Love Story Book Review

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I was so excited that I got the chance to read Karen Kingsbury's new novel before it comes out in June!  Many years ago I got sucked into the world of the Baxters through Kingsbury's books, and it's been exciting to see her writing more books about them again.

In Love Story, we finally learn the full story of John and Elizabeth Baxter, how they met and fell in love, and how Elizabeth was sent away to have their first baby out of wedlock, forced to give the baby up for adoption.  That sounds terribly sad if you haven't already read the rest of the Baxter Family books and know how it all worked out, so I wouldn't recommend reading this book at all unless you've read the rest of the books in those series.  A lot of the characters and stories in this book won't make sense or mean as much if you don't already have the backstory from the other books.

I also liked how Kingsbury gave us updates on Bailey's marriage and Cody's life through this book.  Bailey and Cody were some of my favorite characters from her series, and it was fun to see how things are working out for them.  

The only thing I haven't loved about Kingsbury's books in the past is how she will have God "speak" to her characters.  At times she has even said that the characters heard God's voice audibly, and I have had concerns with whether she is giving the correct impression of how a Christian can expect to hear from God.  I'd hate to have a Christian who was younger in their faith feel like they must be missing some way that God is speaking to them, instead of realizing that God speaks to us through His word, the Bible.  There were a couple instances in this book, but I do appreciate how she almost always has God "speak" something that comes from a Bible verse at least.  Thankfully I find that Kingsbury has been toning down that aspect of her stories in her more recent books, which has let me enjoy them even more.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and finished most of it in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon. Kingsbury's writing is done in a  way that keeps you reading, and I'm a sucker for a happy ending.  If you have read any of the Baxter books in the past, I definitely recommend catching up with the Baxters and Flannigans with this book!

Note:  I received a digital copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Deep Undercover (Highly Recommend)

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I didn't really make New Year's resolutions this year, but I mentioned before that an unofficial "goal" for me is to read more about the Cold War.  The Cold War was kind of a big deal, and it's pretty amazing when you think about that we fought an entire war without any official shots being fired back and forth.  Like many millennials though, I didn't understand it that well, so this is the year I chose to remedy that.

Deep Undercover is the story of Jack Barsky, a former KGB spy turned proud American citizen and Christian.  I loved this book!  Barsky's story is written as narrative non-fiction, so it reads more like a novel, and it is fascinating.  This book gave me a really good idea of what it was like in East Germany in the post-World-War-II era, and how many East Germans thought their communist government was anti-Nazi, and the answer to the world's problems.  Even though Barsky doesn't realize until much later the atrocities that have been committed by communist regimes, it was fascinating to get a glimpse into how this ideology was explained to those who had to live under it, and how the American way of life was demonized and the truth hidden under government propaganda.  

Barsky is eventually recruited by the KGB, and the stories of his "spy training" were so interesting.  I think we have this glamorized view of spies in our culture, but this book made me see that a lot of these spies are just normal people, and their tasks are rather mundane.  Dangerous, but not necessarily glamorous.  It was so interesting.  The way he ended up defecting from the KGB was really clever too!  I didn't see it coming.

The best part of this book was reading about how Barsky's view of the US (and Christianity) started to change when he actually started living here, how he developed a love of freedom through experiencing it in America and realized how much of that freedom the people in East Germany did not have.  

After many personal and family struggles, Barsky ends up hiring an assistant who is a Christian.  He researches the Christian faith and eventually comes to know Jesus as His Savior.  This was the coolest part of the story to me.  Barsky never found out why exactly he was recruited to the KGB, but if he hadn't been recruited, he never would have formed a life in America, and perhaps never would have come to Christ.  It was amazing to see God working through his life, even as a KGB spy.

I highly recommend this book.  Even if you aren't particularly interested in the Cold War, this book was an absolutely fascinating read!  I couldn't find a big enough chunk of time to finish it in one sitting, but I was sorry every time I had to put it down!

Note: I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion. 

Noah, Noah, What Do You See? (Children's Book Giveaway!)



I have been gathering a lot of classic picture books for the kids over the years, and one of them is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?"  I find that book to be a little repetitive (I know, I know, that's the point).


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However, Tommy Nelson just came out with a Christian version of that book called "Noah, Noah, What Do You See?"  And I have to say, I like this one so much!  It's written by the same people act wrote "Brown Bear", but this one is focused on Bible stories!

Each page features a major Bible hero and asks them "what they see".  Then a snippet of each Bible story is given.  At the end, all these people are gathered together with Jesus, and Jesus "sees" all these people seeking after Him.

The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, it's a board book (always a plus for me), and the Bible references are given on each page as well so it is easy to look up the full story in the Bible.  The thing I love best about it is how it keeps the spirit of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" but is so much more meaningful (and a lot more fun to read, in my opinion).  It's definitely a winner around here!



HINT: This would also be a great space-filler for Easter baskets!

And the great news - Tommy Nelson is giving away a copy to one of YOU! You can enter either by commenting here and telling me your favorite children's book, or by entering on Instagram (or both).  I'll announce the winner next week!

(Giveaway open to US residents only.  Ends 4/2 at 11:59 PM.)


Note: I received a copy of this book for free as part of the Tommy Mommy program.  This is my honest opinion.

So Many Symptoms (Baby #5 - Six Weeks)



Let's not make a big deal of it, but this six week pregnancy update is nearly two weeks late (whoops).  As I said on Tuesday, it has been really hard to get enough energy gathered lately to keep up on basic things.  This baby is using so much of my energy!  

I've never done a pregnancy update this early before, but it's kind of fun to write about my baby this early.  The placenta should be implanting, and my baby is getting nutrients directly from me now.  

Right around five weeks I took a moment to pause and think "Today is the day my baby's heart starts beating."  It's an amazing thing to know that, and to be able to pause and recognize it.  Life is such a miracle.

The symptoms though, oh, the symptoms - I've had a lot of them!  Here is a quick list:

-Tired.

-Irritable.

-Having days when I just cry for no reason.

-The need for almost daily naps.

-OCD about having the house clean, alternating with just not caring.

-Queasiness.

-Smelling things that aren't there.

-Feeling gross after I eat any kind of food, even if it was my "craving".

-Food aversions.  Italian food, bleh!

-Food "cravings", that are really just cravings because they are the only foods that sound good.  We've run the gamut from Mexican food, donuts, barbecue sandwiches, fruit, vinegar cream cucumbers, and English muffins.  Usually I eat said food and feel no more satisfied than before I ate it  - with the exception of the barbecue sandwiches.  I mentioned them to my sweet husband, and he brought home barbecue pork sandwiches, and that one really hit the spot.

Despite all that though, I feel very blessed to not have bad morning sickness with any of my pregnancies.  I usually don't throw up in the first trimester, and "nauseous" is probably even too strong a term, so I'm going with "queasy".  

Has anything been different this time, you ask?  So far, not too much.  I'd say I have been excessively tired this time, but that may very well be because of my four energetic kiddos.  I also feel more queasy this time than I did with Clarice for sure, and perhaps Clyde as well - the queasiness this time is more on par with the level it was with Wyatt and Gwen.  I couldn't tell you if it is a boy or a girl.  I have a guess based on timing, but Clarice's pregnancy threw me so off when it comes to guessing gender that I'm no longer confident in my symptom-comparison method!

I haven't bought anything new for baby so far (budget, you know), but I'm hoping to change that in the next couple weeks!  If something stands out, I'll snag it for the new little one.

We see our baby for the first time next week!  Our ultrasound is on April 6th.  I'd love all your prayers for a healthy and growing baby!






Dress: Forever21 (They have some great dresses right now).
Shoes: JustFab (This is my referral link, por favor, gracias.  JustFab also happens to be having a great Spring sale right now.)

Paper Bracelets Are A Great Mood Booster




That's me, feeling like falling asleep next to my peppermint tea.  Sad.

Caffeinated coffee, how I miss thee!  

Peppermint tea, the whole wake-you-up and give-you-energy promise was a lie.  

Paper Bracelets

Yesterday was an exceptionally good morning.  I heard Gwen scurrying around upstairs, my little early bird, and instead of fighting it, I decided to let her go.  I could clean up whatever mess was made later.

I was rewarded after a little while with soft footsteps in my room, and a little voice.  

"Mama, stick out your arm."  

I had no idea what she was talking out, but I obliged, and she wrapped a little hand-colored paper bracelet around my wrist, securing it with a piece of tape.

How could I not be in a bright mood after that?

I was just thinking the day before too about how I was hoping the kids would make me something for Mother's Day this year.  Like those macaroni necklaces.  I would love a macaroni necklace, but it would be even better if I didn't have to ask Derek to arrange the making of said macaroni necklace.  But do any kids really just spontaneously decide to make jewelry for their moms, or is it all prompted by classroom craft projects?  This morning I discovered that no, apparently they can and do think of it all by themselves, and I loved it.

The First Trimester Blahs

You probably didn't notice or remember, but I promised a six week pregnancy update a week ago and never delivered.  That's because this first trimester is hitting me hard!  I'll save more details for the pregnancy updates, if I ever get around to them, but sheesh, what a roller coaster.  



I can never tell if I'm going to have an energetic day or an exhausted day, a depressed day or a happy day, a smell-things-that-aren't-there day or a hungry day.  I just hope it's not going to be a migraine day, because then I'll spend the afternoon laid up on the couch (I've had three days like that since I found out I was pregnant, so one per week).  Last week I woke up one morning annoyed.  For no reason and at no one in my house.  Just annoyed.  I cried over a game of Risk the other night.  

Basically, I feel like a basket case.  Derek has been a saint to put up with me (seriously).

Last week I was getting ready to write a pregnancy update, but I realized my monthly Tommy Nelson post was late, so all my writing energy drained away to that.  It's taken this long to get it back up again.  

Aside from all that though, it's been so nice to tell people about this baby right away this time.  Despite my varying moods, the constant is that I am so happy about this baby, and it feels good to share it!  Everyone has been so supportive, and I have to say, telling all my blog buddies here and on social media has been so fun! I want to say thank you, thank you, for all your excitement for our family and well wishes!  It has been a big encouragement.

Old-Fashioned Blogger Shout-Out (Or Not)

I've been sitting here for ten minutes, and the only other thing I can think of to talk about is my discovery of the The Great British Baking Show on Netflix.  It's been a slow couple weeks.  Turns out lying on the couch every afternoon falling asleep to the TV might give me enough energy to make it through the evening, but it's not very interesting to write about.  

I've been avoiding reading too much on screens because of the migraines, so I don't even have an old-fashioned blogger to share today!  I'm slacking.  Stick with me and I'll eventually get back to some sense of normality, but for now, why don't you tell ME who YOUR favorite old-fashioned blogger is!  Find any new favorites lately?

What I'm Drinking:  Peppermint tea, and I'm not happy about it.  But anything for my baby!


A Story Of Two Lines (For The 5th Time)



It's still a bit surreal, sitting down to write out the story of how we found out we were expecting our fifth baby! I never thought about having five kids until the last couple years, and even then I was mostly working on convincing my heart that we were done at four.  As I sit here typing, I'm just feeling so grateful that the Lord has better plans than our own.

I guess this story sort of starts when I was pregnant with Clarice.  I didn't write about it much, because I ended up being wrong, but when I first got pregnant with Clarice, I was convinced it was twins.  Her pregnancy and all my symptoms were so different than any of my other pregnancies, it seemed to make sense.  Of course I found out that there was indeed only one baby in there, but for that brief period of time I had five kids on the brain.  After I found out it would only be four, five would never quite let go.

A few months after Clarice was born, I remember sitting there, looking at my beautiful family, my four beautiful kids, and feeling a sense of contentment...but at the same time, I had this niggling little feeling somewhere inside.  It kept whispering that maybe someone was still missing.

The feeling persisted, and I mostly tried to dismiss it, because four had always been our number.  Five really hadn't been on the radar.  When I told Derek how I felt, we prayed about it for a few months, and went on with daily life.  I had heard from other moms that even after their last baby they never felt "done", so I tried to convince myself that this was all part of the normal adjustment after you pass your child-bearing phase.  

I cleaned out some of our baby items, and dropped them off at the pregnancy center and the thrift store.  When we gave away the activity "city" that we got when Wyatt was a baby, Derek turned to me and told me that it all made him a little sad.  He was feeling good about four, but seeing our baby things sitting on the pavement made him sad that it appeared to be all over.  I was a little sad too, but tried not to think about it, because the thought of being done was always sad.  And that was normal, right?

I had a couple months after I got my cycles back when I almost convinced myself I was pregnant, because my premenstrual symptoms were so different after Clarice - every month they were more like early pregnancy symptoms than PMS.  After a couple months of torturing myself, I decided to stop charting the second part of my cycle, and stop paying attention to my "symptoms" that kept turning out to not be pregnancy symptoms at all.  My thought was that if I wasn't having to record my temperature every morning during the second part of my cycle, I wouldn't be thinking about our methods and the probability of us getting a surprise, and I wouldn't have time to talk myself into the idea of being pregnant.

So in February I charted until I knew we were safe, marked when my next cycle would start on the calendar, and didn't think about it.

Technically, I knew I could start on Friday, but it could also be Saturday, so I packed a few feminine things in my purse on Saturday March 4th, and I went off on my antique store shopping trip with my mom and sister.  I got home later, helped Derek with the kids, and read a book the rest of the afternoon.  That evening I remembered that I hadn't started, and decided to take a test the next morning.  Just to rule it out.  Then I could take that information and predict my ovulation a little more accurately the next cycle.  It wouldn't be the first time I ovulated a day or two later than I thought.

So the next morning, when I pulled out that test, I wasn't particularly careful while taking it.  I didn't count to exactly five seconds.  I didn't really think it would be positive.

I popped in my contacts, and went back to look at the test sitting on the side of the tub.  One solid line, so I looked to the next window, and with a bit of a start, realized there was a very faint second line forming.  My heart picked up a little, and I sat there with my chin in my hand, completely bewildered as the line got darker and darker.

I figured out later that if I had taken a little more care to study the test before I took it, I would have known that I was squinting that whole time at the control line.  The test line was the dark line that I could see clearly before I even got the contact solution out of my eyes.

I was pregnant!



Looking back, I should have been a little suspicious.  I had been exhausted for an entire week, I was waking up twice every night to use the bathroom, and I had cried one night merely because Derek hadn't emptied the dishwasher.  But my PMS had been so weird for months, I really didn't suspect anything!  I never thought I would ever be truly surprised to be pregnant because I am usually so in tune with my body, but this one really did surprise me.

I called Derek downstairs and told him immediately.  He laughed, shook his head, and then I think we were both a bit in shock for the rest of the day.  It didn't even feel real until the next morning.  We were having a fifth baby!

We started to get more and more excited, and now I am honestly thrilled and super protective of my sweet baby bean!  

That first day I think we were most nervous by what people would say.  I read an article last year, "Honest Thoughts On Having A Fifth Baby", and I re-read it after we found out we were pregnant.  I feel like I could have written much of it.  Five babies are not common in our society today, and people can be so rude.  I had already received rude reactions when I couldn't 100% confirm over the previous year that we were done having babies, and I was worried because I so wanted this baby to be celebrated and welcomed as all my other kids have been.  I highly encourage you to go read that article, so you know the proper (and improper) response if you ever have a friend who has or wants an unusual number of kids.

Thankfully though, all of my people must have gotten the memo, because the reactions to our fifth little blessing have been mostly positive!  Our friends and family are all excited for us.  And if we get any negative reactions, I think our attitude is - who cares?  If someone is going to give us grief for joyfully accepting this God-ordained blessing, they don't count, and their opinion is the thing that is not welcome here.  We are celebrating and excited to welcome this precious new life!

In retrospect, I think that the niggling feeling that our family was missing someone wasn't just "normal", it was the Holy Spirit telling us to just hang on and wait a little longer because God wasn't done growing our family yet.  I wrote last year about how I was feeling convicted about the typical view of family size, as if this is the one area that we should control ourselves.  But God should have a say.  Neither Derek nor I was feeling complete peace about closing that door, and now we know why!  I am so thankful for God nudging us to wait, because that little niggly hole in my heart is filled up by this sweet baby.  I can't wait to hold him or her in November!

I'm six and a half weeks now (update coming soon), but here is my four week picture in the meantime!


 










A New Family Formula




Words are escaping me for the start of this post, so let's just cut to the bottom line!





We are expecting an addition to our family!  Baby #5 calculated to arrive in November!

Details coming next week!
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