Sunday, December 31, 2006


In some ways, I feel that I've made all of the resolutions I needed to in the past couple weeks. First, I set out some small changes I would make in order to move towards living more harmoniously with the environment (and my principles). Then I crafted a few lists of goals for next year, next school-year, and 3 and 10 years from now.

A few of the comments complimented me for my impressive planning. Yet, if there's one thing I know, the best way of guaranteeing that life will throw me a curveball is to write down my hopes. This is not me being a pessimist or downer, just my experience. And it's not always a bad thing. Such as the list-changer I'm pondering right now.

One of my goals for the end of next school-year was "Move with my family to our favorite area of the US." It's a very specific part of a very specific state that has several things going for it:
  • several colleges and universities in an area that is a mix of rural and small urban--we don't really like big cities.
  • the different educational institutions bring in a lot of art and other culture, including opportunities for all ages to participate
  • lots of accessible nature--woods, rivers, lakes, trails, parks
  • very liberal politics, including state recognition of our family and all state benefits available to married couples
  • lower cost-of-living than places we've recently lived--we could make a downpayment of less than half our savings and have an amazingly low mortgage payment
  • we might be able to swing it where one of us would work only part-time
  • we would be living fairly close (within 2 hours) of several of my extended family members

And then, what started as a very off-handed remark by my in-laws has created a possible fork in the road. My in-laws have been making generous contributions to a local college and, as a result, are friends with the chair of the board of directors. So should I desire the chance to a pursue a position there, I'd be assured a serious look. And now I find myself considering two new lists:
  • we would be living very close to Scooter's grandparents, something we've wanted but always figured wouldn't work out
  • the college where I might work is non-traditional and would play to the fact that I have a wide range of interests
  • I might be able to get a tenure-track job before even finishing my dissertation
  • the focus on my job would be teaching over research, which is what I would prefer
  • this area has a lot of art and culture
  • we would likely have to stretch ourselves to afford a house we'd want, even with both of us working full-time
  • most of the public schools here are very weak--the options would be spending even more on a house in a good district, finding the money for private school, or moving 45-60 minutes away to where there are good schools (but creating a longer commute for me)
  • while there's no law specifically against gay marriage in this state, there's no legal support for it either--things could easily change, though they're unlikely to get bad enough that the wills and other legal documents we have already drawn up would be voided (like Virigina's tried to do recently)
  • a different climate than we'd have in our favorite place--dryer, fewer trees, less water
It's hard to underemphasize the draw of the first point, being close to my in-laws. We've lived pretty much without nearby family support since before Scooter was born. It would be nice to have a built-in network of support. And as Scooter's grandparents get older, we would like to be nearby to help them.

So I will begin putting together a dossier for the college. We are already scanning rental and real estate listings. The school district is bookmarked so that we can keep an eye the elementary schools. No decisions, no committments. Just staring at the fork in the road, dithering over which way to go.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Let it snow!

When I would tell people where I was headed for the holidays (a more southern destination in the States), they invariably said, "So at least you'll be warm." To which I would reply, "Actually, it gets pretty cold there, but at least we'll have sun." And as we got closer to our trip and saw the weather predictions, "We're more likely to have a white Christmas there than Toronto is."

We got our white Christmas! The snow was a foot or so deep by the time we got to the house. It melted a little bit before the holiday, but enough was left to create the desired white blanket.

A few days after Christmas, we intently watched the weather again. The other visitors were supposed to head home, and there was the threat of another snowstorm for Thursday, the day of their flights. But it held off for long enough that they had no trouble getting out. It snowed gently for part of Thursday, occasionally getting heavy, but the ground was still warm enough that it was hours before the snow started to stick. We managed to get around that day--doctor's appointment for Trillian, grocery store for food and the D batteries we kept forgetting (for a toy, of course).

But it kept snowing. And snowing. All night long, into the morning. When we woke up, we had at least another foot. The snow paused for a little bit mid-morning, but then started up again. Most of the time with enormous, fluffy flakes. Gorgeous to watch, but unending.

At some point around noon, I thought to myself, "The last time I saw this much snow was the winter before Scooter was born." We were easily at two feet (both that winter and yesterday afternoon). But the snow kept coming. As the sun set, the flakes got smaller and finer, but it still fell.

This morning? It's still snowing. We have at least 3 feet. The birdbath and bench are practically covered. Just the lip of the birdbath pokes out, and it is also visible because of the couple of feet of snow on top of it. The bench is a hump in the snow, its back barely visible from one side where the snow hasn't settled.

The end time for this storm keeps getting moved back. Thursday night, early Friday morning, Saturday at 6 am, Sunday at 5 am. Officially, we are supposed to head home tomorrow morning, as in leave the in-laws' at 6 am. Given that all of the highways in the area are closed and the airport is barely operating, I suspect we'll be here a bit longer.

The fire's roaring, we've got leftovers galore, I've got everything I need to study. Let it snow!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Vignettes from family time

This is the first year that Scooter has understood about Santa, and he was exceedingly excited Christmas Eve. He insisted on taking to bed all of his Thomas the Tank Engine Lego trains (that's the set we have at Grandma and Grandpa's), along with the brand new Cranky the Crane he had just opened--Santa made an early stop just to leave that for him. He was up until at least 11, and I'm not entirely sure he was asleep when we headed to bed.

Santa kindly left many of Scooter's gifts unwrapped so that he could dive right in when he woke up. He was especially fond of the Buzz Lightyear MegaBloks spaceship and the Hot Wheels tracks. His stocking also gave up some treasures, particularly some wind-up Thomas trains and a Lizzie from the movie Cars--she's a second-tier character, so we just hadn't found any others.

I didn't ask for much and so I got both of the books/sets I asked for: Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century, which will simultaneously make me feel like I'm not doing enough again and give me ideas for small changes I can make, and The Morning Star boxed set, Nick Bantock's second Griffin and Sabine trilogy (which I devoured Christmas morning). The in-laws also gave us a webcam so that they can see their grandchild more often; not really a surprising gift, given that we also got a digital camera and videocamera from them for various Christmases, so that they could see him more often.

The day after Christmas, Trillian and I decided to take advantage of the willing babysitters and headed into town for a nice lunch. Trillian's brother drove us in since he was going to have lunch with their dad. Trillian and I walked around the downtown area for a while, discovering that the two or three restaurants we'd thought about trying were either not open for lunch or closed for the day. We ended up back near her father's office and had a wonderful meal at a small Italian restaurant, including tiramisu and cannoli for dessert. We took a nice stroll afterwards to work off some of the calories and eventually met up with the rest of the family at the local bank--they have a huge model train display every Christmastime, and Scooter had been talking about it ever since he first saw it last year. He spent over an hour watching them and was still upset when we told him it was time to go.

We had heard from Trillian's brother that he and their mother had some trouble figuring out Scooter's carseat. We got the full story at dinner. Apparently uncle and grandmother had been sitting on either side of Scooter, trying to figure out what to do. Scooter was cracking up over their trouble and, at one point, turned to Trillian's brother and said, "Unca W., do you need some help?" The funniest moment in the retelling occurred when uncle said, "The hardest part was getting his boot through that loop." Trillian and I looked at each other and said in unison, "What loop?" and laughed even harder. We're still not sure exactly what the configuration was, but they assured us that he wouldn't have budged if they'd been in an accident.

Trillian and I took off again today and saw a movie, The Holiday. Pretty standard as far as romantic comedies go, but I always enjoy Kate Winslet and sometimes it's nice to see some brain candy. Makes me want to move off to a cottage outside of London.

We have a few more days left here and, depending on the weather, will have a quieter time as uncle and great-grandmother head home. Scooter is loving the attention. His conversation has improved an amazing amount in the week we've been here. I found myself just marvelling at him as we opened some late-arriving gifts this afternoon. It's very hard to make myself work on my paper and studying when I would rather be basking in the family time.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

In the spirit of Christmas Eve, I tag myself for the meme that’s been going around.

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

Hot Chocolate. Preferably organic, fair trade, very dark cocoa. Then I can feel good because I’m helping the environment, workers in third-world countries, and my cholesterol.

Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

Santa used to always wrap the presents, every single one. Since Scooter’s arrival (and with him an explosion in the number of gifts), Santa wraps all of the adults’ gifts and about half of Scooter’s. The rest get placed under the tree, sometimes out of their packaging so that Scooter has something to play with while waiting for the slowpoke adults to unwrap their gifts.

Colored lights or white?

White. Because that’s what’s pre-strung on the in-laws’ artificial tree. I think that my absolute favorite on a tree are blue.

Do you hang mistletoe?

No. We never had it when I was a kid, mostly because we always had pets around. And I had never thought to get some fake mistletoe until I read it on someone else’s response. Next year.

What is your favorite holiday dish?

I love green bean casserole. And always wonder why I don’t make it more often. I also enjoy a good cranberry sauce.

Holiday memory as a child:

At the toe of our stockings, my mom always put a tangerine. This was something that came from her childhood. And, as she would say, it fit perfectly into that spot.

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

I think I was about 7. My parents decided I was too old for it and told me quite insistently. They had never done anything to encourage me to believe in Santa, and our gifts were always marked as being from a specific person, but I still believed in the magic. I didn’t want to accept what they said, and it was complicated by the fact that I had a gift under the tree from Santa that year. I suspect it was from one of my aunts and that my parents hadn’t noticed what she’d written.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

No. Though I was insanely jealous when I found out I had friends whose families did that. Now I like the excitement of waiting until that last moment.

How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?

Since it’s my in-laws’ tree, we use their ornaments, which range from antiques to fancy and new to ratty homemade ones. The tree is pretty well covered, not necessarily balanced, but I love hearing all of the stories that go with them.

Snow! Love it or Dread it?

Mostly love it. The Christmas before Scooter was born, we hosted several members of Trillian’s family (mother, father, brother, one of her grandmothers) since I was in my third trimester. A day or two before Christmas, Trillian and I went to a baby store with her mother and grandmother because they wanted to buy our crib and glider rocker for us. As we got to the shopping center, it started to snow. Trillian’s mother loves white Christmases, but hadn’t had one in years since she lived in a warm climate. We had flurries for the rest of the day with a few inches of accumulation, and it lasted through Christmas. It was absolutely gorgeous and made Trillian’s mom so happy. (Then of course, we got 2 feet of snow during my eighth month and Trillian was worried I would go into labor and we wouldn’t be able to get to the hospital.)

Can you ice skate?

No. I have never even tried. I feel a bit heretical admitting that now that I live in Canada.

Do you remember your favorite gift?

I remember various gifts, though not many from my childhood. And while I appreciated most of them and have gotten a lot of use out of them, those aren’t my favorite memories from the holidays.

What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?

It’s the expected answer, but family. Even more specifically, the family I’ve made with Trillian.

What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?

Peppermint bark. I received it (the Williams-Sonoma tin) as a gift from a student one year and wondered where it had been my whole life. Amazingly, I haven’t had a bite this year. Which is probably for the best.

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Every year at Christmas dinner, my mother-in-law puts out Christmas crackers. I had never popped one before my first Christmas with them. We open ours up, put on the paper crowns, and tell the lame jokes. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

Which do you prefer giving or receiving?

Giving. That would have always been my answer, because it seems like the appropriate one, but it really is true now. I was starting to move in that direction in any case, but having a child has totally tipped the balance. I truly have given almost no thought to what’s waiting for me under the tree, but can’t wait to watch my son’s eyes light up tomorrow morning. I’m also excited about seeing how my in-laws react to their gifts (framed artwork from my son).

What is your favorite Christmas Song?

The Barenaked Ladies version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Since I’m an atheist, I’m not entirely comfortable with the amount of “God” in this carol, and yet I can’t get enough of this particular version.

Hardest person to buy for?

My mother. I never know what she wants and can never tell from her reaction if she actually likes what I got her.

Favorite Christmas movie?

Nightmare Before Christmas. Trillian is big into watching movies to match the season, so we watch this one from Halloween through to Christmas (though I’m thinking we haven’t pulled it out yet this season). My favorite holiday-themed movie is Home for the Holidays. It’s not technically a Christmas movie, but it is about the craziness that is family—and when will anyone ever ask you your favorite Thanksgiving movie?

What do you want for Christmas this year?

To pass the exam I’m supposed to be studying for right now.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

15 years ago today

Fifteen years ago today my father passed away.

It was not a surprise, as much as any death is not a surprise. He had survived his first bout with cancer four years earlier. But it had come back. Several times. And at the beginning of my first year at the local university, he told my siblings and me that it had returned again and had been deemed inoperable. It was going to kill him.

It was shortly after that family meeting that things changed enough to make the inevitable very real to us. First he had to give up his daily bike ride to and from campus because he had to go on a morphine pump to control the pain--no biking, no driving. The bicycle went to me as the only other person tall enough for the frame (we were, in fact, the same height, though I appeared taller due to my long legs and ballet-trained posture).

Within a couple more weeks it didn't matter that he'd had to give up the daily ride, as he was no longer able to work. He was set up comfortably at home, but his only trips out were for doctor's appointments. A couple of family members with nursing experience came to help out and handle all of the medical things that needed to be done at home; they also made sure that my mother and siblings had a good dinner every night. I was living in a residence hall on campus, so I wasn't there all of the time, but I went home much more often than I'd initially planned.

Around midterms in October, my father began to display signs of mental deterioration. My father had made it quite clear to us that life without his mental capacities intact was not worth living. We thought that the end was coming, had a visit from a hospice worker, tried to steel ourselves. And then the doctor discovered that two of his drugs were interacting. Within days, his mind was back.

At the beginning of Decemeber, my mother's father passed away and she made a quick, frantic trip to be with her family, worried the entire time that something might happen back at home.

My last final for the semester was on the very last day of the exam period: Friday, December 20th. My residence closed that same afternoon, so I headed home for the month-long break. My father and I talked some about what I might major in--I think I still hadn't narrowed it down from the triple major I had been contemplating. My areas of interest overlapped with his, both his major and minor from university (with another language thrown in).

Over the weekend, he began to decline. His speech became more labored, his movements less controlled. My mother and our relatives talked about moving him to a hospice where they'd be better able to handle his needs. My father had wanted to die at home, but they didn't think they could do everything he needed.

On Monday, December 23rd, I sat in the kitchen with my mother and siblings. We were talking and reminiscing about funnier times. I remember feeling the need to make sure we were laughing. A relative came around the corner and asked my mom to come back with her. And I knew. I just knew.

I suggested to my siblings that we head downstairs. I don't remember the reason I gave or if I even needed one. And so we went to the playroom and continued our conversation. I was divided in the moment, keeping up the light-hearted banter with them while waiting for someone to summon us. I have no concept of how long it was before we were called upstairs, told the inevitable, and allowed back to the master bedroom so that we could see our father one last time.

I have always believed that my father picked the moment of his passing. He knew that he wouldn't be able to stay at home much longer, that he would lose the opportunity to dictate his own terms. I would like to think that on that afternoon our laughter trickled back to the bedroom and that he decided to let go while the house was full of happiness.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

17 hours later

As long as the storms hold off, I'll be settled in at my in-laws this time tomorrow with my Thursday shopping trips... already planned.
Famous last words.

Now to be fair, I am writing this from my in-laws'. I did sleep in their guest room last night. So we did, at least, accomplish our main goal for yesterday. But it came close to not happening at all and required many, maaaany more airports and hours of travel than we had ever expected.

We were supposed to fly through Denver on Wednesday with a connection to our final destination. We were excited to be trying a new route that would get us into the small airport closest to Scooter's grandparents, cutting out the hour-plus drive from the airport which most airlines use to get to this area.

When we went to bed Tuesday night, it looked like the snow might peter out and fall short of the snow advisory and warning we'd seen online. And indeed, Wednesday morning found the snow warning cancelled--with a blizzard warning in its place. We decided to head to Pearson anyway, a few alternates forming as we went.

At check-in, all of our flights still showed "on time", but Trillian asked our agent about other routes, including to nearby airports. He was wonderfully helpful and tried all sorts of combinations. He could get us to one of airline's other hubs on Wednesday or Thursday without any trouble, but there were no seats from them to our final destination for days. We could fly standby, which would have meant spending days at the airport waiting to see if a flight managed to have 3 unexpected openings. During the holidays. When thousands of other people would be hoping to do the same thing. We decided to check in and hope we'd make it in and out of Denver before they closed the airport.

45 minutes before our flight was due to leave, it was cancelled. No flights allowed into Denver after 1pm. The Denver airport would be closing. Denver was basically closed. The airline would be happy to try to find alternate routes, although those passengers who had been headed to Denver as their final destination would just have to wait until the airport reopened (Friday at noon, they're now saying--at the earliest). We just needed to get our baggage and then they'd be happy to figure things out for us. Except Trillian and I already knew that, with the holiday traffic, there probably wouldn't be any seats to our destination until after Christmas. She got on the phone to her parents to let them know what was happening and to set Plan B into motion. I went to get our bags, leaving Scooter and our carry-ons with Trillian so I could get maneuver more quickly.

While I waited for our bags--which took a while since they first couldn't get the conveyor going and then had the wrong flight's bags--Trillian got everything sorted. As soon as I met up with her and Scooter, we headed to the car, vouchers from our original airline and new travel itinerary on Southwest in hand. New destination: the Buffalo airport.

Luckily there was very little traffic and the border crossing, even though it was backed up, took less than half an hour. We even had time to stop at a chain restaurant to eat a full meal so that we wouldn't have to rely on airport food. There was even a Starbucks next door so that Trillian could get her gingerbread latte fix. Once in the airport, we stopped at the play area and let Scooter shake out the kinks after the drive. It was, of course, past his nap time, but he refused to settle down for a nap.

Our first flight included a stop in the middle. Scooter slept during our descent and woke up when I picked him up (gently, I swear). Then a switch of planes. Then we finally arrived to our destination, more or less--the larger nearby airport. After the hour-plus drive, we finally made it. For about 10 minutes, Scooter was torn between the over-stimulation of being at his grandparents' house and complete exhaustion. A memorable quote: "I want to play trains, I want to sit at table [a play table], I want to sleep." He fell asleep within 5 minutes of getting into bed and having everything arranged to his liking.

So the numbers for this trip:
8:00 am = time we left our apartment
1:00 am = time (in Toronto) when we got to the grandparents' house
1 = flights cancelled
5 = airports we went to (though we didn't get off the plane at the 3rd one)
3 = times we had to go through security
2 = times we went through customs
15 = minutes Scooter slept between 7:30 am Wednesday and 1:15 am Thursday.
1 = child who is ecstatic to be at Grandma and Grandpa's

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A little traveling music

Edited below.

We head off to the in-laws tomorrow. Much of our day involved tracking developing storms across the States; there have been snow advisories and warnings for more than one place along our route, making us fearful that we might get stuck somewhere. Scooter remembered this morning that we're going to the airport and will get to see Grandma and Grandpa, so we don't want to have to explain why we're staying home or stuck in a crappy motel with the wrong kind of chicken nuggets/ etc. Plus, I'm ready for the break.

Somehow I've avoided falling into my usual pre-flight routine. Last minute laundry, everyone packed but me, endless lists, what has to get done, what can be skipped. I'm usually up until at least midnight or 1 am, jumping out of bed for the first hour I try to sleep as I suddenly remember something else. But we managed to get nearly everything packed yesterday and my wife collected the paperwork for the trip and handled all of the laundry (that will get done before we go--there's always some left). I let go of the idea that my seminar paper would be done before I left for 10 days, so I've gathered most of what I'll need, along with the materials I need to study for my January exam. But all of that's already in my backpack (OK, OK, I just thought of four additional books I really should bring with me, but am thinking I'll leave them here and deal with them when I get back).

It doesn't feel right for the night before a trip, but I'll be in bed by 11 pm. Unless I decide to stay up to watch Jon Stewart. But I'm not staying up for trip-related purposes. There's always more to do, and I'll think of some of it tonight and in the morning. The important stuff will get done in the morning. The rest can wait.

As long as the storms hold off, I'll be settled in at my in-laws this time tomorrow with my Thursday shopping trips (Target, Borders, an incredibly well-stocked Whole Foods) already planned. And the grandparents (aka babysitters) fawning over the child.

My title did not originally have a deeper meaning. And yet, as soon as I published this, I headed back to the office to pick through some CDs. A Suzanne Vega song has been going through my head, and I wanted to go check the lyrics. Came across a favorite Peter Gabriel CD. Am now ripping both to my laptop so that I have them for when I'm doing my work.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gaining weight

No, not me. While the weight has not exactly been melting away during this break of mine, I'm at least back to the weight from my first weigh-in of early pregnancy four or so years ago, a loss of about 5 pounds from when I started keeping track again. If I can lose another 5 before I start trying again, I'll be happy.

The weight gain, or rather desired weight gain, is for my son. As a newborn, Scooter gained weight at the upper end of what's expected. He nursed well and seemed to be getting plenty. Then, at about nine months, about the time we were trying to get him to increase the amount of solid food in his diet, his weight gain leveled off and his percentile sank lower and lower. One pediatrician gave us a lecture about hiding extra calories and nutrients in food--put wheat germ in his applesauce, spinach in his tomato sauce, never mind that he didn't eat any of those. But this was the one doctor at Scooter's old practice we didn't particularly like; we preferred to put our faith in another pediatrician's advice: don't worry, even if he's in the 5th percentile for weight, he's holding steady there, so I'm not concerned.

Nonetheless, we've decided recently to worry about his weight again, mostly because he's so skinny. He's a picky eater and is not generally interested in food; he'd probably skip meals if we didn't offer them to him. That's not to say his nutritional intake is greatly lacking. He eats a variety of foods, just a selection from the same ones everyday: goldfish crackers, Cheerios, a couple other cereals (Barbara's Cinnamon Puffins and, oddly enough, Fibre One Honey Clusters), orange juice, milk, apples, chicken nuggets, veggie dogs, bread with either butter or ketchup, cheese sandwiches or quesadillas, and sweets.

So Trillian and I have been looking for ways to boost his calorie intake without relying entirely on non-nutritious offerings and turning this into a battle of wills. What we've come up with so far (some of which we've already implemented, some which is in the works):

1) Whole milk. In addition to the 2% we buy (Trillian can't stand the taste of anything with less fat), we've been buying a small container of whole milk as "the boy's milk." We offer it to him regularly, both to drink and with his cereal.

2) Chicken nuggets. I've given up on my quest for homemade chicken nuggets for Scooter. I made some really yummy ones the other night, but he would barely even touch them. We realized the problem is that he needs uniformity. With homemade nuggets, if he gets a bite where the spices or breading tastes just a little different, it puts him off them altogether.*

3) Apples. Lots and lots of apples. Trillian has taken to cutting up an apple and keeping slices near Scooter as he plays. He tends to eat more if he's distracted. That way we make sure he's consistently getting vitamins and minerals.

4) Fruit and vegetable breads. With cream cheese frosting. Applesauce bread, zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, carrot cake, anything that's a little sweet but still chock full of vitamins and minerals. And he likes cream cheese frosting, which will provide more fat and calories.

5) Cheese. He used to love cheese, but has not liked it as much recently. We're going to try finding a couple varieties he'll eat plain so that we have a calcium-rich, high-calorie, easy snack.

6) Sweets. More specifically, bribing with sweets. Not my first choice, but it works. Tonight was the promise that he could have some chocolate after he finished the chicken nuggets on his plates. He complained less than usual and ate almost twice what we expected.

I find it somewhat ironic, in this day of obsessing over childhood obesity, that I am trying to force more calories into my son, even to the point of indulging in behaviors that are targeted by concerned experts--don't eat while involved in other activities, because then there's a tendency to eat more.

The trick will be balancing the foods that help Scooter gain weight while making sure that I continue on my downward path. Maybe if we eat the same sized portions...

*Since it doesn't look like I'll be able to get him onto organic chicken nuggets, I'll focus on making as much of the rest of his food as possible organic.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Techno-geek or Luddite?

Several items of technology I swore I had no use for, yet I wouldn't want to give them up now:

1) Keyless remote entry for my car. How hard is it to unlock a car door, I would scoff. And then, when I was about 10 weeks pregnant, we went to a wedding and rented a car with remote entry. LOVED IT! And could totally see how useful it would be once the baby arrived. So while it wasn't on my list of must-haves for a new car, I was very happy it came with the model we picked out. And I actually complain now that our fob doesn't include a button for the trunk.

2) Cordless phone. I know, welcome to the 1980s. But, seriously, we bought a cordless phone, my first one, last year. And really Trillian bought it so that she could use it, with its speaker phone and muting capability, for conference calls. I will admit, however, that it's nice to be able to move it wherever I need to.

3) Semi-automatic espresso maker. Because how difficult is it to grind and tamp some espresso? Not very, and yet we found that part of the process took a while and added to cleanup. Our current machine empties and cleans the brew group; grinds, measures, and tamps the espresso; and sends the proper amount of water through the grounds. We still have to handle the frothing of the milk, but I prefer that bit of control. We make a lot more of our coffee at home thanks to the ease of this machine--we also managed to buy it on sale at a time when it cost much less than now (thanks, I believe, to the thriving Euro).

4) Leap-pad. Do I want a machine to teach my child to read? No! Reading is a special time and activity for us. Then we got one as a birthday gift. And my son loves it. I wouldn't say it's teaching him how to read anymore than anything else we're doing. Rather, he enjoys the characters and games, though not to the exclusion of other things, so I don't yet worry about him becoming a slave to this toy.

Technology I still swear I don't need.

1) Tivo. Not that I ever figured out our DVR before it ignobly died this month, but I just can't justify spending the money upfront and a monthly service charge on top of that to record what I can set my VCR or DVR for. And even though I don't have things set up for timer recording right now, there's next to nothing on TV that I just have to see that badly. Even something like Battlestar Galactica, although I rarely miss an episode, read online to figure out what happened, and rest assured that I'll watch it when we buy the DVD of the season--which we inevitably will.

2) PDA. Trillian has had a couple Palm Pilots, though her second one died recently (lost its charge and won't hold one anymore). I toyed with the idea of getting one on several occasions, but have never followed through; it would take so much work to get it set up. I prefer a spiral-bound school planner. When I was a teacher, I used the homework planner published by my school to hold both my class plans and my out-of-school appointments. Now, I use a university-published one so that I already have a record of university-related dates.

3) Satellite radio. My father-in-law has one, and I can see the appeal of non-commercial radio. But this is another item I can't imagine paying a monthly fee for. There are a few radio stations that don't pay too many commercials, and I have a CD player if all else fails.

I'm probably missing some others, but you get the idea. Part of me wants to hole up in a cabin in the woods (not entirely a joke, that's part of the plan I mentioned yesterday). But I would definitely have my laptop and high-speed wireless internet.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A few lists, as meditation

Trillian is home. Finally. She's home, and things are settling back down here. Scooter stayed home to enjoy some time with his two mommies, and it was very nice to cocoon a bit with the family. Even more of the funk that I was in is lifting, due both to the simple presence of my wife and to having my sounding board back in person.

We've begun to formulate a plan for the next couple years, something that moves us towards some of the things we both really want. And so I'm in a bit of a list-making mood right now.*

Goals for 2007
1) Get pregnant
2) Pass the rest of my qualifying exams
3) Organize all loose papers in the apartment (and yes, that will take a year)
4) Get my son into speech therapy (we're on the waitlist)

Goals for the 2007-08 school year
1) Finish all coursework
2) Pass my minor field
3) Complete the reading for my major field
4) Have the second child
5) Move with my family to our favorite area of the US

Goals for three years
1) Have my dissertation ready for defense
2) Be on the market

Goals for ten years
1) Complete one novel
2) Have a tenure-track job (or a stable and satisfying adjunct situation--if that's not an oxymoron)
3) Own a house again--and have it remodeled to fit our long-term needs

Mostly realistic I think, I hope. Fodder for more posts. Reference for days when I become untethered again.

*Bub and Pie, I just about cracked up when I saw you refer to list-making as an indulgence. I love list-making. But, really, is that a surprise?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Win some great stuff, help a great cause

Blogger was giving me trouble last night--wouldn't let me in to post or comment anywhere. Very frustrating, especially since I had set aside time for it. So of course it now lets me in, after I've had a very long day and just spent a couple hours starting on grading my exams (which are not going quite as well as I'd hoped on the most factual portion, sigh). As a result, no coherent post tonight,
I just want to point you in the direction of an excellent cause.

Over at Motherhood Uncensored, you can find a raffle auction. The proceeds are going to MD Canada in honor of Her Bad Mother's nephew Tanner. For more details, you can see Sandra's explanation at Mommy Blogs Toronto. Or just click on over to the auction. I'll be there shortly!

Her Bad Auction

Monday, December 11, 2006

Baby steps

When I hit Publish on Saturday, I was a bit embarrassed about sharing part of my existential crisis. But between the supportive comments I got and a few deep breaths, I'm starting to figure out what I need to do to get a handle on that particular source of angst--and I won't get into the other stuff now.

Not that any of this is novel or particularly earth-shattering, but here are some of the thoughts that are helping me move forward.

1) I can't do it all. I simply cannot solve all problems on my own. But it is also not my burden to take care of everything.

2) The most important thing is that I do something. It will not be the solution, but every little action makes a difference.

3) I should pick those things that speak most clearly to me on a personal level. Because I am truly passionate about environmental and animal issues, those are the ones that I should pursue the most; I will find it easiest to keep up what I start. It does not mean that I don't care about homelessness or HIV/AIDS or that I won't take action, but see #1.

That said, I've decided to start with a few small, but concrete, actions that are inspired by some of my greater concerns. The following list focuses on the tie between food and the environment. It was Andrea's post that made me really think again about the relationships between different levels of the food chain. And then I went back to my copy of Diet for a Small Planet and found one of the statistics I'd vaguely remembered: to get 1 pound of beef, it takes about 16 pounds of grain and soybeans. That's 15 additional pounds of food, much of it a good source of protein, that could be feeding so many more. On top of that, producing beef requires huge additional amounts of water and fossil fuels beyond what crops take.

When I became a vegetarian at 18 (long story short--I had wanted to become one for many years. My parents wouldn't allow me to quit eating meat while I lived at home; I, and I'm not kidding here, was the kind of kid who didn't even think about just refusing to eat it), there was not just one reason for my decision. I have always loved animals and had cried the first time I fully realized that lamb really was a lamb (and started to put together all the food names with their counterparts). As a young child, I came up with the dream of living on forested land where I would keep all sorts of animals, with the provision that I would teach the predators not to eat other animals. I came to understand that this was an unrealistic expectation, but I then wondered why people couldn't do this since we can make choices about what we eat. Later came the recognition of the extra burden placed on land for raising food animals, the generally poor treatment of said animals, and the health benefits of eating less animal fat.

I faltered with the vegetarian diet at about 8-10 weeks into my pregnancy when my body started screaming out for meat. I stuck with it into breastfeeding because my body was running through calories even faster than when I had been pregnant. I tried for a short time to go back to a vegetarian diet, but found it too difficult for a number of reasons, including a health problem that was making it hard for me to keep my blood sugar up. Now Trillian is not a vegetarian and could never switch to a fully vegetarian diet because of her own health issue (nothing major, but soy is actually something she has to limit), so I don't know that I'll go back to my original diet since I don't want to juggle multiple meals for the family.

An added dimension of my concern now is the quality of food: pesticides, artificial ingredients, filler like high fructose corn syrup, all the things that make the nutritional value of some foods questionable.

So here are my starting points on this issue:

A) I will eat at least 4 meatless meals (lunches and dinners) a week. It's time to pull out some of my old favorites and pick out some new experiments.

B) I will experiment with recipes for homemade chicken nuggets, using organic chicken. My son's two favorite forms of protein are veggie dogs and chicken nuggets, but only very specific chicken nuggets that come from mainstream brands. We've tried several different types made with organic chicken, but Scooter hates the breading on all of them. I have a chicken strip recipe, so I will mess with that to see if I can get the breading to his liking.

C) I will bake more often. Most of my plans to overhaul our eating involve doing away with all sweets. But if I want to create a plan that we will actually follow, I need to recognize the things we're just not going to give up. Cookies are on that list. But if I make a batch every couple weeks, freezing most of them so that we don't eat too many at a time, we will always have delicious cookies made from mostly organic ingredients so that we're not tempted to go buy a bag that is full of chemicals, creates extra landfill material with its packaging, and has had to travel a long distance to get to us (additional reasons I could add to B).

All three are fairly painless and even tap into things I like. None of them are huge actions, but it's a start.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sneaking into the back

I got invited to a wedding this week, a wedding of minds and concerns for social justice. And as I always do with most social invitations, I wavered. Then Trillian had to go off to a funeral. And Scooter and I were struck by the plague. On top of that, I’ve been reading some of the posts leading up to this whole shindig and feeling more and more inadequate. So I was totally going to blow the whole thing off. But I’ve decided to sneak into the back with a shy little wave and at least sign the guestbook.

All of the festivities are occurring when I’m in the middle of a bit of an existential crisis vis a vis my place in the world and if I am doing enough to minimize the footprint I leave. Most of this revolves around environmental concerns, though Andrea does an excellent job of showing how these issues are co-implicated in issues of social justice.

I’m the kind of person who can be paralyzed in the face of decision. Since a very young age, I’ve understood the concept of consequences and been able to work out all of the possibilities. And lately, each action I take, every item that surrounds me is a vivid reminder that I am not living up to my own standards or principles. Even when I try to take a positive action in one direction, I am aware of the many ways in which it conflicts with another.

A small, but easily parsed, example for illustration.

The basic premise: Scooter and I took a trip to Ikea so that we could buy several plush toys. Ikea is donating $1 from the sale of each plush toy to UNICEF and Save the Children. We will then donate the toys to two holiday drives, one on campus and one in our building.

The ways in which this matches my principles: I want to teach Scooter that not everyone has as much as he does and that, since we are in a position to do so, we should help others. He’s a bit young to understand the concept yet, but I am trying to introduce it now, in terms he understands. He is looking forward to Christmas and presents, there are some kids who don’t always get presents, so we should get some for them. A bit simplistic, but a start.

The three major conflicts that leap to mind:

#1. The Environment. We drove to Ikea for the purpose of buying several stuffed animals. We did not group our errands. We didn’t even buy the additional items I had planned on getting (particularly the compact fluorescent light bulbs). While our car is a very low emissions car (though not a hybrid), those were not miles we necessarily needed to drive.

#2. Consumerism. We buy too much. I’m trying to become a much more thoughtful consumer so that I only buy well-made items that will last and that we will use regularly. I’m also trying to show my son that buying stuff is not always the solution. I also know that the more we buy, the more will be made, since companies respond to demand. By purchasing less, I move myself to the edge of that cycle. But in this case I stepped right back into the middle of it.

#3. Religion. We are atheists and try very hard to support only nonsectarian organizations and charities. This is not to say that all church-based or religiously-founded charities are bad. We are wary, however, about the possibility that they will push views with which we disagree. For example, the Salvation Army holds evangelical beliefs, including an opposition to “homosexual behavior” and same-sex marriage. And so that is one charity I simply cannot support. For the toy drives, however, I know that the umbrella organization that is handling at least one of them has some partners that are based in religious organizations. I have not done research into every one of them, but am aware that my giving may end up funneled through people with whom I disagree on some very important issues.

Obviously this is a work in progress. I’m trying to take baby steps and pick small concrete actions that will help me move back to living more closely in harmony with my core principles. I apologize for bringing my angst to such a joyous occasion. I’ll tuck it back in my pocket now and raise my glass to the many wonderful women here today.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Emerging from the haze

Sporadic posts as we over at the nest try to recover from the plague and pestilence that has descended upon us. Reports from the States indicate that Trillian is suffering from the early stages: sore throat degenerating into a rough cough.

Yesterday was difficult for both Scooter and me. I was coughing crap up, and Scooter threw up a couple times--too much mucus! Neither one of us felt like doing much of anything, but I had a couple of meetings I had to get to, especially as this is the end of the semester and they were time-sensitive. So, for the first time this semester, for the first time since I began this program actually, I bundled Scooter up and brought him with me, armed with many Cars, some orange juice, and snacks. Not much fun for anyone, but we managed.

Once we got back home, we bunkered down, liberally dosing ourselves with Tylenol (for the fever both of us have been running) and meds for the congestion (Benadryl for the boy, Mucinex for me--brought in from the States since we can't find it here). Both of us napped in the afternoon; I got in three hours, Scooter slept for 4 1/2 hours (and still fell asleep around his usual time).

Today is more of the same. I'm missing the last day of my classes for the semester, but there was no way around it. Even if Trillian were here to watch Scooter, I don't think I could have handled a full day for myself.

We did manage a trip to the grocery store for more meds and other essentials (i.e., Goldfish crackers). Of course, I managed to forget two things I had told myself last night not to forget--but they never made it onto the written list.

I highly suspect that this is the flu, diagnosed mostly by the aches and chills I had yesterday. Both have abated significantly today, and the fever is not quite as high or persistent. So perhaps the whining shall pass soon too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The cruelest season

I had to put my wife on a plane to the States this morning. A family member passed away, not entirely unexpectedly, but a bit of a shock nonetheless. For those of you who may have known her blog, back when she was keeping it up, you will know a bit of the back story to that. So as she finds herself grieving and trying to negotiate her family and potentially hostile territory (this relative lived in a state where we won't travel with our family because the laws are bad enough that we couldn't trust a judge to side with us if someone decided it was in our son's best interest not to live with two women), I am temporarily a single parent as I try to finish up my semester. Scooter and I are both sick and grumpy; we miss Trillian.

I should be working on my paper. I should be reading for my class on Friday. I should be writing my holiday post for Mommy Blogs Toronto. But unfortunately, this is pretty much what I would come up with right now:

While I generally enjoy the holidays, this time of year brings with it many reminders of sadness.

Fifteen years ago this month, we lost both my grandfather and my father. Both had been ill for months, my father on and off for years. But suddenly they were gone in less than a month. Only my mother made it to my grandfather's service, and she came home to a husband who was in deteriorating condition.

Almost four years ago, just after New Year's, while I was in my third trimester, my grandmother passed away. My uncle followed about a month later. I couldn't get to either service because I couldn't fly and both deaths happened as our area was struck by winter storms that paralyzed all car and train traffic.

This year, it's in my wife's family. One of the things that upset Trillian most was that she had been planning another trip down to help out once her family member was out of the ICU. Everyone told her she didn't need to hurry down, plus while she was recovering from pneumonia, there's no chance they would have let her into the unit to visit. And I have a fear that the previous pattern may be repeated since another of her family members has been diagnosed with a type of cancer that generally has a poor survival rate. One small ray of hope is that it has turned out to be more localized than originally expected, so there may be more treatment options available.

Tonight I'm wallowing. Tomorrow I may make cookies and try to recapture the holiday spirit.

Monday, December 04, 2006

How does my garden grow?

This past weekend, Trillian and I picked up our holiday gift to each other. This has been a habit of ours for many years now; we pick something out for the house or our mutual enjoyment and call it a Christmas gift. Some years it's very practical--I think we considered some repairs to our house our present the first year we lived there. This year, it's a bit of a luxury, but something that promises to be useful too.

Our special purchase? The Aerogarden.*

It's a fully self-contained, hydroponic growing system. The makers have taken out all of the guesswork and made it very difficult to mess up. In four weeks, we should have a full garden of herbs, sitting in easy reach on our kitchen counter. Seven different herbs. No dirt, no pesticides. Once the herbs are done, we'll pop in the salad greens pods and have two to three months of fresh lettuce. I'm a little excited.

Back at our old house, we had a wonderful herb garden and would go clip off bits of thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary, and several others during the warmer months. Since the herb mix for our Aerogarden does not include rosemary, I picked up a rosemary "tree" at Loblaws as well. It makes things feel a little bit more like home. Added bonus, it's shaped like a Christmas tree, so it introduces miniature holiday cheer.

Another benefit we've discovered is that the grow lights add a lot of bright light to our living area. We've got one of those open plan kitchen/dining area/ living room setups, so the light from the kitchen counter reaches into every corner of our most used room. I have some hopes this will help with our seasonal affective disorder; both Trillian and I seemed to suffer from it to a degree we'd never experienced before last winter.

I spent part of my afternoon sitting at the dining room table to do my grading. The growlight illuminated my work while the scent of rosemary kept me alert.

I'm very excited about the fresh produce we'll soon have--it won't be certifiably organic, but it will be completely free from the things that concern me about conventional produce. But in the meantime, it's already earning its keep.

*In Canada, you can get it online from Golda's Kitchen or Aviva. Golda's Kitchen is based in Mississauga, so it's pretty easy to get to from Toronto. I should point out, however, that I got the last one in stock this weekend, so it may be a bit before others are available.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A little me time

A couple weeks ago, when Trillian was apologizing for the umpteenth time for being sick and leaving me with the bulk of household duties (to which I responded for the umpteenth time, "But that's family and you'd do it for me), she suggested that when everyone got better, I should go to a spa for a special treat.

In the past, when we've thought about doing such things, they tend to get forgotten. And so, I've never actually used the services of a spa. I've had a couple nice haircuts; yeah for Aveda mini-massages! I've seen massage therapists, but that's it.

But this time, I've decided that I will follow through and treat myself. So here's why I'm writing about this: help me figure out the best way to pamper myself for even just an hour or so. I do need another haircut, but that does not have to be part of the package. I also haven't decided if this will be pre- or post-Christmas.

If you're in the Toronto area, can you recommend some spa or salon with spa services?

Even if you're not in the Toronto area, you can play along. What are your favorite spa treatments?

Completely unrelated: Be sure to keep checking out Mommy Blogs Toronto. There's a new post up there, Kittenpie's book suggestions. New content now appears three times a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday. And we'll be starting in with some holiday posts this coming Monday!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Getting a little personal

I read a statistic at some point (don't remember when, where, or exactly in what context--obviously not in research mode at the time) that only 10% of women think about s@x* more than once a week. As with so much of statistics, this number raises more questions than it answers. The article claimed that it makes sense women would think about this so little since testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for arousal and women have 10% of the testosterone of men. I remember wondering about what research went into the statistic back when I read it.

And when this number floated across my brain earlier, I also began to wonder how such an interview was conducted and what qualified as "thinking about s@x." Fantasizing about the act? Admiring a partner's physical features? Deciding you'd be up for some action tonight? Bemoaning the fact that your partner will certainly be interested when you're exhausted?

And is this an average? Or was the number arrived at in some other manner?

So why was this floating through my head, you may be wondering. I'll answer as best as I can without getting too personal (the title of the post, after all, is "Getting a little personal").

I've mentioned the charting of my fertility signals before and the fact that I'm pretty in tune with my body. Besides the changes I've discussed before, one surefire sign that I'm ramping up to peak fertility is a surge in my libido. And so, as I find myself heading to that point in the first cycle of my two-month break, I am not charting my fertility with the same compulsion as before, yet I still can't help but notice that's where I'm headed.

And if the statistic I quoted above is at all true, I must rate somewhere around "h@rny teenaged boy" for at least one week a month.

I'd imagine that still qualifies as TMI, but there you have it.

*Seriously, not a prude. Just trying to avoid some unwanted search attention.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In a quan-tree

Upon reading Mother Bumper's post--over at Mommy Blogs Toronto--about trying to live a greener life, I was reminded of the recent environmental angst that has been plaguing me of late. I haven't talked much about my green leanings, but it is actually an issue that is very important to me. And as we enter the holiday season, the perennial question comes to mind: What should we do about a Christmas tree?

In the early years of my relationship with Trillian, we had a fake tree, following along with the whole argument that it would be a one-time purchase and would mean saving one tree a year. But that (and our Christmas lights) ended up in a landfill before I got pregnant after we found out that the plastic in those products uses lead to increase pliability. I once read somewhere that there are some fake trees made without lead, but cannot find the reference or the trees now, of course.

The tree issue had become a mostly moot point before then anyway. By that time, we had established a pattern of visiting my in-laws for a week around Christmas, so we simply enjoyed whatever tree they had. It didn't take away all of my anxiety over the kill-a-tree vs. purchase-a-plastic-monstrosity debate. But at least I didn't have to accept responsibility for the decision.

The Christmas before Scooter was born, however, we hosted family for the celebrations since I was starting my third trimester and couldn't fly. There was no way to get by without a tree. Trillian talked me into a cut tree. I could justify it because it was a farmed tree, grown specifically for the purpose. Plus, our county would pick the tree up after Christmas and use it to create mulch for local projects (and that residents could purchase for fairly cheap).

We have thought about a live tree from time-to-time, but there's always been a reason against it. Most years there was the problem that we would be away and unable to water it for too long. Or we didn't have a place to plant it after the holidays when we were living in rental properties. When we had a cat, we knew from experience that she would use it as a litter-box. And now we're back to the whole rental property, nowhere to put it problem.

Even though we're headed down to the States for the last third of December, we contemplated getting a tree this year. But that brought me back to the above debate. I nearly caved when we went to the grocery store last week and walked by the cut trees. The scent of fresh trees was so wonderful. But I chose my usual way out--no tree. Scooter is enjoying the trees that are up around the city--there's a giant one not too far from us with excellent lights. And Grandma and Grandpa will have a beautiful tree at their place. So we'll have plenty of Christmas cheer.

Of course, it still doesn't settle things for the long-term. In my fantasies for the future--that perfect house we'll find in our favorite part of the country (the US, that is)--there's a large evergreen out front that we'll decorate each year with bird-seed ornaments. There will also be something indoors, that we can use to display our favorite ornaments, though I haven't quite figured that one out yet.

Anyone got this one figured out?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Scooter's staying home from school, so it must be Tuesday

We've fallen into a problematic pattern. For all but one of the past 4 or 5 Tuesdays, Scooter has stayed at home with some degree of illness. The one time he went, which happens to have been last week, he threw a royal fit about going and was in a rotten mood the whole time. When he has stayed home, it's been fairly legitimate--today, he was coughing again, had a runny nose, and was running a low-grade fever (but his hands and feet felt hotter than normal too).

I figure that part of this is the cycle of the week. While we have fun on the weekend, our activities are not as (over-)stimulating or exhausting as school, so Scooter has a chance to recover a bit. By Monday, he's ready to head to school. But then all of the activity and excitement wears him down so that he gets grumpy and any minor physical complaints are aggravated. So Tuesday is difficult. We then usually make it through the rest of the week just fine.

Since his recent stays at home have coincided with Trillian's low recovery from pneumonia, my Tuesdays have developed a new schedule: stay home a little longer than usual, head off to campus in time for my office hour, wait for no students to show up, run home for lunch and to get Scooter down for a nap, back up to campus for class, and a final trip home. It sure keeps me going!

On the plus side, even if this pattern continues, I only have one more Tuesday with this combination of office hour and class, so I won't have to keep up this crazy schedule.

In other news, I presented the research I've done so far for my seminar paper. It feels good to get that out of the way! The trick now is not to bask too long in that feeling since I still need to write the paper itself.

Little steps to the end of another semester!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Just a quick blog and run

I had no intention of blogging until tomorrow night, as the presentation is not quite done (and will be by then, for better or worse). But...

1) My first post went up over at Mommy Blogs Toronto. I didn't know it would be the next in rotation, so it was a fun surprise to find my words staring back at me when I clicked over from my Bloglines. Go check it out--not just for my post, but for everyone's. I'm just amazed (and so very happy) that there are so many interesting, intelligent women in Toronto who were my virtual acquaintances first. And even if you're not local, the posts are worth a read!

2) I made the mistake of reading more on the breastfeeding ruckus during one of the breaks I allowed myself. The problem was not the original post but, as usual, many of the comments that followed. More anger and frustration (how can these people not agree with my stance when it is obviously right--this is one place where I really can't step back and try to see it from the other side).

That is all for now. I'll attempt something resembling a real post tomorrow.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Making my excuses

I imagine that the next few days (maybe up to a week) will be light posting days. I have a seminar presentation to give next week and need to write the term exam for the class I'm teaching. I just know that if I get started on some of the topics I want to write about, I'll be here for an hour or so--and the big girl in me knows that's not an appropriate use of my time right now.

So no worries. I've not fallen off the edge of the world. I'm not shutting down here. Just trying to be responsible. As much as that's killing me.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I swear, this is not becoming a food blog

But, seriously. Thanksgiving. And the meal was amazing! So you'll have to bear with me for another account of a meal.

Originally, we had thought about inviting all of the US students in my department over here (with a few Brits to boot), but Trillian's pneumonia meant we didn't have a chance to get that organized. So it was just going to be the three of us. It was a fairly traditional Thanksgiving for us, a la Trillian's family recipes.

There was, of course, turkey. We roasted just a small turkey breast, basting frequently with butter. It browned up nicely and stayed moist.

But really, for both Trillian and me, the day is about the sides. In the order we prepared them:

1. Dressing. A recipe from one of Trillian's grandmothers. A whole loaf of white bread plus some cornbread, mixed up with broth, celery, onion, and eggs. Enough to fill a 13 x 9 pan. It browns a little bit on top and is absolutely delicious.

2. Green bean casserole. Nothing fancy, but my favorite. Canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, a little milk, and some French's onions--it's pretty much the recipe on the onions can, but I improvise amounts. It's creamy and quite tasty.

3. Sweet potato casserole. This could practically be dessert. Mashed sweet potatoes mixed with sugar, milk, eggs, and some spices. Once this has cooked for a bit, the topping is spread on top: butter, crushed cornflakes, brown sugar, and pecans. Another 10 minutes, the brown sugar melts and the topping gets crunchy. When I ate my dinner, I mixed in a little of my homemade cranberry sauce--perfect contrast of sweet and tart.

I used a powdered gravy, but it was an organic one I got from Whole Foods and lacked any chemical taste.

Dessert, of course, was pumpkin pie with some real whipped cream.

We managed to forget to heat up the brown-and-serve rolls, but those can be for tomorrow since we have plenty of leftovers.

* * * * * * *

Now, we didn't do the traditional saying of what we're thankful for at the dinner table, but it's something that has been on our minds lately. Not too long ago, Trillian and I found out about a site through the Daily Dose at Club Mom. Amalah linked to Atomictumor. Usually a husband and wife (and some other friends, I think) contributed to the site, but it had become a bit of a virtual vigil. The wife had mysteriously fallen ill and her husband was using the site to deal with his emotions.

I use the past tense, because things took a sudden and unexpected turn on November 17th. The husband is now a single father of 2 boys.

My wife has been following the site more closely than I and also has conversed with him via email. Today, we bought some Leafs gear to send down to the family (he has family from the Toronto area, so it's appropriate). It's a small gesture, reaching out to someone in such a bad place right now.

And so I am thankful for my wife. That she is recovering from pneumonia; as slowly as it's happening, it is happening. That she and I have been able to enjoy time together the past couple days; we did our food shopping together yesterday and went out again today. I am aware of how thankful I am to have these moments.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Silver lining

I spent the past two weeks ambivalent about what I wanted more: to be pregnant or to have the two month break I'd decided to take. Despite the turmoil of the inner dialogue, I discovered something yesterday morning.

I really wanted to be pregnant.

But now that I will be taking two months off from the baby dance and all of the complications it brings into my life,* I've decided to look at all of the positives of this situation. Consider it practice for (US) Thanksgiving tomorrow.

I am thankful that taking a break from trying to get pregnant means:

1. I will be able to focus more of my mental and physical energies on the end of my semester. This is traditionally a busy time for me anyway, and right now I need to think about preparing my presentation for next week, writing my paper for December, and studying for my exam in January. Not to mention the extra work that comes with teaching and giving an exam.

2. I also gain many hours back to put towards my work since I won't be spending 6 hours or so a couple times a month driving to the clinic and back.

3. I can focus on improving my health, at least a little. I've decided to engage in some form of exercise every day--something I wasn't doing, because of the concern I might be pregnant or might soon be pregnant (plus all of the craziness in our household lately made it easy not to find the time). Since I'll have about 10 weeks before my next try, that gives me plenty of time to establish new workout habits which I should be able to continue into pregnancy.

4. I can also make a concerted effort to eat better, especially appropriate amounts of unprocessed fruits and vegetables and as little refined sugar as I can manage. While it would be nice to lose some weight in the process of following through on #3 and 4, more important to me is feeling good. I've been successful with this in the past, but too often let these go when busy and stressed (which turns into that awful cycle of making less of an effort to workout and eat well since I don't have the energy, leading to feeling worse, leading to further slack off).

5. I might be able to present at a conference in May. I had mentally written it off before since I expected to be in my third trimester by May and knew we would need to fly to make the trip. Even if I were to manage to get pregnant on my first attempt after the break, I would only be around 20 or 22 weeks pregnant at conference time.

6. I can apply to teach for the entire summer term. My supervisor has suggested I apply, specifically to teach the full version of the course I'm doing right now (which is only the first half of a year-long course). If I were already pregnant, I would be due in the middle to the end of the course. While I did teach when I was pregnant with Scooter until a week before my due date, and stopped then only because it was Spring Break, I'm not sure I'll want to do that again.

7. We might be able to fit in the family reunion that's being planned for August. I might not be able to fly at that point (though I think that would be the case only if I got pregnant in January), but it would be easy to drive. If I had gotten pregnant on my previous cycle, the baby would have been due right on the weekend the reunion's been scheduled.

8. My next child will not be born in August. The month is a bit of an emotional minefield for my family, especially my mother. My parents' wedding anniversary and my father's birthday were both in August,** and my mother's very fragile around those days. There are already issues about her relationship--or lack thereof--with my son, so I'd rather avoid adding another dimension. The two month break also means I'll avoid giving birth on or around her birthday.

9. We will have time to finish getting the master bedroom arranged to share with a baby. We've decided that this will work best for us with our current floorplan and what worked with Scooter. But we haven't put the crib back together yet and have some heavy furniture to shift. Since I'm the handy one and the crib requires getting into some awkward positions to tighten bolts, it will be best to get this done while I have no physical restrictions.

So a whole range of reasons. And I didn't have to think for too long to come up with any of them.

I imagine I'll be rereading this list throughout the next two months to remind me of what I'm gaining by taking some time for myself. But I can guarantee that when this break is over, I'll be ready to start the baby dance all over again.

*I've been meaning to write about what this entails for me and my family in an average month.

**If anyone from my family reads this and has not figured out who this is yet, this ought to give it away.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Comfort food

OK, still not ready for the deep posting. And I may not be for a couple days.

So I've decided to share with you a very satisfying meal, the one I made for my family today. Apologies to vegetarians in advance; it's a crockpot pot roast.

This morning, I took the thawed roast (around 2 lbs/1 kg) from The Healthy Butcher (lots of organic meats, and they taste so wonderful--they also deliver!) from the fridge and seared it in a little olive oil over high heat. Tip: If you have a vent fan, turn it on before you put the meat in the pan. Smoke alarms at 7:30 am are no fun for anyone.

Before I put the roast in the crockpot, I chopped up a couple potatoes and stalks of celery and put those in the bottom. Place the roast on top and sprinkle an envelope of French onion soup mix over it. Then I spread two cans of cream of mushroom soup over the exposed parts of the roast--I think the original recipe only calls for one, but a second one is nice. Throw some chopped carrots around and on top of the roast, cover, turn to Low, and wait.

It was so nice to walk in to that aroma this evening. The juices of the roast and the soup combine into a very rich gravy. And the roast and vegetables all were wonderfully tender.

I have another favorite food day coming up since US Thanksgiving is coming up this Thursday. It'll be just the three of us since we couldn't organize anything bigger, but we've drafted a menu with all of my favorites: dressing, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes, OH MY!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Miscellanea for a Monday evening, again

Some odds and ends today. I have some real, serious posts in the works, but don't have the attention span needed to bring them to fruition.

1. We had the honor of attending WonderBaby's 1st birthday party! Scooter had the fun of being one of the big kids, though it also meant he had to guard his favored playthings closely. Cakes had a tendency to want whatever he had--and they have matching shrieks of protest! Towards the end of our time there, he enjoyed chasing Strawberry through the front hall, kitchen, dining room, and living room, back to the front hall and around again, each one pushing some rolling toy. Much fun for all! Scooter fell asleep on the drive home and went to bed quickly. Bonus!

2. I've been very emotional today, even more so than usual. This is easily ascribed to hormones, but the question, of course, is PMS or pregnancy? Not sure. Waiting for the answer sometime this week, either way.

3. I am a little conflicted about what I want the outcome to be. I am very ready to have another baby, but would kind of like a break before the actual pregnancy. Perhaps the one thing that keeps coming to mind when I think about being pregnant again is just how exhausted I was during the first trimester--and that I have a lot to get done for this semester still, so I'll need to be sacrificing a little sleep in the next couple months.

4. Trillian is looking and feeling much better. She still feels weak and has a slight cough, but is no longer in the grips of pneumonia. So she now feels well enough that it annoys her not to be able to do everything she wants.

5. Trillian also discovered today the reason Scooter and I may still be coughing and feeling under the weather, despite plenty of recovery time. We almost always keep our blinds closed, because even a little sunshine heats our apartment insanely. Trillian looked outside to see if it was snowing. Instead she noticed pools of water along our window sills and mold. Apparently with the cold air outside, all the moisture in our air has caused condensation. Given that we strongly suspect mold allergies in Scooter and me, it would explain the continued cough. Time for the Lysol!

6. I'm still thinking about the recent breastfeeding brouhaha. Given that I'm likely to be breastfeeding again in less than a year, I've been thinking about it anyways. And I've been thinking about what I can do to make a difference, especially since reading Sunshine Scribe's new blog at Mommy Blogs Toronto.* So maybe there's a point of intersection?

*P.S. Go check out Mommy Blogs Toronto. Lots of great bloggers, lots of great content, lots more to come!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Breastfeeding = Terrorism?

I spent the day composing several different posts in my head, some funny, some serious. But I'm writing something completely different.

I had read about the woman who was kicked off a Delta flight for breastfeeding.* And of course I was angry and outraged, but had not particularly resolved to do any more.

Then I saw Her Bad Mother's addendum to her Thursday post. I went and signed the petition (easy to do--if you haven't already, head on over there!). And then I went over to MSNBC and found the section where they printed readers' comments on the issue. I did not ever click on "Read the full entry..." I got everything I needed from the little blurbs.

The anger boiled over.

While a few of the comments fully support the woman who had been breastfeeding, many of them put some of the blame on her or suggested ways in which the other side of the story might validate the flight attendant's actions. A good number of the comments decried the woman's rejection of the blanket that was offered, saying things like:
However if she did not want to comply with accepting the blanket, then she set herself up to be removed from the airline.
Another commenter used the argument that:
The issue is with breast-feeding in public. Breasts arouse sexual feelings in men and sometimes other women, and THAT is why there ought to be discretion. A pro-breast-feeder is going out of bounds when she purposely breast-feeds in a public place while it is made known to her that some people are uncomfortable about it.
But the one that really got me?
It does not offend me at all. I think this incident might have been more of a safety issue. After 9/11, flight attendants are more concerned with safety and if any passenger makes them feel uncomfortable or a passenger seems to not want to comply with the flight attendant's request, often they will be asked to leave the plane if it has not left the gate. Maybe that flight attendant felt threatened by the woman or felt she could cause trouble later in the flight.
OK. Deep breath.

Rant begins:
  1. Given the reaction of some commenters, it appears that others may have brought up the child's age. 22 months. Almost 2-years-old. And in North America, in particular, often treated as "too old" to breastfeed. Never mind that the WHO recommends breastfeeding for at least the first two years of a child's life, that in many third-world countries children continue to nurse at least a little for several years beyond this, that the North American recommendations (6 months before solids, a year on at least some breastmilk) are frequently presented as compromises that try to balance health-based decisions with society's general ickiness around the breast.
  2. Which is a whole other thing. The over-sexualization of the breast. One little flash, and people get all up in arms. I can't believe that some ass thinks that it is the breastfeeding woman's fault that the tiniest sight of her breast might cause men (and us lascivious lesbians) to lose control. Seriously--if she's nursing, maybe some of the flesh is showing. Perhaps there is a flash of nipple at the transition. But the solution? The perv doesn't need to be looking.
  3. And the idea that she needs to cover the child up with a blanket. My son hated it whenever I tried to cover him with a blanket. With the thrashing and my inability to see what was going on under there clearly, there was more danger of me giving a show when I tried to be "more discreet."
  4. I don't even know what to say about the suggestion that this was a security issue and that the discomfort the flight attendant felt about the breastfeeding woman might be equal to the discomfort created by a passenger who is acting weird and sending off terrorist vibes. Because if she was breastfeeding before the plane took off, she might very likely try to rush the cockpit once they were up in the air?
I had thought the hoo-rah over babytalk's magazine cover a few months ago was insane. And it seems even more so when I see these crazy moments juxtaposed against the studies and reports that demonstrate breastfeeding's benefits.

I'm not trying to pass judgment on anyone's breastfeeding practices, but--damn it--when will we get society to back off and not add another dimension to the difficulties?

*I just found on MSNBC that the flight attendant who removed the woman has been disciplined. Anger level recedes a little. Just a little. Because, really, why did this need to happen in the first place?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The green-eyed monster

I am jealous! And have been for a while.

I think it was Sunshine Scribe who first mentioned NaNoWriMo. That's National Novel Writing Month
. The idea: during the month of November, write a 50,000 word novel. Focus on quantity over quality, an act to get the creative juices flowing.

Then I heard about NaBloPoMo and found out that Something Blue is participating. That would be National Blog Posting Month, the idea being to post something on one's blog every day of the month. I find this one slightly ironic, as I had been in a good pattern of writing every day here for over a month--something that ended with the events of Friday, October 13th.

But I am jealous of those who are participating in either of these challenges. Both of them elicited an "Oh, I want to do that." I toyed with the idea until I forced myself to be mature and responsible.

I have to give a seminar report on my research paper at the end of the month. And then write the paper (OK, it's not due until the beginning of January, but I need to get it done before I leave for Christmas so that I can study for the exam I'll have a couple days after the paper's due date).* Then there's the term exam I need to write. Soon. And oh-so-many pages of reading to do.

So this would be the dilemma posed by my blog. It has gotten me back into the habit regularly. I like that, as opposed to a journal, it encourages me to think about single topics and to shape my thoughts a little before putting them down. It is an outlet I have sorely missed. On the other hand, it makes me yearn to do more with my writing. I had forgotten just how fulfilling it is.

I'm already taking on a bit more. My first post over at Mommy Blogs Toronto should be up sometime soon. And in my other life, I have a chance to write something for a newspaper--a one-off, but tempting, nonetheless.

And I know, I've fully acknowledged, that I cannot handle both academic work and creative writing at the same time. And it's not something I can afford right now.

Speaking of which, off to some reading...

* It's a 15-20 page paper. And probably a 10 page presentation. Would that count towards the 175-page goal?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A new way to break an old rule

I have this rule, although it's kind of moot given my marital status, against dating within my field. While Trillian and I met in a class that was required in my field, it was only peripheral to hers. Some of this is due to my competitive nature; I would find it hard not to compare--grades, abilities, etc. Since my wife was using an aspect of my field as a tool in her field, not as the central focus, we could study the same material without encroaching on each other's territory.

There are several couples in my department, and I always wonder at their ability to balance their work and their relationship. Perhaps some of them are less competitive than I--though that's definitely not the case for all of them--or they are able to create a safe space around their relationship. I respect that most of them are committed enough to work through the rough spots.

And then I was introduced to a whole other aspect of the intra-departmental relationship. Recently, my best friend in the department--who is straight--was out with other students for a social event. Another student, who has made it quite clear that she embraces many forms of sexual expression, hit on her... quite insistently.

Now, after I had a hearty laugh, I realized that this is an aspect of my rule I had never considered--the one night stand. I'm pretty sure I had not consciously formed a corollary to my rule on this issue, probably because it is so obviously a bad idea. Especially when you will have to face this person around the department on a regular basis. Especially when the prey makes it clear that s/he's not interested and you keep pressing--wouldn't you get the idea that anything that might happen afterwards would be a result of either the pressure or too much alcohol and a major source of regret?

But maybe I'm just old-fashioned that way.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


While in the car for a couple hours last week, I had a long and spirited debate about this whole trying-to-get-pregnant thing. OK, so I was the only one in the car, but I'm a passionate arguer. The debate: where to go from here?

The process has already been draining, more so than before. The major problem has been coordinating a minimum 5-hour trip (and usually more like 6 or 6 1/2 when I leave extra time for traffic and if I have to wait a little before a nurse can see me) to Nearby US City with my school obligations--teaching, office hours, my own classes--and my family--making sure Trillian can get Scooter to or from school and that they don't need the car. Needless to say, it can be difficult to coordinate and a source of much stress. With the added complication of the plague that has overrun my household, those 5+ hours take away greatly from other things I could be, need to be, doing.

So while I really want to be pregnant (NOW already!) and have my second before my son turns 2 1/2, I've decided to take a two-month break. That will get into the next semester, when my schedule will open up significantly, as I will not be teaching. I hope also to use the break to get better (since I'm still coughing), let my family recuperate, and maybe work out a bit.


This is where the irony fairy could suddenly work her magic. Because this debate I had? On my way back from the fertility clinic. (That's try #3, for those following along at home.)

I doubt that I'm pregnant, given (TMI alert!) that my egg had already been released before the insemination and my cervix was not quite aligned or fully open. The nurse assured me that about 50% of the women who conceive have sonograms that show the egg has been released, but I also know that the time I did conceive, the insemination occurred just a little early. Similarly, the position and openness of the cervix tends to indicate the body's receptivity and fertility at the moment, so I suspect we just missed the window.

On the other hand, it would be just about right for me to finally* get pregnant when I am ready to take a breather.

*'Finally,' I say, as if I've been trying for ages. The last cycle was particularly disappointing because all of the signs pointed to peak fertility.

Monday, November 13, 2006

10 square

My 100th post! Assuming I did the math right (posts minus drafts that will never see publish). So here are 100 things about me, divided into 10 categories:*

I. 10 adjectives I'd use to describe myself (in alphabetical order):
  1. contemplative
  2. creative
  3. intelligent
  4. female
  5. introverted
  6. kind
  7. lesbian
  8. maternal
  9. shy
  10. tall
II. 10 ways in which I do not match the lesbian stereotype
  1. I wear skirts and dresses (and can pull it off; I have lesbian friends and acquaintances who occasionally wear them, but it just doesn't work)
  2. I took ballet lessons and seriously considered pursuing a performance career through high school.
  3. I frequently let my hair grow long.
  4. I am very curvy, not at all androgynous.
  5. I own two purses (but see #3 below).
  6. I am a dog person.
  7. Most of my friends are not lesbians.
  8. I sew, by hand and with a machine.
  9. I wear girly underwear
  10. I now drive a family car.

III. 10 ways in which I do match the lesbian stereotype
  1. I almost always wear comfortable shoes, including wool socks with Birkenstocks or Crocs.
  2. My wallet is brown leather and comes from the men's side.
  3. I almost always carry my wallet and keys in my pockets (except when wearing a dress without pockets), rather than carrying a purse.
  4. After letting my hair grow out for a while, I often cut it very short.
  5. My favorite cold day outfit: T-shirt covered by flannel shirt, jeans, wool socks, hiking boots.
  6. My first vehicle was a pick-up truck.
  7. I'm pretty good at fixing things (though I'm allowed no major power tools--beyond the drill, sander, and small saw I already have--due to noise, mess, and the possibility of cutting off a finger).
  8. I don't wear makeup.
  9. I keep my fingernails fairly short.
  10. I've had a cat most of my life.

IV. 10 jobs I think (or know) I would enjoy
  1. Writer
  2. Professor
  3. Subject teacher (i.e., teaching my area of specialty in 7th-12th grade)
  4. 4th-6th grade teacher
  5. Artist-mosaics
  6. Artist-bookmaker
  7. General craftsperson
  8. Mathematician
  9. Research scientist
  10. Xerox repairperson

V. 10 teachers (anonymized, of course) who have influenced my own teaching, working backwards
  1. My Master's thesis adviser. Not so much for the thesis work (though that was enjoyable), but because he made it OK for me to leave my previous PhD program, not because I couldn't hack it academically, but because I didn't want to be there.
  2. The professor who, with a well-timed compliment, gave me a boost of confidence and made me realize just how much I had improved in my subject area after having hit a plateau for some time.
  3. My undergraduate mentor. She had high standards for coursework, but was one of the most sympathetic and caring people I met at university.
  4. The teacher I had in high school for my primary field. She was all business in the classroom, but remained interested and involved in my studies long after I left. I have even emailed her on occasion when seeking teaching advice.
  5. One of my high school social science teachers. I was never better informed about world events and geography than when I was in her class.
  6. A high school English teacher who I had not wanted to take. He was a coach and popular among the weaker students. But my schedule wouldn't work any other way, and it was a course required of everyone in my grade, with no available honors versions. Once I got over my initial unhappiness about being in the class and accepted that it would not be as rigorous as I wanted, I began to use classtime to really observe what was going on. And I quickly came to appreciate what an amazing job he did of drawing out students who considered themselves dumb, helping them to find levels of literature they never had before.
  7. A junior high teacher who was funny and quirky and so very smart. She got my attention and held it from the beginning. I still write to her too.
  8. A junior high math teacher who used humor to help put me at ease. I was advanced in math from an early age, so I was taking a class two years ahead of most of my peers. When I started junior high in the same class as people in their last year at the school, I was a bit overwhelmed. He did a good job of balancing drawing me out and not making me feel too vulnerable.
  9. The sixth grade science teacher who was just awful (I learned from negative examples too). Students quickly learned that if they didn't do their assignment, she'd devote all of our classtime to finishing it. I and another student were the sort never to put off homework, even if it was likely we'd have classtime to finish it--I always thought, "What if this is the one time she holds the line about handing it in at the beginning?" She also tended to reward the worst behaved students (pizza in return for serving their detention).
  10. The teacher of gifted education who couldn't handle me. I had a whole slew of decidedly unintelligent 'gifted' teachers. This one made the mistake of starting a unit by saying it was on everyone's individual educational plan. It was not on mine and not a unit I cared to do, so I boycotted her lesson. She fought back, but I won the argument and was allowed to do an independent unit. The lesson I learned from this: don't try to pull one over on students, especially gifted students, but it's not fair to any of them.

VI. 10 authors who have influenced me (in writing, thinking, wishing I could run away to their worlds--and yes, many are sci-fi)
  1. Robin McKinley
  2. Kurt Vonnegut
  3. Douglas Adams
  4. Ursula LeGuin
  5. Sheri S. Tepper
  6. J.K. Rowling
  7. Alison Bechdel
  8. Maurice Sendak
  9. Dr. Seuss
  10. Shel Silverstein
VII. 10 movies I own on DVD so that I can watch them when I just want a good laugh
  1. A Fish Called Wanda
  2. Fierce Creatures (done by the same basic cast as #1 and generally under-rated)
  3. When Harry Met Sally
  4. French Kiss
  5. Cold Comfort Farm
  6. Princess Bride
  7. Dogma
  8. Office Space
  9. The Full Monty
  10. My Best Friend's Wedding

VIII. 10 TV series I own all or part of on DVD
  1. Battlestar Galactica (all that's out there so far, including the miniseries)
  2. Firefly (the few episodes there are)
  3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (all but the 7th season, can't tell you why we still don't have that)
  4. Wonderfalls (another show that was gone too fast)
  5. Monty Python's Flying Circus (about half of the series)
  6. The L-Word (first season only, don't particularly want the second or third)
  7. SportsNight (fastest half hour I've ever watched)
  8. Coupling (first season, others are on our wishlist)
  9. Powerpuff Girls (a few episodes)
  10. Black Adder (the "Complete Collector's Set)

IX. 10 things I miss from the US
  1. Target
  2. Morningstar Farms vegetarian food
  3. Sci-Fi channel
  4. Lane Bryant bras
  5. The Lebanese place within walking distance of our old house
  6. Our favorite coffee shop--they roasted their own coffee on site
  7. Whold Foods' organic macaroni and cheese
  8. Earth's Best organic cereal bars
  9. Being able to easily figure out how many miles per gallon my car is getting (our odometer is in miles, so I can't easily switch to kilometers per liter)
  10. Spelling words with an -er instead of an -re.

X. 10 types of animals I have had as pets
  1. dogs
  2. cats
  3. guinea pigs
  4. hamsters
  5. rats
  6. tropical fish
  7. saltwater fish
  8. newts
  9. tarantulas
  10. snakes

*This is not exactly a novel idea. Thanks to Bub and Pie for her 100th post and its inspiration.