What I’m Reading – Spring and Summer 2018

I love to read, I’ve always preferred reading over watching TV! I love learning and gaining new insights and knowledge, and just reading to gain perspective about things as well. I set a goal for myself at the beginning of the year, to try and read at least one book each month. For me, that seemed attainable even though some months it has been close! I’ve been proud that a couple of months I have read two books haha! With little ones it is sometimes hard to find the time to read…

buuuut I’ve been using the kindle app on my phone so I can just pick up where I left off here and there from my Kindle Paperwhite and it is so convenient! So here’s what I’ve been reading so far this year. And P.S. if you are interested, follow me on Goodreads here, and you can see my other book reviews here. Hope you enjoy!

I read “The Radium Girls” at the very beginning of the year, when we were all sick and just lying around on the couch for pretty much the WHOLE month of January. It was kind of awful. But this book was not. It popped up on my Kindle as a book of possible interest based on other things I was reading, and it was only a couple of dollars so I downloaded it. It really took me off guard and by surprise in a number of ways… it was all about the girls in the early 1900s who worked in the dial factories painting radium on dials (clocks and other mechanisms for planes) that made the features glow in the dark. The catch was, the method ended up killing all of them. They had to lip point, twist a brush in their mouth with the radium on it, and then paint the intricate numbers. This was one of the first instances of a workman’s compensation law suit, and up until this time there were not a lot of laws that protected people in the work force. The book covers each of the women’s stories, how they each lived and became the consequence of their work, how no one believed them and one by one their job killed them, but also how eventually they prevailed and proved the need for more protection of men and women in their jobs. It was sad and gruesome at times how the radium poisoning took their lives and how they were treated, but it was so eye opening as well as to how far we have come in such a short time.

I love Melanie Shankle. I have read all of her books and just love the rhythm of her writing, and her humor and perspective on life is so great. I enjoyed “Church of the Small Things”, there were a lot of good thoughts but also some random ones. There were times I was like oh yes this is so true and other times when I kind of was wondering why she had included certain stories. I always enjoy her books though and highly recommend them! She literally has me laughing out loud at times and crying at others, and I always finish them feeling good.

I am a big fan of Kristin Hannah as well, I loved her book “The Nightingale,” it’s one of my all time favorite books. I downloaded “Home Front” from the library when I was staying at my mother in laws waiting on our third baby boy to arrive, and enjoyed the read. It is a story about a woman in the National Guard who flies Black Hawk helicopters, and how her life and her family’s lives drastically change when she is called into active duty and must leave home for a time to serve. Her story gave me so much perspective about the sacrifices military families make, and how they and their military members deal with coming back home and adapting to daily life again, especially with challenges of post traumatic stress disorder. It was a hard story to read at times, but overall a good one. There was some language in this one, I think mainly because of the military setting, so I just like to warn people about that in case they are interested.

My next read while waiting on my baby boy haha… I was also having trouble going to sleep at night so I was doing lots of reading. 😉 I love WW2 historical fiction novels… and “Salt to the Sea” did not disappoint. It follows the lives of a few different characters, each chapter being the voice of a different person and bouncing back and forth between the people, following their travels as they evacuate from the war. Eventually their lives overlap and their travels become one as they make their way to the sea to get on a ship to take them to supposed safety. The ship they got on was packed to the brim with people and sadly did not make it very far thanks to Russian submarines lurking nearby . It’s one of the most disastrous losses at sea of all time yet not many people know about it. This tragic story of sacrifice and loss with have you aching for what people went through during that time.

After reading two intense stories, I was looking for something more light hearted and settled on “Sisters First”. I have always loved the Bush family and what they have stood for, so I loved reading all of the different stories from Jenna (she has a great name, doesn’t she? 😉) and Barbara about their childhood and what it was like growing up in the White House. It was definitely interesting and neat to read about their lives and relationships.

Once I got home with my baby boy, I finished “Sisters First” and then started on another sister story, “When We Were Sisters”. This book talked about two girls who solidified their sisterhood while in foster homes together, and once into adulthood how they went back through the journey of their lives, to make peace with everything they endured bouncing from one foster home to the next. I’ll admit this wasn’t my favorite, and I had to push through most of this book. Parts of it were hard to believe at times or seemed forced, but the ending was good and tied everything together. We have always talked about possibly adopting one day at some point, so I did enjoy just the insight gained from this story.

Another war historical fiction read… the “Alice Network” was about a group of women spies during the war, so cool right? Friends, as interesting as this book was story-wise, there was SO much bad language in it. I scanned this second half of this book because I couldn’t take it anymore! It made me sad though because the characters and story itself was great, but I cannot recommend this one because of some of the provocative scenes and language.

The hard part about downloading books from the library is that you have to take what is available at times hah! So ANOTHER read set during the WW2 era. “The Book Thief” surprised me, it was not like I thought it would be, mainly because it was told from the perspective of the “soul collector.” Which thinking about that, really is a perfect perspective because of the enormity of souls collected during WW2…such a tragedy, I just cannot imagine living through this. The story follows the life of a girl, who does become a book thief, and how she was adopted and new life in Germany. They live in a town near the concentration camp Dachau, which I had the privilege of traveling to in college. The site of that camp was the most quiet and silent places I have ever visited, the only sounds I can remember are the gravel crunching under people’s feet as we walked around… and to think about those scenes while reading this story was so powerful. Very interesting and sad read for sure, but also just a good perspective too.

I was looking for another lighthearted easy read and decided on “The Little French Bistro” based on her reviews. Of course with my luck, it starts off with the main character trying to commit suicide and was depressing and gray…but the story follows her travels and how she finds herself and discovers living again. She frees herself from an oppressive marriage and realizes her worth, creating a desire to live again. It was somewhat cheesy and predictable at times, but we can all use a bit of cheesy in our lives from time to time, right? 😉

I had a couple of weeks left in June so I squeezed in “For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.” And friends, I needed this read. I feel like my head is so full of noise at times or what does this person think about me or am I doing enough to please others or am I being a good enough mom or am I fulfilling my roles and on and on and on…and she just kept addressing one after the other with her own sentiments on handling things. Of course, like any book, you may not agree 100% with everything she says, in fact there are a few statements I strongly disagreed with, but overall she has a lot of thoughts to consider. She covers so many issues we deal with as women these days, from simple things to big ones. Her writing style is quick witted, full of humor and straight to the point, which is the kind of writing I appreciate. It was so easy to stay engaged and for the most part I just wanted to keep reading the next chapter to see what else she had to say. I think just like any book, you can pick and chose helpful things from the content.

I hope you enjoyed the list for the first half of the year and found something that interested you! Happy reading friends! 🙂

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Postpartum Days

Your little one made their debut. You’ve made it home. Now what.

The birth of my third son was about as perfect as it could have been. Every prayer and every request I made of our awesome God was granted, above and beyond what I could have thought possible. I was on a high those days in the hospital, and so completely excited to come home after a two night stay, without any complications.

But once I got home, I felt my body’s recovery settling in. I felt my body shifting, things settling and just feeling like I had a ways to go to get back to some kind of normalcy… and when one of my dear friends texted me to see how I was doing, I basically told her, “I’m good, but recovery is definitely setting in…and it’s a little worrisome for me because I always feel like something I’m not expecting might happen that I have to deal with or heal from.” Both of my previous recoveries were extremely difficult and long, one requiring me to return to the hospital  and then again to the ER, so needless to say I was paranoid.

She sent me a link that day, (she writes articles for a mother’s magazine), of an article she wrote about her postpartum days after her third child. And while I am not as eloquent or as wise as her, her article spoke to me and made me want to write down my own thoughts and feelings about this time period. Mostly for myself, because I know my thoughts and memories will fade, and I want to be able to come back to a space and remember this time, but also for other women facing their own recovery time period.

Recovery after having my boys has notoriously been hard for me. Partially because of the complications from my births, but also because I just pushed it and did too much too soon. I didn’t realize how important it was to just rest and take things slow. I had never even heard of the concept of “lying-in” until after I had my second son, but looked into what it meant after a friend of mine spent a lot of time being very intentional about her time after her second son’s birth. It seems like a lot of American women are focused on “bouncing back” as soon as possible, acting almost as if a huge dramatic event of life on their body didn’t just take place. Once I realized that other countries take weeks and sometimes months to allow their bodies to heal and to give the mother time to bond with her baby (see this article for more! It’s so good!), I knew this was something I needed to prioritize after this third birth, no matter how well it went for me.

Personally, this was something I planned for. I knew my husband would have some days off, but I also asked my mom to come and stay with us the first week, and then asked my mother in law to come stay with us the second week.  They both graciously said yes and were happy to come and help, even though it meant time away from their own lives and dealing with cleaning my house, cooking meals for us and wrangling our two other monkeys. It is a tall order for sure, but they both were wonderful with our kids and allowed me time to heal, to process everything I went through (because even though I had no complications, it was crazy intense what I went through to get that little guy here!), and to spend as much time as I could getting to know my little one and working on our nursing relationship.

I could stare at him all day. 🙂

Honestly, this time “lying-in” was a little hard for me… mainly because I am very independent and do not like people waiting on me. It was strange for me to have people bringing me food, cleaning my house and taking care of my kids when physically I knew I could stand up and walk to the kitchen and get my meals. I had to fight my head telling me to “get up and go” so that my body could really recover. A friend of mine told me “at least five days in your bed and five days around your bed… and then sit as much as you can after that”… and I will say that taking this time was definitely what my body needed. My recovery has been so much better this time around…yes, partially from my birth being better but also because I listened to what my body needed and took things slow.

There is a ton of information on “lying-in” online and how you can do it. There is no specific set way, no specific time required other than do what your body needs you to do and what your help can allow you to spend. Some countries do have parameters or a set way of doing it, but I think the concept of just taking time to rest and be with your baby is the focus. Spend time resting in your bed, around your bed… let people and your family come to you…rest, hydrate and eat, and snuggle that sweet new baby.

There are some things I just wanted to remember for myself and also just some things you may want to consider for yourself during this time… it goes by SO fast, just as everyone says, and my memories fade so quickly, probably from lack of sleep and just the constant demands of life. So I wanted to take this space to record some of them here, so I can come back and remember one of the sweetest and most innocent times of my life.

Why would you not want to spend time staring at this little face as much as you could? 🙂

I think  of that feeling of just looking at him and his size, how he was curled up inside of my tummy for all of those months, and how easily his tiny body molds back into that shape. His little frog legs easily squish back up underneath him and he fits perfectly on my chest with his arms tucked underneath. I’ve spent so much time just staring at his features, his tiny perfect hands and long fingers, his tiny tiny feet… his perfectly molded ears, all of the features of his face and the beautiful full head of hair that I asked God to give him. It seems that his look changes daily and I cannot drink it in enough.

I feel like this is exactly how he was sitting inside my tummy for so long, he has his little legs crossed all the time!

It’s been incredible watching my tummy go down each day. I’m not to my pre-pregnancy weight or size by any means, but from the time I had Jenson to a week later, my stomach went down immensely. It’s amazing to me that God created aspects of nursing to help your uterus contract down in size and get back to where it was before.

I’ve loved seeing our nursing relationship improve each day. Spending time holding your baby and looking at him, being near him creates the opportunity to see nursing cues quickly and identify their way of doing things. Yes, those cues are universal but every baby is different, they latch differently, cry differently and need you differently. Each day I have worked and worked to get him to nurse more efficiently, and while painful at first, it has slowly subsided and gotten better.

I did have days that I felt strangely anxious… I was very conscientious of where my baby was and there were times it was physically stressful for someone besides me to have him. I didn’t really feel this way as much with my first two, so I don’t know if it is because he is my last or because of the intensity of our birth, and I just felt more possessive of him because I worked so hard to get him out. I knew it didn’t make sense because everyone around me was trustworthy, but I felt like it was worth noting. I think if you are feeling anxious at all, just take some time to hold your sweet little one and take some deep breaths, because it seems like it immediately calms you.

One of the hardest part to me with recovery is the immediate change felt in your family unit. It is always so hard for older children to accept a new little one, especially if they were previously the baby. I cried many days that first week because of the way my now middle child (previously the youngest) was trying to make sense of things and deal with his disappointment and confusion. Our routine changed drastically and quickly, mommy couldn’t pick him up instantly at times and wasn’t able to do a lot of the things I normally did for him. It truly feels like they age years over night. My friend advised me to let my children come to me. Take things slowly, and let them come into your space to spend time with you. It was so hard to watch them find their new roles, but this was so wise of her to mention to me, and slowly but surely, they found their way to me and relaxed, and spent time getting to know their new little sibling in a safe place. I met them where they were emotionally, tried to be patient with their responses and reassure them that I still loved them and everything was ok. We looked at old baby pictures of them and talked about how I used to nurse them and hold them just like I was doing for their new brother. And with time, things got better and sweeter.

My oldest son has been SO proud of his new little brother. He has gone above and beyond trying to help with him.

This was the first time Jude held Jenson. It took him a little while to come around but he finally said he wanted to. I’m pretty sure my eyes teared up a little, especially because of how hard of a time he was having those first few days of being home.
Let them come to you.

These weeks were absolutely some of the most precious of my life, that I will cherish forever. “Babies don’t keep” as they say, and will be so glad and grateful that I was able to take so much time for myself and for him at the beginning of our relationship.