The Feasts: A Book Review


When I first decided to join in Melanie’s homeschool Guilt-Free Learning Notes link-up, I was a bit surprised when the saints’ days of the church showed up so frequently in my notes. I hadn’t realized how much following the liturgical calendar of the church had become a central part of our homeschool’s religious education.

But, according to the authors of The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics, that’s entirely appropriate because “the feasts are the primary means by which Christians have handed on the faith.” Even before the New Testament had been finished, the worship of the early Christians consisted in celebrating the Eucharist together and remembering the mighty acts of God in the lives of the apostles and martyrs.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina have joined together to produce this theological explanation of all the major liturgical seasons and saints’ days, as well as an interesting history of the current calendar and changes to the calendar throughout church history.

Because we are human we cannot help but celebrate feasts…We do not permit ourselves to forget anniversaries. We dare not forget the birthday of that special someone in our lives.

If it is natural for us to celebrate anniversaries or pause to remember the passing of a loved one year after year, how much more should we celebrate and remember the important dates and heroes of our faith?

Grace builds upon nature, and the Catholic church has taken the Jewish tradition of observing religious feasts and fasts and transformed it into a journey through the life of Christ year after year. The Jewish feasts prefigured the celebration of the Eucharist, and our feasts today look forward to the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb.

Past, present, and future converge when we celebrate the feasts. We truly participate in events of long ago, and we anticipate the glories of the future. Yet we never leave the present moment.

This is what happens when eternity comes rushing into time, as it did when the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).

The authors begin with a short philosophical reflection on the need for feasting in the human experience (not too heady though!). After this they briefly describe the Jewish feasts and fasts that Jesus kept and how the early Christians transformed the Sabbath into the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord.

They then give a history of the calendar and describe the major liturgical seasons. If you’ve ever looked at a church calendar and wondered what the difference is between a solemnity, a feast, a memorial, and an optional memorial, this book will help you out there too.

The Feasts would be a perfect gift for a Confirmation celebration or an adult baptism. It could make a nice gift for your baby’s godparents or teenager’s sponsor too. It would be helpful in a high school religious ed or CCE class, and it would be a nice addition to any Christian family library.

With endorsements on the back from Archbishop Gomez (LA), Cardinal DiNardo (Houston!), Fr. Barron, Matthew Kelly, John Michael Talbot, and the editor of Magnificat, you really can’t go wrong.

You can read the first chapter of the book here and find information on more books Cardinal Wuerl and Mr. Aquilina have written together here.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the free copy received in exchange for this review.

Learning Notes for Week of Oct 13


With three birthdays and Columbus Day always coming right around 6-7 weeks into our school year, it’s a good time for fall break. Also, the weather changed and everyone came down with a fever one after the other. But while we didn’t get much formal schooling done, we still learned quite a few things!

Monday, October 13

Columbus Day! Nathaniel was home from work, and two kids were sick. The well ones continued to work on the new pond and built a gated fence around the entire garden. Now Teddy can go back outside without Mama having a panic attack.


Swimmer (the original pond inhabitant) did indeed die. They went to the pet store and got a dozen goldfish to replace him. Goldfish eat mosquito larvae, so they will always be welcome in my yard.


Teddy waving to the fish

This afternoon we finished reading The Family Under the Bridge. I always have to pass heartwarming children’s novels on to someone else to read the last chapter. Nathaniel took over so I could finish crying.

Tuesday, October 14  

Different people were sick today. The ones who were sick the day before got to play in the garden and try to catch the poor goldfish.

Teddy and I did the birthday baking in hopes that everyone would be well the next day.


William read two chapters of Story of the World vol. 4 and made a map of the Crimean War. I showed him the Tennyson poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”  Since he isn’t doing much else this week, I hope to get him caught up in Story of the World to the Civil War, which we can start studying in more detail next week.

I read Halloween picture books to everyone who was sick.

Wednesday, October 15

The twins woke up feeling well and had a happy birthday.



Marie got a very cool blue whale for her birthday and kindly shared it with Teddy all day.


Nothing like a big Lego set to keep a pack of boys busy all day!

We broke up the Lego construction with a little walk to the bayou, and William read another chapter of Story of the World. Now he’s all caught up to 1860.

And, celebrations abounded when Louis read the very last story of The Beginner’s Bible!!  He has been reading this book aloud continuously for almost an entire year. It’s a great book, but we’re on to something else, yay!!!

Thursday, October 16

Back to school. It was a bit of a rough morning getting everyone moving. We went to Mass and then played outside for a bit. A couple goldfish are dead. No one was interested in play dough, so we got right to work with math and handwriting. Groan, groan.

Ben, Marie, and Louis all had birthday thank-you notes to write, so we got to talk about the three parts of a letter–salutation, body, and closing. Everyone remembered that “Salutations” was Charlotte’s first greeting to Wilbur.

Marie was writing a thank you for a pocketknife, which started a conversation about words with silent Ks. We made a nice list of them on the board.

Ben started reading Danny and the Dinosaur to me while he was sick, and he read a bit more of that aloud. It’s harder than books he’s read in the past, but he just picked it up and started going to town. Marie is on another Little Bear story, and Louis started a Frog and Toad book.

Before lunch, we all sat on the couch and read some picture books about the Underground Railroad. I don’t know how much I’ll include the younger kids in William’s Civil War study, but these books make the time period really come alive for them.

My favorite of these is Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.


The book tells the story of her personal escape to the North, and then her decision to return to bring other slaves to freedom, all as a dialogue between her and God. The illustrations are amazing at depicting all the emotions on her face.

We are also reading A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I had remembered this book as being set during the Crimean War, and thought it would fit perfectly with the antebellum time period. Well, turns out it’s set in the Boer War in the 1880s instead, but we’ve already started it and everyone wants to find out what happens.

Friday, October 17

Ben and Marie went to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and the rest of us went to Mass. It was the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, and the priest’s name is Ignatius, so he talked a lot about the saint in his homily.

Ignatius was martyred by the Romans in 107 AD. There is a tradition that he was one of the children that Jesus blessed in the Gospel, or even that he was the child that Jesus presented as an example of faith to the apostles. But at the least, he was an apostle of the apostles, most probably John and possibly ordained by Peter.

He wrote several letters on his way to Rome to be executed, and while I have not read them myself, I know that the strong devotion to the Eucharist that he expresses in those letters was very compelling to some of my Evangelical friends who became Catholic around the same time I did.

I meant to talk to William and Louis about what they understood from the homily, but as in weeks past, I forgot once we got outside. Some homilies at daily Mass are extremely short and forgettable, but a lot of them are really good. I hope some of it sinks in!

At home, another set of thank-you letters was written, and William did a math lesson. Louis and Marie read Dick & Jane board books to Teddy and their own books to me, but somehow Ben disappeared and conveniently missed reading aloud.

Then I gave them all the choice of either painting with tempera paints or sketching the pond in their nature journal. To my relief, they unanimously chose sketching the pond.

After lunch we read another book about slave escapes called Follow the Drinking Gourd. In this book, a white or maybe mulatto man named Peg Leg Joe works on plantations as a traveling carpenter all the while teaching slaves his song about following the North Star to a spot on the Ohio River where he can row them to freedom.

According to Wikipedia, it’s not known if Peg Leg Joe was a real person, or if his was a name used by several people on the Underground Railroad.

Then while I read to Teddy and put him down to sleep, the older kids listened to an audio of another Follow the Drinking Gourd picture book.

The book was read by Morgan Freeman, who has one of the best speaking voices in the world.  Another guy sang the song, and it was very moving.

William started reading a book my mom brought him from Gettysburg called Will at the Battle of Gettysburg. (How perfect is that?) It is not as dark as some of the others I looked at, but it still tells it like it was.

Will is the son of a doctor in Gettysburg at the time of the battle. He and his family have several encounters with Confederate soldiers (and boys) where they have to face their own prejudices. At the end, Will does a heroic deed for the Union side.

Nathaniel and I have been watching the film Gettysburg with Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee, and we may show William part of that movie next week. Also part of Gone with the Wind.

But tonight we watched Old Yeller. The book does not drag out the terrible tragedy like the movie does. In the book, Travis shoots Old Yeller immediately after his fight with the wolf. I told the kids that it was going to be a little worse in the movie…oh man, oh man!  But still, one of the best dog films ever.

Old Yeller

Saturday, October 18

In the morning, Nathaniel took the big kids to the Gem and Mineral Society for the youth meeting. They are all polishing rocks that they will be able to display at the group’s annual show next month.

They are all now headed to the bayou with nets in hopes of ridding the bayou of more invasive fish. I should go put my feet up!

Linking up with Melanie for your weekend blog reading. :-)

About Writing (a BlogHop) and 7QT


Amelia kindly tagged me in the bloghop about writing. I’m supposed to answer these four questions about writing and then tag more bloggers to do the same.

1. What am I writing?

My tagline says “Faith, Family, Books.”  That about sums it up! Homeschooling is a big part of my blogging, but that counts as family.

2. How does my work differ from those in my genre?

Well, among mommy bloggers, I’d say I probably don’t post as consistently as most. I might be on for a few weeks, and then get overwhelmed and let the blog lie fallow for awhile. But maybe that’s not so unusual for busy mommies.

I really don’t even try to be tech-savvy with this blog, or write like a real writer. Some mommy blogs look pretty professional now, which is wonderful but not something I have the time to aspire to. I still like the old, “this is what we did today and here are my random musings on that” style.

I receive requests to do product reviews, but unless it’s a book, I’m not going to accept it.

And, I now differ from most mommy bloggers because I’m no longer gluten free!

3. Why do I write what I write?

I write book reviews because it helps me process what I read, and I find lots of book recommendations from other bloggers. Also I sometimes get free books out of the deal from Blogging for Books.

I think about my posts about our family life as a love letter to my children. I know that sounds corny, but I do hope that they will treasure the memories and photos I’ve recorded here when they’re all grown up. Maybe it would be better to have it all in a paper scrapbook instead of online, but the reality is I’m over a year behind in putting together a paper photo album and a scrapbook with detailed descriptions of our days is probably never going to happen.

I also get tons of ideas about homeschooling from other homeschool bloggers, so I’m happy to contribute to that conversation. The Internet is like the homeschool mom’s water cooler.

4. How does my writing process work?

I always blog in the afternoon when my kids take a rest time, and if I’m on a roll, into the evening while dinner burns or something like that. If I have a chance to get away alone Saturday mornings, I will often blog then too.

I take notes on my phone when I think of a book to review or something I want to write about. Then when it’s time I just sit down and write until I have to get up. I do a lot of proofreading. I even go back and edit a few times after publishing. Perfectionist.

5. Now I get to tag some other bloggers to join the Writing BlogHop!

Rosie of A Blog for my Mom

Blair of Blair’s Blessings (who I am blessed to know IRL)

Jessica of Housewifespice

Melanie of The Wine-Dark Sea

6. Now that I’m so close to 7, I may as well go ahead and turn this into a 7 quick takes post.

We celebrated our twins’ 7th birthday this week. Two very different babies have grown up into two very different kids!

Here’s their birth story, which I posted earlier this year.


With three birthdays in five days at this house, you can understand why Benedict requested a pie instead of cake.

IMG_17237. More thoughts on blogging vs. other forms of communication

I have a friend who I communicate with via paper letters only (and a few in-person visits over the past few years). I don’t think she even knows about my blog, now that I think about it. We have such infrequent contact, but it is obviously so much more in-depth than I ever have on Facebook or blogs. Sometimes I wonder if I should just scrap all the social media and write one long letter to a different friend or family member each week. Really, I wish I did both.

Spooky Storybooks


The weather just changed here in sunny Texas, and it’s time to warm up a homemade pumpkin spice latte and read our stack of spooky stories.

Here are our Halloween favorites.

Pumpkin Moonshine, by Tasha Tudor


Little Sophie Ann goes to visit her grandparents’ farm and picks a runaway pumpkin. Definitely the prettiest book on the list, and not a bit spooky, actually.

The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin, by Margaret Wise Brown

Not a day goes by that Teddy fails to ask me to read either Goodnight Moon or The Runaway Bunny. So I’m happy to introduce another book by his favorite author. Apparently this manuscript was left unpublished by Brown upon her death. It’s about a yellow pumpkin that wants to grow up to be very scary. Best prose on the list!

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?, by Margaret McNamara

Fun Halloween math-themed book with some interesting facts about how pumpkins grow. Hint: the size of the pumpkin has nothing to do with how many seeds are inside.

By the Light of the Halloween Moon, by Caroline Stutson


Silliest book on the list! Marie loves books like this that show girls who aren’t afraid of goblins and witches.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams

Self explanatory and again, Marie approves! This one has “pale green pants with nobody inside ‘em” just this next favorite,

What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss

A little guy learns a pair of disembodied pants are just as scared of him as he is of them.

The Story of the Jack-O-Lantern, by Katherine Tegen

This book tells the Irish legend of a very greedy man named Jack who makes a fateful bargain. Did you know it was the Irish who brought jack-o-lanterns to America?

The Magic Pumpkin, by Bill Martin Jr. & James Archambault


This one by the authors of Chicka Chicka ABC has the same kind of unusual beat. A tricky pumpkin deceives his owner. Definitely the strangest on the list.

That Terrible Halloween Night, by James Stevenson

After all that spookiness, we need to lighten things up a bit. This one cracks us up every time. A grandpa with a very dry sense of humor tells about his most frightening Halloween ever.

Now to open up some windows and pretend that the cool breeze is here to stay!

Learning Notes for Week of Oct 6


Here’s how our homeschool rolled this week.

Monday, October 6

We had our monthly co-op today. It’s run like a VBS for the elementary school kids, with skits, crafts, and activities based on a theme: this year, the miracles of Jesus. Today’s miracle was the turning water into wine, so for snack, they turned milk into ice cream (ice cream in a bag).

Another mom and I were teaching the middle school kids, our first time to have this age group in our co-op as the kids (such as William!) are growing up. We had five 6th graders, planned a skit for next month, and talked about the corporal works of mercy. We also bagged up snacks and water bottles to hand out to the homeless.

Co-op started mid-morning, so we were able to go to Mass and have William practice piano before we left. We ate lunch there and then came home to crash.

The Family Under the Bridge

In the evening, we read a chapter of The Family Under the Bridge, a very sweet story we’ve read before but which everyone was happy to read again.

Tuesday, October 7

We didn’t make it to Mass this morning because I was still pretty worn out from yesterday’s co-op. I am a serious introvert and have to pace my outings, even ones I enjoy.

I opened the back door to let the dog outside and heard a bird (wish I could identify it) singing the most beautiful song. I had visions of all of us sitting out there reading the Scriptures amidst heavenly twittering, but when we all came thundering out the door, the bird flew away.

We read an Old Testament story from our children’s Bible and the psalm and gospel from the day’s Mass readings.

The gospel was the story of Mary and Martha. Everyone wanted to look it up in The Beginner’s Bible because these are some of their favorite pictures in that book.


We came inside for math, writing, and penmanship.


They all worked on their October calendars while I read some Mind Benders logic problems and a chapter of The Family Under the Bridge.


Lunch, then a nap for Teddy. Each of the younger ones did a spelling lesson with me, and Marie read Little Bear’s Friend to me. William read his Abraham Lincoln biography.

We had to drag Teddy out of bed to go to the park at 2. I kept trying to pick him up and he kept shaking his head and rolling back onto his tummy. He’s such a good napper, but we had a party to go to!

It was the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and our little group prayed a large rosary and had some sweet snacks together.

When we came home from the park, the big kids went out to play with their friends, and Teddy listened to Blueberries for Sal while I cobbled some leftovers together.


Marie and I had an AHG meeting that night, and Ben and Louis read aloud to Nathaniel. Ben read part of Caps for Sale.

Wednesday, October 8

Nathaniel and the three big boys got up at 4:30am to see the lunar eclipse. They met up with others at N’s school to view it through the big telescope there. Marie likes her sleep and declined to join them.


William’s photo

I woke up at 6 and saw the blood moon, but it was obscured by all the trees in our yard.

We went to pick up the boys before 8, and they had of course been playing outside for 3 hours by then! Louis was drenched in sweat, and William was covered in dirt from the waist down.

Got home, washed everyone off, and had breakfast. They all said the eclipse was awesome!


Ben did his morning work in record time. I guess I know what he needs every morning–too bad we don’t live on a farm.

The gospel reading was Jesus teaching the disciples the Lord’s Prayer. We say “trespasses” when we pray it, but the Bible translation used in Mass said “sins.” I told them “debts” is another translation, and William remembered that debitum means sins in Latin. So we talked for a minute about what all three of those words have in common.


Marie’s retelling of the Bible story

Before lunch, we watched some clips from an examination of a colossal squid found a few months ago near Antarctica. William cut a bouquet from the garden.


After Teddy laid down, I did spelling with Ben, Marie, and Louis, and then took my own rest time. William read his books and finished the first chapter of The Story of the World vol. 4. I think this book is going to take a long time to get through. It contains more information than I think is necessary to learn in 6th grade, but he won’t skip a page.

After nap time, I asked William the comprehension questions from the Story of the World activity book and he filled out a map.

Marie read more Little Bear to me and went outside. Within 5 minutes, she had caught a big bull frog.


William had caught a frog at N’s school that morning, and they set up a habitat in our old recycling bin.



Teddy sat outside and watched the frogs for at least an hour.


Ben and Louis rode bikes for awhile and then watched reviews of Lego sets on YouTube. We all took a little walk before dinner.

Thursday, October 9

After Mass, one of the ladies there talked to William about serving at the altar during daily Mass. He is open to it. I think it would be great, although I know it means we will then have to be on time. We’ll talk more about it next week.

Louis wasn’t feeling well when we got home, so he laid down in my bed. I think the lack of sleep the night before was getting to him.

With just one child missing, we were able to fly through our school work. Louis tried to do a little work later in the day, but he wasn’t up for it. He was able to listen to the Bible story and a chapter of our read-aloud.

Ben read the rest of Caps for Sale to me, and Marie finished Little Bear and Emily.

While Louis was watching videos on my bed, Ben and I wrapped his birthday presents because tomorrow is Louis’s birthday!

William took a math test and learned what a direct object is and how to diagram it. He wanted to diagram the entire sentence Louis wrote yesterday: “I saw a lunar eclipse, also called a blood moon,” but I had to be honest and say that I didn’t know how to diagram the phrase. I am learning along the way too.

He finished copywork from Charlotte’s Web and a Latin chapter, and he read about Commodore Perry’s ultimatum to Japan. William also baked Louis’s birthday cake because by then Louis was running a low fever.

We read a chapter of Family Under the Bridge before bed and hoped Louis would be better the next day.

Friday, October 10

The birthday boy woke up feeling great, and we had a happy holiday from school celebrating Louis’s 9th birthday.


We took a little break from Legos to walk to the bayou,

IMG_1683 IMG_1684

where Marie collected two bags of trash.


Saturday, October 11

Nathaniel and the kids planted some more seeds in our garden and went back to the bayou with fishing poles.

They caught two fish, which turned out to be grass carp, one of the most invasive animal species in Texas.


We don’t have to take the fish back to the bayou, and our kids are hoping to keep their new pet (one already died) in a pond in the backyard. But I’m afraid little Swimmer isn’t long for this world.


I’m guessing we’ll be closing out the week with a little circle of life lesson.

Read more Learning Notes with Melanie @ The Wine-Dark Sea!

Happy Birthday, Lou!


When Louis was a preschooler playing T-Ball, his coach nicknamed him “Sweet Lou” after a famous ball player from the ’70s who was fast and furious like our Lou.


9 years ago tonight he sailed into the world in a record 90 minute labor, at home, almost turning Nathaniel into my midwife.

He’s never met a person he didn’t like, or a dessert.

Today he helped make his homemade ice cream cake,

IMG_1679 IMG_1680 IMG_1682

which we are about to enjoy!


We love you, Louis!


WWRW: Bedtime Stories


It’s Wednesday, and I have a book post. I don’t think Jessica is hosting today, but I’ll link up with her just in case. :-) Hopefully she is enjoying a beautiful afternoon with her little ones.

Anyway, do you remember how Peter Pan first came to know Wendy, John, and Michael? He was drawn to their window by their mother’s bedtime stories. I don’t tell very good bedtime stories, but I can read them. Here are some of our favorites these days.

Prayer for a Child


This book is a Caldecott Medalist, so the illustrations are lovely. Teddy almost has this book memorized, which means I can use it for reading practice for the beginning readers. If they can’t sound out a particular word, Teddy will fill it in for them.

My Little Golden Book About God


The prose in this book is just as sweet and comforting as in Prayer for a Child, but the illustrations are not as nice. Some of them are downright strange.


Is it just me, or is something a little off?

 We still like it though.

The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose

This is my favorite of all our Mother Goose books, and I think we have at least five. It’s got every nursery rhyme you could ever remember, and then a hundred more. The illustrations are colorful and funny.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey



The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums

William has been enjoying reading these books before bed. I’m fine with this as long as I never have to listen to them read aloud. Seriously, take a look at that second title. Now imagine every sentence of the entire book containing just as many redundant, multi-syllabic words, and being read very sloooowly, and you’ll know why I will lose my mind if I ever have to hear about Mr. Benedict again.

Peter Pan

Everyone enjoyed Peter Pan. They loved the adventure story and didn’t seem to notice the sad parts. But I did. Wendy’s meeting with Peter once she has grown up is called “the tragedy.” Wendy can no longer accompany Peter now that she has a husband and daughter to tend. Then we find out that Peter’s eternal youth requires he have absolutely no memory, because to have a past is to be grown up. When the adult Wendy realizes Peter doesn’t remember any of their adventures, or even who Tinkerbell was, it isn’t clear who is the more tragic figure.

At least I thought I was the only one affected by the melancholy. Then one of our children started crying at bedtime about being afraid to grow up (“It’s the only thing I’m afraid of in the whole world!”), so it must have hit a nerve.

I read a little about the childhood of J. M. Barrie, which had some real tragedy in it. Also Barrie was very short, always immature, and attached himself to various different motherly figures throughout his life.

He fathered no children himself, but he half-adopted the sons of one of those motherly women he was attached to, and he told them great stories. And that’s how Peter Pan began.