Book Review: Did You Ever Have A Family

I knew I was going to love this book. Almost like when you know without a shadow of a doubt that the gift under the Christmas tree is the exact gift you have been pining after for months but you have to wait to unwrap it.

I saw this book in my "to-read" list for months and each time I saw it, a tingling started in the back of my brain in anticipation of reading it. I may have even prolonged reading it because I didn't want it to end, even before I had read the first page.

The characters in this book live in a small town in Connecticut. They are torn apart when a fire takes the lives of  several of their loved ones and suddenly, instead of the wedding they had all been planning for, they are planning funerals.

In their own words, mothers, fathers, lovers, friends and acquaintances share their stories of the loved ones they have lost. By coincidence, some of the characters end up in a tiny little hotel thousands of miles away and the story about how they are all connected made my heart do this funny little pitter patter as I read. 

And then just when you are wrapped up in the emotional roller coaster of everyone's sadness, you realize you also need to know how the fire started because you're looking for someone to blame for everyone's pain.

Just be warned. You'll need a comfy spot where you can read for hours because you won't want to put it down (or in my case, be able to stop listening to it) and also, because this book is sad, make sure you have Netflix on the ready so you can binge on some Friends or HIMYM to get your spirits back up. Warning, do not binge on Parenthood while reading this book. You will get a major case of the sads. 

But it's still worth it because I feel like we learn alot about ourselves when we experience another person's plight by listening to their stories. We put pieces together about things that are missing in our own lives or realize that our feelings aren't all together that different, which is comforting. 

It is always a good reminder that everyone else has a story and every person you pass in the grocery store is living a story you have no idea about, so always be kind. In my own life, this book made me take a deep breath in response to the things that I think are "going wrong" or the things/people that stress me out. In the long run and in comparison to the characters in this book, and the families who lose loved ones every day, my problems are minuscule. That is so grounding to remember. 

This is one of those books that makes me want to have coffee with its author and just listen to what led to the telling of the story and if there was inspiration from life behind it and what else he can tell me about the characters. So Bill Clegg, if you read this, let's grab a cup of joe and you can help me write my own powerful novel someday, what do you say? 

Turk the Carvey- Happy Thanksgiving!

Obviously, it's November so that means we have to talk about Thanksgiving. My dream has always been to host holiday get togethers for my family so as soon as we moved into our new house in August, I said I was going to host Thanksgiving dinner, no matter how many people could come. Usually, my family is spread all over and really, everyone does their own thing or visits their other side of the family, in-laws, etc. So I thought, MAYBE, I'd have 10 people over, tops.

Well, apparently everyone decided that this was the year we were all going to come together because they're all coming to my house. My mom, step dad, step brother, my sister and her family, grandmas, great grandmas, my aunt and her family, plus cousins from out of town. I'm getting giddy with excitement just thinking about it. I have literally ALWAYS wanted this exact thing to happen.

My recommendations for the menu if you have Grand Central Station coming to your house on Thanksgiving: The Must Haves: Pioneer Woman's Pecan Pie and Cranberry Sauce.  Plus a ham with pine apples and cherries, just like my mom used to make, green bean casserole and three kinds of corn. And grandma's  stuffing. And a couple mysterious jello molds.

And also, I have found that cooking a turkey is kind of like having a baby. Everyone has their own opinion on how you should birth it. In a roaster. In a bag. Fry it, baste it. Butter it to kingdom come.  I did the only thing I could think of, that you can't actually do if you are pregnant. I put the husband in charge. It's his only real responsibility that day. Other than make sure I don't drink too much wine before I bake the pies.

My other recommendations: I am glad I took the time to make sure the house stayed picked up and decorated before the holidays actually got here because in the craziness, those are the 2 things I would surely let fall by the wayside (like it does every other day of the week).

All my Pinterest projects are done, the floor has been treated and the windows are cleaned. So there should be no stress. I keep wanting to post about how CJ and I made these shelves together and I promise I will eventually. It was such a fun project and they were really easy. I knew the look I wanted for the shelves in the kitchen but I couldn't find them anywhere so, custom job, it was!  And the chalkboard word search art was a labor of love. I hand wrote all of the letters thanks to a very tedious grid CJ made with Scotch tape and then, of course, R1 rubbed all the chalk off and I had to redo the entire thing. Like I said, labor of love. The things I do because of Pinterest. Recommendation for these projects: Patience and determination.

Oh wait, I did find the perfect recipe to recommend for your turkey:

Turk the carvey! Happy Thanksgiving! 

Happy Birthday to my Best Friend, Ryder Cash

Every year when November 14th comes around, I start to feel all of these crazy emotions at once. It just really signifies the first real day of my life. 

When you become a mom, it's like someone gives you a pair of glasses for the first time and you can finally see. And you didn't even know you were blind before. 

I knew nothing before him. I didn't know unconditional love. I didn't know compassion. I didn't know patience. I didn't know where my spot was. 

His birthday is the day that I found all of those things. And now, 8 years later, he is my greatest accomplishment. He and his sister are my proudest moments. Never have I ever felt as proud as I do when I get to claim them as my own. 

I know all of these things now.

Why am I writing this in a blog post? Because no, he doesn't read this now. But hopefully, someday he will. He'll look through all of these posts and laugh and hopefully feel the love I pour into every word I write about him. 

He'll read about the time he broke my redneck wine glass and I hot crazy mad at him. He'll read about the time I stepped on his legos and almost died. He'll hopefully not kill me for posting about the time he accidentally pooped his pants at a friends house. 

He'll also get to see how many lessons he has taught me,  and how there's an actual list of things you have to duck from when you have a son

In the last 8 years I've called 911, been to the ER twice, been called by the principle, pulled out countless splinters, heard one too many butt jokes and skipped hundreds of bedtimes. And I'll never forget the day that he went missing when he decided to ditch daycare and walk home.

He continues to grow up into this amazingly smart, interesting, caring, crazy kid who lights up a room where ever he goes. He loves to read, draw, invent crazy contraptions and watch any sport he can get his hands on. He's all of these great little characteristics all rolled into one. 

There is never going to be a better  gift than being given the job as his mother. Luckiest girl in the world. 

I hope being 8 doesn't make him too old to want to hold my hand or cuddle in bed.

I hope his 8th year is just as exciting and fun and lively as he is. 

Here's to another year of being the best mom I possibly can be to the kid who made me believe in love, laughter and happily ever after. 

Show Us Your Books

Show Us Your Books: October, with Steph and Jana: 

Talk about your books, you ask? Well that's sure easy! Thanks Steph and Jana for having such a fun link up  and thanks to me, for FINALLY remembering to write a post for it. I seriously intend to recap the books I've read every month but I always forget and then face palm myself as soon as I see everyone else's posts. Seriously, this is the best way to add some great reads to your "to read" list so go check out the other bloggers' lists! 

This past month I found some really good ones, especially considered I spent most of the weeks leading up to Halloween reading  "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" with R1. Which I can't say I minded one bit! 

This doesn't really count since I just started it last night, but I wanted to share this beauty because I know I am going to love it: 

I'm super excited that she put some of ther quirkiness on a page. It's just a collection of her stories and memories about growing up in Hollywood. I think she is a truly grounded person who as flourished in her role as a mother. So far, sooo good! 

The Brockhurst File  I recieved from a blogger friend and I was super excited to get started on, mostly because I am addicted to shows like Forensic Files and 20/20. I have to say that even though I wanted it to sweep me away, just like How To Get Away With Murder does every Thursday, this just didn't do it for me. I think maybe it was the onslaught of several characters that you meet within the first pages that made it hard to keep straight. But if you can get thru the confusion of the first couple chapters, it has a creative storyline. 

After You by Jojo Moyes  - I literally flew through this one. You can read my review to get my full opinion but if you read the first book, Me Before You, then it's a natural progression to read the follow up story. I wasn't disappointed! 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: I listened to this on Audible. This is a book with 2 parts but many, many layers. It's a page turner with crazy twists that gives the reader insight that we unfortunately are denied in real life. The characters and loathing and lovable, an addicting combination. Great read.

I posted my review for Brooklyn yesterday. I was said to see it end and said that it didn't have way more details but I still loved it. I love the era, the setting, the characters. Everything. Seriously excited to see the movie! 

Life According to Steph

Life According to Steph  & Jana Says 

I can't wait to see what everyone else has been reading! 

Something I Never Thought I'd Say...

This picture is by far one of the my favorite serendipitous moments...

How put together I am, drinking my morning coffee on a calm, quiet morning, sitting at my clean kitchen bar, reading a book and all of the sudden, I look down and notice that my coffee mug and book match... How perfect is that?

Who am I kidding. We all know that I went searching for that exact mug in the cabinet and placed it perfectly next to my book and even held down the corner of the book because it was bent up and looked a little wonky. But dang it, is that not a cute as hello photo? 

But I really did drink the coffee and I really did sit and read, so that counts. 

Anyway... the point is, I read a book this week and wanted to share. Mostly because something has happened to me that has never, ever happened before.

The book, Brooklyn by Colin Toibin, is short and sweet. I knew half way through that it was too short to be a really great saga, which is what I love. The story had potential to be really intense and very involved.

So on to the thing I've never done before. I am never a huge fan of the movie editions of books. I am always the proprietor of reading the book first and seeing the movie just as a cherry on top. HOWEVER- this is a first for me. Even though this book was good, it was a little boring. For the first time ever, I am more excited to see the movie than I was about the book. Crazy, I know! Just watch the trailer to see what I am talking about: 

Eilis is a very traditional Irish girl in the late 1940s. She lives with her mother and sister and has just gotten her first job in a popular market store. I loved the descriptions of her job, the traditional Irish town, the dialogue and the storytelling. It was smooth, interesting and very easy to read. 

She goes with her friends one evening to a dance hall and meets a boy named Tony. He's Italian, funny, interesting and Eilis finds herself falling love. I really liked their fun courtship, it was cute in a way that all relationships in the 50s were what I imagined them to be. 

But then suddenly Eilis has the opportunity to go to America...a friend of the family suggests that there is better opportunity in New York and arranges her to live in a boarding house and work in a department store. And boom, she's off. A new life, a new future.

But I kept waiting and waiting for more...I kept waiting for Tony to fight more for her to stay. What a huge life changing decision to be made...and I thought it wasn't enough of a big deal in the book. 

She makes a life-changing promise to Tony before she leaves...and of course, as love stories go...her heart changes once she goes to America...

She flourishes in American and eventually begins to love her new life, her friends, her job...and of course, then comes a handsome man named Jim. 

I did still enjoy the book, because I wanted more details, I have to say, I'm going to enjoy the movie even more... 

What's next: Currently, I am reading Wildflower by Drew Barrymore and these 2 beauties I picked up at Target this weekend: 

Review: After You by JoJo Moyes

Let's talk about a really good book, okay? 
And you know what's better than a really good book? TWO really good books. 

There aren't that many great sequels in books. It's a lucky of draw, just like movies. 

A couple years ago, I sat crying my eyes out while reading Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, After that, I obsessively read her others, The Last Letter from Your Lover, One Plus One and The Girl You Left Behind 

I LOVED Me Before You. It was such a compassionate, non-traditional love story. I love the stories where you don't think love is even possible but then suddenly, it's there, right in front of the character and you're as happy for them as you would be if you yourself had just found the love of your life. 

After You was a little bit a curve ball, especially after the page turner of its precursor. I hated finding Louisa Clark so sad and broken at the start of the book, but I don't know why I expected any less. (I won't put any spoilers in this so you can read Me Before You, but I'll just say that you shouldn't expect flowers and sunshine right away.)

Louisa isn't fighting to be happy. She's being a bump on a log, as my mom used to say to me when I was pouting. She's just getting by. Gloomy. She's no longer the quirky girl with the interesting wardrobe. She's just sad. So it took a while for me to get into After You, but I am glad I stuck around because there's a curve ball that made things quite interesting. 

What would you do if life was asking you to keep holding on to something in your past? What if the one thing you were holding on to made it impossible for you to move on? 

I think Louisa is an interesting character because she's alive, but she's got this dead soul, and slowly, during After You, it starts stirring and slowly, you see her come back again. She was such an interesting character at the beginning of Me Before You. She's a very transitional character. It was such a relief to see her come back again in the sequel. 

Anyway, I feel like I am rambling but here's the deal. If you've read Me Before You and loved it, you'll need After Me to tie up the loose ends and check in on Louisa, because there's no way you didn't fall in love with her. If you haven't read it, then go ahead and tackle it, because it's just one of those love stories you need to read. 

Happy Reading! 

Our Halloween Weekend

I just love a good holiday weekend. The buzz of what's to come, the anticipation of all the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and the Sixlets. I just love Halloween. This year was perfect. The weather was chilly enough to wear a jacket but not too cold to have to go home early. There were so many happy kids running around town...

This year was a bit different because instead of trick or treating, R1 chose deer hunting with his dad. That's a true sign that's he's growing up. Way too fast, if you ask me, but I know he had a blast. And his little sister didn't mind asking everyone for "Extra candy for my brother" (candy which I doubt he will ever actually get to eat). She's a smart girl, that one. 

R2 hit her costume out of the park this year. She may have had a little help from her dear old mama but we sure had fun with it. Earlier this year, we had a debacle with a cat and ended up having 6 kittens running around our house, prompting the kids to give me the loving nickname "Crazy Cat Lady" which inspired her getup this year. We took her bath robe, covered it in cats, put her hair up in curlers, gave her a cane and some old lady glasses and voila- a cuter-than-you-know-what Crazy Cat Lady. And of course she asked me to be one of her cats and how could I say no? 

Our town has a really fun Halloween parade and costume contest and when they called her name for 1st Place in her age group, I thought her smile was going to bust off of her face. It was the best feeling ever to watch her beam with pride. Her prize was a giant snow globe with haunted house and bats the flew around it. She carried it around all night and showed everyone. It was the best. We were able to trick or treat, sit on our porch and hand out candy to other trick or treaters and then go out for some more candy. It was perfect. We ended the night in front of the fireplace reading spooky stories in our pjs. Perfection. 

R2 and I also stopped by R1's school's Halloween party to help with some of the games. He made one scary Zombie Football Player. 

We spent the rest of the weekend excitedly watching the Royals, eating candy, playing with left over Halloween make up, and a little bit of reading, naturally. 

It was finally cool enough outside to test the fireplace out for the first time and I can't say I minded one bit. Cozy with a capital "I'm not moving from this couch."
Up next, I'm heading to Kansas City for Go Blog Social's event, Shout Love for Bo with my sister's organization, Go Shout Love. I'm super excited to meet some amazing bloggers and help my sister spread the news about her amazing mission. 

Going to KC also means a sleepover with my mom and sister. And sushi. And wine. Excited much? You betcha.