it in terms of Advent this year. But I guess I get a pass.

5. Speaking of Advent, decorating, preparation, and etc, Kate wrote a really great post about such things a few days ago. I think it's wonderful that people are writing about focusing on Advent as Advent and saving Christmas for Christmas, and I really like Kate's take on it.

6. The twins are getting baptized this Sunday, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. When Michael was baptized, he wore a gown that had been passed down from my Grandmom and worn by all her children. Luckily, Grandmom's first pregnancy was twins--so there are two of them. None of the boys will be left out, and they both get to be worn again. How cool is that?

7. I have run out of takes. So ... go see some more over at Conversion Diary!