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.

Finley.

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

Advertisements

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!!

Teenagers

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.

 

I Thought…

When she was in my womb, my first-born girl, all I did was dream about her and our life together. I would dress her in the cutest clothes, she would have the most beautiful name, she and I would be best friends someday just like my Mom and me. When she was born, I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to have been blessed with this angel.

When I dreamed these dreams, I thought that, 18 years later, we would be…

Going on college visits

Talking about boys and men and dating (and I would impart all of my wonderous knowledge)

Shopping for senior picture clothes and choosing the best photographer to capture her beauty and kind heart

Getting her ready for soccer, cross country, swimming, musicals, band…whatever her passions were going to be

Arguing with Dad over too-skimpy bathing suits and too-short shorts and boys that weren’t good enough for her (and rolling my eyes and giggling over how protective he was over his little girl)

Planning where to shop for homecoming and prom dresses

Buying her first car and watching her drive away so incredibly happy

Looking at pictures trying to decide the best hairstyle for that gorgeous main of dark-brown hair

Going to Ulta to buy makeup and hair products and nail polish we definitely didn’t need but most definitely wanted

Listening to whatever music was her favorite in the car while sprinkling in some of mom’s oldies but goodies

Talking about the importance of a few wonderful friends over a whole bunch of people who don’t understand you thoroughly

I thought we would be doing all of these typical, wonderful, mother-daughter things. I could picture it clearly. I could taste it. I could smell it. I couldn’t wait for it.

I thought I would be able to help her be self-assured, confident, body-positive and strong. She would love herself for exactly who she was, not for what she thought others wanted her to be.

I thought wrong.

That might sound sad, and at times I’m desperate with grief over what I thought we would have. But most of the time? I’m so glad I thought wrong.

Instead of college visits, we’re talking about jobs she might like to try. So far, the only job she wants is “to be a mom like you” which breaks my heart and fills me with joy at the same time. (Or a job where she can wear pajamas and play with her iPad all day and eat mac-and-cheese.)

Instead of talking about boys and dating, we are deciding just how many times it’s acceptable to go see Incredibles 2 at the theater. And planning our next movie date to see Hotel Transylvania 3 and Wreck-It Ralph 2.

Instead of shopping for clothes and makeup, we go shopping for Disney stuffed animals and Troll dolls to play with in the bathtub and the pool. You can’t imagine how happy she is for $14. (Although don’t you worry. The Grandmas and Mom still buy her cute clothes; she could just care less unless it’s pajamas.)

Instead of sports or musicals, we’re anxiously awaiting the start of adaptive ice skating and choir concerts. We’re simply proud and joyful that she has found two things that she loves.

Dad still thinks shorts are too short and tops are cut too low. I guess that never changes.

She wishes she could drive and that continues to break our hearts. Instead of watching her drive away in her first car, we talk about how she can drive the cool old-fashioned cars the next time we go to Cedar Point and let her go for rides with her brother.

She has the most beautiful dark-brown pixie-cut hair I’ve ever seen.

We listen to Backyardigans and the Trolls soundtrack, but she also loves P!nk and Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson.

She does have best friends. Me, Matt, Gabe, Matthew, her Grandmas and about 1,000 stuffed animal friends. I always say it’s better to have 4 quarters than 100 pennies when it comes to friends. Guess what? That’s what she has.

She is happy every day. She is confident. She is self-assured. She doesn’t give a damn about what others think of her. She is kind. She is smart. She is funny. She is full of pure joy. She is everything and more than what I dreamed she would be.

I thought I wanted the Olivia in my dreams, but I thought wrong.

I wanted the Olivia in my reality.

Thank God I was wrong.

liv 5

 

 

 

Summer Books to Read

Holy moly it’s been a long time since I’ve posted about books! I apologize for this very long list of books that I’ve read since the last time I posted. I tried to be brief but concise in my descriptions. I hope you find something here you may like and come back and tell me about it. Happy Summer reading!!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I just love Kristin Hannah’s books. This one did not disappoint. Ernt, a man suffering from PTSD from Vietnam, decides it would be best for their family to move to Alaska. The wife and daughter, Cora and Leni, are not so sure this is a good idea. Once they arrive and settle, and winter settles in, Ernt begins to lose it. Leni and Cora suffer at his hand. They have to try their best to survive. I don’t want to say much else so I don’t give anything away. At its heart, it’s a love story between mother and daughter. It was gut wrenching at times. You will love and absolutely hate Ernt. I couldn’t put it down!

 

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

I also love Harlan Coben’s books. This one didn’t disappoint either! Myron Bolitar, Coben’s beloved main character, makes a cameo appearance but the main character is Nap. He is a detective whose twin brother died mysteriously when they were teenagers. Soon after, his true love ran away without explanation. He may finally find the answers he’s been looking for. It was a riveting read!

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

 Spoiler alert: THE MOVIE SUCKS. The book is awesome. A serial killer is on the loose and his signature is making a snowman with his victim’s head. I love a good and gruesome murder mystery. I definitely couldn’t figure out the ending either which I really enjoy. Read this one!

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

This was so, so good. A girl goes missing. Eleven years later she returns—but it’s not really her. Can she make her family believe she’s their daughter? Should she? Very twisty and I definitely didn’t figure it out. Must read!

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline

 This was a quick, fluff read. A split-second decision by a father to protect his son leads to stress and pain. I enjoyed it but not one of my favorites. This would be a great beach read!!

 I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly

 I loved What Not To Wear but this book was terrible. Blech. I skimmed most of it!

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

 Milly’s mother is a serial killer…of children. Millie grew up in this environment and, even though her mother is on trial, can’t escape her mother’s influence. She struggles to try and find normalcy with her foster family while keeping a dark secret. Very good read!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

 Hopefully you already know about this one! I love the show and decided to go back and read the book. To me, it’s frightening because I can totally see this happening with how our country is going at the moment. Basically, all women’s rights are taken from them and their main purpose in life is to be a handmaid and procreate. Very disturbing but very excellent book. (The TV show is excellent as well.)

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of my students was reading this and really enjoyed it so I decided to give it a try. I really liked it! A high school student dies after drinking from a cup that had peanut residue on it. It appears to be an accident until they realize that the peanut residue was intentionally placed on the cup because the murderer knew he was allergic. The four main suspects are the students in the room for detention that day — which one did it? Not the best book I’ve ever read, but definitely worthwhile.

Saving Noah by Lucinda Berr

This was not one of my favorites but I wanted to see what happened so I finished it. The ending is shocking and upsetting. I can’t say I recommend it; it’s a difficult book to read. A family is torn apart by the realization that their teenage son has been molesting young girls during swim lessons. That is about all I can tell you. I’m not sure if you should read it or not, to be honest. It was interesting enough to keep reading but, as I said, very upsetting.

Tips for Living by Renee Shafranski

Nora’s wealthy husband of many years has gotten a younger, prettier woman pregnant. Oops. She moves to a new town, gets a job at a newspaper and settles in. Bam — ex-husband and new pregnant wife move in to her town and buy a mansion. Next thing you know? Ex-hubby and new wifey are murdered…and Nora can’t remember where she was on the night they were killed. SOOOO good!!

It Ends With Her by Brianna Labuskes

OOOHHHH this was a great one! A female detective, Clarke Sinclair (If you’re having a baby girl, please name her Clarke!!), has been tracking a serial killer for years. He gives her clues, she tries to get to him in time, she fails, he kills another girl. Will she finally catch him??

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

Ok, I’ll admit it took me a minute to remember this one. I think that’s a bad sign!! Hattie is a small-town “good girl” who has everything and is set to take on NYC and be an actress. But…she’s found stabbed to death. Who did it? Why?

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

 I always forget that not everyone is obsessed with true crime like me, but even if you aren’t, this is an excellent book about the Golden State Killer (who was just caught!) It’s pretty scary so don’t read it before bed unless you’re like me and that doesn’t bother you one bit!

Lies That Bind Us by Andrew Hart

 Meh. I skimmed through a lot of this book just to finish it to see how it turned out but it wasn’t that great. A woman who is down-on-her-luck decides to reunite with friends in Greece. Shit goes down.

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

 This was another fun, fluffy, beach read. A group of new moms, known as the May Mothers because they’re all due in May, get together in Central Park to hang out and exchange Mommy tips. When one of the babies from the group is kidnapped, they all pitch in to try and find him. I liked this one; not the best book I’ve ever read but definitely intriguing. The ending was great!

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

This was a very different book and I enjoyed it. It all centers on Katie, a gymnastics prodigy with Olympic dreams. The parents’ whole life, and the gymnastics club centers around this Olympic dream. Something tragic happens which sends the whole town into chaos. I liked this one because it was a unique story, although I felt like the ending was kind of cliché.

The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti

This book felt like a book I’ve read before but it was still very good. Zoe is a wife of a rich man in NYC who has abandoned her previous life for charity dinners and lunches with friends. What no one knows is that Zoe has a very dark past that may be catching up with her. I definitely recommend this one.

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

 This very topical book centers on Zach a six-year-old boy who is now an only child after his brother is killed in a school shooting. Obviously, their family falls apart, secrets are revealed and Zach is lost in his family’s grief. I can’t say I liked it or enjoyed it, but it was well-written.

Down and Dark Road by Linda Castillo

 I know I’ve told you about this other and her books before; if you haven’t read her stuff yet, you should! She writes books set in Ohio and the focus is on murders that have happened within the Amish community. She is an excellent writer and you definitely fall in love with her characters. I suggest reading them in order.

The Lie by C. L. Taylor

This book was kind of ridiculous and over the top. I’m not sure why I kept reading it. I guess it was good enough to keep going but I was disappointed. Jane Hughes has a life where she works at an animal shelter and keeps to herself. She has a secret — years ago she was inadvertently involved with a cult from which she had to escape. Now her past is catching up with her and she is in danger. My main problem was I didn’t like the characters at all; they were very unlikable! The story was ok although it felt like a hundred stories I’ve heard before.

Wolf by Mo Hayder

This was a new author that I wanted to try who writes a series with Inspector Jack Caffery as the continuous character. This series is set in England, which I always enjoy. Wolf is the name of a weapon that Oliver has developed and sold to an arms dealer. However, it also appears to have gotten him and his family in serious trouble. They are taken hostage at their countryside home and tortured for days. You think the plot is going in one direction and then it changes. I did enjoy that. I will admit that I skimmed a lot of the extraneous details because this author includes quite a few of those. You can skim those and not miss out on any of the story. I would definitely recommend this book and will definitely try another in the series.

What have you read lately? My Kindle is filling up fast!!

 

 

 

 

Sweetest Sixteen

gabe 1

I feel the time slipping away. Two short years until I no longer see you every single day. Two short years until you’re an official adult and making your own decisions. Two short years to impart as much wisdom and knowledge as I can without being annoying. Two short years to soak up all of the wonderful memories we have yet to make.

You are such a wonderful person. I could search the world over and never find a better brother than you for Olivia. You are so loving, patient and sweet with her. She brings out the best in you.

You have made us so proud by taking challenging classes and doing so well while playing soccer, helping around the house and working. You are responsible, mature and smart. I am proud of the friends you have chosen, the activities you participate in and the way you carry yourself. You are funny, witty and fun to be around.

I want to soak up every minute with you but, unfortunately for me, you’re ready for independence. You like hanging out with your friends, playing soccer, working; there’s not a lot of time carved out for hanging out with Mom. I treasure every car ride, every shopping trip, every conversation we have together.

There aren’t adequate words to describe how much I love you. I am so incredibly proud of you and can’t wait to see the man you will become. Happy 16th, Gabe. I couldn’t love you more!

gabe 2

Seventeen

***This is way, way overdue…she turned 17 on February 20th!***

liv 1

Seventeen is many things.

It’s a smile a mile wide…

Big brown eyes that are almost always full of joy…

liv 5

Teenage angst mixed with toddler tantrums…

Hugs and kisses and unstoppable love…

Ice skating and singing in the choir…

liv 3

Making a real friend for the very first time…

Wanting to drive just like her brother…

Making hilarious jokes, trying out swear words, wanting independence…

Seventeen is nothing like I imagined, but wonderful all the same…

liv 4

My seventeen-year-old miracle is everything to me.

She is light, air, my whole heart.

I couldn’t love you more, Olivia.

Happy, happy 17th.

liv 2

 

The Darkness

quote 1

The darkness threatens to overwhelm me. It whispers terrible things in my ear.

You are a terrible mother. Matt doesn’t love you. Your Mom doesn’t like you. The kids wish you weren’t their mom. You annoy your best friend. You’re fat. You’re old. You’re ugly. You’re not a good teacher anymore. You don’t deserve to be happy. Stay here in the darkness with me. Stay in bed. Be quiet, be sad, be in the darkness with me.

Don’t tell anyone because they will laugh at you. They will blow it off. They won’t understand anyway. They will be annoyed that you are not ok yet again. They will worry, they will want to fix it, but there’s nothing they can do. Just stay here with me in the darkness.

Put a smile on your face. Very few will notice that it doesn’t reach your eyes. Go to work, go to the gym, take kids to soccer, make dinner, pretend everything’s ok. No one cares anyway. No one really wants to know how you are.

The darkness threatens to overwhelm me. I’m tired of fighting it. It’s too much, it’s too hard. I feel like there’s a thousand pound weight on my shoulders. I cry. I get angry. I lash out. I say things I don’t mean. I cry some more. I’m all cried out. It feels weird to laugh. I don’t want to see anyone. I just want to be alone.

quote 2

Get help. Tell Matt how you’re feeling — all of it. Go to therapy and tell her the truth. See a doctor. You can’t do this alone. You need help and that’s ok. You don’t know what will help or what you need but you can just tell someone…I’m not ok. Ask for a hug. Ask for a walk. Take a day off and do nothing. Rest, write, read, do whatever you feel like to help yourself. The darkness won’t last forever. Listen to P!nk’s I Am Here and know that you are here for a reason. YOU. ARE. HERE. You deserve to be here. You deserve to take up space even if you can’t see it right now.

This is not your fault. This is not happening because you are weak. It’s happening because you’ve been so strong for too long. Reach out your hand. Borrow a smile until yours comes back. You’re worth it. You’re a warrior. YOU. ARE. HERE. You can do this. You will feel better. The darkness will subside. It will. You can.

6b296e301c8b7802359a28ad86f6308d