And I Wish I Could Read Even More!!

You know I love to read…and I wish I could read even more. So I’m having a hard time keeping up with my blogs about books I’ve read so I’m changing over after this post to posting on Instagram. So if you like the books I recommend, follow me on Instagram at elastamom417. I think that will be an easier way for me to share the books I’ve read and enjoyed!

Here’s what I’ve read since the last time I posted. I am going to put full descriptions on the ones I liked the most. If I didn’t enjoy it, I’ll share that too. I’m sure I forgot some but I did my best!!!

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruger

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

The Fallen by David Baldacci (4th in the Amos Decker series which I love!)

Redemption by David Baldacci (5th in the Amos Decker series)

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd **

This book was wonderful. I am still thinking about it and I finished it almost a month ago. It didn’t sound like something I would like but I did! It’s the fictional story of Jesus’s wife. It’s one you can’t put down!

Deadly Cross by James Patterson

Win by Harlan Coben

If you love the Myron Bolitar stories from Coben, you will enjoy this one that’s just about his BFF Win.

Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison

This is the author of The Butterfly Garden, which I loved, but I didn’t enjoy this one.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

This one was really good. Very different and a quick read. Set in 1918 in Ireland during the flu outbreak, it chronicles a few days in the sick ward with Nurse Julia. There’s friendship, love and death. Great story!

Invisible by James Patterson

The Girl in the White Van by April Henry

My students recommended this one and it was very good. A quick read about a kidnapped girl.

Playing Nice by JP Delaney

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Another recommendation from my students that was excellent. It’s very sad so be forewarned. I can’t tell you too much without giving it away but Monday is a teenage girl and… she’s not coming to school.

My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

He Started It by Samantha Downing

Skip this one.

I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown

The Seven Day Switch by Kelly Harms

I expected this to be really cheesy but it was such an enjoyable read. Two completely different mom switch places for a week (think Freaky Friday) and learn about each other. So good!

Her Last Breath by Hilary Davidson

Open House by Katie Sise

Find Layla by Meg Elison

Another recommendation from my students that was very good. It’s very disturbing but very good. A high school student is living in squalor and doesn’t realize it’s so bad. She documents her life for a project at school and realizes she has the potential to get out of her situation.

Eight Perfect Murders by Patrick Swanson

Dear Child by Romy Huasmann

This is one of my favorites that I’ve read this year. Think of Gone Girl meets Room.

A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci (Atlee Pine)

The Half Sister by Sandie Jones

This was another favorite. A woman shows up at dinner claiming to be their late father’s love child. Is she or not? What other family secrets might come out? So good!!

Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci (Atlee Pine)

Daylight by David Baldacci (Atlee Pine)

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

The Sentinel by Lee and Andrew Child

I think I’m done with reading the Jack Reacher books. The last two have been duds.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce

This is a crazy read. You have to keep reminding yourself that it’s a true story because it’s so unbelievable!!!

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman

Skip this one. I kept reading it thinking it would turn out to be worth it. It wasn’t.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

The Birth House by Ami McKay

Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin

The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Byrndza

Invisible by James Patterson

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

A classic Hilderbrand book set in Nantucket. A unique love story. Loved it.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Proxy by Alex London

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

This was another recommendation from my students. A girl is determined to solve a murder that took place in her hometown because she doesn’t think the right person was convicted. Very good!

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

This was very different and very good. A girl’s dad dies and she discovers he has another family in a different country.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

This is probably the best book I’ve read in the last year. It’s set during the Dust Bowl (which I learned a lot about!) and follows Elsa on her journey out west. Incredible!!

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

I didn’t even finish this one and I love Picoult’s books. I was so bored.

If Looks Could Kill by Kate White

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmi Lang

Such a Perfect Wife by Kate White

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue


Quarantine Reads

This isn’t going to be like my other book review posts because I’ve been reading so much and I waited too long and it’s overwhelming to have to write a review for each one. So I’m going to post all of the books I’ve read since my last post here and put stars next to my favorites. I don’t know about you but I’ve needed reading like never before while watching our world implode. I hope you’re doing well and I’d love to hear what you’re reading! (Also? Karin Slaughter’s new book comes out on August 4th if you’re anxiously awaiting like I am!)

The books below are books I’ve read to help understand racism and to become a better ally. I highly recommend all of them.

Stamped by Jason Reynolds (YA version but very good; Matthew is reading it now and learning a lot)

How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown (Toledo native!)

Here are the rest of the books I’ve read. I enjoyed them all!  (Stars next to my favorites!)

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

 The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden ** (YA)

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi **

The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris (follow up to Tattooist of Auschwitz)

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter **

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (nonfiction) 

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

The Playground by Jane Shemilt

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Institute by Stephen King ** (especially if you love King)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The House on Olive Street by Robyn Carr

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway ** (YA) 

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow (nonfiction)

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Under Currents by Nora Roberts

The Chain by Adrian McKinty ** (super creepy)

Half a Brain by Jenni Basch (nonfiction)

In the Shadow of the Valley by Bobi Conn (memoir)

Devoted by Dean Koontz ** (I don’t normally like Koontz, but this was awesome!)

I Am, I Am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell (memoir)

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid ** (not a real band so don’t spend hours looking for their music like I did; soon to be a movie) 

Have You Seen Me? By Kate White

Feed by Mira Grant (YA)

If You Tell by Gregg Olsen (nonfiction; TW: abuse)

Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline


Today is 5p-/Cri du Chat Awareness Day. As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for longer than five minutes, my daughter, Olivia, has this rare syndrome. She is missing part of her fifth chromosome and it affects everything about her. It also makes her my Olivia.

It’s so strange to be 19 years into this special needs parenting thing. When she was first born, Matt and I were devastated and completely overwhelmed. Now? We *almost* forget that our lives are different than other people’s because to us this is just normal. I like connecting with parents of young kids with Cri du Chat and to hopefully, have them see that it will not only be okay, it will be amazing.

Most days, we’re just a regular family with three teenagers that eat non-stop and want to be left alone. Yes, Olivia needs help with everything including diapering, eating, self-care, etc., but she’s also a very typical teenager in that she just wants to be alone in her room with her iPad and movies.

But you know what’s not typical?

When I go to wake her up in the morning and her face lights up. I always sing to her or say “Good Morning, Sweet girl” (her favorite) or dance or do something silly. She’s always happy to see me. Always.

When I pick her up after school, she’s beside herself with happiness to see me. She flaps and yells and says “It’s my Mom!!” and jumps up and down. Every day. Even though she just saw me that morning. It’s like that every single day. And it’s wonderful.

She loves her family more than anything in the world. She doesn’t have best friends or people she hangs out with. We are it. And she is 110% okay with that. It’s perfect for her. We are her best friends.

She is content to just be. She’s not ever thinking the grass is greener, that she wishes she had a nicer car, cooler clothes or a new iPhone. She’s always content. Olivia lives in the moment and is happy.

She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. Does she get upset at times and act out? Of course she does! But is she ever mean on purpose? Never. Do you know anyone who is kind 100% of the time? I do!

For today, I don’t just want to spread awareness. Yes, it’s a rare syndrome that I wish more people knew about and understood. But what I would really love? I wish for people to see Olivia, and others just like her, as a shining example of a human. Instead of thinking they’re “weird” or “not normal” or someone to be afraid of or uncomfortable around, just see her as…Olivia. The happiest, most selfless, kind, self-assured person I’ve ever met. The best friend I always wished for. The perfect daughter. The epitome of joy on earth. That’s what I wish everyone was aware of — just how special those with special needs really are.


She IS joy

She starts every single day with a smile.

She expresses her love freely and completely to everyone in her life.

She loves herself just as she is…she loves all of us just as we are.

She enjoys the mundane things we take for granted like wearing pajamas and watching TV and being lazy surrounded by your friends.

She gets as excited over a trip to Disney or a new stuffed friend as she does to see my face in the morning.

She is everything I’ve wanted to be and everything I wanted in a daughter.

I’ve learned through her 19 years that she IS joy. Personified, completely and overwhelmingly, she IS joy.

I’m so incredibly lucky to be her mom and have a constant reminder about what is important and that every day can be joyful if you try.


Books to Ring in the New Year

Bestseller by Christopher Wright

 My friend, Amber, gave me this book after hearing me talk about true crime daily at lunch. The main character is a famous book editor. She leaves her daughter with a trusted friend and heads to a cabin in Michigan in the middle of nowhere to finish reading the books that authors and publishers have sent her to review. Right away she’s experiencing some odd things around the cabin. Before she knows it, she’s in the middle of a horror novel. Very entertaining and will have you yelling at the character when she’s being like the stupid blonde in a horror movie!!

 Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Holling Hoodhood (yes, that’s quite a name) is a 7th grader in the Vietnam war era who has to spend every Wednesday afternoon with his teacher because he doesn’t attend religion classes like the rest of his class. She seems to dislike him but eventually, they create a wonderful relationship. Matthew had to read this for school, and I thought it sounded cute. It was a great read! I think I read it in a few hours too so if you’re looking for a quick read, this is a good one.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

 This book. My heart. So good. If you’re like me, you’ve read a lot of novels set during the WWII era. Sometimes I won’t read a book simply because it’s set during this time and I’ve read so many, but this is worth the read. It centers on Lale who has been sent to the concentration camp and somehow lands the job of tattooing numbers on the prisoners’ arms. He falls in love, he almost dies, he makes friends. It will get you with all of the feels!!

 Shamed by Linda Castillo

I love this author and her books that are set in Ohio and focus on murders that involve the Amish. This one was just as good as I had hoped! A little Amish girl with special needs has been kidnapped and Chief Burkholder and her crew are doing everything they can to find her; hopefully, they’ll find her alive. They uncover all sorts of secrets that the Amish community was trying to hide. So good!

Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

I heard about Jensen through my favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder.  Billy is a true-crime reporter and writer. This was his memoir about how he became a true-crime reporter and author. If you aren’t into Billy and/or true crime, this probably isn’t your cup of tea. I enjoyed learning more about Billy for sure!

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

 You will think you know what’s happening in this novel and you will be wrong. There are so many twists and turns you’ll get whiplash!! It’s a love story that is not as it seems. Definitely worth a read!

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

 I almost stopped reading this one because it felt too cliché or boring, but I was intrigued by the main character, so I kept going. I really enjoyed it. Susan is an uptight, super type-A kind of gal who gets pregnant. That was not in her plans at all, thank you very much. She decides to keep the baby and be a single mom. During her pregnancy, she has to deal with her semi-estranged mess of a brother. But her brother brings a yummy friend. This was very different than most books I read and I enjoyed it!

Vox by Kristina Dalcher

 If you are like me and super worried about our country and our future right now, this novel will seem scarier than it intends to be. It completely freaked me out because I could imagine this happening to us women in our country. Women are no longer allowed to speak whenever they wish. They have to wear a bracelet that counts the number of words they speak; when they reach the limit, they are physically punished if they go over. If you enjoyed Handmaid’s Tale, you will enjoy this one. But be warned! It’s upsetting because it seems realistic in this era of the super orange Cheeto.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

 Again, a different type of book that I wasn’t sure I was going to like but definitely did. Greer is a young, ambitious woman at the center of this novel. She is like any new adult — confused, overwhelmed and trying to find out her purpose in life. She is mentored by a woman Greer has adored for years, Faith Frank, who turns out to be not as great as she imagined. It’s a book about coming of age and finding your path in life. Very good!

 The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

 Four high-powered, competitive executives and their boss are sent an invitation for an escape room event. None of them want to go, but they’re certain it will affect their bonuses, so they all go. Little did they know that the escape room is the elevator that they will be stuck in for the foreseeable future. It keeps you on the edge of your seat while you try to figure out who put them in this mess, why they did and how it will end.

Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness

 If you love JVN like I do, read this straightaway. If you don’t like him, don’t read it. And also, I ask, why don’t you love him like I do?? He’s the queen!!! If you don’t know who he is, go watch Queer Eye, listen to his podcast and then come back. This book will make you love him even more!

The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber

 Being a murderino, I was surprised that I had never heard of the good nurse, Charlie Cullen. He is accused of purposely killing at least 400 people throughout his nursing career. Isn’t that crazy??? He kept getting jobs and doing it over and over again without getting caught. This book is nuts! If you listened to the Dr. Death podcast and liked it, you will enjoy this book too. It’s very similar!

The Cellar by Natasha Preston

 This book felt familiar yet was still good enough to keep my attention. Summer is captured by a man on her way home from hanging with her boyfriend and friends. She is taken to the cellar where she meets her new roommates — all named after flowers which now she will be too. How on earth will she get out of the cellar and escape this madman?

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

 I believe one of my students recommended this book and I liked it quite a bit. Again, it felt a little similar to Hunger Games and Divergent but was still worth the read. Once you reach a certain age, you can be selected for “the testing”. No one knows really what will happen to you, only that you’ll have the chance to attend university. The main character, Malencia, is overjoyed when she is chosen but that quickly turns to dread when she finds out exactly what she has to do to survive.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

One of my students recommended this one as well. That’s the only reason why I kept reading it! I couldn’t bear to tell B that I didn’t finish it because I didn’t like it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. Again, it’s another dystopian society book where you have no secret thoughts at all. When a boy becomes 13, he becomes a man in their community. Todd, the main character, can’t wait to be a man. But he is forced to leave with his dog right before he turns 13 and finds out horrible things about his community.

 Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

 One of my favorite things about teaching is all of the recommendations you get from students once they know you love to read. This was an excellent choice from some of my girls. Cupid Day is one of the biggest days of the year at Samantha’s high school and she can’t wait to see what unfolds. Little does she know that she will have to relive this day over and over again until she gets it right.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

A man and a woman meet on a plane. They get a little tipsy and the man admits that he’d like to kill his wife because she is cheating on him. The reconnect after the flight and go forward with their plan. This was good; several twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. I felt like it ended somewhat abruptly but other than that, I recommend it.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Oh, how I loved this book. This one, Where the Crawdads Sing and Fountains of Silence were my absolute favorites this year. Rill Foss is the oldest of five children who live on a boat in Mississippi in 1939. One night, her dad has to rush her pregnant mom to the hospital and the five other children are taken by child protective services. Fast forward to the present day where Avery Stafford is a federal prosecutor who is visiting her father who has become very ill. Her path collides with Rill’s and all of the secrets come out. It’s sooooo good!!!

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Two sisters are trying to find their own path in the world after a tragedy. Meh. I just thought it was ok. I think it was supposed to invoke an “I am woman, hear me roar” kind of feeling but I couldn’t even remember what it was about without looking it up!

 Cleaning the Gold by Karin Slaughter and Lee Child

 What could be better than two of my favorite authors writing a short story together? Turns out, lots and lots of other books. I was so excited to read this, and it was a total snooze. Bummer. Jack Reacher and Will Trent end up in Washington D.C. literally cleaning gold and trying to solve a mystery.

 Find Her by Lisa Gardner

 Another great read by Gardner! Flora survived a kidnapping and may now be a vigilante that detective D.D. Warren will need to work with in order to stop the kidnapper.

The Rent Collector by Cameron Wright

 This story was so unexpectedly sweet and heartwarming. It will also make you extremely thankful for the roof over your head and the food on your table. It is set in the worst area of Cambodia where a little family is just trying to make ends meet. The rent collector is exactly that; the mean old woman who collects their rent. But Sang Ly discovers the rent collector has a secret past and that she might be able to help her and her little family survive. Very different from what I usually read, and I really enjoyed it.

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

A very sweet love story between a woman who has Asperger’s and her college sweetheart. Not a page-turner or superstar of a novel, but definitely worth an easy read that will make you happy.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The only reason I finished this book is because it was by Moriarty and I typically love her books. This book was so insane and ludicrous, and the ending sucked. Skip it!

When We Believed I Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal

 This one is a little far-fetched by very good and intriguing. Kit is an ER doctor who lost her sister in a terrorist attack 15 years ago. One day she is watching coverage of another tragedy when she sees her sister on TV. She then flies to New Zealand to find her sister. There’s a little love story mixed in too. I will admit I got teary at the end, so I did get sucked in by the characters and the writing. I just thought the whole “faking her own death” thing was a little far-fetched.

A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot

Mercy Kilpatrick grew up in a small town in a family of preppers. Her parents are steadfast in their belief that they need to be prepared for the end of the world. After an argument, Mercy moves away and doesn’t speak to her family again. Now, as a detective, she has to return to her hometown to help solve a murder. There’s a little love story mixed in for good measure. It was good enough that I would definitely read the next book in the series.

The Fountains of Silence by Rita Sepetys

 I am so glad my friend Kerry alerted me to this book. It was one of my top 3 of the year. In 1957, Daniel is in Spain with his family for the summer while his oil-tycoon dad works on a deal with General Francisco Franco the dictator of Spain. Daniel meets and falls in love with Ana who is their maid at their hotel. You will dive into Daniel’s family secrets, Ana’s family and their secrets and the secrets of Spain during this time. You won’t be able to put it down!!!

 Breaking Creed by Alex Kava

Ryder Creed is attracting national attention as a dog handler who searches for drugs, dead bodies and the like. He is called to work on a case that ends up going all the way to the FBI. The case was supposed to be about a drug ring but ends up being a whole lot more. It was an easy read and very suspenseful. I enjoyed it enough to read another in the series.

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

By now you know how much I love Slaughter’s books but guess what? I LOVE THIS WOMAN!! My friends Sherri, Amy and I were lucky enough to snag tickets to her talk at our local library. She was as amazing in person as we hoped she’d be! She was snarky (in a good way), hilarious, entertaining and kind. We even got to meet her and have our picture taken with her after. If you love her Will and Sara series, this will not disappoint. It’s intense and definitely a page-turner!!


Now I’m off to read my new and gorgeously illustrated Goblet of Fire!

What have you read lately?



This Dog

Last spring, our 11-year-old Westie, Jesse, died leaving behind his brother, our other Westie, Jasper. We were heartbroken as dog owners around the world know this is a terrible kind of pain. Jasper seemed lost without his commander. Jesse was the leader, the alpha, the serious one while Jasper was the silly goofball who followed Jesse around. I remember the first time Jasper went outside after Jesse died. He stood at the door for a long time before realizing he had to bark to get in; Jesse always did it for him. He slowly but surely figured out life on his own. We bathed him in extra love and cuddles and missed Jesse so.

Of course, the kids immediately began talking about getting a puppy. Matt and I were resistant because Jasper was so easy. Puppies are a lot of work, we’d tell them. They were too young to remember the Westies when they were young. That’s another reason we were hesitant — our Westies were the easiest puppies and dogs on the planet. Seriously. So easy to train, wonderful with the kids, just all-around easy. But puppies are still a lot of work even when they’re well-behaved.

My friends would always tease me because I was a dog person, but not a crazy dog person. I didn’t have pics of my Westies on my phone, I didn’t miss them when we went on vacation, I didn’t immediately turn into a puddle of love when talking about them. I did love them like crazy but when we got them, the kids were 1, 4 and 5 and I just didn’t have anything left to give to two dogs. I was already spent. So I guess I didn’t bond with them like I did our first dog. We adopted Riley, a beautiful, spunky brindle Boxer when she was one before we had kids. We took entire rolls of film of just the dog laying on the couch. We bought her a seatbelt for the car, a lifejacket for the lake and would take her for long walks every day. We were devastated when she died at 9 years old. After that, we got a devil dog that I managed to endure for a year before we decided to give her to a family that could handle her. This was all before my current friends knew me though, so all they knew was the mom who loved her dogs but didn’t really show it.

Last summer, I finally caved. We all decided we wanted a puppy. We wanted to rescue if we could, but we really wanted a puppy. Turns out adopting a puppy these days is quite the process. Home visits, outings with your current dogs, tax reports (just kidding), etc. Plus it was way more expensive than it was when we adopted Riley. I started looking for puppies on Craigslist, Facebook, etc. I happened upon an ad selling mixed breeds (read: mutts) for $100. I thought it was a misprint but inquired anyway. An Amish farm in the middle of nowhere Ohio had puppies for sale for $100. They weren’t sure exactly what breeds but they thought King Charles Cavalier and Golden Retriever for sure as part of the breeds. While Matt was on his annual fishing trip, the kids and my Mom and I headed out to the farm with only $100 cash so we didn’t end up with more than one puppy.

Well…we fell in love.

finley puppy

This little girl was one of seven puppies waiting for us. She was off by herself sleeping in the sun while her brothers and sisters were biting our toes and vying for our attention. I loved her disposition, her coloring, and her long hair. It was hard to choose just one but we all agreed she was it. Miraculously, I had a list of girl names I loved, gave the list to each of the boys and they both picked the same one.


Also affectionately known as Finley Sue, Finny, Finnegan, Floop (because she “floops” off the couch and our laps) and Spoiled Rotten. We had quite the surprise for Matt when he returned. On his fishing trip, he didn’t have access to wifi or cell service so I sent all sorts of pics of our new puppy with the caption “Hi Dad!” that he would see as soon as he crossed the border back into the U.S.

She was an easy puppy, a good puppy and captured my heart just like Riley did all those years ago. My friends and family kept making fun of me for *finally* being a dog person. I had to keep gently reminding them that I have been all along but was also busy raising 3 kids, one with special needs, that were all within 4 years of each other. This was my opportunity to care for and give myself to a dog.

finley 2.jpglt

The kids were over the moon. Matt would have 1,000 dogs so he was thrilled to find our new addition when he got home. The only thing they didn’t like was the puppy biting with those razor-sharp teeth. The only thing I didn’t like was the 3 a.m. wake-up calls. Other than that, and a few chewed up remotes, she’s been an angel. Since we didn’t know exactly her breed or what size she would be, each month was a constant surprise in her size and what she would look like.

This face. Those ears.

finley big puppy

She and Jasper got along just fine once he established that he was in charge. She constantly wants to play with him and he looks at her like “I’m old and set in my ways. Go away.” but they do love each other.

finley 2

It will probably be no surprise to those of you who have teenagers or empty nests that this dog came at the perfect time. Even though Olivia still needs me and Matthew doesn’t mind hanging out with me, I was missing the neediness of little ones. Gabe was breaking my heart and I needed something to make me feel like maybe I wasn’t the worst human/parent in the world.

Finley filled that hole right up.

fin 1

She’s my walking buddy, my reading buddy, my going-to-the-bathroom buddy (not just human toddlers, I guess!), my early-morning coffee buddy. She’s always ready for the remnants of my eggs or the corner of my toast. She’s protective of Olivia, she snuggles with Matthew and gets all wound up rough-housing with Gabe. She’s the best dog in the world.

And now? I miss her when I’m gone and she’s the screensaver on my phone. I guess I was a gooey dog person all along…I just needed reminding.

finley phone

The Best

I remember thinking that one of the most important qualities I wanted in a husband was that he would be an excellent father. But how do you know your partner will make an awesome parent…until they actually become one? Somehow, I not only got lucky in the husband department, but in the husband-is-an-awesome-father department and, for that, I am forever thankful and grateful.

Everything Matt does is with us in mind. There’s not a decision he makes or a penny he saves without consideration of what is best for us. We are always first and foremost in his mind. He has taught our children that family comes first. Always.

He is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. He gives everything to the students and families he serves every day. They love him because he’s wonderful. It’s never a surprise to me when I hear he is someone’s favorite teacher, another’s favorite coworker or another’s shoulder to lean on at work. Matt exudes confidence and caring. That’s just who he is. He has taught our children how to work hard and how to care for others.

Matt is, and always will be, the funniest person I’ve ever known. My favorite thing in the world is hearing him laugh. It’s even better if I’m the one who made him laugh because it’s usually him doing the entertaining. He constantly cracks us up with his dad jokes, funny words, and teasing. He has taught our children how fun and laughter are important in life.

He is good at relaxing after working hard. We tease him about his iPad naps after school. He is a whirling dervish for hours and then, bam, he’s out of steam and rests. I’m not always the best at relaxing and I’m thankful that he is teaching our kids, and me, that relaxing is perfectly ok.

He is a wonderful husband. Matt and I are truly 50/50 most of the time in our efforts around the house and with the kids. He is always willing to tackle the cleaning, the laundry, the making lunches and cleaning up after dinner. He has taught our children that there is nothing wrong with men being domestic. He loves me better than I could have ever imagined. He’s not afraid to say I love you, to kiss me in the middle of the kitchen or hug me until I feel better. I am thankful he’s taught our children, our boys especially, how to love and how to treat the woman you love.

Olivia has him completely wrapped around her finger and has from day one. Nothing makes me happier than seeing them be together; they snuggle, they laugh, he loves her deeply.  He would move heaven and earth for her. There are a lot of people who couldn’t handle Olivia like he does. He rarely gets upset over life with her, he is always thinking about how we can make life the best it can possibly be for her.

He is steady and strong with the boys. He always wants to teach them things, to talk to them about sports or whatever else they’re interested in, to play games with them, to be there for them. When things were rough with Gabe, he stepped in and was stronger than I was able to be. He took off work, something that he hates to do, with no hesitation because that’s what we needed. We needed him to be home, to watch out for Gabe, to handle things that I couldn’t. He never hesitates to be there for the boys. They won’t appreciate it yet, but their dad is always, always, thinking of them first.

He may not be the best at telling others how he feels, but you won’t find anyone who’s better at showing people how much he loves them. When I have days where I wonder if he loves me as much as he used to, all I have to do is look for my coffee cup with cream in it just how I like it, ready to be filled by the coffee he made. All I have to do is listen to him talk about the savings plan he has in mind so we can take care of Olivia, send the boys to college and live our simple life with ease. All I have to do is get a call from him on his way home from work, even though he’ll see us in 20 minutes, just to see how we are or ask how our day was. All I have to do is watch him enjoy spending time with his mom, his sister, and his dad even when we’re busy. All I have to do is watch him help my dad without a second thought. All I have to do is watch him love my mom like his own. All I have to do is watch his face light up when one of the kids walks in the room or the way he never, ever forgets to kiss me goodnight.

All I wanted in life was to have a family with kids and a loving husband who was a wonderful father. Sometimes when life seems too hard, or not good enough, or just blah, all I have to do is look around me and realize I’m living my dream life. I have the best husband who is the best father to our three beautiful children. What more could I ask for?

Happy Father’s Day to The Best. We love you so.

Summer Reading List Part 2

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Oh man, this was a great one. One of the best I’ve read in the past year. A young girl discovers a skeleton on her property. The story behind the skeleton is heartbreaking and one of a friendship that shouldn’t have existed during the race riots in Tulsa in the 20’s. I enjoyed this immensely and it was different from the other books I typically read.

Last Breath by Karin Slaughter

Karin can do no wrong. Love this one too. It’s the second book featuring attorney, Charlie, and this time she is helping a teenage girl. But…does the girl deserve her help??

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

A woman is driving home in the rain, sees a woman on the side of the road in her car, possibly needing help, but she keeps driving. The woman in the car gets murdered. Could she have saved her life? SOOOOOO GOOD!!

 The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Such a weird, weird book but I did like it because it was so unusual. Two women rent a unique house for a cheap price…but there are rules. Who is the mysterious owner? Why are there rules?

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

 I’m sure you’ve heard of this one, right? It’s fantastic. I couldn’t put it down. A woman who has suffered a terrible tragedy watches life go by through looking out her window. She befriends the boy across the street and becomes involved in a mystery.

 This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

 This was another book recommended by my students. It’s another tale of a school shooting. Very upsetting but good.

 My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

 Definitely read this one. It is a very unique story and lots of twists and turns. Lily enters into a new marriage determined to leave her old life behind. She takes on her first murder case and becomes entwined with her client, Joe. She also befriends her 9-year-old neighbor. Twelve years later…it all comes together in a crazy way.

 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

 This was another unique, wonderful book. It’s a quick read and entertaining. A teenage boy with autism sets out to solve a murder and makes many interesting, and sometimes upsetting, discoveries.

 Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

 This is definitely a fun, easy, beach read. A young woman, Sydney, is happy living with her roommate and boyfriend. She discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her and her life unravels. Then she meets Ridge and her mindset begins to change. I don’t normally enjoy love stories but I absolutely loved this one!

 In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

 Oh, Judy, I have loved you for so long. (See my Judy post here.) This book is awesome. She is such an amazing writer. To be able to write little kid books like Fudge, to teenage angst books like Margaret to this is astounding to me. A plane crashes in a small town in the 50’s (evidently this is based on something that actually happened to Blume) and the world as everyone knows it changes.

 Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

 I thought this book was ok. I found it easy to figure out the twists and turns. If you’re new to reading thrillers, you will probably really enjoy it. If you’ve been around the block of thrillers a time or two, you’ll like it but it won’t surprise you. Husband and wife with the “perfect” marriage head out of town for a weekend away and begin to unravel the truth about their marriage.

 All the Little Children by Jo Furniss

 This was so different and incredible. I didn’t want it to end but then it ended on a cliffhanger!! Hopefully, a sequel is coming! A mom heads out on a camping trip with her children only to discover that, somehow, they have survived an apocalypse and must now fight to survive.

 Pet Sematary by Stephen King

 I’m sure you know this story too. The book is, OF COURSE, so much better and sooooo much scarier!

 The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase

 You should definitely read this one. It is, again, unique and enthralling. Two sisters head to the English countryside for the summer only to discover that their aunt and uncle are still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter five years before. Fifty years later, Jesse decides to move her family to this same manor to escape city life and the memories of her husband’s first wife. They will soon discover if the strange rumors surrounding the manor are true.

 Tips for Living by Renee Shafransky

Nora is starting her life over after her husband leaves her for a new woman. She moves to a new town, starts a new life and, just as she is getting on with things, her ex and his new wife move to the same town. When the ex and the new wife are murdered, Nora can’t remember where she was or what she was doing on the night they were murdered. This was a quick, fun, entertaining read.

 Safe With Me by K.L. Slater

 It starts with a car crash and ends with an obsession. So good and will have you guessing until the very end!

 It Ends With Her by Brianna Labuskes

 A FBI agent is chasing a serial killer. Need I say more? SOOO GOOD!

 Lies That Bind Us by Andrew Hart

 I honestly don’t know why I kept reading this one because I knew it was rotten. I guess I kept hoping it would get better. It didn’t. Skip it.

 Whisper Me This by Kerry Anne King

 This was pretty good but not the best I’ve ever read. A woman has to go home to deal with her ailing father and discovers a sister she never knew about. Sounds fantastic, but it really was just ok.

 What Have You Done by Matthew Farrell

 This was fantastic. It’s a thrilling read that will keep you guessing until the very end. A woman is found dead in a hotel room. The forensics specialist who is first on the scene and investigating her death realizes that this is a woman he was having an affair with. His brother is a police detective who will do anything to help his brother.

 The Infinite Pieces of Us by Rebekah Crane

 Ugh, this book. I just found so many parts of it hard to believe and I didn’t like the message it sends to the teenagers who it is directed at. From the description, it sounded so great but…skip it!

 True Places by Sonja Yoerg

 I really liked this one. Suzanne is driving along the highway when she discovers a girl who is malnourished, ill and alone. For some reason, Suzanne feels compelled to take this girl under her wing and take care of her. She tries to piece together this young girl’s life story and, in doing so, discovers what she wants to do with her life as well.

 I’m Fine and Neither are You by Camille Pagan

 I didn’t like this at all. Sometimes I really wonder why I finish these. I guess I’m always optimistic that it will eventually get better!

 Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

 If you’re a fan of their podcast, you must read this book. It’s fantastic. If you don’t listen to their podcast, why not????

 The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis-Graves

 Oh, I loved this book. I just finished it last week! Again, I don’t usually like romance novels but loved this one. Annika, who has Asperger’s syndrome falls in love with Jonathan. Something terrible happens and Annika breaks Jonathan’s heart. They run into each other years later and rekindle their romance but will fate let them have their happily ever after?

Run Away by Harlan Coben

 Man, I wish I could write like Coben. He amazes me. Every story of his is easy to read, super engaging, has awesome plot lines that tie perfectly together and intriguing characters. He’s so awesome. Simon and Ingrid’s daughter, Paige, has become a drug addict and has gone missing. They will do anything to find her. I love how he had several different plot lines going at once and you can’t figure out how Coben’s ever going to get them to tie together and then he does. Expertly. I read it in one day!

Summer Reading List Part 1

Ok, sooooooo…I haven’t shared by “recent reads” since last JUNE!! I’m going to be very concise with my descriptions and review otherwise this post will be 20 pages long! (After writing some of this, I’ve decided to break it into two parts or else it truly will be unbearably long!)


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

 This is the best book I’ve read in a LONG time. The writing is beautiful, the setting is unique (New Orleans swamp), the characters are interesting and well developed and the plot is perfect. Go get on the waiting list right now! (I was on the list for 4 months!)

 Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

You know Karin is my favorite. I get to see her in person in the fall through our local library!! I can’t wait and hope I get to meet her!! I absolutely devour her books when a new one comes out. I’ve actually had thoughts of starting over and reading them all again. We’ll see. This latest novel centers on Andrea who has recently discovered, after her mother’s death, that she didn’t know her mom at all. She decides to dive in and find out who she really was and learn everything she didn’t know about her mom. It’s fantastic!

 The Night Child by Anna Quinn

I can’t remember it. I even went and looked it up on Amazon and I still don’t remember it. I think we shall let that speak for itself.

 The Midnight Line by Lee Child

 I love Child’s Jack Reacher books. This was a little slow to start but gained steam (see the train metaphor I used there??) as Reacher departs the train in the middle of nowhere and discovers a nasty underbelly of the town. If you like Reacher books, you’ll enjoy this one too.

 Nine Perfect Strangers by Lianne Moriarty

 I just finished this. I wouldn’t recommend it. I kept waiting for it to click and, instead, it just went off the rails. Boo.

 You by Caroline Kepns

 If you’ve watched the Netflix show based on this book, you probably don’t need/want to read the book. I enjoyed the book MUCH better than the show, per usual. The story is basically about a seemingly innocent man in NYC who obsesses over his girlfriends until they’re dead. If you’re in the mood for creepy, this is a good one.

 The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

 This was ok. I enjoyed it but was disappointed. Do you ever feel like you’ve read so many books that they have to be OUTSTANDING for you to recommend them? I do. The main character is a 20-something artist returning to a summer camp where, 15 years earlier, she experienced tragedy. I think if it was shorter, it would have been more enjoyable because the story is good, it just goes on too long.

 Second Life by S.J. Watson

 I didn’t finish it…enough said?

 The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello

 A suburban mom Googles herself and finds out she has a sister that apparently died that she doesn’t remember. It was good. I’d say it’s a “if you have extra time at the beach” read.

 Dear Martin by Nic Stone

 One of my students truly educated me so much this year on racism. She was constantly telling me books to read, articles to check out, movies to watch all about racism and then we’d have great conversations as well. I joked with her that I needed a break from reading because I was really starting to hate white people. Of course, I kept reading and talking and educating myself and I won’t stop any time soon.

This centers on a 17-year-old boy who is struggling with racism and how it affects his life. He starts to write letters to Martin Luther King, Jr., to help him understand and comprehend what he and others are going through and hoping to gain wisdom simply by putting his thoughts to paper. It is upsetting, sad, scary and a book that EVERYONE should read and then find a teenager who’s in the midst of it to talk to about it.

 The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 THUG (did you know that’s what it stood for?) is another book that centers around an African-American girl, Starr, who sees her best friend murdered for no reason and encounters racism in her own life as well. Again, it’s upsetting, sad, scary and a book that EVERYONE should read and discuss.

 Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Scmidt

 Another one of my girls recommended this one. It’s so good. It’s a heartbreaker. It’s short and sweet and sad. A 14-year-old boy lost his first love in childbirth and he’s determined to find his baby and at least see her face. You’ll love it.

 The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

 I hope I don’t have to tell you what this is about…if I do, where have you been the last 25 years?!?! I have been obsessed with this story since my 17-year-old self and friends went to see it on the opening weekend our senior year in high school. I’ve watched the movie countless times but had never read the book. The book, of course, WAS SOOOOO MUCH BETTER AND SCARIER!!! I absolutely loved it and want to read the sequels as well.

 The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

 If you’re not a true crime addict like me, you probably won’t enjoy this book. It is set during the time of the World Fair in Chicago and alternates chapters between the architects’ stories of getting the city ready for the fair and stories about how H.H. Holmes was murdering fair goers right under everyone’s noses. It’s nonfiction and fascinating if you’re into this sort of thing. Which I am.

 Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

 Again, I think you probably know the basics of this story, right? I had heard of it and new the basic premise (devil baby) but thought it might be a good read. It was awesome. So scary and creepy and everything that will keep you up at night! Matt and I then watched the original movie with Mia Farrow and that was great too. I just wanted everything in her apartment and her whole wardrobe.

 Intensity by Dean Koontz

 I’m not normally a Koontz fan but when I saw this on a list of super scary books, I figure I better give it a try. I absolutely loved it! Basically, a teenage girl survives a serial killer (who is one of the scariest characters ever) and finds out who is next intended victim is and does everything she can to save them.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

 If you’re not obsessed with Michelle (and Barack, honestly), I’m not sure we can be friends. Just kidding. Sort of. This was a fascinating read about her childhood, college years, meeting Barack and the White House. I learned a lot about our former first lady and her family. It’s a great read!

Year One by Nora Roberts

 My Mom recommended this one and it was very good. It’s the first in the series but I’ve only read the first one. It’s post-apocalyptic with good versus evil. It was a fast read and very entertaining.

Memory Man

The Last Mile

The Fix by David Baldacci

 These are the first three in the series. I enjoyed them immensely and will definitely read the rest. The main character, Amos Decker, a former football star whose career was cut short by a head injury, has a disorder that causes him to remember everything. I mean everything. He experiences an awful tragedy that causes him to go down a road he wasn’t expecting. Baldacci creates interesting characters, awesome plot points, and an all-around enjoyable read.

The Dependents by Katherin Dion

 I love Oprah to pieces but I rarely like her book club books. I didn’t like this one either. Sorry, Oprah! This is a widow’s look back on whether his marriage was as great as he thought it was. Snooze.

It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

 A fun and easy beach read. If you liked “Big Little Lies”, you’ll like this one too. Basically, a husband is dead…who did it? J

 Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

 This is the true story of a young lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative and helps a man who has been wrongly accused of murder. It’s a tough, gripping look at our justice system.

The Dry by Jane Harper

 This was SO good. You should definitely read this one. A man heads to his small hometown after 20 years to attend his best friend’s funeral. Right before he left, the man was accused of murder and his best friend was his alibi. What if the alibi wasn’t true? Who really committed the murder? Absolutely riveting!

 The Book of Essie by Meghan Weir

 Awesome book. You should definitely read it this one too. Essie is the youngest child of a reality TV family. (Think The Duggars and you’ll get the picture.) Well, she gets pregnant and you can imagine how that goes. But is it really that simple? Such an awesome read!

 I See You by Clare Mackintosh

 It’s so fun to go back and remember these. This is one that made me say “OHHHH YEAH!!” Zoe is a divorced mom of two who takes the same route and the same train to work every day. She discovers she’s being stalked and that the stalker may also be a serial killer. The characters are interesting, the plot is crazy and twisty and the ending is fantastic. Read it!

 Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

 The premise sounds like a page-turner but I just thought it was ok. A popular boy is found dead by apparent suicide. A local “goth” girl befriends another girl and turns her over the to the dark side. The town is in the midst of “satanic panic” and the girls are right in the middle.

 Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

 Did you read “Little Fires Everywhere”? If you enjoyed it, you will enjoy this one too. A Chinese American family’s life is torn apart by tragedy. It’s a beautiful portrait of a family searching for answers.

 Educated by Tara Westover

 This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Ever. It might be in my top 5 now. When you read this book, you won’t believe it’s a true story. I took a deep dive after into Westover’s life and it is, in fact, all true. It’s the story of Westover, the youngest in a family of four, raised in Idaho by survivalists. So many unbelievable things happen that will amaze you when you discover what Westover has survived.

 A Spark of Light by Jodi Piccoult

 Jodi’s my girl. Her books never disappoint me. They always make me think about an issue in a new way and leave feeling enlightened. This centers around a murder at an abortion clinic and the intersection of all of the lives affected that day. So good.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

 Another “OH YEAH THIS ONE WAS SO GOOD” from my mental archives. Quincy is the only survivor of a brutal murder that took place in a cabin years ago. She has managed to build a life with a boyfriend, an apartment and a baking blog. She is one of “the final girls” which is a group of women who survived horrible tragedies. When one of the final girls is found dead by suicide, Quincy starts to question whether or not someone is after her.

 Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

 Three sisters have to leave their home after a huge fight. They have car trouble in a small town and are kidnapped and forced to endure awful things. This was a riveting and unique book that you should read.

 Only the Lucky by Linda Castillo

 Castillo writes books set in Amish country in Ohio. They are all murder mysteries and they are all awesome. Are they as fascinating if you’re not from around here? I’m not sure…let me know! J This one is a short story. An Amish girl is killed at a “rager” by being hit in the head repeatedly with a hammer. Who did it? Very good.

 A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo

 An Amish family’s barn is burned to the ground and the body of a teenage boy is found locked inside. Thrilling read!

 Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

A woman is in a coma. When she wakes up, she doesn’t remember anything except that she lies. I don’t remember this one very well so I’m guessing it wasn’t very good.

 Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

A friend of mine asked me to read this in honor of her dear friend who passed away. It was a wonderful book. A little girl, Rose, who has autism and is neglected finds a dog, Rain, and falls in love. One day, her dad lets the dog out in a rainstorm and the dog goes missing. She heads out to find her beloved dog. This one is a heartbreaker. You’ve been warned.

 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I don’t really remember it even after reading the synopsis on Amazon. Probably you should skip it?

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

 So creepy. So good. A girl is accused of killing a baby. Did she actually do it on her own or did her mother make her do it?

 I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

 A mother loses her son to a terrible car accident. She feels terribly guilty and flees to the English countryside. The police are also investigating a hit and run and somehow end up needing to talk to the mother. How is this all connected? Definitely keeps you guessing and wanting to see how it all ties together!

 Looking for Alaska by John Green

 Gabe had to read this for school so, since I love Green, I decided to read it too. It was ok. Teenagers probably love it. It’s basically the story of a boy searching for a girl that he’s secretly in love with. Snooze for me but maybe you or your teenager would like it!

Please share what you’ve been reading!!


Over the past year, I’ve sat down to write so many times. More than I can count. But I was afraid. I had so much in my head that I couldn’t get it out. There was so much going on, insanity it felt to me, that I couldn’t put it into words. Also? I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I was incredibly sad. I was worried beyond belief. I felt like my whole world was turned upside down.

Having a teenager can suck like nothing you’ve ever dreamed of. Writing about it is difficult. I want to share, so that others can benefit from knowing they’re not alone, to feel comforted, to help, but I also want to respect our privacy and especially my kids’ privacy. How do I walk that line? Which is why every time I’d sit down to write, I just couldn’t. But guess what? We NEED to have these conversations. There are so many of us that are going through tough times with teenagers but we don’t want to talk about it because it’s embarrassing, people might judge, it’s ugly, but we need to. We all need to know we’re not alone in this mess of parenting even the teenage years.

However, after having conversations with friends and family and acquaintances over the past year, I feel like I need and want to share in case it can help someone in any way.  My son, who is 17, has had a rough year. He’s been in a lot of trouble for a lot of different things. He’s been hateful, spiteful, rude, unreasonable and sometimes just plain awful. I can’t even tell you how hard it is to see how much your son hates you. It’s hard on your soul. Deep into your soul. You look at him and you love him so much and you would die for this child and all you see is hate. Not to mention that you’re terrified because you’re afraid he’s going to hurt himself or someone else and/or his future. It never leaves your mind.

The guilt is awful. Even though you know you and your husband are good parents, you wonder where you went wrong. Did I not love him enough? Did I love him too much? Did I help him too much? Did I not help him enough? Is it because his sister has special needs? Is it because I had cancer? Is it just who he is?

We’re starting to see a turnaround and it’s like I can feel sunshine in my chest. He’s getting back to his old self. I still embarrass him and he’d still rather be in his room, but there are hugs. I love yous. Rule following. Good grades. Aspirations for the future. Hope. Smiles. Honesty. Hard work. Love. I am so thankful we’re starting to see our boy again. We’ve forgiven. We’re moving on. What’s happened is in the past and we’re only moving forward.

He’s heading into his senior year and I just hope things continue to go well. I want him to have fun with his friends and enjoy this last year of his at-home bubble. I want him to get excited about football games, homecoming dances and the prospect of college or work. There is nothing worse than seeing your child struggle, even if you know you can’t fix it for them or that you shouldn’t fix it for them. It’s awful. But to see them figure it out, make some changes and seem happy again is the best thing in the world.

I’m here if anyone wants or needs to talk about this hideous thing called the teen years. I’ll listen without judgment and completely understand.