What I’m Reading

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As I write this, I am still pregnant. The nest has been nested, so it’s now a matter of getting my mind off of the fact that I am not in labor and have had no signs thereof. So let’s just chat about some of the books I’ve finished over the last two months or so.

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

I’ve long been fascinated with the last few generations of the Habsburg dynasty, and Empress Sisi’s story is one of the most interesting, bizarre, and (not surprisingly) touched by tragedy. This historical novel goes through her initial meeting with Emperor Franz Josef, their early marriage, and its eventual demise. It was well done, overall, though the first quarter of the book I found a little plodding as it seemed to read like a movie script, describing every movement, action, glance, etc. But it picked up after awhile and gave a glimpse into just how crazy and often messed up life was as a royal in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time. I don’t envy Sisi’s lot in life one bit.

The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict

Not sure how I hadn’t yet read this, but I’m glad I did. It’s really short and Benedict is super thorough, covering everything that could come up in monastic life: when to get up, how much to eat every day, what to do with disobedient monks, etc. It was kind of amazing to see how very much motherhood and abbot-hood have in common, and I found all of his advice to abbots to be completely applicable to parenting as well. I think anyone can read and relate to his rule on a personal level (although his chapter on the ins and outs of praying the Divine Office did leave my head spinning).

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman

This is one I read back in high school, but I really enjoyed re-reading as a wife and mom. It’s a fictionalized account of a real woman’s life who visits her uncle in the wilderness of Canada as a 16-year-old, and falls in love with and marries a Mounty just a few months later. Their life in the unforgiving climate of an extremely uninhabited part of Canada at the turn of the 20th century certainly puts things in perspective! No electricity or heat, weeks and weeks of travel via sled/dog teams to get from one post to another, no access to modern medicine, hardly any communication with the rest of the world, dealings with large Indian settlements, etc. Oh and the endless winters of -40° F. Just brr. We can do Mid-Atlantic winters with heat and SUVs and instant hot water. Anyway, the story is both sweet and gritty, as it follows the blossoming marriage of Kathy and Mike, as well as the tragedy and hardships they face together.

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

Tom and I read this together, and it was our first Flannery full-length novel. She’s a really gifted writer who can spin hilarious descriptions that will make you laugh out loud, followed by some super interesting insights. I will say, though, we were a bit over our heads with the weirdness of this work. We ended it and were like, “Uhhhh….so what was this supposed to be about??” We even tried looking up some essays and articles to help us out, but we need a professor or something. Anyone care to shed some light here? If I were to give a quick synopsis it would go something like this: a young soldier home from WWII struggles to accept the faith of his parents and decides to go to a small southern town to preach that there is no Christ and no church. He comes across several really bizarre characters and some really bizarre things happen to him. It’s hard to explain…again, if you’ve read it and have any thoughts, we would love to hear them!

Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag

This novel is kind of the immigrant version of Little House on the Prairie– with a lot more of the actual gritty, depressing details. A Norwegian family travels from Norway to the United States, eventually making their way westward to the uncharted Dakota Territories, to stake a claim on land and begin farming. They form a community with three other families, the closest human beings for about 90 miles around them. The book really gets into the heart of how the intense loneliness and desolation of the prairie affected many of the foreigners and pioneers who sought to make their home there– the main character’s wife basically suffers from deep depression and what ultimately seems like some sort of psychoses, due to the fact that she never really wanted to leave her homeland and is terrified of everything in the wilderness of their new life. It’s also a classic man vs. nature story, as the weather and the prairie itself often play a huge role and are written as entities out to destroy man. It’s a gripping tale of determination, survival, and the effects of the pioneer life on marriages, relationships, and communities.

(And as I mentioned before, this book was also very appropriate as a blizzard/winter-weather read, as their 7 month winters of daily blizzards with little fuel and food once again put our life into perspective. Electricity and heat FTW).

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World Marriage/Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! And also, World Marriage Day in the Church.

Here are my favorite marriage posts from the last couple years on the blog!

St. Joseph’s Day: A Love Story (3 part post on how we met!)

To Wait or Not to Wait…How Kids Change Marriage

5 Favorite Marriage Books

Reflections on warmer times: The Honeymoon

Why We Need Date Night

The Suffering and Beauty in Love

Go check out more marriage posts at Catholic Mommy Blogs!

 

7 Things That Are Making Winter Bearable!

We aren’t really huge fans of the sub-freezing temperatures and arctic winds this time of year (though I hear there are some people that actually prefer this weather…??). Mostly because said weather makes it nigh on impossible to get the kids out of the house, and then there are very few places to actually go once we’ve done that.

But there are some things that definitely make winter bearable, even pleasant, and it’s nice to sing praises once in a while instead of griping. Also, we have electricity, heat, and plenty of food, so…everything else is just gravy.

1. These leggings. I initially bought them with a Nordstrom gift card intending them to be for comfy postpartum wear. Then I tried them on and realized that they actually worked really, really well as maternity pants/leggings and are incredibly comfortable. Probably wear them like 3 times a week, when I want to feel slightly less like a bum than yoga pants. They are very thick and sturdy, really more

I initially bought them with a Nordstrom gift card intending them to be for comfy postpartum wear. Then I tried them on and realized that they actually worked really, really well as maternity pants/leggings and are incredibly comfortable.  I probably wear them at least 3 times a week, when I want to feel slightly less like a bum than yoga pants. They are very thick and sturdy, really more ponte pants than leggings which I love. Sadly, the charcoal gray that I have seem to be out of stock but I’m sure the black would be great too and I highly recommend them for maternity and non-maternity wear.

2. The girls finally playing well together and entertaining each other for pretty long periods of time.

It’s taken many months, but it seems like Lucy not only tolerates Lena’s existence but actually enjoys being with her and playing/interacting with her for long periods of time. Not only is it totally adorable when Lucy exclaims things like, “Come on, Layns! Let’s go to a casplore*!” and Lena responds super enthusiastically, “YEAH!”; but it also gives me time to do stuff around the house, and I know their companionship will be clutch when the baby is here.

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*[explore, in its noun form, of course]

3. Homemade body butter.

I made this recipe (minus cocoa powder and peppermint, and just some orange essential oil instead), which I’ve used before. It’s super soft and creamy (a little oily because it’s made with a lot of oil, so you just have to be careful to let it dry before, you know, putting your shirt back over your huge pregnant belly). It feels great on my dry, dry winter skin, which Lena sadly seems to have inherited. She looooves asking for “ocean” and smearing it all over herself as well.

4. Stuff that helps me look more awake/alive and motivates me to get dressed and somewhat groomed for the day:

-This under-eye concealer which is pretty cheap and happens to work better than any of the many, many concealers I have tried since high school. You take your under-eye concealer seriously when you have crazy dark circles permanently, no matter how much sleep and hydration you get and this stuff works

Leave-in conditioner/detangler. This smells really refreshing and I can basically spritz it on and let my hair air dry with pretty great success. In tandem with my beloved dry shampoo, and a handy-dandy new curling wand, second-day hair and dry winter hair aren’t quite so bad.

5. Prenatal yoga.

I bought a Groupon deal for a local prenatal yoga studio when I suddenly realized that I’d entered the third trimester and my main form of exercise consisted of hauling toddlers in and out of car seats. I have NO success with doing free online yoga videos or DVDs, because 1) toddlers like to climb on mom in child’s pose or down dog and 2) I can’t stay focused or motivated if it’s not a real class I have paid for and have to leave the house to attend. So it’s been really nice to have a class to go to every week or so and I know my lower back thanks me.

6. Great books to curl up with that make you realize your winter could be so.much.worse.

I just finished reading two books which take place in barren, sub-sub-zero winters and thought, “Thank God. I will never have to experience the winters of Northern Canada or the plains of Minnesota in the late 18th/early 19th centuries.” I’ll post some book reviews soon but both Mrs. Mike and Giants in the Earth happened to be perfect frigid winter reads.

7. An amazing husband who lets me sleep in every weekend or snow day morning. Enough said.

Linking up with Seven Quick Takes at Kelly’s AND with Modern Mrs. Darcy and her link-up on Things that are saving my life this winter!