Me Before You

Me Before You
Me Before You

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on August 28, 2015.

The topic of caring for disabled people is often one that is difficult to approach.  It is often not easy on the caretaker or the patient but Jojo Moyes does an amazing job at exploring the many facets of the life of a disabled person and a caretaker in Me Before You.  She easily pulls the reader in emotionally and makes you wonder what life would be like if you were facing the same circumstances.  I found myself in love with both of the main characters.  When they were sad, my heart was absolutely broken for them.  When they were happy, I found myself rooting for them.

This book does often involve some pretty hard topics that most people have strong opinions about but I still found it to be a beautiful book.  It is one that will probably affect you on an emotional level but I definitely think it is worth a read.  Moyes writes well and her work is easy to read.  I found myself not wanting to put this book down.  Overall, I rated Me Before You four out of five stars.  It’s a great book but be prepared to feel all the feels!

4 Star Rating

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

How We Keep the Romance Alive as Parents of Five

Daniel and I started dating a few months after my fifteenth birthday during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school  He is very much my high school sweetheart.  I married him when I was eighteen, just a few short months after I graduated from high school.

In the course of our almost twelve year marriage we have completed four college degrees between the two of us and welcomed five children to our lives.  Between full time jobs, college, and our kids and their activities, keeping our marriage and relationship healthy isn’t always the easiest task.

When we committed to each other through marriage we promised that we would always put each other first, even before our children.  Our children are extremely important to us and we make sure they have everything they need and are well taken care of mentally, physically, and emotionally.  However, in just a few short years (much sooner than I think I will be ready for!) our children will be adults.  When our children leave the house, it will be just Daniel and I.  We don’t want to spend those empty nesting years trying to repair a neglected marriage so we do our best to make an effort now to keep the flame alive and our relationship thriving.

As parents of small children, we struggle to find time together.  Date nights aren’t always a reality for us, especially since the youngest twins were born.  We don’t have many people in our lives who willingly volunteer or that we trust to keep all five kids so we can have dinner together.  Five kids, especially with two babies, can be overwhelming.  So, we do our best to only ask family to babysit if we have work obligations.

Since we don’t feel like we have reliable and readily-available babysitters most of the time we have started making efforts to carve out alone time at home.  I thought I would share how we are doing that as an inspiration to other parents of young children.

1. Date-Night In Box

After the babies were born last August, we were struggling.  I was dealing with a bit of postpartum depression and a stressful semester of graduate school on top of midnight feedings.  Daniel and I were having a hard time connecting.  By Christmas, we were barely talking most of the time.  We both recognized that we needed to refocus on us.  So my Christmas gift to Daniel was a subscription box called Date Night In.  

The Date Night In subscription box arrives once a month.  The box contains everything you need for a date night in with your spouse.  Each box contains the items needed to complete a specific activity, a treat to share, a recipe to cook and eat together, and something to set the mood.  The company also provides a play list to help set the mood as well.

The activities we received in the box have included all kinds of things from writing love letters to playing games together.  Every month is new and unique.  The box costs $34.99 a month plus tax and shipping.  They also have 3-month and 6-month plan that offers a bit of discount as well.  If you have the extra money for this each month, I highly recommend it.

I won’t lie.  The first few months were hard for me.  We were struggling so much that I really didn’t want to participate in the activities but I buckled down anyway and completed the activities included in the box. At this point, I think we both really look forward to getting a new box in the mail each month and completing the dates with each other once the kids are in bed.  It is a guaranteed Date Night In once a month!

2. Dinner for Two

Sometimes even if we can get a babysitter, a night out just isn’t in the budget.  Making a special dinner together for just the two of us is always a nice way to go.  If you have kids and can stand to have a late dinner, I highly recommended waiting to have dinner until after the kids are in bed.  Cook dinner together, light some candles, and enjoy a meal without your kids.

There are a ton of recipe books out there that cater to couples.  One of my favorites is Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship.  This book contains full menus to prepare together and enjoy a night in.  Of course, you don’t have to prepare the entire suggested menu.  Just a main course or an appetizer provides a nice quiet retreat.

3. Share a Sweet Treat

Sometimes it just isn’t feasible to cook a full meal so Daniel and I have been sharing desserts after the kids are in bed.  Sometimes he will run up town and bring back ice cream sundaes to share.

Sometimes we bake brownies or cookies and share them with a big glass of milk.  It is nice to curl up together on the couch, share a sweet treat, and have a quiet conversation.  If you need some ideas there are some wonderful cookbooks that have sweet recipes just for two.  Sweet & Simple: Dessert for Two is a great option!

4. Play a Game Together

My husband loves board games.  I’m not so crazy about them.  He is constantly trying to get me to play games with him.  I have put effort in over the past few years to play more games with him.  While games may not be your thing, they do bring some fun and laughs to your relationship.  There are plenty of two player games available out there.

Even if we aren’t together, Daniel and I play games.  We almost always have some sort of game going on our phones. Games are a good way to build companionship and keep the fun in our relationship.

5. Write Letters

Remember those love notes you wrote when you first started dating.  Keep writing them!  Even after being married for almost twelve years, Daniel and I still write each other letters and notes.  We don’t do it as frequently as we used to but getting a surprise letter from Daniel still makes my heart flutter.

Writing letters promotes better communication in your relationship as well.  When you write a letter you have to take the time to actually construct the sentences instead of just letting your thoughts flow out of your mouth.  Taking the time to think about what you want to say to your spouse usually results in more meaningful communication.

Daniel and I have also found that sometimes it is easier to write about something going on in our relationship instead of talking about.  Sitting down to write a letter keeps the emotions a bit less heated during those times that we are having a disagreement.

We actually keep a moleskin notebook that we have written letters to each other in over the years.  He will write me a letter and leave it on my nightstand.  I’ll respond and leave it on his.  Sometimes we keep up with this well.  Other times it falls to the back burner for us.  Writing letters definitely runs in cycles for us but it is an awesome communication tool.

Need More Ideas?

Still looking for more ideas to keep the romance alive?  There are some amazing books available that promote healthy relationships.  We recommend 52 Uncommon Dates: A Couple’s Adventure Guide for Praying, Playing, and Staying Together.  We also own both the husband and wife version of 100 Ways to Love Your Wife: A Life Long Journey of Learning to Love.

What are your favorite tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

 

I Did It! I Survived Graduate School!

I did it!

This past Wednesday I took my comprehensive exams to finish up my master’s degree!  I was nervous about failing them but I passed all three of them!  Tuesday night I will give a twenty minute presentation over a paper I wrote and I will take one more final test on Wednesday night and then I am officially done with my master’s degree.  Commencement is on May 12 and I can’t wait to have that diploma in my hand.

Daniel commented the other day that my life was about to go from super busy all the time to having lots of free time in just a short amount of time.  Not long after I graduate, the school I teach at will be out for summer break.  I spent the past two summers attending graduate classes so I am really looking forward to a summer break with no plans.  I have a list of books that I am hoping to finish and I am looking forward to just hanging out with my kids.

Summer Plans

We have approximately three weeks of school left.  We also only have about three weeks of dance left as well.  The girls will dance in their recital the last week of May.  Shortly after that soccer and baseball will wrap up and we will have some major down time.  Swim team starts in June but for some reason it doesn’t feel as hectic to me.  I think part of that is because I’m not working all day and then trying to get kids to practice.  We get up in the morning, go to swim team practice, and then have the rest of the day to hang out.

We aren’t really planning on taking any major trips this summer.  The littlest babies just aren’t old enough to go too far and this mommy stay sane while traveling with five kids.  We are visiting a couple of cities that are within about four hours of our home town.  We are planning to visit an aquarium and a science museum.  I won’t be surprised if we throw some other places in this summer as well.

My biggest goal this summer is just to rest.  After graduate school, new babies, spring sports, and the nonstop schedules we have maintained for the last two years, I desperately need rest…mind, body, and soul.  That is my plan for this summer above all else.

Do you have any fun summer plans?  What are you reading this summer?

Hello April!

Wow!  It has been almost a month since I have posted a blog entry.  This past month has just been crazy and busy, but good!

World Traveler

My last blog post was on March 15 and I boarded a plane early the next morning to head to Italy!  I had so much fun in Italy!

I visited Verona, Venice, Florence, Assissi, Pisa, and Rome.  When life slows down a bit, I plan to share a couple of posts about what I did in Italy, what I ate, and my tips for traveling in Italy. For now, I’ll just leave with you some pictures!

Graduate School

When I returned from Italy, I jumped head first into finishing up grad school which is why I neglected the The French Lemon bit. I turned my last paper in this past Wednesday! One final and a seven-hour comprehensive exam at the end of April that stand between me and graduation!  I’m so close but yet it still feels like so much work.  I recently ordered my cap and gown so things are starting to feel real!

Spring Sports

Spring sports are heating up!  Jackson and Emily have both started soccer and Jackson is also playing baseball.  Lauren and Emily are both still dancing three nights a week!  There is a little over a month until the dance recital and I am so ready for it.  It will be nice to have a break from dance classes in the evenings.Hello April Spring Soccer

With all the activities, we are constantly on the go right now.  Jackson and Emily both had their first soccer games this past Saturday…at the same time.  I was trying to watch both fields and catch both of them playing!  They both played well and were happy to be back on the field.

Growing Babies

Harrison and Katherine are growing so fast!  I can’t believe that they are going to be eight months old in just a couple of weeks.  Both babies have two bottom teeth.  Harrison is currently working on cutting his first top tooth.  He also started crawling last week!  Katherine doesn’t seem to have much interest in crawling just yet. Time slow down!

Books

Guess what?  Grad school has gotten close enough to wrapping up that I was able to take some time and read a book for pleasure!  I had almost forgotten what that felt like!  After I take my comprehensive exam on April 26, I plan to do quite a bit of reading and I can’t wait to share what I am reading with you!

Drop me a comment and tell me what you have been reading lately!

Hope you all have a Happy Easter this weekend!

 

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
The Maze Runner

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on December 9, 2014.

James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is the first book in the Maze Runner series.  It is one of those books that has been hanging out on my “to-read” list for a long time.  The movie is currently in theaters and I have heard a lot of good things about it so it prompted me to finally pick this book up and read it.

Thomas doesn’t remember anything prior to waking up in an empty box in the Glade.  He doesn’t remember where he came from or who he is.  The Glade is filled with boys who arrived in the same fashion as Thomas and also do not remember anything.  Thomas must quickly learn to navigate life in the Glade and something about this place seems vaguely familiar to Thomas but he can’t remember why.  And then, everything changes.  The next box to arrive doesn’t contain a boy.  Instead, the Gladers find the first girl to ever be sent to the Glade.  Things quickly change and Thomas soon realizes that he holds the key to the maze and many of the problems at the Glade…if only he could remember his past.

One of my students recently told me that James Dashner was one of his favorite authors.  I have to agree with that student.  Dashner definitely seems to be an author that I am going to enjoy reading more books from.  His writing is smooth and flows well.  He also kept his chapters engaging.  Every chapter ended in a way that made me want to just keep reading,

The Maze Runner is the first book in series and ended accordingly.  Dashner leaves the reader with only partial answers to most of the problems in the book.  I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

This is a book that I think fans of the dystopian genre will really enjoy.  It is also considered a young adult book so it will appeal to younger readers.  Overall, I rated this book four out of five stars.  You can grab a copy here and check it out!

4 Star Rating

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife
The Silent Wife

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on November 12, 2014.

Jodi and Todd have been a couple for more than twenty years.  They have created a beautiful life together full of luxuries.  Todd isn’t satisfied though and begins to stray.  Jodi, aware of Todd’s affairs, remains silent and allows him to do as he wishes in order to maintain their comfortable lives and relationship. Everything is going smoothly for Jodi until Todd decides to leave her and move in with his mistress.  Todd turns Jodi’s world upside down, evicting her from their home and cancelling their credit cards.  Jodi is distraught and makes a decision that will haunt her.

I actually found this book on a list of book recommendations to read after Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  It sounded interesting and I decided to put it on my “to-read” list.  It probably would have stayed there for quite a while but I ran into it in the clearance section at a local bookstore.  For only three dollars, I had to get it.

I found this book to be a relatively quick read.  It is fairly fast-paced but at the same time there isn’t a lot of action in most of the book.  A significant portion of the book is the internal dialogue of Todd and Jodi.  Harrison does leave enough intrigue in the book to keep the reader engaged.

At times, I thought that this book was predictable but then a twist would show up that I couldn’t always see coming.  The writing is well done and the characters are intriguing.  I found myself empathizing with both Todd and Jodi at times.  Harrison’s writing was smooth and allowed me to become very involved in the story.  It was definitely one of those that I had a hard time putting down.

Overall, I rated this book four out of five stars.  If you like tales that are a bit dark at times or hard to predict, pick this one up.

4 Star Rating

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

2017 Reading List

Making Plans and Setting Goals

I am obsessed with setting goals.  Always have been.  So every year I make a New Year’s resolution to read a certain number of books.  I set my yearly reading goal in January and track it throughout the year.  I typically aim to read a book a week so I usually set my goal around fifty books per year.  My reading goal has been much lower the last couple of years thanks to grad school.  My graduate studies require me to read a great deal but I usually don’t count those books towards my yearly reading goal since I almost always don’t finish the required books or I skim a large portion of the book.

I graduate in May and I am so excited to be finished with required reading for college.  I am looking forward to being able to read the books that I want to read instead of what needs to be read for class.  As I do every year, I have set a yearly reading goal.  My goal for 2017 is to read fifty books.  That is roughly a book a week and I am already behind.  I have faith that I will easily catch up once I graduate in May.

I had intended to share this list in January but life got in the way. This list is in no way comprehensive.  I will undoubtedly pick up random books at bookstores and grab new releases throughout the year.  Also, many of the books on my list for this year are not recent releases.  While there are some current and new releases that I am looking forward to, grad school has kept me from reading the past two years so I plan to catch up on some older books this summer.

2017 Reading List

So, without further ado, the beginning of my 2017 reading list:

  1. The first book on my list is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne.  I bought a hard copy of this book when it came out last summer and then the babies arrived.  It sat on my nightstand patiently waiting for me to pay attention to it.  I included it on this list since this is a list of books that I plan to read in 2017 but I actually ended up reading this book in January. (Review coming soon!!)
  2. I have jumped on The Fixer Upper bandwagon.  Chip and Joanna Gaines seem to be so genuine so their book The Magnolia Story is on my list. My husband bought this book for me for Christmas since he knew it was one that I wanted to read this year.  I started it right before my spring graduate classes started but I haven’t had time to finish it.  I’m hoping I will get to finish before the end of February.
  3. Wonder by R. J. Palacio is about a young boy who was born with a facial deformity and how that deformity affects his experience as the new kid at school.  This book is geared towards young readers.  My nine year old daughter recently read this and has been begging me to read it as well.  My daughter is quite a reader and she enjoys it when I read the same books as her.  I think she is starting to appreciate having someone who can discuss books with her.  I think this book may also work for some of my students who have lower reading levels.  I’m sticking it on my list to read this year so I can discuss it with Emily and make genuine recommendations to students who I think it could work for.
  4. The fourth book on my list is one that I’m not sure how I feel about.  A couple of years ago, the school I work for hosted a program for our students called Rachel’s Challenge based on one of the victims of the Columbine shooting.  The program was geared towards encouraging students to be kind to one another and help end bullying.  As I was sitting in this program, I realized that I really don’t know that much about the events that happened at Columbine.  I was only 12 when the shooting occurred and I’m sure the adults in my life sheltered me from that event.  However, now that I am an educator at a high school, I often feel consumed with the possibility of a school shooting.  On a weekly basis, I find myself running through my own personal plan of action and how I would react to help my students if something were to happen.  As a historian, I believe that some of the best preparation is studying what happened in the past.  I bought Columbine by Dave Cullen after that program was held at our high school and it has sat on my bookshelf for two years.  This year I am finally going to read it.  I’m hoping that, while it may be a difficult read, it may make me more aware of my students and my own kids.
  5. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb is next on my list.  I intend to read this one shortly after I read Columbine.  The subject matters of the two books are related.  While Columbine is nonfiction, The Hour I First Believed is a fictional account of one of the school nurses at Columbine High School that fateful day.  I have heard good things about this book and about Wally Lamb as an author.  I have never read any of Lamb’s work so I am excited to check his writing out.
  6. My mom text me a few days ago and told me that I needed to read The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck.  I had honestly never heard of this book until I received that text but it was published in 2012 and has TONS of positive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.  The book summary compares this book to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help, two books that I love so I’m hoping that I will love this one as well.  Sometimes, you just have to trust your momma!
  7. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Yance is a memoir of the author’s experience growing up in a middle-class, white, working family that started out poor.  I have heard many people discussing how this book relates to America’s current political climate and provides insight to how the current president won the election.  I’ve heard and read rave reviews on this book so I’m looking forward to digging into this one.
  8.   Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone is about a junior high school suffering from mental disorders that she hides from those around her.  Samantha’s mental struggles are intensified by the social struggles that many high school girls often face until Caroline befriends her and introduces her to a group of misfits that help Sam to begin to feel more “normal.”  I think mental health is such an important topic in our culture right now.  I’m excited to read this book.  I have several students who have read or are reading this book and I think it resonates with so many of them.  I’m hoping that by reading it myself I will better be able to identify students who might need a book like this in their lives.
  9. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney was published last year and I’ve heard quite a lot of chatter about this one.  This book is about four adult siblings who share an inheritance.  Even though all four are at different places in their lives and have different goals, they must work together to decide what to do with their shared inheritance.  This seems like an interesting story about a dysfunctional family which has been the premise of some of my favorite books.
  10. Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent trilogy, is at it again.  The first book of her newest series, Carve the Mark, was released in January.  I honestly haven’t heard much about this book but I really liked the Divergent series so I’m excited to see what else Veronica Roth has to offer.

 

What are some of the books that you are hoping to get your hands on this year?  What does your 2017 reading list look like?  Drop me a comment and give me some more ideas and suggestions to fill out the other forty books I need to read in order to reach my goal of 50 books in 2017!

Happy reading!

 

If I Stay

If I Stay
If I Stay

This book review was originally posted on The Wordy Nerd Books on August 10, 2014.

Mia is a seventeen year old musician with her whole life ahead of her.  She has just auditioned for a place at Juilliard.  Everything seems to be falling into place for Mia until one February morning when her entire family is killed in a tragic car accident.  Mia is the only survivor.  If I Stay by Gayle Forman follows Mia’s conscience as she makes the decision to either stay alive or pass on with the rest of her family.

I’m a bit late to this bandwagon but with the movie version coming out in mid-August I thought I should go ahead and read this one.  The premise of this story is that we have a choice.  Mia could have chosen to either live or die.  This decision is one that really forces the reader to think and to consider that choice.

Overall, the book is well written and the characters are very relate-able.  The ending to this book is a bit abrupt, however.  It leaves the reader wanting to find out more about the ending and what happens next.  Thankfully, Forman did write a sequel called Where She Went which I hope to read soon.

As I mentioned earlier, this book has been made into a movie and will be released on August 22.  You can find out more about the movie and watch the trailer here.

Overall, I liked this book and gave it four stars.  I think that young adult readers will enjoy this book and I plan to recommend it to my high school students this fall.

4 Star Rating

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
All the Light We Cannot See

This book review was originally posted on The Wordy Nerd Books on July 22, 2014.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr tells the story of two teenagers during World War II.  Marie-Laure is sixteen and blind.  She lives in Paris with her father. Werner is sixteen and an orphan.  He lives in Germany where he is forced into service early.  His mechanical talent with radio equipment makes him a valuable commodity to the Germans.  Marie-Laure and Werner’s paths will cross briefly in one of the most endearing ways.

When  I started this book, I did not know much about the story.  I was aware that a main character was blind and that the story would take place during World War II.  After just a few chapters, I was already falling in love with the characters.  Doerr writes beautifully and weaves delicate themes throughout this narrative.  His descriptions often made me feel as if I was in France smelling the salty sea air with Marie-Laure. For me, Doerr’s writing made this one of those books that I desperately did not want to end but at the same time I couldn’t put it down.

While this book is lengthy, each chapter is very short, often only a page or two. I think this is evidence of the author’s background as a short story writer.  If you are hesitant to start this novel because of its size, I encourage you to try it anyway.  The short chapters break it into more manageable pieces and this truly is a book that you don’t want to miss out on.

Overall, I gave this book five stars.  I enjoyed the narrative and the beautiful language in this story.  Even though things did not always end as well as I would have liked, I found myself involved in the story and rooting for the characters.

5 Star Rating

Welcome!

The French Lemon

Welcome to The French Lemon!

Hi! I’m Chelsea!  I’m a mother of five, including two sets of twins! My children range in age from nine years old to four months old. I work full time and I am currently pursuing a graduate degree as well.  I love to read, write, bake, craft, and travel.  Our kids participate in a plethora of sports, everything from swim team to ballet.  Our family is always on the go.  People constantly ask me how we do it so I created The French Lemon to share (or maybe overshare) our lives with you.

My Vision for The French Lemon

I have blogged in the past.  Most recently, I ran a book review blog at The Wordy Nerd Books.  I love reading books and I always seem to have someone asking for a book recommendation.  I started The Wordy Nerd in order to keep up with the books I’ve read but also to provide a quick review for those interested.  I’ve loved sharing what I’m reading for the past few years but when I started graduate school in 2015 I really began to slack on reading anything for pleasure or posting any reviews.

I’m just starting my last semester of my graduate studies and have really felt the pull to begin blogging again.  While I love sharing my own personal opinions on the books I read, I also want to share so much more so I chose to start The French Lemon.  I envision The French Lemon being a creative outlet where I can share my favorite things, parenting tips I’ve picked up along the way, projects I’m completing as well as the books that I’m reading.

Follow Along on Our Adventures!

I hope that you will follow along with me as I share what we’re doing, what we’re eating, what we’re reading, and how we are not only surviving but thriving as a family of seven!  You can subscribe via Bloglovin’ by clicking that “Follow” button on the right!