What I’m Into :: March 2015

March 2015 - baby pic

THAT FACE. You guys! I tried so hard to get a sweet shot of her in the bathtub, but I’m realizing that while my girls are strong and smart and kind and hilarious, they may not technically ever be sweet.

But the POINT IS that Adrienne is – miraculously and suddenly – no longer afraid of the bath. I kind of want to throw one of those ridiculous parties the parents in the diaper commercials do for toddlers who finally flush. But since I was short on confetti and disco lights and party music in the bathroom, I grabbed the camera and snapped a couple dozen shots of this cheesy grin instead!

Another milestone this month is a new word. Annalyn taught Adrienne to say, “Boom!” As in, drop the mic boom. It is as hilarious as you expect.

As I told someone earlier in the week, I had such big plans for March. And yet, here we are at the end of the month already! We were busy, although I’m not sure with what. Well, spring break happened. Or, spring no-break, as this video calls it.

Really, I was a bit nervous about nine long days of all kids, all the time. But we survived! I made the right amount of plans, so we had stuff to do but weren’t crazy busy. And we’re on Parenting Strategy #482 with Annalyn – and it seems to be working. Her behavior, which had morphed from barely tolerable sassy to unacceptable disrespect, has improved greatly. Which made spring break-or-not a whole lot better than anticipated.

Other big events in March included my mom’s tea party, trading cars, and Dr. Seuss week at Annalyn’s school. About five months before finding out I was pregnant with Adrienne, we traded our small SUV for a small car. Because we had accepted that we would be a family of three, that a second pregnancy was not in the cards for us, that a small car would be plenty sufficient. Since last January, the four of us traveling anywhere together has been uncomfortable or humorous – depending on if you were the clowns in the car or simply someone watching us climb out. We’d been talking about trading cars for a few months and after research and budget negotiation, we traded our small car for a different, new-to-us SUV. It’s roomy and kinda, sorta purple (burgundy, but I’m going with “kinda, sorta purple”), and I love it.

What do I love even more than that? Annalyn’s costume for the big finale to Dr. Seuss week. Even though we do not own – nor was I about to go find and buy – a Cat in the Hat hat, Annalyn insisted on dressing up as the Cat on Friday. Of course, I spent all week in Dr. Seuss denial, hoping she’d forget her elaborate costume plans. She did not. So the morning of the big day, I ended up running around the house like a MacGyver mom – and ended up with a super cute costume for her. I mean, I’m not putting it on Pinterest or anything, but when you consider we pulled it together in less than 30 minutes, in a less-than-crafty house? Well, check it out:

March 2015 - Dr Seuss day

I know, I know, it’s mostly her face. After costume construction, we didn’t have time for a real photo shoot. She had a black shirt, leggings and skirt already. We added cat ears from her first Halloween and I cut up a pair of too-small black tights for a tail that I tucked into her pants. Then I grabbed one of her too-small white undershirts and cut an oval. I was in a hurry, so it ended up with very jagged edges. I told her it was on purpose, so it looked like hair. At that point it was too late for fabric glue and, as it turns out, I don’t own a single safety pin. So I threaded a needle real fast (heh. as fast as anyone who rarely sews can thread a needle.) and whip-stitched that puppy on her shirt.

Add some eyeliner whiskers and voila! Kinda, sorta Cat in the Hat!

That’s what I’ve been up to in real life this month. How about you?

Reading March 2015

What I’m Reading:

Ohhhh, right. I’m remembering now where my time went. Granted, I’m trying to recap two months of reading here, but still. It’s possible those uncrossed-off items on my to-do list have lots and lots of books to blame. I like to pretend that I have diverse tastes. Which I do. I do! Since the beginning of the year, I’ve read entire series (or as much of a series as has been published) about medieval knights, a fairy princess, teenage aliens, prep school detectives, and Southern sorcerers. They weren’t ALL young adult books, and they weren’t all Christian fiction. They weren’t ALL paranormal or science fiction or fantasy. See! I’m mixing things up!

Here’s a quick rundown of those series:

  • The Lynburn Legacy trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan – A young adult Gothic romance with an interesting premise. The main character is in love with a boy . . . who is the voice in her head. Unsurprisingly, it’s not schizophrenia; it’s magic! The kind that goes back for generations and takes a small town hostage until a small band of rebels fight back. Sure, sure, that part’s not original, but I liked this series a lot.
  • Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor – A private school, a new girl, a mysterious mystery and a love triangle. Nothing new here – and it wasn’t nearly as good as The Gallagher Girls series – but it was fun and fluffy and exactly what I needed as I worked toward my own book deadline.
  • Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout – I’m still waiting to read the fifth (and final) book in this series…about teenage aliens. I know, okay? I KNOW. But I actually liked the characters for the most part and the story WAS interesting. But also, when I needed a break from the intense, real emotions of book-writing, adolescent aliens did the trick. Don’t judge me.
  • Age of Faith series by Tamara Leigh – This series (of five books) was recommended to me. And I have really liked other books by this author. But I had a hard time getting past the covers. You guys? They’re super cheesy. And I don’t always love historical fiction, and straight romance isn’t really my thing these days. But as it turns out, these stories about a family of medieval knights and their lady loves, well, they were lovely. Emotional, yes, but with great dialogue and compelling enough plot twists to keep me turning the pages until I reached the end of the series.
  • The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa – I only read the first two books in this series, and I think I’m finished with it. It was a little boring to me, for some reason. Nerdy girl turns out to be a real-life fairy princess and has to save the fairy world. I normally like that sort of thing, but not this time.
  • Trust Me I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer – This book’s description compared it to Ally Carter’s Heist Society series. It did involve con artists, some of the teenage variety. And I did like it. But, apparently, nothing compares to Carter’s books in my mind. Still, I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.
  • Jackaby by William Ritter – I saw this book – a paranormal sort of Sherlock Holmes – on a lot of people’s Must Read lists, so I read it. I liked the main character (not Jackaby), but the book itself was slow and kind of boring to me. I’m pretty sure I won’t be reading any more in this series.

My favorite read of the past couple of months is, by far, The Collectors’ Society by Heather Lyons. It’s a fairy tale retelling plus time travel plus romance plus mystery. It’s a book about books and characters and how real they can become. It’s incredibly creative, and I loved it!

[Side note, aka warning: The second book in the series is written from both a male and female point of view. I like the male character, but I did not like being inside his head during the love scenes. At all. Ick. Definitely more graphic than I like. But everything else about this series was so great that I skimmed those parts and am overlooking it for now (and hoping the third book is more like the first in that regard).]

Also? I may have (definitely) yelled at the author when I realized the second book ends on a cliffhanger and I have no idea when the next book will be published.

Next month, I’m looking forward to finally reading the second Veronica Mars book, Savor by Shauna Niequist, Landline by Rainbow Rowell, Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels, and Women are Scary by Melanie Dale. (Actually, I already started that last one and it’s SO GOOD!)

What I’m Watching:

Oh my WORD. If you all haven’t watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, stop what you’re doing and WATCH IT NOW. Or at least watch the news report above, which is part of the series premiere and then serves as the series theme song. And then? JUST TRY not to walk around singing it All The Day Long.

“Un-break-able! They’re alive, dammit! The FEMALES are strong as hell!”

Sorry for the language. Except…I CAN’T STOP LAUGHING AND SINGING AND LAUGHING.

It’s been a big month (couple of months) for TV, actually. Kimmy Schmidt is awesome, obviously – super funny, as I expected, since it’s from Tina Fey (but wasn’t sure since the premise is a little odd). But I also started watching West Wing and Sherlock on Netflix, as well as Allegiance on NBC. Parks and Recreation ended forever (*sob*), and Hindsight ended for now. Oh, and I saw a couple movies, too.

3765_sherlock_bbc

Sherlock: You guys! Why didn’t you TELL ME? I’m kidding. Everything you said was true. I love it. I’d really like to take a vacation day from Real Life and watch All The Episodes. Alas. No vacation days left, so little by little will have to do. (Plus, I convinced Mark to watch, so now I get to watch the first four episodes again. Bonus!)

West Wing: After finishing the amazing Friday Night Lights, Mark and I did a lot of debating about our next old show to watch together. West Wing was the winner, and we’ve watched a handful of episodes so far. It may take us the next three years to get through the entire series (we only have a couple hours a week), but it will be worth it, I’m sure. So far, it’s GREAT.

Allegiance: “The network version of Americans” – that’s the description that hooked me. I’m too delicate [Fine. Wimpy.] for Americans, so this is perfect for me. Of course, that means this family spy show has already been cancelled. I’m watching the remaining episodes on On Demand and hope-hope-hoping they wrap it up before it ends for good.

Parks & Rec: I love it. The finale was beautiful. That’s all I can say without crying. *sniff*

Hindsight: I’ve told you before how much I love this 90s-nostalgic, time-traveling show on VH1. It ended strong and has already been renewed for another season. Which is a relief because that strong ending was not just an amazing musical montage and meltdown; it was also a cliffhanger.

And then, the movies. We rented “Kill the Messenger,” a based-on-a-true-story, political/journalism movie. We usually love this kind of movie, but it was really boring and we quit watching halfway through. Sad.

Not sad was Jupiter Ascending. Smitty had promised to take me to see it when I turned in my manuscript, since she knows and tolerates my penchant for science fiction. Or Channing Tatum. I mean, science fiction. (She doesn’t really have to tolerate that part, though. She’s kind of a geek like me.) Anyway. We went to see it. Smitty said, “That was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen!” Nah. She forgot that we watched A Winter’s Tale a few months ago. Jupiter Ascending was silly, cheesy, unoriginal and – honestly? – a lot of fun. So there.

What I’m Listening to:

Whew! It seems I was INTO a lot over the past couple of months! How about you?

What were YOU into in March?

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for What I’m Into. It’s one of my favorite places to get book, TV and movie recommendations!

On Being a Soft Place to Land

On Being a Soft Place to Land

I asked my friend how she was doing.

No, really, I said. How ARE you?

Her child had been sick — scary sick — and I could only imagine how scared and stressed and exhausted she must have felt. Though I’d offered help in various ways, she’d politely refused. As a matter of fact, I was at her house while she helped me with something. But still I longed to do something for her, to make her feel better in some way.

How are you, really?

She told me that she was okay, although not good. She admitted that when friends had asked her the same question at church the day before, she had tried to describe the anxiety and the fear she was experiencing, but they looked at her blankly. As if they had no idea what she was talking about. As if they’d never felt a little crazy themselves.

I hugged my friend and told her firmly — because I meant it deeply: If someone says they’ve never felt a little crazy, they are either lying or boring.

She laughed and thanked me for understanding. We hugged again, and I eventually walked out her front door.

Today I’m talking about how understanding a friend’s crazy is sometimes the best thing we can do for her. Click here to continue reading this post at (in)courage.

WFMW: Friendship on Purpose

Friendship on Purpose at (in)courage

Sometimes friendship is hard.

I’m kidding. Anytime friendship involves humans, it’s hard! Or maybe “hard” isn’t the right word, but it takes work. It takes commitment and forgiveness and so much grace. It takes the decision to be the friend you’d like to have, and it takes a whole lot of being intentional.

As many of you know, I write for (in)courage, a virtual beach house for the hearts of women. And I am super excited about something (in)courage has coming up in a couple weeks. When you sign up for “10 Tips to be the Friend You Wish You Had,” you’ll receive two practical, encouraging friendship tips in your inbox for five days in April – along with free gifts, coupon codes and sneak peeks at new DaySpring products!

I really love the way this series is designed. The writers are sharing “me, too” stories, not “how to” tips – straight from the heart and exclusive for your inbox.

Learning to be a better friend – and friendship on purpose – works for me. If it works for you, too, sign up at (in)courage today!

Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

It’s time for Works for Me Wednesday. I’m looking forward to your tips, tricks, ideas and inspiration! If this is your first time linking up with WFMW here, PLEASE read the guidelines I shared in this post. Highlights include linking your specific post, not the front page of your blog, and making sure to include a link back to this site in your WFMW. Thank you!!

When Friends Aren’t Friends Forever

When Friends Aren't Friends Forever

If you were a Christian in the 90s, you undoubtedly remember the lyrics to the Michael W. Smith song, Friends Are Friends Forever. {In case you don’t know it, make sure you give it a listen. Enjoy the flashback to the 90s, checkered blazer and all!}

“Friends are friends forever when the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never ’cause the welcome will not end.”

Yeah…sometimes that’s true. Isn’t it? Sometimes.

I certainly have friendships that, even when years pass between visits, feel just as close and loving and fun and amazing when we finally see each other again. I have friends who I might not see for ages, but when we do get together, conversations flow easily, hugs aren’t awkward, and it seems like we said goodbye just the day before. And I have friends who have been my friends so long that they’re really more like family than friends and are firmly established on my short list of people I love unconditionally.

I have friends like that – and it’s something for which I’m incredibly grateful. A friend who knows me, understands me and all my craziness, and loves me anyway? Despite distance and time and season and stages? Having forever friends really is priceless.

But the truth is that I also have former friends.

People who used to be my friends but aren’t anymore. Some of those former friends were people I was certain would be a part of my life forever. Friends who were part of my wedding, friends who held me up during the most challenging seasons, friends I traveled with, friends I shared everything with, friends I prayed with. At one time in my life, I couldn’t imagine anything that would tear those friendships apart, and I couldn’t imagine going through life without them by my side and me by theirs.

Unfortunately, life isn’t a fairy tale, and friendship isn’t a Michael W. Smith song.

When Friends Aren't Friends Forever

Some friendships end over disagreements, fights, betrayal. Some friendships are simply worn down over time spent ignoring differences and not quite seeing eye to eye.

Some friendships fade away when you no longer work together, work out together, worship together. Some friendships pull and strain and snap instead of stretch when one of your lives moves into a new season. Some friendships fall apart when one of you makes changes or decisions or both.

Some friendships are forged in darkness or stress or some kind of battle – and don’t stand up in the light or health or happiness. Some friendships simply don’t make the cut when schedules or lifestyles squeeze tight.

I’ve had – and lost – all of those types of friendships. And even when the mature part of me understands that seasons change, that people change, that LIFE changes…it still hurts. Even when I can say out loud that it was nobody’s fault, that it “just happened,” that we have no hard feelings…it still stings.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with several women about this very thing. About how friendships change just like people change, and how that’s hard to accept. About how even when you know a friendship wasn’t healthy, you can still miss that friend fiercely. About how sometimes you can’t bear to say one more time, “It’s been so long! We should get together sometime!”

So what do we do? What do we do when friends aren’t friends forever?

Number one, I think we go back to our list – no matter how long or short it may be – of friends who ARE forever. Do you have one friend who has stuck with you through good times and bad? One friend who has kept in touch over years or miles or both? One friend whose life looks completely different than yours but works to find the common ground you now share? If you have even one of those friends, celebrate that!

Secondly, grieve the friendships that have ended. The death of a relationship is a real hurt, and your heartbreak over it is no small thing. Don’t pretend it’s no big deal; don’t ignore the pain that creeps up when you miss her. Grieve the loss of your friendship just as you would any other loss.

But then, after you’ve had time to heal, remember the good parts! Not in a melancholy, Puff Daddy “I’ll Be Missing You” sort of way, but in a thankful-it-happened, warm-memories way. And in a way that inspires you to pursue new friendships and nurture the ones you have today.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk about it. I think many of us feel that friendships that end are marks in the failure column, that lost friendships mean we’re not worthy of new friendships. That’s not true. It might be true that you (that I) made a mistake; we all do. But you’re not the only one who’s seen the end of a friendship. You’re not alone in feeling alone. You’re not the only one whose forever friends turned into former friends.

And – bonus tip! – make new friends. Sometimes we keep the old; sometimes we don’t. But keep making new friends. Keep opening your heart and your life. Keep seeking those friends who are forever, but cherish those who are here for just a season, too.

Have you ever experienced the end of a friendship? How do you cope with the seasons of friendship?

What friendship are you thankful for today?

 
Photos by Paul Hudson and m01229.

24 Places I Want to Take My Daughters

Top Places I Want to Take My Daughters

A couple years ago my friend Amanda started – and posted – a list of 100 places she wants to take her kids. At the time I thought it was a great idea. Ambitious and overwhelming, maybe, but great! Maybe I could make a list of my own . . . nah. One hundred is a LOT, you know!?

But then a couple months ago, as Mark and I sat down with our calendar to plan our year (as much as anyone can plan an entire year in January), it dawned on me. We only have 12 more summers with Annalyn before she goes to college. If we take a family vacation each summer, that’s 12 vacations.

Wait! Stop the hands of time! IT’S GOING TOO FAST!

As it turns out, 100 was too many for me but 12 is not nearly enough!

After I broke the bad news of time’s passage and babies grow up and sang Sunrise, Sunset to Mark, we quit crying and started brainstorming. I Googled and clicked (and clicked and clicked), reading through list after list of “top family vacations” and “best destinations for kids.” Many of the lists overlapped, and some of the ideas were so outrageous that we could easily rule them out. We tried to be realistic while still letting ourselves dream big, and we finally came up with a list of 24 places we want to take our girls over the next dozen years.

Some of them are smaller trips, some are trips to visit friends, and some of them are long-shot, dream-big trips. Some of them are places we’ve been but want to go back with the kids (and/or each other). And some of them are simply family vacation destinations straight off those “family-friendly travel” lists. Here’s what we picked (in alphabetical order because I don’t know [if] when we’ll take each trip and it’s too hard to list them in order of awesome-ness):

Top Places I Want to Take My Daughters

  • Boston
  • The Carolinas
  • Chicago
  • Colorado
  • Grand Canyon
  • Gulf of Mexico beach
  • Hawaii
  • New York City
  • Nashville
  • Indianapolis
  • Louisville
  • Memphis
  • Mount Rushmore
  • New Orleans
  • Orlando
  • San Antonio
  • San Francisco
  • Savannah/Charleston
  • Seattle (or maybe Portland)
  • Smoky Mountains
  • Southern California
  • Washington, DC
  • Williamsburg
  • Yellowstone

This summer we’re driving to Mount Rushmore, so we’ll cross one off the list. And we’d planned a short trip to Indianapolis, too, but that one’s up in the air.

What’s on your travel wish list?

 
Photos by Grand Canyon National Park and Fraser Mummery.