A Short Story About Reading, or, Getting Over a Reading Slump. Again.

This is a story in three parts.

Part the first: Two weeks after my son was born, I was at the doctor and was told that he hadn’t gained enough weight. I really like his doctor, who very non-judgmentally reassured me that formula was an option, or she would help me make breastfeeding work. I opted to stick with nursing, and realized shortly thereafter that I needed to nurse more. Like, a lot more.

I have this super useful app that I use to track things like time spent nursing, diapers changed, amount pumped, etc, and one of the stats it gives me when I ask is total time spent nursing in a day. The day we saw the doctor, I went from an average of 2 1/2 hours per day to 4 hours per day.

Part the second: I was listening to a “books and reading” podcast, and the interview subject was talking about finding time to read (and how hard that is), and the interviewer gave him a little speech about fitting reading into the cracks. Read in line, she said. Read waiting to pick up the kids, she said. Read in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, she said. Read whenever you have a minute or five to spare.

These are all things I know and have heard before, but hearing them that day was the reminder I needed. Use whatever time you have, I thought.

Part the third: I’d been slogging my way through The Winter of the Witch. Part of the problem was that I knew how long it was. Part of it was the slow pacing when the author was taking her time. And part of it was the little message at the bottom of my Kindle, telling me how much time it would take me to finish the book. That day, it said, “Time left: 6 hours.”

Now it all comes together, because I’d been considering putting the book down. I felt like I would never finish. But here in black and white was proof: I’ll finish. It’s easy. Baby steps are steps, too. I can take it a minute at a time; just read for 6 hours. And I thought to myself, if I spend 4 hours a day stuck in one place nursing a baby, all I have to do is spend that time reading, and I’ll finish tomorrow!

Which I did.

IMG-1715Now, I know this seems like an obvious solution, and believe me, it was. But let’s bear in mind that I was a sleep-deprived new mom, stressed and overwhelmed. And the epiphany I had came at just the right moment, to remind me of three things I already knew: Being stuck in one place may seem rough, but it’s often an opportunity to do something you don’t normally have time for. Reading is like ice cream – it fills in the cracks. And how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.



My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

My Dear HamiltonFor those of you who are fans of the musical Hamilton, I highly recommend this one. My Dear Hamilton is the story of the life of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, the wife of Alexander Hamilton. The story begins right before they meet (in fact, it begins around the time she meets Lafayette) and goes until the groundbreaking of the Washington Monument, some fifty years after Hamilton’s death.

As aforementioned, I’m a big fan of books that are well-researched, and this one is no exception. The authors really did their homework here, and one of my favorite parts of the book was the authors’ note at the end, going through which things happened, which were blanks filled in, and which were made up entirely (very little, for the record).

I learn about history best through historical fiction, because instead of just presenting facts it takes you inside characters’ minds and feelings and tells you a story about people. Eliza’s story was riveting. I loved seeing the world from her perspective and getting her thoughts and feelings about the events happening around her and the choices she made.

The setting was fantastic here too. This is a pretty big book (over 600 pages), and the length gives the authors space to really inhabit the time and place they’re taking us to. It was one of those books that gave me a bit of a jolt every time I looked up and realized it was summer of 2019, and not whatever season in brand-new America.

If you’re at all interested in Alexander Hamilton or his wife, or if you just like Historical Fiction as a genre, I highly recommend this book. Well-written, well-researched, well done.

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

Winter of the WitchThe Winternight trilogy comes to its conclusion. I feel somewhat late to the party just reading this one now, but what can I say: library holds, eh.

This one picks up directly where the second novel left off, with Moscow having suffered a massive fire the night before. As Vasya and her sister Olga begin to pick up the pieces, a mob appears at the door, led by Father Konstantin Nikonovich, demanding Vasya, the witch.

And you don’t take another breath until it’s over. As Vasya works to first find and then free Morozko, the Winter-King, then enlists his help to once again bind Medved, the Bear, she slowly discovers what her true purpose is and her role in the world.

I liked this one a lot. I LOVED the first one, with its magical realism and meticulous detail (The Bear and the Nightingale was one of the books that made me realize that the descriptor “well-researched” is a pretty good indication I’m going to like the book. See also: A Discovery of Witches). The second book I loved a little less, mostly because of Vasya’s tendency to make a mess of things, before gaining the skills she picks up in the third book that enable her to then Fix Things.

The third book was excellent. Vasya finally gets over the culture shock of leaving behind the home in the woods where she’s lived her whole life and gets on with the business of figuring out how to be a bad-A. Time and again, she solves her problems using her wits and sheer nerve, defying everyone who expects her to just lay down and either: a) wait for a man to come save her or b) die.

Mild Trigger Warning– If you’re a person who’s attached to their pets, be warned: The horse dies pretty early on.

Life in Seoul

So yeah. We had a very crazy couple of months, beginning with Scott leaving Dhaka and coming out to California on Thanksgiving and ending with a move to Seoul in February.

Finally together.

Since then, we’ve been enjoying our time here, and enjoying being settled and together. Our household goods (HHE) got here in March, our car arrived in April, and at the beginning of May we took advantage of a couple Korean holidays to go visit Shanghai Disneyland.

3 proud members of the Six Park Club. Oh, and a baby.

K started preschool a couple weeks ago. We put her in a Korean preschool, so a) hopefully she’ll learn Korean, and b) none of the staff speak English, which makes life a *tiny* bit difficult for me. Luckily, they mostly communicate through parents with an app, so Google Translate can see us through. Also, Scott’s Korean is fantastic, so if I’m really stuck I can rely on him.

Trey has started talking. Not two weeks after I took him in for his 15 month appointment and was assured that his not having any words is TOTALLY NORMAL at this age, I go into his room one morning to change his diaper and hear him say “Momma” to me as plain as day. Followed by “Dadda” and, later that day, “shoe.” So, yeah. That. O_O

Reading-wise, hm. It comes and goes. March and April I was doing really well; I read 9 books each month. It made up for my lackluster reading life in January and February (which I actually thought was quite understandable, what with moving and general life craziness). In May I went back down to 5, which now that I think of it is still quite good. I blame the trip to Shanghai; not much time for reading, really, and it threw off my groove a bit. Also, K starting school has created a new schedule that we’re still getting used to, and I typically spend my hours between drop-off and pickup Doing Useful Things, as opposed to sitting and reading. Unfortunately. But as we continue to adjust, hopefully I’ll work in a bit more time for reading. I did manage to listen to an audiobook, which was nice, but I had to fall behind in my podcasts to do it. And, naturally, a recent resolution to read more mainstream fiction written by LDS authors has EXPLODED my TBR list.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 9.46.41 PM
The last few books I’ve read

What I’ve Read Lately, or, Lots of Digressions About Harry Potter

Reading is back with a vengeance, you guys. I paused while I was settling in, while I obsessed over a few shows on Netflix (which really deserves its own post, don’t you think?), but a trip to the library turned everything around.

That, and Harry Potter. You guys. Harry Potter.

nerve-movieHere’s what happened: I saw a preview for a movie called Nerve. I’d heard of it before (and maybe seen the preview already– watching movie previews is a hobby of mine), but the movie was coming out, and due to my temporary “single-parent” status it’s pretty hard to go see movies. (And apparently it wasn’t very good anyway.) So instead I did the next best thing: I got the book from the library.

Unfortunately, none of the libraries I use for Overdrive purposes had the ebook, so I had to trek to a brick-and-mortar library for *gasp* an actual paper book! And while I was there, I remembered a long ago ambition to reread all the Harry Potter books. So among a few others, I picked up the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

hp3Allow me to date myself a bit with the following story:

I first started reading Harry Potter between when the third and fourth books came out. I was 13 or 14, which, now that I think of it, is the same age Harry, Ron, and Hermione were in those two books. I’d found the first and second books at the library, but the third was all checked out. Luckily, though, a friend of mine had it, and while I was sleeping over at her house one night I read it. Yep, the whole thing. In one night. Now, for a 13-year-old book lover, this isn’t astonishing, or even particularly difficult. Looking back at it, what floors me is how rude it was to spend the entire sleepover reading a book– even if I started at  bedtime, which I’m pretty sure I did. (Not that I was tired the next morning– that would have come in the afternoon, once I was home again. Ah, to be young again…)

So when I started reading it a few weeks ago, I had to smile to myself a little when I found myself reading deep into the night one night, finally finishing at 2 in the morning. Even if I hadn’t read it all in one day, it had still caught me and made me remember that these books are insanely popular for a reason: They’re crazy good!

I’ve seen the movies so many times that I’d forgotten how great the books are– they suck you in and make you excited and happy and worried and scared for Harry and his friends. No wonder these books make kids want to read.

Ok so once I loved reading again, here are a few of the books I’ve read lately:

hero-and-the-crownThe Hero and the Crown — I cannot believe I’ve never read this classic. I went through not one but TWO phases when I really should have– once when I read a bunch of Robin McKinley books (Beauty, Rose Daughter, Outlaws of Sherwood, etc.), and one when I read all the Newbery books I could get my hands on (random ones, too, like The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle and Call It Courage). And all the while this book was sitting on my family’s bookshelves.

ps-i-like-youPS I Like You — The latest Kasie West book. I love her books because she’s really good with solid characterization. (I especially loved her scifi book Pivot Point, which, as the name implies, is pretty much Sliding Doors meets X-Men.) This one I found to be… a little lacking there? One of the reviews I read on Goodreads pointed out that all of the peripheral characters (the girl’s best friend especially) only really existed to further the main romantic plot line. And once I noticed that I couldn’t really un-notice it, unfortunately. That being said, it’s a super cute, super breezy update of You’ve Got Mail, and I liked it a lot.

night-circusThe Night Circus — Once I was firmly ensconced in Reading again, I set my mind to The Night Circus, which is a book I’d started once before but had drifted away from. I started again at the beginning, and made my way through it. And it’s gorgeous. The descriptions of the circus itself, the dreamlike quality of the narrative, the whole thing… I swear, this book needs to be a movie. It’s a design team’s dream. Baz Lurhmann, WHERE ARE YOU???

(Side note: I have an ambition to start listening to audio books, and I read somewhere that starting with one you’ve already read is a good idea. This one is narrated by Jim Dale, who has won Grammy awards for his performance of the Harry Potter books, so I’m gonna start here. I’ve heard it’s amazing.)

So after I read The Night Circus I was a little adrift. I thought, what book can I ever read again? What will ever be so well written as this book?

And then the Jim Dale thing clicked, and I remembered what had started all this in the first place: Harry Potter.

hp4Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — I actually went to a brick-and-mortar library to try and find this one, but unfortunately it was all checked out of the one I went to, and frankly my motivation to drag two children in and out of libraries fails me most days. To Kindle! Luckily, all the Harry Potter books are in the Prime Lending Library.

If you will, another digression:

So when this book came out I was in the middle of a move between two houses (not states or schools, just neighborhoods. Ah, the life of a military brat…). I happened to be at the library one day with my sister, who was home from college for the summer. And for some reason… that still floors me… there was this copy of the new Harry Potter book, just… there. There wasn’t a hold on it or anything, and the librarian checked it out to me on the spot. I then spent the entire day on the couch, reading the thickest book in the series so far. And not only did I spend the whole day reading it, but every time I stopped, to eat or whatnot, my sister would come bug me: “Are you done yet? Can I read it? Can I have it now?” Looking back, I think she was teasing, because I remember her being a bit surprised when I gave it to her late that night: “Here! Now leave me alone!”

Knowing what I know now about the rest of the series makes reading the books that much more interesting. Sirius! Voldemort’s reference to horcruxes! The prophecy about Harry/Neville! SO MUCH IS COMING. This book was also fun after reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’d forgotten how insecure Amos Diggory was; it makes his attitude in Cursed Child a little more believable, wouldn’t you say?</minor spoiler>

fatal-graceA Fatal Grace — This is the second book in the Inspector Gamache series. It’s about a small town in Canada, where a police inspector gets to visit and also solve murders. I’ve heard that the series is amazing, but it doesn’t really “get going” until book 3 or 4. So… I’ll let you know. I liked this one well enough; Gamache is a good dude, although his assistant-friend character (I’m super uncultured about foreign police forces; they have all these complicated ranks, and I just can’t be bothered to pay attention to them. It makes me one of those rude Americans, I’m afraid…) is a little bit in love with him, maybe? And not in a good way. Aaaand… man, does Nichols drive me crazy. She’s pretty much the actual worst.

listThe List — So this is how I know I’m getting old. Because I read this book, and the thing that makes me the most upset is how the parents are acting. Of the eight girls,  two of them have decent parents, three of them have parents who aren’t mentioned much, two of them have parents who buy their daughter’s friends alcohol, and one girl has a single mom who threatens to homeschool her (again) as soon as she starts making friends (which, by the way, is classic Abusive Boyfriend behavior– isolation from other friends). Like, ok, the girls are horrible to each other, too, but the PARENTS should know better!

i-let-you-goI Let You Go — This is one that Modern Mrs. Darcy has been promoting a bit, and when I saw it on sale on Kindle, I went ahead and bought it. So halfway through this book there’s a Huge Twist, and suddenly the book you thought you were reading becomes a book about something else. I’m not sure how I felt about it, to be honest. On the one hand, it DOES lend sympathy to a character who might not have otherwise gotten it. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of other things done to give that character sympathy, and it felt a little bit like something the author did Just Because She Could. I LOVE me some unreliable narrators, but I also want there to be a reason for it: is the main character going crazy? Is she a liar? Is she coming to terms with some crazy traumatic thing that has happened? Is she suffering from memory loss? In this case, no. No she wasn’t. The author was just being misleading. So that halfway through she could go, “PSYCH! JUST KIDDING!” And so while it was kind of fun to find out that something I’d thought to be true was something else, it also felt pretty arbitrary.

Carpe per Diem

So last you heard, I was back in Dhaka with the kids. Trey was medically cleared (still is– he’s doing great!), and I was actually about to start a job at the Embassy. That was early June. In early July, some of you know that there was a terrorist attack at a popular bakery/restaurant in Dhaka.

It took about ten days, but the Embassy (finally!) decided to go into Authorized Departure. This is something they’d been deciding on and talking about for months, ever since the first attack back in October 2015.

For US Embassies, there are two states of Departure: Authorized and Ordered. Authorized still leaves families with a choice; you don’t HAVE to go, but you are eligible for benefits if you do. Ordered is just what it sounds like– all of the EFMs (spouses and children) HAVE to go, unless you get special permission to stay.

Dhaka went into Authorized Departure, so staying was on the table — technically. But the situation was pretty unstable, and Scott and I decided I should take the kids and go.

So here we are, in Anaheim, California. Scott was able to fly out with us and help us get settled for a week or so, which was a total lifesaver– especially on the layovers!

We’ve lived here before, so I’m already reasonably familiar with the area. I still have some friends here, so I have people to help with babysitting and things. And Special K is LOVING Disneyland. We found a place within walking distance (it’s a long walk, which I actually love), and I take the kids almost every day.

And that’s the situation for now! Scott is still in Dhaka, although his tour is ending soon, at which point we’ll have home leave and some training before going to Seoul. Look for some posts about Disneyland — I’m kind of a Disney pro these days.

Back in Dhaka

Note: In the interest of you all actually understanding what happens in my life, I’m posting this, even though it’s wildly out of date. I actually wrote it back in May. But this was happening then. Further updates are to come, promise.

So… we made it! We’ve been back for a week now. Getting back was crazy!

So because of Trey’s traumatic birth, we weren’t sure he’d get a medical clearance at all. So we started making contingency plans, including Scott bidding on an unaccompanied post in Pakistan. But as we got further along, we (and the State Department) realized that Trey was doing great, and that he’d probably get cleared to come back.

They wanted to wait for his 3-month appointment with the neurologist before deciding, but it looked like he’d be cleared to go home, as long as the doctor thought he was doing well.

Then, the week before the appointment, we found out that Dhaka might be going into Authorized Departure.

For those who don’t know, Authorized Departure is a state where families are allowed to leave post, if they so choose. They’re given plane tickets and a Separate Maintenance Allowance, and get to go live anywhere they want, pretty much. The downside, though, is that nobody under Chief of Mission Authority (meaning, embassy employees and their families) is allowed to enter the country without permission.

So if Dhaka went into Authorized Departure, we wouldn’t be allowed to come back, no matter how healthy Trey was.

It was about 72 hours between finding out there was going to be a meeting, and finding out the results of that meeting. Needless to say, those 72 hours were very stressful for me.

The good news, though, was that at the meeting they decided to wait two weeks before making a final decision. Which gave us just enough time to get Trey cleared and come home.


He’s Here!

Note: I’m definitely doing this out of order. I just want you to know that I know that. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Paper Magician books lately, so I wrote the post about them, but I also mentioned my reading slump. So I wrote the post about my reading slump, but so much of that story had to do with the baby. So now I’m here to tell you what happened there.

Once upon a time, I went into labor at 4:30 on a Monday morning not too long ago. I had been to the hospital a few times already for false labor, so Scott wasn’t convinced that this was the real deal, but I informed him that it was. (The strength with which I gripped his hand during my contractions helped make my case, too.)

Off we went to the hospital. On the way I texted my doctor, who, as it so happened, was headed to the airport. This particular Monday, you see, was the one day that my doctor had told me I wasn’t allowed to have a baby. Because he was going out of town. To which I had jokingly replied, “The baby comes when the baby comes, Chris!” (Yeah, we’re on a first name basis; he’s Scott’s uncle.) So already off to a good start, there.

The day went on, and I progressed pretty well. I got the epidural once I was admitted, and my water broke a few hours into labor. The baby’s heart rate dropped a couple times, which was a little tense, but my awesome nurses were able to get it back up.

I got to go on oxygen for a little while.

(At this point, I should explain that I was trying to have a VBAC, which is a Vaginal Birth After a Cesarian. Meaning, Special K was a c-section, but I wanted to avoid a c-section in this case. Every single person there was completely supportive of my goal, which made the baby’s dropping heart rate extra tense. If they couldn’t get it back up, I’d have to go into surgery.)

By 5:45, I was almost ready to push. In fact, my nurse had me push a little through one of my contractions, just to get that tiny bit of dilation I still needed. I’d been sending a couple emails and texts during the day, and I let Chris know it was almost time.

So there I was, finally ready to push, just like I’d been hoping for during all 9 months of my pregnancy. But I was starting to feel nauseated. In fact, I told my nurse I was definitely going to throw up. Being an awesome nurse, she wasn’t even fazed. In fact, she told me it was a good thing, because throwing up uses most of the same muscles that pushing does. So during the next contraction, I tried to give a good push (difficult while you have an epidural, in case you were wondering), and I also threw up.

And that was when it happened.

I suddenly felt the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. It was worse than the contractions had been that morning, before I’d gotten medication. It felt exactly the same, actually, but a million times stronger. I told my nurse, “It hurts, it hurts so bad” over and over. But when I looked at the contraction monitor, I saw that I wasn’t having a contraction. And that the baby’s heart rate was dropping steeply. And when you’re in labor, you really don’t want to see the baby’s heart rate do that.

Here’s what any doctor will tell you about attempting a VBAC. There are a lot of things that can prevent it, but the worst thing that can happen is a uterine rupture, which is when your uterus breaks open along the scar you already have from your first c-section. Your chances of a rupture are really small, though. In fact, they’re about 1%.

Well, when I looked at that monitor, it didn’t take me long to realize I had ruptured. And after that, things started moving fast.

Within ten minutes, I was in an operating room.

Thirty seconds after that, the baby had been born.

He wasn’t doing awesome though, and they took him away to get ready to go in a helicopter to another hospital with a NICU.


(As he was being worked on, one of the pediatric nurses told Scott and me that he was “going to be just fine.” I wonder now if she should have said that, because no other single person has been that cheerful about him since. But in that moment, it was definitely what I needed to hear.)

By the time he was ready to go, I was out of surgery and back in my room. They brought him in to see me for a few minutes before he left. Scott got to fly with him in the helicopter.

Meeting him for the first time. Because we were at different hospitals, I didn’t see him again for another three days.

He spent two weeks in the NICU, which were among the more stressful weeks of my life. He did great, though. He responded well to every treatment they thought to give him, and his doctors are all “cautiously optimistic,” which I take as permission to relax.

Even though my experience wasn’t ideal, it worked out well, overall. Despite the fact that we pretty much had the worst possible circumstances, everything since then has gone perfectly. Trey is constantly referred to as the Miracle Baby, which I feel he is. So many other things could have gone wrong– I could have had a nurse who was asleep on her feet, I could have ruptured when she was out of the room, the doctor might not have been able to make it to the O.R. in time– that I feel incredibly lucky to have had the great outcome that we did.

Meeting his big sister; Special K has warmed up to him a lot since.


My Reading Slump

Back in October, while we were on our big trip, I noticed something: I was reading less.

This is understandable, considering the fact that we were traveling so much. We were pretty  busy.

But once I got to Utah, I had a ton of free time on my hands. In fact, besides getting ready for the holidays (which took a surprising amount of time; parenting is hard!), I had pretty much nothing to do. But I still wasn’t reading.

I was crocheting. I was playing Nintendo. I was shopping. I was not reading.

Winter-finalI mean, I still read here and there. And I would get into books (usually once I hit the 75% mark) and stay up late to finish them and stuff. But once they were finished, I didn’t immediately pick up the next book. Finishing and getting into books took me forever. I started a few that I abandoned, even though I’d really wanted to read them. (Such as Winter, which some of you know I’d been beyond excited about.) There’s no way around it.

It was a reading slump. Man, I hate those.

I mentioned it to my sister, who (as she often does) immediately made me feel better. She told me she’d stopped reading during her latest pregnancy, as well. She started again after the baby was born, though, never fear.

So I made sure to put my Kindle in my hospital bag, expecting to finish a couple books right after the baby was born. (Oh, how naive I was…)

Ready Player OneIn fairness, I did start Ready Player One while I was in the hospital. But I didn’t really get into reading again for another week or two.

My first week postpartum was miserable. The baby, as it turned out, was in the NICU of a different hospital, and he couldn’t even be held for the first 72 hours of his life. I spent most of that in the hospital, luckily, because once I finally got to go see him I HATED not being able to hold him.

A few days after I got out, though, he was finally able to nurse, so I ended up spending the second week of his life pretty much living in that room in the NICU. And that’s when I got back into reading.in-a-dark-dark-wood

There wasn’t a ton to do in my little room there, and a couple books I’d put on hold had finally come in for me on Overdrive. I started In A Dark, Dark Wood on my Kindle app on my phone, and Why Not Me? on my actual Kindle.

In the parents’ lounge of the NICU, there was a little shelf of paperbacks, and I picked up a Diane Mott Davidson mystery while I was eating meals there.

And I slowly started to care about what I was reading. I started wanting to tell people about the creepy psychological thriller and wanting to gush about how cool Mindy Kaling is.

Once Why Not Methe baby was home, I finally did read Ready Player One (after whining to Scott about how much exposition there is in the first 50 pages). I finally finished Winter. And I finally got
into reading again.

And thank goodness my reading slump is over, because guys, this is the year of the Epic Fantasy. That’s right… I’m finally gonna read The Wheel of Time. Heaven help me.

Wheel of Time
Haha jk, that thing is LONG. I’m probably good for at least two of them, though. (PS I definitely stole this picture from reddit; click it to see the source.)