Thursday, September 23, 2021

Rage cleaning.

Are you a rage cleaner? I didn't realize that was a thing until a few years ago. My therapist told me it's an anxiety overload thing, but also probably some OCD thrown into the mix, too. I realize now that all of my crazy cleaning marathons that I would go on years ago were likely my anxiety taking over because life was hard. Life was busy and I only had two kids then, but I was working full time, so I just never had time to do.... nothing.  

Fast forward to now and while technically I have the time to do nothing, I don't have the opportunity. Most of my days are spent trying to keep up with all four kids, but trying to keep the house relatively clean. I've long since given up my magazine worthy kind of clean for my house, because I don't have the energy levels to do that but also, just vacuuming the one rug exhausts me and I have to lay down for a half hour just so I can then make some toast for myself for lunch. 

God knows I haven't done a deep clean on anything in years. My standards have gone down drastically. 

This last weekend though, I realized the front porch was out of hand. It's the catch all area for toys and kid things, it's basically a play room for them. We never needed a play room before but since we moved, and downsized in space by almost half, we've had to get creative with space and storage. The front porch became the toy room, play room, storage for kid crafts and books, and other. It doesn't take long for things to get out of hand, let's put it that way. So I decided that I was going to spend the time to clean it out and get rid of the things we no longer need. 

I was hoping for help, but this is what my helper opted to do instead. Granted, it was significantly warmer outside than I thought it was going to be, so I know it slowed me way down. Twinky decided he was going to live his best life on the couch while the fan above blew cool air onto him in his indecent position. Jerk. 
It took me hours and I really mean hours to go through every box, every drawer, and every shelf. I went through every single toy piece by piece. Matt ended up hauling out two bags of garbage and a couple of boxes of things to donate. We were able to get all of the kid things onto one side of the porch, so it's not a spread out mess. 
Now we have this whole other side to either leave it empty or do something with. I think the horse (behind my rocking chair) might go soon, I'm not sure. The cats like that cat tree there since they can be the neighborhood watch from there. I'd like to get some kind of lounge chaise or something so I can read out there in the sunshine. Other than that though, I don't have any ideas. I might move some plants out there to see if they do better with more sunlight. I'm trying to get into house plants but so far I've not been real successful. I'm trying, though! 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Self care, parenting insanity, and bad drivers

I try to be pretty honest about life around here, and I really don't sugar coat things. When I say that I am literally driving the struggle bus, I am not joking. I feel like I was having a pretty good stretch this summer but right before our trip to Iowa, things kind of imploded and it's been absolute chaos ever since. 

I haven't been taking care of myself like I'm supposed to. Not so much out of purposeful neglect, but things have been so chaotic and stressful that my memory is just shot, so I am forgetting to do all of the things I am supposed to be doing for myself to stay functional. So the other day I decided screw it. Can we afford me to go get my hair done? NOPE. Am I going to go do it anyways because I need to do something relaxing for myself? YUP.  

And that's just what I did. I decided that I'm over the blonde because summer is over, fall and winter are on their way and I just needed a change. I found a last minute appointment with someone new to me and took a chance. 
Best chance ever because I love it. It's darker but depending on the light it looks completely different. It has different shades of brown in it, a super light blond going through it in spots, it's just really very pretty. It's like two shades darker than my natural, so that's kind of my limit on how dark I'll go, but I'm glad I went. It was almost a four hour process and it was nice to be alone, talking to another adult, and not giving any kind of crap on anyone else in my house. It was glorious. 
Which made up for the day before, where I took Lucy to a physical medicine physician for a second opinion, only to come out to see that some asshole clearly scraped my car as they were (likely) backing out of their spot. I'm parked perfectly dead center in my spot and even still a person couldn't get out. This is a brand new vehicle, I got it in March and now someone has totally scraped it. Leaves no note, nothing. How freaking rude. I think Matt is going to take it to get it looked at, maybe it can just be buffed out (crossing fingers) but it just makes me mad because I try really hard to keep my things nice, I don't touch or ruin other people's things, and I feel like people are just assholes. Sigh. 

To make up for it though, I got this amazing package in the mail from a friend. It's a sunshine box and it was the CUTEST thing ever. I mean, I may or may not have eaten candy under my desk while crying the other night, but it's hard to get too sad when I can aggressively throw a mini beach ball around my office while I rage at the things that are making me angry. 

I have really been struggling as a parent lately. I find myself bouncing between wanting to be a really, really good mom and being available at all times, but then also being completely over everyone sucking me dry. I think my family doesn't understand that my capacity for caring and being available isn't what it used to be, that tank is very small now. Sometimes I'm not sure if they don't understand that or if they just don't care and think I should just do things for them anyways. I'm learning that part of saying no to things in life means saying enough is enough to your own family sometimes. I'm also learning that part of letting them grow up is realizing I'm not responsible for their happiness. I can do nice things for them, I can be supportive and encouraging, but coddling isn't love. I feel like I'm maybe crippled them into thinking it is, so I'm trying really hard to fix that. It's incredibly difficult to explain to someone that I love them but I also can't be an emotional crutch anymore. At some point you have to pull your own weight. 

Throw in some puberty mood swings and teenager angst that only highlights how immature they are, and we've been having fun times. Then on the other end of the spectrum, I have an incredibly artistic and intelligent six year old who needs to be challenged more and that's exhausting on its own, and I have a five year old having on/off mobility issues that I haven't really had time to look into because the other kids are sucking me dry. I feel like I'm tapped out, I've got nothing left for anyone. 

It won't be surprising at all to you then, when I say that I've been sicker than sick. Oh yes, because when life gets stressful and chaotic, your body pumps out cortisol to help you and your brain function with the changes. Guess what my body doesn't do because it doesn't have a functioning pituitary gland? That's right, it doesn't pump out cortisol! So that means that I am constantly sick, and even when I take extra medication, it's never the right amount, so I always feel like I'm depleted and lethargic, I'm often throwing up with a headache, constantly dizzy, and exhausted. That's especially fun, because it's usually on the days I feel my actual worse that I get to hear how one of my kids wishes I was a better mom and did more. 

Yes, because I don't feel guilty enough. 

I'm just over it. I'm really over all of it. I'm tired of everyone relying on me for every part of their life. I'm tired of everyone expecting me to make them happy. I'm tired of everyone expecting me to do something for them. I'm tired of listening to people tell me I'm wrong and don't know anything when in fact, I'm not wrong and I actually do know things. It's so frustrating. I feel like I'm supposed to be enjoying this time as a mom and I'm not. I actually really hate it. I'm exhausted and I'm finding it hard to even care. I'm sure some of this is my own depression at play because this is a really awful time of year for me, but of course, I can't even work on me because all of my time and resources are going to people who just take, take, take. 

It's exhausting. Some times I wish I could just disappear. Walk right off the side of the planet and never come back. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Book Review: Stalker Stalked

It feels like I haven't blogged in forever, and to be fair, that's probably true. Life has been really busy and crazy for me and I'm really struggling. It's just a really crappy season of life. 

Stalker Stalked - Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lexi Mazur is a depressed, alcoholic, pill-popper whose only joy has become her reality TV shows, often fantasizing that the people on TV are a part of her world. After her boyfriend Steve leaves her, she fixates on the show Socialites and its star Magnolia Artois, following every facet of the girl’s life on social media in the hopes of befriending and becoming more like her.

But stalking isn’t new to Lexi. She ultimately won over her ex Steve by following and manipulating every minute detail about him so he’d fall for her. In fact, she landed her other ex-boyfriend Jeremy in the same way. Being a pharma rep, she’s used to manipulation to get doctors to buy her drugs, along with the perk of saving pills for herself.

But what happens when the stalker gets stalked?

Recently, Lexi has felt someone watching her: in her apartment in Queens, at her job. At first, she thinks her mind’s playing tricks, but the watcher is behaving just like she would. And soon they begin leaving threatening clues like she starts to do to Magnolia once her obsession grows more dangerous. Is it one of her exes out for revenge? Her only real friend from childhood who she’s always had an unhealthy rivalry? A detective who may have figured her out? The reality star Magnolia trying to turn the tables? Or even someone she might not know?

Lexi learns the only way to beat her stalker is to use her own stalking prowess to outsmart them at their own game. But has she finally met her match?
I haven't been reading as much (or as fast) as I wish I was right now. I'm really struggling in all areas of life, so you'll notice my reviews are slowing down. I'll catch back up soon, but I do have a couple for you this week and they are pretty dang good. 

Today though I'm bringing you Stalker Stalked, a really interesting story that I don't know how to really explain this one.... in a good way. Our main character very clearly has mental health issues but she also drinks a lot.... and does a lot of drugs, neither of which really help the mental health issues obviously, but let's just keep that in mind as we go through this. She really believes she's being stalked, which is an ironic thing for her to deal with because she's used to being the one who does the stalking. She's basically pro level of nuts, and it almost kind of feels poetic because it's karma, right? 

I'm not going to go through the whole book because honestly, it's best to go in with as little information as possible because the whole premise is a bit bananas, and it's really entertaining to constantly be blown away as things keep happening. Every time you think it can't possibly get stranger, it does. The creepy factor keeps going up, and then throw in the absolute obsession with reality TV, and this book feels like it's going off the rails but you can't stop. You literally can't stop because every time you put the book down, your brain wants to know what's going to happen with Lexi. This isn't even the kind of book you are rooting for the character in a good way, you're really torn between wanting something to turn around and go well for her and wanting her to get what she deserves. But what does she deserve? I still don't know how I feel about the ending. The best way to describe this is it really is the car wreck you can't look away from. It's disturbing in a way, but it also makes you think about things differently, like how we consume reality television and how invested we feel in celebrities lives. 

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Lee Matthew Goldberg for having me on this tour and sending me a copy of the book for review. This was a good book to break a rut, that's for sure, easily 4 stars for me. 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Book Review: Deer Season

I am so behind in life right now, I'm just trying to keep up. I have so many things going on all at once and I don't know how I did this kind of stuff before Lucy and liked it. Honestly, that blows my mind, because I really hate being this busy now. I'd like to just nap and watch crime shows. That feels like the extent that my brain can function right now. 

Deer Season - Erin Flanagan

It’s the opening weekend of deer season in Gunthrum, Nebraska, in 1985, and Alma Costagan’s intellectually disabled farmhand, Hal Bullard, has gone hunting with some of the locals, leaving her in a huff. That same weekend, a teenage girl goes missing, and Hal returns with a flimsy story about the blood in his truck and a dent near the headlight. When the situation escalates from that of a missing girl to something more sinister, Alma and her husband are forced to confront what Hal might be capable of, as rumors fly and townspeople see Hal’s violent past in a new light.

A drama about the complicated relationships connecting the residents of a small-town farming community, Deer Season explores troubling questions about how far people will go to safeguard the ones they love and what it means to be a family.
I live in an area where we're surrounded by the woods and forest, many people look to the fall as hunting season and plan their lives around it. Every year we hear about a couple of people being accidentally shot, sometimes people go missing and we find them after they've passed away from exposure, so right away this story grabbed me. Reading it felt like a cross between a Jennifer McMahon thriller and something else... I can't quite put my finger on it, but it was really good. It ended up being the perfect book to pick up now that kids are back in school, summer weather is really gone, and I'm curled up on the couch with a good blanket. 

In this we see the disappearance of Peggy, a girl like so many in towns like mine, who sneak out on weekends to go drinking and partaking in other activities in fields away from supervision. Until one evening, and Peggy just doesn't come home. After a few days, rumors are rampant in town, and suddenly what began as whispers become a quiet rumbling of accusations towards Hal, a grown adult with intellectual disabilites, who doesn't understand social cues or flirting, which becomes the sticking part in the accusations. 

While we do find out what happened to Peggy and that gets solved, that really isn't even the focus of the book. Once you get into it and we start meeting new characters, figuring out how they are connected with different people, we learn some pretty damning things about many. It's like Peggy's disappearance was what kicks up all of the dirt everyone in town was covered in. Old hurts are rediscovered, hurtful words are heard again, and we learn that those things are never really forgotten and people never really lose that hurt. It's all things that stick with you for life. 

I'd give this one a solid 4 star. It got a little slow for me in parts, but as soon as I realized this book isn't so much about the crime (which is what I was expecting), and more about this crazy web of secrets within this town, I perked right up because it felt like I was reading a whole new book and that's what kept me engaged. The writing is lovely, the setting and character building are great, I could easily picture any small town around me as being the location. 

If you're looking for a solid read to get you into the fall mood, definitely pick this one up. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and University of Nebraska Press for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review. 
This post contains affiliate links. 


Thursday, September 9, 2021

Depression, still a thing around here.

I haven't been super vocal about my medical stuff going on, mostly because it's the same thing over and over: people just don't have a clue so they optimistically send me off and tell me things will "probably be fine".  

I don't know if you know this or not, but that's literally the most unhelpful thing to tell someone with a chronic illness. I mean, if you don't know what's wrong, that's fine, but maybe send me to someone who would know instead. 

I still don't feel well physically and at this point, I've just decided this is the best I'm going to get. Every day I feel like I have the worst flu, with body aches all over, I'm so tired I'm barely functional, and if I'm not sick to my stomach and/or vomiting, it's a good day. I'm just tired of advocating for myself because as far as I'm concerned, that's just some bullshit people say to be motivational or encouraging. 

I'm already struggling but now that it's fall I have moved firmly into the worst season of the year for me with mental health. I know it's going to happen every year but this last weekend I hit my wall and I've steadily slid down it into a dark hole. I'm just over it. I'm trying to keep myself afloat and I have one child dealing with their own mental health issues and I'm having to drag them along with me. It would be helpful if they made some efforts to help me move them but no, it's straight resistance and I'm struggling with forcing them to get help or saying fuck it, because until they want it, it won't work? Does that make sense? I also love being told they wish I was a better mom. I mean, I already know I'm not the same mom I once was and it's taken me five years to not feel tremendous guilt and just angry about it, I was finally feeling like I could let that go. 

To have one of my kids point blank say they wish I was a better mom not only felt like a stab to the heart, but it was like confirmation for my brain to start the "you're a shit mom, you're better off dead, they're better off without you" track that plays on repeat. I know they are just a kid so they don't understand fully that what they say has a direct impact on someone else, it doesn't make it hurt any less. So since then, I've really had some dark moments where I've been worried to be home alone. I'm doing the best I can, I can't give anyone what I don't have. I feel like I'm being sucked dry by other people and nobody gives a flying fuck that I'm struggling. 

I continue with my therapy and my psychiatry because I know it's the best thing for me. It's the only place I can say what I really think and how I really feel. Because I am so angry. I'm starting to feel resentful and I feel like I don't ever get the chance to get better because it's always me having to come to the rescue of someone else. I spend 90% of my time taking care of and doing things for other people. I'm always running someone around to appointments, activities, or places with friends. I do my best to plan out a menu, shop, and cook only to have people not eat or tell me they decide to starve themselves to lose weight they can't afford to lose. I don't understand why people don't seem me melting down until nothing. I just don't get it. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Book Review: The Shadow in the Glass

Nothing like the mid-week slumps, am I right? I was doing so well this weekend but as we inch towards the end of the week, I'm starting to feel like a damn slug. Which... ugh.  

The Shadow in the Glass - JJA Harwood

A deliciously gothic story of wishes and curses – a new dark fairy tale set against a Victorian backdrop full of lace and smoke.

Once upon a time Ella had wished for more than her life as a lowly maid.

Now forced to work hard under the unforgiving, lecherous gaze of the man she once called stepfather, Ella’s only refuge is in the books she reads by candlelight, secreted away in the library she isn’t permitted to enter.

One night, among her beloved books of far-off lands, Ella’s wishes are answered. At the stroke of midnight, a fairy godmother makes her an offer that will change her life: seven wishes, hers to make as she pleases. But each wish comes at a price and Ella must decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay…
You know I love a good retelling, and when I saw this one coming down the pike, I immediately went for it. Judging by the name Ella, you would be safe to assume this is a Cinderella remake, but not quite. I definitely could see the similarities, and glaring differences, I just wish this gave me more. 

Instead of an evil stepmother, we have a lecherous stepfather who really ought to be in prison because he's disgusting. We learn early on in the book that he takes a liking to the young women in his employ and once they end up pregnant, they are sent off in shame. Ella is fairly naive, but also kind of not, it's hard to really get a read on what she knows and doesn't know. She knows enough to watch out for the younger girls though. She doesn't have evil stepsisters, but there are definitely other servants that don't like Ella at all and make her life an absolute nightmare and make it impossible for her to leave. 

What they can't take away from her are books. When her stepmother was still alive, she taught Ella how to read. She taught her other things as well, but reading was a mutual love of theirs, and Ella seeks refuge in the books when her stepfather is out getting drunk or once he's asleep in his stupor. She does have a fairy godmother of sorts and though she is granted seven wishes, they don't come without a cost. With that twist it starts to feel like the author is weaving some other classic fairytales into this so it doesn't feel like a Cinderella remake totally. 

The story itself is darker than I thought it was going to be. I also went through the entire book with the ending I wanted in my mind and I won't tell you what that was, but I will tell you I very much did not get it. In the end, though I was mad at the ending immediately following, the longer I sit on it the more it felt right. There is a line on page 400, almost the last page, that reads: 
"Why, why had Eleanor thrown her trust away on this puppet? The only person worth putting her faith in was herself." 
Isn't that a lesson we all learn at some point? I felt like Ellie was such a likeable character, one that you can't help but root for because we're all a little bit of her at some point. Also, this book is classified as young adult, and as a whole I would agree with that, but the story does dip into horror at times and is definitely more macabre than what a young adult audience is used to, I think. It would definitely be worth mentioning to someone that this gets kind of dark. To me it had the dark feel like The House of Salt and Sorrow, and you know I loved that one. I would have to give this one a solid 4 stars.

Thank you to HarperVoyager for sending me a copy for review!
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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Book Review: Poison for Breakfast

Are you a fan of Lemony Snicket?  I used to read all of his books when I was in elementary school, I was in love with them. I even watch A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix, and Neil Patrick Harris is PERFECT in that role. My kids loved the books and show as well, but I think I was maybe more excited than them. 

When I saw Lemony Snicket had this one coming out, I literally jumped at the chance because I'm basically a grown up child at heart so here we go. 

Poison for Breakfast - Lemony Snicket

For more than twenty years, Lemony Snicket has led millions of young readers through a mysterious world of bewildering questions and unfortunate events. With this latest book—a love letter to readers young and old about the vagaries of real life—longtime fans and new readers alike will experience Snicket’s distinctive voice in a new way.

This true story—as true as Lemony Snicket himself—begins with a puzzling note under his door: You had poison for breakfast. Following a winding trail of clues to solve the mystery of his own demise, Snicket takes us on a thought-provoking tour of his predilections: the proper way to prepare an egg, a perplexing idea called “tzimtzum,” the sublime pleasure of swimming in open water, and much else.
The best part of any Lemony Snicket book, for me, is that he writes as if he's a weird grandpa. You know what I'm talking about, someone has the kind of grandpa that kind of rambles while telling you something important so you kind of tune out a bit, but then you realize he was saying something important the whole time. I often glaze over what seem like minute details but find myself going back to re-read something because it makes the part of the book I'm in make more sense, it's basically always an interactive story, I'm always going back and forth. You could say he's a bit of a messy, or chaotic, writer and that would be true, but if he were any other way his books wouldn't be as entertaining. 

Poison for Breakfast was certainly entertaining and a quick read. Though I can't go into much about the plot because it would really give the entire surprise away, I will say that if you are a fan of classic Lemony Snicket, you won't be disappointed. This isn't so much a murder mystery/who-dun-it, but more of a pondering of life and death as he goes around town trying to solve this mystery. It does talk about death quite a bit, and how death will come to us all, so if you (or your children) aren't ready to explore that concept in a very matter of fact way, perhaps this isn't the one for you just yet. It's considered a nonfiction because it's a "true story", and our main character is both the victim (because he had poison for breakfast) but also the detective (because over the course of the day he has to figure out why and who did it).  

I really loved this one. It made me nostalgic for my childhood and the time spent in my school library. I know this is geared for ages 9-99, but I think kids won't get the full message of this and that maybe adults would appreciate it more. Not to say kids couldn't/shouldn't read this, I just don't know that they would learn the lessons Lemony is trying to show us. 

Thank you to Liveright Publishing for having me on this tour and sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Monday, September 6, 2021

Book Review: Ultimate Journeys for Two

I know it was just summer, but I'm already counting down the days until next summer and I miss vacation. Not that we can really afford to go on vacation again, but I told Matt that him and I really have to figure out a way for just us to go on vacation. This year is absolutely kicking our ass, so I'm sure by next summer we'll be practically desperate to go anywhere! 

Ultimate Journeys for Two - Mike & Anne Howard

Written by the founders of HoneyTrek.com, this inspiring book reveals hidden-gem destinations and insider tips for unforgettable couples travel.

In these informative pages, Mike and Anne Howard--officially the World's Longest Honeymooners and founders of the acclaimed travel blog HoneyTrek--whisk you away to journeys of a lifetime. Drawing on their experience traveling together across seven continents, they curate the globe and offer tested-and-approved recommendations for intrepid couples, bringing culture, adventure, and romance to any couple--no matter their age or budget.

Chapters are organized by type of destination (for example, beaches, mountains, and deserts) to help travelers discover new places and experiences based on their interests. Each entry focuses on a specific region, getting to the essence of each locale and its one-of-a-kind offerings. The authors reveal the best time to visit, the best places to stay, and recommended activities--each with their own adventure rating to illustrate level of intensity. Special features include funny and insightful stories from the Howards' own adventures, expert advice from other renowned traveling couples, and tips to increase the romance and excitement at each destination. A large map shows every location covered in the book, and each entry has a locator map depicting the city and country. Both entertaining and informative, this book is an invaluable resource and inspiration for a lifetime of travel.
If you had to pick one kind of vacation, which would you choose? Mountains, lakes/rivers/falls, beaches/islands, on a safari, history/architecture, at sea, deserts, snow and ice, jungles and rain forests, road trips, or supernatural? It's so hard to pick, but that is kind of the point of this book, to help you narrow your trip down. 

We're a road trip kind of family so when we do a vacation that is usually our top choice. A close second would be a beach, mostly because we really want to relax and do nothing. No matter the vacation type you choose, this book has you covered with trips set in your own backyard/country to adventures around the globe. Each destination gives you ideas on where to stay, when to go, how to get romantic, but also some helpful tips to keep in mind to make your trip stressfree. I loved the "couples adventures" under each destination, all of them are unique and will impress anyone listening to your vacation story with envy. 

One trip I've been eyeing is road tripping the southwest of the United States. I feel like I would need more than a week to really see it properly and do all of the things I'd want to do, though. I also knew it existed, the Olympic Peninsula, but I really had no idea the continental US has a rain forest. How did I not know this?! The other great thing is that each trip features a "to explore more.." area with other places in the book that would be easy to combine on your trip. 

If I had to give this book a critique, I would say the idea that traveling outside of the country isn't worth it unless you have a huge amount of time to do it, and I just don't think that's true. Not everyone can just travel for a month (or more) at a time; not to mention the expense of doing so is mostly impossible for people. I do think that if you have a set budget, and a set amount of time to travel, using a book like this is probably the best idea because it basically lays out where you should go, do, and stay. Don't let an "extraordinary destination" scare you, I think using the advice in this book will give you a great starting direction. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour! I'm including the purchase link but also one for the spiral bound version because spiral bound versions of travel books need to become the norm. I'm just saying. 

This post contains affiliate links.


Friday, September 3, 2021

Things look a little different around here.

I've been thinking about this for awhile, but now that the kids are back in school and I had some time to sit down and just do it, you'll notice things look kind of different. Or maybe not unless you're looking for old posts or something specific. 

Banana just hangs on the chair like this- he's weird. 

I have taken most of the posts that have pictures of my kids in them. Not all, you'll still find a few, but I think going forward I likely won't post photos of them so much. It's not because I don't want to share the hell out of them, but I think I'm changing as a person in general. Does that make sense? 

Banana and George like to wrestle at night. It's so bizarre to watch. 

If you have been around here for years (I started in 2008!), you know that my writing over time has changed drastically. I still have the posts, so I could bring them back, or at least go back and read them for myself. I started this blog as a mechanism to share photos of my kids for family who were all far away. While that could still be the reason to keep photos, pretty much everyone is on Facebook and/or Instagram, so I guess it's not needed that I share them here. Over time, I evolved into a more... snarky blogger, you could say? I think when I look back at my life then, I was in a much different space than I am now and certainly I was a totally different person. 
Can we just admire my older cat, Batman? He's actually playing!


Not to say I'm lame as hell now, but I'm lame as hell. I'm moving my blog to be more book centered but I also am going to keep my medical updates, vacations, and book reviews, of course, but I likely won't be blogging a whole lot about my home life. Between horribly disgusting spam comments I end up deleting and just thinking about my older kids' getting older and wanting less out there, it just seemed like the time to do it. I'll give updates here and there, but not much more. 

Don't get me wrong, I want to, and god knows I have SO MANY THINGS to write about because my life is a tragic comedy. I have so much on my plate and happening to me and around me that most days I just sit inside of my closet, on the floor, and scream into a pillow while simultaneously crying my eyes out. It's just too much and frankly, I don't know how this much just keeps happening to one person. It's certainly not fair, that's for sure. My blog used to be an online journal of sorts, where I would write out my feelings on things that were happening, and I guess it still could be that, but it just doesn't feel the same, you know? I think a lot of bloggers are feeling this way as well because I see so many changing, it isn't just me. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Book Review: Love You, Little Lady

Happy weekend! I am so screwed up on my days of the week so I woke up thinking today was Friday and I had to get my weekend planned out and organized. JOKE IS ON ME though because today is Saturday and I missed half of the things I was supposed to do yesterday because I thought yesterday was Thursday. 

How I'm allowed to adult and being in charge of four little humans is beyond me, to be honest. Ha!

Love You, Little Lady - Brett Young

There's something special about the love between a father and daughter. In Love You, Little Lady, award-winning singer-songwriter Brett Young writes a love letter to his daughter as he shares what it's like to hear her heartbeat, hold her for the very first time, and watch her take her first steps.

This heartfelt picture book is ideal for kids ages 4-8 and shares the wonder of becoming a new parent
the unconditional love dads and moms share for their children beautiful artwork, a heartwarming cover, and sweet rhymes inspired by Brett's lyrics. 
I have a solid rotations of music channels while I'm in the car and one of them is a country station so I actually know who Brett Young is. I also know the song that this one is inspired by and I am a sucker for songs about parenthood. When I heard this book was coming out, I was so excited and knew this was a perfect book to add to my little girls' library. 

If you are looking for the perfect book for a baby shower, gift for a new mom (or dad), or just need to add a new one to your library, this book is adorable. I loved the illustrations throughout, they are so colorful and reminiscent of everyday life, we enjoyed looking at those with the story. The story is really genuine and loving mixing the wishes every parent has for their child while also reinforcing the hope that the child finds their own way. I love instilling the confidence that your child is capable of forging their own way while knowing they have the support of their parents no matter way, that's the greater meaning of the story. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour! I highly, highly suggest picking this one up to include in your next gift or to add to your bedtime routine. 
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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Book Review: More Bad Days in History

I think it's safe to say I'm not going to make my Goodreads goal this year. I think I'm like 18 books behind schedule and yeah..... I have more on my plate than I can chew. I have a terrible habit of doing this but I'm really trying to get better. All of the task lists in the world isn't helping me right now. I just keep telling myself that once school starts I'll have basically 7 hours alone so surely I can get stuff done, right? RIGHT?! 

More Bad Days in History - Michael Farquhar

In these gleefully gloomy pages, you'll find a politically smeared George Washington, a cranky Colonel Sanders, a homicidal Saint Olga of Kiev, a cuckolded Napoleon, a flame-censored Steinbeck, a treacherous Douglas MacArthur, a weeping Einstein, an exasperated Charles Dickens, a humiliated King Henry II, and a faux-contrite Ted Kennedy. And that's just in July!

From the decadent palaces of ancient Rome to the modern Halls of Congress, this illuminating (sometimes disturbing) narrative features an almost endless array of misbehavior, amusing mishaps, and breathtaking misfortune over the ages and across the historical spectrum. Each less-than-red-letter day of the year is recounted in Farquhar's wry voice and comes with the enduring lesson The Wall Street Journal found in the first volume of this series: "Bad Days in History may offer consolation to the great mass of quotidian belly-achers . . . whose piddling misfortunes and regrets will snap neatly into perspective when set against [this] record of idiocy and disaster."

This surprising and sometimes heartbreaking collection of mayhem and malady will leave you amused, intrigued, and horrified by day after day of hilarious catastrophe.
I know we shouldn't get joy out of other people's bad day but honestly, some days I really need something and this book brought it. I also love good organization, so you give me a book organized by the calendar year and I'm going to sit my butt down and enjoy it. Sure, I'll be bouncing around the book looking at the birth dates of everyone I know, anniversaries, etc. because I'm morbid like that. 

My birthday is March 10, and this book covers a story in which a famous nude was hacked with a meat cleaver. I mean, I could give you more context for that to make more sense but that sentence alone makes you want to read this book, am I right? I also really love the one for my anniversary on June 12, aptly titled, "Unholy Matrimony, Part 3: With This Ring, I Thee Dread", about a prince who very much didn't want to get married but had to, literally never had sex with his wife and only had dinner with her once a year. I mean... good grief. If you're a fan of the daily calendars with fun facts, you'll love this because it's a meatier version of that. Not quite short story level but also longer than quick facts, this is an entertaining read for sure. The entire time I was going through this I kept thinking a high school history teacher would LOVE this and it would be a fun way to start class everyday, with a crazy fact of history. While this is the second installment of Bad Days in History, this was highly entertaining and now I need the first book, and eagerly anticipate the next one! 

My husband and I had a good time going through this and if you're bored at home and are staging a low key date night, order some take out and pass the book back and forth looking for the best one to share, I promise you'll get some laughs. You'll feel guilty for laughing sometimes, but not enough to quit because this book is just too good. 

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for having me on this tour! 
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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Summer winding down with or without us

The worst part of summer is watching the end come so quickly. I feel like it flew by this year, and that we hardly did anything, and that's definitely our fault. We just let work and other things get ahead of us doing fun things. I've been trying to squeeze the last bit of fun into this last two weeks as I can. I know that fall, winter, and spring doesn't really get packed with fun things, not to say we're sitting at home bored though. We always seem to be on the go, but it isn't the kind of go you look forward to doing, you know? It's just stuff you do, places you're kind of obligated to be.  

Already our calendar is filling up with dance, swim lessons, driver's ed, band performances, school commitments, doctor appointments, etc, but not much room for fun. Summer has always been our fun season, so the fact we haven't done a whole lot of fun is really bumming me out. Next year? Next year I'm planning fun all over the place. Just you wait. 

The week we came back from Iowa we still had a couple of days to put some fun into, so we decided to go to the Como Zoo in St. Paul, MN. It's a free zoo, we like to go at least once during the summer and we haven't gone since 2019 because of the pandemic. You have to make reservations though so it's a bit harder to plan since we're a solid 2.5 hours away, so it isn't like we can go on a whim- it's a whole day of planning. 

I'm so glad we did it though because we had a great day. I'll be honest, the zoo isn't as nice as we remember it, and it is probably because of the pandemic. Lack of visitors = lack of donations = not as many funds for aesthetic upkeep. The animals all look well and cared for, I will say that. The other bummer? No Como Town (a small amusement park area), no animal shows (the little girls were hoping to see the seals), and of course we go on a day it's tremendously warm so the majority of animals were hanging lazily in the shade. 
Lucy was living her best life though because during our entire trip to Iowa, all Lucy wanted was a giraffe. I have no idea where the love of giraffes has come from, but it's intense and no matter where we went, she asked about a giraffe. Of course, we couldn't find a giraffe anywhere, including the zoo we went to in Iowa! One of the first areas of Como Zoo that we went into opens back up to the outdoors and there's a small gift area with, bum bum bum..... a GIRAFFE. Matt beelined it to the store, purchased a giraffe, and that my friends, is the face of a very happy girl. 
Penelope really liked this gorilla. She was pretty interested in his feet and how similar (but also different) they were to hers and she kept hoping he'd wake up and interact, but he was far more interested in his nap and honestly, I was wishing I could take a nap, myself. 

After the zoo we went to an outlet shopping center called Albertville, spent the rest of the money we had on school clothes for four kids (that isn't cheap and that outlet mall is far bigger than it looked from the road). I was exhausted by the time we were done but I managed to rally so we could go to a weird space/alien restaurant with a small arcade. The kids had a fun time, but Matt and I sat there like overtired vegetables. 
The next day we took a drive to Port Wing, Wisconsin, which is where Matt went to school. He showed the kids his old school (which was very tiny, especially considered the high school here or even just the middle school), we went to Twin Falls, and got back into the car. 
We ate lunch in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, and I managed to find a scrapbook store (I haven't been inside of an actual scrapbook store in 10 years!!) and I remembered how much I loved scrapbooking and how I really need to get back into it. Another summer bucket list item was a sunflower field. Last year was the year of dead sunflowers, so this year I told the kids I'll get it together for us to go when they are still alive. 

We barely made it but you know what? They were alive! We went to a different maze this year and it wasn't nearly as nice as last year's. At least last year there were props to take photos on and then a look out area... this place.... nothing. Literally nothing. Also, we were the only people there so it felt very horror movie-ish. The field was in Sarona, Wisconsin and if you have younger kids and need a five minute activity to stretch your legs? This is probably the stop for you. If you want more of a leisurely stroll with pretty views and fun photo areas? Go to the one we did last year for sure. I'd send us there again but then the flowers would for sure be dead. Maybe that should be our tradition. HA! 

I'm trying to decide if we do something this weekend or not, but I do have our corn maze/pumpkin patch weekend marked off already! It felt like fall the other day here and oy... I'm just not ready. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Strand Six: Iowa Vacation

I know I normally break our vacation wrap up posts with a couple so they aren't so long, but for the sake of time and the ridiculous list of things I have one week to get done... you're getting it all now. 

Before I go further though, everyone has asked us, "why Iowa?" and the simplest answer is..... we needed to cross it off our map. We have a goal of seeing as many states together as we can and we've done a bunch around MN/WI where we live, except Iowa. It's always the drive-through-it state but you guys- we need to collectively stop dissing Iowa. Iowa is fun and Iowa isn't getting the respect it deserves. 

We took off on Friday and I was so damn sick. No, I wasn't Covid sick, I was adrenaline crash sick. The night before was ROUGH and I won't get into that, but just know that as parents, Matt and I are dealing with a lot and it's a constant barrage of stuff and frankly, that Thursday was just really almost too much for me. Well, I guess it was because that Friday my body was like, "girl- you're done". I was on the verge of throwing up the entire day (and the next), I was in and out of consciousness, I felt like it took everything in me just to sit up straight in the car, my stomach hurt so bad and I had the worst headache. I was awful and I very much do not recommend going on a road trip in these conditions. Anyways. The show goes on, as they say. 
We stopped at Minnesota's Largest Candy Store in Jordan, Minnesota. If you've never been, it's worth the stop, the kids absolutely loved it. 
We then hauled it to Blue Earth, Minnesota to see the Jolly Green Giant Statue Park, and this was so pretty. Not only is this little town really pretty, but they have little Sprout statues all over and you can do a little scavenger hunt to find them all. I'm sad we didn't have enough time to do that. We had to hustle to get to Des Moines, Iowa because that was where we were exploring first. 

We ended up getting to our hotel late (for Pep and Lu) and our hotel was just the worst. It really was. It literally smelled like garlic bread and not even good garlic bread. Ugh. 
The next day we went to Blank Park Zoo, which was a really great little zoo. We saw a ton of animals, the zoo was incredibly well laid out and clean. It wasn't the biggest zoo we've gone to but it was worth our trip. 
After the zoo we decided to go on a train ride, mostly because Penelope asked for one. We drove to Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad & Museum because we had tickets for the Fraser Train. We got there a little early, so we explored the museum and got to climb onto a train. The museum isn't near as cool as the one we have local to us, but what they had was a little bit different so it wasn't a total waste. The train ride though? Beautiful. 
We went over a bridge and I'm not kidding, in the fall this would be STUNNING. The views are beautiful but I can say that is the highest up off the ground I've ever been while in a train!
For dinner, we took a chance on the Drake Diner (which Jackson later discovered was home to a couple of murders and I'm telling you, knowing that know makes me feel strange). The food was great and the decor/restaurant was beautiful. It's a cool little gem in the middle of a neighborhood. 

That's how we ended our first full day in Des Moines. We were exhausted but got to hear a dance party in the hotel parking lot for three hours in the middle of the night. Loved that. :/ 
The very next day we had to get up super early because we had tickets for the 9-12 slot at the Science Center of Iowa. This was a pick from the big kids because they really get into science things, but it turned out being a huge hit for all four kids. I can't hate that. Easily the best areas were the Build It area (you can make a building and see if it withstands an earthquake) and the area with circuits. Penelope really enjoyed circuits and making things turn on/off. 
We ended up getting through the entire science center in about two hours so we had some time to kill before we would need to eat lunch so..... we decided to check out a local bookstore! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do in a new town, and this one did not disappoint. 
Storyhouse Bookpub was the cutest little shop I've been in. We spent quite a bit of time (and money) here and I just wanted to hang out all day. The owner and her employer were literally the sweetest people, and gave us a little scavenger hunt around this up and coming neighborhood. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday so lots of shops weren't open, but Penelope was determined! She had to find a specific book in each store and have her sheet marked off. She went right up to store employees to ask questions, get her sheet signed, etc. You have NO IDEA how proud she was to get her sticker at the end showing she's a super reader. For real, you guys- this store is amazing. 
Also? Iowa has these awesome murals all over and I could have spent entire days just looking for these. But I love this picture because it's everyone's personality and there's Pep with her scavenger hunt sheet! 
Also? I got so many pictures of our family, of Matt and I, the kids, etc. I really wanted this vacation to count. 

After wandering around, we had about an hour-ish drive to Columbus Junction to see the Swinging Bridge Park, home of the Lover's Leap Bridge. We found it easily enough, had some disagreements on how to get to the bridge, finally deciding to take this weird little path which wasn't a fun one to walk. 
We did get a view of the bridge and doesn't that look like a fun one? This one definitely counts as our adventure card of this trip. 
When I tell you this was a swinging bridge? I am not lying to you. This damn thing swung side to side but also up and down and was the scariest bridge I have ever been on. It didn't help that the people behind us started being complete assholes, knowing full well that we had four kids on this bridge. So that was fun. 
We saw this at the end. Fun. 
We were on the way to city #2, Dubuque. I need to pause though and tell you that Des Moines was maybe the prettiest city I've ever been in. Everything was so clean, everyone was so nice and helpful, I really was sad we had to go, but it made me excited for Dubuque. 
We only had one full day in Dubuque so I knew we had to make it count! I knew during my research of Dubuque that I wanted to find some of these murals and we only got photos of a couple but there were SO MANY. If you are traveling through Dubuque, I so highly recommend you drive around and find them. 
I mean, how bad ass is that? I wish more cities had things like that, tap into the artists of your city! 
First up for Dubuque was the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. It's similar to the aquarium we have where we live (though that is solely focused on the Great Lakes), so I know going in that we would really love this and we did. 
We ended up getting there a little early, so we found a little walkway and decided to just watch the morning wake up over the water. It was really beautiful. 
The museum/aquarium was absolutely worth our time and money. We did everything this place had to offer and the kids were bummed by the time we were done. 
Afterwards we were going to get lunch, and I had found Shot Tower Inn online, and it was SO GOOD. It wasn't without drama though, I wanted to take the kids to take a picture of the mural and some guy, presumably picking up an employee from work, started screaming at me he was going to tow our vehicle away. I yelled at him for being an asshole and then, because I can be petty, proceeded to stand there within his view until the place opened for lunch (we had gotten there like 7 minutes early). We said something to our waitress, who made sure we weren't actually towed, and tipped her really well. She was the nicest and this place was pretty great. 
Next up? The Fenelon Place Elevator! I'm all about an inexpensive, quirky thing to do and for $4 a person, you too can ride on the world's shortest and steepest railroad! 
It goes incredibly slow, has a great view at the top, and the neighborhood at the bottom is full of fun little shops. 
We also found a Little Free Library! We didn't find anything for us that day, but it was cool to visit anyways. 
I inadvertently found a bookstore I had wanted to go to while in this neighborhood, too. When we road the elevator back up, we drove to the bottom and found some parking right out front and went in. 
River Lights Bookstore is beautiful. Again, Olivia and I bought a stack of books we don't need but you know.... buy local, am I right? 

We were going to try to go see some caves but in the end decided maybe the kids were wearing out. Our last stop for the whole trip was always meant to be Effigy Mounds National Monument
We literally had no idea what it was before we went and I'll be honest, we only saw three. The three at the start of the trail. 
This was something that Jackson had wanted to see and we realized it was one of the "special sights" places on our map that you cross off as you see, so it was a double bonus. What they don't tell you is the trail to see these? 

ALL UPHILL. 

Sure, there are two trails, a two-miler and a four-miler meant for a more "rugged" experience. The two-miler? Is not for out of shape folk. It's not for anyone with a bizarre leg malady we're still getting worked out, and it's not for a toddler who also seemingly has the same thing but the beginning stages. 

To sum it up? We made it .7 of a mile up the mountain before saying screw it and going back down. 
Looking at this it freaks me out because that is a straight down drop off behind Olivia and her legs kept giving out (it's a whole thing, we don't know what it is, we're in the middle of trying to figure it all out). Lucy had to be carried for awhile because her leg was giving out and she was in pain. Jackson had to hold me up. Only Penelope was ready to climb the mountain, and she let us all know repeatedly that SHE is just fine and SHE could do the whole thing, no problem. 

Penelope is not the motivational coach anyone needs. Unless being shamed by a six year old is what drives you, of course. 

We then drove like 5.5 hours home. It was late when we got home, the last two hours were ROUGH. The kids were all asleep, Matt and I had the music cranked so loud and nobody heard a thing. It was crazy. Was our summer vacation over? Nope! Tomorrow? We play local-ish tourists.