52 Books: The Conclusion

I have a confession to make: Infinite Jest did not happen.

It’s the weight, I think. That book is a veritable door stop; about 20 times the size of my Kindle. Technology may have made us more efficient, but it has absolutely weakened our wrists.

Aside from my Infinite fail, a LOT of reading was done in 2012. 52 books worth? Not quite. I fell short of my goal and read a mere 34 novels, epic poems, anthologies, and works of nonfiction; I only failed to complete one on that list (I’ll get to that).

Considering how much we travel (and I never do read on vacation; if I get a moment of quiet I’m normally asleep), the medical nonsense of 2012 that ate into my conscious-focusing time, and other time-consuming hobbies like making fun of survivalists I’m impressed that I got that far. I began but did not finish most of Charlotte Mason’s first volume on homeschooling. It drags a bit. I also read two sewing books but since they’re mostly patterns they don’t count. Ditto cookbooks. Overall, I’m really pleased that I undertook this exercise. Having both a Kindle and a Kindle app on my iPod Touch were critical for achieving this list; sneaking 10 minutes here and there in the car while waiting to pick someone up or reading late at night without keeping Tom awake wouldn’t have been possible if I was lugging a typical book around. It’s nice to have physical print but for convenience the e-book format can’t be beat.

And now for the superlatives!

Least favorite book that I couldn’t bring myself to finish: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I spent as much time trying to drag myself through this book as I did actually finishing others, so it has a final place on the list.

Least favorite book that I finished: three-way (naughty) tie between 50 Shades of Grey, 50 Shades Darker, and 50 Shades Freed. Why so much hatred? I’ve gotten into it before and I could write volumes more, but I’ll let this stand for itself:


So there.

Book I didn’t expect to enjoy much and loved: The Thirteenth Tale. Total book hangover after that one, and I plan to reread it soon.

Best memoir: Kitchen Confidential. I LOVE Anthony Bourdain.

Most conflicted reaction: I Am In Here. This book about a young autistic girl, as written by her mother, had occasional moments of “Oh. YES. THAT.” sprinkled in amidst about 20,000 other words of “No. NO. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, WOMAN? Your daughter is not sick or broken; stop trying to fix her.” Maggie is verbal; she struggles less with her communicative and sensory challenges than other children. We are still waiting on an official diagnosis, so we can’t even say autism for sure (even though we’ve been led to expect it). But she, and other children like her, are whole and well and capable of valuable contributions just as she is. “Fixing” her is not an issue because she is not broken; the author praises her daughter for her hard work learning to communicate at the same time that she despairs and rends her metaphorical garments and even brings her nonverbal daughter to a faith healer. Yeah. I can’t. I just can’t. Readjusting your expectations is hard and I know what it is like to be scared for your child; I can’t pretend to know much about her life. But I believe her daughter would be better served by a mother who accepts her without trying to force her into a role that goes against who she is.

Favorite laugh: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. If you don’t know who Beyonce the Chicken is, you need to.

Most helpful: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It really is as good as they say, and not just for business. This changed how I parent and communicate with the girls and how Tom and I evaluate our progress and where we want to go. It’s excellent.

Favorite overall: Millennium Trilogy (you know it better as the three-book series that begins with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). Interesting, well-plotted, enjoyable, and went fast. That’s my kind of book(s).

Onward for 2013! What are you reading these days?



All About Moira

Sometime in the nights before Christmas, someone invaded our house.



Does she look familiar to you? She should. As my friend T observed, “It looks like Cindy Lou Who defected and joined ranks with the Grinch.” Then my friend A provided a helpful graphic:



I spy Grinchy plotting.

This child. Oh my goodness. Moira may be the first 13-month-old ever who learned “Yes!” before “No!” except she uses it to thwart us. Example: Moira climbs onto the couch and starts to ascend the bookshelf. “Moira, no no, don’t climb the bookshelf!” Moira squeals “Yes! Yes” and nods her head vigorously…and keeps climbing. Her enthusiasm for life is infectious; all of our friends and relatives have completely given up any pretense of trying not to laugh when she gets up to mischief.


Like Tabby Wheelwright in A Prayer for Owen Meany, Moira does not appear to be manipulative. She just does what she wants to do, but is so charming and funny and loving that you forget why you were angry. How can you be angry at a face like the one above when you find her in a cabinet you told her not to touch, or when right after she does the opposite of what you want her to do–nodding and shouting “Yes! Yes!” the whole time–she throws herself on you in a gigantic bear hug? You can’t. It’s impossible.

Moira also inherited the super-extrovert gene from her grandfather. In a family of introverts, Moira is a standout. Today she skipped her nap until 2:30 and took a truncated car version because of Maggie’s playgroup, and I’m here to tell you that she was fine. Awesome. Life of the party, and she ate sand and snacks and giggled and danced with the other playgroup kids like someone put Pixie Stix in her water bottle. She’s just that kind of a kid.

Unfortunately, she does not enjoy being alone and is a really light sleeper. She usually wakes at the end of a REM cycle and immediately starts wailing like she’s being cut with razor blades. Then…this is what I see when I open my eyes enough to check, except in her bed wearing a blanket as a hat:



She’s just so HAPPY to see me! I can’t be mad. Well, at 3am I often am irritated, but it doesn’t last. That smile just kills me.

Moira says things other than “Yes! Yes!” now, too. She’ll point and ask “What dis? What dis? Nuz [nose]? Bubble? Up! Up! UP MUM-MUM.” She calls me “Mum-Mum.” It’s so charming and British. Moira can also put away close to half of a roasted chicken with singular determination and efficiency, and if your fingers get too close to her mouth while she’s enjoying her meal she will bite you. 

Not kidding, either. This one? She’s got a temper.


This one has been suffering from teething since five months old, when she broke two teeth, and then the lead-up to age 9 months when she cut six teeth in ten days. If that last sentence didn’t scare you into celibacy, you didn’t read it carefully enough. She’s popping four new teeth again and her first instinct when hurting or exhausted is to bite. It’s rough, but it’s really her only flaw–that, and the sleeping, but that’s getting better.

Moira’s just so FUN. She’s a gregarious, extroverted, mischievous ball of energy and she’s on the go constantly. She’s into everything. If Moira wants you to be her friend, she sits on you until you pay attention. If you rub her belly, she literally purrs! Like a kitten! A giant ginger kitty!

Do I just love and adore her madly? 


Yes! Yes! 

Of the Fittest

We survived! The girls are, after a week and a half of misery, on regular sleep schedules and are ready to move and be active again. Moira’s cutting more molars (How many teeth does she need? Surely not all twenty) but other than that things are better. Tom and I never did get sick, but Tom’s poor visiting dad got slammed. How he made it onto the plane and back to America, I will never know. I mentioned to a friend today that the girls hardly ever get sick, which I thought was true, but Tom reminded me that Moira’s had a constant low-level runny nose with occasional coughs for…well…she was born in Yorkshire, okay? That comes with a certain amount of perpetual lung crud.

Maggie’s Hawaiian-to-English transplanted constitution is fortified with high early levels of tropical sunshine with a cast-iron finish of northern England resilience, so for her to spend a full week and a half sick instead of a day or two here and there is a rare event and one that we can actually just about set our calendars to expect. We have noticed for two Decembers now that she gets sick in the lead-up to the darkest day of the year and then also that two Marches running have seen her fallen with vicious viruses (roseola and swine flu, respectively). We joked about her having seasonal affective disorder but after last week it isn’t as funny as it was. Once is an event, twice is a repeat occurrence, three times is a pattern–we’ll see if we spend next Christmas aiming her head toward a bucket and soaking her face with cool cloths.

The best news is that they were feeling well enough for Tom and I to start seriously discussing travel, which is something we can’t fathom when they’re sick. When both kids are sick at the same time we stare at each other with slack, resigned faces and wonder how people did it before pizza delivery. Now that they’re well we can contemplate life outside of our house beyond the radius of the supermarket two miles away and the Domino’s up the block.

First up: Malta. Malta was an impulse, thanks to cheap hotels and affordable Ryan Air flights. Next is Belgium for seven days, to which we will be traveling by ferry! Maggie doesn’t know that yet, so we anticipate great excitement and hope to whet her appetite for sea travel (more in a moment). We may try to sneak something in for the Easter term break. And then…

…a cruise! Our first cruise!

Yes, we are going to become boat people. As internet rabbit holes go, cruising is almost as scary to me as those survivalist canners I mentioned before. The forums and discussions dedicated to cruising as a way of life are vast. Endless. I’m doing a blog for Tripwolf soon about why we chose to cruise instead of doing four our five little trips as some friends suggested we do instead for the same amount of money, but the short version is this:

1. Four or five little trips mean lots of flights, whereas the cruise leaves an hour and a half from our house. Flights mean people in a tin can, breathing recirculated air, which means pestilence and WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THAT THANK YOU. Ahem. 

2. Maggie needs the continuity of her speech therapy, so one block where she’s gone is better than several.

3. Two small kids. 24 hour buffets. Amen.

7 countries in five months. 2012, I’m not sorry to see you go. Bring on the year of exploration. This is going to be our year.