Tuesday, March 31, 2015

double standards

Yesterday Millie wore this adorable little Vera Bradley onesie. It was a gift given to us/her before she was even born- it is springy and adorable and I love it. 

It is size 0-3 months. Except OBVIOUSLY NOT because there is nothing 0-3 about this chunk of babe.

I chuckled all day about my 20+ pounder wearing a 0-3 onesie. Who invents the sizes of these things?

Today she's wearing a little bubble pants suit thing from Gymboree. ALSO ADORABLE.

Only this one is size 18-24 months. 


So in two days she has spanned two years in sizes. It's hilarious and also totally doesn't matter. They both fit, so whatever.

If you ask what size she is, though, I'll tell you 9 months. Most of her clothes are 9 months, with a few extreme outliers thrown in for variety, I guess.

But then I was thinking about how sometimes women's clothes are not so consistent, either. I have a closet full of a particular size, and then like one thing a number or three smaller, and two things a number or three larger. Kind of like Millie- a closet full of 9 months, a lone 0-3, and a lone 18-24. I'll tell you Millie is clearly a size 9 months.

But if you ask me what size I am?? Oh, 0-3. Without a doubt. All the other clothes are just lying. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

the millie+lola love fest

I wasn't sure sure how Lola would adjust to having a baby human in the house. She's never been a huge fan of kids- adults, yes. Other dogs, yes. Kids...not so much. So I've always been a little nervous about the Lola + Baby scenario. (Those of you with stellar memories may recall the intense (hahaha) baby-training bootcamp we put Lola through as we prepared for our first adoption...)

Anyway. After a few months of mutual indifference followed by months of on-again-off-again unrequited interest (that went both ways...sometimes Millie was interested in Lola and Lola couldn't care less, sometimes vice versa), they've finally hit a period where they are both rather smitten with each other. It's like a straight up middle school romance in our house, yo.

Millie: Oh Lola, let me touch your face!! Hee hee hee!! Lola: NOM NOM NOM BABY HANDS
We only let them play together under strict supervision, lest things get out of hand.

So actually, there's a lot in common with middle school romances here...

Don't play hard to get, Lola- you know you want me to play with you!!! You tease!!
If only you could hear the adorable giggles and squeals Mills makes while all this is going on. They really should invent a way to take pictures so that you can hear sounds...

You came back!!! You do love me!!!
 We're trying to teach Millie the concept of gentle petting and not pulling ears...so far it's a total failure, but we'll keep trying. We're also working on teaching Lola the concept of not wagging her tail so hard that she knocks Millie over. That's also not really taking yet...but we'll keep trying.

Let's be best friends forever, okay? Seal it with a kiss!
I mean, look at that happy face. Doesn't it make your Grinchy heart grow three sizes? And for now, the love is mutual, and it's really fun to watch. I'm hoping that unlike most middle school relationships, this one will stand the test of time. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

yay, friends! and predictably, flowers.

We had an awesome weekend with friends. And not just any old friends- super exotic international friends!!! Dave and Natasha (and Sam and Rachel) came all the way from CANADA just to see us!! Okay, maybe not- maybe they are actually doing a two-week Southern U.S. road trip and we were merely one stop of many...but the fact remains that they came from Canada and stayed with us for two whole days!

Even though this is the first time we've ever met in 'real life,' it certainly didn't feel that way. I guess we're both pretty much the same way in real life that we are on our blogs and emails, so there weren't any surprises (like surprise, I'm actually a  60-year-old man!!! or surprise, I'm a serial killer!!...you know, like everyone warned you would happen if you met someone "from the internet"...) I had a great time introducing her (and her family!) to Athens, which mainly involved a lot of eating.

Sunday was rainy but not terribly cold, so we braved the elements and took a lovely stroll through the Botanical Gardens. If this discourages you from wanting to visit me now...it's understandable. But looking at flowers is seriously my favorite thing to do, especially with fellow flower-lovers, so bad weather be damned...we were going to the garden!!

Millie even seemed to enjoy it! Between the Ergo, Matt's rain jacket, and the umbrella...I don't think she even realized it was less-than-optimal weather conditions.

We had a lot of fun...who wants to come visit next? Maybe you'll get lucky and I won't drag you through a garden in the rain, but no promises.

Speaking of friends...

Last week, Millie's teachers reported that she and another little girl in her class have been spotted holding hands and babbling together lately!! This totally warmed my heart and made my day (just ask my coworkers, I couldn't stop talking about it)- so far Millie only really shows interest in me, Matt, and animals...I've been so excited for her to start making friends with other babies! I begged Millie's teachers to please text me pictures if she did anything adorable like hold hands with other babies, and I was only sliiiiightly excited to receive a long string of picture texts later that morning showing just that!! (Again, my deepest apologies to my coworkers who probably got really tired of hearing me squeal over these pictures...all day long...)

 Sorry for the obnoxious cropping of Millie's friend, but I don't know S's parents' policy on plastering their baby all over the internet, so I'll err on the side of not. Hopefully cute hand-holding is fair game, though.

We're both super cute! We should be friends!

Oh wait, excuse me? Did you just take my rattle? I'm not so sure about this friendship thing.
I really like Millie's girl, please face in that last picture. Hopefully she also shares smiles (and toys! and germs!) with her friends, too.

Do you remember last year when I talked about the tulips that popped up in my gardens and surprised me (because I'd forgotten I planted them)? (Yes, flowers again...sorry.) Well, they've done it again. Obviously I am the dumbest person alive when it comes to bulbs (or at least tulips)...I 100% thought that they were a one-and-done thing...that they wouldn't come back this year (unless I planted new ones, of course). But guess what!? I was wrong!!

Hey, where did these come from??
 Last year those tulips gave me such hope when they came up. They symbolized beauty rising from the ashes of the previous fall. And now here they are again. There were no ashes this fall. Just happiness. And now a little extra beauty piled on top of the happiness.

My little hope fulfilled sitting beside last year's symbols of hope. I don't even know what to make of it, but I sure am thankful.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

little lucky charm

Today won't be quite a wordless Wednesday...but almost.

I don't know that luck had much to do with making me this girl's mama, but I do feel pretty lucky that yesterday's St. Patrick's Day weather matched right up with the green outfit I'd bought at a consignment sale a few weeks ago!

If she were any cuter, I'd...well, I don't know. I can't imagine how she could be any cuter. I told her that normally people only get pinched on St. Patrick's Day if they don't wear green...but Millie will never, ever be safe from having those cheeks pinched. Not on March 17ths, not ever.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

a fabulous ordinary

Oh wow- apparently I'm a Sunday blogger now? Sunday only? Sheesh. Pull it together, Erika!

Last week was a really busy, fairly unremarkable week. I took shockingly few pictures to document it. And yet it was a good week. Work was crazy busy, but I come home to a sweet little nugget (who spent most of the week battling a stomach bug) and an incredibly awesome husband-daddy, and it makes it all worth it.

Milie still doesn't sleep in her crib much (not at all at night, occasionally for a nap), but it's our favorite place to set up her toys and plop her down for some independent playtime. She does a great job entertaining herself (well, with the help of her favorite toys) and I just love listening to her babble and giggle and play...and I love that I don't have to worry about Lola licking her incessantly the whole time. Most of the time I'm just doing other things there in her room, and over the weekend Millie discovered that she can keep better track of me (and/or Lola) if she pulls down the bumpers to peek out!

She thinks she's pretty smart stuff! And I like to hide down there so that when she pulls it down, she has something awesome to discover. This is probably the cutest game ever and makes me feel a lot better about the 2,000ish hours it took to sew those bumpers, ha. At least she's getting some entertainment from them!

Today the weather warmed up to the mid-70s and is sunny and perfect. Naturally, Matt and I wanted to spend the afternoon outside getting the yard and gardens ready for spring. It's hard to know what to do with Millie when we're outside- wearing her doesn't work because I can't bend over to pull weeds or dig or do whatever if she's on me (front or back)...she gets furious if she's sitting in her stroller but not going anywhere (no clue why)...she does pretty great sitting on a blanket in the grass, but our fire ant situation is NOT under control yet, so that makes me nervous to leave her there without sitting right next to her. Anyway, today I decided to turn our soft-sided wagon into the Millie Zone...it was perfect!

I could keep her in the shade and next to me, she was out of fire ant reach, she had all her stuff and didn't get grassy...it was great. Obviously this would not be great if she were mobile or could pull up, but for today...perfect.

Happy mama, happy baby. Sad weeds.
 We've been doing a lot of extra laundry this week, thanks to Millie's stomach bug. Luckily, she's a great helper when it comes time to fold. And having 'conversations' like this with her is pretty much the greatest thing ever. Her adorable babbling makes my heart explode.

I assure you that we actually do play sometimes (and not just plop her in the crib, or a wagon, or on a bed while I do chores)...those just weren't the things I happened to capture on camera this weekend, ha. 

I'm excited about the upcoming week. I should be significantly less overwhelmed at work, which means that hopefully I'll have more energy and excitement in the hours after work (and maybe I'll even blog or respond to my emails or something). The weather should be beautiful, which means a) MILLIE'S SPRING WARDROBE (like the little navy dress she wore today- RIDICULOUSLY CUTE) and b) we can enjoy the longer days by taking walks in the evening after dinner. We're having dinner with friends one night before small group, and our small group is just awesome this semester- it fills my heart with joy to meet and share and worship and pray with these friends. Oh, and a book I've been wanting to read finally came in at the library, so I'll have a new book to dive into.

It'll be a good week. An ordinary week, but that's what life is, right? It's mostly ordinary. I love my ordinary now. I love that I'm not just living for our next vacation or our next adventure or our next big thing- I love where we are right now, in the middle of March, in a normal work-week. My ordinary is pretty darn fabulous right now. I'll never stop being grateful for that.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


It's Sunday night and I'm trying to avoid eating a bowl of ice cream. I bought the ice cream this afternoon because I'm anticipating a semi-to-extremely stressful week at work and I want to be prepared for post-work relaxation...but if I eat all the ice cream now, I'm back to square one. So in lieu of eating ice cream, I'll go for the road less traveled: a Sunday night post. And because it's been three months already, how about a little currently? Also, I'll mix in some unrelated BUT CUTE pictures from the weekend, because...well, because Millie's still cute, so it seems necessary.

Listening...to the sweet, sweet sound of silence and white noise coming over the baby monitor. Millie's naps were less than impressive today and we mostly heard screaming and/or adorable babbling and laughing (like...laughing at our weak attempts to get her to sleep, more like it) over the monitor throughout the day, so this is a pleasant change. Can we blame today's anomalies on the time change? Pretty please? Cause I've been waiting for that opportunity!

Listen, lady. I've got too much to do to sleep, okay? This activity thingy isn't just going to play with itself, ya know.
Eating...well, I'm not eating my Edy's Caramel Delight ice cream right now, so that's something, right? We made this Bell Pepper and Potato Frittata from Skinnytaste for lunch today and it was really good...we'll have the leftovers tomorrow night and I'm already pretty pumped about it. 

Drinking...nothing right now. I've fallen way off the gallon-of-water-a-day wagon. We had a few good months, and now I'm struggling to drink even half of that! Apparently my star sticker chart motivation wore off? Terrible.

Wearing...candy cane pajama pants and a really old UGA t-shirt. It's pretty avant garde. Oh but hey- at least Millie looked cute today! (subtle segue...)

A lady always rides side saddle. Good thing I'm a baby and can ride my fish-horse-thing however I want.
Feeling...excited! We got a new (to us) car this weekend! It's a dark gray Mazda5, just like we wanted. Matt went and fetched it in Atlanta (I know, I know...no exciting road trips to New England. How extremely dull and local of us) on Saturday and it's been fun getting to "know" it. I am also feeling nervous because the gas thingy is on the RIGHT SIDE OF THE CAR. I mean, seriously. Are we savages now? RIGHT SIDE? I have never in my life had a gas thing on the RIGHT SIDE and if I'd known about this situation before I bought it, I might have thought twice. I just didn't think to check. Because I assumed that all of humanity came to an agreement that it only makes sense to have it on the left. I can't even imagine how bad it's going to be at the gas station the first 50 times I get gas and can't remember to drive up to the pump facing the other way. UGH. I consider myself a pretty smart girl and a safe driver, but I'm the first to admit I'm a terrible parker and judger of spacial things when it comes to driving. So $50 says that I'm either twelve feet away from the gas pump (or maybe I just hit it and run over it) the first time I attempt this awful business. Ugh. Right side. Really, Mazda.

There she is! Try not to be too in awe of my amazing car photography skills. Focus your energy on the missing gas thing...
Weather...it was beautiful today! The high was 74 and it was sunny and perfect. We spent lots of time in the yard, cutting back dead plants that should have been cut back 4 months ago. Oops.

Wanting...DANGIT I STILL WANT THAT ICE CREAM. This whole project is failing me. Other than ice cream, I want a massage. Yard work makes my back hurt.

Needing...nothing, really. It's a wonderful feeling. 

Thinking...well, this probably sounds weird, but lately I've been thinking about how I don't ever really have to try to think/recall things anymore. Like, if I'm wondering something...I just look it up or Google it. I'm never more than 4 feet away from an electronic device that can instantly answer my question. I don't have to actually think or make myself remember anything. And that's pretty awesome, but also...I think I'm getting dumber. So now I'm making a point to make myself try to remember things on my own without just immediately Googling them. My most recent example would be last night, as I was trying to fall asleep. For some reason (really, no clue...) I was trying to think of the names of all the Harry Potter books in order. I have no idea why. I just needed to. And for the life of me I could NOT remember Book 6. I probably spent...I don't know, 10 minutes, maybe (LONG TIME in trying-to-fall-asleep world), trying to remember. I reviewed the story lines. I TRIED!!!! And in the end I couldn't, so I grabbed my phone and Googled it and finally got some rest. I was mad at myself for giving in and Googling it, but at some point, a girl's gotta sleep. Half-Blood Prince, by the way.

Now you probably think I'm the weirdest person ever...but all I can think about is how I hope I don't get it in my head that I need to name all the presidents or something before I fall asleep tonight. Could be a long night.

Enjoying...the changing seasons and the fun and adorable changes in Millie practically every day. It's so much fun seeing what new things she can do- we volunteer in the church nursery once a month, and today was our day. So it's been a month since the last time we did it, but today it was just crazy how much more interactive she was with the toys and other kids. She hasn't been in there any since last month (she stays with us in the service still, unless we're volunteering), so it's not like she's been 'practicing' with these particular toys or anything...she's just learning so much and getting so much smarter, she knows what to do! Hence the 3,000 pictures from the nursery today. :)

Today I am a maestro, Mommy!! You sit right there and listen to me play.
P.S. I took an adorable video of her playing. Well, you know, the kind of video that maybe 11 people on earth will find adorable- BUT STILL. Obviously I want to share it, but I'm always crippled with uncertainty when it comes to video-sharing. What's the least obnoxious way? Embedding it on the blog? Facebook? Instagram? I never know, so I hardly ever share videos. I'm sure you're all just brokenhearted about it, too.

All the other kids can stand up around this thing? Well, then so will I. Dad, you stay right there for when I topple over.
Also...I'm sure we can all agree that it needs to hurry up and stay warm so that the whole world can enjoy Millie's fabulously juicy legs!! Look at those puppies!!! Major swooning.

Well, I'm out of currently questions and I still want ice cream, so...this was a failure in terms of diet-control, but a success in terms of I-really-should-blog-more-often. You win some, you lose some. I hope you have a great week...and that your brain doesn't pose impossible questions right when you're trying to fall asleep. Because it isn't fun.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

seven months!

Oh my gosh, SEVEN months now. Like...I blinked, and there they went. Cliche though it may be...dang. Time flies.

It flies by like woooosh!!!, Mommy!
And my deepest apologies for the excess of pictures here. I can't help it that she is just insanely cute.

Aliases: Millie, Nugs/Nuggie/Nuggles, Snugs/Snuggie/Snuggles

 Stats: Well, how convenient that she's sick again and had to go to the doctor yesterday...at least I know that she's 20 pounds and 7 ounces! Large and in charge, this one. And at her six-month well visit last week (you know, the one where she probably caught this virus that has caused two sick visits in the week since...) she was 27 inches long.

She is just moving into 9 month clothes. Most of her 6 month clothes still fit except for one-piece footie jammies- she's too long for them and can't straighten her legs out. So it's all 9 month sizes for the jammies, but her other clothes are about an equal split of 6 month and 9 month. She's still in size 3 disposable diapers, although we spent last week using up a forgotten pack of size 2s, and they really fit okay, too. 

For as big as the percentile charts make us think she is, she has a surprising lack of fat rolls. She has a few good ones on her upper thighs, but a nice flat tummy (#sojealous) and no good rubber-band-wrists to speak of. I think she tends to carry most of her weight in her cheeks, which is obviously amazing.

  • Eating: She's back to eating five 6-ounce bottles a day. We normally add a nice splash of prune juice to each bottle as well (maybe 1/2 an ounce) to help things...ya know, move along. Baby-led weaning is going well and she enjoys playing with eating solids at dinner time. So far she's tried bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, strawberries, venison, and black beans. Her favorite is strawberries by far. It's so much fun to watch her pick and choose through her food!
  • Sleeping: Staying strong with being an awesome night sleeper (8:30 p.m.-7:15 a.m. on the weekdays, 8:30-8:00ish on weekends), a terrible daytime sleeper at school (a handful of 20-30 minute naps, maybe), and an okay daytime sleeper at home (3 or 4 40-60 minute naps...ish). Matt and I have realized that she doesn't sleep at school and she doesn't poop at home, but she'll poop at school and sleep at home, so...it's great that she has the chance to do both!! (And I think we got the better end of both of those deals...ha. Luckily, we pay them a pretty penny to clean up her poop and watch her not sleep, so I don't have to feel too guilty about it.)
  • Bathing: It's still her favorite! She's become super interested in her bath toys (little rubber sea animals) and the bubbles...she really wants to catch and eat all of them!

 Likes: Putting things in her mouth, making TONS of noises, her bunny and Sophie toys, Lola, her jump-jump, going outside, music, and very sadly- electronics. Womp womp. We don't let her watch TV or look at cartoons or apps on the phone, but just the fact that the screen lights up is enough for her- she is always reaching for my phone!! It's so sad. And if the TV is on (you know, since someone in this house is always trying to watch Parenthood...), she'll break her neck craning to see the screen. It's terrible! She also loves fire- candle flames or a fire in the fireplace- but her doctor said we can't have them anymore because they trigger her wheezing. Waaaaaah. Fireplace channel?? (Actually, this would be like her ultimate dream! A fire on the TV?!?! Woooo!) She has also become genuinely interested in books, which I LOVE! She's always tolerated them, but now she really seems to pay attention to the pictures and grab for the pages...it's so much fun! 

Dislikes: Still anti-tummy time. NO chance she'll be learning to crawl (or like...ya know, roll over...like most four-month-olds can do...) any time soon. She also despises having her snotty nose wiped (but she's fine with the NoseFrida, oddly) and when the doctor dares to use the otoscope.

Undecided About: Not much. She likes 98% of things in life and despises the other 2%. Not a whole lot of room for lukewarm with this one!! She's a little iffy on letting other people hold her when Mom and Dad are around, though, so...just don't take it personally. We're clearly way more awesome on anyone else on earth, so how could you possibly measure up?? ;)

Special Skills: Her jumping skills are renowned throughout our city, I'm pretty sure. Her teachers marvel at how tirelessly she jumps all day. She's really good at balancing on her legs and I feel like she'll be able to pull up soon. She's also proficient at reaching up when she wants to be held now. That is my FAVORITE. And she's a great talker!! She makes a lot of different sounds (consonants, vowels, and our personal favorite, the blah blah sound. It sounds just like she's mocking people, going blah blah blah!! and so Matt and I like to call her the Blah Blah Baby when she's talking like that. It's awesome). She's really communicative, rarely cries (unless she's just insanely overtired) (or you put her on her stomach, or stick an otoscope in her ear, or startle her), and is pretty easily soothed. Even when she's sick, she's happy.

Looking Forward: It will be fun when she starts actually swallowing her food instead of dropping it on the floor or spitting it out!! Most people think she should start crawling soon, but given her aversion to her stomach being anywhere near the floor...I just don't see it happening this month. I imagine she'll start pulling up on things first. Or doing some version of scooting on her bottom. I'm starting to think she may be getting too long and strong for her Rock 'n Play...I really feel like she could propel herself out of it if she felt so inclined. She hasn't technically maxed out the weight limit yet, but she practically sticks out of both ends...so I'm wondering if we need to be considering moving her to her crib at night. File this away under things I'm NOT looking forward to...having her sleep right next to me is the best thing on earth and I never want her to move out. Waaaaah. Oh, I'm also looking forward to spring and hopefully the end of stupid respiratory viruses! And her spring wardrobe!! Spoiler alert: she has white skinny jeans...

She's the best duet partner ever.
What can I say that I haven't said before? She is the joy of our lives. I feel like the luckiest person alive every minute of every day. It's funny, but sometimes I even feel thankful for the stuff that used to hurt the most. Mangled, endometriosis-ridden ovaries and tubes. Crappy AMH levels. Useless, malformed, non-swimming sperm. Failed infertility treatments. And now I look at those things and I'm like thank God for all that...because if we didn't have that, we wouldn't have her. We might have some other baby, but we wouldn't have our Millie. And I just...I don't even know. It's hard to process it all and make it make sense, but maybe it doesn't have to right now. Right now there is just joy. Exceeding, abundant joy. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

a year of clubbing

This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of my book club! It's hard to believe that almost exactly a year ago I was hosting our formational meeting and trying to figure out how to even be a book club...and now here we are with twelve-ish meetings (and a lot of awesome food) under our belts. It might seem silly, but in all seriousness- book club has been one of my favorite things to happen this past year. And some pretty great things happened last year, so that's really saying something. 

I always thought I'd like to be part of a book club because- big shocker!- I love to read. And I like talking about books with other people who've read the same books. And I really love hor d'oeuvres. So the idea of a book club held a lot of appeal to me. But in the last few years, as year after year of infertility and angst slowly passed me by, I started really craving a book club because I'd started noticing that any time I got together with a group of women, all anyone ever talked about was their kids. Well, and childbirth. And breastfeeding. And since I couldn't relate to any of those things (while simultaneously desperately wanting to experience all of them), I basically avoided hanging out with most of the people I knew (and liked!!!...just...not in large, un-focused groups, I guess). I mean, I understood how this happened- obviously they all had kids, were all SAHMs, and like...that's what was going on. It just wasn't a lot of fun for me to be a part of. But I still wanted to hang out with people and have friends- I just needed it to be in a setting where there was something besides epidurals to chat about. Something like...a book! So after a few months of sitting around and wishing someone I knew would start a book club...one random night, two (also childless, ha) friends and I decided to just do it ourselves, dangit.

And guess what? It totally worked. My book club was born and for the first time in my adult life, I regularly hang out with my friends (both old and new, from all sorts of walks of life- single, married with no kids, married with kids, working moms, SAHMs- we're all there!!)! And we talk about books and current events and faith and movies and politics and the logistics of quadriplegics having sex (well okay, maybe that was only this month...) and sometimes our relationships and families and careers, but the topics are all mixed in together and it is just wonderful. Refreshing, challenging, and pretty much one of my favorite parts of the month. Every month.

Yeah. So consider this a PSA for book clubs. You should join one!! 

Before we started ours, I polled as many current book club members as I could to get their advice for starting one. That helped a lot as we tried to establish ours and figure out how to make it run successfully. I thought I'd throw out a few ideas that we used/use that I think have been helpful. 

-When we first decided to try and start a club, my friend and I made a list of about 14ish girls we knew in the area that all loosely knew one another. It wasn't an already close-knit group of friends, but everyone knew at least two other people on the list. We made a private group on Facebook and invited everyone to join it, then shared our idea of making a book club. We had our first meeting at my house and invited anyone who was interested to come so that we could plan. We also told people to invite anyone else they knew that might be interested. This seemed to be a good way to get going- we didn't start our first month with a book discussion, but with discussing how we would want to run our club.

-We meet on the fourth Saturday of each month. This consistency seems to really help. Not everyone can make every meeting, but because they're so regular...it just works, I guess. We have enough girls that actively participate most of the time that there are usually 6-10 of us at any given meeting...sometimes as many as 15, sometimes as few as 5...but it's not a big deal if you can't make it. And since the book changes every month, it's no big deal if you miss five months in a row- you can just join back in whenever your schedule clears up!

-We rotate hosting each month. We usually spend the last 15-20 minutes of each meeting choosing where we'll meet the next month and deciding what to read. Sometimes some folks will come with a list of book ideas- this is always helpful!! Sometimes we just pull up Amazon and browse the best sellers list for a few minutes. Several of the girls in our group actually work at the library, so they're in the know about what's popular at the moment (and how hard it will be for us all to get a copy). The host normally tries to lead the discussion and think of (or look up) questions to guide us. Some books inspire so much discussion that we never get to the questions!! But sometimes it's really nice to have them.

-No kids are allowed. We (okay, maybe it was just me...) established this rule hard and fast at the beginning. Obviously if you are hosting and you have kids, they don't have to be banished from their house, but otherwise- no kids allowed. Not even nursing babies. I know, I know- harsh, but otherwise a book discussion would quickly dissolve into a oh my goooosh she is so cuuuuute!!!!!! discussion, which defeats the whole point of book club. (And yes, this was a hard rule to abide by once my darling and angelic baby came along, but abide I did.)

-We discussed upfront what types of books we would all be comfortable reading/discussing. We were all open to reading outside of our normal 'comfort zones' (hello, chick lit and dystopian fiction!), but it was good to chat about the things we would not want to read. This could vary from group to group, but I'm glad my group talked about it.

(This seems like a great time to share a semi-related book club story. One of the girls in my club, B, told us this a few months ago. She is becoming friends with a neighbor of hers and they hang out while their kids play. They were chatting one day and the neighbor mentioned something about wanting to meet more friends and hang out, so B told her about our book club and invited her to join us that month. The neighbor was like well...thanks, but I only really like one kind of book. I don't branch out much. B told her that we've read all different genres and named a few of our recent picks. The neighbor looks straight at her and says in ALL SERIOUSNESS oh, well...see, I really only like vampire porn. And then B really had nothing to say about that, because that's probably not really a genre we're going to delve into. Sorry, neighbor!!)

-Pick books that lend themselves to discussion. That might seem kind of duh, but not all books do. Some books are perfectly enjoyable, but then you go to talk about them and it's like "I liked it!" "I liked it too!"...and...we're pretty much done. That is not the kind of book that is great for book club. That's great for you to read by yourself on a rainy day. So do a little research (I've even had good luck doing lame things like Googling "great book club books" haha) before choosing a book! We have found that if reviewers (even the ones on the back of the book/official Amazon review) describe a book as morally ambiguous or ethically compelling...it's going to lead to great discussion, ha. 

-We try to choose books that are readily available at the library and/or cheap on Kindle. We realize that buying a new book every month would be cost-prohibitive to some people, so we don't usually pick the super hot book that just came out last week and everyone is talking about...because that book will definitely not have 10 available copies at the library. We typically pull up the online library system on our phones during the meeting as we discuss books so that we can see at a glance how many available copies of something there are before we choose. We also do a good job of passing around books once someone gets one. :) Shhh...don't tell the library.

So here are the books that my book club read throughout the past year. I didn't make it to every meeting, but I'll grade each book that I did read/attend the meeting for its Book Club Worthiness.

 The Giver (Lois Lowry)- A
     -We picked this as our first book because nearly all of us had read it before, PLUS it was coming out as a movie soon. It's super short but led to excellent discussion. It was really easy to find question guides online. Because this book was one of the very first dystopian novels that most of us had ever read, it was fun to link the themes in it with all of the more modern dystopian trilogies.

This is Where I Leave You (Jonathon Tropper)- B+
     -Another one chosen because it was about to come out as a movie. This book was a harsh departure from the youthful innocence of The Giver! This wasn't one of my favorite books to read, but I remember us having a lot of laughs as we discussed it!

The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)- A+++++
     -We all LOVED this book. Loved reading it, loved talking about it...just LOVED it. This was one of my favorite books we've done- it is an easy, lighthearted, hilarious read...and yet there were still enough deeper themes and topics to make it compelling to discuss. I would definitely recommend this book to any book club (or person) who isn't sure where to start. There were discussion questions in the back of the book (most convenient feature ever) and basically...you just can't go wrong here.

The Program (Suzanne Young)- C
     -And again with a 180 degree turn from the month before- from a universally-loved, happy story to a dystopian world where teenage suicide is an international epidemic...??? Not sure how this happened, really. Ha. Pretty much none of us loved this book (it was compelling enough to keep reading, but just. so. depressing. and. angsty.) and our discussion consisted of mostly just making fun of it the whole time. Eh. Probably wouldn't recommend it to your book club, unless you are a bunch of angsty teenagers.

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels- A Love Story (Ree Drummond)- NR
     -I didn't make it that month and didn't read the book, so I can't say how it went. I do know, though, that the girls all brought Pioneer Woman recipes as snacks, and I still regret missing that night. But probably my thighs don't.

Bridge to Haven (Francine Rivers)- NR
     -I also didn't make it this month (obviously having Millie turned me into a huge slacker!) and didn't read the book, so no opinion on how great it was or wasn't.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Gabrielle Zevin)- A+
     -This one was also universally loved. A really well-written, lovely story that was easy to read and awesome to discuss. I'd never heard of this book, so now I make it a point to recommend this one to anyone who happens to ask if I have any book recommendations...I just can't imagine anyone not liking it!

The Husband's Secret (Liane Moriarty)- A+ 
     -We picked this one because EVERY BOOK CLUB IN AMERICA was picking this one. And for good reason!! This book was chock full of oh my gosh, what would YOU do??? ethical situations that may have more easily-offended groups clutching their pearls pretty tightly...but we loved it! This also set off everyone in the group on personal journeys to read ALL of Liane Moriarty's books, ha.

The Light Between Oceans (M.L. Stedman)- NR
     -We chose this book particularly because of the reviews spoke of "entering the waters of treacherous morality," which was obvious code for "will lead to awesome discussion!!!" Ummm...well, I can't actually report on the discussion because I ended up missing this month, but I read the book anyway. Well, part of it. And then I entered the waters of treacherous morality and absolutely could not keep reading because my heart was so torn out of my chest that I couldn't breathe and I am not even being overly dramatic. I couldn't even handle the plot anymore. The girls in my group seemed pretty polarized on this one, though- some of them really enjoyed it, some agreed that it was just too heart-wrenching. I guess you could read it yourself and see, but just be aware that it deals with issues that could be particularly difficult to those sensitive to adoption and child loss.

The Rent Collector (Camron Wright)- A
     -I blabbed on about this book last month, but we all loved both the book AND the awesome discussion it sparked. I felt like this one was a little more off the beaten path for me personally (just isn't something I would probably ever choose on my own), but I'm so glad we went for it!

Me Before You (Jojo Moyes)- A
     -This book definitely didn't go the direction we all thought it would!! We had semi-intentionally picked a book we thought would be pleasant and light-hearted, since the previous few months had been so heavy...and yeah. Wrong! We all enjoyed reading this and had some fabulous (and hilarious) (well, and also serious) conversation. 

Coming up next month: What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty)
     -Roughly a third of us (including me) have already read this, but we all want to discuss it, so we decided to return to ol' Liane for round two. Since I read it a few months ago, I already know it's going to be a great one to discuss...I'm just trying to decide if I need to reread it before we meet!

Also, we tend to discuss Gone Girl and/or the Harry Potter books at pretty much every meeting (while comparing and contrasting stuff...you know, in the context of our discussion!), so those should be considered unofficial books that we've read.

I'm sure that only the nerdiest of nerds have actually made it this far...but since I so appreciate other bloggers talking about what worked and didn't work for their book clubs, I thought it was time I repaid the favor. 

In conclusion, book club gives me all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings. If you're not in one, you should think about joining one. If you are in one, you should tell me what your best/worst book picks have been. Annnnd...yay for excuses to hang out with ladies, eat tons of amazing snacks, and enter those waters of treacherous morality for a few hours!

(because I'm not a jerk, here's an unrelated picture from the weekend)

We found some daffodils blooming at the park! Yay!

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