2018 Books

Every year I post a list of the books I read the year before. This past year (2018) I crushed my previous record and read a whopping 32 books! All while keeping a kiddo alive.

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Of note, I read an unusual amount of psychological thrillers this year. Probably because–even though I hate to admit this–I’ve come around to loving reading via Kindle, and since thrillers are notorious for being page turners, Kindle allows me to stay up way past my bedtime reading on my phone. Some of these thrillers I’d read in a night, which was terrible because I’d be all riled up and not be able to fall asleep. I still adore a book that has a freshly cracked spine, but with baby #2 on the way, I have a feeling those middle-of-the-night feeds will keep me loyal to my Kindle app.

Here’s a list of the books I read, with a rating (if I can remember the book LOLZ) and genre info. Books in bold are the ones I’d highly recommend!

  1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed // memoir, 5/5
  2. Watch Me Disappear by Jangle Brown // fiction, ??? can’t remember the book
  3. Rumors of Marty Goode by Jeff Ryan Williams // fiction, 5/5
  4. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine // fiction/thriller, 3.5/5
  5. Anything by Jennie Allen // nonfiction, 2/5
  6. It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInery Purmort // memoir, 5/5
  7. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty // fiction, 5/5 — and watch the show!
  8. French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billion // nonfiction/memoir/parenting, 4/5
  9. Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors // nonfiction, 4/5
  10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle // fiction/classic, 4.5/5
  11. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones // fiction, 4/5
  12. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn // fiction/thriller, 4/5
  13. Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle // nonfiction/parenting, 4/5
  14. Hope Heals by Katherine & Jay Wolf // nonfiction/memoir, 4.5/5
  15. Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family // nonfiction/parenting, 1/5
  16. A Life Intercepted by Charles Martin // fiction, 5/5 — great if you like Nicholas Sparks!
  17. The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright // nonfiction/memoir, 3.5/5
  18. Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner // nonfiction, 5/5
  19. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown // nonfiction, 4.5/5
  20. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware // fiction/thriller, 5/5
  21. A Fierce Love: One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage by Shauna Shanks // memoir, 1/5?
  22. Force of Nature by Jane Harper // fiction/thriller, ??? can’t remember the book
  23. The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson // nonfiction/parenting, 5/5
  24. Are You Sleeping? by Kathleen Barber // fiction/thriller, ??? can’t remember!
  25. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng // fiction, 5/5
  26. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty // fiction, 5/5
  27. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins // fiction/thriller, 4.5/5
  28. A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite // memoir, 4.5/5
  29. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline // fiction, 5/5
  30. The Other Woman by Sandie Jones // fiction/thriller, 5/5 — ending is SO GOOD
  31. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman // fiction, 5/5 –being made into a movie!
  32. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover // memoir, 5/5 — such good writing that I kept forgetting this is a true story

Goal for 2019? Read all of the hard copy books that are on my bookshelf that I’ve put off reading :D

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Emmy’s 10 Must-Have Baby Items

Now that Emmy is O N E (!), I thought I’d compile a list of our top 10 picks from her first year. These items are the things we couldn’t live without, and are BOTH Emmy and Mommy approved! (I asked Matt for his input and said, “If you had a friend who was pregnant, what’s the #1 thing you’d tell them to get for the baby?” And he said “A really good mommy” #heispresh)

1. A Baby Carrier // Our favorites are the Solly wrap and the Wildbird sling. Vastly different (yet serving the same purpose–a close, cuddly baby and a hands-free mama or dada), we’ve used both in different stages. Only wanting to get one? I’d choose the Solly. It’s softer and has less of a learning curve. Matt personally loved the Solly and refuses to wear the Wildbird, even though they’re both neutral colors. #men

 

 

2. Footie Jammies // This might be obvious, but also might not be. Emmy has spent at LEAST half her life in footie jammies. And if she’s anything like her mama, she hates having her feet cold. Our top brand picks are Burt’s Bees (size up) and L’oved Baby (true to size).

 

 

 

3. Books // Also obvious, but there are some real hidden gems out there. Check out:

4. PBS Kids App & Netflix // Yes this is technically two things, but the use we’ve had for Emmy from both has been amazing. I think there’s some science about how every minute a baby watches TV an angel loses its wings or something, but Little Baby Bum (Netflix) and Super Why (Netflix & PBS app) have saved us both many times. PBS Kids App is free, Netflix is….however much Netflix is.

 

 

5. Promptly Childhood History Journal // This is so much MORE than a baby book. It covers pregnancy through age 18. That might sound overwhelming, but it’s got manageable prompts, and once they turn one you’re only filling it out once a year. Plus it’s beautiful. This will be such an heirloom.

 

 

6. White Noise Machine // Kid can’t sleep? Please tell me you’ve got a white noise machine going FULL BLAST. We have this one, and it’s the loudest BUT it’s broke after 9 months of use. Thankfully the manufacturer sent us a new one (like four weeks later, ugh). We also have this one and use them both. Don’t think you’re using white noise if it’s on the lowest volume setting. The white noise they heard in your belly is apparently equivalent to running a vacuum, so turn the dang machine up!

 

 

 

7. Solly Swaddle Blanket // This was gifted to us by my friend Madison and now it’s my #1 baby shower gift. They’re a little pricey so moms often won’t buy for themselves, but this is the most buttery-soft blanket EVER. It’s super lightweight (so great for Florida), and huge so you can legitimately swaddle a baby in it. I’m convinced I’m going to use it as a scarf or something once we’re done using it as a baby blanket.

 

 

8. Ingenuity High Chair // This has served the purposes of both a Bumbo and a high chair. The tray stores under the seat which is GENIUS and is also dishwasher safe.

 

 

9. Boppy Lounger // Emmy probably spent *too* much time in this, but whatever. It was great to put her on and feed her a bottle, or just for her to lounge while I cleaned up, did laundry, or took a shower. We literally just put this away for good like three weeks ago, so it gets plenty of use!

 

 

 

10. Love To Dream 50/50 Swaddle: This thing was the BEST and Emmy slept so well in it. It allows babies to keep their hands near their face for self-soothing, but is snug in the chest for them to feel like they’re still being hugged. Once you’re ready to start working on arms-out swaddling, you can unzip one “wing” at a time to allow baby to adjust. Seriously worth EVERY PENNY.

Mama Bear

We hear her little coos from the monitor, her way of soothing herself to sleep at night. At seven months old we’re teaching her to sleep independently, and she’s done so great. It’s as if she’s saying, “Yes, mommy, I like peace and quiet, too.”

My husband and I smile when we hear her. I’ve got a glass of red, he’s got March Madness.

“Do you ever think about her dying?” I ask. She’s not sick. She doesn’t have cancer or one of the eleventy billion genetic disorders you learn about during pregnancy. She hasn’t even had a cold yet. So I’m trying to gauge if this is my post-partum anxiety speaking or if it’s just part of being a parent.

“Yes, actually, I do,” he replies.

Oh. So it’s the latter.

****

Everyone warns you about the worry that comes with being a parent. You worry about them falling, about them sticking their finger in a light socket (what is a light socket, even?), about them getting their feelings hurt by Sassy Sally in the second grade.

But no one tells you about the quiet moments where you’re studying their little features: the way the tips of her fingers are redder than the rest of her hand, the way she scrunches her nose when she smiles, the way her belly button looks like an upside-down smiley face—no one tells you that when you’re studying them, you’re begging for them to imprint in your memory in case one day they’re gone. Really gone.

It’s too hard to talk about these things, these fears. We talk about our babies growing up, “Oh these sweet little toes won’t be around forever because you’re going to grow up and be a big girl with big toes!” But in those quiet moments, studying their features, we’re begging God to let them grow up. To keep them safe. To not let them die.

****

I start crying. My husband mutes the TV. I’m overwhelmed by the fear of my losing my baby. He grabs my hand, “She’s not ours, you know. She never was, and she never will be.”

I know what he’s talking about. She’s God’s child. We have no ownership over her. We only have the distinct honor and privilege of being her parents here on earth. “We just have to be grateful for the time we have with her until she’s gone, or hopefully, until we’re gone. God has a purpose for her life here until she’s back home with Him.”

No one warns you about these conversations. No one prepares you for the anger you have at this truth, that they’re not really yours and that one day she will go home to her Father. You can only protect them from so much, Mama Bear.

****

I think about how brave she’s been in these first seven months of her life. The trauma of being born, the shots, the painful reflux, the learning about the world and that mommy and daddy willcomebackwepromise! How stinking resilient she is, how resilient all children are. And I think about how very not brave I’ve been. How very scared. How very not resilient.

It’s so backwards, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be armed with resiliency as adults? I’d love a big glass of toughness with a side of quick-to-recover and roll-with-the-punches when I sit here thinking about my baby girl dying and what that would be like.

I sit with these fears and try and plan for how I can prevent them. The measures I can take to protect my children from the destructive hands of death. The food I feed, the car seats I choose, the cribs, the safe sleep, the germs, the watchful eye, the GPS.

But she’s not immune, and I can only do so much. And that’s scary. It just is. There aren’t words to soothe that fear, there aren’t classes I can take or books I can read. But I must remind myself: it’s okay to be afraid of that. It’s all right to just sit with that fear, studying her toes and her wisps of hair and how she kind of snort-coughs in her sleep.

Because she’s not really mine. She’s His. And as scary as that is, it really should be the most comforting thing in the world because His love is greater. His love knows no end, no beginning. He formed her in my womb and He calls her His own.

And guess what? He calls us His own, too. He knows our mama hearts. He knows we’re scared and would do anything to protect our sweet babies. We’re His daughters, and He is holding just as tightly to us as He is our babies.

So let’s study their features. Let’s hold them tight. Let’s face the fear head on, knowing that we have the God of Angel Armies by our side, regardless of the way our story, and the story of our babies, writes itself.

 

Friday Faves #12

Hey friends! I’m back with a crowd favorite…Friday Faves! Here’s a list of what I’m loving this week.

1. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

This stuff is so good for you. Collagen is essential for joint, skin, hair, and nail health. It’s easy to mix into my coffee each morning and has no taste and no grittiness!

2. Stitch People

I’ve so loved getting into cross stitch! This isn’t your mom’s cross stitch, either. It’s a great way to create a keepsake that will be treasured forever.

3. Tuna Salad + Veggies

This recipe from The Defined Dish isn’t even really a recipe. It’s basically just eating tuna salad with carrot sticks, but I CAN’T STOP EATING IT.

4. It’s Okay to Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInery Purmort

I think everyone needs to read this book. It’s not nearly depressing as it sounds, and it’s profound in the way Nora talks about losing a pregnancy, her dad, and her husband in a 6-week span. It’s the definitions of “you’ll laugh and you’ll cry.”

5. Beautycounter’s Volumizing Mascara

I am *really* picky about mascara. I’ve used the same mascara since I was like 15. Until now! Beaautycounter came out with their Lengthening mascara (bottom) a little more than a year ago, and, to be honest, I didn’t love it. But I was open to trying the Volumizing mascara (top). And I’m so glad I did!!! I highly recommend this if you’re used to a big, fluffy brush to apply with. (And–FYI–they’ve reformulated the Lengthening so I’m going to try that again!)

What’re you loving?

xo, Amanda

Dear Congress,

Dear Congress,

Yesterday, 17 people were slaughtered. I know you know this, because it’s impossible not to. But I want to write to you, to each of you–Senators and House Representatives, men and women, parents, friends. I want you to know how angry I am. How scared and sad and worried and confused. I want to write yo you as your employer. Remember me? The person who hired you?

You see, there are lots of statistics floating around right now. About how many school shootings that have already happened 45 days into the year. About which shooting was the deadliest, about how we’re averaging about one school shooting per week since Sandy Hook. Remember Sandy Hook? When 21 first graders were shot to death? Yeah, I thought so. I don’t know if it’s better or worse that you do remember, because how could you not have taken action then?

I’m going to say some things here that might make you get really defensive, but let’s drop all of those pretenses and just be honest, okay? We know you’re funded by the NRA. We know that, you know that, the NRA knows that…it’s fact, not opinion. So we know you have a *vested* interest in making them happy. That’s just how it is. They keep your pockets full, and you need your pockets full. We all do. It’s the beauty of capitalism.

But. BUT. Mommies need their babies to come home. Daddies need to hug their littles and tuck them in at night. Wives and husbands need their spouses, their best friends, to wake up tomorrow. High school students need to know they’re safe at school. FIRST GRADERS need to know they’re safe at school.

Can I pay you to change? I can’t pay you the millions (billions?) of dollars that the NRA can, but I can give you everything I have. Please. I’m begging you. I’m selling my soul to you so that you’ll do something.

If it’s not money you’re after, but pride and recognition, then imagine the publicity and support you’ll get by DOING SOMETHING. We will stand behind you!! We will say YES! Change! Reform! Protection! You won’t be alone, Congress. Sure, some of your colleagues will balk at the challenge, and continue to fund their campaigns and vacation homes and you might even wonder how you’ll survive (or how your campaign will survive, or how your vacation home will survive) if you’re not on the NRA’s good side. I get that. It doesn’t make it okay, but I get it.

Congress, you’re going down in history. Whether you know it or not, you’re on the cusp of a time that in a few generations, people will look back and say “what took them so long???!” They’ll wonder how we let so many kids die on our watch. On your watch. They’ll write books about this time, analyzing what could’ve been done differently. Don’t you want your name on the right side of that story? To be written about as the lone person who took a stand to protect our babies? Don’t you want to be a hero?

And, in case you think it won’t matter, let me present to you a case study. In 1996 Australia experienced their worst mass shooting. 35 people were killed. In the days after this shooting, the Prime Minister started putting together the strictest gun reform in the world. They banned automatic, semi-automatic, and pump-action shotguns. More than 640,000 weapons were turned in and destroyed. It took just 14 days–14 days!!!!!–for the gun reform to be written and passed. The best part? Since the 1996 reform was passed, guess how many mass shootings Australia has had? ZERO. Zero!

This doesn’t mean Australia doesn’t experience gun violence. Because we have guns, we will have gun violence. But we can stop the carnage where dozens of CHILDREN are being murdered. We can do it, Congress! I promise! And don’t you want to be involved in that?

I want to believe that you’ll do the right thing here. As your employer, I want to make sure you do. I think you sometimes forget you have a boss. And that boss is me. So fix this ridiculous situation, or I will do everything in my power to fire you. To make sure you’re never given the honor of “serving your people” again. To make sure you can never tweet things about “thoughts and prayers” and choke on your own hypocrisy.

Statistically, it’s unlikely it’ll be your kid who is shot by a murderer wielding an AR-15 and emptying 45 bullets a minute. There’s only 535 of you, and theres 323 million of the rest us. But can you imagine if it was your child? Can you picture getting the call? Can you feel the bile in your stomach rising, the scorching tears spilling? The nightmares you’ll have, picturing a bullet entering your child’s body? The pain of burying your baby’s body in the ground? Because there are 17 parents dealing with that today. And countless more from the crimes committed by these military grade weapons that have happened on your watch. THESE ARE NOT DRAMATICS, THAT IS THEIR REALITY.

DO BETTER.

Signed,

An angry parent & YOUR BOSS

PS: I’m fuming mad. I know this won’t change anything and you WON’T LISTEN TO US and I don’t understand it and I don’t know how you can sleep at night and let this continue to happen. Jesus come.