Still Here

I’m still here, I promise.

I’ve been filling my days with all sorts of things: crazy work days, working out less thanks to a torn ab muscle, supporting friends near and far as they navigate life changes (addition of a family member! loss of a family member! transitions and other things), cooking and baking up a storm because it’s fall after all, reading as much as I can, cheering on the STL Cardinals until they fell to the Giants, and am now shifting my fandom to the KC Royals to win the World Series, long talks with Knight, beginning the unpleasant process of helping my dad sift and sort through my mom’s possessions. There’s a lot on my mind these days, just haven’t found the words to express it all… yet!

And while I may not be writing much here, I am writing: today the lovely Kathleen (seriously, need to get to Texas to meet her already) is featuring me on her blog as part of her Working Mama series. I’m honored to be included and hope you’ll take the time to read about my perspective as a Working (Bonus!) Mama.

In the meantime, happy fall and go Royals!

Two Years

Today marks two years since I walked down the aisle towards Knight and said “I do.”

love 3Two years since we’ve kissed each other good night each evening before bed. Two years of cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals during the post-season, of me teasing him about his choice of football team (the Vikings) and me being a bit smug about mine (the Packers!).

Two years of him being my rock, of us figuring out how to laugh during the hard times (oh boy, have there been some crazy hard times), of him dazzling me with his grilling skills and me delighting him with my latest baking creations.

Two years of falling deeper in love, appreciating each other more, holding each other tighter, and supporting one another more than the day before.

Two years of inside jokes, division of labor when it comes to household chores (he gets the lawn, I get the laundry), of binge watching oh-so-addictive-shows on Netflix, of pushing each other to work out harder, cheering each other on personally and professionally.

He is and always will be my favorite guy, my very best friend, my love and my husband.

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Freedom

Im-Free2_zpsa62fcbf5A few weeks ago I deleted the un-watched episodes of the most recent Parenthood season from my DVR. I stopped watching the show when my mom got sick, hoping that one day we’d stay home together and have an epic marathon. When she passed I saved them, telling myself I’d be ready for them before the final season started. I realized that I’m not ready to watch it,  not yet. Instead, I deleted the remaining episodes and immediately felt a little bit more free because there is one less reminder of things that I used to do with my mom that I can’t do the same way and I’m not ready to face, not yet. {Image Via}

I haven’t journaled a single page since the day before we found out that my mom needed to have surgery. That was almost a year ago. I’ve got journals stacked up from friends, some from my mom and others that my dad has given to me (my mom was notorious for having more journals than she needed). Each time I go on a trip, even if just for a weekend, I take a journal with me in the hopes that this will be the time I break it open, write it all out, let it all out and yet, the journals remain untouched.

The last time I sat foot in an Ann Taylor Loft or Banana Republic or The Limited was eons ago. I don’t even remember. Shopping was our thing. Mom would tell me with 100% honesty if the pants worked (or didn’t), she’d help me with fun combinations I hadn’t thought of. While I don’t need any new clothes, I miss the experience, the chats we would have about anything and everything. The only clothes I’ve found myself able to buy: workout clothes, PJ’s and new running shoes.

In the last few weeks I’ve been down on myself because I can’t bring myself to do these seemingly everyday things that others don’t even bat an eye at. It’s been hard. It’s hard to talk to about those things I miss doing too–mostly because I’m tired of hearing people say “but your mom would want…” and then they fill in the blank on what my mom would want/think/say. I know that my mom doesn’t want me to be sad, to struggle, to have these little issues and pains crop up, but … it’s inevitable after a loss of this magnitude. I’m pretty sure that wherever my mom is today, she knows that.

Instead of feeling bad I’ve been working on giving myself permission to be OK with my feelings and actions. I’m acknowledging these hard moments, telling myself it’s normal, it’s ok and that I don’t have to have it all figured out this year. There’s no rule book telling me that I have to do everything I did before mom. I’m letting go of my expectations of myself and in some respects, my expectations of others, and that is so freeing. Each time I choose to be accepting of my feelings rather than pushing back on them, I feel like a giant weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Someday I’ll be ready to binge watch the heck out of Parenthood or going on a shopping spree so big I have no hangers left in my closet but for now I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing.

How do you deal with your own personal expectations? Any tips/tricks on letting those thoughts and feelings go? 

Whiny Whiny Rhino, a Children’s Book Review

Whiny Whiny Rhino big (640x800)I love a good children’s book just as much as I love a good, sink-my-teeth-into-it-adult-fiction book. Obviously I jumped at the chance to read and review this new children’s book, Whiny Whiny Rhino by McBoop because: a) another book to put on the bonus girls’ shelf, b) I have several friends who are teachers, c) even more friends both in blogworld and locally with toddlers and d) the cover of the book caught my attention. And e) I love the name of the author: McBoop!

This book is positively adorable: the pictures will catch the attention of any child as they are bright, bold, beautiful and they have a lot going on. The message is perfect for both children & adults alike: rather than fretting, go and live your life, try new things and see what happens. You may discover something new!

I can’t wait to share this book with my youngest bonus child next summer as she’s the more apprehensive of the two. The length of the book is perfect, it flows well, and it’s such a great story. What’s not to love!?

About this book:

Can Tiny Tiny Rhino have a fun day?

Or will all of his whining get in the way?

If you’ve ever been worried to try something new,

then Whiny Whiny Rhino is the book for you!

The story’s message is like the Mark Twain quote, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” We all get apprehensive when encountering new experiences and this often leads us to avoid ever trying anything new. Just having a little courage to try new things can often lead to a much more exciting and enriching life.

 

McBoopAuthor’s Bio:

McBoop is the creative team of Carmin Iadonisi & Amanda Iadonisi-Word. This father-daughter duo co-wrote and illustrated Whiny Whiny Rhino. They currently live in New England where they enjoy making art, reading comics, playing board games, eating fancy chocolate and whining about the weather.

Connect with them here:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Where to buy the book:

Amazon

What’s the best life-lesson you learned from a children’s book (either as a child or a grown-up)? 

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I received a copy of this book for the purposes of my review; all opinions and views are my own and I was not otherwise compensated.

30.1

As of early this morning (2:32 am or 2:52 am, I don’t remember which) I’m officially 31, or as I’m opting to call it 30.1. There will be a quiet celebration over the course of the week since my family believes in Birthday Weeks. It started Saturday evening with a lovely dinner featuring smoked pulled pork thanks to the hubs, cheesy biscuits made by me, potato casserole from a friend, and way too  many desserts including: maple brown sugar cookies, brownies, gooey butter pumpkin cake, and a variety of cake pops and glitter bites from the very same place that did the desserts for our wedding.

This year is a bit different from a celebration perspective as I’m missing my mom in the worst way but I’m smiling today because there are so many other people who have showed up for me this year, surrounding me with love. I’m eternally grateful.

I don’t have much to say about 30.1 so instead, I’m sharing a few random facts about me from over the years that maybe you don’t know about me:

* I was born during a massive rainstorm in the NY/NJ area. My parents say that’s why I love rain so much. I would agree.

* When I was in high school, I was an assistant teacher for an etiquette and cotillion. To this day I still hear songs on the radio that we used for the dance portion and I can remember a few steps of each type of dance we taught.

* My sophomore through senior year in high school I was a volunteer camp counselor for the sixth grade camp. I have some of the best memories of my girls and my co-counselors.

* I’ve never been fishing or camping (the kind where you pitch a tent, build a fire, etc.).

* When I was in band (also in high school) our school was selected to march in in the New Year’s Eve Parade at Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL. Best high school trip ever.

* I prefer chocolate to wine (or beer).

* I had a very brief stint my freshman year in high school as a model for a local magazine: I got to do a very fun and funky 1950s Prom shoot and then a few jewelry shoots.

* In middle school I was obsessed with all things theater which led to me being a stage manager for all the spring & fall plays we did in the 7th and 8th grade.

What’s one fact that most people don’t know about you? 

(Not) Awesome

Things that are not awesome: 

* The last hail storm that came through our town caused legit damage to our roof (shingles with holes, wind damage) and gutters.

* Before our work trip/vacation our washer died mid-cycle.

* We came home to a nasty stench in our basement. Cause: dead mouse.

* Our sump pump is fried.

* I’m pretty sure this year has been nothing but bleeding money.

* Never-ending post-divorce bullshit.

* Celebrating birthdays without my mom.

* Upper respiratory infection + laryngitis + a cough that is so ridiculous I haven’t been sleeping well.

Things that are awesome: 

* Enough people in our area have had total roof replacements that we should be able to get the same via our house insurance, minus of course the cost of our deductible.

* Snagging an awesome deal on our new washer & dryer thanks to it being last year’s model (but still just as energy efficient, quiet and new). Also: finding a buyer for our old washer & dryer on Craigslist. Oh, and “free” set-up & delivery.

* Husbands who find said dead mouse and dispose of it.

* Husbands who know how to replace the sump pump.

* Finding little ways to save more money which is always important, but especially so when I feel like all I see is money flying out of our windows.

* I don’t have a counter to this one because: unnecessary stress and aggravation all the time.

* Friends and family who have been reaching out to me in anticipation of my birthday on Monday. It’s not even close to the Mom Magic that’s missing from my life but it does help.

* Doctor’s who call in prescriptions swiftly for me and a flexible company that lets me work from home when I have no voice (or energy).

What’s on your not awesome/awesome list this week? Any fun fall weekend plans? 

Review: A Matter of Mercy

A Matter oA_Matter_of_Mercy_Cover-199x300f Mercy by Lynne Hugo is a novel full of emotions: Caroline returns home to care for her mother who is slowly dying of ovarian cancer. You’ll quickly learn that Caroline hasn’t been to her home town for years due to a tragic accident that occurred years before, an accident that she is still coming to terms with. Enter Ridley, a former acquaintance of Caroline from her high school days and a bit of a romance ensues. While Caroline’s mom is dying and she wrestles with her feelings for “Rid,” as he likes to be called, Rid is suddenly involved in a lawsuit over his grant of land (he’s an oyster farmer) which causes unrest in the town, Caroline to be harassed and tempers to be tested.

I don’t know that I would normally pick this novel up on my own, but the imagery of the area that Hugo describes is absolutely stunning and like any good writer, you’ll be rooting for Rid to win his lawsuit and for Caroline & Rid to wind up together. (I’m a sucker for anything that takes on or near a beach.)

I would not recommend this book for anyone who has recently lost a loved one to cancer as it’s rough to read at the beginning but it’s necessary in a way, as it sets up the book with some foreshadowing and important topics that Hugo addresses as the novel continues.

This book isn’t as lighthearted as I expected but wound up being a lovely treat to read and I admittedly learned a lot about oyster growing, farming and harvesting.

You can learn more about Lynne Hugo via her Facebook or website, and purchase A Matter of Mercy on Amazon.

Do you have a favorite geographical setting for novels? 

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Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this novel for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated.

Review: Ballroom

I wanted so badly to love this book, to fall into the pages and never want to climb out. While there were parts of this novel that I did enjoy the rest of the story was melancholy and heavy.

Alice Simpson, author of Ballroom does a great job of making you feel like you know the characters, can understand their pain (trust me, there’s a lot of pain, longing, angst among the key players in this book) and as a result, you hope that they will each find their happiness.

At the center of this story is the Ballroom. It’s where Gabriel goes to escape his crumbling marriage, looking for solace in another woman’s arms. There’s Sarah who goes to the Ballroom regularly in the hopes that she can get Gabriel’s attention. You’ll learn about Harry Korn, a former dance instructor who is in love with the much younger Maria Rodriguez who of course is in love with someone else, her dance partner Angel. And lastly, Joseph who looks forward to dancing each week so that he can do his best to catch Sarah’s eye. Throughout the novel Simpson explains how each person turned to dancing, their pasts (many of which are incredibly sad), and their hopes for the future.

I enjoyed the quotes Simpson including from texts about ballroom dancing: rules, etiquette and etc. Of all the characters in the book, Maria and Angel were my two most favorite as they were a little less doom-and-gloom than the others.

Overall, this book earns three stars out of five from me since the writing was better than I expected, but the story earns a 2.5.

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Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book for the purposes of the review. All opinions are my own.

Real (Parenting) Moments

Inspired by some of my favorite bloggers who share their parenting experiences on the regular (I’m looking at you Kathleen and Ashley), I thought I’d share some of my mom blunders from this past summer with the kidlets.

Summer 2013 was kind of disastrous: chaos all the time, gray hairs, tantrums from kids & adults alike, utter exhaustion and not enough of a schedule we were determined to make the next year better. We scrutinized camp descriptions, options (and pricing, let’s be real) leading us to pick some great new experiences for both kids, Knight and I planned out who would pick them up and when, the sitters we would have, the local events we’d take the girls to. By and large this summer did go much better than Summer ’13. MUCH.

That’s not to say  there weren’t moments were I wanted to scream, cry and punch a wall because parenting is tough. Really, really tough.

The first day of camp I sent the girls with the requirements as per the camp instructions: swimsuits, towels, lunch box full of yummy food. The moment the girls got in the car at pick-up they informed me of all the things the Other Moms gave their kids: extra snacks. Flip-flops. A bag for the wet suits. Water bottles. I felt like a failure. I’m a parent, in a mom-role and yet because I don’t do this every day or because I think differently about things such as: the girls were indoors all day, there are tons of water fountains & water breaks, the camp provided snacks –  I felt like a total failure. The girls incessant questions about why I didn’t know what to send or why I didn’t do it certainly didn’t help. (I may or may not have called Knight in a teary mess.)

One evening the girls and I decided to tag-along with Knight to his softball game because: a) it was gorgeous weather b) his softball games take place in an awesome park with countless playground for the kids and c) I wanted to get in a run while I watched the girls on the playground (which yes, I could do safely and not lose sight of them). After a bit the girls decided they wanted to run with me and knowing that kids + exercise = amazing sleep and no fights at bedtime, along they came. We were having fun: talking, laughing, discussing why exercise is important and then I decided that we should all do a silly run, a la Phoebe from friends. Not three seconds into it, Jolie goes down. Hard. I’ve never heard her scream like that before. Scratched knees, elbows, hands. I was able to get her cleaned up and off in the public park restroom, pulling stuff out of my purse left and right that would help but I felt horrible, selfish and like I should have/could have prevented that fall. My mom guilt kicked in and we all got ice cream that evening.

Our local library is Awesome. Free events and shows, reading programs, giveaways, educational camps. I mentioned to the girls that there was a comedian/magician show coming to our location, filled the sitter in on the details, which by the way I obtained from the library website, and thought we were good to go. Later that day I get a text from the sitter saying I gave them the wrong time and they missed half the show. Not only did I let the kids down I looked like a moron in front of the sitter.

There were other things that made me want to pull out my hair: bedtime struggles, getting the younger one to eat her food (all meals, every.single.day), making family dinners that the girls refused to eat, attitudes, eye rolling and them telling me they didn’t like me and wanted to go home (which I understand on the one hand and also might as well have been a knife in my gut since we try so hard to make things fun and enjoyable for them).

And yes, there were things that went well: seeing the joy in the girls’ eyes after their camps; their new friends they made in the neighborhood; the sight of our backyard filled with kids since we decided to do an impromptu pizza party for the girls & their friends; their squeals of delight at the circus, the live play we took them to see, and other fun days.

I know parenting is a balance. I know it takes patience, hard-work and time to try to get even one thing right. I just wish I had more of it because as a bonus mom I often feel like the Black Sheep, an outcast and insignificant leading me to take it really hard when I make a mistake. While Summer ’15 is far away, I’m already thinking and pre-planning in my head.

Do you have any real-life moments you want to share, parenting or otherwise?

Ten Books

I am borrowing this idea from Amber’s recent post about the Ten Books that affected her. Given that I’m not on Facebook these days (the horror!) I had no idea this was a thing but I tried to stick to the rules: the first ten books that come into your mind! I love the idea so here are ten books that have impacted me over the years:

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger : This story just got to me. The beauty, the idea of different time and space and places. Word to the wise: skip the movie. Read the book, buy a copy for yourself and re-read it. You’ll be glad you did.

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I don’t remember when I read this book but it was in my pre-teens, I think. I remember my mom gifting me the book and telling me it was “time,” to read it. I read it in one weekend and loved it. The copy my mom gave me has traveled from house to house, even during the college years. I can’t wait to share this with my bonus daughters someday.

3. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. I read this book during the height of the Twilight fame when I decided I needed some “real,” vampire literature. I’d seen bits and pieces of the movie but this book, oh this book. At once dark, heartbreaking, compelling and spellbinding. Tough to put down. I haven’t read the others by Rice yet, but they are on my shelf.

4. Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. This book is on my list because it’s the one that started my love affair with Trigiani’s books. I loved every page of this book from the very first to the very last (and the 2nd and 3rd in the series, despite the sadness in book number three) relating to the Italian-American ways of life, the food, the sass and independence that you’ll find in Valentine. I can’t wait for her next books to come out, hopefully the start of a new series and characters.

5. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Oh, this book. I laughed. I cried. I held my dog Jack and cried. I recommended it to everyone I know. A beautiful story about overcoming life’s struggles, a man’s best friend, saying goodbye and opening new doors.

6. The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard. I read this book in an entire weekend. This is about a family, their betrayal, the incident that happened all those years ago….this book is full of intrigue, mystery and an ending that I didn’t see coming (well, until I did. If that makes sense.)

7. Chocolat by Joanne Harris. I remember watching the movie with my mom as we are both Johnny Depp fans. I don’t think at that point I had read the book or had my book before movie rule but when I did read the book, well, my goodness. The story of Vianne takes on so much life in the pages of this novel and her daughter, the kangaroo invisible friend and the pirates… just loved every bit of it. It also was the gateway into other Harris novels.

8. Adrian Mole: From Minor to Major, by Sue Townsend. When I was in eighth grade, my parents took us to London, England. I had so much going on then: puberty, hormones, insecurities, culture shock, the list goes on and on. My mom took me a to a bookstore to help me get accustomed and adjusted and I found this book there. I loved it. I devoured it. It’s about a young boy who is going from his pre-teens to teenage years and all of his encounters. I have another book by Townsend that I came across at a used book sale, Adrian Mole, the Cappuccino Years. Most people haven’t heard of it since she’s a UK author but I adored this book and still have the original copy on my shelf.

9. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Another book recommended to me by my momma, sometime in the high school years. It was so long ago but I remember being struck by the time period, the romance (though it has trials and tribulations throughout) and the beauty in the writing.

10. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho. I read this book at a time when I really *needed* to hear the message (read: post a break-up). Beautiful story, amazing writing and surprisingly my first Coelho book I’ve ever read.

This wound up being rather long but please feel free to share any of the books that have touched you in some way. Love chatting, talking and learning about new-to-me books!