Summer Is.

Summer Is. 

Applying sunscreen to wiggly limbs and scrunched up noses. Weeknight events. Brushing through salty, wet ocean hair. Sweaty brows. Endless pool cleaning. Traffic on the streets. Rushing shoppers in the grocery stores. Beach accidents. Road accidents. Friends in town. Workload amplified. Dinner on the run. Humidity. Windows closed tight. Lines at the state parks. No parking spot to be found. Endless drying of bathing suits & beach towels. Buckets of sand brought home; the long lasting souvenir.

Summer Is Also.

Cheap sunglasses. Bike rides to the playground. Traffic on the weekends inspiring stay cations.

Endless blooms in the yard. The too short hydrangea season.

Refreshing iced La Croixs. Beers on the beach. White wine swimming among quickly melting ice cubes.

Movies on the beach. Lightening bugs. The smell of fresh cut grass. The sweat from cutting the all too large lawn. Refreshing showers and the smell of clean skin and the feel of soft, clean hair.

Trips to the farmer’s markets. Bounty of tomatoes, lettuce, peaches, berries, watermelon, cucumbers, squash and zucchini.

Fun food groups of summer including gelato, funnel cakes, salt water taffy and fro-yo.

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The book I’m currently raving about.

Today I’m over at the Washington Independent Review of Books with a 5-book round up for middle grade readers. Check out all my reviews here, but let’s discuss my favorite of the group, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

The story is about a misunderstood witch, Xan, who helps abandoned babies left in the woods. She accidently feeds one of these babies moonlight which gifts the child with magic, even an experienced witch like Xan finds this magic hard to handle. Quickly Xan realizes that she must raise the child, whom she appropriately names Luna, to keep her and everyone safe from her powerful magic.

As Luna grows, Xan does her best to teach her how to handle magic but she soon realizes the girl is much too young to handle her strong magic. Xan decides to cast a spell on Luna binding her powers inside her only to come to surface once the girl turns 13.

The world that Barnhill creates quickly emerges you and is so beautifully written you will find yourself seeing this world in great detail in your imagination. Not since Harry Potter and Hogwarts have I been so engrossed in a fantasy world.

There’s so much to this book, I sometimes find it hard to describe, but don’t let that make you a hesitant reader. Barnhill carefully holds her readers’ hand and guides them through the world of a friendly swamp monster, miniature dragons, paper birds and the sorrow all surrounding the town of Protectorate.

This is a great book for a parent-child book club or for childless adults who love a good fantasy.

To find out what else is on my nightstand, let’s connect on GoodReads.

 

Where I find great books.

In order to be an avid reader, you’ve got to have a steady stream of books to be read.

That’s how I keep my reading, flowing. Sure, there’s been a few times when I’ve been so hungover from a book, I haven’t been able to move on. But generally, I’m ready to pick up the next once I’ve finish and written my online review.

To have a great TBR (to-be-read) list you’ve got to have inspiration and spots to find your books.

I use the GoodReads app to keep track of the books I want to read. Before GoodReads I actually used Amazon’s list feature. I am much happier with the GoodReads feature.

We all know there’s Facebook literary groups, apps and pins to this topic. I thought I’d compile a list of people and places that I solely use for new suggestions.

Modern Mrs. Darcy Blog

Like most of the book web world, I wait for her summer reading list. This year, I’ll be tackling a few that she recommended.

My book club

Definitely my favorite group of ladies and I usually walk out of the room with a list of great books that I can’t wait to put on order from the library.

Reese Witherspoon

I started following this lovely lady on Insta because I just admire her classy, southern self. Then I learned while having her in my feed that she recommends great books too. She uses the hashtag #RWBookClub and she likes entertaining reads for sure. P.S. she’s directing the HBO series Big Little Lies based off one of my favorite books from Liane Moriarty.

Author binging

Sometimes when I finish a book and am unsure what to read next, I start binging on that certain author. No, I’m not joking. I did this with Ruth Ozeki, Erika Robuck, Liane Moriarty and Mary Kay Andrews. From this I have learned that I either love that author or sometimes it’s just the subject matter that I enjoy.

Local libraries

We all know you can go into the library and ask for recommendations. I can’t say I’ve ever done this, but what I do do is head straight to their “browse” collection. In my home state our libraries have a “browse” collection that is not allowed to be renewed or placed on hold. If you’re standing there and it’s available, you’re just a lucky reader that day. I know these are for the most popular books so I know I’ll find at least something there.

What are your favorite ways to find new books?

If you liked Gone Girl then you’ll love this book.

Sure Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is a big deal right now. As in sold 8.5 millions copies. That’s millions folks. And now it’s a major motion picture getting rave reviews starring Ben Affleck. Like I said, BIG deal.

I’m a huge fan of Flynn’s work. I’ve read all three of her books and will be standing in line for her next release.

Having read all her books, I’m surprised Gone Girl ended up as the talented author’s first film. To me, the movie should have been Dark Places.

If you love Flynn’s twisted mind that creates these scenarios that leave you wondering, what is wrong with this women? How can a sweet mother of two and overall normal person think of things like this, you will love Dark Places!

The book focuses on the main character, Libby Day. Day’s mother and two sisters were murdered as part of sick satan sacrifice and Day has to live with the burden of being the one who escaped and survived. Not only was she the survivor she was also the leading witness who testified against her teenage brother pinning him as the prime suspect.

You spend your time with the adult Day as she finds herself questioning what she actually witnessed that night and if her brother really did kill her family as she successfully testified in court landing him in prison. Add in the most pathetic father figure you could imagine, you’ve got a main character you feel bad for and that leaves you shaking your head. I found myself questioning, “Are there really people like this in the world?” In Flynn’s world, there is.

If you enjoyed the distrubing and evil plots in Gone Girl, Dark Places definitely kicks it up a notch. Flynn introduces the Kill Club, which is a hobby group made up of fans of notorious crimes. These fans glorify the criminals and their wrong doings. They are the folks that encourage Day to reconsider what she thinks she witnessed at her young age. They force Day to go the “dark place” in her mind, she has spent most of her life forgetting.

If you think nothing can top Gone Girl, read Dark Places and you’ll become a forever fan of Flynn’s.

Moms: What to look for in a workplace.

As a working mom, finding the right place to work is key. And honestly, it could take a while.

We can all agree job hunting is torture. You spend your evenings applying for jobs, taking time off work to attend interviews, rewriting your resume over and over- It’s just exhausting. But sometimes it takes trial and error to get things just right.

Working Mother Magazine (one of my personal favorites) debuts their 100 Best Companies for 2014 next week in their Oct/Nov issue. Follow their Facebook page for more information.

I’ve got some tips, I’ve learned from my own personal experience that I’d like to share with you if you find yourself as a mom and job hunting.

1. Wait until the end. Don’t ask about flexibility, vacation days, sick day until near the end of the interview. To me, I think it’s tacky and I think most employers would agree. They want to hear questions from you about the specific position, the company and what you could bring to the table. I usually slide a line in like, “I am a mom and I’m also curious about the flexibility within the position.” If you’re being interviewed by a woman she usually starts off with her personal story about how she works her job around her life. At that point you know you’re in good hands.

2. Google search. If I know the name of the person I’m being interviewed by, you can guarantee I’m Googling that person to find her Facebook page and LinkedIn profile. Hey! You’ve seen the news reports they do the same to us- so it’s totally fair game!

3. LinkedIn. Speaking of LinkedIn, most companies by now have a LinkedIn profile, search to see if you have any contacts that work there already or have worked there. If not, search to see their list of employees, do you see a lot of women or is it mainly men? Look for family photos or are they friends with women who have kids. This can tell you a lot about the person before you even meet them.

4. Mobile isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If your job is offering you a company cell or computer, don’t be scared of it. I have friends who see this as their company requesting constant contact with them. I have a company computer and sure, sometimes I work late or I work once the kids are in bed, but it’s usually because I left work early to go to dance class, for a doctor’s appointment, etc. You have to look at your situation and realize it might not be a bad thing to connect when on your own time.

5. Assess the room. Once you land an interview now it’s time to put on that pretty smile and investigator’s eye sight. Try to up and down every room and hallway you are guided into. Steal a glance inside an office or cubicle, does the employee have photos of children displayed? I had one interview that was one-on-one in a woman’s personal office. She had her kids’ school photos and artwork on display and I knew it would be a good fit. On the contrary, I had one interview where the conference room had annual company photos on display, which I thought was a good sign. The bad sign, all the folks interviewing me were men and it was not a good fit. I learned that one the hard way.

In the end, I always recommend trusting your gut and like I said before. It can be trial and error. You may take a position and realize it’s an awful fit and that’s ok! Promise.

The trouble with multitasking.

“I’m a woman, I was born to be a multitasker!”

I just quoted myself. This is one my infamous feminist comments.

  • I say this, while I’m cooking dinner for my family while at the same time packing their lunches for tomorrow.
  • When I read my son a book, while changing my daughter’s diaper at the same time.
  • When chatting with my boss while driving my kids to daycare.
  • While listening to my husband about his day while browsing Facebook.
  • When a co-worker comes into my office to chat and I check emails while she’s there.

Sound familiar? And that was my short list. I took so much pride in the fact that I was a woman and can, indeed, do it all. And yes, I do believe, we women can do it all. But lately, I’ve been wondering if multi-tasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe it’s adding to my never-ending feeling of exhaustion. Maybe it’s the reason I feel like my brain can’t slow down. Possibly the reason I feel disconnected from human beings while being in the same room as them.

While reading Arriana Huffington’s new book Thrive it confirmed what I’ve been feeling. In the foreword to her book she speaks of multi-tasking and how her mother scolded her for talking to her children while reading her emails:

‘I abhor multitasking,’ she said, in a Green accent that puts mine to shame. In other words, being connected in a shallow way to the entire world can prevent us from being deeply connected to those closest to us- including ourselves.

{Insert wide-eye emoji here} Err, I was just trying to knock off several things off my to-do list in a short amount of time! What’s so wrong with that?

Maybe it could be my list. What things are more important than the others? Which things require more attention? Maybe my drive to school with my kids- couldn’t I be more involved in the situation? The alone time with my spouse once the kids are in bed? How about that quiet time while I pack lunches? This could be a zen moment spent with sandwich bags, a cup of tea and Nutella sandwiches. Instead of looking at this as a time to get more done, maybe it’s a time to slow down and savor the moment.

This life is a gift. It’s not a race. Let’s all slow down and take our time. 

#9to5shuffle

 

Two things to make a house a home.

My cat and plants.

Who knew? I didn’t realize how much a pet completed our family. Pets are great for children. Growing up with animals makes well-rounded children, I believe. They learn responsibility, how to share their space and parents attention. They also learn to love something other than a human. Didn’t see that in a parenting book? Because it’s a life lesson.

Plants. Every house needs some green. This plant in the photo was actually a sympathy gift I received after I lost my mother. My green friend sent it in lieu of cut flowers. It’s sentimental and been with us for over a year.

I like to yearn for these items rather than stainless steel appliances, Pottery Barn pillows and other items we later regret buying.

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Zen moment- It’s all about sleep.

The heading says it all doesn’t it? It’s all about sleep. 

Not convinced? See if my story is something you can relate to. 

This summer, I have been known to roll out of bed about 7:20 a.m.! That’s 7:20 folks! Let me remind you, I have to get my kids ready for school, drop them off and get to work. My work day typically starts at 8 a.m., if I want to leave around 4:30 p.m.

After several weeks with this wake up time, I started to notice something with my family on those mornings. My husband and I were more likely to snap at each other, the kids would fight us more with simple tasks, I was more likely to loose my patience with the kids and heck- sometimes, one of my kids may have skipped breakfast. Who knows! I was too busy rushing around. 

But this morning- it all changed. Slowly, I started inching back my bedtime and as a result, inched back my wake up time. Soon enough my husband started to follow suite. We all woke up earlier, first my husband got up with my early-rising daughter. He told me the morning was wonderful. He sipped on coffee while listening to her two-year-old rambling. My heart melted. 

How many of us can say we shared a tender moment with our child before 8 a.m.? It reminded me of late night and early morning nursing with my infants. So, so sweet. 

All four of us had more patience with one another. The kids ate breakfast, got ready and hopped in the car with two calm parents. 

Sure, their moods played a part. But what was most important is that my husband and I weren’t frantic and involuntarily impressing that vibe onto our children. Moods are contagious, especially between parents and their child. Whatever you are feeling, your child will start to feel it too. It works both ways too. 

Like I mentioned this isn’t something we changed overnight. It took time. Since we both saw the wonderful effect it made- I know we will both be more dedicated to Zen-like mornings. 

I found a little zen today!

It happened today. Without trying. Without a lot of effort. Without costing anything!

I found a little zen.

My daughter and I were awake this morning before the others in the house. We decided to step outside and take a walk. Just before we walked out the door I went to reach for my phone to bring along. But I stopped myself. Left it behind and strolled along.

We walked and chatted about the typically two year old topics: trees, the birds and doggies. When we weren’t chatting we were just walking along the streets of our community taking in the fresh air. She was mellow and smiley wearing her morning bed head, summer sundress and flip flops.

I’m on a search for zen in my hectic life. It’s great to find it when I least expect it. Making changes in your life doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take a lot of time. It’s small things you do each day.

Don’t take your phone. Don’t bring that distraction with you.

Be present.

This life is truly a gift.