Friday, February 23, 2018

Books I Read (Jan-Feb)

Normally I post my book summaries on the last day of the month, 
but since I'll probably have died in a plane crash by then 
(see yesterday's post), 
here it is today!

Big Little Lies 
by Liane Moriarty

This was like THE hit book a few years ago 
and I begrudgingly checked it out 
because I was sick of being the only person who hadn’t read it. 
Won’t lie, it took me a bit to get into it
but Allena assured me the end was great 
and she’s right, 
it was absolutely great. 
About halfway through was when it clicked! 

Spoiler alert: the hero dies 
By Michael Ausiello

Aw this book!  
A novel of a 13 year relationship that ends in cancer 
(hence the title). 
I actually cried at parts. 
 The author does a great job switching up the tone 
by alternating past points in the relationship to current. 
And he hits every point of the relationship: 
highs, lows, 
and even that mediocre stage of coexistence and indifference. 
Picking up the book, I didn’t realize it was about a gay couple 
(which had me confused the first few pages)
 but I really loved it as a different take on the standard relationship novel. 

There are some slow parts and holy crap,
 the author did not need to do 
a mini biography of every character introduced (yawn) 
but overall good. 

Turtles All the Way Down 
By John Green

Didn’t love this book, 
but didn’t hate it either. 
It’s listed Young Adult 
but the mind games that accompanies it has me questioning 
how it fits that category. 
It was interesting, sad, and depressing. 
Also I found the main character 
(narrator with mental health issues) 
highly annoying. 
So yeah. 
Same author as The Fault in Our Stars 
but I liked The Fault a hundred times more than this. 

Just Mercy 
By Bryan Steveson

This book explores in great detail the flaws in our justice system, 
most commonly associated with race and poverty. 
It is heartbreaking and absolutely maddening (understatement). 
There were times I didn’t want to read 
because I simply couldn’t take the infuriating story-lines. 

I have to say though, 
through the first half of the book, 
I kept saying to myself: 
Oh well this is set in the SOUTH 
and obviously their local/state justice system is flawed 
because the south is rampant with racism. 
Up here in the north we would never do this.” 

Logically I know that thinking is not only untrue but destructive. 
Denial is the most effective form of suppression. 
Yet those thoughts kept popping up.  
Then halfway through the book, 
the author presents a juvenile case from Chester, PA, 
right outside of Philadelphia. 
I’ve been to Chester twice. 
You used to have to drive through it to get to the Philadelphia Union’s stadium (MLS) 
before they finished the ramp directly off 95. 
Chester was just as sad and destitute through my car window 
as they describe in the book. 
And reading the flaws of our Pennsylvania justice system 
was a sharp reminder that we are ALL at fault. 

As terrible and frustrating the first day 1/2 of the book is, 
the last part really is quite uplifting. 
It gives not only hope but perspective that can be applied to our daily lives. 

Highly recommended read!

by Dan Brown 

This book is just like his other artsy Robert Langdon books, 
from DaVinci Code to Inferno.
It’s soooooo slow to start 
then everything interesting happens in the last 1/4 of the book. 
At least the end “discovery” was cool. 
I think I liked the end of Inferno
 (book, not movie) 
better than this. 
I assume they’ll make a movie of this too. 
Suit up, Tom Hanks! 

When Dimple Met Rishi 
by Sandhya Menon

This is what I expect from YA literature. 
Annoying parents, 
And a totally predictable story-line. 
It was cute, 
but it was also reaaalllly lame sometimes. 
And ended up skimming a bunch. 

Class Mom 
by Laurie Gelman

I LOVED this book. 
It’s super funny 
and I audibly laughed enough 
that a few times Adam was like: “it can’t be that funny?” 
Yes, yes, it can. 
(That allergy mom just got me every time.)
It’s also a quick fun read, so perfect for a vacay.
Overall, I can’t say anything bad about it,
 so just go read it yourself. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fear of Flying AGAIN

We all know flying is the safest form of travel. 

That said, sometimes logic isn't enough. 
I am batshit terrified of flying. 
Previous post about it here

It's partially a fear of heights, 
in that I've always been uneasy being high off the ground. 
Once the flight begins the destination descent, 
I immediately start feeling better. 
Even though most plane crashes occur on landing, 
I somehow feel much better when we are closer to the ground. 
Like "if we have to bail out now, 
it's a short jump to land
(nevermind that the speed of the aircraft guarantees certain death) 

Another part is definitely my control freak side. 
I don't like not being in control of the airplane. 
I don't understand aerodynamics 
nor airplane engineering 
so the whole experience requires trust
which I have very little of. 

This fear didn't originate until my early 20s. 
I flew a fair amount as a child 
and teenager, 
without any apprehension whatsoever. 

Then on spring break my senior year, 
we were coming back from Hong Kong 
and had the most rocky, disorienting flight ever. 
We were jostled all over the place, 
cups were spilling, 
and there were multiple "drop pockets" 
(official term ... I dunno) 
where the plane just dropped out of the air. 

That kicked off my fear of flying. 
And it only escalated from there. 
Previously, I would sedate myself with alcohol. 
Pretty much like this: 

However, being responsible for children puts a slight damper on that. 
As in, I'm relegated to one alcoholic beverage. 

Once again, we are heading to Florida this Saturday 
to visit my in-laws. 
Just like last year (recap here), 
I'll be making this trip alone with the boys 
because Adam didn't want to take PTO this soon after starting his new job. 

While I'm extremely nervous about managing Oliver on the flight, 
I'm more nervous about the flight itself

Also like last year, I "borrowed" some anxiety meds from a friend
 (lorazepam, to be specific) 
(And please don't report me to the FDA.)
Taking 1 pill before each flight definitely helped significantly. 
But the anticipation is still there. 
And basically I am this: 

So on Saturday around 5pm, 
please think of me as I fly from Philly to Florida. 
And if there are any plane crashes that evening, 
please send flowers to Adam. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Publishing an Old Ranting Post

I started this post in September 2017, 
back when we had no idea that Adam would be leaving 
Big Law Firm World anytime soon. 
And now that I'm on the other side of the fence 
(Adam is a month into his new job), 
I want to publish it so I never forget my feelings. 


I've alluded to this many a times, 
but I'm taking a moment to spell it out loud and clear: 

I am super jealous of anyone 
whose husband is home for dinner 
and / or the kids' bedtime. 

There I said it. 
Got that off my chest. 

Adam is going on 4 years working in Big Law Firm World, 
and for 4 years I have been the sole parent for dinner/bath/bedtime. 
I really am used to it by now. 
I have my routine down and I can manage the craziness just fine. 
But that doesn't mean I don't envy those with help. 

Every now and then, 
I'll hear a mom complain: 
"If my husband isn't home by 6 I lose my mind." 
"I stare at the clock until my husband gets home at 5:30." 
"My husband is working late.  He may not get home until 7.

And. I. Just. Die. 

I know the gut reaction is: 
"Well Adam makes a lot of money working late." 
Which he does. 
I don't deny that. 
But it's hard to keep that perspective 
when it's 5:30 
and the kids are driving me BATSHIT FUCKING CRAZY. 
And I still have to survive dinner 
and bathtime 
and bedtime 
as a solo parent. 

Bedtime crazies


That was as far as I got in the post. 

Contrast that to now, 
last week Adam was home every single night for dinner. 
He leaves at 6pm, 
25 minute drive home, 
and we are sitting down to dinner as a family at 6:30pm. 
It's a surreal feeling. 

Then he is the one to corral the kids while I clean up the kitchen 
and he is responsible to putting Oliver to bed 
(Step 1 in my process of weaning Oliver) 
which gives me the energy to 
actually enjoy reading books to Aaron. 

It's amazing. 

I know there will be late nights. 
But I'm hoping the late will be like 8pm or 9pm, 
not 1am. 
And I'm sure we'll go through busy spells where he can't be home for dinner. 
But nothing tops 4 years of solo parenting at night. 
It's true, we took a hefty paycut to get to this level. 
And so far it is TOTALLY WORTH IT. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Aluminum-Free Deodorant: A Comparison

For about a year now, 
I've been exploring the world of aluminum-free deodorant. 
The common term for these are "natural" deodorants, 
but I'm wary of the term natural because it's not a regulated term 
(neither by the FDA nor the USDA), 
and literally anything can be legally called "natural." 
E.g.: the most toxic fatal pesticide can be legally labeled "natural." 

So instead, I'm calling this aluminium-free deodorant. 
Because really, that's what they all are: without aluminum. 
There's a LOT of back-and-forth on the dangers of aluminum. 
Some studies say it has no danger. 
Others warn it can cause breast cancer, alzheimers, etc. 
To this I say: 
"Better safe than sorry." 

Before I dive into this comparison, 
here are four important notes:

1. Aluminum-free deodorants are NOT antiperspirants. 
Aluminum is what turns a regular deodorant into an antiperspirant, 
by plugging the sweat pores.
So the first step in trying aluminum-free deodorant 
is accepting that you will still sweat
It just shouldn't stink. 

2. I only use aluminum-free deodorants about 50% of the time. 
I use them as my "stay-at-home-mom" deodorant, 
good for grocery shopping, errands, parks, kids playscapes, etc. 
Or when I was working, my "quiet office day" deodorant. 
However, if I'm meeting up with a friend
 or have something going on in the evening, 
I will use my Dove deodorant, 
which is 12% aluminum. 
If I need heavy-duty protection, 
usually big-gathering parties  
or running a race, 
I use my Clinical Secret deodorant, 
which is 22% aluminum. 

3. I am not comparing effectiveness. 
Deodorant effectiveness varies greatly by person. 
Our sweat is highly impacted by genetics, hormones, and diet. 
What works for one person may not work for another. 
For example, TOMs deodorant does not work on me AT ALL,
 thus I've excluded it from this roundup, 
because I never wore it for more than a few days. 

4. I have not tried any "paste" deodorants. 
I like my swivel-ups. 
Some people love creams. 
For example, Grace Patton raved about SoapWalla's deodorant cream
but the idea of having to "slather" something on my armpits really grosses me out. 

The Great Deodorant Comparison: 
*note, I will add updates below rather than creating a separate post every time*

Lavanila Deodorant 

Availability: Lots of places! 
Sephora, Ulta,, Amazon, etc.

Cost: ~$15

Scents: Very strong scent, 
but lots of different types to choose from. 
My favorite is grapefruit and my least favorite is lemon. 

Consistency: Powdery. 
It dries out super quickly. 

Application: Very difficult. 
Because it's so dry, I really struggled to apply this deodorant. 

This was the first aluminum-free deodorant I was introduced to 
(by various bloggers), 
and I'm baffled how this is a favorite. 
It's very difficult for me to apply 
and I think the scent is too strong. 
Perhaps if you despise sticky or tacky deodorant? 
But to me it was too dry. 

Ursa Major Hoppin Fresh 

Availability: Very Limited. 
Amazon, Dermastore.

Cost: $18

Scent: Very light 

Consistency: Smooth, almost slick 

Application: Easy. 

This is one of my favorite deodorants. 
The scent is light and the application is super smooth. 

Agent Neuter Holi(Stick) No 3

Availability: Limited. 
Amazon, Nordstrom, Dermastore, Anthropolgie

Cost: $21

Scent: Less than lavanila, but more than ursa major

Consistency: Sticky and tacky

Application: Decent

I didn't love this one. 
It was super tacky, which meant I kept applying more, 
because I wasn't sure I was covering my armpit with one swipe. 
It's probably due to the over-application that I used this stick up super quick. 
Normally I have several months with a deodorant stick, 
but this was gone in less than a month (and that's at 50% usage!)

Kopari Coconut Deodorant 
** updated Aug 2018 **

Availability: Very Limited. 
Amazon, Nordstrom, Anthropologie

Cost: $14

Scent: Originally this seemed very light and not very coconut-y. 
Over time though, I felt like the smell intensified, 
to the point where it was leaving a strong residue on my clothes. 
I'm not sure if this is a deterioration of the stick, 
or what, 
but it became bad enough that I stopped using it. 

Consistency: Slick

Application: Super easy. 

Originally a top favorite, 
but after the smell intensified and starting tainting my clothes, 
I hated it 
and threw the rest away. 

Schmidt's Natural Deodorant 
Bergamont + Lime 

Availability: Lots of drugstore places. 
Most importantly: Target!

Cost: $5

Scent: Stronger, 
but I really loved the Beramont + Lime. 
It was very pleasant. 

Consistency: Sandpaper. 
It was flat out rough and scratchy.

Application: Very difficult. 
The consistency did not allow it to glide. 
I read a few places to leave it under your armpit to 
"warm up and melt" 
so I tried that, 
usually tucking it under my armpit while I went about my makeup routine, 
but even after several minutes, it was still scratchy. 

While the cost, availability, and scent are great, 
the sandpaper-style texture 
and impossible application make it a solid no. 

Arm & Hammer 
Essentials Deodorant 

Availability: Lots of drugstore places, 
including Target!

Cost: $3

Scent: It says unscented, 
but it most definitely has a light almost lime-y scent to it. 
Certainly not strong.  

Consistency: Smooth, but not slick

Application: Easy


This is an aluminum-free deodorant, 
but not "all organic" like many others on the list. 
That said, if your primary concern is aluminum, 
this is a great price point for a deodorant. 
Only problem? 
For me, it did not work at all
I found it very similar to TOMs deodorant. 
Again, everyone's body works differently so give it a shot, 
but sadly it can't stay in my cabinet. 

Native Deodorant

Availability: Target, Amazon, etc

Cost: $12

Scent: Lots! 
I tried the following: 
- Coconut Vanilla (too warm) 
- Cucumber Mint (cooler, but not perfect) 
- Eucalyptus Mint (very cool, LOVED)

Consistency: Smooth, very similar to Hoppin Fresh

Application: Easy.

Overall: LOVED 
This and Hoppin Fresh are my two reigning favorite deodorants. 
I LOVE the consistency and application. 
And the smells are light enough to not be overpowering. 

Crystal Mineral Deodorant

Availability: Target, Amazon, etc

Cost: $7

Scent: None (Unscented)

Consistency: Like a rock

Application: Impossible 
The directions say to "moisten top of stone 
and apply generously to clean skin." 

Overall: Weird.
It felt like I was putting *nothing* on. 
Like a strange gimmick. 
The first day I tried it, it seemed to work. 
But when I reapplied in the evening, 
the smell from my pits was left on the stone, 
and then the stone smelled!
So this is *hard* no.


Any other recommendations? 
Requirements: Swivel-up, non-aluminum, non-TOMs

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Toy Rotation v2

The last time I blogged about Toy Rotation
we were in our old townhome, 
so it's about time I give an update. 


First of all, I continue to love Toy Rotation. 
It takes a bit of planning and setup up front, 
as well as a bit of enforcement and adjustments early on, 
but once the system is in place 
and everyone knows the rules, 
it is magical

1. Renewed Interest
Bringing out a "new toy" sparks a renewed "whoaaa!" 
and hence follows a great period of occupied play
The duration differs from kid to kid 
and also differs from toy to toy. 
e.g.: Bringing out Oliver's workbench means maybe 10 minutes. 
Bringing out the box of misc toddler toys can mean 30+ minutes. 
Which is useful for, say, decorating graham cracker houses with Aaron. 
(That post here.)

2. Less Cleanup 

Less toys = less cleanup. 
Do I need to say more? 

How many toys do you put away

This answer changes. 
Before Christmas I regularly left out about half of our collection. 
After Christmas, I had enough of the mess. 
Nearly every single toy is put away except the big things. 
(Rollercoaster, Slide, Soccer net, Basketball hoop, Tent)

Where do you store the toys

This is the hardest part. 
It wasn't until last month 
when I did a minor basement reorg 
that I feel I finally have our storage complete. 

For us, the key is having them all in the same place
First of all, it's a good reminder of how much we have 
(too much!). 
It also provides a way for Aaron and Oliver to "go shopping." 
They come in and browse everything to select their "new toy." 


I've read a lot of different moms' takes on Toy Rotations. 
I've heard of moms laying out the new toys like Christmas morning. 
Or bringing up boxes of new stuff 
and letting the kids uncover the new treasures themselves. 

For us, I find one-at-a-time is best. 
Aaron can have one toy out, 
and then when he wants something new, 
he has to pick it up all by himself
before he gets the new ones. 
And if he doesn't want to pick it up? 
Fine, I don't care.  
No new toys! 

Oliver, of course, is trickier. 
I tend to get a new toy out for him 
only when he really needs to be occupied 
with something other than the television. 
E.g.: I'm sick all day 
But this process has uncovered some new favorites, 
like he lovvessss Mr Potato Head. 


I honestly don't know how moms live without toy rotation. 
I constantly see social media shots of toy rooms 
(and kids' bedrooms!)  
filled to the brim with toys 
and I'm like: 
"How do you not spend 99% of your day picking this up?" 

Well, I guess I have to back up. 
There was a time when our basement was in a constant state of disarray 
(see photo here
but once we added the rollercoaster at Christmas, 
it felt too much to have it a mess all the time. 

I'm clearly much happier with it now than I was before!