Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Blind Spot (Dani Pettrey)

Affiliate Link

2.5 Stars (Rounded up to 3 because I hate giving bad reviews.)

I loved Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series, but for some reason The Chesepeake Valor series just isn't doing it for me. I think part of it is that they're best read one right after the other. The characters' relationships build and develop throughout the books. And because I'm reading these as they're released, by the time the next book comes out, I've forgotten the details of the last one.

I read Christian fiction mainly for the romance element. I love a good suspense story, and I appreciate learning new things, but if I'm honest, what makes or breaks a book in my opinion is the romance. And romance was sadly lacking from this book. Of course there was an attempt. And maybe if I went back and read book 2 of the series, I'd remember the foundation of Tanner and Declan's relationship. But in this book, it fell totally flat. After apparently loving each other from afar in previous books, they almost immediately fall in love at the beginning of this one. There is little to no tension in their relationship after that. They just go through the motions of the intense storyline with each other by their sides - reveling in their newfound love for each other. It was cheesy and lacked chemistry.

I was also a little bored with Pettrey's writing style - which is ridiculous considering the plot line centers around murders, terrorism, and bombs. I feel like she includes way too many details. Take for instance this little section:
Declan held the door open for Tanner at Frank's coffee shop. "Grab an open table," the brunette waitress walking by said, a coffee pot in one hand, three plates in the other. Declan spotted an open table near the side windows, led Tanner to it, and pulled out the chair for her. "Thank you," she said, taking a seat. . .[long description of the restaurant's atmosphere] . . . The brunette waitress grabbed an order, dropped it off, and then stopped at their table with coffeepot in hand. "I'm Darlene. I'll be your waitress today. Would y'all like coffee?"
I'm all for painting a picture of the scene, but I don't need to be reminded of the waitress's hair color twice, and I don't need details about what she's carrying or how Declan holds the chair and Tanner sits down. Can't you just say, "They got seated at a table and the waitress came over to take their order"? I'm a big fan of succinctness (which is hilarious considering how I'm rambling now to explain myself).

The story itself was interesting, if a little complicated. And of course it ended on a cliffhanger, so I'll have to read the 4th book. But overall, I wasn't terribly impressed with Blind Spot.

(I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. Lena read her first book this week. Her school is awesome, and since she has mastered naming and pronouncing her letters, she gets to move on to the little Kindergarten readers. I love watching the wheels turn in her brain and seeing her learn to read before my eyes. It's adorable.

2. I'm getting into high Christmas planning mode. The packages are starting to arrive . . .

My gift closet is getting full!
I've also planned out this year's birthday party for Jesus and figured out what we're going to do for Advent activities. We're getting in the spirit!!

3. I read Pepper Basham's newest book this week: Charming the Troublemaker. It wasn't my favorite by her, but still a solid work with the humor and character development I've come to expect from Basham. So here's a little confession. I almost always review the books I read on Goodreads. But Pepper has liked or commented on every one of my reviews of her books. Since I didn't like this one quite as much, I don't want to leave a somewhat negative review and hurt her feelings! So I didn't review it at all. Haha. #empath4life

4. Lucy went to another birthday party for a friend from school today. She's been to 4 birthday parties and/or playdates with friends from school in the past year, and they've all been half an hour from our house. She needs to start making friends with the kids who live closer to school! Anyway, it was a roller skating party and parents and siblings were also invited to skate. So Lena and I tagged along. I haven't skated since Sharon Lacy's bachelorette party in 2004, so I didn't know if this old 32 year old mom bod could handle it. I was amazed at how well I did! I mean, I wasn't spinning circles or doing the limbo or anything, but I managed to move without falling, which is more than I expected! Lucy is afraid of embarrassment and failure, so she only gave it a couple tries, opting instead to take pictures from the sidelines. But Lena loved it and skate-shuffled almost the whole time!

Lucy and Avery
Cutie patootie

5. Levi is almost 21 months old and I've been worried that he doesn't talk enough (even though he communicates his needs and wants perfectly fine), so I decided to start writing down all the words he says. I'm up to about 16, which is more than I expected. Lots of his words center around food: yum, all gone, bowl, and beep - you know, the sound the microwave makes when the food is done. Haha. He also says "no" very clearly. Don't all toddlers?

6. I'm still trying to avoid facebook. I haven't been as strict about it this week, but don't be offended if you post a cute picture of your baby and I don't like it, ok? I actually did really well staying away from it Monday through Thursday evening, but once the kids were in bed, I spent two hours scrolling to catch up on everything I'd missed. That might defeat the purpose . . .

7. Pictures
Lena making sure Levi doesn't fall off the piano bench while they play pretty music.

Beautiful sunrise 
On Friday, I found a bug swimming in a cup of water on the table. Levi was totally enamored with it. When I first showed it to him, I said, "Ew!" so he referred to it as "ew" from then on. Whenever I tried to put it back up on the table, he'd point and shout "Ew! Ew!" until I gave it back to him.

Eventually I moved it into a different container with a top (that he just took off)

Entertainment for hours with a dead bug! Lol

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Austen Escape (Katherine Reay)

Affiliate Link
I stayed up until 1:00 am in order to read this all in one sitting, so it obviously wasn't a dud. But it also wasn't my favorite.

The Amazon synopsis:
Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.
But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.
Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.
I'm not feeling particularly eloquent tonight, so I'm going to share my thoughts in bullet point form.

  • Either Reay has a background in the math/science field or she did some intensive research for this book. The technical terms and reasoning were way over my head. But it wasn't overwhelming. It made the story (and characters) believable.
  • I've never read a Jane Austen book (shame, I know) so maybe I would've enjoyed this one more if I had. There were many character and literary references, as well as quotes from Austen's works - as is to be expected given the book blurb. I did enjoy the descriptions of the period dresses and grand estate. 
  • I didn't like Isabel and I feel like her transformation was forced and unnatural.
  • I loved Mary's dad and was worried the whole time that something bad was going to happen to him.
  • The romance was nothing special, and the obstacles to their love were too easily overcome.
Once again, an entertaining read, but only 3 stars for me.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

The Saturday 7

1. Every November, we try to do a "Thankful" activity with the girls. Usually we have some kind of tree and add a leaf to it every day with something that we're thankful for. In an effort to branch out (ha ha - pun) this year, I decided to try something different. Thanks to Pinterest, I came across the idea of "Thankfulness A-Z." For 25 (we're skipping x) days leading up to Thanksgiving, we're thinking of things we're thankful for that start with each letter of the alphabet. Some days it's been really hard (E, anyone? Eggs, elephants, exercise??), but other days we've had tons of ideas (B: babies, blankets, binkies, balls, etc.). It's been fun to see what the girls come up with. For F, Lucy said forgiveness. For H, she said hands. Haha. Lena pretty much just blurts out whatever she can think of that starts with that letter (butterflies, flying, kites). And we all try to come up with something that Levi would choose if he could (binkies, cars, ice cream). It's been a great conversation starter at dinner time.

2. We had Lucy's parent-teacher conference on Monday. She's doing great academically - meeting and surpassing expectations. And she's respectful to her teacher, but she apparently is somewhat solemn and non-participatory. I've decided that Lucy's anxiety manifests as indifference or even anger. Whereas Lena's anxiety is typical fear and trembling, Lucy scowls and frowns and refuses to participate. But that's no excuse for bad behavior. I so don't want to be one of those parents who writes off disobedience as, "Oh, she has anxiety." I don't know how to balance legitimate fear and appropriate behavior. This anxiety nonsense is so frustrating.  And so my fault. Haha.

3. I went on a facebook fast this week. I honestly feel like it's become an idol in my life. I put it above my kids, my responsibilities, and my relationship with God. I was purposeful, this week, about doing my devotions in the morning instead of scrolling through facebook. And when I was bored and had down time during the day, I tried to read a chapter or two of the Bible on my phone instead of immediately clicking that facebook icon. I also deleted one of the games that was sucking up my time. Although I left Euchre - and really tried not to play it unless I truly had nothing else to do and my kids were sufficiently occupied with other things.

4. I was hoping a lack of facebook would help with my end of the week depression. It's like clockwork - it starts to come over me Thursday or Friday afternoon. This week, I was super productive. I did tons of cleaning, kept up on the laundry, even tackled a couple big projects (the kids' bedrooms - ugh). But by Friday at 11:00, my house was absolutely trashed. Levi had crushed cereal into the carpet, the girls left play-doh crumbs all over the table and floor, the dishes were overflowing, and toys covered every surface untouched by play-doh or cereal crumbs. I was feeling a little bit like this:
Or this:

But mostly, I was feeling like this:

Ultimately, God gave me the grace to get dressed, crank up some Christmas music, and bust out the broom. And when I was done cleaning, I realized it wasn't really that bad. And so worth it for a clean house. But I didn't make dinner that night. A girl can only handle so much productivity.

5. I did take one short break from my facebook fast to share the epic Kohl's deal that was going on yesterday. I wait for that deal all year - when you can combine a 30% off code with a $10 off $25 purchase. I'm not going to disclose how many orders I made, but suffice it to say that it was less than my sister! Hahaha. I might give my kids too many Christmas presents, but I don't go crazy in the spending department. I'm all about the deal shopping! Plus, I got necessities like onesies for Levi (I'm still squeezing him in 6 month onesies. Lol) and a new pair of yoga pants for myself, so I don't have to wear the same pair every day. #whitegirlchic

6. A few weeks ago at small group, we discussed a concept that I've never thought of, but has been such an encouragement to me. In the parable of the talents, each servant is given a different number of talents. Two of them do something with what they've been given, but one doesn't do anything. To those who got a return on their investment, the master declared, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much." As Christians, I think we all long to hear those words "well done, good and faithful servant" when we meet our master. But I've never truly considered the wording there. God isn't rewarding the men for their success. He's rewarding them for their faithfulness. One made more than the other, but they both did something. God doesn't expect me to be a perfect parent. He doesn't expect me to have a perfect success rate with my children. He only asks that I be faithful. That I keep trying, keep doing what I know is right, keep drilling the truth into their little heads (and mine). When Lena is laying on the floor whining incessantly, I want to throw in the towel and join her. But being faithful means I don't bemoan my lack of success, instead I get down on her level again and say "Stop whining," again, and punish her again when she doesn't obey. Being faithful means cleaning my house again, doing the laundry again, reading through the Bible again, begging God to help me and change me again. It's so liberating to know that I don't have to be perfect. I just have to be faithful.

7. Pictures
I actually made a good meal this week! Sausage, potatoes, onions, and bacon roasted with a side of pan seared Brussels sprouts. 

One night, Levi really wanted to help me brown some ground beef, so I set him up with his own pan and some apple straws to mix. 
Of course, he ended up on the floor crushing them into tiny powdery pieces.

Sweethearts doing "homework" together.
This is why Lena needs to be in gymnastics (from Open Gym today):

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Saturday 7

I cranked out a long, detailed Saturday 7 yesterday afternoon. As I was proofing it, I tried to erase one sentence that didn't fit . . . and somehow deleted my whole post!! I frantically pushed ctrl z, ctrl z! But nothing worked. It's gone. So here's the re-write, which will not be nearly as thorough as the original. Stupid technology.

1. We had a great Halloween despite the dismal weather (drizzly rain and 38*). Some of my friends do the bare minimum so their kids get the experience of trick or treating without hordes of candy. But I'm all about the candy, so we made the rounds.

The girls picked their own costumes. (Zebra and mermaid) I found Levi's (monkey) in a bin of hand me downs from a friend. Win!
Halloween in Michigan: hats, coats, gloves, boots

Our wonderful friends. Believe it or not, it's hard to get a good picture of 12 kids at one time . . .

We made a stop at Aunt Niki's for bags full of candy and a visit with Baby Nova.
2. I realized this week that I'm entering hibernation mode. It's too cold and gross outside to go anywhere. I hate being cooped up at home all week, but I hate going out in the cold even more. Cue the seasonal affective disorder . . .

3. I read a couple great articles this week. The first has been making the rounds on facebook, so you've probably seen it (The Fragile Generation). It was a fascinating read about how our generation is raising coddled, over-protected children who can't function as capable adults. The author's antidote to such a dilemma is letting kids play by themselves - with little to no adult interaction or supervision. I love reading that kind of advice and telling myself that it's ok that I don't entertain my kids all the time. But then I read another article that was even more convicting: Hey Mama, Your Child is Your Neighbor. She talks about how often as Christian moms we treat our neighbors better than our own kids. That our kids become nuisances and they know it. This is something God has really been trying to beat into my brain this year. 

4. I also came across this saying this week:

My immediate reaction is "ahhhhh, silence to drink tea and read in peace! Glorious!" But the more I think about it, the more I realize that is a gut-reaction based on my current stage of life - when my kids are needy and clingy. I might love that kind of freedom a couple nights a week. But if I had to come home to a quiet, empty house every night, I'd be horribly lonely and sad! Another reminder to cherish these days with my kids.

5. We had conferences with Lena's teacher on Wednesday. She had nothing but good things to say about Lena. She's mastering everything, is obedient, respectful, helpful, and kind. Mrs. Ellsworth gave us some good advice about handling her anxiety, so hopefully it will help!

6. I can't remember what my 6th was, so I'm just going to wrap it up with pictures and try harder next week.

Sometimes he is such a troublemaker.

But then other times, he plays so nicely. He's obsessed with lining up his cars.

Acrobatics all day every day

Levi and Joker sharing a bin

I couldn't convince anyone to wear this awesome donut costume for Halloween.

Movie night.

Can you tell what they're watching? They chose it all by themselves! #proudmom

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. The girls finished their first session of gymnastics on Monday. Lucy has definitely made progress since the first week and is excited to start the second session next week. Lena's teacher described her as "a natural" and again recommended that she move up to the next level. And, again, Lena flat out refused. I'm hoping a couple months of sitting on the sidelines watching Lucy will encourage Lena to try again.

2. Her anxiety as a whole is out of control again. She cries every morning before school, she doesn't want me to leave her to go to Bible Study Monday nights, she clings to me and cries if Justin and I ever want to go somewhere without her. And Cubbies on Wednesday night is a disaster. She wails for 2 hours beforehand that she's scared and doesn't want to go. But week after week she comes home happy and smiling! We have conferences with her teacher at school next week. I'm going to ask if she has any advice for me. She's been teaching pre-k and kindergarten for 25 years. This can't be the first time she's dealt with an anxious child, right?

3. In honor of The Reformation's 500th anniversary next week, I decided to read up a bit on Martin Luther. But I'm a wimp about long theology books, so I took the easy way out and read a fiction work loosely based on his life and romance with his wife. I don't know how historically accurate it was, but it was a really good novel! And I was surprised by how much I didn't know surrounding the reformation. I don't remember learning about the Peasants' Revolt or the extent of the persecution the reformers faced. I'm so grateful for their sacrifice that allows us to have access to the Bible and knowledge of grace! I also read Many Sparrows by Lori Benton (good!) and re-read for the third time Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade. I've decided that Meant to Be Mine is my favorite contemporary novel. I'm not sure anything can unseat Redeeming Love as my favorite novel of all time, so MTBM wins the contemporary award.

4. In another installation of "cherishing the little things" I give you the instance of Levi's Empathy. One day this week, Lena fell and got hurt. Levi immediately ran over and gave her hug after hug to comfort her. When she picked herself up and he could see her face, he was amazed by the tears pouring out her eyes. He kept trying to touch her eyes and the tears on her cheeks and continued to give her hugs. Precious boy.

5. I started listening to Christmas this week (#nevertooearly). And I started my Christmas shopping. We drew names for my family this year, so we're only buying a few gifts instead of 15. My checkbook thanks me, but I'm a little sad not to buy for everyone. I'm trying to remind myself that we're doing it this way to save money on Christmas, not to free up more money to spend on my kids. #ihaveaproblem #wantneedwearread . . . #plus10more . . .

6. To further my education on Luther, we went to The Reformation Faire at our church this afternoon. The weather was abysmal, but the activities and skits were fun.

Silliness with my sisters (and Lena)

Silliness with friends

7. Other than the Reformation Faire photos, I only took one other picture this week! Unheard of! Unfortunately, it's a picture of Lena in nothing but underwear and rain boots which is adorable but not really appropriate for the Internet. So instead, I'll share the pictures our friend Christina took with her nice camera at our Fall Festival last weekend:
Sweet Lucy

A rare picture of Lucy participating in sports (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree . . .)

Two studmuffins

I love this picture of Levi with my Dad.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Sunday 7

Because it's 11:18 pm and I should be in bed I'm going to attempt to make this snappy. Sorry it's a day late.

1. I read a non-fiction book. It was great. Scroll down to read my review and the funny quotes.

2. I got Levi's hair chopped off. It was sad. Nobody but me really likes it. Everyone preferred the curls. But he's a boy, his hair was out of control, it was time. And he's still his adorable self.
At least he's still got the dimples!
3. I've been focusing on cherishing the little moments lately. This week, Levi and I danced in the kitchen while I belted out my new favorite song. He tried to sing along and I rested my cheek on his and breathed in his sweet smell and cherished it all.

4. We hosted a fall festival at our house on Saturday. Thanks to my dad, we have some fun fall amenities - namely an orchard of exotic apples and a cider press. We invited our small group and all their kids over for a morning of cider making, games, and food. Between us 6 couples we have 15 kids. (#befruitfulandmultiply) One of the quotes from that book I read this week was a quote by Max Lucado, saying "Mercy gave the prodigal son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast." This group of people is my feast. I'm amazed every month that God chose to bless me with them.

5. Because we love each other so much we got together again that night sans kids. Another of my feasts/blessings is an amazing family/support system. My mom was gone for the weekend and my dad doesn't change diapers, so my fabulous sister Niki came over to watch my kids and put them to bed. She's the best kind of babysitter because she's free and she brings dinner! My kids love when she comes because she's awesome and she always brings pizza. Win win!

6. I took a mini facebook hiatus for a couple days this week. My issues with jealousy and envy are out of control lately and facebook is a huge contributor. I only missed it when I was bored and just wanted to scroll aimlessly. Of course I just replaced it with Euchre on my phone. Then I was only envious of people who actually understand and enjoy that dumb Yooper game.

7. Pics
Levi's new favorite activity is lining up his cars (and wearing Grandpa's hat)
Little Miss "I Hate Gymnastics" does not stop jumping and flipping and climbing all day long.
And I get kicked in the head 47 times a day.

More of those little moments . . .
Pin It