Friday, August 31, 2018

Books I Read (July-Aug)

I think this is a record-setting books for a 2 month period. 
Or at least record-setting for this year

Of course, full acknowledgment that this pales in comparison
 to most people's reading lists. 
But I'm still proud of myself. 

Total books: 12

The Boys in the Boat 
by Daniel James Brown 

LOVE LOVE LOVE this book. 

I struggled mightily at first. 
A while back, I posted it on my IG stories
 and when Natasha inquired, 
I responded with something along the lines of: 
"eh, it's ok."

The book reads like a documentary 
(and there was a Netflix documentary made from it), 
with long descriptive paragraphs, 
and absolutely zero dialogue. 
It's long and slow. 

But when I finally adjusted to it, 
I became swept up in the story. 
The book alternates between three stories: 
1) the 4 years of the crew from Washington 
2) the poorest boy Joe Rantz, abandoned by his family
and 3) the Nazi rise to power, 
emphasizing how the Nazi's used the 1936 Olympic games 
as a world propaganda stunt. 

It's really quite an incredible book. 
And the story is just... WOW. 
It is an amazing story. 
Read it! 

The Wife Between Us 
By Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Thumbs down. 

The positive to this book is that it sucked me in, 
and I read it all in one sitting. 

The negatives: 
1) It felt like the book had "too many" twists. 
You know when you're watching some movies 
and there's so many twists that you stop caring?
(for me, this was Mission Impossible II) 
That was this book. 

2) It was a total knock-off of The Last Mrs Parrish, 
and that annoyed me. 
I loved The Last Mrs Parrish, 
and did NOT love this book. 

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell you she’s sorry 
by Frederick Backman 

I loved this book. 
It’s the same author as “A Man Called Ove” 
which I also loved with a passion. 

I sense a lot of love/hate for these books. 
On one hand, lots and lots of descriptions 
and rambling thought processes and whatnot. 

But his characters. 
Oh my the best. 
This author makes me fall in love with every single character
 and that’s hard for me to do. 
Also the humor is right up my alley 
and the storylines are perfect. 

Many times, I laughed out loud and shed real tears, 
just in the span of a few pages. 
It’s just that kind of book. 
Loved it. 

Leah on the Offbeat 
by Becky Albertalli 

Like most people, I liked "Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda," 
and so I was excited to read the sequel, 
which picks up one year later. 

I wish I had read "Simon" more recently, 
because I struggled trying to remember the characters. 

That said, being a sequel I lowered my expectations a little, 
and I think it met my expectations. 
Still the same fun writing and witty banter, 
but just a little lesser of a storyline. 

If you liked "Simon," definitely read this, 
but again, expectations slightly lower. 

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled 
By Wendy Pearlman

Among my top favorite books this year. 

I mentally divide books into "fun" (fiction, celebrity, memoirs, etc) 
and "educational" (where I learn something), 
although every now and then I find a book that does both 
(perfect example: "The Hate U Give") 

Sometimes educational books feel like I'm plodding through, 
where I'm learning a lot but it's just a heavy read 
(example: "Just Mercy"), 
but not this book
A collection of 1-2 page interviews 
that wonderfully tell a story all woven together. 
And the emotions and feelings are so perfectly captured, 
you feel like you are right alongside. 
You feel the fear. 
The feel the surging joy. 
You feel the hope. 

And most importantly, I could grasp that "safe" and "survival" 
are not all we need. 

The best way to read this book, IMO, 
is start at the intro, 
then when the author explains the timeline of Part 1, 
jump to Part 1 to read the interviews. 
Then go back to the intro and read the timeline for Part 2, 
then the interviews for Part 2. 
And do this throughout the book. 
The intro descriptions are only 2-3 pages 
but really paint the scene against the interviews. 

Summary: I highly recommend this book to anyone! 

The Female Brain 

by Louann Brizendine, M.D. 

A fascinating book that delves into the scientific hard-wiring 
and hormonal parts of our female brain. 
Broken up into life sections, 
it addressed the changes as infants, 
and menopause. 

In fact, I decided to buy the book 
and keep it as a future "roadmap" 
to see what my brain encounters along the way. 

My only caution 
(which was also echoed by my sister) 
is that the book can feel VERY stereotypical 
(for me, it was the worst in the teen chapter). 
I think this is inevitable, 
as the author is trying to summarize brain science into a few chapters. 
Everyone's hormones will surge at different levels, 
producing various results on the spectrum. 
So keep in mind if you feel put-off by the mass stereotyping. 

The Kitchen House 

by Kathleen Grissom

This one sucks you in 
and then punches you in the gut. 

I don't normally read this period of literature 
nor have I read any southern fiction besides The Help, 
but I was immediately obsessed with this book. 

It's also so sad. 
I can tell myself it's fiction but just like Holocaust books, 
you read it knowing that it indeed happen to people - many people. 
After finishing it, 
it reminded me of finishing The Nightgale, 
where I was equal parts impressed and traumatized, 
enough that I had dreams about the book all night long. 

I will admit that sometimes it felt like a soap opera, 
that I couldn't figure out which baby came from who, 
but I'm sure that was no uncommon back then, 
what with no birth control and white male superiority running amuck. 

I see why this is such a popular book. 
I just wish it had a sign: 
"warning: heartbreak ahead"

Dear Fahrenheit 451: 
Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks 
By Annie Spence 

This book is great for voracious readers, 
people who have read for decades 
and read dozens of books a month. 

That is not me. 
That is who I'd LIKE to become, 
but it's not me now

This book is a series of letters to books
the vast majority of which I've never read. 
It feels rather like being on the outside of an inside joke. 

The only helpful chapter was at the end 
"Turning Your Lover into Reader" 
where the author starts suggesting books, 
based on previous reads. 
I actually found a few books in there that looked good. 

So again, big readers, this is for you. 
Little readers, like me, not quite yet. 

I'm Still Here : 
Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
By Austin Channing Brown

Five stars. 
It's a relatively short book, 
and after starting it during the kid's 30-minute swim class, 
I was shocked to see I was already halfway through 
(normally it FEELS like I've read half the book, 
only to be 1/8th of the way through). 

Her writing is conversational and easy to read
She grew up in white Christian suburbia (like I did), 
which makes it even more relatable 
(except, of course, I'm white, and she's black, duh, 
but I felt like any one of the very few black students in my Sunday school 
or all-white schools growing up could have written the same thing). 

Also, her chapter "Nice White People" should be required reading 
for every single white person. 


By Marissa Meyer 

I've been curious about this book for years. 
Ever since I first read The Hunger Games, 
this book has lingered around. 

I've been avoiding it because, 
well I don't know. 
Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be reading Young Adult. 
Sometimes I just don't think it'll live up to the hype. 

In this case, I really enjoyed this book. 
Is it the next Harry Potter? 
but it's a fun twist on an old classic, 
and I love books like that. 
Yes, like most YA, a lot of the "twists" were predicable from the beginning. 
But overall it was cute and I don't regret reading it. 
So if you like YA like Hunger Games, 
you will like this. 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows 
By Balli Kaur Jaswal 

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I opened this book, 
but I certainly was NOT expecting a mix of
murder mystery and 
cultural/feminism clashes and
R-rated sex scenes. 
(Well, the last part I expected)
Yet, all together, I really liked it. 

That said, it did start off slow. 
But bit by bit it picked up the pace 
and sucked me in more and more. 
And finally I read the last 1/3 of the book in one night. 

This Is Going to Hurt 
By Adam Kay

I laughed out loud (a LOT!), gasped, winced, 
and reread multiple sections to my Adam, 
sometimes for the laugh factory 
and sometimes for the wincing factor. 
Written in 1-page journal entries, 
it's easy to pick up and put down. 

With humor and irony, 
the author addresses the many faults of the British medical system. 
Truthfully, I can't tell you how much applies to the American system, 
as they are so incredibly different, 
but I imagine the understaffed, overworked mentality still translates. 

I will say the only negative about this book, 
is that I didn't understand the terms of the British system 
(junior doctor, SOM, A&E, theater, etc). 
I figured it out over time, but it was a challenge. 
The medical cases and terms are the same there as here, 
so British "placenta previa" is the same as American "placenta previa" 

I didn't think I'd finish this book by month-end, 
but it was so good that I squeezed it in. 
Also, I'm glad I spent the extra time to have this book 
requested outside of our library network. 
It took 4 weeks to be located and shipped in, 
but it was totally worth the wait!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

WIDN: End of Summer 2018

It's about time to do another WIDN. 
Or "what-I'm-doing-now" post. 
I pulled out some of the redundant categories, 
because wanting / wishing / needing are all the same damn thing. 


Ever since our anniversary celebration private chef event with Alison Roman, 
I have been cooking my way through her cookbook. 
It. Is. Amazing. 
We have unearthed so many good recipes 
and I've learned new cooking methods. 
Like, I can now spatchock a chicken (from this recipe), 
and it's hands down the best way I've ever cooked chicken in my life. 
Her olive-oil roasted salmon is the easiest, 
yet most decadent, 
thing I've EVER made. 
And I could go on and on and on. 


I jumped on the bandwagon 
and embraced the girly IT beer of summer: 
Angry Orchard Rose. 
Adam won't go near it with a ten foot pole. 
But man I love it. 


I have laughed out loud so many times reading this book. 
And not just a quick chuckle, 
but the full on belly laugh. 
Enough that Adam goes: 
"Ok you can cool it now." 

Realistically it won't be finished by the end of August, 
so it won't make this month's book recap. 


School to start. 


Really liking this season
 and how they switched up the cast of characters. 

Listening To:

Jars of Clay. 
I rediscovered this old youth group favorite 
when my friend posted their "Flood" song on IG. 
It was one of my favorite cult Christian albums, 
back when I was a good girl like that. 


Wegmans Dark Chocolate Almonds 
with Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar. 


I have a summer cold 
and a stuffy nose.


{ image from their website }

I have been on the search for the perfect sandal all summer 
and after a few try-and-fails, 
came across TKEES
I like very minimal flip flops. 
Somehow Instagram knew exactly my sandal specificity, 
because they popped this ad up in my feed, 
and I bought them instantly. 


The Mom Edit has knocked out 2 great articles lately. 
One on sleep routines 
(a bit  excessive in my mind, but overall an interesting read!) 
and one on reclaiming your time in the digital era 
(this one is long, but fascinating and full of fantastic information)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

9 Hours

Oliver starts preschool on September 17th. 
Yes, yes that's almost a month away 
but I've been dreaming of this for 2.5 years 
so with that perspective, it's actually quite close. 

On Sept 17th, I will have 3 hours a day, 3 days a week to myself. 
That's 9 hours a week. 
All by myself. 
No one but me. 

So what will I do with all that time? 

The first thing I can say is what I don't want to do with that time. 
I don't want to spend it on social media. 
I don't want to spend it watching TV. 

While I'm not one to watch TV, 
I could see myself binge-watching old shows, 
like Gossip Girl
 (Queen B forever!). 

More likely, I could see myself wasting huge chunks on social media. 
While I despise facebook's overcluttered style,
 I am on instagram all day. 
And then you throw in bloglovin, 
and hey look, 
there goes an hour. 

So here's what I want to spend it on. 

1. Purge & Reorganize. 

I LOVE purging and reorganizing. 
Like laundry, it's one of those things most people hate, 
and I just love love love to do. 
You can see from all my Mama's Day Off posts, 
I am happiest when I can reorganize. 

Also, we've only lived in this house for 2 years, 
yet I already see JUNK creeping in closets and storage spaces. 

Areas to be tackled

- Linen closet
- My bedroom closet
- Guest room closet
- Unfinished storage space 
- Panic Room storage space

(or in summary: all closets and all storage!)

So terrible.  But you know you chuckled. 

2. Finish New Year Resolutions : learn to make challah
It's a labor-intensive process, 
and having multiple uninterrupted hours to myself 
will be the perfect opportunity. 

3. Run
I'll be running the Army Ten Miler again in October, 
and I'll utilize some of these days for the longer 
8-9 mile training runs. 

4. Blog more.
Despite my F in blogging this summer, 
I really do enjoy blogging. 
And I'd like to keep up with it more. 

5. Read more.
Obvious one here. 
Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking: 
"Oh I should be doing X instead of reading
but no, reading is important. 
I need to prioritize it.

6. Do errands [grocery shop] alone. 
Oliver is a MENACE to grocery shop with. 
The idea of making my weekly pilgrimage to Mecca alone is just... 
sigh, BLISS. 

What you do if you suddenly had 9 hours free

And specifically calling out Amanda
what are you doing with your newfound freedom?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


I haven't done one of these in a while, 
but in an effort to get back into blogging, 
figured this would be good. 

Starbucks chai date

1. Parenting Struggles 

This could be it's own blog post. 
We have a major behavioral issues with Oliver, 
specifically with hitting 
and throwing things. 
I've chalked it up to a speech issue 
(as in, he can't communicate) 
but I think it's more than that. 

Recently, I was introduced Ralphi's "simply on purpose" IG account, 
where she talks honestly about the hard things of parenting.
The first day I read her stories, 
it was like she was speaking directly of our situation with Oliver. 
I can't summarize it all here, 
but safe to say we have a lot to work on. 

2. I updated my Non-Aluminum Deodorant post 
with some new thoughts and a new product. 
Random, I know, 
but I'm a highly opinionated person, 
and I like to share my high opinions. 
[insert hair flipping emoji here]

3. Toy Overload: 
I absolutely love this brief article on toy overload. 
It does a great job of identifying when kids actually have too many. 
Obviously the quantity of actual toys depends on kids, household, etc. 
but the signs are all the same across all children. 
I would put toy overload in my top 5 issues with American parenting. 

Maybe top 3. 

4. Crunchyhood Continues. 
I'm dipping my toe into "clean" skin care and beauty. 
(Of course I say this right after I wrote a post about my skin care routine.) 
Kelsey at Pardon my French has been hand-holding me 
and her blog posts are perfect for people like me. 
Curious, but no idea where to start.  
My favorites: 
Breaking Down all the "Clean" Beauty Categories (so helpful!) 
Where to Buy Clean Beauty (YES!)

5. Public News Service 
This IG account only posts once a day (YAY!) 
with a daily link in their profile, 
and the IG "stories" are no-sound, one-picture highlight of the day. 
It's the simplest, easiest way I've found to keep a toe into important news, 
without being sucked into mainstream media's "drama news" 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Oliver Speech Update

Oliver speech update! 
It's been a very slow journey
I keep expecting one day he'll just burst into rapid speech, 
but that doesn't seem to be Oliver's style.
So instead we will plod along at his pace. 

To recap, 
we were first introduced to Early Intervention for his speech 
at his 15-month checkup last summer
when Oliver had zero words. 
That post here

We had the Early Intervention appointment, 
and they assessed that he didn't need speech therapy at the time
but perhaps at a later date if he didn't self-correct. 
That post here

Fast forward to his 18 month checkup
and Oliver was just barely saying enough
that the doctor did not refer us back. 
I was told if he didn't put 2 words together by the time he was 2, 
then we would be back at it. 
That post here

At his two year appointment in April, 
Oliver was just starting to put together 2 words
He'd say things like: 
"Bye bye, dada" 
"more nana" 
but he was only at 15 or so words, 
while most other kids are wayyyy beyond. 

The doctor referred us, once again, to Early Intervention, 
with the caveat that : 
"He probably won't qualify for services, 
but it would help tremendously if he did, so let's try." 

Early Intervention came in June 
and immediately identified Oliver as needing speech therapy 
(thus qualifying for the program).  
His speech had fallen so behind his peers. 
He wasn't making basic consonant sounds that he needed to make 
(Ns, Ps, etc) 

We were paired with a speech therapist.
When she assessed Oliver, 
she turned to me and said seriously: 
"He should have been having speech therapy a year ago." 


Early Intervention provides speech therapy for free, 
but we would have gladly paid out of our own pocket. 
The doctors / assessment staff kept telling us he was on track, 
so we never pursued it outside of the Early Intervention program. 
But Oliver wasn't really on track. 
He needed speech therapy long ago. 
Hindsight is 20/20. 

Now we play catch-up. 

The speech therapist comes to our house once a week for an hour.
After trying a few methods, 
we settled on an approach and appointment format that works great. 

The speech therapist decided that instead of introducing Oliver to new words, 
we would go back and correct the words he does have. 
For example: "Uh" = "Up" 

Figuring out an appointment format was more tricky. 
After a few try-and-fails, 
we decided Oliver needed to be tied down. 
He is a mobile kid whose physical dexterity is off the charts, 
but it's also distracting (to himself) 
and prevents him from learning.  
Plus, we needed a motivator. 
And what greater motivator for my kid than FOOD?!

Appointment Format: 
Oliver is strapped into his highchair, 
the speech therapist presents him with a flashcard, 
and models how to make the sounds.  
Oliver makes several attempts to mimic the word/sound, 
and after a few attempts, 
he gets a treat. 

So yes, we are training Oliver like a dog. 
It works great
He really really really tries to mimic the sound. 
He throws all his concentration into getting his
 lips, teeth, and tongue to do the right thing. 
It's so darn cute. 

Progress so far: 

In 5 therapy sessions, 
Oliver is starting to put consonants back on words, 
e.g.: a cat used to "eow" but now he does "meow" 

He has learned new words. 
e.g.: "me" 
which he now says whenever he wants something. 

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment is 
"Mommy" and "Daddy" 
rather than "Mama" and "Dada" 
After 2 years of being "mama," 
it's both startling and thrilling to finally hear "Mommy" 
just like all the other kids. 

I sense we will be in speech therapy for many months to come. 
I also stopped thinking that Oliver will just wake up one day, 
talking up a storm, 
like so many moms tell me. 
Oliver is his own kid 
and he will move at his own pace. 
And that's ok. 
He'll get there.