Monday, April 24, 2017

Lucky Broken Girl (review)

*This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all thoughts are my own.*

I know I've said it before, but I really enjoy reading book geared toward young readers, perhaps because I'm a mom of two kids in the 8-12 age group, but maybe more so because books were everything to me as a kid. I am always hopeful that I can find a book and give it to the right child and that's the one that starts a life long passion of reading.

Lucky Broken Girl - Ruth Behar

Based on the author's childhood in the 1960s, a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. 

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro's Cuba to New York City. Just when she's finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood's hopscotch queen, a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie's world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger. She comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.

Easily the best thing about the book is the writing, it's written in the voice of a young Ruth and it reads as if a child her age actually is writing it. The book starts off with acquainting you with Ruthie and her family, a Jewish family having just immigrated from Cuba in the 1960's. Her mother is having a difficult time adjusting to life in America and relies on Ruth to translate English to Spanish for her. Ruth also has her own issues, at first being relegated to the "dumb class" she works so hard to get transferred to the "smart class". Finally, finally just as things are looking up for her, Ruth and her family are involved in a horrific car accident that leaves her in a body cast. Her mother begins to resent her because she becomes Ruth's primary care provider since they cannot afford a home nurse, and Ruth struggles with depression and anxiety.

It's an absolutely tragic story with a beautiful outcome that gently teaches children about tragedy, the vulnerability of life, persistence, and grief. It also highlights the cultural differences in America and what the challenges immigrant children face. I also loved the sheer optimism of Ruth's family about the opportunities America  holds for them. You can do anything, it's America! It's something so many of naturally born citizens take completely for granted, and I really appreciate this author showcasing that.

If you have a kiddo in grades 2-5 who enjoy reading, or perhaps they are an immigrant themselves, I highly recommend this book. It's a great selection to have as a classroom read and ask students what they think about Ruth's story, between her difficulties in school, her injury, and her fears as she recovers.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mommy Awards 2017

A few months ago I had heard about this local event called the Duluth Moms Blog Mommy Awards 2017. Immediately, I wanted to go because it's an excuse to get out of the house, maybe meet some new moms, and get to know more about the Duluth Moms Blog group, which is relatively new, only launching in November 2016.

I was originally going to go with my good friend Amber but as it turns out, she's got a bum knee and was having surgery the same night as the event. Instead, I invited my new friend Nina because like me, she hardly gets out and splurging on herself is completely unheard of. So we went for dinner and almost missed the event entirely because we have so much in common. We weren't even fashionably late, we were actually dead last. Like, the door was locked and we had to knock last. HA!

And I'm not going to write about all of the details because the Duluth Moms Blog did an amazing job with their post, but I'll talk about the moment where I almost peed myself.

When we came in, everyone had done the tour and mingled, cake was already eaten, and we were coming in basically as awards were being given. Proof that my memory is horrendous is the fact that I had no idea how you would get nominated for an award so imagine MY surprise when my name was called for the "I Showered Two Days in a Row" award.
Joke is on THEM, though because I have not done that in over eight months. I got a certificate (which I am absolutely going to frame because I'll take any positive affirmations I can get) and some wine. Which.. I gave that to the person who actually nominated me, my friend Amber. I don't drink at all and Amber is a fan of wine, so I figured I'd bring it over along with a meal as she recuperates.
We took a group photo outside of Glensheen, courtesy of JaneCane Photography.
And of course, got one with my date, Nina.

I don't know what the qualifications were to get this award, and I haven't seen what Amber wrote, but it was a sweet surprise nonetheless. Thank you, dear friend. Thank you.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Adventures with four: month seven

Everything from this post is from March, which ended up being a HARD month for me mentally. I didn't realize turning 35 was going to be a "thing" for me because I'm not that person who cares about their age at all. I went on a trip with my friend Tammy (more on that later), and I.... I don't know. It was hard. Here were entries out of my journal: 
Came back from my trip. I'm in pain, absolutely everything on and in my body hurts and this is what I come home to. It only affirms that if I died, everyone in this house would be dirty and naked. The level of pissed off cannot be measured. The entire house is a freaking wreck. I can barely keep up as it is and now they want me to perform miracles. Sometimes I hate my family.
Penelope is so... tough. She's an absolute love bug some days but others she is so emotionally and physically draining. I'm not equipped to handle this. Lucy is great, though. She's pretty easy and that might be because she knows full well I can't handle everyone in melt down mode at once. Bless her little heart. But we have officially given up on thinking Lucy can share a room with Penelope. We've moved the crib into our room and it's just draining. I just want a solid night of sleep.
Penelope is the family animal whisperer. At least she thinks she is. She mostly hugs them a lot and tries to stick their tails in her ear. They don't enjoy it but they know surely she can't keep up with this forever. Right?
Lucy is starting to enjoy food. I gave up around month six for her and we're slowing starting back into it. She seems far more eager for the foods that smell the worst. Lucky us.
She also gets excited so easily. She'll shake her little hands, give us this face, and sometimes try to bounce on her bottom. She's officially too big (and heavy) for the swing so Matt moved it out of the living room.
Sometimes in the morning, on the days when I have the hardest time actually becoming mobile and getting up and at 'em, I just bring Lucy into bed with me and try to doze off. It never works as I'm paranoid I'm going to roll her off the bed but I try anyways.
Oh Penelope. You're lucky this poor dog is as tolerant as he is. Truly.
Nobody loves ice cream like Penelope does. She'll keep saying "eat" and "more" as if she's yelling at herself to shovel it in faster.
My friend Cassandra had her birthday. I tried to send a birthday greeting, this was the best I got. Lucy eating cardboard and Penelope saying "cheese" with her damn eyes closed. Sometimes you just accept that terrible is the best you're going to get.
Weekends are the hardest. Matt goes to work and I am here with all four on my own. I'm not in any way qualified to do this. I don't work in a day care for a reason, and I never wanted four kids for a reason. I can't even call it controlled chaos anymore.
Don't let Penelope's face fool you, she was just excited about this walk as Lucy was. It's still chilly here, I don't care what anyone says, but I'm trying. I've discovered even simple walks, which used to be so great for me, are so hard. I always feel like I'm going to just collapse and then I hurt so bad I can barely move the next day. It's tiring to be falling apart like this.

Check back tomorrow when I talk about the Duluth Mommy Blog Awards and how I walked away with one. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

No Getting Over a Cowboy (review and giveaway)

* I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and this post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all thoughts are my own.*

Who is up for a western romance? I think I speak for us all when I say, yes please.

No Getting Over A Cowboy - Delores Fossen

There are plenty of things Garrett Granger hadn't counted on losing—his child to miscarriage, his wife to another man and the family business thanks to a crooked CFO. He also hadn't counted on moving back to the family ranch, where he's met by another surprise—former flame Nicky Marlow, who is renting his grandmother's old house.

Nicky's been rebuilding her shattered life since her husband's death two years ago. But Garrett's timely arrival in Wrangler's Creek doesn't automatically make him the missing piece of the puzzle. Even if he does seem to adore her two-year-old daughter… Even if seeing him again stirs up old feelings Nicky would gladly keep buried, forcing her to wonder if moving forward has to mean leaving everything behind…

I am such a fan of Delores Fossen because her books are always a guarantee and you'll always wait eagerly for the next one and this is no exception. Also true to form, while this is part of the Wrangler's Creek novel series, it's a stand alone. It's book two, but you aren't going to be lost because she does a good job giving you what you need from the first book to fully enjoy this one. No worries! 

I can honestly say that I have read a LOT of books but the story line of a male lead character struggling with the loss of not just his wife (to another man) but his child (to miscarriage) is one I can't easily recall in any book, so right away I was hooked on this one because FINALLY, a new to me story line! I feel like, especially with the romance genre, the same story is just retold in different slight variations over and over again, and I think that's why the genre sometimes gets a bad rap. 


The book takes kind of a hilarious turn (which isn't funny, but kind of is if you're mentally picturing this) but just as Garrett returns to Wrangler's Creek, he discovers the place is rented it out to some widows. But of course, not just any, enter Nicky- she's reeling from the death of her husband while trying to single parent her daughter. Enter all of the cliche relationship hangup's you'll find in a romance, but also, it's sweet. And heart breaking. Garrett looks at Nicky's daughter and can't help but draw comparisons to what his child would have been like, what it would have been like to be a dad and a loving husband, to have that family unit. I really adored Garrett and maybe because he's just a decent guy dealt a crap deal in life. 

So not only do we have this, but a skeleton shows up and the scene needs to be processed, enter chaos. I found myself laughing at the hilarity of it all, this small house, all of these widows, a few kids, Garrett, and his mom- it's just a lot for anyone to handle, let alone Garrett. Delores Fossen always does such a great job at bringing you an entertaining story with a solid romance with it. I would honestly market this towards chick lit fan groups as well because for me that was what made this book such a gem- it's a good time read for sure. 

One lucky reader has the chance now to win not just a regular copy, but a SIGNED COPY of No Getting Over A Cowboy! In the meantime, I highly encourage you to check out Delores Fossen's website, Facebook, and Twitter! She is one of my go-to authors and I think you'll enjoy her as much as I do! 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Adventures with four: month six

I am absolutely horrific when it comes to updating you all on life with Lucy. I know I was pretty great about it with Penelope but I can barely remember when I ate last so the fact I even remember at all is something, lambs. 

I am fully aware that it is currently mid-April, but all of these pictures are from February, which is when Lucy was six months and Penelope was... something. I can't do the math in my head. But let's recap what I have written in my journal about life in February: 
My mom still comes every day  to help me with the babies. She brings the older kids to and from school, comes back and sits with me at least until I get Penelope in for a nap, then she drops the kids off after school. The time she spends with me is a LOT and I know it's an absolute pain. I know it really sucks to basically be caring for your adult daughter and her gaggle of kids. I know it, and it sucks. I don't feel good about it. I feel like my depression is getting worse. I feel like I am never enough.
Lucy is so great. She really is so great. She's adorable and I want to squeeze her all of the time. She is easy and laid back and it's like she knows she has to take it easy with me.
She is so happy. I always think I can't feel awful when I'm around her because she is always smiling.
Penelope is now at the age where she is a beast. Her in-utero nickname of Master P has been officially earned. She rules the roost here and some days it's all I can do to get myself to bedtime. But for every really hard and awful day there are those where she is an absolute love bug and all she wants is to snuggle. And I love it.
I can tell that Penelope and Lucy are going to be great friends. I think Penelope is going to be a bossy comedian, and Lucy will just take it, but it's going to be a cute friendship.
This one sums up life with these two. Penelope is always a comedian and Lucy is always slightly concerned for her safety or questioning if they should be doing this.
I don't have anything about Jackson this month, but Olivia is amazing. She is such a great help and has changed her first diaper. She refuses to change a poop one, which I don't blame her, but pee? This girl has it. And I don't care, I'll take any help I can get.
I'm gaining weight. The medications are wreaking havoc on my body and I feel so disgusting. I'm at my heaviest ever. Lucy doesn't care though. As long as I continue to bounce on the ball for her to fall asleep, she's fine.
Penelope has now become obsessed with hair. She really enjoys trying to brush  my hair. It's only a matter of time before I start running errands with a comb stuck in my hair.
Lucy can officially sit! Every baby has become an independent sitter at six months. I appreciate their collective consistency on this. The poor girl inherited her mother's thunder thighs so sometimes she just falls over simply because she's so damn round. But she's at least happy about the new view of the world .
Days are hard. Days are so long. I dread being alone with the kids. I am really struggling. I don't know if counseling is even working or just making me worse. But I also can't handle not going, it's become a beacon of hope, those appointments.

There it is, folks. My February update. Check back the rest of this week and I'll have a March update and a few other catch up posts. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Let the unpacking begin.

We told the kids that we weren't moving after all. To say they were upset and disappointed is a complete understatement. I'm still so angry about the entire process. Maybe I'm too nice of a person but it feels so morally wrong to accept two offers on a house, I don't care what kind of financial problems you're having, don't set someone else to deal with your crisis.

But alas, as it turns out, people being rude and selfish isn't a new thing and it's not something we'll see the end of, so I suppose we just deal.

I'm also absolutely sick of hearing people say "something better will come along" or whatever else people say to placate you so they feel better that they said something positive. I respect people who are fully honest like me and just say how it is- a house that had location, size, was handicap accessible/ready, and four bedrooms with potential for five in that price range is never going to happen again. That was it. It needed enough work to ensure they'd never get more for it in that state, but it wasn't anything Matt couldn't work his magic on.

The great thing about being in therapy is that I'm learning that it is 100% OK to acknowledge when things are shit, and it's totally OK to be angry. As it turns out, I'm completely angry.

But alas, I'm supposed to try breathing exercises to not let the anger manifest into something else, which (shocker) doesn't work. I just feel winded and tired after. Then I'm angry that I can't even doing stupid breathing exercises without feeling tired.

I also am learning that throughout the entire process of living with a mental illness is that nobody knows what to do with you. Everyone absolutely means well, and I recognize that. I feel like a jerk when I realize all of the things that are driving me crazy now are things I am absolutely guilty of doing myself and I am so apologetic. Truly. If I ever came across as condescending to you or that I didn't put weight to your words, I apologize. It never came from a place of ill will, but a place of ignorance. But here's a list of things people keep suggesting to me:
  • Vitamins. Yes, I know vitamins are helpful. For most people. I cannot take just any vitamin, herbal supplement, etc. My body chemistry is actually damaged. It's not even just serotonin levels for me, but I have no functioning pituitary gland so I have to fully rely on synthetic everything. I have to be extremely careful what I take, when, dosages, etc because even the slightest ripple can make a huge impact on my entire body. 
  • Exercise. Yes, I would LOVE to exercise. I want to. I'm gaining weight at an alarming rate because of the steroids I have to take in order to live, and I'm definitely not happy with where I am. But I also can't just get up and go. I take a medication that actually enables me to get out of bed and move, but it takes time for that to kick in. You know how during the day you feel your body get sluggish and tired but then you get a second wind? I don't get a second wind. You get that because your pituitary gland gives your body a shot of cortisol and everything gears up to go. I don't get that anymore so when I get sluggish I just start shutting down. I can take an extra dose of my medicine but I'm encouraged to get used to taking the smallest dose possible without feeling sick. Because if I don't take the medicine, or enough, I feel like I'm getting the worst flu of my life. The kind where you think, "This is it, I'm going to be featured as someone on the evening news who dies of the flu... in June". Everything on my body hurts, I can hardly move, even my eye lids hurt and blinking is excruciating. Same thing with the exercise. If I over do it? It's the same effect as not taking my medicine. 
  • Weed. It's almost become comical because it's countless people I know in real life, random people in the waiting rooms at the endocrinologist especially oddly enough, it's Internet doctors with a medical degree from Google, it's a lot. A LOT. And I just.. you know, if that works for you, more power to you. Truly. I have gotten to the point where I just can't even argue anymore and I just nod my head and shut up. It's not worth it. But in my head you bet I can believe I'm screaming because weed is not going to make my body produce any hormones. None. The mechanism that does that is 100% broken. Will it help for mental health? Honestly no because I'm as law abiding as they come so the stress of that alone would send me over the edge. But also, and I know this is wrong but I can't help it because it's just an ingrained belief I've had since little kid days, but I do not believe in getting high (or drunk) in any capacity as a way to deal with your problems. It's stupid and I don't care. I know a few people who use medical marijuana and aren't walking around like your high school stoners but it's not for me. That and my brain functions at an alarmingly slow speed as it is, nobody needs that to get any worse. 
  • Oils, salt lamps, and some kind of weird rocks people carry. I just.. no. Again, the things actually wrong with me are being I have critical parts IN me that are broken. 
I recognize that people mean well. I do know that I'm a unique case so people don't know what to do to help, they don't know what to say, and they feel awkward. People, at their core, are fixers. I really believe that. I'm a fixer too, if I see a problem, yo I'll solve it. (Or at least try really hard to.) So I am giving you permission to just say, "Man, it really sucks and I wish I could help but I don't know what to do." It's OK TO SAY THAT. But what you can do, which seems like nothing at all, but really does help? 
  • Be understanding if I flake on you. My depression and anxiety is so unpredictable that I think I might be just fine when I agree to hang out but come that time, I'm not. And I might be too anxious to tell you that I don't have it in me. 
  • There's a good chance I won't answer my door. Or respond to an email/text/call right away, if at all. Again, I just can't. Some days I hit my limit of being able to cope and it has nothing to do with you. Don't take it personally. 
  • I am trying SO HARD to be "normal" and get myself back into functioning but I struggle. Don't count on me for things but know there is a good chance I might just show up to help. If I feel good enough to help, I will come. I will. It's OK if you don't have a "job" for me, me just being there is progress for me and I'll take it. 
  • Be kind. I don't know how to fully explain it, but the Sara you know so well? She died. She died and she is never coming back. Every thing I used to like/hate, say/do, and feel? All gone. I'm starting from scratch. I'm having to learn about people again. Reform relationships. Fun stories or things we've done? I likely won't remember them. And I am so sorry. I know it hurts when I tell people I don't know what they are talking about, or I don't remember someone. I know it does because imagine how I feel. I've literally been plopped into a stranger's life and told to have at it. It's the exact same thing. I'm trying very hard, but please know it won't be the same. 
I know this sounds all very Debbie Downer and I don't want to be that way. It isn't a case of, "Well, just be positive" because that's not something my brain understands. I'm actually incapable of that right now. It (hopefully) won't be forever but it is right now. Just don't ever forget that when you hear that saying, "Everyone is fighting their own battle", it's true. I suit up every day and wage war with myself. Some days I do OK and some days I barely make it through. I'm trying every day even on the worst ones. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

1,001 Ways to Slow Down

*This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all opinions are my own.*

No, it's not the most epic list for a blog post ever, but it's a review for a really uplifting (and gorgeous) book!

1,001 Ways to Slow Down - Barbara Ann Kipfer
This irresistible list book from National Geographic provides lighthearted quick hits of inspiration for those of us who feel overwhelmed--which is to say, all of us. Musings, activity suggestions, and illuminating quotes are paired with whimsical art on themes such as living in the moment, achieving balance, relieving stress, developing patience, and appreciating the world around us. -Slow living- sidebars, such as -Foods to Cook Slowly- and -Things to Do the Old-Fashioned Way, - are interspersed throughout the book.

Anyone who has followed this blog for awhile knows that I have had one hell of a year. That's not even enough of a statement to cover it, but it's the best I can do without any more swears. As soon as I saw this book come up for review option I had to volunteer immediately because I have always been guilty at going non stop at the speed of light, but while I'm not necessarily cruising at that speed anymore, I am having a hard time taking in the things around me.

But also?

I think no matter who you are, there are going to be things in this book you already do and don't realize it, but also so many opportunities to add something positive in your day.

Throughout the book are all of the different ways to slow down but there are also calm lists of different things such as Slow Movies to Savor, Handwritten Letters to Send (my favorite of the lists), Vacations to Help You Chill Out, Books to Take Your Time Reading (my second favorite list), etc. I had such a good time paging through this book, thinking about things, but also incorporating a few things to my daily routine so that I can be more appreciative. I am struggling right now with suicidal thoughts and depression so truly, if you know someone in your life that just needs a minute to themselves, this is a GREAT gift idea. Let's remember that Mother's Day is right around the corner, but this would make a great gift for someone you're thinking about. It's become a staple of my side table where I like to sit in the evenings and I automatically grab for it and page through a few pages every night. I'm including purchase links for not just this book but also the author's other book, 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, because that also sounds like something we could all use in our lives.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Simple Favor

*This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all opinions are my own.*

I know I say this a lot, but I really do have a lot to fill you in on and talk about, but I also want to stay on top of book reviews. I have a couple for you this week and next, and in between those I'm going to fill you in. Stay tuned.

A Simple Favor - Darcey Bell

She’s your best friend.
She knows all your secrets.
That’s why she’s so dangerous.
A single mother's life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. 

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time. 

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems. 

A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page. 

I was torn on this book because while I loved Gone Girl, I absolutely hated The Girl on the Train because the latter felt like a cheap rip off of the first. That's kind of how I feel about this one. While I appreciate that the story is fast paced and you will fly through the almost 300 pages in no time, if you've read the either of those books, this story isn't going to feel new to you at all. I couldn't relate, or like, any of the characters and knowing that this book is set up to be "in the same vein" as those other books, I wanted this book to be better than those. I feel like if you're going to be similar, be better. Those books lacked character development, and this book could have excelled in that but it doesn't. In fact I dislike these characters more than even the ones in The Girl on the Train.

Stephanie is a blogger who is also a single mother after the death of her husband and her brother. She's doing the best she can and has befriended another "older" mom at her son's school and they quickly become best friends. The kind of best friends that picks up the slack of the other when needed, no question. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie realizes that something is really very wrong. Not just because Emily is devoted to her son and would never leave him alone like this but also because Stephanie has a gut instinct telling her not all is what it seems with Emily and her husband Sean. The book has several "blog posts" that all feel... off. If it were a real blog and those were real posts, as a reader I'd think something was very wrong about the tone of them.

Clearly, I can't give you more but know nothing is as it seems, there are twists and turns, bizarre revelations not just about Emily, but also Stephanie. (Can we talk about Stephanie and her brother? I had to just shake my head because come ON. Really? We're going to go that route for a character development plot line?! Oy.)

I can only give this book 3/5 stars and that's generous because it IS a debut novel. I really want to see what this author does for the next book but I implore you to not use the framework of existing stories, go somewhere totally new and different- really blow our mind. You'll be able to fine your own copy of A Simple Favor on the HarperCollins website, and I really want you to pick this up and tell me what you think. Did you see similarities or do you think there are enough differences between this and similar stories that it stands on its own?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Life is cruel and optimism is pointless.

I could be one of those epic vague bloggers and beat around the bush, give you pointless drivel about why life is hard and woe is me, but you know I'm not that person. Instead, I've always been 100% honest with how I feel, what's happening, even when I know others don't want to hear it or it makes them worry.

I don't do it to be cruel, I do it because I have to get it out of me otherwise I will explode. When I was younger I feel like I did an excellent job keeping all of my troubles to myself and I worried about how my sad or depressed feelings would be for others and I never wanted to inconvenience people. But as I get older, and mostly because I've entered a new level of depression, I can't do that anymore. What I feel comes out, good, bad or indifferent.

So in my last post I mentioned how we put our house up for sale and made an offer on another house, which was accepted. Matt and I have been doing so well working on our finances (more on the last of our FPU classes soon) and making hard decisions. We have hit some pretty startling, and sobering, facts that hurt. First, we're broke. We're not like, "Oh man, I wish I could go to this concert but I can't because I'm broke" broke, we're more in the, "I'm not sure if I can buy groceries... maybe if I just pay half of the utility bill because I can't cut back on my medication and we have to make a full house payment" kind of broke. So we decided first and foremost, pay off all of the credit card debts that we could with our tax refund. Did that, and we're still broke. So then we decided that we'd sell the house and move into a new one that is markedly cheaper per month. Yes, it's kind of dumpy and needs a LOT of work, but Matt's so handy that in time it would be OK. Matt's truck is paid off so we're putting his truck payment towards other debt to hopefully snowball it and that would eventually help. We've made a lot of other changes to just stay afloat, but doing the hard math? Well it tells us that in about a year, maybe two if we're lucky, we're going to be in dire straights.

And not even of our own doing.

All of it would stem back to my long term medical needs (non-stop appointments with Neurologist, Primary Care, Endocrinology, and Mayo Clinic, not to mention my Psychologist and Psychiatrist) and medications from my AFE.

So at the encouragement of essentially everyone, I applied for any kind of assistance through the State of Wisconsin. Hilariously, we don't qualify. I'd like to know how in the world any of these programs can justify using your pre-tax income as the threshold. If Matt was actually bringing anywhere close to that home, we'd be in amazing shape. But no. He pays for our health insurance, he's taxed out the rear, and then what he does bring home is spread so thin. He can't work the ridiculous hours he used to because I am a hot mess and I am not in any shape capable of taking care of the kids by myself because I break down into tears and scare them.

I don't want to be a mess of a mom. I really don't. This is against everything I set out to be and I hate that I can't control any of it.


We were denied for all assistance, and WIC. We can't even get WIC and as I'm told by everyone, "Everyone gets WIC". Well we don't, folks.

So we had EVERYTHING banked into the basket of this new house. Hoping we'd make enough from our sale to fix a few things and it would all be OK. We spent our emergency fund on earnest money. We spent the last of our savings on new carpet for the stairs and hallway because everyone said if we spent that money it would make a big difference. Spoiler: it hasn't. The seller of the house we want is in obvious financial trouble herself and needs to sell ASAP and doesn't want to wait for us to sell, so she took a second offer. Which means basically, we have until midnight tonight to have an accepted offer on our house otherwise we aren't in the running for that house.

Which wouldn't stress me out normally because we've had like six or seven showings and all but one hated our house. The one who likes it, "had stuff come up" (join the god damn club) and is on the fence. We basically spent our reserves as a last Hail Mary to sell this house and SHOCKER, it hasn't paid off. That means if we don't sell this house in the next day, that means I get to stare at this stupid carpet and feel unbridled rage.

So the end story is that I am 99.9% sure we are going to lose that house. If we don't get an offer on ours today, we're pulling it off the market. Every other house that is four bedroom, and in our price range, in town is an absolute dump. It's either a dump, next to a sexual offender half way house, or in a disgusting part of town where I absolutely would not let my kids play outside. (So explain to me how my house is still on the market?!)

I can't even get into the nightmare that is showing your house when you are suicidal with severe depression. It's like every horrible, negative piece of "feedback" you could have thrown right at you. Some of them I want to strangle and just ask why they even looked at the house if it was too big for them? Why waste my time? Do you even know how difficult it is for me to get moving in the morning, let alone clean my house, feed the kids, and get them out of here for an hour or two? By the time I get home I just cry non stop because it's so physically taxing I can't think.

But I'm trying. I'm trying SO hard to be optimistic, and be the fearless, take-no-crap woman I used to be. Then I am reminded that person died in August and she is never coming back. I'm such an emotional wreck that I flat out told Matt today that every day that goes by only solidifies that I should have just died and stay dead. It would have been easier. The family would have had my life insurance, all of my retirement funds, survivor benefits, and Matt would have been swamped with help from my friends and family. Instead, I'm here, sucking up every last penny we have to stay alive and it feels selfish.

Yesterday Jackson, on his 9th birthday, told his friend at lunch that we aren't doing anything for summer because we're poor. He couldn't sign up for baseball because his mom couldn't pay for it and it's "too hard for her to leave the house a lot". I know he didn't mean it to be hurtful, but I sat there (I surprised him at school with a Happy Meal at lunch time) and I felt like the worst parent in the entire world. Then I go to the Realtor's office to be told that we tried but yeah... probably not going to happen. Cue crying in the Walmart parking lot for 45 minutes, pulling it together to go get Jackson's birthday cake, and crying the entire way home again.

I can't say it enough: every day it gets harder and harder to be alive. There isn't anything anyone can say or do to help  me, this is something I have to navigate on my own. It's like guiding a ship through fog basically. I don't know what is on the other side but I'm supposed to just keep going. I just don't know how long I can do that. The only bright side is that at least I don't feel like I'm being unnecessarily dramatic because I have both my psychiatrist and my psychologist who tell me that I have every single right to feel the way I feel and that they are at a serious loss on how to help me. Because (wait for it) most people die from AFE so there isn't anything out there on how to help people cope with this kind of thing. So we keep trying different things because eventually something will stick. Right? I'm not even going to lie to you and tell you I'm optimistic about that.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Moving right along... literally.

I know I've been pretty MIA around these parts lately but I have a totally valid reason: we're moving.

Well, I'm 99% sure we are.

So you know how we have been doing the Dave Ramsey money program Financial Peace University? Well since doing that we have spent a lot of time reevaluating all of our current expenses, things coming up in the future, and trying to map out the best way to handle all of it. Right now, things are just fine. I mean yes, we have medical bills stacking up, but we are doing a really amazing job at paying down our debt and we've made great strides in improving our personal finances.


The realization that my medical costs are never going to go down, and I will be on these medications for the rest of my life, that the kids are getting older and as they get older they get more expensive. We are at least realistic enough that we know Matt can't work insane hours forever, and that I will most likely never work full time again because I'm just not there. Instead of waiting until it's an actual issue, we decided to take the precautionary step to find another home.

I just happened to be on a real estate app when I saw a four bedroom, two bathroom house a block away from our kids' school (and five blocks from my mom), and well within our targeted budget go up for sale. Within a day we went to the bank, got all of our numbers worked out, called our Realtor and got the ball rolling. We made an offer, it was accepted, and now... our home is for sale.

The irony of this is that Matt just finished my kitchen. My back splash is up, and it looks amazing, and now I get to leave it. Last night he put new carpet up the stairs and throughout the upstairs hallway area, it looks amazing and I get to leave it. Pretty much every project I wanted done in this house? Done. And I get to leave it and start completely over.


But I know ultimately? This is by far the best decision for us. My neighbor was so bummed to see the sign go up today but I promised to stay in touch because she's amazing.

So if I'm MIA around here, it's because I'm packing, cleaning, or out of the house while people are looking at our house. I'm optimistic. It's a bummer to leave this house that I love, but then I think- another family will get to enjoy it. They'll get to have their kids grow up here, watch them at the park in the sunny porch, enjoy evening walks next to Lake Superior, and join the other moms when the kids play at the park.

The kids are VERY excited, mostly because we will be surrounded by their friends since we are so close to the school. Jackson already started packing his room and Olivia is thinking about paint colors. I'm so glad they are such troopers and adapt easily because it makes it easier on us.

Say some prayers, think good thoughts, and send positive vibes our way.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

May Cause Love (review)

**This post contains affiliate links that I may be compensated for; however, all opinions are my own**

I know I've been quiet as of late, but please know it's because Lucy has been sick and we've been working on something potentially BIG and I sincerely have not had the time to blog that I want to. I'm barely staying on top of my reading schedule! So please come back tomorrow and I'll have some updates for you all. Phew!

May Cause Love: An Unexpected Journey of Enlightenment After Abortion -  Kassi Underwood

In this powerful memoir, a fiercely honest and surprisingly funny testament to healing after abortion, a young woman travels across the United States to meet a motley crew of spiritual teachers and a caravan of new friends.

At age nineteen, Kassi Underwood discovered she was pregnant. Broke, unwed, struggling with alcohol, and living a thousand miles away from home, she checked into an abortion clinic.

While her abortion sparked her “feminist awakening,” she also felt lost and lawless, drinking to oblivion and talking about her pregnancy with her parents, her friends, strangers-anyone.

Three years later, just when she had settled into a sober life at her dream job, the ex-boyfriend with whom she had become pregnant had a baby with someone else. She shattered. In the depths of a blinding depression, Kassi refused to believe that she would “never get over” her abortion. Inspired by rebellious women in history who used spiritual practices to attain emotional freedom, Kassi embarked on a journey of recovery after abortion-a road trip with pit stops at a Buddhist “water baby” ritual, where she learns a new way to think about lost pregnancies; a Roman Catholic retreat for abortion that turns out to be staffed with clinic picketers; a crash course in grief from a Planned Parenthood counselor; a night in a motel with a “Midwife for the Soul” who teaches her how to take up space; and a Jewish “wild woman” celebration led by a wise and zany rabbi.

Dazzling with warmth and leavened by humor, May Cause Love captures one woman’s journey of self-discovery that enraged her, changed her, and ultimately enlightened her.

I know I have some readers who fall into the "absolutely under no circumstances" column when it comes to abortion but I implore you to read this book with an open heart and an open mind. Truly. One of the greatest things about memoirs, the beauty of them, is that it gives us a personal look at someone's story. It gives us the behind-the-scenes, the dirty details, the intimate thoughts of someone who most often are at their lowest point in life. We get that access and when done right, we close the book with a new understanding of a perspective different from our own. It can shake what we thought we knew and give us food for thought, show us that no scenario is cut and dry. A good memoir leaves you empathetic and makes you want to reach out with love to someone who maybe you don't understand but it doesn't matter because they are still human, they still have heart and we are all flawed but it's OK.

That's what this book does. I'm telling you right now there aren't enough stars in the world for me to give this book, five stars does not do it justice. I finished this book in a flash and not only do I wish I could have gone on this journey with her, but I want to be her friend. It's not a choice I would make for myself (I don't think), but I absolutely think she deserves the right to make it and it's OK.

I'm not going to go into specifics about the book because it would absolutely, 100% ruin it for you, but I will tell you the Buddhist water baby ritual was maybe my favorite part. Well, aside from the author herself who is so incredibly relate-able, she's all of us. She's a friend we have in our group, she's the cool co-worker you really want to be friends with outside of work, she's self deprecating in the best way, she's funny, and she's a realist. She's a dreamer, she's a good girl, she's a bad girl, and she battles what she should do and be with who she is and it's hard. You'll find yourself nodding along because she shows you how easily this could be any of us. This story is unapologetic, it's entertaining, it does an amazing job of lightening the conversation about a serious topic but not to the point where it downplays it. She balances it all out and this might be one of my most favorite memoirs. Truly.

I invite you to learn more about Kassi Underwood and her journey through her website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. In the meantime, you should check out the HarperCollins website and purchase her book.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Renegade's Pride (review)

*This post contains affiliate links that I may make a commission from; however, all opinions and thoughts are my own.*

Oh lambs... I have some really big things happening in my world right now and I'm not going to jinx anything but if you can, send all of the positive vibes, happy thoughts, prayers, whatever you got, our way. I'm going to be playing catch up with some blog posts this week so some things might seem like old news to me, but they are new to you.

Renegade's Pride - B. J. Daniels

In the nine years since Trask Beaumont left Gilt Edge, Lillian Cahill had convinced herself she was over him. But when the rugged cowboy suddenly walks into her bar, there's a pang in her heart that argues the attraction never faded. And that's dangerous, because Trask has returned on a mission to clear his name and win Lillie back.

Trask gets the showdown he's after when his boss's body is recovered from a burning house. Hawk, Lillie's marshal brother, believes Trask's homecoming isn't coincidental to the murder, but Lillie isn't so sure. Something is urging her to give bad boy Trask a second chance, even if it leaves her torn between her family and the man she never stopped loving.

YES. I absolutely loved this book, and coming in at just over 300 pages, it's a really quick read and I settled in on a particularly windy and cold weekend with this one. Particularly exciting is that this is the first book in the Cahill Ranch series and it sets it up so well and I am excited to meet the rest of the boys as we go through this series. A few years ago I would have snubbed my nose at contemporary western romance but I'm finding as I get older I appreciate it more so I don't ignore that section in the bookstore.

In this book we have basically first loves Lillie and Trask, who had a tough breakup when Trask left town. Lillie is convinced she's fine and she's moved on but Trask suddenly shows up in the bar and bam- Lillie feels that familiar pitter patter of looooove, and Trask wants to win her back. The characters in this book? Hilarious. And likeable, it makes you want to read the rest of the series. With it being the first in a series, there is a LOT of back story given that I'm sure we won't have as much but it does set the rest of the series up well. The story also has a great suspense arc in it with Trask's suspicious involvement in a murder he didn't commit, which is what brings him back. Of course, bad decisions is the theme so we see a young man make some poor ones (shocker) and make his life more difficult than it ever needed to be.

Anyways, I'm giving this book a solid 4 out of 5 stars. I'm all about Twitter right now (follow me!) so you can follow the author on her Twitter, website, or Facebook. There is also a really cool giveaway happening, so I encourage you to head over HERE and enter!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Medical round up, not just me anymore!

On this episode of Strand Medical Round Up...

I'm not even kidding, it's starting to feel like we are always handling medical related paperwork, doctor appointments, doctor bills, medical phone calls, etc. It's so much. I told Matt that some days I feel like I'm working in a medical office just not getting paid for it. I am seriously struggling with keeping track of information and no amount of notebooks, calendars, and reminder apps are working. I have missed Lucy's six month well child check TWICE.


We finally made it last week, and she's officially seven months. Which is fine because I still haven't gotten her three month baby photos done so you can see how well I'm mothering this child. She's going to be the one who has half-assed everything and will need counseling as an adult. We may as well save for that versus college for her. Sorry, Lucy.

But at seven months she is 18.5 pounds and 27 inches long. She's just a chunky little love. If I was a really on top of it mother I would have kept the well child stats for each kid so I could compare but alas, I tossed all of those because my desire to not be a hoarder is stronger than my desire to know this kind of information. She's happy and relatively healthy. Well, the doctor heard what she described as a really "strange, and not totally normal" sounding murmur. She listened for a long time, did the rest of her check, and then listened again. She said her gut is telling her that we should just get it checked out because it could be nothing, but it could be something. And given how she is my AFE baby, there just isn't research out there about what effects that could have on her. Yes, she was born seconds before all hell broke loose with me, but did something happen to her before she was born that lead to my AFE? Nobody can ever know, so her doctor said we should really just be proactive.

And I agree.

So tomorrow morning I am taking Lucy to have an ECHO and appointment with a pediatric cardiologist. I am worried it could be something and I am worried that I'll forget something important a mom should remember.

That's really another stressful think about AFE recovery, I don't know what I don't know and I think I'll remember something, and I won't always. Then I won't remember what it was I should have but I'll have that nagging thing in my head telling me there was something I was supposed to do, remember, say, etc. and I just can't remember. I never feel like I've gotten all of the details of something even if I've written them down. The longer I deal with this the more I realize there aren't enough coping mechanisms out there to help it and I question if I'm going to be able to work again. Because truly, I wouldn't hire me. Not even close. I would get fired if I lied through an interview because it would become blatantly obvious I'm not quite right rather quickly.

Sigh- a worry for another day.

This week I also meet with my psychologist and I'm hoping we can find a solution for my depression. I feel almost bi-polar. I don't mean that in a derogatory sense at all and I know that I am not, but I bounce between feeling upbeat, great, even normal, and then it switches and bam- I want to die. I want to be alone, in the dark, and I want to die. It's hard to get out of those funks and sometimes they last for days. I want to cry, I feel like it would be such a powerful release of negative energy and the medication prevents it. It's like an itch I can't scratch. It's frustrating to say the least.

My neurologist feels sorry for me, understands my frustration, can't help me. Can't tell me if I'll get better or when, it's literally wait and see.

My primary care doctor also feels sorry for me and I think I am a hard patient to help because she just doesn't know what to do. I don't see her for a few months again. Who knows what that'll be like. So until then, I deal with daily pain and exhaustion, nobody knows why or how to fix it.

My endocrinologist does not feel sorry for me, he really enjoys seeing me because I'm a fun patient with a cool medical study. But in these last seven months I've learned that endocrinologists are kind of nerdy so that's to be expected. I head back to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a follow up in May with that endocrinologist so I'm hopeful they can help me manage daily pain and exhaustion. Surely someone somewhere can, I just have to keep trying.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tell Me Everything You Don't Remember (review)

**This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however, all opinions are my own**

You know that I have gone through hell and back this last year with my health, all of which started with an Amniotic Fluid Embolism during the birth of my fourth child, Lucy. Not only did I have that, but sometime in the trauma of all of that, I had a stroke. Not a major, leave me incapacitated for life stroke, but one that had an immediate impact on my memory, both short and long term, and affects my day to day ability to function now, seven months out.

I saw this book mentioned in a blog post about strokes and I pre-ordered it as soon as I heard about it. Later, Christine Hyung-Oak Lee would be on MPR and a few friends actually heard her piece, thought about me, and immediately told me this is right up my alley.

As it turns out, we were all right.

Tell Me Everything You Don't Remember - Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

A memoir of reinvention after a stroke at age thirty-three.

Christine Hyung-Oak Lee woke up with a headache on the morning of December 31, 2006. By that afternoon, she saw the world—quite literally—upside down. By New Year’s Day, she was unable to form a coherent sentence. And after hours in the ER, days in the hospital, and multiple questions and tests, her doctors informed her that she had had a stroke. 

For months afterward, Lee outsourced her memories to a journal, taking diligent notes to compensate for the thoughts she could no longer hold on to. It is from these notes that she has constructed this frank and compelling memoir.

In a precise and captivating narrative, Lee navigates fearlessly between chronologies, weaving her childhood humiliations and joys together with the story of the early days of her marriage; and then later, in painstaking, painful, and unflinching detail, the account of her stroke and every upset—temporary or permanent—that it caused. 

Lee illuminates the connection between memory and identity in an honest, meditative, and truly funny manner, utterly devoid of self-pity. And as she recovers, she begins to realize that this unexpected and devastating event has provided a catalyst for coming to terms with her true self—and, in a way, has allowed her to become the person she’s always wanted to be. 

I have to tell you that I identified with this so much that my book pages are literally bent on so many corners and I have notes all over it on post it notes so I could go back and remember something poignant. I feel like the biggest hurdle in my recovery is dealing with other people, everyone wants you to just be better because then they are off the hook with being nice, going the extra mile, caring, whatever. It's like, "Oh, she's not sick anymore, thank god!" and I'm standing here like, "Yes, yes I am. I am just really good at faking it so I don't feel stupid and you don't feel obligated." But as I read this book, Christine gets it

I don't remember much of anything from the day before I gave birth until sometime at the end of October. Everything since October is spotty at best but I'm able to fake it every day. The great thing is that everyone who interacted with me, particularly early on, all confirm that I had no idea and I really was like Dory from Finding Nemo, and I was argumentative, at one point convinced Matt was out to get me and lock me up in the loony bin. On page 44 she writes, 

"But in those first few weeks I was lost without knowing I was lost. I was searching with a deep belief that all would be well, not out of resilience or hope but out of ignorant bliss. I was in a hospital room, sheltered from the world, where nurses and doctors protected me from overstimulation, where everything happened on schedule, and where the blank white wall was not an acre of boredom but of great comfort. My world was that room, and in that room my struggles had little measured impact."

God yes. I don't remember much but what I do remember of my hospital stay are quick snippets, like snapshots, and in every single one of them I have a feeling of safety and security, a feeling that I didn't want to go home but of course I couldn't really place why. Her book chronicles first visitors who are at first buoyed by how great she looks, how she doesn't look sick but are quick to realize that things aren't right, the memory isn't there and basically that she didn't know what she didn't know. 

And that's the way I describe those first months, I didn't know what I didn't know. I frequently say I don't know if I'm actually getting worse or if I'm just realizing how bad things were and still are. 

I also have had to confront how much I hate medical attention. I am very much the non-complainer. I have been to the doctor more times in the last two months than I had been from the ages of 16-34. Easily. And that counts during my previous pregnancies. I am very much that person who will not go to the doctor unless there is a damn good chance I'm terminal. Same with my kids. Ear ache? You aren't going to die. We are not going to be the people who become immune to anti-biotics. So the entire concept of going to the doctor to fix myself is a difficult adjustment. On page 146 she writes, 

"It felt strange, actually, to pick up the phone. It felt completely self-indulgent to ask for medical attention. I was still so afraid of showing vulnerability. To say 'something is wrong' was to say something in my body was failing was to say I needed someone was to say I deserved help. I did not think I deserved help."

Preach it, sister. 

There is also a passage where I re-read it so many times because I felt like it highlights my time now, battling depression and anxiety, reeling with being someone with PTSD and how people laugh at that because it's not like I went to war or anything. But I've learned that dying in any kind of way is terrifying, and nobody comes back unscathed. Christine writes on page 205, 

"..I knew the last mile is the hardest. It is the mile you often travel on your own. Where you must go outside your comfort zone. Where coping is finding a new way to do the old things. Your doctors are no longer there, your friends think you are fine, and you are functional enough to not elicit any sympathy."

And god, I'm there. I'm so there. 

She also writes, on page 235, 

"I felt no one wanted to talk about it - not my cadre of healthy friends, anyway. When I said, "I can't remember-ever since the stroke, I can't remember little things," they told me they could not remember things, either. That it was old age, that it was their recreational marijuana use, that it was exhaustion, that it was normal. Not the stroke."

God, YES. I swear to you, if I hear someone tell me this is normal one more time, I'm likely to lose it. You'll see me on the Today Show as the woman who lost her shit in a grocery store or at after school kid pick up. I'm not saying I can't remember things to elicit sympathy, I'm stating a fact. I'm letting you know that this is still a problem, and it's not normal. None of what I am dealing with is normal. You might have hormone problems, but you don't have them from having your pituitary gland shot during the course of bleeding to death while stroking out. It's different. Everything about me is different and special but it all sucks. 

So yes. This book. This book was EVERYTHING that I needed right now. I didn't even know I needed it. I wish I could just hug this woman because this book feels like a life preserver for me right now. I cannot recommend this highly enough, it should be a mandatory read for any stroke survivor. 

Just buy it. Now.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mitford at the Hollywood Zoo (review)

**This post contains affiliate links that I may make commission from; however all opinions are my own**

I know I told you I would have amazing posts coming for you this week, but Lucy is pretty sick right now so the time I would be spending crafting thoughtful posts for you have instead been spent reading while Lucy snuggles on my chest. She is absolutely pitiful when she's sick so I just can't put her down. You understand.

Instead, I have a review for a children's book for you today and then tomorrow I have one for a really amazing non-fiction book about a woman who had a stroke. Stay tuned!

Mitford at the Hollywood Zoo - Donald Robertson

Mitford is a giraffe. But not your everyday, live-on-the-savanna giraffe. Mitford works at Cover magazine, in one of the biggest cities in the world! 

But now another city needs Mitford, and soon the chic giraffe is surrounded by palm trees and super-famous celebrities! It would be great to sunbathe by the pool, but it's the day of the Academy Zoowards and these movie stars must have the most fabulous dress or tux ever
Can Mitford deliver everyone's fashion demands on time?

Anytime I get a children's book to review I always rely on my own children as the audience to give me thoughtful opinions, but I also like to use my first and second grade friends at Bryant Elementary. My own children go there, I was the PTO President for five years, I have spent countless hours as a classroom volunteer in every grade, and I even worked for a year in the library as an assistant. The staff at this school put such a high emphasis on reading and I absolutely love it. If I could nominate this school, the collective of amazing teachers, the curriculum, everything for any kind of award, I absolutely would. I cannot give them high enough praise and it's so great that they are welcoming to community readers and always game to weigh in on a new book. 

The other great thing is that these students are always so enthusiastic to be read to. I have never had a classroom audience be afraid to tell me what they really think about a book, so I knew that they would be my perfect guinea pigs on this book. I recently read to all three second grade and all three first grade classrooms, split into two groups, and we read the book. They are learning how to write their own opinions so this was good practice for them. 

Let's talk about some of the things they didn't love about the book: 

  • Hard words: (some of the words would be difficult for a newly independent reader)
  • They didn't fully understand the play on real celebrity names or have enough knowledge about the fashion industry to understand what Mitford's job was and translate that into knowing that it's somebody's actual job in "real life". 
Alternatively, the students really liked: 
  • The illustrations! Every class had more than half of the students enjoy the fashion sketch-like illustrations, and how silly the animals were "dressed up". 
  • They loved seeing a rhino covered in butterflies, a whale painted, animals walking down the sidewalk- the whimsical parts of the story made them laugh. 
Grown up thoughts: 
  • My immediate thought is that while the book is cute and funny now, fast forward a few years and the celebrities mentioned will be out of the lime light (or perhaps just less popular) and it won't be relevant as much. 
  • Most kids are not going to catch the celebrity name puns and unless you want to point them out every time and then explain what show they are on or what song they sing, that's maybe more for the adults, but that's really the charm of the book, isn't it? So it's hard to say how popular this will be among the 6-8 age group. 
  • The theme was supposed to be stay positive and follow your dreams, but I thought it was more along, think outside of the box, be a hard worker, and follow your dreams. 
  • I always judge a children's book by my top criteria: is this a book I would buy as a child's birthday gift? A "I was thinking about you" gift? Probably not. Not that I wouldn't buy it, but it certainly wouldn't be one of my top choices or even something I'd rattle off on a recommendation list off the cuff. It was cute, it was funny, but it's forgettable. 
If you have a kiddo that loves interesting illustrations, animals, fashion/celebrity, check this book out and let me know what you think: 

Donald Robertson also wrote Mitford at the Fashion Zoo, which is his first, and that might be a cute companion book to purchase at the same time: 

I promised the kids at school that I would donate my copy of Mitford at the Hollywood Zoo to their school library so they could check it out but also so all of the students would have access to it, so it can be found in their school library now!