Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Driving, Alexa, Books, and Dance

We have this week and then September is done and thank goodness because this month has been bananas for stuff. My planner is a hot mess of notes, cancelled things, things added in, things I forgot we had to do, things I did multiple times because I can't remember doing them 4 times already.

It's a mess.

So let's talk about it.
I don't even remember when we did, but at some point this month we drove the six hours to see my brother and his family. It was my nephew's first birthday party and I wasn't going to miss that. 
My niece is hilarious and super excited for us to come, and Penelope and Lucy LOVE her and all three play together so well. But my niece for a Google Dot and kept speaking into it, "Alexa- why you not working" and every time it cracked me up.

Those three girls kept me awake until just before midnight with laughing and forever switching spots on the floor. (Which made for a dicey drive home.) 
The next day we had my nephew's party and Penelope is obsessed with her boy cousin. LOVES HIM. She's convinced he is always missing her. She's crazy possessive of him, very gently rubbing his head and his cheek and hugging him. It's actually really adorable. I wish I had gotten Olivia and Jackson in this picture so we had one of all of the cousins.

Also? I've kind of become "crafty auntie Sara" because usually I have a craft activity or something for the kids to all do when they visit. I briefly thought about bringing something but decided not to thinking we'd have no time. Of course my niece asked me if I brought crafts.

I felt terrible.

So next time I will definitely have something in case we have time! 
Pep and Lu... they are quite the pair. Now that they are both in school they don't actually play together a whole bunch anymore so when they do it's quite the to-do. Doesn't Penelope look so much older here??
Did I share what I got in my Bookworm Box last month? If I did... oops. If I didn't, here's what I got! I'm currently reading the book Wild right now as my night time read and yeah... it's um... interesting. It's a series of short stories so in theory I can get through this quickly, but we'll see.
All three girls started dance. Pep & Lu are doing Tiny Kix and are loving it. Olivia is doing ballet technique, kick, jazz, lyrical, and hip-hop. Olivia absolutely loves dance and it is definitely her thing and I enjoy going to watch her. PLUS, I get some dedicated reading time so I'm not hating it.
Oh, and this was my Unplugged Box. I am going to cancel this one I think- it's just so hit or miss for me. This month I got a coffee mug, some spray or something, a candle, and a bath bomb (none of which I'd use), and then this book. It features lesbian necromancers and that is very much not my thing so I'll be donating that one. I didn't cancel in time so I'll be getting a box in October but after that I'm done.

Later this week I'll show you pictures of the house progress, so stay tuned!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Book Review: Smoke in her Eyes

If you are a regular reader of this blog (thanks!), you'll recognize this author's name because I reviewed the first book in what will be a trio. I really enjoyed the first book so when I had the chance to read book two I jumped on it! I'm crossing my fingers for book 3!

Smoke in Her Eyes - Anna Belfrage

Six months ago, Helle Madsen would have described herself as normal. Now she no longer knows if that terms applies, not after her entire life has been turned upside down by the reappearance of not one, but two, men from her very, very distant past.

Helle Madsen never believed in mumbo-jumbo stuff like reincarnation—until she came face to face with Jason Morris, a man who purportedly had spent fifty lives looking for her. Coping with being reunited with the lover from her ancient past was one thing. Having Sam Woolf, her vindictive nemesis from that same ancient past join the party was a bit too much. Suddenly, Helle finds herself the reluctant heroine of a far-flung, time-transcending epic story, one in which pain and loss seem to play a very big part.

This time round, Jason and Helle are determined to make it to the happily ever after. Unfortunately, Sam Woolf will stop at nothing to crush them. That ride into the golden sunset seems awfully far away at times…

If you know me you know that historical fiction isn't really my jam. I'll read it but it has to really be special for me to enjoy it. While this isn't really historical fiction, it does flash back from the WAY distant past and then today, so it's kind of like... a modern historical fiction. Does that make sense? Probably not but we're going with it.

In book one we left off on a cliffhanger, Jason & Helle weren't in the best shape but they were together, and Sam was in even worse shape and really pretty pissed off. He's determined to take Helle for his own, like he's done every other time around, but Jason is stopping at nothing to get his chance of happily ever after with Helle. Helle, by the way, isn't a useless damsel in distress, she's coming into her own and she's not going down without a fight. She has an idea of which guy she wants to be with but she wants them both to understand it's 2019 and she's not a possession.

The great thing is that even in book one these characters were developed really well and had a back story, characteristics, and personalities but this book enhances them. Everything feels more and bigger, and I was here for it.

Jason and Helle's relationship is tested by jealously (which we saw a tinge of in book one, but it's definitely a strong theme in this book), but also Helle is really insecure in this book which I felt was.. I'm not sure. I didn't love it, but I could understand why she felt that way. Someone from Jason's past comes back making trouble, people are hurt left and right, we have erotic scenes (which were great), and Sam is absolutely bonkers. He's the villain that you know is the worst but you also want to see how completely over the edge he's going to go and he's really pushing it in this one. Jason.. I didn't really love him in this one and felt like he was pushing Helle away and the whole thing with his aunt felt  little odd.

Overall? A solid 4 stars from me. Anna Belfrage is a particularly exceptional writer and she's able to give us realistic historical passages and flawlessly switch to today and it almost feels like two stories in one. We have a lot of build up in the bulk of the book and the sexual tension is great, and the last big thing in the book is PERFECT and sets us up for book 3, which I am anxiously awaiting.

A huge thank you to Anna Belfrage and TLC Book Tours for my ARC- I'm excited to get the chance for part two! This post contains affiliate links which cost you nothing but I get a couple of cents and it helps keep the blog going! 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Book Review: The Photo Ark VANISHING (National Geographic- you need this)

I'm really lucky I get to review books at all but I consider myself VERY lucky to be able to review books from National Geographic. I grew up with them being THE place to learn about anything in our environment and on our planet and all of these years later... they are still my go-to place when I want to learn. And this book?


The Photo Ark Vanishing: Joel Sartore
Joel Sartore's quest to photograph all the animal species under human care celebrates its 15th year with this glorious and heartwrenching collection of photographs. The animals featured in these pages are either destined for extinction or already extinct in the wild but still alive today, thanks to dedication of a heroic group committed to their continued survival. From the majestic Sumatran rhinoceros to the tiny Salt Creek tiger beetle, Sartore's photographs bring us eye to eye with the kaleidoscopic diversity of shapes, colors, personalities, and attitudes of the animal world.

In these vivid pages, Sartore singles out the species most likely to disappear in the next decades, as well as some that have already been lost. Alongside these indelible images are the words of scientists and conservationists who are working to protect and restore populations of endangered species. With Sartore's distinctive portrait photography, he invites us to look closer--and to care more.
I'm going to tell you that the photos in this book are absolutely stunning and you will find yourself compulsively turning the pages. I know you aren't at all surprised by that because National Geographic is known for it's arresting photographs but this book gives you a head on photo that guts you like nothing else. For me, seeing an animal in the wild or even at a zoo is cool and you're thinking they must be OK because they are being cared for and you feel a little better about it. And be honest- how often do you read the informational display about every animal?

Slim to none.

You might read a few and think, wow- I didn't know that, and then you move on to the next animal and give no more thought to it.

This book forces you to give more thought to it.

Each page has an amazing, up close photograph of an animal and lists their common and scientific name, gives you an idea of their general location and maybe a really interesting piece of information about their impending extinction. It touches on the common animals we know that are in danger (polar bears, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, giraffe, etc) but also to all of the countless insects, fish, birds, and more. It also explains the ICUN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) list and the classifications, which was helpful for me because I didn't realize there were so many classifications. I really though there was extinct, almost extinct, and just fine. Nope. Did you know the classifications are:
Extinct in the Wild
Critically Endangered
Near Threatened
Least Concern
Data Deficient
Not Evaluated

The book does a great job at looking at animals and talk about their most current evaluated populations but also what is causing the drop in their numbers. Things like the Addax, it's like an antelope, and I've only seen one and it was at a zoo, but their living range has been reduced by up to 99% in the last century. Every animal in this book has a starting statistic that makes you stop and think how are you contributing to that? What can you do to help?

Interestingly, there is a beetle mentioned that is almost gone but the St. Louis Zoo is making a valiant effort to save it, and I was just at that zoo and saw an entire display. I didn't really get the big deal until I read this book and wow. To think one little ol' zoo has spent years keeping this from being extinct is amazing.

Olivia and Jackson (ages 14 and 11) have also been looking through this and they recently said wouldn't it be weird to be one of these animals and know that pretty soon there won't be anymore of you left? Or know that soon you won't have a home, or food to eat?

Kids get it. Why can't adults get it?

I absolutely LOVED this book and I have a better understanding of the nature domino effect. We think the loss of one bird isn't going to be a crisis but it would be because now another animal has no food source, and now the next and the next. It will always come back to us so we should absolutely be concerned. We should all be trying to fix this.

I highly, highly suggest this if you're a general of fan of National Geographic, if you like animals, if you work in a school (a cool classroom or library book!), home school, or just like to have cool books on the table. Easily a 5 star book and especially pertinent as the Amazon forest burns to the ground. How many animals are moving up on this list because of politics? And is it really worth it?

I don't know if you've ever been in the National Geographic online store, but you can find this book (comes out September 10, 2019) but there is SO MUCH cool stuff in there and you could load up on Christmas gifts now. Don't get the junky gifts, give something people will enjoy and maybe learn something from... and maybe make some resolutions that could better the planet at the same time.

A huge, huge thanks to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for letting me be on this tour and sending me a copy to review. I love everything to do with National Geographic so I always jump on the chance when I get to! I also have to tell you that this post contains affiliate links so when you buy something from them I make a couple of cents (literally) at no cost to you. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Book Review: Fix Her Up

It's a good thing I have some books sitting here that I've already read and just haven't typed up for you because the post I was supposed to do today is delayed a bit but that's OK! I've been dying to tell you about this book and here we are.

Fix Her Up - Tessa Bailey

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World... whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there's Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her... 

If you're on Instagram at all and follow some #bookstagram stuff, you would have seen this book EVERYWHERE all spring and summer, and with good reason- it is great! I was a little hesitant at first and I wasn't sure I was going to even get into this but Tessa Bailey can develop a great character and it turns out that I loved Georgie and I loved Travis just as much and I found myself rooting for them the entire time!

We have Georgie, who is a professional clown, and the baby of the family. Her entire family are successful and running the family business (real estate, house flipping, etc.) and they kind of blow her off as the baby, and she hates it. She just wants to be taken seriously. We also have Travis, back home after suffering a devastating injury effectively ending his professional baseball career, and he's a friend of Georgie's family.

Georgie has also been in love with him since she was much younger and thinks people aren't giving Travis enough credit and encouragement to be the best version of himself that Georgie sees. Of course, Travis has no idea that Georgie is in love with him, so when he comes up with this idea of them fake dating to show that he has matured and can be a good announcer/role model, he doesn't think twice. Georgie wants her family to look at her like an adult and what better way to do that than a complete make over and adult relationship?

All is swell until Georgie and Travis have sex once the attraction gets to be too much. They start developing feelings and while Georgie is doing a great job at distancing herself knowing this will all end soon, Travis isn't sure if HE wants it to end.

This book has some great steamy scenes, I loved the absurdity of the trope but Tessa Bailey does such a great job with it that I had a great time reading this and really didn't want it to end. I'm excited to see there is a follow up (but with Rosie and Dominic's story) and I'm going to tell you I really don't care about Kristin and Steven. I didn't like either one of their characters at all so I don't know if I'd be all in on that one. But this one was an absolute gem and you're going to enjoy it.

I am so, so glad I bought this one versus borrowed from the library because this is one I'm going to re-read for sure! This post does contain affiliate links, so help a gal out (at no cost to you!)

Happy reading, lambs! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Book Review: Disgrace

You guys, I have to confess I am still reading Brittainy C. Cherry books every chance I get. I was going to start a different one but my friend Shirley said I had to read this one next so I did.

She's always right.

Disgrace - Brittainy C. Cherry

Each day I prayed for my husband to love me again.

After fifteen years together, he walked away from me, and into the arms of another.

I didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t know my worth. I didn’t know how to exist without him by my side.

All I wanted was for him to come back to me.

Then, Jackson Emery appeared.

He was supposed to be a distraction for my mind. A summer fling. A confidence boost to my bruised heart.

We were perfect for one another, because we both knew we wouldn’t last. Jackson didn’t believe in commitment, and I no longer believed in love. He was too closed-off for me, and I was too damaged for him.

Everything was fine, until one night my heart skipped a beat.

I didn’t expect him to make me laugh. To make me think. To make my sadness somewhat disappear.

When our time was up, my heart didn’t know how to walk away.

Each day I prayed for my husband to love me again, yet slowly my prayers began to shift toward the man who wasn’t right for me.

I prayed for one more smile, one more kiss, one more laugh, one more touch…

I prayed for him to be mine.

Even though I knew his heart wasn’t destined to love.

Do I even need to tell you that my obsession with Brittainy C. Cherry's books continues? I probably don't, but I continue to love them and this one is another home run for me.

In this book we have Grace, fresh from a separation from her husband after several years of miscarriages and heartache, is forced to move back home to regroup and start over. Once she gets into town she runs into the town "monster" Jackson Emery, who has earned himself a reputation of being an asshole but also really great in bed. From the start it's clear he doesn't like her but her car needs to be repaired so she's pretty much at a loss for alternatives. Her mom is over the top awful, her dad just takes it, her sister is the absolute best, and her best friend? Horrible and you'll see why.

Jackson has had a tough life, running a car shop he never wanted, taking care of his alcoholic father, his mother has died right after she walked out on them for another man, he's given up on the life he had wished for himself.

Through a few interesting events, Grace and Jackson realize they have more in common than they thought and Grace realizes she needs to find out who she is. Her identity has always been part of her ex-husband and she isn't sure how to do that. Jackson agrees to help her and somehow they start sleeping together with no strings attached for the summer. It never works out that way, and as the summer comes to an end, a big secret that had been kept for decades comes to light, Grace stands up for herself, and it turns out it's really Jackson who needs to find himself.

You guys, I loved this book. LOVED IT. It's the good girl, boy from the wrong side of the tracks trope and I'm completely here for it because Jackson is the best under his tough exterior. They are perfect for each other, it's like polar opposites who need each other to work, if that makes sense. I loved everything about this book except one tiny thing, and that's with the ending. There is a little string that I wish could have been tied up and I can't even tell you what that is without giving the entire book away. I will tell tell you that there is a part where Jackson recognizes Grace's miscarriages in a big way and I'm telling you- I COMPLETELY MELTED. I teared up because it's perfect and amazing and Jackson is the best. He's not even real and I love him. 

I highly suggest this book, along with everything else she has ever written because they are home runs every single time. 5 stars, no doubt.

This post contains affiliate links, click on them and I earn a couple of cents (literally) at no cost to you. YAY! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Book Review: Don't You Forget About Me

I have some photos and even funnier stories to share with you but I need to get myself in order before I can do that, so be patient. I'm really having a hard time getting myself into a comfortable routine with the kids in school, dance, book stuff, house stuff, me stuff, and so I feel like I'm on a bicycle with a wobbly wheel when you know the damn thing is going to fall off eventually.

That's basically my life.

Don't You Forget About Me - Mhairi McFarlane

If there’s one thing worse than being fired from the grottiest restaurant in town, it’s coming home early to find your boyfriend in bed with someone else.

Reeling from the indignity of a double dumping on the same day, Georgina snatches at the next job that she’s offered – barmaid in a newly opened pub, which just so happens to run by the boy she fell in love with at school: Lucas McCarthy. And whereas Georgina (voted Most Likely to Succeed in her school yearbook) has done nothing but dead-end jobs in the last twelve years, Lucas has not only grown into a broodingly handsome man, but also has turned into an actual grown-up with a business and a dog along the way.

Meeting Lucas again not only throws Georgina’s rackety present into sharp relief, but also brings a dark secret from her past bubbling to the surface. Only she knows the truth about what happened on the last day of school, and why she’s allowed it to chase her all these years…
I know I've read two other books by Mhairi McFarlane (It's Not Me, It's You and Who's That Girl?) and I enjoyed them but they weren't ones I was going to re-read, you know? Now we have Don't You Forget About Me and this one was pretty dang cute and this one is one I will likely snuggle in with again because I really enjoyed reading this start to finish. 

We all have a first love and that's what this book jumps on with Georgina and Lucas. I'll be honest and tell you the reason I picked this one was because I really am drawn to stories where a character has a bad day that just gets exponentially worse because if you know me in real life you know that I always say, "No wait, it gets worse!" and anything on that premise sells it for me. Georgina is having a really bad run of luck but it gets to a point of humiliation when she has to take the first job she can which means her first love?

Would be her boss.

That's bad enough but he has absolutely no memory of her.

Now... think back to your first love. I know mine and I have to say, if he didn't remember me after all that... not a confidence boost, friends.

The best part about this book is you can completely relate to Georgina and you can really empathize with her feelings and her situation in general. You want to be pissy with Lucas but honestly? You can't because they are adorable and I wanted them to be together. (No, I'm not going to tell you if they are or not, just trust me- it's worth it.) So not only do we have a romance and some comedy in here, there is some drama thrown in so this is a little bit of everything for everyone. You are going to really enjoy this one.

You can head over to HarperCollins website to find this one (HERE) but also Mhairi's other books, which are just as fun! Happy reading lambs!

A big thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for sending me an ARC of this one! This post does contain affiliate links, so be a dear and order from those so I can keep this little 'ol blog rolling. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Three Things

I would absolutely have a Weight Loss post for you but I spent the weekend far away from home and I ate a lot of candy corn this week. Not sorry. BUT! I did make the appointment for the weight loss doctor but it isn't until December. A week before my appointment I have to do fasting labs and they told me to bring a snack and/or juice because they take a lot of blood and I might get woozy, so I guess it's nice to be warned. I'm curious to see what they'll see.

Full confession, I'm stealing this from Emily at The Emi Times, who stole this from Steph at Life According to Steph.

I absolutely love doing these questionnaires because I always hope someone else will do them, too. I like to learn random things about people from this kind of thing so if you come across a really good one, let me know and I'll play along!

Three movies I've watched more than 20 times:
1. Pirate Radio
2. The Money Pit
3. Christmas Vacation

Three things I don't do:
1. Drink any kind of alcohol... ever
2. Eat vegetables like I should (I pretty much avoid them as much as possible)
3. Go outside at night (if I have to it's literally a short run into a building or car and I feel like I'm going to be murdered the entire time)

Three things I'm always up for doing:
1. Going to a concert
2. Going to a movie
3. Going book shopping

Three good things that happened this month:
1. School started for all FOUR kids
2. I got lots of books in the mail for review
3. I've made it to every appointment and meeting I was supposed to (so far)

Three things I'm tired of:
1. Politics- I'm really weary and we're still in primaries
2. Doctor appointments
3. Adulting

Three things I'll never tire of:
1. Books and reading
2. Naps
3. Warm breezy days in the summer

Three things I like to photograph:
1. Books
2. My kids
3. Water

Three things I can't resist:
1. The beach
2. Books
3. Popcorn

Anything surprising? Probably not, I'm pretty open on this blog so you likely know all of this already.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Purple fingers, season change, and pills

It's been awhile since I've talked about what's happening health wise. Not that I think anyone really cares, but it's been nice for me to constantly have this to check back on when I forget. Between my blog and Facebook memories, that's really the only memories I have. Is it weird to say I'm grateful for social media for that? Anyways.

So it's fall, and as I look back on this time of year the last three years I see that this depressing slump I'm in is pretty par for the course. I had therapy last week and I went in as a wreck. An hour no longer seems like a long enough session and she said maybe down the road I might consider going weekly because I seem like I could benefit from it.

That's probably true, but I'm getting tired of always waving the flag. Every threshold I've had in the "I'm not that bad" column I seem to be crossing off and it's frustrating and defeating.

It's fall now and I can feel depression coming in like the cold weather. Any motivation I had to try to do things is pretty much gone. My interest in pretty much everything is gone. My appetite is gone. I'm so tired all of the time that all I want to do is sleep. Even with my medications it's just.... gray. Everything feels gray.

Have you ever been to the blog Hyperbole and a Half? Anyone who was anyone in the world of blogging 5-10 years ago had visited this blog regularly and she just did it so well and ended up writing a book and it is great. Anyways- she did a blog about depression that was so SPOT ON and honestly, if you  have never seen it, please-please-please go, read it, and come back.


OK, so that's kind of what it is. It feels much worse some days. It dawned on me the other day that the idea of dying or being dead no longer scares me. I think for a little while after my AFE the idea of killing myself or being dead was scary because I had never had the feeling of wanting to be dead. I think when you first register yourself as someone struggling with suicidal ideation (which is different than being suicidal, don't freak the hell out, people) it's kind of alarming. More alarming though is being in it right now and know that you had a couple of weeks/months where you didn't think about it and you never realized how good you were having it right then because you depression is still bogging you down. Then you realize that's it is really depressing that that moment in time becomes the goal, knowing that you are fully depressed and feeling awful but at least you didn't think about wanting to die everyday.

That's a really depressing goal.

It also makes me wonder why am I even hanging on if that's my goal, that's what I'm working towards. Because that couple of weeks/months wasn't great at all, it was just a period of nothing. I felt nothing, but I wasn't raging. Realizing that my brain functioning makes no sense to me but is also really difficult to manage is just.... it's defeating.

Aside from that though, the medical situation is just as bad.

Auto Immune stuff: My inflammation lab work is still very, very high despite taking my methotrexate every Wednesday. I was on 8 pills on Wednesdays and then she had me do half in the morning, half in the evening to see if my body absorbed it better. It didn't seem to make a difference and the lab work showed that. Now I'm up to 10 pills on Wednesday, split doses again, and still- I feel no different. I've become one of those people who are like a weather barometer- I can feel the weather. Last week was pretty rough and I normally feel like I'm getting the flu but last week I felt like I was on day 3 of the worst flu of my life. That was every day and there isn't a thing I can do to deal with it. Plus, my fingers are almost constantly purple so hello, fall.

Gut check. I continue to have really horrible abdominal pain. I've done so many tests, scans, and lab work and nobody has any idea why my entire abdomen area hurts. It's not heartburn, it's not my gall stone, it's not my liver or appendix, it's not cancer, it's not any weird disease or syndrome, it's not a diet issue, they legitimately have no idea. Which is just great. They said I could "come back if I wanted to" later this year and it's like YES- BECAUSE MY ENTIRE MIDSECTION HURTS EVERY DAY TO THE POINT OF HAVING TO LAY DOWN AND DOING BREATHING EXERCISES AS IF I WAS IN LABOR TO GET THROUGH THEM. So yes, I want to come back. Fucking fix this. Jesus. I mean, I get not knowing, but ask another doctor, send me somewhere else, literally do anything at this point.

Busted. In not sexy news, my entire reproductive system and parts seem to be busted. Intercourse hurts and it's all for nothing because I can't feel anything and orgasms aren't happening. I know that this is probably really normal for my situation but the last three years has been... crappy. I see my primary care doctor in November for my physical so that's on the agenda but yeah. It's busted. Also, the hot flashes are getting SO MUCH WORSE. I only get a period once a year (which is just fine) and this year I got it maybe a month ago and it was so painful and I felt like someone was actually stabbing me for an entire day. It only lasted for one full day, and so I'm grateful for that because it was painful.

Neurology. I won't get into it much here but just know, my memory is not improving. For awhile there I thought maybe it was but that was like a false oasis because it's gotten worse. At first you think it's just little things like your car keys or phone go missing, you forget to put the milk away or shut a cupboard- all stuff that regular people do everyday. I know people blow that stuff off when I talk about it but for me, that's irregular. That is not my normal, those are not things I normally would do. Then it kind of morphs into other stuff. I'll forget to take my medications, I'll sort them all wrong or forget to have Matt check them, I'll forget to wear my CPAP mask at night, forget to shower or how to wash my hair, I couldn't remember how to tie my shoes last week. I dropped Penelope off at school and couldn't remember how to turn my car on and then how to get home. The forgetting where I live thing is starting to happen more and more. I had a bigger incident that I know Matt kind of brushed off and said, "well you remembered- and that's what matters" and I'm like, NO- the fact I forgot IS A BIG DEAL.

Sometimes it feels like a split personality. Where fog Sara is kind of in control and at the wheel but then old Sara pops in to say, "danger! danger!" and nobody listens. Like some little part of my brain knows I'm in murky waters but can't get me out.

I'm really afraid that I'm going to just progressively decline. I'm doing all of the puzzles and exercises, I do them all of the time, and still- it's not working. The closer I get to the 5 year mark (which is when I should be at my "peak recovery"), I'm getting scared, like I'm going to just miss the target.

Ha ha. I saw in Facebook memories that a few months after my AFE I was like, "god, I hate taking all of these meds" and I was only on 4 things. FOUR. That's nothing.
I've got all of my steroid replacements, my beta blocker, my acid reducer, my mental health medication, and my vitamins. And this is only my normal day, when I get to Wednesday I have to add 10 more in. 
That's my typical morning. I'm so used to it now that I don't even think about it but at every doctor appointment I ask if I can stop any of these. I know the answer will be no because my body doesn't produce any of this stuff or function without them, but I ask anyways.

I'm just in a really awful spot. Yes, I have my kids. Yes, I have things to look forward to. Yes, I have a great husband. Yes, I have family and responsibility. I know all of this, and I get all of this. But I also know that I'm tired. It's like asking an amputee to just drag themselves a little further through a desert when they are straight exhausted. I feel like I can't keep dragging myself around.

But I do it. I'm medicated and even-keel so I can keep going.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Book Review: Almanac 2020

Anything National Geographic does, I want to be a part of it. I've been lucky enough to be on a few of their review tours before (and I have a few more coming up!!) but when I saw Almanac 2020 up, I had to get on it because one of my favorite things to mindlessly page through is an almanac.

Almanac 2020 - National Geographic

The latest dynamic annual for the 21st century, featuring high-energy pages packed with facts, photos, infographics, time lines, and maps that capture today's world. Perfect for ages 12 to 112.

An almanac like no other, this book offers everything you need to know about the world in 2020--from science and nature to history, world cultures, and the environment. Filled with exquisite National Geographic photography, informative infographics, illustrated time lines, and authoritative maps, this striking new edition will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with practical tips for improving your own sustainability habits.

The book begins with trending topics in science, technology, and culture, then moves into fascinating chapters on travel, exploration, earth and space, biology, culture, and history. Recurring features include inspiring quotes, revealing facts, photos from National Geographic's Instagram, and a Quizmaster trivia feature. With new discoveries on every page, this cutting-edge book brings you the world, no matter what your age.

I should tell you that if you want to encourage even a reluctant reader to pick up a book, have a National Geographic book on your table. If you've never perused the NatGeo online store you are missing out because you could probably get all of your Christmas shopping done right there. In Almanac 2020 there is a flamingo picture on page 195 that my daughter is obsessed with (flamingos are her favorite animal of all time) and she wants it as a poster or something for her room.


Almanac 2020 will make you feel equal parts dumb (because there is so much we don't know) and smart (because you will finish this knowing so much more information about a huge variety of things), and that's the best part about the book. The book is sectioned out as follows:

  • Trending 2020
  • Exploration & Adventure
  • This Planet & Beyond
  • Life on Earth
  • The Science of Us
  • Yesterday to Tomorrow
  • Our World
Throughout the book they have a "quizmaster" page and it's a list of questions you think you know the answer to (spoiler, you most likely won't) and tells you which page you will find the answer on. My favorite section was Exploration & Adventure because our family is trying to make a state by state bucket list so we have a starting point for future road trip planning. (Bonus? I found a road trip playlist in the book!)

Fun Fact: Lake Superior stretches across 31,700 sq miles of the US and Canada making it the largest lake by surface area. (I already knew this because Lake Superior is only five blocks away from my house!)

My son really liked the section on fossils because the idea of something forever preserved in a rock is bizarre to him. My oldest daughter liked the page with animal tracks on it, she goes on "woods walks" with Grandpa (who worked with the DNR so he already knows this stuff), but she has been trying to identify what she sees out there. Same with the caterpillar and butterfly pages, our backyard becomes a caterpillar nursery for a good chunk of the summer and it's a serious enterprise they have going out there.

Also, there is a really FASCINATING section on understanding gender.There is actual science to that and I had no idea and didn't really understand it before but it was very cool to learn about. 

Not counting the index, it's 381 pages of JAM PACKED information. If you are a school librarian or even a classroom teacher, pick this one up and have it for that reluctant reader. The short sections and facts might be enough to keep them turning the pages. Also, if you home school your child(ren) this might be a great resource to have on hand. Every year these are so full of information and I wonder what they will include the next year and it continually blows me away. Not to mention the photographs are stunning, as usual, but I'm telling you, I made it through this book in just a few hours. My kids have been picking it up every time they sit on the couch. People who have come over automatically pick it up and learn something. It's a very cool book to have out.

Also, on page 316-317 it shows all of the variations of the American flag. Did you know the United States has had 29 versions of the flag? Each image shown lists the dates in which that flag was used and some are incredibly... interesting. All but one is the stars and stripes theme, but the design of the stars area has changed pretty radically over the years and that was pretty interesting.

I could go on and on with information in this book but I'll end this with telling you this is absolutely a 5 star read, no question. It's well organized, the information throughout the book is relevant to topics we see on the news but also just incredibly interesting. I think you'll really enjoy it!

A huge, huge thank you to National Geographic and TLC Book Tours for sending me a beautiful copy of this book for review! This post also contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Olivia turns 14... Matt and I feel like senior citizens

I should tell you that our family really doesn't do parties anymore. I'm worn out, it's a lot of work, and we really can't afford to do them. Typically on a birthday we just get our family together and call it good.

This year Olivia asked if she could have a couple of friends over and go to the football game because her birthday landed on a Friday and the high school had a home game. That's pretty inexpensive so I said that would be OK. We arranged for Penelope and Lucy to go to my mom's for the night, I told her she could only have FOUR friends because that's what my vehicle holds, and this is what we'd do. It worked out really well but I know she felt really terrible not being able to invite her entire group, but I can only do what I can do.
First, can we just talk about how grown my baby looks? Also, I never looked this nice at age 14.
Let us just remind ourselves what I was looking like that year. I had cut my own bangs, for god sakes. (Side bar: I absolutely loved that shirt and I refused to feel shame. It was a silky blue color and it was my favorite.)
Trying to keep this production on a tight budget I decided I was going to make the cupcakes myself and save the $40 I would have spent and we'd be OK. My issue with cupcakes is mine all come out a different size, bake unevenly, and it's just the worst. So I found these at Michaels on accident and bought them. I looked online and Amazon sells a set of three, which would be better actually.  Mine only do mini and regular muffins, but the set of three also does the jumbo muffins, and that would be awesome.
My cupcakes baked PERFECTLY and were a breeze to frost. I was so excited that these came out so well. 
I also decided that we would play a game while the food was cooking to keep the girls busy so I bought SO MUCH STUFF that I could use for that plastic wrap ball game. Nail polish, face masks, deodorant, dry shampoo, makeup wipes, nail polish remover, hair ties, bobby pins, fidget cubes, lotion, thinking putty, dominoes, stick on nails, candy, literally anything small that I could use went into this ball.

(Sidebar: do not even TRY to use saran wrap- get yourself the packing stretch film on a stick so you can roll and turn this thing quickly. Saran wrap will make you angry and test your patience and love for your child.) 
I had enough stuff on here that this took them at least a half hour to get through, and they were having such a good time. 
It was also fun to see girls get incredibly aggressive with ripping this stuff and furiously trying to roll a double on the dice so they can rip! I have a friend who no longer fills stockings at Christmas (they have teenagers and adult kids) and they do this instead, it's fun to watch her videos. 
I only managed to get one photo of all the girls together. I need to get better about taking photos because I wish I had more photos of me and my friends hanging out and doing stuff when we were kids. 
We ate our supper and had cupcakes pretty quickly because the game was going to start and that was our entertainment for the rest of the night. 

We moved onto gifts and her friends know her SO WELL. She got tons of her favorite candy and all kinds of stuff that I don't remember at all. Lots of inside jokes that I have no idea about. 
One set of grandparents got her the mouse for her laptop and flute books she wanted and also a jacket she coveted at the store and her grandma drove all the way back just to get it for her. Her other grandparents got her stuff for her room: comforter, flamingo sheets, a new rug, a huge storage box, etc because she wants a teenager room, and that's understandable. 
One of my gifts to her was a box of makeup (this girl has expensive taste), and hair things she wanted, and a curling wand. I also gave her this hand blown glass flamingo she wanted from the St. Louis Zoo. I was able to buy it when we were there and shove it in my shirt to get it back to the car to hide it in my luggage.  We also got her that chair and a flamingo pillow since her other chair ripped and was definitely not fixable.
Her siblings (mostly Jackson, this was all Jackson) got her the prequel book for Riverdale, which is her absolute FAVORITE show ever. Her favorite character is Jughead, which is played by Cole Sprouse, and I fully support that because I also love Cole Sprouse. I'm on the hunt for Jughead/Riverdale stuff and if you know of any- let me know. But he got her a pair of Southside Serpents socks (??) and she lost her crap over those, hedgehog socks, a Riverdale shirt, and something else that I can't remember. He was so excited to give it to her and she loved it.
Then Matt and I took the four girls and our two oldest to a football game. We got ditched almost immediately and only saw them when they wanted snacks. That was OK. It's not cool to hang out with parents, the cool kids stand under bleachers and by concessions and just... stand there, I'm not actually sure.

They had fun. Our team won like 49 to 7 or something like that. It was a great night to be out there and the kids were really good. A little drama towards the end and I'm not sure I even understand it but apparently there was a fight, they witnessed it, had to talk to a principal and cops, I'm not sure.

When we came home I stayed up until midnight with them because they were telling me about the kids at school, their teachers and classes this year, funny stories among their little group of girls, and I sat there thinking Olivia has found herself an amazing group of friends. Every one of these girls are just really, really great, they are all smart and kind, and these are the kind of friends she'll have through high school, maybe even beyond. I really enjoyed all of them and told them they can hang with us any time. I had to go to bed though because I'm old, and I guess they stayed up until 3 a.m. doing hair and makeup on each other.

It's weird for Matt and I to think we're old enough to have a 14 year old, a kid on the edge of high school, but at least we know our kids are pretty alright. They are really good kids and we couldn't be more proud, but knowing they choose solidly good friends reassures us that we have done an OK job so far.

I'm told there is another home game in October and they might want to go. I need to prepare to be up that long again. HA!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

August 2019 Wrap Up

I realize we're into the second week of September already and most people do this wrap up immediately after the month is done, but I'm late and it's fine.

Everyone knows to have low expectations of me and it's fine.

Totally fine.

I feel like August is always super busy for us because we are always in a mad dash to get stuff done we wanted to, get ready for fall, and then do our regular life stuff. It's always so much, but I feel like this year it was particularly insane knowing I had to get all four kids ready for school.

I also grossly underestimated how expensive that was going to be and I only had to buy things for three kids. In a few years I am going to be screwed when all four are in public school and need supplies but also need clothes. I  need to start playing the lottery, scratch tickets, looking for a sugar daddy for Thursday nights only because I'm too busy otherwise, something. But here's the wrap up for August with the links in case you missed any of it.

  • Lucy turned 3 and that was pretty great. 
  • We went to see Thomas the train and you'll be happy to know I didn't buy ANYTHING in the shop because we are poor but I didn't get suckered this time. 
  • We did our summer road trip, this time to Missouri. It wasn't the worst but it wasn't our favorite trip, but we can cross another state off our map so that was exciting. 
  • We completed phase one of The Great Porch Fix, and we're gearing up for siding to go on before winter and that means next summer? I get to plant things in my yard around the house. They'll probably just die and that's OK but still, it's very exciting. 

Books I read: a total of 10 and I feel annoyed that's all it was. I know September will be more but I'm behind on my Goodreads challenge this year and I need to really step it up! You'll see my Brittainy C. Cherry obsession began this month and it's going strong into September here. I have a bunch of books to review for September that you will LOVE so stay tuned for those! 
So that was basically my August 2019. I already said September is bananas and it really is. Two weeks in and I'm waving the flag. Oy. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Summer 2019 Wrap Up

I can't find the post that was all of our summer bucket list, but I'll tell you we didn't even get half of it done BUT we did a lot of things this summer.

1. Brighton Beach
We loved it there and actually went a few times over the summer to look for beach glass and cool rocks. We might go back one more time before it gets too cold. It's really nice to just sit there.

2. Try New Parks
As it turns out, there are a lot of parks in the Duluth/Superior area that were new to us. So we tried Morely Park in Duluth, that was pretty fun. No shade, but fun. 
We also went to Lester Park and that place was just really gorgeous, we'll definitely go back there as the trees start turning colors.

3. Valleyfair
Matt and I had been there before years ago, Olivia had been there like two years before, but this was new to the rest of the kids. It was a pretty alright day despite the rain, and the kids had a good time. 

That was it for our bucket list. Things that we missed were: Pinehurst Pool, Wilderness Walk (we could still go this fall), SeaQuest in Roseville (we might do this in the winter), Como Zoo, Cascade Bay, Gooseberry Falls (maybe a fall trip), and Amnicon Falls (definitely a fall trip).

The three oldest spent some time at Grandma and Grandpa Strand's house this summer. A couple of weekends (to get Penelope used to being there over night) and then a full week in August for Vacation Bible School. They all had a great time and I'm glad they get to do things like that. Olivia and her friend Ava even went out there for a weekend.
We did Wednesday Night at the Races and we all had a really good time watching Penelope and Lucy run, we had a picnic, and it was a great night out.
We went to Missouri and it was alright. It definitely won't go down as a favorite trip though we all had parts we really liked, but we can say we've seen the state and cross it off our map.
We got the cousins together twice this summer and that was really nice. My goal is to get them together more often but with a five hour distance between us and crazy schedules, it gets tough. 
I got to see my nephew be baptized and he's just the cutest little thing. Penelope is obsessed with him and is convinced the baby is missing her always. 
We had a lot of monarch butterflies to take care of this year. New this year was Penelope and Lucy getting into it and they were in love with every stage of it and were hyper-vigilant at what stage they were in and it was just really fun. This is kind of Olivia's summer thing every year and next year we need a LOT more cages or something to hold them because we had two and they are both in rough shape. 
Jackson and I managed to go to our first Pride Festival in Duluth and that was a fun afternoon for us, and the weather was perfect.

Olivia was a part of the Junior Curator program for our local Bong Memorial Museum and she learned and interviewed a veteran and made a display and ended up on the news. The kids hung out with friends, we caught every single ice cream truck Friday, I read a lot of books, I tried to cook from recipes again (but failed miserably.. ha!), Matt worked a lot but made time to hang out with us some, I had a lot of doctor appointments, we went through a LOT of snacks, and we did a lot of home improvement things that didn't give us room to do more.

And that's OK. It was a pretty great summer.

Now we're heading into fall and dare I organize a fall bucket list? I might. I just might get crazy and do that.

How was your summer? Was there something you wish you had done that you just didn't get to?