Goodness I'm reading A Lot! {more random reading updates}

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My husband was out of the country for three weeks. After the exhaustive game of wrangling children all day, I tended to fall right into bed. I figured I'd binge watch all the TV I missed last year. Instead I did nothing but read. It made for lots of reading in three weeks!

Wonder is a great read for 4th grade and up. Yet, its still a compelling and though provoking story for adults as well. Auggie was born with significant facial abnormalities. The story that unfolds is about the consequence of our words and actions, the power of friendship, and the wide reaching consequences our families have on each of us. I honestly think it's a book I'll read again along with my daughter when she hits pre-teendom. It's a fantastic way to discuss differences, kindness, and the joys of good friendships.

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

This book is totally outside of my wheelhouse and I honestly have no clue what led me to pick it up. The Luckiest Girl Alive is a bit of a chick lit thriller. Basically it tells the story in flash backs of a high school girl who survived a mass shooting. It wasn't particularly compelling or interesting. I know many have loved this book but I wasn't one of them.


I read The 5th Wave Trilogy based on the trailer for the movie. It's a dystopian YA novel, which was right up my alley. It even added alines, which led me to believe it was a book I could share with my husband. To me, the series dwindled as the books progressed. I was engrossed in the first book and by the third I was reading just to say I finished it. The initial twists and turns that were so surprising gave way to what felt like a simplistic story about revenge. If you like the genre, I think its worth a read. If you're not usually a fan, then I would look elsewhere.


I read The Year of Magical Thinking for work. Gotta love getting paid to read. As the Bereavement Coordinator for a pediatric hospice, I am working on compiling a book list to share with families. My hopes is that it is comprised of both clinical knowledge as well as stories they can identify with. Joan Didion's adult daughter spent a year battling a life threatening illness after what they thought was the flu. During this time, Joan's husband died suddenly. She goes on to share the delusional, grandiose, and magical thinking that guided her year. It was a raw, honest read about how grief can turn an intelligent, highly functioning individual into one who clings to fairy tales. 

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

My best friend recommended The Girl You Left BehindI'm having trouble hunting it down (silly library), so I read The Ship of Brides as a stop gap. I loved this fun read.Moyes was inspired to write this book based on her grandmother's experience of being a War Bride. It is a fictionalized account of Australian War Brides being transported to England on a functioning air craft carrier (which really happened!). The novel flows in and out of the consciousness of multiple storytellers. As a result, it can be a bit Tolstoy-seque in figuring out who is talking. But it is a fun, sweet read about an event I knew nothing about.

I've already finished The Cursed Child and I've nearly wrapped up The Last Letter from Your Lover. Someone give me something to read!



Surviving a Flight with Baby in Tow

On the flight home from my recent surprise trip (re: family emergency) I sat next to a wonderful mother and her heavenly five month old daughter. This woman was a wreck. I'm sure part of it was she was journeying after the loss of her father. But she was so very concerned that her daughter would be a terror. This girl was a dream. She slept the entire 3 hour flight, including take off and landing. I was actually a little annoyed. My week without my babies crazy brain wanted her to be awake so I could talk to her and cuddle her. I know....I'm nuts.

In all her panic, this sweet, hurting mama said that she would never fly with a child that young under normal circumstance. Wesley went on his third plane trip just shy of a year. His first was at 6 months and was just the two of us. We also flew as a family at 9 months. Emma and I did a solo trip at 3 months, and then family trips at 6 month, 8 months, and 10 months. She's now a fairly seasoned flyer, taking at least two trips a year.

Before taking my recent solo trip, I combed through tons of articles on how to survive. I felt a bit like that mom; terrified that there was nothing stupider than taking a little on an airplane.  I'm fairly certain I blocked everything out about my first solo flight with Emma! I feel like a took a little advice from each article I read, so I wanted to share what worked for me.

Think about your clothes:
I have never been one of those people who get all dolled up to fly. I don't wear pjs, but I want to be comfortable. I can't believe how often I go to pee and find women in the bathroom with curling irons and more makeup than I own in their "travel bag." But I digress...

When flying with a baby, simple is the name of the game. Avoid things like belts that would have to be removed for security. Wear flip flops or slip on shoes. Dress in layers. Also, be mindful that your kiddo's main source of entertainment on the flight is going to pulling on you. I always wear my hair up and put a camisole on so that it's harder for my kiddo to flash other people. I know this is harder to accomplish if you have to have easy access for nursing.

Wear Your Baby:
If you wear your baby at security, baby and you can go thorough the metal detector together without unloading. If baby is in the stroller, you have to unload, fold up, get the dang thing on the scanner, and get your kiddo loaded back up all while dealing with taking shoes off, getting out lap tops, etc. I've even worn my kiddo while still bringing a stroller with us. It's so much easier. If you wear your baby, they will wipe your hands down to check for bomb residue. They also will be checking any liquids you travel with so this check doesn't hold you up any longer than you would be anyway.

Be Willing to Ask:
People are so willing to help out families with young kiddos (remember me wanting to be the creepy stranger holding another woman's child the whole flight!?). When you check in, ask if there's any extra seats on the plane. If you're traveling alone and can't juggle a baby and your bag, ask someone to help you get it in the overhead compartment. Need to pee? Ask someone to hold your baby. It seems totally weird. But people have loved helping! I've had multiple older men hold my kiddos (often for much longer than just the quick trip to the bathroom). They all talk about how long its been since they've held a baby and how their kids are grown. Its been very sweet.

Distract, Distract, Distract:
Before about 6 months it seems like your kiddo is likely to just eat, sleep, poop, and cry. There's not a lot of engagement to be done. After 6 months your kiddo will do those same things. Plus they'll want to move! I wipe down every surface I can with antibacterial wipes. Then, I let my kid go to town. Want to look out the window and bang on it? Sure. Want to play peek a boo with the lady behind us? Have at it! I try to only bring toys that I can hold onto while my kiddo plays. Things like teething necklaces and chew toys that you can hook to a pacifier clip are great. That way kiddo can play, drop, and throw without loosing every single toy you own. Oh, and if a flight attendant offers to take your kiddos and walk them up and down the aisle, kiss the ground they walk on and then do a happy dance!

Prepare and then Prepare Some More:
Everything that can go wrong will. It's just a rule of traveling with kids. Bring extra bottles, food, etc. Delays will happen. Always travel with a change of clothes for each adult and several for the chief mess maker. I swear kids who never have diaper leaks or who don't spit up will do both at the same time all over you. I roll up a pair of yoga pants and a t shirt in the bottom of a large diaper bag. Speaking of your diaper bag...make sure you know where things are. Pack thinking about how you'll only have one hand, it will be shoved under a seat, and you won't be able to see what you're looking for.

Car Seats Suck:
Car seats are amazing. They save kiddos' lives every day. But flying with a car seat is the pits. If you can borrow car seats at your destination do. If you're renting a car, consider renting a car seat as well. Its an extra cost and that can be a deal breaker. But I cannot recommend renting a seat enough if you're traveling solo!

Just Roll with It:
Like I said before, anything that can go wrong seems to when traveling with kiddos. They scream a ton. You end up having to sprint across the airport with a car seat, too much luggage, and a sleeping baby to catch your next flight. Someone poops on you. I've encountered far more gracious, helpful people than grumps. We've all be there. And most parents are going to be more than understanding of your screaming one year old. They remember how hard it was. And they know you're doing your best!

Anyone have any great flying with littles ideas?


Wonderful Pet Birthday Party Ideas for Kids {with Evite}

This post is sponsored by Evite®. All opinions and content are my own. If you have any questions, check out my Disclosures Page.

Evite® reached out to me a couple of weeks ago about their fun new line of pet themed invites. I've been seeing great pet themed parties all over Pinterest lately. These great invites are the perfect way to set the mood for a cute kiddo party! 

Like this amazing fashionista kitty Evite. It's like my five year old's dream party!

These fun plates are so easy and so cute. Writing About the Journey's whole Kitty Party is full of wonderful, affordable ideas!

Jess at Craftiness Is Not Optional is like the queen of all party throwers. I just can't get over the amazing details in the parties she throws. Or her cute kids. This Kitty Cat Party has adorable decor, the these yarn balls, throughout. 

Delightfully Noted Hot Dog Puppy Party has a two part post filled with TONS of pictures for an adorable first birthday party. The details are amazing. And a wiener dog theme with hot dogs?! Love!!!

Lifelines has these perfect little labels for napkins. Slap them on a tin from the Dollar Spot and you're all set!

The idea of an adoption station is so cute. It's an interactive party element and a party favor all in one! The adoption station from the Paw Patrol Birthday Party at Kids and Deals is great inspiration. 

Puppies and Kitties aren't the only pets! God Made Playdough's Littles Pet Shop Party has great ideas for incorporating bunnies, birds, mice, and more!

Kelly Gene threw a sweet, brightly colored puppy themed birthday party- complete with an adorable puppy! 

Avery's Puppy Paw-ty at Catch My Party is beautiful. And toilet water is just too funny!

This hedgehog from Housewife Eclectic is just too clever. It's a great way to balance out the wonderful piles of sweets at kiddo's parties!

Spaceships and Laser Beams hosted a fun, book based Go Dog Go! party. The melted chocolate adds a great bit of color to these adorable rice crispy dog bones. 

Thinking of throwing a pet themed or pet party? Think your pup or kitty would look adorable on an Evite? We'll you're in luck! Enter the #PawtyPeople for a chance to have your very own adorable animal grace a custom Evite! Check out this link to enter!


Another Random Reading Update

It's time for another random list of books I've been reading and my musings on them. This list is going to be a long one. I've been reading a ton instead of sleeping lately. Please let me know what I should read next!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Having loved The Nightingale, I finally gave in and read All the Light We Cannot See. It had been recommended to me multiple times and I have no clue what took me so long to read it. Haunting is the best word I have for it. The beauty taken and the beauty distroyed during WWII are illuminated in a tale of beauty being preserved. The novel follows the story of two children throughout the war; one a blind Parisian girl who flees to a picturesque seaside town and the other a German orphan made into a solider. One is hiding while and other is seeking and they both are fighting. I keep going back to haunting. Read The Nightingale. Then read this! Go!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Having throughly enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, I decided to continue with my Pulitzer Prize winning kick. I go back and forth on this book. There were sections of it I loved. It was raw and beautifully written. Then it got verbose or took seemingly senseless turns. This bad boy is long too. I would recommend it, overall. It is a beautiful coming of age despite repeated tragedy story that had me engaged for far more than it lost me. Theo looses his mom in a tragic accident. The book follows him as he bounces from place to place, looking at how a single day colored each move in his life.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman 

Per usual, I found this book based on a list of novels turning into movies. This one cut me deep. A young woman falls in love and follows her new husband to a remote island off the Australian coast. They are the only inhabitants and he is the lighthouse keeper. After one pregnancy loss after another, they are both broken. This book nails the desperation, the protection, and the psychological trauma that follow loss. This young couple take extreme action which, as someone who has suffer loss, is not too much of a stretch to understand. I have been recommending this book to anyone and everyone. But, if you've experienced pregnancy or child loss be warned. It might be a more difficult read. 

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby 

Funny Girl was downright fluff compared to my other reads of late. It follows a young, new to London girl and the journey the of curmudgeon company she joins take to making it big. It was light, quick, and interesting. If you're looking for a more mindless read that's full of whit, this is a good pick.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

I have no clue what lead me to State of Wonder.  It was on my phone when I had no other books to start so I went for it. It's a light, rediscovering oneself type book set in the Amazon. Marina struggles with her identity as an Indian American, a doctor, and a woman as she journeys into the Amazon to chase down a coworker and a former mentor. The novel explores her own questions of who she is while looking at the morality of exploration and experimentation. 

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Yah... about this book. I'm rather proud of myself for finishing. It had random side stories, got super harsh at times, and was altogether not very compelling. 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Wow. This was a gem to find. This is Celeste's first novel and I cannot wait for more. The story follows the individual tales of a family trying to piece together the mysterious death of their daughter/sister. It grapples with loss and grief for both her death as well as the paths not taken in each of their lives. This is another must read as far as I'm concerned. 


Supporting a Friend After a Miscarriage

My husband and I are a member of a club that no one wants to be apart of. It's a rather secretive club, because not many talk about their membership. We lost our first child. I miscarried our sweet surprise. I'm not going to go into details. This story, like everyone's story who has lost a child, is sacred. And I want to focus on something else today.

I decided to share this post nearly six years after our loss due to the loss of a friend of a friend. My friend reached out to asking how to support the bereaved. Because of the deeply personal nature of pregnancy loss, it is often kept quite. When people do share the people who should be a wonderful source of help suck at responding.

I cannot blame them. We suck at responding to death in general. I'm a Bereavement Coordinator for a Pediatric Hospice. Believe me...our whole society is just awful at responding to child loss. It's almost like people think it's contagious. And peoples' varying understandings and feelings towards an unborn child? Well that just makes people say stupid things...or run and hide.

I shared my pregnancy with very few people. Those nearest and dearest to my husband and me knew. And they tried to share in our loss. One dear friend said something so simple to me; "I hate this. I wish I could be there." Others were more at a loss and said some pretty unhelpful and even hurtful things. And I do not blame them at all.

What I learned was that the pain is continual and changing. It simmers after awhile. Then things bring it back up. The first twelve weeks of my second and third pregnancies were excruciating. Seeing other kiddos that are the same age of my first can be fine or can be a gut shot

All of this is a round about way of saying that when someone shares their loss with you, it is a moment in which you can be an amazing source of peace or another weight. Its also is to say, that everyone is different in how the grieve.

Here's what I wish people would know about how to be a source of peace:

Talk! But mind your words.

You're not going to know what to say. That's fine. You're going to be nervous. That's fine too. Please just say something. It can be as simple as "I'm sorry." But radio silence is hurtful. Also, please avoid cliches or large statements of faith or destiny unless you are echoing sentiments that the bereaved has already expressed. I know that hearing "it wasn't in God's plan" made me want to hurl or punch someone. I understood this comment was based on someone trying to rationalize what happened, their own pain, and to put it in the perspective of our shared faith. But no. Please just no.

Offer tangible support...or even just give it without asking.

I encourage that if you are looking to support someone who has lost a child, be there. Drop by with coffee, even if she doesn't want you to stay. Watch her kiddos while she lays in bed or goes for a walk. If she gets pregnant again, ask her how she's holding up. Saying, "please let me know if you need anything" is nice. But it puts the person in the situation to think of what kind of help she needs. It makes her rethink even asking and weigh the burden it will put on the helper. I've found its better to say, "I'd love to stop by with dinner. Is tomorrow or Thursday better for you?" Or buy a bottle of wine and doorbell ditch. You may not be sure you can keep your shit together while visiting. If you don't think you can, it might be better to take the silent strike approach.

Please be patient.

Months on, we might still be in a fog. We might still have days where all we can do it get out of bed. We may neglect our friendships to an unreasonable point. Please don't stop trying. It takes time to get yourself moving again. And it takes even more time to have the energy to return to all of what life looked like before. In some ways, having fun and doing things you love seems disloyal. It can be emotionally draining to be happy and then feel guilty about being happy. Please keep asking. And please don't take it personally when we say no.

Remember with us. 

I would have been 36 weeks pregnant with our son while being a bridesmaid for a dear friend's wedding. The dress was bought with my pregnant belly in mind. One of my sweet friends, also a bridesmaid, pulled me aside and asked me how I was doing when she saw me staring at that damn dress. She simply said that she didn't know what it felt like, but she was sure it sucked. And she was sad with me. She remembered what should have been and was willing to talk about my baby. That moment meant the world to me.

If you know that your friend has named her child, talk about him or her by name. Consider calling or dropping by coffee on your friend's due date. Remembering important dates speak volumes to us.

I found these cards by Dr. Jessica Zuker. I cannot speak highly enough of them. There is a different moment in my grief process where I would have been so thankful to receive each of them. I hope that I will be able to support others with these sediments if anyone else confides in me their membership in the world's crappiest club.