10 Books to read this summer

June 21, 2015 by  
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I’ve been reading like crazy this year, thus my rare appearances on the blog. I set a crazy goal on Goodreads for 2015 and I hate losing even in a race against myself so I’m going to read 50 books even if my whole summer is spent under the glow of my Kindle. That actually sounds like a dream summer but one I will not have until my kids can entertain themselves.

I’m not yet halfway to my goal even though I should be because it’s June. I have read some amazing books so far though and you must read them before the summer is over. Wherever you’re heading before September take one or all of these with you.

10 books to read this summer

Hugo & Rose

I fell in love with this author after I read one of her pieces on Salon and then found out about her book and then talked to her on Twitter and I think we have a fangirl-turned-friend story in the making (she’s probably changing her address as I type). Brigid shares the story of Ruth peppered with such explicit honesty about the realities of being a housewife. But the details that will have you nodding your head with understanding are juxtaposed against a complete fantasy world that you can’t even begin to fathom. Such an amazing read, not to be missed.

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty

There’s a chance I was the last person to discover Joshilyn Jackson but just in case I’m not I had to add this book to my list. Every sentence is perfectly written in this book. And then every sentence comes together to make a page-turning story full of rich characters. I’m now working my way through all of her books.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

I’ve never read a book written from such an interesting perspective. This book is told from the point of few of a boy’s imaginary friend. It is sweet and funny and then insanely riveting. I read the first have of the book smiling and laughing, I read the second half frantically turning the pages. So, so good.

The Art Forger

I like a book that teaches me something new while weaving in a good story. This book taught me so much about the art world I did not know while also being a really nice piece of fiction. Not an amazing read but a really good one that will keep you turning the pages.

Paper Towns

READ THIS. Easily one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. I always love John Green but this is one of his best. I already want to read it again and I never read anything twice.


There is a chance I loved this book because so much of it was set in Michigan in the 20’s but I think I loved the storyline too. Written in part fiction and part memoir, the author pulled together stories of her grandmother’s life according to stories she was told growing up. I read a review that said it’s like sitting next to someone as they tell you the most interesting stories of their life and it is exactly that.

The Girl On the Train

I’ve heard so many mixed reviews about this book but I loved it and couldn’t put it down. Whether you love it as much as I did or not you will not be able to put it down. A perfect weekend read full of suspense but not a bunch of gore.

Chasing the Sun

This was another book that taught me about a world I knew nothing about while keeping me enthralled. It’s set in a time of political unrest in Peru and takes you through one family’s encounter of kidnapping. I was shocked at how somewhat common of an occurrence this was and how little the legal system can do.

A Girl Named Zippy

I read this book pre-kids and vaguely remembered laughing on the couch while reading the way you vaguely remember everything pre-kids so decided to read it again. It was just as hilarious the second time and almost like new since my memory left with my free time. I’m not sure there is another non-fiction book that has kept me this entertained. I probably need to branch out and read a few of her others instead of rereading this one.

I Still Just Want to Pee Alone

I love the Pee Alone books and not just because I was in the first one. They are laugh-out-loud funny and you can pick them up and read a story or two anytime, especially when you are feeling all alone in this crazy mom-gig.

What else should I be reading this summer?

This post contains affiliate links. I make a small amount of money off the purchases made on Amazon if you click on one of the links which would be really nice so I can say I actually make money off of my blog.


The post 10 Books to read this summer appeared first on Four Plus an Angel.

When the big becomes small

June 11, 2015 by  
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I took Sawyer for his Last Ice Cream of the Fives and while his feet dangled under our chairs at just the right height to repeatedly scrape my shins he asked the deep questions of an almost six year-old.

When did you know I was in your belly? What was it like when I was in there? Did you know it was me?

I told him about my intense love for processed cheese and root beer and my obsession with the home doppler that wasn’t around for his siblings before him. Somewhere mid-sweet story I froze at the realization that I was looking back on my last pregnancy fondly. Never in a million sleepless pregnancy nights did I imagine myself sitting with a brown-headed boy, eyelashes tickling his glasses and smiling over his time in my belly.

The majority of my pregnancy I spent wracked with paranoia over my baby’s possible death. If he didn’t die during pregnancy then he might days or weeks after. It had happened to us once when I never expected it, it could happen again.

By 27 weeks I got incredibly sick at the same time H1N1 was appearing in the United States. The nurse taking my blood wore a hazmat suit and I was sent home on strict bed rest once they decided I wasn’t carrying anything deadly. I had two one year-olds and a teenager at home and I cried (and cried and cried) as I wondered how we would survive my weeks of bed rest.

My hormonal self was sure I had stunted the emotional growth of my toddlers by being unable to pick them up and would never be able to recoup the time I’d lost of involvement in my oldest’s school year. There was nothing warm and fuzzy about my pregnancy. I even cried over knowing I would not look back fondly.

But here I am, ignoring my issues with lactose and memories, telling my youngest about his hiccups in utero and how hard he could kick at 3 am and how lucky he was to have my belly all to himself, over milkshakes and a sticky table. When I’m in a miserable moment I’m not good at telling myself one day I will love it. The eye roll I give to people who tell me this fact actually hurts my eye sockets but I’m going to say it anyway.

Whatever tough space you are in right now, whatever big thing keeps you up at night and drains your energy during the day, I promise, promise, promise one day it will turn small. You might be sitting knee to knee with your almost six year-old or you might be sharing a coffee with your grown child or you might be soaking your dentures. I don’t know how long it takes things to change shape in your heart. But I promise it will happen.

Every time we leave for something new or better or different or maybe worse, what we leave behind or fiercely carry with us gets smaller. Whether we cling to its curves or try to bury it neatly, it still shrinks. Somehow our memories are left holding the pieces we need.

The memories will be right there when you need them. But they will look different when you try to go back the next time.

After all, you’ve come so far.

how time changes your perspective on things

Just call me Oprah

June 1, 2015 by  
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A few months ago I wrote a post about the realities of homeschooling and now that the school year is almost over I’d like to amend my list to add about 300 more things. The first one on my new list would read something like “if you give your kids the laptop to play educational games, within 30 seconds they will be watching YouTube videos of adults making Frozen characters out of Play-doh while talking in ridiculous voices.”

I would love to tell you my children quietly attend to their school work while I bounce from child to child, patiently awaiting their next instructions. In reality, if I don’t have my act together someone will start using flashcards to spell bodily functions while I’m teaching someone else sight words.

I’ve had to get really creative with keeping everyone engaged during our school hours or I lose them all and it’s a slippery slide down the slope of my sanity from there. So it was a huge relief when School Zone offered to send me their new Little Scholar Educational Tablet to see if my kids enjoyed it and if it helped to supplement their learning.

Kids learning tablet giveaway

To say the table has helped would be an understatement. It is now the go-to device in our house and since it’s loaded with nothing but educational games and activities for kids in preK-1st grade, I know they are learning every time they pick it up.

My kids love the math games, the read-along books and the memory games and I love that I can keep track of what they’re doing and the progress they are making in the parent section.

little scholar tablet giveaway

Since the Little Scholar Educational Tablet and accessories are manufactured in Grand Rapids, it’s only fitting they are now available in Meijer stores. AND since they are Michigan-based and I am too, I get to give away a Little Scholar Tablet. I’m thrilled to be able to offer one reader our new favorite thing. I’m feeling like Oprah over here without the five million dollars in additional prizes and live studio audience and private jet.

Here are the features in the new and improved tablet one reader will receive:

•   Ready to play – with or without Wi-Fi

•   Over 200 apps including 98 songs and 54 “Start to Read” Books – WORTH OVER $400 in free content!

•   All Start to Read!® Books will have read-along audio tracks

•   8-inch screen, textured easy-grip protective bumper

•   Runs on Google AndroidTM 4.4.4 operating system

•   2 convenient charging options: USB interface and 5-foot DC power cord

•   Download additional apps from the School Zone Market or the Amazon App Store may be installed

You can enter below, open to US residents only. Good luck!!
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Building towers

May 31, 2015 by  
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I didn’t realize why Sawyer volunteered to go to the grocery store with me until we got to the check out. I was speed-unloading the cart when I looked up to see him building a tower of produce, soup cans and ice cream (in that order because tomatoes make the sturdiest tower base, I’ve heard).

The week before I had taken Parker. He made a similar tower as the belt rolled towards the cashier but his seven year-old mind concocted something with cereal boxes at the bottom. His creation made it to the cashier before I could tell him not to make towers out of groceries, especially moving ones. The manager was one aisle away and came over, exclaiming over Parker’s tower. “This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in all my years in the grocery business!” he leaned down to tell my son. He asked the cashier to see if he could keep the tower together and the bagger to see if he could slide it into the bag just like Parker had made it. Parker beamed and the teen-ish, twenty-ish bagger and cashier took the task very seriously and we all cheered on the leaning grocery tower as it continued it’s journey.

We left the grocery store in the best of moods and Parker told the whole house about his tower and his celebrity status. Sawyer wanted to come home with the same story as his big brother to fulfill his little brother job.

But as his tower headed down the conveyor belt the cashier told him to take it down, it was about to fall, he would ruin all his mom’s groceries. He wouldn’t want to do that would he? And I saw the crumble. I saw his shoulders fold forward a bit and his top lip take hold of his bottom one and felt his hand looking for mine.

I certainly don’t expect every cashier to allow my children produce towers and cheer for them as they approach paper or plastic but what I saw happen with my boys made me think a lot about what goes on in our own life on a daily basis.

How many times do I hurry my kids along instead of encouraging them to do something neat that might take five more seconds?

How often do I make people feel like they did something fantastic instead of barely making eye contact and heading on my way?

Do I slow down enough to see what other people are really doing or do I just worry about what I need to do and how they might be in the way?

I know I’m guilty of knocking down towers and I want to do better at building them up. I want to be responsible for that smiley-faced kid riding the cart out of the grocery store, not the quiet one who would rather not come next time. I want to notice people and their intentions and do a decent job at remembering it doesn’t take much to make someone happy.

With a little practice and some good intentions I hope to keep a few towers from falling and encourage my kids to take the chance on building them in the first place.

Building children up


May 27, 2015 by  
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In the beginning it was the minutes, the hours, the months.

I tried to remember every detail, the weight of her in my arms, the almost-blue of her eyes, the shape of her eyelids as they closed.

I felt panic rise as the days passed and memories blurred, I couldn’t forget a thing. She was my daughter. I wouldn’t.

Repeating over and over in my mind our short moments, our last day, I hated that the edges of my memory were beginning to blur.

I called the hospital once, over a year after her death, convinced they might have one picture of her that we did not.

Praying they had some file containing one more piece for me to hold onto, I waited while the staff found a way to tell me there wasn’t anything more.

I was left with what I had. It needed to be enough.

There are still days I comb my brain for those memories, wish for something I might have forgotten, but I’ve made a bit of peace with time and its need to move forward.

quote about grief

I don’t remember Hadley’s life as a before and an after anymore. She’s woven into yesterday and today and is pulling a ribbon of light through tomorrow.

I will always wish for more time, more memories and the childhood she deserved, but I don’t count the months and years so much anymore. They’ve blended into an appreciation for the gift that was and always will be my daughter.

Her life, so much more a part of mine, than her death.

Autism and wandering and AngelSense

May 21, 2015 by  
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I shared this story several years ago but wanted to share it again because it’s such an important issue and because I’m working with AngelSense to help keep kids with autism safe.

One of my closest friends has two boys with autism. I have watched her unload them from her vehicle, clinging to one while holding her leg across her van door to keep the other from escaping. If she doesn’t move quickly they will be off to whatever catches their twinkling eyes, undoubtedly in different directions.

On Sunday, her beautiful five year old boy followed his curious eyes right out of their home and past the garage door. She and her husband were both home but it only takes a second. That second when one of you knows the other is playing with your son and the other knows that you are feeding him lunch and he is in neither place. By the time the police arrived she was frantic. A neighbor had offered to look for him and her husband was searching as well. Officers spotted her son nearing a busy road but they did not approach him, for fear of his reaction. He weighs all of forty pounds, was barefoot and balancing his prized beanie babies but a police officer was scared off by the word autism.

My friend’s neighbor got to her son first, she comforted him until she could pass him safely to his mom. Today they are ordering alarms for their doors and combing through reviews for safety locks and introducing their boys to every person in the neighborhood while they try to shake off the could have been‘s.

This little boy walked/ran through a neighborhood full of adults, headed for something that caught his eye or a place he couldn’t quite communicate and no one stopped him. No one went out of their way to pause for a barefoot little guy running past with beanie babies in hand. The police didn’t help, only a kind-hearted neighbor came to their aide.

autism and eloping

Maybe we do need more autism awareness. Maybe we need better training and more communication and affordable tracking devices and plans to make sure that everyone, EVERY.ONE. understands how autism can affect a family. It may not be your child but it is one in every 68 children so it IS your neighbor’s child, your daughter’s schoolmate, the boy on your son’s soccer team. It takes a village. An understanding, empathetic village who doesn’t mind taking a step out of their comfort zone to make sure one little boy doesn’t take so many steps past his own.


To help prevent wandering and give parents peace of mind, AngelSense has created an amazing GPS tracking device for kids with autism. The device can be worn on clothing and will alert you as your child’s location changes. Created by parents of children with autism, AngelSense is one of the most comprehensive tracking devices I’ve seen.

AngelSense to track children with autism

Since Ashlyn has long since grown out of her running days, I was not able to review the product but love this comprehensive review done by Autism Daddy. I’m thrilled to be able to give away one AngelSense kit and one full year of service.

You can enter below…

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I’ll put the sugar in your bowl

May 6, 2015 by  
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Most mornings Parker wakes up at the sound of my laptop opening. He flops into the living room bleary eyed and I close my laptop before it gets a chance to buzz alive. I tug him close as he changes the channel from Good Morning America to the one full of superhero names I can’t remember. After he wakes up a little and I can’t sit still any longer, I get his breakfast. I grab his bowl and spoon and pour the Cheerios and the milk until they hit the spot on the bowl’s rim he decides is enough and he eats at our coffee table while I creak open the laptop again.

I’m sure there’s an expert on raising independent children who would love to tsk me for this ritual, making cereal for a boy who’s more than capable of doing it himself. But I like doing something just for him in the hours before everyone else pulls me everywhere else.

This morning I asked him what he will do when he’s older, when his mom isn’t there to pour his cereal and milk just right, hand him the sugar bowl and spoon. He told me I can come visit, “you can refill my sugar bowl when it gets empty Mom” he said, shaking his hair back over his brows as soon as I brushed it away from his eyes.

I pictured myself, old, forgetting even more than I do now, heading to his house to fill his sugar bowl every week, my new daughter-in-law thinking me insane. And him answering the door, holding out the empty bowl for me to fill, not thinking there’s a crazy thing about this arrangement because I’ve read “Love You Forever” to him enough times that he knows it could be worse. Then I see me driving away fully satisfied with the way I’ve cemented myself into his life, knowing full well his wife is trying to tell him they can actually buy their own sugar at the store but he’s waving her away all the same because he loves his mama.

My kids have grown past the baby and toddler stage and I’m not the hand over hand caretaker anymore. I’m the checker-inner, the tall glass pourer, the enforcer of face washing and bedtimes and memorizing the planets. I imagine as they head closer to their teens I’ll be sidelined even more, dropping off and picking up and reminding them about coats and seeing the floor of their bedrooms once in a while, inching my way into their lives when I can.

I don’t wish them little as much as I used to because it’s the coming back I love. They drift further but they always drift back. They ride their bikes from corner to corner and ditch me at the park but they come back for long stories and band-aids and the definitions of big words.

I love being their constant, the place they come back to when they’ve waded far enough. I like to think they’ll always come back to me when their sugar bowl is empty, whether it’s for love or reassurance or because they really truly are out of sugar. I’ll be here, no matter how far they’ve gone, ready to dish out whatever it is they need.

mothering as your kids grow