Friday, March 28, 2008

Comfort and empowerment

This is the month I decided to take back some control over my health, to search for answers, to gain power through knowledge.

I feel empowered... and like a pin cushion.

At this moment, I am sporting a nasty-looking bruise in the crook of my left elbow, courtesy of the blood draw from my brief exam for updating my life insurance (completed by some random tech the insurance company sent to my house). This is somewhat balanced by the brand-new pin prick in the crook of my right elbow--I got my favorite lab tech again. (What does it say that I have a favorite lab tech?) On my left upper arm is a band-aid covering the injection site of my tetanus booster. (-Have you had a tetanus shot in the last ten years? -Ten? No. Twenty? Just barely. Maybe I should get that.) On my right upper arm is a band-aid covering the injection site of my B12 shot. (Still tired? Let's see if this will help.)

On the plus side, all of my previous bloodwork came back with good news. Decent cholesterol (as usual, great HDL, OK LDL, great ratio), no signs of celiac disease (though a sensitivity is still likely), no thyroid anti-bodies, nothing that would indicate an immune problem or rheumatoid arthritis or excess inflammation. Mammogram and colonoscopy scheduled for the near future, both due to family history, rather than any expected problem. I should have a good idea of where everything stands by the middle of April.

This has been a healing process for me too. I have spent much of the time since my miscarriages feeling disconnected from my physical body. Not that I have been an amazing physical specimen for a good number of years, but I have almost always felt like I really knew my body. And it had never let me down like this before.

But between the examinations and increasing amounts of exercise and a return to Rolfing (which deserves a post unto itself), I'm starting to inhabit my body again, to feel the connections, to trust that I know it. I still do not have the certainty of a name that I sought, but recovering the sense of comfort in my own skin relieves another bit of the fear and gives me the confidence to move forward.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Party by the numbers

3--number of doorways with decorations hanging down that I keep hitting
15--number of balloons purchased by grandparents
14--number of balloons intact at decorating time

6--number of children running around our backyard
8--number of adults milling about
14--number of hot dogs consumed
13--number of train car cakes I iced
3--number of additional train cars I iced when all of the boys wanted blue
75--percent of time kids spent in the backyard

1--number of clogs in the kitchen sink
1.25--number of hours it took the plumber to get our kitchen sink functional again
1:00--time the party began
1:15--time the plumber left
37,000 (or so)--number of dirty dishes out on the counter when guests arrived
1,000,000--little toy pieces all over the play room

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Then there were 7

A week ago, I worried that no kids would be attending Scooter's birthday party. I couldn't imagine that none of the ten kids we'd invited would show up, but part of me was definitely worried by the fact that I had no RSVPs for three days after the invitations went out.

The first two affirmative responses came from the kids not in Scooter's class. We invited the youngest daughter of the first lesbian couple we met in Springfield and the boy on our cul-de-sac who is closest in age to Scooter. Once we had those two responses, I relaxed a little. Three is not a bad number for a play date, with some birthday stuff thrown in for good measure. Our neighbor also told me that there was a good chance people would show up even if they didn't call.

Yesterday, we had an RSVP from the first person in Scooter's class--luckily this is also the kid Scooter seems to like best. And in a flurry today, three more.

I have prepared for all of the kids to show up, just in case, and am tossing out this post in the midst of a flurry of neatening.

Trillian convinced me to scale back a little bit. We're still doing individual train cake cars--and the gluten-free cake mix was a bitch to get out of the pan. But I've given up any thought of party-themed games. Instead of crafting various train items, we purchased a ring toss and mini-bowling game, have moved Scooter's basketball hoop outside, and will be filling our sandbox tomorrow morning. Throw in some sidewalk chalk and bubbles, and I think we can keep at least a dozen kids occupied for a while.

I've hung the decorations and put out a few things, mostly because I want to hear Scooter's reaction when he wakes up to signs of his birthday party. I'll be sending him and Trillian over to a local daycare's open house (possible summer option) for a bit in the morning so that I can organize a few other things. Then the reinforcements will come, bringing balloons and the rest of our party stuff--hooray for living near the in-laws!

The weather forecast is in our favor, and it's supposed to be warm and sunny (don't hate me, Canadians). Cross your fingers that it stays that way; my sanity may depend on being able to leave them outside for a good chunk of time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

To Easter bunny or not to Easter bunny

Our Easter's have usually been low-key. Trillian's mom has always sent some lovely basket of treats to us; especially when we lived away from them, she has felt the need to send some tangible evidence of her holiday wishes for us. We've never minded--one less thing for us to worry about. In fact, we have generally done nothing to mark the holiday than give Scooter the basket. Last year, we did color eggs, but the highlight of that day was a trip to the Ontario Science Centre.

This year, we will be specifically celebrating Easter. Trillian's parents will hide the Easter eggs that Scooter dyed with them and we will have an official Easter lunch. There will be a pretty full basket. I packed up some gluten-free candy we'd found, plus a toy I bought a while that just happens to come in an egg-shaped container, and one of Scooter's old baskets. I handed these over to Trillian's mother who will be adding her traditional gifts (bunny and book), plus more candy.

I haven't quite figured out how I feel about this more overt celebration and how I want all of this presented to Scooter. It's a little late to define things for this year, but I've realized that we will need to think about this for next year. Personally, ever since the Easter story was first explained to me (by classmates when I was 12), I have felt odd about marking it in any way, as this is the part of the Christ story--well this and the virgin birth bit--that I cannot believe at all. On the other hand, I cannot deny the fun of hunting for eggs and the cuteness of bunnies, not to mention family tradition.

I know that at some point I will present these last two elements of the holiday with their representation of fertility and the start of Spring. But that's a little further off, once Scooter is old enough to learn about the history of different holidays and syncretism.

This year, talk is of the Easter bunny.

As recently as yesterday, I thought that this was already a moot point. When I was trying to get Scooter to explain the note from school at the end of the daily report--"Be sure to bring your Easter bunnies on Monday"--his emphatic response was, "There is no Easter bunny." I suspect he's supposed to bring a stuffed rabbit, but am unsure and have no idea why.

(Side note: I was considering myself so lucky when I read Metro Mama's post about sending Easter stuff to school--and now this. I worry about the issue of religion in public schools and so am uneasy that I don't know what the purpose behind this is. Trillian thinks we should send a note asking what they'll be doing for Passover. My concern with that is that they then assume we're Jewish, and I have a complex about this since I have a Jewish last name and went through that very thing my whole childhood. I don't want to get too defensive about it, but I also feel incredibly strongly about the manner in which my son is introduced to religious ideas. Anyway, this will be a whole 'nother post.)

Secretly (really, Trillian and I didn't confirm or deny his assertion), we were happy he felt this way. But then when he was coloring eggs with his grandmother and great-grandmother, apparently the topic came up again. At first, Scooter vehemently denied the Easter bunny's existence. But when my mother-in-law said that maybe the Easter bunny would hide eggs for him, he thought about it for awhile. Where he seems to be now is of the belief that there is not an Easter bunny in Springfield, but there is one in Capital City. The Easter bunny will ring Grandma and Grandpa's doorbell and they'll give him the eggs that Scooter decorated. Then the Easter bunny will hide them for Scooter.

I'm torn in how I feel about this. On the one hand, having Scooter believe that the Easter bunny does not exist is the end result I desire, so if that's what he already believes, mission accomplished. On the other, I do want him to work through ideas, test out theories, come to conclusions on his own steam, not simply accept what he is told. This particular instance is complicated by the fact that I don't know how he came to his first conclusion--the Easter bunny is actually not something we've discussed one way or the other. And while I was not present for the conversation with his grandmother (irony alert: Trillian and I were meeting up with some other nonreligious parents and discussing raising freethinking children), I know that he felt the need to revise his theory because she responded to his assertion against the Easter bunny's existence with the suggestion that maybe he'd come to their house.

Sigh. I know that this is just a taste of what's to come. Here's hoping I can find the energy and clarity to follow through on my intentions.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A lifetime ago, literally

Five years ago, Bush finally invaded Iraq. I remember that it felt like an inevitability for some time before that. And I remember spending most of the time leading up to this wondering what the hell I had done.

I was just about 39 weeks pregnant.

Not that I didn't know the state of affairs was more precarious than usual when I went out and purposely got pregnant--that happened not quite a year after 9/11.

But there was something about the start of a war that somehow combined with late-pregnancy hormones to make me think I was absolutely nuts.

In my younger days, I would have been out there protesting, as I may have done over Gulf War 1.0 (sorry, Conflict, not an official war). I may have pointed out to fellow students that the US was not below manipulating the media when they laughed over reports that the Iraqi government was telling their people that they were winning.

In the lead up to the current Gulf Morass, I did not think that I was in the best shape for protesting, particular if things got out of hand. I bit my tongue a lot so that I could play the role of facilitating my students' discussions and concerns about events without getting up on my soapbox. I may, however, have read my advisees The Butter Battle Book.

And about a week after the official start, my son was born and my world changed, even if the world at large did not.

A lot has happened for my family over the past five years. We moved out of the country and back again; I take some pleasure from the fact that our tax money didn't go towards the Gulf War for a couple years (Afghanistan, yes; Iraq, no). We've dealt with a number of health issues and watched our son become a non-top talker with slightly better balance.

I don't think that my son is aware of the war; it's outside the scope of his world. But I am certainly aware and would have hoped--not expected, but hoped--not to see this landmark birthday/anniversary echoing his entry five years ago.

Call me crazy

In eight days, I will have as many as ten four- and five-year-olds in my house. For two hours.

This is our first foray into throwing a birthday party. We've done special snacks at preschool and family gatherings, but never organized an honest-to-goodness cake-and-favors kind of party. We briefly considered it last year, but we were in the middle of all of the evaluations--plus, his class was 25 kids strong and it seemed to be standard practice to invite the whole class. Here, at least, there are nine kids in his class, plus a neighborhood kid or two in the same age range.

The theme was easy to decide: Thomas the Tank Engine. Thomas on everything. Another train cake, gluten free this year. Train-themed games (pin the caboose on the train, follow the engine). Train whistles and stickers to take home.

At least I won't be doing this alone. Trillian and her mother and grandmother all will be on hand. Four adults to direct the chaos and make nice with the parents who stick around.

Of course, I had a moment of panic about the other possibility today as I sent the invitations to school in Scooter's backpack. What if nobody comes? Scooter's not totally worked up about the party at this point, but I think he understands enough to have the general gist of what's been planned. I'm hoping that his status as "new kid" doesn't work against him and actually encourages some parents to send their kids.

In either case, if you don't hear from me after next Wednesday, you can assume I've been committed.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I have just finished our taxes. Still have to figure out what needs to be copied and attach various forms before stuffing in envelopes, but the information is all on paper.

[Highlight moment: Chat version of help for QuickTax (Intuit's Canadian version of TurboTax). Basically I bedeviled a customer service agent because I found what amounts to a bug. Trillian and I timed issues having to do with residency so that we could claim residence for tax reasons in Canada through the end of 2007 and the US starting at the beginning of 2008--much easier for taxes, we've done this twice before. So the answer to the question of my residency at the end of the tax year was "Ontario." After that, the program would not allow me to type in a residence outside of Canada. The agent told me I should indicate "Non-resident" for the earlier question, but I pointed out to him that this was not the case for tax purposes and would cause the program to treat my taxes differently than required. He somehow thought the Canada Revenue Agency might have trouble taking my money with a US address. I assured him that I was pretty sure they'd find a way to take my money. Really, it was a fun time for all. Anyways...]

One of the things TurboTax informed me is that neither Trillian nor I qualify for the "economic stimulus payment" that Bush is tossing at people in a desperate bid to salvage his legacy. To be sure, my thought when he did this back in 2001 was that we would probably end up paying many times the $300 we received down the road (through taxes and economic problems). This time, many people will receive double the amount--to my mind, even more trouble in the future.

Now Trillian and I don't need this money and we would have just put whatever we got into a college savings account (thereby not creating the economic stimulus intended), so this is not a "where's my piece of the pie?" complaint. Rather, my issue is the reason we are not receiving the money. Neither Trillian nor I earned enough in the US (though Canada got its fair share from us, including money for the OHIP premium, even though we are not eligible for any benefits--but that's a whole other post). Our US earnings in both cases were zeroed out by deductions; therefore, we make too little on paper to get this "free" money. And yet I have to think that people who end up with the same initial numbers we did (ours when Canadian earnings are excluded, theirs probably absolute numbers) could find much greater and more urgent use for these checks, but they won't be seeing them.

Is it November yet?

Wherein I sound like a pre-schooler and ask, "Why?"

I have not been as low as I was back in October, but it has not escaped my notice that yesterday and today mark the double whammy that was my first miscarriage and the due date of the pregnancy that became my second pregnancy. I feel that I did most of my mourning a few months ago, with occasional outbursts since then. It helps that I'm now doing some things to find the answers I need, whatever those answers might be.

Instead, I want to focus tonight on a relatively small sort of thing, but something that marks, I suspect, the true start to being the parent of a child in school. As part of Scooter's preschool program, we are required to have a monthly meeting with his teacher. We held ours via phone this month, due to our bout of strep. I won't go into the frustration of hearing the whole "trouble sharing must be because he's a spoiled only child" thing; neither Trillian nor I nor any of our siblings are particularly good at sharing--I suspect it's as much a personality trait as anything else, but didn't want to argue ("Frankly, I hate sharing, sometimes even with my wife and child, so the best we can hope for is that he shares grudgingly"--not a line I wanted to use).

No, an even smaller topic that came up for all of two minutes was handwriting. Scooter has trouble with fine motor control. Combine this with his tendency to avoid things he finds difficult = issues with writing. But he's proud that he can write his name and will sometimes write other letters. (I'm sure I've mentioned before that I credit his OT experience in Toronto with rekindling his interest in this.) I occasionally give him a little help with grip or a reminder of what direction to move the pen to make the requested letter. I do not--and will not--push for more than he's trying to do right now since that would only cause him to quit trying.

We have been told, however, that the district's handwriting curriculum focuses on lower-case letters first, not the upper-case letters Scooter has learned. Therefore, per his teacher, we should be working with him on writing all but the first letter of his name in lower case. So that he can meet the expectations of the handwriting curriculum.

I did mention the fine motor issues. I did bring up the many curvy letters in his name. And then I went silent. Because she reiterated that he should start working on his lower-case letter so that he will be able to complete the handwriting curriculum.

Here's the thing. I cannot bring myself to care too terribly much about the handwriting curriculum. I understand the need for my son to write legibly. I think he will take great pleasure in learning to spell and seeing how he can create words all by himself. I don't think that this will be affected by whether or not his letters are formed as proscribed by D'Nealian or anybody else.

I know this is something that Aliki has written about before (although I'm too close to bedtime to find a specific link): Why is this issue so important? Why the obsession? What harm if it's done differently? When to be rigid and when to give with a kid who's struggling with non-academic areas?

I suspect that the fact that I have been a teacher, that I have given quite a bit of thought to pedagogical philosophy makes me even more opinionated than I would otherwise be, a little less willing to play along because it's part of the district curriculum. As much as I want to be--and will be--a supporter of my son's teachers, I also suspect that there will be times I whisper to him, "Handwriting's not a real subject, so it doesn't matter what your grade is. Can you spell the words you're supposed to? Can you read lower-case letters? Can you write legibly? That's what matters."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A small dose of truthiness

As I commented over at Bea's, I have invoked my cloak of anonymity in the current round of truthiness. I never post pictures of myself, so why would I break with that to give you a glimpse of my morning persona?

But then HBM changed the rules a little and suggested that a picture was not strictly necessary. And despite my sporadic posting here of late, I haven't sworn off words. So let me give you a verbal glimpse at my physical self.

My morning self is not greatly different from my later-in-the-day self. I don't wear any makeup, haven't put on anything more than moisturizer and lip balm for more than fifteen years (no lipstick lesbian here!). The difference between pre- and post-shower cannot be all that significant, though maybe Trillian would say otherwise.

In one way, I prefer my morning look to when I've finally pulled myself together: no glasses. I am vain enough to care about the difference in my looks with and without glasses. But the alternates are not very practical for me. Contacts, without fail, give me a headache, and I'm not comfortable with the idea of laser eye surgery for myself. I try to take comfort in the fact that my eyes have actually improved over my past few appointments; while I'll never be able to drive without glasses, I can already spend longer on the computer and with my books without them.

While my hair is much the better for a wash and combing, it's not all that wild when I wake up--a bit flyaway and prone to static, but that's pretty much its state by the end of the day too. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with my hair. As a child, I despised being a brunette, because it's so boring. But I've come to appreciate that my particular brown fits with the rest of my coloring; I also still have a wide range of natural highlights from blond (hides the gray that has started to pop up) to red to dark brown. I have a tendency to go back and forth between long and short--neither one is ever all that I dreamed it would be. Right now it is long with some layers past my shoulders (because that's how much it's grown out since my last cut). I end up, most days, piling it up on my head in a messy bun. Regardless of length, I avoid bangs at all costs since they inevitably flip into wings at the sides (great for that feathered hairstyle I had at 12, not so much for my current low-maintenance requirements) and I get sick of having them on my face.

I'm starting to realize that I need to change my routine to accommodate the fact that I'm getting older. My face and scalp have decided to get a little more sensitive and are not sure what to make of our change in climate. I haven't quite given in yet, but know I should probably give it some thought.

Now I'm off to slip into some flannel pjs, let down my top-knotted hair, and call it a night.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I've been strep-throated*

Remember that sick-day reference I slipped into a post almost a week ago? Turns out that Scooter didn't just bring home some random virus from preschool. He brought home strep.

We went to the pediatrician a week ago. Scooter had complained that his throat hurt--and he's usually the kind of kid who could be bleeding with his arm hanging at a funny angle while saying, "I'm fine. It's fine. Don't look at it." So we headed down to Capital City (note to self: need to get pediatrician in Springfield). The doctor didn't think it looked like strep, but we should come back in a couple days if the fever didn't go away.

Well, the fever went away, but Scooter's been irritable and grumpy ever since. Trillian and I haven't been feeling too great either, but my sore throat had mostly gone away and I'd convinced myself I felt better, aside from the time change and a few early morning trips for appointments (also ignoring the near-constant headache I've had for a week or so).

This morning was another early morning trip, my first appointment with my new primary-care physician. We ran through my list of concerns and the various tests I needed, based on family history and my discussion with the nurse practitioner. Then she ran through the standard checks of ears, eyes, nose, throat. After the required "Ahhhhh," she asked if she could take a quick strep swab--it wasn't anything she saw, but apparently strep has a "distinctive smell" (news to me). And she was right.

Since Trillian is also one of her patients and I told the doctor that Trillian was definitely feeling worse than me, she wrote prescriptions for both of us. Then, instead of heading back home, I juggled getting my blood tests, convincing the pediatrician's office to call in a prescription for Scooter, getting the two prescriptions I already had filled--plus a quick trip to the party store and Trader Joe's while waiting for the pharmacy. Later on, a trip to the pharmacy in the Springfield grocery store for Scooter's antibiotics. But we're all on the mend now.

The funny thing is that I have been feeling like crap since she told me I have strep. I hadn't realized just how much I'd been propping myself up by sheer will. So if you'll excuse me, I'm headed to watch mindless television and sip hot drinks. I may stay here for a while.

* When we explained to Scooter that we had to pick up his medication and that he did indeed have to take it, despite his insistence that he was fine, because we all have strep throat, he responded, "I'm not strep-throated."

Monday, March 10, 2008

A name's power

In Egyptian mythology, Ra was once the most powerful of the gods. But Isis, desiring to increase her power (for any of the different reasons found in the variants), contrived to have a serpent bite him. As the sun-god suffered, she told him that she would be able to heal him if only he would reveal to her his secret name. He hemmed and hawed, trying to put her off with epithets and lesser names, until the pain grew to be too much. Finally, he gave in and told her. Thus, Isis gained control over Ra's powers and herself became immensely powerful.

The idea of a "secret" or "true" name, that knowing this name bestows power upon the speaker, threads its way through mythology and folklore, religion and mysticism. It appears in many works of fantasy. In Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea, naming forms the core of magic. Education in magic includes lessons in Old Speech so that students may learn the names that will endow them with power. Simple objects--plants, rocks, and the like--require simple memorization, but discovering the names of more complex objects moves beyond vocabulary lessons. In order to vanquish a dragon, the young protagonist relies both on his knowledge of old history and a hunch. That is, an intersection of research and intuition.

While the dragons I face are metaphorical, I appreciate that moment when research and intuition come together and that thrill of the power behind naming. Even in those moments before the name is fully formed, as it begins to whisper in my ear, I can feel the power building.

I consulted with a nurse practitioner today, a board-certified OB-GYN nurse with 30+ years of experience in assisting women in becoming pregnant. She was the first medical professional who responded to the report of my two miscarriages not with a "That's too bad, but they were probably both just flukes and the only thing to do is soldier on," but a "That's awful; tell me more and let's see if we can get on the path to figuring this out." After I explained my history, health in general and fertility specifically, she picked out threads, some of which have never been traced to their origin. I came away without the power of a name, but at least the exhilaration of a new lead and the slightest whisper of words that will help me get there.

The whisper started for her with the smaller details of my pregnancy history. Not just "one normal pregnancy and then two miscarriages not quite five years later." Rather: first pregnancy included slow-rising HCG at the beginning but made it to term, second pregnancy ended at nine weeks but baby died at seven, third pregnancy ended at about six weeks and cleared out so quickly that there was nothing left to measure at the ultrasound. The five years did not explain this to her, especially given my family history of women who are (unproblematically) fertile well into their 40s.

The place to look for the name starts to come into focus. The words that float in the air are not words I would usually welcome--auto-immune response--yet their presence provides an unexpected comfort. It is likely that my body has reacted mistakenly to my pregnancies. With the first one, my body was dealing with an unknown invader, and so the immune response took a while to build. By the time it started producing antibodies in large numbers, I had made it far enough along that it was not going to dislodge my son; however, this might be an explanation for why my HCG levels did not double as expected. With the second pregnancy, the body remembered the earlier invasion and was quicker in manufacturing antibodies. (On the plus side, the fact that my body held onto the baby for two extra weeks argues against my progesterone concerns; the hormone was there, desperately holding on even after it was too late.) The even shorter duration of my third pregnancy fits the auto-immune theory; my body needed very little time indeed to prod the antibodies into action.

I now have a plan to work from, the next steps in discovering a name. In addition to the test for celiac, I will request an anti-thyroid antibody panel; if either test comes back positive, I will have a name and something that can be measured and monitored before pregnancy. But even if neither path gives me an answer, the nurse practitioner feels confident that we have enough of the name to increase our chances of success. Once I am ready for the next round of trying, I will go on a very low dose of prednisone; the cortico-steroid should damp the antibodies and give me the best chance of a full-term pregnancy. The worst case scenario is the one I feel pretty sure I would be facing with no intervention: a third miscarriage. And that would be the end for me.

But I cannot shake the kernel of optimism that this consultation unearthed. All that she said rang true for me; the whisper came to my ear and said, "Yes." It will take a couple more months to follow this path to the next juncture, but at least I can now see it in front of me.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Global Warming Thursday: Reading material

It's been a sick-day chez Mouse. We've been letting Scooter watch endless DVDs and pumping him full of orange juice. Trillian and I have been slugging decaf and tea and juice. But I have had the chance to read around a bit. So here are three articles on the topic of the environment. I apologize that all of them are from sites that require registration, but I'll try to give you the gist of what they say.

The first article is actually something I read a couple weeks ago: "Scientists Would Turn Greenhouse Gas Into Gasoline" from the NY Times. Some scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory (from the division of, I'm sure, "Hey look, we do something other than split atoms"--although there is mention here of using nuclear power for this project on the large scale) are developing a process for removing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it back into gasoline:
The idea is simple. Air would be blown over a liquid solution of potassium carbonate, which would absorb the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would then be extracted and subjected to chemical reactions that would turn it into fuel: methanol, gasoline or jet fuel.
The big catch right now is cost. (Isn't it always.) All of the technology already exists to develop a plant for the process, but gas would need to hit $4.60 per gallon to make the process cost-effective. With some further developments of the technology, however, that price may drop to $3.40 per gallon. I don't know about the rest of you, but gas prices here have been steadily climbing from the 3-dollar mark in the past couple weeks. It certainly wouldn't take much for us to hit that lower level!

There are several things I find encouraging about this process. It starts from a realistic point: we will not be getting rid of gas-powered vehicles anytime soon. As interesting as I find hybrid and hydrogen technology, they alone will not solve the problem, at least not in the immediate future. (As the article points out, if hydrogen is produced by a coal-powered plant, the production of the fuel will create large amounts of carbon; in our particular setting, a hybrid vehicle won't run on the electric engine enough to get significantly better mileage or lower emissions than the car we already drive.) This also would make gasoline a somewhat renewable resource--however much is used can be recovered and used again.

Trillian drew my attention to the second article, also in the Times: "Turning Glare Into Watts." There has been growth in the use of solar thermal plants in the Southwest US. Instead of the more customary photovoltaic cells, these plants make use of mirrors to focus heat on a fluid that then produces steam that turns a turbine to produce electricity. This is not a new approach, but it has garnered new interest as other energy prices have risen. Unsurprisingly, the Southwest, with its desert and relatively sparse population in the hottest of places, has been chosen as a location for new plants. They produce a smaller amount of energy than more standard power plants, but they take less time to build and get online. The downsides are that they tend to be rather isolated, meaning that the infrastructure does not usually exist for hooking them into grids and requiring the addition of lots of lines, and they can affect the deserts' biodiversity.

Solar thermal energy cannot replace photovoltaic cells entirely; in particular, it seems unlikely that it can be adapted efficiently to house-size. But I did find myself thinking as I read this, just imagine houses with photovoltaic ranges and otherwise energy-efficient with the rest of their energy supplemented by these sorts of power plants.

The third article is less scientific, but gets at something I've certainly been pondering, even if I've only written about it once or twice. The Washington Post's "Greed in the Name of Green" looks at how the green label is being used to increase consumption, saying about "the new green consumer":
And let us never consider the other organic option -- not buying -- because the new green consumer wants to consume, to be more celadon than emerald, in the right color family but muted, without all the hand-me-down baby clothes and out-of-date carpet.
As we settle into our house, I've been thinking a lot about this. Moving stirs up the desire to get new things that are "just perfect" for our new space. And while we haven't been entirely virtuous--witness the two recliners we bought this year, we have been trying very hard to repurpose what we already have, thinking long and hard before making purchases.

I do think there is a place for green products. Let's face it, the sheets we've had for many years now will eventually wear thin, our current dining room table is only a short-term borrowing from the in-laws, we would like a comfortable sofa-bed for the people who have expressed a desire to visit. And when we make such purchases, we will be taking into consideration their materials and the manufacturing processes used to make them, throwing in some thought for how far they've had to travel and if particular items can be purchased used while still maintaining desired quality.

I was struck by one quote in particular:
Really going green, Hawken says, "means having less. It does mean less. Everyone is saying, 'You don't have to change your lifestyle.' Well, yes, actually, you do."
I don't think this has to be negative. The biggest problem is that it requires pushing against prevailing messages of consumption. Yet, I have found that slowing down on purchases, stepping back and asking myself why I want something and whether I don't already have something that can serve the same purpose, is really quite satisfying. I'm not entirely sure how this might come to replace the current zeitgeist, and that's something I could let myself get pessimistic about, but at the moment I prefer to believe that it's not an impossibility.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Scooter is pretty much back on an even keel, other than the sniffles he has picked up (oh, the joys of his being back in a school setting). That has helped me find my footing again. Which has also allowed me to analyze what I said last week about rethinking a second child.

I want a second child.

I know that after thinking on this. I want a second child, but I am afraid.

The miscarriages rattled me. The first one was bad enough, the second practically unhinged me. I am afraid that a third would break me.

There are plenty of articles out there that give the chances of a second miscarriage and then a third. Most try to be positive and point out just how unlikely it is. But I know my body pretty well; I'm generally correct about what's wrong with it. And both times I felt like it was my body that failed.

Since the second loss, I've come up with two likely reasons for the miscarriages. One can be tested for before my next try, one can only be diagnosed during pregnancy.

I've made an appointment for a general exam next week, at which I will ask about being tested for celiac disease. I've seen mixed scientific information about the role of gluten allergy in fertility, but there is some thought that women with untreated celiac are more likely to miscarry. There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that celiac can be somewhat dormant for several years and will then flare up with trauma to the body. Such as giving birth. Since we're already mostly gluten-free, I would just have to pay more attention to cross-contamination and focus on keeping my diet clean.

The other possibility, the one that I wouldn't be able to address beforehand, frightens me more. I worry that my body and the placenta were not producing enough progesterone, that I simply could not sustain the pregnancies. If this is the case, I will need frequent monitoring, lots of blood draws, progesterone suppositories--and opinion is divided as to whether or not any of this will make a difference.

Another dimension of the fear comes from the fact that we are down to three "pop-sicles." Three chances left with the donor we chose after much consideration. And we have three only because we bought the last two available last year after already putting six into storage. I never expected us to need more than four. It would not be the end of the world if we had to start over and choose a new donor, I just never expected this to be a door we might face.

I will push on, I will see what I can figure out with my doctors' help. I have become certain of these things in the past few days. But I also know I will be fighting fears the whole way there.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


When I was a child, we almost always had at least one aquarium up and running (in addition to a wide range of other pets). We had a number of incarnations of community tropical aquaria and eventually worked our way up to a 50-gallon saltwater tank.

In the first half of our relationship, Trillian and I have had the occasional small aquarium with tetras or swordtails. We've spent the last 6 or 7 years talking about giving it another go, but always put it off--until after the baby's born (but sleep deprivation made us forget), until after we move someplace we'll stay for a while (but we never got one going in the condo), until after we buy our next house.

Our reasons for wanting a tank have changed a little. The new focus has been on what an aquarium can mean for Scooter. The first thing that both Trillian and I thought of is the calming effect of watching fish move gently back and forth. And so we have set up a 5-gallon tank in his room, a simple set up, with bright-colored gravel and plastic plants and a pirate ship.

Three little fish joined our family today; more will come next week if our new swimmies prove that the tank is stable. Scooter could barely contain his excitement as we drove down to Capital City to go to the pet store, carefully enumerating the items we needed: fish food, baggie (even though we insisted that the pet store would give us one), fish. We walked into the pet store and he didn't even look twice at the dogs up for adoption at the entrance. He quickly picked them out and named them, couldn't wait to get home and put them in the tank. He has dutifully shaken in a few flakes of the food we bought and tried to instruct them to swim through the hole in the pirate ship.

At one point this afternoon, Scooter turned to me, beaming proudly, and announced, "I have pets!"