Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Church of the Small Things (Melanie Shankle)

Affiliate Link
I read Shankle's first book, Sparkly Green Earrings years ago on the recommendation of one of my favorite bloggers (Happy Home Fairy). I admittedly don't even remember what the book was about, but I know that I loved it. Shankle has since written a few more books, but she apparently fell off my radar until this most recent one. After reading Church of the Small Things she has cemented herself as a must-read-author in my book, and I will be placing an order at the library for the past two books of hers that I missed.

This girl is FUNNY. She can ramble for pages about her dogs (I hate dogs) or her career in the pharmaceutical sales industry (I'm a SAHM redneck who had to spell-check "pharmaceutical"), but no matter the subject matter, her writing keeps me riveted, crying with laughter, and wanting more. And yet, she also packs profundity (it's a word - I checked) in the most unexpected places.

At the beginning of each chapter she includes a quote from an outside source. There were quotes from Tolkien, Gandhi, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. But there were also quotes from Andy Bernard (The Office), Tim Riggins (Friday Night Lights), and Frank Costanza (Seinfeld). I think that's called "Well-Rounded."

And now, because she does it so much better than I, I'm going to share some of my favorite parts. (Spoiler alert: there are a lot.)

Life is what is happening all around us while we're waiting for the thing we hope will give us some sort of inner peace, contentment, or joy. (13)
From a list she titles, "Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was a Kid"
14. Baloney sandwiches on white bread with Miracle Whip and crushed Doritos in the middle are gross and will one day be a socially unacceptable thing to eat. (39)
I love that phrase: socially unacceptable thing to eat. I forget that there was a time when people just ate what they liked and not what was trendy or admirable.

On what she calls "emotional pornography" (an apt moniker if I ever heard one):
With social media, it's never been easier to get a glimpse into strangers' lives and decide their marriage is better, their house is cleaner, their kids are better behaved, while we are just a step away from living in a van down by the river and we don't even care because our children are so ill-behaved that it would seem like a vacation. (76)
How true it is. Especially the vacation in a van down by the river . . .

Here she quotes Max Lucado, but I've never heard this before and was amazed by it:
Mercy gave the prodigal son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast. (90)
And then came chapter 13: To Exercise or Not to Exercise? That's Not a Real Question. I think I underlined more in this chapter than any other. Lol. Despite the fact that Shankle appears to be a size two and her legs are the size of my wrists on her back cover photo, she shares my love of junk food and hatred of cardio.

Even the quote she chose to begin the chapter is apropos:
My favorite exercise is a cross between a lunge and a crunch. I call it a "lunch." (149)
This story resonated to the core of my being, which is why I'm going to take the time to type it all up for you:
I'm kind of like this guy, John, at church. Someone brought in a couple of dozen doughnuts and set them on the same table as the coffee urn to share with everyone, and John remarked to me later, "I went to go refill my coffee and accidentally ate two doughnuts before I remembered I'm supposed to be gluten-free." In that moment, I wanted to embrace him in a side-hug and whisper, "You, good sir, are my spirit animal." Because I would totally love to run a marathon someday and put one of those 26.2 bumper stickers on my car, except I keep forgetting that I don't like to run. Thus I don't ever want to run twenty-six miles at one time. Or over the course of two years. (150)
Next, this business proposal that I could totally get behind (that'll be funnier in a minute):
As for eating gluten-free? I'll take all of the gluten that the rest of the world has given up. I'd like to open a bakery and name it Glutes and have an ad slogan that declares "All Gluten, All the Time." (155)
Relieved to know I'm not alone with this:
And then there's the whole CrossFit phenomenon in which people aren't content to just do their "Workout of the Day" or "WOD" as they call it, but also need to post videos of themselves doing it on Facebook . . . You do you, CrossFit devotees, but with every video you post I'm only motivated to unfriend you instead of challenging myself to a series of workouts that seems likely to cause a serious knee injury. (158) 
(I've done that. Hidden people on facebook who post too much about exercising. Sorry. I love you. But I just can't.)

The chapters on her grandparents and her dad were probably my favorite. For all her hilarity, the sentimental stuff hits me even harder. I read the stories about her grandparents and immediately wanted to buy a journal and start jotting down my memories. She talks about the legacies they left, and even though I didn't have a stellar relationship with any of my grandparents, there are still memories there that I don't want to forget. And then when she talked about her dad. Oy. If I wasn't medicated up to my eyeballs, I would've cried. This paragraph especially got me. For me, it's true for my dad, but also my brother. I remember crying in the front pew with my sister while waiting for his wedding. We kept saying, "Why are we even crying?" And mostly it was because of the love and support people showed him. Hearing the things we knew to be true about him from others' lips. And Shankle says the same thing:
It's one thing to know that your dad is your hero, but to hear a room full of people echo the same sentiments will send you straight to the ugliest of all the crying. (175)
Speaking of being medicated up to my eyeballs . . .
Thanks, social media, for taking fear and anxiety to an entirely new stratosphere. You are the best. One quick question: where can we send the bill for the medication we have to take every night in the hopes of turning off our brains long enough to get some sleep without worrying about all the ways we and our loved ones could possibly die? (190)
So basically, this book is hilarious and relatable, profound and emotional. I highly recommend it!

*I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest review.* 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. A few hours after I finished the Saturday 7 last week, my sister texted me that my nephew's girlfriend was in labor! I was a little disappointed that she couldn't hold out two more days for my birthday (😉), but was so excited to finally meet my great-niece!! My other sister texted me at 11:30 that she was going to head down to the hospital to be there when the baby was born. I didn't want to miss out on the party, so I hitched a ride with her. We got to the hospital at 12:30 am  . . . and didn't leave until 1:00 pm. Wowza. I'm getting too old for all nighters. But it was so much fun waiting together for the baby to arrive. 

Playing cards.
I wasn't tired at first. We had fun talking, playing cards, and watching movies. But by about 3:00 am I was feeling it . . .

By 4:00, our group looked like this:

And we didn't even have to do any work! Poor Brandy was in labor that whole time! Lol. But it was all worth it to meet baby Nova! She is so precious and ignites baby fever in me like a raging firestorm!

2. The girls only have a few more weeks of gymnastics. After their last class, Lena's teacher took me aside to tell me that Lena is ready to move up to the next level. Today, I took them to open gym and Lena amazed me with her strength and ability. She is so close to a pullover on the bar. I had her do a bridge with her feet on a block and told her to kick over (back walkover), and she did it multiple times with ease! For as tiny as she is, she's surprisingly strong. Her teacher was there today too and cornered me again to tell me that Lena is amazing for her age and has real natural ability. But here's the kicker . . . she does NOT want to sign up for the next session. Her anxiety is so crippling! I asked her why she liked open gym so much today but doesn't want to do another class, and her answer was, "Because you stay with me at open gym!" During classes, I stay in the parents' viewing area, but today I walked from station to station with her. I'm hoping that if I don't make her do it next session she'll miss it and want to go back. Or if a few more months of being away from me at school will help with her separation anxiety and she'll be ready for gymnastics again in the spring.

3. Tuesday was my 32nd birthday. We didn't do anything very exciting, but I've been celebrating all week. :-D I think we went out to eat somewhere around 10 times in the past 7 days.

This was my cart at the grocery store on Monday:

On my actual birthday, Levi and I got donuts after dropping the girls off at school:

Justin got me some books that I asked for, a couple cute scarves, and a cute pair of shoes. Lena got me some chocolate and Lucy picked out a wall hanging from the dollar store. So sweet. I was also showered with numerous facebook birthday wishes and felt the love all day!

4. Now that my birthday is done, it's time to start thinking about Christmas!!! I made my first big Kohl's order last night and got a head start on the kids' presents. And I've started scouring Pinterest for Advent activities and Jesus' Birthday Party ideas. It's the most wonderful time of the year!!!

5. I chopped off Lucy's hair this week. It is so curly and unruly and I don't know what to do with it. Plus, she refuses to let me brush it, so it is constantly a rat's nest. She was so excited for me to cut it and set a snapchat to all my contacts right before we got started:

Then after her shower, I brushed it all out to look like this:

I took a chunk (probably 5-6 inches) and snipped it off. While it was still wet and straight it didn't look that short. But I forgot to take an after pic then. Instead I just took one now:
Haha adios, hair!
Fortunately, she loves it. And hopefully it'll be a little more manageable now.

6. Lena is going through an intense whiny phase. Every time I tell her no about something she whines, "Pleeeeeease!!! Pretty pretty pleeeeease! Just this once?!" over and over and over until I lose my mind and scream at her. I've been trying to nip it in the bud immediately instead of waiting until I reach my boiling point, but it's not easy. It's actually pretty exhausting. And I want it to be over.

7. Pictures
Helping Grandpa press cider (see those curls?!)

Awesome outfits

Visiting Nova again (Lucy is obsessed)
Breakfast buddies

Lena and Levi riding behind the lawnmower. Levi wanted to like it, but the noise scared him.
Wearing Lena's rain boots
Lena and Levi playing Twister

Dogpile on Mommy

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

32 Fun Facts About Me on My 32nd Birthday

When I turned 30, I did my 30 before 30 where I read 30 books before my 30th birthday. When I turned 31, I participated in Write31 with 31 Life Lessons I've Learned in 31 Years. In keeping with tradition, this year I present to you 32 fun facts about me. If you've been reading my blog for long (or know me in real life) you'll be familiar with many of these. But I think some will surprise you.

1. I rarely take longer than a day to finish a book. Once I start one, I spend every free moment reading it until it's done . . . even if it's 1:00 am . . .

2. I watch TV with the captions on. I'm coming to accept that I have some minor hearing loss. I don't hear things that other people do - watch alarms beeping, kids crying from their bedrooms, and the quickly spoken words of my favorite TV characters. It's become easier for me just to read it than rely on my ears to hear it.

3. I noticed recently that every night when I get into bed, I lay on my back and push my shirt up just the slightest bit so I can rest my hand on my bare stomach. I have no idea why I do it, but I'm pretty sure I've been doing it for years. And if it's too cold to bare my stomach, I sleep with my hands folded on my chest like a corpse. #oddduck

4. I hate taking the same route twice. It kills me to take the same road 4 times a day on my way to and from the girls' school, but it's such a direct route I can't bear to deviate from it. If I can help it, though, I take different roads to and from wherever I'm going.

5. I've never had a Pumpkin Spice Latte. #whitegirlshame

6. I count when I rock my kids in the rocking chair. It's totally unintentional. I'll just realize at some point that I'm thinking, "19 . . . 20 . . . 21 . . ." which each rock of the chair.

7. When I was little I was terrified that a cougar would get on the roof of our house and climb in through the window to get me. I've since matured to a fear of bears . . .

8.  I inherited the diamond in my engagement ring from my grandma. Justin got it from my dad and had it reset. It's not actually that old because it was my grandma's second ring. She took her first rings off in the mall bathroom to wash her hands and left them there! They were gone when she went back for them. So Grandpa bought her a new ring and it was left to me after her death.

9. I hate big cities. Everything about them is claustrophobic to me - from the traffic to the people to the buildings all crammed together. Give me wide open country spaces any day!!

10. When I was younger I wanted to have twin girls and name them Tiffany and Tanya. My taste in names has changed significantly, but my love for alliteration remains the same. :-)

11. My first real job that I got myself without help from family was nannying 18 month old triplets. Grace had William's Syndrome which impeded her ability to swallow, so I fed her through a feeding tube. Other than that, it wasn't a big deal to watch triplets.

12. I started drinking Dr Pepper every day in 6th grade (1996), so it's been 21 years of devotion to that nectar of the gods. (And only one kidney stone so far! ;-) )

13. I've never been drunk - mostly because I don't like the taste of alcohol, but also because I'm aware that I have an obsessive personality (see above) and it could be dangerous for me.

14. I had two imaginary friends as a kid - Panna and Acktchel.

15. I hate elevators. Again with the claustrophobia. I'm terrified of being trapped in one. But I've actually gotten a lot better over the past few years (probably thanks to the lifeline of a cell phone in my purse). I used to avoid them at all costs - even if it meant climbing many flights of stairs (I'm too old and fat for that now!).

16. I've never owned a car with less than 100,000 miles on it.

17. I once cried playing raquetball with Justin because I was so bad at it, I was scared of the ball, and I was embarrassed that I was such a failure.

18. My mom swears that Sesame Street taught me to read by the time I was 4.

19. I hate watching sports, but I like it on as background noise.

20. Similarly, I am dreading being a soccer mom someday. Nothing about it appeals to me. (So far, the girls aren't too interested in sports. We'll see about Levi . . .)

21. When I was in high school, I had two separate, very vivid dreams about having babies. They were both boys. One I named Wyatt and the other I named Jace (in my dream). Sometimes I like to imagine that they were a glimpse of the two babies I miscarried.

22. I love country music, but think it's inappropriate for my kids. So I only listen to it when they're not around.

23. I have horrible bad breath that I'm very self-conscious about, so I'm constantly chewing gum. And I always swallow it. I've probably swallowed two pieces of gum a day for the past 15 years. I think it's safe to say the whole "stuck in your stomach for 7 years" thing is a myth.

24. I don't exercise. Ever. I'm always surprised to hear that's a thing people do daily and work into their schedules.

25. I'm a great aunt! My nephew Tristan and his girlfriend, Brandy, had their first baby a couple days ago.

26. For the past few years, I've noticed that I don't cry anymore. Even though I'm an emotional wreck most of the time, I never actually shed tears. Everyone else was crying at the hospital when Baby Nova was born, but I stood there grinning and dry eyed. I think I'm just well medicated . . .

27. I have a terrible case of Millenial Smartphone Syndrome wherein I have to be entertained every second of every day. If I'm not actively doing something (cleaning, cooking, reading), I'm either scrolling through facebook or playing Spades on my phone. Sometimes I do it even while I'm doing other things. I usually play Spades while watching Wheel of Fortune because it moves too slowly to really capture my attention. And I've noticed that I'm restless even while I'm driving, because driving itself isn't entertaining enough for me. I've got problems.

28. 75% of my wardrobe is either from thrift stores or has been handed down to me by friends. I can't bear to spend more than $5 on a shirt. The other 25% is jeans, underwear, shoes, and gifts.

29. I was recently asked to be a surrogate for an old family friend. I said no because I couldn't imagine carrying a baby for 9 months and then handing it off . . .

30. I have no sense of direction. I routinely ask Justin, "Shouldn't we have turned the other way?" and he's always right. I even get confused walking out of stores in the mall. Thank goodness for cell phones and GPS.

31. When I die, I don't want Justin to remarry. None of this "I just want him to be happy" crap. I want him to mourn me forever. And I never want my kids to have a replacement mom. But . . . if Justin dies, I fully intend to remarry. Not because I'm itching to replace him, but because I'm not raising these kids and supporting us all by myself! Lol. #doublestandard

32. My Meyer's Briggs type is ISFJ
I don't think I'm nearly as sensitive, considerate, and kind as it claims, but I've taken this test many times from many different sources and always end up with the same result. And there are definitely traits of it that I identify with strongly:
Case in point. :-)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. The girls' progress reports came home this week. They're both excelling and learning everything they need to. Lucy's teacher didn't write a little blurb, but Lena's did. She said that Lena is helpful, kind, respectful, obedient, eager to learn, knows all the rules and follows them. Pretty much everything a parent wants to hear about their kid. I patted myself on the back a little bit, but then started to question how much of that has to do with my parenting prowess (especially considering the whiny wreck she is at home). I decided that I can attribute maybe 10% of her obedience to parenting, 50% to her personality, and 40% to her anxiety of doing something wrong/getting in trouble. So basically she got Justin's personality mixed with my anxiety. Lucky girl. Haha.

2. The girls also had dentist appointments this week. Lucy's only been once and Lena's never been because we don't have dental insurance. But a new place opened this summer that takes Medicaid so I finally got them in. They were ridiculously excited about it. Lol.

Neither of them had cavities (thank you, good genes!), and they both did great. Lena's hygienist was amazed at how well she followed directions and sat still. I think people think she's younger than she is because she's so little . . .

3. I had another rough depression week. I just can't shake it for some reason. Last night, I decided to take the girls to the My Little Pony movie to try and lift my spirits (and make up for the awful mom I was all week).

It was a disaster. They wouldn't sit still or be quiet, they each had to go potty at different times, they begged loudly for a pop refill, whined loudly when I took the popcorn away, and kept climbing on the seats. I was so frustrated. When we left, they were both whining that they wanted more popcorn, so I gave them the leftovers with this warning, "You have had too much already. You are going to puke. And when you puke, you are going to clean it up yourself." Did either of them heed my warning? No. Did one of them puke an hour after she went to bed? Yes. Did I make her clean it up herself? No. I am a pushover. (And P.S. the movie was really stupid.)

4. Since the movie didn't help my depression, I tried another tactic - this one without my kids. Haha. In case you forgot, my birthday is in 3 days. So I've decided that birthday week starts today. My fabulous friend Kelly met me in Newaygo for breakfast and thrift shopping. It. Was. Glorious. Shopping to my heart's content, trying everything on, looking at everything leisurely. Of course I didn't actually buy much because I'm very picky. I tried on 8 pairs of jeans and bought one. And I don't even know how many shirts I tried on, but I only bought 3. Of course I also got a few books. And a big coffee mug, just for fun. Happy birthday to me!!

5. Here's a random one . . . I want to know if there's a way to see the most common names for main characters in modern fiction. I feel like 20% of the books I read have a main character named Kate. Lucy is also up there. I'd guess both of those names are popular in fiction because they're short, easily recognized, and somewhat timeless. Right now I'm reading a book that was published this year but the main character's name is Tara. I really dislike that name. It seems very 80s to me. I'll take Kate or Lucy any day over that.

6. Justin and I went to Red Robin tonight for my free birthday burger. It's the one restaurant we love that doesn't have a location very close to us. So on the long drive home, I was scrolling through facebook and came across this incredibly convicting article: Dear Mamas, This is the One Thing that will Destroy Your Home The author warns against hardening your heart toward your kids. And she gives very concrete examples of what that looks like. It was an eye opener for me. I've been really convicted this year that I treat my kids like nuisances. It goes hand in hand with my intense selfishness/laziness. I just want everyone to leave me alone so I can do what I want. How's that for a truth bomb? I hate it about myself, but I need to do more than wallow in my self-loathing. I need to shut my stupid computer, turn off my stupid phone, look my kids in the eye, and engage with them. Why is that so hard? Ugh.

7. Lots of pictures . . .

I <3 the Amish

Lucy typed the caption. It's supposed to be "upside-down Levi"

Ready for gymnastics!

Crying because the donuts are gone . . .

Lena insisted on playing real Scrabble instead of Scrabble Jr. so she could keep score. Since she can't read or spell, I got to play words for myself and her and she just wrote down the score. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The "Saturday" 7

I was busy all day yesterday, didn't get home 'til midnight, and never had a chance to pen the Saturday 7. Better late than never, right?

1. Lena had her first field trip this week. She's actually been on this field trip before, because she tagged along when Lucy did the same thing a few years ago, but Lena didn't remember much about it. For their fall field trip, her class got to go to the apple orchard. We got to pick apples and pumpkins, eat donuts, sip cider, and enjoy the crisp, cool, fall weather . . . . actually, that last part was a lie. It was 90 degrees! When we went with Lucy, I wore a cute sweater, scarf, knee-high boots, and mittens. This year, we wore tank tops, shorts, and sunscreen. It was so hot. But the kids had a blast and we all survived.

That cow licked Levi seconds after I snapped the pic. Haha.
2. I fell off the wagon a little bit with my diet this week. I had Dr Pepper on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And I haven't been eating super great. Am I supposed to feel hungry? Is that just par for the course with dieting? I'm not doing anything restrictive. I'm eating all my food groups and aiming for 1500-1800 calories a day. I don't exercise at all, so that should be plenty. But my stomach literally growls throughout the day!

3. Levi had his ENT appointment this week. I'm a terrible mom and can't remember exactly how many ear infections he's had. (Don't they keep records of that at the doctor's office? Why do they always ask me?) But at his 18 month appointment, his doctor said he's had enough that it's time to start thinking about tubes. So we drove 40 minutes to the ENT, waited for 1.5 hours (!), saw the doctor for 3 minutes and learned that Levi is "right on the cusp" of needing tubes. He could probably benefit from them, but he might not really need them. So we get to go back in 6 weeks to re-evaluate!

4. I have Bible Study on Monday nights so Justin's home with the kids. When I asked him later that night how the kids were, he said, "Good. They're just so needy, though. As soon as I sit down, someone needs a drink. And then a diaper change. And then help with something." I wanted to scream, "Welcome to my world!!!" Lol. So when I saw an article on facebook with this title, I jumped on it: Dear Mom Burdened with Endless Needs. I've written recently about how I struggle with being selfless and meeting my kids' incessant needs with kindness and joy, so this was a timely read for me. She draws on the story of Moses in the wilderness crying out to God about all the needs of the people. Moses says, "Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth?" He was overwhelmed by their needs. But this was my favorite part:
I too, have felt like I alone am not able to do this task I’ve been called to. I’ve felt annoyance and frustration towards the ones that I did “conceive and give birth to”.
God could have told Moses in that moment, when he was doing some wailing himself, to stop being so dramatic. He could have told him to quit pitying himself.
But He didn’t. He had compassion on him.
I love that. I am hard on myself. I feel like a failure when I get to the end of my rope. I feel like I should be serving my children happily and not kicking and screaming like a two year old. I hate myself for not rising above my selfishness. And I project those feelings onto God as well. I feel like he's looking down on me shaking his head and saying, "Seriously? It is not that big of a deal. Get a grip and quit your whining." And maybe it's not fair to compare my 3 kids with Moses's millions, but I think that God's character is the same across the board. He has compassion. He wants me to cry out to him, to rely on him, to mature in him and derive my strength from him. I still don't know what that looks like practically, but I think it's something he's going to keep reminding me of, so hopefully I'll figure it out soon!!

I also found a couple more amazing posts while I was reading the above blog article. Check out 4 Ways to Stop Feeling Defeated by a Mom Fail and Dear Mom Who Suffers with Anxiety.

5. I've struggled with depression a lot lately. You know what makes it even more depressing? I can't pinpoint what's causing it! Usually, I know what triggers it, but this past week or two it's been less obvious. I'm just lethargic and irritable and angry. Maybe it's prolonged Dr Pepper withdrawals . . .

6. Confession. I had a tiny bit of baby fever this week. I've been telling people that I'm leaning toward being done. I love the idea of my kids being more self-sufficient and moving on from this stage of total dependency. But I was looking for something in my old blog entries and started reading my pregnancy posts and birth stories . . . I was in so much horrendous pain! My depression was off the charts! Why would I want to do that to myself again??!!

 . . . Because of the excitement of watching that test turn pink, the anticipation of finding out the sex, the feeling of that first kick, choosing a name, telling the other kids that they're going to be big siblings, counting down the days 'til delivery, the terror and thrill of realizing "this is it," as you rush to the hospital.

 And then this . . .
Can I really never do this again???
My great niece is due any day (secretly hoping she'll hold out 9 days to be my birthday buddy!), so hopefully she'll fill my longing a little . . . and not inflame it. Haha.

7. Pictures

Levi found the Barbie car this week. He's in love.

Little Miss Flexible

Sunday afternoon snuggles with Grandpa
Pin It