A WALK IN THE WOODS (not by Bill Bryson)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

This last Wednesday, the kids had no school, and for those of you that are real parents like Marty and I, will admit that we were fully prepared to have a day full of mild chaos, the occasional bickering and arguing between kids over "who looked at who first with the wrong facial expression", every dish in the house dirtied, and not being able to walk through the main living areas of our house from being bombarded with toys. Not always, but usually, those days can be exhausting. Especially when the weather outside isn't the greatest and we're all cooped up indoors. 
On snow days, the kids say "YAY!" and we say "....yaaaaaay."

With the new year, one of my resolutions was to have three things on my schedule each month, and having a 'family day' where we take the kids to do something away from the house is one of them. Would you look at me, staying true to my resolutions three months in?! (gives self high five). So, with a day of no school...perfect day for family day. We decided to go walking on trails and have a picnic where Marty used to work in his Neature Walk Glory Days (where we met when we worked together over a decade ago) or to the water park if the weather was crappy. I called the water park to make sure our backup plan would work and their hours were 4pm-9pm! What the hell kind of inconvenient hours is that?? No way that would work. So, I was praying that the weather would play in our favor, or we would be looking at said day described above. The DAY BEFORE our scheduled family day, I had to drive out of town for a doctor's appointment in the worst. weather. ever. The snow flakes were literally the size of cotton balls and I thought that all hope for a day outdoors was lost, until Marty messaged me from home that the sun was shining! Thank. God. 

The next day, I packed all of us a lunch (sandwiches for the guys, something puréed for Sam, and a salad for me. The two older kids made other plans and skipped out on us. Teens...) and we loaded up and told the kids it was time to get dressed so we could leave for the trails. If you're a parent you also know that it's in the best interest for your sanity to keep such things to yourself until the very last minute to avoid A) having to tell them if there is some unexpected reason that you have to cancel plans and B) because they will hound the ever-living shit out of you until you leave. We loaded everyone up to go, but before we took off, Marty had to explain to the kids that they could stop trying to find sticks around the yard to take with us, because there would already be sticks in the woods. Apparently they were unaware of this. Life lessons. 

When we got to the park, we got lucky and the nature center was opened. It has several different taxidermy animals, fish, birds, etc on display that the kids could look at and some areas that allow them to feel fur, skeletons, turtle shells and such. It's a nice little center and has tons of different things for them to look at and kept the kids entertain for awhile. Not quite as long as Marty and the nature guy that was working gabbed about nature things, but close enough. While we were in the center, Marty and I saw my old boss (the man that introduced us) working outside, so after we left the center we stopped to say hello. It'd been about ten years since we'd seen him, and he hadn't learned that we were together or had Sam, so that was such a nice little unexpected reunion. We were both very happy to see him. 
And Clete, if you're reading this (which, if I know you like I think I do, you haven't gotten on a computer since you retired, let alone read a blog!) we both agreed that you don't look like you've aged a day since we last saw you. Lookin' good, sir!

Despite the fact that it was chilly outside, the kids ran straight for the playground when we go to the shelter house. My kids are obsessed with playgrounds (and nerf guns). I could just make every 'family day' at a school's playground and they would be happy. Marty got a good fire going in the fireplace while I took Sam on the swings. Sam didn't know whether to freak out with excitement or lay his head on my shoulder and attempt to sing himself to sleep, so he did both simultaneously. It was amazing to see such talent come from an eight month old, to be honest, considering that he proved to be more capable of multitasking than this guy that is all over the internet right now

Before we headed off into the woods, we decided to eat lunch first. We got everything out of the cooler and handed everyone their items, and shared fruits, veggies and healthy things and I was feeling very proud of myself for being organized and gaining some bonus brownie points in the Mom department, when I realized that I forgot a fork for my salad. This isn't like when you prefer to eat your pizza with a fork, but are okay to pick it up and eat it by hand when none are available. I mean, soup would have been easier to have at this point because then I could have atleast drank it. Although the thought of making myself some chopsticks out of twigs did cross my mind (I only didn't do this because I reminded myself that I don't know how to eat with chop sticks), I was left with the options of eating with my fingers or using Sam's spoon. I'm embarrassed to admit that I tried the spoon, but I ended up eating a salad (with dressing!) with my hands and I know for a fact that I had more food on my face and hands than any of the children did and I didn't even care. 

As soon as we stepped foot on the trails, Sam (who I was packing in one of those baby back pack thingies) fell asleep. About half way through the walk, I couldn't decide if the dead weight of this 20lb sleeping baby was worse than if he was awake and squirming. By the end, my shoulder blades felt like they were connected to my ass. But the trail was so nice. It felt amazing to be outside in nature and getting fresh air after being cooped up so long with new baby and winter. The kids climbed around and got dirty, we found trees that the beavers had been munching on, a bald eagle soared through the woods, Marty spotted the first wild flowers poking up through the dead leaves. It was just great. After we reached the end of the trail, and Marty and I were hit with the realization of the shape we're in, we sat around for a bit while the kids climbed all over the picnic tables, still left with levels of energy that we only dream of having. We packed up and drove home with a car full of two exhausted parents, a rested baby and two kids who looked like they just got done eating dirt and it was perfect. 

We are just as guilty as other parents of letting daily schedules, work, and chores get in the way of what's important sometimes, and it's sooooo easy to fall into that. There are so many ways to find time together, even if for only a few hours one day a month and not spending a dime. It's not always easy to find the time or plan something that works for everyone each time, but you'll always be glad you did it. These are the things your kids will remember that you did with them over their toys and videos games. Sometimes, you just need that off day to spice things up, away from your normal life, to keep you all grounded yet on your toes. 

Our walk in the woods wasn't perfect...the kids didn't listen a couple of times and I ate a chopped salad with my hands for crying out loud, but it was a perfect day for me. It brought back so many memories of Marty and I, seeing an old friend and familiar place, and bringing our kids to the place where our history began.... money can't buy days like these and nothing in this life means as much to me as these people that I call mine. 

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Also, today marks one year ago that we announced to our loved ones that we were expecting another boy! And I just can't believe how fast time is flying by, you guys... 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

A few weeks ago Marty’s mom came to visit and, bless her soul, she brought me a bag of books! I was currently reading Behind Closed Doors, but knew that this one was going to be next as soon as I saw it. I’ve been on a mystery/thriller/suspense kick lately and after I read the description of this book, I couldn’t wait to read it.

Let’s get the rundown of it, shall we?

Oh, and please take a moment to appreciate this scene…. Sometimes as parents, getting away to read, if only for 5 minutes or just long enough to get into a comfortable position, that means hiding away in an empty kids’ room and hanging out on an Angry Birds bed with the entire tub of mixed nuts.
*Disclaimer: I was only okay with laying here because I had just washed everyone’s bedsheets, so I was confident with the cleanliness of the situation. You never know what you might be getting into with kids… 
BY: Fiona Barton

Published: April 24th 2016 by AntiStar
Genres: mystery, fiction, crime, thriller, suspense
Pages: 324
Format: Hardcover
Source: Given to be my a family member
Buy: Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen...But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore. There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage. The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…”

First Impressions/Cover? (Because we judge the covers even though we’re ‘not supposed to’)
This was one of the books in the bag that I was immediately drawn to the cover. I may have been a little biased since, as I said before, that I was reading Behind Closed Doors (and loving it) and that cover felt very similar….which, we all know has absolutely nothing to do the similarities of the stories, but hey….not everything we do has to make sense.

How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately or did it take you awhile to get into it? How did you feel reading it - amused, sad, confused, bored...? 
I got into this book from. the. very. first. page. and that is always awesome. This book had me on the edge of my seat from the get-go up until the very end. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that started that build up so early and really hung onto it throughout the entire book. Very suspenseful.  

What characters did you like best from the book? Why? 
I didn’t have a favorite character in this book. I felt I leaned more toward Jean’s character, like I got to know who she was more than the others, but didn’t favorite her. However, I will say that my opinion of her changed throughout the book. I gradually came to terms with the fact that I think she was borderline crazy. The author did a great job of really introducing you to each character though, leaving sort of a mystery behind each one.

Favorite/Insightful passages?
“The simple lies are the hardest, funnily enough. The big ones seem to just fall off the tongue.” – Jean

Was the ending satisfying (no spoilers)? 
I’m just going to be honest and say that when it comes to endings, I’m hard to please. Perhaps too much build up makes endings fall flat for me, or perhaps it’s because I have closed books before and just been so in awe that I just spend a few seconds with the closed book in my lap, blown away by how good it was and asking myself how I’m going to continue living my life and compare every book thereafter to it.
This book ending fell flat for me. I mean, I got the closure I needed but just wasn’t ‘wowed’ like I was for the entire rest of the book. I keep asking myself what kind of ending it was that I was hoping for, and I’m not sure what that would be. I felt like it all built up to the very last pages and then I was like “….that’s it?”

If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? 
Not really a question…but when reading the book, I saw her portrait on the back, and thought “Whoa….this looks like a sweet lady that would bake me some cookies, not write about  _____________.”  
So maybe I would ask her where her inspiration came from.

Final Thoughts:
I rated this book 4 starts on Goodreads, only because of the ending.
Despite my thoughts on the ending, I would definitely recommend it to anyone that enjoys suspense and mysteries. I actually enjoyed this book as, if not more than Behind Closed Doors (which I will be leaving a review on soon). Even if the ending really is a dud, the rest of the book is well worth the read, and I will be looking out for more of Fiona Barton’s books

What's next? 

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