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Books I Read in 2016

I’ve set (and met!) the goal to read at least two books per month for the past two years and during that time I’ve fallen in love with the digital library. I was so reluctant to embrace ebooks initially, but look at me now! Every book on my list this year was borrowed from the online library. It is so convenient! I love that I can get a book the minute I want it – or at least put it on my hold list if it isn’t available and find something else to read in the meantime. I use the Overdrive app to borrow and my Kindle app to read, so the book I am currently reading is always with me on my phone. The best part? No late fees! There’s no physical book to return, so even if I forget to return it, my loan will simply expire. The only problem I run into is that books on my hold list tend to come available all at once and I can’t get them all read before they expire and I have to put them on hold again. So, basically I am saying my biggest problem is there are too many books and too little time to read them.

Now, on to the list!

1. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes

I’ve been varying degrees of fat my entire adult life. This book was incredibly insightful about that struggle. And when I put the “what to do about it” into practice (which I was all revved up to do right after I read it), it worked (-20 pounds!) in the short term, at least. That’s the hard part, obviously, as I am still fat now. I have the author’s latest book The Case Against Sugar on my list for this year.

2. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

I’d seen the movie, which was great, but the book feels a bit different and is definitely worth reading. It’s short, but powerful.

3. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I was completely swept up and couldn’t put it down. According to some negative reviews I’ve read, this makes me a dumb reader, but that’s alright. I was surprised at most of the “predictable” plot turns and that made it fun to read. I haven’t seen the movie, but I hope to.

4. The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson

I have never been disappointed by a Shirley Jackson book. She was brilliant, so this one is wonderful, of course. (If I had to recommend just one of her books, it would be We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It is my favorite.)

5. Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir by Wednesday Martin

I probably shouldn’t read bad reviews of books I’ve liked because it’s such a bummer. This one has a lot of them. The book was more thoughtful than I expected it to be. I should probably start making notes about books that struck me somehow, because I cannot remember exact quotes, but there were moments in it that gave me a new perspective I want to keep. It was worth reading.

6. On Writing by Stephen King

I took an online writing class a year or two ago in hopes of reinvigorating my passion to write, which was a loss I felt when the numbness of post-partum depression took hold. Writing my little blog was so satisfying before that. It boosted my creativity and managed to stir up excitement in other areas of my life. The course didn’t work any magic (I sort of gave up on it partway through), but reading this book – which was recommended for the class- certainly did. It is a manual and a memoir and a whole lot of inspiration.

7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The best mystery book I’ve ever read.

8. Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison

This is embarrassing to list. It was one of those books I borrowed because the first three I searched for weren’t available and I just wanted to read something. It looked like a fast, juicy, guilty-pleasure sort of read. It was not. Mostly, it was sad and whiny. It made me rethink my rule that I have to finish every book I start.

9. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

This true story is incredible. It broke my heart and will stay with me forever.

10. I Smile Back by Amy Koppelmann

Oh my gosh, this book really bummed me out. I didn’t read anything for two weeks after.

11. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein

I read this book mostly while I was outside on a sunny, spring day and bought some Sleater-Kinney tunes after.

12. Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin

I recommend anything by Gretchen Rubin. I think she’s a genius! Her books are practical and insightful and always worth the read. (And a re-read.)

13. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

I’ve always been interested in the secrets of Scientology and Leah tells a lot. I liked her so much more after I read this book.

14. Reckless by Chrissie Hynde

I had hoped for a little more about her life while she was in The Pretenders, but the book focused mostly on her life before that. It was interesting and it felt honest. Chrissie Hynde is a real badass.

15. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

“Use The Secret!” has become a daily utterance in our household.

Dave: “We’re going to be late for school!”

Kids, from the back seat: “Use The Secret, Dad!”

Me: “Tell yourself we have plenty of time.”

It’s sort of a joke. Sort of. The Secret is mostly about the law of attraction, and I do think there is something to that, but I’m not sure it is a secret. The best thing I gained from the book was this quote I have shared with my kids when they ask me about death:

You are energy, and energy cannot be created or destroyed. Energy just changes form. And that means YOU! The true essence of YOU, the pure energy of You, has always been and always will be. You can never not be.”

This has seemed to satisfy them and assuage their fears more than anything else they’ve heard.

Also, the advice to “be happy now, feel good now” is pretty wise. I am trying to follow it.

16. Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: One Woman’s Desperate, Funny, and Healing Journey to Explore 30 Religions by Her 30th Birthday by Reba Riley

I am a preacher’s kid who grew up in the church and into an adult that no longer goes there, so this book spoke to me. I loved the idea, but was worn out by the end.

17. Too Pretty to Live: The Catfishing Murders of East Tennessee by Dennis Brooks

This book was so interesting and disturbing! It is a true crime story written by the lead prosecutor of the murder case. He presents the facts the way he uncovered them and it is fascinating. It’s hard to believe something so crazy could actually happen.

18. 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It by David Niven

I usually have a hard time reading more than one book at a time, but I read this one while I was reading others. I’d read five or ten of the 100 things each day, which felt like reading a “Tips for Happiness” blog post.

19. Happiness is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life by Sylvia Boorstein

I collected so many quotes from this book in my quote folder that I think I should just re-read it.

20. The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell

I’d read about the five love languages before, but enjoyed this focus on children. My kids are all so different. While reading this, I paid more attention to how they express love. I really think I had pegged Phoebe with the wrong love language before reading this. (She is words of affirmation!) And maybe Julia, too. More than anything, it helped me be more mindful to make sure I am expressing love in all the languages to cover my bases.

21. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I can’t believe it took me so long to read this. It is essential reading I should have done sooner.

22. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

James Baldwin wrote so beautifully. He is unmatched in this area. This is a tragic love story. He wrote it in 1956, but it feels contemporary.

23. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The best fiction I read this year. I was enthralled! I loved trying to figure out what the Sci-Fi angle was, but it was so much more than that. It’s a captivating story I still think about months later.

24. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Conner

I read this and gave Dave nightmares talking about the stories! They reminded me of the Twilight Zone. Dark, with a twist. The writing is incredible. It was published in 1955 and while there are plenty of elements that date the stories, much of it is still relevant today. I may not have felt that way if I had read it a year or two ago. Then, I would have said, “My how far we’ve come.” But, reading this during the election, I was stunned at how much the bigotry and racism portrayed in this book still exists. Sad!

25. Dietland by Sarai Walker

This book was a wild ride and not at all what I expected.

26. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Gosh, what an interesting and sad story. I’ll never forget it.

27. Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende

This is a short book that took me a while to get through because I couldn’t read more than a chapter at a time. They all made me cry! This was a good one to end the year with.

What are you reading? Give me your recommendations! I’ll add them to my reading list.

Exclamation point!

No school today! And Dave is off from work! What a glorious gift the freezing rain has given us – time together! To play Minecraft! Is “squee!” still a thing? Meanwhile, look at these kittens.

Dipper and Mabel

I have been his wife nearly 30% of his life.

Dave turned 44 over the weekend. Jack is turning 4 in March. (Dave looked absolutely horrified when I pointed this out.) Those are both even numbers. The girls and I are all turning odd numbers this year. Our piano teacher told us it sounded like the set up for a word problem. Somehow the situation gives me a satisfying sense of all-is-right-with-the-worldness. I’ll take that anywhere I can get it right now, because the world? Yeesh.

We spent most of Dave’s birthday playing the board games he got for Christmas and his birthday. (I recommend Splendor and Forbidden Island. They are lots of fun!) Later, Dave and I went out BY OURSELVES for dinner. I had an alcoholic beverage! We had tickets for a show that had to be rescheduled, so we ended up bowling. Dave outscored me every game. I got a number of strikes while he only got one, but he got tons of spares while I didn’t get any. THAT sounds like the start of a word problem.

And now, a birthday haiku for Dave.

a night of bowling
you were trying hard to score
just like our first date

Rest in pieces, piggy bank

Jack is a known destroyer. Lucy’s piggy bank was his latest victim.

Rest in pieces, Piggy Bank

She hung its remains on my cork board. It reminds me of my budget for January.

Laughing so hard it no longer makes a sound.

Dave showed me this video and I was like, “Huh?” We watched it again with the kids and I laughed. Now, countless views later, we sing and quote it like it’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail or something.

“That log had a child.”

Oh, let’s watch it again.

Out with the old, in with the new…year.

2016 ended and 2017 began in the best possible way – with friends.

Bee and Kyleigh

Lucy balances cookies!

Searching for gummy worms

Whipped cream beardy Kelsey

Jack and Kyleigh

Cheese doodle heads

Kyleigh plays with the big girls

My friend Kim throws the best New Year’s Eve parties. She plans activities for each hour counting down to a big balloon drop at midnight. We played so many fun games. I learned that Dave can get a cookie from his forehead to his mouth without using his hands. (I cannot.) We stomped on bubble wrap. We missed some of the planned activities because we got wrapped up in other things. We ate a midnight breakfast. We laughed, really laughed, which is something I want to do more of this year.

I like to make New Year’s resolutions. Last year, I made 13. I was 100% successful with two of them. I quit drinking pop and I read at least two books a month. I am still making my list for 2017 (even though it has already started and that is okay because one of my resolutions is to let go of my perfectionism!). My focus for the month of January is to get organized (and that includes making my resolutions). Here’s one I have already: I hope to spend more time posting here this year. It feels good when I do and I miss it when I don’t. Let’s see how it goes.

Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas Eve

Warm Fuzzies

The girls have been on Christmas break from school all week and it has been wonderful. We’ve had plenty of time for making cookies, watching Christmas shows, playing games and just being together. I love the pace of life on break. The kids have been playing together – all of them, even Julia, which is glorious for the younger kids as they have missed her so much lately. As the world opens up to her, she’s spending more time in it. She is growing up. Lucy had told me that even Julia’s bedroom feels far away from the rest of the house and I knew just what she meant.


Julia invited them to have a sleepover in her room the night before last. We blew up the air mattress and they all piled into the Big Kid Room and felt very special. They don’t remember sharing a room with her so much anymore. I sat in there with them to ask our three questions (What do you need help with? What are you thankful for? What made you say “wow” today? An idea inspired by this post at Left Brain Buddha.) and do a Dr. Puff Meditation (Oh, how we love Dr. Puff.). As the giggles faded and their breathing got deep, I realized that the time these kids have under the same roof like this is slipping away fast. Julia is twelve and a half. They have less than six years before the big sister goes off to college. (Oh, please, please let her go to college.) I just feel so grateful for this Christmas break.

I am also thankful for our Mabel and Dipper.

Jack and Mabel

Dipper sleeping on the couch

The last thing I thought we needed were more cats.

Happy little Dipper

I was wrong.

Use props to take fun Christmas pictures.

Ho Ho Ho Dave

Julia with a moustache

Santa Lucy

Candy Cane Cutie Phoebe

Distinguished Jack

Christmas prop picture

Dipper the red--nosed reinderr

Messy! Messy! Messy! (Said in the voice of Professor Hinkle in Frosty the Snowman)

We’ve been making some form of edible Christmas house during the holidays for many, many years. Usually, I post a photo of the kids smiling with their finished products after I’ve cleaned up the mess, like this. But this year, Lucy pulled out her Hulk hands and smashed hers out of frustration because I guess I should have made royal icing instead of buttercream for building. (Why did I make buttercream?) And Julia felt her Mystery Shack wasn’t photo worthy either, so instead, allow me to show you what the process looks like.

Graham cracker houses in process

Making graham crack houses

It looks messy.

The house that Jack built (with his mom)

The Christmas countdown is nearly over. Since I last wrote to you we’ve Elf-ed Ourselves (on paper, not digitally), played Chrstmas Bingo and charades, opened a present (Christmas shirts!), made magic reindeer food for Christmas Eve, played Christmas Mad Libs, had a paper snowball fight, made ornaments for the tree, and we played a reindeer game with some friends.

Reindeer games

How about them antlers?

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