15 December 2011

R.I.P. - Russell Hoban

The sad news has come that Russell Hoban, beloved author of many classic children's books, died yesterday. He was 86 years old. Many of us grew up with Frances the Badger, the star of books like Bread and Jam for Frances and Bedtime for Frances.

I remember receiving The Mouse and His Child for one very early Christmas and falling in love with that story; In fact, I hope to read it to Max in a few more years.

I have always believed that the authors we love will live forever, as long as we remember and share their stories. If that is true, Russell Hoban will certainly live forever, as I have no doubt that generations to come will love the Mouse who seeks to become self-winding and will rejoice with Frances eating her favorite meal until she realizes, "What I am, is sick of jam."

The New York Times and The Guardian both have nice obituaries.

14 December 2011

Wordless Wednesday

(I swear, I really will get some real posts up soon; I have a stack of Christmas books to review, so look for those in the next few days. In the meantime, enjoy this gratuitous cute Baby picture...)

07 December 2011

Wordless Wednesday

30 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday

09 November 2011

02 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday

(I've been meaning to remember to do Wordless Wednesday posts for a while now.)

30 October 2011

What Am I? books

Tonight I have three of the "My Look and See" books by Anne Margaret Lewis in front of me: What Am I?: Halloween, What Am I?: Christmas and What Am I?: Illinois.

Each book follows the same format. A two page spread with a flap covering the majority of the right page presents a "riddle." For example, from What Am I?: Halloween - "I am covered in fur. / I have big ears and very good hearing. / I love to dangle upside down." This is the text that appears on the left page, along with part of the illustration, a spooky house and what may be ... a wing? A black flap on the opposite page asks, "What am I? What could I be?" When the flap is lifted, the rest of the illustration reveals, "I am a funny bat. That's me!" The final two-page spread shows all the Halloween symbols together - an owl, trick-or-treaters, the aforementioned bat, etc.

What Am I?: Christmas includes primarily secular images, including Santa Claus. Interestingly, it also includes a "Christmas Angel," which might lead to a question from a wee one at storytime, so if you're using it in a public program or maybe the classroom and you're squeamish about that kind of thing, be aware.

What Am I?: Illinois includes such favorites as Sue (the Field Museum T. Rex), the state insect, tree, amphibian and more. (Wondering what the state amphibian is? You're gonna have to go get the book!)

All three books are boldly illustrated by Tom Mills. The pictures are straightforward with just enough of the "answer" peeking out from under the flap that a preschooler has a good chance of guessing the correct answer to each "What Am I? What Could I Be?"

Overall, I really liked these books. I can see them as a great addition to a preschool storytime at the library or in a classroom. They would also be fun to share at home with your favorite little person. After reading one of these books together, you could even team up to create your own "My Look and See" book, maybe about your family or neighborhood!

disclaimer: The books reviewed in this post were sent to me by Albert Whitman & Company to review for this blog. I read all the books and all opinions expressed here are my own.

28 October 2011

A Trio of Board Books

Despite my lack of blogging, I have been reading. Not a lot, but some. I had a long list of books I had read that I meant to review, but I have given up hope of catching up. It's been so long (and my brain is currently a bit addled by Baby) that I'd really have to re-read a bunch. So, a fresh start.

Lucky for me (and you!), Albert Whitman has again sent e a box of books for review. I have divided them into loose groupings and hope to post reviews regularly until I have finished with this box.

Tonight, I'll look at the three board books we got. I read all three of them to my 4-month-old, multiple times. He seemed to like them but, then again, he seems to like every book I show him. He's 4 months old. Every book is a revelation.

First up is The Baby Goes Beep, written by Rebecca O'Connell and charmingly illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max. Can I just go on record saying that I always like Ken Wilson-Max's work? His bright colors and bold lines are absolutely perfect for the pre-reading audience this book is meant for. The text is simple ("The baby goes beep  the baby goes beep beep beep beep"), with each action occurring over a two-page spread. the first page shos the baby alone - beeping a toy car horn, for example. The second page shows the baby repeating the action with an adult; in the first case, beeping his Daddy's nose. Max giggled when I "beeped" his nose as I read (and especially when we got to "The baby goes smooch"). This book invites interaction between a caregiver and child. It could also be a great read-aloud for an infant lapsit program or toddler storytime.

Also by Rebecca O'Connell (this time illustrated by Amanda Guilliver), is Done with Diapers: A Potty ABC (also published as Danny is...). This larger board book is clearly for a slightly older set than The Baby Goes Beep. Each page features a picture of a child in one phase of potty training or another. The illustrations are cheerful - bright, warm colors and lots of white space. I also appreciate that the children possess a wide range of skin and hair tones. Under the illustration is a red sentence, beginning with the relevant letter: "C is for Clean." Each page's theme is expounded on briefly: "Clap for Caleb! He pooped in the potty and kept his clothes clean." Notice all the C's in that sentence: clap, Caleb, clothes, clean. Besides being a cheerful book to encourage little one embarking on potty-training, this title is also a very fuunctional alphabet book. Can't wait for Max for be really ready to share this one!

Finally for this evening, we have This Tree, 1, 2, 3 written by Alison Formento and illustrated by Sarah Snow. Of the three board books, this is the one I am most conflicted about. I like it, but something keeps me from loving it. Having read it aloud a number of times now, I think it is the framing around the "counting" portion of the book. It begins: "A tall tree stood behind Oak Lane School. It had a story to tell." Two pages later, we begin counting: "1 owl waits for the moon,' etc. It ends with, "Jake said, 'This tree counts!'" I see that this is an abridged board book edition of a (presumably) longer picture book; in my opinion, it would have worked better as a straight counting book. The animals on each page are fun to find and couont and the art has a kind of retro feel to it, rather like picture books I found in the school library as a child. I will definitely keep this book to share with my boy, but I would like the book much better if it had been abridged just a smidge more.

Thanks again, Albert Whitman, for some great books!

disclaimer: The books reviewed in this post were sent to me by Albert Whitman & Company to review for this blog. I read all the books and all opinions expressed here are my own.

I've been busy...

...with this little knucklehead:

He's pretty cool and we've decided to keep him, but he also eats up an enormous amount of time. Now that he's getting a little older, I hope to be able to steal away a few moments here and there to blog more.

(Besides, I owe Albert Whitman a host of book reviews! Eek!)

All the time "lost" has been worth it though...

07 August 2011

My 101 Things

As some of you know, I am participating in the Day Zero project, wherein one creates a list of 101 things to do over the next 1001 days. I have a blog chronicling my attempt, though it has not been very well-maintained. I think I am going to see if I can merge the two blogs so they are both a part of this page (maybe I should add that to my list).

In the meantime, I am on Day 181 and have managed to cross off 14 items. Not as far along as I had hoped, but I'll cut myself some slack considering the massive time suck that having a new Baby has been. (Not a bad or toxic time suck, to be sure, but one nonetheless.) Feel free to take a peek at the list and leave any feedback.

Quotes o' the Day

‎"Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were big things."   (Kurt Vonnegut)

"Remember: you are not managing an inconvenience, you are raising a human being." (Kittie Franz)

04 August 2011

RIP: William Sleator

William Sleator, author of over 30 science fiction books - many for young adults -  died today. He was 66 years old.

From the obituary at the School Library Journal site:

A "...master of the creepy-crawly," as The Horn Book described him, Sleator's genius lay in "...taking vague science-fiction whimsy and using imagery to word-paint it into a stunning virtual reality," according to School Library Journal. Colleagues, too, enjoyed Sleator's work, including bestselling children's book author R. L. Stine who called Sleator one "...of my favorite young adult authors."

03 August 2011

The Buddy Files

When I came home from the hospital after giving birth to Max, a box was waiting for me from Albert Whitman & Company, a box containing the five books that comprise The Buddy Files mystery books by Dori Hillestad Butler and intended for independent readers. (The first book in the series, The Case of the Lost Boy was the Winner of the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.)It's taken me longer than usual to read them and get this review up (somehow, the new baby doesn't yet understand Mama's need to read and review books), but here we go.

Book One, The Case of the Lost Boy, sets the tone for the rest of the series. King is a dog ("also a detective," he tells us) who makes his home in Four Lakes, Minnesota, with his person Kayla and her father. Kayla's mother is in the National Guard. When Kayla and her father disappear, Kayla's Uncle Marty takes King to the P-O-U-N-D (dogs never say that ugly word, just spell it). Before long, King is adopted by a new family, Connor and his mom. Of course, they don't know his name, and so rename him "Buddy."

King/Buddy is excited to discover that Connor and his mom live in the house just behind Kayla's and is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to Kayla and her father. He decides to ask the other dogs in the  neighborhood and to launch an investigation but, before he gets very far, Connor disappears, too! Determined not to be sent back to the P-O-U-N-D, Buddy launches a new investigation. He enlists the help of his friend, Mouse (a very large dog), and The Cat With No Name and starts to sniff out clues. Before long, he has some leads but discovers thay none of the clues he has collected will do any good if he can't get Mom and the Police to understand him. How will he make them hear what he knows?

The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy is full of humor, suspense and a lovable main character. (I love the way he names people based on traits they exhibit, ex: Jelly Donut.)  I found myself more interested than I thought I'd be in finding out what had happened to Connor. Once that mystery was resolved, I wanted to know more about Kayla and her dad. Why did they leave such a great dog? Where did they go? Does Kayla miss him? While that isn't revealed at the end of book one, the stage has been set for an ongoing search.

The rest of the books in the series - The Case of the Mixed-Up Mutts, The Case of th Fire Alarm, The Case of the Missing Family, and The Case of the Library Monster - maintain the same engaging tone throughout. When Buddy/King finally learns what happened to Kayla and her Dad in The Case of the Missing Family, he has to struggle with how to deal with having two families now. And by the fifth book, he has a new job as a school therapy dog (but still remains a detective).

I was excited to get these books because I love writing reviews and this was the first time I was sent copies by a publisher but, in all honesty, I didn't expect to enjoy them so much; I'm not a big mystery fan. I thought I'd read them, whip out a review, and pass them on to my nephew. I was pleasantly suprised to discover they are just the kind of books I would recommend to a kid who was finally reading chapter books independently. They hold appeal for boys as well as girls, which is another huge plus.

I wholeheartedly recommend these books to kids who are reading independently. They would also make fantastic books to read aloud in the classroom or snuggled up on the couch with your favorite little person. In fact, I plan to place these books right on Max's bookshelf so we can read them together - just as soon as he stops napping and eating all the time!

disclaimer: The Buddy Files series of books was sent to me by Albert Whitman & Company to review for this blog. I read all the books and all opinions expressed here are my own.

07 July 2011

The Wild Rumpus Has Started!

So, it's been a while since I've updated.

That's because at 8:05am on Wednesday, 22 June 2011, my Sweetheart and I welcomed our son, Max John to the family. He was 19 inches long and 6 pounds 15 ounces at birth.

As planned, we went to the hospital at 5am on the morning of June 22nd. We were  checked in and I was prepped for surgery. One of our favorite nurses from our challenging weekend was there to accompany us into surgery. My Sweetheart was given scrubs and invited to wait in the hall while I was prepared.

I was really scared about the spinal, but everyone was so kind and explained every single step along the way. My husband was finally brought in and given a chair next to my head. I hated not being able to see anything, but having him there was an enormous comfort to me. He held my hand the whole time.

It was kind of amazing - from the time they made the first incision until the time they handed Max to my husband was about 5 minutes. Wow!

It was overewhelming and strange to see this little person - this very vocal little person! - held by my husband and to be unable to hold him myself. That was sad, though I was very glad my Sweetheart was able to go with the baby to the nursery.

I was taken to recovery. My Sweetheart was back with me in less than 30 minutes. Before the first hour had passed, Max was brought back to me and I was able to breastfeed him. That first day, it was as if the Baby had read all the literature about how to be a Rock Star of breastfeeding. Since then, we've had a few more challenges, but we're finding our way. Right now, we have to supplement breast milk with 2 oz. formula twice a day (due to jaundice issues). I am not thrilled with this, but whatever we have to do to make sure Max is healthy...

Being a Mama has been odd - in one way it feels like something I have always known, but other parts were not expected. For example... I fully expected to lose lots of sleep. BUT. I had no idea that Max would not let me put him down the first few weeks! That first night home was brutal as I held and rocked him all night. When he was sleeping and tried to set him down, he would immediately wake and scream. I did not sleep one minute that night. Since then, I have been sleeping on the futon in his room with him. Over the past few days he has napped in his pack and play. And this morning, for the first time, he napped in his crib for about 90 minutes. (Before this, I got him to stay in the crib without screaming maybe 5-10 minutes tops.)

Max's first outing - to the local
public library, natch!
My Sweetheart has to go back to work tomorrow (boo!). He will be working overnights, so I think I am going to try to get Max to sleep in the crib a little each night. The goal is to get the Baby to sleep alone soon so I can move back into my own room; I miss my Sweetheart!

 Overall, though, it's been cool. Challenging, to be sure, but pretty great. Max is so adorable and amazing. He also makes the most entertaining faces ever. While I am extremely appreciative of the times I can put him down, I also do love cuddling with him or feeling him snuggled up against me in his Moby carrier.

Typing with one hand while feeding him is a challenge but I hope to get back into the blog groove soon. Besides Baby updates, I have book reviews to write. (While I was in the hospital, some books were sent by a publisher for review - woo-hoo!)

So, please be patient. I'll be back soon!

21 June 2011

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men...

Last night I typed a hugely long novel-length post about our forced failed induction this weekend past. After spending hours on it, I lost half the text while trying to post. Arrrgh! I planned to rewrite and post today. And I still may get around to it, but not tonight.

My Sweetheart and I went to the Doctor today to discuss the events of the weekend and to consider our options for the future. Dr A was very patient and kind and took a lot of time with us, answering every question we had.

Tomorrow, Tex will be 10 days past due. Despite the many interventions we endured over the weekend (2 12-hour rounds of Cervidil, membrane sweep and maxing out on 15 hours of Pitocin), I am still only dilated 1 cm. We could attempt another induction, but it is not likely it would be effective at this point and, while I am very comfortable with having a 42 week pregnancy I know that after that, things get a little dicey.

After much discussion (and asking the Dr what he would advise his wife or daughter), we have scheduled a C-section for 8am tomorrow. It is not what we would have ideally chosen, but it seems the best and safest option and we are at peace with this decision.

I have to say, I expected to be devastated that I will not be able to bring my child into this world through the natural unmedicated I wanted. And - I cannot lie - I am somewhat disappointed. However, I also know how lucky I am.

I loved being pregnant. Every bit of it was lovely (except the heartburn). And, no matter if the path I take to get there is not the one I would have chosen, it looks like I still get the Dream Happy Ending: a Healthy Mama and a Healthy Baby with the Love of My Life. Seriously. How can I complain about that?

Thanks to everyone for your continued support, prayers and positive energy. Can't wait to introduce y'all to Tex soon!

16 June 2011


Okay, so I think I am all caught up on book reviews (for now). I'll try to stay more on top of things there so the reviews are more reasonably interspersed throughout the site. I'm trying to remember to tag everything, too, so that those of you who don't care about book reviews (or, for that matter, about my pregnancy) can chose to seek out only the topics that interest you.

In Baby News, there is none. Still no Tex. Baby is now 4 days late. I have tried prayer, accupuncture, accupressure, chiropractic adjustment, walking, evening primrose oil, spicy food, pasta, bouncing on the exercise ball, thunderstorms and full moons, raspberry tea, washing the floors on hands and knees and more, but no Baby. If induction wasn't looming, I wouldn't even care. I feel good. I can feel Tex movng around in there and know from Tuesday's ultrasound that he/she is well.

But. I fully expect induction to be insisted upon tomorrow when I have my appointment. After discussing this with my Sweetheart, I think we are done fighting (maybe) but will not let them induce tomorrow. If I am being pushed into induction before Tex is ready, we want to wait until Saturday morning so we can get a good night's rest (or at least try to) and so my Sweetheart is not scheduled to work.

While my hope of avoiding induction is fading, I haven't entirely given up. Still hoping and praying (and getting ready to go for more accupuncture) that Tex will start the process before the doctors can give us nasty drugs!

Cloaked in Red

Everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species.

The question is: Why do we all know it?

If you look at "Little Red Riding Hood," it's a perfect example of the exact opposite of a good story...

...However you look at it, "Little Red Riding Hood" is a strange and disturbing story that should probably not be shared with children.

That is why I've gone ahead and written eight new versions of it.
In her introductory author's note to Cloaked in Red, Vivian Vande Velde lays out exactly how "Little Red Riding Hood" fails as a good story. Much like she did with The Rumplestiltskin Problem she then takes a familiar tale and turns it on its head, retelling it over and over, each story a fresh take on stale characters. Whether it's Granny as a werewolf or the brothers Grimm as bumbling young fools who will never amount to much, Vande Velde plays with the conventions of traditional fairy tales in a way that will delight readers.
My personal favorite (I think) is "Deems the Wood Gatherer," which features a woodcutter with exceptionally bad eyesight who unwittingly stumbles through several fairy tales, leaving chaos in his wake.
At just over 100 pages, this slender volume of short stories would be a great choice for reluctant readers. Besides being great fun, it could also be a jumping off point for young writers to try their own retellings of classic tales. Definitely worth reading.

Not Fat Because I Wanna Be

Six-year-old Chicago author, LaNiyah Bailey, has a mission - to tell other kids (and their adults) that not all overweight children got that way by eating junk and watching tv all day and that it is NOT okay to make fun of overweight children.

Despite eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, LaNiyah struggles with medical issues that cause her to be overweight. After being made fun of at school one time too many (though, really, isn't one time already too many!), LaNiyah came home and told her mother she wanted to write a book about her situation. Her mother said okay and helped LaNiyah write down her story.

The result is Not Fat Because I Wanna Be, a book that may be a little didactic, but is also a powerful statement against bullying. Rather than just feeling sorry to herself, LaNiyah's fictional counterpart takes control of her life and explains to her classmates why she has struggles and why it is never okay to make fun of overweight kids. Written in picture book format with short chapters,the book includes a parent and teachers' guide to preventing obesity and recognizing bullying. 

I have heard it said - and believe - that "We read to know we are not alone." I believe this book will speak powerfully to children struggling with weight issues, reminding them that they are not alone and giving them the strength to speak up for themselves and to love all that is good and strong within themselves, hopefully adopting LaNiyah's pledge: "I am beautiful. I am loved. I will not let what others say define me. Bullying is not cool!"

The Ninth Wife

Although my true love is literature for young people, every now and then I manage a novel intended for adults. The latest one I read was The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls.

As folklorist Bess Gray approaches her 35th birthday she is giving up all hope of ever finding love. A chance encounter with her ex (and his very pregnant new partner) leaves her feeling even more down and not very excited about the singles party she has been urged to throw. As luck would have it, one of her girlfriends brings along Rory, a charming expatriate Irish fiddler. Before she really realizes what is happening, Bess finds herself falling in love with Rory and beginning to believe that maybe fairy tales can come true.

As luck would have it, though, Rory has a secret, one he fails to reveal until he asks Bess to marry him - he has been married before. EIGHT TIMES, as a matter of fact. In a matter of moments Bess begins to question everything she thought she knew about this man she knows she loves.

Needing some time, Bess makes a cross-country road trip to bring her bickering grandparents to their new home. Also along for the ride are her gay neighbor, his shar-pei, and a store mannequin named Peace. Along the way, Bess decides to track down as many of Rory's former wives as she can, to get the scoop on what happened and to try to untangle her own emotions. In her quest for clarity, Bess learns more about herself - and her own past - than she bargained for.

The Ninth Wife rises above "typical" chick lit with well-drawn characters who never sink into caricature. Thoroughly enjoyable.

True (...Sort Of)

True (...Sort Of) is the second novel from Katherine Hannigan. In it, Hannigan introduces us to Delly Pattison, a spirited girl with a sense of adventure. Unfortunately, from the time she is six-years-old and releases all the chickens at the County Fair, it becomes clear that the adults around her don't quite "get" her. Delly's desire to live life fully and to embrace the joy she sees in the world leads her to be labeled "bad." Heartbreakingly, in time, Delly begins to believe that label and to tamp down her exuberance and by the time she is in fifth grade, she is regularly truant and acting out. She really wants to be "good," especially because she doesn't want to make her mother cry, but she isn't sure how to keep control.

Ferris is the new girl in school. She doesn't speak at all and keeps to herself and refuses to be touched. Delly notices that animals are drawn to Ferris and comes up with a plan. If she follows Ferris and becomes her friend, maybe she can keep herself out of trouble and keep from breaking her mother's heart. As their relationship deepens, Delly begins to realize that there is something terribly wrong that has rendered Ferris mute and has to figure out a way to help.

The characters in True (... Sort Of) are memorable and complex. Besides Delly and Ferris, you will fall in love with Delly's little brother, RB - who is desperate to help his sister however he can - and Brud - a shy young stutterer who longs to be a star basketball player and forms a friendship based on playing the game with Ferris after observing her skillful solitary play (and mistaking her for a boy).

Highly recommended for both boys and girls, True (...Sort Of) is populated with characters who will touch your heart and stay with you long after you have finished reading.

(Incidentally, for some reason I read the acknowledgements to this book pretty early on and was interested to find Hannigan's mention of Torey Hayden. I first read her books as a very young child - probably inappropriately so; I was about 8 or 9 years old - and she was instantly a hero. The way she worked with children who were cast aside by so many others made me feel less alone and really shaped the populations I chose to work with as an adult.)


I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged. Now, if you please.

I don't mean to be difficult, but I can't bear to tell my story. I can't relive those memories... How can you possibly think me innocent? Don't let my face fool you; it tells the worst lies. A girl can have the face of an angel but have a horrid sort of heart.

With that haunting opening, Franny Billingsley introduces us to Briony in a beautifully lyrical new novel, Chime.

Since her stepmother's death, 17-year-old Briony, the preacher's daughter, has known that there are two secrets it is crucial she keep - that she is a witch and that she is responsible for both the death of her stepmother and the accident that caused her twin sister Rose's mental illness. Briony is careful to always hate herself so that she never forgets either of these things; to forget would be to possibly endanger those around her even further.

Then Eldrich comes to town and treats Briony as if she is extraordinary. He plays lion-boy to her wolf-girl and makes it more difficult than ever to keep her secrets. But keep them she must, else her sister will die of the Swamp Cough and others will suffer terribly...

Chime was a magical book. It isn't a quick read - the richness of the language Billingsley uses deserves (and demands) a slower pace - but it is a worthwhile one. The world of the Swampsea is painted with beautiful clarity as Billingsley introduces us to the Old Ones, the Chime Child and other inhabitants of Briony's sphere. Main characters - particularly Briony, Eldrich and Rose - are drawn with such depth as to move the reader. Indeed, before I was too deep into the book I was already wishing that it would prove untrue that Briony had committed the crimes to which she was confessing and yearning to know if there was more to Rose hidden beneath her childlike demeanor.

While this book will have definite appeal to fans of fantasy and folklore, it is not a niche read. Readers who stick with it will be rewarded with a tale that will remain with them long after the book is closed.

I Am J

"Hola, Jeni."

J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he'd been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn't muster a hello back, not now; he didn't care that she'd tell his mom he'd been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore.

In I Am J by Cris Beam, we meet J. From his earliest days, J knows he is a boy. It is an cruel twist of fate that he has been born with a body that betrays him with its feminimity and that his parents named him "Jeni."

J is a transgendered Latino teen photographer who is struggling with the world around him. How to define and explain himself to a world when his parents are worried (or maybe hopeful?) he's a lesbian and his best friend (herself a cutter) angrily rejects his love because she, too, sees him as a girl and is afraid of what that would mean about her.

J is sick of wearing tight bandages to bind the breasts he hates and layers of baggy clothing to disguise the body that betrays the person he knows he truly is. He despairs of ever being accepted and finally runs away from home, determned to make his own way. Finally, after years of hating himself, J discovers that taking testosterone will help him to sound and appear more masculine. This joy of this revelation is marred only by the fact that J is 17 years old. As a minor, he will need parental consent to receive testosterone. Now what will he do?

I Am J is a remarkable novel, one that shares a voice that has been too long silent. Growing up and discovering who we are is difficult for almost any teen; to have to make this same journey on a road that is often hostile to the person we are discovering we are is even more excruciating.

For trans teens (and adults), I Am J offers proof that they are not alone. For those who are not trans, it offers a glimpse into another world, a glimpse that will hopefully inspire empathy and compassion and will help eradicate prejudices and fears.

By the end of this remarkable book, readers should find themselves agreeing with J:
“Being trans wasn't special, and yet it was. It was just good and bad and interesting and fucked-up and very human, like anything else.”

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I am *so* far behind on book reviews. I've got notes scribbled down for the last 7 books here, so I guess I really should at least try to catch up before Tex gets here... these may be short, but I hope to get them done.

First up, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. As so many of us did, I had heard about this book long before I actually read it. The excerpt published in the Wall Street Journal back in January inspired strong emotions, many along the lines of outrage at a mother who would be so unyielding with her daughters as to refuse them playdates or a say in their own extracurricular activites. The scuttlebutt was that Ms. Chua was flouting the success of "the Chinese Way" of raising children as far superior to "the Western" (read: the American) way, but that her way included attitudes and actions that many "Western" parents would find unpalatable, if not downright abusive.

So, long before I had the book in my hands, I was somewhat prepared to dislike it. I also knew that I had to read it to form my own opinions, not let my opinions be handed to me...

What I found was not really what I expected at all. Yes, Ms. Chua does do things I cannot really imagine (for example, in one memorable scene, she refuses a hastily scrawled birthday card her younger daughter made for her as unacceptable: "I deserve better than this," she said, "So I reject this."). However, in my opinion, she also raises some valid points about how, in general, many parents value self-esteem above all else.

This is not to say that a child's self-esteem is not important. Of course it is. However, life is tough. Sometimes we lose. And, frankly, we do our children no favors by pretending they are the absolute best at something when they are only putting in a half-assed effort. It's okay to tell them we know they can do better than half-hearted efforts might yield.

One passage in particular spoke to me:

“Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches,” she writes. “Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility [emphasis mine], and as a result they behave very differently….That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child."

Now, do I believe that the solution to a substandard performance is to excoriate a child? No. But neither do I believe it's useful to tell a child, "that's okay, Sweetie, you did a great job," when he hasn't done his best. I have seen so many people excuse children from completing tasks because "he doesn't feel like it" instead of demanding excellence from their children. By excellence, I do not mean that every single child is capable of bringing home straight As and performing flawlessly on the violin. Rather, that any endeavor undertaken is given the full measure of a child's effort.

And maybe it's time for some of us to start being the grown-ups again. Maybe it's time for us to assume that our children are capable and demand they do their part, even with something as simple as helping around the house. How many times have we heard a parent ask a child to do some chore - maybe set the table or pick up their toys or help with the shoveling - and when the child ignores the parent or whines that he doesn't want to, the parent sighs and completes the task herself? What does that help? There are a lot of things I don't want to do, but life is tough. Instead of whining and dilly-dallying, how about completing the task, doing it well, and having it out of the way?

I know I am gettng a bit rambly and unfocused here. It's true it's been a little while since I finished the book. I guess my bottom line opinion is that while Ms. Chua may reach levels of demand upon her children to which most of us do not aspire, there is value to be found in considering her side of things. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is worth the read for anyone who is a parent, hopes to be a parent, has worked with children or has any opinion on the "best" way to raise children (if such a thing even exists).

And, if nothing else, if you are one of the "Western" parents she dismisses as too permissive, at least you can read her and feel superior for being nicer than she.

15 June 2011

Have You Had That Baby Yet?

Um... NOPE.

Tex is now three days late. I am actually pretty okay with that. I had a Biophysical Profile Ultrasound yesterday which showed that everything is absoultely fine - fantastic amniotic fluid levels, Baby is a good size and in the right position, no placental deterioration. Tex just isn't quite ready to be here. That's okay with me. My Sweetheart went back to work for a 4-day shift yesterday, so if Tex didn't want to show up until Saturday, her/his Dad would have the maximum number of paid days off - bonus.


But the doctors are making me crazy. And seriously pissed off.

I had a most disappointing appointment yesterday. It was supposed to be just an NST. When it was done, though, the Dr came in and asked, "When are we scheduling your induction?" (After she told me the Baby looks "perfect" on the NST.) I told her that the other Dr said we don't have to even address that until Friday. She's like, "Well, he's new to this practice and we don't like you to go past your due date. The fact that you're 2 days overdue makes us very nervous." What? I asked why and said they just don't go much past the due date. She did an internal (the first one I have had) and I am not at all softened or thinned, let alone dilated.

So THEN, she tells me I am having an ultrasound right away and if my amniotic fluid is low I am going straight to the hospital for induction, no questions. I was pretty upset and had to text my Sweetheat from the waiting room to fill him in. I was almost in tears waiting for the ultrasound, but trying to stay calm.

Luckily, the ultrasound tech was awesome and he understood my position and didn’t understand why they were pushing induction. As I mentioned at the start of this post, he said everything looks great. He told the Dr all this and she gave this big sigh like I was putting her out and said, "I guess we'll let you go today." I asked when I had to come back (fully expecting her to say the next day) and she said Friday.

SO. Now I feel immense pressure to have this Baby come soon. I went to the chiropractor right after that and she did some more accupressure and accupuncture. I will continue to see her every day until Tex comes.

After our Baby is here, I am *done* with this practice. It's kind of too bad, because I love, love, LOVE the nurses and have really liked the doctors until this past week. Next time, I want to use the midwives at another hospital (about 40 minutes vs. the 5 minutes we have to drive now). I will write the head doctor of the practice I am leaving to explain why. However, with this Baby, this late in the game, I feel kind of stuck.

I understand that, if my fluid levels were low or my placenta was deteriorating or I was closer to 42 weeks or if Tex was in some danger, induction could be the best and smartest option. I do not want to compromise my Baby's safety in ANY way. But it kills me that there seems to be NO MEDICAL REASON at this time, except "just because."

It bugs the shit out of me that when I first went to this practice, back in October, I asked what their policy on induction was. I was told that they try to avoid induction. If they had said, "We try to avoid induction, but if you go past your due date..." fine. At least I could have made an informed decision as to whether this was the right practice for me. This feels like a betrayal.

ANYway, unless a miracle happens, I fully expect to be induced on Friday (although I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will let me schedule it for Saturday morning). From what a different doctor in the practice told me, they would start me off with the Cervidil and then, if nothing happens, Pitocin. (Although, considering it seems the 4 different doctors don't communicate well with each other, who knows if that is even true.)

This is pretty much my nightmare. Everything I have read (and heard from people who have experienced induced labor) shows that Pitocin can increase the need for an "emergency" C-section - one that could have been avoided had labor been allowed to progress naturally. As I told my Sweetheart last night, I am not afraid of delivering Tex. Hell, if the Baby was in some distress and a Caesarean was the best option, I could deal with that, too. I am afraid of an unneccessary surgical procedure being done because the doctors are impatient for no other reason than "just because."

I am tired and done fighting and will accept induction Friday/Saturday and pray for a vaginal delivery (though I still hope to refuse the epidural - I am very stubborn ;). Again, though, if I end up with an unexpected C-section, I am going to try my very best to focus on the Baby being here safely, regardless of how that happens.

Send some good thoughts and labor dust our way!

13 June 2011

So, What's Going on Today?

Well, the Kid isn't here yet, but that's okay. I went to the chiropractor this morning and had an adjustment, accupressure and accupuncture. If Tex isn't on the way tomorrow, I will go back and have more. Everything feels a little different in a way that's hard to describe, so I do think Baby's getting ready to be here. It would be nice if it started before my Sweetheart heads into work tomorrow morning, but as long as Tex gets here healthy, it's all good!

12 June 2011

Baby's Room

Finally, the night before my estimated due date, we finished the Baby's room! Woo-hoo! I am completely in love with the room. We weren't trying to make a room that was specifically for a boy or a girl (even though someone told me it loooks like a Boy room). Rather, I chose all my favorites - the colors of the forest. I love, love, LOVE the colors and am, truth be told, a wee bit jealous of our new Little Person for getting to live here! :)

My Sweetheart has been a Rock Star, working hard to make sure everything was just so, especially since I ended up on temporary bed rest and wasn't allowed to do everything I would usually have helped with. His parents were also amazing - my MIL helped paint and bought me a beautiful rocking chair while my FIL put up all new trim. We are so lucky!

We still have a few book-related wall decals we may add to the slanty dormer part of the walls, but not quite yet. Also hoping to install a shelf or two on the walls over each cube shelving unit. But there's time for all of that.

The main thing is that the room is ready. Now all we need is for Tex to get here and move in!

My Sweetheart assembling a cubeical shelving unit for the Baby's room.

He was so proud when he finished getting the unit assembled. (I love that
the perspective from which I took this picture, coupled with the dormer
ceiling, makes my Sweetheart look like a giant in a dollhouse.)

I helped, too! Here I am organizing our cloth diaper stash and
showing my Sweetheart one of the Fuzzibunz diaper covers.

Looking at the West wall of the room; the crib was a generous gift from
our friends, the McChesney family, and I love how well it goes with
the panelled walls.
So happy to have original artwork by William Steig to hang for our Baby;
and I love the fancy changing pad Gram bought. That cubeical unit
is storing all our cloth diapering supplies for now.
The picture on the left is as you look in the door. My wonderful Mother-in-law
got me the rocking chair (and I love the soft blanket from our friend, KP).
On the right is the second cubeical unit. (Yeah, I know it seems I keep
spelling that wrong, but that's what it says on the box.) Board books and
Wild Things and giraffes and music... Good stuff for the Baby to grow on!

Happy EDD to Us!

How Far Along?
I am 40 weeks today - the Estimated Due Date.

Appts coming up?
I am seeing the chiropractor on Monday morning, an NST on Tuesday and another NST/prenatal visit Friday - all providing Tex doesn't come before any of these!

Thoughts about where you're at in your pregnancy?
I'm not even sure today. I am so grateful that everything has gone well thus far and that I will avoid induction a while longer. I would really like Tex to come on her/his own, so I'm a little anxious about getting that to happen.

What are you working on?
Not much. I have some non-baby related household chores to finish (laundry, oragnize the front closet, etc.). I have a list of books I need to write reviews for. Overall, though, there isn't anything pressing.

Complaints or worries?
I am grateful that induction is off the table for now, but I would love Tex to just not dilly-dally so it doesn't become an issue again. Whatever is best to get us a healthy Baby is so key, though. Two of the regular posters on The Bump board I am most active on had heartbreaking losses of full-term baby girls this past week. One woman knew her little girl had a heart problem, though of course she never dreamed that her beautiful child's heart would not survive the labor process. The other mother had no reason to suspect any problem at all, until it was too late and her precious little girl was gone. Reading their stories this week broke my heart; I cannot even imagine what they are going through and pray that I will never know. It also made me a little bit scared and anxious for Tex to get here safely and soon. Trying to not think about it too much and just get some rest and be ready for our new little person.

Not so much. Not very hungry in general, though making sure to eat regularly.

Happy moments/blessings?
The Baby's room is done! Woo-hoo! (I'll post some pictures later.) The car seat is in. Got a pedicure Tuesday and then went to visit my sweet little nieces. As I was leaving, Brooke-Lynn said "Bye, Baby!" and patted my belly. Tex kicked her back and the look of surprise on her face was the best; wish I had had my camera ready!

Friday would have been my Grandpa's 86th Birthday. He and I had a special relationship and I always visit Gram on his birthday, so I made sure to get to the rehab facility. As always on that day, I brought her red roses (Grandpa's favorite). It's sad that Tex won't know my Grandpa, but I suspect we'll see some of Grandpa in the Baby. (Heck, in the ultrasound picture, it looks like we might be seeing Grandpa's nose soon!)

A huge blessing was at my doctor's appointment Friday. The Baby had been a little slow the night before and I was a teensy bit worried, but when it came time to hook us up to the machine, all was well and active. When the doctor came in, it was the doctor I have seen the least of the four who are part of the practice. He said, "Everything looks fantastic. I read your birth plan and since you want to go natural, there's no point doing anything else right now." Wha?? I told him that the other doctor had insisted I would have to be induced at 4 days past my due date, but he said there was no reason for that since I am healthy and have had no problems at all. I was so relieved! In fact, since I wasn't even 40 weeks, he didn't even do an internal! Woo to the hoo!

I saw a chiropractor this past week, too. My former (AMAZING!!!) chiropractor, Dr. D suggested accupressure to help encourage labor. Sadly, since I have moved, Dr. D's office is well over an hour away from me now. BUT, she is so awesome, she found me a doctor whose office I am actually able to walk to who would work with me. I went Thursday and sat down to talk to her for a bit. On Thursday she aligned me a bit. She said that if everything is lined up perfectly, it is easier for the Baby to get into the perfect position. Makes sense to me. She also recommended I start taking Evening Primrose Oil right away.

I had a follow-up appointment on Friday. More alignment and some accupressure. I was eager for accupuncture, but she doesn't like to start accupuncture before actual due date. I understand that. I have another appointment Monday morning and I hope I get some accupuncture then. My hope is that this appointment will help encourage labor to start and that we'll have a Baby here by Tuesday or Wednesday. Otherwise, I suspect induction will be discussed again on Friday. Fingers crossed.

Any fun things coming up?
Maybe not fun, but looking forward to the chiropractor tomorrow.

And, most exciting... A Baby! (And my Sweetheart's first Father's Day. :)

09 June 2011

Happy Birthday!

My sweet niece, Brooke-Lynn, is 2 years old today. She is sunny and cheerful and definitely has a mind of her own. She loves books and Wonder Pets and her big sister and brother. She is definitely my buddy. (In fact, she is the first person I told about the Baby, before I even knew for sure; I wanted to voice my suspicions aloud and she was still pretty non-verbal then...)

We had a mini celebration with her Sunday past, but I wanted to be sure to wish my little Tootsie Roll a HAPPY day today, too. (Plus, it was a good excuse to post a picture of her!)

08 June 2011

Estimates and Ultimatums

39 weeks 3 days
The more I think about the possibility of being induced at 40 weeks 4 days, the more annoyed I get. As I was explaining to a friend the other day, I understand that sometimes there is a medical reason to induce - if the ultrasound showed low fluid levels or placental deterioration or if I had pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes or any number of other reasons. However, the doctors have said that there is absolutely *no* risk associated with this pregnancy - except that I am old.

Well, okay, maybe they didn't use the word "old." The euphenism is "of advanced maternal age." Which means that, apparently, I am the Cryptkeeper. (I have recently been told by a few nurses and doctors alike that the American Pregnancy Association is planning to change the "advanced maternal age" marker to 40. Until then, though, I am labeled.)

It's just frustrating. I have felt relatively stress-free throughout this pregnancy. I have been extraordinarily blessed with an easy 40 weeks - no morning sickness or excessive pain. Yeah, I have been exhausted and had a little heartburn and haven't slept through an entire night in months because my hips hurt at night, but none of those things has seemed really "bad" to me. I have enjoyed being pregnant and growing Tex. I have felt no fear or stress about having a med-free birth. Is it gonna hurt? Yeah, I assume it will. But it will not last forever and the payout will be a beautiful little person that is part of me and part of the man I first fell in love with 17+ years ago. It's pretty amazing.

Now though, as we reach the home stretch, I am feeling stress about the possibility of unneccessary medical interventions and the introduction of drugs I have no desire to experience (let alone have our Baby exposed to). Arrgh! I was pefectly happy to let Tex come when she/he is ready; now I am anxious that the Baby is on time or even a day or so early.


I have an appointment for accupuncture that is meant to help encourage labor on Thursday afternoon (3 days pre-due date). I have been walking up and down the stairs a lot, eating spicy foods, looking for other Old Wives' Tales about inducing/encouraging labor - within reason. I still want both Tex and I to be healthy and safe and have no plans to use some of the methods that seem a little more risky to me, stuff like large doses of Castor Oil.

The good news is that I have had more - and stronger - "practice" contractions the past few days, so hopefully that's a sign that Baby is on the way. Gram is pretty sure it will start coming sometime tomorrow since the temp will drop dramatically and thunderstorms are predicted. That would be okay. Sweet Brooke-Lynn's birthday is tomorrow, so it would be nice if Baby got a different day, but Friday would be good. (Actually, Friday would be ideal - it is Grandpa Kalweit's birthday - he would have been 86 this year - and that would give my Sweetheart the maximum number of paid days off.)

Keep your fingers crossed for us that induction can be avoided and - more importantly - that everyone is healthy!

07 June 2011

The Water's Fine!

Tex is due in FIVE DAYS (12 June 2011) - which is seriously surreal to me. If you want to guess exact birth date, time, etc. feel free to jump on in our Baby Pool at http://bebepool.com/HerrmanBaby. The site will tally points after Tex is here and we enter all the accurate birth information. The winner will receive a small prize at some point. So play along and have fun!

05 June 2011

One Week!

How Far Along?
39 weeks today - 7 days until my estimated due date. How insane is that?!?

Appts coming up?
NST appt on Monday and another NST/prenatal visit Friday. Of course either of those could be pre-empted by a Baby getting here before Sunday!

Thoughts about where you're at in your pregnancy?
It's so surreal to think we may have a new person here next Sunday! I will miss feeling Tex moving around; I wish Dads could have a 5-minute window of experiencing that. Not the part where the Baby kicks too hard or pinches or jumps on your bladder, but the cool sensation of a little person stretchng out and growing inside you.

What are you working on?
Finishing touches. I want to put contact paper in the dresser drawers this afternoon so I can put all the teeny clothes away. Then I have to bring all the toys/books/etc. up to the Baby's room and figure out where they will all go. Want to organize all the cloth diapering supplies. We still need a bookshelf, but it's not crucial to have before Tex gets here. We *do* want to get the rocking chair before that. There's a super short list of a few odds and ends to pick up. My Sweetheart will assemble the pack and play after I get all the other Baby stuff out of the dining room. Also the swing. And I may do some rearranging of furniture (or, more likely, supervise that). Still never made a labor playlist. Maybe I will, maybe not. I think I do want to make a brief playlist of songs to play after the Baby is here (ex: "Lord, Protect My Child" by Bob Dylan).

Complaints or worries?
Was told to give up and just accept my limited bedrest for the duration. Ugh. Not thrilled, but okay. Not the end of the world by any stretch. Much more troubling to me, I found out this week that my doctors' office will not let me go more than 4 days past my due date. I am really NOT happy to learn this. I asked what their policies on induction were at the beginning of the pregnancy and was told they try to avoid it. To find out when it's pretty much too late to change doctors that not only will they induce but that they will use pitocin (which I have adamantly, repeatedly said I want to avoid) pisses me off and scares me.

My understanding is that a normal pregnancy is not considered "too long" unless it goes past 42 weeks. Their time frame is 10 full days before that. Induction - especially using pitocin - can lead to all kinds of issues and I have heard horror stories and read research that shows the use of pitocin to advance labor can actually increase the chance of Caeserian section. C-section is one of my own personal worst-case scenarios.

Ultimately - of course - the goal is to get Tex here safely, but I am terrified of having an unneccessary C-section and have, in fact, had recent nightmares of doctors trying to force me to do just that. I want to do whatever is possible to reduce that risk, which has led me to start hoping the Baby is exactly on time or a few days early. I've had lots of "practice" contractions in the past few days, so I hope that's a good sign. Really annoyed to have this unexpected stress so late in the game!

Not so much.

Happy moments/blessings?
Went to see Bridesmaids finally. Wouldn't mind seeing it again once it's on dvd. Got a haircut (don't love it, but at least it's done). Had a dinner date with my Sweetheart Friday night. Nothing super fancy, but we even got a little dressed up and just enjoyed being together. My Sweetheart installed the carseat and put the stroller together. We also went shopping for a few more Baby things and were able to use gift cards and coupons to get some great deals (a $149 area rug for $80? Yep!). Put the sheet in the crib and got all our cute blankets packed in a bin under the crib so we can access them quickly. The in-laws came again yesterday and Dad H helpd finish the trim and they helped my Sweetheart move stuff. The computer cabinet was finally removed from Baby's room and the desktop moved downstairs. No more non-Baby stuff cluttering up our new person's space - yay!

Any fun things coming up?

Lunch with my Sweetheart and the in-laws at Five Guys this afternoon. Finishing Tex's room. Hope to get a pedicure maybe tomorrow. My sweet Brooke-Lynn's second birthday.
And, most exciting... A Baby!

29 May 2011

38 Weeks

Added this pic the day after
I wrote this entry - 38w, 1d
How Far Along?
38 weeks today - 14 days until my estimated due date,but could be up to 28 days yet.

Appts coming up?
NST appt on Tuesday and another NST/prenatal visit Friday.

Thoughts about where you're at in your pregnancy?
Looking forward to meeting Tex, but not in a rush for the pregnancy to be over. Want this Baby to keep baking as long as she/he needs to! Also, really glad I am only on modified bed rest. I HATE not going to work and being restricted in what I am allowed to do, but at least I can go out once in a while. Completely restricted bedrest (like my friend, B, had with her first pregnancy) would have driven me stark, raving mad!

What are you working on?
We got a great Baby book at the thrift store, so I have been filling out the parts of that it's possible to do before the Baby gets here.  I've been doing a little laundry at a time. Went through the 10 boxes of children's books I have packed away and pulled out a few (most are developmentally a year or two away). Been cheering on my Sweetheart and in-laws as they work to get Tex's room ready (while I sit like a slug - ugh).

Complaints or worries?
Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy. Need to take advantage of the bedrest by napping more. Want Tex to stay put at *least* two more weeks.

Not much.

Happy moments/blessings?
My Sweetheart and Mother-in-Law finished painting the room on Thursday. Yesterday, my Father-in-Law came over and they put up all new trim. My Sweetheart set up the crib - it's starting to look like a real bedroom! :)  At our growth ultrasound on Monday, everything looked great. Baby is active and weighs about 6 pounds 9 ounces; will probably be under 7 pounds at birth, which is fine with me! My step-brother, Scott, and his wife, Kristen, welcomed their little boy, Christian Arthur to the world (29 days early!) - so cute; just wish they lived closer. Also, Gram was moved to a rehab facility, so we'll see what happens there. she doesn't seem to have much more energy, but there was nothing else to really be done at the hospital... Got some cool cards from postcrossing.com.

Any fun things coming up?
If I can muster up the energy, I hope to go to Half-Price Books tomorrow to get a few more board books. A visit to Gram on Tuesday. May order the throw rug for Tex's room. We still need to get a bookshelf and maybe a shelf or two for the wall, too. Looking forward to my Sweetheart being off work again so we can finish the room (sadly, that's not until Thursday), but there are a few smaller things I can start doing up there - put away some clothes, air out the mattress and wash the crib sheets, etc. Got permission from dr to go to the movies, so may go see Bridesmaids Tuesday or Wednesday. Want to bask in the sunshine if it truly does return, as promised. Also pleased that The Boy may come cut our grass tomorrow - not just because our lawn is way too long, but because I miss that kid! Also hoping for complete release from bedrest on Tuesday; I honestly think they are being overly cautious!