Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Book Review: Let Them Be Kids

I have felt absolutely awful the last couple of days and I have no idea why. Yesterday I took a nap, today I fell asleep out of nowhere after my dentist appointment. Olivia even had to call her dad to come pick her up for work. Thankfully Jackson kept the little girls busy upstairs. Good news, the couch we bought on super clearance in March is actually comfortable to lay on so there's that. 
Let Them Be Kids - Jessica Smartt
As every parent hopes to raise kids with good manners and values, Jessica Smartt’s practical guide fills the gaps of uncertainty and provides tips on how parents can equip their children in purity, faith, and creativity.

Former English teacher and homeschooling mother of three, Jessica Smartt felt the weight of helping prepare her kids for life, especially with all the outside pressures and influence of the world. She struggled with how she could raise her children with a sense of adventure, self-confidence, manners, faith, and the ability to utilize technology wisely.

Let Them Be Kids is Jessica’s offering of grace and confidence to moms, giving them practical ideas to meet these challenges. Her well-researched, tested methods, woven together with her personal stories and witty humor, deliver wisdom on the tough topics of life, such as

family time vs. outside activities,
being “cool” or not,
boredom,
technology usage
sexual purity, and
showing grace when kids disobey.
Part story and part guidebook, every chapter includes doable strategies and encouragement for the journey.

Let Them Be Kids helps moms feel confident and equipped with ways to provide a safe, healthy, Christ-centered childhood for their children. It leads them to conquer fear and find truth that transforms them and their families as it reminds them how to enjoy and cherish the special memory-making moments of building family values together.
I don't know if this book could have come out at a better time, right? We're in the middle of a pandemic and a lot of us moms weren't used to being with our kids 24/7. Maybe they are in school or activities, go to daycare or a play group, maybe we have a sitter that comes so we can go get coffee (alone!) an hour a week. Whatever relief you come to rely on is basically gone and we're having to maintain our sanity but also do something with them. 

I know a lot of parents rely on technology to keep their kids busy and, admittedly, I'm a halfer. The older kids listen to music or a show in the background while they do a puzzle or whatever, and the younger kids get to watch a show or play on their tablet. The nice thing is that with my cognitive issues, I really can't handle noise and things happening, so I don't like the TV on if I'm not actively watching it, but also I don't really like watching TV, so ours isn't on much at all during the day. 

It doesn't matter where you are in your parenting journey, the most dreaded thing to hear is, "Mom!! I'm bored....", am I right? 

I have to tell you that not only is this just a great book to help us get through this time, it is a really great parenting book in general. It does mention the author's faith and speaks of God in areas, but as someone who doesn't consider themselves religious in any way, it didn't bother me at all. I think my most favorite chapter was The Gift of Being Uncool because that is something I see so much of in not just me as a mom but almost every mom I know, we don't want our kid to be uncool. We want them to fit in. Jessica writes on page 79: 
"If you want to give your kids a real gift, give them the freedom to be awkward. Guard them from ridiculous expectations. Let them meander awkwardly into adulthood."
She goes on to three suggestions for doing that: realize your kids are not you, don't be afraid to go against the current, and speak love and like and confidence into your kids. I loved all of these so much. Matt and I are not the world's best parents, we definitely make mistakes every day, thankfully all four of our kids are turning out pretty alright so far. We aren't the parent getting them the latest and greatest of technology, do you think any of them are getting Airpods from us? NOPE. Jackson wants a pair of shoes that are well over $100 and totally ugly and I said he would have to save his own money for them. I could buy them for him but he doesn't need them. Last night he informed me he is half way there. Olivia is saving for her first car and we said we'd match what she could save (to a point) so she got herself a job at age 14. Now, part of me really, really wants to be the cool mom and get those things for my kids because I have friends who do it for their kids and I don't want to be seen as a mean mom. I don't want people to think we're poor. As I list out all of the reasons they all revolve around me, not my kids and not my friends. So I work on that. 

The other chapter I spent a lot of time on was The Gift of Balance that talks about sports and extra-curricular activities. Olivia is in dance, she dances a lot. Jackson does tennis only in the summer. Penelope and Lucy are just starting dance. I know I struggle a lot about this and I know many of my friends do as well. We all want out kids to do well and be recognized for it. We all want people to see how well our child(ren) is/are at whatever the sport is, but our worth as parents is not tied to that. We could be the worst parent ever but our kids might excel. We could be the best parent ever and our kids might just really stink at the sport. The author talks about saying no to some opportunities, and I loved it. Sometimes we say no to practice at ungodly hours of the morning. Or maybe we say no to anything during the week because they have school. Looking at it like what is the realistic goal of this and is it worth it? 

I need to also say I loved her part about failure and how it is better for a kid to fail than it is to win. A win feels good, for a moment, but a fail sticks with you. You learn more from a fail and failing can force you to gain skills winning can't give you, like perseverance. 

Overall, I really liked this book. It definitely isn't something to give to a new parent and tell them this is what you do. I think as we start parenting, this is a good guide, something to look at and think about when you're posed a question you don't know about. Maybe you're wrestling with a decision on how much sport is too much. Maybe you don't know where you stand on sleepovers, this book can give you another perspective that might really fit with you and your family's mission statement. 

Overall? I'd give this one a solid 4 stars. I definitely have some pages tabbed off to think about again and revisit, it is one I'll reference in the future for sure. A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour, and also Thomas Nelson and Jessica Smartt for mailing a copy to me! 
 
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Monday, June 29, 2020

Book Review: This Time Tomorrow

While this one is listed as a stand alone, it kind of is, but if you read book one it kind of comes together more. Book one is called Reborn Yesterday and I absolutely loved it. Would you believe me if I told you I loved this one even more? I'd give it ten stars if I could. Also the covers for this series? Stunning. I loved the cover for Reborn Yesterday and I absolutely love this one. 
This Time Tomorrow - Tessa Bailey
Roksana, heiress to the vampire slayer throne, has performance anxiety.

She’s supposed to kill Elias, but so far she’s only succeeded in maxing out his credit card. Now her failure to stake the brooding vampire has sent her back to Moscow in disgrace to face her mother’s wrath. Expecting punishment by death, she’s given a rare reprieve. She now has three tasks to complete, the last of which is to finally kill Elias. She will not fail this time.

If only the memories of one magical evening—back when Elias was human, would stop holding her back. He claims to have forgotten that night. Why can’t she? Three years ago, Elias was a SWAT team member on a guy’s weekend in Vegas. Playing poker and minding his own business, his life changed forever when a captivating blonde strolled past his table in a light-up bra. He followed Roksana as if compelled, his very bones demanding he do so, his soul resonating with the belief she would be important to him. Always. That turned out to be a vast understatement—and nothing has changed.

Roksana embarks on her mission, determined to win back her mother’s approval, but when an astonishing truth emerges in the eleventh hour, will her stake pierce the very heart that beats in her honor? Or will love triumph over duty?
You guys..... Roksana and Elias were so much better than I could have imagined. I'm not kidding. I loved Roksana in book one and all of the tension/drama brewing between those two in book one was absolutely worth it. In this book we get more of Roksana's back story and we find out how she became a slayer and why, which actually involves Elias and the day he became Silenced (which is when he became a vampire). 

Elias spent years in love with her since becoming Silenced and he knows that Roksana hates him for what she believes he did but he is convinced if she would just kill him she will feel better after exacting her revenge. She just isn't able to do it and doesn't know why. 

Well, turns out they are mates. (Just like Jonas and Ginny from book one.)

I just... I absolutely loved this story and I wanted them to succeed so badly. While Jonas and Ginny were all sweet, romantic, and gentle in book one.... Elias and Roksana are the absolute opposite. They are rough sex, dirty talking, emotional together and I loved it

I always try to give you what I loved about a book and what I didn't love... I can't give you anything that I wish was better. The plot line of vampires vs. slayers continues on except now we have the fae thrown in. Roksana is a hard character and I ended up seeing her in a totally different way, Elias is exactly what I expected but more. I loved the dramatic ending and I loved, loved, LOVED Tucker and who I am 99% sure is his mate. I cannot wait for book three! I love this world Tessa Bailey is crafting and I see exactly where she is going and I'm here for it. I cannot wait for this. 

A massive thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Tessa Bailey for having me on this tour! I said it before and I say it again, if I could give this ten stars I absolutely would. 

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Friday, June 26, 2020

My body is a lemon. What is the lemon law on bodies?

I had an eventful week of doctor appointments, that's for sure. Let's just go appointment by appointment then, how does that sound? 

Psychiatry: I think this may have been my last one with him since he is moving across the country and I am so damn sad about it. Truly, I can't even explain how sad I am without sounding like I'm nuts. This doctor is one of the only ones I trust implicitly. I trust my psychologist too, but she isn't dealing with my prescriptions and stuff, that's talk therapy. My psychiatrist is so damn great and I have trusted him for the last three and a half years to advise me on a lot of things. He always believed me when I said I wanted to die and I wasn't happy. He believes me when I say I really can't do it anymore and I just don't want to traumatize these kids. At the appointment, and I'm glad it was a virtual visit because I hope he couldn't tell I was straight sobbing, he said my greatest obstacle is, and will always be that I'm perceptive, honest, and realistic in understanding my limitations now. That I don't wear rose colored glasses, but I don't curl into a ball helpless. He kept saying I was worthy, I am one of the strongest patients he's had who puts in the work to get better. He said more but honestly by then I was just a damn wreck. If I was in person I probably would have hugged him for dear life and gotten boogers all over him and I'm not even kidding. 

I ended up asking him if he could give me a list of the drugs I've tried that didn't work because I can't find my notebook and at the end of his final note it says, "Med history: Extreme and difficult reactions to Cymbalta, Zoloft, and Lexapro. Failed Strattera, Topamax, Depakote, Nuvigil, Rexulti, Abilify, Vraylar, Modafinil, Ritalin, Adderall IR.". 

So damn. I mean, most of these I had forgotten but this is quite the journey. 

Psychology: I ended up having therapy two days later which was great because I also cried there, too. She doesn't think I'm nuts that I'm so sad and she also totally understands why every day is hard. I was telling someone the other day that being told the happy centers in your brain don't work is one thing, but really understanding what that means is a totally other thing. I thought I understood it years ago but I think I was still in the grieving stages because I was just really angry about it. Angry that people don't GET IT, and no amount of endorphins, exercise, sunshine, oils, sex, whatever is going to fix it. When your brain is busted, it is busted. Now I feel like I'm really accepting it and some days it just makes me sad again. I see photos of me years ago and I look happy. Unapologetically happy and carefree, enjoying life, and now I just feel... here. I guess. I mean, I'm here and that's something I guess. 

It was basically an hour of crying and I can't wait until I can go because I feel like I can't really let it out, you know? 

Gastroenterology: Well I saw him in the morning today and wow, that sucked. So I am still having a ton of issues since having my gall bladder out. Apparently, and none of you are going to be surprised, but I'm in the really small percentage of people who has a body that doesn't adapt well to not having a gall bladder. 

I know I'm not shocked. I'm only shocked we held out hope I'd be normal. 

With all of my issues: the nausea, almost vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, feeling full after a bite or two, etc., I get to do a gastric exit scan. He said I'd be eating a LOT of scrambled eggs with radioactive dye to see how fast I poop it out and basically its journey from eggs to poop. 

Which, isn't that grand? 

I have no idea when this adventure takes place but someone in scheduling is supposed to call me. They are basically trying to see if I have gastroparesis, which sounds awful. It would explain a lot of the issues I've had, so I guess that's something. The doctor said he absolutely wouldn't be shocked if I had it given all of the issues I've had, but also because I have a damaged pituitary gland which means I have no working hormones. Apparently, you need hormones for even your stomach to work and it sounds like it isn't. 

So just a reminder kids, your pituitary gland is important!

Weight Loss: I saw my weight loss doctor in the afternoon, and good news, I am down 31.8 pounds from end of December. I'm officially 174.2 pounds and I have 14 pounds to go for my goal weight of 160. I am pretty happy about it and I am feeling better overall. I definitely breathe easier, my back doesn't hurt at much and just the ability to walk around the entire house without getting winded and exhausted is really nice. Bad news is that he agrees, it sound like I have some kind of gastroparesis and he's concerned about how quickly I seem to be losing weight, like I'm down 9 pounds in a month. So we'll see where I am at when I go back. 

I just feel so damn defeated. On one hand, I'm grateful doctors still give a damn and are trying to figure out what is going on with me. On the other hand, I am so fed up. It is frustrating to think all of the things I deal with were kicked off with my AFE blows my mind. It's frustrating too when doctors blow that off and tell you an AFE is a one time event, it doesn't cause issues later on. Which, I guess it doesn't create havoc forever but it can certainly be a catalyst for things and doctors just don't want to go there. 

Oh well. 

So that's my medical update. If you have information about gastroparesis (or horror stories), let me know. I don't mind knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly, because it at least helps me make a list of questions when I go in. 

Have a good weekend, lambs. 

Book Review: Letters to the Lost

I've kind of been on a young adult kick this summer and I'm OK with it. I've decided I'm going to really try hard (for real this time) to work on my backlist books. I've had this on my list for awhile and I'm glad I jumped it to the top of my pile. 
Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer
Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. 
I am a sucker for written letters and I think there is real power in writing out how you feel so when I read the description of this book I knew I had to read it. I haven't read anything by Brigid Kemmerer before this but it definitely won't be the last. She has amazing writing and you're left feeling the teenage feelings both Declan and Juliet have and you also feel the mom feelings and just want to hug them. 

In this book we have Juliet, her mother died in a tragic car accident and she feels responsible for it. Misguided, but guilty nonetheless. We also have Declan, doing community service for a car accident he caused on purpose for heartbreaking reasons. They each have trouble at home, in different ways but also similar in other ways, and they only know of each other at school. First impressions are everything, right?

In her grief, Juliet visits her mother's grave daily and she has taken to writing her mother letters. Declan, doing his community services sees a letter on this grave one day and has no idea who leaves them. 

That's how this pen-pal relationship begins. 

I loved everything about this book, you guys. I loved each character although they both frustrated me in so many ways because of their lack of communication but also because of the assumptions they make towards other people and their intentions. I loved their independent tragedies, their grief, the teenage angst which is already hard enough without tragic things happening in the midst of it. I love the road to teenage love and also learning to trust themselves again. 

The best way to describe this book is that it was one I raced to finish but also wanted to slow down because I didn't want it to be done. The author did an amazing job crafting this and for that, I have to give it 5 stars. 

 
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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Book Review: The Secret Messenger

Happy Tuesday! I am so glad I have therapy tomorrow, I can always tell when I must be getting close to an appointment because it always feels like things in life all pile up right before. I've already connected with two friends this week and I am so happy about it. It's just good to connect with people. 
The Secret Messenger - Mandy Robotham

Venice, 1943
The world is at war, and Stella Jilani is leading a double life. By day she works in the lion’s den as a typist for the Reich; by night, she risks her life as a messenger for the Italian resistance. Against all odds, Stella must impart Nazi secrets, smuggle essential supplies and produce an underground newspaper on her beloved typewriter.

But when German commander General Breugal becomes suspicious, it seems he will stop at nothing to find the mole, and Stella knows her future could be in jeopardy.

London, 2017
Years later, Luisa Belmont finds a mysterious old typewriter in her attic. Determined to find out who it belonged to, Luisa delves into the past and uncovers a story of fierce love, unimaginable sacrifice and, ultimately, the worst kind of betrayal…

Today we are going to talk about The Secret Messenger, which is a historical fiction and you know that isn't always my jam. I'll also admit there are SO MANY books around WWII and frankly, I'm over it. While that was an interesting time from every aspect, I'm over it, give me any other time period, truly. 

But. 

I picked this one because I really like a good time hop book and the idea that this story is about a woman who, by all accounts, is leading a double life is what sold me. Also, I really wish I could find something cool like an old typewriter in a house but the closest I got was an electrical how-to manual shoved in a wall near (you guessed it) faulty wiring. 

Let's talk about some things that I didn't totally love:
  • The description of Venice is almost too much. I often get lost in a historical romance because it becomes too much, it feels tedious, and it actually makes me sleepy. 
  • I had a hard time understanding what some Italian words meant and I ended up making up my own definitions. I think though if you were reading this as an e-book you could look them up easier, so this might have been an issue with me. 
  • Stella and her monologue make up most of the book but I don't feel like I every really got to know her. I didn't get to know Luisa much either, but that didn't feel like a big deal. 

With that out of the way, let me tell you that I really loved this book! I loved her radical behavior and the danger element of the Nazis finding out she is running this radical newspaper is what really kept me going. I also loved the relevancy of this book in current times; we have a female advocating change and fairness to all, but she's also a part of the honest media who the Nazi wants stopped at all costs. I feel like you can make connections throughout the book and it's great. The betrayal aspect? Wow. I think I felt the gut punch Stella must have as well. 

Overall I have to give this a good 4 stars. I really enjoyed this one and it just reminds me that we often forget to ask our parents and grandparents and great grandparents their life story. What may seem boring or ordinary to them may be interesting for us. I highly suggest you read this book and then have a cool conversation with your family, see what you find. (Also, go look for cool typewriters.)

 
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Monday, June 22, 2020

The start of summer 2020

Honestly, it feels like it's been summer for months already, right? We've been home for so long we aren't even feeling that summer freedom this year. 

Since moving to the new house we've been slowly setting up fun stuff for the kids to do since we really can't go anywhere, and the stuff we'd like to do isn't even open yet. Every time I want to say screw it and book something, a rash of COVID-19 positive cases goes up and then I get nervous. I'm getting weary, folks. 

Anyways. 

Matt set up the pool for the kids. I'm just grateful our pool from last year has no holes from the move and works great because the chances of buying a new one this year is slim to none! 
The pool isn't very deep (like 30 inches, or 33 inches) so even the little girls can get in it and move around well above the water. Of course they can't go in it without someone watching them, but they are pretty good about it. We haven't had too many pool worthy days but they seem content to go out even on chilly days (to me). 
Poor Olivia hardly gets to play between Upward Bound and her job, but Jackson usually waits to go in until she can. Some days I can get him to go in early and the little girls love it. On that day the water was FREEZING and I don't know how any of them lasted as long as they did! 
I haven't done a medical update in awhile because its easier to add a lot of little things up for one post. For the last 8-9 months my hair has been falling out at an alarming rate. It isn't medication related, it isn't thyroid related, several doctors have checked various things, it's a mystery. (Honestly, I'd be more alarmed if someone had a reason for it, I'm just used to everything having no real reason.) To put it into perspective, I could only brush my hair (or wash it) (or touch it in general) once a week because it would just come out in huge clumps. My hair normally is extremely thick with a wave/curl to it and if I used a hair tie, I was lucky if I could get it wrapped twice without the tie snapping. By mid-June my hair tie felt loose with 4 wraps around. I would run my hand in my hair and have a baseball size clump. 

To be frank, if I had cancer and was on chemo, this is the point I'd consider shaving my head. 

I'm not on chemo so instead of shaving my head, I cut my hair. My hair was down to the middle of my back and I cut it to my chin. My hair is still falling out but not nearly as much so I'm hoping losing the weight of hair helps a little. I do miss my long hair though, and I decided I really don't like my hair this short. 
Oh! I forgot to share my June TBR stack! Not a very big one, but I was trying to be realistic. I have two of them done already (First & Then and Creole Kingpin), I'm working on Roomies, and then I'll squeak Haven in next week. Or maybe this week still, we'll see. 
Also, for those who asked if I was still doing the weight loss thing, I AM! I'm actually doing really well. I see that doctor again on Friday, and I'm excited to maybe get some official numbers! I've been having to go by my scale with I know is 4 pounds off but might be more, but at my last doctor appointment they told me I was 179, which is around 30 pounds less than where I was in December. I started around 212 pounds. I'm not doing anything more than curbing my diet and walking. Totally serious. I'm supposed to get 140 minutes of exercise in during the week and I've been diligently tracking how much I do. Most nights I walk with Matt and some days I get to walk with a friend, so its nice. 

For the rest of the week I have book reviews (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday) and I hope to have some more photos for Thursday to share with you all. How is your summer starting? Do you have any plans? 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Book Review: Creole Kingpin

It's Friday, I've made it through the week, and I am so grateful. I was supposed to have a doctor visit, but that got switched to Monday and I'm on edge, folks. Yikes. My plan is to read, I have a few more books on my June TBR list that quite frankly, I need to get a move on. 
Creole Kingpin - Meghan March
The thing about ghosts is they’re supposed to stay dead.

That’s exactly what I am, but I can’t stay away from Magnolia Marie Maison for one more day, let alone another year.

We’ve already got fifteen of those between us.

As it stands, she’ll want to kill me as soon as she lays eyes on me. And knowing her, she’s completely up to the task.

But I’m a man on a mission, and I’ve got everything riding on this.

So, here I come, Magnolia. This ghost is ready for whatever you got.

After all, there’s only one way I want this to end—’til death do us part.
First thing first: this is my first book by Meghan March. Now would be an appropriate time to shame me and I'm here for it. I have three more on my shelf so I'm going to add those to either July or August's TBR list and for sure pick up more before I enjoyed this one a lot. 

Honestly I wasn't sure because when I started this one Magnolia is almost too much. I've always felt like the women who were alpha clearly had poor self worth (which Magnolia does and demonstrates it throughout the book) and its all a false bravado. As a person, that's the last kind of person I want to be around. In this book? I'll take it. 

Magnolia is a madam, trying to organize and clean up her life, but also put herself on a new course. She still pines over Moses, a man from her past who suddenly reappears after 15 years. And yeah, she's pining over him even though she fights it tooth and nail. It was almost too much and I wanted to just roll my eyes and set it aside, BUT! We've got murder and a nut job on the loose, and Moses is determined to keep her alive but keep her, period. 

Of COURSE this ends on a cliffhanger and I hate cliffhangers, so I have book two on the way. Just a piece of advice, have book two at the ready because having to wait a few days sucks. I want to know how this is going to end. 

It's a fast read and I think if you like a very strong female and male character battling it out for control, you will really like this one. I love the Louisiana setting, I love the secondary characters we meet, I love that Moses becomes a partner for her and that's what Magnolia had always wanted. Too often in romance novels we have one character barreling over the other and that isn't the situation here. Lots of secrets throughout, I'm anxious to read book two!

Have you read anything by Meghan March? What is your favorite?!

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Eating Donuts While Slipping Through An Inferno

With a title like that, how could you NOT be here, am I right? Well you'll be sorely disappointed once you see how lame our summer has been so far. Ha! 
The biggest excitement was when the city came to do this to our fire hydrant. The little girls and I sat and watched this the entire time and were bummed when he left to do another one. It was the highlight of our day. (This is when you can pretend I'm saying this in the "Dear Diary" voice for cats on TikTok.)
One day though, there was a random mini-donut stand in the most bizarre location so we had Matt stop after work. We're all pretty sure there will be no fair this summer which is totally fine because I only go for the donuts. But you know what? I didn't even like the donuts. I was really disappointed and honestly, if I never have another mini-donut, I think I'll be fine. 
We didn't get the pool up until a week-ish ago and it was kind of hot for a few days there, so I thought we'd use our sprinkler. Which is an amazing idea if everyone would put every piece to the sprinkler in the box. 

Spoiler: my family does not do this. 

So did not have said sprinkler to use. Jackson had the idea of a slip and slide so I had Matt stop after work to purchase said item. The next day it takes Jackson a really ridiculous amount of time to set this up and I thought for sure this would be the hit of the summer. 
As it turns out, it isn't easy. I told Penelope to go first and she literally belly flopped onto the ground and began screaming because she almost knocked the wind out of herself. 
I then convinced Lucy to go next, but my girl isn't stupid so she crawled onto it and managed to just lay there. I don't know that she understood the slide part. 
After awhile they were just army crawling around so I thought I would obviously send the pro in. 
Keep in mind Jackson kept telling me him and Olivia did this "all the time" with Grandma Cindi and made it sound like he knew what he was doing. Cue him running and then slamming onto his knees and falling to his stomach. 

Needless to say he didn't last long and the little girls ended up playing in the puddle at the end. 
I managed to get all of my hair cut off. Nobody can figure out why I am losing ridiculous amounts of hair so I decided I'd just go and get it majorly cut off. I don't know how much I ended up taking off but it was down to the middle of my back and I have VERY thick hair, so it looked like a dead dog on the floor. 
My friend Shirley and I succumbed to the Passionflix channel solely to watch Gabriel's Inferno. I absolutely LOVED the books so I was all in for this. It was meh. I've decided that while the actress is just terrible, I'm starting to warm up to the guy, and I have to reserve final judgment until I see all three parts. But I'm telling you, if this doesn't pick up in part two and give me some damn steam, I'm going to be ticked off. 



Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Book Review: At Her Command

Don't let the lack of reviews lately fool you, I've been reading up a storm. I'm going to try to space my reviews out a bit though, because I have a ton of cute pictures of the kids to post as of late, so we'll see. 

I did finish this one about a week ago but today is review day, so let's chat. 
At Her Command - Joey W. Hill
Ros doesn’t accept excuses for falling short. Particularly not from herself. As CEO of a successful New Orleans marketing firm, she knows how to bring quality to the top. The same way she knows how to get it from the men who serve her in the bedroom.
Lawrence has been a SEAL since his teens. He doesn’t know how to be a civilian. So when being a SEAL is no longer an option for him, he accepts a security job at.
Thomas Rose Associates to keep his edge. But from the moment he sees Rosalinda, his deep need to serve gets redefined.
He’s never belonged to a Mistress. Ros is about to change that.
I am going to tell you the only reason I picked this one for review is because I can't honestly tell you when the last time I've read a BDSM novel with a female as the dominate figure. Truly- when was the last time you have? It's not unheard of, but it definitely isn't the norm. I went into this thinking I was going to love it just as much as I would if the male role was reversed and you know what? 

Not the case. 

I didn't love this one but I learned that I actually do have a preference and apparently that makes me a sub. Which, alright, I guess. 

My other issue was I just couldn't drum up any interest for Ros, she came off as a little too much for my taste. It wasn't sexy or enticing at all, and I couldn't find it believable. I also did love our guy, Lawrence. I think it was the name because all I could think of was Larry the Cable Guy but with a full shirt on. AND THEN, he was short. Not short but definitely not 6 foot or more. I'm 5'3 and he might not be much taller than me. And that I can't get into, I don't know. So I already felt a little let down and like this was an uphill climb. 

This one begins with Ros needing security (she doesn't think so and is kind of convinced after a conversation and then it turns out YES, she needs it) and Lawrence is the guy. He's got a military background (liked that) and he "needs purpose" so hey, let's make him a sub. The premise was a little far fetched for me and I think this might be completely on me for not really understanding the purpose of a BDSM relationship and how it can fulfill someone. 

At best I can give this one a 3 and I think the majority of my waning interest was just not feeling any kind of connection with our main characters. The sexy scenes were good, some a little more drawn out than I'd like, but overall were fine. Was this enough to bring me in for book two? I'd have to say no. I think I've learned that in a BDSM book I really prefer the male to be the domme, and don't come at me feminist movement. 

So while this wasn't a hit for me, if you're looking for something that is basically a unicorn in the land of romance novels, this is something to really consider. Of the people I know who have already read this, I feel like I'm maybe the only one not loving it. The reasons I didn't love it might be the reason you're going to love it, so take that into consideration. 

A huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and sending me an ARC for review! 

I want to know if you've read, or would read, a book with the woman in the dominant role, and if you have, which one? Have you read others by Joey W. Hill? I definitely want to try another! 

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

I am not a teacher, but they all made it.

The biggest change during the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't been the isolation or the masks, it was home schooling. 

Once upon a time I toyed with the idea of going back to school to become a teacher and boy am I glad that I chickened out. It turns out I have zero patience for people who don't just get it and that's ironic because if anyone doesn't get it immediately (ever), it is 100% me. 

Fortunately Olivia and Jackson checked out chromebooks from school before spring break because they listened to messages before the end of the day and actually followed directions. Thankfully. They ended up being mostly independent and didn't really need much help from Matt or I. Their classes were held once a week basically (so one subject every day) which was kind of lame and only two of their teachers seem to actually be teaching something like... new material. The best was Olivia's eighth grade social studies teacher who is AMAZING. She turned a lot of the lessons around and had them applying current events and making comparisons and I thought it was great. Easily one of the best teachers she's had at the middle school. That one and her seventh grade math teacher- patience of a SAINT. 

Anyways, I managed to get the younger two through 4K and pre-school with zero help from Matt, so that was fun. Of course when you ask him the home school stuff wasn't a big deal but disregard his opinion completely because he couldn't tell you what any of the kids even had to do. The little girls were pretty bummed to not say goodbye to their teachers and I was pretty sad too; they were so great to our family and I know how hard they worked to get the kids through. 
Penelope ended up drawing a picture for her teacher (Mrs. Miller) on the back of a picture she colored.
She officially graduated preschool and was pretty excited about it. Her teacher and her husband (who all the kids knew from class) stopped by with her certificate and she was pretty shy but she's shown everyone who has come over. 
Olivia is officially done with eighth grade and is going to be at the high school next year. I'm not even ready for it and I know the next four years are going to fly by. I'm so excited for her and sad for me, but I'm also happy because I feel like all of the work Matt and I have put into raising her is starting to show and I'm just proud of her. She started her first job this summer (at Matt's work) and she's saving for her first car. She was accepted into the Upward Bound program through UW-Superior, which is basically a college prep program that lasts all four years. They are two weeks into it and she loves it. She's staying on top of her classes and participating in everything she can. She's a busy gal!
Jackson is officially done with sixth grade and the idea he's already mid-way through middle school is too much. I hope he does OK at middle school by himself, and I'm sure he will, but I'm a worrier and I worry all the time about all of the kids so here I am. Worrying. He has started mowing the lawn for cash because he's wanting a little financial independence like Olivia, so that's working out for Matt because he doesn't not like mowing the lawn so much. He helps me a LOT with the little girls since Olivia is either in class or at work all of the time. Today he played in the pool with them, he helps make lunches, and deal with the dog. In the few times I've had to run to the post office or a doctor appointment I've been able to leave them with him and he does a great job. 
I didn't get a great photo of Lucy, but she too finished school! She was in a 3K program and speech therapy and this kiddo worked so hard all year. She's my nature girl and she's forever looking for "nature things" for her bucket. She plays quietly on her own a lot but joins in with whatever Penelope is doing. She's my rule follower. She seems to have regressed a little in speech and writing her name so we are going to keep up with her writing practice over the summer. She's the one who gives up easily but loves praise. I think she's going to do so well in 4K next year. 

Our summer is in full swing here. Our summer road trip is officially cancelled because I think we all know my lucky is ridiculously awful so we aren't even going to chance it. We have some yard things to keep us busy and we might do some things locally (like... hikes and stuff), we'll see. I know I'm going to read quite a bit, so expect some reviews soon. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

My brain is mush.

I know I can't be the only one who is left with a mushy brain after quarantine. I told Matt I can't even enjoy the freedom of not being in quarantine because I know enough science to know a second (or god forbid, a third) wave is coming and I know we're going to be locked in again. 

Which is fine, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to visit with folks only to get sick and die from something sharing the name of a beer when I don't even drink alcohol. Hard pass, people. 

So I don't know if I could tell you what is even happening in life because.. I'm just not sure. Maybe I can get it together for tomorrow.. we'll see. 

I guess I can do a health update, I suppose. Well, today I'm going to see my pulmonary doctor and we are going to check out my lungs and hopefully all is well there. I'm assuming it isn't a virtual visit because if it is I'm going to look REAL stupid showing up. I've got an appointment in July for Neurology for migraines. Those have made a real comeback and I'm pretty much over it all. The bummer is that my neurologist, the one who was there immediately after the AFE, has since retired so now I have to get matched up with a new one. Apparently, there are only two choices right now and I didn't even get a pick, I was automatically put with the more experienced one. I guess he is really big into Botox, and no, I definitely do not want Botox so I can already assume how this appointment is going to go. I'm also fairly sure this is the guy who did my test that they poke you with needles all over. That guy made me cry and essentially told me to buck up. 

I'm not even kidding. 

So if its him again I will have to just make a scene, I guess. I can't even say send me to Mayo Clinic because I have seen those neurologists a few time and they are just as bad, if not worse. 

I continue with therapy but I won't lie, I can't wait until I can go in person again. I have psychiatry next week and hopefully I can see him one more time before he leaves in August. It's a bummer to lose my neurologist but it's even worse to lose my amazing psychiatrist. 

Other than me, we've got a few things happening around here: 
Olivia started her first job! I maybe already mentioned this, I can't remember. She is doing office work at Matt's job so for awhile he would pick her up at lunch time and they would ride together. She starts Upward Bound this week so I'll get to drive her to work and she can ride home with him. She has been pretty excited about a job and she is actively saving for a car. Oh yeah, she turns 15 in the fall and we've already been talking about driver's education and seriously, how am I old enough to almost have a driver? Let alone a high-schooler?! 
I seriously promise by the end of the week I'll give you a tour of my craft/office/library room. Swearsies. It's been a bit of a bummer because I haven't gotten to have any real time in here. I set out a crafty thing to try and then all hell breaks loose and I have to take over upstairs. It is really nice to have a door, that locks, but it doesn't seem to matter when the only time I can come down is when everyone is in bed but then I want to be in bed too. 
One of my favorite things about this house has always been the backyard. It's pretty similar to when we moved in when I was just starting eighth grade. I don't remember a lot but I do remember thinking the yard made me think we were fancy now. It had an actual flower garden area and then all around the house had flowers and bushes. There are two huge trees in the backyard, a birch and a horse chestnut tree. There used to be a red maple but I think it was really damaged in a storm and it had to come down. But as a teen I used to lay on a blanket under the two big trees because it was always shady and perfect. I had forgotten all about it until last week when Lucy and Penelope were under there and I went over to bring them a drink and for whatever reason, the shade of the tree and the noise of the leaves reminded me of that. So I sit and stare at the trees a lot. 
I have a love/hate relationship with the wildlife here. We have rabbits, and I LOVE rabbits, and they are really quite large. There are two specifically that do their version of a cage right several times a week and last week one ran right on top of my feet. He gave zero cares that I'm standing there. Then there's THIS jerk of a squirrel. He will come up on the deck, right up to me and throw his scraps from whatever he's eating at me. I don't know if this is his silent intimidation thing or what. I was able to get a picture of the gangster squirrel. He just sits and stares at me like he's waiting for me to make a move. Or plotting my death, honestly it's still a toss up. 
Speaking of large animals, I have recently hit the 25 pound weight loss mark (I know, I kind of forgot to post all about that stuff, so I'll try to soon) so my reward was eating an entire box of Better Cheddars in one sitting. 

Nope, totally not good for you. And nope, I don't actually care. I remember these tasting way more cheesy as a kid but I don't care. They are still good and I want all of them. They are super hard to find though so when I do find them, I have to buy them. #noshame

How is your summer starting? Do you have any plans? We officially cancelled our road trip and I think we're all really bummed out about it .

Monday, June 8, 2020

Book Review: When the Walls Come Down


I think this might be the only book review this week for you guys. As of right this second I don't have anything lined up but you know, things could happen. 

If you're a long time reader you'll recognize Aly Martinez because I'm a big fan of hers so when I saw she was attached to this book I had to get on board and I'm so glad I did!
When The Walls Come Down  
M. Mabie & Aly Martinez
Did you ever hear the joke about the guy whose wife cheated on him with his best friend? So he quit his job, moved into his parents’ basement, and gained fifty pounds?

No? Because that wasn’t a joke. It was my life.

Four years later, I'm back with a dream job, a killer apartment, and a set of abs that are better than ever.

So, when Maggie Light, a stunning, snarky blonde moves in next door, and we spend the hottest weekend of our lives together, I think this could be the greatest comeback story ever.

That is until I realize Maggie has moved to town to do one thing—steal my job.

Maybe this isn't a comeback story after all. Maybe this is war—one I intend to win.

What I never anticipated was that maybe I’d rather win her.

Perhaps, if I’m lucky, the universe has finally run out of jokes and I can somehow win both.
You guys. I can't remember the last time I have had great sarcastic banter in a book, a romance one, and this book DELIVERED. I also have to tell you that I flew through this one in just a few hours and loved it so ridiculously much. 

In this one we have Maggie, a 20 something from Atlanta, the youngest of five children. All of her siblings are settled and have their own families but she always thinks about the mom she never knew (died when she was four). She always thought that her mom must not have had a fulfilled life since she had her children starting at age 19 and by 31 she had five of them. She died not long after and so whatever dreams and goals she had, she likely never got to them. Maggie is determined to not follow her lead so she decided to take a job all the way in California, she's leaving all alone to take the world by storm. 

Once she gets there, she quickly realizes it isn't what it's cracked up to be. As it turns out, the world doesn't come to you, you actually have to go to it. Her sister convinces her to go out one nice and see what happens. 

Enter Shane. Divorced but alone. He works as a marketing director for his brother-in-law's company, or he did until he was effectively fired in the nicest way possible. Their intent was for him to get out on his own and take the world by storm. He's wallowing in self pity when.... 

.... in walks Maggie into the Two Ships restaurant. Instead of walking out and going home, he takes his totally awkward self over to her and so starts the story of Maggie and Shane. 

They end up being neighbors in the apartment complex. It turns out she was hired to replace Shane, and they find this out after a relationship is basically started. It all gets dicey and they start to learn what they each want out of life, what is the most important, and how to navigate life with someone else. 

OK, the sarcastic banter throughout this book is so perfect and it reminds me so much of myself and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also really loved Shane and it is long overdue that we have a male character in a romance who isn't oozing with masculine confidence. We have a guy who has self confidence dips from time to time and is honest and vocal about it, he used to be overweight and has lost the weight over time and he doesn't let it define him, and he's a romantic, good guy. I'm never going to turn down a character that is sexy and confident and you know is going to rock your world, but in real life the majority of guys are not that way. They are worried they aren't going to make it past a few minutes, they want to rock her world and just isn't sure, etc. 

Secondly- when it got to a part where they were sending each other gifts that are sarcastically the best, I have to know, what showerhead did he order?! Does such a thing exist?! I mean, for research purposes, I'd like to just... check it out. Ha! 

If you are looking for a romantic book with some sexy times thrown in, this is the one you need to grab! I loved every second of it and this is definitely one I'm going to pull out again and again. 

I am so glad I was able to be on this tour, a huge thank you to Social Butterfly PR for sending me an ARC. Please read this one and we can all search for the magical showerhead together and maybe if we buy in bulk we can get a deal, OK? 
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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Book Review: Fractures (Echoes #2)

I am really struggling and this week definitely was tough. Not even just the events in the world, which were bad enough, but my legs are killing me. I am so incredibly tired and just every day I feel run down and awful. I hit a real wall with reading and I think I might take a few days off just to see if I get back into it. 

I absolutely could not pass this one up though! 
Fractures - Alice Reeds
They survived a plane crash.
They survived life on a deserted island.
They survived being hunted.
Now they must survive the truth—they are not who they think they are.

One minute they’re in Poland, subjected to gruesome tests they keep failing. No friends to support them. No family to claim them. No hope of ever living a normal life again.

Then suddenly, they’re trapped on an abandoned freighter in the middle of the ocean and forced to fight for survival. No food. No drinkable water. No way to get home. And strange memories of another life they don’t understand.

But how can they be living two separate lives, trapped in two separate places, at the same time? They’ll have to find the connection and uncover secrets that someone went to great lengths to keep hidden...if they’re going to survive long enough to find out who is behind it all. 

If you haven't read the first book, Echoes, you absolutely MUST. Immediately from page one of this one you will be completely and fully lost if you haven't read the first book. I didn't know that this was the second book so I ended up ordering the first one so I could understand why they were on a boat, not moving, in seemingly the middle of nowhere. I'm so glad I did. 

Odd thing though, is that Echoes is written in Fiona's point of view and I somehow missed the switch because Fractures then goes on to be in Miles's point of view. Which, is fine I guess, but I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to have them switch on and off depending on the chapter. It was hard for me to mentally remember that I'm with Miles mainly versus Fiona. 

My next issue is Fiona. I didn't really feel any particular way about her in Echoes, though I did like Miles but mainly because his character reminded me of others I've read in different books. Fiona though, she isn't a very nice person in Fractures. Alarmingly so, and the flip flop reminded me of Peeta in Hunger Games. Remember when one minute he's in love with Katniss and the next he wants to kill her? Maybe it isn't quite the same degree here but the sudden shit threw me for a loop and I had a hard time liking her. 

I think a great dystopian book has to have great secondary characters to push our main characters forward, and we have that. I also can't say this is strictly a dystopian novel, which I am usually 50/50 on, I'll either love it or not like it at all. I actually loved this because this book gave us the thriller element, lots of suspense, a solid dash of mystery, a little bit of romance, but lots of action. This is a book you basically put on an end cap because it could fit in so many different specific genres than the blanket of young adult. 

I have to say another reason I really enjoyed this is it focuses on past lives. Once Fiona and Miles reach Poland, and are supposedly learning about what the heck has happened, they are told they have different names, that they were never really Fiona and Miles, and it's confusing for sure because the memories they have feel real. So do you just go with what these people are telling you or do you believe what you remember, trust your memories over evidence that contradicts them? If you've been reading my blog long enough you know that I have short term memory loss but I also have long term memory loss as well. It's a really strange thing to see photos of yourself getting married, for instance, and you have zero memory of it. Obviously it happened because here are the photos but what if? What if  you didn't and it's all smoke and mirrors? 

So that thread in the story interested me the most. I highly suggest reading them back to back because that is what I ended up doing and I think if I had more time between books I would have forgotten some smaller details. 

I have to thank NetGalley and Entangled Teen for getting an ARC to me for review, all thoughts are my own. I highly suggest keeping an eye on Entangled Teen's books because I've read a few this year so far and they have all been really great and unique. I've got my eye on a few more coming this year, so stay tuned! 
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