I've always looked forward to my birthday with anticipation and even delight but this year... not so much. I've also always scoffed at people who dreaded their birthdays or were reluctant to reveal their age but the closer the big 3-0 starts to loom in the distance, the more I start to get it. Anyway, since I am definitely still a birthday person in that I want the day to be about me (insert angel emoji) I thought I'd share some fun (?) facts/feelings and hopefully distract myself from the fact that my twenties are almost over. 

My most recent/decent picture. #thisis28

1. My eyes are green and that's probably my (only) favorite physical feature (since I have so many great ones. #hystericallaughter) I like that they're unusual and not that common! Also I guess I like my hair- I'd cut it off because #Texas #hot but short hair, as I regrettably learned in 2009, is not a good look for me. Plus, like Jo March, it is "my one beauty." 

2. I tend to remember the year things happened and also really specific details about events, which I usually have to keep to myself lest people think I'm a creepy stalker. I'm sorry, I really can't help knowing what you wore to a baseball game in 2004. I just do

3. Speaking of baseball, I was a fanatical baseball follower for many years. Need a Mariners stat from the early 2000s? Step right up. (I've fallen way off that wagon, but go Braves! #chopchop)

4. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 21. So knowing me as a fairly spastic driver now makes more sense when you realize I've had a five-year handicap. So embarrassing.

5. HOWEVER, even the full decade+ of driving practice I should have wouldn't have prepared me for driving in Texas, specifically Houston. I refuse to drive on the highway past a certain point toward the city. It absolutely scares me to death and really if I can put off an errand until Jonathan can drive, I do. #noshame

6. I'm super affected by the weather. My attitude, spirit, whatever you want to call it... if it's terribly hot or the weather is seasonally inappropriate I hate it. Probably should have thought about that before moving to the surface of the sun, but you know. 

7. I firmly believe that Tangled is better than Frozen in every way. Yeah, I said it.

8. Singing in front of people makes me really nervous and I have to hold a microphone with two hands so no one can see me shaking. (Thanks for that tip, Melissa! It has served me well.) 

9. I worked at Chick-fil-A in high school and college. Those truly were the best and worst of times, but they left me with SO many good stories and I'm pretty sure I could step into a busy drive-through situation and handle it from memory. Plus I have a deep appreciation for quick-service employees (and a disdain for those who do it wrong.) 

10. Aaaand speaking of Chick-fil-A, I am still making up for not having access to it for the first 15 years of my life. I repay that debt by eating there as many times a week as possible both financially and healthfully (and by that I mean the health of my marriage. #sorrybabe)

11. Things that make me feel warm and fuzzy? People who call me Ash, any time someone says something nice about about my blog, hearing from my dearly beloved former students, and the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

12. If I don't text you back right away, I'm more than likely looking for the perfect gif. Or meme. But seriously, the gif keyboard has improved my quality of life. 

13. Reading this book two years ago and learning that there's actually a name for my personality type (ambiverts unite!) has made me feel a whole lot less crazy. Do I feel energized or terrified by other people? It depends on the day. =)

14. Dream jobs: personal shopper, author, editor, college English professor but with an assistant to grade papers, stylist/WNTW contributor, ghost writer for Angela Lansbury's personal memoir. (Come on, Ang. Let's make magic together!) 

15. I have a secret (eh...not-so-secret) dream to perform on some kind of stage. Community theater, Broadway... who's to say?? =) But my crippling stage fright kind of derailed that (see #8) so Alice is my best hope. The stereotypical stage mom living out her dreams through her kid? That will be me. 

16. Speaking of the stage... I love, love, love musicals of all kinds (obviously Disney is at the top!) and it makes me SO happy that Alice seems to be loving them too. I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in truth... and have committed the complete works of Rodgers and Hammerstein to memory. 

17. I believe that skinny fries are the best fries. McDonald's, Smithfield's, Freddy's, Whataburger... I'm looking at you. Steak fries and whatever other garbage you people are serving? Go home. (Except for you, Chick-fil-A, waffle fries. I'll love you forever.) 

18. For whatever reason, people tend to confide in me, which I find ironic because i don't consider myself a great listener. (This stems from a childhood of basically never shutting up.) But maybe it's that I'm a middle child and thus (according to all the research) a born reconciler. I don't know, but people tell me stuff. But don't worry... you're secret's safe with me.

19. ...when I say I can keep a secret, clearly that means I will tell my sisters. I mean, duh. It's the sister code. 

20. Favorite foods in order or nutritional value: green beans, tomatoes, pineapple, breadsticks (or just bread), chips and salsa, mint chocolate chip ice cream. #thatescalatedquickly

21. I took piano lessons for over a decade but you wouldn't know it. (My sister weeps in her shame of my wasted talent. hahaha) But I also briefly attempted to teach myself the guitar and given my lack of natural ability and also the fact that I thought my fingertips would fall off I quit. I can play like 3 songs.

22. I'm 100%, embarrassingly obsessed with my baby. Even though she's 18 months old, I'm still staying up at night looking at her pictures and freaking out over how adorable she is. I guess every mom is like that but yeah, when it comes to Alice I have no chill.

23. After being well-known for my love of Mountain Dew for most of my life, I regret to inform you that I hardly ever drink it anymore. I feel like I've lost a part of my identity but gained a healthier liver. #balance

24. How did I break up with Mountain Dew, you may ask? Well, it certainly wasn't at the pleading of my many dentists who have said to please stop drinking acid. (Not really but kind of.) No, I started Weight Watchers for the ______th time last summer and finally kicked my MD habit (and also lost 30 pounds. Woop woop!) Now I just need to do the same thing but with Dr Pepper. Ugh.

25. After basically being anti-exercise/a couch potato for almost my entire adult life, no one is more shocked than I am that I now work out at least 6 days a week. (Currently 7- curse you 30-Day Shred!) If there is something you think you can't do, picture me huffing and puffing in 99% Texas humidity and know that you absolutely can. 

26. In fits of humiliation, I have thrown away/destroyed most of my teenage journals, but thanks to my obnoxious memory I can still recall passages from them verbatim and am occasionally haunted by the stupidity of what I wrote. On the other hand, one day when I write my fascinating memoir/tell all, I'll probably regret not having access to my 8th grade thoughts. Or not. 

27. If I could combine my family's traits to create my own Super Ashley, I'd use my mom's ease in front of a crowd (or really any stranger), my dad's laid-back nature and gift with words, Amanda's universally likable personality and musical skills, April's beauty and uproarious humor, Amy's apathy towards the opinion of others and lip-syncing ability (plus her hair), and my in-laws' organizational talents (minus possibly Rebecca... but I'll take your wardrobe. =). Plus the combined adorableness of my nieces and nephews. Unstoppable!

28. Even though I roll my eyes when people point out how lucky I am to be married to Jonathan (and they do), it's true. I know and appreciate that I really do have the best husband and married way up and the fact that he knows all these things about me and loves me anyway is truly miraculous. #awwwwokaythatsgrossstopit. I love my little family and our Texas life, heat and all. =)

There you go. I'm going to celebrate today by eating chicken minis for breakfast and at least one chocolate dessert... maybe more. I'm praying this year is full of new creative opportunities, memories with my girl, and the start of my best-seller, "The Wisdom and Insights of a First-Time Mother Living a Very Uneventful Life." Copies will fly off the shelves. 

Happy Friday, everyone! And happy birthday to meeeee! Cake for everyone! (Or banana pudding which is better.)

First Quarter Reading

First Quarter Reading

For some reason, this quarter felt like I fell way off the reading wagon, but when I compared my numbers I had beat 3 out of 4 quarters last year, so what do I know? I guess it was because March was really busy and I did read quite a bit less than in January and February. (This is all very interesting to you, I know.) I don't want to be obnoxious about numbers either, so I'll just keep that to myself. (If you really want to know, I'll tell you. #fakeintrigue) 

Anyway, I don't know what it's been about the past few months but I feel like I have been in a bit of a reading lull in terms of quality. I'm still getting recommendations from my same favorite sources and sticking to tried and true favorite authors, genres, etc. But for whatever reason I feel like a book that really wows me is the exception rather than the rule these days, which makes the following books even more notable. They only represent a small fraction of the books I read this quarter and there's a whopping list of three sooo... maybe I should find some new and better titles? (Also I'm 27 and should probably stop slogging through books I don't enjoy, but it's not time to unpack that side of my personality right now. =) 

I don't look this cute while reading but then no one does. =)

-Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. Normally a book with this plot would totally freak me out and send my HSP tendencies into a panic, but given the heavy/scary subject matter, it was surprisingly fun. This is based on the true story of the first female deputy in America, and, like I said, I was prepared to be freaked out. (Part of the story is that Constance and her sisters are terrorized by a local thug and his gang... which leads to her involvement with the sheriff and eventual deputization.) But the sarcastic, quirky relationship among the three sisters made me laugh and kept what could have been a scary story really light and fun (for the most part.) There is a subplot that I found a little troubling, at least in a couple of spots, but other than that I *really* enjoyed this and have recommended it probably half a dozen times since I read it. And you should definitely read the sequel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble. I hope there are more Kopp Sisters books on the way!

-The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I loved this and couldn't put it down! Reynie is a 12-year-old orphan who is "different," aka extremely intelligent. His tutor takes him to a test that was advertised for gifted children and he is one of only four who pass. They find themselves in the middle of a plot to save the world from the underlying evil forces that are working to destroy civilization... and if that sounds dramatic, it's also really fun. I love a book with word play or puzzles and this is full of them. It's a little like a cautionary tale with a bit of a dystopian feel, and even though it's over 400 pages I flew through it to see what would happen. This would be fun to read with your kids, I think. It's a great middle grade book!

-First Women by Kate Andersen Brower. This was SO good. I also read her book The Residence and enjoyed it but this one was my favorite. It doesn't just "dish" on the First Ladies (although I did love those parts!) but it really portrays them as human which is sometimes hard or even impossible to do given their high-profile lives and practically nonexistent margin for error while living in the public eye. I also enjoyed the way she revealed the relationships among the First Ladies. There is so much interesting information here- their personalities, the way they worked with their husbands and the staff, their political and social activities, parenting techniques, decorating and fashion tastes.... ah! This is like a dream come true for a history loving bonus features junkie like myself. I also thought t was very even-handed between Democrat and Republican First Ladies and based on facts rather than opinions. Highly recommend! (P.S. I've read a lot of books about the White House and my favorite is still this one. So good.) 

There you have it! I know, I usually have at least 10 and have to force myself to narrow things down but yeah, it's been a dry spell. If you've read anything good/great lately, do share! I am definitely looking for new titles! And as always if you have read or choose to read any of the ones I just mentioned, let me know so we can have a virtual book club. =)

Alice Juliet- 18 Months

Alice Juliet- 18 Months

Am I celebrating my baby's half birthday? Yes. Am I spoiling her and probably setting her up to be an adult who subjects her friends to an entire "birthday month" and expects gifts for weeks at a time? Maybe. Am I sorry about this? A little, but I'm doing it anyway. =) 

My sister told me that I can't keep doing this half birthday thing because I'm raising her to be an insufferable person (perhaps) and of course I won't do this forever but I am unapologetically celebrating her 18-month "unbirthday" because I feel like this is such a milestone between ages 1 and 2. She has changed SO much since her first birthday and I want to have a record of all her growth and development at this age (plus, you know, I'm obsessed with her and I love sharing her adorable pictures. =)

Weight and Length- she's about 28" long and only 21 pounds (she's weighed around the same for several months.) She'll be long and lean like her daddy, apparently! =) And she doesn't have the same chunkiness that she did as a little baby but she is definitely still a squish! I love it. 

Nicknames- Al, Ali Cat, Jolly Holiday, Princess Pie, Lucky (thanks to her movie obsession), Fatsy Patsy, Chunkers, Alice from the Palace

This is why we call her Lucky. =)

Sleep- 12 hours a night (I know, you can hate me. I don't deserve such a gift.) And her napping is still spotty at best but we're beginning to try one nap so hopefully she'll consolidate all her little cat naps into one good long one. Fingers crossed! 

Eating- she's eating almost everything we do (except spicy food of course, and very few sweets) but she loves sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, string cheese (EVERY day), yogurt, oatmeal, green beans, etc. She isn't really picky! The only thing she just refuses to eat right now is oranges. And (I share this shamefacedly) she would eat french fries every single day if I let her. But, who wouldn't? 

Clothing- she's in almost exclusively 18 month stuff. Some 12-18 and some 18-24. I'm pretty much done with onesies (getting them snapped while holding her down could be an MMA category) and she's in dresses most of the time anyway because they're just so easy. And adorable. =) 

Mood- she definitely has a stubborn streak and likes to, shall we say, express her displeasure when she is not allowed to do something like chew up paper or eat indefinitely or toss my coasters around the living room. But she remains one of the jolliest babies I've ever seen. She's super friendly (but only from a distance- don't expect her to willingly let you hold her!) and loves to wave at anyone and everyone. She is so sweet and happy almost all the time. (Almost. =)

What a time to be alive!

So happy to be swinging

Amused by the big kids at Chick-fil-A

"Alice, let's brush your teeth!" 

Loves- playing outside

musicals (this makes me so very happy)
Mickey House Clubhouse
Mickey and the Roadster Racers
eating string cheese
eating, period
drinking with a straw
waving at strangers
being tickled
bath time
playing/wrestling with her daddy
reading books
the Moana soundtrack 
being scared (I jump out and startle her all the time and she thinks it's hilarious.)
brushing her teeth
Doesn't Love- naps (whyyyyy)

being in her car seat or stroller for long
being away from me (at least initially)
her pediatrician (he's the sweetest man but she weeps at the sight of him. ha!)
FaceTime (she's into it for like two seconds and that's about it)
being restricted (aka being kept safe, since apparently it's her number one goal to pursue danger)
crowds/being surrounded by too many people 
getting out of the bathtub. She would turn into a raisin if I let her. 
not being able to express herself. (Go ahead and learn more words, babe!)

For the doubters who wonder if she's ever grumpy... um, yes. =)

What I Want to Remember/Milestones- ugh, so many things! She finally has most of her teeth (if you remember, she didn't get any until right before her birthday and only had that one and a couple more for a long time.) She started walking in December and has never looked back- she's practically running now! #terrifying One of my favorite things is that she absolutely LOVES musicals. Her two favorites are Singin' in the Rain and The Music Man. Judge away, but having those downloaded on my phone has saved many a shopping trip from going completely off the rails. (#sorrynotsorry) And it's always fun to explain to strangers that yes, my baby is glued to a movie made in 1952. =) Also, the CUTEST thing she's doing these days is waving at the screen when a movie is over. Stop it. So adorable. And her favorite word, besides Mama, is definitely "book." Everything is "book." And when we tell her that it's time to brush her teeth, she immediately gets a huge grin on her face and then opens her mouth super wide and sticks her tongue out. Weirdo. =)

Driving each other crazy at the mall =)

What I'm Looking Forward To- Easter, her baby dedication, and definitely Auntie Amy's wedding so she can meet so many more aunts, uncles, and cousins! I'm also really looking forward to her talking and being able to communicate more. I may regret those words but for now it's true. =)

Me- I'm feeling really good, at least personally. Losing weight and keeping it off and also maintaining a consistent workout routine for the past several months has made a night and day difference in my energy level and even mindset for taking care of her during the day. I'm more active, more likely to play with her, more likely to swing her around or have an impromptu tap dance party while watching Singin in the Rain for the millionth time. =) I actually saw a video from this time last year where I was jumping up and down in front of her crib to make her laugh and I could hear myself gasping for breath between each jump. So embarrassing! Ha! But I am grateful that I've been able to keep up this new lifestyle since it makes me a much more fun mom. =) And, you know, modeling good healthy choices and all that jazz.

Otherwise, I'm turning a corner into a new "era" with Al and it's challenging. I've learned that being a mom means learning a new skill set, getting good at it, and then leaving it behind when your baby goes on to the next stage, rendering your previous skills useless. =) We're in that early toddler stage where she's big enough to make messes and get hurt but not quite old enough to understand all of my instructions (and definitely not able to express herself clearly to me.) As she develops verbally that will improve, I'm sure, but for now I'm just trying to consistently discipline her (as age-appropriately as I know how) in the major areas that I'm concerned with at the moment (aka obedience and also, you know, not screaming like a pterodactyl. #facepalm) 

But even with the toddler years well underway (yikes!) I am loving so much of this age. I love watching her get excited about new things, and seeing her laugh her head off at the silliest things, and agreeing with the many, many people a week who tell me how pretty she is. =) 

Those baby headphones? Stop it. 

Sassy pants.

Mama's girl <3

I can't believe my baby is a year and a half old. I just can't believe it. It's flown by but I also can't really remember what I did with myself before she was born. (Alone time? What's that?) She's just the best, sweetest, funniest, prettiest, cuddliest little squish and we love her more than anything. A very merry unbirthday to you, Alice from the Palace!