Update Week 59

Hi all! Real life has been a bitch lately, so I think I will go for a fresh start. I have 15 book reviews that I’m behind on, but I think I’ll narrow it down to only a few that I really want to write a review on. That will make catching up much easier. I therefore will work on reviews for Scarlet Letter, Gulliver’s Travels, Much Ado About Nothing, and Brave New World over the next couple of weeks.

We’re currently working on getting IEPs for my two stepkids, as they have both been having a lot of stress lately. What a confusing process! The school’s social worker talked us out of doing one last year, because it was “too late in the year,” and he talked us out of doing one at the beginning of this year because “let’s see what happens.” So now that things are bad, we don’t have IEPs! We won’t let him talk us out of it again!

One fun thing I did in the last two weeks is go on a date with Aaron. We went out to a brewery for dinner and to a comedy club at the Mall of America afterwards. Here’s our date-night picture:


I also snapped a good picture of my mom with IL. Her Alzheimer’s is getting a lot worse lately, and dad has been talking more and more of selling the house and going into assisted living/memory care. I have been working hard on cleaning out the stuff in their house so that it is easier to move when the time comes. It’s shocking how much stuff one accumulates in a lifetime.


Here’s a picture of IL “enjoying” the first really sunny day we’ve had this “Spring.”


And a picture of D holding IL:


In other news, I have decided to change my diet plan because, since January, I have simply maintained weight and have not lost any. I am now doing calorie cycling. I will eat 1150 calories on each weekday and 2650 calories on weekends. Theoretically, this is supposed to discourage long-term leptin changes common in low-calorie diets, blah, blah, blah. I am skeptical of diets which don’t have a lot of research to back them up…but I figure this plan gives me days that I keep low calorie count and days that I can cheat without cheating. That’s my main problem with a normal diet is that I cheat on a daily basis, because every day seems like a good cheating day. 🙂 Obviously, I intend on supplementing with exercise. Now that it’s spring, maybe I can save up to buy a hiking baby backpack! He’s just old enough that I’m willing to try him out in one.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading

Due to real life getting in the way, I haven’t read anything except the IEP guide recently. But hopefully today I can get back on track.




Update Week 57

Well, this is why it’s hard for me to post reviews anymore. This is me trying to write my review of Scarlet Letter, which never got finished. I had to wedge IL between my tummy and a pillow against the table in order to prop him up so I could type.

The week went really well. I had an interview with a really promising biomed startup company here in the Twin Cities. They make bioartificial kidneys and livers that they hope will be transplantable within the next 10 years. I enjoy being a homemaker, but it would enjoy using my PhD again even more. So it’s an exciting prospect. My phone interview on Tuesday went well, and it was followed by another phone interview on Friday. This upcoming Monday, I have a 2 hour in-person interview. So wish me luck!

This week was also M’s first grade concert and art show. Unfortunately we were way in back, so my pictures of him are very zoomed in. But there he is in front wearing the purple shirt.

And here is his self portrait, which had been chosen to be displayed in the district office.

Here is the rest of the family waiting for the concert to begin.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading

I’ve already cut down the number of books I’m reading to 4. Not pictured is the audiobook I’m listening to. This is rare for me, but I can’t decide what to listen to next (because I’m waiting for several holds to come through at the library and one has been “any day” for about a week).

Completed in the last week


M pounded out 4 of the Dragon Masters books aloud to me this week. I also finished Brave New World. No others, since I gave up on two books last week.

Update Week 56


photo of white vehicle crossing a tunnel
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com


Well, it’s Saturday again, and another winter storm is about to hit the Twin Cities. Apparently 6-12 inches of heavy, wet snow is expected starting around noon today. Maybe this will be the last storm? Maybe?

This week was uneventful. Partly, that’s because we forgot to take D to her Pinewood Derby weigh-in on Thursday, so she didn’t get to race on Friday. I guess it was partly her responsibility to remember as well, but I do feel pretty bad about it. Oh well, at least she enjoyed making her car.

Feeding therapy for M has been going well, finally. Now that the stress is off eating a variety of foods, M is eating more regularly again. At least he did THIS week. We’ll see how long it continues.

IL has, of course, stopped rolling over. I think he figures he has that skill down and he doesn’t need any more practice.

I had a reminder earlier this week of why dad and mom should move to assisted living. Dad was out raking his roof and he fell down in the snow. He couldn’t figure out how to get back up again, and he was out of breath. So he just decided to take a nap in the snow (it was a little under 0 degrees F at the time). Luckily, he managed to crawl to the sidewalk after a short rest, so it ended well enough. But it’s scary to think how long it would have taken my Alzheimer’s stricken mom to notice my dad’s absence, find out where he was, and call 911. And does she even know how to call 911? Over a year ago, when I was living there, I heard him say “call 911” in the middle of the night, and she said “I don’t know how.” (I called 911 that time, of course.) This is not reassuring at all. 😦 But I guess lots of people go through this with their aging parents.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading

I’m getting back into the habit of reading a lot of books at once. I generally keep that up for a while, and then taper back off to one nonfiction and one fiction. But for now, I’m reading 5 books and listening to one.



I finally finished Washington Black and American Overdose. I’d set Washington Black aside months ago only 50 pages from the end (it was the end of a reading-a-lot-at-the-same-time era). I’m not sure what took me so long with American Overdose, as it was excellent, and I’d been reading it since before it was published, lol. M read the 3rd Dragon Masters book to me, and I read the second Emily Windsnap book to D. I’m reading the Ranger’s Apprentice Series for my own amusement. It’s excellent so far.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Summary: In this open letter to his son, Coates discusses how black people in the US have lost their bodies – first to slavery and now to statistically disproportionate murder, imprisonment, and threats.

My Thoughts: This was a short work, but a powerful one. Coates makes the point that “race” is a false way of categorizing humans and that people who view themselves as “white” in the US have built their empire with the blood of people they view as “black.” It is a very personal account of how Coates feels that he and his friends have lost their bodies to this empire. I think it was the personal nature of his letter, combined with intelligent points, that has made this work touch the hearts of so many Americans. This is a must-read for everyone, no matter their race.

4 and half snowflakes

American Overdose, by Chris McGreal


Summary: In this heartbreaking work, McGreal covers a detailed history of illegal distribution of opioids by doctors, immoral advertising and drug pushing by big pharma, and the failures of the DEA and FDA in regulating prescriptions. He described how the careless over-prescription of opioids led to addiction, and too frequently to a switch to heroin and/or to overdose.

My thoughts: This book was utterly tragic. I am horrified at the failures of these powerful people who are responsible for keeping us safe. I already knew about the opioid epidemic and how people were switching from prescribed medications to heroin, but I had no clue how careless the FDA and DEA had been. I had no idea about the magnitude of immoral advertising by drug companies and of the illegal prescribing by doctors. I realize, of course, that most doctors prescribe as they see best, and that this book spent a lot of time focusing on a few doctors and pharmacies who did their best to make fortunes off of illegal prescriptions – so I’m not trying to say that all doctors are to blame. That was not McGreal’s point, either, though he did point out that even doctors who are prescribing as they see best may be working under misinformation about how well opioids work on chronic pain and about the addictiveness  of these medicines.

This is by far the most powerful bit of nonfiction I’ve read in quite a while. I would highly recommend this book to everybody – it’s a book that should be read. Especially for people who blame the “addicts” rather than recognizing the failures in the system that led to their addictions.

5 snowflakes


Vaccine Race, by Meredith Wadman


Summary: In this fantastic example of journalistic research, Wadman wrote about the crippling effects of various diseases, especially of birth defects. Diseases covered included rubella, polio, rabies, chicken pox, measles and hepatitis A. She then described the scientific efforts put forth to find vaccines for these diseases, as well as political roadblocks and legal/moral failings of some of the scientists.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. It was well-researched and interesting. I didn’t realize what kinds of political roadblocks were present in the development of vaccines. She mostly avoided the topic of vaccine deniers and the misconception that vaccines cause autism. That’s probably for the best, because the book was already rather long. However, I do feel that the story is a tiny bit incomplete without covering it a little bit. Despite this omission, I loved this book and understand why it was on the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist.

Update week 55


This has been a good week! Besides finding his thumb, IL learned to roll over to his tummy AND to reach and grab. Apparently, these are both 3-4 month milestones, and he turns three months this coming week, so he’s making good progress.

It was a much more relaxing week now that we’ve made a new rule with M’s eating (he can eat a hot dog every night if he wants to, but he has to make it himself). We figured that trying to introduce variety at the same time as increasing calories was causing more stress than it was worth. We’re just going to focus on getting calories into him.

So far, I’ve had a relaxing weekend. Aaron and I had our book club with my friend Liz – we discussed Between the World and Me. We then watched some Doctor Who. We’re up to the first Weeping Angels episode, which Aaron is eager to see. But he has to wait until next month now, hehehehe.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading

I’ve changed my audiobook plan for the year – I’m going to focus on reading books that I already have in my library. Obviously, I won’t manage to make ALL of my audiobooks ones I already own, but if I listen to 3 hours a day I can read all books in my Audible Library by next January. lol My first choice from MtAudibleTBR is this fantastic biography of Alan Turing.

Completed this week


Yeah, that’s right. I found an audiobook of Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant playing Benedik.