2021 Book Review!

Happy 2022!

In 2021, my goal was to read 52 books, or about 1 per week. I achieved my goal and ended up reading 53 books! Yay! I enjoy reading just about anything, but I do have my genres that are my favorites. I decided to do something a little different this year; I am going to pick my favorite books of the year based on my most-read/liked genres. I own none of these books (1 is Lucy’s) and acquire them through my local libraries (I have 4 library cards!) Most libraries can get just about anything through interlibrary loan which opens up a lot of options as well. All are physical books, I don’t do well with e-books; and e-books don’t smell nearly as good 😉 Here goes!

Favorite Memoir:

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This is a memoir of a highly accomplished neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at age 36. He proceeds to practice medicine and perform surgery for quite a while, but struggles being a patient vs a doctor along with the physical issues of going through treatments. He works through ideas of the meaning of life, dying with dignity, patient-doctor relationships and a life well lived. The author died while writing the book, but his words and lessons live on.

Favorite Nonfiction:

The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self

The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter

Jeremiah read this book after hearing about it on a podcast and he loved it. If he loves a book I almost always will too. This one fit the bill. This book talks about our current ways of life and societies and how ‘comfortable’ we all are. We are all constantly seeking ways to become more and more comfortable, whether that be physically, mentally, how we go through life, make decisions or as society as a whole. This author has many many valid points about how comfortability is causing us harm and how being uncomfortable a bit more often is good for us in so many ways. He is so right! We don’t constantly need to live in a land of easy decisions, plush seats, little effort and silver spoons. He chronicles his adventures where he pushes his body and spirit to the brink and how that changes him as a person. Over the last year my motto for life has been ‘Hard does not mean bad’. This book fits right along with that. It is a great read!

Favorite Historical Fiction:

The Orphan Collector

The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Another book club choice that I knew nothing about, other than the obvious picture on the front. I couldn’t put this one down. It takes place during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. There are many parallels to the covid pandemic, with public orders to quarantine and people urged to social distance and wear masks in public. Many many people die, in very quick deaths, but also many people survived the flu. The main character is a girl of 11 who is taken to a terrible orphange after herself and her mother fall ill. Her baby twin brothers are left behind when she is taken and the rest of the story revolves around her undying quest to find them and the loyalty of sibling bonds. A heartbreaking and vivid story set in a seemingly forgotten time in history.

Favorite Middle Grades Fiction:

Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt

This book is straight from Lucy’s bookshelf. She read it and then passed it on to me because she liked it so much! It is about a girl’s journey through dyslexia and a life-changing teacher. A quote from the book: “Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” There you have it. All middle graders should read this, and their parents, and/or anyone with a learning disability.

Favorite Fiction:

The Dutch House

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

This is the story of a house set over 5 decades of time. I didn’t know anything about this book going in, but it was on the list for book club so I picked it up. The story literally revolves around a giant mansion that a husband bought for his wife that caused so much discord, but yet was handed down through 5 generations. I have never read a book that was basically about a house, until this one! It’s almost fairy-tale like in a modern way, with grand paintings of past inhabitatants, evil stepmothers and snarky stepsisters, a grand estate and squabbles over money. I highly enjoyed it.

Favorite Parenting book:

Parenting With Love and Logic

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay

YES. All parents should read this book. I used to read a lot of parenting books but I’m kind of over it. Once in awhile I will still read one that pertains to us and this one did. It’s all about making kids see that their decisions and actions affect others, including their parents. Parents have feelings, needs, and desires too, just as their kids do. There’s a lot to do with natural consequences and what the authors call ‘selfish parenting’ which is a funny term but makes alot of sense. If Johnny throws a fit at Target and does not obey and disrupts the rest of the family’s shopping trip, he may need to do all of the afternoon chores when they return home, because Mom is just so tired from dealing with Johnny’s poor behavior at Target that she couldn’t possibly do them herself. Just an example 😉 I use the author’s mindset alot and I have to say the results are quite effective. There is more reflection required on the part of the child and less of the adult doling out punishments.

Here’s the complete list of what I read this year:

Friday Five: 10/15/21

1) Well we had a few birthdays! July 18 Mary turned 1, August 1 Kateri turned 3, and September 23 Ruth turned 5! Due to many events, trips and pure logistics, I decided to wait and have 1 party for all 3 girls in September. We dubbed it ‘The Blondies’ Birthday!’. I made 1 cake and had each girl choose a color for the 3 layers and it was GREAT. Lucy made party games including a scavenger/treasure hunt and a Blondies Trivia that was super fun. (ie Which Blondie does not like strawberries? Which Blondie had the quickest labor? Which Blondie could ride on 2 wheels before she was 3?) Ruth and Kateri loved the festivities and didn’t care that it was not right on their birthdays, and Mary couldn’t have cared less about any of it! Win!

2) We rounded out our summer with our 2nd camping trip of the year (I had really hoped for more, but alas, it was a great summer!) We ventured to Backbone State Park where we have camped in years past. We have an annual family picnic there on Labor Day weekend that coordinates nicely with camping. We enjoyed all the joys and memories of camping and only got rained on for a few hours :-\ We played in the creek, visited the spring, ate good food, hiked great trails, saw the world’s largest strawberry and did a little fishing. I have some big camping dreams for next summer involving the great American roadtrip, but, we will see 🙂

3) Everyone went back to school! Well…..not me. 19 years was enough for me-HA!. But anyways, as you can see, Lucy got contacts that she occasionally wears, Ruth and Kateri occasionally wear shoes when we leave the house, and my son is tall enough that I cannot see over his head any longer and he is growing a mullet that he knows my strong feelings on. Jeremiah-3rd year Principal, Gabriel-6th grade, Lucy-5th, Amelia-2nd, Ruth-4 year old preschool, Kateri and Mary are just along for the ride 🙂 This is Gabriel’s last year at this school, next year he will proceed on out of the Bennett nest. I’m contemplating having Kateri start part time preschool at semester, one of the many reasons is to be able to say that 5 of my kids went to school at once, in the same building. Good reason, no?! 😉

4) In August we road tripped to Milwaukee, WI for my cousin’s wedding. By the way, did you know Milwaukee is a really cool place? We didn’t have a lot of time to see the sights, but we did squeeze in a jaunt over the the shoreline of Lake Michigan and let me tell you there was no swimming going on for us…it was cold water! We stayed in a giant Airbnb house with some of our fun family, attended a very diverse Catholic Mass then made our way over to our first Jewish wedding ceremony, ate A LOT of great food, didn’t break anything and danced, danced, danced with all the kids which was super fun. I swear, the girls do wear shoes sometimes…..

5) Other things I immensely enjoyed this summer, including, but not limited to: +Visiting our favorite Seminarian in northern Chicago for family weekend at Mundelein Seminary. +Rekindling my love for playing the trumpet. Lucy wanted to play my trumpet for 5th grade band, so I took it in and got ‘er all cleaned and shined up. I’ve been able to sight read easy songs and hope to join the community band next spring with Gabriel on the tenor sax! +We picked a ton of Concord grapes late this summer and Gabriel made it his mission to independently make grape juice and grape fruit leather. Proud, I am. +We’ve reinstated ‘Nana Tuesdays’. We’ve visited parks, the Figge Art Museum, shops, libraries and the like and treasure the time. +I blame my brother Mitch for the fact that I am now a mountain biking junkie. His bike may cost 10x as much as mine, but I severely enjoy the time on my bike, time with my brother, and time outdoors, of course! +And one of the loveliest summer pictures I’ve taken, right there, overlooking God’s country in Iowa 🙂

Adventures in Alabama

In mid-July, we took a family trip to Alabama’s Gulf Coast! When I asked the kids way back in February where they’d like to travel to this year, the overwhelming majority said they wanted to see the ocean, as they had never been! Our first choice was to go to South Dakota/Yellowstone/Glacier, but alas February was apparently too late to book for Glacier, so that trip is still in the holding pen. Anyways, we had a good time on the coast of Alabama, in the cities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.

Our goal was to leave at 5am on the first day, and we left at 5:10am, so with 10 of us in tow (2 extra family members came along) I’d call that a success! We had a 15.5 hour drive to split over a day and a half, and it went really well! Kids were so excited once we reached the Alabama state line, but it was another 7ish hours to the coast from there! We got to see a lot of America, with our travels to/from taking us through Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Missouri.

We reached the ocean and our condo was right on the water, and the sugary white sand beaches did not disappoint! We had some setbacks/disappointments including a jellyfish sting, late check in, dirty condo and severe sunburn, but we still had a great time! Staying right on the beach was fun for early morning and late evening beach walks and explorations, and the pool of course was a hit, even in the middle of a downpour.

During our stay, we visited the Gulf State Park and did some hiking, went out on the pier, took a dolphin cruise, spent a good amount of time at the beach and pool, saw stingrays, sharks and dolphins, found a lot of seashells, went to the Wharf, mini golfed and ate a lot of ice cream!

And wouldn’t you know, our 15th wedding anniversary landed on a day we were there! We celebrated by going to dinner with Uncle Cameron and the 3 older kids at a really cool restaurant right on the water with all outdoor seating. The kitchens themselves were made out of shipping containers, which is my eventual dream for our house. It was a cool place!

Lots of good memories!

On the way home we stretched the trip over 2 days again, stopping in Peoria to see Venerable Fulton Sheen’s tomb, museum and the Cathedral in which was his home church. Very cool stop! Don’t worry, it’s a cardboard cutout 😉

And when we got home, look what was blooming! I didn’t even plant sunflowers this year 🙂

Thanks for the memories, Alabama Gulf Coast!

Friday Five: 6/18/2021

Well, well, well, here we are again. And I haven’t blogged since February. Yikes. Adding ‘write blog’ on the to-do list doesn’t necessitate that it will get done, obviously!

Today is Gabriel/G-Man/Man Child/ G’s 12th birthday! He’s growing at the speed of light and is nearly eye level with me and is fast approaching his teens. He requested a lemon cake for about the 5th year in a row so I’m getting decent at making that!

  1. Summertime is just about my most favoritest thing ever. It seems that just about every other summer I am pregnant, so the summers that I AM NOT pregnant, we do ALL THE THINGS. This year we bought a family pool pass, for the first time. It’s been great and I can now add ‘taking 6 children 11 and under to the pool and keeping them alive {so far}’ to my list of lifetime accomplishments. Other highlights so far include a 3 day tent camping trip to Decorah, family get togethers, hiked/caved at Maquoketa Caves, visited the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, visited family, attended various library programs, attended massive number of ball games (Gabriel, Lucy and Amelia are all playing this year), met new friends, consumed large amounts of ice cream and ate many meals on the front porch (another of my favorites!). I am looking forward to ball games being over in 2 weeks so summer slows down a bit….we will see how that goes. We have a few more road trips planned, with Gulf Shores, Alabama and Milwaukee, Wisconsin topping the list. It’s shaping up to be a good one!

2. My man-child Gabriel purchased his first vehicle. That’s right. What other could a 12 year old boy want for his first car but a 1983 Ford Bronco with 2 holes rusted through the floorboards and bird nests in the hood?! And it doesn’t run–hasn’t for the past 20 years. Yes, this is his dream. He wants to take it all apart and build it back up, learn about motors and all that jazz along the way. The males in our family think this is great and have done this themselves. His goal is to have it running in 2 years to drive with his school permit back and forth to school. But in the meantime, let me show you the current view in our driveway……

3. The Costellos are now officially beekeepers. I should say that Jeremiah and Gabriel are officially beekeepers! Gabriel’s interest was sparked back during the beginning of C*V*D {let’s not mention that 5-letter word} and he’s held onto it since. In that time Gabriel and I read every beekeeping book we could get our hands on, Gabriel by chance befriended a local Master Beekeeper who has been an excellent mentor, Jeremiah and Gabriel took a 4 month long local beekeeping course, Gabriel built a hive with Papa Dave, we purchased another hive, ordered/picked up/installed 2 packages of Italian honeybees from Wisconsin, and now J and G complete weekly ‘bee chores’ of feeding the bees (to get them established) and inspecting the hives. I think it’s so cool. We hope to get honey later this summer but we shall see!

4. The Dynamic Duo continues to be….dynamic. There’s not really ever, and I mean ever, a dull moment. Kateri is literally and figuratively, always along for the ride with Ruth. Their teen years will be….interesting. Start praying for me NOW.

5. Somehow, Mary is one month shy of 1 year! Her birthday is exactly 1 month after Gabriel’s. She continues to get around by scooting on her bottom with one hand in the air and one hand pushing her on the floor. She cruises a little bit around things and people’s legs and is getting better at standing with less support. She still doesn’t take a bottle-or cup, we are working on that! She eats a good amount of table food and is getting better at feeding herself. She’s obviously the 6th child because her sleeping situation for the past 4 months has been a portable crib in our large main floor bathroom. Think what you want, but it works for now! 1700 sq feet and 8 people…you have to get creative sometimes! Mary enjoys Gabriel and Lucy a lot. She basically has 5 mothers so that gets interesting sometimes. She’s a trooper for the most part, often getting broken up naps this summer due to the older kids’ activities and getting to bed way later than she should. She rides in the jogger with me most mornings and likes to feel the wind in her toupe-like hair 😉

Ta Ta for now!

Friday Five: 2/19/21

  1. Mr C had a birthday! He looks really excited because he wanted me to hurry and take the picture so the house didn’t burn down. I’ll spare him and not mention how many boxes of candles we had to put on his cake 😉 He had a good day and the kids and I gifted him a fancy schmancy coffee maker that he’s named ‘Hamilton’. Ha! Cheers to another year with this guy!

2. I found these 2 gems on my phone. On Valentine’s Day, Amelia and Lucy decided they would initiate ‘Costello Girls’, a restaurant in my very own kitchen! They do this on occasion, but this time was extra special. They found a recipe in a kids cookbook for meatloaf and made the whole thing themselves. It was quite an ordeal; I think they started cooking at 3pm and we ate at 6pm! Based on the caption of ‘masterpiece’ I’d say they were quite pleased with themselves. The meatloaf was actually very, very good and they *almost* didn’t fight throughout the whole endeavor.

3. I’ve been trying to revive some long lost childhood favorites around here, probably because Covid/ the winter that never ends/ my kids are finally old enough, including but not limited to: good old fashioned card games (Old Maid, Kings in the Corner, Go Fish, Spoons, Uno, Blink, Left Right Center), jigsaw puzzles (we’ve completed a 300, two 500’s and now a 1000 piece), and board games ({I LOVE SCRABBLE!}, Candyland, Life, Tractoropoly (only if G talks me into it), Suspend and sometimes checkers/chess. The endless supply of snow days and late start days and bitter bitter cold, along with our family fast of any television among other things for Lent has lent well to this idea (see what I did there!?) Can I say that Ruth is a card shark? Surprise, surprise. It’s been good.

4. A post from House of Costellos is not complete without at least one mention of books…. so here it is! Probably my 3 favorites as of recently are: 1) Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt Another book off Lucy’s shelf that she loved and so did I. About a girl who has dyslexia, finding her way in school and life and her struggles along the way. I found this inspirational but also heart wrenching. Well written. 2) The Push by Ashley Audrain Loved this! A psychological thriller fictional story about a mother’s experience with motherhood and her daughter that I could not put down. It was absolutely believable and a psychological ride. I can’t explain it without giving it away, so I won’t try! I think a lot of moms would really like this one. 3) No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox An autobiography of sorts with Fox’s experiences and stories tied in. His stories of battling Parkinson’s and different struggles he’s had along the way hit close to home for me, but his overall message of hope and optimism would benefit anyone! Happy reading!

5. Yep, she’s adorable. The only thing that would make her even cuter? Resuming her lost habit of sleeping through the night. She’s slept very consistently through the night since she was weeks old, then shortly after Christmas decided to stir things up a bit and since then I’ve been up no less than 4x a night. I know, sad story. You think by the 6th kid I’d know how this works. Mary turned 7 months old yesterday and I’ve failed on the mother-front and have not taken her picture yet. She is starting to scoot around on the wood floor and cry when I leave the room. She has no appetite for solids/table food which is weird for me. She loves the older 4 kids and tolerates Kateri. She’s basically Lucy’s baby when Lucy comes home from school, and it’s sweet!

Lucy’s Top Books of 2020

The following was written by my daughter and book lover, Lucy, who is 9 years old. All opinions are her own. She read a total of 90 books in 2020! Enjoy!

Lucy’s Top Books of 2020 

   Here are 10 of my favorite books of 2020. 

  1. Louisiana’s Way Home  by: Kate DiCamillo 

This book is in a series and I read all of them, but this one was definitely the most interesting. Louisiana thinks that her parents were famous and that she is too, but then her granny does some crazy things and her granny sends a note to Louisiana and her whole life changes.

  1. Tilly and the Bookwanderers ( Pages & Co. #1 ) by: Anna James 

Tilly has lost her mother and really misses her. Then one day Alice in Wonderland comes to Pages and Co. ( Tilly’s grandparent’s book store) and takes her through stories. Then there is a mysterious character and Tilly learns some secrets about her family that blow her away. 

  1. Esperanza Rising by: Pam Munoz Ryan 

This book is tragic. Esperanza loses her father and is forced to flee to America. She leaves her old spoiled life behind and makes the best of her new life. 

  1. Strays Like Us by: Cecilia Galante 

This book is about Fred and Toby, a dog, who is treated very poorly. Fred doesn’t think this is fair. Fred understands how it is to be a stray. Because of this they become a very unlikely friendship.

  1. Walking with Ms. Millie by: Tamara Bundy 

This is a very sad story. Alice accidentally gets on to a phone line and listens in on a conversation. When she goes to apologize, she asks if she can do anything to help Ms. Millie out and ends up walking Ms. Millie’s blind dog. Ms. Millie tells Alice her story and Alice starts to see a different perspective on the world. 

  1. Front desk ( Front desk #1)  by: Kelly Yang 

 Mia lives in a small motel. Everyday she runs the front office and tends to its guests. She and her immigrant parents hide immigrants. Mia gets bullied at school. To get through this she needs kindness and courage. 

  1.  Wish by: Barbara O’Connor 

Charlie is a feisty girl. Her mother won’t get out of her bed and her father is in jail. She gets sent to her aunt and uncle’s house, who she barely knows. Her sister is living at her best friend’s house. Charlie does not think it’s fair. Then she sets a trap for Wishbone, a skinny stray dog. Then they become friends and Charlie does not hate everything    anymore. 

  1. Princess Academy  by: Shannon Hale

Miri is a small girl. She is a mountain girl. This book’s theme is even if you are small you can do great things. Miri and other girls go to an academy for princesses. When Bandits and other troubles come, Miri is their leader. Miri proves she has the courage to be their leader. 

  1. Because of Winn-Dixie by: Kate DiCamillo 

Opal finds the dog, Winn-Dixie, at Winn-Dixie supermarket and gets attached. They have a very strong friendship and because of  Winn-Dixie Opal finally makes friends. I finished this book in 3 hours. 

  1. Pixie Pushes On  by: Tamara Bundy 

Polio is spreading quickly. When Pixie’s sister Charlotte gets it and Pixie’s Mom had died earlier Pixie is very lonely.  Pixie believes she gave her sister polio. With the arrival of a new baby lamb, Pixie learns to push on with life. 

             I hope you enjoyed this! 

2020 Book Review

Well, it’s been another 2 months and I’ve blogged….nothing.

But I’m here now!

Of course it is now 2021 and I have several new ambitions, but one that I do stay true to all year is reading. Oh, how I love books! And libraries! And librarians! And book clubs! I missed the ever popular ‘year end book review’ post that I should have written in December, but here I am, in 2021, doing it now. Because late is better than never, right!?

In 2020 I made it a goal to read 52 books and I made it! For some this may seem like a ton, and for others it’s a drop in the bucket. Ask my kids, I’d rather read as to watch a movie/TV any day. It’s a good escape from the noise of our house. Lucy has made the goal to read 100 books in 2021. She’ll make it and probably break it. In 2020 she read 90!

I read everything in 2020. Fictional stories and sagas, books about beekeeping, books from my 4th and 5th graders’ shelves, parenting and childrearing books, memoirs from Marines and chefs and tiny house builders and pop singers, as well as many things Catholic and spiritual. They were all good!

So my top 5 books from 2020, in no order:

  1. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
The Turn of the Key

Ooooo this one gives me chills. Couldn’t put it down. A live-in nanny gets a new post in a remote lavish high tech home and soon learns why the family has went through so many nannies in the recent months. Such a believable, modern page-turner! Ruth Ware is such a master weaver of stories and she rarely disappoints. READ IT

2. The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson

The New Strong-Willed Child

Ruth. This book was written directly for her. I could have written it myself as her mother, if I had the talent of book writing. Described her and everything about her. It was a great help in many ways, knowing that she has many strong-willed cohorts out there and that the majority of them have turned out to be high functioning, and very very successful adults, as well as helping me to understand how her very intelligent brain works and how to hone her actions. I like Dr Dobson’s approaches to many things.

3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

So this book was fascinating. I love a good nonfiction read and growing my brain on a wide variety of topics. This book is all about the beginnings and use of the HeLa cell line, which was taken from an African American woman’s cervix during a cancer surgery at Johns Hopkins in the 1950s WITHOUT HER KNOWLEDGE. They continued to proliferate at astonishing speeds and were put to work in the medical field in so many ways. Goodreads summarizes it well, “HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions”. The kicker? She is long deceased, but her family has received no payment from the proliferation of these cells. Many of her family members do not even have health insurance, at the time of writing of this book. So fascinating and a thought provoking look into how medicine, HIPAA and informed consent have changed over the decades.

4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park

Found in the teen section, I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I have seen many upstanding reviews for it. In short, this book is a young love story with so many more layers interwoven about dignity, coming of age, friendships, love and letting go, and families. I enjoyed it.

5. Walking with Miss Millie by Tamara Bundy

Walking with Miss Millie

Stolen from Lucy’s bookshelf after she raved about it for weeks I figured I should read it. It was FANTASTIC! Written for middle grade kids, it is a story about friendship between a white girl and an elderly black woman in the South in the 1960s. Again, there is more depth to this story than meets the eye and it left me thinking about it long after. Good for adults and kids. This author also has another book I just finished called Pixie Pushes On that was incredible as well. Great author.

Ok I can’t pick. Let’s make it top 7…….

6. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummings

American Dirt

Gripping tale of a boy and his mother fleeing from Mexico to the United States. Horrific, praiseworthy and most likely true for so many families. It gave me nightmares and hope. Great book.

7. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

Probably one of the best and most applicable parenting books I’ve ever read. I found the subtle and not so subtle differences between French and American parenting tactics super interesting. Probably the most interesting is the fact that French babies regularly sleep through the night before 2 months (if memory serves me right). Mind blown! I’ve read alot of parenting books in the past 11.5 years and this is probably top 3 in that category!

So there you have it! And here’s a list of alllll the others, many of which were also amazing.

Pixie Pushes On by Tamara Bundy

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Wife by Alafair Burke

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Growing Up Duggar by Jana Duggar

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Keeping Bees and Making Honey by Alison Benjamin

Esperanza Rising by Pam Ryan Munoz

Frontier Follies by Ree Drummond

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

One by One by Ruth Ware

Everything Beautiful In It’s Time by Jenna Bush Hager

Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

From Scratch by Tembi Locke

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

No Ordinary Dog by Will Chesney

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

The Secret by Beverly Lewis

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford

Raising Worry Free Girls by Sissy Goff

The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander

My Uncle Fulton Sheen by Jean Sheen Cunningham

Open Book by Jessica Simpson

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

The Orange Frog by Shawn Achor

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

A Priest in the Family by Brett A. Brannon

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Quarantine Day in the Life: 11/16/20

So Jeremiah and I both contracted the dreaded Covid-19 2 weeks ago. Our experience was typical of many many people, in that our symptoms were mild, lasted about 10 days before disappearing and were more of an inconvience than anything. I can liken my experience to a moderate chest cold. (I understand that many other people have different experiences and risks and opinions, but this is just my experiences) Jeremiah and I are both ‘out’ of quarantine, which was 10 days, but since our kids were exposed to us while we were contagious, they have to sit out from life for an additional 14 days past our initial 10 day quarantine, for a total of 24 days. Confused yet? Yeah, me too. Since March, basically…… Anyhoo, the kids are quarantined which means even though I can go out into the world, I rarely can because they can’t. It is what it is. Here’s a peek into quarantine with 6 kids. Hold onto your pants.

Jeremiah’s alarm goes off sometime around 6:15am. I doze in and out of sleep. I was up with Mary around 4am (I think?) and she starts to rouse again around 7am. I nurse her and change her diaper and then she proceeds to throw up all that milk. I’ve had a few babies like her, in which they overeat first thing in the morning and then throw it all up. If I’m awake enough to monitor her intake, it doesn’t happen. But today apparently I wasn’t! I wipe her down and re-dress her. I strip the sheet off the bed and get dressed because being covered in baby throw up is no bueno.

I head downstairs where the kids are streaming a show. Not ideal, I know I know. But it’s how we are making it through. I often find the girls like this:

I get myself some breakfast and help the kids with theirs. Gabriel has an 8:30 online class this morning and Lucy begins at 9:30. They handle most of their own days which has been great. I unload and load the dishwasher to help catch back up on dishes because I HATE it when it gets behind. I take this initial quietness of the day to order our family pictures that we took about 6 weeks ago! Finally! But it does take brainpower as I have to figure out how many and what size and for whom. I head upstairs to get the girls dressed. Kateri throws one epic fit after another. I hope G and L’s online classes don’t get to hear the rucus of me disciplining Kateri just down the hall. We strip the rest of their sheets off and head downstairs and I start them in the washer. Sometimes on Mondays I get ambitious. My main goal in the mornings with Ruth and Kateri is to wear. them. out. so that they will take good naps. Goals, I know. So we do 3 kid workout videos on youtube, 1 Frozen dance class and part of a Frozen yoga before they lose interest. I can tell I’m not going to get my own workout in so I just do theirs today….we will call it cross training. Outside we go! I dig out 2 totes from the garage loft that need to be switched–Mary needs 6 month clothes and Amelia needs 7’s. I completely shatter one tote in the process as I drop it from the loft. Meanwhile Ruth throws a huge fit about Amelia fixing the bar on the side of the trampoline that blew over in the wind. This involves her screaming, taking off and throwing both of her shoes across the yard, stomping around the yard screaming and shrieking until she retreats into the house. Nope. Outside time! I bring her back out after I give her 2 choices and she decides to resume playing outside. Good choice, Ruth. We’ve now been outside a total of 10 mins. She proceeds to run around barefoot for the next hour. It’s 40 degrees. Mary falls asleep in her bunting/snowsuit (Best find at Goodwill EVER!!) so I lay her down inside on her bouncy seat.

Guess who follows me inside!? ALL. Nope, back outside!!!!! We play until noon and sort clothes too. The warm sun feels great. The girls swing and wrestle and jump on the trampoline and play some imaginary game. I come inside to make lunch, which is a hodge podge today. The school is providing lunches for kids who are quarantined but ours have not been delivered yet for the week, along with some of their school work for the week. Mary continues to sleep.

My lunch view. G and L have already eaten. We worked together when online classes started and made each of them a schedule for the day so they know to eat between classes. Why are kids so dang messy when they eat? I wipe the island and bench and sweep the floor after every lunch. The girls always get really wound up about now. I switch laundry a few times.

We head upstairs for reading time. I put Kateri and Ruth down for naps usually between 1 and 1:30pm. Kateri has another tantrum because I carried her into bed instead of letting her walk. So sorry…..

Mary is now awake so I send Amelia down to supervise/entertain her while I finish getting the other girls in bed. I do have to say that my older 3 kids are beyond helpful. {Side note, the other day I did get to leave the house for an afternoon to visit my parents, and Lucy and Amelia made a homemade apple pie while I was gone!!!} I come down and find Amelia holding Mary and singing to her. I nurse Mary while I get Amelia started on school work. G and L continue with their classes upstairs.

I’ve started doing Amelia’s school work in the afternoons during naptime because there is no way that I can supervise the youngest 3 girls, keep it quiet enough for her to concentrate and help her all at the same time. It just doesn’t work. She has a school issued iPad with things to complete and several packets. We do math and ELA. Her work changes depending on the day but most of it I have to be around for.

Around 2ish G and L start wandering downstairs after classes. Everyone gets some down time for awhile. Ruth wakes up from her nap. I’m getting tired…..3pm is snack time and the kids never let me forget it. I realize I should have showered in that very small window that I was given. O well. I throw some frozen chicken breasts in the instant pot to get prepped for dinner. I really should prep the rest of it right now but I kind of want to sit down and eat some Halloween M&Ms. Keeping it real, folks. We play a new game we got but it ends in tears and attitudes so we are done!

I never ever let Kateri or Ruth nap past 4pm, so I send one of the older kids up to get Kateri then. I want everyone to go on a walk because it’s that weird time of day and it gets dark at like 4:30 now. They don’t want to do that, they claim they want to play hide and go seek in the yard. Fine by me. I get the stroller out and walk back and forth, back and forth with Mary on the road in front of the house. Within minutes Amelia is coming to find me and complain about someone or situation. I’m about done with whining and crying for the day so I tell her that I’m not listening to it. It works….for awhile. Then someone else is back. Sigh. I keep walking and tell them to figure it out, which is my common response. We head inside around 4:45 and it’s nearly dark.

Believe me, this lasted about 10 seconds and then it was fighting!!!

I make the rest of dinner and the kids go upstairs to play Legos….except Kateri and Mary. I hear music and realize they’ve turned on Frank Sinatra to go with their Legos–HA! I switch out Mary’s 3 mo clothes for 6 mo and then J comes home and we watch the governor’s address which is …..interesting and honestly makes me feel kind of bummy. We eat and discuss the governor’s address with the kids and there’s yet another mess. The floor, the table, why can’t people get food INTO their mouths?!!? There’s no leftovers. Gabriel unloads the dishwasher, Lucy loads it. Ruth wipes the table and Amelia sweeps the floor. It’s not perfect but it’s done.

All Mary wants to do is eat so I’m pretty well assigned to that job. We watch the Voice for awhile and Lucy periodically yells at everyone because she can’t hear it. Works well. Mary cries. Kateri and Ruth get louder and crazier. These two blonds just feed off each other. 8pm is bedtime and you better believe tonight they’re in bed by that time. The other kids are still up but I disappear into an extra hot shower and it’s very nice. Some nights (ok, a lot of them) I am just DONE by 8pm. I eat ice cream with Reese’s pb cups because I went 3 days without taste or smell and I’m making up for those days now!

And that’s about it!

10/12/2020 A Day in the life

I’ve been wanting to do one of these ‘day in the life’ posts for awhile now since Mary was born, but I kept waiting for an ‘average’ day. Guess what? It doesn’t exist. Not lately anyways. So here’s a day in my life, October 12, 2020, for my children to read about someday down the road…..because that’s what this blog is for anyways 😉

6:20am Ruth comes barreling into our bedroom. Mary awakens shortly after, so I feed and change her. Jeremiah gets up sometime in there and gets ready for work. 7am I start waking kids up…well the remainders anyways. G is almost always up, Ruth and Mary are both up. That leaves Lucy, Amelia and Kateri. Lucy is by far our heaviest and longest sleeper and therefore most difficult to wake up! I leave Mary laying on our bed while I get Kateri dressed and to the potty and help Ruth and Amelia pick out clothes. We like to do this the night before, but…..life. Kids make their way downstairs and finish getting ready for school. They do almost all of their tasks on their own except I usually intervene with the girls’ hair. They are currently eating breakfast AND lunch at school due to the COVID programs and can I just say that it sure is nice. 7:35am Gabriel, Lucy, Amelia and Ruth walk to school.

I then take a deep breath and go about my morning. Nursing, pumping, turning on Pinkalicious for Kateri for a bit, usually switching laundry and doing some type of dishes, all first thing. I have 2 blogs I like to read daily, plus something called ‘The Loop’ which is a Catholic news email, and I check our bank account balance every morning. I sneak a protein bar for breakfast but K always demands a bite. I do an indoor Hasfit HIIT workout because it’s raining; normally we head out for a run around 9am with me pushing Mary and Kateri in the double jogger. But not today. Once it stops raining we head to the post office but it’s closed for Columbus Day. Ahhh! I talk to the eye doctor, my Dad and my mom’s current hospital therapy department on the phone. I order prescription swim goggles for Lucy (which are almost impossible to find for what she needs/wants), empty and reload the dishwasher, add more to my to do list and encourage Kateri to tell me when she needs to go potty. We play magnet blocks for a hot minute until Ruth comes home.

11am Ruth gets off the preschool bus. She is always a pistol when she gets home. 11am-1pm may very well be the most stressful time of my day. She’s just all over the place and I really have to enforce her following directions and listening. Today she’s actually pretty well behaved. I make the girls some macaroni and cheese for lunch and I have a salad with tuna. There is a huge mess under where they eat at the island. I leave it for now because they are off. the. chain. I tell them to go out and play in their leaf pile since it has stopped raining. K comes in twice to go potty and Ruth once in the first 5 minutes. Then K comes in again and tells me ‘I a little bit chilly’. Just. go. play.! I catch a few minutes of the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearings. Surprising that I like her, I know, I know.

12:40 we start reading books. I try to read to the little girls for at least 20-30 mins before naptime every day. They seem to really enjoy it and I love to read, so no surprise there. 1pm Ruth and Kateri go down for a N-A-P. It has become a non-negotiable that Ruth takes a nap every day, even at the age of 4. It normally makes a HUGE difference in her behavior and impulsiveness and my sanity. 🙂 I hear them up there chattering until at least 1:45 but I don’t care, honestly. At least I’m getting a break! HA! I take a shower and stand in the hot water way too long, but it’s all good. Mary is such a wonderful baby, she normally will nap on and off during the morning and afternoon and is usually in good spirits, and usually allows me a shower around this time so I don’t have to marinate in my post-workout sweat all day. I sort/fold 2 baskets and 1 hamper of clean laundry that I did over the weekend. That is A LOT of laundry. I stopped folding kids clothes awhile ago, they just each have a small bin in the laundry room and I sort it for them. I put away all my clothes and the heap of clean towels. I sweep the floor of the kitchen which is never, ever clean. Mary sits in her Bumbo seat and watches me and smiles. She’s such a dream. I decide to sit down for 10 mins before the kids get home from school and read and eat these amazing bars.

3:30 kids burst in the door. Snack commences, as does spelling practice and a million questions and snippets of their day. They always all have alot to tell me at this time! I have to take a phone call which is always interesting with 6 kids in the house. Usually I have to hide outside to talk on the phone. I have all 4 older kids go put away all their clean laundry. In theory, the older 3 do their own laundry, but a few of their things always seem to sneak into the regular laundry.

4:30pm I start dinner. This is always my goal if I haven’t made the dinner ahead of time (like during naptime). Today I throw this 5 ingredient white chicken chili into the Instant Pot (yes I still have big heart eyes for my IP) and get summoned outside to see the nest that Amelia made out of leaves. I take another important phone call and suddenly everyone desperately needs to talk to me, of course.

5:45 Dinner is late because I got it going late. I guess it wasn’t actually 4:30….. We have exactly 10 mins to eat before I have to leave with 4 kids to go to swimming lessons. Jeremiah has a school board meeting tonight so I’m on my own. Yeah, it gets a little hairy. I leave the older 2 at home to clean up dinner and unload/load dishwasher and put away food and wipe counters. I take the 4 younger girls and we head out at 6:08. Only 8 mins behind! 😉 We get there with plenty of time. Amelia and Ruth are in swim lessons and I try to keep Kateri busy and from falling off the bleachers while nursing Mary and watching Ruth and Amelia in their respective lessons. The multi-tasking does not end!

They finish 45 mins of lessons and we head to the locker room. This part always stresses me out. But today, it goes fine. The girls shower and then get dressed quickly and I don’t have a crying baby or a screaming toddler today, so it’s alright.

We get home at 7:40ish and everyone wants second dinner. Normally we don’t do this but dinner was really rushed tonight. PBJs it is! I make 5, then 2 more, then 1 more. Then I tell them to go brush and get ready for bed. The kitchen is quite clean, my plan worked! *win* J arrives and helps with bedtime. I have to approve a new YouTube video that Lucy recorded earlier in the evening, “Making paper squishies”. I don’t know where she comes up with these ideas! Kids are finally in bed and I hang up all the wet towels and swim suits and start the dishwasher AGAIN and check out my planner to see what tomorrow entails. I’m about done, ready for a book and chocolate and a soft pillow. 🙂

No pictures on this post because WordPress and I are having a time…. 😦

Hello again

Welp…… it’s been while.

Life has been a bit FULL. I’m not sure why? I do have a few guesses. I am happy that some things are returning to a bit more ‘normal’, and along with that brings more on the calendar. I realized this week, while I was ordering G clothes (size 16…um what?!), scheduling well child checks, ordering groceries, signing up for swim lessons and cleaning/purging/organizing that I am basically the main go-to for 8 people now. So I guess that’s why I’m short on down-time. And my employers have also been wondering when I’m coming back. Soon…somehow.

Anyways, here’s a look at the 8 of us:

Mary turned 2 months old on September 18th! She remains a great cuddle companion, champ nurser and superb sleeper. She is most happy in the morning and doesn’t enjoy a wet diaper. She really enjoys riding around in my array of baby carriers, and this is how I make dinner appear. Cooking 1-handed is for the birds– believe me, I try it often. She will smile and is starting to coo. She doesn’t always enjoy being set down during the day and still likes to be swaddled at night. Her hair is slowly but surely making its way in. She loves to be toted around everywhere.

Kateri is 2 years old as of August 1 and is low-to-medium on the intensity scale for the terrible twos. She suddenly despises sippy cups and going to bed. I decided to just stop putting off the inevitable when she kept removing her diaper so we jumped into potty training and except for the first week when I had all the second-thoughts, it’s going great. Ha! Chocolate chip motivation works, people! She speaks about a million and a half words and likes to repeat whatever Ruth says. She is Ruth’s little sidekick which brings about a whole new set of realities. Kateri really enjoys magnet blocks, Little People toys and the dirt under the swings. She throws occasional tantrums and it’s usually about things like why I won’t carry her pen, why she can’t use markers on the butcher block island, or why she can’t find the Little People person she has named Amelia. She regularly says how she’s going to preschool tomorrow…except she’s not.

Ruth turned 4 on September 23rd. Yes, we are in birthday season! She is a spunky soul and a complete livewire. Ruth carries around a notebook and pens constantly. She really enjoys getting dirty; like really dirty. She highly enjoys catching frogs and naming them. She goes to school every day now, completely loves it and talks in rapidfire at all times. Per her request, we read A LOT of books. She tends to think everyone is her friend very quickly. She sucks her thumb and I still cannot let her out of my sight. Yep.

Amelia is still 6, but she’s anxiously awaiting her birthday in November. She loves to play with her cousins or neighbor kids. She likes learning to read. She’s a lean machine but always has room for dessert. Amelia is always my helper in the kitchen, and never minds hanging out with me, which of course I love. She was nervous 1st grade would be so much more difficult than Kindergarten, but she has enjoyed it all so far. She’s concerned that the replacement for one of her front teeth has not grown in yet, and she’s tired of the jokes about her inability to eat corn on the cob. She’s learning to play piano and hopes to pass level 2 in swim lessons this go-round. Her hair holds waves after braids and I’m jealous. She loves tearing around on her bike, attending library programs and talking 🙂

Lucy is becoming a tween too quickly. She’s 9 but perhaps acts a little closer to 13 every day. She’s very crafty and artistic, and made this sign for our front door. She’s considering swim team this fall and was really excited to begin 4H last month. She’s always making something and gives me a daily report of the happenings and drama at school. She plays the ukulele and piano. Her Youtube channel is always a source of conversation and sometimes conflict. Lucy sleeps with 23 stuffed animals and reads 4 books at a time. She even gives me book recommendations!

Gabriel is not my little boy anymore! He’s as big as a junior high schooler and eats like it too. Last week he was 5’2 and 110 and his feet are bigger than mine. His 2 greatest loves are swimming….and the saxophone. He also plays piano and a little ukulele. His current plan is to be an engineer, a welder, or a priest. He didn’t get to take any 4H fair projects this year but is working on one for next summer. He likes to fish, do farming stuff, do anything with his Papas, mountain bike, tear things apart in the garage, watch Mark Rober on Youtube and find an alternate location when his sisters are too loud. 5th grade looks good on him 🙂

Jeremiah is working his way through his 2nd year as principal. He bought this captain’s hat for when he drives the van because ‘I am the captain of this vessel!’; which is great because I drive it way more than him! Ha! He’s been very busy at work but has enjoyed mountain biking this fall and helping me wrangle The Six. He tore off and put a new roof on our back porch after he relocated 8 destructive squirrels from the walls. He enjoys blaring Eric Church at night while we are all cleaning up dinner/day’s messes.

Myself…… well I’m doing this thing called being a mostly stay-at-home mom right now. It’s different, it’s really tiring and I feel like it’s exactly what I’m supposed to do right now. 🙂 I do plan to return to some weekend work once my mom’s hospital stay wraps up (that’s another story I’m not delving into here!). I do a lot of things every day, but my favorites are running and pushing the 2 little girls daily while the big kids are at school, reading books to the girls before naptime, NAPTIME, meeting friends, talking to friends, selling stuff on Marketplace, and having chocolate after the kids go to bed. If it’s been a rough day, it’s ice cream. The days are really full, and that’s a good thing for me.

And some pictures off my reel to wrap up this post:

I shall return!