Book Review: The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

A couple of weeks ago, my family went down to my in-laws’ lake house, about an hour from our home. I packed some reading, you know, in case naps went as scheduled and I ended up in the sunshine with a drink in my hand. And what do you know? I did. But I was NOT in the mood for any of the reading I had packed. It was mostly non-fiction, which I’m not opposed to, generally. But they were all a little heavy in nature, and I was feeling a little more lighthearted on our mini-vacation.

Sometimes I need a beach read. Here’s my definition of “beach read”: not difficult to read, totally enveloping, can’t put it down, captivating story, and no real-life application. I’m not reading a “beach read” so that I can apply it to my life or think about it for the rest of the week. I’m reading one so that I can dissolve into another world, another story besides my own, and lose track for a few moments (or two days, as it was with this one). So naturally, I perused my mother-in-law’s bookshelf, and spotted a Nicholas Sparks book I hadn’t read. You probably already know that he’s famous for his “beach reads” and The Longest Ride is no exception!

Because I’ve read a lot of his books, I knew that when the book began by alternating between two seemingly unrelated stories, we’d find them intertwined by the end. But even I was a little taken aback by how the stories came together at the end. I enjoyed the little surprise – especially since so many love stories follow a formula that’s fairly easy to predict. As an art history buff, I especially appreciated his nod to abstract expressionism and modernism throughout the story. And if that wasn’t enough to make me love it, one of the stories was also set right around where I live. Crazy!

Loves old and new were explored through the two “separate” stories, and I enjoyed the character exploration in each, as well as the varying points of view. It’s a creative way of the book being “third person omniscient”. If you’re looking for an easy read, full of feelings and a little historical enjoyment (without being a period piece), then you’ll love The Longest Ride. Channel your inner teen girl and you won’t be able to put it down.

Things Toddlers Say 

Happy Tuesday, y’all! We are in Georgia visiting my family for the week, so I’ve been in and out of actually writing things down. BUT here are some of the funnies that have occurred over the last week. Hope you enjoy them!


J, making friends: Hey! Wanna meet my dad? He’s over there, he has shoes, pants, and a shirt. Anyway, his name’s Ryan.
Me to Hubby: That might’ve overwhelmed the poor kid.

D, licking me: Ewwww! Hehehehe, ewwww!

Me, wiping D’s nose with his shirt: Sorry, I don’t usually do this but I don’t have any tissues.
Annie: Sometimes it’s necessary.
EK: That’s what babies are all about, Mom.
Me: Uh, yeah.


J: Look at what I made! (Above)
Me: Oh, it looks nice!
J: No! It’s a ship and it’s NOT nice. I’m gonna put some guns on it.
Me: Alright then.

J, playing with some magnatiles: Look Dad! It’s THUNDER CRAB! SMASH!

Heard from the back seat…
J: I don’t like playing family. I like playing hide and seek.

Me, on the phone: Hello? Are you still there? Can you hear me? I can’t hear her anymore.
EK: She’s probably just in the bath.

Hope everyone is having a lovely week! Comment with some funny things YOUR kids have been saying these days!!

10 Reasons Laundry Is the Worst

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

No parent is ever surprised when I tell them that laundry is my least favorite chore. They know all about the endless piles and stubborn stains and tiny clothes that shouldn’t even have to be folded. Yes, I know that lots of laundry means I should give thanks for my family and for the ample clothes we have to wear each day. But the chore part is tedious at best. But I firmly believe that laundry is the actual worst way I could spend my time. I’d rather floss my teeth. Here’s why:
1. It takes SO MUCH time. You have to retrieve it from the far reaches of your home. You have to lug it all the way to your washer – or worse – the laundromat! You have to spend ten minutes turning socks, pants, and shirts right-side out, because your family members all flip them inside out when they remove them. You have to wait for the washer to actually wash the clothes. You have to wait for it to dry. You have to wait five days before folding it, per house rules. You have to wait for it to be unfolded by the baby at least once before refolding it and putting it away. It practically takes a week just to do a single load!
2. It’s not easy to remember. After it goes into the washer, it takes so long in there that you go do something else. So after you’ve vacuumed (or, come on, watched the latest episode of This Is Us), you’ve totally forgotten you even started that load.
3. It never stops getting dirty. I don’t know about your family, but my family is constantly wearing clothes, and using towels, and sleeping in between sheets. It’s so annoying. What’s more annoying? My kids want a fresh pair of pajamas for their naps. THEIR NAPS.
4. Socks. Do I even need to explain why 45 single socks that don’t have matches is the most frustrating thing on the planet?
5. Towels. Why do they need two whole dryer cycles to actually get dry? They’re just going to get wet again when we use them.
6. What someone needs is always dirty. I promise I do a lot of laundry, but no, those pants aren’t clean. Why not? I don’t know. I washed them, but now they’re dirty again. Maybe you should stop wearing them.
7. Dry clean or hand wash items. WHY DO THEY EVEN MAKE THESE?! Better yet, why do I bother buying them?
8. The way clothes smell when they’ve been in the washer too long. It’s hard enough to remember I put them in there at all, and now you’re telling me I need to remember they’re there in less than 12 hours? Yeah, right.
9. Folding. How is it that folding, separating, and putting away is so time consuming? I put on some Netflix, and I fold. And I fold. And I fold. And I have a basket full of clean laundry delivered to almost every room in the house. And now Netflix has asked me three times “Are you still watching?” and it’s midnight… of the following day.
10. Red stuff. Mixed in the whites load. Accidentally. Every time. And now pink. EVERYTHING IS PINK.
Is it just that I’m terrible at doing laundry, or do you hate all these things, too?

 

Things Toddlers Say 

Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope this little humor post finds you well, and enjoying your summer. We are traveling a lot over the next couple of weeks (a short trip and a longer trip) so you might hear a little less from us than normal. Anyway, here are today’s funnies! Enjoy!

Me: Is there anything special you’d like me to pray for?
J: Pray for it to be okay.
Me: What do you mean okay?
J: Okay is not whining or crying or being mad or sad. It’s just okay.
Me: Okay, I can do that.

Eating waffles with syrup…
EK: J, you have to lean over the table, like this. And also what’s important is to not get it on your clothes.

An ode to his cousin…
J: My cousin does a lot of nice things. He hugs and he kisses and he watches tv. He takes a good nap and eats dinner. He hugs and he kisses. Finley is so nice and does all those nice things.

J: Get out of there, you stupid bug!
EK: Don’t say stupid.
J: Well, I said it to the bug.


EK pointing to the store-brand coconut oil: I know where that came from! The grocery store! Because I see the letters for the store!

J: I love all of you so much! After we eat and I’m at home with you guys, I’ll give you all a wild hug!

EK: J, do you want to do manners at chick-a-lay? Like, I can teach you manners like safety because there will be a lot of children there.

J, talking about his blanket: Daddy gave me this when I was firteen years old yestaday. 

D’s new words: Cars (like when he means the movies, as in pointing at the tv and saying “wan Cars”), broken (he breaks a lot of stuff, ya know?), his own name (SO CUTE) and ‘chini (because his favorite veggie is zucchini)

Now, tell me: what are your kids saying these days?!

And all I had to do was water the garden.

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This evening, the air is pure.

It’s wonderfully cool. Not warm, but cool, which here in June isn’t the norm. I’m wearing a light sweater as I water our garden, dusk finally giving way to a few minutes to think. The lightning bugs are flitting by, glowing and dimming, glowing and dimming. I’ve long-since passed the time when I would’ve chased them, but I also know that if my children were out here with me, I might make an exception.

It’s been a long day. Not in a bad way, but a lot was packed into those few hours between waking and resting. A mother’s day is often filled this way, what with feeding and cleaning and rounding up and reading and snuggling. But a moment to myself? Now that’s a treasure of a different sort.

So as I stand in our garden, smelling the tomato plants… I am in heaven. Have you ever smelled a tomato plant? The branches and leaves have this particular fresh smell, especially after it’s rained. It’s a crisp smell, and it rubs off on your skin if you brush it walking by. It smells like… well, it smells like summer.

This moment of sniffing the air, beaming with pride in our accomplished garden, I am certain that this moment is perfect. A full day followed by the hush, crickets, and breeze in my backyard garden was just what I needed to ground myself. I needed to be reminded of something wholesome, something unbroken, something real.

Our world these days is packed with images that have been altered, for better and for worse. Moving pictures, filtered images, computer-generated colors fill our vision and crowd our minds. Yet as much as I appreciate a few minutes of being “unplugged”, I know that I don’t do it nearly enough. I’m not as “hands-free” as I’d like to be. But every time I just rest in a little bit of nature (near or far) I can tell my brain resets, my soul lightens, and my heart is prepared for another day.

Things Toddlers Say 

Happy Tuesday, y’all! I hope your summer is off to a fantastic start! We have been enjoying ourselves outside, enjoying a visit from my mom, and planning a few trips. Anyway, here’s the good stuff… the funny stuff… the stuff you came here to read. Enjoy!

J with my mom…
Necie: I love you, and you are so much fun.
J: Do you know why I’m so much fun?
Necie: No, why?
J: Because I’m so handsome!
Me, upon hearing the story: And so humble!

EK, hands me my headband I wear when I run: Wanna go on a run together?
Me: Absolutely!
We ran a little, a quarter mile maybe, and then it was over. But it was cute while it lasted!

J: You remember when I locked myself outside and there was a robot?
EK: I think you’re just making that up.

J talking to our friend Tim…
J: I’m almost as old as you.
Tim: How old am I?
J: 15 months away.

J telling me about his afternoon: I went back and forf a lot today. From the couch to the floor to the couch to the floor to the couch to the floor to the couch to the floor.

J, getting out of bed way after bedtime: Hey mom?
Me: Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?
J: Hey mom? There was a creak in my room. And a scratch on my bed. But there was a creak but then I….. (me zoning out of the story)
Me: Okay, night night buddy.

My mom went to put J down for his nap…
J: Necie, when it’s time for me to wake up, I want you to still be here.
Necie: I will be here; I promise.
J: You can sleep between my parents. They will make room for you. But they only have two pillows.
Necie: Okay, buddy. Thanks!

Me in the car: Do you guys want to be my helpers when we get home?
EK: Yeah! J, let’s clean everything for mom!
Me: I meant help me cook dinner but that works too!

EK: J, did you move these flowers?!
J: No.
EK: Well those are MY hens and chicks. Don’t move them.
J: Well I just wanted to share your hens and chicks.
EK: J! Do NOT pick my hens and chicks ever again!
(Pardon the weeds, by the way.)

D: Dirt?
Me: Yeah, you’re covered in dirt.

J: I know Chinese!
Me: What Chinese words do you know?
J: I know food Chinese! (as in the names of Chinese dishes, which is true)

J: Did anyone think my burp was funny?
The room: *crickets*

 5 Reasons Your Family Should Plant a Vegetable Garden 

More and more people are getting back into growing at least some of their food – and for good reason! Here are a few reasons I think this bandwagon is one worth jumping on.

1. You’ll appreciate your food more. When you’ve planted, weeded, pruned, watered, and generally been a caretaker for your plants, you appreciate the fruits of your labor so much more. You might start understanding why produce can be expensive but is much better for you when you’ve taken a part in growing some.img_1558

2. It fosters responsibility. When a family has a garden, there’s a job for everyone. It’s good to teach kids to get their hands in the dirt, and take responsibility for the work it takes to make a garden grow. It’s also a chore to put on their chore chart, or keep them occupied for a few more minutes each day once school is out.img_8339

3. Learning about it is fun! Getting outside with your family is always a good thing! Even if your garden is in a few pots on the front porch, it’s fun to see how they grow each day, what color the flowers are, and how long it takes for each different plant to grow. My kids have enjoyed learning to identify the plants we’re growing by leaf shape, smell, and what they look like once they’re producing the veggies.img_1766

4. It’s not as hard as you think it is. Sure, if you have a hundred plants to take care of, it can seem quite daunting. But if you start small, it’s not too hard to keep a tomato plant or two and some rosemary alive. Even if you forget to water or don’t pull all the weeds, they’re likely to still be fine. Choose something easy to begin with, even if it means you won’t have much fruit the first time. Tomatoes and peppers are some of the easiest things to grow, and often bear the most fruit.IMG_1888

5. It’s nice to know what you’re eating. You know what went into the work, whether or not you used fertilizer or weed/pest killer. You know exactly what what did or didn’t touch the plant. It’s reassuring to know where it came from, how freshly it was picked, and how well it was tended.img_0898

There really aren’t down sides to having a garden. You’re going on vacation for a week? Just have someone come and water a couple of times while you’re gone. You don’t know anything about gardening? Just take the first step of buying seedlings instead of seeds; they’re more durable, and the hardest part is over. It’s already June and you think you’ve missed the window? The plants might not get as big, but I say it’s not too late to start! Try it out! What have you got to lose?