Stay Safe. Watch Out for Zombies.

To avoid the zombies, it is important that you stay inside and stay away from other people. It’s spread from close distances, so stay at least six feet away, from strangers, from friends, from family you don’t live with. Wash your hands; zombies hate clean hands. Plan ahead.

Two weeks ago, I was anxious about a lot of things. I was just returning to work after maternity leave, and taking on new work responsibilities while also trying to figure out schedules and how to feed my baby. I was so stressed I broke into hives the second day.

I’m not stressed about those things anymore.

Or rather, I am, but that damned coronavirus has made me and everyone else reevaluate our fears. Now I’m afraid to go out. I’m afraid of the economic consequences of not going out, both for my family and the community as a whole. I’m afraid for my parents. I’m afraid for my baby, who is so small, who must be protected.

I feel guilty, because at first, when my daycare was closed for a week because of the pandemic, I was happy. It meant one more week of my baby not being away from the family. One more week we could watch for his first laugh, one more week to help him grow strong. One more week until I had to pick up that anxiety again.

Now it’s been closed for two, and will be closed for at least two more. Now the virus feels like it is swarming my life. Now I feel afraid almost all the time. It’s not some far-off possible fear; it’s pounding at the glass doors of the grocery store.

I’m having trouble reckoning with the virus. It’s invisible, it could be anywhere, and there is nothing I personally can do to fight it. So, recently, I’ve been worrying about zombies.

Zombies are a nice, healthy, irrational fear. Everyone knows they aren’t real. But they are visible, so you’ll know if you see one. They are something you can wrestle with, fight off, but it’s better if you can just avoid them. If your friend is a zombie, you know what to do. Everyone can be heroic in a zombie movie. And most of them end with hope.

It works out that many of the rules for zombies are the same as for an invisible, highly transmittable virus, but zombies are laughable to be afraid of, making them a nice bite-sized fear.

Stay safe out there. Watch out for zombies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Review: Baby’s First Books

We invited baby shower guests to bring books to help us build baby’s first library, and we got a varied selection–with a wide variety in quality. Since I’ve been reading these to the baby, I’ve formed some…strong opinions. In the interest of aiding future baby-book-buyers, here are my reviews.

Baby’s first book collection
  • Where the Wild Things Are – I’ve never been particularly fond of this story, even though it’s a classic. It just feels so aggressive. The art is wonderful, and it deserves its place of honor.
  • Pat the Bunny (Deluxe Edition) – A charming book for littlest readers. I like all the “interactive” features. However the deluxe oversized edition is a little much. The little version is better!
  • There’s a Dragon in My Book! – An absolute delight! Gotta watch out for those dragons hiding in your books!
  • Dinosnores – Even dinosaurs go to sleep, little one. Take their example.
  • Ordinary People Change the World (series) – I don’t have a complete set yet, and that’s the only downside. I LOVE these books. They provide such beautiful context and history for children, and such a good foundation for future learning. They touch my heart. And the art is such a dream. Buy all of them for the children in your life!
  • Peek-a-Who? – Whoo ever could it be? Very cute board book.
  • The Going to Bed Book – This is the book that inspired this list. I hate it. HATE it. Who exercises after putting on their pajamas? This book is ridiculous.
  • Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed – Cute, but do you really need a book version of this? Plus, is it a good idea to teach kids to jump on the bed in a sanctioned format?
  • Where’s My Bellybutton? – Answers to the age-old question. Luckily we also learn where our noses are and where our toeses are. I wasn’t sure until I got to the riveting conclusion. (This is another interactive book, and I like that it’s got squishy “pages”.)
  • Narnia softbook – This is not actually a book. There is nothing to read. It’s basically a toy. That’s fine, but I’m kicking it off the bookshelf.
  • Goodnight Blessings for My Child – Overly schmaltzy and kinda boring. And a little disappointing if you expect it to be full of prayers. It’s just sort of a loose collection of sentimental codswallop.
  • I Am Special – A sweet ratification that everyone has something nice to contribute, and we shouldn’t let people’s judgements of us get us down.
  • Are You My Mother? – I thought I remembered this story fondly, but on rereading it, it just felt ridiculous. The baby bird talks to a construction machine? I guess we’re lucky the construction workers knew where the baby bird came from and returned him.
  • The Velveteen Rabbit – Positively lovely. It’s also a great way to start the conversation about vaccines and why we are all grateful scarlet fever is basically not a problem anymore, at least not one that requires us to burn all of our toys. We love the rabbit, and we also love antibiotics.
  • Make Way For Ducklings (Box Set) – I love this story and I love the ducklings. I don’t think anyone needs the 75th anniversary set; it comes with a map of Boston and a CD. But the book alone is fantastic.
  • An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales – I got this as a gift when the baby was just a twinkle. It’s a lovely illustrated fairytale book!
  • The Essential Calvin and Hobbes – Essential. Enough said.
  • The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend – Hugely disappointing. The art is really nice, but the story is basically nonexistent. It’s actually hard to read, there is so little story. It was clearly just sold as a marketing ploy to sell the (shapeless) stuffed animal it came with.
  • Mouse Finds a Friend – Don’t we all need a friend?
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Love it! The caterpillar eats all the lovely things. It has quite the appetite!
  • Goodnight Moon – I’m kind of meh on the moon. I don’t really get it, to be honest. How does the mouse not get eaten, or at least the house cleaned up enough that there is no mouse in the house at all? Why must we say goodnight to the mush?
  • Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada – This is Jimmy Fallon’s book, and it’s also not much of a book. Every page features a farm animal and the word “dada.” That’s it. No story. It’s hard to read as a bedtime story, and it’s mildly obnxious.
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – A classic, and one I don’t really understand. Learning letters is good! But this story is pretty nonsensical.
  • The Night Before Christmas (revised) – Why would someone change the Night Before Christmas? It’s not even wildly different, just different enough to trip you up when you are nearly reading it from memory. Don’t buy this one, just get the real thing.
  • There’s a Wocket in My Pocket! – Yay Seuss! Lots of rhymes with unreal words. May need a professional to let me know if all these nonsense words are going to damage my kid.
  • Down by the Bay – The story is lovely, but it’s a little disturbing when you consider the art. Does this kid have a terrible homelife? What’s the subtext here?
  • At the Zoo – Animals make noises. The end.
  • Lots of Love Little One – Very sappy.
  • If I Were a Moose – I do not understand this series at all. It’s a touch-and-feel book. Who needs one about a moose?
  • If I Were a Calf – And why would there need to be a sequel about a calf? It’s a dumb series.
  • I Like Myself – Absolutely charming! I love the art, I love the message, it’s just a great story.
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance – In which we learn that the moon is a hip dance partner, and that giraffes can indeed boogie. (I must protest, however, the setting: giraffes do not live in the JUNGLE. This is some colonialist bullshit.)
  • Guess How Much I Love You – A lovely story with sweet illustrations. I wonder how many kids know what a hare is, though?
  • I Am Caring (Jane Goodall) and I Am Brave (Martin Luther King, Jr.) – LOVE these books! These are the board book versions of the Ordinary People Change the World series, which is excellent, because the full books are too long for an infant. These are sized down in number of words but not in heart.
  • I’ll Love You Always – Clearly just copying off of Guess How Much I Love You, and not doing it half as well anyway.
  • This Little Baby – This isn’t really a kids’ book; it’s an Anne Geddy photo essay. It’s going in the donate pile immediately.
  • Go The F*ck To Sleep – Shockingly good, actually. I assumed it was popular only because of the name, but the rhyme scheme has good rhythm, and the art is fantastic. It’s genuinely a good read as a story and as a parental frustration outlet. I guess we’ll have to hide it when he can actually read. For now, though, it’s in rotation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Review: The Twisted Ones

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Twisted Ones is spooky. For a horror novel, that’s just expected. But it’s also funny as heck, and the author’s voice is so crystal clear, it feels like you are eavesdropping on someone’s conversation on the bus. And you are enthralled!

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a book so accurately capture the relationship between a dog and their owner. The dog/human relationship here captures all the love, yes, but also all the derpiness and ridiculous habits and sheer force of will owning a dog can require. I love Bongo as much as the narrator. (Don’t worry, Bongo makes it out.)

I am not enough of a horror reader to know this was an update of an earlier story, but I can tell you it feels so fresh and brilliant. It’s a zippy read, not least because you will be afraid to put it down. Make a point to pick it up—lest the holler people get you when next you wander the woods.



View all my reviews

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

User Experience Feedback for Human Infant

To the Developer(s) of the Human Infant:

I recently acquired your product and, for the most part, I enjoy it. However I have some user experience feedback that will provide an overall better experience if implemented.

Let’s start with the process to acquire a Human Infant:

  • It’s tough to get your hands on one! I understand you want to be choosy, but it is confusing, as a customer, why some are able to pick one up right away (the first month of trying!) and others have to wait years. I’ve heard some aren’t able to get one at all. And then there are those who don’t want one, and yet find the acquisition process has begun regardless! Work on your distribution line to clear up these discrepancies.
  • It’s a lot of work to begin the acquisition! Perhaps this could be done in a way with fewer side effects for the end customer?
  • There’s no getting around this: it’s troubling that payment in the form of physical pain is a requirement for acquisition of an Infant. I understand this is a challenging product to acquire, but the amount of pain asked for is unreasonable. Lower this cost for greater future investments. 
  • It takes so much energy to acquire one! It’s really quite a lot of work, which can be a strain on the Mom Module.
  • The acquisition comes with so many side effects. Some don’t even make any sense. Mine came with Flabby Belly and Sore Wrist.

On the Human Infant itself:

  • The product arrives way too immature. I understand there is a DIY component, and it is cool that you can customize it to some degree, but it would be great if out-of-the-box the Infant came with some basics, like Ability to Smile and Understands How to Eat. Giggle would be a great upgrade, too! It just seems crazy that this product naturally comes with so few skills. It doesn’t really do anything at first, for, like, months.
  • Where is the instruction manual?!
  • I understand the digestion module is under development when it arrives, but it would be great if it worked better with the provided breastfeeding equipment. It is really hard to tell if you have a match before the product arrives! Plus it is hard to use and difficult to get it correctly docked. Have you considered a hands-free mode? Just an idea.
  • All the built-in sounds are the same. At least initially, there is no difference between an alarm and the Hungry mode. Some separation would really improve the whole system.
  • I hear Mobility comes with the Toddler upgrade. I’m looking forward to trying it out! Can you explain why the other models come with Mobility and this one doesn’t? I’m thinking of Horse, but even Shark has it, so I know you can do it.
  • Maybe I’m using it improperly, but why does the breastfeeding module, when combined with Human Infant, require a pain payment? Didn’t we pay enough upfront? These microtransactions are getting out of hand.
  • It is LOUD. Please add a mute or volume button.
  • My model did not come with a charging cable; as a result, it goes into sleep mode about every three hours. It also needs regular maintenance. This product would be a lot more fun with more interactive up time.
  • The waste disposal system is a literal mess. Can we get an indicator light or something before dispersal?
  • I’ve seen your other models, such as Seahorse and Emperor Penguin, so I know it is possible to have greater integration with the Dad Module. Please consider implementing these changes; right now, it seems like Mom Module has all the interaction. It is fun, but unbalanced.
  • Is it supposed to produce so much gas?
  • Seriously, why doesn’t it do anything? Literally every other species’ model works right out of the box. It’s kind of boring for the first several months.

Human Infant has many devoted fans; I just believe these would be significant improvements to an already great product. I hope you find this feedback helpful and I look forward to the improved model, which would greatly increase the likelihood I will acquire another to add to my collection.

A Human Mom

Thanks,

PS. Thanks for Dogs and Cats. Both are pretty great as-is.

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories

Review: I See You

I See You by Mary Burton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This crime mystery with a romantic subplot was…just okay. I had to push myself to finish it, and I guessed the baddie pretty early on, and yet still found the ending unsatisfying. It’s mostly well-written in a “Law & Order: SUV” kind of way. I don’t like the way the reporter’s subplot is handled; I doubt the author has ever met a reporter.



View all my reviews

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Review: Kiss of Steel

Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Billed as a steampunk adventure, Kiss of Steel is really a vampire romance. And that’s great if it is what you are into! But it just didn’t grab me.

Another issue was the heroine’s name: Honoria. I believe it is supposed to be “On-or-ee-a”, but I first rhymed it with a venereal disease. It’s not great for a romance heroine to be reminiscent of gonorrhea, sorry.

I also think there were some editing issues. It felt like chapters had been rearranged (sometimes referencing information a character didn’t yet know), and the story beats were predictable.

Inventive in concept, just not quite my cup of tea.



View all my reviews

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Review: How to Party With an Infant

How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I should have been more wary of a book jacket claiming the contents were “hilarious.” As is so often true with literary fiction, most of the book felt more sad than funny to me; that said, the prose is obviously dripping with wit. It’s clever, sometimes annoyingly so.
Mele is a single, stay-at-home mom in San Francisco who hangs out with the other mom-group misfits. The book is nominally Mele’s contest entry to write a cookbook for the overall mom group; her plan is to interweave stories from each of the parents in her mom group with a recipe that corresponds to that story. It’s a charming format and the mom stories are varied and have distinct voices. They are alarmingly believable.

I maybe shouldn’t have picked this book up to read on maternity leave. Now I’m moderately disheartened about this whole parenting thing. I came for the hope for positive mom-friendships, but I’m leaving with a sadness about the loneliness and thanklessness of being a mom.



View all my reviews

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews