summer reading recommendations

Book talk!

We’ll be going on a trip this summer, and I’m determined to use some of that time to relax and get through a few things that have been on my reading list for ages.

I asked some of my Facebook friends what they recommended, and man, did y’all deliver. If you’re ever wondering how to get people to come out of the woodwork, ask them for book ideas. There were some great recommendations in there, so here are some of the most highly lauded ones that I have either read or plan to pick up soon. (Also known as here lies a crap load of affiliate links!)

What you recommended…

summer reading list me before you mojo motes the voices in my head the nightingale gabi a girl in pieces all the light we cannot see big little lies frida bettyville a marriage of opposites

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I just read this recently, and it blew me away. So good, and now I must read ALL THE JOJO MOYES.

Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest (memoir)

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – I did not enjoy The Husband’s Secret that much, but this one and her others were much more well received by people I talked to.

Frida: A Biography of Freida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera – I saw the movie years ago, and it was so, so good. It would definitely be worth going back and reading the biography.

Bettyville by George Hodgman (memoir)

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman


What I ordered…

When I went to actually order something, I knew I wanted books that I would be less likely to abandon. I ended up going back to authors I had read and enjoyed before.

summer reading collage david seders mojo motes liane mariarty

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris – I adore all things David Sedaris and I’ve been itching to read more of him lately. It’s the least I can do since he drew my butt and all.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes – I loved Me Before You so much, I am really looking forward to reading another Jojo Moyes book. I haven’t heard anything negative about any of her novels.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – Like I said above, I didn’t enjoy The Husband’s Secret that much (I mean I didn’t dislike it; I just didn’t like any of the characters), but several people told me it was their least favorite. What Alice Forgot seems to be one of her most recommended.

So let’s see if I make through at least one of these this summer!

What are YOU reading?


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the last day

A year ago I held a crying Claire in her bed as she sobbed that she would miss her kindergarten teacher. That first year of school had been a big change for my girls. After being home with me for their first 5 years, only in twice-a-week preschool the last two, going to kindergarten all day, every day proved to be a shock to the system. Claire complained almost daily that kindergarten was “so long for mommies and daddies to come back.” Some days it was. Some days it didn’t seem long enough. But any way you dice it, 7:45 is damn early to start a school day.

That last day of kindergarten consisted of a fun-filled trip to the park and a pizza party. I tried to go, but knowing it was the last day I could run errands with the ease of just one child with me, I was late and arrived just as they were packing up to walk back to school. I scrawled my name on the pink sign out sheet to take them home and helped Claire gather her things.

“Don’t forget to tell Mrs. B. goodbye,” I reminded.

Every fiber of my being still aches at the image of my girl throwing her arms around her teacher’s waist, Mrs. B. kissing her gently on the forehead and whispering, “I love you,” as if they shared a special secret before parting and wishing us a good summer. In that fleeting moment I saw it: the raw and tender love that develops between a teacher and a child through 9 months of daily interaction.


I’ve been weepy all week at the thought of yet another school year ending. Part of it is true fear of how I’m going to keep my wits and my jobs through a mostly unstructured summer. But as my kids grow older, my fear of them lessens. Getting out of the house isn’t the struggle it once was, and they can be quelled with the power of electronics when I really need some quiet work time.

No, my fear now lies simply in that they are in fact growing older, saying goodbye to another set of beloved teachers, and readying themselves for a summer of fun that will eventually lead to a whole new school year. Second grade. They may as well be moving out.


I find myself clinging to these children fiercely. The games they make up, the pictures they draw. I sneak by, careful not to let them see me listening to them playing with their doll house, and I’m secretly relieved when they choose Octonauts over Monster High. Sing me a song, I urge them. Stay little, I plead.

“I have to keep growing,” Zoe said once, when I asked her to please stay four forever. “I can’t stop it, Mommy.”


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the Torreses start another project

A while back Christian and I decided we wanted a picnic table for our back patio, and Christian decided he was going to be the one to build this picnic table for our back patio. I pinned all kinds of cute ideas, and he started looking up instructions. And I got a little nervous. And then he went to Lowe’s to get an air filter and came back with $60 worth of lumber.

“So we’re starting this, like now, I guess?”

It’s not that I don’t trust his DIY abilities per se (heavy on the per se). It’s just that Christian tends to jump into things before we’re completely ready. I like to have all of the things planned out, which is also why I am likely to never get started on anything. I guess what I’m saying is, we make a good team.

But our problem is that as much as we want a project to be done, we tend to fail in the actual doing of the project. We’re a lazy people. We get tripped up by finishing touches. Case in point, the fireplace I told you we started ripping apart two years ago, only to leave you hanging, because we left that poor fireplace hanging for what seemed like an eternity. So UPDATE, in case you were anxiously awaiting one, the fireplace has been 86% completed, save some insignificant details like moulding and paint touch ups and sealant.



But this time around he was relentless. Maybe it was the wood and the saw and the feeling he was making something out of nothing with his big, strong man-hands. Maybe it was the pollen in the spring air giving him hallucinations. We’ll never know. Just know that within days, we had gone from a pile of lumber and gumption to a near-completed table.


Then a competed table, at which we could actually eat.


In order to encourage this momentum and discourage our inherent laziness gene, I went out and bought some paint and primer, brushes, and drop cloths. We were going to get this damn thing finished, even if it killed us. Now would it actually kill us? We’ve never truly finished a project before, so it’s anyone’s guess.

And then it rained in Austin and the rest of Texas for approximately 4 weeks straight. I’m not even kidding.

So there was this.


Nevermind that pumpkin seed plant that Claire strategically placed on the upside down bench for maximum sun exposure.


And this.


Also nevermind that random chair out in the middle of the yard. Sometimes you just need to take a seat.


Sad, lonely, unfinished table.

So I guess the moral of the story is if your last name is Torres, specifically a part of this clan of Torreses, don’t get the silly idea that you can actually finish a project in due time. If your own laziness doesn’t get in the way, good ol’ Mother Nature is happy to step in.

(I’m sure we would’ve found a way to drag this puppy out ourselves anyway.)

Stay tuned! We WILL finish this!

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some stuff: this blogging world edition

A few weeks ago I had to have a Come to Jesus moment with the girls as they flailed and moaned that they were sooooo boooooorrrrrrreeeed because I was refusing to take them outside because I was – to them – screwing around on my computer for a few minutes after school.

So I had to explain to them that no, I don’t go to an “office” like “Daddy,” but I still have “work” that I “have” to “do.” Excessive quotation usage all mine.


Zoe’s been out of school since last week, so I’ve had to shuffle my work around quite a bit, going in and out of my virtual office as she demands. She’s pretty easy to manage when it’s just the two of us, but when I need to get something done, you better believe she’s all up in my bizznass.

Then Zoe said, “Mommy. How come when YOU work, no one pays you?”

panda gif


20 actions you can take to look like a problogger

What we can learn from 23 successful bloggers (Makes my measly blogging income look like coffee money. Because it pretty much is coffee money.)

Is there life after mommy blogging? (Gah, I hate that term.)

Dads don’t babysit.

LTYM raised over $30,000 for our nonprofit causes!

How to delete Instagram’s secret map of where you live. I thought I had my location services pretty locked down, but I had several mapped photos. Find out how to remove those creepy geotags.

I just bought this dress from Aventura and can’t wait to get it. Nothing to do with blogging.

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for those times when you can’t even

Sometimes, when you are seven and outside for the first time in AGES because it’s been raining in Austin for approximately one million days, and you are at a party for a sweet friend, and there are cookies and juice and goodie bags and a playground…you just cannot even.


In their defense, thanks to the Texas Monsoons of 2015, the air was sticky and gross and the entire city pretty much reeks of mildew. There is green gunk growing on my porch and maybe even on my skin.

NOT in their defense, my parenting motto for years has been “Nothing makes the Torres kids grumpier than a party!”

Proof: Happy birthday songs are depressing. And apparently not just for my kids.


Further proof: My niece’s 5th birthday party last summer. Bowling. Cake. Punch. Goody bags. Grumpy Torreses.


Okay, so that’s not really a good example because you can’t see her face, but if you COULD, she would be pouting because bowling is hard and the shoes are weird and WHYYYYYY can’t I have more SPRIIIIIIITE?

Oh wait. Here’s proof that they were happy at a party once.



Maybe we should play a game: Party or No Party?







Answer key: Unusually chipper party, no party (but close – playground!), special movie sneak preview (kind of like a party, so SAD), and of course, cannot EVEN (definitely a party).


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what I’m watching: nature doc edition



As a part of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I get to share what I’m streaming on Netflix. What should I watch next?


The first time I met Christian’s mom, we went over to her apartment for her birthday, met the family, had some cake, and he and his little sister and I ended up watching a documentary on penguins on the National Geographic channel or something. Could have been Discovery. I don’t know, it was a long time ago.

We’re both nerds for documentaries – I for the social/cultural type and he for the nature/science type. Sometimes we have these evenings where dinner is eaten, baths are done, jammies are on, and because time stands still on the most exhausting days, it’s still not bedtime. Someday our children will be of the age where they just go to their room and squirrel around until they pass out in their beds, but let me tell you, today is not that day. Which I’m fine with, because I prefer the hugs to the impending, “Ugh, YOU again?” that will come in the teen years. But you get what I mean when I say  ETERNAL EVENING.

So to pass the time on these evenings where we don’t necessarily want to parent – I mean entertain them, Christian started dialing up some nature shows. Here are a few of our favorites:

mysteries of the unseen world netflixMysteries of the Unseen World – Prepare to be bombarded with never-ending questions as you discover things that are invisible to the naked eye, like the flight patterns of a dragonfly’s wings or the teeny tiny teensy weensy mites that live in your eyelashes. Oh, FFS.






speed kills netflixSpeed Kills – We’ve watched all three of these docs: Jungle, Savannah, and Ocean. Yes, it’s a little dramatic, but that’s what makes it interesting for the kids. Just a warning though, we learned that hard way that it can be a little graphic for pre-bedtime viewing. Oh look! That crocodile just mutilated that wildebeest! Well, sweet dreams!



blue planet bbc netflixBlue Planet – Explore all facets of the deep blue sea in 8 episodes and maybe even let your kids fall asleep on your lap because the ocean is super relaxing, unless it involves sharks, and then it is not really all that relaxing at all.







expedition borneo netflixExpedition: Borneo – I initially thought this would be more about the nature of Borneo, but 1 episode in we learned that it’s more about the scientists and camera people that are exploring the land. It’s still fascinating, but less so for the young kids. But I will always have this series to thank for my kids’ fascination/fear of blood sucking leeches. Also, scorpions. And centipedes. Really, a whole lotta bugs. You’ve been warned.




So maybe a lot of these docs may be a little heavier on the killing and the bugs than some would prefer right before sending kids off the bed. But they are pretty relaxing. I rarely sit with them to watch kids’ movies or shows, so watching these documentaries gives us all a chance to spend a little time together in the evening. Bonus if any of us actually learn something.

What are you watching?

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some stuff – happy long weekend edition

Happy long weekend! Unless you spent your whole weekend offline, then…Happy Tuesday?


Me? Nothin. Just chatting on mah hot dog bun phone.


From Medium – Letter to the Couple Licking Each Other Next to Me on This Couch

On The New Yorker – Playground Purgatory (hiLARious)

In honor of Mad Men hanging up its hat – Don Draper Rates the Strength of Your Wifi Password

This article jumps around a lot from procrastination to personality to lazy millenials, but along the way it covers some interesting points: Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators

From The Outside Lane – Rebels. “Understand that you are not your body. Your body is just the costume your soul is wearing. If you love your costume, wear it with pride. If you don’t like it, change it. But do not let anyone else tell you there is anything wrong with it–you are the star of your movie, and you are in charge of the wardrobe. No. One. Else. Gets. To. Pick. Your. Costume. Only you.”

I don’t often write about the hard stuff, but I do read some talented people who do. Two fantastic articles on the latest news:



And in case you missed it:


Happy weekend!


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adventures in Stitch Fix #1

I bit the bullet. I signed up for Stitch Fix.

Originally I scoffed at the idea. Because who really needs to have a box of clothes sent to them in the mail every month at exorbitant prices in the name of convenience? Lazy people, that’s who.

I’m pretty lazy, but the main reason I signed up was to spice up my wardrobe a little bit. I mean, sure, I can solve all the navy, black, and gray needs you’ll ever have, but that’s not exactly exciting. I want color! New styles! Florals! But not really with the florals.

I am not a Stitch Fix stylist’s dream. I only opted to get my fixes every other month. I selected the lowest prices available. The chances of me purchasing every item in my fix, even if I do love them and despite the 25% discount when you do, are slim to never gonna happen. Even at the lowest available price point, my items still average about $48 for tops and up to $98 for dresses. I mean, do you know how much black and navy I can get from my local Gap Factory and Old Navy for that?

Anyway, I figured I’d break down my fixes and say what I loved and what I didn’t. Why? I don’t know. Because getting new clothes is fun, and maybe I’ll inspire someone else to go out of their black and navy comfort zone.

The 1st fix

I got really excited when I opened this first box. The clothes were the perfect mix of things that were in my style range, but I maybe wouldn’t have picked out myself. Because pink. And in true anti-style-blogger fashion, I don’t plan on posting pics of myself actually in the clothes. Because I am terrible at posing and flattering angles and just photos in general.


1. Esla Split Neck Top – $48

I liked this top on the card. So plaid! Great for summer! It makes me look like a plaid cow!

So the fabric was nice and thin, but the cut of the sleeves made my shoulders and arms look like sides of beef in plaid wrapping. The pockets on the front looked like gigantic, diagonally-plaid nipples. The top was shorter in the front than in the back, a look that I am not a fan of. But this is about getting out of my comfort zone! And I did, for the 2 minutes until I could wrestle myself out of it.

FTR, Christian really liked it. I think it was the diagonally-plaid nipples.

2. Floria Split-Back Knit Top – $48

I don’t usually pick up pink, but this looks like an adorably comfy baseball tee! Only it’s not that at all! Wait.

So this top was made up of a floral tank with a pink sheer-ish sweater fabric over it. And the pink fabric in the back was split, allowing the floral fabric to peek through.

These are the kinds of tops I don’t understand. Like, why would I want it split in the back so you could see my flowers? As cute as it looked on paper, it just didn’t deliver. I felt like I was wearing a backwards cape.

3. Adorra Skinny Jean – $68

I thought there was no way in hell these pants were going to fit me, but they did! They were nice and stretchy and a gray color I never would’ve chosen for pants. Only problem was they gave me wicked camel toe. #YouAsked. #WaitNoYouDidnt

Also wishing they’d sent me that cute gray and white 3/4 sleeve top pictured with the pants. Y u teez me so, Stitch Fix?

4. Corinna Striped Dolman Top – $48

I don’t love dolman sleeves. This fabric felt like it would be weird and clingy. It was navy and black, which I definitely don’t need anymore of. I tried it on anyway.

Of course I kept it.

To be fair, it fit way better that I anticipated it would.

5. Some silver necklace not pictured – $38

It was cute, and definitely something that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, but for $38, it went back. I usually don’t buy accessories unless I have a specific reason or event, which is probably why my accessory game is so weak, but I’d rather spend that money on clothes.


In conclusion… (because I have no idea how else to wrap this up like a profeshunul would)

So for my first fix, I kept one top and paid $28, plus my $20 styling fee, for a total of $48. I’m sure you could do that math, but it felt wrong to leave it out for the additionally challenged.

I gave some feedback to my stylist (OR the person who just grabs things willy nilly from the Stitch Fix warehouse. However you want to look at it), so we’ll see how the next fix turns out. If this endeavor turns me into a famous fashion blogger, I’ll give you all a nod at the fashion bloggy Stitch Fix awards or something.

*affiliate link. Here’s another one.

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stuff my husband buys

When Christian gets a package delivered, it’s usually one of three things:

• a work purchase (I can’t argue with that)

• a frivolous present for me (I definitely can’t argue with that)

• a frivolous Groupon purchase

Naturally I assume it’s for me. He’s been known to order me random little things that I never, ever, ever mentioned wanting, which begs the question, “Hi, have we met?”

I’m not sure if this one is for me or not.

banana bunker

It’s a Banana Bunker, you perv. It will protect your banana when you take it…somewhere. Because I never go anywhere without my banana. (Also, that’s an affiliate link, because why the hell not.)

Honestly, while a brilliant marketing strategy, the Bunkers themselves are not really all that useful. I mean, we all know those things come in all different shapes and sizes; they’re not one size fits all. Some are more curved than others, some are girthier. Some are crooked. And of course I’m talking about BANANAS.

So far the Banana Bunkers have managed to

• take up precious space on my already crowded countertops

• house a small colony of fruit flies when an errant banana was left to rot

• mostly look completely obscene

banana bunker

Doesn’t everyone have that random corner of the kitchen where they put all the stuff that doesn’t have a home, complete with surge protecter, coffee grinder, random jar lid, Christmas figurines stuffed behind a picture frame and kid in the background playing the iPad because you’re too distracted by Banana Bunkers to parent?


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the best Mother’s Day gift is finding out what your kids really think of you

Let’s talk about how awesome kids can make you feel when they’re asked a series of  random questions about you. And then let’s talk about how when you dig a little deeper, kids are, like, really self-absorbed, right? It’s like they know Mother’s Day is ultimately all about them, because without them, you would not be celebrating Mother’s Day. Then let’s talk about how much we all miss being self-absorbed, happy kids.

Exhibit A:


I am special because I give her gum and popsicles.
I excel at making her meals she doesn’t eat.
I am prettiest when I straighten my hair. So practically never.


Exhibit B:


Dear Momey, I love you soso much. I love you as a baby hart. I love to cook with you. Love, Rachel. [insert custom comic book characters for effect]

Dear Rachel,

Aw. I feel the same. Baby hearts are my favorite. Except when they are beating inside the chests of real live, screaming babies. And cooking! I love it when you help. So fun and not at all stressful.

Love, Momey


Dear Mom, I love how you snugll with me. I love you so so so much! I like how you go to the stor with me. Love, Rachel.

Dear Rachel,

Oh, I love snugll-ing with you too. Your snugll-ing game is on point, especially that elbow in the bladder move. And I must say, as a stay-at-home mom, going to the stor is totally one of my favorite things. Especially with you. When I’m by myself, listening to my favorite podcasts in lieu of repeated requests for Cocoa Puffs, not only does it take half as long, it’s half as fun.

Eternally yours (no seriously, forever. You’ll never get rid of me.), Mom


WHAT DO YOU MEAN I AM NOT COOL OR JOLLY. LOOK AT HOW COOL AND JOLLY I AM. And thank you for the boucka of flowers. They are lovely!


Let’s point out the most important and/or most disturbing items here:

• I only weigh 100 pounds (IMPORTANT)
• I make the best ment balls
• My job is longry (laundry), make brefix (breakfast), and dishis. THIS IS HOW YOU SEE ME??? Wait. It’s kinda true. Ironically, she said she got a 100 on her spelling test this very same day, so I’m guessing “breakfast” is a 2nd grade word? IDK.
• If I had time, I would go on a field trip with her. Because she’s still giving me grief about the ONE (out of three) field trip I missed because I had a very important “no more babies” appointment at the doctor.
• I am sweet and butefll.
• I really love her and her sisters. TRUTH.

I mean, really.




(Photo courtesy of pre-carb-free life and minus the straight hair that makes me the prettiest.)

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