Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything (okay, you won't see any mystery or sci-fi picks on here), watching things that make me think and especially if they make me laugh, and wholeheartedly embrace the podcast. I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening. Here's my two cents worth.

208 01 29 Book 01.jpg

READ

Fear and Pure
I lumped these two together because I just couldn’t with either of them. I couldn’t finish either. Not because they were poorly written - not at all. It was the subject matter that didn’t do anything for my mental state. The first because, while none of the stories were exactly a surprise, reading about the pure stupidity of our president is not exactly a joyful experience. The second contained a bit more that surprised me, since the countless ways women have been shamed through conservative purity culture are truly disgusting. I had enough real-life familiarity with both subjects that I didn’t need to sit and subject my brain to any more of it. My righteous anger level is already at about an 8 these days, and these books pushed me all the way to about an 11. I had to stop for my own mental stability. (Hello Type 1-ness. If you’re an objective 5, like Tyson, you may fare far better with these reads!)

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
This book has been splashed all over my social media for the past year for good reason. Austin Channing narrates her own experience so beautifully, brutally, and viscerally. Is it a challenging read? In some ways. It’s not a book that sets out to make you feel comfortable. But it’s a very necessary read for anyone who is interested in racial justice today. (Which should be all of us, IMNSHO.)

Girl Meets God
While Lauren Winner’s writing style is beautiful, I had a harder time with this book than with Still. It was easier for me to relate to Still since that’s where I find myself in my own faith journey. The Jewish references in this book (it’s about her conversion from Judaism to Christianity) admittedly mostly went over my head, so that didn’t help.

Daring Greatly
I thought this book and Braving the Wilderness had a lot in common. (Just me? Am I crazy?) They both walk through the importance of vulnerability to create a sense of true belonging. Regardless, this is still a phenomenal reminder of the importance of vulnerability in creating connection. I could probably use basic reminders from Brené about how to be human just about every day!

A Place For Us
I had heard great things about this book and everyone was RIGHT. This novel was so good. My favorite type of novel is a family drama with strong, interesting characters, and this hit those notes perfectly. It’s also about a Muslim family, which was a refreshing change, and led me to Google different aspects of Muslim culture. Also Googling: recipes. I had mad cravings for Indian food while reading this book.

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures
This collection of short essays from first and second-generation immigrants was fascinating. I will say that some of them were better at writing than others - I skimmed through some of the stories that were less compelling. (Including Lin Manuel-Miranda’s…how can you write the most amazing musical of the century but not a short-form essay dude?) Most chronicle their own coming-of-age type stories as they enter American culture as someone who is both American, but also not.

To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope
I think it’s fairly well known by now that President Obama read ten letters every evening, handpicked by the Office of Presidential Correspondence, as a way to help him keep in touch with what was going on in the country. Jeanne Marie Laskas compiled this book by doing interviews with President Obama, some letter writers, and the staff who worked in the correspondence office. The book itself combines personal stories, a history of how the White House post office works, and actual letters. Some of the letters were absolutely heartbreaking, some hard to read - I almost abandoned this book near the beginning while reading one regarding 9/11. By and large they were hopeful. The most compelling chapter was the one devoted to the day following the 2016 election. It brought me back to that time as I read the letters Obama received on that day, as well as the response of the White House staff.

Tattoos on the Heart: the Power of Boundless Compassion
This. Book. Fr. Gregory Boyle (or “G-dog” as he is known on the streets) is an amazing, angel of a person. This book talks about his work with Homeboy Industries, a ministry he began in Los Angeles in a neighborhood known as the gang capitol of the world. This book is essentially a series of parables, detailing the stories of some of the “homies” he has worked with and mentored over the years. This is another heartbreaking, powerful book. To use a Glennon Doyle-ism, it’s flat-out “brutiful”.

WATCHED

7 Days Out
I haven’t watched all the episodes in this series, but the ones on the Kentucky Derby, the Chanel fashion show, and the grand (re)opening of 11 Madison Park were all excellent. They also made this type-A planner sit on the edge of her seat as she wondered if everything could ever possibly get done in time. (Especially the 11 Madison Park one. THE PUNCH LIST they had the day before the opening made me want to cry.)

Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable
There is no way to sum Ellen DeGeneres up, other than that she is a pure delight. I love her. I’m still giggling over her opening skit about how “relatable” she is. This isn’t deep or intellectual or going to make you think that much. It’s just plain enjoyable.

FYRE: the Greatest Party That Never Happened
I know two Fyre documentaries recently exploded onto the scene; since we don’t have an account with Hulu, we went with the Netflix one. Watching this documentary was just as insane, mind-blowing, and unflinchingly critical as you’ve heard. It’s a must-watch, even if it was another thing to make my Type-A eyeballs bug out of my head.

The American Meme
I hadn’t heard of this one before Tyson recommended it. It’s an examination of social media influencer culture. It features interviews with several social media personalities, each with hundreds of thousands of followers, most notably Paris Hilton, who interestingly enough produced the documentary. The most despicable person featured (and you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about if you watch it) was also the one who probably had the most depth of character. I thought the whole thing could have gone deeper into the connections between social media and addiction in our culture, but it gave enough to fodder discussion between Tyson and I for days. (Warning: LOTS of nudity, due to the nature of one of the influencer’s, um, chosen type of influencing.)

LISTENED

The Liturgists Podcast
I’ve been on the fringes of The Liturgists bubble for awhile. OMG WHY DIDN’T I START LISTENING SOONER? They speak deep to my soul, and their mission to foster “compelling discussion, non-judgmental community, and thoughtful, evocative art” is exactly what I need right now. Their episodes on Man and Woman should be required listening or anyone who has a pulse, and the episode on the Enneagram was EXCELLENT, largely because Suzanne Stabile is an amazing teacher. (I know, they’re all crazy long. But so worth it!)

Note: any links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links.

The Worst March Mom

I’m convinced March and August are the absolute worst months out of the year.

The first is a month that sounds like it’s supposed to be spring. Can we all just agree that March, April, and May are spring months? (June, July, and August get summer, September, October, and November claim fall, while December, January, and February are clearly winter. This is basic science and logic.) Apparently Mother Nature is not on board, since she often sends blizzards of snow in late March just to remind us of where we all live. By that point, the snow isn’t magical anymore. It’s something to survive. We’re all sick of the sixth straight month of living in the same few square feet of space and the sibling fights become truly epic.

And August. I just can’t with August. It’s too hot. I don’t like stepping outside and immediately sweating. All the summer activities have ended but the fall ones have yet to begin. It makes for a very long month. I’m over the whole sunscreen thing. I don’t want to wear shorts and tanktops. I’m also sick of coming up with no-cook meal ideas because who wants to cook when it’s 97 degrees outside? Nobody, that’s who.

Now listen, lest you think I’m the grumpiest mom ever, let me tell you that I’m a great beginning-of-season parent.The first real days where it smells like summer or hints at the chill of winter? I am freaking fantastic. My mom game is on point in May and October.

We kick off the first snowfall by drinking hot chocolate. With marshmallows. We watch Frozen as our landscape transforms, even if it’s only a little white dusting across the grass. I drink hot tea again. I break our day into a routine complete with designated snack, art, and quiet times. The fireplace is turned on, our warmest blankets are pulled out, and we are a hunker-down-in-this-house, hygge machine.

2019 03 03 Calendar 01.jpg

Read more over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

Winter in My Body

As we drove back north after a family visit to Iowa, I couldn’t help but notice the quiet beauty of the landscape, mostly flat fields and farmland. The trees, their leaves long lost, reminded me of the sticks my children poked into our own sandbox. I admired the bold, dark forms against the clouded sky. The fields were blanketed with snow now, beautiful in their neutral simplicity. It was a striking palette, all white, slate blue, dark brown.

This is not a time of year typically associated with beauty. Nobody cheers for February’s arrival. The buds of spring, fall leaves, and even the first snow are all greeted joyfully, but February is something to be endured. Living in the Midwest, no one really wants it to snow anymore, but winter isn’t truly over yet either. It’s a sort of no-man’s-land between winter and spring.

I enjoyed it, though, during our drive. Maybe it was because we had the first real glimpse of sun in a run of too many cloudy days, maybe it was because all the kids were napping, or maybe it was because neutrals are the “in” colors right now, but the scenery felt soothing and peaceful.

I realized on this drive that while late winter often does feel like something to be endured, I also felt that way just because it’s what I’d always been told. Once I appreciated it on its own, for its own sort of beauty, my perspective shifted.

2019 02 07 All Snow 01.jpg

+++++

I’ve been grappling with my body these days. We’re not exactly friends. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me: from the outside I appear trim and healthy. I’m blessed with good genes or a good metabolism or both. My shirt size hasn’t changed since middle school (though I’m shopping at different stores now, I promise) and it’s hard to find pants to fit my petite 5-foot almost-2-inch frame. People are routinely surprised my body has carried and borne three children, especially a set of twins. While those numbers on the scale haven’t shifted much, that’s about all that has stayed the same. This body ain’t what it used to be.

Read the rest about my views on this late winter season and my body over on Kindred Mom.

A Super Birthday Party

It began last March-ish. Maybe slightly earlier. I actually think the superhero obsession began right around the time of their birthday party last year. I remember thinking that it was too late to change the theme. Gifts and decorations and cakes had already been bought.

“We can do a superhero party for your birthday next year,” I remember saying. In March. And in May. And in June, July and August. And in November. And now, here we are.

If you still like superheroes, I would think. It was the asterisk, the subtext of my promise to throw them a superhero party. However the kids who planned out their Halloween costumes seven months in advance without ever once deviating (as superheroes, of course) didn’t let me down.

It’s official. They got their superhero party. And I see no end in sight to this particular obsession…

2019 02 16 Party 07.jpg
2019 02 16 Party 17.jpg

Cupcake sprinkles.

2019 02 16 Party 25.jpg

Superhero clipart. Decorative fans. Batman garland (an ode to the superhero who started all this.)

2019 02 16 All Party 07.jpg

Superhero birthday shirts.

My “sheroes” sweatshirt, now officially my new favorite piece of clothing.

+++++

The price of admission this year was a present. “Did you bring us presents?” was how they greeted everyone at the door. I’ve said it before, but just in case it hasn’t sunk in yet please remember that subtlety is not their specialty.

It was the first year in the past five where I didn’t have to watch the cake table like a hawk the entire time (though Nolan got a few frosting swipes and sprinkle steals in). They kind of ran around and did their own thing and opened presents and ate cake like it was their jam. And, at five and three, I guess it is.

+++++

It’s officially birthday week in the Williamses house! And as hard as it is to believe we’re quickly leaving behind the years of toddlerhood, it’s also makes perfect sense as I see how far we’ve come. Here’s to three of the craziest, most loving, most talkative, smartest, most adventurous, and least subtle (almost) three and five-year olds around.

Forget Later

We’ve all heard it. Too many times, probably. Maybe as soon as we pushed those babies out of our bodies or welcomed them into our homes.

They’re only little once. Enjoy it. You can clean the mess later.

When exactly is later? I wonder, as I load up the dishwasher with the things we’ll need if we want to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner again tomorrow. In my head I picture a very literal “later”: a kitchen overcome with over a decade’s worth of dishes to tackle, after my youngest has presumably left the house. Twenty years worth of encrusted grime. Maybe we could use paper plates, but then who would take the garbage out? (Also: the environment. Not good.)

I think of the kids’ bathroom wedged between their bedrooms. How can I possibly clean this later? I can’t do it even after they’re all asleep. The sound of the toilet flushing would wake up the twins on the other side of one wall; running the water to scrub the bathtub would wake up the third on the other side of another.

I look around the playroom after a joy-filled afternoon of play and sigh. The last thing I want to do is deal with this later. It’s a disaster. Absolutely worth it, since all three kids played together so well with everything from puzzles to their play kitchen. But still a complete and total watch-where-you-step-because-you-can’t-see-the-floor disaster. It’s not fair to expect me or my husband to clean this all up later when we didn’t make one iota of this mess. To excuse the kids from their part in this so we can “enjoy them now and clean up later” seems absolutely absurd. And exhausting.

2018 01 30 Caden Legos 01.jpg

Read the rest over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.