Monday, May 2, 2016

Pros and Cons of Apartment Living

We've been in our house for almost a month now, so I've had a little time to reflect on almost six years of apartment life. From our first little tiny place in Goldsboro (good old Ash Street!) to our New Bern townhouse to our Texas apartment, we've had varying experiences over the years but overall I really enjoyed living in each of those spaces. I was going to write "things I miss about apartment life" and then I changed it to "things I don't miss" and then I got smart and decided to combine the two. =)

Pro: Quick cleaning. I am a bit of a neat freak (in visible spaces, anyway... my closet can be another story sometimes!) and only having a few hundred square feet to keep clean was awesome. It was also awesome that even deep cleaning took under an hour. Honestly, it doesn't take a whole lot longer than that to clean my house because I don't like cleaning so I do it as quickly as possible =) but still. I could deep clean the apartment in like 45 minutes, which was great.

Con: loud neighbors. Somehow, no matter where we lived, we managed to be stuck under or over couples who hated each other and loved to scream at each other at all hours of the night. (I wish I were exaggerating.) Beyond the cursing, there was usually stomping, loud music (this last downstairs neighbor inexplicably loved techno) and partying on the patio right under our bedroom. (So fun!) I'm sure we weren't always the best either, with our screaming newborn and all, but we tried to be considerate (and we weren't hurling profanities back and forth at 2 am! Ah!) I did the whole broomstick on the floor thing a few weeks before we left because you wake up my baby, you deal with my wrath! #mamabear

Pro: Maintenance crew. When something broke, it wasn't really our problem; we could just call and someone would come fix it. Now we have a two-person maintenance crew: me and Jonathan( really just me, because let's be honest- that's not my jam.) And even though we're educated in other areas, we're not exactly fix-it people. At least Jonathan is good at figuring out instructions and when all else fails, there's YouTube. 

Con: Three. Flights. of. Stairs. One of the main reasons we moved from our apartment (and this sounds crazy, but it's not) was that we were on the third floor and there were no elevators. Carrying a baby in a carseat + third floor + Texas heat = no bueno. I seriously did not want to deal with that with the summer and 100+ temperatures coming. (Also a certain baby in this house is only getting heavier as the days go by so... yeah. Not happening.) 


No more stairs! Woohoo!

Pro: No bugs! Since we were on the third floor, it was extremely hard for bugs to make it all the way up to our apartment. I've killed more bugs in the month we've lived in this house than I did in a whole year in our last apartment. (This includes a roach Jonathan killed tonight so I'm considering burning the house down. Nope, nope, nope.) 

Con: Limited Storage/Customization. (I'm combining these!) Our apartment had pretty good closet space but there was still not much room for all of our junk seasonal stuff, tools, etc. (Tools sounds better... mostly we needed room for our books.) And not being able to paint meant that every room was the exact same color so that got old quickly. We haven't made huge cosmetic changes to our house but at least we have the option if we want to, and we have painted so that every space isn't a sea of khaki-colored walls. 

Pro: the pool. THE POOOOOOOL. Seriously, y'all... I've been in mourning ever since we moved because that pool was seriously my favorite thing ever. (Plus this time last year I already had a great tan.) It wasn't just a pool, either... it was gorgeous and the majority of the time I was the only person there so I really felt like it was mine. =( 


Goodbye, old friend. 

I'm so thankful for all the memories of our years in apartments (even those shouting matches are a little funny now.) But I am loving our house and all the extra space... we're really settled now and hopefully I'll get some good pictures together to share soon. (Just don't ask to see the garage. Now that we finally have one we're definitely putting it to good use! #hoarders) 


Friday, March 11, 2016

Alice Juliet- Five Months

Is it weird that this month has gone faster than any other since Alice was born? I don't know why, since it's been the hardest by far- RSV followed by the beginning of stages of teething, Heaven help me- but it's true. It feels like I just took her four-month picture and lo and behold it was time to pull out the monthly stickers again this week. (Everyone tells me that this dedication to documenting the minutia of my child's life will not last past my firstborn. We shall see.)


The good news is that Alice is finally better. The bad news is that she started teething and is really wanting to be mobile- two things that cause her (and me) great distress. I've been dreading teething and crawling basically since she was born so the coming months are sure to be a barrel of fun for both of us! =) Anyway, here's the latest on our little chunker:

Weight and Length- lest you remember her weight from last month and worry that Miss Leg Rolls has gone on a diet (you don't and she hasn't), I got two things wrong last time- she was weighed with her clothes on at the Urgent Care AND I wrote down the incorrect weight. She weighs about 14.5 pounds, probably a little closer to 15 now, and she's about 24 inches long.

Nicknames- Alice from the Palace, Love Bug, Squish, Little Girl, Pookie, Troll, Spitty (seriously, you guys, the spit up, THE SPIT UP!) and Al (but only by me because I gave her birth to her so I can call her whatever I want.)

Sleep- about 9-10 hours a night (praise the Lord, seriously... I have done nothing in my life to deserve such a blessing. I did stick to Babywise pretty closely from the time she was born, however, so I will give credit where it is due.) She has one long nap in the morning and a couple of shorter ones in the afternoon. (Currently she should be napping but is instead jabbering away in her crib.)

Eating- still every three hours. She's been getting hungry a little sooner than that actually, so I'm guessing it's a growth spurt and also we need to bump up the amount she gets in a bottle to probably six ounces. She only has one bottle a day unless we're out during a feeding time so that's not a huge issue but her one bottle is her first feeding so we're trying to figure out what works there. We tried a little rice cereal and she was not a fan (I'm not either, really- it looks like extremely unappealing Cream of Wheat) but I'm hoping to introduce some vegetables here soon.


Clothing- she's at a weird spot where almost all her three month stuff is way too small but 3-6 is still pretty big. But then again, her tops are 3-6 or 6 months because she has such a long torso that wearing her regular size means a lot of crop tops. Ha! We have a ton of 6mo stuff so I'll be set in another month or two. (She's certainly not going naked, people- this child has an absurd amount of clothes.)

Mood- hmm... still happy MOST of the time, but the teething is really doing a number on her jolliness. It's mostly in the evening and/or as soon as she wakes up from a nap. And really only at home- she still rarely cries when we're out. Oh, except in the car- her new least favorite spot. 

Loves-
-hanging out with daddy
-trying to push/sit up/scoot (I'm so not ready for this mobility)
-napping on me (I'm essentially a body pillow at this point. Another reason not to diet. Haha)
-being outside
-her Disney songs
-grabbing anything and everything 

-books- she loves to look at the pictures! 
-stuffing her shirt/bib/blanket in her mouth (ew)
-her teething rings

-yanking my hair (seriously it hurts so bad. Thanks, Alice.)

-my singing (I know, it's a mystery. But she really does.)

Doesn't Love-
-being put down when she's upset. Or sitting down with someone when she's upset. Only walking around will do. Dance, puppet, dance! (I'm the puppet.)

-being in the car (I thought it was the carseat but she's fine in the stroller.)
-face planting on the carpet (not that I let that happen. #badmama)



Maybe my favorite picture of us yet! Her face!


What I Want to Remember/Milestones- well, for one thing, since I know this won't last, I want to document the fact that she is a total mama's girl right now. I know, it's mostly because I'm with her 24 hours a day and she knows I'm her sole food source, but it makes me inordinately pleased that I am the number one person who can comfort her and that she is full of smiles for me almost all the time. (Don't get me wrong, she loves her daddy too!) But one day when she picks her dad 100% of the time, and she will because he's the fun parent, I'll remember these days. =) Also she is becoming very... shall we say... opinionated and has developed a very charming pterodactyl-type shriek that she employs throughout to express herself. Make a joyful noise, indeed. (She really doesn't do it out of anger most of the time, thank goodness.) I'm trying to take as many mental snapshots of these moments as possible- her relaxing against her daddy on the couch, reading at night, cracking her up by singing and dancing to Disney Pandora, bath time, our first trip to the pool, shopping for her first swimsuit (pictures are coming soon!), shopping for her first little sandals... ah! So many things. It's such a fun time with her right now. 


What I'm Looking Forward To- putting together her first Easter basket, her baby dedication sometime this spring, trying new foods, Gigi coming to visit. (Oh, and Alice's future best friend/potential husband Sawyer is going to be born sometime in the next few weeks and we can't WAIT to meet him!)

Me- this month has been draining on my already psycho-worrier mind. Since Alice was sick three out of the last four weeks, there was a lot of "Is she breathing? (at night) Should we go back to the doctor? Better go check on her for the 17th time tonight." Having a sick baby is hard but it's also given me a ton more empathy and compassion for those who have serious illnesses they're dealing with... I can't imagine her being in the hospital for a prolonged stay or anything like that. That being said, it's also forced me to be a little more flexible. It's hard to stick to your ironclad schedule when your baby is all snotty and grumpy and just wants to be held. Whatever you want, Your Majesty! Your congested wish is my command! =) I won't say I haven't been slightly stir-crazy in the past month but Jonathan has been good about setting me free letting me go out a few times and honestly, when I see how happy and joyful Alice is despite being sick it's made me want to be more like her! (Of course, her only concerns are eating and pooping and figuring out to best scalp her mother one handful of hair at a time but still.)



Happy five months, little one! We love you more every day and you fill our days with sunshine and spit up. What a life! =)






Monday, February 22, 2016

Five Ways to Read More

I totally understand that reading more (or reading at all) isn't necessarily a priority for everyone, but I hear people, especially moms, say all the time that they wish they had more time to read AND the truth is that everyone has the same amount of time and we all choose how to spend it. 

Now, before you reach through your screen and slap me... gear down, Big Shifter- I realize that obviously since I stay home with Alice and don't have a "job" (even though teaching was a lot easier than having a newborn! =) I have more free time than most moms. And everyone has different interests/hobbies... if you'd rather watch tv than read, I get it! It usually involves way less concentration (and I definitely have Netflix days where I don't crack a book open.) 

That being said, I have been asked a time or two how I manage to read so many books. The short answer is that I quit my job and have stayed home the vast majority of the time for the past year and a half. (Totally doable, right??) Since that's not a viable option, here are a few tips that everyone can apply no matter how busy their schedules. 


If you really want to fly through some books, choose ones that only have a couple of words per page. You'll feels so accomplished! =) 

-Find what works for you. It's easier for me to read on my phone while I'm feeding Alice but I have a really hard time following nonfiction when I'm on the Kindle app, so if there's a nonfiction book I want to read I usually get a physical copy. If I'm trying (and failing) to follow a more complicated book, I'll be more likely to give up (or get distracted by Facebook/Instagram/YouTube/whatever.) 


-Read what you like. I really love fiction and sometimes just need a simple plot to unwind, but I read a lot of nonfiction even though it doesn't always hold my attention the same way. But just because something is a "must-read" on lots of lists (even the New York Times!) doesn't mean you have to like it. For me, that means anything scary, graphic, or with a lot of language. (I'm a fairly sensitive person and graphic imagery of any kind really messes with my head.) On a podcast I listened to recently, a lady said she worries that her book choices won't seem "smart enough" to her friends. Who cares? Most of my favorite books are children's literature. I don't feel less than "intellectual" because I'd rather read Nancy Drew than Stephen King, you know? If a stack of Beverly Cleary sounds more appealing to you than the latest adult fiction, go for it. (Those Ramona books are probably more well-written anyway.) The point here is that reading something you enjoy makes it more of a priority because you will want to find out what happens! =)


-Abandon a book if you hate it. Like I said in the last point, you don't have to like a book just because someone else does, so if you're reading a book and it's just not holding your attention or you hate the plot or you want to strangle the main character (Scarlett O'Hara, anyone?!) give it up without guilt. Life is too short to sludge through lame or boring books when there are so many out there to be read and loved! I always feel a little bad about quitting a book (or returning it to the library without even getting to it!) but sometimes, like I said, I would rather spend my time on books I like than committing to something I'm not even enjoying. There are enough things we HAVE to spend time on that aren't enjoyable... why waste our precious reading time on drivel? (I'm aware that drivel is totally subjective and what may be awesome to me is total garbage to you. That's what makes it fun. =)


-Make it convenient. I can (and sometimes do) talk everyone's ears off about Gretchen Rubin's advice and research regarding our habits. (Check out her podcast, "Happier" or her website for more information.) One of her best tips for any habit, not just reading, is "make it easy to do right and hard to go wrong." Want to read/exercise/eat healthy/stay organized? Make it easy/convenient! Right or wrong, the fact is we are all influenced enormously by how convenient something is, so if you want to read more, make it easy to do so!


Downloads books on your kindle app if that works for you, carry a book in your bag for those inevitable down times like the car line at school, waiting rooms, etc., and utilize your library. It was a happy day when I started taking advantage of my library's hold system. I can search the database online, request the books I want, and then pick them up when they're ready. This also makes Jonathan happy because he knows that my usual "let me run into the library" time ends up taking much longer... I tend to get distracted. =) And nearly every library now uses an online checkout system called Overdrive that allows you to borrow books through the Kindle app too. So really, you don't even have to leave your house (or spend any money) to get new books to read! No excuses! =) 


Another option, especially for those who love to multitask, is to download audiobooks (also available through your library's online database.) Pop in those earbuds and "read" away while you fold laundry, make your commute, or even exercise. (Bleh! Maybe that will make the gym more fun.) I admit, I have a hard time with audiobooks (maybe because I have a baby to distract me at any and all moments of the day) but most people agree that it's kind of a skill to be developed. 


-Take what you can get. I know that our ideal reading scenario is curled up on the couch with a book and a cup of coffee, with no noise or distractions to pull us away from the story. But with kids, work, errands, and a multitude of other things, your reading time may not be that picture-perfect. And even though reading is an important thing, it's obviously not THE most important thing. My reading has dropped off a little since Alice was born because there are definitely moments when holding her is a priority (like this week- my poor sickie!) and I have to set my books aside. That's a no-brainer! But I'd rather catch a few pages at a time than just throw up my hands and say, "Well, I have a baby! Reading time's over till kindergarten!" We all have our priorities and reading happens to be one of mine (along with Diagnosis Murder marathons and keeping You've Got Mail on repeat. =) 


So, if you're looking to finally finish that book (or stack of books) that's been on your nightstand for months, maybe this will help. For stellar recommendations, check out Everyday Reading (my go-to for years now!) and Modern Mrs. Darcy- Janssen and Anne both have awesome book lists all the time and lots more reading information. (In fact, Anne just started a podcast called "What Should I Read Next?". Perfect!) And I have a book list or two here if you care to poke around. =) 


As always, happy reading! 



Ash







Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Alice Juliet- Four Months

Nothing says "we've been out of town and sick" like a four-month update that is a week late, but here we are! I can't believe  my girl has already gone through a third of her first year! (And I've kept her alive this whole time! Yay me! =) Unfortunately all my plans to share this post and a couple others have been derailed thanks to RSV paying us a nasty little visit. (Before you are too sympathetic for me, know that my sister has THREE kids with it. Send all sympathy and blessings her way. =( Anyway, I'm finally taking advantage of a nap by being productive instead of, you know, napping myself. And on to the main lady, Miss Alice herself...


Come on... can you handle this? Because I cannot. 


Weight and Length- I thought I would have to wait until her doctor's appointment next week to find out, but sadly because of our unexpected urgent care trip she was weighed on Monday night and she is 14 pounds, 8.5 ounces! Ahh! Big girl! I knew she had to weigh around 14 pounds because Lillian weighs a little over 13 and Alice is, shall we say, wider than her cousin. =) But it was still a shock that she's so much bigger than when she was born! =( I'm not positive about her length... one of these days I'll have to pin down her squirmy self and measure. We should find out next week at her checkup though. 

Nicknames- Alice from the Palace, Love Bug, Squish, Little Girl, Pookie, many other over the top uses of "sugar," baby," sweetheart," etc.

Sleep- doing great! She sleeps around nine hours most nights and more if she skips her last feeding, which I'm trying to phase out a little at a time. She is doing really well in her room but up until this week would not nap in her bed. Starting on Monday when she was sick, she refused to sleep anywhere BUT her room, so we shall see if she sticks to that in the future. I really don't mind that she doesn't, but I feel like she rests better without the interruptions around her so naps in her room would be good. I'm just extremely grateful she sleeps so well at night!

Eating- obviously, she's eating well (see weight. Ha!) She eats pretty much every three hours on the dot if we're home... if we are out and about I may let her go 3.5 and occasionally 4, and at night she is more like 2.5 between her last couple of feedings. Having a schedule is so nice because finally, after weeks of never knowing quite what our day would look like, I can plan around her feeding schedule. (I stuck to a schedule from the time she was born but her first feeding, which determined the rest of the day, wasn't consistent until she was about two months old.) The only time she seems to struggle with nursing is after a day being out/traveling where she has to have several bottles (last Tuesday when we went to Georgia, nursing her that night was a nightmare!) We are getting ready to introduce real food so that is sure to be an adventure! 


Clothing- mostly three months, some 3-6. It's already so warm here that I'm a little nervous about her still having lots of wintery 3-6 outfits but at least with the air conditioning being SO cold everywhere, she'll stay warm inside wherever we go. =) Dressing her is so fun... I love it!

Mood- happy sweetheart. This week is the fussiest she's been probably since she's been born. I hate her being sick =( but she has been much jollier since getting her breathing treatments. Overall, she is very happy and content.

Loves-
-watching basketball with her daddy
-rolling over
-sleeping on her side
-bath time- she's really starting to splash
-music- especially her Disney lullabies and JJ Heller!
-grabbing her feet

-being read to- we are currently working our way through the Chronicles of Narnia series at bedtime!
-sucking her thumb (noooo!)
-drooling and sucking on her fingers/hands (just lovely)

-cuddling with a blanket

Doesn't Love-
-her little bouncy seat, which is too small- time for an upgrade!

-saline and suction =(
-being stuffed up =( =( 
-getting stuck on her tummy 
-falling asleep on her arm and it falling asleep (just like me!) 

What I Want to Remember/Milestones- her personality is showing all the time! She is so sociable, smiley, and happy. She is very determined- when she's trying to roll over or grab something, she works at it! And I'm learning that she does really well with independence/alone time... especially when it comes to sleeping. (Extrovert AND introvert tendencies already!) She's just so much fun right now. She loves silly songs, voices, faces and probably does a better job making herself laugh than anyone else. (She thinks blowing spit everywhere is just hilarious.) I loved seeing her with Lillian this week and watching the bigger kids with her. I hate that she's so far from her cousins but they are so sweet when they're together! 


What I'm Looking Forward To- her first Easter and all her cute spring outfits, along with her first (closely-guarded, sunscreen-slathered) trips to the pool.

Me- Motherhood is a strange thing. It brings out emotions and behaviors that you don't usually display, on extreme ends of the spectrum. 
I've simultaneously become more rigid and more flexible, bolder and more private, and tougher and more selfless. (Slightly contradictory but all true!) I didn't realize just how scheduled I am until a) last week when we were out of town and b) this week with Alice being sick. I've always like to plan my time but I really thrive on our schedule, and I think Alice does too. That being said, I don't want to be one of those people whose schedule rules their lives with an iron fist and they are insensitive to the needs of others because THE SCHEDULE (think THE CLAAAWWW from Toy Story) dictates whether or not we can enjoy time with family, reach out to a friend, or just having some spontaneous fun. (If anyone squelches spontaneity in this house, though, it's Jonathan and not the schedule. Ha! We're just a couple of planners!) 


Anyway, I could not love this baby more. It's been just over a year since I found out I was pregnant and I could not have dreamed up a sweeter, prettier girl than the one God gave us. (I'm not biased at all!) There's a meme out there somewhere that has a mom frazzled and stressed and yelling at her kids and then the bottom shows her standing over their beds while they're sleeping and the caption says, "I love you so much I might die." The yelling, frazzled part hasn't started yet but I can definitely identify with the caption! No matter how frustrating a day is, I am overwhelmed every single night that this little squish belongs to me and her daddy. =)


Growing so big! =( 

Happy Wednesday! 


Ash




Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Just Wait!"

There's a phrase that I've been hearing for years- and may even be guilty of using myself from time to time- and I've gotten so tired of it that I'm ready to suggest that it be banned forever. Perhaps you've heard it too... you're sharing a story or an experience or something that's specific to your current stage of life, only to be told, "Oh, just wait!"

To the teenager, we say, "Just wait until you're in college..."

To a college student, we say, "Just wait until you're an adult in the real world."

To a single, married people say, "Just wait until you're married!" 

To newlyweds, we say, "Just wait until the honeymoon wears off!"

To couples without kids, we say "Just wait until you have a baby!"

To couples with one baby, we say "Just wait until you have a toddler!"

To couples with one child, we say "Just wait until you have two (or three or four)!" 

To couples with young kids, we say, "Just wait until they're teenagers!'

To couples with teenagers, we say, "Just wait until they're grown!"

Good grief... why can't everyone be able to experience, enjoy, muddle through, cry over, or whatever in each stage of life without it being belittled or dismissed by someone in the next stage? I'm a mom of a three-month-old baby, so no- I don't know what it's like to chase a toddler or argue with a teenager, but I'm still a mom. Single people can have full lives without (gasp!) constantly seeking a date or marriage. Teenagers do have problems, no matter how trivial they seem to us, and they don't have to wait until adulthood to experience sadness or betrayal or hurt. 

Even though these words can come from good intentions (as in, "don't worry- you can survive this!"), it seems that more often than not we are just grumpy people who want to feel a little superior to someone because we've come through a stage that they haven't yet. Or for some reason we have a bit of a sadistic pleasure in letting people know that their lives will become more difficult. (Misery loves company!) Someone recently said to me, upon hearing that Alice is a very good, easy baby, "Well, that just means she'll be a really difficult toddler!" What? Maybe she will be. Maybe Alice will go from my sweet, smiling baby to a little hoodlum whose screams can be heard throughout Target (heaven forbid!) but nothing guarantees that and why on earth would you want it to? 

Besides being condescending, this "just wait" business completely contradicts what we are told in Philippians 4:11- that in whatever "state" or stage we can find contentment. (I'm not talking about truly difficult seasons of sickness, loss, dire financial straits, etc. but just the typical day-to-day living most of us are dealing with.) Being single or having a newborn or going to college are all unique times of life, meant to be enjoyed (sometimes endured) but not constantly compared to whatever someone else is going through. Don't we all know that sometimes even after marriage, the single life has some appeal? Or that moms of toddlers look back fondly at the days of their little squishy newborns, or that parents of teenagers certainly miss even the craziest days with that toddler who is suddenly sporting acne and a perpetual scowl? 

The point is this: offering encouragement to someone to help them make through a rough patch in life is fine, and even admirable. But acting as if their experiences are irrelevant because yours are different is not okay. (I remember being so mad as a teenager when someone told me I didn't know what it meant to be tired. I didn't, but that's not the point.) "Just wait...." usually ends with something negative that either puts down their current stage of life or makes them dread the next one. (This is especially true of marriage- I love how older couples sometimes make it their mission to make sure young couples have nothing to look forward to.) 


Current stage... taking mirror selfies with my squishy girl =)


So, let's try to meet people where they are, allow each other to fully experience each lovely (or not-so-lovely) chapter of life as it unfolds, and be reminded that it's okay to "just" be a student, or a newlywed, or a first or fifth time mom, or a grandparent. Each stage is easier or harder to more or less fun than someone else's, but if we are finding our identity in Christ than any time of life can be beautiful and joyful. And if it doesn't seem that way today, well... just wait. =)


Ash

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2015

I know, I know... it's already the middle of January and I'm way overdue for sharing books all the way from last year... but I'm just now getting around to it. It's not like I've been busy, necessarily, but I was out of town, then Alice had a cold, then we moved her to her room and sleep became a little dicey. (Excuses, excuses.) I'll just say I have been deep in thought as to which books I should share... that sounds better. =)

Reading with my little future bookworm =)

I've broken this up into fiction, nonfiction, and memoir/biography for your convenience and I'll try to make my summaries brief. (Ha!)

Fiction:

-Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. This journal-style novel about a young girl who has grown up in foster care and now faces adulthood is so sweet. The ending might leave you in tears, but in the best, most romantic way.

-Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson. The subtitle of this book is "a proper romance" and that's exactly what it is. It's set in England in the 19th century and is just the sweetest love story. It's a quick, light read with a great plot and characters.

-The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly. I wish this was a series because I loved it so much! It's about sisters, so I related, naturally, and they're descendants of Jo March (in this book, she's a real person.) The back and forth between time periods (which I don't usually care for) is seamless and I was sad when the book ended.

-Lizzie and Jane by Katherine Reay. Two from the same author? Yes, she's that good! This one has a lot going on- cancer treatment, family drama, romance- but at its core it's another sister story and I absolutely loved it. (Bonus: right now the Kindle version is on sale for $1.99!)

-The Lake House by Kate Morton. I read my first Kate Morton novel several years ago and have since read all her books- this one is her best yet. Each of her stories have a major twist and this one was my favorite so far. The story goes back and forth between the mysterious disappearance of a little boy (from the perspective of his older sister) and a detective who is trying to solve the decades-old case. Intriguing!

Non-Fiction:

-David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Honestly, I could include all of Gladwell's books because each of them is excellent, but this one happens to be my favorite. The entire premise is that what we view as disadvantages or "underdog" circumstances actually are the opposite in the long run and each chapter explores that philosophy in a different way. Totally fascinating. 

-Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. Oh my... I want everyone to read this book, determine their tendency, and then tell me so we can have a giant virtual book club about it. I think about information from this guide to better habits and living so often (and reinforce all the excellent tips by listening to Gretchen's podcast, "Happier," that she records with her sister each week.) Check this one out; it is guaranteed to help you!

-Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. I absolutely loved this inside look at the creation of computer animation and Pixar. The stories ranged from the near-death of Toy Story early on (what a loss that would have been!) and working with Steve Jobs (always fascinating to me.) The book also contains lots of useful and helpful leadership and business principles but would be enjoyable for any Pixar fan, I think.

-Do Over by Jon Acuff. I've recommended this book multiple times since reading it this summer. So many books about career change are mostly a collection of Pinterest memes like "chase your dreams and anything can happen!" but this one is full of practical, REAL advice that can be applied to many different situations. Plus Jon is hilarious and makes you feel like he's your friend. (Follow him on Twitter or Instagram for daily humor!)

-Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West. This book combines two of my favorite things: history and "behind the scenes." It's like bonus features for American history! The author was the chief usher at the White House for nearly thirty years and his details about his work and each First Lady is so interesting. It's informative but not gossipy (and be prepared to cry when he describes saying goodbye to Jackie Kennedy.) 

-Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I'm not a true introvert (although I am classified as one by Myers-Briggs) but this book about how our culture- from jobs to education to parenting- is tailored toward extroverts was so eye-opening. The chapters on education were especially interesting to the teacher side of me- and it turns out that methods I've never been a big fan of (think group projects, for example) have been proven to be more harmful than helpful. 

-Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. The premise of this book- a discussion about death and dying- did not initially interest me (and sounded depressing!) but I plowed through this in a day. It's so important to have the right information when it comes to care for the elderly, terminal illness, etc. and the author (a surgeon) gives personal, touching stories that back up his medical information. 

Biography/Memoir

-Belles on Their Toes by Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. This is the simply delightful sequel to the already delightful Cheaper by the Dozen. I love the Gilbreth family (even more so because they were real people) and to catch up with them after the death of their dad and see how they survived the next few years with their typical humor and hard work is so fun. (And if you can find it, check out Time Out for Happiness by Frank Jr. It delves more deeply into motion study and the backgrounds of both parents and I just love it.)

-Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. This is one of those books that is so rewarding to take the time to read and finish because it can be truly transformative if you allow the story to really sink in. The in-depth look at the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his early years as a theologian to his eventual death at the hands of the Nazis, is a study in sacrifice for Christ. (I highly recommend the student version for any young people in your life!)

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This was such a sweet memoir about growing up in Brooklyn in the day of the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers/Yankees rivalry. The author describes her idyllic childhood, "growing up" moments, and the loss of her mother- all anchored in her and her dad's mutual love of baseball. I love this because it reminds me of my own baseball-obsessed childhood and also because her tone is very similar to Beverly Cleary's... pretty much the highest compliment I can give.

-Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth. I read this while I was pregnant (probably a mistake!) but the stories about being a midwife in the slums of London during the 50s and 60s pulled me in. Some were sweet, some were funny, some were tragic- and they all reminded me how thankful I am for modern medicine. =) (Everyone keeps telling me to watch the PBS series. It's on my list!)

-The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I'm ashamed to say I had never read this book in its entirety but I finally did and it was amazing. Like Bonhoeffer, it definitely has the power to change your life if you apply the principles found in Corrie's story. Her faith and strength in the face of danger, loss, and suffering challenged and inspired me. This is a must-read. 

-41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush. Since George H.W. Bush is my favorite president this inside look at his life was completely fascinating. I thought W. did a good job of being a proud son but also objectively presenting facts about his dad's administration. (Also I've visited the George. H.W. Bush Presidential Library twice now and I love it enough to go back any time. It's awesome.) 


It was so hard to narrow down all my choices, and if you are interested in other titles leave a comment or message me and I'll consult my list. =) And as always, if you read and like (or even dislike) any of these, let me know so we can discuss!

Happy Reading!


Ash

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Alice Juliet- Three Months

I really can't believe how big my baby is! It's exciting, yes, and I'm thankful she's healthy and happy but it really makes me very sad! Here's a little update about our girl right now. =)


Gotta throw in a "Bama Baby" picture since we're National Champs once again!

Weight and Length- as of her last appointment, she was 11 pounds 6 ounces and 22 3/4 inches long. I know she's grown since then! I feel like she grows by the hour! =(

Nicknames- Alice from the Palace, Love Bug, Squish, Poocho, Pookie. 


Sleep- great! She moved into her room last week (tears!) and she fusses for a little while each night but she's sleeping all night (and mysteriously getting from one end of her crib to the other during that time... I'm tempted to video her and see how that's happening!) 


Eating- still all milk, all the time =) and she's doing great! It's amazing how much less of an ordeal nursing is now that it doesn't hurt anymore. Such a blessing! 


Clothing- she's in 0-3 and 3 months now... some of it is still very loose but a few outfits are already small... it just depends on the brand. The 0-3 dress she wore Sunday was teeny tiny but the onesie she has on today is huge. She has a lot of 0-3 clothes so hopefully she won't outgrow them before she has a chance to wear them all! (She's like her mama... too many clothes!) 

Mood- very happy! I love that I can get a smile out of her pretty much any time. She's such a sweetheart and loves to ham it up when she's getting attention at church or wherever. She turns heads everywhere we go and definitely doesn't mind it! =) 


Loves-

-her daddy (naturally)
-sitting up (with help, obviously)
-rocking/cuddling 
-lying on the changing pad- it's seriously her happy place. Cracks me up!
-watching TV or listening to her Disney songs
-kicking and scooting
-being read to- bring so much joy to my book-loving heart!
-bath time... I know she'll love swimming in the future!
-sucking her thumb (much to my chagrin) 
-grabbing (aka pulling) my hair 

Doesn't Love-

-being ignored =) 

-her hands being covered
-being left alone in her room (and then she goes to sleep and she's fine =) 

What I Want to Remember/Milestones- oh my goodness... she's changing so much! I can't handle it! She's so smiley and "talkative" and seriously just a joy to have around. (Words I need to remind myself of when she's got the red-eyed JackJack scream going on. Ha!) Seriously though, she's a very happy girl and she's working hard on growing up. =( She is trying to roll over, holding her head all the time, and gets tickled at herself. It's so funny! I'm loving this sweet, snuggly stage... she'll lay on my lap and watch movies or listen to a book for quite a long time. It's the best! 

What I'm Looking Forward To- well her getting bigger makes me very sad but I'm loving watching her little personality show itself more and more so that is fun and something to look forward to. =)


Me- I'm pretty much an emotional wreck at how big she's getting. I was terribly nervous about transitioning her into her room (and have stayed glued to the monitor every night) but she's done better than I imagined. And this doesn't really have to do with being a mom but (as of last night... so hardcore! haha) I'm going to the gym and trying to get in shape. (I would say back in shape but I really wasn't before. =) I have pretty much lost most of my pregnancy weight but the remainder has... shifted, I suppose. So I'm working on that! It's actually the first time ever that I've been semi-excited to work out. I'm also counting carrying Alice in her carseat up the stairs as a work out because it IS. Sheesh!



She's a smiley, sweet, silly little love and we are so blessed to have her in our lives! Happy three months (and four days =) Alice Juliet!


Ash