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Monthly Book Report: April 2017

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I read 12 books in April! But only 6 of those were really great reads for me so we’ll just talk about them. I had a hard time getting into some of the books this month. I was distracted by my to do list and it was hard to just relax and enjoy the read. May has already started out strong with a couple of great books waiting to be read!

1. Once and For All by Cheryl Etchison– Rule #1: Military and matrimony don’t mix. But if there’s one person Staff Sergeant Danny MacGregor would break all his rules for, it’s Bree—his first friend, first love, first everything. Maybe he likes playing the hero. Maybe he’s trying to ease ten years of guilt. Either way, he’ll do whatever he can to help her. Wish #1: A little bit of normal. Bree Dunbar has battled cancer, twice. What she wants most is a fresh start in a place where she can find a new job, and where people aren’t constantly treating her like she’s sick. By some miracle her wish is granted, but it comes with one major string attached— the man who broke her heart ten years before. The rules for this marriage of convenience are simple: when she’s ready to stand on her own two feet, she’ll walk away and he’ll let her go. Only, as they both know all too well, things don’t always go according to plan.

I loved this book. It was a random check out from the library when nothing else was catching my eye. And it turned out to be one of my favorite reads of the whole month. Full of romance and angst and hot military men. It wasn’t a light fluff read though, it dealt with serious issues and those issues were dealt with really well. I already bought book 2 and can’t wait to dive into it. 

2. Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens– Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband was sent to jail and she started over with a new life. Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When her ex-husband is finally released, Lindsey believes she’s cut all ties. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But can he really change? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?

Oh man, this book was really good! I’ve read several of her books and they’ve all been great reads. This one had me guessing the whole time. I thought it was obvious which way the story was going. I thought I had it figured out. Then there was a twist and I still thought I had it figured out. But I was so wrong. I had no idea. I could not put this book down. I finished it in less than 36 hours. Trigger warning: there are some scenes of domestic violence so if that’s a trigger for you then this might be a book you want to pass on.

3. I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi– Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch…until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths. Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge…but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

I’ve never read a book from this author before but I definitely will. This book was fantastic. It was another random library check out that turned out to be amazing. I spent the entire book trying to figure out why the main character would do what she did only to be completely blindsided and shocked by the ending when the reasons are revealed. Blown away. Highly recommend this one!

4. When Stars Collide by Micalea Smeltzer– Waking up in Vegas married to the guy of your dreams sounds like a good thing, right? Not when you’re Thea Montgomery and said guy is your brother’s best friend. Thea and Xander have always avoided the connection between them because her brother would never approve. Now, they’re married— the strongest bond you can have as a couple—and they’re not even a real couple…unless they want to be. Thea wants an annulment immediately, but Xander’s waited too long to see her become his and he won’t let her go easily.
If she wants a divorce, fine, but he wants the summer to convince her that he’s the one. If at the end of the summer she still wants to end their marriage he’ll sign the papers, but until then…All is not fair in love and war.

I’m a total sucker for surprise marriage stories and this one didn’t disappoint. I don’t read many New Adult books anymore because so many are disappointing. But this one was great. I liked both main characters and the side characters were interesting and well developed. This is book 2 in a series but I have not read book 1 and I didn’t feel lost or confused at all. 

5. When Constellations Form by Micalea Smeltzer– It’s been three years since Xander and Thea’s impromptu Vegas wedding. Since then, they’ve dealt with family drama, his grueling NFL schedule, and her college classes. Now that Thea’s graduated from college, it’s finally time for them to move out and start their life together. Things couldn’t be any more perfect. And then a curveball is thrown their way. Midnight feedings and a screaming infant wasn’t a part of Thea’s five-year plan, but, suddenly, it’s very much her soon-to-be reality. Xander is thrilled at the prospect of parenthood while Thea can’t wrap her head around it. But, ready or not, here comes baby.

This is the follow book to the one above. It’s set 3 years after the surprise marriage in Vegas. I liked this book. I liked catching up with the characters and seeing where their lives went after the first book. But to be honest, I didn’t like this one as much as the first book. It was good but it wasn’t great. 

6. Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind and Soul by Ruth Soukup– STUFF. It’s everywhere. Lurking in corners and closets, spilling onto counters and coffee tables, creating havoc everywhere we look. And it’s not just the physical clutter that weighs us down. Oh no, it is the stress of overbooked schedules, and the weight of life that sometimes feels oppressive and totally out of whack. New York Times bestselling author Ruth Soukup feels your pain–she has been there too. Through personal stories, Biblical truth, and practical action plans, she will inspire and empower each of us to finally declutter not just our home, but our mind and soul as well. Unstuffed is real, honest, and gets right down to the question we are all facing–how can we take back our lives from the stuff that is weighing us down?

Definitely one of my favorite reads of the month. Hands down. As regular readers know I’ve been on a mission to declutter my house. I checked this book out of the library after seeing several recommendations on blogs and social media. And it was great. It was a quick easy read but it really helped me put some things in perspective. Highly recommend!

As I mentioned, I have several great books on tap to read in May! I anticipate an amazing month of reading and I can’t wait to share them with you next month.

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2017 Monthly Goals: May

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Holy cow…it’s MAY! Tyler only has 19 days of school left, the little kids only have 28 days left, and Maia only has 27 days left! We are coming into the home stretch, y’all! April went by in a flash but I still got a lot done. 

April Goals:

1. Work on front yard. HALF DONE. We got a good start anyway. Matt pressure washed the front porch, the steps, the front of the house, the garage door, and the entire driveway. We laid our edging down and are waiting for our pine straw to arrive, and we hired a lawn company to fix our grass. Still more to do though.

2. Start planning the backyard redo. DONE. We started planning but haven’t done anything. Well we got the hot tub fixed but that’s it. I have a good idea of what I want to do back there, now we just have to make it happen.

3. Organize papers. DONE. I completely emptied out the big file cabinet and reorganized the files. I filed all the paperwork in the small file box I keep in my command center. And I created a simple weekly file box for the kitchen. Paperwork organized!

4. Do a driving contract with Tyler. DONE. We sat down and went over rules, consequences, expectations, etc. He knows his curfew, he knows what he is expected to do around the house to help pay for his car, he knows what will happen should he not live up to his part of the contract. 

5. Clean out master closet. NOPE. Didn’t even get started. Still on the list. 

May Goals:

1. Finish the front yard landscaping. The pine straw will be arriving soon. Then I need to touch up the paint on the porch and railings, hang my fern, get some potted plants, pull out the dead bushes, and replace/plant all new bushes and plants. It’s a lot but it will look so amazing when it’s done.

2. Purge my closet. Oh holy cow my closet it awful. I need to get rid of at least 50% of my clothes. Seriously. I think I’m going to do what a friend recommended and purge all but a certain number of items then take those purged items and store them for 6 months. If I don’t miss them or need them in those 6 months then they get donated. I’ll be much happier when I’m not staring at a cluttered mess in my closet. 

3. Finish master bedroom redo. We got a king sized bed yesterday and that means I had to completely rework the bedroom. It’s a big disaster right now. So I want to get it completely 100% finished this month.

4. Finish all half done projects. I have several. I need to touch up paint in most of the rooms, finish painting a cabinet, switch rugs in a couple of rooms, and a list of other stuff. 

5. Do another big purge of the house. We took a huge truck load to Goodwill this weekend. And I’ve already started another pile. It feels SO GOOD to purge. I will never be a hoarder. Ha!

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5 Things Friday {4.28.17}

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I cannot believe it’s almost May! MAY! How is this year going by so quickly? I swear it was just Christmas and now school is almost out for Summer break. I’m already in full on summer break mode over here. Bring on the frozen margaritas and pool floats! So what else has been going on?

1. We are 99.9% done with Maia’s room redo. We worked so hard during her spring break to get it done. New paint, lighted curtain wall, new bedding, new blinds, new rug, chalk painted furniture…we did it all. She’s thrilled. I’m exhausted. I can’t wait to share all the details.

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2. Poor Tyler. He has a broken nose. I picked him up from football weights and wrestling on Monday and he was covered in blood. He took a sharp elbow right on the bridge of his nose during wrestling. This kid is tough. His nose was apparently gushing with blood. He shoved tissues up his nostrils and wrestled 3 more matches. We ended up at urgent care that night because it just kept bleeding. It’s a clean break so he didn’t have to get it set but he’s got a nice bump on the bridge right now. Boys. 

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3. Maia finally got her glasses. She loves them. And she can see at school. Thank goodness! Next up: braces. Operation: No dating till she’s 30 is well underway! 

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4. We finally got the hot tub fixed this week. The pump went out and that’s not a cheap fix. We toyed with buying a new one but to get one big enough to fit in this space it’s going to cost upwards of $10K. I almost choked on my tongue when we got that quote. So we fixed the one we already own. And we’ll continue fixing it until it cannot be fixed anymore! So it was fixed this week and the kids wasted no time enjoying it again. 

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5. Mason had his honor roll award ceremony this week as well. He made the A-B Honor Roll for the third quarter and scored in the top 5 in the entire third grade on his mock EOG tests for reading and math. It was a bittersweet moment for me. This is the last honor roll ceremony we will attend at this school before Mason and Zoey move to their charter school next school year. We’ve had at least one kid enrolled at this elementary school for 11 years now. It’s the end of an era for us and it made me all kinds of nostalgic. I teared up talking to his beloved teacher but she assured me that we will go out for margaritas soon. 

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It was a great week. Busy but great. The countdown is on to summer break! 

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Easy BBQ Bacon Cheesy Chicken Sliders

Sliders are one of my favorite things to make during the Spring and Summer and during Football season. I love all the options I have with sliders. Any kind of meat, different cheeses, toppings….it’s fabulous. My kids would eat sliders every single night if I made them. This recipe is one of our favorites. It’s so simple but the flavors just explode in  your mouth. I make this at least twice a month, sometimes even more when the kids request it.

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Ingredients:
3-4 chicken breasts
1 bottle favorite BBQ sauce
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 bottle ranch dressing
6 slices favorite cheese
2 cups bacon, cooked and crumbled

Direction:
1. Place chicken in bottom of crockpot and add 4 cups of water, enough to cover.
2. Cook on High for 4 hours.
3. Shred chicken into mixing bowl, add half bottle of BBQ sauce and dry ranch dressing packet; combine well.*
4. Slice sliders in half and lay bottom half in a baking pan sprayed with cooking spray.
5. Spoon BBQ chicken mixture over top.
6. Spread bacon over chicken and top with 6 slices of cheese.
7. Add a bit of ranch dressing on top of cheese.
8. Cover with the top half of the slider rolls.
9. Brush top of slider rolls with a bit of melted butter.
10. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Seriously, how easy is that for a delicious home cooked meal? I serve it with either french fries or pasta salad on the side. We never have leftovers- Tyler could eat the entire pan by himself if I turned my back for longer than 30 seconds! 

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8 Things Helping Me Battle Depression


 

I’ve never been shy about sharing my ongoing battle with depression and anxiety because if it helps just one person not feel alone then it’s worth it. As most of my long-time readers know I had mild to moderate postpartum depression after the births of both Maia and Mason. But after Zoey’s birth it all went sideways and I had severe postpartum depression which slid into postpartum psychosis and settled into debilitating anxiety. It’s taken me years to climb out of the pit. And it’s still a struggle sometimes. My moods are affected greatly by the seasons and the weather and my current level of stress. Managing my mental health is something I will be conscious of for the rest of my life. I’m in a good place right now. I feel like I’ve climbed the highest mountain for the last 6 years and I’m finally reaching the summit. I no longer spiral into a panic when I’m having a bad day, worried that I’m sinking down into that familiar black hole. I can accept that a bad mood is just a bad mood and know that not getting enough sleep one night will not trigger a depressive episode. It’s a work in progress, always. And I’m always reflecting on where I am at and what I’m doing that is helping keep the depression and anxiety at bay. 

1. I leave the house every single day. I can’t believe how much this has helped me. I dreaded this school year with having kids in 3 different schools because it meant I had to go out to drive kids around every single day. And in retrospect, this has been the biggest blessing of my year. Getting out of the house and having a change of scenery every day has boosted my mood considerably. 

2. I make my daily to do list. One of the issues I struggled with was feeling unproductive and lazy. So I have a notes section in my planner and I make a to do list for every single day of the week. I check off things as I go and I feel motivated. 

3. I keep the house clean and clutter free. I’m still in the middle of a purge but I did finish my 40 bags in 40 days challenge. It felt great to get rid of so much junk that we just didn’t need. My house feels more open and clean and it’s helped me considerably. I am committed to maintaining a clean and clutter free home. 

4. I have one hour of quiet time every morning. I fully admit that I’d rather be asleep. But the big kids leave for school at 6:15am and the little kids don’t wake up until 8am. So I have over an hour of quiet time to read and relax and be ready for the day. 

5. I keep the house bright and cheery. I keep the lights on, the blinds open, and the ceiling fans going. The house is bright and open and it makes me feel happy. I add a few drops of essential oils to my diffuser and make the house smell good. 

6. I make the vision for our family top priority. I keep at the forefront of my mind what we want for our family. We want a happy, peaceful family. We want joy. We want laughter. We want experiences. So I ruthlessly cut out anything that is not adding to the vision of our family. I say no to things that don’t fit with the lifestyle we are trying to create. 

7. I go with the flow. This has probably been the hardest for me to achieve. I’m very much a planner and going with the flow goes against everything I am. But it’s helping. Plans changing at the last minute used to send me into a tailspin. Now I just laugh, shake my head, and adjust. And we’re all happier. 

8. I keep looking forward. Nothing lasts forever. A bad mood passes, a rain storm moves on, stress dies off, and it all evens out. I just have to keep looking forward. 

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