Doing the best she can to raise happy, healthy children

Have you ever….

My kids like to play the game, would you rather. Its a simple game where one person asks would rather A or B. For example, one of the questions yesterday was, “Would you rather eat boiled snake or fried frog legs?” Its a silly game and it occupies them.

As I sit on this hot Friday morning, drinking my smoothie and considering what we are going to do today, my mind wanders. I promised the kids an adventure today. And seriously, the only thing I can think of is going to Target. And that I want coffee. But I’m feeling lazy so my coffee is still in ground form sitting in its k-cup waiting on hot water. I need to come up with something other than Target. Because if I don’t, the kids will grow-up with a misunderstanding of the word “adventure” and (probably more likely) stop believing me when I say we are going on an adventure.

My mind has taken me to the thought, which I frequently go to when I’m bored with the mundane of modern society, of living off the grid and off the land. You see, I have the crazy romanticized thought that living off the land would be great. The sense of hard work and purpose guiding everyday. No noise from the electronic age replacing conversation. No pressure of being good enough or feelings of parenting failure. Because, seriously, surviving trumps all thoughts.

I have this desire of being self-sufficient and not needing to go to the grocery store. Growing all my food, hunting, chopping wood for a fire. Everyone sitting around in the evening and enjoying each others company. It kind-of sounds like a life-long extreme camping trip.

Then I’m pulled back into reality by the thought of no toilet, predators, and the reality that I’m too “soft” to really live that life. I have no idea how to really hunt or “clean” an animal safely to eat. I’ve gotten to use to my over-priced coffee, leggings, and air conditioning. But, its good for a day dream.

And now, I need to find some sort of an adventure for my kids to go on.

My question to you is, have you ever thought of living a simpler life? Living off the land or maybe something different? When you get lost in your thoughts, where do you go?

I’d love to hear from you.

Book Review: Ties That Bind

Its a long weekend for the Fourth of July! Since I work part-time, I’m blessed with a 4-day weekend. We’ve used our time for both some obligatory things- grocery shopping, birthday planning, etc- and some leisure time- mostly reading and playing video games with the kids.

This weekend I finished a fantastic book. Here’s the review:

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Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsmall

Woodsmall tells a switched at birth story with a twist. What would happen if an Amish baby was switched with an Englisch baby? In this story, Ariana’s and Skylar are now in their 20’s and found out they were accidentally switched at birth. This is the first of three books.

This book takes Amish books to another level. This book contains a sweet love story and takes you into the Amish world. But it takes you to another level. It tells the story of complex characters and relationships. This book introduces the complexities in both the Amish and Englisch worlds. The characters are far from perfect. This story introduces some of the flaws in both worlds. The first in the series, Woodsmall focuses mainly on Ariana’s part of the story while introducing Skylar and her family later in the story.

As I read this story, it was easy for me to connect with the characters for different reasons. I could connect to Ariana’s drive and need to protect her family. She loves and embraces the Amish life. She has been protected from the downsides of Amish life and is somewhat naive to the issues within the community. I can connect to this love and passion for her family. Her goal driven attitude and the desire to fix things for everyone. Skylar is faced with failure in college and an uncertain future. She brought me back to life as a freshman and my own struggles. As a parent I could connect to both Ariana’s parents and her sister.

Not only are the characters and their situations relatable (to an extant- I wasn’t switched at birth), but the story is rich and full of detail without feeling long and congested. Woodsmall expertly provides enough detail to help you feel like you’re in the story. The story isn’t a straight lined book, girl is switched at birth and reunited with biological family and happily ever after. It is instead filled with twists and turns which truly make this book a page-turner.

This is a Christian book and there are many Christian themes folded into the story. The book stresses the importance of forgiveness, accepting God’s Grace, and recognizes the legalism which at times plagues the Christian world.

The really own downfall to this book, if you can call it a downfall, is the ending. She left the readers and Ariana in an unfortunate situation. I do own and will very soon be reading the second book. As I must find out what will become of the girls.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 bookends.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves Christian or Amish books. This book is beautifully written without any inappropriate language or sexual situations. There is mention of Drug and alcohol use. But it is minimal. I would say it would be appropriate for older teens.

Disclaimer: I did receive this book free from the publishers.

What are you reading? Have you read these books? If so what did you think of Ties that Bind? I would love to hear from you.

Book Review: With you Always

It feels so great to be able to relax with a good book and to not have upcoming exams or assignments due. I can certainly get use to this! We took a road trip this weekend and I was able to read a whole book in less than two days. It was GLORIOUS!

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With you always by Jody Hedlund

Set in the 1850’s Hedlund tells the story of Elise Neuman and her sisters and Thorton Quincy. Elise Neuman and her sisters parents have died and are desperate for food and shelter. As a last resort Elise leaves her sisters in New York City and goes West to Illinois for work. Her goal is to send enough to New York to provide for her siblings and hopefully bring them to her. Thorton Quincy is a wealthy businessman’s son. He was given a challenge by his father in order to inherit the company. Desperate to gain his father’s approval and come out from under his brother’s shadow he begins the construction of an Illinois community.

This is a charming love story of two people from completely different worlds who find they have more in common than not. Hedlund provides just enough romance, heartache, and challenges to capture her audience. It is evident she researched this era and the backdrop of her story. I like the added information at the end of the book which provides additional information on the orphan trains. Her characters have depth and growth throughout the story. I enjoyed the depth she added to her secondary characters.

This book is a Christian novel. However, it is not filled with consistent Christian quotes or scriptures. There is mention of thanking God and general references to God. This is heavier toward the end, but not overwhelming. The book does clearly follow Christian themes such as kindness, charity, honesty, etc.

I look forward to additional Orphan Train stories.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy historical romances and/or novels and Christian novels. I would recommend it to a young adult. The book does reference prostitution but only as a backdrop to the story. There is one instance of post attack, but no actual details were provided.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 bookends.

I did receive this book from the publisher as part of the blogging for books program in exchange for an honest review.

Embrace: Education

Its been a while since I’ve written an Embrace entry. Its also been a while since I’ve blogged regularly. Life has a way to pull and push us along. The constant pulling and pushing and pulling and pushing can help us lose track of time. And before we know it, its 1 month, 2 months or a whole year later.

Part of my pulling and pushing the last two years has been my education. I’m a huge fan of higher education. Not just college level to get more credentials behind a name, but really life-long learning. After all, some of the smartest and most interesting people are not officially college educated. Rather, they are people who take the time to learn about the things that interest them. They spend a lot of time reading. And they spend time talking to people who share the same opinions as them. And more important, they spend time talking with (not at) people who share different opinions.

I have been to college 3 times now. First to earn my RN, then a MSN and now finally my APRN. Each time has been had its own struggles. As a newly graduated 18 year-old my main struggle was me. I struggled with becoming a responsible adult. I obtained my MSN on a whim. Now looking back I think it was a way to be distracted from the fact we were not getting pregnant. I struggled then with balancing work, life and school. I struggled with an obsession to only get A’s (which I did). Now, as an older student (almost 40), I’ve obtained my APRN. I struggled with managing kids, work, school and a social life. I also had to accept I wasn’t going to get all A’s and that’s OK.

You see, despite the struggles in the end its 100% worth. it I’ve come out with a degree and some added life skills. I’ve gained a sense of accomplishment knowing I after all that hard work and sacrifices, I did it. You see, I accomplished something I set out to do. This confidence is only gained from setting a high goal and achieving it.

Too often I hear people say, they want to get a degree or attend a seminar but they just can’t find a way to make it work. I get it, in some circumstances, it really is an almost impossibility (note ALMOST). I know the struggle. I know how daunting and exhausting it can be to think about it. I know the challenges of adding one more thing into an already jam packed schedule. I also know first-hand how it feels to be working full-time and running the kids everywhere. I know the struggle of attempting to string a few sentences together on a few hours a sleep that sound intelligent.

But what I want to say to you. The overworked, tired and stressed out in a going-nowhere (or at least nowhere you want to be) job, you can do it. Embrace a bit of exhaustion and stress. Embrace the chaos. Embrace the education and accept the responsibility of learning. You can do it. If you want it, you will do it. You see, its 100% manageable. Maybe not always pretty, but its manageable.

If the college route isn’t for you. Continue to learn about the world. Read and explore your library. Find something that interests you and learn about it. Life-learning can make the mundane seem less so. It can open up new doors and new friendships.

Explore what you want in life. Then take that first leap of faith. Know you can do it. I’m here to tell you, IF I can DO IT, YOU can too. Embrace education.

Book Review: Still Here

Wow, what a whirl-wind start to summer! We had vacation/APRN graduation which was followed by another quick trip for me and then one month of studying for my certification test. With much excitement this last week I passed my APRN certification test. So my time significantly opened up and I immediately started reading.

I started a book which I am going to review now. I don’t typically review prior to finishing a book. However, I am not planning to finish this book. I hardly ever start and NOT finish. I think there’s only a handful of books I’ve done this.

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Still Here by Lara Vapnyar

Still Here tells the tale of Russian immigrants and their attempt to “make it” in America. One of the characters is trying to create an App which allows people to feel connected to dead loved ones through the preservation of online footprints. The four friends grew-up together in Russia and then moved to America for different reasons. Each trying to find their own American success story.

First, I want to say, I really wanted to like this book. I thought the idea was interesting and not something I’d read hundreds of times over. Unfortunately, the story fell flat and kind-of quickly at that. I don’t usually not finish a story, but I got to page 59 of the 310 pages and decided to not continue.

The writing style wasn’t bad at all. I believe the author has talent. And maybe that was part of my struggle with the book. It really made me feel sad and depressed reading the story. Vica and Sergey are married and seem incredibly unhappy. Vica especially seems depressed, angry and hugely jealous. These emotions are completely pouring out of the book and didn’t leave me feeling “good”.

The other downfall, I really hard time getting into this book. It has a very slow start and very slow build. I understand the author is building the back story, introducing us to the characters and (I think) trying to make things seem more realistic (no overnight success). Unfortunately, on my part, it seemed to slow. I just wasn’t being pulled into it and there was nothing keeping me up at night to see what happens next.

Overall, I’m not a fan of the book. However, those who I imagine would like this book would be the adult who is looking for an immigrant story and doesn’t need it to be fast paced. A book club may like to pick to up to read as a group, because I cold see how it could draw good conversation assuming they can make it through the book

I give this book a generous 2 of 5 book-ends for being well-written but boring.

I did receive this book free from the publishers through the blogging for books program for an honest review.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? Are you reading a good book now? If so, share it below with a quick description.

Book Review: Black Widow Forever Red

So, with keeping up with getting my book reviews in from the books I’ve finished the last couple of weeks. I’m writing this review on this book that I read very slowly over this last six months. I read it slowly because with finishing up my degree, I grabbed reading time as I was able.

I had to go to urgent care one Sunday last fall. Upon arriving at urgent care, my wait was estimated to be 2 hours and I was allowed to leave and return closer to the 2 hour mark. So, I left ran to Target, grabbed a Starbucks coffee and browsed through the book section. I stumbled upon this little gem.

I’m a huge Marvel fan. Especially Black Widow. I’ve wanted to see more of her and things dedicated to her. Black Widow focused items seem few and far between. So I’m excited to have read and to have the opportunity to review this book.

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Black Widow Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

 

This book has three main characters. Ava Orlova is a teenage girl who escaped years before from S.H.E.I.L.D after being rescued by Black Widow from Ivan. Alex is a teenager who has a bit of a temper problem. He is also the boy from Ava’s visions. The two stumble into each other and they get into a an action-filled discovery of who they truly are. And then there is Natasha Romanoff (AKA Black Widow).

Most chapters begin with a DOD report. As I read these and Black Widow’s response, I believe they are spot on in regards to her language and how she responds. I like how it ties things together, foreshadows, and seems very Marvel’sh. I think it helps ground the story. I enjoyed the action-filled parts of the story. I also enjoyed getting a glimpse at Black Widow’s back story and her previous life. The psychic connection between Black Widow and Ava was an interesting concept. The story moved along nicely and I didn’t find any slow parts where I wanted to give up reading the book.

The Con’s of the story is its not a focused Black Widow story. The majority of it is following the two teenagers and then Black Widow is weaved in throughout the story. That was a bit disappointing as I really wanted a focused Black Widow story. The second con I felt was the love interest of the two teenagers. It was a bit crazy to think the two only knew each other several days and then were “in love”. I get the whole, this is exciting and dangerous and affection can develop. But I think it was a bit of a stretch, maybe a bit forced.

I believe this was a good story, it just wasn’t the Black Widow story I wanted.  I think the title made it seem that she would be the main character instead of a supporting character.

Black Widow still needs her own story. Her own move (please!) or at least something where she’s the leading lady and not a supporting role.

I give the back a 3.5 out 5 based on its a good story but not a Black Widow story.

I recommend this book to any Marvel fan or Black Widow fan (just don’t expect her to be the star) or anyone who enjoys an action book with nodding toward supernatural themes. There is no sexual context and the language is fine. The book does have written violence and child abuse (testing discussion by Ivan). This book would be approve for a mature teenager and young adult.

Book Review: Chapel Car Bride

I’m taking a break from certification studying to review a couple of books. I graduated from Nurse Practitioner school two weeks ago. Since graduating, I’ve traveled every week and was able to get some reading done. Yaay! I also took some time off studying since one of the trips was to attend an intensive review for certification. I figured no reason focusing all my time studying until after that class. So, now, here I am studying since about 9 am this morning (its now almost 3PM) and I’m going get started on this review before leaving in to pick the kids up from school.

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The Chapel Car Bride by Judith Miller

Miller tells the story of Hope and her father as they live out of a train car and ministering to a mining town. He is a preacher and she assists with the music and children’s ministries. Miller also tells the story of a coal miner, Luke, and the mine owner’s son, Kirby. Hope and her father settle into life in Finch, West Virginia. Hope uses many opportunities to spread God’s word throughout the West Virginia countryside. Her trusting disposition has her trusting Kirby despite Luke’s cautions.

This story is a great Christian read. It was an easy and quick read. I think it took me only a little over a day to read. I felt several of the characters were fleshed out well. The character Kirby was nicely done. I felt I had him pegged pretty quickly and my opinion didn’t change much. Hope was the typical preacher’s daughter in the sense she was kind, naive and loved children. Luke seemed to have swaying emotions and also seemed pretty realistic. I’ll address him below.  I enjoyed reading about life on a rail car and life during prohibition. I also quite enjoyed reading about the inner conflict Luke had regarding his thoughts and anger toward the mining company and Kirby. These feelings are ones many Christians deal with daily and I like when authors address them in their writing. Finally, I really love the history the author adds into her books. In this case the chapel car, mining history, and prohibition.

Downfalls to the book, the first is a bit into the characters. I feel like it would’ve been nice to learn more about the preacher. He played a pivotal role in the story, yet there was little fleshing out of his character. Luke’s sister plays a relatively large role in the frustrating ending, but very little fleshing out occurred with her as well. I think adding just a bit to those characters could’ve really added to the story. This, however, didn’t ruin the story for me. Its just worth noting there more depth could’ve been added to the story.

A second down fall is the ending. I was a bit frustrated with the ending. The conflict was picking-up nicely and I was envisioning a BIG ending. And then, it was wrapped up nicely with a little bow and then the ending romance drug out for another couple of chapters. It wasn’t bad, but such a big change in where the story was going and how the characters were acting. It was a bit of a distraction and I would’ve appreciated a more direct route to happily ever after.

Over all, this was a good read! It was quick and enjoyable. It had Christian components in the story with the Christian premise. Very little scripture was quoted through out the story, but it had very obvious Christian themes.

I would recommend this story to any adult or young adult who enjoys historical novels, Christian reading, or just looking for a quick and light read.

I would give this book a 4 out of 5 bookends.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.