Monday, August 27, 2018

Book Review: Excess Baggage

I have been on such a reading slump the month of August and this is pretty much the only book I've read so far. I am trying to get into the groove again but summer has worn me down and I'm struggling.

Excess Baggage - Tracey Carisch

Tracey Carisch thought she had it all. As a wife, mother, and successful executive, she seemed to be living the modern American dream. But one night, a panic attack sent her tumbling into an existential crisis and questioning everything about her life. That’s when she and her husband made a decision that shocked their family and friends: they sold everything they owned, pulled their three young daughters out of school, and became a family of wandering globetrotters. 

Loaded with hilarious mishaps as well as deeply meaningful revelations, Excess Baggage chronicles the Carisch family’s extraordinary, eighteen-month adventure across six continents. As they navigate the trials and tribulations of international travel, the family encounters unique people and bizarre situations that teach them about the world―and themselves. Carisch’s candid and insightful account of her family’s journey will have you laughing out loud, shedding a few tears, and bringing the lessons of family travel into your own life . . . without ever having to leave home. 

You know why I picked this book, don't you? If there is anyone who has been on the edge of saying "screw the man", chucking deuces, and going off the grid, it's me. But I have the same hangups you have, a mortgage, bills, jobs, kids, schooling, a life and obligations. The Carisch family had all of that too but once a few years had gone by since the plan they had was thwarted by their first child, Tracey and Brian have a come to Jesus moment where they realize that this isn't the life they wanted. The never wanted to be bogged down by stuff, chained to jobs and bills, keeping up with the neighbors or trying to outdo the next person. It's a lot of stress and it became too much.

So they sold their home and everything they had, got some passports, and traveled the world.

Over the course of 18 months, these parents traveled to 24 countries with their three daughters. Places they visited (Norway, Andorra, France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Ethiopia, Thailand, Cambodia, Fiji, New Zealand, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua.. and I think that was it. I might be missing a few.

This entire book hits every single fear I have ever had of international travel. The language barriers, getting lost, driving in new places, meeting strangers, not knowing if I was in an OK neighborhood, the food, hospital visits, getting flagged at the airport, ebola, terrorist attacks, and more. I'm not even kidding. The thought of traveling internationally terrifies me but I really want to see other places before I die. I know the world is so much bigger and more than what we experience in the US and I want to experience it. I just am totally terrified and I don't know if I could bring my kids. My luck I'd lose someone, someone would be kidnapped or fall off a cliff. If any freak thing will happen, it will happen to me. I have proof of that.

I absolutely loved this book. Each chapter is a country (mostly) so if you can only read one chapter at a time, you're getting an adventure and a complete experience in that chapter which makes the book read much faster. It's funny, they absolutely had an adventure of a lifetime. They gave their children an experience so few of us can and what lessons those kids learned. They got to see a multitude of cultures and they will always remember those encounters. Even cooler is that this family made friends in every single country they went to. They stayed in each place for several weeks, volunteered everywhere they went and took advantage of what each country offered.

If you're a mom, stuck in the rut, going through the motions, and life is passing you by- check out this book. While I'm not getting on a plane to fly to Ethiopia anytime soon, I have very much adopted the "you only live once" mantra and doing things because I can. Sure, I might be broke, bills are piling up, but we only a little bit of time with our kids. Go on the trip. Do the fun stuff. Learn about the world and experience new things.

I'm giving this one five stars. Truly, you guys. I know it's compared to the book Eat, Pray, Love and I really thought that book (and movie!) were totally stupid and eye roll worthy, but this book? This book is so much better than that. Because it's real. She's every mom just trying to do the right thing and to not raise her kids into little robots who are too afraid to take a chance. I think we can all learn something from this book.

Friday, August 24, 2018

I may have lost some intestines.

Alright, I'm telling you right now if you get grossed out easily, just walk away now. I'm going to tell a story that isn't for the folks with a weak constitution. I'm disgusted by it and it happened to me so that's saying something.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way...

So I did my follow up with the gastroenterologist, and I saw a nurse practitioner for the doctor. She was pretty amazing and I liked her a lot. She gave me lots of information, and that was really nice. She talked to me about Barrett's Esophagus, which sounds like a treat, and explained how all of my conditions contribute to slow motility constipation and how I have to really be on top of that and to keep things moving.

(I know, you thought you'd never know so much about me, did you??)

Which OK, I know all of that. She tells me I'll go for a Hida scan of my gallbladder because maybe my pain is that (spoiler: scan was fine, my gallbladder is just fine), but she thinks she's going to prescribe me Linzess for the constipation. She says I might have some "discomfort" for a short period but that over time this is pretty successful for people.

I say alright because if the constipation is the source of pain I am 100% on board with a med to fix that because this pain is awful. She tells me NOTHING ELSE about this drug. I see a ton of commercials for it so I figure it's well used and probably fine.

I didn't start the medication right away because I had all of these concerts and I didn't want to be sick during them because that would suck.


I take my first pill this past Monday. I took it with all of my other pills (which I need to show you how much I'm taking- it's obscene) and thought nothing of it. I had a bowl of cereal for lunch. I had my one can of soda in the afternoon. At around 3 p.m. I started having horrible pain. Honestly, it was like nothing I've ever had. Then I thought, oh man- I have to go to the bathroom. Like right now. Like I might not make it crisis.

I did not make it.

I'm sitting in my hallway that goes from my kitchen to the downstairs bathroom like, WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?! Then I get to the bathroom and try to figure out my game plan and it starts again.

You guys- I have never in all of my life had explosive diarrhea. Never, ever. I've had stomach bugs that gave you diarrhea but it was always reasonable and manageable. I can count on one hand how many times I've taken Pepto-Bismol,  I seriously have never been in this situation. So I clean everything up, literally run through my house half naked and put different clothes on. Alright. No problem. I've got this.

Then it happens again. It's only been 15 minutes at this point and I am absolutely certain everything I had eaten over the last two days is now out. I figure this can't possibly keep up. I start drinking water because I don't want to get dehydrated and I take an extra hydrocortisone which I need to do if I get sick like this. I feel like I'm handling it.

Then it starts again. I have now been on the toilet four or five times in a half hour. I start Googling severe diarrhea. It's like 10 times over 24 hours. I'm certain I will pass that within the hour. I see on the Linzess insert that some people report diarrhea. Awesome. I decide I should call the gastro and just ask, because maybe this isn't normal.

Do you know what she says? She says this is what she meant by "discomfort" and that this could last, (wait for it).... TWO WEEKS.

I'm sorry, WHAT?!

So I tell her that she should be more clear because explosive diarrhea is not what I would consider "discomfort". Honest to god.

I have no adult diapers handy (because WHO DOES) so I fashion one out of 3 maxi pads. It was quite the look. I am now worried about going to sleep, will it just keep happening? I didn't even eat dinner because my intestines were screaming from the overworked afternoon they've had. I go to bed hungry.

Enter Tuesday. I'm now scared to take it. But I'm like, it can't be as bad, right? Surely with nothing left in my intestines it'll be OK?

It was not OK. I was on the toilet so much that I had a seat impression on the back of my legs that didn't go away all day. I hardly ate.

Wednesday was slightly better, it wasn't explosive anymore but still, anything I eat or drink comes out almost immediately.

Thursday has been OK. Again, still not normal bowel movements but I've worn the same pair of pants all day so that's a win!!

The best part is next week I have the preschool home visit and I have a concert I'm taking Olivia too so I really, really, REALLY hope this kind of goes away because diarrhea and any of these obligations are not going to go well together.

So long story short, Linzess is the devil and you will lose your bowels. On the bright side, I might be losing weight from it so YAY.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

We smashed some pumpkins on date night.

I feel out of sorts this week which I guess isn't anything new so I apologize for not posting as much lately. I swear I have a life and things to talk about! 

On Sunday Matt and I went on a date but this one was a first for us in over three years- all of our kids went to grandma's house. Olivia, Jackson, and Penelope went to Matt's parent's home, and then Lucy went to my mom's. 
 I was kind of sad to leave Lucy for the night. I know 100% she's in good hands, she was going to have fun, and there would be nothing to worry about. But she's my baby and I think really knowing she's the last one, milestones feel more significant with her. My mom thinks I never felt this way with Olivia and Jackson because somehow I knew I wasn't done. And maybe that's true. But I know for sure Lucy is the end so every milestone she hits it's like I'm closing a door I won't ever open again. It's bittersweet for sure. 
 So after a quick goodbye, Matt and I were on the road. Which ended up being a nightmare. We left at 3 p.m. thinking we'd get there around 5, have dinner, and walk into the show at 7. No problem! Except there was construction. I had literally just driven this highway a few days before through the construction and just zipped right through, no issues. This time we were stopped for a solid twenty minutes and what should have been a two hour drive ended up being a four hour drive. We had just enough time to park, pee, and sit down before the show started. So we ended up eating gross concession stand food that tasted like it had been sitting out for several hours. Totally gross. 
 The date night was all around The Smashing Pumpkins latest tour basically promoting their entire back catalog. I actually saw them way back in 2012 so I wasn't sure how this show was going to play out. 
 It was actually pretty amazing. If you're curious, you can see the entire setlist HERE
 I forgot how long Porcelina of the Vast Oceans was but man... that is not a song for a concert. I feel like concerts should fit in as much music as possible and not drag out on one song forever. At some point it was like, come ON. We want another song. 
 Stairway to Heaven cover was kind of a dud, but so was Space Oddity, and in that one Billy Corgan got kind of weird. Hearing Mayonnaise live was pretty great and it was definitely a fan favorite. 
The crowd didn't disappoint during moments it became a sing along but I was really surprised at how chill the crowd was. Maybe because their fans are pushing 40 and we just aren't able to rock out like we once could, but also because we are all thinking about going to bed around 9 as it is. Unexpected sing along was for Thirty Three, I didn't expect the crowd to go wild for that song but they sure did. 

Overall it was absolutely worth the $46 I paid for each ticket. I know some paid almost $200 and I don't want to do that but this felt like a Smashing Pumpkins concert in their heyday. Gone were the skinny silver pants replaced with robes. Oh! Also a really great surprise was Jimmy Chamberlain and James Iha joining on this tour. James did all of the talking to the crowd and you can tell the crowd was glad to see almost all of the founding members there. We were missing D'arcy but she's got her own problems. But 3/4 ain't bad! 

We left before the encore to beat the traffic in the parking lot and it was a LONG drive home. It was super nice to crash into bed when we got here, though. We got home at about 2 in the morning and Matt was at work by 6 because he is insane and super dedicated to his job. But you can best believe we crashed hard on Monday night. We can still party like rock stars.... it's just a longer recovery. HA! 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Book Review: Unlawful Desires

Oy... by the time you're reading this I am (hopefully) catching up on sleep from a concert hangover. Yesterday I went to the Smashing Pumpkins concert with Matt and I'll post about that later, but to get you through the day I have a book review for you! Have you noticed I've slowed down on reading? I'm going through some kind of reading slump all of a sudden and I didn't know which book to read to get me going again but this came along because it's perfect- it's a novella coming in at 162 pages, perfect as a fast read!

Unlawful Desires - Sassy Sinclair

In this erotic suspense romance, sparks fly when a handsome lawyer falls hard for a smart, seductive woman who thinks like a man and acts like one too.

Sharla Ratliff is done with having her heart broken. Her new dating rules are simple. No emotion. No expectation of commitment. Sex purely for her own physical enjoyment. Then she meets Marcel Dennard. The attractive lawyer has all the trappings of success: a thriving career, women at his beck and call, and enough money in the bank for the finer things in life. 

Their lust for each other doesn’t just create sparks, it sets off explosions. The sexual attraction between them is so passionately erotic they behave in ways that can only be called reckless. After a shocking series of events place both of their careers in jeopardy, can they restrain their sexual desires long enough to keep everything they’ve worked for from going up in smoke?

I've said this before but I'm going to say it again because it needs to be said, the romance and erotic genre is TOO WHITE. Hell, I can count on one hand how many books I've read that feature characters that aren't predominately white, let alone romance. If there are people who want to read a book with a character like them, they will be hard pressed to find it. This book does that. We have a strong, smart, independent black woman seeking a strong, smart, independent black man. She's not messing around with these losers who don't shine with her or who only want what she brings to the table. (Honestly, I think we can all relate to that, right??) Sharla doesn't come to play, she knows what she wants and she doesn't want to settle for the sake of settling. She wants a man who is her equal match, who isn't threatened by her success. Enter Marcel. He's made a name for himself on his own right but he's happy being a wandering bachelor. Until Sharla enters the picture.

Marcel is immediately intrigued by her standoffish demeanor and she doesn't play hard to get as much as she's trying to not take a misstep with a guy, she's trying to act like a man and not get emotionally connected. Of course, we know that doesn't work out but it's not without issues. Marcel has a crazy ass ex-girlfriend, there is the issue of her being a judge and Marcel being a lawyer and all of the ethical and legal implications that arise from that. They get into some hot water and face some pretty serious obstacles but can they overcome all of that and make it out together? That's up to you to find out.

So I'm just going to come out and tell you I liked this. It was a fast read, I got it done in just a couple of hours (of interrupted reading time because I have two toddlers who only like me reading to them and this... is not that kind of book...ha!) and I felt like the arc of the story went quickly and it felt complete. I liked the characters, Marcel more than Sharla. If I had to critique anything it would be Sharla, I felt like she was too much of a bitch to Marcel at first. I mean, I get her reasoning and her indecisiveness but man.. when a guy is clearly into you, you don't have to be so damn cold. She's lucky he still kept trying. HA! I enjoyed this book enough that I would recommend this if you're looking for a hot and steamy read or if you're looking for a book that doesn't have an all white cast of characters. Is that so much to ask? Put a little color into your rainbows, authors. There is a whole untapped audience that you're missing. Just my two cents.


Friday, August 17, 2018

I know I'm not the only one.... to go to a Sam Smith concert.

I feel like as summer is winding down (which feels disgusting to even say out loud) that the days and weeks are really starting to fly by. We're already in mid-August and that's bananas. But the last two weeks have been one thing after another and I feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants. Thankfully I've had opportunities to get out of my house in the way of concerts. Last week I went to the Jay-Z and Beyonce concert and that was great. This week I went to Sam Smith with my friend Amy. 

I had purchased these tickets way back in October 2017 as a birthday gift for her. Mostly because I was in charge of getting Adele tickets and I totally failed at that (both times!!) and he is like the guy version of Adele right now and I thought it would be a good show. I kind of forgot about it until my Ticketmaster alert reminded me and I got super excited because I hadn't seen Amy since.. February, I think? But we were due to hang out so if nothing else, I got to see my friend. 

So I drive down St. Paul and I got kind of mixed up when my go-to parking ramp was closed, and my GPS seemingly gave up on me, and then I realized I had driven way far out of the way and couldn't figure out how to find my way back. After having a mini panic attack I got myself together, used my phone GPS and found parking! Only to pay $30 for my spot but whatever- I found parking and I feel like that's a triumph in the situation. 

We head to dinner, which takes FOREVER to get our food, but we had a good time catching up. Headed over to the venue, I managed to use electronic tickets for the first time without messing it up, so another triumph, folks. Found our seats and I'll just spoil it, the crowd didn't bother me. My medication is working and for that I'm ridiculously grateful. I still feel like I want to die every day but at least I'm not having panic attacks in a crowd, gotta take the wins where you can get them. 

The opening act was Beth Ditto, which I got no pictures of because I am a poor photographer while using my phone. But Beth Ditto is AMAZING, and my friend Kate has gushed about her before online and it's always a "I should check her out" but then I forget and it's one of those things. Except her performance was so good that I bought her new album right there for my drive back because it was great. 

You could already tell there was a good vibe about the crowd, that people were friendly and happy, and that always sets the tone for a good show, I think. It certainly adds to it. So Sam Smith comes out and he was SO GREAT. 

I need to just admit that I didn't have any expectations for the show because, as he mentioned, his music is depressing as fuck, and there was a good chance we'd all leave there bummed out. But he made the show really dynamic and fun and even the sad songs left you feeling joyful that you got to experience it live. 
 And I'll just apologize right now for my terrible photos. We were in nosebleeds and the stage was triangle shape with these lights along the edge. The lights were SO bright and they were shining right at us so everything is blurry or bright. 
 His voice is just as amazing live as it is on his albums. He is a genuine singer and there is no doubt about it. 
 You can also tell he adores his band and his band adores him. Such genuine affection that really made it feel super cohesive. 
 I have to say though, this was easily, the best concert I have ever been to for sing-a-longs. Hands down. If you want to see a show where the crowd sings along loud enough to almost drown out the singer and the band? You go to a Sam Smith concert .
 He ended up singing quite a few songs from all three of his albums, but his encore was maybe my favorite? He played "Palace", which is OK, but he also did "Stay With Me" and my personal favorite, "Pray". 

This concert was so good. So, so good. I had such a good time. While we were there Amy bought us tickets to see Bruno Mars in September, so now I have him and Taylor Swift (Olivia's birthday present- it's a surprise!) in September, and then Florence + the Machine in October. Pretty excited to get back into going to concerts. I just need a bigger budget to support the habit. Ha! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Have you ever seen a crowd go Apeshit? I have!

I feel like I have so many things to share with you but I'm too tired to do it and that kind of stinks. Mostly because I've been using my blog as a way to remember what the heck is going on in my life, basically like a diary. I have to get better at taking pictures and then documenting them here because I'm forgetting things and it makes me feel anxious. 

Anyways. So as you're reading this I'm probably on my way to St. Paul to meet my friend Amy because we are going to the Sam Smith concert. I had purchased these tickets almost a year ago for her birthday so I'm glad we finally get to go! I'm a little nervous because I've never had tickets on my phone through an app and I hope I don't get flustered and forget what's going on. I'm finding that when I get stressed out I start to lose memory and cognitive abilities, which I guess is normal, I just have to learn to work around it. Which is really fun. 

But last week I went to a concert with my friend Cassandra, which is one I wanted to go to but missed out on tickets. Turns out she bought two tickets so I bought one from her and we were going to be each other's date. I was nervous about this because we had floor seats (my first time ever being on the floor) and I was worried about being crowded by people, I was nervous about navigating a new place (US Bank Stadium, where the Minnesota Vikings play) but it was good learning experience because this is where Olivia and I are going when we see Taylor Swift (ssh... she doesn't know!!). It also confirmed that the seats I bought, the cheapest they had, are absolute nosebleeds. I don't do well with heights and vertigo now so that ought to be a treat to navigate. HA! 

Anyways. So we went to Jay Z & Beyonce for their On The Run II tour. 
The stadium is gorgeous and really accessible. It's kind of confusing on how you get in and the security lines are SLOW. I mean, the slowest I have ever been in, and that's saying something because I was once searched by a one armed TSA agent in Florida and even he was more efficient than these people.  
 The stage was MASSIVE. We were actually pretty close to the front but quickly realized these chairs are zip tied and CRAMMED together. I was already claustrophobic and kind of freaking out about how I was going to breathe with all of these people around me. The people watching was amazing, by the way. Honestly, maybe some of the best people watching ever? It's a close tie with the Rhianna concert from years ago. 
 Cassandra and I, sweaty and a little less cute after melting in 95 degree heat for almost an hour in full sun waiting to get in. We misjudged the time we needed to leave so that was our fault. 

The openers were supposed to be Chloe & Halle and then DJ Khaled. Chloe & Halle were a duo I had never heard of, though many around us did, and I thought they were totally terrible. I appreciated their full sequin jumpsuits, though. 

DJ Khaled never showed up, which was just as well because I don't think he has any talent. What does he even do? Play records? I mean, I could do that. I do do that, fairly regularly. I can make a mix like anyone else. I can also repeat my name into a microphone. I mean, what does he actually do? I don't know. So I wasn't bummed he didn't show. Mostly because the music they had playing to kill time was a pretty amazing mix of old school hip hop and R&B but also some of the classic rap songs. I wasn't hating on it and was thoroughly enjoying it while making friends with the gals next to me, since they were practically sitting on my lap. 

I'll just say now all of the people around us ended up being very cool, really respectful about the limited space we all had, and nobody spilled their drinks. So that was a pleasant surprise. 

Finally, Bey & Jay started. 
The intro was this really cool, almost Stanley Kubrick/Quentin Tarantino love child of a film. Every interlude featured more so you found yourself pretty engaged with it and it was just as good as the concert. They did a really good job weaving this together. It featured a lot of just them, but also a few sections had Blue and their twins, Sir and Rumi, which of course the crowd went nuts for.  
 Then they came down this elevator thing as the screen parted just enough for them. They had these outfits which were meant to kind of look like wedding attire, I thought, and it really fit. 
Here's the thing- this concert was almost three hours long and is one of the best shows I have ever been to. If you have the chance, buy a ticket because you will not be disappointed. They each played hits from their solo careers, they did some songs together, one song blended into the next and they shared the stage perfectly. Outfit changes, set changes, stage movements, dancers, the 20 piece band, it was all pretty amazing and worth every dime. 

The best part? This was blatantly obvious that this was Jay-Z's groveling tour. He did her wrong and she was going to make him, and all of us, know it. She commanded that stage and she did not come to play. She was completely not messing around. She owned it. He did too, don't get me wrong, he was amazing and he's just as good live now as he was during the height of his career, and you could tell he knew what this was. At the same time, the sweeter moments of the show were pretty great and it was obvious they love each other and are definitely each other's ride or die. No question. 

Overall? 5 star concert. Truly. It was so great, the crowd loved every second of it. People were losing their minds as they each pulled out oldies but goodies and morphed it with something newer. I think they ended up doing a little over 40 songs? It was long and it was worth it. 

I didn't pull into my driveway until around 3 a.m. and I was SO TIRED. But I had a really great time and I did pretty good on the drive home so I was pretty damn proud of myself. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Book Review: Ms. Mulligan and the Enchanted Ice Cream

I had to take a couple of days off from blogging last week because I was just exhausted. I feel like summer is almost done and my to-do list increases exponentially once school starts, so I'm trying to chill out when I can. So that's what I did.

Ms. Mulligan and the Enchanted Ice Cream - Tiffany Elaine

Ms. Mulligan lives a charmed life. Literally.

Tabby Easterland wakes on her twelfth birthday to find herself magically transformed into the twenty-five-year-old "Ms. Mulligan," an event witnessed only by her young friends - the platinum-haired southern belle Dolly Hargrave and the hard-boiled urban detective wannabe Kat Dorsett. Hiding her true identity, Ms. Mulligan becomes a teacher at her own school, where a desperate search for answers lead the girls to seek out Tabby's long-lost father, discover an ancient mystical society, and fight the evil Black and White Sisters--witches determined to complete a long-planned curse upon Tabby. In a race against time, will love be enough to overcome the crippling curse and restore Tabby to her former self?

Although ripe with humor, romance, and thrills, Ms. Mulligan ultimately reveals something deeper - Tabby's surprising discovery of inner strength and the bonds of love that persevere even amid the darkest of threats.

Alright, so this book was kind of adorable in all of the best ways. Do you remember that movie with Jennifer Garner called 13 Going On 30? This book reminded me of that. We have twelve year old Tabby who suddenly wakes up one day and she's 25 year old Ms. Mulligan. Together with her friends Dolly and Kat they try to fix the situation only to find themselves in the middle of some bigger magic. The book is full of unique and fun characters, it tackles some bigger topics in a way that this age group can relate to (like having an absent parent come back after a long time and how to accept that in a healthy way). It also tackles the topic of adults making decisions that kids maybe don't understand because they aren't always able to look around at all of the circumstances and are really very insular in their thoughts. Which is kind of deep stuff for a middle grade book but as an adult I caught it, though I don't know that someone in the middle grades group necessarily would.

I'm giving this book a solid 4 stars but I'm also going to say that I hope this really is the start of a series and I am excited to read the next book which is Ms. Mulligan doing her thing with the Council of Butterflies. The only thing keeping this from 5 stars is that I hoped there was going to be more.... stuff to the book? Action, drama, something. I get that this was the exploratory book that explains things but I really liked the Black and White Sisters (who are witches) and I had kind of hoped we would have this climatic event or something. I don't think the middle grade reader would miss that, and they will love this regardless, but as a grown up reading it, I'm used to the lead up of a big event and then the come down from that.

I do recommend this for teachers looking to freshen up their classroom library or maybe a third grade teacher who wants to challenge their avid readers. Fourth and fifth grade kids can easily read this and understand what's going on. Honestly, it would be a fun teacher read book for even second graders because they would like the story but are maybe not strong enough readers to do it on their own. I'm a big fan of teacher led story time. The chapters are relatively short which makes this a good read for parents and their kids, too. And I hate to even say this out loud, but.... Christmas is coming and this would be a nice gift book for emergent readers. It's a little Nancy Drew with a little Magic Treehouse, a little Harry Potter lite, a whole lot of fun.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Book Review: The Darkest Minds

My daughter's friend is coming over today and we're going to go shopping (maybe) and then go see this movie. I wanted to read the book before so I squeezed it in over the last week despite it being a hectic week for me. I hope the movie ends up being good!

The Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

Alright so this is kind of dystopian though it feels like it could be taking place now given the state of our government. It's not really like Hunger Games or Divergent, it really is it's own brand of weird that's using the premise of the government being scared of the kids. (Which kind of reminds me of how they tried to tear down the high school kids speaking out after the Parkland shooting.) But in t his book kids after the age of ten are developing this IAAN sickness which leaves them with a variety of powers. The kids are then grouped by color depending on their ability, blues and greens aren't a major threat, but yellow, orange, and reds are. Early on in the book we find that yellow, orange, and red kids are "eliminated" because of the threat they pose, but oranges are seen to be the most dangerous. Which is kind of weird because if you go by the rainbow, red would theoretically be the most dangerous, right? I can only assume in subsequent books we'll find out the deal with reds. It's kind of hinted that they are militarized but I just don't get how oranges are rare and dangerous. Orange kids can control thoughts, push thoughts onto others, and in Ruby's case, she can erase memories. 

Which is what happens on her tenth birthday- she inadvertently erased her parent's memory of her and they no longer know who she is. Scared, they call authorities and they take Ruby away and put her in these internment camps for the Psi children (the kids who have these weird abilities). It becomes fairly obvious to Ruby that being anything other than a blue or green is dangerous and won't end well so she ends up manipulating the sorting process so she ends up with the green kids, thus saving her life for the time being. She doesn't really know whats going on but she learns the ropes eventually. 

Then one day she experiences a new form of Calm Control that suddenly puts her in new danger. She's whisked out of the came by Cate, from a "children's rescue group" and she feels like she's found salvation. Except her gut is telling her otherwise so Ruby escapes from Cate and her group and finds herself in a little tribe with Liam, Zu, and Chubs. They have escaped from their own camp and are on a mission to find the Slip Kid who apparently can get them home. Ruby quickly learns that she is woefully ignorant and naive and that keeps leading her into danger.

When they finally find the Slip Kid it all looks promising to everyone, except Chubs, and when they find out the Slip Kid is an orange, maybe the only orange left, Ruby knows he's the only one who can teach her how to use her abilities. But nothing is as it seems and her loyalties will be tested. She can't be sure of her own thoughts but it's up to her to bring them to saftey.

Overall? The book was great. Kind of terrifying to think about, but overall it was great. The ending CRUSHED me and I kept thinking throughout the entire book how incredibly stupid Ruby is. She is literally the worst person. I kept reminding myself that being locked up in camps for six years clearly stunted her brain development but man... she was pretty terrible. She doesn't want her powers and you get this feeling throughout the book like she's being forcibly dragged into the realization that she has them, better learn to use them, or else. It seems like every other kind in the country had come to that realization almost immediately but she's in some weird blissful denial. It was really annoying and I wanted to punch her myself. But I loved Liam and I loved him and Ruby together so the ending... oh man. I was so gutted and SO ANGRY at it I threw my book. But I really want to read book two because dammit if I'm not hopeful.


Monday, August 6, 2018

Summer Bucket List: The Dells

We are kind of sucking on our Summer Bucket List, and I'm no longer certain we'll get to all of the things since it's already August, but we did get one done- the Wisconsin Dells! 

I had booked two nights at the Great Wolf Lodge, which we've done before. They have a much better pool area for kids that can't go down huge slides than Kalahari did so I decided we'd go back here. Maybe the next time we go we'll try a new place but I figure I'd stick with tried and true for this trip. Sadly, I didn't end up taking very many photos and that's mostly because I forgot. I know people are very much into the anti-photo and living in the moment but with my memory loss I can't really do that. I already don't remember much of this trip and it's only been two weeks. Give me a year and I won't remember any of it, so the photos really are all I have. 

I have to get better about taking photos. 

So we left on a Monday because you get cheaper room rates than on a weekend though it's still outrageously expensive. 
This time the kids knew where we were going, unlike the last two times when we told them we were running an errand and ended up driving 4 hours to the Dells and they had no clue until we were in the parking lot. They were all pretty excited about it, despite the long drive.  
Of course as soon as we got there the kids wanted to swim right away, so that's just what we did. They swam for a few hours and then it was bed time. We tried to do their night time pajama dance party, but Lucy was over tired so Matt took her back to the room and I hung out with the three other kids. Penelope did alright but it turned out to be kind of lame so we left half way through it. I promised Penelope we would swim all day the next day and she crashed hard. I didn't sleep a wink but that was pretty much expected. 

The next day we got up early, I had brought breakfast stuff since I knew we couldn't afford to buy breakfast there, and that actually worked out really well. After breakfast we got dressed and headed down to the pool area. 
Penelope was so fascinated with the large bucket that drops a lot of water onto the ground but she was terrified to be near it. I stood under there a couple of times with her but that still didn't help. Lucy was all about the water, she was all over the place. She mostly floated in all of the pools and a couple of times actually fell asleep while floating. Penelope is not a good floater and was terrified for awhile and by the end of the day she was kind of OK with it. She was trying to swim on her own, which she actually did pretty well so I think this fall I  might try to get her into a swim class. Jackson and Olivia were all over the place and we only saw them a few times. I was pretty exhausted after the day because I legitimately swam the entire day. I didn't even really hurt the next day which was surprising.  
This was a picture of the kids before the pajama dance party we tried to go to. It's hard to get all four kids to look at you at the same time. I figure I'll just take what I can get.  
I took this on our last night there because the line was almost done and we were just walking through and they were all kind of looking at me! 
Penelope and Lucy, playing like they do. 

On the day we were leaving we decided to go to the outlet mall which was across the street and I ended up getting a couple of shirts for the kids for school, so that was nice. We stopped in the Disney Store and the little girls got some figurines and we looked at the dress up dresses- which Penelope is obsessed with. I found a couple I thought were really nice and I'm thinking I might get one and use it as a Halloween costume and then a play dress afterwards? 

But then we went to Buffalo Phil's for lunch, where your food is delivered by a train.  
Penelope was pretty excited when toys were delivered by train for her to play with.  
When we were leaving they wanted to pet the buffalo by the door and Penelope asked if she could ride it. 

Of course she would. 

Overall it was a nice couple of days. The kids had a really good time but it was nice to come home. We didn't get to do any touristy stuff around the dells just because we were trying to save some money but it was a fun mini vacation anyways!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Book Review: All That Glitters

I'll blog about Lucy's birthday next week since we're having her "party" tomorrow so I'll have some pictures, undoubtedly of her being adorable. For today I have a book review to keep up with my goal of getting through all of Linda Howard's books and I tell you- the older ones do NOT age well. It's comical at this point.

All That Glitters - Linda Howard

Greek billionaire playboy Nikolas Constantinos intended to conclude the business deal with Jessica Stanton, a.k.a. The Black Widow, as quickly as possible. Love hadn't been part of his plan. A hot affair or a one-night stand was all he'd allow.  Because love would lead to marriage. And marriage to Jessica, a woman with a scandalous past, could ruin him.

But love was the one thing he couldn't control.

This actually started alright, Nikolas is a billionaire who is having trouble with his company and a solution to that would be to buy Jessica's shares, thus eliminating her "no" votes that she consistently does. Jessica knows she can't possibly fight him and honestly, they are just shares so she goes in with the intent to sell them and be done with the guy.

Except it becomes lust at first sight for Nikolas whereas Jessica, who despite being married is still a virgin and an inexperienced woman in all things relationship, so she hightails it out of there. Nikolas won't be deterred so he basically stalks here and shows up while her dog is having puppies and he lends a hand. Somehow this turns into dinner out and the tabloids have a field day with it because Jessica is perceived to be a gold digger, who only married her husband for his money and then he died, leaving everything behind for her. That's exactly how Nikolas sees her as well so he is willing to have an affair but anything beyond that? Not so much.

Well nothing goes as planned and all of a sudden Nikolas is marrying Jessica (honest to god the reason is so absurd you have to read it) and he is coming off like a complete dickhead whereas Jessica is in love and kind of stupid and naive, and the whole thing is crazy pants.

Anyways. There was so much wrong with this book that any modern day feminist would have a coronary so if that's you maybe shy away from this. This was first published in 1982 I think, so back then this was probably romantic and interesting but in 2018 it's nuts and you would have a restraining order and have moved before a guy you hardly know got to this point. So I'm giving this a 2 because it was so bizarre and laughable. Oh man. 1980s romances- you are something else.


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hoovering all of the information

I've read biographies and seen documentaries of people who have had a really awful thing happen to them and in the aftermath they consume all of the information on that specific topic they can find. I fully understand that need now. Since having an Amniotic Fluid Embolism I have this unanswered need to know why. Why me? Why with my fourth birth and not my other three? Could I have prevented it? Is there something wrong with me that was a catalyst for that? The long story short is that I couldn't have prevented it, nobody knows why it happens, and it's next to impossible to test because they haven't been able to recreate an AFE in lab animals and there aren't predicting factors for them to essentially watch it happen in a woman.

So it's all very frustrating.

It also makes it scary.

I know that right after my AFE I really poured over the AFE Foundation's website for information and survivor stories. It was actually terrifying and I could only do it in little bits because I would panic and cry. I was in actual denial that this had even happened to me and despite everyone telling me the story over and over again, it's really terrifying to admit that this has happened to you. Honestly I don't know if there is anything more terrifying to be told this is wrong with you and we don't know why. Cancers and other illnesses you can blame on environmental or genetic causes but AFE is kind of in the wind. Nobody knows and it makes me worry that I am susceptible to something else that I just don't know about. Is something more coming for me? Was this the Pandora Box of other things? It's a scary place to be in.

But being two years out I'm getting better at absorbing information and not feeling like doomsday is coming for me. It's still painful to hear, sometimes I cry, sometimes I need to take a break from it, and sometimes I grieve my story all over again.

But I'm trying.

I'm writing my book and that requires me to research and learn, which is harder to do now and my brain doesn't process information like it once could, so sometimes I don't understand what it is I'm reading. But I stumbled across a podcast, literally the only one out in Podcast Land that I could find, on AFE. I thought maybe I'd share it with you in case you were interested in hearing about AFE from someone other than me. They are relatively short (like 20 minutes) and I listed to them on a recent walk.

Episode 020: Amniotic Fluid Embolism, pathophysiology

After listening to these I had to find the doctor speaking in these, Nolan McDonnell, and just tell him that I'm survivor, I listened, and I thank him for his work. He's doing big things with AFE research and expansion of a registry in Australia and my hope is one day the United States will have a similar medical system like Australia and the U.K. so we too can have something like this.

My next topic is looking for resources and information on birth trauma related depression and birth trauma related PTSD, both of which aren't overwhelmingly plentiful so it should be interesting. Do you know of a resource? Drop it in the comments and I'll check it out!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Oh Lucy. It's so hard to believe you're two already but it also feels like you've been here for ages. I admit, I'm not doing a good job at bonding with you like I did with the other kids and sometimes I feel scared of you. I don't know why and I can't help it. I'm trying to do better. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing left in me to give you and I worry you're going to feel short changed.

At the same time I'm fiercely protective of you, I love you immensely, and sometimes when you look at me I feel like you're looking right to the core of me.

You are the gentlest of the four, you're definitely the sweetest. You're the most easy going and the easiest to please. You are a great sleeper and an even better eater. You love baby dolls and your beloved purple blanket with the pink satin trim. You love Lego's and cars, you love books and phones, any movie with music so you can dance. You love the ice cream truck and the water table, you love to float on your back and swing until you're sleepy. You have the best "excited" face and the smallest feet. You aren't speaking yet but I'm not worried because you communicate what you need easily. You give great hugs and always help clean. I love you to the moon. I don't want you to grow up but I'm excited to see what you become. You're my baby in every sense of the word and I am trying so hard to absorb it all.

I am sad that I don't remember any of it. I wish I could remember the sound of your laugh and the sound of your small voice saying mama. Soon I won't remember how soft your skin is or how curly your hair is. I'll forget your favorite things and I'll forget how it feels to be your mom. It makes me so sad. I wish I could hold all of these memories but they slip away long before they should.

Two years after the worst day of my life I struggle daily. I don't want to get out of bed and I wish I wasn't here. I am working hard in therapy and I'm diligently doing what's told of me in psychiatry and now I'm starting to wonder if this is really the best I'll ever feel. Maybe I won't ever get to happy, maybe they weren't lying when they told me that a year ago. I don't know how I feel about that but it feels pretty bleak. Like a world of gray. I try to hang on the moments that I feel good, that I feel normal, but they slip away and I'm left with nothing. Sometimes I think if I could just remember the things that make me happy I wouldn't feel so gray.

But it is what it is.

This is my new normal. I'm no closer to accepting it than I was last year. This year flew by and I was hopeful that your birthday wouldn't trigger anxiety and sadness but it does. I hope someday I can look at your birthday and not feel dread and fear. I hate that you share the celebration of your birth with the worst day of my life. I hate that for you. I hate that for me.

We'll celebrate you officially on Saturday this year, but today I have a present for you and we'll have some baked goods. I will hug you and tell you how much I love you. If I can't remember these moments, I hope that you do.