My Sleep Deprivation

It’s my own fault. There were no babies crying in the middle of the night. No emergencies. No fire drills. None of that.

Just me, an old friend, some books, Chinese learning materials, and a cache of DVR’d episodes.

As a result, I’ve been staying up until at least 2:30am for the last week or so (and to be honest, most of it has been until 3:30am). I am super tired. Hapa Papa has been a prince by letting me sleep in and occasionally, even taking naps. But of course, because I have been spending wasting all my time on other things, I have been a bad blogger and not written anything substantial.

(I do have to say that hanging out with an old college friend is DEFINITELY not a waste of time! It was fantastic and totally worth the lack of sleep!)

However, my loss should totally be your gain – even in the midst of my “filler” post. After all, it has been awhile since my last book recommendation, right? So, here then, is what has kept me up late this past week.

A high school friend recommended a graphic novel series called Locke & Key (affiliate link) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. They are collected in six volumes of trade paperbacks and I can see why critics have been hailing the series as this generation’s Sandman.

It is a horror/fantasy series concerning the mysterious Keyhouse mansion in Lovecraft, MA, strange keys that confer awesome powers, demon dimensions, and the tragic family that lives there. Be warned: there is a crapton of violence, a staggering body count, and lots of swearing. (For some of you, that may be all the recommendation you need.) I didn’t realize Cookie Monster was looking over my shoulder and suffice to say, even a few of the panels had him asking me questions in which I did not feel up to explaining. This is definitely an adult book.

The other series I’ve just started is the The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. I’ve only read the first book of the trilogy (finished it this morning at 2:30am and then Glow Worm woke up at 5am – DOH) but I have on high authority that the rest of the trilogy is just as good. A noirish fantasy series (likely feudal/medievalesque backdrop), there is a lot of black humor and exhilarating fight scenes. I am basically going to be MIA from parenting the next few days due to finishing the next two books.

Alright. I think I have to feed my children or take them to school or something. Go to the Amazon, the bookstore, or the local library STAT and get these works into your brain, folks. Have an awesome Monday.

Snapshots of My Life

I have a few half-posts brewing in the back of my mind but none of them are quite gelling. (Ok, that is being generous. Maybe 20% posts.) So, to bring in the weekend, I have a few random snippets to share. Welcome back, Oh Handy Listicle!

1) I had my first caffeinated beverage in at least two years this morning. (An Earl Grey from Peet’s Coffee & Tea.) I think they gave me a double bag. It has been at least four hours and my hands are STILL shaking. You can imagine how that messes up my constant texting.

2) Glow Worm has started throwing everything he can into the bath tub. It’s a regular raven’s nest (just not quite as shiny).

How does she do it?

How does she do it?

3) Gamera has been exhausted every day because this has been her first full week of preschool. Even though they are half days and mostly play-based, I think her little brain is tired. I have mixed feelings if she ends up falling asleep and napping. On the one hand, it is awesome because hey, one less kid to think about. On the other hand, this does make fall asleep much later. (Yesterday, she fell asleep at 6pm and slept until 6:30am this morning. It was fantastic.)

Bonus: when she does nap, she quite often falls asleep in the most astonishing positions.

4) I know I should be concerned that Hapa Papa and Cookie Monster play Halo 3 at least thirty minutes a day, but it really is so cute the time they spend cozying together on the couch shooting bad guys and aliens. (Hapa Papa briefly tried Call of Duty but found it too disturbing to shoot actual people. We have standards, people.) Plus, who doesn’t enjoy hearing their 4.75 year old discussing the merits of one or two guns or long guns with their dad?

Sigh. I am really just too lazy to get off my ass and get Cookie Monster addicted to a more appropriate video game. And seriously. He’s completely and utterly addicted. His amazing powers of negotiation are out and on full display when it comes to bargaining for more time with “Adventures.” (What we call video games.)

5) I’m having a my first ever garage sale tomorrow morning with a bunch of my friends. Thank God for the internet on how to have a multi-family garage sale. Anything we don’t sell, we donate. If you live in the area, are my friend in real life, and want more stuff at deep discount, PM me for the address.

6) As a result of my post on Wednesday, so many of my friends have reached out to me with abuse stories of their own. Thank you for trusting me with your stories and your painful pasts. I pray we all find the time and grace to treat ourselves gently. We are creating NEW stories for ourselves and our children.

Also, though I feel relief in not being alone, I am also so grieved that I have so much company. It really just goes to show you that we never truly know what is going on for another person – no matter how “put together” they are.

7) Just borrowed a book with stuffed animal knitting patterns. Super excited to try them out. Also, I am clearly delusional about how much free time I have and how I will be making use of it.

8) The older kids are now officially in preschool five days a week for a half day. Conveniently, Glow Worm naps most of that time. I should be utilizing that time on cleaning the house and blogging and writing and all sorts of vital houseworky stuff. But most likely, I will be reading novels, catching up with TV, and apparently, knitting stuffed animals.

I can’t wait.

9) I am pleased to report that even a month later, our Taiwan trip was a rousing success. Cookie Monster and Gamera now occasionally argue/fight in Mandarin. They also randomly play with each other (or have conversations with themselves) in Mandarin. WINNING!

10) Hapa Papa is awesome and has taken over breakfast duties. I can now start the day off without yelling at my kids. He is a much kinder and gentler soul.

11) There are few things as beautiful and breathtaking like the open, wide smiles of my children. They are too precious.

12) I love it when Glow Worm smirks while nursing. Sometimes, he will chuckle, too. Or he’ll brace a hand against my chest, as if he were both pushing me away and yet leaning in for support. He often kicks his fat little feet in happiness and pull on his curly, sweaty hair. I love breastfeeding.

13) I am leaving my kids for five days next week while I attend Type-A Con in Atlanta. I have never been apart from any of my children for that long. I am worried that when I come back, Glow Worm will have weaned himself. The thought of missing out on another six months of nursing breaks my heart. I won’t let it happen! More boob for you, mister!

14) I have been reading a lot this summer and I’m super excited about The Gentleman Bastard book series. There are currently three out of seven books out, and they are all totally awesome and worth it. Just think: Ocean’s Eleven type confidence men and heists set in a medieval fantasy world. Plus, the most awesome and creative usage of swears that I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

I was going to write a long book post including this book, but I am too lazy. But I really want people to read it and enjoy the series with me. Also, for people to endure the wait for the next book along side me. Do it. I’ve even conveniently provided Amazon affiliate links for you. Don’t say I never did anything for you. (Oh, also, they are long. And have somewhat slower setups. Be patient. They are FANTASTIC. IF anything, you will be educated in new and improved ways to swear.)

Here they are: The Lies of Locke Lamora; Red Seas Under Red Skies; and The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch.

All right folks. I’m off to pretend to parent and ignore my children while keeping a cursory eye on them. (In other words: read a book while Hapa Papa watches the kids.) Have a great weekend!

But We Already Read an Asian Book

At our Book Club meeting tonight, a woman said something that I can’t seem to shake off. Now, before I get into it, please understand that I’m not mad at this woman herself. I’m annoyed at the comment she made. Also – I don’t think she is any more or less prejudiced than I am and people in general. She is funny, a wonderful human being, and I really do love her. I don’t think the less of her and will continue to enjoy her company.

Ok. So enough disclaiming.

Tonight, we were throwing out books to consider reading for the second half of 2014. We all contributed several selections and I mentioned the book, When My Name Was Keoko, from my last post. “It’s about two Korean kids during WWII and the Japanese occupation of Korea,” I said.

“But we already read an Asian book!” my friend replied.

In shock, I exclaimed, “What? We’ve read hundreds of books about white people and I’ve never complained! But we can’t read two books with Asians in it?” I tried to keep my voice light and easy. Teasing. I wasn’t really mad – but I also wanted to get my point across.

“I read stories about white people all the time! I’m surrounded by white people! Hapa Papa’s half white! I don’t complain! Sheesh! But we can’t read more than one book about Asians? I also recommended a book where the main character is half black. Is that too many books about colored people?” We all laugh at this.

Realizing the pickle she got herself into, but also joking along, my friend says, “Well, we did read The Help a few years ago, so I think we’re okay.”

“Besides, it’s about the Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII. I never knew about that, did you?”

Another woman said, “No, I didn’t. That sounds interesting.”

“Well, I’m sick of reading about WWII, too,” muttered my friend.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “I’m sick of reading about the Holocaust.” (We have read a LOT of books about the Holocaust in recent years.)

From there, we moved the conversation along. The whole time, no one was offended and there really was a lot of laughter and gentle poking fun. And to be fair, this woman has recommended several books with people of color in the past. But the incident still bothers me because it is indicative of our culture at large.

As much as I appreciate Asian American History month or Black History month, I often feel as if it lets folks off the hook. Like, “Oh, we have a separate month where it’s an anomaly to talk about people of color. But when that blip is over, we can go back to our regularly scheduled programming and talk about real people and real stories. You know, about white people.”

Stories about people who are not white should not be relegated to some “colored” or “very special episode” ghetto. Just because we’ve heard one “Asian” story doesn’t mean that we’re done with our quota for the year. I mean, for crying out loud. How many times have we heard the good girl meets bad boy story? Like, at least a million times. No one is claiming that we shouldn’t have any more of those. (Although, maybe we should.)

Look. Are white people’s imaginations so utterly pathetic that they can’t possibly imagine identifying with a character that is not the same race as them? I mean, millions of black, brown, red, and yellow folks do every single fucking day. Just because we’ve had more practice doesn’t mean our imaginations wouldn’t like a break now and then.

I know we’re always given complete bullshit marketing answers about how white people don’t consume movies/books/shows with POC main characters. I get that companies are in the business to make money. But seriously? Aren’t there billions of non-white people in the world? Have some gumption, story tellers. PLEASE.

In the meantime, I will go out of my way to actively buy and purchase stories with people of color. It’s the least I could do.

Our Family Stories

I recently read a book called, When My Name Was Keoko (affiliate link). It’s a YA book from the perspectives of two Korean siblings, a boy and a girl, and their experiences of growing up in Japanese occupied Korea during WWII. I loved it. Of course, I am biased because I do enjoy YA books and historical fiction in particular because then I can learn history without having to “learn” history. (Side note: Who knew that Japan occupied Korea from 1910-1945? Not me!)

The book touched on hard and terrible subjects without becoming maudlin or manipulative or overly depressing. (A somewhat difficult task considering the subject matter.) The author, Linda Sue Park, did a wonderful job. However, for the first time, I found myself conflicted when reading about this horrible time during Japanese history.

You see, my kids are part Japanese and it is very difficult for me to reconcile wartime atrocities with their cultural heritage. After all, the US was founded on genocide and slavery and I am just fine with living in the US. Plus, I am also okay with Germans (my kids are also part German) as well as less okay with the Chinese part. (I have my own reasons for my distinct distaste for Mainland China.) I am very fine with the Taiwanese part – but that’s because I’m extremely biased in my opinion of my own people. (Who isn’t?)

Anyhow, I found myself once again ashamed at my complete lack of historical awareness and a renewed desire to actively learn for myself (as well as teach my children) our Chinese/Taiwanese/Japanese history. Up until this point, I must say I didn’t care as much about Japanese history because let’s face it, my kids are being raised Taiwanese American because that is what I am. But I have always felt cut off from my cultural heritage and family because my parents didn’t emphasize our family histories and I envy all the people who have stories passed down through generations. I would prefer my children have the stories as part of who they are.

I only have two living grandparents left and there is a major language hurdle for my maternal grandfather as well as an emotional hurdle for my paternal grandmother. (I despise her.) This makes me sad. But I think I will encourage my own mother to tell me and the kids more stories of her family and childhood. And perhaps, I will cajole my uncle to tell me stories of my father’s family and childhood. In addition, it would be nice to have Hapa Papa’s mother tell more of her and her family’s stories as well. I will have to do better with keeping in contact with Hapa Papa’s father’s side of the family, too.

As I mentioned before, I often felt abbreviated and adrift due to my not having a firm grasp of who my families were and how we came to be here in the US. I don’t know if it is a cultural thing or an immigrant thing or just my parents, but I rarely heard anything about their pasts or childhoods when growing up. I felt as if we just sprouted out of thin air.

Now, to be fair, that did have some advantage in that I haven’t felt the burden of generations past. But as a result, I also feel disconnected from my families – and that makes me very sad.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more drawn to histories and biographies/autobiographies. I am much better at grasping and learning through stories versus dried up facts so I am looking forward to expanding my library and my mind. I think I will start with myths and legends of China and Japan. After all, how is it that I know more of Jewish, Greek and Norse Mythology than my own peoples? And who are a people without the stories they tell themselves about their gods and themselves? Plus, this will make it easier to teach the kids about their heritage as well.

Then, I will expand into stories set in historical situations or perhaps I will have to suck it up and read long non-fiction tomes. *sigh* The things I do for my children.

How have your families passed along generational history, stories, legends, etc.? I am very curious and hoping to steal some good ideas. Let me know in the comments.

Too Much Good Stuff

olafI have a problem. I have too many things. Too many toys. Too many books. Too many clothes. Too many everything.

I’ve given away bags and bags of stuff – and I’m sure I could give away more. But at some point, I don’t particularly want to get rid of everything or become an ascetic. I like my stuff. That’s why I bought it in the first place. That’s why I have so much of it.

So, now then, the problem becomes in finding a good storage solution for all my stuff. (I originally wrote, “our stuff,” but let’s be real. The stuff might “belong” to my kids or Hapa Papa, but really, it’s all mine, mine, mine.) Unfortunately, I only have so much space in the house or garage. (The garage is laughable. All the new housing developments have these teeny, tiny garages that can fit almost NOTHING in them. We refuse to park on the street. Our garages must ALWAYS be able to park both our cars.) Furthermore, I like my things to be organized in logical and easy to access places. After all, if I can’t see it, I won’t use it. Which then defeats the purpose of keeping it!

Ideally, if I had all the time and money in the world, I would just blow my wad at the Container Store or some other mecca of clear plastic awesomeness. But I don’t and I think I’ve spent quite a good deal of money already on storage ideas. They are kinda working – but not really.

IMG_4046

One of the bookshelves

My main problem areas are books and things that require the use of a table such as craft/coloring/playdough items. For books, we just have so many – and we keep getting more. It’s because I LOVE books. And even with me not buying a ton, we get them as gifts or party favors and there really are just SO MANY GOOD BOOKS!

I have THREE children’s bookshelves (that’s right, THREE) all through the house and STILL, they are bursting at the seams. I suppose I could also get regular bookshelves, but it’s a little harder for kids (allegedly) to find the books they want that way. Plus, WHERE WOULD I PUT IT? sigh

I suppose I could just swap out books like some people swap out toys. But really, let’s be honest. I am super lazy. I would just forget entirely.

Craft table

Craft table

As for crafts and activities that require a small table, I want all of these things to be within easy access for the kids. If I put them in cabinets, then the kids won’t see them and as a result, won’t play them. I’ve had them in clear bins, but because there are lids, the kids have trouble opening the boxes and also, don’t think to use the stuff.

I just recently switched over to having some things into “kits” (eg: having all the coloring pages and books in the pink box) and other things in the stackable bins/shelves. (Believe it or not, those are from MY childhood. Say what you will about hoarding, it sure can come in handy!) We’ll see how that goes.

My other problems such as clothing can’t really be resolved unless I start giving away all my kids’ clothes. But since I still plan on having one more baby after Glow Worm, I am resorting to storing them all in large 15 gallon bins. (It helps that I lend out the clothes, too. So I’m not having to store ALL the clothes all at once.)

The main issue with clothing is that despite my children having a large dresser and closet in their room, I don’t use them. Why? Because I have all their clothes in my room in a Family Closet of sorts. All their baths and changing occurs in my room anyway. I don’t see why I would make my life harder by having their clothes in a completely different room. Of course, that means that with each baby, I have to de-accumulate more and more of MY clothes to make room for THEIR clothes. I suppose we could super-organize our walk in closet, but I’m not sure I want to spend the money just yet. It’s more of a hodge-podge system right now that kinda works, and kinda doesn’t. Blergh.

Anyhow, I can’t believe I just went on and on about organizing crap, but you know what? It’s important to me and a major thorn in my side. Experienced organizers and friends, what have you done? Please share with me your wisdom!

 

Commercial Break

I’ve been caught up re-reading (for the third or fourth time) The Hunger Games series and I’m on the last book so I really can’t do anything else right now until I’m done. Even though one of the benefits of re-reading a book comes from already knowing what happened so you don’t have to blaze through at warp speed just to find out what happened, I’m nearing the home stretch and I MUST FINISH NOW.

So, with that in mind, super short post today (as well as group participation). What are your favorite books to read over and over again? Here are a few of mine (you’ll find many repeats from my post about books I want my kids to read):

1) The Hunger Games / Catching Fire / Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

2) Ender’s Game / Ender’s Shadow / First Meetings (really, the whole series) by Orson Scott Card

3) The Duke and I / When He was Wicked / Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

4) The Dark is Rising (whole series) by Susan Cooper

Ok. Now I’m off to read. Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

**(Links are all affiliate links.)

Yes, Another Post Wherein I Talk About Books

Since I love books, it only makes sense that many of my posts are going to be about books and their authors. If you don’t like reading, so very sorry. However, I’m sure you know people who enjoy reading – and maybe they would enjoy some of these books and their authors. Since I’ve had a reader request for YA books/authors, and YA is one of my favorite genres, we’ll focus on that today.

YA (for those of you not in the know, stands for Young Adult) is one of my favorite genres because more than any other genre, it focuses on story and plot and has a fast pace. The language is usually very clear and simple (which is not the same as simplistic) and there (usually) isn’t an excess of sex and/or violence. The protagonists are usually in their teens and while that may make for some annoying quirks in the characters, it also allows for a lot of growth. Also, there is the unfortunate tendency to have long, belabored love triangles that don’t resolve until the end of a trilogy. The trend lately has been dystopian (thanks, The Hunger Games), but there was YA long before that came into fashion.

Here then, are some authors and books I recommend. As always, the links are Amazon affiliate links.

1) Neal Shusterman – Fantastic writer of some incredibly moving and poignant series. The most famous of his series starts with Unwind, a world in which abortion is outlawed but between the ages of 13-18, a parent can choose to “unwind” their child by transplanting every single part of their body into willing recipients. There are three scenes in this book in which I defy you to not break down and weep hysterically. I also highly recommend his series that starts with Everlost.

2) Marie Lu – A newer author, so far she has only written the Legend trilogy (the final book dropping on November 3). I appreciate that she is an Asian author as well as the fact that her characters are of mostly mixed heritage. But that’s not why I like her writing. Her characters are tightly written and I particularly love June. It is also a rare thing when the second book is better than the first. I can’t wait for the conclusion!

3) Agatha H. and the Airship City by Kaja and Phil Foglio – Originally a web comic, the two books are the novelized form of a few of their stories. Steampunk in all its glory – and most importantly, the main character is a girl genius whose primary goal is NOT A BOY. That is supremely refreshing. I HIGHLY recommend both books. It took me a few tries to get into the first book initially but once I got past the first few pages, I was hooked and read it in all one sitting.

4) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I have no idea whether or not Wein has written anything else. But OMG, this books is amazing (and NOT a dystopia). WWII, spies, women, and friendship. Oh, and the judicious use of ALLCAPS makes it my kind of story! FANTASTIC. Although I initially was reluctant to start, once I did, I never looked back. I really cannot tell you more without spoiling the whole thing – and it’s so worth NOT being spoiled. It’s one of those books that you have to re-read immediately (or at least, flip back through the book) to catch all the hints/red herrings. This book makes full use of the unreliable narrator trope. AWESOME.

I will not lie. I sobbed gross, messy, snotty sobs near the end. Gross. Messy. Shameful. Sobs. I cried so hard, I woke up Hapa Papa who sleepily pet my hand to tell me it was ok. (What a darling.)

I stayed up until 2am TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW. I had two small children at the time. It was worth it.

5) Megan Whalen Turner – Her The Queen’s Thief series is excellent (and also not a dystopia). It starts off with The Thief, which is good, but the rest of the series just gets so much better. The main character, Eugenides, is hilarious and has some of the best lines. My absolute favorite in the series is The King of Attolia.

6) Paolo Bacigalupi – Again, I appreciate an author who writes as if people of color are also in this world. He doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but it is so refreshing. I can’t wait for the day when that is no longer a distinction to note. But until then, it’s another plus in Bacigalupi’s favor. However, the reason I enjoy him has nothing to do with that. His stories are exciting and wild. My favorite is The Drowned Cities. Technically a sequel to Ship Breaker, it is not necessary to have read the previous book. SO GOOD.

7) Shannon Hale – She may be more famous for Austenland, but I found her through The Goose Girl several years ago. Again, I’m a sucker for a female protagonist – especially if it’s an alternate version of a familiar fairy tale.

8) Tamora Pierce – It’s been awhile since I’ve read her books but there is a scene from her book, The Woman Who Rides Like A Manthat consistently stays with me. Ok, it’s not a particular scene, but the whole section is imprinted on my brain. I constantly forget who wrote it and what it was about, but every time I think of a fantasy novel with a strong female lead, it pops into mind. Make of that what you will.

Side note: Many of these books I heard of from Orson Scott Card, one of my favorite writers. I have found that in general, I trust his recommendations and I would urge you to check the reviews out for yourself. I have found that if an author I like is genuinely recommending a book (versus just pimping out a book or an author to get reciprocal props), it is definitely worth looking into.

You’ll note that I left off some of the more famous series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. These books are doing so well and are made into movies so I think they’ll be just fine. The books are excellent, of course, but they hardly need my signal boost. I focused on some lesser known authors and I hope you give them a shot.

As always, once I get going on books, it’s almost impossible for me to stop because there is always just one more book that I need to tell you about. I love books and love to tell other people about them. If you want more recommendations, just check out my Goodreads young adult bookshelf.

What about you? What books or authors did I leave off that you think I’m clearly an illiterate son of a whore for doing so? What would you recommend I read? Let me know it the comments.