February may be the shortest month of the year, but this seemingly unassuming month can be fierce, and this year it just about did me in. Between family colds and sleepless nights with the twins, I’ve been struggling to keep it together most days, and have had to be very intentional about choosing joy each morning.
I told Luke recently that I think God gave us twins because He wanted to hear from me more often; if that was the case, His plan worked, because God and I are in constant conversation from sunrise to sunset, and all the dark hours in between. I am forever thankful for each day’s fresh start and for daily opportunities to serve my family and the Lord in this small but wonderful life He has given me.
// READING LATELY //
I read quite a bit of nonfiction this month. I LOVED this essay collection from one of my favorite authors, and had some great takeaways from this recent release from Anne Bogel (reviewed here). This book is a must read for every library lover, and I found this graphic memoir to be very well done. This book about finances and this one about YA fiction from the 1980s and 1990s were both major disappointments, as was this highly reviewed book about conquering stress.
As for this month’s fiction, I thought this romantic comedy was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed this quirky book featuring ghosts, eccentric characters, and a high-stakes scavenger hunt. The latest in the delightful Three Pines series was also a fantastic read. On the opposite end of the enjoyment spectrum, this was one of the worst books I’ve read in years. Reviews of all of these titles coming soon!
// WATCHING LATELY //
Aladdin ~ I’ve always loved the original Aladdin and was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to see this remake in the theater. I was excited to see it show up on Disney Plus, and Luke and I finally convinced Charleston to watch it for a movie night. (Actually, there was no convincing; we watched it on Luke’s birthday, and Charleston was given no say in the matter.)
I was so impressed with nearly every aspect of the film, beginning with the casting, which is impeccable. The actors who played Jafar and Aladdin were spot-on, and I was blown away by the actress playing Jasmine. She is stunning, and WHOA, what a voice! (So glad the film makers gave her some extra singing parts to show it off!) Will Smith wasn’t quite as great as I wanted him to be, but that can be chalked up to the fact that Robin Williams left some impossibly big shoes to fill.
The plot was further removed from the source material than the other Disney remakes. While I liked some of the changes (particularly Genie as the narrator, and the incorporation of a love interest for him), some seemed like the filmmakers were trying too hard to address supposed sexism and racism of the ordinal film. Also, the beginning of the movie would have been difficult to follow without knowledge of the animated version. But on a positive note, the movie’s visuals are incredible, and even though some of the graphic effects seemed off, I was impressed with the scenery and choreography.
Overall I adored this movie and was so happy that Charleston ended up loving it too.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars.
Miss Americana ~ I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift’s music since the release of her very first album, and have enjoyed watching the trajectory of her career. But like many fans, I’ve been unsure what to think about Taylor herself—probably because she’s always been so guarded. From the moment I learned about this documentary, I couldn’t wait to watch it, hoping it would provide an up-close look at the musician I’ve come to love from afar.
The documentary provides a brief overview of Taylor’s musical career, from her early years of falling in love with music and writing songs to perform for her family, to growing up in the spotlight and making a name for herself. The focus of the documentary is Taylor’s shift from being a people-pleaser to someone who has found her own voice and is unafraid to speak her mind, even when it isn’t popular. We see Taylor embracing her true self and relinquishing the good girl persona that everyone had come to expect from her.
I have so many feelings about this documentary! On a positive note, enjoyed learning a little more about the person behind the music and I loved getting a glimpse at her song-writing process. I was captivated by the clips from her concerts (having mostly heard rather than seen her perform, I’d never fully appreciated what an excellent entertainer she is) and was impressed with her vulnerability regarding her eating disorder, her loneliness, and her insatiable need for success and approval. That said, I still don’t quite feel like we were given the complete picture of the “real” Taylor Swift. We get no insight into what prompted the changes Taylor experienced and we are given very few reflections or commentaries from those around Taylor or even from Taylor herself beyond cryptic monologues. The heavy editing paints Taylor in a very favorable light, making her out to be both heroine and victim without shedding light on her shortcomings.
I have a hard time believing that this newly outspoken Taylor Swift is genuine: her opinions are very much in line with popular culture and I can’t help but wonder if this is yet another instance of Taylor becoming what her fans want her to be. Today’s audiences crave vulnerability and that seems to be what she is providing, but it still has the sheen of perfection and political correctness, making it difficult to trust. Rather than standing out, she appears to be trying harder than ever to fit in.
I came away from this documentary with a deep respect for Taylor as a businesswoman. While I still love her music, and respect her right to be the performer and the individual she wants to be without being subjected to cruelty or hatred from her audience, I didn’t find her to be a particularly endearing individual. More than anything, I felt sorry for her lack of relationships or real-life experience outside the public eye.
Have you watched this yet? I’d love to year your thoughts.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
// MONTHLY CHARLIE-ISMS //
Nobody warned me that my child’s turning five would put him on the fast track to big-kid-dom, but that’s what seems to have happened! This was a momentous month for Charleston: he finally mastered buckling his own car seat and showering all by himself, and he had a great experience with his first (non-family) babysitter this past Tuesday night. Luke introduced him to his first Star Wars movie (Charleston wasn’t a fan, much to Daddy’s sadness), and we jumped into the exciting world of chapter books with some Magic Treehouse books (which have been a hit after the initial adjustment to reading books without pictures). Of course, we’ve continued to have wonderful conversations, and I was able to document some of the awesome things he said.
+ After I had reprimanded him: “Mom, sometimes I feel like I don’t like you when you say those things. But only when you say those things.” Me: “That’s okay. I like you all the time.” Charleston: “And you love me no matter what, right?” Me: “Yep, no matter what. Will you love ME no matter what?” Charleston: “I’ll try. But I have a very important question to ask you. Will you try to protect me and keep me safe no matter what too?”
+ Me, after watching a reader of a book on Storyline introduce a book saying that he likes lima beans: “Do you think he really likes lima beans?” Charleston: “Well, he looks nice. And nice people don’t lie. So I think he’s telling the truth. I think he does like lima beans.”
+ When he got frustrated with his car seat and I asked him to drop the attitude, he yelled back: “I’m attituding at my seatbelt.”
+ “Arlo, dogs just have different rules than other people.”
+ After asking me to pause the movie during Aladdin: “I know what’s happening! They (Jafar and Iago) are trying to get him (Aladdin), because only a good person, not an un-superheroish person, can enter the cave.”
+ While driving, Charleston told me to make a left turn when there was oncoming traffic. Me: “I can’t turn her because we will get hit by another car and we would get hurt.” Charleston: “Come on, that’s just what seat belts are for!”
+ “Mom, what I want for my next birthday is another baby. But this one has to not be crying. We just have to pray to God to try to make one. And then their birthday will be on my birthday!”
// HAPPENINGS AND HIGHLIGHTS //
Luke celebrated a birthday this month, and though we didn’t do anything huge to honor the day, we tried to make it special. Charleston wanted to hide Luke’s cards and presents around the house so that Luke had to do a “scavenger hunt” to find them. After presents, we picked up Mod Pizza and Menchie’s and ate dinner watching Aladdin, followed by birthday candles in Luke’s fro-yo. A couple of days later, we celebrated at Lupe Tortilla with extended family. Eating out is pretty stressful four our family these days, but we made it work!
After writing about how Luke and I never celebrate Valentine’s Day, this year ended up being an exception. Luke came home from appointments that morning with three lovely plants: a small rose bush, a heart-shaped succulent garden, and a bouquet of tulips (my favorite flower). It was such a lovely surprise! That afternoon I gave the kids each a Valentine’s book and after getting the kids down a little early, Luke and I had a date night at home. We exchanged gifts (he made me a sweet card and got me a Kendra Scott necklace, which made my gift of taco holders seem a bit paltry), ate dinner, and watched a movie. It was a wonderfully “Old Love” sort of Valentine’s Day celebration, and it was perfect!
// LOOKING AHEAD //
Our family has a big week ahead of us! My friend Cara is flying into town tomorrow and we are attending a one-evening conference together. It also happens to be my birthday on Monday. Plus my mom is in town this whole week, and my dad is coming into town for a few days as well! In order to soak up time with my family while they’re here, I will be taking next couple of weeks off of blogging. But I’ll meet you back here soon!