Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

In the words of Sara Groves...

"May your hearts be full of gladness,
And the peace that covers sadness.
May your joy be overflowing
And your many blessings growing.
May you find the time you long for
With the people that you love.
May you have yourself a merry Christmas now!"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Cards

Okay, so you are probably all way ahead of me -- in fact, I've already gotten a few in the mail -- but I'm just now getting around to ordering Christmas cards. I was going to skip them this year, because of the effort required, but since I have an adorable baby to highlight in this year's card, I guess I'd better get to ordering. I will be getting them from Shutterfly -- here's the card I like best (although I could change my mind -- they have over 800 to choose from this year!). I get all my photo stuff from Shutterfly. I did my wedding albums and baby albums with them, as well as wedding photos (including a very cool collage), and I've used them for cute photo thank-you notes (featuring Evan, of course) and photo stickers. I find the site easy to use, they're always sending out good coupon codes, and their turn-around is really fast. Okay, commercial over -- back to your regularly scheduled programming. :o)

What's your favorite photo site? Do share!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas Favorites

I refuse to put up my Christmas tree until the day after Thanksgiving, and I am completely annoyed by the retail world's insistence on hauling out the Christmas- (er, holiday-) themed merchandise as soon as the Halloween candy is on markdown, but it's never too early to line up your Christmas reading! So I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

Katherine Paterson, a two-time Newbery winner and a fellow King College alum, is also the wife of a Presbyterian pastor, and Angels and Other Strangers is a collection of stories she wrote over the years to be shared at the Christmas Eve service. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill (read: sappy) Christmas stories, each one explores what the incarnation means to us fallen humans. Also see her second collection, A Midnight Clear.

I am Christmas by Nancy White Carlstrom, a picture book with beautiful oil paintings by Lori McElrath-Eslick, is sadly out-of-print, but it's worth tracking down a copy. The simple, brief text is profound, using the different names of Jesus to illuminate the Christmas story. The conclusion always makes me tear up: "I am beginning, I am end/the message foretold/scratched in sand/ etched in gold -- / I am the story, I am the song." Definitely not just for kids.

A sweet picture book to share with kids is Christmas Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, charmingly illustrated by Jane Dyer. A holiday-themed entry in the Cookies series, it defines Christmas terms like "celebrate" and "hope" in relation to cookie baking. It's sure to be at a Borders (or independent bookstore) near you.

A new picture book I'm anxious to get my hands on is Christmas is Here, with words from the King James Bible and illustrations by Lauren Castillo. It got excellent reviews and reportedly connects a modern family with what happened in Bethlehem all those centuries ago.

What are your favorite Christmas books? Anything you read year after year? I'm looking forward to starting Christmas book traditions with Evan!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Coupon Clippin'

My favorite sport is saving money. (Those of you who know me well know that athletics are not my thing.) I come by it naturally; my grandpa Stadtmiller was a coupon clipper and often got paid to buy things! Having a baby is obviously expensive (actually, the actual giving birth was free; since I almost died, insurance covered 100% instead of 80% of the cost -- looking on the bright side here), but I'm saving money by doing things like cloth diapering and buying store-brand (organic) formula. (Oh, and by not decorating a nursery since we actually don't HAVE a nursery...)

But lately I've been doing even more than cutting out (and printing out) coupons and checking the Kroger ad. I've discovered a number of blogs that find the bargains for me. My favorite is Money Saving Mom (thanks, Amy O.!), but I also like Passionate Penny Pincher and Saving Naturally. I also print a lot of coupons from and Target.

By doing all this I feel less guilty about the fact that I am a Starbucks Gold Card Member.

What are your favorite penny-pinching tricks?

Friday, October 29, 2010


For those of you who were Nancy Drew fans, here's some funny comic strips based on classic covers. Enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

How the Cloth Diapers are Going

We've been cloth diapering Evan for a couple of months now. Here's the low-down:

When: When we're at home (except for overnight -- not brave enough for that yet) and on short excursions out of the house (I just can't bear to carry around dirty diapers with me).

What: I'm using a combo of BumGenius (one size pocket, fitted bamboo with waterproof covers, and fitted all-in-ones) and FuzziBunz pocket(one-size). I like all of them. Mike likes the BumGenius pockets and all-in-ones the best because they close with velcro just like disposables. I'm also using cloth wipes (I just get them wet) and bottom spray (for the messy diaper changes).

How It's Going: in spite of the extra laundry, which really isn't all that bad, and the ick factor of spraying off solids into the toilet before depositing diapers into the wet bag, and the bulkiness of cloth under clothes, it's been a pretty positive experience so far. I just keep reminding myself how much money we're saving.

I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about my cloth diapering experience. Ask away!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A few things to do

If you have a few moments, watch this Sesame Street spoof on the Old Spice commercials:

And, if you have another moment, please vote for Evan to be a Gerber baby! Just go here. You can vote once a day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back to Work

As you may have guessed from my lack of posting lately, I've gone back to work! Just part-time, an average of 20 hours a week (and it will be even less when Mike starts another job on November 1st), but I feel overwhelmed just the same. I have no idea how moms who work full-time do it.

Evan is 14 1/2 weeks old now, and so much fun! Yesterday was a big day for him. We had his first visit with a physical therapist for torticollis (basically, his head is tilted to one side because of the position he was in inside of me, and we need to do lots of stretching to make sure he'll have full range of motion, plus, you know, not look off-kilter), and he discovered his feet, rolled front to back (twice!) and back to front (once). I'm so glad I wasn't at work when all of that happened!

I don't have the energy to compose a book review, but a book I recently enjoyed was Deb Caletti's The Six Rules of Maybe. She writes thoughtful fiction for teen girls; I'd compare her to Sarah Dessen. You grown-ups who don't read YA fiction are totally missing out!

That's all for now. I salute all of you working moms out there...and if you have any advice on how to keep up with the laundry, let me know! The smallest member of our family currently produces the most.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Published Reviews

Thought I'd cheat a little and share a couple of book reviews of mine that were recently published in School Library Journal. They're published on Amazon. Click on a book image to go to the Amazon page, and scroll down for the review!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sweet Husband

So, Saturday Mike made me a delicious breakfast of waffles with apple cinnamon topping -- from scratch (see photographic evidence)! And he even did the dishes. And today he brought me flowers, because I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Oh, yeah, I have to go back to work. I don't know how I will be able to leave my sweet boy, even though he'll be with his daddy. I'm going to be working Wednesday afternoons/evenings, Thursdays, and Friday mornings or afternoons, depending on the week, plus every third weekend. It only averages 20 or so hours a week, but that's a long time away from Evan, in my estimation. Sigh.
Let's hope Daddy can manage the cloth diapers!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Wait is Finally Over

I'm talking about Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay, of course. The conclusion to The Hunger Games, it's the third and final book in an amazing young adult series that tackles the big questions in love, war, and politics, while the plot gallops along at a breakneck speed, and it came out last Tuesday. If you haven't read them, what are you waiting for? All three are available now at a library or bookstore near you!

Collins is one heck of a writer, and for younger kids, there's her Gregory the Overlander series. Gregory is just a normal kid who accidentally follows his baby sister through a vent in the laundry room of his apartment building and ends up in an underground world populated by violet-eyed people and giant rats, bats, and cockroaches. A mysterious prophecy and plenty of action make these compulsively readable as well.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Reviews!

I've actually been able to read a few books since Evan arrived! I am going to mention two that are absoutely excellent youth/young adult picks (although I promise you grown-ups will enjoy them too!).

First is Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. This is such an original fantasy with vivid characters and a world that you are able to just fall into (no complicated explanations!) and -- of course -- a cliffhanger ending. I can't wait for the sequel: Sapphique, which comes out in December.

Then there's Megan Whalen Turner's latest, A Conspiracy of Kings. This is the fourth in the series started by her Newbery Honor-winning The Thief, and each of the books in this series are so complex I really don't think they should be limited to kids! She also creates vivid characters and sets them in a historical world complicated by politics, faith, friendship, romance, and a little hint of the supernatural. If you haven't tried this series, run to your local library and give The Thief a try.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Last Time I'll Mention Breastfeeding on My Blog, I Promise!

So the goat's rue didn't help...I just finished a pumping session and got 1/2 an ounce. I've decided to wean. (Can you wean a pump?) I keep getting plugged ducts, which seems ridiculous since I can't imagine what they could be plugged with -- it's not like I'm making milk!

Thanks for all the advice and encouragement. I feel sad that Evan will have to be exclusively formula-fed from now on, but, as my ob/gyn said, I gave it the "college try." She assured me that this experience doesn't mean that I'll have the same problems with my next baby. So I will continue to thank the Lord for sparing my life and Evan's, and enjoy giving him his bottles. (He gazes adoringly at anyone who feeds him.)

And someone did tell me about "Milkshare," where women donate their extra breast milk, but I just can't imagine taking breast milk from someone I don't know. It is a bodily fluid, after all! So I did my research on formula choices, and Parent's Choice Organic it is!

Friday, July 30, 2010


First of all, thank you to all of you who responded to my plea for advice. I truly appreciated all of it, and the encouragement I received.

Now, an update on Evan: he's doing great! He had a pediatrician visit on Wednesday and was up to 9 lbs., 11 oz. But the pediatrician referred us to an ENT because she thinks he may be slightly tongue-tied, which she said would certainly interfere with his being able to nurse. We go next week. Meanwhile, I still try him on the breast at least once a day, with and without the nipple shield. Yesterday I think he tried to chew on me even though he doesn't have teeth yet!

I am still pumping about 8 times a day but not getting much more than an ounce and a half per pump. I made a visit to Indigo Forest on Wednesday to rent a newer-model hospital-grade breast pump since our month with the hospital machine is up, and I talked to Beth, the owner, who is a midwife and lactation consultant. She was so compassionate and full of information. I won't tell you how much I spent (isn't breastfeeding supposed to save you money?!), but she loaded me up with natural herbal/homeopathic remedies to help my body heal, increase my iron stores (she said you can't make breast milk without hemoglobin!), and increase my milk supply (with Motherlove More Milk Plus, which does contain fennel, Christy!). So I am going to give those a try. I also bought some lovely plastic/silicone contraptions that are supposed to help my inverted nips stay out. If all of these things don't work, there are two more things I can try: goat's rue and a drug called domperidone that my doctor said is safe for me to take, though I would have to order it online from Canada or New Zealand since it's not on the market here. Meanwhile, I will keep praying!

At this point I am thinking that if none of these things work, I am going to give up pumping and go to just formula with no guilt, knowing that I gave it my best shot. Thanks to all of you who have given me permission to do that with your kind words. :o)

And in case any of you are wondering, I'm still planning on cloth diapering as soon as my sweet boy is big enough to fit into the cloth diaper stash I have! For now he's still in those newborn diapers and I am using disposables without guilt. (It's nice not to feel guilty about one parenting-related thing, at least!)

On a lighter note: I am having lots of instances of mommy brain, and yesterday Mike said to me, "I'm just afraid you're going to forget why you married me."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Breastfeeding Woes

So...Evan is perfect, but I am not. In fact, this breastfeeding thing really has me discouraged. In my breastfeeding class, we were told that holding your baby skin-to-skin within the first two hours of his birth would increase your likelihood of breastfeeding success by 80%. Well, guess what? I was unconscious the first several hours after his birth and didn't even get to see him until 6 hours later, so that didn't happen.

When we did try nursing, it did not go well. Evan seemed to latch on but then got frustrated and screamed. The lactation consultant at the hospital was not very encouraging. Leaving aside her pronouncement on my shortcomings (inverted nipples, if you care to know), she informed me that Evan's mouth is too small to keep a latch and as he gets older and bigger he may be able to nurse (and we keep trying!), but it's not happening now, so I should just pump.

And pump I have, with the hospital-grade pump Mike rented for me, every 3 hours around the clock, since I've been home. At most I am getting 2 oz. at every pumping, and Evan needs at least 24 oz. a day, so, if you do the math, you will see that we've had to supplement with formula. I've tried to boost my production by taking herbs, eating oatmeal, drinking lots of water, even drinking beer, but nothing seems to help. My doctor called in a prescription for Reglan for me yesterday, and I was told that if I followed the dosing schedule, my production should double within 5 days. Alas, I am allergic to Reglan. I took my first dose last night and woke up with a red, itchy rash all over my neck and chest.

So now I feel like I'm at a crossroads. Do I keep pumping for that measly amount? Is it worth it? Or should I give up and just give him formula for all his bottles? To me, formula feels like failure. I know lots of people were given formula and turned into healthy, contributing citizens (I'm one of them, actually!), but I also know that breast milk is best.

Any advice? I'm all ears.

Monday, July 5, 2010

That's Not the Way It Was Supposed to Happen...

...but we have a baby! Evan Michael arrived on June 26th, 2010, at 11:29 a.m. He was 7 lbs., 15 oz., and 20 inches long. I'm sure you'll agree that he's adorable. (Photo credit: Rachel House :o) He is truly a blessing and worth 16 hours of labor and an emergency C-section!
If you'd like all the details of the drama, read on...
On Friday, June 25th, I was at home around 7:15 and my water broke. Real contractions started soon afterward, and Mike and I called my doctor and then headed to the hospital with all of our bags (which had been packed for so long by this point that I hardly remembered what was in them!).
When they checked me out I was almost at 4 centimeters, so they got us to a labor and delivery room fairly quickly and not too much later they let me have my epidural. It worked great at first -- I couldn't feel a thing, even though a nurse assumed I must be on Pitocin since my contractions were one on top of the other. Eventually, though, I wasn't dilating in spite of all the contractions -- and the epidural wasn't working so well anymore -- so my doctor did give me a little bit of Pitocin, which actually slowed the contractions down. Let me tell you, the breathing we learned in our childbirth class really didn't help all that much! They kept giving my epidural "boosters" but they would wear off fairly quickly. They were going to try the epidural again -- at this point it was nearing 11 a.m. on Saturday -- but by then I was finally at nine centimeters and it was almost time to push.
I had only pushed through about 4 or 5 contractions when suddenly Evan's heart rate dropped to 42 and I heard my doctor call for an O.R. and say something about 4 minutes. Then the room was swarmed with people and Mike was donning surgical wear and I had an oxygen mask on and was being wheeled out of the room. They did strap my arms down, Aunt Lisa, but it's probably a good thing because since the epidural wasn't working (which means Mike couldn't be there with me after all), they had to give me general anesthesia, which didn't kick in before they had to start cutting. Apparently Evan came out screaming at 11:29 a.m. and scored a 9 on his Apgar test (my boy aced his first test!).
At first my family was told that everything was fine, but then they were told that it was taking a little longer to get me to recovery because they were doing some sort of repair. As my doctor later put it, I had "blown a hole in the side of my uterus" and the blood loss had deprived Evan of oxygen, which is why it was so crucial to get him out in 4 minutes. So I was in for more surgery and didn't get to see my son until after 5 that day. Meanwhile, while I was unconscious, my parents and Mike were sending out prayer alerts because they were told that the next few hours were critical to my recovery.
My doctor says she's never seen what happened to me happen before -- it's very rare -- and she can only assume I had a congenital weakness in my uterus, as this usually only occurs in women who have had previous C-sections or uterine surgery. The good news is, I will be able to carry a child again, but I'll have to have another C-section. No more labor for me!
We are so thankful that Evan and I are both all right. The doctors kept a close eye on my hemoglobin but I didn't end up needing a blood transfusion and we got to come home on Tuesday. I am feeling a zillion times better than I did on Saturday and am so happy to be home with Mike and our beautiful, brilliant son. :o)
Thank you all for your prayers!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Waiting for Evan

Wow, waiting is hard! Is there any other momentous life event that is so unpredictable? At least with a wedding or a move or a new job, you know what date you're aiming for. With a baby, it's entirely up to them! I don't consider myself a control freak by any means, but this not knowing when my baby will be born is really hard! Especially since the "due date" doesn't mean much, and apparently neither do all the pre-labor signs I've been experiencing the last few weeks!

The big thing that makes me mind the ticking clock is the fact that I am fast using up my leave -- before the reason for my leave even makes his appearance! Sigh. At least I have felt much more energetic the last few days. (I was hoping this meant the infamous nesting was taking place...) And then last night I had some contractions that I thought were the real deal, but I'm not having them anymore.

But at least I'm ready, or as ready as I can be for such a life change. I had my second shower (a family shower) last Saturday, and while it didn't quite go as planned -- my poor grandma, who was going to hostess, lost power, and couldn't have it, and so only half the guests ended up being able to attend when my mom (such a good sport!) changed the venue to her house -- it was very nice just the same. And, as usual, people were so generous! So now Evan has all his essentials, and they are washed and organized and waiting for him.

I guess I just need to remind myself that God's timing is perfect.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not Much to Report... baby yet! Had my weekly appointment today and my doctor said that she isn't always right, but she predicts that I will not go past my due date as I am almost at 3 cm (yay!). Blood pressure is good (mostly because the summer reading craziness at the library has started without me, I think) and now it's just a waiting game.

I had a lovely shower on Monday night that they threw for us (it was a couples shower) at church. Mike and I were so humbled by people's love and generosity. We are looking forward to bringing Evan to worship with us! And there is a family shower planned for me this coming Saturday. (Hmmm, why does it feel like I just did the shower thing? Oh, yes, because a little over a year ago I was having wedding showers!) So, my feeling is, I can just enjoy the final shower and then go into labor and give Mike a son for Father's Day. Wouldn't that be nice?

I don't have any shower photos to post, but I am feeling huger than huge at this point and would probably not want to share if I did. So thanks for reading, and if you have any tips for inducing labor (besides the eggplant, gingerbread cookies, and castor oil ideas), let me know!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Home Again

Well, in spite of my only working part-time during the week, it was a very busy weekend -- Maggie's graduation open house (shared with Chelsie) was Saturday and I tried to stay off my (fat) feet, but Sunday I had another blood pressure scare and my ob/gyn sent me to Beaumont to get checked out. Of course, once I got there it went down and stayed down, and my bloodwork checked out fine, and Evan's heartbeat was good, so they sent me home. However, my doctor told me I am having "labile blood pressure" (guess that means it's fluctuating) and I am not allowed to work at all. I see her again Wednesday, so we'll see. I hate to use up maternity leave before the maternal part happens! At the hospital they told me I was 1 cm dilated, but that can go on for a long time before any more progress, right?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I had an appointment with my ob/gyn this a.m. and she said things look good. She is happy with how my blood pressure responded to rest and agreed to let me go back to work part-time for the rest of this week, then reevaluate me on Monday. I was getting bored with the enforced laziness, and I am happy to get some hours in at work so I don't have to use up all my paid time before my maternity leave starts! Evan is doing fine and seems to be head-down. I'm finally having some Braxton-Hicks contractions (so weird!) so I feel like my body is getting ready. Thank goodness, because I feel so darn huge these days! Now if I can just hold out for Maggie's graduation and open house and my two baby showers...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"The Moral Life of Babies"

A recent New York Times article shared research that is being done at Yale about whether babies can differentiate between right and wrong. To see the 5-minute video summary, which shows footage of the experiments they did (with some truly adorable babies), click here. Fascinating!
(Image by Nicholas Nixon for the New York Times.)

Prescription: Laziness

I am sitting on the futon, feet propped up, being lazy as directed by my doctor. No, really, she said, "My prescription for you is laziness." I've had some swelling (mostly in my feet/ankles) and higher blood pressure lately, and this morning I woke up with a puffy face and puffy fingers, so I called my ob/gyn and she told me I was to stay off my feet as much as possible until my next appointment on Wednesday and to watch out for any other symptoms of preeclampsia. Already I am itching to get to the dishes and the laundry and the clutter and everything else that I've been neglecting around the house (due to being too tired from work, childbirth classes, AquaMoms classes, etc.), but if it's in Evan's best interest to sit around watching TV and reading all day, I guess I'll have to sacrifice!

The good news is, my doctor gave me permission to attend my cousin LynnAnn's wedding on Saturday as long as I sit a lot. I assured her that it's a Baptist wedding -- there won't be any dancing. (Will there, LynnAnn? If there is, I don't mind -- I'm a Presbyterian now -- but I won't be participating.) :o)

Speaking of Evan, his heartbeat is good and he is exactly the right size. I will have an ultrasound on Wednesday to check on his position. In the meantime, I am going to be lying around monitoring my blood pressure. Feel free to call!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Great Baby Gifts

This isn't a hint (honest!) -- I own many of these books already. But for any other baby showers you may be attending in the near future, here are some gift recommendations!

Wee Little Bunny, Wee Little Lamb, and Wee Little Chick by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by John Butler. For any little animal lover.

All of Baby, Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata. A delightful exploration of baby anatomy!

Hello Baby by Mem Fox, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Mem Fox is an Australian writer whose picture books are almost always nearly perfect, and Steve Jenkins does amazing, realistic cut-paper illustrations of the animals and their babies.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. I told you Mem Fox can do no wrong! In this one she explains how babies all over the world (beautifully depicted by Helen Oxenbury) are essentially the same.

Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated byPolly Dunbar. A collection of more than 60 poems about a toddler's world.

Global Babies from the Global Fund for Children. A beautiful board book with photographs of baby faces from around the world.

And, finally, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago. The illustrations in this one aren't my favorite (though they are, admittedly, kid-friendly), but it is the best children's Bible I've ever read. The way Lloyd-Jones shows how every story -- from the Old Testament to the New -- is about salvation is beautiful. The first time I read this, I learned some new theology myself! You can buy the book alone, or in a special "deluxe edition" that includes the entire book on 3 CDs. Mike and I have been taking turns reading it to Evan at night.
Do you have any favorite books to give as baby gifts?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ghosts in the Library

There are always rumors floating around that Martha Baldwin's (friendly) ghost haunts Baldwin. But check out the ghosts that recently visited the New York Public Library by watching this hilarious video. And don't miss the explanation of how they pulled it off.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hiccups and Showers

Have I mentioned that Evan has been getting a lot of hiccups lately? It feels so funny! Even Mike has been able to feel them.

34 weeks today. I am feeling bigger every day but am still going to put on a bathing suit for my AquaMoms class tonight. (No cape, though.)

I had my first baby shower on Saturday night! It was a complete surprise! Mike was supposed to take me to my boss Connie's house, where all my Youth Services co-workers would be waiting, at 6:30 on Saturday for a surprise couples shower, complete with dinner. He put an "X" in his Blackberry to remind himself...well, he forgot what the "X" meant! I got home from work about 6 on Saturday, and he had made dinner, so we ate together and then I was getting ready for an evening with my (swollen) feet up when he suddenly decided we should go get a special dessert "surprise." (He had gotten a phone call while I was in the bathroom!) Thankfully I at least insisted on brushing my teeth before we went! It was past 8 when we pulled up in front of Connie's house, me with my eyes closed (at Mike's insistence), thinking, "This better be some really special dessert, and are the other customers looking at us like we're crazy?" Anyway, it was a lovely shower, with yummy food, delicious cake, fun games, good company, and a great gift -- the jogging stroller we registered for. (Not that I jog, but we do plan to take brisk walks!) And it was definitely a surprise. Thanks, ladies!!!

Oh, and I packed my hospital bag this morning, just in case! Anything I absolutely need to take with me that I might not think of? Comment away!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reading Recommendations

Every year, the Bank Street College of Education's Children's Book Committee reviews over 6000 (!) titles for their publication "Best Children's Books of the Year." In honor of their 100th anniversary, they are making the lists available for the first time online -- for free! There are lists of recommendations by age as well as by genre, so you're bound to find something that sounds interesting. Click here or on the picture to go to the website and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Banning

I've been a librarian in both a school and a public library, so I've thought about censorship quite a bit. In fact, I learned in graduate school how every library needs to have a selection policy and a formal procedure in place in case of book challenges. It always makes me cringe when a "Christian" or "conservative" group gets (negative) media attention for attempting to have books removed from library shelves. I'm all for parents having a say in what their children read. I spoke up a few years ago when my sister's school was requiring students to read a book I believed was inappropriate for the grade. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be on library shelves for older students -- or students whose parents disagree with me -- to read.

Thankfully, Shannon Hale, an author whose work I love, has expressed an opinion I can point to and say, "I agree with her!" In case you're interested in the issue, click here for her blog post on the subject.

And, if you could care less, take this opportunity to check out Goose Girl, my favorite of her books.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Couple of Cozies

I've heard about the "cozy mystery" genre but only recently gave a few a try -- I thought they would make good vacation reads!

I started with the first in a new series by Diana Orgain -- "Maternal Instincts Mysteries" -- called Bundle of Trouble about a new mom who stumbles into private detecting as an alternative to going back to work full-time after her maternity leave is over. In addition to the new-mom details (resulting in some comedy), I thought the mystery was pretty good. All in all, an entertaining read (thanks for the recommendation, Ruth Ann!), and I'll definitely read the sequel.

I snagged the second one at an independent bookstore while I was on vacation -- the title was clever, and the sleuth sounded like a fun character -- another first-time mom, but this one a Mennonite who owns an inn. And recipes were included! Unfortunately, I wasn't too impressed by Tamar Myers' Batter Off Dead. There were no details at all about running an inn, Magdalena Yoder's main method of sleuthing seems to be talking at suspects until they snap, and the mystery itself was pretty dull. I probably shouldn't have jumped in in the middle of a series ("Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery" series), but I don't think I'll read any the others since I found Magdalena too over-the-top and, frankly, not very likeable.

Now I'm reading another cozy I got at the library, the first in another new series about two friends who open a cupcake bakery, called Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinley. So far it promises to be a fun read. And who can resist a book that includes cupcake recipes?
What about you? Are there any good "cozies" that you've read? Tell me about them in the comments!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Babymoon's Over...

...but the honeymoon is still in full swing.

Just kidding. Mike slept on the futon last night because my newly-acquired third-trimester snoring was keeping him awake. Apparently, I am swollen everywhere, including inside my nose! (See photo for reference. This is my size compared to the size of a Japanese van the Lodge keeps on the grounds.)

Anyway, I promised a Babymoon update. It was very nice. I'd definitely recommend the Lodge -- very pretty, good food, soft towels, lots of surrounding nature (Mike was thrilled by a wild turkey spotting), and a great price. The only drawback is that it really is in the middle of nowhere. It's about an hour to Traverse City, but we didn't bother. I did make the one-mile hike around the lake, and I think Mike was impressed by how slow and breathless I was. ;o)

I did read two books which I will review in my next post. I'm off to my doctor's appointment now to check in on Evan. I dread stepping on the scale!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I am typing this from the Caro District Library in Caro, MI. Mike is working in a couple of appointments on the way to our Babymoon! We're heading to Luther, MI, where Hillsdale College has a lodge -- check it out here -- for a couple of days of relaxation. Yes, I know we had a honeymoon less than 8 months ago, but since our plans for going to Israel before we have kids are obviously out the window, Up North will have to do! Mike is planning to do a little fishing, but I just brought along a lot of books and I may be persuaded to go for a little hike around the lake.

Lest you think I am just lying around at this point in my pregnancy (which, to be honest, is about all I feel like doing), I did start an AquaMoms class a few weeks ago. Mike thinks it sounds like a superhero gathering, but really it's just a prenatal water aerobics class. I go twice a week and it feels really good, plus it's good exercise! I might even sign up for the next 6-week session after this one ends, if I can fit it in around the childbirth class we're taking.

Well, that's my update for now. If I do get some reading done on this mini-vacation, I will post reviews when we're back!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

SLJ Battle of the Books Winner Announced! -and Finally, a Book Review!

Judge Katherine Paterson has determined who "The Big Kahuna" is in School Library Journal's Battle of the Books. Click here to find out the winner! It was a bit of a surprise to me. Now I have to read it!

And, here is my latest published book review, from the April issue of SLJ...note the "My Two Dads" theme before recommending.

IGNATOW, Amy. The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt & Julie Graham-Chang. illus. by author. 208p. Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2010.

Gr 4–6—Fifth-graders Lydia and Julie, best friends, decide to observe "the popular girls" at their school in preparation for junior high. Julie, who lives with her two dads, loves to draw, and Lydia, who lives with her mom and sister, loves to sing. In this Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Abrams, 2007) for girls, the story is told entirely in full-color drawings and in each girl's individual handwriting as they pass their notebook back and forth to record their observations. Of course, things don't go as planned—though the girls' quest for popularity leads them to new hobbies and new friends, it also challenges their own friendship. This entertaining look at the social hierarchy of preteens and the challenges of growing up will entice even the most reluctant readers.—Laurie Slagenwhite, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI

Monday, April 5, 2010

Strep Throat: The Revenge

So, here I was, feeling almost normal on Easter Sunday morning and grateful I caught my strep throat so early. I'd heard the horror stories (much like all the childbirth horror stories that seem to come my way these days) and was happy to have escaped.

Then came Strep Throat: The Revenge.

I felt pretty good until late afternoon/early evening, when my throat, which had been barely tender up to that point, suddenly caught on fire. I spent most of the night waking up every time I had to swallow and then trying to go back to sleep. This morning I felt like I had that first-trimester fatigue all over again, on top of the sore throat and swollen lymph nodes, so I called the doctor and basically asked, "Aren't antibiotics supposed to make it better?" She assured me that strep often gets worse before it gets better (no one warned me!) and that I should give it one more full day, then call back in the morning if I didn't feel better.

Well, I do feel marginally better. Well enough to be online, which is saying something, since I barely felt like watching TV this morning, let alone reading or typing. I no longer whimper every time I swallow. And my appetite is coming back. (Yes, Laurie Suzanne actually had LOSS OF APPETITE, a very rare symptom in any of her illnesses in all her 33 years.) So I am hopeful. Penicillin, do your thing.

Thanks for reading! Hope to be posting some book reviews instead of complaints soon! And maybe another picture of my (ever-expanding) baby bump!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Strep Throat

For the first time in my life I have strep throat! After all these years working with kids...guess it's true that your immunity is down when you're pregnant! Thankfully, I don't have a fever (it could be dangerous to the baby) and within 24 hours I won't be contagious anymore, so I won't miss out on Easter Sunday with church and family. But in the meantime I am laying low. I'll take it as an opportunity to catch up on my reading. Now, my question is: could Mike have had strep last week when he had a fever for a few days? His throat wasn't sore but the lymph nodes on his neck were swollen (as mine are).

When I called my ob/gyn with news of my sore throat, she told me to go to a CVS MinuteClinic and ask for a strep test. It was great -- I waited for about 3 minutes and the NP was very nice. I just had to pay my co-pay and they will bill my insurance. I guess there are only 11 MinuteClinics in Michigan, but I would definitely go the next time I have a UTI or something similar. Very convenient.

Well, enough about me. I wish you all a blessed Resurrection Sunday! Christ is risen -- He is risen indeed!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nell's Natural Baby

So, my aunt Sally told me about a great website that sells cloth diapers and other great things for moms. It happens to be owned by a local, Nellie, who offers cloth diaper workshops at her office in Brighton. So my mom and I went to one on Saturday and it was great -- Nellie showed us all the different cloth diapering systems and products available, and gave us plenty of take-home info. I went ahead and created a gift registry on her site.
In other baby news, the heartburn is getting nigh unbearable. Any advice? I am taking Zantac 150 twice a day (prescribed by my doc), chewing gum, eating Tums like candy (not going over the recommended dosage, of course), and avoiding all things spicy or acidic, but still waking up in the middle of the night with heartburn, and having it most of the day as well. Help!

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Selection of Published Book Reviews

Just thought I'd do some recycling -- aren't we all trying to be green? -- by sharing some of the book reviews I've had published in the past. (I review for School Library Journal and Library Media Connection.) I'm only sharing a few of my favorites for now...hope one of them sparks an interest!

DOWELL, Frances O'Roark. The Kind of Friends We Used to Be.
Gr 5-8--This insightful sequel to The Secret Language of Girls (S & S, 2004) stands alone, but readers will want to go back and find out more about these engaging characters. Kate and Marylin used to be best friends, but sixth grade changed things.

Now, as seventh graders, they are trying to work their way back to the way things "used to be." But it's not so easy when they are so different; Kate's new passion is the guitar-and her heavy black boots-while Marylin, a cheerleader, is determined to be feminine and popular at all costs. Alternating points of view make it easy for readers to relate to both girls as they navigate friendship, romance, and family relationships. Dowell gets middle-school dynamics exactly right, and while her empathetic portraits of Kate and Marylin are genuine and heartfelt, even secondary characters are memorable. A realistic and humorous look at the trials and tribulations of growing up and growing independent.--Laurie Slagenwhite, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI (School Library Journal 55.3)

PAULSEN, Gary. The Legend of Bass Reeves: Being the True and Fictional Account of the Most Valiant Marshal in the West.

Gr 6 Up--Drawing on newspaper accounts and his own fertile imagination, Paulsen tells Reeves's story. Brief sections give the known facts of this hero's life, set in historical context, and longer, narrative sections (the longest being about his boyhood) fill out the details. The result is a compelling tale of the runaway slave who lived as a fugitive among the Creek Indians for 22 years, until the Emancipation Proclamation freed him to become a cattle rancher in Arkansas and, finally, a federal marshal appointed to help bring order to the Indian Territory. Bring order he did, with thousands of arrests and 14 gunfights to his credit. Paulsen doesn't romanticize the Wild West or flinch from descriptions of the lawlessness (including murder and prostitution) that was rampant in the Territory, but this dark backdrop only serves to illuminate Reeves's heroism. The protagonist is a fully fleshed-out character whose story is made all the more satisfying by the truth behind it.--Laurie Slagenwhite, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI
(School Library Journal 52.8)

SCHWABACH, Karen. The Hope Chest.

Gr 4-6--In America in 1920, "proper young ladies" are expected to behave in a certain way. But when 11-year-old Violet Mayhew discovers that her parents have been keeping her disowned older sister Chloe's letters from her, she abandons propriety and runs away to find her in New York City. There she meets Myrtle, a "colored" girl who is happy to leave her own training as a maid and join Violet in finding her sibling, who has left the city. Their travels take them first to Washington, DC, and then to Tennessee, where Chloe works on the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. Here Violet and Myrtle join the fight for women's suffrage. The girls confront heavy issues such as racism and sexism, but the narrative is leavened with humor. The story is packed with period details--Jim Crow laws, Bolsheviks, Palmer agents, Prohibition, shell shock, autocamping, just to name a few--but Schwabach's attention to character and plotting ensures that it never bogs down. Readers will cheer along with the "Surfs" as the victory in Tennessee grants women the vote. The book concludes with historical notes and a voting time line that includes black-and-white photos. Illuminating a time period rarely featured in children's literature, this is a fresh choice for historical fiction fans.--Laurie Slagenwhite, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI (School Library Journal 54.3 )

SLJ Battle of the Books Reminder

If you're not following School Library Journal's Battle of the Books, in which famous children's authors judge the best books of 2009, it's not too late to catch up! Click here to see what has won -- and lost -- so far. Gary Schmidt, one of my favorite authors (and one I've gotten to meet a few times!) just had to choose between Marcelo in the Real World and Marching For Freedom. The battle is brutal, people.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Could spring be here?

Our friends Bernard and Punam came for dinner on Saturday (I had to work, so Mike did all the cooking -- his to-die-for Yankee pot roast and yummy cheddar dill muffins) and brought us a taste of spring: these beautiful flowers! The weather is warming up, I've seen daffodils sending up those first tentative shoots, and I've even heard birds chirping! Does this mean spring has arrived? Well, we do live in Michigan, so I'm not ruling out the possibility of another snowstorm, but I am hopeful!

Today I am 25 weeks! Evan is growing quite rapidly now and I thought some photographic evidence was in order. I'm enjoying his acrobatics throughout the day and can't believe we will be meeting him in just a few short months. When I signed the 3-year lease for my two-door Focus in January 2008, I remember thinking a 2-door was fine since it was highly unlikely that I would even be married in three years, let alone needing car seat access! Perhaps a minivan is in my (near) future?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

SLJ's Battle of the Books is Back!

School Library Journal has gathered the best kids' books of 2009 -- and the best kids' authors as judges -- to battle it out for a second year. For more info, go here. And, you have until Sunday the 14th to vote in the "Undead Poll" to resurrect an eliminated title for consideration. Last year's victor was Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, one of my personal favorites. To see the match schedule, click here. To see the judges, click here. Who do you think will win this year? Let the battle commence!

Monday, March 8, 2010

If you have 5 minutes...check this out!

What fun! A great way to celebrate reading...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Two Winners in a Row

How often does it happen that you read two winners in a row? In this case, both books were ones that I had eagerly anticipated, so I shouldn't be surprised, but it's such a nice feeling...And, incidentally, these would both make great middle-grade "boy" reads.

After Ever After is the very worthy sequel to Sonnenblick's Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie. This one focuses on Jeffrey, who is now an eighth-grader in remission from leukemia. Despite some serious issues and sad events, After Ever After is a very funny book that will have you rooting for Jeff from the beginning. (And you don't need to have read the first one to enjoy the sequel, but I guarantee that you will want to after finishing this one!) Another book I love by this author is Notes from the Midnight Driver. He writes great books for those in-between kids who want more mature reads without the edginess.

Cosmic is the latest by Boyle, author of Millions and Framed. You will love Liam, a 12-year-old who can pass for an adult because of his "mutant" height and his facial hair, and who -- after a series of very amusing events -- ends up the sole "adult" in charge of a group of kids in space! He also learns a thing or two about being "dadly." A great adventure made all the more enjoyable by Liam's wry voice.
What winners have you read lately?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More About Cloth Diapers

Well, I took the plunge and ordered some cloth diapers to start with. I found a great deal on a 12-pack of bumGenius (love that brand name!) bamboo fitted cloth diapers in size small (for 8-16 lbs.) -- $72! I have read that infants go through about 12 diapers a day. I also ordered 4 diaper covers, cloth wipes, and a wet bag. I know I'm going to need wipes solution and eventually a diaper sprayer, but any more advice about what else I will need to get started? Any favorite laundry detergents? Favorite diaper stores? (I placed my order with Cotton Babies and got free shipping that was pretty fast.)
Advice welcome!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

22 weeks!

And suddenly I can feel him thumping away in there! He seems to be active mid-morning, late evening, and very early morning (when I'm up for yet another bathroom break). He also appears to be growing (see photo). My brother and sister-in-law gave us a big bag of clothes for Evan, and my mother-in-law told me she's already bought him an outfit, so we at least know that he is going to be a very well-dressed infant. :o)
I didn't feel well today -- Mike and I are sharing a yucky cold -- and stayed home, but I perked up this afternoon and made dinner. Yes, I cook too! I made a quiche with chicken, turkey bacon, and asparagus. There's no photographic evidence, but there are only two pieces left, so I think it was a hit. In fact, I may go eat another piece...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Recent Reads

Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling by Robert Kunzman. I found this look at six different homeschooling families by Kunzman, a public-school educator and administrator, very interesting, and I felt like the author used a well-balanced and respectful approach in his interviews and observations. I must admit that I skipped the chapter on the HDLA, so I can't speak to his coverage of that, but I always like reading an "outsider's" take on subjects I am somewhat familiar with.

Ally Carter's Heist Society was a fun, fast, breathless read -- kind of an Ocean's Eleven for teenagers. My sister Maggie liked it, too!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brief Book Review and Breaking News!

Brief Book Review: Marriage and Other Acts of Charity by Kate Braestrup. I didn't enjoy this one as much as the author's first memoir (Here if You Need Me), but it was a quick read and I appreciate Braestrup's musings even if I don't always agree with her theology.

And the Breaking News: The final Hunger Games novel by Suzanne Collins, which comes out on August 24, now has a title and a cover! Behold, I present to you: Mockingjay!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Review: Scarlett Fever

Maureen Johnson's sequel to Suite Scarlett is one of those books you race through, not just to find out how it ends, but because it's so much fun to read. In other words, it's really funny. Scarlett is a character I'd love to make friends with, and not just because she has naturally curly hair (which she DOES NOT BRUSH), but because she has such a great sense of humor. I loved reading about life from her point of view. Since it's a Young Adult novel, there's the requisite pining over boys, but what I really enjoyed is the family dynamics. It's rare for sibling relationships to be more central to a YA book than peer relationships are, but Scarlett's brother and sisters are interesting, well-developed characters in their own right, and Scarlett's interactions with them ring true. My only complaint: enough with the cliffhangers already!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dinner Again

This time Mike made shepherd's pie -- with lamb instead of beef -- and I was so hungry I didn't even think to take a picture of it before diving in! So I found a photo online from the recipe he used, and it honestly did look almost exactly like that.

And thanks to everyone who's given me advice about cloth diapers! I did find some good websites but I may be asking some of you for more specific advice. And I will definitely check out the store in Ann Arbor for the class -- which reminds me, time to sign up for childbirth classes, too!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cloth Diapers

I have decided (in my first-time mom innocence) to use cloth diapers. I've already talked to a friend who uses them, and I've done some research online, and the mental commitment is made. Now for the monetary commitment: what brand to try? It is definitely an initial investment (though in the long run, much cheaper than disposable), so where should I start? Any advice?

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's a Boy!

As soon as I figure out how to scan the ultrasound photo, I'll post it! In the meantime, rejoice with us that he is growing as he should and has all the right parts! And we think we're going to name him Evan Michael...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A YA Mystery Recommendation!

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford. I first picked this one up because it was written by a guy who grew up in Birmingham, and it is set in Petoskey. But I was hooked right from the beginning -- great narrative voice, intriguing mystery, interesting characters, and, of course, a good setting! If you like wry narrators and a little bit of noir in your mysteries, give this one a try.
UPDATE: The Morgue and Me was nominated for an Edgar Award in the YA category!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some Cross-Cultural Reads

Interested in learning about how kids in other countries live? Read on!

The Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. I enjoyed this peek into a different culture -- and Asha, the protagonist, is very relatable in spite of the differences. Set in India in the 1970s, Asha's roles as a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and granddaughter are rigidly defined, and she chafes under cultural mores that American kids may have a hard time understanding. The ending, too, is not the expected happily-ever-after; it's more realistic than that, and about as happy as it could be under the circumstances. I do wish there had been more descriptions of the setting, but, like Asha, the action was mostly confined to the home. A coming-of-age story for thoughtful girls interested in other cultures.

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper. Though the narrator and setting are very similar to one of my all-time favorite books, Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, the story is much different -- more of a historical adventure than coming-of-age. It takes place on a remote European island in 1936. Sophie's family has lived there for centuries -- they are royalty, and Montmaray is, in fact, their kingdom -- but they are fairly isolated from European politics until 2 German officers arrive. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but there had better be a sequel -- lots of loose ends! Good for readers 6th grade and up.

Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel by Leslie Connor, illustrated by Mary Azarian. What a beautiful picture book, a quiet look at one woman's immigrant experience. When Miss Bridie moves to America from Ireland, she chooses to bring a shovel instead of a keepsake -- and then proceeds to put it to good use! Its tone reminds me of Cooney's Miss Rumphius, one of my all-time favorites. I think I'd love it even more if it were illustrated in a style other than woodcuts.

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements. 6th-grader Abby is failing sixth grade -- so when she is offered the chance to earn extra credit by writing to a pen pal, she jumps at the chance. Her pen pal turns out to be a student from Afghanistan, and both of them have a lot to learn from each other. This isn't my favorite by Andrew Clements, but it's still a good read for 4th-6th-graders.

The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson. Paterson is one of my favorite authors, and as far as I'm concerned, all of her books are good! So even though I am only a little over half-way through listening to this one on audio, I feel comfortable recommending it. Meli and her family are Albanians living comfortably in Kosovo...until the Serbians start their campaign of terror against Albanians, and she and her family become refugees. A fascinating look at a recent historical event through the eyes of a 12/13-year-old girl.

Read any good cross-cultural stories lately?

Monday, January 25, 2010


It is a lovely thing to come home from work to the delicious smells of a gourmet dinner cooked by my husband! Behold: horseradish salmon and warm baby red potato salad.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Inaugural Post

So, I've been considering blogging (for myself, not the library) for a while now...and since I now have more to share than book reviews (i.e., baby news), I thought now was as good a time as any! So, if you're interested, check back for baby news and book reviews and maybe some other random ramblings.

First piece of baby news: I will have the fetal anatomy scan on Monday, February 1st, and hopefully find out the baby's sex! Yay!

And, a question for you: Any advice about which Beaumont (Royal Oak or Troy) to choose for delivery? We are planning to visit both of them one of these days, but I thought I'd solicit opinions, if any of you have any experience with Beaumont.

Thanks for reading!