Book Update

This has nothing to do with travel OR kids! Whee!

So…my 52 Books project. After our travel in May, a summer of dealing with various health-related issues, the Olympics (which ate all my free time–the kids had never seen our TV on so often!) I realized that I was reading a romance novel too many. The point of this whole project was to give my mind some creative stretch and to flex my mental muscles, which was not getting done reading books with titles like “Slow Hands” that refer, in the first page, to “the gigolo.” Amusing? Highly. Intellectually nutritious? No. They were like drinking HFCS straight from the vat or bulking up a morning smoothie with a package of Ho-Hos. However, it did inspire a friend of mine to try to write one using only types of cheese to name the characters. With a villain named Stilton and a heroine named Brie Wensleydale, I think we’re off to a good start.

And then, caving into popular fervor and so I would be able to discuss them at parties, I read the 50 Shades trilogy.

I should have known better. My friend Geraldine warned me. I want you all to know that exactly one paragraph in, I knew two things:

1. That I would hate this trilogy, and

2. That I would hate-read every. last. word. so you won’t have to.

I was set to write a scathing and witty retort lamenting these wretched tomes and the society that supported their creation. It was going to contain actual counts of the expressions “Oh my” and “inner goddess.” (Hate. HATE. KILL IT WITH FIRE.) Before I actually wrote that review, I found these reviews instead, upon which I cannot improve. There are animated GIFs, people. LOTS of them.

Fifty Shades 1  ~ Fifty Shades 2 ~ Fifty Shades 3 (Probably NSFW, unless you have a reasonably cool boss)

And here I have to admit that we *did* discuss these books at play group (although not at the book club I joined), and quote of the month goes to a friend of mine: “These actually did improve my sex life, because I really appreciate that my husband isn’t psychotic.”

Well played.

Anyway, it got me thinking about a common defense of trashy-but-popular literature: “At least it gets people to read! They aren’t screwing around on the internet or watching TV!” I realized that I really hate that mentality. Reading a lousy, poorly-written book (or three) < watching a well-done, informative documentary on Netflix Instant. Reading infuriatingly misogynistic tripe < seeking out human stories full of heart and information (and yes, animated GIFs!) online.

Which…was exactly what I had been doing. I had let the number 52 become so important to my goal that I was reading crap to up my final count instead of reading truly excellent books to stimulate my mind. So I threw it out. Gone. No more “52 Books” goal. Just GOOD books, of which there are thousands and thanks to Kindle and the public domain, free and in my hands within seconds.

As I mentioned, I joined a book club and have LOVED the two novels I’ve read so far (The Thirteenth Tale and The Help). We’re working on Jane Eyre for October, and you really can’t get much better than the Bronte sisters. I actually visited their home in Haworth, and promptly decided to re-read Wuthering Heights and to give poor old Anne Bronte a shot. That turned into deciding to read anything I could that they had published (poems, and a few other less-known novels–contrary to belief, they weren’t a family of one-trick ponies) and to find a really good biography or two of the family.

I’ll mention the kids a little: I grabbed a copy of Temple Grandin’s The Way I See It and as her diagnosis starts to look like autism spectrum (we will know more in the coming months), it has been enormously helpful in our journey with Maggie. Helpful with Moira, too. I think all small children can benefit from the overarching theme to her advice: focus on the “can” and not “can’t,” cherish and build their strengths, remember to give concrete and tangible instruction, insist on proper manners and then model them. That’s sound stuff!

No more mental Twinkies for a while…but I’ll keep reading those 50 Shades reviews. I do love me some GIFs.



In the weeks since our conversation with Maggie’s teachers, we’ve been visited by a home support person and will meet with one again. Today we’re meeting with the speech therapists at the local children’s center. The wheels are in motion.

There was an event I didn’t mention because at the time I was still too stunned to talk about it. Maggie, captivated by the Olympics, expressed an interest in the events. Despite my hesitation, I signed her up for an introductory toddler gymnastics class anyway. This was after our meeting with the teachers and in the process of scheduling an observation at school.

In short, the class was a disaster. Without boring you with details, my view from the parent waiting area brought everything into razor-sharp focus. We knew from meeting with her teachers that something was off, but the class snowballed out of control. It wasn’t just regular toddler overstimulation; it was beyond her comprehension and ability to process what was going on. We were asked, kindly, to withhold registering her for a full class. It was shocking to behold, and the question that had been building inside of us finally clanged to the forefront, ugly and blunt: “How? How did we miss this? How could we not see?”

She’s fine. She has no idea that the class went, from a safety perspective, went poorly. I was and am still a mess. Maggie is my baby, my heart, and right now my heart is walking around with a big raw “?” over it. Aside from a lovely email conversation with my friends K & G, I had to stop talking about it with people; if I knew how I would close comments on this post. People are just…well. They’re people. They mean well, I suppose, but good intentions aren’t enough to keep stunning insensitivity from hurting.

And then I read this today:

“A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children”

Oh. My. God.

Someone needs to take the internet away from me, or I’m going to build a protective bubble around my house and never let Maggie out. I don’t think I realized the vulnerability of her position until now. How could she tell me if something was wrong without couching in her scripted code? She couldn’t. I physically became ill reading this.

We’re getting help for her. This is going to be okay. I would not choose to “cure” her if she does have a diagnosable condition, save to help her learn to verbally communicate as clearly and effectively as possible. We want to help her enough to be able to advocate for herself and be independent; in that respect, she’s well on her way.

But oh, I need the world to show a little restraint for us right now. Just…please. Don’t send me articles like this. Don’t make jokes about the condition to cheer me up or tell me, like you know my child better than I do, that she’s just a quiet late bloomer. Please.