Monday, August 31, 2020

For sure, the end of summer.

I felt like this was a pretty good weekend. We managed to actually get a lot done this weekend so it didn't feel wasted like the last few have felt like. We emptied out this giant shipping container we rented for storage (it was significantly cheaper than an actual storage space) so we can have that picked up and save ourselves $80/month. Now I have to go through it and decide, are we really going to save it or is it going to go? Fun stuff. 

We emptied and cleaned the pool out, that is all packed away until next summer. It's a bit depressing to see that out of the yard, that's for sure. I am searching for something I can put plants on that cats (hopefully) won't jump on and kill everything. We filled out every possible thing for all four kids for school and I feel like we are for real ready now. 

Plus, we did some fun stuff this weekend, too. 

First off, I wore makeup (kind of... barely... but still) both days so we had to commemorate it with a selfie. 
Matt took me to The Bookstore at Fitgers for Independent Bookstore Day 2.0. I didn't get any kid things because I really need to clean their shelves out before I add to it, but my haul was pretty great!

On Saturday we had a "party" for Olivia and her friend Claire's "Freakin' 15" birthday. They are a day apart, so it ended up being really fun. We did a painting party and I was really surprised at how well the kids kept their masks on and distanced from each other. It kind of gave me a little more hope for the school year being a little better. Plus it was nice to have all of the girls see each other again. 
On Sunday, I convinced Matt to drive us two hours to a sunflower field and that ended up being comically terrible, but I'm working on a piece about it for Duluth Moms Blog so stay tuned for that. Your teaser though is that this photo was the start. 
This was at the end. I feel like Lucy's face is all of us for 2020, to be honest. 
Yet again, we almost forgot to take a photo of us together. It should be noted that Matt is much taller than me but I am on my absolute tippy toes. He's a good seven inches taller than me, and while that's not more than a lot of people, it feels weird to me. I feel like I'm taller and then I see a photo and it's like, NOPE. I'm short. HAHA! 

OK, so this week I have some book reviews for you, I go to the eye doctor to check on my tear duct plug thingiemajiggies, and the kids start school. So, you know.... not stressful at all or anything. HA! 

Friday, August 28, 2020

We're ready. Kind of. #teamhybrid

To say I am nervous for this school year is an understatement. I'm upbeat and positive for my kids but on the inside I'm kind of freaking out. I'm not worried for them, I think they are going to be totally fine. They adjust well to different things, even the little girls, so I am not worried about that. 

I'm more worried about me forgetting to pick them up, dropping them off at the wrong places at the wrong times. I'm worried about myself getting sick. I'm worried about the days they are home and I have to help with things on their virtual days. I am thrilled that I know Penelope and Lucy's teachers, and I'm thrilled Olivia has a bunch of people to ask for help. Jackson is at the same school so its basically the same as last year, just less kids. 

Honestly I was thinking about it and I think this might cut down on bullying and fights at school, maybe? I don't know. My kids haven't had experiences with that so much but I hear about it from various schools. 

So Lucy had her meet and greet and was totally ready and excited for it. She has the same teacher Penelope had last year and Penelope has hyped up 4K pretty well so Lucy is all about it. She went in, sat down, made friends with the assistant teacher, and it was quick and easy. 
I'll get first day photos too but I took some during meet and greet in case I forget because you know, I might actually forget. 
Oh, and since Penelope got her hair cut, Lucy DESPERATELY wanted hers cut. We only got a little cut off and I'm so glad Matt was the one to take her because I would have cried. I don't know why her hair is such an emotional thing for me, but no joke, I'm sad her first curls are gone. It could also just be me this week, I'm kind of a sad sack and really struggling to get through it. 
Penelope had her meet and greet too, and she was a little more nervous about it because it is a new teacher and new room. She's excited to be a KINDERGARTNER (can anyone here believe this?!), it really feels like she was just my little toddler getting into everything last week. 


So she's a little more nervous about it, but I think she is going to be fine. The teachers at their school are amazing so she's in good hands. Last year she had such a hard time making friends and she would just stand there and cry on the playground and it broke my heart to see it. We don't see her shy side at home, it's quite the opposite, so I don't know how to help that. Especially because of Covid, it's not like we can do play dates or go to random parks to play. We've mostly avoided that since March. 

Olivia also had her high school laptop pickup and it went OK. She is terrified of getting lost because it's a huge building. She got her schedule though and I told her I'll get her there with plenty of time to find where she needs to go. Jackson has yet to get his schedule so that's fun. 

I'm hoping for a good year. I'm realistic enough to know we likely won't be in the building all year but I remain hopeful. I'm basically crossing my fingers. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Book Review: Drive Me Wild

Happy Tuesday! I feel like I've really slowed down on books lately, but I have goals to really make September a crazy reading month so I need to just really buckle down and make the time to read. 

How do you make the time to read? Are you setting a specific time every day? I'm starting to think maybe I should start doing that. 

Drive Me Wild - Melanie Harlow

When Blair Beaufort literally crashes into Bellamy Creek wearing a ball gown and a tiara, I should have towed her car, said goodnight, and sent her packing.

I’m a mechanic, not a hotel manager. I've got enough on my plate trying to keep my shop from going under, my overbearing mother off my back, and my baseball team in contention for the league championship. I don’t have time for a former debutante with zero street smarts and a cash flow problem, even if she is crazy beautiful.

Problem is, she’s stranded in my small town, and I’m hiding a protective streak underneath my broody exterior that runs deep. So I offer her a place to stay and keep my hands to myself.

For exactly one night.

If only she weren't so gorgeous. So funny. So eager to please. She’s a disaster behind the wheel, but she drives me wild without even trying--at work, at home, in the back of my truck . . . I can’t get enough of the way she makes me feel.

But I know better than to think it can last. She wants a fairy tale, and I’m no prince.

So when it comes time for her to leave, there’s nothing I can do but let her go.

No matter how much it hurts to say goodbye.

I have to be honest with you and just say, I love Melanie Harlow and at this point I will read anything she gives me. I had no idea what this was about and once I started reading I had to hunker in basically and do it in one sitting. 

Needless to say, I loved this book. Right off the back this kind of felt like that Disney movie with Amy Adams in it... do you know what I'm talking about?? ENCHANTED!! I mean, I didn't like the movie so much myself but my girls do, but Blair reminded me of her. She's just clueless, kind of helpless, she comes rolling into the story in a debutante dress and a tiara, and Griffin is just a tough exterior, unwilling to fall in love, but you know he has this completely soft spot in him. Fortunately, Blair brings it out and during the time she's in town that exterior is slowly starting to crack but then it comes time for Blair to leave and yes.... no more for you! 

I loved Griffin so much, he's everything I like in the hero. He's a little bit edgy, tattoos, former Marine, works with his hands, and he's roughs around the edges. Blair... she was kind of a toss up for me but honestly, it's kind of hard not to like someone who is so helpless. LOL!! Blair though is seriously looking for romance and big feelings and Griffin isn't any of those things. Oh, he's giving her big feelings, but he thinks he can't ever fulfill what she's looking for. To say they are opposites is an understatement, but they make a great couple and its fun to see them bicker, come together, it's funny, it's hot, it's all of the things. 

I highly, HIGHLY recommend this one if you are in a reading rut and need something to jump start that, keep you smiling, and wanting more. Trust me, Melanie Harlow gives us fantastic stories and I'm dying for the next one. I'm kind of hoping this becomes a little small town series because 1. I love those and 2. Griffin has some single friends and those will be really fun. 

I have to say THANK YOU to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and getting me an ARC for review. I should have been getting my fitness on this weekend but meh- I read this instead and I have zero regrets. 


This post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Four years of flowers.

I realized I've had this post in drafter since a few days after Lucy's birthday and I'm not sure why I didn't post it. I'm going to post it now because I use my blog as a journal of sorts and I find myself going back to read things from previous years to maybe understand where I was at.  


It is really strange to think Lucy is four. Every year I struggle with her birthday and I really hate it. I hate that her birthday, which is a time that I should celebrate and be grateful I have this amazing little kid, is also synonymous with the worst thing that has ever happened to me. It's the source of my trauma and the starting point of all of the things I struggle daily with. 

I hate that it is the same event. 

Most every year I think her birthday is going to be the worst, maybe the hardest day. And every year I forget that it is always the day before that is a struggle for me. I think maybe because I don't remember anything from the day she was born, which is certainly a blessing and a curse all on its own. The day before her birth is the last memories I have of my old life. When everything was easier, it made a little more sense, I had a little more control. 

On that day, I was in tremendous pain, I didn't feel well. I was sick to my stomach, everything on my body hurt, I was swelling up in weird places, I felt faint and dizzy the entire day. I had Olivia and Penelope at exactly 39 weeks so the goal was to walk this baby out because the next day, I would be exactly 39 weeks. 
It was mid morning so we went to Canal Park, that's where I successfully walked a baby out before. The kids pretended to be tourists, we threw some rocks in. We went to eat lunch at Grandma's Restaurant, just like before I had Olivia. 
After lunch, all of us went to the Rose Garden/Leif Erikson Park. We hadn't ever taken the kids there and we thought it was weird. It was starting to get hot. There were artists on the walkway and a woman with interesting art that she was giving away on magnets. I don't remember looking at her art, but I remember her giving me a magnet and telling me it would all work out. Thinking that was strange, I put the magnet in my purse. It's actually still on my fridge because I feel like I can't throw it out. 

Penelope was obsessed with flowers that summer so we spent so much time sniffing flowers, right up until her nap time. The last thing I remember of my old life is getting into the cry with everyone crabby and Penelope crying. 

That's it. 

Every year I think about that day. The last few years I've gone to Leif Erikson Park by myself. It's usually been after a doctor appointment or something, so I've always been basically right there. Every year I've sat on a park bench, looking at the lake, and cried. 


And I've been OK with that. I'm not sad because I'm alone. I'm sad because I struggle with being happy and being sad and being angry. I have a hard time being all of those things. I feel like if I'm angry, I can't be happy. If I'm happy, people think I've moved on and I haven't. I won't move on from this. 

This year though, I asked Matt if we could do our nightly walk there instead. 

Because he's such a great guy and he gets it because he has memories of his own from those days that he doesn't share with me, he said yes. 
So that's what we did. 
We did our whole walk, mostly in silence. I looked at the lake. I tried hard to not cry. I don't know if you know this, but if you sit on a bench, staring at the lake, and you are silently crying, people think you are mentally ill and unsafe. You get the quick glances, people point, some laugh, but nobody asks if you're OK. 
This year I had Matt though. He doesn't do any of those things. I didn't cry on the bench, though. I think maybe I was all cried out from earlier in the day, though. He will hold my hand and pull my hair back when it gets sticky on my face from the humidity. He doesn't say anything. Maybe he's thinking his own things. Life hasn't been the same for him either. He doesn't have the same wife, the same partner. We both make do with what we have. 

A theme I've really struggled with this year is being grateful and being angry and sad at the same time. I've worked a lot on it in therapy. I've thought a lot about it. I still do. 

So imagine my surprise when, on our way out of the park, I literally stumbled on this: 
I didn't even notice until Matt said the established year is the same year we got married. Maybe I'm just an actual klutz and the world is a coincidence. Maybe its something more. I don't know. 
On Lucy's actual birthday my friend Amy sent me flowers. Of course I cried. 

Then my friend Tammy sent me flowers. Of course I cried again. I am lucky, and grateful, to have friends who know those days are really awful for me. I know I don't even have to tell them those are hard days and I am at my emotional lowest point but I'm trying to be upbeat and happy because Lucy is so excited. I am lucky. I am lucky to have amazing friends, terrific kids, and a great husband. I know of other survivors who don't have that kind of support system and I don't know how they do it. I know I struggle so hard with it, I don't know what life would be like without them.  


Friday, August 21, 2020

Book Review: The Grown Woman's Guide to Online Dating

Oh calm down, I'm not trying to date anyone! I am still happily married to Matt, but I was interested in this book because I now have three friends who are trying to find people online to date and each one are having wildly different experiences. All of them are using different dating sites/apps and to me, the entire process is bizarre and kind of terrifying, hence, this book. I just wanted to learn more about it so that maybe I can give better advice than, "I don't know, he sounds like a serial killer." One of these times I'm going to be right, I'm just throwing that out there. Ha! 

The Grown Woman's Guide to Online Dating - Margot Starbuck

Does the thought of joining a dating site invoke feelings of fear and anxiety—or, worse, insecurity or unworthiness? If so, then The Grown Woman’s Guide to Online Dating is the book for you. With practical advice about how these sites work, what to expect, and when to join and quit, along with proven tips for making the most of them, The Grown Woman’s Guide equips readers with all they need to take the plunge.

Four years after an unexpected divorce, bestselling writer and funny lady Margot Starbuck found herself venturing into the unknown waters of online dating. What she discovered surprised her—and changed her. With her signature sharp wit and a solid biblical foundation, Margot shares what she learned, including how to:

determine which sites are best and what to expect;
write a first message that is most likely to get a response;
avoid common pitfalls in creating your profile; and
live out the truth that you are God’s beloved.
So dive into embracing your true value and drawing closer to God even in the midst of fear and questions. Because whatever your endgame might be, richness awaits. Margot promises, “You got this, girl!”

Right out the gate, if you tell me to write a profile about myself I would have absolutely no idea what to say. None. I'm with myself every day, you'd think I'd be able to tell you what I would (ideally) want in another person. 

You would be wrong. 

I can write a pretty all right resume and cover letter. I cannot write a profile. The best part about this book by far for me were the chapters on how to create a profile that stands out, conveys what you want others to know about you right away, and to pick the right picture. I've never been on dating sites but I've seen enough texts from friends of pictures they've seen to know a lot of you need to learn how to take a decent picture of yourself. And guys, please for the love of everything, stop posting shirtless photos and photos of you holding a fish. Honestly. Just stop it. 

Also interesting about this book, that I think a lot of my friends who are on these apps would find useful, is the entire section on browsing someone's profile and picking up clues about them as a person, but ALSO, the "Seeking Discernment" section, which talks about how to gauge their interest and taking risks. 

I feel like I should also mention this book does have a religious base to it, and although God is mentioned, I do feel like if that isn't your jam that you will still find value in this book and it would prove useful. I also really like that this book covers catfishing and safety, it also has a chapter/section about how to tell if the person you are talking to might ghost you. Also valuable is the chapter on red flags. I know in my first relationship there were a million red flags but I was certainly far too young to see them as such, and in hindsight I realize how naive I was. In the end it talks about the different ways an online relationship will end and how to navigate how you feel through all of them. 

Overall? I have to say this book was rather interesting, and I think this is really aimed more for someone new to the world of online dating; although, I do think that if someone is getting poor (or no) results from it, this might help you fine tune your profile and how you communicate with people. I thought it was funny in the right parts, and though the Bible passages spread throughout aren't my thing, they are easily ignored so I wouldn't let that steer you away. 

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing and TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending a copy for review to me. I'd easily give this one 4 stars. If you're nervous about jumping in, this will really help make it less scary. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Book Review: That Time I Got Kidnapped

I feel like now that summer is basically winding down, everything is catching up to me all at once and now I realize what a dang slacker I've been all summer. 

I mean, I haven't really been slacking but it isn't like I've been productive and getting loads done, either. What I have done was read books, and this was one of them. It's a great Middle Grade (MG) book that I think pretty much any kid will like. 

That Time I Got Kidnapped - Tom Mitchell

Fourteen-year-old Jacob is thrilled when he wins the chance to feature in the next Marvel movie, shooting in Hollywood. But after missing his connecting flight in Chicago, he tries to complete the journey by Greyhound bus – and there he meets Jennifer.

Jennifer is an American teenager on the run with a mysterious package she’s guarding with her life – and an enigmatic figure known only as ‘the Cowboy’ is hot on her heels . . .

Jacob soon finds himself on the road-trip of a lifetime as Jennifer’s unwitting partner in crime. Will he make it to LA in time – and in one piece? A funny, filmic, page-turning adventure, ideal for readers aged 11+.

If you know me at all you know that I attract strange people from all walks of life at all times. It doesn't matter if I'm at work, in my yard, at Target, in the middle of the woods, I will be approached by a strange person. Its an absolute given. Naturally, when I saw this title I knew I absolutely HAD to read this because the running joke is I'm going to end up in the trunk of someone's car someday. I shouldn't joke but its a legit concern. 

Thankfully, that's not what happens to our main character, Jacob. He is obsessed with super heroes and when he gets the chance of a lifetime to be in a movie, even the tiniest part, his parents eagerly put his 11 year old self onto a plane from Europe all of the way to Chicago (to catch his connection in LA, its absolutely crucial he must not meet his flight). Well we know from the back of the book he clearly misses his flight (and would you believe it was Nicholas Cage's fault?) and the entire book is him trying to get to LA to be in this movie. 

What happens is literally a series of unfortunate events and as a mom I felt myself screaming at him what he SHOULD be doing, but to his 11 year old mind this is all completely logical. I have a 12 year old son and he kind of reminds me a little of Jacob and I'm trying to picture him on this journey and yikes. It's also a little like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles in a way. He gets on a bus, he ends up meeting a girl who is being hunted down by some guy but she kind of is like Jacob and a bit.... unprepared for the real world? While all of this is kind of fun for him, he also knows his parents are probably out of their mind with worry so it puts a bit of damper on his little adventure. 

The book is funny and I can see kids absolutely loving this. If you are stuck in quarantine and want to beef up their oral reading skills at home before school starts, this would be a fun read-aloud, even in a classroom setting. I think every child can find something great in this book and I really appreciated that versatility. It can be tricky to meet that mark but the author definitely does this. The author definitely knows his target audience and really plays to that. 

A huge thank you to Harper 360 for a review copy of That Time I Got Kidnapped, I really think if you have a child even in the 9 year old range they could appreciate this one but even as an adult I thought this was really good. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ely's Peak (attempt one)

Over the weekend we were kid free and I had this idea that because Matt likes nature, I would suck it up and go on a hike. I figured it would count as out exercise, I'll say I've been in nature, I'll have planned something really cool and fun for us, all of this. I have had MANY friends hike to Ely's Peak and say it is a super great hike, perfect for beginners. 

I am a beginner. 

So I find the instructions online. I inform him of our plans. (Disclaimer: this is where I'm going to insert the "Matt should have known better" statement because when a cognitively impaired person tells you they know EXACTLY where they are going but often can't remember where they live, you should do your own research and not listen to them.) 

We find the parking area easily. We get out, and ta-da! There is the wooden boardwalk!

It's a lovely boardwalk. We take it until it stops and notice that hey- there is a kind of steep hill to climb and we see stairs. OBVIOUSLY stairs mean we're in the right spot. 
We start walking and walking and ta-da! We came across the DWP tunnel, and it is at that point that I feel 100% confident we are going the right way. I didn't realize the tunnel was so long and that it would be so dark. It looks like the perfect place to dump a body because I'm not sure anyone would see it and I bet an animal would get to it before a person saw it. I'm just saying. 
We decide to go through the tunnel because of course, we see no other direction to go. There are no other trails. Just like I thought, it was DARK AS HELL. 

We get through the tunnel and we see a couple of maybe trails. There is one to our right that looks like sudden death. Another one that looks like death once you go further down. The ONLY trail that looks like the logical choice is this one. 
It looks like the OBVIOUS choice, right? Nowhere at this point did we see a map. We see people coming back down this. In our first two miles (yeah, you read that right) we saw people coming the opposite direction so we thought we were going the right way. 

Also around mile 1.75 we come across a woman with two dogs. She's alone, and asks us if we know where we are. We say of course not and she says well, she's going to just follow us. 

Oh good, bank your survival on us and that might not go well, consider we had been arguing over if this was right for the last twenty minutes. So she follows us until mile 2.6, which is when Matt and I called it. Our map thingie on our phone show we are going into the middle of nowhere. The information I had read said there would be blue markers and eventually a sign, none of which we saw and I just felt like if we hadn't see them yet it wasn't going to happen. 

So we tell the nice lady with the dogs that we were turning around and going home. She looked kind of bummed we weren't continuing on but honestly, I'm not sure where the hell she was going. 
I mean, we did see nature and periodically there were nice views so I guess it wasn't a complete bust? I will say though, it was HOT. We had water (thank god I remembered that) but I felt like I was going to pass out the last mile. I was pretty damn irritated though. When we got back to the tunnel we were looking around and saw an older couple trying to figure out where the hell to go too, so I didn't feel so stupid. 
This was us at the end. I was dripping wet in all of the wrong places, in definite need of food, my ankles and feet were so swollen, same with my fingers. My knees were also swollen and I hadn't really experienced that yet so that was fun. By the time we got back to the car we had walked 5.14 miles, which is more than double that we do on a nightly walk and those have me throbbing. The day after this little jaunt? My hips felt like they were falling apart. Have you seen that movie COCO? Where the skeleton guy just randomly falls apart? That's what I felt like. Like, I'm sorry, let me just pick up my femur, I seem to have dropped it. 

We got home and I showered, changed my clothes, took some medicine, drank my weight in water, ate a bunch of snacky things and stared at the wall while sitting on the couch. It took us almost two hours to decide if we were going to eat dinner and if so, what we were going to eat. 

After dinner though we did go to one of those ice cream shops that roll your ice cream. He saw it on Facebook a few nights before so I said that's what we'll do for his birthday weekend. 
I got a chocolate brownie, and it was OK. It wasn't anything amazing and it had a bit of an odd taste to it? 

His was definitely prettier, he got a strawberry mango. He said he wanted strawberry on top but got boba, which isn't what he wanted but whatever. We didn't eat in the shop because those tables and chairs hadn't been washed in a long time so we ate outside in the car and people watched. We can say we tried it but I'm not sure if we'd go back. 

We ARE going to try Ely's Peak again though. I refuse to be defeated. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Book Review: Love Her Well

If you aren't interested in a book review with a personal tie-in, this is not your post. If you are a mom of a daughter and you feel like you're riding the struggle bus (or driving it) with parenting her, this is a really interesting book to look at and maybe use for some guidance. 

Love Her Well - Kari Kampakis

For many women, having a baby girl is a dream come true. Yet as girls grow up, the narrative of innocence and joy changes to gloom and doom as moms are told, “Just wait until she’s a teenager!” and handed a disheartening script that treats a teenage girl’s final years at home as solely a season to survive.

Author and blogger Kari Kampakis suggests it’s time to change the narrative and mind-set that lead moms to parent teen girls with a spirit of defeat, not strength. By improving the foundation, habits, and dynamics of the relationship, mothers can connect with their teen daughters and earn a voice in their lives that allows moms to offer guidance, love, wisdom, and emotional support.

As a mom of four daughters (three of whom are teenagers), Kari has learned the hard way that as girls grow up, mothers must grow up too. In Love Her Well, Kari shares ten ways that moms can better connect with their daughters in a challenging season, including:

choosing their words and timing carefully, listening and empathizing with her teen’s world, seeing the good and loving her for who she is, taking care of themselves and having a support system, and more.

This book isn’t a guide to help mothers “fix” their daughters or make them behave. Rather, it’s about a mom’s journey, doing the heart work and legwork necessary to love a teenager while still being a strong, steady parent. Kari explores how every relationship consists of two imperfect sinners, and teenagers gain more respect for their parents when they admit (and learn from) their mistakes, apologize, listen, give grace, and try to understand their teens’ point of view. Yes, teenagers need rules and consequences, but without a connected relationship, parents may never gain a significant voice in their lives or be a safe place they long to return to.

By admitting her personal failures and prideful mistakes that have hurt her relationships with her teenage daughters, Kari gives mothers hope and reminds them all things are possible through God. By leaning on him, mothers gain the wisdom, guidance, protection, and clarity they need to grow strong relationships with their daughters at every age, especially during the critical teen years.

When I was approached by TLC Book Tours about this one, I absolutely jumped at it because at the time, my oldest daughter Olivia and I were fighting a lot. As teenage daughters and their mothers do. A common topic in my therapy sessions is how I feel like a terrible mother who is consistently short changing my children because I can't get myself together and be the mom I was before my AFE. I can be told I'm good and my kids loved me until you are all blue in the face but I don't believe it. 

I have so many insecurities as a woman so I don't always feel like I'm equipped to even be raising children, let alone daughters. Then I feel inadequate compared to other moms, I know exactly what I don't want to be as a mom, and I just don't know how to line any of that up with good parenting that doesn't require her to be in intense therapy the rest of her adult life. 

I think I struggle with Olivia the most because she IS my first and I legitimately have no idea what I'm doing with her. I make the most mistakes with her. It has to be confusing to her because it has to be like being hired at a new job and learning quickly your boss has zero idea of what needs to be happening so you are dodging bizarre requests all of the time. I mean, I'm trying. I don't know what to do and SHOCKER, the What to Expect books basically stop at toddler age and even then its pretty vague and not at all useful. I do remember bits and pieces of my pregnancy with her but the two highlights were the day I found out I was having a girl and I was devastated. I don't know why I thought having a boy would be easier because that's nuts. I'm glad she was a girl though because somehow now she is really the kid I needed in the future because I can't imagine not having her right now. My other memory is the moment she was born and it was like someone turned the page and it was nothing except post-partum depression for me for the first year of her life. I struggled, hard, and I feel like her and I didn't even really get to know each other until she was almost three. She is just about 15 and I feel like I'm always behind getting to know her. When I saw this book, it felt like it was coming to me at the exact moment I needed it. 

First of all, this was an incredibly fast read. I found myself knowing some of this already and while that might feel like a waste for you, the author does a great job expanding on them and adding some more perspective so you find yourself reflecting on them differently. The book is faith based so it does include her faith, and if I had to knock points for something, I would have to say it was almost too overpowering for me. I think if I wasn't so ready for some advice, it might be off putting.  

My FAVORITE chapters are easily "See the Good, Loving Her as She Is and Where She Is" and "Be Her Emotional Coach". The chapter on finding good friends would have been SO great in fifth and sixth grade, and even seventh grade for awhile because girls that age are the absolute worst. The worst. It is so hard to make them understand the drama they are drowning in is going to eat them alive if they let it, so if you are in that age, YOU NEED THIS. 

Of course, there is information about encouraging her to have high standards for boyfriends, having self confidence, treating her like she is the person she could become, etc. I found myself taking notes and thinking about a few points, and asking my friend what her thoughts are. I was able to see I have a LOT of areas to improve on, but I also have a lot of areas I'm doing it right and that's kind of a good affirmation to have. It makes me feel like I can definitely do better, I've got good momentum. 

My other quip is that there is something in it that says daughters grow up to be a burden, which.... no. I don't think any child grows up to be a burden. Well, maybe if they end up living in your basement until well into adulthood, but that's kind of on you, right? 

The other great thing about this book is that it is comprised of a lot of lists so if you aren't a deep reader, but more of a skimmer, you can get something out of this. I also really liked the reflection questions at the beginning. My favorite? Is a line at the end that says, "Nobody loves a daughter like her mother", and I think that is really true. I always question that with my mom but then I look at my daughters and think that has to be true. (Disclaimer: I love my son just the same!)

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours, Thomas Nelson Publishing, and Kari Kampakis for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. I know this was maybe the longest review of all time, but if you got to the end (yay!!), tell me what YOUR biggest challenge is with raising a daughter OR your biggest challenge with your mom growing up. I'd love to hear them. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Book Review: When The Time Is Right

If you can remember back in June I read and reviewed the book called When The Walls Come Down, which is by the same author and it was great. I loved it so much. When I saw that this was available for review I literally ran to my computer to sign up for it because I had to read more and I was not disappointed. 
When The Time Is Right - Aly Martinez
Hudson Bradley is the cockiest, most stubborn, hard-headed man I’ve ever known. And for fifteen years, he’s been my brother's best friend.

But lately, what I’m feeling for him isn’t friendship at all.

Why is my heart racing every time his blue eyes lock on mine?
Why does every word he rumbles in my ear make my body come alive?
And worst of all, why did I bet him that I could find a woman he and his son would both love?

If I hadn’t given up on love altogether, Hudson would have been perfect for me. After all, he was there the day my world fell apart. He’s spent the last six years piecing me back together.

There are a million reasons why we could never work, but after a single kiss, I can’t remember any of them.

Now that the time is right, I have to make him mine—before I lose him forever.
I'm going to say this right from the gate because I honestly don't think my review is going to give enough justice to this book: this is my FAVORITE romance book in the friends-to-lovers group. Ever. 

I know, that is a bold statement but with books like this you have to be bold. 

Aly Martinez is one of my favorite authors for a reason: her books are fun. You get everything you need from a romance book: humor that keeps you turning the pages, angst, big emotions, great sexy scenes, and that big sigh at the end of the book because she hit the mark yet again. 

I got allllll of that with this book. 

In this one we have Hudson, the best friend to Alexis's brother, he's known her forever basically. Alexis and her family is Hudson's family (basically) and so they have a bond that kind of goes beyond friendship. Alexis had some pretty awful things happen to her that basically shattered her world and she is only put together because Hudson spent the time doing it. I really struggle with a friends-to-lovers trope with some books because it either happens way too fast or it is so painfully slow that I lose interest all together. Once again, the pacing in this book is spot on. I felt all of the butterflies with Alexis and I could feel all of Hudson's nerves and it feels like the best slow motion train crash turning into the prettiest explosion you could hope for. The author does such a great job with the emotions that we don't need crazy ass drama all over the place, the only thing we have are big feelings and Alexis's sass. Which is PERFECT. When I tell you there is not a more perfect couple, I am not joking. I am in love with this book, I cannot wait for the next one they put out. I cannot get enough of these and if the sentiment of third time's a charm is any indication? We are going to need to sit all the way down for it. I'm freaking out already. 

If Goodreads let me give this one more than 5 stars, I would. I loved it. I am telling you right now, if your week was crap and you need something fun to unwind with this weekend, pick this one up. Trust me. 

A HUGE thank you to Social Butterfly PR for having me on this tour and sending me an ARC for review, they always have the latest and greatest of books so if you need ideas, check them out. Or stay here because I always have something from them popping up. If you pick this one up, let me know and we can chat about it. I have to know what you think about it. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Book Review: Gaijin

Happy hump day!! Honestly, this week is dragging and I'm just trying to get to the weekend, and I hate that every week feels like that. 

Today I have a rather interesting book for you and it's.... it's a mix of genres and it doesn't really fit into any specific one and I think that's why I wanted to read it. 
Gaijin - Sarah Z. Sleeper
The Japanese word gaijin means "unwelcome foreigner." It's not profanity, but is sometimes a slur directed at non-Japanese people in Japan. My novel is called Gaijin...

Lucy is a budding journalist at Northwestern University and she's obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her lover and her sensei. When he disappears without explanation, she's devastated and sets out to find him. On her three-month quest across Japan she finds only snippets of the elegant culture Owen had described. Instead she faces anti-U.S. protests, menacing street thugs and sexist treatment, and she winds up at the base of Mt. Fuji, in the terrifying Suicide Forest. Will she ever find Owen? Will she be driven back to the U.S.? Gaijin is a coming-of-age story about a woman who solves a heartbreaking mystery that alters the trajectory of her life.
A few things about this one missed the mark for me, the biggest one being the "relationship" between Lucy and Owen. I went into this thinking they were engaged or on the bring of that, or even a new but passionate love affair with promise of budding into something more. Basically, I thought there must be some kind of deep emotional connection to warrant a  young woman to basically drop her life, move across the world to Japan to look for this man. Instead, she really just had a crush on him and they kissed once but barely? I mean, if some guy just suddenly stopped talking to me at that point I'd think maybe I was a bad kisser and that's that. 

Nope. Not Lucy. So Lucy ups and moves. She embarks on this journey of sorts and though the book is kind of set up like this journey for love, it quickly became clear the intent of the book is maybe something different entirely. A lot of focus was put into the anti-US protests, about Okinawa, the US military presence there but also the inevitable tensions that could be because of all of that. Once I got my mind shifted out of the romance lane and into the mystery but also modern day history lesson, I felt like I was really liking this book. 

Except... I felt like it didn't hit the mark quite like it could have. For example, its almost toward the end of the book where one of the characters we meet, Hisashi, makes a statement about Okinawa being largely forgotten and exploited because of the US military being there and Japan as a whole largely ignoring the Japanese people there, and THAT felt like it could have been a key piece of the book. I'm a little on the fence about the piece about the Suicide Forest because on one hand, as a person I am deeply intrigued by this. I know that this place exists, I know why people make this pilgrimage and I once saw a show that did a short piece on the forest and I can't remember anything other than the fact people that go in often line their shoes up at the beginning, sometimes with a note. One image was an entire family's shoes and some of them were so little. So as I'm reading this book, I'm thinking of that image in my head and I don't know, it almost feels wrong to go in to look for someone... or something. It feels like such an intensely personal decision to go in knowing your intent is to not come out, and knowing people would just go traipsing in there looking for you. 

Now, even with all of this, I'm still giving this a solid 4 stars because I could really relate to the feeling of things not turning out the way you planned. A lot of us have experienced plans being changed or life bottoming out on us and suddenly we're midstream having to turn it around, but at the same time figure out a bigger game plan. I could really understand Lucy's struggle to navigate Japan as it is, but doing it in the middle of this crisis, finding out that what you're looking for might not end well, and then wondering what next? What do you do with the answer you find at the end? 

I loved the writing of this. Though there were a few slow slumps for me, it just read nicely and for the most part I got through this one quickly. I think if you're interested in Japanese culture in general or investigating things on your own, this would be a great book for you. If you are looking for light and fluffy, maybe not the best pick right now. 

A huge thank you to Running Wild Press for sending me a copy for review! The author, Sarah Z. Sleeper, was also featured on Authors Answer recently and if you're interested in checking that out, you can find it HERE

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Progress is progress.

It's so funny to look back at old blog posts, mostly between 2010 and 2012, and see how hard I worked at losing weight. I was out there every day doing my walk/run and I was portion control measuring everything. At some point I got to 160 pounds and it was like I was the skinniest girl in the world. 

Here I am all of these years later and I'm still at it. I'm doing it differently, that's for sure. In December I started going to the doctor to see what I could do because what I knew to do wasn't working. While a bit depressing, I at least got confirmation that my medications and my conditions post AFE are major issues so it isn't rocket science that I'm gaining weight like crazy. 

In December I started at 206.1 pounds. It wasn't my heaviest, I know I hit around 215, but when I really started to lose weight again I was around 211 pounds

Since starting at the doctor, I try to eat a lot of protein, around 50-75 grams a day split throughout the day. It's a lot and I'm telling you, I'm starting to hate protein. I'm terrible at the vegetables and I'm really trying with the fruits. I've really cut down on my carbs (except pasta night, not sorry) and dairy. Overall, despite all of my stomach/digestive issues, I'm doing well. 
I'm also exercising. Matt said he needs to lose weight so we've been walking a few times a week. I have to get 140 minutes of exercise in during the week. It doesn't matter what it is, I just have to move my body. 

So we walk. I don't know what the plan is for winter, I'm hoping we can get the treadmill from storage here. Maybe one of us can use that and the other use the bike thingie and just take turns switching. I don't know. I'm trying to do leg things because they hurt so badly all of the time and my doctors tell me if I keep them moving it will help the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, so that's what I'm doing. 
I started with a size 16, almost 18 pant... they were pretty snug. I'm officially in a size 12 pant and I'm not mad about it. My shirts were 2X and I'm on that edge of L and XL. This shirt was one I bought before I got pregnant with Penelope and it fits again. 
I feel better. I don't feel great, but I can feel an improvement. Self esteem wise I'm better. Also not great, but I know I'm in a better place than I was when I started. I don't feel as self conscious even around Matt, so that is big. Not that he would ever, or has ever, made me feel anything less than beautiful, but all of the positive reinforcement means nothing if you don't believe it, right? 

I'm still continuing. My healthy goal weight was 160 pounds, I'm currently at 170. Once I get there I think we do lab work again to see what has changed. We'll see. I'm pretty proud of myself though. The fact I've been able to consistently exercise even though it hurts like hell makes me feel like a bad ass. Just keep swimming. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Book Review: Inked in Lies

I have a few great book reviews for you this week, plus some cute pictures from Lucy's birthday this weekend, but today? Today we talk about this book and how mad I am that I am JUST NOW finding this author. 
Inked in Lies - Giana Darling
He moved in next door.
Handsome as sin, older in a way that meant forbidden.
He had tattoos on his hands and wickedness tucked in his grin.
I was a goner as girl to a man they called Casanova for a reason. He would never love me, at least not the way I needed him to.
I tried to move on. But I couldn’t turn my back on him or The Fallen MC.
So when they needed me most, I offered the only thing of value I could use to help them.
My body.
And when helping them meant putting my life on the line, Nova had to decide just how much he was willing to do to get me out alive.
I have to start with the obligatory "this is number five in a series but it is totally a stand alone". Then I really need to tell you that if you haven't read Giana Darling yet and are like me, be ashamed of yourself. If you are a fan of the romance genre in genre, I cannot believe that I am just now finding her. Finally though, she had the BEST promo for this book. I had subscribed to her newsletter, which then gave me a link to her Facebook and somehow I signed up for Facebook messages that updated me on the release. The messages though? Were written in the POV of Nova, the leading man here, and he's writing them to you like he's going to jump through Facebook and rip your clothes off. 

You guys, I wasn't hating it. Hands down the best lead up promo for a book I've ever participated in. 

Let's talk about the book now because the book was SO good. So good that I was legitimately bummed for it to end. I really liked these characters even though for a hot second I was worried Lila was going to be annoying and drive me a bit nuts, not going to lie. I really liked Nova and though I really didn't understand what the point of the bad boy persona was, I mean, he kind of explained it but not really enough for me to say "oh well that makes sense", instead I was like, "well that's depression and anxiety, not 'something dark' worthy of being a man whore". (That is me being overly critical) The only other thing that seemed odd to me was Diogo and Molly Booth, what a bizarre set of parents there. I mean, name one set of parents you know that is 100% cool and supportive of a child who joins a motorcycle club skirting the law? I'll wait. Secondly, once Lila starts getting herself into trouble in the name of vengeance and they find out, totally not freaking out. Meanwhile, I'm just a mom of four over here getting mad at an irresponsible twenty something girl who isn't even real. If this was Dr. Phil he'd be telling them to plug in.  

I'm just saying. 

Outside of that?I loved this. I have to read the previous four because we get to meet them here, and I already know someone dies so I might have to skip that if its a book because UGH. I can't with book deaths right now. In here we have Nova, who was best friends with Dane (Lila's brother), and has always been a bit of a caretaker for Lila, being 12 years older than her and they met when she was six. Fast forward all of these years and as Lila grows up, Lila grows up, and she realizes that the feelings she has for Nova aren't brotherly at all. In fact, she is in love with him and lets him know. He, of course, is not alright with that because she's basically a sister to him. 

Yes well, things happen over the course of the book and Lila realizes that even as time goes by and she tries to move on, Nova is IT for her. Nova wants her and is wrestling with that but is also insistent that absolutely this cannot happen because he's not right for her, blah, blah, blah. 

Thrown in motorcycle gang versus a drug/porn/human trafficking kind of group, vengeance, and all of that and hot damn, we got ourselves a good dang book! If you were a fan of Sons of Anarchy, I feel like you'd really like this one. I haven't really gotten into a lot of motorcycle club romances because they are either corny as heck or overly violent for zero reason other than trying to look hardcore. 

Thankfully, Giana Darling skips around all of that and brings a great book you will have a hard time putting down. SO glad I asked to be part of this tour for Social Butterfly PR and that I was given an ARC to review, this is definitely not my last Giana Darling book, that's for sure. 

This post contains affiliate links.