Thursday, May 28, 2015

{book report} My Latest Reads // May

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
This was such a unique, fun read!  The book is set up unlike anything I've ever read - a series of flashbacks, emails, and other documents all woven together to tell an interesting (and sometimes funny!) story.  It was definitely a page turner; I wanted to figure out where Bernadette disappeared to!  Perfect for summer, I'd recommend as a fast beach read.

See You in a Hundred Years by Logan Ward
This book is about a couple's challenge to spend an entire year living like it was 1900.  If it didn't exist 100 years ago, they went without.  That includes everything from electricity to the internet to indoor plumbing!  Although I read some critical reviews, I still found the premise intriguing.  It reinforced my desire to live in a farmhouse in the country, although I'd like to keep all my modern conveniences, hah!

A Fifty Year Silence by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
I've been struggling to put into words how I feel after reading this book.  Essentially, it's a memoir about a granddaughter discovering her family history and how it coincided with World War II.  It is a story about relationships, the good and the bad, and how life events can alter even the most well-intentioned.  It was an interesting read and I finished it quickly.  As the eternal optimist, I wanted a happy ending, which it couldn't deliver.  But life isn't always sunshine and roses, right?     
(I received this book from Blogging for Books, but all opinions are my own.)

What are you reading this summer?  I always love recommendations!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

{friendship} My Top Five Favorite Ways to Support Bloggers

One of my goals for May was to support my blogging friends in a more active way.  Instead of looking at blogs as solely a way to ingest information, I tried to do my part too.  This goal is still a big work in progress.  Like many, my blog reading time is so limited, but here are five ways I've been trying to be intentional about spreading love to other bloggers:   

1.  Leave a meaningful comment. // With today's social media, it is way too easy to simply "like" or heart a blog post without any real effort.  And while there is nothing wrong with that, I've been trying to take the time and really add to the conversation instead.  Bloggers LOVE comments.  Sometimes blogging can feel like a one-sided conversation and to have someone take the time to leave their thoughts...well, it's special.  I love hearing from my readers, so I'm now trying to do the same.

2. Share. // Have you ever read a post and found yourself nodding in agreement the entire time?  Maybe you tried a blogger's recipe or followed her tutorial and the result was amazing?  Instead of just ingesting that information and moving on, I've been sharing it with my family and friends.  I'd also like to add a monthly roundup into my blog rotation because the internet is SO full of amazing, talented women.    

3. Click on the sidebar ads. // Many of the blogs I read are just small time mama blogs like me.  We put a few ads on our sidebars in the hopes that maybe someday, we'll earn enough to receive a check.  Depending on your pageviews, most ads only generate pennies a day, but something is better than nothing!  I have tried to get into the habit of reading a blog post, then quickly scanning the sidebar for an ad to click.  It just takes a few seconds more, but I hope it helps get that mama a little closer to her goal.   

4. Shop through their links. // Similar to #3 above, small mama blogs like mine also include affiliate links as a way to generate a little income.  When you click through their link and then make a purchase, a teeny percentage will go back to the blogger at no additional cost to you.  The most popular affiliate I've seen is Amazon, so I try to find a blogger to support every time I make a purchase.  I look for an ad (like on my own sidebar) or even scan a few posts for a product link.  

5. Cheer them on! // Not all of us are meant to become big-name bloggers and that is okay.  Even so, our voice is still important.  I tend to be a bit bashful about praising others, but am working to get out of my comfort zone and do it anyway!  To the blogger that inspires you, makes you laugh and challenges you to be better, let her know and cheer her on.  I think those bloggers deserve to know that their presence on the internet is worthwhile.  

Linking up with Rachel!  What ways do you support the blogs that you love to read?  And tell me your favorites - I'm always looking for great reads!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

{creativity} Summer Stitching Stash Blast: My Summer Projects

Like many things in my life, my creativity tends to go through seasons.  Since TJ's birth last fall, I've mostly put crafty things on the back burner.  Reading is a much easier hobby when you constantly have a baby in your arms!  Now as spring turns into summer, my baby gets a little older and I'm ready to return once again.

And oh my, do I have a laundry list of half-finished projects to tackle!  Here are the three big cross-stitch projects I hope to accomplish this summer:

Storybook Princesses
After I made the boys their superhero pillows a few weeks ago, Sophie started asking for one too!  I showed her the options and she chose the Disney princesses (I think Anna and Elsa sealed the deal).  This will be my fourth WeeLittleStitches pattern and they are so great.

Winter Snowflakes
I was on a roll with this easy pattern last summer, but didn't finish before TJ was born.  I just found it again and it shouldn't take long to knock it out.  Still deciding what to do with the finished product.

Mother Teresa
This one was started about two years ago and I can only work on it in bits and pieces.  SO many color changes!  I'm debating changing the pattern to accommodate a round hoop, so I can hang it in a gallery wall in my office.   

I'll be participating in Erica's Summer Stitching Stash Blast linkups and updating my progress in my weekly around here posts.  Hopefully that will create a little accountability!  Have any projects on your to-do list this summer?

Friday, May 22, 2015

{around here} Week 20/52: Week of 5.18.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

feeling pretty good considering the craziness I put my body through on Sunday!  I was sore on Monday and part of Tuesday, but was back to normal by Tuesday night.  I'm easing back into exercise this week, but I can't wait to get back out there and just run for fun. 

still sad about a hurtful incident at the store last weekend.  My (well-behaved!) children and I were walking through the aisles and my husband overheard two young men make a snide comment about me and my family size.  I wish I could say that comments like those roll off my back, but they don't.  Time for some thicker skin, I guess.  

cheering for M as he was nominated to play in his soccer league's all-star game.  He isn't one of the best players on the team, but what he lacks in skill, he makes up with heart.  That kid always gives his absolute best.  And best part?  Out of all of those talented kids, mine scored the only goal.  I'm a proud mama.

listening to D begin to read!  We finished his Pre-Reading curriculum and we've quickly moved onto the next level because, "I want to read, Mama!"  Something is finally clicking and he is sounding out sounds and reading a few words like a champ.  I am so proud of him and get all choked up watching the excitement on his face.  He keeps saying, "Are you crying again, mama!?"

reading the beginning chapter of our book club book for June!  So excited to share more details soon.

watching videos about making super heroes with the rainbow loom with the boys.  M and I started trying and have come close, but keep making an error here and there.  Consider this our summer project...they are challenging!

playing with friends at the park during these gorgeous spring days.

laughing at Sophie and her frequent clothing changes.  Our friend just gave her a big bag full of hand-me-downs and you'd think it was Christmas!  She wanted to try on every single thing, each time saying, "Me yike dis one, mama!" 

researching ideas for next school year.  I'm already writing notes about curriculum choices and searching Pinterest for crafts and activities.  I'd like to have a solid plan soon, so I can slowly purchase the things we need throughout the summer.  Another fun addition to next year: we will be joining a homeschool co-op! 

trying another facial mask while Mark was gone and the kids were asleep.  Most "girly" things are so out of my comfort zone, but I'm quickly becoming a fan of these scrubs.  My face feels awesome afterward!

watching J's tenderness for TJ.  He loves to watch him for me and I will often hear him sharing his guys and telling his little brother all about them.  I can't wait to see how their relationship grows.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

{health} Running My First Half Marathon: the Marine Corps Historic Half

Last Sunday, I finally checked off a big goal on my life list: I completed my first half marathon!  The day was surreal and there are so many things I don't want to forget:

I want to nervous I was the entire week prior to the race.  I was so excited, but the unknown absolutely terrified me.  Was I ready for this?  Had I trained properly?  Would I embarrass myself?

I want to two big goals for the race: Cross that finish line.  Run smart so you don't need to be in a medic's tent with a thermometer up your bum.  I had a preferred finish time as well, but that wasn't nearly as important.     

I want to remember...being wide awake at 4:30 after a restless night's sleep.  I got myself ready and ate my peanut butter toast with banana, then got the kids up with Mark and my dad.  We were out the door by 5:30.  

I want to remember...the weather!  By 7am, temps were already in the 70s, with a real feel of 90 and 98% humidity.  I was not prepared for the heat, but thankful that I chose to wear a Camelbak.  It allowed me to bypass some of the water stations and helped me mentally, knowing I could hydrate at any time.

I want to my music suddenly stopped working right after passing the starting line.  I keep my phone in my Camelbak, which is really inconvenient to take on and off (especially with so many people around!), so I was unable to figure out what went wrong.  I remember praying, "Okay, Lord, you've got my attention.  I guess we'll be talking a lot the next two hours."  

I want to dad's advice (he's the runner I hope to be someday!): "Just focus on one mile at a time."  Because I didn't have my music to distract me, I made Dr. Seuss-like rhymes for myself for every mile: "You've done three, now you can four!  You're doing great, what's one more?"  Ridiculous, but it worked.    

I want to remember...feeling pretty strong throughout most of the race.  My pace was much slower than I hoped, but it was also expected due to the heat.  The course was beautiful, weaving through neighborhoods and downtown Fredericksburg.  Fatigue did set in around miles 10 and 11, which unfortunately coincided with "Hospital Hill", the hardest part of the race.  I walked more than I wanted, but tried not to beat myself up over it.  

I want to remember...mile 12, which was lined with photos of fallen soldiers and Marines.  There were also at least 50 people from Wear Blue: Run to Remember holding American flags with the names of the fallen service members embroidered onto ribbons attached to each flag.  It was moving and humbling.

I want to remember...coming around the last big bend to see my sweet little family waiting to cheer me on.  I was so happy to see them, and then my dad a little further along the course!  I definitely needed that little boost at the end!  

I want to remember...when I hugged Sophia after finishing, she said, "You a good runner, Mama".  And when I thanked J for being so patient and waiting for me to finish the race, he said, "I wouldn't miss your race ever ever."

So thankful for a body that has proven to do so much more than I ever thought possible.  I can't wait to run another soon!
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