Friday, April 27, 2012

Review of "Catholic Family Fun"

Catholic Family Fun by Sarah A. Reinhard
2012, Pauline Books and Media, $11.95

Wondering what to do with the family this weekend? Wishing you could talk about your faith without putting the kids to sleep? Sarah Reinhard has done the legwork for you and combined the solution to both dilemmas in Catholic Family Fun!

In her book, Reinhard offers parents a variety of ways to work faith into family life in an easy-to-follow format. Each entry estimates the total prep time, duration, and cost involved, so parents can discern which project will fit both schedule and budget.

She first breaks down the “how to”, which can include suggested materials as well as the steps involved. Each project is followed by a “Faith Angle”, which can turn a simple treasure hunt into a treasure trove of family faith. When possible, she includes suggestions to personalize the activity for your family.

The book is divided into sections such as Craft Projects and Story Starters, which makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. Activities include rainy day projects that can be done at home as well as outdoors activities to get you out into the fresh air. Reinhard even includes suggestions of places to visit, always with a potential “Faith Angle” to enrich the experience. There is even a handy chart in the back of the book that allows for a quick scan to find something that meets your current needs.

Not every activity is spirituality in disguise. There are also straight-on faith activities, such as starting a Mary Garden and Saint celebrations as well as suggestions for how to pray together as a family. Finally, nothing drives home Jesus’ message better than serving those in need, and Reinhard suggests several opportunities that exist in almost every community.

One of the author’s points is that it’s not only easy to work faith into your family activities, it’s fun. This book provides perfect opportunities to grow closer as a family while incorporating the most important lessons your children will ever need in life. The book is currently available in paperback, and you can conveniently order from Pauline Books through Amazon . 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sarah Reinhard writes about marriage, motherhood, the Catholic faith, books, and life on a farm at her blog:  She is also a frequent contributor to other blogs, podcasts, and websites such as: Catholic Momwww.catholicmom.comFaith and Family LiveCatholic Foodie, and Catholic Writers Guild. Sarah lives in central Ohio with her husband and their three children.

Sarah gave advice on blogging at the recent Catholic Writers Guild Online Conference, and she rocked! If you are Catholic and looking for a great writer's group to join, I highly recommend checking out the Guild site.  The site it being updated, but there is a wealth of information in the blogs and through email.  Commercial over. And now, on to Sarah!

Sarah, your books are all geared toward family faith. Well, many Catholic parents take their kids to Mass and send them to Sunday School. Isn't that enough? And isn't it the job of the priest and  teachers to instruct our children in all things Catholic?

Parents are the first catechists of their children. When we have our children baptized--many of them as infants--we take this responsibility on in the most sacred way.

But it's HARD. It's also downplayed. In my work through our parish office (I've logged eight years so far), I see--and fight--the uphill battle as we try to give parents the confidence and tools to effectively catechize their children.

It seems like a lot of people are used to handing over the reins, but I'm a bossy sort.

Since we are a parish FAMILY, it's all of our jobs to instruct. That's why I'm a catechist in our parish religious education program.

But in my own family, the people who live in my house and especially my children, I'm going to be the one who answers to God someday. Me.

That's a tall order.

So it makes it hard to say "enough," at least for me.

I think of my job as a catechist and a parent as being very akin to that of a farmer. I plant seeds. God does the watering and he provides the sun (or Son, more accurately).

No matter how big the field seems, how impossible the task, I have to keep planting. I must not give up. I have to be feeding myself and keeping my own field tended, so that I know what to do when I see sprouts.

Being Catholic is such serious business, what with the incense and chanting and stern nuns with rulers. Or is it??? Can you give us some examples of how your book, Catholic Family Fun, incorporate fun into faith? 

Few things are as FUN as being Catholic in my life. Who else hosts parties with wine?

OK, that makes me sound like a lush.

I find that when I spend time with the most important people in my life--those people God has entrusted to me through the sacraments of marriage and the wonder of new life--I have fun. We make memories. We stick our fingers together because I'm no good with a glue gun. We try new things and we laugh.

One of my favorite family activities (and it's also included in Catholic Family Fun) is horseback riding. Now, I didn't need to write this book to have that be a favorite activity. But here's how it incorporates faith, without even stuffing it down anyone's throat: we are out in nature. Who made nature? And who made those horses? And wow, look! There are baby horses being born at the horse farm we go to! The room to discuss God's creation are boundless.

Did I mention that we're smiling while we talk? That we're in the middle of something we love, and that the conversation is natural?

For me, making faith fun is more about integrating it into everything. The word "catholic" means "universal," and it's so true that you can find elements of our faith, of God, in nearly everything we do.

If you're having fun, you'll feel closer to God. That's true for your kids, too. And if you're together as a family? Even better.

At what age do you think children are ready to take part in family prayer and Lenten practices?

I say 36. (That's because I'm 35.)

From what I observe in other people's families, you can start at about 3 or 4, depending on your child and...this is the kicker...YOU.

I fail at this sort of thing. FAIL in a BIG way.

And so I get up and try again. And again. And...again.

If Mary, Mother of Jesus, had a Facebook page, you would litter her site with LIKES. What role does Mary play in your life? And why?

I have no idea WHY, but Mary seems to be at the heart of much of what I do in my writing and other work. My children were all born on Marian feast days, and I was married on a Marian feast (though I didn't know it at the time).

Mary is the thread that ties me to Jesus. She's the hand that guides me back to him when I wander away into what *I* think is best. She's the reality check, the fact that makes Jesus HUMAN to me, instead of inaccessible and impossible to relate with.

You are the Catholic Blogger Extraordinaire! From "Mary in the Kitchen" on Catholic Foodie to "New Evangelizers", you're out there writing about meaningful topics that can help deepen our relationship with God. How do you balance so many obligations with being wife and mother of three? 

*blush* Thank you for your kind words.

Balance is an ongoing struggle. I use lists like a crazy woman, I juggle carefully, and I try to always be offline in the evenings after supper (I fail, mind you). I begin each day with prayer (the amount varies by day, but I try to at least start with a rosary).

And I do my very best to leave things in God's hands. It's HIS problem, these limits and parameters. And my big-V vocations of wife and mother always, ALWAYS come first. (At least, I try to make sure of that.)

I loved your Top 13 Essential Apps for Catholics on Tech Talk at I had some already, like Divine Office, but hadn't heard of them all. Do you have a few favorite books for those who aren't yet technologically savvy? 

That was a fun column to write, and wow! It got some great feedback, too!

Essential books? OK, let's say that the two heavyweights are already on your shelf (the Bible, the Catechism).

First: Chesterton. Before you roll your eyes, I love his fiction and his essays the best, though I do attempt to read his other stuff when my brain is feeling up for it. I love that he wrote in a way that wasn't always scholarly; he had a lot of fun and humor in his writing.

Second: good fiction. Yes, I know, that's a category, not a book, but I'm sticking by it. Without fiction, I wither away. There's great nonfiction out there (and I'm reading it like crazy), but I always try to have a good novel going in my reading pile (or two, if I'm lucky). I am heartened by good storytelling, and I find good storytelling in fiction. Here are a couple of books I've read recently and know I'll be rereading someday:
  • The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis - I consider it a great examination of conscience (and I also consider it a must-read every single year)
  • The Father's Tale, by Michael O'Brien - it's long, and it might not be your thing, but I loved reading it, and I imagine I'll reread it someday, because it was so wonderful the first time around
Third: helpful nonfiction. Again, a category. But there are SO MANY books. Sometimes, what speaks to me (whether a novel or not) doesn't speak to someone else. I find I have to be able to put it down, move along, and go forward. Some recent reads I've really enjoyed:

  • The Work of Mercy: Being the Hands and Heart of Christ, by Mark Shea
  • The Catholic Girl's Survival Guide for the Single Years, by Emily Stimpson (no, I'm not single, but I found this book moving and relevant!)
  • In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton

And now you've moved into podcasting. Is this fairly easy to do for people who would like to jump in and give it a try? (I'm nearly technologically illiterate.) 

I have to correct you: I "podsquat," which means I record segments and other people do the heavy lifting of producing the actual podcast.

Is it easy? Maybe, maybe not. Is it for you? Again, that depends.

Taking on anything new requires a level of discernment, which requires talking--and LISTENING--to God.

What's next for you?

I have a book coming out from Ave Maria Press in October, A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, so that will be fun. I also have this idea for a book that I need to get into proposal form...we'll see. (I keep "not having time" for it. Hmm.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Free Online Conference That Makes a Difference!

Mark your calendars for next March, because that's when the Catholic Writer's Guild Conference Online takes place!  Put on by the Guild, you don't have to be Catholic to attend, and you won't want to miss the great information!

The format is Chats and Forums. Forums are week-long daily posts that you drop by in your own time to read and do the assigned work. You can post your homework or comments, and the presenter drops by to reply.

Chats meet at specific, scheduled times, and they are on Eastern time, so a Californian like me might have to get up early, but it's well worth it.

Topics covered this year included blogging, using twitter effectively, dealing with those troublesome adverbs. There are general help sessions on self-publishing, editing, epublishing, and the writing business as well as more specific topics, such as mysteries, historical fiction, and writing villains and fight scenes.

There are also topics to help you as you try to tackle the writing life: House-Keeping Boot Camp, Time Management for Writers, and the Proper Care and Feeding of the Writer's Spouse.

On the spiritual side, you can get great tips from chats like The Baptized Imagination; Pray, Study...Work; and Writing Faith for Fiction.

So, what I'm sayin' is there is something for everyone: The new writer and the established writer, the writer who wants specific writing information and the writer who wants to embrace their faith and work it into their daily scribbling.

And it's all online in an easy, convenient format.  And did I mention it's FREE???

I'll bring more information next year as the schedule of presenters gets firmed up.

What topic would you like to see covered at a writers conference? Do you find online conferences convenient? Or would you miss the "event" feel of traveling to a separate venue? I'm really interested...because I'm one of the organizers now!