Thursday, February 28, 2019

Sometimes it's catchy.

I have been struggling a lot lately. I hate talking about it because sometimes I feel like nobody cares and nobody really wants to hear it. I feel like you're wondering why I'm not better already, I must not be trying hard enough.

Maybe I should exercise and go outside more, right?

I feel like I'm doing a lot to get better. I go to therapy, I am medicated to the hilt. I go to all of my doctor appointments and do what I'm told to do. I fake it, I smile and I laugh. I make the effort, I try not to nap all the time, I try to get out of the house, I try.

But still.

I feel like I can't feel. When the kids do something really great and I should feel a swell of pride? Nothing. When I can't pay a bill and I should be worried or upset? Nothing. When the sun is shining and things are going good that day and I should feel content or maybe even happy? Nothing. I feel like I'm in a weird position because I can't decrease my medication because then I'm an emotional mess and I want to die. If I increase it I feel like a zombie. At least at this dose I can function and that's something.

It doesn't mean it's a good way to exist.

But there have been a couple of things that's happened lately that make me pause and think... maybe my struggles with mental health aren't primarily because of my AFE. Maybe that just made it worse. I go through my Facebook memories everyday mostly to help me remember things but I'm noticing a lot of posts from the start of my profile (2009) are me being... depressed. I'm down, I'm flat out saying I'm depressed, I'm displaying crazy behavior that shows I'm OCD and anxious, and I think I should probably have been in therapy. I thought I was fine, I was efficient and helpful, I was an over achiever and I was crazy. I fully recognize now that I was out of control and I wish someone had really sat me down and said, "You need help, you are dealing with high functioning depression." and I probably wouldn't have done anything right then but I would have thought about it.

Fast forward to now and I worry that me being the way I am now affects my kids negatively. As it turns out, all of the behaviors they witnessed when they were younger are what shaped them. (Which you're right, I think about what Penelope and Lucy are going to be like so I worry about this.)

Over the weekend we had the kids clean the basement floor. They were responsible for the mess, they need to clean it. I saw Jackson run through the house and upstairs but I didn't think anything of it. Olivia came up to tell me Jackson bailed on her and she was (rightfully) pissed off. I call Jackson down and tell him to go back and help his sister. Problem solved.

Then when I went to bed that night, I find this on my night table.
Deadly fear of centipedes. You guys, no way could that thing be alive, it's been FREEZING and it's so cold in my basement.
I had no idea we were even out of bread so at least I knew before I went to use it. He had left me like $2 rolled up. I grab it, while laughing, and I was going to bring it to his room when I saw this on my doorway:
At this point I have almost pissed my pants because this is hilarious and adorable but now I can't go down, he's going to have hurt feelings. I made Matt go down and give him his $2 back because I am not taking his money. But I wondered if I've instilled guilt into him. He worries incessantly about things I know I would have worried about but I could care less about now, and I worry that this is going to eat him up.

Then I have Olivia. She is my over achiever, do it all, exceed expectations, perfectionist kid. She wants me to come speak at her school.
But apparently she's fully over me and my forgetfulness but she's at least really nice about it.

Then I was taking her to dance and she's telling me she has to make herself lists but her lists can't be "uneven" and she had to re-do it. I asked her to pull it out and let me see and this was it: 
Am I being unreasonable to think this is crazy? I don't want her to grow up and be neurotic like I was. Is she going down the road of high functioning depression?

I tell you, when I first became a mom I figured I would just wing it and it would all fall into place. That this mysterious set of skills that you need for motherhood would just show up and it would come naturally to me. I know the fact that that didn't happen really put me in a tail spin and I have sincerely muddled through being a mom. 
When I was 23 with my first baby (this is Olivia at three weeks) I had no idea what was down the road from me. It's a special kind of sting to go through these photos and not remember any of it, I have no connection to any of it, and I want to know where I went wrong. Am I making those mistakes again? Maybe I'm making new mistakes? I just really don't want my kids to struggle like I am. I really don't want them to ever feel like this, even a small piece of this. It's not OK and I don't know how to help them when I can't fix myself.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Weight Loss Challenge (week 16)

I can't even lie, I only worked out once last week. I did day 2 of the 21 Day Fix program and.. I don't want to sound like a nut, but I kind of liked it? I finished the entire 20 minutes so I'm pretty excited that even though I'm not working out more, what I am doing seems to be going well because my stamina is holding up.

Last week was a flurry of my doctor appointments, Lucy's doctor appointment, making a lot of calls and playing phone tag to make more doctor appointments, Jackson had a field trip, and Lucy had her toddler class. (Which I almost didn't go to but I'm glad that I did because she had a really good time and the weather was decent to the incredibly long walk into the building wasn't as bad as usual.)

This coming week (should) be better. Olivia has pictures for dance tonight, no dance tomorrow, Wednesday is nothing, Thursday will be crap because I'm busy ALL DAY, and Friday should be OK. Olivia has a dance competition this weekend so I'll be gone for that.

What do people do when life gets in the way? How do they stick to their workout routine when they are utterly exhausted? I think that's what I'm struggling with right now. The best thing though is that I'm actually really liking the 21 Day Fix workouts so I know if I could just get three (or more) workouts done in a week I'll have the momentum to keep going.

You know what else is going to suck? Easter.

You guys.

These are my weakness. I cannot walk past these in a store and not buy them. Sweet Tart Jelly Beans are maybe the greatest candy I eat over the course of a year. My friend Emily told me about them when we worked together and I wasn't sure because I like Sweet Tarts but they aren't something I'd pick to eat. I'll eat it if someone hands it to me but you know, who craves a Sweet Tart? But these are HEAVEN. I know my weakness so I did the Walmart pickup for my groceries and every thing else this week. But..... I have to make a Target run this week and you guys, I can't be held accountable. I can't and I won't. I'm not kidding, I'm thinking about them and I can actually imagine what they taste like. It's an actual addiction, I know I have a problem.... I'm just not ready to give my jelly beans up. I can't. Probably the worst thing is now I know I can buy them in bulk on Amazon all year long. If these ever get discontinued I might actually die. 

So... that's how my week is starting off. Thinking about jelly beans knowing full well I don't need them. What's YOUR ultimate craving? 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Book Review: 100 Parks, 5000 Ideas

If you're like me, you are 100% over winter. Done. I couldn't be any more done. I'm already looking forward to sunny days and ways to fill those up with adventure. This book came at the perfect time because that's exactly what I'm doing - planning a small summer vacation with my family and we want to road trip it somewhere.
100 Parks, 5000 Ideas
In the sequel to the best-selling 50 States, 5,000 ideas, National Geographic turns to the United States' and Canada's most pristine--and adventure-filled--national, state, and city parks with 5,000 ideas for the ultimate vacation. Showcasing the best experiences, both obvious and unexpected, each entry in this robust guide provides an overview of the park, detailed travel advice, fascinating facts, insider knowledge about wildlife, and expert tips for hiking, biking, camping, and exploring. From the geysers of Yellowstone National Park to the Everglades' Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail and the stunning peaks of Banff and Jasper in Alberta, each page will fuel your wanderlust. Plus, explore the natural beauty tucked away in cities like New York's Central Park and Boston Commons, and find bonus parks with day-trip suggestions to nearby neighbors. Top 10 lists throughout highlight best-of destinations for river trips, monuments, panoramic views, beaches, and more. This comprehensive book provides all the inspiration and information you need to plan your next park visit--and make it a memorable one.

It seems like every year National Geographic comes out with a new resource for those of us desperate to get out of the winter doldrums and planning for our next big adventure. The best part about this book (and all of the others National Geographic gives us) is that they are really well researched, organized well, and they give you stunning photography throughout. You should not plan a trip in the United States without picking this us to get a feel of the place you'll be visiting or maybe deciding where to go in the first place.

The book is broken down by region (New England & New York, The Southwest, The Midwest, American Tropics, etc), and then within those regions it's broken down by state. You'll not only find information on state and national parks but also city parks, forest areas, monuments, and I found a few sanctuaries in here. Even better? Lots of sections have a "Chow Down" area with some well known places to eat the local cuisine and what that place is known for. Also included are "Lay Your Head" areas with some really authentic places to stay that are beyond your chain hotel options. A lot of the park discussions give you tips, like which routes are best through the park, to make planning a day trip less of a headache. Mentioned on the cover, the book tells you when to go to get the best of the destination. I have friends who have gone places to specifically see a great sight only to find out that it only happens over the course of 2-3 months and they have missed it. That's a bummer.

I also mentioned the American Tropics are listed, which was fascinating because I learned a LOT about them and I honestly never considered them as a future vacation destination but they are back on the some day list because they were beautiful and there are a lot of things there that I would be interested in seeing or doing. The book also features Canada, even though it's outside the United States, it's a close neighbor and if you're visiting the northern states you might consider taking a little side trip because their parks are equally beautiful and worth the trip.

Overall? I'm giving this one 5 stars. I really like these guides and I use mine a LOT. My kids really like paging through these, we've used them as a resource for school projects, and we bring them in the car on our trips because they get a say in what we do, too. I highly recommend this one if you're adventurous (or want to be!) and looking for ideas for your next trip!


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Lucy versus Iron

I'm going to try to condense a lot of stuff over the last week into a little bit because it's exhausting otherwise. So way back in August, at Lucy's two year check, she had her hemoglobin tested because that's what you do at two. It was a little low, like 10.7 and the target is at least 11. Honestly, I didn't think anything about it, I'm really low all the time and I just assumed she was too. No big. Her doctor thought it was something to correct so she gave us this horrible liquid iron supplement that she for damn sure wasn't taking on its own and anything I mixed it in she would throw up a few minutes later. She couldn't handle it. I, admittedly, gave up and said .3 is not a big deal.

Fast forward to last Monday at her 2.5 year check up and I had forgotten all about the August stuff. Well, the doctor wasn't happy that I never came back for another blood check so she said we had to do it that day. Not a big deal. Lucy doesn't cry or care about finger pokes, so that's fine. We do that and it turns out, she's 10.9 and honestly, I don't think it's a big deal. Doctor gives me the option of seeing a specialist and I said no, I'm sure she's fine.

Fast forward to Friday when the blood smear came back and turns out, it says she has "normochromic, normocytic, hypoproliferative anemia" and I get a call from a scheduler within minutes telling me she has an appointment for Tuesday with a hematologist oncologist.

Slow the damn train.

This went from being a little low in iron to seeing an oncologist?

On Tuesday we went to that appointment. It's kind of surreal to sit in a children's cancer center and people give you sad smiles when they walk by. It's a real testament to my mental health medication because without it I'm certain I'd be a crying mess. With them I'm fully numb and I don't really feel anything. I know people say they'd give anything to not feel anything in certain circumstances, but having that feeling myself, I don't like it. I'd rather have some kind of an emotion running through me because this feels cold.
I will say, for as much as I don't like this hospital/health system, they do a really good job with making it feel kind of alright. Lucy had a good time playing with the toys in the waiting area.


Even Matt played awhile with her while I sat in the sunshine holding all of our stuff including notes I had, copies of her lab work and reports, and just thought about how some parents sit here having no idea their entire lives will change based on what one person says.
Lucy's appointment went a little differently. We had a great nurse and she did all of Lucy's intake stuff and had her go pick out a book to keep and that made her infinitely happy.

We had kind of a granola-crunchy doctor who really was nice. I can't say that she wasn't. We went through health history, went through family health history, talked about why we were there, etc. Eventually she stopped us and told us basically to change her diet. She hands me a checklist of items saying she needs 1-2 from each area and that would get her the daily requirement of nutrients, specifically iron. I tell her she already does. Lucy is the BEST eater. She eats a lot of iron rich foods, she gets a lot of vitamin D and C, she gets yogurt and things good for her gut, if ever there was a kid you could show as someone with a great diet, it's Lucy. Truly. Her diet is not to blame for low iron.

Then she goes into telling me about natural microbiomes and how kids who are delivered via c-section don't get this and then when you don't breastfeed you're screwing them up even more, and I had to interrupt her and say I had no choice. She was an emergency c-section and I was in ICU for a bunch of days and my pituitary gland is shot so my milk never came in anyways so yeah.... not my fault. But she keeps hammering all of that home. She handed me a LOT of handouts, all of which I don't need because we are already doing all of those things.

At this point I'm getting really frustrated. I ask her what this blood smear report means and she blows it off completely, tells me she's not worried, she's not worried why I'm here, though the fact her MCV count (I have no idea what that is) is decreasing is worrisome but "it's probably fine". She does a quick exam and tells me it sounds like Lucy has a wheeze indicative of asthma. She says her ears have fluid and asks if she has a speech delay, which she does. She tells me that this kind of fluid is indicative of hearing loss so we should have a hearing test done right away.

Annoying because her doctor didn't see/hear either of those things and now I'm pissed off. She made me feel like I'm a bad mom not getting her county services for her speech delay but this could be because she can't full hear us? Are you kidding me? So now I have to call and get both of those things checked out. 
We end up doing some more lab work that day and she had to have blood drawn from her arm and Lucy cried SO hard and I felt like the worst mom in the world. I feel guilty because I always think my AFE caused all of this and I don't even know what we're dealing with.

At the end of the day we're getting a letter but her hemoglobin is in the 10.2-10.9 range which is normal for that health system but low for ours, so I don't know where we go there. Her vitamin D levels should be at least 50 and she's in the low 20s, so that's not good. We're supposed to get some kind of supplement for that. I don't feel like we got any answers. I don't really have gut feelings anymore so I feel stuck on what to do next but I am so worried there is something wrong with her and we're all missing it. I'm so scared she's going to end up with cancer or something and I won't be able to help her. I am forever questioning why this was all put on our plate.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

We saw The Meaning of Life

This past weekend went by so quickly it hardly seems like it should be over yet here we are... Tuesday. I did get together with some friends though and that normally doesn't happen so it was nice to get out for a little bit without kids.

On Friday I went to dinner and a movie with my friend Tammy and we saw Isn't It Romantic and save your money- it was completely stupid. Not even a little bit funny. We had a good dinner with good conversation and talked about parenting and how incredibly crappy it is as they get older. Truly. I know people (myself included) really struggle through infant and toddler stage and kids being general jerks but honestly- none of it prepares you for middle and high school ages. There are tons of books on handling toddlers but nothing with real life advice on what to do when they hit those ages. Like a handbook. Kid starts smoking? Page 83. Kids vaping? Page 71. Kid has a friend you don't like? Page 33. Things like that. Nothing is out there. No, don't tell me to write one because frankly, middle school is kicking my ass and I'm not mentally ready for high school in what, two years? I understand why boarding schools exist now.

On Saturday we did lunch as a family and then I drove to St. Paul so my friend Amy and I could see Kelly Clarkson on her Meaning of Life tour. It's been awhile since Amy and I have hung out so I'm glad the roads were good, weather cooperated, and I was able to come. We had a great dinner and catching up, too.
The concert itself was really good and I had a really great time. Kelly had two opening acts, Brynn Cartelli and Kelsea Ballerini. Brynn Cartelli is a winner from The Voice and I'll be honest... she was terrible. I know she's young and learning how to perform live and all that but whoa boy. She sang with a cough drop in her mouth so it sounded like marbles and you couldn't understand that. Then she talked a LOT in between songs and she spoke so fast that it sounded like one really long sentence and you had no idea what she was saying. It was just really terrible.

Next up was Kelsea Ballerini who was better than Brynn and you could tell she's obviously more seasoned with singing live but still... she's not at the level of touring on her own yet. She doesn't really have stage presence because she mostly walks the same path, goes up on the stairs a little, and I don't know. It's just not spectacular. She sounded good though and I think her last song was her song with The Chainsmokers called "This Feeling", so I had to record that quick and send it to Olivia because she LOVES that song. She was properly jealous.

Kelly came out next and she was really great. I honestly forgot how many albums she had, I didn't realize her Meaning of Life album came out in 2017, it seems like that is a recent one but then again my concept of time is really warped so it's probably just me. I also forgot how much I love the song "Meaning of Life" and no lie, I kind of teared up a little. I also love "Whole Lotta Woman" and she did that so that was pretty fun. She did pretty much all of her hits (even the depressing ones), and had a great encore worth staying for. Overall I had a really great time, I really enjoyed this concert, and I would definitely see her again.

My drive home was alright, but I did learn even my max dose (so far) of Ritalin is not enough to perk me up so I have to call about that and maybe get it changed. I stopped at my half way point to get gas and snacks so that really helped and I pulled into my drive way at 1:03 a.m. Needless to say, I felt like I was hit by a bus on Sunday. HA!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Weight Loss Challenge, week 15 (the thunk heard round the world)

Admittedly, I did almost nothing last week. I did a couple of sessions on my bike but that's about it. As it turns out, I had an incredibly stressful week and I'm kind of going into anxiety hyper mode, depression dive, and it's not good.

It's all kind of around Lucy. She had her 2 1/2  year check up last week, no big deal. She still shows as anemic after the liquid iron supplement stuff they gave her, so they referred us to hematology. Which, I really didn't think was a big deal. I'm always low in my iron levels so maybe she just has my genetics? But they did a smear of her blood and that shows she has a weird kind of anemia that could be nothing, but it could be a lot of big things like diseases or cancer. So she has that appointment this week and I am not doing well in the mental health department. The bright side is I have my therapy appointment the day after her big appointment so I've got that going for me I guess.

My goals for this week are... to get through it. I'm hoping to at least get my bike stuff done during nap times. I have so many things happening this week I just want to get to Friday and take a breath.

Despite not exercising much, my diet was really good. I got through Valentine's Day hardly eating any candy (I had a few jelly beans because I went with those over chocolate). My meals were pretty on point even the two days I went out for dinner with friends (more on that soon). I may have splurged on french fries but if I was counting calories for the day, I was well under my allotment so that was good. Also, I have hardly had any caffeine this week. My big challenge? Not ordering a soda when I go out to eat. I did both times and I realized after the fact it's so automatic for me and I have to really try to break that habit. I always order a water too, but I  need to skip the soda. It's not even the benefit of caffeine that I like, mostly because the caffeine doesn't do anything for me- I don't feel any more pep in my step or anymore alert/awake, it's the actual taste of soda. I crave the taste and the sugar of it. Back to that damn sugar addiction!

Hopefully this week you're doing something for yourself. Next week I start something fully out of my comfort zone and I'll talk about that then, so stay tuned!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Review: Our Little Secret

I'm slowly getting back on the reading train but I tell you, every time I see how behind I am on my Goodreads Challenge this year... it's daunting.

Our Little Secret - Darren O'Sullivan

A deserted train station: A man waits. A woman watches.

Chris is ready to join his wife. He’s planned this moment for nearly a year. The date. The time. The train. But he hadn’t factored in Sarah.

So when Sarah walks on to the platform and sees a man swaying at the edge she assumes he’s just had too much to drink. What she doesn’t expect is to stop a suicide. As Sarah becomes obsessed with discovering the secrets that Chris is clearly hiding, he becomes obsessed with stopping her, protecting her.

But there are some secrets that are meant to stay buried forever…

I have a few feelings about this book but would I call it a gripping psychological thriller? Not so much. The beginning started out promising with Chris teetering on the edge of a train platform waiting for a train to come through so he can end his life and be with his presumably dead wife. Enter Sarah, emotional from the realization that her boyfriend is complete trash and doesn't care about her, waiting to catch the train and she automatically assumes Chris is just another drunk. Except she's watching him and things aren't what they first seem and once he is desperately trying to get her to leave she realizes he's about to do something drastic so she ultimately stops his suicide.

Good deeds don't go unpunished as they say. But they also say be kind to everyone because you don't know what they are dealing with inside. Both are ultimately true for this book.

The book promises a twist, but I wasn't surprised at all because I've read far too many thrillers to know what was coming. Keeping in mind this is a debut novel I'm not knocking off any points for that, it's rare that a debut novelist has a fully unique story line.

Let's talk about what I did like: the pacing of this book is really good. You'll keep reading it because it always feels like you're on the cusp of something big happening but it doesn't, and you're not even mad because that feeling is still there. I liked Natalie's character a lot.

Things I didn't love: Sarah is an idiot. You kind of get that at the beginning as she's describing the situation with her boyfriend (is he really even that?) and then she says it herself, she makes terrible choices in men, and that record stands by the end of this book. And Chris. What can I say about Chris that doesn't give the ending away? I really didn't like him and I wish the ending had come sooner, or maybe an even better ending because maybe that ending wasn't good enough? I'm not sure. It's a little Fight Club kind of for me when it came to his character and I'm not sure how I felt about it.

Overall, I'm giving this one a 3. It's not awful, if you're a fan of thrillers and that's mostly what you read you might be a little disappointed. If you only read thrillers once in awhile for something different, I think you're really going to like this one so add it to your to-read list to get you through the rest of this crappy winter.

   

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Review: Nature's Best Remedies

I have to say, this is kind of a timely book because I'm dealing with the worst head cold and generally feel like death is warming over, so it's probably a good idea to read through this, right?

Nature's Best Remedies

A guide to the world's most therapeutic foods, herbs, spices, and essential oils will allow the healing power of nature to energize your body and enrich your life, providing a surefire path to good health and well-being. 

This authoritative guide to the foods, herbs, spices, essential oils, and other natural substances that alleviate common ailments will enhance your life--from treating illness to sharpening the mind, losing weight, cleaning the home, enhancing pregnancy, and reducing the effects of aging. Divided into two sections--Nature's Cures and Nature's Pharmacopoeia--this beautifully illustrated guide provides up-to-date information on such timely topics as the perils of packaged foods and the benefits of phytochemicals, how to achieve major results with minor alterations in your food choices, the soothing benefits of essential oils, and the most effective methods for maximizing such natural home helpers as salts, vinegars, oils, and more. Innovative recipes offer easy, effective dishes that utilize multiple herbs, spices, and fresh foods for powerhouse results.

My first thought about this book is that it's physically beautiful. The cover is great, the pages are great, the book itself has a fantastic lay out and organized well. Secondly, the sheer amount of very detailed information throughout is pretty impressive. I have to respect people who can pull the vast amount information together and condense it into an easy to read and easy to reference format. Coming from a trusted source such as National Geographic helps, too.

The book is divided into two parts: Nature's Cures and Nature's Pharmacopoeia. The first part isn't terribly long and though it covers the different systems in your body and other primary health areas, it didn't have the basics of handling the flu, common cold, etc that so often we're looking for something to give some relief. It does have a mental health section and a short weight loss section, as well as a chapter on pregnancy with was pretty interesting, I thought. The second part goes in depth on things you can grow in an indoor garden and their benefits, things "from the sea" and then dark herbs, all of which have countless benefits. Not to exclude anyone, it does have a section on beneficial spices but also- essential oils. The other section I spent a lot of time in is the Nature's Powerful Pantry one because a lot of the things mentioned I already have so how impressive is that?! I also have a lot of friends who are getting into the green cleaning supplies and there is an entire section for that and it was very easy to follow directions that you could try right away.

Overall I really liked this and if you consider yourself a crunchy mama, this is a great reference to have on hand. It would make a pretty terrific gift idea if you know someone who is getting into herbal remedies and taking a more clean approach to living their best life.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange of a review; all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Book Review: A Man Called Ove

I'll confess and tell you that the only reason I got this one, well two reasons, is because it is talked about a LOT and this kind of reminds me of my dad. So I had to get it.

A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

I won't write out the entire synopsis of the book but instead I'm going to just tell you what I liked, and didn't like, about it.

First off, I kind of loved Ove.  He's not an immediately likable character but after awhile you recognize him as your grouchy neighbor. The guy who is very specific about his order at the restaurant. He's the guy who doesn't understands the gadgets he buys and you wonder why he even bought them in the first place. He's the guy who is insufferably slow on the road who will follow the law of the road to the precise letter, no deviation. He can't stand the younger generation and their lazy ways and he's not afraid to tell them that. He's basically every awful, mean, old guy you have ever encountered. That's Ove. But even still, as you read the story and you find out why he is that way, what his life was like, you start to see his point of view and you think maybe the world ought to respect him more. Be a little more grateful for a guy like Ove. Of course in the fast paced world we're in, that won't happen.

It's safe to say the character development throughout this book is spot on. If you need to have an example on how you development a character from a faint idea and just build all of these layers onto it to turn a reader's thoughts completely around by the end? This is the book to use as the example. It's really fantastic.

But.

My number one complaint is this isn't a fast read. I put this book down so many times because it just didn't hold my interest and I often wondered when the heck it was going to get interesting. A couple of times it would seem like we're really getting towards a pivotal moment, you've got this build up and you're already having feelings about it, and then poof. It fizzles out faster than it began and you are left feeling frustrated. Needless to say, this book took me forever to read. I started this in October and it's what? February. That's how long it took me to get through this. But once I finished it, oddly enough, I was pretty glad I stuck with it and I'm left feeling charmed by this book.

   

Monday, February 11, 2019

Weight loss challenge, week 14 (my thighs hurt)

I'm kind of sucking at doing the videos for you but I really will try for next week, I promise!

My goals for last week were:

  • Stick with intermittent fasting: I did this pretty well. I had a couple of days that I got a little mixed up because I had sick kiddos but for the most part, I stuck with it! 
  • Limit soda to 8 ounces: I did well except for one day I was DRAGGING and honestly, I needed it. But, I made up for it on another day because I had none so there's that. 
  • Workout 3-4 times: I did this! I actually worked out FOUR times last week! I did my bike thing three times, 20 minutes each ride and I did Day 1 of the 21 Day Fix. 
I tried starting the 21 Day Fix workouts kind of awhile ago but a 30 minute workout was just too much for me. I didn't have the stamina, my lungs were screaming, and I felt awful for days (more run down and flu-ish than normal) so I decided to go down to doing the 10 minute workouts for awhile. That actually was a good plan because I was able to do all 30 minutes of the workout on Friday and I was so impressed with myself. It doesn't sound like a big deal but for me it really was. I'm pretty hopeful about next week. 

I did realize that me doing this workout every day likely won't happen. I was pretty sore on Saturday, which I expected. My core hurt, and my thighs were a little sore. But Sunday? 

You guys. 

My thighs hurt so bad. Like couldn't squat on the toilet fast enough hurt. I may or may not have peed on the bathroom rug and then laughed like a hyena about it around 4 a.m. Whoa boy. It was pretty funny. So the plan right now is to do it every other day and just hope the hurt kind of gets better. I'm hoping to do day 2 during nap time today so cross your fingers! 

You're supposed to celebrate your accomplishments, so we shall. Ignore my jacked up photo but these pants? Are size XL skinny jeans from Maurices. I forgot that these are kind of too short for my liking and they aren't really comfortable at all so I don't know why I saved them BUT I was able to get them on. Zipped up and buttoned with no issues. Little snug in the thigh but I was able to get them on easily and that's what matters. My size 16 pants are getting a little too big for me. Not quite enough that I can go down to a 14, but enough that I might need to get a belt soon because hiking them up constantly is kind of annoying. So that happened. 

Goal for this coming week: 
  • Workout 4 times
Hopefully you're "killing it" and "smashing your goals" (I hate when people say that so this is a joke, I'm not turning into a moron). I'm realizing that my goal to lose 3 pounds this month was kind of lofty considering the month is already half over!!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Marie Kondo scares me.

I don't know if you remember but a couple of weeks ago I talked about watching Marie Kondo's show and then starting on my office/scrapbook area. I got rid of a lot of stuff and I'm still in the processing of getting rid of things. I have a stack of books yet to go to their new home, one to mail, some school supplies I need to organize into their new home so I can better see what I have before I buy like crazy in August. For the most part though, my room is done. I really cut back on craft supplies and books, I changed up my work area so it's more efficient and I can pull things out when I need them. I'll admit, it was nice to get rid of so much stuff.

So naturally, this made me think we should move the purge upstairs. I mean, why not? I know my makeup was a hot mess, the cabinet in our bathroom was a mess, the linen closet was a mess, things were out of hand. And our clothes? Hot mess. It was bad. So I thought I'd just start.
It's kind of hard to work on stuff like this because none of it brings me joy. I need it though, so I don't look like an ogre when I leave the house, so you know.. its a need. I did downsize it a lot because I haven't used lip liner in YEARS and frankly, I don't care enough about any of you enough to wear lip liner.  Glitter eye liner? Let's be honest... there comes a time where you need to put the glitter and the shimmer away. That goes away and your various anti aging creams and aging specific makeup comes in and you need to make the transition. If you think I'm parting with my Unicorn bronzer/highlighter you are WRONG, ma'am. I refuse to get rid of that. Refuse.
Then I moved to my closet. This is literally just my closet. I decided I was going to do my closet and then do my dresser because that is two very different sections. Closet is clothes that I wear every day. Dresser is weird things like tanks, pajamas, socks and underwear, long underwear, bathing suits, etc. None of that seems like stuff I would sort with regular clothes so I made it two different jobs.

You know what doesn't bring me joy? Making the decision to get rid of all of the clothes that don't fit. I can't hang onto these for "someday" because it's making me depressed every time I go to wear it and realize yet again... it doesn't fit.  I allowed myself one small stack of jeans that are the next size down from where I am now and a couple of t-shirts that are amazing and hilarious and I just can't get rid of. Those ended up being folded on a shelf in my closet.
I did work on my dresser that same night because I was kind of on a roll. I did her fancy folding thing. As much as I didn't like it when I was doing it, when I pull stuff out I kind of love it. 
I did my t-shirts and ended up getting rid of a LOT of them. I only have a drawer of them versus two now. 
I have my solid colored tanks rolled (lower left), my printed tanks folded (top left), extra t-shirts that didn't fit in the drawer (middle), and my pajamas folded (top right). 
I had a hard time with this drawer because this is all weird random stuff I use rarely. I have two bathing suits (two different sizes), my long underwear, sports bra, lacy tank/bra thing that goes under a shirt I have, and a petticoat and belt. 
I missed her episode on pants so when I looked it up I didn't like that method at all. So I have my workout pants folded (lower left), leggings rolled (top left), maxi skirts folded (middle), capri leggings (top right), and other pants folded (lower right). This is actually working really well for me so I'm going to stick with it. 
I did finish the bathroom. This cupboard was chuck full of stuff. So I've got my towels folded (I cannot handle them folded any other way. Sorry, not sorry.), my makeup was transferred to the blue drawer thing, and face lotions/cleansers/face masks, etc in the tray. Underneath is the toilet paper, spare diaper and pull up, and then basket of lotions. 
It's dark in here but this is my linen closet that is right outside of the bathroom. We have the laundry hamper in here and we store beach towels, extra blanket (for sleepovers), and my CPAP machine bag in here. This bottom shelf was a catch all for junk. So now we have boxes organized with stuff: one for first aid supplies, one for shaving razors/cream, one for dental care, and this box for nail polish stuff. That box was full of CD's that I got rid of (after making sure I had them in my iTunes because I still listen to them.)
I made Matt do his dresser and part of the closet too because I said I would do it if he didn't. He did it one night I took Olivia to dance. 
 He got rid of a TON of his gross t-shirts. He has nice clothes, he dresses like he owns nothing.
Oh! So here's our closet all done. My dresses are hanging on a hook but I did get rid of half. Matt's clothes are on top (honestly, I feel like he could have/should have gotten rid of more but I'm lucky he did it at all so I'm not going to push it). My clothes are on bottom. They are all pushed to the middle, there is nothing in that black hole to the left or the little to the right. For perspective, my section was SO full, I could hardly squeeze things in there. It's really weird to not have much to choose from (some of this is summer only so my winter selection is... like 5 tops at best) but I guess it's nice to not be depressed every day when I get dressed.

Are you doing any purging? Is Marie Kondo bullying you into feeling joy? Honestly, I realize how very little brings me joy in my house and it's mostly all because I need it, not because I like or want it. I'm curious if others are feeling the same way or are totally into the feeling joy thing.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Book Review: Heartless

I honestly can't remember WHEN I got this book but I know it came in a book subscription box and I'm pretty sure it came in an OwlCrate box because I have a special edition cover and a letter from the author. I do know it's been on my shelf a really long time waiting to be read but I never grabbed it because it just didn't jump out at me.

Then my friend Shirley read it and told me I had to so I listen to my friends when they tell me to do something. Mostly. Don't you dare ask me to read Jodi Picoult.

Heartless - Marissa Meyer


Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King's marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.
Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

I have seen a wide ranging mixed bag of reviews on this book and that's one of the reasons it's sat on my shelf so long waiting to be read. Had this gotten a ton of amazing reviews, I would have picked this up sooner. To be honest, I didn't love it. It was only meh for me, I'm teetering between a 2 or a 3 rating. I know, I'm taking the unpopular path here. 

First off, I really liked Jest. I really wanted a LOT more Jest in this book and I think if there were the end of the book for him would have left me feeling... more. I mean, it's not the ending I wanted but I also didn't care much at that point either because.... Cath is the worst. I have another friend (hi, T! You made the blog!) who read it and messaged me asking me what I thought and when I said Cath was the worst she was fairly angry at me. I'm sorry! But Cath is the worst. She's selfish and spineless. Well, she kind of grows a spine at the end but being an angry, heartless (see what I did there), vengeful person doesn't really equate a spine, so I don't know. I think she starts off alright what with her baking and her friendship with Mary Ann, she wants to do whats right but that doesn't mean she's going to be happy. So she starts having dreams of someone (who turns out to be Jest) and there honestly was no point of the dreams, was there? It feels like that was going to have more oomph in the book but the author didn't know where to go so she quietly forgot about them and was hoping you would too.

The book does bring a lot of the charm and quirkiness you would expect from a Lewis Carroll inspired but there just wasn't enough of it. It kind of perked up more at the end but still, I wanted more.

Let's go back to talking about Cath and how dumb she is. She continually makes terrible choices and people around her die or get hurt and literally nobody calls her out on it, except Hatter but only kind of and only to her face and not in front of others. Even after being confronted with her terrible choices you'd THINK she'd listen after repeatedly told NOT to go through the damn door. You know what she does- she goes through a door. Why she thinks she's above fate, I'll never know, but honestly, everything is her fault as far as I'm concerned so I don't even feel bad for her "I feel sorry for myself" sad sack self in the end. Meh. Everyone could do better than her, to be honest.

I do like Jest. I know I've said this but I really loved his character. I liked his arc of development, I liked the story he takes us on, I liked him a lot. We didn't get enough time with him and again, it ultimately made the ending of the book seem stupid and pointless. It felt rushed, like the author had an end game in mind and was maybe on some kind of deadline so we have one major event and boom- book is basically done but we throw in a few things to say we had a decent plot line and here we go.

I know she has the Lunar Chronicles series and that was huge for awhile but this doesn't really make me want to go out and read those. And actually, as I read what I wrote, I'm going to give this a 2, it really was just OK for me and it's not one I'd re-read. I think people who absolute love retellings of classic stories or people are fans of the Lunar Chronicles are going to completely love this. I get excited about retellings but this one just didn't hit the mark for me.
   

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Book Review: The Expedition

I'm not going to put the review for the first book, The Initiation, up on my blog simply for time sake but I really think this series isn't getting enough attention. I know there are a lot of dystopian authors trying to capture the success that The Hunger Games or even Divergent got and I'm not sure this series is at that level but they aren't something to ignore, either.

The Expedition (The Initiation #2) - Chris Babu

Drayden and his friends thought nothing could be harder than the Initiation. Little did they know it had only been a warmup for the challenge that lay ahead.

With New America’s situation dire, Drayden and the pledges venture out into the unexplored world outside the walls, escorted by a team of elite Guardians. The group seeks to contact another civilization in what remains of Boston, but Drayden has secret goals of his own.

Dangers abound in the real world, including Aeru, the deadly superbug that wiped out humanity. While they battle the elements of a desolate landscape, a power struggle emerges within their ranks. The Guardians seem to be carrying out a covert mission themselves, and the quest turns everything they thought they knew about New America upside down. 

I will echo what a lot of readers had to say, it's hard to put down. You absolutely have to read the first book for anything in this one to make sense and certainly to understand the characters. I also have to say, the author really started a BIG story here and I was kind of worried that it would prove to maybe be too big and some pieces would get lost in trying to explain different elements but so far, that isn't the case. It feels like there are almost two stories moving here, New America is struggling and that's fine but then you have the Guardians kind of doing their own thing and you know it's all going to come together but at what end?

Given the relatively dark nature of this book, I really appreciate the author's efforts to break through that with humor sprinkled in. I love how realistic it feels, like any and all of this could burst into our reality at any time, I love how once again- it's teenagers saving the day. It always makes me laugh when adults shake their fist at the millennials and younger because I want to ask, haven't you ever read a dystopian novel? The old people go first, man. It's the kids who make it in the end. Every time. Ha!

My favorite parts of a book is dialogue, I want to feel like I'm eavesdropping on a conversation. Unfortunately, I didn't get my fix on that so much here and what we do have is kind of... teenagerish? I know it's teenagers so we aren't going to get sophisticated monologues or plans but it kind of feels immature and cheesy? I can't even say it's terrible but just some parts kind of annoyed me and made it hard to believe.

Overall though? I'm giving this a good 4 stars. It's a pretty quick read and if you're a fan of YA Dystopia books you are going to really enjoy these. I feel like these are the movies that are fun to watch at theaters because we always go in with at "what if" and "that would never happen" mindset simultaneously. Bottom line, this would make for a pretty cool movie.
   
   
Big thanks to TLC Book Tours for the books in exchange for an honest review! If you want to see what others are saying about the book, check out their website read more about it. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Book Review: Ultimate Sacrifice (Men of Courage #1)

I am SO behind in my Goodreads Challenge. I'm not kidding. I'm like 9 or 10 books behind and frankly, I feel like getting to my goal of 110 books is kind of not realistic anymore and I have no idea how I'm going to do it. Let's not worry about that. INSTEAD, let's talk about this one.

Ultimate Sacrifice (Men of Courage #1) - K.C. Lynn

Hard work and dedication brought Austin Hawke up the ranks at his department, eventually earning him Lieutenant position. He was more than ready to lead his fellow brothers but one fatal call leads to tragedy and a danger they never saw coming.

Meanwhile, his personal life is just as destructive. All thanks to the gorgeous sports bar owner he shared an unforgettable night with only to have her slip out on him before the morning sun. Zoey thought she could escape him without a fight but what she fails to realize is Austin doesn’t give up when he wants something, and he wants Zoey.

Zoey Anderson had dreams of exploring the world, capturing its beauty behind a lens, but all that changed the moment her disabled sister was born. Due to their loveless home, Zoey dropped her dreams and took on the role of caring for her younger sister. A decision she could never regret. 

Taking her life by storm, Austin Hawke crashes through all the barriers she placed around her carefully guarded heart. When passion burns and devastation strikes, Zoey quickly learns that love doesn't come without sacrifice.

I have become a real fan of romance books under 200 pages because it is entirely possible to get a full story arc in that amount of time. The difference with this book is if you want a full conclusion, you aren't going to get it here, this was written for you to be invested in the series and dammit if it didn't work because I am all in for book two and three which haven't been released yet (as of February 2019).

In this book we have Austin, super hunky firefighter with his eyes only for Zoey, pretty cute bar owner with issues. They all have issues, don't they? While predictable, hers are pretty honorable and understandable, she's the sole care giver and provider for her sister Chrissy who has a complicated and delicate health condition so she's living in full time nursing care. Throughout the book Zoey wrestles with her responsibilities and commitment to her sister but also to her need for companionship, specifically with Austin. Austin is maybe one of the best male characters I've read in awhile because while he's hot and wonderful there, he's a firefighter and is all about saving people and kind of cocky and assured about it, but then he's really sweet and amazing when it comes to Zoey and Chrissy. He goes above and beyond and when things take a turn for the worst, he's got the best reaction to it and takes it in stride. At times Zoey is kind of infuriating because she's really stuck on what she hopes the end will be while not really thinking about the reality of the situation, she's almost tunnel vision, basically.

Then in between all of that drama, there is an arsonist on the loose, targeting Austin and his unit and of course it hits close to home eventually but can they figure out the who and the why before one of them gets hurt? Time will tell, friends.

Overall I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars. I really liked it, I got through it in one day, and it's a pretty good story. If only Zoey wasn't so tunnel vision and kind of an idiot about it, this could have been a 5 star.

   

Monday, February 4, 2019

Weight loss challenge, week 13 (weigh in time)

Last week was kind of a ROUGH week because we had that lovely polar vortex garbage so my kids had three days off from school. Let's just say I am glad to have made it out alive from that week. That doesn't mean I didn't do anything, so let's talk about what I did:

  • Stuck with intermittent fasting. Oh man. I slipped up a couple of times which made the days I did stick to it HARD. Also this last weekend I threw caution to the wind and ate close to bedtime which made me feel awful, in more ways than one, so I've got to knock it off. 
  • Limit soda to 8 ounces a day. Again, I did well on this except for two days. I had more soda than I should and again, I felt terrible. The biggest help was switching to those mini cans of Pepsi you can get now. I thought those were going to be a joke but honestly, I always seem to feel like one can is enough caffeine for me so that's been more helpful than I thought they would. 
  • Workout 3-4 times a week. I did this! I actually got four works out in if you're being technical. Monday was 20 minutes on my bike (3 miles), Wednesday was a 10 minute Beachbody Workout and then later on I did 20 minutes on my bike (3 miles), and Friday I did 25 minutes on my bike (3 miles). A little slower on Friday because I hurt my foot on Wednesday. I landed on it wrong and it's been hurting. It's the whole side of my foot, like a tendon or something? I'm not sure but it's completely annoying and I'm over it. But I'm hoping to just do a workout today during nap time and have it be fine. 
Dun dun dun.... the weigh in: 
Week one I was at 211.4. My last weigh in was way back on December 31 and that was 210.6. So in all, I've lost 3 pounds. I know that doesn't sound amazing, but my goal last YEAR was to lose 5 pounds. I know being sick and not eating for an entire week contributed to this, but hey- I'll take a win when I can get it.

My goals for this week are going to be pretty similar, but I want to get 4 workouts in at least.

At my weigh in on March 4, I want to have lost 3 more pounds. 

The other cool thing is last week I found out I was selected to start in first ever local Body Image Boot Camp. Dealing with the psychological side of why you feel crappy about your body when really, there isn't a damn thing wrong with it. I'm completely terrified because I honestly have no idea what I'm going into, but I'm also kind of excited. I know that one of my biggest obstacles is myself. I remember when I lost a lot of weight before I never felt like it was enough, I couldn't appreciate what I looked like even when I looked really great. I was constantly looking to make it better. This time around, I want to be able to celebrate my milestones and successes and not think about the next milestone. I'm hoping this ends up being the key to keeping it off but also being happy with where I am all along the way.

I hope you're kicking ass on your weight loss goals!

For the rest of the week I have posts for you, all book reviews! I know it's been quiet on the book review front but I've been busy reading and I have some really good ones coming, and hopefully next week too! 

Friday, February 1, 2019

We kicked and got jazzy.

If you're a long time reader you know I live in northern Wisconsin so this week we hammered with the polar vortex. That was a real treat because you haven't lived until it's a feel like temperature of -56 and your eyeballs feel like they are drying up within seconds. Needless to say, the kids didn't have school for the most of the week so it's been horrible.

Post AFE it's abundantly clear I am not capable of handling four children on my own. Not even close. To say I was overwhelmed is a gross understatement. Shout out to my friend Heidi though because she brought us pizza and breadsticks and she's just really great. It's nice to have a friend who always seems to know when you're on the verge of freaking out.

That's a long winded excuse to say THAT is why I haven't posted all week. I'm still confused on what day it is, where I am, the whole thing.

Last weekend though, Olivia had her first dance competition of the year in Sauk Rapids. That turned out to be a little longer of a drive than I had prepared for and in hindsight, I should have brought some of my medications and I should have absolutely brought Aleve and Imodium. I'm not going to go into all of the details but just know I had to stop at two really back woods gas stations, with bathrooms that probably haven't been cleaned since the 90s and I ended up buying Pepto Bismol and Imodium that was expired, started popping those like it was candy because I still had eight hours to go between dancing and driving home.

I'm not going to have an accident in my heated/AC seats. No ma'am.
We left and I want it on the record that I did her hair by watching several YouTube videos and her bun actually stayed in her hair. I was thrilled because I had no plan B. 
Isn't she just the cutest thing ever? I get the costumes all mixed up but I think this one is for her Kick group. I really like her costumes this year, they are really pretty. 
I was able to get a quick one with some friends before I was going to sit down so I had a decent seat. I also wanted to watch other groups ahead of them and it was clear the other groups were REALLY good and come from much larger programs, so I was getting kind of worried for them. 
It was a nice change from last year because last year in their grouping 3 of the 5 groups did the exact same song and that's really just the worst. This year they had MUCH more variation and thank god. I didn't get any pictures of her in her Jazz costume because afterwards she quickly got out of it for the ride home so that stinks. I'm hoping I get a couple at the next competition. 
I hope you can see this one a little bigger because Olivia is dead in the middle and has the cutest face ever. Of both dances she easily had the most expressive face and there was nobody out there having more fun than her. She did a really good job. 
They came in 4th place for one dance and 5th with the other and I was so proud because they were up against girls who were older and danced together for longer. It was surprising to see that was their scores because they were SPOT on and looked amazing. Oh well. It was good practice because we go to Brainerd in March and that's always a fun one to go to. 
Olivia had a great time. Depending on the time of her next competition Matt and the other kids might come. It's just a LOT of chaos and commotion so it could easily be a nightmare to bring them. We'll see. It is kind of fun for just Olivia and I to go, too.