July 2018 Book Review {Part Two}

Happy Friday! It’s time for another round up of some of the books I finished this summer. Because I was able to get through so many books in July, I have broken up July’s review into two parts. If you missed Part One, be sure to check it out here.

July Book Review Pt 2

Let’s get started!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky, lonely individual. She struggles with social interactions and has mysterious things in her past that have greatly impacted her, although we don’t initially know what those things are. The book journeys with her as she navigates new friendships and tries to find love.  Here’s the thing. I started this book knowing it was on the NYT Bestseller list and in Reese Witherspoon’s book club. My expectations before reading one single word were sky high for this to be a blow-me-away amazing book and it just fell short of that category. I felt that it started off pretty slow and even boring for the first several chapters. There is a ton of detail about really mundane parts of Eleanor’s life and I started to get annoyed with it all, particularly because I wasn’t connecting with, and therefore caring about, Eleanor. For those of you who read my review on The Rosie Project, you know how much I loved the protagonist Don and, despite their similar quirks, Eleanor is not as charming or funny as he is. However, around 40% of the way through, the tides turned and Eleanor began to endear herself to me. The story really picks up and I began to root for her. I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of the book and was especially satisfied with how everything wrapped up. I would say that despite the slow start in warming up to Eleanor, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me

This was my first book by this author and I love his writing style! This story follows a little girl named Elsa and is primarily centered around the apartment building where she lives. It has a fascinating way of weaving in and out of a fairy tale world created for Elsa by her wonderfully kooky grandmother. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, so I’ll just say I found this book to be a charming little piece of literary magic and I am excited to read more by this author. I absolutely recommend it!

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars are Fire.jpg

I happened to see this novel on a shelf as I was walking to the checkout at my library and I knew it had to be added to my stack. I’ve read The Pilot’s Wife and Stella Bain by this author and both were so good! So knowing nothing but the fact that I love this author, this book came home with me. It follows a young mother, Grace, who has a fairly unhappy marriage in Maine in 1947. A devastating wildfire comes to her little town and Grace and her best friend Rosie are left to try to save themselves and their children as their husbands go off to fight the fire. In the aftermath of the fire, Grace has to rally every ounce of her inner strength to help her family survive and thrive even when some really tragic and frustrating events take place. I really liked this book! Grace is a character that you just want to cheer on as she finds strength and freedom that she never thought was possible. I recommend checking it out (as well as Shreve’s other books)!

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Wife Between Us

I don’t know how to give any sort of synopsis to this book without spoilers, so I will just say it’s about a woman and how she’s coping (or not coping) with her ex-husband’s new love. I love a good psychological thriller but this one felt a little less than thrilling. I think the overall story line is promising and there are several twists; however, I guessed the “major” twist about 20 pages before it happened which was disappointing. It made the big moment basically just a confirmation of what I already knew. I will say that there were some other twists that I did not see coming, so it was enough to keep me pretty engaged the whole way through. Overall I thought it tried too hard to be shocking and is not my favorite psychological thriller by any means, but it’s a good option if you’re looking for one that isn’t so creepy it’ll keep you up at night with the lights on.

And that’s a wrap on my July books! Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

Advertisements

Stay in the picture, mama

In Monday’s post, I shared a bunch of pictures of my family’s recent vacation to Virginia Beach. After publishing the post, I noticed something about the pictures I chose to share as highlights. Mainly, I noticed I wasn’t in them.

Allow me to indulge in a brief trip down memory lane. When my husband and I returned from our honeymoon 5+ years ago, I posted a ton of pictures of our trip on Facebook. I mean, why not? We had an absolute blast on the trip and we documented it well. In many of these pictures, I was in a bikini.

Honeymoon balcony

Everyone from my best friends to my husband’s grandmother could see my bikini pics and I didn’t think twice about it. I was dang proud of my body. In the months before our wedding, I created and stuck to a workout regimen. I went to the gym for at least an hour 4-5 days each week. I ate healthy foods. I ran for miles. I worked hard for months and months and when the wedding rolled around, all my hard work paid off. I felt confident and proud in my wedding dress.  And on my honeymoon, I rocked my bikini like I never had before.

Honeymoon

Flash forward 5 years, and we took another beach vacation. Once again, we had an absolute blast on the trip and documented it well. Once again, I wore a bikini for a lot of the trip. This time, however, when it came time to post pictures, my bikini pictures remained safely on my phone.

My body has experienced drastic changes over the past 19 months. I gained and lost 45 pounds; I was stretched out and didn’t shrink back the exact same way. To be clear, I am so thankful for my body. I was able to get pregnant and grow a human, something I worried wouldn’t happen after the loss of my first pregnancy. I have breastfed my son for over ten months and am so grateful that my body can provide him nourishment. I take walks with my family, attend a weekly cycling class at my local YMCA, and squeeze in a bootcamp class when nap time allows. I don’t say any of this to brag, but to honestly say that I truly am proud of what my body has done and can still do.

But the bikini pictures remained on my phone.

To be completely open and vulnerable, for as proud as I am of what my body has done and can do, I still struggle to wholeheartedly love the way it looks. It’s easy to post a bikini picture when you have rock-hard abs and nothing jiggles. It’s harder to post when your stomach has a stubborn post-baby pooch and you’re soft around the edges. I felt pretty good about the fact that I even wore a bikini on our vacation, but I wasn’t about to share the pictures.

Until I took the time to really look at them.

LJ and Mommy 1 (2)

Look at my son and his pure joy in this moment. He doesn’t care that his mommy’s belly is squishier than it once was. He doesn’t care that her hips are bigger and her baby pooch never left. He doesn’t care that mommy isn’t standing at a flattering angle to the camera or that oops, her c-section scar is showing (did you even notice that? My inner mean girl sure did).

LJ and Mommy 2

My son cares that his mommy is playing with him. He cares that his mommy is focused on him. He cares that he feels safe and loved and knows mommy is going to catch him every time she throws him up in the air. I see love and happiness in these moments captured from my son’s first beach trip and I’m so glad I have these pictures.

LJ and Mommy 3

It would be easy to hide these pictures. It would be easy to keep them on my phone or in some remote corner of my hard drive where they’re never seen. It would be easy to forget they exist. It would even be easy to stop taking them in the first place.

But here is the truth. I want to be in the pictures. Even if I’m not looking my best, I want these sweet moments captured from this all-too-fleeting baby stage of my son’s life. I want us both to be able to look back years from now and cherish the fun we’ve had together. Plus, I want to raise my son to know that a woman is worth so. much. more. than her outer appearance – I can hardly teach him that truth if I’m not living with the confidence of knowing it’s true about me too!

So I am going to continue to ignore the narrative in my head, the critical inner voice who says my body isn’t “back” and I’m not “ready” to be in a bikini. I am going to continue to throw that suit on and make memories with my son at every stage. I want to be the mom running around in the splash pad with my toddler, sliding down a water park slide with my six-year-old, and challenging my ten-year-old to a cannonball contest. I can’t waste energy comparing my honeymoon body to my mom body. My body has changed and I am not the same 24-year-old who could spend 60-90 minutes in the gym every day. But ten months ago, I brought a human into this world and I am dang proud of all my body has accomplished since then.

If you are a mama struggling to love on your postpartum body, I just want to encourage you today to stay in the picture. Don’t sit on the sidelines, don’t keep out of the frame. Keep loving on your kiddos no matter if you’re bundled up in snowsuits building a snowman or splashing in a pool in your swimsuit. Make those memories. Cherish those times. Take those pictures. Your kids don’t care what you look like. They care that you’re there. ❤

 

Beach Week 2018

Disclaimer: In this post I do mention a few specific items and provide links for them. None of these are sponsored and I was given no compensation for mentioning or linking them. They are all just items that I loved having on our trip and wanted to pass along!

Last week our little family traveled out to Virginia to spend the week at Sandbridge Beach with Justin’s side of the family (his parents, siblings, nephew, nieces). We managed to find a beach house rental where we could all stay together and it was SO nice to get a ton of quality time with each other.  My heart is so full from all the memories made! I buried our three-year-old niece in the sand into the shape of a mermaid. Justin helped our five-year-old nephew learn how to dive into the pool. LJ got to experience the ocean for the first time. I stayed up until midnight just chatting with my sister-in-law about all things big and little in our lives. The grandparents got a ton of baby snuggles with LJ and his 6-month-old cousin. We shared meals, we played games, we talked and laughed and soaked up every minute. It was such a fantastic week!

Justin and LJ at beach

Instead of recapping the whole trip, I’ve decided to just share my favorite memory from the week, which happened on the last day that we were all together. Our rental was only a two minute walk to the ocean and we decided to take one last trip to the beach before my brother-in-law’s family had to leave. We didn’t load ourselves down with beach gear, but instead just threw on our suits, grabbed a few towels and some sunscreen, and headed out. We were only on the beach for about 45 minutes, but it was the most fun 45 minutes of the whole trip.

LJ and cousin

The babies lounged on the towel together and watched Justin and his brother take the big kids to jump waves in the ocean. My niece requested to be buried in the sand again. My nephew and I “raced” away from the incoming waves, laughing the whole time. At one point the entire family ended up in the ocean holding hands as the waves crashed onto our feet. I loved every second! It was such a good reminder that we don’t need a lot of “stuff” to have fun and make great memories. No one brought books to read or sand toys to play with. We just had the sand, the surf, and each other – and that’s all we needed to have the most pure, perfect, magical beach memory.

That being said, we did have a lot of other good memories. I hope you enjoy a few photos of the highlights!

Daddy and LJ
LJ’s first time at the beach – he LOVED it!
LJ + nephew in sand
Justin and our nephew playing in the sand.
Justin, LJ Neice
A sweet moment captured with my boys and our niece on the beach one evening.

LJ and Fiona

My heart can’t even handle the cuteness of LJ in his little floating flamingo, whom we lovingly named Fiona. Our exact one is no longer available but a similar one can be found here. It was such a nice thing to have so we didn’t always have to hold him in the pool, and it allowed him to kick his feet in the water which was so sweet!

Mommy and LJ on beach

As you can see from the picture above from another beach day, we did not always pack light. Ha! This was our typical beach set-up with LJ. My sister-in-law had the brilliant idea to get an inflatable bathtub for the babies to enjoy a little ocean water while staying in the shade. It worked so well!

LJ's beach set-up

The sun shelter was an Aldi Find (anyone else obsessed with Aldi?) earlier this summer. You can find similar styles here and here.

LJ in pool

The inflatable bathtub was also a huge help at the pool! You can find this exact tub here. Also, I have all the heart eyes for LJ’s sweet little striped hat. He does have a brimmed sun hat with a chin strap but he is constantly trying to pull it off his head. For some reason, he tolerates baseball hats much better so this is what we used most often. His hat can be found here.

LJ on Towel.jpg

We are already talking about next year’s beach trip and I can’t wait to see what fun we’ll have! Until then, I’ll just bask in all the sweet memories we made this year. 🙂

LJ looking back at beach

Where is your favorite beach to visit?

July 2018 Book Review {Part One}

Hello and Happy Friday! I am still catching up on my summer book reviews and July was a BIG month for my reading list. Thanks to a road trip to Canada with my parents and grandparents (hello lots of willing baby-watchers!), I got through eight books. Rather than one huge mega post, I’ve broken up July into two posts.

July Book Review Part One

So here’s part one of my July book reviews!

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Ijeawele

This book is a short, quick read that my sister recommended to me. Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a big punch – this book makes several thought-provoking points and I found myself nodding along often. The author has so many wise words but is very relatable and never sounds overly preachy. The overarching message is: everyone deserves respect and equality and everyone matters. While it only took me 45 minutes to read, after I finished this book I called my sister and we spent an hour talking about it. Whether you are a parent or not, I think this is an important work that should be on your reading list.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound

This book was recommended to me by a fellow lover of historical fiction. In post-WWII Mississippi, Laura has moved to a farm with her husband and children and it is not at all what she expected. Chapters mainly alternate between Laura’s perspective and those of two men working on the farm, her brother-in-law and a black sharecropper’s son, who have both returned from the war to very different worlds. This book absolutely hooked me.  It covers such heavy topics that it feels weird to me to say it was a great book – in truth, it wasn’t always enjoyable to read and made me feel sick to my stomach at times. But it was a great book because the author writes in such a way that the characters come alive and you feel invested in their story so when tragic things happen, your heart breaks for them. This book was very well-written and gives a haunting glimpse into life in the harsh 1940’s South.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere

It feels like I have seen this book everywhere this summer and I can completely understand all the buzz. In this novel, the seemingly perfect suburb Shaker Heights is forever changed by the arrival of an artist and her daughter and before long, the community is divided over a very public custody battle involving the adoption of a Chinese-American baby. There are many little stories within this story and different characters find themselves in various intriguing situations. I often asked myself “what would I do if this were me?” and found no perfect answers. I wish I had read this as part of a book club or something where I could have discussed other perspectives of the different scenarios in detail as they played out. I really enjoyed this one and would highly recommend it!

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

On Second Thought

Two sisters find themselves with abrupt ends to their romantic relationships and they come to rely on each other in the aftermath and start to move on with their lives. I have read and enjoyed other books by Kristan Higgins so I was excited to dive into this one. Overall the book was entertaining but I did think it got a little slow at times. I enjoyed the alternating narration between the two sisters and I was delighted to find that there were some recurring minor characters from another Higgins book I loved (If You Only Knew). I came to love the characters (except one who absolutely drove me crazy but that was obviously Higgins’ intent) and I was satisfied with how everything wrapped up. While this isn’t my favorite Higgins book, I enjoyed it and would recommend it!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Simplifying the Diaper Bag {Newborn}

When my son was a few weeks old, I realized that while I loved being a stay-at-home mom, our days got pretty monotonous and long if I took my job title too literally and spent all of our time at home. I soon got stir crazy and longed for a little change of scenery once in a while so I started to look for small outings that he and I could make out into the world to feel like part of civilization again. In order for these little trips to be successful and (relatively) stress-free, a well-packed diaper bag was crucial.

But oh, how the diaper bag could quickly become a chaotic mess.

Seriously, I *knew* babies need a lot of stuff but I didn’t really KNOW how. much. stuff. that could end up being.  I wanted to hit the delicate balance between having whatever my 7 pound baby might actually need without throwing my back out lugging around 70 pounds of his stuff (which only felt like a slight exaggeration at the time). 

After a little trial and error, I struck that balance and it made leaving the house so much easier. Today I wanted to break down what my newborn diaper bag contained in case there is another mama out there trying to figure out how to leave the house without taking half of it with her. I know that each baby is different and each baby/mama is going to need some different items. This might not be the perfect diaper bag for anyone else, but it’s what worked for us!

Tips for Simplifying a newborn's Diaper Bag

First things first, I use this diaper bag. I wanted a backpack style bag so that my hands could be free and I chose this neutral shade so it would go with anything I wore. I love the simple, clean look – I get tons of compliments on the style and people are often shocked it is a diaper bag! I have seen many reviews saying it is too big and “boxy” for small frames. I am 5’2” and it is a little boxy but I adjust the arm straps as tight as they go and it works well for me. My 6’0” husband prefers a slouchy backpack and so he doesn’t love the fit as much through the arms even when he loosens the straps all the way; however, he carries it less often than me so this hasn’t been a big deal.

Magnolia

I also chose this backpack is because it didn’t have 587 pockets. I know some people want a lot of pockets to store things in a diaper bag. For me,  if I see a pocket, I’m going to want to fill it and as a minimal-ish mama, I didn’t want to be carrying around more than I needed just because I had pockets to do so. So I liked that this one had just a few pockets that I could make good use of. This diaper bag has three major compartments and I’m going to go through what I carried in each one.

Newborn diaper bag essentials (and a few extras)

The front compartment is “mine” and stores everything I need to carry around for myself.

Mama Pocket Items

This pocket contains: my wallet, checkbook, 1-2 pens, headphones, chapstick, hand sanitizer, a snack, and gum. There is also a small pocket in this compartment where I slipped two disposable nursing pads (leaks happen!) and a packet of Motrin. That’s it! It is actually a little shocking to me that this is now all I carry around because my pre-kid purse had m-u-c-h more than this in it, but I have come to find that this is really all I actually need! 

Mama Pocket

The back pocket is for diapering and diapering only.

Diaper Pocket Items

I keep it simple so all I need to do is unzip and peek in to make sure I have what I need before leaving the house. It also ensures that when the inevitable diaper emergency happens, I can quickly access what I need without wasting precious seconds desperately rummaging around. The bag came with a very handy machine washable changing pad that I keep back there. This pocket also contains: diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream,  and this diaper bag dispenser (handy when there is an extra stinky diaper).

Diaper Pocket

The middle/main pocket is where I keep everything else.

Main Pocket Items

This main pocket contains: a muslin blanket, a flannel blanket, three burp cloths, a bib scarf, my nursing cover, 2-3 outfit changes, and 1-2 baby toys.  In the newborn stage, I did not waste precious space on lots of toys. My baby was usually asleep when we were out and about but if he was awake, he was largely entertained by just looking around at people. I stored everything by rolling the items and placing them in vertically so I could see everything in one glance. This compartment also has two small pockets in the back where I stored socks and a hat (due to having a winter baby), a pacifier with clip, 2 gallon ziploc bags (to seal up a messy outfit – blowouts will happen!) and animal links.

Main Pocket.jpg

Notice how when everything is stored like this, there is still so much room on top! This is so handy if I’m out and about and there’s something I need to stuff in there quickly (such as LJ’s coat or a purchase from a store).

This diaper bag also comes with an insulated side pocket which we used occasionally when we needed to take along a bottle with pumped milk. The other side has a pocket the perfect size for me to take along my Swell water bottle to stay hydrated.

Side Pocket

That’s it! My minimal-ish diaper bag. I cannot think of a time where I was ever out and about and realized I was suddenly desperate for something other than what I’ve listed. Simplifying my diaper bag allowed me to leave the house with confidence and have minimal stress and wasted time rummaging around looking for things when I’m out and about. Win-win!

A few tips for simplifying the chaos of a diaper bag:

  • Have 4-5 diapers packed each time you leave the house.
  • Use a refillable wipes clutch so you always have plenty of wipes with you
  • Get in the habit of quickly checking the diapers/wipes before leaving the house
  • Take distinctive burp cloths. Someone gifted me three Gerber cloth diapers/burp cloths with colorful ribbons sewn on. These are the ones I take out and about since they are unique and therefore harder to lose at childcare/playdates/etc.
  • Take multi-functional items. My nursing cover doubles as a car seat cover which was a wonderful asset during the winter and allowed me to get two major uses out of one item.

What is one must-have in your newborn diaper bag?

Traveling with a Baby {Road Trip Tips}

Whether it be day trips, weekend getaways, or international adventures, travel has always been a big part of Justin and my marriage. We love exploring and trying new things and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a bit nervous that we’d lose the ability to travel once we became parents. What would traveling with a baby look like? Will it be so stressful that we’ll just prefer to stay home? Will we have to stop traveling until our children are older? We had a lot of questions and not a lot of answers with what traveling would look like once there was a third person tagging along.

It turns out that we didn’t need to worry – we have still been able to travel (and actually enjoy our trips!) with a baby in tow. We have traveled by car and plane with LJ and much to our relief both methods of travel have gone smoothly thus far. We have obviously had to make adjustments to the way that we travel and we have learned a few things along the way. Since we are currently at the beach after a 12+ hour drive, I thought I would share some of the tips we have used in our road-trips with LJ (4 multi-state/country road trips under his belt so far!) as well as some of the gear that helps us greatly on these road trips.

Road Trip Tips with a Baby

I know every baby is different and these tips might not work for everyone but these are the things that have helped us to simplify the chaos of travel so we can actually enjoy our time together and look forward to travelling with a baby. 

Tip #1: Start early.

LJ Carseat Going Home

This tip was more for me personally to get to a “we can do this!” mindset. We took our first road trip from Indiana to Virginia when LJ was about 5 weeks old to visit family for Christmas. I think if I had waited months to attempt a trip, I would have stressed out thinking of everything that could go wrong or how it might mess up his routine and I might have talked myself out of even trying. Planning a trip early in LJ’s little life stopped me from having too much time to talk myself out of it and didn’t mess up his (honestly, non-existent) newborn routine and bonus – when it went smoothly it gave me the confidence to continue to travel! I also believe starting early helped LJ form good travel habits (like being comfortable with sleeping/staying in his car seat).

Tip #2: But don’t start early.

LJ Sleeping with Spoon

Whenever Justin and I used to road trip we would pack the car up the night before, wake up early and hit the road as soon as possible. Nowadays, we still have everything packed up and ready to go ahead of time, but we let LJ wake up at his normal time. I breastfeed him, let him play and get out some energy, feed him again, and then hit we the road around the time of his morning nap. In other words, the first 2 hours of the day are like any other day for him. Sure, this means we get on the road a little later than normal (his morning nap is around 9:00 am) but it also means he is tired and will often sleep for a good long stretch at the beginning of the trip so we can knock off a lot of miles. Our trips start on a positive note and this makes a big difference!

Tip #3: Plan for extra time on stops

Fargo Pit Stop.jpg
A photo op during a pit stop walking around downtown Fargo, ND

When LJ was a newborn, stopped when it was time to breastfeed and then he went right back into the car seat and happily slept as we journeyed on. Now that he’s older, he gets pretty fussy after a pit stop if he didn’t get adequate time out of the car seat so we stop at places where we are able to get out for a while. It might mean a rest stop with picnic benches and a grassy area where LJ can roll on a blanket or a restaurant where we can sit down and eat rather than grab food to go. I have even stopped at a Target and just walked around with LJ in the cart. Yes, this adds time to our trips (at least 30 mins per stop) but makes the car ride so much nicer. It allows LJ to get some energy out and get a little mental stimulation and then he is a much happier camper when he gets put back in the car seat. I would way rather extend the trip a little if it means having a pleasant travel companion! 

Tip #4: Slim down the packing list

M&M Bag

Yes, babies need a lot of stuff. But your trip is only going to feel stressful if you can never find what you or your baby needs because you brought so. much. stuff. and your trunk is packed to the brim. A few things we do to try to limit the amount of things we pack are:

-Toys. I keep a few toys in my diaper bag at all times. Other than those toys, I do not pack extras on road trips. LJ is entertained by almost anything we might have in the car. Some things he’s spent significant time playing with before are a plastic spoon (see pic under tip #2 – can you spot it?), an empty M&M bag, a plastic water bottle, etc. He loves shiny and crinkly things and there’s been no need for us to pack a ton of extra toys for entertainment. Saves so much space!

-Don’t pack what you can easily buy. For example, on a week-long vacation where we’ll go through lots of diapers, we don’t waste trunk space taking a bunch since we can pop in to a grocery store or a Target to buy a pack once we get where we’re going.

-Crib Rentals. Our pack n play is awesome but it’s one more thing to lug around/take up trunk space. Many hotels and rental homes will provide a crib or pack n play, often for free or a nominal charge. Just make sure to call ahead to reserve a crib! I also pack my own crib sheet – I think laying on a sheet that smells and feels like home helps LJ sleep in an unfamiliar crib (plus I know that the sheet is clean to my standards).

Tip #5: Helpful Gear on Road Trips

-Collapsible high chair

We use this high chair that folds up like a camping chair and love it. It is compact, lightweight, and an easy way to make sure there is somewhere for LJ to safely sit no matter where we are. I honestly keep this in my car at all times and have used it in so many different situations. I highly recommend it!

-Ergo Carrier

Austin, TX

Our stroller takes up a lot of car space, so there have been several road trips where we just take this and no stroller. It doesn’t take up a lot of room and is a comfortable, easy way to walk around with LJ.

-Breastpump

I was able to get the Spectra S1 pump through my insurance and I LOVE because it has a battery and therefore doesn’t need to be plugged in when charged. I can pump comfortably in the passenger seat while Justin drives and then we have a bottle to quickly and easily give LJ whenever we stop. If space is an issue or I just don’t want to take my nice pump along, I have also taken my Medela Handheld Pump. This pump is not as convenient to use but it is a good, inexpensive option to take along, particularly when packing light.

What tips do you have for traveling with an infant?

 

June 2018 Book Review

Before I get started, I want to say that if you are on the East Coast, my prayers are with you right now. We had planned to drive to Virginia Beach today for a family vacation but have obviously needed to change our plans for the weekend. We’re monitoring Florence closely and praying that everyone on the coast stays safe!

We’re still playing catch-up from my summer reading list and today I’m recapping books that I read in June. The theme was “books that start with ‘the'” – haha! Not really but it did work out that way. 🙂 Let’s dive in!

1536887473940

The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies

Okay I just need to get this out there. I am a huge Gretchen Rubin fan girl. I have read all her books (some multiple times), I have listened to every episode of her podcast, and I have even paid to take her Four Tendencies online course. I think she is brilliant and I am absolutely fascinated by this framework she developed. The Four Tendencies are Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, and Rebel and your tendency is determined by how you respond to both inner and outer expectations. It is so interesting!

I found this book to be a game changer in my life. I am a Questioner (take the quiz here to find out what tendency you are) and this explains so much about how I respond to expectations that I put on myself (inner) and that others put on me (outer). My husband is an Obliger and honestly, just understanding this one little piece of our personalities has opened my eyes SO MUCH to how we interact and meet one another’s expectations within our marriage. I could go on and on about this all day but I’ll stop myself and just say – I think everyone could benefit from understanding what their tendency is. It has helped me understand others in my life and I wish I had known about it when I was still teaching because I think it would have made worlds of difference in how I presented expectations to different students. A must-read in my opinion.

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project

This book is about a genetics professor named Don who pretty clearly has Aspergers (though he doesn’t seem to realize it) and attempts to find the perfect wife for himself by creating a questionnaire that will essentially weed out any unfavorable candidates by eliminating qualities that have been problematic for him on previous dates. He gets a little sidetracked from this project when he decides to assist a graduate student named Rosie in search of her biological father. What follows is a quirky, cute, unconventional little adventure. I found the characters to be charming and easy to want to root for. I thought the author did a great job of creating a character like Don who quickly becomes endearing and funny but not in a way that makes you feel as though you are laughing at him. Overall I enjoyed this book! And I believe that it is currently being made into a movie? If so, I will definitely be watching!

The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window

This book follows an agoraphobic woman who spends her days in her house drinking, popping pills, and spying on the neighbors. One day she sees something shocking – or maybe she doesn’t? – in a neighbor’s house and struggles to figure out what really happened and if she is in danger.  I enjoy a good psychological thriller and had this been the first one I’ve ever read, I would have loved it. That being said, it read a lot like like other books in this genre I have already read (particularly Girl on a Train) and therefore was not quite as thrilling as it wanted to be. There were still elements of surprise and one big HOT DANG revelation that made me have to go back and reread passages (the best kind of revelation). The writing is really great and I felt that the plot struck a good balance with being just creepy enough that I had to turn all my lights on without being so creepy that I never want to be alone in my house again. I would definitely recommend it if you like this genre, but be forewarned that there may be stretches where it feels like something you’ve already read.

The Marriage Pact – Michelle Richmond

The Marriage Pact

This book was also a psychological thriller but I found the plot to be much more original and interesting. Newlyweds Alice and Jake are given a mysterious wedding gift by a new acquaintance – entrance into an exclusive group called The Pact whose sole goal is to keep marriages together. What at first feels fun and glamorous quickly becomes quite frightening and controlling. I don’t want to give too much away but I will say that I found this book to be both riveting and chilling. I loved it and hated it – I dreaded what might happen in the next chapter but regardless could not put it down. This book had several twists I didn’t see coming and I was on the edge of my seat until the last page. I definitely recommend this one!

And there you have it! Have you read any of these books? What else should I be reading?