What’s Working

Whether at church or with my neighborhood friends, something that I’m always keen to talk about is best practices- best mom practices especially. While everyone has different kids and different circumstances, there are always commonalities shared that sparks inspiration for me. Why reinvent the wheel?
Sometimes you’ll find a mom with some kids that are about 5 years ahead of you, and her mom best practices are truly little golden nuggets. And other times, you can help a mom with younger children find the perfect sippy cup, share your perfect bedtime routine, or just in general gain some perspective and appreciate that not every phase lasts forever.
Motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint, and just like a running buddy will help encourage you to finish the race- your mom tribe will also!

These are the top 5 things that are working for me right now:

  1. Getting up earlier than my kids. It sounds so simple, but in that 30 mins or hour, I can take a long walk, enjoy some coffee and devotional time, and be ready to give my kids attention to get them to school on time and start my day more peacefully.
  2. Using a bullet journal to write down my goals and create action steps to complete them. I journal my weekly progress, as well as success/fails of the week. I love making lists, so this works well for how my brain works, but it also lets me see big picture progress which helps me in turn be more realistic.
  3. The Think Dirty app is helping me to be choose greener beauty and household products. For many years now, I’ve tried to keep a greener home, both for my family’s health and to be a better steward of our world’s resources. I use many of the Norwex cleaning cloths and my laundry routine is probably as green as I can make it, but my makeup and beauty products need an overhaul. My current rating on the app is a 6. This app helps me identify my biggest offenders (my mascara, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, & body wash) so that when it comes time to replace them, I can make a better choice.
  4. Choosing to unsubscribe from so many retail e-blasts. With budgeting continuing to be a top priority for our family, I have found it easier to spend less by unsubscribing from so many eblasts that prompted that “oh, I need that” reaction.
  5. Activating the “move” function of my Garmin. I don’t want to be bossed around by my watch, but I work a 9-5 office job and sitting all day long is deadly. Keeping water at my desk helps too, then I’m forced by my bladder to move, haha. You could set an alarm on your phone too. Thankfully I work from home, so that I can dance to Timberlake for a few minutes in the privacy of my own office.

I would love to hear what is working for you too! Let’s lift each other up so that this motherhood journey is a little easier!

❤️

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November and December Reading

November

The Widow by Fiona Barton, I really enjoyed The Child and this was recommended to me before I had ever heard of Fiona Barton during my mystery kick last year. But I have to confess, this one isn’t my cup of tea. I only read about 10% of this one, then read the last chapter. As a 10 of 10 on a gritty scale, my momma heart couldn’t take it.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, loved it as much if not more than the last time I read it. I am having so much fun reading through this series again and catching details that I missed the first time around.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. The ending gave me mixed feelings, but ultimately I’m glad I read it. It’s a delightful tale of friendship, but maybe teen and young adult gay & lesbian fiction just isn’t for me.

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward- Had this book not arrived in the gift subscription that my sister sent me for Christmas, I feel certain that I would not have read this. It is gritty and centers around poverty, racism, drugs, and the child neglect and despair that can be at the center of this encompassing epidemic. With that said, this book stretched me and beat me up, and crawled into my heart. This gritty story of loss and hope that truly toes the line between thriller and ghost story is poetically told from the view of a mother and her young son who has to grow up too fast. It won the National Book Award for Fiction and I would highly recommend this one.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I was so excited to learn that our library selected this author and this book as part of their “Big Read” community reading event for the purpose of bringing neighbors together to be more empathetic, more aware, and more engaged. The culmination of the reading event was a lecture and open discussion forum with Emily St. John Mandel, and it was particularly insightful. She spoke of her inspiration for this story and her writing process, both in general and the research involved in writing this specific story. I was especially intrigued because she has somehow managed to live a successful, creative life on a balanced 9-5 work schedule. And she signed my sister’s books, which delighted my sister immensely.

Turtles all the Way Down by John Green was exactly what I wanted it to be. While slow at first, John Green expertly weaves a tale of love and friendship around the mysterious disappearance of a local billionaire, through the eyes of an obsessive compulsive and anxious (and extremely loveable) teen. He just understands- all the feelings, the self-centeredness, the dialogue. John Green is a master of young adult fiction.

December

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin- Set in the untamed Pacific Northwest at the turn of the twentieth century, the author captures both the time and place with stunning clarity. Two girls escaping a violent life come upon this orchardist, who after losing his own family, takes them under his care and they journey to ultimately build a new family. It’s a rocky and distrustful relationship, and will challenge any version of a traditional family, but their journey is beautifully told.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway. Surprised by how much I loved Sing, Unburied, Sing, I went back to the National Book Awards to find more titles to read. My sister recommended Far from the Tree, and she had a copy, and told me she would send it to me. In the meantime, I went back through Robin Benway’s backlist and chose a couple to keep me busy until it arrived. Emmy & Oliver is a must read, with characters that are real and funny, and like me, you will be sorry this story has to end. These kids were best friends in elementary school when Oliver disappeared. He is found many years later, and Emmy and Oliver have to deal with the consequences of his disappearance on both of their lives, and ultimately discover their friendship again in the process. I loved the parents too. Just loved all of it.

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart- I enjoyed We Were Liars and E. Lockhart’s twisty, trippy style of writing, and was excited when this popped up from my holds list at the library. It is written backwards in time, which can be confusing if you are the type to read multiple books at once. It’s a story of two girls, Jules and Imogen, but really just one girl with identity issues. I always think it’s a clever trick for the author to make you fall in love with truly unlikable characters. And I didn’t find it too confusing, because I couldn’t put this one down.

Audrey, Wait! By Robin Benway- This wasn’t as great as Emmy & Oliver, but a likeable story nonetheless. It’s cheery teen lit, unsurprising and sweet, and I enjoyed it.

That rounds out the 70 or so books I read in 2017. Mostly fiction, and pretty evenly divided between adult and young adult. It would be hard to rank my top five, but the one that most changed me was Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I especially enjoyed Wonder by RJ Palacio and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, because I read them with my daughter. I enjoyed mysteries more than I had in years past especially I Found You by Lisa Jewell and The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. And I’m so excited to continue reading more of the Outlander series in 2018. I loved the quarterly book subscription and am excited to read those selections (although it will be hard to beat Sing, Unburied, Sing.)

Happy Reading!

❤️

Goals

Every year, I try to set goals for myself. While they almost always include losing 15 pounds and eating more vegetables, I try to include something creative that pushes me.

Last year was no picnic, but it was made easier because I had a plan. Our family stuck to a budget and accomplished some important financial goals. I ran a half marathon without injury. And I strongly believe I was a more patient wife and mother.
This is what I am pushing myself toward in 2018:

More knitting. Stretch myself and knit something impressive, and find the inspiration to design something unique. I know this sounds vague but I don’t want to put too many limits on this one just yet.

More reading. Putting a number out there makes it sound like I am going for quantity over quality, so I want to stay away from that. But I read 72 books in 2017, and many were magnificent. I would like to read more magnificent stories, and you need to listen to many voices to do that.

Tackle some home projects. The interior needs to be painted, and the patio and backyard needs a makeover. Veggies seem to always fail me, so this year will have a flower focus.

Cook with the kids more. We stopped our kid night cooking because of our busy schedule last year and I want to restart this. I don’t think it is realistic for me to do this every week with each girl, but I think we can do it once a month. (And if it broadens our horizon with new food choices, it would be welcomed with open arms. Mac and cheese, I’m talking to you!)

With everything, I want to fit within the frame of family-first. Whether it is here for the blog, at work, or for play, I want to make sure my decisions are building up my relationship with my husband and girls.

Staying real and sharing the success and failure is what connects us together. What are you planning for 2018?
❤️

The Sound of Silence

Something is happening in my life now that is equally as peaceful as it is disturbing. If you haven’t been reading long, you might not know that I am a mother of two girls. And one of my jobs as the mother of said children, ages 7 and 11, is to chauffer them around town, to school, to church, for food, to dance, etc.
Now in the 11 years that I’ve had this job, there has been little peace. Oh, sometimes they fall asleep or they get really intent in a movie, but for the most part there’s always, always been some drama in the back seat. Being in this small, unescapable place that is my car has not always brought out the best in my girls. Fights over who looks out what window, who is making mouth noises, who chooses the music, who really knows the words to the music, drama over nosebleeds, sickness, and who can see the moon.
It’s not always bad drama, sometimes there’s good drama, like sharing the day’s joy, funny jokes they can’t wait to tell their dad, new people they met, and crazy things that happened that week at school. The bottom line is there’s always background noise.
But lately, after I drop off the 7 year old at school and begin my trek to the middle school, the strangest thing happens. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about silence. She looks out whatever window she wants, with no drama, or studies her school notes, or brings her own music and headphones, or sketches in her journal, and there is zero noise. She isn’t mad, I’m sure of it.
I’ve spent 11 years knowing every thought that came to her mind, and now she’s developed a filter. Peaceful, and disturbing.

Cookie Day

My love language is food, and it is easy to see why when you spend time with my family. There is rarely a gathering that doesn’t center around delicious food, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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One of our family’s favorite holiday traditions is Cookie Day. We gather at my aunt’s house and make a ton of cookies that we pass on to neighbors, coworkers, teachers and friends. It is always a fun day filled with laughter, sugar, and reliving fun memories.

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What are your favorite holiday traditions?

❤️

 

October Reading (and November preview)

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (audio version on commutes with Sarah)… I know, you’re probably thinking, again? But I wanted to experience this one through Sarah’s eyes, and it was so beautiful the second time. The audio expired before we had a chance to finish the last chapter, so I checked out a library copy and finished it with her. We were both in tears by the end. She was mad at the ending at first, but we kept talking about it and she realized the beauty of the story. (Although she still says she would have changed the end.)

The Child by Fiona Barton, I loved this one and truly did not guess the ending. I listened to the audio version, and I have to admit, I wish the cast of voices were just a tad more unique. There are many characters and if you listen in short blips the way I do, it might take a minute to orient yourself in the story again. The characters were so real and I loved the way the story fit together ultimately. I would highly recommend this one.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti was another one that I thought was a unique and beautiful story. Lizzie has a very unique imagination and family, (which isn’t celebrated in any high school peer group, anywhere) and uses it as an excuse to isolate herself. When a girl in town goes missing, Lizzie tests several theories of her disappearance and finds more about herself in the process. It’s mildly thrilling and I honestly didn’t guess the ending- although as it ended- I thought I should have known. Anyone who has imagined or actually dared to not “fit in” will identify with elements of Lizzie’s character. Great, quick read.

I also reread a couple of Harry Potter’s- Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban, because why not? It was the illustrated version of Chamber of Secrets, and it was wonderful to flip through with my 11-year old aspiring artist.

We listened to about half of The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron and I listened to about half of Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. We weren’t disappointed when those titles expired before we were finished. I might try Modern Lovers again in print.

I’m picking up the pace in November. The time change has curtailed our outside playtime after dinner, and we have taken several car trips, so I’m reading more. In the stack:
Beyond the Bright Sea Lauren Wolk
The Widow Fiona Barton
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix JK Rowling (why stop now?)
Drums of Autumn Diana Gabaldon
Into the Water Paula Hawkins
Sing Unburied Sing Jesmyn Ward
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel (since I get to meet her!)
Turtles all the Way Down John Green
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Saenz

What’s in your stack?

(Photo of the pup, because he’s my favorite reading buddy)

❤️

New Recipes

These colder days bring a renewed energy to get creative in the kitchen for me, but this energy is tempered by my kids -especially because they aren’t always open to new flavors.

Not sure if this resonates, but I need familiar ingredients that are filling- comfort food at its most basic! (eggs, potato, cheese, pork, pie dough), and it needs to be simple enough that it can be made on a weeknight. The kids love to help and I want to encourage it.

I am going to search through these cookbooks that are new at my library for inspiration to try to get some ideas for next month. Tonight, we scrapped the idea on my calendar in favor of breakfast for dinner, which is so comforting on this chilly and damp day!

❤️