Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Reading List: Hannah and Chamberlin

I read two books last week.  One was awesome.  The other, a total dud.

For whatever reason, I had in my head that Kristin Hannah was an author of the Mary Kay Andrews or Nancy Thayer variety.  Meaning, a couple of huge hits, some so-so books, and a whole lot of misses and try hard.  I read her book Distant Shores a few years ago and it was just okay.  For the life of me, I could've sworn I started another book of hers that I just couldn't finish.  For that reason, I'd been hesitant to pick up anything else from her.  Well, I was wrong.  So, so wrong.  I finished Firefly Lane last week and it's the front runner for a favorite summer read!

Firefly Lane tells us the story of Tully Hart and Kate Mularky, best friends since the age of 14 when Tully moved across the street from the Mularky's on Firefly Lane.  The story follows their lives through several decades.  Middle school, high school, college, career, marriage, children: it covers everything.  A betrayal causes a rift in their friendship and tragedy brings them back together once and for all.

I really, really liked this book.  It felt a lot like Summer Sisters (one of my favorites ever!) with a dash of the movie Up Close and Personal -- in fact, there are several references to Jessica Savitch, whose life Up Close is loosely based upon.  There are a lot of pop culture and historical references through out the book, something I really appreciated.  "Hey, I remember that too!"  I'm a big fan of that sort of thing in books, rather than an author pretending that the characters were just plunked into some town in Ohio where absolutely nothing happened that wasn't fabricated entirely for the novel. 

I did find the character of Tully to be over the top selfish and kind of a bitch.  I appreciate, though, how Hannah made her characters multi-dimensional.  Tully claws her way to the top of the broadcasting world but still feels as though she's missed out on something.  Kate devotes her entire life to her children and finds that she's lost herself in the process.  All very much real life and I appreciate that Hannah struck a cord with both sides of that balance.

The book was thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable -- and made me want to pursue a career in news in the 1980's! -- but it was also a little long.  It could've easily been a good hundred pages shorter just by removing some unnecessary details and plot lines.  The betrayal that the back cover of the book warns you about doesn't happen until well after the mid-point of the book.  And while it was somewhat anticlimactic, I was very relieved by what it wasn't. (That's all I can say without giving away anything!)  I hated the ending but you're supposed to hate the ending.

There were important details left out in the conclusion of the novel but Hannah has a follow-up, Fly Away, that I'm assuming will tie up loose ends.  It's already in my thrift books cart!  All in all, this is definitely one to pick up and add to your reading list.  It was warm, touching, and lovely. 

Now let's talk about a book that wasn't that great.

I picked up The Beach Quilt by Holly Chamberlin because it was in the clearance bin at Barnes and Noble and because it had "Beach" in the title.  I'm honestly disappointed I paid as much as $6 for it.  It was awful.

The Beach Quilt tells the story of Sarah Bauer, a 16-year-old girl growing up in a beach town in Maine.  She's a good student, quiet and pensive, and never any trouble.  So, of course, she ends up pregnant and no one can believe it.  The book tells not just Sarah's story but that of her mother and sister, best friend and best friend's mother.  The back cover of the book tells of the quilt the women all work together on in and you think it will be something much more poignant than it actually was.

I was about 50 pages in when I just could not do it anymore.  It was so boring and so contrived and none of the characters were all that likeable.  I actually planned on shelving it but skipped ahead to the final chapter.  I realized there was a twist that actually made me want to soldier through the book.  And I did.  And guess what?  The twist was awful . . . just bad, bad, so very bad.  Not well written and one of those things was just like BAM!  It happened!  Now I'll devote another ten pages to this story and wrap it up all sloppy.

The plot for this book was actually decent but it was executed terribly.  I had to check the copyright date more than once to make sure the book was written in 2014 and not 1954 due to the way teen pregnancy was portrayed.  The "secrets" certain characters hold are way too easy to figure out.  The dialogue is entirely unrealistic and I had a feeling the author had never been around 16-year-old girls EVER.  There was also a weird cat - and weird relationship between Sarah's relationship with the cat - that was just . . . weird

Obviously, I was not a fan of this book at all.  And, as a result, I doubt I'll pick up any more of Holly Chamberlin's novels.  It was that painful to try to get through.  Pass on this one!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Foodie Friday: South of Beale

Last Thursday night, The Girl and I headed downtown where we met Mark and a coworker of his at South of Beale for dinner. It was my first visit to SOB but I doubt it will be my last!

We started things off with a round of appetizers: fried avocado and chicken and waffles.  The fried avocado was delish because, hello, avocado.  I've had way better chicken and waffles though.  The waffles were a little dry and I guess I just expected more from the chicken.

For our entrees, I chose the duck patty melt for something a little different.  It ended up being REALLY good!  A duck meat patty smothered in gouda cheese with caramelized onions.  Mark chose the shrimp and grits and his meal was even better than mine!  The cheese grits were some of the best I've ever tasted ever.  We only had approximately five or six bites left and just couldn't finish but we took those few bites home with us!  Ha!  They don't have a children's menu so we ordered the pizza for the Girl.  It sounded seriously yum -- topped with tomatoes, roasted garlic, and basil.  But, you know, she's a kid so we ordered it with only the cheese.  It had no red sauce so she wasn't a fan.  I think it would be delicious with all the toppings.  For dessert, we split a brownie and it was pretty much heavenly.

We had zero humidity that night so we enjoyed sitting on the patio and it was lovely.  Our service was decent. I've had better service downtown but I've also had much, much worse.

We will definitely be back.  Mostly because I must try their smoked gouda mac and cheese!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thursday Things

1)  We made our first zoo trip of the summer last Thursday.  A membership to the Memphis Zoo is $100 per family (two adults, you can list the number of kids you want to include) and is good for an entire year.  It is SO WORTH IT.  They have various rotating exhibits -- right now there are animals made out of Legos that are huge and neat and fun.  Plus, there's just the animals and fountains.  And it's just a fun way to spend the day.
 


We summered hard over the weekend so we needed a rest day on Monday.  It was back at it on Tuesday when we met friends at Shelby Farms.
 

The Girl ended up spending the night with them Tuesday night so I had Wednesday all to myself.  Whaaaa?  It's definitely been the summer of sleepovers around here!

2) We have a couple of cardinals that have taken residence in our yard.  Mark thought we should name them and I agreed: with the names of famous Cardinals.  We easily settled on Maguire for the female (no offence, Mark Mc, but your last name works well for a unisex name!) but I thought the male should be Ozzie while Mark was going for Reggie, after Reggie the Redbird, the mascot at Illinois State, his alma mater.  Since we're dorks, we settled on Reginald Osborne.  I'll, of course, call him Ozzie.  ;)

3) I watched the latest Duggar wedding the other night and why why WHY did I do that to myself?  Joy is practically a child bride and the whole thing just made me so sad.  In the normal world, they'd be able to date and kiss and get to know each other and not have to get married for all that to happen.  (Also, I saw a guy I went to school with flash on the screen during the reception.  How weird.  Arkansas is such a small state!)

4) Mark and I did something we never do the other night.  We had no kids and decided to make it a date night in.  Whaaaa?  We always take advantage of going out when we're kid-free but wanted to save money for vacation.  Plus, it was just too damn hot.  We ended up making steak sandwiches and just spent the evening talking.  It was nice.

5) J and the K's came home yesterday!  I really missed them.  A lot.  The summer is harder on me than weekends.  And this year was even harder because the boys had texting abilities and let me know how much HE missed ME.  Ugh.  Summer is the worst time to be divorced.



6) We're leaving for the beach Monday and, therefore, I spent last Sunday morning scouring Yelp to find . . . what else?  Places to eat!  What did we do before Yelp?!?  Now we know how has quarter oysters on Monday nights and where all the locals go.  We're excited!

7) I cooked frozen chicken in my Instant Pot yesterday.  The recipe I used told me it was "ten minutes from frozen to fully cooked!"  Ha!  Maybe my chicken just had some Dolly Parton sized breasts but it was closer to 20 minutes.  No big deal, though, and they were juicy and delicious!  We used the meat for chicken Caesar salads last night.  Too hot to cook!

8) Father's Day weekend!  Mark still hasn't told me what he wants to do but I have a feeling the day will be centered around getting ready for vacation.  All good, though, because he can celebrate later in the week deep sea fishing with the boys.

9) We are trying to cram a whole lot of SUMMER in the next couple days!  Today we're (hopefully) getting library cards because I JUST realized our community library isn't affiliated with the Memphis library system.  We're (maybe) getting ice cream.  And (if the weather allows) we're hitting up a baseball game.  Tomorrow is friends over for swimming.  Yay for a fun few days!

10) This reminded me of my PawPaw!  Ha!



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Girly Girl Room Re-do

My kiddos come back home tonight and K2 will be coming in to a whole lot of new in her bedroom!
 
Here's the deal: she's the youngest therefore, by virtue of birth order, she has the smallest room in the house.  However, she's also the kid who has the most STUFF.  Barbies, Shopkins, Littlest Pet Shop, Beanie Boos, if you have girls then you know how it is.  I really wanted to optimize space by putting a daybed in her room.  But it's also used as a guest room so she really needed to keep the queen.  So over the last week I set out to GET ORGANIZED.  And I love how it turned out!  It's nothing like you're going to find on Pinterest.  She doesn't even have a headboard, for crying out loud.  But it's cute and it's real life with a seven-year-old girl.
 
Here's what I started with . . . Jesus take the wheel . . .
 

And here's the same view now:
 


I started by replacing her rug.  The one she had was a gift from a friend and she's had it since she was two or three.  It was time for a new one, something a little older. I found this one at Walmart and the Boy and Girl both LOVED it so I know K2 will as well.  The prints above the storage unit are all Home Interiors and were given to me by the same friend (except the unicorn . . . I picked up that masterpiece at Dirt Cheap last summer for approximately 75 cents and would've hung it in my own bedroom except, you know, boyfriend.)  Hobby Lobby has wood and metal accents 50% off right now and I came really close to replacing the prints but they're going to wait a little bit longer.


I picked up the storage unit at Walmart.  I was going for CHEAP.  Kids are turds anyway and mine are notoriously hard on stuff.  No way was I spending a lot of money.  The larger storage bin came from Walmart, the chevron bins were another Dirt Cheap find from last summer, and all the other bins came from Five Below.
 

I picked up plastic baskets from Five Below to hold hair stuff (we keep most of those in the bathroom but these are the "crazy" headbands that are too big for the drawer), chapstick, things like that.  The little bird thing came from Dollar Tree . . . it was too ridiculous not to pick him up!  The hula girl was a Hobby Lobby find at 40% off.


I can be the first to admit that we probably didn't have as much of an organization problem as we had a K2 problem.  We'll see how long these stay organized but I put together tags to try to help the process.  We'll see.

 
Her bedding was a Christmas present.  I ordered it from Walmart.com.  They didn't have a lot of "little girl" prints in queen sized so I ordered a full and it works.  The flat sheet that came with it won't fit but that's fine.  I do wish the comforter was just a tick longer but it's okay.  The banner hanging above her bed -- another Dirt Cheap find! -- is little chalkboards and I wrote her name on them.  The art work on the walls is stuff she did at school.


The dresser is from Mark's childhood.  We'll eventually either update it or upgrade it.  But, for now, it's sturdy and works fine.  Most of her clothes are hung up anyway.


Both Elsa's are things she's painted herself.  The chalkboard is leftover from her sixth birthday paw-ty, the jewelry box is something I bought in Honduras, and the pink flower vase and "K" both came from the Dollar Tree.  The "She leaves a little sparkle" sign is another Hobby Lobby find and the picture frames were ones we already had.

And there ya have it!  A cute little girly room do-over.  I love how it turned out and hope she will too!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Perilous Plot of Professor PoopyPants

We had a fantastic weekend!
 
Friday night we hosted one of Mark's coworkers and his family.  They used to live in Memphis permanently but were transferred to Chicago a couple years ago.  They kept their house in Memphis, though, and are back here periodically through the year.  They're really fun to hang out with and our kids love their kids.  Win-win.  Mark grilled steaks, the kids played in the pool, and we just had a good time visiting.
 
We had a brief break from the stifling Memphis humidity at the end of last week but by Saturday it was baaaaaack.  We spent the afternoon in the pool then got ready for some . . . CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS!
 
 
Yes, it's toilet humor aimed at eight-year-old boys but I love me some Captain Underpants and have been excited about this movie since it was announced.  I love, love, love that so many children's books are being turned into movies.  It really tends to encourage reading.  I absolutely thought the movie was cute -- and sent a good message about fun and laughter -- Mark, on the other hand, fell asleep!  The kids loved it, though, and that's what matters in the end.  Plus, it was our first drive-in visit of the summer and we came out of it with pretty much zero bug bites which almost never happens.
 
Sunday afternoon was our little community's food truck and music festival.  There were three bands and a ton of food trucks.
 

And Kevin Bacon!
 

He'll be in G'town with his brother Wednesday night!  And I can't seem to find anyone who is as excited about that fact as I am . . .

Anyway.  The festival was really fun!  It was very shaded so we weren't too hot.  We hit up the Rico's chicken truck where the kids had wings and Mark and I split an order of loaded fries.  There may have also been corndogs and funnel fries.  And.  I bought Mark his first ever fried pie.  Can you believe the man never had a fried pie before?  I grew up with my Granny making them.  And these fried pies were definitely nothing like hers.  We were so disappointed!

We wrapped up our Sunday on the back deck admiring the work we've been doing on the yard lately.  And by we, I absolutely mean Mark.

It was a great summer weekend!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Reading List: Giffin and Hepworth

I was able to finish two books last weekend.  Ahhhh, the power of having no plans, only one kid, and a clean house! 

Interestingly, both books featured women choosing a non-traditional path to motherhood and men who, frankly, are not like pretty much any man I know.

First up, let's talk First Comes Love by Emily Giffin.  I've never shied away from saying that - while I feel like Giffin produces page-turners -  I also tend to think that most of her books and the sheer amount of betrayal in them paint her to be a Certified Horrible Human Being.  However, I can't resist the pull when I find one at a good price.  I went into First Comes Love with ZERO expectations (other than to, once again, think Giffin is a bad person) and was pleasantly - actually VERY - surprised.  This was probably my favorite Giffin novel.

First Comes Love is the story of Josie and Meredith, sisters who grew up in a contentious relationship.  Their brother, Daniel, is killed in a car accident and the different ways they handle their grief throw a further wedge into the relationship between the sisters.  The book takes place almost 15 years after Daniel's death, with both sisters in or approaching their late 30's.  Josie is a first grade teacher desperate for a family of her own.  Meredith seemingly has it all - a career in law, wonderful husband, adorable daughter - but is finally starting to confront the fact that she chose the life everyone expected of her rather than what she truly wanted.  As the 15 year anniversary of Daniel's accident approaches, painful secrets start to surface and the sisterly confrontation comes to a head.

So, a few things.  For starters, Meredith is a straight up bitch.  I think we're supposed to find her more likeable by the end of the book but meh.  Bitch.  Josie is my kinda bitch because she's not all bitchy.  She's a little selfish, yes, and the kind of free spirit that goes hand in hand with not having to juggle the responsibility of parenthood.  If Josie and Meredith were the Wakefield twins, Josie would totally be Jessica (but not as reckless) while Meredith would be a super bitchy version of Elizabeth.

I think the main reason I enjoyed this book is because betrayal is not a common theme running through it.  Sure, there's a secret that's been kept but it was kept in order to spare the person it would hurt, not the person who was keeping it.  So many of Giffin's books have serious betrayal themes but they're made worse because it's . . . well, it's betrayal of the "Something Blue" category. 

This was an easy and fun read and I really enjoyed it.  I do believe the book could've used an epilogue but I also think Giffin is leaving the door open for a sequel . . . Then comes Marriage?  We'll see.

Right after I finished, First Comes Love, I dove head first into Sally Hepworth's The Secrets of Midwives.  I finished the book in a day.  Partly because I had nothing going on and partly because I really did want to see the whole story connect.

The Secrets of Midwives follows three generations of midwives.  Neva is pregnant and refuses to tell anyone the identity of the father.  Grace, Neva's mother, is dealing with issues in her own marriage and Neva's refusal to admit the father only drives her deeper into wanting to find out.  Floss is Grace's mother and Neva's mother.  Neva's pregnancy is making her face skeletons in her own past and the mystery surrounding Grace's father.

Okay.  So the main reason I picked up this book is that a blogger I occasionally read, claimed it one of her favorite books ever.  Now that I've read it I can't help but think maybe this blogger is a little . . . um . . . shallow?  I don't know.  It was an enjoyable enough read but far, far from one of my favorite books ever.

The characters are each likeable in their own ways.  Neva is smart and no-nonsense yet she makes decisions that go far beyond breaking "girl code."  Grace is painted as light-hearted and fun but she's also extremely co-dependent.  And, honestly, we really just don't get to know as much about Floss as we probably should.

The "secret" about the skeletons in Floss's past are way too easy to figure out and you realize what's going on there just a few chapters into the book.  The story of the father of Neva's child is relatively anticlimactic.  And the whole book just fell rather flat to me.  It's a story that's been told over and over and over again and this one just really didn't do it for me.  I will say that I found Hepworth to be a strong author (though she's Australian and, even though this book was set in New England, there are definitely moments of "wait, are we in Rhode Island or Sidney?") in that she kept the reader engaged.  However, the overall story just didn't do much for me.

CANNOT BELIEVE I'M SAYING THIS: In this scenario, between the two books, pick up the Giffin book.

At least until Elin Hilderbrand of Liane Moriarty releases her {their} next one . . .

Friday, June 9, 2017

Favorite Things: Summer 2017

It's been way too long since I've shared some of my favorite things! 
 
Soooo.  Here we go!
 
1)  Peach-A-Rita's!
 
Y'all.  I've DONE BEEN SAYIN'  for years - YEARS!!!- that they need to put out a peach rita.  Now they finally have and I kinda love it.  Not as sweet as the strawberry or mango and just oh-so-good.  And - BONUS! - only $2.29 at Kroger for a tall boy.
 
My thumb looks like a man-thumb cause . . . well . . . summertime and swimming doesn't agree with my cheap nail polish.  Talk to me in November, can ya?

2) Fireworks Oreos
 
Hi there.  Hello.  Oreos with POP ROCKS.   Who invented these?  Cause I want to kiss 'em on the mouth.  Yes ma'am.

I mainly picked them up the first time for the kids but they were so good I had to grab another package.  Possibly to share, but probably not.  ;)
 
3) Strawberry Beer
 
My very favorite summer beer is Lienenkugel's summer shandy.  So light, so refreshing and reminds me so much of the Coors Summer Brew that they apparently no longer produce -- or at least don't distribute in Memphis.  I've been on a strawberry beer kick here lately though.  My favorite is Shiner's strawberry blonde but the Abita strawberry lager is a very close runner up.
 

4) Our Speaker

We listen to music all day long.  I rarely turn the TV on at all during the summer so it's constant music.  We picked up this Bluetooth speaker last summer on clearance at Walmart (originally $50, I believe we paid $35) and it's been such a great investment.  It lights up and it's waterproof and will float in the pool.  So fun!  And adds light to the pool area.



For such a small speaker, it's surprisingly pretty loud.  We're satisfied with it, for sure.  After reading the Amazon reviews, I feel like I should add that we've yet to put this one into the pool.  We generally hang it up outside to give fun lighting along with the music. 
 
5) Cracker Barrel Mac and Cheese
 
I made a crockpot mac and cheese for K2's birthday party a couple months ago and it was delish.  But, you know, sometimes you need a box of something quick.  Kendra introduced us to the Cracker Barrel mac and cheese on Memorial Day and, oh man, it.is.so.good. 
 


6) Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Sunscreen

Literally my most favorite product at this exact moment in time.  I LOVE THIS STUFF.  You know how you spray yourself down with sunscreen and just feel so gross and heavy?  None of that with this and it smells so good.  SO GOOD. I have a nice little tan going these days (and BONUS: my sun allergy has been very, very tame *knock on wood* so far this summer.) I currently swear by this stuff.  I know I need a stronger SPF for our beach trip - the Gulf sun really exaggerates my allergy - but I kinda want to take this just for the smell!


7) Random Acts of Kindness

I love, love, love a good RAK.  I saw a video the other day about how being kind doesn't have to involve spending money and that's something I wholeheartedly believe in.  I mean, returning your cart to the corral at the grocery store is FREE and the cart guys love that!  The other day, a neighbor of ours put "lost dog" signs on the light pole that sits between our yard and our neighbor's.  The Girl and I realized all the signs had blown off so we went out with a roll of duct tape to re-secure them.  It cost us, literally, nothing.  But hopefully meant something to that poor dog's owner.

8) Kroger Deli Greek Pasta Salad

I don't have a picture of this but, seriously, if you live close to a Kroger then leave.  Leave right now.  Drive to your nearest Kroger, head straight to their deli, and order a pound or two of this amazing pasta salad.  Robbie brought it over for my birthday party a few weeks ago and I've been obsessed ever since. It is so good.  I'm totally going to try my hand at making my own so be on the lookout for the recipe!

9) Old Navy's Summer Collection

So, is it just me or does Old Navy have some super cute things this summer?  I bought this top in black and I LOVE it.  So cute and flattering! Another favorite is the pineapple tank top.  I bought this online last weekend and, on Tuesday, we met Cady at the skating rink and she was wearing shorts in the exact same print.  Great minds!

10) My Guy. 

Oh, hey, look at me being sappy!

He's legit my most favorite ever and I'm mostly including this because of last night.  We had dinner with a coworker of his at South of Beale.  He knows, knows, knows, how much I hate parking downtown.  It's just such a cluster and I would SO much rather pay to park in a lot than attempt to parallel park or pull in one of the tiny free lots at downtown restaurants.  Anyway.  Last night, he was waiting for me at the restaurant, parked my car for me, then after dinner he said, "I need to go to the restroom.  Then I'm going to back your car out for you."  It doesn't seem like much but, seriously, it's the little things!

And, there ya go, a few favorites for this summer!  

P.S. Can I give you an UN-favorite? Other than the mosquitos and humidity that plague us Memphians this time of year?  Yesterday, a "suggested for you" article was for DRESSES FOR WOMEN OVER 60!!!!  What is going on?!? Are my online choices THAT bad?  MY MOM (sorry mom!) isn't even 60!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Thursday Things

1) We've settled into our summer schedule and it's been so nice!  The Girl stays up late and then sleeps in.  I have a few hours every morning to get schoolwork knocked out.  We've decided Mondays are for catching up.  On schoolwork, on housework, and on rest.  Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we'll "go and do" and then Fridays are for FUN and pool time with friends.  This Tuesday, we went skating:

Pro Tip: Kidsskatefree.com -- they send you coupons so that kids can skate for just the cost of skate rental.

Tuesday night there was a mid-week sleepover and Wednesday was spent crafting and having fun.  Today we're headed to the zoo and tomorrow we'll swim, swim, and swim some more.

2) So.  This was my project on Monday.  It looks like a Barbie bomb went off in there . . .


I HAVE to do something for storage in that room though I don't think it's an organizational problem so much as a K2 problem.  I'm still searching for the perfect organizer or shelf or whatever to put along the wall.  This is where I'm at now.  I hope to have it all finished by the time she gets home next week.
 

3) The kids are in Florida with their dad and I MISS THEM.  Both my boys have Samsung Galaxy phones that are basically used as tablets (no data plan or anything.)  Before they left, they downloaded texting apps and have been doing a decent job of texting.  I received this the other night . . .
 

Boys!
 
4) Sunday night, Mark did something he pretty much never does: decided to play hooky Monday morning on a whim.  He and Russell headed down to the casino, ended up being comped a room, meals, and drinks.  And he won a little over $200!  He was just trying to break even.  We are not gamblers at all so a $200 win was very nice. 
 
5) Since we have no children Tuesday night, I thought the best way to spend those winnings was taking me out.  Ha!  We went to Los Cabos for shrimp burritos, huge margaritas, and a live band that was so, so good.  We will definitely be back there when the band plays again.
 
6) Deal alert!  Target has all women's shorts buy one get one 50% off.  I picked up a couple pair yesterday.  I also went by Old Navy and all their dresses are on sale.  I picked up one to use as a beach cover-up for only $14. 
 
7) Cady I GNO'd last night . . . Kooky Canuck for burgers and big ass beers.  Good times AND much needed girl time.  Summer means kids are constantly around us and, y'all, I have some nosy kids.  It was nice to talk and catch up without a kid going, "are you talking about me?"
 
8) Speaking of kids . . . I AM SO, SO, SO, SO, SO SICK OF SLIME.  I know I'm not the only one but cheese and rice.  Can this fad die yesterday?  I will take all the dabbing, all the fidget spinners, all the my ten-year-old calling everything "lit" if slime can just curl in a ball and die.  Signed, we never can get it to work.  Signed, I think Elmers glue is behind this epidemic. 
 
9) We have just a little over a week until we are BEACHIN' and I can't wait.  The kids haven't been in ages and I'm just ready for some relaxation sun, sand, and salt water style.
 
10) This.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

One

I feel like before I even begin this post I should stress how much I miss my children.  They've been gone nearly a week and I do, I miss them.  K1 has been texting me every morning and those texts are a highlight to my day.  Even if he's mostly just sending me pictures of Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving. 

That being said . . .

It's kinda nice just having one kid around! 

I KNOW who made the mess.  The mysterious "it wasn't me!" child who lives in the house seems to have disappeared.  "Did you forget to put the bread away?" has been answered with, "oops, yes!" rather than "no, it wasn't me!"

There is ZERO fighting.  Y'all.  When you have four to five kids in your house, it can become a constant wrestling match or debate team.  It seems like someone is always arguing or someone "accidentally" kicked someone else. It's a zoo.  And, oh my, it has been SO NICE having no fighting. 

The Girl thrives on our one-on-one attention.  Having a preteen girl in the house can be really hard.  Really, really hard.  But the one-on-one attention has been good for her and the preteen-ness and girly drama has been at a minimum.

My house stays clean.  I mean, first off, see above about knowing who made the mess.  But, even beyond that, less people means less of a mess.  I'm still sweeping the kitchen floor three times a day but there are fewer crumbs.  I've only run my dishwasher twice in the past week.  And - oh happy day - I'm not doing 238423 loads of laundry every day! On the down side, the Girl and I did have to take trash and recycling the curb Monday night even though that chore normally falls firmly in the "boy job" category.

So, yes, it's been pretty nice having just one kiddo hanging around. We'll get her brother tonight and then again for the weekend.  And before we know it, the other kids will be home and the chaos will ensue.  But, really, it's the best kind of chaos.  Except for the fighting.  And all that laundry. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie.

And by "big books" I, of course, mean light and fluffy beach reads!
 
Today I thought I'd share my summer reading plans and also how I go about finding and buying books.
 
A few years ago, I got an iPad and was totally turned on to reading digitally.  It's still something I do for the gym (much easier to prop an iPad on the treadmill than an actual book) but I also just love me a good, old-fashioned paperback.  Plus, most of my reading is done by the pool and I'm not taking an iPad out there!  So actual books it is.  And since I'm big on re-reading, I usually buy my own copies.  If I read something and know I won't ever read it again, I donate it to Goodwill.
 
I have a few different ways I find and buy books.  First up, Goodwill!  I've found so many great titles at Goodwill.  The one closest to me has hardcover for $3.99 and paperback for $2.99 or less.  The Goodwill that's a little further away has titles even cheaper.  I also go to my local Habitat for Humanity Restore.  All their paperbacks are 50 cents and if you buy five, you get the sixth free.  I love to hit up Friends of the Library Sales on their last day or two where you can fill a box for a certain amount of money.  The clearance section at Barnes and Noble can have some awesome selections, usually for around $6 or less.  I just love Amazon and look for deals there.  I recently tried thirftbooks.com and was able to order three books for less than $12 - and with free shipping.  I'll update on that service once I actually receive the books.
 
Also, if you're on Goodreads, they will send you a list of deals of the day -- digital copies of books in genres of your interest that have been discounted.  I was able to read Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks for $1.99 thanks to an alert from Goodreads!
 
Now, summer reading for 2017 . . .
 
I plan on re-reading all this Elin Hilderbrand goodness!  Yes, I already know I love these books but that's okay.  We're going to the beach in a couple weeks and I know these are going with me.
 
 
Nantucket Nights (my first ever Hilderbrand book!)
The Matchmaker
The Island
The Beach Club
Summer People
 
*High Tide is a compilation of the last two novels.  I found it on Amazon for just $6.  For two books!
 
Then I have some that aren't re-reads.
 
 
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
The Beach Quilt by Holly Chamberlin
The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen (check, already read!)
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (again, already read!)


Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger
First Comes Love by Emily Giffin (I know, I know, I KNOW.  I always end up a little rage-y with Giffin's books but it was a Goodwill find.)
Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews
Second Chance by Jane Green

I have a few more re-reads that I'll get to if I have time.


Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin (I know I've read this book before but literally remember nothing about it other than the main character is the sister of a main character in Something Borrowed and Something Blue)
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

And I have a few others in Amazon cart (just waiting for a couple of them to come out in paperback!)

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Then there are the three I ordered from thriftbooks

The Girls by Emma Cline
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

It's quite the list . . . especially considering I'm also doing a summer class that's a lot of reading.  So it may end up being a "summer . . . and fall and winter . . . reading list!"

Monday, June 5, 2017

We'll Root, Root, Root for the REBIRDS

So, we've just got into the "sleepover" bpart of parenthood.
 
Real talk: HOLY SHIT, it scares me! 
 
Scares me for a couple reasons. 
 
For starters, WHO are your children spending the night with?  The Girl Child was invited to a sleepover back before Christmas and I interrogated her, "does she live with both parents, like, is her dad there? Does she have a brother?  Older or younger?"  Gahhhh!  Sleepovers.  They're so hard! 
 
And, this Friday night, we found ourselves hosting one.  Since the Girl was the only kid we'd be wrangling, we agreed to let her invite a couple friends over.  One couldn't stay the night - but could do everything else - but the other could. 
 
Y'all.  I'm not even going to lie.  I agreed to host an eight BOY sleepover later in the summer.  But that doesn't begin to compare with the fear I felt over hosting three girls.  I'm good - great even! - with boys!  Boys are loud but they're easy.  Boys tackle each other in the yard but they're relatively no drama.  Girls, though!  GIRLS!
 
I was legit scared.
 
And, fortunately - with the exception of a few moments of girly drama - everything went smoothly.
 
We started off with swimming.
 

Then, later that evening, went to the Redbirds game.
 
Pro Tip: if you (still) have a military ID (that's not expired even though you're divorced from the military) you can get dugout seats for $11!  Look how close we were!
 


The girlies weren't feeling the "close to the field," though, so we eventually moved to the bluff.  OH MY!  They rolled down the hill over and over and over and OVER and the Girl's white (!!!!) shorts will never be the same again.
 

I'm pretty sure they all had a good time.

Unfortunately, one of the girls had to go home after the game and - even MORE unfortunately for us Memphis peeps, her grandpa -- Cubs fan -- met us at the door with, "How'd you like that Deadbirds game?!?"  *Record screech* WAIT, WHAT?!?  They won by 10!  No Deadbirds up in here!
 
We went back home to night swim.  These girls . . . whew!  They wore.me.out.  Like . . . seriously, how am I the mom in charge of this sleepover?  I finally got them out of the pool around midnight, cooked up some pizza rolls, then I was in bed around 12:30-ish.  YAWN.
 
 
The rest of our weekend was LAAAAY-ZAYYY.  Like, I finished one book and read all of another type - o - lazy.  That lazy.  And blissful.
 
We did some light yard work Saturday.  Light yard work = I spent approximately 15 minutes scooping holly berry branches into a trash bag then carrying them to the curb. Rough life. 
 
It rained alllll day Sunday. Mark and I went to At Home (formerly Garden Ridge) and, wow, it was like taking a child!  What should've been a $50 trip ended up being a $200 trip.  But.  Our yard is looking great! We bought a new patio umbrella and several solar lights.  Who knew a little bit of light would make so much improvement?!?
 
The rest of Sunday was spent laid back and low-key, just the kid of weekend we needed. 


Friday, June 2, 2017

Summering So Hard.

My kiddos left yesterday afternoon to spend two weeks with their dad.  I'm pretty bummed about it if I'm being completely honest.  They're going to Disney World for the first time and I'll be missing that.  I just keep reminding myself that I was at Disneyland with them AND I'll always and forever have the memory of K1 crying tears of joy when he got to meet Buzz Lightyear.  That's all I really need, right?  ;)

Since summer break officially started Tuesday and I only had them for two and a half days before they left, I had big plans on packing as much as possible into those two days.  We didn't do as much as I wanted . . . weather issues, other factors, and kids just wanting to stay home and swim!  We did have a fun couple days though.  And the fun is continuing even though three of 'em are gone: tonight the Girl Child is having a sleepover and we're headed to a Redbirds game with her girlfriends.

Anyway, here's what we've been up to.

Tuesday we got our first Jerry's of the year.  We LOVE Jerry's and will probably be back at least two or three more times this summer.  We ate our sno-cones at the park then it was home for swimming.


 We planned to head to the drive-in Tuesday night but we had a thunderstorm roll through.  And, let's be real, I think I'm saving my theater trip for the Captain Underpants movie.  Kinda can't wait!

The big plan for Wednesday was THE ZOO.  They have a really cool Lego exhibit that the kids I've been wanting to see.  I logged onto their website Wednesday morning to renew our membership and was greeted with the message that only limited exhibits were open, no rides, and very few food vendors.  Memphis was hit hard with storms over the weekend (luckily, our only casualty was a tree limb in the yard) and there are still thousands of people in the county without power.  The zoo is one of those.  NO WAY was I going tot he zoo on a 90* day without being able to duck into the aquarium or bat house to cool off.  And since they didn't have power, I didn't know if the fountains would be working to cool off in either.  Plan B: Mud Island!
 

This is such a fun little place in Memphis.  It's $6 to park then you get to meander through a scale version of the Mississippi River that ends at the Gulf of Mexico . . . fountains and a wading pool for kids to play in.

We picnicked then splashed around for a while.
 



There's one in every crowd . . . Thanks K1!


We came back to the house and immediately jumped in the pool.  The kids had a dab diving contest and this little one, we call her Daberella, was the big winner!
 

Maddie decided to stay the night and we ended our evening with one of my most favorite things ever . . . night swimming!
 

J and the K's were leaving yesterday afternoon.  They wanted to spend the morning swimming then I wanted to take them to lunch.  My only rule: they had to eat somewhere they could only eat in Memphis.  They chose the lunch buffet at Garibaldi's and I'm glad they did!  It was super affordable and so yummy.  We'll be back for sure. 

Cady and I planned to take our girls to the concert at Levitt Shell Thursday night but . . . the best laid plans and all that.  The Girl Child was pretty tuckered out from all we'd done the previous couple days and has a big day today.  I wasn't really feeling it.  And, in the end, we decided we'd skip the concert this week.

It's been a pretty fun start to summer!  Oh!  And the most fun thing of all: I finally booked our summer vacation.  People.  Trying to plan a vacation around custody schedules and football practices . . . like, I should get a medal for getting it done!  ;)  It's all good, though, cause in a few weeks we'll be relaxing on the beach. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Last Day Luau

It's officially SUMMER at our house.  The kids are out of school until August.  I slept until 9:00 yesterday morning and we had our inaugural trip to Jerry's sno cones.  Yup, summer time!
 
Last Thursday, this sassy little lady graduated kindergarten.
 



She learned so much and grew so much this year and I'm just SO proud of her.  Her school put on the cutest graduation ceremony.  Several kids had speaking parts, they all sang a few songs for us, and then were presented their diplomas.  The PTA served cookies, cake, and punch in the cafeteria afterward.  It was a really sweet way to end kindergarten.

Since the big kids were having their "last day luau" on Friday - and there was NO WAY I was inviting a bunch of kindergarteners over for that, I let K2 have a couple friends over Thursday afternoon.  We ate pizza and swam, Cady brought over Sonic slushes for everyone.  It was a fun afternoon.



Friday morning started with a lot of THIS:
 
 
WOO HOO!  LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!
 
The kids all had last day parties which was more of a school-wide . . . almost, festival.  All grades were outside, music was playing, and while all the classes did different activities, it just really had a fun and festival-y vibe to it.


We got home with plans to start setting up for our luau but first the boys had a bit of excitement . . .



Their first time ever for a motorcycle ride!  They loved it. 

That afternoon we had our LAST DAY LUAU.  This all started when it was too cold to swim at K1's birthday party.  I promised the boys they could come back over to swim and thought, what the heck, I can't invite his friends without letting the other kids invite people . . . let's make it a party.  And since I love a good theme, we went with a luau.  Each of the older kids were allowed to invite five people each.  We ended up with 17 kids!





The boys WAY outnumbered the girls at this party (and two girls there were guests of J -- his "girlfriend" and his best friend's "girlfriend") so the poor Girlchild and her friend . . . it was hard to relax and enjoy with all those boys around cannonballing and splashing and, well, you get the picture.  Finally, though . . .
 

The Wild Ones organized a kickball game and the girly girls got the pool to themselves!
 
 
Later in the afternoon, Kendra showed up so K2 had a friend of her own to play with!
 

We told our friends that the luau ended at 6:00 and we'd probably be grilling after that.  Sure enough, right around 6:30 people started showing up.  Ha!  Anthony, Robbie, and Russell all showed up and we spent the evening on the back porch talking and laughing.
 
Saturday and Sunday were low-key days (for most of us -- more on that in a minute.)  We had talked about taking a mini trip to Nashville or St. Louis.  Mark even found us a good hotel deal in STL.  But, in the end, we decided to just stick around.  We were all exhausted and, honestly, needed the time to just chill.
 
Saturday was the one year anniversary of moving in to our house.  We've made so many memories here and I can't wait to make so many more.  And, yes, the pool is still the highlight of the house!
 

Kyan was our little social butterfly this weekend.  He went to a birthday party Saturday afternoon.  Then Sunday his friend's mom texted and asked if he could come over to swim and play.  He ended up spending the night.  He has his own little "squad" and these boys were together Friday - Monday and managed to do it without fighting at all. 
 
Memorial Day.  Jason and Kendra came over.  Jason smoked a brisket flat on the grill while Mark grilled bacon-wrapped chicken kabobs.  It was SO good.
 

We spent the day just grilling and chilling.  You know, kinda how we'll spend EVERY weekend this summer!

We ended the night with root beer floats.  Traditional for the kiddos and "adult" with Best Damn Root Beer for the grown ups.


And now . . . we're ready for lazy days and all the FUN that comes along with summer.  Bring it!