reading rainbow

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson--3.89 stars: This book was adorable. Major Pettigrew is curmudgeonly old man who gets the hots for Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani widow working at the village market. His son is a brat, and his friends are gossipy and horrified by everything. The Major and Mrs. Ali become dear friends, and he desperately tries to figure out how to turn it into more. It's a bit Jane Austeny: dry, witty, and VERY British. There were a few scenarios in the book I didn't care for and it moves slowly, but it was funny, cute, and completely sweet.

For fans of: I Capture the Castle, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Jane Austen, books on diversity, falling in love with the English countryside

The Princess by Lori Wick--2 stars: I read some Lori Wick books in high school and LOVED them. Either this was just a terrible book, or my tastes have drastically changed (they have). Keep in mind this is Christian fiction, so, yeah. It's hard to make that good sometimes. This book takes place in a country that doesn't exist. Prince Nikolai was widowed, but is required to get remarried. He asks his parents, the King and Queen, to arrange a marriage, and they pick a girl with no ties to the royal family. They get married and have nothing to do with each other, as he can't get over his dead wife and she's too shy to talk to him. WILL THEY GET OVER THEIR ISSUES AND FALL IN LOVE????? *dun dun dun* I mean, if you want something wholesome and heartwarming and cute, then sure. This will work. But the writing was SO cheesy and just not realistic whatsoever. Could be worse, but could be much better.

For fans of: gagging, eye rolling, Christian romance

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis--5 stars: I first tried to read this book in college. I was writing several essays a day, some in French, some in English, and I just didn't have the brain space to make it past the first chapter. Lewis is DENSE. You have to have some serious brain juice available to absorb everything he says, but it is so worth it. This book just blew me away. I didn't know this before, but Mere Christianity is actually a series of radio talks Lewis gave during WWII. The government knew the British people needed something uplifting, something to give them hope during the war, so they had Lewis explain Christianity over the radio. Can you imagine that happening today?? No. He has the most brilliant mind. The analogies he came up with to explain aspects of Christianity that people struggle with were just incredible. Lewis was a staunch atheist who became a Christian when he realized he could no longer ignore the truth, and I think that point of view gives him such an edge. Even if Christianity is not your thing, but you want to understand it better, this will do it.

For fans of: religion, philosophy, having your mind blown wide open

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp--5 GIANT STARS: You've seen The Sound of Music, right? And you love it, don't you? THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN BY THE REAL MARIA VON TRAPP. You know she was real, right? Some people are like "duh" and others (my husband) fall over from shock when I tell them. I knew they were real, I knew they had a place in Vermont, but that was the extent of my knowledge. There is SO MUCH the movie didn't tell, like how they became famous singers and toured the world. Also, she was so much funnier than I expected her to be. Julie Andrews truly captured her mischievous personality. My favorite parts were the chapter on learning English and misusing American slang (literally cried from laughter) and her observations of Hitler when she found herself sitting next to him in a restaurant. Her faith in God is so evident, and she had some powerful stories proving God's provision. I can't recommend it enough.

For fans of: The Sound of Music, WWII, immigrant stories, music

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber--5 stars: Carolyn "Caro" is an agnostic feminist creeped out by Christians. She gets accepted into Oxford to get her Masters in poetry (or literature? something wordy). She happens to meet a Christian and picks his brain about Christianity throughout her first year of school. She starts slowly exploring Christianity to the chagrin of her family and most of her friends. Following in C.S. Lewis' footsteps, she grapples with religion and faith and eventually comes to believe. Her love of literature is woven through the entire memoir, and it will make you want to book a flight to England immediately. I loved and adored this book. It was powerful, intelligent, charming, and it felt like a privilege to read.

For fans of: C.S. Lewis, faith, literature, Britishness

Still Life by Louise Penny--2.5 stars: It's fall in Quebec. There's a tiny little town full of eccentric artists, a Bed and Breakfast/antique store, and foolish teenagers. It's basically a Canadian Gilmore Girls. Until! One of artists is found dead in the woods. Is it a hunting accident? COULD IT BE MURDER? Chief Inspector Gamache is on the case! This book sounds adorable and cozy, and it IS. The writing style is cute and funny, but it's not consistent. Some chapters were great, and some were boring. The majority of the characters were a little too eccentric and hysterical and annoyed me. The ending seemed a little strange and unrealistic. I finished the book completely unimpressed, yet I've been finding myself thinking about how much I loved the setting and wanting to read the next book in the series to see if it changes my opinion, because I seem to be in the vast minority by not loving it. Maybe it just needed the touch of Amy Sherman-Palladino. I'll report back.

For fans of: art drama, murder mysteries, fall leaves and cozy fires and tea

What are you reading? I have some C.S. Lewis, Simply Tuesday, and Missional Motherhood on my table to read.


currently, vol. 21

Loving: I went to the gym the other evening to run on the treadmill. There was a young, ripped dude lifting weights near me. I figured he must be thinking how ridiculous I looked, panting and gasping and drenched in sweat after barely running a very slow mile. As I slowed down, took my earbuds out, and begged the Lord to take me home, he looked at me and said "That was really impressive! I hate cardio. I don't think I could do what you just did. I'm really impressed! Good job!" I almost kissed him. I am under no allusions that my 12 minute mile was even slightly impressive, but that's the first compliment I've ever gotten on my athletic abilities, and I will be flying high on it for the next 30 years. I might even make myself a shirt.

Watching: Sarah & Duck. My friend Brittainy told me about this BBC kid's show on Netflix, and I love it more than Gracie does. They knit, they bake, they go to the library, and Mrs. Patmore from Downton is the voice of one of the characters. It's not annoying and it fills my house with British accents. What's not to love? I recently discovered my childhood love Little Bear is on Amazon Prime. It's still adorable. Little Bear's laugh still makes me cringe, though.

Also, season 6 of Blue Bloods is on Netflix, so you'll know where to find me for the next week or so. Tom Selleck forever.

Cooking: it was in the 70s (!!!!) for a few days, so I made tortellini soup and homemade bread. I also made a cup of pumpkin spice coffee before the weather warmed up again. A little fall preview. 

Reading: I have a stack of theology books to read. I took Gracie to the library on Saturday to grab them, and I had to literally chase her through the aisles. It's her happy place, which makes me happy, except when she's climbing over things in an attempt to make a break toward the audio books. She also took off toward the children's graphic novel section and pulled out a book for me to read to her called Fart Squad. No. 

Eating: On Saturday, we went to Melt, a restaurant downtownish that basically serves pimped out grilled cheeses. It will change your life. I haven't been in a couple years and it sounded so good. Not to mention, they decorate the bar all year with Halloween and Christmas decorations, and New Girl was playing on the bar tv. It's like they knew I was coming. 

Dreaming: last night I dreamed I lived in Texas and was back at a job I hated. In my dream, I had been demoted to buying everyone lunch, which amounted to buying two pounds of deli meat at the deli counter everyday and then buying things for sandwiches. Every day I was yelled at for whatever I bought or for how the meat was sliced. On one trip to the grocery store, a storm hit and the whole city flooded. At least it's an improvement over the dream I had a few nights ago where half my family died. I don't know what is going on with my subconscious these days. I have a whole post of crazy dreams I've had lately. 

And Gracie just crawled in the room with her pajamas off and her legs through the sleeves of a onesie she pulled from the laundry basket. Looks like I'll be needing an extra cup of pumpkin spice coffee this morning. 


stories from life in toddlerville

I'm going to be honest. I think the terrible twos/threes/whatever have already hit us. I've been able to tell since her newborn days, but I'm realizing more and more that I have a very strong-willed kid on my hands. It's terrifying and wonderful but mostly terrifying. She is the love of my life and also the most annoying person on the planet. Don't worry, I can type that because I would totally say that to her face. She's been living by the three Ts lately: tantrums, tears, and teething. Consequently, I've been living by the 3 Cs: coffee, chocolate, and crying. I love her more than life but I AM EXHAUSTED. I'm sure the two molars that are taking a century to come in are responsible for the state of life lately, but my evening runs when James is watching her have been the most relaxing and rejuvinating part of my day lately. And I hate running.

Taking a baby to the grocery store is an entirely different experience than going solo. I realize that is not brand new information, but hear me out. Suddenly everyone wants to be my friend. The produce man (I have a new produce friend; produce lady apparently doesn't have time for us anymore) gives us free fruit to eat while we shop. I know the names and ages of all his kids. The deli man always sneaks us some cheese on the sly. Random people will comment on Gracie's hair (always the hair) and when I smile they use that as an open door to show me pictures of their grandchild's birthday party. People have no problem stopping me while I'm checking the dates on yogurt to question me on her milestones. It's an experience, and I am never short on stories from the grocery store. I'm also never short on granola bars that someone has hidden in her lap and thus we have accidentally stolen.

A conversation from a recent trip to Kroger:

Kroger Cashier: How old is she?
Me: 16 months* tomorrow.
KC: Are you throwing her a party?
Me: I wasn't planning on it.
KC: How could you not throw her a party?
Me: I don't know...
KC: She's turning 1! She has to have a party!
Me: She already turned one. She'll be 16 months.
KC: She's already 1? Then how old is 16 months?
Me:  A year and 4 months.
KC: Huh. 

*For the record, I never want to be that mom that says my kid is 57 months old. But I feel like it's still acceptable to use months until 18ish months? Two years? Maybe? I don't know. It's just that there's a HUGE difference between a 12 month old and a 16 month old, plus with her hair people tend to think she's 2 or 3 and don't understand why she's not having a full conversation with them.

Speaking of the grocery store. We were in the cheese section (naturally) a few months ago, and two attractive firemen in uniform walked past us. Gracie, typically terrified of all strangers, smiled and waved to them. Women of all ages love a man in uniform.

She recently discovered how to open the fridge. One day last week I found the battery from the TV remote on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Five seconds later I found my car keys in the pantry next to the sippy cups. After grabbing all the pilfered paraphernalia, I found Gracie banging the dining room wall with a soap dispenser. This is a pretty typical moment in my life lately. More than once she's managed to open the pantry door where she is later found elbow-deep in a bag of goldfish crackers. The apple doesn't fall far.

Gracie has been obsessed with taking her clothes off lately. Within minutes of putting her in the crib at bedtime, she'll take her sleeper off and toss it across the floor. There's no outfit she can't remove in seconds. But the most insane thing was when she managed to remove her romper while buckled into her carseat. I watched her do it and I still can't figure out how she pulled it off--pun intended.

The days are long and difficult lately, but I know I'll miss them. Just like I thought the newborn days were the hardest thing ever, but now I look back and think BUT SHE SLEPT ALL DAY! HOW WAS THAT HARD? Yet it was excruciating at the time. Thankfully she's just hiding my car keys and not asking me to borrow them. May those days never come. She may drive me to the brink of sanity, but she's still never allowed to leave. 


summer songs

I've noticed lately that my musical tastes are very seasonal. I tend to gravitate toward different kinds of music during different times of the year. These are the few songs I've been listening to all summer long, the ones I keep coming back to. It's a small playlist, but a good one. Low Tide Love has been the soundtrack to many sweltering walks to the park. Distant Lands is what I've had on repeat the past week. But every single one of these songs has been my obsession at some point this summer.

Friday was a terrible day. By 9:30 in the morning, I was sitting on the bathroom floor crying. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong. After lunch, I put this playlist on while I did the dishes, and I swear to you it fixed everything. Gracie and I danced around the living room, and both our moods drastically improved. She napped a rare 2.5 hours while I caught up on Olympic gymnastics. James came home, cooked us dinner, and all was right in the world again. Basically what I'm saying is that this playlist is magical and healing and will make you want to groove. But don't sue me if your baby doesn't nap afterwards. Just go sit in your pantry and eat some chocolate. And then put this playlist on and dance.



thus proving my theory that pizza solves everything

I would like you all to be the first to know that the Worst Week Ever is finally over. Things continued to spiral downhill after my last post, including three shirts ruined in the laundry, a smoking garbage disposal, the 4th molar making an appearance, etc. But then Sarah had a pizza delivered to my house Friday night, and that seemed to fix everything in the way that only a thoughtful friend and a pizza can. If only she had been with me to enjoy it!

While enjoying the aforementioned pizza, my friend Bethany texted me to say she just so happens to be in town and could we get coffee in the morning? We met for the first time over soup the week before Christmas and clicked like we've known each other forever. I met her Saturday morning at a new coffee shop and we talked for three and a half hours and only parted ways because we had to. There are very few people I can sit and talk to for that long and then STILL want to keep talking. It was so fun that I forgot to be self-conscious about the fact that I accidentally washed my hair that morning with conditioner instead of shampoo and looked as though I hadn't showered in months. Gracie crawled around, practiced her walking, waved at customers coming in, ate half my muffin, and napped on me. I didn't even take her home for her nap because we were having the best time ever. Bethany and I talked about every topic under the sun, and we were both sharing some big decisions we have to make soon when we noticed this Bible verse on the wall.

My best friends may not live here in town, but man. I have some really good people in my life, and right now that is enough.

Yesterday we declared a family rest day. Last week pretty much destroyed all three of us. I spent the day rotating between my bed and a stack of books and the couch and the Olympics. I am always anti-sports until the Olympics come on, and then you'd think ESPN is my favorite channel by my excitement of all things athletic. I missed the gymnastics but I managed to watch some swimming, which is the one sport I understand completely thanks to my years of competitive swimming. Not that there's much to understand. I was as slow as could be, but I had endurance. I never gave up, even when my goggles fell off, my swim cap fell off, and my ponytail fell out during the 500 freestyle. It was so pathetic that the competing schools cheered for me when I finally climbed out of the pool.

As you can see, I speak with the voice of experience.

I had planned on turning the gymnastics on once the babe was asleep, but as I was doing dishes I heard a panicky, excited "Michelle! MICHELLE! YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE THIS." It's a rare thing for James to use my full name, so I ran into the living room, tripping and falling over the baby gate on the way. It's funny how critical I am of an Olympian on tv when I can't even lift my legs over a baby gate.

Anyway. It turns out that Amazon Prime finally added Twister, so we could watch it FOR FREE. And by free, I mean upwards of $100/year for our Prime membership. But this was huge news because we've been dying to watch Twister for ages but we've been too stubborn to pay $5 for the DVD. Well! I'm sorry Olympics, but nothing gets between me and a tornado movie. We turned it on and sat enraptured with a box of Extra Toasty Cheez-its between us and knitting on my lap. I've seen it a handful of times, but not in a very long time. Since it's about extreme weather, it immediately made a place for itself in my weather-loving heart. I had forgotten a lot of important details, like WESTLEY FROM PRINCESS BRIDE IS IN IT. James really loved that I bellowed "AS YOU WISH" every time he came on the screen. The fact that it took me this long to realize he was in this movie is...wait for it...INCONCEIVABLE! And this time he was chasing tornados of unusual size instead of rodents.

I think I know what movie we'll be watching on our next movie night. Thankfully I already own this one.