Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Another year of dance is in the books. Phew.

I'll be honest, I feel like I really missed out on Olivia's dance season. I'm usually the one to take her to class and pick her up each week but I just couldn't get it together. Matt did it mostly and my dear friend Andrea helped out a few weeks and yeah. I don't know what next year holds because we are currently without a dance teacher and I'm trying to find an affordable plan B in case we need to find somewhere else for her to dance beginning in the fall.

The cool thing is that this year Olivia's dance group were doing five dances in the final recital and damn if my camera is just so crappy and didn't get good pictures. Thankfully others had good pictures with my daughter in them so even better.

Olivia and her best friend Sydney. They met in 4K, though I didn't make the connection until we were already into our first year of dance. I'm so glad dance brought these cuties together.
The first dance they did was Funhouse and they wore the Red Nose Day noses, which was a surprise to us parents. But there's my little miss sass in the middle.
A very cool opportunity came for Olivia's friend Sydney. She had learned a solo to perform at her school talent show and she was able to do it at the recital for everyone. I didn't get any pictures of her dancing, but I did get a picture of her team on the side cheering her on. The greatest thing about this dance team is that these girls really root each other on. They really are the epitome of a team and are so supportive of one another. It's just a really great thing to see. 
I really wanted to get a team photo, but I had to settle for some individual ones. Sydney and Olivia after the final dance, which was a light dance- Olivia's favorite every year.
One of Olivia's teachers, Alli, who dances on a local college dance team is leaving us this year. Her college classes next fall just don't line up with dance and we are going to miss her. Olivia thinks she's just the coolest and in these last two years, Alli has helped all of the girls improve SO much. It's really amazing what an extra 45 minutes each week has done for them all.
Then there's Kim, who has been the lead coach since we started five years ago now. She is SO great with the girls, but she has a lot on her plate as a mama, she works full time, and she is the head coach for a local high school dance team, which we love to watch! I totally get having to scale back on things (I'm in the same boat!) but it's so sad because these girls are so attached to Kim. It was hard to not tear up watching the girls hug her one last time. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Olivia say how sad she is and she's nervous about someone new. But both of these instructors have been so great to really help each girl along, make them each feel special and talented, and it's so refreshing.
Oh but I have to share more because my little flamingo is adorable.
I can recognize those knobby knees anywhere. I truly can.

So yeah. Another great year of dance is in the books. Olivia really wants to be on a dance team in high school so we'll see. I signed her up for a cheerleading camp that starts in August and goes until October. I'm a little worried because the practice time is traditionally when her dance class is, same day and time, so I am kind of hoping if we get a new dance instructor they pick a different day of the week for dance. Otherwise we'll have some big decisions to make.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Crafty Saturday: Popping my Paper Pumpkin Cherry

So I have a slight obsession with Stampin' Up products. I remember when I first started scrapbooking and I had gotten my first catalog, I may or may not have spent $400 on stamps in one sitting.

It was Sell-a-Bration, and I had a party, and I also have zero self control.

Since then I've really reigned in my spending because truly, I've found that I buy things because the sample cards are super adorable, and then I get the set and think- this is out of my wheelhouse. Why did I think I was going to want to color in all of these elements? Or cut these tiny things out? But I become kind of attached to them and have a hard time letting them go, and it's really just a vicious cycle.

One Matt doesn't totally understand, but he knows better than to question my sanity.

But now I have a friend who sells Stampin' Up and I am itching to buy all of the things. My bank account says to not buy all the things, and predictably, the utility company does not care that I didn't pay a bill because I couldn't control myself when cute craft stuff is involved.

They are kind of jerks in that way.

Sometime last year I got back into buying things when I could and by now Stampin' Up has this super fun monthly subscription called Paper Pumpkin. It's a box of goodies which include fun papers, a stamp set, embellishments and instructions on how to make the project. Don't worry- I'm not signed up for it, but sometimes when they have extra boxes you can buy them individually. I decided to try one out, just to see, and I'm so sorry I can't remember what this one was called but you can't get it anymore so it doesn't matter. What does matter is that it was easy and fun.

This kid allowed you to make like 8 cards, I think? The nice thing is that even after you've used the paper and envelopes up, you still have this cute mini stamp set and the stampin' spots (small inks) so you could easily make more with different papers. The instructions were pretty easy to follow and it took me about 20 minutes to put all of the cards together. The other nice thing is that the cards I make are usually very simple with minimal work, so these took me out of my comfort zone a bit with all of the details and pieces you layer together to make a super cute card. Things I wouldn't think to do, but having everything pre-cut and all you have to do is assemble is really nice.

The other great thing about Paper Pumpkin is that it would make for a fun gift for someone. If you have a friend who likes to do crafty things but not a lot of time, this is a perfect little subscription to get them (think birthdays, Christmas, etc). If you are interested in gifting that (I can give you my address if needed... just kidding... kind of) or want to try on your own, go HERE and order. You can subscribe for the monthly kit or click on "past kits" and you can see what is available. The other cool thing is if you get the subscription and decide you really want to make more of a particular item, you can buy a refill kit. Which is really handy, especially on the kits that would be like party favors or such. It's a fun idea if you do classroom or birthday treats and want to look like the over achieving mom. Just saying.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Yes, Please

No, this isn't the book by Amy Poehler. This is a romance book I bought online after seeing an ad for it on Facebook. Don't judge.

Yes, Please - Willow Summers

He won't let anyone close. 

Two rules: No kissing. No falling in love.

The rules are to protect himself. He won't talk about why. 

Hunter Carlisle is looking for a new admin, and he chose me. Filthy rich and sinfully handsome, he's the bachelor everyone wants. But this job isn't just getting him coffee. He wants complete control. Intimately. 

My bank account is nearly empty and rent is due in a week. I need the money, but I don't know if I can follow his rules. I don't know if I can separate duty, from pleasure.

My only defense is saying no, but everything in my body wants to say yes....


I have to say it, I am SO SICK AND TIRED of the same exact story line in romance. I'm a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey and I tolerated Sylvia Day basically ripping off the same story line as well. And then J. Kenner and a ton of other authors who write books at break neck speed with the story line of rich CEO falling for poor female subordinate and blah, blah, blah. I'll read the books because I'm a fan of romance but honest to god-  you would think editors and publicists would beg authors to just get crazy and try something different, but no. No, they don't because it's a quick buck and frankly? It's tiring.

So that's my mini rant.

I have to tell you, I almost didn't finish this book because it starts off incredibly cheesy and just stupid. We begin with our lead female, Olivia, having lunch with her well off friend Kimberly. Olivia is a recent college graduate in a poor economy, can't find a job, basically desperate to take anything that will give her a paycheck so she doesn't wind up homeless. Kimberly tells her about this "admin" position where sure, you do admin work and are challenged but you also have to have sex with the CEO whenever he wants, no strings attached, and then you go about your day.

Cue the eyerolls, I know, I'm there with you.

I kept going because it's on my list of books I wanted to finish in May and it's relatively short at 233 pages, so I knew I would be able to finish this in a night.

Sure enough, like the sucker that I am, I found myself immersed in the book and finished it in just a few hours. I kind of liked Olivia and Hunter.. he wasn't so bad himself. Them together feels good, so knowing this series has four books in it, you know I have already ordered the other three because I can't quit a series. I just can't. Anyways. The story is exactly what you would expect: CEO sees something in lowly subordinate, lowly subordinate finds herself attracted to CEO and wanting more than just a standard contract, CEO is torn and experiencing things he didn't think he would, CEO has a screwed up background, intense sexual encounters and blurred lines.

Overall? It's the standard outline of this kind of book and it doesn't really deviate from it, but it's also a solid read for a romance novel. It's fluff, it's fast, it's easy, you'll enjoy it even if it's a story line you've read multiple times already.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Amazon Welcome Box Review

A few months ago I read on a couponing site about how Amazon has this really cool thing called a Welcome Box if you make a baby registry on their website. Seeing how I have baby number four coming in August, and there are just a few things I'd like to have but don't totally NEED, I decided I would give this a try. I figured even if I got nothing off of it, I'd at least get this super cool free box of samples and goodies.

So I made myself a registry.

Would you be surprised to know that Amazon is tricky about qualifying for the free box? Well, they are. First of all, your registry has to be very specific and you have to have one item for key groups for it to qualify. A pain because with a fourth baby, I really don't need furniture. I put a rocking chair and ottoman on there because the one I use down in the living room that I bought used for $15 is falling apart so really, I need a new one down here. So yay.

Secondly, you have to have Amazon Prime. I signed up for the 30 day trial and I did it mostly for the Amazon Prime for my TV but so far? That's been pretty crap. I really want reality TV shows and Dr. Phil yet nobody gives me that so I'm disappointed. The only perk about Amazon on my TV is that I can get Backyardigans and Bubble Guppies, which I have discovered is amazing only because Penelope will willingly eat vegetables at lunch time while watching either show. Frankly, I'm considering paying the $99 a year just for that alone.

Third, someone has to purchase something for $10 or more off of your registry. It is an absolute fluke that someone bought me a box of diapers (thanks, Ellen!) so I knocked that off of my list. Then I was able to add the box to my cart and check out. And wait for it to come.

It came in about a week, (Really two day Prime shipping? Really?) and it was... lackluster. I honestly thought it was going to be much more awesome given the reviews I read online.
Everything out of the box, this is what I got.
A small bottle (either 5 or 6 ounces, I can't remember), which is OK because that I can use. A bottle of Johnson's Baby Bubble Bath, which I'll use. A small tube of Aquaphor diaper cream which I had gotten in something when Penelope was just born and forgot about it but it worked WONDERS on her face after she was so sick and her face looked like it had diaper rash from all of the mucus coming out, so this stuff is amazing. Some prenatal pills which are HORRIBLE. They are massive and you need to take THREE for a daily dose. This bottle is enough for five days and I'm telling you right now, I have never felt worse in my life. All natural, my ass. I also got a MAM pacifier and a really gross peanut butter and strawberry Kind bar.
 A package of Avent breast pads, which I will need because I leak terribly once my milk comes in and I'm refusing to buy a full box because I know I won't use them, a sample pack of BabyGanics wipes, some kind of Burt's Bee's thing that I threw out..
and two Seventh Generation Free & Clear newborn size diapers.

Overall? I'm kind of disappointed. The box is basically half great and half junk. It's certainly nothing I would pay for, that's for sure. I also think that unless you already have Amazon Prime and you were already going to do a registry on Amazon, this isn't something to go out of your way to do. Frankly, the registry packet you get from Target is far better and at least with that you get some coupons as well and get on their baby coupon mailing list and you'll get coupons periodically. So if you were on the fence, I would go with Target because you can set it up in the store or online, and have all of the conveniences that Amazon does as well. Food for thought.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Little is Left to Tell

Not going to lie, it's the last week in May and I'm a little worried I won't finish the books I wanted to this month. With that, I'm reading as fast as I can in the hopes I can bang out the last two books on my list!

Little is Left to Tell - Steven Hendricks
Readers enter a narrative rabbit hole through bedtime stories that Mr. Fin, a man with dementia, conjures for his long-lost son. Virginia the Wolf writes her last novel to lure her daughter home. A rabbit named Hart Crane must eat words to speak, while passing zeppelins drop bombs. Mr. Fin tries to read the past in marginalia and to rebuild his son from boat parts. The haunting fables in this lyrical first novel trace the fictions that make and unmake us. 

I'll be honest. This book was so damn strange for me that I quit it around page 226 out of 366. I really tried. The fact I got to this point is pretty amazing to myself because it was so bizarre and I feel like I don't have the education level to fully understand and appreciate the book. Here's what I can say: the writing itself is pretty great. The author has spent a lot of time piecing things together in ways that don't totally make sense, yet they do. Secondly, if you're capable and up for entering a totally bizarre, imaginative world- this is your book. I feel like I'm not really great at immersing myself into a story such as this, perhaps because I have so many distractions, but I really struggled. After giving up the book I decided to go and read some online reviews to see if I'm missing something huge at the end, something that would make me want to get there and I saw nothing. In fact some reviews are so bizarre that I honestly wondered if it was a normal, real person writing it. I'm such a fan of Alice in Wonderland that I thought this was going to be a retelling of sorts but no.. not so much. The writing is bizarre like Alice but I feel like I had a really hard time keeping up with the story and figuring out what was real and what was in Mr. Fin's head. But maybe that's the point? Maybe it's supposed to be strange and unclear, like that's an added element to the story? Hmm.

So overall, I didn't like it. I didn't even finish it because I felt like we were going nowhere and I've got over 100 books sitting here to read. Life is too short to force yourself to finish a mediocre book. Sorry, lambs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The flooring project actually happened.

When we moved into our current house three years ago, we knew one of the major things that needed to be done was the flooring situation. We had wall to wall carpet in the dining and living rooms that was gross. It was so, so gross. The listing said "newer" carpet and when we initially looked at it, it was fine.

It was only after you move your stuff in and realize there is a smell to the carpet do you understand that you now have a flooring project on your hands that you didn't anticipate.

You may remember my first post about the carpet and the Lump Under The Carpet, and if you don't, click HERE to read that super fun story. We ended up ripping the carpet up in both the dining and living rooms because there was hardwood under there. After lots of research, and Matt doing copious amounts of math and whatever else he does, we decided it would cost us more money to find the specific type of wood (and bizarre size of the planks used), and renting a sander to refinish the current floors. Which honestly? I was OK with not doing because the logistics of moving ALL of our furniture to other places in the house for several days to properly sand and stain the floors was a project that even I wasn't up for.

Our next option was to put new wood flooring down. We had almost 900 square feet to cover considering we now had to do my office which is off of the dining room because while that floor was decent, it would make the house look weird to have so many different types of flooring. So for consistency sake, we decided my office now had to have the same flooring as the dining and living rooms. It's a lot of stuff.

By absolute chance we were at Home Depot one day and they had a ridiculous sale on a laminate flooring that matched the current trim in the house and they had the EXACT amount of boxes we needed. And I mean exact.

It's basically fate.

Matt went back up there and for $700, bought all of the flooring and padding we needed. We really thought we would be spending well over $1200 for flooring so this was too good of a deal to not take.

I got super excited about the flooring. For a WHOLE MONTH while it sat in the garage.

Here's where we talk about my absolute biggest pet peeve, the thing about Matt that drives me right over the edge sometimes: he has no sense of urgency. Ever. While I appreciate that he can be really "go with the flow" and laid back, I am the absolute opposite. If I have something I know that needs to be done? I do it. I get it done. Start a project? You bet your ass I'm going to finish it. After a month of the flooring sitting there, I finally started hauling the boxes into the house myself and moving furniture and that weekend he got the hint and started. But it's like cripes, man- if we've paid for it, let's DO IT.

(Also? There was a huge gap between the bottom of the trim and the floor because of the carpet that once was there. So Penelope, being an active crawler at this point, was having the time of her life picking at the stuff and insulation behind the dry wall and trying to eat it. I think if he was constantly redirecting a baby from the wall every waking moment, this project would have been done sooner, but because it's me handling it, no big deal. *sigh*)
Anyways. So after moving furniture, the flooring project started. It took him two and a half days and on the first day/night he worked on it for 12 hours. I will insert here that I am over the top grateful that he knows how to do stuff. He just knows, and he knows how to do an amazing job. I often joke he does a way better job for everyone else and half asses it for me but totally not the case with the flooring. It was a trying weekend since Penelope was a bit of a bear, the big kids were home, and absolutely nothing in this house is level or square so he was getting pretty angry at points.
I also have to share this photo of Penelope during the project because her face here basically summed up how we all felt about it. Having your house tore up for any length of time really wears on you. It just really does.

But it's finished. And we re-arranged the furniture getting rid of the ridiculously huge wedge piece of the couch so the couch could be put in a different place. (Which, I remember buying this couch and telling Matt let's not spend money on the wedge. The wedge doesn't matter. He insisted we buy it. Guess what he's really angry that we own? The wedge. Men, the wife is always right.)
 Now our living room looks SO MUCH bigger. And brighter.
Penelope has so much more floor area to play in, and that's been so great. The other bonus is that this year, we can put our Christmas tree literally anywhere else other than in front of the only heat vent in the living room! YAY!
Not a bad shot of the flooring. It's not as dark as I thought it was going to be (yay) and it's not as light as the stuff we picked out in our old house (also a big YAY).
And my office! I decided to not have my desk right under my painting, and have the treadmill in front of it. I have more room but also? I can watch TV from my desk. Oddly enough? I'm way more productive and I don't feel disconnected from everyone else like I did having my back to the door.
I also took this opportunity to show Matt how over full my bookshelves were. But hey- this is my view from my desk!
I have my desk top Edward Cullen doll on my desk, but you see that naked section of wall? After lecturing me about not shoving my bookshelves full of books, he promised he would put more shelves here.

I know. It was exciting. He bought the shelves and brackets that weekend but you know, I had to wait a few weeks before they got put up. *sigh* But they ARE up now and they are SO pretty. My office is basically a library. It is so great. I'll have to take a picture of them so you can see how pretty they are.

Anyways. So the flooring is done. We can cross that off of our list. Things that still need to be done?

  • Roof
  • Windows in front porch
  • Downstairs bathroom upgrade/remodel
  • Kitchen back splash and floor
  • Upstairs carpeting replaced (because it is just as gross as downstairs and every room is a different color)
Obviously? We have a LOT more we want to do. It just all takes time and money, both of which we pretty much don't have. I'd love to do the upstairs carpet but the logistics of moving all of that furniture downstairs? Oh my god. Again, even something I don't want to do. But if we ever re-sell this house, it absolutely has to be done. Has to. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Penelope's First (Legit) Birthday Party

I know Penelope turned one at the end of April but we had her first actual birthday party last weekend. Which is hilarious because that is also the week I decided I would start moving her nap time to the exact time the party was.

Why?

Because I'm a freaking genius. Honestly, you'd think I was a first time mom.

But we improvised, and by that I mean, we made Matt get up with Penelope so that she'd think her nap was in the morning again. This was a genius plan until around 4 p.m. when we all remembered why she needs the afternoon versus the morning nap.

Needless to say, from 4 p.m. until her bed time at 7 p.m. it was a bit of a nightmare.

I have to mention too, that despite knowing her party about a month in advance, I waited until the day before to get her a cake because I can't keep the days of the week straight anymore. I totally forgot to order one and by absolute pure luck, the grocery store had a non-cartoon themed cake on clearance because the next day, her party day, was the "sell by" date. Win.

And you know what? That cake was still damn good. Even though I hate buttercream. Blech.

But we had her party at a local restaurant and decided to order pizza and have some fruit since she likes both of those things. Like a moron, I realized three days before that nowhere in the invitation did I ask people to RSVP so I had zero idea of who was coming so I ended up ordering far more food than I needed to.
I also realized that while doing Penelope's first year book (which I totally finished the night before her party, and that's OK, it's still considered a win, lambs) I hardly have any pictures of her and Matt.
Also, I need to try so much harder at getting pictures of her multitude of hilarious faces. I keep saying she will probably end up an actress because she can do the facial expressions of ten different emotions in the span of a few seconds. It's like Tyra Banks was giving her lessons like on America's Next Top Model or something. 
Penelope enjoyed the cake. She enjoyed the food, as well. She didn't so much enjoy everyone singing happy birthday to her, she actively tried to slide as far down into the high chair as she could.
Lots of super fun gifts, including a baby doll that she adores. She recently started hugging and loving on random stuffed animals and one of Olivia's dolls, so it's nice she has her own. Every morning after we get dressed, she crawls over to her doll and hugs it, then gives it the bottle. It's kind of adorable. She got some cute outfits, puzzle, book, bubbles, water toys, a new handmade sweater and teddy bear, a cool chair, and some other fun toys. I know she won't remember her first few birthdays, and that's OK. I just feel like such a loser for being so depressed this last year and hardly socializing with anyone so admittedly, almost nobody has gotten to know Penelope. And that's fully my fault. I'm going to try really hard to be better with fetus four when she gets here. Hopefully.

So yes. My next birthday to celebrate is Matt's, but that's only a few weeks after I give birth (hopefully) and then it's Olivia's. Which again, I feel bad because we're now in that weird stage where you don't want to "compete" with other families yet you almost feel like you have to? She has gotten invited to some seriously major parties and it's like, what the hell, parents?! So now she has unrealistic hopes for her birthday and I feel terrible. I have to figure out a happy medium that is realistic for a birthday that happens about a month after I give birth. Yikes.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Crafty Saturday: Thank you cards

I was looking through a mommy group I belong to on Facebook this week and the topic of thank you cards came up. I was really surprised at how many people said they don't send them because they are pointless and nobody cares.

That's totally not true. I totally judge you based on whether or not you send a thank you card. I have some friends who never, ever send them and I love them all the same, and I have some who send them for everything and I love it. I love getting any kind of mail that doesn't require me to pay a bill. I think it's especially pertinent when you mail a gift or something to someone not local. Did they get the gift? Did they like it? I feel like it takes less than a minute to write out a simple thank you and it can mean a lot to someone. Sometimes I just have a crap day and getting a thank you puts a smile on my face.

With Penelope's recent birthday, Olivia's dance teachers final year, and some other things we've gotten lately, I realized I was totally out of thank you cards. I made a quick dozen to have on hand because I'm hoping (hint, hint) that I'll get some cute baby gifts soon so I want to have some on hand.
Even better? I'm using up scraps because my box is FULL after finishing Penelope's first year book so it's time I use them up. All of my scraps are basically what I make cards from so it works out perfectly.
I also decided I need to find some more stamps that work with my Stampin Up scallop punches because those are easily my most used punches. I even used up the rest of my green and white polka dot washi tape on the envelopes, because I'm not a fan of naked envelopes. I have this urge to buy more washi tape but alas.. being broke is preventing me from that.

The cards themselves took me maybe 15 minutes to make all dozen of them, and I was able to spend another 15 minutes writing out all 12 cards for thank you's for people. So in half an hour, twelve people will know we got the gift, we love the gift, and we appreciate them thinking of us and being generous.

It's truly the least we can do.

Friday, May 20, 2016

28 weeks

Now that I'm getting bigger, the pregnancy updates are a bit more fun. I mean, I at least feel pregnant versus fat and and sad.

28 weeks

This week I had my glucola test for gestational diabetes and I totally passed. It was a bit harrowing though because it doesn't matter how many times I've done this, you are just never ready for the disgusting drink. You can sip it, you can chug it, it doesn't matter because it's foul and nobody enjoys it. Apparently, Monday was THE day to do this because the waiting room was full of other ladies doing the test at the same time so honestly? We could have clinked bottles and chugged in unison. Instead, clearly a first time mom chugged hers like I have never seen done before and seemed OK. I chugged mine in under two minutes (a personal best) and I was immediately regretting it. Several others followed after me, we all bring out empty bottles and timers back and wait out the next hour before our finger poke to see who was going to get the all clear. 

Within minutes of sitting back down to watch an hour of Flip or Flop on HGTV, I hear the tell-tale noise of someone gagging. I don't look because if I look, I know I will gag and I'm already on the brink so I'm trying to not look, I've started humming to myself to drown out the noise and it's no use. The first one to drink the drink ran to the garbage can and proceeded to throw up. Which is bad enough, but this office is in the lower level of a building so there are no windows to crack and now we all smell her vomit despite the fact a nurse came out to grab the can and change it, and bring her back because she now probably has to come back a different day. 

Sucker. 

But I'm not sitting there breathing through my mouth, face tucked into my sweater, eyes closed, doing everything I can to not vomit in solidarity. I don't do well with bodily fluids anyways but vomit is like my achilles heel. I'll vomit on command if I have to. I just don't do well. It was literally the longest hour of my life. 

Finally I got called back there and it was the best feeling to have clean air. Sure, it smells like band-aids and first aid cream, oddly, but it's better than vomit. I got my finger poke and I'm totally not diabetic. As it turns out, I am anemic, which is basically my normal but I still have to sit through the "how to get more iron into your diet" despite the fact I take a prescribed supplement and eat as many iron rich foods as I can. 

Everything else appears to be right on track, though. I'm developing varicose veins on my legs so I look like I have old lady legs... at age 34. It's super cute. She said they might go away but probably not so just enjoy them. Awesome. Other than that, cervix is still closed (yay!) and things are fine. Fetus four hardly moves at all, which apparently isn't concerning to my doctor at all, but it's kind of a let down for me. I really enjoy feeling the baby move, kick, push, all of that and the fact that this is my last pregnancy (no, seriously, it is), I'd really like to be able to enjoy that. But... apparently not. My only hope is that maybe I have just a super chill baby and this won't be such a nightmare when she's born? 

She's still nameless. We have it narrowed down to two ideas, though: 

Eloise Barbara James
Lucy Louise James

After a quick Facebook poll, we eliminated Sophia even though it was popular among Facebook voters. I decided I don't like writing a cursive S, so it's out. 

We're firm on the middle names, it's just the first name we're stuck on. We're 50/50 on Eloise or Lucy so yeah. Thoughts? What's your vote? Fetus four cannot be named Fetus Four and my mom would like me to stop referring to the baby as fetus four, so help us out. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lit Cube: Through the Looking Glass, May

I know. I can feel your judgment through the internet, lambs. I know I said I was going to cut back and I was going to just say no to book boxes but truly. I tried. I tried REALLY HARD.

We can all blame LitCube because their theme for May was Through the Looking Glass and you know I love Alice in Wonderland and I just... I couldn't even help myself.

I had a mini freak out moment on Monday when I seen that people were getting their boxes and I never got a tracking number for my box, and I panicked that maybe I missed the deadline. Thankfully, I'm just a whackadoodle and my box came on Tuesday. And it's gloooooooorious.

Let us all just take a minute and hold the squeal we want to let out for just a minute longer. And now LET IT OUT.

The box itself contains two 5x7 prints (by Star in my Pocket, $12.99 value), a super delicious cookie by Sweets by Steph ($2.50 value), a shirt with one of my favorite lines ever ($19.95 value), and a adorable bookmark, also a Star in my Pocket item ($3.25 value)...
a super cute makeup bag which is exclusive to this box ($12.99 value)...
an exclusive Through the Looking Glass pocket mirror ($8.99 value)... 
and of course, the book Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D. Hammons ($18.99 value) which came with a letter from the author. Admittedly, the problem I've always had with LitCube is that the books are either unexpectedly really good or they are so bad that they end up in my did-not-finish pile. This one has some pretty mediocre reviews on Goodreads, with more than a few people saying they didn't even finish it, so I'm worried. It's combining the classic story of Alice along with Disney characters so it sounds sketch as hell. I guess we'll find out. I probably won't get to this in May, more likely in June, but we'll see. It's not very long so maybe I can fly through it. Either way, I'll let you know. I feel like if LitCube just bit the bullet and went with books that are mainstream and popular and/or anticipated, this box would be ridiculously over the top amazing. The swag is always so great and fun.. it's the books that are so damn hit or miss.

The next theme is Roaring 20's and no lie, I'm worried but I'm in. Dammit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Out Rider

Somehow in the night, my laptop automatically updated to Windows 10 and it is really making me unhappy. So bear with me and let us all hope this post looks OK once it's published because nothing looks the same.

I shake my fist at you, Microsoft!

Out Rider (Jackson Hole #11) - Lindsay McKenna

With her return to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, New York Times bestselling author Lindsay McKenna shows how love can find a way out of the darkness… 

A fresh start—that's all Devorah McGuire wants. As a former Marine and current Ranger with the US Forest Service, she's grown accustomed to keeping others safe. But when the unthinkable happens, she can only hope that a transfer to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will allow her to put the past behind her for good. 

Dev's mentor at Grand Tetons National Park is fellow canine handler and horseman Sloan Rankin. He shows Dev the spectacular trails, never knowing the terror that stalks her every move. Despite her lingering fear, Dev feels an attraction for Sloan as wild as their surroundings. 

With Sloan, Dev can envision a new life—a real home. Unless a vengeful man fresh out of prison succeeds in finishing what he started… 


I don't care how many books I read, what genres I read, or how much I love a certain book- romance is and will always be my absolute favorite genre. I'll read just about anything within that, except historical is kind of meh for me, but I'm not turning it down when I'm in the mood. Yes, I realize so many readers roll their eyes when you say romance is your favorite but I really don't care. It's always entertaining, I always fly through them, and I just really adore Harlequin. It's probably best I don't work for Harlequin because I know I would get literally nothing done. Not a stinking thing.

But let's talk about this book.

You should know going into this that I haven't read any of the other Jackson Hole books but you can bet your bottom I'll be ordering some soon. I've read a few books by Lindsay McKenna and I really enjoyed her writing style so when I was offered this to review I absolutely jumped on the chance because believe it or not, NONE of my local book stores carry her books. NONE. NONE, I tell you. Not even Barnes & Noble, which is a rant for another day so I rely on online ordering to get her stuff and I'm terrible because I often forget. I'm getting old and these babies are eating my brain, I just know it.

I absolutely loved Out Rider. It's a modern time, western romance kind of. It's set in the Grand Tetons National Park and our heroine, Dev, works in the forestry service as someone who essentially finds you (with her dog, Bella) should you wander from your camp site. She's moved there for a fresh start after a hellacious experience at her previous assignment where she was attacked and almost raped by a co-worker, after being stalked. Her supervisor basically did nothing, so reeling from the trauma of that in addition to her time as a Marine (You see where this is going? Because military romance is  my FAVORITE so I love the cross over here.), has made her a bit jumpy and more reserved when it comes to men.

Enter Sloan, not a pretty boy but handsome in a rugged, works hard kind of way. Also a veteran but from the Army branch, he has built a life doing work for the forestry service but also as a farrier in the area, but is fresh off of a divorce from a really terrible marriage. He's reserved by nature but he's leery to start a romance, even with Dev, based on his experience.

Things are moving swimmingly, Sloan is showing Dev the ropes and knowledge of the Grand Tetons but nothing is as it seems. Dev's stalker, Bart Gordon, has followed her unbeknownst to her, and plans revenge on her after she got him fired from his previous job. This book reminds me so much of Linda Howard books, and she is hands down my favorite author, so I devoured this book in a matter of hours. I want anything and everything Lindsay McKenna does because I really enjoy her writing, I love how she crafts a story, I love how we're mixing subgenres, and if you're in the mood for a decent little romance, you've got it. You don't need to read any of the other Jackson Hole books to read this one, they very much are stand alone and I think you'll enjoy it.

You can find your own copy of Out Rider on Amazon right now and it's under $8 for the mass paperback. What a steal. In the meantime, check out Lindsay McKenna's extensive writing catalog on her website to find some other books of hers you'll love as well. You can also follow Lindsay on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with new books!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Connected Underneath

I have so many posts for you this week, including Penelope's for real birthday party and my 28 week update, but I haven't felt super great and I'm just... I'm overwhelmed with life, lambs. So we're going to pretend today is really the start of the week because I dropped the ball yesterday. Whoops! But let's start the week off with a book review, shall we? 

Madena, New York. A small town like any small town: everybody keeps an eye on everybody else's business, nobody recognizes the secrets that connect them.

Teenage Persephone trades sex for the tattoo sessions that get her high enough to forget that her girlfriend doesn't love her and she isn't sure she loves her dad. Theo used to be the high-school bad boy who could never have the respectable girl he adored from afar now he owns the last video store in town and worries wretchedly about the daughter he never understood. Natalie, trying so hard to grasp the last shreds of respectability, would do anything to forget the baby she gave up long ago, including betray the baby's father. And wheelchair-bound Celeste who has never had a life, desperate to connect, watches and makes up stories and finally understands that things have gone terribly wrong and she stands at the heart of disaster.

Connected Underneath is a lyrical, scalpel-keen dissection of ties that bind and those that cannot hold. 

What a perfect book if you're really in the mood for a short story. It's not a short story per say, but it comes in at 195 pages so I flew through this in the evening while Matt watched his dreaded Star Trek on Netflix. 

Admittedly, this book is kind of... strange. It's narrated by Celeste, who is wheel chair bound but hasn't always been that way. It's been a gradual deterioration of the leg function, and her aide says she really needs to get out more. Celeste isn't inclined to do that since she has an entire world she watches through the vent in her kitchen. She sees Persephone, who is adopted by Theo, and she never knew her birth mother. She's pretty sure she's a lesbian, but she has sex with a man in exchange for tattoos all over her body, which is a really bizarre form of self mutilation for her (kind of). Little does Persephone know, her mother is closer to home than she realizes, and Theo made a promise to mom Natalie to never reveal her identity. Which is just really sad that after all this time, Theo still lets that woman walk all over him with nothing in return but yet- here we are. 

What's really strange about this book is that it isn't one that I would have picked up and devoured based on the cover, but yet... the story is kind of bizarrely addicting. It's like how we spy on our neighbors to see what's going on. We might not know but based on what we see we form an opinion and go with it. Celeste sees herself like Persephone but they go about their journey to feel anything in totally opposite ways. I finished this book in just a couple of hours because I want to know what happens to Celeste and Persephone. Even from early on in the book you feel like we're working up to something big, like a train wreck that you know you're coming up on and you can take a detour but you find yourself driving towards it anyways. I have to say, this would be an EXCELLENT pick for a book club. There is so much meat to this story, so many what if's and discussion points, that despite it being a shorter book you could really discuss this for awhile. 

You can find your own copy of Connected Underneath on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. Linda Letgers also has a website you can peruse, too. I'm really interested to see what she does for her next book because this one was written really well and you felt like you were sitting right there with Celeste at her table, listening to her recount the neighborhood gossip. Those are the books I adore, the ones I forget I'm only reading and not listening to in real time. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Don't eat the pods, kids.

I saw this on the news a few weeks back, and it wasn't the first time. Children dying, or in the very least, being poisoned after eating laundry pods. You know what I'm talking about, those super convenient square pillow pods, sometimes with colorful detergent and sometimes just a weird chalk consistency, that we use to do our laundry.

Yes, apparently kids eat these.

Every time I see or hear news stories like this, I always wonder how does this actually happen? And I say that knowing that there are some kids who are just little terrors. They climb, they crawl, they get into everything. Absolutely everything. Jackson was very much that kid, I ended up taking all baby gates down by the time he was 7 months old because he had already learned to climb up and over them. Frankly, it was more of a risk to have them up than it was to let him slide down the stairs on his belly. But that was a calculated risk I took because I figured carpet burn was easier to treat than a head injury. Jackson was also my marker sucker, Play-Doh eater, dandelion eater, if it even looked kind of like an edible, he gave it a whirl.

But never in all of my eleven years of being a parent, have I had a child get into cleaning supplies. Never, ever. Even in my old house where none of the cabinets shut or worked properly, so you couldn't have child safety mechanisms on it. Not even in my old house where the laundry room was right off of the kitchen but was also the utility room with the gas furnace and water heater. I have always had pets and the only child who has tried to eat dog food was Penelope but now that she realized that isn't very tasty, she's over it. She doesn't even mess with the water dish. Why?

Because I told her no. I told her no, and I meant it. I don't have to spank her, or slap her hand, no means no. The one thing I can say is I learned from my mom how to be the master of diversion. It's a skill I find still works even with my ten and eight year old, but is really the best with smaller kids.

Anyways, back to pods.

I don't get it. I really don't. Even with Penelope, who plays so well by herself quietly with toys, but will shoot off like a dark towards something- no issues. She's one, so she's really at the age where I expect her to test boundaries and try to discover new things because she's curious. But there is never a time where she is not in my sight. Never. I always know where she is, what she's doing. She's almost never not in the same room as me. Fortunately our downstairs area isn't really open concept, but it's a sprawling space that goes room to room so even if I'm in the kitchen, I can see her clear into the living room. I wouldn't even call myself a helicopter parent, I just know what's going on. Anything that could potentially hurt her is so high up that even I need a step stool to get it sometimes. I don't have child locks on my cabinets and I don't even have outlet covers because she's always been taught no. Nope, totally not a play/fun area, but hey look- this corner has a super fun toy. And that's what she does.

It's horribly tragic to see kids get sick and even die because of something stupid. Something that was 100% preventable. It really is, it'll never not be, and I'm sure those parents feel immeasurable guilt. I know I would. But now the trend is to of course, sue the laundry pod manufacturers because the pods look too appealing to small children. Which is absolutely ridiculous.

You now what else is appealing to small children?

Cat fur. Dog food. Shoes. Any kind of garbage on the floor. Wrappers. Folded laundry. Phones. Balloons. And the list goes on because literally EVERYTHING, except vegetables and vaccinations, is appealing to small children. We can't sue a company because they make something kids think looks neat and want to put in their mouth. Here's a fun fact- taste is a huge learning tool small children use to learn about things around them. Which is why they want to lick a shopping cart, windows, the dog's tail, your car keys, the bottoms of their shoes, etc. It's all very disgusting and you and I would never think to lick a shopping cart at Walmart. Never, ever, but kids do because it's metal, cold, shiny, and weird. So instead of suing a company, perhaps we need to just watch our children. If something looks like a kid would like to lick and/or eat it, put it up high. Take some responsibility for your crappy moment in parenting and realize we all have them. It doesn't matter who you are, even the greatest parents of them all have a few moments where they would have done something differently. Sometimes it has awful consequences, and sometimes it doesn't, but we all have those moments. It doesn't make you the worst parent in the world, it makes you a parent who needs to do better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Father's Day

You know what I realized? I realized that I don't really read a lot of books written by male authors. Is that weird? I feel like that's weird, like I'm being sexist without knowing it. Weird observations I make while reading in the middle of the night.

Father's Day - Simon Van Booy
The moving story of an orphaned girl named Harvey and the troubled uncle who raises her—an unforgettable tale of loss and redemption from the author of The Illusion of Separateness

At the age of six, a little girl named Harvey learns that her parents have died in a car accident. As she struggles to understand, a kindly social worker named Wanda introduces her to her only living relative: her uncle Jason, a disabled felon with a violent past and a criminal record. Despite his limitations—and his resistance—Wanda follows a hunch and cajoles Jason into becoming her legal guardian, convinced that each may be the other’s last chance.

Moving between past and present, Father’s Day weaves together the story of Harvey’s childhood and her life as a young woman in Paris, as she awaits her uncle’s arrival for a Father’s Day visit. To mark the occasion, Harvey has planned a series of gifts for Jason—all leading to a revelation she believes will only deepen their bond.

With extraordinary empathy and emotional impact, the award-winning writer Simon Van Booy has crafted a simple yet luminous novel of loss and transcendence, second chances and forgiveness: a breakthrough work from one of our most gifted chroniclers of the human heart.
 


Right away I have to tell you something that almost made this a stop reading within the first 50 pages because it's a trend I see more and more in books and it drives me CRAZY. Stop adding fluff. The first twenty pages or so describe Harvey as a child and her relationship/home life with her parents, who ultimately die in a car wreck, which is basically the start of the story. That's all fine. Then we get to the "Twenty Years Later" and Harvey is all grown up. She's gone to college, she's started her career, she's living in Paris and it's just page after page of nothing about Paris and her living there. What the streets and buildings look like, her commute to and from work, all of this.

NOBODY CARES.

It adds nothing to the story, It could all be taken out and literally start with Harvey picking up Jason at the airport for a Father's Day visit because I found myself flipping though all of that and not reading it. Did I miss any story? No. So stop it, authors. Stop it with your fluff. I don't know you have a word or page minimum to fill but it's horrible and it turns so many readers off if they have to plow through useless crap to get to the meat of the story.

Which is all a really long way of telling you to NOT give up on this book. I know, there's fluff and it kind of gives you more fluff periodically in the book, but just skim it. Truly, because the meat of this story is so great and so endearing, I'm really worried people are going to give up and miss out on such a heart tugging story. Because that's what it is. It's really great.

Harvey, orphaned at age six after her parents tragically die in a car accident, is shuffled between teacher's homes until a permanent home can be found for her. Unorthodox social worker Wanda meets Harvey's uncle Jason, who by all first impressions, is not the ideal candidate to adopt a child. He's been to prison for assault, he kind of lives off the system but makes money on the side, his house is a mess, and he doesn't really have clear direction in his life. Nothing about him or his lifestyle scream, "excellent parental candidate", yet Wanda has a gut feeling that this is the fit. Eventually Wanda gets Jason to agree to take Harvey in and from there, both Jason and Harvey's lives change. Jason finds a purpose and clarity to his life, Harvey sees the world in a different light than what her parents gave her, and they both become inseparable. Harvey struggles being in Paris knowing Jason, her dad, is on the other side of the world and she wonders if he's doing OK without her. Will she be OK without him? Not to mention, Harvey learns a secret that is what propels you through this book to the ending which is just.. I don't want to say much to give it away but man. I teared up a little. But the entire bulk of the book is Harvey giving Jason small tokens for his Father's Day gift, but each token is a memory of their lives together, and so we flip between present day and then memories of the past.

But what really just yanked at my heart with this book was my own relationship with my step dad, who for all intents and purposes, is my dad. My biological dad is a hot mess and was never capable or willing to be a father to me or my brother. But my step dad came in, was good to my mom, was good to us, and just took that role on though he didn't have to. I think now that I have my own kids, I have a better understanding of what that means and I can't imagine a world without him in it. The book itself highlights that it doesn't matter who your blood is, it's the people who are there, day in and day out, doing the work. The good, the bad, the ugly. That's what counts.

I highly encourage you to read this book, especially if you have a step parent, because I think you'll just get so much from it. Either way, a really great book. You can find your own copy of Father's Day on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as always. In the meantime, learn more about author Simon Van Booy on his website, Facebook, and Twitter!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Out with April, in with May

Someone suggested I make a recap of what I read in one month and my plan for the current month. Which, genius little lamb, genius. So I'm going to do that. In case you miss one of my reviews, or you're looking for something to read and don't want to go through each post, I'll do a recap with links and if a cover jumps at you- check it out.

That's right, I'm advocating judging a book by its cover. I totally approve.

Here are my April reads:

The Summer of Me: Single mother with two kids given a summer to basically find herself and give herself some direction for the future. Fun beach read!
The Outliers: First in a series, already optioned for a movie about a teen who may or may not have special abilities. She's on the quest to find her friend who has mysteriously disappeared. Everything gets crazy and nothing is as it seems.
Whisper If You Need Me: A cute teen romance novel about a girl who very much doesn't want to go to camp, but realizes camp isn't so bad with a hottie counselor.
Rules for 50/50 Chances: Fun YA book about a girl who may or may not have Huntington's disease and her dilemma on whether she should find out or not.
300 Days of Sun: If you liked Beautiful Ruins, you'll really like this one.
The House by the Lake: A present day novel that weaves in a historical story of Germany during the Nazi regime.
The Decent Proposal: A funny romantic novel about an LA based romance kindled by a deal, not love so much.

Lords of the Underworld 1 & 2: If you are a fan of paranormal romance, you need this series in your life. These are the first two, many others are already published so you can easily continue.
The Heartless City: The start of a series, a twist on Jekyll and Hyde, with a YA romance thrown in. It's a fast read!
A Mind of Your Own: An in depth look at non-medication ways to work on yourself, your depression, and how your entire physical health can be transformed.

Quite a few books I managed to get through last month! Now for May I shortened my "absolute need to get through" list because I think if I set the bar too high it won't happen. But if I can get through these with time to spare, I'll pick a few books off my shelf. Speaking of, I got new shelves last weekend and I found that I have a LOT (and I'm talking maybe 50) books on my shelf that I have not read. But don't tell Matt. So my goal is to really get through a lot of these in the coming months.
So here is my reading pile for May. The only ones that are not for already scheduled reviews is Yes, Please and Drowning to Breathe. The rest I am doing for review and you'll see those soon. I do have a couple of review books for May that aren't pictured here simply because I haven't received them, but I think you'll find quite a few of these being recommended for your summer reading lists, so stay tuned!