Books: January

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetI am not one for New Year’s resolutions, particularly because I am too ambitious, fail miserably a few weeks in, and then beat myself up about my lack of discipline for as long as I can remember what my resolutions were. So I didn’t make any this year, but I made one goal, shall we say. I want to read 30 books in 2018.

All of my life I have been a reader, but the exhaustion of parenting and new babies and little sleep has taken a toll on my book list. If I am being honest with myself, Netflix has also taken a toll—something I am also looking to remedy with my goal to read more. So far it is working out great. I feel entirely dedicated to this task, and the more I read, the more I love to read, the more I want to read, the more I drag myself out of bed every morning at least an hour before my children wake up, so that I can just read some more. So far so good. But it is only January.

That being said, I finished five books this month, and if you are looking for any suggestions, I recommend all of them to you.

  1. The Second Coming, Walker Percy
    I love Percy. I love him so much. His novels are strange, eerie, bizarre, unsettling, and I feel them in my bones long after finishing them. This one was no exception. I discovered after reading it that it is the second part of a story he began in The Last Gentleman, a book I plan on picking up this year, as well. However, I wasn’t lost or “behind” on the details because I read this one on its own. The story follows a man who has spells of depression, bordering on insanity, and who sets out to categorically prove or disprove the existence of God. His experiment fails, and he is left questioning, only to come across a girl with supposed mental issues herself, who lives in a greenhouse. In the end, he finds that perhaps God exists after all, and that he has known Him in the love of another. It is one of the most satisfying endings—one of the best final paragraphs—I have read in a very long time.
  2. The Irrational Season, Madeleine L’Engle
    Madeleine is the writer I most want to emulate. As always, this book is full of poignant questions and lovely reflections. I find reading her books always feels like talking to a friend. She lets us in on her wonderings and her searchings, and in her words we can find comfort and hope. My favorite parts of this whole book, though, would be the poems she intersperses throughout.

    This is the irrational season,
    when loves blooms bright and wild.
    Had Mary been filled with reason,
    there’d have been no room for the child.

  3. The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander
    One of the most profoundly moving and life-changing spiritual works I have read in a long time. The chapters are short, the writing simple, but her reflections on Christ and His Mother are infinitely beautiful and infinitely practical, all at the same time.
  4. Joy, Georges Bernanos
    After I finished Diary of a Country Priest at the end of last year, Travis gave me this book. It is little-known, recently translated, and very dialogue-driven. I wasn’t sure what to make of it until the end, which is so redemptive and filled with hope for a priest wrestling with apostasy. The last few pages alone made this book entirely worth it.
  5. A Wrinkle in TimeMadeleine L’Engle
    I returned again to one of my all-time favorites in children’s literature after watching the trailer for the movie version of this story, set to come out in the spring. It is as profound and magical and Christian as I had remembered it—even more so, really. I hope to read the rest in the series as the year continues.

(Consider this an open invitation for any and all book recommendations!)

A Thaw

Around here, when temperatures are over 35 and the sun is out, even for a few hours, people appear outside, and we try to get some fresh air and Vitamin D. It is so good for me, especially.

A few things I want to remember:

John Henry and Edith are obsessed with listening to the audiobook of The Cat in the Hat. Sadly, I now have it memorized and keep trying to suggest different books to them, but to no avail. They literally listen to it on repeat for an hour during quiet time. John Henry’s favorite thing to walk around saying is: “no no, shish,” which translates to “‘No no,’ said the fish,” his favorite line from the book.

During night prayer this evening, we arrive at the Protect us Lord antiphon and Edith had her prayer book open on her lap. She flipped to the “correct” page, began praying, lost her place, paused until she returned to the page, and then continued the prayer, as if she didn’t know what to pray if she didn’t have it open to the proper spot. When we returned again to the antiphon, she began it, paused a line in, turned the page, and then continued. How children pick up on these nuances and can imitate them without having any previous experience of situations like that is hilarious and mind-boggling at the same time. Also, to think that they can’t figure out how to use the toilet at the right times but they can learn an entire language without any formal instruction.

It’s been quiet around here, on this blog and in this house, but the babies are great and life is good and we are just doing our thing. Which for me includes reading five books already in 2018, so maybe I’ll share my January books when the month ends?

The folly of Christmas

Processed with VSCO with a9 presetIt is freezing cold today. I look out the window at the falling snow—always falling these last few days. My fingertips do not move as quickly, and I feel a cold breeze, even inside. I shiver.

But it is more than the bitterness outside that leaves me feeling uncomfortable, filled with unrest.

On the second day of Christmas, we celebrate a martyr.

December 25, the birth of Christ. December 26, St. Stephen, protomartyr.

The magic and warmth and peace that fills Christmas morning seems shadowed, darkened, by this day. I remind myself that “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116) I remember that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” (Tertullian) I read in Acts this morning that even as he was still alive on this earth, Stephen saw the heavens open and the Lord standing there, perhaps with his arms open, welcoming His faithful servant home.

We might look on St. Stephen and see in him a great hero, which he was. We see in him the beginning of the Church, one of the first deacons, a man who evangelized the nations and taught the people.

But all I can see is his death.

A brother, a father, a mother. All lost by different friends at the end of this year. Two of those deaths were entirely unexpected, like the thief in the night.

My babies are napping upstairs. Only one of them is actually sleeping. I can hear the other little voice, talking to her dolls, her stuffed Star Wars droid, and her ballet shoes. Christmas for her was full of excitement and squeals. She hardly paused to look at one gift before she was ready to open another, whether it was addressed to her or not.

We had chocolate tahini rolls and coffee and salmon and orange hollandaise sauce. We played with new trains, read new books, and scooped many new (fake) ice cream cones. We lit candles and sang songs.

On that morning, it is easy to tell my daughter how full and hopeful all of this is.

But in the afternoon, a text came. My dear friend lost her father. So unexpected, so sudden. On Christmas day.

The afternoon seemed colder, darker. The harsh winds blew snow in great gusts up the sides of the house, across the recently-shoveled walks. Where is the Christ child now? Where is the thrill of hope, the rejoicing in a weary world?

The world simply seems wearier.

There are no easy answers for martyrdoms or deaths, for loss and grief. Somehow even on Christmas morning, the warmth of the stable and the brilliant light of the star can still seem so cold and so dark.

We had mass in our home on Christmas afternoon. A friend, a priest, who remained in town came over and brought Christ into our home. We offered the sacrifice for the soul of the departed. The light was waning and the shadows growing longer. Even on this day that should be so light but was still so dark, we sang “Glory to God,” and “Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”

And all I can think of, again and again, is this:

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1)

It seems so foolish to hope on a day like St. Stephen’s Day. It seems so foolish to hope, even, on Christmas Day, when death and darkness press in all around us. My reason cannot answer all of my questions. It can’t even put them to rest, unanswered.

I need foolishness, and the foolishness of hope that Christmas invites us into.

A little baby is God, incarnate. Foolishness. The Savior of the World, lying in a manger. Angels appearing to shepherds. A virgin giving birth to a son.

A cross of wood redeeming the world. Death leading to life eternal.

Small wafers held in a human’s hand becoming Christ’s body. Wine sipped from a silver cup filling the soul with divine life.

All such foolishness.

But in a dying world, where else would we go?

“You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6)


My little son

John Henry says the sweetest little “uh-huh” to assent.

Tonight, we are getting ready for his bedtime.

“Do you want to read a book, Bubs?”


We read the book, and he points out the “affe” (giraffe) and then leans into my arms for the wiggle that comes with the worm. After looking at the “shish” (fish) a few more times, we finish.

“Are you ready to go night night?”

“Uh-huh.” And he reaches to put the book onto the dresser.

He snuggles into my shoulder, my neck, one hand clutching his beloved owl, the other with his thumb all the way in his mouth.

I am struck by this moment tonight, and every night. My boy, my son, little enough to still suck on his thumb, who needs a little stuffed owl for bedtime, who wants to lay his head on his mom’s shoulder before I tuck him in.

He is so tender.

Last Christmas, he was still new. Having a little baby by the tree is magical. I thought of Jesus as a small little person, like he was.

But this year, I remember how Jesus was a son. I think of Mary with her little son and the Christmases after as she saw Christ’s own tenderness. One day, he would overcome the temptations of the devil and survive on nothing for 40 days. One day, he would enter Jerusalem as a celebrated hero and one day he would conquer death forever.

But first, he was just a small little boy.

What a privilege it is to be a mother, and to get to know a boy who will one day be a man. I get to see him at his smallest, his most vulnerable. I get to see him hugging stuffed animals and crying over a hard bump on the head. No one else will know him as I do.

Even as he grows up and outgrows me—the goal and sorrow, the joy and hope of every parent—I pray many things for him.

I pray he would be brave as Our Lord who carried his own instrument of torture through the city streets.

That he would love justice like Our Lord who turned over the tables of the money changers.

That he would be self-sacrificing as Our Lord who gave his body to be broken for His children.

That he would be humble as Our Lord who came to earth as a little boy, just as he is.

But most of all, I pray that he would be tender as Our Lord, the Lord who wept at the tomb of Lazarus and welcomed the little children into His presence.

The first snowstorm of the season

Processed with VSCO with a5 presetSnow came this weekend and there is something so perfect about soft, white, heavy snowfall with the Christmas tree lit up in the living room and fresh coffee in the pot. We made a brief excursion into the wonderland. It was precluded by about twenty minutes of struggling with gloves and boots and hats. In preparation for the storm, I stopped by the consignment shop yesterday for some gear. The only boots I found for JH are the ugliest Spiderman boots that light up when you walk—perhaps the highlight of the morning. My only complaint about snow before the semester ends? The shoveling falls to me.Processed with VSCO with f3 preset

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Edith is the happiest little snow bunny and could stay out for hours.

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In contrast, JH whined most of the time and I think especially hated not being able to move. Even more reason to walk, little boy.
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Personality differences.

What We Ate: Fall

Thanksgiving is the food event of the year for my family, and this year we got to host it in our home. My mom’s garden-grown pink, yellow, orange, and purple carrots were the prettiest part of the plate. And, no surprise, the apple pie was the thing I wanted to keep eating and never stop. We had a few other food events this fall that are worth recording, so here they are.

burnished chicken
When fall comes and all of the beautiful root vegetables appear at the farmers market, this dish is always a go-to. I love the crispy roasted edges on the parsnips and the beautiful big shallots. Following the recipe exactly is worth it, down to the whole-grain mustard and the bacon and parsley on top. I served it with green beans with paprika and shallots, and it is probably the best meal I’ve had all fall (multiple times).

Processed with VSCO with a7 presetpotato & leek galette
I’ve never made a galette before, and pie-like crusts are not usually my strong suit, but I figured I’d try my hand at a potato and leek galette with a rosemary and sea-salt crust. I found a really nice aged provolone and fresh ricotta to put on top from our specialty grocery store. (Again, worth the extra dollars and effort it takes to find those ingredients!) The leftovers made the perfect lunch, and even breakfast!

chile-rubbed braised beef
My mom makes this beef regularly and when she kindly supplied my freezer with a beautiful chunk of grass-fed beef, I knew this was the only way to use it. I served it on top of rice, as it is more “kid-friendly,” but my mom serves it often as tacos which is also amazing. We ate it two days in a row and my husband declared it an absolute favorite. Also, it cooks itself which is a huge plus when you have two little toddlers running around.

Every Thursday is breakfast for dinner day, and when I’m not boring and just do pancakes and eggs or breakfast burritos, I like to make a frittata. I don’t have a certain recipe I use; just a general base and then I like to throw different things into them. I put just as much cream as I do milk into the eggs (#JuliaChild) and then add whatever else strikes my fancy. My family’s favorite is bacon, asparagus, and goat cheese. I’ve done potatoes, broccoli, spinach, parmesan, leeks. I’m sure pretty much anything works in these!

Also, one last note: buy the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook. It’s the best.