Friday, May 30, 2008

Standing on the edge of a new world

It is in my nature to employ a scientific approach to most aspects of life. And so it happened that I would get excited when Scooter would do something like roll over for the first time, but would not feel comfortable checking off "rolls over." I needed replication of the initial results in order to claim with confidence that Scooter could roll over.

I am not ready to say that Scooter is reading, but it's become quite clear that he knows a good number of words in reasonable context. I also find that I have to walk a fine line with him on this topic. He is adamant that he can't read--I think that he, perhaps taking after me, is unwilling to consider anything less than total mastery as "reading." But he absolutely glows with the right sort of praise. So I don't say, "Good reading," but things like, "Wow, you know a lot of words."

A few nights ago, he "helped" me read his bedtime story. If he knows what something is supposed to say, he can generally match up the beginning of the spoken words with the printed ones, as he demonstrated with the title. Then as we read, I would stop a couple times each page on a content word. With the context of the story and the picture, as well as sounding out the beginning of each word, he was able to guess with pretty good accuracy. Even when he was wrong, he picked either a synonym or another word beginning with the same letter.

Tonight, I made a new potty prize card. (After a frustrating period of increasing accidents, we returned to bribery and keep track of what prizes come next so that he knows what he's working towards. He finished off his second one last night.) He was eager to see what was in store, so we placed the card on the bathroom counter to look it over. I pointed at each night in turn, and he faithfully read off each prize, including the big prize nights that usually include an "or" (e.g., "train or Lego"). To be fair, he has a good idea of the range of prizes at this point and the words are different enough that he can probably figure most of them out from the first letter of each word. But still, he knew them all and only needed my help in tracking across each line. Because the words weren't in story-form, I suspect that it never even crossed Scooter's mind that he was doing anything new.

Considering what I know of my most frequent visitors, I don't think I have to explain how thrilling it is to be seeing this new world open up for my son. In my eagerness, it's hard not to grab his hand and pull him along, but for the time being I'm slowing down and following his lead, matching his steps, and savoring the details.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


When the Nintendo Wii first came out, both Trillian and I didn't get the big hoopla surrounding it. We're not big game players and make do with our now-ancient Playstation 2--which, in fact, serves mostly as a DVD player for Scooter's videos.

I have read accounts by several friends (blog-wise and otherwise) about the fun they had playing various games on Wii. It piqued my interest, but was still not enough for me to consider forking out a few hundred for a console. Or, more commonly as the news stories reported, dealing with the difficulty of finding one in stock.

Then I read about Wii Fit. And so did Trillian. And we both admitted that we were intrigued. Trillian did a little searching online, just to see if she could locate a console. Pretty much everybody was sold out, or asking a couple hundred over the list price.

A couple days ago, we had to make an extra trip to Capital City. Trillian and I took the opportunity to slip into a Best Buy. Our primary purpose was to look at cell phones, as we've just about decided to get a second one. (Still haven't; Trillian's still debating bells and whistles vs. the monthly bill.) Then we walked around a bit (tech porn for geeks, really).

We ducked into the video game section, but only saw games and accessories. At that very moment, a sales associate walked by and asked the standard question about possibly being some help.

"You wouldn't happen to have any Wii consoles?" Trillian asked, expecting to be told they were sold out.

The surprise answer: "We just set up a display table towards the front."

Seems that their stock had been replenished, in conjunction with the release of Wii Fit.

So guess what's sitting in our living room now?

The first thing that had to be done, of course, was to create our Miis, the little avatars that look vaguely like us. Though I will be secretly tweaking Scooter's, since the glasses--both frames and tinting--he chose for himself make him look a bit like a skeevy 70s lounge lizard.

Both Trillian and I put in 30 minutes plus on Wii Fit. I'm partial to the Yoga, she prefers the Strength Training. But both of us have dabbled in Aerobics and Balance too. We'll see how long and consistently we use this, but I'm fairly optimistic. In the guise of games, I found myself eagerly tackling exercises I wouldn't otherwise do.

(Of course, Scooter had trouble doing the few things he tried, so he was very upset it wasn't really for him. I think we may be picking up a game for him.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Grounds for commitment or just a coping mechanism?

For weeks, possibly months now, Trillian and I have been saying that we need to go through Scooter's closet and dresser so that we can weed out the clothes that are too small and reorganize everything. We haven't done this for at least a couple years, not systematically at least--removal of what was obviously too small, addition of new things, but everything crammed together.

Today I decided to do a couple drawers, at least figure out what shorts and T-shirts would still fix him. Trillian and Scooter were off at the park, and once I started I just kept going. Each drawer was going to be the last, but I just kept going. I managed to be ruthless most of the time, but there were a few shirts I put on the 'storage' pile reluctantly. Afterwards, the clothes I had weeded out fit into two large Space Bags.

I also informed Trillian that I plan on putting the crib together tomorrow or this weekend. Right now, the pieces are sitting against a wall in our bedroom, and have been for several months now. There's no reason to put it together yet (no secrets here). It's just that I want it together before I'm pregnant. Sure my father-in-law could do it, but this is something I want to do.

So far, probably not too crazy-making in your mind. But here's the context. The outcome of an appointment I had yesterday means that my attempts for baby #2 will be pushed back by at least one more cycle, after I'd already delayed a cycle or two. A result of logistics and the fact that I'll now have to go to Big City for any help in conceiving.

Still not too concerned about my mindset? Here's the other thing, the thing that will be fodder for a few posts. It has only just hit me that I can no longer claim not to have a fertility problem, that I can no longer use my "supply issue" line, that in fact I need the services of a fertility clinic.

And I've been reading. About recurrent pregnancy loss caused by immunological factors. About the fact that, with each consecutive loss, the body is preparing new defenses, upping its response to each future pregnancy. About the fact that the combination of my age (35) and number of consecutive losses (2) is enough to qualify me as having recurrent pregnancy loss and to concern medical professionals (some, not all).

So I know that a third loss would mean that it would be that much harder for me to carry another pregnancy to term. Of course, I already have thought that three would be my limit, so a fourth might be moot anyway. But now I'm that much more aware of the fine line I walk and how close I am to falling on my face.

Somehow, putting away Scooter's too-small clothes as if I will be getting them out again in a few years seemed very important today. Somehow, putting the crib together instead of looking at it in pieces seems very important. I recognize this as the kernel of hope--the idea that if I press on as if there will be another baby, there will be another baby.

From this side, it doesn't seem too crazy, but there remains the nagging voice that wonders if these acts of faith will metamorphose into a mockery.

Monday, May 19, 2008

An odd journey down memory lane

Dredging up many memories of the long process, brought up by Facebook (of course), I found myself Googling a number of people I knew back in high school and before--but would never seek to 'friend' since these are not people with whom I have any reason to converse. Even though telling you about this trip down memory lane reveals details of the sort I usually omit, I feel compelled to share this odd, associative journey.

The chain started with the first (and until yesterday, only*) Facebook friend I had from high school. As I've remarked before, I suspected after scrutinizing his profile that he too is gay; later references have pretty much verified this.

And so I was surprised to see one particular person among his friends. This guy was the student who initiated the Christian-Athlete Fellowship (or some such thing) in our school. We had our senior Civics course together, and I remember that when we got to the section on gay rights (and I hadn't even considered that I might be gay at this point, but already believed strongly in civil rights for all), it basically amounted to me against him, with a handful of other guys chiming in on his side from time to time. I do have to concede that he was not entirely anti-intellectual; in our world literature course, he read everything on the syllabus, including Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the book most frequently requiring substitution by those who refused to read. In any course in which we both were enrolled, it was pretty much guaranteed that we'd be arguing opposite sides.

The funny thing is that I remember sitting next to this Facebook friend of mine in the literature course and exchanging remarks under our breath about the ultra-conservative.

The ultra-conservative married a friend of mine from elementary school. She and I had drifted apart in junior high. I became friends with a number of faculty kids, all of us intent on our studies; she moved in the more popular circles at first and then became more interested in religion.

From there, I was reminded of two brothers with whom I'd played soccer at 8 or 9. I even had a crush on one of them, but can't remember which one now. They were good athletes and cute in a traditional sense. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that their family was super-conservative and super-religious. They were home-schooled for many years, showing up at our high school about halfway through. One of the brothers was among the group I debated on gay rights. Needless to say, the crush did not linger.

But my path crossed the brothers' a few other times. They did just about everything together, and after high school they took time off for church work--though I have no idea if it was more traditional missionary work or political, as that's the primary direction they've headed. They started at State U. when I was working on my master's. A good friend of mine was their TA for a mythology course that pulled from multiple traditions. It included a section on Christian mythology; although they were diligent students, they were also the sorts who would answer questions about authorship of the Bible with "God." My friend recounted to me how they came to her office hours once. On her desk was a facing-page translation of Petronius' Satyricon. They picked it up, as they were planning on taking Latin. As luck would have it, they randomly opened to a section about the anti-hero and his male lover.

They did take Latin, nonetheless. With my friend even. And I subbed for that class once. Not that I think they realized who I was--or at least they gave no more indication than I did. That's the last I've seen of them in person.

But traveling through these Facebook connections, I couldn't help but Google the brothers to see what they've been up to. As it turns out, pretty much what I would have expected. One of them wrote for the current Lame Duck at some point. And both of them are involved in super-conservative groups, making every attempt to get certain candidates elected, the very ones who have me keeping my passport up-to-date.

So of course I had to read a few of their blog entries. And quickly found myself frothing at the mouth. I desperately wanted to shake the one who wrote about the problem with SUVs and energy consumption as a financial issue--I stopped myself from digging deep enough to determine, as I'm sure is the case, that he dismisses climate change as a false crisis.

But this is what I find a little disorienting about Facebook. There are many, many people on there whom I know. I can find them quite easily. But they're not 'friends.' I wouldn't want to mark them as such, even within the virtual world. And yet, because of the two or three degrees of separation, their names swirl around in the periphery.

*Do I even need to say that the people described above are not the new friends I just added from high school?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Not exactly a hiatus

I'm in this odd place right now. My mind is in almost constant motion, working through a whole variety of ideas, all good blog fodder. But when I sit at my computer, I have little ability, motivation, desire to commit my thoughts to screen. I am not sure what this means and am not declaring a hiatus of a set amount of time. But I think it's been pretty obvious that my focus has been elsewhere. It's just that I'm only now acknowledging my sporadic posting. And that it will continue to be so.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The wild rumpus

The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another...

Bedtime found Scooter more riled up than usual. He ran naked through the house, refusing to put on his pull-up, insisting he needed pjs and then running away when I approached, yelling wildly, not because he was angry or scared. Just because.

I remained as calm as possible, but sternly demanded that he put on his night-time clothing and settle down for bed. Realizing that I might just skip over a book, he headed over to the shelves. "A short one tonight," I advised. "We've already spent a long time playing around." I nixed a Thomas book--usually I will agree to whatever he chooses, but felt I'd earned the right to read something I'd enjoy.

His hand bumped over a number of books and then stopped. He considered several in a particular clump. I jumped at the opportunity and suggested a particular book from that group.

"How about Where the Wild Things Are?"

"Ooh, yes!"

And so we read about Max and his mischief and the forest that grew in his room.

Scooter melted into my lap as we both entered Sendak's magical world.

I love this book. And I love it even more now that I get to read it out loud regularly. The words flow together and the rarity of punctuation creates a breathless momentum.

I love Scooter's mock horror as Max chases the dog with a fork, that he nearly read me a few select words tonight, that the wild rumpus is his idea of a good time.

I love that he probably fell asleep imagining that he too might suddenly find his room a forest. And that I will do the same.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My very short time as a soccer mom

We are a soccer family. Trillian played though university. I didn't play past elementary school, but spent a lot of time on soccer fields since one of my sisters played competitively. When I was teaching at a private school, I helped coach one of the teams. Scooter went to his first professional soccer game at about a month old. Over the past year, he has become enthusiastic about kicking a ball around.

We headed into the Spring with a choice of whether to sign Scooter up for the soccer league on a real team or a program aimed at younger kids. We went with the shorter, less competitive program. From the description, with its reassurances of being non-competitive and having only scrimmages, I thought that this would be the sort of low-pressure introduction Scooter could use.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. As soon as the coach ran a practice scrimmage, it became clear that there are parents on this team who have strong opinions about how quickly their children should be mastering new skills. And then it turned out that there were scheduled 'scrimmages' with other teams. Regardless of what they're called, they're games. No official scores are kept, but the kids are very aware of when one side has scored a disproportionate number of the goals.

The last game is this week, and I do not think Scooter will be asking to play soccer again any time soon. He has mostly enjoyed practices and is quite proud of himself for learning not to use his hands. But in game situations, when parents get the loudest and there are the greatest number of bodies converging on the ball, he would rather be some place else. This has taken a couple different forms. There was the game where he simply stood at midfield after the halfway point; the other team had scored many goals, one of his teammates was wailing inconsolably, and Scooter decided it just wasn't worth moving from the center. Then there was the game where he ran around, vaguely following the action, and kicking the sideline cones.

There is some question as to whether or not we'll even go to the final game. Scooter quit about halfway through the most recent practice and announced that he was done with soccer. Truthfully I wouldn't mind being done and not having to suffer through another session of yelling parents.

Somehow I think, if Scooter's going to develop a passion for any sport, it will be an individual sport. Probably one in which he won't be able to hear a lot of the yelling--cross country, swimming, golf. I'll whole-heartedly support him, whatever he pursues. Just quietly.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Global Warming Thursday: Diary of a travel mug

As I prepared my backpack for my trip up to Toronto, I tucked a travel mug into the side of my backpack. I knew that, at the very least, I'd want a coffee in the airport and something on campus each morning. Why not maintain my current habit of toting a travel mug around with me?

The coffee place at the Big City Airport lulled me into a false sense of complacency. A woman three places ahead of me had her own mug, and the employees didn't pause at either of our requests. I enjoyed my hot latte through the first half of my long flight.

My first stop was at an airport fairly close to where I used to live, and so I knew that I'd be able to get a drink from a kiosk for my favorite coffee purveyor in the area. After a lunch spent poring over more notes (I was still studying for my exam), I headed over there. As is my custom, I took the top off the mug and placed the mug on the counter, ordering the drink of my choice. The man behind the register relayed this to the barista. Leaving my mug on the counter. I looked at it and then at him. He didn't notice. "Could I get it in here?" I asked, pointing into the mug. A look of surprise crossed his face, but he managed to figure out to pick up the mug and pass it over to the barista.

OK, a little odd, but at least my coffee was where I wanted it.

Once I was on the ground, the use of my travel mug returned to the usual pattern. I stopped by a couple different places around campus and had no trouble using it, two or three times a day when I was on campus for the exam or a full day of research. I rinsed it out between uses and gave it a decent wash each night.

Heck, even when I stopped at a Tim Horton's on the way back to Buffalo, they didn't look twice and gave me a mug discount.

The return trip, however, tested me. Once past security in Buffalo, I stopped at a coffee place for my morning latte and a banana. As I ordered and handed the mug over, the employee informed me that the mug might not fit under their machine so they'd need to use a paper cup. She was a bit taken aback when I responded, "Never mind then." Funny thing, they figured out that they could hold the mug underneath while the espresso brewed. So at least I got my morning fix.

I thought that would be the oddest moment, but my stopover proved me wrong. By that time, I wanted a mint tea. I had rinsed out my mug and headed over to one of the places with hot tea. I found a mint tea bag and told the employee that I wanted the hot water in my mug. She responded, "I can't take your mug over the counter." That was a new one, so I gave my standard, "Never mind." "Oh, I can just put the water in a cup and you can use that." "No, it's OK," I said, as I put the tea away and prepared to head for the next place. "It's not a problem at all," she said, "we can just throw the cup away then." "No, that is the problem. I don't want to just throw a cup away. It's an environmental thing." She didn't know what to say about that, and I really wanted to find some hot water I'd be able to get directly into my mug, so I headed off.

I did eventually get some hot tea. In my travel mug. Though that was not an entirely smooth transaction either.

This experience made me feel a bit like I did a few years ago when nobody had a mug discount. Lots of odd looks and explaining and some dead ends.

(P.S. Only tangentially related, I found out that I passed my exam!)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Some birthday numbers

35 How old I am today.

55 How old Scooter guessed I was going to be when I asked him yesterday. I guess I was expecting a replay of last year when he pegged me as 10. Lesson: Don't ask a child who prizes his new understanding of large numbers and who lacks a sense of scale.

57 Scooter's second guess. Lesson: See above.

58 Scooter's final guess when I told him, "Lower." Lesson: Seriously, lady, just quit already.

45 Dollars I have to pay in fees for my traffic violation. That and a defensive driving course (plus no citations for a couple months) wipes it off my record. And, yes, I ended up with an appointment to see the judge on my birthday.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Scrambled thoughts after scrambling my brain

At the moment, I am happily ensconced in my library carrel, enjoying the wi-fi and gearing up to start research for the next part of my degree. But just the fact that I finished--well, even--the part of my comps that was outside my comfort zone and am now left with nothing but the stuff I truly love and understand leaves my nearly giddy. Or maybe it's the sleep deprivation.

I spent the better part of the last week trying to balance extra studying hours with how little sleep I could get and still (more or less) function. Last night, after chatting with my host Lisa b for a bit, I slept hard for about 8 hours. And it was glorious!

Before heading to Lisa's, I grabbed some food with my two best friends from the department. I had spent so long writing that I could tell I needed something healthy with protein to get my head balanced, so we headed over to where we used to eat lunch all the time. I could tell I was talking very fast, a combination of more caffeine than usual and sheer exhaustion, but there was also a sense that we need to pack more chatting into each session than usual. So much to catch up on, a short time to do so.

The exam itself went better than I had expected, especially given that I basically skimmed the last author, half of that on my flights, after finding out, two days before the exam, that my supervisor had reorganized it so that there was no way I could entirely avoid one author. But to his credit, he designed an exam that was very close to what I would have chosen if it had been up to me (and I weren't avoiding the one author). As I had been hoping, I was able to remember a wide array of supporting details when I needed them, and so my answers were generally quite coherent and cogent--unless that's the sleep deprivation talking an it all turns out to have been ridiculous nonsense.

I flew Southwest into Buffalo--easy and cheap. The only downside, and this is true of most flights today, is that both flights were full, so it made it difficult to balance the various books I was consulting. Especially on the second flight when an older gentleman took the center seat (I was at the window) and proceeded to fall asleep with his elbows over both arm rests. On the first flight, I was the one who committed the transgression, bumping my cup and spilling ice on the tray table of the man next to me. A couple pieces also fell on his Utilikilt (I'm not really sure what to make of that, but feel compelled to share that tidbit).

And now to make some sense of the paper I am now undertaking. It is intended to be a chapter of my dissertation, and when I think of that, it becomes a bit more daunting. On the plus side, I really just need to copy stuff right now, not analyze or synthesize. My brain can take a couple more days of vacation and focus instead on the blogger friends I'll get to see in the next couple days!