Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: The Wednesday Group

This is the kind of book you'll want to read to feel better about whatever unfortunate event in life you may be facing. Because it could always be worse. 

The Wednesday Group (named such because of the day of the week a group of women meet for a support group) has all the makings for a great saga. 

These women's lives range from that of a high profile judge to a housewife but they all have something in common: sadness. 

They are seeking the help of psychiatrist Catherine to cope with the fact that their husbands are self proclaimed sex addicts. Some are addicted to porn, others are addicted to casual sex and others may or may not be gay, but all are struggling to save their marriages. 

How much unhappiness is too much? How many times can you go to bed crying? How long do you stay in a loveless marriage? These women are trying to discover just how much the heart can endure. 

What I liked the most about the story is that all of the the women don't know each  other at the beginning. They start coming to the meetings not knowing the others' stories or lives but slowly, they open up to each other and quickly find they are not alone. What an amazing feeling, suddenly realizing that the storm you've been experience is something others can empathize with and help you through. 

The thing I didn't enjoy about The Wednesday Group is the ending. It was one of those stories where I think the author wanted to leave the stories up to the imagination of the reader. But that's just not what I want in a book. Especially this kind of story, where I fall in love with the characters. They became my little sister, or aunt or dear friend. I needed to know if they were going to be okay in the end. And I didn't get that ending, so here I am, still wondering. But I guess that's the mark of a good writer, isn't it? Writing such a story that stays with the reader, so much so that they are left wanting more? 

This is a great quick read if you are between books that are really intense. It was a great book to listen to on audio book because the individual stories about the women make it go by really fast. It really helped passed the time of my commute. 

Happy Reading! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Our Vacation to Colorado: 10 Hours, 5 Kids, No Electronics

Recently, our family had quite the adventure. 

We took the kids on vacation....

And I know that doesn't seem like that big of a deal...but there's 5 kids in our family. That's alot of kids. And 10 hours on the road is a long time.

And to top it all off, I decided we were going to go sans electronics. No IPods, no "Can I play on your phone" and no Kindle, pads, tablets, DS, etc. Note: I am not saying there is ANYTHING wrong with electronics and kids. We love them!

 However, with 5 kids, we simply don't have enough electronics to go around and I couldn't stomach the thought of trying to referee the sharing of said electronics for 10 both ways hours from the front seat. No. Thank you. 

So, I came up with a No Electronics Plan. But more on that later. First, a quick vacation recap:

 I was ecstatic about our vacation. My kids and I had never traveled anywhere further than Kansas City (2 hours) so I was super excited to explore with them! 

We headed to Denver first, where we spent the day with cousins of our at the Downtown Aquarium. 

It was fun, even though super expensive to get our whole family in. The kids had fun, the girls met "real mermaids" and R1 got to climb a coconut tree and they all loved the 4D movie so everyone was happy. There are over 500 sea creatures, so there was something fun around every corner.

Along the way, we found a carnival, so naturally, we had to stop: 

The REAL gem of our trip was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove into Estes Park, parked at the Visitor's Center and took shuttle buses to Bear Lake, where we were able to hike up, up, up until our little hiking hearts could hike no more. The kids just wanted to keep going and going. We hiked around Bear Lake, then next to Nymph Lake and finally, to beautiful Dream Lake, which literally took my breath away. It was amazing. The kids thought it was so amazing that there was snow on the ground in June. We kept passing hikers with all of their gear, whose faces lit up with smiles when they saw our clan hopping up the trail. 

And the views? There are no words. 

I could have stayed for days. On the way down the mountain, I already wanted to go back. I can definitely see us making Estes Park a family vacation tradition. I loved seeing all the amazing views for myself, but watching our kids enjoy it doubled the excitement all over again. 

The way home was slightly more dramatic than I would have liked...I will spare you the details of how one of the 7 year olds managed to tangled himself so bad up in the seat belt strap that we had to pull over and extract him. Oh, and about how we got a flat tire in the middle of No where, Nebraska. 

But the important thing is we all got home in once piece. 
Are you wondering exactly how we survived the "no electronics" pledge?

I can't lie, it was pretty amazing. I can't believe it actually. But there was ALOT of planning ahead. 

First, I went to The Dollar Store to stock up on things that were going to keep the kids entertained. 

My plan was this: 

Each child would get their own "Road Trip Box" filled with goodies. 
Every time we had to stop for gas or bathrooms, the kids would have an opportunity to get their box "filled" IF they were on good behavior during the trip. That meant no whining, no physical harm to a sibling and always being kind and helpful.  If any of those rules were broken, that child's box would be taken away for 10 minutes. 

So how did it work? Like a charm, I tell you. On the way there, only one of the kids got her box taken away but after that, she snapped out of it and we were on our way. Whenever we stopped for a rest or gas, I would "fill the box" with a new treat for everyone who had followed the rules and been a trooper. No one wanted to miss out on whatever new goodie they could get when it was time to "fill the boxes." We had a lot of traveling to do and there were a couple of whines when they found out we had another hour in the car, but once they remembered the boxes, they were excited and helpful to get on the road. 

Here's what was in the boxes to start with: 

1 Tiny toy (Shopkins) for the little girls
1 Lego kit for the older kids (see below)
Post Its 
Fruit Snacks
Cup of Cookies

What I filled the boxes with along the ride: 

Masking Tape in fun prints- This was a HIT. The kids put it on the outside of their boxes, on the windows and the leather seats. It's no too sticky and doesn't leave a residue, so it's mess free. The girls made jewelry out of it and made letters on the windows. Literally, they played in silence with the tape for well over an hour. 


Sticky hands and maze games from the party favor isle at Target. 


Trail Mix 

$5 DVDs- (we did use the DVD player in the Yukon)

I also got 2 shower caddies from the Dollar Store to put in the seats since it would hard to reach the kids if they needed anything. I put wet wipes and extra snacks in those. 

Here are the Lego Kits I put together: 

I bough a pencil box and then hot glue Lego bases to the top and filled the pencil box with a new $5.00 Lego toy. They had fun building the set and putting in on top of the box and were able to built without dropping the pieces. 

These small little boxes helped make our vacation even more enjoyable, which almost seems impossible, because it was so fun. We loved seeing the joy on the kids faces and their excitement in every new thing was infectious.

 I can't wait for our next adventure! 

Lately, I've been reading...

Need a new book? Look no further because I've read some great books lately that I know you will love! (Plus one that you can probably skip, so you can save your time!) 

Here's a quick summary of the books I've read lately: 
Side Note: For a TON of great book round ups, check out Life According To Steph's Monthly Show Us Your Books link up!)

When I heard that Judy Blume was writing another book, the Margaret and Deenie inside me shouted with glee. This book didn't disappoint. There is much less talk about periods and teen angst but it still was a winner for me (my tastes have thankfully matured since the 1990s) 

In the Unlikely Event is based on the true story of numerous plane crashes that plummeted in Blume's home town in the 1950s. Her story looks into how those events effected several different characters.  Her descriptions of the crashes, including news stories and police reports, as well as various characters' personal recollections gives this novel multiple dimensions. Ruby, Christina, Merri, Cathy and more..they all tell a side of the story that the other didn't see and I love how all of it connects in one way or another. It was also really interesting to see how people in the 1950s dealt with tragedy. What a difference from the media circus that occurs in our lives now. These disasters were still felt by other miles and miles away but the stories are told in letters and phone calls and limited news coverage so they are much more personal. Most memorable moment: Realizing a character I loved had died in one of the crashes. I was so involved. It was a riveting story. 

I listened to this family saga on audiobook and I have to say, I just wasn't thrilled. How boring was it, exactly? Enough that I can't remember any of the characters' names. The story has splendid potential: family drama, love triangles and wine. LOTS of wine. What could go wrong?  It's just that this book was everything I hate my wine to be. Bland. Boring. Watered down. And no matter how much I drank, I just needed a little bit more. 

Oh, this book. I'm telling you what. You have to read it. 
It's like Dateline meets True Life meets Intervention. I know for a fact this will probably become a movie at some point. The main character is haunted by ghosts of a past no one should ever have to experience. As a teenager in a privileged life, Ani is revisiting the place where her life changed forever and there is a lot of soul searching she needs to do before she does it. There's a lot of hurt involved in Luckiest Girl Alive, you can see the scars of the characters from miles away. You can tell that Ani is deeply traumatized and the author pulls you in so deep, you'll be captivated all the way to finding how what happened that shattered her life. And that's really just half the story. I feel like I should give you more but  I don't want to ruin any mystery, it is what makes this book so awesome.

I'm currently reading: 

This book, from new author Kate Michaels had me hooked just from the cover alone. It's like the Devil Wears Prada plus the cute girl from SkinnyGirl cocktails. Booze and books. Two of my favorite things, so read it I will! 

Plus, it's about a twenties New Yorker slumming around in a classy way, Sex and the City meets Lena Dunham.  Her first year of living in the big city had plenty of intrigue and possibilities, but the stranger in her bed and the walks of shame aren't living up to her expectations. I can't wait to see how this stories plays out. 

I'm also currently listening to

A judge, a psychiatric nurse, affairs and illicit chat rooms. Don't let he cushy cover of this book fool you.  This raunchy look at what happens when people don't think they are being watched is just the kind of book I'll need to help me move on since I'm done binge watching Orange is the New Black. 

After you've put your book away, I also highly recommend you watch UnReal on Lifetime. You can watch the first 4 episodes online and then catch up on Monday nights. It's a scripted show about producers of a Bachelor type reality show and boy, is it juicy! Just a little heads up for anyone who loves a good show to binge like I do! 

What are you reading?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The ABCs of #GoShoutLove

There's a huge chance you know how to Go Shout Love already. And if you don't, there's an even  bigger chance that you shout love everyday without even realizing that you are changing someone's life.

Here's how three amazing moms are "shouting love" each month (and every day) for special children in need. They not only show love and support for the child, but their families as well. We're talking literally shouting here people- These moms start shouting and then magically, hundreds of people take the lead to encourage, pray, boost, love and provide support - on top of thousands and thousands of dollars to aid in medical bills- for these families.

So let's get to know them a bit more, shall we?

Here's the ABCs of GSL:

A: A group of amazing founders: These compassionate friends always put others first and want to make a huge difference in the lives of others. That's where GSL started: this foundation of love and support from 3 moms: Kristin, Brittan & Jessica. (I'm not biased or anything but Jessica (far right) is one amazing sister on top of everything else!) 

B: B stands for Buy- which is just one of the many, many, ways you can support GSL. First, you can go online and find one-of-a-kind t-shirts and apparel that are designed with the personality of each month's child in mind. A couple months ago, this little guy Jude was being showered with love by thousands, Reese and I included! (Reese is sporting the signature GSL knot headband, which I sometimes steal and wear for myself!)


For every shirt you buy, GSL is able to donate money back to the families. It's double the joy, double the support and double (triple, quadruple..you get the point!) the love!

B is also for "BUY" an Instagram Auction item, which you can do each month by following @goshoutloveauction on Instagram. Each month, TONS of amazing Etsy shops, designers, stores, artists and giving people donate items for the auction. We're talking the cutest kids' apparel, gourmet anything-you-can-dream-of and artsy things you won't find anywhere else. 

C: See stands for Creation- GSL is the creation of all things amazing. It's a place online that cultivates positive support for families who need it the most. They create love, they create a will to share in every heart that is touched by Go Shout Love's mission. It's contagious, it's momentous and it's priceless. 

If you want to know more, take a couple minutes to watch this video about how GSL got its wings. You can also follow along on their social media platforms: 


Now go out there and shout love, people! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

What do I love about a great book? 

I love the simplicity of a story that passionately needs to be told. 
I think that happens anytime someone tackles a fictional novel about World War II. 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is one of those stories. 

The Nightingale is a story about two sisters, Isabelle and Vianne, who are living in France in the late 1930s. Vianne, a mother and wife, quietly enjoys life in the French countryside with her husband and daughter. Her best friend Rachel is next door. They are charmed and happy. Isabelle is Vianne's spirited younger sister who has a history of getting expelled from various boarding schools. She's passionate, reckless and brave. With their mother gone and their father lost to alcoholism, the sisters have no family except for each other, but sadly, they are not close.

But that was before the war. 

Vianne finds herself alone after her husband leaves to fight for France. Soon, there's a German soldier living with her who has taken over her home and requiring her to cook for him. I learned a lot more about the war in this book. What I thought was interesting about Hannah's portrayal was that she created a German soldier that was a likable character. 

Captain Beck comes in Vianne's house but isn't cruel to her. And we've all heard the horror stories of the German soldiers. But there's a companionship that forms between Vianne and Captian Beck that I wasn't expecting. It was the only saving grace about the war for Vianne. For a little while, anyway. Vianne learns how to survive the war, following the rules and keeping her daughter safe. 

Isabelle, on the other hand, was a different story. She's too brave for her own good. She begins aiding American pilots escape the German soldiers and eventually becomes a force to be reckoned with. She was on the run constantly and was one of the most wanted people during the war on France. German soldiers knew there was someone instrumenting the escape of Americans but they couldn't find out who and they most certainly didn't suspect a 19 year old girl. 

The story of Isabelle's bravery and what her sister must do to survive the war makes this book a page turner that I didn't expect. Normally, historic fiction about World War II makes me wary. Let's face it, they are terribly sad. (The most moving books I've read: Sarah's Key, Unbroken) But there is so much fight in this book. Vianne and Isabelle evolve into survivors with every chapter. They change the course of their lives, choosing to fight, refusing to succumb to the tragedy that was befalling their country.  

I think the most amazing part of this story is the resilience of the characters. Despite the execution of their innocent neighbors, the seizing of their homes and the dangers ripping apart their villages, they still manage to protect their will to survive. Vianne has to make decisions that no woman should ever have to face. Isabelle takes risks that make no sense, until you come to understand her brave spirit and respect her drive to not let the war win. 

Both women are able to hold on to a certain part of their hearts that allows them to go on after the war ends. The story begins and ends with one of the woman telling her story, looking back on it from 1996. I pictured Rose from the Titanic, telling Bill Paxton that she dropped the necklace into the ocean in the end. 

It's the perfect way to begin such a saga and then end is beautiful tied together. It's increadible that two women could  go through so much. Tragedy, torture, loss, and yet they still find the capacity to not only love, but to continue to sacrifice for the people they love the most. 

Read it. Read it because it's about the type of history we need to know about. Read it because it's about family and love and bravery. You won't be disappointed. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Playing Catch Up

Today is the first day in so long that I feel like I have time to sit down and write. 
Soccer, the beginning of summer, t-ball, family events and the end of Mad Men...I have had a lot on my plate lately. So this morning, I woke up and realized I have nothing to do. Unfortunately, the Rs are with their dad and whenever that happens, I feel like I'm missing a limb. I'm bored, it's too quiet and I just want them on my lap. 

Today, I'll busy myself some how. Lately, I've had the urge to bake. I thought about cleaning the house but then again, maybe not. I swept and did laundry on Saturday and just talking about it makes me tired. In another life, I'll come back and be in love with house work. Until then, I'll be married to a wonderful guy who weirdly likes to dust and vacuum and live happily ever after. 

Not only have I stopped blogging, I've even been too busy to read. I know. Adulting is hard. It gets in the way far too much. I used to think in terms of books and blogging. I used to remember to bring my book wherever I went and always take photos of my food before I ate it in restaurants. 

Now, my days are measured by the kids' activities and work. Work is huge right now. I love it so much. My creative mind is blown and I love it. But it also means I'm running here and there and when I get home, I feel like my mind/brain/get-up-and-go is deflated. 

Last week, R1 had a bug and had to miss the last 3 days of school. He was devastated because, as we all know, the last days of school are the best. But we tried to make the most of it. 

Life just doesn't get better than Bananagrams and a cuddly 7 year old.

This weekend, we were set to go camping but the rain just keeps coming. And coming. This time last year, we were camping somewhere in the deep wilderness and it was bliss. It was also the weekend CJ asked me to marry him, so I know that as long as mother nature allows, we will always celebrate this week. Today, however, we are stuck indoors. Thus, I finally have time to relax and write. I can't complain. 

Today, I hope to catch up on these. I'm a huge Joan Didion fan, so I've been slowly making my way through The Year of Magical Thinking for the second time. I read it pre-kids and now, as a mother and a wife, it holds a whole new meaning and level of despair. I love her so. I've also put One Step Too Far aside because Reese Witherspoon told me to read The Luckiest Girl Alive and when my girl Reese speaks, I listen. Follow her on Instagram to develop a serious girl crush find out what she's reading.

What else has been going on lately? A lot of a little bit of everything. 

If you live in the KC area and you've never been to Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead, I suggest you go. It was such a great day and there are a ton of different activities for kids to do. The baby goats were a huge hit, and I'm not kidding. (See what I did there?)  

That's all for now. I've got a giant cup of coffee and a house with all the windows open, calling my name.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Round Up: Barnes & Nobel Edition & Life Lately

The other weekend, Hubs and I found ourselves without the kiddos on a beautiful weekend and I said, "let's get the heck outta here!"

And so off we went for beers with this beautiful gal  named Brin and her teddy bear fiance: 

We laughed. We drank a few beers and we talked about her upcoming wedding. It was the bees knees and more. 

We also stopped by a couple of my favorite places. 

Trader Joe's and Barnes & Noble. Can I get an AMEN? I can't think of a better way to spend the day. 
Here's a couple books that caught my attention while in book heaven: 

I am currently reading My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh. It's pretty interesting so far. It's about a boy who knows about the rape of his neighbor and it's written almost documentary style, as if you're reading the script of 48 Hours. So far, so great. I also read the sample of The Children's Crusade and I will definitely keep going with it. 

Lately, our life has been pretty full. We're outside, we're spending time with family, we're cheering on our Royals. We're having fun with friends and there are smiles for days. 

Life is just better when it's 75 degrees and sunny, am I right?

This Mother's Day, I was blown away with the amount of love all around us in our life. The kids gave me beautiful flowers and wrote the sweetest notes to me. Hubs and I even got to take our own mothers to a winery and spend hours just sitting around the table telling stories and laughing with them. 

Seeing my mom enjoying my kids was the best Mother's Day gift I could think of and I know she enjoyed it too. I love this photo so much. Almost as much as I love those smiles.

The summer is quickly approaching. On the horizon? LOTS of t-ball. Playing outside, swimming and a quick trip over to Colorado. It's going to be a great one, that's for sure! 

What are your summer plans? 

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