Life With Two Kids

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I've been a two-kid mom for nearly two months, which means I'm mostly adjusted to the craziness of a newborn and a toddler. It's surprising to me how much I love having two and how non-traumatic adding a baby was to our family (Brock's four weeks of paternity leave definitely eased the transition).

I know many people have a hard time transitioning to two kids, but it has been amazing for me. I'm constantly awed by how much I enjoy having two. There are definitely stressful times, like yesterday when both were screaming in the stroller and I had no option but to take deep breaths and power walk, but I'm able to handle those times with more calm than I would have thought possible.

The calm before the storm

I think one reason why the transition has been so great for me is that it feels like my brain is at a perfect equilibrium. With just one kid, I often felt bored whether we were at home or out. I couldn't really do things I wanted to do (like reading on the couch), but playing cars or watching James at the park left me looking at my watch every 5 minutes.

Now that there are two, I find myself more fully engaged. At the park I have a baby to nurse and snuggle, and when the baby is sleeping at home I have a big kid to read books to. It's so great.

Of course, it's not all amazing. I feel a bit guilty at not being able to hold Calvin as much as I want because of how needy James is. Calvin is often content in his swing or kicking his legs on a blanket, but I don't want to deprive him of being held and cuddled as much as James was as a newborn. Especially since I want to be holding him all the time. I live for the moments when I can sit in the rocking chair with him on my chest. The sad truth of the second baby is that those moments don't happen as often as I would like.

The sleep deprivation is worse this time. When it's your first baby, you really can sleep as much as the baby does, but James is usually up by 6 so that's when my day starts too. Luckily, he still naps and almost every day I've been able to get Calvin to sleep at the same time, so I've been able to squeeze in an extra hour and a half of sleep.

Plus, the thing I love most about being a second-time mom is the perspective I've gained. With James, I felt actual despair over how little I slept and occasionally went to pieces because I thought interrupted sleep was my new permanent reality. But this time, I know that the sleep evens out in a couple months, and that I can sleep train by 4ish months, so it's not the end of the world.

That perspective applies to taking care of a newborn in general. I don't fret about how much Calvin nurses or from which side, nor do I compare what he's doing with other babies his age. Most things turn out just fine, and already going through the baby experience has made this time feel so much better.

These past two months have been amazing. My life is fuller and more fulfilled, leaving me happier being a mom now than I have been before.

An Ode to Cooking

Monday, June 5, 2017

Growing up, I thought cooking dinner had to be the worst job in the world. I couldn't believe that when I was a grown-up I would have to make a meal every night. It seemed never-ending and boring.

When I went off to college, I essentially had no cooking skills. After moving out of the dorms my sophomore year, my meals more or less consisted of yogurt/banana for breakfast, peanut butter sandwich and carrots for lunch, and pasta with marinara sauce for dinner. Sometimes I switched things up and had scrambled eggs for any of those meals, but that was the extent of my cooking.

After Brock and I got married, we kind of kept eating the same way we always had. We occasionally would make meals together but often would eat something like toast for dinner without a second thought. I had always been annoyed at the assumption that the wife would automatically take on the job of cook, so I made a point of not caring about cooking.

But then I had a special, amazing experience that radically changed my life.

What happened was this: I was at a point in my life where I wanted to be a better person. I wanted to improve myself and I didn't know how. One afternoon I was praying about how I could change, and I had the distinct and overwhelming thought that I needed to prepare my body for a baby. Brock and I didn't have plans to have kids within the next year (and it did end up being more than a year before I got pregnant with James) but I understood that this was something that wasn't too far away. And I needed to be ready.

I've heard people talk about lightning bolt moments, where one moment radically changed an aspect of their lives. When I reflect on my own life, this experience always comes to mind first. It was this experience during prayer that single-handedly made me decide to start cooking.

That night, I tentatively searched around Pinterest and made a grocery list of ingredients for a few dinners that didn't look too hard.

The next evening, I began to make this pesto and cheese stuffed shells recipe. I was stressed the entire time; checking the directions four times before I did anything, second-guessing how to stuff the shells, and just generally feeling unsure of myself. Everything came out fine, and Brock and I had a dinner that was at least ten times better than what we had eaten in the past few months. Together, we began to try out new recipes and I slowly built up my confidence in cooking.

I messed a bunch of things up along the way (including putting a plastic casserole lid in the oven, where it promptly melted; and mistaking a cube of butter for a tablespoon of butter, thus ruining the recipe) but learned to love the process and steps of cooking, and the feeling at the end of having made something productive.

Cooking has been so good for my personal growth. It's taught me how to stay calm in stressful situations and that a lot of mistakes can be more or less corrected. I've become better at prioritizing and keeping my eye on multiple things at once. I've learned that if something does go wrong, it's not the end of the world and everything is still fine.

I love being able to control what we eat and explore new recipes. It helps fill a creative hole in my life that I didn't know was there. Overall, learning to love cooking has made me a happier and more well-rounded person.

P.S. Here is a post with some of my favorite healthy recipes

My Newborn Essentials

Monday, May 22, 2017

Since I'm now 36 weeks pregnant, I've been thinking about what I consider to be essentials for having a newborn. This list consists of the things I used everyday for the first months of James's life. Of course, there are tons of other things that I haven't included (for instance, I would love these little kimonos!) but they are what I remember from my last go-around as being absolute lifesavers.

A quick note before I launch into the list: I have had great success using Craigslist and borrowing from friends for a lot of baby things. There are so many things that are useful for the first few months but then once the baby is 5 or 6 months old you won't really use them anymore.

1. Swaddlers
Swaddling helped James sleep so much, and I've double-checked our swaddle situation to make sure we're ready for this baby. We used SwaddleMes for James every night until he could roll over, at about 4 months. We also used Aden and Anais bamboo swaddling blankets and loved them as well. Lastly, because I like to have all my bases covered, I bought an brand-new Halo sleep sack off Craigslist for $5.

2. Burp cloths
I don't think you can ever have too many burp cloths on hand because a baby can go through 20 in 5 hours. Most of my burp cloths were resuable diapers that had fun fabrics sewed onto them, and they were thick and great for mopping up spit-ups and catching extra milk when nursing.

3. Baby wrap
My Ergo baby wrap was one of my favorite gifts last time around. I loved being able to snuggle with my baby but have my hands free. I still love the Ergo, but I also borrowed a Solly wrap from a friend because I worry the Ergo might be too thick for summer.

When James got a bit older, around 5 months or so, I bought the Ergo baby carrier (again, Craigslist! $40) and we used that all the time too.

4. Pacifiers
Pacifiers are so amazing. I liked the Soothie option best, because I found being able to put your finger in the middle of it really helped the baby get the sucking concept.

5. Baby swing
Really, any time of baby swing will do the trick. We had a Fisher-Price one for James that was passed around among all our friends, and this time I'm borrowing one from a friend here (the same one that's lending me her Solly wrap, bless her).

6. Stroller
I've loved the Britax travel system, which I've used daily for the past two years. It has an attachment for the carseat to clip into the stroller, it folds up super easily and can be used as a jogger.

Since I go on walks all the time, I knew that we need a double stroller and trolled Craigslist every day for months to find something. I ended up getting the Maclaren twin techno for $140, which I like because it also folds up easily, is side by side but not too wide, and the seats can lay completely flat.

Some breastfeeding lifesavers: I like reusable breast pads better than disposable ones, a breast pump is a lifesaver (I've been considering buying a hand pump but haven't yet pulled the trigger), and a nursing pillow helped my back and neck from being in excruciating pain.

Some Ramblings

Monday, May 8, 2017

Here are some of my recent random thoughts:

1. One thing I've been thinking about lately (especially after writing my recovery post) is how well I remember the details of birth, labor and recovery. This is not true for everyone, as I keep talking with women who tell me they honestly don't remember the pain. I had always thought the saying about how women can't recall the pain of birth was just a weird myth, but no, it's true! I am so shocked at that, because I remember everything so keenly. I'm not sure it will ever fade from my memory.

2. I'm looking for tips on using sunscreen with kids. I'm very very into sun protection (Brock thinks I have a sun phobia) but I'm struggling when it comes to James and sunscreen. He flails around and I'm never sure how much I actually get on him. Plus, he has a little sock tan and a neck tan, which makes me panicky. I'm thinking about finding a gel-type sunscreen that might be easier to apply, but maybe a spray is the way to go?

3. About a month ago, we got James a twin bed since we want the baby to be sleeping in the pack n play that James had been using. At first he slept through the night no problem. But the past two weeks or so have been pretty hard. He gets up constantly right after we put him in and we have to go in 3 or 4 times each night to tell him to get back in bed. Plus, he's been getting out of bed in the middle of the night. He'll quietly come and stand right next to my face and wait for me to notice him, which always scares the daylights out of me.

There have been a few nights (like last night) where he will get up and be in our room 3-4 times before 5:30. And if he hasn't been up before 5:30, then 5:30 is his new wake-up call. And before this he had been sleeping until 7! This is all a very rude reminder of what having a newborn will be like. Anyway, I don't know any strategies for keeping him in his bed but I'm desperate for some. Should we put a baby lock on his door so he can't open it?

4. Back in November, the state of California passed a law prohibiting the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. I freaked out about it when I heard because we used the plastic bags to put dirty diapers in before we take them out to the trash. But I've been thinking lately how creative we've become with things we would usually throw away. I'll look at the bag that bread comes in or the empty bag of granola, or all the green produce bags we have and think, "Perfect diaper size". In a way, I'm grateful for the law because it's been fun to see what we used to throw away that we now stash to use for diapers.

5. We drink so much milk that it's a hassle. I have to go at least twice a week to get us more and between the three of us we drink 5-6 gallons a week. Doesn't that seem insane? Almost every time I load my cart up with 4 or 5 gallons someone will comment, "Wow, you sure like milk!" and I never know what to say. I hope that my love for milk will calm down after I have the baby, like it did after I had James, because this amount seems unsustainable.

Five Eye-Opening Books Set Outside the U.S.

Friday, May 5, 2017

I've been saying lately that having a child has killed my travel bug. The thought of dealing with a toddler on a long flight, fighting jet lag, and needing to take into account naps and early bedtimes makes me too exhausted to even want to take James to a different country.

But I don't want to stop learning about new countries and cultures, so I've compiled a list of some wonderful books that take place outside the U.S. In these books I've been exposed to ideas that have helped me savor the breadth of experience in human lives.

1. Marching Powder by Rusty Young
Thomas McFadden, a British citizen, is the center of this book. He is in the Bolivian prison San Pedro for drug smuggling, and experiences a bizarre form of freedom where inmates buy their cells, are able to have their families live with them, and can go on supervised visits to the outside world. It is a fascinating look at an inner world I knew nothing about.

2. My Life in France  by Julia Child
Julia Child's life was unfamiliar to me before reading this book, and I was amazed to learn that she didn't begin cooking until her late 30s, when she moved to France with her husband. Her book is full of great descriptions of food and France in the 1950s, and it is inspiring to read about her strong relationships with friends and family.

3. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
When I was 14, my family visited South Korea, including the DMZ, where I was able peer out at North Korea. Ever since then I have been fascinated by North Korea and the little bit we know about life there. This book helped quench my thirst for North Korea stories, as the author interviews six people who defected to South Korea and learns what their lives were like before they came. The reality of their experiences is a little hard to take sometimes, but I came away a more well-rounded person after reading it.

4. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This is an incredible novel describing pre-and post-colonial life in Nigeria. It is rare that a book adequately describes what different areas in Africa looked like before European colonists came, and this one gives a vivid picture into the lives and traditions of the people. This book is on my 'best novels' list because it is thought-provoking and unique.

5. Japan at War by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore Failor Cook
In general, I'm not really a fan of WWII books, but I was convinced to try this one after Brock read it for a college class and assured me I would love it. He was so right; I lived and breathed this book and could barely tear myself away to do anything else. It's a collection of firsthand accounts of Japanese people during WWII. You'll read about soldiers who almost completed suicide missions, officers training others about beheadings, children exposed to the atomic bomb, and so much more.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Giving birth can be an extremely harrowing experience, and recovering is rarely quick or easy. I've been thinking a lot about the realities of recovery as I'm trying to make sure I'm prepared for this baby's arrival. I want to be open about how hard my recovery was with James in the hopes that maybe others can be more ready than I was.

Due to swelling and the pain of being in labor for almost 30 hours, I was unable to walk unattended for nearly two days. Every time I went to the bathroom Brock or a nurse (or both, at the beginning) had to help me get there. I couldn't even stand alone, which meant I couldn't get James out of his bassinet during the hospital stay, and wasn't able to take a shower until he was nearly two days old.

During labor, the epidural wore off on my back, and I begged constantly for heating pads to ease the pain. No one (including me) was paying much attention to how I used them and instead of wrapping them in a paper towel I would slap them directly on my skin. I ended up with a giant second degree burn on that spot that ballooned into a huge blister and was raw and painful for about a month. I still have a scar from it over two years later.

In the hospital, I had to sit on ice packs constantly because of how swollen my whole pelvic area was. The nurses would split open a baby diaper and stuff it full of huge ice cubes, then tape it back up. Sitting on a fresh ice pack was heavenly because it helped take the pain away for a bit. There was a numbing spray that went along with it and I would count down the hours until I could use it.

Then there's the bleeding. As the uterus shrinks back down after birth there is period-like bleeding for about six weeks. It tapers off near the end, but can be really heavy at the beginning. I had to wear huge pads for weeks, and about three weeks after birth I overexerted myself (by vacuuming, lol) and ended up passing two huge blood clots that made me feel weak and dizzy.

Night sweats were another unexpected side effect. For a week or two after James was born, I would wake up completely covered in sweat. That's not an exaggeration- I would be sweating from places I usually didn't sweat from, like my arms, my neck, my stomach, my scalp. The doctor said it was a way for my body to shed the water weight and that it was normal (although I have yet to meet anyone else who has experienced it).

The hormone surges I experienced were brutal. I had never felt such swings of emotion before and never cried over such trivial things. Brock once came into our room to find me quietly weeping on the bed. When he asked what was wrong, I sobbed out that James was growing up too fast. Brock replied, "He's only 3 days old." And then I said, "But I remember when he was 3 hours old!" and it only made me cry more. Obviously, I was hormonal and sleep-deprived and I understood that it was a little crazy to cry about my 3 day old baby growing up too fast. But the hormones made little things like that seem completely cry-worthy.

I remember crying because I just wanted to be free from the pain. So many aspects of my body hurt and on top of all this, I was only sleeping 2-3 hours at a time. Coming into motherhood this way was a total shock to every aspect of my life. My body felt like it had completely fallen apart and I struggled to adjust to it along with taking care of a baby's every need. I'm not ashamed to admit that during the first month there were many times that I closed my eyes and wished for my old life back.

Yet, like everything else in life, it was a stage. A hard stage that challenged me and forced me to grow and mature in ways I didn't want to, but it ended. My body healed, my milk supply evened out, my baby started sleeping through the night, etc. And that time gave me such a deep perspective on what women go through to bring babies in the world. It made me feel grateful for my mother and mothers everywhere, and helped me feel connected to women throughout time.

I'm praying that this recovery goes easier than the last, but regardless of what happens I'm grateful for the perspective I've gained after already going through it.

My Dream Reading Space

Monday, April 24, 2017

I love imagining my dream reading nook, which would have lots of sunlight and a comfy place to sit surrounded by pillows. Daydreaming about such a spot inspired me to start thinking about how I could create one in our home right now.

Currently, I read all over the place. During breakfast and lunch I'll park myself at the table with a book open next to my plate. At night, I'll prop myself up on the bed and read while Brock is working, and during the day I'll sprawl on the couch for the rare 10 minute increments James manages to play on his own.

While I know it doesn't really matter where I read, I would love to have a spot dedicated to my reading life.

There is a corner in our home that has definite potential to become that little reading nook. In our living room, we have the most wonderful Craigslist find of my life, a brand-new West Elm Graham Glider.  We also have a tripod floor lamp from Target that complements it so well, and looking at that spot gives me a daily happiness boost.

It's almost the ideal reading space, but the problem is that I'm too short. If I slouch down in the chair, I am just able to get my toes to graze the carpet, but that is definitely not comfortable long term. Most of the time I just curl up in the chair, but when I'm reading for long periods of time (or nursing a baby) I want to be able to stretch my legs out and push the rocker.

So, I have put together what I feel are the essentials to achieve a more perfect reading space- a place to put my feet and pillows for my back. For my feet, I've been looking into poufs and ottomans. I love the look of poufs because of their cozy vibe, but I'm open to the idea of a good ottoman as well. I love this pouf from Arhaus which I think would work well with what we already have in the room.

I also want one or two beautiful and supportive pillows. The pillow that came with the glider (you can see it in the picture below) has no support and blends in with the chair. I went to Arhaus's site and found about twenty couch pillows that I love and managed to narrow it down to two that I would choose in a dream world.

So here are all the pieces of my dream reading nook: the Graham glider, the brass tripod lamp from Target (both of which we already own), and a great pouf and pillows (1 and 2) all from Arhaus's living room collection.

Writing this post makes me realize how possible it is to make that glider a better fit for my reading life, and I'm now motivated to make this happen before the baby comes.

April 19th

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, plant, tree, outdoor and nature
On April 19, 2012, Brock and I began dating. Every April 19th since then has been special to me, since it was the first step I took in aligning my life with Brock's.

On this day, five years ago, Brock and I meet up in Provo. We haven't seen each other since the previous December, as I had been interning in Washington D.C. I was only visiting BYU for two days,and before coming I texted Brock to see if he would be available to hang out. He responded, "!!!!! Yes!" and my heart fluttered a little bit.

We've been friends for a long time (a year and a half, which felt like forever at college), but I have never been ready to commit to anything.

That fateful night, he picks me up at my cousin's house. As he sits down on the couch next to me, the evening sunlight comes through the door behind him and I suddenly realize how blue his eyes are. Have his eyes always been so blue? He smiles happily at me and I feel warm everywhere. Has his smile always made me feel like that? His elbow brushes mine and I feel a shiver go through me.

We leave and drive to downtown Provo. When we get out of the car, Brock takes my hand and I pretend like it's completely normal while in reality I'm unable to breathe right or form coherent thoughts.

We walk around for awhile and I can't stop laughing and smiling at everything he says. Eventually, we end up sitting on a bench on Center Street. In the middle of a normal conversation, Brock leans over and kisses me. It is magical.

Later, we sit in his car before he drops me off. The night had been so different and my feelings were so surreal that I blurt out, "So what's going on here?' And he answers, "I like you. I've liked you for a long time and I would date you if you wanted to date me." Those are his exact words that I write in my journal the next night. He doesn't skirt around the issue, just tells me exactly what is on his mind, in a manner that I have loved ever since.

I say "Yes!" almost immediately, although I'm also somewhat anxious. This, I can tell, is a big deal. A very big deal. These feelings I'm having are completely different than any I have experienced before. What I'm saying yes to is something momentous.

Recently Read: April 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

It's been awhile since I've done one of these recently read lists and I'm excited to share some of what I've been into book-wise.

1. The Street by Ann Petry
I grabbed this book off a stand at the front of my library- one of those where a librarian puts out great books you probably haven't heard of. This was approximately my fifth pick from that stand and it was the first one that I actually agree was great. The Street was written in 1946 and is set in Harlem, and focuses on the struggle of a young black mother to provide for her child while avoiding the evils of the street. It was fascinating to read, with an ending that took me by surprise and left me confused as to how I felt about the book overall.

2. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Our apartment complex has a book swap in the computer room, and when I was there recently I saw a pristine copy of The Poisonwood Bible and decided now was my time to read it. It was a lot sadder than I expected and very thought-provoking. It was interesting to read about the family's experience in the Congo during such a turbulent time, especially since the book changed narration each chapter, allowing you to really experience events through the eyes of each character.

3. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
In this book, Hochschild writes about her experience making friends and befriending Tea Party-ers in rural Louisiana. She is a liberal from Berkeley and desperately wants to understand the American right. Her book was evenhanded and fascinating, and definitely helped me understand why Donald Trump had the sweeping success that he did during the election.

4. Little Victories by Jason Gay
This book is a fun collection of essays about some "rules" for life. Many of them are hilarious, but there are a lot (like the ones about his dad) that were touching, and they have been the ones I've reflected on the most. It was a quick read and I highly recommend it.

5. Two Little Girls by Theresa Reid
For some reason I have an interest in reading books on adoption, and this one definitely broadened my understanding about how exhaustive international adoptions can be. Reid and her husband have two children, one adopted from Ukraine and one from Russia. In her book, she carefully details what the steps to adoption were in each case. The cost, effort, and toll on them was astounding, and I'm glad to add this one to my ever-growing list providing perspectives on adoption.

Let's Talk About Audiobooks + Some of My Favorites

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Growing up, I learned to love listening to books while on long family road trips, where we constantly had books on tape playing to keep us all entertained. Now, I almost always have an audiobook loaded onto my phone to listen to whenever I have a chance- while on my walks, cleaning the kitchen, or crocheting. It makes the time pass much more pleasantly and is something I look forward to.

For listening, I exclusively use Overdrive. Overdrive is an app that syncs up to your local library. When you download it, you'll be asked to choose your library and then will have to enter your library card number to check out books. Libraries differ in what books they have available and there can be long waitlists, but overall I'm really happy with Overdrive.

Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way:
-If you like rereading books, one option to get yourself into audiobooks is to start with a book you've already read. This is what I did and it helped me follow along since I was already familiar with the story.

-I like to listen on 1.5x speed. Overdrive (and probably other apps) allows you to change the speed of narration, and I started at 1.25x and then after a few months moved on to 1.5x. For the first few minutes it sounds like they're speed-talking, but soon your brain adjusts and it sounds totally normal.

-Classics are great on audio. It's easy to get lost in the dialogue and they don't seem as daunting when you're listening to them. I've enjoyed some Jane Austen books and am currently listening to Anne of Green Gables, which has been fantastic.

Since getting into audiobooks sometime in 2015, I've listened to a bunch and here are ten I recommend:

1. Going Solo by Roald Dahl
This is such an amazing memoir and I want to hype it up so that everyone reads it. I was breathless listening to his experiences in East Africa and then his time as a pilot in WWII. I had to keep reminding myself that obviously Roald was not going to die since he wrote the book.

2/3. I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
Both these books are fantastic on audio. Ephron narrates and she does it perfectly. I actually read I Feel Bad About My Neck in book form first and felt kind of meh about it. But I decided to try it out on audio and was laughing out loud. Both these books are full of excellent essays and thinking about them makes me want to listen to them again.

4. Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes
Again, the author reads this one herself and I loved hearing her describe what pushed her to start her year of yes. This one also has the actual audio from some speeches she gave and it really brought the book alive. It is a fun experience and a fairly quick audiobook.

5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
I just finished listening to this one and it was great. Having someone read it out with different voices makes it seem more alive than on the page and I really loved the characters. The story feels so timeless.

6. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Reading this book in paper form was kind of challenging for me, probably because it is lacking in dialogue. But listening to it made me feel caught up in Ames's reflections and drawn into his contemplations. It seemed much deeper to me than the first time around.

7. My Antonia by Willa Cather
A beautiful classic, I loved this novel about a young boy and his friend, Antonia. Nebraska is a huge character in this book (read it and you'll know what I mean) and I loved seeing the growth of the main characters.

8. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
This novel is among my all-time favorites, and listening to it last year made the book come alive in a new way. The characters' ups and downs were so real to me and it felt like I could actually see everything being described. It was so amazing.

9. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
Brock and I listened to this at the same time and it was so fun to talk about it every evening and laugh or cringe over the stories. In this book, Herriot details his first few years as a veterinarian in the English countryside. The experiences he has and the people he meets are unique and it is a wonderful book.

10. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
In book form, this book is written in free verse. Usually that throws me off but since I was listening to it I didn't even notice. I loved following along with Jacqueline's story (narrated by herself) of her growing up, bouncing between North Carolina and Brooklyn. She has an interesting voice that drew me in.

27 Week Pregnancy Update

Friday, March 24, 2017

I am now in the third trimester of my pregnancy and am so excited to meet our baby. One of my favorite things about this later stage is feeling the baby's constant movement. He twists and kicks and flails around practically nonstop, and I enjoy the reminder of his presence. It feels like this wonderful secret between me and him, the fact that he is letting me know he is there but no one but the two of us knows it. Pregnancy is really a fleeting time and I'm trying to soak up the experience of him on the inside before I meet him on the outside.

While I could go on about the good parts, there have also been some less-than-pleasant realities lately, such as:

-I've had four nosebleeds so far. The first time it happened this go-around (it happened once my previous pregnancy) I was very thrilled with the drama of it all. Anything bleeding feels very important! But now I'm so tired of them and am praying I don't get any more.

-My tailbone is always easily irritated when I'm pregnant. Going to church and sitting on hard metal chairs for multiple hours pretty much does me in. I'll sometimes end up standing (in heels) in the back of the room because it is easier than trying to make myself comfortable on those death traps. This week at the library, I opted to sit on the floor because it felt better than the tiny wooden stools that seem to pierce straight through my tailbone.

-I've already grown out of a maternity shirt. How? Why? I still have three months to go and since it won't be winter like my last pregnancy, when I could wear a coat every time I went outside, I actually need to look decent right up to the end!

-This one is not pregnancy related, but our apartment building is going through some construction that makes many aspects of my life miserable. We knew about the construction when we signed our lease and we're getting a break on rent for it, but I didn't fully understand what the construction would mean. I wish someone had held my hand and gently said, "Workers will be jackhammering along your front door and on your patio, always during your son's nap time, which will cause him to wake up and ruin your own nap and the only bit of respite you get during the day." Maybe then I would have been more prepared.

Overall, this pregnancy has been so much more of a trial than I anticipated. My hormones have not treated me kindly and there have been so many times I've wished for it to be over. Now that it's finally getting closer to the end, I'm trying to remember the good parts about being pregnant (especially sleep) and take all the hardships in stride. Obviously, this is easier said than done but that's okay! I'm a work in progress.

Seven Healthy Recipes I Love

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

This pregnancy I am committed to being healthier than I was last time and so far I've been feeling fairly successful at it. I'm eating a lot more vegetables and have been consciously seeking out healthier meal options.

Here are seven healthy recipes that I love and have made multiple times. Of course, I'm not a nutritionist, so I don't know exactly how healthy these are, but in general I look for recipes with lots of vegetables and without anything too fatty.

1. Chicken Sausage and Roasted Veggie Sheet Pan Dinner from Our Best Bites
This recipe is so easy and so good. You just chop up the sausage, sweet potato, and Brussel sprouts and then roast them in the oven. I've never used the pomegranate seeds, which I imagine would taste delicious, but it's been so good without them that it's definitely not a necessity.

2. Honey Lime Tilapia from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Tilapia is such an easy thing to cook and I've found a few recipes with it that I really enjoy. My favorite is this honey lime tilapia. It has to marinate beforehand, but if I start it around lunchtime then dinner time is so easy- under twenty minutes until it's ready!

3. The Best Chicken Fajitas from Iowa Girl Eats
I've posted about these before, but they really are the best homemade fajitas I've had. There is no marinating, plenty of vegetables, and everything tastes amazing. I'll usually make a bit of homemade guacamole to go along with it and it is heavenly.

4. Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry from Kraft Foods
Just a fun, easy stir-fry. I love the flavor the pineapple gives (I buy canned) and this is simple and filling. It's actually on the menu for this week and I'm looking forward to it!

5. P.F. Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps from Damn Delicious
This meal is a wonderful treat for me. I only get ground chicken from Walmart, and I only go to Walmart about once every two months, so whenever I go I motivate myself with the knowledge that we get to eat chicken lettuce wraps. They are SO good and it's easy to change the spiciness level since Brock and I need everything to be super mild.

6. Roasted Sweet Potato Chicken Quinoa Salad from Our Best Bites
Big salads are some of my favorite things to make for dinner. This one has everything- quinoa, chicken, sweet potatoes, avocados, red onion, and feta cheese. I love it every time I make it and it's great to have an excuse to buy bacon dressing.

7. Broccoli Quinoa Casserole from Damn Delicious
This casserole is easy and loaded with cheese and broccoli. I love being able to dump everything in a pan and then have time to clean the kitchen while it cooks. It always tastes amazing and gives plenty of leftovers, which is a definite plus.

Honorable Mentions:
1. No-Bake Healthy Granola Bites from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
I made these religiously before I got pregnant. I would eat the batch in about 4 days and then immediately have to make more because I loved them so much. I never used the rice krispies and would add in slivered almonds when I  had them on hand. For some reason, they just haven't sounded good to me since I've been pregnant but I wish they did, if that makes sense.

2. Roasted Broccoli from The Amateur Gourmet
Hands down, this is my favorite way to eat broccoli. I've never liked steamed broccoli so I thought I just didn't like broccoli, but then I tried it this way and I was hooked. Since I found out I was slightly anemic this pregnancy, I've been trying to eat broccoli at least once a week and this recipe is always the one I use.

How Brock Has Changed Me

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sao Paolo, Brazil in 2014—a place I probably wouldn't have visited if it weren't for Brock

I am always interested in hearing people tell me how their significant other has changed them. For example, a friend told me that she wasn't interested in music before she married her husband and now, because of his interests, music is a big part of her life. The fact that your small of everyday things can change because of the spouse you've chosen is so intriguing.

Being married to Brock has affected me in a million ways, from where we've lived to our children's names. Here are a few of my favorite ways that he has changed me.

Everything animals
A few months ago, Brock, James, and I drove an hour and fifteen minutes to attend the North American Reptile Breeders Conference (NARBC, for those in the know). We spent hours looking at all the animals and debating if we should get a crested gecko or red-footed tortoise (spoiler: we didn't get either). All day, I kept thinking that I was there because of Brock. It was something I never would have done on my own but after being married for a few years, I now enjoy those types of activities.

Brock's love of animals is why our first (and so far, only) pet was an orange corn snake we named Susan. It's the reason why there are terrariums in our Amazon wishlist and why I can name way more dog breeds than before. It's why we've gone to zoos in five states and why we've watched multi-part documentaries on Netflix called "Life of Mammals" and "Life of Birds." It's a small thing, but learning to appreciate animals through Brock has enriched my life.

At the zoo with 2 week old James

Being on time

I'm now on time more than I used to be. Brock is effortlessly early to everything, but I am definitely not. Before I was married, it was normal for me to be about 2 minutes late to everything (maybe that's positive thinking; it probably was more than that). I would take only the exact amount of time I needed to get ready, without any buffer, so if I had to run back and grab my wallet or if I missed all the lights during my commute, I would be a few minutes late. It always slightly annoyed me but not enough to do anything about it.

But Brock's habit has rubbed off on me and now I'm much better about being on time—even with a kid in tow! I'm still not perfect at it but I haven't been late to a single doctor's appointment this pregnancy, nor have I been late to the weekly music class James and I attend. Being on time makes me feel more put-together and overall like a competent adult.

The area where I have changed the most because of Brock, and the one I like the most, is in how neat and clean I am now. Growing up, I was NEVER neat and I think I went years without making my bed.

It never bothered me enough to make the effort to keep things clean, but Brock has different philosophies about neatness. He is very neat and tidy. On days off he'll clean the entire apartment, and back in law school, he would relax after taking finals by organizing our living room closet. I can't even type that out without smiling because of how adorable he is.

Before we were married, I used to leave my book lying around wherever I finished reading, and every morning I would try a bunch of clothes on and then just drop them on the floor of my closet. In general, I didn't think to put things away. There was an adjustment period where I learned that leaving things out really bothers Brock and I saw how happy he was when things were put away.

Surprisingly, I discovered that keeping things clean to make Brock happy was a huge motivation for me. I really wanted him to feel loved and comfortable, so I made a huge effort to reform my previous messy habits. And it's worked! I tidy without much thought these days and have discovered that I actually feel more relaxed and calm when things are picked up. Living in a tidy home has been an unexpected joy and I definitely owe it to Brock.

What are some ways your significant other has changed you? I was thinking about what Brock would say to this question and one that instantly came to mind was sleep habits. He goes to sleep so much earlier now than he used to because of my need for an early bedtime.

3 Beautiful Books about Grief

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Lately I have been thinking about grief and loss. It's not for any particular reason but I've been contemplating what it means to mourn and how that process can shape people's lives. Questions keep coming to me about how people deal with loss, and how dealing with it makes them alternately stronger and weaker.

Here are three fantastic books that all touch on the subject of grief in different ways. Thought-provoking and relatable, I found them to be illuminating on emotions that are rarely talked about but widely experienced.

1. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
The word that always comes to my mind when I think about this book is 'beautiful'. Hannah is reflecting back on her life and the formative events she experienced, many of which came through losing people close to her. There are profound statements about loss and love and how the two are intertwined. This is a book that I cannot wait to read again.

2. The Magical Year of Thinking by Joan Didion
 To me, this is Didion's most poignant book. She describes her husband's sudden death and how it completely upended her life. Her descriptions of grief and how she coped are worded in the most heart-rending way possible, and certain passages have stuck with me ever since I read it.

3. Epilogue by Anne Roiphe
Roiphe's memoir is also about the grief she suffers after the death of her husband, but her writing focuses more on her struggles to forge her own life after being married for 39 years. She covers attempting to date again, the feeling of burdening her children, her desire to change and yet keep everything the same. It's a thoughtful description of a difficult time.

What's In a Name?

Monday, February 13, 2017

I'm at a stage in my life where I'm often thinking about names, whether for my own baby or during discussions with pregnant friends. Reading The Name Therapist by Duana Taha felt perfectly timed.

The Name Therapist isn't a baby name book, it's more about how our names affect us and how Duana's name influenced her growing up. One of her main points was that almost everyone has strong opinions on their own names and can describe how that name does or does not fit who they are. She believes that in many ways a name can help shape a person. If a name is offbeat, chances are the kid will be too. This got me thinking how I feel about my own name and it also made me reflect on my "rules" for naming babies.

Overall, I like my name. As a kid, I always assumed that when I grew up I would go by Kimberly, because Kimmie seemed like a little kid name. But as I got older there never seemed a good time to break away from it. I could never imagine not being Kimmie, so when I went to college I just abandoned the idea of casting off my nickname and embraced it.

But sometimes it is hard having a nickname. In middle school and early high school I had some social anxiety (although I would not have called it that at the time) and roll call on the first day of school always made me so nervous. I hated having to say (in front of everyone!) "I go by Kimmie" and then needing to spell it out because everyone tends to spell my name Kimmy, which is annoying in its own  right.

Now, as an adult, it feels weird to put Kimmie on a resume, but then it also feels weird to go in for interviews and have people say Kimberly. When people call me that it's as though they don't really know me, and sometimes it's strange that Kimberly is my "real" name. It's an interesting dynamic that I probably think about too much.

From my own name hang-ups I have developed a few rules when it comes to naming our children. As you could probably guess, I don't want to call our kids by a nickname. It's possible that going by a nickname wouldn't bother our children at all, but for my sanity I would just prefer to call them by the name on their birth certificate.

Another rule is that I don't want to repeat initials. I have the same initials as my dad and my older sister, and for some reason I disliked that I wasn't able to put my initials on something and have it clearly symbolize me. So names starting with B, J, and K are pretty much out.

I also have a "no names that end in L" rule since Brock's last name starts with an L. I worry that if our child's name ends in an L the names will kind of run together. Like if we went with Paul or Samuel, would that sound weird?

We also don't want to go with anything too trendy (although I have never heard anyone say, "Yes, I want to name my child the top name of the year", so we're not unique in that). Anytime we talk about names I itch to look it up on Baby Name Voyager, because it shows how popular names have been. I do hope that we haven't destined James to be "James L." all his school life since the name James was fairly popular the year he was born, but oh well! We love it.

With all my weird rules it's been nice to come to a name consensus for our baby boy. I'm hoping to keep it secret until the baby comes, but Brock is fine telling people, so we'll see what happens. In case you were wondering, The Name Therapist author agrees with me; she thinks that when you are naming a baby you shouldn't subject yourselves to outside opinions and just come up with a name that you love.

What are some of your thoughts on names? This is a subject I could discuss endlessly.

Figuring Out My Love Language

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I recently finished The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which is about how each of us has a primary way ("love language") of giving and receiving love. The five love languages are acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch, and words of affirmation. You can take the quiz on Chapman's website here to find your language.

I referenced them to Brock often enough that he was shocked to find out I hadn't actually read it myself. Once I did read it, I realized that figuring out how to get more of my love language has boosted my happiness.

As a side note, I listened to this book on audio and I recommend it in that format. Chapman read it himself and he has a great North Carolina accent that really adds to the writing.

The book emphasizes how learning your spouse's love language can improve your marriage because you will know how to show your love and appreciation in the way they treasure most. While I understand that angle, in my own life I saw that figuring out my love language has made both Brock and me happier.

It took me awhile to figure out my own love language. None of them stood out to me until a few months ago. Brock works a lot at night (not complaining because at least he's home before 6 most days) and one night I realized I hadn't really felt connected to him in a few days. I stopped to analyze what I felt would help me feel close to him. It came to me that all I wanted was to sit and talk with him, with no distractions.

And then- duh!- that is quality time! One of the primary "dialects," as Chapman says. For me to feel loved, I need to have quality time with Brock where we sit together and have great conversations. I never felt drawn to quality time because I misunderstood the concept. I thought it was about going on dates to the orchestra or going rock-climbing together, neither of which seem necessary for me to feel loved in my marriage.

Once I learned that, it's actually been easier for me to feel loved by Brock because I have no problem expressing what I need. I'll just say, "Do you have 20 minutes tonight where we can talk?" and since he's always willing, I've been so much happier. I've made it more of a priority on the weekends and any nights when Brock finishes work up earlier to get that time together, and I've benefited by feeling a new closeness. It's absolutely wonderful.

What's Saving My Life Right Now

Thursday, February 2, 2017

It always lifts my spirits to think about what things are making my life better right now. February isn't a tough month in southern California weather-wise, but there is never a bad time to think about good things in life, right? So here are the things that are saving my life.

1. Looking at ultrasound pictures of our little baby BOY!
We went to our 20-week ultrasound today and had it confirmed by our tech that we are having another little boy! At my 12-week ultrasound they were pretty sure it was a boy, so we've been banking on that ever since, but it has been so good to know for sure. Now we can settle on a name and pull out all our tiny baby boy clothes from last time.

This smile is brought to you by Snoogle

2. Snoogle Body Pillow
I never used any type of pregnancy pillow during my last pregnancy and I had major regret about it the six weeks before I had James. But by that point I figured it was too late to bother so I just dealt with it. But this time around I knew I was not going to let myself suffer, so when I got an Amazon gift card for Christmas I bought this wonderful pillow and my sleep has improved dramatically.

3. Vaseline
For some unexplainable reason, my lips decided to go completely crazy on me about a month ago. They peeled, cracked, got little sores, and caused me a lot of pain. I put on tons of chapstick, coconut oil, an essential oil blend I've used in the past and nothing worked. Then I saw my huge container of Vaseline and decided to try it. My lips are healed!! I still have to put the Vaseline on about every 2 hours or they start to crack again, but they feel so much better than before.

4. Pampers Size 5
I feel like a bad mom for this one. For about two months James had been wetting through his nighttime diaper almost every night. It was annoying but since he fits size 4 I figured what could you do? I am such a weird rule-follower that I didn't want to put him in size 5 since he's not 27 lbs yet (I know how crazy that sounds). But I had finally had enough of him being soaked and with size 5 the problem is solved! I'm just kicking myself for not doing it a long time ago.

5. Grocery store carryout
Last week was the first time I've done this (and I did it again this week) and I couldn't stop marveling over how much simpler it made my life. The person carrying out my groceries put them all in the trunk and took the cart back before I even finished buckling James in his carseat! I am total convert and don't think I'll skip it again (as long as I have a child with me).

6. Wearing a watch
I got a watch for Christmas and I realized I love knowing the time. It's such a small thing, but I've noticed I get a little annoyed when I don't know exactly what time it is and I hate digging in my purse for my phone. The wristwatch is such a great invention and having one improve my quality of life.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy

My Favorite Books for Early Motherhood

Monday, January 30, 2017

When I was nearing my due date with James, I was drawn to certain books to help me prepare for the life-changing craziness ahead. While nothing can really "prepare" you for having and caring for a baby, many of the things I read helped me the first few months of motherhood. I don't think reading a lot of parenting books is a necessity to being a good parent, but reading has always given me solace. It was a natural step for me to pick up a few books to feel self-assured about what I was embarking on.

Also, I didn't read any pregnancy books. I paged through one or two and found them mildly interesting, but I also just felt like reading about pregnancy wasn't going to be super beneficial for me (that's just me though!). When I had weird pains or whatever I would Google to see if they were normal, but for the most part I just let my body do its thing.

Here is the list (I'll update if I read any other good ones this time around):

1. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May started a commune back in the 70s called The Farm where practicing midwives have helped hundred of women have natural births. While this book has many hippie moments, I loved reading the long collection of birth stories and appreciated her descriptions of the laboring process. Even though I ended up getting an epidural, I still enjoyed reading about natural childbirth and how to keep myself calm and focused during contractions.

2. Hypnobirthing by Marie F. Mongan
I skimmed this book but still gleaned good information about staying in control while going through labor. Since I tend to have anxiety, I wanted to feel calm and collected instead of panicked while laboring, and this book gave good techniques.

3. I just put Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method on hold at the library and will update once I've read through that one as well.

1. The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins
This book was my best friend the first few weeks of nursing. I read certain sections at least 5 times and if I was worried about anything my first instinct was to turn to this book to check it out. It breaks down what to expect from nursing for the ages of children, including children over 2, goes over pains and problems with breastfeeding, and overall helped me feel confident and sure of myself.

2. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International
The first time I went on a walk with James he was 5 days old and it was to the library to pick up this book. It is definitely more in the natural camp than the other one and I liked its approach to the mother-baby bonding through breastfeeding. The information is slightly different than the other (although there are definite overlaps) and it was good to get an additional perspective.

1. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
Brock and I used the 5 Ss EVERY DAY until James was probably 3 months old. I remember James crying in the hospital and Brock trying to quiet him and I said, "Shush him louder than his cries!" Brock did it and James immediately quieted down. We were amazed and used all the tricks in the books to great success. I'm definitely going to read this one again before our baby comes to make sure I still have it down.

2. The Sleepeasy Solution by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack
I didn't read this one until James was around 6 months old and I wished I had read it sooner. When James was struggling with nighttime wake-ups I read a bunch of books on getting kids to sleep and this one was definitely my favorite. Their methods for sleep training really worked for us and I loved all the different age breakdowns and how they approached naps.

1. Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman
Newman's book about her second pregnancy and life with her husband and two-year-old was laugh-out-loud funny and so poignant about the years of early motherhood. I connected with the sentiments she expressed and am dying to reread it.

2. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
I'm not sure this is technically a memoir, but I loved the differences Druckerman brought up between French and American parenting. I've read it twice and each time came away with new insights about the type of relationship I want to cultivate with my children.

What books about early motherhood have you read? I'd love to hear!

Linking up with A Cocoon of Books 

Some Ramblings

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Here is an installment of some random thoughts I have floating around my brain. Enjoy!

1. A few weeks ago, I printed out a 2017 calendar (one page for each month) that I found somewhere on Pinterest. I hung it up in my closet to keep track of my exercise because it's nice to see how it measures out on a weekly basis. Today, I realized that the calendar I printed was from 2016, not 2017. Yes, it took me weeks to realize that. Sigh. And I printed all 12 months on cardstock. Double sigh.

2. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will likely have to keep napping this entire pregnancy. During the first trimester when I was so sick and exhausted I didn't think much about my daily naps (besides the panic I felt if there was a chance that I might have to miss one), but I assumed that my need for them would disappear around the same time my nausea did.

I've had to accept that the need has not gone away. A few weeks ago I declared that I was going to wean myself off naps. It was a very noble attempt, but I started noticing that on the days when I didn't nap I would be so emotional and exhausted at night that I could barely do anything. Yet the constant need to sleep for 2+ hours in the day embarrassed me. Which is silly, because I'm pregnant and need to take special care of myself. So I have let go of my shame over having a similar sleep schedule with my almost 2-year-old and am looking forward to five more months of naps.

3. I recently bought some maternity leggings at Old Navy (similar) and have been wearing them about 3-4 times a week. Usually I would space them out more, but it has been raining here so much (sidenote: is the drought over yet?) that I can't wear the maternity dresses I bought when I was expecting this to be a normal warm winter. I'm having to get strategic about making sure I don't wear them too often when I know the same people will see me.

4. After writing this post I decided to buy The Highly Sensitive Person. It slightly breaks my rules because I haven't read it before so I'm not sure if I'll want to read it again, but I have heard a ton of good things about it. I'm 99% positive I qualify as a highly sensitive person just based on the description, so I'm extremely interested in exploring the topic more. And since my library didn't have a copy I felt justified in buying one of my own.

5. I have been feeling the baby moving around a lot the last week and it has been great. I was feeling slightly dumb because I wasn't sure for so long if it was actually the baby or not. Shouldn't I know how it feels since I've already been pregnant? But after enough times when I stopped and thought, "Why does my stomach feel so weird?" I realized that since I wasn't on a roller coaster it must be the baby. And it's nice to feel a little mover inside me again. We find out the gender in a week and a half and I am so excited.

Recharging Through Alone Time

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I am a person who needs a lot of space and a ton of alone time. This one aspect of my personality is likely responsible for many of struggles as a mom- it is easy for me to feel burned out when I don't get enough of that alone time. Especially since James acts like my little magnet pretty much every minute he's awake. There is no rest from this constant desire he has to be right next to me all the time.

And while I'm sure this is just a stage, my (faulty) memory is telling me that I can't remember a time since he was mobile when he hasn't been this way. It can be so hard for me to feel like I have any breathing room or time to recharge (classic introvert).

Recently, I was reading a book about parents called All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior. It's not exactly about parenting, but more about parents' stories.

One of the mothers Senior focused on was talking about how her husband seemed to take full advantage of his free time on the weekends but she never did. Senior asked, "Do you think if you said to your husband 'I want to walk around Barnes and Noble by myself for an hour or so on Saturday; would you be okay with the kids?' he would be fine with that?" And the woman admitted that her husband wouldn't mind that at all.

Reading that hit me right between the eyes. I could do that. Why have I never done that?!?

This isn't to say that I don't consciously work to having alone time. Brock understands this need and is super accommodating on nights and weekends to help me get the time away that I crave. But I had never thought of leaving the house to get that time.

Usually, I'll hide out in our bedroom while Brock takes care of James, or I'll stay behind while Brock takes James to the playground or farmer's market. Both of those are fine, but being at home isn't as relaxing as leaving. I always feel like I should cleaning the bathroom or mopping the kitchen
or in other ways doing something more productive than sitting down and reading a book.

So a few weeks ago, after reading All Joy and No Fun, I asked Brock if he would mind if I headed out by myself to the library for an hour or two. Obviously, because he's Brock, he said to take my time, so I went. I wandered the shelves and browsed in a lazy way that I can't when I have James with me. I then sat in a chair by the window and read for more than an hour. It was bliss. Pure bliss. I cannot emphasize enough how this hour and a half alone at the library fulfilled me in a way that I thought I wouldn't be able to get until my kid(s) were teenagers.

When I got home, I was so happy. It was around 5:30 pm, which is my usual time when I'm absolutely done dealing with James. But on that day I was so happy to see my husband and son and I had endless patience to play trains and read book with James. It was remarkable the difference I felt.

I've since repeated this outing (including this weekend) and it's hard to overstate how wonderful it is for me. I don't have to spend any money and my mental health has been so much better. I love anticipating my alone time and I enjoy every minute while I'm gone. And when I get back, I'm so much better at being kind and loving to the people in my life who most deserve it. It's definitely a win-win.

Recently Read: January 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share what I've been reading lately
It's been a good reading month so far. I've finished 5 books since the new year (some on my list are from last month) and am looking forward to my audiobooks coming off the long hold lines. As always, I've quit a bunch of books in between the ones I've read. For some reason, it's always hard for me to decide to stop, but I'm so happy once I do. And when I find books I truly enjoy, like these below, I feel great.

1. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
I LOVED this book. It is a slow, beautiful read where Hannah (the narrator) looks back on her life. She analyzes her actions and the ones of those around her and her thoughts on love and grief are profound.

2. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
Such a great novel. I loved reading about Taylor and how she left her family and all that was familiar, and in doing so was able to find a new family of sorts. It was an interesting look at relationships.

3. Pit Bull by Bronwen Dickey
It was a fascinating look into the history of hated breeds that goes back a hundred years and definitely made me reconsider the way I think about pit bulls. There are a few sad dog stories, just a warning if you're sensitive.

4. French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
It seems like everyone I know has read this book, but this was my first time and I really enjoyed it. I liked observing my habits from an outsider's perspective and figuring out ways to make them better. James definitely can improve in the vegetables department, and I'm going to try out the recipes from the back of the book this week.

5. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
I was a teensy bit disappointed by this one because I thought it was going to be a really complicated mystery. It was an interesting read and the characters were fascinating, but at the end when the mystery was revealed I was like, "That was it?"

6. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
This book started out great but petered out a bit towards the end. It's a memoir about a specific part of his life, namely his time as a stand-up comic. Learning about Steve Martin's life was eye-opening and reading about his panic attacks in his 20s gave me one of those "He's a real person!" moments.