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! 
Want to participate? Link up your own post and join our Facebook group.

Your Tuesday Ten hostesses are:


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The Golden Spoons

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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