Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Here's something to scream about

Earlier this week, I came across some scary images on Dale McGowan's* blog, The Meming of Life.

Take a minute. Go check it out.

(For those of you who are ignoring my orders, here's a summary of what you would see: a photo and close-up details taken by Chris Jordan that, in real life, measures 5 by 10 feet. The first shot is a little hard to make out, lots of dots of color. The next two zero in until you can see that these are all plastic bottles. 2 million plastic bottles. The number of plastic bottles used in the States every 5 minutes. OK, so go look at the pictures now.)

Let that sink in. 2 million plastic bottles. 5 minutes.

And the vast majority of those bottles are not recycled. The exact percent varies from place to place, depending greatly on the availability of recycling containers and how aggressively governments promote recycling. The American Chemistry Council (whom I would probably want to gag with their new PET bottles if I looked a little more closely at where all they're putting their new products) estimates that the amount of plastic recycled increases each year but the recycling rate stays steady around 25%; we're consuming more plastic, but recycling habits remain the same.

I doubt any of this is either completely new or surprising to most of you. Even though I didn't have precise numbers, I can't say these details are unexpected. Nonetheless, it does strengthen my resolve to work on the habits I identified for myself recently.

  • I always bring a travel mug to campus with me. Now that I have a carrel, I'm also bringing a thermos filled with my morning coffee. Once I've run through that, I allow myself to purchase some more. Or just fill it with tap water. Or use the department kettle to heat up water for herbal tea.
  • Speaking of herbal tea, I have taken to stashing tea bags in my backpack. And a small bag of ground coffee. (My department has an espresso maker. They even have ground espresso there, but I feel a little uncomfortable with my lowly graduate student self using it.)
  • If I forget my mug, I don't buy any drinks. I can make use of some community mugs in the department--not ideal, but I haven't had to do it more than once this semester!
  • No sodas, no bottled water. If I move off of hot drinks, I stick with tap water.
  • My newest effort is to make sure I bring a snack and drink for Scooter on those days when he'll need one. Otherwise, I'm still purchasing a bottle of orange juice for him on those occasions, but I'm down to about once a week on that.
  • Finally, on those few occasions when I do end up with a plastic bottle, I hang onto it tightly until I can find a recycling receptacle, even if that means bringing it home to our own bin.
All of this has required little shifts in thinking and then a short period of adjustment. But, just as with bringing my own bags for all of my shopping, it has not been that hard to make the changes. And again, there have been associated benefits that were not even part of my original intent. I'm saving a lot of money now that I'm not making such frequent runs to Starbucks or Second Cup. I'm consuming fewer calories since I don't impulsively grab a soda at the convenience store. My drinks have less contact with plastic--just the top, since most of my mugs are metal. I have better control over what my son drinks--only organic apple juice, 100% orange juice (with low or no pulp)--and what he drinks it from--a sippy cup made of a more acceptable plastic or his metal Sigg bottle. Not too shabby for minor changes.

So that removes a couple plastic bottles from the picture. If another million or so people join in, then we'll be getting somewhere.

*McGowan edited and wrote parts of Parenting Beyond Belief, a book I've been skimming bits and pieces of. The focus of both the book and the blog is secular parenting. He talks a lot about his thoughts on and experiences in raising free-thinking children. A really good read, especially for my atheist-parent readers who might be wondering "what now?"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Trick or treat?

I've had to think more about Halloween candy this year since we've started Scooter on a gluten-free, casein-free diet. Of course, all of his favorites have milk chocolate, if not also some wheat ingredients. So I made sure to buy some 70% dark chocolate (no milk ingredients) and a selection of candies like candy corn and jelly pumpkins (not Scooter's favorites, but they might tide him over).

But then there's the issue of trick-or-treating. Which is difficult for a number of reasons:
  1. Our complex doesn't organize anything for trick-or-treating. Last year we had 0 kids come by.
  2. We would need to figure out somewhere to go--most likely drive to--if we wanted to give Scooter the full on experience.
  3. If we did hit a large number of houses, we're likely to end up with 90% of his haul being candy neither he not I can eat.
  4. And it's a school night.
Instead, I think we may see if he's satisfied with a trip to our favorite coffee shop. They're decorating for Halloween and it would give him a chance to show off his costume.

The other aspect of the coffee-shop trip I like is that they're collecting non-perishables for Daily Bread.

When I first read about Daily Bread's Fall Food Drive a couple weeks ago, I went through our pantry. Trillian and I had already decided we'd be making the switch in Scooter's (and my) diet, so it made sense to get rid of any gluten-containing items that Trillian knew she wouldn't use before our move. I filled an over-sized tote with mixes and soups and pasta and a number of other things and happily dropped them off on my trip to the grocery store.

But we still have more than we're likely to use in our pantry, and I will gladly pack them up and bring them to the coffee shop so that out little astronaut can drop them off in the collection box.

Reverse trick-or-treating. Less junk food, fewer calories, a cleaner pantry, and a good feeling.

Want more of the nitty-gritty about what we're doing with gfcf? Go check out my Kitchen.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Weather update

The weather here is settling into "definitely fall," with cooler temperatures and occasional showers. But there does seem to be more consistency, and I'm even fond of the cooling off.

Similarly, a number of things have evened out since my last weather forecast. So here are some miscellaneous updates:
  • Having the windows open to cool down the apartment has been wreaking havoc on all of our sinuses. Luckily, we are close to where we want to be and should be able to maintain a pleasant temperature without opening the windows for more than a few hours a day. (Funny how a too-hot apartment can completely unsettle one.)
  • It's finally sinking in that it really, truly looks like we will have the house we wanted. Both sides are very eager for the transaction to be completed, and we're left with very few potential dealbreakers.
  • I went to go check out my carrel... and the key didn't fit. It's not that the lock or door sticks, as a friend told me about his, but that the key could in no way fit into the keyhole. So I had to go through the whole song and dance of waiting until the carrel office was open and being as sweet as I could to the woman who wields great power over a small part of the universe. I got a new key that actually does work.
  • And discovered that my space is not too bad. I'm on a floor with windows in the carrels and have a split desk, part of which is actually at a good height for me (as tall as I am, tables usually hold my books much lower than is comfortable).
  • Plus, I reread the regulations more closely and determined that it says I need to give up my carrel if I leave the university. So even though I won't be on campus, I won't technically have to give my key back in two months and can still use it when I travel up to Toronto.
Now if only I could get my momentum back for my comps readings.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I am flexible, not a push over

The best parenting advice I ever received was to trust my instincts. Despite all of the "helpful" suggestions other people would be quick to offer, I would know my child better than anyone who didn't live with him, so I would be in the best position to figure out what he needed. Not that this has kept other people from offering their thoughts, but it has helped me stay true to what I think Scooter needs.

I suspect that a lot of the parenting I do looks more like "indulgence" and "spoiling" than "flexibility," as I like to call it.

It is true that Scooter gets much of what he requests. And, although I started typing a list of the general categories of his requests and why we fulfill them, I've decided that I don't need to do that sort of justification. The long and short of it is that we tend to fulfill those requests, within reason, that are food-related or strike us as "it won't hurt anything and it will make things easier for everyone."

The first affirmation that I received for this parenting style was when I read Elaine Aron's The Highly Sensitive Child. One of the things she advocated for children with food-related issues was to offer primarily those foods that the child would eat and not to push new foods too aggressively. We had pretty much been doing that anyway, but it gave me permission to feel fine about doing it.

More recently, the developmental pediatrician told me that the best way to determine if an parenting approach works for Scooter it to consider his reaction. Not in a give-him-everything, hop-to-it, he-shouldn't-ever-cry way, but in a trust-your-gut, you-can-read-him-best way. He even gave as an example an exchange from the beginning of the appointment.

Scooter had been rolling a toy truck on top of one of the plastic chairs before the doctor arrived. Once the doctor had come in and we'd made introductions, Scooter started up again. I turned to him and said something like, "Why don't you play with the truck on the floor now?" To which Scooter responded, "Uh... no." So I switched from a question to a request: "Scooter, please play with that on the floor." Again: "Uh... no." I pondered for a bit, determined that the noise really was too distracting for me and took a new tack. Maintaining as even a voice as possible,
I said, "Scooter, it is very noisy when you roll the truck on the chair and makes it hard to hear the doctor. It would be helpful if you played with it on the floor." He paused and looked at me, then pleasantly said, "OK," and moved down to the floor.

Not exactly an amazing moment, but a good illustration of what works. Scooter is stubborn and generally doesn't want to change what he's doing just because someone tells him he should. (I can clearly picture Trillian saying, "Gee, I wonder where he gets that?") But, he is interested in the way things work and cause-and-effect; additionally, he does like to help. So presenting a simple explanation and appealing to his ability to improve a situation goes much further than a command.

Today was one of those days that walked the flexible/indulgent line. After a slightly late start and a short debate with Trillian about letting him stay home (cough and a low-grade, but not exclusionary, fever), which Scooter decided by saying he wanted to go show his stickers to his friends, Scooter and I made it to daycare. But things were a little off from the start. Free play was ending early since there was going to be a fire drill. So not only did he miss out on the time that would have served as a gentle transition, but he got worried once he knew the alarm would be going off. (My bad for telling him.) I stayed for the drill, carried him down the stairs--the stridency of alarms overwhelms him enough that he can barely move--while I helped marshal some of the other kids. He cried the entire time and got more worked up when we headed back in since I got stuck holding a door while he was swept up by the other kids going up the stairs.

And so we sat on the side of the room for a while as he cried and told me that he wanted to go home. And we sat and sat and sat. And then we went home.

He mostly played by himself and watched DVDs. No, I didn't get quite as much work done as I might have otherwise. But truly, my one regret is that I didn't bring him home sooner. The shift of events had been such that his day had veered off course. And it just so happens that Trillian and I both had days that were light on scheduled items.

So I bent, but not over.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cloudy with a chance of rain

Today saw a sudden shift in the weather. After several sunny days, with the last two bringing record-breaking high temperatures, today has been gray and cloudy with rain on and off. Usually I enjoy autumn rains, but this day has found me in a bit of a mixed mood, reflecting the day's weather.

Rain: Our apartment has been unbearably hot since they've turned off the air conditioning and we have almost no ventilation.
Silver Lining: We are finally back down to a decent temperature thanks to the large drop today.
Cloud: It has taken all day and we're still on the high side of livable since our tiny windows have been catching no breezes.

Cloud: My plans for the day have gone all akimbo, because my back started acting up again and I can't sit in the chairs on campus for very long.
Silver Lining: By coming home, I could make sure Trillian had the information needed to wire the rest of our earnest money into our escrow account. At this point, everything's in line for our closing next month!
Rain: A spitting mist. My reading is going so slowly, more so when I don't stay on schedule.

Cloud: My back is bad enough that my chiropractor has advised against exercise that requires exertion.
Silver Lining: The athletic center refunded the money I paid for the classes I haven't been able to attend, without any hassle or red tape.
Rain: Cold drizzle. But that means I'm not attending the classes. I'm very sad that my plans to take ballet have fallen through for the semester.

Cloud: I've spent several hours over the past week trying to find out what residency requirements there are for my program to make sure that I won't screw up my degree progress if I don't maintain an address in the area.
Silver Lining: I walked into the office today and was told that it's entirely up to my department--and they've said they're fine with the arrangements I want.
Rain: Slight chance. I'm tentative about the information I received. The person I spoke to went and consulted anyone else and then prefaced her answer to me with "As far as I can figure out..." I'm just hoping she figured correctly.

Silver Lining: I finally have a carrel in the library, my own private space to work when I'm on campus. Or, as Trillian has dubbed it, a place to stow the crap that's currently taking over the couch so maybe more than one person at a time can sit there.
Cloud: I will actively be on campus for only another 2 months. For some reason, it took a good 3-4 weeks longer for me to get my assignment than another person in my department. And it's not on the floor I requested, so I won't just be able to pop out of my carrel and grab a book for quick reference.
Rain: Holding my breath. Technically, I'm not supposed to keep the carrel if I'm not regularly on campus, so I need to read back through the contract and see if there are any loopholes for my situation or if I'm likely to be able to escape notice.

Here's hoping the rain clears up soon--though if the sun shines too much and heats our apartment back up, I'll still be able to find plenty to complain about.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I had plans, many months ago, to spruce up my site over the summer. Yeah, maybe you can see this too... it didn't happen.

But I've started to work on one idea I had way back when: a second, but connected, blog. I can't remember when exactly I thought of this, but it appeals to me to have a second site where I can post about some of the things that have sometimes felt out of place here, recipes and other food issues in particular.

And so was born The Mouse's Kitchen.

Truthfully, I reserved the url weeks ago and kept meaning to put something, anything, up. As it so happens, Aliki's post yesterday was the little prod I needed. She linked to an article from CBC News about a brain-gut reaction, specifically the effect of propionic acid, a fatty acid commonly found in wheat and dairy products, on behavior. Coincidentally, we just started transitioning Scooter over to a gluten-free, casein-free (i.e., primarily free of wheat and dairy ) diet.

We based this decision mostly on anecdotal evidence and discussions with other parents. This is something we've debated for months. Every time it came up, we'd agree that it was probably worth trying, but would put it off since it's so hard to implement. The bulk of Scooter's diet has long been carbohydrates and dairy, and he's such a picky eater that we didn't want to subtract foods. He favorite snacks were Cheerios and goldfish crackers. For something more substantial, he has been partial to cream cheese on crackers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and chicken nuggets (but only very specific breadings).

But we have started to make the transition. No changes at school--since we'll be leaving soon. At home, however, we've nearly made the switch. We're still experimenting with replacements, and we have to work on remembering to bring approved snacks with us when we go places he's used to getting a treat.

Anyway, I'll be writing about the parenting and personal aspects of this change, plus keeping track of how different products and recipes are received over in the Kitchen. So drop by the new place.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Wednesday was my lowest day. Not that today was easy. Since last night, I've had some dizziness and my skin is threatening to break out in hives, but I'm holding it together.

And what I found as I walked to my chiropractor appointment (still dealing with the back) was that I am thankful. Not for the miscarriages, obviously, but thankful nevertheless.

I am thankful:
  • for my wife. Trillian came home from her yoga class with a bouquet of bright flowers and a decadent chocolate dessert. I know that this is a tough time for her too, so this simple act meant even more.
  • for my son. Scooter has been trying our patience of late, pushing boundaries even harder than before, but I know that this is all part of him making up for lost time and is his own way of dealing with sudden leaps in ability and understanding. And I know better than to take for granted the amazing conversations we're starting to have and the little signs that his sensory processing overdrive is calming down a little.
  • for laughter. On the way back from OT this week, Scooter and I laughed uproariously. He was answering "I don't know" to every question, so I pretended not to know his name and made ridiculous suggestions. We both found the name "Murgatroyd" particularly hysterical, as well as Hieronymous, Ignatius, and others. My favorite part, however, was getting him to run into the apartment and greet Trillian with an enthusiastic, "Hi, Murgatroyd."
  • for health. Sure this back injury has slowed me down and forced me to juggle my time so that I can get to the chiropractor's office a couple times a week. But I walk there without any problem.
  • for financial stability. We can afford for me to be in school, not bringing in a significant income. We can afford the trips to the chiropractor. We can afford Scooter's OT. We can afford our upcoming move. And knowing that is one less stressor in my life.
  • for much, much more. My in-laws and knowing how excited they are about our move. My friends, both in real-life and on the internet. DVDs of TV series I love (we've been watching Wonderfalls tonight). Indulging my love of coffee and chocolate. Easy-to-assemble children's organizational furniture from IKEA. And so many other, almost inconsequential items. Because the little things can tip the balance.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bracing for October 19th

8 months ago, I was 1 month pregnant. Trillian and I were celebrating an anniversary and getting ready to travel to see your parents, whom we immediately informed about the pregnancy.

7 months ago, I lost that pregnancy. The baby I was pretty sure was a girl. The little girl who would have been due October 19th.

That date has been looming for me and today it has been a monolith.

I knew it would be hard, that I wouldn't just forget. For a short while, I thought I would have something to soften the day a bit, but I lost that pregnancy too.

I know that had I carried this pregnancy to term, things would be very different for us right now. I would have already finished the first part of my comps (out of necessity--plus I might have done more work if I hadn't been so distracted), but would be putting my seminar on hold until the spring. We wouldn't be moving to Springfield in two months. And we'd be chomping at the bit to get out of here.

But I'm still dealing with the uncertainty--and it eats at me to be no closer to knowing when and if this will ever happen for me, for us.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Banning bisphenol A

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day. And the topic is the environment. Add to that BlogHer Acts Canada's focus on getting Canada to pass a ban on bisphenol A. Of course I'm joining in.

I've written about bisphenol A before. It's a chemical found in many plastic products, particularly polycarbonates, but also the lining of tin cans. If the plastic is clear and rigid, chances are that there's some bisphenol A in there. But, of course, such labeling is not required, so one can't be sure.
Although it isn't supposed to, it does leach into food; chemically speaking, it is an estrogen receptor and has hormone-disrupting properties at incredibly low levels.

As I planned out in that previous post, we have switched to using glass containers for more foods and stopped using polycarbonate bottles. We have not discontinued all use of plastics, but now serve most of Scooter's food on/in #5 plastics (one of the least toxic).

But I would like to take this moment for a little rant. I mentioned this in a comment over at BlogHers Act Canada, but let me say a little more.

Before Scooter was born, Trillian and I did the whole new-parent thing and carefully researched everything. Even though I intended to breastfeed for at least a year, I knew that Scooter would need to take some feedings from bottles once I went back to work at 5+ months. And so we settled on Avent bottles, even bought the adapter so that I could pump from my Medela pump directly into a bottle. Even when Scooter refused the bottle at first, we stuck with Avent, trying out different nipples (eventually ending up with the sippy cup mouthpiece). So I panicked when I realized that we've been exposing our son to bisphenol A all along.

That's bad enough. I try not to beat myself up about it since I didn't know at the time and can't change what has already happened. But I thought maybe Avent would be concerned about this too. Go to their site, however, and this is what you'll find.

Now the Avent site refers to various regulatory agencies that have approved bisphenol A for food-grade products and that claim there is no danger from it. They hide behind these studies--I say 'hide,' because many of these studies have been funded by the chemical industry or conducted by panels with likely conflicts of interest.

I am both angered and dumb-founded by this whole thing. This chemical is an estrogen receptor. That means it upset the hormone balance in men and women alike. And in such a way that it can lead to things like obesity and early puberty, not to mention low sperm count in men and a greater disposition towards breast cancer for women.

And yet governments assure us that they have determined "safe" levels, often with the help of those very considerate folks who produce bisphenol A. Take one last look at the chart over in the Wikipedia article. Now I'm not saying that every study on that chart is as sound as the next, but look at the general trend, look at the wide range of effects. And look at where the US and Canada put their limits.

In addition to my post here, I will be sending a letter to Avent. I will explain why I will never use their products again and how angry I am that they continue to ignore the science.

Are you angry too? Write a post, write a letter, sign the petition. Make your voice heard. When we all yell about the same thing, it's a lot harder to ignore.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Non-diagnosis and perspective

Nearly every year that I taught at that private school in the States, the Advanced Placement literature course was part of my load; there were two different curricula for it, so I alternated my syllabus between years. This started out as quite the treat for me. It's a difficult course, requiring students to truly stretch their abilities. To that point, most of their work on the language I taught was composed of grammar and translation. Suddenly, they were expected also to read poetry in this language, be able to analyze it on various levels, and write coherent essays conveying all of this. The payoff, however, was that they had the opportunity to read truly great literature.

Usually with a course of this level, the students have enough invested in the subject that they are interested and want to do well. They also tend to be focused on their college applications and making sure that their transcripts include the right number of difficult courses. Although I have issues with this, it theoretically led to motivated classes. I say, "Theoretically." My first AP class was a dream class, but after that I had a mix of students who just wanted the AP credit and/or were really too weak to handle the demands of the course, with only a few of the best sort thrown in.

In the last two years that I taught this course, I actually had behavior problems to deal with. Both times, it was a core of boys who were, quite simply, mean, plus another boy who was frequently the target of their teasing. From everything I'd heard, this dynamic had been going on for years.

The target of the teasing, I'll call him E., was an odd boy. To see that he had trouble reading social cues would be a gross understatement. His attempts to joke often fell flat with the other students. Some of the teasing would go over his head, but sometimes it hit him hard and he'd lash out. He was generally regarded as intelligent, but his strengths were in memorizing and concrete thinking.

The first year that I taught E., the syllabus involved reading significant parts of a long, narrative poem. In addition to translating and analyzing the assigned portions, students also had to read the entire work in English and be able to keep track of what was happening in the plot. E. would drive me nuts by openly demonstrating that he had not read the story closely--usually with questions that revealed an ignorance of the story beyond our text's minimal summaries, but also by refusing to keep track of who the different characters were.

He also made frequent reference to what a translation of the poem said when we went through the original text in class. Despite my lecture to the students along the lines of "Technically, you're not even supposed to be using a published translation when you're working on your own translation for class. Moreover, published translations are never going to be literal translations, so they won't help you get the grammar right. But I also know that you will use a translation, because everyone does--and I did. So here's my bottom line: don't tell me you're using it and when you do use it, use it responsibly" (followed by an explanation of what that means). His fellow classmates got the hint; however, E. continued to say things in class like, "but that's not what my translation says."

I remember one day in class when he had made another remark, can't recall the topic. But I sighed. Audibly. He didn't make any sign of noticing, but the rest of the class laughed. And I got very upset with myself. Because I have always considered it my responsibility, as the adult in the room, to keep such feelings to myself, to give no indication of my personal attitude towards students with whom I have personality conflicts. So I worked very hard not to let that happen again, although he continued to drive me crazy.

At the beginning of the next year, my second year with that same core of trouble, one of the administrators left copies of an article on Asperger's in the faculty lounge. I read it with general interest until a couple pages in, when I saw a picture of one of the kids being discussed. He reminded me immediately of E. Now I'm not saying that there are easily discernible physical markers of Asperger's, but the picture triggered something for me.

Suddenly it was clear: E. had Asperger's!

No, he hadn't been diagnosed. And I wasn't going to force my idea on others. (There was a whole other dynamic with his parents and the administration, so I knew I'd get myself in trouble approaching either party.) But just thinking about E. in these terms helped me reshape my relationship with him.

I made sure that any directions I gave to E. were as concrete as possible and didn't assume that he should be able to fill in the details, even when his classmates could. When he asked questions that were either repetitive or (to me) obvious, I either answered them patiently or told him where he could find the information for himself. I assigned groups for cooperative work and created seating plans that minimized his proximity to the bullies and other distractions. I made sure to praise him when he did good work--not more effusively than I would have with other students, but I made sure to praise him. And I cut off the bullies in no uncertain terms, not that I had condoned their actions in the previous year, but I decided this was a case where I needed to come down on them harder than I usually would--and they did back off a bit at least.

I can't say that I ever came to like this student. And even if his perception of his experience in my classroom didn't change at all (and I'm not sure it did, he really was that clueless about social interaction), my experience of his presence did. It also made me realize that, as a teacher, I did not need a special report from the study skills coordinator indicating a diagnosis to be able to adjust my teaching to a student.

I have been thinking about E. a lot since starting the process of getting Scooter evaluated, this time from the parent perspective. Even more since it is looking increasingly likely that Scooter may not receive a diagnosis that puts him on the autism spectrum, possibly no diagnosis at all that would relate to special services at school. This is not entirely a bad thing, as I don't expect he'll need extra support past the first few years of school. But I do worry that, without an IEP, the first few years might be even rougher and he might end up disliking school--something that could have long-term consequences.

And so I cross my fingers and hope that my expectations of our school-district-to-be are correct: that teachers will be experienced in dealing with students of all sorts, that they will be willing to make minor non-disruptive accommodations if it will make a difference for a student, and that the other students will be accustomed to "odd" students and therefore more accepting. High hopes and high stakes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


  • The new power supply arrived, and so I am happily ensconced on the couch again and not having to run back to the office throughout the day. In my defense, not all of my time has been spent on frivolous pursuits: I spent quite some time yesterday chasing down texts I need for my seminar.
  • Last Sunday, my family met up with a friend and her husband. She was a colleague of mine at the school where I taught in the States. I'm a little sad that I'll be leaving so soon after she and I are back in the same place, but we'll be sure to get together regularly to make the most of the time. And I'm going to introduce her to people in my department; Trillian and I may even have a dinner party so that we can mingle on a couples-level.
  • Today I received an email from another former colleague. I had just been thinking the other day that I should email her (though I'll be damned if I can remember what triggered that thought). The one detail I can't get over is that her son is now in the 6th grade! I've known him since he was 3 or (just) 4.

Time flies and all of that. Off to finish a section of my comps reading. More substantial posts soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The post wherein you get to see my breast

Today is the Great Virtual Breast Fest over at the League of Maternal Justice. I didn't get things together quickly enough to submit a photo for the montage, and then Scooter has been weaned for 3 years now, so we couldn't participate in live nursing either. But I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding. There are a hundred different posts I could write about my thoughts on the issue and my personal experience. But tonight I'll write just the one.

The origin of the nickname 'Mouse' was a girl's attempts to make fun of me and some friends. (We were dishing back, so don't feel sorry for me.) 'Mouse' was one part of what she called me; it's the rest of it that made me mad. But when that dropped out, 'Mouse' stuck.

And it's pretty clear why. I am an introvert and usually go out of my way to avoid notice (performance aspect of dance, notwithstanding). Despite my size--always tall and now overweight--I try to take up as little space as possible. There is, obviously, a self-esteem component of this. There is also a deep desire not to offend or make trouble for anyone.

Becoming a mother, however, forced me to confront some of the mousier aspects of my personality. I quickly realized that it was one thing for me to relent and yield in situations because it was 'easier,' but there was no way I would, no way I could, just acquiesce when it came to my son. And breastfeeding was an important part of this.

In the first weeks after my son's birth, I was nervous about feeding my son anywhere other than the comforts of our own house. When I went to the obstetrician a few days after his birth (there was an issue with my tear--cringe), I asked if I could wait in a back room so that I could nurse him. I was still so new to the whole process that there was no way for me to get him to latch on without entirely exposing myself, and I felt so raw and vulnerable from the whole giving-birth-thing that I wasn't ready to take that on in public.

But after about 6 weeks, once feeding became more comfortable, more the experience I had been hoping for, I gained a new courage and assertiveness. I loved the fact that I could take my son anywhere without worrying about his feeding. We carried diapers, a couple changes of clothers for him, and an extra shirt for us (learned about that one the hard way--explosive diaper!), but I never had to fumble with multiple bottles and formula and water sources.

My absolute favorite purchase for the first year was our sling. My son was very comfortable in it and I carried him everywhere. I also discovered that it gave me the support I needed to nurse him, even while walking. And although he absolutely refused to nurse under a blanket (for which I couldn't blame him since I get claustrophobic under the covers), I could pull the far side of the sling up just a bit, affording a little extra privacy, but not physically covering his head.

Even without the sling, I never hesitated to feed him. I became quite skilled at unlatching my bra with one hand and bringing my son to my breast as I simultaneously moved my shirt out of the way. If someone watched very closely, they might get a tiny nipple-peek, but I think that would say more about their interest than anything else.

While I did usually pick a quieter place--the bench in the back of Target near the pharmacy, my office chair turned towards the wall, in a booth at a restaurant--this had more to do with wanting a peaceful moment than fearing others' reactions. There were times that I almost wished someone would challenge me, because I knew I was up to the fight and would have made them regret it.

Breastfeeding also made me more sure of myself as a mother. Co-sleeping was a natural result of the feeding schedule for us. Despite the horror stories other parents told us (mostly about kids in bed until age nine, though also some about squashed babies), I knew that it was right for us. Ditto with continuing to breastfeed past a year. We heard all sorts of things about needing to get him onto more solids, but given what he was like then and how picky and stubborn he is, I suspect he would have gained even less weight if I'd withheld the breast.

And so every time I hear about another mother who is asked to 'cover up' or go nurse in the bathroom or some equally inane thing, it makes me really mad. Because to me, such a request goes even deeper than the issue of what's 'decent' and the oversexualization of the breast, it goes so far as to question her very motherhood.

Baby Scooter's response to Bill Maher, Facebook, and anybody else who suggests he not breastfeed anywhere he wants.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Anything else you'd like to tell me, Universe?

Most of my computer-time is spent on my Dell Inspiron laptop. Before I got that at the end of my first year of graduate school, I primarily used our desktop, which has always been located in whatever space we were using for the "office."

In our first apartment in Toronto, we had a tiny room just outside the living room. It was very handy since I could sit there and check on Scooter simply by pushing my chair back. Or if he was upstairs in his room (with gates on his door, the top of the stairs and the bottom of the stairs), I could hear when he got up since the office was right at the bottom of the stairs.

In our current apartment, the office is right next to the front door. And we have a very long hallway to the rest of the apartment. While one can hear a decent amount of the noise from the rest of the apartment, it is not very distinct. So when I worked here regularly, I would frequently have to leave the office to go see what Trillian or Scooter was trying to tell me. Whenever the clothes washer is running, there's a chance I won't have heard them at all.

The laptop has allowed me to do most of my work from the living room couch. The flipside is that it's also very easy for me to hop online and waste valuable work time reading "just one more blog" or playing "just one more game." I'll be good about avoiding too much extracurricular online activity for a while, limiting my email and blog reading to a couple times a day, but then the time I spend on those things starts to creep up.

In the past month or so, I've had electrical tape around part of my power cord. Due to the position of the power supply port--it's on the opposite side of the computer from the electrical outlet--and the fact that (apparently) Dell power cords tend to be weak at a particular junction, I have been in danger of ripping my cord.

In the past day or two, I realized that some wires must have finally come apart under the electrical tape, as my computer would suddenly switch to battery power even when everything was ostensibly plugged in.

So I have ordered a new power supply. On a holiday weekend, of course. Which will add multiple days to the time of delivery.

All of this is the long way of saying: I have less computer access than usual. I think maybe the universe is trying to remind me that I need to be reading for my comps.

Back to the books.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I am a bad mother, because...

... I let my son play enough Simpson's Road Rage and Hit and Run on our PlayStation 2 that his reaction upon seeing a tree the other day was, "I hope Homer doesn't crash into that tree!"

... when Scooter was saying that he wanted to go on a "special trip" today (Whole Foods didn't qualify), Trillian and I gave him a choice of going to the coffeeshop or staying home. "Coffeeshop or stay home?" we asked. His reply? "Damn!" (Even asked him to repeat it. Sure enough, that's what he was saying.)

... and after my son said that, although I did manage to tell him that was not a good word to use, I was shaking slightly from the effort of containing my laughter.

... in an effort to get my son off his favorite carbs (goldfish crackers and Cheerios)--we're working towards gluten-free, dairy-free--we're plying him with chocolate chip cookies (gluten-free, dairy-free, but still full of sugar).

Friday, October 05, 2007

Scattered thoughts on a foggy Friday

When Scooter and I headed off to school Thursday morning, a heavy fog had descended on the city. It felt a bit like the world was empathizing and making my mindset concrete.

My back is not too bad. I am mobile, not even hunched over. It's a dull pain. But constant.

Yesterday, I went home after dropping off Scooter and taking care of an on-campus errand. But my back hurt enough that I could tell I couldn't sit comfortably for studying. So I went to our fitness center and sat in the hot tub for a bit and then had a massage.

Better, but something's still a little out of place.

This morning, there wasn't so much a fog (despite my title), as a haze. And that seemed about right. I had to sit through my three-hour seminar today. I fidgeted like a little kid, uncomfortable however I arranged myself. So I can't say I got much out of it.

I have a chiropractor's appointment tomorrow and am looking forward to just the tiniest of adjustments--seriously, I can tell that things are stuck up and back, probably less than a centimeter.

In the meantime, I bring to you some of the things that have been flashing across my currently dulled mind.

Positive Spin on the Back Pain: As I looked up the chiropractor's number, I realized that the last time I went in for an adjustment was for episode #2 (described on Wednesday). Which means that the last time my back was out of whack (as opposed to just sore) was something like 6 years ago. That may be the longest I've gone without since the initial injury. And again, I'm not even completely laid out.

Cutest Moment of the Day: As we headed home, out of nowhere Scooter proclaimed, "Thanks for keeping us warm, Sun."

Unexpected Warm Fuzzy: Scooter and I arrived at school fairly early; he was the second kid there. The little girl, a real sweetie, greeted him enthusiastically and told him the toys she was helping the teacher get out. Scooter happily returned her overtures and fully engaged in conversation. While Trillian and I have noticed the increased complexity of his sentence structure and his improved oral comprehension, it took seeing him interacting with another kid for me to realize just how much this means.

Feeling Out-of-Sync: I still haven't gotten into this semester's rhythm. I think it has to do with the fact that I've been traveling midweek two out of four weeks we've had class. Plus I only have class once a week--the rest of my time is mine to schedule. I've done a pretty good job of attending to my work, but things always come up. (I typed "back" at first--there's a Freudian slip.)

Off to bed now. Here's hoping that the haze lifts tomorrow--from both the city and my mind.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On my back (but not in a good way)

The Great Mofo Delurk 2007

I am supposed to be at my first ballet class tonight (OK, actually second, but I was out of town for the first). Instead, I've got an Icy Hot patch on my back and have periodically been stretching.

In the same post that I mentioned my love of dance, I also alluded to a few injuries I sustained as a result of that said love. At age 14, I hurt my back. In fact, I am probably somewhere very close to the 20-year anniversary of that. And it remains a constant pain in my ass. Literally. Most of the pain occurs around the sciatic area.

Sometimes it's fairly minor, more an annoyance than a limitation on my mobility. Usually a couple days before my period, I find that it starts to stiffen a bit and just won't relax. It makes me feel a little out of whack, but doesn't stop me from doing anything. On occasion, I've had it go out entirely again, requiring bed rest/physical therapy/physical manipulation (chiropractic adjustment or Rolfing)/medication (Ibuprofen and/or muscle relaxers)/any combination of the above.

I was initially resolved to tell my most embarrassing moment of my back going out. But then I realized that it's a toss-up between two different times.

#1 I'm talking in the living room to my sister and one of her male friends (we were all roommates at the time). My back starts to twinge (even though all I'm doing is standing), so I decide to lay on my stomach on the floor until it passes. Except that my back gets worse and I eventually realize that I can't get up. Even after ibuprofen and muscle relaxers and ice packs. Now I have to pee really badly. Trillian's home by now, so she and my sister initially offer me a plastic container (with the male roommate out of the room) since I can't make it to the bathroom. Except that I can't get into a position where I can relax enough. We get to the point where I either have to find a way to get up or Trillian's calling an ambulance (for which I have no insurance). I have wormed myself across the floor to the stairs at this point and use them to pull myself up. After going to the bathroom, I make it upstairs (all of this with copious assistance) and go to bed until I can go to the chiropractor the next day.

#2 It's the end of the first week of classes during my second year of teaching. What had been a small class the previous year has doubled in size, and I'm still trying to deal with the dynamics of the class. On that day, I'm lecturing about the author we're about to start reading. On the desk to my left are my carefully prepared overheads; the overhead projector is on my right. After making some point, I go to lean back on the desk, coffee in hand. (This is not my classroom. My school generally had offices and we traveled to our classes, so I was unfamiliar with this room still.) My weight rests towards its end. Turns out that the legs on the desk are set a ways in. So the whole thing turns into a lever. My coffee flies out of my hand and lands on the overheads. I catch my balance before the desk falls over, but it rebounds and smacks me in the rear. My immediate concern is for the embarrassment of the moment. But by the next day, I can't stand up straight and end up walking around slightly hunched over for a week or so before I get in to see the chiropractor.

The backache tonight is not nearly as bad as either of those, more along the lines of premenstrual back pain with a little added stiffness--the result, I think, of the extra hours I have been sitting for school, coupled with the extra exercise I've been attempting to fit in.

But here's where I turn to audience participation. Today is "the great mofo delurk" (not my name). So I'll steal a page from Bub and Pie's book and ask a few questions of those who I know are there, but don't hear from (often or ever). I'll stick with only three questions though, and you don't have to answer all three:
  1. Which of the above do you think is more embarrassing, #1 or #2 (or #3: the fact that I shared both stories with you)?
  2. What is your favorite show of the new TV lineup? (Unless you are so cultured as not to watch any of it. To which I would have to say: you are a much better person than I!)
  3. What is one question you'd like to ask me?
Give me something to keep my mind off this back pain!

Monday, October 01, 2007

My new time suck

I joined Facebook a few months ago, on the invitation of another Toronto blogger. I added a handful of other Toronto bloggers who joined at about the same time, but didn't spend any real time looking around.

And then Trillian registered this past week. So I checked back in to confirm her as a friend. In her usual manner, she proceeded to spend some time on the site and then filled me in on what she found, which included a number of mutual friends. So I started searching on my own for other people I know. Funny how the time flies...

I've been trying to moderate how much time I spend on Facebook, especially given my recent proclamation. But that didn't stop me from going through and sending out a flurry of friend requests to people I know in some of my groups (just hadn't gotten to it yet).

One area into which I've only tentatively ventured is the far past of school. I sent a friend request to one person from my enormous high school class so far and haven't looked any further back than that. The ambivalence that even contemplating looking these people up is interesting to me. Most of my pre-university social experience was neutral to unpleasant. I haven't kept in touch with many, if any, of the people I knew back then--mostly my choice and not just an accident of time.

Nonetheless, I did reach out to this one person from my graduating class, someone I was passing friends with. He was much more popular than I, involved in student government, a member of a visible minority. But always nice to me, and we had a good time in a senior-year literature elective. I knew where he went to university, but this is the first we'd crossed paths, albeit virtually, since our graduation more than 15 years ago. And I can't decide if I want to do more than look at his picture over in my friends list. Because I'm curious. There's a part of me that wants to get chatty, mention some of the people we both knew, the odd ways my paths have crossed with theirs. And I couldn't help but notice that one of his groups is the gay/lesbian student association from his university. Yes, he could have joined as an ally (he did always have a strong sense of civil justice), but what if his indication of 'married' matches mine, what if this is something we never knew we had in common?

And if I can spend all this time wondering about one person, how much more time will Facebook steal if I find somebody from elementary school?