Monday, October 16, 2017


Millie is ALL ABOUT some imaginative play lately. It honestly makes life really fun- except for when I don't play my role properly and I get reprimanded, of course.

Generally this is how things go:

1. Millie decides she is something else. This is often an animal (typically giraffe, manatee, lion, alligator, or dinosaur), but is sometimes a different type of person (princess, teacher, mommy), or imaginary creature (monster), or my favorite- inanimate object (lately...table. Yep. "I'm a table!").

2. Generally, as soon as she's decided what she is, she will tell me and/or Matt what we are. 99% of the time we all assume the 'mommy, daddy, baby' versions of whatever the creature is: Mommy Manatee, Daddy Manatee, Baby Manatee; Mommy Monster, Daddy Monster, Baby Monster. Sometimes we also get an adjective describing our temperament as well: Nice Mommy Monster, Mean Daddy Alligator. Sometimes our role doesn't match our actual human role- I might be Baby Lion, Matt is Mommy Lion, Millie is Nice Daddy Lion.

3. Then we basically just carry on with our normal activities, but we all have to refer to each other by our proper titles. If there are fitting noises or motions that go with whatever we are (growling, galloping, etc.), we have to do that too.

4. This continues until Millie decides we are done. When she tires of being Baby Giraffe, she will just say "we not giraffes anymore. Now we just people!"

4b. But if in the course of this playtime Matt or I manages to anger/sadden/bother Millie and she is getting huffy, she ends the game by angrily yelling "we not ANYFING!!! You not a lion!! You just NOTHING!!! And I NOTHING!!! We not NOTHING (pronounced 'nuffing') ANYMORE!!!" and I must confess, it's about 50/50 sad and hilarious.

Last week she introduced two new personas to the mix. Each of them basically slayed me, so I need to share.

1. Voldemort.

As in, Harry Potter's Voldemort. "I Baby Voldemort, you Mommy Voldemort, and Daddy is Daddy Voldemort." 

Obviously she has no idea who Voldemort is, or why there can't BE a Mommy and Daddy Voldemort. She only knows the word because the other night she said something about how she didn't have a nose, so I offhandedly said "who are you, Voldemort?" and she responded by yelling "YES, I VOLDEMORT!!" and so I (properly) responded by shrieking in fear and hiding under a pillow, which meant that she continued declaring herself to be Voldemort for like 20 minutes, and then declaring us to be her corresponding Mommy and Daddy Voldemort. All she knows is that Voldemort is scary, which is fine because she loves being scary.

The best part is that she has several times since wanted to be Voldemort again but she can't remember the name, so she'll get this 'scary' look on her face and say "I....MOL...VA...DOR...DAT SCARY GUY DAT MAKE YOU SCWEAM!!!"

2. Mean Pharaoh.

We can thank her daycare for this one- last week's Bible story was about Baby Moses. I discovered this when Millie responded to my "what did you learn at school today?" question with "NO MORE BABY BOYS!!!!", complete with a really scary face and waving her arms around in a kinda slicing manner. 

"No more baby boys??" I asked.

"NO MORE BABY BOYS!!! I A MEEEEEAN KING!!! You put your baby in a basket, Mommy. NO MORE BABY BOYS!!"

Ooooooh. Pharaoh and baby Moses, got it, thanks.

So in about five minutes, she was Baby Pharaoh, I was Mommy Pharaoh, and Matt was Daddy Pharaoh. Don't worry, that all makes sense. Then we all just ran around screaming "NO MORE BABY BOYS!!!" together, like any family of mean pharaohs. 

A few times Millie has changed the rules and become Nice Pharaoh. Nice Pharaoh says "You can have some baby boys, okay?!" and then looks expectantly at me like I might just birth a baby boy then and there out of gratitude. Hasn't happened yet, but I guess she'll keep trying.

I not scared, Mommy- he onwy made of pwastic!!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

the books of 2017. so far.

2017 has proven to be an excellent year of reading for me, so far. With a good 2.5 months to go in the year, I've so far finished 50 books, already surpassing my 2017 goal of 40- it's the first time I've made and met a goal so far (that I remember, haha)! Anyway, since several folks have asked for book recommendations and/or reviews lately, I thought I would share my thoughts about some of my favorites (and not-so-favorites) this year. As always, keeping up with me on Goodreads will give you my real-time reading updates, which is probably fascinating to about maaaybe 4 other people in the world besides me, ha.

(P.S. For those of you who might wonder how I manage to read so much (while working full time, momming so hard (bahaha), etc), here's the deal. For starters, I'm a REALLY FAST READER. I always have been. So I can get a lot of pages read in a short amount of time. That helps. Secondly, I sacrifice basically everything else in my life in my desperation to read, hahaha. Let's be honest. Millie goes to bed by 8:30, so I'd say that four or five nights a week, I'm on the couch reading by 8:45 p.m. I read until 10 or 11, when I go to bed. I don't work out. I don't blog. I rarely watch TV. I barely talk to Matt. I don't clean the house or chat on the phone or bake or craft or go out with friends. So when you look at it like that- I just DON'T do all the other stuff people spend their evenings doing, and then I have lots of time to read! That may or may not be a good thing, so feel free to judge me.) 

Favorite Books that Made Me Think:

This is probably my favorite genre of books, overall. I like books that challenge my thinking, or open my eyes to something I didn't know or didn't know enough about. For the past few years, most of my favorite books have been about World War II, something I can probably never learn enough about. But I like to think about other hard things, too, so here are some books that took me there.

  • The Girl You Left Behind (Jojo Moyes)- This book (based on true stories) alternates between the story of a woman living in occupied France during WWI and a girl in modern-day England, and centers on a painting (the painting's name is the title of the book). I learned a lot about art restitution, something I'd never considered before, and this story absolutely enthralled me. It is perfect. If you're not much into "heavy" reading, I still think you would like this- it's written by Jojo Moyes, author of "Me Before You" and lots of other wonderful stories, and her writing is engaging, her characters well-developed, and her ability to tie together all the loose ends of various plots is unparalleled. I've recommended this book to practically everyone I've met this year!
  • The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult)- This is another story that flip-flops between WWII and the present. Although I've probably read 100 WWII novels at this point, both fiction and non, I was shocked at how deeply this one touched me. If you've read anything by Jodi before, you KNOW she can tell a good story, and she'll probably find some way to get your emotions and morals all twisted up inside so that you don't even know how to feel about something. Well, she does it here, too. The central question this novel posed to me was this: can you- or are you obligated to- or should you- offer forgiveness to someone if you were not the party who was wronged? It sounds vague, and maybe simple, but I promise that this book will rip your heart around. I read this book in March and I'm still wrestling with some of the questions it brought up.
  • Necessary Lies (Diane Chamberlain)- This book takes place in North Carolina in the 1960s and is a fictional story about a very real horror: the state's Eugenics Sterilization Program that was in effect from 1929 until 1975. I had never heard of this program or situation before, and it's as chilling as the name indicates. Poor women (and female children) in NC were being forcibly sterilized,without their consent and often without even realizing it, as state social workers would tell them they were having appendectomies or other similar surgeries. This book led me to several days of fevered Googling for more information, which is always the sign of a good read! Despite the topic, it was a relatively easy/quick read, and my book club had PLENTY to discuss that month!
  • The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)- This book has been around for 30 years, so I doubt I'm the first person to tell you about it, but this was the first time I'd read it and I'm SO GLAD I did. This dystopian fiction tells the story of a monotheocracy in what used to be the United States. The story will make you thankful for separation of church and state, and horrified at what could happen if power were to run unchecked. And if you happen to be reading it for the first time, I would recommend you NOT read the very last chapter (I can't remember if it's called the epilogue or if it's just the last chapter, but you'll recognize it when you see a huge time jump to some unspecified time in the future with new and unfamiliar settings and characters). It's terrible and almost ruins the whole book. Just quit right before then and make up in your own head what you think happened. :) And I still haven't gotten around to watching the Hulu series, but I plan to...when I run out of books to read.
  • Small Great Things (Jodi Picoult)- I know, I know- another Jodi Picoult. What can I say. When she's good, she's good, and she is on fiyah in this one. This compelling, un-put-down-able story about "race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion" (just shamelessly stole that from the Amazon description, but I can't really improve on that list, so whatever) will challenge and inform and sadden and inspire you, and you won't be able to stop thinking or talking about it. 
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Bryan Stevenson)- Oh look, a nonfiction (memoir!) made it to my list finally! This book. Guys. You just need to read it. It's hard. It's about death row and race. It paints a picture of American history that isn't as pretty as you would maybe like to think. But it's true and it's something we need to be talking about so that we can change. Read it.
Books that Are Just Plain Enjoyable:

These books will probably still make you think, but are not as weighty or emotional as the books on the top list, haha. You will note that I don't normally read a lot of truly "light" reads (chick lit, romance novels, etc.) maybe my 'light reads' are not as light as they could be, but whatever. These books were all great.

  • Dark Matter (Blake Crouch)- This book is a truly fun and mind-bending ride- considering it's a book based in QUANTUM PHYSICS, something I know absolutely nothing about. So I had to work hard to wrap my brain around some things, but this story is compelling enough to make the hard work worth it. A little off my usual path, but the engaging characters, interesting dilemmas, and overall storyline made me really glad I gave it a go!
  • Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan)- This book was just plain FUN. There were a LOT of developed characters, and I would highly recommend reading this book in PRINT and not on your Kindle, as I did, because then you will be able to easily refer to a handy family tree at the front of the book. That would have helped me a LOT...but I didn't know it was there because my Kindle just started me on the first page of the story. Anyway. This book was hilarious as well as educational, and I look forward to reading the other two in the trilogy. 
  • The Lake House (Kate Morton)- I was shocked by how much I loved this book. It really took me a little longer than usual to get into it and enjoy the story, but once I did- I was all in. This book was a fun mystery in what I think of as the more "classic" style of mysteries. Not a twisty psychological thriller a la Gone Girl or whatever...this is a good old fashioned whodunnit (and whodunWHAT) that keeps you guessing and I was truly almost giddy towards the end of the book (I believe I solved the mystery like 80% and the other 20% was the MOST FUN REVEAL EVER). I don't know how to describe this other than to say it felt very different than most of the mysteries/thrillers I've read in the past few years, and I very much enjoyed it.
  • The Sound of Gravel (Ruth Wariner)- Memoir alert!! This was a fantastic true story about a woman who grew up in a polygamist compound in Mexico and harrowingly escaped from it as a teen. Ruth has become one of my favorite people to stalk on social media now. This isn't a light read at all- her childhood stories will break your heart and make you mad, but it's well-written and enlightening.
  • The Serpent King (Jeff Zentner)- This was a high-quality YA read about a misfit teenage boy growing up in the Bible Belt (the title refers to his snake-handling church). I thought that the characters were well-developed and believable and the story heartbreakingly possible. 
  • Beartown (Fredrik Backman)- I would almost say that Fredrik Backman can do no wrong, but then I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, which was fairly terrible, so...I can't say that. BUT I can say that I enjoy ALMOST everything he writes, and Beartown was no exception. This hockey story takes place in a small town full of interesting and engaging characters. It's a coming-of-age story, a story of violence and small-town thinking, and a story that challenges both characters and readers to grapple with the ugly truth. I loved it.
  • Winter Garden (Kristin Hannah)- I'll be honest- this story was SLOW GOING for me for the first almost half. Slow. I just couldn't get into it, and I couldn't understand all the five-star ratings and glowing reviews. I wasn't connecting with the characters and I would've given up except for a) I'm stubborn, and b) this is KRISTIN HANNAH- she of The Nightingale, one of the most wonderful books ever, and SURELY she would redeem a couple hundred pages of non-excellence!! And MAN- am I glad I stuck with it. The story finally got rolling for me about halfway through, and the last...I don't know, 25%, maybe...INCREDIBLE. Like the ending had me literally sobbing and ugly crying and filled with joy and hope and like, you don't even know. I gave the book 5 stars, even with that rough start, because the final few pages deserved like 20 stars on their own. This is a story that alternates between the present (the storyline that was SO hard for me to get interested in) and the past- occupied Leningrad. If you've got the stamina to power through (and it's not like the first half is terrible, it's just not great...and I just have too many things to read to be wasting my time on 'not great,' normally) it.

Ugh, come on. There are just so many books I loved. I feel bad if I don't include all of them in some way! (I would be the type that gives all the kids a participation trophy...hahaha...only for books it's like "you are a book! someone wrote you and cared very much about you! you win!") These books all also receive my stamp of approval and enjoyment, only I'm not going to keep writing individual summaries, ha.
SO! This accounts for 31 of the 50 books I've read so far this year. HA. Very exclusive of me to manage to omit 19 from my list of recommendations!! 

I do truly tend to be very happy with the books I read, so I often ponder whether it's because I'm just easily satisfied, I have low standards, or what. I've decided that it's because I'm really selective at what I set out to read in the first place. I know what I like. I know authors I like. I know which friends make recommendations that are typically home runs for me. And so I think that means that I just rarely even try a book that has much of a chance of flopping. I mean, I have had a few "flop" books this year- you can see on my Goodreads, if you care. But I think that doing my homework up front, before I crack open the book, results in me being generally thrilled with everything I read. So there's my tip for how to curate a reading life full of five star books, hahaha.

Soooo I doubt anyone really made it this far, but if you did, congratulations, you are a big nerd like me. You shall be rewarded with a picture of Millie in her new dinosaur shirt, aka the cutest thing I've ever seen (the kid AND the shirt). 

How I feel when I'm laying on the couch reading a book. Only I'm less cute than this.

So anyone wanna Book Club it up about any of my selections here? Read them? Loved them? Hated them? Want me to tell you why you're wrong for hating them? Ha. Most importantly: based on what you know now about the kinds of books I love...what should I read next?

(P.S. If you're into podcasts AND reading- all three of us- you definitely need to be listening to What Should I Read Next by Anne Bogel. Such a great podcast!)

Note: All book links are Amazon affiliate links!

Friday, October 6, 2017

life lately's been a minute. Haha. Long enough that when I just now went and looked at my blog so that I could see just HOW long...I was surprised to see my "new" design that I'd completely forgotten I did. Ha! 

We're trucking right along into fall- in our hearts and outfits and food and decor, if not in our weather. Life is really, really good. Millie is at such a fun age, although she certainly has her challenging moments (and days...hahaha)...but overall, three has been pretty fantastic so far. We're still finding fun "firsts" to celebrate when we can!

Yes, apparently Millie still utilizes the Ergo...

We had our first family trip to a UGA football game! We did go to a G-Day (spring scrimmage) game a few years ago, but this was a legit SEC home game. Interestingly (to me, anyway)- it was also the first game Matt and I have ever been to together, despite both being UGA students who attended games in college! We just didn't happen to meet until right after college, and have never been lucky/dedicated enough to get tickets and go to a game in the 13 years since. 

It was funny, though, thinking about the differences between this game and the last game I went to. The last game was in late November of 2004, my senior year of college. It was the last game of the season, versus Georgia Tech, and it was pouring rain and sleet and MISERABLE. We were losing. And we were just frozen solid. And so my friends and I left the game early- truly it may have been the first and only game I ever left early. I HATED people who left games early, haha. But we were too cold and too sad and I stood there knowing it might be a long time until I got to go to a game again, but I left early anyway. And I always regretted it, to be honest. 

I definitely didn't know that it would be THIS long- thirteen years- until I returned to Sanford Stadium for a game! And the next game I'd attend would be with my husband of over a decade and our three-year-old. Oh, and there would be drone cameras flying over the field, and every person in the stadium would have a magical device that allowed them to take pictures, text, and access the internet- WHILE THEY WERE AT THE GAME!!! (Bahaha- SMARTPHONES weren't even invented at my last game. THAT is what made me feel oldest.)

Anyway- we had a blast. Hopefully we won't wait another 13 years til we go back, but no promises. We're pretty lazy. Haha.

Millie has developed a pretty intense love of horses lately. It's basically my favorite thing ever. Looks like we're gonna have to move to a farm or something, because girlfriend NEEDS a horsey.

Until we can make THAT happen, though, we've got Adda the stick horsey to fill that void in her life. Adda's doing a pretty good job. That thing goes everywhere with us. And if the stick part isn't convenient, we just carry her head. (crying laughing emoji) Yes, it is as disturbing as you might imagine to see a horse head lying around. 

I actually bought Adda to complete Millie's upcoming Halloween costume (you guessed it: cowgirl!!!!), but I underestimated how amazing she would be. I hope she makes it til Halloween, haha. Millie loves hers so much we ended up getting the UNICORN version (complete with neighing and "magical" sounds!!) for my niece for her birthday. I mean, who doesn't need a stick horse? They've come a long way since I was a kid (much like football games, apparently).

We're looking forward to all the usual fall fun- pumpkin patches and mountain trips and hopefully, God willing, some cooler weather at some point. Not much looking forward to the time change and dark evenings, though. The other evening we were playing outside and we heard crickets start chirping. Millie put her hand up behind her ear and said "I hear somesing!"

"What do you hear?"

"I hear da bugs talking!"

"Yes, Millie! That's the crickets."

"Da bugs turn off da lights."


"When da bugs talk, dey make it dark outside!"

Soooooo where is her Mensa application?? Girlfriend is a genius.

In other exciting family news (haha...don't get TOO excited), we are finally getting a king sized bed! This is "family" news because strangely enough, more than two people usually end up sleeping in our little queen-sized bed most nights, so...gotta accommodate. I would feel more ashamed, but she's just such a cute little snuggler that I can't bring myself to get too worked up over it. Most of the time she just wanders in when she wakes up around 6:30 or 7, and I'm totally fine with her snuggling with us for a few minutes before we get up. Occasionally it's more like 2:00 a.m., and if Daddy catches her first, he will walk her back to her bed...but if she makes it to my side, she just climbs on in and spends the night. Hahahaha. I can't help it. She's too cute, and I'm too tired. (And at least now she actually lays relatively still and SLEEPS, so it's not a miserable experience for anyone. And it'll be even less miserable once we have all that sweet extra rooooommmm!!!)

We're going to do a full-house-shuffle of our other furniture, though, to make room for the new bed in our room, so that should be not exciting. If you see me looking annoyed and haggard over the next week, it'll be due to some deep cleaning and organizing and furniture deconstruction/moving/reconstruction. Bah. But hopefully it'll be worth it in the end! I'm staying true to myself and my lazy ways, ordering the new bed and mattress from Amazon, so we'll have to do the hard labor ourselves, but hopefully it won't be bad. We did the same thing (different brands, but same ideas) for Millie's room this summer and it was pretty easy and we've been SO happy with her big girl bed, so...I have high hopes! I'd like to say I'll come back with updated pictures of our fabulous new master bedroom, but given my blogging track record of late...better look for that update on Instagram, sorry. Ha.

That's about all I can think just keeps zooming by, and I try to savor and appreciate as much as I can. There are so many tragic and terrible things happening in the world right now, I try not to take a single minute or privilege for granted. It feels trite sometimes to focus on all these silly and ordinary things- stick horses and home decorating, fall festivals and mountain trips- but I find that these are the things that keep me from spiraling into fear and anxiety about everything else. So I play dolls with my daughter, and I annoy the hell out of my senators and "representatives" (lol), and I look forward to pumpkin spice everything, and I read books by really smart people that awaken me to the much bigger world and its much bigger problems, and I try to teach and show my daughter kindness, and I pray and sign petitions and donate money to people working to make a difference. It's a weird balance, really, but it's life right now. I'm so thankful for the goodness, wherever I can find it.