Thursday, June 14, 2018

Summer Reading Recommendations

You probably don't need the rundown I give yearly about why you should sign up for your local library's Summer reading program, but don't forget to do it. It's beneficial for adults as well as kids and teens. 

Signing the kids up for the comprehensive reading programs our amazing local library offers is one of my favorite traditions, but we needed it this year more than ever. Our middle kiddo is nursing the top of a broken foot in a cast, which can feel sort of boring in the season of super temperatures and swimming. The library not only gives him a safe place to be and interact with other kids, but the reading goals give him something to work toward while he heals. That's invaluable. It's not something we could afford to do otherwise, and it made me really think about how Summer is made much better for everyone by what our libraries do. It's been a place for my older kids to make friends and for my youngest to practice the skills she will need for preschool and I'm not sure what we would do without them. 

Trying to find things to do with a foot cast would be so much more challenging without
Summer programs. 

We've been incredibly busy, but if you are looking for books to add to your program reading list, I totally have some recommendations for every age group. 

For tweens and kids who love all the popular horror games, grab the Five Nights At Freddy's novels starting with "The Silver Eyes". They are full of familiar creepy themes and deeply detailed descriptions-just be aware that you won't be able to look at your favorite pizza arcade place mascot the same ever again. 

I love that games like Little Nightmares and Five Nights have book companions because that is a super motivator for fans to read these awesome works. 

For the Smaller kids, Vin Vogel's new and upcoming "A Home For Leo" is perfect for youngsters and has a great lesson on how to belong when you walk in two worlds. The illustrations are bright and it's a quick, sweet read. 

Another cute read for younger audiences is "999 Frogs and a
Little Brother"
by Ken Kimura and Yasunari Murakami. It
 has the most adorable language that is perfect for a read-aloud for the ages of about three and up. The lesson is cute, the art is fun, this is a great book. 

My last recommendation is for adults. Basically, anyone who has ever f%^*ed up with money can and should read it. Cash is complicated because it's an abstract and ever-present factor in our lives, and it's importance to us makes it easily to manipulate right out of our wallets. I loved this book and REALLY needed to read it.
I suspect that with its hilarious examples and no b.s. explanations behind human screw-ups, a lot of other people will love it, too. 

Happy Reading and get yourself and your family signed up at your local library for the 2018 reading program. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The May is silent.

Incredibly sorry for the radio silence.

May has been a strange month.

I've written on here before about finding myself in the crisis of a failing body after my last pregnancy almost four years ago. Finding answers to that sometimes felt impossible, and last year I was staring down the label of an illness that I was told would kill me in 1.8 years. They were wrong, thank God. It was as simple as needing a more comprehensive test at a specialty hospital for pulmonary hypertension to diagnose sleep apnea. The CPAP machine has helped tremendously- we suspect my lung pressure is back to normal now (it feels that way, anyway). The rapid-fire heart-rate known as SVT is a different fight.

SVT has several types, but it's basically extra pathways in your heart that cause misfires. We had planned to move toward an ablation (burns or freezes the extra pathways, returning your heartbeat to normal) and after a med change that left me with a resting heart rate of 120 on a good day, we now know it's not likely to help me. 

This month we discovered one of the extra pathways is my sinus node, burning that means my heart can't beat properly and can result in the use of a pacemaker. 

So now we fight it with another change in medicine line-ups, we fight it with a new diet and we fight it with a new workout routine and try to train my heart to get in line. 

I'm not sure right now if I am relieved (surgery sucks) or upset (potentially having SVT forever also sucks). But it feels like we're starting to come full circle from when this all started. We don't have every answer *I'm looking at you, screwed up metabolic panel* but we have enough to treat what was going on. We have a plan. I have a regimen to fight it. That is more power than I've had over my life or well-being for at least two years. 

Med changes for heart-rate are garbage. It's at least a week of feeling like you might actually die while it works into your system and after the failure of last time, I'm allowed to keep my Metoprolol (the tachycardia drug of choice in most cases) as well as adding the new medication. Doing that while dieting and working out feels like I'm climbing a mountain blindfolded. It's not a good mix with writing or blogging or anything other than curling up on the couch like an old dog, really. 

But it's getting better. Everything is getting better. And I'm going to keep fighting for it to stay that way. 

Even if SVT is my forever monster, I have some of my life back that we were told I'd never have. I'm happy about that.

And I'm trying to write more, and review more on here, and just generally be present. 

And with that, if you haven't looked at the PBS special "The Great American Read", please go do it now. I know what you're thinking "BUT MY FAVORITE BOOK WON'T BE ON THERE!" but you know what, it probably is. Just go look, go vote, watch the launch special and listen to how powerful writing actually is and how it's changed our world. Especially if you are a writer who needs a kick in the pants to get words on the page, or some cheering up, or a cheerful kick in the pants to get words on the page. You can find the homepage here

If you're a regular here, you know I voted for Dune. I loved that they had Wil Wheaton championing it as this ultimate fight between what is good and evil, and it's totally that in a powerful package. We all need that message. 

For me, it was something else, too. Chani was the first time I saw someone like me in literature. 

I didn't see reflections of myself in many books, especially classics. 

Chani isn't a pampered aristocrat, she's wild. She's dangerous and so fiercely loyal. I live like that, I love like that. She and I even almost suffered the same fate in childbirth. I find it so awful that someone accused Herbert once of flat female characters because the women in these books are all very different and very fascinating. And you won't find one like Chani anywhere else. It was important to see that those traits she had, often considered unruly, made her a force to be reckoned with on the side of good in the cosmic battle. I needed that.

So my vote is for Dune. 

But I'm just happy with the conversation that "The Great American Read" has opened up. 

*credit to the photograher for the original image*
unsplash-logoOmer Salom

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Some Days.

It doesn't happen to me often, thank goodness, but it happens.

I get so brain-dead from burn out that I can't write one sentence. Not one damn coherent word. I sat down yesterday intent on talking about the progress in my writing class and how having a specific formula had helped me and I couldn't remember functional words of the English language.  It's confusing and alarming to me that the one thing that I do can't be accessed AT ALL when I'm like this, but I sort of know where it comes from...

My week has been a garbage fire in a few ways.

Monday was an electrophysiologist appointment, which went well. It was a great MD, it was great news (sort of figuring out where my SVT is misfiring from and planning to change medications before doing the exploratory surgery) but I think people forget that heart problems are still scary. Weaning off of medicines that control your heartbeat suck, and I'm in the trenches of that before my big med switch. 

Tuesday the sink flooded the kitchen. We fixed it, everything dried out, it could have been worse. It still sucked to open a cabinet door and have a mini-ocean pour out. 

Wednesday was a simple case of a forgotten lunch. Except it's testing week at school- so there are no lunch drop-offs. 21043210984 phone calls later and we were finally sure my son wouldn't starve at school after dropping off food once testing was complete. That was between daily errands like grocery runs. Sometimes not running things like a great big public school makes things suck. 

And I just finished filling out the pre-paperwork paperwork for my daughter's neurologist check-up tomorrow after a seizure last year. It's nice we get these appointments, but none of these are not nerve-wracking and never have been since she arrived premature and sick. Tomorrow is sure to kind of suck, too. 

I have no idea how people write in the middle of bad weeks. Or bad months. Or bad years. Yeah, that happened to me, too. 

I don't know how you break out of the wall a daily grind for survival puts you in. 

So sometimes I sit down, in the peace and quiet of the evening, and that's all that happens. I give up, go to bed early, and hope maybe tomorrow I have the brain space to dream and write again. This week was mostly too stressful, but it's not over, and maybe next week it will be easier again. 

And I take writing classes. Those do kind of help. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Nine Ways Your Kids Getting Older Rocks.

I have to confess that I don't get the whole complaining about teenage kids thing. Maybe I will eventually: after all my kids are new to this growing up thing and maybe after a few years in, it changes. 

There is that sadness. My best friend showed me baby pictures of my oldest two and I really didn't know whose babies those were for a few seconds. I hardly recognize that time now. There is something really depressing about that. And about the fact that, as they age and grow into the world-our very broken world, we can't protect them the way we could when all they needed was a hug and their favorite toy. That stuff is absolutely difficult. 

But it's beautiful getting to watch your small child grow into adulthood. It really is.

And as much as people complain about this age group, I am noticing some awesome things.

 1. Being able to watch a broader spectrum of things that aren't cartoonish and loud with them is definitely a plus. Their tastes become more sophisticated and suddenly you can share music, films, pop culture, and video game stuff together that they felt separated from in their younger days. 

For the record, sophisticated in this house still includes "The Annoying Orange", but we totally watch that as adults, too. For my husband's birthday, we put on the old campy Mortal Kombat movies. We both loved those and the games as kids so it was a memory-lane thing. To my amazement, my older kids filtered into the living room and wanted to watch it with us! They loved it like we did. That's awesome.


2. Nap times ruining the day's plans are not a thing anymore at all. Anytime everyone is awake, you can do stuff. That's amazing.

3. My older two are still sort of picky eaters, but that is getting better and better every year. With age comes not so sensitive taste buds and a willingness for new eating experiences which beats the heck out of an elementary kid that wants to eat grilled cheeses every meal. 

4. You won't walk through their room and almost kill yourself tripping over toys. Backpacks and sports stuff and art supplies, maybe. But the piles of toys get smaller and smaller every year. And they get better at picking up.

5. The chores they can help with are more helpful. You won't have to refold all the clothes again if they help you...probably.

6. Their sense of humor. They will get your jokes. They may not find them funny, but they will get them. They will also tell their own jokes.

7. The ways you can spend quality time together grow. Your tween and teen will find the loud, boring play place as annoying as you do. But the arcade, a spa day, boogie boarding, crafting? They are down for it. It's way easier to have a family fun day where all of you actually have fun.

8. You get to watch their budding interests. Your tween and teen can do things like building their own games with code, or write a novel, or paint murals. They are becoming their own people and it's awe-inspiring to watch.

9. You can have real talks about real things. And imaginary things. Your tween and teen will have their own fully formed and articulate thoughts to share.

I know there are drawbacks. I do. Especially in the world we live in. You'll have dating, exposure to the kinds of things and substances that can hurt people, and trying to plan for the future and watching someone you love this much navigate these obstacles...that's the hardest thing you will ever do. But it's so amazing to parent older kids. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Review of "Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life And Raise Healthier Children In The Process" by Dr. Sheryl Ziegler

This is probably one of the most important books I'll talk about this year so I'm going to try and do it some justice. 

All of us that parent beyond the non-mobile baby years know what burnout is. All of us. It's a terrible song we all know the words to and yet most of us never sing it out loud; Mommy burnout.

Motherhood has been the most defining, most inspirational thing for me. It's also been the hardest, and it's the most important thing not to mess up. That's beautiful. Also, it's stressful. 

My acrylic work a few months after I had my third child.

Whether you work and care for your family, or care for your family fulltime, or work from home and care for your family, none of that matters. We all get hit with it. This book offers some biological reasons why (a little surprised it didn't mention things like parenting being more stressful because of the economy, which makes parents struggle to give their kids a boost more, but that's probably a different book...) and, are you seriously ready for this? 

It gives you some ANSWERS to HELP. 

Unlike those articles you have been googling to see why you are chronically irritable, exhausted, stress-eating, feel overwhelmed by parenting and can't seem to get anything done for yourself. Those contain tips like "have someone come help" as if we could magically pull an assistant out of thin air or afford to hire one. The truth is if we are experiencing burnout, we probably DO NOT HAVE THOSE RESOURCES, thanks. 

This text is broken up into chapters that refer to Dr. Zeigler's clients' experiences (she is a Doctor of Psychology and a licensed counselor) and they are really well-written. You'll find yourself on these pages, and you won't like what you see, but you aren't supposed to. That's how change happens. 

It truly makes a point to offer help and advice after walking you through those scenarios. 

Advice like connecting with your friends again, which many of us find hurtfully impossible in daily life, to avoid over-focusing and intensely mothering our kids. Women need each other, our relationships make our lives easier, better, and even longer. A long time ago, you wouldn't have parented without that companionship. It's one of the suckiest things we've lost in the modern age: our ability to get together and support each other. 

Other tips include things like: avoiding using technology as an addiction to destress, give back with charity work, understand that your spouse can support you, and should, but that they can't give you what your friends can, and for the love of cheesecake DO THINGS FOR YOU. Things that take care of you and make you happy. 

I know you feel like you don't have time. 

I have zero help (I probably need to work harder to ask for it, but that's a different story), I have a health condition, I write and paint from home while taking care of three kids, and my husband works in emergency services. "No time for you" is how I have run my life for years, especially after having a sick baby and a special needs child. I'm probably not looking at leisure time for a good long while, but taking care of myself has to happen. And when I feel the familiar pain of not wanting to do things I loved or being so overwhelmed I could cry and eat ten Reese's cups, I know I have to prioritize myself. 

And truthfully, your kids need to see it. They need to see how to overcome the overwhelming everything that comes with loving someone this much and wanting everything for them. 

They need to know how to make and keep friendships and value other people, and how to share responsibilities and how to take care of others without becoming a martyr. Maybe by being conscious of it and honest about mommy burnout, we can show our kids a faster and healthier way out of it so it's not something they deal with as parents. 

And that's why this book is worth its weight in gold plus some. 

Read it, share it, talk about it. Because it's so important to have a real dialogue about this. The ending chapter even offers you some hashtags to start uniting and start a much-needed conversation. Check it out for sale on Amazon here and look for it at your local library. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

"Fire Making: The Forgotten Art of Conjuring Flame with Spark, Tinder, and Skill" by Daniel Hume

My husband is a natural with fire. When out camping long before we were married, one of our lanterns was faulty. Without it, we were in darkness come nightfall. He was able to start a fire just out of the supplies he scavenged from the dead light and tinder he found.

If I'd of been out there alone, I probably couldn't have done that. 

There is something really joyful and powerful and human about building a fire. It's even calming. It's something I found I enjoyed so much (despite sucking at it) I wanted a fire pit. I'm sadly still horrible at making fires. 

And I was really happy to come across this book. 

This book was a wonderful read. Both for my sucky-fire starting self and my anthropologist-self because it covers the author's experiences studying this art with masters from all over the world and even takes time to show traditional tools. One section even gives you some fire myths. Don't worry, the step by step fire-maker stuff is there, and it blends seamlessly with the narrative. There are more illustrations like you'd find in an instruction booklet than photographs, but that's a good thing. Those illustrations are more helpful and what photography is included is simple yet stunning. 

The methods covered range from fire thongs to chemicals, so whatever your ability or aspiration with making flames, this is useful. You'll find information on building a platform for your fire and even ways to carry it with you. Safety and responsibility are in here, too, and steps to make sure you clear your fire without marking the land. This, for sure, is your comprehensive guide. 

And it was an amazing read. Get a copy of this for your already fire-making friends, get one for the people who struggle to strike a match, and get one for yourself because there is nothing that comes close to the experience of making a fire. 

"Flying Sparks" digital work

**Credit to the photographer for the background image in the illustration** unsplash-logoAndrew Walton @w_andrew_j (instagram)

"Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter: The Pocket Guide to Everyday Conversations" by Ilana Kukoff; Jessica Yuppa Huddy

My oldest daughter is about to be rounding the corner to the teenage years. I'm not sure if I'm scared about that or just so proud of the person she is turning into (watching your baby grow up is breathtaking). She is a genius with Asperger's Syndrome, I don't know what to expect, but I think there are some universal challenges going into those years. 

I just want to make sure we are there for her. 

Eating-disorders, heartbreak, technology addictions (and all the other terrifying addictions), anxiety...the dangers are many and the preparations for them as far as parenting goes are sparse. And there are a lot of ways to screw up.

I liked reading this book, even if it was hard. And sometimes it was really hard. I can't imagine facing some of these situations. It doesn't have a ton of details, it's true that it is a pocket-guide, but it's short informational points make it easy to remember if you encounter any of the scenarios. 

And it tackles the difficult stuff a lot of parenting advice shies away from. 

"Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter" is a much-needed title in your arsenal of giving your teen the best support you can. This won't be all you need (for instance, it didn't cover abusive relationships which are common) but it's a damn wonderful place to start.

By the way, since I mentioned it (and since it is really important) here is a short animated video via  to help talk about and combat relationship violence for teens. One out of three report abuse in romantic relationships and this needs to be a discussion all parents have with their kids so that they know the signs. They have more resources on their site.