Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I feel like I should have something deep and meaningful to say about the significance of a year of baring my soul here. But somehow, having missed the actual date takes the wind out of those sails. So instead I present you with the Stuart Smalley meme that's been making the rounds. Aliki tagged me after a tag from Bub and Pie. The point is to list 10 things that one actually likes about oneself. Here goes:
1. I like my hair. When I was younger, I wanted to be either blond (more fun) or red-headed (not sure why, but I've always had a thing for red-heads) and thought my brown hair was quite boring. But I've come to appreciate that it's a rich, textured brown with a wide range of natural highlights, including blond and red.
2. I like my eyes. Not so crazy about the name 'hazel,' since it basically means anything that's not a single color. My eyes are mostly green, with a brown starburst around the pupil. The same range of browns in my hair. I match!
3. I like the way my mind works. It's a bit difficult to describe to those who aren't in here with me. On the one hand, I can reduce much information into mathematical statements--that's how I make sense of things and find patterns. On the other, I enjoy pushing beyond the surface and dealing with symbolism and flights of fancy.
4. I like my sense of empathy. I can put myself into another's position without too much effort. Even if it means extra sorrow and tears sometimes, I wouldn't give up this sort of connection for anything.
5. I like that I am kind. And that this drives me. I do not go out of my way to be mean or cruel and feel that it takes little to no effort to do little things like hold doors and say a genuine 'thank you.' I'm proud that this is something Scooter is internalizing.
6. I like the parent I am. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel pretty good about the job I am doing (and Trillian with me too). I take it as a good sign that Scooter thinks laughter and cuddling are the default. I'm proud that we tend to get over the frustrating moments fairly quickly and that on the occasions when I do raise my voice, I follow it up with lots of hugs, an explanation and apology (e.g., "I'm sorry if I scared you with my yelling, but you can't play with that because it's sharp and might hurt you"), and a reminder of how much I love him.
7. I like my ability to lose myself in the worlds brought to me by books. For the time that I'm working my way through a book, be it the first time or the twentieth, that world comes alive to me. When I finish, scenes from the book continue to tumble in my mind and I muse about the story's issues and themes for some time to come. It is a lovely half-dream state.
8. I like my creativity. I may not be using it for what I expected back when I was a kid (no, I'm not a published author), but I have enjoyed exploring it and expanding my options for expressing it. This blog gives me one outlet, specifically for my writing. But then there are the little ways, like coming up with games and art projects to do with Scooter (or, in years past, with my students--all educational, of course).
9. I like the way I feel certain pieces of music and art in my soul. I can sometimes articulate the precise part that resonates with me, but I cannot always pinpoint why. Nonetheless, it reminds me I'm alive and thrills me beyond measure.
10. I like the teacher I am. I think that I am enthusiastic, effective, and nurturing. I take difficult concepts and break them down into manageable pieces. I help students find patterns in the information. I always keep in mind how students will need to use specific information in the future and test accordingly. I make myself available (within reason) and am willing to do extra work for those students who show the desire to do more. (And I like that the teacher I am informs the other parts of my life.)
So I think that's 10. It would be truly embarrassing to have made a mistake on that after claiming above to have a mathematical mind.
Now the hard part--I always feel so presumptuous in tagging. But let's see if kittenpie, metro mama and something blue have recovered enough from BlogHer to give this a go.
Monday, July 30, 2007
And so I move onto the question that has been tumbling through my mind, always the same words, but in varied tones: What next?
It is not a question that requires an immediate answer nor will any plan I develop now necessarily be immutable. But it insinuates itself into my every thought.
I have already decided to wait a few months, at least until we move back to the US, which we have now set for December/January. During that time, I will work seriously towards losing the 20-25 pounds I'm talk about cutting. And I can then get health insurance established in our new state--much easier to do when not already pregnant. Once I've established health insurance, I can also start looking into doctor options: will I be able to find an OB/GYN who can handle my case in our small town? will I have to travel to my in-laws' city? or even further to the biggest city in the state? After I have lost that weight, I will also update my life insurance policy, something that will be cheaper if I do it before I turn 35.
But that still doesn't address the specific "What next?" that's in my head. Those plans are all well and good, but they don't directly answer the how/when/if of another pregnancy. I remain overwhelmed by the range of options that are not really options; I can make any number of choices and reasoned decisions, but I've already learned that those are no guarantees for things working out.
I could simply wait until January or February and try again. Statistics generally suggest that even after two miscarriages, many women go on to have a perfectly normal third pregnancy. But I don't think I could enter into this again blindly and just let things play out as they will. And my midwife has all but said this would not be a good idea. In both of my recent pregnancies, all indications point to the death of the embryo between 6 and 7 weeks, and so it is quite possible that there is some problem with my body's support system at this point.
And so, at the very least, it is likely that I will need to try again with frequent testing and intervention. My gut feeling is that my body's not producing enough progesterone. No evidence for this, but none against it either. Some of this is wishful thinking too, as it would be the issue with the most straightforward solution. But this will probably mean an intense early pregnancy with blood tests every 2 or 3 days and immediate hormone supplements as needed, until everything levels off (and probably testing for several weeks past that, just in case). It means a much more medical pregnancy than before, working with a doctor instead of a midwife, starting out from a position of concern.
And I also have the option of changing up some of the variables.
The easiest change to make would be the donor. We could sift through the donors at our old sperm bank or pick a new one and see if we have better luck by making that change. We may not have a choice in doing this regardless, as we only have 3 more pop-sicles in storage right now and he's an inactive donor.
Or we could look at using Trillian's eggs instead. There's now a process by which a woman's immature eggs can be collected and matured in vitro. These eggs could then be combined with our donor sperm and the embryos frozen and stored; we would try one egg at a time, synchronizing the transfer with my cycle. This would be more expensive than going our usual route and might pose some geographical issues (e.g., initial procedure to be done in Montreal, could the eggs be sent to our state or would I have to make a monthly trip timed to my cycle?).
My biggest fear, of course, is that I might go through the process, with or without minor changes, but definitely with close monitoring, and still have another miscarriage. And the truth is that when I had my first miscarriage, I thought to myself that a second miscarriage would be the end of all of this for me, that I couldn't imagine putting myself in a position to experience this for a third time. That feeling still lingers a bit; although making a third attempt has become a possibility, part of me wonders if maybe I should just stop now.
Which brings me to the last two possible answers.
The first, one I know will be brought up by others, is adoption. This is something Trillian and I have discussed quite a bit, and we both agree that it is probably not the route for us. In particular, we look at the time we are investing and will continue to invest in Scooter's therapy and we can't imagine balancing this with the process of adoption. Moreover, the process is generally not very accommodating of families such as ours. In most adoptions, international or through the state where we will live, only one of us would be able to adopt initially. Whichever one of us did that would have to apply as 'single' and figure out how to appropriately fill out forms without outright lying about our family or saying anything that would disqualify us. After the initial adoption, we could then go through a second-parent adoption for the other parent, which basically means completing the process twice. The second-parent adoption is something we would do with a biological child too, but whereas it would cost just a few thousand dollars in that case, it would be a few thousand dollars added to tens of thousands of dollars for an adoption.
The final option we're contemplating, and contemplating seriously, is saying that we're done. Scooter is an amazing kid; we love him to bits and know how lucky we are to have him. We've always pictured our family with two kids, that was the plan from the start, but maybe it's not going to happen. Right now this option leaves me a bit sad, as it seems so final. There can be no 'oopsie' for us, no unplanned surprise. It would mean closing the door on a chapter of our life, actually that the door has already been closed and we didn't even know it at the time.
On the other hand, the longer we go without having a second child, the more I wonder if the time has passed. I wanted to be done having children by 35, not just because of the "Advanced Maternal Age" labeling, but also because Trillian is older than me and because I didn't want there to be too large of a gap between our kids. This last pregnancy would have put them at 2 weeks shy of 5 years apart. That, to me, was pushing it in terms of having kids who would be able to play together and enjoy each other's company. There was also an element in my push to have a baby now of making sure I was pregnant before Scooter's official diagnosis this fall so that I would already be committed to a second child and couldn't reconsider in light of whatever special needs he might need met. And so I cannot help but feel that I missed the window of opportunity and that stubbornly continuing to pursue a second child would be to the detriment of the family already here.
I know that this is not necessarily the case, that circumstances may shift, new opportunities present themselves. I know that I can change my mind a thousand times between now and whenever the final decision is made. I know that the family I have in ten years will be the family I'm meant to have. The future remains open. But the tears continue to fall for the might-have-beens.
Friday, July 27, 2007
A couple hours later, when I woke up for good, the feeling was gone again. And when I went to the bathroom, I knew that I had passed a lot of tissue.
Nonetheless, I headed out for the ultrasound a bit later. I forced myself to go so I could find out just how efficient my body is being this time.
It was an unpleasant experience, made more so by the technician. Throughout my exam, she was inattentive, asking the same questions multiple times and then parroting back the wrong answer. ("When did you start bleeding?" "Tuesday." "This Wednesday or last Wednesday?") And while she didn't say anything about what she saw--and signs all over the place make it clear she's not allowed to--she gave me my answer with the oft-repeated question, "Are you sure you're pregnant?" It was the first question she asked during the scan and the last thing she wrote down details about. ("I took multiple tests. Let me give you the dates... I can tell you what day I was inseminated, so I know my dates aren't off.")
The worst actually came at the beginning. She asked me about my due date, which was mid-March. My answer seemed to confuse her and I had to repeat it more than once. At last she made a remark that I'd had an ultrasound on March [due date plus one]. (Yes, my due date for this one would have been the day I started to miscarry the last one.) "I lost that one too," I responded and then started to cry a little. Her response to that? Word-for-word: "This attitude isn't good for your baby." Lots of women have bleeding, for months at a time, and end up with babies. How could I be so sure, anyway?
I almost got in her face at that point. I did put a hand up to shield myself and may have said, "Stop." Racing through my mind: I know. I've been through this before. I know what it feels like to be pregnant and to have that suddenly disappear. How many miscarriages have you had? And then: I'm glad Trillian's not here after all--she'd have already slugged the technician!
This pisses me off because it was the last thing I needed at that moment. A simple "I'm sure this is a difficult time" would have been just about right. I could have even handled a "we can hope for the best." But the suggestion that my attitude would harm the baby was the last thing I needed. I fully understand that there are very few miscarriages that can be prevented, that most of them cannot be blamed on any specific action or inaction. Nonetheless, I'm human and have spent the past few days wracking my brain and feeling guilty. And while I know better than to take her comment to heart, the last thing I need is to think that a medical professional is suggesting that my emotion might cause the loss.
I've written a letter and will probably send it after I let Trillian read it. After all of the grief and anger of the past couple days, I'm feeling spent and a little numb, so I may disappear for a couple days and rely on my pen-and-paper journal instead.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
At the end of next week, I'm supposed to go to a family reunion. Only my mother and sisters know about the first miscarriage in March. None of them know of this loss or even that I was trying to become pregnant.
Before this week, Trillian and I were devising plans for how to keep from telling people I was pregnant. We were happy that the main events are happening at a place where we can't have alcohol since that would remove one point of questioning. I planned on eating lots of cheese-only sandwiches to avoid deli meat. We were staying in a different hotel than many family members. And we always had Scooter as an excuse for needing to run off on our own for a bit.
Now, I'm not entirely sure how I'll hold up. I fully expect to be asked if we're planning on having another child. If I were pregnant, I would have easily made some vague statement about it being something for the near future while smiling on the inside. But this same question right now brings me to tears. Because I don't know; I very much want to have a second child, but I can't imagine going through this again, on the one hand, and worry that I may not physically be able to carry to term, on the other.
I'm not sure what I'll do. While there are several people I haven't seen for some time now, I know I'll still be a mess next week. This side of the family is fairly reserved and, I expect, would be at a loss for what to say and do if I told them what I'm going through.
Since we're going by car, I can make my final decision even at the last minute, but unfortunately I don't think either decision is the right one.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
In the meantime, I've been working on a couple lists.
Things that keep me busy:
- Planning the final exam for the class I'm teaching.
- Writing practice exam for homework assignment.
- Perusing the MLS for our upcoming move.
- Reading about the US housing market and the fact that it's expected to bottom out sometime in 2008.
- Running calculations in my head that have come up with the following equation: time we buy house (most likely) = shortly before the market starts to go back up.
- Looking for further updates on the recent Lindsay Lohan news. (I'm weak.)
- Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The best way for me to get my news when I'm feeling down. I get to stay up-to-date and laugh at the same time. Luckily, for those times when I want to go to bed before 11 pm, they are replayed several times the next day.
- Robot Chicken and Tripping the Rift. I used to watch both of these in the US, the former on Comedy Central and the latter on Sci-Fi (after first discovering it in Launch Magazine, which used to arrive monthly on CD-ROM). Now I can watch them back-to-back, from 9-10 pm, on Teletoon. Good background noise for when I just want something on, great when I actually want to watch. Both are irreverent and tread the line between funny and so wrong--which is what I need right now.
- Pictures of my son. Especially when he's making a pirate face (arrrgh) or being a scary blue dinosaur (roar). Trillian and her mother both have been sending along pictures as they take them, so I've had a steady diet.
- Students. Especially when they passionately exclaim, "I love this class! It's so hard, but we have the best time!"
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
But not telling doesn't mean nothing will happen. And not telling doesn't make this any easier.
I'm going on 24-hours of spotting/bleeding. The midwife said exactly what I expected. Nothing we can do right now... wait and see... decide on blood test/ ultrasound in a couple day...
Last night was only spotting, and only the tiniest amount, but it hasn't gone away. And now it's more than just spotting... less than what would convince me miscarriage is imminent, but more than what I can dismiss.
This pregnancy was going to avoid some of the issues that were raised by last miscarriage. I would be due just about two weeks before Scooter's fifth birthday, keeping us within the spacing we wanted, and about seven weeks before my 35th birthday, just under the wire of the dreaded "advanced maternal age."
And of course I'm feeling betrayed by my body. And not sure I can handle the emotional rollercoaster of trying again or, worse, losing yet another pregnancy. Not to mention the financial side.
I know that there is a chance that this is not over yet, that everything might still turn out OK. And I hover between clinging to that hope and starting the grieving process.
Monday, July 23, 2007
In the meantime, a funny thing has happened; somewhere along the way, I have come to embrace the genetic link. Let me try to articulate.
I think that a conversation I had with one of my aunts was particularly instrumental in helping me reach this point. After reading our family blog, she called to see how we were holding up and asked me during the conversation, "What does this mean in practical terms?" I told her about the therapies he's doing and how they should help him. We talked about what is "wrong" with Scooter in terms of day-to-day functioning. I said something like, "He comes at information differently than most other kids; he just thinks differently." And then we talked about how so many members of our family are "different." And it's true that so many of us don't quite fit in; we are incredibly intelligent on the whole, but somewhat eccentric and kooky. (And that's not even the mathematician side of the family.) Then I said, "But the fact of the matter is that I like the way my brain works. I like that I don't necessarily see things the same way as other people. I wouldn't want to be 'normal,' whatever that is."
I almost certainly have some level of autism, most likely Asperger's. I always felt different than the other kids, knew somehow that my perspective didn't match that of my peers. Some of the social aspects of school were hell on me, and I overcame them primarily by observing and then changing my behaviors. I am OK socially now, having learned how to compensate for my deficits to the point that I don't always have to give it conscious thought.
I don't want Scooter to feel the same sense of isolation and somehow being wrong. And so the upcoming evaluation and likely diagnosis become an opportunity. An opportunity to pinpoint Scooter's strengths and weaknesses, an opportunity to discuss with professionals how we can help him play up the former and bolster the latter, an opportunity to help him recognize his unique perspective and take pride in it.
I am not naive. I don't think this is the end of the rough times or that everything will be magically resolved. But I do know that I turned out OK without any specific intervention and that Scooter has started therapy relatively early and that Trillian and I are ready to do whatever else he needs.
And in the meantime, I can't bring myself to worry too much about the little boy who sneaks the spatula from the chocolate cake he's making with Grandma and loves jumping on the bed and tells me about playing in the sandbox with his construction toys.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
I got a later start than intended. Bed was nice this morning, so I didn't make it to the bookstore for their 8 am opening (also didn't make it for the midnight release party, but I never intended to do that). Instead, I headed over around 10 am and found myself back home a bit before 11. I read one chapter and then forced myself to make a quick breakfast and morning coffee, knowing that if I didn't do it then, I might forget to eat for several hours. Occasional bathroom breaks, a trip to Dairy Queen at about 2:30 for a Blizzard, heated-up pizza at 5. I finished a little before 7 pm.
I cried a lot, though I am prone to such reactions when reading, so it is not a good measure for others. One of the characters I had worried about made it to the end. But others I had never even considered as being in danger did not. I turned out to be correct about some guesses made in the past, but not all. And there was plenty I had not expected. Heck, even the stuff I was expecting still took me by surprise in the execution. (I exclaimed out loud more than once and it's good Scooter's not around, because he doesn't need to be repeating that language.)
The series is done for me now; I have seen it from beginning to end. And as much as I would love to hear more and more from these characters, as many suggestions as I might be able to make for other plotlines in the series (Surely McGonagall has quite the story to tell), I do feel the requisite sense of closure and am (mostly) at peace with how things have ended.
I look forward to working through the series again to see how the earlier books fall into place now that I know where they're ultimately headed. But I have given my day to this and must, for the time being, return to exam-writing and comps-reading. Sigh.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Trillian went with her mother and our realtor (who was recently my in-laws' realtor too) to check out a number of properties in that town and then sent pictures to me afterwards. Second stop--the house we had virtually fallen in love with. Trillian said her heart sank when they pulled up. So-so neighborhood, shabby exterior. House is currently uninhabited and is just plain dirty. That attached sunroom? The floor is not fully finished--it's a mix of concrete and gravel. And the walls are not glassed in; they're mostly a mix of screening/chicken wire and stapled up plastic. So that will not be our new home.
On the other hand, Trillian did see a couple houses that would work for us. And it's not like we're ready to purchase right at this moment, so we'll be monitoring the market for a while. Her trip out their tells us that we'll probably need to spend closer to the upper end of our range--but that's less than we've been pre-approved for, which itself is significantly less than the amount the bank would be willing to loan us, based solely on Trillian's salary (I do make a little money, but it's not really enough to make a big difference).
I still feel really good about this move; I know it's the right thing for our family for so many reasons. But, wow, it's intimidating to think about making such a huge purchase. I wonder if I would have felt the same if we had gone directly from owning our previous house to this next one?
Thursday, July 19, 2007
For two nights now, I have had real conversations on the phone with him. These are not conversations we would have had via phone even a month ago. He'll tell me some of the things he did, and I'll comment. Then I ask what his favorite thing was, and he'll think about it just a little before responding. Tonight:
S: Today I fed the fish and played in the water and then played in the sand.
a little later
S: I got a special treat at the toy store.
M: You got a special treat? What was it?
S: A crane.
M: What color is it?
S: Red. His name is called Rocky.
M: Wow. Does he play with your trains?
S: Yeah. One train is called name Mavis. The other train is called name Salty. (Those are the two that traveled with him from our house.)
(I find the combination of 'name' and 'call' interesting, especially since several languages use something approximating "I am called..." for "My name is...")
His favorite thing today was feeding the fish; there is a koi pond at Grandma and Grandpa's, and it has become Scooter's job to give them their food. They make funny faces at him and eat their food all up.
I'm not crying, but the tears have welled up a little. I love that he will talk to me on the phone and that my professions of "I miss you" and "I love you" are met with an "I miss you too" and "I love you too."
My favorite thing today? Hearing my son's voice from so many hundred of miles away.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
I’m in the midst of getting my class ready for a midterm, so I spent the evening on an exam review sheet and the general format of the exam itself. As a result, I find it getting too late for me to write what I really wanted to for this week’s “Global Warming Wednesday”: a meditation on how I’m trying to change my consumerist way and how that ties into my environmental concerns.
But all of this teaching and planning does remind me of a conflict I face whenever I’m teaching a class: the amount of paper I use.
I try to minimize it by copying on both sides when possible or using only half a sheet if a quiz or handout is short. And I justified giving a single-sided, four-page exam by reasoning that they could use the blank sides for scratch paper and that giving them enough space to answer on the exam meant they wouldn’t have a three-page exam PLUS an eight-page blue book (which they wouldn’t fill).
On the other hand, there are plenty of times when I feel that it is pedagogically sound, if not necessary, to create handouts that present information differently than the book, give them additional examples, or present the correct answers to a longer homework assignment. And I am a teacher at heart, so I can’t justify sacrificing effective teaching for the paper I do continue to use.
Having a website for the class helps a little. I can make old handouts available there and avoid keeping extras around (though I have no idea how often students print them instead of just viewing them online). I can also provide extra information on the website—I recently posted a list of links to sites with extra practice—and direct students to it. Especially for items that are not part of the core information for the course, this has been a satisfactory solution; students know where they can find it, but I’m not making handouts for students who will never look at it again.
Just yesterday I was pondering the extent to which teaching might go paperless. I started thinking about papers and how a fifteen-page paper from a class of twenty or thirty starts to add up. And I wonder if we’ll find ourselves moving towards electronic submission of more things. While I still prefer proofreading and grading papers in physical form, it would not be impossible to accomplish the same activities through a word processing program. Such programs can track changes and allow you to add virtual comments in the margin.
As a student and researcher, I’ve begun to rely on pdf and html versions of articles that are available online. I generally try not to print them off if I can help it, and reading scholarly work from the screen is getting easier. Interestingly, my best friend and I disagree about our preferred formats. I like pdfs and having to advance page-by-page, much like an article on paper. My friend prefers the html versions that allow you to scroll through and click on footnotes (and then jump back), more like a webpage. I suspect this is primarily an indication of our age difference; I’m just enough older than she is that the internet has played vastly different roles in our childhoods.
In any case, I see possibilities for decreasing the amount of paper (and possibly other resources) used in education, though I wonder about how quickly and how thoroughly they’ll supplant the traditional supplies. What other changes can you see as possible?
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Even before facing the "a-word," when it was just a question of sensory issues, I debated how much therapy I wanted for Scooter. There was a part of me that worried such interventions would change his essence, take away the quirks and qualities that make Scooter so Scooterish. But I couldn't come up with a good reason not to send him to occupational therapy for gross and fine motor skills (plus some speech therapy for his pitch).
He has now been going to OT for almost three months, and I have been amazed at the changes. While he is still clumsy, he can execute a two-footed jump, walk along a balance beam, coordinate jumping with catching on the trampoline. He's starting to get a better sense of motor planning and how to monitor his movements. After months of a drawing and art strike (I think because it was so hard for him), he is learning to write letters and clamors to use scissors. And although some of this is only anecdotally connected to the OT, we have also noticed a concurrent improvement in his speech and his social skills. Some of this is certainly due to his wonderful teachers at daycare, but I think this is also a result of his improved confidence and increased neural connections.
But the most important thing is that he's still Scooter. If anything, even more Scooterish than before. See, for both Trillian and me, there has generally been a disconnect between the little boy we see at home and the one most other people think they know. At home he is mostly happy, creative, engaged, and chatty. Sure he had meltdowns and trouble with his speech, but he generally calmed down more quickly and could usually help us figure out what he wanted to communicate. In public (and in school, to some extent), the meltdowns were more frequent and more difficult to handle; new situations were often too overwhelming and took a long time to settle into. Now, we're starting to see a bit more overlap between public and private. At school he still has his meltdowns, but his teachers tell me that he can usually be talked out of them and he knows when he needs to step away from what's upsetting him--not perfectly, of course, but it's the start of learning to cope with the world around him while still acknowledging his needs.
After the MCHAT last month, I clung to something Trillian had told me the provincial OT had said to her: after six to nine months, of OT Scooter's issues might clear themselves up enough he wouldn't even be considered for further screening. We'll make the problem disappear, I told myself. I was willing it away. Now I've come to a point where that's no longer a goal; in fact, I hope that he doesn't improve so much that we have professionals again telling us that he's not bad enough off to require official intervention (I also don't expect to see this sort of miraculous change). Rather, I look forward to more OT and other therapies and the idea that Scooter will continue to learn how to cope and adjust without losing himself.
I don't think that this is all he will ever have to do, that there won't be continual challenges and frustrations and obstacles, that we've already figured out the combination of what exactly will work for him. I am at least encouraged that there are changes, but that Scooter is not changed.
Monday, July 16, 2007
In the past four plus years, Trillian and I have spent some time away from home separately, as much as a week at a time. The longer times have either been work-related (for Trillian) or involved a trip to help an ailing family member (for both of us). But traditionally, the other parent stays home with Scooter and maintains a normal schedule as much as possible.
Scooter and Trillian are visiting her parents for not quite two weeks. My school schedule meant I couldn't get away right now, so Trillian is traveling solo with the kid for the first time. I still have to teach and meet with students, go to a doctor's appointment, grocery shop, clean up around the apartment, and make sure I have things moved out of the way for the maintenance men.
And yet it is still a vacation of sorts for me. No waking up to Scooter's demands. Or organizing my day around drop off and pick up times. Toys will not end up all over the place on a daily basis. And I will get the blankets all to myself. (If you couldn't tell, the first three are Scooter-related; the last one is all Trillian.)
Don't get me wrong, though. I already miss them terribly. There are, of course, daily phone calls that have been planned, including some via our webcam. And I know that Scooter will have so much fun with his grandparents and Trillian will have a chance to start looking at houses in the town where we want to live (and don't think that doesn't make me hyperventilate!). Who knows, I may even get some work done on my comps.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
OK, that's a gross understatement. I'm not on the various Harry Potter boards and only occasionally head over to J.K. Rowling's site. But I have read all of the books several times and have the first four movies on DVD.
My standard practice before a new movie comes out is to reread that particular book. Before a new book, I'll reread the entire series. In between releases, I'll work my way through the series whenever the fancy strikes.
So with this year's double release (movie on Wednesday, book in another week), you'd think I'd have made it back through the series at least once. But as things have played out, what with the teaching and trying to figure out a major move in 6 months to a year, I haven't cracked open a single one.
Nonetheless, Trillian and I went to go see Order of the Phoenix today. Paid for a babysitter to go see the movie today. Huge crowd, only a few with children in tow. And I enjoyed the movie very much, even if I went into my usual mode of picking out what's missing (even without the reread!). If you've read any reviews, you've probably seen effusive praise of Imelda Staunton's Dolores Umbridge. Rightly so! She is all pink and fluffy icing on an evil cake. And her office is an absolute hoot--all pink and kittens (and since these are wizard representations, they are all purring and meowing). Alan Rickman, as Snape, continues to be a highpoint of every Harry Potter movie, and this time we get to see a sliver of his past and the reason he dislikes Harry and his friends so intensely.
I won't go into a list of the things that were missing, lest I get too spoilery, and I do feel that the movie catches the emotions of the books, even if it does not dwell on specific events for very long.
Now, I am impatiently waiting for the release of the seventh book. Some of my students are also huge fans and requested that their homework for that weekend not be too heavy. Since this is university and an intensive summer course and they have a midterm coming up, however, I won't be able to let up too much. On the other hand, the fact that I won't receive their homework until Monday means I can have my entire weekend free, as long as I grade quizzes and plan for the following week by Friday evening. I'm loving how that works out!
Trillian pre-ordered the book from the closest bookstore. As fate will have it, however, she'll be out of town, visiting her parents with Scooter while I continue to teach. So I have to go pick it up--not sure I'll make the midnight store release, but I'll be there first thing the next morning. And then I will be reading for the rest of the weekend (or, more likely, until late Saturday night). I've been gloating a bit ever since I realized the implications of Trillian's travel plans; she is enough of a fan too that there would be debate over what would constitute fair sharing. Plus there's the whole watching-the-kid thing that can really cut into one's reading time.
At the same time I am eagerly looking at July 21st on my calendar, however, there is also that slight sadness in knowing that when I am done with this next book, I will know how the series ends. I wonder and worry about who will die in this one and know that I will cry even more than I did at the end of the sixth book (late at night as the rest of my family slept). I had guessed correctly on that one, months before the book was released; the moment I pondered that particular character's fate, I just knew I was right. This time, I have the same feeling about one character, but am unsure about the second. Trillian and I just had the "it's Harry, no it's not" debate, and I can't decide if my insistence that he will survive is rational or wishful thinking.
Excuse me now while I return to adulthood and do something like, say, plan for tomorrow's class.
Friday, July 13, 2007
In particular, I want to write about where I am mentally in terms of the idea of Scooter being on the autism spectrum. This has been much in my thoughts, especially after a conversation with Bubandpie this past weekend, Aliki's post earlier this week, and then B&P's post today. I want to write about the process that has brought me into a state of equilibrium, albeit a bit tenuous, the fact that I have become more comfortable with the idea, can actually say autism without dropping my voice, that I have started to tell people--voluntarily--about what we're dealing with.
And I want to write about how the process has been particularly personal and internal for me, because the more I read about autism, the more I start to see myself on the spectrum. It makes for a new, and more complete, interpretation of certain aspects of my childhood, a different perspective on my experiences. Which has helped me reach this current state of relative peace.
I am tired and cannot do justice to either topic right now. From juggling too much--even though things have calmed down a little, I still have teaching and studying and planning for a couple different trips, and all the usual, never-ending minutiae. From staying up to late--usually I'm headed to bed around 10 pm. Not in bed, but working on it. This week, it's been 11 or later most nights, though for no particular reason. From getting up too early--especially this morning. Scooter was stirring before 6 am. I let him play for a bit, but then he started crying because he had stepped on something. I checked on him, kissed the boo-boo, and then said I was heading back to bed, which led to another, more insistent fit. So I was up and persuaded to build an elaborate train track in the living room.
In other news, I have broken my BabyCenter addiction. I didn't even have to install blocking software. Instead, I kept from clicking over there for two days until FireFox cleard the url out of my location bar history (Trillian's term for that drop down with recently typed-in urls). And I definitely feel much better for that. Doesn't mean I'm not obsessing, however. The recent one is something I've pondered on and off since my first pregnancy.
The back story:
While in my third trimester with Scooter, I made a mosaic with his name set against a blue sky on the top part and several hooks on the bottom; I used a mixture of the wall and trim paints from his room, creating a pleasant middle shade, for the frame. It hung in his room until we moved. It will hang again when we own our next house, and it is something I hope he will keep forever.
Having done this for my first child, I've always imagined I would do something similar for my second. I could do something very similar, same basic set up with picture and hooks, color based on nursery decorating scheme. But I started pretty much from scratch on that one and don't know that I would have the right sort of space for that particular prep work, not to mention the energy to create the frame. There's also a part of me that would like to do something similar, but a little different. And so I have spent some time this evening, though this is not the first time I've done it, trying to decide what project would be just right. A mosaic mirror? A keepsake box? Would those be seen as particularly girly? Do they have enough open space for the sort of picture I might design?
OK, not exactly of monumental importance, but it's something I enjoy pondering and gives me a little break from thinking about the exams I'll need to write in the next couple weeks.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
One of them is remembering to bring a travel mug with me to campus. I already did this to some extent, but generally only remembered the mug if I was bringing my morning latte (made at home) with me; on the mornings when I forgot, I'd end up buying a bottled water or juice or a drink at Starbucks or Second Cup. At about the same time I was focusing on bringing cloth bags with me for shopping, I also realized (duh) that it would be pretty easy to stick a travel mug in one of my backpack's water bottle holders each morning, even if I wasn't making coffee. Now I don't always remember to bring one on non-school trips, such as the coffee Trillian and I frequently get at Whole Foods during our weekly trip, but that's the next step.
We've also been trying to cut down on the amount of food we end up throwing out, as much because it's a waste as because it's a waste of money. Far too often, we found that we'd bought some vegetables or dairy product only to throw most of it out a couple weeks later. And so we're doing a better job of planning ahead and only buying things we'll actually eat. This does not mean we're not throwing anything away, but there is improvement. Especially since our building doesn't have the green bin program, decreasing the amount of food that goes into the garbage leads to less garbage from our household.
Weightier issues to come soon.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Now the mug is a little bit bigger than a small, but it is not as big as a medium. Most coffee shop employees will either not quite fill the mug or just go ahead and give me the extra. I am fine with both. On the one hand, I recognize that giving me more than the exact 12 ounces eats into the profit margin; on the other, considering the amount of coffee and/or milk that actually translates to, it's not like giving out a free drink or not charging for soy milk. But the fact remains that the main reason I bring the mug comes from my desire to decrease my environmental impact. The little bit extra, even the 10-cent discount they usually give me, do not determine my action.
Nevertheless, I feel I must take exception with how things played out today. See if you can spot the problems:
- Barista takes my mug and sets it down on the counter.
- She picks up one of their small disposable cups.
- She fills this cup with coffee.
- She stops filling the cup when she gets to the point one might expect if ordering "a small coffee with lots of room."
- She pours the coffee into my mug.
- I assume this step since I couldn't see: She throws away cup used for measuring.
I didn't say anything. I know I should have. But I was dumbstruck by her process. And cutting it close to class time. Next time, though, next time I will definitely explain my frustration.
Monday, July 09, 2007
I heard about BabyCenter's Birth Clubs sometime before the last time I got pregnant. And so I peeked into the October 2007 Birth Club for several weeks before the miscarriage. But now that I'm getting back in the saddle (or should I say "stirrups"), I find myself wandering back over there a couple times a day and poking around different boards.
Did you know that the December 2008 club is already active? These are people who plan on starting to try to conceive in March 2008. Members of the January and February 2008 boards are fairly well established now. March is a mix of those who have just found out they're pregnant and those who are waiting to test. April and May are ramping up for their attempts.
I never actually post. I haven't even created an account, in part so I don't start spending more time there. And I constantly tell myself it wouldn't be worth the effort since I don't plan on going back over there again. Because I get both annoyed and sucked in every time I read. Many different things on the boards annoy me. Some of them, I fully admit, are petty, but they add up for me.
- Spelling and grammar. So many posts have the sorts of errors that just jump out at me--their/there/they're, your/you're. And even when I can get myself to look past all of that, I've come across a good number of posts that are so badly spelled, typed, phrased that it takes me a lot of work to figure out the poster's intended meaning.
- Redundancy. Different posters, but same questions, concerns, symptoms. There are slight variations on the themes and often there's enough time between similar posts that not everyone is aware of what's been said, but there really isn't much of a reason for me to read the boards regularly.
- No common ground--the lesbian thing. The boards reek of heterosexuality. I have literally not seen another lesbian in the Birth Clubs. There is a lesbian pregnancy board, but that board is more spread out than the monthly boards since there are fewer lesbians overall. I've also found that the other problems still exist. I've said this to some of my (straight) mommy blogging friends: being a lesbian is just not enough to create a friendship if there's nothing else. And from a little I've read on the lesbian board, most of those women don't feel very welcome on the other boards; some have been flamed for bringing up their sexual orientation.
- No common ground--other things. I could probably find friends among the heterosexuals, despite the above, if there were other shared areas (and I wouldn't have to worry about drawing angry responses just for being matter-of-fact about my family). But I don't think I'd fit in for my views on religion, family size, and environmental views, to name just a few.
Now when I look at the January, February, and March 2008 boards, where there are women going through this loss, an additional train of thought begins running through my head. What if I have another miscarriage? Will I be able to have another baby? Can I hold up mentally if this happens again? What would I do? My biggest fears stem not from trouble getting pregnant, but being able to stay pregnant. I know that I need to banish such thoughts and try to focus on the positive, remind myself that there is no reason to fixate on the negative. Obviously the easiest way to do this is to avoid reading these boards.
But it may take some sort of block to keep me from going back.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
One of the movies we borrowed was Brokeback Mountain. In some ways I felt a sense of obligation to see it, because of the whole gay thing. And so Trillian and I put it in the PS2 (still need to replace the broken DVD player) one evening when I had little work to do. The beginning was a little slow, but the scenery and music sucked me in. And even though I read the short story it's based on a couple years ago and knew how things would unfold, I found the storytelling completely enthralling.
As I often do while watching a movie at home, I looked through the IMDB entry. One of the trivia items: "According to reports, Heath Ledger nearly broke co-star Jake Gyllenhaal's nose while filming a kissing scene." This gets at one aspect of the acting that really came through in the movie: the two leads did not hold back in any way. The desperation and desire between the two characters is palpable. And I really appreciated what I read in the interviews. So often, actors who find themselves in the position of "playing gay" will mention how uncomfortable they were with love scenes or that they had to drink a little before filming to loosen their inhibitions. Everything I read from Ledger and Gyllenhaal addresses the circumstances of the characters in a respectful and insightful manner and never ventures into the "ick" territory.
Moving to the film we saw with Scooter. Since school was closed on July 2, Trillian decided to sneak away with us to a midday showing of Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille. While it may not have been Scooter's idea of a great movie, I enjoyed both the storyline and the animation--although I still was a bit grossed out at the idea of a rat cooking. It served as a reminder to Trillian and me, however, that movies in the theater will probably not be Scooter's thing for quite some time--Cars last year happened to be the perfect confluence of subject matter and story, something unlikely to be matched for a while. He was scared by a good deal of it and spent much of the movie hiding behind me so that he could watch from relative safety. He's very sensitive to the way movies set the mood through music and lighting, so even some of the not-truly-scary parts worried him; since we are dealing with rats and sewers and the like here, many of the scenes were on the dark side, automatically making him wary.
The other movie Trillian and I saw in the theater was Evan Almighty. We both really like Steve Carell and thoroughly enjoyed Bruce Almighty several years ago. The movie has its truly hilarious moments, and Wanda Sykes has some of the funniest lines (though I think you could have her deliver the saddest of news and still have people laughing). But the "big message" of the movie ended up being a bit much for us. Now it's been a long time since I saw the first movie, so maybe I'm just not remembering, but it seemed to me that there was less of a religious aspect to the storyline. The other possibility is that for Trillian and me our atheism has become a much more conscious belief. We've always felt this way, but have recently spent some time reading about religion and atheism, so we may just be more aware of how much the movie was using the religious aspect.
This similarly affected our recent viewing of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. For this movie, there is a much deeper personal history, however. I first read the book when I was 6-almost-7. Loved it. Loved the magical element, the escapism, the talking animals, the triumph of good over evil. Not having had any religious education at that time, the analogy of Aslan as a Christ-figure never crossed my mind. My father explained it to me at some point after I'd read the book (which I followed with the rest of the series). I refused to believe it at the time, but had to acknowledge Lewis' use of religion when I came to know more of the Bible. And I haven't read any of the Chronicles of Narnia since.
But I really did want to see the movie. In part to capture that magic of my childhood, in part because I'm a bit enamored of Tilda Swinton and have thought all along that she was the perfect choice for the White Queen. And so, despite the little voice in my head that had some things to say about Aslan and his sacrifice, I was mostly able to let myself get carried away into the fantastical world of Narnia. This is CGI at its best: gorgeous scenery and a mix of real and imagined creatures who blend together seamlessly. It's not all flash either, as the children did an excellent job (Lucy was cute as a button to boot) and Swinton was everything I'd expected and more. It makes me want to read the books again.
And now back to the real world and the mountain of planning that awaits me for the week.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Some of this comes from dealing with things at home, particularly as Trillian and I forge ahead with our plans to move near the grandparents. And while we are going about it methodically and getting things lined up nicely, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the enormity of the undertaking.
A subset of that is trying to get myself together enough to put in an application for the one job in that area that is actually related to my field and that I would be able to get while still working on my PhD. On top of teaching and working on my comps.
But some of that overwhelmed feeling was also coming from the reading I do for this series. In particular, No Impact Man linked to a site that is encouraging people to try and reduce their environmental footprint by 90%. OK, maybe not quite that drastic. The goal is to consume only 10% of the average consumption in the US (and, the assumption is, Canada would be about the same). So if you've made efforts to reduce already, you wouldn't have another 90% to go.
Now, to be fair, the people who created this project are not saying it's all or nothing and are encouraging people to commit to as much as they can--and gradually at that. But their 90% is based on a generous rounding of the 94% reduction that has been figured as how much we need to reduce to get US consumption down to a reasonable and fair level.
And I started to fall back into my old pattern of panicking. I'm not doing enough! I can never do enough! I'll never be able to meet those sorts of goals.
Then I decided it was time to back off for a little bit. To recognize that I'm dealing with some big stuff in my life and need to put that first right now. I'm not backing off of the things I've already started, and there are a few more little things I'm incorporating into my life. But it's unrealistic to think I can take on other big things right now. And so I remind myself of another post from No Impact Man last month: Be kind to the planet by being kind to yourself. It won't solve all the planet's ills, but I expect it will help me last long enough to do a little more.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Junk food. I find that packaged chips, cookies, and sodas taste better in Canada. Trillian and I wondered if this was just a figment of our imagination, but when we had a chance to compare ingredients lists, we discovered that there's a reason. Such foods in Canada tend to have a shorter list of ingredients, fewer chemicals, more real foods. The sodas up here have sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Chips Ahoy taste less of preservatives. Not necessarily good for my waistline, but something I definitely appreciate.
Selection of frozen foods. Particularly, vegetarian foods from Morningstar, which are not available in Canada. Trillian's not at all fond of vegetarian cuisine, but even she adores their version of corn dogs. We used to have several of these sorts of products in our freezer at all times, even once I gave up my vegetarianism during pregnancy and breastfeeding. When we move back, you can bet I'll be grabbing some veggie bacon, sausage, and those corn dogs.
Chocolate. OK, officially a junk food, but it really does deserve its own category. Trillian and I fell in love with Aero bars when we discovered them at a British import shop. And we still love that you can get them pretty much anywhere (like, say, the candy aisle at Costco). Back in the US, I ordered a case for Trillian's birthday one year--from a Canadian company. I suspect we'll be doing that again.
Online shopping. But it will be fairly easy for us to order our chocolate in the US, because online shopping is a lot easier in the US. I got used to taking advantage of free shipping offers and comparison shopping between multiple sites. There are fewer choices up here and ordering from the US is bound to add beaucoup bucks to the base price--if the site can even handle a Canadian address. I don't even expect to do it all that often (patronizing local stores, etc), but I like knowing its a possibility.
Loonies and Toonies. I have to admit, I found it difficult at first to have no paper money smaller than a five and had to constantly remind myself not to just dump my "change" into the tip jar. And even though it can still be difficult to figure out what to do with a fistful of change when I'm without pockets (and I rarely carry a purse), I've come to be very fond of them. I still get a thrill out of discovering I have enough for a coffee or a snack even when I have no paper money. And it makes dealing with vending machines easier since I so often have trouble with machines not wanting to take my bills. And I prefer the pocketful of change to a wallet that's packed with singles.
Netflix. We were early members of Netflix and loved having the service. They have an amazing range of movies and had a warehouse close to us, so turn around was quite fast. At one point, they talked about expanding into Canada, and it was not until right before we moved here that those plans changed. None of the Canadian services matched what we were used to. So we've been using the library here, which has allowed us to see a number of movies on our list, but the availability is not quite the same.
I could come up with more, but in the spirit of that last one, I'm headed for TV time.
Monday, July 02, 2007
As I would devour them, one topic that always came up would give me pause: the change in relationship with one's own mother. Most books suggested that pregnancy and early motherhood would be a time in which I would gain new perspective on my own mother, usually with the optimistic belief that it would deepen and strengthen that relationship. Only the book written by the lesbian suggested otherwise. She discussed the fact that lesbians are frequently isolated from their families of birth and that there can be additional difficulties with the parents of the non-biological mother; however, she also included anecdotes from various women about how parents would often come around after the baby's birth.
We had no concerns about Trillian's parents. They'd been dropping hints--not even subtle--about grandchildren for some time, and I suspect that they know their daughter well enough to have known she wouldn't be the one carrying the child. And it's not that I was particularly estranged from my own mother, not in the "I refuse to acknowledge my lesbian daughter" kind of way, at any rate. But no matter how much some part of me fervently hoped these books would be right, I knew I shouldn't get my hopes up.
Nonetheless, I made a few extra attempts when I was pregnant. I remember one phone call I made, ostensibly to get some family health information and ask about her pregnancies and deliveries. It was a pleasant enough conversation (and included some helpful information about a trend towards normal pregnancies with unproductive labor), but such moments only occurred when I initiated them. And let's face it, by the time I got into the third trimester, I was too overwhelmed with getting things ready at school for my maternity leave and preparing the baby's room--not to mention freaking out over the idea of having an actual baby--to make the gesture.
My becoming a mother didn't improve our relationship either. When she and one of my sisters did visit, around the 8 week mark, they picked the week before the one I told them would be most helpful (when I would need to attend a few meetings at work--I was allowed to bring the baby, but thought it would be easier if I had even a little time there without him). During their week at our house, they didn't do any dishes, laundry, cooking, anything. I had actual work to do at that point (grading exams, figuring final grades, writing comments), plus I was having to play entertainment coordinator. They did babysit one afternoon when Trillian and I went out for a movie. But overall, I would have been better off if they hadn't visited at all or had only come for a day or two.
Before Scooter was born, I worried about what sort of mother I would be. Looking at my own mother as a model, I was concerned that I might be distant, withhold affection, shrink from hugs, be sparing with words of affection. But as soon as he was here, I discovered just how easy it is to cuddle and kiss; "I love you" tumbles out of my mouth many times a day of its own volition. And so the fact that I am (and have been since day one) so in love with my son and being a mother--his mother--has only served to make me more critical of my mother. Why was it so hard for her to show any of that to us? I have to wonder.
Trillian's mother is wonderful; she's more than willing to share stories of her early experiences as a mother and listen to ours. I have several aunts who are similarly great. But as much as I enjoy having that sort of relationship with them, I can't help but think that there would be an added dimension if I could have such a relationship with my mother since she is, after all, the woman who was actually there during my childhood and would know more about my own experiences.
So this is a wound that reopens as I work on of my current conception efforts.