The Book Battle – May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor

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The summer before 4th grade, my family moved to a new house. There were a lot of amazing things about this place- the trees perfect for climbing, the reflective window that was featured in an architectural magazine, the graveyard boarding our property – but the absolute best were our neighbors, Mrs. and Mr. A.

To my 9 year old brain, they were elderly – but I’m sure they weren’t that old when we moved in. They had grown children with families of their own and an inground pool. Now, if I were over a certain age and I had a family consisting of a 9 year old, a 7 year old and 2 year old moving in next to me, I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled. But Mr. and Mrs. A welcomed us with open arms, introduced us to their kids and their families (still family friends to this day!) and gave us free reign over their pool, letting us host a slew of birthday parties there. I can remember Mr. A only swimming in the pool exactly once- but he maintained it like it was his job, keeping it clean for anyone who wanted to be there.

Mrs. A dealt with health issues over the years and, as I grew older, she spent more time at home. She loved her family, Elvis Presley, colorful jewelry and books (and not necessarily in that order). She’d spend a lot of her summer days on her covered back deck, reading a book by the pool and chatting with with whomever was swimming.

I’ve always been a reader – that child who took a book everywhere. Mrs. A saw that love and nurtured it by slipping me paperback after paperback over the years. If she wasn’t home, I’d find books on her love seat on the porch with a note with my name taped to the cover. I gobbled up every book she sent me and relished being able to talk books with someone who loved them as much as I did.

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My, my mullet, my Grandmother and my book- most likely not socializing at a family party.

As I grew older, the books became a bit more….adult. I owe my love of all romance novels to Mrs. A and she’ll always have my undying love for introducing me to the Outlander series. I vividly remember our VC Andrews phase – when the books would come with a note inside that stated DO NOT SHOW YOUR PARENTS! underlined twice. I’d have to smuggle them into my room, stash them under my bed and read them late at night. Those books were crazy and my parents would have freaked out if they knew what I was reading- but that was part of the fun.

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Anyone else remember this creepy, awful book??

~*~*~*

Scorch goes to a nature camp that has different themes each week. His all time favorite week is Hunger Game week.

<Yes, I know. Let’s not think too hard about who in their right mind models a camp off of those books and what kind of crappy parent sends their kid there. *cough*>

We went to the library this week and Scorch was hell bent on reading the Hunger Games, claiming he was the only one in the whole camp who hasn’t. I hemmed and hawed and talked to the librarian about this. Just because my kid can read at a grade level 2+ years above his, doesn’t mean he should, you know?? The violence, the love triangle, the back stabbing and brutality just didn’t sit right with me – I wasn’t convinced that Scorch was mature enough to handle this series.

And then I remembered Mrs. A and how important she made me feel when she trusted me with books that were way above my maturity level. Reading those books didn’t seem to warp me too much….right?

After much research that night, I finally decided to allow Scorch to read Hunger Games. We agreed that I’d read it along side him and that he could only read the first book in the series, a compromise that made us both happy. So far, it’s been a joy sharing this book with my boy and I’m thrilled to see him dive into a book with such enthusiasm.

Here’s to you, Mrs. A for sneaking me horrible books that I had no business reading- ensuring I’d love reading forever – and for giving me the guts to share that love with my kiddos.

 

11.

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Dearest Scorch,

Last month, you turned 11. Eleven. E-lev-en.

How, sweet child of mine, is that possible? Weren’t you just born? Tiny? Toddling? Learning to talk? Starting pre-school? Kindergarten? Playing t-ball? Sitting in a 5-pt harness? Sleeping in a toddler bed? Wearing adorable white onesies?

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Physically, you’re not a big kid compared to many. But because you’re mine- my first child, my first baby– some days, you seem gigantic. Your toes have dark hairs on them. Your feet seem too big for your body. You want to style your hair and look good. You want to read books and see movies that boggle my mind because I’m convinced they are too mature for you…but they aren’t. My brain just hasn’t caught up to your age.

10 started out rough as you began to spread your wings and test your limits, but it ended on such a high note. Over 5th grade you’ve evolved into a kid who I love spending time with- good natured, funny, sweet and smart.

At the start of May, you and I traveled to NJ for a baseball tournament. We never get to do 1:1 things like that and it was the best. I got to watch you not only do your favorite thing- play baseball- but also see your whole world open up as you made new friends, played in the biggest sports complex you’ve ever seen and see how far baseball can take you. I came home glowing because you were so.damn.happy.

~*~*~

I started this post last month. You know- around your actual birthday, not almost 2 months late. But life- life just took off at warp speed and dragged all of us along with it. And that’s not a bad thing- it’s NEVER a bad thing when you’re so busy living your life, you forget to document it.

Since I started this post, 5th grade ended. On the very last day of school, your whole building has an awards ceremony and 3 kids from each class are recognized. One for academic achievement, one for Catholic identity and one for their character. This year, you won the award for Character. Your teacher gave a speech that makes me tear up every time I hear it because she captured all the reasons I’m so very, very proud to be your mom.

We talk a lot about baseball in relation to you. It’s hard not to when you are rarely not talking about or playing the sport. It dominates our lives 9 months out of the year and we’re all better people for it. But you, my sweet, smart, amazing child, are so much more than a sport and I want you to know it.

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You are….

….a friend to everyone you meet. You have never met a stranger and you’re always quick with a smile, a nod and a friendly word.

…kind. Your heart is huge and you’d pretty much do anything for anyone. Kind is such a small word- it doesn’t sound like much. But it is the one thing I wish for you and your sister to always be. When in doubt, be kind. Always.

…smart. You love to read (sometimes), enjoy math (most of the time) and really dig science. I hope you always want to learn and discover and expand that amazing brain of yours.

…funny. You always love a good joke and funny story. There is nothing that makes me happier than watching you laugh so hard that it looks like your dimple is going to drill right down to your teeth.

…self confident. You can laugh at yourself- and your frequently do. But you seem pretty darn comfortable in your own skin and that’s amazing. I hope you cling to that innate sense that you are, and always will be, good enough for what ever life throws your way.

And now, you are 11. You’re starting 6th grade and full of so much life and laughter that, at times, it brims over. You’re also occasionally moody, more than a little dramatic and sometimes a giant pain in my butt. But you’re one of my favorite people on this earth and I thank God every single day that you are ours.

So here’s to an amazing year- may 11 be your most magical one yet.

All my love,

Mom

 

 

Dear Neglected Blog…

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Dear Neglected Blog,

It’s not you, it’s me. Or more specifically, it’s the kids. They have taken over everything. I don’t know who allowed that to happen, but here we are. The end of March through now has been lost in a haze of baseball, lacrosse, concerts, birthdays and other things I can’t remember. It’s all been amazing and fun, but it’s been a time suck to the nth degree.  Hence, our temporary breakup.

Let’s see- what did you miss. Scorch turned 11 a month ago. We just held his birthday party this past weekend because it was the first day that didn’t involve multiple kids needing to be in multiple places in for-freaking-ever. Back in May, he and I traveled to NJ together for a baseball tournament and that 1:1 time was truly the best gift I received this year- we had a freaking blast.

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We got our first taste of travel baseball and tournament play and it was such a great, positive experience. I don’t want to face the fact that my baby boy is growing up, but he is- and it’s a joy to watch. I promise to post about his 11th birthday before he turns 12.

Beaner tackled some pretty big demons and played in not one but two concerts this spring. Getting this child to put herself out there like that was a huge hurdle and she rocked it. Literally.  She got dragged to more baseball games this spring then she ever had and only lost her mind once, bless her sweet heart. Thankfully s’mores fixed that up quickly for her. Now her lacrosse season started so the tables are turned.

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The Hubs traveled two weeks in a row for work and my job recently changed. All good stuff- but one more thing keeping us busy. I saw Rusted Root in concert two weeks ago and then Neil Diamond the next week. I’m sorry blog, but live music comes before you any day of the week. #sorrynotsorry

School ends next week and I want to tell you I’ll be back more, blog- but that may be a lie. Regular baseball season turns into All-Stars and lacrosse gets into full swing. Camps start up in earnest and life will continue to fly by. And I wouldn’t have this wickedly crazy awesome life work any other way.

Be back soon….

 

To Infinity and Beyond

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We just (a month ago…but it was “just” when I started writing this) returned from our annual trek to Florida and I’m trying not to question too deeply why we live in NY instead of a place where the sun comes out and the air doesn’t freeze my nostrils together. I know there are a million reasons we love living where we do, but when you leave 80 and sunshine and come home to 30 and sleeting, those reasons are hard to remember.

We knew going into this trip that it was going to be different than any other we’ve taken because we were going to fly. I know, I know- not a big deal for most, but we’ve always either driven or taken the train- but we got such a great deal on airfare that it was dumb not to jump on it. So we did and the kids were giddy about it. Truly, I think they were more excited about flying than they were what we were doing in FL.

4 days before we were scheduled to leave, Scorch came down with the stomach bug. Thankfully it was a 12 hours of sickness + 12 hours of recovery time- so nothing too bad and he was back to himself by Monday night. Tuesday, Winter Storm Stella hit our area so the kids were home from school Tuesday and Wednesday. We held our breath on Monday and Tuesday waiting to see if the Bean would get sick, but by Wednesday, we relaxed. It had been 72 full hours and if she hadn’t gotten sick yet, she wouldn’t. Surely, she wouldn’t.

(Do you see where this is going?)

Wednesday night at 10 pm, the poor child woke up and was violently ill. Between bouts of puking, she sobbed because she was sick on our last vacation to St. Louis and during Christmas and now she was going to miss going to FL. It was damn near the most pitiful thing I had ever seen and I was thisclose to crying with her as the Hubs and I freaked out over WTH to do. We were set to leave for the airport in 9 hours and there was was no way we could make this poor baby get on a plane. That wasn’t fair to her or the people on unlucky enough to be stuck on a flying tin can with us.

After some serious scrambling and a lot of late night phone calls, we were able to switch our flight to the same time on Friday, change our hotel reservation and rebook our rental car all with minimal fuss- thank goodness! Thursday we went to the pediatrician and got medication to prevent vomiting just in case and prayed everyone would be well enough to travel the next day.

Friday morning, the Bean wasn’t 100%, but she hadn’t been sick in 20 hours so we hit the road and drove the 3 hours to the airport. The whole first flight experience could not have gone better. We had zero lines, lots of time to kill and super excited kids who were thrillllled to be there. The flight itself was super smooth and we landed in FL almost 2 hours to the minute of taking off. We grabbed our luggage and rental car and took off for Disney, patting ourselves on the back over how well we handled the past 48 hours, ready to start enjoying vacation.

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The Hubs starting puking 10 minutes after we arrived at our hotel.

*sigh* At least he made it to FL. We settled him in the room and I took the kids to the pool and to get dinner, basically putting the poor man in isolation. My wonderful mother-in-law was in FL to spend 4 days with us so when she arrived at the hotel, the 3 of us moved into her room to stay as far away from the germs as humanly possible.

The good news isolation worked. I never got sick and the Hubs was up and rolling by mid-day on Saturday so vacation could officially commence! And we had the best time…

From the hotel pool, where I treated myself to a few of these…

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Watching the kids swim, praying the alcohol will kill all the germs.

To the parks…

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These guys were electrifying…so very cool!

And then finally over the West Coast to the beach…

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Dear Gulf Coast, I love you.

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At the aptly named Sunset Beach on our last night in FL.

…it was perfect.

And now, back to reality. Since I started writing this post, Spring has really started to bloom in NY and I’m remembering why we live here. That’s not to say though, I couldn’t be persuaded to live in paradise full time…

Bless me, Father…

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On the way home from school today, the kids and I did a quick review of what we were doing that night. The boys had baseball and the Bean and I were going to a Lenten Penance Service. For the non-Catholics out there, a Penance Service is an abbreviated Mass followed by numerous priests taking everyone’s confession. Scorch went to confession last week so he gave the Bean some tips on what to expect and what to do. Then, they started listing out possible sins for her to confess to.

They both agreed that she had to include that she calls her brother names, but a big debate started on whether or not she should share what names she calls her brother. The verdict? It was OK to share “moron” with the priest, but not OK to share “ball sack.” (Don’t judge us- it’s a whole new world when you raise an older son and younger daughter who talk about everything.)

~*~*~

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Our gorgeous church

Confessions can be done one of two ways in our church. You can opt to have a privacy screen up between you and the priest or you can sit in a little room face to face. The Bean was adamant that the only way she’d give her confession is if the privacy screen was up. I explained to her that while I’d do everything I could to make that happen, she may have to speak to the priest face to face. She thought about this for a second and asked if I’d go in the room with her if that was the case. I agreed and told her I’d plug my ears so her conversation could be private between her, the priest and God.

Why? You’ve yelled at me for all these sins, so it’s not like they’ll be a surprise to you.”

Good point, kiddo- good point.

~*~*~

When it was my turn, I opted to sit face to face with our priest. We had a great conversation after he heard my confession and, as we were winding down, he reached his hand out to me, looking like he wanted to shake hands. At the last minute, he raised his hand slightly, so his palm was up, facing me. I was super confused so when he started talking, I admit, I didn’t pay any attention to what he was saying because I was trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do with my hands and what the heck he was doing with his. It was super awkward, so I didn’t really think- I just reacted.

I high-fived him.

After I did it, I started listening to what he was saying and realized he was giving me absolution and praying over me and I high-fived him in the  middle of that. He wasn’t raising his hand for a slap, he was raising his hand to give me a blessing.

So I looked at him and he looked at me and we both started cracking up because clearly I am the biggest idiot he’ll see all day long.

 

To My Badass Bean on International Women’s Day

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Dearest Bean-

Today’s International Women’s Day and, until the past few years,  I hadn’t heard much about this day. Started in 1908, the day was created to mark the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Back when it was started, women couldn’t vote. They couldn’t hold most jobs. They couldn’t be whomever they wanted to be. For you and me- white, solidly middle class women living in the Northeast- that’s pretty unimaginable.

Over the past year, we’ve seen women start to roar, loudly and with purpose. You and I and Scorch watched live feeds of Susan B. Anthony’s grave on election day. We marveled at pictures and videos during the Woman’s March on DC. We blasted Beyonce’s Run the World and we read Rebel Girls nightly. We talk about what it means to be a woman today and how the sky is the limit.

But I have something to confess—until I started educating myself, I didn’t know why this was so important. I have never thought I was less than because of my gender. I have never been assaulted. I have never been harassed. I was raised to know my self worth and even at my lowest, I have never, ever doubted that I am worthy of as much respect as a man. Nana and Papa never made me feel less than my brother. I have been very, very blessed- as are you.

But a lot of women aren’t as blessed. There are a countless issues women face world-wide and million reasons why a Woman’s Day is needed, but let’s talk about something you can relate to for a second. Did you know that nearly half a billion women cannot read and 62 million girls are denied an education world-wide? People are not taught to read or allowed go to school simply because they were born with a vagina instead of a penis. Girls are more likely to have to stay at home and tend younger siblings and other household chores; ensuring education falls way down the priority list.

As a result, 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18. Any chance of living a good life is tied to the men in their life—fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. If they marry into poverty or to an abusive spouse, a woman’s options for getting out and moving up are next to none without an education and marketable skills.

Yeah, yeah—I know a lot of that doesn’t mean a lot to you here and now. Child marriages and abuse is as foreign to you as walking on Mars and for that, darling girl, I’m so thankful. But it’s because we’re so blessed—because we do have it so good—that we need to work even harder for those who don’t.

I don’t know what the means for you—hell, I don’t know what it means for me. All I know is that this year, I’ve been inspired to find out how I can give back. Right now that’s been monetary through donations, but I hope to figure out a way to take action and you can bet I’ll be dragging you and Scorch along with me.

~*~*~

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I saw this picture earlier today and gasped. The bull has been a fixture on Wall Street since 1989 and last night, the little badass girl showed up. Her name is Fearless Girl and when I look at her, I see you. You, child, are my  prickly pear. You’re my kid who doesn’t like hugs and who suffers through inane small talk. You keep your tribe small and tight and you hate when you don’t know what to expect or what to do. You are equal parts sass and stubbornness with a side of humor and grace that I marvel at daily.

When you decide to stand for something, you plant both feet firmly and you don’t give up and you don’t care who is in your way. Often times, this makes me crazy—but little girl, you will move mountains. You will vanquish giants and you will always stand up for yourself and I couldn’t be more proud.

So today on International Women’s Day I honor the women who have come before me, I celebrate with the women who fight today and I wait with eagerness and hope to see how you change the world.

I love you, my fearless girl.

-Mom

A Beginner for the Third Time

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The good news is this winter is going by crazy fast! The bad? It’s been almost a month since I’ve wrote anything here.

Normally winter drags here in the frozen north. I can handle November and December because of the holidays, but mid-January through mid-March are the longest months. The days are short, cold and snowy and my motivation to do anything is at a low—all of which doesn’t help pass the time. But this year I decided to change things up a bit and became a skier.

Again.

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The first time I skied was middle school when all the kids joined ski club. We’d hop on a bus after school, drive for 35 minutes and then have 3 hours to ski before heading home. It was the most freedom we had had pretty much had ever and I was so excited. But then I realized I hated the snow, was lazy and that enjoying hot chocolate and french fries was much more fun than falling down a mountain, so the total time actually spent skiing that year was probably under an hour.

8 years ago, my brother was running his own ski club at the school he taught at. He needed an other adult to chaperone the kids, so I volunteered. The Bean was 6 months old at the time and I was dying to get out of the house.  I was so desperate that spending hours out in the cold, hurling my body down a mountain seemed like a better alternative than putting a 2 year old and a 6 month old to bed. Shocking no one, I didn’t like skiing any better this time around- especially after I had an epic wipe out that resulted in one of my skis going down the hill without me while people chanted “Go Lady!” at me from the ski lift as I walked down after it.

So, why, you’re wondering, would things be any different this time around? This time, I was actually doing it with my kids. And there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for them. So, for the past 6 Thursdays I’ve been starting all over again and learning how to ski properly. Scorch has been snow boarding for 3 years now, so he’d go off with his ski club buddies while the Bean, having never skied before, took lessons. Since she was not going anywhere without me, I took lessons as well. And- AMAZINGLY- skiing isn’t so scary when you learn how to do it right! (Shocking, I know).

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By the start of week 2, Bean and I graduated off the Bunny Hill. That meant for 4 weeks in a row, I got to bomb down the slopes with two of my favorite people. And by bomb,  I mean, they bombed with zero fear. Me? Well, I made really, really, really big s-turns while repeating calming phrases to myself out loud- things like “you’re not going to fall” and “you won’t die” and “if Beyonce can carry twins, you can ski!”.

Thursdays very quickly became all of our favorite night of the week. The Hubs is normally the one who does all the  physical activities with the kids, so it’s been great to have something that is just ours, where I get to be a participant instead of the cheerleader from the sidelines. The Hubs has had 5 major knee surgeries in in the past 25 years, so you couldn’t pay him enough to try to ski.

So here we are in March. Ski season is over and I learned that you’re never too old to try something new. Again. (And when you wipe out—because you will, even invoking Beyonce can’t help that—helmets are a wonderful, wonderful thing.)

 

Rebel Girls

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The interesting part, at least for me, in raising both a boy and a girl is ensuring both my children understand their importance. I want to fully elevate my daughter- I want her to know down to her marrow that she is worthy, intelligent and as capable as any man out there. Period. But, I don’t want to do this at the expense of my son because he is just as worthy, intelligent and capable as any person out there. I struggle with the stereotypes of men as bumbling idiots or hostile assholes only out for one thing just as much as I struggle with any stereotypes of women. They aren’t true and falling back on them is harmful to everyone. I will always support female empowerment, but I firmly believe that empowering women doesn’t mean dragging men down (see the infuriating trend in young girls clothing to promote girls while dragging down boys).

My job, as a parent, is to raise my kids to be empathetic, kind, caring individuals who kick ass and take names at whatever they set out to do.

And yet, girls don’t always feel that way. Did you know that by age 6, most girls feel less smart than boys? At 5, when boys and girls are told a story about a super smart, high achieving person and then asked to share if they think the main character is a boy or a girl, boys picked boy and girls picked girl. At 6, girls thought the main character was a boy because only boys could do those super smart things.

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My kids read in fits and starts, each preferring different genres. But one series they have both have consistently loved over the years is the Who Was? series– biographies on everyone from George Washington to Walt Disney and Harriet Tubman to Sally Ride. Scorch owns a few of these and even now, when he’s between the latest James Patterson book for tweens, he’ll pick one up.

When I first learned about the book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls from a blog I frequent, I was intrigued. A book filled with 100 stories about women in all walks of life—inventors, doctors, dancers, pilots, protestors, abolitionists, writers, artists—complete with illustrations, sounded perfect for my kids. So I ordered them a copy and the book arrived this week.

You guys, I went from intrigued to in love. First, this book is gorgeous. From cover to cover, it’s visually lovely, with a butter soft cover. The stories are short—only a page long per person. I have read some complaints about that, but for me and the kids, it’s the perfect glimpse into each woman’s life, allowing us the freedom to do more research as we see fit. For example, after reading the article on Amelia Earhart we looked up more about her—how she got into flying, what she ate on her flights, how she disappeared and on and on.

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Every night before bed, the Bean reads about 3 or 4 women to Scorch and me. I truly, truly cannot recommend this book enough. It sits in the living room now and I find each kid thumbing through it at least once a day, stopping to read a story when a name or an illustration catches their eye.  I love that the kids are getting exposed to women who have changed the world in such a captivating way—proving in a subtle way that girls are just as smart and capable of just as much.

If you have  grade school aged child in your life- boy or girl- this book is a must.

 

Life According to Bean

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A few weeks back, the Bean and I dropped Scorch off at his basketball practice then had an hour to kill before we had to go to our PTA meeting. My girl is hot chocolate obsessed, so we went to a local coffee shop to pass the time. We got our drinks and sat in the chairs outside the shop, inside the mall, to chat and enjoy our goodies.

During the 45 minutes we sat there, 5 people we knew came in and out, so we got to catch up with quite a few friends. To me, this is one of the greatest joys of small town living- you literally can’t go anywhere without knowing someone. While I wouldn’t consider myself a full-blown extrovert, when I’m out and about there is nothing I enjoy more than random meetings and quick chitchat. By the time we left, I was tickled at the chat the Bean and I had and all the friends we saw.

“When you get older, I hope you live in a place surrounded by friends and people you love. We are so lucky to know so many great people!”

“Mom, can I tell you something?” she asked. “I really don’t like people. I just want my good friends and family around me and that’s all- all that talking is exhausting.”

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~*~*~*~

Puberty is a big topic around my house. With a 10 year old boy and an 8 year old girl, both of which have friends in various stages of development, it’s hard to avoid. Scorch knows more than the Bean as he’s older, but she knows that she will one day get her period. What she didn’t know is why.

The kids didn’t have school on Monday, so they pulled out the Care and Keeping of You books I have (girls book / boys book). The Bean flipped to a page in the girls book that had a diagram of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. So I explained what she was seeing – how once a girl hits puberty, once a month her ovaries will release an egg that will travel down one of her tubes and, if she isn’t going to have a baby, come out when her body menstruates.

Shortly there after, the Hubs came home. Without even saying hello, she runs to the top of the stairs and yells down to him: “Once a month, I’m going to lay an egg. Just call me a chicken!

Clearly, I’m killing it at this parenting game!

 

 

 

Favorite Books of 2016

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My love of books is no joke. One of my greatest joys is finding a book so good that I’m willing to feed my kids cereal for dinner and let them watch TV while they eat so I can keep reading. The type of books that keep you up at night- the ones you can’t put down even when you know there will be hell to pay the next day.

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That love of reading, combined with my love of audio books, means I read a lot in 2016. According to Goodreads, I’ve read / listened to 169 books this past year. That’s awesome. Please note, I don’t read crazy hard books, I read for the sheer pleasure of it. My philosophy is that life is too short to read books you don’t fall into. One day when my life isn’t overflowing with kids, sports and work I’ll have the time to challenge myself. But for now? Now I just read for the fun of it.

And here are the books I loved the most this year:

  • Throne of Glass series, Books 4 and 5, by Sarah Maas: Sarah Maas has fast become my favorite YA fantasy author. I feel like attaching YA to the description discredits how very, very, VERY good these books are- I worry that people won’t take them seriously because they are YA. Don’t make that mistake; this series is simply outstanding. The first book is good, but each one takes it to the next level with the world building, the character growth and the plot. (Honorable mention: Sarah Maas’s Court of Thorn & Roses series. Again book 1 was very good. Book 2? AMAZING.)
  • Morning Star by Pierce Brown (last book in the Red Rising series). This was straight up sci-fi and it was spectacular. Each book in the series was good on its own, but together they added up to a well plotted, intense, totally enthralling series. Morning Star tied the series up perfectly.
  • Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt. Scorch’s orchestra instructor self-identifies as queer…a term I thought was passe and offensive, which clearly shows how much I had to learn. And that led me to this book and the fascinating, scary, intimate look at  what trailblazing for LGBTQ rights looks like when it’s your child you’re fighting for. This book combined a compelling family story with the history of transgender rights in America.
  • One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I wrote about this book back in August when the Hubs and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and it’s stuck with me ever since. Emma fell in love with her husband, Jesse, when they were in high school and years later, they married and started building their dream life together. The dream shattered when Jesse disappeared in a plane crash. It took Emma years to piece her life together again, but she did it- and finally fell in love again. But on the eve of her second marriage, Jesse came home. Melodramatic? Yes. But also thought provoking, funny, sad and ultimately full of hope.
  • The Year of Yes by Shondra Rhimes. This book should be required listening for every working mom out there because in this book, Shondra learns how to unapologetically own her shit and it’s amazing. There is no balance – there is no magic formula for being a kick-ass mom and an amazing employee. There is just all of us doing the very best we can and giving a fat ton of credit to the people that help us along the way. Do yourself a favor- *listen* to this book, don’t read it. Trust me on this.
  • City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong. I love Armstrong’s Cainsville series- a little bit paranormal, a little bit detective story, a lot sexy- but I wasn’t sure how I’d like her mystery book. I shouldn’t have worried- this was a great book in the vein of Jeffrey Deavers. Very much looking forward to book 2.
  • Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. I adored A Man Called Ove, but wasn’t a huge fan of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry so I approached this book with some trepidation. Admittedly, it took me a while to sink into this book, but once I did, I loved it. Loving, sad, heartwarming and uplifting- the perfect book to curl up with for the weekend.
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. A sweet story with a surprising bite about a young girl on the eve of being deported and the love she finds. I love stories where all the lines intersect and this was a perfect example of how we touch each others lives without even realizing it.
  • Dirt Roads and Diner Pies by Shonna Milliken Humphrey. Shonna is an old friend with a hell of a story to tell. As I wrote when I first read this, I hate books that show me real life monsters—give me a werewolf anytime. But sometimes the monsters ARE real and the horror they inflect ripples out and that cannot be ignored. Without a doubt, this was the most important book I read all year.

I also devoured a bunch of fantasy series (urban, mostly)- all of which were fantastic in their own right but may not appeal to everyone: The Others, Alpha and Omega, Mercy Thompson, Charley Davidson, October Daye, Kate Daniels, and Fever.

So, here’s to more books in 2017—I’m already 9 books in! What are you reading? Please, share your favorite—I’m always on the look out for something new!