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How this Unorganized Mom Stays Organized

How do I plan to conquer this school year?

That's the million dollar question and if anyone has a viable answer, I'll pay them even more than a million Washingtons.

It seems like I start every new school year with gusto. I am organized. I am equipped with planners, folders, containers and a smile. But then by the end of the quarter, I've lost my momjo. We start missing papers and the book log is long lost. Now with two in school I am seriously vowing to do better. I am not saying I have unrealistic expectations, I am not a cookie cutter mom. Last school year, I had to have my friend break into my house, grab the homework on the table and take it in to school for my son. Because, life. And working out of town most of the week means I can't always drop everything and rescue my forgetful kid from another missed assignment. But that's what mom friends are for right? And seriously, mom friends are definitely going to be on my list of must haves for making this year go right.

Here's what I am going to need in order to survive the school year, one missed snack at a time:

The ultimate planner: I have been a strong and steady Erin Condren Life Planner user for 5 years now and I love them. But I've only ever just used the month spread. This year, I am going to expand and start actually using the weekly days so that I can really break down what's going on. And now that other brands have caught on to the planner craze, Hob Lob and Michaels have all these great little stickers, clips and inserts that I think are so handy and cute. I am going to start putting in reminders for library days and give myself a heads up for "Work Out Wednesday" each month so my kids aren't the only ones having to do jumping jacks in flip flops because I forgot make them wear tennis shoes.

Waking up early: My coffee, my book and my peaceful view of the old, friendly walnut tree in our backyard. I need these moments in the morning to gather my thoughts and make sure that I am not running around crazy, trying to get last minute things done. 

Command Center: I'm just going to lay it all out there. I am completely unorganized. I am scattered brained and my attention span is something left to be desired. However, if I having a "landing spot" for the things I need to keep track of, I will be much more likely to be able to keep track of the papers, permission slips and to do lists that are sure to pile up this school year.

I bought the Wire file baskets, dry erase calendar and skinny cork boards from Amazon and picked up the hooks and inspiration quotes in a paper pack from Hobby Lobby. This allows me to still quickly "dump" the kids stuff into their baskets but it's organized and in a central location. I think it's important to display any accomplishments and good papers the kids have for them to see each day too. 

Mom squad: This is my most helpful tip: Rally your troops. Make friends with the other parents in your kids' classes so that you are not alone. I don't know where I would be without fellow parents who I can text in a moment of panic for early dismissals, after school help, homework deadlines, projects, treats, etc. It takes a village. Scratch that, it take a whole frickin' town to do this stuff! 

So bring it on, school year 2016!

5 Must Reads for the Back to School Mom

How do we prepare for out littles going into the next grade, for putting up the pool bags and replacing them with backpacks waiting to be unpacked of their bursting loose leaf papers? It's such a transition, from not caring about bed time to bed time being the most important time of the day... 

This year, my littlest is off to kindergarten. I don't even know how that happened. Just yesterday, I was buying leggings for her chunky little baby legs on Etsy and now...she wants jeans from Justice and her PBTeen backpack is the best thing to happen since Christmas. 

The big kid is off to great places...third grade. I am so excited for him because that's really the grade where I remember big things happening and learning about the world and how it works. He'll be reading some of my favorites like Charlotte's Web and Percy Jackson... It's such an exciting age.   

I think the hardest thing for me about my kids going to school is the handing off of the baton. At school, everything I have tried to teach them-about respect, kindness, when to be silly and when to be calm- it all gets put to the test. And yes, they are not perfect, I don't expect them to be. But now there are witnesses who can attest to whether or not my children are what I secretly fear them to be, actual little tyrants sent from the clouds to torture me. But, I digress. I know they are just fine and they really never mean any harm. My kids are by far not the best children but let's just say I have been lucky enough never to be at the mercy of a Target aisle meltdown. Probably because they know I would quickly walk away and act like they weren't even mine. They'd know we could just meet up in our meeting spot- the boxed wine aisle. I've taught them well. 

But how do I get through the panic in my chest when I realize these children aren't really aren't just mine? They are their own people now.

I just have to remember that their teachers are also women I consider to be dear friends and I know they are kind-hearted people who will chuckle when my kids "say the darnedest things" and call me if they really have a problem. I trust them to give my children grace but to also set standards that will pull the best out of them. 

The most important thing I know in my heart is that all the other mothers out there are having mixed feelings as well. We are all relieved that summer heat and boredom is over, but also sad that another few months of relaxed schedules has come and gone. We are all excited for the challenge and invigorated by our "organized command center" Pinterest pins and our promises for meeting homework deadlines...and I think a little relieved that even though we know our attempts at organization are probably fruitless... that we will all be just fine in the end. At least, that's my hope anyway. 

As I always do when I am feeling anxious or like I am alone on my own little island of worry, I turn to a book for comfort. For the stories of other mothers who have been there, done that, or had it worse, and even reading about moms who have it way better is sometimes still fun and makes me smile. That's what got me thinking about this list of books for us moms to read during the back to school season. 

Here's a short list of stories that give me more perspective, or just a giggle right when I need it most as I stress about my kids going back to school and growing up faster than I ever imagined they would. Hope you enjoy!  

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - A bunch of crazies who throw fits, compete against each other and throw food. And the kids are awful too. This twisted account of what happens with parents who have Type A personalities (on steriods) start competing in the PTA Olympics is addicting. I couldn't put it down. It's also becoming a mini series with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, which is going to be amazing! 

Where'd You Go Bernadette  - Just a mother who may be losing her mind and a daughter that is sweet, smart and can only begin to imagine what her mother is up to next. 

Prep - Just exactly how far will certain kids go in order to get into the best schools? You'd think an acceptance letter is worth more than a winning lottery ticket. This will make your stress over the next bake sale seem like child's play. 

Five Days Left - A mother fighting a terminal illness, a middle teacher who has adopted one of his students... just a really heartfelt story that is good for the soul. 

The Glass Castle This is one of the most poignant memoirs I have ever read. it just really stuck with me- a young girl and her siblings are forced to basically raise themselves in dire poverty because of abusive and neglectful parents. Wells eventually leaves her family and becomes a successful writer but its her perseverance and hopeful attitude that makes me admire her and her story so much. 

As I finished this, I was pelted in the face with a mini marshmallow from a PVC pipe marshmallow rifle. Is it August 17 at 8:00 a.m. yet?? 

Show Us Your Books: July Edition

I read some great books this month! I only wish I could have read more! 
My favorite by far was One True Loves, read my review from last week here 

If you have read any of these, please let me know what you think! 

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid -The first book to make me cry this year so far. It was the mushy, over the top love story that actually didn't make me cringe, because I usually think some love stories are just too mushy for me. But this, this was perfect. One woman, two men...one she thought she had lost forever and the other, the one she never thought she would love... like I said, it sounds like a Nicholas Sparks wishy-washy love story but it's actually really beautiful. 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty - Moriarty is the author of some of my all time favorites so I bought this without even reading the synopsis. So far, it's blah and just a lot of set up for whatever big mystery happened at an ill-fated barbecue. Whatever happened better be good because I am over half way into the book and it's a lot of build up and the anticipation is killing me. For as long as it has taken for this book to get to the good part, it better be worth it... I haven't finished so no spoilers but let me know if it's worth it! 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware This is a great mystery read for the summer! I LOVE a book where you are not quite sure if you can trust the protagonist but you have no choice when they are the only one telling the story. I couldn't tell if Lo was drunk, confused for just plain crazy. But man can she really make a scene. I loved this crazy, twisted book. It's full of lies and really fast paced.  

The Children by Ann Leary  (Read my full review here)  This will be the book remembered as the book I wanted to hug. Such lovable, sweet, clueless characters that you just have to take under your wing. I really enjoyed this one- family dramas are always a favorite. 

The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier (audible) I am listening to this story about a couple in the 1800s who try and make a life in the swamps of the frontier...trying to survive with a large family and a wife would can't stay out of the booze. I often read books where the man or father in the story is the problem so this is actually an interesting twist. All James Goodnough wants to do is grow apples and his wife, well all she wants to do is make "jack" with the leftovers. It's interesting and funny without trying....but also sad to watch the struggles of what many families had to go through at that time in our country's infancy. Great read! 

Here's my list for August. The first three are all NetGalley finds, so I am anxious to get started! I have heard a lot of buzz about Siracusa thanks to Liberty and Rebecca at All The Books and when it was a choice for Book of the Month, I had to grab it too. 

Happy Reading! 
What's the best book you read in July? 

 Need more book ideas? Head over to Steph and Jana's blogs for a great list of what other bookworms read in July! 

Book Review: The Children by Ann Leary

Have you ever met a book you just wanted to hug? 

If you just nodded, we are soul mates. Because it does really happen. 

I listened to The Children by Ann Leary via Audible and it was like just listening to a dear friend tell a story... 

That is if you find yourself with a friend who is recluse lies about her life on a made up "mommy blog" sleeps with the groundskeeper and lives in her deceased step father's dilapidated house on the lake. 

Because you know, that happens a lot too. I just couldn't get enough and when the book ended, I instantly missed Charlotte. 

A story about an unconventional family with secrets and worries is my jam. I just loved all of the characters. Leary writes in a way that makes me feel like I've met new friends but also doesn't give it all away at the beginning. There is so much to absorb that you have to keep reading. 

Charlotte, her sister and mother all live in a rambling old house that once belonged to Charlotte's stepdad, who passed away. The house is wrapped up between Joan, his widow, and his 2 biological sons, Perry and Spin. The brothers don't need the house...but Joan's daughters, Charlotte and Sally, need it in a way that no one can quite grasp. They both struggle with pasts and fears that make it impossible to function in the real world. Sally and Charlotte are two of my favorite characters I have read about this year. Their struggles and inner demons are real and I felt myself nodding along because I recognize a lot of the same anxieties in myself.

Charlotte's romance with groundskeeper Everette is intriguing... and I love how they navigate their strange relationship.

When Spin brings his new fiancee to the house, there are many opinions among the family about her intentions. Some are nice...and some are far from it. Who's right? Will Laurel destroy the complicated yet complacent life Charlotte and her family have built? 

The backstories and honest observations from Charlotte create a great piece that you will want to keep reading.

Next up, I am listening to The Edge of the Orchard, by Terry Chevalier, a historical fiction piece about a pioneer family in the mid 1800s, navigating their life on unknown territory. 
I'm also currently reading Truly, Madly, Guilty at all hours of the night because insomnia. And though it's got my attention so far, it's not has "Oh my gosh, I can't put this down" as Big Little Lies  and The Husband's Secret but I am not giving up too soon. Also, how cute is this bookstragram? 

My local Hastings is going out of business so I picked up a nice little bookstack the other day: 

My life: So many books, so little couch time. Have you read any of my July/Aug reads? 

Happy Happy Reading, friends! 

Book Review: One True Loves

Today, we're here to talk about this gem:

In One True Loves, you'll find Emma, out to dinner her family and fiance for her father's birthday. Everything is perfectly normal until her phone rings and she doesn't recognize the number. She answers and the voice on the other end is the most familiar yet distance sound she's ever heard. It's her husband saying her name on the other end. The thing about her husband calling her is...he's been gone for 3 years. His helicopter crashed when he was on an assignment in Alaska and his body was never found. They had given up hope and Emma was finally able to move on after years of believing her husband was gone forever. 

Until she gets that phone call from Jesse. Jesse, the husband she thought was gone. And now she's faced with what to say to Sam, the man she fell in love with and promised to marry after her first true love disappeared. 

What would you do? 

The best part of this book is that it is unapologetically romantic and mushy. There are a lot of paragraphs that are just over the top lovey but honestly, I just couldn't get enough of it. Because I loved both Sam and Jesse and I especially loved the Emma that Emma became when she started falling in love with herself. 

After Jesse disappears, Emma loses herself. She moves back to with her parents, who are precious and remind me of the Gilmores and she takes over the family's bookstore and we all know how I feel about bookstores. 

She loves Sam and the life they have built. She learned to play the piano and found that she loves cats... and then one day her life takes another sudden turn. The back and fourth journey that her heart takes in finding a place to land is tragic. She has to break her own damn heart. It's incredibly heartfelt and I believed in every word. 

Up until the last minute I still didn't know what the right thing Emma should do was. Does she go back to Jesse and begin the life they had started over again or does she keep her promise to Sam? She was incredibly torn, and so was I as I read along!

But when I got to the end of the book, I was content and really felt like it was a great happy ending. It's just plain beautifully written, in a warm and fuzzy way that makes me remember how awesome it is to loved and be loved so much it hurts.  

If you believe in a good love story, read this. 

Favorite Combos: Wine & Popcorn

There are many things that I like paired together. 

Like kids and naps, for example. 

Wine and a hammock... 

Speaking of wine...it goes with pretty much anything. 

Especially popcorn. The poppers over at Skinny Pop help with my obsession with eating popcorn and drinking wine while watching Orange is the New Black or Fixer or Upper, because they made popcorn that goes perfectly with my favorite red wine. But they didn't stop there. Just in case I wanted to mix it up a bit, they even gave me MORE awesome combos to try: 

My favorite? White Cheddar and a little Malbec. It's the perfect laid back Thursday evening pair. 

More of my favorites: 

Friends on Netflix 

Mondays with a day off work. 

Blogging while listening to James Bray on iTunes

Rain and a good book.

Well, a good book can be paired with anything for that matter. 

Cuddles on the couch

Kids and giggling 

My husband and a beer on the porch 

My husband and a home DIY project

My daughter and wildflowers 

What's your favorite combination? 

Show Us Your Books June

How in the world is June over already? 

I tried to give myself enough me time but really, everyone else needed it more than I did. Swim lessons, baseball, tee ball and summer school are all over so we are in full summer mode. But that just means more time outside, at the pool and trying with all my might to exhaust the kids enough that bedtime is a breeze. I relied heavily on audio books this month to get my book fix. There were a couple huge hits and a couple complete misses. Here's what I read in June: 

Modern Lovers - I will start with my favorites first. This was a great story. It was "modern" enough that the references to everything trendy made me smile- Uber, green smoothies, etc., but it was far enough removed that I really felt like I was escaping off to the best of the best of Brooklyn and NYC. A group of friends who were in a famous band in their youth are contacted by a film company who wants them to sign over rights in order to tell the story of their former band mate and friend, who died long ago of a drug overdose. Doing so would uncover secrets and risk facing feelings some of them have long since buried. I really related to how some of the characters were lost and searching for something, even when they didn't know exactly that that something was. There is a great mix of characters- mothers, fathers, teenagers, lesbians, all with a yoga studio, first love and an amazing restaurant mixed it. See what I mean? It's a no-brainer. Favorite quote: "Choices were easy to make until you realized how long life could be.”  It's a great read that will make a good addition to your summer reading list! 

The Girls - My second favorite this month and one that I think is going to lead me to read more cult fiction just like it. There's a "Manson-esque" feel to this story of a teenager who gets sucked into a cult like lifestyle that leads to a murder. I really got hooked into the story- the author does an amazing job of foreshadowing, giving you just enough to know something good is about to happen but not giving anything away. 

A Necessary End  - I am not quite done with this yet, but it's pretty good so far. Honestly, my final opinion hinges on how it ends but it will get at least a 3 out of 5 based solely on my love/hate for the characters. Adrienne and Gabe are unable to have a baby of their own so they start the process of adoption- in an unconventional way, no doubt, but it still leads them to Leah, who has agreed to give them her son for adoption, but only under certain circumstances that prove to be tough to follow. Adrienne is very interesting- I think I hate her but I want to love her because all she wants is a baby and I can totally relate to that. This is part quirky and a psychological page turner that has me really looking forward to what happens at the end.

Falling by Jane Green  Oh Jane Green, I was so looking forward to this- Tempting Fate and Swapping Lives- these are the ultimate summer beach reads so I was happy to snatch up this e-book from NetGalley. For the most part it was a sweet read, a typical story of 30-something Emma who moves into a beach house in a small town for a fresh start. She instantly meets and falls for her landlord Dominic, and the two begin a romance. Dominic's past and his 6 year-old-son throw some loops into the mix, as well as Emma's family, since the two come from completely different backgrounds. I thought it was a typical Green read and was happily reading along- but there's a twist that made it all go down hill for me. I literally dropped the book on my lap and rolled my eyes. I was totally mad about this, but if you've read it and liked the ending, let me know so I can see another side of it, but until then, I'll just be sitting over here, pissed at the ending. 

Behind Closed Doors -  I received an Early Reader's Edition of this thanks to St. Martin's Press for a review. The first couple chapters were a total win. It was creepy, foreshadowing, alluring and I couldn't wait to find out why the main character was so afraid of her husband. Until I found out why and then I was just grossed out. There was a lack of development of the main plot- and when it was going somewhere, it switched between past and present. Just a hard no for me. 

Currently Reading: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid - I stayed up half the night reading this and am in love so far...it's a truly beautiful story about a woman whose husband goes missing and after 3 years, she is finally ready to move on...until life has other plans. Seriously, it's so sweet and well-written. A total win for me and I've only half way through. 

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