5 things I’m grateful for (November 2021)

There is so, so much to be thankful for.

  1. This sweet, beautiful baby boy who came home to our family this month. We love you, Baby C!
  2. These amazing two big brothers in my house. They come running when I announce that I need a brother helper – usually to either get something for the baby or to take a diaper to the trash can. They want to see Charlie as soon as they wake up in the morning. They did not miss a single beat when we told them they were getting a new baby brother IN THREE DAYS. I am sure there will be ups and downs along this journey, and we certainly have seen moments when the boys have been overtired or in need of some parental TLC. But overall? I am amazed at how well they’ve adjusted so far and in awe of how genuinely in love they are.
  3. My amazing partner, Tamara, who is so good at taking care of all of us.
  4. Being at a job that’s allowed me to take six weeks of leave to be home with our new son. Eternally grateful for this incredible time.
  5. Being a family of five and a mom of three. Nothing so far in my life has made me feel more like a superhero than responding to all three of my kids at the same time – feeding Baby C with one hand, helping Jonas pull on his pajamas with the other, all while spelling a word for a story Edgar is writing.

Happy, happy November! May your worries be less and blessings be more.

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Happening lately

So, so much has been happening lately – a huge whirlwind. Earlier this month, a new baby – our third child – was placed in our home. We are over-the-moon excited as a family. Our older boys are obsessed with Baby C – they love feeding him, holding him, singing to him, and just generally gazing at him and sportscasting everything he does. (“Mooooom! He’s smiling!”)

I am home on adoption leave with Baby C for the next few weeks, and it has been simply amazing taking care of an infant again. I love the mindfulness and presence and rhythm of life with an infant. I am especially obsessed with the intoxicating smell of the top of his head and with wearing him in the baby carrier. Jonas started walking at 9 months old, so it’s been over two years since I’ve “worn” a baby and I absolutely love it.

I feel a mix of anxiety and contentment at the moment – anxiety related to the adoption process, which won’t be finalized for at least six months; and contentment related to all the joy of settling in as a family of five. Luckily, the contentment is a much stronger presence than the anxiety.

There is so much swirling through my head at the moment – so many different thoughts about adoption, being a mom, having three kids. Today is my first time alone in the house since Baby C came home. I’ve started five drafts of different posts. When will they be finished? No way to tell. Adjusting to life with three kids under six is definitely going to take time and energy, and I imagine that my alone/writing time will take a hit. That will be completely okay; I am more grateful than any words can say for this beautiful baby, for my family, and for the endless joys of this everyday life.

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books + reading

Early chapter books we love

Have I written yet about my obsession with early reader chapter books? (I have – and I will again. Because I am obsessed.)

I love reading to my kids, always. But this spring, when Edgar and I started to regularly read beginner chapter books together, was oh-so-awesome. We had tried a few chapter books before – books like the Magic Treehouse books and the Mercy Watson series – and Edgar enjoyed them. However, when my friend Emma heard that we liked the movie How To Train Your Dragon and recommended the Dragon Masters series – that was when Chapter Book Life really took off for us.

The Dragon Masters books have been great for us because:

  1. They have a great storyline and plot – lots of action, but not so much that it’s hard for a four- or five-year-old to follow.
  2. There are illustrations on every page. (Edgar liked the Magic Treehouse books, but he kept trying to turn to a page with an illustration – in that series, I believe there’s a picture every two or three pages.)
  3. There are DRAGONS. We love dragons!

We definitely still read picture books regularly, but we’ve tried out a bunch of different chapter books since entering this new phase. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Dragon Masters series by Tracey West.
  • Princess In Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale.
  • Once Upon A Fairy Tale series by Anna Staniszewski.
  • Kingdom Of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn. (Full disclosure, Edgar is not as into these ones; I’m not really sure why. It could just be the timing of when they were presented, as we were in the middle of the Dragon Masters series at the time; I’m going to try again at some point!)
  • Olive and Beatrix series by Amy Marie Stadelmann.
  • Pixie Tricks series by Tracey West.
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.

Happy reading!

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books + reading

My favorite mystery novels

One of my favorite things is when an author I love publishes a new book.

Whenever I hear about it, I immediately attempt to put the book on hold at the library. It’s a game of timing; the books only are available to put on hold a couple of months before they’re published – or, in the case of ebooks, sometimes only a few days ahead of time or the day of publication. Sometimes, I dominate and I’m #1 or 2 on the library hold list, meaning I get a copy the day of publication or a few days after. Sometimes, I am #156 on a library hold list of 275 people.

The most recent book I had this experience with is the latest from Anthony Horowitz, who is one of my favorite mystery writers. His book A Line To Kill was published on October 19, 2021. I got access to an ebook version of it a few days after publication, and an audiobook version a couple of days after that. I am currently in the middle of it and loving it. (I do wish I had a hard copy of it! I think I’ll fly through it once I can curl up with an actual book.)

I love mysteries. I also enjoy thrillers occasionally, if they are not too gory or terrifying. (I’m a big fan of the psychological thriller, a la Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient. See a few more of my favorites listed in this post!) I love a book that is a suspenseful, well-written page-turner, and often a mystery novel fits those requirements.

Currently my favorite mystery writers are Louise Penny and Anthony Horowitz. I started reading Penny’s Inspector Gamache mystery series in the fall of 2017; by January of 2018, I had read all 13 of the novels in the series at that time. She has published four more since then, with the latest (The Madness Of Crowds) published in August 2021. Her books are beautifully written, with wonderful characters and an extremely cozy setting.

Horowitz has a few different novels that I’ve enjoyed. The first book I read by him was The Word Is Murder; that book was followed in series by The Sentence Is Death and A Line To Kill. This series focuses on a not-always-likable but always-interesting detective who is partnered with a writer that is going to write about his crime-solving experiences. Horowitz also wrote several Sherlock Holmes novels (so good) and two mysteries (Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders) that are part of a series. (I am really hoping the Magpie series continues, but I have no idea if it will!)

There are so many mystery novels and series that I haven’t yet tried. There are also so many books that are mysterious and suspenseful that I wouldn’t exactly call mysteries. So, this list was tricky to complete – by here you go.

My favorite mysteries that I wouldn’t call “thrillers”:

  • All of Agatha Christie’s novels – classic, favorite, amazing.
  • Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels.
  • Anthony Horowitz – Sherlock Holmes novels, Magpie Murders series, The Word Is Murder series.
  • The Cormoran Strike novels by J.K. Rowling – published under her pen name, Robert Galbraith. These are wonderful and I always read immediately after they’re published.
  • Lady In The Lake by Laura Lippman. (So many good books by Lippman! Some of them may be thrillers, I’m not sure.)
  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. 
  • One Of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep A Secret, and The Cousins, by Karen McManus.
  • Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson.

I am always looking for recs in this genre, so please share if you have any!

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Currently: November 2021

It’s been difficult to figure out where to begin when I sit down to write lately.

So much is happening – and also, not much is happening. We have settled into our fall routine. The boys are learning new things every day. The weather is changing. We get ready for school in the mornings. We play in the backyard. We see close friends for outdoor playdates. We have evening homework. We have lots of overtired kid meltdowns, though those are decreasing every week! We also have lots of festivity as we gear up for the holidays.

I am contemplating how I want to structure my writing for (gasp!) 2022. I like doing these monthly check-in posts, but sometimes I find them boring or repetitive, especially when I’m already writing a monthly gratitude post. Maybe I just need more categories? We’ll see.

Currently reading:

I am currently reading A Line To Kill, which is the latest from Anthony Horowitz. Loving it so far – perfect time of year for a cozy mystery.

Currently reading to my kids:

Edgar and I are currently still working through the Eerie Elementary series. Jonas is listening to ALL the books, which is lovely. (If you have a 1- or 2-year-old that’s not that into books, be encouraged! Jonas could barely sit still for a book when he was younger, and now he is loving it.) A few of our favorite picture books lately have been Pumpkin Soup and Zip Zoom On A Broom.

Currently listening to:

Nothing, really. Sometimes a podcast. Sometimes old reruns of The Big Bang Theory while I’m cleaning the kitchen. I have so many great audiobooks in my Audible library, and my commute would be a great time for listening – except, at the end of the day, I am SPENT because work is stressful. More on that at some point.

Currently the boys are:

Really into playing in the dirt in our backyard. Like, there’s one patch of dirt in particular. They are obsessed with it.

They are also really engaged with their respective schools. It has been so lovely to see them both enjoying their days and telling us stories about school over dinner. Edgar is reading sight words and Jonas is remembering the names of his classmates. He also is half-grinning, half-rolling his eyes when I troll him by singing songs I know he’s singing at school. (One of my favorite things to do is look up the lyrics to songs or chants that I find out, from teachers or school newsletters, that they are using at school. I then incorporate them at home. Edgar has always loved this, because he loves the songs/chants but sometimes can’t remember every word or the beat. For Jonas, I think he thinks I am ridiculous when I bust out “Falling, falling, falling leaves; Mother Nature, did you sneeze?” to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.)

Currently grateful for:

My family. A lot is happening in our extended family currently, and I’m grateful for all the humans involved in all of it.

Currently looking forward to:

The holidays! So excited to be with family for Thanksgiving and then to enjoy all the merriment and joy of Christmas.

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