Tuesday, February 25, 2020

When I Make Time to Read

I like to read.  A LOT.  As an introvert, I need a certain amount of silent recharge time in a day or I feel like all my nerves are completely fried.  This happened recently, on a day where, after working from home for an hour and eating lunch, I had planned to spend the rest of naptime finishing a blog post and reading.  Then Matt called to say that he could get off work early so we could look at a vehicle we were considering buying (that could hold 3 kids in carseats/boosters so we are ready if we get that 3rd baby we are listed for).  We already had a few things going on in the evening and I KNEW it would make the evening easier if we looked at the car now.  Especially since I should be test driving the car since it'll be the one I'm driving with the kids.

I debated, checked to see if Sam was awake and then we went to do the test drive, dangerously close to when we needed to get Luke from school.  Thus, I lost my reading and blogging time and didn't get it back in the evening since I had to parent then.  And by the time we got home from all the things I was just DONE.  I couldn't take the noise, couldn't take the decision making, I needed silence and now.  Matt took over homework and after school snacks and let me go upstairs to sit in relative silence to read for 20 minutes and by the end I felt much more human.  Turns out, I was also hungry but getting in that quiet reading time that I had missed out on earlier in the day was SO important.

Knowing I need quiet reading time is something I've long known but seeing it played out so recently was really eye-opening.  It's become even more important to me lately to make sure I have that time built into my daily schedule.  Also, I always have books I want to read, always have books almost due back at the library, and I always want to hit at least 10 hours of reading time during a week (this doesn't always happen).  I also hate wasting most time and so using my time effectively and efficiently during the day is important to me.  ESPECIALLY those precious nap times when Luke is at school and Sam is napping and I get a house completely quiet, unless I choose to turn on a podcast or music or the tv while I work (95% of my solo tv time in a year is having the tv on in the background when I am working from home).

So when do I read?  And read enough to finish 175 books each of the last two years?  Well, I am glad you asked.

1) Before Bed
I read before bed at least 360 nights a year.  The only time I can think of that I didn't in all of 2019 was the night I got home from my Backstreet Boys concert at 2am.  And even that one I'm not 100% sure that I didn't read before bed.  Some nights it's just 10 minutes.  Some nights it's an hour.  Often I am staying up past my "bedtime" and reading more than I planned because I can't put a book down (or am determined to finish it before it's due back).  I probably get in at least 5 hours of reading before bed in a week.

2) In the Pick-Up Line
I don't know how much longer I will be able to keep this one up because Sam is, shockingly, not entertained by me reading to myself.  I walk to get Luke from school in the fall and spring but through the winter I drive (50° is my cutoff, and not raining) and we're usually sitting in line at least 10 minutes that I can read.  We're about to turn Sam's carseat around with his 2nd birthday coming up so once that happens I might have to take a tip from my sister and use that time to read to him in the pick-up line.  But, for the last year-ish, that has been some reliable reading time for me.

3) During Nap/Quiet Time
I've been playing with how I use my treasured naptime hours over the last couple weeks and that, along with working more hours this year, means I usually don't get as much reading time in during naps as I would like.  Ideally, I'd like at least a half an hour of reading time but even that is pushing it somedays.  It does take some discipline to pick-up a book instead of my phone.  Or not to get lost in tidying up the house.  Weekend naps, when I'm usually not turning on my computer, are more reliable, especially on Sundays.  I've had Sundays where I've gotten in 4 hours of reading and I've discovered that that is about the max I can do in a day.  But it really helps me speed through some books on the one or two times a month I can get that in!

4) When the Boys are Awake and Around
It's not often that I get to read when the boys are awake and around.  It's pretty much only if I have a book I Can. Not. Put. Down. that I try to sneak in some reading time when they are playing (or asking me for things) nearby.  It happened recently, after we had finished homework and they had both had snacks and there was no pressing food prep to do, and I was excited to make progress on my current book (this one) in the late afternoon.  But that doesn't even happen every week, it's just SO RARE that I have nothing else I should be doing, like parenting or making supper.

5) Evenings without TV
Matt and I are doing a variation on this this winter/spring and so that means we do not watch tv together during the week (we do on Sunday evenings, Fridays with Luke, and Saturdays a movie together).  There are a couple weekday evenings that I specifically work on computer things - Mondays I update photo books and Wednesday I do our bills.  But that leave Tuesday and Thursday without screens.  So we talk and I prep for the next morning but we often end up with extra reading time, like an extra hour which is awesome.  That has really helped on some of our busier weeks where I just don't get the reading time I plan during the day.

6) Special/Rare Occasions
I read in the car when we are on long road trips, I read more on vacation.  Occasionally, super occasionally, over summer or Christmas break, the boys sleep in enough that I can get in working out, showering, getting around, AND still have time to read before they are awake.  This is rare but so enjoyed when it happens!  The couple times a year I go to a doctor's appointment solo and get in some reading while waiting.  There are also the occasional times Matt takes the boys to go somewhere or run an errand with him and I have the house to myself, also super rare because willingly taking an almost 2 year old on an errand when he doesn't need to go isn't something we subject ourselves to often.   Or Matt's getting them out of the house so I can get in some more time working.  But I really do treasure those bonus reading times when I get them!

My weekday goal is to read for 1 hour and 15 minutes each day, Monday - Friday.  I can usually get in a few extra hours on the weekend to get to 10 hours for the week.  I am writing this in a week where I haven't hit my 75 minutes a single day this week when last week I had my best reading week of the year.  That's life!  Sometimes I can get in more reading times than others!

I know my sanity and mental state is much better when I do get it in.  Getting some time for me is so helpful in keeping me in a good head space to parent and do all the household things I need to do.  I can better give my boys time when I've had a little time to myself or know I have some coming later in the day.  Reading is part of my self-care and I enjoy it so much!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Why I Take Social Media Breaks

For almost 2½ years now I have not checked social media over the weekend (98% of the weekends, there are a few exceptions).  It's all been part of my slow process of weaning off social media.  Not completely!  I have no intent of giving it up completely (but if you do, good for you!) but I don't want my time on there to dominate my life.  That might be a slight exaggeration; who has time for social media to dominate their lives?

Managing time on my devices has long been something I've been interested in and have written about many times in the past.  Good time management in general is an interest of mine and managing how much time I spend on my phone is all a part of it.  It really goes back to getting enough sleep and being in a good enough head space to make good decisions.  It's days I haven't slept well and I'm frustrated about something that has nothing to do with my phone, that I end up wasting time on devices to avoid dealing with the real problems.  (Like our pointless snow day a couple weeks ago where I still had a kid awake at 6:30am and didn't get to shower until 10am.)

So a long time ago I decided that part of managing my time well and managing my social media time well would be to not check any social media on the weekends.  At first this was really hard.  I haven't had the Facebook app on my phone in years, same for Twitter but I spent a good 6 months deleting the Instagram app from my phone every Friday to reinstall it on Monday.  I got very familiar with my password then!  But it worked, it was enough to break the habit and keep me from any sudden checks.

Now I am mostly able to keep off social media without deleting apps.  I find it SO freeing to not feel like I have to work time into our weekends to check Instagram and see what people are up to.  That frees up about 20 minutes in my day but the real freedom comes from not even thinking about checking it.  It's mostly subconscious but I don't have to see when I'll get child-free time in order to spend time staring at my phone.  I just don't, on the weekends.

I generally post to Instagram 3-4 times a week and just knowing I'm not going to be over the weekends really helps.  Taking two days off every week keeps me from getting too sucked into the app and feeling like I constantly need to share what we are doing.  I never get in too set of a habit around my time there because I never have a streak of days checking it!  It is the best mental break.  I also don't check Facebook or Twitter on my computer but since I try not to turn on my computer either over the weekends (besides working on specific projects during Sam's naps, like finishing up photobooks or planning a vacation), those aren't too hard to avoid.  

This is also made easier when we are at the lake in the summers, where we usually have bad reception.  For a long time we were sharing 3 gigs of data between myself, Matt, my sister, and her husband.  We were almost always short on data and so that meant very little phone time at the lake since we don't have wi-fi there (I wish we could get Netflix but otherwise I am perfectly fine with no wi-fi at the lake!).  It just felt like taking something off my plate to mostly be off my phone while at the lake.  Even if I wasn't going to spend that much time anyways, knowing I couldn't without risking overage fees really made the decision easier to put the phone down.  And then once I started this no weekend thing, being in the habit of being off my phone on lake weekends really helped.

Besides my two days off every week, I also generally stay off social media when we are on family vacations - both our lake vacation and our regular vacation.  Those are important family times and I love getting a lot of reading done or watching some House Hunters (which we mostly only watch on vacations and sometimes it's the only thing we watch besides movies brought from home) with Matt.  It's really freeing to not feel tied down to my phone, even though I know I'm the one doing the tying down the rest of the time.  Just knowing I'm not giving myself the option of checking social media helps me stay more relaxed and more involved with the important people right in front of me.

We don't go completely screen free on the weekends.  We often do family movie nights on Fridays, except that lately Luke has been requesting some classic Lego Star Wars video game playing with Matt and I instead of a movie (Matt and I played that game SO MUCH the first fall we were married.)  Matt and I aim to watch a movie together on Saturday nights and catch up on a tv show (lately it's Brooklyn Nine-Nine) on Sunday nights.  I have my computer on for the aforementioned projects on Saturday naptimes and Luke cashes in the screen time he's earned for solo video games during Sam's naps on both days.  Plus, I don't think I ever go a whole day without texting anyone, except maybe on vacation, so we're definitely not locking our phones away on the weekends. 

It's has given me back time, it's given me back mental space (my most valued space!), it keeps me more focused on the people right in front of me.  Taking a weekly break has proven to be a good balance for me between being on social media and not being consumed by it.  I'm very glad I worked the break into my weekly habit!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Quick Lit - February

Happy mid-February!  I despite logging a decent amount of reading time this month I am just not getting through books very fast, that TBR is growing faster than I can get books off of it!  Maybe I need to be pickier about what I think I want to read?  But so many books sound so good.  There must be some hypothetical time in the future where I will get to read to my heart's content...but that's probably called "empty nest" and I am in no hurry for my boys to leave us (which is good, we have over a decade before the first graduates high school).  Just gotta keep carving out time where I can! (The school pick-up line is good for something!).

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and am on Instagram here where I post about picture books most Thursdays and often my own reading.  I am on Goodreads here which I check more often than I should but always like seeing what others are reading!  Or adding books to my own TBR!  

A few other book posts in the past month:




And now everything else I've been reading!

You, Me, and the Sea by Meg Donohue
I think this is a really striking cover and made me think the book mostly takes place in Italy or somewhere on the Mediterranean.  It does not.  Girl with a rough childhood growing up on the Pacific coast in Northern California, I believe.  Then she is "saved" by rich people but can't let go of some things from her past.  I still don't know how I feel about it a month later, it was complicated.  3 Stars

A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living by Emily Ley
This was a reread and one I appreciate especially at the start of a new year!  I am ALWAYS and forever looking for ways to simplify.  Full review here4 Stars

Another Side of Paradise by Sally Koslow
I really enjoy another book by this author and so I figured I'd try to read the rest of her fiction but I have enjoyed none of them like I did that first one (which was a random pick-up from Target 10 years ago, back when my Target trips included time for things like just browsing the books, also before I was much pickier about what books I read!).  It's about F. Scott Fitzgerald and it took me about half the book to realize that what I thought was another book about his personal life was actually about Hemingway's (I have very strong memories of reading that book when recovering from my first foot surgery).  It's older Hollywood which is fun to visit but I wasn't super taken with it. 2.75 Stars

When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People by Jeannie Gaffigan
We almost have to like Jim Gaffigan because he is also from Indiana and Catholic, Matt and I even went and saw him live a couple years ago.  We end up watching his comedy specials when they show up on Netflix and I've read both of his books and so I was pretty interested when I came across one his wife had written about her struggle with having a giant brain tumor while also having 5 kids.  Jeannie Gaffigan is also funny and I appreciated reading about their backstory, living with all those kids in Manhattan, and also how she mentally survived having a brain tumor.  It was a fascinating read but also encouraging and funny.  She talked a lot about letting go of her control tendencies which is also something I might have.  I really enjoyed it.  4 Stars

Cosy: The British Art of Comfort by Laura Weir
This was the author's response to the sensation of hygge a couple years ago and she spent most of the book talking about why British "cosy" is better than the Scandenavian "hygge" but really she mostly proved that the hygge book is better.  It was fun and a quick read but ehhhh.  2.5 Stars

New Kid by Jerry Craft
Fantastic middle grade graphic novel about a middle school boy who is gets into an elite private school on scholarship and his experiences there being one of the few non-white kids.  It was heartbreaking and encouraging and also made me SO GLAD I will never again have to go to middle school.  Just have to get my kids through it. 4 Stars

For the Love of Mike by Rhys Bowen
This was the next in the Molly Murphy mystery series that I have slowly been reading this year.  Molly is determined to be a lady detective around 1902, at a time when that is not what ladies did.  I like the look at Manhattan at that time and I'm very glad I wasn't living there (or anywhere) then.  She gets a lot of lucky breaks and barely escapes multiple dangerous situations but I am still (3 books in) enjoying this series, maybe especially because I do very little mystery reading. 3.25 Stars 

Lake Season by Denise Hunter
I've been reading Denise Hunter's book for awhile (fun fact: we were supposedly at the same wedding a couple years ago, as the bride told me she was also invited and I saw her name on the seating chart but I'm not sure I recognize her well enough to know if she was actually there.) and they are like more chaste Nicholas Sparks novels, with an added spiritual lesson.  I know they are going to be an easy, quick, and enjoyable read but I can barely keep them all straight.  And I haven't enjoyed any as much as the Chapel Springs series which was the first of hers that I read. 3 Stars

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon
Fantastic read on the benefits of reading aloud to others, mostly children but not exclusively.  It was similar to The Read-Aloud Family which I also read and enjoyed previously.  This one had a lot of studies and research to back it up (not that RAF didn't, I don't remember) and it really encouraged me even more to read to my kids, even as Luke is increasingly able to read to himself.  Highly recommend to all parents of young kids.  4 Stars

The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams
Isn't this a great title?  Hahaha.  I like seeing redheads get any acknowledgement, even for being wicked.  This was the second in a series and I could barely remember what happened in the first, which maybe would have been helpful since it and the characters in it were frequently mentioned.  I knew I read that one too fast so I was determined not to get lost in this one and I think I mostly succeeded.  Although, looking back, not a lot happened so I'm assuming there is going to be a 3rd book?  And I found myself liking the (almost) present day story line set in 1998 more than the historic (1920s?) one.  Also, I really hope someone has made a giant map showing how all her books are connected because, short of rereading them all and taking lots of notes, I just can't figure it out myself.  3.5 Stars

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
I finished this book for the third time about an hour before I sat down to write this post and, even on my third time through, still gives me the worst book hangover of almost any other book I've read.  I enjoy it so.  Full review here! 4.75 Stars

The Greatest Gift by Kallie George
I think Luke and I must have been focusing a lot on picture books lately because we have not made much progress in our chapter books!  This was a reread and one he requested - we read the whole Heartwood Hotel series last year and he liked them so much he wanted to read them again.  It's about a group of smaller forest animals who live and work in an animal hotel - the Heartwood Hotel.  There are 4 books, one set in each season and this is the winter book, second in the series.  We will be rereading spring and summer when we get to those!  3.75 Stars

That's what I've been reading lately, what have YOU been reading lately?  I am completely serious about always wanting to know what everyone else is reading!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Book Love: Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

Here I am writing about TWO fiction books in a row!  I was going to say that's more fiction books than I wrote about all last year (in their own post) but then I went back and counted.  I had 7 posts on fiction although 4 of those were on series I had read previously so only 3 fiction books immediately struck me as "I should write about this."  Two of those were in January and February, just like this year.  SOO...this might be about it for the fiction I recommend this year.  WE WILL SEE.

The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar, I believe, came to me (not physically, as you can see I got it from the library) because I saw someone else post about it on Goodreads.  I thought "that looks interesting" and "I haven't read any World War II set books in...a couple months" so I clicked through to learn more about it.  Then I saw that the book opens in Hawaii, in the fall of 1941 and I was ALL IN. Pearl Harbor is honestly one of my favorite movies (top 10 at least) and I rewatch it again every December.  I was very interested in a book about female pilots, especially at Pearl Harbor.  So I added it to my TBR list and forgot all about it until I was planning my January reading.

The Flight Girls follows Audrey who, as the book opens in Hawaii, is helping train military pilots for battle.  She can't join the military, being a woman in 1941, but she is a skilled pilot and is allowed to help train them.  She grew up in Texas where her father made his money in oil and introduced her to flying.  She was immediately hooked and wanted to fly herself when she was old enough.  Much to the chagrin of her proper society mother, Audrey learned to fly and her biggest dream is to own the small airfield where she herself learned.  She thinks she will be perfectly happy running her airfield and isn't looking for a man or relationship.  She just wants to fly.

In Hawaii, Audrey lives with 3 other women pilots but happens to be the only one of them in the air in the early morning of December 7th, 1941.  And being in the air, as the Japanese are attacking by air, might be what save her life.  After witnessing the horrors of the attack, she goes back home to Texas and her family, still wanting to fly but deeply affected by what she saw in Hawaii. 

Eventually she is able to fly again and joins the WASPs, Women Airforce Service Pilots.  The women are trained together on a military base.  They will not be seeing battle but they are trained in a variety of military planes, with the intent of having them shuttle planes around the US so the planes can head into battle in the Pacific or European theaters.  These women are highly skilled and will never leave the States, but they are an integral part of helping the war effort.

As part of her training, Audrey is bunking with a group of 8-10 women who bond over their struggles and the losses they share as part of flying regularly.  The struggle through some of their classes (navigation, swimming, math, etc.) and help each other out.  There is a real sense of camaraderie among the women and they rely on each other a lot to get through training. 

Once they have graduated from training, they are all dispatched around the country to help the war effort in various ways.  Even though they are not seeing battle, this is still a taxing life.  They all know men who are fighting or have already lost their lives to the war effort.  Audrey's beau from Hawaii has been sent overseas and she gets anxious waiting for his letters, not knowing if he doesn't have time to write or if he's dead.  All the while she just dreams of buying her airfield back home in Texas.  It's all she's ever wanted but now there is a man too and how might there dreams fit together?

I've read many books set during World War II and almost every time I am amazed at what these people did and the strength they had to keep going.  While Audrey didn't see battle, she was still making sacrifices for the war effort.  I loved how she was determined to do her part and also how she shed light on the many real life WASPs who did what she was fictionally doing.

This in parts reminded me of Beyond the Point, mainly for focusing on female friendships and being military related, although that book starts just before 9/11 while this one is just before Pearl Harbor.  I know there are a plethora of books set during World War II but this one really stood out to me as one of my favorites of all the ones I've read.  Audrey was very relatable and she demonstrated the enduring human spirit while in some very tough circumstances.  And it was a slightly lighter take than some other books I've read, seeing as she was State-side and didn't see much of the horror first hand.  I really rooted for her and admired her spirit.

If you haven't gotten fatigue from all the World War II books, I'd highly recommend this one, especially if you are interested in female friendships and women taking control of their own lives.   I really enjoyed it and was a little sad when my time with Audrey came to an end.

Goodreads | Amazon 

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Friday, February 7, 2020

Looking Back at January

January was a pretty uneventful month!  We took down Christmas, Luke went back to school, we went back to our routines, tried to make some new ones, kept trying to make every day life a little easier and a little happier.  It was cold but not super cold, I think Luke had one 2 hour delay the whole month.  We've managed to stay relatively healthy, we were social a few times, but mostly spend a lot of time at home.  I always find January so refreshing after December.

Looking back:
1 year ago: {18} Winter Picture Books
2 years ago: Front Room Shelves
3 years ago: Basement Pantry - Organized
4 years ago: Who Doesn't Love Getting Mail?
5 years ago: Photography Part 2 - Do Something With Your Pictures
6 years ago: Office Renovations (very little has changed here in 6 years!)
7 years ago: It is a New Year, a New Beginning
9 years ago: The Carpet has Landed!

1) One last evening reading in front of the Christmas tree!  I am always sad to see it leave but also love how much emptier and cleaner the house is without Christmas everywhere.
2) I have a picture of Luke drinking out of his cereal bowl, sitting in the same chair, drinking the milk out of his cereal bowl just like this.
3) I used to think a lot about what I wanted my Christmas decorating style to be and then it seems to have defaulted to "all the Christmas trees".  I have nearly 3 dozen: wood, bottle brush, ceramic (two varieties), disco ball, and fuzzy.  I never remember how many I have until I am getting ready to put them away.
4) Sam "helping" take down ornaments but really just pointing out a couple of his favorites.
5) I was honored to be included, for the second year, in a LookBook for our region (they said I was the only Instagrammer they included two years in a row!).  This is my picture in the book (you can see the whole thing here!).
6) Sam likes to play with these Incredible 2 guys and Luke likes to set them up in our register return to look like they are being held hostage.  I have opened the register cover SO MANY TIMES this year.
7) A beautiful sunrise on our way to school.  On our rare non-cloudy days, it's exciting to see hints of sun before 8am!
8) Luke's class is doing a Flat Stanley project and Luke made his church clothes into a Flat Stanley.
9) Matt and I got in date #1 of the year at a new bistro that opened in our neighborhood which made for a delightful lunch date with these drinks and lots of talk about how we plan to spend a lot of money (for starters - a vehicle that will hold all 4 of us plus the baby we are listed for).
10) Snow!  A little bit of snow in the backyard!
11) I always point out to my sisters how few eggs I use since we, literally, never eat just eggs at home (no scrambled, no hard boiled, no dippy eggs).  But I do like to bake and needed eggs so bought a dozen from my sister.  We'll see if we get through them before they go bad!
12) Matt's work has a non-Christmas party in January (which I SO appreciate - December is so busy) and the last few years it's been a Casino night with fake money.  I'm feeling REALLY confident in my 3 card Poker skills right now because I turned (fake) $500 into over (fake) $11,000.  And we still didn't win a door prize with all my tickets.

Books finished:14!  Off to a good start!
Miles ran: 0, I hope to get at least one run in February - I usually have in the past!
Currently watching: When I work from home, I'm watching Valentine's episodes and keeping current on Grey's.  Matt and I just finished The Good Place and are looking forward to Brooklyn Nine-Nine coming back soon!
Most read post this month: Quick Lit - January
Luke's current favorite song: He's at school but if I asked him, I feel like he'd say "Old Town Road" which he sings parts of ALL. THE. TIME. even though I don't think he's ever heard the actual song, just kids singing it at school.  I've never heard the song either but now I feel like I know the whole thing.

February brings Valentine's Day, maybe some snow, maybe some projects, and I'm not sure what else!