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2019 in books

31 December, 2019

As a once avid reader and someone who works in a public library, it took me much longer than it should have to join Goodreads.

I enjoy using the app to help make recommendations at work and to keep track of the many, many books I’d like to read. It was also helpful for motivating me, via the 2019 reading challenge, to read the whopping 14 books I read in 2019:

1. Prince Caspian (C.S. Lewis)

2. The Sunlight Pilgrims (Jenni Fagan)

3. White Fang (Jack London)

4. The Rent Collector (Camron Wright)

5. Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West (Cormac McCarthy)

6. Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi)

7. Recursion (Blake Crouch)

8. The Feather Thief (Kirk Wallace Johnson)

9. Kitchens of the Great Midwest (J. Ryan Stradal)

10. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen (Lucy Kinsley)

11. The Way it Works (William Kowalski)

12. In a Dark, Dark Wood (Ruth Ware)

13. Donner Dinner Party (Nathan Hale)

14. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Erik Larson)

I’m looking forward to some exciting new changes and hopefully many good books in 2020.


2018 in books

31 December, 2018

I don’t know that I set any goals related to reading books for this year, although I think taking a job at a library may have helped push me to read more.

What started as a book discussion book for adult English language learners turned into a fun trip down memory lane while introducing the kids to The Chronicles of Narnia. We read countless board books and picture books too, and Pony Monkey has started reading books on her own as well.

I see my list below, and while there’s always more books I wanted to have read, considering everything that has gone on this year, having thirteen books under my belt is good enough.

Here’s 2018 in books:

1) Pines (Blake Crouch)

2) Wayward (Blake Crouch)

3) The Last Town (Blake Crouch)

4) Exit West (Mohsin Hamid)

5) Einstein: His Life and Universe (Walter Isaacson)

6) The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)

7) The Magician’s Nephew (C.S. Lewis)

8) Our Souls at Night (Kent Haruf)

9) Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)

10) Rickshaw Girl (Mitali Perkins)

11) The Horse and His Boy (C.S. Lewis)

12) The Wolf Road (Beth Lewis)

13) Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk (Josh Katz)

2017 in books

30 December, 2017
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This year, we never got around to Harry Potter, and to be honest, I didn’t even attempt any new chapter books with the kids.  They keep me very, very busy and in the rare times that I do get to pick up a book that didn’t come from the children’s section, I’m doing it for me and not for the imps.

I don’t feel like I read that much this year, but looking back, I did a decent job in consuming at least a few good books.

Here’s 2017:

  1. One Second After (William Forstchen)
  2. Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix: More Than 700 Simple Recipes and Techniques to Mix and Match for Endless Possibilities (Mark Bittman)
  3. To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party (Skila Brown)
  4. Girl in the Blue Coat (Monica Hesse)
  5. 100 Deadly Skills: the SEAL Operative’s Survival Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation (Clint Emerson)
  6. The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society (Janet A. Flammang)
  7. Dark Matter (Blake Crouch)
  8. The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food (E. M. Collingham)
  9. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Michael Pollan)
  10. Hard Red Spring (Kelly Kerney)
  11. 1-2-3 Magic (Thomas Phelan)

for some things, it’s not near enough..

3 December, 2017
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This morning, I was packing box #6,452 – unframed art.  Whenever we get to the point in the packing process where our walls become bare, it starts to feel real, and in certain cases (read: most cases), I may even get a little teary eyed.


That was the case this morning.. until I remembered the difficulty I had falling asleep due to a neighbor’s dog barking incessantly around midnight last night.

Sure, I’ll miss things about living here specifically, or about living in Chicago, but there’s also a whole host of other things that I’m looking forward to having out of my life.

In no particular order (and also, not exhaustive):

  1. paying $255/month for parking and coming home to find no available parking spaces
  2. sharing an elevator with inconsiderate people who either insist on engaging my sleeping children in conversation, or who are so loud that they wake the sleeping children up
  3. garbage monsters angrily and noisily consuming trash outside our bedroom window on a daily basis at 0700
  4. the burst of trash-scented and debris-carrying air that hits you in the face when you toss your trash down the garbage chute
  5. the way noise carries in our building – goodbye man talking loudly on the phone at 0600, dogs barking constantly, and our neighbor who plays video games til 0400 – I’m sure our noisy cats & children will be missed just as much as we’ll miss the others
  6. the act of unloading groceries, sleeping children, and multiple loads of laundry and ferrying them upstairs from the underground parking garage at least once a week
  7. having to transport laundry elsewhere to wash
  8. having to wait on elevators, especially when one always seems to be out of service and another is always in use for people who are moving in/out
  9. being a traveling circus sideshow when my children don’t feel like listening and we need to leave/enter the apartment – although I’m sure their antics have served as birth control for the numerous students who live in the building
  10. never-ending construction both in and out of our building.. sometimes it starts as early as 0330!

In writing this, I noticed that it took a lot longer to come up with these ten items as compared to the things I will miss, and I think that is telling.  Still though, I look forward to what will hopefully be a quieter life that includes parking and in-home laundry facilities.


our apartment

30 November, 2017

This is our apartment.


Chances are you haven’t been to see it.

You may have asked about it though; of all the things people ask me about (toddlers asking “why?” aside), questions about our living arrangements top the list.

Are we still living in our apartment? Yes.  We are a family of four humans and two cats, choosing to live in a relatively small, one bedroom apartment.  We somehow made it work, but lately, it’s been increasingly apparent that we have outgrown this place.

Maybe, probably, and hopefully we’ll be moving soon, but for now, this is our home.  An exit strategy has been in the works for years and it’s rumored that we may even have a house to move into, but until someone gives us the keys (or until the end of the year), here we’ll remain.

Our building is fancy, but there’s absolutely nothing glamorous about having two twin mattresses on the floor, tucked into corners of the bedroom that you share with your children.  Our living room is constantly littered with books and toys that can’t be stored elsewhere because we’ve simply run out of space.  And during mealtimes, only two of us can sit at the table at one time because cramped quarters don’t allow for a bigger table.

Despite these insignificant details that I sometimes get caught up on, I’m going to miss this place.

I am going to miss SO much about this place, definitely not limited to the following:

  1. Living somewhere that is conveniently located to basically all of the highways and major roadways that go throughout our city
  2. Having five grocery stores, numerous amazing parks, and so much more all within easy walking distance
  3. Hearing a wide variety of languages spoken within the halls and on the sidewalks where we live
  4. Access to a pretty great public transportation system
  5. An indoor pool and Pure Barre studio within the building
  6. Being part of a fantastic library system
  7. Having the Children’s Museum a short walk away
  8. Living in a building staffed with some truly kind people
  9. Being a block and a half from Lake Michigan
  10. It being where we went from being a married couple, to a family of three, and then to a family of four, and literally the place where my babies were born

Happy first birthday, Duder.

8 April, 2017

This time last year, I was alternating between doing something of a side-to-side swaying dance while staring at this spot on the wall and updating some friends via group text.


After weeks of prodromal labor, and after conveniently waiting for me to nurse Pony Monkey to sleep around 20:30, at 41w5d, Little Dude decided to initiate his launch sequence.  I had a hard time taking the contractions seriously because I’d thought I was going into true labor so many times already that I couldn’t see how this time was any different.  My midwife gave me a call around 21:00 to see how I was doing, and then decided to come join us.

She arrived within 30 minutes and was soon joined by her assistant.  Pony Monkey woke shortly thereafter and joined our little birthday party. While I was doing my best to stay relaxed, she was running laps around our living room and building forts on the couch with The Husband.


During Pony Monkey’s labor and delivery, I asked that no pictures be taken.  This time around, I left my camera out, and anticipating being unable to speak, I left written instructions to take ALL the pictures, and I’m so glad I did.

A mere 3.5 hours after getting Pony Monkey to bed, our Duder Bug made his debut. Born en caul, his amniotic sac only ruptured when neither The Husband nor the midwife caught him and he landed (a few inches below) on our daybed.  Big sister and the birthday boy aside, we all had a good laugh about this.

Duder has adapted well to life on the outside.

He’s about 31″ tall, he weighs around 23lbs, he’s got 8 teeth with more on the way, he’s mastered walking and is now branching out to running and climbing, and he’s got four distinct, at least to me, words (go, get/got, that, and cat), and it seems he’s on the verge of two more (cup and mama).

What I can’t easily quantify though is how sweet this kid is.  How his tiny hand fits into mine. The way he rapidly breathes in and out of his mouth when he’s excited. His insistent “get! get!” as he offers me a piece of food he is eating. The weight of his sleepy (but not yet asleep) body as he rests his head on my shoulder.  And even the strength with which he contorts his body and struggles as I change his diapers. As ever, the beauty is in the details.

Happy birthday, Duder.  You are so loved.


a doodle for Little Dude

3 April, 2017

We’ve been busy preparing for Little Dude’s first birthday party.. so busy that I forgot his birthday was so near to F.R. Khan’s.  Google dished out a nice reminder for us this morning, by presenting us with this doodle.


The Husband and I married in Chicago’s Hancock building, which was designed by Khan.  It only seemed fitting to share one of Khan’s names with our son.

things heard from our floor’s hallway: a non-interview with a 10 month old

8 February, 2017

While waiting for the elevator today, the kids and I heard a series of “*click* bad! *click* bad!”

I’m not totally sure what was going on, but given that the occupants in that unit recently got a puppy, I’d guess that they were doing some sort of clicker training.

At some point in the last couple of weeks, I’m sure our neighbors have heard lots of cheering and clapping and the laughter of children and adults alike.  What started as Little Dude raising his arms in response to us saying “YAY!” has morphed into all of us clapping while he smiles and we take up the usual exclamation.

Other tricks that he has recently learned include:

  • drinking out of a straw
  • drinking out of a regular sippy cup
  • pointing and grunting at things he wants
  • saying “guh” within the context of where “go” would apply (also “kuh” with our cats and cars)
  • walking unassisted
  • smacking your hand away if you try to feed him something he doesn’t want
  • shaking his head to communicate “no”

He loves dancing and wrestling with his big sister, trying to “pet” the cats, and playing with our magnetic blocks.

He’s not a fan of sleeping for longer than 90 minutes at a stretch, not being held, or having the books he likes to eat taken away.

2016 in review

31 December, 2016

A year ago today, I saw a friend’s video featuring one second of her life, every day, for the month of December 2015.  It was beautiful, and I was inspired to tackle a similar project of my own.  Thanks, SD!

I’ve just finished piecing all of these seconds of my life, of my 2016, together.

The weight, and the beauty, of this video is staggering.  I’m watching it again right now, and it’s amazing how these tiny clips jog memories and such a range of emotions.  I’ve had birth and death and everything in between this year.  The events and activities I picked to film were largely happy things, so this representation of life skews a bit more to the positive side, but I suppose some parallels could be drawn there.  From seeing how much my daughter has grown to the intimacy that comes with sharing so much that most people don’t see or gloss over, this project has given me more than I had expected.

If you’ve got eight minutes to spare, check it out. It’ll be posted or linked once I can iron out some technical issues.

To everyone who joined me in this project, I thank you, and I love you.  Let’s do this again real soon, yeah?

2016 in books

30 December, 2016
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Here’s what I read this year:

  1. The Book of Aron (Jim Shepard)
  2. Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know (Emily Oster)
  3. The Japanese Lover (Isabel Allende)
  4. The Bazar of Bad Dreams (Stephen King)
  5. Salt to the Sea (Ruta Sepetys)
  6. The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah)
  7. The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money (Ron Lieber)
  8. The Running Man (Stephen King)
  9. Fates and Furies (Lauren Groff)
  10. Lights Out: A Cyberattack, a Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath (Ted Koppel)
  11. The Whole-brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind (Daniel Siegel)
  12. The Wicked + the Divine: Vol. 1, the Faust Act (Kieron Gillen)
  13. Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)

And this year, there’s an honorable mention – Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl) became the first chapter book that I read to Pony Monkey.

What will 2017 hold for us? We’ll have to wait and see.  There is talk, however, of attempting the Harry Potter series.  It’d be a first for both of us..


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