Book Ennui

I’ve said it before: I read a lot.

I always like to have a new book on deck, which is one reason we visit our local library so often. But the last couple of books I have read have left me rather flat.

First up was Jodie Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper. I’ve read Picoult before, and while I’m not crazy about her narrative trick of writing each chapter from a different character’s point of view, it doesn’t bother me enough to give up on her. I actually picked up this novel because it was on my library’s “banned books” shelf for Banned Books Weeks.

I’m not 100 percent sure WHY My Sister’s Keeper was a challenged book. I’m still trying to track that down. (Anyone?) It deals with a family with three children, one of whom is very ill and one of whom who was deliberately conceived to help her sister with her illness. It was supposed to be a one-time thing — the second daughter was to provide umbilical cord blood to her older sister to put the latter into remission from her cancer. The book takes place with the younger daughter, now 13 years old, going to a lawyer to get medically emancipated from her parents so that she doesn’t have to donate a kidney to her sister.

It is a well-written book, and the language perfectly captures the agony of a parent (or parents) with a sick child. All the characters are compelling and fully realized, with complex reasons for doing what they are doing. I would recommend it.

BUT: If the book is hyped as having a “shocking twist of an ending” (or whatever the wording was), I have news for Ms. Picoult and her publishers: a savvy reader is going to figure it out. I saw a couple of “twists” coming MILES (chapters, I suppose) away from their actual revelation.

Has anyone else read this book? Did you have a similar reaction, or were you surprised?

The other book that pretty much left me feeling “meh” was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (*SPOILER ALERT*!) I had heard so many amazing critiques about this book, about how moving and affective it was, how the ending was so devastating. As I was reading, I kept trying to guess what would happen, what would be revealed. Turns out: Nothing. There’s no big twist at the end; there’s no sudden change in course for any of the characters. I suspect this novel was supposed to outrage the reader because of what the central characters are (which I won’t give away here, but it’s no mystery in the book; they talk about their role in society quite openly).

Never Let Me Go is beautifully written. That’s the highest praise I have for it. None of the characters is particularly compelling, although the relationship between the three central characters is interesting. And as to their purpose and their narrative… I guess there’s not much of an arc, and the language, while well-crafted, is never exciting or passionate. The whole story is related rather matter-of-factly, and there are no glimpses behind the curtain into the larger issues (medical ethics, for example). It is all very blah, frankly.

I was utterly unmoved and quite disappointed when I finished the book.

The other book I read recently was Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, which I liked just fine, but I then again, I like his writing style and characters. High Fidelity is probably still my favorite by him, although I really enjoyed About a Boy, too. I just like reading his novels. They certainly aren’t life changing.


So, got anything really juicy for me? I am thinking about doing food books for November, the same way I did scary stories last October. (No more Michael Pollan, though, please.) Leave your suggestions in the comments! I’ve resorted to re-reading Sookie Stackhouse novels for the time being. And I’m thinking of re-reading The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I thought was excellent.

Week 34: Memory Lapse

I know that the only reason women have more than one child is because they repress the discomforts of pregnancy and the pain of child birth.

But in all honestly, I do not think I was this bloody uncomfortable with any of my pregnancies.

I was awake most of the night Thursday night/Friday morning with back pain, cramping in my calves — that’s a totally new thing — and general anxiety. It sucked. Finally at 4 a.m., I went downstairs, kicked Dan off the couch, and watched a few episodes of Scrubs. After crying in frustration and exhaustion. I think I got another hour of sleep (from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m.).

I can parse out all the different reasons that I am feeling more physically disabled this time around: two kids, nearly 40 years, fourth pregnancy, one full-time job, etc. Plus the fact that I started this pregnancy in terrible shape. A word of advice: If you sprain your back, make sure you thoroughly and completely rehab it before deciding to get knocked up. I think my lack of core strength (or any strength) and my having had bailed on chiropractic visits because I found them too stressfully inconvenient to schedule (no, really) has been a huge factor this time around.

And I think I’m carrying Bud differently, too. Lower, for sure.

I’m seeing another chiropractor now, one close to my office for the ultimate in convenience and pain relief. She is an angel. I want to kiss her every time I am leaving her office. I am also trying to find room in my schedule for two pregnancy massages. I wish I had gotten one last Friday. I hurt from the middle of my back down to the tip of my toes all day long. I couldn’t find a comfortable position sitting, standing, or laying down — although I did manage a nap. I think I just passed out (and only for about 45 minutes) from pure exhaustion.

My new mantra is: The end is in sight. I just need to get this baby and my aching back across the finish line. Sleep can wait — it’ll be waiting a few more months, anyway.

Cling Wrap

Kate never wants to be apart from me. If she had her way, I’m pretty sure she would choose one of two things: She would choose to be the baby in my belly again. Which at 32 pounds and 34 inches — hell to the no.

Or she would have us surgically attached at the hip so that I had to carry her everywhere with me.

From the second she awakes in the morning — when she hasn’t climbed in bed with me at 2 o’clock in the morning — she needs to be with me. Preferably in direct contact with some part of my body and with all my attention on her.

This makes showering and otherwise getting ready for work very, very difficult.

Flora, too, is starting to express some neediness for me. If I don’t wake her up so we can eat breakfast together, she gets incredibly sad. Even though breakfast together means that she eats Cocoa Puffs while watching Clifford and I eat on the couch, usually reading Rolling Stone. That’s good enough for her.

But Kate. Kate needs to touch me. When I am making dinner, she needs to play at my feet. When we are watching their nighttime show, she must sit as close as possible to my lap (I don’t have much of a lap, as you can imagine). She is always pulling on or pushing at me. (I should add that during the day, she seems to be fine at school or daycare. I certainly haven’t heard otherwise at this point.)

I don’t really want to be touched right now. (Yeah, I’m a joy to be married, too, as well.) I am so uncomfortable in my skin. My back hurts; my hips and pelvic area hurt. I am exhausted. And most of the time, I really, really have to pee.

Last night, Kate came downstairs at 9 p.m. (Flora had passed out already.) She climbed up on the couch with me, and she was not going to leave. (So much for that episode of NCIS.) And I was not going to threaten her to get her to go back to bed.

So we snuggled. I was getting ready to call it a night, anyway. One great thing about being exhausted: I can fall asleep pretty dang quick. I don’t STAY asleep, but those first couple of hours are blissful.

I stroked her cheek and her forehead. I told her about when she was a baby. I told her how much I loved her, and would always love her and be with her. Then I walked her up to her bed and sang her to sleep.

I worry about Kate with Bud coming. I wonder how she will be when she can’t touch me because of the baby — when I am nursing, when I am bathing him. I wonder, most, what I can do — if anything — to make this transition easier for her.

In case you’re wondering: No, I didn’t go through this with Flora. She was only 18 to 27 months old when I was pregnant with Kate. She was, from the get-go, a more independent, more adaptable child than Kate ever was. Now, after Kate came home, Flora held a little grudge; she wouldn’t let me do anything for her for about two weeks, stating emphatically when it came to dressing or reading books or anything, really: “NO! Nonna do it.” “NO. Bella do it.” “NO! Daddy do it.” (Yeah, that was heartbreaking enough.)

So, if you have any advice about transitioning an older child to the presence of a younger sibling, I sure would appreciate it. And if not, could you just assure me I’m doing okay anyway? I realize that we may all have to wait for Bud to arrive to see how this is going to go.

Random Thoughts: The Existential Edition

Since October started, my children have debated about what they wanted to trick-or-treat as. I forget Flora’s original idea, but for the longest time, she kept telling me she wanted to be a girl skeleton. I wasn’t 100 percent sure what that entailed (turns out a skeleton-patterned outfit with a skirt and/or pink bow). But it struck me as very creative, and I was game.

Kate wanted to be a girl pirate, which I thought was perfect. I was busy gathering the pieces (eye patch, bandana, sword) and looking forward to having her swashbuckling through the neighborhood.

Then she decided she wanted to be a cat. Which disappointed me, but then the phrase Katie Cat popped in my head, and that was pretty fun.

And then, we went to a Halloween store.

Kate walked out with a Minnie Mouse costume (“it’s so cute and pretty!” she exclaimed), and Flora is going to be a cat. I tried to talk her into the all black cat costume, but she picked the one with hot pink trim and tail.

Oh, well.


As we all know, Halloween is full of spooky images, some more scary than others. But many of them, from ghosts to zombies to gravestones, revolve around death.

So I wasn’t all that surprised to get this the other night from Flora: “Am I going to die?”

Right before bed, too.

I admit, I was totally honest. “Yes, someday. But not for a very, very long time.”

She got sad. “I don’t want to die.”

“I know, baby. And you won’t for a long time. You are young and healthy” — all this time I am figuratively knocking on wood in my head, of course — “and Daddy and I work hard to keep you safe.”

“Are you going to die?”

I sighed. “Well, yes, honey. But, again, not for a very long time.”

“And Daddy is going to die.” Now she was starting to cry, and Kate was getting into the act too.

“I don’t want to die, either!” Kate cried.

Why didn’t someone warn me about this part of being a parent?

I eventually got them both soothed and settled. Isn’t almost 6 years old a little young for an existential crisis?

Moderation in All Things — Except One?

So, yeah, drinking while pregnant. I saw this topic first in the New York Post, and then again at Slate.

I think we can all agree that drinking a lot of alcohol at any point in a pregnancy is bad. And by “a lot” I mean daily, even one serving a day. That seems like it would be excessive. Even more than one glass of wine or beer a week, especially in the first trimester, seems needlessly risky.

What slays me about this topic are the comments, especially on the Slate article. The ones I especially hate are the ones who are like, “Good luck with your FAS child.” (FAS = Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.) That’s a terrible thing to say to someone. Of course, we all know that the Internet comment board is not the most civil of places, but come on. A mother who has a glass or two of wine in the entirety of her pregnancy, or even in the course of the third trimester, is not going to have a child with FAS. Now, whether or not a doctor should tell a woman that… well, that’s between a woman’s doctor and her.

And for that matter: Doctors and midwives are probably not going to change the party line on this, and they probably shouldn’t. “Moderation” means different things to different people.

The second type of comment that I don’t like are the ones that are like, “It’s the patriarchy trying to keep women down!” I mean, really? Suggesting that abstaining from alcohol while you are pregnant is keeping women oppressed? I would be tempted to look into that “equal pay for equal work” thing first.

When I got pregnant with Gabriel, Dan said to me sternly, “You are not allowed to drink alcohol.” I freaking blew my stack at him. We had a HUGE fight.

But it wasn’t because I was set on drinking. I had no intention of drinking alcohol while I was pregnant.

It was because he was telling me what to do. I HATE being told what to do. (Ask my dad about telling me I to take typing in high school. Like on a real typewriter. That went over with me like a load of bricks.)

(I did it anyway. And now I can touch type 80 words a minute, TYVM.)

The night before I went into the hospital to be induced with Flora, Dan and I — on midwives’ orders — went out to dinner, including, for me, a nice glass of red wine. A man at a nearby table remarked, “I’m sure that wine is good for the baby” clearly meaning NOT, and I smiled at him and said, “I’m being induced tomorrow. My midwife told me to have a glass of wine tonight.” That shut him up.

It’s the whole culture of judgement that revolves around pregnant women that really frosts me, I guess. The list of prohibitions is endless, and suddenly everything I am doing or not doing as a soon-to-be mom (again) is everyone’s business. Look at the prohibition against caffeine. I didn’t even hear about that when I was pregnant with Gabriel or Flora. Now women lament the loss of their lattes, too.

I guess my point is: I am an educated woman with healthcare providers I trust. I will get the care I need and take the proper precautions to deliver a health baby — you better believe it! Whether that involves a cup of regular coffee every day or 4 ounces of wine two or three times in my final trimester isn’t anyone’s business. (Except for Dan’s. He does still sometimes tell me what to do. It’s cute.) I don’t know why we are bothering to revisit the debate. Unless it’s exactly to stir the pot and get lots of nasty, judgmental comments on a site. In that case, carry on.

Random Thoughts: The Pregmentia Edition

I have had several ideas swirling around in my head all week for blog posts, but it seems I can’t focus on any one.

I’m having focus issues at work, too. I wish I were a little busier, actually, because I think that would help. (I know: be careful what you wish for. Especially on the Thursday of what seems to be a long-ass week.)


One thing I’m trying to explore is my attraction to the music of Eminem. I recently picked up Recovery, his latest CD, and I really like it. (I have two earlier CDs, also, The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show.) “Love the Way You Lie” gives me chills. I can’t figure out what it is about Eminem that I like so much.

And judging from my Twitter stream, I am not the only white woman/mom I know who loves his stuff. What is it about Marshall’s music?


Another topic I have come across is this book, Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives. There’s a lively exchange between the author of the book, Annie Murphy Paul, and one of the writers at Slate that I enjoyed. Paul also has an adaptation in Time Magazine.

I cannot actually read the book right now. As I’m knocked up and all. I think it would definitely be information overload.


Speaking of the whole pregnancy thing: I am entering the very uncomfortable stage of the third trimester: wheezing, waddling — I think I’ve already mentioned the sleep issues. As @MamaPhan put it in a Tweet the other day: “I declare turning over in bed to be an Olympic sport.” (Her due date is 12/1.)

Another problem is eating. My appetite is nil, primarily because I don’t have any room in there. But obviously I have to eat. I think my body is flirting with heartburn, too, which I find very distressing. I did not have heartburn with Flora and Kate, but I did have it (for the first time in my life, actually) with Gabriel. So, I’m not feeling very sanguine about it.

Six to eight more weeks; homestretch. That’s what I am trying to focus on. We have another ultrasound tomorrow to see how the little guy is doing.

I can’t wait to meet him.


Lastly, there’s suddenly a rash of articles online about drinking during pregnancy. This is the topic that is especially tweaking me, primarily because of the comments I am seeing.

But more on that later. When (if?) I can focus again.


Speaking of drinking, I just had a pop (soda, for those of you outside of southwestern PA) with sugar in it instead of HFCS. Mommy likey!

You Really Want to Know?

I’m sure he didn’t mean for this to happen, and I’m especially sure he didn’t mean this to happen on a so-called “mommy” blog, but I turned these questions from Justin Kownacki into a meme.

Hey, it’s a slow day.

Although, knowing Justin a wee little bit (we met at last year’s Podcamp Pittsburgh), he probably doesn’t mind. If nothing else, Justin wants to make people think.

1. What did the 18-year-old me think the current me would be doing?
Entering college, I thought I would be an international journalist (preferably in the USSR, now Russia — yes, Russia. I took two years of Russian and everything) OR a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. The 18-year-old me may be disappointed at where the current me is career-wise, but given the love in my life, I think she would be quite pleased. Although she would probably think I’m crazy for being knocked up again, too. (And no, it was not an accident. So there.)

2. What is the idealized version of me?
Whatever my husband thinks it is.

On a more serious note: Ideally, I am more patient. Ideally, I make more money because of my career choices and/or because I manage my (our) money better. Ideally, I sleep less and accomplish more. (Or conversely, I have less to accomplish — because I have a live-in maid, natch — and I can sleep more). Ideally, I am far more organized. Ideally, I have a master’s degree in some type of writing. Realistically? I’m doing the best I have with what I’ve got.

3. What have I believed all my life without questioning?
I cannot think of one thing I haven’t questioned, from my faith to my day-to-day parenting decisions. Maybe the fact that the world is round. I’m pretty sure I haven’t questioned that.

4. Where haven’t I been yet?
Geographically? The list is quite long. My next international trip will be Ireland. But there are other “places” I haven’t been in the figurative. Debt-free, for example.

5. What’s one thing I don’t know about my own parents, or grandparents, or kids?
I don’t know how my paternal grandmother felt about her two miscarriages or the loss of a teenage son to leukemia. I’m sure there are things I don’t know about life inside my parents’ marriage, and that is probably for the best. As to my children, at almost-6 and nearly-4 I probably know as much as I ever will about what goes on in their little heads. Kate, especially, still talks in stream-of-consciousness, almost literally, as she starts as soon as she wakes up. “I had a good dream. About Foe-wa. About me and Foe-wa and monsters, friendly monsters, all playing together.”

6. How am I sabotaging my own success?
Holy cats, where do you want me to start? My middle name should be hesitation — or maybe fear. I’m not sure. I stop myself all the time. I tell myself I’m being practical.

7. Why do I pay attention to the stimuli that currently monopolizes my time?
Well, a lot of that stimuli for me is kid-related, actually. Where it isn’t: Reading books relaxes me; and social media makes me feel connected. So there.

8. What were my ancestors doing 100 years ago?
My Italian ancestors were already in America 100 years ago —  although Leo and Flavia were recent immigrants. My maternal grandmother (the recently deceased Olympia) wasn’t born yet, but two siblings of hers were (one sister and one brother). I think they were living in Conneaut, PA, soon to move to Erie (to get away from the Black Hand, if family legend is to be believed). I’m less sure about my Irish ancestors — my paternal grandparents immigrated in 1927 (Pap-pap) and 1930 (Grandma) and met and married here in Pittsburgh. I don’t know what their lives in Ireland were like, although, again, according to stories I’ve heard, Pap-pap was probably kicked out of the house when he was done with 8th grade. I imagine my Irish ancestors were pretty poor farmers for the most part.

9. Which opportunity would I most want my child to have?
I hope my children have the opportunity not only to travel but to live abroad. A six-month college program, a year abroad for an employer, charity work, or just the cliche backpacking through Europe. If something like that comes across for my children, I hope they take it.

10. Whom can I help?
Another endless list. From an angle of helping through social media, here are my thoughts: I have a dream of helping my children’s school and my church with social media marketing. That’s hard for a lot of different reasons: the pay would not be great to start; there is reluctance to have a two-way dialogue in the Catholic church (it’s got to get better, or it really is going to get worse for the institution); and, you know, time in general. But I keep thinking and talking and hoping. In the meantime, I blog about religious and political issues that are important to me. I also think another way I help —  or can help in the realm of social media — is by being open about my experiences as the parent of a still baby. I think talking about Gabriel helps not only other parents who have suffered loss, but helps people who know those parents. At least that’s one of my hopes, and one of the reasons I write about my first son.

Week 31

At my last midwife appointment, which was Monday, I scheduled almost the rest of my midwife appointments. Except for December. Who knows if I’ll even make it to December.

In three weeks, I have my 34 week appointment. Then two weeks after that, I have my 36 week appointment. And then I start going every week.


I was totally caught off-guard. I think part of it was that I thought my EDD was 12/10, and it’s actually 12/6. I missed that memo.

You’d think I’d be ready for these developments, wouldn’t you? I’ve done this before. Kinda.

And yet, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the end of my pregnancy is looming on the horizon.

Physically, I am ready. My back hurts, my hips and pelvis are killing me; I cannot sleep through the night. Moving in general is hard, and bending over, impossible. I’ve been asking Flora to pick up dropped items around the house for a couple of weeks now.

“Why can’t you bend over?” she asked, finally exasperated by my fifth or six request last night to “get [object lying forlornly on floor] for me”.

I pointed to my belly and said, “You wouldn’t be able to bend over with this in the way, either.”

She giggled. I’m so happy I amuse her.

Emotionally, I’m in turmoil. I can feel my anxiety ratcheting back up. The current issue I am having is: I don’t know where I’m delivering this baby.

IF things continue to go well, I won’t have to induce.

And IF I don’t have to be induced, I can have Le Bud at the midwives’ birthing center.

Not in a hospital.

Of course, IF I don’t have to be induced, then I have to actually go into labor. Which I haven’t done (naturally) before. Which brings up (for me) a whole ‘nother host of questions and anxieties.

In terms of house preparedness, we aren’t ready, either, and Dan and I need to sit down and work out a schedule. When to clean out Le Bud’s room and get it set up for him, for example. When to put the crib back together. Another teeny issue: I don’t have boy stuff. Not a onesie, not an outfit — actually come to think of it, I don’t have ANY baby clothes any more. I need crib sheets, too, and probably some non-girlie blankets for swaddling.

And diapers. And wipes.

Uh, I have to go make a shopping list. What do babies need again? Leave your favorite essential(s) in the comments!

Weekend Update: The Oh, Yuck Edition

I would wager a guess that my Saturday morning started out unlike any of your Saturday mornings.

This past Saturday, I attended a diocesan program titled “Protecting God’s Children” because I will be volunteering at Flora and Kate’s school.

I honestly thought it was going to be a program on volunteering.

Not so much. “Protecting God’s Children” is a program to educate people about child molestation and abuse. It is… heavy. Victims and perpetrators are portrayed (I honestly hope that they were all actors; it was not made clear in the video. Aside from the experts, no real names were used.) Different kinds of abuse are covered — yes, including abuse by clergy.

Lest you think this was all about scaring parents, let me explain that topics covered included common myths about child sexual abusers (hint: it’s not that scary guy lurking in the bushes; it’s probably someone whose first name you know), and also, in the second half of the program, talked about how to spot predators, spot a child being abused, and how to prevent the former from taking advantage of the latter in the first place.

“Protecting God’s Children” was developed in 2003, and put into practice in schools and other Catholic institutions in 2004. In the Pittsburgh diocese alone, 40,000 people have gone through it. I was kind of impressed by this. I was also impressed by our facilitator — a mom and a CCD teacher at her parish. She talked openly about a very difficult subject, and was also able to get us discussing it. (I was probably there with about 30 other people: moms, dads, grandparents, an athletic trainer — who was 22, and didn’t have children herself — among others.)

Also, lest you think it’s ironic that the Catholic church promotes this program, let me point out that among clergy in the United States, fewer than 1% are pedophiles or child abusers. (A few more facts here, if you’re interested.) (Also, an estimated rate of pedophilia in the general population is not known for some reasons listed here.)

Anyhoo, it was sobering. I went home and gave both my girls big hugs. I have to teach them to protect themselves, obviously. But it was really good to know how I can not only protect them, but help protect other children. Just by being aware.

“…Jesus said, Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” — Matthew 19:14


As a side note, it’s a bad idea to search the Megan’s Law website for your area while eating lunch at your desk. Just sayin’.

Weekend Update: Skating Edition

On Sunday, we attended a birthday party for Niece and Nephew at a local roller skating rink.

This was the first time (to my knowledge) that my girls had been on roller skates. I felt a little bad for my husband because he was going to have to help them around the rink with no backup help from moi.

But the girls surprised me. After a couple of times around with Daddy (and after we traded Kate’s regular roller skates for those plastic ones you can put on with shoes), they went off on their own. I think for most of the second hour we were there, they made their way around without adult help. (Except for the guy who has to help Flora up in the first video.)

Some things I learned:

1. My BIL-IL can skate backwards. I didn’t even know he could skate forward.
2. Nephew, in his own words, “is like a cheetah out there on my skates.”
3. Aside from the music, roller skating rinks have not changed in… oh, 30-some years.
4. My children can limbo on roller skates. I don’t know where they picked that up.
5. Kate is unstoppable. I mean, I knew that, but she demostrated it in spades on Sunday.
6. Even being afraid of falling and hitting her head did not stop Flora.

Sorry about the crappy camera work, but I think I managed to capture the fun and delight of the experience. I couldn’t exactly run (or skate, obvs) alongside.

I really could not have been prouder of the girls. They dithered at first, and Flora was whining a little bit when she first started, but once Dan & I explained that skating was something they had to learn, that they wouldn’t be able to do it without some practice, they got into it.

Now they want to know when we’re going back.