Author Archives: kiesa

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett has died. His books, along with other authors, helped me survive Calvin’s first couple of years mostly sane.

I came to Pratchett fairly late. I think the first book I listened to, Monstrous Regiment read by Stephen Briggs1, was around 2006. After my son was born in 2009 I spent hours and hours walking around the neighborhood listening to audio books while praying that the walk would put my son to sleep.

This year, when I decided to get pregnant again, I created a list of go-to comfort audio books I could listen to in case I ended up on bed rest again2. I was extremely fortunate to avoid bed rest. However, I still ended up listening to a lot of Pratchett during my first trimester while I was laying on the couch doubled up with nausea. More recently, I’ve been listening to his books while I fall asleep to help stop my worrying about everything that could go wrong with pregnancy/birth/infancy. There’s something very grounding in Sam Vimes’ outlook on life.

I haven’t read every Discworld book. All except the newest ones can be tricky to get via audio3. However, of the ones I have read, these are my favorites:

On the of chance you haven’t read any Pratchett and are interested, this graphic provides a pretty good introduction to the major Discworld themes. Personally, I would suggest starting with The Watch Novels as I think they’re the most consistently written5. I feel Pratchett’s writing improved a great deal the longer he wrote and, in general, the later books are much better than the earlier ones.

I am selfishly sad there will be no more Discworld books with their wonderful blend of humor, satire, and acceptance of the way people are6.

  1. With all the Pratchett audio books if you decide to buy or borrower them, make sure you get the unabridged version. Almost all of them of narrated by Nigel Planer, Stephen Briggs, or Celia Imrie. Unfortunately, for the older books, the easiest audio edition to purchase are often abridged.
  2. In my experience with bed rest last time I had a hard time reading but was able to listen to audio books. In fact, during my 2 week stint in the hospital I started, and almost finished, the audio version of Anathem which is 32 hrs and 27 min
  3. Though Friday I went on a buying spree when I discovered if I buy the Kindle version of many of the Discworld books they’ll currently give me a screaming deal if I add on Audible narration. Many of the books can be had for under $10 buying both the Kindle and the Audible version together.
  4. My very, very favorite scene in the series is in this book and it involves a dramatic moment towards the end when Sam Vimes reads his son a bedtime story.
  5. I would not recommend starting with The Colour of Magic. It is the first book in the Discworld series but I found the first couple of books to be kind of random. A lot of amusing anecdotes that kind of get pulled into a plot.
  6. Actually, there is one more Discworld book that will be released later this year, The Shepherd’s Crown which is part of the excellent Tiffany Aching YA series.

Dear Julian

From: Your Mother
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2015
To: Julian
Subject: Proposed Birthday Dates

Dear Julian,

It’s time for you to decide on your birthday date. According to the doctor I’m 5cm dilated and 70% effaced so she thinks you should come any day now. Of course, I know my children better and, as such, don’t expect you to be born just because the doctor thinks it’s time for you to come. However, I would like to propose some auspicious days for you to consider:

March 14, 2015
March 14 is less than a day away so this might feel rushed to you. However, I’d like to point out that it is Pi Day. Not only is it Pi Day, it’s a special Pi Day. You would get major bonus points if you could manage to be born at 9:26:53. Please note: some people are claiming that both 9:26:53 in the morning or the evening are equally valid but daddy prefers using 24 hr time. On the other hand, he’s already fudging by dropping the first two digits of the year and using the US date notation so maybe you could convince him. I promise if you are born on Pi Day I will learn to make a decent pie crust.

March 20, 2015
If you decide not to be born on Pi Day, I’d really appreciate it if you’d wait till March 20. This is because on March 19 Gail Carriger is going to be at The Tattered Cover and I’d really like to go. March 20 is also the spring equinox which might be fun. Another reason this would be a good day is because Grandma will be arriving the previous day and this would allow her more time to adore you before she goes back home.

March 24, 2015
This is your official due date according to the doctor’s office. Personally, I don’t put much stock in this date but it’s not a bad day.

March 26, 2015
This is your brother’s birthday. Being born on this date might be a tad controversial but it could also be fun.

I encourage you to pick one of the dates above. If none of those dates work, please consider being born no later than March 29. On March 31 you hit the magical 41 weeks according to the doctor’s office. At this point they want you out and they’re not going to allow you to delay any longer. Childhood is annoying enough without it starting out with grownups deciding the day you’re born. However, it is your choice whether you pick your own date prior to week 41 or let the grownups choose for you.

Love,

Mommy

P.S. Thank you for staying inside till you were fully baked. That was very considerate of you.

Pregnancy Update and False Labor

I went to see my Dr last Tuesday at 37 weeks. She examined me and said it looks like Julian is once again head down! So, it sounds like a VBAC is back on the table. She also said I was 4 cm dilated and 60-70% effaced. Based on that, she thought there was a good chance I would go into labor in the next week or two. Of course, I was 5 cm with Calvin at this point and he was induced1. So, who knows. That being said, we decided it was probably best to prepared on the off-chance he showed up this week.

Last time we had decided to hire a doula and and found her to be quite useful supporting Jaeger and I. This time I was on the fence because it was so up-in-the air whether a) I’d make it to full term and b) whether I’d be in a position to attempt a VBAC. However, given things look good, I decided to see if there were any doulas with last-minute openings. The instructor for the Thursday night prenatal yoga class I attend is a doula and seems pretty pragmatic so I first contacted her. She already had a full client base for the month (not surprising) but suggested someone else. We contacted her and she came over and we talked and Jaeger and I signed her up on the spot. Normally, we would have interviewed several doulas but given the possible time constraints, it didn’t seem like a good idea to linger.

Around 12:45pm on Friday afternoon I started feeling a little weird. This is not particularly abnormal because Julian gets very active around 1ish each day. However, before stopping work for the day I made sure everything was in a spot where it would be easy to walk away from for a couple of months.

After work I got my eyebrows waxed and the stylist told me of a show called pregnant in heels which allegedly employs armies of fashion people so woman can look perfect in their right-after-birth photos. Personally, I think you need the exhausted/haggard photo so your child can never claim they were adopted.

I took Calvin to the dentist and learned he’s about to lose his first two baby teeth! As Jaeger notes, this means we’re going to need to develop a tooth fairy policy2.

I got home and noticed that my contractions seemed to have become more pronounced. I told Jaeger that I didn’t want to be paranoid but it wouldn’t hurt for him to come home a bit early to eat just to make sure he got supper. I also didn’t feel like cooking so he brought home takeout from our local Indian restaurant. While I was waiting, I kind of paid more attention to my contractions and decided they might be about 5 min apart.

Jaeger arrived home and we ate. I had the Vegetable Thukpa which was fantastic. Things were still feeling weird so I called Jaeger’s mom and asked if Calvin could spend the night. Things hadn’t quite gotten to the point where I was sure I was in labor but I figured it was better Calvin start out the night at Nana’s house rather than potentially get moved part-way through. She had guests over but said we could drop him off if we ended up at the hospital or she could come pick him up afterwards.

After supper I laid back on the couch and continued to contract. The problem is I can usually tell when they start but have a hard time figuring out when they end so I couldn’t figure out exactly what was happening. I decided to take a shower. Jaeger decided I was sounding serious enough he was going to stage the go bags by the door. Possibly due to excitement, he managed to fall down the stairs and hit the back of his head. I was still in the bathroom and heard a big clunk. I leaned out and asked “what was that?” But big clunks are fairly common in our house with Calvin and he wasn’t crying and Jaeger was around so I decided everything was probably ok3 and went back to drying myself off. Minutes later Jaeger appears and asks where our therapy ice pack was. I told him it in the scary freezer in the garage. He did not approve of this because he has an unnatural fear of our outside freezer (ok, probably not unnatural, it is hard to find things when packed).

Jaeger and I both ended up on the couch. Me with weird pains and him with a huge bump on the back of his head and a ice pack. Jaeger put his arm around me and emulated a contraction monitor. While I have trouble figuring out when they end, he apparently can feel it and doesn’t get as distracted by Julian’s random movements. He determined they were still coming fairly consistently 5 minutes apart and were lasting about a minute. I had a lot of dull aching from my lower back down interspersed with the occasional sharp stab but the contractions themselves didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel any sense of urgency so decided it wasn’t worth calling the doctor’s office until/unless we noticed an increase in contraction frequency/intensity.

It was getting late so Jaeger ferried Calvin over to Nana’s house for the night, just in case. He got back and we stared at each other for a bit not sure what to do next. Eventually I lay down on the couch and dozed off. When I woke up a little bit later, the contractions were gone.

Jaeger and I both stumbled off to bed around 10pm not sure if we were going to get woken up in the middle of the night or not. We didn’t and I had about as restful a night as I usually do these days.

This morning I’m back to only the occasional contraction so it seems like whatever was happening last night is over.

  1. Though I finally found documentation that says I was 50% effaced on his due date/induction day so from a certain perspective, I might currently be ahead.
  2. One of the tenets of our tooth fairy policy is that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist. We’re not entirely sure what the rest will involve yet. And yes, we’ve never pretended Santa Claus is real either. I’m sorry.
  3. Jaeger said he did yell that he’d fallen down the stairs but I missed that

Hugo Nominations So Far

As I’ve mentioned before, baby is taking up so much of my thoughts I haven’t been reading nearly as much as usual. However, the upside is I’m reading a bit more short fiction than normal. Below are my Hugo nominations so far. However, I might manage to read a couple more short stories between now and closing time so it might change.

Best Novel

I would add The Martian by Andy Weir except from what I understand, it isn’t actually eligible since it was successfully (?) self-published first.

Best Novella

Best Novellet

Best Short Story

The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo)

More Baby

My life now revolves around trying to get ready for baby’s arrival. It’s probably incredibly boring to listen to me talk these days.

As Jaeger mentioned a couple of weeks ago, he and I liked the name Julian. Unfortunately, Calvin hated the name because he had a prior bad association. We tried to sell him on being able to pick the baby’s first middle name but he didn’t want to compromise. We let the name discussion drop for a while in hopes that he would eventually become reconciled to it. In the meantime, I checked out every juvenile book I could find where the protagonist was named Julian in hopes it would shift his associations. I was starting to worry we wouldn’t have a whole-family-approved name for baby by his birth when Calvin suddenly relented. I was surprised but relieved. So, baby’s first name will officially be Julian.

Sunday I woke up convinced Julian was going to come sooner rather than later. This was probably paranoia brought on because Jaeger was going to be in San Diego till Wednesday and I had visions of going into labor and Jaeger trying to get back in time. In any case, I decided not to argue with my paranoia. I went to prenatal yoga and then went on a huge grocery shopping expedition hitting the Indian Bazaar, Vitamin Cottage, and King Soopers. Then, I finished ordering any remaining baby items I felt were essential. Fortunately, baby did not decide to come while Jaeger was away. In addition to shopping, I mostly finished packing the “go bag” this week.

I was suppose to have my 36-week appointment on Wednesday but rescheduled it so Jaeger could come with me. It’s now scheduled for next Tuesday at which point we’ll see if Julian is still breech. I’m getting mixed signals. On one hand, my ribs are very unhappy and I swear the hiccups are coming from the right-side of my ribs. On the other, most of the “movement” I’m feeling is above my belly button which, according to some websites, seems to indicate he might be head down. I guess we’ll see in a couple of days.

At long last, our “nursery” is also mostly organized. For now, it’s living in our bedroom but I’m not sure how long it’ll stay there. Last time our pediatrician told me to move Calvin’s crib out of our room around month 2 (I think??) and I ended up getting less sleep because I was straining to hear him breath through the monitor. So, I’m tentatively in favor of keeping Julian in our bedroom longer. Jaeger is still uncertain how long he wants Julian in our room so we’ll see how it turns out. It probably depends a lot on what Julian ends up like.

Master Bedroom Nursery

The picture contains the following:

DaVinci Emily Mini Crib – This will be our primary crib. I think it’s a much better size than the full-size crib we had for Calvin. However, finding a mattress for it was a bit tricky. I originally ordered the DaVinci Sleepwell Crescent Mini Crib Universal Fit Waterproof 50-Coil Mattress. Sheets were hard to find for it but it was suppose to fit the mini crib really well. I ordered from Target and it was delivered. Then, I discovered that it was way softer than I felt was appropriate for an infant mattress. Jaeger confirmed I wasn’t imagining things so we returned it. My next attempt was the Dream On Me 3″ Extra Firm Portable Crib Mattress which I’m much happier with. It fits snugly inside the crib and is nicely firm. The American Baby Company 100% Cotton Percale Fitted Portable/Mini Crib Sheet fits the mattress well and has the side benefit of somewhat coordinating with the rest of our bedroom.

Co-Sleeper – One of the few things we kept from Calvin’s infanthood was our Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper. When Calvin was first born his official crib was at the foot of our bed. However, I, being the paranoid sort of person I am, kept getting up in the middle of the night so I could go make sure he was still breathing. Because of safety issues I was dubious about any type of co-sleeping. However, after looking it over we decided that it would probably be ok until Calvin started moving around more. It was very nice for the period we did use it as a co-sleeper because it allowed me to open one eye and see that Calvin was still both sleeping and breathing. It also worked well as a bassinet. We kept it to either pass on to one of our siblings or use it as a bassinet in case anyone visited with children.

Changing Table – This is a random changing table we got off Craigslist for $100. I was leaning toward either the tiny Ikea changing table or just using a cubicle but Jaeger wanted a real changing table. I do have to admit the dresser aspect is pretty nice. So far, I’ve been able to fit in diaper supplies, blankets, and all the 0-3 month clothing in it. The changing pad is suppose to arrive today. Weirdly, the changing pad cover I got for it almost matches the crib sheets even though it’s a completely different brand. I think at this point, Julian has more color coordination than Calvin ever got.

Diaper Pail – I know some people swear by those fancy diaper pails. I haven’t used one so perhaps they are wonderful but I’m dubious they reduce smell as much as some people claim. Honestly, I think you just get use to the smell. With Calvin, we used some cheap garbage cans which I felt worked fairly well. However, because this changing table is so big, we wouldn’t have space for the three we needed: disposable diaper, cloth diaper, and laundry. Jaeger suggested I look up stackable trash cans and we found these from the Container Store which, so far, look like they’ll work well.

La-Z-Boy Rocker/Recliner – This is another item that comes from the early Calvin Era. I used it a lot when Calvin was young and had trouble sleeping. Then it wandered around our house sometimes in our bedroom, sometimes in the basement, sometimes at Jaeger’s parents apartment as supplemental furniture. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been having a harder time sleeping. When I’m lying on my side for an extended period of time, my ribs start hurting. However, I can’t lie on my back at all anymore because my lungs are compressed enough I have trouble breathing. Eventually I decided to try the recliner and so far it’s working pretty good. I lay it out till it’s almost flat. I put my down pillow on the seat and then lie on my side with my lower belly against the pillow. Then both my legs and upper torso/head are slightly elevated. It’s hard to explain but it appears to be working pretty well. It’s also reducing the terrible heart burn I was having.

Things are progressing. Should be interesting to see when Julian decides to show up.

Hugos, Au Pairs, Babies, and Neil Gaiman

Yes, I’ve been very bad at posting. Also, I’ve read almost no books since Christmas. The exceptions are a couple of baby-related non-fiction books. Most of this is because I’ve been going to bed about the same time as Calvin. This is proving problematic for Hugo nominations.

Speaking of Hugo nominations, at the moment there are three novels I’m going to nominate: Ancillary Sword, The Martian (which may or may not be eligible??), and Lock In. My thoughts on these three novels mostly mirror Jaeger’s but I suspect I liked Lock In better than he did just because I read mysteries more than he does. There are several more I feel like I should read before nominations close but I’m not sure what the odds are.

I have been listening to audiobooks but mainly as a way to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. There’s so much stuff going around in my head about baby that it would be very easy to spend the whole night panicking/planning. Fortunately, the audiobooks are working out wonderfully. I start the audiobook and within about 10 minutes I’m out. Unfortunately, the audiobook keeps going. I really wish I could hook it up to some sort of wearable that would shut it off after I was obviously sleeping. I’ve only been listing to old favorites, mainly books by Bujold and Pratchett.

So, what has actually happened in my life for the past month? The most exciting thing really is what hasn’t happened. I’ve passed the infamous 32 week and 2 day mark without going into preterm labor with this baby. I’m now well into week 33 and still feeling pretty optimistic about my chances of making it to full term.

Since I did not go into preterm labor at the 32 week mark, I did make it to my church baby shower this time. Heidi, who hosted the shower, did a huge amount of work and it was a spectacular shower. We also got a lot of much-needed items. This week I’ve been going through the list and figuring out the remaining items we know we’ll need and the best place to get them. Things are coming together. The one thing I’m stuck on is the changing table. You will find countless websites saying that changing tables are useless. I beg to differ. While it is true I ended up changing Calvin on all sorts of surfaces, in the middle of the night it’s really nice to have a changing table next to the crib where you know everything you need is in a specific place. My first thought was to go for Ikea’s Sniglar changing table. It’s very basic and doesn’t cost too much. The downside is it has very little storage and, for some reason, Ikea is no longer selling the changing pad that fits it. It is very small so standard changing pads don’t fit. My next thought was to repurpose some of the cubicle pieces we have lying around the house. We could use a standard changing pad on the desk and could fit diaper pails and garbage underneath the desk. In addition, we could hang additional storage baskets from the cubicle. However, Jaeger seems dubious about this solution. So, that’s one item I’m still wrestling with.

Jaeger and I are also seriously looking at getting an au pair. We’ve had two interviews with potential candidates so far. I think we can see the clear advantages but we also find the concept a bit intimidating. On the other hand, it’s less intimidating than actually moving to China/Taiwan so it might be good practice for us. I think what’s particularly hard for us at the moment is trying to bridge language, culture, and time zone issues to figure out exactly how to properly screen and select an au pair from China. We’re still working on that.

Back to baby, he’s been head down and in perfect labor position since at least week 28. This is good but a bit uncomfortable as he was firmly planted against my bladder. I went to the dentist’s office a week ago Friday for my annual six month checkup. The dental hygienist leaned me back in the chair and I actually felt baby detach and float “down” toward my ribs. When I went to my OB appointment last Tuesday she confirmed that he had moved and was now in breech position. My next appointment will be at 36 weeks at which point my OB will check and see if he’s still in the breech position. If so, I’m looking at a scheduled cesarean. My OB says she won’t try an external cephalic version (where the OB tries to change the baby’s position from the outside) because of my prior cesarean due to worries that it could result in a uterine rupture1. After my latest ultrasound and the comprehensive Boulder hospital tour I had been strongly leaning toward attempting a VBAC. However, this changes things again so I guess I’ll just get to wait and see.

Yesterday, Jaeger and I went to a Neil Gaiman signing in Fort Collins. We’ve been to two Neil Gaiman events before. The first one was back in 2005 at the Tattered Cover. Gaiman spoke a bit and then started signing books. We had to wait a couple of hours but were able to wander around the bookstore in the mean time. The second time we went to a Gaiman event was 2008 in Boulder. He wasn’t doing any personal signing but had pre-signed books available to buy. This time was only going to be a signing, no speaking. The Old Firehouse Bookstore had won a contest to have him do a signing of his new book, Trigger Warning, due to selling the most copies of his last book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My understanding is this is the only promotional stop he is making for this book.

Neil Gaiman is a fantastic author and an amazing library supporter but his adult fiction isn’t my favorite. I much prefer his juvenile books. However, both Jaeger and I bought copies of the newest book explicitly so we could each have 3 additional books we brought from home signed. I was particularly interested in getting The Sleeper and the Spindle autographed which has both Gaiman’s great storytelling and Chris Riddell’s fantastic art.

The signing started at 4pm and Jaeger and I left home a little after 2:00pm. I arranged for Jaeger’s mother to watch Calvin while we were gone. I did tell her I didn’t know how long the signing would last but we’d probably be back a little late. We arrived at the bookstore about 3:30pm and the zooish situation we were walking into quickly became apparent. I mean, we knew it was going to be a zoo but I think you had to be there for the reality to sink in. At 3:30pm, the line already snaked around several alleys and streets. We ended around 300 meters from the front of the line. The line continued to grow for at least the first several hours. I don’t know how long it ended up. Not surprisingly, the line did not progress particularly fast. Fortunately, the weather was amazingly good for February. Possibly it was too good. Jaeger didn’t bring a coat and I only brought a thin coat. This was fine for the first couple of hours. As I was standing in line, it occurred to me that standing for several hours in line while pregnant can be problematic. For instance, there isn’t a large quantity of bathrooms facilities available.

About an hour and a half from when we first joined the line I took a hiatus and went to a cafe. I bought some coffee cake for Jaeger and myself (I wanted to avoid liquids) and used their restroom. As it got darker, it got colder. Jaeger had it worse at first due to having no coat. I think about 3 hours in Jaeger left to get coffee and try to warm up a bit. It kept getting colder. Another hour or two later Jaeger left line to go get food from Chipotle to bring back for supper. By this point it appeared we were nearing the “home stretch.” That is, we finally were in the parking lot next to the bookstore. However, the line slowed down so we made very little progress over the next hour. By that point I was also shivering and the shivering was bringing on constant contractions. I was starting to wonder if I was going to need to bail due to baby reasons. I had a horrendous vision of almost making it to Neil Gaiman and having to abandon the whole thing due to my water breaking or something. There was a Starbucks within a block so I took a break. I went there, ordered some hot chocolate, and sat down inside a somewhat warm store for a while. When I got back the line had barely moved. Jaeger and I tried to huddle together for warmth but the size of my belly made that extremely hard. Eventually, we got to the door and then the line stalled again, within sight of the warmth within the store.

We finally got into the store and met a bookstore employee about 7 hours after we first joined the signing line. It was a little before 10:30pm when we were greeted by the first bookstore employee. He went through the standard spiel about how many books could be signed and then he noticed I was pregnant. He looked somewhat aghast and called over another employee to shepherd us to the front of the line. The second employee apologized continuously for not spotting me earlier in the outside line. Jaeger had explicitly told me to wear something that made me look pregnant but just the prior week someone had told me it looked like I was harboring triplets so I didn’t think there was any way to avoid looking pregnant. Jaeger suggested, as the employee herded us outside and around to the back entrance, that next time I needed a t-shirt that said “I’m pregnant” in large letters with a couple of neon signs to emphasize that point. The store employee agreed that would be helpful for “next time.” You may think that skipping line at that point was fairly pointless. However, the line in the store would have taken at least another half hour, quite possibly more. While I would not have asked to skip to the front of the line, I was extremely grateful they let us.

Jaeger and I had each brought three books from home as well as the new book we got at the store. So Gaiman was signing four books each but due to time constraints he was only personalizing one. I decided to get Fortunately, the Milk personalized for Calvin. I had explained the concept of author signings to Calvin and he seemed fascinated by the idea. Neil Gaiman was amazingly coherent when I got to him. I really have no idea how he does it. At that point I was almost completely incoherent but he still was able to make excellent small talk and mentioned that Chu’s Day at the Beach was going to be out in a couple of months and the plot was “starting to get complex”2.

We left Fort Collins and I texted Jaeger’s mom to let her know we were finally on our way home. Sometime around 9 she had taken Calvin back to our home and put him to bed. We got home a bit after 11:30pm. We were lucky. Gaiman didn’t finish at the bookstore until 3:12am. His patience and endurance are amazing. In retrospect the whole thing feels like something only college kids would do. I can’t believe we actually stood in line that long. Possibly we were just trying to recapture the feel of freedom before 2.1 changes our life again 🙂

UPDATE: Here’s the picture from Old Firehouse Books’ Flickr account proving I was actually there.

  1. I have found some people claiming the risk of a uterine rupture with ECV and a prior cesarean is unlikely. However, given I had such a good cesarean with Calvin, I’m not interested in the risk and am not going to push the issue with my OB.
  2. I had the 2nd Chu book in my stack of books to sign which is why he mentioned it.

Baby Costs

I spent the entire day Sunday working on year-end household finances. It probably shouldn’t have taken that long but I’m a bit on the obsessive side. As part of that, I created a report to see our top 10 expenses of 2014. Calvin’s school was our #1 most expensive item. Our mortgage was our second most expensive item1.

There’s definitely some truth in the idea that kids cost as much as you’re willing to spend on them. Or, more precisely, every child is going to cost a base amount and then, depending on the family’s situation, you decide how much more you’re willing to spend on them.

When Jaeger and I decided to have another kid one of the first things we did was a very basic look at whether or not we could afford another child. The quick answer is, “yes, of course.” However, our question wasn’t really about whether we could afford the base cost of a kid but whether we could afford the kid with the lifestyle we’d want to provide the child. However, we re-shifted some priorities and decided we could probably make it work.

With Calvin, we actually didn’t buy a lot of superfluous stuff. For first time parents I think that’s a pretty good start. However, almost everything we weren’t given we bought new. Because I had gotten rid of most of Calvin’s baby stuff we started from scratch with baby 2.1. However, this time I decided to exploit the power of Craigslist. With the exception of the car seat I was ok with most of the expensive stuff being used. So, I figured out exactly what item/brand I was looking for and setup an RSS feed to look for them. It worked really well. Baby items really do have a relatively fast turnover. I was able to get the following things on Craigslist, all half or more off the new price:

  • BOB Revolution Stroller, infant car seat adapter, BOB Travel Suitcase, and BOB Weather Shield2
  • A good baby swing that can swing back and forth and side to side3
  • A boppy and a brestfriend breastfeeding pillow
  • A frame stroller for the infant car seat

What I could not get:

  • Mini-crib — If I had waited long enough, one might have come up but they aren’t as popular in our area as full-sized cribs. That said, I wanted a mini-crib this time so it’d take up less space and Calvin was crawling out of his crib before he needed the full-size crib he was in. Happily, my mom bought 2.1 a mini-crib as a Christmas present.
  • Addition BOB Accessories — Most people seem to sell their BOB accesories with their BOB. Possibly I should have held out for an all inclusive bargain but I still did relatively well. The two things I wasn’t able to get for a reasonable price on Craigslist are the handlebar console and the sun shield. I’ve added those to our registry.

The church is going to have a baby shower for me so I’ve added a fair amount of stuff to the baby registry. I’ll evaluate what else we need to get after that. I suspect we’ll get a fair amount of clothes. Other than that, the only important things I’ll really, really need are bottles, diapers, a baby monitor, and possibly formula4.

Though, of course, baby stuff isn’t the most expensive part of having a baby. It’s the daycare costs. I’m hoping to continue working 32 hrs/week after 2.1 is born. I’m not sure if this is practical but I felt so much more me when I went up from 20 hrs/week to 32 hrs/week. In any case, most daycares require you to pay for full-time care whether or not that’s what you need. If you’re very lucky you might find a daycare that will let you enroll your child for just 3 full days a week but I prefer working smaller chunks all 5 days.

Jaeger and I have visited one daycare, I visit another one tomorrow, and then have one more at the end of the month to look at. In addition we’re considering an au pair. The cheapest of these options would cost around $1300/month and the most expensive option would cost around $1700/month.

The au pair is a very new idea for us. Given we’re hoping to go live in Asia for a couple of years after 2.1 turns one, it might make sense for us to have a little cultural experience ahead of time. From one perspective, an au pair could provide more flexible childcare options. However, there’s a lot more unknowns with an au pair in terms of costs and expectations. I’m still researching this option.

Looking at Calvin’s one-year costs, I think we’re in a reasonable position. I’m really hoping I can successfully breastfeed this time and cut out most of the formula costs as well as the breastpump costs5. The diaper costs are still going to exist. In the long run, cloth diapers, even expensive ones, are less expensive than disposable. However, I have committed to doing things the easy way this time. If we have an au pair, I’ll probably go with cloth diapers. Otherwise, I’m still debating with myself. The infant car seat I bought can take a significantly larger baby than Calvin’s did so hopefully I won’t have to buy a convertible car seat as soon. We already have the strollers, crib, co-sleeper, and Boba baby carrier6. I’m going to skip the crackpot therapy this time.

I finalized our budget for 2015 and managed to find money for everything that’s necessary. Now I’m hoping we don’t have any huge unexpected costs to deal with.

  1. Terrifyingly, groceries was our 4th most expensive category. I’ve always had trouble keeping the grocery bill under control.
  2. The weather shield was a particularly good deal, $5 for what looks like a brand new shield, they run $50 or so new.
  3. Calvin was never into a swing but you don’t know until you try it.
  4. Though I won’t know about the formula till after the baby is born and we see how the breastfeeding goes this time.
  5. Insurance will pay for a very good personal breast pump but not a hospital-grade rental. However, if breastfeeding doesn’t work for me this time, I’m not going to pump much past one month. If it does work for me, presumably the personal breast pump will work well enough once my milk supply has been established.
  6. The Beco was lovely but when Calvin was three I bought a Boba carrier, which has a higher weight limit, for Hong Kong which should work fine for an infant too.

Vacation-Related Ramblings

The peak of my ILS migration has passed. On November 11 we successfully finished migrating from our old ILS to our new one. I ended up working 50 hrs that week which isn’t a lot for some people but it is for me. The project isn’t finished yet, there’s still a lot of mopping up to do. However, I’m back to working straight 32 hr weeks. Overall, I’d give the migration a B+. Things went wrong but the two relatively major things that went wrong were things that we couldn’t have tested easily ahead of time.

Now comes the part of customizing the new system as fast as I can to replace all the customization I already did for the old system. I always find it a bit amusing when staff lament a feature that our old system had when the old system really didn’t have the feature, I just messily hacked another application in to compensate. I’ve been reminding staff I had ten years to customize the old system and the new system will get there too, it’ll just take some time.


Sunday

Last Sunday, Jaeger and Calvin flew out to California and left me by myself. The Logans have a family reunion every-other-year in northern California (at least, I think it’s considered northern California, my California geography is bit incomplete). Normally, I would go but the location is up in the mountains, off main roads, and I was nervous about the possibly of getting snowed in and then having a pregnancy-related emergency of some sort. So, I decided not to travel this year for the holidays. This was also a great opportunity for me to be by myself. Calvin was out of school for the whole weak so Jaeger got ambitious and decided to go early and swing by Legoland prior to heading up north for the reunion. From all accounts (and pictures) Calvin had a blast.

I dropped Jaeger and Calvin off at the airport on Sunday and then went back home and contemplated the family room. Overall, we do a fairly good job of keeping Calvin’s stuff limited to the family room or his room. However, it still can get a bit overwhelming. So, I spent most of the rest of the day Sunday watching TV while re-organizing the family room. I took apart the many, many lego structures that had accumulated over the past months and deposited their components into the appropriately colored bins12. I don’t insist that Calvin take apart his (or Jaeger’s) structures immediately so they tend to hang around on the entertainment cabinet for weeks. This makes it hard to clean around. So, after evaluating the situation, I removed my china from 2 of the 3 shelves in the china cabinet and have them reserved for new Lego structures. After that, I moved Calvin’s desk from the corner where it usually resides to instead jut out by the entertainment cabinet. This left the corner available for the tree that I planned to put up later in the week. It doesn’t sound like much but I got through 4 TV episodes before it was all done.


Monday

I didn’t take Monday off from work. However, without Calvin to get ready I could sleep in and still start working early. I quit at my scheduled time of 2:30 and contemplated what I wanted to do for the rest of the day. Even though I was working, it was already like I was on a mini-vacation. I decided to do a bit of research on pregnancy-related exercise options in the area.

Up till I was pregnant, I exercised almost every day3. However, when I was only a few weeks pregnant, I started feeling a lot of cramping when I walked. Being perhaps overly paranoid, I stopped exercising almost entirely. Once the morning sickness set in, I wouldn’t have been exercising anyway. I think I basically just laid down on the couch for about 2 months hunched up in a ball of misery4. The morning sickness was way worse this time than it was last time.

Second trimester arrived and, like magic, most of the morning sickness disappeared and I started feeling pretty good again5. However, anytime I walked more than 5-10 minutes my uterus would tighten up and stay tight until I sat down. Given our fun with Calvin, I’ve been taking the paranoid approach and continued not exercising. However, not exercising has its own health risks. Walking isn’t very comfortable but I decided I should try to find something I could do.

When I was in preterm labor with Calvin I was flown down to PSL. A lot of that experience was very stressful. However, the one thing I really enjoyed was PSL’s therapy pool. Twice a day many of the pregnant patients were allowed to go down to the therapy pool to just sit in the water or paddle around. It felt really good having a temporary release from all the extra weight I was carrying around. Given my past positive experience with a therapy pool, I decided to see if something similar existed around Boulder. Boulder hospital does have a therapy pool and they use to have prenatal water aerobics but that class no longer exists. I contemplated checking out their regular water aerobics class but it’s smack in the middle of my working day, starting at 11:30am. If I was a normal worker, I could just take a long lunch break but to get my 6 1/2 hrs in every day, I eat while I work. Going to a mid-day class would mean I’d have to make up the work time either early in the morning or after Calvin is already out of school. I kept looking around for other alternatives. After some browsing I noticed that the Boulder rec center closest to us offered prenatal water aerobics Monday nights at 7pm. Since my evening was completely free, I decided to give it a try.

A bit before 7 I wandered down to the North Boulder Rec center and figured out what it took to gain entrance to the class (it’s just a drop-in class but that was only the 2nd time I’ve been to that rec center). After finding the locker rooms and changing I headed out to the lap pool. A random staff member greeted me and noted that she was subbing for the regular teacher. I wasn’t sure what to expect. At PSL, we didn’t do any exercising, we mainly just floated, and I’d never been in a water aerobics class before. We got in the pool which was quite cool. The instructor had us grab kickboards and do several laps the length of the pool. By the second lap I was warm enough the pool’s coolness no longer bothered me. After the kickboard laps, she had us change to using pool noodles. They were curved and we straddled them so one end of the pool noodle was in front of us and the other was behind and we were in kind of a seated position. Then, using our arms, we did a couple more laps. We spent most of the time in the deeper part of the pool with the pool noodles and doing various exercises. It drove home to me how very out of shape I am. However, even though the exercising got my heart rate up, I didn’t contract at all which seemed like a good sign. Towards the end of the class we transitioned into the leisure pool (which is much warmer) and finished with stretching. The next day my arms ached really bad but presumably that will lesson as they start getting back in shape. Overall, I was quite pleased with the class and am going to try it again.


Tuesday
Tuesday, I again worked but took a break for a prenatal appointment with my OB. I was suppose to have this appointment on Thursday but the OB had to cancel, after I was already there, due to an emergency c-section. I know they didn’t have any warning to call me because the assisting doctor was leaving as I was walking in (I hoped she was going to assist another OB but no such luck). Anyway, I showed up on Tuesday and this time there wasn’t any emergency to delay my appointment. The nurse took all the normal readings and everything seemed good (my weight is probably a bit much but she didn’t comment). She told me to schedule another gestational diabetes test with the lab between 24-28 weeks 6. The doctor arrived and noted that she’d had yet another successful VBAC the previous day. She knows one reason I switched from Longmont to Boulder is because I wanted the option of a VBAC so every visit she makes a point of telling me about the successes they’ve had recently. I’m not going to be heartbroken if I end up with a c-section, I mainly didn’t want to commit to one at the beginning of my pregnancy, but I do appreciate the doctor remembering VBACs are something I’m possibly interested in. The doctor listened for 2.1’s heartbeat which was nice and clear. Then she sat down and asked if I had any questions. I talked to her about my concerns of preterm labor (I think I mention this every visit) and she said unless I start feeling a lot of pain or pressure I shouldn’t worry too much. Then I asked her about exercise options. She was quite enthusiastic about water aerobics. She was also of the opinion that I didn’t need to worry about the tightening while walking as it was probably just braxton hicks contractions. I’m not quite as sanguine but I have started taking short walks around the neighborhood because I do think it’s healthy to get outside more than I have been. Lastly I asked about prenatal yoga which she also endorsed as a good thing to try. I do appreciate how the OB sat down and answered all my questions thoroughly then went on to ask about holiday plans and stuff. Most prenatal visits tend to be fairly short but I feel good that the doctor didn’t feel rushed and sat down to talk. Small things but it makes a difference in my emotional comfort 🙂

On Monday, while researching prenatal exercising, I ran across Yo Mama’s website which is a yoga studio (and more) that specializes in pregnancy and early motherhood classes. I was already aware of it because I had gotten several prenatal massages from Faith Davis who works there7. I looked at their schedule and they had a 6pm prenatal yoga class on Tuesday. Given Calvin was away, I figured this was a great time to experiment and see if it worked out for me.

After work I decided I’d go thrift store shopping, eat an early lunch, and then go to the yoga class. Unfortunately, Savers, which was my preferred thrift store, closed unexpectedly in Boulder. However, I heard there was a fairly new Goodwill which I figured was worth checking out. Well . . . I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t nearly as nice as Savers was. It wasn’t a bad thrift store, just not great. I wandered around for a while then decided to go to the Greenwood Wildlife Thrift Shop. It’s a smaller thrift store, I rarely find any clothes I want, but last year I found several nice Christmas decorations there. I wandered around and found a couple small things I wanted. Just as I was getting ready to leave, I noticed a small sign noting they had maternity clothes. I asked the volunteer about it and she said they did, but didn’t have room for them in the main store area. So, she went out to the back and brought out three fairly large bins full of maternity clothes. They were really nice quality, mostly brand name clothes, and were going for $3.50 a piece. I sat down on the floor, sifted through the bins, and came up with a stack to try on. As expected, quite a few of the clothes didn’t work but I still ended up with quite a few items that fit with room to grow. I walked out of the store with a stack of clothes and a couple of ornaments for $19.

By that point is was about 4:30, a little too early for supper but not a lot of time for thrift store browsing. So, I decided to go to a kids consignment store and see if they happened to have any Legos for sale at a decent price. No luck with the Legos. However, I had completely forgotten that they also carried maternity clothes. There wasn’t a lot that spoke to me but I found a maternity swim suit. The swim suit I had worn the day before barely stretched to fit me and I knew it wasn’t going to last my pregnancy. However, I hated the idea of paying real money for something that was only going to be good for a couple of months. The maternity swimsuit was not particularly flattering but it was only $6.50 and I figured there probably wasn’t much point in holding out for something really nice looking just for water aerobics.

I went and ate supper at Native Foods, which is my favorite fast casual restaurant in Boulder, and then headed off to try out the yoga class.

In general, I’ve always avoided paying money for exercise classes. Up to this point, I’ve gotten along fine with walking, a treadmill (recent addition), and exercise DVDs. I’ve also never really gotten into Yoga. A lot of it is a bit too . . . mystical for me (in fairness, it doesn’t take a lot to get too mystical for me). I’ve tried a couple Yoga DVDs and with the exception of one I’ve always lost patience with them. So, I was a bit nervous trying out a prenatal yoga class, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.

Other than the instructor, I was the first person to arrive. It turns out she was a sub but she took in my deer-in-headlights expression and figured out this was my first time in the class. Then I got to explain that I had never actually been to a Yoga class either. She appeared delighted to have a complete newbie show up and showed me where everything was and what I needed to grab for the class.

The room itself was dimly lit, I assume this was to provide a calming atmosphere and it did work. There were only four other people besides myself and the instructor. I’m not sure if this is normal turnout, if it was light due to the holiday, or if evening classes are just less popular than mid-day classes. It started out with some stretching warmup. During the warmup we were all invited to talk about how our pregnancy was going that week, any issues we were running into (emotional, physical, anything), and also something positive that had happened that week. In many ways, it seemed like a mini group therapy session. The class was long, an hour and a half, but everything was slow and relaxed. If I had been doing this as a DVD at home I would have been bored out of my mind but somehow it wasn’t as boring doing it as a group. My arms, and my right leg, had been aching all day, probably due to the unaccustomed water exercising. By the end of the yoga class the aching had mostly disappeared and I felt very relaxed. So, this experiment was also a success.


Wednesday

Wednesday I worked and then organized some more. On Monday I had started organizing Calvin’s room but hadn’t finished. I finished up on Wednesday. I’ve now packed away all his 3T clothes, discretely recycled much of his artwork (something that’s hard to do when he’s around), and put all his Lego instructions into a binder. Calvin loves looking through the Lego instruction booklets but it’s hard to keep them from sprawling everywhere. I’m not sure if the binders will work but it seems worth a shot. Based on the instruction booklets I also took the opportunity to make a master list of what Lego sets he currently has so we don’t accidentally buy him duplicates.

I finished out the day by watching a movie and going to bed.


Thursday
Thursday I woke up and made myself biscuits and scrambled tofu for breakfast. Then I prepared my Thanksgiving meal for later which was stuffed squash. I always love taking a squash or pumpkin, stuffing it with something, and then baking the whole thing in the oven. It always looks so festive to me. Afterwards, since I was now officially on vacation, I took a nap.

After the nap, I decided to start making Christmas candy. I got the coconut and peanut butter filling mixed together, put them in the fridge to chill, and then switched to pulling out Christmas ornaments. Technically, neither candy making nor Christmas decorating should be done till the day after Thanksgiving but I decided I could fudge it given I was alone. I got the tree up and decorated and then went back to roll the candy filling into balls and dipping them. That took most of the day.

I ate my stuffed squash, watched another movie, and went to bed.


Friday
Friday I continued with the Christmas decorating. In addition, I met with a lactation consultant. I believe my breastfeeding experience with Calvin could properly be described as a fiasco. Breastfeeding didn’t work and I didn’t give up pumping nearly as quickly as I should have. I’m stubborn and had trouble admitting this wasn’t something I could deal with. This time, I’m going try to be more realistic. However, I do want to try breastfeeding. I don’t believe formula is evil8 but breastmilk is ideal and is usually cheaper9. Anyway, this time around I realize that breastfeeding isn’t necessarily easy so I want to be more prepared ahead of time.

My therapist recommended a lactation consultant who she feels is very good. I decided to email her, explain that I had trouble last time, and ask when she thought would be a good time to do an initial consultation. A little bit to my surprise she suggested Friday on the basis that we could get all the history out of the way and so be more prepared regardless of when 2.1 decided to show up.

My experience with Calvin took a fair amount of time to explain so it probably was just as well we did this early. I keep forgetting how complicated everything was with him until I start trying to tell it to someone else. I was fascinated by the lactation consultants extremely negative reaction when she heard I had been on Reglan to increase milk production. She mentioned something about being amazed any doctor would prescribe that to a postpartum woman even five years ago. Yet, at the time, several lactation consultants and my OB seemed to think it was quite reasonable to try so I have to wonder if additional research has come out about it in the last five years. I’m not entirely sure what this lactation consultants reaction was due to but I suspect it’s probably related to Reglan’s known depression side effect (both therapists I have talked to since felt it is very bad for postpartum women to use Reglan because of an increased risk of postpartum depression, which I did get but I tend to blame on lack of sleep).

The lactation consultant took pages of notes while I talked and then asked me what my goals this time around are. I appreciated how tactful she was at asking what I was willing to try this time. I explained that while I didn’t mind pumping briefly at the beginning and while I work, I felt I made a bad trade off pumping so much while Calvin was present. I still remember being hooked up to the pump, with Calvin in a bassinet, while I tried reading to him to provide some sort of interaction. I don’t think that was good for me or Calvin.

After all the questions, she discussed and wrote down a plan with me. She even labeled it a plan. I like plans. Her initial thoughts are, given we can’t know for sure at this point, that probably most of the problem had something to do with Calvin’s inability to suck properly and if he had sucked properly, I probably wouldn’t have had low milk supply. Pumps aren’t as efficient at extracting milk as babies (or even husbands 😉 ). She had a long list of suggestions, mainly on how to start things off with the best chance of success. She said to give her a call or email when I first go into labor so we could setup an in-home first visit with her. In addition, given Calvin’s problems, she suggest a fairly early oral-motor exam for 2.1 to make sure he doesn’t have any physical issues that would make breastfeeding harder.

Overall, I felt pretty good after talking to the lactation consultant. I have a plan. I always feel better with a plan. In most cases, I don’t get overly stressed when circumstances diverge from my official plan. However, I do tend to get stressed ahead of time if I don’t have a plan.

I spent most of the rest of the day puttering around the house either chatting with Jaeger online or finishing Christmas decorations.


Saturday
I woke up this morning and decided to attend first service at church, which starts at 9am. First service is the contemporary service and, among other things, they have the lights dimmed. This turned out to not be particularly good for me. I got extremely sleepy during the sermon. After church, I skipped Sabbath School, headed home and took a nap. I slept for two hours before surfacing for lunch. I chatted with Jaeger a bit more, puttered around the house, read, watered our two delicate trees (one new and one that’s trying to die), and then decided to document my vacation. Naturally, the documenting took way longer than I expected.

  1. Though I did not destruct the castle set or his brand-new Lego Movie mech.
  2. Yes, I’m that mother, the one that feels a compulsion to keep her son’s lego’s organized by color. Type would probably be better but color is an easier concept to explain to Calvin at the moment. Plus, organizing by color makes it easier to explain to Calvin how to divide a large task into smaller pieces. Such as picking up Legos one color at a time.
  3. I adore eating so it seems prudent to balance that with a reasonable amount of exercise.
  4. Since I work from home, I also worked hunched up on the couch in a ball of misery. I can’t imagine how bad it would have been if I would have had to go work in an office constantly. Honestly, I keep being amazed people keep procreating given the fun of pregnancy and early infanthood. I’m also not always sure why I decided to attempt it a second time.
  5. Though I still have this weird quirk where brushing my teeth or coughing makes me throw up. No nausea, just suddenly I’m throwing up. When I told my OB this, she just looked at me for a moment and then noted pregnancy does weird things to people.
  6. I’ve already had one due to family history and the doctor wanting to be extra careful given my complications last time. On the upside, the nasty stuff they make you drink seems to have improved since my last pregnancy. It’s still vile but not as vile as last time.
  7. On the off chance anyone is looking for a prenatal massage in the Boulder area, I’ve been very happy with Faith. I keep meaning to write a review but I always have a hard time writing good reviews.
  8. Breastmilk is ideal but formula these days is a very acceptable substitute. There are a lot of studies talking about the benefits of breastmilk but the benefits are often exaggerated.
  9. I say usually because I’m pretty sure last time I spent a couple thousand dollars attempting to breastfeed once you add up the lactation consultants and hospital breast pump rentals (and that doesn’t even count the psychological cost I incurred).

Horizons K-8 School Playground adjacent to Admiral Arleigh A. Burke Park, Boulder, CO

In 2013 the City of Boulder Parks and Planning and Horizons K-8 School partnered with other organization to update the Horizons K-8 school playground which is adjacent to Boulder’s Admiral Arleigh A. Burke Park. The project was completed in September and I was curious to see what had been done. The playground is accessible to the community during non-school hours.

Based on the website it was unclear to me whether the park itself had a playground or only the school grounds. Driving up, it became apparently the park did not have a playground. However, it did have a shelter with a picnic table and some benches.

01Shelter

Thunderbird Lake is within the park and there are walking paths all around it.

02Lake

The park also contains a wood deck which was designed by a University of Colorado class for outdoor classes and meetings. The deck was suppose to be bigger but a pared down design was required in order to finish it by the end of the semester. There were big signs about not allowing skateboarding which the structure really looks ideal for.

03MysteriousStructure

The playground itself is on school property. It has swings, a tire swing, and a tether ball. It also has new playground equipment which appears to use both the PlayBooster and Evos equipment from Landscape Structures. Calvin immediately gravitated to the roller slide. He slide down it once in the traditional style and spent the rest of the time pretending it was a treadmill.

04RollerSlide

I think the Dakota Ridge Park was the first place I’d seen the Evos equipment. It’s very different from the equipment I had growing up with but Calvin loves playing on it and it provides him quite a bit of climbing and strength exercise. I’m now a fan.

05Climbing

06SwiggleBridge

It's hard to tell from a still picture but these circles rotate.

It’s hard to tell from a still picture but these circles rotate.

08OZone

After spending time on the Evos equipment, Calvin transitioned to the more traditional style equipment. He started with the fish net climber.

09NetClimber

The spring bridge was also fun.

10SpringBridge

I’d seen a lot of double slides before but this was the first triple slide I’d seen.

11CloudburstSlide

And finally, he had to climb up the Corkscrew Climber.

12CorkscrewClimber

Also on the playground was a sand area. However, there wasn’t any built-in equipment for it and I hadn’t brought any of our toys so Calvin ignored it.

All-in-all, it was a very nice school playground.

Summary:

Features Swings (no bucket swings), tire swing, tether ball, roller slide, climber, O-Zone climber, Swiggle Stix Bridge, Gyro Twister, Fish Net Climber, Spring Bridge, Triple Slide, Corkscrew Climber, Loop Arch Climber, Covered Slide, Rush Slide
Surface Material Bark Chips
Restrooms No
Water fountain No
Shade No.
Picnic area There’s a covered picnic table but it’s not very close to the playground.
Parking Fairly convenient street parking
Pros
  • Nice new equipment
  • Lots of climbing options
Cons
  • Playground not available during school hours
  • No restrooms


View Random Parks and Playgrounds in a larger map

Book Purchases

I went on a bit of a buying spree on Book Depository1. I first heard about Book Depository from a romance listserv I subscribed to many years ago and forgot about it till we wanted to get Calvin the complete Thomas the Tank Engine Collection2. That purchase was a while back but every so often I’ll buy from there if the US edition is unavailable or is substandard.

A couple of weeks ago Jaeger forwarded me a Guardian article written by Chris Riddell about his latest book, inspired by Ada Lovelace. While in San Francisco we had picked up Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, which I loved3, also by Chris Riddell. So, the combination of an Ada Lovelove inspired heroine created by Chris Riddell was an instant buy for me.

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse did not appear to be available in a physical format in the US. So I traveled over to Book Depository and immediately ordered it and the sequel, Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death. The books arrived about a week ago and we’ve already read through both of them with Calvin. They’re a great deal of fun. Calvin enjoys them, and the wonderful illustrations, but there’s also a ton of subtlety and puns that makes the books fun for adults to read also (it’s always nice when we can stand the books Calvin wants us to read to him).

Several days after I had ordered the Goth Girl books, I ran across another mention of Riddell. (I can’t remember where I saw it but this Guardian article provides a nice summary.) He had illustrated a short story of Neil Gaiman’s called The Sleeper and the Spindle. Once again it didn’t appear readily available in the US so I off I went to Book Depository. It arrived yesterday. This one I haven’t read to Calvin, mainly because I think it’s too old for him to get much out of. However, the story is great and the illustrations are also wonderful. I’m not 100% sold on the ending but I do appreciate it straying from the expected.

I’ve also read a couple more books for my Children’s Reading Goal.


Jinx, by Meg Cabot – Jinx has problems at home so she goes to stay with her prosperous aunt and uncle in New York City. Jinx is known for being clumsy and getting into trouble so she’s not terribly surprised when Tory, her female cousin, appears to hate her on sight. Though, possibly she didn’t expect things to deteriorate quite so far.

An easy YA read with a touch of supernatural elements.


The S.O.S. Files, by Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers – A teacher asks his class to all write a story about a precarious situation they’ve been in. Each chapter is one student’s story.

This is a juvenile book that is billed by the Publishers Weekly Review as a good book for reluctant readers because of its short format. I’m obviously not the audience for this book but I could see a younger kid enjoying it quite a bit.


Gloria’s Way, by Ann Cameron – This juvenile book feels a bit like a short story collection except they’re all about one girl: Gloria. The stories talk about Gloria dealing with typical issues such as jealousy when her best friend is friends with someone else, what to do when a friend isn’t being nice, etc. It’s very short, I was able to read it during Calvin’s most recent piano lesson. The stories are nice and I’ll probably read it to Calvin.


The one other book I’ve read recently is The Paper Magician, by Charlie N. Holmberg. Ceony Twill wants to be a metal magician but, in spite of being top of her class, she’s forced to apprentice as a paper magician. At first very disgruntled she slowly learns to appreciate her teacher. Then, someone from her teacher’s past comes back to haunt him and it’s up to Ceony to make sure the paper magician survives.

I picked this book up because I needed a book to read but one I could finish quickly4. At 224 pages, The Paper Magician felt safe. I read it all in one weekend day. I like the both the setting and the magical system. At first I wasn’t a huge fan of Ceony, she seemed a bit whiny and purposefully dense, but she grew on me. I’ve got the next book on hold.

  1. A UK book seller that will ship books all over the world for free.
  2. For some reason, the US edition only had about half of the stories. Also, I was amused to note that Sir Topham Hatt is actually called “The Fat Controller”.
  3. More, I’m afraid, than Calvin who the book was ostensibly bought for.
  4. The next two weeks are going to be my make/break weeks at work. We’re either all going to survive the ILS migration, or we’re not.