Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Club: Everything I Never Told You

I had to speed-read Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng in order to finish in time for my book club meeting this month. I've had plenty of time for leisure reading lately, but to be perfectly honest I was so wrapped up in Stephen King's The Stand (more on that later) that I eventually had to physically force myself to put it down and open my required book club reading.
 
In all fairness, Everything I Never Told You was a pretty good book.

"Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet... So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio."

Lydia is the middle and favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, who are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they themselves were unable to pursue. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.

This book is a story of how secrets have a way of dragging you down like a weight, and if you can't let them go they will pull you to the bottom until you no longer have the ability escape.

Although I enjoyed Ng's writing style and found the story easy to read and follow, I found this book to be book to be a little disturbing and depressing. It was difficult for me to relate to the characters personally, because as a mother I could not understand the favoritism bestowed upon Lydia (which in turn meant that her siblings were neglected and mistreated). I thought this was an extremely unrealistic situation.

I spent most of the book developing an intense dislike for Lydia's parents, as well as pity for their children. I couldn't stand James and Marilyn, and frankly didn't really care what became of them. I did have sympathy for their other two children, Nathan and Hannah. I hoped that they were eventually able to overcome their unfortunate upbringing and cruel, selfish parents. But unfortunately I don't feel I necessarily got closure there.

Ultimately, I must admit that Ng is a talented writer, because she was able to draw such a visceral reaction from me about her characters. Everything I Never Told You was a page-turner until the end, and although I didn't walk away with any warm-fuzzy feelings in the end, it really got me thinking and I enjoyed reading it.
 
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Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekend Update - Bellingham Wedding

This weekend Stew and I attended our third wedding of the summer (just two more to go!), celebrating the marriage of Chad and Cory. Chad is a childhood friend of Stew's, and the wedding took place in Chad and Cory's gorgeous backyard at their home in Bellingham.

It was a gorgeous summer evening for a lovely little backyard wedding ceremony. I loved all the colorful flowers in an eclectic assortment of wine bottles that ran down the center of all the tables. Dinner featured salmon and halibut caught by the groom and his friends, followed by delicious desserts baked by various family members — Yum!

It was a fun, kid-free night out for me and Stew!
 

Following the ceremony and dinner, guests boarded a boat for a sunset booze cruise reception on Bellingham Bay! And we were treated to an absolutely gorgeous sunset, courtesy of smoke from the Eastern Washington wildfires...
 


Are you wondering what Ryder was up to?
 
He was with Nana and Grandpa, of course! They were nice enough to come up to our house to watch him overnight, and they had some fun adventures together including a visit to Snoqualmie Falls.
 


After playing all weekend, we had some chores to get done on Sunday afternoon.
 
(Ryder supervised from above as Dad mowed the yard).
 


How was your weekend?
 
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Life Lessons From A Toddler

Guest Post by Lisa Ng

When my son was 2, I wrote a post, Life lessons from a toddler. Those lessons still hold — to forgive immediately, to be quietly patient, and to love — but now he's almost 5 and I've also got a 2-year-old. They are teaching me even more life lessons.

Thanks to Sarah for letting me share them with you.
 
Stop and smell the roses.
 
Like literally, smell every rose... and watch every plane fly overhead, listen to each bird call, and wonder why the stars sparkle. My kids are teaching me to enjoy the small things in life that are actually quite amazing. They teach me to slow down and enjoy this life. I've only got one, right?
 
Go with the flow. 

I'm Type A with a capital A. Schedules, routines and being organized are my bag, baby. But anyone with kids, or anyone who's made plans with other people who have kids, will know that kids don't care about schedules. They dirty their diaper at the last minute, or wait until you've got a foot out the door to use the potty. They always seem to get sick when we’re about to travel or over the holidays. Over many years and disruptions to my timeline, I'm still Type A, but I think I've relaxed to a Type A-. It's nice to give up the reigns sometimes. Gives me time to smell those roses.
 
Laugh more.
 
In addition to being Type A, I'm also "the serious one" in the family. I know, my kids are so lucky to have me ;). But having a 5-year-old boy means I've learned to laugh at poop and fart jokes. Having a 2-year-old girl means I've learned to laugh in the middle of a "terrible twos" tantrum, even if it's in the middle of a grocery aisle. Laughter definitely helps when learning to go with the flow!
 
Be nice.
 
My children say hello to everyone. And you know what? Most people say hello back and smile. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we were just nicer to another? So when the kids say hello, I also say hello. Sometimes I even initiate the hello.
 
Live in the moment.

My kids stop to smell the roses because they honestly don't know if they'll see that particular rose again. They don't think about the past and "the good old days". They don't have calendars scheduled out to next year. They aren't always looking forward to something. They are enjoying whatever is happening right now. Having a second kid has definitely taught me to savor the "now". Yes, even the 2-year-old's tantrums because I know that a minute later, I'll get a "Sowee" from her and it melts my heart.
 
It's sad that as adults, we don't do many of things naturally anymore. But I'm so glad I have 2 kids to remind me to do them.


About the Author
Lisa Ng is the writer of Expandng.com, which is a play on her last name Ng (pronounced "ing"). She is the proud mother of a 4.5 year old boy, a 1.5 year old girl, and two bichons. In her spare time, she loves to take photos and devour books. You can subscribe to her blog via email and find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Weekend Update - Football, Friends and Family

That's right, Hawk fans...
 
IT'S FOOTBALL SEASON!
 
Stew had to work on Friday, so my brother AJ came up to attend the Seahawks preseason opener against Denver. I could hardly contain my excitement at the beginning of another year with my beloved Seahawks.
 
The 12th Man spirit was almost palpable in downtown Seattle as fans decked out in their blue and green finest filled the streets and headed down to CenturyLink for the start of yet another Seattle Seahawks football season.
 
Ironically, after one of the hottest, driest summers on record out here, it poured rain all afternoon and evening. This made for quite a soggy walk down to the stadium, but the dreary weather made it seem even more like the official beginning of a new season, so we didn't really mind.
 
 
We stopped off in a sports bar on our way to have a drink with my BFF Tara (because Seahawks football just isn't the same without beer and fireball, amiright?)
 
 
My heart was pounding and my blood was pumping as we made our way through security and into the stands. The familiar smells of popcorn and nacho cheese filled my nose and the sounds of the national anthem rang familiarly in my ears as we climbed toward our seats.
 
It was like coming home again.
 
 
Despite a loss (but preseason doesn't count anyway, right?) we had such a great time at the game. The Hawks are looking awesome this year and I know we're on our way to another championship season!
 
HAWK YEAH!
 
This was a rare weekend for us, because we were actually home instead of rushing all over the place for various weddings, vacations and activities. So we decided to host a little barbecue on Saturday and actually enjoy the yard that we've put so much hard work into this year.
 
The weather wasn't fantastic, and I neglected to take any photos of our yard or alleged friends, but I did manage to acquire one photo of Ryder and darling little Hazel Mae, his future betrothed...
 
 
And on Sunday the sun came back out, so we decided to take our water baby to the beach. Have you ever been to Lake Sammamish State Park? It's just 10 miles from our house, so how we've missed it for the past two years is beyond me.
 
It's gorgeous, and we had such a good time!
 
 
 
Ryder probably could have stayed and played in the water and the dirt for several more hours, but eventually we had to drag him home and throw him in the tub.
 
We were all exhausted after a fantastic few days of football, friends and family time. But I went to bed feeling relaxed, accomplished, and ready to start another week.
 
How was your weekend?
 
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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Club: MaddAddam

As I've mentioned before, I have kind of odd, eclectic taste in books, and post-apocalyptic or speculative fiction is one of my favorite genres.
 
I waited for years for the publication of MaddAddam, book three in the MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood. Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood are two of my very favorite post-apocalyptic novels, and I was so excited for the culmination of the story! My sister loved these books as well, and bought MaddAddam for me as a gift just as soon as it was released — Thanks Erin!
 
MaddAddam concludes the dystopian trilogy as a continuation of the first two books. It follows the previous characters in the wake of the same biological catastrophe: A man-made plague has swept the earth, but a small group survives, along with the green-eyed Crakers — a gentle species bio-engineered to replace humans — struggle to rebuild a life for themselves.
 
As the survivors work together to rebuild mankind, the group also has to watch for murderous criminals who have also escaped death. Like the previous books, the story is staggered between present day events and the past life of one member of the survivors.
 
Watching the characters attempt to survive in the remains of humanity and interact with the Crakers definitely made for a compelling story. I loved being back in Atwood's unpredictable, chilling dystopian world, filled with imagination and dark humor.
 
But although the story was compelling, I didn't think it was up to Atwood's usual standards, and MaddAddam was probably my least favorite book in the trilogy. It didn't hold my attention as much as I would have liked, and I often found my mind wandering. I read the first two books in practically one sitting, but this final installment took me several weeks to get through.
 
However, I love a story that makes me think, and this trilogy definitely holds up a mirror to our own possible future and where society may be headed.
 
Creepy!
 
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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Weekend Update - Boating and Training Camp

My post about our vacation to the Oregon coast is grossly overdue, but until I manage to get that pulled together I thought I'd share what we've been up to more recently...
 
We had an exciting weekend around these parts!
 
Remember when we used to spend virtually the entire summer boating?
 
Sadly, that hasn't been the case so much anymore, but we've really missed it (especially all the quality time it meant with Brett and Haley). So we were super excited to have an afternoon of fun planned with them on Friday!
 
Ryder was just a little tiny nugget the last time he went on their boat, so it was fun to get him out on the water again.
 

 
 
We did some cruising, Ryder practiced driving, and he even went for a little swim in the lake. This kid is such a water baby! And he wore that ridiculously annoying life jacket like a champ. 

 
Auntie Maureen also lives on the lake, so we swung by to pick her up for a little twilight booze cruise.
 
And then on Saturday came the really exciting part...
 
Seahawks Training Camp!
 
 
Training camp means the official start of football season, something we've been waiting for ever since... well, you know.
 
But it's a new season, and the 12s are pumped up and ready to go!
 
The Seahawks host 14 training camp practices each season. Tickets go on sale a few weeks prior, and sell out within minutes.
 
Apparently this isn't the case across the whole NFL... Erin over at Love, Fun and Football was telling me that to attend Bengals training camp practices you pretty much just show up, and they've never had to turn anyone away!
 
Seahawks fans are a little crazy, I guess... 
 
 

 
Attending training camp with a toddler was definitely a different experience. Last time I was able to sit and watch practice, checking out the players up close and judging all the new talent.
 
This year I pretty much spent the entire time trying to keep Ryder from rolling down the hill.
 
But our baby Seahawk sure had a good time!
 
I think we may have overdone it a bit though, because by the time Saturday night rolled around he was fussy, exhausted, and overheated. Which meant that he and I spent a lovely day at home on Sunday while Stew was on shift, relaxing and playing.
 
 
How was your weekend?  
 
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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Oregon Coast Camping Trip - Cannon Beach

Here it is... the second half of our annual summer family vacation!
 
 
After spending a few days at Fort Stevens, we headed south to Cannon Beach (one of the eight most adorable beach towns in the country according to ABC News, and one of the world's 100 most beautiful places according to National Geographic).

What an adorable place!

We camped out at Sea Ranch Resort Park & Stables with my parents, my aunt and uncle, my sister and her family. The campground is located on the north end of town (easy walking distance to the beach and shopping). My parents had an RV site right next to a grassy tent site for my sister's family. Stew, Ryder and I reserved a tiny cabin just behind them, and I loved how all the sites were interspersed like that so we could basically combine into one big site! And we all had a view of the trail where the horses went by on their way to the beach every couple hours, which Ryder loved!


The campground was also full of adorable bunnies, which Stew and Ryder enjoyed befriending.


After getting settled in at camp we headed directly to the beach, Ryder's new little slice of heaven.

 
The weather was absolutely gorgeous. I have been going to Washington and Oregon beaches basically since I was born, and this was the first time ever that I've worn something other than long pants and a sweat shirt. We are having such an amazing summer! The hot weather and sandy beaches made our time at the ocean seem almost tropical...
 
Sophia and Aubrey loved the beach just as much as Ryder.
 
 

I never get sick of watching the cousins play together...
 

We found a cool shallow spot with warm water that was great for the little kids to play, but it didn't take Ryder long to head out toward the big ocean with Daddy...
  
 
 

Once again, he wanted to stay in the water until he was blue with cold. I didn't mind warming him up with some snuggles.


We basically spent our five days at Cannon beach alternating between the campsite, wandering through town, and hanging out at the beach.

It was such wonderful opportunity to just relax and reconnect with family!

 



 One morning Stew and I visited the stables and took the Cove Beach Ride to Chapman Point. It was so much fun! I always forget how much I love riding horses on the beach. Stew's horse ended up being a little feisty, but other than that it was a beautiful ride on a gorgeous morning.


Typically when we camp we do meals family-style at the campsite, but for our last night in Cannon Beach we decided to make an exception and eat at Mo's. The famous chowder, plus the view of iconic Haystack Rock (featured in The Goonies!) which rises 235 feet out of the ocean in the distance, were both awesome!


I had never been to Cannon Beach before, and I was overwhelmed by its beauty and all the fun things there were to do. Ryder was in heaven with miles of scenic sandy beaches with dramatic offshore rock formations, viewpoints and natural areas. We also loved the picture-perfect village full of adorable shops and restaurants (plus epic candy stores and ice cream shops featuring bubble gum ice cream -- Stew's favorite!)

No matter how hard I try, it feels like I never take enough photos to fully capture a trip. So in case you can't tell, this particular vacation will probably go down as one of my favorites. Everything seemed to go right -- the weather was perfect, our toddler behaved like an angel, and all of my beloved family members were able to make it to at least one leg of the trip.

The time passed far too quickly...

Camping along the Oregon coast is definitely something that I'd like to do again in the future, and I look forward to what next year's adventure has in store! 
 
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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Oregon Coast Camping Trip - Fort Stevens

Sorry for my lack of posts lately, but we've been out of town for our annual family vacation!
 
 
This year we decided to do a mini road trip down the Oregon Coast. (Last year we went to Hawaii, remember?)
 
Our first stop was at Fort Stevens State Park in Hammond, Oregon.
 
I have camped at quite a few state parks throughout the years, but Fort Stevens is absolutely my new favorite!
 
First of all, it's huge, and offers camping, beach-combing, freshwater lake swimming, trails, wildlife viewing, a historic shipwreck, and a historic military fort. It also has a network of nine miles of paved bicycle trails and six miles of hiking trails that allow visitors to explore forests, wetlands, dunes, and shore pine areas.
 
We loved our campsite, which we shared with my parents, my brother and his girlfriend, and my sister. It was our first time tent camping with Ryder, and he did such a good job. He slept in a Pack N Play in the tent, and ironically he slept through the night for basically the first time ever (go figure). And since my parents had their trailer there as well, we had all the comforts of home (like a bathtub -- great for scrubbing down a dirty one-year-old at the end of each day).
 
 
After getting settled in at camp, we headed down to the beach, where Ryder plopped right down in the sand and played in absolute joy for hours.
 
This kid is a Beach Baby!
 
 
 
 
 
 
The adults didn't seem to mind having an excuse to dig in the sand themselves...
 
 
 
 
Ryder thought he was having the time of his life...
 
Until Daddy took him down to see the ocean!
 
 
Our child seems to have absolutely no fear. The waves and the cold didn't bother him, and he didn't even mind when he fell face down into the water and sand (the saltiness just seemed to surprise him a bit). He played in the waves until we had to take him out because he was turning purple and shivering. Still, he threw a fit and wanted to stay!
 
 
 
 
Aren't my parents adorable? PS -- that's the historic shipwreck in the background.
 
We spent the entire morning of our first day exploring Fort Stevens.
 
 
Fort Stevens was once a primary military defense installation at the mouth of the Columbia River. It was in service for 84 years, from the Civil War to World War II. Today it's become a 4,300 acre park offering history, nature, and tons of recreational opportunities.
 
 
Everyone wanted to try out the big guns.
 
 In addition to exploring the military museum and abandoned fort, we got to take an underground tour through a rare gun battery that also served as a World War II command center, and checked out some cool military transport vehicles.

 
Ryder was pretty tuckered out from all the excitement by this time, so I stayed back at camp with him while the rest of the family drove into Astoria to check out some of their famous breweries.
 
 


He was perfectly content to stay at camp, anyway. Give this kid a few toys and a pile of dirt and he's happier than a pig in... well, you know.


Oh, and since we were near Astoria, of course we had to check out the famous Goonies House on our way out of town. Sorry, Stewart refused to do a Truffle Shuffle re-enactment...


Anyone who was alive in the '80s will also recognize Haystack Rock (shown on the right) from the end of the movie (although they're actually down in Cannon Beach, which I'll get to when I document the next leg of our trip).
 
We had such an amazing time!
 
It was so nice to spend quality time with my family at such a cool location. And our trip wasn't over yet!
 
Next we were headed south along the coast for more adventures... Stay tuned!
 
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