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Easy and Inexpensive Christmas Centerpiece

Who loves Christmas as much as I do?

YOU!? Great. We can be friends then.

Cheap and easy diy Christmas centerpiece

I love all the seasons and holidays to be honest.

Decorating my mantel and house for every occasion (when I feel like it and have the energy) is my favorite. I go all out for autumn and Christmas which I love especially . Autumn fall table centerpiece

My log candle holder for fall-this is simply a fall garland wrapped around it.

I usually start decorating full on for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, but I have an autumn/winter mix going on for most of November. Hey, just like Iowa weather!

I wanted to share with you my super simple and cheap dining table decor.

I bought a piece of buffalo plaid flannel at Joann’s when it was 50% off so this cost me $6. I didn’t hem it or anything. I just folded it in half. When a kid bumped into my coffee (This is also our homeschool table. There are always kids and ALWAYS coffee!), I just flipped it over to the other side, and folded the selvedge edge under.

Yep. That’s how I do it.

My handsome husband drilled divets into an actual small log so I could put tealights into them when I was getting all hygge last winter. I can make this log work for all the seasons, but I love it most in the fall and winter!Buffalo plaid table runner Christmas centerpiece log candleholder diy

Dollar Tree decorative picks and a homemade log candleholder make for an inexpensive, lovely Christmas centerpiece.

The Dollar Tree has their Christmas decorations out now, which, even though I feel like Thanksgiving should have its day to shine, I’m not mad about, honestly.  I bought 6 decorative picks and bent them and bumped them until I was satisfied.Dollar tree Christmas decorative pick floral pine cone evergreen

This is what the Dollar Tree picks look like on their own.

I did have to take the flannel off and wipe under it and shake out all the crumbs, before replacing it. Don’t ask me how that happens.

There ya go. Minimal effort and minimal cost, which in my mind, equals perfect!

Christmas centerpiece decoration log pinecones Yule candleholder huge
My cozy Christmas centerpiece
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Books I Read in October

Frozen Charlotte Alex Bell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book review frozen Charlotte

Perfect October book! Creepy and chilly. Sometimes YA can be trite and overdone, and there admittedly was a little of that in here. I loved the setting, Sophie, the fact that you didn’t know who or what to believe. Classic clean horror.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book review fall of giants

Another phenomenal epic by one of my favorite authors. I didn’t give it 5 stars only because of personal reasons. I was getting so bogged down and it felt so depressing-it IS about a war and the characters’ five specific families and how they intersect with different aspects of WWI and each other. I had to take a long break in the middle to give my emotions a rest, but it wasn’t that difficult to pick it back up again thanks to Follett’s skilled plot lines.

I learned more from this single volume about WWI than in school. I love how Follett can take fictional characters and seamlessly weave them into real historical figures and events. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the many story lines seemed complicated and hard to follow at first, but Follett makes everything so impactful and intriguing it helps to keep track of everyone.

I kind of picked up this book on a whim, not realizing it is the first of a trilogy or how long it would be, but I am definitely glad I did!

The Humans Matt Haig ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book review the humans

I was laughing out loud from page 1 (or possibly page 2). Light hearted and entertaining, The Humans is also quite serious. I found myself wanting to read bits out loud to passers by and memorize segments to better integrate them into my real life. I’m still reeling from all the subsequent thoughts swirling in my mind. The alien perspective of humans was rich and heart warming. What really matters after all? The question we all ask ourselves and truly, already know the answer to, is explored beautifully. As long as you don’t mind on the surface, gratuitous, but oddly necessary F-bombs, read this book.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things Brynn Greenwood. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book review all the ugly and wonderful things

So many emotions continurally resound long after I stayed up late to find out what happened to our brave Wavy. Ugly and Wonderful is an apt title; as it is love story in an unusual way-a beautiful rendering of a horrible childhood. Prose I want to keep reading, honestly raw, the compassion and character development, and even the different points of view make this a book I really loved.

I gave it four stars instead of five because since it IS so blunt in its descriptions of the life Wavy grew up in and lived, it couldn’t be recommended to all readers.

Breakdown B.A. Paris ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What a ride!

I loved Cass. I had my suspicions from the beginning which were justified of what was really happening to her, but I was still thrown for a loop. I was drawn into the story right away and wondered what I would do in the same situations. It’s a beautiful thing when I can relate to a protagonist so thoroughly. The energy in this book never stopped, even when all Cass was doing was sleeping.

It’s sad that books take so long to write when I want to devour good ones, like this one, in a single setting.

I need B.A. Paris to start writing faster because she’s my new favorite author.

The Rules of Magic Alice Hoffman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Rules were never the point. It was finding out who you were meant to be.”

Once again Alice Hoffman delights in her poetic writing and crafting of a beautiful love story. Or, shall I say, several love stories. It would be hard to write a prequel to an iconic story, but of course she managed with aplomb. You love the Owenses, even when you think they’re screwing up their lives.

The Wife Between Us Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book review the wife between us

This book started out with a lot of potential-it’s hard to write what my experience was without giving away too much, but I’ll try. I was about 1/3 done when came across an Instagram review which told me what I had already assumed to be true, was actually the big twist. To put it a different way-I didn’t “get” the shocker at all because what I had thought to be true actually was true, but apparently most people think something different than I did.

Obviously that plot twist failed for me. I was still interested in the book though-I was loving the voice of the reader in the audio book, and I was still curious about how it would all turn out. I was impressed with the strength of the protagonist-she defined real courage to me. Even though she was terrified and sometimes opted to almost wallow in it and her depression, just like I would likely do, she still chose to do the hard, hard thing and face her fears.

I only gave it three stars though because there was a lot of repetition for which I couldn’t figure out a purpose. The extra twists toward the end seemed really contrived, the Epilogue especially! There was a subplot which happened in college that honestly didn’t seem to contribute to the story at all.

This book is above a shrug and a “meh” but you won’t miss anything if you don’t read it.


The Dinner by Herman Koch ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book review the dinner

** teensy spoiler alert **

 I hated this book and at the same time couldn’t put it down! The entire book takes place at dinner, which seems like it would be quite boring. Paul, however is an adroit storyteller. I begin to feel the same towards his brother as he does, and think Paul is the good guy. And then you learn more. This story line was intense and intriguing and despite having no action, except in flashbacks, it kept me riveted. It was so negative though, that despite how badly I wanted to tear through it, I didn’t have the stomach for it.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book review the last Mrs Parrish

I didn’t really enjoy the first half of the book because I hated the protagonist so much. Then when the protagonist changed halfway through, having just read The Wife Between Us, I knew almost exactly what was going to happen. I was really happy with the ending and how everything wrapped up. I enjoyed the book and it was well written.

Thank you to these wonderful Instagrammers for their pictures. Since I almost exclusively read library books, my pictures aren’t as perfect .

Which book do you want to add to your To Be Read list?

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What is it like having ADHD?

What is it like having ADHD?

Well, for starters, ADHD Awareness Month was October. I fully intended to post once a week about it.

I posted once.

Is it an ADHD move to drive to Illinois when you’re trying to get down town in your same state?

Is it an ADHD move to miss your exit and not notice for an hour?

Is it an ADHD move to be watching an ADD TED talk, and you remember you have to add some things to your phone’s calendar, and then you accidentally start reading about the ballet, and end up watching another video on your phone while you’re still watching the TED Talk on the TV?

Is it an ADHD move to carry the entire full toddler potty into the bathroom to clean out the little receptacle part, carry the receptacle part back into the living room and discover that enter potty as suddenly just disappeared??    You ask the kids frantically, “Where is the potty? Where  is the potty? Toddler just went!! How could the potty just disappear?!” You never find the potty, until your coffee kicks in, and you go into the bathroom and find the potty right where you left it.

Is it an ADHD move to lose a kid almost every place you go?

Is it an ADHD move to make screen shots of a bunch of your conversations with friends, intending to turn them into a blog post, and accidentally forget what you’re doing, and stop  screen shotting halfway through the conversation, so later you have no idea what you were going to do with that, or what the conversation was even about?

Is it an ADHD move to write and schedule blog posts ahead of time, then be surprised when you see your blog automatically posted for you, then you read your article you completely forgot you wrote, and think, “Wow! That’s pretty good!” and still have no recollection of writing it?

Is it an ADHD move to lose literally everything?

I have no idea. This is just how my brain has always worked.

ADHD is more than the scatterbrained, distractibility moves one would typically associate with ADHD.

Is it an ADHD move to be so sensitive you can feel people walking, buildings moving, and air shifting? Is it an ADHD move to be able to smell things no one else seems to be able to? Is it an ADHD move to be aware of how your fingers feel different long after you’ve clipped your nails, or what your clothing feels like against your skin many hours after you’ve gotten dressed? Is it an ADHD move to be able to attend to several different conversations at once, even though you don’t want to, even though it’s extremely taxing for you? Is it an ADHD move to read every single sign you encounter, even when you try to block it out? Is it an ADHD move to get a migraine from going to IKEA?

Not always, but hypersensitivity is often a co-existing condition of ADHD.

Did you know there’s also often an emotional component with ADHD?

Is it an ADHD move to feel emotions so intensely people are often caught off guard?  Is it an ADHD move to be completely over the moon or entirely devastated? Is it an ADHD move to end up crying and screaming on the floor again, feeling powerless to stop the feeling? Is it an ADHD move for people to think you’re drunk when actually you’re just doing you?

For me, yes. ADHD doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will experience extreme emotions, but it’s been true for me.

Is it an ADHD move to set a kajillion alarms for something because you don’t want to be late again, and you still are? Is it an ADHD move to leave really early for an event and find you’re just on time? Is it an ADHD move to just throw in a load of laundry and clean the floor and put away the shoes and whatever else as you’re walking out the door? Is it an ADHD move to have to go back into the house for multiple forgotten items many times?

It definitely could be. Time presents itself differently for me than it does for a lot of people. Time management has usually been wait, wait, wait, ok NOW DO ALL THE THINGS!

Is it an ADHD move to miss a lot of social cues? Relationships are harder for people with ADHD. Is it an ADHD move to be able to listen or work better while you distract yourself with something else?

Is it an ADHD move for your train of thought to more closely resemble an Asian overpass?

Crazy Asian overpass intersection ADHD train of though
Photo credit http://news.southcn.com/

I know I have ADHD. This is my life. This is how I operate. Other people with ADHD might have different experiences or symptoms; this is how it is for me.

I hope you now understand a little more about what it’s like having ADHD.

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Cheap and Easy Kitchen Update

I live in a farm house built in 1850. It had an addition in 1901, and 2012. The kitchen was updated 1987! 1987!! My mother-in-law, bless her heart, sanded, stained, and varnished every one of these doors herself. It was a gigantic improvement over the from metal cabinets, a hole in the middle of the floor, wallpaper to these beautiful oak cabinets 40 years ago, but everything is showing its age. It’s challenging for farmers to update what seems “good enough”. It is also hard to realize that 1987 was truly a lifetime ago! I’ve been wanting change in the kitchen for a really long time, but as a stay at home mom and Classical Conversations director, I don’t bring in much money. I also have next to no home improvement skills and very little interest in learning them at this point in my life.

kitchen DIY before update kitchen backsplash cabinets
Look at my tiny puppers in February 2018! She’s almost a year old now!

After a lot of thought, I realized that one of the things that bugged me the most was the cabinets over the peninsula. They blocked the way of talking to anyone on the other side of the counter. They blocked the  natural light coming in the  sliding glass door. They are dark wood, making the entire room look darker.

It occurred to me, maybe I would like it better if I just took off the doors! Then I can see the light and the people. I can handle unscrewing things, even if I’m not super great at it. I can never seem to make the electric screwdriver work, so I unscrewed all the doors by hand. I had already KonMari-ed a lot of my kitchen junk, so I was able to put pretty things in the now open cabinets.

 

Cheap and easy kitchen update diy backsplash cabinet
Some of my grandmother’s and mother-in-law’s vintage Pyrex is now on display.

Another thing I wasn’t very fond of was the paint  or outlet covers behind the sink and counter area. It was always dirty even when I had just cleaned it.  On Amazon, I found some press on tiles that supposedly you can cut through with scissors. I thought this seemed like a project I could handle. As it turned out, you CAN cut through the tiles, which come in a 12×12 block made of 1/2 inch squares of reflective abalone shell like material, IF you cut between the tiles. I soon discovered however, that my measurements come in the middle of the individual squares. When you try to cut through the actual tile, it shatters into a million pieces and is extremely challenging to cut at any rate.

I persevered although, it took me for freaking ever and confirmed why I really hate DIY home improvement projects.

Cheap and easy kitchen update diy backsplash cabinet
In the middle of the epic (for me) tiling project

I’m really happy with how it turned out though. Even if I couldn’t finish it by myself, even if there are lots of mistakes and crooked areas, and even if it took a lot longer than I hoped, I would recommend the tiles. I would also recommend these simple little changes to update an older kitchen. What do you think?

kitchen sink back splash window silver outlet covers hanging pans
All neat and tidy. For the moment.
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Homeschooling and Special Needs

My oldest son has pretty profound dyslexia. I had known he was struggling with reading, of course, but early on,  I attributed it to his being a boy, and much more active. than the norm.  He had tantrums during reading lessons, but so had one of his older sisters, and I thought he was just frustrated on a regular level. After much prayer, debate, and counsel, I realized it was more than that.

I learned of the Barton Method from a friend, and was grateful to learn we had a center in the Quad Cities.

I literally had to drag him into one of his first sessions, which, looking back, was not one of my best parenting moves. At the time, I felt so helpless. He felt so scared and overwhelmed. We were lost.

To my astonishment, he had to start at the most remedial level. He wasn’t understanding ANY reading or phonics at all. I had been helping him a lot more than I realized when we were reading together, and he’s so bright, he compensated  so beautifully that I didn’t know how acute his disability is.

I’ve seen him be brave. To continue to show up every week, and try his best, despite his fear, despite all the previous failures, despite my not handling everything right, despite how enormously challenging it is for him, is courage.

He’s grown immensely. A couple years ago, he wouldn’t sound out anything, and didn’t even want to do copy work because it was so hard for him. When he wrote “pirs” on the grocery list, it was a victory of the highest order. You’d better believe I bought him an entire bag of pears, and he didn’t even have to share them.

Giant lengthy tantrums used to happen on the regular, partly due to his frustrations with what he viewed as his inability to “do it right”, and partly due to his innate emotional dysregulation. They’ve largely stopped. I see this as a result of the tutoring, which has shown him how very much he’s capable of, and helped him realize he isn’t doing anything wrong. We’re helping his brain grow and giving him tools to be successful in spite of his disabilties.

Another struggle he has is ADHD, which is highly misunderstood, and highly misdiagnosed. Before our own family’s experiences with it, I didn’t even really think it was real for most kids, and adults, who were on medication for it. I thought it was because of the structure of schools, and expecting children, especially boys, to go against their very natures for so long. I still do think this is part of it, but I now know that ADHD brains are just wired very differently and their natures are completely divergent from a “normal” brain. ADDitude Mag has helped me immensely as I journey this new territory, in understanding how his brain functions.

Having a child with special needs and being a homeschooling mama who loves him more than breath is an extraordinarily difficult thing. I want to push him to be his best, as I do all my children. At the same time, I want to be cognizant of his contrastive abilities. I want him to thrive and yet it’s hard to know where the line of too much pressure lies.

All last year, he went  to school in the mornings to get one on one help from the special ed teacher in reading and writing. He was getting the Barton Method tutoring twice a week. We realized that he really was not benefiting as much from the reading recovery special education and would have had to adjust to a new teacher, so we pulled him from the public school program.

Now he strictly gets Barton Method tutoring two mornings a week. We do Classical Conversations and read alouds for the bulk of our curriculum. All of these things work amazingly in concert to play to his strengths while we bulwark the inherent challenges of dyslexia and ADHD.

Having a child with special needs is never easy, and homeschooling is inherently challenging. Combining the two can seem insurmountable. We’ve used our resources and contracted out some of our learning. God gives us strength every day, His faithfulness is great and His mercies renew. We all face tests of our abilities and resolve, but especially when we confront them together and we have support, we can do hard things.

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One Graphic Tank; Many Ways

I love the Pinterest posts wherein people show us how to wear one item several different ways and incorporate lots of outfit ideas. I mentioned the thought to my personal stylist, AKA my eleven year old.

She immediately put all of her excess, (often) useful energy into the idea and put together several ways to wear my favorite graphic tank top. I would have chosen some others also but I was happy to let her be in charge. She loved bossing me around and telling me what to wear and how to pose.

Wife mom boss wish graphic tee one shirt many ways fashion style blog Mom outfits

Graphic Tee:Wish

Denim Shirt: Wish

Leggings : ?

Shoes:: Platos Closet

Scarf: Goodwill

Wife mom boss wish graphic tee one shirt many ways fashion style blog Mom outfits

Denim shirt; Wish

Purse: Goodwill

Shoes: Platos Closet

Wife mom boss wish graphic tee one shirt many ways fashion style blog Mom outfits

Shirt: Wish

Skirt: Goodwill

Shoes: amazonWife mom boss wish graphic tee one shirt many ways fashion style blog Mom outfits

necklace: Washington DC Art Museum

shorts: Goodwill

Wife mom boss wish graphic tee one shirt many ways fashion style blog Mom outfits

shoes: walmart

Wife mom boss wish graphic tee one shirt many ways fashion style blog Mom outfits

Hat: Dollar Tree

Handbag: gifted

Boyfriend jeans: Zulily

Gingham shoes: walmart

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How to NOT Pack Light

How to (NOT) Pack Light

My Handsome Husband and I recently went to Washington DC without kids! We hadn’t had a trip with just the two of us since 2009, when we came home pregnant with Denton (baby #4). Don’t worry, we didn’t bring home any special surprises this time!

Kevin was representing Scott County in a Farm Bureau of Iowa in a lobbying trip, and was allowed to bring a guest. I’m so glad he chose me! Farm Bureau paid for his expenses and some of mine, so that made the trip even better. Even though they would have been paying for one checked bag, I swore to myself that I would be able to pack for the six day trip with only our carry-ons and one personal item each.

I couldn’t do it.

The morning of Packing Day, Kevin took the middlest (and the most in-the-way) of the kids with him on an outing, so I could concentrate on packing. I had a list. I had been watching “How to Pack for a Week in a Carry On” YouTube videos all week. I knew which outfits I was packing for him to wear to the Capitol, for his talks with our senators and representatives and with officials from the EPA and the Canadian Embassy. I had ordered packing cubes. I had checked out a fully loaded Kindle from the library so I didn’t have to pack any heavy books. I was ready.

The first 10 minutes went well, until I realized half of the Handsome Husband’s shirts had a serious ring around the collar issue and I had to do laundry. After that, I couldn’t settle down and get to work. I couldn’t figure out where to begin again. I felt like I was spinning in circles. I was Marco Poloing with a dear friend and told her jokingly that I needed her to come over and help me. Miracle of Miracles, she did! What a blessing to have a tribe who supports you in tangible ways.

She helped me stay on task, and get completely finished packing. This was key, because I almost always leave something to the last minute, but we were leaving at 4 am the morning of the beginning of daylight savings time, so I couldn’t do that this time!

Thanks to her steadfastness, I finally got packed, but it wasn’t light. I went awry, and if you want to NOT pack lightly too, here’s what to do.

Pack for the Gym

I packed gym shoes and clothes. I didn’t realize I would be walking an average of six miles a day, and not only wouldn’t NEED to work out, but wouldn’t want to work out.

Pack Extra Shoes

I decided I needed to bring my slippers. I didn’t. I also thought I wanted cute boots for the plane ride. I not only didn’t need cute boots, I mistakenly kept them on our first day of touring, which amounted to almost eight miles of walking and multiple blisters. Never choose cute over comfort.

Bring Work Along

I thought I would tour around DC the mornings that Kevin had his meetings, and then head back to the hotel and write, possibly read. That didn’t happen. Not only did I not open my computer or decorate my planner one time, I couldn’t restrain myself from over stimulation of all the wonderful history and museums which DC has to offer. I basically flew my laptop from Iowa to DC and back again, just so it could get out of the house.

Miscount

I packed a different shirt and tie for every day Kevin had meetings, and then some. I accidentally counted to four wrong, and packed too many shirts. Additionally, I realized too late, since he was meeting with different people every day, he could have worn the same outfit (or only had one alternate button down) every day with a different undershirt and been just fine.

Pack Too Many Toiletries

Since I was going to be attending a few of the meetings and going out to dinner, and I had read online that DC was a dressy city, I thought I would need all of my make up (well, a lot of it). My curling wand. Different jewelry.

I did change jewelry, and I did curl my hair, and I did look fabulous, but it would have been fine if I hadn’t.

It’s true. I’m extra. I have a hard time packing light.

We’re going to Seattle in a few weeks for four days. Maybe I’ll be able to go pack for that trip with only a carry-on. But even if I don’t, it will be ok.

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One Shirt; Three Ways

I got this yummy shirt in my last Stitch Fix . It’s extremely soft and exactly the right colors for fall. I hope you too enjoy seeing different ideas on how to style different articles of clothing, adding versatility to your closet. I kept the same pair of skinny jeans on in each photo, so you can see how easy it is to get different looks with different accessories.

Plaid scarf Styling tip- use a small clip to hold the bottoms of your scarf together because you know you’re too busy to keep readjusting the dang thing all day.

Black flats

Alternatively, black booties or knee high boots would add another dimension to this outfit.

Denim shirt

Nude flats

A statement necklace would add another layer to this, as well as leaving the scarf on. Brown booties or knee high brown boots would look great too!

Tan moto jacket

Tan booties

Keeping the scarf on or adding a statement necklace would bump this outfit up too. Higher boots would be an easy way to add interest.

What’s your favorite way to accessorize?

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I have ADHD.

I have ADHD

It’s been almost a year since my ADHD diagnosis.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on ADHD. I try to read a couple of articles a day on the topic to learn more about myself, the functionality of my brain, and a couple of my children. In fact, I was reading an article the other day that I didn’t relate to at all. As I was sharing this with my therapist, I chuckled, “Maybe I don’t actually have ADHD.”

Looking at me warmly and seriously, she dimpled and rebutted, “No. You definitely do.”

It’s been an interesting journey, being diagnosed in my 40s. I used to be one of those people who erroneously believed ADHD was one of those catch all diagnoses used to medicate little boys who shouldn’t be sitting still all day long in a classroom anyway. I still do think that it’s overdiagnosed and overmedicated, but studies back up my belief that ADHD veritably is a real thing. I’m learning to accept that my brain really does work differently than the other 96% of the population.

Unquestionably, being diagnosed with ADHD has given me a lot of freedom, and the ability to give myself more grace. I used to wonder why I couldn’t seem to get my act together or manage life in a way that other people seemed to be able to, or why this way of working appeared impossible for me, when it came so easily to others. I used to berate myself for these perceived lacks. Now I can say to myself, “My brain doesn’t work that way, but I can think of ways to succeed in the ways my brain does work.”

It helps me understand why I approach life the way I do.

Knowing I have ADHD lets me accept how I am, to know that I might do it differently, and to feel positive that my way works too.

It’s harder, because we don’t live in a world that is designed for my way of thinking, but I now can realize that, and accommodate myself.

I can look at all the gifts that come with having ADHD, and be thankful that I know now why I function the way I do.

This is part of a series Jessica is writing for October, ADHD Awareness Month. What questions would you like to have her answer?

photo by Giraffe Photography

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September Books and Reviews

Fall weather makes me want to read! There’s nothing like snuggling up under a puppy on a drizzly, cool day with an excellent book. As this past month was mostly all a steamer though, but I still managed to sweat and a read a few excellent (and a couple rather mediocre) book.

Thank you to the amazing Instagram community for allowing me to share their photos. Follow these reading ladies! (And me, FarmFreshJessica, if you don’t already!)

The Alice Network–⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️– Seriously, meet your next favorite book. Raw. emotion, humor, love, betrayal, passion, pain, beauty-this book has everything. Historically accurate and based on real people, some of whom are quoted word for word, and beautifully narrated from two diametrically opposes perspectives, you won’t be able to put it down.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore–⭐️⭐️–Normally, I don’t even finish books that I like so little, but this was an audio book, so I could read while doing laundry, and I wanted to knock off my prompt for the 2018 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, “A book which takes place in a library or bookstore.” Suffice it to say, the premise had potential, but it was boring and pat, and I didn’t even understand what was going on half the time. The setting wasn’t developed and the characters even less so. Find a different book to fulfill that prompt, please.

The Good Daughter–⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️– An intense book from page one, it just keeps getting deeper. Filled with emotional drama and family trauma, this story isn’t as much psychological thriller as I thought it was, but more a mystery to be solved. The twists and turns are brutal and heartbreaking. You truly feel for even the minor characters in the story, which is a sign of an excellent tale. I was repulsed by the repeated graphic descriptions of the horror Sam and Charlie underwent, but I can see how it was necessary to help you really empathize with what they’d overcome. A fierce novel-one I had to stay up late to finish.

It’s All Under Control–⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️– This book speaks right to my heart. I was flabbergasted to find the author knows me! As in, she wrote this for herself and for women in general, but it was as if she knows me personally and sees my struggle. She brought tears to my eyes several times with her poignant encouragement. She offered real ideas and solutions and understands how hard this sense of control is to let go of. She never once seemed condescending, but always loving. Highly recommend.

The Giver–⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️– The Giver fascinated me. I was plopped down in the middle of a world for which I have no understanding or concept for. I am able to make judgements based on my experience and memories, as it were, but the characters in The Giver don’t have that capacity. Jonas eventually does and he realizes that with that knowledge comes understanding and with understanding wisdom and action. I recommend you read this book for you and with your kids. Lots of good conversations to be had and introspection to be done.

Kabul Beauty School–⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️– I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’ve read several books similar in nature which were badly written and not at all interesting, even though the story SHOULD have been a winner. Kabul Beauty School is nothing like that. Debbie can tell a story that helps you visualize it and feel what she felt. She helps you understand, as much as any western person could, what these women in Afghanistan are tied to. It’s hard for us to comprehend at all.

She shares her mistakes and is very real with the reader, and at the same time feels proud of what she has helped accomplish. This book is a vital read for all of us in the West to take to heart.

George Muller–⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️– We read this as a family and LOVED it! Just enough detail to get an excellent idea of this incredible man, but not too much that it didn’t hold the children’s interest. We love learning of all of God’s miracles and pray for George’s faith ourselves!

1984–⭐️⭐️⭐️– Fascinating. Disturbing. Thought provoking. Even haunting. I took quite a while to read this book because my brain just didn’t want to go back inside that world. I didn’t want to give it four stars as I didn’t really like it enjoy it but I think it almost deserves five. That this book was written 70 years ago and is still completely relevant today is awful. I would not want my kids to read Orwell’s “future” but I feel they should. Obviously, I’m conflicted about 1984.

Revolutionary Road–⭐️⭐️⭐️(⭐️)– Truly the writing deserves five stars. As for my personal taste in books though, I can only dole out three. It was a grim and morose tale of two people who thought very highly of themselves and found out they really didn’t have what it took to live their lives unselfishly and freely. They were stuck in so many constraints, in the past, and in doubt of their meaning here on earth. It was beautifully written and aroused compassion and curiosity for them. I want to see how they depict it in the movie.

In a personal tidbit, I was interested especially because it was written a year before my in-laws got married and the ideals and modes of society would have been their life song too. It helped me see how their mentality and upbringing and time affected their thinking, and thereby my husband’s.

I can see why this is considered an American classic, it just wasn’t for me. Finding out the ending makes me doubt I can stomach the movie, although I’ve heard it’s superb.

Behind Closed Doors–⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ — What a page turner!!
The writing seemed a little trite at times but I could easily overlook it because the concept was so strong. Suffice it to say it was completely believable even as it was out of the realm of every day understanding. I loved the idea of telling the story in the present and the past and bringing the past ever closer to the current present. I LOVED the ending. It literally gave me goosebumps.

What was the best book you read last month?