Friday, January 23

Trial and Triumph

I want to share a book that we've been enjoying ever so much as a family!  I was at a coffee shop a couple weeks ago to work on a talk on Children's Spirituality that I shared at church last night, but before I began, I browsed a couple favorite blogs.  I came across a review of Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History on Aslan's Library (which I highly recommend as a place to look for good kid theology books).  Before I was done with the review I had spent my Christmas Amazon gift card and the book arrived two days later.  I was thinking maybe we'd read it in the season of Pentecost... but well, the boys saw it and they were eager and I was eager (and there was a chapter on Athanasius), so we are already half way through and they keep begging for more!

Each chapter highlights the life of one historical figure.  Hannula does a wonderful job of telling the story of each person, gives a sense of a larger historical narrative and highlights significant theological ideas of the time.  He doesn't overly simplify the men and women in his stories, showing both the good and the bad of their lives.  Best of all, there are lots of the historical figures' own words worked into the narrative, we aren't just hearing about Augustine, Ambrose and Athanasius; we are also hearing from them.  Jim and I are enjoying the writing and I would highly recommend this book for family or classroom reading.  Rowan thought the story of how Ambrose became bishop was hilarious and has recounted it for me a couple times a day this past week.  And what mama doesn't want to hear her preschooler recounting church history!

I recommend reading a fuller review over at Aslan's library and you can find the book here.  Enjoy!

Note: And because I know someone will ask, the icons are from this site.  Athanasius (right) was a gift for Athan and Augustine (left) was Jim's Christmas gift.  I thought it was fitting as Jim has taught The Confessions four times in various contexts over the past two years.  I'm dreaming of a whole collection of icons on this wall above our collection of historical church writings.

Friday, January 9

A Boy and his Saint

Athan was given an icon of St. Athanasius by his Godparents at his baptism.  I hung it beside his changing table and Athan has lovely conversations with his patron saint while I change him.

Looking Back at Advent

I thought I posted this a week ago, but well, here it still sits ... Sometimes I wish there was more space to write and share in this space.  But then, I remember that I have time and space, but I use it make the celebrations happen and to read great books with the boys.  Right now, with four wee boys, there just isn't always space for everything at once and I'm grateful that I can still be present in this space at all, even if it is sporadic.  I'm hopeful that time to write will come more frequently again, but for now I'll be here when I can be and I'm so grateful for those of you who write emails, ask questions, make comments and just peek in from time to time.  

This is the first year where I felt like the advent readings carried themselves through the season.  That doesn't mean there weren't evenings where Jim and I just wanted to skip to bedtime, but the boys all had the expectation and anticipation of readings and save from one or two nights that we were out late advent readings happened (this certainly hasn't always been the case - and I'm totally fine with that.)  

That said, I do think we overshot a bit.  We started with Jesse tree readings from Ann Voskamp's new book.  We've always done bible reading with the Jesse tree and I was excited to have a book to guide us.    But, I wasn't overly impressed.  The big idea of the book was great and the artwork is beautiful.  The text was weak though and I think the discussion questions could have been so much better.  Honestly I think Voskamp tried too hard.  I love her vision of using the Old Testament stories to lead us to Christ, the ultimate gift of Love.  But she worked so hard at tying all the stories together with God's unwrappable, unstoppable... love that she lost the stories themselves.  I was amazed as we read the story of Noah how the narrative of God and Noah barely came up.  The Old Testament does point to Christ, the stories don't need to be overly embellished to focus in on this fact.  It gave me new appreciation for the Jesus Story book Bible, because while the JSBB isn't always my favorite retelling of any given story, Jones never loses the narrative while she ties it all neatly together.  Jonah's third grade class read Voskamp's book and he really enjoyed it, but it is way too long and convoluted for our younger boys.  I think the fact Jonah knows all the stories well and loves abstract thought allowed him to enjoy the book.  We ended up just reading the scriptures out of the book after a week in.  Jonah often read the rest on his own each night.

I also wrapped up the Christmas picture books this year.  We enjoyed this, but I don't think it will be an every year tradition.  The boys enjoyed opening the books (we opened a pack of three every day) and we would chose one to read together.  Often Jim also read at least one to the younger boys for bedtime.  

My favorite (as always) was reading The Light in the Lantern and making Mary and Joseph's way to Bethlehem.  I love how every year our garden for Mary and Joseph looks different.
Day One: The smoothing of the stones
I made salt dough to stick pine sprigs into to make trees.  Rowan had fun finding wooden animals from our farm during the third week.  He decided to make a stable one night too.

Wednesday, December 31

Feast of Innocents with a New Tradition

December 28th is the feast of innocents. (It was moved to the 29th this year because the 28th was a Sunday.)  So yesterday with Isaac on my lap working the back stitch and Rowan beside me with the sewing machine pedal on a stool so he could reach it, the three of us made a baby blanket.  This is a tradition I've been hoping to start on this day for a couple years.  We sewed around two squares of  flannel to make a simple blanket we are hoping to donate.  Isaac helped me pull the needle in the evening as I did a simple running stitch around the blanket while Jim read to us from The Thirteen Days of Christmas (which we read over the twelve days each year.) We talked about the story of Herod and why we remember this day.  I loved taking the story and making something to help babies of our time who do not have what they need.  It seemed so fitting to do something in honor of those 'nameless' babies who lost their lives years ago.  

I imagine teaching my boys the blanket stitch on this project in a few years and them picking fabric to each make a blanket.  I'd also love to do this as a church project some year and teach other children in the parish to sew.  It is such a simple project and they would have such fun picking fun flannels to sew.  I am hoping this is a tradition that sticks!

Thursday, December 4


We had a wonderful time celebrating Isaac's third birthday.  We celebrated all that Isaac loves; candy, chocolate, gingerbread men and houses (we read this book daily+), balls and costumes!  It was a delightful evening and we were able to share it with family which made it twice as sweet.  

The messy shirt attests that he was allowed to try some of the candies.  A rare treat! (Though I have noticed that the candies off his roof are disappearing... hmmmm.)
The houses are left to right - Isaac, Rowan, Jonah

Wednesday, December 3

Handmade Holidays: The Rainbow Quilts (for dolls)

Rowan helped me cut strips for two rainbow quilts.  The one I hand quilted is on it's way to my niece's rainbow birthday party (and no, I didn't know the theme before I made the present - I love it when things work out like that!)  I had so much fun stitching this little quilt.  Hand sewing is really appealing to me right now as I can stitch while Jim and I unwind at the end of the day or do a row between the many tasks of my day.  Rowan machine quilted his and needs to finish the binding when I get some rainbow thread.  He is making it as a Christmas present for his K4 classroom.

The hand stitching in every color of the rainbow made the project particularly fun!