Sunday, July 30, 2017

The "Saturday" 7

1. We're home from our fabulous anniversary getaway so the Saturday 7 shall henceforth be penned. Although I make no promises that I'll actually make it to 7, since not much happened last week worth writing about. Hence the reason I used up a whole point to tell you that.

2. We made cookies, had a playdate with a couple long-lost friends, and survived a trip with all 3 kids to the beach. It was Lucy's reward for completing the summer AR program at school. She got 30 AR points between June and last week, largely in part to the American Girl books she's started reading. They're worth a lot of points. Last year, I took all 3 to the beach for the AR party immediately following a busy day of VBS and was beyond frazzled. I was thrilled that it didn't fall during VBS week this year, but I was still pretty frazzled . . . Levi is at a hard age for the beach. He loves the water and wants to be in it, but is unsteady on his feet and has zero fear. So I can't take my eyes off him for a second. Lucy is overly confident about her swimming abilities, and Lena wears a life jacket, but can't really swim in it, so if she gets in a situation where she can't touch, she's just going to tip forward on her face. I felt like I had to be constantly watching all 3 of them.

3. Before we even got to the beach part of the party, we had lunch in the gazebo with a bunch of other kids from school. We were seated at the end of a picnic table with Levi in the stroller right next to me. All of a sudden, this girl - who couldn't have been more than 9 or 10 - came out of no where and started pushing on Levi's head until she tipped the whole stroller over! I was so taken aback, it took me a second to respond. And before I even got the stroller fully righted, she did it again! No other adult seemed to notice, and she finally ran away, but my kids and I were all really rattled.

4. I only truly read one book last week - Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. It was something very different for me, but I actually really liked it. I think you can read my Goodreads review here even if you're not a Goodreads member.

I read three other books while on vacation this weekend, though. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, Love in a Nutshell by Janet Evanovich, and Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones.  Maybe Someday was a little too worldly for me. Lots of swearing and too much sex. But the story itself was intriguing. There's a plot twist at the beginning that I didn't expect and made the story interesting. Love in a Nutshell was fun and sweet. But my favorite was Save the Date. The cover was pretty bad, and I'd never heard of the author (Jenny B. Jones - tell me you don't immediately think of Junie B. Jones when you hear that name), but I actually really enjoyed it! It's Christian fiction without being syrupy or over the top. The humor was awesome and the characters all developed and grew, struggling with something more than "will we fall in love?" throughout the story. I've already ordered a couple more books by Jones from the library. (Those were all affiliate links. So buy those books and make me a few pennies. ;-) )

5. On to our anniversary getaway. We never do much for our anniversary because we're poor and hotels are expensive. So this year we decided to try something different. All we really wanted to do was get away from our usual life, sleep to our heart's content, read books (me), and go fishing (Justin). So I did some sleuthing and found a cottage rental on Craigslist that would rent to us for the weekend during peak season. (Word to the wise - don't get married during peak tourist season in Michigan and expect to stay anywhere on your actual anniversary that doesn't cost big bucks.) I was admittedly nervous about mailing a cashier's check sight unseen, and slightly concerned about being murdered when we arrived, but everything was on the up and up. I'm a terrible traveler, so I knew we didn't want to go too far from home. We ended up about an hour away on a quiet little lake in a quaint little cottage. It was clean and quiet and had cable TV, so it was perfect! I think part of the house was added on later, because some of it was cool-vintage, and some of it was dated-vintage. Haha.
Cool old ceilings, walls, and windows.

Date living area and couch

Awesome vintage floors. An attempt to be awesome with vintage couches and tablecloth?

Back porch.

Cool French doors

Brand new, modern kitchen
The lake from the back window. (And Justin fishing 10 minutes after we arrived.)
Pretty, peaceful lake

We had gorgeous weather all weekend
6. When I wasn't watching Fixer Upper marathons on HGTV, this is what I was what I did all weekend:
Reading lake-side while Justin fished off the dock. (I was wearing shorts. Relax.)

Reading on the back porch with my morning coffee . . . at noon. The room we slept in was so dark that we literally didn't wake up until 11:40 am! Lol. Sleep deprived, much?

Reading while sunning on the dock. I got fried because I'm old now and don't tan like I used to.
We ate at a couple of hole in the wall restaurants, stayed up late just because we could, chatted without interruptions, and even did a little star gazing. It was glorious. But I missed my babies by today.

We are so very fortunate to have an army of family willing to watch our brood. My parents had Levi all weekend and the girls on Friday night. My brother Luke and his wife Esther took the girls Saturday night and spoiled them beyond reason. They went swimming, got ice cream, went to the park, did hair and make-up, slept in a blanket fort, and had donuts for breakfast. Lena was the happiest to see us when we got home. Lucy played it cool, but I could tell she was relieved. And Levi was happy to see me at first - he got excited, waved his hands, and laid his head right down on my shoulder. But then he wanted grandma the rest of the night. Those two are pretty much inseparable. Mostly because she spoils him like crazy. That kid is going to be a butterball if she keeps sneaking him cookies and marshmallows. But I love that he loves her and I never have to worry about him while we're gone.

7. A couple more pictures from this week:
Levi found Grandpa's hat on the floor, put it on by himself, and thought he was pretty hot stuff.

Dress up with Aunt Esther
Ok, these last pictures are from the Inventory List the cottage had in the kitchen. I was dying reading through some of the items. The very first one seems to have been written by the Chinese woman from Mandarin Wok in Sparta:
"You want folk?"
The second one had me cackling . . .
Is that slang for "spatulas?" 
But the third one practically had me rolling on the floor . . .
Hahahahahahaha. Maybe I'm an immature Junior High boy, but seriously. This is why you should double check your work before printing it off and posting it in a public place. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. Levi took off walking this week. He's been slowly gaining confidence and moving between pieces of furniture with no hands, but on Monday I noticed that he was walking everywhere! And he's progressed all week. He definitely walks more than he scoots now! If I see him scooting, I'll stand him up and he'll usually take off walking.

A weird quirk to remember: it's been hot this week, so he's been going shirtless a lot. When he walks he doesn't know what to do with his hands, so he honestly pinches his nipples half the time. Lol. I have yet to get a picture, but trust me - it's hilarious.

2. We had an appointment with Early On on Monday. She was impressed by the strides (literally - ha) that Levi's taken with his gross motor skills. He crawls, climbs stairs, can stand up in the middle of the room, and walks, so he's essentially "passed." She's mildly concerned about his verbal development, but I am most assuredly not. He communicates very effectively, even if he has few legitimate words. Although I do want to record here that he now says "ready, set, go" - or at least his version of it. Haha. I told the Early On lady that she doesn't need to come back (in a nice way! haha), so we're done with that for now unless his verbal skills don't kick in over the next 6 months or so.

3. Speaking of developmental delays . . .a quick potty training update. Lena is finally making some progress. She's super shy about it and has forbidden me from talking about it, so suffice it to say, she's making leaps and bounds and I'm feeling much better about school in the fall.

4. I read 4 books this week: Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich (I read it in 3 hours and loved it), A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren, Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz (good, but not as good as the first in the series), and Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble. I love Christian fiction because it's clean and redemptive, but I'm getting a little burned out by the same ole same ole. Justin and I are going away for our anniversary next weekend and I'm stocking up on a bunch of different-for-me books. We'll see if any of them are winners . . . (And those were all affiliate links, which you should know by now, but I think I'm legally required to remind you.)

5. This week was one of my favorite events of the summer: Town and Country Days in Sparta. Friday is Kids' Day when carnival tickets are discounted and there are free events throughout town for kids. We met up with some friends and watched a clown show, ran through the new splash pad, rode ponies, and hit up the carnival. Unfortunately, it was one of the hottest days of the year (isn't it always for Town and Country Days??). I don't handle heat well, and neither do my kids. Lucy was done after about an hour. She wouldn't even ride the ponies. She managed a few carnival rides, but after a while she was pretty sure she was dying. I do think she legitimately gets heat exhaustion. Her face gets all red and blotchy, she complained of a headache, and she can hardly function. It's just crazy that it doesn't affect anyone else that way. The other girls were hot, but fine. Kelly and I were uncomfortable, but not dying. Poor Lucy.
Lena was a little bit nervous, but as long as I walked next to her, she enjoyed it.

Levi in his cute new swimsuit.

First carnival ride. All smiles!
Second ride. Not as thrilled . . . Lucy hated this one. (Presley loved it - despite that face. Haha.)
The other girls loved it too.

Annual carou-selfie attempt! Lucy is next to me on the bench pouting. Lena is behind me in the polka-dots on the patriotic horse. 
Many thanks to Kelly for assisting me with my herd and to my mom and Niki for taking Levi off my hands while we did the carnival rides. He enjoyed pizza at BC in the air conditioning much more than he would've appreciated baking in the stroller.

6. Last night was the much awaited "Girls' Sleepover." My wonderful sister, Niki, has my girls and a couple others that she used to babysit over for a night of pizza, makeovers, nail-painting, movies, giggles, and staying up way too late. Lucy and Lena wait all year for the big event and have been counting down the hours ever since Niki set a date. They had so much fun last night and came home with fancy nails, belly-aches (Lena) and extreme grumpiness due to lack of sleep (Lucy). Justin and I celebrated our night with only one kid by going to Logan's for dinner. Said one kid broke his sippy cup by throwing it on the floor, refused to eat the amazing rolls, loudly exclaimed "hi!" to everyone in the restaurant, and ate fries for dinner. He was also strangely enamored with the overhead lights:
7. A few more pictures:
Lucy has a sparkly sequined pillow that was catching the light just right one night. Levi loved seeing the reflection on himself in my rear-facing camera. (Also of note in this picture: man-bun. :D) 
Friends at the parade today.

Levi hated the loud trucks at the parade (despite his usual love of trucks), but warmed up when the candy started getting thrown. ;-) 

Book Review: Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble

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Colleen Coble writes some of the best Christian suspense/mystery on the market, so when she released a new book set in Rock Harbor, I was thrilled to read it. She did not disappoint.

It was fun to see cameos from the old characters from the series, but it wasn't entirely necessary to read the previous books before this one. And new characters, Boone and Dana, were a welcome addition.

Of course, there are always points of contention with this kind of novel. Why do the leading ladies (who are inevitably being hounded by a maniacal serial killer) always decide to go for a walk or get some air or blindly trust men who they should be afraid of?

I did guess who the killer was fairly early on, but Coble did a great job of creating suspense and keeping the story moving. 4 stars from me!

I received this book from BookLookBloggers in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. I spent all week spring cleaning . . . just a few months late. I decided to tackle a project a day that I've been putting off. I cleaned and organized the girls' desk, purged, re-organized, and vacuumed up 4 years worth of dust in my bedroom, and spent 6 hours deep cleaning and organizing our front porch (the catch-all room). Whew!

2. While I was cleaning my room, I came across a bin full of Perler beads and templates. I bought the set for Lucy for Christmas a few years ago. She showed minimal interest in it and it just sat on top of her dresser. Until the day we hosted a playdate and some of her little friends spilled the entire bin alllllll over her bedroom floor. From that day on, the beads found a new home on a high shelf in my closet . . . and were subsequently forgotten. A couple weeks ago, at the Michael's craft class, the girls did a Perler snowflake and loved it. So when I found them in my closet this week, I set it out for them and they became totally obsessed. I think Lucy did 10 of them, and Lena did probably 5 or 6.
These were just a few I found lying around the house. There are tons more upstairs in the girls' room.
It was a perfect way to keep them entertained while I was cleaning. Although I'm pretty sure I did more ironing this week than I have in my entire life. #idonotiron #thatiswhywehaveadryer

3. As part of this week's purging, I finally forced myself to accept that Levi is not a baby anymore. I boxed up all the baby toys, got rid of the Jumperoo, and moved him up into the big-boy carseat. I'm throwing away the infant carrier and crying a little on the inside. Haha. We still haven't decided if we'll ever have another baby, but that infant carrier is 7 years old and long past expired.

4. I read an awful book this week. It was one I got for free to review, but I didn't realize it was secular fiction until after I received it. I didn't like any of the characters, the writing style was confusing, the plot was non-existent, and there were a couple chapters that were really dirty. Blech. I finished Hawaii 5-0 yesterday, so I can devote more time to reading some better books.

5. My reward for all my hard work cleaning this week was a trip to the Pump House. We went like 10 times last summer, but haven't been yet this year. It was a beautiful, mild evening, so we made a night of it, and walked around downtown Rockford (with about 6,000 other people who had the same idea).
Pump House selfie. It was kind of bright. Lol.
She told me to take her picture, then posed like this. Haha. 
We walked down the boardwalk for a while, and I stopped to let Levi out of the stroller while Justin and the girls kept going.

After a while, he got concerned about his sisters and started scooting down the boardwalk to find them:

6. Today, Lena and I got to go on our date for filling her marble jar. Of course, she wanted to do the same thing as Lucy. Except all the stores Lena wanted to go to were on Alpine, so we didn't drive all the way out to the mall. She chose KFC for lunch, then we hit 5 Below, Justice, and Claire's.
And after she shopped her heart out, we went to Once Upon so I could shop my heart out. In case you're not on facebook, here's the picture of my haul from their bag sale. (I crammed all this stuff into a plastic bag and only paid $15 for all 52 pieces!)

7. Just a couple more pictures
Grocery shopping with 3 kids is the pits. Lena insists on helping push (and just gets in my way) and Lucy has to ride on the cart (reading her book). Heavy and awkward.

Levi's new obsession is hanging out like this. He does it alllll the time.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Heirs by Susan Reiger

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Yuck. Just yuck.

I was under the false impression that the publishers I've been getting free books from only printed Christian books. The premise of this one sounded interesting, the couple of reviews I read said it was riveting and un-put-down-able. So I started it without a second thought.

At first, it was just boring. I realized soon enough, thanks to the language and content that it was not a Christian book, but it wasn't terrible. I just didn't enjoy the writing style (back and forth in time and characters). The characters were all un-likeable. I kept reading, hoping there was going to be some dramatic twist or major plot turn. There wasn't. It just plodded along, bouncing from one character to another. The dialogue was stilted. The action was boring. There was very little plot. And then came the chapter on Vera. When I realized where it was going, I skimmed much of it, but I wish I had skipped the whole chapter. It was disgusting, even for secular fiction.

And then, it just ended. Because there wasn't much of a plot, there weren't many loose ends to tie up. So I guess the author just stopped writing when she got sick of her un-likeable characters. Haha.

I will say that the whole book was too intellectual for me. There were tons of literary and film references that went over my head. There were countless references to New York high society (if it was still called such a thing in the 80s) and people I was apparently supposed to know. I just didn't enjoy any of it, but maybe someone more well-versed in such themes would appreciate it.

I received this book from Net Galley for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Saturday 7

1. I didn't read a single book this week. (Unless you count "Curious George Visits a Toy Store") We were too busy celebrating Independence Day and hanging out with friends. It was a great week!

On Monday, we went to my Uncle Joel's house with the extended family for swimming, food, and fireworks.
In the pool with Tater

Doing his magic disappearing leg trick.

Splashing in the water with Grandma


The girls actually liked the big fireworks this year! Although Lucy did have her ears covered for most of them. (Levi went home early with my parents.)
2. On the 4th, my family came over for more food and fun. We played Bocce (old against young . . . I was on the old team . . . is this real life?), The Name Game, and cards. And just had a blast hanging out together.
Lucy and Niki


See my great-niece in this picture? Haha.
3. On Thursday, we went to a friend's house for Redneck Slip N' Slide. A huge tarp+a hose+dish soap = hours of entertainment!

And for Levi, a Rubbermaid tub full of water + a few cars and cups = entertainment.

He was also a big fan of the Barbie Jeep.

4. On Thursday night Lucy got the idea in her head that she wanted to plan a "fancy dinner." She asked me to make some Velveeta Shells N' Cheese, then proceeded to decorate the table with flowers and fancy glasses, make place settings, and take our drink orders. She even cleaned everything up after dinner!

Of course tonight Lena wanted to do her own fancy dinner. She even went so far as to make our meals for us.
Peanut butter and jelly roll-ups. They were a bit dry. I kind of had to choke it down. Lol.

Creepy face!

5. For the past few years, I've led the preschool part of our church's VBS program. Some years I'm given a curriculum and some years I write my own. This year, though, I decided I want to try something new. So I'm abandoning the preschoolers and working with Lucy's age group instead. But I felt really bad about leaving them high and dry. So I told the VBS directors that I'd still help with anything they needed. A couple months ago, they asked if I'd be willing to write up a curriculum even if I don't actually teach it. I told them that's actually ideal. Haha. I enjoy writing it, but the preschool age is not my favorite age to teach. So I spent this week feverishly brainstorming and whittling down Pinterest boards full of inspiration into orderly, detailed plans. I love seeing all my ideas come together into cohesive organization. Hopefully they make sense to other people since I passed it off to someone else to carry out! Haha.

6. About a month ago, we started using "The Marble Jar." The girls get a marble when they obey immediately, are kind, or help above and beyond their regular chores. They can get 2 marbles if they stay in their room after we put them to bed and don't come downstairs or call for us. Lucy does great with staying in bed. Lena struggles a bit more. So it comes as no surprise that Lucy filled her jar first. The reward for filling their jar is a one on one date with either mom or dad. Lucy chose a date with me to McDonald's and the mall. I told her we could spend $20 total on the whole date - and that had to include my food as well as hers. (Had to sneak in a little budgeting lesson!) I was nice and only spent $3.50 at McDonald's. She chose to get a happy meal, so she had $12 left to spend at the mall. We went to Justice and Claire's and she hit up the clearance section to get more bang for her buck. Then we met Justin and the little kids at the ice cream shop because I was feeling guilty that Lucy had such a fun day while Lena was stuck at home. #pushover

7. Pictures
My Amish brother

This is our new favorite outing. Michael's has drop-in crafts for $2 a kid on MWF, and $5 a kid on Saturdays. Here's Lucy with Olaf.

Lena's Olaf. Lol.

We had small group last night and devoured this whole platter of Paul's amazing grilled chicken.
Levi learned a new trick:

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