Archive for December, 2019

How to End the Year Well

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

How to End the Year Well from


At this time of year, it is so easy to only be looking forward to the next big event. This year we are going to try and use the holiday season to make the most of he days left in the year. We aren’t going wait until January to make our resolutions and appreciate what we have.



Last week I read an article about how to create a dumpster fire ornament, in honor of the year we’ve had. It was hilarious – and sad.

I mean, yeah, I laughed, but only so I didn’t cry.

Because, for a million reasons, this year has been difficult at best and devastating at worst.


I know I’m not alone in looking forward to a fresh start as we flip over the calendar.


But before we head into a new year, we still have a few days left in this one – and I’m determined to make the best of them.

Rather than simply throwing up our hands in disgust or defeat, let’s take back what’s remaining of this challenging year.

Let’s celebrate what actually worked or went well, and let’s give thanks for the blessings we received in the midst of hardships.

No matter how this year has treated us, I believe we can still end well. Here’s how:


1. Make a gratitude list.

I know, I know, you’ve heard this one a thousand times.

But there’s a reason for that: it works!

No matter how bad a situation (or calendar year) might be, we always have something to be thankful for.

Are you healthy?

Do you have a place to live?

Is your family nearby – or far away?

Do you have at least one person to love and who loves you?

Did you read a good book or see a great movie?

Have you created a piece of art or finished a project?

Did you make it through Thanksgiving or the election cycle or a trip to the post office without coming to blows with anyone?

Then you have something to be thankful for!


How to End the Year Well from


2. Look at the photographic evidence.

Instead of clicking over to Facebook one more time, open up the gallery on your phone.

Scroll through your own photos and take time to appreciate those goofy smiles, those messy faces, the trips to the zoo or the doctor’s office, the impromptu road trips or picnics, the selfies and the you-can’t-make-me-smile serious faces.

Remember the sunset, the finish line, the delicious dessert, the colorful leaves.

Whether you’ve already printed all your photos and placed them in a lovely album or scrapbook, or they’re stacked up on your phone (and hopefully saved in the cloud), I bet you have some evidence that this year brought something lovely, something beautiful, something good.


3. Find the silver linings. I’m not sitting at a desk gazing out the window to a pastoral scene as I type this post.

Nope. I’m sitting in my living room, balancing my laptop on a TV tray while my toddler sits on my lap smelling slightly of her overnight diaper and watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

And as often happens in our house, Daniel Tiger is sharing a message that is almost unnervingly relevant for our day. Daniel and his friends are singing about disappointment, and here’s the advice they have for us all: “When something seems bad, turn it around and find something good.”

Seriously, Daniel Tiger?


You really can’t argue with that preschool wisdom.

And as I’ve reflected on the last year, it really is something I’ve considered.

What are the silver linings hiding on the edges of this hard season?

For me I’ve had to face how my fear of confrontation has led to unhealthy relationships and behaviors. (Which is, initially, still a bummer but ultimately a good thing to realize.)

I’ve also been forced to stop waffling on some political issues as this divisive year has made it clearer than ever what my priorities and values are.

And, most importantly, going through a tough season is always a catalyst for appreciation and gratitude for me, making me more thankful than ever for my family, my freedoms, and my faith.

All of these silver linings come at the cost of some very dark clouds, but I am grateful for them nonetheless.


How to End the Year Well from


4. Give back – and then some.

One of the most encouraging messages I’ve seen following some of this year’s troubles is a call to action.

No matter where you fall on all the issues that have divided our world, every one of us can reach out to others, serve others, love others.

Just like the well-known and oft-quoted advice from Gandhi suggests, rather than complaining about a dumpster fire of a season, be the change you wish to see in the world instead.

The benefit goes beyond what you give to other people, too, because not only does helping those in need combat injustices you perceive, it also helps you adjust your perspective.

It gives you a bigger picture and more accurate way to gauge your own circumstances.

It also gives you a sense of more control and therefore increases your overall satisfaction.

Talk about win-win!


5. Don’t wait for January 1.

We don’t have to start a new habit on a Monday, and we don’t have to wait for January 1 to turn over a new leaf of gratitude, compassion, and positivity.

We can do that today.

The world may seem like it’s spinning off its axis some days, but we are still in control of our own choices.

We get to decide how we receive news, how we process situations, how we respond to circumstances.

We get to choose.

Let’s make the best of the days we have, friend, no matter what the calendar says.

Let’s be kind when we don’t have to, let’s be thankful even when it’s difficult, let’s look for the good and be the good.

Let’s end this year well.


How to End the Year Well from



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The Best Books of 2019

Friday, December 20th, 2019

The Best Books of 2019 from


Looking for a book that you just won’t be able to put down? Each year I read 100 books and I’m sharing the 20 best books I read in 2019. Bookmark this list and be sure to check out all the previous best books of the year lists that we linked to below.

This has been a really incredible year of reading and I have enjoyed SO MUCH how this section of the site seems to continue to grow and evolve. 

The MomAdvice Book Club has grown to over 3,000 members and I even got to host our first MomAdvice Reading Retreat

Of course, reading is my favorite hobby and I read some REALLY phenomenal books this year. 

To inspire you even more, I have created a 2020 Reading Challenge Worksheet that you can print out. 

Maybe some of my favorite picks will be the perfect challenge books for you too! 

This year’s list was incredibly challenging to narrow down, but these are the 20 books that, I think, are The Best Books of 2019.

The Best Books of 2019

Ask Again, Yes Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Buzz books seem to rarely deliver, but this buzz book completely blew me away. The lives of two families are forever changed after a shocking incident occurs that alters the course for both of them. Set in the 1970’s, Keane chronicles their story, over the course of forty years. This story of love and forgiveness, after the unthinkable, was so moving. It is storytelling at its finest. (full review here)

The Book of Harlan The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden

I have read so many books about the Holocaust, but never a story like this. McFadden uses her own ancestor’s stories to share how people of color were also sent to concentration camps. I felt naive and embarrassed that I did not know this and am incredibly thankful that I read this. It broke me in a million pieces and Harlan will now hold a special place in my heart forever. (full review here)

The Last True Poets of the Sea The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Typically, I connect deeply with one YA book a year. This year, it is is this one. A retelling of the Twelfth Night, the story contains adventure, beautiful friendships, the uncertainty of first loves, and explores the topic of what it means to be family. Violet is the quirky heroine that every girl can get behind. I laughed out loud, I got teary-eyed, and I just didn’t want Violet’s story to end. I loved it so much, in fact, that my daughter will be receiving this one as a holiday gift. (full review here)

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

This gorgeous love story moved me to tears. Set in Tehran, Roya & Bahman discover love and connection in a stationery shop. On the eve of their marriage, they lose each other in the midst of political upheaval in their country. Sixty years later, fate leads Roya back to Bahman to finally get answers about what happened that tragic day. Be sure to have a tissue (or ten) handy for this read. (full review here)

The Dearly Beloved The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

You don’t have to be a believer to appreciate this exploration of faith in God. Two men are assigned to be pastors at a church and the reader discovers what faith looks like to these men and their wives. The sharp contrast between a minister’s wife, who has been groomed for this role, and a minister’s wife,  who is a feminist atheist, adds incredible dynamics to these shared roles. We know faith looks differently for everyone, but examining it from leading in a pulpit is what really makes this a compelling read. (full review here)

Miracle Creek Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

This page-turner was one courtroom thriller that I just could not put down. The story centers around a family, who have immigrated to the states, and open an experimental medical treatment facility to treat autism.  This forward-thinking therapeutic device they use though ends up malfunctioning, causing an explosion that kills two people. Getting to the heart of the explosion is what made it so compelling and you can’t help but to feel empathy for each of these characters. (full review here)

The Things We Cannot Say The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

Any books about the Holocaust are heavy reads and I’m thankful that Rimmel wrote this one with alternating chapters between present day and the past, at the height of Nazi-occupied Poland. Alina and Tomaz are best friends who plan to marry, until everything changes in their country. This beautiful love story weaves in these past struggles with relatable present day struggles of being a modern day woman. What is done so well is how incredibly these secrets are slowly revealed in the story. The shifting viewpoints, the haunting love story, and another viewpoint on the Holocaust is what made this historical fiction read so special. (full review here)

A Ladder to the Sky A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

Only an incredibly talented author could write the most unlikeable character in the world and make it so damn entertaining.  Maurice is a talentless writer who will stop at nothing to become an author, including stepping on everyone on his way to the top. His narcissism knows no bounds and Maurice’s career certainly becomes legendary in the literary world.  This character is so absolutely awful that you may find yourself chuckling through portions of this book.  Pop some popcorn and enjoy a terrible day with narcissistic Maurice. You won’t regret it. (full review here

Dominicana by Angie Cruz Dominicana by Angie Cruz

This coming-of-age survival story was beautiful because it showcases how one can still find joy, even in the worst of circumstances. In 1965, Ana Cancion is just fifteen when Juan Ruiz proposes marriage. Juan is twice Ana’s age, but he is making it big in New York City and is willing to take Ana to America with him. Ana knows that if she can get to America, she can also help her family immigrate there too. What she doesn’t know is that Juan isn’t who he seems at all. Instead of roaming America, she is locked in their the sparse apartment, to cook, and to clean for him. It is only when he has to go out of the country, for business,  that she gets to finally explore America and a forbidden relationship.  (full review here)


Finding Dorothy Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

As a Wizard of Oz fan, I couldn’t be more thrilled with this historical fiction story about the author of the Oz book and his incredible family. Frank may have wrote the story of Oz, but the journey to success was a long one. His wife, far ahead of her time as a feminist, leaves behind her education to marry this magical man and start a life together. Their life is what shapes the story of Oz and it is incredibly beautiful. Alternating chapters allow you to step in time with Frank and also learn more about Maud (his wife), as she visits the set of the Wizard of Oz movie. (full review here)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

This inventive story-within-a-story ended up being my favorite fantasy escape this year.  I wanted to underline passages and read these imaginative sentences out loud.  January grows up in an old mansion and discovers she has a special gift for finding hidden doors. These doors have the ability to take January into different worlds.  When she finds an old book, she reads about a woman who could also access these door too. This discovery leads January on many adventures and she finds out how important this story really is to her own. Complete magic! (full review here)

The Warehouse by Rob Hart The Warehouse by Rob Hart

This is one of those cases where a science fiction book starts hitting a little too close to home. Hart’s imaginative novel explores what would happen if one company ruled the world. Told from the perspective of the man who started the company,  and from those who are now forced to rely on this single company for EVERYTHING.  It gives us a peek behind the curtains of what it might look like if, say, Amazon ruled the world. (full review here)

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

My bookworm heart found this novel absolutely charming. Nina keeps a rigid schedule and her entire world starts to turn upside down when she discovers her father has fathered multiple children that she never knew about. This introverted soul is overwhelmed with all these siblings and a love interest she has, absolutely, no time for. Waxman, cleverly, uses Nina’s to-do list to help the reader understand the fraying of Nina’s solitude. Oh, Nina, I couldn’t get you more. (full review here)

The Lager Queen of Minnesota The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

Stradal has such a gift for writing stories that are set in the Midwest. As a Midwestern girl, I always find a character that feels like family. In this story, a father dies and does not split the inheritance evenly between his daughters. The one with money goes on to open one of the most successful brewing companies in the country.  The sister without, struggles and has to learn to make do. When the struggling sister’s granddaughter decides she wants to brew beer, these two sister’s paths cross and collide. A story of family, forgiveness, and beer. What’s not to love? (full review here)

Where the Forest Meets the Stars Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah

Don’t underestimate the power of those free monthly Kindle First Reads because this free book ended up making my best-of list. This starts like a fantasy book, but soon evolves into a grounded mystery, so stick with it!  A little girl, claiming to be an alien, shows up in a woman’s backyard and says she has arrived on Earth to witness five miracles. Trying to figure out where she’s from, Joanna recruits her reclusive neighbor to help this little girl to get back to her family. This book is about three broken people and the miraculous healing power of belonging and being loved. It’s such a heartwarming story that I couldn’t put it down. (full review here)

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

A practicing therapist shares a behind-the-scenes look at some of her most challenging clients and the psychological reasons on why we do the the things we do. This memoir goes deeper than that though and shares her own private difficulties and what going to therapy is like when you are a therapist too. I loved the insights that Gottlieb shared, but I loved her vulnerability most of all. (full review here)

The Editor The Editor by Steven Rowley

Did you know that Jacqueline Kennedy worked at a publishing house as an editor?  Set in the 1990’s, James Smale sells his first book to a major publishing house and is assigned his first editor. He could have never guessed that his editor would be Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, when he walked into that office, but who could ever prepare a writer for that? This book takes you into this fictional friendship and it is BEAUTIFUL. Rowley is a gifted storyteller and it really shows in the quiet and beautiful ways he writes her story. (full review here)

The Night Olivia Fell The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

I read a lot of incredible thrillers, but this is one that really stuck with me. Abi’s daughter is involved in a freak accident where she has fallen from a bridge and is now brain dead. Abi knows that there is more to this story though and is determined to find out the truth. The relationships between our children though is so layered and that’s what makes it compelling. Much of the book focuses on her own reflections and guilt for not being enough to her daughter, despite being an incredible and protective mom. It is hard to not attach yourself to these themes.  I was completely swept away in this story and McDonald builds believable motives that leave a reader guessing right up until the very end. (full review here)

The Girl He Used to Know The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

This contemporary romance was so beautifully done and Graves crafted the most endearing characters. Annika struggles socially and has a hard time with changes in her routines. Going to college isn’t easy, but she finds solace in joining the chess club. It is here that she meets Jonathan, who loves these quirky qualities in this unique girl. Their first love story doesn’t work out, but thankfully, we get a second round later in life.  Sweet, sexy, and likable supporting characters made this book a fantastic escape. (full review here)

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

I love a good feminist read and Liggett nails a dystopian world that deserves all the Margaret Atwood comparisons. In Garner County, girls are told that they have extreme powers that can lure men when they are on the edge of womanhood. The girls are banished from the safety of their homes and into the woods, when they turn sixteen, so they can release these magical powers into the wild before being married. Unfortunately, many girls don’t survive the trip. Combine The Handmaid’s Tale with The Lord of the Flies and add a splash of, The Hunger Games and enjoy this book cocktail that really got me fired up. (full review here)

Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past eight years!!

Best Books of 2018

Best Books of 2017

My Top Ten Books of 2016

My Top Ten Books of 2015

My Top Ten Books of 2014

My Top Ten Books of 2013

The Best Books Read in 2012

My Top Ten Books in 2011

The Top Ten of 2010


Thank you for reading with me this year and I hope you have discovered a few new favorite books for your own stacks! This is my last post for 2019.  I will see you in 2020 for another year of good living on a small budget and LOADS more book fun. 

Happy Holidays! xo

Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads

You can also sign up for the MomAdvice Daily Book Deals Newsletter with the latest book news!

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Don’t miss these other great reads on MomAdvice:

MomAdvice 2020 Book Club Selections 2020 MomAdvice Book Club Selections (join our free club!)

9 cozy books for winter reading

19 thrillers to keep you up all night

quick reads to reach those reading goals quick reads to reach those reading goals

53 historical fiction novels to escape with 53 historical fiction novels to escape with

The Best Books of 2019 from


December 2019 Must-Reads

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

December Must-Reads from

Looking for your next great read? MomAdvice has 16 new books you can check out and cozy up with this winter. This book list has a phenomenal thriller, women’s fiction escapes, a riveting memoir, and several filled with exquisite storytelling.  Be sure to bookmark this list for your next library visit!

I hope everyone is cruising through those GoodReads goals and in the home stretch. 

I am, in fact, hobbling to the finish. 

holiday dress was only $20 and shoes for $35 thanks to thredUP

I am WAY behind this year and have been starting to get worried that I won’t hit my goals.

I also started to panic that I wouldn’t remember all the great books I have read. 

I am hitting that age… (*ahem*)

Between a busy season of fa-la-la-ing and a slowed pace, as I selected our book club selections, I am sweating my way to my 100 book goal this year. 

I am still reading and will add the next stack to my January reviews, but DID want to share SIXTEEN incredible reads that I read with you.

I am hoping that will keep you a *little* busy while you wait for my final wrap up.

By the way, did you know Prime members get a read for free every single month? The Kindle First Reads program is so much fun and a great way to sample a book before it hits the store shelves. Grab your FREE book over here. 

Here are 16 must-read books I tackled in December (and reading for our book club selections!)

Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie

Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie

If you are looking for a fantastic coming-of-age memoir that will give you SO much to think about, I have the book for you. Formation is the incredible true story of a woman joining the army and leaving behind all that is familiar. 

Growing up in a sheltered Christian community, Ryan strikes up a conversation with an Army recruiter (who visits her high school), that leads her to sign up to join the troops.

Ryan is hired as a linguist and finds the environment challenging, as a woman and as someone who has been sheltered so lovingly by her family. 

One night Ryan is raped by a fellow soldier and this story, HER story, is about the aftermath of reporting the soldier and how this begins to impact her career and reputation.

While the story of the assault is just a couple of pages, it is powerful, raw, and honest.

What makes this one more compelling though is the journey that Ryan takes as she learns to love herself again and find peace within her body.

It’s such a journey too and I’m thankful she shared it in such an honest way.

I also learned SO MUCH about what it would be like to be serving in the Army as a woman.  There are so many aspects to this complicated role that I never knew about.

I, truly, have even more respect for our women soldiers and the obstacles they face daily. 

I reached out to Ryan to share how thankful I was to read her story and she has agreed to join us for our book chat this year.  I can’t wait to talk about her story with you and I know that EVERYONE will learn something new after reading this one.

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Does anyone else love a quirky story? 

If you do, you will LOVE, Nothing to See Here.

Lillian & Madison were roommates, when they attend their elite boarding school. Unfortunately, Lillian left abruptly, after a school scandal, and they now do not speak.

This is why Lillian is so surprised when Madison sends her a letter, begging for help.

She needs Lillian to act as the caretaker, for her twins, but it does come with some unusual problems.

You see, the girl can spontaneously combust when they get agitated. 

No big deal, right? Kids are catching fire all the time!

While the premise is unusual, this is a beautiful story of how Lillian finds her place and peace caring for these girls.

This story is charming, heartwarming, and a fantastic quick read.

The audiobook was done really well, if you prefer to listen to your novels.

This book was also selected for the MomAdvice Book Club. You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

Minor Drama & Other Catastrophes

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West (pre-order for February 4, 2020)

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Fans of, The Gifted School, will get a big kick out the latest parenting dramas in, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes.

This story pits a teacher with a very progressive curriculum up against the school’s #1 helicopter parent. 

Julia Abbott demands a lot from her kids, their teacher, and their school. As big donors, she feels that her “charitable gift,” to the drama department should yield a great role for her son in the play.

When her son doesn’t answer his phone, to tell her the casting, she takes it upon herself to plow all the kids down to see the posted cast list.

While bullying her way to the top, she accidentally hurts a student and the whole incident is captured on social media.

Both these women’s stories are amplified by the secret Facebook group, where parents complain about the staff, other parents, and anything else they feel they deserve.

This was a fun one if love those “rich parents behaving badly,” stories. 

It also showcases how teens can assist in making their schools better, if we just give them a chance to do it.

4 out of 5 Stars

The News from the End of the World

The News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller

This layered family story takes place in a short four day time span. The News from the End of the World is about twin brothers who both carry new secrets, old secrets, and their own unique viewpoints on how they remember these stories.

Vance Lake comes to stay with his twin brother, after losing his job and his girlfriend.  He knows that he doesn’t have the money to keep doing this on his own and decides Craig’s house would be the perfect refuge.

When he arrives though, he discovers that his niece, Amanda (17), is pregnant. Craig is heartbroken and full of rage, towards his wife and his daughter.

When he takes off, Vance must decide who he will side with on how they will handle this unexpected pregnancy.

This story is told in alternating viewpoints and, with each section, the reader discovers how layered these old resentments are.  The novel does a great job showing the challenges of returning home, in a very real and honest way.  Each of the characters are endearing and I love how they rally together for Amanda.

If you have a book club, this would be a great one to chat about!

4 out of 5 Stars

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica (pre-order for February 18, 2020)

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I am a HUGE Mary Kubica fan and could not wait to get my hands on her next thriller, The Other Mrs

Since I am such a big fan, I am delighted to tell you that this (in my opinion) is her best book yet. 

I try to keep my thriller reviews vague, so I don’t take away from these smart plot twists, but I will share the basic premise. 

Sadie & Will Foust move from Chicago to a small-town in Maine. They have barely moved in though when their neighbor, Morgan Baines, is found dead. 

Who else could have done it except the new family in town?

This murder case is all that anyone can talk about. Sadie, in particular, becomes obsessed with what has happened.

She is intent on uncovering what happened to Morgan, even if it puts her own safety at risk. 

Lucky for you, she takes on you every twisted turn.

As a seasoned thriller writer, it takes a lot to surprise me, but this one delivered some REALLY incredible twists that will have you flipping pages until the wee hours of the morning.

This thriller was so good, in fact, that I thought it would be perfect for discussing in our book club. The plot is a bit more layered than I can fully disclose.

I am so excited that Mary will be joining us for an author chat this year and can’t wait to hear how she came up with these smart twists. 

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Each year, I discover one YA book that becomes a beloved favorite. This year, that book was, The Last True Poets of the Sea

Even if you aren’t a YA reader, this book is a beautifully written coming-of-age adventure story that I doubt you could forget.

I loved it so much, I ordered my daughter a copy as a gift. 

The legendary story that Sam and Violet are told is that their great-great-great-grandmother was the only surviving passenger in a shipwreck. Fidelia not only survived, but she swam to shore, found the love of her life, and founded Lyric, Maine.

It is, just one reason why,  Sam and Violet love to spend their summers there. 

When Violet’s brother, Sam, attempts to take his own life, he is sent to a treatment facility.

Violet finds herself missing her brother and begins to fixate on finding this shipwrecked boat and learning more about her family’s past. Could this hold the keys to understanding her family better?

She isn’t the only one who would love to crack the case, and the local historian (Liv Stone) is interested too. They partner up with their pal, Orion, to try to crack the case…and find love and acceptance in the promise.

This is such a beautiful read. I laughed, I cried, and I didn’t want Violet’s story to end.

Drake did an incredible job writing flawed characters and combines it beautifully with a fantastic adventure story. 


I am so excited to be discussing this one in the MomAdvice Book Club and I KNOW you will love it as much as me. 

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

All This Could Be Yours

All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg (currently on sale for just $2.99!!)

I was intrigued by the premise of, All This Could Be Yours, when I read that it was the perfect book for fans of, Big Little Lies.

Honestly, I would not categorize the two as being similar because this read like a great episode of, The Sopranos.

The subtitle to this dysfunctional family novel should be, “It’s complicated.”

Victor, a real estate developer is on his deathbed, but few people seem that sad about it.

In fact, everyone seems pretty angry and bitter about Victor. 

The truth is, the guy is a terrible, toxic, cheating, abusive person and his family seemed to be his top target for his frustrations. 

Told through alternating points of view, we get to see Victor’s life through his children’s eyes, his wife, and the woman he had an affair with. 

The meatiest layer to this story is identity and how we fit in our family’s story when they are terrible people. 

Lots of self-discoveries are made (including why Barbara would have stayed married to him) and much is uncovered as they congregate at Victor’s bedside.

Victor has no redeeming qualities, but the reader can appreciate how the others have evolved in spite of it all.

4 out of 5 Stars

We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop

I can’t remember how I stumbled on, We Came Here to Forget, but I am so thankful I did. 

This novel is about a young Olympic skier, Katie Cleary, who decides to head to Buenos Aires when a family tragedy strikes.

Determined to be anonymous, she changes her name (to Liz Sullivan) and finds a colorful group of ex-pats who all seem to be escaping their own demons.

Katie feels that if these people knew her family secret, that they would want no part of her life.

There are just so many layers to this story, and Dunlop leads you through alternating chapters (the past and the current situation) that builds to a shocking discovery of why Katie left (and what she lost). 

I refuse to give anything away, but the tragedy that Dunlop choses made me think about certain situations in a very different way and allowed me to extend more empathy to others. 

It is very thoughtfully done, the minor characters are just compelling, and she challenges you to think about these scenarios in fresh ways.

The narration is also beautiful, if you are on the hunt for an audiobook. 

Best of all, we get to discuss this one with Andrea in our book club- yay!

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Warehouse by Rob Hart The Warehouse by Rob Hart

I know many have dipped their toes into science fiction, thanks to Blake Crouch and his incredible books.

Well, I have to say, if you are a fan of Blake’s books, The Warehouse is the book for you! 

Cloud is the giant tech company that has taken over the entire American economy. 

Cloud’s warehouse is what the world relies on for food, shelter, communication, currency, and anything else you might need. 

Told in different perspectives, you are lead down a clever path with Cloud’s founder, who is sick with cancer, and through the viewpoints of those who now have to rely upon Cloud to survive. 

When a woman (Zinnia) decides to go undercover, she is determined to figure out all of the company’s secrets and how they rose to power. She uses Paxton, who works in security, to help her get to the bottom of Cloud’s corporate greed and what they are hiding from the world. 

I love, love, love the themes in this book. As we become increasingly reliant on the corporate giants (like Amazon or Walmart), do we face a similar economy? In the same way that Black Mirror brings me discomfort, this one strikes a little too close to home. 

The narration, on audiobook, is just genius. I couldn’t stop listening because it was so cleverly done.

Told from these alternating viewpoints, you begin to see why decisions are made and why the world might not always understand those decisions.

In the same regard, you see what is asked of us if we become too reliant on one source.

I could talk about this one all day and that’s why I’m thrilled to talk about it in our book club. 

I’m so happy that Rob has agreed to be a part of our interview series and I know you will love it as much as I did.

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Book of Harlan The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden

I cannot begin to explain how beautiful and heartbreaking this book was. 

I admit, I have developed a thick skin because I read so much, and sometimes that means books don’t always emotionally overwhelm me the way they should.

This was NOT the case with, The Book of Harlan.

I, originally, had this as a book club selection, but then felt like this was too heavy to expect everyone to jump into this one for a book chat. 

The honest truth is that I weeped through a good portion of this book and there are images that can’t leave my mind. 

I also learned a different side of the Holocaust that I didn’t realize existed.

I apologize if this was naive, but I did not know that other people of color were also rounded up, on the streets, and sent to concentration camps. 

Harlan’s experience, as a concentration camp survivor, is harrowing and ripped my heart to shreds.

I have read so much literature on this era and McFadden opened my eyes by using her own research into this (and her own ancestor’s stories), to bring to light something that I didn’t know. 

This is one reason I am so grateful for historical fiction.

Starting with the marriage of his parents, we are taken on a journey  through Harlan’s life and how difficult it was (and still is) to be a black man, growing up in such a bigoted world.  Spanning six decades, Harlan’s story from beginning to end is beautifully told. 

This book is graphic, as McFadden pulls back the curtain on the concentration camp. I really did have to take a break through this section, in particular. In the same way, A Little Lifemoved and wrecked me, this story captured my heart and made Harlan one of the most special characters I’ve read.

I’m thankful that I read this one this year.

10 out of 5 Stars

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

If you combined, The Handmaid’s Tale with The Lord of the Flies and added a splash of, The Hunger Games, you have this incredible novel that you just won’t want to put down.

In Garner County, girls are told that they have extreme powers that lure men and drive other women crazy with jealousy. These girls are told that their skin takes on a scent, when they are on the edge of their womanhood.

It is why the girls are banished from the safety of their homes and into the woods, when they turn sixteen, so they can release their crazy powers into the wild before being married. 

Unfortunately, many girls don’t survive the trip. 

Tierny isn’t like other girls though and dreams of a different kind of life. She is willing to test these boundaries, even as she becomes increasingly aware of what is at stake.

This YA read is FANTASTIC and I loved all of the creative elements that Liggett brought to create this dystopian world.

I listened to this one on audiobook and was thankful that I did not turn off my headphones at the end because they interview Kim about this novel.

Her overwhelming emotional response to the story, and seeing it out in the world, made me love it even more. 

Catch this one before it comes to the big screen with Universal Studios and is directed by Elizabeth Banks!

I’m so excited that Kim has agreed to join us for our interview series and look forward to discussing this one in our book club. 

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

When I asked our book club for recommendations on short books to read (to nail that GoodReads goal), several members recommended, Wolfpack

At just 112 pages, I wasn’t expecting such a powerful punch, but that’s what Abby delivers in this book.

This book is based on a viral commencement speech she delivered in 2018 to Barnard College graduates.

Abby, a U.S.  Soccer Olympic Gold Medalist, challenges women to not compare and pit themselves against other women, but to come together. The pack mentality allows us to use our powers for good and help facilitate change in our world. 

She challenges women to not be Little Red Riding Hood and follow the path, but to be curious and open to going off the beaten path…even if we fail.

Wambach uses elements in her career in ways that are, truly, inspiring. Even when benched, due to injury, she finds a way to love and support her team so that she still feels part of everything.

I am continually wowed by her work and this was no exception.

If you have a daughter, no matter your side in politics, share this one with her.

When women come together, beautiful things really do happen! 

5 out of 5 Stars

November Road by Lou Berney

November Road by Lou Berney

If Stephen King says a novel is, “exceptional,” you better believe that I will read it. November Road was not on my radar until I started researching the best books for discussion.

This one is very different than anything I’ve chosen before and I am so glad that I discovered it.

The story takes place during the assassination of JFK and centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across America, to hunt down someone who might have the key to discovering what happened to JFK.

A street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned how quickly one’s luck can change. When the mob thinks he knows too much about this crime of the century, he immediately becomes a target. 

One by one, people that are tied to Marcello end up dead.

To try to escape his certain demise, he heads to Las Vegas to try to vanish from the mob scene. 

On his way, he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken down vehicle. She has a dog and two girls.. and he thinks this family might help his disguise be even more believable.

Posing as an insurance agent, he offers to help her reach her destination. 

What he doesn’t know is that she happens to be on the run too. 

This is a REALLY great story. Berney builds believable suspense and a great little love story in the process.

Fans of, Labor Day, are sure to love this one.

Fittingly, this has become our November Book Club selection. I am so excited to talk to you about this one! Berney is an incredible storyteller and I was completely sucked into this wild adventure that he created for these characters.

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

Beside Herself

Beside Herself by Elizabeth LaBan

Thank you to the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Lately, I have been reading a lot of Women’s Fiction books that surround infidelity and open marriages. 

What can I say?

Sometimes women want to fictionally escape (or at least watch the train wreck when fictional people do it).

Beside Herself, is another exploration of a marriage that has gone off the rails, thanks to infidelity.

Hannah is desperate to find out what her husband has planned for her surprise birthday party.

When she hacks into his phone, the surprise isn’t what she expected at all.

She finds numerous texts between her husband and another women, who have been meeting at a hotel together.

When confronted, he shares that he had been cheating, but that he would never do it again.

Now that the secret is out he wants them to put the pieces back together with a marriage counselor.

In retaliation, Hannah decides that she will explore online dating and cheat on Joel, to even the score. 

As readers, we get to go on one awful date after another with Hannah.

We also get the opportunity to see what brought Joel & Hannah together in the first place. 

Guess what? It is absolutely heartwarming!

LaBan builds a realistic plot with a father in the nursing home, a friendship that can’t withstand the situation, and an unlikely support person that helps her through this difficult patch in her life. 

Fans of, The Arrangement, will love this escape with Hannah as she searches for love in unlikely places.

4 out of 5 Stars

When All Is Said by Anne Giffin When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

When All is Said has a very unique premise for a novel. The narrator lifts a glass five times for a toast to five different people that impacted his life.

Griffin immediately envelopes you into Maurice’s story. At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town, this 84-year-old man has decided to share his REAL life story with you. We are lead to believe that this will be his final night.

I will admit, at first I wasn’t completely enraptured with Maurice and feared that I wouldn’t connect with his story. As he reveals his soul deeply and truthfully, I began to feel more and more connected to Maurice.

His unspoken joys and regrets are mixed with a secret tragedy that he has always kept hidden. 

I was a little teary-eyed through this one because Maurice is so beautifully layered and his confessions will give you pause and reflection on your own life.

Anne will be joining us for our interview series, as we discuss her beautiful book. 

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

Let me be honest, it is the cover of this book that initially sucked me into picking it up. You can’t always judge a book by its cover, but in this case you can! 

I adore a good love story and that’s just what you will get in, The Stationary Shop

In 1953, Roya is a teenager who happens to be growing up in the midst of political upheaval.

This is why Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood book and stationery shop is such a beautiful respite from the chaos. 

Bahman is one of Mr. Fakhri’s favorite customers and ends up catching Roya’s eye. He is a passionate young man who has a deep passion for justice..and soon discovers a deep passion for Roya. 

Falling in love when the world is in turmoil proves to be awfully challenging.

The reader is taken along each treacherous turn as Royal and Bahman try to find one another again. 

This story is BEAUTIFUL! I had a few local women (MomAdvice Beta Book Club Testers) read it and everyone was so moved by this passionate romance.

And, yes, there were tears.

I can’t say enough good things and I can’t wait to talk about it with you in book club.

You can learn more about this year’s book club here.

5 out of 5 Stars

Virgil Wander Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

Our final discussion, for the MomAdvice Book Club, was for Virgil Wander and I was so excited to read this one.

This is one of those cases where I felt like it was me, and not the book, that was the problem. Trying to read a slower build story in the middle of December made it really challenging around the holiday chaos.

Although this one took awhile for me to warm up to, Enger creates a beautiful Midwest town and shapes a beautiful little community, in his story.

Virgil is involved in a car accident where he drives off the road and right into the lake. 

Miraculously, he is saved, but he isn’t the same man he was before the accident. He has trouble finding words and forming sentences, something he used to be quite good at. 

With difficulty retaining his old memories, he decides to change his life. Where he used to be more quiet and highly productive, he finds that he wants to approach his life differently after the accident. 

Virgil’s new identity allows space for unlikely friends and relationships. Enger builds this small town up beautifully and anyone who has a deep appreciation for character-driven books will enjoy this one. 

It is gorgeously written, but slowly paced. 

That said, sometimes that is just what your stack needs.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Read With Me This Year

January 2019 Must-Reads

February 2019 Must-Reads

March 2019 Must-Reads

April 2019 Must-Reads

May 2019 Must-Reads

June 2019 Must-Reads

July 2019 Must-Reads

August 2019 Must-Reads

September 2019 Must-Reads

October & November Must-Reads

Sign up for the MomAdvice Daily Book Deals Newsletter

Join Our FREE Book Club

enjoy these reviews? here are a few other reads you’ll enjoy this year!


9 cozy books for winter reading

19 thrillers to keep you up all night

quick reads to reach those reading goals quick reads to reach those reading goals

53 historical fiction novels to escape with 53 historical fiction novels to escape with

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

December Must-Reads from



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The 2020 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE PRINTABLE)

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

2020 MomAdvice Reading Challenge



Are you reading for your next book challenge? Set a goal to switch up your reading this year with our 2020 reading challenge worksheet. These 24 prompts will help you expand your reading this year.

I hope you caught our MomAdvice 2020 Book Club selections that were announced this week! I am so excited to share these next twelve books with you and thrilled about the new additions we are making to help create a more interactive reading experience for you.

I have heard that many of you have really benefited from these reading challenge worksheet so today I am sharing a year in reading challenge that should help you reach your reading goals and challenge you to read more books this year.

What is a Reading Challenge?

Typically, reading challenges are lists that offer prompts for selecting books throughout the year.

Reading challenges can offer advanced reader goals (reading books over 800 pages, classics, 52 books for each week of the year, 50 book challenges, or advanced nonfiction topics), fun exploratory ways of reading (i.e.- reading a book that starts with each letter in the alphabet, reading that is set to one theme (only books by women, books written by people of color, or books about/by the LGBTQ+ community), or they can offer broad challenges that tackle a wide diverse range of topics (like books being made into movies, a book in your tbr pile, something you missed on your 2019 reading challenge, summer reading/ beach reads, or a book that challenges your viewpoint).

What is the Goal of the MomAdvice Reading Challenge?

My goal each year is to create a reading experience that helps you branch out of your comfort genres and helps you to expand a previously held viewpoint about the world and the people in it.

I love to push people to look differently at previously held ideas about topics and that is what you will find in our 2020 worksheet.

With categories like settings in rural places, stories on mental illness, nontraditional family stories, a exploration on a religion you aren’t familiar with, immigrant stories, book set during wartime, and a book that challenges your own viewpoint, I REALLY believe that this can expand your view of the world and the people in it.

Do You Have Any Suggestions on Books I Should Pick for the MomAdvice Reading Challenge Categories?

I thought you would never ask! 

Here is what I will be reading for this year’s challenge!


MomAdvice 2020 Reading Challenge

Recommended by a favorite online source/podcast- A Curse So Dark and Lonely (recommended by Currently Reading)

Being adapted for film- News of the World

Set in a rural location- The Line That Held Us

A memoir or journal- Inheritance

One you meant to read in 2019- The Silent Patient

MomAdvice 2020 Reading Challenge Book Options

With a beautiful cover- Wilder Girls

A 2019 GoodReads selection that did not win- This Is How You Lose the Time War

About mental illness- The Great Pretender

With a dysfunctional family- Wild Game

A MomAdvice Book Club pick- I read and loved them all! Join the club!

A political book- Becoming

Recommended by a Librarian- Help a girl out if you are a librarian!

MomAdvice 2020 Reading Challenge Book Options

Written by someone younger thank you-  Normal People

About music or a musician- A Visit from the Goon Squad

Written by a woman of color- With the Fire On High

Set around a holiday- Mr. Dickens & His Carol

On addiction- Marlena

MomAdvice 2020 Reading Challenge Book Options

A novel set during a war- The World That We Knew

One you haven’t read by a favorite author- The Silent Sister

About a religion or culture you are unfamiliar with- The Book of Lost Saints

On an immigrant experience- Behold the Dreamers

One that challenges your own viewpoint- In the Dreamhouse

MomAdvice 2020 Reading Challenge Book Options

About a news headline topic- Long Bright River

MomAdvice 2020 Reading Challenge Book Options

About an artist- Cooking for Picasso

Don’t miss these other great reads on MomAdvice:

MomAdvice 2020 Book Club Selections 2020 MomAdvice Book Club Selections (join our free club!)

9 cozy books for winter reading

19 thrillers to keep you up all night

quick reads to reach those reading goals quick reads to reach those reading goals

53 historical fiction novels to escape with 53 historical fiction novels to escape with


Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

You can also sign up for the MomAdvice Daily Book Deals Newsletter with the latest book news!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases


2020 MomAdvice Reading Challenge

MomAdvice 2020 Book Club Selections

Monday, December 16th, 2019

MomAdvice 2020 Book Club Selections

Have you been looking for a free book club to join? Check out the 2020 MomAdvice Book Club Selections and join our FREE book club today! These 12 selections have all been read and loved, by me.  I look forward to our free book club chats, interactive book club crafts, and our interviews with this year’s chosen authors.

This is one of my favorite days of the year. I am so excited to reveal our MomAdvice Book Club selections with you today. 

I have read each of these selections and couldn’t be prouder of the gathering this year. Not only do I love them, but I think that they will lend themselves well to a great book club discussion.


Well, each of these books have challenged my viewpoint, in some way. I really believe that this is one of the BEST side effects to being a reader. It expands your world in a new way and reminds us that we all have the capacity to grow.

After reading each of these, I contacted each of the authors (with the exception of Betty Smith, of course) to let them know that their book had been officially selected as our official monthly selection.

I admit, I am no Reese, Jenna, or Oprah, but I do believe that I have gotten many to read books that they never would have picked up.

I consider this one of my superpowers.

I am hoping there will be a few on this year’s list that will be new to you and that they will top your list of favorites too.

If one of your goals this year is to join a book club or read more, I’d love to introduce you to our FREE book club you can join. This is  an AMAZING Virtual Book Club group filled with almost 3,000 (!!!) readers where we all share in a monthly discussion together.

MomAdvice Free Online Book Club

What Will Be Different in the MomAdvice Book Club This Year?

This all has been a big learning process, for me, on how to expand and make the book club even more beneficial to you.

In the past, I selected novels based on awards, authors that consistently delivered great reads, or anticipated buzz books for the year. 

This strategy ended up working a lot, but there were books that I wasn’t as crazy about that ended up on our list.

This year I made it a goal to read all the 12 selections to (hopefully) deliver consistently great books that you will, truly, love. 

I also  contacted the authors to let them know that their book had been officially selected as our official monthly selection.

With their help, we will be having interactive discussions, reviving the author interview series, and we will have a copy of each book to giveaway to a reader.

In addition to our chats, this year, I am partnering with MJ, at pars caeli, to craft a project around each read. 

MomAdvice Book Club Chats

How Does the MomAdvice Facebook Book Club Work?  

Scroll down to see my list of the twelve books that we will be discussing.

The Book Club Chat is held on the last Friday (of the month)  and an Event invite is sent out to members at the beginning of each month.

Once you RSVP to an event, Facebook does its thing and sends out reminders to you.

Discussion questions are posted throughout the event and you are able to hop on at anytime during the day (or when you finish that book) to answer the questions at a time that is convenient for you.

This year, we will have many authors also participating in our chats.

How fun is that?

Feel free to join us and let your friends know about the group too.

The more the merrier!

How Much Does it Cost?


Well, What Do YOU Get Out Of It?

I want this to be fun and free for you. I post the daily Kindle book deals (sign up for our daily deals newsletter to receive these directly to your inbox)  and I share our book club picks through something called an affiliate link.

What is an affiliate link? 

Great question!

Basically, this link gives me a few pennies on each of your purchases that help pay for the web hosting on our website.

The web hosting currently costs me approximately $200 monthly and your purchases from this group basically help to offset that cost for our family at no cost to you. This year, I will also have the additional expense of mailing giveaway books and the cost to hire a designer for our crafts.

Thank you for helping me make this book club great with your purchases.

I promise that I try to only share the good stuff and good books.

I know I can’t appeal to everyone’s taste, but I do try to pick books that I think you will enjoy.

I also would like to think I made a lot of great bookworm friends too in this group. It’s been fun to have a place to obsess about books, to share what we are reading each week, and just hang out with other people who just get you.

I have tried to cultivate a positive environment and the group is filled with those kinds of drama-free people that you want to have filling your Facebook feed.

MomAdvice Reading Retreat

How Do I Meet People from the MomAdvice Book Club?

Did you know that we hosted our first MomAdvice Reading Retreat this year?

I can’t begin to tell you how magical it all was and how thankful I was to meet these incredible women.

You have to be an active member in our club to participate in our face-to-face weekend retreats so be sure to join!

Enough waiting! I’m thrilled to share these twelve 2020 book club selections with you today! I can’t wait to hear what you think about this year’s list.

MomAdvice 2020 Book Club Selections

MomAdvice 2020 Book Club Selections

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett January- The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali February- The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica March- The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

When All Is Said by Anne Giffin April- When All Is Said by Anne Giffin

Dominicana by Angie Cruz May- Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie June- Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie

The Warehouse by Rob Hart July- The Warehouse by Rob Hart

We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop August- We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson September- Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

October- The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

November Road by Lou Berney November- November Road by Lou Berney

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith December- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (my favorite classic!)

MomAdvice 2020 Book Club Selections


Join in on the MomAdvice Book Club HERE! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site!

Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads

You can also sign up for the MomAdvice Daily Book Deals Newsletter with the latest book news!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

MomAdvice 2020 Book Club Selections

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Teaching Kids About Giving & Gratitude

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Teaching Kids about Giving & Gratitude

It’s hard to teach our children about giving and gratitude in everyday life, but when the busy holiday season arrives, we can find some special ways to express gratitude for what we have. Spend time this month teaching kids that an attitude of gratitude and giving feels good.


My daughter has always been annoyingly observant.

This means, first of all, that you cannot have “for grown-up ears only” conversations around her, make promises (or threats) you don’t intend to keep, or expect her to simply forget about the slightly traumatizing or embarrassing event from last week. (I know. Typical, right?)

But it also means that as a two-year-old, she recognized the insanity of the suburban grocery store situation.

One day after picking her up from the babysitter, I said, “Okay, Annalyn, we’re going to go to the store now.”

As we drove down the highway, she asked, “What store?” and I answered, “HyVee.”

All was well – until we pulled into the parking lot and started walking toward the store.

Toddling along, holding my hand, she looked up and shouted, “NO! No, Mommy! This is the wrong HyVee!

She was just two years old, but already she was realizing that in this suburban setting, we can find a grocery store on just about every corner.

Of course, as she was also learning, not all grocery stores are created equal.

For example, the big box store where we usually buy groceries is a smaller version of the big box store a few more miles down the road.

When it was first converted to a superstore with groceries, I was super excited.

Driving fewer miles to buy groceries was a definite plus, but I was also relieved to shop in a store slightly smaller than the Atlanta airport.

Until I couldn’t find the right peanut butter. Or deodorant. Or soy milk.

See, it turns out that we traded miles of walking for a smaller selection.

That makes sense, of course, and isn’t the end of the world by any measure.

But you wouldn’t have known that from my initial reaction.

“What the heck? How could they have all these other salsas but not the one I want? What is wrong with this store? Stupid store.”

Talk about first-world problems!

And…talk about setting a bad example!

We live in a small house in an old, deteriorating neighborhood.

Nearly every room in our home is broken in some way, and my car drives like it’s one gear shift away from a failed transmission.

Every holiday, date night, birthday party and new outfit stresses out my budget and me.

And we carry a much higher balance on our credit card than I like to admit.

However, by the standards of a huge majority of people in this world, we are wealthy.

Not just comfortable, but rich.


How, then, do I teach my young kids a healthy perspective on all our blessings, as well as a grateful and giving heart?

We do it by talking about having a grateful heart, reading stories about thankfulness and sharing, praying before meals and thanking God for all He’s given us every night before bed.

We send thank you notes for gifts, and when it’s appropriate, I point out how much more we have than others – and how that means we must share with others. (Okay, fine, sometimes it’s more frustration than an appropriate teachable moment. But can you blame me, when I hear the words, “Is that all?” for the umpteenth time in one back-to-school shopping trip?)

But we also fight the occasional case of the gimmes (often prompted by the arrival of an American Girl catalog…SIGH…!) by giving our time and resources to help others.

The holidays bring up lots of opportunities to help others in a special way, but giving back is something we can do in our own lives, in every season:


We can make meals and deliver them.

We can order pizza or pick up chicken and deliver it.

We can send a thank you note.

We can send a gift card or a gas card.

We can proofread her resume – and explain LinkedIn.

We can take baby clothes to a friend.

We can pick up a Sonic slush on the way.

We can keep extra gloves and granola bars in the car for those in need.

We can sit and visit and listen and laugh (and maybe cry, too).

We can pack up the kitchen and the boxes and the truck.

We can unpack the truck and the boxes and the kitchen.

We can order another pizza or fill up her freezer.


Teaching Kids about Giving & Gratitude


Helping friends in a real, tangible way is important to me.

And just as important is teaching my children that this is what we do.

We don’t just talk about it or feel bad about it; we don’t just toss out platitudes or empty promises.

When we hear about a lost job, a scary diagnosis, another round of the flu, a last-minute move, a no-good, very bad, terrible day, we can do something.

We can help.

We can give out of our abundance; we can love.

And somehow, between a not-quite-daily gratitude journal and sponsored kids and thank you notes and meals dropped off for a sick friend, my girls seem to be learning a little bit about giving and gratitude.

At least until they find the next overpriced toy catalog in the mail…


How do you teach your kids about giving and gratitude?



Teaching Kids About Giving & Gratitude

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2019 MomAdvice Favorite Things List

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List

Looking for a gift for yourself? This holiday gift guide lists all of my tried-and-true gifts that I have received and why I think you will love them too. Check out the MomAdvice Favorite Things list for a great gift for any lady in your life!

I have enjoyed putting together our holiday gift guides SO MUCH this year. To close out the shopping guides, I wanted to share with you what topped *my* favorite things this year.

A few of these were acquired more recently, but most of these items are things that I use use daily in our home.

I love a good gift guide with a personal testimonial, don’t you?

Of course, I have a few items on my wish list (that I don’t own)  too so I’ll share that with you at the end!

2019 MomAdvice Favorite Things List

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List ABEO Slippers

I was such a big fan of my UGG slippers and wore them so much that I completely wore them out.

I participate in a lot of Facebook groups for my chronic pain and went through an entire list of recommendations for the best slippers for people with joint pain.

So many people raved about the ABEO Slippers so I thought I’d give them a try for my next house slippers.

I have to say, I’ll never go back to the UGG slippers again.

The biggest difference is the orthotic support that has been built into these. These slippers actually feel like they are holding and supporting each part of my foot.

I, honestly, didn’t know what I had been missing until I put these on my feet.

Although this is a pricier item on the list, these are worth every dang dollar.

Mainstays Sherpa Throws MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List

If I could, I would be wrapped in sherpa for the entire winter.  My favorite thing, in fact, is a sherpa sleep robe that I snagged from Walmart last year.

Sadly, they didn’t bring the exact jacket back, but they did bring along this nice substitute.

If you weren’t able to snag that sleep robe, I found a sherpa blanket that comes in a close second place to my favorite garment.

There is rarely a year that I’m not giving (or getting) a blanket and these sherpa blankets are my pick for cozy winter comfort.

They are surprisingly lightweight, feel like a warm hygge hug, and will cost you just, $9.88.

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List Scribd

I am sure you had to guess that there would be a couple of great bookish gifts that made the list.

Honestly, Scribd is one of my absolute favorite things and is a monthly membership that I would have a REALLY hard time giving up.

Scribd is best described as Netflix for book-lovers. Instead of charging per book, Scribd offers an unlimited membership at one flat rate.

There is an unbelievable selection of audiobooks and books that you can check out.

Not only do I love it for all my reads, but they also have other great features like subscriptions to magazines and you can even get sheet music on their platform.

All of that is a mere, $8.99 a month!

Keep in mind, this service does not work with the Kindle, but will work with your tablet or phone!

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List Conair Infiniti Pro Spin Air Brush

I have never been very good at the whole holding a blow dryer and a brush at the same time thing.  I bow down to hairdressers who have mastered this coordination.

Years ago I discovered this Conair Infiniti Pro Spin Air Brush and it has been a game changer.

This brush spins in both directions, with a simple button push! It comes with two different size brush options that you can use,  depending on your hair length.

People usually ask me if I’ve been to one of those fancy blow dry bars when I use this because you get that perfect shiny bounce.

Unfortunately for others, I have to jump into my infomercial for this gadget when I get asked about my hair.

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List

Exerpeutic Foldable Stationary Bike

I am laughing that this made the list after all the controversy with the Peloton commercial.

Honestly, some of us really DO want exercise equipment for Christmas.

While I would love a fancy spin bike, we don’t have the space or the funds to designate to one of those.

Instead, I opted for this inexpensive foldable bike and pair it with the Cyclecast app for my workouts.

This folds so easily and takes up very little space in our home.

Pairing it with an Apple gift card (check out this discount spot) would definitely make a great gift.

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List Full Body Bath Pillow

I have to say that one of my favorite gifts I’ve received is this incredible full body bath pillow.

This is, honestly, a plush cushion and it has durable suction cups that help hold it in place.

I believe this gift pairs awfully well with a bath tray, a good book, and a bottle of wine.

The biggest question I get asked is how to keep it clean.

This has a little hook at the top that you can hang it, after your bath and it dries quickly. The fabric is mildew resistant though so you don’t have to worry about the mold issue, especially if you properly let it air dry.

It also can be put right in your washer on a gentle cycle, to make sure the germs are really gone.

They even provide a laundry bag for you to roll it into, to prevent the suctions from getting stuck in your washer.

Five stars- highly recommend.

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List

My Political Pottery

I am leaving Mr. Rogers here instead of my pick for President….just to keep you clicking.

In all seriousness, I discovered a local potter (Rothshank Artworks)  that makes incredible political pottery and had to have a mug of our Mayor Pete.

Yay, South Bend!

I am completely aware that these are expensive, but they are one of those one-of-a-kind gifts that you will treasure forever. The workmanship is just unbelievable.

Sipping coffee in this beautiful piece makes me so dang happy and has been one of my favorite finds this year.


MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List

Shaker Stitch Sweaters

This year I discovered just how much I love shaker stitch sweaters.

My obsession started with this sweater, but there is a new shaker stitch sweater in town that I’m excited to wear this winter.

This chevron sweater comes in so many fun colors, is made with a breathable cotton yarn, and has that adorable puffer sleeve that is so trendy right now.

I found that this runs true to size, but if you are between sizes, I would go up one.

The best part? It is under $20 and feels VERY high end.

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List


Anytime I wear my Keysocks, I get questions about them. I am obsessed with these no-show socks because they don’t fall off.

I prefer the kind that go to your knees, because it adds a double layer of warmth, but they also now make these in short lengths too.

If you love a good pair of ballet flats or booties, you will definitely want to add these to your wish list.

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List

The Contour Flip Pillow

I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon the flip pillow, but I’m SO glad that I did.

Honestly, if you read a lot in bed, this is one gift that I think you will absolutely love.

The way this pillow is made, it allows you to position it in ten different ways, offering incredible neck and back support.

It comes without a cover so be sure to buy one if you want to keep it clean.

Not a reader?

No problem!

It also makes a great couch potato pillow too for those Netflix binges.

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List

Cozy Fleece Leggings

I am obsessed with fleece leggings in the winter and love  to wear big oversized sweaters with them in the winter.

If you can believe it, my favorite fleece leggings are $20 for TWO pairs.

These are lightly fleece lined, come in tons of colors, and are high waisted.

Keep in mind, they do not have compression in them, but they do hold their shape.

My one caveat with these is that they run REALLY small.

Size up for a comfortable fit for winter.

Can you tell I live in Indiana by my choices? #socold

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List Origami Entertaining Cart

The Origami company offers products that are a small space lover’s best friend.

Everything is high quality and FOLDABLE.

I REALLY needed a kitchen island, but I REALLY didn’t want to pay for a kitchen remodel.

My Origami Entertaining Cart has become my new best friend when I entertain and one of my favorite gifts.

This island folds completely flat and can be stowed in a corner until I need an extra counter space.

Although this might not be beneficial to you, it has been a BIG help with food photography.

I am able to put my surfaces on top and style dishes really easily, thanks to these little wheels.

Honestly, anything from this company would be a win in your home.

MomAdvice Favorite Things Gift List Corala Weighted Blanket

I got a Corala Weighted Blanket and now I refuse to sleep without it. This blanket has transformed my sleep (and my husband’s).

The reason I am highlighting this one is because it comes with TWO duvet covers- a warm fleece one (for winter) and a linen one (for summer).

While there are a lot of blankets that are cheaper, I’ve yet to find one so cleverly designed and beautifully made.

This queen size blanket settles my body down at night and is wide enough to share with my husband.

It is weird how calm it makes you feel when you are under it.  Restless sleepers really would benefit from this purchase.

I, personally, love that the covers can be removed and washed on this version.

The box itself was just as beautiful  and we use it for storing all of my clutches/purses in my closet now.

What Made My Wish List?

The Matte Makeup Organizer

Mealthy CrispLid

Stack ‘N Cook Stackable Inserts

LED Book Light

PowerLix Milk Frother

Sweater Blazer

Sagely Smart Pill Organizer

Yarn Storage Bag

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker

Looking for more great gift ideas? Check out this year’s gift guides!

100 Unique Stocking Stuffers Everyone Will Love 100 unique stocking stuffers for everyone on your list

Unique Gift Ideas for Kids of All Ages unique gift ideas for kids of all ages

Unique Gift Ideas for the Man Who Has Everything from unique gifts for the man who has everything

Unique Gift Ideas for Tweens & Teens unique gift ideas for tweens and teens

I hope that this inspires your gift-giving this year! Let me know if you got anything and what you thought!

Honest truth: I am always thankful to be a part of ANYONE’S holiday!

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MomAdvice Favorite Things List

How to Make a Homeless Care Package (Free Printable Supplies List)

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

How to Make Homeless Care Packages from

Blessing bags for the homeless are such a beautiful act of kindness for those in need. Today’s post will show you how to make homeless kits for those in need. These hygiene kits are handy to keep in your car, for those that live on the street, or can be given as gift bags for your local homeless shelter. Be sure to print out our free printable supplies list for your homeless care kit.

One thing that you may not know about our family is that we are really passionate about caring for the homeless.

Creating a homeless care package (also known as a Blessing Bag) can be one fantastic way that your entire family can be involved in caring for those in need.

Today we want to provide a checklist of supplies for the homeless bags, a local resources sheet you can print out (if you are in our area), and some tips for involving the whole family in this project.

After all, homeless gift bags are a great idea to help teach your children kindness.

These homeless packs have been replicated by so many people and are the perfect activity for volunteer organizations you may be part of.

By involving others, you can alleviate some of the expenses by asking everyone to bring the materials to craft these bags.

Distribute the list and allow each attendee to bring travel size items, food, socks or bags to help the homeless in your area.

How to Make Homeless Care Packages from

I also appreciate that these homeless care packages can be prepared for your local shelters or kept tucked away in the trunk of your car for those you may see on the street looking for your help.

I love feeling armed in these situations and these kits are a simple way to show how much you care.

Over the past couple of years, I have also had the opportunity to work at our local food bank and food pantry. What many people don’t realize is that many of these items cannot be purchased using food stamps.

Items that are not food (like toothpaste, paper products, deodorant, shampoo, toothbrushes, etc…) are not eligible and that is why these items are often in high demand at church community pantries.

It is why these are the items that I choose to donate to our shelter each year.

How to Make a Homeless Care Package from

I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t tell you that my husband inspires me every day with his giving heart. Last winter, he was coming home late from work because he would see people in need and run to stores to get them supplies and gift cards.

That is his heart.

That is why I love him.

If there is one thing I firmly believe in, it is that giving should be a family affair.

We have to lead our children by our example.

I want my children to remember that what made our family special is that we always gave with our whole hearts.

My kids assisted in every aspect of this project.

My son came with me and did the number crunching on a good old-fashioned calculator, my daughter helped sort and organize all of the items we bought, and both kids helped fill the bags with all of the necessary items.

Here Are My 3 Essential Elements to a Great Homeless Care Package

Feed Their Needs

One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who is homeless is personal hygiene items and food to nourish their bodies.

Begin by picking up items that will satisfy this area in their life first.

Simple items like shampoo, a razor, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, a bar of soap, and tissues are all great items to keep on hand.

Food like granola bars, crackers with peanut butter, beef jerky, trail mixes, dried fruits, and a bottle of water are also great items to tuck into your bags.

If you have the funds, small denominator gift cards (we did $5 Walmart gift cards) can also be great to give so that they can pick up a meal or item(s) they might need.

How to Make Homeless Care Packages from

Provide Warmth

We live in Indiana and the winters here are brutal for homeless people.

I can’t imagine how cold it would be to stand on the streets without the proper items

I need for warmth.

Add items like thermal boot socks, gloves, scarves, and hats to your gift bags.

Items like these may seem out of your financial reach, but I found all of these at the dollar store and the sets of gloves were a mere $.50 each.

Feed Their Souls

I am sure it goes without saying, but feeding someone’s soul is just as important as feeding their needs.

You can feed their souls in a variety of ways depending on your families beliefs and resources.

We created a local resources list (available for local residents to download) that they can tap into for further resources in our town.

A note that lets them know that they are on your prayer list, a note of encouragement by your children, or a scripture that you find comforting can also be excellent additions.

If these are not enough ideas, I encourage you to spend a bit of time browsing through the comments on this post.

Many people regularly volunteer at their shelters and food banks and have some great ideas to help.

Please also know, that we are real people (sometimes that doesn’t seem that way on the website, am I right?) and we did OUR personal best to put these together so we appreciate your KIND words on this post and definitely encourage you to share your own must-have items in a care package while being respectful of others in these comment threads.

How Do I Order My Homeless Care Package Supplies in Bulk?

Did you know that you can purchase items from Dollar Tree IN BULK.

Looking to save even more? Consider using this incredible rebates app to get cash back on ALL your holiday purchases.

We were able to place a bulk order with Dollar Tree and pick up the items we needed for these kits from our local store.

Don’t have room in your car?

No worries!

They can ship all the items directly to you.

How cool is that?

What Our Readers Suggest Adding to Your Hygiene Kits for the Homeless

I love seeing what contributions YOU recommend for these packs! Here are some of my favorites you shared!

“My husband and I travel a lot when he’s working on contract.

I save all the little complimentary shampoos, conditions, soaps, etc and when I have quite a few saved, I sew up pretty drawstring bags, divide the items I’ve save between the bags and then donate them to our local women’s shelter.

I’ve also started adding toothpastes and toothbrushes that I purchase to the bags.

Many times women arrive with nothing but the clothes on their back and this way they can be given their own personal care kit. I make each bag different so that they don’t feel like they are getting something that is assembly line, but something that was made just for them.”

“Many homeless also have dogs.

Perhaps you could add some things like treats, small pouches or pop-top cans of food, grooming supplies and toys.

And with the winter months coming, both owner and pet need to stay warm and dry…some large trash bags to put on the ground to keep from getting wet and even colder.

And I have seen fleece throws just recently at Walmart for like $2!”

“I currently make and deliver hot chocolate to a few homeless people I see on my way home from work (I work in downtown Chicago) and I pass out cold cans of pop in the summer.

I also make plates of food from leftovers after work luncheons and pass them out after work. (I don’t consider this stealing because I know that by 4:30 anything left in the kitchen will be thrown away.) I

know it isn’t not much, It won’t make a huge difference in the world, but it might make a world of difference to the person I’m helping.

Thanks for the list. I’m glad to see there are others out there who are concerned for the homeless and actually do something about it.

I hope the care package(s) I pass out, make the receiver(s) feel loved, thought of and cared for.”

“This is a wonderful idea! I got so excited when I saw this-I immediately began to think of other items that might be added, such a bar of soap or bottle of body wash, plastic glass and mug, plastic cutlery and plate, tissues, pen and notebook, small clock, personal wipes, instant oatmeal packets, instant soup packets, hot chocolate packets, instant noodle packets, towel, facecloth, thermal blanket, and in the summer, a sun hat, sunscreen, inexpensive umbrella and a fly swatter!

Many of these things can be found on sale, at Walmart, and the dollar store. They don’t have to be bought all at once and do lend themselves as a project for a family, like yourselves, or amongst a group of friends, a Sunday School class, a school class or a Brownie troop.”

“You might also check with your school district if they have children.

All our local schools have a homeless liaison who works to get food, clothing and housing for homeless families.”

“I regularly carry around coupon books from various restaurants, but this goes even further.”

“As truck drivers, my husband and I see many people standing on the exit ramps of the interstate highways.

We give ziplock bags with toiletries, (in a separate bag) and foods like you mentioned, plus single serve packages of oatmeal, grits, hot cocoa, ect. I add pack of sugar, jelly, peanut butter, plasticware, napkins, whatever we get from the take out and fast food restaurants.

I also pick up dollar store gloves, hats, socks, ect. We have added stamped postcards, Christmas cards and candy canes in season.

Notepads and pens are welcomed as are throws we get at thrift stores.

We were giving the gift books from the fast food places, but now they’ve gone to gift cards.

Chapstick is a good idea, as are deodorants, comb, sanitary items for the women, (yes, we see homeless women and children too).

We give small toys, stickers and tattoos for the kids. We stay in motels a lot and always ask housekeeping for extras.”

“I love this post. I am in the middle of coordinating a SOCKS party here in Nashville.

We are getting the big, thermal socks, and filling them with different items for the homeless.

We’ve been fortunate to have my dentist donate the toothpaste and floss, and McDonald’s donated 1,000 Cards for a free dollar menu item.

We also have tons of shampoo, conditioner, and soaps from hotels.

We’ll stuff it with snacks, hand warmers, and other items (many on your list).

We are getting together for our SOCK party and letting the kids stuff the socks and make the tags, which will say “I care”.

The kids are excited and I love what it’s teaching them. Thanks for inspiring others to give back!”

Aren’t my readers incredible? Just think of the possibilities with this one!

God has been so good to us, but 10 years ago we were in a very different place than where we are now.

My husband was unemployed for almost an entire year, our financial situation was a house of cards, and my heart was in a bad place.

Although I don’t like to admit it, I wondered what my purpose on this earth even was.

I never have forgotten that dark place and it is why we still try to be so careful with the resources we have been given and why I have such a tender place in my heart for those who are struggling.

If you would like to read more about it, I encourage you to read my book where I share how we recovered from this difficult financial period in our life.

Being careful though doesn’t mean that you can’t be a giver.

There are fantastic ways to give, both big and small, around the holidays.

Be sure to check our list of ten painless ways to give back to charities to help you get started.

I call these smaller ways to give the, “scraps of life giving.” I have talked a lot about that with my partnership with Pure Charity as well!

We want to help you give back to your community! Here are some resources to do just that!

Grab our Free Homeless Supply Checklist for your your care packages.

Don’t just click on the picture, head to this link to grab a full-size PDF version!

Grab our Local Resources List for your care packages (if you don’t live in Michiana, you can use this as a template for your own sheet)! Don’t just click on the picture, head to this link to grab a full-size PDF version!

Looking for more great ways to give back? Here are a few other great ideas!

diy no sew hand warmers

cabled ear warmer pattern diy cabled ear warmers

diy chunky knit blanket pattern

How do you give back in your community? How do you teach your kids to be givers?

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this post contains affiliate links.

How to Make a Homeless Care Package from

How to Make Homeless Care Packages from

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11 Sitcoms to Help Get You Into the Holiday Spirit

Monday, December 9th, 2019

11 Sitcoms to Get You in the Holiday Spirit from

Here’s a guide for every episode you need to stream on television get into the holiday spirit! These 11 tv shows, with hilarious holiday episodes, prove that this season really is all about family – no matter how dysfunctional. Be sure to pin this post so you can remember this list of holiday episodes for a new family Christmas tradition.


From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, as we all know, but also the most hectic time of the year. 

From shopping to baking to figuring out what to wear to the fancy party that sounded so fun when you agreed to go, most of our lives are nonstop chaos from about October through New Year’s.

With that in mind, it might seem silly that we’re bombarded with so much holiday programming on TV. 

Who has time for that this holiday season when we have gifts to wrap and end-of-semester or end-of-quarter deadlines to meet and family dysfunction to navigate?!?

Well, nobody, I guess. 

But while we may not have time to sit back and watch fictional characters and their holiday hijinks, I believe we might just need it.

Because sometimes we need a break. 

Sometimes we need to laugh. 

Sometimes…well, sometimes we need to watch a family way crazier than our own to regain our perspective on these people driving us nuts in real life!

Fortunately, in addition to the onslaught of holiday movies (of which I am a giant fan) and Christmas specials (of which I have made an exhaustive list), our favorite tv series are HERE FOR US with their very special holiday episodes.

Now, I won’t deny that some of our most beloved dramas have given us so much at holiday time. 

From Chrismukkah (The O.C.) and winter festivals (Gilmore Girls) to the most romantic proposal in the snow (Downton Abbey) to even the most dark and twisty characters getting into the holiday spirit (Grey’s Anatomy), these shows can really do a number on our already seasonally fragile emotions. 

There’s a time and place for all that, but right now, I’m leaning more toward the fun and funny type of holiday episodes. 

That is what I think is going to help us not just get through the holidays, but actually enjoy them.


11 Sitcoms to Get You Into the Holiday Spirit


Blackish Christmas


What other family sitcom addresses real family life and serious societal issues with so much humor and heart? 

Making us think (and sometimes tear up) while laughing so hard is a Black-ish specialty, and that’s no different during the holiday.

Stream on Hulu.

  • Black Santa/White Christmas – season 1, episode 10
  • Stuff – season 2, episode 10
  • Just Christmas, Baby – season 3, episode 10
  • Christmas in Theater Eight – season 5, episode 8


Bob’s Burgers

I’m new to this show (thanks to Amy’s recommendation on my podcast!), but I can already tell I’m going to love this bizarrely lovable (or is it lovably bizarre?) family’s holiday shenanigans.

Stream on Hulu.

  • Bob Rest Ye Gentle-Mannequins – season 3, episode 9
  • Christmas in the Car – season 4, episode 8
  • Father of the Bob – season 5, episode 6
  • Nice-Capades – season 6, episode 5
  • The Last Gingerbread House on the Left – season 7, episode 7
  • The Bleakening – season 8, episodes 6-7
  • Better Off Sled – season 9, episode 10

Community Christmas


Though I always enjoyed the times the Community gang simply sat around their study table in the library, the themed episodes where the whole show goes off the rails are really the best.

Two of the Christmas episodes fit that bill to a T, one being filmed in stop-motion animation and one a musical send-up of the TV show, Glee. 

If you like your holiday shows on the absurd side, Community has got you covered.

Stream on Hulu.

  • Comparative Religion – season 1, episode 12
  • Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas – season 2, episode 11
  • Regional Holiday Music – season 3, episode 10
  • Intro to Knots – season 4, episode 10

Happy Endings

This group of friends always makes me laugh so hard with their ridiculous antics focused on outsmarting each other in some competition or another, while also caring for one another with the most outrageous (and often back-firing) gestures imaginable. 

Also, as a fellow December baby, I’m all for friends who go overboard trying to make their friend’s Christmas birthday special.

Stream on Hulu.

  • Grinches Be Crazy – season 2, episode 9
  • No-Ho-Ho – season 3, episode 7


How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother is better known for its Thanksgiving (or, Slaps-giving, if you will) episodes, but it had some great Christmas episodes, too. 

And while this show is based on an outrageously unrealistic premise (“Kids, let me tell you every sordid detail of my exploits as a young single guy in the big city…”) and had that ending we all agree was major disappointment (*salutes* Major Disappointment), it also really did address issues many of us face as young (and not-so-young) adults. 

Navigating friendships in the fallout of a breakup, dealing with homesickness, going through life changes like pregnancy and moves: somehow How I Met Your Mother makes “adulting” hilarious, especially in these holiday episodes.

Stream on Hulu.

  • How Lily Stole Christmas – season 2, episode 11
  • Little Minnesota – season 4, episode 11
  • False Positive – season 6, episode 12
  • Symphony of Illumination – season 7, episode 12

New Girl Holiday

New Girl

Every character in this ensemble is intense — but in the super funny, strangely quirky sort of way. 

And like in real life, the holidays just amplify what’s already there, turning everything about them, good and bad, individually and collectively, up to an 11. 

But in the very best sort of way.

Stream on Netflix.

  • The 23rd – season 4, episode 9
  • Santa – season 2, episode 11
  • LAXmas – season 4, episode 11
  • Christmas Eve Eve – season 6, episode 10

Parks & Recreation Christmas

Parks and Recreation

Does anyone even come close to possessing the enormous amount of genuine (and productive) holiday spirit as Leslie Knope? 

Nope. (See what I did there?) 

She outdoes us all, and darn it! 

We love her all the more for it. 

Despite serious political distractions in these holiday episodes, Leslie and friends give us even more feels than normal, even when we’re not invited to Jerry’s Christmas party!

Stream on Netflix.

  • Christmas Scandal – season 2, episode 12
  • Citizen Knope – season 4, episode 10
  • Ron and Diane – season 5, episode 9


The Goldbergs

Who can rock a hideous Christmas sweater while also turning Hanukkah into a competitive sport better than Beverly Goldberg? 

Nobody, that’s who.

Stream on Hulu.

  • A Christmas Story – season 3, episode 10
  • Han Ukkah Solo – season 4, episode 10
  • We Didn’t Start the Fire – season 5, episode 10
  • Yippee Ki Yay Melon Farmer – season 6, episode 10

The Mindy Project Holiday

The Mindy Project

If a wine bra and a dancing Danny Castellano aren’t enough to convince you to watch the holiday episodes of The Mindy Project, then I just don’t know what to tell you. 

The holidays might be for spending time with the ones you love, but in this show, they’re also for planning and scheming and so many silly twists and complications we can barely keep them straight. (But we totally can, because sitcom complications are rarely all that complicated, and we are smart people.)

Stream on Hulu.

  • Josh & Mindy’s Christmas Party – season 1, episode 9
  • Christmas Party Sex Trap – season 2, episode 11
  • Christmas – season 3, episode 11

The Office Christmas Party

The Office

The holiday party planning committee and all its many, many problems is one of my favorite parts of The Office. 

Michael Scott going overboard in a ridiculous manner for a ridiculous reason? 

Not so much my fave. 

But somehow, these holiday episodes combine these two show ingredients into something stupid funny and great examples of what made The Office so popular.

Stream on Netflix.

  • Christmas Party – season 2, episode 10
  • A Benihana Christmas – season 3, episode 10
  • Moroccan Christmas – season 5, episode 10
  • Secret Santa – season 6, episode 13
  • Classy Christmas – season 7, episode 11
  • Christmas Wishes – season 8, episode 10
  • Dwight Christmas – season 9, episode 9

Will & Grace

If decking the halls includes donning our gay apparel, then obviously the foursome on Will & Grace are the right ones to help us do the holidays right. 

I’m hoping we get one last holiday episode this year, but even if we don’t, we have plenty of classics to choose from.

Stream on Hulu.

  • Jingle Balls – season 4, episode 12
  • All About Christmas Eve – season 5, episode 11
  • Fanilow – season 6, episode 10
  • Christmas Break – season 7, episode 12
  • A Little Christmas Queer – season 8, episode 9
  • A Gay Olde Christmas – season 9, episode 7

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What’s YOUR favorite holiday TV episode? 


11 Sitcoms to Get You in the Holiday Spirit from

7 Ways to Stay Connected During Busy Seasons

Monday, December 9th, 2019

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

7 Ways to Stay Connected During a Busy Season


While we are in the middle of the busy holiday season, it is hard to stay connected and schedule time to be together. We’ve learned some simple ways to spend time together that won’t increase your stress levels!



I told someone the other day that my husband and I aren’t even ships passing in the night right now. We’re more like ships in completely different oceans.

Thankfully, we do live in the same house.

My husband isn’t deployed or traveling extensively for work.

But he does work incredibly long hours on the night shift, which means our time together – as a couple and as a family – is extremely limited.

Recently we’ve been attending a marriage class at our church, and one of the topics we’ve covered is connection.

In our particular group it felt like my husband and I have a unique struggle, but I know that’s not the case in general.

I have many friends whose husbands are gone at either unusual or unpredictable times or for extended time (and sometimes both).

When one or both spouses are away from home a lot, staying connected can be difficult.

If you or your husband work an odd shift, work more than one job, work in law enforcement or medicine, own or run a business, serve in the military, or any other number of things that keep you busy, connecting with him may take what feels like a superhuman effort.

And, of course, if you’re already running on steam because of that exhausting schedule, that make seem impossible!

But it’s not.

Staying connected to your husband doesn’t mean you need to plan (and pay for – ugh!) a weekend getaway every month.

You don’t need to schedule walks on the beach or candlelit dinners, or fear the consequences. (Although, let’s be honest. If you live near the beach or own candles, those things never hurt!)

Staying connected to your husband during super busy, crazy chaotic seasons can happen with a few simple, intentional moves.

First, maybe we should define “staying connected,” though.

When I use that phrase, I mean that both spouses maintain a warm feeling about one another, showing each other kindness and attempting to make the other one feel loved on a regular basis.

What keeping that loving feeling looks like, tangibly and practically, in YOUR marriage?

That’s up to you (and your husband)!

Now, on to the tips!


7 Ways to Stay Connected During a Busy Season


7 Ways to Stay Connected During Busy Seasons


Date Nights: I know, I know – big surprise! Date nights = everyone’s solution for improving your marriage! But seriously, you guys. Finding time to spend together, alone, is crucial. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Last week we had our monthly date night scheduled but I couldn’t find a babysitter. So I reserved a movie rental and made sure we had popcorn in the pantry, and we still had time together after putting the girls to bed.


Stay Connected During Busy Season

Eat a Meal Together: Since we’re already talking about busy seasons, it’s obvious that eating dinner together each evening may be difficult or even impossible. But if you can’t eat dinner together, can you eat breakfast at the same time? Meet for lunch? Feed the kids at the normal time and eat with your husband later? Skype while you eat your meals in completely different time zones? However you arrange it, something about sharing a meal creates a closeness that can’t be duplicated with other food-free interactions.


Send Him a Message: I send my husband a text message each night before going to bed. It’s the end of my day but the middle of his work day, and I just want to make sure he knows I’m thinking of him. We’ve also started using Voxer, a voice message (and text message) app on our phones that allow us to leave messages for each other when we’re thinking about it – without waking each other up (a problem since our schedules are opposite). Maybe those things would work for you, or perhaps you need nightly phone calls or morning Skype dates. The point is to keep communicating so you can stay on the same page, even if you’re not in the same room.


Watch a Show Together: One of the perks to having a husband who works nights is that I don’t have to share the remote or negotiate the shows we watch. However, it also means that we’ve picked a handful of shows that we record and watch together on the weekend. And when “our” shows aren’t on, we watch something together on Netflix.

Others might say that watching TV together isn’t spending quality time together. But for us, it is. It’s something we only do together and it’s something we have in common. And though you might not think deep conversations could come from watching an episode of Castle or catching up on all five seasons of Friday Night Lights, you would be wrong.


7 Ways to Stay Connected During a Busy Season


Share a Hobby: If TV isn’t your thing, maybe you could read a book together and discuss it when you finally have time together. Or plant a garden together or refinish furniture together or train for a 5K together. (Or train for a 5K separately and then run the race together.) As long as you’re doing something together that you both enjoy, you’re connecting!


Write Him a Letter: My husband doesn’t know it, but on the rare occasion he leaves a note for me (“Don’t forget toilet paper at the store,” “Please wake me up at 4:30,” “Here’s that check to deposit.”), I keep them. There’s something special about seeing his handwriting and his words written just for me – even if they are about mundane, everyday things. It reminds me of the days when we dated and exchanged notes and letters, the days when the most serious thing we had to discuss was our feelings for each other.

Today I’m more likely to send that nightly text or scribble a sentence or two in a birthday card than write him a love letter. But I do think about it sometimes. I wonder if I could convince him to share a journal where we left each other notes. I wonder if I could make time to actually write him a letter. On paper. With a pen. I can’t say I have experience with this tip, but after all my wondering, I’m certain that doing this – even every once in a while – would amp up my connection with my husband.


Think Happy Thoughts: Even before my husband worked nights, he worked evenings. And before that, he worked two jobs. So we’ve had lots of practice fighting the drift of missed connection. For many years I spent that time alone, annoyed and resentful. I’ve learned that strategy is NOT the way to stay connected with your husband, in case you were wondering.

I’ll be completely honest: I still struggle with resentment sometimes. A schedule like ours is super annoying and can be super frustrating, too. But when I maintain a good attitude, focusing on the good parts of our life, remembering all the many reasons I love him, and expressing gratitude instead of grumbling, it’s a whole lot easier to connect with my husband when he finally gets home.


How do you stay connected to your husband during busy seasons?

Photos by Richard Min, bigbirdz, and Natalie Lucier.


Stay Connected During Busy Seasons


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