Thursday, October 31, 2013

Waif Princess of Pirate's Defeat Island

They had heard the legend of the tiny Pirate Princess, buried in the sand for centuries...

They had heard of the bloody pirate captain, murdered off shore, abandoned by his own crew for his own wickedness. He gurgled his last breaths in the rising salty water, commanding his waif child to sleep sweetly in the dune grass until his killers' ancestors returned to the Island of Pirate's Defeat...

To awaken and exact revenge...

They thought it was nothing more than the lore of lonely islanders intent on scaring children...

They were wrong!

Go have more fun at Clan Donaldson, Theme Thursday: Scary!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday: Finding Grace

So happy to finally come to Finding Grace by Laura H. Pearl on my book-list! I learned of this novel from the author's sweet blog, String of Pearls, where she blogs about life as a mother to five grown boys, her faith, her writing, and the musings of her heart. The book is described on her blog as "a pro-life, pro-chastity, coming-of-age love story," which sounds really intriguing, doesn't it?

Our story begins before Grace's high school Freshman year in the year 1972. A somewhat shy, bookish girl, lacking in overt gifts of physical beauty, or even grace, she nags at her father for having named her Grace when their last name is Kelly, and with no middle name to boot. The unfortunate lack of resemblance to the shining movie star only heightens Grace's feelings of awkwardness about her outward person. Grace's father, a merry but stern and overtly faithful man, reminds the young Grace that he named her so because of his feelings of God's generosity for giving them a girl after having five sons. He further explains that she was named for an obscure saint of the same name, and that he had no doubt that one day there would be another St. Grace, because he could see the beauty and grace of his own Grace's soul.

This small and endearing passage between father and daughter sets the tone for the novel as the ever mousy and insecure Grace enters high school with a new found determination to forge a relationship with God that will lead her to a life of holiness and happiness: a saint's life. The novel follows Grace through high school crushes, family struggles, strained friendships and hard lessons. Along the way Grace finds solace in contemplating the lives of characters in the books she so dearly loves (with a special attachment to Pride and Prejudice), reading the lives of saints and growing close to them in her heart as she attempts (and sometimes fails) to follow their example. As the reader anticipates, Grace's failures (and the failures of those around her) lead to painful and unnecessary consequences, but through God's grace and ever flowing desire for reconciliation and renewal, a happy ending is achieved. 

Pearl's in-depth characterizations and study of the human heart are definitely the high-light of this endearing novel. Little Grace, in all her insecurities and hidden desires of the heart, her short comings and her successes, cannot but help to find a place in the reader's heart. Her best fried, Irene, the opposite of Grace in terms of outward and inward beauty, is treated by the author with no less grace, and the reader roots for her to become the person she truly is. 

I also particularly enjoyed the tales of saints, and the infusion of literary figures (Grace's analysis of their behavior) throughout the novel. Pearl deftly explores Grace's strengthening perception of right and wrong, desire and will, through evaluating the choices and consequences of those she reads about. And very cleverly, I might add.  

The cover of Finding Grace, in all its pastel sweetness, is a bit misleading. I had assumed (based on the cover, shame on me!) this was a book I would read ahead of time in hopes that my 9 year-old AnneMarie would enjoy reading aloud with me as we talked through issues. Not so. The topics covered include Grace experiencing the first hand pain of a Holocaust survivor as well as very mature teenagerly topics such as underage drinking, premarital sex, adoption and abortion. Pretty heavy. This coupled with the length of the novel make this in no way suitable to a young mind. I think perhaps high school is the earliest I would recommend this, and is not at all too youthy for any adult.

I don't recall reading any books with such a theme when I was in high school, a time of great introspection and soul searching for me, as I am sure it is for many girls, although society would not lead us to believe this is true with the typical characterization of the rebellious, bubble headed and fad-driven teens we are continuously subjected to. I know that I would have appreciated and benefited from reading Grace's story during that awkward time, just as I benefited from reading it now!

Go check out Housewife Spice to see what others are reading!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Smiley Faces

Yesterday our priest gave a pretty inspiring homily based on some pretty inspiring readings

"Remember, all you have is a gift! All you are and all you have has been freely given! And make no mistake, you grumblers," he pleaded with the congregation, "You are blessed!" 

And so goes the assigned Responsorial Psalm, "I will bless the Lord at all times, may his praise be ever in my mouth!"

Amen, Amen, Amen!  We are a stubborn people and in need of constant reminding. So, here is...

...Just some stuff that's been making us happy lately...

Momo pointing to the deep rut the ray dug on the shore, it was that big!

AnneMarie's brilliant imitation, love the cheeks!

Obi was down at the beach with the kids the other day when I saw all this commotion surrounding a group of fishermen. I went down just in time to hear they had just let a giant stingray off his hook. Safe waters. The kids claimed it was as large as any they had seen in an aquarium, so beautiful to have seen in the wild, and it escaped unharmed. 

Isaac in his standard issued uniform

We have a special place in our hearts for the moon and its movements. I must say this fall has brought us the most beautiful moonscapes we have ever seen, this was taken on our front couch.

Joseph on the horn with his peeps

I'm not going to tell you what Joseph is going to be for Halloween, but he's pretty excited about it. 

Something else The Family Es is partial to is street art of any kind. We love this guy. He works the Town Square in our tiny town. Always out there in the blazing sun in his silver get-up. He changes his bit all the time, sometimes he has a crazy stationary bike, or a crazy mouth whistle, but he's always silver and he always smiles.

He's just so dang cute!

Don't you want to throw him a fiver!

Hard to see above, but when we looked in his suitcase this last time we saw this sweet plea: "Help me marry my mermaid, she said yes!" And then her pretty picture. There are a few mermaid shows around here. So fascinating, we humans. 

And finally...

In the most exciting news here, it has finally cooled down a little. A very little. In that we can open the windows at night. You have no idea of the relief. 

AnneMarie, in a slight exaggeration, trying to see her breath. It was about 68 degrees that morning. It's all relative. 

So...what's been making you smile lateley?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Search of W

Linking up with the Clan for Theme Thursday: W! What the what? Have I used that expression before, apologies. 

When I saw this on the list, I was so excited in an artsy-Sesame Street kinda way. But then when I and my literate children actually looked for some interesting W formation, we were stumped. 

But then they decided to demolish the house two doors down.

Pretty little 50s? house. So cute and sweet on its little sand dune. We got a flier in the mail from a real estate agent last week, just last week, stating he had sold the property for nearly 3 milyun bucks! That's in real American dollars. Just a little concrete block fifties house. Why?

Oh,this is it's front yard. 150 feet of white sand Gulf. Bye bye 50s house, the economy thinks it's back.

Looking up to the house from the beach, it has this cute little tiki hut. The kids have always been afraid to use this hut as a hideout because we didn't know who owned the house. They will be afraid no more, because there is no house. 

Above is the beautiful faux stone porch I have admired since we moved here. Undoubtedly the scene of many, many years of memories of the good kind. The owners of those memories will never again feel their bare sandy feet against those slabs, their legs wet with salt water, backs burnt, eyes smiling at their siblings and mouths watering as their mama enters from the kitchen with a sweaty pitcher of lemonade. To get all sentimental.

 No more! Alas it is no more!

So me and the littluns were sure we would find some kind of W formation in all this rubble. Look at all that rebar! Not a W to be seen!

The scary snort at rest

But then I saw this! Sad old shuffle board court, never to be played again. 

Doesn't it look forsaken and forlorn? 

My babies pay tribute to the generations of ghosts that shuffled there.

And we found this! The scary snort had just barely nipped the edge of the board, creating...a W! 

Don't you see it? 

You have no imagination. 


That's a W. A little, lower case, kinda sweeping one. It is. 

I think is stands for Wrecked. Or as Isaac would say Wuined.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday: It's Pope Awesomeness!

Linking up with Housewife Spice for WWRW!

And you won't guess what I've been reading:

There she is in all her glory, Cari of the Perfect Nails (that would be her Ancient Greek subtitled name.)

That's right, our own Cari Donaldson of blog-world fame has her own book out Nov. 5! I'm told (by my buddy Amazon) if you pre-order now it will be in the mail today.

It was with untold anticipation I pored over this masterstroke of a conversion story. I have been reading Donaldson's blog for years, lurking in the Internet shadows before I ever thought about this past-time for myself. I think I was hooked the first time I ever clicked over there, with the charming, clever, self-effacing way she approaches this role as a child of God. And funny. Split your sides funny, with the unexpected always thrown in to keep you on your toes (Family Harlem Shake, anyone?). But those qualities aren't what keep me coming back for my daily dose of Donaldson. It is the love that shines forth in all she does for her many little ones, her husband, her calling as a homeschooler, her love for absolutely all of God's beautiful creation and all of His beautiful creatures. She embodies this final and complete statement that Life is Beautiful. Life is Beautiful. Life is Beautiful. Love it and love each other (in a very non-hippie kind of way) because God made it and it is good, and God is love. 

When I discovered that she is a convert, and a relatively new one, I was awestruck that this so naturally organic feeling Catholic was not always so. So I was absolutely thrilled to read the story of her way home. And it did not disappoint. 

Of course this book is chock-full of all the wit, silliness, humor and brilliant observations you would expect from this girl. But with complete and solemn respect, a soft sense of awe, she brings the reader into her revelations of all things Holy. Pope Awesome begins at the beginning, with little Cari growing up in a thoroughly Michigan world, and she  uses her great gifts for story telling to bring the reader through her ever-evolving understanding of herself and the world (especially the spiritual world) around her. So hand in hand as her tale develops, the reader and author travel together through Cari's conversion, with an absolute fullness of understanding of what brings about these radical changes in her beliefs (spoiler alert: before the end she becomes Catholic!) 

Two things struck me as particularly beautiful about Cari's conversion and the way she is able to retell it in Pope Awesome. One is that the Holy Spirit had so heavily laid his gentle hand on Cari from the beginning of her story, even as she traveled into places of darkness, even as the young, New-Aged spit fire spouted her anti-Catholic sentiments, even as she searched in all the wrong places for the only true Place of Rest, certain it was anywhere but the tacky Catholic church across the street. You can almost see the Holy Spirit looking over her shoulder and chuckling (or cooing, I suppose I envision the Holy Spirit cooing like a dove) as she plots out the life she thinks she wants (and is so radically different from the one she now embraces.) This story is a true testament that for all of us hopelessly lost, He is there. He is waiting. He is steadfast. And He loves us with a strength far greater than we ever could have imagined. 

The other thing that bowled me over was simply Cari's indomitable courage to go where she is called. It is a hard thing to change belief sets in  your mind. Especially truly deep set ideas we have embraced our whole lives. Cari doesn't shy away from describing her thought processes as she became to realize the Truth was so very different, the world so much bigger and so much more beautiful, than she ever imagined. It is hard to let that go, all your preconceived notions. And even harder still to change your life accordingly. And change it she did. And little Pope Awesome himself and all the other pretty little ones on the cover of this book are a testimony to that.

The little Donaldsons, already cover stars

Absolutely enjoy this book you will. And right right now, Cari is giving you the chance to win it! Look here and enter! Or be lazy and just get yourself a copy on Amazon

Meanwhile, I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, in which Cari continues to find the hilarity and the holiness in the everyday, which I have surreptitiously named, Passenger Van Orthodoxy. It's like Chesterton meets Erma Bombeck, with a dash of Wes Anderson. 

Thanks for letting us play, Housewife Spice!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thorns and Roses

Good and bad, good and bad. Every day. One of the neat tricks up our family's collective sleeve is "Thorns and Roses." During dinner, instead of listening to the boys drone on an on about Soul Split, or watching Isaac stuff broccoli in his diaper (both equally entertaining) we play a game called "Thorns and Roses." One by one, we tell our thorn for the day, and our rose. Only rules: the events have to be from that day, and you have to participate, and you have to listen politely. We learn a lot about each other this way. And dinner is that much less chaotic. Which is like saying the hurricane was only a small one. Better than nothing.  

As part of his homeschool, Joseph has been finding recipes
and cooking them for us.
Piggy Pot Pies!

Thorns and Roses 
(and pictures)

AnneMarie: My rose was saying riddles on the boat ride. My thorn was when Jude hit me on the head. 

Did I mention Joseph shaved his head bald with Jude's help.
Why? That's what I want to know.

Joseph: My rose was making Piggy Pot Pies. My thorn was that I fished for two hours and didn't catch anything.

Did I mention Peter is now either a gangster...

Or a real estate agent
Peter: My thorn was that I had to work today. My rose was that I got paid for it. (He just got a job being a sign holder! Talent!)

Jude still exists
Jude: [editor's note: Jude is usually banned from playing, or if he plays is usually excused from the table for the rest of the meal because (insert reason.)]My rose was that I pooped. My thorn was that it was in my pants.

Us: Isaac, what is your thorn?
Isaac: Six Forns
Us: What is your rose:
Isaac: Four rosey-poos

Obi: My rose was getting the beach path cleared off. My thorn was that I couldn't fix the scooter. (His answers always reflect what he did and did not accomplish.)

Me: My rose was seeing the Hunter's Moon set over the Gulf this morning. My thorn was yelling at everyone. (Ouch.)

This is actually last month's moon. So beautiful.
Daddy Daughter Dance
Momo: My rose was going on the boat ride. [We met an interesting guy who is all the more interesting because he owns a boat he can't wait to bring people out on.] My thorn was that my basket I tried to make didn't work and all the things I put in it just fell out over and over. [Cries softly thinking of it.]

Hope your day is filled with more roses than thorns!

Oh! And here is where we found the recipe for Piggy Pot Pies!

We did make a couple of changes to the recipe. Obviously, we baked them in muffin tins, which, in our opinion turned out really well. The recipe called for 1 lbs. of frozen chicken chunks. We boiled about two lbs. of chicken breast instead. We did use a bag of frozen vegetables instead of the fresh ones. Also, they created some pretty elaborate piggy faces that Joseph was not that interested in. He made simple faces of his own design and we think they turned out pretty cute.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's Up With That Orange Bike? Theme Thursday Madness

On a bit of a blogging hiatus because Life. Ya know. But my clinically dependent obsession with Theme Thursday just won't quit. 

In the back of my head I knew today's theme over at Clan Donaldson is Orange, and as I was driving this morning I saw my favorite little loner at yet a new obscure location, just leaning there all nonchalant, contemplating Leaves of Grass or some such, and I just couldn't resist. Because he's orange:

You see? 

What is going on! We have lived here for about four months, and this. This bike! It is in a new location everyday, just chained there with its sad blue lock. Somebody is driving it from location to location on a daily basis. No peddles. No chain. No explanation. Just Orange. For our amusement? Our wonderment? To make a statement? What statement??!!! It is driving me insane!

So I appeal to You, the Greater Internet: What is up with the orange bike??!!?? 

When I find the responsible party I'm going to buy him an orange lock.