let's pretend we're normal...my favorite summer read

Do you know those authors that could write about chewing gum and you'd read it because the words that fall out of their mind and onto the keyboard are always arranged with perfect charm, wit, and cadence? Tricia Lott Williford is one of those writers for me. I've never read a blog post or even a Facebook status from her that didn't catch my attention, make me stop, pause, think, laugh. She has studied the craft and it shows. 

I've been a fan of her for years, so I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm just now getting around to reading her books. I'll blame it on Jackson and Corabelle...and cable.  

We went to the beach this summer for two weeks. Between applying and reapplying sunscreen, peeling on and off wet swim suits and swim diapers, packing and unpacking coolers, beach bags, and pool bags, and keeping two kids under five fed, alive, and happy, I managed to read, start to finish, one book: Tricia's latest book, Let's Pretend We're Normal: Adventures in Rediscovering How to Be a Family (WaterBrook, 2015). One day the kids will be bigger and I'll go back to plowing through a stack of books during beach vacations, but right now my reading time and intellectual brain capacity is limited. When I do read, I want to read something great, something that holds my attention and makes me think a little...but honestly, not too much. And as a writer, I want it inspire me to be a better writer. Let's Pretend We're Normal covers all of it. 

In Tricia's first book, And Life Comes Back, she writes about suddenly losing her husband Robb. I haven't read that one (yet), but I've followed along on her blog and Facebook long enough to know at least a good bit of her background. In Let's Pretend We're Normal she writes about the everyday moments of raising her two boys without their dad and settling into her new normal as a single widowed mother. Her struggles are both unique and the same as all of us moms wading through motherhood. The fears, the fights, the compromises. Her vulnerability in writing about her exhausted, not shiniest moments, is what makes this book irresistible and relatable. Take this bedtime exchange with her boys for example.  

"Can you read us a story?" the taller one asks.
"Not tonight, lovey."
"You never do," the shorter one mutters.
"That's not true at all, and it's not fair for you to say never."
"Well, you don't read the ones I like. You only read grown-up books to us."
"That's bunk. Junie B. Jones is open on your nightstand."
"I want you to read a chapter tonight."
"I'm exhausted, buddy. I can't read anything aloud tonight...."

Pouty face.

Whatever. I've got so many other things to worry about; pouting doesn't even make the radar around here. 

We've all been there. Exhausted to our core with children who need us to keep pouring of ourselves....even when there is nothing left. 

But Tricia doesn't get to turn them over to Dad, to say "I'm done. You take them." And in this, she models what it is to push through those difficult moments. Her bedtime conversation with the boys wrapped up like this, 

Kisses. Hugs. Prayers.
"I'm sorry I was impatient today, guys. Please forgive me."
"I forgive you."
"Me too, Mommy."
They echo each other, and I think to myself, It would be nice if you asked forgiveness for not listening well, but I'll model humility and not scorekeeping.

On my way out I trip over Buzz Lightyear, who instantly and automatically declares an intergalactic emergency. Buzz, call it a night. We are two hours past bedtime, and you are not helping. 

My favorite part about Tricia's writing style is that there are no how-tos or lists or not-to-dos. But through story she shows how she is teaching her boys respect and manners and hospitality and forgiveness, how she decides when she needs to be firm and when to be flexible. Her stories, laced with humor and vulnerability and lots of dialogue, pull you in. Oh, and her boys, Tucker and Tyler, will have your heart by the end of the book.   

If you're looking for great writing from a mom who is in the trenches, may I suggest picking up a copy of Let's Pretend We're Normal and following Tricia's blog, where you can read the "rest of the story" as it unfolds. 

{I did not receive this book for review. But for matters of full-disclosure, my mom who is married to Tricia's agent (who happens to be my agent) and who is real life friends with Tricia, gave it to me as a gift...and I just happened to enjoy it so much I was compelled to write a review.}