Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything (okay, you won't see any mystery or sci-fi picks on here), watching things, especially if they make me think but especially if they can 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.

2018 03 14 Book Breakfast 01.jpg


George and Lizzie
I heard lots of people hyping this novel up, but I never really got into it. I found George and Lizzie's entire relationship to be a little weird, and there was a whole sex thing from Lizzie's past that I found mostly strange and never quite fleshed out for me. Overall, the book was about marriage and how our past shapes what we think marriage and love should be. Which sounds great and super interesting but it never quite got there for me. Really, the problem was that I didn't care all that much about George or Lizzie to really get into it. The characters had so much potential, and it all fell flat. I was kind of disappointed.

Everything I Never Told You
After Little Fires Everywhere, I immediately hopped on the waiting list for this one. Celeste Ng really shines with creating character portraits -- this one about a Chinese American (well, the father is Chinese, the mother American) in the 1970s. I found the exploration of what it means to be in a mixed family, especially for the children, to be fascinating. It was also an interesting exploration of family overall, as it detailed out the relationships between mother and daughters, father and son, sisters and brother throughout the course of the book.

An American Marriage
I might be broken inside, because I did not have the overwhelmingly positive response to this book that everyone else seems to have. I found most of the characters to be downright dislikable, the writing took a turn in the middle that didn't pay off for me, and, to be perfectly honest, I wonder if I just couldn't relate to the characters in the book because of their blackness. While I won't spoil anything of the plot, I didn't connect to either Roy or Celestial in the story. The characters had so much going for them, and I love me a good flawed character, but these flawed characters had no redeeming qualities for me. I just didn't understand them. However I couldn't stop thinking about this book for a solid week after I finished, so maybe I'm not giving it the credit it deserves.

The Locals
I found this novel and the writing to be fascinating. It's admittedly depressing - every single person in the just-barely-post 9/11 town of Howland, Massachusettes basically hates their lives - but all in such different, interesting ways. The author, Jonathan Dee, does an amazing job weaving their lives together and giving us background details on so many different people. It wasn't a happy read, but it was certainly a fascinating one.

Glory in the Ordinary
I was a bit wary of this book before I opened it. Even as a stay-at-home mom, I'm a bit skeptical of anything that smacks of "staying home is the only acceptable way to be a Christian woman", but I am so pleased to report that this book was not that. I really give credit to the author, Courtney Reissig, for encouraging all moms in their own work, whether of the stay-at-home or working mom variety. In the end she encourages all women in their work of the home - we all have a home to take care of at the end of the day regardless of any outside or paid work we do - and picking up those toys, cooking those dinners, and washing those dishes yet again matter to every one of our families. She also gave examples of a variety of moms: a part-time working mom, a full-time working mom, and a stay at home mom, which again I really appreciated from a book I initially thought might only sing the virtues of always-in-the-home mothers. I give Courtney full credit for recognizing the realities and complexities of our modern families and encouraging all of us in what seems to be our never-ending work of the home.

So. Freaking. Good. A group of friends recommended this one and I finally bought it and was not disappointed. Literally one of my new favorite books. Ever. It's a novel about hockey that's not really about the hockey. (It also doesn't hurt that my hometown of White Bear Lake is a bit fanatical about hockey and has our very own team of "da Bears".) I loved every single thing about this book. I swear Fredrick Backman is secretly a psychiatrist; he captured the emotions and deep truths behind everyone in the book from 15-year old girls to the working mom to the old hockey coach. I can't recommend this one enough. I am a serial re-reader, and I guarantee I will be coming back to this one again and again. (And one note, I found the plot to be strangely similar to Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle. They're very different books overall, mostly because Picoult's version is part graphic novel, but the main plot point - same. Pretty much exactly.)


Queer Eye
I am 100% here for this reboot. The Fab Five are adorable, lovable, and absolutely kill it every time. I also appreciate the candor and honesty from both the Five and the men they makeover. While I haven't finished the season, they've talked about homosexuality in the church, the tension between black Americans and the police, and sexism in really beautiful, insightful (if not always deep - each episode is only around 40 minutes) ways. I appreciate how they educate without judging, and everyone comes to a greater understanding of one another at the end of each episode. I literally finish watching every one with a smile on my face.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction
Such an interesting show. Okay, so far I've only watched the Obama one but it was so. good. I love how Letterman has defined a new version of the talk show: just a stage, himself, and his guest. It's honest, truthful, and funny. I'm also 100% here for Letterman's facial hair. Also, I just discovered that his most recent guest was Malala Yousafzai and OMG I need to go watch right freaking now.


The Popcast
Two-thirds of the way through March and we're still living through the 2017-2018 Winter That Will Never End. I think I'm looking for sunshine, joy, and happiness wherever I can find it these days to compensate for our dreary weather and The Popcast is all of that. Not only do I feel more informed on all things pop culture, (which I was lacking in knowledge of even before becoming a mom) but Knox and Jamie are just a joy to listen to. They're lighthearted, funny, and don't take themselves too seriously. It's a delightful escape.

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

The Rhythm

I know I’ve written a lot about our nap transition — ahem, nap dropping — over the past year. It’s been a shock to the system, so to speak. Suddenly, the routine that had been established for the past two-plus years (lunch at 11, nap at noon) was gone. Where does one go from there?

While I now institute an hour of quiet time for the twins starting around noon, it can be anything but. There are days I spend much of that time herding not one but two four-year olds back to their respective quiet time spots.

“Is quiet time done yet?”
“Can I have some paper?”
“I can’t get this sticker off.”
“Is quiet time done now?”
“Do you know where my bunny is?”
“I want you to put a blanket on me.”
“If I have to come up here ONE MORE TIME you guys don’t get to watch any TV this afternoon!”
“Mommy? I pooped!!! I need help!”

(Sigh. It never fails.)

It’s not always so dramatic, of course. And Caden has even gone back to napping 90% of the time. Yet even on the best of days that hour flies by in a blink as I eat my own lunch, clean up from the morning and (maybe) get started on another task. Combined with the fact that Nolan, my only reliable napper, has been incapable of sleeping for more than 60 minutes at a time and has also forgotten how to play with the toys in his bed upon waking up (“Mommy! Mom-mee! Mom-MEE!”). It feels like I’m thrown right back in the thick of it, just when the quiet has begun.

It’s a loss for sure. I’ve been flailing to find a new rhythm. Nap time would typically find me on my laptop, making my weekly meal plan, paying bills, budgeting, doing miscellaneous shopping, researching everything from preschools to dance studios to restaurants for date night. Some tasks simpler than others; all nearly impossible with a curious four-year old hovering on my knees.

“What’s that?”
“Is that for me?”
“Can we watch Elsa?”
“What are you doing?”

On the best of days I would get more restful self-care-type activities done. Writing, reading, editing photos. Those days seem to be long gone. Where evenings used to be a restful time for me, I’m now often completing those necessary household tasks — the meal planning, scheduling, and shopping — that don’t get done during the day. It seems laughable to think that once upon a time I used naptime to eat lunch, clean up from the morning, tackle cleaning bathrooms or organizing the pantry, and still have time leftover to watch Netflix. It seems as much another life as my pre-kid one. 


So my question is, what do you do when you lose your rhythm? The one that keeps you alive and well and whole and you?

The simple answer, the easiest one, is, of course: find a new rhythm.

But what if it’s not that simple? What if the chaos of kids and schedules and diapers and commitments and, oh, I don’t know, life just plain get in the way?


We do find new rhythms, consciously or not. Ours right now involves a bit more screen time. That’s not the answer I want to give, the “acceptable” one, the Instagrammable one, which is maybe why I wrestle over it. I’d love to say my three sit peacefully at the kitchen table upon emerging from their respective quiet time rooms, carefully and quietly constructing the craft I’ve meticulously prepared while eating a snack of almonds and apple slices. Neatly.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

The honest answer is that now, most days, I dump Nolan on the couch after his pathetic attempt at a nap and succumb to his request of, “Watch sumthin” so I can pick up where I left off on the grocery order/email/essay/etc. Brooklyn joins and they sit together in (relative) peace and quiet until Caden creeps down to join, and I sigh and close my laptop because it’s time for me to rejoin the fray and figure out our afternoon.


It took me awhile. I first wrote most of those words above nearly four months ago. But recently, I realized I have added a new rhythm for myself during their daily post-nap screen time: reading.

Since their footsteps or cries of “Mommy!” always happen much sooner than I’d care for, I usually feel robbed of my own daily quiet time. A single hour in the middle of a solid 12-hour parenting shift — often punctuated by requests from the non-sleeper(s) and attempts at other household tasks — doesn’t typically leave me feeling very recharged.

2018 03 08 Nolan Me Couch 01.jpg

Instead of springing into action the minute I hear footfalls on the steps — quick, they’re up! Do this, this, and this! — I’ve been closing my laptop, grabbing a book, and joining them on the couch. I’ve had years of practice tuning out the outside world in order to get lost in a book. Sometimes it’s my Bible, most days it’s the latest library loan on my e-reader, this week I’ve been familiarizing myself with all things Whole 30 (I know. Pray for me). I get some snuggles and some extra time to rest and relax and clear my head. I like to think they might look back on this time and remember it, remember me, right next to them piled up on the couch with blankets and throw pillows instead of in a room away consumed by my laptop. I feel a bit more free during the naptime hour since I don’t have to cram in lunch and cleaning and grocery shopping and self-care. I may not get to complete all my tasks right when I want to, but at least I have a book and some snuggles to look forward to while they watch another episode or two of whatever the latest TV craze is around here.

And while I really, really miss the luxury of having reliable, consistent two-hour nappers, this might just be the best rhythm of all.

For the Mom Who Threatened to Take Away Screen Time and Now Has to Actually Do It

Damn it.

Your threats of taking away screen time did nothing to deter your preschooler from leaving their room “one more time” during quiet time. Now you actually have to follow through and take that screen time away after all.

Just why did, “If you come out of your room one more time you don’t get to watch anything on TV this afternoon” come out of your mouth anyway? It really was not your best idea, brain. You now have zero reprieve from the quiet time that was anything but and the long stretch of afternoon hours that often seem never-ending even with the promise of screen time.

This is also for the mom who threatened her toddler with, “if you throw one more rock we have to leave” at the park and then they did throw one more rock. I know you were at the park for less than a fraction of the time it took to get ready to go there (the pre-planning of packing up snacks and diapers the night before, negotiating over shoes, fights to both brush teeth and wear proper jackets) and now you have to leave because you said you would and good moms follow through on their word.

And let’s not forget you, mom who warned “if you can’t stop hitting we’re not getting ice cream tonight” and now not only are your kids not getting ice cream but now you aren’t getting any either. Unless you somehow manage to make an ice cream run after everyone is in bed but you’ll already be in sweatpants and the couch will be calling your name and ugh. It’s just not the same. A family visit to the local ice cream shop ruined over one last punch to the arm. You hope it was worth it.

This is also for you, siblings. I know you’re crying over the loss of screen time/leaving the park/lack of ice cream because one of you ruined it for all of you. I feel like crying, too, over those exact same things. It’s hard for me to tell you our day isn’t ruined when I also feel like it kind of actually is.

2017 01 05 Legos 01.jpg

But you’ll get through this day, all of you, I promise. I won’t promise that you won’t yell, cry, or otherwise feel angry and frustrated. But you’ll make it through, all the way to bedtime. You’ll get new chances tomorrow, every last one of you.

Lost screen time mom? I know all chance of self-care is basically out the window as your afternoon now involves entertaining kids with more energy than you really have to give. You’ll be cleaning up Play-doh, paint, crayons, and more dinosaur figures than you thought you owned in an attempt to get them interested in something, anything, just long enough to heat up your cup of coffee and sneak a Girl Scout cookie somewhere they won’t see.

Park mom? I know you wanted to stay. You put in the work to meet your friends, so not only have your kids lost out on the chance for playtime, but you lost out on your own social interaction for the day. It is so totally not fair. Your friends’ kids didn’t throw rocks. They didn’t have to leave. They still get to sit there with their coffees and their sunglasses and their bags full of Goldfish crackers and have an adult conversation. Sigh. Today it was you. Tomorrow it could be them. It’s small comfort in the moment, but I do promise they’re not judging you or your kid as much as you think they are. Not at all, actually. Kids throw rocks. It happens sometimes. Today it was yours and you stuck to your guns and your words and you left, and that is, in fact, truly admirable.

No ice cream mom? Ouch. I’m sorry. Ice cream is truly delicious and you’d been talking up this ice cream run to the kids all day. You’d think that would be enough to stop the hitting. Seriously, what gives? On the bright side, you’ve easily saved yourself $20 and don’t have to clean up multiple sets of sticky fingers, faces, and even hair. No ice cream still sucks but, hey, you do have beer in the fridge. You can toast in the dark, quiet, post-bedtime hours to surviving and being an adult and getting to drink a beer and stay up late watching a show or reading a book to recover from the day.

Tomorrow there may be screen time, or another playdate, or even an ice cream run to look forward to. Still. I know you have to live through the rest of the day right here and right now. So I’ll say it one more time:

Damn it.

Life Lately

"Joke," Nolan says, "Joke!" It started with our Google Home. Caden and Brooklyn discovered they could walk over, "Hey Google. Tell me a joke!", and it went from there. Then Tyson told them the classic "Why did the chicken cross the road?". Since then they come up with their own versions, all ending with the punchline "to get to the other side." Caden's are usually something like "Why did the chicken cross the road and fight the car and then fall into a tree?" If you ask Nolan what his joke is, though, he responds with, "Cross...tree!" or "Cross...cheese!" or "Cross...water!" or "Cross...*insert noun of something in his immediate vicinity here*!" He thinks it's just hilarious. 

2017 01 23 Nolan Bed 02.jpg


At the end of January - a mere month ago, though it seems much longer - we traveled to Arizona to visit Tyson's brother and his family. It was the first time we flew with the kids and they did great! We filled their backpacks up with snacks, Target dollar section goodies, and, most importantly, their tablets. Caden and Brooklyn did just fine on our 3+ hour flights, though Nolan tended to bounce around between Tyson and I, to Tyson's mom, to Tyson's dad, who traveled with us. 

2017 01 25 Both Arizona 01.jpg

Our flight back home was late, we didn't land until 11:00 at night, and while everyone was certain the kids would fall asleep on the plane I knew better. Caden conked out during the last hour, Brooklyn literally fell asleep as we touched down on the runway, but Nolan was active on his tablet until the bitter end, until we were taxiing to the runway and he gave up while I rocked him on my shoulder. "Bed! Go to bed!" he sobbed and the entire airplane laughed in solidarity.

It was nice to escape to the sunshine for a few days in the midst of this long, cold winter. We visited the beautiful and amazing Phoenix Zoo, explored the concrete structures and fed the ducks at the Riparian Preserve, and ate some delicious, local food at Joe's Farm Grill. We also learned that Tyson's brother and his family will be moving this summer to join us up here in Minnesota! We're very excited to have them nearby, and glad we took what was probably our last chance to visit them in the Arizona sunshine.

2018 01 26 All Arizona 02.jpg
2018 01 27 All Arizona 02.jpg


I'm sure you've seen that we celebrated a slew of birthdays recently. First the twins', then Nolan's. I curse February every year, especially birthday week since it all feels like just so much, but as soon as it's all over I think, "Hey, that wasn't so bad. And now we're done for the year!" Basically I spend two weeks in February overwhelmed with all things birthday and am thrilled about it for the other 11 1/2 months out of the year. 


Something less fun during our mega-super-birthday week was getting rear-ended while we were sitting at a red light. On Caden and Brooklyn's birthday. We're all just fine, but our van...

not so much. Caden was more curious about it all than anything else ("It was really loud and then our window broke.") while Brooklyn was upset once the police showed up ("Are we going to jail?") but they really haven't talked about it since, so I guess they're over it? We're waiting to hear back from the repair shop before moving forward with anything (And at just what point do they total out the car? Seriously, how much does an entire rear power door to a van, and then some, cost, anyway?) but since the driver who hit us was charged with a DWI, well, they're in a lot more trouble than we are right now.


The Parkland shooting has been weighing heavy on my mind. I plan to join the Minnesota March for Our Lives taking place on Saturday, March 24th (Local? Join me!) and have been waiting for our local Moms Demand Action group to have a chapter meeting near me (South and East're just not doing it for me). 

I've toned down my news consumption and social media usage since the 2016 election had me reading ALL THE THINGS for too many months and I found it obsessive and ultimately not good for me. Of the few things I have read, Emma Gonzalez and her fellow students are giving me life, this article by Washington Post's editorial board was both direct and insightful, and these parents are my heroes for standing up and asking the intense, direct, right questions of both their senators and the NRA.


We've had quite the winter this year. Some years are cold, some years are snowy, this year we've had more than our fair share of BOTH. As I type this it's snowing and we're in the midst of yet another Winter Storm Warning. We've had snow since before Halloween, making this our fourth month of full-blown actual winter. It's safe to say I'm over it

  Except when it's pretty.

Except when it's pretty.

One way I've been tackling the winter blahs is to really create a schedule for us. Not only for activities outside the house but also for when we're at home. Art Time has been a major life saver these past few months. At 4 or 4:30 or so we put everything away for the day. I pull out some sort of art supplies or project, (as well as my own coloring book and pencils), turn on some music, and we wind down.

Caden has been working on this piece for weeks now. He calls it his "beast's castle" (we have a slight Beauty and the Beast obsession) and it's something he pulls out almost every day to work on. He usually values quantity over quality, cranking out page after page after page in his coloring book, construction paper, etc., but this is something he continues to come back to. I'm impressed by his attention span and the level of detail he's put into it. I also can't recommend ginormous pieces of paper enough, since the sheer size keeps them occupied far longer than your average piece of construction paper.

2018 02 05 Caden Art Time 01.jpg


Nolan has hit full-blown two-year old independence in recent weeks. "I do it" has become his life verse. Except he says, "I did it!", even before he's even done anything. Garbage to throw away? "I did it!" Me grabbing the remote to turn the TV off? "I did it!" Putting the lid on his sippy cup? "I did it!" This is often accompanied by lots of jumping up and down and stamping of feet, of course, for sheer emphasis.

2018 02 22 Nolan Birthday 02.jpg


We've also been about all things OLYMPICS! The kids have gotten into it a little this year and you better BELIEVE the birthday party theme four years from now will be a winter Olympics one. Nolan cries out "Hockey!" whenever we turn the TV on, whether hockey is actually playing or not. (That's my boy.) I've been particularly into the women's skating events, the pairs free skate, skeleton (y'all are bananas), bobsledding, and the snowboard cross racing. I didn't watch, but I'm also thrilled the women's hockey team picked up the gold medal. Now that everything is all wrapped up, our lives can go back to normal, and we can resume catching up on everything from the shows to the podcasts to the household cleaning we've missed from being camped out in front of the TV from 7-10:00 pm (at least) for the past two+ weeks.

A Dinosaur Princess Birthday Party

You know I can't resist posting about the kids' birthday party each year. My inner creative goes nuts as I research everything that has to do with anything connected to the party theme. And I think this every year, but this time, I mean it: This was my favorite birthday party yet!

The theme? A dinosaur princess one, of course.

2018 02 17 Both Party 01.jpg
2018 02 17 Nolan Party 02.jpg
2018 02 17 All Party 01.jpg

Brooklyn's dress. Tiara headbands.

I'll say it was easier to come up with dinosaur-themed things than princess ones. Taking to Google for a "princess party" search ends up with a billion results featuring Disney princesses, but what if you just want a generic princess theme? I settled on lots of gold, sparkles, and crowns, and hoped the shiny dinosaurs were enough. (According to the two birthday kids above, they were.)

  Stomp, sparkle, roar, we're turning two and four! Clever...right?

Stomp, sparkle, roar, we're turning two and four! Clever...right?

2018 02 17 Party 17.jpg
2018 02 17 Party 18.jpg
  Cupcake  wrappers . Pearlized  dinosaurs . Gold  dinosaurs . Dinosaur  sprinkles .

Cupcake wrappers. Pearlized dinosaurs. Gold dinosaurs. Dinosaur sprinkles.

I praised myself last year for the genius move of ordering out for all the cakes. This year? Well, it got away from me. I lost January to guests, work travel for Tyson, and family travel for us all. By the time I was thinking - really thinking -- about all things dinosaur and princess and party it was really too late to order anything from a bakery. I tackled all three cakes and 36 cupcakes the day before the party. My cake decorating skills may be mediocre, but it was nothing some sparkles, sprinkles, and gold dinosaurs couldn't save.

(And if you're interested: Layer cake recipe. Buttercream frosting recipe. Chocolate cupcake recipe. Apple spice cupcake recipe. Cream cheese frosting recipe. Everything turned out yummy and I will be using all of these recipes again and again. Especially that chocolate cupcake one - yum!)

  Definitely my favorite one. That   pterodactylis giving me life.

Definitely my favorite one. That pterodactylis giving me life.

I create a photo banner every year with pictures from the past twelve months. It's one of my favorite (and most difficult) tasks. We leave it to hang for a few weeks even once the birthday festivities are over, and then I tuck the photos away in a box upstairs. It guarantees that I've at least printed out some photos each year instead of leaving them all to the digital confines of my computer.

2018 02 17 Party 12.jpg
  Dinosaur  banners . Gold  balloons .

Dinosaur banners. Gold balloons.

Mostly, it was dinosaurs, dinosaurs everywhere.

Literally everywhere.

  Dinosaur  necklace .

Dinosaur necklace.

2018 02 17 All Party 03.jpg

Brooklyn is shaking her groove thing with one of these dinosaur tails. Foam crown craft. Ginormous giraffe courtesy of my brother. That's what uncles are for, right?

This was also probably the most relaxing birthday party we've ever had. I toned down the guest list to a more manageable size this year and the kids were all old enough to fend for themselves. I didn't have to worry about nursing a baby or hovering over six tiny hands trying to reach the cupcakes. (Only two tiny hands... *cough* Nolan *cough*) 

Everyone had fun with all things "dine-a-sord" (that's a Nolan-ism) and princess. Caden asked me if we can have another party after quiet time today. I'm enjoying the last few chocolate cupcakes. Also prepping for actual birthdays around here on Tuesday (the twins') and Thursday (Nolan's). There's a chance that our current snowstorm may be keeping us snowed-in tomorrow, but at least our house is decorated appropriately.

If you're interested:

Candy first and third birthday party
Barnyard second birthday party
Ties and Tutus first birthday party