Feb 7, 2018

Favorite Reads from 2017

Before we get any further into the new year, I want to share my favorite reads from 2017! Disclaimer: My brain is goo when it comes to writing interesting blurbs for books; just know that I really liked all of these and many were recommendations from other blogs/ people, so multiple stamps of approval and all that. :)

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything
by Anne Bogel
Anne digs into several personality + temperament frameworks and gives insight into how they can affect our lives and the lives of others. I like that this offers a breakdown of many of the frameworks in one place, and that she points to the best resources she's found for further research and individual testing. This is one I'd like to get a copy of instead of borrowing from the library!

You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life
by: Eleanor Roosevelt
I truly wish everyone, especially high-schoolers, would read this book. There's nothing earth-shattering in it, but Eleanor has such a way of presenting principles of common sense and imparting essential life advice for all, that makes you really think.
I almost wanted to shout from the rooftops when she pointed out the paramount importance of making informed choices when choosing a candidate to vote for (mostly by reading, reading, reading, and talking to many different people). Amen!

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better
by: Gretchen Rubin
If you're into personality frameworks- read this! For some reason I feel this framework is easier to grasp (then say, the Temperaments), and pinpoint which Tendencies others belong to, therefore shedding light on how they tick. I figured out I'm an Obliger (sometimes dipping into Rebel)- which has explained so much about my life!

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids
by: Jancee Dunn
This is one I want to read again and again, and I agree with this summary that the book would be applicable for relationships in general.
The author realized her marriage before having her daughter was vastly different than after, and recognized the need for outside help to set it back on the right course. I appreciated that she includes research/ advice from a variety of sources, and follows up with the results after carrying it out.
Some PSAs: language alert, and I'd recommend skipping a short section (part of a longer section about sex which is tastefully done) when she mentions watching porn to "get into the mood".

As I Remember: An Autobiography
by: Lillian Moller Gilbreth
(Lillian is the mom in Cheaper by the Dozen) I loved this one with a few 'buts'. It reads like a diary- very "first this happened, then this, etc", and I liked getting the backstory of her childhood (although the very beginning was tricky to get through, keeping track of all her relatives). It was also fascinating to me to read a first-hand account of life in the early 1900s, including things like "dating" or going to Europe with no knowledge that WWI would happen in the near future!
The bittersweet parts for me were in the timelines- Mr. Gilbreth seemed to travel so much for his work that I had a hard time reconciling that with how he is portrayed in the books, as it didn't seem like he (and even Mrs. Gilbreth at times) was around his children all that much. (I.e. she mentions summers where the children would go on to Nantucket with a Nanny and later be joined by one or both parents.) I guess I felt like many things the Gilbreth parents implemented in their family life in Cheaper by the Dozen seemed ongoing, over several years, when I'm wondering if many things were only isolated events? Sorry if that's vague. Anyway, overall very interesting!

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue
by: Kathryn J. Atwood
I originally borrowed this from the library, as I wanted to read more about Irena Sendler but couldn't find any full books about her in our system. I am so glad I did read this after all, as the bravery of all of these women, what they gave up, and what they accomplished is truly astounding.

All-of-a-Kind Family
by: Sydney Taylor
I loved reading this aloud to the girls so much. It follows the adventures of a sweet family of five girls (and later one boy) in NYC at the turn of the century. 
(I also found a used copy AoaKF Uptown, so we skipped a few in the series and read that as well- loved it!)

The Magnolia Story
by: Chip Gaines
Okay, while I have enjoyed watching episodes of their show in the past and love their family and husband-wife dynamic, part of me wants to stand waaay back from the "all the Magnolia things!" obsession that is raging across the country. However, I really enjoyed this book- a quick, engaging read, and I love a personal story that turns out well.
Also, I do have a butter dish that I ordered online from Magnolia and it *is* one of my favorite things on our counter, so thanks, Gaines' :)

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
by: Atul Gawande
Gosh I love his books. The case studies are so intriguing, and I appreciate how he offers his experiences and observations, as well as including related studies performed and historical context. It's not just one surgeon telling you this how it is- the end.  He includes varying points of view and offers a good amount of food for thought.
This one was very aviation related which I found quite interesting- again, the historical background in his books adds so much. Also, we had just watched "Sully", which I kept thinking about all through the book and the story was mentioned at the end, as the book was written in the year of that miracle landing!

Originals: How Non-Comformists Move the World
by: Adam Grant
I really cannot think of anything specific to say about this- but it was really good! Like the book above, the author used many specific (engaging!) stories to illustrate his points (about a invention Steve Jobs backed that hugely flopped and the unconventional beginnings of Warby Parker to name just two).

Always and Forever, Lara Jean
by: Jenny Han
My teen self related SO much to the first book in this series and I was happy to find this last book just as enjoyable.

The Way She Wears It: The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Revealing Your Personal Style
by: Dallas Shaw
I didn't find anything especially pivotal in this book, nor did I read it with that intent, but I did relish reading a book entirely about personal style and lots of clothing and accessory drawings/ photos. I picked up a few pointers and outfit ideas, and I found it helpful that she broke everything up into the four seasons- kinda helps you get excited for pulling out your cold or warm weather clothes, and changing up your makeup or nail polish game, even if it's one new color.

Also. I notice a lot of these titles fall into the category of part memoir/ part self-help, which seems like it's becoming a thing? If so, I really like it! And I'd love any fiction recommendations, if you have any!

Jan 31, 2018

Family Wedding 2k18 Numero Uno

In early January our family happily celebrated the marriage of one of my older brothers and his now wife! God bless them, their wedding was during that ridiculous, bitterly cold snap- although it wasn't a snap because it lasted weeks!
But all the family members coming from out of town were still able to come, and everything was beautiful. 

We had a family gathering at my parent's on the Thursday before, so all the siblings + in-laws and nieces and nephews could visit (it felt and sounded a lot like the opening scenes to Home Alone but without the fake cop). We also did our family Christmas gift exchange- it was a full but fun night! 

Friday night was the rehearsal and dinner at an Irish pub; it was such a great place for the kids (all but two of the nieces/nephews were there). We talked and ate, celebrated and sláinte'd.
The day of the wedding was frigid, but at least it was sunny! The mass was beautiful, as was the bride. :) Evie and Audrey were flower girls with their cousin, and I wish I had a photo of the lovely bridesmaids dresses but I don't have a one! 

I happened to go to Franciscan with the two photographers (husband and wife team- they are so great!), so it was fun to catch up- the Catholic world is small, after all.
NONE of the kids fell into the fountain that night- miracle!
There was a photo booth at the reception which was so. much. fun.
Evie and the googly glasses- I can hardly handle it!
 The kids especially loved it (of course!), and I was crying laughing looking through all of the photos the next week. There were so many like this:

 My Aunt was out on the dance floor doing the Chicken Dance with all of the kids, and I think my favorite part of the reception was watching her and my dad's cousin dancing a mean polka together! I want to be her when I grow up.
 The reception was such a good time. Poor Heidi was running on the fumes of her second wind but she was a trooper throughout. The kids had a great time on the dance floor, AND *whispers* two of the members of Scythian were there!
 My cousin was so sweet dancing with all of the kiddos.
Last year at my great aunt's funeral, one of my uncles said, "The family needs to stop meeting like this". We had all just been at my grandpa's funeral a few months before, and my uncle was right- life gets busy and it's hard to gather family together. My youngest brother is getting married this weekend and I'm grateful this winter has brought (mostly) everyone together for two celebrations!

Congrats to Bryan and Caitlin!

Jan 12, 2018

Odds & Ends & Anecdotes {7QT}

Linking up with Kelly for my first quick takes of the year!

I meant to add this random anecdote closer to Christmas, but anyway last year during a visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine (which we always referred to as "the shrine" growing up- I always have to take time to think of the proper name!), while we were visiting the creche we noticed dinosaurs in the creation ceiling mosaic above us!
It jogged my memory, and I recalled seeing dinosaurs in a nativity scene at a church my family and I visited in Italy (possibly Assisi?) waaaay back in 2001. I had taken a picture of it and finally located it after scouring every place and album I could possibly think to look. 

So you can tell your young sons, dinosaurs have a place in church. ;)

For Christmas brunch with my family, I brought out my Grandmother's peony china and was so proud of myself for using it. For family gatherings at our house we always stand on formality and use paper plates.
I figured pulling out the china once a year is not a huge effort in the grand scheme of things! Not much else about the tables matched, between the red stripe on the table cloth and the blue coffee mugs, but not having to go to great lengths to impress is the beauty of family, amiright? :)

Audrey turned 5 at the end of December, and we celebrated with my family- as we've done the past few years- on New Year's Day. I have to say, she was pretty good at milking the days between the two celebratory days for all they were worth. ;)

Every birthday I've felt "oh, you're just now turning X age?" with her, but her turning five feels too sudden- we now have two "older age" kids!

Hers was my quickest labor, and our only middle-of-the-night delivery.

 She is my reliable helper and I'm always impressed with how much she takes initiative in life. She still naps on days she's home and is definitely our best sleeper. Looking at books and being read to are some things she really enjoys. She also LOVES her preschool teachers. One night she woke up crying with ear pain and I told her she most likely had an ear infection. She immediately asked if she would have to miss school, and with tears in her eyes fretted, "I can't miss school on Thursday! Mrs. P is sitting at my table at lunch on Thursday!".

She never fails to verbalize her thoughts with exuberance- on Christmas morning she announced, with arms in the air, "We got evah so many presents!".

Her party was the week of my brother's wedding, so we didn't expect many people but most of my local family members were able to come and it was a nice little celebration!
Our local Harris Teeter has a pizza bar which runs a special for $7.99 per pizza on Mondays- it was the perfect antidote to holiday baking + cooking fatigue.

In keeping with the "odds" theme of these takes I want to record a few Christmas picture books not on our "usual" list that we came across and really liked this year:

A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa's Tasty Trip Around the World
by: M.E. Furman
I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It goes to different places all over the world and gives a short summary on what kinds of treats are made at Christmas and their cultural version of St. Nicholas. I love how it even went to the Holy Land and mentioned how it was the site of the first Christmas.

On Christmas Eve
by: Margaret Wise Brown
There is more than one illustrated version of this- get the one that looks normal!

Apple Tree Christmas
 by: Trinka Hakes Noble

 Finding Christmas
 by: Lezlie Evans

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher
 by: Robert Kraus
A cute recommendation from Stephanie on Instagram

Our tree is still up, so you can guess what we'll be doing this weekend! (Help!)
Have a good one!

Dec 31, 2017

Christmas 2017

It has been a full December! We didn't do several things I had mentally planned (Living Nativity, free train show, Lessons & Carols) but I need to keep reminding myself that the girls are still young and there are (hopefully) many years ahead to enjoy those things. And thankfully we didn't have as much sickness as we had last December! There was a lot of oil diffusing, chest rubbing, and handing out of probiotics and vitamins at our place- anything to help keep sickness at bay!

Tim did take three of the girls to Breakfast with Santa one Saturday, while I stayed home with a sick Audrey. Evie and Audrey also went to a Bethlehem Walk at a local parish with their aunt, uncle, cousins, and my mom, and we made it to both of Evie and Audrey's school Christmas programs, which were on the same day. Audrey was Mary in her pre-k pageant and Evie sang with her class in the older grade program.
Tim also took the older three to the dollar store on Christmas Adam to pick out gifts for each other, which I'm sure was a hoot; I don't think anything was a surprise. ;) On Christmas Eve we went to my parent's house for an appetizer dinner and enjoyed our neighborhood's farolitas on the way home!

We went to our usual Sunday mass time for Christmas morning mass; I do LOVE mass on Christmas Eve but after years of trying different parishes and finding every.single.one packed to the GILLS (our parish had six masses just on the Eve!), plus combating post-nap grumpiness and dinner time, we found going in the morning works well for us.

On Christmas morning I had to wake up Cora and Heidi, and when I brought Heidi down she looked at the tree and presents and then turned to me and said, "Mom! We got you chocolates!". Such a sweet girl!
 We enjoyed opening some presents, threw some food in front of the girls and headed out the door-
And that's when our Christmas morning became eventful.

The mini van battery was dead ("as dead as a doornail"). After several minutes of doing the things that help re-charge it with no success, Tim told me to go ahead and take Evie and Cora to mass in his car. 
Very thankfully mass wasn't crowded at all, we sat with my parents and brother, and Tim, Audrey, and Heidi made it to mass by the readings (Christmas miracle!).

We were having my family over for Christmas brunch right after mass, and my sister had texted me they would be at our place before we got back from mass (as far as I knew, they had no way to get in).
 Well, when I pulled up to our house I took one look at the place and was certain we had been burglarized (burgled?). I saw my sister's van, but the garage and front door were wide open, and one of the front windows had been jimmied up. We have ancient storm windows without screens and they are such a pain to open that we never open them. (Also, it was super cold and windy.)

Then my brother-in-law came out and told me that Tim had left a door open for them, and they had gone ahead and started a fire in the fireplace but the flue wasn't open, so the house filled with smoke. Haha, something we've definitely done before! NBD.

This stinker is continually snatching Mary from the Nativity scene and keeping an iron clasp on her
After the chilly start to the brunch the rest of the day was relaxing. :)
Evie took it upon herself to tape up some self-made decorations, adding a bit of cheer to our walls. ;)

Cora's favorite presents were her baby doll and a ball one of her sister's picked for her- I love how little it takes to please youngin's!
[Somehow Cora chipped her front teeth in November, and days before Christmas Evie got glasses. It was heart-wrenching to see her try them on and watch her face as she realized how much better she could now see. Poor thing!]
After naps we went over to my parent's again for a Christmas feast (and some eye-gouging, in Tim's case).

I have seriously done nothing productive this past week and am a teensy bit dreading when the to-dos of next week hit me in the face, but first ringing in the New Year.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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