Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made (U-NEEK by Dayspring Review & Info)

A few days ago, we were out grocery shopping when Lizzy spotted someone with an eye-patch. "Look! She looks like a pirate!" Lizzy yelled. This is actually not the first time that we've had an encounter with an eye-patch, and it hasn't always ended well. Thankfully, this woman totally rolled with the punches and gave a good "Arg!" and reference to The Pirate Fairy movie (Lizzy was thrilled).

We've talked to Lizzy quite a lot lately about how everyone looks different, and that's okay. The world would be a really boring place if we were all the same. But still, she's just at that age where she's really noticing the differences a lot. She couldn't care less whether someone has long hair, short hair, or no hair, but you better believe that she notices, and she definitely intends to let the whole store know that she notices. Still, we've been working lately on kindness, and have basically told her that it's only okay to compliment people that we don't know on their appearance.

Recently, Dayspring came out with a new line of product called U-NEEKS that really affirms the idea that everyone is unique and wonderfully made, which really aligns with some of the things we've been working with Lizzy on lately. We were offered the opportunity to review some of the products, and although you may have noticed that I've majorly backed off the number of reviews and giveaways that I've done in the past year, I said yes to this one because I really and truly love everything about it.

uneeks-8

The line is based around a group of characters called the U-NEEKS. Each individual character has a name (Indigo, Wally, Alliebird, & Dweeber are pictured above), and comes with some info about their favorite things. Each character has their own favorite Bible verse, but the overall message for the whole line is "Fearfully & Wonderfully Made!" Each character's tag says "We are fearfully & wonderfully made, a little bit quirky, a little bit strange, and completely U-Neek!"

Thus far, I have really let the girls decide what toys they want to play with, but sometimes I get sick of all the perfect princesses and baby dolls. We all know that's not reality. I like that the U-NEEKS  dolls are a little more funky and a lot less perfect. We have already spent a lot of time counting eyes, ears, teeth, and comparing hair, etc. It's a good starting point to talk about all those issues we've been working on with Lizzy, and helps me break it down in ways that are meaningful and understandable to her--these dolls may not look like her princesses, but they are just as fun to play with! Not only that, but that there's only one Lizzy in the world, and it's okay that she's not going to look or act just like any of the other kids in the school--God made her just the way she is, and he did it on purpose, FOR a purpose! 

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I thought my girls would be most excited about the dolls, and while they do love them, I was surprised that Lizzy's favorite part of the collection has been the greeting cards.
Cards

Earlier this summer, Lizzy's aunt Renee broke her foot playing soccer. One of the first things Lizzy said when she heard was, "I want to make her a card!" Sweet Lizzy busted out the Alliebird "Owl be praying for you" cards, and went right to work. Now, anytime she hears that someone is hurt or sick, she asks to make them an "owl card". I have to admit that I am NOT great about sending cards to people, and I always wish that I were better about it, so I love that Lizzy has this desire already and am trying to do my best to foster it!

EncouragementNotes
We also received these sweet Encouragement Notes, which I have been saving with the intention of sending them along with Lizzy's snack to school this next year. Each card has a sweet note of encouragement, and it has really been incredible how much of an affect they have on Lizzy--she really lights up whenever I read them to her! The card that Lizzy is holding above says, "Never frog-get, I think you're amazing." So simple, but such a good thing for kiddos to hear affirmed regularly!
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These coupon books to reward kids for good behavior are also SO AWESOME. Another thing that's really simple, but really effective, for Lizzy in terms of her behavior and attitude. Again, she totally lights up at the recognition.

The U-NEEKS collection is available on the Dayspring website, but you can also see them in-store at Hobby Lobby and Wal-Mart stores until July 15th. I really suggest going and checking out the coupon books and encouragement notes--they are awesome, and can definitely be used independent of the plush toys above!

Disclosure Statement: I received the U-NEEKS product from Dayspring in exchange for my honest review and thoughts.  All opinions and photos are my own, and all links above are non-affiliate links.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Type of Story No One Likes to Talk About

Around this time every year, Facebook seems filled with cautionary tales about all kinds of summer dangers--secondary drowning, pool safety, how to check kids for ticks, and pieces about leaving kids in cars.

Leaving kids in cars, especially, always seems to be a hot topic. Inevitably, the comments start to include things like:

"What kind of horrible person forgets their kid in the car?"
"How can someone not notice that they forgot their kid in the car?!"
"I hope they burn in hell."
"If you leave a child in a car, you don't deserve to be a parent."
"If you're so busy that you forget your newborn, you need to seriously re-evaluate your life."
"There is NO excuse for forgetting a child in a car."
"How do you forget a child?! Mine are the first thing on my mind, always!"
"If you can't manage to look in your rearview mirror and make sure there isn't a kid back there, you're an idiot."
"If you're on autopilot while responsible for a baby, you're doing something wrong."


I get it. I understand how incomprehensible it is. But let me tell you a story.

The spring after Becca was born, I was having a playdate with a friend who has a little girl Lizzy's age. During the playdate, she had a serious family emergency occur, and asked me to take her kiddo home with me. No problem.

It was a weird day--my aunt was flying in to the airport, and we were meeting her there. My sister was also meeting us there and then everyone was coming back to my house for a visit. So, my sister, the kids, and I piled into my car and we headed home.

On the drive home, Becca fell asleep in her carseat. Lizzy and her friend were getting tired, were both hungry, and were also doing that whole, "MOM, she said I'm not hungry, but I AM!" thing. I dug out a couple of juice boxes, hoping to tide them over until we got home.

Anyway, we got home, and I unloaded the two bigger girls first. One of them had to go potty RIGHT THEN, so I ran up to unlock the door so that they could go inside while I grabbed Becca. Only, she had an accident on our doorstep. I helped her get to the bathroom, and on to the toilet. While I was doing that, the other kiddo somehow squirted her juice box everywhere, then proceeded to slip on it, and cut herself. I got her a band aid. The kiddo in the bathroom started crying because she couldn't reach the toilet paper. I reached the toilet paper for her. My phone rang, with Justin calling about something urgent (if I remember correctly, I think he was working out of town at the time). Lizzy and her friend both started whining that they were SO HUNGRY. I grabbed them some fruit snacks. I felt like I had been putting out small fires all morning.

I did a mental check that I'd tried to start doing since Becca was born--one kid? Check. Two kids? Check. Then, I sat down on the couch and sighed.

About that time, my sister said, "So, do you want me to grab Becca out of the car, or do you want to let her sleep there?"

You guys, it still makes me want to vomit just typing this, but I had completely and totally forgotten about Becca. Had my sister not been there that day or not said anything, I have no idea how long she would have sat in the car before I remembered her.

At that point, she had probably been in the car for between five and ten minutes. We don't have air conditioning in our car, so in the spring and summer, all the windows are always down, and she was totally fine and sleeping away happily. But my mind couldn't stop going to all the "what if" scenarios that could have resulted in and ending that was not nearly so happy.

I really don't know if I can explain how I felt that afternoon. I called Justin hysterically crying. I felt like the worst mother in the history of the world. I still don't like to talk about or even think about that day.

I was one part exhausted. I was one part off-routine with three kids instead of two.

But what I was not (and it's taken me awhile to be able to say this confidently) was an idiot, a bad mother, someone who doesn't care about her kids, a horrible person, or someone who needed to re-evaluate her life.

A few years ago, Gene Weingarten wrote a piece for the Washington Post about forgetting children in cars that won a Pulitzer. If you haven't read it already, I really would suggest it. It's not an easy read, but it's an important one.

The part that sticks with me the most?

"The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.

Last year it happened three times in one day, the worst day so far in the worst year so far in a phenomenon that gives no sign of abating.

The facts in each case differ a little, but always there is the terrible moment when the parent realizes what he or she has done, often through a phone call from a spouse or caregiver. This is followed by a frantic sprint to the car. What awaits there is the worst thing in the world."

It happened to me, and it could happen to you too.  I don't care if you are rolling your eyes because you think there's no way. It could.

I'll also note here that there are simple things that could help. The biggest thing is to make a plan with childcare providers that if a child isn't dropped off as usual, they call, and sooner rather than later.

Some parents put their left shoe in the backseat along with their kids in car seats, I took to putting my purse back there.

Inventors have begun producing things like a smartphone car seat monitor (though at $399, it's still a bit spendy).
 
But really, the point of this all is that pointing fingers and saying "That would NEVER happen to me--they must be bad parents!" is not only untrue, but it's also unhelpful. It certainly hasn't decreased the number of tragedies at all. But talking about it, openly and honestly...might. Talking about practical solutions that help...might. Realizing that people who have forgotten their children are, by and large, not criminals or druggies or terrible parents, but people just like you and me...might help as well.

And in this situation, "might" is better than nothing.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Life Right Now

Last Thursday, Lizzy finished her last day of preschool. Next year, she'll be in pre-K and going three days a week, and she already CAN NOT WAIT. Actually, she cannot wait for kindergarten, and doesn't quite understand why other kids who will be five will be in kindergarten next year and she won't (she's a January birthday, so she's past the cut-off). But, she'll survive :)

FirstDayofSchool
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After her last day of school, as we were driving home, she was looking at the yearbook that her school does. She told me, "I'm just looking at the pre-K kids, to make sure I know what I'm supposed to look like next year!" She is so funny sometimes.

This past week, I also took the girls around the corner from our house to do an annual sister picture. And because you KNOW I'm a sucker for comparison pictures, here's the batch from last year, June 2013:
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And then this year, June 2014:
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L-14
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Becca, at 18 months, is actually wearing the same dress that Lizzy wore in the 2013 pictures, when she was 3. It is crazy to me sometimes how different Lizzy and Becca are, both in terms of personalities, and also in terms of size. Lizzy was a lot more verbal at this age than Becca is, and I think sometimes we treated her a lot older than she really was (we still forget sometimes that she's only 4!). Becca knows plenty of words, and is totally on track for her age, but because she isn't nearly as verbal as Lizzy, it's easier to treat her like the age she really is. I'm sure part of it is a second child thing too--with the first kiddo, I feel like I was more excited for all those milestones and "firsts", and with Becca, I am 100% fine to hold off on some of those things, ha!

On the other hand, there's also a set of things that I think Becca will do more quickly than Lizzy, because she has someone to keep up with!  For example, Lizzy was practicing her scooter on Saturday, and Becca was royally ticked that she didn't have one of her own to ride--she kept yelling "Beppa! Turn!" (her version of "Becca's turn!"). Justin would help her stand and roll a bit, and she could not have been more proud of herself.

Lizzy has been asking over and over if she and Becca can share a room. She talks about bunk beds NON STOP, and I secretly think she's trying to teach Becca to climb out of her crib so that we'll be more likely to want to transition Becca to a different type of bed. On one hand, it would be really nice to have them share a bedroom and maybe have our third bedroom be a toy/playroom. On the other hand, Becca still naps and Lizzy does not, but she usually still goes into her room and reads for quiet time. I feel like going to a shared room is going to eliminate Becca's nap since she'll want to be just like Lizzy, and I am definitely not ready for that! I feel like why rush it unless we have to. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Tale of the Tooth.

So, I've mentioned a couple of times that one of my goals for this year was to get us all to the dentist, and happily, that happened in April! I was really nervous about going because I hadn't been in awhile for a variety of reasons--we didn't have the money, we didn't have the insurance, and then I was just embarrassed that it had been so long. By that point, I *dreaded* going to the dentist. This whole process would have been slightly easier had I been able to choose our dentist, since we happen to have several friends who are dentists. But unfortunately, our dental insurance is through Justin's work, and is tied to one specific office--we can only go there.

Anyway, I actually went in before my appointment in April because one tooth was hurting and I was having trouble sleeping. The dentist did x-rays, poked around, and ultimately told me that the tooth looked fine, and he thought I had a sinus infection or just that my allergies were really bad, which apparently can sometimes cause tooth pain. My allergies felt better in the next few days, and so did my tooth. Awesome.

In April, I saw a different dentist in the practice for a cleaning. By then, the tooth was hurting a little bit again, I told the dentist, and he did a cold test- he started in the back, touching each tooth with something ice cold, working his way to the left incisor. OUCH. OUCH. OUCH. OUCH. Nothing. Apparently, the "nothing" tooth was dead, and needed a root canal. Several weeks after the cleaning appointment, I took a sip of water, and suddenly had half of a tooth in my mouth. Not, the dead tooth, another tooth. After talking about options, they (and I) decided to pull the tooth, and I dealt with a fun extraction over Mother's Day weekend.

A week or so after Mother's Day was also when I had the root canal scheduled. The dentist drilled a bit, and I could pretty quickly tell by the noises that he was making that it wasn't going well. He eventually stopped, and told me that he was having trouble accessing the canal, and that he was going to send me to a specialist,  someone who had more experience with calcified canals.

A few weeks later, I was back in the dental chair, this time with a specialist. He drilled. He took x-rays. He drilled some more. Took some more x-rays. We repeated this process for about two and a half hours before he said, "I've never seen anything like this. Your tooth is completely calcified. It looks like a 95 year old woman's tooth. I've drilled all the way up and I can't find a canal anywhere, I can't do a root canal on you."
He told me that once they put a permanent filling in, the tooth might be okay just to be left alone for awhile, but that if it started to hurt again, it would have to be pulled. Awesome. He also told me that he was 99% certain that the tooth was so calcified because I had been hit in the mouth in softball or basketball and just didn't realize that it actually caused some damage. He said it was clearly a case of trauma. So,  while people on the street might think I'm toothless because I suck at brushing and use me as a cautionary tale for their kids...NOPE.

Maybe two weeks later, I suddenly had severe pain...yep....right where the failed root canal tooth was. I took ibuprofen. I rinsed my sinuses. I took vicodin. I tried garlic, and every other home remedy known to man, and none of them worked. I didn't sleep (because of the pain) for 48 hours before my appointment back at the dentist.

By this point, I knew what was coming and I didn't even care. They were going to pull one of my front teeth. Oh, and as a bonus, it was infected, meaning a hefty dose of penicillin for me, and decreased birth control pill effectiveness as a bonus! Ha. Anyway, the only question from there was whether they were going to do a bridge, implant, or something else. They said I wasn't a good category for a bridge, and recommended an implant, but implants aren't covered by our insurance, and require a $4,000 payment up front...not something I was prepared to fork over that morning. The dentist said that it didn't really matter, even if I did decide to do an implant, I'd have to wear a flipper (a retainer with a tooth attached) for awhile and possibly have a bone graft before the implant. So, he made a flipper, and said that we could decide more later.

Only, when I say "he made a flipper", what I really mean was "he made a mold for a flipper", and then as I later found out, "the guy who works at the lab they sent them to was on vacation". So, I was toothless from Friday morning until Wednesday the following week. It was awesome. I felt like a pirate.

Which I could occasionally laugh about, because honestly, there are worse things in the world (this same weekend, my sister-in-law broke her foot, and can't walk at all for three months!) but most of the time I just felt really self-conscious, and spent my time like this:
Had this not been Lizzy's last week of school, I seriously would have kept her home yesterday so that I didn't have to do the toothless drop-off. Everyone said, "Oh, it's not that bad!" They lied. It was bad. Even Justin told me, "I didn't realize how big that tooth was until it was gone!" He also tried to find me a pirate costume to take a picture in. But then on the flip side, he also did an awesome job taking care of the girls while I was drugged up all weekend.

So anyway, today I finally got to go in for the flipper retainer. This dental office has lost my complete file, and I've also showed up with appointment card in hand only for them to have no idea why I'm there. So I kept having panic attacks that I would get there and they wouldn't have the flipper for me.

I arrive. I wait. And wait. And wait some more. Finally, I get called back and the hygenist happily says, "So, what are you here for today?"

"For my flipper!" I respond happily.

Her eyes get wide. She says, "I'll be right back," and walks out of the room. I see her grab another hygienist and say, "HELP ME. There is no flipper here for her."

I know where this is going. Crap. CRAP. CRAP. CRAP. I text swear words to Justin.

They shuffle around for a little while, and then eventually find the flipper. The hygenist pops it in, and says she needs to make an adjustment. She does, and then pops the flipper back in my mouth...AND IT WILL NOT STAY IN. It was *amazing*.

I text more swear words to Justin. And tell him that I want to cry. I was so irritated.

The dentist comes in and tells me that they are going to put something called re-line on the retainer so that I can leave with it today, but that this re-line stuff is temporary, and that eventually I will have to come back and have it sent to the lab, where they will make the re-line stuff permanent. If I want, I can order a second flipper out of pocket while this one is gone, and just to have a backup. For $600. Otherwise, I'll just be toothless again while it's at the lab. Oh, and I might be able to eat with the flipper in place, but I also might not.

I was on the verge of tears, and also really irritated. I HAVE WAITED SIX DAYS, I WANT A TOOTH, DARNIT!!! By the way, I just realized that I'm mixing tenses like crazy here, which really irritates me, but if I try to go back to fix it, this post will never get published. So, I'm sorry. Anyway, I about sobbed right there in the dentist's chair. I just kept saying, "I DON'T. UNDERSTAND. WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED!"

Eventually, the dentist explained it to me. From my perspective, the hygienist messed up. But what really happened was that they took a mold of my mouth before they pulled the tooth. That helped them to shape the replacement tooth correctly, but what it didn't do was show my gumline once the tooth was pulled. They estimate, but in my case it wasn't a great estimation, and there was a gap between the fake tooth and the gum. The hygienist had made an adjustment--she sanded off a part of the retainer that was covering my back molars. It couldn't have stayed, but with the gap at the gumline, it was also the only thing holding the retainer in place. Basically, it was a mess, but at least I look human again.
(This pic is flipped, so it's the tooth just to the right of my two front teeth here, 
and it actually matches the other side and color quite well.)

They were able to fix it temporarily, and I can (sort of) talk (with a lisp). I tried eating with it in, and that was ridiculous. Hopefully, it will get better as I get more used to having the darn flipper. If not, we are never eating out again. I go back in six weeks, once my gum has fully healed, and they'll do another mold and/or re-line of my mouth, and send it off for a new flipper. They have assured me that next time, it will be a same-day or overnight scenario.

So, I look normal again, which is a great start. But this is still a really long road ahead of me, whether I go the dental implant road or not. I'm bracing myself.

(See what I did there?!)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler



From the back of the book: Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she tells us. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

Rosemary was not yet six when Fern was removed. Over the years, she’s managed to block a lot of memories. She’s smart, vulnerable, innocent, and culpable. With some guile, she guides us through the darkness, penetrating secrets and unearthing memories, leading us deeper into the mystery she has dangled before us from the start. Stripping off the protective masks that have hidden truths too painful to acknowledge, in the end, “Rosemary” truly is for remembrance.

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Rosemary, the 22 year old narrator, begins by telling us that it’s been ten years since she last saw her brother Lowell, and seventeen years since she last saw her sister Fern. The twist here (which I’m not sure can really be called a “twist” as it is referenced in both the book description and cover art) is that Rosemary’s twin Fern is actually a chimpanzee.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves started out with a unique, interesting concept, and I sped through the first half of the book exceptionally quickly, devouring every word. But then something strange happened—mid-way through the book, Rosemary takes some drugs, and the book does an excellent job depicting her disorienting trip. The problem was that after that point, it felt like Rosemary’s “voice” changed to me. Instead of the usual chatty and conversational tone that we had been introduced to in the first part of the book, I’d find myself wondering  when I accidentally clicked over to an expose about animal testing and cosmetics. Or a textbook about psychologists. Certainly, these things were relevant to the story, and it appeared that the author had done extensive research into these areas, but it started to feel more like an op-ed piece in the newspaper than a novel. I felt that in the second half of the book, Rosemary’s voice was lost a bit (I feel like I must add that I didn’t dislike the message about animal testing and cruelty that this novel was trying to present—it just wasn’t integrated in a way that felt cohesive and consistent with Rosemary’s character, to me).

I’ve read Karen Joy Fowler’s other work (such as The Jane Austen Book Club), and I think that she’s an incredibly talented author. That said, I enjoyed this novel less than I’ve enjoyed others that she has written, simply because Rosemary’s character just didn’t feel genuine to me all the way through. That said, this book has received high reviews across the board, so it may just be me--if the concept interests you, I would certainly recommend giving it a try.

Overall?


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Springish

Remember that time when I used to blog on the regular? Yeah, me too. And I love blogging for a number of different reasons, but I just haven't been able to keep all my plates in the air lately, and this is the one that has fallen. Which is good and bad, I suppose...I'm not worrying about pageviews and content and sponsorships and comments anymore, and just reviewing the books that I'm reading and posting some of the things that I hope to remember a few years down the road. But I also feel like I've lost a little bit of that community that I love. I mean, Instagram is awesome for the five minute catch-up and what not, but it's not great for real authenticity...blogging isn't always either, but I guess it offers the opportunity more than Instagram does, I think.

Anyway, that was a total ramble. Basically, I've been busy. Mostly good-busy. Here's what we've been up to:


 We've been recording studio bonding, Seahawks repping, messy house playing (seriously, we CAN NOT keep our house clean lately!), and family snuggling. 


 We've been outdoor playing, garden growing, movie lounging, and kiddo giggling. 

 We've been book reading, friend-playing, pulled-tooth complaining, and milkshake drinking.



 We've been Mother's Day celebrating and I've been P90x trying. 


 And we've been sprinkler running, Friday morning snuggling, garden planting, and Becca monkeying. 

ALSO, Justin and I have been watching Chuck on Netflix, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite TV shows of all time!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review: Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro


From the back of the book: One of the most anticipated debut novels of 2014, Cutting Teeth takes place one late-summer weekend as a group of thirty-something couples gather at a shabby beach house on Long Island, their young children in tow.

Nicole, the hostess, struggles to keep her OCD behaviors unnoticed. Stay-at-home dad Rip grapples with the reality that his careerist wife will likely deny him a second child, forcing him to disrupt the life he loves. Allie, one half of a two-mom family, can't stop imagining ditching her wife and kids in favor of her art. Tiffany, comfortable with her amazing body but not so comfortable in the upper-middle class world the other characters were born into, flirts dangerously, and spars with her best friend Leigh, a blue blood secretly facing financial ruin and dependent on the magical Tibetan nanny everyone else covets. Throughout the weekend, conflicts intensify and painful truths surface. Friendships and alliances crack, forcing the house party to confront a new order. Cutting Teeth is about the complex dilemmas of early midlife—the vicissitudes of friendship, of romantic and familial love, and of sex. It’s about class tension, status hunger, and the unease of being in possession of life's greatest bounty while still wondering, is this as good as it gets? And, perhaps most of all, Julia Fierro’s warm and unpretentious debut explores the all-consuming love we feel for those we need most, and the sacrifice and compromise that underpins that love.
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If I had to sum up Julia Fierro's debut novel in five words or less, I would only need two: dysfunction junction. Cutting Teeth follows the lives of several privileged upper class families in New York, connected only by the fact that they have joined together as part of a playgroup. At times, the characters felt like hyperboles--every character was high-drama, super complex, and every character had some unique issue that they brought to the table, children included. There was not a boring or "normal" person in the bunch.

The lifestyle of the characters was so far beyond anything that I could even imagine, and so the characters weren't exactly relatable to me, but instead it felt a bit voyeuristic. We got to watch all these independently dysfunctional people come together with their own baggage, issues, and secret agendas. And then we go watch them interact. Sometimes, it was lovely. Sometimes, I felt so sad for the characters to be in a support group that really didn't offer anything in terms of support at all. Fierro didn't pull any punches--as the reader, we see all the secret thoughts and motivations that the characters most likely wouldn't reveal even to their best friends, and so it absolutely felt like a peek into a secret world, without the superficial pleasantries that you'd normally see as an outsider looking in. 

Cutting Teeth was at times hilarious, though the humor was often dark. It was sad. It felt honest. It was definitely dysfunctional. It's written with multiple narrators, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. In this case, I think it absolutely does, which is definitely a credit to the author's talent. Julia Fierro really is a fantastic writer, especially when it comes to character development. In this case, she crafted each character's personality and expectations with such care that I found myself really caring about people that at times, I didn't actually even like. 

Cutting Teeth will be released on May 13th, and I could absolutely see it becoming the sleeper hit of the summer, if not a fantastic movie or HBO series as well.

Overall?

 Disclosure: I received an advance copy of Cutting Teeth for review through Net Galley. I did not receive any further compensation for this review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. You all should know by now that I couldn't lie about a book even if I wanted to :)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On Anxiety. And Fear. And Discontenment. And Faith.

Over the past month or so, I've been in a funk. And I haven't really talked about it or written about it because I'm kind of annoyed with myself that I've even been in the funk. It's embarrassing.

But that doesn't change the fact that I've been there, and I feel like if we can't be transparent about our struggles within this community of women, then we are all doing ourselves (and God) a giant disservice.

So. Last month was a small paycheck month for Justin. Smaller than it had been in two years or so. The communication wires were crossed between Justin and I, and I wasn't expecting it. He wasn't surprised.

Anyway, when I picked up Justin's paycheck on the last day of March, I was mad. Mad at God. I'm having a hard time even typing this out because on one hand I know it is just...ugly, but it's also true.

See, before Lizzy was born, we both independently felt distinctly led that I was supposed to stay at home. I had never felt such a strong calling to do something before, and so we took a leap of faith and did that, even though we knew it would be tough financially. And it hasn't always been easy, but God has faithfully provided for our needs (and sometimes even our wants) month by month by month.

There have been a ton of blessings in this, including the fact that Justin and I have gotten really good about our money, and now budget to the penny every month. We have plans and goals and dreams financially, even if we're getting to them at a snail's pace, which is markedly different than when we were both working and both spending like crazy and sometimes I wish I could reach back in time and shake some sense into myself. Anyway, there's been a lot of good things that have come from this, and most months I can recognize that.

But honestly, sometimes it sucks. Sometimes, this anger and bitterness rises up inside me, and I am SO irritated that every. single. thing. must be budgeted. It can get exhausting, the budgets and the lists and the shifting things around, and sometimes I just want to be able to buy a cute shirt at Target without thinking about where it will fit in to the budget, darn it--'cause some months there's a clothing budget and some months there's not. If there's a meal sign up passed around church, I just want to be able to sign up, regardless of whether there's money in the giving category that month or not. Sometimes, I get tired of saying "no" to everything, it seems.

And I'd been praying lately about whether it was time to apply for a part-time job for me, and had gotten the distinct answer of NO. I applied to a job anyway. I didn't get it. And I was angry again, because it was hard and I wanted to do things an easier way, and God said no, and sometimes (usually) that sucks. And I was tired, and irritated at God, and also irritated at myself for being irritated.  And I was very much in "whatever, God" mode.

In fact, Missy asked me to speak at the Mom's Group retreat this past weekend, and I just felt like I couldn't. I could not think of anything uplifting or helpful to say about God and what he had helped me overcome, because he hadn't. I felt like I was in it by myself holding notebook upon notebook of lists and budgets, and I just didn't want to do it anymore.

Whatever, God. 

I went to a Mom's Group retreat over the weekend, and on Saturday morning I asked God to give me a verse that would help me, and I randomly opened up my Bible to Hebrews 13:5-6, which says:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 

"Never will I leave you;
Never will I forsake you."

So we say with confidence,

"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

I mean, I don't know if God Himself ever pulls a Jesus Juke, but that sure felt like one. And I wish I could say that my heart was immediately changed and yada, yada, but it wasn't. It just ticked me off even more, honestly. And the irritation and bitterness, both at God and at myself just grew and grew.

Whatever, God.

Over the weekend at the retreat, I opened up about anxiety, which is something that I battle a lot. If you follow me on IG, you saw me reference it on Friday--for me, one of the things that happens when my anxiety gets bad is that I feel like everyone in my life is going to die, and if I'm there, diligently watching and "on call", I can protect them. And if I'm not, they're all going to die. By Saturday night at the retreat, my anxiety was out of control, because I didn't know what else to do, I opened up about it. In fact, we all opened up about our "stuff", in an authentic and vulnerable way that I have rarely experienced with other women. We talked, honestly. We prayed specifically, for each other.

And you know what I realized? For me, all of this was partially an issue of contentment and gratitude, but mostly an issue of anxiety and fear. Since the retreat, I've been doing a better job with the self-care that I know is crucial for me in keeping my anxiety at bay. It probably sounds a little crazy, but I have felt the prayers. And I am so grateful. That pit in my stomach is gone, and the weight I've been dragging behind me all the time seems to have vanished. And I was surprised to realize that so have the anger and bitterness. I didn't realize that they were all related, but they were.

Today, it is payday again. I don't know what to expect, and I don't know that it'll be any easier than it was last month. But I do know that my response this month, at least, will be one of confidence and not fear. Praise be to God.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday Printable

Yesterday, I was making the newsletter for our Mom's Group, and I realized that there really wasn't anything important to include...so, I went a little rogue, and made a printable to hand out for Easter.

It's nothing fancy, but a good reminder for me nonetheless as we go into this weekend--it's a busy time for a lot of families. I know we've got service tonight, Justin's band is recording all day tomorrow, and then service that night, someone texted me that they have a trombone for Justin (which was news to me, but apparently he is playing the trombone for Easter Sunday?), there's outfits to wash and arrange, and Easter baskets to fill (whoops), and bread to make for Easter dinner for about three dozen people (or bagels? or rolls? ). There's a mountain of laundry on my couch, and workouts to do, and bathrooms that haven't been cleaned in I'm not sure how long. Anyway, the point is that it's sort of like Christmas time for me-- I can easily get flustered and busy and overwhelmed and forget the joy in it all.

So, I popped this printable in a frame, leaned it up against the wall on our buffet, where I'll see it 100 times a day as I walk through the tornado of a house. And I think about the Easter morning call and response of "He is risen!" followed by "He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!". And I think about the time of Lent where in the Lutheran church the alleluias are missing from the songs and the service, and I didn't realize the I missed them, but I do.

He is risen

If you want, click on the image, and that will take you over to Flickr, where you can download the original size. It's 8.5 x11, but worked just fine in a matted 8x10 frame for me. Enjoy your Thursday!

Monday, April 14, 2014

This weekend.

This weekend....

-We ate a lot of really GOOD food. The highlights were an *amazing* meal at a local brewery, complete with some hibiscus ginger beer. As a general rule, I'm not a big beer drinker, but Caldera has some really unique and interesting beers, and I can't wait to go back sometime and do some tasting. I mean, toasted coconut porter? Yeah, I'll try that!





-We had a lot of sweet, silly, and fun moments with our little family. It felt so low stress, which was a welcome blessing.




-We spent a good amount of time working out, and also a good amount of time outdoors, both of which were so welcome!

NewbornDemo

-I spent some time evaluating. One of the things that I love about photography is that there is *always* so much to learn. This past year, I've spent a lot of time trying to learn more about Photoshop, both in terms of photography and graphic design (which is why you occasionally see Monday printables around here). There's so much to learn, and THEN there's also the trick of learning and discovering what I actually like and want to implement for myself. HDR? Not so much. Different blanket fade techniques? Yes, please.

Anyway, yesterday I decided to re-open a photo that I took of my niece Lyla back in 2012, and edit it the way that I would if I had taken it today. It's fun to look at the differences, what I've learned, what I'd do differently, now. There's a subtle difference, but I'm happy with it. I'm sure that in two more years, I'd have a few more tweaks to make, and that's what I love about photography. Learning, growing, stretching, always.

-I applied for a job. It would be working from home, doing something that I absolutely love. Basically, my dream job. There were around 100 applicants, so it feels like a long shot, but one that I had to take :)

How was your weekend?
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