Friday, July 24, 2015

Levi, 4 months

Summer is winning (summer HAS won, actually. I surrender). So, excuse the lack of captions. 
Plus, the cuteness speaks for itself. 



(This was 3 months).



















  • Weight: 15.8 pounds / 50%
  • Height: 25 inches / 50%
  • Head: 43 (cm?) / 90% (my kids and their huge heads)
  •  After lots of crying and trying to figure out bedtime, he finally has a "bedtime" of before 9pm. He was sleeping in his swaddle but rolls from back to front so well now that I had to take it away. I transitioned to this hilarious "Magic Merlin Sleep Suit" that looks like a space suit for a few weeks. It helps some, but now I have just started putting him to sleep on his belly. 
  • He usually quits crying by 9 and will sleep until anywhere from 10 until midnight. Levi, get it together. Then, he wakes up about 4 or 5? I don't even know, because the nighttime is a blur. But, typically, he just wakes up twice between 9 and about 8. EIGHT. 8am. As in "Not 5am." He is the first of my clan to not wake up before 6am, even as a baby. Have I mentioned he is the favorite?
  • He is still sleeping in a pack n play in the playroom, complete with ghetto Wal-mart fan attached to give him some circulation. 
  • He is SOOOO happy and full of grins. He laughs so easily, especially at Lily and Reese. 
  • He seems very outgoing and extroverted. Basically, he has someone (Reese/Lily) in his face at all times, so he gets lonely very quickly if nobody is loving on him. 
  • He is mostly indifferent to the pacifier now. He likes it when he is tired at nap time, but that is really it. 90% of the time he is okay in the car, but when he is screaming, I sure wish he would take it then. 
  • Levi seems much more chill than the girls. BUT, he is rolling often. He will roll from back to front almost every time you I set him down. He loves to roll from his back to his front and push himself up with his arms. So, I am guessing I will be 3 for 3 with babies crawling at 6 months. #depressing
  • I feel bad for his future wife, because he is basically treated like a prince. He is going to grow up thinking he is pretty much the best thing to ever happen to the world. 
  • He IS pretty much the best thing to happen to the world. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Recommendations.


Book Overload Happening Below.

From Lily:


This is Lily's favorite book, ever. It is pretty fun, and...BONUS...B.J. Novak (Ryan) from The Office wrote it! 


Lily recommends anything by Mo Willems. 


This was so clever and fun.

Creative and interactive. Lily gives this one two thumbs up.


My Books:


I read the original Love and Logic, and it definitely spoke to me as a parent. This one is basically a slightly different version of the original, but it made more sense to me, since my kids ARE 6 and under.
Some parts drove me crazy and were just parenting over the top. But, overall, this is one of the best parenting books I have read for my parenting style. It places major emphasis on: empathy, validating their emotions, letting them think for themselves, and teaching them to learn from their mistakes. 
Here are the parts I still remember from reading it a few months ago:
  • Teach them to think: "How will this decision I am about to make affect my life?" For example, for Lily now, it would be "what happens if I decide not to bring a jacket?" (Lily is in charge of her belongings and deciding whether or not to bring them). The example for when she is older would be "what happens if I decide to try this cigarette?" 
  • Give them 2 choices and decide for them in 10 seconds if they haven't. I was driving myself CRAZY waiting on Lily to decide if she wanted waffles or pancakes. I started counting to ten after asking her and then just deciding for her. It has helped immensely. I ask her one time, and now she has mostly become trained to answer within ten seconds
  •  Give ONE chance and follow through with the consequence. Set a limit ONE time with no empty threats. Don't give them two or three chances to mess up. The reasoning in the book is PERFECT: Otherwise they will think, "I can have sex at least two times before something bad happens." 



The Girl on the Train.


I bet everyone has already read this by now. Eh. It was fine to me. To be fair, I don't really like thrillers and much prefer fantasy, history, or memoirs (It's like my nerdiness is tangible). I definitely enjoyed it and was invested in it while reading it, but I have already forgotten most of the plot and characters.  BUT, the narrators on the audio book were BRITISH! Score. In fact, whenever I turned the audio off and walked into my house or into Target, there would be a moment of sadness as I realized that I don't in fact LIVE there. Unfortunately, the East Tennessee accent isn't quite as charming as the British one. 


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I am a cleanliness, organization addict. I think one of my dream jobs would be to help people de-hoard and organize their houses. You can imagine how well my desperate need for tidy-ness co-exists with my actual job of parenting 3 small children who DO not have an obsession with organization. (I will give you a hint- not well).

So...I don't know. This was a bit over the top even for me. Apparently people in Japan have tiny houses? I do agree with almost everything she says, but she doesn't have small kids, so her opinion on being tidy loses all credibility. She is ADMANT about getting rid of almost everything in your house. She doesn't recommend organizing, because then it's just stuffing all of your junk into cute bins. I do agree with that. In fact, I have a box in our upstairs closet that I take weekly to Good Will. So, anytime I find something in our house that we don't need, I toss it in the box. Every Tuesday, I drop off at Good Will. It has become a habit, and I don't second guess my decisions as much. 

She says to take every single item in one category and make a pile. So, even take the winter coats from the hall closet when you are doing clothes. Then, decide what to keep. I do LOVE her rule of Only keep items that spark joy and speak to your heart. Look at every single item and ask, "Does this spark joy?" If not, get rid to if. Even discard the clothes with tags- they have served their purpose (thank you for teaching me what I DON'T like). Again, this is a great idea...but, for example, the gray blanket covering our stone fireplace so our kids don't crack their skulls does not exactly spark joy. But, it has to stay. 


She does give tips for organizing things you have to keep, like rolling t-shirts in the drawer. 

It is worth reading, or at least skimming. I was inspired to de-clutter and get rid of several bags of clothes, toys, and knick knack things after reading. 


One Plus One.

No. This one was not for me. It read like a bad Lifetime movie. 


The Kitchen House.

I really love history, so I enjoyed this one very much. I mean, it was depressing at times, because life in the late 1700's and early 1800's sucked. But, it was also very hopeful and mostly positive overall. I was very invested in the characters and the story. If you love historical books, I recommend this one. 



Hands Free Mama.
Has anyone else read this? I want to slap Rachel in the face. I am so annoyed even now just having to look at the cover. It is 99% ludicrous and 1% worth reading. Basically, she says (OVER AND OVER AND OVER) that we should give 100% of our time to our kids. And, there was entirely too many pages (most of the book) devoted to how we need to enjoy every second and sit on the couch and hold their hand for an hour whenever they want, because we will never get this time back. This was the longest guilt trip I have ever endured.

So, to be fair, it did make me realize I AM addicted to my phone, and I do need to put it away more often. I need to BE with my kids more. But, I am trying to figure out when she does laundry or cook or clean or run errands? As far as I can tell, she just sits around holding her daughters' hands and stopping WHATEVER she is doing to run to stroke their hair and build a lego city. One time, she was spreading peanut butter on bread for their lunch, and she put the knife down with peanut butter on it- SHE DIDN'T EVEN SPREAD IT ON THE BREAD! She ran off to go indulge in some more unhealthy hand holding. 

I just can't. I don't understand why this book is such a popular best seller? Am I the bad mom here? 


Better than Before.

Gretchen for the win, again. If you liked The Happiness Project or Happier at Home, you will like this. It does repeat a lot of the same ideas, but it has new ones, too. And, I like a happiness refresher. I loved this one, as I love all of her books.  I listened to this one (it was the author reading it), but I wish I had read the printed version. I wanted to highlight and take notes, so I may have to read the printed version now. 

If you have not read The Happiness Project, please do. It changed my life 4 years ago when I first read it, and I STILL refer to the ideas daily. 



All Joy and No Fun.

Fascinating. A few parts were a bit boring, but overall I was very invested. I think I quoted the entire thing to Melissa, so she was probably thrilled when I finished it. It is a non-fiction book filled with social studies and commentary on the history of parenting. Before 1940's, childhood wasn't even a THING. Kids were working in factories or on farms or raising their siblings. This has lessened my mom guilt considerably, because even if I only half-heartedly entertain my kids that day, it is better than working in a factory! Score! You are welcome, children. Several of the studies made me feel better about how I feel about parenting. For example, in a study of almost 1,000 moms, childcare ranked 16th our of 18 items in "giving joy"- behind commuting and housework. I also loved this study:  "In 1971, Harvard observed 90 mother and toddler pairs for 5 hours. On average, the mothers gave a command, said no, or fielded a whiny request every 3 minutes. The kids obeyed 60% of the time. This is not exactly a formula for perfect mental health." HAHAHAHAHAHA
This is not a parenting book, as it does not give advice, but it did affect how I look at parenting in general. Very interesting. 




A Spool of Blue Thread.

This one kept popping up as a "book of the summer." But, it was very bland to me. Completely forgettable. Something about someone named Denny.



The Bronze Horseman trilogy. 

Okay, I am almost embarrassed to include this here.  I hate romance books. If there is romance tied into a book, that's fine. But, if romance is the main plot? Then, it's not for me. 
Seriously, I keep debating if I will just delete this from the list. But, I just loved these books, and I need to share them so someone else can experience them as well. They are not for everyone, but they have been some of the more memorable books I have read in the last few years. In fact, I re-read them recently, because I just sort of needed them back in my life. The first one is primarily a romance, but the romance is surrounded by such a rich history. It is set in the Soviet Union during WWII. I was fascinated by this perspective because it was the first one I have read set during this place and time. I really believe in these characters.



Choose Your Own Autobiography. 

Yes. Hilarious, endearing, memorable, interesting, entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I listened to it (library audio), and it was NPH / Doogie reading it himself. I know that enhanced my experience considerably. If you are debating whether or not to try an audio book (TRY IT!!!!), this would be a fun choice. I loved hearing him narrate his own story. There are some chapters where he does card tricks (he loves magic), and that was odd. But, this was one that made me sad when it was over. Also, I now follow NPH on Instagram. His kids are adorable.


Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Historical fiction is my favorite. This one is set in 1963 in the South, during the Civil Rights Movement. But, what sets it apart (besides the cute bunting on the cover) is that it is told from a 9 year old girl's perspective. I enjoyed it very much.




The Night Circus.

 I love fantasy, magic, word choice, and attention to detail. This book combines all of those traits. Honestly, the plot and character development are just okay in this one, but the other aspects are strong enough to make this worth reading. It is different and fun and I found myself reading pages over and over just to soak up the description and creativity.  I brought it to read on "vacation" and after two weeks at the beach, I had literally not even opened it. But, I managed to read the entire book on the 11 hour drive back home while Hughes was driving. Score. If you like magic of any kind, this is a yes. (Also, I did listen to part of the audio- FANTASTIC narrator, Jim Dale).


Down the Rabbit Hole.

Like any good reality TV junkie, I was obsessed with the first few seasons of The Girls Next Door. I was hesitant to use an Audible credit on this, but I am so glad I did. I enjoyed it so much! If you are at all interested in life at the Playboy mansion (and who isn't?!!?), then you would like this book. I listened to it (Holly reads it herself!), and, once again, I think it helped make the book even more enjoyable.  Honestly, it was well written, clever, and fascinating. 


The Nesting Place.

My friend, Jamie, recommended this on her blog. I LOVED it. I was reading it as an ebook from the library and probably took a screen shot of about 90% of the book. I am going to buy a copy, so I can reference it over and over. It is about, obviously, decorating your house. I love it, because her main emphasis is on decorating your house for you and your family. She has lived in rentals for most of her adult life, and she is on a budget, so her advice is practical and actually do-able. It is about giving up on perfection, embracing risk, and just DOING IT. Quit putting it off. I will never have (or want) one of those perfect magazine houses, so this validated my choices of creating a home filled with meaning. She doesn't give specific tips, like "use this color here." It is more about discovering what you love in your house and then making that happen.




Friday, July 10, 2015

Some things I love


These are a few of my favorite things (minus raindrops on roses). 
Seriously, I want to peer pressure everyone into liking all of the items below. 




Avocado toast.

This has basically changed my life. I am always trying to find a quick, non-cooked, semi-healthy meal for breakfast. This fits all of the requirements. Plus--- It's about $1 total! 

Basically, you mash an avocado, put it on toast, and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. But, because I am seriously cooking illiterate, I had to actually FIND a recipe just to make sure I did it right. 
 http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/avocado-toast  (but, I don't use the red pepper flakes). This is about the extent of my "cooking."



Aviary app.

There are so many photo editing apps, but I like Aviary the best. It is simple and easy.



This is not the best example, but it was the most recent one I edited. This was the before. Obviously. 



After. 

Also, #noni.


Bubble Machine.

This Bubble machine has been worth every vent of the $14 it cost on Amazon. I am sure Target sells it, to. Amazon link: Bubble Machine


Audible.

I am OBSESSED with audio books. Many of my friends, along with countless strangers, have been subjected to my incessant declarations of love for audio books and my frequent attempts to convert all book lovers to give audio a chance. Audio books have saved my sanity, enhanced the quality of my life, and provided me with the perfect solution for the HOURS I spend in the car. I even listen to audio books when I fold clothes and cook (microwave / open the fast food bag / pour the cereal into the bowls). 

I was very hesitant to try audio books, because my only previous experience (until 3 years ago) was listening to the Cracker Barrel CD's on road trips with my parents and those boring cassettes with a 98 year old man narrating about geography we had to listen to in school.  (I think it counted as "technology" back in the day). So, I understand the hesitation! But, if you love to read and have never listened to a GOOD audio book, you are in for a treat. I routinely feel like my reading experience is enhanced as a result of HEARING the story. Many times the author reads the book, which is especially fun if it is a memoir. 

Audible has a variety of subscription prices. I think I do the one that is $14 every two months? Basically $14 gets you one credit, which doesn't sound like a lot. BUT, if you are a member, they have frequent sales that are very good, a daily deal that is always less than $4. Plus, Audible is owned by Amazon, and the customer service is outstanding. As a member, you get unlimited returns, even if you have already listened to the entire book! I am pretty sure you get your first book or two as a free trial, too.


Overdrive.

Overdrive is the library app- you can download ebooks (I use the Kindle app) and audio books. I know it works for all of the libraries in TN and VA- probably other states, too? Basically, you download the app and log in with your library card. Usually, I have to be put on a hold for audio books I want, but yes, their audio books are the same versions as Audible. I prefer the Audible app, because it works better, but Overdrive is free (#taxes), so I use it often. 

Seriously, if anyone has any questions about audio books, please call me, and I will gush about their awesomeness and give you some recommendations. 



Dishwasher Safe labels.

When Lily was 2, I bought some of these name labels from etsy, and they are STILL on some of her cups. They are dishwasher safe, because we do not hand wash around here. There are circle options, too.




Orange is the New Black. 

Just, yes. Please. It's more than worth the hype. 
The book is also very fascinating, since it's based on Piper's actual story. 


Reusable Ice packs.

I bought these last year to use in Lily's lunch, and they are perfect. I like that they are flat and not thick/weird shaped like some ice packs. Plus...one of them is purple, so that's a bonus for Lily. Ice Packs on Amazon



Thermos Straw Cups.


We have bought basically every kind of sippy / straw cup, and they are all horrible.  The Thermos stainless steel straw bottles are the best ones we have bought. This one keeps drinks (even milk) cold for hours, has NO condensation, doesn't leak. comes in fun designs (we have Minnie, Frozen, Doc McStuffins, etc...).Target sells them, and so does Amazon: Thermos Stainless Steel Straw Bottle . 



Lands End Backpacks and Lunch Boxes.

 Lands End Backpacks- When Lily was in pre-4, I bought the $15 plastic Minnie Mouse backpack from Target, and I am pretty sure it broke before the first day of school. For Kindergarten, I splurged on the Lands End backpack and lunchbox and I will never look back. They held up so well, despite being dragged on the ground, thrown in the dirt, washed numerous times, stuffed to the gills, etc... They both still look almost new! There are lots of pockets, the straps are padded, the bag is roomy, and you can even attach the lunchbox to the front with the buckle. They obviously aren't as cheap as the Target ones, but the quality really is outstanding. You could easily keep it more than one year. Plus, they always have a 30% off sale going on. AND...the BEST PART? Their return policy is fantastic. Any item, any time, any reason. Period. Even if it's been monogrammed! Even if it has been carried for two months! You can even return it to Sears!

                          
Target Make-up remover pads.

These make me so happy and are better than any of the other brands. Also, I love that rug I got from Target. 



Book Journals.

This combines two of my favorite loves- books and documenting. Basically, after I read a book, I document about it- what it was about, what stood out to me, what was going on in my life as I read it, etc... It is fun to look back and see books I read BEFORE I had kids and how I experienced reading differently throughout the years. 


The 31 Utility Bag. 

My cousin, Shannon, gave me this bag 3 years ago, and I have since acquired two more- plus the cooler bag. I LOVE this bag. It is open at the top, so I can use it as our pool bag and not have to worry about zippers and digging around in the bottom to find the goggles. I also keep one in my trunk to store things, like the reusable grocery bags that I always forget to use. It makes an excellent trunk organizer, because you can fit all kinds of things in it (backup kids' clothes, never used reusable bags, a blanket, extra snacks, etc...). It is so sturdy and holds its shape, too. 



Dunkin Donuts Creamer. 

I am not responsible for any addictions that will inevitably occur after you try this creamer. 
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