Reading // “American War” by Omar El Akkad. I’m nearly finished it (“actual” books take me so much longer to get through than ebooks), but it’s been a really interesting tale! A review will likely be up sometime next week.

Watching // Jeopardy. I know it makes me sound like an 80-year-old lady but the current champion (as of Wednesday April 17, at least) James Holzhauer is just slaying the competition, I can’t even wrap my mind around it! I really feel sorry for his challengers.

I did start watching the third season of Santa Clarita Diet last week, for all you non-nerds.

Listening to // Gosh, not much these days! The only time I ever have music playing is when I’m in the car, and that’s just the good ol’ local radio station! Not that there’s anything wrong with it, though! I’ve thought about transferring the Sirius Radio account over from the truck to the car, but I’ve actually been enjoying the local content.

Loving // Our Sammy Boy. While it may make me sound like a crazy dog lady, I’m so happy that we brought Sam into our lives! He’s such a great dog and he fits so perfectly with our family. The girls are both crazy about him, and even Campbell loves his company! He’s been good for all of us.

Thinking // About how difficult it will likely be when the time comes that I find a job and I need to find childcare for the girls. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to stay home and avoid that hunt, but I feel ready to head back into the work force. Finding childcare nearly stresses me out more than finding a job itself.

Needing // The dogs to quit instigating one another to destroy the backyard! Really, it’s not too terrible, but it’s slowly becoming a disaster out there. Sam likes to dig holes and of course, Campbell will join in on the “fun.” Hopefully he’ll grow out of it.

Anticipating // A job interview next week! We’ll see how it goes.

Looking forward to // The Boogie the Bridge on the 28th! It’s a slightly different course starting from a different location, but it’s always such an awesome event for our whole family! This year I’ll be tackling the 10K, so hopefully my legs prove to me once again that I can complete that distance. Kyle will be doing the half-marathon, and Isla will be doing the 1K Mini-Boogie as well!

It will also be Norah’s first go at the Mini-Boogie, which should be a lot of fun! She’ll be running with her grandpa, who just tackled the Boston Marathon earlier this week. She’s pretty excited, or at least she says she is.

What are you currently reading or listening to?

What I’m Reading: The Home for Unwanted Girls

From the book jacket:

Philomena meets Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.

Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

My review:

Ahoy, there may be spoilers …

I was drawn to this title based on the Canadian history; I honestly had zero idea of the events that happened in Quebec and was shocked and saddened when I did a little research after I finished reading the book. What a tragic thing for those mothers and children to go through!

That all being said, The Home for Unwanted Girls really captured my attention and I had a hard time putting it down once I got into it. My heart ached for both Maggie and Elodie as they went through life yearning to be reunited with one another. A huge part of me desperately wanted them to be reunited, but part of me was skeptical if that was going to actually happen or not.

The Home for Unwanted Girls is so much more than a story about orphans and reuniting as well. Goodman included just a hint of women’s rights in the story that wasn’t over the top but still makes you see how far we’ve come. (And how far we still have to go.)

I’ll admit that I thought that it was a little long (thus the half-star deduction) and there were a couple of parts I didn’t find to be really necessary, such as the whole thing between Gabriel’s sister and Maggie’s father. I really didn’t think it added much to the story, other than maybe that’s part of the reason why he forbid Maggie from being with Gabriel? Either way, I could’ve done without it.

Still though, it’s a really interesting read that has inspired me to learn more about Quebec’s history. I’ll fully admit I don’t know enough about the province.

My rating: ★★★★½ 5

Extra Extra(curriculars)

Growing up in a small town, our options for extracurricular activities was limited. For sports, we had swimming, soccer, hockey, karate, and t-ball/baseball, and for arts we were essentially limited to piano lessons. While the choices were few, the turnout was always amazing and generally successful.

For me, in the spring it was t-ball when I was the youngest, which transitioned over to soccer, plus piano lessons until I was about 14. Swimming lessons in the summer were a must until I was old enough to tread water for 2 minutes and go to the pool unsupervised.

Flash waaaaay forward to the present, and we now live in a decent-sized city with so many options, it’s almost overwhelming. From dance to football, horseback riding to hockey, the choices are endless when it comes to picking an extracurricular activity for your kids to take part in.

Aside from perhaps learning how to swim, I’m a firm believer that kids shouldn’t be forced into an extracurricular they don’t want to do. Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean I don’t think they should do nothing at all. Kids should have the opportunity to at least try as many things as they want to see if they like it before diving in head first. A lot of activities are EXPENSIVE, and it’s the worst feeling ever when you invest in gear and uniforms or costumes only to discover that your kid shows little interest a month in.

It’s easy to want to throw your kids into every activity your schedule will allow, especially when you start to get nostalgic about your own passions growing up. (Or even your current ones, for that matter.) But I beg to ask: Is throwing a child into every activity their schedule allow a good thing to do? I often wonder how many of these activities kids actually enjoy doing versus what they’re doing because their parents want them to do something, you know what I mean? Is little Suzy in figure skating because she saw Tessa Virtue at the Olympics and fell in love with the twirling and wants to be like her, or is it because her mom competed a few times growing up and wants to live vicariously through her, even though Suzy doesn’t show much interest?

I’m totally not trying to judge those moms either. I had my oldest try t-ball and my youngest try soccer, but neither of them really showed any passion for what they were taking part in. I ultimately decided to just observe what they like doing while at home and direct that energy into a suitable after school activity. For my oldest the choice was clearly dance, and my youngest now lives for “ninja school.” (Think American Ninja Warrior!)

I’m also a firm believer in choices – and that’s not necessarily letting them choose to do everything. Kids, especially when they’re young, burn out SO fast. Having them in activities three or four days a week can be exhausting, so choosing something that only consumes one or two days a week is something I strongly believe in.

For example, currently in our house each of my daughters is in one extracurricular per week. Sometimes they’re in two each when we do swimming lessons (a must until they can stay afloat on their own), but for us, one activity is enough. Last summer, when my oldest found out her best friend was going to take up gymnastics instead of dance, she asked if she could do gymnastics as well. Now, she LOVES dance, but if she wanted to switch to gymnastics I would’ve let her. However, knowing how much she loves dance, I told her that she could do gymnastics, but it meant she wouldn’t be able to do dance anymore. She thought about it briefly, but opted to stick with what she knows she loves.

I know it might make me sound like a bit of a party pooper, not letting my kids do everything they want to, but I know that we’d slowly become overwhelmed and exhausted by running all over town to every activity. There are plenty of families who do a variety of different activities during the week, and sometimes they have more kids than we do, so I have to give them major kudos on managing it. At the same time though, are you afraid of burning out? What will do you if/when it happens?

So let’s discuss, friends! What kind of rules/regulations do you have when it comes to your child(ren)’s activities? (Of if you’re not there yet, what do you envision?) I’m genuinely curious!