Posted in book lists, sqt

{sqt} – reading highlights of 2018

I’m joining up with the seven quick takes linkup again this week, for the first time in a while, with a fitting theme for the last Friday of the year: 2018 favorites! My focus is going to be on the books I’ve read this year; with my end-of-the-year detour into fan fiction my booklist is shorter than it was in 2017, but it is still full of books I loved and want to share.

Parenting: Differently Wired, by Deborah Reber

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If you were following my blog this summer, this favorite should come as no surprise! This is one of the best books I have found for parents of neurodivergent children – one that honors their differences and supports parents in helping their children to remain authentically themselves while also learning to live in a world that is often critical of who they are. For a more in-depth review, see this post leading up to its release this summer. (You may notice I tried to run a giveaway for the book; well, no one entered, so if you feel this book would be relevant or helpful for you, let me know… I still have the extra copy 🙂 )

Science: The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

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This book offers an interesting take on cancer, as it examines the history of human interaction with cancer in all its ethical and political context rather than focusing solely the medical manifestations of the illness (though it delves quite deeply into the biology of cancer as well). I learned a lot and was deeply fascinated through the entire book (but as it was a library book, I can’t go back to pull up any awesome quotes for this post, unfortunately!). While it is very long, I think it is definitely worth the time and effort to read it, especially for anyone interested in biology, pathology, bioethics, or science policy.

Other Non-Fiction: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson

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When you grow up in a privileged environment, it can be challenging to learn about corruption and brokenness in systems skewed in your favor. This book was difficult to read primarily because of the nature of its topic, and the injustices it exposed – whose depths I had no idea existed beforehand (even though I was aware of the biases in our judicial system, I was not aware of the extent of those biases, particularly in certain areas of the country). I picked up this book last Christmas on the recommendation of Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, for both myself and my grandma, and both of us agree that it was a powerful and moving book, containing invaluable context for understanding (and hopefully healing) some of the racial and cultural divides in our nation. (For more of my thoughts, and some quotes, see this post from April.)

General Fiction: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson

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In this novel, an old British major slowly falls in love with a Pakistani shopkeeper (both widowed), to the general consternation of her extended family and their entire village. The interactions between them on both individual and sociocultural levels are simultaneously awkward, amusing, and enlightening (in other words, fairly realistic for two very different people from very different backgrounds thrown into contact with one another); and the twists and turns of the plot are both somewhat unexpected and very satisfying. Major Pettigrew especially, as a slightly cynical and cantankerous old British man finding himself in ludicrously unprecedented circumstances, is quite a wonderful character 🙂

Dystopia: American War, by Omar El Akkad

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I’m surprised I didn’t post about this book back in July! Dystopia is one of my favorite genres, and this one hit particularly close to home. It is set in the southern United States, in a future in which climate change catalyzes a second Civil War; with Northern forces applying external pressure and international agents internally taking advantage of hatred and discontent, the book follows one individual from poverty, through a refugee camp, to indoctrination and grooming in a shadowy terrorist cell. The methods and circumstances are drawn from the actual history of civil war and terrorism in the Middle East, but the culture and setting are undeniably American, and the juxtaposition reinforces both the humanity of people our culture often labels as “other” and the very real possibility that our nation too could be ravaged by the dark side of that shared humanity. I highly recommend it, but it is not a comfortable read.

Science Fiction: Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

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LeGuin is an exceptional world-builder, and I have enjoyed all of her works, but this is in my opinion one of her best, exploring aspects of nationalism, humanity, and gender. How arbitrary are the categories with which we identify ourselves? When one of those categories is rendered meaningless, how do we cope with our own self-understanding, or refashion the image we present to others? How far can one stray from the center of a category and still be considered part of it, by either themselves or by others? And of course all of these questions are not so much discussed as illustrated and implied as the two main characters seek (in both the context of two different nations, as well as in almost total isolation) to accomplish a mission with global and even universal consequences.

Fantasy: Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

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The story here, as wonderfully epic and convoluted and fascinating as it is, in a world with magic and music and legend coming to life, isn’t even the main reason I have to choose this book (and its sequel) as my top fantasy book of the year. Rarely have I encountered an author who can make their prose sing as beautifully as Rothfuss manages to do here. My only disappointment is that the third book in the trilogy has not yet been published, so while each book so far has a definite story arc and is still satisfying to read, the overall story is incomplete.

What are some of your favorite books from this year? Please share in the comments – I always love to hear about good books to read!

Posted in giveaway, sqt

{sqt} – differently wired

As we’ve navigated Rondel’s diagnostic process, one of the most helpful resources has been Deborah Reber’s podcast Tilt Parenting – and as a dedicated bibliophile, I have found her book Differently Wired to be equally if not more encouraging and challenging. It is currently the bestselling book in Amazon’s Disability Parenting category, and #18 in their overall Parenting list, and in my opinion (having read an early release copy) it deserves that top spot.

In fact, I think this book is important enough that I purchased an extra copy to giveaway, and that giveaway is live now! Head over to the official post to comment for an entry… I think my publicizing of it hasn’t been very effective so you have a good chance of winning 😛

Continue reading “{sqt} – differently wired”

Posted in giveaway

Differently Wired Giveaway!!!

The Differently Wired launch date isn’t until the 12th, but guys, I got the book in the mail yesterday so we’re opening this giveaway now!

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I did want to remind you that if you want the pre-order bonuses, you should order a copy of the book for yourself before June 12th. Personally I am most looking forward to the resources guide, a web page containing links to all the podcasts, articles, and experts referenced in the book. It won’t be available until the launch date, so I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m anticipating it will be exceptionally helpful. To see the full list of bonuses, visit here!

For those of you who are new to the blog, you can read my thoughts on Differently Wired, as well as some significant quotes I’ve shared, here, here, here, here, and here. If you just want the short and sweet version, Differently Wired is a book for parents of neurodivergent kids (including differences such as autism, ADHD, and giftedness), and approaches the unique challenges of raising these kids in a neurotypical society from a respectful and positive perspective. It manages to encourage and challenge parents without either minimizing their potential struggles or demeaning the children (and adults) who have these differences. The book is very practical, but I think the greatest thing about it is how it walks you, the reader and parent, through a paradigm shift via a series of Tilts in perspective and attitude. And since the pressure of mainstream society tends to be counter to these Tilts, I’m expecting this book to be one I refer back to again and again to refresh the way I look at my son, myself, and the way our family navigates life.

If you’re interested, our giveaway opens today and closes at the end of the day next Sunday! Just leave a comment on the post letting me know how neurodiversity has affected your life and/or what you are hoping to learn from the book if you win. If you follow my blog as well that will give you another entry into the giveaway, but only if you also leave a comment 🙂 I’ll use random selection (maybe have the kids draw a paper out of a hat, or something higher tech) to choose the winner, and then I’ll contact the winner to get their shipping address.

Good luck! This is an exceptional book and I am so glad to have the opportunity to share it with someone else.

Posted in family life, musings, quotes

presence

“Asher picked out a rocket Popsicle while I parked the bike and looked for a spot in the sun, eventually setting on a rainbow-colored, oversized hammock. We climbed in and lay next to each other, his head cradled in the nook of my arm, and we swung slowly, gazing up at the giant sycamore trees, new green leaves silhouetted against the blue sky. It was the first time in recent memory that I’d stopped moving, thinking, planning, working, or teaching and done nothing but be in that moment. A moment, I might add, in which Asher stopped talking about Minecraft and Plants Versus Zombies. Instead, as we lay there gently swaying, we talked about spring. And homeschooling. And beauty. And peace and contentedness. And how nature can be a kind of religion. And how important it is to notice and appreciate. And about how sticky hands get when Popsicle juice drips on them.

“[…] When we’re not living in presence, we miss the little things – the bright spots that are there, even when we have to search hard to find them. The tiny growth spurts. The moments of brilliance. The sparks of joy. To experience these things we have to fully be here, open and present.” – Debbie Reber, Differently Wired

It’s tempting for me to be always immersed in my phone, or a book, or a coloring sheet, or even just my to-do list for the day. But I’ve noticed that when I actively engage with my children, when I am present in their games and conversation (even if I am just observing while making dinner or cleaning), their imagination is sparked, their reactions are more positive, their responses are more mature, and their smiles are brighter.

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(Also, they tend to be much more accepting of time apart if our time together is truly a time of connection and presence, which allows me to have more space for deeper renewal and refreshment when I need it.)

It isn’t just me, the parent, who benefits when I choose to be present – my children benefit as well. My presence assures them of my love. It demonstrates that they are worthy of authentic attention and connection. It gives them confidence in the value of their ideas. It gives them the opportunity to learn from any experience and wisdom I may have.

And it is in all the moments, silly and stressful, happy and hard, that a deep and lasting relationship can grow between us. If I choose to be mentally elsewhere for those moments, I choose to stunt rather than nurture that relationship. But if I choose to be present, I am choosing to water and fertilize that relationship, and to weed out all the other trivial things that compete with my children for my attention, emotional energy, and time.

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Being present means playing peek-a-boo with Aubade when she hides her face in her hands.

Being present means talking in a baby voice for hours because the mommy animals in the house want me to be their baby elephant.

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Being present means getting to cheer Limerick on when he chases a ball around the pool and finally manages to grab it, instead of staying oblivious to his persistence and success.

Being present means laughing when Rondel jumps into the pool and totally soaks me with the splash, instead of perceiving it as an interruption of my more important business.

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Being present means noticing how Limerick observes and investigates the world around him, constantly soaking up knowledge with his thirsty pattern-loving mind.

And most of all, being present means mutual openness, a sharing of happiness, and a fostering of love. Yes, I need space and time alone – but when I am with my kids, I am going to try to be fully present as much as possible.


If you liked the quote from Differently Wired, read my brief review of the book here and check back in June for the giveaway!

Also, check here for a list of some awesome pre-order bonuses you can receive for no additional cost if you order the book before June 12th!

Posted in family life

holding open doors of possibility

Rondel loves the zoo. I think he would want to go there almost every day (some days have to be for Grandma’s house) if possible, and he never wants to leave no matter how long we’ve been there. There are always more animals to see, more wonders to explore, more facts to learn. As much as he enjoys the splash pad, he always asks to see another exhibit instead, despite the heat, until I mandate a water break on behalf of his siblings.

So I thought to myself, I wonder if the zoo is doing any summer camps? Rondel will probably still be too young, but I can still see what’s available. Blithely thinking these things, I went onto their website and discovered that Rondel is not too young by any means, and would be eligible to attend a half-day camp focusing either on animal stories or animal art.

Part of me leaped up in excitement! He loves the zoo! What a great opportunity! How awesome would it be to get to spend that much time at the zoo, talking about animals, looking at animals, surrounded by people who also love animals! What a chance to try to integrate with a group of peers, in an environment without a parent, to stretch his comfort zone and expand his social skills! And oh… what about dealing with loud groups, bright sunlight, the challenges of speech articulation delays, and the anxiety of the unknown? This is, after all, the boy who struggles in a typical Sunday school classroom even with a personal aide, and the boy who cries at the park if he turns around and can’t see me – even if I haven’t moved from where he left me. Would a summer camp be an adventure or a nightmare?

My husband had the wisest words about this dilemma, about the dichotomy between excitement and fear: that if we, as Rondel’s parents, make a decision for him based on our fears of what might happen, based on what we think his limitations and struggles might be, than we are placing that limitation on him instead of giving him a chance to grow and soar and potentially surprise us all with his abilities. We would need to plan well for it, obviously, to give him the best possible chance to succeed and to give him a way out if it proved to be too much, but it would be foolish – especially in the long-term – to simply close this door because we fear he will fail.

It reminded me of a passage from (you guessed it!) Differently Wired. (Reber really seems to have covered everything. I promise I didn’t begin writing this post trying to sneak a quote in!)

“Choosing fear equates our child with their diagnosis, rather than seeing them as creative beings who are here to shake up the world in their own magnificent way. Choosing fear is the very thing that keeps us stuck. Choosing fear creates a culture of apprehension and anxiety in our families, and affects the way our children, many of whom are already highly sensitive and anxious, feel about themselves. Operating from fear leads to more limited thinking and fearful energy, which both we and our child will feel, and less chance of our child’s uncovering and experiencing their extraordinary possibilities. It’s the epitome of a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Instead of choosing to direct my child away from opportunities and experiences because I’m afraid they’ll be too hard for him, I am choosing to present him with the options and let him come to his own informed decision – and then, I am choosing to support him through the results of that decision, even if they prove to be difficult or unpleasant. That is the process that will help him grow in self-awareness and confidence, that will help him develop autonomy and independence, and that will therefore help him grow into greater possibilities instead of holding him back in a box created by my own anxious and limited imagination.


If you liked the quote from Differently Wired, read my brief review of the book here and check back in June for the giveaway!

“Bravery is a muscle, but instead of building it through exercise, we strengthen it with each brave act we do, big or small, parent related or not.

“Bravery isn’t a limited resource, and it’s also something we all have within us.”

Debbie Reber, Differently Wired, Tilt 6: Parent From a Place of Possibility Instead of Fear.


If you liked the quote from Differently Wired, read my brief review of the book here and check back in June for the giveaway!

bravery

Posted in musings, quotes

letting go

My therapist used to tell me, “it isn’t your business what other people think of you.” I’m still not sure I completely agree with her, since what other people think can occasionally have fairly large consequences on a practical level (promotions at work, for example) – but in general it’s correct. I’m entitled to my beliefs and opinions, and other people are entitled to theirs. Someone else might think I’m antisocial or making poor parenting choices because I want to homeschool; I might think someone is arrogant and disconnected from local community because they are a snowbird. But if I choose to live my life based on the thoughts of others about me and my decisions, I’ll be miserable (just like all those snowbirds would be, sweltering here all summer without the communities they grew up in, or being shut in all winter there because they can’t shovel themselves out anymore).

I have to let it go. Continue reading “letting go”