The Clean Routine

I am of the belief that there are two types of people in this world: those who fold and those who crumple.

To be honest, for a really long time I thought everyone just crumpled. I thought that was how it was done. I mean, I assume that is how I was taught or why would I still be doing it that way at age 35?

But then I started talking with Cortney about our routines.

Our bum-cleaning routines.

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The Mommy Survival Kit

Spring break starts this afternoon for me, and next week for my boys.  That means that I will putting on my Stay at Home Mom Pants to be home with the two of them for a week.

Every time we have break from school, I am reminded how much work it is to be a Stay at Home Mom.  There is a good reason why it is not my official “job”…it’s too hard!  But there are somethings that help me survive (besides the cuddles and kisses that my boys give me), so I compiled a list…

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Li’l Helper

There is something different about having a second baby…it’s not that he/she is cared for less, but some things aren’t as big of a deal as they were the first time around.

Maybe it’s because you don’t have as much time to obsess.  Maybe it’s because you learn the baby is not as fragile as you thought he/she was.  Maybe it’s because you have to put the baby down and wipe a preschooler’s booty after the poo he did because he is potty training.

For us, Charlie learned to wait much earlier than Eddie did.  From the first day Charlie was home from the hospital, he had to wait while we got Eddie his dinner or wait to be held because we were cleaning up a potty training accident.

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A Good American

9780425253175_p0_v2_s260x420I’m a sucker for historical fiction.  Make it American historical fiction and I will be lost in the book for as many hours as I can possibly devote to reading each day.

That is how it was with A Good American by Alex George.

Before signing up for this book review, I read, “This is the story of the Meisenheimer family, told by James, a third-generation American living in Beatrice, Missouri.”

Done and done.

Some of my most favorite novels are stories of family histories: East of Eden, Middlesex, Fall on Your Knees, and anything by Wally Lamb.  I love to follow a great story of a family through multiple generations…to see how history weaves itself amongst the choices and secrets and directions the characters’ lives take.

A Good American was no different.

The story starts with Jette and Frederick in Germany and follows them as they immigrate to the United States at the turn of the century.  Rather than the typical story of immigrants on Ellis Island, however, Alex George has his characters come ashore in New Orleans and travel up to Missouri.  They live through wars and prohibition growing their family.  There are deaths and births, failures and victories.  And there are plot twists that will break your heart and make you burst out laughing.

The writing flows so well from one chapter to the next, it was difficult for me to stick my bookmark in and call it a night at the end of a chapter.  George left each chapter with a hint of a tease that made me want to read on.

Sometimes, however, Alex George’s blatant foreshadowing annoyed me.  Instead of just ending a chapter or section, he almost always had to add a “but that wouldn’t be the last time…” or “or so they thought…” or something along those lines.  The book, to me, didn’t need these obvious teasers; the plot itself was intriguing and endearing enough to push the reader to want to read one more section…one more chapter.  I felt that these little lines were too obvious and assumed too little of the audience.

It was easy to overlook the obvious foreshadowing, though, because as I said, the plot was really good.  I liked the development of the characters, although there was also a tone shift once the narrator’s character was born and he began talking about his own contribution to the family story.  I suppose, since this is a first person novel, that is to be expected.  But I didn’t enjoy that part of the book nearly as much as the beginning.

Overall this book was one of those perfect “winter” books:  just right for curling up with in a big chair under a blanket while sipping hot chocolate.  It reads as if you are being told an actual collection of stories from someone’s past, so it makes for a lovely companion on a chilly evening.

It left me remembering why I love books like this: I love to get caught up in the characters and their lives as if they were real.

Come see what others think and follow {or join in} to our discussion at BlogHer Book Club.

Legal Stuff: This post is sponsored by BlogHer, but all opinions are my own.


Baba + Boo Review {and Giveaway!}

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Being the second child and the second boy, poor Charlie doesn’t have many things that are new to him.  For Christmas he got a couple things, but really, he just didn’t need anything.

I kind of feel bad for him.  I mean, not that he cares, but he doesn’t have a lot that is just his.

When the UK company Baba and Boo announced that they would like to make a United States debut, I jumped at the chance to help them out and give Charlie a little something of his own.

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Affresh Review…and a Giveaway!

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My least favorite thing to do in this world is cleaning.

My most favorite thing in this world is having a clean, organized life.

You see my problem, yes?

We used to have a cleaning lady, but alas, that is not in the budget anymore.  So the next best thing is to find products I don’t hate that help make my life easier.

This is where Affresh enters into my life.

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Here I Go Again

hereigoagainI feel like I start almost every book review with, “I was skeptical, but…”

Not this time.  I signed up for this review and when the pretty green book arrived on my door step, I almost tripped over my own excitement to get it out of its box.

Friends? I love Jen Lancaster.  Love her. I have read ALL of her books (well, Ok, I haven’t read Jeneration X yet because the Barnes and Noble by my house DOESN’T HAVE IT!  I mean, what???  I think they thought I was a crazy person because I was all “CHECK AGAIN!”

Ahem.  Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Jen Lancaster.

I even met her once.  Oh yes, I did.

Jen Lancaster

She told me I looked cute. And then I died.

So anyway, Here I Go Again is her second fictional novel.  Her first one, If You Were Here, was pretty good. I mean it was classic Lancaster Hilarity.  The only problem I had with it was that the main characters were clearly not just based on, but WERE her and her husband, Fletch.  She gave themselves fictional names and stretched the truth of what they had to go through when doing home renovations, but it was totally them.

Funny, but I wasn’t sure she could pull of more fiction…at least any that was actually fictional.

When I started reading Here I Go Again, I thought, “Oh dear.  This character is a total biz-natch and is just like what Lancaster was like in the very beginning of Bitter is the New Black (her first memoir).  And oh look, it seems to be based on 80’s stuff.  Again.”  I started getting concerned that my favorite author was not able to actually “do” fiction.

Then I got through the first chapter.  And HAD to read the second chapter. And then the third.  And then the next day during my commute I started wondering how Lissy was going to get out of the predicament she was in.  What would she have to do next?  Where was Lancaster going with this plot?

It was a totally easy, fast read…just like all of Lancaster’s books.  They just flow and before you know it, you’ve read the whole book in a matter of hours.  Or in my case, days because I had to stop occasionally to sleep and work and do motherly things.

The basic plot is this: Lissy Ryder was the bitchy, snobby, horribly popular mean girl in high school back in the 90’s. She was a total jerk to every person in the school.  She is now in her 30’s and her life is in shambles and she is finding out that everyone hates her.  By a twist of plot, she goes back in time to try to correct her life…to be a better person…but just like in the movie Back to the Future, every tiny action has MAJOR effects on the future.

I know. It sounds weird.  And even though I am a Back to the Future fanatic, I thought it was a weird premise for a book.

But OMG.  I was totally into what happened.  I mean, halfway through the book you think, “Well look at that, she has made herself a great person…wait, there is half the book left…clearly something is going to go wrong….” And then it does.

So anyway, yes. Jen Lancaster can write fiction. It’s crazy, easy to read, and hilarious.  It’s not going to be the next Great American Novel like The Great Gatsby or Little Women, but it will stay on the best sellers list. And for a good reason…it’s awesome.

If you want to follow my {and other’s) thoughts about this book on BlogHer, check out the BlogHer Bookclub Discussions.

Legal Stuff: This post was sponsored by BlogHer Bookclub, but all opinions are my own.  I really do love Jen Lancaster this much.  But I promise, Jen, if you are reading (which you are not because you are far too busy buying Barbie Dolls while hopped up on Ambien writing something great) I am not a creeper. Swear.

Trying to Be an UpScale Mom


Before Charlie was born, we finished our downstairs basement.

We knew from the first piece of drywall that went up that this would be the bathroom for the kids that lived downstairs…probably boys (and then, yup, Charlie was a boy), but it would also serve as a secondary bathroom to any guests we have over.

We wanted the room to be cute, but not too kidish; boyish, but not overly boy-themed; attractive, but user-friendly.

My favorite part of building this bathroom was being able to choose everything that went into it.  The color (orange!), the fixtures, the cabinets, the mirror, and all the accessories.

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Breaking the First Rule of Healthy Club

EpiCor-300x225The first rule of Healthy Club is to never mention you are in the Healthy Club.

Do not talk about Healthy Club.

Yeah, I am going to risk my family’s health and break this rule.

It seems like every time I log on to Facebook or Twitter, someone is sick.  Actually, more like everyone in the social media world is coming down with a form of the plague.

I would be lying if I didn’t feel completely exposed to it just by reading about it.  I may even use hand sanitizer after reading those updates.  I”m just saying.


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Willpower Challenged

10865206I have always thought I have horrible willpower and zero self-control.  I have always been amazed by my friends who announce they are going to lose weight and get healthy and then actually do.  Scratch that, I also get immensely jealous.  I want to do that too.  I do.  But I figured because I keep NOT doing it, I must not want it bad enough.

I believe that until, you know, I am a crying mess.  And I am telling Cortney that I just don’t know why I can’t do it.

Why don’t I have the self-control to not suggest McDonald’s when he asks what we should have on a random Sunday night?  Why don’t have the willpower to turn down the donuts in the staff lounge?  Why don’t I have energy or the willpower to get my ass to the gym and move like I know I should?

I’m not usually into self-help books, but when I had the opportunity to read and review The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, I thought, “why not? what do I have to lose?”

I was sure it would be dry (it has “the science of willpower” written on the front.  “Science” of something is usually a bit…boring, ammiright?), but I also figured that since reading all the science behind eating real food made me make a LOT of lifestyle changes for our eating, maybe this could help too.

I was pleasantly surprised that Kelly McGoniagal has a very conversational writing style.  She talks about teaching most of what is in the book as a class, and it’s evident she has learned what works and what doesn’t in the class and giving the readers the best of the best.

The book operates as if you are in her class.  You choose a goal–in the book she breaks goals down into three categories: “I want,” “I won’t,” and “I will”.  I actually chose two goals: “I won’t procrastinate” and “I will be healthier”.

Her class is a 10 week class, and guess what! The book is 10 chapters!  I didn’t take 10 weeks to read the book, but if I had had the luxury to do so, I would have loved it because the techniques and activities and exercises she suggests really fit a 10 week program.  Each task is really quite small, but the explanations and what the tasks provide are huge.

One of the things I learned about myself was that some of the things I thought were “I won’t” goals, were really “I will” goals.  And that the motivation I THOUGHT I had, wasn’t really it.

For instance, I started with “I won’t eat crap.” But soon realized it was bigger than that.  After realizing my motivation was to feel better about myself, my goal turned to “I will be healthier.”

Sometimes our strongest motivation is not what we think it is, or think it should be.  If you’re trying to change a behavior to please someone else or be the right kind of person, see if there is another “want” that holds more power for you. (page 76)

I loved this quote because it reminded me of when Cort quit smoking.  His dad died of lung cancer in 2005, but he didn’t quit smoking until 2007.  He caught SO much grief for smoking, but every time he tried to quit to please others, he failed.  It was only when he did it his way for himself that it worked.  And he has kept that self-control up for almost six years!

Interesting science + useful, helpful tips + conversational writing = a winner of a book in my opinion!

I leave you with another of my favorite quotes:

We all have the tendency to believe self-doubt and self-criticism, but listening to this voice never gets us closer to our goals. Instead, try on the point of view of mentor or good friend who believes in you, wants the best for you, and will encourage you when you feel discouraged. (page 151)

Next time I want to beat myself up for being a quitter or a slacker, I am going to try to hear the voices of those who love me telling me that I can do it.

Want to see what others are saying? Visit the BlogHer Book Club to find out!

What do you think? What is your willpower challenge?


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by BlogHer, but the opinions are my own. I read the book, yo.  And I liked it.

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