Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Third Of The Way Through And Where I'm At

Books I read:

Sunrise -- Karen Kingsbury
Summer -- Karen Kingsbury
Someday -- Karen Kingsbury
Shadow Of Night -- Deborah Harkness
At The River's Edge -- Mariah Stewart
The Book Of Life -- Deborah Harkness
The Treatment -- Suzanne Young
Naked In Death -- JD Robb
Reunion -- Karen Kingsbury
The Interestings -- Meg Wolitzer
Essays From My Life: Where Love And Loss Are Held -- Miriam Pellman Maust
What Alice Forgot -- Liane Moriarty
The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry -- Gabrielle Zevin
The Girl On The Train -- Paula Hawkins
A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master" -- Rachel Held Evans
Glory In Death -- JD Robb
Four: A Divergent Collection -- Veronica Roth
I read A LOT this month. However, I normally read a lot so it doesn't surprise me very much. Also, in case you missed it, I participated in a 24 hour readathon which was really fun. I can't wait to do it again (in October!) but I won't be staying up the full 24 hours again. If you want to read my posts from the readathon they are "Before It Started," the 6 hour update, the 12 hour update, the 18 hour update, and the final post.

New recipes I cooked:

Baked Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese -- This was a fairly easy recipe to make, except it used two pots, a colander, and a dish to bake it in. Since we don't have a dishwasher, it felt like a lot of dishes to use. Dave and I really enjoyed it and the kids barely touched it. Awesome. I will probably make it at least once more so ensure the kids weren't having an off day, rather than that they truly dislike it.

Bow Tie Fiesta -- This was really good and I'm already counting the hours until I can make it again. Yum! I would highly recommend this one.

What day am I at with Bible reading?
How many days did I drink enough water?
I am putting the two of these together because I think they are the only resolutions I am going to focus on in May. I am completely sucking at these two right now. I don't even know why. I am really hoping that I will have a much better report for you in June.

What percentage of Sam's lunches were made at night?
All of them except for one. But we got up at 7am to make that one so it didn't make our morning very rushed. I am so thrilled that, in general, this resolution has been working well. I am also thrilled that Dave continues to make the majority of Sam's lunches. Thank you Dave!!!

Where are we at in Canada?
I wrote about Manitoba this month. Alberta will be coming soon and maybe I'll even get BC done this month. Maybe...

This is another resolution which hasn't been going all that well. As in "I ran no times in April." Considering I am signed up for a 5K at the end of this month, this is not boding well. I need to get some running in, amongst the water drinking and Bible reading. Yikes!

House cleaning:
Well, I didn't get our house cleaned every two weeks this month but I did visit each room at least once and the problem rooms (dining room and bathroom) at least every ten days. I feel like, in general, our house is cleaner so that's good.

Bun baking:
I baked buns and made soup one day. It was also the day I cleaned three rooms so I felt like I was rocking at life :)

Giving blood:
I am happy to report that I successfully gave blood for the first time in 2015 this month! I was supposed to give in March between our travels but I was feeling very run down and switched my appointment. I should also mention that giving blood has become a family affair in that, while I am the only one who actually gives, Sam comes with me and watches. For some reason, he is very intrigued by the whole prospect. Dave and Rachel usually show up at the end in time for snacks!

So that's what my 2015 resolutions have looked like so far. Obviously I have identified some problem areas so now I need to identify some reasons as to why they are problem areas, and find some motivation to fix them. Maybe I'll have that figured out by the time I check in at the beginning of June. I sure hope so...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: Me Before You

image from here

This was another book recommendation I got from Erika's post about her book club. It tells the story of Lou and Will. Lou is honest, funny, and brave, but she is living a rather small life -- she still lives with her parents, is dating a guy who isn't all that nice, and doesn't venture outside her small town. Will is a quadriplegic after being in an accident. Before his accident Will traveled, and pursued every adventure he could. Will is understandably bitter and determined. This is the story of how Will and Lou meet and change each other's lives.

My library hold came in as an e-book first. This is important because I have discovered that, for some reason, I read books faster on the iPad. So I started this one night as I was putting Sam to bed. He likes someone to sit with him until he falls asleep so I often do something on the iPad during that time. By the time Sam fell asleep, I was about 100 pages in and hooked. Dave and I started an episode of Downton Abbey but about twenty minutes in I told him, "I can't concentrate on this. I just want to get back to my book." And then I read until I was finished. And I cried. A bunch.

This would be a good time to share one of my favourite someecards because this was one of those books:
image from here

I didn't know what to expect from this story. It grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. It raised a whole bunch of issues about love, quadriplegics, pain, and life. I finished it over a month ago and I'm still thinking about it. And I've read a whole bunch of other books since then. I want to share it with my book club because it's one of those books you just need to talk about with someone after you've read it.

This book was truly funny and truly sad. There were lines that made me laugh out loud. I want to take this quote and write it in my day planner every time I plan something for my family because it is SO TRUE: "Want to know the true definition of the triumph of hope over experience? Plan a fun family day out." -- p 238 (e-book edition).

So if you are okay to cry a little, laugh a little, and to think about some tough issues a lot, this is definitely a book I'd recommend.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


As in I have officially resigned from my preschool board position, effective immediately. (Well, where "immediately" means almost two weeks ago.) And Rachel will be done at the end of May.

It was a very hard decision to make. I struggled with it all year, as you may have guessed. The stress around this incredibly unusual year at the school was extremely intense and I had to finally decide to let it go.

I hate the fact that I didn't fulfill my commitment (which was supposed to go until the end of June) although I did fill all the commitments of my particular position, if that makes any sense.

About an hour after I sent my resignation letter, I finally had a chance to read this blog post from Beth Moore which had been sitting open in my browser all week. And I realized that my opportunities at the preschool are dead, and have been for awhile. It was time to let go of that era of our lives and focus on the new things which are growing. I feel like I've cleared the dead wood away and now new things can grow. However, I need to sit dormant for awhile before I have the energy to allow new growth. I'm both excited and nervous about where this new stage will take me.

I have felt so much freer these past few weeks. There has still be stress around the preschool but I am no longer responsible for it. My e-mail inbox has been blessedly quiet and I am just so peaceful. I feel like I am being a better parent and a better spouse because I can focus on my family again.

But for now, I am resigned to the fact that an era, which started almost exactly three years ago with our first visit to the preschool in May 2012, is almost over. It ended differently than I had hoped, but ended it has.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Readathon Hour 24: I'm So Tired I Don't Even Know If I Make Sense Anymore

Here are my answers for the end of the event meme:

1.Which hour was most daunting for you?
Definitely Hours 20-21. And then again at Hour 22 and a half! I had a nap for half an hour from in Hours 20-21, and I finished a book with an hour and a half left and REALLY wanted to sleep. But I picked up another one and have almost 100 pages read.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
No, I think you guys do a great job!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year's Read-a-thon?
I really enjoyed the community of readers and encouragers on Instagram. Even though I signed up for a cheerleader to visit me on my blog (which they never did -- but honestly, I'm not bothered by it), I got lots of unofficial encouragement on Instagram.

5. How many books did you read?
I read four books for me and seven with my kids.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
The Interestings -- Meg Wolitzer
Essays From My Life: Where Love And Loss Are Held -- Miriam Pellman Maust
What Alice Forgot -- Liane Moriarty
The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry -- Gabrielle Zevin

7. Which book did you enjoy the most?
Definitely What Alice Forgot.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
Definitely The Interestings. It was a book for my book club which meets tonight so I had to read it but I really didn't enjoy it.

9.  If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I wasn't a Cheerleader.

10.   How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I definitely want to participate again. I would not stay up the full 24 hours again and I would likely just participate through Instagram, maybe writing a blog post or two. I would also likely sign up as an official cheerleader on Instagram. I had a lot of fun encouraging, and being encouraged by, the community there.

Hour 18: Another Readathon Update

Well, I've been reading, more or less, for eighteen hours thus far. I'm still not finished The Interestings, but I only have 40 pages left. I told Dave that, sadly, I feel like that book has ruined the readathon for me. It's just been a slog which is not good. However, I did have great break from reading "my" books to read to the kids:
I chose "Read Me A Book" by Barbara Reid to get us started. I love the top right picture because it's obviously an action shot of me reading. Ha ha ha!!! (I might be starting to get just a wee bit tired.)
And "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown is a classic. Then I finished off with "Goodnight, Canada" by Andrea Beck which has become a classic in our house.

Here's my readathon by the numbers thus far:

Books read: 2 (plus 7 kids' books)
Pages read: 970 (plus 109 pages of the kids' books)
Cups of coffee-hot chocolate: 2
Glasses of half iced tea/half lemonade: 3
Bottles of water (750ml): 3
Cans of Coke: 2
Walks around the block: 1
This was me reading around midnight. Now I'm going back to The Interestings (or "The UNInterestings" as I've been calling it.) I'm going to finish it, finish The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and start something new! Whooo hooo!!!

And I probably need more caffeine as it's 2:19am and I have five and a half hours of reading left. Yay?!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Starting Hour 12: A Mid-Event Survey

I'm just beginning my twelfth hour of reading and I'm going to fill out the mid-event survey.
me reading in the sun around hour 9

1. What are you reading right now?
I just finished What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I'm going to begin The Storied Life of A.J. Firky by Gabrielle Zevin next. Also I need to get back to The Interestings since book club begins in a little over 24 hours.

2. How many books have you read so far?
Sadly, only one. But I'm almost done a second book of essays. I say "sadly" because I thought I would have read more by now.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'm hoping to get to Girl On The Train this half. 

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
I haven't had many thus far but I will be interrupting "my reading" to read to the kids in a bit. Once they get home from their day out at their grandparents, that is.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How much I've enjoyed interacting with the Instagram community of readers. I thought I would be much more of an anti-social reader :) And although I've had caffeine in various forms, I have not yet had a Coke!

Books read: 1
Pages read: 683
Cups of coffee-hot chocolate: 2
Glasses of half iced tea/half lemonade: 2
Bottles of water (750ml): 2
Walks around the block: 1  (I need to get moving a bit more!)

Now I'm back to reading...

Hour 6: A Readathon Update

So I've been reading (and Instagramming!) since 8 this morning. Here's what my Readathon numbers look like thus far:
Me at 8am, still in pajamas and wearing glasses, and ready to dive back into The Interestings.

Books read: 0
Pages read: 236
Cups of coffee-hot chocolate: 2
Bottles of water (750ml): 1
Walks around the block: 1

I'm a little frustrated with my reading thus far because I have a book to finish for book club tomorrow. Ironically, I'm just not that into it, despite the fact that it's called The Interestings. I've been alternating with a book of essays by my friend, Janice's mom, Mim, which I'm liking a lot better. I'm about to eat some lunch, while still reading, and I think I'm going to take a break from The Interestings, and read something else from my stack of books.

I'll check in again in a few hours to let you know where I'm at. Until then, I'll leave you with this picture. Sam and Rachel joined me for a bit before heading off to their day's activities.

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon

Edited to Add: For those of you looking for just the opening meme, here are my responses:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Although I am planning on walking around the block into Kitchener! I won't read there though. Yes, we live in a twin city, and yes, I live on the border :)
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Asking me this is like asking me to pick a favourite child :) I don't actually know. ALL OF THEM!!!
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Chips and dip! South Georgia Caviar! Basically, the two I don't have pictured below. Ha ha ha!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
My birthday is next Saturday and my husband and I give each other experiences, rather than gifts. I asked for the Readathon as my birthday experience this year. I have two kids (Sam just turned six and Rachel will be four in June) and they will be spending some time with their grandparents today. They are looking forward to participating in the readathon with me as I read them their stack of bedtime stories (pictured below).

Is it redundant to add that I LOVE to read! And I read pretty much every and anything I can get my hands on. Looking at all the readathon TBR stacks on Instagram has added about twenty new books to my "want to read" list. Yay!
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This is my first readathon and really, I'm looking forward to 24 hours of (mostly) uninterrupted reading!!! And the snacks! And connecting with people :)

And now on with my original warmup post for my blog readers, which gives you a little more information about me and my readathon plans. Happy reading everyone! #rahrahreadathon

It's T minus 46 minutes until the Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon starts! I'm so excited to be participating. I first heard about this from my blog friend, Shoshanah, when she participated in April 2014. For some reason, I missed the one this past October, but I asked Dave if I could participate in this one as my birthday experience. I said I wanted to attempt to read for the whole 24 hours and I knew I would need his support.
I've been gathering my TBR (to be read) pile for awhile now. I know I won't get through all these books but one thing I've heard is to have a wide variety because you don't know what will appeal to you after twenty straight hours of reading. I'm planning on reading from the top down.

The Interestings is my book club book for tomorrow (!) so I need to finish it. I started it a couple of days ago just so that I knew I would be drawn right back into it as the readathon starts. Then I have two books of essays which I will intersperse throughout the event. I put some easy reads at the bottom of my stack so that I will have books to keep me engaged in the middle of the night when I am absolutely exhausted and ready to crawl into bed. And who knows? I might randomly throw another book in there instead, just for fun. Harry Potter anyone? :)
I've put a lot of thought into what I will be wearing and what mug I'll be drinking my coffee-hot chocolate from. Or possibly tea. We'll see what appeals to me as the day goes on.
Speaking of drinking, I picked up some special caffeine to have for later in the day. And also some snacks. Besides those pictured here, I also have some South Georgia Caviar mixed up and I'll likely also eat some chips and dip. In addition, I also have an entire pitcher of cold water to drink throughout the day. I won't just be downing caffeine like it's going out of style.
I've also put a lot of thought into my meals. Dave has offered to pick up a Vincenzo's sandwich for me for lunch, and since he will be gone for supper, I have one of my favourite frozen pizzas to toss in the oven as an easy meal. And I'll probably add a superfoods salad to that as well, just to try and keep things a little healthy :)
The kids will be gone to the synagogue for the morning and Dave's parents are taking them for the afternoon. However, I am planning on reading with them in the evening, and here are all the books we've picked out for us to read together. They also have a much larger stack for Dave to read to them after this stack is done!

My plan is to try and read as much as possible over the next 24 hours. However, I am also going to take some walks around the block, and possibly have a nap or two in there. We shall see...

I am so excited to participate in this for the first time and am really looking forward to my experience. I haven't yet decided how often I will update, but feel free to check back in later on today and see how it's going. And if you're at all inspired, pick up a book and feel free to join me (and the over 1500 1700 other people) who are reading.

Ready... set... READ!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Swamp Rabbit Inn

I promise that this is absolutely the last post about our Southern Road Trip. Thanks for reading along. Also, if you want to read Erika's, Kelly's, Amy's, or Sherry's two posts about our visits with them, from their perspectives, then check them out. And I won't be posting tomorrow but come back on Saturday because I will be (over) posting about my Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon experience. I can't wait!

When I wrote my post about our visit with Amy, one of my commenters wondered why I hadn't shared more photos of the place where we stayed. I didn't share more photos then because I was already planning on writing this! I thought the inn deserved its own post, and here it is :)
While we were in Greenville, SC, we stayed at the Swamp Rabbit Inn. Amy had suggested it as a place to stay and, from what we saw online, it looked like a good place to call home for a few nights.
When we arrived, we just walked in and made ourselves at home. I had thought it was a bed and breakfast and was looking for a host, but really it's like the best of both worlds between a B&B and a hotel. Since the owner doesn't stay there, it's a "make yourself at home" kind of place, with everything you need provided. I started calling it a "DIY B&B."
One thing I don't always like about B&B's is that you need to sit and make small talk with the owners, who are graciously allowing you to stay in their home and serving you wonderful food but sometimes, I just don't feel like talking at breakfast. Here, I could pop into the kitchen and make myself a cup of coffee-hot chocolate at whatever time I wanted to. I didn't have to worry if I wasn't "on time" for breakfast.
A couple of the walls in the main hall and kitchen area were chalkboards and guests are encouraged to write on them. Sam and Rachel sure did. In the left picture you can even see where Rachel wrote "Sam" as well :)
Our room was the Double Owl room and it was nice and roomy and so cute looking. Of course, I forgot to get a picture before our stuff exploded all over the room, but you can see pictures on the website.

Wendy, the owner, showed up almost every day and was full of helpful knowledge about the surrounding area. She told Dave and I about a good running route, starting a block from the inn, and both Dave and I enjoyed a morning run on our last day there. The inn also seemed pretty central to downtown, although since we were visiting Amy, we didn't really explore much around the area.

My only regret is that we didn't get to stay longer. I would have loved to spend an afternoon on the cozy porches reading.
And I'm also sad it was raining on our last morning there so I didn't get really great pictures of the outside. See Amy's post about our visit for more great pictures of the Swamp Rabbit. And if you ever have an excuse to overnight in Greenville, SC, make sure you check this place out. Sam already has a room picked out for our next stay here :)

I wasn't given anything to write this post, I just wanted to write a bit more about a really fun place we discovered on our trip. Except for staying with Matt and Erika, this was definitely our favourite place we stayed at.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Glimpse Into A Life Of Luxury

Dave here, jumping in for a guest post. While Natasha, Sam, and Rachel were hanging out with Amy and her kids, I decided to hit the road and visit the Biltmore, which was an hour from Greenville. The Biltmore was built by the Vanderbilt family in the 1890's as a "getaway" from New York City, and is the largest privately-owned house in the United States.
The Biltmore has 250 rooms, and 4 acres (just under 180,000 square feet) of space. I took a tour of the house, and unfortunately picture-taking wasn't allowed, so I can't share any pictures of the interior. Suffice it to say, the place is huge, and quite honestly I found it a bit much after a while; there was an entire room devoted to several huge tapestries, and room after room (bedrooms, sitting rooms, guest rooms, etc.) filled with countless paintings, sculptures, and intricately-carved furniture.

One cool surprise was an exhibit of costumes from Downton Abbey, on display in various rooms throughout the house. At each display, they had a brief description of the costumes being shown ("Lady Mary's dress, featuring... umm... red fabric of some kind..." obviously I'm not a fashion person, per se), some history behind that costume, and what it conveyed about the attitudes of the time. Since the Biltmore was built to imitate the world in which Downton Abbey is set, the costumes fit in very naturally, and it was a somewhat surreal blend of history and fiction.

Although I couldn't take any pictures while inside the house, here are some photos from just outside.
Welcome to the Biltmore.
One of the many figures adorning the windows.
The view from the loggia (a.k.a. back porch), looking out to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A handful of Greek and Renaissance-style statues on the south terrace.

After wandering inside for a while, it was time to head off to see the gardens. They were also very extensive, and I enjoyed this part of the afternoon much more than the tour of the house. The gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead — who also designed Central Park in New York — and there was a real variety of styles, from a walled English garden, to quiet streams, to huge vine-covered trees.
Starting out in the shrub garden...

Looking through the lattice to the walled garden
Heading into the Spring garden...
Did I mention the huge trees?
The bass pond, a few miles from the house.
A hothouse flower in the Conservatory.
One last view of the house, from the walled garden.

On the whole, I was very glad to have had the chance to visit the Biltmore, as it was definitely a unique experience. It was also interesting to see how a very rich family chose to splurge in the late 1800's, and the ways in which the house drew on European ideas of luxury and culture.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sam's Super Sunday

Sam had a really big day on Sunday. First of all, his tooth, which we first noticed was loose four weeks ago, fell out. Dave and I were actually upstairs when Sam came running up to tell us. "I lost my tooth!!!"

And now that the tooth is gone, we can tell that two others are loose as well. Yikes!

Sam got a special tooth holder from Tim and Janice, shaped like a tooth, which he put his tooth in and left under his pillow. Since The Tooth Fairy decided that the loss of the first tooth was a special occasion, she left him $4. Sam was quite excited.
Sam's birthday party was last Sunday and as usual we did a toonie party. (The "toonie" is the Canadian $2 coin, for those of you who don't know/remember.) We asked each guest to bring at least two toonies -- one to go to a gift for Sam and one to go for a donation. He knew for awhile that he wanted a fish for his birthday gift. We were going to go and get it last Monday night but then Sam had the never ending stomach flu.

So we made the grand trek on Sunday. After talking to the people at the store, we got a beta fish, which Sam named, "Beta." He thought it would be funny if Beta just lived at the end of his bed with Big Elephant. I agreed that it was (temporarily) a good home.
And now Beta is swimming around in his bowl, on Sam's bookshelf. Happily, Beta doesn't need a lot of care. We only have to feed him one (freeze dried) worm every two days, clean out half his water every week or so, and clean his entire bowl every two-three months. As far as pets go, this is enough responsibility for me Sam.

Also, Rachel is jealous that Sam got $4 from the tooth fairy so last night she put some of her money (a whole 45 cents!) in Sam's special tooth holder and slept with it under her pillow. She really hoped The Tooth Fairy would be tricked and leave her some more money. I think she was a little disappointed this morning when she woke up and discovered that her experiment failed. Better luck next time Rachel :)

Monday, April 20, 2015

One Final Road Trip Destination

After we left Sherry and her family in North Carolina, we drove to just outside of Washington, DC to stay with Dave's uncle and aunt. His cousin was visiting from Chicago, so it was nice to see her briefly. We hadn't seen her since our wedding and she had never met Sam and Rachel.

We were originally going to take a city tour of DC but they were pretty expensive, and we didn't want to spend that much time there, so we took the metro in and did a brief walking tour instead. Our first stop was The White House. I asked Sam if he knew who lived there and he said, "George Washington!" I explained that while Washington had been the president at one point, he was not currently in power :)
After we left the White House we walked towards the Washington Monument. We were thrilled that there was a kite flying festival going on underneath it. While we weren't prepared with a kite, there was an option to make one so that's what we did. It was a super cold day but windy so it was good kite flying weather.
After we left the kite festival, we walked down the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial.
We laughed at the fact that the Reflecting Pool was more of a Reflecting Puddle, and didn't reflect much of anything :)
And then, because the kids were tired and cold, this was as close as we got to the Lincoln Memorial.
This short walk through a small piece of DC just whet our appetites for a return trip sometime. Preferably in the summer, and preferably for a longer stretch of time.

And then we left Dave's aunt and uncle's around 3pm and drove straight through, arriving home just after 1am. We were tired, travel weary, and extremely glad to be home again. And thus, our road trip was over.