This month has felt very transitional to me: with Charlie’s passing the three-month mark, I feel like I’ve moved beyond being a “new mom” and onto. . . well, just being a mom. We’re getting a bit more sleep these days and have settled into some more predictable routines, and while I still have my “holy cow, I have a BABY” moments, I’m finally allowing myself to accept that this is my new normal. (In other words, I’m no longer terrified that I’m going to wake up one day to find out that this has all been a wonderful dream.) As I continue to adjust to this ever-shifting role of stay-at-home mom, I’ve been taking time to contemplate what I want my life to look like, and how I plan to get there; fortunately, there are no right or wrong answers, and I’ve got my whole life to figure it out. In the meantime, I’m soaking up all of the blessings that are washing over me right now!
On My Nightstand . . .
Whistling Past the Graveyard, by Susan Crandall: This book is told from the perspective of Starla Claudelle, a precocious nine-year-old growing up in the south in the early 1960s. When Starla runs away from her strict grandmother, she finds herself on the road to Nashville, accompanied by a black woman and a white baby. Through their perilous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of segregation, and she comes to a better understanding of herself and those around her. This book merges the runaway aspects of Huckleberry Finn with the child narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird and the racial themes of The Help. I often don’t care for books that are such a blatant mash-up of other works, but Crandall successfully combines the best elements of each of these books to tell a story that is simultaneously familiar and fresh. Her characters are sympathetic and complex, and the issues they face are intriguing but believable. The book’s last few chapters were a bit of a letdown and felt drawn-out compared to the fast-paced nature of the rest of the story, but overall I found this book both entertaining and enlightening. My Rating: 4 stars.
Side Note: I usually borrow my books from the library, but I read Whistling Past the Graveyard for my book club, and since it wasn’t available to check out by the time I needed it, I caved and bought the Kindle version. I decided to purchase the Whispersync too so I could listen to the book in case I didn’t finish reading on time. I really enjoyed having the option to alternate between reading and listening (sometimes doing both). I wish it wasn’t so pricey because I would love to read all books this way.
Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young: This devotional—written from the perspective of Jesus speaking directly to the reader—has long been a favorite of mine; I’m always amazed at how the readings seem to speak so perfectly into what I need to hear on any given day. I’d been wanting to start reading through it again this year, but a majority of my reading time is currently spent holding and/or feeding a baby, which makes it difficult for me to read from a physical book. I decided to purchase the Kindle version in order to increase my likelihood of getting in my daily reading, and now, the daily devotionals have become part of my morning story time with Charlie. Though he’s obviously not getting too much out of it (yet!), it’s never too early to instill a habit of spending time in God’s word, and the brief meditations help me to get my day off on the right track.
100 Days of Real Food, by Lisa Leake: My brother and sister-in-law gave this book to me for my birthday, and I was really excited to read it because it seemed totally in line with the dietary changes we’ve been working to adopt in our home lately. The first half of the book contains the author’s argument for following a “real food” diet. She includes tips for establishing a real food lifestyle, offers meal planning advice, and provides suggestions for addressing potential challenges, such as getting family members on board and eating healthy on a budget. The second half of the book contains recipes that implement these real food principles. I appreciate the author’s premise, and agree that a real food diet is ideal. However, though I’d like to incorporate more real foods into our lifestyle, I’m not willing to go to the extremes that Leake has taken with her own family. Leake’s suggestions come across as somewhat dogmatic and even pretentious, particularly given the fact that she offers very little concrete evidence for her bias against processed foods, mostly citing other authors’ works along with her own personal experiences. As for the cookbook portion, the recipes will serve as a good starting off point, but are fairly basic, and I was disappointed that almost all of them contain gluten; this surprised me, because even though Leake’s family might be fine with wheat, much of her target audience is likely gluten-free, as we are. Despite these drawbacks, this book inspired me to be more intentional about seeking out whole foods (particularly organic meat, less processed products, and items labeled as non-GMO), and I am looking forward to cooking many of the recipes. My Rating: 3 stars.
Parents Magazine: I always love a good magazine, especially when it comes to me free, as this one does thanks to a year’s free subscription that accompanied one of the items off our baby registry. There’s nothing earth-shattering about Parents, but the articles are interesting and timely. Parents is the perfect read for middle-of-the-night feedings: compelling enough to keep me awake, but light enough that I can absorb the material through my semi-conciousness. 🙂
Audiobook Love . . .
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr: This bestselling novel (which was on my list of must-reads for 2015) follows the lives of a young German soldier and a blind French girl during World War II. The narration, which shifts between the stories of the two characters, bounces back and forth along the timeline, beginning in the 1930s and culminating in 1944, when the paths of the two protagonists converge in occupied France. I REALLY wanted to like this book, as I have heard so many good things! I even listened to it twice because I was so let down after the first time through, I figured I really needed to give it a second chance; it was better with the second listen, but I still didn’t feel that it lived up to the hype. The writing is richly textured and hauntingly beautiful, and the characters are arfully developed, and yet the story moved too slowly for me. I also didn’t care for the fluidity of the timeline, though I’m sure this works better in a physical book (it was difficult to follow on audio). Ultimately, I’d have to say that this is a wonderful book, just not exactly wonderful for me. My Rating: 3.5 stars.
The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty: This Australian novel tells the stories of three women facing impossibly difficult situations: “Mom-of-the-Year” Cecilia’s idyllic life comes to a crashing halt when she opens a letter revealing her husband’s deepest secret; middle-aged Rachel is still grieving the long-ago death of her daughter, whom she believes was murdered by a well-liked teacher at the Catholic school where she works as a secretary; and introverted Tess is devastated to learn that her husband has fallen in love with her best friend/cousin. Each of these women has a distinct journey to follow, yet their stories overlap in some surprising ways. This was my first introduction to Liane Moriarty, and I was impressed with her ability to paint intriguing but relatable characters. The internal monologues of each protagonist were entertaining and insightful, and the women’s stories were compelling, if a bit far fetched. On the surface, this is a lighthearted piece of chick-lit, but the themes and moral ambiguities addressed here delve far deeper than most books of this genre. My Rating: 4 stars.
Landline, by Rainbow Rowell: Landline is the second book I’ve read from Rainbow Rowell, and after my disappointment with Eleanor and Park, I had fairly low expectations. This book surprised me, though. The protagonist is Georgie, a television writer whose work and (male) best friend/writing partner have pulled her away from her family and driven a wedge between herself and her husband, Neil. When Neil takes the kids to his mom’s home in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie stays behind in California and is left wondering if her marriage is coming to an end. In an attempt to communicate with Neil while he’s gone, Georgie makes a phone call and finds herself talking with Neil of 15 years ago, giving her a chance to rekindle their marriage—or, if she isn’t careful, end it before it begins. Though written for adults, the writing in Landline reads like a YA novel (Rowell’s usual fare) and the pacing felt a bit off. However, I was drawn to the sweet storyline and resonated with Rowell’s depiction of how a relationship shifts over time. My Rating: 3.5 stars.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins: Rachel, an alcoholic divorcee, takes a daily commuter train that passes the home of her ex-husband and his new family. From the train, Rachel admires a couple who live a few doors down from her former home, and she goes so far as to give them imaginary names and fantasize about their seemingly idyllic lives. When the wife goes missing, Rachel’s from-a-distance observations lead to her involvement in the investigation. Girl on the Train‘s unreliable narrators (the book’s three female leads), cast of unlikable characters, and suspenseful storyline has led many to cite it as the next Gone Girl. Though it lacks Gone Girl’s complexity and shock value, this was a gripping and entertaining read. My Rating: 4 stars.
Courtesy of Netflix and Redbox. . .
Glee Season 5: From the beginning, I’ve enjoyed Glee almost exclusively for the music: I watch in spite of the story lines, rather than because of them. The music in Season 5 was as good as ever, and I am continually blown away by the musical talent of the show’s stars. I was also more drawn to the plots this season than in the past, though I don’t care for the way the show continues to push boundaries simply for the sake of being controversial. I particularly liked the second half of the season which takes place in New York, and felt this was a good direction to take the show as I—along with most viewers, I’m sure—have always been more invested in the original characters than the newer, younger additions. My one complaint with Season 5 was the lackluster choreography, which was almost nonexistent in some episodes. My Rating: 4 stars.
Gone Girl: When I first heard that Gone Girl was being made into a movie, I made my mom read the book so I’d have somebody to go see it with me. (I knew Luke would see it, but I wanted someone who could join me in making movie/book comparisons.) We never got around to seeing the movie in the theater, so this month we finally RedBoxed it. The film starts off a bit slow, but overall, I thought it was very well done. While they didn’t fit my mental images of Amy and Nick, Ben Afleck and Rosamund Pike are excellent in their roles, and the rest of the movie is perfectly cast (I totally had pictured Neil Patrick Harris as Desi when I read the book!). The film follows the book very closely, and though it feels much darker and more gruesome than the book, it somehow lacks the spellbinding suspense of the book (though that might have been because I knew what was coming). The movie also fails to convey the total scope of Amy’s disturbing (but brilliant) depravity, which was unmistakable in the novel. Ultimately, I’m glad I saw the film but don’t know how much I would have appreciated it if I wasn’t already a big fan of the novel. My Rating: 4 stars.
Into the Woods: I haven’t seen the stage version of this show, and was not familiar with most of the music, but the trailers had me intrigued. I of course loved the fairy tale element, and though I was surprised by the fact that almost the whole movie was sung, I thought the music was good and would have enjoyed it even more if I’d known more of the songs. (To the annoyance of those around me, I like to be able to sing along with my musicals). The costumes and overall production are well done, though the story is a bit bizarre for my taste, and I didn’t care for the ending. I was disappointed that Johnny Depp’s part was so small, but I was very impressed with the entire cast, particularly with the singing voices of Anna Kendrick and Emily Blunt. Overall I enjoyed the film. My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1: Mockingjay was my least favorite of the Hunger Games books, largely because I felt it was too slow. So I was disappointed when the filmmakers decided to split an already drawn-out book into two movies! I was still eager to see what they did with the material, though. The movie is very faithful to the book, and the acting is excellent. However, the film suffers from a lack of plot development, confirming my initial thoughts that Mockingjay should have been kept to one movie. But with so much material to cover in the fourth movie, I’m sure the final installment will be good, and I’m looking forward to its release. My Rating: 2.5 stars.
Enjoying This Month. . .
Becoming a “Hat Person”: In addition to the Real Food cookbook, Austin and Amairany’s birthday gift to me included a black fedora. Never having been a hat girl, I felt a bit self-conscious the first few times I wore it in public, but I soon fell in love with my hat and wanted to wear it all the time; the only drawback was that it didn’t go with all of my outfits, so I bought myself a SECOND hat in a more neutral color. Now I have a fedora for every outfit!
Being Part of a Book Club: With my passion for reading, it’s hard to believe that I’ve never participated in a real book club before. When a friend invited me to join her monthly club, I immediately took her up on the offer! Though I’ve only been to one meeting so far, I’m already loving this chance for some quality adult interaction, and I appreciate the group’s laid-back approach to book discussion—intellectual, but not above making quirky movie analogies. I can’t wait for next month’s discussion of We Were Liars!
Mommy/Charlie Nature Walks: Lately, one of my favorite pastimes has been to strap Charlie into my wrap or his stroller and go exploring through a nearby park or trail. If Charlie is awake, I talk to him about what we are seeing; if he’s sleeping (which usually happens within a few minutes) I put on an audiobook or podcast and pull out my phone to take pictures of the surrounding flora and fauna. Most days, the fresh air and change of scenery is all we need to forestall a mid-day meltdown (from baby AND mommy).
Operation Minimalist: One of my most surprising discoveries since becoming a mom has been the realization that a tiny human is a powerful catalyst for self improvement. (<— A topic which deserves an entire post—or TEN—of its own!) One of the many things Charlie’s birth has revealed to me is my over dependence on physical objects. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a hoarder, I’m very sentimental and have always had a hard time getting rid of things. Since becoming a family of three, Luke and I have both begun to evaluate our personal possessions and are working to pare down superfluous items. It hasn’t been easy, and we still have a long way to go before I could consider us a truly minimalist family, but the process has been cathartic and I’m looking forward to continuing along this path toward materialistic freedom.
Toasted Coconut Chips: Luke’s sister ordered a multi-pack of these Bare Coconut Chips and shared a couple of bags with us. Although coconut is one of my favorite flavors, I’ve never cared for coconut itself (the texture kind of grosses me out), so I doubted that I’d like these. I gave them a try, though, and I’m so glad that I did! These chips are crispy rather than chewy and have nothing of a coconut texture to them. We tried the Simply Toasted flavor, which tastes like coconut-flavored kettle corn. The other flavors sound delicious, and I’m dying to sample the sea salt caramel. Unfortunately these chips are pretty pricy, so I might try making my own; the only ingredients are coconut, salt, and sugar, so how hard could it be?!
Generational Photos: I was blessed to have grown up knowing my maternal great grandparents (they passed away when I was in Jr. High), and one of my favorite family photos is one taken of me as a baby with my mom, grandmother, and great grandmother. I am thankful Charlie, too, has been able to get to know four of his great-grandparents. On Easter we had the opportunity to replicate the four-generations photo with my mom and Oma, and last weekend Charlie met his daddy’s grandpa and we captured a picture of three Jernejcic men; what precious memories! I am grateful for each of these parents and grandparents, and for their presence in Charlie’s life and mine.
I hope that your April has been filled with wonderful things; leave a comment to let me know what you’ve been up to this month! And check out Leigh Kramer’s site, where bloggers from across the internet are linking up to share what we’ve been into this month.