reading rainbow

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan--5 stars: I've been a C.S. Lewis fan for a long time, but I never knew much about him other than his writings. The only thing I knew about his wife was that he wrote A Grief Observed after her death. The story of how C.S. Lewis and Joy became husband and wife is truly incredible. When their friendship started, Joy was stuck in a marriage to a verbally abusive, philandering, alcoholic husband in upstate NY, and Lewis was teaching at Oxford. Through a series of events, she wound up writing a letter to C.S. Lewis on the off-chance that he could answer some of her many questions about God and faith. Not only did he respond, but they became incredibly close friends through letters, as she was one of the rare people who shared his level of intelligence and wit. The book takes a slow and methodical approach to their relationship, showing the deepening of their friendship and change in life circumstances over the course of a decade. It is absolutely charming and delightful. C.S. Lewis has such a stodgy, unattainably intelligent persona (at least to me) akin to Churchill, and this book humanizes him so much. I loved the peek at his real life, which was spent mostly walking outside, writing letters and books, teaching, and talking books with his friends at the pub. He lived a dream life, truly. I tried to pace myself through this book because it enchanted me from page 1, but I loved it so much I couldn't put it down. One of my favorites of the year.

I will say, I don't agree with all of Joy's choices and ideas about life (though who knows how much is fiction and what was real), so my endorsement of the book is not condoning her behavior. However, I think it's a real look at what it is to be a Christian struggling in this world, and I felt so much compassion for her.

For fans of: C.S. Lewis (duh), England, books and writing, garden descriptions

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis--4.5 stars: After Becoming Mrs. Lewis, I had to grab this book to read about Joy in Lewis' own words. After reading the forward written by Madeleine l'Engle, I was so annoyed I could barely read the book. She claims to be a Christian and yet ridicules the very ideas in the Bible, claiming they are "not adequate." She also isn't shy about not agreeing with anything Lewis said. It's such a shame they chose her to write this forward! And now I have zero desire to read her books. But I digress. I found this book fascinating. It's more or less a raw diary of emotions after losing Joy to cancer. You can almost follow the stages of grief. He is very honest sharing his doubts and fears and questions. Everyone handles grief in different ways, but I related a lot to the questions and feelings he had. I did take issue with some theological problems--I do not believe in purgatory as he does. There is zero scriptural basis for that. He believes that when a Christian dies, they are still subject to misery. Where is the hope in that? Other than that, I loved this book. I related to it in many ways, and found it fascinating to delve into his mind. It was a little unnerving at times and sad, but I think it could be a great comfort to someone who has been grieving to know they are not alone in their feelings.

For fans of: Lewis, grief?, lots of feelings

The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ by Andrew Klavan--3 stars: I should have written this review right after reading the book, because my memory is already failing me. Klavan is Jewish by heritage and religion, yet grew up more agnostic than anything. As an adult he became a renowned author of novels and eventually found his way to God (or rather, God found him if you take the Calvinist view). The book follows his religious journey and details what it's like growing up in a Jewish family. He does tend to spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about his horrible father, and he WAS awful, but at times it felt as though it bordered on ranting and not always relevant to the story. The book was well-written and I found his depictions of Jewish culture fascinating, but as a book about why he became a Christian, I found it lacking in many ways. He took a very philosophical approach and reasoned his way to why he believes in Jesus as his Savior. And that's fine! To my memory, he spoke of nothing about sin and repentance and the true gospel. If you're going to lay out why you became a Christian, I think it's important to give a detailed explanation of the gospel in addition to your story. He also took some weird turns at times, like describing some out-of-body experience where he suddenly realized "everything is love" and that's all that matters. It was just...weird. Much of it didn't resonate with me and he sounded a little off-base at times. Still a fascinating memoir, and I have a lot of respect for him. I just wish he would have put more of the Bible in and less of his sometimes strange (to me) thinking.

For fans of: conversion stories, reading about growing up as a Jew in 1960s Long Island, philosophy

A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews--2.5 stars: I read this little Christmas novella on Christmas Eve. It was...ok. It takes place in London, maybe around the turn of the century? Earlier? I can't remember. Anyway, there's a whole Pride & Prejudice vibe with a girl wanting to marry for love instead of money, but she neeeeeeds money, and then there's the dude who actually likes her but acts like he doesn't because he's a gentleman. The girl's family needs money and everyone is husband hunting and the two main characters go from seemingly not liking each other to liking each other, and I know these types of books aren't very realistic, but it felt like a really big stretch to me. I didn't hate it, though I didn't like the many many references to Darwin. I'll probably read it again at Christmas time one year when I'm in the mood for something lighthearted. It's a cute little book when you're feeling festive, but there are probably better ones out there.

For fans of: Pride and Prejudice but Christmas, Hallmark Christmas movies but in London a long time ago

The Tattooist of Auschwitz--5 stars: This book claimed a lot of sleep from me because I could not put it down. By chance, Lale got the job of tattooist when he was sent to Auschwitz. This gave him relative safety and extensive freedoms the other prisoners did not have. He eventually tattoos a women who immediately captivates him. He manages to help protect her from the guards and starts a whole black market in the camp. He is determined to do what he has to do to protect himself and Gita so they can leave the camp and marry one day, despite everything working against them. This book is a true story and INCREDIBLE. There is so much hope despite the indescribable cruelty and evil. I could say a lot more, but I won't. Just read it.

For fans of: I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman, All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein, We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter, Holocaust novels

The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen--4 stars: This is the third book in the Ivy Hill trilogy. I'll admit, they're pretty cheesy, but they're so cozy and heartwarming to read. This was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, but there was a new character that I didn't love, nor did I think she really added anything to the story. The trilogy as a whole deals with the plight of women in England during the early 1800s. This book follows in that vein, and by the title I'm assuming you can figure out how it winds up. I can't really say anything else without ruining the other two books. They're the perfect books to curl up with at the end of a long day, though I will confess something. Some of the characters are so overly good and virtuous that it becomes mildly annoying at times.

For fans of: PBS Masterpiece Theater, cozy English villages where everyone is friends with everyone, Cranford

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry--3.75 stars: I really enjoyed this book. Emilia's father has owned Nightingale Books her whole life. When he passes away, she takes it over. Discovering it's in terrible debt, she fights to keep it open. The book follows Emilia's battle to keep her father's beloved bookstore open, as well as the lives of local customers who grieve with her. The store inadvertently helps them all find love. The descriptions of the old bookshop and the cozy little English village are so charming. The customers' stories are cute and heartwarming. Mostly. I would have rated the book higher, but there's an adulterous relationship that is consistently validated and justified. Maybe I sound like a cranky old lady, but it really bothered me. It was NOT ok, but it's constantly described as just "one of those things" that happen in life and you can't help who you love. UGH. No. There's also a whole story line about how being a SAHM is the easiest/most boring thing ever and it means you're wasting your life. I rolled my eyes a lot as it was totally unrealistic. Other than those things, the book is a little sad as it deals with the death of Emilia's dad, but it's all about how the community rallies behind her and supports her, and it's just sweet and heartwarming. Also---I loved the main character Emilia. She devours books and plays an instrument and is always described as wearing jeans, converse, and sweaters. So basically, ME.

For fans of: books about books and reading about reading, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenna Colgan, You've Got Mail, Love Actually but with books (I hate that movie, but there are a lot of similarities), adultery I guess, Hallmark movies but with more grit

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens--4.5 stars: Hot dang, this book was a SAGA. It didn't look like they type of novel I'd be particularly drawn to, but I couldn't put it down. Kya grew up in the North Carolina marsh during the 50s and 60s. Abandoned by her parents and siblings and refusing to go to school since she was looked down upon as the "Marsh Girl," she spent all her time studying nature and wildlife. She meets a boy who teaches her how to read, further propelling her research and study of birds and feathers and all that stuff. The entire town steers clear of her and looks down upon her as trash because she lives in the marsh. She learns to survive on her own from a young age and isolates herself from society, until one day she becomes the main suspect in a murder case. This book is part coming of age/love story/murder mystery. It bounces around to different years in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and is clearly inspired by the life cycles and such in the marsh. Super interesting. Slightly too poetic for me at times. A few minor sexual scenes. I truly had no idea how things were going to turn out or what the truth was until the last page. I was completely absorbed in this story. The author is a wildlife scientist, and you can reeeeaaalllly tell. Honestly, marsh life is not of much interest to me, so it's saying something that I enjoyed this book so much.

For fans of: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, frequent swampy descriptions, anything by Kate Morton, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, poetry, feathers



This year has been a mixed bag. Every year is, really. There's good, there's bad, some years swing better and some are just awful. This year has truly been both. I have whiplash from high highs and low lows. I survived the death of one of my best friends and her baby. I managed to make it through the whole year without watching The Greatest Showman. I continued my high level of coffee intake with zero regrets. I had multiple awkward run-ins with people from high school. I ran into Mike Wolfe from American Pickers in 106 degree heat with hair that had just experienced a long outdoor boat ride. We were sick A LOT. I had no idea how much we were sick until I looked back through old posts while writing this.

January: I remember exactly one specific thing about this month, and it is a day that will live in infamy. It was the day it was 5 degrees outside and I discovered a hose hooked up to an outdoor faucet covered in ice and on the verge of bursting. I had to Facetime my dad and hook my blowdryer up to an extension cord and ask the neighbors to borrow a wrench so I could unscrew the frozen hose. I almost sold the house and moved into an apartment just so I never had to deal with that again, because plumbing is my WORST NIGHTMARE. It was a cold month. I remember two weeks of the temp never getting above zero. Our drafty house was frigid, and I walked around in sweaters and a furry robe. It snowed a lot. I spent every day unpacking and hanging curtains and trying to make sense of the post-move chaos. Oh! It's also the month I chopped 7 inches off my hair and had my hair stylist friend dye it purple, magenta, and turquoise. I miss my Lisa Frank hair. Someday I will do it again!

February: I wrote Olympic Valentines. Were the Olympics on this month? I think so. For some reason, the winter months are always a blur to me. I remember intensely watching ice skating and curling. I also made some TV Valentines. The Popcast aired my funny college dating story which gave me a thrill. We went out for Mexican on Valentine's Day. I saw Colleen for the last time in my living room. She and her husband babysat Gracie so James and I could see a movie. I gave her a huge hug by the front door. I'm glad my last memory of her is a sweet one.

March: This month was the worst ever. THE WORST. I lost one of my best friends and her baby. I got sick. I reunited with some old friends at her funeral that I've continued to stay in touch with, and I know that would make Colleen happy. I decided to spend my birthday with my parents in Iowa for a much needed change of scenery. I dyed my hair purple again and loved it. My mom and I discovered the best cafe and secondhand bookstore--it was one of my favorite days of the whole year. I turned 29, and while it wasn't a bad birthday, I was still in the fog of grief, plus I had a cold and an infection in my foot so bad I couldn't walk. I discovered Michael Scott and I share the same birthday, which is the gift that keeps on giving. When we got home, Gracie got the stomach bug from hell and was nearly hospitalized on her 3rd birthday. Truly a month I'd just like to forget.

April: It snowed a lot. We celebrated Easter with some friends. Spring finally hit toward the end of the month, and I very slowly started to feel like myself again. My mom came for a week, and we had the best time hitting up yarn shops. Gracie had her first ice cream cone. I started my long walks and discovered sheep down the street. James and I had an early anniversary date while my mom was in town. I dyed my hair teal. It was a much better month.

May: I believe in trying to find the good in bad days or months or years, but I don't think ANYTHING good happened in May. I still get cold sweats just thinking about it. I got pulled over after taking Gracie to the doctor. James had 4 back to back work trips. I caught some insane virus that turned into a terrible case of bronchitis. Gracie had croup and a high fever for days while I was sick and James was gone. I was bedridden on both Mother's Day and our Anniversary. My in-laws came to visit and chaos ensued. Ok, one good thing happened--James surprised me with a spa day for Mother's Day, before the worst of the sickness hit. It was delightful.

June: My favorite month of the year. It was just wonderful. So many playdates and fun times at the splash pad. Strawberry picking. All of my flowers died, which still confuses me because that's never happened to me before. I dyed my hair purple again. We went to Iowa and toured a dairy and went to a food truck festival. My family from Nevada visited for a week and we had the best time. Lots of late nights playing Dutch Blitz. I ran into Mike Wolfe and made a fool of myself. I found out I'm related to Dwight Schrute. We bought a new fridge, which I am still deeply in love with. On the flip side, I had my first foray with poison control when Gracie downed a bottle of vitamins, and we found dried blood under our kitchen carpet.

July: We watched the fireworks from our driveway. We had a weekend getaway in a cabin and fished and kayaked. We had another bad bout of sickness. It was apparently not a good year for our health. I went on a lot of long, evening walks and read a lot of books. The usual.

August: I have really no memory of August? From what I can gather...lots of walks. Lots of working in the yard. Lots of playdates. Lots of Gracie playing in her inflatable pool. Lots of me probably hiding in the AC. We spent a day at the zoo with friends. The horses across the street were sold and I still want to cry about it. The usual summer stuff.

September: I finally hung a bunch of stuff up in our house and decorated for fall. It felt so much more like home. The first six months in our house were rough for me. For a heap of reasons, I had a hard adjustment. This is when I finally started feeling at home and comfortable here. I chopped my hair up to my chin. We went back to Iowa. My mom and I went to a Maddie Poppe concert, we took Gracie apple picking and I made friends with a horse. I wrote one of my favorite posts of the year.  I squeezed in as many walks as I could before the weather turned. Long walks were the staple of my summer.

October: I visited the World's Largest Truckstop. Don't even bother to tell me about your vacations--clearly I win this round. I fell and destroyed my knee which still has not fully healed. It was our first October in our house and it was GLORIOUS. The trees were insane. I spent half the month standing in my kitchen, staring out the window. We went pumpkin picking. It was freezing outside and I was bursting with fall spirit. We went bowling for James' birthday. We all got sick again.

November: I decorated for Christmas super early. We splurged on a white Christmas tree, and I love it so much. I want it up all year. We rearranged half the house. My parents came for Thanksgiving, and that was really fun. It snowed a lot. The Dr. Death podcast ruled my life. I spent many evenings watching Christmas movies and doing a puzzle.

December: I had high hopes for December, but much of it followed in the vein of March and May. Some really sad things happened. We were sick for weeks straight. We didn't wear matching Christmas pajamas, but we did have matching sinus infections. I think the final tally came to RSV, two terrible upper respiratory viruses, two sinus infections, one gallbladder attack, croup, and bronchitis. All before Christmas. We saw the Christmas lights at the zoo, which I've been so excited to take Gracie to. We had a week long Christmas vacation in Iowa. It was so nice. We did our traditional Christmas Eve lights viewing on the river, James and I managed to squeeze in a date night in downtown Davenport. Mom and I went to see Mary Poppins---I loved it so much I almost cried. We watched a lot of Christmas movies and ate a lot of cookies. I woke up every morning and read by the Christmas tree. We spent NYE with friends. It was a sad month, but it ended well.

Other things to note:
-I read 68 books.
- Gracie potty trained herself. SHE DID IT HERSELF.
- My favorite books of the year are as follows (in no particular order):
    - Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan
    - Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
    - Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
    - Girl, Wash Your Face (ZING! Just kidding!!!!!!)
    - 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
    - Educated by Tara Westover
    - Endurance by Scott Kelly
    - As You Wish by Cary Elwes
- I discovered a lot of good current music this year, but my heart was with anything that came from the 1970s. I listened to 70s music all year. I don't know why, but it just did me right. Hall & Oates got the most plays for sure.
- I wore a lot of lipstick and didn't feel weird about it. This sounds silly but is actually a big deal for me. Purple hair gave me a lot of confidence.
- I started Bible Study Fellowship which was super nerve-wracking for me, but it has been wonderful.
- I published 78 blog posts. The number is going down every year.
- I spent time with a surprising amount of farm animals.

I don't have any big plans for 2019. I have no idea what's going to happen, which is both unnerving and exciting. All we have planned are two vacations and an appointment with a plumber. Anything could happen! Hoping for less plumbing drama (not looking good yet), less sickness, more books, and more time with friends and family.


december days

December has been 17 years long. I looked back on pictures from earlier this month and thought, "Oh, that was at least a decade ago, right?" What I'm saying is, it's been a doozy.

We are all crawling out of several weeks of the plague. I mean, the plague. All three of us were down for the count at the same time. James and Gracie are on the mend but I'm having a little more trouble kicking it. During our convalescence, James was sent to the hospital by his doctor and very nearly had emergency surgery.

Getting a phone call with words like "fatal infection" and "emergency surgery" when you're getting out of the shower on a random Thursday morning and wondering if you have a fever is just a bit much.

Thankfully he's ok. For now. We hope. We think? Basically no one knows, the doctors don't, but he's still alive so that's pretty cool.

Also this happened the day before my dad had surgery.

Looks like Santa will be putting doctor bills in our stockings this year!

Before all of that, I tried to cram in every Christmas activity imaginable. We have watched all the Christmas movies. We made a gingerbread house. We went to the zoo to look at the lights, and Gracie was completely starstruck when we ran into characters from Rudolph. She has not stopped talking about meeting Hermy the dentist, and for some reason she seems to think he is very proud of her every time she uses the potty. Which she loudly announced in the zoo bathroom. Which is at least better than when she dropped her pants in church during the pastor's prayer and loudly announced to everyone that she's wearing Thomas the Train underwear.

I'm not sure Hermy was proud of that.

I had big plans of making tons of Christmas cookies to pass out to the neighbors, but it looks like the mail man will be the only person receiving any this year. James' company threw a big Christmas party for kids over the weekend. I tried to rally and drag myself there. I didn't realize how big his company truly is, but I figured it out when I walked inside to literally THOUSANDS of screaming kids and their parents. I pictured a big room with breakfast and Santa in the corner and some crafts. Nothing could have prepared me for the chaos that we encountered instead. When we found the line for Santa, we couldn't find the end of it. It wound through hallways and rooms of the largest office building I've ever seen. There had to have been at least 500 people in line, probably more. We'll never know how many, because we turned around and left. Gracie got a balloon, so she didn't mind.

All it did was prove my point that staying at home in Christmas pajamas and watching movies is always better than going to a party.

As long as you don't have the plague.


recent reads

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin--3.75 stars: I spent half this book picturing WWII until I realized it was actually about WWI. Whoops. Days after her wedding, Eve's husband leaves Britain for the war and is immediately killed. OR SO SHE THINKS. Dun dun dunnnnn! Eve returns to Belgium to be with her family and works as a Red Cross nurse and as a spy. Three years later, she witnesses a plane crash and realizes she happens to be quite acquainted with the sole survivor. She risks her life trying to save him and the rest of her family from the Germans and complete her spy missions under the radar of the Germans at the hospital where she works. Overall, I was entertained. It's borderline predictable, but there were some times I was clutching my blanket wondering how things would turn out. It is Christian fiction, which I did not know until I started reading it. God is mentioned maybe three times, so it's not a preachy book or anything like that, but it does have a little bit of a cheese factor. Not as cheesy as a Hallmark movie, but it's definitely on the milder end of war novels. The ending was very eye-rolly, I won't lie. In many ways, it reminded me of The Alice Network, but without the raunch factor and pervasive sense of despair, though it definitely did not shy away from the horrors of war. It's the perfect book for a low-key weekend of reading.

For fans of: The Alice Network but rated G, The Nightingale but not as incredible, WWI, strong independent women who don't need no man

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce--5 stars: Well, this book doesn't have stellar reviews (how?!?!?), but it was one of my favorite books of the year--maybe ever. Delightful doesn't even begin to describe it. Emmy is a writer with big dreams of being a war correspondent. She winds up getting a job that is the exact opposite---typing an advice column for a stodgy woman who refuses to give any helpful advice, so Emmy takes matters into her own hands. It takes place during WWII. A lot of the book revolves around The Blitz and dodging bombs. There is so much humor in it and the dry wit and vocabulary are spectacularly British. It's hilarious, tragic, sweet, and so so so good. The whole way through I kept thinking that this is the book I wish I could write. The ending was slightly more open-ended than I would prefer, and I'm hoping that means a sequel is on the way.

For fans of: Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, 84 Charing Cross Road, delightful writing and wit

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables--4 stars: Every time I read a book by L.M. Montgomery, I salivate over her descriptions of nature. I get so much joy from trees and flowers and the changing of seasons. SO MUCH. This book is the perfect companion piece for her novels. It's chock-full of photos of Prince Edward Island and the real Green Gables. It even has a lot of photos Montgomery took herself in the 1880s and early 1900s, which are incredible to see. I borrowed the books mainly for the photos, but I did read or skim most of it. It gives a lot of the history of PEI and compares and contrasts it to the fictional Avonlea. It also walks through the life of L.M. Montgomery and compares her life to that of Anne's. Some of it I knew and was a little boring, and some was really interesting. I had no idea how autobiographical her novels were.

For fans of: AOGG, beautiful nature and seasons, super duper pretty pictures, googling plane tickets to PEI

Cinder by Marissa Meyer--3.5 stars: I've seen rave reviews about this book for years. I didn't know much about it other than it's based on Cinderella. It was....weird. I wouldn't call myself a sci-fi person, but I don't necessarily dislike it either. This was pretty hardcore sci-fi, at least to me. Apparently I didn't read the description well because it surprised me. I'm not going to say I googled what a cyborg is, but also not going to say I didn't. Anyway! This novel is super dystopian, and I'm always a fan of that genre for whatever weird reason. Cinder works as a mechanic on robots and such, and the prince befriends her even though she acts like an angsty brat and the evil moon queen hates her and everyone is dying of the plague and her stepmom is the worst. I'm kind of laughing as I write this because it sounds ridiculous. It was entertaining. I didn't want to put it down, but I was also rolling my eyes a lot. WHY would the prince find her so endearing when she's so pouty? Why would he tell this random stranger all his secrets? DUMB. It's perfect for when you need a mindless, entertaining book. It didn't suck me in quite the way it did for others, and I doubt I'll read the rest of the series, but I'm not sorry I read it either.

For fans of: The Hunger Games, Divergent, Cinderella meets the Twilight Zone

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow---3.5 stars: Derek Black is the son of Don Black and godson of David Duke, the former leader of the KKK. He grew up enmeshed in the white supremacy culture and even started hosting his own radio show as a teenager. He eventually winds up at a mega liberal college, where Jews and an immigrant befriend him and challenge his beliefs. I have mixed feelings on this one. I love the story of how Black came to renounce white supremacy/nationalism. In this age of nasty tweets and name-calling, I found it encouraging that the victims of Black’s racism made an effort to befriend him anyway, which ultimately led to his change of heart. My issue was with the politics. It’s written from an extremely liberal point of view, which is fine. But it was insinuated over and over and over that all conservatives share WN ideology, and that is horribly wrong and offensive. It’s insinuated that if you don’t believe in totally open borders, you’re a racist. If you didn’t vote for Clinton, if you don’t agree with abortion, you must be a white nationalist at heart. MAJOR MAJOR issues with that. The author seemed to have a fundamental misunderstanding of conservatives. All in all, this book was good. I wound it equally horrifying and fascinating to get in the brain of a white nationalist to see why they believe what they do. It is TWISTED. The writing was a bit dull and boring at times, but I came away encouraged that a group of immigrants and Jews befriended someone with close ties to the KKK. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and the power of relationships.

For fans of: politics, race relations, transformation stories

The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright--4 stars: After the last book, I needed something lighthearted and festive, and this fit the bill. The Evergreen Inn is tucked away in rural Vermont. During a Christmas blizzard that apparently NO ONE knew was coming or when it would end, because even though this takes place in present day, apparently weather radars are not a thing, stranded travelers congregate at the inn, where...you guessed it, there is no more room. Everyone brings their own problems, and they all sort through their issues together while eating world class food and watching the snow fall. Don't go into this book expecting literary greatness; expect the script of a Hallmark Christmas movie. It's cheesy, you'll know how it's going to end during the first 5 pages, but it is as festive and sweet as all get out. And yes, just like the movies, there's a dog. 

For fans of: cheesy Christmas movies, lush descriptions of Christmas decorations, gaining 5 lbs reading about sweets, White Christmas minus the singing and dancing

I just nose-dived into Becoming Mrs. Lewis last night, but didn't make it past the prologue before the cold meds took effect and I passed out. I think it's going to be a good one. 

What are you reading?

Life According to Steph


a day in the life

I've been wanting to write a day in the life post for a long time now, but I just haven't been feeling it. Yesterday morning I woke up and just felt it. Today is the day. These aren't for everyone, but they're some of my favorites to read, plus I love reading my old posts like these to remember what life was like at a certain time. I'm nosy. I try to peek in other people's windows when I drive by. I am fascinated by how people live their lives. So here's a little peek into a day. This one was pretty typical day.

6:06am: My alarm goes off and I am not amused. James and I have been trying to wake up early together so we can read our Bibles in peace before the day starts. I do so much better when I have some quiet time to myself before things get crazy. I tiptoe out of our room to hear Gracie already up and talking to herself. She knows not to leave her room until we tell her, so I grab a cup of coffee and do some reading by the Christmas tree while she plays in her room. James lays on the couch and reads. I swear I hear him start to snore, and I tease him that he got up to just to fall back to sleep in the living room.

6:45: We tell Gracie she can get up, and she barrels down the hall while James gets her a bowl of cereal.

7:15: James leaves for work and I hit the showers while Gracie watches a show. I pray that she doesn't color all over the furniture or suddenly climb in the shower with me, both of which have happened recently. I dry my hair and get dressed and try to curl it. I'm missing whatever gene makes you good at curling hair. One of my friends is a hair stylist and has given me multiple tutorials. I've practiced for months. Still can't do it. We do the exact same thing with very different results. Some days my hair looks close to halfway to decent. Today is not one of those days.

8:00: Gracie is already ready for second breakfast and I'm starving. I ask if she wants sausage or bacon with her eggs. "Yes!" she replies. A girl after my own heart. We settle on bacon. She helps make the eggs. Believe it or not, she can make some eggs all by herself, with supervision of course.

8:20ish: We finally sit down to eat. Gracie shares her bacon with White Kitty. Some backstory on WK: she's my childhood beanie baby from the mid-late 90s. Gracie named her White Kitty and the two are thick as thieves. She's currently wearing a dress that came off an Amish doll. She's usually wearing a diaper, but apparently she's going commando today.

After breakfast we scramble (like our eggs! .....sorry) to get ready to leave for Bible Study. One side of my hair looks like a poodle and the other half is completely flat. I botch my eye liner. Oh well. I'm not in the mood to worry about it.

8:56: We are backing out of the garage, only 6 minutes behind schedule. Gracie asks for her music. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine gave me the brilliant idea of making a playlist to listen to in the car with G. I loaded it up with songs from old classic Disney movies. A Spoonful of Sugar from Mary Poppins comes on and I get so nostalgic I nearly feel a tear in my eye. Gracie asks all sorts of questions and when she asks who sings it, I tell her about Julie Andrews. Gracie says the song is cute and she likes it. Glad to know my old movie/music indoctrination is going according to plan.

9:05: Gracie runs ahead of me and into her classroom. It's night and day from when they used to have to come get me every week because Gracie needed me. I call this her preschool, and it's free! They teach Bible stories and games and sing songs and do activities. It's so good for her. I walk to my class. The woman who sits next to me is someone I haven't seen since I was 18. We catch up. It's awkward and weird, but I'm used to that in my life so it doesn't bother me that much. This is par for the course. And then I look down at my name tag and realize it's covered in Cheez-it crumbs from the depths of my purse. And then I remember my wonky eyeliner and hair and just have to laugh. Of course.

11:00: I pick up Gracie and she launches herself into my arms as usual. She insists on grabbing a rock from the snowy flower beds outside. She has to get a rock every week. My car is full of small grey rocks I try to confiscate when she's not paying attention. She asks to listen to the Grinch song on the way home, then Hakuna Matata comes on. She seems to be under the impression that Hakuna Matata is a type of avocado??? I tell her it's just a saying. Then she says "Can I see a picture of Kuna's Katatas?" No one prepared me for how to explain Hakuna Matata to a 3-year-old.

On the way home, we stop by our friend's house. Their 5-year-old has been in the hospital for weeks recovering from major surgery and multiple dangerous complications. Gracie gives their cat some much needed attention while I take care of a few things for them.

11:30: We're home, and Gracie makes a beeline to her room to put pajamas on. I almost do the same thing. I put some dishes away and start making lunch. I went grocery shopping the other day and decided I'd make salads for lunch. The problem is, I bought the spinach but forgot everything else. I improvise. I find some fish in the freezer and pop it in the oven. Gracie gets mac n cheese, avocado, and strawberries. While I make her lunch, she makes WK lunch in her play kitchen. I make a fish salad with whatever I can find: berries, craisins, walnuts, and the other half of the avocado. When Gracie asks what I'm eating and I tell her it's a fish salad, she says "is that a joke?" All I want is something unhealthy, so yes. It feels like a joke, but at least it's tasty. You know. Relatively speaking.

Don't be too impressed. Sometimes I have a frozen pizza for lunch.

12:15: Lunch is made and someone requests lunch by candlelight. I'm all about that idea.

12:30ish: I do the dishes from lunch and breakfast. This is the bane of my existence. I can do most housework cheerfully, but I loathe the dishes. I don't remember what it's like to have the luxury of a dishwasher. People talk about the never ending cycle of laundry, but laundry doesn't bother me. The dishes are truly NEVER ENDING. After they're done, I tackle the floors. They've seen better days. I get the vacuum out, and Gracie grabs her play Minnie Mouse vacuum. It's so cute that she wants to clean with me, but not when she thinks the vacuums are bumper cars. She tells me I can't vacuum in her room because WK is napping in her bed. I put my invisible silencer around me that only works on kitty ears and went in anyway. While vacuuming, I see the birthday card I bought for my dad out of the corner of my eye. It should've been in the mail days ago but I keep forgetting. I quickly fill it out and then realize the sheet of stamps that is always in my way is suddenly nowhere to be found. Eventually, we run it out to mail box. Gracie is in a nightgown and I'm in fuzzy slippers. Our neighbors love us! When we get back inside, I put a load of laundry away and throw some sheets in the washer and feed the cat.

1:30: I declare it to be Quiet Time. This used to mean nap time, but things have been a'changin' lately and I'm still trying to figure out what to do. QT in her room has not been going over well lately. Today, I turn on Daniel Tiger for her to watch while she quietly (LOL) plays and rests. Usually I read, but I finished my book last night and am not in a book mood. I grab my laptop to start this post but get sucked into a FB argument. Arguing on Facebook goes against everything I stand for, but so do the people saying we will die of cancer if everything we eat isn't organic. All the eye rolls. At least this one is very civil and calm.

2:45: I've been working on this post for awhile, and then Gracie and I decide it's snack time. We each have a little treat every afternoon. I make a cup of coffee and grab one dark chocolate covered peppermint joe joe from TJ's. It's truly sinful. Gracie gets a fruit snack. I throw the towels in the dryer.

3:04: James texts that he's on his way home. Sweeeeet. He'll have to be on a conference call when he gets home, but just having the moral support in the house is nice. Gracie gets her paper and markers out and draws pictures. This is my favorite thing ever. I have to take all the marker lids off for her because she got a little handsy with the lotion when I told her to put a little on after washing her hands since I can see her eczema trying to flare up again. Her hands and arms are literally white with lotion.

I help her color in the grass and sky and ask her what she drew. "It's you in the sky!"

I have so many questions.

We hang it up in her room.

3:37: I call my mom to update her on some stuff. We talk for awhile and Gracie suddenly decides she's famished. She goes through a bowl of blueberries, a clementine, and some sweet chili pistachios while I'm on the phone. James comes home and immediately goes to the other room and gets on a conference call. The late afternoon toddler meltdown takes place over water. "Normal water doesn't work with my 'spachios (pistachios)!"

4:30: James is finishing up his work in the kitchen and Gracie is pretending to fight Goliath. She makes a sling shot out of a crayon and baby doll blanket and is running around screaming taunts to Goliath, wherever he is. Then she plays the role of Goliath and tells David to go back to his sheep. She's a one-woman show and I'm cracking up.

5:15: We're having leftovers tonight, so I don't have to cook. I grab a banana and a few of Gracie's crackers and leave for the gym. I try to go several nights a week, but it's 20 minutes away so not very convenient. When it's warmer out, I walk outside. When I get to the gym, the employees are all huddled together at the front desk eating hot wings. THE SMELL IS TANTALIZING. This is the gym that hosts a pizza night and a bagel night, so I shouldn't be surprised that the employees are eating wings on the job. The smell tempts me during my whole workout and I have to fight to keep from drooling. By the time I leave, I'm HANGRY and nearly lunge across the desk to grab their leftovers.

My town looks like a Hallmark movie during Christmas time. There are old churches with steeples on every corner and light-up snowflakes on the poles and real snow on the ground. I love it.

7:15: I'm finally home. Gracie is in bed. I hop in the shower and talk to James and clean up the crayon explosion that never got cleaned up in the living room. I heat up some leftovers of spaghetti meat sauce over spaghetti squash instead of pasta (I'm weird and like that better than actual noodles), green beans, and a slice of homemade french bread. I didn't take a picture because I was so hungry I could've stabbed someone.

7:45: It's way later than I usually eat. James and I have dinner and watch a few episodes of The Blacklist.

9:30: I get ready for bed and grab a new book to start reading, but I get distracted when I look and realize UNCLE RICO IS IN BED NEXT TO ME.

He has a mustache for Movember which I think is DUMB, but I'm trying to be a supportive wife and ignore it. Anyway, I pull up a picture of Uncle Rico to prove my point and we're laughing hysterically. WHICH ONE IS MY HUSBAND, I DON'T KNOW.

I fall asleep much later than planned because I'm far too amused.

And that is a pretty accurate day in my life. I edited out some tantrums and things like that because no one needs to read about those. Instead of Bible Study, sometimes we go to the grocery store, or a playdate, or we stay home in our pajamas. It just depends, and I'm thankful for the freedom to do whatever works best that day.

 The last time I did one of these, Gracie was barely 1! And in both posts, I made spaghetti for dinner. Some things never change. Hopefully the mustache will change, though, or I will not be sharing my tots with him.