Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR

We all know my TBR is where most books go to linger for a very long time. But if I WERE to read some books this fall, this is what I would be reading. (Sorry for the lack of book covers – time is escaping me more than ever).

1. A Window Opens | Elisabeth Egans

This is on my hold list at the library, so presumably I want to read it, although I can’t remember actually requesting it. It’s a book about a working mom’s attempt to have it all. Apparently.

2. Carry On | Rainbow Rowell

In Fangirl, the main character write Harry Potter-esque fan fiction. This is that fan fiction. Of course I’m reading it.

3. Armada | Ernest Cline

I had a three week old when this book was released, so I hope I can be forgiven for totally missing its release. I haven’t read any reviews but I’ll definitely be listening to the audio version narrated by Wil Wheaton.

4. Why Not Me? | Mindy Kaling

What Mindy Kaling writes, I read.

5. Winter | Marissa Meyer

The final installment in the Lunar Chronicles. Maybe I should get on the wait list now?

6. Need | Joelle Charbonneau

I’m hoping this one is as enjoyable as The Testing.

7. Who Do You Love | Jennifer Weiner

I don’t even know what this one is about, but I love Jennifer Weiner.

8. Geraldine Brooks | The Secret Chord

I am pretty sure that I will be singing Leonard Cohen the entire time I read this one, but that’s a risk I’ll take.

9. My Life on the Road | Gloria Steinem

I can’t imagine this is not a fascinating memoir.

10. Furiously Happy | Jenny Lawson

I mostly want to read this because of the crazy racoon on the cover. True story.


What books are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Landline | Bookish Thoughts

Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 320
Year: 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Source: Public Library
Rating: 3/5


Georgie McCool (yes, that is her name), a television comedy writer, is about to get her biggest career break yet, but her personal life is falling apart. Her husband, Neil, has taken their daughters to Omaha for Christmas, leaving Georgie home alone in Los Angeles to work. When she plugs in her old telephone at her mother’s house to call her husband, she finds Neil – in 1998 – on the other end.

My Thoughts:

So, I love Rainbow Rowell. But what I love about her is the way her books feel so real and this concept is so ridiculous and unrealistic that it just didn’t work for me. And, aside from the magic phone concept, how is it possible that Neil wouldn’t call his wife for an entire week DURING CHRISTMAS? And, why wouldn’t the plan be for her to fly in for Christmas day?

On top of all of that, the characters were not very likable.  I didn’t really like Georgie. I wanted to shake her, tell her to stop whining, put on some of her own clothes, and DO SOMETHING. And Neil needed to stop being a martyr and DO SOMETHING. Basically, I just wanted someone to do something and it took a really long time for that to happen.

But I’m still giving this three stars because even subpar Rainbow Rowell is better than most anyone else. I will not hesitate to read more of her novels in the future.

And she NAILS parenting with these two quotes:

“Having kids sent a tornado through your marriage, then made you happy for the devastation. Even if you could rebuild everything just the way it was before, you’d never want to.”

“Kids took a fathomless amount of time and energy…And they took it first. They had right of first refusal on everything you had to offer.”

The way she captures parenting in Landline is truly fantastic.

The Sunday Salon [9.13.15]

It’s about time for me to check in here and give a quick update and promise to be back someday, right?

Well, no promises of being back are going to be found in this post. I am back to work in a few days and I think I’ll be lucky to find time to brush my teeth, let alone blog. But we’ll see.

So…yeah. Back to work. Can you believe it? I blinked and 12 weeks went by. Kai is an awesome little baby. He rarely cries, he smiles and coos whenever he is awake, and he sleeps from 10-7 with only one wakeup in between most nights. I’m not ready to leave him, but I’ve grown accustomed to food and shelter, so back to work I go (I actually like the work I do, I just wish I could do it AND be with Kai – have it all, right?). 

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I didn’t read as much during this maternity leave. There was a three-year-old to parent and netflix to watch, so the books took a backseat. Since I last talked about what I was reading in August, I finished Everything Leads to You and A Dangerous Place. I also finished The Woman Who Died a Lot and Landline. Maybe I’ll post my thoughts on them someday. I am currently reading Belzhar and pondering my next audio (maybe the new Judy Blume?).

I am off to watch Evan play soccer this morning. I hope you all have a lovely day. 

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PS – Excuse the large images. This is the smallest I can get them. If anyone would like to let me in on resizing images in WordPress. I’ve been lost since an update changed things awhile back.

The Sunday

Back At It [Fitness Friday]

The time has come. I am 10 weeks postpartum and I am officially trying to lose this baby weight.

I am up about 11 pounds from my pre-Kai weight (closer to 20 pounds from my pre-Evan weight but I assume those days are gone forever). I feel great and I think I look much better at this point than I did with Evan. But I still want to get rid of the excess pounds. After Evan, I assumed breastfeeding would take care of it, but when he weaned at 18 months, I was still at least 15 pounds heavier. So I counted calories and exercised and I lost most of it within a few months.

So what am I doing? The same thing that worked for me last time. I’m using MyFitnessPal (@themichelleerin) to count calories and Runkeeper (@michelleerin) and FitBit to track my exercise. Technological motivation works for me. I also have a friend who coincidentally started doing the same thing on the same day so we’ve been motivating each other (or, at least, she’s been motivating me).

Since I’m breastfeeding, I get to add an extra 500 calories to what MFP gives me, and I have it set to only lose a half-pound a week because I’m terrified of ruining my supply. Because of this, it’s not actually that painful. I can still eat a ton each day as long as I make smart-ish choices.

I’m also exercising regularly. I assume this won’t happen when I go back to work later this month, but for now I am trying to run a few times a week, do a little yoga once or twice a week, and walk most days.

I am hopeful that I can lose the weight in a healthy way without negatively affecting my milk supply. Feeding Kai is, of course, the priority, but moving again and eating better feels great after nearly a year of pregnancy/postpartum lethargy.

What have you been doing lately to get/stay healthy?

The Sunday Salon [8.16.15]

Getting some laptop time in has proved difficult this summer. I thought I would be able to catch up on some blogging but I’ve only managed to get further behind. So here is a catch-up Sunday Salon.


I’ve been reading a little on my maternity leave, but not nearly as much as I planned on reading. It’s not that I lack the time, really. I just lack the energy and focus. I spend most of my time sitting on the couch, watching Pretty Little Liars, and messing around on my phone. Seriously, someone needs to take my phone away if I am ever going to get back into reading.

I am currently reading Everything Leads to You for the book club I cannot attend and listening to the newest Maisie Dobbs. I finished I’ll Give You the Sun, A Grown-Up Kind of PrettyFairest, and started and stopped a few others, but that’s it. I’ve got quite a few audiobooks on deck, assuming that is the more likely format for me these days. But I’ll probably just continue to catch up on the latest mystery in Rosewood.


I started running a little. I haven’t really run regularly since last April (3 months off for my foot followed by the crazy heat and travel of summer followed by 9 months of pregnancy), so I am starting slowly. My last run was only 15 minutes long. But it feels good to be out there again. I’ve got at least 15 pounds to lose, but I won’t really try too hard to lose it for awhile for fear of messing with my supply.


Life is good. Ben is back at work, Evan starts school tomorrow, and, aside from visitors, Kai and I are on our own for a month before I go back to work and he starts daycare. I am very thankful for this maternity leave and even more thankful that it has been pretty low key and relaxing (so different from my leave with Evan). Plus I’ve been keeping up with what’s going on at work enough that I think returning won’t be too shocking.  I just need to figure out how on Earth I’ll manage to get two kids and myself up and ready, get to two different daycare drop-offs, and get myself to work at a reasonable hour. This seems like an impossible feat from where I am sitting. But it might make for an interesting “day in the life of” post.


How have you all been? Reading anything interesting? Ready for the back to school hustle?


 The Sunday

Our Debt-Free Journey: One Year In

Last fall, I shared my debt free plans with you. I explained why I was getting out of debt and how I was doing it. We are now at the one-year mark and still going strong. I can now fully attest that this plan is working and it is helping us achieve our original goals.

How much progress have we made?

We’ve paid off 20% of our non-mortgage debt. My 5-year calculations appear to be quite accurate (the addition of Kai addd a year to my original 4-year plan). In the past year, we threw around 1/3 of our income at debt. And this is while we still lived life and cash-flowed a new baby.

We paid off 3 store cards, 3 student loans, 2 credit cards, and my car. We have 2 credit cards left to pay off and we will be consumer debt free. Only student loans (and our mortgage) will remain.

We brought our monthly minimum payment obligations down by $800. EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS.

And, most importantly, we accumulated NO new debt.

How is life different now?

Well, for starters, we can cash flow every day life. And it doesn’t make us cry. Last summer,  we realized we were living life a little bit in the red each month. We wanted to have another baby but we knew we couldn’t afford daycare at the rate we were going (maybe because of that $800+ in minimum payments?). Fast-forward to today. We have that baby we wanted and when he starts daycare next month, we can write that (not insignificant) check without breaking a sweat. And we still have (a little) extra to throw at debt.

We budget. Every single dollar that comes our way gets assigned a task.

We use cash for things like groceries and eating out, so we know exactly what we are spending and we know how much is left to spend. When that money runs out, it’s out.

We get very limited “fun” money but we still enjoy life. When we spend it, it’s more likely to be on an experience than stuff.

We drive paid-for cars. We don’t have cable.  We clean our own house. We don’t go to the gym. We travel less.

We use sinking funds. Man, this was a game changer. We throw about $800 each month into an account that will eventually pay for things like car repairs, home maitenance, haircuts, clothes, pest control, cleaning supplies. These are things that we don’t need to buy every month but that will eventually require money. There is a few thousand dollars just sitting there in that account waiting to be spent. Ben likes it because he feels less guilty spending the money when it’s already earmarked. I like it because it gives us a hard limit when considering a purchase and prevents us from overspending. When I see a $50 dress but I only have $40 left in my clothing fund, I know it’s time to move on (or save up).

Simply put, we live well below our means now.

What’s next?

We are hoping to pay off the last two cards by early 2016. At that point, we will beef up our savings and retirement contributions a bit before heading right back into the ring and tackling Ben’s student loans.

When we can afford it, we will add in some luxuries, like a gym membership, a housecleaner, and a real vacation. For now, we will keep living this simpler lifestyle. Our money has a more important job for the time being.

One Month

I can’t believe this little guy has already been in our lives for a whole month (why couldn’t the months I was pregnant have gone this quickly?). 

Kai is a ridiculously calm baby. The kid barely cries. He can move his head from one side to the other during tummy time and track objects. He smiled for the first time on Tuesday. He regularly sleeps for 3-hour stretches at night (last night I got 4.5 + 3.5!). He eats ALL. THE. TIME. and I am learning that true nursing on demand is so much easier than trying to watch the clock. 

At this point with E, I was in tears every day. It all seemed so hard. But now I know that babies are actually pretty easy. They just eat and sleep and poop. It’s the threenagers you’ve gotta watch out for. (It might also help that breastfeeding was much less painful this time.) 

Evan has easily adjusted to being a big brother just like he easily adjusts to everything. Ben and I are both home this summer so he is getting a lot of time with daddy. 

I think we’ll keep Kai. 

Fairest [Audiobook Review]

Title: Fairest
Author: Marissa Meyer
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Pages: 272 pages
Audio: 6.7 hours
Year: 2015
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Source: Public Library
Book Rating: 4/5
Audio Rating: 5/5


Fairest tells Levana’s story: how she becomes a wife, a stepmother, and, eventually, a queen. It takes place on Luna and prior to the events of the other books.

My Thoughts:

I usually hate these half-step series installments. This is one of my favorite series and I haven’t read any of the short stories that go along with it. But Fairest seemed a little more legit and a reputable friend recommended it.

Queen Levana is an interesting character to develop. She seems so cold and calculating in the other novels, but this one definitely gives her a little more complexity. I found myself slipping into pysch major mode and trying to diagnose her with various personality disorders. Her story is often sad, but at the same time, she makes terrible decisions that prevent readers from feeling too much empathy. This book was much more a character study than the others, which are much more fast-paced and plot-driven.

I’m now anxiously awaiting Winter’s release in November.

Audiobook Thoughts:

Rebecca Soler continues to do a fantastic job. I recommend this series a lot and I always recommend it in audio.

Welcome, Kai.

I’ve got someone to introduce you all to! Say hello to Kai.

The Stats: Kai William. 6-24-15. 9:31am. 8 lbs 5 oz. 21 in. 39+2 weeks.

The Short Birth Story: I woke up to strong contractions at midnight. I got to the birth center at 3am. My water broke at 9:15am and Kai was born in the water at 9:31am.

The Takeaway: I loved the birth center experience and would highly recommend both it and the water birth to future moms-to-be. Turns out you don’t have to give birth on your back while people scream “push!” at you if you don’t want to.

The Disclaimer: I love birth stories. I seek them out. I devourer them. I love them. I know many people have the opposite approach, so this is your warning to stop reading now.

The (VERY) Long Birth Story: I began having regular, consistent braxton hicks contractions at 37 weeks. All day, every day. I kept waiting for them to turn in to the real thing. And waiting and waiting. On Sunday, after nearly two weeks of this, I started feeling them get stronger and felt some cramping. This got stronger on Monday and stronger again on Tuesday. My mom was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, so I was hoping they’d hold off. She arrived at 4pm, we went out to dinner, and by the time I went to bed at 10:30, I knew I was going to be having a baby the following day. (Seriously, I’m going to start marketing my mom has an induction method. Forget castor oil, just buy this woman a plane ticket).

Sure enough, at midnight (early Wednesday morning), I woke up to REAL contractions. I tried to sleep through them but couldn’t. They were 8-10 minutes apart so I knew I had time, but with Evan, I never hit that 4 minute stride they want you to hit. I also knew I needed to get to the birth center 4 hours before delivering if I wanted the antibiotics (I was GBS+). At 2:30, when I was sure the weren’t going away, I called my midwife. She told me to start heading her way. We packed our bags, let my mom know she needed to watch Evan, and headed in.

When I got there, the midwife and student midwife immediately got me my first dose of IV antibiotics. They asked if I wanted a cervical check but, having arrived at the hospital at 9cm with Evan, and aware I wasn’t that far along now, I was afraid of being disappointed so I said I’d let them know later. So Ben and I relaxed in the birthing suite, watched some Mindy Project, and I think the midwives went to take a nap.

I have been told (with both kids) that I am unusually calm during labor. I mostly just want to lie back and let the contractions do the work. I know most women want to walk around and bounce on the exercise ball and change position, but I just want to sit back. I even managed to doze off, two minutes at a time, between contractions.

At 6am, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked for a cervical check. I was 5-6 cm, which is further along than they assumed based on my behavior. Things picked up quickly then. I got my second dose of antibiotics at 7:30 and by 8am, I was a “stretchy” 8-9cm.

I wanted a water birth so I got in the birthing tub then. The water was nice because I could move around easily. When I started feeling the urge to push, my midwives said to go with it and bear down if I felt the urge. They told me that they expected him to be born very shortly after my water broke. As things got very intense, I said, “I’d like my water to break now.” On the next contraction, it did. (I then asked for a million dollars, just in case I had a superpower). Three pushes later, at 9:31am, Kai was out!

They immediately put him skin to skin, letting him get all of the gunk out of his airway on his own (it’s pretty awesome to watch babies do things without intervention). I wanted to get out of the tub so Ben cut the cord and took Kai (also skin to skin). I moved to the bed and delivered the placenta. They checked my vitals and Kai’s vitals while he was still on my chest and then they mostly left us alone to bond. Kai started rooting around within that first hour so I nursed him. It was all so natural.

My now, my mom and Evan had arrived, but I didn’t want to be nursing Kai when Evan came in. Evan came in when Kai was probably two hours old. That’s when they took the baby and finally (I’m sure that’s the word the grandmothers would use) weighed and measured him. 8 lbs, 5 oz. 21 inches. I thought for sure he was going to be a 7-something pound baby since he seemed so much smaller than Evan (who was 8 lbs 11 oz).

Ben went and got us lunch (Moe’s burrito bowl) while I got stitched up (very small tear, probably just because of my birth history with Evan). Once Kai and I met all of the discharge requirements, we went home. We were home about 6 hours after Kai was born.

I had a good birth expereince with Evan, but I had a great birth experience with Kai. My birthing team was amazing. The midwives were totally hands-off, letting me labor how I chose. This works great for me, since I mostly prefer to be left alone to quietly labor (I guess I should have been a little more vocal because Kai’s head was out before anyone was even aware his birth was that imminent). I was completely involved in every decision that was made and couldn’t imagine going back to a hospital birth after this experience.

I am thrilled Kai is here to complete our family.

Organizing All the Toys

I saw Trish’s Inspiration on Monday link-up and, like many of the fun things that Trish posts about, I decided that was something I should try and it fits in well with my latest past time. I have been in the midst of a pretty hardcore decluttering of the house lately (despite being forever on the waiting list for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). I’ve donated bags and boxes of clothes and games and household goods. I’ve recycled nostalgia. I’ve tossed broken things I’m never going to fix.

But one area that I have not yet decluttered is kids toys and books. 8.5 months pregnant means I’m not in the right state of mind to get rid of kids’ stuff. Instead, I’ve just re-organized it.

I find that making sure everything has a home is the key to keeping the mess under control. Lots of baskets and bins and dedicated shelves. I like having toys and books accessible around the house instead of confined to one room (I think my room, the kitchen, and the bathrooms are the only toy-free areas). My house in the middle of a Saturday afternoon looks like a colorful war zone. But by Saturday night, we’ve generally picked it all up. And it doesn’t even take that long.

So, here is what my toy organization looks like.


My greatest creation:



EVAN’S ROOM (I actually like keeping this pretty toy-free)


And, just in case you felt bad that everything was actually picked up, this was the state of my back porch the morning I took photos.

So, what is your toy/book strategy? Do you corral them all into one room, close the door, and stay away? Do you allow the toys to take over the house? Do you take the minimalist approach and limit the amount of kids stuff that comes in the house?