4 great books to bring to Mass for little kids

Sunday morning fire drill: Eat something! Mass clothes on! Comb hair! SHOES!! For pete's sake please wipe the peanut butter off your mouth.

When all that's done and Sean's strapping them all in the van, I have about 7 minutes to go from sloppy mom pajamas to a semi-dressy outfit that screams "I tried this morning." I regularly forget either my earrings or my mascara, but what I don't forget is my stack of Mass books. 

Disclaimer: Sean would prefer we ditch the books altogether and bring nothing with us to Mass. These four books are our compromise.  

By far, my favorite. Simple, holy, and actually helpful for kids. Look in the pics below and find the little string of dots with the larger red dot. 


For a kid that's not old enough to read but old enough to want to know when Mass will fiiiiiiiiinally end, it helps him move along in the Mass by paying attention to the priest's posture. It's a life saver. Also, it's a hardback, so it's lasted a long time for us.  

Such sweet and simple (yet well-detailed) pictures! Maite Roche's bright colors and sweet faces make Gospel scenes come to life in beautiful ways for toddlers. Our copy has seen a lot of love through the years. 

There are literally hundreds of illustrated Bibles for children to choose from, and I'm sure lots of them are great. I like the size of this one, along with its format of having a hardback cover but regular-weight pages (it's not a board book). The New Testament includes pretty good coverage of Holy Week as well, with spreads for Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and even Doubting Thomas. 

Here, Tiny Saints website--take all my money. Just take it. It looks like this sweet little book isn't offered right now on their page, but the book gives the cutest little look at the heroes of Catholicism. They began the business after a family tragedy and have created something so beautiful. Pretty sure I'm getting every big kid on my Christmas list a Tiny Saints Charm for their school backpack this year. 

I'd love to hear your family's favorite books to take to Mass! 


how my Christmas spending will be different this year

Fall is in the air, Halloween candy is on store shelves, and I'm procrastinating on working on both the kids' All Saints Day getups and their Halloween costumes.

So that means, LET'S TALK CHRISTMAS!

For as long as we've had kids who have been old enough to expect presents and a stocking from St. Nicholas on Christmas Day, we've had basically the same structure to our Christmas budget. Throughout the year we'd wait and see if a bonus commission check would come in, or if I'd earn a check through one of my side gigs, and then we'd get that amount out in cash and put it in a Christmas envelope. We'd have a mini-monthly-budget meeting for our Christmas budget, and we'd make a list of all gifts and Christmas expenses: the tree, Christmas stamps from the Post Office, teacher gifts, all that good stuff.

Last year, we did our usual planning, but then somewhere between Black Friday and Christmas morning... I went off the rails. It wasn't that I spend too much or blew our budget--no, just the opposite.

The budget became an obsessive focus point for me. Case in point: I found a great deal on Vtech smart watches for the boys, early in December. Two for $60, and free shipping, wahoo! But merely getting the great deal wasn't enough for me--I kept checking on various store websites for the rest of the month to see just how great my deal really was.

No other retailer ever beat the price I got them for. Yessssssss.

But. There's nothing like spending Advent by pouring over my phone, waiting for daily affirmation that yes, indeed, I was a TERRIFIC BUDGETER and SHOPPER EXTRAORDINAIRE.

And then Christmas day came, and those gifts were opened, with thank yous and hugs all around.

But I was left with a feeling of remorse over all the time I wasted--yes, wasted--pouring over sales and taking victory laps with price comparisons.

The boys did enjoy those toy smart watches. But did they change our lives? Am I still reveling over the great price? All that time I spent online--what was the long-term benefit?

I told myself that all the time I spent focusing on the gifts and the budget was time responsibly spent. I told myself that the joy on my kids' faces when they opened the *perfect* gifts (scored at the best prices) made it all time spent responsibly, instead of a time suck.

No. It was a time suck. I let myself be sucked into the vast world of Christmastime materialism, but even worse, I considered myself as better than the other "holiday" materialists, because I was doing it in the name of BUDGETING!

Gah. This year, I'm planning a different approach. (And to truly ready myself for it, I'm starting in September. Apparently.)

This year: I'm making every attempt to purchase gifts in-store from Costco, second-hand from thrift stores, or sparsely online. I've already deleted the Walmart app from my phone once I saw their new clothing line which collaborates with Ellen Degeneres. Enough already.

This year, my goal is to make sure that the buying of Christmas gifts, the checking of the budget and the frenzy of shopping all stand in service to the ultimate goal: preparing for the birth of Jesus.

 Anything that detracts from that needs to be tamed, or pruned. In my case, it's both. I need to tame my desire to ensure that I've gotten the best deal--and then prune back all the time I waste on that pursuit. 

Was our whole household consumed in this frenetic, add-to-card shopping spree last year?  No. We did a lot with the kids to make sure our family focus stayed on that journey to Bethlehem: Advent calendars, moving the wise men closer to the stable day by day until Epiphany, praying the O Antiphons together at night. All well and good.

This is by and large a personal discipline for me, and one that I need to put in place so that I, too, can move closer to that humble stable in Bethlehem, day by day this Advent.


my reaction to design mom: there's got to be a better way (oh wait, there is)

I waded through the murky waters of a Twitter-thread-turned-blog-post by Design Mom founder Gabrielle Blair. It's a doozy: The confirmation process for one soon-to-be Supreme Court justice has caused Blair to ruminate on the problem of abortion. She posits that all "unwanted pregnancies" are due to "irresponsible ejaculations of men."

To solve the problem of "unwanted pregnancies," she suggests either castration (as a punishment for, I guess, what someone deems "irresponsible ejaculations") or, mandatory sterilizations.

For all male children. At the onset of puberty.

And we thought the possibility of mandatory Guardasil for all kids was bad! Ha!

All I want to do is write and tell Mrs. Blair that there is a better way--better than surgically sterilizing my sons for the mere crime of being male.

This better way is, I think, the way of God. The better way involves living the truth of our bodies, as God made them. Since Mrs. Blair identifies herself as a Mormon, I hope she might be inclined to look at sex, pregnancy and the human person through a lens of faith.

I'll keep it concise--maybe not twitter-concise, but close.

First off, "unwanted pregnancies" is a pretty crude way to describe... people. Do we call any other class of people unwanted?  Unwanted furniture, unwanted kitchen tile, unwanted old toys. It's how we describe things, not people, each one made uniquely by God.

We, especially we people of faith, can do better when we're talking about the problem of abortion.

Things can be discarded. People shouldn't be.

Next: I write from my home. I'm a 30-something mother married to a 30-something father and together, we're raising a bunch of young children. Our marriage has, and always will be, free from contraceptives.

If we don't want to conceive, we abstain. (As Mrs. Blair points out, a woman can only conceive a few days per month. I'd argue with her given number of 2 days, but, still.)

Think of it: no condoms. No pills. No side effects of extra hair. No weird skin spotting.

No irreversible changing of the chemical makeup of my brain to make it less female. No accidentally transgendering of my kids' genitals.

No stocking up on condoms to keep bedside to be discovered inadvertently by my kids (ick).

And, perhaps most notably, no mutilation of my body, or of my husband's body.

All it asks is persistence, and sacrifice. No one can tell me that using all that junk above doesn't take persistence and sacrifice, too. Only with my way, my skin still looks just fine.

I am part of the the aberration, the counter-cultural movement. My peers and I (and our larger than average families) are mocked by our skeptical doctors and belittled by shocked onlookers at the grocery store.

But we don't have to worry about "irresponsible ejaculations." I made a choice to live my sexuality authentically, wholly, freely, with one man who fervently believes the same. Isn't that the ideal we should strive for--and not resort to calls for penal castration and pubescent sterilization?

While reading Mrs. Blair's post, my first instinct was to eye roll at the whole thing--but that's only because I've lived so long in the world of what she might call responsible sex, sex in which the man and woman both share responsibility. I don't get what an "irresponsible ejaculation" is. It seems to be that a man promises to use a contraceptive, but then, deceptively, does not.

Ok. So wouldn't you want, first, to not be sleeping with a deceptive man?

Wouldn't you want to structure your life so that sex is done with a person who wouldn't lie? Wouldn't you want to give your most precious gift to an honest man who valued you so much, such a deception would be unthinkable?   

It's long been said that abortion is not a cause but a symptom of the sad state of our generation's outlook on sex and morals. I find it amazing, always, when folks say (as Mrs. Blair says in her post) to "stop praying in front of abortion clinics," but have nary a peep to say about any other form of protest. How about the Women's March? How about gay pride parades? Is voting with your feet wrong in all circumstances, or only those that you find objectionable?

I'm just me. I haven't earned the success and enormous online platform from which Mrs. Blair can broadcast her thoughts.

But I can share the truth here, my tiny space. And the truth is this: Contraceptive sex kills love. And abortion kills a human life. Unless those two immutable truths are acknowledged, we're going to have pain and sin, and we're never going to figure out how to end abortion. That's all I'm saying.

(Oh, actually, one last thing: Anyone threatening to surgically sterilize my boys will find themselves face to face with a very aggravated, very aggressive mama bear. Take note.)


book report - summer 2018

I'm praying more now, and reading more too, now that we know all that we know. Both help.

1. A Postcard from the Volcano
Lucy Beckett
Oh, man. A friend told me she was a mess when she finished this one, and yeah, that's about right. I finished it and cried on and off for two hours. Beckett's brilliant work is filled with deep historical and geopolitical analysis of the roots of both WWI and WWII, but even more than that, its characters ask the questions of life. What makes things beautiful? What makes people good or bad? What has God created us for? In brief, Volcano follows a boy through his aristocratic Prussian upbringing, his schoolboy years, and then to his young adulthood in pre-war Germany--and the growing foreboding and panic at what lies ahead once Nazis gain control of the country. Even though I felt like many scenes almost read like a play, in which two or more characters are placed in a scene to debate or dialogue on an idea; those very characters are written with nuance, tenderness and deep love. Heartily recommend.

2. An Immovable Feast
Tyler Blanski
Alert: READ! THIS! BOOK! I'd never read a true conversion story before, and was so glad that Blanski's was my first. Good gravy, there is material in here for everyone: the atheist hipster, the spiritual-but-not-religious 20-something, the dyed in the wool Anglican, and the lukewarm Catholic. Don't be fooled by the softly scenic cover: this is a doozy of a story. I interviewed Tyler for episode 17 of Coffee & Donuts with John & Mary, and he was a lot of fun to talk to. Planning on grabbing this as Christmas presents for both the Catholics and non-Catholics on my list. It's that good.

3. Boundaries
Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
I felt like the only human who has picked up Boundaries and not immediately loved nor identified with it, and multiple times felt like just dropping it for another book on my stack. But then I read a passage about God's boundaries--and it stopped me. God has boundaries? Yes. His boundary is my free will. I can choose to accept Him, to seek to do His will, to follow His commandments. And if God has such respect for boundaries, well, then, I thought, I better finish the darn book and get a better handle on them, too.

4. The SleepEasy Solution
I got this book because I'm such a pro at this mom thing by now, I read baby sleep books just for fun. HAHAHHAHAHAHA. No. I got it because sweet little Stevie was still waking up 3-4 times a night. I was on the brink, and he needed to learn how to cut that crap out, pronto. This book isn't filled with magic, but it is filled with the kind of encouraging confidence that I needed to gut through some crying and get him sleeping better. It helped, a lot. 

5. One Question
Ken Coleman
Sean sweetly grabbed a copy of this once he heard it mentioned in a Dave Ramsey podcast. Each of Coleman's chapters feature a big-name personality or business leader he's interviewed, plus an emotion or challenge: fear, perseverance, failure, character. I picked up some great interviewing tips and strategies for getting great answers out of interviewees. Which reminds me: if YOU (whoever you are) just read a book or have a Catholic author or subject you think would be great on the radio or Coffee & Donuts (or just a great book in general), please shoot me an email or PM!
domesticapologist at gmail dot com
maryh at materdeiradio dot com
IG: @domestic_apologist

Full disclosure: I read two beach reads this summer. It's junk, ok? I know!  They're not in my book stack pic above because they were (mercifully) library books. I like my junk to be free junk.

6. The Identicals
Elin Hilderbrand
I read one Hilderbrand book every summer. They're ALL the same: beach, romance, East Coast snobbery, beautiful clothes, love triangles. They're not terribly raunchy but they are more raunchy than anything I should be reading. But every July, I grab one from the library, read it in 36 hours, and utterly disregard everyone in my family. Then I go back to the pre-WWI Nazi uprising novels.

7. Island Girls
Nancy Thayer
I read somewhere that Nancy Thayer novels are just like Hilderbrand books, so I grabbed one. I think this is akin to grabbing a pack of Starbursts when you're already buying Skittles. This one reads like a shallow treatise on why divorce is awful and why women are ridiculous. Lesson learned: don't get Starbursts when you're already getting Skittles.