Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top Ten Books of 2016

I'm not really a blogger anymore, but I had a great year of reading this year and wanted to share my top ten list. 2016 is the year I finally figured out how to check out e-books from my local library, and my book consumption exploded as a result. I think I read maybe 25 books in 2015; this year, my total was 73. I had hoped to make it an even 75 but the end of the year got a little too busy. No matter! Here are my favorites; be warned, my new library access resulted in a gluttony of my favorite type of book: female-led YA and adult fantasy novels. No apologies for my taste in books, being a grown up and finished with school means I get to read what I like!

 Top 10:

10. Walk the Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson:   Gold Rush-era historical fiction with a fantastical twist! A bit harrowing, as covered wagon tales and the Old West tend to be, but this author has a real knack for complex characters and believable emotions. I also enjoyed the sequel, Like a River Glorious.

9. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley: The concept of a secret British agency that investigates and deals with supernatural people and situations was fascinating and well done. Add in a female agent protagonist with amnesia and I was utterly riveted. This one also has an enjoyable sequel, Stiletto.

8. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas: The first Maas entry on my list but definitely not the last, this is the fourth entry in her Throne of Glass series. A bit of a placeholder, frankly, but well-paced and extremely entertaining as all of her books are.

7. Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas: The third book in the Throne of Glass series, this one really exploded the story beyond the more well-contained world of the first two books. I loved seeing the groundwork laid for a much larger story than I anticipated when I read the first book, and Celaena's transformation into the self she becomes in this and later books is incredible to read. 

6. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas: To call this a retelling of Beauty and the Beast is a gross understatement of its excellent world building and multi-faceted protagonist, Feyre. This is the kind of book I would describe if you asked me, "Describe your favorite type of book."

5. The Martian by Andy Weir: I know I'm a couple years behind on this one, but turns out there's a reason it's so popular. Even with all the science gobbledygook, I was completely engrossed on the treadmill. My new standard of reading: if you can make me forget I'm running, you must be a great book.

4. Morning Star by Pierce Brown: A great end to the Red Rising trilogy. I love the twists and turns of plot this author is so adept at inserting into his books.
3. The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: I feel so justified in having recommended the first two books of the trilogy to everyone I encounter, because this third installment was incredibly satisfying. It's always notable when a YA fantasy trilogy delivers on the hype of the first book.

2. Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas: Sorry not sorry, the latest (fifth) book in the Throne of Glass series blew my mind. I cannot wait for the finale, the author has set us up for a killer ending to the story. 

1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas: I think I had a book hangover for a good week after finishing this sequel to my #6 on this list. Insanely good. Read it. The third one will be released in May, I am basically counting the days. 2016 was definitely the Year of Maas for me, no regrets!!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Emotional Journey of Lincoln's First Cupcake

I'll be back soon for a full write-up of Lincoln at one year, but we noticed while looking through his birthday photos today what a funny emotional whirlwind he went through while he was eating his birthday cupcake. Join us as we follow along with his inner monologue.

What is this thing? It looks gross.

Well, if Big Brother thinks it's good I guess I can try it.

Hmmm. Interesting flavor.

Hey, I think this is maybe kinda okay.

Actually, it's pretty great! I put it right in my mouth and bam! Awesomeness.

Have you hear about this thing called cake?! It's so good! Is my voice getting louder? It seems louder.

Cake. Cake. Cake. Cake.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Ten Years in San Diego

This month marks a full decade since I moved to San Diego in 2005 to attend law school. It's by far the longest I've ever lived in one city, and I can't imagine loving a place more. So much has happened in the ten years since I arrived: Graduated law school, passed the bar, found my dream job, got married, realized I hated my dream job, created two amazingly wonderful human beings, and became a stay at home mom. It goes without saying that the most significant moments of my adult life happened here (marrying Brandon and meeting my sons, of course), but since those have already been extensively documented, I thought that on the occasion of my tenth San Diego anniversary, I should focus on my ten favorite, most San Diego-specific memories. So here they are, as far as I can remember them.

10. Driving in San Diego: Okay, this one will probably sound stupid to a lot of people, but San Diego is the only place I've ever felt comfortable driving in. I know this city; I know how to get to most places within the county that I need to go, and I can usually get there without more than a cursory glance at a map. I've just been been driving here for so long that I have a sense of direction when I'm in the city. This is huge! I used to drive so much and to so many random parts of the county for my old job that it's given me a comfort level that I haven't experienced anywhere else. I love that.

9. My First and Only Apartment: San Diego is the only place where I've lived on my own. My first and only apartment by myself, my old place in Ocean Beach where I lived for four years before marrying Brandon. I could run to Dog Beach in less than ten minutes. I could walk to get the best burritos and carne asada fries that San Diego has to offer within a mile of my front door (Tommy's, I miss you!). As much as I love the pack of boys with whom I currently share residence, I have so many happy memories of dancing around that place drinking wine while I waited for my Trader Joe's frozen dinners to heat up.

8. 29:11: This seemingly random grouping of numbers actually refers to my old twenties ministry and fellowship group at my old church. This group definitely had its awkward moments and members, but I don't know how I could have survived the rigors and stresses of law school without this great, inclusive, and supportive group of weirdos. Heck, I even have this group to thank for meeting my husband! Many of the people I met here are still wonderful friends today, and I'm so thankful for that.

7. Sunday night dinners at A&A's: A and A (names shortened to protect the innocent, haha) are two spectacular women from my law school class who for some reason agreed to be friends with me. During our 2L year, they had me over to dinner at their place almost every Sunday night so we could bitch about our classes and gossip about our classmates. I didn't drink much at the time, but after being handed glasses of red wine every time I walked in the door, it eventually grew on me until I became the highly enthusiastic wine-drinker I am today. These hilarious, brilliant ladies made me laugh and always left me with a lot to think about. I'm very grateful for their friendship (and particularly for my introduction to classy alcohol consumption).

6. The East County SAHM experience: While my heart may live in Ocean Beach, our family for the moment resides in the glorious and sunny mediocrity that is East County San Diego. We've been here for a little over four years now, and for three of those years I've been a full-time stay-at-home mom. I think my satisfaction with my current situation is well-known, and it's fair to say that East County has grown on me enormously during my time here. I know all the kid-friendly places it has to offer like the back of my hand, and I owe a lot of that to my dedicated and welcoming local East County mommy meet-up. I've collected a lot of happy moments with my boys over my years out here in the blazing, non-air-conditioned wonderland that is East San Diego. If you need recommendations for a place to entertain your toddler east of the 15, I'm your girl!

5. Our first Life Group: Around the time Brandon and I got engaged, we were on the hunt for a new church home. As we were planning to remain in Ocean Beach at the time, we randomly showed up to the Baptist church that was local to my apartment and were immediately sucked into the best church community I've ever been a part of. Specifically, the first Life Group (Bible Study, essentially) that we began attending and eventually hosted for a while was an incredible source of friendship and support as we started our lives together. Some of those friends have moved on (or passed into heaven), but they all hold a special place in my heart.

4. The San Diego Wine Bar Tour with L and E: After 29:11 was disbanded, I began attending a women's Bible Study that really only consisted of myself and two other women (L and E) who at the time were mostly acquaintances. After a year or so of pretending to be a Bible Study, we eventually owned up to the fact that we just wanted to hang out and share our lives, so we switched to dinners out that almost invariably happen at places that serve wine. Over the years, these women have been an amazing source of support during some very difficult periods of my life, and I've tried my best to do the same for them. Although kids complicate things a bit, we still meet up every other month or so. I always look forward to it and have a great time.

3. Brandon's 26th Birthday Party: This one is a bit different in that it's a specific memory of a single event. At the time when Brandon turned 26, we had known each other for nearly a year and a half and had recently begun flirting a bit, but were definitely still platonic. After Brandon's beach party, followed by a particularly tequila-fueled dinner out with a group of friends, our drunken shenanigans (mostly Brandon's) progressed us to the point of our first official date.

2. Hotel Del Coronado: This gorgeous old hotel may be my favorite place in all of San Diego. Walking that enormous white sand beach first with my parents, later with my husband and sons, fills me with such joy for where I am lucky enough to live. Add in a cool glass of iced tea lemonade and a freshly grilled hot dog on the Hotel Del patio and life becomes pretty much perfect. Particularly when you're there during the Christmas season and it's 70 degrees and sunny (like Christmas ought to be, haha)!

1. Marathons and Marathon Training in San Diego: It's been years since I've been able to focus seriously on running and my old hobby of distance races. My years training with the local track club to complete two full marathons and several half-marathons were wonderful. I have seen so much of this beautiful city and its beaches while trying to distract myself from the painful tedium of Saturday long runs, I can hardly think of a location in San Diego without reminding myself, "Oh, I've run there before." I hope as my boys get older that I'll be able to recommit to distance running, but the memories are enough for now.

So there you have it. A decade in San Diego and so much happiness. I hope to have much more of the same as the years march on.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer Fun

We just finished up such a fun San Diego "staycation" with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law. They rented a house out in Point Loma with a nice pool and lots of bedrooms, so we were able to stay out there with them for much of the week. Lucas adored having such frequent access to a pool and getting to spend so much time with his Grandma and Grandpa. Lincoln was, as usual, just happy to be bopping along in life.

We also hit up the beach, drove to Escondido to check out the Safari Park for the first time with the boys, and ate so much Mexican food that Brandon and I are on hiatus from the cuisine until further notice. What a fun week!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Lucas turns Three!

I was feeling ambivalent about writing up one of these for Lucas's third birthday, but I just got such a kick out of reading the one I wrote for him last year that it motivated me to get started on this one. Lucas is just thriving and we had a blast celebrating this latest milestone!

Physical: We measured and weighed Lucas the day after his birthday, because he won't be in for his well check until Lincoln's 9-month checkup in July. Lucas is just a hair under 40 inches tall and just over 40 pounds. Still my sweet, sturdy little square! He wears a 10.5W shoe and is fully in 4T clothing, although some of his 4T pants are starting to get a bit snug. He's very active, and always working on those gross motor skills. His climbing has gotten a lot stronger and steadier lately, and his throw seems crazily strong and accurate for his age. He is still in very good health much of the time, and has not been to the doctor since his two year checkup last year. Other than a few colds, the only illness we dealt with this year was our dreaded run in with Hand Foot and Mouth just after Lincoln was born. The two-year molars came in last summer right on schedule without any fuss. And we've yet to hit the emergency room for an injury, but I imagine we're living on borrowed time for that one.

Throwing rocks into water is always a hit with this guy.

Whenever I ask what he wants to do today, he says, "Slides!"

Mental: His verbal communication skills have grown by leaps and bounds this year. We did end up having him evaluated for a speech delay just before Lincoln was born, and while he did test as mild to moderately delayed, it wasn't significant enough to qualify him for special services. He's stringing sentences together at a good rate now, and repeats everything that comes out of our mouths -- so Mama needs to be a little more careful! He's gotten most of his colors straight, but we haven't made much progress on the alphabet or numbers front. That's my fault, really -- teaching is not my strong suit. He'll be starting preschool in the next few months so that should get the ball rolling. He finally started trying to sing a month or so ago, which makes my heart so happy! Sadly, he seems to have inherited his parents' (lack of) musical skills, but it's still a thrill to hear him try. We read books before nap time and before bed, which he enjoys but I definitely wouldn't call him a bookworm. That would involve too much sitting still!

He loved dying eggs this year!

Scolding people at the zoo like a goon.

Behavioral: Lucas definitely gave us a run for our money with his "terrible twos." Especially around the middle of the year, when he ramped up the intensity level by starting to violently attack whoever was attempting to calm him down. After some trial and error, we determined that the quickest way to get Lucas to calm down is to dump him in his room and lock the door until he calms himself down. It cut down the tantrum length significantly and bonus for Mom and Dad, no one was getting toddler backhanded across the face. It's still a tough issue when the major "red zones" or "going full Lucas" as we like to call it happens in public, but I do my best to find a quiet corner wherever we are so he can take the time he needs to calm down on his own. We also saw a strange but intense short resurgence of separation anxiety, specifically directed toward me, around March of this year. It only lasted a few weeks, but it was a rough go of it for everyone there for awhile! Thankfully Lucas is back to his confident self, although we do bribe him shamelessly with treats to behave well for sitters. He's now getting fully into the swing of a three-year-old's power plays, asserting independence, and aggravating attitude, but I'll be glad to see the end of the two-year-old tantrums. At least now he can tell us, "I mad! I fus-tated!"


Fun at the beach.

Eating/Sleeping: Lucas struggles a lot with pickiness still. He loves fresh fruit, and will eat other foods on a random, rotating basis but the list of things he will consistently eat is depressingly small. We supplement with Pediasure and a multivitamin to try and keep things balanced, which isn't ideal but the best we can do right now. We continue to offer new healthy foods and encourage him to try them and occasionally he will do so. I find myself very invested in wanting Lucas to develop a healthy relationship with food, so he's allowed to eat when he's hungry, does not receive consequences for not eating or cleaning his plate, and I try my best not to engage in power struggles over food. I will use every trick in the book to make sure he gets a good amount of protein every day though!The hanger tantrums he inherited from me make everyone's lives a misery otherwise. Luckily, his sleeping continues to be excellent. He's in bed by 7:30 every night, and sleeps until about 6:30 in the morning almost every day. He's starting to outgrow his afternoon nap, but will still take a 2-3 hour nap daily as long as I make sure he's getting an hour or more of physical activity in the morning.

Yummy birthday cake! "I luff cake."
Cutie pie playing dress up with Mommy.

Personality/Interests: Lucas is still all about goofing off and being silly, and thrives with a lot of hard, active outdoor play. He loves to go "runnin' FAST" and climb on rocks and anything he can find, really. He's always the kid at park play date who's wandering off on his own to the areas away from the playground so he can chase birds, throw rocks, and generally explore nature. He still loves hanging out with friends and usually plays well with others, although we see a normal amount of aggression as he learns to negotiate social relationships. He gets easily overwhelmed by crowds or parties and loves having a predictable routine. He's very sweet and affectionate with Brandon, myself, and Lincoln, but shy with other people. He still loves cars and trucks, toys you can ride (like his balance bike or scooter), and outdoor toys. His favorite TV show is Curious George by far, followed by Thomas & Friends and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and his favorite movies are Toy Story 1-3, Hercules, Cars, and Big Hero 6.

Legos with Daddy and Baba.

Fun at Legoland!

The whole family. 

My little adventurer.

Given Lucas's unpredictable reactions to crowds and parties, we decided to forgo having a party for him this year. Instead, my parents took us all to Legoland for the day! We stayed at the Legoland Hotel for the night before and the night after, so we could maximize our time in the park and allow for Lucas to take an easy break in the middle of the day for a nap. Legoland is definitely geared toward the under-12 set, and it's on a much smaller scale than something like Disneyland, so it was actually perfect for Lucas. He was tall enough to ride nearly everything in the park, and there were so many of the things he loved - planes, trains, and automobiles of course -- that he was in heaven for most of the day. The hotel was super cute too -- the elevator played disco music complete with rotating disco ball that Lucas loved dancing to, and there was a treasure chest in the room with new Lego and candy treasure each day we were there. The downstairs buffet and restaurant was very kid-friendly, although Lucas was too keyed up to eat much while we were there. It was such fun to experience it all through his eyes; I think we all loved his incredulous giggles of delight when he went on his first roller coaster best. It was a birthday success!

On his actual birthday, we opened presents and had some quality park time trying out his new stomp rockets and scooter. His present from us will be a zoo membership for next year now that he's not free anymore, but we also got him a hippity-hop because of his abiding love for bouncing like a real life Tigger. And of course, there was "birthday cake!!!" because that's Lucas's favorite part of birthdays.

Birthday fun at the park.

Stomp rockets hooray!

Love these boys.

Happy third birthday to my Biggest! He's just the best.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Baby Lincoln Halftime Report

My Littlest, Tiny Face, Goober Pea, Little One, last baby ever Lincoln is six months old! I can hardly believe how quickly it's gone by so far. I'm excited to leave the first six months behind and enjoy another half a year of my deliciously chubby, constantly jovial, easy going little man.

Physical: Our Peanut is "only" around 19.5-20 pounds right now, which is pretty big for a six-month old but about a pound smaller than his big brother was at the same age. I'm not sure how tall he is, as his doctor's appointment isn't for another week, but we're going to be buying him a new car seat within the next couple weeks because I think he's close to the height limit. Bye bye infant car seat! He recently moved into 12mo size clothes.

Developmental: Lincoln can roll both ways, and is working on sitting up on his own although I think it will be a few weeks until he's mastered it. He can push up on his arms but shows no interest in moving himself anywhere (rolling across the floor or army crawling). Fine by me -- take your time, little one! Mommy is not in a hurry to have two mobile children any time soon. He started rice cereal in the middle of last month, and has since tried sweet potatoes and peas. The peas were not a hit, and he also threw them up all over his crib later that evening. Can't say I blame him.

Sleep: Lincoln learned how to fall asleep in his crib last month! I was losing my mind getting up to rock him back to sleep 5-6 times every night, so we tried putting him down "drowsy and awake" to see what would happen. It was a miracle! Barely any crying and he quickly realized that he prefers falling asleep on his own as opposed to in someone's arms. It's almost a little insulting. Teaching him how to self-soothe a little has also brought the nighttime wake ups from 5-6 down to 2-3, which is not ideal but perfectly fine with me! He goes to bed at 6:30pm and wants to be asleep until around 6:30 the next morning. He also takes three naps daily. The first two are generally short, 30-60 minutes, because he often takes them in the car or the chest carrier while we're out and about. Then he takes a longer one at the same time as Lucas in the afternoon, usually 2-3 hours but with a wakeup in the middle.

Personality: What an impossibly sweet, smiley, adorable little guy he is! He rolls with the punches quite easily, as any good second baby must, and adores his big brother. He doesn't let you ignore him, and doesn't want to be left alone in a room while he's awake, but with regular activity changes he's incredibly easy to please. He's not particularly giggly, although our perspective is skewed by Lucas who basically hasn't stopped laughing in three years. He's very snuggly but needs regular wiggle breaks too. In all, Lincoln is a joy to have in our family.

Here are a million photos of my adorable boys.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Reasons Why My Almost Three Year Old Throws Tantrums

His banana broke in half before he could eat it.

I told him not to suffocate his baby brother.

I wouldn't let him suck on the kitchen sponge.

I asked him not to eat the mom's group craft supplies.

I opened his car door for him, even though he can't reach it himself.

I pulled him out of a flower bed at the zoo.

I put him in the bathtub instead of letting him climb in himself.

I asked him if he wanted a drink of water before his nap.

I left him in a room without me in it.

I put a blanket on him at nap time.

I tried to change his diaper after he pooped.

I went in to get him after nap time approximately two minutes after he called for me.

I took away a screwdriver that he was using to "brush baby's teeth."

I pulled his hands out of the cat's litter box.

I asked him if he was ready to go play with his friends at gym daycare.

I pulled him away from rolling on top of his baby brother.

I handed him his toothbrush instead of letting him pick it up.

I wouldn't carry him to the car when I had Lincoln strapped in the chest carrier.

Who needs a reason? Because he's almost three.

The above is basically my life right now. I haven't updated in a while because there are not a lot of fun blog posts in recounting the number of outings he's ruined the ends of, the number of times he's hit us smack across the face when our reflexes weren't fast enough, or the amount of tiny bruises covering my shins from his kicks. The Tank is certainly giving us a run for our money in 2015. Good thing he's cute!