Thursday, February 26, 2015

What I Read ~ 2014

I don't really know why I keep lists of the books I read other than the fact that I like lists...  And this list is coming pretty late since 2014 ended like two months ago, but better late then never, right?  Well, at least if you actually care what I read last year!

Stand out author for me this year would probably be Jojo Moyes.  I really, really enjoyed the two books I read by her this past fall.  I love that they take place in England and enjoy reading all the British-isms.  To top it off, the story lines were intriguing - all that human condition stuff I like - and the characters were believable.  Both books had me in tears...especially Me Before You.  I am looking forward to reading more by her this year!

As for a favorite book that I would recommend to anyone...that's a tough one!  I got a kick out of An Abundance of Katherines, and I loved Conversion because of the history tied into the storyline.

On my "least favorite" list would be the entire Beautiful Creatures series.  It's far from the worst thing I've ever read (and I've endured a lot of bad), but I didn't love it.  If I hadn't received the books as a Christmas gift, I probably wouldn't have bothered to finish the series.  Turns out I just don't have a lot of patience for the "tortured teenage love story" anymore. 

I didn't read a lot of nonfiction this year, but what I did read, I enjoyed.  Killing Lincoln appealed to the history buff in me, and Jennie Allen, Jen Hatmaker, and Rob Bell kept me thinking about God and life. 

Probably my biggest accomplishment (in my opinion anyway) would be how much of the Bible I read.  I actually started this project about a year and a half ago when I realized how little of the Bible I had ever read.  I was supposed to finish up in July, but of course I have gotten off "schedule," but I still knocked quite a bit of it out!  The Old Testament about did me in at a couple of points (laws and more laws!), but there were bright spots in there.  Loved the book of Esther!

Anyway, enough rambling.  If you're looking for a good book, here's a list of things that I read in 2014!

Reading List – 2014

Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451

 J.C. Carleson
The Tyrant’s Daughter

 Kiera Cass
The Selection
The Elite
The One

 P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

Melissa de la Cruz
Witches of East End

Lauren De Stefano

 Janet Evanovich
Twelve Sharp
Plum Lovin’
Lean Mean Thirteen
Plum Lucky

Gayle Forman
If I Stay
Where She Went

 Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Beautiful Creatures
Beautiful Darkness
Beautiful Chaos
Dream Dark
Beautiful Redemption

 Jane Green
Family Pictures
A Walk in the Park
Another Piece of My Heart

 John Green
An Abundance Katherines
The Fault in Our Stars
Will Grayson, Will Grayson

 Elin Hilderbrand
The Castaways

 Jeff Hirsch
The Eleventh Plague

 Katherine Howe

 Lauren Kate
Fallen in Love

 Wally Lamb
She’s Come Undone

Marie Lu

 Richelle Mead
Shadow Kiss
Blood Promise
Spirit Bound
Last Sacrifice

 Jojo Moyes
Me Before You
One Plus One

 R.J. Palacio

 Tracie Peterson
House of Secrets

 Kathy Reichs
Death Du Jour

Ransom Riggs
Mrs. Peregrine’s House of Peculiar Children
Hallow City

 Rick Riordin
The Lightning Thief

 Veronica Roth

 Neal Shusterman

 Heather Wardell
Go Small or Go Home
Planning to Live

 Jennifer Weiner
In Her Shoes

 Lee Woodruff
Those We Love Most


 Jennie Allen

 Rob Bell
What We Talk About When We Talk About God

 Candance Cameron Bure
Reshaping It All
Balancing It All

 Karen Ehman
Let. It. Go.

 Jen Hatmaker
Out of the Spin Cycle

 Bill O’Reilly
Killing Lincoln

1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

an unexpected party

My husband loves The Lord of the Rings.  LOVES.  I know for a fact he saw the second and third movies in the theater when they were first released (dunno about the first one...I didn't know him yet, but I'm guessing he did).  He also own the directors cut extended edition of all three movies - that means over 12 hours of movie!  He was beside himself excited when he heard that they were making the prequel, The Hobbit, into not only one movie, but three, movies as well.  In preparation for the theater release of the very first Hobbit movie, he paid $17 to sit in a movie theater all. day. long. watching each extended edition of LOTR back to back!  And then he turned around and went to the opening night of The Hobbit shortly after thatSince then he has watched the second and the third movies in the theater.  Not to mention, I can't count how many times he's watched them on DVD.  May I repeat:  My husband LOVES everything about The Lord of the Rings.

I, however, do not.  Like may even be too strong a word for my feelings about these movies.  Example:  I remember watching some MTV video award show in high school and the first LOTR movie was up for a bunch of awards like "Best Fight" or whatever, and I thought "Ugh...I don't want to even see that movie."  Indifferent may be the nicest way to describe my feelings at that point.

And then I met Justin.  And I watched the first movie on video with him, because, well, duh!  I wanted to like what he liked cuz I was an infatuated girl like that!  And I went to the theater and saw the second and third movies with him.  And I bought him all of the extended edition DVDs and watched them with him.  And I decided LOTR wasn't so bad, but that was about it.  I even read the books at some point during my college years, but I wouldn't say I enjoyed them much - it was more like an exercise in endurance just so I could say I did it.

So...while my husband was super excited for the release of The Hobbit, I was like...meh.  I sent him to the first movie in the theater alone, endured the second with him, and sent him on his way to the third while I stayed home and watched the kids...and I felt like I had dodged a bullet!

But then one Saturday we were a bit bored and talking about the third movie coming out on DVD and I made some comment about how it'd been so long I'd have to watch the first and second again just to remember what happened, and he had this great idea that we do it RIGHT! NOW! and I said "sure" and we did.

And I liked them.  Like A LOT!

I'm not sure what has changed about me in the last year or so, but....I really, really liked the movies this time around.  So much so that I was - and am still - seriously irritated that I have to wait for the third movie to come out on DVD to see it!  In fact, I liked The Hobbit so much, that I decided that maybe I needed to see all three LOTR again....that maybe I would find that I liked them now too!

So, believe it or not, the following is something that me - the not interested in the LOTR/Hobbit then girlfriend/now wife - suggested...

First came this idea:  let's spend a weekend watching all three extended LOTR movies!

Then out of my mouth came:  "Better yet!  Let's do it all in one day! We can have snacks!"

Then we were out of school for like four days because of "snow" and "ice" and "cold."  I was a bit bored, so I decided to put some thought into the food part of our movie marathon.  I visited Pinterest (Yikes!) and discovered all kinds of themed meal times and recipes and menus.  So, I made plans and lists and came up with this...

An Unexpected Party!  An appropriate title given the party organizer (me)...and stolen straight from the chapter title in one of the books (The Hobbit I believe, but don't quote me...I'm not that big of a fan remember)

First Breakfast kicked off around 8:00.  We all gathered around the table to share French toast, "nice crispy bacon," and sausages.

Second Breakfast - biscuits with honey or jam and coffee - was perfectly coordinated with the start of The Fellowship of the Ring shortly after 9:00. 

Gavin thought it'd be funny if I took a picture of him picking his nose....he's such a booger!

The first disk for Fellowship ended just in time for a quick break and the serving of our meal for Elvensies!  We munched on Lembas bread and ten cup ranger cookies served up with hot apple cider!

Gavin didn't stick around to watch very long, but Logan lasted the entire first movie and was ready to start up the second!
The first movie ended, we flipped disks and started up The Two Towers while enjoying our Luncheon.  Justin had picked up some amazing cheeses to go with our deli meats and crackers!

(Then we paused the movie, and Justin ran to Walmart to get me some medicine because it turns out my stomach doesn't like eating like a Hobbit.  Minor set back, but we were quickly back on track!)

Logan refused to do anything but eat and make funny faces for the camera!

Disk #1 wrapped up and we served Afternoon Tea - English Breakfast Tea with blueberry muffins and cinnamon swirl bread - with the start of disk #2.  At this point it was about 3:30 in the afternoon.

At this point, Logan had watched the first two movies with us, and Gavin was back in the game...probably because there was food again!

My boys are so well trained...even though the food was served on the coffee table, they took their plates to the dinner table since they're not typically allowed to eat in the living room!

After The Two Towers ended, we took a longer break.  Justin got the boys ready for bed while I set the table for dinner and dished up crockpot scalloped potatoes and ham.  We all sat down together and ate as a family - something that doesn't normally happen twice in one day! 

Then it was time to begin the last movie:  The Return of the King.  The first disk about two hours into the movie (the director's cut is just shy of four hours long), and we took a break for dessert...pie!  And of course beer since hobbits like beer!

Of course we drink our beer in wine glasses...we're classy like that!

At this point, Logan had been curled up with me on the couch the entire day watching each minute of every movie...and begging for pie!  Yet, when pie time came...he didn't want pie, he just wanted to get on with the movie!

My trooper - settled in and ready to finish this marathon!

We finished our movie marathon around 10:00.  I was exhausted!  And so was Logan who fell asleep with only an hour to go!  I still can't believe he watched all day long with us!  Gavin was in and out, watching at times, mostly playing, but even he had joined us there at the end and fell asleep in Justin's lap.  We carried our kids to bed and called it a success!

How do I feel about LOTR now?  I'm pretty sure I really, really like it.  Justin asked me why the sudden change, and the truth is, I don't know.  I know that I really, really enjoyed all the family time this adventure allowed me to have which would obviously have an effect on my feelings about the activity we did - in this case the LOTR movie marathon.  I also know that I'm not the same person I was in my twenties.  These past three or four years especially have changed me so much, changed how I see everything, and that has had a lot of carry over even in to what I find interesting and enjoyable and meaningful.  It's interesting to see how a few years (and maybe a bit more maturity???) can change my perception of my world and alter how I feel about things...even little things like movies.

One thing is for sure...we are looking forward to our Hobbit movie marathon to be held as soon as that darn third movie comes out on DVD!

Hey!  My name is Lucius and nobody paid any attention to me today, so I'm just going to sleep on this pile of coats.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

about lent

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the kick off for the season of Lent.  I struggle every year with this time.  I have good intentions to form new habits, break old ones, be sacrificial through it all.  I say I'm going to read the Bible each day - for myself and the kiddos...but then one day is missed and another and another, and I give up.  I say I'm going to give something up (like Dr. Pepper or Chocolate - you know something I'll actually miss, but need to learn to live with out anyway), but am back at it two weeks (and that's being generous) later. 

I also tell myself that I'm going to make a big deal out of the season for my boys, teach them about the meaning of Easter and Jesus and his sacrifice - the whole shebang.  I tell myself I will put as much effort into Lent as I do into Advent.  And I don't.  (In my defense I had some success a few years back when we did Love Life Live Lent as a church.)

Come Easter Sunday I'm a stressed out disaster - every. single. year.  I'm cranky about the kids screaming about chocolate bunnies and baskets and toys instead of Jesus and kicking myself because of course it's my fault - after all I dropped the ball teaching them.  And instead of focusing on my Savior, I'm worried about getting to church on time in the right clothes and the big meal that follows after. 

I don't want to do that this year.  Any of it.  Sure, I want to make this season special, but not in a way that crams it down the throats of my family and leaves me feeling drained and like a failure.  I think my biggest problem with Lent each year is that I overthink the details and forget the big picture:  Jesus' sacrifice for me, for all of us. 

So no details this year.  And no guilt.

We didn't make it to the Ash Wednesday service last night, and that's okay.  Things happen and Jesus gets it - even if other people don't - and his opinion is the one that matters.

I started up with my daily Bible reading again yesterday.  My goal for Lent:  to finish my "read the Bible in a year" project that I started a year and half ago.  I want to start reading through a children's Bible with my boys again, too (We HAVE done this before - SUCCESS!  Time to do it again!)

I'm going to dig out our Love Life Live Lent activity book from a few years back and choose some activities to do as a family on weekends. 

I gave up soda and fast food.  I believe that God wants me to take better care of my body - and teach that to my boys - then I do, and here's a start.  I also believe He wants me to use my money for better causes then the enormous amount of junk foods and drinks my family consumes.

I believe God wants my family to tithe more to our church each month.

I may not get all of those things above right everyday either, but I won't give up this year.  Each day I will see as a new day, another chance.  Lent is going to be special this year, but not because I'm going to make a huge production out of it.  Instead it will be special because it will be about Jesus and family and sacrifice and forgiveness. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

snow day

Our snow day in bullet points:
  • wake up at 4:30, remember there is no going to the gym this morning and hit snooze for the next hour
  • wake up to the phone ringing and the snooze going off the same time.  Turn off alarm, answer phone, find out school is cancelled due to ice.  Return to sleeping.
  • Jump out of bed and fly out the living room to relocate Tony, the elf on a shelf, since I forgot to last night...and we're off to a great start on that little treat...

  • sleep until seven enjoying the fact that for the first time on our Thanksgiving break the boys slept IN instead of RUNNING! SCREAMING! and FIGHTING! (both play fighting and real fighting) at 5:30 in the morning.
  • Climb out of bed, bundle up, drink water, start coffee, all while watching the boys make their own pop tarts.
  • FIRST DAY OF DECEMBER!  Boys check their advent calendar for our activity and discover that they get to open their first Christmas books.

  • Read day one out of each Advent book and hang our first ornament on our Jesse tree

  • boys disappear into spare room to watch Wreck it Ralph.  I drink coffee, eat leftover waffles, and watch ten minutes of some ridiculous show on TV before deciding not to watch TV all day.
  • Finish online Christmas shopping.  Done!  Yay!
  • drink more coffee and catch up on some Bible reading.
  • Text Justin, shower.
  • Decide to catch up on photo books on Snapfish, but find things running too slowly (probably due to cyber Monday??) 
  • Feed the boys left overs for lunch and return to snapfish to do some photo Christmas shopping instead.  Save 55%!  Woohoo!
  • Decide to take this opportunity to upload all of my photos (both camera and phone), edit, organize, and upload them.  This takes hours.  Like three of them.  Finish the pot of coffee and catch up on blog reading while doing all of this.  (P.S.  My children are silently entertaining themselves elsewhere - it seems after spending five straight days with me over Thanksgiving break that they are tired of me and willing to let me do my own thing.  rare!)
  • feed the children again.  they seem to need A LOT of food.
  • Now write a blog post.
And now it is 3:30 and I'm contemplating starting up the over to make frozen pizza because despite having been home all day and having spent most of that time on my butt and on my computer, I still have no desire to cook.  And I'd like to continue this relaxing (some would call lazy) thing I have been doing all day.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

when the well runs dry

I feel this urge to write.  To just blather on and on with no point and no end.  Maybe it is because I hardly ever write anymore.  Not on this blog, not in a journal, not an email to a friend.  And I don't take pictures.  And I can't remember the last book I read AND finished.  And I don't want to create anything...not a scrapbook page, not a new recipe, not a new anything.  Exercise?  Forget it - don't want to do that either.  Somewhere in these last few months I've started cutting myself off.  Not on purpose mind you!  Just a side effect of letting life get too busy, letting the little things get too big.  Losing sight of my priorities.  And the result?  A slow erosion of the things that keep me inspired, joyful, and let's face it, sane.

And now my well is dry.  Really dry.  What's the cliché?  Bone dry?  Yup, that's me.  Bone dry.  Not an ounce of energy left in my cells for anything.

I hate it.

I hate that I can't seem to recognize that I'm headed toward burn out until I'm there.  I hate that when I crash, I have trouble picking myself up again.  I hate how I know exactly what I need to start doing to start pulling myself out of the fog, but the very idea of doing it is so exhausting that I don't want to start.  I hate that I start to think, "Hey, its sucks being right here where I am, but it'd be a heck of a lot easier to just stay here then do the work to get moving again." 

Right now, I especially hate that burn out has chosen RIGHT NOW to strike.  Right now when Thanksgiving is days away, and I have a dinner to prepare.  Right now when Christmas is fast approaching and there is just so much to do.  Right now when I need to be more focused than ever on my marriage and my family.  Right now when above all, I need to be focused on God because I know that I can't pull any of this off on my own.

But I am just so tired.  Too tired to make a plan; too tired to make a list.  Too tired.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

what my house really looks like [my return to blogging?]

I look at Facebook and Pinterest, and I read blogs.  I see all these pictures of perfectly decorated, perfectly tidy, perfectly clean homes.

And then I look around at mine...

My house is not straight out of the latest home décor magazine.  As much as I might try to fool people into thinking it is.  I admit...when pictures of my home show up on my accounts (let's say Christmas for example) I have picked the best pictures I could find.  In fact, I created the best pictures I could find before taking them.  When I know it's going to be showing up on the internet for everyone to see, I make sure to have cleaned and organized that space perfectly before hand.

I get kinda tired of pretending to be perfect, to have it all together.  I mean, everyone already knows its an act, so what's the point? 

It's not just home stuff either.  It's everything.  I'm not a perfect wife or mother or daughter or sister or teacher either.  I'm not a perfect anything.  I fall short.  And then I try to fool others into thinking I don't.  Which, if you really think about it, is completely silly since none of us are perfect.  And we know that.  And then we try to pretend we are perfect in order to fool others who we know and they know aren't perfect either.  Its an exhausting and confusing cycle and I'm really tired of it.  So...I think I'll just try not to do it anymore. 

So let's start with my house...  I actually feel kind of bad about the pictures I'm going to show.  Not because they prove things get messy and generally stay messy around here, but because they are actually kind of mild on the mess.  Like...I had already started cleaning the kitchen before I had this whole idea to take pictures of my house as is.'s my disclaimer:  these pictures come after a bit of sprucing...but not on purpose.  Just because sprucing is necessary sometimes.  Can't be eating off dirty forks after all.

While we are here, lets look at the kitchen...

Like I said... pretty mild since I had just tackled some dishes.  Now turn around and check out that "dinning room" (a.k.a. extended space from the kitchen).

I know dinning room tables are supposed to be for eating on, and shelves and hutches are supposed to be fore pretties, but since this is right inside our garage entrance, these things work very well as "catch-all" spaces.  That's a nice way of saying a place to pile all our crap instead of just putting it away right away.  Ooops.

Now on to the "TV room."  Originally when we bought the giant TV of my husbands dreams and the furniture to go with it, we said that it would be a "toy free zone."  You can see how that's working out...

The "TV room" is just really part of one big space.  We turned the other half of the room into the "formal" (HA!) living room/office.  Calling it an office is a nice way of saying "place we put the desk."  The desk is Justin's space and it pretty much always looks messy.  He has an organized chaos I leave alone unless I'm trying to dust. 

Okay.  Now down the hall.  First stop is the laundry room.  Turns out I didn't take a picture of that.  There's a washer, a dryer, and a litter box.  Basically this means that there is a constant supply of cat litter sprinkled across the floor and a basket full of dirty laundry.  Enough said.

Next...the third bedroom.  Home to our old TV, a twin bed, and the Ninja Turtle lair.  This room actually is at its best now (at least in these pictures) because I have relocated the art stuff so it is no longer covered in crayons and paper scraps.  This is where I send the kids to watch TV when I can't stomach another episode of whatever cartoon they're obsessed with at the moment.

Oh...I forgot to mention that this room is also where I hang-dry my delicates.  And really, I should have taken a new picture, because currently the bed is stripped, the mattress is leaning against the closet, and the box spring is waiting to be repaired.  (My kids like jumping on the bed even though they know they are not supposed to which is why the box spring is broken.)  Oh, and it's been that way for a week now.  It probably won't get fixed until my sister comes to visit and needs a place to sleep.  We are procrastinators like that. 

Onto the next room:  the hall bathroom.  Also referred to as the "boys' bathroom."  This is a scary place.  I don't go in here unless I'm cleaning it or have no choice.  Two young boys brushing their teeth and using the toilet...its scary.

Walk with me down the hall a little further (like two steps - we don't have a huge house here).  Its a bedroom shared by my boys.  There are always toys everywhere and the beds are never made because bunk beds are a pain to make for me, much less them.  I'd just rather not fight that battle. 

You know how I said two seconds ago that I don't like making bunk beds because they are a pain?  Really, I just don't like making beds at all.  Ours is proof.  I make it when I change the sheets.  Obviously I hadn't just changed the sheets on this particular day.  We had also just gotten back from our Fourth of July trip and hadn't really bothered to completely unpack.  If there wasn't a suitcase on the floor there would be a pile of Justin's worn-but-not-dirty-yet clothes anyway, so it's still a pretty accurate representation of the norm.

Huh.  I forgot to take a picture of our master bath.  Oh well.  Just picture the boys' bathroom but with the toilet seat down.  And the sink is generally a little tidier.  We are grown-up after all!

I probably should have taken some pictures of the outside of our house, too.  Currently all of the landscaping is overgrown and the grass was do for a cut a week ago.  The back yard and patio are covered in toys that haven't been picked up, and I desperately need to pull weeds.  I hate yard work though.  Mainly because I seem to be allergic to grass and growing things and always break out in hives when I have to do it.  Needless to say...our house doesn't look perfect from the outside either.

The truth is...just a couple of years ago, my house did look pretty perfect most of the time.  I was obsessed with keeping everything picked up and perfect.  I freaked out over toys on the floor and dust on the TV and dirty dishes in the sink. But it was too much.  My life started to spin out of control.  I was like one of those circus performers that spin plates on sticks, and I was exhausted and my family was suffering for it.  So, I decided to drop some plates.  The perfectly ordered house was one of those plates.  And my life is better for it...even if it is a bit messier around here. 

Stay tuned...I'm planning to keep on posting this time.  I like talking about being real.

P.S.  Potential burglars...I just gave you the entire layout of my house.  I also think it's pretty clear I have very little worth stealing unless you're looking to upgrade your Ninja Turtle collection.  Please pass on by my house without stopping.