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2017: My Year in Books

2017: My Year in Books

2017 was an incredible year in books for me! I soaked up so many wonderful titles - finding time to read in all formats (paper, Kindle and audio!) and fell in love with tons of incredible characters! After reading only 55 in 2016 - and not reaching my goal of 75 - I decided to reduce my goal for 2017 to only 60 books - and I surpassed that by 19 books! 

Here are the books that I read in 2017, in the order that I read them. My favorites are in hot pink, and any books I listened to have an "(A)" next to them. 

1. Truly Madly Guilty | Liane Moriarty
2. The Nest | Cynthia Sweeney
3. Dark Matter | Blake Crouch
4. Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between | Lauren Graham (A) 
5. Homegoing | Yaa Gyasi
6. Small Great Things | Jodi Picoult
7. Mosquitoland | David Arnold
8. Girl in Translation | Jean Kwok
9. The Bronte Plot | Katherine Reay
10. Friday Night Lights | H.G. Bissinger
11. Born to Run | Bruce Springsteen (A)
12. Start | Jon Acuff (A)
13. The Woman in Cabin 10 | Ruth Ware (A)
14. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl | Issa Rae
15. We Should All Be Feminists | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (A)
16. 50 Ways to Yay | Alexi Panos (A)
17. Always and Forever, Lara Jean | Jenny Han
18. Commonwealth | Ann Patchett
19. Today Will Be Different | Maria Semple
20. Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love and Work | Jennifer Weiner (A) 
21. Rich People Problems | Kevin Kwan
22. Tell Me Three Things | Julie Buxbaum
23. The First Husband | Laura Dave
24. Crimes Against a Book Club | Kathy Cooperman
25. Small Admissions | Amy Poeppel
26. The Stars Are Fire | Anita Shreve
27. The Light We Lost | Jill Santopolo
28. The People We Hate at the Wedding | Grant Ginder
29. Dreamland Burning | Jennifer Latham
30. The Rules Do Not Apply | Ariel Levy
31. I Was Here | Gayle Forman
32. Behind Closed Doors | B.A. Paris
33. The Sunshine Sisters | Jane Green
34. The Couple Next Door | Shari Lapena
35. The Hate U Give | Angie Thomas
36. A Long Walk to Water | Linda Sue Park
37. The Sun is Also a Star | Nicola Yoon
38. The Good Widow | Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
39. Into the Water | Paula Hawkins
40. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage | Ann Patchett (A) 
41. Woman No. 17 | Edan Lepucki
42. Peace Like a River | Leif Enger
43. Leave Me | Gayle Forman
44. Impossible Fortress | Jason Rekulak
45. Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Roadtrips and My Son Taught Me About a Parent's Expectations | Ron Fournier
46. When She Woke | Hillary Jordan
47. 84, Charring Cross Road | Helene Hanff
48. Hillbilly Elegy | J.D. Vance
49. Underground Airlines | Ben H. Winters
50. Before the Fall | Noah Hawley
51. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House | Alyssa Mastromanaco (A) 
52. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions | Gloria Steinem
53. Bound | Donna Jo Napoli
54. A Man Called Ove | Frederik Backman
55. Red Queen | Victoria Aveyard
56. The Mountain Between Us | Charles Martin
57. The Guest Room | Chris Bohjalian
58. Faithful | Alice Hoffman
59. The Handmaid's Tale | Margaret Atwood
60. What Happened | Hillary Clinton (A) 
61. When Dimple Met Rishi | Sandhya Menon
62. Paris For One and Other Stories | Jojo Moyes
63. I'll Give You the Sun | Jandy Nelson
64. Stay With Me | Ayobami Adebayo
65. Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks | Annie Spence
66. Young Jane Young | Gabrielle Zevin
67. My (not so) Perfect Life | Sophie Kinsella
68. The Dry | Jane Harper
69. The Wangs v The World | Jade Chang
70. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen | Lucy Knisley
71. What to Say Next | Julie Buxbaum 
72. Very Good Lives | J.K. Rowling
73. When Breath Becomes Air | Paul Kalamanthi 
74. Every Last Lie | Mary Kubica
75. The Vegas Diaries | Holly Madison (A)
76. Between the World and Me | Ta-Nehisi Coates
77. The Two-Family House | Lynda Cohen Loigman
78. The Atlas of Love | Laurie Frankel
79. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine | Gail Honeyman

Oh my gosh! A seriously fantastic year in books!! And I read the strong majority of them from June through December - 60 of them in fact! That's an average of 8.57 books per month after June 1! 
Not highlighted in hot pink above, but ones that I really, really enjoyed this year include ...  Dark Matter, Always and Forever Lara Jean, Tell Me Three Things, The Stars Are Fire, The Light We Lost, Behind Closed Doors, The Sunshine Sisters, The Couple Next Door, 84 Charing Cross Road, Before the Fall, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, The Mountain Between Us, The Dry, When Breath Becomes Air, The Two-Family House, The Atlas of Love and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

My goal for next year is a bit higher, and I am setting it back up at 100 books - 21 more than I read this year. It will mean that I need to read more books in the first 5 months of the year, and then keep on pace with this year for the last 7 months. But, the goal is not for just 100 books - it is for 100 books out of my TBR pile - both physical and on my Kindle/Audible account. I am focusing on not buying any new books until I've made it through the GIANT stack underneath my nightstand (with about 100 books in it). Anyone else reading their shelves this year? I'd love to hear how it goes for you!

Want to join along in my literary adventures? You can connect with me on Goodreads (just search for Sara Levine)! Did you reach your reading goals this year? What were your favorites in 2017? I'd love to hear about them!!

Breastfeeding Isn't Best For Me, and That's Okay

Breastfeeding Isn't Best For Me, and That's Okay

I had lunch with a fellow new mom in early December. We both brought our little ones to lunch with us, and we both brought pumped breast milk with us to feed our children. While Claire didn't wake up hungry, my friend's son did, and while he was eating, we started talking about breastfeeding. Initially, my friend didn't really say very much other than that planned to continue to breastfeed as long as possible. Then, she asked me how I felt about breastfeeding.

"I hate it," I said.

"Oh, you do? Oh gosh, I hate it too. But I feel like you can't say that to anyone," she responded.

Here we were, two friends enjoying lunch out with our new babies, and mom-shaming was looming over us. Every time I turn around, I feel like there's something new to be mom-shamed about, but I feel like there is no issue that brings the judgment as quickly as the issue of breastfeeding.

When I was pregnant, and the subject came up, it was never a question. Of course I would breastfeed. And I'd do it for at least a year. Maybe longer, but definitely not any less. Breastfeeding was going to be wonderful and beautiful and of course, there were all those other benefits - weight loss, less sickness for my child, and one day a higher IQ!, just to name a few. And with breastfeeding, my child and I would bond in a way that we wouldn't if I didn't breastfeed.

I talked to other pregnant women about breastfeeding and every time it came up, we talked about how we would obviously be breastfeeding. I had a conversation with my best friend in July after she had her son about how we couldn't imagine telling a nurse at the hospital that you wanted to formula feed because the hospital staff was so aggressive about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding seemed so inevitable that it was impossible to imagine that I wouldn't embrace it. But, as it turned out, I didn't.

On November 1st, shortly after my precious daughter had been laid on my chest for the first time, the nurse asked if I was ready to start breastfeeding. I said yes, but before she helped me position Claire for her first time, she handed me a nipple shield. A nipple shield is a short plastic cover for your nipple that is supposed to be help the baby latch and help extract your nipple, and - bonus! - keep it from getting blistered or chapped as the baby eats. I took it without a second thought and Claire latched right on and it didn't hurt - at all! I had heard a lot of stories about it being painful and so I was so relieved to not be feeling pain. I met with a lactation consultant twice while I was in the hospital and she showed me different positions to use and was generally helpful. We left the hospital feeling optimistic about our breastfeeding journey.

The next day, at our first pediatrician visit, the doctor suggested that while I was waiting for my milk supply to come in, I should supplement with formula. I smiled and nodded politely and said I wanted to wait as long as possible before we turned to formula. When we left the appointment, I was almost in tears. My milk wasn't coming in? Was I failing as a mother when my daughter was only 4 days old? What if my milk never came in? Only a monster would turn to formula, right? I immediately texted a very pro-breastfeeding friend, who connected me to an incredible group of pro-breastfeeding women on Facebook. They encouraged me to keep breastfeeding as much as possible and that my milk would come in and they were right! Just 2 days later, my milk came in and Claire started gaining weight right away.

The women in the Facebook group also suggested that I see an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) to work on latching so that we could wean off of the nipple shield. And so, with their help, I found an IBCLC in my area and she made a home visit the next day. She worked with me and Claire for almost two hours and told me to keep working on it and that over time, Claire would eventually latch on without the shield. Except that she didn't. No matter how hard we tried, Claire wouldn't latch without the shield and would scream and cry if I tried to force her to do so. Occasionally, I could get her to latch for a few moments, but it was a struggle and honestly, the shield was just easier to use, so I kept using it.

The day after my visit with the IBCLC, I started feeling like I had the flu. I took my temperature and discovered it was at 101.3 and only got higher every subsequent time that I took it. I didn't know what was wrong and I panicked and became hysterical. I called my doctor's office in tears and they had me go to the hospital to be checked out. Josh and I rushed to the hospital with Claire at our side (I was breastfeeding and not yet pumping) to find out that I had mastitis. I was given a very strong antibiotic and told that I would be just fine. I went home, only a little worse for the wear, started the antibiotic and was feeling better within 24 hours. 

So, I kept nursing, but slowly started to dread it. Yes, I loved the connection I was able to have with Claire, but I didn't feel good about myself while I was breastfeeding. I felt self-conscious about my body and the idea of breastfeeding in public was out of the question with the nipple shield and my desire for modesty. 

Slowly, I started finding that other people hated it too. In fact, a lot of other people hated it too. Some girlfriends of mine brought their sons over one afternoon and both of them were using formula and both said that they'd hated breastfeeding. Another close friend has just switched to formula as she prepares to go back to work, not wanting to spend her days at work pumping. With the support of these non-breastfeeding fans and - importantly - my husband and my daughter's doctor, I decided that I would continue to breastfeed but slowly wean so that not only would I not get mastitis again, and so that Claire would get to use to the change gradually. At one time I had been ready to take on the challenge of pumping at work, but was dreading having to pump in the classroom and finding time in my teaching schedule to pump. I started to slowly wean, and I, to no one's surprise, got mastitis again.

This time, I was prepared. I called my doctor and immediately got another prescription written and returned to nursing and pumping in spite of the pain. At that point, I decided that when it was time to officially wean, I would do it cold turkey. That way, if I got mastitis again, it would be once, and I would deal with it as best as I could. I went for my postpartum checkup a few days later and my OB/GYN said that that stopping by going cold turkey was a good idea and so I set about with a plan in motion. I would slowly replace all feeding with pumped breastmilk and 2 formula feedings except for the middle of the night feeding. Then, when I was ready, I would just stop pumping. 

And one week ago, on January 1, I did just that. I stopped pumping. I woke up Sunday morning and never had time to pump and then that night I decided to skip pumping just to see how it would go and it went well. I did start taking Lecithin a couple of days before I stopped in preparation for stopping pumping (it is suggested that Lecithin helps to prevent clogged ducts) and I have had absolutely no issues in the last few days. I have not yet replaced her middle of the night feeding with a bottle and as long as my milk doesn't dry up, I will continue to nurse her as long as she is waking up to feed in the middle of the night. 

I've talked with a lot of people about this. Josh and I talked about it and we were both on board with switching to formula. While it was ultimately my decision, it was important to me to have Josh's support. We also have the support of our pediatrician with whom I discussed that I wanted to stop breastfeeding at our 1 month appointment. He said that he understands that breastfeeding isn't for everyone and that it is most important that we are feeding our daughter. "Yes," he said, "fed is best."

But, we haven't been met with support from everyone - namely, other moms who breastfeed. At a play date for the new moms group I joined, I had an interesting conversation with a mom who is adamant that more women should be given nipple shields because it causes less pain and she thinks it would encourage women to breastfeed for longer amounts of time. The women at the moms group were lovely, but most of them were adamant breastfeeders and seemed a little in awe that I didn't love it. When I went for my postpartum appointment with my OB/GYN, she also judged my decision to stop. She asked why, and when I told her that I didn't like it, was uncomfortable with it, and didn't want to pump at work, she ignored these reasons and asked if I thought I could stretch the breastfeeding to three months at least. When I said that that was really not an option (I will return to work at 11 weeks postpartum), she coldly said okay and dropped the subject. It definitely got a little awkward, as it has with other pro-breastfeeding moms, but at the end of the day, these women are not me and they are not in charge of feeding my daughter.

Last week, Josh sent me this article from the Washington Post and as I read it, and the studies and articles it mentioned, the tears streamed down my face. I had just made a few notes, that would be the beginning of this blog post, on the subject and it was such a relief to read similar stories from other women. So much of what was in the Washington Post article and the Atlantic Monthly article mentioned in it (linked below) hit close to home. And, the Post article shared some fantastic studies and other articles, one a groundbreaking sibling study from May 2014, another a study about asthma and breastfeeding, this amazingly hilarious Jezebel article, and an Atlantic article that I think everyone - those who breastfeed for years and those who never plan to do it - should read. Many of the studies that have been done are flawed and there is a large amount of research that supports women who want to formula feed their children. These studies demonstrate that there are benefits to both breastfeeding and formula feeding, and that no mother should be made to feel poorly about the way in which she chooses to feed her children if they are healthy and thriving.

When we have another child, I hope to breastfeed for the first couple of months and then stop. But I will be prepared for the possibility that I might not want to nurse for that long, or that I might want to nurse for longer. With our next child, I won't beat myself up over whatever decision that I make because I will be more educated, regardless of the decision that I make. I will be ready to back up my decision if questioned about it (not that I should be, but I know that I will be) and I will be sure that our decision is the best that we can make. For now, I am confident that this is the right decision for us. For me, for Claire, for our family. And that's okay.


2 Month Baby Favorites

2 Month Baby Favorites

On January 1, Claire turned 2 months old! We've been taking monthly pictures and this is our 2 month photo with Claire and her blocks!

It is incredible to see how much she's grown in the past two months! She's gained almost 5 pounds and is on track to be double her birth weight by her 3 month birthday - and will probably more than double her weight by then! 

Claire is a chubby-cheeked little firecracker who has a huge personality. She loves to smile and giggle and coos in "conversation" with us every chance she gets. She's only waking up once a night (most of the time) and has already switched to the bigger bottles because the 4 oz ones are too little. She is grabbing things and holding her head up so well - and loves showing off her head control. 

We're starting to figure out more of her likes and dislikes as she gets older and it has become very clear that she has some favorites things!

Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat // Her number one favorite thing right now is her seat - the Fisher Price Sit Me Up Seat! A baby needs to be able to hold up his or her head in order to be able to use it, but once they can - this seat is everything! Claire likes being able to sit up and watch what we're doing without being reclined and at all and this is perfect for that. She isn't a huge fan of being awake in her rock and play and hates the Mommaroo, but loves this seat!

Shiloh Mobile // For the holidays, Claire asked for a mobile to go above her bed and her Gran bought her this amazing Shiloh mobile. The characters are so cute and Claire loves to look at them. It plays music, rotates, and shuts off on its own after 30 minutes so it doesn't waste battery power or accidentally wake your little one up. We have the pink airplane one, but they make a huge variety!

Activity & Play Mats // Our living room has been taken over by play mats! Our two favorites are the Guess How Much I Love You Activity Mat, and the Fisher Price Kick and Play Piano Gym. Claire likes the interactive nature of kicking the piano and hearing the music that the Kick and Play gives her. And our favorite part of the Guess How Much I Love You Mat is that there are multiple interactive pieces. Claire's current favorite is the turning mobile in the middle with the mirror and song. 

Sleep 'n Plays // Right now, Claire basically lives in sleep and plays - aka "onesies" - from Carters! I may need an intervention to stop me from buying more of these - but I can't help myself sometimes because they are just too cute! Now, Claire sleeps and plays in them, but as time goes on, we'll use them more as footie pajamas and I'm sure will continue to be just too cute! They make them with buttons, which are good for quick peeks to see if a wet diaper needs to be changed, but we much prefer the zippers for the ease of getting them on and off.

Very Hungry Caterpillar // The newest addition to Claire's ever growing collection of toys, her cousins gave her the Very Hungry Caterpillar toy over the holidays and she loves it! It plays music, rattles, has different textures AND a bunch of different patterns - a 2 month old's dream! She has started to pull at it on her own, but still mostly loves when mom and dad make it sing to her.

MAM Pacifiers // We said we would never give her a pacifier, and then we discovered how much she likes them and how quickly she calms down with one! We're hoping it doesn't become a habit that is too hard to break, and for now, these I Love Mommy and I Love Daddy pacifiers are her favorites. They are easy for her to use and if the dog eats one (which has happened already!) they aren't too expensive to replace!

Avent Natural Bottle // The Avent Natural have quickly become our favorite bottles! The nipple is designed to prevent colic and gassiness and Claire can be a little fussy at night. Using these bottles has definitely helped her to be a little bit less gassy than when we use other, less air flowing friendly, ones. We are still using the slowest flow (size 1) nipple, but have upgraded to these 9 oz bottles to accomodate her growing appetite! 

We love these products so much and cannot imagine life without them right now! I wasn't paid to share any of these products, we just love them so much that I wanted to share them with you. I am using Amazon Affiliate Links, so if you buy any of the items above, you can support Sara Levine Blog by purchasing the product through these links!

Book List 2016

Book List 2016

2016 was not my best year for reading. Even though I enjoyed pregnancy, my body definitely felt the effects and often I went to bed early - either not reading at all, or falling asleep after only reading a page or two of a book. Because of this, and the arrival of a certain beautiful baby girl, my goal to read 75 books was not met. However, I did read 55 books and I'm happy that I did that! 

Here are the books that I read in 2016, in the order that I read them. My favorites are in hot pink, and the few books that I listened to on Audible are marked with an "(A)" next to them. 

1. All Fall Down | Jennifer Weiner
2. Dept. of Speculation | Jenny Offill
3. China Rich Girlfriend | Kevin Kwan
4. Uglies | Scott Westerfield
5. Paddle Your Own Canoe | Nick Offerman (A)
6. Pretties | Scott Westerfield
7. Dear Mr. Knightley | Katherine Reay
8. Everything, Everything | Nicola Yoon
9. Cry, the Beloved Country | Alan Paton
10. Openly Straight | Bill Konigsberg
11. Specials | Scott Westerfield
12. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg | Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
13. The Ice Twins | S.K. Tremayne (A)
14. Did I Mention that I Love You? | Estelle Maskame
15. Did I Mention that I Need You? | Estelle Maskame
16. Rats Saw God | Rob Thomas
17. Expecting Better | Emily Oster
18. Americanah | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
19. Her | Harriet Lane
20. Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage | Molly Wizenberg
21. Pretty Baby | Mary Kubica (A)
22. In The Woods | Tana French
23. The Hypnotist's Love Story | Liane Moriarty
24. Kindred Spirits | Rainbow Rowell
25. Dumplin' | Julie Murphy
26. The Summer I Learned to Dive | Shannon McCrimmon
27. Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun & Be Your Own Person | Shonda Rhimes (A)
28. Pretty Girls | Karin Slaughter
29. Big Magic | Elizabeth Gilbert
30. Every Last Word | Tamara Ireland Stone
31. Why Don't Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom | Daniel Willingham 
32. The Rent Collector | Camron Wright
33. When the Moon is Low | Nadia Hashimi
34. Thirteen Reasons Why | Jay Asher
35. Did I Mention I Miss You? | Estelle Maskame
36. In the Unlikely Event | Judy Blume
37. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You | Peter Cameron
38. News of a Kidnapping | Gabriel Garcia Marquez
39. Not My Father's Son | Alan Cumming (A) 
40. The Little Paris Bookshop | Nina George
41. Eight Hundred Grapes | Laura Dave
42. A Separate Peace | John Knowles
43. My Name is Lucy Barton | Elizabeth Strout
44. The House on Mango Street | Sandra Cisneros
45. Bad Feminist | Roxanne Gay
46. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend | Katarina Bivald
47. Rich and Pretty | Rumaan Alam
48. Every Exquisite Thing | Matthew Quick
49. 12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks Old | Suzy Giordano
50. Love, Loss & What We Ate | Padma Lakshmi
51. If I Was Your Girl | Meredith Russo 
52. Goodnight Moon | Margaret Wise Brown (And countless other children's books...)
53. Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of an Underground Resistance in Afghanistan | Jenny Nordberg
54. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things | Jenny Lawson
55. The Sisters Rosensweig | Wendy Wasserstein

For one of the first years in awhile, I really didn't read more than a few books that I absolutely loved. I definitely branched out in my reading this year as I tried to complete the Read Harder Challenge (check out the 2016 challenge and the new 2017 challenge) but I found myself trying to read books that fit the challenge requirements so much that I forced myself to finish books I didn't enjoy. Because of this, I took forever to read some books that I didn't really enjoy, and missed out on reading books I might have loved. I am glad I read some new genres, and more nonfiction than I would have in the past, but this year I'm just going to focus on making it through the pile of books next to my bed. (Yes, it still exists.)

I did read some books that I enjoyed, but didn't love enough to highlight above, and those would include Rich and Pretty (#47), In The Unlikely Event (#36), The Rent Collector (#32), and Every Last Word (#30). I also did really enjoy two YA series this year - the Pretties Series by Scott Westerfield and the Did I Mention... Series by Estelle Maskame. I would recommend all of these titles if you're looking for something new to read and have already read the others I've mentioned. 

Want to join along in my literary adventures? You can follow along with me on Goodreads (just search for Sara Levine)! Did you meet your reading goals in 2016? What were your favorite books of the year? I'd love to see your recommendations!

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