Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Year Of Reading




Number Of Books You Read: 60
Number of Re-Reads: 0
Genre You Read The Most From: Non-fiction, Celebrity Memoirs


best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

3. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

Killing The Rising Sun by Bill O'Reilly

4. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016? Ruta Sepetys

5. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? Ready Player One 

6. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Jojo Moyes' books in general)

7. Book In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure: 

Harry Potter (peer pressure from my son)

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Priority in 2017?

My main goal this year is to re-read some old favorites: The Tortilla Curtain by T.C.Boyle and The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.


New Year, New Books.

It's Book Day! Today we talk about books. Share all the good and bad reading of January 2017. I really like this day :) However, some of you may not. To you, I promise I'll be posting more life stuff soon. Today...today all the books lovers mingle to find their next great read!

At the beginning of each month, I optimistically choose a stack of books I want to read. My January TBR (to-be-read) pile looked like this...


As I do every single month, I read a completely different pile of books. Here is my actual January reading stack plus The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.


The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins was my absolute must read. I waited and waited to get that book from the library but clearly everyone else wanted the same thing. Thankfully, I was gifted GOTT in December and put it to good use pretty darn quick! I loved it. I'm not typically a thriller or mystery reader, so I wouldn't be able to rate it against other well written books in the same category.  For me, it was highly entertaining. The plot is pretty messy and keeps you thinking. I loved how Hawkins revealed tiny bits throughout the story to help you solve the who-dun-it murder with an untrustworthy main character. I'm never good at solving mysteries so it took me a while to figure it out. This book won't change your life or impress you with an unique writing style, but you will be entertained. It was a decent book that moved along and kept you guessing.



After completing The Girl On The Train, I wanted to dig into a hefty subject about race in America. 2015/16 brought a lot of attention to this topic in the news media. And now, even more so with recent executive orders. I didn't seek out the news articles but it definitely is in the back of my mind. Clearly one side feels unheard and mistreated, I wanted to understand that feeling more. So, this month I decided I would read some of the popular titles currently out there getting attention. 

Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi was my first choice. This book is a lot of things. It is historical fiction, short stories, and contemporary fiction. The chapters follow the lineage of family from two sisters over the course of 200-plus years. Primarily, the subject matter is slavery but evolves to contemporary issues of the African American race. This book is superbly written. It brings understanding to those who have not been directly affected by this certain history. In the past, I have tried to read African literature without success. It's hard to understand through a Western lense. I found Homegoing to be very informative and eye opening. I recommend this book to all readers. However, this book will really appeal to those looking to learn something versus being entertained.


My feelings about reading this book. Gotta put on your book nerd glasses :)



Moving right along to Book #3 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. What an incredible writer. As I read this book, I continually watched interviews with Whitehead to better understand what he was trying to convey with this book. I read a lot of complaints of his character development but I don't believe that was Whitehead's focus. It's sort of like reading classics and finding the message buried in symbolism and themes.  This book definitely peaked my interest in Colson Whitehead novels. The Underground Railroad is not what you expect as far as typical story telling with a main character who has a conflict and everything is tied up with a neat little bow by the last page. Much like Homegoing, The Underground Railroad is a one part of an ongoing conversation about race in America. If I had to pick one over the other, I would go with Homegoing. There are less distractions from what is most important. 



#4 Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehishi Coates was a non-fiction book about race in America. It is along the same lines as Homegoing and The Underground Railroad focusing on the African American experience. This was solely the author's experience and thoughts on the subject. I wasn't in love with it but respect the point of view.  I know this book has received rave reviews but I'm not recommending this one.

January books were definitely about educating myself about racial injustice from the African American point of view. I think it's an important conversation to be informed about from those experiencing the situation first hand. I am glad I devoted this month to reading only A.A. literature. I haven't decided if I will continue with similar books in February. There really is enough out there to keep going. 

The thing holding me back is the weight of the information which starts to wear on my brain. Plus, I start to feel guilty about the ways things were and are. It is also a bit annoying that you feel lumped into a generalization about your race made by some of the authors. I suppose the door swings both ways. I also felt like my empathy as a white American isn't enough to allow me to actively participate in the race conversation. Lots of heavy complicated feelings. 

I wonder if you have read any of these books and if you share similar feelings? And what are your thoughts in general about these books? 

*I'm linking up with Jana and Steph and a bunch of other fabulous readers for books reviews. Check them out if you need a new book!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Family Time

What does family time look like for you? This is probably my nosiest inquiry. Everyone talks about the social media "highlight reel". Which I love to see. I'm smart enough to realize that the best makes the cut. Honestly, who wants to see the mundane? I get mundane 90 percent of the time in my own life. I like to live vicariously through others' highlights when my mundane is boring me. Do you ever wonder the same about what other's are doing with their family time? I've been taking pictures of what happens when we are just doing life. 


When we travel around town or from place to place, the kids usually bring along their electronics. If we are in town, I'm usually in the back seat with one child while the other rides up front. I don't have a problem riding in the backseat so I don't make a fuss. We do a lot of driving around on Saturday because everyone has games or practice at different times throughout the day.


In the evening, the boys usually watch a sports game or television show on Netflix. I will read or go online. Sometimes, we play board/card games together.


We have a chores chart for the boys to earn screen time (video games/Youtube) on the weekends. They are only able to play Friday-Sunday. They were able to have unlimited time on the weekends but it was getting out of hand. They would stay up until insane hours (3am) playing games. Now that they have to earn screen time, things are much more balanced. Practicing basketball is a "chore". This guy doesn't mind!




The beach plays a pretty big part in our family time.  We are only a few miles away, so we will take a quick drive to the island. Some days we walk the beach or walk around the park bordering the InterCoastal waterway. The Intercoastal separates the mainland from the islands that run along the shoreline. It's very pretty and there is a lot of wildlife.



We usually do dinner out once on the weekend or every other weekend. 
Burger and fries are typical choices.


Every once in a blue moon, the daughter makes a special appearance at family time. Between practice schedules and social engagements, it's getting increasingly harder to get time with her 😒


Like that one time when her dad came home from deployment and she whined, "But mom, I can't miss practice!" And I said something along of the lines of, "Don't even start with me, girl!"
That was the last time we spent time with her outside of meals and being her taxi.
Rest assured, she makes her presence known when she is around :)

So, that's our life outside the highlight reel. We mostly cart the kids around to practice/games, watch some TV, and occasionally drive out to the island. 
Nothing too exciting. How about you? What does your downtime look like?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Wilmington. Winter. And A Day Date.

The thing with reunion and reintegration is everyone needs to get their needs met. After doing this parenting thing alone and catering to kids needs for 6 months, I wanted a day away.



Wilmington is the easy answer. Downtown Wilmington with all it's history and eateries. Sometimes, it feels like if you've been to Wilmington once then you've been a hundred times. I learned this does not apply during winter. I didn't realize what an impact seasons have on coastal towns. Wow! We had the entire city to ourselves and it was really nice!


But first, breakfast.



Yummy yummy breakfast. Always a good idea!  #1 Yelp rated restaurants are always a great idea. I don't eat anywhere without consulting my Yelp app :) Blue Surf Cafe is suppose to be the place for breakfast in Wilmington. We wanted to make sure we agreed. Plus, the reviews were all about the hot chocolate and I'm all about the hot chocolate. Win for me!


Charred marshmallows. Finely grated chocolate.
Opps, almost forgot the caramel :)


Next, Downtown Wilmington because it's the likely place to choose.
Riverwalk was first. 11 o clock and had the place all to ourselves.



After walking the length of the river, we headed up to the historic neighborhoods.
They really are beautiful and worth oogling.





After our own walking tour, we took the horse carriage tour. I've wanted to do this as hokey as it seems. There is always a lot of good knowledge to learn from the tour guides.


You just have to remember it. 
For example, this house is important but I don't remember why. 
Clearly I should not be a tour guide!


This is the oldest building in Downtown Wilmington.
The rocks around the foundation were used a ballast in the ships from Europe in the 1700s. when they got to wilmington they were like what are we going to do with these rocks now? 
They were like "hey, let's try this". That's the short version.


We ended the day at the beach for about 2 1/2 minutes. 
Just enough time for me to wave at a helicopter overhead and decide it was cold.
Honestly though, that water is going to be so warm in a few months. 💜











Nicole

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Deployment Homecoming Is The Best

It goes without saying, Deployment Homecoming is the best for sooo many reasons. #1 You are done with deployment status which despite your seasoned experience will always suck! #2 You get to see your military person again after way too long! #3 The excitement is off the hook at the actual homecoming. #4 You get to go back to doing all the things you couldn't do without your SO there. Whatever those things are for you ;)



So, we were all super stoked last week when we got to see our Marine after half a year apart. Yes, I'm so proud of us for making it through this deployment but nothing replaces having him home.


Like deployment homecomings sometimes go, the guys got delayed a couple of times before we finally got them back. It's a hard thing to tell your kids that their dad isn't actually coming home tomorrow like everyone had planned. However, military kids are champs and they are super flexible with stuff. So that is pretty cool and gracious of them :)




When you have a camera happy parent, then you would think you would raise children who know how to take nice pictures. Not my bunch. They love to mess up all my great shots. But then those candid moments kind of end up being great shots. 


As the mom, you would think you could get a good picture with your husband who just returned from deployment. Unfortunately, when you have so much catching up to do with your dad there is no time to break for 3 seconds and step to the side. Thanks child!


Despite all the hassle over having the perfect homecoming picture, our Marine is home. 
The most important thing!
Now we can hit the resume button on life as we know it.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Waiting

I've got nothing to say, except when the powers that be push back the return repeatedly the week you are suppose to have homecoming, you start to get antsy.

Why not have a little blog post in the meantime? We will call it an update. And cross our fingers the next post is a smiley complete family photo!


Last night I finished up this stellar book, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Wow! It was incredibly eye opening for me and peaked an interest. Now I'm beginning The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead with a similar subject but different writing style.

Last year, I read so many books and that was ok. I had a lot of time to read books. I read what I wanted when I wanted. Although, things got a little messy in my head keeping details of books separate or retained. I felt a little deflated at the end of the year. Like my reading was more quantity over quality, only really valuing my favorite reads. This year I wanted to commit to learning through reading. African American history was at the top. With all the media attention given to the Black Lives Matter movement and related police incidents in 2016, I thought it was wise to educate myself. I plan to do that with fiction and non-fiction. When I feel like I've had enough, I will move on to another.


I'm still getting Stitchfix boxes. It was my little deployment treat. But lately, I haven't really been in love with anything in my Fixes. Ok, there was an exception, this dress. I thought a possible homecoming dress but I have a closet full of sleeveless dresses. So, I passed.


I thought this purple top was cute too. The V neck was a little too deep for the classroom. So, I sent it back. I'm taking a little StitchFix break until my birthday month.


We had a snow day last weekend when the rest of American was also getting snow. The real South saw inches of white stuff, NC got this. Thank goodness North Carolina is proactive and cancelled all activities all weekend long and gave us a 2 hour late start on Monday. I'm not sure how we would have managed to get to school after this kind of weather on Saturday 😜


If you look really really closely, you might see ice on my fake Christmas garland.
Treachous weather! But then again, two hours up the road had a half foot of snow.


Then there is basketball practice. 3 days a week we come to the middle school gym for basketball. Here is the thing about me, I'm not a sports mom. I like sports. I think kids should be involved in sports for many different reasons. One of them is not so they can become professional athletes or college scholarship receipients. If I child has the determination, then I'm completely supportive. I do not agree with pushing your child to be that, want that, or parents acting like children are that...at 11 years old. When I sit in the bleachers I pray some overzealous parent will not start gossiping with me about how the coach is playing what players or how distraught the parent is that their child hasn't had their growth spurt to make them a better defensive player...at 11 years old. I don't know how to respond like I'm remotely interested.

So, I'm super excited to hand this off to my sports loving husband. Who values some good parent sports talk and gym time :)

Good news, I just killed an hour. I'm going to sign off and get myself ready :) Thanks for keeping me company!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

We Made It!

Deployment is quickly coming to an end. And as the kids and I wrap up these last few weeks/days, I find myself a little sentimental over our (hopefully) last deployment. We made it! Together, us four, made the most of our new home with not a friend in July 2016 to thriving (or surviving for me) in January 2017. My kids are champs. I'm so proud of them for overcoming this insanely big change and challenge. We didn't do too bad :)


Almost half a year ago, we all said goodbye looking like this.
Two parents, one teenager, and a couple kids.
Wow have things changed!

My husband has come home from deployment twice to new babies in the house.
I promise this homecoming will be the biggest adjustment coming home to two teenagers and a tween. Life is drastically different from July 2016!


When the Marine last saw us, we were Pokemon obsessed. We spent the first month of deployment maxing out our data collecting pokeballs and battling gyms. Looking back, it was overkill but we were staying sane. Six months later, we aren't even sure if people still play PokemonGo. 
We certainly don't.




In the beginning, the beach was another big source of entertainment. It's local, the weather was perfect, and the boys couldn't get enough.

We started to get a little braver and travel a little further from home.





We rode a ferry for the first time.


We took a ghost walk in Wilmington.


We braved an even scarier Hurricane Matthew, which was an experience! Not as bad as expected but not a big fan of high wind and no electricity in the middle of the night.


We did have to pick up the yard which was a complete hassle. We have a very big yard with lots of trees! Which my husband thinks is important because he is never here to mow it...or pick up after hurricanes 😡 So, in September, the Marine was very very lucky we didn't not move back to California.


Post Hurricane Matthew with the Atlantic Ocean acting like nothing happened.


We travelled out of state too :) Can't forget about those trips that made me feel like Super Woman!



Then we did other things which don't seem as important but probably meant more. We began to make friends, be social, and enjoy our new home.


Pool parties.


Hiking.







I even went off on my own now and then.




And when we got sad or lonely for our Marine, we made our own little escapes.







And now here we (actually just me) are, cleaning, grocery shopping, and getting my hair did for the big Homecoming. 
I hate deployment. It isn't fun. I promise. But you always grow and you always find you are stronger than you thought you would be. And you make these memories that you laugh about or roll your eyes over years down the road.

This is not glamorous. This is not ideal. But it's our life. And now we get the sweet reward of Homecoming!


Nicole