December Book Club – Hiatus!

Hello, everyone, and welcome to a new month! I will be taking a break from my book club this month, so there won’t be a new selection. However, I’ve got some exciting things planned for the new year! Because of how busy I’ve been, and because of the tragedy of losing my Mom earlier this year, I definitely let my book club posts fall to the side. I’d like to re-energize it a bit, and post more updates throughout the month, reviews, and discussions. I love reading and as a librarian, promoting books I’ve enjoyed – and literacy in general as a more big-picture goal – is important to me! So, starting in January, you can expect:

  • A more consistent schedule, with the first selection post up before the 5th and a final review post by the last day of the month
  • At least one check in throughout the month to update my progress and to see if any other readers are enjoying the book so far
  • An actual book review, talking about what I liked or didn’t like about the book, a rating, and possibly read-alikes for anyone who enjoyed the book
  • Discussion posts for more interaction, so if you’re interested you can read along!

I want to be more active on this blog, and I think that’s a great place to start. I try to read a lot anyway, so this will keep me accountable for reading as well as for blogging.

Thanks, everyone! See any book club friends in January!

Coping With Grief During the Holidays

I have always loved Christmas. It’s an opportunity for me to spoil my family and friends with gifts and love and nothing makes me happier than getting to spend time, warm and cozy, with the people most important to me. But this year is going to be different. This year I’m dreading Christmas – and Thanksgiving, and the holiday season in general – because this is going to be the first year I have to celebrate without my mom

Her absence is like a hole in my heart.

While normally I would be making preparations, looking forward to all the expected joys, and really reveling in that part of year when I make extra special time for my family, this year all I can think about is how much I want to run away and hide. Hide from my feelings, from all the other happy families, and from everything in my life that’s going to remind me that my mom isn’t here. But I know I can’t do that. Running away from my feelings isn’t going to help me, and while this first holiday season is no doubt going to be the hardest, I have to accept that from now on I’m going to have to go through the holidays without her. I’m going to have to go through every day without her.

Talking about my feelings is tough, but to be perfectly honest – it helps. Holding them in not only causes me pain, but it keeps me from ever really processing my grief. Talking about them, and about her, hurts so much, but – for me, at least, and I imagine for many others – it’s a necessary step towards accepting that she’s gone and moving forward. I’ve done quite a bit of research into healing and how to handle my grief, so I wanted to share a little of what I’ve found. If you’re also going through a tough time this holiday season – or any time, really – after the death of a loved one, know that I understand and sympathize and I hope maybe this can help you like it has helped me.

It’s Okay if You’re Not Okay

This is something I have to repeat to myself pretty frequently. I even wrote it out in my planner to look at if I need to. It’s okay if I’m not okay – in fact, it’s totally normal. Everyone experiences grief differently, and some people may be able to accept a loss sooner than others. This does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that they did not care about the person or thing they lost. This can depend on any number of factors, and it won’t help anything to compare your own experience of grief to others’. If you’re not okay, don’t try to force yourself to be. Let yourself take the time you need. Sometimes the best way to move forward and process what happened is to acknowledge that this horrible thing happened, and that it has left a mark on you.

Feel Your Feelings

Grief can manifest in a number of different ways. You might be sad or depressed, angry, anxious, or even numb. And that’s okay! Let yourself feel those feelings, you don’t have to suppress them. You might have to step away or wait for a more appropriate moment to express those feelings, but you don’t have to shut yourself off. And it’s just as important to remember to let yourself feel good emotions, too. Oftentimes we get caught up in a spiral of guilt if we’re not sad enough. I know I’ve experienced this. I’ll have a good day, or just be enjoying something, and suddenly I’ll be hit with a wave of guilt: how dare I enjoy something when my mom is gone. But this is not helpful, and denying yourself positive feelings is only going to amplify the bad. If you have a support system that you’re spending your holidays with, be grateful for them, and enjoy every moment you can. Joy, laughter, happiness – not only are these good for you on their own, they can help combat the pain from your grief.

Be Prepared

Sometimes a reminder of our lost loved one can pop up out of nowhere, but there are some days – a birthday, for instance, or a holiday like Thanksgiving – where we know ahead of time things might be rough. In that case, try to prepare yourself for those feelings. Sometimes you might want to avoid situations that would any reminders of the person you’re missing, but sometimes you can’t. In those cases, being prepared can help you and can keep those feelings from being overwhelming.

Ask For Help

I’m very lucky that I have a lot of friends and family members who are there for me if I need them. If you have someone you can ask for help, and you need it, go ahead and ask them! The holidays, as wonderful as they can be, also have a bad habit of getting stressful. Sometimes you just need a break. Don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones to help you out or to understand if you just need to go take a quiet moment to yourself.

It’s very telling how we talk about grief. We don’t “conquer” it or “beat” it. We cope with it. The last of the stages of grief is acceptance. We might not overcome our grief, but we can learn to live with it. We can learn to think of the good memories instead of the pain. I don’t know how my holidays are going to go this year, but I know I’ll spend a lot of time thinking about my mother. I miss her, and I know I need to deal with those feelings, but I don’t want that to keep me from sharing memories of her with our family and making new memories with my daughter. Good luck to everyone else struggling. I see you, and I’m right there with you.

Hello Bello Review

So as much as I wish it would hurry up and get here, we haven’t quite started potty training R yet. She’s not 2 yet, so she’s not behind, but – and I know other parents out there can commiserate with this – I’m just a little tired of diapers. Or maybe very tired. Or maybe I never want to change another diaper again. You have one poop blowout and that’s it, you’re pretty much done, am I right?

Though initially I’d planned to use cloth diapers, I let friends and family members talk me out of it and we used regular disposables (for the next baby, if there is a next baby, I do plan on being a little firmer about what I want). I can’t deny they’re much more convenient, but they’re terrible for the environment and they can be harsh on sensitive baby bums. You can’t help it sometimes, though! No shame for anyone who uses them, especially because I do, too, but I couldn’t help wonder if there were maybe some other alternatives. First, I looked for completely biodegradable options. Those can get pretty pricey, though, so while it’s definitely something I want to look at in the future, it unfortunately wasn’t in our budget right now. But, as is usually the case, I saw on ad on social media – maybe Facebook or Instagram – that was promoting Hello Bello. This is a company similar to the Honest Company, which was founded by Kristin Bell and her husband Dax Shepard. I’ll be the first to admit it – I was drawn in by the cute patterns. This was being advertised as a cute, plant-based, affordable option, so when I saw that there were Halloween patterns available, I felt like I might as well check it out! (Note: I am not receiving any form of compensation for this post and we bought the diapers with our own money to use for our baby. These are my own opinions and experiences, and I am not affiliated with the company in any way. Just wanted to write an independent review for other interested parents.)

photo by me | 4 diaper patterns we got

Overall Quality: The diapers seem well-made and very absorbent. They’re soft and they seem comfortable on baby – she hasn’t had any negative reactions to them and they fit her well (in size 4). The website advertises them as “hypoallergenic, eco-friendly, and effective” and I don’t have any reason to argue with that (not really, anyway). I like that the side tabs are sturdy. If R is wriggling around, I’ve torn a few off both Pampers and Luvs. Overall, I’ve been happy with the quality of the diapers! The bundle also includes wipes, and I would rate those a little lower. They’re not bad wipes, but they’re not very wet and I feel like they don’t get as much as other brands I’ve used. However, they are labelled as 99% water and it’s not enough of an issue for me to stop using them!

Absorbency: I’ve been very happy with how these have worked! A little disclaimer: my baby hates being dirty so she tells us when she’s pooped and a lot of times when she pees, so she gets changed pretty quickly (sometimes she tries to do it herself, which is… great that she’s got an independent streak but not great for keeping her clean and keeping her from wasting wipes). However, we’ve never had any leaks and she wears them overnight with no problems. As a note: N-2 has a wetness indicator, but the bigger sizes do not. This is not a concern for me, but I know it might matter to some parents.

Eco-Friendliness: The diapers themselves are not biodegradable (as far as I’m aware), but they are marketed as:
-no lotion, fragrance, phthalates, or latex
-plant-derived absorbent core liner
-chlorine-free processing
-sustainably harvested fluff pulp
There is not a lot of other information, but that is according to their website. However, I do have to give a lower rating for their packaging. It’s very cute, but in the bundle you can choose 7 different patterns and they are all packaged separately in a plastic pack, so there is more waste than there really needs to be. While these may be better than other brands, it’s not what I would choose if eco-friendliness is your only concern.

Affordability: A bundle costs $65 (this includes free shipping). For size 4, that’s 168 diapers (7 patterns, 24 of each) and each bundle also includes 4 packs of wipes with 60 wipes each. I would prefer more wipes, which we definitely ran out of before diapers, but we had wipes on hand already so that didn’t really cost us extra. As a comparison, on Walmart’s website a 150 box of Pampers swaddlers is $43.98. Honest Company bundles are normally $79.95 (if you’re a subscriber, it’s marked at $96.45 if you just want to buy a one-time bundle). So overall I feel like Hello Bello is quite reasonably priced! There are definitely cheaper options, so this would not be my suggestion if budget is your only concern, but for what you get (plant-based, cute trendy patterns) this is not a bad deal at all. For your first bundle, you also get a free extra product (we got shampoo), and there are codes that cuts the price to $50 for your first bundle, so if you want to try it out, I think that’s a really nice price.

Convenience: A big benefit is having a subscription service that will auto ship diapers right to your door. You can set it to send a bundle whenever you want (4 weeks, for example). We had a few diapers left so I set our shipping to five weeks and that worked out very well. The next box is on the way and I still have enough diapers left that I know we won’t run out. I think 4 weeks is the recommended time frame. It does send you a notice to let you know that they’re going to charge you, so if you need to cancel you’ll be able to. I have gotten a second box, so I haven’t cancelled yet, but according to the website it’s easy to do by phone or online! I love companies that let you cancel online, if you make me call to cancel there is 100% chance I am never subscribing again (looking at you Gwynnie Bee). The site is easy to use, as well, and all in all a good shopping experience.

Cuteness: Finally, the meat and potatoes of the post! Ha ha, sorry. But this is how they got me! Do I need diapers with cute little sloths on my baby’s bottom? Absolutely not. Did I get them anyway? You better believe I did. All their marketing is super cute – the ads, the website, even the packaging. In addition to that – and what I know you all want to know about! – the designs on the diapers themselves are very cute. There is not a whole lot of variety, but I liked all the designs. Right now, there are really cute winter patterns, so if you’re interested in those at all it’s a great time to sign up. You can see in the picture above what the designs look like on the diapers.

Well that’s all! I hope this review was helpful to you. Again, I was looking for a more eco-friendly option and got suckered in by cuteness, so be aware. There are lots of options out there for more sustainable disposable diapers, and I’d like to eventually use one of those brands. Or, even better, no diapers! I don’t care how hard people say potty training is, I am ready.

Has anyone else used Hello Bello? Are there other diapers you prefer? Am I completely ridiculous for letting the cuteness tempt me like that (the answer is yes, you don’t have to tell me)? Let me know what you think!

November Book Club!

This month, I am so excited about the book club choice. This is a book I’ve been waiting for ever since I heard it was coming out, and you can be sure I preordered it so I’d have it waiting for me after work on the day of release! For November, I have chosen…

The Stareless Sea by Erin Morgenstern!

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

I love this sort of book – literary braided with the fantastical – and I have so excited to get my hands on this. Now, contrary to my usual tendencies, I haven’t read any reviews. I want to go into this with a totally blank slate. I don’t want to know anything about it – I want it to be a completely fresh experience.

You might know Erin Morgenstern from her first book, The Night Circus, which is one of my favorite books. Probably one of my top twenty books of all time, to be honest.

If you read The Starless Sea let me know what you thought! I’ll be posting updates on my Goodreads as I read.

9 Ways to Get Motivated and Go to the Gym

If you’re anything like me, you always intend to work out a little more, but because of no motivation, or no time (or let’s be honest, a very demanding kid), it never seems to actually happen. I want to exercise more than I do – sometimes walking to and from my car to go to work is all I manage – but I always find it hard to actually make that happen. Recently, my husband and I have made a plan to start eating healthier and to get ourselves back into shape. Even if the new shape is still mostly the same as the old one, a little bit of exercise is better than none! The benefits of exercise are huge, no matter what your current fitness level is. Not everyone has a lot of time to devote to working out or going to the gym, and everyone has their own limitations for what they can or cannot do, but finding an exercise program that’s right for you is worth it.

If you’re like me, though, that’s not quite as easy as it sounds. So here a few tips I have to help you – and myself! – try to fit in a trip to the gym (or just a workout in your living room).

9 Ways to Get Motivated


This seems so simple when you think about it, but this is what I struggle with most! If I don’t make exercise a priority, I fall behind before I’ve even started. Be intentional with your exercise plan, and make it a priority. If you don’t treat it as something important to do, it’s much easier to skip it or put it off.

Tip: There’s a difference between making something a priority and letting it become so stressful it’s unsustainable! Commit to it, but stay flexible.

Be Consistent

One thing that helps me is choosing a specific time to exercise. If I have a specific time set aside to work out, it becomes a little easier to build that habit. Habits are very powerful tools, and if you can get yourself into the mindset of “This is when I exercise,” then it becomes a little easier to find that time and show up for yourself every week. It might start out pretty tough, but after awhile, if you stay consistent, you’ll find that it has just become another part of your routine. However, it’s also important to remember that:

Setbacks Don’t Mean Failure

If you try your best and for whatever reason – maybe because you’re just not feeling up to it, or maybe for reasons totally beyond your control – you just can’t make it to the gym (or in my case in front of my TV to play Just Dance), don’t beat yourself up about it! This is a tendency I’ve noticed in myself. If one little thing goes wrong, then it feels like all my hard work was for nothing and sometimes I just give up. Don’t! Remember that you’re doing this for yourself, and there’s no hard rules. If you can’t work out one week, do it next week. You can always pick right back up when you’re feeling better or when you have more time. It’s perfectly normal to have a few setbacks now and then, but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. In fact, it’s a great opportunity to recommit! Give yourself a break, enjoy the rest if you need it, and then get right back at it.

Reward Yourself

When you do push past those setbacks, though, rewarding yourself for your hard work can be a great motivator. If you’ve been consistently getting all your work outs in, and you’ve really pushed yourself, be proud! Let yourself bask in your accomplishments. Give yourself a little happy for doing well. This can be a cheat day where you eat that bag of M&M’s you’ve been saving (speaking from personal experience here), or maybe a trip to the mall, or maybe something as simple as a really pretty sticker on your work-out planner or bujo spread (again, speaking from personal experience here). If you have something to look forward to, that you know you’ll get if you keeping working out, it might be a little easier to keep going!

Cute Clothes

I don’t know about you, but if I have a cute new outfit I’m always looking for an excuse to wear it. The same thing applies to working out. If you have work out clothes, then just putting them on – again, being consistent is so important! – can get you in the mood to work out. And looking cute is, at least in my opinion, something of its own reward.

Tip: You don’t need to splurge for cute clothes! I know that Lululemon and Fabletics are nice, but you don’t need an aspirational brand unless it’s what works for you and your budget. There are lots of great options that are very cute and very budget friendly.

Work Out Buddy

Some people can succeed only accountable to themselves, but I am not one of them. When I’m the only person overseeing my work, I’m going to let myself slide every time. What helps me is having a friend to work out with. We can hold each other accountable, support each other, and make going to the gym a little more fun. When I was in college two friends and I went swimming every Monday night. It was a good workout and it was a lot of fun! (I do love swimming, though, so that helped.) I started looking forward to Monday, because not only was I getting some exercise I was getting to hang out with two great friends. If you can, whether it’s a significant other or sibling or friend or whoever, having a work out buddy is a great way to keep yourself – keep both of you! – on track.

Find Something You Enjoy

Exercising can often feel like a chore. This is doubly so when you’re doing something you don’t enjoy. I don’t like running or jogging, so trying to force myself to get out to do that feels almost impossible. Even when a friend and I were doing the Couch-to-5K system, it was so difficult to keep going! I hated it! It’s much, much easier to keep exercising when you’re doing something you like. This can be yoga, swimming, cycling, hiking, dancing, spin class… There are lots of options out there, you just need to find what works for you! If you live in an area without a lot of gyms or health clubs, then I would suggest looking for different exercise routines on YouTube. If you can find somebody fun to watch, and work outs that you enjoy, it can help exercising feel like less of a chore.

Set Goals

Some people exercise to train for a marathon, or to get into better shape – and for things like that, it’s easy to set measurable goals. Even if you’re just doing it for general, non-specific health reasons, having goals can really help keep you motivated. (And remember when I said reward yourself? Meeting those goals can be a great benchmark for those rewards!) Maybe your goal is to exercise twice every week, or go for a brisk walk 30 minutes every day. One of my goals is to walk 10,000 steps every day at work. Do I meet it everyday? No. But having that goal always pushes me to try a little harder than I would have otherwise! You can make flexible goals that work for you, and don’t be afraid to reassess to make sure you’re still on the right track.

Just Get There

Sometimes, no matter what your goals are, no matter what rewards are waiting, no matter what you’ve done… You may just not have the energy to work out at all. And if you need to take a day off, remember that that’s okay! But one thing you can do, is just get there. Put on your workout clothes, or put on that workout video, or just get to the gym. Just get there, whatever that means for you. You might find that you feel like doing more than you thought you did! And if not, then you can be proud of yourself for getting there at all. Sometimes just showing up is enough, and if you keep showing up, you might find you’ll feel like working out after all.

So those are my 9 tips to help you get motivated! I’m trying to follow them myself, because I really want to get back into the habit of exercising! I’ve tried to make these tips as universal as possible, so no matter your situation I hope you can find something that works for you! I know that a lot of people want to exercise to lose weight, which is great if that’s what you want, but I also believe that exercise is a good habit to get into even if you have no interest whatsoever in losing weight.

If any of these tips work for you let me know! Or, what does work for you? Share your own tips in the comments!

October Book Club Pick!

Since October is when you can really start to feel the crisp bite of fall, and because it’s Halloween, I wanted to choose a ~spookier~ read. Don’t worry – nothing too scary! But for this month I have chosen a classic from a titan of American literature: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I really like Jackson’s work – you’re probably at least familiar with her short story The Lottery.”

Shirley Jackson’s beloved gothic tale of a peculiar girl named Merricat and her family’s dark secret

Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis,We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.

There was also a movie put out recently, but I haven’t seen it! It might be fun to watch it with the book, though, right?

Keep an eye out for my review of September’s book soon! I’m trying to be really thorough and write up a really good review, so it has taken me longer than I expected.

Cute Cats, Cats, Cats Everywhere!

Sleepy Cat Dewey

So, if you follow me on instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I love my cats. Yes, I love my kid – of course I do! – but she’s harder to photograph, and cats won’t ever complain about having their pictures online. We have three adorable kitties, so now it’s time to say hello! (I am not talented enough to stage photos with these ornery little guys, so these photos are all candid lol)

The Grumpy One

Cute lil blep
Nar Nar wouldn’t cooperate with my letter board lol

Nar Nar is my cat, the one who hates everyone else but absolutely adores me. She’s about seven years old, and she is fluffy and fat. I love her very much, naturally, but my husband likes to jokingly disparage her. I got her because some friends of ours found her as a kitten in the parking lot of their apartment complex, tiny and alone. They called and asked if I wanted a cat and, well… How could I say no?! We think she might be part Main Coon, because of how she looks. Her favorite activities are lumping and grumping. She is very wary of the baby – not unfriendly or mean, but she definitely doesn’t tolerate any impromptu hugs. The cutest thing is that my daughter can say “Nar Nar” so she’ll just go around going “Meow” and “Nar Nar” and pointing at the cats!

The Friendly One

Crowley on his “throne”

Crowley is a cat that my husband fell in love with one day at the pet store. We were buying food for our other cat – Nar Nar – and wandered by a display the local humane society had at PetCo. Crowley was a little kitten and as soon as he saw us he started going on and on with the cutest, most pitiful little meows. He followed us as we walked by, putting his little paws up on the glass. We hadn’t planned on another cat, but we were worried Nar Nar might be lonely, and he was just so, so cute! So we wound up taking him home and it turned out to be a great decision. He is such a sweet, handsome boy, always really friendly and loving.

The Rambunctious One

Dewey protecting my book bag

Our third kitty is named Dewey, and we definitely didn’t plan on him. One day last winter he wandered into the library where I work, trying to get out of the cold. The patron he came in behind said that he’d been following for a few blocks, so I’m not sure where he came from, but he was thin with no collar and we never found any owner, so I think he must have been a stray. They were going to call the animal shelter, but I thought well, I could certainly give him a good home! Some of the other staff suggested “Dewey” for his name, and it wound up sticking. He is a troublemaker, and so full of energy. Crowley gets along with him, but Nar Nar was not impressed. My daughter loves Dewey so much – they’ve kind of grown up together, and it’s really cute when she pets him.

We love our pets, and I’m so glad that we’re able to give them all a good home! One day my husband wants to get a dog, too, but right now with three cats, an 18 month old, and a teeny tiny yard it just isn’t the right time. I love dogs, and I grew up with dogs, but I think I’m more of a cat person. That’s just me!

Anyone else have any super cute pets to share? I love animals, and hearing other people’s adorable animals stories is so great! Leave a comment with a pic or a story of your furry friend! (And before anyone asks, we have a cat door that goes to our garage that can lock, and that’s where we keep the litter boxes. Baby can’t get in there!)