Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review Round-up

As you might have guessed from the lack of posts recently, I ended up getting that teaching job! I've been back for two weeks now and it's been exhausting, but I think it's going pretty well. I am still planning to write more about this soon but I wanted to get some reviews that I've been sitting on out of the way. All three of these books come from my Tried and True list, so I've been making progress on that. It's ground to a halt now that I'm working again but at least I got to squeeze in a few good reads while I could!

The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (audiobook)
This was a surprisingly quick "read" and like Gladwell's other books, had a lot of interesting information. The premise here is twofold: 1) change is often quite gradual until a tipping point is reached and then there's a rapid shift, and 2) things that tend to go viral (or "create epidemics", as Gladwell called it over a decade ago, before the concept of "viral" became a thing) all tend to follow similar patterns in the way that they spread. Gladwell outlines the factors involved in something being "sticky" enough to become an epidemic. Some of the things discussed are common sense but a few things stood out for me. The research that went into the creation and success of Sesame Street, for example, was really interesting, especially since my daughter is just starting to discover Elmo and friends right now. 

Every time I listen to an audiobook, I comment on the author reading it. Gladwell reads this one, too, and for the first time, I think it may have been better if he didn't. His voice was so soft and soothing that it was hard to stay engaged sometimes. He could almost lull you to sleep. 

The Imaginary Girlfriend, John Irving
I bought this short memoir of Irving's at used book store several years ago, intrigued by the idea that a man who constantly insists that people stop looking for an author's life in his novels would have written a memoir. It turns out, he doesn't give us much to work with. If you're interested in his wrestling career, there is lots of high school and college wrestling minutiae. I would have been much more interested in his family life and writing career. There were a couple of surprises: Irving is dyslexic and actually hates the city of Vienna. The Vienna bit surprised me considering how much a part of his novels Vienna tends to be, and not usually in a negative way. It's worth the read for the sake of completeness if you are an Irving fan but you're not missing much otherwise.

And The Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini (ebook)
Oh, how I loved this book! It's been over a week since I finished and I'm still thinking about it. 

If you are familiar with Hosseini's previous novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, you probably already know that this, too, will break your heart. That's what Hosseini does. He pulls at your heart strings until they snap, but he does it so well. And The Mountains Echoed was much more subtle and less devastating than The Kite Runner, and not at all emotionally manipulative like I found A Thousand Splendid Suns to be. There is no gratuitous tragedy here, just the simple, beautiful heartbreak of people living their lives and making difficult choices that have lasting consequences across generations. I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I loved the way the story was told through the different viewpoints and formats. This is easily my favourite book of the year so far.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Freakonomics

Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner 
Non-fiction, Ebook

In an attempt to make some progress on my Tried and True list, I had planned to start with The Tipping Point but got sidetracked a little. As it turns out, Freakonomics references The Tipping Point a few times and I ended up listening to the audiobook immediately afterward. They tied into each other nicely.

The underlying premise of Freakonomics is that people are driven by incentives, whether they be financial, moral, or social, and that conventional wisdom often gets those incentives wrong. In other words, people are not necessarily responding to the incentives that we think they are. Each chapter explores a different issue and tries to suss out what incentives are at play and how they affect outcomes.

Levitt covers a broad rage of topics, from cheating sumo wrestlers to the link between legalized abortion and crime rates, and the ideas presented are thought-provoking. The chapter discussing the inner economic workings of a crack-dealing gang in South Chicago was my personal favourite. There were many times, however, where I wished that the topics would have been discussed in greater depth, like teachers cheating on standardized tests or hidden prejudice. I was also expecting the book to present the actual data that Levitt's conclusions were based on but it didn't. All of the studies he referenced are cited at the end so the reader can look them up, but I would have found it useful to see some of it within the book. I like my charts and graphs, what can I say? 

All in all, I did really enjoy this book despite finding it a little unsatisfying. The authors went on to create a successful blog, podcast, and several more books after this one so at some point, I would like to check those out too.

P.S. A quick back-to-work update: I had an interview on Thursday for that teaching job I was interested in and should hear back Monday or Tuesday. Fingers are crossed!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Days, Drifting Away

T-minus two weeks until school starts! There are two reviews on deck in the near future (Freakonomics and The Tipping Point) but in the meantime, a few random updates:

  • A is cutting her third tooth of the summer and the fourth is not far behind. These include her lower molars. It has not been a great time.
  • Also not a great time: A has decided she hates when I change her diaper and will not lay down for me. I've tried nearly every suggestion I've come across, including introducing the potty, but nothing has worked. The alligator wrestling is getting old. 
  • Our house is currently cleaner than it's been since before I got pregnant. Yay! This is because we're dealing a fruit fly infestation. Not yay. Not yay at all.
  • The job search hasn't been going well. I seem to be limited by my lack of Masters in Education and my lack of counselling experience. It's discouraging and makes me think it's easier to just stay in teaching.
  • Speaking of which, a full-time teaching job came up for the fall semester that I think I have a reasonable shot of getting. After some initial panic, I had an epiphany of sorts and am actually really hoping to get this. I'll write more on this in the near future. 
I think that covers the main goings-on around these parts. Stay tuned for some reviews (and hopefully employment news) soon!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Preparing For The End

There's one month left to go until school starts, which means I'm counting down the days until I have to go back to work. I'd be lying if I said that thought doesn't fill me with a certain amount of panic. After 15 months at home with A, she'll be heading to day care and I'll be heading...somewhere.

What exactly I am going back to has been a question that I've been grappling with even before getting pregnant. If you've read this blog from the beginning, you've probably gathered that work hasn't exactly been my Happy Place over the last few years. I thought that a year away might help me get my motivation back but it has only increased my desire for change.

I considered my options:

1. Same old, same old. The thought of going back to substitute teaching and continuing to wait for things to get better leaves me feeling deflated and stuck. In my province, you start out as a sub and basically wait your turn for a permanent position. It's been five years with no real prospects in sight. Maternity leave felt like a "now or never" opportunity to get off of that hamster wheel and if I don't take it, I'll constantly be wondering "what if?" 

2. A completely new direction. The big downside here is that most other career directions would require going back to school. That's a big time and money commitment that I'm not ready to make at this point. I actually did have a college program picked out before A was born but as I started looking into it more seriously, I was unable to find a version that could be done totally online. Right now, that's a deal breaker. Also a deal breaker was how much sales would be a part of the job (the program was in the financial services sector).  

3. Half in, half out. This is the current plan. I'll be going back to teaching in the fall and actively looking for something else. If I do find something, I'll take a leave of absence from teaching to see where things go. I am cautiously optimistic; while there isn't anything right now, I did come across a few interesting opportunities earlier in the year that would have been doable. That gives me hope that something will come along, I just have to keep watching and waiting.

That probably doesn't sound like much progress but it feels good to have a plan and feel like I'm doing something to make a change instead of just complaining about how much the status quo sucks. I've already updated my teaching resume and have applied for a couple of contracts, since a full-time paycheque would be good if I could get it. The non-teaching resume is a work in progress. 

What doesn't feel as good is knowing that I won't get to spend my days with A anymore. Realistically, this change will be good for both of us. She will make new friends and have tons of new experiences, and I will have some adult time again. Sometimes I get excited by the thought of having total freedom once she's in day care and I have days off. I can get stuff done around the house! I can enjoy some quiet! Then I feel guilty and worry about who will comfort her when she needs a snuggle. We found a day care that we love and I know that she will be in good hands. I know she will be ok. But it will be a big change for both of us so I'm making extra effort these days to appreciate all this time together while we still have it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Divergent

Divergent, Veronica Roth
Divergent series #1
Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian

Finally. FINALLY.

This was the "I don't want to put it down and you can't make me" kind of book I've been waiting for. I got the boxed set for Christmas and I'm glad the other two books are already waiting in the wings.

There has been a lot of hype over the Divergent series for the last couple of years but I fell down The Hunger Games rabbit hole instead. One of my book club friends actually described Divergent as "The Hunger Games with more rules." She wasn't too far off. There are a lot of similarities and Divergent is pretty formulaic. All the usual YA tropes are there: a teenager who has some special skills, doesn't fit in with her peers, gets separated from her family, and is the only one who can save them all. Unlike The Hunger Games, however, there is no annoying love triangle and Tris, the main character, is more relatable than Katniss. 

At first, I will admit that I was underwhelmed and thought the premise was kind of stupid. The series is set in a dystopian Chicago where everyone is separated into one of five factions according to their dominant personality trait. Tris has the dilemma of not fitting into just one faction, making her "divergent." The factions came about as a way to maintain peace but this seemed like an oversimplification of complex issues to me, and the idea that people can be classified according to just one trait seemed ridiculous. But as I kept reading, it all came together. We meet Tris just as she turns sixteen. She's had a very sheltered upbringing and her understanding of her world is pretty limited. Since the novel is told from her perspective, our understanding is limited too and it grows with her. I appreciated that.

I took a bit of a break to read Freakonomics but I'm already itching to get back to this series and find out what happens next. I love it when a book lives up to its hype and this one was a definite winner!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Review: What to Expect The Second Year

What to Expect The Second Year, Heidi Murkoff 

Non-fiction, reference, parenting

Sometimes it feels like my daughter went from a sweet, immobile little baby to a full blown toddler over night. Suddenly, she's throwing food on the floor, getting into every nook and cranny she can find, and mimicking us saying "nonono" as she does the exact thing we'd tell her not to do. At first, it was a little overwhelming; just when we thought we had the whole baby thing figured out, we were back in uncharted territory.

I picked up WTE The Second Year from the library looking for some comfort and guidance. It's always reassuring to know that my kid is perfectly normal and that it's all a phase. I already knew that, of course, but it always helps to see it in print! I was particularly interested in a few specific things:
  • Dental hygiene. We were already brushing before bed most nights but I wanted to get into a more consistent, twice a day routine with an upgrade from her baby brush.
  • Eating habits. Between the food throwing, the lack of interest in cow's milk, and the 20th percentile weight she's been maintaining for a looooooong time, I had some concerns.
  • Behaviour/discipline. I know how to deal with teenagers since that's my job, but I wanted some tips on setting a good foundation and managing behaviour at this age.
The book addressed all of those and much more. It was actually very reassuring to know that we are mostly doing the "right" things, we just need to keep going. As fas the behaviour aspect, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of what I already do in the classroom with teenagers applies to toddlers as well, just heavily simplified.

It was really helpful to learn how toddlers think at this age. For instance, they have a hard time sharing because they don't understand the concept of ownership yet. The book explains how their understanding of those concepts develop and gives some strategies for helping them learn. That stuff was very interesting to me and I feel that having a better idea of where A's frustrations come from can help me manage expectations and potential tantrums a little better. In that sense, I came away from this book feeling more confident and prepared.

The WTE books seem to get a bad rap, especially the pregnancy one, but I have to admit that I don't mind them. Their format can be obnoxious, sure, and they are written as if they are Cosmo articles in book form. But the information is good and thorough, which is the most important thing to me. That's why I keep coming back to them. WTE The Second Year is a good reference for this stage of development and worth checking out.

For more insight into toddler tantrums, I'd also recommend Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Toddler On The Block. I'm not planning on a separate post for that because I didn't actually read the book. My library only had the dvd so I watched that instead. It was also very helpful. We don't really do the caveman thing with A, which is the main "gimmick" of this book/video, but there is a lot of useful information about the toddler mindset and managing tantrums. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Revisiting The Tried and True

Back in my student days, I had a bit of a summer reading ritual: as soon as school was done for the summer months, I was off to the library to pick up something by John Irving or Graham Greene, two of my favourite authors. My goal was to eventually work my way through all of their books. Since then, life has gotten in the way and I am behind with a lot of my favourites so I decided it was time to do something about it. It's been a pretty mediocre year so far and I'm hoping that revisiting some of my old favourites will help turn things around.

Here's who/what I'm planning to catch up on in the coming months:

  • John Irving, though I haven't decided which book yet. He may also be publishing a new one in the fall, which I'm very excited about.
  • Graham Greene, either The Third Man or Travels With My Aunt.
  • Alice Munro, Dear Life
  • Khaled Hosseini, And The Mountains Echoed
  • Judy Blume, In The Unlikely Event. I'm so excited for this one! Here's a great interview with Blume about this novel/
  • Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point. Oddly enough, I have yet to read to his very first book.
  • Michael Ondaatje, not sure whether to go with something old or something new yet.
  • Something fun by Sophie Kinsella
  • Agatha Christie, the first book in the Miss Marple series.
That list may be a little too ambitious but we'll see how far I get. There's one favourite missing from the list because she's actually already been done this year (The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver). That's a good start, right? 

I've also been dipping into multiple series in the last little while so next time I feel like a good, long, meaty read, I might just tackle the next book in the Outlander or Song of Ice and Fire series. But first, something new: I'll be starting Divergent in the next few days. I've been looking forward to it so here's hoping it lives up to the hype!

Who are some of your favourites? What/who do you go for when you want to guarantee a good read? 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: The Brass Verdict

The Brass Verdict, Michael Connelly
The Lincoln Lawyer/Mickey Haller series #2
Fiction, Ebook

The months of May and June are what I call "Family High Season" because during these two months, we celebrate all three of our birthdays, my dad's birthday, and our wedding anniversary. That's on top of Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day. It's a busy time, to say the least, and why things have been so quiet around here. Between all of that celebrating, there hasn't been much time for blogging or reading.

In need of something (relatively) light and fast-paced to help pick up momentum, I decided to revisit The Lincoln Lawyer series. The Brass Verdict is the second book in the series, picking up about a year after the first one ends. When a colleague is murdered and his entire practice is left to Mickey Haller (aka the Lincoln Lawyer, so called because his office is the back of his Lincoln Town Car), he's thrown back into the game after a year away. One of the clients he inherits is a big shot Hollywood executive about to go on trial for double murder. Haller has to figure out how to defend this guy, why his colleague was murdered, and whether the two are connected without making himself another target.

I read the first book a couple of years ago because the movie trailers looked interesting. I really enjoyed it and the movie was well done too. Matthew McConaughey is perfect and it was hard not to picture him as Mickey Haller while reading The Brass Verdict. Just like the first book, I enjoyed Haller's sense of humour and his somewhat loose ethics. I enjoyed the courtroom drama, though the twist at the end was a bit melodramatic and predictable. I also enjoyed the developing relationship between Mickey and Detective Harry Bosch, who is the star of another series by Michael Connelly. The Brass Verdict was exactly what I needed and if you are interested in crime or legal dramas, definitely check out this series!

Here's the trailer for The Lincoln Lawyer. It's too bad they didn't end up franchising it.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review: Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition, William Gibson
Fiction, book club

It's been a couple of weeks since I finished Pattern Recognition and I still don't have much to say about it. It was a book club selection, one that I'd been looking forward to since it was different from our usual fare. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to expectations.

Kind of like Such A Long Journey, the blurb led me astray. I thought that there was going to be mystery, suspense, maybe some danger. There was a mystery but the whole thing just wasn't very engaging. I kept thinking, "Is this all there is? Really?" I never believed Cayce, the main character, was in any real danger. I still don't fully understand the resolution. All in all, it was a disappointment.

Almost halfway in, this year isn't shaping up to be a very satisfying one as far as books go. Any good recommendations to turn this ship around, kind readers?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Reflecting On Our First Year

Two Fridays ago, Baby A turned one! It was simultaneously the longest and shortest year ever. My online mom's group had a discussion recently about surviving our first year and it was interesting to see what everyone had to say about their most favourite, least favourite, and most surprising aspects of motherhood. I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on these things lately, so here are mine:

Most Favourite 
Without a doubt, A's smiles and giggles are the greatest thing I've ever experienced. They are what I live for. There is such a sweet innocence to them and so much joy in her laughter that it makes my heart burst. 

A close second are her kisses, which she gives without prompting. They often leave me with a wet face but they are the best. In third place is her little voice saying "mama," even though I am still not sure that she knows what she is referring to when she says it. I just love hearing it.

Least favourite
The production required to leave the house with a baby is really fracking annoying. Having to strategize leaving the house around feeding and nap times is a pain, too, but is certainly much easier now than it was during the first few months.

The lack of flexibility in our lives is also a source of frustration at times. We were never really super spontaneous to begin with, but it was nice to be able to pick and up go somewhere whenever we wanted to. Now it's a lot more complicated.

Most Surprising
I think what took me by surprise the most has been the sheer all-consuming nature of this gig.Once that baby is born, you're "on" and there is no "off" anymore. Knowing that intellectually before having a baby is very different from actually experiencing it. Mentally, physically, emotionally, everything was transformed in some way once A was born. It was exhausting in ways that I couldn't have imagined. Babies rely on you for everything and have zero regard for your own need to eat, sleep, or use the bathroom. When you're completely drained and don't feel like you have anything left to give of yourself, the baby cries/vomits/has a diaper explosion (or all three at the same time) and you have no choice but to keep on giving.

That cycle brings with it a complex web of emotions that also took me by surprise. I'm generally pretty even-keeled but both pregnancy and this past year have been a roller coaster. There's the heart-bursting love and pride that I have for this tiny human I helped create. There's also the constant worry about every decision we make and whether it's truly the best one for her in the long run. I remember when she first started smiling at us around 6 or 7 weeks and being totally overwhelmed by the need to prove ourselves worthy of her unconditional love and trust. Then there's good ol' mom guilt. Often, it's all of these at once.

It feels like I am making it out to be a far more negative experience than it was. It was just a really big adjustment and was not without its challenges. There are definitely things I now wish I'd done differently. But all three of us made it through Year One and ultimately, I think we did pretty well. Those smiles and kisses have made all the rest worth slogging through and I have no doubt that they'll keep us going through the impending toddler years!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: Kitchen Confidential

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain 
Audiobook, non-fiction, memoir

Audiobooks have found their way back into my life after an almost two year hiatus. I used to listen to them during my daily commute when I taught at a school that was 30 minutes away. Lately, I've been listening while I work around the house. It actually makes doing chores feel a little bit more like me-time.

Anthony Bourdain is a surprisingly (to me, anyway) good writer. His love of language almost rivals his love of food. He's a good story teller, self-aware and cynical, but funny. I enjoyed learning about his early exploits and his life as chef at La Brasserie Les Halles in New York. He also provides some pro tips for home cooks and advice for restaurant goers. The "What I Know About Meat" chapter was my favourite; it made me laugh out loud.

When it comes to memoirs in the audio format, I always prefer the ones narrated by their authors and this one is no exception. No one else would be able to do Bourdain's style the proper justice. That said, there are some pitfalls to the audio format. At times, Bourdain read too fast, especially at the end of some chapters so there was barely any transition. I'd expect a story to keep going but nope, he'd moved on to something completely different. Also making the flow awkward at times, the chapters alternated, seemingly at random, between Bourdain's history and his industry advice. It felt disjointed while listening to it. I don't think that would have been an issue if I was reading it and could see how the chapters were laid out. 

Overall, this was an interesting, entertaining read but I'd recommend getting the print version rather than audio.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Night Things

Ever since reading Rocketeers, the realization that I don't know what I'm passionate about anymore has been nagging away at me in the back of my mind. It's not that there is nothing to do; in fact, there are multiple unfinished projects around the house. And it's not that I don't enjoy anything anymore. The problem, I think, is that when I do get some time to spare, I spend it doing things I feel like I "should" be doing or playing catch-up rather than doing things that I really WANT to do. Other times, I do nothing and then feel guilty about it.

Today, I spent some time thinking about this and had an epiphany of sorts: I don't need to find a Tuesday Night Thing. I just need a Tuesday Night, period. It doesn't even have to be a Tuesday. Just one day of the week where I can spend an hour or two doing whatever I want would be glorious. All the things I keep putting off because they're not things that really need to be done, or even just sitting on the patio with a good book. And for that hour or two, no worries or guilt about all of the other things I should be getting done. DH is already good about giving me a break when he's home but...see above. It usually doesn't end up feeling like a break.

Some ideas for ways to spend my Tuesday Night:

  • Work my way through Understanding Exposure. I started this a couple of years ago and have forgotten a lot of it because I didn't have/make the time to really practise and play with the camera. I would love to devote some time each week to this.
  • Work my way through this Photoshop book I ordered back in grad school and never finished. 
  • Work on this cross-stitch sampler that I bought on our honeymoon in Hawaii. 
  • Keep going with the 40 Weeks challenge. This probably sounds more like work than a passion project, but I've actually been enjoying it a lot and would love to make more progress. I've been meaning to post an update on this so stay tuned!
  • Bake. 
  • Make more homemade pantry and freezer items. I've started making my own marinara sauce and a few other things. I really enjoy playing in the kitchen but this is one of those things that quickly becomes a chore, especially when I also have to clean up before and after! But I'd love to spend more time on these kinds of things. 
  • Watch movies/shows that DH doesn't like.
See? No shortage of Tuesday Night Things. The thought of actually being able to do some of this stuff again, just for myself, is kind of amazing!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Review: All Together Dead

All Together Dead, Charlaine Harris
Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse Series #7
Fiction, ebook


Oh, you wanted to know more? Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of positive things to say about this one.

The first few books in this series were fun and entertaining but now it's starting to feel ridiculous. The writing is inconsistent, the love triangles (or polygons) are getting old, and it all seems a little over the top. There are too many characters and too many subplots and for some reason, Harris feels the need to throw them all into one book. I could barely remember anything from the last book (probably because I read it nearly two years ago, while on this cruise), which didn't help, so I was pretty confused at first and had a hard time getting into the story. 

This might be the end of the road for me and Sookie Stackhouse. The premise of the next book intrigues me but I'm not sure if I want to continue. There's so much better out there to spend my time on.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

11 Months

This past week, Baby A turned 11 months old. I'm still trying to figure out where the time went! Now, the countdown is now on to her first birthday.

Here's what she's been up to over the last couple of months:
  • Tooth #6 finally broke through this week. It was a rough time so I'm hoping we'll get a bit of a break from the teething now. 
  • She can stick out her tongue, clap, and imitate my fingers doing the "Itsy Bitsy Spider"actions.
  • She loves to imitate sounds, though she hasn't said anything with real purpose yet. DH always says "Tickle, tickle, tickle!" to her while he tickles her, so she likes to roll on to her side and say "tickatickaticka!" to get us to play. It's very cute...except when she does it during diaper changes. 
  • She will try to play Peekaboo with random objects and thinks it's hilarious when we act surprised. 
  • She's entered the food tossing phase. More ends up on the floor or on the wall than in her mouth these days. Can't wait for this one to pass! She loves fruit, though, especially bananas and oranges. 
  • Her current favourite toy is anything she can get her hands on that is not actually a toy. She loves to pull things off of tables or shelves, and out of cupboards.
  • She scoots backwards. We seem to be stalled here when it comes to crawling. I'm starting to think she may just skip it altogether.
  • She pulls herself up to stand and walks all over the place while holding on to our hands or furniture. She just started letting go to stand on her own for a few seconds at a time. 
  • She's finally decided that she likes music. Uptown Funk is a current favourite. She dances, which cracks us up because her "dancing" looks a lot like this:

These last few months have been so much fun. She's really developing her sense of humour and personality. The increased mobility and independence is bringing on the boundary testing, though, and she is starting to get whiny. She can be very quick to express her displeasure. Guess it's time to start bracing myself for the toddler life!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: Such a Long Journey

Such a Long Journey, Rohinton Mistry
Historical fiction

There's a mall downtown that my parents used to take me to when I was younger. We'd usually go during the holidays to see all the decorations. On the second level, there was a walkway lined with windows that connected two parts of the mall above the street. My parents would get cappuccinos from the Second Cup that used to be there and we'd sit by the windows watching the traffic go by while I spooned the cinnamon dusted foam off my mom's coffee. That mall still exists but is mostly office space now and has since been renamed. It's one of several places that has changed names over the years but that I still call by its old name. The mall was what came to mind when I read this passage in Such a Long Journey:

"Names are so important. I grew up on Lamington Road. But it has disappeared, in its place is Dadasaheb Bhadkhamkar Marg. My school was on Carnac Road. Now suddenly it's on Lokmanya Tilak Marg. I live at Sleater Road. Soon that will also disappear. My whole life I have come to work at Flora Fountain. And one fine day the name changes. So what happens to the life I have lived? Was I living the wrong life, with all the wrong names? Will I get a second chance to live it all again, with these new names? Tell me what happens to my life. Rubbed out, just like that? Tell me!"

Using the old names is way of hanging on to that life and those memories. It's a way of clinging to the past, like Gustad, the novel's main character, tends to do. There are many journeys in the book, both literal and figurative, that serve to push Gustad toward letting go of the past and start moving forward.

The novel takes place in 1971, when war is brewing between India and Pakistan. This is a time in India's history I was not familiar with since most books I gravitate to are set during Partition (1947). That made it interesting. The story itself was interesting as well, with a good mix of characters and a bit of mystery. The different personalities and goings on of the residents of Khodadad Building were entertaining.

As much as I enjoyed the book, I have to admit that when I finished, I felt like I'd missed something or maybe some of it went over my head. It might have been that my expectations were off; the blurb implied that Roshan's (Gustad's daughter) illness and Gustad's conflict with his eldest son were going to be a really big deal but they were more background issues that just kind of fizzled out. Then again, I have found myself thinking about the book since finishing it so maybe it's one of those books that you appreciate more after reading it, as it sits with you?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spring At Last

It's here! After record cold temperatures this winter, spring is finally, mercifully here! Can you tell I'm just a little excited about it? This week has been filled with sunshine, trips to the park, and landscaping plans. And the best part: no boots or jackets required. Amazing.

Before we put the stroller away in the fall, walks around the neighbourhood were sanity breaks for me. Besides the car seat, it was the only way Baby A would nap without being held. She'd fall asleep by the time we got home and I'd sit out on the porch with her until she woke up. Now, she can sit upright and enjoy the view while we walk to the park. Even better, she can enjoy the swing once we're there. We tried it for the first time this past weekend and I think it's safe to say she loves it!

It's been wonderful being able to open the windows and get fresh air into the house again. Our yard and garden were woefully neglected last year so I can't wait to start getting those in order soon, too.

I didn't realize how much of a drag winter had been on my mood until things warmed up last week and I felt 1000x times better. Right now, life is good!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review: The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees is Barbara Kingsolver's debut novel. Kingsolver is one of my favourite authors and The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favourite books so my expectations were high. Like The Poisonwood Bible, there are memorable characters here. And like Prodigal Summer, there are vivid descriptions of the landscape. The Bean Trees, however, doesn't quite have the lasting impact of either.

The novel follows Taylor Greer as she sets out to leave her small-town Kentucky life behind and start fresh in Arizona. Along the way, she ends up with a baby that someone leaves in the passenger seat of her car. As ridiculous as that might sound, it is actually a good story that touches on a lot of social issues. Kingsolver doesn't really unpack those issues, so it was a little unsatisfying when I was expecting something meatier. At the same time, the book probably would have been depressing if she had.

I liked Taylor a lot and wanted her to succeed. I also enjoyed her humour. She actually reminded me of Sookie Stackhouse, maybe with more street smarts. The one thing I did have a hard time getting my head around was how quickly and easily she decided to keep the baby. She prides herself on making it through high school without getting pregnant and looks down on the other girls in her small town who weren't so lucky, or who got married and pregnant right after graduating. So, she leaves to make something of herself in a better place and the first thing she does is...pick up a baby? That contradiction is never addressed.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and well written debut novel. If you're a Kingsolver fan, it's worth reading. If you haven't read any of her novels yet, I'd suggest starting with The Poisonwood Bible or Prodigal Summer instead.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Settling Down Again

March really got away from me, didn't it? It was a busy month but things have settled down now that Easter is done. Over the next little while, I'll be catching up here. My review of The Bean Trees is coming soon and I'm nearly done the audio version of Kitchen Confidential.

For now, I'll leave you with this Vanity Fair piece on Virgin Galactic. It's an appropriate follow-up to Rocketeers and provides some extra information that Belfiore didn't include in the book. The VF article is optimistic about Virgin Galactic finally getting SpaceShipTwo underway in the next year or so. I wish I could say the same!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: Honolulu

Honolulu, Alan Brennert 
Historical Fiction, E-book

So close. This book came SO close to being my first favourite book of the year. A week ago, I was all ready to rave about it here. Then I kept reading and it turned into Forrest Gump Does Hawaii. It recovered in the last few chapters but I just wasn't as into it anymore.

Honolulu takes place in Hawaii during the period between 1915 and the mid 1930s. Jin arrives there as a teenage "picture bride" hoping to get an education, something forbidden to girls in Korea at the time. The novel follows her new life and also chronicles a changing Honolulu. DH and I honeymooned in Hawaii and it holds a very special place in my heart, which is partly what drew me to this book. That, and I love me some good historical fiction.

The first two thirds of the book were really good. I liked Jin and could relate to her. I was rooting for her to be successful. The story moved along well and the Hawaiian history was interesting, too. When the focus shifted away from Jin in the last third, the book got too bogged down in history and started to lose me. At times, it felt like the author was trying to check off a bunch of important people and events from a history text book. It was hard to believe that Jin would just happen to meet all of these people and be so involved with all of these events. I mean, minor spoiler alert, she even invents the Hawaiian shirt. Really?! Jin also seemed to become a self-righteous know-it-all toward her friends during this part of the book, which was a turn off. 

While I was looking up some of the historical details, I learned that Brennert initially wrote a miniseries that was never picked up. He turned that into Moloka'i, a novel, in order to make sure that his work would be seen. He still had a lot of material left and that became Honolulu. Knowing that made my issues with the book make sense. Brennert is a good writer and I still really enjoyed this, but all that research got in the way.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kitchen Progress

February wasn't a great month for Operation Get My Shit Together. I had good intentions but they didn't get me far. I don't have high hopes for March since it will be a busy month, but we'll see.

The one project I did complete was for Week 3 of the 40 Weeks 1 Whole House challenge; I reorganized our kitchen cart. We bought it not long after I moved in with DH since the kitchen is pretty small. The extra storage and counter space is really helpful. Not so helpful when it's covered with clutter, though, as it has been for way too long. I'm really happy with the changes I made.

Here's what I started with:
I created a lunch/snack section on the left, moved the bottles out of Baby A's reach, created a space for baby feeding stuff, and created a better space for the containers. So far, it's been pretty easy to maintain.

I'm pretty proud of my handiwork! 

My goal for March is to complete the next two weeks of the challenge: create a donation/sales staging area and organize the laundry room. I'm using this challenge as motivation to deep clean these areas and tackle jobs that I've been putting off, which means the laundry room could take a while. There is a lot of unfinished crap down there! 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Rocketeers

Rocketeers, Michael Belfiore

I don't think I've mentioned my background on the blog before, though I have talked about teaching science. I actually have a degree in Planetary Science which I completed in 2006, so I was immersed in all things space during the time period covered by Rocketeers. I remember the excitement surrounding the X-Prize and the new possibilities represented by the success of SpaceShipOne. Reading this book brought me back to that time and made me miss it.

Belfiore discusses the big names in the Ansari X-Prize competition and describes those early years of the private space industry. It was interesting to see what motivated the different teams and the various approaches to their designs. Belfiore does a good job of conveying their optimism and the tension during the test firings. It was easy to get swept up in those parts of the book. Ultimately, however, I came away with mixed feelings. The book prompted me to look up a lot of the companies and people mentioned to see their progress and it was depressing to learn how many have failed or simply stopped. Most ran out of money, some just couldn't make it work. It's not surprising but it is disappointing.

My biggest take-away from Rocketeers actually had nothing to do with the science or space aspects. As I was reading, I found myself envious of the way these guys followed their passions. John Carmack of Armadillo Aerospace, for instance, would get together with a group on Tuesday nights and Saturdays to tinker with their designs. It occurred to me that I haven't had anything really and truly excite me like that in a long time. I started thinking about what my Tuesday Night Thing might be; what am I that passionate about, what fuels my creative fire? I am not sure anymore.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Inside Out

Yesterday was Baby A's inside out day! At 39 weeks, she's been an outside baby for just as long as she was inside. On Sunday, she'll be turning nine months old. Since I never did get around to sharing any belly photos, here's the comparison:

The 38 week shot is the last one I took since my water broke on the morning I turned 39 weeks. What a difference (almost) nine months makes! I'm still not sure where the time went, I just know that it's gone by way too fast.

What she's up to these days:

  • Tooth #3 just cut through and #4 is not far behind. 
  • Lots of smiles and giggles. She can be so playful and I live for the sound of her laughter.
  • Just started waving and pointing. 
  • She can babble like a champ! She's been saying "mamama,""dadada," and various other sounds for a few months now. Lately, she's been stringing together different syllables but no real words yet. 
  • She does understand some words! This has been so much fun to see. During meals, if I ask her if she'd like some water, she'll either get excited and say "ba!" if she wants to drink or look away if she doesn't. 
  • She knows what to do when we get a camera out. 
  • Loves to look at her reflection in mirrors or screens. 
  • Can sit up, though she hasn't totally mastered pulling herself up to sitting yet.
  • She can stand with support and wants to be on her feet all the time. 
  • She can lift her butt in the air but that's as close as we get to crawling attempts. Why bother when we can stand, right?
There's a HuffPo piece making its way around the internet right now and even though it's a little early, so much of it rings true for me. This part especially, every day:

Sometimes, when we're looking at each other laughing, I also feel the urge to cry, because you must be too good to be true. I never want any of this to end.

This little girl makes my heart so happy, it hurts. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Fiction, Young Adult, Science Fiction

My YA kick continues! Ender's Game is the first book in the Ender Quintet and tells the story of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, a child with a brilliant mind for military strategy who is called upon (and used/manipulated) to save the Earth from an alien attack.

That premise may sound ridiculous but it was actually pretty interesting and the book was easy to get into. The parts that focus on Ender and his training were very good. Some interesting themes were brought up, like the nature of free will:

Human beings are free except when humanity needs them. Maybe humanity needs you. To do something. Maybe humanity needs me -- to find out what you're good for. We might both do despicable things, Ender, but if humankind survives, then we were good tools.

The portions that focused on Ender's siblings and the political situation on Earth were my least favourite parts. It was never entirely clear what exactly was going on and neither sibling was particularly likeable.

Throughout the book, I had a very hard time reconciling many of the conversations and situations with the fact that the characters were supposed to be children. When we meet Ender, he's only six and by the final battle, he's eleven. His siblings and the other students in the Battle School are not much older. I get that these kids are supposed to be geniuses but it was still strange.

Last but not least, the way Ender's siblings were characterized was annoying. His older brother, Peter, is basically a psychopath and his sister has a heart of gold. There are a couple of examples of these things but mostly, Card just tells us this over and over again assuming that repeating it is enough to convince us. There was a lot of repetition. Maybe this bothered me more because I'm not the target demographic but, but I always prefer authors who show rather than tell.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I'm glad I read since it's supposed to be a YA classic. But I'm not sure that I liked it enough to keep going with the series. I was satisfied enough with how it ended and am not really curious to follow it any further.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Getting It Together

This year, I didn't bother making any new year's resolutions. They rarely get kept anyway! Instead, I went with Alyssa's idea over at Apple Pie and the Universe and chose a theme. Between pregnancy and a newborn, then a not-so-newborn who wouldn't sleep, last year was chaos. Now that things have settled down, I've decided that 2015 is going to be the year of Getting My Shit Together.

One month in, I'm making some decent progress. We've figured out some much needed new routines and are doing fairly well with sticking to them. I've caught up with a couple of friends and am planning to continue making that a priority. I'm also working on getting the house in order, which is the big thing I'd really hoped to accomplish before returning to work.

While browsing Pinterest last fall, I discovered the 40 Weeks 1 Whole House challenge and have been using that as a guide. Week 1 involves sorting through all "kitchen papers" and creating a system to contain and manage it. That took me all of January since I had, no kidding, two years' worth of crap piled up! Week 2 is about setting up a family calendar, which we already have so that one's a breeze. I'm now embarking on Week 3: organizing lunches. The meal planning aspect will be simple, I've been doing that for years. The major task here will be reorganizing our kitchen cart, where we keep containers and other supplies, to make it more functional.

Aside from the 40 Weeks challenge, my goal for this month is to deal with work-related stuff that I've been blissfully ignoring since maternity leave began. That ends in May, but I'd like to extend through the rest of the school year and start looking for non-teaching job. I also need to update my resume and portfolio, and maybe, if I'm feeling really ambitious, I might even clean out my work emails.

So, when I'm not reading or hanging out with Baby A, this is what I'm up to these days!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt 
Fiction, E-book

The Goldfinch was actually one of last year's books but I just got it back from the library to finish off the last two chapters. I read this one for my May '14 mom group's book club. My previous experience with a Pulitzer Prize novel wasn't great (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, if you're curious) so my expectations for Goldfinch weren't terribly high. Thankfully, it was pretty good, although it didn't live up to all of the hype.

The main character, Theo, loses his mother in an explosion when the museum they are visiting comes under a terrorist attack. Theo is twelve at the time and the novel follows his progress into adulthood as he copes with the loss in various destructive ways. The title refers to a painting in the museum that Theo takes with him and that eventually causes him a great deal of trouble.

I sympathized with Theo at first and was somewhat reminded of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I really liked. But as Theo kept making bad decision after bad decision, I had a hard time maintaining that sympathy. For much of the book, I didn't really like Theo or the majority of other characters. It boggled my mind that none of the adults in his life saw what was going on with him, especially when the action moved to Las Vegas. The book was difficult to get into at first and kind of uneven. Several parts were overwritten and I just wanted to skim my way through while other parts were written really well.

The one character that stood out the most and has stuck with me is Boris. I can't say I liked him either, not entirely, but he was complex and morally ambiguous, which made him interesting. Towards the end, he has a conversation with Theo that resonated with me and that ties in nicely with the book I'm reading right now (Ender's Game). I've chopped it up a bit but kept the relevant parts: 

"[T]he world is much stranger than we know or can say. And I know how you think, or how you like to think, but maybe this is one instance where you can't boil down to pure 'good' or pure 'bad' like you always want to do --? Like, your two different piles? Bad over here, good over here? Maybe not quite so simple."
 "Because, what I am trying to say -- what I was thinking in the car from Antwerp last night -- good doesn't always follow from good, nor bad deeds result from bad, does it? Even the wise and good cannot see the end of all actions...."
 "What if -- is more complicated than that? What if maybe opposite is true as well? Because, if bad can sometimes come from good actions --? where does it ever say, anywhere, that only bad can come from bad actions? Maybe sometimes -- the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or, spin it another way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right?"
"What if all your actions and choices, good or bad, make no difference to God? What if the pattern is pre-set? No no -- hang on -- this is a question worth struggling with. What if our badness and mistakes are the very thing that set our fate and bring us round to good? What if, for some of us, we can't get there any other way?"
I love that last bit especially, the "What if we can't get there any other way?" bit. We all judge people, right? It's so easy to do. Sometimes, we write people off as jerks when we only know one side of their story. But what if there's another side? What if they can't get there any other way? 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
Fiction, E-book

People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside. The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday. The loneliness of that.

I went into Harold Fry expecting a feel good story. Instead, I felt the weight of the above quote throughout most of it. It did have uplifting moments but overall, it was quite sad and heavier than expected. 

Harold sets out to mail a letter and ends up walking across England to deliver it in person, reflecting on his life as he goes. Harold's life has been one full of sadness and regret. On his travels, he encounters strangers burdened by their own personal tragedies. I could identify with Harold in some ways: the social awkwardness and anxiety, and especially his tendency to let his fear prevent him from doing what he'd like or, in some cases, what he should. I spend a lot of time thinking about the example I want to set for my daughter and this has been on my mind, especially because there have been times since she was born that I let my anxieties get the best of me and have ended up wishing I'd done some things differently. Her great-grandfather passed away when she was about two months old and they never met, even though we all live in the same city. That still weighs really heavily on our hearts. Both my husband and I are introverts, which is not a bad thing, but I want my baby girl to know that it's ok to put yourself out there and to take chances. I don't want her to be held back by fear. 

Getting back to the book itself, I enjoyed the writing and the way it was structured, for the most part. I liked that we got to see deeper into Harold's past as his journey progressed. It did get repetitive at times and I didn't really care for the group of "pilgrims" that join Harold at one point. Thanks to an inconsiderate Amazon reviewer, I was spoiled on some information that is revealed towards the end which changes the perception of a lot of what comes before so that part held less impact for me than it otherwise might have. Still, this was a satisfying read to kick off the new year.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Books of 2014 - The Attention Span Returns!

Last year wasn't all about birth and babies; there were some "real" books in the mix too. It was slow going until A was born and then got better. That sounds backwards but it's true; I read a lot more with a newborn than I managed to do in the 9 months before she arrived! My attention span returned, and between nursing around the clock and naps that only happened if she was being held, I had a lot of time on my hands.

These are the novels I read in 2014, not quite in this order:

When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
A good, easy YA novel.

Under the Dome, Stephen King
Not great. This was my first Stephen King and it was disappointing. The tv show was even worse.

The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai
I don't remember much about this at all. Oops.

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
I started this in the weeks before A arrived and had a hard time getting into it. I really liked the parts I read afterward. Kind of wish I'd saved it for when I could fully appreciate it.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Started out really well then went downhill. Really unsatisfying ending. I am looking forward to the movie, though. I think it was perfectly cast.

The Luxe, Anna Godbersen
Turn of the century chick lit. It was ok. This is the first book in a series but I doubt that I will continue.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
Loved this! Funny and poignant YA novel.

The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis
Read this one for book club. Yet another YA novel. It was interesting but I was hoping for something with more depth. This is also the first in a trilogy. I'm not sure yet if I will keep reading.

City of Bones, Cassandra Clare
It was the year of YA, apparently. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The writing was quite good and even though it was long, it was a fairly quick read. I may continue this series.

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
I wanted to like this one but it was just meh. The jumping around in time got confusing and it didn't feel like there was much purpose to the way the story was told. I kept expecting it to lead somewhere and it didn't.

Kockroach, Tyler Knox
Really enjoyed it. It's supposed to be a take on The Metamorphosis, which I have not read. It was entertaining and had some thought provoking themes.

The Witch Doctor's Wife, Tamar Myers
Pretty good. It reminded me a little bit of The Poisonwood Bible, which is one of my favourite books. It didn't keep me engaged all the way to the end but that may have just been the Wonder Week/sleep hell I found myself in while reading it.

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
I actually still have two chapters left of this one, just waiting to get it back from the library. I will review it later.

2015 is kicking off with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which I am really liking so far. My only reading goals for this year are to make time to read a little bit each day and to enjoy it more.

Happy reading this year!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Books of 2014 - Pregnancy & Baby

Last year was a mixed bag when it came to reading. For the majority of the year, I read books related to pregnancy, birth, and babies. I tried to read novels too but they were a slog. It was hard to get into anything and maintain interest. In this post, I'm rounding up all of the baby related books and sharing my favourites.  

Pregnancy & Birth
I continued use The Mother of All Pregnancy Books as a reference (I discuss it in detail here). The "Complaints Department" chapter and chart of medications were the most useful. If I didn't already own that, I'd have bought the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. I borrowed that one from the library and really liked the section at the end of each month that broke down various symptoms and indicated if/when to report it to your doctor. Finally, though I am generally not a fan of Dr. Oz, I did enjoy YOU: Having a Baby. I didn't make it through the section on labour and delivery but everything up to that point was interesting. I liked that it wasn't the typical weekly or monthly guide. 

As we were gearing up for our baby showers, Baby Bargains was awesome for building our registry. That, along with the Lucie's List site helped us keep our registry pretty simple and focused on what we'd need.  It was helpful to have an idea of the different brands and what to watch out for.

In my birth story post, I mentioned that I had hoped for a med-free birth. To that end, I read Ina May's Guide to Child Birth and Husband Coached Childbirth by Bradley. If you are interested in going that route, I highly recommend Ina May's book. Initially, I was put off by the fact that the first half of the book consisted of birth stories; it felt too hippie dippy for me. By the end, though, I found it very empowering and increased my confidence a lot. The informational portion rubbed me the wrong way; it was biased, fear mongering, and not consistent with current research. The Bradley book had a lot of useful information but Bradley himself seems insufferable. 

Baby Care & Development
If I had to do it all over again, I'd spend less time focused on birth and more on what to do with a newborn baby. Many late night nursing sessions were spent googling various things I didn't know I would need to know. The books I have referred to regularly since A arrived are Baby 411 (by the same people who did Baby Bargains) and Dr. Sears' The Baby Book. My own parenting philosophy lies somewhere in between the two ends of the spectrum these books represent so I've found them to be a good combination. 

Thanks to the other moms in my birth month group on The Bump, I discovered The Wonder Weeks. I highly recommend this book and it's corresponding app. Everyone talks about the physical growth spurts but there are also cognitive ones, and those lead to predictable patterns of fussy behaviour. The book describes what baby is learning during each "leap" and how to help. I liked the suggestions for developmentally appropriate toys and games because my experience has been with older kids so I had no idea when it came to babies. The best thing about this book might be that it always reassures me that "this too shall pass." The app has a calendar that is customized to your baby's due date and describes each Wonder Week, along with some play suggestions. You could get by with just the app but it wouldn't hurt to check out the book from the library. It has a lot more detail and check lists.

At six months, we introduced solids. Since we are mainly doing baby led weaning, I read up on that as well. I definitely recommend reading this if you are interested in BLW because it provides information about choking vs. gagging, which is a common concern.

Infant Sleep
Oh, where do I begin with this one? Once the sleepy newborn stage wore off, we had nap issues galore. We could handle those because night sleep was going well. Around 4.5 months, that went to hell too. Two and a half months later with no end in sight, we were exhausted and reaching our breaking point. I read a lot of sleep books. I read a lot of blogs (Troublesome Tots is awesome). In the end, Ferber rescued us from the depths of sleep despair. Out of the many sleep resources I consulted and methods I tried, only a few were truly useful. These are my favourites:

The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, Dr. Harvey Karp - Similar to The Happiest Baby on the Block (we watched the dvd, it's good!) but more focused on sleep. I'm a big fan of Dr. Karp and the 5S's were a big help with our fussy newborn.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Dr. Marc Weissbluth - While Weissbluth is best known for being an advocate for full exctinction sleep training (crying it out with no soothing), that's not all this book is about. There is a lot of solid, helpful information here about sleep and sleep issues. It covers newborns through adolescents and this is the only book that discusses how to handle colicky babies in any detail. The formatting isn't great and often gets a little too academic, but still worth it for the information.

Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, Dr. Richard Ferber - Everyone's heard of Ferber but few have actually read the book, so there are a lot of misconceptions. Ferber recommends graduated extinction, or crying it out with soothing, but just like Weissbluth, that's not all that is discussed here. Lots of good information, though not as thorough as Weissbluth.

If you are giving me the side-eye right now for recommending Weissbluth and Ferber, consider yourself lucky that you were never desperate enough to need either of them. And if you haven't had kids yet but think this is awful, never say never! That's how we started out too.

And there you have it. In the next post, I'll list my favourite non-baby related books from last year. That will be a much shorter list!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Birth Story

When I last posted in 2014, I had just entered the third trimester of my pregnancy. Before returning to the discussion of books, I thought I'd share how things turned out.

The third trimester was tough, particularly the last stretch from 34 weeks onward. That's partially why I stopped blogging at that point; everything required too much energy and brain power! On the day I hit 39 weeks, I had an OB appointment scheduled for 11:45 am. Shortly after 1 am, however, I woke up feeling something wasn't quite right. Over the next few hours, the slow leak I'd felt turned into a gush and by 5 am, I knew it was baby time. So much for my plan to decline a cervical check that day! I had a light breakfast and a quick shower, and bounced on the exercise ball for a while. A few random contractions came and went but no regular pattern emerged. At 8:30, I started getting concerned that I wasn't feeling any movement so we decided to head to the hospital. 

At the hospital, triage confirmed that my water had broken and that I was barely a fingertip dilated. I was admitted and sent to walk the halls in the hopes of getting things moving, with the warning that if I wasn't in labour by 1:30 pm, they'd have to induce. Hospital policy is that once membranes have ruptured, baby needs to be out within 24 hours due to the increased risk of infection. They were willing to give me 12 hours to do it on my own but I was running out of time. All along, I'd been preparing to have a med-free birth so as I walked the halls, I was trying to make peace with the fact that it wasn't going to happen.

At 1:30, they started the oxytocin drip and we waited. I progressed steadily and labour was generally uneventful. I did have some awful back labour for a while and the nurse said my contractions were showing a couplet pattern, so they suspected that the baby may have initially been sunny side up (which could be why I didn't go into labour on my own). I was really disappointed that I couldn't use the tub in the birthing room that I'd hoped to labour in because of the continuous monitoring. I did get to try the ball and a few different positions, but the monitors made it awkward. After being checked at 4 cm, the contractions got really intense and started coming on top of each other. I was having a very hard time relaxing and breathing through them, and wasn't getting a break in between. That was the point when I decided to get the epidural. That was also the only time during the process that I cried because it felt like failure, or like giving in. I know that's not true but it was not what I'd planned or wanted beforehand, and in the moment, it was hard to accept that. 

Once the epidural was placed, I was able to relax and as much as I hadn't wanted it, I think it was the best thing in the long run. I needed the rest and wouldn't have been able to without it. Around 9 pm, I was fully dilated and they gave me an hour or so to labour down before pushing. During this time, they also turned off the epidural. I started pushing around 10:30...and kept on pushing. The baby was stuck and it seemed like no matter how hard I pushed, she just wouldn't budge. We were closing in on the 24 hr limit and they told me that if she wasn't out within three hours of pushing, we'd have to decide between the forceps or vacuum to get her out. I pushed for the full three hours and made it just in the nick of time. It was agonizing and I've never been more physically exhausted in my life, but I absolutely didn't want any more interventions. Our beautiful baby girl was born at 1:49 am, weighing 7 lbs 15 oz and 20 inches long.

My sweet girl at six days old.

It would be another three days before they let us go home because my bladder stopped functioning properly after delivery. I had a really hard time with the hospital stay; I was so exhausted from the pushing that I barely remember those first moments and hours with my daughter. During the four days in total that I was there, I barely slept and the bladder issues were more than a little uncomfortable. A lot of that time still feels like a blur and it took several months before I could think about it without sadness or anxiety. 

Seven months later, we've survived the roller coaster ride that is the newborn stage and it's starting it feel like we might actually know what we're doing! We have a little girl who adores her daddy, thinks peek-a-boo is the funniest game ever, gives wet kisses, and sits up like a champ. It's been so fun to watch her personality emerge. Our lives have been turned upside down and inside out, but it has been completely worth it. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Another year, already! Holy smokes, does the time fly when you're not looking. 

One of my goals for 2015 is to revive and refocus this blog. I'm hoping to be able to keep up with posting at least once a week. There's so much to tell you about and I'm looking forward to catching up! 

For now, I'll leave you with the best thing about 2014: