Monday, November 25, 2019

Monday Moods

It's a big Monday...the Monday before Thanksgiving.  This week is full: of shopping, of cleaning, and of celebrating.  I will not let all the work ahead of me rob me of the joy of eating a big, delicious meal with the people I love.  So, yay Monday!

Here's what I love:

1.  Tea tree oil body wash from Trader Joe's.  I love tea tree oil and this body wash is great, light and clean and smells great.  

me when I open 

2.  Christmas decorations.  Even though we haven't had Thanksgiving yet, we put our tree up on Sunday.  At church, the pastor said Christmas Eve is only a month away and I was like ok, I'm doing this.  We didn't decorate it yet, but having the tree with soft white lights makes us all feel a little more peaceful.  I love coming down in the morning to see the tree all lit up.  Don't @ me.  Christmas is a lot of work and I want a full month of enjoyment, thank you very much.
my third child contemplating a Christmas village.  I am v. proud, she is just like her mother. 

3.  Family visits.  My mom is coming to visit for the holiday.  My brother and sister-in-law and their two little ones will stay with us too.  I love this.  It's a lot of prep work, but when everyone is here, the house is full of love and I feel so peaceful.  This will be our first Thanksgiving without my dad and I know there will be big feelings and tears, but grief is best handled together and I'm ready for a few days of laughing and crying with the people I love.  

Here's what I don't love:
1.  Having to tell my kids to do things 1,000 times.  I keep repeating myself and this is not ok.  My time on earth is limited, I do not enjoy repeating the same phrases over and over again.  "Brush your teeth."  "Clear your plate."  "Pick up your socks."  "Why isn't anyone listening to me???"

2.  Missing my alarm.  This morning I overslept and had five minutes to rush downstairs to teach at 5:30am (if you don't know, I teach kids in China each morning through VIP Kid).  It was stressful.   Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

3.  End of the month pressure.  This is the week I start to panic about all the books I wanted to read this month and how many I actually read.  These numbers are usually vastly different.  I have three books that I'm more than halfway through but with the holiday I'm not sure how much I'll actually read.  I don't like the way I save this all up and then freak out.  Maybe next month I can bring awareness to this and skip the negative self-talk.  Only time will tell...

These are my Monday moods.  What are you feeling this holiday week? 
Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours!

Friday, November 22, 2019


Tis the season to be grateful, right?  Being grateful in every season has all kinds of benefits.  This year I decided to keep a gratitude journal and I actually stuck with it.  The practice of waking up and writing some things that I'm grateful for each day helped me feel more content and pay attention to all the good things in my life.

One of the things I find that crops up in my gratitude journal now and then is my current read.  This got me thinking.  What are 5 books I've read over the course of my life that I'm grateful for?  Not necessarily my favorites...but books that helped me. This is not a complete list, not by a long shot, but here are a few of the books I am grateful for, in no particular order.

Hippos Go Berserk.  This is a board book that we read to all four of our children.  I can still recite it from memory.  "One hippo, all alone, calls two hippos, on the phone."  It is a tale of going from loneliness to a life filled with hippos and back again to being alone.  There are some deep themes and some very cute hippos.  I am thankful for the memories I have from all those times holding a wriggly baby and laughing over the silly hippos.  I am thankful for the way the words and pictures take me back to that time and encourage me on this journey of parenthood.

Ramona the Pest.  I've written about my love for this book before.  It is one I am forever grateful for.  I got a copy from the scholastic book fair.  I read it and reread it and reread it again.  I understood Ramona, always trying her best but having mixed results.  Her misunderstandings and confusion were relatable.  This book propelled me to dig into Beverly Cleary's catalog and meet Ribsy and Henry, a mouse with a big sense of adventure, and get to know Ramona's parents and sister, too.  I wish one of my kids loved these books the way I do, but they have so many more options for plucky heroines, series with complex real characters, and authors bringing their A-game to middle-grade readers.  So it's ok.  But in my heart, I know the seed for so many of today's characters and for my love of books and writing came from this book.  I am thankful for the way this book changed my reading life and the books my kids have access to.  

The Nature of the Beast.  Maybe not my favorite book in the series, but it got me through the month after my dad died.  I needed to feel safe in a book and when the world seemed cold.  The lights of the bistro beckoned and as I poured myself a big mug of tea and sat with this book I was able to escape into another reality where bad things happened but people who were bruised and hurt could heal and grow stronger together.  I'm thankful for the way this book gave me hope.

Tribe.  This slim, nonfiction book is one I think about often.  The author considers tribe mentality and how that affects modern Americans, veterans, and all of humanity.  So much of what we're missing in our current culture is human interaction and connection.  Without it, we can feel untethered and lonely which can lead to dire consequences.  Since I've read it, I have talked about it in a variety of conversations and contexts.  I am thankful for the way this book has made me seek connection with my family and community despite cultural pressure to do the opposite.  

Moloka'i.  I read this for a book club ages ago.  I was kind of salty about it at the time.  My book snobbery was at an all-time high and I felt like it was fluff fiction. Looking back, it was good, solid historical fiction, written for ladies in book club.  And yes, there is a place for that, even on the biggest book snob's shelf.  So anyway, I read it, felt "meh" about it and put it away.  Years later I was writing to my grandmother and she talked about loving the book Hawaii.  I told her about this story.  She got very excited.  I sent her my copy and she devoured it and then proceeded to tell everyone she knows about it.  My mom decided she should read it too.  She did and she also enjoyed it.  My mom sent it back to me after she was done.  I love knowing this book has a connection to three generations.  I love that we can talk about it.  I'm grateful for this book for sparking book talk with me, my grandmother, and my mom.  And I'm grateful to have the physical copy of this in my house to give to one of my daughters someday.  

What books are you thankful for during this season?  Leave a note in the comments, I'd love to hear your stories too. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monday Moods

Another weekend in the books, another week on the horizon. Let's do this!

Here are my Monday moods.

Things I Love:

1.  Date nights.  We used to only go on date nights occasionally.  Babysitters are expensive and it just seemed like a lot.  Nowadays we are going weekly.  We have two teen daughters who alternate babysitting.  We pay them a small amount and they make dinner and hang out with their siblings.  My husband and I can go out and have a nice meal and a real conversation and come home to happy kids.  The only problem is that the kids are never in bed when we get home...but as long as they're all smiling, I'll take it!


2.  Reading "fun" books.  I love classics, but after finishing a big, serious book, I really love curling up with a book that does not take too much brainpower.  This weekend was full of "fun" reading and it was good.  

3.  An hour of cleaning.  On weekends, I usually sit with my book, thinking about how the house is getting dirtier and I'm the only one who will clean it up.  This weekend when that thought popped into my mind I called my family around and instituted one hour of cleaning.  It is amazing how much 6 people can get done in one hour.  I need to remember this and do it every weekend.  After, we all went back to doing our own things, but the house was cleaner and today I don't feel like there is more for me to do than is humanly possible.  

Things I Don't Love:

1.  Super healthy baking recipes.  I often get suckered into trying these and I really want to like them.  But they are just rarely good.  The ingredients are expensive and the odds that I will use them again before they expire are small.  Healthy recipes are one thing, but I think I will be avoiding super healthy baked goods for a while.  

and tastes like chicken feed too.

2.  Working on Saturday.  I had the bright idea to schedule classes early on Saturday morning.  This is good because it means the house is quiet.  But waking up so early messes with my sleep routine and means I will hit a hard stop around 1pm.  I have learned my lessons and will not be teaching before 6am on Saturdays going forward.  

3.  The smell of curry days after you made it.  The other night I made a delicious curry.  It. was. so. good.  But now, days later, every time I walk into the house I'm greeted by a wall of smell: curry.  I'm burning candles and leaving the windows open (despite the cold weather) but I just can't seem to be free from the curry.  Any suggestions?    

Those are my Monday moods.  This week I'm looking to finish Kingdom of the Blind, Here and Now and Then, and Forest World.  What are you reading/feeling this week?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Reading Recap: October Edition

I thought October would be the month that I only read one book.  I started like 50, but couldn't seem to actually finish any.  But then I got focused and determined and October turned out to be a pretty good month for reading.  I even spent time reading on Halloween thanks to crappy weather and only 20 minutes of trick-or-treating.  

Here's what I read:

Ask Again, Yes has been everywhere.  And I get it.  It's a well-written novel about two families.  It has nuanced themes like young love, duty, and mental health.  But for me, I didn't love it.  I only kind of liked it.  When I give a book four or five stars it's usually because I highlighted it to death.  I like it when a book has beautiful writing or insightful writing.  This book was good technically, but I felt like there weren't any parts where I stopped to say, "Wow."  I'm glad I checked it off my list for fomo reasons and also because it was a Book of the Month pick sitting on my shelf, but it's not a book I will come back to.

This was another book that I didn't love.  I listened to it on audio and maybe that was a mistake.  Snark is good but this was so over the top that I kept rolling my eyes.  No one I know talks or acts like Jen, the protagonist.  Her emails to the class were pretty funny but not enough to save this book.  When I read the description I was like, "Oooh, Bridget Jones for moms."  But that was not what this was.  Maybe if you can suspend disbelief and not be annoyed by a *highly* dramatized version of what being a class mom means you would enjoy Class Mom.  An aside: I have four kids in school and never have I ever attended a party thrown for all the parents of the class without the kids also being present--among social circles, yes, but not THE WHOLE CLASS.

My fifth-grade daughter is doing Battle of the Books through our local library.  I am coaching her team and this is one of the books we are reading.  Be warned, this will be a common theme in upcoming reading recaps.  Reading while writing questions to quiz your team with is a drag, but the story and illustrations in this book totally made up for it.  I immediately bought the next one and preordered the third.  If you have a middle-grade reader, Moxie McCoy and her brother Milton are so fun.  I got serious Ramona Quimby/Ruby Redfort vibes and those are two of my favorite middle-grade heroines so I call that winning.  The Real McCoys is not didactic, but you come away with a very warm feeling towards family and the world. 

Another meh book for me this month.  What is up with that?!?!?  The story jumped around a lot and the romance was more than a little cringey (the protagonist and his girlfriend love shagging beneath a picture of her grandmother, they spoke to each other like no couple I've ever heard). I didn't feel invested in any of the characters.  The best part of the book was learning about how books are passed down through the years and getting a little peek into the rare books world.  However, there were a couple of long passages about bookbinding that were too much.  The level of detail made my eyes start to water a little.  But, for years I've thought about reading this book so I'm glad to have done it and know: it's not my cup of tea. 

THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD!  I listened to it so basically Michelle Obama is my new BFF.  I loved hearing about her family, the way she grew up, and her take on motherhood and working.  She talks about living in the White House and all that entails when you're also trying to raise a family.  Becoming gives an insider's view of what it's like to be watched by the world when you really didn't want that life.  Michelle was real and raw and funny.  Regardless of your political views, this book is a delight from start to finish.  

So that's what I read in October.  What did you read?  What's on your radar for this month?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Monday Moods

Well, it's Wednesday so that should pretty much tell you all you need to know about my Monday.  


Let's get to it...

Things I Love

1.  Finishing big, long books that are also classics and are also wonderful.  Last weekend I finished East of Eden and I'm still riding that high.

2.  Having dinner in the oven at 9am.  I love doubling recipes and slow cooking things.  Tonight it's pulled pork and I cannot wait.  Already I've over planned the hours of 4-7pm since I won't have to do much to get a meal for six people on the table.  


3.  Reading my son's writing.  My son is 8 and in 3rd grade.  This is the first year that he kind of likes reading and writing.  The papers and stories he brings home from school show his sense of humor and developing skill and I look forward to each one.  He invited me to visit his classroom next week and also asked for a ham sandwich from Subway.  He wrote a story that began with this line: I walked out of a bank with a million dollars.  Wait, let me go back.  I am here for this.  

Things I Don't Love

1.  My to-do list.  It feels like we are entering that time of year of holidays and parties and gifts and menus.  I have about five to-do lists going every day and I'm only ever able to get a few things done off of each one which leaves me feeling like I got nothing done.  Add to this Nanowrimo pressure and I'm just super fun to be around these days...

2.  Incompetence.  Piggybacking off of my number one thing I don't love this week, is the fact that I've been noticing the incompetence of my family members (most notably, my children) when it comes to living life.  I don't think I should have to tell a 15-year-old to wear a coat when it is 18 degrees out.  It is unreasonable for me to be smelling the breath of four kids EVERY MORNING when this is a skill we've been working on since they were one.  If only they would do the things that normal human beings do so I can get back to my to-do list I think I would experience a deep and lasting joy.

My kids when I ask them to brush their teeth after they wake up

3.  Required reading.  I'm in a few groups where we read books and discuss them.  I'm coaching my daughter's Battle of the Books team.  All of this is required reading and it really brings me down.  When I get time to read it is usually extra, so I want to read something fun or of my own choosing.  Required reading makes me feel like I'm in a straight jacket and I've sacrificed my free time.  This feeling comes and goes though because I do like discussing and usually post discussion, I'm grateful for the reading.  ***see number 1: "I'm just super fun to be around these days." 

Those are my Monday...or Wednesday...moods.  What are you feeling this week?  

Monday, November 4, 2019

Monday Moods

Here we are again, after another full weekend.  Are you enjoying the quiet or dreading the rush of the week?  I think I fall into both categories.

Things I Love
1.  NaNoWriMo.  I've been trying to be more intentional about my writing but it's always the first thing that gets pushed aside.  This month I'm writing with a specific word goal every day to participate in National Novel Writing Month.  I'll be curious to see if there is a dip in my reading (although it hasn't been that great over the last few months anyway).  Logging my word count means I have some serious accountability and already I'm noticing how I can squeeze writing in if it's important to me.  Which it is.  

2.  Coloring pages.  I used to love coloring so much when I was a little kid and then I bought a ton of adult coloring books which were too detailed and I gave up fast.  I started subscribing to Rad + Happy's monthly coloring pages and they are a perfect in-between.  I love that they are seasonal and I can print as many as I want.  While I'm on long phone calls or helping kids with homework, I can be v. zen thanks to the way coloring calms me.  

3.  Dance Cardio.  I love to change my workouts regularly based on weather/time/mood.  Today I did a dance cardio dvd and was surprised by how good I felt after.  My body and mind were refreshed and I feel like a million bucks.  You might not know this but I'm a sneaky good dancer and have always loved dancing as a form of exercise.  Yay for a new season of fresh workouts!

Things I Don't Love
1.  Blisters.  I wore new rain books the other day and they gave me two terrible blisters on my Achilles tendon.  Now every time I put on shoes I wince and tear up.  Ugh.  

2.  Rain on Halloween.  It was a dark and stormy night...which makes for a good novel, but not good trick-or-treating.  My two youngest kids were really sad.  We let them go out for half an hour (despite a tornado that's parenting on the edge).  We spent money and time creating clever costumes and then they were only able to knock on a few doors and the school Halloween parade was canceled.  Oh, well onto the next holiday!

3.  Having 6 activities on Monday night.  I love my quiet Monday mornings.  I'm super productive and happy while the kids are at school.  But tonight we have six after school activities and I'm nervous about it.  I'm thinking something will have to fall away because I love my sanity. 

What are your Monday Moods?