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.
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In the interest of you all actually understanding what happens in my life, I’m posting this, even though it’s wildly out of date.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.
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.
(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 hurst, 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.
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.
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.
I 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…)
In 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.
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 the 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.
From the author’s website: Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.
(This is the description of the first book. I don’t want to spoil anything, so if you want to know what the other two are about, you’re on your own. ;)) (<–Proper use of you’re/your. Grammar nerds: you’re welcome.)
So here’s my experience with reading this trilogy:
I’d heard about it and seen it on sale on Amazon. So I checked out the first book from the library. I read about 6 chapters and abandoned it. I checked it out again a month or two later and never read it. Then I saw it on sale again and bought the whole series on Kindle.
By then, I was determined. Once I broke my reading slump, I picked it up and read it with no problem. In fact, I stayed up till 2am finishing it (Signs You’re Reading a Good Book #1).
I immediately read the sequel the next day.
I started the third book a couple days later, but my heart wasn’t in it. (I’ll tell you why: the romantic tension was gone. I kind of hate books where the main love interests are already together.) I pushed through, but it took me about a week to finally read the whole thing.
All that being said, here are a couple thoughts.
-I really REALLY love Ceony as a character. All three of the books’ plots are driven by her actions; she says to herself, “Self, I can’t sit and wait around for something to happen here. Sitting and waiting will waste valuable time that my enemies will use to kill people. Let’s go be useful.” Ceony as a driving force of the narrative is downright refreshing, and it makes me forgive pretty much all the problems I have with these books.
-The romantic dynamic of the second book is my favorite. It’s the very common “everyone but you can see how into you he is” trope, but the buildup is beautiful and gave me many many feels.
-I kind of wish Paper Magic were portrayed differently? Because of the materials that magicians in these books use (paper, glass, metal, rubber, plastic… am I forgetting any?), paper is the oldest, right? (Wait I forgot about fire, which is the actual oldest, but anyway.) Was magic discovered first by using paper? Shouldn’t that lend the art of Paper Magic a certain mysticism? Instead, it’s generally regarded as the most boring of the materials. I’d have loved to have seen Paper Magicians portrayed as mystics, dedicated to their craft and their superiority and stuff, like the Illuminati or something. But then… that would have been a different book.
-At the end of the first book, Ceony does something New and Different with Paper Magic… which is pretty much never addressed again. Why is that? I wish it had been developed more. (I mean, it’s discussed later, but she never tries to take it any further. What else can she do with this particular technique? What does this mean about the nature of magic? Can other materials also be used the same way? Nope. None of those questions are ever answered. By book 3, it’s completely forgotten.)
-The third book centers around some information that Ceony is given at the end of the second book. And what bothers me about it is how little work she put into obtaining the information. Like, some guy just tells her. She doesn’t study it out, she doesn’t go through a million iterations and a bunch of trial-and-error. Somebody just mentions it. Ceony is such a force of action in these novels! I don’t love that this information, which will hugely impact the rest of her life, was something she obtained so very passively.
-One of my friends on Goodreads mentioned that she got weirded out when Ceony goes into Thane’s heart in the first book. Personally, I thought that aspect of the novel was beyond cool. The four chambers of his heart are filled with different memories/hopes for the future, and I loved it all.
So the big news this week is that Scott’s here! He was able to take a few weeks to come to Utah and be with us while we wait for/greet the new baby. He got in this past week, and it’s so great having him here. We missed him so much, and Special K especially LOVES having him around again.
It’s such a relief having help. My in-laws are great, and they’ve been SO helpful while we’ve been living with them, but it’s different than having my husband here. I have to be on good behavior with them, and I’m really cautious about imposing on their time. Scott, on the other hand, is my husband. I don’t have any compunctions whatsoever about making demands of him, especially when Special K needs something. It’s awesome having someone around to help with the responsibilities of parenting. Being a single parent is HARD, y’all. And I didn’t even have the full “single parent” experience, because I didn’t have to work and/or go to school, and, as aforementioned, I had wonderful in-laws to help me a TON. Even so, it was stressful and overwhelming, especially being so pregnant. Having Scott here to share that with me is SUCH a relief!
On the baby front: the waiting has officially begun! I’ve spent the last week or two worried that he would come early, before Scott got here. But happily, that didn’t happen! Although we’re a little disappointed that he didn’t come on Scott’s birthday, which he was really hoping for (it was last week), I’m just glad that he’s going to be here for the birth. (My father-in-law said the nicest thing to me about that; we were talking about making sure I didn’t have the baby before Scott got here, and I said something about keeping the baby in through sheer force of will. He said, “If it were anybody else, I’d tell them that you have no control and the baby will come when he wants to. But Jamie, I think you really could do it.”) Well, whether it was my will or the baby’s, I did in fact get my wish of not delivering so early. Hooray!
My due date isn’t for another week and a half, and Special K was actually a week and a half late. So don’t get too anxious, everyone. The baby comes when the baby comes.
Last year my total was 62, which I don’t *actually* expect to exceed this year, but who knows. I do have a baby coming soon, the nursing of whom should provide me with a lot of quality Kindle time. So I’m gonna stay at a low level for now and see where the year takes me.
So for obvious reasons, life in the Foreign Service doesn’t really lend itself well to building up a personal library. (In fact, none of my personal situations ever has, come to think of it — Air Force brat, college student, transient newlywed, study abroad spouse, Foreign Service spouse.) Of course, that hasn’t noticeably stopped me. Most of my books right now, however, are either a) in storage in Maryland, or b) in my apartment in Bangladesh. So to get in quality reading, I rely on two sources: 1) eBooks (more on that in a second), and 2) libraries! My first week in Utah, that was one of my biggest priorities — I went to all the local library systems and made sure my accounts with them were still valid (or signed up for new ones, as the case may be). Even though I’ve been in a reading rut (seriously, I’ve been trying to read The Paper Magician for two and a half months now), I’ve had at least some books checked out the entire time. (Especially books for Special K! How annoying (and expensive) would it be to have to buy her new books every time I she gets bored with the ones she has??)
I’ve loved libraries my whole life, and I’ve never really understood people who don’t use them. Not having a library card is as foreign a concept to me as those people who have never had pizza or don’t have drivers licenses. I mean, who doesn’t love unlimited access to books that you don’t have to keep?
So all that being said, I’m signing up for the I Love Libraries Challenge again this year. Last year, I read 32 library books — not bad, considering I wasn’t even in the United States for most of the year. This year, my goal is gonna be a little bit lower than that – I’ll talk about why when I talk about my next challenge.🙂
I first got a Nook in 2010, and thus began my love affair with eBooks. I’ve been reading them nonstop ever since. I think I’ve probably read more ebooks than paper books since then, and I’ve CERTAINLY bought more (which made my husband breathe a sigh of relief, because until then I was hopelessly addicted to buying books. Now I just buy ebooks — much easier to put in a moving van. ^_^)
So this challenge is basically perfect for me.
In fact, I own so many ebooks on both Nook AND Kindle at this point that if I stopped buying or borrowing books altogether, I could finish every challenge on this list, this year AND next year. (Except for the I Love Libraries Challenge, of course.)
But let’s not kid ourselves: That’s certainly not going to happen.
Anyway, my HUGE collection of ebooks is both why this is the perfect challenge for me, and also why I’m trying to keep my library expectations low. (In fact, three of the paper books I’ve had checked out from the library recently all went on sale on Kindle– and I bought all of them. Ugh.)
So anyway, last year my goal was to read 25 ebooks, and I ended up reading 59. So this year I’m gonna go ahead and sign up for the next level up — it’s still below what I read last year, but at least I’m not selling myself short.
And last but not least – my previous three challenges all have to do with quantity, not content. This one, from a blog I’ve been following for a while now, is gonna challenge me to diversify my reading choices a little bit, which I appreciate. I like that she’s not super specific about what kind of books to read (ie., no genre demands), but at the same time still gets readers outside of their comfort zones.
So there you have it! My 2016 Reading Challenges. I’m probably not going to be reviewing too many books on the blog, but from time to time some will likely make appearances. In the meantime, if you want to see what I’m reading, check out my shelves on Goodreads!