Working Out as a SAHM

Before I was married, I worked out almost every day after work. I’d head to the gym straight from work and get a solid 60-90 minutes in before heading home. I came up with a workout regimen where I’d focus on different areas each day, the whole shebang.  Then I got married and we moved to a different state where I had a 40 minute commute to work. I didn’t go every day anymore, but I did still try to make it a priority to go a few times a week and found a workout buddy who helped motivate me and we both contributed to our regimen.

Then…I became a parent. Ha! I’m now a stay-at-home mama with a part time work-from-home job. It feels like my brain is full of about 23049823 things at any one time and I’m about maxed out without thinking about when to workout and what to do once I have the time to do it (do I do abs or legs? push-ups or burpees? full body or target one area?) Decision fatigue is a real thing and exercise started to feel like one more set of decisions that I just didn’t have the energy for.

That being said, exercise is still really important to me. I know there are so many health benefits to exercise, both short-term and long-term, plus I also feel more energized and happy when I’m exercising somewhat regularly. I want to make taking care of myself a priority, not just for my own happiness but because I’ve got a little person watching at home and I want him to see that women can be strong. I want him to see that women can be great mamas, loving wives, caring friends, and still take time for themselves. I’ve just had to adjust my expectations with my lifestyle. I no longer have 90 minutes to go to the gym every day, but I can still do something! Today I thought I’d share a little about how I’ve changed things up to fit my lifestyle now and what I do to still get exercise while eliminating most of the decisions around it. This is what works for me as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and might not work for everyone, but I share in hopes that it might be helpful for someone else to get ideas for how to squeeze in exercise in their own life.

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Gym Workouts

Gone are the days where I want to put any mental energy in to a workout regimen. I don’t have the capacity or desire to think about if I want to do biceps or triceps, elliptical or treadmill, cardio or weights. I literally just want to go to the gym and get a workout in without putting any thought into it. Because of this, I have fallen in love with group fitness classes at my local gym. I just show up, put my brain in low power mode while I just follow the instructor, and get a great workout in. I always leave feeling so energized and refreshed!

Two mornings a week, I go to a bootcamp class. It’s a mix of cardio and strength training; sometimes we do our own little station, sometimes we complete an obstacle course. It changes frequently so it never gets boring!

One afternoon a week, I take a cycling class. This is by far my favorite class and if I do nothing else all week, this is the class I do everything in my power not to miss. It is 45 minutes of a solid cardio workout and I can just zone out and work my booty off. I love it!

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My local YMCA offers childcare as part of our family membership and that is honestly the only reason I am ever even able to make it to the gym. I’m so thankful for this option!

If your gym doesn’t have childcare available, another option would be to try to find a friend to do a childcare swap with (you watch her kids for an hour so she can workout and she watches yours for an hour, etc).

At-home workouts

As much as I would love to make it to all three of these classes each week, it’s just not always feasible. The bootcamp class happens in the late morning and sometimes LJ’s nap interferes. Other times, if he has a little cold or anything, I don’t take him because I don’t want him to spread anything around in the childcare. Or now that we’re in winter, the weather doesn’t always cooperate and I’m not going to drive out in snow and ice. Because of this, I’ve had to start relying more on in-home workouts.

I’ve tried apps to workout at home in the past, but honestly, decision fatigue gets me there too. I don’t want to decide on a body area or figure out what workout to do. I don’t want to have to decide between YouTube or NikeFit, cardio or yoga, etc, etc. So I decided to purchase an entire workout program that makes all the decisions for me. I found Expecting and Empowered through Instagram and I only wish I had found them sooner! They have programs specifically tailored to mamas, both in pregnancy and postpartum (they even have one for mamas like me who are “further out” – meaning 10+ months postpartum). I haven’t had their program long, because I didn’t know about the pregnancy one until I was almost through my pregnancy with LJ and the postpartum ones only came out a few months ago but so far I am loving it! I love that their workouts are designed for busy mamas, with minimal equipment (just a resistance band and/or hand weights) and give a great workout while targeting areas of a woman’s body that are affected by pregnancy and need strength and healing.

The program eliminates decision fatigue because I just follow along with whatever day I’m on. I can sometimes get the workout in during LJ’s naptime, but if that doesn’t happen, I’ve figured out a little set-up.

It’s moments like these where I am reminded of Amy (co-creator of E&E’s) little mantra: “it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done.” And that’s so true with my at-home workouts. They look far from perfect. If LJ is awake, I set up in the hallway entrance of my house next to our playroom and set him up with toys and snacks.   I imagine him cheering “go mama, go!” and just do what I can.

Truthfully, that is my workout strategy for this busy time in my life. Do what I can. I make exercise a priority but understand that sometimes life happens differently than I plan for. Some weeks, I can get 5 workouts in. Some, I don’t get any. Most weeks, I am somewhere in the middle. And I’m learning to give myself grace to be okay with that. I do think it’s super important to know yourself and understand what is going to work for you. If decision fatigue is weighing you down and making exercise difficult to do, try eliminating as many decisions as possible. I wake up on Mondays and Fridays knowing I’ll be at bootcamp. If LJ is napping or sick or it snows, then I know I won’t go. But if none of those things happen, then I’m going. It’s not a decision to really make because I’ve already made it, and once I get there, the biggest decision I have to make is whether to use 8, 10, or 12 pound weights. I can handle that one decision! I encourage you to try to find ways to eliminate as many decisions regarding exercise as possible – it’s amazing how much more manageable it seems when you don’t have to use a ton of mental energy on it.

How do you fit exercise into your life?

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#DeclutterLikeAMother Week Two

Good morning friends!

I hope you all had a great weekend! LJ stayed with my parents from Friday-Sunday (it was the first time I’ve spent more than one night away from him!) so that Justin and I could attend several of his work functions. It was so great to have a chance to sleep in, recharge, and enjoy staying out late with friends but we were pretty darn excited to be reunited Sunday. 🙂

Declutter Like a Mother – Week Two

I explained in a previous post that I’m participating in the #DeclutterLikeAMother challenge (read more about it here) in January. You can read about my week one experience with decluttering bathrooms and closets here. Last week was all about: the kitchen!

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So I have to first admit that I strayed from 30 minutes a day goal. In fact, I really only spent maybe a total of an hour over the whole week going through cabinets in my kitchen. I decided not to stress about doing things perfectly, because the spirit of the challenge is progress over perfection, so I just focused on doing what I could. That being said, I feel like the work I did still made a huge impact!

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Over the years, I have done a pretty good job of weeding out small kitchen items. I don’t keep a million spatulas, I get rid of items that don’t work well, and if I bring something new into the kitchen, it has to be something I know I’ll use frequently or for multiple things. For this reason, what I have is mostly what I use. I only got rid of a few items from my drawers (a cookie frosting decorator I got as a hand-me-down years ago and always “thought I’d use someday”, an old round cake pan that has seen better days, etc). The big change happened in two main cabinets.

Cabinet one was my appliance cabinet. I don’t like clogging up my counter top with lots of appliances, so I use a large cabinet as storage to store everything (crockpot, toaster, blender, stand mixer, etc) except our coffeemaker. This cabinet had two really huge items that take up a ton of space and don’t get used: my juicer and my Instant Pot. Now, I’m not getting rid of my Instant Pot, I just need to actually spend some time figuring it out (people who love theirs, tell me your tips! I have made one soup and it had so much prep work that I’m not sure it was actually faster for me than just dumping things in a crockpot? Help!) This challenge was a great reminder for me to get it out of the cabinet and spend time learning it. Use it or lose it, right?

While the Instant Pot remains, it’s time for the juicer to go. I love a yummy juice, but I just don’t take the time to buy all the ingredients, prepare it all to go in the juicer, clean all the parts afterwards, etc. It’s too much work for me and I haven’t used it in over a year. It is going to find its way onto Facebook marketplace this week so someone who will actually enjoy it can put it to use.

The other HUGE change happened in a large pantry cabinet off the kitchen. You guys. This space was so. bad. It had become a catch-all cabinet for mostly serving items but also things that just didn’t have a place anywhere else. And it was a disaster area. I literally had to try to keep things from falling down on me.

Why oh why did I have the things I most frequently use on the bottom of the top shelf? This basically guaranteed an avalanche every time. See the nice eye-level shelf full of things I rarely or never use (a growler and an old coffeemaker!?) – why didn’t that house the things I most often reach for? I’m honestly baffled.

Check out this before and after.

I’m ridiculously excited about this change. I can easily access the things I most often need, and even the things I use less frequently are now very easy to get without causing a landslide.

The biggest thing that was reinforced to me from decluttering the kitchen was to let go of my “someday” items. It is so tempting to fall into the trap of keeping something that is in decent condition and could be used “someday.” Take all those big plastic food storage containers. I don’t use them now because they don’t fit in my cabinet. They’ve been in storage almost three years because maybe “someday” I’ll … what? Move and have a bigger pantry? Will I even want to use them at that point? Or would I prefer to get a matching set? Or by that time will I just prefer to leave things in the original container? Why would I hold on to something I haven’t used in several years and have no clear idea of when I would want to use it again? Same with my Brita water pitcher. This was great at a previous house, but then we moved and now have a fridge with a filter. I don’t take up space inside the fridge with a pitcher that provides water we can easily get from the outside. Again, haven’t used it for several years and have no goal to use it again. WHY AM I KEEPING IT!? If any of these items cost hundreds of dollars, maybe I could make the case for keeping them. But these are things that if “someday” comes and I really do wish I had them, I can get them again pretty easily. And you know what else? When I asked my sisters if they wanted anything, my younger sister jumped on the coffee maker and food storage containers. These are things she wants now. They can fulfill a purpose for her now. Why on earth did I want to keep these things in storage for “someday” when someone else can put them to use now? 

I may not have spent a ton of time decluttering the kitchen last week, but I’m super pleased with what I was able to accomplish. It feels so much lighter to just have what I need and know the things I’m not using will now be able to be used by someone else.

Is there one spot of your house that baffles you like my pantry baffled me?

 

Breastfeeding: a complicated journey

The end of an era is upon me.

After 13.5 months, I can feel LJ and my breastfeeding journey is drawing to a close. For a few months now, LJ has become more and more interested in food (and eats a ton!) and less and less interested in breastmilk. My supply has naturally adjusted and dwindled. We’ve gradually been dropping feeds and for the past month have really only done morning and night feeding. Recently, he’s become obsessed with all things daddy so Justin has been putting him to bed and the night feed has faded. Now we’re only consistently feeding in the morning and even that is becoming a 1 minute event before he’s ready to go downstairs for breakfast. My parents are watching him this weekend and I’m not going to pump or anything. I have a feeling this may signal the end of the road for breastfeeding.

While it’s a little bittersweet, I know LJ and I are ready for this. It’s been quite the journey for us and if I’m being completely honest, my feelings towards breastfeeding have been complicated. I am so grateful that I was able to do it so long and don’t take that for granted. But while breastfeeding is awesome and beautiful, it’s also freaking hard and brought about a lot of contradictory feelings. Today I just wanted to take a look back at some aspects of my experience. This post is mostly to help me process that it’s drawing to a close but also to offer encouragement to anyone who might be breastfeeding as well. For the record, I in no way mean for this post to shame other moms who make different feeding choices for their babies. This is simply what my personal journey looked like.

Things I wasn’t expecting

How awkward it felt in the beginning. I just expected LJ to pop on and go to town and it just be a natural thing. Nope. Didn’t work like that. It was awkward and stressful and took several weeks before we got into a good, comfortable routine.

My supply to tank around 9 months. All of the sudden, I barely had enough milk to keep LJ satisfied, which led to stress and panic, which obviously did not help my supply. I started using supplement mix and eating lactation cookies (I bought these and also made some using a recipe I found online) and this greatly helped boost my supply. It was a stressful month though!

How isolating it was sometimes. We went to a minor league baseball game and the stadium seats are not exactly the most comfortable place in the world to breastfeed (and it was like 90+ degress that day). Luckily, our local stadium has a little room for breastfeeding moms. I was so thankful to have a much more comfortable place to sit and feed LJ; however, it meant that I had to remove myself from the company of my family for half an hour and that was a bummer. This scenario repeated itself often – there would be a more comfortable place to breastfeed, but it meant I had to leave the conversations that were happening with friends, family, whomever. I sometimes resented the fact that for me to do what I needed to do comfortably, I had to choose to leave the company of whoever I was with.

How hungry it made me! I had heard that breastfeeding burns calories but man, I was not expecting for it to make me want to eat all. the. things.

Letdown. It’s a really strange, hard-to-describe feeling when your milk lets down and I just wasn’t expecting that!

Things I’m SO glad I did

Utilized the *FREE* resource center at my local hospital. I met one-on-one with a lactation consultant in the first two weeks when his latch was super painful and it made a HUGE difference. I also attended their weekly breastfeeding support group. I made some great mama friends and got SO much support, not only for breastfeeding, but also for transitioning to solids, sleep questions, travel tips, and general mama wisdom. I think it is so important to look at what is offered within your community and take advantage of any available resources to help make your experience with feeding the best it can be!

Kept a nursing cover in my diaper bag. I used this one and appreciated the stretchy, breathable fabric. I know some mamas prefer no cover and that’s 100% fine – there were times I didn’t use one as LJ grew larger. But I think it’s so important that both mama and baby be comfortable during feeding and this cover significantly helped my comfort level as a new mama feeding in public.

Used a nursing pillow. My boppy became my best friend during nursing – it made the experience so much more comfortable and I took it with me on all trips as well.

Things I hated

Middle of the night feeds. I will be the first to say I am not someone who functions well on little sleep. I need my sleep and I’m very cranky when I don’t get it. Until he started sleeping through the night, it was really hard for me to deal with getting up at 2 am, 4 am, etc to feed.

Pumping. Oh my gosh. I even had a pump that I loved, but I just did not enjoy having to be hooked up to that machine for 20 minutes. I would use a hands-free bra, but that meant taking off my regular bra first and I often ended up having to apply pressure to certain parts of my boobs to get all the ducts going anyways. Plus rinsing all the parts is a drag (although Justin often did the actual washing later and that was so helpful), then you have to label milk, reassemble parts again, store everything…it’s just a big process to repeat. I know it sound like I’m being super whiny about this, but it felt like a lot of work every time and was just not enjoyable.

Being the only parent who could feed. LJ originally took a bottle well, but that meant I had to pump, and you know how I felt about pumping. In order have enough pumped milk for Justin to regularly feed LJ  and keep up a big enough freezer stash to have what we needed for babysitters/emergencies, I had to pump daily. It also meant sometimes I’d  breastfeed LJ and then pump afterwards, which is absolutely no fun. It’s like feeding two babies in one go! Or Justin would use stored milk to feed him, but I’d have to pump anyways because I was so full so that wasn’t actually a break for me. All this meant I didn’t pump often, which led to not a ton of stored milk, which meant Justin could not feed LJ often. I’m not proud of it, but this was something I resented at times. Every other aspect of parenthood was shared with Justin but feeding was something I had to be the one to do 6-8 times a day and somedays this was frustrating.

Things I loved

Knowing my body was providing nourishment for my son. There is something really empowering about that feeling!

The sense of accomplishment when we finally hit our stride a few weeks in. LJ had a very painful latch at first and I worked with an LC to learn how to help him learn a proper latch. It felt amazing when he finally started latching correctly without any intervention from me. I wanted to throw confetti I was so happy!

When he was super little, breastfeeding almost always made him fall asleep. It was so cute to see him become more and more sleepy until he would finally drift off, curled into my body. ❤

Quiet morning moments when he’s still a little drowsy, his salt lamp is casting a glow around the room, and we’re just rocking softly in the recliner in his nursery as he feeds. There is something really magical about starting a day in such a way and I will miss these moments.

When I think back on breastfeeding in the years to come, I hope I don’t put on the rose colored glasses and only remember the good parts. I also hope I don’t become cynical and only remember the hard parts. The truth is, breastfeeding was both beautiful and challenging. There were days I was so thankful to be doing it and then days I strongly resented it. It’s bittersweet to be ending this journey but I also kind of want to throw a party. I hope to always remember this experience for what it truly was: wonderful, difficult, complicated, and life-giving.

 

 

 

My Coziest Spot

For the past six years or so, I have been following Mix and Match Mama’s blog and while I’ve always enjoyed reading her link ups, I’ve never participated. This year, however, she started a new monthly linkup with her friend Erika called “Let’s Look” where bloggers take a little peek at little things in your life.

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I thought this was such a fun idea! I plan to participate each month which means there will be an extra post some weeks. I hope you enjoy following along!

This month’s topic was “let’s look at the coziest spot in your house” and for me, this was a no brainer. The coziest spot in my house is right here.

This little corner of our oversized couch from Costco. Which, let’s be honest, most often looks like this. Just keeping it real around here – ha! 😉

cosy spot 9

Our house does have a more traditional living room but when we moved in, Justin and I decided to use this little den space for our couch and TV instead of create an office or dining room. Now it’s also where we keep LJ’s toys and since we rearranged the ottoman and added a baby gate to block off the wide doorways, it’s become a playroom as well.

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This little room has become the hub of our family life at home and in this room, the chaise lounge is my spot.sheldon meme

The oversized chaise lounge means there is plenty of room for pillows and a huge cozy plush blanket. It’s the perfect place to lounge and read a book or cozy up and watch TV. It’s even big enough for Justin to have room to sit next to me when we’re watching a movie or Macie to snuggle up next to me while I’m reading.

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My spot is positioned next to a wide doorway so I can see this little table set up in our hallway where I often have a candle going. Is there anything cozier than a snuggly blanket, a book, and a candle burning?

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Actually, yes! Just add a Christmas tree. NOW it’s the coziest. 🙂 I so loved having this view all December and am just  sad I didn’t really take a picture from this spot until I had already taken most decorations down. (And the book recommendation also came from Mix and Match Mama – thanks Shay!)

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While not technically taken from the actual couch, here’s what my view often looked like this season. ❤

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Since we spend so much time in this room as a family, my spot is also home to LJ’s diaper caddy because who says a spot can’t be cozy and practical? It sure makes life easy when we’re all hanging out here.

cozy spot 1

This spot is where I get lots of good reading done. It’s where I cry watching This is Us. It’s where I curl up when I need an afternoon nap. It’s where I get lots of snuggles when LJ isn’t feeling well. It’s even where I wrote this very blog post. It is my very favorite spot in the house and it is definitely the coziest.

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Even Macie agrees!

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What is the coziest spot in your house?

 

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week One

What is it about January that always makes me want to clean? It’s like the Christmas decorations come down and I’m immediately ready to simplify my space and start fresh.

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy listening to the podcast The Purpose Show and #DeclutterLikeAMother was created as a free, month-long challenge by the host, Allie Casazza. What I most like about this challenge is its simplicity: each week she gives you a focus area for de-cluttering and for 30 minutes each day, you zone in on whatever that area is and clear out any unneeded/unwanted/unused items. There are a few emails and live streams sent out with tips and strategies each week but it’s not overly structured. There is a big emphasis on progress, not perfection. The goal isn’t to have your house completely and perfectly de-cluttered by February 1, but to just focus on doing a little bit each day and over time these little things will add up to a big change in the way your home looks and feels.

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Week One: Bathrooms & Closets

The first week of the challenge was spent on bathrooms and closets. To be honest, I didn’t expect to get rid of much in our bathroom because it didn’t feel very cluttered to begin with. Boy, was I wrong. Once I got started, I was shocked by how much excess we had there. I really tried to focus on being ruthless with keeping the items that get used and not items that I “maybe would use someday in the future.” For example, I never felt like I had an overabundance of nail polish (I had over 20 bottles), but when I really looked at the ones I use, I realized I always end up rotating between the same 7-8 colors with maybe an oddball color thrown in every once in a while. Just eliminating the excess allowed me to store other things in that drawer and keep it nice and organized!

organized bathroom drawer

Besides nail polish, some of the items I got rid of include old makeup (one cosmetic item I had bought for my high school prom – over ten years ago!), toiletry samples, teeth whitening kits from 6+ years ago, extra makeup brushes, products we bought and then never fully used up because we didn’t like them/they didn’t work/we didn’t need the whole amount, and so. many. contact. cases. (It feels like every box of contact solution now comes with a contact case and I cleared out at least 15 cases).

I have to admit, it feels good to open a drawer in the bathroom now and know it’s only going to contain items I need. I also cleaned out the linen closet in our master bath and even just the little changes, like consolidating two open band-aid boxes into one box, really did make a big difference.

When I moved on to closets, I decided not to focus on clothes this time but instead chose to clean out other closets. Our under-the-stairs utility closet got a refresh, with me tossing some old cleaning products I never use or empty bottles I kept for one reason or another. Extra gear (scarves, hats, gloves) that we don’t use anymore got taken out of the coat closet. Puzzles and games we no longer play, Christmas decor I don’t use anymore, old candles I didn’t actually like the smell of, all got put in boxes. It’s really amazing how refreshing it is to see these spaces now that they only have what we need and use.

Of course, after decluttering, there’s always the question of “what do I do with all this stuff now?” I do one of four things: donate, sell, recycle, or trash. Honestly, nothing about this system is revolutionary but it feels good to have a plan with where things are going to go.

1. Donate locally

I know sometimes large organizations get so many donations that they’re unable to keep everything, but there are many smaller local organizations to consider. I found a local non-profit that helps women and children experiencing a homeless crisis and dropped off a bag of donations yesterday – they were so happy to receive hats, scarves, gloves, contact cases, and the unused sample toiletry items I had from hotels. I’m so happy that items I wasn’t using can now be used by someone else in my community!

2. Sell items

I already sold one game on Facebook marketplace, and other items that still have good value got boxed up for our HOA yard sale. It’s always nice to get a little money for items I no longer want to hold on to!

3. Recycle when possible

Old product bottles got rinsed out and recycled. Cardboard boxes also got put in the recycle bin. Textiles, such as old sheets or worn out clothing, will to my local H&M in their textile recycling program.

4. Trash if needed

If an item can’t be donated, sold, or recycled, it likely needs to get tossed in the trash. It’s always my last resort and so far I’m pretty proud that most items I’ve cleared out during this challenge could go to one of the first three options.

I’m not perfectly following the challenge. Sometimes, I have 30 minutes to spare, some days I have more, and other days I don’t spend a single minute. Just doing what I can is enough for me and it feels good to refresh these spaces throughout my house!

Do you get the urge to purge in January? What spaces may seem little but make a big impact when they’re cleaned out?

 

 

December 2018 Book Reviews

Good morning friends!

Today, I’m rounding out my 2018 book reviews with the books I read in December. I can’t believe that we’re in a new year now but I’m excited to dive into my reading list for 2019 now so if you have suggestions for books I need to add, please share them in the comments section. But first, let’s jump in to my December reads!

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China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

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In October, I read Crazy Rich Asians and really enjoyed it so I was excited to read the sequel. To be completely honest, it didn’t quite meet my high expectations. If you read the synopsis, it seems like the story will mostly center around Rachel and Nick’s wedding and the search for Rachel’s birth father, but it took like 70 pages to even have a chapter with them. The plot didn’t focus nearly enough on Nick and Rachel but instead centered a lot more on other characters like Astrid (whom I love, so that was okay) and Kitty Pong (while I do find her character entertaining, I got annoyed by how much she dominated the book). That being said, this book had both new and returning larger-than-life characters and many zany mishaps throughout the chapters. It was a quirky, entertaining read and I did enjoy it, but I liked Crazy Rich Asians better. I’ll be reading the third installment, Rich People Problems, in January so I’m hoping it is more like the first book.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

the war that saved my life

My sister teaches in a middle school and has seen this book circulated a lot lately so she suggested we each read it so we could discuss (like a mini sister book club – how great is that?!) This young adult read follows Ada, a young girl with a clubfoot deformity who has never been educated or allowed to leave the dismal little apartment she shares with her mother and younger brother. When the children of London are evacuated to the countryside for safety during WWII, she sneaks off with her brother and they are both placed in the care of a woman named Susan. As time goes on, the three learn to trust one another and find healing from their individual pasts. This book was SO GOOD. Even though it is a young adult novel, I absolutely think adult readers would love this book. I fell in love with all the characters and got invested in each of their stories. The author did such a great job of diving into Ada’s psychological state and how previous parental abuse and neglect played into how she reacted to and dealt with her new life where she was treated normally. I felt all. the. feels. and wholeheartedly recommend this read!

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

when life gives you lululemons

This book features Emily Charlton and is a follow-up to her character’s story in The Devil Wears Prada; however, I haven’t read that book and think this one stands alone. The plot follows Emily, a publicity manager for celebrities who is losing clients to a competitor left and right, Karolina, a former supermodel whose life and marriage are falling apart in the aftermath of a DUI, and Miriam, a lawyer turned stay-at-home mom who recently left New York for the suburbs of Connecticut. This eclectic trio bands together in Greenwich, CT to help one another with their individual problems. This book fell pretty middle-of-the-road for me. It may have been because I just read China Rich Girlfriend, but I was kind of turned off by the opulent wealth, over-the-top spending, and huge emphasis on superficial appearances displayed by the Greenwich crowd. There was also some rated-R-leaning content that felt unnecessary to the plot. However, there were some very entertaining elements  and I got particularly invested in Karolina’s storyline. Overall, I finished the book pretty satisfied!

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated.jpgTara Westover was raised in rural Idaho by an extremely religious, survivalist family. She received no formal education and had little contact with the outside world during her childhood because her father distrusted the government and constantly prepared his family for the End Days. Her childhood was often dangerous and reading about it was both frustrating and straight up distressing. It’s just mind-boggling to me that someone would actually experience a childhood like hers. It was absolutely heartbreaking to read about at times. That being said, I was blown away by how she rose above her circumstances and got herself into college and beyond with the little education she received as a child. Her resilience is commendable, but I appreciated how she also shared the inner conflicts she felt with trying to reconcile what the outside world is actually like with the way that she had been raised to believe the world worked, as well as the struggle she felt in still wanting to connect with her family even though they did not see eye to eye. She doesn’t sugarcoat things, she is honest with possible faults in her memories, and she is fair in her descriptions of relationships. I think this memoir would make for an awesome book club discussion and definitely recommend it.

And that’s a wrap on my 2018 reads. What should I add to my list for 2019?

#19for2019 and Christmas Re-Cap

Hi friends! Happy New Year!

I always love the fresh-start feel that a new year brings but I’m not usually one for resolutions. However, you know I love the Happier podcast, and one thing they have been talking about lately is a “19 for 2019” list. It’s like a combination resolutions list + to-do list and I enjoyed hearing about their “18 for 2018” lists last year so when they started talking about 2019 lists, I decided to write one as well. Today I thought I’d share my list and also give a quick re-cap of our Christmas travels since I’ve been unplugged from the blog through the holidays.

My 19 for 2019

1- Rough start, but this one is personal and I’m keeping it to myself. If there comes a point where I feel I want to share about it in this space, I will, but today is not that day. Next!

2- Plan an adults-only trip for Justin and I (We may not be able to actually take the trip in 2019 but I want to start planning and budgeting for it now!)

3- Update instagram account and create Chatbook for LJ

4- Select pictures for family photo albums (I want to do one for each year of marriage. We’ve been married 5 1/2 years so this is a big project!)

5- Plan out family photo albums (Such a big project I had to break it up into two items!)

6- Create a master list of my top book recommendations (I get asked for recommendations so often and I want to have a go-to list to easily share)

7- Replace our ugly brown recliner (Justin bought it used for $20 in college. It has lived a good life and it’s time to move on. 😉 )

8- Write and track our monthly spending budget

9- Send birthday cards

10- Find a local tailor

11- Find a reliable, nearby babysitter (we have some already but weeknights are always tricky to find someone)

12- Have house siding washed

13- Find comfortable black heels

14 – Plan our will with an estate lawyer

15- Invest in buying plastic alternatives (stainless steel straws, etc)

16- Set up accounts for LJ’s future

17- Have budget meeting with Justin for each paycheck (roughly 2x/month)

18- When buying clothing or shoes, look for fair trade, ethically made options

19- Learn more about finances (401K, 403B, investments, etc.) through books or podcasts

We’ll see how this goes. Some items are quick, one-time items that I just need to schedule time for. Others are ongoing or very time-consuming. I’m going to take it one step at a time and just try my best!

As for the recent holidays, we spent about 10 days away from home. It was a lot of travel but it was so great to spend so much quality time with our loved ones.

Christmas

Chicago

We left after lunch on the 21st for Chicago for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. My uncle lives in Chicago and while his apartment didn’t have room for everyone, we were able to rent out the entire Lang House B&B nearby and stay together as a family. The B&B was absolutely gorgeous and we all enjoyed our stay there!

Friday evening most of the family (minus Justin and my dad, who stayed back at the B&B with LJ) went downtown to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre. The play was amazing – the actors were all super talented and the set and special effects were incredible. We all enjoyed it!

Saturday was spent exploring Michigan Avenue in the morning and early afternoon. We did a little shopping and just enjoyed walking around in the festive atmosphere. Justin, LJ, and I ended up heading to Christkindl Market with my two sisters and my sister’s fiance and while it was extremely crowded, we did feel like the Christmas spirit was going strong! It was fun to walk through the tents and see unique ornaments and other decorations.

We all headed back to the B&B in the early afternoon to relax and rest up for a big night ahead. LJ found the L ride home especially relaxing 😉

Chicago17.jpg

Saturday night was one we had all been looking forward to for a long time: a 1920’s murder mystery! Months ago, my uncle purchased the scenario and assigned us parts. He put in a lot of effort to give everyone a part that worked with their real-life personality and all the details he put in place were just perfect! We all worked hard to get costumes in place and learn about our character. We had a catered meal, only to later discover that while the meal was catered, all the “servers” were actually friends of my uncle who were characters in the scenario as well. Justin actually was the one who was murdered, but he got to come back in Act II as the detective investigating the mystery. It was SUCH fun evening! Everyone got super in to their characters and we had all an awesome time.

It was a great weekend with extended family!

Ohio/Virginia

Sunday morning we packed up after breakfast and headed to Ohio for an evening Christmas celebration with my parents and siblings. Then we headed out early on Christmas Eve for a week in Virginia with Justin’s family.

Because of Justin’s work schedule, he hasn’t been able to travel to Virginia to see his family since last Christmas. It was SO wonderful to get to spend some good quality time there with his family. Our six-year-old nephew especially was excited for uncle Justin to come around and play with him and it was sweet to see their special bond strengthen. And don’t even get me started on the sweetness of seeing LJ with his cousins! I didn’t take many pictures during this trip but our four-year-old and ten-month-old nieces each had some especially precious moments with him that I managed to capture on camera. Oh my heart.

We were able to squeeze in a few short visits with some friends in the area but for the most part we focused on spending time with family and were so thankful to not only have Christmas Day together but also be able to get together other days for meals or just to hang out. It was a great holiday!

We got back home on Sunday night and spent Monday as a family of three (five including our dogs!) together at home. We got LJ one small present and the dogs each had treats in their stockings, but other than that, we kept it super low-key and just enjoyed a cozy day at home with each other. It was the perfect way to cap off a great holiday season.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well! Cheers to 2019!