Friday, May 25, 2018

Book Review: By Invitation Only

I mentioned on Instagram that it isn't summer until I have a new Dorothea Benton Frank book in hand and here we are. It is SUMMER.

By Invitation Only - Dorothea Benton Frank
The Lowcountry of South Carolina is where By Invitation Only begins at a barbecue engagement party thrown by Diane English Stiftel, her brother Floyd, and her parents to celebrate her son’s engagement. On this gorgeous, magical night, the bride’s father, Alejandro Cambria, a wealthy power broker whose unbelievably successful career in private equity made him one of Chicago’s celebrated elite, discovers the limits and possibilities of cell phone range. While the mother of the bride, Susan Kennedy Cambria, who dabbles in the world of public relations and believes herself deserving of every square inch of her multimillion-dollar penthouse and imaginary carrara marble pedestal, learns about moonshine and dangerous liaisons.
Soon By Invitation Only zooms to Chicago, where the unraveling accelerates. Nearly a thousand miles away from her comfortable, familiar world, Diane is the antithesis of the bright lights and super-sophisticated guests attending her son Fred’s second engagement party. Why a second party? Maybe it had been assumed that the first one wouldn’t be up to snuff? Fred is marrying Shelby Cambria, also an only child. The Cambrias’ dearest wish is for their daughter to be happy. If Shelby wants to marry Frederick, aka Fred, they will not stand in her way—although Susan does hope her friends won’t think her daughter is marrying more than a few degrees beneath her socially. At the same time, Diane worries that her son will be lost to her forever.
By Invitation Only is a tale of two families, one struggling to do well, one well to do, and one young couple—the privileged daughter of Chicago’s crème de la crème and the son of hard -working Southern peach farmers.
I absolutely loved this book. I really can't remember a book that Dorothea Benton Frank hasn't hit out of the ballpark, all of her books are a guaranteed great read, this one included.

We have two families, one really wealthy family and one not so much.. they're farmers. But they come together over a wedding, both families marrying off their only child and both families play tug of war over what it should be like. Kind of. The wealthy family wants the most extravagant ceremony and the farmer family just can't compete, you know? The shenanigans leading up to the wedding are hilarious, includes a chicken named Molly, and you find yourself smiling throughout the whole thing.

But not to be outdone, there's more than just this wedding. We have a budding romance between Diane and Alden, we have someone going to prison, someone's fall from grace, and exciting news all wrapping up the book.

I had such a great time reading this one and this is one that I would buy and gift as a summer read. It needs to be on your list for the beach this year. This would also make an excellent gift for anyone preparing a wedding as a reminder of what's important, the vows. Everything else... fades away and isn't important. Back to basics, sometimes sweeter than originally thought. This book is funny, it's sweet, it's a perfect southern novel that makes you want to plan your next vacation in the Lowcountry, it's in my future plans!

You can find this book on Amazon of course but you can also get it on the HarperCollins website, an excellent source for new books.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dance little flamingo, dance

Olivia recently had her dance recital, so I thought I'd share the only two pictures I took.

This was her after the show, just as we were getting ready to leave. Look at that hip pop and her leg! Such a big girl, it's hard to believe she's going to officially be a teenager in just a few short months. Time just keeps moving forward.
I had to get a picture of just her and I after, it's kind of tradition at this point. I was so proud of her and she was so pleased with how she did. My first instinct is to tell her everything she could have done better, where her arms were sloppy or she over turned, but I'm learning to just... not. Whatever. It doesn't change anything and I don't feel any better and neither will she. I also haven't taken pictures of the kids doing their events like I used to. Old Sara would have gotten snaps of each dance, a group picture, picture with friends, etc and I just don't do it anymore. I'm trying to enjoy what I'm watching versus focused on taking pictures and I have to tell you, it's kind of freeing. I'm just going to enjoy what I can, when I can. It's kind of nice to not have that kind of stress on me, and I'm all about reducing my stress lately.

So yeah. She had a recital. She did fine. It was a good hour of my Saturday morning where I felt like I was really mom'ing it up.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Book Review: A Risk Worth Taking

Another Harlequin book for you today!

A Risk Worth Taking - Brynn Kelly

He can’t outrun himself…

Legionnaire Jamie Armstrong lives in the shadows. A medic haunted by his mistakes, he knows better than to hope for redemption. But his latest mission brings a threat he doesn’t see coming—an attraction as irresistible as it is dangerous. Hacker Samira Desta is a woman he swore to forget, but as a key witness to a deadly conspiracy, Samira is his to protect.

But the woman he rescues might be the one who saves him

After a year in hiding, Samira’s worst fears come true when her cover is blown and the unlikeliest of allies comes to her aid—the secretive Scot with whom she shared one unforgettable night. Hunted by lethal forces and losing the battle against their desire, Jamie and Samira make a desperate play to take the fight to their enemy—but those at greatest risk of ruin may be themselves…

This is the third book in the Legionnaires series and normally I read books that are stand alone, but this one doesn't feel real stand alone. I felt out of place for the first third of the book because Jamie and Samira kept referring to time in France and I had no idea what had happened, so I've wondered if I would have liked them as a couple more had I had that back story. Probably not crucial but for a good chunk of the book I felt like I was missing part of the story, even the entire reason Samira is in hiding in the first place.

So we have Samira, seemingly in hiding, and she finds herself heading to London after her little home in Italy is rushed in the dark of the night. The book finds her being saved by Jamie and in the throes of an exciting get away chase through London in the back of an ambulance. We get snippets of Jamie's past life as people repay favors, to much chagrin, in order for him to get Samira to a safe spot... wherever that is. Lots of exciting suspense, chases, gun shots, drugs, and long simmering brewing romance between our two main characters.

For being a romantic suspense, I kind of wanted more romance but the suspense overtook it in this book. In the end Samira pulls it together but her character and the panic attacks were almost too much for someone who has been in hiding and in danger for so long. I liked Jamie, even with all of his faults, because his character felt realistic. Your heart breaks for him because you can tell he was meant to be a doctor but those opportunities are dashed because of poor choices in tense situations, which seems silly to say he went from a doctor to a soldier and that was an easier pace for him.

Overall I'm giving this one a solid 3.5 stars. I liked the book but I don't know that I have to run out to read the previous two or the next ones. I likely wouldn't turn them down but I'm not going to go out of my way to track them down. If you're a fan of romantic suspense or a political suspense with a little romance, this is your newest read.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tales from a housewife.

That sounds cryptic, doesn't it? Ha! Well I just have a few pictures and things to share, nothing crazy. 
 Lucy is the cutest thing in the whole world. Honest to god, she is maybe the prettiest baby there ever was. I just want to squeeze her guts all of the time. 
 Then there's this goon who is such a joker you never know if he's serious or not. 
 So Penelope is going to start a legit pre-school in the fall. I feel kind of bad, like I'm shipping her off, but truly, she needs more structure than I can give her. She'll be a morning kiddo and get home right about nap time, so that'll be nice. That will give Lucy some time to be alone and not have to death match over all of the toys. 
Every time I think I have my short term memory loss under control, I do something particularly dumb that reminds me I'm not really at the wheel anymore. On this particular day I was trying to cook two burgers on the stove and forgot about them. I dozed off on the couch and woke to my entire house being smoky and then I remembered that oh yeah, I was doing something. That was actually Easter Sunday because I couldn't get myself together to socialize or put on pants. It was bad, Matt was not impressed with my almost-burning-the-house-down moves.

I'm finding that it's hard for me to feel fulfilled in my role as stay at home mom/wife. I find no joy in any of it. I'm supposed to be finding new joy in my life but I feel trapped in my own house. I can't even do what I want in the house because I'm constantly followed around by kids. I can't understand women who live this as their dream. This feels like a nightmare. I can hardly wait until the littles start school... then I'll feel like I have some freedom. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mother's Day... wasn't the worst

I have kind of a love hate relationship with Mother's Day. On one hand I love getting presents and the other I hate that we have a forced day to recognize mothers. It's one of those things that if you need a day on the calendar to recognize what I do each and every day, then you're doing it wrong. We almost never do anything, and I end up doing laundry and cooking, but my family wants the praise that they did something for me. 

See? It's not worth it. 

So I woke up with low expectations. I told Olivia to not bother with breakfast in bed because I eat cereal and I don't want to eat it in my room. I hate eating in my room. And nobody gets my cereal to milk ratio right so no, please don't ruin my one guaranteed meal of the day, thankyouverymuch

But my kids had presents, Olivia made me a pillow (which is precariously taped together because her "stitching" is falling apart) and a book with coloring pages she ripped out of her coloring book. Jackson made me a .... Picasso mask in art class? I think that's what he called it. It's collecting dust on my bookshelf next to Olivia's cat she made a few years ago. Matt got me the cookbook I wanted and a new fancy wallet. It was nice. The cookbook is already being used and of course I'm using my wallet. It was nice that he looked at things I took pictures of in my phone so I wouldn't forget about them. At least he tried this year. 

We went out to lunch, our weekend usual, and that was nice. We ended up going to a sit down restaurant versus a fast food place so it was a nice change. 
 I couldn't get a picture with all four kids so I opted for one with each of them. Lucy's hair looked like this all day, even at the restaurant, because she very much did not want to play beauty shop (which is how we trick her and Penelope into doing their hair every day). 
 Penelope after her bath, smelling all fresh and delicious. Clearly not ready for bed. 
 Olivia after she tripped over her own feet in the dining room. 
And Jackson after his shower. He's big into doing his hair lately so I had to tell him to never ever part his hair down the middle like this again. He looks like Alfalfa. 

Overall it was a pretty alright day. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Concerts and sing alongs

With the end of the school year around the corner, that means it's time for band concerts and sing along at school. 

First up was Olivia's band concert. 
 She's next to the girl in the red skirt. 
 She decided to wear a pretty dress with her Converse. Which apparently is the trend so what do I know. 

They did such a great job and it's been pretty interesting to see how far they've come in just a few months, really. She's going to do flute again next year but thankfully she doesn't sound so bad anymore so I don't mind. I'm surprised at how diligent she's been with practicing, she takes it pretty damn seriously. 
 She was practically beaming after her concert. I can always find her because of her bright pink folder! 

Last week was Jackson's sing along at school and I ended up going by myself. 
 I found his artwork on the wall and I kind of want to frame this, he did such a great job. 
 Is he not a little stud? He definitely is. I'm also grateful he's still short because that means he's in the front row and super easy to find. 
My anxiety got the best of me and I had to leave right after his class was done. They did three songs and were in the middle of the program, and since there wasn't an all school sing a long at the very end like usual I didn't feel awful leaving. I practically ran out of the building and took big gulps of air when I got outside, like I was just in a smoky building. Unreal. I hate that anxiety and panic feel like they take over my life sometimes. 

Now it feels like this school year is really almost done. Next year will be Jackson's last year at elementary school and Olivia will be in the middle of her middle school years. It feels like time is flying by faster than before, probably because days slip past me now. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

It's been one of those days. Or week. Whatever.

I hate the unpredictability of depression. I wish I could predict when I'd be having some bad days and when I'd have some good ones, maybe then I'd feel more productive in life. But none of that happens and I find myself in days and weeks where I just can't care. Here's some of what I'm too tired to care about:

  • I'm waiting for my MRI results of my abdomen. I haven't written about it because I don't want to put the possibilities out into the world until I know what I'm actually dealing with. I'm hoping it's minor and stupid but it could be the opposite of that so I wait. I'm assuming that because it's been almost a week since my MRI that it can't be that bad otherwise they would have called right away. Right? 
  • I am 75% sure that Penelope is going to Head Start/preschool in the fall. Old Sara would feel like a terrible mother for being almost gleeful at sending a child away during the day, and she cried when the big kids went to 4 year old kindergarten for half days. I felt terrible at that but this... I'm nothing if not honest and Penelope is a LOT. She's just a whole lot to handle even on her best days and I'm desperately hoping that preschool will tame the beast, so to speak. I don't know if it's half or full days, I know next to nothing about it other than we qualify and it's just paperwork stuff now. 
  • I'm really tired of feeding my family. Their need to eat meals every day is exhausting me. I'm sick of planning the meals, shopping for the meals, cooking the meals, and cleaning up after the meals. I do all of this for everyone to complain about the meals and I just... I can't care anymore. In fact I don't actually care but I'm going through the motions and I eat nothing. 
  • I can measure my depression in the amount of books I read. When I'm doing well I can fly through books easily but when I'm not I struggle to sit still for any length of time to read. I'm currently in the beginning of two books but I just can't get any further it seems. I hate it. 
  • I am losing patience with people who try to relate their depression to mine. I just want to say they have no idea and need to shut the hell up but I don't because I also don't have the energy to fight back. 
  • I had a nice Mother's Day. Matt got me a wallet to match the fancy purse I bought in a mental health breakdown and I couldn't return and a cookbook. Probably because I was bitching about the meal situation mentioned above. We went out for lunch, we grilled for dinner, and meh. It was fine. 
  • The weather is killing me. One day it's blistering hot and the next it's so cold I wish I owned a jacket that fit me. 
  • I've become paranoid to fill out forms and documents, I'm certain I'm going to miss something or get information really wrong and not catch it or realize it. It's debilitating. I'm constantly certain I've done something wrong, forgotten something, screwed something up beyond fixing, and it's really an awful feeling. 
So those are just a few things rattling around in my head. There are more but I won't put them out there and depress you, too.