January Reads

I read fifteen books in January for a total of 5024 pages. I started off the month by finishing reading Rise Up From the Embers by Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons to the boys for their bedtime story. I gave it four stars. It was a good conclusion to the duology. It took forever to finish reading it because I was in the car accident and then got sick and couldn’t read aloud for a couple months. After that I read Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas. I gave it five stars. I have a love/hate relationship with the Throne of Glass series. This book came firmly down on the love side. Next I read Pandora Gets Jealous by Carolyn Hennesy. I gave it five stars. It was quite a cute take on the Pandora’s Box myth. I won’t be continuing with the series, though. Maybe in a few years to read it to the little kids when they are a bit older.

My next book was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I gave it five stars. That’s the most thought-provoking book I’ve read in a long time. After that I read Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales. I gave it two stars. That book had so many things wrong with it. The writing was just not that good. Then I read The Bitter Taste of Betrayal by CeeCee James. I gave it four stars. It was a well written cozy mystery, but the big reveal came pretty much out of left field and I didn’t really like that.

After that I read One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus. I gave it five stars, again. It was a re-read because I chose it for our January book club book. I read it about nine months ago and I really think it was even better the second time knowing what was going to happen. Next I finished reading The Book of Mormon which of course is five stars. I read one chapter a day and it took me about 2/3 of a year to complete it. Then I read Looking for Alaska by John Green. I gave it five stars, again, as well. It was another re-read because it was the online banned books book club pick for January. It had been almost nine years since I last read it so there was a lot I had forgotten. I always enjoy John Green’s books.

My next book was Happy Doomsday by David Sosnowski. I gave it three stars. It started out so good, but then the last quarter it just kind of got lost. It was really too bad since it had such great potential. Then I read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. I gave it five stars. I’ve been meaning to read it for years and finally did because I was invited to do a Buddy Read of the series and I can’t figure out what took me so long. I should’ve known it would be amazing since the author is the wife of Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine author) who was the roommate of John Green in college and truly any book by an author in John Green’s orbit is an excellent one. The writing style was so unique and beautiful I could barely put it down. After that I read Madly, Deeply by Alan Rickman. I gave it five stars. I already loved Alan Rickman and now I love him even more because he was a bullet journaler. The book is an edited version of his bullet journal.

My next book was Beyond the Wand by Tom Felton. I gave it five stars. That book is a Harry Potter fan’s dream. So much Potter awesomeness from the guy who played Draco. After that I read An American Princess by Annejet van der Zijl and translated by Michele Hutchison. I gave it four stars. It’s a very engaging biography about a very fascinating woman who literally became a princess (for a while at least). My final book of the month was Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi. I gave it five stars. This book is a novella in the Shatter Me series. I’m truly looking forward to finishing that series over the next few weeks. Such good books so far.

This was my best reading month in a long time with lots of hits, mostly five star ones, and only a couple misses. I also read way more books than I normally do. It was just a great reading month all around!

My favorite book of the month: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

My least favorite book of the month: Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales

Number of 5 Star Books: 10
Number of 4 Star Books: 3
Number of 3 Star Books: 1
Number of 2 Star Books: 1
Number of 1 Star Books: 0

15/100 books read for my goal of the year

I read half the books on my January TBR, so that left Sisters of the Snake, Aries, Murder on the Hill, Darling Girl, Live Wire, and Goblet of Fire to roll over to February. I added the next Throne of Glass book, Queen of Shadows, to my list as well as The Westing Game (which has been requested as the boys’ next bedtime story) and One of Us Is Next and A Rover’s Story. I added Just Mercy since it’s my online book club’s February pick and Cinder because it’s my in person book club book this month. That brought me up to twelve books, same as I had on my January TBR. And then, because I’ve fallen in love with the Shatter Me series, I added the other eight of those books. And, honestly, those are probably going to be the ones I read first. No chance I’ll get all twenty books read, but I should be able to get through a good chunk of them during the month of February.

Storytime at the Library

Ani took Joel to his very first storytime at the library a few weeks ago while I was sick. He had such a great time and wanted to go back right away.

He really loved the movement and songs and getting to be around other kids (he really latched onto a set of twins like he just knew they were like him).

He got to play with the dress-up box (funny… the boys all gravitated to the dress-up stuff and the girls went for the building blocks).

He spent some time looking at books. He also singlehandedly caused a falling down epidemic. He likes to run and then fall (on purpose). Of course the other toddlers thought that looked like lots of fun and so joined him in his antics.

After storytime Ani took him over to the books part of the library and he got to play with some toys and his favorite thing…

The computer. He had a ball playing an alphabet game on the library’s computer. If it’s electronic Joel wants to play with it. He’s been back to storytime a few times since and it’s always so much fun!

Joel’s Christmas Present

Joel’s Christmas present was seriously the coolest one I’ve ever put together. He’s been begging to go to school lately. His siblings have so much fun at school after all. So I put together preschool in a box for him.

I made eight tot books from 1+1+1=1. I made a tot book once when Fritz was a toddler and it was really fun. One of the tot books I made was monster fun. My favorite activity in this one is velcroing shapes onto the monsters head like a hat.

I made tot books about World World, dinosaurs, farms, and ponds. Each one has activities like comparing sizes, coloring, the alphabet, spelling his name, and so much more.

I also made lapbooks based on the books The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?

I made a Spell My Name file folder activity for him. The letters in his name velcro onto squares for him to practice spelling his name.

I put the tot books and three Mother Could packets in a scrapbook paper bin. I added The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? board books. I also added a set of alphabet puzzles, beeswax crayons, some make a face sticker sheets, and a Doughriffic build a snowman set.

Then I bought some rice from Ani and put it in a bin with lots of fun things added for him to play with it. There are ball scoops, an ice cream scoop, silicone cupcake liners, tweezers, a little cup, plastic coins, and multicolored gems.

The rice is so pretty!

To finish out his present, I got a really cool toddler painting set and eight dotters. He absolutely loves everything and is having so much fun with it.

Zoo Lights

We got the kids (plus Haley and Ani) annual passes to the zoo this year (my parents got passes too). They were on a great sale making them totally worth it.

We figure Haley, Ani, and my parents can take a kid or two at a time so it won’t always be all of us going together (which can be kind of crazy). I suspect Joel will be making a lot of zoo trips between now and when school lets out.

The last time we went to the zoo was while the kids were still in foster care after their good-bye visit with their bio mom. They were just 19 months to 5 years old then!

We used our new passes to the zoo on New Year’s Eve for the Zoo Lights celebration (no jackets even after dark… gotta love winter in Texas). Six kids in the dark in a place we’ve only been a couple times before is super nuts even with four adults and one marginally helpful teen.

They ran around, they danced, they climbed on the lions. They had so much fun. Even when it’s hard to take all of them places and we’re constantly counting to six just to be sure they are all where we expect them to be, it’s totally worth it to see happy their faces and making memories with them.

Texas State Aquarium

While on vacation we went to the Texas State Aquarium. We rented two double strollers. That was one of the smartest things we’ve ever done.

We also checked out a sensory kit for Noah. By the end of the first exhibit he was completely overwhelmed. The headphones instantly calmed him down and made the rest of the visit quite pleasant for him.

All the kids really liked the dolphins. Though when we asked them what their favorite parts were Zeke said walking next to me, Mayci said riding on the escalator, and Anthony said riding in the elevator.

So, basically, we spent over $250 for the kids to like normal, everyday things the most. At least Noah liked the fish. He kept waving to them and saying “Hi, fish!”

December Reads

I read 11 books in December. Ten were regular books for a total of 3,167 pages. The eleventh book was a graphic novel. My first book of the month was The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I gave it five stars. I apparently read it once before, about a decade or so ago, but I didn’t remember it at all. My second book was The Pact by Jodi Picoult. I gave it three stars. I read it for an on-line banned/challenged book group. Reading this book I learned that Jodi Picoult is the Colleen Hoover of the 90s.

After that I read 1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Revolution, Rebellion, and Change. I gave it five stars. It was quite fascinating reading the essays about a variety of things that happened that one single year that changed the course of history. Next I read The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. I gave it four stars. It was quite enjoyable, especially since I do like the fake dating trope.

My next book was Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan. I gave it five stars. I groaned when I discovered my book group book was historical fiction about CS Lewis and the Narnia series so it was a pleasant surprise that I enjoyed it so much. Then I read Lost and Found by Amy Shojai. I gave it three stars. It was a debut book for the author (at least her debut writing fiction… she had previously written quite a lot of non-fiction) and it showed. After that I read Maus by Art Spiegelman. I gave it four stars. It was the graphic novel I read. I like Holocaust survivor stories and it was quite interesting reading on in comic book form.

Then I read Banana Peels on the Tracks by Jason Lockwood. I gave it two stars. The condescension and superiority that oozed from the author made it a bit of an unpleasant read. After that I read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. I gave it two stars. How this book got made into a movie I will never know. There was no character development and the main character was incredibly unlikable. My next book was Marriage Can Be Murder by Susan Santangelo. I gave it three stars. It was a generic mediocre cozy mystery. I finished the month off with a bang when I read my second favorite book of the year, Like a Sister by Kellye Garret. I gave it five stars. Twists, turns, an end I didn’t see coming plus humor just when needed to diffuse the tension. Just what I needed after such a so-so reading month.

My favorite book of the month: Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett

My least favorite book of the month: Banana Peels on the Tracks by Jason Lockwood

Number of 5 Star Books: 4
Number of 4 Star Books: 2
Number of 3 Star Books: 3
Number of 2 Star Books: 2
Number of 1 Star Books: 0

116/100 books read for my goal of the year (plus 4 graphic novels)

I read a lot of the books on my December TBR so I only rolled over seven books to my January TBR. Then I added One of Us is Lying (reread for my in-person book club), Looking for Alaska (another reread, this one for my on-line book club), and Sisters of the Snake, Darling Girl, and Live Wire for my 2023 Grim Readers BINGO board. My January TBR is a very doable even dozen.

December Owlcrate

Honestly every month Owlcrate seems to get even better. The books and dust jackets are just amazing and the stuff included in the box are such high quality and useful things. I just love Owlcrate.

This month we got this hanging thing with three pouches to put stuff in. I kept that because I really like anything I can put other things in.

These paper these bookmarks were made of just felt really nice. Ani took them home because I have about a bazillion bookmarks already.

Of course I kept the luggage tag pin. I love my luggage tag pin collection. I also kept the metal straws because Ani and Haley already have bazillion metal straws. They are heart shaped which makes them extra fun.

Ani took home these salt and pepper shakers. They are getting a lot of use. Salt and pepper shakers are one of those things you don’t realize just how much you need them until you haven’t had them and get them.

This crescent moon shaped tea bag holder and tea bag for putting in loose tea is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Haley claimed that. She drinks a lot of tea so it’s perfect for her.

The book this month is The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford. As always it sounds really good. Check out the cover of the book. How gorgeous is that?

The inside of the dust jacket is absolutely gorgeous, too. (You’d think Nicky is looking at the dust jacket, but he’s actually looking at Haley who is by far his favorite sibling.)


At the dance showcase in May I was surprised to see the adult dance classes are not for young adults who have been dancing and want to keep on dancing. They are for adults who want to dance, with or without experience.

So in August I started taking jazz classes once a week with my mom and daughter. None of us had ever taken dance before. The ladies in the class, and the instructor (who always says have fun and don’t do more than you can), have made it fun.

I’ve had a rough fall. First I was rear-ended by stupid texting girl. This left me with a back/shoulder/neck injury. Then I got RSV followed by bronchitis followed by pneumonia. Through it all I kept going to class as much as I could.

Just under a month ago I coughed so hard I pulled my ligaments in my back (yay EDS) and then just when they were getting better I sneezed several times in a row and reinjured myself just days before the winter showcase. I was determined to dance anyway – I could make it through two minutes – so armed with several medications and a heating pad I did indeed get up on that stage and dance.

We danced to Celebration by Kool and the Gang and we wore these outlandish costumes (that, honestly, looked really good up on the stage under the lights). I am so proud of myself for pushing through (and once again I am healing well). Tey are planning a tea party theme for the spring show. I’m hoping that means our dances will be all related to Alice in Wonderland!