Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

We're in the final days of 2016 and that's always a good time to take a look back as well as a time to gaze into the future.

My fourth post of 2016 was titled "Hanging on by a Thread," and, as I review the year, that seems pretty fitting. In January, my two youngest daughters were in the middle of their first year at a new school where I struggled to fit in more that they did. My oldest was barreling headlong into the end of her middle school "career" and facing some tough decisions about high school. My husband had just gotten a promotion (Yay!) which meant even more traveling than normal for him (which was already A LOT). Personally, I was still struggling with my own self image, trying to find a little "me time" among chaos, and beginning to lose my writing motivation. It was a rather stressful, not-so-happy time for me. In fact, it felt like a bit of an existential impasse. However, like most of those cycles, it eventually passed - not without a few roller coasters, though.

After much anxiety and many tears, my oldest daughter finally decided on a high school placement. (Seriously, when did choosing a high school turn into something similar to choosing a college???) She chose an advanced college prep program where she will basically do four years of high school in two years and spend 11th and 12th grade taking basic college classes on an actual college campus. She will graduate high school with enough credits to be considered a sophomore in college. It's a great program and she is flourishing, but, as you can imagine it is A LOT of work and I often feel our lives revolve around her homework load and/or her project deadlines. We have made it through one entire semester, so we only have three more of the really cumbersome ones to go.

My younger two girls are at the same school they moved to last year. The middle one is fully entrenched in middle school - work load, social circles, crazy hormone swings and all!! She is also doing very well, but I could stand to see a little more Dr. Jekyll and a little less Mr Hyde! 

The youngest is in fourth grade, which, at their school, will be her last year in elementary school (5th graders bridge up to middle school). In fact, as I helped with her class Christmas party it occurred to me that that was the last elementary class party I would help with and I'm not quite sure how to feel about that - overjoyed or very sad. She is thriving as well, though she has learned a few tough lessons about studying and completing assignments. She has developed an even deeper friendship with one sweet friend in particular. They are indeed BFF's and are making plans to go to college together, live on their own in NYC together, and have a double wedding in the future. We'll have to see how all that works out, but it is fun to watch their friendship and to see my daughter emerging into a social butterfly.

Overall, this fall, we are a bit more settled into our routines and, though I still spend far too much time in the carpool lines, we are finding our rhythm a little more easily than we did in the spring. 

As for me personally, I'm in a better place than I was nine months ago. 
  • My job that was interim for almost two years was made permanent in March. That gave me more stability and a steadier pay rate, but also more time and responsibilities. I really do love it, but it is sometimes hard to juggle along with all the other craziness in our schedules. 
  • At the beginning of 2016, I was really struggling with self-image having gained more pounds than I care to number in a relatively short period of time. I had even visited doctors hoping for an easy answer, but there was none to be found. I dropped my gym membership this fall which has, ironically, helped immensely. Going to the gym was something I did not enjoy at all and really just made me feel worse about myself on top of being something else to figure into my already full schedule and to feel guilty about when I didn't do so successfully. Now, I am still not really happy with my body and would love to drop about 30 pounds, but I have reached a point of contentment and taken an "it is what it is" kind of attitude. I may not be a size 6, but I am healthy and I realize that I have to stop beating myself up and making myself miserable over a number on the tags of my clothes. 
  • For better or worse, the writing/blogging mojo that was on the decline early in the year completely disappeared somewhere along the way. At first, I felt like I needed to be writing and keeping this blog active, but I had no inspiration and no time, so it became just another stressor. This fall, I decided to stop stressing and just put it on the back burner - write whenever I felt like it instead of putting pressure on myself to post regularly. Well, "whenever I felt like it" became not at all for about three months and, honestly, I didn't really miss it at all. Now, I am missing it a little and trying to figure out a new approach moving into 2017. Amidst the demise of my own blog, though, I did help to start a new blog for my department at work and wrote a few posts for it! 
  • My five most viewed posts of 2016 were as follows:
  • I also started 2016 with a list of 10 books I wanted to read. I actually read 14 books this year, but only two of them were on that original list! 
Now that I've looked back,it's time to look ahead. What lies ahead in 2017? Well, if 2016 taught us anything, it's that life is always unpredictable!

As far as school is concerned and careers are concerned, I don't anticipate that much will change. All three girls will still be at their same school this fall. The only change will be the youngest moving up to middle school. (๐Ÿ˜ณWow! Did I really just write that?!?!) As I said, I'm in a better place personally, so hopefully that will continue and I can make it through my impending 40th birthday without too much of a midlife crisis! 

As for blogging, I want to get back to it, finding a happy medium with where I began 2016 (stressed out and frustrated) and where I ended (basically not posting at all). I'm aiming for posting twice a month, but still considering what that will be. I would love to get back to Finish the Sentence Friday linkups and I'm considering returning to my original 2016 goal of doing a "Currently" post once a month (and maybe making that a linkup?????). I think, however, as my blog evolves, it will continue to be more about me and less about my kids. As they are getting older, it is just harder to write about them and I am more concerned about respecting their privacy. 

So, how was 2016 for you? What are you hoping for in 2017?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ten Signs You've Been Married for Eighteen Years

My hubby and I celebrated our 18th anniversary last week. We took a lovely trip to Key West just before Thanksgiving (without the kids!!), but the actual day that marked almost two decades of wedded bliss was quite mundane. It was a Monday, for starters. After a day of work and running kids around, we ended with a mediocre family dinner and all the usual evening quibbles with the kids about homework, bath time, and bedtime. You know what, though? I was totally fine with that very typical, no fanfare, humdrum day because it was spent doing life with the guy who is truly my best friend. 

Over the past 18 years, our lives have changed a lot and, inevitably, our relationship has changed a bit as well - mostly for the better, I think. There are more than a few signs that we've been together for quite a while! 

  1. You can ride in the car together for an hour without speaking and it's totally fine. It doesn't feel like "awkward silence" because you've been together so long that you can just enjoy being together without worrying about saying the right things. 
  2. When you do talk, you finish each other's sentences. Or, better yet, you bring up a subject at the exact same moment your spouse was just thinking about the same thing.
  3. You can discuss each other's bodily functions without being embarrassed. 
  4. You know what the other is probably going to order off the menu for dinner before they have even decided themselves. 
  5. When either of you asks "Does this make my butt look fat?" you totally expect and receive a completely honest answer.
  6. You go to Lowe's, see a self cleaning toilet, say "Hey, you should get me that for our anniversary!" and he totally does and you are totally happy about your new self cleaning toilet anniversary gift. (Not kidding!)
  7. You suffer through while he spends Sunday afternoon watching The Matrix or Gladiator again becasue you know that on another day when your favorite movie, One Fine Day or Pretty Woman, is on, he'll skip the football and let you watch it.
  8. You frequently (and very unintentionally) find yourselves dressed alike - both wearing khaki pants and a green shirt, for example. In fact, it happens so regularly that you have developed a mutual understanding that the person who dressed second is the one who must change clothes even though the "copying" was accidental.
  9. You laugh together a lot more than you cry together. But, crying together is ok, too.
  10. You look at each other over a mediocre, semi-home cooked Monday night anniversary dinner while your children laugh and make fart jokes, the dog is howls, the phone rings, and the homework-bedtime-tomorowmoring battles loom and you just smile because there is nowhere else you would rather be and nobody else you would rather be with.
Happy Anniversary, Babe! ๐Ÿ˜œThanks for the last 18+ years. I'm looking forward to the next 18+! ๐Ÿ’—๐Ÿ’—๐Ÿ’‘

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

47 Random Thoughts I Have During Carpool Line

Hey y'all! I haven't been to this space in quite a while. It's been over two months, in fact. I said I was going to put blogging on a back burner, but it's been a longer hiatus than I anticipated. Honestly, I haven't missed it much until recently. My blogging mojo seems to be slowly returning. 

So, where have I been for the past two months? Mostly in my car. 

We live on one side of the county and all three of my daughters are attending schools that are on the opposite side of the county. Throw in soccer practices and games at various locations, a few other extracurriculars, errands, and whatever else might be going on and it all adds up to hours and hours of time with my bum in the driver's seat of my minivan. 

Many of those hours are spent in various carpool lines doing all the pickups and drop offs that are required. Today, as I sat in carpool line I was thinking about this long neglected blog and trying to come up with something to write about. Interwoven among all my blog thoughts were a lot of other random thoughts and, therein, inspiration was born. Here are 47 thoughts that run through my mind while I grow a little older each and every day sitting in the carpool line.

  1. Candy Crush
  2. I really shouldn't play so much Candy Crush.
  3. I'll check Facebook instead. 
  4. People are so annoying. I should just delete the Facebook app from my phone, but then what would I do during carpool line. 
  5. Did I return that email?
  6. Did I remember to move the laundry to the dryer?
  7. I swear the is somethingI'm forgetting today. 
  8. Man, I hope the kids don't have much homework today. I am so not in the mood to deal with that tonight.
  9. Ugh! I should have grabbed snacks. These kids are going to whine all the way home about being hungry. 
  10. I'm hungry.
  11. Did I eat lunch today??
  12. Speaking of food, what should I make for dinner?
  13. I'll look at recipes on Pinterest.
  14. I am such a failure. My dinners never look like that and I have no sense of style either.
  15. I should just delete the Pinterest app from my phone, but then what would I do during carpool line.
  16. I have to pee. 
  17. Do I have time to get out of the car and go the the bathroom before the kids get out? 
  18. I'll just hold it.
  19. And distract myself with more Candy Crush.
  20. Oh, there's that mom walking by with her perfect self. I wish I had her style. 
  21. I bet she knows what she's cooking for dinner. 
  22. I didn't thaw any meat anyway, so we'll just do take out between activities.
  23. What activities do we have this afternoon anyway??
  24. What day of the week is it??
  25. **Runs through list of activities in head & checks calendar on phone**
  26. Really?!? It's only Wednesday?!?
  27. Good grief! These kids really better not have much homework.
  28. Why do we sing them up for so many activities?!?
  29. Oof! These pants are so uncomfortable. Stupid muffin top.
  30. I should start going back to the gym and get in shape instead of complaining about my weight.
  31. When do I even have time for the gym, though? 
  32. Also I hate the gym, so just forget it.
  33. I can't wait to put on my comfy pajamas tonight.
  34. ::Sigh:: What time is it? How long have I been siting here?
  35. **Checks phone to look at time* Ohh, Candy Crush!!
  36. This level is impossible.
  37. What level is this anyway?? 
  38. Level 2,704,982?!?! Wow! I really should stop.
  39. I should have brought a book to read.
  40. I never did make it to the movie version of that other book I read.
  41. Wonder if it's on Netflix yet? 
  42. I wish I had gone to the bathroom when I had time. Now it's definitely too late.
  43. This car is filfthy.
  44. My kids are slobs.
  45. But, I love them.
  46. What time is it? Seriously, I've been sitting her FOR-EV-ER!!
  47. Think anyone would notice if I nodded off for a few minutes??
Oh, hey kids!! Did you have good day at school? 
(Thank goodness carpool is over now! At least until tomorrow!)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Best Books From Summer 2016

It's hard to say when our summer was officially over. My oldest went back to school on August 3rd which was insanely early. On the other hand, my two younger girls were some of the last ones in our area to return to school. They were still sleeping in and spending days in the pool right up until the end of August. It was a strange limbo, and unlike some parents who couldn't wait to get the kids back in school, I was sad to see the summer end.

It's been a month since the first day that everyone went back and it feels like we are still struggling to settle into the routines of early mornings, school days, and homework. We've barely begun and I already miss the lazier pace of summer immensely.

Mostly, I love fall. I'm a big fan of cooler weather and fall colors, but with all that comes the frantic pace of busy school days. In the midst of that busyness, one thing I miss is having time to read. Years ago, I used to love to read, but forgot that passion when my kids were little and I was knee deep in dirty diapers and temper tantrums. Over the last couple of years, I have rekindled my enjoyment of picking up a good novel and getting lost in the story. With our feet firmly planted in the craziness of fall, I may not be able to read as much as I would like, but I will still be keeping a book on my nightstand and clinging to the memories of all the books I read this summer.

This summer, I read seven books and wanted to share them with all of you.

My three favorites were . . . . . 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. 
Somewhat reminiscent of The Girl on the Train, this book is a page turner. Lo, the main character, is a journalist trying to figure out where her life is going when she gets an amazing opportunity - a week on a small, luxury cruise liner with a small group of wealthy people. However, the trip quickly takes a terrible turn when Lo thinks she witnesses a murder. There are lots of surprises and twists that I never saw coming as Lo struggles to solve the mystery and the ultimate outcome was not at all what I predicted.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.
This was the second of three Liane Moriarty books I read this summer and was, by far, my favorite. Three mothers - Celeste, Madeline, and Jane - unlikely friends who have two things in common.  1)Their children are in kindergarten at the same school and 2) they are all hiding something. With outtakes from witnesses artfully woven in, the book tells the story of their lives from the start of kindergarten up until the fateful night when someone ends up dead.

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown.
I've been to Paris once and that was enough for me to fall in love with the city, so I may have had a slightly biased opinion of this book. Madeline is tired of living a life in which she has deserted her own dreams and aspirations in order to meet the expectations of her mother, her husband, and "society." When she nears a breaking point and returns to her mother's home, she discovers her grandmother, Margie's, journal written while she spent time in 1920s Paris. Reading the journals reveals a version of her grandmother Madeline has never known and helps her to make some decisions about her own life. This wasn't a thrilling page turner, but a story that unfolded steadily and I found myself desperately wanting to know how what paths Margie's and Madeline's lives would take.

My second place choices were . . . . .

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley.
Ten people on a small, private plane over the Atlantic ocean on a foggy night. One of those ten was Scott, an unknown, unsuccessful painter. He and a  four year old child, now heir to his family's immense wealth, were the only survivors when the plane went down. The chapters alternate between the past lives of each passenger leading up to the crash and the aftermath of it for Scott and others in present time. Was the crash purely chance? Bad weather? Or sabotage?

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
This was the third Moriarty book I read over the summer and I enjoyed it. Cat, Lyn, & Gemma are not only sisters, but triplets. They are best friends, but have very different lives. Lyn, the compulsive list maker, has her almost perfect little family. Cat  is struggling with infertility and a marriage that's on the rocks. Gemma is a drifter who can't seem to make a relationship last for more than six months at a time. This book chronicles the story of their 33rd year and all the ups and downs of life they endure together. 

A couple honorable mentions . . . . 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
This was the first Moriarty book I read. In it, Alice, an almost 40 year old mother, takes a nasty spill at the gym and, bumping her head, wakes up thinking she is 29 & pregnant. She has no recollection of the past ten years of her life. She must put all the pieces of her life back together as she learns (and re-learns) all the things she has forgotten. So, why an honorable mention? Well, I personally found the premise to be rather ridiculous which made the whole thing feel like a bad soap opera episode. However, I really enjoyed Moriarty's style of writing (which is why I decided to read some other books by her) and that made the book entertaining despite my failure to embrace the plot.

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
In 1977, Victoria's world is changed forever when she becomes "the chosen one" that popular Caitlin decides to take to her father's home on Martha's Vineyard for the summer. Although they are very different and their lives take very different paths, summers on the Vineyard become a tradition that solidify their friendship and bind them together as Summer Sisters. This book might have gotten a second place ranking if it had been authored by any other person. It was well written, but it had a fair amount of cursing and sex. I simply could not get over the fact that Judy Blume was the same person who wrote a book called "Freckle Juice" that my daughters loved when they were in SEOCND GRADE! It's typecasting and I wholeheartedly admit my guilt, but I just couldn't get past it enough to really enjoy the book. 

Now that summer is over, I know that time to sit and read will be scarce, but I have a Goodreads list full of possibilities and plenty of hours to spend in carpool lines!

Have you read any of the books on my list? What did you think of them? Got any others you would recommend?

Thursday, September 22, 2016


August 18th. That's the date of my last blog post. It's been just over a month since I opened up this tab on my computer and typed any words in this space. 

So, what's been happening? Life. That's what. 

Like everything in life, blogging is an ever evolving thing. For me, the "evolving" turned into de-volving. Since earlier this year, blogging had just become more of a burden than an enjoyable hobby. I was disheartened by having pieces rejected. I was feeling restricted regarding what I could write about and completely out of fresh ideas. I was overwhelmed by the obligation to blog I had imposed on myself and the guilt I felt at the thought of losing connections to blogging friends. 

Finally, I reached a boiling point, said to myself, "To heck with it all!" and stepped away.

I told myself I would write if I felt like it and when I had time, but I WOULD NOT let it be something else on my to-do list that stressed me out anymore. Then, "if I felt like it and when I had time" became "I haven't even looked at my own blog or read anyone else's in over a month."

The thing is, though, I can't say I've even really missed it. 

Maybe that's because, with the kids back in school and it being one of the "busy seasons" at my own job, I just haven't had time to think about blogging - or the fact that I haven't blogged. 

Maybe it's because with a not-so-new-anymore part time job, I no longer crave the validation blogging once provided.

Maybe it's because I'm just in a different season of life with different priorities now. 

Maybe it's because I just needed a break for a while. 

Maybe -probably- it's some combination of all of the above. 

There hasn't been any big, official "I'm on hiatus" announcement - and there won't be- because maybe I'll keep writing sometimes. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll suddenly have a flurry of ideas and start posting regularly again. Maybe it will just fade away completely. 

Right now, I don't know those answers and, for once, I'm okay with that. 

Maybe I'll come back full force sooner or later and, if I do, this little space I've created will be here waiting. Hopefully, some of you will still be here, too. 

Maybe I'll never post anything ever again. I hope that's not what happens, but I think I'd be alright if is was. 

Maybe, I'll continue to move forward and find some sort of middle ground eventually that can be enjoyable, but not stressful. 

In the meantime, thanks for (maybe) noting that I haven't been posting anything, (maybe) wondering why, and hanging around anyway. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back To School Blues

As I was just about to begin typing this, my middle daughter, who will soon be starting 6th grade, came into the room carrying a pencil case and announced, "Look mom! I've created an emergency kit to keep in my locker at school! It has lotion, band aids, ponytail ties, hand sanitizer, and tissues." 

Obviously, she is ready to go back to school.

Many parents are counting down the seconds until they can send their kids back to the classroom, too. They are looking forward to some alone time or returning to a normal work schedule without worrying about baby-sitters. They are tired of hearing "I'm bored!" a hundred times a day and feeling like cruise ship entertainment directors -without, of course, the perks of living on a cruise ship!

Me? Not so much. 

My daughter is ready. Other parents are ready. I'm not ready. 

I have a bad case of the Back to School Blues because I don't want summer to end. (Although it already kind of did when my oldest daughter started school on August 3rd!!!)

While I'm not a fan of the summer heat, I am a fan of sleeping in and staying up late(ish). I'm a fan of afternoons in the pool and my husband grilling something for supper. I'm a fan of beaches, and mountains, and new places to visit. I'm a fan of reading books because I actually have time and not driving my minivan anywhere at all some days. I'm a fan of less stress and more fun and relaxing. 

I don't want to go back to school.

I don't want to go back to early morning wake-ups and packing lunches. I don't want to go back to homework battles and crazy schedules. I don't want to go back to car pool lines and PTA pleas for help or money. I don't want to go back to stress and chaos.  

I may be one of the few, but I am not ready for back to school.

I cannot stop it, though. My oldest has already gone back and my two youngest have less than two weeks left. My Facebook feed is littered with "First Day of School" pictures and stores are bursting with back to school sales. We've even been back to school shopping ourselves and, materially speaking, we're all ready. 

Mentally, though, I'm not ready. 

When I was a teacher, this time of year was a time of excitement and preparation. Now, as a mom, it feels more like an ending rather than a beginning. 

Maybe that's why I'm feeling so unprepared. Endings. 

This will be my youngest daughter's last year in elementary school (she'll be in the 4th grade, but their school bumps 5th graders up to middle school) and, in 4th grade, they get lockers. It seems my "baby" is not really a baby much at all anymore.

My middle starts 6th grade - traditionally considered the first year of middle school. She's growing, changing, and maturing. I had a talk with her the other day about "girl things," and, oh, I am SO not ready for my crazy, quirky girl to go down that road.

My oldest started high school a couple weeks ago. For the last two weeks, I feel like I barely see her anymore. She spends all day at school and most of the evening in her room doing homework. She only has three more first days left. Then, I will be dropping her off at college instead of in the carpool line. 

The beginning of a new school year equals the bittersweet ending of summer and so much more. I may not be ready, but my girls are. They're ready to take on a new school year. They're ready, in fact, to take on the world. And, ready or not, I'll be right there supporting them, encouraging them, and soaking it all in. 

I have the Back to School Blues because school beginnings also mean endings. @TheGoldenSpoons

I'm linking up with Kristi at Finding Ninee for Finish the Sentence Friday. This week's sentence was "Back to school . ."

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Blessed and Beautiful Mess

This week, Tuesday Ten is focusing on blessings and I was reminded of this post I wrote in January 2015 (hence the reference to coats and backpacks.) I think we are all guilty of getting caught up in the "I want more" pitfalls, so we all need a reminder of our blessings from time to time. This is one of my favorite posts I have written and it is my reminder that, despite the messes and frustrations, I am blessed beyond measure. 


{Originally published on January 14, 2015}

Everywhere I turn, I see a mess.

There is a pile of shoes by the front door, cast off haphazardly the very second my children enter the house. 

There are coats and backpacks strewn about the living room carelessly tossed aside yet again.

There are dishes piled high in the sink taunting me and a dishwasher waiting impatiently to be unloaded.

There are stacks of folded laundry just begging to be put away and heaps more laundry anxiously awaiting a wash.

There is dried toothpaste on the bathroom sinks and wet towels on the floor that have been discarded and forgotten. Ponytails ties, brushes, and other hair "necessities" are strewn across the bathroom counters. 

There are beds left unmade and I try to overlook the crumbs that littler the floor. Our dog drops black and white hair with every step she takes, dust gathers on ceiling fans, and fingerprints are scattered on the windows. I see papers - homework, bills, junk mail - littering almost every table in my house.

I am a person who thrives on order and organization. Sometimes, when I look at these messes, I feel so incredibly exasperated. Over and over, I straighten and scrub. Over and over, the messes reappear almost instantly. Despite my best efforts, I cannot get ahead of the clutter and mayhem. Most days, it drives me crazy. 

If I take a breath and step back for a moment, though, I remember that these messes represent all that is wonderful in my life. In the evening, when all is quiet and I finally sit down to relax, I look around at the chaos that lingers and recall all the mess represents.  

The shoes remind me of the feet that have run and played all day; the feet that carried them to school and safely home again; the feet that used to be so tiny, but now almost match or even surpass my own.

The coats remind me that we are all safe and warm. The backpacks signify how much they have learned and grown as the years have flown by so swiftly. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was teaching them to sing their ABC's?

The dog hair is from a loving, loyal companion who also adds snuggles, comfort, love, and laughter to our lives.  

The dishes and crumbs help me to remember that we are fortunate to have food on our table; that I am lucky to put my children to sleep with full bellies each night when so many parents struggle to meet the most basic needs of their little ones.

The laundry is another symbol of our blessings; a reminder that we are warm and able to provide for their most fundamental requirements; a reminder to be thankful because we have much when many have so little.

I walk in the dirty bathrooms and remember the scent of freshly washed heads when they were little and even now, when they are not so little. I remember when they were so small they had no hair to comb on the bald little baby noggins & I cherish the moments now when they ask me to brush or braid the long locks. 

Every fingerprint is a memory smudged into my heart reminding me how it felt to hold their tiny hands and how it still feels to be wrapped in their embrace.  

The beds are where my sweet angels rest their precious heads each night; where they keep their most prized stuffed animal possessions; where they dream and, sometimes, where they cry; where they begin and end each day.

 If I let them, these messes get under my skin. That's when I know I have lost sight of my blessings. When I am overwhelmed by the clutter and chaos of life, I have to look harder, but, if I try, I can still find them - the love and blessings hidden deep within this marvelous, wonderful, beautiful mess. And, I wouldn't have it any other way.   

This week, Tuesday Ten is teaming up with:
Kristi of Finding Ninee and Finish the Sentence Friday
Yvonne, Vidya, and Michelle of #1000Speaks

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

To My Girls: Some Advice for the Journey

I wrote this letter to my oldest daughter three years ago when she was about to begin middle school. Now, we sit a week away from her first day of high school. We are also just a few weeks away from my second daughter's first day of sixth grade and my youngest daughters last first day of elementary school.  

Time flies. Don't blink. 

As I pondered what I might say to my girls as all three of them look ahead to a new school year and new stages of adolescence, I remembered this letter and thought that, really, there isn't much more I can say than this. It's advice for middle school, high school, college, and life I think, so I decided to share it again with a few minor tweaks. 

I love you, girls. I love your uniqueness, your individuality, and your beauty - inside and out. I hope you never lose what makes you purely and precisely YOU.


Dear Sweet Daughter,

Next week, you start middle high school. Since you are the oldest, this is uncharted territory for all of us. Right now, you are excited about meeting new people, having new experiences, and gaining more independence. I am excited, too. It will be a new adventure and I am looking forward to watching you grow and bloom.

I will admit, though, that I am also more than a little scared. You see, I have heard lots of stories about kids - adolescents - making bad decisions, succumbing to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriate purposes, and trying to do grown up things like sexting and drugs before they are old enough to comprehend the consequences. I'm sure you have heard some of these stories, too.  

Part of me wants to hold on to the little girl version of you and believe wholeheartedly you are too smart and too good to fall into those traps of peer pressure and innocence lost.  However, there is another part of me that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

We've been on a journey that began the day I found out you were growing in side of me. Now, that journey has brought us here. We are standing at the bottom of a mountain - a mountain called adolescence and puberty and middle school and high school. We are preparing for a climb that won't be easy but will lead us to a peak with the most wonderful views and a fantastic sense of accomplishment. On our way there, though, as we climb to the top, I want you to remember these pieces of advice. I will do all that I can to remember them as well.
  1. Work hard. Remember that school work comes first and everything else is secondary. That includes sports and friends and other hobbies. I don't expect you to be perfect, but I do expect you to try your hardest every time. If you do, I will be proud, but you will be prouder.
  2. Be brave. You are going to have so many new experiences. Some will be good.  Some will not. When you face these challenges, be brave. Stand up for what you believe even if it makes you "uncool." That will fade, but your courage will make a lasting impression.
  3. Be yourself. You are unique and wonderful and just the way God intended you to be. Don't ever change in an effort to "fit in." If others cannot see how fantastic and remarkable you are, that is their loss - not yours.
  4. Do what you know is right. When others are pressuring you to do something and your gut tells you not to - LISTEN! We have tried our best to teach you what is right and what is wrong. You will know it in your heart. You just have to follow your instincts.
  5. Get organized. School and life are only going to get harder and busier and more complicated from here on out. Get organized now. Learn how to manage your time.  Don't procrastinate. These are habits that will help you in middle school, in high school, in whatever career you choose, and in life for a long time to come.
  6. Be kind. Adolescence can be tough and awkward and uncomfortable. Remember that everyone is struggling with something, though their struggle may be just beneath the surface where it is hidden from you. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Even when it's not popular, be compassionate and courteous.
  7. Be confident. You are awesome. Don't ever forget that. You amaze me every single day and I know you can do anything you set your mind to. Stand up tall and walk with pride knowing that you are destined for greatness. You will change the world - I'm sure of it.
  8. Surround yourself with the right kind of people. There is an old saying (that I heard many times from Memaw and Paw) that says something like "you are no better than the company you keep." If others are mean or deceitful or immoral or if they try to change you, then they are not the kind of people with whom you should spend your time. Rise above them. Surround yourself with kind, supportive people who see how wonderful you are, honor your differences, and respect your choices.  
  9. Remember that we will always love you. Daddy and I are here for you any time you need us and there is nothing you can say or do that will make us stop loving you. If you have questions, we will find answers. If you are unsure how to handle a situation, we will gladly give you guidance. If your heart is breaking, we will dry your tears. If you have made a mistake, we will help you amend it. If you are about to explode with joy, we will share your happiness. All you have to do is come to us.  We are NEVER too busy for you and your "problems" are NEVER too small or too big.  All you have to do is talk. We will listen. I promise. 
  10. Have fun. You are on the brink of learning so much and experiencing so much. It won't all be easy going - there will be bumps in the road. But, despite the bumps, there will also be lots to enjoy. Smile. Laugh. Make new friends. Soak it in. Enjoy this stage in your life. Believe me, it will go by faster than you can believe!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A "Currently" #TuesdayTen

Imim sitting here on a lazy, summer Sunday afternoon thinking that I need to get a jump on the #TuesdayTen post that's due this week and I'm becoming further convinced that my writing "mojo" may be gone for good. Then I remember that, at the beginning of the year, I had intentions of doing a "Currently" post every month. However, after doing a few of them, it felt like I was just repeating the same things and my writing mojo continued to wane. So, I haven't done a currently post since March, but, this week's #TuesdayTen seemed like a good time to give it another whirl. I chose 10 verbs from this great list

Currently I am . . . . . 

Reading - "What Alice Forgot" by Liane Moriarty. I'm about 1/3 through and I can't decide if I like it. The premise is that Alice has hit her head and lost her memory of the last 10 years of her life - including her kids, her divorce, etc. While part of me realizes it's fiction, part of me thinks it's just ridiculous. Is that kind of amnesia a real thing?? Anyway, lots of friends have loved it, so I'm going to keep going. I recently finished "Summer Sisters" by Judy Blume. It was pretty good - it was just hard for me to reconcile that it was written by the same lady who wrote a kids' book called "Freckle Juice" that my kids loved. 

Missing - My middle daughter who is away on a week long mission trip with our church youth group. It's her first time being away from home this long without me. I know she will be fine and have lots of fun, but it sure is quiet in our house without her!

Hoping - My husband's arm heals quickly. He had surgery on his elbow on July 6 to repair a pinched ulnar nerve. He is currently sporting a large bandage/soft cast from his wrist to his bicep. It is inconvenient to say the least. He's a good sport about it, though!

Wishing - Summer would last longer. It's only mid-July, but summer will (kind of) end early for us this year because my oldest daughter will be attending an accelerated high school/early college program this fall and her first day of school is AUGUST 3!!!!! We essentially have only three weeks of summer left! My other two don't go back until August 30, so that means most of August will be weird with one in school and two out. 

Frustrated - By blogging, the news, social media, all the "noise," and other little life irritations that probably shouldn't bother me as much as they do.

Stressing - About my daughter's online classes. That's right - in order to prepare for this accelerated high school program, she is taking two online courses this summer. I'm really not stressing out about the actual classes so much as I'm bothered by the fact that she has spent so much of her short summer working. There's definitely been some fun and relaxing, too, and she has been very responsible about getting her assignments done. I guess it's just part and parcel of watching her grow up and take on this next challenge - but it's a hard pill for this mama to swallow sometimes.

Preparing - For Vacation Bible School! I have lots of amazing help, but I am the church staff in charge of our VBS and it's next week. There's a lot of details and work that has to happen between now and next Monday!

Considering - Change. I've been contemplating home renovations (an ongoing campaign). I've even been thinking about changing my hair style which is BIG becasue I am totally chicken about my hair and I think I've had the same basic style since high school.

What do you think?

Or maybe a little Carrie Underwood???

Excited - About taking a family trip to New York! The girls have never been. It will only be four days, but it will be fun and a great chance for them to get their first taste of the Big Apple! Their top requests are The Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, Central Park, a Broadway show, and the youngest wants a trip to the American Girl Doll store. 

Scheduling - Birthday parties!!! My oldest daughter, my youngest daughter, and my husband all have birthdays within a 5 day span in August. Both girls have asked to have sleepovers. Between our trip to NYC and sleepover parties on two different weekends, I'm not sure when we're going to squeeze in a little celebration for hubby!

What's currently happening in your world?

This post is part of the monthly Tuesday Ten Linkup! 
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Friday, July 1, 2016

20 Books You Need to Read Recommended by Bloggers Who Know! (And a $225 Amazon Gift Card!!)

I've been on vacation with my family this week at the beach. When my kids were smaller, of course, my beach days were spent relentlessly applying sunscreen, keeping an eagle eye on my kids near the edge of the water, and building sand castles. Now that my kids are a bit older, my days on the beach are a little more relaxing. I still have to remind them a million times to reapply sunscreen and we certainly still watch them in the water, but it's nothing like having toddlers. That means, while I sit on the beach, I actually have time to read!! 

I hope you will be able to find some time to relax and read this summer, too. Don't know what to read? No worries!!! 

Twenty of us blogging gals have teamed up with The Mom of the Year and Normal Level of Crazy virtual monthly book club to create a list of exactly what belongs on your summer reading list. Not only do these books come highly recommended (along with the reason you need to be reading them!), we are giving eleven of them away to one of you, along with a $225 Amazon giftcard. I know, it's insanely awesome! More details on the giveaway at the end of the post. For now, log into Goodreads, start Pinning, grab a notepad, or settle in with however you track your to-read list and start adding these titles.

20 Books that Belong on Your Summer Reading List:

Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it!
  1. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini (Toulouse and Tonic) is a GREAT summer read. Leah Remini doesn't hold anything back, from her decades-long experience with Scientology to celeb encounters along the way, especially experiences within Scientology. If you want to hear all the dish on Tom Cruise, including his "Scientology arranged and groomed" girlfriend and then his marriage to Katie Holmes, get the book now. Her honesty and lack of pretense is refreshing. I couldn't put it down!
  2. The Storied Like of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (The Not So Super Mom) This is a bit of a quirky book, but it is perfectly quirky without falling into the creepy or just plain confusing. A.J. Fikry is not the most immediately likable character but you find yourself rooting for him (and his bookstore) anyway. I appreciated that he was a bit of an oddball, because who in our lives isn't without their own idiosyncrasies? I enjoyed the themes in this book--loss, romance, mystery--all peppered with humor and the format--each chapter moves the story forward in time and serves as an ode to one of Fikry's favorite books--was different but enjoyable to any book lovers who try to find themselves in the stories they read.
  3. Smart Women by Judy Blume (Meraki Lane) I was a huge Judy Blume fan when I was a kid (Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself was my favorite!), so it's no surprise I jumped with joy when I discovered she writes novels for adults as well, and this book did NOT disappoint. If you like a light read with a little racy romance thrown in, this is the perfect summer pick!
  4. A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan (Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms) A great novel with a fresh, funny voice guiding it, this book tackles the classic struggle of moms trying to have it all and stuck with us to the point of recommending it to others long after we turned the last page.Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!
  5. Beyond the Break by Kristen Mae (Kristen Mae) Quoted from Melissa Mowry of One Mother to Another's review on Amazon: "This book absolutely crushed me. The writing is hauntingly beautiful and full of depth, with well-rounded characters and gorgeous imagery. As a card-carrying heterosexual, I expected to feel a little squirmy about the girl-on-girl aspect and was just reading because I love this author's writing. I was SO WRONG. The sex was, in a word, mind-blowing. None of that lazy, euphemistic smut book language (you won't find talk of anyone's blossoming flower here) just seriously hot, almost artistic love scenes. Hazel is a flawed but loveable main character with a haunting past and so much dimension. Claire is absolutely magnetic; even I was attracted to her. You owe yourself the pleasure--and I do mean pleasure--of reading this book. It will change everything you thought you knew about love, sexual attraction, and chemistry."
  6. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (Herd Management) Summer Sisters provides a fascinating view into the inner workings and dynamics of a close female friendship over the duration of their journey from young teens into adulthood. Many women will be able to relate to the power that female friends have over one another's hearts, and their ability to shatter them completely sometimes. Riveting, relatable, and emotional.
  7. The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews (Confessions of a Mommyaholic) This summer/beach town set book is the absolute perfect read this summer while you are sitting beach or poolside that is filled with just enough intrigue, suspense, drama, romance and more.
  8. Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher (See Mom Click) This is one of those books that draws you in and won’t let go, even after you’ve put it down. Senna Richard wakes up on her 33rdbirthday, locked in a house in the snow in the middle of nowhere, full of clues she has to piece together to gain her freedom. Not just a mystery, but a rip-your-heart-out love story, the author keeps you guessing while you become totally wrapped up in these characters’ lives.Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!
  9. Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker (Shakespeare's Mom) In this collection of personal essays, Parker writes beautifully about her encounters and relationships with various men in her life - everyone from her grandfather to ex-boyfriends, to, in an essay that manages to be both brutal and hilarious, a male goat. I read the whole book in one day. I had to ignore my children and personal hygiene to do it, but finding myself sucked into the book's spellbinding word-webs was totally worth it.
  10. Not Without My Father by Andra Watkins (Andra Watkins) This story is a great summer read because we all struggle with loved ones. It's an easy, yet poignant, read that changes a lot of people.
  11. Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyangi (Femme Frugality) This true story of alternative education in WWII era Japan serves to inspire. If you've ever known a kid that doesn't seem to fit into a traditional education system, Tetsuko Kuroyangi's story will warm your heart and give you hope. Kuroyangi, after getting kicked out of a traditional school, grew up to be one of Japan's media sweethearts and a great, hands-on philanthropist.
  12. A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley (The Whimsy One) will take you on a waltz between present day and the 18th century as Sara (present day) tries to decipher a journal written by Mary during the Jacobites uprising in Paris (1732) what she discovers in the handwritten pages is not at all what she was expecting.Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!
  13. Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos (Jana Says) I fell in love with this author after reading another one of his books but this one, a stunning, sad, sometimes funny, heartbreaking, (mostly) realistic portrayal of a marriage in crisis and its subsequent implosion during a summer long Midwestern heatwave, solidified him in my top 5 favorite authors.
  14. What Alice Forgot By Liane Moriarty (Tamara (Like) Camera) This book gripped me - I felt all the joys and pains. I recommended it to both of my sisters who are still postpartum.
  15. Mosquitoland by David Arnold (Kiss My List) You will not regret spending an afternoon curled up with this smart, funny, and poignant novel about a teenage girl's bus ride back to her mom in Cleveland. Mim’s journey from Mississippi is filled with people who could be fascinating main characters in their own books.
  16. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (The Golden Spoons) Hawley alternates between perspectives of different characters as well as switches from past to present in this story of 11 people - some connected, some seemingly out of place - whose lives are changed or lost when their private jet goes down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha's Vineyard on a foggy August night.Wa-hoo! Summer is here and that means summer reading is here! Looking for the perfect beach book or captivating read to get lost in this season? We've got the list of the top 20 books that belong on your summer reading list. They all come with the reason WHY you need to snatch them up, not to mention this INCREDIBLE giveaway--11 books, a $225 Amazon giftcard...seriously, you have to check this out to believe it! Here's to fantastic books!
  17. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (The Lieber Family) This second Cormoran Strike novel follows our detective as he investigates the disappearance and later death of a controversial, not-well liked author whose last novel didn’t have anything nice to say about…well, anyone!
  18. You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes (Pulling Taffy) If you love a good, creepy thriller, with an occasional chuckle, this is a great summer read. By the end you will be rooting for the serial killer and hoping his intended victim dies (Please. End. Her. Incessant. Whining.)
  19. The Show by Filip Syta (Normal Level of Crazy) I'm taken by Amazon's description of the book, "Think of the greatest tech company in the world. Imagine getting a job there. Picture the perks: free gourmet food, free booze, a gym, a swimming pool, and a holiday bonus . . . every month. Brilliant coworkers. No dress code. Great parties. More money. Everyone’s admiration." You know there are inevitably problems that will arise, but it sounds so exotic in comparison to my world, that I can't wait to dig in!
  20. The Tulip Factory by Kacie Davis Idol (The Mom of the Year) Amazon's description makes it sound like the perfect dreamy, fun summer book: "Before they exchange even a single word, Corrine knows that James will change everything. And sure enough, their serendipitous meeting in a North Carolina coffee shop sets off a whirlwind of desire and possibilities for the two."

 Now that you've got the whole list, I know you're anxious to get started! How about a little help?? 

Eleven of these books (Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, The Storied Like of A.J. Fikry, The Weekenders, Not Without My Father, Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window, Beyond the Break, The Tulip Factory, The Show, A Desperate Fortune, Before the Fall, You: A Novel) are up for grabs in addition to a $225 Amazon gift card! 

11 books you need to read and a $225 Amazon gift card giveaway! @TheGoldenSpoons #books #bloggers

You can start with these 11 books and use the moo-la to purchase others - or, for this sweet amount, even snag a new Kindle for reading on-the-go! As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible to enter the Rafflecopter below. All entries must be received before 7/8/16 at 5:30am ET.

 Here's to a summer of fab books, friends! And as always, happy reading!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

****This post is not sponsored or compensated in any way. We are grateful to the following publishers for providing copies of the books for our giveaway: Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Grand Central Publishing, Kristen Mae, Algonquin Books, Sourcebooks, Andra Watkins, St. Martin's Press, Kodansha, and Inkshares. We bloggers have all chipped in together to provide the Amazon giftcard--because we love Amazon and we love you ;) ****

Second graphic credit:, image ID:18594985, copyright:peshkova
Horizontal line of books in last graphic: depositphotos, image ID:6984753, copyright:aboikis
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