Wednesday, July 27, 2016

At the Water's Edge

At the Water's Edge is Sara Gruen's fifth novel. The story begins in a life most people dream of, one of riches and prestige. Maddy, who is the narrator, is married to a rich socialite named Ellis. One night, she is out with her husband and his "friend" Hank at a party when they get overly drunk and they make a mockery out of their parents - which seems completely normal. Their parents are so embarrassed from the gossip that arises that they kick their son and his wife out of their home and cut them off from all their wealth. A little extreme, but Gruen needs to get the conflict started.

They quickly decide that the only way to get their parent's forgiveness is to seek out the Lock Ness Monster. At the Water's Edge suddenly turns into a mystical story filled with multiple incidences of Scottish folklore.

Intertwined within this story line is this trio's experience during WWII and how the war impacts them and the people of Scotland. Or in Ellis and Hank's life, doesn't impact them. A couple of love stories arise, and a couple of love stories fail.

There are many themes within At the Water's Edge, including physical and mental abuse, that will make a reader reevaluate their own past relationships. Gruen provides a lot of historical detail within the book which would delight any history guru. Maddy's character evolves in a way that the reader will certainly not expect.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why I Wish the Word "Crunchy" Would Disappear

You've seen the memes. You have heard the word repetitively at baby groups. Crunchy. There is nothing that irks me more than when I hear someone refer to themselves as "Crunchy". I recently came across a Facebook post where someone was looking for a babysitter that would respect her "Crunchy" family values. When people asked what crunchy means, she was incredibly snarky. She replied that "if you don't know what crunchy means, then you are not right for the job."

I began thinking about the word "crunchy" and how much I hate the word. When I decided to cloth diaper, I had several people ask, "so you're a crunchy mom?" No. I am a mom that made the decision to cloth because it made more sense for our family. Does this mean that disposables are evil? Absolutely not. We use disposables when we travel, and at nighttime. 

It's not that crunchy is bad. It's the attitude that comes along with many crunchy moms that is bad. I feel like most "crunchy moms" that state that they are crunchy are dying for someone to ask what exactly "crunchy" is. When replying to her Facebook post, the crunchy mom in need of a babysitter stated that she is crunchy because she feeds her family local organic produce, vegetarian, breastfeeds, cloth diapers, baby wears, and makes her own cleaning supplies to avoid having chemicals in their house. After the poster defined "crunchy" there were several virtual high-fives and replies such as "I am only doing the best for my family."

But aren't we all doing the best for our family? Here are some reasons why I wish the word "crunchy" would disappear: 

Not Everyone Can/Wants to Breastfeed
The title pretty much says it all. No one cares whether you breastfeed your children or not. And if they do, then they are either your doctor, or they are nosy. I hate when others tell moms that they are "not crunchy enough" because they can't breastfeed. Women are basically pushed out of the crunchy club if their body cannot produce enough milk, or they just don't want to. 

Cloth Diapers Are Not Welcome in Most Daycares
First of all, daycare seems to be a "hush" word among crunchy moms. Most crunchy moms seem to stay-at-home and have nothing to say but negative things about daycare centers. Both my children were in daycare while I was finishing my degree. Daycares these days are great because at some places you are able to log in the daycare center on your phone and actually look at your children while you are away. All of this technology, and most daycare centers refuse to deal with cloth diapers go figure. The only exception in most places is if your child has an allergy to disposables. 
If you are a dual-working family, your children are going to be in some sort of daycare. Why would you purchase cloth diapers if you're only going to use maybe two a day? Then, there are organic and chemical free disposables that, to me, seem pretty "crunchy". But, they aren't cloth so obviously they aren't good enough. 

Co-Sleeping is Not For Everyone
If we let our two-year-old sleep in our bed no one would sleep. Ever. She gets in our bed and she is jumping around and being an insane person. She sleeps in her own bed because it's comfortable for everyone. 
Also, many mothers are on medications that would actually make it dangerous for them to co-sleep. 

Some Babies/Toddlers HATE Carriers 
My son actually can get out of his carrier. He also cries for freedom. 

I Was Actually Harassed in a Momma Group For Giving My Child a Pacifier 
When I had my first baby, I went to a momma group to try to meet new friends. I escaped quickly and quietly after one mother was genuinely appalled that I gave my one-month-old a pacifier. She started to give me "facts" about breastfeeding babies and "nipple confusion" and told me that I should just nurse her. Truth is, if I didn't have the pacifier my daughter would have been nursing for 20 hours out of the day. I just couldn't do it. Sorry, not sorry!

"Natural Birth"
You grew a baby in your body for 9+ months. The baby came out of your body at some point. Birth was given, whether it was out of your vagina or with a space probe. The only parent that did not go through a natural birth are parents that adopt their children after birth is given. 

Labelling Mothers in General is RUDE
"Well, she is this," or "she is that". Labelling is rude, why would we encourage the "crunchy" label? 

What do you think of the word "Crunchy"?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The 5 Love Languages Review

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

The 5 Love Languages would be incredibly helpful to many people I know. This is one of the only "self-help" books I have ever read, so I don't have much to compare it to. The 5 Love Languages is really a bunch of common sense outlined in a logical manner, but I think some people really don't understand love and marriage; I can understand why this book would be an eye-opener to many people.

I love the fact that The 5 Love Languages is interactive. Chapman has the reader reflect after every chapter, and he also includes two tests in the back of the book to figure out your "love language" and your partner's "Love Language". This book definitely has motivated me to try to "speak" to my husband's "love language" (as corny as that sounds). We have a pretty great marriage, but there is always room for improvement, right? I do love some of the ideas Chapmen mentions throughout, including some date-night ideas that I am going to use in the future. I realized that my primary love language is "Act of Service" and I know now that my husband doesn't help me around the house because it's not his love language. I realized that I need to communicate my love language to my husband more clearly. For example, I should say "I like when  you help me with the kids because it shows me that you love me." This book is a great tool for communicating with your partner.

Now for the negatives: I didn't like that Chapmen doesn't go into a lot of detail about people that have more than one love language, and he uses strange examples. He mentions bilingual languages briefly and then continues. I also do not like the last chapter where he is giving marriage advice to a woman who is clearly being mentally and/or physically abused and he is telling her to succumb to her husband's every will (although he is unwilling to go to therapy). Chapmen backs up this chapter using verses from the bible, so I am assuming this chapter is for the religious women that do not believe in divorce. I, however, believe that divorce is *sometimes* the best choice (especially for abused women). I would definitely not tell a woman who is being abused to have more sex with her husband because it will make him feel better. 

I would recommend The 5 Love Languages to anyone that wants to strengthen their marriage, or relationship. It's a fairly quick read so I don't see it taking a long time to actually read through.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

10 Things I Learned After Having a Second Baby

When I found out I was pregnant with Jr, I was concerned that I wasn't going to be able to adjust to my new life as a double mommy. Zoë had just turned one and I still felt like I was getting to understand this new life as a mommy. Thinking about having another baby felt overwhelming, and honestly, scary! I mean, I was still getting used to the idea of catching baby vomit in my hands and wiping poop butts, and now I will have to do double time?

Jr is now 9-months-old and I finally feel like we have adjusted as a family. These last 9 months have sure been a learning experience though! Here are a few things that I have learned:

1. Putting my kids on a schedule has been the only way to manage chaos.

A few months ago I felt like a chicken with its head cut off. Both kids were on their own schedule which meant different nap times, different feeding times, and different bed and bath times. What ended up happening is that I was doing double the work all day long. Instead of making lunch once and cleaning up at once, I was making lunch twice and cleaning up after each time. My husband and I decided a schedule needs to happen, and it has made an incredible difference in our lives.

The biggest problem for us is that Jr wanted to take a bath during Zoe's dinner time. So we started to push back his mealtime and pushed Zoe's earlier so they would eat at the same time and want to bathe at the same time. Success. Now that the kids are on the same schedule I even get a 30 minute mid-afternoon break to clean and take care of things around the house. The kids also seem to be less cranky because they are having their needs met at the same time. It's a win-win for everyone.

2. Every child is different, and they will never be able to fit in the same "box".

I know people hear this constantly, "every child is different". However, you don't really know how different until you are actually raising two children of your own (unless of course you are a teacher, nurse, or work in a profession where you interact with children all day long).

I used to be that mom that would stare at other moms in disbelief when they would tell me their child still doesn't sleep through the night. I actually used to think that it was a problem that the parents created because my child slept like an angel at 3 months. Boy, did karma really kick me in the butt when Jr was born. The child STILL doesn't sleep through the night. I parented both kids the same and yet, one of them sleeps like a rock and the other sleeps like a feather.

I have noticed a lot of differences between both children already. Jr loves food and can,and will, practically eat anything. In fact, he eats three "meals" a day and sometimes a snack here and there. At 9-months Zoë would eat two scoops of oatmeal for the day and that was fine with her. Zoë was slow to hit all of her milestones, and Anthony Jr is flying through them. As they get older, I am sure I will be able to add to the list of differences, but even now I can clearly see that they are incredibily different even though they are raised the same.

3. Some things actually become easier.

Zoë has always been a little clingy, and having another baby has given her an option to annoy someone else. I used to place her in her room to play so I could do something and she would come right out. Now I can place both kids in a room and they will entertain each other for at least 15 minutes.

I have also taken advantage of the crazy game of "who can do ____ better?". Kids love competition, and any time you can give them a meaningful challenge they will go above and beyond. "Who can clean up the most toys the fastest?" has been a lifesaver.

4. Costco, Sams Club, and other "big box" stores are a wonderful and dangerous thing.

Do I actually NEED 50 packets of oatmeal and 25 containers of yogurt? Yes. Yes I do.

5. The most valuable and entertaining toy in your house is the toy in which the other child is playing with.

I mean, it makes sense right? An object doesn't become valuable to someone until it's valuable to someone else. This is especially true between children and siblings. I even bought a book to read to the kids about sharing (Mineosaur) and guess what happened to that book? It was quickly destroyed by my two-year-old. Not now, not ever book.

6. All of a sudden, taking one child anywhere is relatively easy and not as difficult as it was a year ago.

I used to avoid going places because taking along a baby was always difficult to do by myself. It was such a hassle to put her in the car and pack the diaper bag. Now I practically beg to "only" take one child because taking two is a lot of work. What's even harder is when you get to the grocery store with two kids and there are no double carts available. Then, you have to decide what the best method is going to be to get through the trip.

Am I going to trust my toddler in the large part of the cart? Probably not, unless I want 10 packages to be open before we reach the checkout. Should I trust my toddler to walk alongside the cart? Sure, if you don't mind looking for them at least twice during your shopping trip. I should probably just wear the baby. That is, until he is screaming uncontrollably because he is "stuck". These are problems that never happened with just one child.

7. You will learn how to nurse standing up, while cooking, while helping your toddler wash their hands, literally anywhere at any moment. 

With my first child I was practically glued to the nursing chair. I loved that chair, and nursing was so easy and relaxing because I would read a book, or check my emails, and it was quiet and peaceful. That nursing chair is used for my second only at bedtime. The rest of the day Jr is nursed wherever his sister is at the moment.

8. You don't over react as easily.

A bloody nose used to warrant a phone call to my daughter's pediatrician. Is this normal? Should I bring her in? Now a bloody nose has turned into, do I have enough laundry to throw this sheet in real quick? 

Oh you bumped your head? Well your sister just spilled milk on the floor that I am wiping up right now, so you are going to have to wait a second. Oh you're fine now? That's good.

9. If both kids are in school or daycare your chances of getting sick are tenfold.

Double the chance of catching something from another child. Every time I drop my children off and I see another child with snot running down their nose I secretly cringe because I know that in a week that will be my child. Then, once the sickness has taken hold of my child I will catch it. Because that's how that works. With both kids in different rooms, there is an even greater chance of getting sick.

10. The amount of love you are capable of is even greater than you ever imagined.

One of my biggest fears when I became pregnant with Jr is that I wouldn't love him as much as I love Zoë. I  didn't realize that I was capable of feeling so much love. Some of the best moments so far have been "group hugs" from both of the kids. I find myself kissing and hugging both of my children equally, and I feel the same amount of heart-bursting love for each child.

Of course some things in my life have been harder, like finding time to take a shower, and messes have become greater, but I wouldn't change a single thing!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Yellowstone We Are Coming For You!!

I am so excited to announce that the official planning for camping at Yellowstone national park has begun! My husband is taking leave in July and we are going to make the 12 hour drive to the West Gate and spend a long weekend camping with the family.

We were going to stay in Yellowstone on our way over to Washington, but the snow prevented us from getting anywhere close. In the winter a lot of roads are closed down and it was difficult getting across that region. When we stopped in Hot Springs in WY, the hotel we stayed at called the rangers to see if the gates were closed and if the park would be open anytime during the week. Sadly the weather was too rough that the park was closed, and we had to venture around the park.

I was upset because Yellowstone is on my bucket list, and I wanted to stop in the park. I wasn't sure when I would have the opportunity to see Yellowstone again. Then, I was talking to my friend who just moved to Idaho, and we were talking about meeting up soon. We were brainstorming ideas on where and when to meet (mommy con in Seattle was also brought up), and I suggested that we head to Yellowstone with the kids. Excitement ensued. I asked my husband if it was possible, due to his work schedule, and he said "Heck yeah let's do it!" So that's it! It's going to happen. Now we just have to figure out sleeping arrangements.

We are still deciding how we want to camp: cabin, tent, or camper? The cabins seem a little expensive, and we don't have a camper so we would have to rent or borrow one. My husband has  never been camping in a tent and I think he is scared because he said it wouldn't be fun (princess much?). We know we want to stay near the West gate, because that is the closest to us and we want to see Old Faithful, but we have no idea where to camp. I looked at KOA which was oddly expensive for a camping trip. Maybe I am getting old but I don't remember paying anything more than $10 to pitch a tent. Maybe it's because it's a popular area and during the season? I feel so overwhelmed!

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? Do you have any suggestions on where to stay? Cabin, tent, or camper? Which would you prefer?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Another Sunset by Jason Zandri

another sunset by Jason Zandri 

I received another sunset through goodreads first reads for free in exchange for an honest review.

Jason Zandri is a new author and another sunset is his first published novel (congrats Jason!). His writing style is unique; he uses mostly dialogue to move his plot forward. Style-wise, it's different than anything I have read recently. If you are looking for a "feel good" book with a lot of dialogue, this book will be perfect for you.

another sunset is about a traveling man that stops throughout random towns taking on good deeds and causes in each town. The book mainly takes place in the last town he visits, in a small town in Texas, where he meets a young girl with a dream of making her local library wired for internet. The man, David, decides to help this young girl reach her dream by guiding her along the way. He touches the hearts of all of the townspeople all while hiding a dark secret. Of course, his life secret isn't revealed until the end of the story, so it will keep you reading just to see what the heck is going on with him (because no one can be so nice and wise without having a dark past).

The sunset is a common theme throughout the novel, with David being seen on his balcony numerous times saying, "another sunset, another day done". The symbolism is kind of in your face, but some people like that. My mom eats that stuff up. There is no profanity, no sex, and no violence.  

I won't criticize Zandri too much because this is his first novel, but I do hope that he finds someone else to proofread and edit his next novel, as there were some clear typos and strange grammatical issues. And personally, if I were to edit his novel, I would have suggested that he change either Charlotte's or Caroline's name because their names are so close that when I was reading the dialogue I would get confused as to whom Maria is talking to and have to go back and really look at the name.

The characters are a little too undeveloped for my taste, but it seems to be a common trend in current fiction. I also don't like the fact that Maria is stated to be a "strong and independent woman", because her actions say otherwise. The fact that Charlotte tells her that she hasn't seen her smile in 9 years made me epic eye-roll. I know it's to emphasize the fact that David is bringing light and happiness in her life, but it's kind of shame that it couldn't be shown in a different way rather than making Maria look weak and kind of pathetic. I just hate the fact that Maria had to have a man in her life to make her happy.

Overall, it's a great story line, one that you would expect to see on Lifetime or the Hallmark channel. I would figure a lot of older women would love another sunset. In fact, I am thinking about mailing it out to my grandma who will probably share it with her mates. 

Some memorable quotes:

"There are a thousand ways to be richer than the sum of any money you might have."

"A really strong and independent woman is one that knows full well she can do it all but is confident enough in herself to allow someone to help."

"What you have in your heart, what you pass onto others, while you are here and after you are gone, matters more than anything else."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#43 Go on a Cross-Country Trip/ #56 Smithsonian

#43 Go on a Cross-Country Trip

Thanks to the USN my family and I went on a cross-country adventure. The kids and I first travelled from Georgia to New York after my graduation in December. As some of my readers know, I am originally from New York and I wanted to see my family before I moved back out to the West Coast. If you have ever had family on the other side of the country, you know how difficult it can be seeing them throughout the year. 

My mom helped me make the move from Georgia to New York. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of our trip because I lost my phone on a two-day stay in Washington D.C. The only picture I uploaded before that day was this one (of DC traffic).

We got into DC during rush hour. So that was fun! We spent the next two days exploring DC by foot. We took the subway into the city because we stayed on the outside, and we toured the Smithsonian (Check off #56 on my bucket list!) and we went to Capitol Hill. It was a little chilly, so we had to stop often, but we saw a lot of neat things like Dinosaurs, Ruby Red Slippers, The American Flag, and Airplanes. Our only wish is that the museums stayed open later!

Anthony was in school in Virginia and he was not set to graduate until the middle of February so I stayed in NY with the kids for a couple months. It reminded me how much I hate snow! While I was there we got about 4-5 feet. No thanks!

When Anthony was done with school he drove up to New York so we could begin our cross-country adventure. Our plan was to avoid the northern part of the country because it was February and there was bound to be a lot of snow. So we travelled down PA over to OH where we met up with my dad and grandparents in Newark. Then we travelled through Indiana, and made a stop in St. Louis. In Kansas we stopped at a place called "Truckhedge"

It was a special place, and by special I mean I am glad we didn't get murdered and thrown into the woods for creatures to feast on. It was a residential place set up by a rather odd man who was incredibly friendly and weirdly artistic. He had some crazy artifacts on his property and he gave us a tour of his abode. I would recommend anyone to stop by here if they are in Kansas because it was an experience I will never forget. And the guy gave Zoe a piece of petrified wood and showed her dinosaur and mammoth teeth. It was definitely not a stop I was expecting! I thought it was a roadside attraction that we would stop at for 10 minutes, take a picture and drive away. Kind of like this one...

This is the world's largest easel. I think this was in Colorado where we were stranded for a night because of a snow storm that we hit. We stopped in Denver for lunch and stayed outside of the city for the night. Apparently Colorado doesn't have a great snow management system, so it took us three days to get through the state. We also had to make a pit stop at Volvo because I was having a problem with my windshield wiper fluid because it was below freezing and Georgia filled my tank up with +32 fluid.

These photos were all taken at Hot Springs Park in Wyoming. Another highlight of our trip. We had the chance to eat with deer, see roaming buffalo, and take a dip in natural hot spring pools. We also made a trip to the dinosaur museum in town, which was an awesome stop that Zoe LOVED. 

We finally made it into Washington State!

In case anyone was wondering, Lou made the trip too. He had a blast sneaking into hotel rooms. He did really well the entire 10 days of traveling.

If I could choose one picture that would sum up our trip it would be this one. It was such an experience traveling across the country and we got to see so many beautiful landscapes along the way. This picture is through Montana, which I think was my favorite state along the way. Fun fact: Researchers at Cornell University have stated that if a zombie apocalypse were to ever happen, the safest place to be in the United States would be Montana. Probably because there aren't very many people around.

And surprisingly the kids took the trip just as good as Lou did. Anthony slept for most of the time, and we tried to stay at hotels with swimming pools every night so Zoe could swim and run around after spending the day in the car. We only did about 6-7 hours a day, which is why it took us about 10 days to get to Washington. We wanted to make the trip memorable and fun for the kids. I think we succeeded!