Good Things Friday (v9, I think)

It has been a week around these parts. When that happens, I do what I do best: focus on my favorite moments, things or silliness from the week:

1. I have my very own Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packer jersey. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. I wore it around the house for a few hours after I got it. Now to figure out how to get myself to a Packers game this year…

2. My youngest bonus daughter has been singing a camp song about a moose all week and I finally captured it on video last night. It’s quite possibly the most adorable thing ever… and I’m pretty sure the song will be stuck in my head for weeks to come. “I’m a moose! Moose! Can’t you hear my call?

3. A glass of wine with a neighbor friend on Monday evening; I had her mail, she had a glass of wine for me. Win for everyone!

4. Exchanging texts with Nilsa about the STL Cards v. White Sox games. I love having a friend who loves the Cardinals as much as I do.

5. Random hugs and kisses from my bonus daughters. They really can be the sweetest creatures in the world (when they want to be).

6. Long, lingering walks with Jack; the weather has been gorgeous here the last few days, not higher than 85 degrees during the day, and it makes the walks and evenings so pleasant. Can’t get enough of the cool summer evenings.

7. Laughing with Knight over the “large” cheese dip at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. Both girls love it so the smaller bowl doesn’t work for us right now; it’s gone in about 4 chips with the kidlets around. We asked for the large one and they brought it out in a small casserole dish (seriously). $10.50 and a lot of cheese dip later… we were still laughing. They should call it mammoth size because it was a lot of cheese dip. And yes there was some leftover when we left. And yes, the cheese dip was the most expensive thing on our bill that evening.

8. My blog-friend-turned-real-life-friend, Bri, is blogging again. This makes my heart happy.

What’s on your Good Things Friday list? 

 

Review: Newport

Let me preface this review with: I. Couldn’t. Put. This. Book. Down.

Once I hit chapter three, I was thoroughly intrigued by Newport, stayed up far later than I should have, and stole a few moments during the day to read as I had to know the connections between the characters, what would happen to Bennett Chapman and his plans to marry Catharine Walsh and just what exactly Adrian de la Noye was hiding about his past, if anything. Jill Morrow beautifully captures the Prohibition era, writing with grace while capturing the glitz and glamour of the era. The way Morrow writes the characters, I could picture each one as I read: their clothes, facial expressions, demeanor. This is another book where I’m not going to say more so as to not spoil the story for you, and instead I recommend you add this to your to-be-read pile. Balancing family and personal secrets, love and marriage, greed and the well-intended, Morrow weaves a fascinating story that was a treat to read.

 

Newport (428x648)About Newport

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 7, 2015)

In a glamorous Newport mansion filled with secrets, a debonair lawyer must separate truth from deception. . . .

Spring 1921. The Great War is over, Prohibition is in full swing, the Great Depression is still years away. Wealthy families flock to the glittering “summer cottages” they built in Newport, Rhode Island.

Having sheltered in Newport during his misspent youth, attorney Adrian de la Noye is no stranger to the city. Though he’d prefer to forget the place, he returns to revise the will of a well-heeled client. Bennett Chapman’s offspring have the usual concerns about their father’s much-younger fiancée. But when they learn of the old widower’s firm belief that his late first wife, who “communicates” via séance, has chosen the stunning Catharine Walsh for him, they’re shocked. And for Adrian, encountering Catharine in the last place he saw her decades ago proves to be a far greater surprise.

Adrian is here to handle a will, and he intends to do so—just as soon as he unearths every last secret about the Chapmans, Catharine Walsh . . . and his own very fraught history.

Vividly bringing to life the glitzy era of the 1920s, Newport is a skillful alchemy of social satire, dark humor, and finely drawn characters.

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Jill MorrowAbout Jill Morrow

Jill Morrow has enjoyed a wide spectrum of careers, from practicing law to singing with local bands. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Towson University and a JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She lives in Baltimore.

Find out more about Jill at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own. 

Lessons Learned: Bonus Momming

We are a little over the halfway mark (!) with my bonus daughters and while time is flying by at a rate I just can’t believe, I figured this is a good time to share somethings I’ve learned this summer.

* I can’t stand (really) some of the TV shows on the Disney channel. The jokes and puns are rather horrible, the kids dress in very unrealistic fashion and outfits, and I find that I miss shows like Full House, Boy Meets World and Growing Pains.

* I can, however, watch Frozen as many times as possible because seeing/hearing the girls sing the words to all the songs (and many of the lines) is kind of adorable and hilarious at the same time.

* Chickmunks is a much more fun word than chimpunks. Same for Crackel Barrel (vs. Cracker Barrel), stunk (instead of skunk), a campover (instead of sleepover), swimming on top of the water (instead of above the water) and scrunscreen (instead of sunscreen). Oh, and icksgust, instead of disgust. Icksgust is just way cuter.

* Taking the high road and biting my tongue can be really, really, really hard, especially when I’m told or hear things from the girls, as told to them by their bio-mom, that make me want to scream and shout.

* It is ok to skip Church every once in awhile in favor of an extra hour of sleep for everyone.

* Love and Logic works…most of the time (and when I remember to use it).

* Treating the kids to ice cream on a hot summer day is most necessary. It also reminds me of the kinds of things my mom did with me and my brother when we were younger. It’s all about creating memories.

* I’m still stuck in varying stages of grief depending on the day; I may have cried when talking to the girls about how I wish I could call my mom everyday (and have encouraged them to call theirs as much as they want, and hope they’ll call us more when they leave us in a few short weeks).

* I miss my friends and social life. Because we have such a short amount of time with the girls, our parenting + family of four is kind of all-consuming. Don’t get me wrong, we have group and friend outings, but I miss the relax-in-the-kitchen-wine-in-my-hand kind of evenings with our neighbors or other close by friends.

* Some of the Level 1 “I Can Read,” books are totally not level one type books. They throw weird made-up words in there and others that I am certain aren’t beginning/basic words.

* See also: hearing the littlest one read? Music to my ears. She doesn’t love it as much as her big sister, but we are getting there.

What lessons have you learned lately?

 

Currently, in July

Reading: Finishing City of Thieves for the Postal Book Club; I’m loving it but haven’t had a ton of time to devote to it between family vacation + work + there always being something to do at the house. After that, I have four books from the library and a few digital ones that I want to get to. We’ll see how it goes!

Loving: The last few days the temps have been mild for this time of year; we are talking in the 70s! It’s been rainy too, but I don’t mind too much. Any break we can get on the a/c is fine with me.

Thinking: My brain is in non-stop mode; when my bonus daughters are here I feel like I’m pulled in 20 directions at all times and as such, my brain is a series of half-finished sentences and ideas, projects that need to be done, plans for the week and etc. I’m also thinking that a nap would be glorious. I’m exhausted!

Frustrated: That there are some situations beyond my control, especially when I know that those situations could be avoided if people paid more attention and/or cared more.

Feeling: Fulfilled. Tired. Accomplished.

Anticipating: Upcoming trips in August, November and December, plus trying to squeeze one in to visit my brother in September/October time frame. It will be a whirlwind but I’m looking forward to it and thankful for the opportunity to travel.

Watching: Ballers on HBO (I love The Rock); Chrisley Knows Best (reality TV show on USA). Not a lot of time for longer shows or TV binges these days.

Sad: That our family vacation is over; it was wonderful. Also on a daily basis as I miss mom so much more when I’m parenting for some reason. There have been a lot of tears lately.

Working: Non-stop it seems like! The upside of flex time is that we have less babysitter costs. The down side? I feel like I’m always working to get my job done or to stay on top of things. My workouts took a hit the last week but during our family vacation we averaged about 5 miles a day of walking, and we are fast walkers, so I’ll take it. The workouts resume today as I miss them and need them (nor do I want to lose my muscle definition I’ve worked so hard for!)

Grateful: For the opportunities available to me!

Listening: The new album from Zac Brown Band; I can’t get enough of it.

Wishing: on a star.

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to? 

Review: The Tide Watchers

The Tide Watchers (429x648)

I’ve been enjoying historical fiction more than usual lately and this book furthered my mini love affair for the genre. This book is a bit of an undertaking at 448 pages, but I loved every page, the characters, the beautiful writing, the multiple facets to this story (spy! love! family!), learning something new about this time period and would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

I can’t say much more about this book without spoiling who Lisbeth can (or can’t) trust, but I can tell you to grab a copy of this book and enjoy!

About The Tide Watchers

In the winter of 1803, one woman stands between Napoleon and the fall of Great Britain

The free-spirited daughter of an English baronet, Lisbeth defies convention by eloping to France. When her husband abandons her, she must find a way to survive and be reunited with her young son, who is in the care of her mother-in-law.

A seasoned spy known as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth’s father and pledged to keep his mentor’s pretty daughter safe—a promise complicated by the wily Napoleon Bonaparte. The British believe he is planning an attack, and Duncan is sent to search for signs of invasion on the French coast—where he draws dangerously close to adventurous and unpredictable Lisbeth.

A sensational new invention may shift the tide of a French victory. A brilliant and eccentric American inventor named Robert Fulton has devised a deadly weapon that can decimate an enemy’s fleet. To protect English ships, Tidewatcher must gain control of Fulton’s invention and cross enemy lines . . . but he cannot do it alone. Left with no other options, he enlists Lisbeth’s help in outwitting the American inventor and uncovering Bonaparte’s secret plans.

Going undercover for the handsome and duty-bound spy, Lisbeth risks her freedom and her life as she navigates double agents and submarine warfare to outwit the greatest military tactician in history. The only question is . . . who can she trust?

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About Lisa Chaplin

Lisa Chaplin has published twenty contemporary romances under a pseudonym, but the publication of The Tide Watchers marks her mainstream debut. Lisa, her husband, and their three children currently reside in her home country of Australia.

Follow Lisa on Twitter.

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I received a complimentary copy for the purposes of this review; all opinions are my own.

Review: Royal Wedding

Royal WeddingConfession: The Princess Diaries movies (and books) are one of my guilty pleasures. It was a no-brainer to read and review Royal Wedding, the latest in the Princess Diaries series, and Meg Cabot’s (first, I hope) adult installment.

The book is written as a series of journal entries, text message exchanges, web articles and announcements, as Princess Mia deals with her father who is still very much in love with Mia’s mother; the political ins & outs; her Grandmere who loves a good drink and insists on doing everything by the book; her engagement to Michael (and of course everything that goes along with planning a wedding) and… a few twists and turns along the way.

This is one of those books that is fun, easy to read, and hard to put down; I loved reading the journal entries as it felt like I was privy to exclusive information. Fans of the Princess Diaries will not be disappointed with this one!

About the book: 

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Princess Diaries series, comes the very first adult installment, which follows Princess Mia and her Prince Charming as they plan their fairy tale wedding—but a few poisoned apples could turn this happily-ever-after into a royal nightmare.

For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia’s gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn’t need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royaloui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother’s leaked “fake” wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch. Can Mia prove to everyone—especially herself—that she’s not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?

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About Meg CabotMeg Cabot

Meg Cabot was born in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to her adult contemporary fiction, she is the author of the bestselling young adult fiction series, The Princess Diaries. More than 25 million copies of her novels for children and adults have sold worldwide. Meg lives in Key West, Florida, with her husband.

Find out more about Meg at her website, follow her blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Good Things Friday (v.?)

It’s been so long since I did a Good Things Friday, I don’t remember what version number I’m on; I could look it up but I’ve been solo parenting the last few nights and that’s too much effort at the moment, as is eating a real dinner (cereal for the win) or putting much thought into my work outfits. Perfect time for Good Things Friday!

1. I love all the little one-liners and incorrect word pronunciations I’m hearing now that the girls are with us. My favorite one so far “chickmunk,” and “tick pullers,” (aka tweezers). Don’t worry, I’m writing them down and will post the funny sayings soon!

2. Knight had a work trip for a few days this week. Things went much better than I anticipated, and apart from a few issues with attitude (oi with the talking back and eye rolling already), we all came out unscathed. I’ll take that as a big, fat win.

3. There has been a fair amount of time in the car, shuttling the girls back and forth to camp. I’ve found a way to keep the girls engaged, the petty fighting to a minimum and pass the time quickly: audiobooks! We’ve been listening to Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl; I read the Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory to the girls last summer so I figured why not squeeze a sequel in there? The guy who is reading the book is British (swoon) and is incredibly talented with all the various accents and voices he does. We are close to the end, I’m sad to say, but I will definitely be going back to the library to borrow another one.

4. I’m incredibly thankful for a flexible work environment; they’ve been understanding about my coming/going at unusual times the last few days, being ok with me working early and late, and while I am pretty sure I’m putting in more hours than I normally would, it’s been a godsend (not to mention a nice savings on our wallet not having to hire a babysitter to help this week).

5. Guilt-free dinner at Chick-Fil-A. Because a mom can’t cook every single night of the week and maintain her sanity.

6. Spending some extra one-on-one time with my Popz. I feel like his a bit neglected when the girls are here so today we snuck out, just the two of us, to a Rotary outing and to the zoo for a special event. Now that my mom is gone, he serves the role of multiple parents to me and is so kind, understanding and loving, even when I tell him he’s not the same as talking to my mom, or when I cry on his shoulder (which happens more than I care to admit). He’s a treasure, even when he drives me a little bit crazy (you can’t take the Brooklyn and Italian out of him, let me tell you) and I’m so glad that we are able to carve out time to just be!

7. My brother is following one of his dreams which involves/includes working in a baseball-related field. While he’s busy working towards his dream job, he and a buddy started a podcast that is all about baseball (and admittedly being fun and goofy, too). If you have a friend/partner/spouse/baseball fan in your life, spread the news about the Ball Boys Podcast (which you can find here). This obnoxiously proud big sister thanks you in advance.

What’s on your Good Things Friday list? 

On Summer, Forgetting & Being a Bonus

Hello, Bonus Munchkins.

You’re back for another summer of fun. 48 hours haven’t even passed and I’m already simultaneously exhausted and stressed out but bursting at the seams with joy because you are back under our roof.

Belle, I can’t tell you how much I love that you are missing some of your front teeth because you can’t say certain words and it quite possibly the cutest thing ever. Not to mention the adorable smile. You’re reading now and while you don’t love it nearly as much as your sister, don’t think I can’t see the smile on your face when you sound out a new word or proudly read a sentence aloud to me. You’re a peanut, an absolute slip of a thing, dainty and delicate. I suppose the upside is that if you continue to grow like this, we’ll be getting our  money’s worth out of your wardrobe. You love Frozen like any good little girl your age, still do and say every thing your sister does, and in less than two hours yesterday went from being terrified of the diving board to jumping off it non-stop (without floaties, which is a huge change from last summer). I wish I could say you were less determined than in years past but sadly that is not the case. You’re a rule breaker by nature, a button & envelope pusher to the max. You’re testing every single Love & Logic parenting technique we’ve learned but we are sticking to the framework. I can be just as determined as you, dear heart. You make us laugh out loud constantly, even when I know I shouldn’t be laughing. If you asked me today I predict that you’ll be a comedian or actress; you’ve got a bit of drama queen and comedienne in your blood. My wish you for this summer is that your confidence grows; you have so much to offer if only you’d let it out a little bit more.

Jolie. My shadow. You’ve been glued to my side since the moment we picked you up and I love it. You can be quite trying now that you’ve mastered the pre-teen eye rolling and attitude but when you slip your hand in mine or take a nap on my shoulder all of that melts away. You’ve grown an insane amount which makes it hard for everyone (me included) to remember that you are still under the age of ten, and also because, like a true first child, you are mature for your age. (Until you aren’t. Mothers out there know what I mean.) I’m thrilled that you continue to love to read, finishing a book in a day and grabbing for more. You’re into accessories and wearing your hair so side-swept that we can’t see your eyes (another sign you’re a pre-teen, perhaps??), you are talking about what you want to be when you grow up, telling me you know how to flirt just a little bit and make funny faces at me when I bring up the idea of dating. You have your insecurities about things (what people think, say), you worry about everyone all the time, forgetting to care for yourself. I love how responsible you are but at the same time I also wish that you would spend this summer (and the next few) being a kid because these days go by so quickly. You thrive on schedules and knowing what is next, you can’t stand to be late, and you don’t like unknowns. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were my biological child.

As for me, well, I forgot a lot of things in the last year. How to manage my time. How to delegate parenting tasks to Knight. When to provide course correction and when to let certain things go. I forgot how tiring parent can be, what it is like to talk to my hubs (we have resorted to half-asleep pillow talk the last two nights and a catch-up call while working on Monday). I forgot how much we are your world when you’re with us. I forgot how rewarding parenting can be, how I get nervous when I hear the phrase “at momma’s we…” because I never know what it will end with. I am also remembering a lot of things: there is not a lot of time for me to eat so this is why I lose 5-10 pounds each summer; I sleep like a rock because I’m wiped out; the joyful noise that is in the house when you kiddos are around; how much you want to contribute to the house and how glad I am that you want to; how fun it is to share things from my childhood with you; how adorable you girls are with your Daddy.

I know that divorce is messy and awful, I know that it sucks for you girls more than I can know (and would you believe it sucks for me and your dad more than you would think? Adults who can handle it or not, it sucks) and that you don’t like seeing us only in the summers. We don’t like it either. I know there is a lot you don’t know, don’t understand and maybe/likely never will. What I do know? Your dad loves you and so do I. That we are always here for you, no matter what anyone says or does. That we are always in your corner and only want what is best for you.

Here’s to the summer, midglets. I’m blessed to spend it with you.

On May

May is always a whirlwind month for me: birthdays galore, weddings always, sharpening my Bonus Mom tools, crazy work days. This month was full of love, laughter, hard work, stress headaches, working out tough & adding more new workouts, faltering when it came to my reading (I’m in a reading slump), and learning to be more present in the moment.
I confessed to a dear friend that I was struggling with feeling my feelings… I bottled (and I’m sure I still will) a lot of my grief up, telling myself that by now I need to hide the sorrow and the tears, have a stiff upper lip and push through it. But you know what? She reminded me that it’s ok for young kids to have moments of frustration/sadness/tears so why, really, should it be any different for adults? Why not just feel my feelings, even if seemingly inconvenient, acknowledge them, talk them through, and move forward. Those words were wise and transformed the remainder of my month.

I don’t hide when I have a moment of sadness. I am more comfortable talking about my grief and sorrow. And as a result, I feel like I’m more me, I’m more alive, I’m more… with it. I’m not worried about where the nearest bathroom is in case I have to compose myself or about what others might think. I feel like I’m living more authentically. I smile more. My laughter is real and true. My tears are raw and heartfelt. I’ve always been emotional but losing mom has made me more emotional…more compassionate, empathetic, more sensitive.

All that to say I feel like May was more real, more raw, more honest, more… me. Baby steps, I’m sure I’ll falter in the future but allowing myself permission — which, why is it so hard as a person over 18 to just DO things? — to do whatever, whenever feels great.

So, May. Celebrated my dad’s birthday. Worked through some tough days at work. Established a work from home (!!) schedule for this summer which I’m elated for. Celebrated several other birthdays with my girlfriends. Added new workouts to my regime, pushing myself harder and feeling stronger. Let go of books a bit this month. Gave extra love to Jack. Had epiphanies. Was a reader in a wedding for the first time. Planned/co-chaired a charity book fair in honor/memory of my mom (she loved a good book, pretty sure there are still several hundred books at my parents’ house that she hadn’t ready when she went to dance in the stars). Enjoyed a getaway with Knight. Thoroughly enjoyed hosting Nilsa and her family for a weekend. Survived Mother’s Day. Planted more gorgeous flowers in the Angel Garden. Put the finishing touches on summer camps and plans for my bonus munchkins. It went by in the blink of an eye, as it seems this month often does. I learned, laughed, cried, experienced frustration, personal growth and so much more. Thanks, May. You’ve been alright in my book.

How was your May? Anything exciting coming up for you in June? 

Good Things Friday (v.8)

Good Things Friday…

* It’s the Friday of a short week. Doesn’t get much better than that.

* Except for the fact I’ll only be in the office one day next week thanks to a two-day work conference and then two-days of vacation. Winning.

* Tomorrow is the big book fair that I’ve been co-chairing in memory of my mom; I’m excited to see it come to a close and I’m hoping that we have a good turnout. I’ve complained about this process/the fair a bit but I would love to be able to make it an annual event, so here’s hoping we make some good money for the charity and can make that a reality.

* Low electric bills thanks in part to cooler spring nights and our super-awesome EcoBee system.

* Homemade chocolate chip cookie aroma in the house on Tuesday evening (and the fact that most of them went to the office for a birthday celebration which meant I didn’t overdo it on eating them).

* Purchasing new, on-super-sale, comfortable sweatpants at the bookstore where I went to college. I’m a sucker for a good pair of comfy pants with my college logo on them.

* Spring thunderstorms. Sometimes there’s nothing better.

Any good things on your Friday list this week?