This May was the first month all year that was fairly “normal” for our family. No big events to plan for, no visitors in town. Many of our usual weekly church commitments went on hiatus for the summer. After a busy winter and early spring, it was just what we needed. I missed having lots of fun things to look forward to, but it also felt good to step back for a few weeks. I was able to knock out a few lingering items on my to-do list, like getting my hair done and my teeth cleaned, and we spent lots of lazy days playing at home, hanging out at the library, and walking to get ice cream. It was a great time of winding down as we prepare for what will be a fun, but hopefully still relaxing, summer!
// READING LATELY //
I listened to a couple of truly horrible audiobooks this month (well, not necessarily horrible—just not for me), but I’ve also read/listened to quite a few awesome ones! The onset of summer makes me crave a good mystery, and I See You and The Couple Next Door were both chilling, edge-of-your seat thrillers that totally fit the bill, keeping me glued to my earphones til the very end. Per Anne Bogel’s recommendation, I just downloaded The Dry from my library and I have high hopes that it will be another engrossing read.
I love Tsh Oxenreider, and her latest book about traveling the world with her family is perfection. I enjoyed it so much, I bought my mom a copy for Mother’s Day. I finally got around to reading Mere Christianity; how had I lived 33 years without reading this? It was every bit as powerful and thought-provoking as I hoped it would be. I am currently reading I Capture the Castle as my monthly Reading Challenge book (a book written during the 1940s). It’s not a quick read, but it is really good. As always, I’ll be sharing full reviews of all my recent reads in next month’s Quick Lit post.
// WATCHING LATELY //
New Girl, Season 5: After my lackluster impressions of Season 4, I had given up on New Girl. But we couldn’t decide in what to watch next and just wanted something fun and light so we decided to give the show another shot. I’m glad we did. This season wasn’t quite as dirty as the previous one, and the writing was a lot stronger. I missed Jess in the episodes Zooey Deschanel was out on maternity leave but was surprised by how much I enjoyed Megan Fox’s “substitute” character. The season finale was the best episode of the whole series and I think I’m on board to watch Season 6. I still hold the view that New Girl is a raunchier, less creative knockoff of HIMYM but at least it is entertaining.
My Rating: 3.5 stars.
Star Wars (Episodes I—VI): Star Wars isn’t really my thing, probably because I didn’t grow up watching it (though Star Tours was always one of my favorite rides at Disneyland). Luke did grow up with Star Wars and eagerly introduced me to the first six films shortly after we were married. I remember liking them more than anticipated and was therefore open to rewatching them all in preparation to watch the latest two movies (which we still hadn’t seen).
I’m not quite sure what I saw in these films seven years ago, because I didn’t like them at all this time through. There is too much action and not enough story to hold my interest, and the sci-fi elements are just so weird. (No offense to all the sci-fi lovers out there, it simply isn’t my genre.) We watched the movies in chronological order, which is probably considered sacrilegious to die-hard fans, but did help me appreciate the overarching storyline a little more. I sat through Episodes I through III unable to focus on much, other than the fact that the acting and writing were so stiff and generally pretty terrible; while these components are stronger in Episodes IV through VI, the puppets and general imagery of the original three films is incredibly cheesy to my modern eyes.
My Rating (Average of all 6 films): 2.5 stars
Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens: Wow, this more recent addition to the Star Wars franchise is lightyears better than either the originals or the prequels. It is visually very appealing, has a good balance between action and story, contains some great humorous moments, and is not too sc-fiy in appearance. The movie picks up the old story line in just the right place and ties in well with the older movies while almost standing on its own as well. I loved all of the new characters and appreciated the updated versions on the older ones. I’m actually looking forward to the continuation of the series.
My Rating: 3.5 stars.
The Great British Baking Show: I’ve already written a whole lotta words about my love-bordering-on-obsession for this show. I can’t quite put my finger on why it’s gotten me hooked; maybe it’s the gorgeous scenery, the helpful but kind judges, the goofy hosts, the inspiring baking expertise, or just the chance to watch talented people succeed at something they are passion about. Whatever the reason, watching TGBBS has proven to be one of the highlights of my spring and I’ve been working my way through it at record speed—especially surprising, given that I’m watching it without Luke, which means I’m not viewing it during my usual TV time; it’s mostly been snippets of show watched on my phone while I’m nursing Charlie to sleep (which has been a brutal task lately, but that’s a story for another time). I finished the first two seasons, and enjoyed Season 1 much more (I preferred that batch of the contestants and also found the judges much less harsh); the good news is that the Netflix Season 1 actually came after Netflix Season 2 (they were the BBC Seasons 5 and 4 respectively) so I’m hoping that means the show just gets better, and I’m looking forward to Season 3.
My Rating (So Far): 5 stars!
Moana: We’re big Disney fans around here so I always get excited about the latest releases. I didn’t get to see this one in the theater, but I’m glad that I finally got around to watching it, and I was very impressed! The animation is simply breathtaking, and I just loved the fun tropical setting—anything multicultural always gets extra points from me! I didn’t think the plot or the music were quite as strong as Frozen, but the visuals nearly made up for those shortfalls. Another bonus is that Charleston LOVED Moana, which means we have a third movie to add to his repertoire (he previously would only sit through Finding Nemo and Finding Dory; I think he likes movies with oceans!)
My Rating: 4 stars.
// LISTENING LATELY //
After falling in love with the movie, the Moana soundtrack immediately became Charleston’s favorite collection of songs and it has now replaced the La La Land soundtrack as his most frequently request (and played) album. I don’t mind at all because the music is fun to sing and dance to and has a great beat. Charlie especially loves the song You’re Welcome and would happily listen to it on repeat all day long—and there are days when we do!
Charleston occasionally lets us listen to something else, and my personal album of choice lately has been Paramore’s latest album, After Laughter. The songs have a throwback 80s vibe which is different from Paramore’s usual fare but is still a lot of fun. The lyrics deal with serious themes like anxiety and depression, creating a unique contrast with the upbeat sound that I find quite relatable, reminding me that at times we all find ourselves acting positive despite underlying anxiety and depression. Haley Williams is an incredibly talented singer and songwriter and I’ve enjoyed following the trajectory of her musical career.
We’ve been listening to music on our Sonos wireless speaker, a recent household purchase that I’m absolutely loving. It has great sound quality, pairs with both our phones and sits unobtrusively on our TV stand without any unsightly wires (a huge plus with a toddler in the house). We are able to stream from any music service and lately we’ve been using Google Play Music. We like this service more than the other top competitors (Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music) because you can play either a station or a specific album and can also upload all of your own music to your library. Google Music also has a really great interface that is easy to navigate. We are on the family plan, which is only $14.99 for up to six accounts and has YouTube Red bundled in (I don’t watch much on YouTube, but this feature was the primary draw for Luke).
// COOKING LATELY //
Last month I told you about our favorite banana muffin recipe. This month I decided to branch out and try a different, slightly healthier recipe. These Banana Oat Greek Yogurt Muffins were another great way to use up some overripe bananas and are super easy to make, using just eight ingredients that I already had on hand. Both Luke and Charleston preferred the more traditional recipe, but these still got their approval (the chocolate chips keep them from tasting too healthy) and I like that they are gluten free, which means that I got to enjoy them too. I made them in a mini muffin tin and it was nice to have them in the fridge as a quick and easy snack. I’d like to try making them with blueberries in place of the chocolate chips.
// REFLECTING //
We said goodbye to our pet Sunnybird this month. He was 21 years old and had been with me since my twelfth birthday, accompanying me into marriage and eventually becoming a “big brother” to Charleston, who was fascinated by our pet long before he could even talk. I was surprised by how hard I took the loss: Sunny was our only pet, and though he was just a bird, he held a very special place in my heart.
By far, the hardest part of losing Sunny was helping my child through the grieving process. It was Charleston who discovered him dead at the bottom of his cage and he was understandably quite upset. This was his first exposure to death and loss, and we wanted to navigate the situation in the best way possible (not easy when I, the parent, was just as sad). We buried Sunny in our yard and had a small memorial service complete with a prayer and a song (Charleston suggested “Wheels on the Bus” but we went with “Love You Forever” instead). We also have spent a lot of time talking to Charlie about how Sunny flew away to Heaven to be with Jesus—something that has caused some confusion, since Heaven happens to be the name of the babysitter at the gym, which means he thinks that both Jesus and Sunny live at our Rec. Center.
We will miss Sunny but I’m thankful that he had such a long life and brought me much joy for so many years. It breaks my heart that Charleston has now experienced his first loss, and I’m even more saddened by the thought of how much more heartbreak and loss he will inevitably experience in his life. Witnessing my child’s pain is the hardest part of being a mom and I wish that I could absorb life’s hardships for him; I’m just grateful that, for now at least, I’m able to hold his hand during the pain. I know that won’t always be the case.
// 2017 LOVE CHALLENGE UPDATE //
I didn’t have a monthly challenge in mind for this month’s quest to share more love in 2017. When our community group began a study on “Loving Your Spouse,” I knew I had my answer. In working to share more love this year, it’s been easy for me to focus on serving/loving people outside my home (strangers, friends, etc.) while neglecting to show extra love towards the person in my life who I love the very most. Luke is a kind, hardworking, conscientious husband and father, yet I totally take him and all of his wonderful qualities for granted. This month—and hopefully beyond—I focused on reciprocating his love with both actions and words. We each took the Love Language quiz, which pointed me to the very best ways to show Luke how much I love him. Additionally, I’ve been working on having a general attitude of love and appreciation towards my husband. Loving Luke the best way I can is crucial to the longterm success of our marriage, and I’m thankful to be married to a man who is 100% deserving of all the love I can give him.
// MONTHLY HIGHLIGHTS //
As I shared in my intro, May was very low key. That’s not to say we didn’t have some fun moments, but there wasn’t much that was really blog-worthy. One exception was a fun day trip Charleston and I took a few weeks ago with some friends and their kids. We rode the commuter train into Downtown Austin, stopped by VooDoo donuts (Charleston picked out his first real donut, though it went mostly uneaten), then walked a couple of miles past the Capitol to the iMax theater, where Charleston had his first movie-going experience (he wasn’t a fan, and ten minutes into the movie he was begging for milkies, then proceeded to nurse himself to sleep and missed most of the movie). It was a busy day and took me outside of my comfort zone, but still a lot of fun. And it left quite an impression: the train passes by our house, and now every time Charleston hears it he squeals “it’s MY train, it’s MY train!” He’s already talking about going to see another movie—I’m hoping we have a bit more luck with theater trip number two!
What were some highlights of your month? I’d love to hear about them! And if you’re looking to read more monthly wrap-ups like this one, head to Leigh Kraemer’s site where I’m linking up with a community of other bloggers to share what we’re into this month!