Book Review: This House Needs A Mouse

Earlier this month I signed up to review a children’s book. I love reading new authors and doing my part to support our artistic community, and this book sounded well, cute. But in true ‘working mom of three, and let’s be honest, me’ fashion, I got overcommitted. The book sat on my desk for weeks and somehow never managed to make it upstairs to the kids’ book stack. Until this week. With bedtime fast approaching and the clock ticking away on story time, I sat the boys down to read “This House Needs A Mouse” by CJ Nunnally.

First of all, I’m a sucker for all children’s books containing animals, so this one spoke to me instantly. My boys are 5, 3, and 1 and usually easily distracted, so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep their attention for what seemed like a lot of words and pages. But I was pleasantly surprised at how my boys settled in and listened for the entire story. I think Nunnally does a good job of setting up the story so the reader wants to find out what happens next and how it ends.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but in the midst of reading it, I was a little worried about the fate of the book’s protagonist [can I say protagonist when referring to a mouse?] Let’s just say I was delighted by the ending and how everything wrapped up. Although if you’re like me and a huge animal lover, you may feel some tension in your heart strings in parts. Be prepared for some conversations about pets with your kids.

The writing is well put together and the almost lyrical cadence is fun and engaging. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more from and about this author. The illustration is whimsical and just fun enough to add to the imagery without competing with it.

Most important, the review from my kids: They loved it enough to want to read it twice in one night!

“This House Needs A Mouse” will make an ideal Christmas gift for parents, grandparents, and teachers looking for meaningful gifts amid the plastic clutter on the shelves. I’m considering it for teacher gifts this year to supplement the classroom book repertoire. It’s available at book’s websiteAmazonBarnes and Noble, and Big Tent Books.


How I Finally Made Exercise a Habit

Folding A Fitted Sheet. Copyright 2014.

Folding A Fitted Sheet. Copyright 2014.

It’s that time of year again, when ads for health club memberships, diet pills, and exercise equipment are served up almost as frequently as trays of sugar-encrusted, colorful, holiday-themed confections. I’m certainly no stranger to the allure of a new health and fitness plan. Even though there will be sweat and exhaustion and embarrassingly snug workout gear and awkward usage of gym equipment and the overwhelming desire to quit and embrace enormity, there is something about starting a new goal that feels necessary. Yet somehow the allure of actually achieving said goal isn’t quite as strong after 2 minutes of isometric leg pulses, a quarter mile running on the treadmill, or some days, the effort it takes to get into my spandex workout pants.

In January, 6 weeks after having my 3rd baby, I got the thumbs-up from my doctor to begin easing into an exercise routine, and with this being our last baby, I decided it was time to get back in shape for good. Mid-thirties, extremely busy with a career and 3 children under 5, and often stressed, I finally accepted how important exercise is to other facets of my life than just my physical appearance: Managing stress, improving sleep, strengthening my cardiovascular and immune systems, and increasingly important, setting a healthy example and habits for my kids.

But I’ve tried and failed at exercise regimes so many times in the past. I’ve just never enjoyed exercise, as much as I longed to. I have always been envious of people who seemed to crave it, enjoy it, even love it. Exercise seemed a crucial component of some people’s routine, their life, their personality, but not mine. Each attempt at making exercise a priority was met at the beginning with enthusiasm and an aggressive goal, and at the end, often weeks or even days later, with disappointment, frustration, and loathing, both of myself and exercise.

I breastfed all three of my children exclusively for their first year, so my milk supply was a factor in starting an exercise routine. Impact, support, intensity, and caloric needs influenced my choice of exercise program. And as always, timing, location, equipment, and goals played a role.  But this time, the type of goal would be different from all the times before. Because milk production depended so heavily on my calorie reserve, weightloss wasn’t on the table as a goal for my fitness program. But because I felt overwhelmed a lot of the time during the first year with a new baby, stress-relief was. So I chose an exercise program that centered around stress-relieving yoga, ballet, and walking/running. Since stress-relief can be hard to measure, I focused on making exercise a habit, finally learning to love and prioritize exercise, and make it part of my life.

Some research I read somewhere suggests that it takes 21 days to form or break a habit. So I set a goal to exercise at least 15 minutes a day for 21 days. Even with a packed and unpredictable schedule, it wasn’t difficult to manage. I used a yoga app on my phone and short Youtube workouts from and did them in my living room or bedroom. After a couple of months, I found myself wanting to do more each session, and started adding 10-15 minutes on days I felt like it. After 3 months, the beginner workouts on my yoga app got easy and I started to do the intermediate workouts. I noticed my mood and sleep patterns improve and I enjoyed the challenge and reward of fitting in a workout on days I didn’t think I could. It meant yoga before bed some nights, but I found it helped me sleep anyway.

Because I wasn’t focused on weight loss, I focused more on my form and breathing and using the workout for what it was designed: relaxation, strength, flexibility, balance, sometimes all of the above. I could see a drastic improvement in those skills in a few weeks.  After about 6 months, I felt like adding something to my repertoire, and running with my husband seemed like a great way to get cardio, exercise outside, and quality time with my hubby all into my busy schedule. So we started with three 30 minute sessions a week on alternating days. I have always wanted to be a runner. Runners always seem so passionate about their sport, and I have always been curious about this supposed “runner’s high.” When I started out, I could barely run a quarter mile without excruciating shin pain and/or running out of breath. 3 months later I could run 2 miles at a steady pace without stopping. A month after that I was running that distance at 2 minutes under my best high school time, plus an extra half mile jogging. In a couple of months I’ll run my first 5k and I can’t wait!

It’s been almost a year since I set the goal of making exercise a regular habit, and I can safely say it’s worked beautifully. Most weeks I get in at least 4 workouts and I miss it if I don’t get in a workout. Exercise became so important to me that not being able to do it consistently was a key reason I changed jobs earlier this year for one that allowed me better work/life balance.  One pitfall I’ve had to work on avoiding is writing off a day when I don’t manage a regular workout. There is usually time to do something, even if it’s 15 minutes of stretching or yoga before bed, a quick high intensity routine in the morning, or just a walk around the building at lunch. I haven’t lost weight but I’ve maintained a healthy weight and improved my overall tone and shape. Clothes fit and look better, and I carry myself a little better. Plus I feel physically good, which I know makes a difference.

And best of all, I love that my kids say ‘mommy works out’,’ mommy runs’, and ‘mommy is strong.’ Instead of setting a goal by numbers on a scale, I made my goal a lifestyle change, myself a lifelong fan of exercise, and my kids a healthy example.

10 Smart*** Responses to Extended Family’s Holiday, er, Spirit

10 Smartass Responses to Extended Family’s Holiday Snark Spirit

What Pumpkin Spice? It’s time for Egg Nog Everything.  The halls are as decked as someone trying to take the last toy-of-the-moment off the shelf at Toys R Us, and you’ve finally got that Taylor Swift song out of your head because it’s been replaced by an infinite loop of the first verse of Jingle Bells being yelled at the top of your kids’ lungs.  Christmas is right around the corner, which can only mean two things: It’s almost Thanksgiving, and it’s time for family drama, I mean fun and togetherness.  This year, I’m thankful for sleep training, cardigans that hide muffin top, and that shoes without heels have become a thing, and obviously seeing extended family. But if togetherness didn’t make your list of things to be thankful for, never fear, this handy list of go-to retorts has you covered better than that slimming black sweater you just dug out of mothballs. So have that second helping of mac and cheese, relax, and have a glass of red.

Photo 2014

Photo 2014

Family: I thought you’d been working out?  

You: I thought you’d been going to therapy?

Family: Should you be drinking that while you’re breastfeeding?  

You: You’re right. Here’s the bottle, Grandma. [Note: even if you don’t intend to drink that glass of wine or coffee, just pour one so you can get a break from nursing]

Family: I like to put (milk, broth, magic fairy dust) into my mac and cheese so it doesn’t get so dry.  

You: You do make the best, would you be a dear and do the honors?

Family: Were you trying to get pregnant or was #3 an ‘oops?’

You: It’s too soon to tell.

Family: Such a shame you have to work, kids should really have their mother at home.

You: Oh I totally agree, we’re looking at refrigerator boxes now. I hear overpass space by the river is going like hotcakes.

Family: Did you just buy another new car?

You: I really wanted a handbag like yours but we’re really watching our budget.

Family: Are you saving for retirement?

You: I’m saving for medical school so my kids can take care of me for free someday, does that count?

Family: Is he having another beer?

You: If you noticed, that means you’re still here, so yes, he’s having another beer.

Family: Such a bummer you weren’t able to have a girl (boy). Girls (boys) are so wonderful.

You: I usually just stare and blink, but let me know if you’ve got this one nailed.

Family: Are you on the computer [drinking/ working out/ having a shower/ doing anything other than holding/ feeding/ reading to/ other approved maternal activity]?  

You: Are you still here?

This post is dedicated to my awesome family, here and across the pond, who actually never say or ask the wrong thing. I wish we had a lot more togetherness, during and between the holidays. Miss you, love you!  

© Folding A Fitted Sheet 2014. All rights reserved.