Thursday, February 12, 2015

Reading Challenge

I've been planning to write about this for the longest time.

Last year I challenged myself to read 24 books in 2014.  Doesn't sound too unreasonable... that would average out to two books every month.  Unfortunately, I didn't begin the challenge until the year was already about halfway over.  I didn't make it to 24 -- which most likely had something to do with adding another member to my family -- but I did rekindle my love for reading and I read some great books (the Divergent Series, the 50 Shades of Grey books, Water for Elephants, The Host, The Fault in Our Stars, The Help, Gone Girl, Three Sisters).  So when it came time to set my book challenge this year, I knew 24 books was a reasonable goal.

And then I stumbled upon a reading challenge thanks to a fellow blogger.  My first reaction to the list was that it sounded fun and challenging, for sure, but that it wasn't for me.  Mostly, because I wanted to read the books I wanted to read and I knew this challenge would force me to try something new.  But when I kept thinking about the list of prompts, I knew I had to give it a try.  I'm on my 9th book since the new year and there is no sign of slowing down.

So far I haven't branched out too far from what I would be likely to read without the help of this challenge aside from reading "The Good Girl" by Mary Kubica.  It's a mystery/thriller book and those aren't the types of books I usually gravitate towards.  It reminded me of how I felt while reading "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn -- which is probably because that's one of the only other mystery/thriller type books that I've read.  But goodness, "The Good Girl" was FANTASTIC.  Devastating and fantastic.

I really, really loved the Beautiful Creatures books but I haven't been able to get into the spin off series, Dangerous Creatures.  I don't know if after 5 books from the series that I was just burnt out on their story, or if it was from the new perspective that I just didn't care for... either way, I decided to move on for the time being.  And I'm glad I did because after finishing "Beautiful Redemption" I decided to (finally) read "If I Stay" by Gayle Forman and I was blown away by how much I loved that book.  The second book, "Where She Went" was a book I finished with lighting speed... I just did NOT want to put it down and flew through the pages.  Gayle Forman said she isn't writing any more books in that series -- and I like her reasoning for it (hint: Don't look up her reasoning if you haven't read both books yet) BUT I hate that we don't get to know what happens after the books end.  That book hangover really gets me after reading books where the characters completely come to life for me... I guess I have a hard time moving on from things, in general.

I like that this book challenge has been something solo for me to do while sharing it with other people, too.  My sister, Amanda, has taken up the book challenge, too, and that has made it all a hundred times more fun for me.  It's been fun trying to find books to fit in each category and then comparing our lists.  If that's not considered "nerdy" then I'm not sure what is!

Just a few of the books I plan to tackle for the challenge:

"Yes Please" by Amy Poehler (A funny book)
"PRO" by Katha Pollitt (A book with a one-word title)
"The Opposite of Loneliness" by Marina Keegan (A nonfiction book)
"Wonder When You'll Miss Me" by Amanda Davis (A book written by an author with your same initials)

...and plenty more.  Up next of my books to read: "Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld (A book set in the future).

Let me know what books you've read, books you'd recommend, and books you're reading!
Also - still slowly chipping away at our Oscars movie list! We've seen some really great ones this year and several more to go before Feb. 22! What have been your favorite Oscar Nominees so far??

Friday, February 6, 2015

Just Ask.

Today's Point of Praise: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened..." (Matthew 7:7-8) Day #8

This verse will always, always be one of my favorite verses in the bible.  Several years ago (just realized it was 6+ years ago...) I was writing a talk for TEC on the topic of Peace.  I was spending time in prayer reading my bible to make sure I was not only speaking what was on my heart but also incorporating God's word into it as much as possible.  I was writing about how public speaking was NOT a strength of mine and how this talk was in front of the largest crowd I'd ever spoken in front of... when approached to do the talk I had only a few days notice.  My first reaction was to completely reject the idea.  Something felt right about giving a talk on this topic at that point in my life and instead of running I just remembering asking God for guidance and courage.  And I seriously felt peace instead of terror throughout the writing process and oddly enough, while giving the talk itself I felt an insane, amazing amount of peace.  I remember flipping through my bible looking for the "ask and you shall receive" verse - having NO idea which part of the bible it was in.  I joking said out loud, "Okay God... I'm asking for the bible verse..." and less than a minute later it was staring back at me from my bible.  No help from Google.  I was seriously stunned and I know that's not the way prayer works but it was literally crazy how that moment unfolded.

When I think back to where I was in my faith life six years ago, I can't help but be super envious of my former self. I put in the work back then and I really reaped the benefits.  Now?  I can't remember the last time I felt close to God.  I pray from time to time, but I have been so confused as to how I feel and where I stand when it comes to organized religion.  There are so many things about the Catholic faith that I absolutely love and revere... and others -- like social issues -- that I fear I differ TOO much from the Church.  How could I be a part of the Church and feel so incredibly different than what is preached?  How do I know what makes me a Catholic and at what point do I stop fitting the mold?  When do I start looking for a religion that does fit my social views into my faith?

This is where I currently am and it's hard to know how to proceed.  The things I do know is this -- I very much yearn to be part of a church community again.  I've always wanted my kids to grow up going to church and that hasn't changed.  I still believe in the same God, in Jesus Christ, and I feel very aligned with the majority of what the Catholic Church teaches.

So, what I take away from today:

"When will we realize that we're not troubling God with our questions and concerns? His heart is open to hear us -- his touch nearer than our next thought -- as if no one in the world existed but us. Our very personal God wants to hear from us personally." Gigi Garham Tchividjan 

I'm not going to get where I want to be without including Christ. I know this. But now I have to do something about it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Top 5 Wish List for 2015

I just don't want to wait around for something exciting to come along this year... I want to pursue it every day with the girls.  I feel like the majority of my life is waiting... waiting for Tony to get home, waiting for nap time or bedtime, etc.  When you're a stay-at-home-parent life can easily become monotonous... especially when you're somewhat of an introvert.  So this year, in all things, I would like to step outside my current comfort zones.  With that, I would like to introduce you to some of the things I plan to do this year.

    • 01. GO TO DISNEY.  We plan to make a trip out to the west coast later this year (more than likely this Fall) to visit my brother-in-law, Sean.  While we're out there we will visit Disneyland and I am so pumped... none of us have been to that park, so it'll be fun for all 4 of us to experience a "first" together!  I just can't wait for Presley to get to see so many of the things she's wanted to see - the princesses, a castle, the rides, the food... I AM SO EXCITED.  It has been way too long since our last trip to Disney (Downtown Disney - July 2013) and even longer since we've visited the parks (WDW- May 2011) so this will be so magical.  Naturally, I just want to set a date so I can start planning!

      • 02. LOSE 20 POUNDS.  Yep.  I said it.  And I sure do need to.  Ideally, I would like to find a gym around here to join - in the past, that is just what I've had the most success with.  If not, I will give running another try.  I can run with the girls in their double stroller or I could wait until Tony is home and run solo.  I would also like family walks to become a regular thing for this family.  I'd also like to cut Coke out of my life for a month and see how I feel about making it a more permanent thing.  (I know... so sad...)  Another thing on my list of goals for the year is to cook at home more often - I feel like this could help aid in losing weight as well.

        • 03. DECORATE OUR HOUSE.  We have yet to fill some of our picture frames and the ones we have already filled we have yet to hang!  I've got so many gorgeous crosses I've been collecting for the cross wall I'm planning in our entryway.  And I want to hang everything for our gallery wall in the living room - among a bunch of other things to decorate around here.  

          • 04. GET AWAY.  It's been a long time since I've visited a zoo I've never been to before and it's about time to change that.  It's also been a long time since we've just taken a quick weekend getaway.  And it's been an even longer time since I've visited a state I've never been to before.  So for this one, I am gonna hit several birds with one stone.  Whether it's a trip as a family, just me & the girls, a trip just Tony and I, or a trip by myself... I want to visit a state I haven't been to before & see the sights they have to offer - including their zoo.  I feel refreshed after taking trips like this.

          It's clear what was on my mind while at the library today.

          • 05. EXPLORE.  I look forward to lots of adventures in 2015 -- especially here in Memphis.  I want to take Presley to the Children's Museum of Memphis and to the zoo all the time.  I want to visit parks and take nature walks and go on some family bike rides.  Join mommy groups on outings.  We'll visit Mud Island, go to Redbirds games and explore as many of the museums in town as we can.  There is something gratifying about visiting the city you live in.

          That's it for me.  And of course I plan to write posts as we mark these things of our to do list this year.  I'm excited to get started!  What is in the cards for you?  Let me know what you plan to do in 2015.  And for those of you who live in Memphis -- where are your favorite places to explore?

              Tuesday, February 3, 2015

              Molly's 7 month update

              Molly is over HALFWAY to her birthday!
              • Which means we've made it seven months on breastmilk!  I remember feeling so burnt out on breastfeeding by the time Presley was all done - one year ago this month - and I honestly wasn't looking forward to hopping back in the saddle all over again.  Thankfully, Molly has made it just as easy as Presley did.  There have been moments where I just want to quit breastfeeding (and run away to a remote location for several weeks...) but as you can read, we're still doing just fine with it.  It also helps that formula prices are so outrageous.  I haven't decided yet if I plan to continue nursing after her first birthday but as long as we make it to our mark I will be thrilled!
              • Wearing a size 3 diaper.  Loves to fill them up for us, too! 
              •  Fitting nicely in your 6-9 month clothes.
              • No teeth yet but I feel like you're getting very close to cutting two at the bottom. We'll see how much longer!
              • Not a fan of purees. Still. We've tried green beans, bananas, peas, and carrots. Every time you look like you're gagging or that we're feeding you poison! You'll eat the equivalent of two little spoonfuls - at most - and then you're done. And if you do eat that much at least half of it seems to be on accident. Breastmilk, it is!
              • Been sleeping in your own room in your crib (or "kitch" as Presley mistakenly calls it) by your big girl self for exactly one month now. The first night was rocky but after that you made it super easy on us - just like your sister did.

              • Sleep is your buddy. You like your daily naps - about two or three of them still at this point. You do consistently well at bedtime and you would rather me just set you right down instead of doing any kind-of routine... but I make you wait until I finish one song, at least. 
              • You're a belly sleeper all the way. And a cutie-cutie-thumb-sucker!
              • You love family dance parties. So does Presley. (And so do Mommy & Daddy!) "Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars is the popular one around here these days along with "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift and pretty much any/every thing by Pentatonix, Sia, or Ellie Goulding.
              • Last night was your first Superbowl (XLIX) and it was the New England Patriots VS. the Seattle Seahawks. It was a super good game - very close and a lot of crazy plays at the end of the game. In the end the NE Patriots won and that's who we were cheering for - though it would've been awesome if the Seahawks would've won too... both teams deserved it. Katy Perry did the halftime show with special guests Missy Elliot and Lenny Kravitz. It. Was. Awesome.
              • You're getting close to crawling. I'll leave you in one spot and come back to find you've scooted yourself around in a circle to face a different direction... though I never see it actually happen! 
              • You love drinking water out of my straw - I use it like a little dropper and you'll drink the drops of water right up. We'll probably start offering you water in a soft-spout sippy cup soon!
              • We got your 6 month photos taken and they turned out just as adorable as I figured they would. I love the serious face - I can see all your sweet features that way.
              Here is the finished product. I put you in the same outfit that Presley wore.
              Here is Presley at 6 months

              I know, I know... I say this EVERY month, but I couldn't imagine my life without you in it, Molly girl.  It's funny to think back on a time when I worried about what life would look like with you in it or what it would feel like to be part of a family of four.  And I have a feeling I will be telling you this your whole life.  Mommy, Daddy, and Presley love you so so much!