2015 Reading Update: April – June

Looking for something new to read this summer? What I’ve read and recommended books in fiction, non-fiction, book club picks and children’s read alouds.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Some books were provided to me for review purposes.

Happy summer! How is your reading going? I’m reading (and listening) to so much right now, and I love it. I think I might have underestimated myself a teeny bit on my reading goal for the year. I’d hoped to read 35 books this year, and with the last book I finished I hit 35! Crazy. My new reading strategies are really making an impact in how much I’m able to read and, most importantly, enjoy. A few weeks ago I signed up for a free trial to Audible . Normally I’m not one to pay for books, but I really love the convenience of having something to listen to on my phone or the iPad. My library offers a similar service for free, but the selection isn’t the greatest. I’ll let you know how I feel about Audible after I’ve used it a few more times.

What’s really been surprising to me is how much non-fiction I read. Maybe the books are shorter, maybe I skim more, or maybe I just have a heart for non-fiction. Whatever it is, I read more of it than fiction this time around, and they were some of the books I loved best.

Now, on to the books!


The Vacationers by Emma Straub

This was a fun, light read, perfect for summer. The Posts are headed to Mallorca, Spain for a two week vacation. Franny and Jim are looking to escape New York and a marriage that may be irreparably damaged. Their daughter, Sylvia, is hoping the trip will mark the beginning of a new, more independent life away from her parents and her high school days. They fill their vacation home with other guests: son Bobby, his much older girlfriend, Carmen, Franny’s oldest friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence. Everyone can be on their best manners for a few days, but it’s not long before close quarters and too much sun bring out the worst in everyone. Other reviewers couldn’t stand the characters in this book, but they didn’t bother me. Perhaps I was just so thoroughly enjoying the escape, if only in my mind, back to sunny Spain. It’s not a deep read, but it’s entertaining and a good choice for the pool or the beach.

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

This was my neighborhood book club selection last month, and hoo boy, did people either like it or hate it (no one loved it, thanks to a disturbing scene between a teenager and a dog)! Set in the early 80s in rural Montana, this debut novel from Smith Henderson is a gritty and in-your-face look at the life of a social worker. Pete Snow struggles in his own personal life. Estranged from his father, wary of his no-good brother, and failing in his own marriage and fatherhood, he tries to help the troubled kids of Tenmile. As he deals with a particularly difficult case, he comes across Benjamin Pearl. Living off the land and off the grid with his paranoid survivalist father, Jeremiah, he captures Pete’s attention and draws him in. How can he help this boy? What happened to Pearl’s wife and other children? Henderson doesn’t hold back, and some scenes are very difficult to get through. In our discussion, we also agreed that there were so many words we’d never heard of before, and had to look up. I didn’t love it, but I’m glad I read it. The story was unlike any other I’d read, and the writing style was unique. It definitely made for a lively book club discussion!

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Nine-year-old Starla has finally done it – something so bad that she knows Mamie will send her to reform school for sure. And so on the afternoon of July 4th, she sets off on foot from Mississippi to find her momma in Nashville. She’s sure that her momma, who left years earlier for stardom in Music City, will save her from her strict grandmother. She dreams of reuniting with her momma in her big mansion, surely filled with horses. But Nashville is a lot farther than she thought, and it’s hot in Mississippi in July, and so she accepts a ride from Eula. Making her way to Nashville with Eula is no easy trip, and it opens Starla’s young eyes to the differences between her privileged white life and that of Eula’s as a Southern black women in sixties. Together, through setbacks and tragedies, Starla and Eula help each other and make each other stronger. I listened to this book, and despite its dark undertones, found it delightful. With Starla’s pluck and Eula’s motherhen stubbornness, I rooted for them from beginning to end. (I just found out that the author is from, and still lives, in my hometown – who knew?! Her newest book, The Flying Circus, will be released on July 7.)

Motherland by Maria Hummel

I hesitated to read this one after reading this on the jacket: ” … a historical novel of singular depth and dexterity that intimately examines the life of one German family during World War II.” It was the “historical” and World War II” that got me, as they’re not my topics of choice in late June. I can be a real stickler when it comes to my To Be Read list, though, and Motherland was next in line. I’m so glad I can be a weirdo about the list, because I really enjoyed this one. Okay, maybe “enjoyed” isn’t the best choice of words, considering the subject matter. The story was so unlike any other that I’ve read that take place with Germany and World War II as the setting, and it gave me great appreciation for the author. Hummel is able to craft a story which the reader becomes completely invested in, without more than a few words about the Jews. It’s not a denial of this horrible part of Germany’s history, but a look into how it was possible for the average German family to know little of what was going on around them, so engulfed were they in their own wartime struggle for survival.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Between all the buzz about this book on blogs and magazines and my almost fanatical interest in all things organized and tidy, I was beyond excited to read this book. I was thisclose to buying it (which I almost never do without reading a book first), as well as gifting it to someone. I’m so glad I didn’t! It wasn’t at all what I expected. Marie Kondo is a very popular Japanese cleaning consultant (there’s a 3 month wait for her services). In her book, she details the exact way you should go about decluttering and tidying your home. She suggests that you go category-by-category instead of room by room. For example, you would organize all your clothing at once, instead of doing your bedroom, then the kitchen, then the coat closet. There is information in the book that is truly helpful and possibly transformational, such as the order you should tidy in, and how to arrange things in drawers (Check out KonMari folding on YouTube and prepared to be equally awed and worried). Perhaps because it’s translated from Japanese, it’s not a smooth read. Combine that with some, um, unusual suggestions by Kondo about talking to your home and your possessions, and it’s a little hard to take completely seriously. That being said, it’s a very short and easy read, and if you’re at all interested in decluttering and tidying your home, this book could be helpful and will definitely be different from anything else you’ve ever read on the subject.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

I listened to the audio version of this book in the car. I’m not in the car enough to get into long, drawn-out stories, but I think for books like this (humor, short stories or essays) the audio versions are perfect. I’m not sure how this ended up on my To Be Read list, as I don’t really know much about Gaffigan. I’ve never listened to his stand-up stuff. In fact, I had to Google his “Hot Pocket” bit because he referenced it a few times and I’ve never heard it. Gaffigan’s essays reflect mostly on parenthood. He’s definitely qualified to share some stories, as he has five children! I appreciated the fact that he’s pretty clean, mostly because it helps if you’re trying to listen with kids in the car. More than once Eli asked if we could listen to “that guy with all the kids that’s really funny but seems like a not-so-good parent.” (Note to self: educate Eli on the nuances of sarcasm.) If you enjoy essays on parenting young kids, like Jim Gaffigan as a stand-up comedian, or both, you’ll most likely enjoy Dad is Fat.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

A couple of years ago, Brené Brown’s book about the courage to be vulnerable and the damage shame can produce in our lives was everywhere. It didn’t seem like a book I’d really want to read, but it was one of those that kept popping up in unexpected places, with people raving about how it had changed their lives. It’s been on my To Be Read list for a long time, and I always bypassed it for something else. And then little icon for this book popped up on the main page of my library’s free audio service. Alrighty then, I’d give it a go. (I listened to the audio version of the book, and for the first time I understood how the reader can make or break an audio book experience. I did not love the reader’s voice for this book, but I found the material so interesting and thought-provoking I powered through.)

I really, really liked this book. In fact, I think I need to re-read a hard copy, as there were so many parts that I bookmarked and wanted to listen to again. You think you know what it means to be vulnerable, but we have been molded to see it negatively, and instead to fit ourselves into personal armor. Did you ever think about the difference between guilt and shame? I didn’t, but Brown’s explanation of how they are two very different things was a lightbulb moment for me, and has changed the way I think about them entirely. And the concept of “minding the gap” – bridging the distance between practiced values (what we actually do, think and feel) and our aspirational values (what we want to do, think and feel) – is my new life/parenting mantra. Brown talks about how our feelings of shame and our fear of vulnerability have shaped our experiences in school, the workplace, our marriages and our parenting. It was incredibly eye-opening, and has stayed with me long after.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

I pulled this beast of a book off the shelf at the library and let out a heavy sigh. I was ready for something light and fluffy, and instead I was looking at a 576-page book about the horrific experiences of the patients and medical staff at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. But it was next on my list (again with the list order!), and having just finished Daring Greatly, which I had also put off and ended up loving, I went with it. Spoiler alert: it is not light and fluffy, and I did not love it. There were parts of the book that I found myself entranced with the story, but there were many, many other parts that left me skimming and skipping. The legal details and lengthy descriptions of medicines got to be too much. I also felt like the author skipped back and forth in time, as well as repeated events. Most of the time it felt more like I was reading someone’s research notes, which is a shame. The story is incredible and with a different style of writing could have been gripping from start to finish. I want Laura Hillenbrand to rewrite it.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

Ever since this book came out last January, it’s been mentioned and recommended by several different people I admire, and the author is frequently quoted in parenting articles I’ve read (I mentioned it when I wrote about kids and boredom). After reading it, I can see why. The material in the book is probably nothing that will flat out surprise you if you’re a parent yourself, but it is both eye-opening and affirming to see what you experience and feel spelled out for you on the page. More than anything, you feel less alone – other parents and couples struggle with this stuff, too! We’re invested in and have elevated our kids to a standard and preciousness that no other generation has before. We love them more than anything, and yet we find ourselves stressed and exhausted by them every step of the way. The book examines each stage of parenting, from babies to teens, by focusing on a few of the biggest issues parents face during that stage, such as relationship struggles after a baby is born, the division of work in a marriage, the pressure to give your kids an edge in everything, and why parenting teens is such a challenge. Senior is fantastic at backing up the engaging anecdotes of the parents she’s interviewed with research and statistics in a way that supports the story rather than drying it out. If you belong to a book club made up of mostly parents, this would be a fantastic read that would generate some emotional discussion.

The 52 New Foods Challenge by Jennifer Tyler

After reading French Kids Eat Everything, I was feeling inspired to push our food boundaries a bit. I spied this on the library new book shelf and thought it had potential. It’s an interesting book. The first part of the book allows Tyler to tell the story of how picky eating took root (as it did for most of us in this battle) in the toddler years. The author succumbs for awhile, until she can’t stand another day of beige meals. In her effort to get them out of their rut and to get her kids to play along, she comes up with a challenge. They’d try one new food each week, and she’d let her kids pick what it was. She developed a game (with points) to motivate her kids to try new things. The book then becomes a cookbook, divided by season. The author suggests foods for each season, taking into account local growing seasons, and provides a few recipes for each food.

While I’m not down with the game (let’s be honest – too much effort on my part and the tween would not be into it), I did find the seasonal lists of foods to try to be valuable. I like the idea of just adding one new thing in a week – totally doable and less likely to make the kids fear what might show up on the dinner table on any given night. I didn’t make much use out of the recipes, as I find it just as easy to look in my own cookbook collection or peruse Pinterest, but if I owned the book I would certainly make use of them.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream by H.G. Bissinger

This was my selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge for A Book in a Genre I Don’t Typically Read. As much as I love watching football, I don’t read books about football or sports in general. So many people rave about the TV series that was based on this book that I thought I’d give it a try. Written fifteen years ago, the book is still engaging and relevant. I found myself completely invested in the coaches and players from the small, hard-scrabble town of Odessa, Texas. I could feel myself sitting in the stands, willing the Permian Panthers to win. I didn’t grow up in a place where high school football was up there with God and family, but Bissinger’s writing opened my eyes to that world, warts and all.

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber

I know what you’re thinking … another non-fiction parenting book?! Yes, but trust me – they’re game-changers. As much as we try to emphasize our philosophy on living debt-free and share our own past financial struggles with others, Mike and I still find it difficult to talk about money in meaningful ways with our kids beyond the budget. While I don’t want them to go through what we did, I also don’t want them to grow up fearful or stingy with money. What’s a good balance, especially when you’ve been blessed with more than enough? And how do we have those conversations with our kids about materialism, giving, saving and spending? Lieber covers it all and more, in a thoughtful and helpful way. You’ll come away feeling better equipped to prepare your kids for life beyond your wallet, and it will definitely open up your eyes to new ways to think about kids and money.

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

I adore Roz Chast’s cartoons for the New Yorker. In this memoir of dealing with her aging parents, she uses her craft to illustrate a story that is both hilarious and heart-breaking. As an only child raised by parents in New York City, Roz faces many challenges as her parents become increasingly unable to live on their own without danger to themselves or others. An unhappy childhood left Roz ambivalent about her feelings and responsibilities, and as she takes us on the journey of her parents’ decline we realize how frustrating and confusing the world of elder care is. It’s all of this, and yet I found myself laughing out loud page after page … and then crying a few pages later. Pretty impressive for a book of cartoons.

Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson

After going from never reading about football, I’ve managed to read three books about football since January. Go figure. I put this memoir from former Denver Broncos tight end Nate Jackson on my list after he was mentioned in Stefan Fatsis’ book A Few Seconds of Panic (Nate and Stefan trained together during Fatsis’ time with the Broncos). Nate shares his life in the NFL, from his improbable entry into the league, his European playing days, his 6 seasons with the Broncos, to the difficult decision to walk away. Jackson is open and brutally honest, helping the reader to understand how you can love a game but hate the process. He also sheds light on how difficult it can be, despite the dangers and agonizing injuries that will plague players long after they’re done playing, for a player to walk away from the NFL. It’s definitely given me pause, wondering what my part is in all of this, and how my love for the game plays a role in what these men are willing to do to their bodies and brains.

Read Alouds

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg

This was a book I picked to read aloud to Eli because *I* liked the idea of it. As I flipped through it in the library I wasn’t so sure he’d go for it. In the end, he really liked it and I thought it was just okay. I should clarify, it’s just okay as a read aloud. I really should do a separate post on great read alouds, because not all books lend themselves well to being read aloud. It doesn’t mean they’re not good books, though. Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie opens up with young Eleanor having a very bad August, “as bad as pickle juice on a cookie.” Her beloved babysitter since she was a baby has moved, her best friend is out of town, and a new school year looms ahead. The book is short, with lots of pictures, and written in prose. There are a few more books in the series, so I’ll definitely get them for Eli to read to himself.

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

Eli and I read this book in preparation for his participation in Lemonade Day. I wasn’t expecting much more than a lighthearted read on having a lemonade stand, but was pleasantly surprised to find more depth to the book. Through the story of Evan and Jessie, a brother and sister struggling to sort out their newly complicated sibling relationship, kids learn about feelings, friendship, family, and money. While I would place it right in the middle of what makes a good read-aloud (not great, but not fantastic, either), it’s a worthy read for kids ages 8 and up.

How’s 2015 been for your reading so far? What have you loved? Please share, I always love to add more to my list!


The Anti-Boredom Summer: Have Fun Without a Bucket List

As I struggled with how to plan for summer and find that sweet spot in between no order (which the kids would love and I would loathe) and micromanaging the entire summer (which would be the death of us all by mid-June), I came across something in Jennifer Senior’s book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood which set a lightbulb off. (Or is it on? I don’t know. Send help.)

In the chapter of the book where she deals with the season of life I find myself in (the tween and elementary years), she talks about “the indoor child.” Thanks to shifts in our culture of which we’re all well aware, kids spend a lot more time indoors and by themselves than we ever did as parents. Of course, this happens year round, but we’re never more aware of it than we are during summer. Suddenly, we realize our kids are inside all the time. If they’re not entranced by some sort of electronic entertainment, they’re underfoot, complaining of being bored or begging you to do something with them or take them somewhere.

The Anti-Boredom Summer: 3 ideas to keep the kids from being bored during the summer without you having to entertain them all day long - no bucket list required! Manage screen time and let the kids learn to be their own boredom busters. Life Skills for Kids | Parenting | Kids Activities

The problem is, if we acquiesce, and micromanage everything – sign them up for multiple camps and extracurricular activities, don’t limit screen time, and entertain them every time they lack for something to do, they miss out on experiencing boredom.

I wrote about this at one point for The Risky Kids, but I think we – not just kids, but adults, too – have a fear of boredom. It’s not a great feeling on either end. Kids don’t know how to tolerate it and push through to the other side of it, and parents don’t know how to facilitate the process without losing their own minds.

The Anti-Boredom Summer: 3 ideas to keep the kids from being bored during the summer without you having to entertain them all day long - no bucket list required! Manage screen time and let the kids learn to be their own boredom busters. Life Skills for Kids | Parenting | Kids Activities

That’s why I’m declaring this summer the anti-boredom summer. I think it needs a manifesto: Your boredom is not my responsibility. If you’re bored, don’t ask what you can do – figure it out. My suggestions will run along the lines of clean your room or give me a foot massage. Surely you can come up with something better.

Of course, it sounds better and easier in theory than it does in practice. We’re wrapping up our fourth week of summer break and we’ve definitely struggled with it already. In general, though, I feel like it’s going better than expected. Here are a few things that have helped us stay unbored and still (kind-of) liking each other:

1. Having a daily routine.

The framework of this idea was built over the school year and meant for weekends, when we try to strike a balance between relaxation, necessity and losing yourself in front of the iPad all day. In our family, we all like to take some time to wake up and be quiet first thing in the morning. For me, this means writing, catching up on blogs or checking social media accounts. For Elena, it’s reading her messages ands scrolling through Instagram. For Eli, it’s playing a few games of whatever he’s into at the moment. Once I’m awake and have finished my coffee, our day begins. We eat breakfast and then do our daily chores. After those are done, if we don’t have anything planned, the kids know they can map our their day how they like, but it needs to include these elements:

The Anti-Boredom Summer: 3 ideas to keep the kids from being bored during the summer without you having to entertain them all day long - no bucket list required! Manage screen time and let the kids learn to be their own boredom busters. Life Skills for Kids | Parenting | Kids Activities

Work: This includes the daily chores they should have already completed (making their beds, tidying up their rooms, brushing hair and teeth, getting dressed), plus any other chores that might need done that particular day, such as mowing the lawn, picking up dog poop, or weeding. This apparently needed addressing, as on the first day of summer break, I told Eli it was time to get dressed and do chores. He was outraged. “What??! It’s summer break. You know, a break from everything!” If only.

Play: Outside or inside screen-free play, but you must spend at least 30 minutes outside every day. (Eli easily spends 2 or more hours outside if the weather permits. It was for Elena’s good that we added a bare minimum for outside time.)

Read: This year they’re in charge of logging time for our summer reading program. We (me included) read at least 30 minutes during daytime hours.

Create: Spend some time making something, whether it’s building, writing, drawing, cooking or planning an elaborate project. Oddly enough, this is where Eli struggles and Elena shines.

Learn: I’ve never been big on worksheets or reviewing stuff they learned in school, but with Eli I recognize that he needs some practice each week on handwriting and math facts to keep him from losing the progress he made over the year. Still, that might be once a week. The rest of the time it could be anything from practicing music (Elena’s picked up the guitar again) to honing a new skill we might not have time for during the school year, such as coding, or figuring out how to set up a YouTube channel.

Rest: Doing absolutely nothing and being okay with it. Also related: there is such a thing as a bedtime in the summer, which is something I didn’t think needed explaining, but caused much strife the first week of summer vacation.

The Anti-Boredom Summer: 3 ideas to keep the kids from being bored during the summer without you having to entertain them all day long - no bucket list required! Manage screen time and let the kids learn to be their own boredom busters. Life Skills for Kids | Parenting | Kids Activities

I printed out a handy reminder and keep in on the fridge in a plastic sleeve so they can check things off as they do them with a dry eraser.

Kids Summer Anti-Boredom Checklist

Some activities are definitely screen-free, such as working, playing and reading. The others can include screens. Elena might watch a YouTube video to learn a certain song, Eli might use a math app on the iPad, or we might watch a documentary together. The rule is, though, that if you choose to make a screen part of an activity, whatever you choose for the next activity needs to be screen-free. So far, I haven’t set any time limits on screens. We’ve tried that in the past, and it just doesn’t work for us. We’re never consistent and I hate haggling over the time-keeping aspect. (Who set the timer? When did you start? Can I subtract the 10 minutes I spent in the bathroom with my game paused?) For now, we go by our gut. If Mike or I feel like the balance is off, we tell them to wrap up what their doing and do something else.

The only tweak I’m working on halfway into the summer is how to get them started on a new activity without having to repeat myself or doing the thinking for them. I was hoping they’d run with it, but they still depend on me too much to come up with ideas. Now, old Angie would’ve come up with some cute, Pinterest-worthy boredom jar or something. Forty-year-old Angie realizes ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead I’m just making a big ol’ list of ideas – on actual paper, like our ancient ancestors used to do. If they say they’re bored or can’t think of an activity that would satisfy the learning requirement for the day, I’ll simply say, “THE LIST, PEOPLE.” (Note to self: add “learn how to fix Mom an adult beverage” to THE LIST.)

The Anti-Boredom Summer: 3 ideas to keep the kids from being bored during the summer without you having to entertain them all day long - no bucket list required! Manage screen time and let the kids learn to be their own boredom busters. Life Skills for Kids | Parenting | Kids Activities

2. Build in weekly routines.

I still do my grocery shopping during the week and in the daytime, just as I did when they’re in school. Sometimes I let Elena stay home and watch Eli, but often I have them come with me. It is boring, and they don’t want to go, but part of life is learning that there are things you just have to do. I think it’s boring and I don’t want to go, but the food doesn’t magically appear in the pantry. They can complain about it and be miserable every week, or they can accept it, help me shop, and get it over with quickly. We go to the library once a week to collect our reading program prizes and swap out books. Thursday or Friday is our zone cleaning day, which means the kids do their weekly chores (vacuuming, cleaning their bathroom, collecting trash) and help me to deep clean one zone of the house. And because I’m not completely evil, we make the best weather days of the week pool days, escaping to the water for a few hours in the afternoon or after dinner.

The Anti-Boredom Summer: 3 ideas to keep the kids from being bored during the summer without you having to entertain them all day long - no bucket list required! Manage screen time and let the kids learn to be their own boredom busters. Life Skills for Kids | Parenting | Kids Activities

3. Plan a fun activity or outing.

I know, I know … I just told you not to micromanage everything! Still, there are so many simple summer joys that need to be experienced. We adults especially need reminding that it’s okay to step away from our usual work and home routines and do something fun. If I try to wing it, the week gets away from me and we haven’t made the time to do or go somewhere out of the ordinary. Instead, I keep a running list of things we might want to do or go see and pencil that thing in when I plan for the week on Sunday night. I try to come up with something fun to do at home as well as plan an outing. This summer we’re on a mission to try the many beloved donut shops around Indianapolis and figure out which one will be the Six family favorite.

The Anti-Boredom Summer: 3 ideas to keep the kids from being bored during the summer without you having to entertain them all day long - no bucket list required! Manage screen time and let the kids learn to be their own boredom busters. Life Skills for Kids | Parenting | Kids Activities

By incorporating those three things into our summer, we’re able to balance the work that is family life with the fun that is inherently a part of summer. At the same time, it keeps me from having to micromanage every single minute of our day and it forces the kids to not only experience boredom, but take responsibility for it. They’re finding that they’re far more creative than me in coming up with things to do. Summer vacation and boredom are a gift, as it means we’ve given ourselves the space and time to be bored. It’s not a bad thing to have some margin in our lives that are unfilled. At the same time, it’s not a parent’s job to fill that space with time-intesive projects, activities and outings. The true gift is to give that time to the kids and let them discover exactly what they love to fill their own space and time with.

The Anti-Boredom Summer: 3 ideas to keep the kids from being bored during the summer without you having to entertain them all day long - no bucket list required! Manage screen time and let the kids learn to be their own boredom busters. Life Skills for Kids | Parenting | Kids Activities


The Short List: June

Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links.

I know I told you not to get too attached, but look what’s back! I wouldn’t go out and buy us monogrammed sheets or anything, but writing more than one post in a series is always a good step for me. Summer and blogging are always tricky for me. It’s when I seem have my best ideas and get the most fired up about topics … and yet it’s when I have the least amount of time to act upon those ideas and write about them. I think and write a lot of great stuff in my head … if only it automatically posted itself. I try to write ahead when I can, but that’s never been my best habit. And so I’ll have days like yesterday, when I tell myself I’ll get a few posts written. And then it’s 89 degrees outside, the sun is shining, and the kids are clamoring for the pool. The pool will almost always win.

Like May, June is a crazy month for us. We have two birthdays in June, and this year they happen to be milestone birthdays. Mike joined me in the 40 club. On Sunday, we’ll wake up with a teenager in the house. I can do the math, and it’s not like I don’t know what comes after 39 and 12, but it still blows my mind. In between, we celebrated Father’s Day. As much as we would love to be traveling the world again, it’s been nice spending June at home and filling it with our favorite summer activities: baseball, festivals, cookouts and strawberry picking. I hope your June has been equally as lovely. Now, feast your eyes on the Short List of things I’m into this month.

🎶 I always feel like some berry's watching me ... 🎶


Elena, Mike and I are still making our way through Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. From now on we just want to say “Beyonce” in a French accent instead of thank you. Eli has discovered American Ninja Warrior. As a result he can’t pass through a doorway without trying to spider climb it. Mike and I were all excited to watch the premier of the new HBO series Ballers, until we realized neither one of us DVR’d it. Not very baller of us.


In fiction, I just started Motherland by Maria Hummel . I’m a few chapters in, and while I’m glad to pick it up each night, I’m not dying to read more throughout the day. I snagged a free 2 month trial to Audible and picked up The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. I really enjoyed The Namesake, but this one isn’t quite as good for me. Still, I enjoy having something to listen to while I do menial household tasks. I need a new non-fiction read, as I just finished The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber yesterday. I tell you, the non-fiction books I’ve been reading lately are killing it. I’ll definitely be writing more about this book very soon. Eli and I are still reading through Masterpiece by Elise Broach. And Elena and I are still listening to All the Bright Places, and we are both loving it.


Two years ago we had the opportunity to participate in Camptown’s Camping for Rookies program. It’s genius for people like us, who had never been camping, but really wanted to try it out with the kids. The good people at Camptown know that lack of knowledge and access to camping equipment are a big barrier to getting families outdoors, so they started Camping for Rookies. For a very reasonable fee, they provide you with a location and a tent. Staffers are there to camp with you and show you the ropes, including the all-important setting up of the tent. They also provide meals and programming to share more knowledge of camping and the great outdoors. Camptown offers the program a few times over the summer at various locations in Indiana. I highly recommend it!

Chobani Flip Almond Coco Loco

I can’t get enough of these Chobani Flips right now. (Disclosure: I participated in a campaign with BzzAgent in which I received coupons for the product, but I’ve been obsessed with these long before now.) I’m sure all the flavors are fantastic, but once I tried the Almond Coco Loco that was all she wrote. If I have one in the fridge, it’s all I can think about.


We can worry about our kids (and we all do), but that worry doesn’t need to turn into a fear that holds them back. Love this essay “Worry Is Not Our Benchmark” from Life Your Way.

Jen Hatmaker explains the things she says yes and no to in parenting. And promptly advises that she wings it and second guesses 72% of her parenting, which gives me much comfort.

65% of kids entering grade school this year will end up working in careers that haven’t been invented yet. Isn’t that crazy? Eli will be happy to know that Minecraft and duct tape wallets can help him prepare for that yet-to-be-invented job.

What’s on your short list of favorite things right now?

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