books that make you cry

I’d always been told that becoming a mom would change my life in unpredictable and dramatic ways. But I expected things like lack of sleep, being boring to those who do not have children, and getting fat(ter). I did not expect a new phase in my reading choices, although in hindsight each of my major life transitions has resulted in a new favorite book genre.

As a child, I was a fan of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries … so much that I was forbidden by my 4th grade teacher to use any of them for book reports. As I neared my tween years, my reading choices gave way to coming of age novels like those by Judy Blume, Norma Fox Mazer, and Cynthia Voight.  My teen years were filled with horror books by Steven King and Dean Koontz, and simply twisted books like the Flowers in the Attic Series. No, I wasn’t really a happy teen, and this was reflected in my reading choices.

As an adult, I’ve been a fan of the suspense/thriller genre, esp. legal thrillers by John Grisham, Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, and Scott Turow. My early thirties saw a brief period where I devoured chick-lit. Probably due to my own relationship struggles and coming to terms with being thirty (remember when that seemed SO old?).

In recent years, I’ve turned to primarily non-fiction with a focus on the social sciences, popular science, and women’s studies. Favorites including books by Mary Roach (Stiff) and Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, Tipping Point). Much of this has coincided with my renewed interest in education and my specific area of study which involves better understanding humans in order to design better user interfaces for them.

These days, I find myself engrossed in some seriously sad books involving themes like loss of a child. I don’t get it. As a mom who can not fathom the thought of losing a child, why would I read books that dwell on this subject? It’s almost like when I was a teenager and would intentionally listen to music that I know would depress me (ie “Depressed” Mode).

Anyhow, the latest book to make me cry is Jodi Picoult’s, My Sister’s Keeper. As a recent convert to Picoult novels, I was aware of this one before the movie came out, and have held off seeing it until I read the book. Talk about a moral dilemma. For those of you who may not know the premise of this story, a child is diagnosed with Leukemia at age 2, and given a low prognosis for survival. Unable to find a suitable donor, the parents conceive a “designer” baby who will be a perfect genetic match, and plan to use this baby’s cord blood for their sick daughter. Due to the cord blood, the sick child goes into remission, but over the years needs additional platelets and eventually a kidney which it is assumed that the younger sibling will provide. The younger sibling, now 13, begins to question her role and the expectation that she will continue to provide for her older sister, and in turn files for medical emancipation. The story raises many powerful questions such as whether minors should have the right to refuse medical treatments and how much should one do for one child at the expense of another child.

Books like these, though depressing, help put perspective to the chaos that is sometimes my life. I am blessed with two happy, healthy children. We live in a comfortable home and are not wanting for anything. Our life is pretty good. I can’t imagine the emotional trauma that plagues families with a chronically ill child or who experience an equally devastating event. I guess it’s taken being a mom to appreciate stories like this because it reminds me of just how fortunate I am. And now that I am a mom, I can put myself in the shoes of the mom in My Sister’s Keeper and not outright dismiss her actions as wrong, whereas I think I would have before this life changing experience.

Still, some happy books might be in order. Any recommendations?

sick + sick + sick + sick = house of woe

Ugh, what a week last week was! We’ve certainly had our share of colds in this household, but this one was a real whammy. And we all got it at the same time. Not fair, these things are supposed to be staggered. At least then I might have gotten a little bit of sleep to help me recover quicker and been able to pass the time catching up on episodes of Lost or Dexter – instead the hours and minutes ticked by in slow motion as we all OD’d on kid TV. Please oh please, no more Yo Gabba Gabba!

The interesting thing is that we all experienced the same cold in very different ways:

  • Ashton had a fever off and on for three days including chills/sweats one night. Coughing so bad he’d barf up his food and coughing fits would keep him up at night crying in pain. Went on a food strike too where he’d only eat soft foods – ie. lots of yogurt and bananas. Was very tired and lethargic, and still not sleeping well at night after 8 days of cold.
  • Brennan only had fever for a few hours. Skipped the nasal congestion and went immediately to phlegmy cough and wheezing (he sounds like a little dinosaur when he coos). Doesn’t act sick during the day, but very fussy at night and will not sleep unless held. Reflux has increased significantly.
  • Daddy mostly tired and lethargic, with slight congestion and cough
  • Mommy suffered mainly sinus headaches, with watery eyes and itchy, sneezy nose. Mild sore throat, but mainly from dryness of antihistamines. Still heavily congested and irritating cough after 6 days.

The week’s highlights included a 4-hour bout of toddler insomnia one night where symptoms were nearly absent – he just didn’t want to sleep. A half hour of Blues Clues finally did the trick. And of course a lovely trip to Costco one afternoon when Ashton seemed on the mend and full of energy culminated in a major barfing episode in the middle of the bakery section. Only minutes before he had been joyously running around the meat freezers. All over my plain white tee-shirt, in my hair, through his clothes, and on the floor. Thank goodness he missed the cupcakes that he was poking at only seconds earlier.

Photo sharing and baby blogs… the conundrum

Every since Ashton was born, I’ve been trying to find the best way to share photos with friends and family, as well as keep record of important milestones, events, etc. The latter was due to my dislike of every print baby-book I found. Too cutesy-gaggy!

For most of Ashton’s life, we’ve resolved the photo challenge by using Kodak gallery. This was chosen not for it’s outstanding features, but rather that it offered photo streams to wireless Kodak digital picture frames. We purchased such frames for the Grandmas and for a time, it was a great way to keep them updated with the latest photos. The problem is that Kodak charges the user to get copies of the photos, and I wanted them to be able to print any photo they liked. And then there were the technical difficulties mainly due to wireless connectivity issues. I also didn’t like that Kodak required a login to the site and implemented a flashy slideshow interface that was super slow.  I think this discouraged other interested persons from viewing the photos. Not to mention that posting the photos was super slow. Fortunately, I found a Firefox plugin that made this somewhat easier.

Then there is the Facebook issue. Most of my friends/family want photos via this venue. Up until very recently, Kodak did not have an app for Facebook, so I had to post photos in two places. I gave up on this rather quickly, as Facebook’s photo interface is also quite clunky. I’ve had to make an exception for Brennan photos, as everything else was in a state of migration during his first month.

The third photo issue has to do with copyright. When you post photos to a free site like Kodak or Flickr, you transfer copyright of your photos to them via the legal agreement you have to click okay to when signing up. Though it isn’t likely to happen, these companies could use my photos without my authorization for whatever purpose they see fit. Neither Daniel nor I are comfortable with this. I imagine that Facebook has the same issue.

So, to address all these issues, we are hosting our own photo sharing site via open-source software (Gallery) installed on my web hosting account. No login is required, we retain the copyright, and any photo can be saved in full-resolution (and printed), by simply right-clicking on it. It was very easy to install and fairly easy to configure. I still have to move over quite a few more photos though. Over time, I hope to customize the theme to give it our own look. I’m also experimenting with plugins that would give it an RSS feed, with the goal of feeding it into Facebook. I can’t imagine that they hold the copyright on content imported into Facebook this way, however I haven’t actually checked into this yet.

As for the baby-book/blog issue … I started out using a site called Kidmondo. It is designed as an online baby-book. For the first few months it was ideal, as I didn’t have time to setup anything of my own. I didn’t like that it required a login as well, though I appreciate the attempts to secure your baby’s information. I just know that people tend to forget usernames and passwords all too easily (and especially with sites they only check into so often). My other concern was that Kidmondo was a startup and offering their service for free (with no ads). What would happen to my baby-book if they went under (a likely possibility considering no forseeable revenue)? NOTE – I just realized the other day, that I still have Ashton’s first two-months of entries to transfer over. Yikes!

So, after I caught my breath, I setup a WordPress blog on my server at home. This has worked well for a long time, however I’ve become paranoid about losing the blog as well due to my lack of diligence about backups and the increasing age of my server.

As a result, I’ve moved the blog to my web hosting account at Go-Daddy. With so many paying customers, I’m certain their server farm is more reliable than mine and updated more frequently. I’ve made use of a domain name that I bought a year ago on a whim ( and decided to turn the site into a personal blog as well as baby-blog. WordPress migrated fairly easily using the import tool, although the photos still link to the old blog site. This will have to be edited in time.

Then of course there is the big issue. What will happen to this online content over time? Technology changes so fast, that I anticipate that the current format of my photos and blogs will not be accessible in ten years. Fortunately I am married to a storage systems expert, so if I keep backups, I’m sure my data will be recoverable much longer than it would be for the average person. Still, print format is the only thing that stands the test of time. And judging by the state of my great-grandmother’s scrapbook, even that lifespan is pretty limited. Still, I am dedicated to preparing traditional scrapbooks for my children as well as getting print-outs of their blogs, so that they’ll at least have a record long enough to show their kids and grandkids.

I don’t even want to think about how all this online information will effect this current generation, where privacy is becoming obsolete. It gives me a headache…