Friday, December 15, 2017

My Christmas Wish List

Have you ever heard of Jordan Smith? He was a contestant on the singing competition show "The Voice" a few seasons ago. I used to be a big fan of the show and I remember watching the episode when he auditioned. ALL the judges turned their chairs and were shocked because Jordan was not at all what they expected based solely on the voice they heard. But, hey! That's the whole premise of the show, right? 

Anyway, I liked Jordan because he represented something different. He wasn't trendy or strapping. He wasn't shy about performing "How Great Thou Art" or "Mary, Did you Know?" in front of millions. Best of all, he seemed completely comfortable just being himself. Based solely on looks, he was the underdog. But, then he sang and his voice was amazing. He went on to win that season in 2015 and last fall (2016), he released a holiday album. I downloaded it and heard the song, "My Grown Up Christmas List," for the first time. Have you ever heard it?

I'm not sure where the song originated, but it has also been performed by Amy Grant, Kelly Clarkson, and Michael Bublรจ among others. It has become one of my favorite holiday songs, not only because I like the melody, but more so because of the message. As I listen to it, I imagine most of the adults I know would fill their own grown up wish lists with many of the same things . . . . . .

No more lives torn apart by senseless tragedies and violence
No more war
Time would really heal all broken hearts
Everyone would have a friend
Right would always win (If only we could all agree on what's "right")
Love would never end

Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? For my own wish list, I would add . . . . 

Kindness would always prevail
Children would never be hungry or unloved or abused
Everyone would have something to believe in and a little magic in their lives
Of course, if I really got to write up a list and send it off to the North Pole, I would have to ask that jolly old elf for a few, more selfish things, too. I would wish for . . . .

A special eraser to make middle school girl drama disappear
A house cleaning fairy that appears whenever I snap my fingers 
A shopping spree at a few of my favorite stores
A little more time and inspiration for blogging 
A little more time and energy to connect (or re-connect) with friends 
A parenting manual with all the answers I need for raising tween/teen girls
A winning powerball ticket stuffed in my stocking! 

Ha! While some of those would certainly be nice (although perhaps unrealistic), the truth is, my life is overflowing with blessings. I think that, especially at Christmas, when we are bombarded with commercials and advertisements selling us all the gizmos and gadgets we don't really need, it's easy to lose sight of what we already have. The lyrics of this song remind us that there are more important things than just more "stuff." 

I hope that, this holiday season, you are surrounded by many blessings, too. I hope that you can take time to put the hustle and bustle aside and make a little room for peace, love, and joy. I hope that, if you are hurting, you will find healing. I hope that, if you are joy-filled, you will not take it for granted. I hope that you will laugh, smile, hug, and be hugged. I hope that you are safe, warm, and loved.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Creative Holiday Gift Ideas for Tweens & Teens

I can vividly remember handing my oldest daughter a Christmas toy catalog when she was about four or five - the first time she could really grasp the concept of "Christmas is coming and I'm going to get presents!" - and asking her to show me some things she wanted Santa to bring her. She sat down at our coffee table and began pointing to at least two or three items per page saying, "I want this! What is it?" Indeed, the greed monster had taken hold and she wanted lots of stuff even though she didn't even know what most of that stuff was or what it did. 

Now, that little girl is 15 and has two younger sisters, 10 and almost 13. As they have gotten older, holiday shopping has gotten increasingly difficult. My kids, in particular, are extremely non-materialistic, which is a fantastic thing 364 days of the year. However, it makes Christmas morning a bit challenging. I begin asking them in November, "What do you want for Christmas?" and their answer if almost always "I don't know," coupled with a heavy shoulder shrug. I can no longer push my cart down the toy aisle at Target and do 75% of my holiday shopping in one fell swoop! 

(In fact, I used to do an annual "Hottest Toys of {Insert Year}" post, but haven't done that since 2014 because I'm no longer in tune with the kids' toy scene!)

So, I've been doing a little internet cruising to find some creative gift ideas for this year and, of course, decided to put them into a blog post to share with anyone else who is struggling for gift ideas, too! 

1. PuraVida Bracelets - These bracelets are all the latest rage and, even better, a part of their proceeds go to various charities. You can pick something out based on your favorite color or based on your favorite cause! There are lots to choose from including animal preservation charities (like Save the Dolphins), awareness charities (like Autism Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness), and health causes (like JDRF for diabetes and many different cancers). 

2.  Himalayan Salt Lamp - Aside from being a cool addition to your teen's bedroom decor, these lamps are said to have positive effects on your health as well, including reduced allergy symptoms, increased energy, and improved sleep. Why not let them do homework by a light that gives off positive vibes?!

3. Sock Subscription Box - Does it seem like your dryer eats socks every time you do laundry? Is your tween or teen constantly asking to borrow socks from you because she's always running out of clean ones? Does he/she love a pair of funky, fun socks? Get them a sock box subscription! Yes, for real! With a subscription to one of these, your teen will receive one or two new paris of socks every month for three, six, or twelve months depending on your choices. Some of them even make donations to charity, too. Interested? Check out Say it With a Sock, Sock Panda, Foot Cardigan, or Society Socks.

4. A Snuggie - No, I'm not joking! Surely you remember these from a few years back. They were often given as gag gifts, but my kids walk around wrapped up in blanket all the time, so why not a blanket with sleeves?!?! Then, they can stay wrapped up while they do homework, eat, and text. 
5. Game of Phones - Kids are always on their phones, right? So, give them something constructive to do! Well, kind of. The website describes this game as: 
"a unique card game that brings smartphones to the party. Everyone grabs their smartphones.One player picks a card and gets to judge that round.The rest of the players have 60 seconds to respond with the funniest, most on point or downright weird thing they can find on their phones."
Game of Phones
6. Chocolate! - Everyone likes chocolate, right? But, what about chocolate with potato chip pieces, bacon, cinnamon cereal, or popping pop rocks? It's amazing and teens (or anyone) will love sampling these fun, high quality creations. Buy single bars or gift box collections! 
Chuao Chocolate
7.  A Personalized Monogrammed Item- I happen to have two very talented sisters in-law who run their own Easy shop. One of their latest products are these fantastic monogrammed t-shirts. They also have caps, bags, and keychains just to name a few. If none of their items appeal to you, do some internet shopping for something your tween/teen would like! 
Lola Darling Designs
8.  Bluetooth Shower Speaker - One of my girls likes to take her device into the bathroom, crank up the volume, and belt out some tunes while she showers. Do you have a teen who does that, too? Then, you need to add this to your shopping list! It can also be used outside, in their bedroom, anywhere they can carry it! This one (and other similar versions) are available through Amazon.
Bluetooth Speaker
 9. Fujifilm Instax mini - Most of today's tween and teens have never had the pleasure of shaking that instant Polaroid photo waiting for it to develop, but now they can! This little camera would be a fun, creative way for them to take pictures (without their phones) and actually have photographs to add to a book or their wall. Available directly from the manufacturer or multiple retailers and comes in a variety of colors.
Fujifilm Instax
10. Love with Food Subscription Box - People always joke about how much teen boys eat, but I've got all girls and I still can't keep the pantry stocked! These girls go through some food, so what better to give them as gift! Each month, they will get a box full of healthy snacks. Gluten free and organic options are available, too, and the company donates meals to hungry children with every box they send! 
Love With Food
11. Zoku Slush and Shake Maker -According to the manufacturer, you freeze the core for 8 hours, then, add the liquid of your choice (juice, coffee, flavored) and stir. Voila! You have a slushie in minutes! This one is definitely a novelty, but it might be a fun way to encourage your teens to try something new!
Zoku Sluch and Shake Maker
12. Selfie Mic - This one actually can be found in the toy sale at Target! The manufacturer recommends it for ages 8+, but I can definitely see all my girls (teens included) having some fun with this one. With a selfie stick attached to a microphone and a free app with millions of karaoke tunes available, it has to be fun! (I even know a few adults who might like this one!)
Selfie Mic
A few slightly less creative, but equally useful and joy-giving ideas: 
  • Clothes - sweaters, jeans, workout gear - whatever floats your teen's boat! 
  • Other subscription boxes - I've listed couple here (PuraVida & Chuao also offer a subscription service), but a quick Google search will turn up tons of others. There's Birchbox & Ipsy for makeup, Enjoy Leggings for leggings (shocker!), Doodle Crate for art supplies, Scentbird for perfume/cologne, Lola for feminine supplies, Harry's for guy's shaving gear, and Book of the Month for the avid teen reader just to name a few. Seriously - that's really just a few of the options.
  • Gift cards - These sometimes seem impersonal, but, really, kids like these as much as anything and you can still get creative. How about gift cards to their favorite restaurant, movie theaters, or their favorite store so they can pick out their own stuff! Got a teen driver? Gift cards to the car wash will help them keep their vehicle in tip top shape!
  • Personal care kits - Around the holidays, you can readily find boxed sets of body wash, hair products, or makeup. If your kids are anything like mine, they go through a lot of this stuff, so why not wrap some up and put it under the tree?!
  • Winter gear - Does he/she need a new coat? Gloves? A fun toboggan? Snow boots? That would make a great Christmas gift!
  • Jewelry - Earrings, necklaces, watches, bracelets - oh my! How about a new monogram necklace or some pretty new earrings? Maybe a new watch or belt for the guys.
  • Experiences - Most of us already have more stuff than we need, so, when you're completely out of ideas for things to give them, step outside of the gift box a little bit and think about something they might like to DO instead. Tickets to a sporting event or concert would be appreciated, I'm sure. Even gifting them a mani/pedi, a yoga class, or a guitar lesson might be something they would enjoy immensely without adding more clutter to their already messy spaces. How about letting them take group of friends to one of the newest "breakout room" challenges or spending a day on the ski slopes? 
Now, I can also assure you that my girls will not be getting everything on this list (but, they're probably reading this so I won't give any hints about what exactly they will be getting!) I am also very aware that this list has a decidedly female slant, but I have three daughters, so that's just how my brain works! Hopefully, even if you have guys in the house, you have found something here that you might not have thought of before.

Either way, just remember that, it's not really about the stuff we give -not the amount we spend or the number of boxes under the tree. It's about the love we put into choosing items or experiences in hopes that the gifts we give will bring joy to the ones we love. (Cheesy, but true!)

Got any creative ideas to add to the list? I'd love to hear them, so type them in a comment! 

**Disclaimer - I have not purchased and/or used all of the items on this list. Therefore, inclusion in this list should not be considered a personal endorsement of any of these products. Please take time to do your own research including analyzing actual customer reviews before choosing to purchase any items listed here. 


Monday, October 30, 2017

This Stage of Parenting

Every stage of parenting has its own special kind of chaos and craziness from sleepless nights with a newborn, to toddler tantrums, to elementary school mania. I truly believe that no stage of parenting is easier than another - they are all just different. I'm currently in the tween and teen stage of parenting with a 10 year old, a 12 (almost 13) year old, and a 15 year old. There are parts of this phase that seem so much easier. Everyone dresses themselves and they can fix a snack on their own. They don't wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays and our schedules don't revolve around nap times. They don't need to be carried and dinner at a restaurant does't feel like herding cats. However, there are pieces of this chapter that also seem harder. Mood swings are as unpredictable as preschool meltdowns and schedules are so packed I'm left wishing for a nap. Homework looms constantly and fashion choices can be points of contention. They clean out the pantry faster than I can refill it - again. There is a lot of letting go and a lot of testing independence right now. 

Like every other leg of this parenting journey, there are ups and downs, twists and turns. Sometimes, the road is a little rocky and, sometimes, it feels like smooth sailing. 


This stage of parenting is . . .

Mood swings (theirs and mine) followed by hugs and high fives.

Being so grateful they don't wake up at 6:00am on Saturdays anymore, but also wondering if I should wake them up when the clock hits noon and they are still snoozing away.

Going shopping for homecoming dresses, new high heels, and a strapless bra (for her; not me).

Wondering if any fashion designers actually have daughters of their own and wanting to give them all a piece of my mind. 

Watching them raid each other’s closets and give each other fashion advice. 

And social advice. And advice about boys.

It’s discussions - actual adult-like discussions - about politics, and religion, and tragedies, and making a difference.

It's inside jokes that only we understand. (Hey, R! It's raining!! ๐Ÿ˜œ)

It’s late night homework and early morning carpool lines.

It's coffee dates with my daughter and frozen yogurt after school (sometimes).

It’s listening to them sing along becasue they know all the words to a song I’ve never heard.

It's them hanging out in their rooms alone while I wonder if I should orchestrate some quality family time or just enjoy the peace.

It's texting them from downstairs to say that dinner's ready.

It’s “What’s for dinner, Mom?”  and “Why do I have to go to bed so early?” (Even though, it’s not early at all and I’m about to fall asleep standing up.)

It's sharing clothes and sharing shoes, except with the one whose feet are already bigger than mine.

It's making a Target run for shampoo, lotion, feminine supplies, makeup, and razors - because we ALL need them.

It's offering guidance, but also knowing they have to figure it out for themselves; find their own path.

It's disagreeing, but biting my tongue.

It's hours and hours, miles and miles spent sitting behind the wheel of my minivan shuttling them to and from school, sports, clubs, and social events. 

It’s talking about the rules of the road and driving advice - from the passenger side because she has now taken the wheel.

It's date night with my hubby because we can leave the kids home alone for a while. 

It's figuring out Christmas gifts together, because we don't do Santa anymore and feeling relieved, but also a little sad about that. 

It’s wanting them to be healthy, growing young ladies, but crumbling a little invisibly when I stand back to back and she rejoices becasue she is FINALLY just a smidge taller than me.

It's Facebook memories from six or eight years ago that throw me a sucker punch and leve me temporarily breathless as I gaze upon the babies they used to be. 

It's hearing her say, "I'm fat!" and quickly replying, "No you are not! You are beautiful and perfect just the way you are!" but also knowing I need to set a better example of self-acceptance.

It’s me asking them for assistance with technology and them NOT asking for assistance with homework - because they know it is too advanced for me! 

It’s discussing college and potential careers. 

It's trying to keep up on Instagram and hearing myself say, "Please put down your phone!" 

It’s being a more relaxed mom becasue I’ve been doing this for so long now -until something new arises and throws me off a balance again. 

It's still a lot of firsts, but also quite a few "lasts."

It’s cherishing hugs that are few and far between; wishing I could hold on just a little bit longer but being careful not to hold on too long or too tight - realizing these hugs are a metaphor for life. 

It’s still being needed - so very, very needed - for money, and transportation, support, and love, but not really being needed anymore to brush their hair or help them dress.

It's learning to let go, even though I want to hold on.

It's hoping and praying that the seeds we've planted have taken root and that they were the right seeds to start with. 

It’s watching them become young adults and being so incredibly proud of the people they are growing into, but also missing the sweet little baby faces and cuddles that now seem like so far ago and also just like yesterday. 


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oh, Saturday!

Friday night, I waited up until midnight for my oldest daughter to get home from her high school homecoming dance. These days, I'm usually lucky to still be awake by 10pm, so midnight was tough. I was super glad I didn't have to set the alarm for any specific Saturday morning hour and, indeed, I rolled out of bed just after 9:00am that morning.

I sat down at the kitchen table and scrolled through Facebook while I ate a bowl of cereal and savored a cup of coffee. Scrolling across my computer screen were friends who were, at 9:30am, already out and about walking for breast cancer, anticipating a busy soccer tournament, had already slayed a workout, or  were photographing the colors of fall foliage.

As I sat there in my pajamas with a bowl of cold cereal and a cup of lukewarm coffee, I lamented the Saturday ahead of me. We had no plans for adventure or excitement. Instead, I knew that my Saturday would be spent with three kids who probably wouldn’t let their feet hit the floor until almost noon, a husband who would spend all morning in his office upstairs woking while I toiled away scrubbing tubs and toilets, doing load after load of laundry, vacuuming up dog hair, trying to plan our menu for the coming week, and attempting to order groceries without blowing the budget.

Sounds super glamorous, no?

I let myself wallow in that self-pity for a little while. Then, I remembered that I've really been trying hard to break up with "busy" and how nice it was that I didnt’ have to set the alarm when I went to bed the night before. It occurred to me that all those moms sitting out there on a cool drizzly soccer field might very well have preferred being curled up back in bed  or at least being at home sipping a cup of coffee in their pajamas. Maybe the people who were out walking for a cause or exercising bright and early were dreading the dirty house they were going to have to tackle later in the day.

Certainly, there are those who pray daily to know what their next meal might be and how they will pay to feed their children tomorrow -much less have a menu for an entire week and a “budget” to think about.

But, nobody posts those kind of things in a Facebook feed, do they?

No one would tell the world how mundane their life is or talk about all the things they are NOT for all their social media “friends” to see - becasue who would want to read that, right?

Better yet, who would want to admit that they are simply average??

Well, maybe I would. For the sake of myself and anyone else who is feeling the way I felt Saturday morning about my lackluster, boring, completely un-glamorous Saturday morning, this was how I spent my Saturday morning:

I share this because I think we all feel a lot of pressure to construct these perfect, interesting lives because that's what we think is expected of us based on what we see on social media. We forget that social media is not always reality - or at least not the WHOLE picture of reality - and, somehow, we've come to believe that a humdrum Saturday is something to be embarrassed about. I would argue, however, that the "humdrum" parts of our lives are where we find most of our commonalities and that, really, we could probably all use a little less busy and a lot more "humdrum."

So, I say . . . . 

Kudos to the parents who were on the soccer field or at the dance team competition at the crack of dawn.
Kudos to the women who had already run five miles before 8am.
Kudos to the family who packed up the minivan for a weekend in the mountains or at the beach.
Kudos to the dads who made chocolate chips pancakes with preschoolers before the sun came up.

And you know what?

Kudos to the mom who was still in her pajamas at 11am sipping her third cup of coffee.
Kudos to the teenagers who didn’t get out of bed before noon and to the parents who let them sleep.
Kudos to the dads who worked in the morning and give it their all to provide for a family.
Kudos to the kids who lazed on the couch watching Paw Patrol in Elsa pajamas.
Kudos to the mamas who, just like me, spent the morning scrubbing toilets and folding towels.

In the end, we’re all just trying to make this family life work - whetever that might look like for each one of us and we would probably all be better off if we paid a little a lot less attention to what we see on social media and just kept on keeping on with whatever works for us.

What does your typical Saturday look like? 


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Currently . . Fall 2017

Once October rolls in, it really starts to seem like fall to me. The temperatures are cooling off (finally!). The leaves are beginning to change and fall. We are (mostly) settled into our school routines. New seasons of our favorite shows are on TV during the week and there's football on the weekends. Chrysanthemums and pumpkins decorate front porches and stores.

The change of the season seems like a good time for a "Currently" post! 

Currently I'm . . . . 

Anticipating several work events for which I will have a big responsibility. Starting with this weekend (Oct. 8) through the last weekend of October (Trunk or Treat) and into the first weekend of November (Parent's Night Out)! Whew! I'm excited about all of them, but will be putting in a lot of organizational efforts.

Trying a few new recipes. In general, cooking for my family can be extremely frustrating due to all their picky preferences. However, we ate out way too much over the summer. Now that we are back in school and back to homework and bedtimes, I've been cooking more. I recently tried these:
  • Tuscan Tortellini - I left out the spinach because I knew the kids wouldn't even touch it. They didn't care for it anyway because of the sausage, but my hubby and I liked it and it was super easy to make.
  • Chicken Piccata - This one was easy enough to make and pretty good, but not as flavorful as I had hoped. 
  • Sweet and Sour Meatballs are on my menu for this week. I hope they turn out well! 
What is one of your favorite weeknight recipes?

While we're "in the kitchen," I've been loving these new skillet, oven sauces, and slow cooker. Have you tried them? I have seen them made by Campbell's, McCormick, and Red Fork. I've tried one or two from each brand and they are really good, plus super simple. 

Reading, well, not much. In addition to the summer books I reviewed , I read The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis. The book was set in the Blue Ridge Mountains near where I grew up and even mentioned my hometown in it. That was pretty cool, but, otherwise, the book was not my favorite. I am currently reading Leadership on the Line as part of a discussion group for work, but it's not exactly the most scintillating stuff! ๐Ÿ˜œ I have The Child by Fiona Barton on my nightstand. I just need to pick it up and jump in! 

Thinking that I should probably start planning for Christmas, but in reality, I'm not even close because. . . . . it's October! 
78- there are 78 days until Christmas (at the time this post was published).

Beginning to think about college for my oldest daughter. She is in 10th grade and, on one hand, it seems early. But, on the other hand, I know we need to start seriously considering it. After all, we probably need to do some college visits this summer, right???  She is already getting mail and emails from colleges and I feel like we're getting behind. Yet, this is, obviously, a whole new process for us, so I really don't even know where to start. Maybe I should be reading "A Mom's Guide to Helping He Daughter Choose a University" (or something like that!).

Traveling with that same oldest daughter behind the wheel! She got her learner's permit in August and is doing really well. My nerves? Well, they're doing better than they were at first, but it is still a very strange feeling!

Reeling, like the rest of the worldfrom the news of another horrible act of violence last week. I wrote a lot of this post over a week ago, before the shootings in Las Vegas. I struggled to finish it because, now, most of it just seems frivolous and superficial. I have to remind myself that it's not frivolous, though, because it's life - and we have to go on living our lives, soaking in all the precious moments we can because life is so uncertain sometimes.We may never have answers to the "why?" and that is a tough pill to swallow, but if we let fear take over, then "they" win - and the worst thing we can do is to let "them" win. 


Monday, October 2, 2017

Why I'm Breaking Up With "BUSY"

When I think about last spring, it makes my blood pressure rise even now. Our schedule was absolutely insane. My three daughters were participating in at least two extracurricular activities EACH and those activities required me driving all over the county. Add to that my own part time job and associated responsibilities, some school meetings and volunteering, basic homework and household chores, and other family obligations. Then, top it off with a husband who travels a lot for work which meant most of the day to day logistics fell on me. Every single day, figuring out the schedule was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I was completely stressed and the kids were, too. 

At the end of it all, I was left asking myself, "Why are we doing all this? Are any of these activities really even worth all this turmoil?" Ultimately, I decided the answer was a resounding "No!" When I evaluated the usefulness and enjoyment of each activity vs. the stressfulness of them all, the scales were tipped quite drastically in the direction of distress and aggravation. 

That's when I decided to break up with "busy." 
Did you know that a recent study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that being busy has become the newest indicator of social status? When presented with a fake social media account created by the researchers, study participants assigned the person behind the account a higher social status when the account posted updates about working long hours and a lower social status when the account posted more about leisure time. Another study done by the University of Chicago found that people actually dread being idle. Therefore, they propose that people actually expend energy justifying the need to stay "busy."

I remember just a few years ago, when I asked someone,"How are you?" or someone asked me the same, the typical, auto-response was, "Fine, thanks! How are you?" Now, the answer I usually get AND the answer I usually give is, "You know, busy busy, busy!" often followed by a run down of all the latest activities on the schedule. It seems we are always trying to let others know that our lives are full and dispel even the slightest notion that we are sitting idly around twiddling our thumbs.

But, what's really wrong with just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, or reading a book, or having a family dinner in which we don't all have to hurry to scarf down our food between activities?  Why can't we just have a quiet, relaxed evening at home without feeling like we (or our children) are missing out on something?

Many times in the past, I have found myself hoping that soccer practices or riding lessons are rained out. I've been relieved when instructors cancelled activities, even when the reason for the cancellations was something such as illness. I've put off appointments and chores because there just wasn't enough time in the schedule for them. I've longed for "down time" with unscheduled space, but, when it rolled around, I felt guilty for enjoying the calm (or at the very least, I had that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something terribly important becasue I was so un-used to having "gaps" in the schedule).

Look, I've got three kids, a part time job, a husband who works full time and travels a lot, and a household to run. That means that our lives are always going to be inherently busy to a certain degree and I will not deny my kids the opportunity to participate in activities they truly love that are honestly enriching them in some way. Not in my wildest dreams will I ever be able to come home every single night, have a peaceful dinner, and, then, kick my feet up until all the kids go cooperatively to bed. The thing is, though, that I/we can choose not to make it even busier and when we have "down time," we can laugh or rest and give ourselves permission to enjoy it rather than feeling repentant.

At the end of the day, each family has to do what is best for them. Maybe your kid is a future pro soccer player and all those hours of practice are worth it. Maybe dance classes three nights a week will yield a professional ballerina. Perhaps the 4:00am swim lessons will someday lead to an Olympic medal. It's possible that having an overflowing schedule invigorates (rather than agitates) you. It's also possible that your kid enjoys the activities he/she does immensely and would be very disappointed to cut them out. However, in my house, none of those scenarios are true and when the stress overshadows the enjoyment, I know it is time to make some changes. We're one month into the school year and I can already tell it's making a difference.

So, farewell "Busy." It's not me, it's you & I really, really need some space this year. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Few Things I Could Learn From My Kids

When our kids are young, it's mostly up to us to teach them all the things they need to know. We have to help them learn everything from toileting, to ABC's, to "stranger danger." It can be overwhelming, but, fortunately, we have some partners in this task. Our spouses, grandparents, anutns/uncles, and, eventually, teachers are also helping us on our quest to impart knowledge to our kiddos. 

All the while, whether we realize it or not, our kids are teaching us, too. Parenting has taught me so many things about myself, my husband, and life. My kids haven't taught me any of this intentionally - it just happens. However, now that they are a little older, I'm sure that if they were intentional, they could definitley teach me a few more things. 

Social Media - I consider myself to be pretty social media savvy, but I'm also savvy enough to know that my kids know WAY more than I do! I frequently find myself asking them "How do you do this on Instagram?" or "How does this Snapchat thing work?" If they were to teach a class, I'm sure sure I would learn lots of things I don't even really want to know. 

Celebrity Gossip - I don't know how they know these tidbits and facts, but they do - at least when it comes to celebrities that interest them. They know that Justin Bieber has the same birth date as me (minus a few years) and who Selena Gomez is dating now. They know who sings that song the radio plays over and over and over. They even know the meaning behind Taylor Swift's new video and how many YouTube views it has. 

Fashion - OK y'all, I've NEVER really been fashion forward. In fact, I walk a pretty fine line between conservative and just downright frumpy. I admit this openly. Fortunately, my girls have better fashion sense. Although, the trends stores typically offer make me want to scream and roll my eyes, my girls know how to pull it off. They put together outfits that I think will look ridiculous, but actually turn out to be pretty cute. Wonder what would happen if I let them dress me?!?!

Math - Give me research papers, vocabulary tests, and grammar examinations all day long, but please DO NOT MAKE ME DO MATH!!! It has never been my strong suit and I stopped be able to help with math homework by the time my kids hit middle school. Although the title of this post is "Things I Could Learn From My Kids," I'm actually not sure that anyone could successfully teach me how to do trigonometry or calculus.

How to Swim - I never learned to swim as a kid. My husband tried to teach me many, many years ago (before he was even my husband), but I was too nervous about being in the water to relax enough and learn. Over the years, I've gotten a little better, but if you are drowning and I'm your only hope - well, we're both in trouble. My kids, however, swim like fish. They've been in the water since they were babies and it is just natural for them. In fact, there's a much better chance that one of them could save you if you cramp up in the deep end!  

All About Horses - My two oldest daughters have been riding horses for 7+years. They know how to groom the horses, saddle up the horses, and, of course, ride them (including jumps and everything!). They also know all kinds of horse related factoids. I've been on a horse only a couple times that I can remember and they still make me a little skittish sometimes. I definitely would be able to secure a saddle or pick the dirt out of their hooves, but I know my girls could teach me. 

I'm sure there are tons more things my daughters could teach me. They seem to know all kinds of random facts and they are always learning new things. All the while, I hope that I am teaching them all the things they need to know and that we will continue to learn lots more together.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Summer Book Reviews 2017

With Labor Day upon us and the kids back in school, I think it's safe to say that summer is officially over which leaves me reminiscing about all the things we did (and didn't do) over the last three months. Back in June, I posted my list of Summer Reads. I've read seven books since then. Most of them were on that list, but not all. Overall, I was pleased with the books I chose. It became even clearer to me that historical fiction is by far my favorite genre. I have surprised myself, though, by being drawn to a couple "thrillers" which is not a genre I would have thought to be interesting a couple years ago. It's funny how our tastes change sometimes, isn't it?! Here's a rundown of what I read and what I thought. 
Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain is set in North Carolina, the state I've lived in for most of my life, so it had a "hometown" draw for me. The story is set in a very rural part of the state in the 1960s when there was plenty of racial tension, women are still seen as "homemakers," and mental illness was very misunderstood. It tackles the issues of poverty, race relations, and government mandated sterilization head-on. There are parts of the novel that are not easy to swallow, but are they real and historically accurate - which is part of why it's hard to stomach. I gave this one ⭐⭐⭐ and would definitely recommend it to others. 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins is the follow up to her incredibly popular The Girl on the Train. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of either. The one big criticism I have of this book is that the chapters are narrated by many different characters which became confusing. While the chapters are chronological, there is no real pattern among the narrators and each one seems to narrate from a different point of view (first person, third person, etc.). Some of the chapters overlap events, but are told from different perspectives. Overall, I liked the story, but frequently found myself thinking, "Wait, which character was that?" and having to backtrack a bit in order to keep up. Ultimately, I gave it ⭐⭐✩ (2.5)stars.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is a historical fiction novel, but when I read reviews comparing it to All The Light We Cannot See  and The Nightingale, I was skeptical. Those are two of my favorite books and I could not imagine anything coming close to them.  It turns out that I was wrong and the reviewers were right! The book is vivid and engrossing. It gives a clear picture of life after the WWII and those who were left to pick up the pieces of their lives and their country. This is by far my favorite book of the summer and will be added to my list of all time favorites. Definitely recommend!! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes was my attempt to let this author redeem herself. I read Me Before You a few years ago and loved it, but the sequel, After You, was a grand disappointment. I was hoping that this one would renew my enthusiasm for her writing. It only got me about halfway there. The writing was pretty good, but the plot line was not unique and there were no real surprises for me in this one. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't amazing either. I gave it ⭐⭐✩ (2.5 stars). 

What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan was a bit difficult to read because it chronicles a parent's greatest fear - losing a child - and the angst was palpable as I read. This book had a real "Whodunnit" flare and there were certainly some twists that kept me engaged trying to figure out the answers. In the end, the answer was not what I expected. I gave this one ⭐⭐⭐.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman was the wild card on my list. Based on the book's synopsis, I knew it was not going to be anything like what I normally read and that's why I added it to my list. I was on the fence about this book through much of it. At times, the "make believe" aspect was a little too much and overdone. But, the ending saved it and it turned out to be a truly endearing story about how a little girl and a grandmother's past bring an unlikely group of people together. I gave it ⭐⭐⭐.

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown was only okay. Based on the book cover synopsis, I predicted this to be a real page turner, but ended up finding rather anti-climatic. It was an interesting story line and there were some surprises along the way, but nothing that really made my jaw hit the floor. Perhaps my expectations were just a bit too high. I gave it ⭐⭐✩ (2.5 stars).

I still have five books left to read from my List of Books to Read in 2017 as well as two additional books sitting on my nightstand! There are only four months left in the year, so I guess I better get busy reading!! ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ“š

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

What did you read this summer?

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